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Death in Sarajevo

Death in Sarajevo is a film about the depths of a hotel in one of those cities that Easyjet doesn’t fly to. I have read this book In Europe three times. First time it was upsetting in the northern bit of Spain, the second time I wanted to share the pain night by night out loud, and for the third time (which at some point has become the fourth time) we dip in and out, dip in to Bucharest 1989 / Paris 1905 / London 1944. It’s actually a perfect book, and it has taught me that at the centre is Sarajevo. So yesterday I Peggy Olsen-ed myself to a film during business hours. I got a mediocre seat because they let the members of culture in first and there are a lot of members of culture at 4pm during a Melbourne film festival. One of the character’s pleas: ‘protect us from uniform thinking’ reminds me of Helen Small saying that declining to describe our lives as unified stories is the only way we can hope to live out our time other than as tragedy although one talks about social fraternity / enmity and the other is about living long.

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CR

Critical Realist abductive approach to Nauru: If you cannot prove the allegations to be true, conceptualise the global structures (real) and institutional practices (actual) that need to be active in a particular (contingent) offshore context to explain the abuses (empirical) and consider whether this builds a more or less believable model of reality.

Cinema El Dudebro

The way we store and arrange information, in a cloud of hopelessly inadequate folders in folders and equally weighted key terms, or on pin-boards in the secret storage sheds of Rust Cohle and Carrie Mathison. This, in contradiction to the spatial metaphors that we use to comprehend and describe our memory – the physical spaces of vessels and drawers, catacombs and dark recesses, and the texture and thinness of the fragments and mistakes that they hold. You know the point of lying down at the end of yoga? Not to assimilate the benefits of being middle class into our dank bodies, but to let the mind briefly nudge, without conscious intent, a thought that has been allowed to float outside. Regardless, the spatial metaphor of our minds and memory is entrenched in the rooms of houses, in caves, on the rungs of library ladders, in garbage cans. Instead of these spatial metaphors of memory being transformed by digital experience (whatever that is – is it a cloud) they are being solidified further by the same Cinema El Dudebro plot twists that fetishise rows of zeroes and ones (reality is boring, please let us build our own, but then locate it in the same old fashioned metaphors of rooms, houses, cities, mines). I want to know what is the metaphor that reflects the movement of our mind (I think it might be a cloud).

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long sentences

After writing ‘use shorter sentences’ on 65 essays, the majority of which try to prove that grand and monumental planning is autocratic (and in doing so tilt perilously close to outright defining spatial planning as a failed endeavour despite their authors paying tens of thousands of dollars to become masters of planning themselves), a conversation with my boss about his thin knowledge of the first three pages of a book by Proust reminded me that I should try to use longer sentences myself, not for the delightful reason of dwelling on and discovering connections between ideas, but, deferring to the base reason for trying anything new (beyond Maslow’s even baser reasons), that is simply to see if I could do it. It is harder than I imagined and even that one, which is not at all long compared to Proust’s first three pages – or at least my boss’s distant memory of those first three pages, read in the sunshine on holiday where the words and their meaning, beyond the achievement of long sentences, are immediately bleached by the heat and evaporate right there and then instead of being stored and taken home – takes on the tone of an annoying butterfly and makes me think that, although the exercise has helped me to string some random thoughts together – the history and future of planning, the motivation to try new things, the futility of reading in the sunshine – maybe those connections are deceptive, describing the random movements of an unreliable narrator’s brain and coercing you to think that butterflies, a pyramid of need and expensive useless educations are part of a bigger more complex degustation of meaning, rather than allowing you to define your own relationships between separate and discrete short sentences that hover without shadows like lonely lengths of wood placed on a gallery floor in an unforgivable display of contemporary art that shouts ‘nothing is connected’, ‘you are all alone’, and no number of sentence connectors and semi-colons – used incorrectly for sure – can make me feel that this proximity is anything more than momentary chance.

Lea

In all serious earnestness, the Lea River is so important to me, even in the rain, even walking exposed to the April late-winter, it is luminous and now, after walking from the Lea to Vyner Street via the Hertford Union and Regents Canal, I’m having a beer and feeling elated. You walk on the narrow tow-path and smell the occasional waft of sewerage or a gas leak, the smoking wood fire of the boats, but most of all the mossy dampness of crumbling walls overwhelmed by creeping ivy and forget-me-nots. The light changes 6 times in the hour. 1) something like rain, but the drops are as sparse as the hot water in our dismal shower. 2) a classic white sky of the silver glare. 3) a rolling dark cloud. 4) a crack of lighting and thunder. 5) heavy rain so that I have to hide under a leaky bridge for a bit. 6) glorious golden sunlight against a dark sky. Since I’m moving through a sensory journey of the Lea, the sound is of course the sound of bike wheels rolling over loose pavers, the loose pavers that after heavy rain flood your shoes when you step in the wrong corner. It is the xylophone of the Lea. Touch: arctic sharpness on your eyeballs, taste: this pale ale at the end. I have a hundred memories of this stretch of river from Victoria Park to Ponders End. There is now an Adele song about the Lea, or about her very own Lea metaphor.

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happy cats

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the container

Other than self-pity, something that makes me cry easily is the Hillsborough disaster. I am reminded of it occasionally, like today when the jurors’ verdict was given, and I can’t stop thinking about it and looking at those photos. So to take my fingers off the laptop, and to buy some rhubarb and beer, I took a little walk around old places in the small patch of sunshine between April snow and evening. The first couple of days back in London I thought there were too many people, beyond what the city could handle and beyond what I could. The social and individual metaphors/realities coalesce. The etymological roots of ‘capacity’ – to bear, to take in – not about ability, but about an expanding and contracting container.

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he remains (Gilbert)

White Cat is refusing to follow Ginger to the New Hackney. Even when the last handbag wholesalers has become a bar called ‘Last Handbag Wholesalers’, White Cat will be sitting on his car in Columbia Road. Scam builders, up and down the streets of E8, throughout Europe’s cities, the world, have the pattern book for interiors and even Clive Denby is transforming erstwhile greasy spoons into subway tiles and brazen bare lightglobes. There is no conversation about London that isn’t about gentrification. It is like Godwin’s Law but without the debate in between. I can’t even bring myself to say gentrification because I feel like it has come from within. The accepted story is that a creative community lives somewhere shit and makes it interesting and then they (and the others who lived there all along) are priced out of housing, but this gives too much agency to artists and their friends in what is at its base an economic and spatial formula, in which art is just one of many commodities alongside coffee, theatre, transport, kitchens, and rooms upon rooms of marble blocks.

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