“I’m quite surprised that things written in personal blogs might not be so true after all.”

Wednesday 10 August 2005

Please forgive me for ignoring an unsolicited email sent to my blog’s email account some time ago, from people claiming they were taking a survey about bloggers. You can understand my suspicion that they were not serious. What’s more, they were from Singapore, where I thought surfing websites was a capital offence.
The survey purported to address the burning issue of “blogging and ethics“. I expected their idea of ethics might boil down to “Don’t say anything that might offend Lee Kwan Yu,” but it’s slightly more expansive than that. Their idea of blogs seems limited to the diary or the news digest, and they don’t seem to realise that they have become the self-storage units of the internet, where you can dump any old crap.
They also didn’t seem to notice their own Blogger log-in page which has been encouraging people for the last few months to post novels on their blogs. I don’t know how that would square with their ethical principle of truthfulness (see the comment left by one survey reader in the above title*.)
Who knows what they would make of blogs like this, this, or this. Their heads might explode, if the government-approved proxy filters let them see it.
Naturally enough, they conclude by wanting to establish a code of ethics for blogging, because what’s the point of living in Singapore if you can’t regulate something?
Bloggers currently do not see a strong need for a blogging code of ethics.

No surprises there: most people in the real world, particularly those who have had to access services through some type of computer interface, have grave doubts as to whether it is necessary or desirable to have any further aspects of their lives organised by the type of computer nerds who can sustain an argument for several months over whether or not a certain Star Trek novelisation is canonical. This goes double when said nerds have been brought up in a country where it is mandatory to have your TV switched to MSNBC at all times.

* Everything on this blog is 100% true.

A second pilgrimage, of sorts

Saturday 6 August 2005

I had two points of entry into London: Patrick Keiller’s film London (now out on DVD) and Iain Sinclair’s book Lights Out for the Territory. Between them they painted an idiosyncratic, irresistable portrait of the city’s complex psychogeography (Sinclair is the more metaphysically paranoid of the two) that made me want to explore it all for myself.
Before I can hope to get a handle on this place I have been visiting some of the sites mentioned in these two works, in an attempt to sense what type of signals I should be alert to when walking the city in search of points of personal significance, of the kind that won’t be found in the Time Out guides. This is why I wound up one sunny afternoon standing in front of the Tate Britain at Millbank, facing the other way and photographing the nondescript building on the south bank of the Thames.

For a similar reason I had gone to visit the Henry Moore sculpture Locking Piece: Sinclair draws a connection between this artwork outside the Secret Service headquarters and another Moore bronze, Two Knife/Edged Bronze which sits on College Green, outside the houses of parliament. Anytime you see a shot of a journo on the news standing with the Palace of Westminster in the background, odds-on they’re standing on College Green, where the sculpture “comes into its own as somewhere useful to stack camera equipment.”
Three buildings downriver from Locking Piece and the MI6 Building is the tower block pictured above, that I knew as Alembic House. The central episode of Lights Out for the Territory is when Sinclair gains entry to the building’s penthouse apartment to meet its owner and occupant, Jeffrey Archer. Archer, pre-disgrace, isn’t home but has granted Sinclair permission to look at his art collection and admire his view of the river. By chance, the two of them bump into each other soon after, on College Green.
Now I need to find the other Moore bronze on College Green, but in the current climate I don’t feel like taking lots of photographs around large numbers of police armed with automatic rifles.
Alembic House was recently renamed Peninsular Heights, and as far as I can tell Jeffrey Archer still lives in the penthouse, prison stretch notwithstanding. If you want to make a call to find out, the phone number ends 0077 – the legacy of the penthouse’s previous owner: John Barry, composer of James Bond movie soundtracks.

Happy Hiroshima Day!

Saturday 6 August 2005

It’s a cause for celebration among some people. Newspaper columnists, for example, know it as a day of rest, where they can just reprint the same article they trot out about it every year. And of course some of those pundits will have their annual crack at suggesting we should all be happy that we nuked Japan blah blah blah.
Without getting bogged down into the details of the debate, let’s just say that if people still want to argue the toss 60 years down the track, it’s probably not a Good Thing.

How Bad is British Coffee?

Thursday 4 August 2005

Filler by Proxy XXII: Backstroke of the West

Monday 1 August 2005

A couple of years ago a friend of mine arrived home from China with a suitcase full of dodgy pirated DVDs. The prize specimen was a bootleg of The Fellowship of the Ring, with the artwork on the front cover doctored to persuade punters that the famous Tolkein adaptation starred Drew Barrymore, Jennifer Lopez, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer – all wielding swords. The back cover featured screen grabs from a hardcore porno video, with a plot synopsis in gibberish (“Much confusion but enjoy the mutilation.”) and the credits for Black Hawk Down. The actual movie turned out to be some softcore French film from the 1970s, without dubbing or subtitles.
Thanks to the interweb you can savour the ineffable charm of East Asian counterfeiting without travelling all the way to the car boot sale taking place two blocks down. Flickr hosts a growing gallery of screen shots.
The hot ticket among cheap-arse VCD buyers these days is, of course, the new Star Wars movie. In particular, the Chinese edition with remarkably creative subtitles. Screen shots are collected for your enjoyment here and here.

You will be treated to dialogue that manages to improve upon George Lucas’ original script, learn of the Jedi Knights’ obsession with elephants, and gasp at the theological bombshell that Darth Vader is a Presbyterian. The wish power are together with you.

Thank god the train was late, or it would have been too close to fascist Italy for comfort

Sunday 31 July 2005

Someone called Roshan Doug gets to write in The Guardian about “what a train journey to Birmingham can tell us about Britain in the midst of terror”. Basically, it tells us that Britain doesn’t like Roshan Doug very much. Everyone avoids him for the entire journey.
Doug reckons it’s because he’s Asian (and a young man, and travelling alone, and carrying a bloody great rucksack). You may find this shocking, until you get to the end and find out that he’s also a poet in residence at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre, so he’s probably the type of person you go out of your way to avoid sitting near on a train regardless of the circumstances. Particularly because he’s a poet whose contact is a Hotmail address called ‘erospoetica’.
The article ends with this profound insight:
As I looked back I saw armed officers with sniffer dogs and railway guards questioning mainly young Asian men about the validity of their journey and their identification. And I know it might seem naive to say this, but I couldn’t help likening that scene with something from Nazi Germany.
Other things that can be likened with something from Nazi Germany:
  • The customs desk in an airport international terminal.
  • Freeway construction.
  • Police evacuating your building when someone leaves a bag outside.
  • Bert Newton in The Producers.
  • Volkswagens.
  • Basil Fawlty goosestepping while holding a finger under his nose.
  • The decline of modern cabaret.
  • The nice Iranian lady next door whose first name gets transliterated as ‘Nazi’ by the gas company when they send her a bill.

Going Through the Motions: London Bombing Update

Saturday 30 July 2005

Everyone is getting fed up. Yesterday we had to stay in the building because someone left a bag lying around the railway station. The day before we were evacuated from the building because someone left a bag lying around the railway station. A friend of mine asked a policeman what everyone was doing standing around outside and he all but yelled at her, “Because someone left a bloody bag lying around the railway station!”
The police are getting really good at getting lots of people in and out of buildings. The bomb squad’s methods are state-of-the-art too: they told me yesterday they suspected the discarded bag was a bomb because “it felt heavy when we picked it up.”
So they’ve taken away what few bins they’d put back (for “bins”, read “transparent plastic bags”) in around the station a few years ago, “for security reasons.” I thought we were dealing with suicide bombers so I’m guessing MI5 has information that Al’Qaida Al-Qaeda the terrorists have recruited Oscar the Grouch, or else that this move is for show.
Despite all this, everyone’s still happy to leave black bin liners full of crap lying around on the pavements for days on end.
Around Euston I spotted another gaggle of police armed with clipboards accosting pedestrians. My heart sank as I assumed things had gotten so desperate that the Metropolitan Police had resorted to the tactics of the Socialist Alliance and were asking concerned citizens to Stop The Bombs – Sign The Petition, but it turned out they were asking if we had been out on the street “about this time last week.” I hadn’t, but luckily I didn’t panic and sprint into a Tube station like some people are prone to do.
Spare a thought for the bombings’ silent victims: the terrorists’ landlords. How do you let the houses whose previous tenants blew themselves up on public transport? Once the police have finished with them, that is.
“For an organisations [sic] that struggles to get any local press coverage, we have suddenly been approached by just about every national newspaper,” he added.

One positive side effect: if it weren’t for the bombs I would never have known that the Australian prime minister was in town, dominating the world stage in his usual inimtable manner.
1413: Prime Minister Tony Blair postpones a vist to a school in east London and a photo call with visiting Prime Minister John Howard of Australia, a spokesman says.

Can anyone tell me if he pretended to have a real reason to be here this time around, other than watch cricket?

Finally, I was going to make fun of the failed bomber who was photographed making his getaway waiting for a train at a Tube station, a few minutes after he’s brought the entire transport system to a standstill. But then they arrested him in Rome, when his mates didn’t make it further than Notting Hill, so I guess some suicide bombers put more thought into their escape plans than I’d credited.

The Henry Moore/Jeffrey Smart Container

Wednesday 27 July 2005


The cool kids have been doing it, but since Laura’s found some real work to get on with I am stepping forward to partly fill the gap.
Sadly, I don’t have time to write it up just now, so in the meantime enjoy a few choice photos of Henry Moore’s bronze Locking Piece (1968), on Millbank, just outside what is now Tate Britain. Remember, this is the site where Jeremy Bentham’s Millbank Prison once stood. Somewhere behind that wall is where prisoners boarded ships for transportation to Australia.
Across the river is Vauxhall, with the MI6 Building and St George’s Wharf on the riverfront.
Thanks to Marwood Shipping Container Hire, the scene resembled a Jeffrey Smart painting.

Well, at least it might stop them reading Dan Brown

Monday 25 July 2005

NOT THE FACE!! Another photo lifted from Annie Mole’s Tube blog: the first commuter on the London Underground spotted reading the new Harry Potter novel. Not a kid, of course. Sad bastard.
I really have to update my links over there 444 to add some stuff about London.

Twenty Views of the Gherkin

Sunday 24 July 2005

At last, I’ve got the Flickr account happening. It’s a small start, but for your enjoyment here are twenty views of London’s Swiss Re Tower.

“Dylan & Sleater Kinney & the Beach Boys & Jimmy Cliff & Sam Cooke & Bobby Bland & Joe Strummer; pretty much the whole history of recorded music.”

Sunday 24 July 2005

Are you ready to have your world turned upside-down? Nick Hornby likes Bruce Springsteen. So does Tony Blair. In fact, so do a whole bunch of middle-aged white guys. Don’t say you never learn anything from this blog.

If this exposé isn’t mind-boggling enough, Springsteen has discovered Britpop, so in a few months don’t be surprised if your dad is suddenly only ten years behind the times. Thus spoiling your enjoyment of your favourite bands.

Also of note, Hornby’s taken to citing his own woozy opinions as an authoritative source in footnotes to back up his arguments, such as they are.

>I can’t wait until David Bowie releases another album so Hornby can write a column trying to convince himself it doesn’t suck. Then start arguing over it with his reflection in a bathroom mirror.

Never watched the show, but still…

Saturday 23 July 2005


I thought they just made this place up. Well, thought up an original name, anyway. Next thing someone’ll tell me St Trinian’s is real, too.
Great, now I’ve got that stupid bloody theme tune going through my head. The things I put myself through for this site.
UPDATE: The stupid bloody theme tune is actually titled “Chicken Man.” Which would explain why I always knew it as the “Birdwood Mill TV ad” music.

Russell Crowe, please get your band back together

Friday 22 July 2005

The Apocalypse approaches. Steven Seagal, renaissance man, has released his first CD, titled (I am not making this up) “Songs From The Crystal Cave”.
The set, which features guest appearances by Stevie Wonder, Lt. Stitchie*, and Lady Saw*, is already available in France and will be sold in Asia come September. The martial-arts master culls from a wide swath of musical influences on “Cave,” including blues, rock, pop, Jamaican dancehall and traditional Indian music.

All you music-lovers out there can curb your cravings until your very expensive imported disc arrives in the post by downloading MP3s from his website. You can also enjoy more photos of him playing a guitar than you can shake your dharma beads at.

You can buy the CD online though his website, along with his “Essential oils and his very own Energy Bar !” What, no pudding?

If you want an unbiased analysis of the Stevemeister’s warblings, head on over to his unofficial fansite, where you can also enjoy debates on “What Do You Think Is Seagal’s Best Direct-to-Video So Far?” and “YOUR selection for Steven Seagal’s best acting performance ( not fighting!)” with nominations such as this:
Seagal displayed pretty decent acting talents, particularly in the scene where he smashed things up in the science lab.

According to the Billboard article, a propos of apparently nothing:
Seagal has pledged $100,000 in order to diffuse a “high risk” Russian nuclear weapon.
I think he means ‘defuse’. Presumably by high risk it means that he has to cut the red wire with a pen knife seconds before it goes off, but not before having to punch out Morris Chestnut.
* No, me neither.

Yes, my parents are very disappointed in me. Thanks for asking.

Thursday 21 July 2005

This is what happens when you’re stuck on a tube train with a discarded copy of the freebie morning newspaper. You end up reading articles like “No one has emptied our bins for 15 years”, with quotes such as:
A couple have created a towering heap of 15 years’ rubbish next to their picturesque cottage – because the dustman will not come to collect it.
Council bosses refused to send lorries up the rough track to the Cale’s [sic] moorland home in the Yorkshire dales.
Mrs Cale, 65, who lives with her husband John [said]… “I am entitled to a back door service.”
“I’ve been complaining to the council that I haven’t had a man up my back passage for years. They keep telling me it’s a tight squeeze down there but with a bit of care and patience they’d be amazed what will fit in. When I was younger it was very different – I’d just stick out my can when the night man came around and he’d give it a proper seeing to. I would be a happy woman if I were getting it once a week, or even once a fortnight. But after 15 years without any action from the council I’m worried that if they do find someone who can get it up, he’ll be turned off by the smell.”

What’s with all this “we” stuff? (A poor excuse for a thinkpiece, but mercifully shorter.)

Thursday 21 July 2005

Two weeks ago we were getting bombed in London. One week ago we were asked for two minutes’ silence to remember, in case momentous events from the previous week had slipped our minds. Today someone did the reminding for us. I don’t know if we were lucky to have avoided death and destruction today, or unlucky to have copped it on the 7th.
I’ve been asked if the possibility of attacks like this happening had crossed my mind when I decided to move to London. In fact, I had considered the risk of coming to grief on London public transport, but my fears were based on self-inflicted mayhem rather than terrorists.
People keep talking about the meticulous planning that went into the bomb attacks earlier this month, but I’ve only heard one pundit on the radio so far asking what I’ve been wondering: just how organised do you have to be to turn up at a railway station with three of your mates at the same time? All travelling down together from Leeds in the same car doesn’t exactly sound like a logistical nightmare.
In other words, contrary to what we may sometimes think, these are not criminal masterminds directed by a nehru-jacketed evil genius listening to classical music in his well-appointed underground lair.
Apparently, American hacks with deadlines have been banging on about the “preternatural calm and a long-considered certainty” evinced by Londoners, in contrast to New Yorkers in the World Trade Centre attacks; although I don’t remember seeing any Manhattanites on TV running around in circles waving their hands in the air. On the other hand, no-one has seemed to notice that, unlike the Americans, British TV did not respond to tragedy by showing lots of waving flags and playing patriotic music.
There has also been a notable absence of Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings accompanying TV news montages, which is refreshing.