Archive for the ‘General’ Category

T.I.S.A.R phase shift

November 1, 2014


Following the completion of my doctoral thesis, the energies (such as they were) put in to T.I.S.A.R will be redirected towards Old Indifferent Gods. Information from this site – blogposts, audio links etc – will be redirected through Old Indifferent Gods in due course.

Thank you for your custom, and we look forward to welcoming you once more at Old Indifferent Gods.


One Conclusion

August 27, 2014

Last week I finished (as in ‘I’ve corrected and edited enough that it’s ready to hand in’) the final draft of my thesis. Someone asked me if I felt elated, but I think I responded by suggesting that I was tired. I went for a walk to try and clear my head a little, or at least reconsider what I felt in light of how long I’d spent working on this project. I left the University and walked in straight line for what Google Tracks informed me was three hours (though because of some issue with GPS it was unable to map my route). After the first hour, I came across a square flanked by tall white buildings, each one adorned with long elaborately decorated flags. The square appeared to be deserted at least at first glance, but as my eyes adjusted to the new brightness of my surroundings I could see people flitting in and out of doorways, and tiny heads peeping around window frames. It wasn’t too long before the square was filled with people. Girls with deep blue eyes sang along to tunes played on wooden flutes, confused-looking poets recited incantations to a silent, cross-legged water God and jugglers and trapeze artists performed around a central platform of twirling, angry flamenco dancers. I thought that I recognized the faces of some of performers (I briefly ran an unsuccessful online record label and wondered if there was some connection) but before I had a chance to enquire after them, I was encouraged by two large men¹ to exit the square and be on my way. The celebration was in aid of a sacred relic that had recently been returned to the local museum following its ‘liberation’ at the hands of ‘my people’ during a brief spell of fighting fifty years before my birth. I wouldn’t be welcome, they said, and for my own safety I should continue my walk. I was in no position to disagree with their inverted commas.

After an hour and a half the trail I had continued along became less distinct. The tarmac and road markings had turned to a thin brown powder (which still stains my least-favourite pair of Puma trainers). It was still possible to chart a path of sorts though, as what was left of the track was peppered with cattle tracks and the occasional pile of what I took to be animal bones. I could also smell the city, and hear the sounds of far away trade caravans. After two hours I passed under the low wooden gates that marked the western limit of what had once been titled ‘The Amber Borough’. Rather than streets flanked with the yellow sassafras and sweetbay magnolias of my memory, I saw only knotted thickets of diseased rhododendrons, their flowers either browned or the colour of old blood. In my hurry to ‘walk-off’ the thesis, I’d forgotten that it was autumn, and the riotous pulses of spring colour I was familiar with had been literally replaced by the army of horticulturalists who comprise two-thirds of the city’s population. Gone too were the ornately carved swings which lined the main boulevard, where children dangled on the end of silk ropes during the high season, their mothers and fathers sprawled across the road, wine cups spilled, food ignored and subsequently devoured by whatever sewer-dwelling organism had developed legs that particular year. It was always a city of excess, even when apparently fallow. Despite my increasing thirst, I felt no urge to drop in on one of the out-of-season emporia in search of water (or indeed something stronger); they had originally been named after the delicate white snout moth, but the drab, rust-grey frontages I was witness to on this occasion bore no resemblance to their name sake. The place echoed the feeling I had when I visited Great Yarmouth with Zo (winter 2004 I think) and there was snow on the beach.

I departed the city from the eastern-most gate. Soon after leaving, the track wound through the remnants of a deciduous forest – where the tired boughs and hollow trunks seemed keen to mimic the grand institutional structures of their neighbour – to a series of caves cut not by rainfall, glaciation, or an underground river, but by human hands. I had been walking for two and a half hours, and after my nagging recollections in the city, I thought that getting out of the sunshine might help perk me up. Unfortunately, the cave I slid in to offered no darkness, its slick, ancient ceiling coated with purple crystals that emitted a waxy kind of light; now it comes to me, that unnerving subterranean glow is reminiscent of the council-flat bedroom I grew up in, and shared, with my sister. The cave walls, in an identical fashion to the bedroom from my childhood, were crisscrossed with overlapping murals depicting the absent aristocracy I had expected to find during that earlier hour. Thronging those imagined streets – which had been described to me as ‘loosely based on a celestial map of the Epsilon Eridani system’ – were women in gowns made of feathers and, from the look of it, material not dissimilar to a sheep’s stomach, bounding away from men adorned with hats made of tiles, each one inlaid with the eyes of an insect. Some of the men had dogs with them, but their anatomy was all wrong, their legs the texture of a lizard’s back. In another less well-constructed mural, children were cycling on Victorian bikes, playing a type of polo that I assume was adapted for the horseless (isn’t everyone these days?). My favourite of the cave paintings depicted a gang of hominids, a hunting party. In the foreground were the hunters – ageless and sexless; behind them, an array of big cats – arranged in order of size – who had been saddled for some unexpected purpose; the cats were watched over by birds of prey in tiny jackets and, behind them, almost merging in to the background-world of fossils and stone, mountain donkeys laden with enough provisions to the last the party a fortnight.

It was at this point that I pulled out my phone to add a marker to my map in case I wanted to return to inspect the murals at a later date; I figure I’m allowed a bit of down time…perhaps I want to explore a bit. Like I say, the map didn’t work, but seeing that I’d been walking for three hours I decided it was probably worth heading home and getting the dinner on (I cooked a dish that has been christened ‘Korean Clams’). Good exercise I suppose, but I’m slightly annoyed by the fact that I decided, based purely on longevity, that it was time to stop. As if there is some allotted time for these activities. I think I convinced myself I was tired when actually I was doing okay.


¹ Subsequently, a small amount of digging around in the archives has revealed that these men had once been slaves, most likely the property of one of the low island kings (at least according to their facial markings and the scar patterns on their shoulders).


December 18, 2013












A clearing in a wood surrounded by dead trees; the skeletons of birds and small mammals litter the floor. A sunken pond in a field. A man has cycled out to it and he lays asleep on the grass, his feet just touching the water. A morning so cold crows appear to have frozen in the air.

On the news, there is footage of Pakistani villages that have been destroyed by drone strikes. The drones are controlled from a room in Virginia. A few years ago there was that Army advert designed for young people – 18 or 19 perhaps – using Xbox controllers to pilot spy cameras attached to craft that look similar to drones. I think the advert was banned.

…a long sensitive pause is held till almost unbearable; then he looses…his tremulous hollow song. It echoes down the brook, breaking the frozen surface of the air. I look out at the west’s complexity of light. A heron, black against the yellow sky, kinked neck and dagger bill incised, sweeps silently down into the brook’s dark gulf. The sky infuses with the afterglow…

Animal trafficking discussed in seminars a few weeks ago. Belem do Para on the news as well. A tough port where there is a price for everything. Animal trafficking is the 3rd most lucrative business after drugs and gun running; 20 billion dollars a year. The man is speaking Portuguese, but I cannot read the subtitles without my glasses. Get in the suitcase.

…east of my home, the long ridge lies across the skyline like the low hull of a submarine. Above it, the eastern sky is bright with reflections of distant water, and there is a feeling of sails beyond land. Hill trees mass together in a dark-spired forest, but when I move towards them they slowly fan apart, the sky descends between, and they are solitary oaks and elms, each with its own wide territory of winter shadow. The calmness, the solitude of horizons lures me towards them, through them, and on to others. They layer the memory like strata….who are we at war with this week? Earlier, a man asked me for money. Carlos is yelling in to the trees, trying to attract monkeys. He’s wearing a relatively smart shirt. Perhaps I can use this discussion? A bald parrot looks like half a Christmas bird. The animals are terrified of human beings.

On the way to work in the morning, the new tar on the road has created a ludicrous amount of run-off, so it’s difficult to cross the road; the whole thing is more like a river now. Someone’s dog has shat all about the place. The three toed sloth is very easy to catch. One thousand dollars. Carlos is trying to tempt monkeys with a half-eaten banana. Sensibly they are ignoring him. He is described as ‘Brazil’s worst hunter’. He gets thirty dollars for a sloth.

The office is freezing. Strip lighting is painfully bright, and the lamp is too dim to read from properly. I’ve had communications from a number of people, a variety of messages, some of which I misread and respond to with information that is perhaps less than helpful, and later correct myself with apologies. ‘Hotdog Johnny’s is a great place!’ ‘My mother was born 1912 and she’d vote for him’. A reach which other people do not have. Find a compromise.

The first week, my dreams are confused. I am told my trousers are all wrong for the role. What am I expected to do? During the day – the real day – other nocturnal statements plague me, and it takes me a while to recall the separation between the real and the imagined. The man has lost a lot of weight as a result of gastric band surgery. There are explosions outside the window, but my legs ache too much to move over and see if any of them are any good.

…near the brook a heron lay in frozen stubble. Its wings were stuck to the ground by frost, and the mandibles of its bill were frozen together. Its eyes were open and living, the rest of it was dead. All was dead but the fear of man. As I approached I could see its whole body craving into flight. But it could not fly…

Energy drinks keep me awake. I’ve been ill a number of times. First some sort of flu, now an internal infection which hopefully won’t require anything more than time to fix: this is what I’ve been told. The old people flats have crumpled cans and empty bottles in the hedges. What is the matter with these people?

A red-throated diver, sodden and obscene with oil, able to move only its head, will push itself out from the sea-wall with its bill if you reach down to it as it floats like a log in the tide. A poisoned crow, gaping and helplessly floundering in the grass, bright yellow foam bubbling from its throat, will dash itself up again and again on to the descending wall of air, if you try to catch it. A rabbit, inflated and foul with myxomatosis, just a twitching pulse bleating in a bladder of bones and fur, will feel the vibration of your footstep and will look for you with bulging, sightless eyes. Then it will drag itself away into a bush, trembling with fear.

She says 90% of illegal immigrants enter the country and go on benefits. This is clearly bullshit. She strongly disagrees with things she knows nothing about. There are a number of maps on the wall. I can see pretend areas of London. No. Real areas, the areas people create or imagine or move through. Billy is looking down on me, with that withering stare. His eyes are sunken, his hand curled in to a half-fist. His complexion is thin, but you know that he is furious inside. At twelve thousand feet two planes collide. The wind is ferocious and there is fire in the sky for a moment.

We’re at the Jeep, and she bundles me inside. The animals are waking up at this time of day, as the sun sinks a little and the heat drifts off to some other shifting continent, except they all ran away didn’t they? My heart is pumping fast. My pupils are dilated. But I will be OK.

Old, Indifferent Gods

August 12, 2013

27th of July 1974

The House of Representative Judiciary Committee votes 27 to 11 to recommend the first article of impeachment against President Richard Nixon

At Ascot for a friend’s stag-do. We arrived via minibus, the driver having accidentally taken us in to central London for no apparent reason, and went to a pub down the road from the race course. The place was packed, five or six deep at the bar, and it was suggested we use the bar outside to get our drinks. We make our way outside, and as we approach the bar the barmaid collapses on the ground, possibly as the result of heat stroke. Random drinker – but no-one from our party – rush to her assistance. I stand for a moment, taking in the scene, and making very little of the actions of the people around me. Eventually we go back inside where it takes a very long time to be served. A different barmaid apparently overhears a conversation that some of our party are having about the size of her chest, and departs for the kitchen, returning with a jumper on. I wonder if she will get heat stroke as a result.

We miss the first two races, the party splits up, we sit on a hillside as horses occasionally bob past at what seems a slow pace. In the distance a number of helicopters arrive and depart, no doubt ferrying the well-to-do about the place. None of the people I am with loses a vast amount of money, and the atmosphere is relatively jovial, despite the heat and the unacknowledged weirdness of being in an environment that is foreign to most of us.

Later, at a curry house in Luton, the man at the end of our table reminisces about his time at school, and how the friends he made then, he still has now. He explains that ‘I’d die for my mates’, and tears up a little. None of us is sure what to do, so we drink our terrible Indian lagers in silence. Someone mentions flaming sambuccas. Outside it is raining. My brother picks me up from the bus stop by St. Mary’s church

28th of July 1943

Operation Gomorrah sees the British bomb Hamburg, causing a firestorm that kills forty two thousand German civilians.

29th of July 2005

Astronomers announce the discovery of the dwarf planet Eris.

30th of July 1965

U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Social Security Act 1965 into law, establishing Medicare and Medicaid.

I meet up with a friend I haven’t seen since my wedding two years ago. We drink in a pub in Clerkenwell, then move on to another near Barbican where we are joined by another friend who has just finished work, both for the day and forever, in the sense that he has handed in his notice. We talk about being at University (we met on a Master’s degree course), and I mention some of the changes (I am still at the same University), including the death of one of our lecturers. This comes as a shock, so we raise a toast to him.

The real purpose of the mini-reunion is to attend the stand-up routine of one of my drinking companions. We go first to collect his comedy organiser, who is a good stand-up in her own right (at just 19), from Waterloo station and have a drink in an underground bar. I only have a half, but the barman insists on printing me a receipt. I am tempted to leave it on the bar, to soak up the beer I spill picking up my glass, but think better of it.

The comedy venue is a peculiar bar in Canary Wharf. We disembark the train, ascend the stairs, and feel dwarfed by the absurdity of the buildings. Crossing the old wharfs, tatty looking terrace houses are juxtaposed with huge office complexes. I wonder if anyone lives in the houses, and, if so, what sort of people would want to. I reason they are probably super rich, or maybe where various ancillary staff live temporarily whilst cleaning the office Mon-Fri. The venue is an out-of-the-way bar that looks out across the Thames to towards the Millennium Dome (as I know it, pre-branding). We are joined by older friends. The comedy venue is relatively empty, aside from other acts and a man dressed like Tommy Lee Jones in Under Siege. We eat burgers outside, and comment on the setting. Above the venue is a strip club. As we go in to lend our support to the comedy, some of the strippers file in to work. Both comedy sets are greeted with applause and laughter which is deserved, even if my friend is dressed as a sheep. He makes a joke about Justin Welby and Wonga, which is funny largely because of the outfit, and the notion that a sheep might have a view on something like short term loans. I go to the toilet after they finish on stage. It is like Peter Stringfellow’s underwear; entirely leopard print. What I should have said is ‘it is like what I imagine Peter Stringfellow’s underwear might look like’.

31st of July 1588

The Spanish Armada is spotted off the coast of England.

1st of August 1801

The American schooner, USS Enterprise, captures the Tripolitan polacca Tripoli in a single ship action of the coast of modern-day Libya.

My wife has a barbecue for her birthday. After a misunderstanding in which neither of us watches food burn, the barbeque itself catches fire. I sit watching the flames. Other people try to put the fire out. I reason that I do nothing because I am in a funny mood. The day is the hottest of the year and abhorrent as a result. My poor behaviour mimics this. We eat. I cook a zebra burger, in a pointless attempt to reinforce my position as ‘weird’. I do this despite knowing the majority of the guests for some twenty years. As I do readily when drunk, I reveal a number of secrets to the dwindling circle of friends still sitting around the table. I also heckle anyone going to the toilet, as they are visible from my seat in the garden (unintentionally). The following morning, when sober, I regret most of these actions.

2nd of August 1922

A typhoon hits Shantou in the Republic of China, killing more than fifty thousand people.

On the train home, I regret some of the actions of the previous day, but reason that one of the secrets was actually public knowledge, as it had been made at a gathering and heard by many people. I spend a while looking out of the window of the train, thinking about the separation between private troubles and public discourse.

WDT/VSTM Archive: tomfire – Lincoln 1908 EP

June 24, 2013

Lincoln 1908 EP

WDT019: tomfire – Lincoln 1908 EP

The final tomfire release I think, recorded, as Lee reminds me, on a Fostex VF160 on the 19th and 20th of August. My recollections are vague for some reason, though I do recall setting up the drum kit in the window of Chris’ massive room in Lincoln (opposite an arboretum of some such). The recording sessions were long, and 1908 is – I think – the result of careful editing of much longer recordings, including an hour long 1.11am, though this is not featured. As ever, song titles were stumbled across using the method of me saying something stupid e.g. Eat Your Grapes And Ignore It. The archive will more expansive notes on this release, and a track list, in the near future. For now, here’s a bullet point summary of what happened from Lee’s perspective:

    • The greasy swindler.
    • Old man bin bag.
    • A girl that was staying upstairs who Bluetoothed some possibly risqué photos to Chris.
    • Frisbee in the ‘abbatoir’
    • Listening to Glen Miller on the way home, although Matt (me) said it was Glen Campbell.

The record was listed on various sites, including Animal Psi where it was described as

‘Ultra long EP (50 minutes) showcasing tomfire’s unique collapsing sound. Three guys playing a variety of instruments from trumpets and tangled guitars to beat boxes and homemade reverb units. This EP features four of their older tracks (Pipe, Pillows, Grapes, Bank) plus four new experimental works, each recorded live at an empty Victorian house in Lincoln. Comes housed in its own hand printed jacket.’

I genuinely cannot remember if I wrote this or if they did. Norman Records described it/us as

‘Avant rock improv outfit, featuring live jams, electronic deconstructions and complicated guitar work’.

More to follow…

The Holy Trinity

April 9, 2013

Roof View

A bit late for Easter this, but there we go. Last week, shortly after it opened, I went to Trinity Leeds, the insert-hyperbole-about-regenerating-The-North-exclusively-via-retail-experiences shopping centre which opened to much fanfare around the 20th of March. By ‘much fanfare’ I mean that the local news decided it warranted an entire half-hour programme dedicated to it, broadcast from the Fosteresque glass roof¹. So this is my discussion about my own experience of the place, and by discussion I mean ramble.

Aside: interestingly, I note that when Trinity was a ‘quarter’ rather than a ‘trinity’, the architect attached to the project was Enric Miralles of Scottish Parliament/Palafolls Library/Torre Mare Nostrum fame rather than Chapman Taylor of Heathrow Terminal 5 and Drake Circus fame (another shopping centre awkwardly obscured by a church). If this original project had gone through, perhaps there would have been more chance of the glass roof being made of wool. That’s a reference to Miralles designing buildings that look a bit like things vaguely related to the cities they reside in.


Anyway, I was slightly annoyed by a shopping centre warranting that level of coverage. Relatively little time was given over to the employment side of things (something like 3000 jobs created, in a sector which increasingly epitomises uncertain and temporary labour) in favour of marvelling at the shiny-shiny on display; one particular highlight was Harry Gration demonstrating how an interactive ‘gesture wall’ works, but more on this later (worth mentioning that I found it shit, because the number of people passing by made all gestures appear on screen as near-identical beams of light…this probably indicates something about the nature of activity in the corridor where the wall is situated). I was already planning on going to Leeds before this shopping centre opened, ostensibly because two new beer bars had opened and this is much more of a priority for me², but the streams of people entering and exiting were too much to tip-toe around the fringes of; black-hole like, I gravitated towards the event horizon.

Except it was more of a confusion between absolute and apparent horizons; I was annoyed by the actual experience of being in Trinity (except you’re never quite in it; it’s more of a roof over some streets with added walkways thrown in for good measure), by trying to move through Trinity, by which I mean the entirety of being in the shopping centre; the architecture, the ways in which the movements of people are controlled, the layout, the facilities. All the elements are there, but thrown together in a haphazard way, seemingly at odds with the ‘ideal shopping experience’. Is this a good thing? Not really. More uncomfortable, irritating. Not what is expected, but not exciting as a result of this. Peculiar zones rubbing against each other, symmetry gone awry, people unable to fathom how to use the spaces created for them.


You’d think, from the look of it, Trinity Leeds conforms to George Ritzer’s notion of ‘cathedrals of consumption’, that is consumption centres which

‘are structured, often successfully, to have an enchanted, sometimes even sacred, religious character. To attract ever-larger numbers of consumers [they] need to offer increasingly magical, fantastic, and enchanting settings in which to consume’

Trinity is a locus for the purchasing of commodities, and appears to offer the fantastical, not in terms of the shops themselves which are identical to most shopping centres, but in terms of the facilities that it has which others do not; and Land Securities should know all about that³. Some of Trinity’s features – according to the website at least – include concierges, mobile charging stations (coming soon), shop and drop facilities (your bags, not you as ‘the shopper’) and, and I realise this might be considered little more than miniature gilding, seats for people to use whilst waiting for other people to use the toilet. And what toilets they are: as badly designed as the layout of the tiny food court where pedestrian overpasses end in abrupt corners and people bottleneck around ‘awkward’ wheelchair users desperate to find an elusive lift to the exit. To return to the toilets – assuming we can find a way back – to use the cubicles for a shit you have to walk through two rows of back to back urinals, down the middle, as if you are inspecting the troops. This is all very odd. The other features I mentioned are contained within a service lounge type area, conspicuously empty when I walked past, devoid of both shoppers and staff, unlike the 30 or 40-strong queues outside all restaurants in the aforementioned food zone on the top floor (“I’m not waiting three fucking hours for a shitty T.G.I Friday’s” was probably the favourite, and most accurate, observation I overheard). Perhaps things will pick up. There were only 130,000 people through the doors on opening day after all.

ASIDE – Interesting as well that Ritzer has recently moved away from this idea, to ‘new cathedrals of consumption’, the virtual near-infinite expanse of for example. No need for an expensive all-singing, all-dancing locale, when the spectacle can shift to endless commodities; the only limit is what you can imagine yourself owning. Ritzer’s move is prompted, he suggests on his blog, by the noticeable decline and closure of such sites, making Trinity a peculiar proposition, particularly considered the current consumer market and the forever-shit economy we appear to be stuck with as a result of successive short-sighted governments and the systemic detach-collapse-rebuild cycle of our beloved capitalism.

It is also worth dwelling on the religious connection in the name and location. Foremost, we can see that there is a curious juxtaposition between the purpose of a cathedral, religious experience and the actual physical arrangement of space in Trinity: we have the glass ceiling, allowing a view of the Heavens except this is where any attempt at a connection drifts off. The ceiling doesn’t quite work. As interesting a feature as the glass roof is supposed to be, the layout of Trinity actually funnels people in through a central atrium to increasingly dark corridors lined with shops, more a catacomb of consumption. The ‘fantastic’ element is the preserve of one very small section of the building, before shoppers wind through the dingy, half-lit tunnels to emerge back out in Albion Street, which now separates ‘Trinity East’ and its glass dome, from ‘Trinity West’, the rebranded Leeds Shopping Plaza which is still covered in MDF hoardings advertising a new food court and whatever else is going to populate the redesign when it is eventually finished. I find it odd when a space designed to enchant and, ultimately, make people shop, does such a decent job of using walkways and passageways to force them through the building as quickly as possible. Where is the space to stop, to marvel, to dwell on the glory of purchasing on credit.


Trinity is, of course, the name of the church at one entrance to the shopping centre (there are many, many entrances, a panoply of mini-Batu’s with stairs leading to Topshop or Next rather than Lord Murugan’s shrine). Well, The Holy Trinity is what it is called. It is sandwiched between one of the Boar Lane entrances and a several-storey McDonald’s. There is a weird gap around the church, presumably the result of planning conditions, where a number of benches are set out for sitting, but these are squeezed in between the cold walls of the church and the featureless walls of the shopping centre, so unless ‘prison’ is the relaxing vibe they were going for, this seems like a tacked-on attempt at usable space. I walked past this area – well, was dragged past by a sea of shoppers heading for the McD queue – and a girl dressed entirely in black stood in the middle of this unused space, offering hand gestures and a fixed smile as if she was the host at a Shanghai club in the late 1920s. I tried to watch her for a bit, but was pulled inexorably onward. It was incongruous with everything else around me and brilliant for it, space instantly subverted from its supposed use. It reminded me of this photograph of Lee that I took at 4am on the morning Liam was hospitalized in York during my stag do.


The first stones of the Holy Trinity Church were laid in 1722. According to Linstrum, William Etty, the York born artists famous for his nude scenes taken from mythology, was paid nineteen guineas for the design of Holy Trinity Church. The cost of construction for Trinity Leeds is estimated at £378 million (I can only speculate as to the architect’s fee).The church has operated as a gig venue and community arts hub for quite a while, and appears to be working on ways to integrate itself within the development which bears its name. Let’s hope not too many people simply walk past it on the way in to the shops, or to the reclaimed meat-in-a-bun shop which it adjoins; though how many people walked past it before? Probably the same amount.

I’m not suggesting that Trinity is somehow opposed to the idea of consideration and reasoned thought (as Ritzer suggests, these spaces are supposed to be rational), that by boxing in spaces where this is possible (such as the church) and using architectural features to force people to keep moving it prevents anything but passing-through. This would fly in the face of evidence to the contrary; a quiet room for ‘contemplation, prayer and reflection’ will be opening Autumn 2013. What it does instead is demean and degrade public space, or areas where the control, use and appropriation (if deemed appropriate) lies in the hands of the people who use it. They define what happens, rather than owners who mould the space to extract as much money as possible.

Burton Arcade

Originally, the Trinity Quarter project looked at replacing a number of the tatty arcades that fanned out from the main shopping street, Briggate. There was The Empire, The Burton, Market Street and Trinity arcade itself, as far as I can see (ignoring the Victorian Quarter obviously, with its debt to Burlington, as it has relatively little similarity to the run-down local businesses which occupied these sites in the past). The regenerated approach to Trinity East from the Corn Exchange – which I assume was the site of the old Market Street arcade – is now a series of glass fronted retail units on two levels, the eye-line shops suspiciously vacant except for cardboard cut-out signs advertising the shops on the upper level, already a jumble of ethnic hairdressers and salons, financially ghettoed above the seething masses, where rents are lower, and customers fewer; this is Trinity paying lip-service to local business, providing an adjunct space that in no way matches the bombast of the Dome a hop-skip-jump across Briggate. Redoing this area has enabled an increase in rental costs and the misguided impression that there would be some sort of osmotic relationship between Big Brother (in every sense of the word) next door and an already-sickly sibling. In this case, some effort is no effort at all on the part of the developers. When I walked through, bored staff from the upstairs units were leaning over the railings, watching potential customers stream through on their way to…where else. Regardless of how down-at-heel the old arcades were, they were not simply there for transit, for endless passing-through; they were repositories of old ideas, and plans, and the dregs of the industries on which Leeds made its money, before ‘money’ was how it made its money. I think a similar argument is being made in relation to the Castle Mall in Sheffield.

Oh right, I was going to mention the gesture wall and forgot. Just that it reminded me of a passage from Benjamin (appropriate considering the location):

‘The innermost glowing cells of the city of light, the old dioramas, nested in the arcades, one of which today still bears the name Passage des Panoramas. It was, in the first moment, as though you had entered an aquarium. Along the wall of the great darkened hall, broken at intervals by narrow joints, it stretched like a ribbon of illuminated water behind glass. The play of colors among deep-sea fauna cannot be more fiery’

In the case of Trinity, the wall is simply another bauble that people pass by, on their way to somewhere better, except no-one has quite worked out where that is yet. Amongst the throng, the most common thing I heard from people was ‘how do I get out’. An interior that is architecture as pantomime, a farce of floors that are near impossible to escape from (in the atrium, I was forced to leave through Next because I couldn’t find an escalator that went ‘down’, foolishly assuming it would be on the same side as the ‘up’). If it is designed around flows, and peaks, and history, and indexes, and behaviour patterns, and the needs of local businesses, and consumers themselves then I for one am utterly fucking baffled by the place.

Benjamin Paris


¹ Although it does look a fair amount like the atrium inside the British Museum, there are also parallels with the Sage Gateshead. This is perhaps more apt as the Sage looks like a bug pupa, and the opening photo of this post looks like that bug hatched, and is now slithering its way towards consuming the church

² BrewDogs Leeds, which is tucked away behind the Corn Exchange and was pretty busy on a Good Friday afternoon but had some excellent Cocoa Psycho on, and Friends of Ham on Station Road which was very busy on a Good Friday afternoon and had an excellent Mikkeller Coffee Stout on.

³ Land Securities, the owners of the centre, have numerous other such sites dotted about the UK including The Galleria and Lakeside in the South and, you would think in direct competition to Trinity, the White Rose Centre on the outskirts of Leeds. Cornering the market I think that is known as.


March 22, 2013

The last thing I have to write, appropriately enough, is the conclusion. With six months or so left to go, all chapters have form, and content, to one extent or another. Some require a certain amount of work to get them up to a decent standard; others are almost entirely finished and require a brief glance over for typos and my usual grammatical mistakes. ‘Get it down, and then you can look at it in its entirety, and work out where to go next.’ I am simultaneously liberated and terrified. I started this blog a few years back with the intention of using it as a way of discussing the process of assembling my PhD (it is definitely assembled, so much so that my methodological justification for almost everything comes from Deleuze/Strathern/Haraway) but I’ve not really used it for that at all, aside from the odd post discussing some half thought-through idea I’ve had. The majority of the content has been about music, or something to do with nature. In fact, even now I am avoiding the actual discussion; perhaps this is because I spend a lot of time discussing it with myself as I write it. Why would I want another forum for going over the same territory?

I feel at this point I should mention that I don’t really know the purpose of this post, just that I should write it. It may be of limited value to any/everyone, including me, so drop off when necessary if you haven’t already. Besides, all this is is a brief window of uncertainty, before I convince myself of something else.

I’m not sure of the purpose. Some sort of publicised exegesis in which I attempt to understand why I have spent a significant amount of time on a piece of work which is of borderline interest to myself by this stage (fatigue – I don’t know if I genuinely believe this). The fact that this is potentially seen or read by people with whom I work or am about to work is perhaps problematic, but then the continual maintenance of identity through social media sort of forces you in to a corner in terms of having to consider what you can and what you cannot say. This is what I am saying at the moment. It will change. There is nothing wrong with changing positions; as José Pacheco says, we are all hypocrites.

I interrupt myself to check email (nothing), Facebook (always nothing), Twitter (nothing). On my return, I rethink the sentence about the ‘worth’ of what I’ve done, but do not change it. Before you finish a thesis – actually near the start – you’re supposed to think about how you market yourself with what it is you’re working on, because this is how you get a job at the end of it. I am at a stage where I can nutshell my thesis I think. I picked a case study (for various reasons) – hauntology – to see how music cultures operate in a sort of web 2.0 setting. The traditional ways of understanding these sorts of cultures is through understanding the participants, or consumers, and the places they went and the people they met. With my case study, this was more difficult, so I tried to find other ways of locating things; I did this by looking at spatial practices and what I ended up calling temporal incursions, that is, the way that musicians create work which allows audiences to question notions of chronological time. I threw in a fair amount of Deleuze and looked at specific pieces of music, because aesthetic discussions are often missing from case studies, or at least the ones I’ve looked at. I also tried to find out how participants contest boundaries and identities, and the different rituals of resistance they employ; what needs to be resisted is probably something I’ll write a journal article on next. Reading this back, I realise that this all sounds ridiculously specific, so at least I’ve cleared the ‘specialism’ hurdle. Why it is important is more of a challenge; I think my conclusion will say something about dialogics, and how we might understand culture through unending dialogue. As Hassan-i-Sabbah might have said, nothing is true, everything is permitted.

The way I have moved through academia has been ‘slowly’ for the most part, almost entirely the result of financial issues. No funding for a Masters meant I worked in a supermarket for a year to pay for my tuition fees. No funding for a PhD meant I spent two years working in a supermarket to pay for some of it, then a job at the library and teaching undergraduates to continue paying for it. In that time, I have had plenty of opportunities to consider what exactly it is I want to be doing when I am done. The issue up until now is that the long term goal has always been short term in reality: complete a Master’s degree, complete a PhD. Throughout my time writing the PhD (four years it will be when it’s finished) I sort of assumed I would then go in to lecturing, but I am increasingly uncertain of this as I reach the end point.

Part of this is to do with my experience of being a PhD student. I’ve got on well with the department, most of the people in it, but situating what goes on within a wider context of the current changes to Higher Education has sort of pulled me away from wanting to stay any longer than the end of the PhD. A lot of what happens is geared around treating students as consumers (which of course they are), but wrapped up in this is the idea of equipping them with specific skills and making sure they feel they are getting their money’s worth. This is difficult to put together. For a start the NSS assumes that by the end of their degree students will be able to ascertain the worth of what they have studied; I’m not sure that reflection – or at least reasoned opinion – kicks in quite so soon. And we have to do everything in our power to make sure they’ve had a good time, because if they haven’t and we score poorly on the NSS, our League Table rating is jeopardised. This seems like a peculiar way of approaching things, but then I think this is because my assumption, and the reason I went to University, was intellectual curiosity was more important than getting a specific job. This is still a problem for me. What is more of a problem for people currently studying at University is that they are perhaps operating on the assumption that these skills will help them find work, and they won’t.

Primarily I think I started the PhD to prove that I could complete something sizeable, and because I was interested in ways of thinking about the things people do, and how they do them together. My training for undertaking the project was minimal – most Masters students in Sociology are taught a range of techniques for approaching complex research tasks – because I didn’t study Sociology at Masters level, but this enabled me to avoid inculcation in certain ways of doing things, and I was able to experiment. The downside of this is that while I think I have produced something interesting, I don’t have all those skills that are expected of me in terms of taking on research positions. I am no quantitative researcher. I look at things, and think about them, and write about them; sometimes I put things in strange orders to see if changes the results. Sometimes it does, other times it doesn’t. I write down what I’ve found regardless. That doesn’t sound like a pitch that would work at an interview. But I feel like trying out these ideas are better than having none at all, better than being really good at certain kinds of research procedures but having fuck all imagination.

I think another issue is that the automatic assumption is if you are studying for a PhD (at least one where you haven’t come from a business which is funding it) you are intending to stay in academia. I was intending to do this, but I think the amount of time I have spent at University (11 years) means I now want some time away from it, to try my hand at doing the handful of things I am good at elsewhere, away from the stipulations and control mechanisms of formal education. The sector needs time to settle, and this is unlikely to happen for a while (REF, change of government etc). And I need to decide what I actually want to do. This seems like a stupid admission when I am 30 this year, but then that assumes that your life course is supposed to move in one particular direction, or that certain things need to be achieved. This is, obviously, bullshit.

At the moment, what I want doesn’t extend past ‘writing’. I want to write more. I have always written. This year I have been relatively hard working, in that a novel that I have not really been working on is now 40,000 words longer and actually reads ok. This I have enjoyed doing. I don’t for a minute imagine I can make any money doing similar things, probably less likely than my finding a lectureship or research project I am actually well suited to, but it makes me happy. I am going to try and get a short story published this year, as this is a more achievable goal than a journal article (despite having one out to review at the moment). I am also going to try and finish the novel. Meanwhile, the supposed vital stuff, the employment and that, is pretty much immaterial. This is the plan as of 11.23 on Wed 20th March 2013. My intention is also to spend more time on music, having made little in the past year.

I have fleeting notions of what I want, what I don’t want. For some reason I put them up on my blog on this occasion. This will al change again next week no doubt. I read this all back before posting and didn’t change anything. I am inconsistent even within a half hour of typing. I suppose that’s better than thinking you’re right and blindly following it to a conclusion based on a faulty premise. You have to justify everything you do. I am simultaneously liberated and terrified.


Recent listening:

Dadub – You Are Eternity

Barn Owl – V

David Bowie – The Next Day

Ensemble Pearl – Ensemble Pearl

The Year

January 31, 2013

As with every year, I have compiled a list of various aspects of my life. These appear to involve a) drinking, b) reading and c) listening to music. I am intending on adding to these categories over the next twelve months.

Also, I wanted to add that the blog has been sparse of late, owing to my inability to juggle commitments effectively; it is also my intention for this not to be the case in 2014. January will also hopefully see the return of the year in review, with an expanded scope that does not simply include music. The WDT/VSTM archive will continue in January.


What I remember doing:

Writing, all the time, every day. Being an incredibly inattentive gardener and watching many things die. Not travelling as much as I’d hoped to, and not seeing people as much as I wanted to.


Estimated total spend: £1143 (assuming £3 a pint; the balance here being that some are more, and some are less, and does not take in to account that I tend to drink half pints).


An increase in spending of £520, though if I used the same logic from last year, I actually only spent £571, which is less (last year’s total being £643)

Top ten beers:

10. Kissmeyer – Uusigi Syndrom
9.   Brewdog – Cocoa Psycho
8.   Chesire Brewhouse – Galaxy Blues
7.   Cromarty – Red Rye Ale
6.   London Fields – American Black IPA
5.   Beavertown – Gamma Ray
4.   Buxton – Jaw Gate
3.   Magic Rock – Dancing Bear
2.   Harbour – Imperial Chocolate Stout
1.   Brodies – Hackney IPA

(Special mention also to Brooklyn – There Will Be Black and Bristol Beer Factory – Southville Hop)

Brodies were generally grand all year, as were Magic Rock, and they would have scored more in the top ten if I weren’t self-imposing a rule about only having one beer from each brewery. London breweries did well on the whole I think, with London Field’s being pretty great, along with Pressure Drop, Redchurch and Portabello. Beavertown were also good though they managed to produce one of the rankest beers I have ever tasted…

Top ten worst beers:

10. Oak Leaf – Hole Hearted
9.   Tim Taylors – Ram Tam
8.   Great Heck – Navigator
7.   Marble – Ginger 6
6.   Camden – Gentleman’s Wit
5.   York – Dino-sore-arse (charity beer I think)
4.   Beavertown – Sour Brown
3.   Leeds – Funfair
2.   Beartown – Bearskinful
1.   Wild Beer and Fyne Ales Collab – Cool as a Cucumber

Cool as a Cucumber was undoubtedly the worst beer I tasted this year; gherkin rather than cucumber. Not refreshing on a warm afternoon. Sour Brown reminded me of a Gueuze, which I am not a fan of (I should have guessed from the name) and Camden Wit just tasted too much like Earl Grey Tea. These beers failed because the flavours used in them didn’t work. The Beartown, York and Leeds beers were simply badly made.


Top albums:

20. Danny Paul Grody – Between Two Worlds
19. Julia Holter – Loud City Song
18. Theo Parrish – Black Jazz Signature
17. M. Geddes Gengras – Collected Works Volume 1: The Moog Years
16. Darkside – Psychic
15. Arve Henriksen – Places of Worship
14. Iasos – Celestial Soul Portrait
13. Netherworld – Alchemy of Ice
12. Ben Frost – FAR
11. Clark – Feast/Beast

10. Sean McCann – Music for Private Ensemble
9.   Star Rzeka – Cien Chnmynad Ukrytyn Polem
8.   Tim Hecker – Virgins
7.   Roly Porter – Life Cycle of a Massive Star
6.   The Flaming Lips – Terror
5.   The Dead C – Armed Courage
4.   Boards of Canada – Tomorrow’s Harvest
3.   Jasper TX – An Index of Failure
2.   Mo7it Al-Mo7it – Jerusalem In My Heart
1.   Paul Jebanasam – Rites

My overall impression of music this year has been how downbeat everything is, in the sense of the feeling of malaise rather than the musical genre.

Most listened to tracks:

10.  Colin Stetson – The Stars In His Head
9.    Clinic – For The Season
8.    Saroos – Henderson Island
7.    Miles – Lebensform
6.    John Brooks – Twelve Woods
5.    James Holden – Rannoch Dawn
4.    Forest Swords – Irby Tremor
3.    David Bowie – The Next Day
2.    Emika – Centuries
1.    Boards of Canada – Reach For The Dead

Best compilations:

5.  Various Artists – The Outer Church
4.  Various Artists – Zirko: Advanced Music from Ukraine
3.  Various Artists – Where The Dancefloors Stand Still
2.  Various Artists – Who’s That Man: A Tribute to Conny Plank
1.  Various Artists – I Am The Center: Private Issue New Age Music in America 1950-1990

10 male deaths in May 2013 (in no particular order):

24th – Michael Crozier

15th – Jens Elmegård Rasmussen

5th – Robert K Ressler

26th – Jack Vance

31st – Tim Samaras

23rd – Hayri Kozakçıoğlu

22nd – Sigurd Ottovich Schmidt

16th – Heinrich Rohrer

1st – Stuart Wilde

7th – Ray Harryhausen

Intentions for 2013 (red = success):

Finish PhD
Finish Shinje
Record some new/collaborative music (completed)
Work out what exactly to do with my life once I have completed No.1 (half completed)

Additional credit achievements:

Got an actual job.
Became an uncle, twice (required no skill on my part).

Intentions for 2014:

Finish PhD (no choice on this one really)
Finish Shinje
Go cycling around the Orkneys
Find a new job
Travel more
Sort out journal publications

Comparison with 2012:

I may have consumed considerably more alcohol this year, possibly as a result of getting a new and very stressful job, but this is difficult to be certain about (the consumption that is, not the job).
I pissed around a lot less, again as a result of the above.
I read more, I slept less.
I feel like, on the whole, I did not achieve what I wanted to achieve in 2013, despite the resolutions for 2013 being fairly nebulous. Perhaps though this is just the constant anxious state we are supposed to live in now. Downbeat ending.

Summary image for 2013:

Random: Reflections on the failure of a relationship – NYE 2013?

January 25, 2013

New Year 2013

Philip Jarvis: 2012 in Retrospect

January 21, 2013

Sly and The Family Drone

January 2012 began horribly. Dumped, playing to a heckling crowd, fed up with my job. I had to kick myself up the arse.

I volunteered on my days off at a local museum, doing some work for a local historian. That was the first bit where I got to start sorting myself out. Volunteering, man, can’t sing its praises enough. If you’re ever in a rut, do some. It will seriously sort you out.

Having a creative block, an old mate returned from Uni and started forcing me in to jamming. I took some of the improv I did with him and used it in the Dead poets collective I was involved in.

Around this time, I was re-reading Stewart Lee’s book and read “A summer in the park” by Tony Allen. They are both wonderful and inspiring reads. I think, in particular, the Tony Allen book leaves you with this fearless desire to just try out whatever, believe in what improvising can offer, don’t worry if things fall flat on their arse, sometimes you can nail it.

The alternative comedy, poetry collective I was involved in did its longest set at a pub in Basingstoke.

We used it as a warm up for the biggest gig we would ever do, a local festival gig.

Before the festival gig, through luck, we ended up curating a couple of nights at a pop up gallery in Basingstoke. The first one was the best night of my life, even if it did involve a shambolic performance by me (involving a broken mic stand and a DIY homage to David Lynch).

The second one we curated I got to try out some alternative comedy:

The best band for me is Sly and the family drone. I must have seen them a few times in 2012; they always create an intense and euphoric show. Have to be seen before you die or you have lost.

The best YouTube video I saw in 2012 has to be:

The best book was “A summer in the park” by Tony Allen. It sorted my head out.

The best song I haven’t heard before was:

The year ended well. I got a new job I enjoy. I played my last gig in the collective I was in, and got offered to release a comedy album out on

I also made an e.p.

I ended up liking 2012 a lot.

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