Friday, October 23, 2015

Smart Cunts.

There seems to be a particular pack of broadly New Labour Leftists whose anger toward Corbyn I have difficulty characterizing as anything other than pathetic. To say that there is no substantive critique of their policy proposals, or a broad alternative analysis of what a post-Crash social and  economic strategy looks like, how Labour might get back into power and what the media-scape is now, would be a generous understatement; it rarely seems to get past the level of “URGGHH, look at his Beard.”+”my principled moral objection”/ “ LOL Trots and Tankies are so Eighties!” I can only conclude that Corbyn has ruined their brand, their image, tarnished the shiny New-Labour self they invested in; they liked that Blairite, business-suit-and-a-neat-haircut kind of Left, a Left comfortable with good food and nice houses, a Left that would go to war for a noble cause and help Britain punch above its weight in the world, a Left that would be taken seriously by Washington and Wall Street, that out of "realism" would do deals with Saudi and China, that was "adult" and had accepted the end of History, yet knew how to party and got why the creative industries (in which they work) were vital to the Nation etc. That's the kind of Left they want to be associated with, the kind of Left that relieved them of the burden of being uncool. Now you have to be associated with a hair-shirt, bearded pacifist Vegan in a tank top who doesn't think the economic argument is won and has all these "outmoded" attitudes. "URGGGH! look at his shirt" You don't want to rub shoulders with the uncool kids, the ones you felt superior to for years. You know a decent shirt when you see one,  you’re clued-up.

The immediate cry of "he's unelectable" also reveals something intellectually and imaginatively stunted in this over-identification with New Labour, an inability to dwell in "negative capability" a panicked desire to foreclose the moment, a movement you no longer understand .Something's  happening, there is a groundswell, the future is open, it may go in numerous directions, one needs to be  alive to  possibilities, more importantly , to seize them, more importantly still, maybe you can learn something from those people you previously dismissed, maybe a bit of humility would be in order, what, after all, did you do for the greater good during the Great Moderation you seem to somehow think New Labour conjured up for you with a slick suit and a bit of spin and which Yvette Cooper would somehow magically restore? Were you paying attention to what was on the horizon, what the foundations of your mini-golden age were built on, the direction of travel. No? None of this has caught you off guard? The Crash, the protests, the SNP, the Corbyn victory, Greece, the housing crisis, austerity. You were paying attention, close attention weren’t you, understood the axiom that the boom was merely the precondition for the nature, depth and severity of the bust? Or were you too busy congratulating yourself on being the  smart guys; all that stuff is over! And now you are wandering lost and  angry in a world you don't understand. And raging at it for being wrong. Or sulking and sniping. But hoping if you front it out long enough somehow your authority or credibility as One-Who-Gets-It will be restored.

So if anyone’s having an ongoing “emotional spasm” it’s this big bunch of petulant New Labour crybabies throwing their toys out of the pram because they don’t get to be THEY_WHO_KNOW anymore. I had a bit of this myself when a whole host of people half my age and much better informed, more highly educated than I am and roaringly articulate turned up on social media with a set of commitments and insights more radical than my own. I felt a bit threatened, I felt a  bit compromised, I adopted a defensive ego-protective approach of  tutting at their naive enthusiasms and wanting to “correct” them before having to admit, Carl, you still have lot to learn even if you are 42, swallow your unearned pride and accept that at best here you can contribute but you are in no position to command. Of course, I don’t have to have an opinion for a living, it doesn't matter much to me if I am wrong or I have to, once again, have my own limitations and shortcomings, my own relative ignorance revealed to me, to all. After all I am just an English teacher with a now very occasional blog. Imagine the discomfort of waking up one morning if you did it for a living and discovering that lots of young people think you're an irrelevance and that Seumas Milne is “a Don” (facebook, 2015). Why would they think that? Historical naivety? Unlikely, because if this generation have done one thing it’s stay in education due to limited work opportunities, and those history, political science and philosophy graduates are the ones most obliged to stay in there. Any analysis of the average level of formal education attained by the new surge of Labour supporters? I am prepared to bet there's plenty of MAs and PHDs in there. Not that that matters because they haven't had your “life experience.” and anyway we all know that degrees today aren’t as difficult as when you got your B.A. at the taxpayer’s expense.

One of the reasons Corbyn, Milne and McDonnell are popular with the young people might be  because when the student protests and Occupy happened a few years back rather than wisley chortling about its stupidity in the pub they went along to the occupation and offered support, turned up at the demos and spoke encouragingly to the confused youngsters who still can’t quite see why the treatment that Xi is getting at the moment, or our support for Saudi or Israel, our  colonial past and present, or the illegal wars we have entered into is all basically fine, “how the world works", but to suggest that Putin may be anything other than the reincarnation of Stalin or that the historical record on Communism has been distorted or that Marx may be worth reading makes you an apologist for fascism or a guileless ideologue, a danger to civilized values, eaten  away at by "liberal guilt". What’s most extraordinary and perplexing about this demographic is the bafflingly unashamed way they can talk about Communism. Remember back in the roaring, brand-new 90s when if you said things like Class or Marx or even the word Capitalism, summoning up thereby some atavistic binary in which there were oppositional ideas and movements that had now been relegated to the  dustbin  of history, you revealed your own sad attachment to a vanished world, your inability to see how times had moved on? Get with the new-speak. “Market democracy”; that was the term to use wasn’t it? “Global Forces”. “Inclusion”. And yet those terms themselves can’t be uttered straight-faced anymore. “Capitalism” is back, with all the antonyms the word invokes. That’s the link up between twenty-somethings and Corbyn’s generation. They speak the same language, use the same terms unashamedly.

Maybe that oh-so-modern, Left-Liberal position, that market-democratic triumphalism, the notion that because for a few years inflation was stable, credit loose, the banks yet to crash and a housing bubble burgeoning, we were in radically new, classless times was just wrong, even though you said it a thousand times! Even though all your clever, successful friends agreed! Who would read Capital at that point, or engage with old fossils like David Harvey, so sad! Well, thousands of young people, it turned out. Still wedded to that particular moment in your art, opinions, practice, daily Pub-patter? Still confident it’s not the 70s anymore (lol) or the 80s, that all that has been superseded. I certainly hope we won’t find you shifting your eternally sceptical realism leftward, always tracking from a wise remove the re-calibrating commonsense of the moment. Yet realists never seem to actually get to grips with the real conditions of the current moment, do they?

Oh well, you had your time at centre-stage, maybe  you made hay, maybe you lost the chances you had, maybe it will all come back again for you, but if not do try and show a bit of dignity as you are wheeled off into the wings, won't you?

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Just click the link. Your life will be instantly improved.
Stage 2 appears to be happening.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Heroic, deeply unexpected and erudite attempt to review all of the Legendary Pink Dots albums here.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Really, really good. Quite tempted to set up some kind of micro-label.
Interview on Page three of the F.T. with Corbyn, flagged up as the main headline on page 1 ( amazing triptych of headlines today). Is it me or is their a sense that he is already not just leader of the Labour party, but P.M.? That it’s a fait accompli? The wording is “Corbyn targets “ludicrous pay” and Murdoch’s media empire”. He certainly has the manner of someone who has already won but I think on the part of our overlords there is a sense that they have been rumbled, they got away with it for a while but now, fair enough, it’s time they were taken in hand.This sense of abashed resignation is the flip side of the hysteria that greets even the mildest social democratic suggestions ( Toby Young suggesting Corbyn would turn us into Venezuela, Gove’s wife invoking Stalin in paranoid, anxiety-ridden tweets before the last election.) The Right know that what they are doing is unconscionable, they know they are incapable of stopping and must be stopped and are riddled with guilt and suppressed horror at what their own ideological position forces them into, hence this alternating between hysteria and sense of passivity and inertia, They want to be punished, they also want to be saved and are themselves preparing the grounds for their own absolution/disciplining. No one is keener than the Right for the saintly Corbyn to come along and take the nightmare of their own jouissance away. Amazing scenes,as they say.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

I'll be honest, I like Howard Jacobson, but this commits the ongoing error of seeing Corbyn as a cause rather than a symptom. He's popped up, structurally in the right place at the right time allowing for a groundswell of anti-neoliberal/austerian thinking to cohere around his campaign. He seems like a nice bloke I'm sure but I would be very surprised if 90 percent of those voting for him have been seduced by his "authenticity", most likely he is a "vanishing mediator" that allows for new ideas to gain weight, enter consciousness as real opposition, and to shift the balance of power. Rather than Corbyn dazzling the simple-minded of numerous generations with his homoeopathic anti-war avuncularity and comforting, simple truths he has instead been instrumentalized by a range of disparate movements and ideas that are coalescing into a new common-sense. For anyone who has been paying attention ( i.e. virtually no mainstream political commentators) this has been going on for at least the last ten years and accelerated post the crisis of 2008. Corbyn's (anti)-charisma helps but fundamentally he is a flaw in the edifice of  business as usual that is there to be exploited, to get ideas that have gone under the radar into the public domain, to encourage anyone unhappy with current forms of social organization that they are not alone, to persuade us that there are other, coherent. well-formulated alternatives. A channel, a portal, of, affectively, roughly the right dimensions to express the ideas that he will be used to promote. No-one thinks if Corbyn loses that this movement will just all go away do they? It will be blocked for a while, but it will find other cracks, gaps, weak-points through which to assail the given and bring itself into being.

Howard likes a bit of Shakespeare doesn’t he?

There is a tide in the affairs of men, Which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat. And we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Stage one appears to be complete.

Sunday, August 09, 2015

The nub

"The entire transaction cost problem in neoclassical economic theory is itself an effort to account for economic "externalities"; all that messy political and social stuff that doesn't fit the conventional economic models of isolated individuals competing in a marketplace. In Nelson's computer utopia, as in most such visions, there's little sense of any of the constitutive character of even the most immediate of those "externalities": the expensive educational systems and the massive government funding of science and defense that provided the context for all the computer-oriented experimentation, speculation, and reflection like Nelson's. The fact that computer experts are overwhelmingly well-educated middle and upper class white males working in cozy research campuses of universities and corporations is studiously ignored. The social conditions that formed the background conditions for the computer culture and its accomplishments of the `70s and `80s -- patriarchy, class relations, the wide availability of higher education in the `50s and `60s through government programs like the GI bill -- are rendered invisible. The oft-told story of Bill Gates learning about computers in high school and then dropping out of Harvard to found Microsoft is treated as an example of classic entrepreneurial pluck, as if Gates were some modern day Robinson Crusoe operating in isolation from social support; the profound difference in social power available to the young man from a wealthy family who drops out of Harvard compared to, say, one who drops out of an inner city high school, or to a woman who drops out of college to have a baby, disappears from the computer libertarian scenarios. The expensive computer that Gates learned on in high school is treated like a fact of nature, not the product of the well-funded school system of the type increasingly available only to the privileged."

1 minute long, absolute chooooon.

Friday, August 07, 2015

The  beauty of Socialism is that it allows you to express your desire to care for others in all their distinctively awful, baffling and frustrating particularity without having to directly encounter them.  Communism or socialism offers a way to be alone, to separate from people, to have more private space, solitude, the opportunity to withdraw from the world while at the same time affirming and enacting your love for your fellow man on a generic and unconditional basis. I don’t mean by saying this that I wouldn’t work in a “”caring” profession myself, I partly do anyway (teaching) but I want to throw my arms around the world while simultaneously retreating from it, see less of people, be less obliged to be social in one sense, on a micro level while expressing a commitment to the idea of the social on another more abstract plain. Socialism allows for the possibility of  a truly contented aloneness, aloneness in which you are simultaneously  with everyone, rather than an enforced sociality in which one always feels alone.

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

I got to Hayek again.

Resolution Way

The dead she has heard someone say, must die twice, first the physical death, then the death must be recorded, ritualised, through periods of mourning, funerals, the scattering of ashes, acknowledged in stages. And perhaps they must die twice in order to live again. She remembers how for a year, perhaps more, they didn’t speak of Harvey, the father, the husband, for fear of the emotions they would provoke in each other, repressed him, kept him locked away, ghostly, gestating until one day the conversation at the dinner table turned fleetingly to him and Lee remarked how now he could hear certain songs that he associated closely with his Dad and not tear up. A few days later Paula Adonor had a dream that Harvey was sitting in the bedroom, waiting patiently as the kids hoovered up outside and made the place clean, as though in preparation for his return, and that in the dream she was Harvey too, and also the kids, and herself, watching. The room was full of light and there he was, quiet, patient, returned from his exile in death, a figure they could discuss, invoke, enjoy again.
That sublime dream in which she was everyone and all things, both herself and others the observer and what she observed and even in the telling of it language got in the way, broke things up, forced the dream to take on difference and contradiction, separation, when in that beautiful suspended moment, in that light of a life brought back from death there was no time or separation, no words, only the holistic, perfect, uncompromised image and the knowledge, the wisdom to know we are outside life or death, space and time, self and other, except that words, words will divide us up and cage us and condemn us.
Well, what does that mean? Except that Vernon, poor Vernon has not even died once, he still has so far to go before he can be return. Perhaps this interest of Alex Hargreaves’ will help to speed his passage back to the world, let him mingle with us again, silent, contented, reborn.

And as she drifts off she finds herself gently lulled and lifted out of time into a realm where all borders become progressively more porous, dissolve. It all makes sense here on the threshold of sleep, the echo-memory of the bliss of the yet-to-be-born, a mounting babble of soothing nonsense that crowds out her thoughts, language that liquefies into pure tones and dim modulations, a soft flurry of half-forgotten scenes and …..

Monday, August 03, 2015

Jamie Vex'd-end of the day, talented lad.

Sunday, August 02, 2015

Just in case you're too busy to click the link below
All kinds of stuff going on over at AYA.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Just seen Corbyn on Marr arguing for the mildest form of social democracy possible, crack down on tax evasion and reinvest in education, infrastructure and an industrial policy, break up monopolies in transport and energy through taking things into public ownership.  

Moderately redistributive Keynesian measures that half the columnists on the FT would agree with. The anti-austerity argument is not a capitalist/anti-capitalist argument it’s about how best to restore growth and spread some of the wealth around to create a virtuous circle of rising wages, investment and greater competitiveness.

Ken Livingstone, in his recent defence of Corbyn promoted a similar economic  agenda suggesting that this is what a “modern Capitalist economy” needs. So here we have the perverse spectacle  two old radicals essentially trying to save Capitalism from itself by offering it a way to re-legitimize itself, just as neoliberalism’s attempt at  offering a  shareholder democracy as a basis for mass participation in and ideological commitment to capital from the 70s onward has clearly failed.

Three things seem bizarre  about the  current hostility/panic A) that nobody in the Labour party thinks this is the centre ground and that some kind of global roll around to revived social democratic models wasn’t more or less inevitable after the  financial crisis anyway and isn’t currently gathering speed and numbers globally, so that by 2020 the world may look very different, B) that not connecting the Labour party up with local and grassroots anti-austerity initiatives, widening participation and opening it up democratically will help to arrest its decline c) that the British public rejected these ideas at x point years ago and therefore it will always do so. Never heard of buyer’s remorse? It might now be waking up to the fact that it was foolish to have done so. It might be even more remorseful in five years time, even in the equity and asset “rich” south if financialization continues apace, house prices stall, interest rates go up, wages stagnate, debt burdens mount. Do Governments never make themselves deeply unpopular with people who have previously voted for them?

The “ideological” blinkers here are all on the neoliberal side, for the Tories it’s a moral mission, undertaken with missionary zeal, to place everything worth having in the hands of those best suited to be custodians of the lower orders, the well-bred, the high-born ( themselves) and to discipline them a) into acceptance of the legitimacy of such an order, b) into moulding them through subjection to “the market” into the model of subjectivity the market demands. This has always been the  agenda but the Crisis/Austerity is the  legitimating narrative for a redoubling of this programme. The desire to discipline is such that they are of course undermining their own programme, but the excitement, the glee is so great that they are libidinally locked in. The Labour party might do all this  with a sad face, at a slower pace, but that’s the agenda with which it colludes, it’s disavowed pleasure is that of the weary parent sighing over its rueful responsibility, bullying its recalcitrant kids into seeing “sense”.

There’s a broader historical argument here about whether the British elite  have ever had much interest in industry and manufacturing and whether these things developed in Britain despite the indifference of elites who have basically only cared about a strong pound and speculating abroad and who never had any interest in maintaining a domestic manufacturing sector, were happy to dump it all in finally the 80s and get on with enjoying our comparative advantage in Finance. In a sense to become a “modern” (Capitalist) economy at this stage we have to start from scratch, fighting the hostility of Finance in the name of the “Real Economy”.

This is broadly where Corbyn is, he is the “modernizer”, in a long tradition of attempts at becoming modern constantly stymied by land-owners and the finance sector. You can say what you want about Jez, but the notion that he isn’t riding in to give us a “proper” “modern” “representative” “democratic” and revived Capitalism, just as neoliberalism promised it would, and instead is some Hard Left Leninist fifth columnist for Militant survivors and assorted Commie fellow travellers is the biggest fairytale of them all. There’s nothing remotely radical or ruthless about Corbyn, he is as surprised as anyone to find himself an expression of a newly coalescing “common sense”.

This IS the equivalent of Blairism at this stage.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

On Zardoz. Before I get on to Hayek (again).

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Right then, I am going to be sticking my oar in re Utopia Then and Now at AYA, and predictably enough using it partially as an opportunity to talk about neoliberalism and Film. Again.

Palm tree

Monday, July 13, 2015

Bliss Blood of the Pain Teens has made their entire discography available on Bandcamp. A band I have long meant to write about, maybe I'll get round to it some day, meanwhile here it all is.


Sunday, July 12, 2015

it must be hard to die in a rented room

Monday, July 06, 2015

Joy is the aim (2)

Apparently that Greek referendum was "polarizing". Was it? when 60% voted no, and no single area voted otherwise? Seems more likely to be unifying than polarizing. Perhaps that's the problem. Turns out the consensus is not where you thought it  was.

Any question which asks for yes or no is sort of likely to be “polarizing” anyway, isn’t it?

"Polarizing" in most of these repeated uses means that the mass of people have been asked to consider issues fundamental to their lives: these are difficult questions. It would be better if they didn’t task themselves with them and can’t understand them anyway,  so “polarizing” equals, likely to cause thought, debate, dispute and subject them to the stresses of political agency. How  dare a government go to the people with such pressing and complex questions, when its job is to shield them from the difficulty of thought via technocracy. Polarizing here just means profound questions, questions that touch and demand action on fundamental aspects of social organization.

But to be asked such questions and to debate or dispute them isn’t vexing, harrowing or painful, it’s essential and welcome. Political agency is not a  burden, it’s its absence  which  weighs on you and its apparent “demands” are experienced instead as a euphoria, a lightening of the load, a lifting up. The powerful affective  elements of mass participation are something Jeremy Gilbert gets at well in Common Ground, and the hunger and need for these kinds of intensities is palpable.

In his speech before the vote last night Tsipras observed, at least so the translation ran, “Democracy is joy”.

Saturday, July 04, 2015

Joy is the aim.

Couples doing stuff together is a horrible prospect. The possibilities for the twee, the smug, the self-regarding, some profound lack of aesthetic objectivity and the likelihood of a horrible public folie a deux are painfully high.

Nonetheless we now have a blog where we’ll be posting ongoing revisions to the music we are making*. It’s inevitably influenced no doubt  by the fact that Ayako is Japanese, or more especially Okinawan, or more microscopically from Miyako Jima, that I am English, from Barrow-in Furness, by a whole host of differences, similarities, tensions and overlaps, age, nationality gender, all that stuff. Also by the fact that we have lived in each others' countries, that one of us speaks the other’s language, that I have moved from complete indifference to and ignorance of Japanese culture and history  to having found my own sets of interests and engagements with it.

As we went along we made certain decisions about what we didn't want to do, nothing dark or edgy, no bass, no beats, no ambient, no drone.  We are a bit bored of the doomy, we are also a bit bored of the self-consciously avant-garde, the cool, the now, the Post. 

I think we wanted some kind of music whose function was to fortify Utopian desire, our own, and others.**

Obviously, like Utopia itself, it’s a work in progress.

*when I say “music we are making” I should again emphasise I haven’t made any of it. I have just offered suggestions

** without getting all "3D-Printers!" about it.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

I appear to be doing this. So if  you live in the area feel free to come along.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Oh yeah! Facebook page here.

Given that the spouse's capacity for self promotion, enthusiasm for networking and sense of existential urgency around being on trend makes me look like Madonna in comparison, don't worry, you won't get much more of this.

One track a week for the next six weeks. That's not too annoying, is it?

The women lucky enough to call me her spouse has made some music. I leant my discriminating ear and made several implausible suggestions that she patiently ignored, but there is still the horrible possibility that I may lend "vocals" to one or more of the tracks she has currently assembled.

You should listen to these now before I come barrelling self importantly in and ruin them.


Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Happiness, whatever....

Magical voluntarism alert!

Just spotted a book from 2011, the title of which particularly struck me. "The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology that Fuel Success and Performance at Work." Happiness no longer the ends but merely the means, happiness not as a byproduct or result but a prerequisite, attainable through the right techniques: you just need to think about things the right way. The ultimate goal, beyond any trivial personal considerations: success and performance. Happiness gives you the edge, that’s its value, that’s the only value something can have. Having kids improve your happiness? Do it, just to fuck over John in accounts when it comes to promotion. Loving relationships with a group of like-minded friends? Go for it, the uptick in your productivity might get you noticed by the boss. A wide range of hobbies and interests? Necessary to ensure that you can continue to obey the injunctions of the market past the point of any personal gain and on into the realms of some weird kind of transcendent asceticism.

“Finally Peter, I feel, I have conquered my demons, grown, know myself more and have attained happiness”

“Well it’s a bit late now! Honestly Deborah, couldn’t you have done this twenty years ago when we were applying for a mortgage!”

Of course If it was all about State and Party and being an Agent of History you’d say that was an ideological tool and a brainwashed population, if it’s all about Work, and Lifestyle and becoming a twinkling star in the “cosmos” of the competitive market it’s just a practical guide to getting on in the real-world.

No doubt there’s a million similar books out there. “Using Empathy to beat the crowd” “Compassion for CEOs: outcompete through caring” “How a Genuine Love of Humanity helped me asset strip and drive down wages without lingering remorse”.

“I found it hard to make the tough decisions that ruined thousands of people's lives on a material and psychological level. Problem was, I wasn’t happy enough. Through these six simple steps i boosted my happiness to the level where I could work 23 hours a day 365 days a year devastating the economies of developing countries through reckless speculation AND remorselessly bully , intimidate and undermine everyone below me on the corporate food chain through a ceaseless flow of contradictory, pedantic and wilfully incoherent emails. Finally I had understood what happiness was truly for.” Lyle R Gambas CEO, INVESTATECHMEDIACORP

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Interestingly, or at least interestingly to me......

A few days ago I posted on Facebook that I had a sudden strong desire to re-read “ The Book of Disquiet” by Fernando Pessoa. This urge came out of nowhere as I sat at my computer in work, and I reflected on my ex-colleague and gym buddy James Couling, how we were supposed to be reading the unexpurgated edition together at one point several years ago and how, in the gym he had the big shiny silver Penguin edition. Well this sudden surge of affect, desire, what have you was strong enough for me, uncharacteristically, to want to record it, record and display it, inscribe it  however minimally, however fleetingly, into the surface of things.

Then this morning, waiting for my coffee in The Waiting Room in Deptford and instinctively glancing along their rack of  book-exchange paperbacks, there it was. The Book of Disquiet, Penguin edition. I took it, now I have to take something in to replace it.

Three scenarios present themselves: the romantic/paranoid hypothesis. Someone I know on Facebook read my post, knows I infrequently pop into the Waiting Room on my way to work and left it there for me. Perhaps it was you, you’re secretly in love with me, perhaps a dangerous obsessive. I should be careful. Perhaps it was James himself, he left work a few years ago and appears to have cut off contact with his ex work mates, though he does still see a couple who live in Deptford and who frequent that cafe: perhaps it’s his, perhaps he’s reaching out in some way, trying to resume contact.....

Or, it’s just a coincidence.....

Or, more likely, I went in to the Waiting Room on the self-same day I posted the above, was tired, preoccupied (which I was last week, bouncing from long MA essay, to Lesson Observation and on into final (final) novel deadline, so I can’t even remember when I did last go in there) scanned the shelf of books, the rack of videos, the gig posters as I always do, saw the book but didn't see it consciously. After all the brain is constantly filtering and carving out manageable boxes of perception and packets of stimuli from what would otherwise be an overwhelming sensory assault, vast amounts of visual information is registered unconsciously and so on: you don’t know what you have seen, perhaps, if it’s not vital, or the perceptual systems under stress you only register it later, and so on. Now, if I hadn’t gone in today (or someone had already taken the book) I would have attributed this sudden Pessoa epiphany to some element within classical psychology, something looming up from the depths, the unconscious assaulting me with a sudden, seemingly causeless pang symbolizing some deeper anxiety (guilt, loss)  but really it was the outside trying to get in, and getting delayed, so the news when it arrives, seems to come from nowhere, therefore -within-. There’s also the fact that I have shit eyesight and this may be an additional factor in the delay, it took a certain length of time for my tired brain to tabulate the blurry, barely (consciously) legible visual information I did receive into the realisation that I’d seen the book. Perhaps it was only today, several days later that my brain had processed the information enough to guide me back into the cafe to go and claim the book I unconsciously always knew was there and whose presence struck me initially as mysterious and magical.  Maybe a lot of what’s attributed to the ID is just this, the slow working through of the unconsciously observed, a time-displaced set of recognitions and revelations that float in lost, decontextualized, and sit enigmatically around in your head for varying lengths of time.

Or...... it wasn’t there last week, or I never went in ( did I? so distracted all the time...memory, memory....) and it was a presentiment, a precognition, some other, grander filter flickering out and loosing power for an instant, the screens used to discreetly  arrange time into present, past, future and that grow more threadbare as you get older anyway.

I will now ask Ayako Nikawadori to open the book at random and  read out the first line she  sees:

It’s this.....

“Day after day in my ignoble and profound soul I registered impressions that form the external substance of my self awareness. “ (p341)

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Right, we are Wetherspooning.
Here from 5
then I guess
The Rockingham arms at approx 7:30
then Hipster fun in New Cross at 9:30 ish
and a late nightcap in the Greenwich Wetherspoons from 11-ish
this won't work out of  course. I don't have  a smartphone, Phil doen't even have a mobile so hopefully we will meet up at some point. Bring anyone  you like and remember we like meeting new people and have highly developed social skills.

Saturday, March 07, 2015

Phil and I are going to have a promotional pub crawl for Strangled and No More Heroes on the 27th of March. Quite what it will constitute remains to be seen. I intend to flog my author copies of No More Heroes out of my gym bag and  give the funds raised to Defend The Right to Protest. We will start in Central London around 5 then head south. London Bridge/ Elephant then New Cross/Deptford. We will figure out the exact pubs later. Essentially doing this solves one fundamental problem: the fact that I still like and get on with people who have now fallen out with each other. We will come to you, or somewhere near you, and you don’t have to not come for a quick pint through the fear that you’ll  bump into that ex-comrade who has turned out to be a psycho/ reactionary/ closet Tory/ leering Troll / treacherous Careerist, etc. If you ever contributed to the Decade’s blogs it would be great to see you, but it would be great to see you anyway. This is an open invitation. I'll update the pub location nearer the date, after full consultation with Phil. He's dead fussy.

Facebook page here.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Rather touching and illuminating Dutch documentary on Ken Livingstone and London's housing crisis. Key moment would seem to be when Ken asks why Tower Hamlets gets more than its allotted share of 25% affordable housing from the Canary Wharf Corp, and the answer is, in short, because the local council insists on 40%.


Thursday, January 22, 2015


Delighted to say I have just signed a contract  for Resolution Way with Repeater (and equally delighted that Alex Niven is undertaking the possibly arduous editing).

Speaking from a writer's perspective, to me it looks immediately like Repeater is going to be a much more honed, streamlined, author-friendly and focused set up and I have complete confidence in those in charge.

Hence, I would urge  anyone who is thinking of  jumping in and  pitching to them to do so. 

Friday, January 16, 2015

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Field of Dreams

Contains nothing but spoilers!

There’s lots of impressive things about Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar and to a degree it made me want to go back and re-watch some of his earlier films and think more about his recurring obsession with time (plus the frozen planet is highly reminiscent of his second movie Insomnia, which I hardly remember at all.) It’s certainly all very clever, as you would expect, and technically accomplished but as per usual with Nolan you’re left wondering why the political vision of the film is in comparison so abysmally lacking. 

The earth is running out of food due to The Blight, but despite this armies have been abolished. Oh aye? That seems unlikely. No ongoing resource wars then? No rich people stockpiling grub, no warlords sitting on top of dwindling fresh water supplies? Nope. But there is a benign secret NASA project to get man off the earth, this is despite the seeming loss of the questing American frontier spirit, as embodied by Cooper a last Man among Last Men, and his feisty daughter Murph, who gets into a fistfight over liberal revisionist histories that portray the moon landings as a hoax to sucker the Ruskies into a ruinous space race. Green liberals, here schoolteachers, would have us wallow in the dirt as farmers rather than head for the heavens, worrying all the time about squandering the world’s last precious resources when the earth should really just be viewed as something we use up in order to get out into space, fulfilling our godlike destiny among the stars. So essentially, in this film the world’s environmental problems are just absolutely insoluble but travelling through a wormhole into different dimensions then ultimately transporting the rest of humanity there, perfectly do-able. 

Brand, the head of the NASA project has told a “noble lie” there is no plan to ship earthlings out, but to repopulate the new planet from scratch with some frozen embryos. Brand couldn't tell the humans this, they would never agree to go if it didn't mean rescuing their own loved ones and so have had to be tricked into it, sheeple that they are, though from a genuinely, scientifically disinterested perspective, why is the continued existence of humanity as a species of any importance whatsoever, unless, as the Nolans obviously do, you regard humanity as having some kind of transcendent value, to, in effect, be the meaning of the cosmos itself? Not merely the human as the apex of all existence, but specifically the ruggedly individualistic, American male, cornerstone of the divinely ordained American family with his love for his daughter and his powerful will, embodied in his unbreakable “promise”,  a force powerful enough to shape and bend all of time and space to his ends. Better this than sitting quietly alone, waiting for the end, eh? Ah, man and his pathological sense of dignity! 

 And here lies the heart of Interstellar’s deep conservatism, remorseless natalism and nostalgia. Possibly the reason Cooper is so desperate to get those surviving on earth off planet is so that they can continue the great American project, maintain the sacred order of property, family, and tradition. The first thing Cooper sees on awakening in the space station at journey's end is some kids playing baseball outside his window in a dustless facsimile of 1950's USA. Paradise restored! Who knows, a whole load of awoken embryos might have decided to do it all differently? 

But then again of course, being human, they couldn't. We might plunge through the event horizon and wind up in a five dimensional Tesseract, but that other horizon, a life beyond home and family, beyond the inevitabilities of reproduction, property, the grand kids at your deathbed,  the couple, and that couple best expressed as love between a straight man and woman ( though in this the woman’s love, rather girlish and not to be trusted, leads them almost into doom, whereas Cooper’s love for his daughter is the force that ultimately saves us all), that horizon, internal, genetic, hard wired is impassable, breaching that, unthinkable.

 In this respect Interstellar is just another conservative vision of American Renewal, a highly unlikely prospect that requires all kinds of increasingly epic torsions of time-space to seem faintly credible. One day, on distant stars, we will sit swilling beer on the porch with our robots, secure in the knowledge that there was only ever one way to live, one form of life we were just bound biologically into, which reached its apotheosis and then presumably went out into the Universe like a great cancer, strip mining and devastating everything it found, humanity metastasising identikit McMansions into the cosmos’s deepest folds.

This is almost certainly Elon Musk's favourite film eva.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Radical change is possible and necessary but only if alternative thinking has the courage to move out of the margins. Repeater is committed to bringing the periphery to the centre, taking the underground overground, and publishing books that will bring new ideas to a new public. We know that any encounter with the mainstream risks corrupting the tidiness of untested ideals, but we believe that it is better to get our hands dirty than worry about keeping our souls pure.


Looks like this has a publication date of 27th of March. It's "Holding out for a hero" retitled. Phil and I will attempt a promotional pub session for this and "Strangled" around the time. You are all invited.

Massive thanks to Owen Hatherley for converting it from a blog to manuscript form.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

English Fields.

In Kill List the country is divided between the killers, trapped in awful marriages, up to their eyeballs in debt, desperate to hang on to their suburban new builds, their victims: the marginal, denizens of a grey, wintry edgeland of damp basement flats, lock ups, factories and industrial estates, and the cultic higher orders, whose arcane practices and rituals are as ancient as their hold on power.

Marriage is a battlefield, kids are collateral damage. Friendships may erupt into violence at any moment. Work is a series of bloody tasks carried out under the auspices of  vastly powerful forces with whom one wittingly or otherwise has signed a blood oath, the exact nature of which is deeply uncertain.  Everyone, even your own partner, regards death as a merciful release.Your complicity in your own destruction is the only thing that is guaranteed.

In this sense Kill List is the first great film of Austerity Britain.

The damaged veteran finding ways to readjust to and deploy his skills on Civvy street is a common recent theme in British film, but there’s nothing noble or sympathetic about Jay and Gal. Nor do they have that surplus of confidence, the familiarity with violence and the  rugged self determination that often makes the demobbed squaddie a hero figure. In fact they lack agency and soon become fearful of what they have got themselves into. In Nick Love’s Outlaw, the returned soldier raises a vigilante gang to combat The Establishment, but in Kill List they continue to be its pawns.

There have been all kinds of heated theorizations about how and if Kill List’s elliptical and allusive narrative ties up.  But Kill List is less interesting for what it means than what it does, enacting a violent rupture with and within its genre conventions, bringing the British Gangster movie under pressure from two directions, Loachian realism and Gothic horror. Only hammering these two seemingly irreconcilable forms together can adequately get at the texture of the moment: cold dread, incomprehension, the sense that things are out of your control, your life is not your own.

We are a long way here, from cheeky London-centric capers like Lock, Stock and Two Smoking barrels. This an England which, during the pomp of the post-historic and classless 90s and Noughties had been banished, never to return.

Food Bank Britain, ATOS Britain, UKIP Britain, with its endlessly declining pay, rising rents, spiralling debts. Home to the nine poorest areas of northern Europe as well as its single richest. A country riven by a series of fantastical, overlapping revelations, phone hacking, financial manipulation, VIP paedophiles, police corruption. A nexus of vested interests intent on occulting and exculpating it all.

To be plunged into such a world, such a crisis, to have a set of prior assumptions whisked away,  is disorienting, disturbing, nerve-jangling, the pieces can't yet be fitted fully together, something terrible is happening, has perhaps always been happening, History has returned in all its devastating, vertiginous enormity, not, or not yet at least as the continuation of a progressive project but as a nightmare.

The film was shot in Sheffield, the setting for one of Ben Wheatley’s favourite non-horror horror films, the harrowing nuclear attack docu-drama, Threads.

In an interview for a A Field in England Ben Wheatley suggests that it should be thought of as a prequel to Kill List. Loath as I am to disagree with the director’s assessment of his own work, I am going to suggest that the reverse is true. That  Kill List, a film about the present, can’t help but be about the  past.  A Field in England, though it’s set during the civil war is really a film about the future.

If there is an initially terrible, traumatic return of history in Kill List, history as the piling up of disasters, trauma on trauma, the evil plan of the establishment, the Illuminati, the dark ones unfolding. In A Field in England a countervailing set of societies, movements, and organizations is evoked, the history of the long struggle for liberation. There is some corner of an English field, that is forever foreign, committed to experiment, to rejection, to turning the world upside down,  pushing toward the new, and the film itself, with its baroque stylization and breathtaking formal boldness, maintains fidelity to this tradition as it invokes it.

Again the film deals with soldiers, conscripts, rather than professionals who exit the civil war, enter a different field and decide to strike out together to look for an alehouse. This though is  a ruse and they are dragooned instead into a treasure hunt. After a few brief moments as masterless men they are again set to work. “I am my own man, I am my own man” Jacob repeats angrily as he digs for treasure at gunpoint.

Whitehead’s story could be the drab, reactionary tale of a cowardly intellectual who through learning to kill becomes more-than-human, somewhat like Dustin Hoffman’s character by the end of Straw Dogs. But in seeking to return to his master and fullfil his task in a repeat of the films opening point of view shot as he plunges through the hedgerow, he is instead returned to the field and finds Friend and Jacob reborn and silently waiting. The final shot is a tableau of the three men, memorialised, charged with an eerie significance.

The inability to escape from a particular location, with all the narrow, winding roads  leading you eventually back to doom, is a  trope of rural horror, a spacialization of circadian, rural rhythms, the modern progressive man, rider of times arrow fallen into the vortex, we might say, given that Peter Strickland’s superb Berberian Sound Studio deals with similar themes the Equestrian Vortex, of deep time. But here it is used to different, more optimistic ends.

From the flux and chaos of the battle, from their repeated deaths and rebirths, from their having travelled as far into and out of themselves as its possible to go the men have been transformed. Whitehead is now caught up in a particular social field, a particular set of relations. Toward the  end of the film Jacob tells him that all along the true treasure was here between them. They have become masterless, finally, not through some abstract notion of freedom, nor by slipping away through the hedgerow, but precisely by staying within the field, altering their relation to it,  their relation to each other. Here it is a field, but it could a square, a street, an estate, a nation, a world. This is a process, an alchemical process, which we might call comradeization, in which they no longer are “their own men”, but of and for each other.

In this way the film is not just of a piece with the neglected films of the  60’s and 70s regularly tagged as influences, from Witchfinder General to Culloden, from Winstanley to Blood on Satan’s Claw but also with more trenchant, overtly politicized  treatments of the theme,  Peter Hall’s Akenfield and Bill Douglas’ Comrades.

In returning to the past, to the Civil War and its role in accelerating enclosure A Field in England returns us to the problem of ownership, the commons and land rights, something previously considered to be an issue mainly for indigenous peoples in the developing world. The term re-peasantization is used now to talk about the movement of the young unemployed in Spain, or Greece out of urban centres.

When the city can offer us nothing but precarious employment as servants of the rich, it’s not rural but urban life that begins to look like the idiocy.  A Field in England reminds us that the countryside is no idyll, is as much an arena of power and conflict as anywhere. Who knows but that groups of radicals returning to the land, as they have periodically, will find themselves in solidarity with rural workers, against the ancient estates and the group approvingly identified by the Telegraph back in 2004 as the new squirearchy of our neo-feudal times.

But A Field in England is also cut from more millenarian cloth, imbued with other, longer range fantasies and fears. Finally, when all social relations breakdown, when the end comes, when the credit dries up and the oil runs out, when the waters rise or exotic diseases decimate the globe and Malthus has the last laugh, we will be obliged to return to the land and the great cycle will be complete.

In Threads, Ben Wheatley’s favourite non-horror horror film, after the bitter decade-long night of the nuclear Winter has passed, rudimentary communities spring up again to till the soil that, momentarily at least, has been returned to them.

It has taken a war to get them there.