Monthly Archives: December 2006

Mrazek – framing exotica – are you sitting comfortably?

Gotta take risks to get the image you need:

There’s a revealing warning reported in what is a really excellent book by Rudolph Mrazek (from 2002, called Engineers of Happy Land: Technology and Nationalism in a Colony (Princeton, Princeton University Press, on P. 108) where the author relates the story of a colonial era photographer of Indonesia who advises caution when necessarily using quite large ‘doses’ of flash powdor in the dark ‘easily inflammable’ native huts of the dyak people. In addition, he noted that insects, bacteria, sweat and “primitive people not accustomed to sitting still” are also difficulties for the colonial photographer. Awww.
.

Zen choice

Hey hey hey – take me back to the dyakshya yoga youth refuge I first ran to after Grandpa Tate thought I shouldn’t keep camping out in his backyard shed… I was 14 – Crikey, there is a long story I have to tell one day… but already I can see this is going to be far too autobiographical, because its late and holiday-time, but all the same… I want to preface this ‘link’ [tribute, reference - yo Steve, its your fault too] with some arabesque like hedging cos I used to be so opposed to the random use of Zen in western academic work. Because, clearly, it was often little but a form of exoticist shorthand rendering-reduction of a philosophy deserving of respect to the somehow lesser status of ‘eastern’ philosophy (at best this is trinketization, orientalism, etc) and, even where there was cursory reference to Allan Watts (rarely with the level of scholarship/obsession that would honour his learning) or even reference to some actually existing and even named monk, teacher, guru (think of Verela’s pretty much single questionable, saffron-enrobed, source for… – and there is still an old debate with slash on the validity of such narrow fly-by-night adventure mysticism, including versions of Confucius, Meiji-‘capital’ or Tiger-economics which does little, for mine, to open up the particularities of Asian capital or the ‘magic’ of new media, finance flows, monad, rhizofcukic… etc. [why not world systems?]). Anyway, all that was way back then (five minutes ago, and its this afternoon’s set text).

Nowadays I am easily impressed and often plain emotional, and sometimes prepared to welcome an exception. Actually, I always was – I liked Watts very much because his scholarship opened up several other worlds in the midst of the ‘main’ one… [so - formative bio moment - my first paid teaching job after picture framing and other scams that paid for my degree, was a course on History of Religions in Geelong, see footnote 1]. But here, at last I start to get closer to the meat – at the beginning of Steve Wright’s very useful commentary on immaterial labour in a recent issue of Mute Magazine, a koan-like bit of mischief that serves him well. As epigram, Steve offers us a pithy tribute to Zen thought, as a short-hand/short-arm way into critique. He does this economically, in a way my hedging refuses to allow… in a way, that, on a good day, I think means that … well, this one below (wait, patience, we will get there) … could be adapted for many purposes, and it is not unlike the story William Burroughs used to tell about when he heard the hippies had been giving flowers to the police and he responded that the only flower he would give them was one in a pot dropped from a three story building (I think this was after he had witnessed the Chicago 68 democratic convention where Mayor Daley unleashed all kinds of brutality on the flower power set). Oh my god, will we ever get there…. its taking ages, what is the hold up… anyway, what I wanted to note, was that in a sort of arabesque, in a delaying tactic, in a feint, avoidance, side-step, en passant, and in defence of a more nuanced reading of Marx on value (hurrah), Steve Wright starts out with this:

 

A priest once came across a zen master and. seeking to embarrass him, challenged him as follows: ‘using neither sound nor silence, can you show me what is reality?’
The zen master punched him in the face.
[from a story told to Steve by Hobo, from the article: 'Reality Check: Are we living in an immaterial world?' in Mute Vol 2 No 1 p 34 _ (pp34-45).]

Whump. And laugh. Of course its just a little bit disappointing that Steve ends his piece with the obvious line from Madonna on living in a [historical] materialist world [as Ange sang circa 1990], but then, as he himself notes, there is much more to do to displace the Negri-ite consensus that affronts us today. This is still an unmissable start. And all this preface bumble preamble is meant just to say go buy his book “Storming Heaven”.

The immaterial labour argument is important, and its welcome that folks are interested in labour and value, again. And it implies an interest in the question of how to organise. To move this along beyond the platitudes of multitude, perhaps a reading of value as desire, as Bhaskar Mukhopadhyay suggests, might be a good place to start to r/mend fences.

Footnote 1. History of Religions was a course at Deakin University taught usually by Purushottama Bilimoria but he was away for just over a year and fluke of flukes I landed the job. Head of School Prof Max Charlesworth was kind enough to employ me, explaining that it was comparative religion that we did – Hinduism,. Buddhism, Aboriginal beliefs, animism would all be compared – in turn – to Christianity… So, that really started a debate, though I do remember his generosity in adding a thanks to me in his ethnography of the scientists at the think tank that was Eliza Hall (this is well before Bronio Latour, Paul Rainbow, etc – it was called “Life Among the Scientists”. I saw a second hand copy in Oxford once, but was stupid not to buy it… I’d love to find a copy as besides some obscure early poetry its the first glorious mention I got in print – very proud was I, as was mum).

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Trinketization: ‘Third World Tourism’ and the manufacture ofthe Exotic


I am sort of stuck in my room. Somewhat foolishly perhaps, I agreed to write an entry on Exotica and Tourism for Jonathan Gray’s encyclopedia (getting so there are too many such things about) and I agreed to a deadline of Jan 1st, possibly forgetting that I should be indulging in some tourism myself at that very time. So, while I might otherwise be buying my ticket on this damn cold London day (is that 2 degrees as top temp? Yikes – and yes, I know that its colder in New York…)… I do have to get this done before I get anywhere warmer… so…Help! This is an unfinished draft and it can’t be any longer… all comments welcome, email me or post here. Hopefully most readers are reading from their deckchairs someplace…

Abstract:

Tourism has several modes in which, more often than not, its cultural charge is impoverished. As a huge global industry it spans the world, and makes objects of people, places, meanings and experience. As pleasure- and treasure-hunt, tourism commodifies in several ways; it can be presented as educational horizon – since we have to take seriously the ideology that travel broadens the mind – and this has its privileges; as market for the strange, the curio, the souvenir and the remote, tourism brings all “Chinese Walls” battered and bruised into the guidebooks and snapshot albums of the bargain-hunting hordes. The reduction and destruction that tourism visits on the peoples and places of the ‘under-developed’ world are not the only ills of globalization for sure, and some may make the case for tourism as a force for cultural preservation, as opportunity for exchange, tourism as solidarity and as a kind of charitable aid, but on the whole tourism suffers from a bad press on this what, we sometimes call, our lonely Planet.

Tourism

Tourist sites and experiences are glossed in promotional literatures with a well known and now instantly recognizable code: sunsets over palm fringed beaches; temples and monuments in jungles or deserts; curious modes of transport – the camel, the elephant, the ‘took took’ or tempo; smiling cherubic youth; feathered warriors or remote Masai women in costumed dance. The adventure of tourism in the so-called ‘third world’ mixes these exotics with pleasure getaways, luxury resorts (swimming pools just meters away from pristine beaches seems clearly excessive); home comforts and promises of safety, running water or fully-catered treks (with Nepalese Sherpers perhaps to carry any real weight; with political concerns safely tucked away in the non-tourist peripheries – alarmingly increasing, as the ‘axis of evil’ expands).

The trouble with much tourism literature has been that it must ignore politics, commodification, inequality and exploitation at the very moment that these matters are the very basis of the possibility of ‘third-world’ tourism in the first place. If there was not a wealthy tourist elite (or relative elite, national or foreign, gap year or package tour) looking for leisured rest and/or exotic experience outside of their everyday world, there would be no tourist economy. In a competitive market the travel brochure version of the world of tourism must present the beach, the pina colada, the ‘interesting’ cultural life of others as a package for ready sale. The educational dimension of culture then becomes benign but empty. Inequality is reduced to cultural difference, and may sometimes be presented as something the tourist economy can even alleviate. In Denis O’Rourke’s film “The Good Woman of Bangkok” you can hear sex tourists brag that their custom keeps Thai women from a life of poverty. In Indonesian hotels the artist of Wayang Kulit and Gamelan, not to mention less salubrious traditions, are maintained through nightly performances for businessmen that pay top dollar for entertainments they need not (want to) fully understand. Or rather, they pay for the experience of difference, of not understanding otherness. The exotic is its own reward – does it matter that these traditions are reduced in cultural importance by the way? Some would argue against such traditionalism, against touching nostalgia for a past that was never so neat.

The benevolence of tourism and charity work

A guilty secret resides at the heart of third world tourism. Holidays in other people’s misery seem inappropriate and yet – the beaches are beautiful; the tsunami a tragedy. This equation can be resolved by charitable donation or by the presence of the tourist themselves. After the Asian tsunami of 2004, rebuilding of destroyed tourist resorts in India, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Indonesia were soon followed by calls for the tourists to return, as part of the reconstruction. Even though many of the needed tourist dollars are not spent in the effected countries when one takes into account the destinations of profits from tourism after airline ticketing, charter and package tour bookings, hotel and food chains (MacDonalds and Coca-Cola all over Thailand for example) and even sale of travel guides, there is a very small percentage of economic return left for local entrepreneurs in any case.

In recognition of this, some travelers (a sub-category of tourist, also known as backpackers) seek out charitable works as panacea; a few days at a Mother Theresa clinic or volunteer washing of elephants at a nature reserve or similar. This kind of benevolence is authorized and approved in many travel guides, and in newspapers advertisements, through the mechanism of a heart-tugging photograph of an (always smiling) child that would be the necessary motivator for even a gesture (‘send just a few coins’) of care or concern for dispossessed human beings. Clearly charitable activities, even where they ‘help’ a bit, are also part of the benevolent self deception of the tourist gaze; serving to deflect meaningful recognition of gross economic privilege and, along the way, turning guilt itself into a commodity form. One does a few days voluntary work in Calcutta (see Hutnyk 1996) to excuse a month of hedonism on the beach in Goa. Similar logics justify the carbon footprint calculations of even the most well-meaning environmental traveler – to walk in the pristine rain forest and leave a ‘soft-footprint’ is still to treat the planet as object for rapacious use. Locals be damned.

Souvenirs

Tourists collect experience but we have to have mementos to remind ourselves that the fantasy was real. The same photographs of the smiling kids; various nick-nacks and trash purchased from the local flea market, from the beach trader, from the state emporium or from the airport departure lounge. This trinkets are then displayed on shelves at home, gathering dust, or gifted to relatives and friends not lucky enough to have been there. Postcards similarly gloat and preen. The overarching theme here is that world experienced is reduced to tat. The complex global forces of capital, of work and leisure, of the division of labour and the vast networks of information and infrastructure – planes, hotels, servants, right through to Kodak processing labs and internet travel blogging – is miniaturized in handy squares or convenient packets that can fit neatly into the luggage rack. The idea of the souvenir is reduction itself – the veneer of the trinket, the face, ironically, of exploitation write large. That we have learnt not to read these signs in any wider register is also part of the sanctioned ignorance that tourism authenticates.

Post tourism

But of course we are, many of us, fully aware of this hypocrisy. So much so that the inauthentic has become a part of the quest. Searching out the most gaudy plastic outrageous object proves one has not been duped by the exotica-merchants. To be in pursuit of the authentic is an essentialist trap, but to have continued past this to accept inauthenticity as part and parcel of the world leaves commodification intact. What kind of self-deception is this that extends tourist purchase to the most esoteric of objects at eh same time as it can buy up the mundane? I have seen tourists purchase plastic tap handles for their metropolitan bathroom fittings, or plastic models of the Taj Mahal, with flashing lights, as an ironic, high kitsch, souvenir. The post-tourist irony here (Urry 1990) does not break with trinketization at all, but rather confirms the process, and extends it exponentially.

Trinketization

Trinketization will stand for the process of reifying the world downwards into tat. What the anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss lamented when he saw the filth of the West thrown back into the face of humanity has now become the detritus of all our lives, and we can even revel in it. Does this suggest a political diagnostic? The argument here is not for an end to tourism, thoroughly unlikely that could even be considered, but might we look towards the remote possibility of a better tourism, a revolutionary tourism. What of those travelers who expressly seek out meetings with the Maoists in Nepal, who march in hope of a meeting with the reds of the Himalaya; or those who travel to learn from the Ogoni in Nigeria of their struggle against the multinationals? More touching faith in the reed real here…

Trinketization is…more needed here…

… looking for a theorist to say the sort of things I wanted to say: that charity is a way of assuaging guilt; that it would never do for redistributive justice; that issues of representation still matter – but matter more than the those who wrote of the crisis of representation in anthropology could see; indeed, that the crisis – at least in anthropology – led us to a politics without radicalism; that the constant talk of crisis is a substitute for a sustained politics of change; and from there that the anthropology curriculum needs substantial reform; that universities have lost their capacity for critical appraisal of their role; that the current vogue for difference is misplaced and under theorized; that anti-racist work in the university and metropolis is more about avoiding guilt that acting against really existing racism… and all this is also about as “trinketization” – how our discrete studies became fascinated with discrete items, unable to theorize how it all fits together as neo-cultural imperialism. Of course Marx was the theorist that mattered, but who uses him in a way that addresses these specificities? Well, only Gayatri Spivak. Who is the one person I will always read first… [revise or exclude this]

What then of Tourism Concern etc.

Isn’t the solution to relax, stop moralizing against tourism and against those who claim tourism could be better (soft-footprinters). For tourist resorts and pleasure peripheries…

More here…

Decaying Resorts and the war of terror

Something on the fascination with the empty resorts should be included here. This writer traveled through Malaysia in 2002 and it was impossible not to notice the absence of North American tourists in that country at the peak season time. Visiting five-star hotels became a kind of entertaining post-ironic tourist exercise, meeting workers barely employed, desultorily pushing a mop across the patio, with the colonial style furniture piled up at the corner of the wide veranda of the resort, only a lizard and a palm frond in the empty swimming pools, and the jungle reclaiming the golfing greens and fairways with more than six foot grasses. Waiting on teh return of the dollar (the yen and wan filling a few gaps now…). Fear of the ‘terrorist threat’ decimated more than Afghanistan and Iraq …

More here…

Limitations

The trouble with making the case that tourism turns everything into trinkets is that a theoretical approach that pursues this line is in danger of becoming a part of the problem as well. The world becomes a kaleidoscope of fascinating sites in the same way that theoretical analysis can latch onto any example and use it for its argument. What would not be subject to post-ironic touristic exoticization. The Guardian newspaper today, as I write (December 20, 2006) reports the Mayor of war torn Grozny planning tourist visits and mocks the idea with the question ‘but will bullet proof vests be supplied?’. Yes, we can imagine how the war-devastated landscape of the Chechnyan city might become a stop on some adventure tour, which might also then take in other ‘dark tourism’ sites, not all of them inappropriate as places to visit – holocaust memorials, Iwo-Jima, former prisons and locations of famous battles (Gallipoli) might also be on the itinerary. To call this trinketization would miss the emotional purchase of such investments, despite the raw fact that investment is also behind the touristification of war. The problem with trinketization here is that analytical purchase is also often reduced to a façade in much of what passes for the study of tourism, as if replicating the gloss of the brochures also amounts to a diagnostic of the global predicament (see Clifford 1997 for several examples of this). What chance is there that travel really broadens the mind of the analyst also?

Further Reading:

Alneng, Victor ‘“What the Fuck is a Vietnam?”: Touristic Phantasms and the Popcolonization of (the) Vietnam (War)’ Critique of Anthropology, Vol. 22, No. 4, 461-489 (2002)

Clifford, James Routes: Travel and Translation in the Late Twentieth Century Harvard University Press, 1997

Crick, Malcolm, Resplendent Sites, Discordant Voices: Sri Lankans in International Tourism, Harwood Academic, Chur, 1994

Frommers, Guide To India, Frommers Guides, London, 1984.

Hitchcock, Michael and Teague, Ken (eds) Souvenirs: the Material Culture of Tourism, Aldershot: Ashgate

Hutnyk John The Rumour of Calcutta: Tourism, Charity and the Poverty of Representation, London: Zed books, 1996

Jules-Rosette, Benetta The Message of Tourist Art: An African Semiotic System in Comparative Perspective New York: Plenum Press 1984.

Lennon, J. John, and Malcolm Foley, Dark Tourism: The Attraction of Death and Disaster, London, Cassell, 1999

MacCannell, Dean, The Tourist, reprint of 1976 version with a new introduction, Random House, New York 1989.

MacCannell, Dean, Empty meeting Grounds: The Tourist Papers, Routledge, London, 1992.

Olalquiaga, Celeste, The Artificial Kingdom: A Treasury of the Kitsch Experience, London: Bloomsbury 1999.

Phipps, Peter ‘Tourists, Terrorists, Death and Value’ in Kaur, Raminder and John Hutnyk Travel Worlds: Journeys in Contemporary Cultural Politics London: Zed books, pp 74-93

Urry, John, The Tourist Gaze: Leisure and Travel in Contemporary Societies, Sage, London 1990.

Sidebar 1:

The Banana Pancake trail. From Cape Tribulation in Australia to Marrakech in Morocco there is the budget traveler phenomenon of the cosy guest house or traveler hostel in which trusted comforts from home are served up to weary travelers. This can be glossed as the ‘banana-pancake trail’ which serves as a shorthand – an obviously gratuitous reference to the ubiquitous back-packer snack – for the contradictory ‘adventure of experience of ‘otherness’ that third world travel can be. In search of otherness but in need of the comfortable trappings of home, backpacker discussion in the guest houses and lodges is so often about where one is from, what you would like to eat when you get back, how the food gives you ‘Delhi-belly’ or similar, the mosquitoes, the toilets, the rip-off taxis. Quite often such discussions go on while the traveller is serves cola or chai or French fries or so by a 12 year old who has worked from dawn, seven days a week, sending money home to the rural periphery that the traveler will rarely see.

Sidebar 2:

On Post-War Tourism: I am assured by the Swedish anthropologist Victor Alneng, who knows these things, that Lonely Planet impresario Tony Wheeler had his eyes set on Afghanistan for some time. As evidence Victor translated from a Swedish newspaper interview in September 2002 the following insights into the wheeler-dealer’s thinking: Wheeler: ‘When a place has been closed there is always a group of people that want to come there first. After them come the large hordes of travellers’. Reporter: ‘So what destinations will be the next big thing, after East Timor?’ Wheeler: ‘Angola and Afghanistan will come eventually. Maybe also Iraq. We were on the verge of sending one of our writers to Afghanistan as early as last summer, but it proved to still be very difficult to travel outside Kabul. Information ages quickly, so we chose to wait a little’. (Translation by Victor Alneng, Swedish text available at http://www.dn.se/DNet/road/Classic/article/0/jsp/print.jsp?&a=56544).

Trinket Crimbo

XMAS TEACHES KIDS TO LOVE CAPITALISM

This old graffito favourite (I will post pics sometime) returned to mind this morning when I was rudely awakened by some god-bothering Bishop (Nazir Ali) on Radio Four’s Today Programme complaining in ever so slow plummy tones that something about diversity legislation – vaguely referenced as ‘political correctness’ – meant that some employers were stopping employees from putting up tinsel at work or employees were reluctant to put up workplace xmas trees for fear of offending co-workers of other faiths. This being an issue in the workplace strikes me as ironic and beside the point – as in missing the point by a whisker, but certainly missing. The trouble is – as the BBC went on to explain – they could find no employers who had actually ‘banned’ christmas; that there was no expectation that the churches would not be well attended come the day; and that calls for a return to celebration of the ‘summer festival’ that was colonised by Christianity were not really likely and frankly seem a bit, um, medieval.

Now it might surprise some that I am a fan of old Charlie Dickens, but maybe he did not make the connection between work, money and christmas clear enough when he got the ghosts to work their sentimental magic on old Ebeneezer. At least he made the connection, unlike the radio this morning. Maybe the BBC team were just filling the Today programme stocking with a seasonal puff piece, and I shouldn’t be bothered, but I do get misty eyed when I think of all the misery – work work work till you die, ho ho ho – that is inaugurated with the early years’ induction to capitalism that 25/12 and the fondly remembered fat fool (‘money bags’) entails.

Redistribute wealth in commemoration of the day after – 26 December is Mao’s birthday – instead of this conjunction of church and capital that jingles your bells in mockery of your creative labour – only a few coins left rattling in your pocket, creativity appropriated by the bosses, entombed in a data entry capsule, force fed on stale fruit cake to fatten you up for a slaughter that takes about 50 of your very best years…

Off to the beach then – bah humbug. ha ha ha. (the pic is from Xmas 1962)

Bougainville

Occasionally I update on Bougainville stuff (here and here and here) but the latest I have is this (and someone certainly should dissertate on the topic…):


This interview first ran around 0549 GMT

By James Attwood

Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES

SYDNEY (Dow Jones)–Papua New Guinea’s government expects to agree terms with Bougainville authorities next year to lift a moratorium on mining in the battle-scarred island and resume operations the following year.

Give us two years and mining will restart in the Panguna mine,” PNG mining minister Sam Akoitai told Dow Jones Newswires Tuesday.

Anglo Australian miner Rio Tinto Plc. (RTP) shut the massive Panguna copper and gold mine in May 1989 after repeated attacks on infrastructure and workers by secessionist rebels.

Speaking on the sidelines of a PNG mining conference in Sydney, Akoitai said both the Bougainville autonomous government and foreign investors are keen to resume activities in the minerals-rich South Pacific island once fiscal arrangements are agreed.

“Bougainville is a place where every man and woman will swim across to,” he said, when asked about the current level of investor interest.

“I’ve been approached by many many companies who are interested in doing exploration in Bougainville and also companies interested in talking about Panguna,” he said.

“But my approach would be I’d rather work with the devil I know than getting somebody new to come in and start again,” he said, referring to Rio Tinto subsidiary Bougainville Copper Ltd. (BOC.AU)

“I’ve had the opportunity to work with Bougainville Copper for nine years and think they’re doing a very good job.”

Besides holding the position of PNG national mining minister, Akoitai is also the parliamentary member for Central Bougainville.

Panguna produced about 180,000 tons of copper a year to rank as the world’s third-largest copper mine. It remains closed despite a 1998 cease-fire and the formation of an autonomous island government.

Any decision on resuming mining at the dismantled operation is estimated to cost around US$1 billion.

Before any decision can be taken, however, stakeholders must complete a review of new fiscal and operating terms for exploration and mining on the island, Akoitai said.

The long-delayed review process is expected to begin in the first quarter of next year and take “months” to complete, he said, adding the benefits for Bougainville would have to be significantly better than current terms.

“It’s an issue close to me. I’m from Bougainville and I also represent the electorate where the mine is. I would want the review process to be concluded quickly so we can decide the future of mining in Bougainville.”

“The whole reason the government in Bougainville asked for this review process to began is so we can sort out the outstanding issues and then perhaps start mining from a clean sheet.”

Benefits for the local community would have to be in line with new benchmarks of modern mines, he said, without elaborating.

Akoitai said Australia’s Ord River Resources Ltd. (ORD.AU) and Gallipoli Mining Pty Ltd are among companies to make recent approaches to authorities on the possibility of exploring in Bougainville.

-By James Attwood, Dow Jones Newswires; 612-8235-2957;

(What are the pictures? The first one obviously a minesite – we like ‘em big. The second is the cover of the 1988 Bougainville Copper annual report – the next page of that report proudly pictures the mine, but the cover affirms Riotinto’s green credentials, eh? The pic is the glam board of money grubbin directors – is that Michel Foucault with them? What the fuck is he doing there?).

Indian curry powder – theory of translation

I am first of all against translation as it is mad, its impossible, it cannot ever be true to origins, its a kind of violence, it is always political, it transforms, it is creative, it is heroic to try, it is the essence of communicability, it is exchange, it disrupts parochialism, it is the foundation of internationalism, it is what we all should be trying to do, it is the most revolutionary activity, it is social, it is life itself, I am for it. [Thanks Kaori for trinkets from Japan].

Kennington and Oval

Today, avoiding real work that is piled up on my desk, and waiting on the gas inspector to check my pipes and tell me what I already know – ie that my listed Edwarding building is not allowed to have a gas boiler outlet sticking out where it does – for shame… well, I thought a leap into local history would redeem my (actually my landlord’s) crimes against heritage listings… so I have been reading about the neighbourhood. Strange stuff, for example, I live on Kennington Park Road just down from the Oval – site of the first Ashes test (heh, cricket eh?) – where the following wartime incident from the VauxhallandKennington site amuses:

“The Oval Airman

There was an interesting incident near the Oval. The largest and last of the daylight raids on London took place on 15 September 1940. Over 180 German planes were shot down and a German airman, Robert Zehbe, baled out of his stricken Dornier bomber and landed in front of Alverstone House in Harleyford Road. Pieces of his plane came down elsewhere in central London, including in the forecourt of Victoria Station. Zehbe was attacked by a mob of furious women but was rescued by the police and driven across the Oval’s turf and Vauxhall Bridge to the Millbank military hospital, where he died next day. There was a suggestion that he had been seriously injured by the Oval mob, but it is equally likely that he was badly injured before he landed.

Information about this incident was provided by historian Martin Smart. … Pieces of the bomber are now in the RAF Museum, Hendon.”

Its not all stirring battle of Britain/mob of furious women stuff though, reminding me that Kennington park is a site of all manner of horrors – used for hangings as well as political meetings, charged down by the police and corn law incidents, the Chartists, and, if you follow up the article I cite from here, you can find out all you need to know about Kennington:

“Fascinating information and stunning revelations including Public Executions,A Radical Black Methodist, The World’s First National Labour Movement – The Chartists * the Significance of 10th April 1848 * The World’s First Photograph of a Crowd * the Occupation of Our Common by the Royal Park * The Horns Tavern and Charlie Chaplin * The Princess of Wales Theatre * The Scandal of the Unmarked War Grave * The Squatters * ‘Red Ted’ * The Return of the Commons Spirit” – From Working Press: Kennington Park - birthplace of British democracy

and – pushing the political meetings theme a little:

“‘Red Ted’ Knight’s socialist council started the annual fireworks displays in the Park. By 1984 the park was again being used for political gatherings. The demonstrators on the Anti Apartheid Rally of that year used the park as an assembly point. In subsequent years the park has hosted many important political gatherings including; Gay Pride (starting 1986), National Union of Students (1986), Irish Solidarity Movement (1986), Vietnamese Community event (1989), Anti Poll Tax March (1990), Kurdistan Rally (1991), Integration Alliance (1993), TUC (1993), Nigerian Rallies (1993), Campaign Against Militarism (1993) and Reclaim the Streets (1997). These events often reflect key moments in the political history of the time and are an important part of the democratic process”. From: Kennington Park - birthplace of British democracy

… well, there’s lots more to write on this. For now I will just also go back to note that theunmarked war grave is now marked, however minimally. So minimally that I did not know that the south field of the park, where in summer people laze about not going to demos and where there is often a ‘funfair’, was also tragically the site of the largest single bomb loss of life in the Blitz when an air raid shelter was hit on 15 October 1940 (again from VauxallandKennington):

“The shelter was large enough to accomodate hundreds, and maybe thousands, of people, and it filled the whole of the south field in Kennington Park – the field opposite what is now the cafe. The outline of the buildings can still be seen from the air, especially when the ground is very dry – see the photo. But the shelter was an unpleasant place, and people only went there because the government stopped them going down into the nearby underground stations. One witness reported that “The public shelter was horrible, smelly. It had a mouldy slab of concrete for a roof. But you couldn’t go anywhere else – the Oval Station was full of barbed wire … they wouldn’t let you near it.””

I’ve included the picture and you can indeed see the evidence – the ill-defined area to the south of the trench pattern shows where the bomb hit. There’s more on the bombing here (a pdf file). More to read… And with this I give notice of the start of a thread, sort of, on wartime stories that I’ll come back to soon so as to relate the adventures of grandfather Thomas Mouat Tate… Stay tuned…

Thead our hero//Space as Final Frontier//The tendency for the rate of profit to flail about madly like a neon beam emanating from your skull.

Sci Fi literature over and over enacts the subsumption of everyday life before my very eyes, and more and more of my day is teleported into commodification. From the mundane tech of gadgets, phones and comm-sets, to regimes of control, underlying code and even the modalities of aspiration; myriad forms of life are morphed in transition towards a fetish-virtuality. Science as fiction = life as fiction here. The imperative of the galactic mode of production draws even our fables of the future into a calculated orbit. Life becomes ever more alien, it must be subjugated and rendered – fetishized – off-world. Bladerunner, Fifth Element, A.I., so many utopian adventured dramatize this transition. Everything, even fear – the Alien series among many – becomes product.

Currently re/reading:

H. G. Wells – The Time Machine
Mikhail Bulgakov – The Master and the Magarita
Vincent King – Another End
Jeff Noon – Pollen, Vurt (in that order!)

Outside my capsule the commodification of everything proceeds apace, we only quibble about the schedules for the roll-out. The colonization of other worlds is then the displaced manifestation of the rapid and total colonization of ever more integrated aspects of our daily lives. We are astronauts of economic space. Everything is catered for in a vacuum, and screaming is pointless.
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Thead is our hero from the works of Vincent King – aka Rex Thomas Vincen.

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