Sunday, January 29, 2006

Situationists Disrupt London Streets

In one of the most bizarre and controversial pieces of public art ever conceived and executed, in the London Borough of Islington, London, UK, situationist artists have converted the streets into beaches, hiring local builders to enhance pavements and traffic islands and replacing them with continental-style sandy walkways and mosaics.

Opposite local landmark Islington Central Library, a large hole full of water has appeared. Residents are concerned that they may soon be using a bridge or a boat to cross the Holloway Road.

This part of Islington is close to the new Arsenal Emirates stadium, which is due to open later this year, and with the London-Paris eurotunnel train coming soon to nearby extensively redeveloped Kings Cross station, local resident spokesman Dwayne Honcho said that there had been rumours that the area was going to be continentally "themed" in order to attract euro-tourism.

"I'd never heard the phrase, 'underneath the pavement lies the beach' before," he said, "but now none of us can get the thought out of our minds." It's not Dwayne's cup of tea - he prefers Renoir and the impressionists. "There is a grouping within the council who want to create a money-making "euro-zone" within Islington, and they are using art to do it," claims local milkman Hugh Manerra. "People don't want this on their doorsteps."

In the Christian Centre in Liverpool Road opposite St Mary Magdalene's church gardens, they are equally mystified. "We thought they looked a bit odd for roadworks," said Pastor Ulf Knudsen. "They move the signs and sand around most days. You never know when you'll have to tread on a shell. I think it's quite fun, I don't think it's allegorical. I did see a bottle on one sandpile, and I wondered if there was a message in it."

As people struggle to negotiate paths and pavements, questions are being asked about the situationist's radical and disruptive philosophy. Local residents are suffering the inconvience good-naturedly in the main, but nobody seems to know who has organised the exhibition. Local authority Islington Council spokesman said yesterday that they are "unaware of any such commission" and "looking into the matter". Arsenal Football Club were unavailable for comment.

At present no trace can be found of the artists, who are believed to be from Lyon, France.

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Friday, January 27, 2006


I have so many things to do at the moment, that for the first time in two and half years, I am not finding enough time in the day to blog. It's frustrating. I could have titled this post, "Blogger Suffers Blog Writing Withdrawal Symptoms" or, having created time in a day without space for reflection, written any one of half-a-dozen articles that are batting about my temporarily saturated mind. Suffice to say that things are going well, not badly. I am reduced to scribbling (pen! paper!) feverish notes whilst travelling on the underground, to be followed up at some future point when circumstances restore my writing time to me.

Meanwhile, here's a park bench I found in Clissold Park which struck me as particularly beautiful.

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Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Standby For Acton...

Acton is a place in West London which, like Clapham in the south, formed mostly in Victorian times around a major rail and road junction. It is not a place in London I like to visit, and on the occasions I have had to traipse its pavements I have only noted the great preponderance of uncrossable roads and long streets of claustrophobic terraced houses. My mentioning Acton now is only to say that of all the place names that come unwittingly from misspellings, it is the most common, being only an "i" away from Action. The irony of Acton/Action is that whilst suburbs all around Acton move onward and upward, caught in the warm air eddies of property inflation, migration and population pressure, Acton seems stubbornly to resist losing its less-than-chic, anti-cappucino culture, and remains unprepossessingly uninspiring. Thankfully, the local youths have made a decent fist of cheering up the boring expanses of red brick and concrete by undertaking some really creative voluntary art work.

In Acton, all the people leave everything on standby. Actually, they do all over Britain. Acton is just an example. Don't, kind citizens of Action, take this wrongly. I love you and I want your children to be happy. But they wake up and eat sugar in front of cartoons on television of a morning. You like that they can pick up the remote, amuse themselves and leave you slumbering for those precious non-work hours. You like that they don't even have to ask you to turn the television on. You don't turn it off - you put it in standby and expect them to sort themselves out.

"Britons waste the equivalent of around two power stations worth of electricity each year by leaving TV sets and other gadgets on standby... electrical equipment in sleep mode used roughly 7TWh of power and emitted around 800,000 tonnes of carbon." says this BBC article. News this is not to me. I read several years ago that 20% of German power was consumed by domestic appliances in standby mode, so it is hardly surprising that we Brits are similar. A conscientious and helpful man named Mr Baker has "calculated that the CO2 emissions from electrical equipment being left on standby are equivalent to 1.4 million long-haul flights. To put it another way, the entire population of Glasgow could fly to New York and back again and the resulting emissions would still be less than that from devices left in sleep mode."

Sleep mode exactly describes how we are all behaving with regard to resources, doesn't it? We are in collective sleep mode, draining a huge amount of power just by being here, without actually doing anything.

Mr Baker has the answer. Since it is cheaper, then why not do it? Fly the entire population of Glasgow, (or Acton, or Clapham - there would have to be a competition) to New York. Give them some money, point them towards the electrical retailers, and leave them there, in sleep mode.

I'm sure they would love it.

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Saturday, January 21, 2006

Pod of Funk

I found it really hard to resist adopting a cheesy 1970s radio deejay manner, and I am guilty of cracking a really bad joke in this, the inaugural Pod of Funk, but it passes muster. It's a format I can repeat and vary, and so I intend to do.

The interview with Lena Cullen was fun - she's a talented switched on young woman and I expect she will go a long way. It was interesting feeding back to her about her work after seeing her play live half a dozen times, and getting her reaction. Her take on her place in the music scene was what I felt I gained from the exchange.

Her boots were round-toed, flat heeled, below-knee high black leather, with a soft shine to them.

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Thursday, January 19, 2006

Woolly Thinking

In Spain, someone has managed to lose a 38 tonne steel sculpture by Richard Serra. "The piece's disappearance only came to light when the museum's director Ana Martinez de Aguilar decided to put it on display again." says the BBC in a hushed voice.

Last December, this beautiful bronze Henry Moore sculpture was stolen, and police feared that it could be melted down and sold as scrap.

I believe I am the first to make the obvious connection here. At some point, a guilty someone at the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid, consumed by chagrin and the naked fear of discovery, must have decided to replace the missing piece with some like-sized metal art lump. The Moore, a conveniently easy steal, will by now be in Spain, having its soft edges hardened and straightened, being painted black, whilst they pray that nobody notices the change from steel to bronze once the Serra is miraculously re-discovered.

And they think they can pull the wool over our eyes!

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Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Says Here

There's a reason for my silence. I have been pausing in order to avoid exhaustion. I have rested. Now I am less likely to break things and bang my head. I may get around to opening letters.

I decided to kick a reviews podcast into being except I have been working too hard to make #1. But I will do this shortly.

I go to so many shows and it won't hurt (quoth I) to retain some of my discipline from 2005, and even if I've dropped the enforced one-theme-per-month structure, I can afford to make notes and write these events up. I'm also in the privileged position of knowing many excellent musical and visual artists, so it occurred to me that an arts-oriented, London-based UK bulletin could be a good thing for me and my community.

So that's one plan. Let's call it Plan One.

Another plan is to compile a best of blogs anthology, scale up my publishing efforts, and take some of this great writing (see links right hand column) and imagery out into the real world by getting it printed and sold.

I really think there is a place for a blog anthology out there in the world of mainstream paper media. My personal approach is a) this should be an ongoing project and further anthologies should follow issue #1, and b) it should be a print best-seller - why not? Some bloggers are fabulous writers.

Suggestions please for writers/bloggers whose work will translate in anthology format. Just give me the links. My editorial decision is final. No promises made except that I'll eventually get round to checking out everything, compiling a book from some of it, doing my level best to promote it, and splitting any profit from said enterprise equitably, after reasonable deductions for good taste and hard work.

There are some obvious issues to deal with editorially, and also with the representation of original hyper-media in the printed form. How do you (for example) represent a writer and thinker whose output also consists of multiple simultaneous conversation threads in chatboxes and comments? Anyway, since I actually do find this blogging subject perenially fascinating, I step forward in Tvindy's wake to pick up the baton.

So that's another plan. Let's call that Plan Two.

Finally, my lovely third plan for releasing music.

My vanity is extraordinarily pleased that a Googoloid search these days reveals 24,500+ references to Deek Deekster. However, not wishing to confuse Blog of Funk with my meandering musical muse, and requiring a chart-friendly name I decided on an alter-ego with a musical style and a band attached. Thus "Country Cliff and the Cans" has been born, and you read it here first.

I have a series of compositions and recordings more-or-less ready to release on the Low Budget Genius label, to be distributed digitally by the lovely Funk boys. I should be putting out a track a month, an album of original material during 2006, as dear old, brand new Country Cliff. I love him already.

Let's call that plan, "If You Can See The Band, You've Missed The Point"

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Friday, January 13, 2006

Green Pigs

It seems like Dr Seuss was right, We've green eggs and ham tonight..

Happy Full Moon to our glowing porcine friends!

A research team at National Taiwan University claims it has succeeded in breeding three male green pigs by injecting fluorescent green protein into embryonic pigs. Partially green pigs exist elsewhere, but the Taiwanese pigs are believed to be the only ones that are green inside out, including their hearts and internal organs. In the dark, they glow bright neon green. The pigs will reportedly be used in stem cell research and in the study of several human diseases. (ABC NEWS)

BBC Video of them here.

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Tuesday, January 10, 2006

One Hundred And Eighty!

What a fabulous slagging I have received from edgar, who seems to have started a blog just to deliver it.

I am so happy. I feel I have finally arrived, steel and feathers hitting the board with a thump.

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Monday, January 09, 2006

Live Fat, Die Young

Obese 'don't want to lose weight' says this plump BBC headline. "More than half of the 4,000 people polled were overweight or obese, but 26% of them said they did not want to lose weight." It goes on to list various health advice, and the dangers associated with obesity: "Obesity is linked with an increased risk of bowel, kidney, oesophageal and stomach cancers, as well as cancer of the womb and breast cancer in post-menopausal women."

I can see more headlines:

Alcoholics 'want to keep drinking'

Bigots 'convinced of own rectitude'

Old people 'like to keep warm'

Scientists 'shocked at human condition'

For some unknown and possibly chubby reason, this headline makes me deliriously happy. I know that it is not a politically correct reaction and is indeed exposing surrealist tendencies, but I keep on rolling around on the floor, chuckling, slapping my belly and yelling "chocolate! chips! fried eggs!"

Try it - I know you'll like it!

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Sunday, January 08, 2006

Don Weller, Sussex Arts Club, Jan 6th 2006

The first Friday in January, suffering from a two day headache which had me worrying about brain tumours, aneurisms and carbon-monoxide poisoning, I upped and offed to the beautiful coastal city of Brighton, travelling by train on what we always used to call the Away Gay Express. These modern trains are neat, temperature-controlled and clean, a million miles away from the old rattling draughty slam-door rolling stock which has at last been mostly replaced.

The journey from London Victoria is a fifty-five minute idyll as the train chucks through all the parts of South London that I know and recognise - Vauxhall, where GGF used to live and IG used to take his sixteen-year-old tender horny self for Friday night satisfaction; Clapham Junction, once the busiest train station in the world, the place where I learnt the basics of audio production and how to get on with temperamental drunks; Norbury, whence came several of my best schoolboy friends; Thornton Heath (pronounced Fort Neef) where my grandfather and grandmother lived before elevating the family up the hill to fresh air and safer streets; Selhurst, station of Crystal Palace Football Club and my peculiar old ex-Grammar School; East Croydon, station of misery for thousands of would-be immigrants, sufferers of institutional ridicule and sexual baksheesh; Purley, where my grandfather stepped out of his class, challenged the posh man who refused to show his ticket, and lost his job; Coulsdon, green belt commuterland on the edge of London, where I lived from age fourteen to nineteen as I finished my school education and began college; Gatwick, whose most recent claim to fame was that it has the longest delays of any UK airport.

Musing on the Brighton Express is my favourite travelling pastime, people watching my second, and writing my third. I wrote the first chapter of Ozzie Rozzie on this train, but more frequently I use the enforced stillness to ponder. It is a meditation, watching the land peel past at speed through a train window, akin to staring at moving water, or watching clouds passing overhead, or gazing at the flickering flames of fire. It seems to offer balance to the endless chattering monkey of the mind and facilitate release and flights of extraordinary perception and realisation. Or perhaps, it just feels nice to be in transit with nothing more expected of me than to arrive.

In any case, I had arranged to meet GGF at Victoria to travel to Brighton, meet up with my until-recently-estranged father, his wife, and my old friend International Bicycle Thief, and attend a gig at the Sussex Arts Club by my godfather, jazz saxophonist Don Weller, and despite my cranial pain I was determined to do so. However I first had to negotiate the purchasing of tickets, and despite my arriving fifteen minutes before the train departed and there being only a small queue, number thirteen was not my lucky window.

I produced my Network Rail Card - all the more important since the fares rose 9% - and my Oyster pre-pay card, and asked for two single tickets to Brighton. "Where's the other card?" asked the enormous and stroppy man the other side of the customer-proof glass. "What other card?" I asked. "I just have these." "I can't give you a discount on two tickets unless you have two cards." "Well, whatever discount I can have, please just give me that. I have to catch my train in five minutes." Without replying, he paused and squinted at the ticket dispensing machine. He didn't press any buttons, he just stared at the machine and said nothing. I waited.

A minute later, I said, "Sorry, is there a problem?" He didn't reply. Neither did he give me a ticket. I suspected he was just delaying for no reason other than he wanted to make me miss my train, when he started on a long explanation as to why he couldn't give me two discounted tickets on one card. In fact, he could, but rather than argue with a throbbing head and a train to catch, I repeated my request, louder this time. "Look. Please just give me whatever tickets I need to get me to Brighton. I want two singles. Please."

He was annoying me now, and detecting the glimmer of a sneer on his curmudgeonly face, I realised that this was what he wanted, which annoyed me more. He was blatantly prevaricating, in order to cause me delay. My only hope was to turn the tables. I decided to use the weapon of exposure. Pulling out my camera phone, I took a picture of him through the glass. He was making such a good pretense of searching for the exact discount, that he didn't notice, so I took another. At this point, the loud Sony Ericsson KER-LACK made him look up and realise what I was doing, and he started to shout, "Are you taking a picture of me? You aren't allowed to do that! You can't take a picture of me, it's not allowed!"

"What are you on about?" I raised my voice in protest now, so that the people around me could hear. "I have shown you my cards, I asked for two singles to Brighton, what more do you want? Are you just making a fuss so that I miss my train? Just give me the tickets will you?" A well-dressed man to my left flashed me a glance of sympathy. I felt I had a chance. The big guy opposite me on the other side of the window was now flapping his arms and sputtering with ill-contained rage, which I had not caused, after all, but merely revealed. I continued, voice still several decibels louder, adding a touch of exasperation for effect, "Look mate, I don't know who wound you up, but it wasn't me, and if you won't sell me the tickets, perhaps one of your less obstructive colleagues will do."

I kept silent and watched as a trim and tidy woman approached from the nether reaches of the ticket office, ushered him away, and took his place at window thirteen. "May I help?" she asked politely. "Yes please. I would like two singles to Brighton. I have these two cards," I explained. She issued the tickets. Thirty seconds later, I left the the ticket office window, clutching my hard-won prizes.

Head still thumping, I walked across the busy station concourse towards the rendezvous point where GGF was waiting smiling. I scowled and told her that I had been hassled by an idiot bully. We checked the trains departure time - five minutes. Feeling the beginnings of relief, we went to the automated barrier. I gave GGF her ticket and she passed through, but when I attempted to follow, the barrier remained closed, and flashed up: SEEK ASSISTANCE

Realising I was still not out of the chaotic moment which had kept me at the ticket office so long, I walked over to one of the two men working there, explained that I had just spent a VERY LONG TIME buying these tickets, that THEY WERE SOLD TO ME BY A SUPERVISOR and that I WANTED TO GET ON MY TRAIN NOW. I was calm, but I was mad. The strong, implacable brown face took in my controlled rant without alarm, looked at my ticket, and said, "You'll have to buy another ticket." "I'll miss my train," I replied.

Not wanting to wait any longer, I decided that there was no way I was going back to the ticket office. GGF was waiting nervously on the other side of the barrier. I decided to take matters into my own hands, and in classic student style, while the ticket-barrier-man was alerting his superior to my situation, I followed immediately behind somebody whose ticket was functional and found myself with nothing between me and the trains. Then, to everyone's surprise, I doubled back, and went to talk to the supervisor. I showed them the ticket, my cards, and explained that I had spent twenty minutes attempting to buy the correct ticket, and that I wasn't going to miss meeting my aged father at the other end since it really wasn't my fault if after all that I had been sold the wrong one. "It's the same price anyway," observed the supervisor. "So I can get on the train now?" I asked. He nodded. We got on the train. I had no sense of victory, just relief that I was shot of the whole frustrating episode.

We got to Brighton. We had a pizza. My headache diminished. We met the old folk, and saw the gig. It was great.

Here's Don, sitting and chatting with us before the gig.

...and playing with his quartet.

Don and his band were great. Father #1 told me that when he played with Don, he was twenty and Don was fifteen. Nice to have reintroduced them fifty-odd years later.

Don has a funk band also, he told me, an eight piece. I might just see if I can get them a gig.

I was relieved and happy later on, and had a great day in Brighton yesterday with GGF. I am so lucky to have met her. But since then, recalling this episode, I realise I have some moral accounting to do.

It's ironic that I sat down to write a review of the historic meeting with my godfather, legendary jazz player Don Weller, father #1 and myself, and ended up writing the story of the bastard ticket seller. So it blogging well goes. The reason this episode was still with me today was that my strategy didn't really work, did it, me bullying the ticket man in order to get to the train? Using the camera as a weapon just caused another problem for me later on, as they passed me on down the line to get rid of me.

Pain made me selfish. I was panicked by his obstruction, and I pressurised the guy. He did have a degree of slowness and he wasn't that pleasant and he probably did have some inner rage, but I was being pushy and loud. Then I completely wound him up, violated his personal right not to photographed, waltzed across his boundaries, made him seem incompetent in front of his colleagues and the public, whilst denying that I had done anything wrong in order to get my tickets. I could have just got back into the queue, gone to another window. I didn't need to do give that poor bastard such a hard time, and I was being disengenuous to blame him for the entire thing. I could have said, "Sorry, how much was that?"

I hate running into my ego, especially when I am stuck in a queue with a headache.

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Thursday, January 05, 2006

The Sea Stripped Bare By Her Trawlers

Last night GGF was off on a family jaunt, eating multiple exotic courses with wealthy relatives in a top class restaurant, and so I enjoyed the luxury of a fish and chip supper on my own in front of the TV. Wonderfully relaxing, delicious and requiring only a ten minute trip out. By the time she returned, joyful and full of dessert which cost more than my entire meal, I was replete and dozing blissfully, ignoring the Top 100 Best Fish and Chip Meals in History, narrated by Stephen Fry.

Deep sea fishing is wiping the sea bed clean according to this BBC report. Deep sea fish species in the northern Atlantic are on the brink of extinction. Look at this before and after picture, more chilling than a Birds Eye cabinet:

News like this is getting more and more commonplace and although I am not surprised, being a fully paid up member of the Harbingers of Eco-Doom Society, this one hit me. Maybe it's because I am myself a Piscean, and so I empathise with fish everywhere. Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner, and I love fish and chips so.

This joyous, simple meal is rare occasion for me these days, a throwback, something nostalgic to be savoured. I now find myself wondering if I am measuring my life in such last moments. There really will soon be no fish and chips, as there will be no fish. Soon there will be no chicken, either, as bird flu makes its irresistable way across weak boundaries and finds a new home in humanity.

When the Sainsbury's supermarket at the other end of Liverpool Road was built, I read that with its electronically-controlled thick steel shutters, it can be totally shut in two minutes and is one of the most secure places in Islington. The architects - the owners of the supermarket - were anticipating future riots, it seems, and looking to safeguard their property.

We will all shortly be far worse off than the Eastern Communist populations - whom we glorious capitalists love to boast of rescuing from their food queues - ever were. There will be food shortages following along after fuel shortages, and with stomachs rumbling, shivering and cold, the people of the West and the North, citizens of the "developed" world will suddenly realise that this brief excursion, this unsustainable epoch where entire populations live decadent wasteful lives consumed by gluttony, has already ended. We'll blame it on collective idiocy and greed, and the failure of politicians and politics to adequately control industry, anybody but ourselves, as we watch the chip shops close one by one.

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Sunday, January 01, 2006

New Year Champions

Champ #1: Cheeky doorman at the Red Star, Camberwell, New Year Party. It was 3.30am and I was patiently waiting for a man who had no idea about leaving. I looked towards Camberwell Green and as I snapped the view, he popped his head round the corner at exactly the right moment, causing me my first guffaw of the year.

Champ #2: Wonderfully tall, Laura, or Lorna, I couldn't catch her name, spent ages talking to Shyman who entertained the notion of sex with her and even discussed it, but was slightly put out by her enthusiasm for going back to her squat to take drugs beforehand. Her legs were unstoppable and I think Shyman was rather scared of her attractive confidence and wicked ways, but flattered all the same.

Champ #3: Sophie wore a great outfit, a combination of underwears which looked warm, funky and sensual. She was superbly hairy - on her head several wigs were piled, one on top of the other. The bottom one glowed green-yellow under the UV light. With her, Ben, who took quiet pride in his lovely girlfriend's outrageous dress.

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