Thought, experience and memory from a brain in a jar, one that sometimes has control over a thirty-two-year-old Londonite.

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Location: Herne Hill, London, United Kingdom

31 July, 2005

All New!

Well, the website uploaded successfully. I've an annoying issue with created tags in CSS not working on Internet Explorer, which may take a considerable bit of recoding to sort out, but that's not for now...

I shall bathe in my own glory for a day or so, and then get back to work on the various unfinished pieces of writing, and the capsules for the GRW articles, which at least need dating.

Do let me know if there are any almighty cock-ups you might come across...

EDIT: Well, I had to go and tinker with things, didn't I? A friend who eschews JavaScript mentioned to me that nothing happened at all when launching the site on Firefox with JS deactivated. I struggled this morning to rectify the situation, but Firefox simply refused to render what I'd placed in the noscript tags. Finally giving up, but leaving the noscript and noframe code in place, I took a quick glance at the site at work, only to find that the noframe text comes up on Internet Explorer. I then find out that noscript and noframe are pretty much defunct as html code. My site, as Mr Sloman was kind enough to point out, now loads with the title This site requires a fraHamilton's Brainable browser. I shall rectify tonight, and may just create a piece of black text which JavaScript removes at the earliest moment, thus leaving it for those who aren't capable of viewing it. Or I could just say sod it, and not worry about the 0.1% of browsers that don't use JavaScript.

30 July, 2005

Riverside Comedy

Riverside Comedy
Riverside Comedy,
originally uploaded by Simon Scott.
Well, it’s the time of the year when comedians, London’s or otherwise, do their warm-ups before moving to a flat in Edinburgh for a month and pissing ten grand up a wall. Funds being what they are Ian and I take the advantage of the situation by avoiding Edinburgh all together, taking the modest climb down of watching TV’s John Oliver poncing about with twenty sheets of A4 in his hand,
So it was that, on Thursday and Friday, we found ourselves making the faintly awkward journey to the Riverside Studios to watch a variety of comedy turns. Each night was a double bill, and I feel I’m not giving too much away by suggesting that on each double bill there was an act in particular we had turned up for. Let’s see if you can guess.

On Thursday we watched John Oliver and Andy Zaltzman with their topical satire of the themes of the modern day. Their show managed, on the last of their preview shows, to run about 15 minutes over, which gave Mr Oliver no end of concern. As for the double act, I couldn’t help but feel that for the most part the relationship between the two of them didn’t really gel enough. The show was more of a shared monologue than a double-act, which is something bound to happen when both parties come from the same viewpoint. That said, I did enjoy the show much more than I’d anticipated, having sat through the tawdry dullness of John Oliver’s various TV appearances, on Iannucci’s gash, f’rinstance. On the plus side, at least Oliver didn’t do his tried and detested “my constituency had the worst turn out for the election since 1914…” material.

Stewart Lee followed. Oh yes. And having been previously promised a completely new set, rather than the one we’d seen previously at Amused Moose, etc. we were not disappointed. Stewart had even managed (and have you noticed I call John Oliver Oliver and Stewart Lee Stewart?) to write some solid material about The Tragic Events Of The Seventh Of July. Much of this involved his own personal experiences on the day in question, having slept through the bombings themselves and avoiding the news prior to his email account and mobile phone.
The routine ended with a hugely drawn out reworking of one of his old gags, which is actually a joy to behold. He has a tendency to really manipulate gags to fit whatever theme he wants to build the show on, and to stretch them out for as long as possible.

As for Friday, Ian and I only stayed for the first act, who was a member of the 2001 Footlights entourage. We’d enjoyed him in Edinburgh so naturally was interested in seeing his current act.
Mark Watson’s show involves the concept that his performance constitutes the average human lifespan, and the stand-up adapts to the relevant age of the performer, who ages a decade for every ten minutes. This only had the lightest effect on the material as it was performed, and the format seemed more important in dragging out aspects of the character that Watson has chosen to use for his performance. He spends the whole routine as a Welshman, slipping out only once after his “death” but not far enough for that particular stretch of material to work. That said it was refreshing to see a performer that was relatively hate-free, and only swore occasionally.
I’m afraid to say we didn’t stay for Danny Bhoy, but I’m sure he was very good too.

29 July, 2005

Time moves on a pace - my homepage relaunch date is drawing near and, as is traditional, I've not done all the writing I've intended to. I'm hoping to get through Pieces, which will be a randomly ordered story similar to B.S.Johnson's The Unfortunates. I've had to boil a life down to 110 little memories, which has been a bit of a struggle. What has been interesting with it is sitting down and planning as much as I could of it, but then, in writing it, finding there were parts I just couldn't or didn't want to write about, and other totally unplanned sections that came to mind and fit really well with the whole work. But completion is still a long way off. I've not yet written the javascript for it yet, deciding that I really ought to work on the text of it first.

I'm also going back and revising the One Hour Photo extended piece I started hem-hem years ago. Taking a break this long has been worthwhile, in that I can now coldly throw out much of what I had already written with regards critical analysis, and start again. Because One Hour Photo is such a packed and textured film, I found my own thoughs about it getting increasingly cluttered. I've managed now to go back to the film and pull out three distinct subjects, which I will be able to tackle separately before tying them all up at the end. Structure, y'see. I've even emailed Mark Romanek to see if he'll fill me in on some curiosities in his CV.

I've also decided to do a shorter companion piece on Static, Mark Romanek's other debut film. Working on them both simultaneously is a bit tricky, in that there are certain similarities between the two films, but it's ground I don't want to tread to firmly in the OHP piece if I'm just repeating what I've already said in the Static piece. The other struggle with the Static piece will be getting production information. I did try and contact the Page Film Unit, Page being where Static was shot, but they've no record of the film in the unit, not even under its working title "Necessity". I've details from an email interview with Keith Gordon which I can put to good use, but his memory is understandably shaky after all this time and relative disinterest. I tentatively asked Romanek if he would consider discussing the film, but don't hold out much hope.

So what to do on relaunch day? It's clear I'm not going to get nearly enough stuff completed, but I have finished a lot that isn't on the old Hamilton's Brain site. First and foremost I have an obscenely fancy menu system (bye-bye switches) and, added to that, I've put up a few short stories, almost all of my God's Rude Wireless articles, and links through to a Wiki site I'm hoping will gain some interest.

I've also very slightly extended the Go Bits and will be adding more stuff to that as time goes on. As I've sat down and structured the OHP and Static articles, I may do a coming soon style teaser menu for them both, which will allow me to add sections as and when I complete them. Pieces is a little trickier, so I may write up an introductory note - I'll have to be a bit tricksy with it though; I laughably consider the story to be art, and I am wary of art that has to be presented with explanation. Also, as I think I have shown in all of the above, talking about my own work is difficult as it tends to make me come off as self-obssessed, arrogant and pretentious (Watashi?).

There's stuff I've yet to even get to, such as a wiki fiction project, and a reinvention of my Spatchcock character (dirty restaurant critic). So much to do, so little me.

I'm going to instigate a monthly update, which will give me the focus to get things complete and presentable at specific times. It should even allow me to honour one of my original intentions, which was to have a new strapline for the loading page every day. I do it to myself, that's the sad thing.

And I've not even mentioned last night! Took in some stand-up, but I'll probably write that up tomorrow, as we're off out for more tonight. Bad pics too!

27 July, 2005

Wish You Weren't Here..?

Charles Clarke has gone on holiday! I can neither confirm nor deny that he is in Florida.

25 July, 2005

Assassins Of Memory

Some dickhead posted this on the No2ID forum. Hopefully by the time you read this, the link will be broken.

I've tried to understand (but in no way agree with) Holocaust deniers, but have failed utterly. Their logic seems to be:
  1. the Holocaust never happened (this is often based on sterling pieces of evidence such as "once a load of people got stuck on a train in a tunnel, and they didn't die!" or "I can't see any chimneys on these aerial photos of the bombed out gas chambers at Auschwitz, this survivor claims that the gas came in down the chimneys, therefore the survivor is lying, all survivors are lying, and the Holocaust can't have happened", "the Zyklon B that was used on the Jews was to delouse them (despite the fact that it is more lethal to humans than to lice) and the six million Jews that disappeared? Apparently that's where the post war American homeless came from...)
  2. The fact that the wealth of information and opinion is in favour of the Holocaust, which we have just proved didn't happen (and we're not even proper Historians!) proves that there is a vast Jewish Zionist conspiracy seeking to establish Jewish Supremacy - this truth must be told
  3. Once the world wakes up and realises the truth, it will have no choice but to... can you guess, readers???
This has made me feel physically sick. Even though I personally can't accept Israel's use of the Holocaust as a means by which to fake a moral highground (a trick they must have learnt from the Americans), I'm even more distressed by the use of the current Israeli-Palestinian struggle by neo-Nazis... no, not neo-Nazis, just fucking Nazis, to destroy the memory, the historical fucking fact, that 6 million individuals were systematically dehumanised and destroyed by an insane dictator.

Reasonable Suspicion; Reasonable Doubt

So the police have shot someone on the underground. This is the No-Man's Land, the territory none of us want to think about much, the grey area where our civil liberties collide. The police have a procedure designed to prevent just such a tragedy from taking place, and yet are criticised for following that procedure. They asked for someone to stop, and for whatever reason, now unknowable, the person did not stop, and now they are dead. This only has become a problem in that the person in question, as far as has been ascertained, is innocent. It was circumstance alone that allowed him to leave a house, one already under surveillance in connection with the failed bombings, in a winter coat. The police are caught between the reality of shooting innocents when they have reasonable suspicion that they are in fact terrorists, and failing to protect commuters from genuine suicide bombers. I doubt very much anyone is going to get into hot water over the incident, but that makes it no less an embarrassment, and no less a tragedy. I foresee more sniffer dogs, and a confrontation with the problem of exactly what armed police officers are supposed to call out to people in such a diverse city as London.

Ian and I went to the last screening of the Alan Clarke season - a double bill of Elephant and Made In Britain. Elephant consists of about thirteen Sectarian killings - no plot, and about three lines of dialogue. The film seemed to be a challenge to find meaning in each death, when there is none. It is an unflinching film and it needs to be. It forces us to take note of the elephant in our living room - a lesson we could still use some twenty years later. However, I found myself examining the structure of the film, or waiting to see if an assassin from earlier in the film would end up a victim later on - this is the struggle we face, to accept that these deaths are meaningless when our instinct is to hunt out order and explanation.

Made In Britain follows the story of Trevor, a skinhead who is sent to an assessment centre. The brutality of the film is in the fact that the system in which Trevor finds himself is committed utterly to attempting to save Trevor from himself, but Trevor is committed to being himself, at whatever price. Neither can help or learn from each other - and the points that Trevor raises, painting a picture of authority that is just as fascistic as his own dubious politics, ring uncomfortably true. This, like Psy Warriors, seems to work by pitching two flawed stances against each other, catching its characters in the middle. The irony of seeing these films, and Psy Warriors, at this moment in history, is not lost...

20 July, 2005

Sic 'em W!


A Home Office spokeswoman said dispersal zones already in place and future applications were unaffected by the judgment.

"These powers provide the police with a powerful tool to tackle intimidation and anti-social behaviour by groups of people," she said.

"Whilst not limited to young people, 'teenagers hanging around' is a big cause of concern to the public as cited in the British Crime Survey."

Do what? Since when is law based on prejudice?

Sic 'em Ken!


19 July, 2005

Time To Go?

Here are a few news items that have failed to kick up much of a fuss over here. I went hunting for details following a reference to the memo in the Guardian.

July 21st Memo
July 23rd Memo
Ministers were told of need for Gulf war ‘excuse’
British Intelligence Warned of Iraq
Prime Minister Tony Blair Confirms Authenticity of Downing Street Memo

Given, however, that the Butler report, despite clearly saying that the intelligence reports and Blair's Parliamentary statements were misleading, has been seen as exonerating Blair, I doubt such an open admission of impropriety will dislodge him either...

10,000 and counting...

Yup! The ID Refusal Pledge at has reached its target months ahead of schedule. There's also a second fundraising pledge planned for those who really won't be able to refuse an ID card (pensioners, the disabled, single mothers, etc. etc.) to support those who can. I'll post a link here when it goes up.

And a little clarity from the No2ID forum - the biometric passport requirement is that the passport has a digital facial image of the passport bearer and that is it! No fingerprints, no registry, no nothing.

I'll be renewing my passport in August, before the price goes up to £93...

18 July, 2005

£17m and counting...

Linked from the No2ID forum recently is an article on the costs already run up in regards to the ID Card Bill.

This is all the more worrying when Blair is turning round and saying "for just a little bit more money we can have this...". "Just a little bit more" is how stupid, unworkable, unethical acts gain unstoppable momentum. Eventually it'll be "But we've already spent £12 billion on the scheme, it would be insanity to just walk away from it..." except we won't let you get that far...

And recently the HO had a bit of an own goal when they revealed that on mainland Europe, ID cards are accepted as travel documents. Which means that the already bulltwanging division of costs between (non-databased) biometric passports at £93 (of which with the biometric information somehow costs £51) and National ID Card (plus database processing) at less than £29 has become even more unstuck. It will under this scheme be pointless for people to get a passport unless they are leaving the continent - who's going to pay out £93 on travel documents so they can go to Spain for their holidays when they can just get one of these newfangled bits of polltax.. I mean plastic, for £29, that'll do the trick just as well! Hee hee. So now the scheme will have to be subsidised by the long-haul travellers alone? Passport prices going up even more to cover the capped ID cards, Non-European destinations getting increasingly unattractive... so it goes...

Oo, and here's a thought. Much has been said about how the Act will criminalise those unlikely to be able to keep up with the updating of information, those who may lose their cards, those who may leave their house without their cards (like hell they won't be compulsory to carry). Hmm... the old, the insane, the homeless... this list seems familiar... I wonder if the database is unable to handle Hebrew characters..?

15 July, 2005

And Then We'd Laugh At How Clever We All Were

Chatting to a friend on MSN Messenger and this exchange happened:

Helen says:
don't forget to nip out and buy harry potter tonight
JackDinn says:
Fuck off. I' ve not read any Proust yet.
I kill me sometimes...

Whichever Way You Throw Me I Will Stand

At 11:45 yesterday City Hall emptied itself of workers as we made our way to Potters Field to participate in the two minutes' silence. Gone was any notion of the awkward need for comformity - I, and mostly everyone, I think, participated in it not because they feared how it would look if they didn't, but because they genuinely wanted to be there.

Sally Hamwee made an eloquently minimalist address to mark the beginning and end. Most people lowered their heads, but I felt that this ritual was as much about defiance as it was about remembrance, so I kept my head up. The way in which everything slowed down was beautiful, the whole event seeming to be a strange blend of shared sadness, comfort, resilience and strength.

I've lived in London for three and a half years, but that was the first time that I felt like a resident.

12 July, 2005

Interesting Times

Day 2 at the GLA and probably one of the weirdest days of my working life. Having railed against Blair, Clarke and Jowell over the last few months in this here blog, I've come embarrassingly close to them all, something I would probably find amusing and entertaining were it not for such an unwelcome reason. Today capped it all, though, as we were herded down to the ground floor for an unspecified reason. Being all new-boy keen (and new-boy unoccupied) I ended up amongst the first three to get there, and was asked to queue up for the book by some security guys. It became abundantly apparent that Tony Blair was on his way to sign the book of condolence and we had, as one of the security chaps had put it, been drafted in as rentacrowd.

This was a difficult situation. I'd thought about signing the book, of course, but not to the extent that I'd thought of what I would put in the book. Suddenly I was put in a situation where I really ought to sign it, and to do so directly after the Prime Minister. Part of me, I will admit, wanted to place some pithy cryptic criticism as close as I could to Blair's message, but saw that it was not really the time or the place. But as I stood there I did wonder with a real bitterness, whether this happened in Iraq, or Israel, or Palestine whenever a bombing occurred, or whether a book of remembrance remains open for the victims of global capitalism, or of trade sanctions. No-one wants to play the numbers game with these sort of atrocities, and I would never choose to belittle the losses that we suffered on Thursday, but nevertheless they do remain small in comparison to the sites of other conflicts. That said, a death is a death is a death.

Tony came along, looking tired and haggard, was shepherded to the books, sat down and allowed his creative ruminations to be photographed. Then the moment I was dreading, the shaking of hands. Happily I have an innate ability to go all stiff and official-looking when involved in these kinds of ceremonies. I'm one of those people who can't walk around HMV without being asked questions about the stock. Because to my left I had two security guards, and I was emanating an unwillingness to shake hands with Blair and an aura of officialdom, Tony decided to start his handshaking with the guys standing to my right. Or perhaps it was merely that he didn't want to shake hands with someone wearing a black shirt? (Straw and Mugabe anyone?) Either way I've secretly enjoyed the fact that I've been snubbed by the PM, and possibly on TV to boot.

When I finally did reach the book, I went for something faintly platitudiness, but heartfelt nonetheless. No-one gains from mud-fighting, least of all at funerals. On returning to my desk my line manager informed me, light-heartedly, that I'd signed the "wrong book". My message went into the visiting dignitaries book, so I'm sharing scribble space with the England Cricket team, the Princess Royal, Ken, Jowell, Clarke... And there I was thinking we were all leveled in the shadow of what has transpired. Certainly in this act of remembrance we were all in it together.

While waiting to sign, while composing my words, I came up against a further dilemma, which was whether to say "I" or "We"; should I write about my thoughts or our thoughts. The former is egotistical, the latter presumptuous and less sincere. But this dilemma was faced in the quiet, away from any public attention - to face similar niggling issues in the glare of the world's media, and to have to make really serious decisions as well, is something I would not envy, and although I agree with very little of what Blair is currently about, I'll give him sympathy enough of that.

09 July, 2005

Music Men

Music Men
Music Men,
originally uploaded by Simon Scott.
When these here buskers turned up, the J boys rolled their eyes and gnashed their teeth, but I was in no mood for such churlishness, and slipped them a beer token.

Bill Nighy

Bill Nighy
Bill Nighy,
originally uploaded by Simon Scott.
Whilst decompressing after yesterday with friends beginning with J, I happened to spot Bill Nighy, perhaps best known for the photographer episode of People Like Us, strolling along Windmill Street with a cardboard box. He looked like he'd just been fired. He was very good in the taxi.

08 July, 2005


Never made my second post as we were putting up a guest for the night. Ironically, we were going to be doing that any way. And now the dust has settled a little, and the number of explosions have shrunk from seven to four. A lot of the commentators have stated that such attacks are the price we pay for a free society. Tony Blair1 made a statement from the G8 summit stating that Britain would not bow to terrorists; that we would not change our way of life. His statement stuck like a fish bone in the throat and was just as uncomfortable.

His government has sought consistently to weaken our way of life - removal of juries from certain trials, the provision of prior charges in jury trials2, tracking every vehicle in the country, putting every native and visiting citizen under surveillance, putting people under house arrest, holding people without trial; I cannot help but wonder exactly what it is we're protecting (I think it's something to do with purchasing ring tones), and whether by "protecting our way of life", Blair means he is putting it in a little box for safe keeping. Less than 24 hours after the attacks, Charles Clarke finds himself on the Today programme talking about how it may become necessary to further curtail civil liberties. Fighting fascism with fascism.

What irritates the most is the sense of guilt I feel by typing this in the first place, the notion (and Blair and Clarke have both said this too) that it is too soon to discuss such matters. However, Blair and Clarke are keen not to have the discussion at all - the ID Cards Bill goes to show that the government consider debate to be the thing that happens once the decision has been made, and you can assure yourself that the Home Office is even now looking at ways in which to further their control over the sleeping public, long before anything is discussed openly.

Whilst walking to Victoria yesterday from Baker Street I saw two kids on in-line skates in the road, and although it almost seems cruel that they should take the advantage of the emptied streets to experience things they could not under normal circumstances get away with, they also appeared as an image of hope, courage and defiance, not just of the terrorists but also of the authorities whose first response is to request voluntary curfews. The world will not be won by staying at home.

I've been puzzled a little by the expert analysis. I can swallow the possibility that the particular "cell" responsible for the action could consist of between 20 and 30 people (suicide bombers tend to be peer pressured weaker members of individual groups, bring less to the table than the bomb-makers and the networkers), but to describe the attack as ruthlessly well organised seems peculiar. This notion has stemmed from the fact that, once the bombs had gone off in the tube trains, people were then bombed on a bus. If, however, these were suicide bombers, then the whole thing could have been played more or less by ear. Once someone has the bombs, you just pick a date and you do it.

I suspect the plan had been to detonate the bombs on the tube, but with the bombers spread out, and bombs going off at varying times (presumably because the goal is to kill people, not to give a syncronised display) at some point one of the bombers was unable to get into the underground, and so went for the next best thing. We have a tendancy, us humans, to look on the events that have happened and wonder at the curious acts and decisions that led to those events - the future is uncertain, but the past is changeless. Because everyone, not just the Blairs and the Clarkes of this world, wants to feel they can control the universe around them, we tend to assume that everything happens for a reason and that invariably there is a will involved, if not ours, other people's; if not other people's then a greater power. Thus a random, loosely organised plan to detonate four bombs in London becomes a cunningly planned effort to exploit the transport network. It was as much the network itself that determined that a bomb would go off on a bus as it was the deluded sod with the finger on the detonator.

1 George Bush, fresh from his push bike accident, made a speech pausey enough to stand shoulder to shoulder with Blair's. Listing the great things that G8 were getting up to, he stumbled a bit when reaching a particular issue. I was on the edge of my seat waiting to see which words he would opt for - sadly "climate change" was euphemised to something about the environment.

2 I had a chat ages ago with someone who knows, and I stated that this sort of thing should only go on where the m.o. of the crimes were incredibly similar - to a serial killer level of invariance. She shocked me by saying that the courts already have such a power. The courts are better at this than a lot of politicians and citizens give them credit for!

07 July, 2005

Is this the second shoe, Spiegelman?

A while back I was prompted by the FlickR Zeitgesit widget to change the background for my links page from the green leather of old to a stark, Pet Shop Boys video, white. I then popped a "You are no longer here" (Stylograph, natch) at the top of the page and was suitably impressed with the whole thing. But of course it doesn't fit in with the rest of the site now. Some evaluating and soul searching later, and I have decided to redesign the whole thing. I've completed the new and ludicrous menu and will be rejigging pages throughout July, all to hopefully go live on July 31st. I'd pretty much constrained myself with the design I'd put in place, so am trying to keep everything loose and light and open. This is allowing me to include lots of abandoned material. I'm going to attempt an extended piece of writing on Static which will be a sister-piece to the still unfinished article on One Hour Photo (which in turn generated some positive feedback when I ran an excerpt in God's Rude Wireless).

And parts of London are being ripped apart by explosions? I'm typing this at work in Baker Street and trying very hard to concentrate on what I'm supposed to be doing. Sirens are going past every ten minutes or so. Mixed reports - some are saying bombs, others power surges. The National Grid saying that nothing peculiar has happened with their supply...(10:30)

...police have confirmed that there has been at least one explosion on a bus (earlier reports merely said it had been ripped apart by an explosion, which is vague). Hard to see how a power surge could have done that, so this could be the "second plane". (10:45)

Although not fully confirmed by the BBC news site, a diagram mapping the incidents lists "Two underground trains collide near King's Cross".

I've managed to contact Ian, Mum and my sister. The mobile networks are just about holding together, but it's taking several attempts to get messages through. Weird atmosphere in the office - that same "something's happening" guilty excitement and fear that I remember from September 01. Will post more later...

05 July, 2005

He Set Stopped Clocks To Twelve

He Set Stopped Clocks To Twelve
He Set Stopped Clocks To Twelve,
originally uploaded by Simon Scott.
This is the Abbey National Tower in Baker Street, London. They're rebuilding most of it, but have to preserve the art-deco clock tower; hence the missing middle.

I didn't notice until I was back on the tube that the clock had been set to twelve, something I always do with my stopped time-pieces.

I was trying to evoke those old NYC pics, and When I Have More Time will try and get the light-bleed to cover the scaffolding, making it look even more precarious than it already does. :: View topic - FLA calls for wider access to ID card register :: View topic - FLA calls for wider access to ID card register

Just fucking no alright?

04 July, 2005

Insanesburys (or Sainsbury's Loco)

Insensed in Sainsbury's Local (Herne Hill). I fancied a chilli, and despite the fact that they have a wide selection of soft flour tortillas, fajitas, salsa and what-have-you to supplement the authentic (packet) flavour of Mexico, they had no cook-in sauces.

Not to be daunted, I decided to get a basic tomato sauce and add chilli and kidney beans.

Except they didn't have any chilli.

Or kidney beans.