Sunday, 31 May 2009

I'm stuck in Greece, a town called Volos if you want to look it up. Nice place, recommend it if you like ordinary things. Nice harbour, good grilled octopus by the side of it. Not that I've got much time to enjoy it, I spend most of my day sitting in a cafe staring at a hospital. My father in law has grown a leg that looks like a donner kebab. Hospitals are not nice places, we have to confront our bodies. Your body is all you're left with in hospital, and all of it and it's processes are not pleasant to observe. In hospital we are forced to confront it all- shit, piss and vomit and blood and death. So I sit pretty melacholic in the cafe opposite between my visits in to the halls of doom, as my wife and her sisters spend hours and hours looking after their dad. 
The hospital itself is only four years old, and its bombastic with contemporary architectural pride, yet it's unfortunate that the authorities cannot fund any nurses to work in it. Family members are expected to provide 24 hour care in Greece, which is why we are here.
There is something horrible about this hospital as I sit staring at it hour after hour. I find myself engrossed in it's architectural qualities or lack of them (and right now, I'm not even going to start on the interior) . The whole idea of the thing from the outside is a grid of metallic cladding panels. Grids give a bad architect away.  The more I look, the more I laugh, then I feel some kind of pathos for the poor bloody architect as his dream of perfect grid faded away to dust. The Greeks are unfortunately hardly German. Ungers did good grids, and Germans built them with accuracy and fastidiousness. The Greeks, as in everything, show a more pragmatic and somewhat more relaxed approach. The more you look over this field of hopeful grid, the more  you find agonizing cock up. This is why Mies was so great and why the architect of this hospital is probably crying. It is a most interesting contemporary illustration of Robert Smithson's piece 'Hotel Pelenque'.  It seems to sum up the whole Greek thing. 
However, it is the only hospital I've ever see with a decent beach attached.

Saturday, 23 May 2009

Did some reviews at the Bartlett last week - fairy stories. Made me quite ill in the long run. Lay in bed today wondering; how did we get to this? I guess firstly because there are no politics, and there is apparently no history. What we have is largely adolescent dreams of a technological tomorrow where we live in rubble with ears growing from our arms but still wearing Prada. I would say the propagation of such drivel might be educationally disturbing, but the consensus in the Bartlett, where apparently 'we don't ask why' is rather the opposite.  It seems that fairyland is the only place to be. Worse, in Fairy land (I did say once that Jennifer Bloomer was 'away with the pixies' and I didn't mean The Pixies) if you need to make a model you laser cut it out of bronze to the tune of £800. No wonder it is such a ghetto for the middle classes. As I said, made me ill, literally.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

The ACADACADEMICS found themselves in hoots yesterday with the news that old pal Kevin Rowbotham had been forcibly expelled from the RCA for going 'beserk' at a crit. I guess it was the laugh of nostalgia, the days of Yosemite Sam (as we used to call him) charging around and ripping drawings off the wall might seem to be over, but I suppose it's a bit like Keef still smoking on stage, it is necessary we retain these images, they are, after all, those the students remember, and if we all turn in to a bunch of carers being kind will it really be any better for the world?
Speaking as somebody who is worried about this caring/animal husbandry role I remember Mike Russum coming to Oxford Brookes for us when Andrew Lane and I were  teaching second year long long ago. He went beserk too, and the crowds (of students) grew and grew. They loved it. Of course there were tears and misery and the rest too, but it was a hell of a spectacle. Unfortunately Her Majesties Inspectorate were in the school on the same day with clipboards and grey shoes. Andrew and I realized it was all going terribly terribly wrong, as the men from the ministry tried to peer through the crowd to note the next 'fucking idiot' and the next 'CUNT!' and the next defacing of drawings from our explosive guest. Luckily the head of school at the time, Chris Cross, a thoroughly urbane man, took the whole thing in his stride and I didn't lose that job until I wrote 'Bollocks!' as a comment on an essay. The essay was 'bollocks' by the way, but the fact I'd been seen taking a drink or two before writing it stood against me. They were good times, and I still see some of those particular students, who still cherish, it seems, as much as anything, our being bad. 

Good names for race horses:

Jeff bin in?
Double Entry

These are the sort of thoughts that can ride us through these unfortunate times. 

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Thinking of going down to the Trench of Despair for a bit of sociology. It won't take me long to think about it. Saturday mornings tend to feature the usual collection of elasticated youth still out from the night before and a couple of old men who are fond of not very much. Recently there's a been additional subset identifiable as 'students' who wear black singlets and tight jeans, tattoos and hair like Derek Smalls, and go to see bands called Sludgehammer or Slump Test, maybe even Funk Piss. Today there will be an added, or perhaps cross party, coalition of Arsenal fans who will take great pleasure in leaping and throwing their beer in the air if Arsenal can put one past Manchester United. This is probably what it was like in the last days of the Roman Empire.  Add to this, Julie's reading some book called '10,000 Cocks' (or something).
My mother once asked us if we had a 'set'. 'A Set?' we thought, what the fuck is a set? Then we realised it was Scott. Scott will maybe lope in to 'The Trench' and then we can start lobbing hand grenades of tragi-comic misery at all the happy trenches of the world and it will feel good.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Channel Four News tonight. Piers Gough: utter twat. The arguments so tired. The same old architect thing: 'I'm such a fancy pants'. Sick of it, so parochial when he thinks he's so cool and urbane and 'on the news'. Not that Robert Adam is some kind of role model either, but we should all remember, and Piers should remember as he associated so much with the Archigram family back in the sixties, that Walt Disney was the greatest architect of the twentieth century. I think if we could bring back Rayner Banham, he would agree with me. You cannot argue with the trajectory of history or technology, and if we can now make anything at any scale from any period,  then thats what we will do if that is what is desired. The modernist utopia is defunct, dead, finished, it has just become branding within a market place. 'Simple', as the meercats say. 

Friday, 8 May 2009

One of the essays starts...'After having lived in London for three years and experienced it's bla bla  bla etc etc , I now have to return to X YZ'. Presumably things are very different in XYZ, possibly worse, possibly better, but usually XYZ, as far as students are concerned, is definately 'more relaxed'. The electric went off just as I settled down to continue reading. When the electric goes off everything stops, no muttering from TCM in the background, no shower, no toast, no router, no bloody water even since they installed the pumps, and no bloody work as far as I'm concerned because I need distractions. If we are in for more of this, and by enlarge the students appear sure we are, life is not going to be easy. 
So I meandered out in to the sunshine. Meandering out was fine as soon as I realized I could make myself useful by buying some bread at the top of Brick Lane. Damn fine bread too, and a purpose for the empty shopping bag. I got pilloried in Tescos at the checkout yesterday for NOT having my regular jute bag and needing the plastic seal killers, and watched wildly improbable Brick Lane movie on the TV last night. These days Brick Lane is populated by cool surfer jocks sipping latte over their laptops loving jute and hating Tescos.
Down Redchurch St I heard the mullahs call the faithful to prayer- jolly good too- and ten doors down or so, I found the girls of the White Horse religiously removing their clothes for a pound a go in the jug. All was harmony, no problem at all. This was a decent form of multiculturalism, this was the metropolis, this was London bla bla bla etc etc. I just wish those idiots who desire to be politicians and police us all and especially those in Camden who want to revoke pub licenses for Burlesque shows actually bothered to know what they were talking about. It only takes a walk and a drink and a certain perspective on the world. I also found my armchair (Grandads armchair), which is presently being re-upholstered in full view of the general public behind a glass shopfront. It will cost more than it would to buy a new armchair. I'm not sure it even reduces my carbon footprint, but it brings some kind of pleasure, even before I've sat in it again. I'm all for sustainability, but I hate the word and all the twits who come with it (Oh...Other than that woodsman on Grand Designs- brilliant) 

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Lay in bed this morning watching The Wooden Horse. This is a rare occurence I associate with illness, but in advance of the exam season, I thought I'd try it out, because I'll certainly be ill soon. Great film The Wooden Horse, lots of old fashioned black and white drama and better by far than The Great Escape. Julie was at the hairdressers. I'm lucky to have a sister in law up in Happy Valley who reads the Daily Mail and wonderfully sent me a package of just about EVERY decent war movie that they give out free these days with the paper over the weeks. How thoughtful I thought, how ruinous to DVD shops I thought, how does she understand I really like this stuff I thought, and now everything decent gets to be worth nothing but a free gift with the bloody Daily Mail I thought. 
Exam time makes all acadacademics feel ill. Came home Friday with my Waitrose branded  jute bag full of third year history essays. I had to show the bulging bag to my colleagues beforehand proudly- 'Look at them all!' Thanks guys and girls. In these days of protocol and the predominance of grey shoes amongst the academicals, I was pleased my more loquacious approach to lecturing got such a promising response.  I haven't read them yet of course, but the titles seem interesting- 'The DARK side of Dubai' - 'How multinationals fucked my village' that sort of thing.