Saturday, July 31, 2010

I'm an Old Punk.

THIS IS MY NEW favorite song, from the band Rum Shebeen. They got a kick start from the good folks at Strummerville, the legacy foundation of Joe Strummer.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Haroon Amir: "Our Minds Are Richer and Wider Than We Ever Imagine."

IT SEEMS ODD to be in London, sitting in pubs or on underground trains or cafes or wherever, and just reading. But I love it. Especially when the book revolves around the place where I am.

I finished The Buddha of Suburbia by Hanif Kureishi moments ago and I can't think of a better way to have spent the last four or five days.

It's a fascinating tale about London and it's people - the complex relationships they have with their familial backgrounds and their present situations, as well as their relationships with each other.

Karim, the teenage primary character, is an Englishman born to an Indian immigrant father (Haroon Amir) and an English mother (Margaret). He doesn't easily fit into any categories so he really doesn't have a social group (he's too English for the Indian immigrants and too Indian for the white folks). At the same time, he represents so many categories (racially, sexually and intellectually) that he easily gets swept into various activities - almost none of which he feels an attachment to.

Throughout the entire novel, he's on a quest of self-discovery during an era of great tumult in London - the 1970s. We see hippies and punks and New Wavers. He lives - for a period - in West Kensington, one neighborhood away from my Earl's Court flat (a neighborhood he describes as being home to whores, transvestites, addicts and Australians).

Part of my discomfort about reading while in a different land stems from the idea that I'm reading about people doing stuff, rather than actually doing stuff myself.

Ultimately, books make me feel a greater connection to the place, I think. For the most part, sadly, I am a tourist here (today I visited Big Ben and Parliament). I could never live the characters' experiences, even over the six weeks I am here. But books provide context for what I do actually get to experience.

Now I need another book that takes place in London.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Joe Strummer, Punk Rock Warlord.

ON EDGWARE ROAD near the Harrow Road overpass, the Brits actually recognized Joe Strummer, one of the most passionate musicians of all time. Seven years after he died in 2002, they named a subway tunnel/ art gallery after him. Apparently, Strummer used to be a street musician in these tunnels.

On one hand, the subway tunnel seems appropriate for a punk revolutionary. But Liverpool actually named their airport after John Lennon. At least Strummer hasn't been ignored completely by London, like other local greats.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Music is the Meaning of LIfe?

I PICKED UP NICK HORBY'S novel High Fidelity with great reluctance. I hated the film, especially the way John Cusack's character addresses the audience. Ugh.

But I'm here, in London, working with students documenting the music scene. And the actual book is about a 35-year old Londoner who runs a record shop in Camden Town. It was perfect for me, I thought.

I loved the book. Read it in about four days. The story of a guy roughly my age who loves music and refuses to let go of his teenage idealism? He hates those who succeed and lose their youthful angst? He still dreams of being a musician? He questions the purpose of his existence?

Me and this dude should sit down for a few pints.

Which, I guess, is why the book was so successful. Everyone likely reaches a certain point in their life and wonders, "Is this what I was meant to be doing?" If that question doesn't arise, I can't help but wonder what kind of meds they're on. Or if they are just suckers who have bought into the mainstream mentality.

I hope it's not just a guy thing - that stereotypical mid-life crisis. I hope everyone asks the question - "Why?"

In the book, the main female character has the same self-doubt. But it is written by a dude. So who knows?

For the remainder of my time in London, I'm keeping my eyes open for Nick Hornby. If you're ego surfing and stumble across this, Nick, drop me a line.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Understating the Hugeness of the Object.

Students jumping over Stonehenge.Students jumping in Bath.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Tag This Building! Remember the Punks!

IN THE 1970s, the location above was a hotbed of anarchy. Now it's an Indian restaurant, I think.

Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood
operated their boutique, SEX, here. Some of the former employees went on to become members of the Sex Pistols.

Today, there aren't too many punks on Kings Road. No Teddy boys, safety pinned-shirts, studded-leather collars, PVC pants or anything. Youthful angst seems to have been replaced by capitalistic ambition. Bummer.

The area seems pretty posh, actually. There are no traces of 430 Kings Road's past significance - no plaques or even graffiti. I am slightly disappointed.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Randomly Experiencing London (in Pictures).

HERE ARE A FEW photos from around London.

Above is at the Camden Stables marketplace.
The healing tent at the Lambeth Country Show in Brixton. Below is the Mega Slide.
Here are some of the townhomes in my Earl's Court neighborhood.
This is the old Lots Road Power Station in Chelsea, along the Thames, a few blocks from my flat.

More pics from London can be found here.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

"If You Are Engaged in the Events of Your Era, Then Journalism is the Best Career to Have."

HOUSED IN THE FORMER TIMES of London printing plant, and sharing space with UK network ITV, NBC News London covers Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

With a staff of 42 - including three correspondents, 8 producers and two shooters, they hustle to produce content for NBC's various outlets - the Nightly News with Brian Williams, the Today Show and the brand's websites. Producer Paul Nassar (above) and correspondent Tom Aspell spoke to us today about documenting the world.

In 2003, Nassar spent only 20 days at home. The rest of the time, he was traveling, covering events - mostly the invasion of Iraq. He worked around the clock and, on occasion, slept in cramped tanks with six or seven soldiers. But he loved it.

"We were at the heart of the story the whole world was fascinated with," said Nassar, a native of Lebanon who speaks Arabic, French and English. "If you are engaged in the events of your era, then journalism is the best career to have.""It's never fun when you're there," said Aspell, a veteran correspondent who began covering conflict during the Vietnam War. "But afterward, it's fun. There is a rush that comes with covering war."

Aspell, a native New Zealander, is usually based out of Cyprus.

"When you get home, even the mundane feels great," he said. "After being at war for two months, you get a kick out of the simplest things like going shopping or taking a bath. Food tastes better."

It was a pretty amazing experience meeting with these two, learning about their lives, and getting insight into the process that gets international news to an American audience.

We also saw the state-of-the-art facilities of ITV (below).

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Three Images of Tower Bridge (And One of The City Through the Bridge).

WE ATTENDED A performance by R&B troupe White Elephant today at The Scoop, an outdoor arena along London's South Bank waterfront. The space is about one block from Tower Bridge.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Locals Only? Free Music on Brick Lane.

FILTHY BOY from Peckham in South London headlined a free concert at 93 Feet East on Brick Lane this evening. Three of the four band members are 18; the fourth is 17. And they rocked - the lead singer has a deep baritone and the confidence to make it work.
Four different acoustic groups played inside at the bar area, including Olly the Octopus (pictured above). 93 Feet East holds free shows every Monday.
Brick Lane is a largely Bengali neighborhood, sprinkled with hipsters on fixies. There seemed to be very few tourists.

Between the numerous South Asian restaurants are a handful of bike shops, record stores and music venues. And the random Banksy artwork, like in the image immediately above.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

I'm in London but I'm Not a Tourist. Sort of.

WE DID THE BUS tour around the city and it kind of sucked. Bus tours generally do. But it was a way to show the students the essential tourist stuff, like St. Paul's Cathedral (above).

I wandered around St. Paul's and found some interesting light in a plaza a block away.

What we're really in London to do is see and hear music. Rough Trade holds a free concert series every Saturday at the Notting Hill Arts Club. Yesterday, I saw the Walnut Tree label's artist showcase, including Burn the Fleet (above).

Two days ago, we had a massive night partying in Brixton at the Hootananny. Royal Gala (above) was on the bill and then we partied with them afterward.

The reality is that we are tourists here. We aren't from here and we have no expertise on the area. We walk around snapping images constantly (at least, I hope the students are as well). I hope the students will at least make unusual images from interesting places, experiencing things away from Central London.