Thursday, July 3, 2008
We reached the multi-storey car-park behind the air-freight buildings. I drove around the canted floors of this oblique and ambiguous building and parked in an empty bay among the cars on the sloping roof...
Twenty feet away across the empty parking bays a man with a camera sat on the bonnet of a carp parked against the concrete balcony. I recognized the tall man with the scarred forehead who had watched near the accident site near below the flyover, the doctor in white coat at the hospital....
Stanley meets Livingstone, Ballard meets Vaughan... later (need to find the reference) it also suggests that Vaughan witnessed the aftermath of Ballard's alerted to the scene from the police radio accident reports. More and more it suggests that the character Ballard somehow 'mentally dies' in the crash, that Vaughan is a psychopomp, the crash being a metaphor for a nervous breakdown, an Osirian disintegration. Remember in Atrocity Exhibition there is the chapter 'Eurydice in a used parking lot'
Eurydice was the wife of Orpheus. Orpheus loved her dearly; on their wedding day, Orpheus played songs filled with happiness as his bride danced through the meadow. One day, a satyr had seen her and pursued her. According to legend, Eurydice stepped on a snake and fell to the ground. The venomous snake had bitten her, leaving Eurydice dead. Distraught, Orpheus played and sang so mournfully that all the nymphs and gods wept. In their saddened states, they told him to travel to the Underworld and retrieve her. Orpheus did so, and by his music softened the hearts of Hades and Persephone, his singing so sweet that even the Erinyes wept.'
Recently I have seen Ballard describe 'Crash' as a Psychopathic Hymn... perhaps he is hinting that it relates to the songs of Orpheus as he searches for his dead wife.... Again emphasising that Crash is in fact a tragedy about the psychopathological possibilities at every intersection of our daily lives. What most people refuse to admit in their criticism of Crash is that the language rendered by Ballard's genius is perversely beautiful, matched only in terms of outrage perhaps by Mirbeau's botanically infused cruelties in "Torture Garden"
Indeed there is a definite Pauline echo in the sudden and meaningless chance meeting of Ballard and the dead husband of Dr. Remmington, in the myth of Eurydice's snake bite in the meadow...
"Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, "Peace and safety," destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape" 1 Thessalonians 5:1-5
Is there not a road safety, clunk-clink, think once think bike (or bite!), Public Infomation Film like quality to Paul's apocalyptic advertisement copy...
and as the 1st world war poet William Hodgson wrote so prophetically two days before he died:
I, on that on my familiar hill
Saw with uncomprehending eyes
A hundred of Thy sunsets spill
Their fresh and sanguine sacrifice,
Ere the sun swings his noonday sword
Must say goodbye to all of this;
By all delights that I shall miss,Help me to die, O Lord.
Friday, June 20, 2008
Our own apartment at Drayton Park stood a mile to the north of the airport in a pleasant island of modern housing units, landscaped filling stations and supermarkets, shielded from thr distant bulk of London by an access spur of the Northern Circular motorway which flowed past us on its elegant concrete pillars...
I had been sitting in the same reclining chair on the veranda of our apartment, looking down through the anodized balcony units at the unfamiliar neighbourhood 10 storeys below.
This is puzzling... does such a place as Drayton Park exist a mile to the north of the airport? Certainly, West Drayton does... There is a Drayton Park in Islington. Is Ballard imagining a future upwardly mobile annex of West Drayton? Certainly the description of the balcony seems contemporary. I like the hint of bland Wordsworthian romance Ballard applies with subtle irony to the environs "pleasant islands of modern housing units" and the "northern circular motorway" with its "elegant concrete pillars"... in fact throughout the book I've always felt his great success was in creating a poetry of psychotic juxtaposition; the linguistic equivalent of the surrealist game "exquisite corpse".
During my first hours in Ashford Hospital all I could see in my mind was the image of us locked together face to face in these two cars.
Ashford Hospital Middlesex, close to Heathrow airport and Ballard's much loved resevoirs at Staines.
In the talk I gave on the Wyrd I compared Crash with Robert Graves' discussion on the love chase, realising that Crash is in fact a modern rendering of the myth. At the time I thought that they (Ballard and Vaughan) had met in the car park, but in actual fact though no explicit mention of a hospital meeting is made in the book, it does appear that Vaughan does makes his presence known at the hospital. Gladly this fits better with Graves' description of the apperance of wyrd as 'the shadow'.
from the talk:
Robert Graves makes the remarkable assertion that all true poetry celebrates some incident or scene from an antique story, the central chapters of which concern “the God's losing battle with the God of the waning Year for love of the capricious all powerful Threefold Goddess, their mother, bride and layer-out”1 - an obvious allusion to the Three Fates.
“The poet identifies himself with the God of the Waxing Year and his Muse with Goddess; the rival is his blood-brother, his other self, his weird.” Graves maintains that these characters are so woven into the fabric of our racial memory that “they not only assert themselves in poetry but recur in the form of dreams, paranoiac visions and delusions”. The weird, or rival, “often appears as the tall, lean, dark-faced bedside spectre, who tries to drag the dreamer out through the window, so that he looks back and sees his body still lying in bed”. Now, if we cast our minds to the extreme nightmare of J.G Ballard's Crash, we see the same image. The psychopath Vaughan's metaphorical appearance as the injured hero rises from his recovery bed; Vaughan with “pock-marked face [and] heavy dark hair”, a suitor for Ballard's wife Catherine, in probably the most subversive and weird rendering of Graves' “single poetic theme”, the love chase.
It's my feeling that the emergence of Vaughan in the consciousness of Ballard occurred after the death of his wife. Alot of Ballard's stories are ghost stories in which he is searching in the underworld for his dead wife, Mary. The 'Terminal Beach' is no coincidence in that his wife died on holiday in 1963. Much like Ernst Ballard set about constructing an incredibly powerful and painful mythic system starting with this story. The fragmentary condensed chapter approach mimicing the disintegration of reason resulting from the tragedy of her death. In these nekyias it is also no accident that his constant suitor is the psychopomp and psychopath.
Hospitals and music also have quite an interesting lineage: We have Bob Fosse's hallucinatory recovery from his near fatal heart attack which led to "All That Jazz". This was clearly then a massive influence on Dennis Potter's "Singing Detective". Current 93's early career highlight of "In Menstrual Night" was supposedly inspired by Steve Stapleton's hospital experience following an operation. Later on of course Tibet reconstructed his own near death experience on "Bright Yellow Moon". More recently still we have Fantomas' brilliant "Delirium Cordia". So what would the music be for Ballard's recuperation. Listening to the submarine motorik of Harmonia, something like this would be a good starting point to reconstruct such a soundtrack, overlooking the reservoirs, the western avenue and Heathrow airport. Perhaps though it would be overlaid by the recovering patient semi consciously channelling the staticised and schizophrenic radio gibber of the psychiatric tulpas that stalk the wards of nearby St. Bernard's (see previous location 1#).
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
As I drove home from the film studios at Shepperton on a rain-swept June evening, my car skidded at the intersection below the entrance to the Western Avenue flyover.. Out of my control, the car crossed the reservation and turned up the high-speed exit ramp.
Having difficulty with this location... the entrance is presumably from Shepperton to where... later on Ballard (see note Location #6) is said to live at Drayton Park, so we need to trace his route home! Shepperton Film Studios via Western Avenue to Drayton... A psychopathic AA Route Finder is needed.
From Route Finder:
0.00 Start out at Shepperton,Surrey B376 0.00
0.02 At Shepperton, traffic signals continue forward onto Green Lane (signposted Sunbury, Walton,) B3366 0.02
0.62 At roundabout take the 1st exit onto the A244 (signposted Feltham, Kingston, Sunbury, Staines) A244 0.64
0.53 At roundabout take the 1st exit onto the A244 (signposted Feltham, Kingston, Staines, Sunbury, M3) A244 1.17
0.30 Warning: Speed Cameras along the A244 A244 1.47
0.87 At The Shears Junction turn right onto the A308 (signposted C London. Kingston, Sunbury) A308 2.34
0.43 At Sunbury Cross roundabout take the 2nd exit onto the A316 (signposted London Central, Richmond, Heathrow, A316, Feltham) A316 2.77
0.24 Continue forward, then merge onto the A316 A316 3.01
1.50 Warning: Speed Cameras along the A316 A316 4.51
1.22 At Hospital Bridge Roundabout take the 2nd exit onto the A316 (signposted Central London, Richmond) A316 5.72
1.45 At roundabout take the 2nd exit onto the A316 (signposted Central London, Richmond) A316 7.17
0.34 At roundabout take the 2nd exit onto the A316 (signposted Central London, Richmond) A316 7.51
0.36 At roundabout take the 2nd exit onto the A316 (signposted Central London, Richmond, Chiswick) A316 7.88
0.44 Twickenham Bridge A316 8.31
0.14 Continue forward to cross Twickenham Bridge A316 8.45
0.58 At Richmond Circus roundabout take the 1st exit onto the A307 (signposted Ealing, M4, N.Circular) A307 9.04
1.40 At Kew Green, traffic signals turn left onto the A205 A205 10.44
0.29 Kew Bridge A205 10.72
0.15 At Kew Green, traffic signals bear right onto the A205 A205 10.87
0.27 At roundabout take the 2nd exit onto the A406 (signposted N Circular, A406, A40, M1, Wembley) A406 11.14
0.34 Warning: Speed Cameras along the A406 A406 11.49
0.37 At Gunnersbury Park turn right onto the A4000 (signposted Shepherds Bush, Acton) A4000 11.86
0.66 At traffic signals turn right onto the A4020 (signposted Shepherds Bush) A4020 12.52
0.06 At traffic signals continue forward onto the A4020 A4020 12.58
0.01 Turn left onto the A4000 A4000 12.59
1.04 At Gpsy Corner turn right onto the A40 (signposted Central London) A40 13.63
0.14 At Gipsy Corner continue forward onto the A40 A40 13.78
0.72 Warning: Speed Cameras along the A40 A40 14.50
0.03 Finish on Western Avenue,Acton A40 14.52
- Section time 0:47, Total time 0:47 - - -
0.00 Start out on Western Avenue,Acton A40 14.52
0.01 Turn right onto Old Oak Common Lane Old Oak Common Lane 14.53
0.01 Turn left onto Old Oak Road Old Oak Road 14.54
0.07 Turn right onto East Acton Lane East Acton Lane 14.61
0.04 Turn right onto Old Oak Common Lane Old Oak Common Lane 14.65
0.07 Turn left onto the A40 A40 14.72
0.01 Warning: Speed Cameras along the A40 A40 14.73
0.72 At Gipsy Corner branch left, then merge onto the A4000 (signposted Acton, Harlesden, Willesden Green) A4000 15.45
0.12 At T-junction turn left onto the A4000 (signposted Acton) A4000 15.57
0.93 Turn right onto the A4020 A4020 16.50
0.07 At traffic signals turn left onto the A4000 A4000 16.58
0.65 At Gunnersbury Park turn left onto the A406 (signposted S. Circular, M4, Richmond) A406 17.23
0.38 Warning: Speed Cameras along the A406 A406 17.61
0.30 At Chiswick Roundabout take the 5th exit onto the A4 (signposted The West, Heathrow, Staines, Hounslow, M4) A4 17.90
0.29 Warning: Speed Cameras along the A4 A4 18.20
0.37 Branch left, then join the M4 motorway (signposted The West, Heathrow Airport) M4 18.57
4.46 Heston Service Area (MOTO) M4 23.03
2.44 Leave the M4 at junction 4, then at roundabout take the 3rd exit onto the M4 (signposted Uxbridge) M4 25.47
0.52 Branch left, then at roundabout take the 3rd exit onto Cherry Lane (signposted West Drayton) Cherry Lane 25.99
0.48 Bear right onto Sipson Road Sipson Road 26.47
0.31 At "The Fox and Pheasant" public house continue forward Unclassified 26.79
0.11 Turn right onto Porters Way Porters Way 26.89
0.01 Arrive at West Drayton,London Unclassified 26.90
- Section time 0:41, Total time 1:28
Sunday, June 8, 2008
I can't find any evidence for a multi-storey car park from google earth, so maybe a poetic representation might be worthwhile... a collage approach possibly, find a derelict plot of land in Northolt and superimpose a suitable car-park... virtual town planning, after all as Ballard says the job of fiction is nowadays is to recreate reality!
Saturday, June 7, 2008
- do these prostitutes really exist in the abundant quantities the Ballard's imagination suggests? By all-night cafes presumably he means within the airport terminals.... speaking of the psychological landscape of Heathrow airport, in my archives i have this paper from a psychiatric journal "Medicine, Science And The Law", titled "Wandering at Heathrow Airport by The Mentally Unwell" (1987, Vol 27, No 1).
Vignettes of three typical cases
A.M.T, a 21-year-old student with a three year history of psychiatric care, including three hospital admissions had been previously admitted to St. Bernard's Hospital from the airport. On this occasion she attracted the attention of the police, who were alerted by her approaches to airline staff, when she voiced concern about Russian spies and delusions regarding both the K.G.B and C.I.A intelligence services. She had been admitted, within the last year, from the vicinity of Buckingham Palace. After stabilization on neuroleptics she was transferred to he catchment area hospital in South London.
J.A., a 37-year old divorced female had received psychiatric treatment during the previous 13 years, including three hospital admissions to her catchment area hospital in East London. She was wandering at the airport for a day before being approached by the airport police late at night when she expressed grandiose ideas of having royal ancestry. On admission she revealed auditory hallucinations and thought broadcasting and was emotionally blunted. Two previous admission from Heathrow airport, were recorded, one the previous year under similar circumstances. She absconded from the hospital and wandered to Luton, where she was admitted within a week of leaving St. Bernard's hospital.
H.J, a 41-year-old, single male from South London had been admitted to St. Bernards from the airport two years previouslu and was admitted again under similar circumstances. He had approached again under similar circumstances. He had approached airline personnel for a ticket without sufficient money to pay for one and on further enquiry expressed delusions regarding his need to fly to the United States in connection with his special relationship with the President. He suffered from a chronic schizophrenic illness and had discontinued his depot medication six months previously.
Sunday, May 11, 2008
The Ladybird box for boys has the following titles:
The Policeman, Danger Men, The Story of Football, How it Works: The Computer, How it Works: The Motor Car, Making a Transistor Radio.
So ripe for a subversion:
The Psychopath, The Terrorist, The Dictator, The Story Of Football Hooliganism,
How it Crashes: The Motor Car, Making a suspect device, How it works: Lysergic Acid
Almost a complete kit to enable time travel back to 1973 and Crash... Might get this set, and see if it's collageable. Failing that anybody up for doing some Ladybird style drawings, if i scan them in along with subversive text?
Friday, May 9, 2008
Matatu station in Kampala, UgandaThe origin of the word matatu is ascribed to different sources. One attribution is that it is derived from the Swahili word tatu, meaning three. When matatus made their first appearance in the late 1960s, the standard fare for a trip was three shillings. Matatu are sometimes known as 'ma3' as the swahili word for "three" is tatu, normally used in text messaging and more recently, as 'mats' in Sheng, Kenya's creolised swahili language. Matatus are mostly Isuzu minibuses; other popular models include the Nissan Caravan and Toyota Hiace.
Until the Kenyan government enforced new laws to regulate the matatu sector, matatu vehicles were characteristically painted colorfully, commonly featuring pictures and caricatures of anything currently in vogue. If, for example, a single by Beyoncé were at Number One, one might easily find a matatu named after her or her song, with her picture prominent on both the inside and outside of the vehicle. They also use names of famous people all over the world be it singers, sportsmen, etc. like Martina Hingis, Jennifer Lopez, George Bush and so on.
Many Kenyan matatus were also equipped with powerful car audio systems, including high-powered woofers and sub-woofers. Loud music was a popular means of advertising, the theory being that the matatu with the loudest and most fashionable hip-hop or reggae music would appeal to a larger crowd, hence making higher profits. That is why the youth normally use the 'dot-com' mathrees usually referred to as manyanga/nganya and the older people use the more quieter ones-wangora or ya wazazi (for parents). This is because majority of them have no music at all and are always slow.
Unsafe behavior by matatu operators, including speeding and violations of traffic laws, allegedly contributed to increasingly dangerous driving conditions on the streets of Nairobi. For this and other reasons, the government of Kenya implemented laws regulating the matatu industry on 31 January, 2004.
More generally, 'matatu culture' has been characterized by a cut-throat approach to business that emphasizes quick profits. Numerous anti-social practices have allegedly been linked to the matatu business, including:
*Bribery of traffic policemen Corruption
*and sexual molestation of young girls by matatu drivers or crew
*Petty crime: Outright theft from passengers, overcharging, pickpocketing, physical assault, verbal abuse and general intimidation of the travelling public
*Young men dropping out of school to become touts and drivers
:- hardly cliff richard in Summer Holiday, but nevertheless sounds like an excellent job with lots of perks
Thursday, May 8, 2008
I was 5 in 1973. We lived in Kenya, my parents were teaching. The roads were absolutely treacherous. Among the most dangerous vehicles on the roads between Nairobi and Fort Hall where we lived were the buses. I was speaking recently with my brother about this... how exaggerated a vague childhood memory was all this. So I have been searching around. Numerous articles on the web discuss the Matatu/Matutu, essentially what started out as a Pirate Taxi company:
the following comes from a report on Regulated bus systems around the world.
In Nairobi, public transport services arepresently provided by:
- Kenya Bus Services (KBS)
- Nyayo Bus Services (NBS)
- Matutus KBS, like ZUPCO, used to operate under afranchise system and was the sole supplier ofpublic transport services until matutus werelegalised and now they face competition fromNBS. KBS Is 75 percent owned by a U-K companyand 25 percent by Nairobi City Council. NB$ isa Government of Kenya run parastatal companyand matutus "are privately owned small scaletransporters of commuters, they represent anintermediate form of public transport service between the conventional bus and taxi" (Obudhoand Aduno, 1992).
Matutus were legalised as a form of public transport by Presidential decree in 1973, formerlythey operated as 'pirate taxis'. In 1973 they carried 16% of passengers travelling in Nairobi compared with 84% 66 by KBS but by 1990 the Matatu market share had risen to 52%, KBSS had declined to 42% and NBS carried just 6% as theyoperate mainly during peak hours.
Since their legalisation matutus have been an object of persistent public criticism and are viewed as -unruly, hazardous and anuneconomical means of travel" and they havebeen accused of 'being the cause of mostdreadful accidents and performing the mostchaotic operations" (Obudho and Aduwo, 1992).They have been identified with over-speeding,overloading, continuous hooting and touting for passengers. chaotic parking, harassment and abuse of passengers and general disregardfor normal traffic rules.Matutus tend to operate just prior to conventional bus services so capturingpassengers and major market share. Integration of services has not occurred rather fiercecompetition predominates. Gradually individualownership has given way to fleet ownership which may lead to uncontrollable excesses ofthe matatu being minimised."
There's also this great bulletin from the WHO:
Kenya's bus drivers go back to school
Next door to the United Republic of Tanzania (see adjacent "reflectors" story), reckless drivers of Kenya's "matatu" buses, who help make Kenya's roads 20 times more dangerous than Britain's, are to go back to driving school to improve their skills.
"They are unsafe and reckless" passenger Musyoka Makau told BBC reporter Andrew Harding. "It's a lack of responsibility". According to Harding "a morbid, macho culture" has prompted many matatu owners to paint names like "Chechnya," "Aggression," "Monica Lewinsky," "Upsetter," and "Why Drive When You Can Fly?" on the vehicles.
Now with British funding special one day courses are being held for all of Kenya's estimated 16 000 matatu drivers, Harding reported. "What is the brake for?" instructor Daniel Muchai asks a classroom full of young men. Silence ... Then a cautious volunteer suggests "to slow the vehicle?"
"We're trying to teach them the need to be responsible," Dickson Mbugua, who owns two matatus, and is also chairman of the Matatu Welfare Association, explaining to the BBC. "The course will teach them first aid too — and explain about the effects of driving when taking drink or drugs. We hope it will cut down the number of deaths on the roads."
A Matatu bus... looking a bit like Ken Kesey's wagon, drawn by some doom metal adolescent.
So where does all this lead.... Well I am thinking flash forward 20 years, a globally warmed, oil compromised Western Avenue... a road movie, part "Vanishing Point" part "Hell Drivers", where battling rival pirate bus companies fight it out on the flyovers... filmed in 1970s style Ektachrome colours, the film treated and collaged like a Peter Beard photograph: The Mangled Destinies Of Carriages And Men (cf... the mingled destinies of crocodiles and men)
Wednesday, May 7, 2008
Last night you mentioned the Past Times shop and how English Heretic could be like an Evil Past Times. I hadn't really thought of the ramifications of this, but thinking about it, that is an absolute genius of an idea!.... The permutations for a flashback to the real 1973/JGB world are endless... Idi Amin table mats, Khmer Rouge wallpaper: endlessly repeating skulls, portable radios styled like smashed Fenders, playing retro-motorik-scuzz over oil crisis news reports...Corgi Car Bombs Collector sets (Red Army Faction or IRA), Slain sporting hero figurines featuring members of the Israeli Munich 72 Olympic Team.
I've wanted for a while to stage a souvenir shop as an art exhbition, where visitors come in and buy the goods... the curator acts as shop assistant as the exhibition is gradually denuded of its contents... This Real Past Times idea would work perfectly...
I visualise a kind of room as living collage - part Richard Hamilton part Crass Album Cover...
Unfortunately PastTimes web site is down, but I am going to visit the Ipswich one at weekend... I feel compelled. That place you're right has always stirred a strange feeling of potential subversion... now I can see why, brilliant!
The exhibition could be called "This Is Yesterday"...
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
music found on Vaughan's ipod at the scene of the fatal accident. It would appear the cradle of the ipod player bifurcated one of his testicles half way through Chromosome Damage by Chrome... or something...
Monday, May 5, 2008
my favourite piece of dialog is the bit i have used for the description of Vaughan on the blog... bizarrely, the screenplay replaces fuck with the word tuck... which reminds me of an old comedy sketch, where someone was parodying the dubbing of swear words that used to occur on TV. I seem to recall it lampooning Raging Bull... "You funning my sister..."
The "Maldoror Of The Motorway"comes from an Angela Carter review, I think... can't be sure because someone stole my RESearch 8/9!
INT. BALLARD APT. – NIGHT
James and Catherine lie naked in bed, she with her back to him, her buttocks pressed into his groin. He is inside her.
CATHERINEHe must have tucked a lot of women in that huge car of his. It's like a bed on wheels. It must smell of semen...
CATHERINEDo you find him attractive?
JAMESHe's very pale. Covered with scars.
CATHERINEWould you like to tuck him, though? In that car?
JAMESNo. But when he's in that car...
CATHERINEHave you seen his penis?
JAMESI think it's badly scarred too. From a motorcycle accident.