London's Overthrow

November 3rd, 2012

China Miéville contemplates London's Overthrow:

This is an era of CGI end-times porn, but London's destructions, dreamed-up and real, started a long time ago. It's been drowned, ruined by war, overgrown, burned up, split in two, filled with hungry dead. Endlessly emptied.

In the Regency lines of Pimlico is Victorian apocalypse. Where a great prison once was, Tate Britain shows vast, awesome vulgarities, the infernoward-tumbling cities of John Martin, hybrid visionary and spiv. But tucked amid his kitsch 19th Century brilliance are stranger imaginings. His older brother Jonathan's dissident visions were unmediated by John's showmanship or formal expertise. In 1829, obeying the Godly edict he could hear clearly, Jonathan set York Minster alight and watched it burn. From Bedlam – he did not hang – he saw out his life drawing work after astonishing work of warning and catastrophe. His greatest is here. Another diagnostic snapshot.


'London's Overthrow'. Scrappy, chaotic, inexpert, astounding. Pen-and-ink scrawl of the city shattered under a fusillade from Heaven, rampaged through by armies, mobs, strange vengeance. Watching, looming in the burning sky, a lion. It is traumatized and hurt.

The lion is an emblem too
that England stands upon one foot.

With the urgency of the touched, Martin explains his own metaphors.

and that has lost one Toe
Therefore long it cannot stand

The lion looks out from its apocalypse at the scrag-end of 2011. London, buffeted by economic catastrophe, vastly reconfigured by a sporting jamboree of militarised corporate banality, jostling with social unrest, still reeling from riots. Apocalypse is less a cliché than a truism. This place is pre-something.

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Making mischief

August 19th, 2012

David Hepworth on why the Olympic experience probably won't improve the national character:

I came across this extract from a speech made in the House of Lords by the late Lord Longford:

I asked Sir William Beveridge to come to lunch. I was meeting with Evelyn Waugh, an old friend and famous writer. They did not get on at all well. Evelyn Waugh said to him at the end, "How do you get your main pleasure in life, Sir William?" He paused and said, "I get mine trying to leave the world a better place than I found it". Evelyn Waugh said, "I get mine spreading alarm and despondency" – this was in the height of the war – "and I get more satisfaction than you do".

Beveridge invented the welfare state. Waugh wrote some great books. I like to think of Longford sitting there listening to the pair of them, admiring the mischief of the latter almost as much as nobility of the former. That's the national character. And if it isn't, it ought to be.

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Kate Bush might be Running Up That Hill on Sunday

August 9th, 2012

Rumour has it that the Olympics closing ceremony might include a bit of a treat:

Full details about the line-up for the musical extravaganza that will bring the London Games to an end are being kept a closely-guarded secret, but some acts have confirmed they are playing and there are strong rumours about others.

Fans of Bush had their hopes raised when a new 2012 remix of her classic song Running Up That Hill appeared on the Amazon website with a release date of this Sunday, the day of the closing ceremony.

The listing was later removed and there has been no official confirmation that reclusive 54-year-old British singer-songwriter, who has not toured since 1979, will perform.

Kim Gavin, the artistic director of the closing ceremony, has said that it will be an "elegant mash-up" of British music from Elgar to Adele, with much-loved songs arranged in a symphonic structure, rather than a conventional concert. […]

You have to admit, it does sound like the sort of show that might tempt her on stage.

[Via The Awl]

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The Body Olympic

August 5th, 2012

Anthony Lane has been getting into the spirit of London 2012:

[On how "home interest" isn't as important as you'd think for spectators once they're sat down in a stadium watching fit, dedicated athletes who've spent four years or more preparing themselves to do incredibly difficult things extremely well.] I felt this keenly last weekend, at the water polo – another insane, compelling pastime that finds its ideal home at the Olympics. As with weightlifting, the imperatives and tactics could not be clearer; the same cannot always be said of the competitors, who famously reserve their most heinous acts for a murky world below the waterline. On the surface, strapping young men and women try to pass the ball and hurl it into the net. Underneath, however, there is a flagrant suspension of the laws that govern not only this particular sport but the entirety of human civilization. London has installed cameras on the bottom of the pool, and occasionally – less often than I would have liked, but probably as often as the organizers dared – we would be granted cutaway shots, screened at the ends of the pool, of what was going on down there. The only thing I can compare it with is the tuna-fishing sequence from Rossellini's "Stromboli," when a hundred enraged fish churn, thresh, and wriggle for their lives. If you order the special in one of London's fish restaurants, over the next fortnight, and find yourself chewing on what appears to be a shred of bathing cap, maybe in the colors of Australia, don't say a word. Just swallow and carry on.

[Via The Browser]

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August 5th, 2012

I do like the self-deprecating tagline used on Twitter by one of Britain's other heptathletes, Katarina Johnson-Thompson:

Chronically indecisive so I've adopted two surnames & the heptathlon.

[Via The Observer]

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July 28th, 2012

Courtesy of cassetteboy: Boris Johnson's Olympic Welcome

[Via New Statesman]

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As it [happened|will happen]

July 18th, 2012

Martin Belam predicts the tenor of Olympic media coverage by the British media over the next few weeks:

DAY FIVE: After a couple of failed drugs tests, and a fracas in one of the men's hockey matches, nearly all newspapers feature an online poll: "Is the spirit of the Olympics dead?". Except the Daily Express which features a poll "Would Diana have enjoyed the London Olympics?"


THE DAY AFTER: The general consensus is "Wow, that was great. What can we bid for next?"

Three months later: George Osborne cites the Olympics as a "special factor" in worse than expected economic results as the UK hits a triple-dip recession


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That which cannot be named!

July 16th, 2012

It's quite possible this has been floating around on Twitter for ages, but I think it's too good not to post. Courtesy of MeFi user kariebookish,1 re the extensive brand-enforcement effort being put in by the London Olympics on behalf of their corporate sponsors:

Waterstones on Oxford Street had a brilliant tweet: "So, as we can't say the name of the big sporting event because we're not a sponsor, we shall call it Voldesport. That which cannot be named!"

  1. Yes, that Karie Bookish.

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Wenlock is Watching

July 14th, 2012

Olympic Mascots Wenlock Policeman Figurine: Toys & Games:

Technical Details

  • Hello, I'm Wenlock! Don't I look smart in my police officer's uniform?
  • I have the important job of protecting you on your journey to the London 2012 Games.
  • Take this figurine on a journey to the London 2012 Olympic Games – we can have lots of fun together! […]

The customer reviews are all you'd expect and more…

Screen Shot 2012-07-14 at 11.58.10.JPG

[Via Charlie Stross, commenting at Making Light]

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Huw and Bob?

May 30th, 2012

Art imitating life.

Wouldn't it be great if they're saving David Tennant for the opening ceremony.

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