Sunday, 29 June 2014

Metallica at Glastonbury

I've had Metallica running round my head all morning. Will it ever go away? It can't be healthy. But last night's performance at Glastonbury is now etched in the memory; Lar's bald patch, that amazing bass player/machine, James' pot marks, and all around that dance of madrigal and thunder that epitomises the Gothic, even if, technically, or for debate, it isn't. For weeks I've received all sorts of pleas on Facebook to ban Metallica from 'Glasto' because James Hetfield hunts bears, but you do not admire the Gothic for it's social structures, your enjoy it, if you can, for it's technical proficiency; you enjoy the fan vaulting and the fretwork. And you get the proverbial willies amidst heaven and hell at the same time.
I mean, did you, like me, count the shear number of guitars they went through?
Those who confuse the Gothic with some weird age of chivalry soon get in to trouble, be them England football fans in Lionheart outfits or Kenneth Clark in his castle in Kent championing dogs and St Francis of Assisi. The English are as culpable here as the Germans, who let their tutonic mythology loose with disastrous results in 1939. Manchester Town Hall, in fact the whole of the south side of the Manchester suburbs (so avoiding the stink of the chimneys) The Houses of Parliament, all that phony Gothic daftness, supported by turgid Ruskinian piety, it's all horrible. There was nothing good about living in a castle, it was just slightly better than living everywhere else.
So really, James Hetfield is just performing to type, he is correct, doing the right thing in hunting his bears. If Kenneth  Clark had hunted bears rather than married countesses and the establishment I would believe his 'Civilisation' more. Goths do what they have to do, there will always be classicists to go weak at the knees in front of the Oath of the Horatii.

Friday, 20 June 2014

Playing tonight..

Image feed of Olympia Moments Ltd tonight @ Hashtag, Working Mens Club, Bethnal Green. Retro disco fun and all in all good time.

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Simple Minds

All bands sound alike at a distance, that distant thump thump of the festival, except Simple Minds, who managed to elevate their music to little but. I remember sitting on a terrace high up in the mountains above Lake Garda, an idyllic scene sometime in the late nineties, with the retro thump thump of 'Waterfront', the passe thump thump of 'Don't You Forget About Me', and the nagging thumperty thump of 'Alive and Kicking' drifting in. I loved it (it was so peculiar) and every time I hear one of those records, I think back to that moment- I guess that giant mill pond of a lake must have helped the sound travel. Anyway there is a nuance to the chucka chucka chucka noises the guitarist managed to get in with the thumping.
I've been having a lot of those moments recently, when a bit of Level 42 suddenly appears uninvited in to my world, suddenly strays into strippers favourites displacing my amusement at Pharrell. It's sort of 'oh dear that's my era'. I was even driven to write a list of all the bands I'd ever seen, then (for some reason) a list of the all the girls I'd disappointed over the years. I realised Simple Minds were the only band I'd just heard (other than Jane's Addiction who exploded before they could get going at the ICA). Thankfully I'd seen them in the best possible way, without seeing them. Anyway, more than anything it's just annoying to have the Simple Minds as a punctum moment. Damn nostalgia, perhaps it's just reconciliation.

Friday, 13 June 2014

Why Rem Koolhaas Hates being an Architect

Robert Venturi said you were free, Koolhaas said you were trapped, that is the great virtue of Koolhaas's work.
It is clear, at least recently, that Koolhaas has adopted the martyrdom stance; that he may not personally enjoy the late capitalist system but he will be glorious victim of it. He shows it for what it is. I would emphasise the glorious bit. Le Corbusier died for utopia, Koohaas sacrifices himself for the lack of it.
In all my years I have not read a single decent dissertation on Koolhaas, not one student has demonstrated an understanding of his so called paranoid critical method. Stop and think about that. Not one single one of my interested and absorbed students have made a fist of it (and some have tried pretty hard).
Clever, yes that's the word, but too clever probably. It's like asking Lacan to design your kitchen. That's my realistic, but unfashionable, prognosis.

Monday, 9 June 2014


Le Corbusier nearly had six points of a new architecture, but thought five (like three musketeers, or seven dwarfs) sounded better. The sixth was 'built in wardrobes', which also hardly rolls off the tongue, but is documented in his book about his lectures in South America- Precisions. Doubtless he was fatigued by all that bulbous, gloomy French furniture for which my uncle in Houston had a taste, and which I presume at this moment, and at great cost, is being containered back to Alsace. Old French furniture can be formidable stuff, and just the opposite of what we might see as a wardrobe these days, something flat packed that will self destruct within weeks.
However wardrobes would seem to be important- perhaps L-C was right- storage space is at a premium and we have more and more junk to put away somewhere. Architects seem to worry about clothes, so you'd think they'd worry about where to put them. So imagine my surprise when I was looking at some plans of some wibbly wobbly architecture du jour. First I thought the lift was too big, then the escape stairs, then I realised the bathrooms were very small and then I caught some unfortunate door swings. Then I noticed that it looked very tricky to walk around one particular bed without pressing yourself against a bit of cladding. All this added up to a place where you'd be hard pressed to hang clothes, and this a building by an internationally recognised architect.
Architects are sensitive to the term starchitect, but when you come across such evidence you wonder. All the research in the world had gone in to the form of this building, but clearly not in to living in it. I couldn't sleep for that bloody Genesis song (from 'Selling England by the Pound') 'I know what I like (and I like what I know) in your Wardrobe' and it wasn't getting better.
The following night the nightmare returned, but this time I was thinking that my thoughts on wardrobes just made me out to be REALLY PROSAIC; that I was somehow missing the point, and that the beds that I'd picked on were a joke especially played on people like me- people who think the best bits of Finlandia Hall are the imaginative cloakrooms; that the walls were only drawn in this case for the estate agents, and that ideally the thing was really just a series of swish lofts where you could flop where you wanted, with whom you wanted, clothed or not.
This week I'll be looking at all sorts of wibbly wobbly stuff from students, stuff which is bound to raise a few eyebrows, but armed with such qualms and self doubts I think I've discovered my litmus test for whether it should be the thumbs-up or thumbs-down for any scheme; there has to be at least somewhere to put your clothes (or spacesuits) as appropriate.
Then I shall return to roost in the History and Theory base room and think, 'Umm...wardrobes! What a great dissertation subject!'

Saturday, 7 June 2014

The Perils of Autobiography

Autobiography is a real challenge, and I've just ripped through this one pretty quick- highly recommended. 'Full throttle' would be an easy sum up. But such a candid portrayal of the now successful Hollywood film-maker (she won prizes for Juno- just Google her) in her twenties is interesting as much for what it leaves out. 'Blow' for instance (I think) gets mentioned just once explicitly and then in the context of a room full of dancers doing 'blow' (just as they might on a regular basis). Drugs don't get mentioned at all until half way through. I mean, the subject was so delayed I was waiting for it with some enticipation; this being the USA and the scene seriously rock n' roll ( Cody's boyfriend is just that, even if he's also really nice and kind, and she reads Lester Bangs in her downtime at Sex World). This is hardly a problem with the book, since it upgrades your fascination, but it does bring the question what we decide to excise and the mechanisms whereby warts and all become a few warts.
In this one year, Cody certainly rides a roller coaster and only latterly, while working in a peepshow that pays weekly, has money in the bank. So why not admit? or at least discuss?
Perhaps it mirrors the creep of retroactive prosecution that has hit our shores, at least reputation stain. But surely we are not going to arrest Keith Richards for drugs or Jimmy Page for underage sex in 2014? It would be absurd. However, I guess, if there were suddenly complaints made (see Being Positive post below) this might conceivably happen. Everybody seems to want to see celebrities in the dock.
Perhaps it's because this autobiography is written a bit early, for since it was written, the author's career has gone up and up. There may be much to be said for writing these things not to get on in the world but after you've got there. Personally I shelved my novel in hope.
And there are even problems to casting the thing as a novel. I read the other day that most of John Updike's output can largely be considered autobiographical, which makes his description as 'a penis with a thesaurus attached' more interesting than it might usually be. Thank god he's dead so he doesn't have to face the present climate.
P.S Contextually the reason I'm reading all this stuff (wait till I get to the cat book) is because it's exam time, and I need distractions.

Friday, 6 June 2014

Being Positive

One of the more annoying things about our world is the demand we remain continually positive. Positivity only works for the very dull. I've just heard that Halifax advert again, where the photographer makes everybody look perfect and Halifax give her 'Extra' (presumably to buy another camera). It's the most mind bending crap. 'Always look on the bright side of life' is a joke not a credo. Positivity is Huxley's soma, least that's what it feels like, and we know his message wasn't exactly positive at all. Hipsters might understand that endless cheeriness never leads to greatness but it's not clear that is so, they seem to think they are somehow 'entitled' to the point of rudeness; but success demands a certain sanguine resistance to life's slings and arrows, not some belief that they are somehow incorrect, or worse, unfair.
I put on one of my favourite '45's; Bad Company's 'Good Lovin' Gone Bad' a rollicking tune with Mick Ralphs at his very best. It is one of those records, a hangover from growing up in the fifties no doubt, where exuberance is found in a world where women let you down and you are sad and then you are bad. (It is almost the exact twin of 'Movin' On' from the first album, but better.) People call it cock rock.  Whatever, it's clear life continues all the same; the universe does not collapse, in fact, such events are what makes the universe shift. I'd put it up there as good as any Stones single.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

A house is a machine for living in..

Of course! I realised it this morning as Julie came upstairs, beaming, to say 'It worked!!" and I beamed back. It was the Xhose. That expandable Xhose (as seen on TV) has been the bane of our last three weeks. For an apartment such as ours, the Xhose seems a brilliant solution to watering the back balcony and front deck, it curls up small, it's lightweight etc etc, but getting it to work, affix to Franke taps, sprinkler nozzle, whatever, proved a taxing and expensive process. Hence one's relief this morning that the German imported Franke (but not Franke) tap connector 'worked!' Now we shall hardly notice the damn thing and it will simply do the job (hopefully). Our satisfaction at this, as with every improvement, was considerable.
Maintaining any house, and that includes designing it, is a many fold process of iteration and improvement. That can be said of the design of your kitchen or the hanging of your pictures on the wall; the choice of your chairs for sitting in (and stools for perching on) lights for reading with, desks for working at ad nauseum. But it is all, for the architect ( I suspect especially the architect finely tuned to these things) about how it works. So, after thirty five years I have to agree absolutely with the great Le Corbusier, that our house is a machine for living in full stop. Where we got derailed off this idea is beyond me, after all it's not as if L-C didn't enjoy cheese, paint, a sensual line, or sunshine, or greenery or exotic dancers.
The problem of course was that metaphorically speaking L-C might have implied that people were like machines (but I can assure you there are no two people less machine like than myself and Julie). It was the disservice of critics and commentators (who found the machine idea amusing) and Nazi nutters (pathologically ill disposed to good sense) who decided houses might be something more ambitious. The latter types (and todays scurrilous politicians, 'home' builders, and media opportunists) believe the notion of 'home' might be, as it were, 'built in' or that by decree, it would be forever watering cans; they thought your house closer to a church.