Archive for July, 2010

Left back in the changing room

July 28, 2010

I have a somewhat complex relationship with football. First conscious realisation that the game existed, and was of some importance to others, happened at 6 years old. Colin, who would later become a good friend, asked me who I support. Flummoxed about how to answer, I asked the same question of him.
“Me too,” I capitulated.

And then he queried the boy standing next to me.
“What football team do you support?”
“West Ham.”
“West Ham are rubbish.”

At age 8, I had just about managed to grasp the difference between a corner and a goal kick. A 1992 Luton Town shirt was my attire of choice, featuring Universal Salvage Auctions’ sponsorship – a neat red, white and blue ‘USA’ logo. Age 9, for some unknown reason, I was in the school football team at left back with good friend Gareth. Age 10, I joined his local team and we travelled to the away games together. And yet, throughout all this, I have only one recollection of kicking a football – a goal-line sliding clearance that brought great acclaim from team-mates.

This seemingly irrelevant background information serves to suggest that I’m not so interested in football itself, but the rituals and relationships that it facilitates. Which leads to the main course of this piece.

The 1994 World Cup in the USA was the first one that I remember. In the months immediately preceding the first games, my parents’ shop began stocking a variety of USA 94 merchandise and associated POS advertising. The official logo was everywhere, reminiscent of that 1992 Luton Town shirt. An intriguing visual that seemed out of place amongst the newspapers, sweets, and videos. Nowhere was football mentioned, though, and it was not until my dad drew my attention to the fact that, in the USA, football is predominantly called ‘soccer’ that the connection was made. He informed me of a poll of Americans asking how many halves in a game of ‘soccer’. One fellow had apparently answered “four”, and this made me feel marginally knowledgeable about the game.

Either the 1994 World Cup final was not televised or, more likely, was on too late for my brother and me, aged 8 and 10 respectively, to be allowed to watch. So we sat in the middle of my bedroom huddled around the radio, on the red, white and blue striped carpet, listening to the penalty shoot-out. Both of us hoping that Brazil would triumph. Celebrating quietly when they did.

Following our enthusiasm for the 1994 World Cup, dad took my brother and me to Luton’s opening game of the 1994-5 season at home to West Brom. 1-1; goals by Scott Oakes and Stuart Naylor. We didn’t see either goal because the crowd around us excitedly stood up en masse at the crucial moments. We missed the start of the second half after heading off to buy hotdogs.

During Euro 96, my brother, myself and our friends watched all of England’s games together, gathered closely around the TV. We developed a ritual of, whenever England scored, running outside barefoot, screaming at anyone who might happen to be there, and disappearing back inside before they knew what had happened. England scored and the sun shone.

Growing up, my brother and I didn’t get on well. In particular, I feared arguing with him as he would always get the last word. Even if I had the most cohesive argument and couldn’t possibly be wrong, he would stoically refuse to compromise under any circumstances. So it was a great relief to be on his side for these footballing occasions – to support the same team, whether Brazil, Luton, or England. Any other arrangement would have seen me on the losing side, whatever the outcome of the match.

Lee Broughall – July 2010



July 25, 2010

Here is my brief understanding of the World Cup, and what happened, admittedly a confused and confusing reading as ever. Lee’s contribution will be up midweek next week, possibly with other’s to follow.


The standard response to the vuvuzela, which may have come in to being as an extension of Tswana culture’s use of the kudu horn to gather villagers to tribal meetings, is one of dislike. Sport 606, that bastion of common sense and objective response, goes with the idea that the vuvuzela ruins the atmosphere at games with constant monotone buzzing. I understand that the hearing loss issue has also swept people in to a frenzy, asking FIFA to ban them from all football matches. I’ve quite enjoyed them. Over the course of the tournament they went from simply being epically loud (which could be allied to the idea that they represent an anti-colonial fuck you – we are louder than you now) to interestingly creative. Games towards the latter stages had oscillations and pulses of sound, waves that moved over the crowd and pitch creating an atmosphere that I doubt could be met by 20,000 people calling the ref a cunt in unison (as amusing as that is). The sound reminds me of an Icarus track called Three False Starts, made using the noise created by hundreds of bees, or indeed some of Phill Niblock’s work with horns. I even made a little video transplanting Niblock on to an old World Cup game just to see if they could be livened by the sound.

My issues is that much of the response to the vuvuzela was knee jerk; ‘they’re different, I don’t like it’, a position that lacks engagement with the heritage of the thing, or even the loosest ideas of what the horn and the sound it makes might represent to Africans. They create atmosphere in the same way klaxons used to or chanting continues to – it is simply an alternative. For those who object to the noise specifically, I think perhaps the football stadium is the wrong place to be if you’re after well managed noise at a healthy non-deafening level.

From a Cageian perspective, the vuvuzela is a ‘waking noise’, something that has shaken people from aural slumber. It has created engagement, albeit of a limited love-hate dichotomy. The noise is overt and demands attention, it doesn’t allow people to slip in to the usual pattern of avoidance that characterises the sound of the everyday; the aircraft, cars, washing machines, high pitched machine whine, shouting, door slamming world we all exist in. Perhaps that is why people object…because it forces them to reacquaint with a world of noise they have learnt to block out. Sadly, the hegemonic nature of the understanding of sound and approaches to it favours the idea that noise is a negative, something to be pushed aside rather than embraced as Cage would suggest. The vuvuzela is a mirror on what we cannot admit, and instead of dealing with our problem – the fact that, increasingly, we don’t understand the actions/interactions of our aural landscape – we simply compartmentalise the ‘instrument’, make it nothing more than an irritation.


The referee had been much maligned at this tournament, with the exception of Yorkshireman Howard Webb and his team. Aside from Webb’s exemplary no-nonsense approach to advantage play and the appropriate use of cards*, it was his full team that deserved credit, and rightly deserved to referee the final. Darren Cann was the sharp-eyed linesman who disallowed (for offside) the Italian goal against Slovakia, the replay confirming his decision to be correct by the amazing margin of Quagliarella’s right leg and part of his ear. Others have fared less well, with too many blunders to name, including Tevez’s supreme offside against Mexico, as well as Lampard’s goal in the Germany game. The thing I find strange is that the pundits, on all channels, decry the ability of referees to keep up with the pace of the game, or indeed step over the ball when it is needed. They’re supposed to be able to read the game, or at least see where it is going. The pundits though are equally at fault in terms of not noticing the obvious. Big name players performed exceptionally badly at this tournament, even if David Villa scored the occasional goal, and no-one seemed to be able to admit it. The emphasis was not on team tactics and overall performances, but on the cult of the individual . Messi, Ronaldo et al underachieved massively, and the most pundits could manage was ‘they’ve had a slightly ropey tournament’. They were shit. Progress should be measured by the ability to admit getting things wrong (and they’ve admitted plenty of mistakes, as have many of the referees and linesman, in terms of the incredible unpredictability of the tournament eg. No South American teams in the final) and then moving on from that. The inability to distinguish good and bad performance of key individuals is laughable. Let me expand…

Football pundits and commentators

The BBC commentary team for the tournament has been largely enjoyable, mainly because Guy Mowbray appeared happy to take the piss out of all and sundry, as did Mark’s Lawrenson and Bright. Sadly the studio pundits were less impressive. The BBC appeared insistent on an odd interviewing technique for their ‘features’ before matches, which essentially involved football managers (Hodgson, Redknapp etc) who had sat in the pundit chair the day before, being asked the same questions in a slightly different room, with annoying stylised touches added to the edits. Considering the money the BBC has spent on sending people to SA, actually bothering to film some real features might have been worth it…you know…like giving Gaby Logan something to do rather than comb back the hair from her peculiar eagle-esque face. Hansen, with his archetypal dour approach, and near horizontal posture which would give Tom Paulin a run for his money, seemed unwilling to engage with any opinion outside of random attacks on players he considered ‘useless’ (these assessments were often devoid of context…on several occasions, Redknapp pulled him up, discussing X’s form at club level, to which Hansen simply shrugged and said ‘I haven’t seen him’) along with towing the BBC line of overemphasising the importance of key-individual players like Messi, Ronaldo, Rooney et al. who were, to my mind, overshadowed by the likes of Honda, Vittek, Gyan and Ozil in terms of performance and actually playing within their team dynamics.

Still, Hansen is nowhere nearly as irritating as Edgar Davids on ITV, who spent this World Cup in a peculiar state-of-being whereby he was mildly put-out at every question thrown at him by Adrian Chiles, answering in an oddly distanced way that made me think he was perhaps looking at the tournament from a different plain of existence to the rest of the world, whereby he floats above each stadia with an expression of constant, effortless boredom spread across his face like supermarket sandwich filling. Worse still was Andy Townsend, whose frequent barbs at Capello ranged from short sighted to borderline racist. Capello was exclusively to blame for a team of pampered, psychologically damaged and egotistical players failing to gel at the tournament; he lacked passion because he was Italian and didn’t understand the historical importance of the England dynamic**; England should have an English manager; Capello’d be on Lake Garda the week after the tournament and he couldn’t give a shit. That’s Andy Townsend, born in Maidstone, Kent, who spent his entire career playing for English clubs, but captained the Republic of Ireland in two World Cup Finals. He takes a familiar position in the narrative of British broadcasting and print media – the coach is always, always to blame for all faults. Despite a spirited defence in some papers***, Capello was already set up to fall, but then didn’t. Personally, I felt the rigidity of the formation was an issue, as was the continued use of Heskey/taking Sean Wright Philips – ultimately, the main reason we failed was because the players didn’t play.

Additionally, Peter Drury was dire; his commentary lacked the amusing asides that Pearce/Mowbray managed, he offered no pleasing historical nuggets (Pearce spent the Brazil-Portugal game drifting off in to the colonial history of ‘Latin’ America) and managed to make even the most interesting games dull with a complete lack of enthusiasm (that occasionally extended to the peaks eg. goals as well as standard play). Sometimes he’d shout, but more often than not he’ll change tone slightly. To counter this slightly, his performance on Tuesday 6th, when he commentated alone – presumably because ITV had run out of money to pay an associate – was exemplary, as he essentially had a 90 minute conversation with himself. Not that I really have any idea who he is.

I could have probably gotten a lot of work done during the World Cup, but didnt. This was good in a way, because I missed much of the last tournament by being asleep (I was working nights at the time), and the 2002 World Cup was just badly scheduled…seriously…S.Korea and Japan. This piece is all pretty disorganised, largely because I started without any clear idea of where I was going or what the outcome would be. I think that is suitably analogous to the tournament as a whole though, so I’ll leave it there/here.


*I am unsure as to whether or not this is tarred by the final at all, which saw I think 15 cards. The standard of play was pretty dire in terms of the severity of the fouls committed…at one point the Dutch could comfortably have been reduced to 8 men…but I think Webb went for the sensible option of not sending people off in favour of keeping the game fairly balanced. The Dutch would be pissed off regardless, and indeed were once the whistle blew.

**First up…since when has anyone ever thought an Italian wasn’t passionate about anything…pretty much any dug out footage during the England games showed him throwing an utter fit at the ineptitude of his side, and his voice could be heard over the sound of vuvuzelas and commentary on a semi regular basis. Secondly, historical importance is sort of the problem…too much baggage from every other success/failure. Clean sheet needed? Start from scratch with entirely new players anyone?

***Some nice stats at the end of James Lawton’s piece in the Independent…–ndash-and-they-failed-their-manager-too-2013099.html

Silk and Dogs – Gansu

July 16, 2010

July 2010

Silk and Dogs – Gansu (right click and Save As to download)
This piece, the 10th in the Provinces Project (which will conclude in September on track 12 – all will be available to download as a zip file from mid-October), is an attempt to develop a generative work based on one five-note arpeggio and its gradual collapse/build in to granular disorder. The fuzz that seemingly attached itself to the track reminded me of being on the beach at Camber Sands many years ago, and watching as the wind pulled in the dry sand from dunes in to the sea.

China, and particularly Gansu province, has a problem with both desertification, and subsequent sandstorms. A comprehensive, and expensive, programme to combat the problem through international collaboration with the Japanese, South Korea and others, has started to make a dent in the frequency of such events. Gansu province is the area where most sandstorms in the country occur, and so the PRC centred their research and anti-desertification measures there, setting up the Gansu Desert Control Research Institute (GDCRI). The institute has now started rolling out training programmes to other countries suffering from desertification, inviting panels from numerous African nations ( Egypt, DRC, Angola, Tanzania) affected by similar problems. Last year’s course was held in Minqin County in Gansu, one of the four major areas in the PRC from which sand storms originate. The county saw 14 sand storms in 2006, down almost 50% on 2005, after it brought 2,000 hectares of desert under control by encircling the sand with nets made of wheat straw and planting drought-resistant plants. Fujitsu, the Japanese electronics company, has invested over 10 million Japanese yen in various desert greening projects in China, under an agreement signed by the All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU) and the workers union of Fujitsu in 2006. This sort of cross governmental programme, along with the continuing training the GDCRI is providing to developing nations in Africa, is the only real way progress can be made, and deserts can be reclaimed.

For more information on the vibrant and eternally exciting history of anti-desertification measures in Gansu, here are some links:

Initial 2001 findings
2007 article/source material

The Object of the Attack

July 9, 2010

As of this week, J.G. Ballard has replaced William Burroughs as my favourite author. It is a fairly juvenile thing to have, a ‘favourite’ author, but Ballard represents not only a titan in British post-war fiction, but also a series of peculiar congruities in my life that I have noticed only recently. As a warning then, this post will be a long one with much potential for error, and I offer no apologies for my standard fucking of chronologies.

The Overloaded Man

In the last seven days, I have read four Ballard books in a row, starting with Empire of the Sun, followed by Cocaine Nights, Crash and the first volume of short stories, which contains the genesis for almost all the aforementioned. My usual approach to reading fiction* is to read a book by an author, chosen at random via a process of staring at the bookshelves until a title announces itself as ‘the next one’, finish it, and then not read another work by that author for some time. Essentially I like the variety of going from one author to another, giving them all a chance. The same applies to genre – I’ll never read two science fiction novels in a row for example. With Ballard though, this process went out of the window.

My previous experiences with the author included Millennium People, Vermilion Sands and his autobiography Memories of Life. All these books were sadly lost in what I am supposed to term ‘The Great Fire of ’06’, and I only recently started reconstituting my Ballard collection with the books I am yet to read. I liked them greatly, particularly Memories of Life, which I thought was a painful re-visitation of past haunts for a man who was very sick at the time. I had not returned to Ballard until a chance find whilst at work in the Library whereby some unknown student had left a copy of Super-Cannes on the enquiry desk.  I immediately took it out for myself, but left it to one side, instead devoured Empire of the Sun from the small collection I had amassed. The discovery of Super-Cannes though acted as a catalyst for this. When I finished it, I automatically gravitated to the book that had perhaps been left for me, and then on to Crash, a book which I think occupies the same space as Naked Lunch in the sense that everyone knows it to be controversial but few people have actual read it (Ballard suggests the same in the essay tagged on the end).

The result of this approach has meant I have become familiar with his work in a way I may otherwise have missed. The recurrent themes, characters and obsessions running throughout the work are clearer than if I had left my prerequisite time between readings; Ballard as the central character in all of his work, marriage, aircraft, urban landscape (or more specifically the potential for distortion, both physical and mental), cars (Lincoln’s and Buick’s), the psychological collapse of the middle classes. The recurring image of the car in particular, has drawn strange parallels this last week.

(Crashing Into A) Concrete Island

I lived on a road called Lincoln Street in Norwich (pictured here on fire, and previously mentioned in my post on New Build ‘architecture’ I think) with three men and one woman, all of whom were or had been students. The centre piece of our living room was a giant CRT television, the kind thankfully no longer produced – it was the sort of TV that would be occasionally featured on the news because it was overly heavy at the front where the glass was, and as a result a few children each year were crushed to death by one falling from a TV cabinet…though to my knowledge nobody was killed by this particular television. Underneath the TV was an original Xbox. The most used game was not Halo, though it was infrequently played, but Burnout 3, a game where the intention is to purposefully crash your car and cause as much damage (in insurance money) as possible. I was pretty good at it, managing to spend enough time on each course to know the perfect time to launch the car in to oncoming traffic. Afterwards, the field of play would be littered with a varied assortment of destroyed vehicles**. Pete and myself would play week long tournaments (I was a student and therefore used it as an excuse to play the game for such lengthy sessions…he was working at Norwich Union and therefore used it as an excuse to play the game for such lengthy sessions) which generally averaged in a draw.

On one occasion we combined the ability to play the game in 8 player mode (4 teams of 2 taking it in turns) with an extended drinking binge. It was raucous in an entirely unsexual sense*** and the living room stank of sweat in that special way that anyone familiar with male based gaming sessions will know all too well. We were drunk, loud and probably incredibly obnoxious. My memory is hazy as to the exact participants, or at least that can be my poor excuse as to why I shall avoid naming people, though this is largely to save on embarrassment/potential non-truths I might offer (shit, I mentioned Pete earlier). This gaming session coincided, I believe, with the slow & depressing collapse of the relationship of two of my housemates. One joined us for the session, the other remained in her room. At one stage, she emerged from the stairway, charging through the hot box we had created, before proceeding to the kitchen. We paid here little notice, though I called out for a beer to be brought through. I received understandably reciprocal ignorance. She stormed back in to the room, clambering over our prostrate bodies in an effort to return upstairs. We complained about her blocking the TV. Her response was to say, ‘This is pathetic. I can’t believe how unsociable you are all being’. She then made her way up the stairs to the solitude of her room.

This reminiscence came up at work, in a discussion on awkward housemates. This was the same shift that I found The Zahir (see Report from an Obscure Planet).

A Place and A Time to Die

Robert Vaughn drives James Ballard’s car into a coach load of airline passengers. David Greenwood executes numerous high flying executives and administrators at an exclusive business park in the South of France. Wilfred Penrose recommends drug fuelled rape and immigrant hunting trips as a form of psychotherapy. A Japanese kamikaze pilot dies of exposure out on the endless marshes to the south of Shanghai. Ballard wrote of

“the evolving world, the world of hidden persuaders, of the communications landscape developing, of mass tourism, of the vast conformist suburbs dominated by television – that was a form of science fiction, and it was already here”.

The far future is an impossible fabrication, at best a murky projection of current troubles which, through subjective distancing, are rendered as obscure fantasy rather than revealing their explicit terror. The present is a submerged hell of high rise buildings, consumerist fascism, the re-appropriation of cultural artefacts in to meaningless trinkets. The troubling aspect is how casually death appears and recedes in Ballard’s work, particularly when his subject is truly the here and now. It blends in to a disturbingly accurate prediction that is both fact and fiction, of the moment but also further away from us, just out of grasp. The real horror is that his work acts as a reflection.

Report From An Obscure Planet
Central Hall Reworked
At the same time as describing the Lincoln Street aside to my colleague, and recommending Super-Cannes to her (see End-Game), I discovered the University of York’s Culture magazine, which is called The Zahir – presumably after the story by Borges. The magazine was in a heap in the new RBL building which I was closing down. I had a brief flick through, noting that the articles in the issue, and I assume previous issues, were thematically linked; the theme was urbanisation and urban decline. When I got home, I started flicking through the magazine which, to my surprise (caused by yet another linkage to the master), included an article about Ballard, in relation to the Brutalist beauty that is the Central Hall at the University. Broadly speaking, the point was that this style or architecture should be re-evaluated. Unfortunately the article was riddled with mistakes about Ballard’s work and only the briefest of explanations as to why it mattered. Now I wouldn’t normally have intervened, but because of the odd timing of the find in relation to my continuing exploration of Ballard’s work, I decided to email the editor(s) to point out the mistakes in the article. They seemed pleased to receive the feedback and responded in kind. I mentioned that the reason I had emailed was because of this weird coming together of Ballard related things in my life – I finished by mentioning the piece on architecture posted on this blog a while back. I said to Zoe about it the next day, as I was impressed that anyone had even responded to my original email (Channel 4 took 12 weeks once…now I sound terminally sad). She said ‘You should write for them’. I considered it and decided it would be a nice idea, logging on that same day to suggest it. I didn’t get the chance though as they had already emailed me to ask if I’d be interested in writing a piece in response to the original article.

In a pleasingly cyclical way, I have mentioned this because it may be viewed by people related to the magazine or its readership and I like the idea that by reading this they too will be involved in this Ballard loop. My response will more than likely be built upon elements of this post and the one on Brutalism, though I obviously wont use this particular paragraph as I feel it would be a cycle too far. Additionally, I had issues with the author’s other article on the novel as being 500 years out of date, but I think it best to hold back on that in case it comes across as a personal vendetta. It isn’t. I just disagree with the majority of what he has written thus far.

News from the Sun, but also South Wales

I would have been about 11 or 12 years old when I was involved in a serious car crash in South Wales. We were driving back to the cottage we were staying in, which overlooked Carreg Cennen Castle on the outskirts of the Brecon Beacons National Park, and it was pouring with rain. We were on a minor road, somewhere outside Carmarthen, quite high up. A red Renault Clio came careering around a blind bend as we approached a row of tin roofed cottages precariously balanced on the edge of a drop to a swollen river. It hit us full on, throwing our car off the road and in to an embankment (narrowly missing a telegraph pole which my Dad later informed me would have killed him). The Renault skidded to a halt further up the road, smoke rising from its engine. It had avoided the plunge in to the river. My brother, who was asleep during the journey, was shaken awake by the impact and instinctively began crying. The radio, which somehow still functioned, was playing With or Without You by U2****. I managed to climb out of the sunroof with my Dad’s help, and started off up the road towards the other car. There was an odd atmosphere on the hillside, as if everything was operating at a distance, the environment sliding away from the point of collision. I didn’t notice the rain so much, even though it had soaked me completely. I picked my way around the debris strewn across the tarmac before reaching the totalled Renault. Everything around me was quiet in a profound way I had not experienced in the past; I now assume was the result of two essentially noisy elements silencing one another through impact. The only real sound was the subdued sobbing of the woman in the car. Her legs were trapped. She appeared to have come off a lot worse than I had. An unspecified period of time passed, with me looking at the wreckage of the car and the trail it had left across the wet sheen of the road. Behind me, Mum had climbed out of a broken window and stumbled up the road to join me, calling the woman a ‘Stupid Cow!’, which although a restrained use of language, I thought somewhat unhelpful considering the situation. I left Mum, who was standing, crying in the rain, and started moving the larger pieces of debris from the road, being careful not to pick up anything too sharp or dangerous looking. After I’d done this, I walked up to the four cars that had stopped in front of the accident. A man with a thin unpleasant moustache wound down his window. I said to him that I’d cleared the road of debris, and if he was careful and drove slowly he could safely negotiate the accident and continue his journey. He responded by looking at me blankly and saying ‘Jesus, what happened!’. I instinctively reassured him that everything was being dealt with, even though I had no idea if it was or not. Eventually he moved on, and I repeated the explanation to the three cars that came after him.

My Dad had phoned the police prior to the emergence of the shocked residents from their unusual houses on the hillside. The woman who had hit our car was the partner of one of the men who lived with his family on the hillside. The car she had crashed was his, and she was not insured on it. A miscellaneous man took over my role of directing traffic. I wondered if that was perhaps his job in real life. The father of the man whose car had been wrecked invited us in to his house. We waited for the authorities there, exchanging nervous glances. I didn’t notice at the time, but Mum had disappeared. In the confusion she had gone off with another resident, a strange little old woman who lived in house that was considerably more dilapidated than the one I sat in with my Dad and brother. I vaguely recall her standing at the roadside after the accident. She had the thickest glasses I had ever seen. Eventually the police, fire brigade and ambulance arrived. The firemen cut the woman out of the car; she only had minor injuries in the end which was good…I had assumed something terrible had happened to her, and she would lose her legs completely, but that was probably my childish imagination. The ambulance treated my Dad, who was also only slightly hurt (whiplash I think). The police confirmed our story by measuring out the skidmarks on the road – the woman had simply been driving too fast and lost control. My Dad was concerned that, had they not been present, there would have been an issue with the insurance claim. The woman could perhaps have suggested we were equally responsible, which was not the case. The policeman thanked me for my work directing the traffic and clearing the debris, saying I’d been a great help and had showed a level head in a crisis. He shook my hand. It made me feel very proud of myself, though slightly concerned at my emotional detachment from the situation.  Aside from my Dad, who having lived longer than me had had more time to adjust to and understand upsetting events, I had been the only one involved, including the people who had emerged from the houses on the hill, who had not burst in to tears. I was also slightly confused as to how the policeman knew I had helped out when he had only arrived after the fact. Perhaps the man who had taken over my role told him. When we were in the tow truck on the way back to our cottage, Mum explained that the strange little old woman had invited her to her house for tea, and in a state of shock she followed her without thinking or wondering where we had gone. The old woman had fallen down a mud track that ran around the side of her house and had slid in to her front door, injuring her leg. In a reversal of intention, my Mum ended up helping her inside and making tea for her. The following day we played chess whilst waiting for a hire car. I also remember being confused by the idea of S4C and  having a crush on Martine McCutcheon, at least I think the crush was around the same time, or maybe a little later.

In putting this blog together, my writing has assumed a semi-familiar pattern. The content ranges from occasional musical asides to lists of sounds and album recommendations, to the even more infrequent ‘large rambling post on a subject I don’t entirely understand but would like to via this medium’ (a discussion with myself, but sort of in public). The last one I wrote, where several aspects of my life coalesced in to a slightly coherent picture, was the piece on new builds and Brutalism, a subject that also links in to this current preoccupation. The architecture of the modern period was another of Ballard’s recurring motifs, memorably captured in the hellish structures of The Concentration City and permeating the majority of his novels (the echo of identikit developments in Super-Cannes and Millennium People). I had written a section, that I subsequently discarded, about the Brunswick centre, which is perhaps the only remaining and entirely functional Brutalist housing project in the country – thanks to an expensive overhaul that saw the installation of a Waitrose and space designed specifically for a farmers market. I remember when I was much younger, walking past it on the way to the British Museum and being startled by its look and its architectural posturing in relation to the buildings around it. Now it reminds me of two things; firstly, the ziggurats I lived in at UEA in my first year at University and secondly, housing for the sort of world Ballard described in Crash, an occupational equivalent of endless flyovers and jammed motorway lanes, the logical location where his disturbed characters would reside. After a London drinking session, most likely the precursor to the time when the tradition of toasting Ballard with every round developed, I wandered back to St.Pancras and past the Brunswick wondering about the cost of living in a functional icon. At the back of my mind there was something else nagging me as to why I had combined these Ballard and the Brunswick, and not other buildings or novels. Last week, whilst clearing away a load of old newspapers I had screwed up and used from wrapping breakables when moving house, I noticed an article about Vicky Richardson, a journalist of design and architecture who had apparently heckled Prince Charles during his RIBA speech a while back. She lives/lived in the Brunswick Centre and is J.G Ballard’s niece.

Someone with whom I work, and a self confessed non-fiction-only kind of reader, asked for a recommendation during my Ballard marathon. She is a trained psychologist, and after I had finished Super-Cannes myself, I suggested it might be a good read for her, as it would mix fiction with her professional concerns. Perhaps I could act as a bridge between the two worlds? When I mentioned this to Zoe, she reacted with surprise: ‘Is it really the sort of book you should recommend as a ‘way-in’ for a first time reader…she’ll think you’re a psychopath’. I reasoned she might already think that of me. Any way, my response to the article awaits, which as I mentioned will most likely be a combination of my rumination on Brutalism and this piece. I now have Cocaine Nights and Kingdom Come to come.


* I prize my time for reading fiction very highly, considering the amount of non-fiction I read day-to-day for the FUD, and I try to dedicate around 2 hours a day to it; this may seem short to some, long to others – for me it is simply what works best and is most enjoyable. Perhaps it will change when TV execs and producers start making something worth staring at for aimless hours.

**…obliterated tuk-tuks, the mangled shells of district buses, hideously compacted sports coupés with their fronts concertinaed like a retarded accordion, the peculiarly distended cabs of articulated lorries…all the while the dollars would mount at the top of the screen…a wet patch of semen where Vaughn had ejaculated through his already soiled trousers at the sight of so much snarled metal…

***The repeated use of imagery and/or themes from Crash meant I wanted to include that non-sex caveat, just in case there was the inference that the key scene towards the end of the novel, where Ballard fucks Vaughn underneath a flyover before Vaughn tries to kill Ballard, was in anyway linked to the men I was with in that room on that occasion. They undoubtedly have reputations I wouldn’t like to besmirch with perceived sexual allusions.

****To this day my Mum will turn off the radio if she hears this song.

nb. I spent longer than I should have fucking up the pictures I used for this post…I could have spent that time reading.

Albums of the Week : June 28th – July 3rd

July 4, 2010

A brief return for Albums of the Week. From the 16th of July, I’m hoping to put up a series of posts about the World Cup, a tournament that has left me largely silent from the blog in favour of watching endless matches that blur the boundaries of what I understand as my own stamina; I can now sit through anything, having watched awful awful things like…I don’t know…Greece playing football. The posts will be written by the usual gaggle of freaks who populate these pages from time to time, with subjects including: past World Cup memories, national anthems and team performance, the politics of French football, refereeing, the vuvuzela as cultural product, and differing commentaries of pre/post match analysis. The latter will include my diatribe on Andy shitting Townsend.

5. Vangelis – Invisible Connections

4. Autechre – Move of Ten

3. Dolphins into the Future – The Music of Belief

2. Mark van Hoen – Where Is The Truth

1. Ital Tek – Midnight Colour

Rather than my usual measure of an album, based on what it sounds like, and its relationship to others, I have decided to rate them on the basis of cover art. Ital Tek wins (and the little left hand side ‘play’ icon isn’t actually on the cover, but WordPress is being an arse at resizing so this is the best I could find), though its take on the album title is somewhat obvious. It makes me think of what old Doctor Who worlds should have looked like, and also something like an ink dripping exercise I did at high school. Mark Van Hoen’s I like, because of the sense of presence the image is imbued with. Not simply the photographer’s, but the atmosphere of the room, which seems curiously organised and dated. The music certainly echoes this, and makes it the album of the week if we go by traditional criterea – Yourself, and She Selda are standout tracks. Dolphins Into The Future’s cover again looks like the album sounds; washed out texture, vague melody, a mellow dream like drifting. Move of Ten is sort of lazy, but totally in keeping with Autechre’s oeuvre, and as a companion piece to Oversteps, the linkage is obvious. The nice typography pulls this back I think. Vangelis’ on the other hand, whose album is ‘old’ where these are ‘new’, is horrid, garish, and non-symbolic of what is contained within. An image of two figures through heat seeking glasses. I listened to it again recently, after reading Oneohtrix Point Never describing it as one of his favourites. It is a good listen, and I agree that it sounds like something Raster Noton might have put out ten years ago. You can also hear where OPN’s inspiration comes from. Listen to it immediately. He is, I think, still incredibly unfashionable, like some/many of my other favourites (Camel’s Mirage has already been mentioned on here in the memory top ten) so it’s a good way to differentiate yourself in these ‘postmodern-identity-crisis’ times.

Football related guff next, or maybe July’s Silk and Dogs track.

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