Thursday, May 27, 2004


I've finally linked all my blogs to each other, and explicitly descibed the themes where I've felt it necessary. Not here of course. I'm not sure about keeping separate hats on, but it seems more immediately practical to run multiple personalities with Blogger, than to mess around with installing a solution that supports categories.


I don't always agree with Jonathan James, but he's always interesting. That's what I pay him for I suppose. He's spot on here, on the aftermath of the Leyton fire, apart from one thing "the Dantean wastes of Hackney Marshes" ???

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Was it art?

Fire destroys art warehouse in London, many works feared to be gone, but nobody really knows what, or isn't saying. Chances are you've breathed in some of the art-molecules by now. I'm in agreement with Brian Sewell on this one:


Today a painful task will begin in Leyton, east London: picking through the remains of a devastating fire which destroyed a huge warehouse containing priceless works of art. Many of the lost works are from the collection of Charles Saatchi. It is thought that they may include Jake and Dinos Chapman's Hell.

Tracey Emin's famous Everyone I Have Ever Slept With may be another: the tent appliqued with the names of her past lovers was the star of the famous Royal Academy Sensation! exhibition and to many became emblematic of the endeavours of a generation of young British artists. "I don't know what specific pieces have been lost," Mr Saatchi said yesterday. "So far it has been a day of many rumours."

Momart's clients include the National Gallery, Tate Modern, Tate Britain and Buckingham Palace, and the destroyed warehouse made up 5 to 10% of the company's storage capacity.

Brian Sewell, the London Evening Standard's art critic, told BBC News 24 that the blaze "had the makings of an appalling tragedy for the history of contemporary art".

The Big Smoker has some reportage on this incident too:

The best report of the whole incident, however, comes from The Telegraph (and you won't find us saying that very often).

Under the headline The night Hell was consumed by flames The Telegraph actually talks to the Chapman Brothers and manges to get some typically Chapmanesque quotes from the pair:

"We will just make it again. It's only art."
"I suspect it will in fact have gone up in value if it has been burnt to death."And on Emin's tent being destroyed: "That would be nice."

But what's nice about the Telegraph's article is they dare to tell us that there were works in the warehouse apart from those belonging to Saatchi!

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

crazy pc aesthetics

Gasp at another case-modder's madness, tracked at Gizmodo. This time its post-holocaust incinerated rebel chic.

Er, beige?

Sunday, May 23, 2004

the curious incidence of the book of the dog-type

It really shouldn't surprise me that the same book comes at me from three directions at once -- some comments in a minute. After all, the worlds of personal recommendation, distributed book groups and blogs are all structured in obedience to the same large network rules. Such considerations, more than any flawed metaphors involving bees, ants or even caterpillars (c.f. Jean Henri Fabre) show that acknowledgement (of fame if you fancy) like wealth, flows to the already acknowledged. Not exclusively, even the most obscure nodes retain some links. I'r pant rhed y dŵr (Welsh: the water runs to the stream). The link-landscape gives a power-law distribution of link density, with the already famous (the book I mentioned, Alicia Keys CDs, Slashdot) getting more so all the time.

I didn't think it would be like this. I distinctly remember, aghast at the music charts as a teen, thinking that if only the record companies weren't pushing their top 10 crap at us then my friends and I would be able to listen to what we wanted (this was when the High Street was the market). Then in the Nineties, the same train of thought -- pushed along by the Internet! Hurrah: what better way than an autonomous network of like-minded punters recommending and identifying valuable works, so distributing glory all around! But now, faced with a wall of pink noise, it seems that I want the powerful pushers even more, just to stir up the little-linked-to sediment of the stream from time to time. Otherwise all we'll get is Bridget Jones and Lovely Bones. As long as the sediment-stirrers are not from marketing.

Okay, here's the bit about the dog book. This lovely work has totally blitzed the book charts here in the UK. A price war certainly helped (and one point most supermarkets were offering it at less than four pounds! Anyone else remember the NBA?). It's also the Book Crossing UK forum topic right now.

Back to the incident of the dog in the book-time. You've read the reviews I suppose, and probably the book by now, so I won't bother with any precis as such.

Make sure you check the UK Amazon reviews -- the US ones plaster the cake in excessive icing sugar and largely the misconstrue the local social conditions.

Is this book about the two cultures in microcosm? Christopher is a supreme technician in an intuitive world. Ahh lovely. Don't forget though, that he has real problems. He's not just a "different" boy. He groans involuntarily, blacks out, has violent outbursts, can't face getting on the Tube train, and wets himself. He's 15. Somehow though, he finds expression in logic and mathematics. But this isn't just something he finds solace in, it is what he does, what he is.

Look at that review again: Jackie Gropman "The appendix of math problems will intrigue math lovers, and even those who don't like the subject will be infected by Christopher's enthusiasm for prime numbers and his logical, mathematical method of decision making."

This seems to miss the point -- the bi-cultural gap all over again? Furthermore (and making no apology for pedantry) it's not "problems", it's a single proof. There's really no such thing as a maths lover, any more than a breathing lover or a walking lover. And the mathematics is not optional for Peter, it is the only natural language he has. Siobhan, his teacher/mentor, being of the other culture but able to see across the gap, recommends that he put it in the appendix.

Here is writer/producer James Schamus and director Ang Lee on the expressive role of the combat in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
JS: in this film, the acting, the drama has a kind of martial arts choreography to it. It has that kind of grandness and scale. And the martial arts themselves are a kind of dance and very abstract art: motion, editing, movement, image.

AL: through the martial arts you express how you feel instead of just beating someone up. There is a dramatic quality to it.

JS: the people are expressing where they are, their ambiguities and ambibalences, the conflicts they feel. In most of the fights in this movie, the people can't fully fight, because emotionally they are torn. So, the fighting is a way of thinking and feeling and relating.

AL: [the two main characters] have to repress their desires. That's what counts in their business and in their lifestyle. It's a quality of how they look at themselves. Perhaps they only express themselves fully when they fight.

It's the same here. Just as if you were to close your eyes during the combat in Crouching Tiger you would not "get it", all of these pictures and puzzles in curious incident... are integral to the work. You have to read, not just look at, Peter's A-level examination answer, if you want to understand his character fully. The English text that ends the book is in fact a false ending (seemingly coming into the author's own voice "I have written a book and I can do anything") but the proof that Peter gives is the real ending. The structure and style of the mathematical work is expressive of Peter's own self.

Look how controlled and fluid it is. Look at the emphasis of the demonstration of the final inequalities: it is not equal. Not equal. Not equal. There is force in his poetry. Look at the impressive size of the coefficients he chooses to use to exemplify his point. No simple 3-4-5 triangle for him. And the final flourish: QED. I have shown what was to be demonstrated. I have power.

I love the way that graphs, equations and charts are integral to this book, especially given how popular it is. There's a growing amount of literature now that escapes the divide of letter and image. Perhaps, thanks to the laser printer, Gutenberg's revolution is over: Art and letters and numbers together again, at last. In places on the web text/image integration is already flourishing. In-text images are everywhere in books too now, and not just symbolic glyphs devised by the typesetter, like a nice leaping swordfish popped into the chapter numbers of a deluxe edition of a Hemingway. The exact image placed by the author (or authors) in the text now constitutes part of the work. Look at David Eggars' You Shall Know Our Velocity. His diagrams and scans are not schematic or notional graphical quotations. These are exactly what Eggars wants you to see and think about.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

new word !

This is a really shiney one, but it's all twisted:


However will they unimprove the language next? Non-uncoincidentally, it feels like 1984 all over again, which can only be double plus ungood.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Three Random Pieces

Recipe: take Three Random Texts of Kindness. Add a drop of Connectivity. Shake it All About. See What emerges.

  1. Waiting for a train, I see a book. It has been left there by another. Like blogs, Geocaching and phoning the wrong number deliberately (generic link), this behaviour employs serendipity in a purposeful way. Planning to release the book soon, I see that the requirements for the release site are quite particular. Into a place with no footfall and the flow is lost. There's slim chance of survival in a place, like a London tube station whose cleaners are vigilant for much worse leavings, where the flow is a torrent or where sanitation policies forbid any strange additions. The middle-sized stream is best, where there are interesting people, amongst the muggles coming and going at all times, who are not too busy to stop and think. University toilets seem the obvious choice, but too obvious. A certain degree of don't-care-what-happens is needed.

  2. Hey! I found a widget that will randomise Powerpoint. Ideal for language learning! The class seem appreciative enough of my efforts. Hopefully they will add to the pile of words, for all to share and enjoy.

  3. It reminds me of sticker literature. For those waiting for Brit Stick Lit 0.1 (an apparently random selection of sticky micro-texts), be assured that the project is not forgotten. We hope to have something to share soon. The requirements for sites are simular to the book-freeing areas, and just the same insouciance is mandatory.

Turner prize

The Tate gallery's Turner Prize is always a bit of a giggle, isn't it? Invariably, the entrants are the subject of: ridicule, fame, wealth, adulation and finally grudging respect (let's auction off an old Tracey Emin for our school shall we, now that she's A Nartist? Oh! now she's bunged us some cash, sweet!).

This year's crop is a bit serious. Official site here, announcing shortlist, and Grauniad commentage, plus photos.

Friday, May 14, 2004

mirror mirror

Because I have no desire to clog up this affectedly useless strand of thought with anything remotely utilitarian, I've started a new outlet down the road. You might see me behind the counter wearing long trousers and a tie. Here it's more like cut-offs and festival T-shirt, maybe a beret.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004


            O      I
           am     my 
          own    way
         of being in
         view and yet
         invisible at
         once Hearing 
          you see I
          see all of 
         whatever you 
        can have heard
       even inside the 
      deep silences of
     black silhouettes
    like these images
   of furry surfaces
  darkly playing cat
 and mouse with your
doubts about whether
other minds can ever
be drawn from hiding
and made to be heard
in inferred language
 I can speak only in
  your voice Are you
   done with my shadow
    That thread of dark

John Hollander. Kitty, Black domestic shorthair


1st time I've noticed Auntie referring to a weblog in an article about something other than weblogs. Usually, BBC sidebar links are blue-chip entities.

is_it_art (eye++)

A garden in Edinburgh has won an art prize. Rather intermediate in scale (much larger than a Chelsea Flower show piece, smaller than a Capability Brown) this cuddly space -- uh oh, Teletubbies! -- reminds my eye of a user-friendly Spiral Jetty.

Monday, May 10, 2004

round corners, ooeee.

So, Blogger has been rebranded (more "amiable" apparently). The template selection has mushroomed, most with the near-obligatory round corners and dot-grid backgrounds. Are round corners the new bevelled edges? It's not all eye-candy, things *are* now more organised behind the curtain.

I've mashed up Repulsive Monkey with "565" by Douglas Bowman. The template change has lost my sidebar links, haloscan comments and other tweaks: monkey has some housework to do (those gifs suck, sorry don't communicate my brand, for a start). So you can expect drift words to drift unchanged for now.

Sunday, May 09, 2004

Brancusi vs USA

Listen to this R3 docu-drama and decide yourself whether art is futile, or utile.

US customs threatened a 40% tax on an import of a Brancusi bronze "L'Oiseau", which leaning to ultimate abstraction, was not believed to be a Bird, and therefore could be a mystery utensil, and thereby taxable.

I'll see you in court!

all together then

1000's of gymnasts in grainy sepia

Another resonance to some psuedo-mathematical work of mine, this time in this mass of gymnasts (seen in the excellent Ratchet Up).

Again, note how some some directions of view are filled, and others appear sparse. In sampling the scene from a fixed point we can see things that literally are not there.

The exhibition that goes with this is about commun(al/ist) physical exercise regimes. These days we are each on our own in that regard (mass consumption is what we are disciplined for, no?). As it happens I'm metaphorically on a mountain path somewhere, moving backwards, looking forward.

Thursday, May 06, 2004


Pollen Forecast: The oak tree pollen season has now started from the Midlands south, it affects approximately 20% of hay fever suffers. The birch tree pollen season is in decline in the south but highs are still likely in the north. However, showery weather will keep counts remaining low to moderate. The outlook for Friday is similar.

Thankfully, I'm immune. But an oak (quercus robur ) is parked above my car, which, with the rain, makes for some diverting effects.


Saturday, May 01, 2004

sticky lit

Jill: You could write the first British sticker novel.

Matt: I could. Part 1 is going well, thanks to the miracle of the anthological method (verbal collage). A reviewer is needed. Any offers?

Sample Stickers:
  • The structural confusion of The Pillow Book is generally regarded as its main stylistic weakness; yet surely part of its charm lies precisely in its rather bizarre, haphazard arrangement in which a list of 'awkward things', for example, is followed by an account of the Emperor's return from the shrine, after which comes a totally unrelated incident about the Chancellor that occurred a year or two earlier and then a short, lyrical description of the dew on a clear Autumn morning.

  • A similar case is 'Rule Britannia'. The correct second line of the chorus is 'Britannia, rule the waves.' It is frequently, though not quite universally, sung as ‘Britannia rules the waves’. Here the insistently hissing ‘s’ of the meme is aided by an additional factor. The intended meaning of the poet was presumably imperative (Brittania, go out and rule the waves!) or possibly subjunctive (let Britannia rule the waves). But it is superficially easier to understand the sentences as indicative (Britannia, as a matter of fact, does rule the waves).

  • I spent little time at home now, so I was unable to be a detailed witness to the Great Love in the same account-keeping way as before. I did notice that Eva’s absorption in the particulars of Dad's life had waned. They saw fewer Satyajit Ray films now, and went less to Indian restaurants; Eva gave up learning Urdu and listening to Sitar music at breakfast. She had a new interest; she was launching a huge campaign. Eva was planning her assault on London.

  • Things have changed, things have remained the same, over the past 10 years. London's pub aura, that's certainly intensified, the smoke and the builders' sand and dust, the toilet tang, the streets like a terrible carpet. No doubt there' ll be surprises when I start to look around, but I always felt I knew where England was heading. America was the one he wanted to watch...

  • It was raining heavily outside and the streets, glassy and shiny, were largely deserted as I spent down Great Darkgate Street to the hospital. My heart was racing and my mouth dry with fear; the news that ________ was dead meant nothing, but the revelation that _________ and _______ had been lovers was a pile-driver to the heart. At the hospital I parked as close as I could get to the main door, stepped out and walked across through the driving rain to the garishly lit entrance.