It’s sad, but fitting, that I hear the news through Warren Ellis. His six words fire across my twitter feed like gunshot, instantly stopping every writer, illustrator, reader and thinker I know in their tracks. “Harvey Pekar reported dead. Very sad.”
No-one ever tells you where Pekar said that, but everyone tells you that, yep, he did. I don’t mind. Apocryphal or not, Pekar’s words sit at the heart of why people find something more in comics than four colours and lots of ink, why it’s so special a medium for so many. Meanwhile it is his life’s work that’s compelling every comic creator I know to click the link, share the news, wait for their heads to catch up.
It’s strange to understand that, collectively, we’ve kind of lost something of our field’s heart and soul. Continue reading →
What is it that Jarvis Cocker sang in that Pulp song? Oh yeah. Tugging on strands of blissed-out escapism, Cocker links rave’s field-trip culture to hanging around aimlessly on grass, neatly summing up every major (and minor) English festival as he does so. For some the summer music season feels like a passage into an untold future, while for many many more it’s just about hanging around on former farmland, watching some bands.
I’d had the Primavera festival’s merits rammed down my throat for a long year, but besides the quality of bands the one thing that kept reappearing was the twisted scale and space it sits inside. Between all of the talk of concrete and structure it seemed the strangeness of being Not In A Field had been overwhelming for some. But could it really have changed the music/audience/experience as much as they claimed? Continue reading →
The grass-roots in the UK is shattered. Party membership and volunteerism is tremendously low, and long-term disengagement with national politics had only the briefest of respites as a result of the televised debates, and still resulted in a lower voter turnout than in 1997. The netroots, a coalition of literate, web-savvy and young activist voters, were supposed to change all that, but they never blossomed. So how do we get them back, and could we ever have a ‘Shepard Fairey moment’?
Firstly, we have to address what stopped it swelling this time. For Nick Clegg, the frequent deployment of the Obama Comparison in the runup to May 6th managed to be entirely disingenuous, especially with its allusion to a netroots community poised to thrive. It was widely believed that this election would be fought online, with viral campaigning reaching a sophisticated peak in the fortnight before the ballot. What actually happened was that broadside assaults on the Conservative campaign platform took place long before the election was announced, and effectively vanished in the final push. Continue reading →
Within forty-eight hours we might have a picture of what the next five years will look like in the UK. Might. It could well be that we don’t even know how the UK electoral map has finally turned out. But in terms of the next Parliamentary session we have next to no idea what will happen now.
The background to tonight’s election result is phenomenal; Athens is burning under reaction to newly approved austerity measures while the DOW went into freefall, after what Paul Mason has described as ‘fat finger trading’. Meanwhile voter turnout has rebounded after historic lows, possibly due to the televised debates, and those voters have found themselves locked out and turned away throughout the country, their votes having little effect.
For me tonight began innocently enough, with reflection on the campaign to date. On Gillian Duffy the room drew inevitable parallels to The Thick Of It, trading jokes that would later be mirrored in Channel 4’s election coverage; on the debates each of us mimicked Brown’s “winning” “smile”; we critiqued the newspaper cartoonists; we drew up catchphrase bingo cards.
“There’s this thing, it’s called Government, and it’s got a hell of a lot of resources and it’s got a lot of people making very important decisions… but those people and those decisions seem cut off of the people they make those decisions on behalf of. I think there’s a space to move into that bridges the gap between grass roots democracy and actual democracy.” – Tamsin Omond
A coach to Sunderland, racing along Finchley Road. It’s a sunny day, and I’m lapping up the unseasonably warm weather just a few days after my last visit to this part of London. I turn, looking out of the window, and see a blur of orange; the office of The Commons, a new political party formed with the aim of getting Tamsin Omond elected as MP. Continue reading →
And so I find myself alone. Hours of luxurious solitude stretch ahead… and it takes about thirty seconds for dirty thoughts to materialize. I draw the curtains, loosen my clothes, light a candle in makeshift holder (long drunk JD, not mine) and pour a Glenlivet.
I start looking up the names that usually elicit scowls, the girls I never got to know over whiskey and coke; some all sugar fizz and gut-pop, stopping you on dancefloors for whispers, eyelashes licking your cheek when you brush a fraction closer; others all soul and colour, spectacles and books, hearts and lungs thumping while they stare you down in the poetry aisle. Continue reading →
I shouldn’t start by saying I remember being in New York last summer. I was walking twenty five feet above West 19th Street, slack-jawed at the effort and enthusiasm that went into transforming a decaying and fractured hulk of a railway line into one of the most delightful public spaces I’ve had the pleasure of visiting. Continue reading →
(In the ‘zine that accompanied Los Campesinos! second album there’s a quote emblazoned on white space: “Telling stories is telling lies”. They’re the words of B. S. Johnson, one of those forgotten English legends who’ll swim up on impressionable young men and guide their work from beyond the grave decades after death. I know the quote well because I lived it out for a long time, doggedly sticking to the principal before the power of metaphor won me over, dressed to kill in heels, lipstick and the kind of skirt you’ll never be able to afford. I think I only really acknowledged that sitting down to write this) Continue reading →
Maybe it’s the coffee, but on the way into New Cross the graffiti only seems to say ‘Modern Life Is Rubbish’. Alongside the railway line, for what seems like a full five minute stretch, mounds of garbage and industrial waste hurtle and spill, a vista of twisted white metal, most of it less than a decade old. It’s now just trashed and dashed between old railway arches and cracked shutters, poked at by men in yellow jackets riding yellower machines, sharp and torn and used. It’s hateful, but London puts up with it.
“Be more uncompromising Matt, just be a bastard” — and suddenly I’m not on the train anymore. I’m in a cafe surrounded by the fsssssh-pak of an espresso machine and the retro-jazz of New Cross with photographer Ellen Rogers. Continue reading →
It starts with Kylie, Kylie and Doctor Who. Kylie is The Doctor; her former self died and a new model rose in its place. She’s not the only one either. 00′s music was a parade of regeneration – more complex than the reinvention of old – something that required the artist to have the confidence to shrug off suggestions that their former selves were better. The decade’s battle-lines weren’t drawn between authenticity and gloss or “indie” and “pop”. The fight was between those whose histories were played out in public against others who emerged fully formed, accepting no questions, offering no explanations. This line in the sand pitted Kylie against the X Factor, Gorillaz against Blur, The Horrors against themselves and Lady Gaga against the world. It was magnificent. Continue reading →