Friday, May 30, 2008

Ne Travaillez Jamais

Kino Fist's Workin' Special is this Sunday: 2pm, at the E:vent Gallery, Teesdale St, Bethnal Green, showing Paul Schrader's Blue Collar and Jean-Luc Godard's British Sounds. The zine is, if I may say so myself, pretty choice, containing (non-pseudonymous) contributions from blog luminaries like Emmy Hennings, IT and Savonarola, plus myself, the Impostume, and other esteemed contributors. And pictures. I.T's contribution is now up, and an excellent post on our theme (too late for us to shoehorn it in, alas) is now up at Mentasms.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Combined and Uneven Developments

Two articles by me on the grim undeath of the Great Wen: on gentrification, via the dubious results of an 'urban renaissance'; and dereliction, via Paul Talling's Derelict London, both very much part of the same process.

Research as Crime

A rather more urgent campaign:

An MA student at the University of Nottingham named Rizwaan Sabir and a 30 year old clerical staff member, Hisham Yezza, were arrested by police under the Terrorism Act 2000, and held for six days without charge. The student downloaded a supposed 'Al Qaeda' training manual from a US government website as part of his dissertation on 'Islamic extremism'. I will just mention that there is some doubt as to the document's provenance, which is proliferating in different variations all over the internet (apparently, it is also available on Amazon). Rizwaan forwarded it to a friend in the Department of Engineering for printing because he couldn't afford the printing costs. Someone, somehow, saw this material on Yezza's computer and, thanks to the culture of prying and snitching encouraged by the government and right-wing media, assumed the worst and told the University authorities. The authorities, instead of checking with the staff member in question, or even making a roundabout preliminary investigation, called the police. The reason the authorities give for this is that Yezza was a clerical member of staff (although he had studied at the University) and therefore no threat to academic freedom was involved. The pair's homes were raided and their families harassed during the six days of detention. The pair were released on 20 May, but Hisham Yezza was subsequently re-arrested on an unrelated immigration issue and is now at Colnbrook detention centre awaiting deportation to Algeria.

So all those laws, terrorism acts and exceptions we've slept through are now being used, and no doubt will continue to be - the total abandonment of the concept of academic freedom, the encouragement of a culture of petty espionage, arbitrary arrest without trial, deportation, all legal. Dominic has written about this better than I could here, here and here. There's a campaign to stop the deportation of Hicham Yezza - scheduled for this Sunday - here. At least, sign the online petition.

Turkish Constructivism

Unless you count AA students ripping off their ideas 50 years later, Constructivist architecture never quite became a trans-national style, give or take exhibition structures by Lissitzky or Melnikov. Khan-Magomedov's Pioneers of Soviet Architecture lists the Soviet embassy in Ankara as an exception, designed in the mid-20s in severe Constructivist manner. Apparently there was more where this came from, presumably via the mutual admiration between statist attempts at 'modernising' peasant economies...One such is the Sumerbank Textile Factory in Kayseri, designed by Ivan Nikolaev, member of the remarkable OSA group and planner of Communal Houses in late 20s Moscow. Apparently it's now up for demolition, which would be an act of ahistorical barbarism: Archinect has more info and a link to a DOCOMOMO petition.

Bluewater Torture

I usually resist the temptation to link to anything by Michael Collins. He writes about many of the same things I do (oh, the new acceptability of classism, council housing, etc), although as a rent-an-ex-prole making endless apologias along the lines of 'well, you think we're racist, thick and nostalgic - well guess what, we are, and we love it.' He's also better at this than a dilettante like Baggini, his writing having a trenchancy that almost takes you along with it until you remind yourself that the working class is an economic group united by common interest, not a fucking tribe. This is as a preamble to linking this piece on Ebbsfleet, suburb of Bluewater - satisfaction of true working class desires, as opposed to all those guilty bien pensant lefty attempts at urban social reform (which were all subterfuges of their real aim: to keep us from consuming, obviously). Eric Kuhne provides what the Smithsons or Ebenezer Howard wouldn't.

So I was planning on giving this a bit of a kicking. Thankfully, Simon Sellars says a lot of what I was going to on Ballard and Bluewater with some style, saving me the trouble. A more general point though: what irritates me here is the notion that the middle classes, when they're in the guise of reforming utopian socialists, or aesthetes or artists, are to be utterly distrusted, but when building shopping malls or editing tabloids they suddenly become the friend of the working man, with an unambiguous desire to give us what we (always, already, with no mediation) want. Intellectuals want to foist temperance and socialism on us, while business just wants to shower us with all the joys of consumer capitalism. Once again, the idea that the working class itself might have been utopian, or socialist, or interested in something other than entertainment technologies and sport, is totally abandoned.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Outside when Zion gate close

This has been brewing for a while, and is hopefully not over-stewed (or over-qualified, or over-dialectical)- Me on Zionist architecture and its Other, in Archinect. Many thanks to John Jourden and Philipp Messner for help on this one.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Charity Shop Urbanism

One of my favourite streets in the world is Shirley High Street, Southampton. It's long, and very straight, with tall, bulbous streetlights, as if it's a promenade rather than a shabby commercial thoroughfare. Architecturally, there is nothing here that will ever get listed status, though there are many curios: the shadow of a Regent cinema, a slatted concrete screen above Superdrug, Art Nouveau ironwork sprouting at unexpected places, Polish delis, a mock-Byzantine church, a formica caff, a block of flats called Hatherley Mansions. Overlooking the central part is Shirley Towers, a tower block that is approximately 18 storeys higher than the entire rest of the area (from the atelier of the noted L. Berger, City Council architect), somehow fitting quite appropriately into the out-of-time ambience of the area, and the centrepiece of a largeish, increasingly forlorn estate. There is, however, one major reason (other than sentiment) why this street has this place in my affections. Or, more specifically, ten reasons.

Shirley High Street has ten - count em - charity shops. For one thing, this means a visit always involves a hoard of excellent tat (The Shell and BP Guide to Britain, Gary Numan LP with free poster, a tie, Hancock tape etc), but more interestingly, it involves an uncovering of the unconscious of this supremely average place - a huge amount of New Romantic vinyl in most shops implies a hidden history of glamour, although sadly clothes from same period are harder to come by (save the fur coat I found in 1997); books, with some unexpected things poking out amongst the Anita Shreve that speak of the street as an outpost for sedition (Victor Serge's Memoirs in Help The Aged was a personal best). You can discover, to a certain extent not only what Shirley has consumed, but what it believed, its occasional efforts to educate itself, as much as its liking for James Last (or Duran Duran, or Rick James). There's also a shower of truly irredeemable ephemera from the late 80s and 90s, which reminds that this was perhaps an all time nadir for popular design, with endless sub-par rearrangings of Victoriana and Swede-ish pine thingies showing a depressing lack of imagination. Nonetheless, the street itself is almost mimed by the insides of the shops: messy, unwanted, ageing, scattered with gems if you can be bothered to sift through for long enough.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Burn, Warehouse, Burn

I.T on J.G Ballard and Iain Sinclair's threat to blow up Bluewater being taken rather more seriously when delivered by a (shock-horror) Muslim - who nonetheless had the impression that Bluewater was in Exeter, but that's being let pass. Two quick points here: one, I was faintly intrigued to find that the threatener in question was not only from Southampton, but from the Flower Estate (so why he didn't want to blow up West Quay is beyond me); and two, it makes this interview with the designer of Bluewater and its ilk (via) even more grimly compelling. The gist: Bluewater is what people want, when an industrial site is cleared - shops, lots of them, 'contextual' architecture, and many many parking spaces. If there's a despot locally who can help the process along then that's good too. In fact, Bluewater seen like this is reminiscent of 'Most Wanted Paintings' the Sots Art prank where the votes of a given area for what they most wanted to see in a painting get totted up, with the results appropriately ridiculous.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Meme Meme Meme

There were some fine, if occasional responses to picture-thinking non-passion quilt (what actually is a passion quilt? Anyone?) here, here, and via others, here and apology for ever using the phrase 'educator' - although that could have been with the connotation of being a German Autonomist who rearranges the furniture of the rich to remind them that their days of plenty are numbered. Perhaps.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Creeping Blogthetics

Self-plug: you can find my byline in the following things (not online) - this month's Wire, interviewing this person and reviewing this book; and the current issue of Blueprint, on Paul Overy's excellent Light Air and Openness. In the latter there's also a potentially intriguing pledge to resist British architecture's current trough (well anatomised here) from one of these people, who make the rather surprising claim that architecture today suffers from being too ethical, denouncing diktats from 'lobby groups, think-tanks and central government'. Who is missing from this list, I wonder...?

Sunday, May 18, 2008

A Nation of Shedkeepers

You see some odd things on the London to Manchester train. Gigantic cooling towers in the countryside, a mutant variant on Kropotkin's 'factory in the garden'; silos and mounds, canals of a decidedly Enlightened obsessive straightness. The one built artifact that seems to dominate the landscape, however, is the shed. Victorian sheds, their iron roofs stretching out for half a mile; post-war sheds, tinny and shoddy; and the gigantic sheds of the last 20 years, utterly enormous, featureless buildings seeming to enclose small towns within their plasticky walls. The late, great Martin Pawley predicted in the 1998 book Terminal Architecture that the architecture of the future would most likely be a variant on the gigantic sheds of big box retail - automated, easily built and recycled, ephemeral, non-architectural, a super-functionalism. 'Walmartopolis'. The landscape I saw would suggest that he was most certainly right here, if wrong elsewhere (e.g, on the end of tall buildings in London). Yet one can't help wishing that the architecture of future wasn't quite so drab.

Even the overwhelming scale is only appreciable from the air, so even the an awed response to the sublime power of the corporate juggernaut is nigh-impossible. Sure, you can admire the total technological efficiency of these structures, and agree with Pawley that they make a mockery of the 'sustainable', over-budget concoctions of the starchitect - but surely this final morphing of utilitarianism is one of the greatest pieces of evidence for J.G Ballard's admonition: the future will be boring. Therefore, no sheds for you to look at here. Instead, here's more evidence of the extremely bizarre spaces that lie not very far from the mundanism of this landscape, found via Unmitigated England. Look at these two photographs and wonder at exactly what sort of ludicrous, morbidly fascinating landscape we've created for ourselves. The first one (top of post) depicts 'acoustic mirrors' in Kent, 30ft concrete structures with built-in microphones, an early form of radar, the poignancy of obsolete high-technology, of futurist relics; the second, which you see above (surely built near to several large sheds, this one) depicts a seemingly wholly identikit Barratt landscape, distinguished by the art deco tower of a 1930s mental hospital. Care in the community.

Organising Resentment

Savonarola, excellent, on the atrophy of the Italian left - put down to their inability to mobilise popular discontent, or respond to drab bread & butter issues like housing, working conditions, etc: limiting its concerns instead to 'the cultural and international' (sound familiar?). Rather, what it has to do if it is to fight a resurgent populist neo-fascism, is 'organise resentment'*. When myself and Mark were advocating resentment as a political category, it was notable how many people got extremely uppity, as if anger, rage, the occasional bit of schadenfreude, were somehow something the other does, but we should know better. It has long been a cliche of rightists and liberals that socialists are all guilty bourgeoises: it's far from the whole truth, and always has been - in fact, what gave the workers' movement its power was always the (precarious) unity of proletarian self-organisation and the totalised conception of society and the economy which only education (autodidactic or otherwise) can provide; but nevertheless - if the left is film festivals, Richard Meier buildings, opposition to war and little else, then it can hardly be surprised if the Right steals its natural constituency. The results of this could be grim indeed.

* Which would not, incidentally, be referring to New Labour in Crewe: anti-immigration rhetoric and inverted snobbery (let's not forget, this is the Party that is 'intensely comfortable with people getting very rich') in place of what was once social democracy.

'At the heart of daily punishment and sufferings, in the very wheels of encroaching mediocrity, are found both the keys and the doors to inner worlds'

This passed me by, but is very apposite to recent book-as-portal discussion: Jon Savage, last week, on Ian Curtis' reading habits, and W-C intellectuals in postpunk; the general unashamed bookishness that was not far from the norm before the setting in of the war against intelligence.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Picture-Thinking Meme

Like IT, I refuse to call this meme 'passion quilt' - but I will certainly participate in it, as an inveterate picture-thinker. The gist is: 'Post a picture or make/take/create your own that captures what YOU are most passionate for students to learn about. Give your picture a short title. Title your blog post 'Meme: Passion Quilt'[no!]. Link back to this blog entry. Include links to 5 (or more) educators.' It took a very long time to decide on an image, I'd considered this, for a bit (too whimsical) this (too dark), a photograph of a model in a Citroen at the Weissenhof Siedlung (too slick), a photograph of the Bauhaus' young theatre troupe in 1930 (couldn't find it online) and this (I don't think any students would see in it what I wanted them to). So I've settled on, to the cries of 'predictable!' from my enemies:

Hammer & Sickle Architectural Fantasy

This is one of the images in the architectural draughtsman Iakov Chernikhov's book Architectural Fantasies, published in Leningrad in 1933. I've chosen it first, because it's gorgeous; second, because of its political symbolism - an emblem of Communism, depicted with a ferocious, ultra high-tech, bright, tasteless supermodernism. We think of the idea of socialism as something Victorian, something dated and grim, workerist and lumpen - well here it is, as blazingly exciting as anything produced by capital. Third, it makes linear history go haywire - it has resemblances to something off the Richard Rogers drawing board from the mid-80s, or from a particularly inspired deconstructivist studio, but is the product of an essentially peasant country in the early 1930s. It looks like the future, but is ineluctably of the past, a vision of a future that never came into being (it doesn't look anything like the similarly grim eclecticism and standardised modernism that characterised most Stalinist architecture). Fourth, the fearless conception of new space it embodies: it mocks the very idea of 'continuity' in culture. Imagine this slotted into a city, how it would clash and conflict with everything around it. Imagine it extending itself to take in a whole city. And finally, I would ask what these phantasmagoric 'students' thought would be going on inside this place.

Not all of these people are 'educators', but I'm tagging them regardless: Douglas, Charles, Esther, Geoff, Emmy, and Oliver.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

We're the Flowers in the Dustbin

The thing most despised about the working class at the moment seems to be that it doesn't do enough bloody work. This is amusing in the UK, where we have (jointly with Canada, apparently) the highest proportion of the able-bodied in work worldwide. This sort of rhetoric has long been knocking around, of course - even in the days when the construction of Telford's iron bridges were notable because deaths of workers were only in single figures, there would have been some twat in Fleet Street moaning about the malingering lower orders. In the last issue of the New Humanist, there was an unpleasant bit of evasive, dissembling decentist drivel from What's It All About Then, Eh, This Thinking Stuff? author Julian Baggini, in defence of Minister for Squalor (ta Scott) Caroline Flint and her supremely Victorian no-job-no-house policy. The eager can read my riposte in the current issue, the first letter of the month honour I've received since I was 13, and hopefully a little more eloquent. At which point I was living in the place depicted in these photographs, a fairly typical interwar 'cottage estate' built by Southampton's local authority. One of the notable things about the Flower Estate, as it's universally known, is how it stops, by its traditionalism, at least one of the usual criticisms of council estates - that their Modernist architecture is some sort of inhuman experiment being tested on the tenants - leaving mainly the snobbery and social Darwinism.

On the same morbid Google search during which I found the images you see here, I also came across a local news story, about what seems to have been a precise, almost paramilitary police manoeuvre ('Operation Order') directed at said Estate, and specifically at the workshy yobs who pervade its pretty roads and and parks, speeding, wearing hoods and being generally ASBO-worthy. The problem here is similar to that raised in Baggini's witterings: this was a grim place, and was made grimmer by several horrible youths, something which I imagine to still be the case. It takes quite a leap, however, to think that this is going to be alleviated by targeting an area like a petty general, or by replacing already underserviced, under-maintained housing with homelessness. The reason I'm linking to this is for the comments at the end of the article, where the good readers of the Echo's website suggest possible other solutions for the Flower Estate and its Untermenschen. These 'pond life' should apparently be alternately sterlised, publicly flogged, or wiped off the face of the earth altogether. This is all said with the studenty joviality usually found on the Chavscum website and its ilk. But they're not really going to do it, are they? Collective punishment, enforced homelessness, stop and search, the occasional shot to the head - these measures couldn't set a precedent for these irreverent little suggestions actually becoming reality?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Back to Nature...

'Krier Speaks!' declares the cover of this week's Architects' Journal. For those reading this who aren't au fait with Luxembourgian monarchist architects, Leon Krier is an ex-assistant of James Stirling, for whom he distinguished himself by odd, surrealistic plans and renderings, and who, partly under the pernicious influence of 70s architecture's cult of Heidegger, dedicated himself first to the attempted rehabilitation of Albert Speer as valiant fighter against Modernism and technological instrumentality (oh yes) and subsequently to Prince Charles' would-be Potemkinstadt, Poundbury. So he's a fascinating, if deeply, deeply dubious figure. Sadly he doesn't quite 'speak' in the AJ (as then someone might be able to argue with him), instead there's excerpts from his portentously titled new book The Architectural Tuning of Settlements.

It's sober stuff, especially compared with what has to be his finest moment, the ludicrous, straightforwardly Fascistic, but morbidly compelling essay 'Vorwarts Kamaraden, Wir Mussen Zuruck', published in the mid-70s for Oppositions. It elicited a rebuttal in the same magazine, but its logic - Nazism and ecological catastrophe as classless phenomena created essentially by technology and the rationalism it engenders, a very Heideggerian position - has stayed the same ever since. So here we have him declaring that all artificial materials - concrete and steel, specifically - should be abandoned in favour of natural stone (where does man-made brick feature here, I wonder?). Points are made with which one could agree - against the private car, for walking - but the ideology underneath is repellent.

Interestingly, Krier implies in the AJ extracts that the architectural wing of the ecological movement is being hijacked by technocrats, who with their 'gadgets' (presumably solar panels and such) are preventing the grand opportunity global warming presents for an Erewhon style rejection of all technology produced since the 15th century, irritatingly getting in the way of the monarchist millennium. A good inadvertent riposte to this can be found in this Fantastic Journal post on the soixante-huitard roots of the High-Tech movement as an attempted reconciliation with nature, something very difficult to find in their recent degeneration into corporate mock-functionalism. There's a bit of a back-history to this too, from the futurist tendencies underlying the garden city (Ebenezer Howard's liking for crystal palaces, Broadacre City, the strange mobile urban-rural Constructivism of Mikhail Okhitovich), up to Drop City, where self-built geodesic domes in the desert offered hideouts from Capital. It has its own dubious elements too, the notion that there is ever an outside, that dropping out can be anything other than a self-congratulatory redoubt for the privileged - but is a timely reminder that technology has to be solution as much as the problem, at least for those of us who would prefer not to return to the 15th century, those of us that have no interest in being at the indifferent mercies of nature.

Saturday, May 10, 2008


After the bit of a Fall conference that I managed to catch, and which didn't rank as one of my finest moments of public speaking and writing, I had a wander round Manchester for two hours, a city of which I am wholly ignorant. From this brief acquaintance I noted cleanliness, vaguely European hanging around and civic pride & pomp, and many, many luxury flats, often with derelict red brick buildings next to them. So the only thing on which I feel qualified to comment is the fantastic building you see above - Gateway House, a long, curving block leading off Piccadilly station. It's apparently the work of Colonel Seifert, and if so ranks as one of his oddest and best works, certainly a damn sight better than his tossed-off blocks at Euston. It's also comfortingly shabby, and houses a grease-caff where you can get a palatable all-day breakast for 3 quid. You wouldn't be able to do that in Euston.

Thursday, May 08, 2008


Me on the Diaries of Sergei Prokofiev, in what I am told is referred to as the Staggers. (in a brief return of the Plakaty, above is the poster to Lieutenant Kije, a Soviet historical-epic thing which Prokofiev soundtracked)



Cleansing and Alchemy

When exactly did 'Regeneration' become the catch-all term for any act of building in a city? The word is perfect, ideologically: it captures first a certain contextualism, a working with what is already there, like the 80s German 'critical reconstruction' (whereas 50s terms like 'comprehensive redevelopment' sounded a bit scary); it sounds vaguely religiose and philanthropic; and like Blairism itself, declares that the bad old days of uncaring capitalism are gone, now we have a warm, considerate neoliberalism. The rise of this term was worth pondering upon finding a little magazine called 'REGENERATION' in the Guardian yesterday.

Produced by Lyonsdown Media Group, known for such publications as Franchising and - of course - Flexible Working, Regeneration is not, unlike say Movello, a straightforward glossy portfolio or catalogue of stunning developments. This one is more concerned, and hence more ideological, its intentions more cleverly phrased. For instance, a column on those PublicPrivatePartnerships argues that local councils should have more power in the schemes (though certainly not build by themselves, good heavens), so you have to search a bit for the giveaway phrase. It comes eventually though: ' the issue is that the right person to move into a property is not necessarily the same as the person who is next in line on the waiting list'. Let's not forget that James Baldwin once dubbed Urban Renewal in US cities as 'Negro Removal'.

Then there are all the cities competing for that all-important Bilbao effect: Swindon, Newport, Newcastle (where 'heritage drives urban regeneration'). Swindon even has its own little new town style corporation, 'The New Swindon Company'. The images all have certain things in common: water, for some reason, obsesses the urban regenerator (a strange compulsion to be in the frontline when the tides start overwhelming the cities?), as does extraneous bits of building like high-tech style bits of scaffold, or pine dressing. All these cities, rising from the ashes of the proletariat and its industries. Like Gordon Brown once did, they claim to have abolished boom and bust, magicked away the cycles of capitalism. 'No longer are our cities vulnerable to the single-industry shocks of the 80s', writes the vice chair of the British Urban Regeneration Association (presumably the service industry will last forever). This is so prevalent that it becomes the telos of every urban intervention - even a brutal urban war.

So, (as Roger mentioned here) we now have 'the logical end result of the Iraq war': an urban regeneration scheme for the Green Zone. A mixed-development, high-end project with accompanying 'regenerator's watercolour' depicting Landmark Architecture. So while at one end of the city there is no electricity, at the other end American chains and Saudi plutocrats are buying up the wasteland to create more gold from shit.

Monuments to Our Enemies, Pt 1

This came up the other day after the anti-BNP demo at City Hall, perhaps I'll make it an irregular series, although the sheer amount of these things might prevent it. This statue is of Jan Smuts, South African politician and white supremacist, and sits on Parliament Square. Unlike many of the other monuments to imperialists, racists and mass murderers dotted round the British capital, the statue was actually the product of a genuinely great sculptor, Jacob Epstein: although it's not exactly his finest moment.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008


Everything they do, the way they pit the lifers against the new boys, the old against the young, the blacks against the whites, is meant to keep us in our place.

The next Kino Fist will take place on Sunday 1st June at 2pm at E:vent Gallery, 96 Teesdale Street, E2 6PU.

We will be screening Godard's 1969 British Sounds, made for but ultimately banned by London Weekend Television, and featuring the 'boring cunt' not featured in my earlier post on it; followed by Paul Schrader's 'accidentally Marxist' 1978 masterpiece Blue Collar.

Kino-Malingerers and Kino-Stakhanovites both are encouraged to contribute something on the theme of either (or both) of these films, or on the theme of work and/or cinema more broadly, please send illustrations, photos and texts to infinitethought[at] by May 20.

The World of Glamour

There have always been two main lies told by pornography: one of a seamless world of carnal efficiency without bodily failings, and another fib about the real, the nitty-gritty, the facts of life presented in an unflinching glare. Both turn up as subject matter on John Cooper Clarke's Disguise in Love: first, the second type, on 'Reader's Wives'. In one of I.T's fine disquisitions on pre-war hardcore one of her interviewees claims that the Reader's Wives genre is some sort of eccentric, English riposte to the implausible visions of perfection that contemporary porn goes in for. A DIY, response-based media in which all the blemishes are left in, where - as the name fairly blatantly suggests - mundanity and homeliness are what's important. Of course, the end result is usually faintly ghoulish, with the uncomfortably contorted bodies and crepuscular lighting tending to look a little creepy. Cooper Clarke lists all this in lurid detail, over Hannett and Hopkins' lachrymose, drizzly backing: clamminess, boredom, 'cold flesh the colour of potatoes'.

That the world of pin-ups and soft porn comes from a particularly 20th century lineage (as opposed to the straightforward presentations of people at it that I.T discusses) can be seen in the early career of Russ Meyer. First, working as a war photographer, whose lingering shots of explosions and technological apparatus would find its way into compilation films; then as an industrial film-maker, whose job was to present the product in full, comprehensive detail and to show its engineered efficiency; then as a pin-up photographer, where his use of industrial metaphors ('cantilevered', mainly) would be adapted to the seemingly more fallible human body. Meyer's obsessions are of course only a more demented version of an orthodoxy in the world of the jazz mag (or the glamour publication, to be more quaint about it). The body is meant to be viewed as one might view a new piece of machinery, and likewise has obsolescence built-in.

Although it's more about the world around the photographed than the photographs themselves, 'Post-War Glamour Girl' is the inverse of the grim everyday of 'Reader's Wives', offering snapshots of the actual glamour behind the incongruous euphemism. There's only a couple of hints about what our heroine actually does to pay the rent (''adults only' over her pubes') with the rest subsumed into a Profumo/Harrison Marks/Italian coffee shop Soho of beatniks, action painters and bugged phones which had was already an object of nostalgia in 1978. The track is a collage of sharp, Pop Art images, over a fizzy backdrop, undercutting the loneliness when the 'amorous cameras' depart. Eventually, we know there'll be a moment when her image will no longer be surrounded by unfunny cartoons, articles on Hitler's bunker, or advertisements for aids to muscle-building and 'married life'.

Monday, May 05, 2008


Dominic Fox contributes an entry to the Profanisaurus; The Impostume writes about the fixation on bodily unpleasantnesses and coagulated frequencies ushered in by 'Sweet Leaf'. Almost worth besmirching this blog's usual Apollonian concerns for. A brief turn to the base may follow.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

How I Wish You Were Here With Me Now

Onto a rather happier subject - the selfless joy of the postcard. I spotted these two lovely cards at Rob Annable's Flickr and promptly favourited one, only to be told they were actually about to be sent to me via proper post. They were worth having in the end, there's nothing like ephemeral scrawls in foreign languages, franking and faded printed card to get me excited. Apparently the building they depict was designed by Wilhelm Marinus Dudok, inspiration for town halls, pithead baths and cinemas all over Britain in the 30s. On the subject of architecture postcards (and is there really any other sort? Other than those featuring sundry waving aristocrats), this fine site has been brought to my attention. Some genuine stunners, here, irrespective of the inadequacy of my schoolboy French even when faced with such pithy captions. A few highlights: Soviet architecture predicts Zaha Hadid shocker; elegance and heimat futurism in the German Democratic Republic; and finally, I'm lost for words.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Destroy the Brain Instantly, Utterly

"This is like the March on Rome in 1922," one shadow minister said as Johnson inched towards victory. Johnson will not march into London's City Hall surrounded by blackshirts in the manner of Benito Mussolini's supporters when they staged their coup d'état in 1920s Italy. But the lighthearted reference to 1922 gave a taste of the high Tory spirits.

Almost too enraged to write about the prospect of someone whose main qualifications for public office are an extremely expensive education and the boorish charmlessness that comes with it becoming London's representative to the world. The only consolation is that, unlike in Rome, people aren't going to be shouting 'Duce, Duce' outside City Hall just yet (although the BNP seat implies that isn't impossible in the future). In the Greenwich pub where yesterday we watched the results come in there was whooping when the toff won - and that in one of the few areas where the left made a reasonable showing. Johnson is the perfect politician for the smug, vacuous side of London, with its entire tube carriages reading the same mind-rotting thing, its obsession with fame, its belief that nothing, ever, is serious.

The first time I ever voted was in 2000, for Ken Livingstone. It was odd, given that everyone in my family had done so for generations, not to be voting Labour. Maybe one of the few advantages of being under 30, with all the shallowness and evil that seems to necessitate is not having that corrosive Party sentimentality. Although the meltdown of the last couple of days (hello Southampton) has made it blindingly obvious how much it's needed, the possibility of the Labour left bailing out and helping create an alternative to two neoliberal parties, one grimly managerial, the other full of public school overconfidence, is looking as minimal as ever. There have only been two high profile secessions, both personality-based - Livingstone himself, who might well have won yesterday had he stayed an independent rather than hitching himself to a sinking ship; and Galloway's expulsion, the two political outgrowths of which (one limiting itself to Livingstone cheerleading) got depressing results yesterday. Both were Party men through and through, and both very adept at tubthumping rhetoric which translates to fuck all on the ground. Labour has never been (give or take moments in the 40s, and the early 80s, to spectacular and appalling results respectively) a socialist Party, but to for people to cling to it even now, as if there's the slightest hope of making it even a timidly reformist party, is increasingly pathetic.

Like the far more catastrophic Italian elections, surely this is an indictment of a 'Left' that makes postures which we can all feel marvellous about without ever doing the slightest reformist thing to improve the lot of its natural constituency - social housing, redistribution of wealth, public investment without PFI strings attached, unsexy stuff like that. It's nice to know that Livingstone supports the Bolivarian revolution and opposes the Iraq war, given that he can do nothing about either. The pitifully small remit of the GLA and the Mayoralty basically involves power over three things. Policing, on which full support was given to shoot-to-kill; Transport, where some decent policies (congestion charge, free bus travel for under 16s, the eventual renationalisation of Metronet) coincided with privatising the East London line, reneging on the exact policy he was elected on in 2000. And then there's Planning, where mass class cleansing has been helped along by Richard Rogers and Ricky Burdett's Urban Task Force and its increasingly ineffectual obsession with Europeanising the city via pointless piazzas and seemingly endless sub-Parker Morris 'luxury' flats - oh, and some easily circumvented guff about 'affordable' housing. Even City Hall is only rented from a private developer.

Irrespective of his hilarious Blimpishness, what we'll probably get with Johnson (enough of the infantile 'Ken' and 'Boris', please) is a further 'Europeanising' of London, to the happy position of Paris. London, which is a capital that, for all its grotesque inequalities and infrastructural rot is one of the few places where (almost) nobody gives a fuck what you look like or where you're from, and where enclaves of the people the tourist doesn't want to see live uncomfortably close to the centres of power and capital, will devolve more and more into 2 or 3 zones housing the rich, with the rest of us shunted out to the banlieue. The Barratt Homes floodplain of the Thames Gateway, when they've pushed us all out there, will be the incongrous setting for the riots of the future, at a safe distance from the places really worth torching.