Hi there. I’m Jim Bliss and this is my website.
Jim Bliss is a pseudonym. I started using it about a decade ago, during a particularly low period in my life. I thought the name was funny at the time. I still do. I’m glad to say that a few years later, thanks in no small part to a decent therapist and the love of a good woman, the black dog has been chased from my world. Or at least, chased far off into the distance where it glowers and growls occasionally but rarely bothers me too much.
So that’s where that name comes from.
The Quiet Road
After a decade and a half based in London, I returned home to Ireland and moved to a small village on the outskirts of Dublin. One morning I was out walking and realised, almost to my surprise, that despite being less than half an hour from my front door I was in what could only be described as “the countryside”. Mature, broad-leafed trees overhung the road and cows looked lazily over a hedge towards the only sound that could be heard… my footsteps. Even the myriad birds and insects seemed to take a short breather and when I paused to take in this serene environment, a rich silence descended upon me.
Invigorated by the glorious contrast with London… where silence must be paid for… I walked home feeling good about my new place, whereupon I put on my favourite record of all time — Remain In Light by Talking Heads. Due to the shuffle function on the cd-player, the last song played first. Called The Overload, it’s a towering song; like Joy Division only more so; and it goes like this…
A terrible signal
too weak to even recognize
A gentle collapsing
the removal of the insides
I’m touched by your pleas
I value these moments
We’re older than we realise
… in someone’s eyes
A frequent returning
and leaving unnoticed
A condition of mercy
a change in the weather
A view to remember
the centre is missing
They question how the future lies
… in someone’s eyes
The gentle collapsing
of every surface
We travel on The Quiet Road
… The Overload
It’s as dark a song as has ever been written. All droney guitars, spooky electronics and bleakly intoned lyrics. “The Quiet Road” of the song couldn’t be further from “The Quiet Road” of my earlier walk. And I loved how the phrase was capable of conjuring up such radically different landscapes. A couple of days later I was casting around for something to call my new blog…
When I decided to call my site The Quiet Road, the obvious thing to do would have been to register something like thequietroad.net to host it on. But I’m rarely that straight-forward. After all, why use one obscure reference when creating a website when you can use two?
My dear friend Merrick had recently given me a gift of Selected Essays by George Orwell. It’s a weighty tome of almost 1,500 pages and contains some of the finest pieces of short prose ever to grace the English language. It’s a thoroughly wonderful and inspiring book and I’ve been dipping in and out of it ever since.
In one of the essays, Orwell recounts his experiences while being treated in a Parisian hospital in the late 1920s. Called How the Poor Die, it’s a grim tale and one that lingers in the mind long after reading it. In the story, each of the patients in Orwell’s ward is identified by number rather than name, and it is “numero 57” who suffers the dehumanising, lonely and agonising death alluded to in the essay’s title.
There was no deep reason for taking that phrase, “numero 57”, other than I found it aesthetically pleasing as a phrase. It rolls nicely off the tongue. On top of that, I liked the sheer obscurity of the reference.
But who am I?
I was born in Dublin at the beginning of the 1970s and spent my childhood amid the grey, unyielding concrete of a housing estate. It was a dark place and time, and my memories of it are patchy to say the least. I was a devout Catholic as a young boy. More so than anyone else in my family, but I’ve always been possessed of a certain seriousness that lent itself to dedication to a ideal. Thankfully, in later years, that seriousness has been leavened with a sense of the absurd and a healthy dose of self-deprecation.
My solemn devotion served me well for my first couple of years with the Christian Brothers. But around age eleven I started to spend a lot of time in the library where I consumed books of all kinds. In quick succession I read The Lord of The Rings and The Holy Bible and had the first epiphany I can remember… they were both clearly works of fiction. More than that, Tolkien had done the better job. Life with the Christian Brothers became more arduous after that.
I have since somewhat revised my opinion of The Bible. The subtle but vital differences between “fiction” and “mythology” have become apparent to me and I have long-abandoned the militant atheism that characterised much of my teens and twenties. Which is not to say I’ve become a religious man. Far from it. But people who dismiss the mythopoetry of our culture as “mere superstition” or “lies” irritate me almost as much fundamentalists who insist upon taking it literally. Almost.
Anyway, by the time I hit my teens my family was on the move. My father is a gifted engineer and a large US multinational corporation hired him as their operations troubleshooter. Over the next two decades our family home would shift between continents every couple of years. Greece, Egypt, Spain, Brazil, the United States… the list goes on. I eventually landed in London where I attended university. Much to my great irritation at the time, though I’ve since come to have a great deal of respect for his decision, my father allowed me to study philosophy at university only on the condition that I “got a trade” at the same time. So taking a gap year to study engineering and spending my university summers serving an apprenticeship with an engineering contractor, I emerged after four years as an engineer with a degree in philosophy.
Since then I have returned to academia and took a Master’s degree in Psychoanalytic Studies. Technically I’m an engineer with a philosophy degree who’s also a qualified psychoanalyst. Though I haven’t taken the required clinical course to get my licence to practice psychoanalysis in the EU. But if you want to meet me in a place with a slightly more lax licensing regime — say the United States? — I’ll gladly analyse your dreams and listen to you talk about your mother for an exorbitant hourly rate. At some stage in the (not-too-distant) future I intend to get my doctorate and after that maybe even take the required clinical course.
Between my first stint at university and my return to Trinity I worked in the engineering industry for a while — travelling far and wide but seeing little more than hotels and factories — then spent a couple of enjoyable if unproductive years in the computer games industry before setting up as a freelance web developer. Which is what I do now to pay the bills until my writing takes over that role. So if you want a website built (ColdFusion programming and WordPress customisation a speciality) feel free to get in touch via my work website, Ring Forth Web Studio.
These days I split my time between building websites, writing (here and elsewhere) and being very happily married. Even as our civilisation collapses around me, I find myself thinking about how blessed I am to be living this life. I hope — on your good days at least — that you feel that way too.
Right, so here’s the deal.
All contents of this site are Copyright © 2006-2013 Jim Bliss except citations (which retain the copyright conditions of the credited source), visitor comments (which are copyright the respective visitor) or the work of invited / named contributors (which is the copyright of the respective contributor).
I really dislike having to make that assertion. All that pretend legalese. The zines I published throughout the 90s all had very clear anti-copyright statements on them. And I’ve always had a problem with the legal frameworks we’ve devised to deal with “intellectual property”. So I applaud attempts to develop a genuinely “open source” model of intellectual property rights such as Creative Commons (a system that has much to recommend it).
Sadly though, as much as I’m in favour of fair use, there are situations where I want to be able to assert control over my work. And systems like Creative Commons – by their very nature – don’t allow for this.
Way back when the internet was still a mewling infant (as opposed to the self-obsessed adolescent it is at the moment) I published a long essay on a web-forum. It dealt with the issue of sustainability and took a dispassionate look at how strict immigration controls might be used as part of a global shift towards sustainability. I was not proposing policy (and was very clear about that in the essay) and made a big deal about the fact that I was myself an immigrant (it was written whilst I was living in Chicago) and how I had, in fact, been an immigrant my entire adult life (and a sizeable chunk of my childhood too).
As was my wont at the time, I added an “anti-copyright” statement to the bottom of the essay. Publishing under Creative Commons would have offered no more protection against what happened.
It turned out that one reader of that web forum was also a regular poster on several libertarian-verging-on-quite-dodgy American mailing lists and Usenet groups. Quite within his rights (I told him he could do it with my anti-copyright statement) he proceeded to edit my essay and turned it into something… well, let’s just say “close to the edge”. Certainly something you’d have difficulty giving the benefit of the doubt to. Context, it turns out, can be very important indeed.
Having edited the piece to his liking, he then posted it – still under my name (and email address) – to lots of mailing lists you’d have equal difficulty giving the benefit of the doubt to.
I didn’t get any mail from scary racists. But I got quite a lot from outraged liberals. Most of them were very nice once I’d explained the situation and pointed them towards the original version of the essay. A couple of them though were clearly so riled by their interpretation of my essay that I continued getting nasty email from them for months afterwards. And that gets tiring very quickly.
Of course in practical terms, even if I’d put “copyright jim” at the bottom of that essay, the same set of events would in all likelihood still have transpired. Nonetheless, it got me thinking about the principle. In 99.9% of cases I’m delighted that someone would want to republish an essay of mine. I think it’s only polite to credit an author of course (and give them a link if it’s an online thing). But beyond that, I’m more than happy for people to cite me in whole or in part.
But I still want the ability to say “No, actually, I don’t want that essay to appear in StormFront magazine thanks very much”. For that 0.1% of occasions, I want to retain control.
So there you have it. It’s all copyrighted. You’ve got fair (non-profit) usage of it. But I reserve the right to set my crack team of expensive lawyers on you if you step out of line sonny-jim-me’lad.
I have a very simple comments policy. I’ll delete what I like, when I like and why I like. It’s not up for discussion.
However, in practice you almost certainly won’t be censored unless I feel you’ve written something legally actionable. It’s my website… I’m more than happy to get in trouble for something I’ve written, and I’ll even consider publishing other people’s libel if I agree with it and discuss it beforehand. But I’m not getting into trouble for every random schnook who fancies a bit of controversy. Go set up your own blog if that’s what you’re after.
There are some broad exceptions to this basic no-censorship deal. One – of course – is anything that I consider to be spam. Commercial linking will not be tolerated.
In order to minimise the amount of comment spam, I’ve set up a ‘moderation’ system. Essentially this blocks the first comment a site visitor makes until I approve it for publication. All subsequent comments by that person will then be automatically approved.
Hopefully this will weed out most of the casino advertisers, while still allowing free-flowing debate. It’ll be interesting to see how well it works out.
Other broad exceptions may be added by me, at my discretion, as I think of them.
From time to time issues like drug policy (and use), violence and – yes – even sex may be discussed on this website. Furthermore, there may well be swearing. Sexual swearwords (fuck, cunt and cock, for instance) as well as their more scatalogical brethren (shit and crap) could crop up from time to time.
All of which is to say that this site probably isn’t suitable for little 8-year-old Timmy. But ultimately, that’s for Timmy’s parents to decide. And if they can’t be arsed to supervise their 8-year-old’s online time, then they really need to take a bit more fucking responsibility.