February 8, 2012

I’ve been back in Canada for about five hours now and it is really weird. I’m like, deeply, deeply sad about leaving London even though I know the way I was living there wasn’t sustainable (job without an obvious direction for me, sharing an apartment with another couple, eating crap food because I couldn’t afford vegetables, drinking a lot, not saving any money, also I would get deported in a few months anyway) but I loved living there and I loved my friends there and I loved the cemetery across the street from my apartment and the lunch market and the coffee cart (I followed Lee when he moved from the street market to the park) and Brick Lane Bagels and real ale and grey skies and summer afternoons drinking cider in the park and fry-ups and the fragments of the Roman Wall you still see walking through the Barbican and the learning curve of a rambling Medieval streetscape full of modern buildings and bad pubs and good pubs and living somewhere without a national inferiority complex about its culture.

Everyone’s accent sounds weird now - I swear I never heard the Canadian accent as different from the American until I spent a lot of time outside Canada and now everyone that I don’t already know (and am used to their voice) sounds like a sitcom parody - it’s unnerving. I love Toronto and I’m excited to be back and to make a life here though, for real.

Sorry for the personal rambling, this is not usually my tumblr style, but I’m so tired, and moving’s made me sentimental. I was holding back tears on the tube on Monday, all like “I’m going to miss the tube so much” even though I mostly only took the tube as a last resort because it’s crowded and overpriced. Also I’m really tired because it’s like 1 AM in London and I’ve been up since 6 and I drank a lot on the plane (first time in business class  and you’re there for 8 hours and they’re like “wine? port? Irish coffee with whipped cream and a sugared rim?” and you’re like “wow, the rich really do live in a different world.”) and anyway it’s just been a big day for me.

January 16, 2012
Do you remember that fool?



Professor at London School of Economics who wrote some awful drivel about Black women being ugly?

I now have to wonder if they put something in the water at LSE or if people with certain inclinations naturally gravitate towards the institution, as news of students engaging in Antisemitic drinking game emerge. From the article:

LSE students are facing disciplinary action after participating in a Nazi-themed drinking game during the Athletics Union’s ski trip, held at a French mountain-side resort in December 2011. Later in the night, two students were engaged in an altercation, one of whom sustained a broken nose from the incident.

‘Nazi Ring of Fire’ involved arranging cards on the table in the shape of a Swastika, and required players to “Salute the Fuhrer.”A video featuring students making antisemitic comments was uploaded to Facebook, but has since been removed.

These are our future world leaders y’all

The LSE - where my partner went and is still working as a part-time research assistant, and many of my friends also went - is such a bizarro school. It was founded by Fabians and set up to basically be the opposite of the elitist Oxbridge system which still really runs the UK, was directed by William Beveridge who basically invented the modern British welfare state for 20 years, it was at the centre of the tuition protests last year…and it also is City training ground, and frequently is world leader training ground, and where you have people who are privileged and hungry for power you get bullshit like this. There is definitely a divide between the socially conscious bits of it and the socially conservative hella racist parts of it.

November 22, 2011

What the tube map looks like if you can’t use steps.

Being on crutches for the last 3 1/2 weeks has made me realize how inaccessible London is. Really inaccessible. (I can technically go up and down steps with the crutches so it’s not like I can’t get in and out buildings with one or two steps, but long stairways are still somewhat painful and stressful in crowd situations so I’m mostly just getting places by bus.)


What the tube map looks like if you can’t use steps.

Being on crutches for the last 3 1/2 weeks has made me realize how inaccessible London is. Really inaccessible. (I can technically go up and down steps with the crutches so it’s not like I can’t get in and out buildings with one or two steps, but long stairways are still somewhat painful and stressful in crowd situations so I’m mostly just getting places by bus.)

November 6, 2011

This is the best thing. It was shot in 1992 which feels both exactly the same and a million years ago. Much more so than The London Nobody Knows which has some good bits but also a lot of James Mason being condescending to poor people in the category of documentaries about London that are available streaming online.


London (1994) (by BFI Films). Seems appropriate for a wet fall evening in London.

August 15, 2011
"As a young man, he was in a gang that regularly smashed up private property. We know that you were absent parents who left your child to be brought up by a school rather than taking responsibility for his behaviour yourselves. The fact that he became a delinquent with no sense of respect for the property of others can only reflect that fact that you are terrible, lazy human beings who failed even in teaching your children the difference between right and wrong. I can only assume that his contempt for the small business owners of Oxford is indicative of his wider values."

An Open Letter to David Cameron’s Parents « Nathaniel Tapley

August 9, 2011
"The young unemployed or semi-employed blacks in Tottenham and Hackney, Enfield and Brixton know full well that the system is stacked against them. The politicians’ braying has no real impact on most people, let alone those lighting the fires in the streets. The fires will be put out. There will be some pathetic inquiry or other to ascertain why Mark Duggan was shot dead, regrets will be expressed, there will be flowers from the police at the funeral. The arrested protesters will be punished and everyone will heave a sigh of relief and move on till it happens again."

Why here, why now? « LRB blog

10:31am  |   URL: http://tmblr.co/ZSRIby85yxr9
Filed under: london 
August 9, 2011
"Harman says people in her Peckham constituency are saying that the young people out rioting and looting are not speaking for them. It is not a political demonstration, she says. “Nothing justifies somebody robbing an looting somebody else’s business and frightening people on their own streets.” She refuses to be drawn on deeper motives or causes for the rioting right now. The first thing to do is sort out the situation. People don’t want to hear “excuses”, she says."

London riots and UK unrest: day four live coverage | UK news | guardian.co.uk

I’m seeing (and hearing) a lot of sentiments like this from politicians and from friends. I’ve been here almost a year now but I still feel a bit like an outsider, especially in this. I understand people are angry - I’m a bit out of the riot-area but it’s getting closer and closer every night. But I’m still enough outside that it’s not like I don’t understand what’s happening. Canada is far from perfect, but the class system is much more palpable here in the UK. As James Meek points out, though London is really “diverse” it doesn’t mean that people actually interact.

I live in a council flat (rented from the owners, but the building definitely still has council people) down the street from one of the world’s most prestigious law firms. These kinds of contrasts are all over the city. So you not only have all these kids who feel stuck and unsupported, but they are pretty much always in direct contact with all the stuff they don’t have. They may live on the streets where the riots are but they aren’t “theirs.” I’m not saying people are consciously thinking of this as a “political” action but it is still a political event.

I’m not saying that violence or looting or rioting or burning down local businesses or robbing people is something that’s okay; but it’s not incomprehensible to see kids who feel like they have nothing to lose…acting like it.

10:27am  |   URL: http://tmblr.co/ZSRIby85yanu
Filed under: london hasty thoughts 
August 9, 2011
Scattered Riot Thoughts


Tweets I’ve not sent, thoughts not fully formed, etc. Just venting really.

- Prevalence of “send in the army”/”shut down the internet”/etc. tweets horribly depressing. As well as being three meals from anarchy we’re also three riots from fascism, I guess.

- Well no, that’s a glib exaggeration but it doesn’t take Nostradamus to see that the far right and authoritarian elements in politics are going to make massive hay from this: I’ve already seen BNP leader Nick Griffin talk about “the Black Blitz”, so watch out for that as a sickening far-right meme.

- On the “they’re destroying their own communities” meme: problem is, they’re not. They’re destroying what we distant observers liked to imagine were “their communities” because we assume a commonality of identity based on geography and/or race without asking too many questions about subdivisions of identity/community within and across those. In the messages being reported by the media there’s a lot of mentions of abandoning existing fights between ends/postcodes to join in this - those “communities” are as relevant (more relevant probably) as local or bureaucratic ones.

- The violence may or may not be mindless - “mindless” seems as fair a word as any for the adrenalin-rush of any mob activity, and a very stupid word to excuse or whitewash structural and social problems - but the condemnation or response doesn’t have to be mindless in the same way. Not that that’s stopping anyone.

- Bear in mind I know nothing about any of this really, I’m miles away in a house I own in the leafy suburbs w/my wife and two kids. So what can I answer? Well, I can ask why I don’t go and steal a plasma screen TV tonight? What’s stopping me? The answer, as far as I can tell, is a mix of fear (can’t get away with it), morality (taught it was wrong), empathy (might hurt other people), lack of social proof (nobody else I know is doing it), wealth (i can afford one anyway) and privilege (i have a lot to lose). Explanations for why people are doing it - even when the explainers are saying “just greedy little shits” and don’t think they’re offering an explanation - will focus on the absence of some of these factors, and fiercely deny others have any relevance.

- For me, it seems obvious that when you create a massive wealth and power gap you create an empathy gap too - groups in a society who either can’t understand one another or see no value in doing so. This seems to be part of what’s happening on both sides.

Things similar to what I might be writing if I felt equal at all to writing about this. I just keep getting stuck on “It’s so strange to be here” and “I can still see smoke out my bedroom window.”

6:39am  |   URL: http://tmblr.co/ZSRIby85jAio
Filed under: london 
August 7, 2011

…That awkward moment when you realize you’ve spent the night polishing a blog about feelings and sitcoms and the city around you is breaking into riots.

To be fair it’s hard to tell in EC1 - just a lot of sirens.

7:34pm  |   URL: http://tmblr.co/ZSRIby81oaXp
Filed under: london 
May 9, 2011

What up tumblr? I had a great weekend. Here is a list of things that made it great:

1. Westworld: It’s a movie, written and directed by Michael Chricton about an amusement park where people basically get to hang out in “historical periods” with incredibly realistic robots where they can have like old west gunfights and medieval jousts and orgies in ancient Rome. Of course the robots go berserk and start killing people. Things I liked about it: 1) it’s about an hour and half long, which is the right length for this kind of thing, 2) it is very clear that the dudes vacationing in “Westworld”, a simulacrum of the old west, are doing really creepy reassertion of masculinity stuff like having fake gunfights and sleeping with robot prostitutes, and 3) Yul Brynner in Magnificent Seven mode.

2. Easy A: What a delightful film! It really felt like a teen film for the 21st century. (I am in my late 20s but am still living out an essentially protracted adolescence so I still feel like teen media is relevant to my life.) I think it was a 21st century teen film because it’s really about self-presentation and shame. As on every episode of Gossip Girl, it works out that the only way to free yourself from the rumour mill is to be more forthcoming, to be more honest, to expose more of yourself. Also, it is charming and funny and although there is a boy she likes in the picture, the movie is really more about contemporary virgin/whore pressures than any specific boy.

3. The Museum of London: Totally undersung London museum. It’s free admission, it’s about five minutes from my house, and it’s really cool. They have archeological artefacts and reconstructions of the city going back to prehistory. I come from a relatively young city even by North American standards, so the impact of being in a place where they can find handaxes from hundreds of thousands of years ago is pretty intense.  (I mean, there were people in North America for a pretty long time before Canadian history as taught picks up, but we’re talking maybe tens of thousands of years at the outside, the scale of time is totally different. Also Canadian history is taught just terribly as a rule.) They have skulls from pre-Roman Britons who did trepannation. Also cool: being like “oh, these places I go all the time used to be Roman burial grounds”. Did you know there has been a bridge more or less where London Bridge is for like 1,800 years? We were there for hours and only got up to the middle ages.

4. Gordon’s Wine Bar: A super-old, cavernous cellar bar that was frequented by Samuel Pepys but now has a huge patio and is staffed by a bunch of vaguely surly drunk people. The wine is a bit pricey but they’ll give you a massive plate of cheese (enough for two) for like £8. This is a pretty sweet central London option, it all feels a bit magical.

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