Sunday, 20 January 2013

Video/ Radio Selecter

Owing to other commitments I am unable to post this week so I thought I would share my radio highlights with you. They might not be on I-Player for too long so hurry!

My opinion of Will Self (for what it's worth) fluctuates wildly. Following his most recent broadcast on Radio 4 I find that the pendulum has swung in his favour: his position on London's urban planning (such that it is) and the recent proliferation of skyscrapers (spear headed, aptly, by that most hastate of structures, the Shard) is one with which I sympathise entirely. There is a wonderful remark towards the end of this programme in which he considers the inter-relationship between the sordidness and the beauty of the city... but I 'm paraphrasing and it would be best for you to hear it for yourself:

Following a similar psychogeographic bent is Reimagining the City: Istanbul. Here writer Elif Shafak sketches an intriguing portrait of a place that is both familiar and alien to me. The writer has been living in Istanbul since her early twenties and the city is central to much of her literary output. On more than one occasion in this programme Shafak refers to the city as a "liquid city"; she perceives the fluidity of Istanbul's history, architecture and demographics as integral to its contemporary character. To outsiders, Istanbul's romance is tied to its apparently uncomfortable position, straddling the diametrically opposed worlds of the occident and the orient, two irreconcilable entities, oil and water. Shafak questions the oil-water trope, instead perceiving Europe and Asia as "two different kinds of water... mix[ing] all the time":

Finally, David Bowie needs know help in promoting his first single in... well, in ever but I'm going to anyway. It is its own psychogeography: a journey through a city that is no longer with us, a Berlin of a bygone era recollected by a man entering his elder years... walking the dead indeed... 

Friday, 11 January 2013

Agnostic Mystery Cabaret

Back in 2009 I completed a visual studies course as part of my degree. Essentially an art foundation, the course culminated with a final project called Worlds in a Book. Inspired by Book Art the brief was to create a book (either afresh or by modifying an existing text) that could be considered a beautiful artefact.

I think that was the gist of it, anyway... as you can see, I did not quite manage to create something beautiful.

The concept of La Gabia (Catalan for The Cage) was the impenetrability of art, especially when other languages are thrown into the mix. The text of PRePOSICIONS INDECENTS i LOCoCIONS PERVERTIDES by Laia Martinez i Lopez was cut up into its component parts (i.e. the individual poems) and transcribed by hand onto small pieces of paper by non-Catalan speakers before their imprisonment within tiny index cards held inside a cage.

Get it?

Laia and I have been friends for nine years or so, having met in the Old Dairy in 2003 back when I was the licensee. I considered that the content of what was then her most recent work ideal for this project. Of course, since it was all in Catalan no-one would understand it anyway but...well, its as much about what cannot be seen as what can be seen, I think.

Laia had put a great deal of work into  PRePOSICIONS INDECENTS i LOCoCIONS PERVERTIDES;  I felt a little uncomfortable taking it from her and using it in a mere undergraduate project. So we agreed a poetry exchange, and I hastily threw together a selection of the (what I considered to be) best poems I'd written between up until then.

It was called Agnostic Mystery Cabaret, and today i found a copy. A bit of personal archaeology, some of which I'd like to share.


Give me a list of names
And a simple process
Combining different procedures,
Starting and ending at the screen
In between
Some walking, some thinking…

Occasionally I would like to go into a basement
And fetch something antiquarian from a high shelf.
I will use a set of steps on casters.
Can it be a wooden box?
Might I blow away the dust and smell camphor?
If there were some things in need of cataloguing
That too I would enjoy.
Would it be okay if I worked alone?
My department of one
A mystery to all:
Yet, respected and valued. A few people my acknowledge me
In the cafeteria
But only the security guard knows my name.,
Bidding me goodnight as I leave my place of work.
I would prefer it if he were of African extraction.

Every now and then I will receive messages from the past
Via the vacuum tube…
It would be an interesting hobby
To collect them,
A rare break from the drudgery of my appointment.
Not long before my retirement
A local news crew may wish to make
A feature out of me and my hobby.
In my dotage I will find this quite baffling,
But will endear myself to them and the viewers at home.

God once gave me walls to paint, but not any more.
If you have anything similar to what I have just described,
I am ready for an immediate start.   

I'm keen to post some more but only if I can find/ produce suitable images to go with them. Until then, cheerio.


Giving up smoking is the easiest thing in the world. I know because I've done it thousands of times. 

-Mark Twain, apparently

Below is a picture of some chimney on the Isle of Grain in Kent. It's clearly visible from the other side of the estuary, where I grew up. I used to think it looked like a giant cigarette; indeed, as dusk fell it spewed its poison into the air, granting spectacularly romantic chemical sunsets over Canvey Island and distant London.

I posted some nonsense yesterday which I have since deleted. Giving up smoking is difficult.

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