Today’s bad excuse for skipping the gym…

… comes to you courtesy of a recent house move and consequent sartorial disorganisation.

A piece of advice: should you not have a pair of clean shorts of your own to hand when you are rushing out of the house in the morning, do not presume that you can simply grab a pair of your twin brother’s shorts. Keep in mind that (a) he is generally thinner than you, and (b) he was for a while very much thinner than you.

I got them about half way up my chubby, shapeless thighs before they ground to a shuddering halt, leaving me waddling around the changing rooms like Dick van Dyke doing his penguin dance in Mary Poppins, but minus the animated entourage, sense of rhythm, or dodgy accent. I feared they’d be stuck there, to be honest, and was left pondering how to get a bus home with legs even more abbreviated than usual.

Fortunately I managed to crowbar them off, and left the gym circa five minutes after going in, but rather redder in the face than I usually leave it.

Note: my legs are actually neither shapeless nor chubby; I have eviscerated the truth for the sake of humour. They are, however, ludicrously truncated. To be honest, were they any shorter I very much doubt my feet would reach the ground.

Ephesus, Viterbo, Washington

I’ve been thinking a bit on the Council of Ephesus of late. Yes, that Council of Ephesus. The one which upheld the findings of the Council of Nicaea—like that the Son is “begotten” by the Father but “not made” by him (yeah, I know)—against the appalling heresies of Nestorius, who (I barely dare say it) held that Jesus’s divine nature was independent of his human, citing (oh! wiles of the serpent) amongst other things the very same Council of Nicaea which had specifically refuted that the Son was made or changeable, but also stated that He “came down” and was “made man.”

But these minutiae, though well worth thinking upon as your salvation apparently depends upon some fairly acrobatic feats of mental gymnastics, are not what interests me about the Council at present. What interests me is how—as a duly convened ecumenical council, and thus good and holy and the only authority higher than the pope (who, anyway, had yet to realise his infallibility at this point)—the proceedings actually went. Ephesus is rather harder to get to from Antioch, from where the cursed Nestorians were travelling, than it is from Constantinople and Alexandria, from whence came the rightfully-inspired delegates, led largely by St. Cyril, that rightful and holy figure who amongst his other great acts incited the flaying alive and murder of one Hypatia, who had dared to be a Hellenistic philosopher, mathematician, empiricist, and—shockingly—a woman.

I digress. The Alexandrines got to Ephesus rather before the Nestorians, and more-or-less locked and bolted the doors behind them, coming to all their conclusions in advance so that, by the time the heretics arrived, they were presented with a fait accompli. Now, as this was an ecumenical council, and the holiest, highest authority in this sin-laden world, it is inconceivable that this played out other than as the (consubstantial) Father intended. So it occurs to me that we have something of a precedent here, a good and holy one to boot. It also occurs to me that the Republican Party prides itself on its devotion. What better way to resolve the current problems in Washington than to emulate this great moment in Christian history?

Obviously, they are all geographically present already, and I am hardly suggesting the exclusion of the entire GOP, merely the more intransigent members thereof. We all know who they are. But how to separate them out and gently, subtly, effect this policy? I was recently struck by the image in this article in the Guardian of pizza being taken to John Boehner’s office as the representatives went into retreat for further discussions. I’m sure at least one or two of those pizzas will have been ordered with extra grizzly bear. And someone, surely, has a bottle of temazepam to hand…

If all this seems a little disingenuous, then I have another precedent that could be followed. The conclave held in Viterbo to elect a new pope following the death of Clement IV in 1268 lasted, astonishingly, over two years. Finally, the somewhat frustrated civil authorities locked the entire conclave in the papal palace, removed the roof, and reduced their rations on a daily basis until they came to a decision. I can think of no more nobler way to encourage a decision from the Washington lawmakers, en masse. The only question, really, is whether there would be any conceivable advantage to terminating this policy once they had, finally, stopped acting like a bunch of rutting medieval theologians and grown the fuck up.

Note: I wrote most of this yesterday, before I found out that the Republicans had enacted a little Ephesus of their own.

The International Court of Poetic Justice

Poetry, as I observed recently in that most august of domains—a Facebook comment thread—is like war. Neither of them do I fundamentally object to as a point of principle: both are occasionally necessary, though almost always regrettably so. It may even be possible to defend an instance of either as having provided, in the past, a net benefit to society. But this is no reason to encourage the production of more.

Wars beget more wars, and poetry—especially the bad—begets more poetry. Yet whilst the world has procedures, however flawed, intended to hold those who conduct illegitimate warfare to account, we have no comparable system in place with which to punish the perpetrators of literary crimes.

This can no longer stand. I therefore hereby convene, and declare myself the sole advocate, jury, and judge of the International Court of Poetic Justice (ICPJ), which will hear cases from across all time and duly, summarily, and wholly arbitrarily dispense justice. No case shall be too big for us, and none too small. Our nets shall be cast wide. Be it the krakens of the literary deeps—ancient, silent and brooding, yet still capable of rising to the surface covered in the centuries’ accreted slime of mindless and unquestioning reverence—or the minnows of poetic world—flashing rapidly past us with barely a mouthful of mawkish nonsense, individually little more than a sickly sweet burst of sentimentality, but en masse forming a vast, swirling maelstrom of maudlin gush—the court considers itself fit to try them all.

The court is well named, for not only will its sole task be the handing down of judgments upon these poetic violations of reason, but the penalties imposed shall be apposite to the nature of the offense. As a minimum they shall manifest poetic justice, but the court reserves the right to extend its punitive powers to the ironic, the sarcastic, the vexatiously obscure (where fitting: watch out, Ezra Pound, we’ve got our eye on you), and almost certainly the excessive and hyperbolic.

The first case has already been dealt with.

Re: The Court vs Andrew Motion

No poems were cited in evidence, for none were needed. The sole exhibit offered by the prosecution was a 2002 interview with the Daily Telegraph, in which the guilty—sorry, accused—indicated that he drank a daily cup of Lemsip to aid his poetic muse. It helped him achieve the sensation of having a cold, “that sort of slightly introverted self-pitying mood that a mild illness can give”; a state which, the defendant brazenly admitted, was “absolutely conducive to poems.”

Held, that the court could think of no other such open and shameless defence of everything that it stands against. That, on those few occasions where it is justifiable, poetry is so by virtue of concision in both language and imagery; the making of a precise and effective point. That “introverted self-pity” is for teenagers’ bedrooms, and should not be paraded anywhere else. That the defendant has willfully promoted exactly the kind of mawkish, intellectually flaccid, and emotionally vapid view of poetry that the court exists to stamp out.

Noted, that though the court has not read any of the defendant’s works, it vaguely recalls he wrote a poem on Diana’s death. Holy crap, wasn’t there enough unrestrained emotional diarrhoea over those few days?

Ruled, that since Motion appears so fond of snot, he is to be immersed in a lake of it up to his neck, until he has had enough (we are stern but humane, here at the ICPJ). His poems, since they were assembled deliberately and with scant regard for public welfare to emulate the excreta of contagious illnesses, shall be declared a species of biological weapon, and handed over to the corresponding authorities to safely destroy.

We shall, I suspect, hear more from the ICPJ. Its backlog of cases may be vast, but its mission is vital.