From the illustration style and the quality of the paper and print, I would assume this is a frame from a 1950’s comic (if anyone out there knows more about Goom, please let me know!)

So, here’s the thing: You, dear reader, are Goom. And I am Goom. We are all Goom, every one of us sharing this tiny blue orb which sits amidst an infinity stars.

Goom you ask? I am Goom?

The UK Daily Telegraph ran an article recently which states that “All humans are 99.9 per cent identical and, of that tiny 0.1 per cent difference, 94 per cent of the variation is among individuals from the same populations and only six per cent between individuals from different populations.”

Despite the fact there is only one race – the human race -, we habitually negate each other. We invent constructs – glasses if you like – which so distort our view of each other that we feel justified in shouting “Look how monstrous they are!”

We exclude, hate, maim, shun, bomb, rape, invade, enslave, reject, villify, torture, ignore. But then you can do that to the emissaries of Goom.


I think the cartoon explains it rather nicely:

“Look at them! They’re even more monstrous – more evil – than Goom himself!” we say, othering our fellow man, (and fellow woman), objectivizing him to the point that we can disavow him. With our bizarre comic-book glasses we see our fellow man as monstrous. Evil. Call it xenophobia, racism – call it what you like – it amounts to the same thing. And because Goom and his evil denizens have identical comic-book glasses, he see us in exactly the same way. They say of you, your race, your religion, your people: “Look at them! They’re even more monstrous – more evil – than Goom himself!”.

We stumble through our short lives with these tragicomic cardboard glasses with opaque lenses, screaming, “Look at them!”. It’s a little like standing in front of a fairground crazy-mirror and mocking one’s own reflection.

Ridiculous, isn’t it?

Time to take off our Goom glasses. The pair on my nose feel particularly heavy this morning.


wild about wilde


When I was a little boy I was deeply moved by that poignant story of Oscar Wilde’s, The Happy Prince. There were others – The Star Child and The Selfish Giant, but it was The Happy Prince  which moved me the most.

Having read and watched a few biographies about his brilliant but tragic life, and re-reading his work now, it seems to me there were different Oscar Wildes. I can understand how his imprisonment for homosexuality – with hard labour and all the brutalization of a Victorian prison life – effected his outlook and his art. De Profundis and The Ballad of Reading Gaol were from this time. But how does one reconcile Wilde the flaneur, the wit, the precocious and funny genius, with The Happy Prince with it’s profound religious intensity?

I don’t believe this was a pre/post prison phenomenon. I think Oscar Wilde always contained within his psyche these different rivers of genius: The wit- the larger than life extrovert – and the soul so sensitive to the cruelties of men and the intrinsic pain of being. Biographers are better positioned to say. I have only my intuition and a much loved volume of his writings. The witty and flippant Importance of being Ernest bound together with the sad beauty of The Happy Prince.

Picture source: See: Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Happy Prince’ with Stephen Fry

people of the aimless wandering


Wachizungu, Bachizungu, etc.

“people of the aimless wandering”

Dating back to the 18th century, this wonderful word literally translated meant “someone who roams around aimlessly” or “aimless wanderer.”

I am considering it as a possibility for a pseudonym for reasons I’ll set out later. The term was first used in the African Great Lakes region to describe European explorers in the 18th century, apparently as a result of their propensity to get lost in their wanderings in Africa. The word Muzungu comes from Kiswahili, where ‘zungu’ or ‘zunguka’ is the word for spinning around on the same spot. That dizzy lost look was perfected by the first white people arriving in the African Great Lakes. Muzunguzungu is Kiswahili for a dizzy person. The term is now used to refer to “someone with white skin” or “white skin”and has also come to mean people who adopt the Western culture, cuisine and lifestyle.

Mzungu can be used in an affectionate or insulting way. In Kinyarwanda and Kirundi, European people are also known as rutuku which means “red” (after their skin colour). The underlying tone for “rutuku” though is in reference to aggression. Though the literal translation is “red”, the underlying translation is “aggressor”, referring to colonialism and the plundering of local resources by the “white people.” Whilst mzungu generally refers to a white person, mlungu refers to the white foam ejected from an animal’s vagina when in heat and is only used in a derogatory sense. The term is similar to “vloeibees”, meaning flow-beast, in Afrikaans.

muzunguzungu is a wonderful word at so many levels. It has a musical quality to it, like a buzzing mbira with a delightful repetition both typographically and phonetically:

U-U-U-U-U    Z-Z   G-G    N-N


It’s etymology is both delightful and mischievous – and mildly insulting too: the dizzy lost look that characterised the early explorers, imperialists, soldiers, merchants, missionaries, slavers and settlers from Europe is still there in the bewildered-look of present-day pink-skinned (see rutuku above) and ‘white-socks & sandles’ tourists to Africa. The derogatory mlungu shows how language can be a weapon of derision and resistance – and while I am no language expert it seems to me mlungu is latent in muzunguzungu – but not disclosed. I suppose I am drawn in an english, slightly self-demeaning way to muzunguzungu. I am also conscious that by assuming a distinctly african word I may be accused of misrepresenting myself. Well there’d be nothing dramatic in that for we are all a jumble of conflicting masks – and having been born in Africa at least a tiny bit of me can lay claim to being African, as a child born in Wales of Nigerian parents could lay claim to being Welsh I suppose.

I am suspicious of that the word “Ubuntu”.  It seems to have been hijacked by my white compatriots – for all manner of commercial and “rainbow-nation-building” reasons. From “Ubuntu commercial Linux offerings” to “Ubuntu Jacuzzi’s”, “Ubuntu caravans” and “Ubuntu braai accessories”, the ubiquity of the word erodes it’s meaning through overuse. Perhaps soon we’ll be able to buy “Ubuntu ammunition” without any sense of irony. My guess is that the adoption of such words and our eagerness to incorporate them into our vocabularies (or logos, or motivational seminars) is, at some level, reflective of the white man’s unconscious desire to be wanted in Africa, to overcome his alienated dizziness as it were, to not be seen as rutuku and god-forbid, mlungu. So we name our holiday homes with a suitably african-sounding name and think we have become african, in much the same way that by wearing a Jeep-branded khaki shirt I enter a fantasy of cool Vietnam GI’s and rugged good looks – Camel man style. It feels good, even if It’s just a sort of ameliorative fantasy.

the edge of nowhere

Edge of Nowhere


The edge of nowhere. Further from us than, say, the little island of Bjørnøya yet closer than Saint Veronica the patron saint of kindness. In one sense (or nonesense), nowhere is nowhere and everywhere. And if you think that’s difficult to grasp, try getting hold of a ticket: when I inquired at one of those glitzy mall-travel agencies with the requisite four pretty women reminiscent of 1950’s air hostesses, I was told nowhere doesn’t exist. My point exactly, I replied.

Yet I had determined to purchase a ticket to nowhere. A quantum physicist  I had recently ‘met’ in one of those ubiquitous online quantum physics chat rooms, assured me that by virtue of it having come to mind it definitely and without a doubt potentially and possibly existed. Referring me to the “Schrödinger equation”, he explained that “… the Hamiltonian operator acts on a certain wave function Ψ, and the result is proportional to the same wave function Ψ, thus Ψ is a stationary state, and the proportionality constant, E, is the energy of the state Ψ.”. Though I hadn’t a clue what he meant, his conviction and the proselytizing passion with which it was delivered to my email address (together with links to sites with diagrams of multiverses) persuaded me I was looking for a stationary state, or at very least a state with a station.

doodles from the edge of nowhere (i)

Edge of Nowhere

Doodles from the edge of nowhere



The people of nowhere are largely occupied with pointless activities for which they care very little and know even less about. So much of their energy is taken up with these meaningless endeavors that most have little time to reflect on the senselessness of it all. Take the bundle-draggers for example. From sun-up to sun-down and sometimes through the night, tied to mountains of waste fabric, they move across the landscape in no specific direction, the coordinates of their aimless labor selected from dog-eared, obsolete almanacs.

I have heard it said that some of the bundle-draggers carry rusty old compasses with rusted needles fixed forever on one or another random bearing. Where the almanac advises travel at a specific time long since passed, these hapless fellows peer through the scratch-clouded glass of their timepieces at hands stopped by faulty winders or seized springs and exclaim, “Ah! it’s Time!” or “We have Time Enough!”

It never occurs to them to compare their timepieces, for each one is convinced his own is correct and mocks those who have none.

Other inhabitants of nowhere work in vast, dimly-lit factories reminiscent of Dickens or Blake. Ask them what they’re making and they’ll reply with a confident “well, grommits for a Thingumybob of course!” or, with less certainty, “I think it’s something for a What-you-may-call-it”.  Others will reply silently with dull, weary eyes or furtive glances at the ever-staring security cameras, while still others will retort suspiciously, “who wants to know?”

But it is their maps I find the most intriguing. No one map is the same, and they all comprise several different maps sellotaped, glued or sewn together.


It is not uncommon to find an ordnance survey map with a scale of 1:1250 taped to a large section of a Boggs eumorphic. This in turn may be pasted in part over A parallélogrammatique and torn pieces of a pseudoazimuthal. Thus a ragged coastline will find itself co-joined with a soviet-era rail-network from some long disappeared vassal state. A topographical map of some indistinct mountain range will end abruptly in a nautical chart of some distant sea and a guide to the footpaths of some moor.  The creation of long forgotten cartographers and defunct geographical societies, these maps are often practically indecipherable from years of folding and unfolding, discoloured tape and faded ink. Where a cyan river ends it may join a dotted black powerline which then becomes a magenta national border. Hajdúszoboszló keeps company with വ്യഞ്ജനങ്ങൾ and Жеймяна sits happily next to Warrumbungles. Haphazard they may be, but these cartographical collages are valued like sacred texts.

jesus of the unbeliever

“Why would I be so obsessed with Jesus even after I left the faith?” -Bart Ehrman

(Link to an interesting article by Professor Bart Ehrman. See also the reposte by Michel Bird.)