Blog archive January 2007
this newspaper consists entirely of the word 'bitch' or variations thereof.
met some of the grace people for 'friday late' at the V&A. the main draw was volume, an installation which responds to human movement with light and music.
here's a short video from the queue, complete with grace team comments!
here's one of what it was like when we finally got to move through it - gorgeous but we didn't get much time as there were so many people wanting to try it.
back indoors it was pretty crowded as there were a number of installations and events going on - but the thing that took our fancy was this graffiti wall in the foyer.
essentially it's sheets of perspex given a thin wash of something - thinned emulsion paint maybe - that can be scratched off with a pencil. so people wrote their thoughts and comments under the three headings. definitely something that can be replicated for grace - even in the form of A4 sized sheets that can be given to people - like a slate and chalk. could be a table top with a light underneath. more photos here on flickr.
then we went to abbaye for some belgian beers
while digging around in the wardrobe over christmas, i found a newspaper in the bottom of a box: the daily express, thursday january 23rd 1975.
headline story: a now-forgotten politician, john stonehouse, who staged a disappearance by going swimming leaving his clothes behind on the beach. escaping some scandal. he turned up later in australia, which was further away then.
in other news:
roman catholic bishop found dead in red light district of paris
ford escort mark 2 launched
and the first hydundai [sic]
prince charles on the way to the coronation of king birendra of nepal
newish designer sonia rykiel with some clothes that look fashionable again, or at least nicely dated:
the centre pages occupied by a delirious film censorship debate:
one of the most articulate voices against enid wistrich [liberal film censor] belongs to bernard brook-partridge. he says, "i have been corrupted by watching violent and pornographic films." he was on the film viewing board for four years before suddenly resigning.
mr. brook-partridge is a tough former guardsman, now a tory politician, businessman, and member of the devon and somerset staghounds. now 47, he swears a lot and has a wife 15 years his junior.
"i don't think my morals are as high as they ought to be" he says. "a subtle form of corruption overtakes you when you have to watch pornography for too long. after four years of watching this degrading rubbish, i found myself saying 'oh well, it's only buggery. or incest. or rape. i've seen it all before."
i wonder what his wife thought about being counted a symptom of his moral corruption? note that '15 years his junior' is actually age 32 in this case, but we are meant to imagine some schoolgirl nymphette.
meanwhile tv critic james murray weighs in:
gratuitous violence is scattered across the screens with wilful carelessness. in kojak and the sweeney beatings and shoot-outs are portrayed as if they were an ordinary part of life.
which they probably were, in sarf london or brooklyn, but not to daily express readers unless they were tough former guardsmen.
there were only 3 tv channels, which came on air at around 9.30am, and ended 11.30pm or 12.30pm [itv]. the tv listings only take up half a page. what's on:
bbc1: play school, astronut, jackanory, blue peter, john craven's newsround, barbapapa. then after tea, tomorrow's world, top of the pops and it ain't half hot mum.
itv: rainbow, crossroads, the six million dollar man, love thy neighbour, the sweeney and late at night the new archbishop of canterbury dr donald coggan.
bbc2: only thing of note is [or are] the two ronnies
in 1975 britain was suffering from the effects of the first opec oil price rise [north sea oil came later] so saving energy was high on the political agenda. here's a full-page government advert: 'how to stop your car over-eating'
these days we just can't afford to let our cars guzzle more fuel than they should. sharing a car with workmates can save a small fortune in fuel [it means fewer cars on the roads too].
if you can, leave your car at home for short trips. it'll slim your fuel bills. and you too! energy sense is common sense
and another ad on the same subject:
"with gas central heating, we control our heating bills"
"heat's too precious to waste these days"
controllable gas central heating. saving you money, and the nation fuel.
if only we'd all listened. meanwhile barbara cartland publishes her 150th novel:
stretching full length on the library sofa covered by a fur rug she dictates her daily ration of 8000 to 10000 words.
the sports pages are considerably fewer than in a modern newspaper. the media circus, the big colour pictures and the big money hadn't arrived yet.
football: norwich beat manchester united 1-0 in the league cup semi-final. the final will be norwich vs aston villa
cricket: england were on tour in australia, facing dennis lillee and jeff thomson, but it barely rated a mention not being an ashes series.
moscow is perhaps the most disturbing and fascinating place i've ever been. how to describe it? a grey, brutal concrete environment, decaying and polluted - such is the legacy of communism - ruthlessly defaced by hypercapitalist neon and giant billboards. science fiction is the obvious reference point - blade runner without the design restraint. plasma screens pump out insane imagery, billboards cover entire buildings. to speak of 'bad taste' implies that some notion of good taste is available. the colours and shapes of the neon, the randomized ahistorical mishmash of the architecture are simply from another planet. the cyrillic alphabet, similar yet unreadable, adds to the science fiction effect. it feels as if it were a parallel future - or a foretaste of the real future for us all in an ecologically wrecked world.
the shock is moral as well as aesthetic. i'm not about to defend soviet communism, but somewhere in there was an ideal about equality and a society not based on consumption. and in moscow consumerism has raped the corpse of that ideal and sits gloating upon it. the pretty bits of moscow barely hold their own - above the kremlin, a neon samsung logo three storeys high. imagine the same next to the white house, or buckingham palace, to get the idea. maybe in twenty or thirty years all this will be normalised, tidied up - but for now it's out of control. all one's inner pictures of the place from the cold war days are trampled.
my reaction, looking out from federation tower, was "this is hell" - but a vision of hell is as thrilling, in its way, as a vision of heaven. the suburbs, especially, are infernal. giant slab blocks, twenty or thirty storeys high and half a mile long, row upon row - nothing else, no little streets to soften the blow, only factories and power stations, the smoke from their burning going up for ever and ever. one suddenly sees why the glitzy fantasy of high-end consumerism is so appealing - in a place where aspiration is desperation not naff - but the five-storey picture of a diamond-encrusted watch on the derelict concrete tower only adds to the hellish quality.
nevertheless, red square is the only place i've ever had that naive tourist thrill that some get from big ben or the tower of london. i never expected to be there, where the bbc correspondent stands, where the old guys watched the tanks and missiles go past. for most of my life it was unattainable.
temperatures are barely freezing, and the snow that might make it all beautiful has not come this year. they put an antifreeze on the roads, which makes a grey sludge that gets on shoes and clothes. cars are completely covered in it, and few people clean any more than a few patches on the windows to see out of. apparently they wait for the spring rains to wash it away. so even the cars are grey. the traffic is appalling, and often gridlocked. when it moves, muscovites drive like maniacs, barging in and out of lanes. collisions are frequent, and since neither party is allowed to move their car until the police have arrived this only adds to the congestion.
my photos don't really capture the best/worst of the place. when i wasn't in a meeting or a restaurant i was in a taxi, trying to take pictures while bouncing along at 50mph. in any case moscow isn't a place to wander around with shiny consumer gadgets being a tourist. if the robbers don't get you the police might. the one time i walked back to the hotel on my own at night [the others had gone to a karaoke bar with a furniture salesman] i took this, but my phone camera is slow and i rushed it for fear of the people hanging about on the street. i then hurried down the underpass - the main roads are eight lanes and you must use the underpasses - walked through a door and came upon a guy being beaten up by security, while a group of frightened street people looked on. i was glad to make the hotel. if i want to photograph the place properly i'll have to have a local minder.
this video Download MOV00070.3GP [1.3Mb, 1 minute 15 sec long] shows the neon overload - but the background is not vegas-style hotels but this. this one Download MOV00098.3GP [11Mb, 11 minutes long] is a taxi ride from the centre to a suburb, in an old lada with a slightly crazy armenian driver. it ends on the same shot as this photo. the soundtracks are slightly surreal - amy winehouse on the first, the rolling stones on the second - but so is much of moscow.
so i get back from moscow after a few days away from the news, to pictures of people in india burning effigies over perceived racism in the big brother house. and leaving all that aside, i'm thinking:
how come people in some parts of the world always seem to be burning effigies? is this something people do regularly, like "hey bro, the guys are coming round tonight to have a few beers, watch the match and burn an effigy - you want to join us?" it's always a bunch of guys. is it always the same bunch of guys - has anyone checked? where do they get effigies from? how long does it take to make one? are there people who make effigies to order? are there effigy shops? do effigies come in standard sizes, and where do you get the accessories to make them look like a particular person? are they all made in china like everything else nowadays?
had my wallet stolen on the tube this evening. fortunately i still had my phone, it has credit card emergency numbers so i cancelled everything. the only financial loss is about £30 in cash, so it's a nuisance not a disaster. problem is, replacement cards will take about a week... and i am in moscow monday to thursday next week on business. at least i have a perfect excuse to sponge off my colleagues and not pay for anything!
this is how the theft was done. i was on the way home from the gym, with a big awkward bag. i sat down on the tube station with my bag on the next seat, and a guy came and wanted to sit on that seat, so i had to put my bag on my lap with both hands on top of it. if he tried my coat pocket on that side he would only find my hat. i got on the train. a few stations later the same guy appeared and sat next to me the other side for one stop, then we both got off. that must have been when the wallet was taken. he was obviously targeting people with large bags that they would have to put on their lap, thus allowing access to the coat pocket. normally i would never have my wallet in such a vulnerable position, but i was wearing track pants which sag uncomfortably with it in them.
weird thing is, i feel worse about losing the wallet itself than its contents. i don't change wallets very often and i'm fussy, and it's a thing that's always with me. it was a stussy camo design - hope i can get another one.
it's possible you've noticed that there's a growing problem with fake smallritual.org emails - there is of course only one valid address for that domain. the problem manifests itself at my end by the torrent of mail delivery failure messages i get back - which are themselves a spam attack. i've been filtering them out in my mail program, but after receiving about 1500 in five minutes to my smallritual.org address i've had to change some domain settings and delete everything in the inbox. i hope no-one's legitimate email got lost. hopefully the new settings will screen out the junk and let you through - we'll see.