the m john harrison blog

Tag: media

tattoo as brand

Steve Mosby at The Left Room reacts to H&M’s new “Lisbeth Salander” range of clothing, a predictable but still somehow astonishing act of exploitation. Steve makes some excellent points about just what is being exploited here, but I don’t know what to say, because I would only be repeating myself. See here, here, here & here, & the subsequent below-the-line dialogues. & also see Empty Space.

angels in the made world

Tanya Gold, the Guardian today.

safe from this constant obscene revelation of things

The best outcome here would be a few more glimpses then nothing. The sooner the pursuit is abandoned to loonies & internet obsessives the better; that way the mystery can slip behind its own bad reputation & vanish. Was there ever an orang pendek ? It won’t be possible to know. Only some kitschy meme will remain.

mars is just a place

That’s the beauty of it. It’s not a myth, it’s not a dream, it’s not a story, it’s not an investment opportunity: it’s some stones. It’s a place. That’s just so restful. It’s as semiotically empty as parts of the Lisbon underground. No one is shrieking at you to buy anything on Mars, not that I can see, & I’ve studied this picture long & hard. Can I get a ticket ? I’d really love to go. The problem is, by the time you or I get there it’ll be just like it is here. Every single piece of it will be talking to your head. There will be built environment everywhere, & every single riser of every single staircase in every single structure will have its ad. Every wall will have something to say to you. & you will have plenty to say too, because on Mars, by then, surely, comment will be free.

what’s the story

I care so little about the content of this paragraph that, I warn you, I am just not interested in talking about it–

My reading of Brown, from talking to ministers, is that he did have a period of near-meltdown – when he realised that the wheels were coming off his premiership, and he was staring into the political abyss – but has partly recovered since. He is clearly tougher than those ministers who were plotting against him, but proved themselves serial wincers and flinchers. He has found, once again, a story to tell. [My emphasis; & the quote is from here.]

–but look at that last sentence. I feel contempt for the “story” of things. It is a horrible, patronising, 90s notion. Being told stories is precisely what led to my electoral apathy in the first place. Not to say my sense that the contemporary fourth estate, with its desperate profusion of narratives, narratives of narratives & meta-narratives of those narratives, is more trouble to the user than it’s worth.

Why would I vote for people who admit they’re selling me a story ? I would be voting to continue living in this willed dream in which everyone knows they’re a fiction supported by fictions but seems unable to do anything about it. Once she has written the last sentence of the paragraph above, the only possible response to Jackie Ashley is this: Now that, between you, you’ve fictionalised everything–now that you’ve reduced everything to what even the saddest adult-fantasy consumer would recognise as a “secondary world” –now that you’ve answered the question “What’s the story ?” by admitting that the story is the story–why should I bother ?

I’m not even angry, really. The only thing that still rankles is the damage to the reputation of my own medium. In their pursuit of “a story to tell”, the politicians, the lobbyists, the brand managers, the cultural academics, the chattering classes & the news media have done almost as much as Hollywood & Joseph Campbell to bring the entire concept of fiction into disrepute.

anyone read the book ?

I see Martin’s latest campaign is going well. Nice of Anna to help by venting in public. I’m sure it’ll move units. But can we agree that the important thing here is to allow everyone involved one of those acting-out opportunities that grow so precious & fleeting with age ?

Reading: Second Nature by Michael Pollan. Pollan, a bland & readable gardener, claims to have found–or at least to be seeking–a “compromise” between managed & unmanaged outdoor space, but guess what, his intent is to defend the gardener’s view of nature (ie, that it’s best not left natural) against the view of the naturalist; his greatest fear is “the evident speed and force and thoroughness” with which the forest can erase “virtually every human mark”; & his best line is “nature abhors a garden”. So no anthropocentric demonisation going on there, then, perish the thought.

Reviewing: Patricia Duncker’s The Strange Case of the Composer & His Judge.

living the fantasy

A woman, dressed in a pastiche of Australian farming wear apparently designed by Studio Ghibli, hurries down Grove Road carrying a huge bunch of lilies in the rain. You see this all the time in Barnes. People don’t dress: they dress up as. You feel a great pathos, a complex emotional upwelling in which tenderness conflicts with disbelief, & don’t really know where to lodge it. It would be easier, you suspect, if you were Will Self.

silver lining

Consumers are growing sick of consumerism! How can we consumerise that ? Well, first we have to tell them that’s what they’re doing; they’re growing sick of consumerism. Then we have to centralise them in a myth of themselves as coping. We have to sell them themselves, making these powerful, almost surprising choices in their strong, surprising lives. They’re “making do & mending”, these strong, sensible people! We admire that so! We can sell them something for it. Something they can consume. Every cloud, for us, has this silver lining.

burn other people’s stuff

A week of not-unmixed success. People are asking me to write some weird things lately. Rooting around behind the clothes-rack for something I could think about, I found balls of dust, abandoned award certificates, lost shoes made out of a particularly pre-scuffed & greasy kind of suede, bought in Valencia, 2004. There’s a paper Chinese kite still in its box & I wonder briefly if it can be made to fly. Chris Ofili: “The studio is a laboratory, not a factory… An exhibition is the result of your experiments, but the process is never-ending. So an exhibition is not a conclusion.” Neither is a novel. I prefer the way artists & performers describe their practice to the way writers describe theirs. I prefer rehearsals to product. I like studies for things. (I don’t mean a draft; that I shouldn’t be taken to mean a draft is precisely what I’m trying to get over when I say I prefer the way artists & performers describe their practice…) Ofili again: “I’m not after a type of refinement of your life with a view to writing your own obituary… summing up as early as possible so people get it and they can just slap you on the back every time they see you.” He’s not actually talking about obituaries, is he ? I want to get that clear at the outset, too. Watched TV every day this week like you do. As Big Freeze Britain gave way–with all the savage unpredictability of the outside–to Big Thaw Britain, devastated people were having to wade across roads where, only the day before, black ice had forced them to crawl. Meanwhile, the 24 Hour News described images from Port au Prince as “traumatising”. To be on the safe side I looked away. I can’t afford to spend the next month or two attended by flashbacks, sleeplessness, sudden inexplicable phobias, mysterious bouts of Tourette’s. Haitians, though (in a sense luckily) too preoccupied to notice it, are being made to suffer this additional indignity: as the collapse of a built environment that was really rather meagre in the first place is made to resonate with the porridgy attitudinalising of a Survivors script, the new threat to them is the asphyxiation of their plight in a slurry of BBC rhetoric. You can rate a week by the number of times you lost your temper & gave up on the whole idea of language. But is a high number bad or good ? Paul McCauley found a perfect illustration of the erosion & commodification of the meta-commons. Here, breathing–an activity available to everyone, something you thought you could just do–is reconceptualised & sold back to the breather. Religions, of course, have been doing this for thousands of years–possibly even since, to deploy a BBCism, the very dawn of time. Each time a successful reconceptualisation takes place, everyone involved gets a slice of the pie, whether that’s actual money or some other even more satisfying kind of payback–a bigger department to run, better funding, localised celebrity, status satisfaction, ego-payback, whatever. Back behind the clothes rack I have a look at two paintings, the tops of their frames soft with dust. Nice. My down jacket, I see, could do with a clean. This reminds me that I still have, in some plywood storage cubicle somewhere, a very good three-season sleeping bag I bought in 1971, when it cost all of £20. I imagine it as full of a fibrous grey dust now, impregnated with old bird viruses & emphysema, which started out as goosedown. & Julian Richards sent these. But I don’t think that was this week. Pearlant: what a weird book that’s going to be. Looking at Herschel porn, I suddenly write a note about Anna’s sexuality at 60, how it’s a site of conflict with her grown up daughter.

my soundbite shame

As a rest from The Girl Who Bought a House & Some Ikea Furniture Although Actually She Was Really Violent & Subversive I’m reading Nina Power’s excellent & thought-provoking One Dimensional Woman. Also enjoying Nina & Lara sharing their experience of Being Serious On The Radio. My experience of radio is limited to interviews in the 80s & 90s. Interviewers would start out enthusiastic & end up puzzled; mysteriously enough, though I was clearly the author of the book, I couldn’t produce a soundbite appropriate to their preconceived notion of it. Some had been smart enough to prepare themselves for this cognitive dissonance by not reading it. TV is worse. TV interviewers sit you down with a go-cup of really bad coffee & inform you in naive good faith, “This what we’re going to be saying about the subject under discussion.” While you’re trying not to reply, “I wouldn’t talk about it in those terms even if you felt able to offer me a date with Audrey Hepburn in Paris in 1960,” they add: “& we thought you would be perfect to contribute because of the clever thing you said recently about X.” But how embarrassing! What you said about X was in fact not that at all! It was the opposite of that! & it was about something else! Once they see the mistake, give them their due, they’re off quite quickly with their good faith intact to look for someone else who’ll say what they want to hear.