Friday, February 16, 2007

Portsmouth: World Centre of Urban Culture

I'm reading an interesting book on cultural development at the moment, by Charles Landry, called The Creative City. In the first few pages Landry hypothesises that "...every city could be a world centre for something if it was persistent and tried hard enough."

This got me thinking. What could Portsmouth be a world centre for? What distinguishes our city from others? I know that there is an instant temptation to make jokes about this, which I can fully understand, but seriously? Is Landry right, and is Portsmouth missing a trick (you can't really count our half-hearted 'The Waterfront City' - I know we're an island but we can't lay claim to to every coastline on the planet).

So far, I've only come up with two options:

Portsmouth: World Centre for Maritime Industrial Culture - not exactly catchy is it?

Portsmouth: World Centre for Industrialized Urban Deprivation - this is not that appealing and would also make our initials WC-IUD, which isn't a great impression either.

Is this too much like marketing? Can I see nothing singularly positive about our city? Does this say more about me than about Portsmouth? Stay tuned for answers to these life puzzles and more....

As far as I can see, local economies are becoming more and more dependent on creative industries, of which tourism is one, whilst the funding to the same decreases (- certainly via local authorities anyway, according to a report late last year from John Holden at Demos). This leaves leisure and cultural services - like museums, arts, archives, libraries and tourism - in a rather strange pickle.

Many local authorities up and down the country are getting themselves involved with the state equivalent of loan sharks, PFI deals, are putting their services into trust (not in itself necessarily a bad option, but not necessarily a good one either if purely financially motivated) or closing them down completely. Moreover, because of the different ways in which local authorities are organised up and down the country, it is not easy for these services to come together en masse and raise awareness amongst the public, either.

As ever, love to hear your thoughts. But that's enough politics for one day. Here's the ever brilliant, ever beautiful Imogen Heap with Hide and Seek.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

The Reclamation will not be televised

There is a fantastic story in today’s News:

“…a tree in Gosport has been bizarrely adorned with a collection of mugs and teacups…the (local) authority has had enough and vowed to prosecute those responsible for littering if the tree is decorated again.

Those responsible for the bizarre tree decorations have so far kept quiet as to why they have been doing this. The News has received numerous letters and calls from readers asking that the decorations be kept. But the council has now put its foot down (what? In the tree?) and vowed to get tough with the decorators.”

Awesome. I think any ‘pranks’ and statements in public space can only be a positive thing. Having said that, I am also a huge fan of graffiti and guerrilla art, so I would be a supporter of this particular storm in a tree cup (Oh God, I’ll need at least 10 minutes to stop laughing at my own pun there).

Someone has remarked in the article that the mugs may fall down in high winds and harm someone, but apparently they are tied on, so it seems a low risk. Further, if we wanted to get picky, the tree could fall down in high winds but no one is making a case for taking that down!

Reclaim the streets and the trees and the plants and the parks and the billboards and the pavements and the walls and the shop fronts! Reclaim it all! Hurrah!

Iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiin the meantime, though, here are some Subvertising Sites to start you off:

The Graffiti Research Lab

The Anti-Advertising Agency


The Bubble Project

See also this great article in Wikipedia about Culture Jamming.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Come not between the dragon and his wrath. King Lear

An anime Princess of Cups by Teresa Dietzinger over at Studio Onyx

It was a glorious Valentine's Day, and I rarely say that. Actually I don't think I've ever said that before.

I spent a highly productive day at the Ministry preparing some briefings for the Chief's return next week. This also meant that I got to spend a lot of time with Miss Sally and the lovely Michael of the Museums, and to chat about the joys and deceptions of being a grown up. That conversation is the first time in ages that I've felt young and vulnerable - and genuniely hopeful, well, hope quarter-full, at least - which can be no bad thing.

The highlight of my day was due to be, as some of you may recall, the joys of Hot Fuzz with the wholesomely lovely Nick Frost and Simon Pegg. Unfortunately I was a complete twat and didn't book tickets and when we arrived they had all sold out. And I mean all. It seems as though I am not the only HF fan in the village, because there were no seats left for the 20.30, the 21.40 or 23.05 shows. How rude is that? The most annoying thing is that I'd even checked the website and THOUGHT about booking them during the day. But I didn't.

Ah well. What do we do when a good plan falls down? Well, I sulked for about ten minutes, obviously, that's compulsory, and then I went home, watched some TV and had an early night. Nothing else for it. The world didn't even have the good grace to send me steamy dreams of my favourite comedy duo. Dang.

So, instead, I am taking my sister to see it on Friday, which will be just as good. And I'm booking the tickets right now.

Tonight, I'm looking forward to another cultural experience, King Lear at the Nuffield Theatre.

This is the excellent foppery of the world, that, when we are sick in fortune, -- often the surfeit of our own behaviour, -- we make guilty of our disasters the sun, the moon, and the stars: as if we were villains by necessity; fools by heavenly compulsion; knaves, thieves, and treachers, by spherical predominance; drunkards, liars, and adulterers, by an enforced obedience of planetary influence. King Lear

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Nah messing

Nice receptionist. I should know. I've been one.

The day started well as Simon Pegg (remember him?) was on GMTV this morning - many thanks to the fabulous El Clark for texting to tip me off. Even my visit to the dentist couldn't spoil it. Although their receptionist could have. My dentist has recently got a new receptionist and frankly, she's a bitch. She's rude, indiscreet, passive-agressive, rude, loud, did I mention rude? These qualities would normally endear me to a woman - like attracts like - except for one thing.

She is only nasty to other women.

That fact bites me, it bites me hard. And not in a good way. You put a man in front of the Alpha Harpy and suddenly she's this self-deprecating, cooing, overly-polite and falsely caring person. As I watched her this morning (for almost 40 minutes, my dentist was running late and I didn't take a book so I needed to read something), I felt my resentment rising as she barely made eye contact with a series of perfectly polite and inoffensive women (me not included, obviously, but there were others) yet almost oozed clean off her chair for any human with a dangly appendage.

I tried to empathize, and imagined a series of awful things that could have happened in this woman's life to make her this way. However, after about five minutes of that I realised I wasn't empathizing, I was enjoying the exercise. In the end, I did the only thing I ever do with people puzzles I cannot solve. I psychically dissolved her presence from the/my (either/or) Universe until I can figure out her problem and thus prevent it making me impotently angry.

I am fairly practiced at this: it involved a very clear will to disengage with someone and then to stop perceiving them. Usually I do this by leaving their environment, but in this instance she had to serve me later, so I spent the whole interaction looking at her right eyebrow and visualising a young, polite, red-haired woman who looked a bit like Jessica Stephenson (I told you I've been watching too much Spaced lately).

She was a lot more pleasant to deal with as a result. Well, technically, she seemed a bit bewildered and as I left, she was frantically rubbing at her right eyebrow.

Here's Terra Naomi, who you might recognise from a previous post. This one is called Vicodin, and thanks to Kit Kat for finding it for us. Doesn't it just capture the painful glory of the substance abuser?

Monday, February 12, 2007

Every person takes the limits of their own field of vision for the limits of the world. Arthur Schopenhauer

Tonight's Daily is dedicated to the art of animation. A friend of mine from the Central Library, David Kemp is an illustrator and animator and via Dave's rather fabulous Myspace site, I discovered a YouTube for Animators, called aniBOOM, which is set to become my favourite thing du jour.

One of the first animations I looked at led me immediately to the website of some Hungarian animators, whose work I loved. I watched Chaos Theory by Gergely Szelei, which I thought was disturbing and exciting all at once. Much more instantly appealing was the poignant animation, Memento, above, which you might need to watch full screen, or download and watch from the creator's website here.

I spent a long time on aniBOOM, not for the last time, I suspect. Plus, if I ever get the urge, I can also make my own animations using the Shapeshifter programme on the site - my favourite was the BatMan.

The rebellious anti-capitalist in me loved this one, but for goodness sake don't watch it at work! Swearing alert! Swearing alert!

For sheer orginal quirkiness, this one made me laugh the most.

I love Spock.

On the way home tonight, I stopped in the Coop for some dinner (Miss Sally, if you're reading, I followed your lead and bought some smoked mackerel for dinner, and you're right, I feel much better for it) and got into conversation with my old boss.

Somehow the conversation turned to the subject of masturbation - don't ask me how, the only thing I can tell you is that conversations like this follow me around - I remember, it's because he trades in old books in his spare time and he has just sold a book from 1834 on the perils of 'self-abuse'.

"Wow." I said, finally, not really knowing him well enough to comment much further.

"I know," he nodded, "Still, it's all lost on me, I was raised by Jesuits."

There was a long silence in which we stared at each other. I struggled to understand the significance of this comment, and how exactly I always manage to work myself into these conversations. He stared back at me, perhaps waiting for the dawn of understanding. It didn't appear.

"They teach you what to think about, you know so you won't......"

I nodded furiously, half-desperate for the conversation to be over and half-desperate to know what these mysterious preventative thoughts might be. Logic won out in the end. I don't want to know what those terrible thoughts that are designed to prevent what Woody Allen once described as "sex with someone I love."

I have a hard enough job of filling my spare time as it is.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Something for the weekend

The Chief has a habit sometimes of narrating our time together as if it were the product of a living novel. Sometimes he does this to make a point, for example if I say something facetious, he will say something like: "Suddenly, a car swept past at great speed, at this precise moment The Smurf stepped forward and it hit her. The Chief shed a brief tear, and walked on. He gave a beautiful speech at her funeral."

I always find this habit endearing, as well as a little disturbing, because I have done the same thing in the back of my mind since I was a child. I assumed that it was something writers did, and that this was how we knew our destiny. Of course, now that I am older and know a little of amateur psychology, I realise it is further proof of my ongoing and consistent self-obsession. But I still think it's a little endearing.

I'm at a crisis of self-confidence with my writing at the moment, a crisis that I'm probably in danger of spinning out into an excuse for a period of inactivity. I've been looking at some old morning pages for inspiration over the last couple of days. The morning pages are an idea from a useful book called The Artist's Way by a woman called Julia Cameron, and they entail getting up in the morning and writing 3 pages of stream-of-consciousness writing every day. I went through a stage in 2003 of doing the morning pages every day. I've never re-read them because there's a rule that you're not allowed to look at them for three months anyway, and once the three months were up, I just never got around to looking back over them.

I've kept the morning pages sporadically since June 2003, andI have a huge folder filled with them. Yesterday, I took the folder down from the shelf and had a look. I'm still not sure if this is a good thing, but I know that each time I read one of them it gives me a strong urge to get disgustingly drunk.

The thing about the pages is that stream-of-consciousness writing is really immediate. I suppose everyone would complete this exercise differently, but I write them in the present tense. They form a snapshot of every morning over some of the most important years of my life. Every morning of my last (and I wonder over the meaning of that) relationship of any importance is within these pages. It's probably the reason, subconsciously, why I haven't been back to them.

They're like a time-machine. And a time-bomb. Reading them hurts, and yet it fascinates me. Reading them returns me, almost entirely, through the looking glass to the past. I read the pages for the three days leading up to when I met my last lover of importance (who I may refer to as LLOI from hereon in). These are strange to read because in the pages I have no idea what's coming, as it were, but now, reading it, I know that in 3 days I'll meet him, I know that shortly after, I'll fall in love, and I know that much later, he'll leave me for a middle-aged hairdresser from Peckham.

I've tried screaming at myself to see through his charms, but it's all inevitable.

And now that I have tripped over this journey into the past, my own Life on Mars, I'm in danger of getting addicted to it. It's irrational. it feels like upper-class therapy - more over-indulgence and loneliness than working things through.

Still at least Simon Pegg and Nick Frost were on the tv this morning. I watched 5 episodes of Spaced with Kate this afternoon to celebrate. Only 2 days to go....