Thursday, 31 March 2011

C4 hell

Back from Finland suffering vast increase in alcohol consumption, I'm a little unsteady coming back to the ways of the English. Last night three consecutive televisual offerings on Channel 4 sequentially horrified me; a thing on British Cheese (and stuff like that) horribly hosted and utterly xenophobic ('Get those French cheeses off OUR SHELVES!!) then the horrific Jamie's Dream School, so utterly devoid of thought other than 'It's not my fault I can't learn (or even be interested) in anything- so save me maestro'. That was just sickening, everybody going on about how they've been 'let down terribly' and if this is the sentiment of the youth of today, we're fucked, there are not enough maestros, there are normal teachers trying to get through the day- why should they suddenly have to turn in to superheroes? This abomination was followed by 'The Agency' which strived for new heights in the glorification of the selfish, the banal, the financially lucrative, the stupid, the innocent, the exploitative and the generally crass.
And on the back of that, I was in to review third year this morning and it was instructive at least, blindingly instructive, namely in the fact that the hamsters know absolutely nothing about buildings. There is a reason for this, it is the obsession with individualism, personal values and so called creativity (all these are highly political) that means they've slowly began to think buildings are something else other than buildings, namely some vacuous and excruciating exercise in the impossible connection of vague ideas, and that the process is entirely internal to them, and that the whole enterprise of the Western Enlightenment Project has never even fucking existed. If you want to design architecture around the 'concept' of a psychotic banana, go ahead, but it won't do any of us any good.

Sunday, 27 March 2011


Got hogwimpering drunk, possibility of threesome drunk, she said her husband wouldn't mind drunk, certainly not going for a walk in the woods today drunk.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Aalto ice cubes

Went to Alvar Aalto's house. Very nice house. He had an easy chair just like mine. You can populate an Aalto house with furniture, very livable, unlike of course, Le Corbusier or Mies van de Rohe, where the interiors are definitively uninhabitable. Aalto's house was almost cosy, and even had an escape stair for him to use when he was pissed off - most imaginative- and a balcony over the office to look at drawings and models 'at a distance'. I bought a book about it and an Aalto pot stand and an Aalto ice cube maker (shape of vase) The ice cube maker especially cool for now, probably stupid cliche later.


The hamsters run around a lot, especially between the hours of 11am and 7am, which is when, according to the notices, they are supposed to be silent. We had a room full of them last night, bloody party central that's cell No9. Still, they are quite charming, the hamsters, some of them are photoshooting this morning, with local 'models' who look barely more than twelve years old and they are all trying to look terribly grown up wearing space alien costumes and doing make-up and all the rest of it and listening to 'Love Metal'. They are extremely attractive, the Finnish models and what with them and the snow and the hamsters brandishing their cameras, make one feel EXTREMELY OLD. In fact I feel as ancient at Alvar Aalto, who by the way, was pretty damn good. Not that he was heroic or anything, but if want a decent National Pensions Institute, he was your man. And by comparison, Steven Holl is an arsehole, his contemporary art museum is just balls- modeled on some concept of mind and eye, he simply demonstrates that you do not need concepts involving bits of mind and eye, Aalto did not need concepts, he was just good.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Dangerous snow

Snow's fucking dangerous as far as I'm concerned. This afternoon I retreated from being knee deep in the stuff, and at various times either way horizontal. This might be expected if you were up some mountain, but not when you are feet away from a national monument trying to get a good picture of it's rather interesting relationship to the geological strata of the rocks below (I'm an idiot). This was the Finlandia Hall, of course closed for renovation, a sort of Murphys Law of architectural scholarship (if it's going to be refurbished, it will definitely be being refurbished when you turn up). I think of Aalto's Finlandia of as a bit of a 'prog rock' building, 1974 and all that, but then my hat blew off in the arctic winds ('they come from the land of the ice and snow' etc etc ad nauseum). I'm rather fond of said hat, so clambered after it (you don't want to see me trying to do this, especially the 'maybe I shall die and only be discovered when summer comes' moments) over half a building site really, a 'building site', crossed with 'park' crossed with 'frozen lake' who knows where the boundary was, but with nobody about, because the 'craftsmen' are all sleeping in their vans, and I don't realize one crucial thing, undriven snow has no depth indicator. This turns out to be very very bad news. Still, covered in snow, mud and general sludge, but clutching hat, feeling like some kind of mollified Indiana Jones, I decided this is why Helsinki appears deserted, it's too bloody dangerous outside. There's nothing to do but stay indoors and enjoy your designer objects and probably drink to them a lot.
Not that there are any designer objects here, mine host has us staying in something one step up from 'prison cell' in a 'hostel' embedded in the side of the Olympic Stadium. Olympic parks naver have anything in them of any use. There is nothing here, not a sausage, especially not a sausage (maybe a Mars bar from the vending machine) not even a TV, just acres of snow and people staying indoors. I'm joining them. Thank god I picked up the Chivas Regal from the airport. I might try and make a sandwich in the communal kitchen but I'm sure the students have eaten everything already.
We go out tonight, thankfully escorted, but by our host, who forever wants to stay up until four in the morning. Not looking good is it.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Life's been good

After a hard day drilling the hamsters on the prospect of their dissertations it was with relief I found myself back in The White Horse for some welcome whisky before we have to schlep off to Finland. Actually, the place appeared populated by nobody but a quartet of drunk twenty something suits reduced to little more than slouching and thumbs up signage but that suited me fine (I suspect Helsinki will be the same- things certainly don't sound good as our forward party report back 'So tired they can hardly speak'). Christie was dancing, always a vision of happiness, and Lily was lounging about in a most engaging way, making it clear to me that she did not 'babble' (see past post) but had rather an 'insouciance' about her. We discussed fine literature. Really she's terrific, but I am a fat, bearded old man, at least 'old' in the context of once being 'young'. But hell, what with training the hamsters and dancers training to be sexologists, and sausage and mash for supper, life's been good to me so far.

Sunday, 20 March 2011


One of our smarter students described to me an occasion last week at the House of the Holy (AA) that dared to say Zaha (and Patrick) were rubbish- just, well, ROCOCCO!!!!!!!!!!!!! I wish everybody would take notice of such an excellent statement, especially given the guts to say it with Patrick in the audience, and what's more, these expressions of sensibleness were apparantly clapped!!! (openly!) In the same week I read the excellent AA Gill in 'AA Gill is Away' where he describes Leibeskind's Jewish Museum as 'a lot of tosh'.
Such sentiments salve the soul.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Dissertation topics

Seeing as I'm advising on so many of these things, I'd thought I'd list my favourite topics:

1) 'An analysis of cultural shift via the chronology of James Bond films'
2) 'Linguistic dillydalliance in the work of Robert Venturi'
3) 'The back of the shed enthusiasm of James Stirling'
4) 'The aching sadness of Zaha Hadid'
5) ' My life with the daffodils; the work of Ted Cullinan'

So many students seem to find this difficult!

Friday, 18 March 2011

Big Jim

I was lecturing on Jim Stirling today and found myself showing amazing enthusiasm for the early work, which appears to me so ballsy and 'jimcrack' at the same time that it's hard to imagine how it got built at all (for it certainly wouldn't be built now). The trilogy; Leicester Engineering, Cambridge History Faculty, Oxford Foley building are simply a catalogue of disasters that remind me happily of Dads Army. They are appropriate C20th ruins. It all feels as if it's been knocked out in some old blokes shed with a lot of enthusiasm for some vague possibilities. Big Jim was in to beer, birds, pies, jazz and some notion of architecture now lost on us, and it was with great sentiment that I found myself describing his increasingly eccentric moves with more and more respect.
Watch out, I just received, via Amazon, a very rare book on Belgian crazy Lucian Kroll, and I like the look of it.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Lee Roth

By 7.30 pm, cooking tomato sauce to David Lee Roth and the first Van Halen record we all ever heard; "Running with the Devil'. I am transfixed. making a good sauce is a gentle operation, but RWTD is the best fucking piece of incendiary rock and roll I can imagine. I remember I went straight out and bought Van Halen (1) and many more in the years afterward. But vaguely remembering seeing Lee Roth perform in a wrestling ring (!!) at the Hamersmith Apollo with my friend Nazar Ali Khan, hardly conscious of the music at all, was one of the greatest gigs I've ever witnessed. He is no doubt a fabulous idiot, but we need them.
(And....err....I've said this before- but rock is nothing if not repetitive)

By a nose

Popped my nose in to the Trench and was astonished to be actually greeted by the barmaid, she was young and innocent enough to be friendly, not having yet learnt the ropes of abject service, and besides she was most enthusiastic at having just won on the horses (not a lot of money, but a tenner is not to be smarted at). She even tried valiantly to sell two poor unsuspecting visitors 'Pizza!!' when they wondered if such a vast, empty, establishment might supply a nibble for lunch. They wisely walked away. I'm sure the pizza's whatever they are, are certainly from Iceland, and therefore derisible.
Now I suppose I now look like somebody who would be interested in the horses, but unlike many of my 'heroes' thank god I don't share that affliction. I just stare up at the big screen and resent the toffs who use the expression 'fair dos' repeatedly while wearing big hair, wrap around sunglasses and stupid outfits from Channel be them male or female. As I've said before it is an outrageous perversion that such lovely animals breed such horrible people. However not only was the barmaid so suddenly startlingly affable, but in the Indian shop on the way home I was suddenly presented with a two for one offer on Walkers French Fries - just for me of course. Two nice things in one day is very unusual on the streets of Bethnal Green.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011


I've just looked at the 'stats' for this blog, and really, I shouldn't give a fuck, but while Sam Jacob's (Strange Harvest) readers no doubt skyrocket to oblivion as he gigs around the world not knowing what he's doing my musings on Dualit toasters are bound to be less interesting (partly because you probably don't have one- if my readership was exclusively fifty year old females with kids and difficulties and Dualit toasters who remembered Paul as..... it might be different). Anyway, next week I'm in FINLAND and the week or so after recovering in GUERNSEY in a hotel with nothing but a bar and a beach (nothing else). I'm sure there will be top stories to tell from both. Should you worry about your readership? To be honest this is a real crisis for everybody, but it's only the young who don't realize that is how the system works, and it is only the young who can capitalize on not caring. It is funny to 'watch oneself' now I'm older, and a blog is a most intricate way of watching oneself. I bought a grouse hunting hat on Sunday from the most ludicrous of contemporary environments, Columbia Rd, makes me look like something out of Bill and Ben and the Flower Pot men, but it's cute and gets comments from nice girls in the lift at the university, and, naturally, I'm always in search of the Famous Grouse. I hope people get the relation.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Buy a Dualit

I fixed the toaster today, no I refurbished the toaster today, totally, on the dining table. You can do this with Dualit toasters. Ours is ancient, it was second or even third hand when we bought it pretty cheap off e-bay years ago, but it was finally time for me to get to work to get it to work all beautiful again. £36 for 5 new elements and assurances it would take me just 20 minutes. Well it took me two and a half hours. I didn't realize the lovely old thing was just a bunch of meccano with tiny pieces. The table became quite a work bench, and Julie and I went through much agony with those tiny bits. However, my satisfaction, our satisfaction, at having completed the task, with no tiny bits left over, utilizing I suspect all of the patience I used to employ making tiny models of B29's, Mustangs, and Napoleonic curasiers came in to good stead, along with Julie's brute force.
I'm sure Dualit toasters are good for the world.

Saturday, 12 March 2011


I was sitting in the Trench for the second half of the United game with Arsenal. As always there was more to observe than just the football. In this case the couple next to me, she texting busily, him sitting rather morose for lack of 'attention' (you can spot this a mile off). Suddenly she jumped up and popped out (of the pub), returning with a glossy magazine which she proceeded to peruse as if she had written it, which she probably had, given her age range 23-27. You can tell if somebody is reading a magazine because they've written it, they are 'checking' and 'feeling good'. However, the magazine was titled 'Psychologies'. It's major feature 'Friendships' I tried not to look too obvious with interest as they displaced my concentration from the game (Arsenal spend far too much time running about, United are really far better organized). Why 'Psychologies' I thought? How about 'Philosophies' with leaders like 'Lacan for the Single Girl' (but I soon put that to one side as stupid). So we now need a glossy magazine called 'Psychologies' to enable every single girl to assess friendships. Well thats easy, friends laugh when you fuck up, and laugh even louder the worse it gets. Lovers despise you when you fuck up, but will eventually snuggle up just the same. That is not exactly a long leader article; not exactly Lacan anyway. However, if you walk around Tesco on the way home (a Lacanian sexual experience I like to think) and overhear a few conversations, you quickly realize a desperate market for 'Psychologies' magazine.
Meanwhile, one person who may be in need of 'Psychologies' girly magazine, is Arsene Wenger, a man who seriously needs to come to terms with his lack of success over recent times, and then again, almost all Arsenal fans, so totally deluded as to their teams success that they shout and scream all evening long when there isn't any. Chelsea fans, I'd like to think, become resigned to the fact that 'the wheels have fallen off'.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

The Old Firm

I'm just listening to Question Time and Scottish football violence comes up. I know there was violence at the last game but it was probably nothing like it was in the seventies. In fact, I tend to go and watch Old Firm games for the violence, but only on the television in Bethnal Green. My good old friend from Soho drinking days Gordon McLean described an old firm game as one of the most frightening things he ever attended back in '73, with a certain nostalgia.
Certainly I'm sure there's more than meets the eye than one berk squaring off against another.
This puts me in a quandary, being a passive type, but what I do notice in all types of football commentary, is the obsession with the decisions of the officials. It now appears to dominate the whole conversation. This is not how it used to be. So, can my little marxist theory of value come in to play once more?? We try to make violence disappear with rules, as if there are not enough rules on the football pitch. More money: more rules: less activity: more lawyers.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011


I've just been putting together my Las Vegas history for the third year. It was a bit of a sentimental experience. Here's me in Vegas sometime in the nineties and times have certainly changed since then. I was lucky to witness and document a particular period in the history of the place, but the pace of change has of course accelerated since then, that is the logic of capitalism. The corporations which were in their infancy when I first arrived in Vegas are now monolithic. Capital follows capital, that is the logic of capitalism, it always has to make more money. I hear, for instance, The Venetian Macao now bundles away $70bn a month, I note that one employee of Barclays Bank is making off (in one way or another) with £40m for the year. As a Chinese money laundering operation the Venetian Macao is now just a more advanced version of The Stardust or any of the other 'mob' orientated Vegas joints of the sixties. What the Barclays man can possibly do with his £40m is a big question. I'd quite like him to donate it to educational purposes, so that we can all get to understand how he made such a scam on the rest of us.
In the mean time, back then, it was a hell of a lot of fun.

Sunday, 6 March 2011


The latest British Gas advert features a Queen song, at least the intro of a Queen song that for the life of me I can't remember. This is certainly a subliminal triumph for the advertising agency that dreamt it up. Subliminally good records are rare pleasures, in particular I always get a bit of a rush from a bit of Depeche Mode, but I've never bought any of their records. Neither do I own anything by Heart, but 'Barracuda' could always make my day. Plus I have the image of the two sirens of Heart in my head when I hear it. No doubt they are no longer sirens.
We went to our first sixtieth birthday party last night. It was good, but it was full of people who didn't want anybody to be sixty.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

H Bosche

As life teeters towards some vision of a Hieronymus Bosch painting (probably the Garden of Earthy Delights as found in the Prado Madrid) Scott and I are both sullen in the pub getting over our separate hangovers and fearing being burnt alive Bosch style for believing in Rationality and at least a bleary version of the Great Enlightenment Project.
According to the Governor of the Bank of England, the banks are in for another crash because they can't do anything about what they are doing, meanwhile Saudi Arabia (Saudi Arabia!!) is suddenly on the brink of disaster. This cannot happen, we cannot have lots of revolutionary governments all across the Middle East making it up as they go on, or will we? There is some trembling of the knees in the Trench. It will be worse than '29, it will be worse than '14.
Julie and I have to go to a party tonight. I don't want to go, I never want to go, parties appall me and I'll have to get drunk beforehand (which disturbs the potential quiet of the day) there is the spectre of the bloody party at all times to be dealt with, no matter how nice the people who will be there.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Dreaming of a russet apple

Fresh from a day reviewing more flying saucers around Uranus and more bollocks from Bohemia, fresh from such such delights as the expression that the 'site was bombed in the fifties' I sink into my chair with a large one to enjoy 'The Desert Fox' once again. All I need is a russet apple. My god, not knowing when WW2 was! That's a new one. meanwhile the others were championing houses for basketball stars with their round beds (apparently they all have them, but how exactly do you 'use' a round bed- is the idea to lie around it in segments? And where do you buy the sheets?) and Mickey Mouse shaped swimming pools, and a room for shoes even in some poxy site in London Bridge and I thought 'Christ this is the end of the world!'
When I was into 'popular architecture' it was a search for the truth. Maybe it's caught up with me.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011


The bus driver said 'Haven't you got a Freedom Pass?' and I smiled. The disguise is certainly working, it's added at least fifteen years! Of course freedom is relative, intellectuals think of it as something rather abstract, industry bosses think of it as something that allows them to charge and pay what they like in a free market, and the employees think freedom is being able to subsist. It's good to think about the difference, for it's been worrying us for the last 300 years at least.
Those 300 years represent nothing if not a grand narrative of human endeavour and sacrifice, it is a shame that;
1) This endeavour and sacrifice is almost unintelligible to anybody who even watches television and let alone reads the Sun for knowledge, and especially the youth of today, who I will continue to cajole in the spirit of the ongoing revolution.
2) Remains something parsimoniously honored by those who are unaware that their fear of death, our cultural fear of death, manifested in Wooton Fucking Bassett especially. It appears one person dying for us in Afganistan is a disaster of extraordinary proportions, well yes, but when you consider the 700,000 young Russians who died at Stalingrad alone, you're fucked arn't you.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

A curious business

It takes me a day to compile a lecture that will last at best an hour and a half. After twenty years doing it, this is either extremely stupid or extremely, perhaps perversely, conscientious. I suspect the universities would like to roll out lecture courses just as they like to obsessively document them and then just count the money coming in, but this particular product is just not like that, sometimes it appears even more complex than cooking, which at least assumes the chef is alive and on the job, and not half dead on a production line. The truth is, the more you go on, the more complex things appear to get. It is not so easy to assume the connections between this and that that you rely on, it makes for difficulty. AJP Taylor, the great populist historian, used to make up his lectures in his cab to the BBC, but I bet he put a lot of thought in beforehand, 'umming and arhhing' this and that, generally irritating himself, until the moment of the cab's arrival forced him into decision time. Still, that sort of thing keeps you alive (and possibly kicking).