Two observations on British culture so trivial they hardly bear mentioning, but have been bugging me for months:
1) Someone once pointed out to me that it was a uniquely indicative trait of the Australian character that they don’t bother removing the dealer’s sticker from the back window of their cars. This is not true. I am not sure if the Australians inherited this behaviour from the British, or if it is a universal phenomenon. My future travels of the globe will be consumed with peering at the back windows of parked Volkswagens.
2) If you’re anything like me, and I’m sure you are (carbon-based lifeform, devastatingly attractive, wooden leg, martyr to strong drink), you will watch Law & Order: Special Victims Unit exclusively for the surly man doing the voiceover at the beginning of each episode who is never heard from again for the remaining hour; specifically, for his superlative pronunciation of the word ‘heinous’.
If you have no idea what I’m talking about, you are probably British. For reasons that are beyond me, the UK episodes have a completely different credit sequence that omits Surly Man altogether. This is a grave error. No matter how special these victims are, I now find it hard to work up that much sympathy for them. Whenever SVU (or, as a friend of mine habitually calls it, Rape of the Week) comes on now, I sit there thinking “I don’t know, this crime just doesn’t seem… well, heinous enough for Ice-T to get all that exercised over it.” I need to check eBay for videos, explicitly marked “contains strong violence, sexual references, and the word ‘heinous’.”
Thursday 15 September 2005
“Instant Karma” permitted on Saturdays before 11pm.
Dear Crack Dealers,
Please start selling drugs in my street. The kids playing outside are shitting me.
Crystal meth also considered.
Saturday 10 September 2005
I’m still suffering technical issues, albeit of a self-inflicted variety this time. So in the meantime you can amuse yourselves with the photos slowly getting posted to Flickr (over on the links section): there’s some nice relaxing ones of people kite-surfing at the seaside, if you look around a bit.
Apart from that, I think I might get me some religion. I went past the Celestial Church of Christ, Hackney, last Sunday afternoon and found lots of black people dressed in white robes running about on the pavement throwing blocks of styrofoam at each other. That’s the kind of fast-and-loose interpretation of the bible I can get down with. I may even go in for ordination if there’s a bouncy castle involved.
Saturday 10 September 2005
People have traditionally characterised Britain as a slow, backward, inefficient country but I’ll have you know that it’s leapfrogged into the 21st century. British Telstra or whatever they’re called took a mere three weeks to activate ADSL on the bunker’s phone line, a response time that is staggeringly fast by OECD standards but even more amazing when you consider that I live several miles from the GPO!
Even more astonishing is their boast today that it will be only a matter of days before I receive the final bill for the discontinued phone service in the bunker I moved out of a month ago. Apparently it would have taken even less time to calculate the amount owing but someone kept opening the door on the computer, allowing the small, prehistoric bird working the treadmill inside to break the fourth wall and say “Wak! It’s a living.”
I don’t know if BT have been privatised or not so I don’t know which rant about bad service to pull out, so I’ll compromise and say that they’re owned by the Queen. And, as the movies have taught us, bad giant evil bad corporate behemoths are always run by just one evil person who personally carries out all the really evillest schemes. In other words, to make sure my phone line stays in working order I’ll end up having to punch it out with the Queen, until she plummets to her death from the top of the Jewel Tower
, with her yelling and firing her gun straight up in the air all the way down. In slow motion.
This means I’ll have to also kill a lot of Beefeaters along the way, finishing with the really evil tough Beefeater: the one who looks all pissed off when he’s getting photographed with tourists because he thinks it’s beneath him and his job really is to stop the ballistas and arbalasts being stolen by
Al’Qai al-qaed the Germans.
Just backing up a couple of paragraphs: why was all the machinery in The Flintstones powered by birds on treadmills? Given that they spent all their time trapped in confined spaces and pedalling things, wouldn’t lizards be more suitable? I’ve read some history and I know that birds were cumbersome and expensive back in those days! Perhaps The Flintstones were British. Sorry, are British.
Still, at least renovations of the bunker are progressing well.
And I’m not reading anyone elses’ right now. I’ve got bigger problems, having been evicted from my bunker
. About a year ago I thought I had me a nice, stable life in Melbourne and was happily settled in a large, crumbling house in the I-can’t-believe-it’s-not-Brunswick end of North Fitzroy. Thanks to perfidious landlords and some bad business decisions I am about to move for the fourth time in the past 12 months, one of those times being a midnight dash to the other end of the earth.
At least I’ve found me a new bunker, which is considerably bigger and cheaper than my present abode.
It may, however, be a while until I have regular internet access. I move Friday. Postings to resume soonish.
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
, 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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
- 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.
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
the terrorists have recruited Oscar the Grouch, or else that this move is for show.
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.
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.
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