Thursday, 29 March 2012

Metallica made Medical

You don't expect medicine to make a hell of a noise, to be a crushing sonic experience. You expect medicine to be calming like tramadol and wind chimes. Even beforehand, the charming nurse said he virtually spent his holidays in there. I wasn't to know, and I wasn't even the one in the big tube, but watching your wife being pulverized like this for an hour or so in the name of a something that sounds(sic) as insignificant as a 'scan' really brought home something. It brought home to me precisely the fact that we were once, according to the best barman I've ever known, a certain Doug Twist of The Peppermill Hotel Casino Reno, Nevada; 'the best road act he'd ever seen'. And now, we were this, my babe stuffed in a tube of excruciating noise for an hour- and they will play you music over headphones- well I say they should hardly play Vivaldi, but Metallica, Metallica made medical.
They have to give you ear plugs to numb the sound even as you sit there watching. You come out numb in more ways than that.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Criticism 2

When Chuck Klosterman states that Van Halen's 'The Cradle will Rock' is exactly the most average rock record ever made, it is not so much this preposterous presumption that amazes me but the fact that I am prepared to believe him. This perhaps says a great deal about the business of writing. Taking a scientific measure to a supposedly creative field - but one crucially mediated by all sorts of quasi scientific agencies, invisible agencies the surface of which we would only understand as 'the tip of the iceberg' as in, for instance, the massage to 'FM radio playability'- is very smart, also silly, arrogant, presumptuous and to many just annoying. However I will think on whether 'The Cradle Will Rock' is exactly the most average rock record ever made all day. Perhaps I don't have enough to do, but that is exactly what I do, and it's not so far from the practice of architectural criticism.
Or take Raymond Chandler writing in 1946 on the Oscars ceremony (find it in his collected letters) a fabulous encapsulation of recognition, interpretation, profound understanding, resignation, and inward despair. Chandler was about to leave Hollywood, despite it's having brought him plenty of money, his understanding of the idiocy of the movie business is wrought in a play over three pages on the almost mathematical inevitability of this idiocy which is as pertinent today as the day it was written, hence the deep sense of tragedy.
The same can be brought to a discussion of late Corbu -but I won't do that just now- or, with closer proximity, the Case Study Houses, the precursor of IKEA. Built ostensibly for 'progressives', these first evocations of lifestyle modernism, in Hollywood or thereabouts, have presented us with a basic conundrum; can architects design houses for the average person, or rather, could they do it under those particular circumstances? A basic question you would think. However if the answer, for all sorts of reasons, is 'no they couldn't' then you are probably in the soup with regard to most of your presumptions about what architecture can do.
It took John Chase to smash the idolatry, fostered by progressives (those who go yachting at weekends) with his simple remark that such neat houses, in Hollywood, would be bought and sold and as naturally as night follows day remodeled as Grecco-Roman by people for whom doing just that was their daily bread. This was, after all, Hollywood! If they wanted a front door just like Johnny Matthis they were going to get one. It took others to note that Case Study 22 was now merely the province of Barclaycard, Robbie Williams and British Airways advertising and window cleaners carrying vast insurance policies. It took Neil Jackson to blow a few myths about Craig Ellwood and automatically make him a far more interesting, human, fallible modern master than anybody thought he was (Case Study 16 is in my opinion exquisite, even to the point of it being absurdly cramped on the site - a fact which somehow makes it better).
To wit, what? Well changing the context entirely, as bewildered pundits and politicians wonder at why today's neoliberalist youth was inspired to riot across Britain - refusing to understand it's inevitability, it's root cause, as whole generations have nothing to do but sublimate their ancient right to go down the mines and kill in wars on Playstation - as they bleat for better this or better that (which usually means some ersatz sense of 'community', 'character', 'resilience', 'meaning' etc to be applied somehow restoratively- unfortunately not a million miles away from 'blood and soil') they better grab some ancient mathematical truth about capitalism; bad things happen and it is not usually architecture's fault. In fact I doubt anybody has ever rioted over architecture. Meanwhile only the deluded have danced to it. Humans appear to adapt to the most appalling conditions. Architecture is a rather trivial subset to be ranked in our consumption of material not too far above Raymond Chandlers mystery stories or David Lee Roth's magisterial WOA WOAHHs!!

Tuesday, 27 March 2012


I've been reading architecture and it's not easy, especially if the book happens to come out of the early eighties when all architectural writers seemed to have gone on some course to make themselves incomprehensible. That there is so much bad writing on architecture (I mean 'classicist stereometry' is not a good term, you can't even say it, it hardly rolls off the tongue, and you end up wondering whether the conjugation is the right way round)- that it uses too many words and has no way of seemingly putting them together effectively, must be some kind of highly paradoxical structural defect. Where is, for instance, our TJ Clark of criticism- an art critic who can actually, at some length, write an enjoyable piece on why a Da Vinci in the Louvre is better than the one in the National without using a single funny word and still be highly entertaining?
Perhaps, if we are daft enough to be so pretentious and ineffective at the same time, we should adopt the language of Masterchef. We could pant:

'Jamie has made an idiot of Le Corbusier followed by a comfit of Zaha on an unsteady base with a ramoulade of bad sociology topped with a finial of fine augustation...his first pudding is a mess of Labrouste with sweet marble sauce'.....PANT....

'Angeline has done a balls up of Fun Palace with La Villette pieces in custard. She's following with upside down Alberti cake, dressed with a swift Thai nonchalance and a Dubai dip.....PANT..

'Tricycle is plotting a teasmade of monstrosity with a snide of disaster relief, to be followed by a quantum erratum of meringue infidel with aspects of prune.....AND...

'Reggie is making an all round hash of it and has run out of time'. As is the way.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Fine Artist

'Fine artist- quivering jelly', yeah well that's a phrase that came up while Julie went into repeated hysterics as we bumbled our weekend through me 'making fine art'. I for one don't understand the term fine art in the first place, and it turned out Julie agrees she doesn't either. However I have been making it for years, just very slowly. I understand painting, photography, mixed media and other things you do to make art, but I have no idea what is fine about fine art, so amazing as it is my own work seems to show all the attributes of such a conceptually driven, process ridden and lack of effort activity as 'fine art'. I studied good and hard. The mistake in my own work is of course the joy in it. However, as Seigfried and Roy said laughter is the cure for all sorrow. This is one of my 'Richard Princettes', I won't give the game away about how I do them, but the tale is I studied at the University of Bristol and the architecture studios were through the door centre left.
These pieces are for sale. Prices on application.

Friday, 23 March 2012


I was lecturing on Vegas today. It's always a bit of an event but I no longer wear the Gram Parson's style garb. One of the good things about Vegas as a subject is that it really should inspire any critic to 'tell the truth' (it being libertarian to the bone). Academicism (or lying for purpose) doesn't really work, and the down side of that is that you can easily court trouble.
For instance, on the subject of 'implants', for I had a photo of 'Josie' (above) up on the screen (and I am forever sorry about the red eye) and I felt Zizek's fourth horseman of the apocalypse (biotechnology) needed an airing, we drifted this way:
'Culturally it is second nature for the Californians to make breast implants. Culturally, it is ridiculous for the French to try'.
This may have been an unfortunate comment, but it sure feels true to me.

(To avoid disappointment, please note Josie has long left being star cocktail waitress of the Oculus Bar in The Venetian LV)

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Lyricists 2

So Big Country prove that Scots should never make rock music about streaming angrily down the glen, but then Simple Minds couldn't write about love without stating that it was not only alive, but certainly kicking. The Northern Irish fared no better when Thin Lizzy wandered off to write crap about the mountains of Mourne. I conclude in general landscapes and rock don't go.
Meanwhile, thinking about crap lyricists, England does very badly with David Coverdale, who managed to make the most ignominious prick of himself singing 'A hard loving woman like you...just needs a hard loving man' (like him) and then flatly contradicting himself by complaining that he'd be a 'fool for your lovin' (hard loving) no more' by the next line. He implies a softer love is required as far as he is concerned, therefore looking a confused wuss. In the meantime Paul Rogers is often fatally inaccurate (this from a man who prides his songwriting as the most enjoyable part of the job). Seagulls flying high in the sky indeed, but who the hell shoots them down? I've never heard of people shooting seagulls but maybe I'm mistaken and it happens all the time.
Anyway, listening to the lyrics of the first Bad Company album, whilst a highly amusing experience in itself, really should inspire you to begin a PhD on the subject of 'how dreadful rock lyrics can be'. But perhaps they're better that way?

Tuesday, 20 March 2012


Just heard that Jon Anderson was going to present a series on 'lyricists' for Planet Rock. Nearly fell out of my Danish Modern Chair. Jon Anderson, possitively the WORST.....'down by the water' Jon Anderson, 'Olias of Sunhillow' (yes I've got it) Jon Anderson! That 'I was IN THE BAND and I didn't know what we were singing about' (Rick Wakeman) Jon Anderson! After Niel Pert of Rush, possitively the worst jingle jangle in middle earth doodler of all time, presenting on 'LYRICISTS!' Then I realized they meant Ian Anderson, of Jethro Tull, and for a moment I sighed a sigh of relief and thought...fine....and then I went IAN ANDERSON!!!!, that fucking idiot playing laird of the manor somewhere in SCOTLAND! (Scotland as a country appears to generate more worse lyrics than any other country, take anything by plonkers BIG COUNTRY) Surely not! All that heavy horses and slap on your jodpurs nonsense, THAT CAN'T BE RIGHT! Now a good lyricist is somebody, as Chuck Klosterman points out, who can rhyme 'Texas' 'taxes', and 'facts is', in the same verse (Steve Miller- take the Money and Run) OR somebody so pretentious, like Lloyd Cole singing about Charlotte St, making a record I still like listening to because I can still feel the haircut that went with it.
Of course "We're going to rock n roll all night and party every day' is as near as perfect a rock n roll lyric as anybody needs, and that's from KISS. So is 'Love Gun'.
My favourite is 'It's only Rock n Roll'..but I like it.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

DFS sofas

Have you noticed that in the TV advertising for DFS sofas, they are almost always shown in the round, and some of them are round, and some of them actually spin around. They are always shown with space around them, lots of space for children and dogs to run about. Curiously, if you are pressed to spend that little on your sofa, the chances of it sitting 'in the round' in your house is infinitesimally small and getting it in your house might even be a problem in the first place, secondly you probably can't afford a dog as well as the kids.
Have you noticed that the TV advertising for Yacault does not actually say that the stuff is any good for you. I suspect Yacault drinkers in general are the especially paranoid, they are stressed and they worry about ulcers. But the adverts don't say that Yacault will help your potential ulcers at all! That your tummy might like it doesn't mean a thing. My tummy happens to like tumblers of ice laden scotch.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Dumbing Down and Bigging Up

In our house, there is no other TV program that inspires the cry of 'FUCK OFF YOU CUNT!' more than Gardener's World. That includes international football. In the main I'm afraid it is a simple dumbing down, but to be honest it is probably the whole bundle, and how that whole bundle relates to other TV bundles of unspeakable shit that drives us crazy every now and then, usually after long lecturing days.
Plants are not simple, but they do not know that they are beautiful, we ascribe that to them, and the fact that Monty fucking Don and Co consistently refuse to ascribe meaning to plants beyond the most simplistically picturesque is of supreme agitation. We, as a civilization, have always known more than that, take a cursory look at Dutch still life painting for instance. We ascribe meanings even to plants, so why not tell us about them? Even for fun?
I am aware that the agencies that conspire to dumbing down do not include me. I don't think I can talk any differently to first year students than I do to fifth year students, market differentiation doesn't work in education, it's called being patronizing, but there should be a good chance the fifth years can develop the conversation a bit more, and that the first years will remain suitable puzzled (but hopefully none the less interested) and that it is not because I use some weird esoteric language, it's because in general I talk about how fucked off I can get with Gardeners World.
So if I am not dumbing down (and neither am I bigging up) who is? Once I have established that it is the superstructure above me that is obsessed with dumbing down, at least I have somebody to blame, since it is clear they do not want people to understand stuff, and further more, that other agencies must correspondingly be artificially bigging things up- such is the dialectic right? You know who you are.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Allman Brothers

Just playing Gregg Allman's 'Midnight Rider'. It chugs along like a fine Harley, and if you've ridden one you'll know how that feels. And because I know you just love my retrogressive memory shit, I will tell you that the Hells Angles really did take me for a pillion ride along the freeway one night outside Seattle because they liked me, and what's more I've only just remembered that. I think these guys look so cool I've just ordered myself a tee shirt from some Californian artist. The Allmans are interesting; Gregg shopped his mates in a drugs bust, which was very uncool indeed, not that I know the circumstances, and two of the Allmans were killed in separate motorcycle accidents at the same crossroads. They are still playing in NY tonight, I heard the drummer on the radio said he's having the time of his life, but wondering which bit of him might pack up next.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

The Cult

I blame this on Planet Rock; Nicky Horne played The Cult, and E-bay; I needed a picture of my old and much loved GPZ. The memories are combined around a spectacular wheelie on Nightingale Lane well into the dark night, during a long weekend spent in nothing but pubs painted red, and an initial starting point of leaving a Polaroid of the lovely girl involved, Emma, wearing nothing but a fur coat, on my desk at the office. The Cult (Sonic Temple) seemed involved quite a bit.
In those days, and I'd like to think still, working and living were still things one might consider as the same thing, at least I'm grateful to Ms Simon Smith and Michael Brooke Architects for thinking so at the time. Because I'd left the entertaining Polaroid, I was not sacked. I was, of course, lucky on many counts.

Bomber Command

So they want to put guided missiles amidst our begonias, but it's taken them sixty nine years to grant, in the official way, credit to the 55,000 young airmen who had themselves shot out of the sky over Germany in WW2. This must be some kind of record for mendacity. My uncle was one of those who flew several tours as a rear gunner in a Halifax. Uncle George was Mexican, and I bet the bastards saw him coming back then with a quick 'you'll do'. But he survived, never to talk about it ever.
The experience, which I can only imagine, must have haunted him the whole of his remaining life, it certainly permanently attached him to the sherry bottle and ingrained a distinct phobia of machinery. My dad was always being asked to fix his beat up cars. But all because the British are just a little embarrassed at their less than perfect status as combatants in global war, he never had anywhere to go as a memorial to remember his comrades, or more importantly perhaps, to respect himself. This is the mendacity; our pompous, grandiloquent posturing amidst a reality of shameful cowering mediocrity, of authority pleased to demand the ultimate sacrifice but unprepared to take the consequences, and a distinct lack of virtue amongst those who are so pleased to present us with it's simulation.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Missiles in the Woods

'Missiles in the woods' did I hear that right?!?

Architectural Education

This subject is a big yawn. At least that's how it feels to me now a whole new generation of the high and mighty (Patrik Schumacher) are desperate to tell us once again how inadequate our architectural education is, while we simultaneously sell it as the best in the world all over the world, and mostly back to him as the staff to sit in his office wondering what to do.
I am only writing this because one of my more prepossessing students today expressed the situation to me thus:
' If I don't have a confirmed design by Easter, you'll probably be visiting me in The Priory'.
Indeed there is much thumb twiddling and nail biting going on, and not just amongst the students. I took a welcome break from it all by thumbing through some old editions of the AR from '67-'70, which look somewhat surprisingly just like the AR as relaunched a couple of months ago. What was refreshing however about the old editions was the sheer volume of bollocks drawings of Cumbernauld and potently picturesque heaps of Gateshead concrete filling the pages. Aaaaah! I sighed, working towards some godawful HKPA in Cambridge and welling with nostalgia, it was so simple back then.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Chuck Klosterman

The career of Chuck Klosterman thankfully illustrates that you can come out of a farm in rural North Dakota and write the best rock journalism of your generation, it also illustrates the problems of doing just that, because he was (still is maybe) continually beleaguered by the problem of what he was supposed to do next. 'Of course...the novel' is a phrase I've heard many a time myself and mine is shelved indefinitely.
Illustrating just how good Chuck Klosterman is, comes the following taxonomy of 'the types of girls the premier metal groups (of the eighties) liked (or at least seemed to like)' from the excellent Fargo Rock City Pg 109/10. Hope he doesn't mind me quoting this brilliance (for educational use only), which must have taken many many hours to complete from the most unlikely source material.

'GUNS & ROSES: Bisexual models, submissive women, girls who would buy them booze.
MOTLEY CRUE: Strippers: women who have sex in public (particularly elevators) lesbians.
RATT: Hookers with a heart of gold. Or strippers with a heart of gold. Or thirteen year olds.
WARRANT: Virgins who exhibited the potential to become nymphomaniacs.
DEF LEPPARD: Drunk girls; female vampires.
THE CULT: Female vampires only.
W.A.S.P: Magician's assistants: women with rape fantasies; lower primates.
AEROSMITH: Models, but not waifs; high school snobs; more girls who like sex in elevators.
TESLA: Farm girls; whoever they used to date in junior high.
SKID ROW: Nameless, faceless top heavy sex machines (with hearts of gold).
BULLETBOYS: Girls with particularly deep birth canals.
LA GUNS: Drug-addled hitchhikers who like rough sex.
BANGTANGO: Faster Pussycat rejects.
VAN HALEN: Party girls; bikini models; the homecoming queen; cast members of 'One Day at a Time'.
DAVID LEE ROTH (solo) The same as Van Halen, except with bigger boobs.
BON JOVI: The girl next door.
VINNIE VINCENT INVASION: The dominatrix next door.
SLAUGHTER" Girls who couldn't make the cut as Bon Jovi groupies.
WINGER: Whoever Bon Jovi groupies used to baby-sit.
POISON: Girls who liked to tease; girls from small towns; good girls gone bad.
KISS: Any girl who wasn't dead.
IRON MAIDEN: Dead girls.
METALLICA: None of the above.'

Saturday, 10 March 2012

My first Corbu

I've bought my first Le Corbusier drawing. My first, sounds like they'll be more or that I preside over some kind of collection - neither is true. Meanwhile it may not even be by him at all.
Whatever the provenance, and what do I care for the provenance (last week I nearly bought a Barnett Newman from suburban Detroit for $100) it is a kind of milestone. After years of struggle, I've finally given myself this prize. It was found on E-bay and I got up specially at five this morning, that says it all. The advent of just having marks in pastel on cardboard just like Le Corbusier on our wall is very exciting indeed, so exciting I immediately put up the new venetian blind. Have a history and pocket like me and buy a 'Corbu' on E-bay and you are suddenly inspired to do housework.
I already think of it as a 'pissed off Corbu' or a 'Corbu rudely interrupted' or better just 'bad Corbu', one of his great outpourings that tragically didn't quite make the grade but still carry the whiff of genius (the tits are unequivocal Corbu tits) a treasure cast aside in a minor huff to lie around for years somewhere near Tangiers, to surface first in Milan, and now to rest via E-bay destiny, as one of Le Cobusier's not so great moments, with me. I was, after all, taught by tutors who had Picassos but those were the signs of the times - 'well mother knew this chap who......etc etc' or 'Well mother was rather taken with him!' do wa diddy. These days I wouldn't go near an orginal Koolhas, but one dodgy Corbu will make me smile every day.
My mate Dan has bought a life size 'Guernica' from China for £300, but he's not sure whether he can get it out of the country.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

My Kind of Olympic Moment

As the Olympic quest rifles through us with inordinate tedium, and shakes us out to dry with it's soporific cultural manifesto, I am reminded of a particularly educational 'Olympic Night' I shared with some ladies calling themselves 'Olympia Moments Ltd' and the task I have immediately to hand of recalling their very special achievements in words to accompany a book of photographs by Julie Cook. Sebastian Coe might have grown beyond some permanent impression of a sulky prefect if he could even have imagined these monthly events (recorded over six years) that became a cornerstone of our healthiest enjoyment of the world.
Above you see them embroiled in some synchronized swimming on the floor of a pub. There was no winner, but there were huge congratulations all round, and tidy benefit to all. This ballsy, cynical parody somewhere in Aldgate I think, became, to us, revolutionary theatre. It was some kind of representation of the 'permanent revolution' you found in your theory texts. I remember my first ticket from this women only co-operative/initiative, I remember getting Julie along the next month, I remember the time she began, with enormous trust, to take photographs and record the events.
Those people working outside the margins of common respectability, but doing it because they like it, demand respect, not derision. There was never any trouble at these events, indeed I more than once exclaimed that the NHS should prescribe them as therapy. Wheelchairs were welcome. People who criticize sexually based entertainment tend to do so out of fear, not morality.



Found this lovely '20's drawing by the Vesnins, no doubt for a workers something or other. Many things about it might intrigue us, not least it's painterly quality, but what got to me was the bloody aerials. Of course the aerials represent the real function of the building. At a moment of desperate importance, the spreading of the word means aerials above architecture. In constructivism we tend to get loads of planks at angles with hooters and aerials on top and that's just fine, but does it represent also the supremacy of the word, perhaps?
(I was also looking at Tessenow's music academy in Hellerau (1910 above) which looked pretty lovely. I'm sure it was lovely for him to until everybody for the last hundred years has run around declaring it fascist. Tessenow was infact more communist than fascist, and also tended to shut up in conversation about such things. He was not inclined toward the word.)
The other thing that plagues me about this sketch is that it represents the importance of those aerials above what we might call a nebulous heap of program, and further that I shall be seeing many many sketches just like this but without the aerials from all my students from here on until the summer holidays. I wonder what that means.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

In Praise of...Tramadol

Now I'm not drinking, or rather as drinking has become not so much a pleasant physical experience as an anguished mental one, there is nothing like reaching for a Tramadol at around three in the morning. This extraordinary little package does wonders, conjouring a dreamscape of fluffy white clouds (admittedly in my case with a soundtrack of Yes's Starship Trooper) in which to ease the pain, solve problems, connect thoughts, ease delightfully through conundrums and generally feel a fucking sight better in the morning. Last night it presented me, amongst other things, with the reason Leon Krier's work 'looks funny'. Indeed Leon Krier's classicism does 'look funny' to us. This is because, according to Tramadol, it is not Palladian, and the English only really understand Palladian classicism, that conveniently modest (cheap) rip off of the conveniently modest Italian rustic, which the freewheeling capitalists of the C18th thought was just great for just about everything. This also explains why those who worry about architecture can straightforwardly despise Quinlan Terry, who does an understandable Palladian impression, but remain bemused by Leon Krier.....because it might be good, then again it might be awful but it does certainly 'look funny'.
Poundbury apparently looks very funny indeed. Ye olde village shoppe is a Budgens.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Postmodernism in Architecture 1

Found this coaster in a junk shop. The thought bubble went something like 'Ideal for Postmodernism' and 'Looks just like Mum and Dad's' and 'Urghh'. People in general don't think that this is what postmodernism looks like I know, they think that this is really how it is, some quaint country village just like in Midsomer Murders, but Midsomer Murders is only half correct in depicting the horrors of such places. The horrors begin when you actually go there and find the local pub full of half pissed international arms dealers.
People do still crave roses round the door and cottages in the countryside, and it's a bit like Joseph Goebbels craving Tutonic Knights. One's concern, should one dare to voice it, is that this is still the image 100% of Conservative cabinet members have of 'home'. The image is so pervasive it's where we might start in our cultural analysis of anything else 'British', simply because this image of authentic Britain, is to anybody with half a mind entirely fake.
That's why I don't like to use the word fake, we're all too much up to our necks in it to see it.