Thoughts at the front bar of the Hotel Lincoln, Carlton (with a schooner of Coopers Pale)

Tuesday 25 March 2014

I’ve been catching up with friends in Melbourne. We’re getting to the age where we can legitimately reminisce about good old times. Back Then it felt like an exciting time and place to be making music, art. Yeah yeah everyone feels their own little scene is special when they’re young, but what we were really talking about was that there seemed to be a big conversation going on. Doesn’t seem that way now. Is there a conservation still going on, and if so why aren’t we taking part in it?

Back in London, where is the conversation?

I always feel awkward about going back somewhere I know people. After an absence, they’ve moved on and I’m going to keep trying to put them back where they used to be. (This worry disappears as soon as we meet, of course.) Went to the Melbourne Now show at the Ian Potter Centre and enjoyed it for the wrong reasons, then met a friend for lunch. She disliked the show, finding it disappointing, superficial. I told her too much London art was even shallower. What had gotten me inspired was just seeing so many people back from the old Conversation still making stuff. Still not sure if this is a misguided thought.

Running with the pack is one thing, but what I miss is the feeling of competing against everyone at once – or at least of trying to hold up one’s own end of an ongoing discussion.

(Wanting to contribute to an interesting dialogue is the main impetus driving my work.)

It’s always bin day when the Google Street View car’s in town

Sunday 3 February 2013

My very first blog post was about the sale of the house I was renting, and the imminent need to find new accommodation as a matter of urgency. (I’d set up the free blog account about six weeks earlier. Inspiration does not come to me easily.) My post gave an honest account of the deplorable condition the house had fallen into over the decades before I moved in, and pretty much every punter who inspected the place before the auction made no secret of their plans to gut the structure for renovation, if they were legally prevented from razing it entirely.

I’ve just returned from an unexpected trip to Australia, and one afternoon I happened to walk down my old street. I wondered what the old dump looked like now it had been cleaned ip.

Pretty much nothing’s happened to it in the last eight years. In fact, it looks worse. The old doorbell’s been removed, the windows in the front door crudely patched over, and random sections of the front wall have been painted various shades of grey. A new shed’s been erected in the back yard, but other than that there’s no sign of work done.

When Google Street View first came to Australia I looked up this street but it wasn’t covered. I just checked again and it is now, with photos from late 2009. In that photo it looks no different from when I left it, so these tentative changes are even more recent. Looks like the new owners work even more slowly than I do.

Fear and Loathing in Street View

Wednesday 4 May 2011

Google was somewhere around Rancheria, on the edge of the desert, when the drugs began to take hold.

Pis Manneken-Pis

Saturday 30 April 2011

Rather like my fateful encounter with Jeremy Bentham, I was wandering pleasantly half-bombed on midday Chimay Bleus around the streets by Bruxelles-Midi station while waiting for the Eurostar when I turned a corner and bumped into this guy.

I thought he’d been dressed up as a prank but it turns out this is a Regular Thing. This day’s outfit is supposed to “honour the IT division of the Universit√© Libre de Bruxelles (ULB).” Apparently Belgian tech geeks are into yachting; or at least Yacht Rock.

Lost in Amsterdam

Friday 22 April 2011

Off to see Sonntag aus Licht – back after Easter.

Island Dead Ahead

Sunday 30 January 2011

Happy New Year!

Friday 31 December 2010

Culinary Cage Match: Australia vs Italy

Sunday 19 December 2010

It’s the ultimate showdown: which proud national cuisine can turn out the most disgusting pizza?

Meanwhile, in Narre Warren

Thursday 25 November 2010

I come home to London next week, after having a great three weeks in Melbourne. More updates will follow then, with news about the Music For Bionic Ears project and other cool stuff, but right now I’m having too much fun catching up with friends and watching the Ashes. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with this:

Meanwhile, in Melbourne

Friday 12 November 2010

I’m back in Melbourne for a few weeks. On Monday I finally get to visit the Bionic Ear Institute and meet some other people working on the Music For Bionic Ears project.

Valencias from Valencia

Thursday 26 November 2009

The Gods of the Union Hotel Look On

Wednesday 16 September 2009

I just remembered it’s the Grand Final this weekend in Melbourne. I was looking through some photos last night and found some more snaps from my last trip to Melbourne. On one of my last nights there I was out drinking with some friends at the Union Hotel in Fitzroy when the football came on – the only real footy I’ve seen in nearly five years.

Essendon 16.17 (113) d West Coast 13.13 (91) in case you’re wondering.

Google vs Death, Round 2

Monday 23 March 2009

Google Street View has finally launched in the UK and is already out of date. This is a good thing, as far as I’m concerned. I’m more interested in checking up on where I used to be than where I am now, despite the new pictures looking like they’re better quality than the Australian ones (and the taunts about growing up in a tip).
The Google camera car went up my street last summer. In fact, it went up my street twice:


I’ve talked before about how Street View’s illusion of the present masks a preserved version of the recent past, already decaying and proving less and less true to reality. Now we can see street corners that exist simultaneously in two time zones at once.
For most Britons, the illusory, alternate-reality nature of Street View is immediately visible in the high streets. The economic downturn has worsened in the time between the photos being taken and appearing on the web. Google’s Britain is a brighter, nostalgic land with fewer boarded-up shopfronts, where Woolworths, MFI, Zavvi, and other chain stores are still in business.

Back in Australia, the emerging anomalies are more poignant. On the main street of the town of Marysville in Victoria, the season abruptly changes from summer to winter for a few metres; then just as suddenly, the sky clears, the ground dries up again, and the trees regain their leaves. Of course, neither version is true: we know the town was all but obliterated by fire last month.

(Crossposted at Sarsaparilla Lite.)

More Secrets of the Vatican Revealed

Wednesday 11 March 2009

Thanks to Bodgieman for his comments on touring the Vatican; in particular, for his reminiscence of the time he “stole a brown plastic coffee cup from the restaurant /bar on top of the dome at St Peters”. The most shocking thing about this revelation is that there’s a restaurant hidden away in the top of St Peters. I had no idea. It sounds like the sort of thing the British would do in St Pauls.
I haven’t been inside St Pauls yet, because I hear they charge admission. Mind you, they charge admission to go up in the dome of St Peters, which is why I didn’t find out if there really is a bar up there.
On the plus side, the toilets at St Pauls are free, although they use a cheap type of toilet paper you can see your reflection in.
The Bodgieman also accurately notes that “it wasn’t like tv at all where there is commentator and no-one else”. Actually, every time I watch one of those programs where some historian is happily flitting about the Sistine Chapel all to himself, I wonder about all the pissed-off tourists outside who took their one chance to see the place only to discover it’s closed for filming a poncey TV show.
Sometimes, the presenter and camera crew aren’t quite so alone as they would like you to think. I’ve already mentioned the time my visit to the Tate was thwarted by a TV crew butting in every time I’d found a nice painting to contemplate.

Secrets of the Vatican

Wednesday 25 February 2009

Both photography and talking are prohibited in the Sistine Chapel. Unlike most churches which don’t allow photography, the Chapel has relatively few punters in it blithely flashing away at something fifty feet above their heads. The chatter, however, is almost impossible to control.
I was about to make a joke about the effrontery of being told to shut up by a bunch of Italians, but it isn’t necessary: the guards, when they weren’t shushing people, passed time by chatting to each other or yakking on their mobile phones. Besides the guards, the worst offenders were Spanish speakers, who seemed to be at pains to point out that their language is completely different from Italian and the two are mutually incomprehensible.

To get to the Sistine Chapel you have to schlep a long, convoluted path through most of the other Vatican Museums first, with the Chapel itself acting like the centre of a labyrinth. After several miles the senses become dulled, particularly during a series of rooms filled with mostly dull modern religious art. Then, secreted between a room of dodgy late de Chiricos and a room of godawful late Dalis, is a little room which you might overlook in your hurry to get to the Chapel before christmas: it has a dozen Morandis in it. Six paintings and six drawings.
Up until then I’d only seen three of Morandi’s paintings, and none of his drawings. Given how excited art lovers can get when they find more than one of his paintings in the same room, it seemed incredible that this bounty was casually plonked off a passageway with so little fanfare, surrounded by so much vulgarity.
His drawing method is as fascinating as his brushwork, rendering all shade, contrast and depth in a careful layering of meticulous crosshatching.

One last piece of advice: don’t ask the cashier in the cafeteria how much the bananas cost. It will only cause you grief and anxiety and you won’t want a banana in any case.