Thursday, 30 June 2011


Now the party's over it's time to stop, mainly because my joints have seized up. Bodies are good at telling you what to do, in my case, sit still in your armchair staring out at the weather with Patton 360 on the History Channel and contemplate what to do next with appropriate refreshment to hand.
I'm going to escape the rather barmy world architecture for a while, and read Michel de Montaigne's C16th collected essays. This where reading the London Review of Books gets you.
Our hamster understanding of essays comes from Montaigne, who wrote on virtually everything by the look of it to a total 1250 pages in Penguin. His meaning of essay was 'assay', or the verification of gold, how charming, how rational, and he did it with an inquisition on himself, on his own opinions for most of his life, he was still revising them when he died. He was also of most melancholic 'humour' most of the time, which given the historical circumstances, is a hardly surprising.
Sounds a bit like blogging then.

Monday, 27 June 2011

Show tomorrow

I think it may be a certain depression regarding Beyonce. The only way to reconcile myself to it is the Zizek way, alongside a good lunch and 'Sink the Bismarck' on TCM. When he talks about Ayn Rand, he says he loves her work, simply because it is SUCH a huge embarrassment. In this embarrassment, it might counteract the very stupidity it represents and supports. I'd send you the link but I don't know how to do it.
It's our show tomorrow so Julie and I will be bar staff. Please come and say hello if you can. It's our best role. She's already warned me against having too much bourbon under the table, but I went down to Majestic Wine with a trolley anyway and then dragged it into the White Horse to chat to Transylvanian Julia. It's not often you get to chat to a Transylvanian stripper. She's ever so good.

Sunday, 26 June 2011


My first thought was, well, she's forgotten her skirt and there's too much wind in her hair. Then I realised Beyonce's performance tonight was intensionally a cross between baptist ministry and triple X porn, sort of Day of Judgement pop. Meanwhile a senior Conservative collapses and dies in the Glastonbury toilets. You couldn't write this, it's real Carl Hiasen. Perhaps he'd suddenly discovered the new society.
However, Beyonce's show did have more than a little Josef Goebels about it. I wonder how many pairs of knickers was she wearing for safety? And why don't the male dancers just go on wearing pants. It's seems unfair they get to wear trousers.

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Can Coldplay be worse than U2?

Are Coldplay even worse than U2? With a drummer that sounds like he's chopping wood, and Chris Martin limply jumping around, I fear so. Last night's U2 were as fine a demonstration of one dimensional rock as you are likely to find, and Bono, he's just ridiculous, he's worse than Mick Jagger, he is astonishingly ridiculous (see Chuck Klosterman on this). I doubt it's just a blip. Coldplay, when they try to play like U2, just sound awful, and really that's a terrible ambition in the first place. Chris Martin should stick to ballads, I know this because I taught his brother Al (who still promises me Foo Fighters tickets) and who always said his brother 'did ballads'.

Friday, 24 June 2011


My man at the record stand sold me Rattlesnakes. He's very active in the selling stakes. I say it takes me back. 'Read Norman Mailer, or get a new tailor' of course the record is by Lloyd Cole and The Commotions c1984. It turns out to be, in the cultural studies sense, quite a find. It's all smart suits and emotions and epitomizes the period . I was nervous about buying it and had to think about it for a while in The Misty Mountain before returning to the stall to find it again. Did I really want to go back to that floppy haired, black polar necked, negative heeled, love lorn (and beyond) young man who thought this was any good so long ago?
Well I've played 'Are You Ready to be Heartbroken' about twenty seven times this evening. Am I going to 'make my friend guilty about their cynicism'? am I going to be 'tupped full of vitamins on account of seriousness?'
Sometimes, but very occasionally- you have to be very smart to get away with it- there can be great beauty in pretension.


It is extremely unusual for me to be accused of 'exemplary practice' at exam time. If my exemplary practice is getting up late, sitting in the pub staring at girls, drinking too much, generally being disinterested in those who run around in circles with no time to read a good book, wondering what to cook for supper, then clearly I'm on to a good thing. Maybe I'll get an accidental knighthood one day (wouldn't accept it).
In the old days my 'design' students all suffered from the imminent threat of failure, it tore me to bits, but in general they had a happy time failing. This is no longer possible. Now my 'theory' students rejoice and pass happily saying everything is shit. It was a very sensible change in career path.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011


A free day, so obviously I went to meet my own personal horseman of the apocalypse, Scott, in the Misty Mountain. We discussed grave matters. The point about Greece of course, is that it's own population have cottoned on. They know the rich don't pay any tax, and even now, there aren't any staff in the hospitals, and they know any money they are lent (especially billions of it) will have to be paid straight back to the banks with interest (this is what the news doesn't tell you) just as it has all over the world, and you have to with your Visa account. They also know the government, in fact the whole ruling class, is corrupt. If they default in the name of a revolution, others will too, especially those who look over their shoulder's in Africa. That will mean the collapse of the global banking system and the people of Sunbury on Thames will lose everything, spend their last coppers on brown shirts, and start shouting nationalist slogans because they don't know any better. People like us will start shouting for a just socialism. It is the other side of the same coin. In short we will be back in the Weimar Republic growing beans on our balconies and converting our toasters in to guns.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011


I've just about had enough of this (I'm watching Newsnight) Nobody seems to want to say the fucking obvious; that the Greek people are demonstrating because the rich people of Greece simply don't pay any tax. It is one of the most corrupt western countries you can imagine, and it does it all with a smile and a holiday on a yacht. You can't use credit cards in Greece anymore, because then they have to pay tax on it. They should default immediately.

Return of the Mojo

Exam time is a bit like war if you believe Spike Milligan's version of events; long periods of boredom punctuated by moments of great excitement. I hang around in airless corridors, try to sit in my office, sit sipping Evian in periodic meetings, but in the end this is no good. I find myself back in the pub again, where I can reflect on the female bottom at great length through the plate glass windows. You have to be there, you have to be in the vicinity while all these exams go on, and your phone might beep at any moment drawing you in to one catastrophe or another, but in the meantime, I just sit, remembering Danielle ask 'Are you a tit man or an arse man?' The context was an upstairs room of a pub in Borough and we were enjoying a somewhat refreshingly libertarian event some years ago, but the question is still very hard to answer. I think I sort of gurgled at the time. But in the midst of nothing to do (but that nothing being of great importance because you are simply waiting for action stations- and to leap in to that action at any moment) that's what you might find yourself thinking about. Am I a tit man or an arse man? Indeed, can there be such a distinction? Which particular psychological realms might one enter to consider it? And what about legs, or shoulders, or haircuts? It's a minefield out there.
This at least assured me of the return of the mojo.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Fish out of Water

Strong nerves demanded in the aftermath of Hog Roast and pre- External Examinations. It didn't help that London wants to dig up all the roads it needs to in advance of the Olympics (making a taxi fair to Watterloo in the pouring rain £27), nor that Julie bought tickets to Surbiton not Sunbury, nor that there was no toilet on the train, nor that the next train was cancelled. Our trip to the land where everybody is oblivious took five hours before we reached the Premier Inn. Neither did it help that the domestic address 'a couple of minutes a away' was no doubt calculated via Ferrari. I'll come out with it, I hate the suburbs. I hate their complacency, I feel totally uneasy when I'm there, I'm a fish out of water and desperate to sit quietly at the bar rather than attempt discussions with the largely octogenarian and not to look at young girls dresses (neither of which have any interest in talking to me whatsoever) while Start Me Up plays in the marquee and Hog roast is fed studiously to the schnauzer.
We managed to stay a couple of hours before retiring to our room for the disabled, big enough to swing a wheelchair in and watch television neither of us could recognise. Then up for breakfast (actually quite passable at the Premier Inn) to listen to stupid girls hoot with very very irritating laughs about their antics at some wedding the night before.
External Examiners appear tomorrow, never liked that particular event either after twenty years of suffering it.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Hog Roast

Found myself ranting last night about a family 'hog roast' I have to attend on Saturday. It will either be boiling hot or pouring with rain, and there is nothing you can say to anybody because the whole thing is so miserable, and everybody else will be thinking how lovely it is to 'get together as a family' no matter you have nothing else in common. I'm bargaining to get a room at the Travel Lodge down the road as a bolt hole. I'm certainly sure I can't bare the stress of venturing into and then out of surbiton in one day, and so will have the opportunity of retiring early and possibly for good.
And why this sudden hog roast industry? Where has it come from? Whats wrong with some nice homemade burgers and a butchers sausage? I suggest it's a petit bourgeois McDonalds, involving a complex semiotic conjugation of Jamie Oliver, a local twat with a dustbin, some communal notion (long gone) of animal sacrifice and general snobbery. I know it won't taste as good as my burgers anyway, and there will be loads of crappy salad. If you were to properly Bar-b-Q that's a different matter, the Americans have spent years perfecting it, but er...we have not.
A truly awful prospect.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Coach and Horses

So the Coach and Horses, legendary Soho pub where I spent fifteen years, met my wife manhandling a ladder, and learnt many bad habits (which were actually fabulous pleasures- as Larry Hagman says, 'it's not my fault I like bourbon on my cornflakes') has been sold on to the Fullers chain to no doubt stink of sizzling frajitas forever. I hope they will at least sort out the toilets.
Alistair tried, but he was useless and managed to drive all the regulars away with rather simpering bonhomie, he was no Norman Balon. Balon was unique. There's a passage in Jeff Bernard's 'Low Life' where Norman finds him having 'just the one' in The Blue Posts and it's like a gamekeeper catching a fox. Very good mornings and afternoons indeed in the deep end of the Coach, cashing cheques off Norman, doing fuck all with all the others in there who were also intent on doing fuck all. It was quite wonderful, a fabulous piece of urban infrastructure just wot architects would love to make but can't.
Photo by Julie (photo still held hostage in the pub) Ian Hislop in the background.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Grand Prix

So it's pissing down for the Canadian Grand Prix and it's stopped and I have to say the TV coverage is more interesting of blokes road sweeping and commentators making it up on the spot and trying to interview George Lucas to talk about making a GP movie and he says:
'Films about sports don't work' than it was when the blasted cars are boringly trailing round the track.
Thanks very much George. Actually 'Grand Prix', the seventies classic is a fabulous film, split screen and all, and one of my favourites on TCM on the ocaisional morning, and Lucas didn't even mention it! Meanwhile it's funny to see pop stars in sunglasses in pouring rain and those chiseled features of racing drivers hanging about. Ambient tele works fine for me. Must be hell for the presenters; 'Just explain to us how much you can see in the rain......etc etc'

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Fusion Food

So I'm sitting watching Octopussy, one of my favourite 007 movies for a Saturday afternoon. I've had my classics lesson with Scott in the Trench, and now mulling over what I can say about the Playboy Club. For one, the resuscitation of mojo is clearly of import to that fantasy side of our lives that keeps us going (without fantasy, we might find the crash landing rather hard work, since fantasy is what our late capitalist world is based upon) on the other hand I'm amused that of course the restaurant, signature restaurant of course, serves 'fusion' food. Of course it serves fusion food, it can hardly serve Shepperd's Pie and Irish Stew. Whatever happens in Mayfair is about signs, it is necessarily bereft of reality, and that's why re-inventing the fantasy of the Playboy Club is so appropriate at this time and in that place. Fusion, of course, is nothing served as everything. Playboy, is now nothing but a brand, it is certainly neither a revolutionary idea nor a heartbreaking macho conspiracy, it is just a brand.
Highly appropriate for a place where everybody is supposed to think they are the latest James Bond.

Friday, 10 June 2011

Playboy Club

I thought I'd lost my mojo, I really did. Having spent most of my adult life wanting to fuck about three hundred girls a day (of course this was always an absolute fantasy) suddenly I lost it. Where had it gone? I know the fantasy wasn't exactly right on, but I guess I saw it as some kind of affirmation of my existence as an animal, and now it had just, well, gone. I said this to one of my younger pals last night and he was horrified; 'That can't happen!' he said 'it can and it has' I replied.
So it was fortuitous that I suddenly received a commission to review the new Playboy Club in Mayfair. Now Mayfair is a shithole populated by those who want to buy second hand Lanboughini's (low milage) for £199,000 and ridiculous looking Range Rovers in white looking like they've been crossed with Gucci handbags (just walk up Park Lane).
And strangely, I was greeted on entrance to the new Playboy Club by not the singular buxom playmate of choice I had in mind, but by SIX OR SEVEN various representatives of architects and PR companies and Playboy International and all that. I realised I get everything wrong.
However, I did soon recognise an element of 'the mojo's return'. Context is everything. It's easy to loose you mojo in the east end, and even more in a university, but it's rather easy to find it again in expensive sanctuaries like the Playboy Club. That's probably why so many middle eastern Syrians, Yemenis etc plus other displaced billionaires need to hang out there with girls dressed as bunnies.
The architect was very nice; everything was very subtle. Nothing can be overt in this country, even girls dressed as bunny rabbits. It was as louche louche louche as you could get, the sort of place that had 'accents'. The man from Playboy was the sort of under thirty business hotshot only the Americans can still produce, it was like being transported back to Las Vegas. He was excellent, he EXUDED mojo, the essence of mojo, and you couldn't help but lap it up as bunnies in tights floated by offering you drinks. Selling the idea of sex, now that's a universal. I'm glad I got some treatment.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Big Society balls

Having spent a few days not understanding the television except from CNN, and being pretty bewildered by that, I come back to british news. I hear that universities, as part of the 'Big Society' have got to discourage terrorism. Who dreamt that idiocy up...oh.... Terressa May- what a surprise, it may turn out to be that the 'Big Society' is nothing more than an inflated Surrey Women's Institute. It's certainly true they are not particularly interested in free speech, and when difficult issues arise, they always say stuff like 'you are not exactly being helpful' It's funny how this phrase is now the recourse of so many hopeless managers all over the western world. It's not my fucking job to be helpful, it's my job to be critical!
They've also realised that the gaff on tuition fees will increase public spending dramatically for the next fifteen years. Anybody with half a brain had that little lightbulb go off in their heads ages ago. And the TV presenters, always saying of labour critics daring to suggest change to the NHS is ideologically driven, just reduced to nasty hectoring on 'Well what would you do then? ....sneer....sneer'. It's as if they've joined the party too. Bad news all round.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Inner Goth

So I came home from Germany and immediately put on the Sisters of Mercy at full blast - go figure. Once I'd dealt with the haunting DLRoth syndrome, I had to deal with equal and opposite Andrew Eldritch side of me. Now the sisters were fucking good, they made the bleak really really real, Floodland in particular - a mixture of totalitarian repression meets savvy sexual incomprehension. I remember on my first trip to Berlin on my CPZ750 back in the late eighties, while my pal Peter was always out for fun, me and his flatmate spent endless hours listening to this thing in awe not having any sex at all, because it seemed this record WAS Berlin (in actual fact it was Hamburg if you know your stuff). I even rode to Hamburg afterwards to catch the ferry home - another story.
There are certain Sisters records that are landmarks:

Dominion/Mother Russia
This Corrosion
Temple of Love

They bring out my inner Goth

Sunday, 5 June 2011


Sunday in Kassel and it's hot hot hot, so hot I've pictures of Middle Eastern fishing boats bobbing up and down in the Persian gulf on the television to cool me down. It is also empty empty empty, because nothing happens in Germany on Sunday and that means even less happens here.
Thank the Gods that the bar next door is open, we'd be stuck dangerously low on supplies if it weren't.
And time to reflect, to use a rather overused academic term, on the strange world of the Photo Bookfair. Firstly there is no doubt the world of photography is thrown in to as greater confusion as anything else by technology. The poster lying to my right declares 'Will Chemical Photography Survive?' in garish green and black. There are photographers out there who don't even take photos anymore, but graze for them fiendishly on the internet. And why not, just as I might say it would be daft to say 'all bonna fide knowledge comes from reading real books'.
Four days of this and you are pretty much done in.
However, I did find myself a genuine photographic gem taken by a sufficiently charming man with a camera of the old school, and I found it in a second hand record shop. Thirty one years ago, David Lee Roth slipped a poster of himself chained to a dog pound into the sleeve of Women and Children First. The photograph was by Helmut Newton and the provenance behind it rather good. Seeing as it's a poster it's incredibly rare to find it, and seeing as it was a record shop and Woman and Children First is a bit of a crap Van Halen record, I got the LP for 11euro and couldn't believe my luck. I shall dispose of the Lp and frame the poster- that's photography for you.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Kassel III

But hold it, before go on ranting about a city form that can only accommodate Nandos restaurants, I've got to realize it's our fault. As late as 8th March 1945, with a month to go before the very end, the RAF sent 176 bombers to blitz Kassel, and they'd already done it plenty of times already. On 3rd Oct 1943 they sent 547 aircraft and on the 22nd Oct 1943 569 for instance. The bombing decimated the population from 230,000 to 28,000 people.
London, with it's insistent Dickensian quality, may have been blitzed but hardly with the intensity of what happened here. And what happened here afterwards, rather low key application of modernist principles of town planning across a green slate, represents just how poor that methodology really was. If you want to eat anything here, you will paradoxically only find it in the restored remains of something or other, where you might find some kind of ambiance. I mean the Germans don't do Las Vegas, they seemingly can't turn a dumb shed into a fantastic eating experience, I guess a certain dourness forbids it. However, I'd be dour if I had that many British high explosives, fire bombs and so on dropped on my head.

Friday, 3 June 2011

Kassel II

I hate this fucking place. It is the absolute example of city flattened and then rebuilt for universal misery. The typology of modern architectural city planning is indeed awful. I'm coming over all Leon Krier about it. For one, you can't find a decent bar, you can't find a decent restaurant, and everything looks like a department store.

Thursday, 2 June 2011


Sitting under a large parasol advertising Bitburger lager, and taking it's advice, in a square which is a swathe of green with a statue of an absurdly fat Fredrick II in the middle (rather reminding me of Jeremy Melvin) and what looks like a rebuilt neoclassical museum with caryatids which turns out to be a supermarket to my left, and looking way out over the surrounding landscape (making me think of nothing but military artillery) you quickly notice one thing; the well put together youth of Kassel, the joyful youth of Kassel, the healthy youth of Kassel, the bloody well built youth of Kassel or at least those with any sense of themselves at all, those who've discovered unruly make-up at least, just can't wait to get the fuck out of here to somewhere down and dirty like London or Los Angeles.
Kassel was flattened in WW2 because Volkswagen were here, and I mean, flattened. It was rebuilt in a kind of cosy Bauhaus meets Basildon with trams type of thought typical of the period, a sort of 'rebuilding blues' architecture. A hundred yards away, cars speed past like they are on electric rails, and you don't cross the road when you are not supposed to. This does not happen in London or Los Angeles.
We're here for a book fair. Since niether of us like smoozing this is largely a waste of time, we probably won't even sell any books, but last night it did find us in the Museum of Burial (!!) for the opening of a stupid exhibition of a Mexican photographer who copied Weegee (photographed death scenes) I would have thought the Mexicans had enough death not to copy the american version, but as I sat nibbling a breadstick on the veranda admiring the view that was not what caught my attention besides the two vintage BMW hearses exhibited on either side of me (these Germans are strange). What caught my attention was just how nerdy bookmakers are even if they do tend to have funny hair and odd clothing.
Firstly bookmakers are all broke, they can't afford a breadstick, but they will mortgage themselves to come to these events. Crickey! Talk about endpapers can go on for hours, give them a glass of wine and it's indents and interruptions with blank pages. Interruptions with blank pages means the beckoning over of other bookmakers to discuss this profound question of narrative in book design for more hours. And of course they are all marvelously zealous which is most heartening in one way as it is bewildering in another. It's not like they make the work, but they are obsessed by their curation of it their conditioning of it, and they are a retail industry which pathologically hates retail (clearly Black Books highly authentic here).
But it's gone further. There are books here which are just books of blank, black pages (250pgs). I dared to suggest it might be sketchbook for those with white pencils. There's a neat book about a collection of spoons (spoons nicked from airlines while going've guessed bookfairs). There's a bloke who's publishing a book a day....or something.
I'll be back under the parasol this afternoon.


If you want the perfect illustration of whatever Rem Koolhaas means by Junkspace, take a fight from London City Airport. The process is exquisite, mesmerically smooth, the machine has perfected itself, Molloch has perfected itself (you can check in thirty minutes before you fly). The walls have moved since you were last there, and you are only moving slightly faster, they are probably all held together by jointing tape, but then again so are you (whatever it takes) but everything is perfect to create another 'Trattoria Bar Cafe' or four (whose counting). While the business men and women in suits (with polka dot accents and smart glasses and perfect hair) sit at their laptops drinking latte doing no doubt unspeakable deals for a system none of us understands in their spare three minutes, two heavy duty guys in full metal jackets brandishing serious semi automatic weapons order their full english breakfasts. This is us all in it together.
Here, form and content, the building doing what it does, the people in it doing what they do, merge in a perfect harmony. The perfect illustration of our age. I just wanted pictures of ice melting and refugees on the TV screens.