Thursday, 12 January 2017

Coming Back

Occasionally I get these hobby-horses, obsessions that consume me for a few days. This week, after the anniversary of his death, I've been mulling David Bowie's 1980s 'decline' after Let's Dance, which some narratives of his career figure as terminal. (I don't agree, by the way. Bowie came back twice, with Black Tie White Noise and Buddha of Suburbia in 1993/4, and then with The Next Day in 2013. Some of my favourite Bowie albums are in that 'second' phase, from Outside to Reality.)

In some ways it's not surprising. His next album after the massive hits of Let's Dance was Tonight. Tonight, I have to tell you, is absolute shit. It starts with 'Loving the Alien', which is a good (if a little awkward) track, although in this version it rambles on for 7 minutes (the single comes in at just under 5). And then you get what makes up the rest of Tonight except for the other two 'originals', 'Blue Jean' (a decent minor hit) and 'Dancing With the Big Boys' (a clattering, funky mash-up with DB and Iggy Pop barking phrases at each other, which got a good remix by Arthur Baker, but really could have done with the Trevor Horn/ Art of Noise treatment): what you get is cover versions. Extremely bad cover versions.

There are three Iggy covers on the album, along with two collaborations. The first is 'Don't Look Down', which is insipid, rubbish white reggae. The second is 'Tonight', a duet with Tina Turner, more cod-reggae which takes a large crap on Bowie's work on the album the track originally came from, Lust for Life. The third is 'Neighborhood Threat', which comes across as a bad knockoff of an end-title song from a mid-80s action/war cash-in, Iron Eagle II or similar. Kenny Loggins, but not as good. Between the first two Iggy covers is a version of the Beach Boys' 'God Only Knows' which, in my opinion, is the most rotten track put out by DB as a major artist.

On Pushing Ahead of the Dame, Chris O'Leary calls Bowie's performance on that track 'astonishing in its tastelessness'. (I recommend you read all the reviews of this album to give yourself a good laugh.) Now, while I agree, I'm not too hung up on matters of 'taste': my favourite Beatle is Paul McCartney. Tastelessness in rock is fine, in fact it's part of the deal. But what O'Leary is getting at is the sheer gaudiness, the vulgarity, the offensive gingerbread-work ornamentation of both the track and Bowie's vocal stylings. Compared to the austerity of the Eno albums, it's hard to believe it's the same artist. But in a sense, what you have in Tonight is Bowie's full-Vegas period, his short go-round on the carousel of commercial, mainstream pop. And he falls off. On Tonight Bowie is an 'entertainer' (see the 'Blue Jean' video, his make up shades of Archie Rice), who doesn't entertain. There's nothing there. And I think he knows it. Tonight is a cash-in, no more, no less.

That's why, I think we have all the Iggy covers. Sure, Bowie's doing his mate a favour, and 'China Girl' was a big hit, so why not mine the back catalogue? But there's something else. If Bowie has gone Vegas, he's haunted by Iggy himself, the fukt-Elvis, the rock'n'roller as abject, the self-lacerating self-destructing antithesis of the commercial imperative.

The Iggy covers and collaborations are a sign of Bowie's profound discomfort, I think. Iggy's presence is alchemical, a magical means by which to offset the glittering turds which pile up as you listen to the album. Apparently Bowie had demoed quite a few tracks for Tonight, unusually, nearly all of which didn't make it (some, it is suggested, went on to Iggy's Blah Blah Blah in 1986). But he went for all these terrible, terrible cover versions instead, almost a kind of mea culpa as he's doing it. 'Yes, I'm selling out, this is a cash-in, sorry, but look, here's Iggy...'

Bowie didn't learn his lesson, either. Never Let Me Down's execrable second side ends with a cover of Iggy's 'Bang Bang', and while it's not a horror on the level of 'Tonight', it's still plenty bad.

But the 1984-1987 period isn't all awful, and you can make a decent album out of assorted songs. Last night I fiddled with sequencing some of the decent tracks on the first side of Never Let Me Down, the listenable Tonight songs and other odds and ends from the period (mainly soundtracks), and it's not bad:

Side 1: Loving the Alien / Time Will Crawl / This Is Not America/ Never Let Me Down / Zeroes
Side 2: Day-In, Day-Out / Dancing With the Big Boys / Blue Jean / When the Wind Blows / Absolute Beginners

Ok, it's never going to break the top 10 of a Bowie album poll, but it's not much of a dip from Let's Dance. It's nearly all singles, too. Rather than make Tonight, I suspect he'd have been better off doing a greatest hits package with some new songs thrown in, maybe some live versions - a bit like Nothing Has Changed. And then we might not have had Tin Machine.

But also we wouldn't have had the comebacks, Lazarus-like, returning from commercial death in 1993/4 and then from his ten-year hiatus in 2013. And I think the comebacks are key to Bowie's career. On top of the world in 1983, he was vilified by 1989, laughed at - if you remember, 'Laughing Gnome' topped the phone-in poll of requests on the Sound+Vision tour in 1990. (He didn't play it. But the ChangesBowie retrospective went to no.1 in the UK that same year, the first Bowie cd I bought.) The second Tin Machine album in 1991 gleaned reviews so bad that one, by Jon Wilde, which called DB a 'fucking disgrace', apparently made him cry.

So an artist as talented, as extraordinary, as Bowie, one whose death was a major cultural event, was capable of making very bad work. Work that was so shockingly miscalculated that it was despised or ignored or simply forgotten. And I like that. Not just that he came back, but that he failed, and failed so spectacularly, in the first place. For me, that's comforting, in a way, and a source of hope. Bowie gives us license to screw up, badly, to let us down, and then to come back.

Tuesday, 3 January 2017


Over Christmas I read Jonathon Green's excellent oral history of counter-cultural London, Days in the Life. Not surprisingly, the book ends (in 1971) on a down beat, with several contributors noting that hippy lifestyles were too often another form of consumerism, and that the counter-culture's emphasis on individual desire and freedom opened the way for Thatcherism, which can be seen not only as a reaction to the 'permissive society' but in some senses its extension and completion. The story of the Sixties, as often told, is one of failure: the unachieved revolutions of '68, the murder of Meredith Hunter at Altamont, the elections of Nixon and Heath and so on. But, of course, there were real and substantial gains, in terms of civil rights, legalisation of homosexuality, challenge to censorship laws, the rise of feminism, and so on. Perhaps it's something to do with our own times that we see the decade in terms of its political failures, what it did not (and perhaps could not) achieve, rather than its manifest successes - let alone its extraordinary cultural production.

What many of the contributors to Days in the Life identify about the hippy movement was its lack of any kind of ideological rigour - and in fact, when this was introduced towards the end of the decade, that was when the larger counter-cultural constituency (from wealthy people who simply enjoyed the lifestyle, to radicals who saw things in terms of social and political revolution) became unglued. Probably, of course, it was the very lack of a defined ideology or program which allowed these very disparate people to hang together in the first place. 'Peace and love' sloganeering can only take you so far - but it takes you somewhere.

On Chris O'Leary's wonderful Bowie blog, Pushing Ahead of the Dame, he calls the Bowie/Queen collaboration 'Under Pressure' 'a sad hippie song beneath its arias and cannonades': 'there’s a sadness along with the bravado, a sense of loss to go with the heroics. Something is going away, going away for good, and Bowie and Mercury see it, if only in shadows.' He calls it 'the last song of the titans'. I never paid the song much attention until recently, and it was this Pushing Ahead of the Dames entry that made me think about it differently. O'Leary is right in pinpointing Bowie's 'crescendo performance in the second bridge' as the key: it's the one that contains the lyrics

Because love's such an old fashioned word
And love dares you to care for
The people on the edge of the night
And love dares you to change our way of
Caring about ourselves
This is our last dance
This is our last dance
This is ourselves
Under pressure

Love. Every time I hear that section now the hairs raise on the back of my neck. Even more so than in 1981, when 'Under Pressure' went to number 1, I feel the urgency of this lyric. The 'love' of the counterculture, 'All You Need Is Love', the universal panacea, gives way to something more direct. We might call it care, as Bowie does; or compassion, or empathy, or understanding. It's something that stands behind Brexit and the resistible rise of Donald J. Trump: we have been encouraged not to care for others, but also not to care for and about ourselves. Perhaps we should understand late capitalism or neoliberalism or whatever you might want to call it as an emotional project which teaches us not to care for others; that the world is a competition, there are winners and losers, and you had better be a winner. Both Brexiteers and Trump rattle on endlessly about 'winning', for good reason. It reflects a worldview in which to care is to be weak, to not look out for yourself, to lose.

But caring for yourself and caring for others are connected. What does it say about oneself, or the society in which we live, if we can ignore the pain of other human beings? If it is 'better' not to care? In academia, we are now forced to run several rat-races: the REF, the TEF, grant funding, and so on and so on. Not because these things have value in themselves: they have none. They are in place to encourage or rather determine a certain kind of behaviour, a certain kind of emotional response, to others and to oneself. To be competitive, not collegiate; to place one's energies towards certain tasks and not to others; and what this produces is anxiety, and fear, and a sense of worthlessness, and misery. It's a microcosm of what has happened and is still happening across the UK and US and elsewhere. In this new year of 2017, which I think of with apprehension rather than hope, anxiety rather than excitement, I make no resolutions, except to be able to look into the mirror and know that I care, for others and for myself.

'This is ourselves/ Under pressure'.

Saturday, 17 December 2016

The Election of Donald J. Trump as a Two-Horse Steeplechase

Authors’ note:  The election of Donald J. Trump to the Presidency in November 2016 raised many questions, not all of which have been answered. It is suggested that a less conventional view of the events of that day provide a more satisfactory explanation. In particular, Alfred Jarry’s ‘The Crucifixion Considered as an Uphill Bicycle Race’ and Ballard’s ‘The Assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy as a Downhill Motor Race’ give us useful leads.

Sanders, slated to start, was scratched.

Obama was the starter. The former champion, retiring from racing, gave the send-off.

Clinton made a good start on the donkey. Some commentators have suggested that her choice of steed, and a propensity to ride facing backwards, were tactical misjudgements. Trump, on the elephant, was slow out of the gate.

The Capitol track is one of the most difficult on the circuit. We need hardly mention the deplorable events of 1865, 1881, 1897 and 1963, all of which concerned malpractice in the use of the starting pistol. For this steeplechase, modern electronic methods were used instead.

Clinton gained an early lead, but could never quite outdistance her rival, who loomed behind her. The partisan crowd appeared to strongly support the less experienced challenger, although later head-counts of the crowd in fact revealed a significant margin of support for Clinton.

Visiting teams. Although the Capitol track has traditionally been a two-horse steeplechase, several other teams were present. The Russian team provided technical support to the elephant rider, along with the Ecuadorian commentator. One of the stewards, Comey, was seen on the track but Clinton’s claims of interference were disregarded by the crowds and commentators. In the middle of the race, Clinton cleared the three hurdles with a significant lead.

The turns. Clinton’s race took a turn for the worse. In the final furlongs, the donkey went downhill rapidly.

The flag. Trump, on the elephant, won by a nose.

In view of the continuing interference in the race, which resulted in Clinton, clearly expected to be the winner on past form and experience, faltering in the final straight, it has been suggested that the hostile crowd, eager to see a win by the elephant driver, deliberately set out to see her lose the race. Another theory maintains that the stewards were in collusion with the visiting team, whose presence remains unresolved.

Several puzzling aspects of the race remain. One is the presence of the elephant driver’s daughter in the weighing room, an unusual practice among steeplechase riders. Another is the sharp decline in the presence of the favourite’s supporters on the route, with some suggestion of suppression.

The course. In the aftermath of the race, it is likely that the shape of the course will be remodelled, with more sharp turns to the right. Future races may be discontinued entirely. Of the losing rider, one can be sure that her race misfired. The question remains: who placed the bets on the winner?

Wednesday, 14 December 2016


In a book I dearly love, and which I have read many many times, Timequake, Kurt Vonnegut describes a scene from his youth, in which he suggests that he wouldn't play a particular school friend at table tennis because the ball had so much spin on it, it was as liable to go up one's own nostril as back over the net. When this fiendish spinner of the ping-pong ball met another classmate, Skip, he met his Waterloo: 'Skip cut me a new asshole', the friend reported to Vonnegut. While partaking of a little schadenfreude in relation to his friend's 'colostomy to his self-regard', Vonnegut spins this into a parable about the relation of oneself to the world: no matter how much you think you're hot stuff, if you go out into the world you're bound to meet Albert Einstein or Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who will inevitably provide you with a supernumerary asshole.

Well, I've never felt I was hot stuff. It's probably my working class upbringing and all that, but I find it very difficult to take pleasure in, or even care much about, the intellectual work I've done in academia. Sure, I do the best possible job with anything I set my hand to in terms of books or articles or the professional apparatus of academia, but after it's done, it embarrasses me a bit. As an academic in literature, this is my wholly ironic 'fatal flaw': in terms of a career, I don't suppose I ever have, ever do or ever will do the 'right thing' with regard to making a career or getting promotions or anything else. I like meeting people and talking about their work, but not my own; I'm not a very effective networker as I like to ask questions and draw people out a bit, rather than telling them about what I do.

In some ways, of course, this suits me ideally to the role of teacher or mentor or supervisor, which is certainly the thing I'm best at, I would say. This last few months three of my doctoral students have passed their viva examinations and I'm proud to have been able to support their development (and of course will continue to do so) and today, in what occasions this (now very occasional) piece, another of my doctoral students had her first piece of work published in an academic journal. (It's here.)

Now this fills me with delight. I didn't know that article was being published today, it appeared on my twitter feed; and I feel an uplift, as I did last Friday when two of the vivas took place, that these thoughtful, hardworking, brilliant people had achieved what they had wanted to, and not through my work but through their own. It's a pleasure and a privilege to accompany them on their journey.

This isn't a kind of humblebrag, as I hope my friends and colleagues would testify. But as I feel increasingly adrift in an academic world so consumed by REF and TEF that it can't (or won't) see the crumbling fabric of the world and the communities beyond the campus, where these brilliant students come from, of course, being there to help and to witness their successes provides a bit of light in the thickening gloom.

Friday, 28 October 2016

Inside the Pod

A couple of years ago now, myself and (now former) PhD student Chris organised a small symposium at our university which focused on 1964. Our paper was on 'The Future of the University', in which we referred to a famous speech by Mario Savio at the time of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement in that year of 1964 (I also blogged about it). In that speech Savio's wonderful rhetoric runs:

"There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can't take part; you can't even passively take part, and you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to make it stop. And you've got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you're free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!"

Savio is able to make a distinction between the machine and the human, the gears and levers and the workers whose bodies can make the machine stop. In a sense, this is the rhetoric of dystopia, which maintains that difference (although we are subservient to the machine, we are different from it). But I suspect we are now in a cultural and political space very different to that occupied and envisaged by Savio or dystopian writers of the immediate post-WW2 world. In a sense, we are the machine's levers. 

In our paper, I introduced our thinking by referring to the work of Simon Reynolds and Mark Fisher, on the 'nostalgia for the future' I mentioned in a previous post. I quoted Fisher from a K-Punk post from 2006, where he suggests:

the period since 1979 in Britain has seen the gradual but remorseless destruction of the very concept of the public. Public space has been consumed and replaced b[y] something like the 'third place' exemplified by franchise coffee bars. Here, you are transported into the queasily inviting quasi-domesticated interior of one of SF Capital's space-ships: deterritorialization (you could be anywhere) and reterritorialization (you are in surroundings whose every nuance is shinily familar). These spaces are uncanny only in their power to replicate sameness (their voracious dominance of the high street is as visually striking a sign as you could wish for of the lie that capitalism engenders competition and diversity), and the monotony of the Starbucks environment is both reassuring and oddly disorientating; inside the pod, it's possible to literally forget what city you are in. What I have called nomadalgia is the sense of unease that these anonymous environments […] provoke; the travel sickness produced by moving through spaces that could be anywhere.  […] In Ghost Box and Mordant Music, the lost concept of the public has a very palpable presence-in-absence, via samples of public service announcements. (K-Punk, ‘Nostalgic Modernism’, 26 October 2006)

I continued: 'As we walked, identifying not only the (disappearing) fabric of the old university and the ways in which people are managed, in terms of pedestrian flows and the organization of buildings along the ‘Spine’ (in relation to the exterior ring of green spaces), Chris and I discussed the relation of the university of 2013/14 with that founded in 1964. The privatization that Fisher identifies, in terms of both public space and the discourse of ‘the public’, we found writ very large across the ‘renewed’ surfaces of the Lancaster campus.'

Last year, my friend and colleague Bruce Bennett and I made a short film about the contemporary form of the institution in which we work, using the work of JG Ballard as a launching pad for a re-imagiantion and investigation of corporate space and subjectivity. For me, the film was very much in a continuum with my work with Chris in that 1964 symposium. It was called 'University: A New Way of Life', and was hosted by the journal The Sociological Review. You can also watch it below.

In my previous post I wrote about 'machine music', and the score for the film (that I wrote and recorded) was meant to allude to the kind of electronic music that Simon Reynolds investigated under the rubric of 'nostalgia for the future', in particular the Ghost Box label (and my favourite of those artists, Pye Corner Audio). Our current project is a film shot on Super 8 film, rather than digital, as was 'University: A New Way of Life'; the new film will feature machines, transmissions and so on, but its form and connections will be quite different. The Super 8 cameras we use, especially the Braun Nizo, is itself a very seductive machine, from its brushed-steel case to the click and whir of its operation. As a piece of retro-technology, the Super 8 camera feels like a different kind of modernity, like analogue synthesisers, like tape recorders. Its recordings, like other analogue equipment, somehow has 'warmth', to do with the grain of the film, light on emulsion, and the contingencies of shooting. (You don't know what you've got until it comes back from the developers.) The very properties of Super 8 encode that 'nostalgia for the future'.

Two years on from our 1964 event, the fabric of the university keeps changing. The old stock is being slowly removed, and shiny new glass buildings and atria and walkways will emerge (slowly, from the building site) in their wake. In a sense, the university is erasing its own history in this process, the very physical properties of the campus exhibiting the shift from one political vision of the future - democratic, civic, education for all - to something much more corporate. The university is now what Fisher described in 2006: as our film suggests, we are inside the pod.

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

I want to be a machine

Six years ago now, I wrote a post called 'Android Rock', which was about synthesisers and Gary Numan and the future. In the interim my musical tastes have shifted much more to this kind of music:  not only post-punk and synth-pop from 1978 to 1982, but crucial antecedents like Krautrock or kosmische 1970s German bands (from Tangerine Dream to Kraftwerk to Manuel Göttsching, but mainly Michael Rother in Neu! or Harmonia or solo), space rock, electronic experimentation, psychedelia. And of course Bowie, always Bowie.

In 2010 Bowie was retired, 6 years hence; but in 2014 we got The Next Day, and then in January 2016 we had Blackstar, and then... I couldn't listen to Blackstar for months after Bowie died. And I put on 'I Can't Give Everything Away' as I write this, and it's a goodbye, with that harmonica, and a return to the sound of his wedding album Black Tie White Noise, and then some Fripp-guitar at the end, and I think - I miss having DB around. The title of that last track, set against a career of personas and performances, Ziggy and Aladdin and the Thin White Duke and the Man Who Fell to Earth and Nathan Adler and so on, even 'David Bowie'; and set against rock's insistent authenticity, of feeling and connection and emotion; and his ten years away from the spotlight from 2004-2014; and I realise how much I'm drawn to music (these days) which plays along that edge of giving everything and nothing away, of distance and intimacy.

The centre of my musical sensibilities has moved from the Sixties to the end of the 1970s, from a time I don't remember to one I remember very well. When I read Simon Reynolds' excellent Rip It Up, it was a kind of return, to bands and songs and albums. Even though I was a teenage Mod, I always liked (in a slightly guilty way) electro-pop too, which is why I've still got the Blue Monday 12", OMD's Architecture and Morality lp, Shriekback's Care and Jam Science. And throughout the 1980s (and ever since), I've loved the combination of drum machines and guitars, from The Jesus and Mary Chain to Big Black to The The to Sisters of Mercy.

Andy Warhol once said, famously, 'The reason I'm painting this way is that I want to be a machine, and I feel that whatever I do and do machine-like is what I want to do'. Warhol was referring to silk-screen printing, and the suppression of human 'making' in the artistic process. Of course, these were often of film stars like Liz Taylor and Marilyn Monroe, and whatever erasures of authorship or Benjaminian 'aura' are delivered by a machinic process are re-instated in the art market which sells the prints as 'Warhols'.

But perhaps this is another dance along the edge of giving nothing and everything away. (Bowie of course wrote a song called 'Andy Warhol' on Hunky Dory and played Warhol in the film Basquiat.)

In one of my favourite films, from 1979, the same year as Numan's The Pleasure Principle and Bowie's Lodger, is Chris Petit's Radio On. A black-and-white road film from London to Bristol and thence the sea, Radio On is soundtracked by the kind of music I'm now drawn to recurrently. It begins with a wonderful use of Bowie's 'Heroes' with a long hand-held track through a Bristol flat, and uses Kraftwerk's Radioactivity album over images of the protagonist driving down what now seem like eerily empty motorways. In the opening tracking shot, the camera comes to rest on a handwritten note pinned to a board. It says: 'We are the children of Fritz Lang and Werner von Braun. We are the link between the '20s and '80s. All change in society passes through a sympathetic collaboration via tape recorders, synthesisers and telephones. Our reality is an electronic reality'. In that flat, the brother of the protagonist has committed suicide. A Roberts Radio plays 'Heroes' (and the German language version, 'Helden'). Death in an electronic reality: distance and intimacy.

I'm hoping to pursue that connection, that collaboration, between synthesisers and recording devices and communications technologies over the next months. In 'Android Rock' I suggested that late '70s/ early 80s' synth-pop still sounded like the future

because the sounds of analogue synthesizers bear little relation to the tonal qualities of 'real world' sounds ... these sounds are still machine sounds, and I think we hear them differently (even now) than we do organic, 'natural' waveforms. 

In pursuit of machine music, I'm fully prepared to admit to what Simon Reynolds diagnosed as 'nostalgia for the future', that the music I'm drawn to represents a kind of modernity and future that will never come into being. But in that nostalgia, a longing for a different world, at least there's hope in the sentiment 'je est une machine'.

Sunday, 23 October 2016

On the road to Barrow: cultural criticism and creative writing

Image from:
I've just changed the subtitle of this blog to 'science fiction in the cultural field', to reflect my methods and also the rather wandering nature of this blog over the last few years. A broader sense of cultural production has always been where I've come from critical, rather than a 'literature' enthusiast, student,  scholar, critic. My first degree, at the University of Warwick, was on English and American literature but contained courses on Culture and Society, Film Studies and US society and culture 1955-65. (I followed up the latter by moving to take an MA in American Studies at UEA a couple of years later.) My PhD, on American dystopias of the 50s and 60s, was resolutely culturalist. My first full-time teaching job was as a lecturer in film and media; then I moved to teach literature and film; and in my current job I teach and lecture on a wide range of courses.

One of the lovely things about teaching at my current university is that we're a department of literature and creative writing. Though there are sometimes tensions between the two disciplines, I have great working relationships and friendships with my colleagues and this developed, a couple of years ago, into a collaboration with the novelist Jenn Ashworth, whose novel Fell has recently been published to great acclaim. Jenn has taught a course on Writing and New Media and, because of my interests in this area, we discussed this, and I've subsequently developed a new course along those lines (with more of a bent towards experimental writing) at Master's level.

A few years ago now I developed a particular interest in twitter fiction, and wrote about it. I also wrote my own sf twitter narrative called 'Shiva', which can be found archived here and which I also wrote a post about. 'Shiva' is narrated from the point of view of an AI, which is something I'll pick up in another post in the next couple of days. Because of some of these things (and some critical/creative writing on Ballard that Jenn liked) she asked me to participate in an online narrative project called 'The Barrow Rapture', about a character returning to that town to find it abandoned after a rapture event. I was really privileged to work with Jenn, Tom Fletcher and Beth Ward on this project, an interactive narrative written by Jenn, Tom and myself with Beth's lovely artwork. You can find it, and choose your paths through it, here.

One of the really illuminating things about The Barrow Rapture was finding out about the processes of writing and collaboration, particularly to do with creative practice. It was also terrific to be accepted as a peer and collaborator by very talented people. Following on from this, I've begun a different collaborative project, making films with another colleague (in Film Studies), Bruce Bennett, whose name has been taken, not in vain, in these posts occasionally. I'll write something about this very soon.

Literature academics aren't always easy collaborators, no matter that their metier is (or should be) sharing and communicating their research materials in a variety of forms - lectures, teaching, articles, books, blogs etc. It was always a gap in my own practice, but I was very pleased recently when another colleague called me a 'natural collaborator' (in the positive sense - I think). Like many things to do with my relation to academia, it's learned rather than natural, but pushing myself to do these things has been stimulating and rewarding in dark cultural and political times.

And so we circle back to cultural criticism, to cultural politics and practice. My interest and engagement in creative work is an extension of my inquisitiveness, my desire to find out about things and how they work, to try different approaches, but also my interest in the processes and politics of cultural production and of communication. I'm interested in 'zine and cassette culture, in Super 8 film-making, in punk and post-punk, in artists and makers doing it themselves, seizing the means of production. This blog is a minor form of that, but over time it became more work, and I stopped doing it.

Looking back over the blog posts, certain ideas or threads connect up and recur, and this has always been part of how I go about things (retrospection is no good for planning ahead, of course): I move intuitively and later I see how seemingly disparate things were really connected. The next couple of posts will explore those connections a bit further.