Thursday, August 31, 2006


The cover and introduction of the
BIT travel guide

The first "edition" of this guide, which became known as the "Bible of the East”, saw the grey light of dawn back in 1970 as one of BIT Information & Help Service's free hand-outs. Put together by Nicholas Albery and Ian King as a result of endless requests for information from intending travellers, it consisted of half a dozen or so duplicated foolscap sheets stapled together with one staple and no cover. Yet so successful was it, in the absence of any other source of grass-roots information, that BIT was soon receiving an average of six letters per week from travellers all along the route.

These letters, with their valuable up-to-date information, formed the basis of the rapid succession of up-dates and expansions which the guide went through over the next two years. By the time I arrived at BIT to write the ‘72 edition it had grown to such a size that the cost of putting it together demanded that BIT charge a "minimum donation" of £0.50 per copy. We thought at first that having to make a "donation" would put people off. Quite the opposite. So eager were people to get hold of a copy that they regularly left double what was asked in order to support BIT's activities.

Arriving at BIT to write my first edition I was confronted with over 200 letters from travellers which had accumulated in the overflowing files, the scruffiest "office" I’d ever seen before - or since, several sleeping bags full of snoring human beings on the floor, an arthritic IBM electric typewriter which frequently threw fits and the sound of night-shift worker Jimmy Red's inimical style of guitar drifting up from the room below.

It seemed an impossible task but three weeks later it was ready — all 100 pages of it, double- sided. Nicholas and I spent the next 48 hours drinking wine and smoking mushrooms non-stop while we churned out a thousand copies of the new guide on the second-hand manually-operated duplicating machine. Though it was necessary to hike the "minimum donation" to an unprecedented £1 per copy, it was a phenomenal success and competed with Nepalese Temple Balls as the most sought-after commodity on The Road to Kathmandu. The money from the guides was ploughed back into supporting BIT's activities.

What was BIT? No-one will ever succeed in defining what BIT was if only because it refused to be confined by any definitions but Rick Crust once made a brave attempt. He wrote of it:. "We know this guide costs lot of money and you really can’t afford it but we gotta get money from somewhere and this guide is our main source of income. We 're open every day of the year from 10am to 10pm (telephone 24 hours) and we give free help and information about anything to anyone who wants it. Dirty, untidy office; friendly, sometimes exuberant atmosphere, inefficient staff, confused clientele, aggressive cat. Free information, free bogs, free bath. free duplicator and typewriter, free kittens and puppies, free clothes, free food — cheap at other times but free if you're really starving, free people to talk to, free alternative library, free day-room to freak out in or sleep in, free crashpad, lots of other free floor space depending on the season, free optimism, free ecstasy, free lots of other things plus expensive travel guides to pay for it all."

More specifically, it was a constantly changing collection of drop-outs, misfits, visionaries, deviants, information freaks, students, runaways, travellers, electronics whizz-kids and even "normal" people from all over the world, none of whom were paid and many of whom worked all hours God sent. Apart from social welfare, info on jobs, housing, squatting, social security, the law and health, BIT could also supply information on anything from geodesic domes and herbal remedies to how to mend your bike when you got stuck on the Yorkshire Moors. It would even mend your television set for you.

Some of the babies which it nurtured through to independence included the Commune Movement, COPE (an anti-psychiatry info and help service for mental patients and people suffering from mental problems, run by ex-patients), the Arts Labs Newsletter and CLAP ("Community Levy for Alternative Projects" which raised over £30,000 for radical and imaginative projects throughout Britain by asking readers of a regularly published list of projects needing money to give 1% of their income to the projects of their choice. Successful projects were asked to do the same though few ever did).

For none of this work did it ever receive any financial support from government authorities nor did it want such strings-attached grants. It was occasionally given £500 or £1,000 by a rock star (Paul McCartney & Pete Townsend in particular) or by a charitable trust but for its main income it was forced to rely on the travel guides. It's bills were enormous – always.

Back to the guides. By 1974, when I came to work full-time at BIT, the India guide was generating an incredible average of twelve letters per week. The task of getting all that extra information into the guide was beginning to occupy 25 hours a day but it wasn’t that which forced a change of format. By early 1975, it had grown to over 200 foolscap pages still stapled together with one staple and no cover. It weighed a ton and was so bulky we began to doubt whether there would be room in a traveller's rucksack for anything other than the guide.

Also, in order to keep up with demand, we'd worn out two duplicating machines and were entirely reliant on the gullibility of successive IBM or Gestetner representatives who we could persuade to deliver us a new machine for a couple of days "on trial". No machines in the history of technology have ever been subjected to such a rigorous "trial". In the short time they were left with us, we managed, one way or another, to coax well over half a million sheets out of them. But that was only the start of the work since then the sheets had to be collated - by hand. The donkey's back was about to break so, after several stormy meetings of the collective we decided to go into print after I’d re-written and up-dated the whole thing.

In mid-1975 I set out to do this against impossible odds. The odds included a pirate radio station which broadcast from the room next door and frequently attracted posses of axe-wielding Metropolitan police bent on destroying everything in sight; bus-loads of travellers constantly banging on the door in search of up-to-the-minute information on everywhere from Istanbul to Port Moresby, some of whom brought me a little something to smoke (bless them!); a friend who daily needed an ear to pour stories into and who would march me off to the pub by lunch-time and leave me incapable of doing anything by mid-afternoon, and, of course, the demands of doing shift-work at BIT. Remarkably, it was ready within six weeks though we weren’t too sure what the printer would think of the copy as it was done on the same arthritic IBM electric I’d struggled with three years ago and which had become even more cantankerous with advancing age. Nevertheless, Ian King, our printer, did a beautiful job. I retired to the country for half a year exhausted.

The new guide was even more of a success than the old though because of increased costs we had to hike the "minimum donation" to a swingeing £2 plus 10% "CLAP Tax" (CLAP - Community Levy for Alternative Projects). It was about this time that many other guides to the England - India - Australia route started to appear. They varied from good to garbage and many of them were thinly disguised rip-offs of the BIT guide. We even got one letter from a nasty piece of work in California enclosing $25 and saying thanks for the information, he was going to print and sell it himself. But there were other, constructive, developments which BIT supported such as the Italian translation which was brought out by "Stampa Altemativa" — Italy's equivalent of "International Times".

By early '77 another vast pile of travellers’ letters had accumulated and I put them together in a separate up-date section which we stapled into the main guide. After that I lost touch with BIT for a while and went to South America for a year with the intention of writing a guide to that area of the world ("South America on a Shoestring", Lonely Planet, Jan. '80, pp 442, £3.95, available from Magic Ink).

When I got back, BIT was in dire straights and teetering towards the edge of the precipice having been taken over by a bunch of petty crooks, speed freaks, rip-off artists, winos and cider freaks. It was a sight for suppurating eyes. A short while later, from the end of '79 and early 1980 it finally folded, after receiving the most outrageous telephone bill you can imagine. But the idea didn't die and the files are still intact.

On hearing of this, Ian (our printer) and I, unwilling to see the guides die after all that effort by the thousands of travellers who've written in over the years and are still writing in - keep those pens busy, please! - decided to take over the running of the guides. So keep those letters flowing This guide is only as good as the letters which we receive from you. It’s you who have made it into what it is and only you who can keep it that way - that is, up- to-date and containing the sort of information you want to find in it. There are plenty of other guides to this route available but they're all one-person affairs and none of them have anywhere near the same volume of feedback as the BIT guide and so rapidly go out of date. Feedback is what keeps it alive and always has. If the day ever arrives when it ceases to be a mirror of traveller's experiences and an exchange of information then we’ll lay it down to rest and leave you in the hands of the strictly commercial boys.

Meanwhile here is the latest completely re-written and up-dated BIT guide. Unlike all the previous editions which have been dragged screaming from various seedy West London basements on the crest of eviction orders, this one was put together in a semi-derelict, Morning Glory-covered, former banana shed in the depths of the rain forest in northern New South Wales, Australia. This time it’s taken three months to put together but then it is twice the size and, as there's no electricity here and half of every day is spent keeping lantana, groundsel, leeches, land mullets and 6ft-plus pythons at bay, it's not altogether surprising.

Geoff Crowther (Editor)


March 1980.


The HQ INFO archive contains Issue 1 of the Arts Lab Newsletter, produced by BIT Information Service (then resident at 141 Westbourne Park Road) in October 1969. It begians as follows:

THE ARTS LAB MOVEMENT 1970 Vision: May 150 Labs bloom!

1969 Facts; 54 Labs: just under a dozen fully-fledged ones in Britain - about a dozen and a half Labs without permanent premises but nevertheless active - and well over two dozen Labs at an early stage, sometimes no more than a nucleus of people meeting and planning their first benefit concert.


Jim Haynes of the Drury Lane Lab tells it like it is: "I feel that an Arts Lab has the following characteristics:

(a) a Lab is an 'ENERGY CENTRE' where anything can happen depending upon the needs of the people running each individual Lab and the characteristics of the building.

(b) a Lab is a NON-INSTITUTION. We all know what a hospital, theatre, police station and other institutions have in the way of boundaries, but a Lab's boundaries should be limitless.

(c) Within each Lab a space should be used in a loose fluid MULTI-PURPOSE way - ie. a theatre can be a restaurant, a gallery, a bedroom, a studio, etc. etc.

(d) I am interested in creating a fluid COMMUNE situation where a group of people live and work together. At the Covent Garden Lab we have 15 to 20 people who live and work together 7 days a week. No one is paid - "from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs"- We have space, food, ideas, work, etc.

Now may I say something about politics. People ask me if the Arts Lab is political. Anyone who is interested in changing anyone's attitude to anything is committing a political act. We at the Covent Garden Lab have certain philosophical attitudes to the world, and we hope to show others by word and deed that these political/philosophical attitudes can be transmitted via non-political media. Every person is a medium; use it carefully.

AS FOR ART.. .we are more interested in bringing people together in a real involved way; not very interested in "marketing" art or anything else for that matter".

ARTS LABS SOLIDARITY July 27th, '69; Arts Labs met and divided themselves into 8 regional co-operatives with a co-ordinator for each region. Earlier in the year, Jim had proposed a support system for Labs which he named ‘Arts Labs in Great Britain Trust’. The Trust, launched 5 months ago as a sub-group of a registered charity called Community Development Trust, is administered by a committee of elected Arts Labs representatives and Arts Council observers, and meets every two months in London. Its aim is to help Labs over legal hurdles and in their negotiations with local authorities, and to raise something like £1/2m for Labs from Industry, the Arts Council, Foundations.

My mates and I formed the WORTHING WORKSHOP, which was part of the South-East Arts Lab Co-op and I wrote the following report of our activities, published in this newsletter:

Premises: None permanent at present time. Previous activitiesd held in hired pub room and common room of local college of design (via 'Student's Union') - liason with bureaucratic hierarchy minimal. Also St John's Ambulance HQ at times.

Technical and other facilities: Silk-screen press just started; light show (Crystalline Foetus, presented by Ian) - liquids, film and static slides; electronics expert - designs and builds group and hi-fi maps and speakers, light equipment etc,; Discotheque - equipment and approx. 200 records plus regular DJ, sundry Musicians, artists etc.

About 5,000 people turned up for their free concert with Steamhammerr in August and this gave them a great burst of publicity; their name is now down on council list for premises; recently their World's First Bubble-In was on TV.

On Saturday October 19th at 7:30pm at the Norfolk Hotel for only 5/- you would get the Entire Sioux Nation + lightshow and discotheque. Lots of other things happening too.

They are opening a head shop soon, one half newspapers and jewellry, the other half a 24 hour coffee bar, with free music all day. They hope this will provide an outlet for art student's work and people like this. The Council meet to consider the proposal on October 26th and they hope to open in mid-November. [This didn't happen, by the way]


ALTERNATIVE SOCIETY 1970s: Nicholas Albery

Photo Of Nicholas Albery by Mark Edwards,
who now runs the excelllent photo agency
Still Pictures

Obituary:The Independent

Nicholas Albery, generalist, social inventor, author. Born St Albans 28 July 1948; married Josefine Speyer 1991, one son Merlyn. Died in a car accident on 3 June 2001.

Founder and principal officer of the Institute for Social Inventions, Nicholas Albery was an innovative generalist widely respected, not only for having learned how to brainstorm himself and others to solve problems and produce new ideas, but also for testing and living them out.

Among the illustrious supporters of the Institute are Lord Beaumont, Sir Richard Boddy, Edward Goldsmith, Brian Eno, Anita Roddick, Fay Weldon, Sir Peter Parker, Linne Franks, Colin Wilson, Stafford Beer, Lord Young of Dartington, Diane the wife of Ernst "small is beautiful" Schumacher.

The breadth of his thinking and the scope of his output was extraordinary. From the Global Ideas Bank (as he put it "the website of the Institute, it has extended this collecting of ideas to the Internet, with millions accessing the site every year") to the Natural Death Centre ("advising those wishing to organise green, inexpensive family-based funerals"); from the International Poetry Challenge Day ("individuals and schools take up the challenge to learn poems by heart to raise money for charity") to the Apprentice-Master Alliance ("a free service that links graduates or school-leavers wishing to learn a trade with small or one person businesses for long-term apprenticeships"), Nicholas has left his mark on society in a way that, in buddhist terminology, represents "the creation of merit for the benefit of all beings", although not a buddhist himself.

Nicholas was the collaborator, or catalyst, par excellence. He rarely claimed innovations as his own. Having realised early on in his life that information could be free and not withheld or possessed for some people to gain advantage over others, he then set about carrying this principle out with an almost manic energy.

His publications include The Book of Visions-an encyclopaedia of social innovations, Virgin, 1993; Poem for the Day, Chatto, 1994; Time Out Book of Country Walks, Penguin, 1997; Seize the Day (forthcoming), 2001. An Internet search for "Nicholas Albery" yields about 1850 items.

Born in 1948, he was one of 4 siblings in the theatre-land dynasty headed by Sir Donald Albery. Public school educated and an Oxford University dropout, he was equally a child of the optimistic sixties who never lost his early vision of the role that information could play in a society where computers are widespread. But rather than being a techno-nerd, he was interested in the social uses of information. In this sense he was a generation ahead of most of his peers in envisaging, in the late sixties, the socially beneficial uses of what has now become the Internet.

At age 19 Nicholas lived on complan for a year because he wanted to test its claim to be a compete food. At 29 he was a leading light of the Free Republic of Frestonia, an area of Notting Hill that declared itself independent of the UK in order to resist evictions and subsequent commercial development (they won). At 30 he stood as Ecology Party candidate in Kensington & Chelsea and got 800 votes, including the ballot paper marked with a heart instead of a cross which after lengthy debate was accepted as valid as it clearly expressed the voter's intent.

In the late 60's he ran BIT, the London-based alternative information service. In between finding crash pads and temporary work for allcomers he produced the first overland guide to India, complied from travellers tales. A cover of BITMAN magazine in the mid-70's shows him and Nicholas Saunders (the Neal's Yard/Covent Garden entrepreneur) walking naked down Piccadilly captioned "rehearsal for the year 2000".

The collaboration of the two Nicholases, Saunders and Albery, became the pivot for a raft of social innovations for the next quarter century; Albery as the socially involved ideas man who stayed up all hours with the computer as well as running a highly varied open-plan social life, Saunders as the entrepreneur risk-taker with the Midas touch. Sadly, each of them died in a freak car crash where the other passengers were unscathed, Saunders in 1998, Albery this past weekend.

To his friends he was supportive and showed great generosity and loving-kindness. For friends and strangers alike, he brought a sense of excitement to every occasion, challenging, always asking questions that got to the heart of the situation, and spilling over with ideas.

But perhaps his greatest contribution is as a role model for how to behave in our information-dense, technology-based society: trying to be inclusive not exclusive, always curious but not accepting the given as fixed or immutable, putting people before machines. The website is exemplary. When asked what one needs to become a social inventor he replied "a mentor who believes in you; to have run an enterprise when quite young; to be an artist with a creative mind".

His interest in country walks, which he managed to do once a week for many years, dates from his being diagnosed with the potentially crippling disease ankylosing spondylitis which tends to weld one's vertebrae together. Characteristically his response was to take a large amount of exercise to combat the problem head-on, and although he was no athlete he retained a glow of youth that eludes most of us in middle age. Unusually, he looked no younger in death than when alive.


Nick was a wonderful energetic and lively person who not only achieved a great deal in his life but also has left a vibrant legacy, much of which can be tracked at the site of The Nicholas Albery Foundation.

Spoke with Nick Temple who now runs the Global Ideas Bank, which spun off from the Institute for Social Inventions. Run by volunteers, it registers half a million unique hits a year.

ALTERNATIVE SOCIETY 1970s: Nicholas Saunders

Photo Anya Saunders.
Text and photos found on
The Vaults of Erowid

Obituary: The Independent

Nicholas Carr-Saunders, writer and businessman: born Water Eaten, Oxfordshire 25 January 1938; (one son by Britt Nitzek) died Kroonstadt, South Africa 3 February 1998.

Nicholas Saunders was a pioneer of the wholefood movement and the man behind the development of Neal's Yard in Covent Garden (people who came up to him there often addressed him as Neal). In the Seventies he was the author of Alternative London, a guide to alternative living, and in the Nineties of E for Ecstasy, a study of the new drug culture. Saunders was always conscious of a trend.

He was born in 1938 at Water Eaten Manor near Oxford, a youngest son, born late in life to his academic parents. His father, Sir Alexander Carr Saunders was from 1937 to 1956 Director of the London School of Economics.

Nicholas was educated at Ampleforth College, in Yorkshire, and completed two years at Imperial College, London, before leaving without a degree. He disliked authority and preferred to study the subjects he was interested in. From early childhood he had a curious mind; he was anxious to find out how things worked and how they could be changed or improved.

He was fascinated with the breaking up of the conventional life-style in the Sixties. He constructed a flat in Edith Grove, west London, so that ducks in the pond outside could swim under a plate-glass window and into his living room, and he slept in a papier-mache 'cave'. The flat became a centre for hippies and anyone with new alternative ideas. These he began to record and the first edition of Altemative London was brought out in 1970. It be came an immediate best-seller. Further editions followed until a friend meditating in front of a candle inadvertently burnt the flat down. Saunders was ready to take up a new interest.

He had private means and in 1976 had fallen in love with and bought a warehouse in Neal's Yard, then let as a store for theatrical scenery. The end of its lease coincided with the closing of the old fruit market and the start of the new Covent Garden. Saunders knew many young people who had skills and wanted to work for themselves, and didn't have financial backing to do this. He enjoyed either starting himself or enabling others to run new ventures; and these were often soon copied elsewhere. Though always a firm buyer of ready-cooked meals from Marks and Spencer for himself, he welcomed the new demand for wholefood and by packing it in large quantities made it available at a more reasonable price.

Gradually he bought up other buildings in the yard, where he helped to finance a cooperative bakery, dairy, flour mill, apothecary and cafe. He planted trees in tubs, covered the buildings with window boxes so that a profusion of flowers trailed down the walls and imported white doves who fluttered overhead. In fine weather the yard was crowded with office workers, tourists and regulars eating their lunch.

The wholefood shop was sold in the mid-Eighties, whereupon, hearing about the many practitioners of alternative medicines who had nowhere to practise, Saunders decided to open therapy rooms they could hire. His intention was for each practitioner's c.v. to be available to potential patients. Two buildings at one end of the yard were rebuilt and there, having been excited early on by the potential of computers, Saunders started the first Desk Top Publishing Studio, where people could hire computers by the hour and be given professional help. A "self-fulfilment agency" and a small restaurant were housed in the same building.

On the top floors he designed an imaginative rooftop garden and a flat where he slept in a suspended egg and arranged a padded ledge for guests. Here his son, Kristoffer, of whom he was immensely proud, slept on his regular visits from Denmark.

Nicholas Saunders spent the last years of his life investigating the drug culture and particularly Ecstasy, which he realised had become a way of life among many young people. The result was his book E for Ecstasy, published in 1993, followed by Ecstasy and the Dance Culture (1995) and Ecstasy Reconsidered (1996). When he died he was working on another book, about drugs and spirituality.

Saunders believed that it was now impossible to ban drugs altogether; it was better that they should be used sensibly. He particularly disliked the sensational and inaccurate newspaper coverage of the subject, and regretted that politicians of all parties were unable to discuss the problem seriously.

With his partner, Anya Dashwood, with whom he had found complete happiness during the last few years, Saunders travelled all over the world gathering information for his new book. It was on the only trip that she did not accompany him that he met his death in a car accident in South Africa.

- Flora Maxwell Stuart

Monday, August 28, 2006


This movie is a double triumph. Firstly, it is the best Philip K. Dick movie to date. That is, all previous movies (including the legendary 'Blade Runner', drawn from ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?’), 'Minority Report', 'Total Recal'l, John Woo’s 'Paycheck' and others have ripped out key elements of Dick’s plot and turned them into action thrillers. This film suffuses us with the psychological world that Dick inhabited and is thus the truest vision of his worldview yet brought to the screen.

If you want to confirm this, then read Emmanuel Carrère’s superb biography ‘I Am Alive and You Are Dead’, which finished earlier on the day I saw ‘Scanner’. Carrère brilliantly melds the complex biography of Philip Kindred Dick (1928-1982) with insightful descriptions of his stories but then leaps beyond conventional biography into full-scale I-am-in-Dick’s-mind type passages which work surprisingly well. Five days reading this book is enough to make you edgy and to interfere with your reality model.

Of course, this is Dick’s stock-in-trade. I have always believed him to be America’s Kafka or Orwell (or both) - a speeded-up paranoid with a brilliant musical and logical mind at war with his insane visions, accelerated by his massive intake of both legal and illegal chemicals and his constant and curious relationships with a whole string of women.

As we accelerate further into the modern age, with its reality tv, its mind-numbing control mechanisms, its genetic experiments and extreme weather, its war against terror and its drug-saturated consciousness, what may have seemed paranoid in the past now feels just like our new environment. Its a world that looks ever more like of one of Philip K. Dick's inventions.

A good description of Dick's world is ‘Drug-addled, disturbed, depressed…but Philip K. Dick saw our future’ by Ian Bell, (Sunday Herald 20.8.06) who writes: ‘[Dick] said important things…about the world in which we live, things “proper” novelists seem always to avoid. He told us that any reality is debatable, that power and manipulation go hand in hand, and that individuality is precarious.’

The second triumph of 'A Scanner Darkly' is that its an animated film of rare quality, which has earnt itself a place in the history of the genre as well as doing well at the box-office. [The last successful adult animated movie in the US - aside from tv spin-offs 'Beavis and Buthead' and 'South Park' was 1981’s fantasy epic 'Heavy Metal'.]

Toe make the film, director Richard Linklater used a proprietary software programme named Rotoshop, an earlier version of which he had experimented with on a previous cult lo-budget film 'Waking Life'.

This is a sophisticated digital version of a technqiue called 'rotoscoping’, first used commercially by animator Max Fleischer, who patented the system in 1917. Ralph Bakshi who made the full-length animation feature 'Fritz the Cat' (based on Robert Crumb's comics) used rotoscoping in his largely-forgotten version of 'Lord of the Rings'. It was also used in a famous 1985 pop-video for A-ha’s 'Take On Me'.

'Scanner' is shot in real-life with real actors - Keanu Reeves (a matrixed-out cardboard cut-out), Robert Downey Jr, (motormouth with real drug and jailtime experience), Woody Harrelson (well-known grass smoker and full-on space cowboy) and Winona Ryder (whose godfather was Timothy Leary and whose Dad knew Dick and had one of his jackets in his closet) – using digital cameras. The animation artists then used Wacom digital pens and tablets connected to Apple G5s to trace the movement of actors in every scene. These initial drawings were then enhanced to give a greater 3-D effect, scenery and colour were added, and final completed sequences were then rendered and output onto film.

It is a brilliant success because it perfectly suits the material (drugged out, weird perspectives, interior and exterior monologues, shape-shifting personalities) but also has an incredibly strong and unique graphic style. This makes it, by my book, the second greatest ‘cinematic graphic novel’ alongside Robert Rodriguez’s ‘Sin City’, which transposed brilliantly the work of Frank Miller to the screen in a marvellously original way.

The best articles I’ve so far found on the making of the film are as follows:

Trouble in Toontown – Robert La Franco [Wired 14:03]

Keanu Reeves casts himself into the animated matrix of Richard Linklater’s adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s Scanner Darkly – Mike Szymanski. [Sci-Fi Weekly. 21.8.06]

‘Through a ‘Scanner’ dazzlingly: Sci-fi brought to graphic life. [USA Today 2.8.06]

Catching up With Richard Linklater – Anne Thompson [Premiere]

The Schizoid Man – Scott Maculay [Filmmaker Magazine. Winter 2006]

All these and much more can be found on the excellent Philip K. Dick website

Lengthy entry in Wikipedia with loads of links

See also: The Philip K. Dick Bookshelf


The head of a life-sized facsimile of Philip K. Dick is missing. Built using the latest artificial intelligence technology, it had realistic skin, could make eye contact, had believable facial expressions and could hold up rudimentary conversations about Dick’s books. It began making personal appearances, including being on the panel to discuss ‘A Scanner Darkly’ at the Comic Con in San Diego and the plan was to send it round the country promoting the movie. Then, in a quirk of fate that only Dick himself would dream up, the robot’s maker David Hanson, exhausted and jet-lagged, left the head in a bag when he disembarked from a flight from Dallas to Vegas last December. The airline then found the head, put it on another flight to Hanson in San Francisco but it never arrived.

See: What’s an android without a head? A Hollywood story - Sharon Waxman [New York Times 27.6.06

UPDATE: Do Robots Dream of Copyright by Wendy M. Grossman (The Guardian), Thanks to Flo.


According to Paul Arendt (The Guardian 22.8.06), two new films are being made based not on the stories by Dick but on his life

'Panasonic' is reportedly a low-budget indie comedy, directed by former pop star Matthew Wilder and starring Bill Pullman.

The other is a so-far untitled movie starring life-long Dick fan Paul Giamatti ('American Splendour', 'Sideways') as writer. He will also co-produce in tandem with the Phillip K. Dick Estate, led by two of his daughters Laurie Leslie and Isa Dick-Hackett. The script is being written by Tony Grisoni, who worked on Terry Gilliam's 'Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas'.

Monday, August 21, 2006


It's funny how things coincide during the course of the week.

I suddenly had an urge to read again 'The Battle' (Penguin Books). This strange and wonderful little pocket-sized book, with a narrative story of just 135 pages, (which I'd read twice before), written by eminent professor Richard Overy, editor of The Times Atlas of World History.

It seeks simply to give a completely fresh picture of the Battle of Britain based on the latest historical evidence. Its is always interesting to read about some iconic incident and to be told that it didn't happen in the way that we thought it did. That behind the big mythological and symbolic facade lies an even more interesting story that often contradicts the official truth with a much more complex narrative. Propogands is all about simplification and manipulation.

That same week, whilst in the spell of above, I recieved two e-mails. The first concerns the article, subsequently published in The Guardian, regarding the real truth behind the recent events of the supposed plot to blow up a number of civil airliners. Entitled 'The UK terror plot: what's really going on', its written by Craig Murray, writer and broadcaster. His web site declares: 'As Britain's outspoken Ambassador to the Central Asian Republic of Uzbekistan, Craig Murray helped expose vicious human rights abuses by the US-funded regime of Islam Karimov. He is now a prominent critic of Western policy in the region.'

The article begins:
' I have been reading very carefully through all the Sunday newspapers to try and analyse the truth from all the scores of pages claiming to detail the so-called bomb plot. Unlike the great herd of so-called security experts doing the media analysis, I have the advantage of having had the very highest security clearances myself, having done a huge amount of professional intelligence analysis, and having been inside the spin machine.

'So this, I believe, is the true story.

'None of the alleged terrorists had made a bomb. None had bought a plane ticket. Many did not even have passports, which given the efficiency of the UK Passport Agency would mean they couldn't be a plane bomber for quite some time.'

The Guardian removed his remarks about John Reid. The whole piece is intact on his website here. I know very little about Craig Murray so readers must judge for themselves.

Then came the other e-mail, attaching a link to an article entitled 'Stop Belittling the Theories about September 11' by Bill Chritison on the Dissident Voice website. It reads in part:

'Why is it important that we not let the so-called conspiracy theories surrounding 9/11 be drowned out? I have come to believe that significant parts of the 9/11 theories are true, and that therefore significant parts of the “official story” put out by the U.S. government and the 9/11 Commission are false. I now think there is persuasive evidence that the events of September did not unfold as the Bush administration and the 9/11 Commission would have us believe. The items below highlight the major questions surrounding 9/11 but do not constitute a detailed recounting of the evidence available.

'ONE: An airliner almost certainly did not hit The Pentagon. Hard physical evidence supports this conclusion; among other things, the hole in the Pentagon was considerably smaller than an airliner would create. The building was thus presumably hit by something smaller, possibly a missile, or a drone or, less possibly, a smaller manned aircraft.

'Absolutely no information is available on what happened to the original aircraft (American Airlines Flight 77), the crew, the “hijackers,” and the passengers. The “official story,” as it appeared in The 9/11 Commission Report simply says, “At 9:37:46, American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon, traveling at approximately 530 miles per hour. All on board, as well as many civilians and military personnel in the building, were killed.”

'This allows readers to assume that pieces of the aircraft and some bodies of passengers were found in the rubble of the crash, but information so far released by the government does not show that such evidence was in fact found. The story put out by the Pentagon is that the plane and its passengers were incinerated; yet video footage of offices in the Pentagon situated at the edge of the hole clearly shows office furniture undamaged. The size of the hole in the Pentagon wall still remains as valid evidence and so far seems irrefutable.

'TWO: The North and South Towers of the World Trade Center almost certainly did not collapse and fall to earth because hijacked aircraft hit them. A plane did not hit Building 7 of the Center, which also collapsed. All three were most probably destroyed by controlled demolition charges placed in the buildings before 9/11. A substantial volume of evidence shows that typical residues and byproducts from such demolition charges were present in the three buildings after they collapsed. The quality of the research done on this subject is quite impressive. '

I am not a conspiracy theorist. I haven't evaluated the evidence myself at first-hand or in detail. But there's a smell in the air. I keep thinking about the story of the Battle of Britain. Maybe the authorities believe the truth is too hard for us to handle. More, I suspect, to come.


Three of the legendary figures of the British Underground Press and music scene: (From top) 'Chairman' Mick Farren, Dave 'Boss' Goodman (photo by Larry Wallis) and Edward Barker, the late lamented cartoonist (seen here near Rodeo Drive in Los Angeles with Annie, October 1979. Photo: John May).

The wires have been burning on the old underground press network of late, triggered by the news that Boss had suffered a severe left-brain stroke on March 31 2006. He is currently in hospital, is making good and steady progress but his return to health is likely to be a long recovery process. Friends, acquaintances and well-wishers can keep up to date with Boss's state of health here. Details of the Boss Benefit Fund can be found at "Quids In For Boss". See also The Boss Goodman Pages for details of the man's legendary antics.

Mick will be known to many as the author of numerous novels and works of non-fiction, as a recording artist with The Deviants and other combos, and as a journalist for the NME and numerous other mags and papers. His collected works and blog can be found at Funtopia

Mick has a huge number of his music journalism pieces logged at Rock's Back Pages

See also The Edward Barker Gallery

When I was a young 'freak', fresh up from Worthing, working on the underground paper Frendz, these guys were already up there, making trouble and having fun. Mick was the main instigator of the legendary Phun City festival, staged just outside Worthing, which has gone down in legend as one of the first great 'free' festivals, which featured the first ever UK appearance of the MC5. (Happy to say I was there as part of the work crew, camped for a whole week in the woods, and it was great.)

The Deviants and the Pink Fairies were two of the main underground freak bands, based around Ladbroke Grove and Boss roadied for both and was a central fixture of that Wild Bunch scene.

Mick and Ed had control of International Times for one of the most successful periods in its long lifetime and it reflected their interests: lots of stuff on Dylan, Charlie Manson, Drugs, Gene Vincent, The White Panthers, plus lots of sex, comix, music. They both eneded up in the Old Bailey on obscenity charges over one issue of the spin-off comic Nasty Tales that they produced.
Much of the history of all this can be found in Mick's excellent book 'Give The Anarchist A Cigarette.'

Mick will be writing a foreword/introduction to a forthcoming biography of the Deviants and Pink Fairies entitled Keep It Together: Cosmic Boogie with the Deviants and Pink Fairies due to be published by Headpress in March 2007. More stuff on Mick and The Deviants at Alive Records.

The Pink Fairies now have an entry in Wikipedia. Bizarre but wonderful.

While we're at, check out the the wonderful work of Phil Franks, whose gorgeous photos captured many of the sights and sounds of that period.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

SCIENCE BLOG NEWS: Cosmic Variance

Two discoveries thanx to this blog: (Left) The Rightwingoverse ; (Right) XKCD: A Webcomic of Romance, Sarcasm, Math and Language.

Cosmic Variance is another of the Technorati top ranked science blogs by scientists. Subtitled 'Random samplings from a universe of ideas' (nice), it is a group blog by five people who, coincidentally or not, all happen to be physicists and astrophysicists: Mark Trodden, Risa Wechsler, Sean Carroll, Clifford Johnson, and JoAnne Hewett. They write: 'Our day (and night) jobs notwithstanding, the blog is about whatever we find interesting — science, to be sure, but also arts, politics, culture, technology, academia, and miscellaneous trivia. We have similar outlooks on many things, widely disparate opinions about others, and will do our best to keep the discourse reasonably elevated.'

There are interesting pieces on the Science of Coffee, a long rant on playing Monopoly on cell phones, and lots of stuff that must be fun if your a physicist.

The site includes a long, although by no means complete, listing of physics/astrophysics-oriented blogs.

They weigh in on the what is a planet debate here.


The image above is the first publicly released image from the Aura mission. Acquired by the mission’s Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI) on September 22, 2004, the image shows dramatically depleted levels of ozone in the stratosphere over Antarctica. Purple shows areas with very low ozone concentrations (as low as 125 dobson units), while turquoise, green, and yellow show progressively higher ozone concentrations.Aura is the third and final major Earth Observing System (EOS) satellite. Aura’s view of the atmosphere and its chemistry will complement the global data already being collected by NASA’s two other EOS satellites, called Terra and Aqua. Collectively, these satellites allow scientists to study how life, land, water, and the atmosphere work together as a whole system. Source: Earth Obseratory

RealClimate is another of the top five science blogs by scientists, as ranked by Technorati.
Produced by climate scientist Stefan Rahmsdorf, it is aimed at the interested public and journalists. He writes: 'We aim to provide a quick response to developing stories and provide the context sometimes missing in mainstream commentary.'

A good example of his approach is the 28th July '06 post: 'Peter Doran and how misleading talking points propogate. '

'Peter Doran, the lead author on a oft-cited, but less-often read, Nature study on Antarctic climate in 2002 had an Op-Ed in the NY Times today decrying the misuse of his team's results in the on-going climate science 'debate'. As we discussed a while back (Antarctic cooling, global warming?), there is a lot of interesting stuff going on in Antarctica: the complexities of different forcings (ozone in particular), the importance of dynamical as well as radiative processes, and the difficulties of dealing with very inhomogeneous and insufficiently long data series. But like so many results in this field, it has become a politicized 'talking point', shorn of its context, that is mis-quoted and mis-used by many who should (and often do) know better. Doran complained about the media coverage of his paper at the time, and with the passage of time, the distortion has predictably increased. Give it another few years, maybe we'll be having congressional hearings about it...'


A new concept in breakfast cereals. Real science or clever artifice? See: Worth 1000

The most popular science blog written by a scientist according to Technorati is Phyringia, which is listed 179th in their top 3,500 blogs.

Its written and assembled by PZ Meyer a biologist and Associate Professor at The University of Minnesota Morris in the US of A. 'Phyringia' refers to a stage in the evolution of embryos which he and his students study a lot apparently. I'm at somewhat of a loss to explain its great popularity, which is not to say that it isn't lively, interesting and amusing. But Meyer is not only inexplicably interested in cephalopods but also carries articles on such topics as an Oliver Reed film that he happened to watch one afternoon. Good on you.

I enjoyed his post on 'In Search of the Red Demon' by Scott Cassell, who describes his experiences making a documentary in the Sea of Cortez entitled 'Humboldt: The Man-Eating Squid'. He writes:

'For most people, the word “squid” probably conjures images of deep-fried appetizers, not flesh-eating carnivores. But the truth is, Humboldt squid have approximately 1,200 sucker discs, each one lined with 20 to 26 needle-sharp teeth. This allows the Humboldt to attack its prey with more than 24,000 teeth at once. And nestled in its bed of eight muscular arms and two feeding tentacles is a disproportionately large, knife-edged beak similar to a parrot’s. But the Humboldt is much larger than a parrot: they have been found as large as 14 feet in length and weighing more than 700 pounds.

'In addition to the Humboldt’s enormity and impressive array of weapons, this magnificent mollusk possesses a legendary ferocity. The local Mexican fishermen call it Rojo Diablo, or Red Demon. When I arrived in Mexico for the dive, several fishermen told tales of how people had experienced violent deaths after falling in the water with these red demons: “…they would be pulled down and devoured in moments.”

'These stories were true and I knew it. So I developed equipment and techniques to counter a possible attack. These precautions included: anti-squid armor suits; armor plating for the vulnerable parts of my mixed-gas rebreather; anti-squid cage; and back-to-back diving techniques. To prevent being pulled down by a pack of squid, steel cables connected divers to the boat at all times. If these measures sound extreme, I can assure you they weren’t. Each one came into play and proved to be completely necessary.'

SCIENCE BLOG NEWS: Defining Planets/Expanding the Solar System

(Top) The proposed new 12-planet Solar System: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Ceres, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto, Charon and 2003 UB313 (it’s real name has yet to be assigned).

(Bottom) More new planets are likely to be announced by the International Astronomical Union in the future. Here are the dozen ‘candidate planets’ currently on IAU’s ‘watchlist’ which keeps changing as new objects are found and the physics of the existing candidates becomes better known.

On August 24th, between 4:00 and 17:30 CEST, if all goes according to plan, the world’s astronomers, who are meeting at the International Astronomical Union conference in Prague, willvote for or against a new definition of the term ‘planet.’

According to the Resolution they will vote on, two conditions must be satisfied for an object to be called a planet. First, the object must be in orbit around a star, while not being itself a star. Second, the object must be large enough (or more technically correct, massive enough) for its own gravity to pull it into a nearly spherical shape.

The matter has been under discussion for two years. If the new definition is agreed, then we will now have 12 planets in our Solar System.

The Resolution also defines a new category of planet - a ‘pluton’ (Pluto-like object) . Plutons are distinguished from classical planets in that they reside in orbits around the Sun that take longer than 200 years to complete (i.e. they orbit beyond Neptune).

Plutons typically have orbits that are highly tilted with respect to the classical planets (technically referred to as a large orbital inclination). Plutons also typically have orbits that are far from being perfectly circular (technically referred to as having a large orbital eccentricity). All of these distinguishing characteristics for plutons are scientifically interesting in that they suggest a different origin from the classical planets.


For an alternative view see The Panda's Thumb, one of the top five science blogs written by scientists, according to Technorati ratings.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006


It is one of the great pleasures, for one such as I, to sift and search second-hand bookshops in search of treasure. So it was a good day when I recently discovered 'The Tangier Diaries 1962-1979' by John Hopkins [Arcadia Books 1997], since when I have been in its spell. (Unfortunately finished it today, at 4:00 in the afternoon, arising late after a battle with some
bourbon the night before.)

Young American Hopkins, a prodigious traveller and novelist, was fortunate to inhabit the Tangiers scene during some of the most interesting years and his beautiful diary - containing entries ranging from a few lines to several pages - is full of wonderful pen portraits of the many and various characters on display - Paul Bowles, William Burroughs, Brion Gysin amongst them, vivid little street scenes and evocations of landscape, insightful passges about writing and his struggles with it, social events and personal stories. He travels throughout Morocco, a country he comes to deeply love and admire, particularly the Sahara which provides him with something akin to a spiritual experience.

Three short extracts must suffice, to whet the appetite:

1964: July 6th: 'I gradually work myself, through a period of protracted concentration, into a state of receptivity where the semi-real idea for the next book becomes inevitable. These days of apparent inactivity with my mind in neutral, often turn out to be the most productive.
As Burroughs says: "Your mind will answer most questions if you learn to relax and wait for the answer. Like one of those thinking machines, you feed in the questions, sit back, and wait..."

1967, February 24 - Tangier: 'The siren of a departing ocean liner makes me dream of Camus

1973, June 8th: 'Tangier City Report: Weather balmy. People stroll the boulevard looking brown from the beach, clean from the sea, free in their light summer clothes. A naval ship is in port, and young, bearded tattooed sailors are making the shopkeepers happy.'

ADDENDUM: An equally fine book in The Generalist library is another second-hand find - 'A Year in Marrakesh' by Peter Mayne [Eland Books, London/Hippocrene Books, New York. First paperback 1982. Originally published 1953.] An outstanding piece of travel literature, which begins 'I am a stranger in these parts and Tangier feeds on the flesh of strangers...' and from then draws you rapidly into Moroccan culture at street level, filling your nostrils with the smells of the blossom and ordure, your mind's eye with vivid scenes to enchant and exhilarate.


Two gems from The Generalist library, both published by City Lights Books in San Francisco - Laurence Ferlinghetti's famous bookstore and publishing company, in 1962 and 1969 respectively. In the last part of his life, Bowles recorded a lot of Moroccan music, logging all the material at the Library of Congress. He also helped to produce many books of Moroccan stories which he both taped and translated.
'M'Hashish' is one of a number of books based on the stories of the young Mohammed Mrabet (pictured on the cover).
'A Hundred Camels in the Courtyard' is a collection of four tales written by Bowles and set in the contemporary Morocco of the time that he knew so well, but infused with his knowledge of these deeper stories.

To gain a bigger picture of the Tangier's scene, the Ur book is the brilliant 'The Dream At The End of the World: Paul Bowles and the Literary Renegades in Tangier' by Michelle Green. [Bloomsbury 1992]. The blurb concisely sums it up:

'To the expatriates who landed there in the post-war years, the International Zone of Tangier was an exotic and deliciously depraved version of Eden. A sybaritic outpost set against the verdant hills of North Africa, it offered a free money market and a moral climate in which only murder and rape were forbidden. Fleeing an angst-ridden Western culture, European emigres found a haven where homosexuality was openly tolerated, drugs were readily available, and eccentricity was held to be a social asset.'

'At the centre of this extravagant community were Paul and Jane Bowles. A critically acclaimed writer and composer, Paul found Morocco, the perfect setting for his perverse visionary fiction, and for the quotidian intrigue that he loved. For Jane - a brilliant playwright plagued by anxiety and terrified of her own talent - Tangier was as sinister as it was tantalising. When her husband became mentor to a young Moroccan painter, she fell in love with a manipulative peasant woman who, some said, used black magic to keep Jane in her sway.'

Paul Bowles, who died in Tangier at the 88 in November 1995, is particularly fascinating - a kind of pole star around which the whole scene revolves, one of the earliest of the writers to take up residence there and one of the last to leave. The Telegraph obituary describes him as 'the link between the "Lost Generation" of Gertrude Stein and "Beat Generation" of Jack Kerouac.

Having reached Bowles initially through the Beats and the well-documented trips made by Kerouac and Ginsberg (with Peter Orlovsky), I came to his novels rather late - excepting for his most famous, 'The Sheltering Sky' (made into a Bertolucci movie which I remember as being quite good) - and was knocked for six by most of them, particularly 'The Spider's House' and 'Let It Come Down'. There are now a great many of his novels published plus letters, biographies, critical studies and the like yet he is still somewhat of a cult, less well known than Burroughs for instance.

Happened to discover tonight that the publishers Peter Owen in London are reissuing their Modern Classics series (excellent), which includes two books by Jane Bowles - 'Plain Pleasures' and 'Two Serious Ladies.' - and six by Paul.

There is a great single web starting point for studying Bowles further:
Paul Bowles: Online Exhibition and Internet Source Page, produced by the Special Collections Department of the Universe of Delaware Library.

Saturday, August 12, 2006


(Left) This beautiful portrait of Syd is by British artist George Underwood, who has kindly allowed us to reproduce it here. George has produced literally thousands of book covers, LP and CD sleeves, adverts, portraits, sculptures and drawings. To find out more and to see a broad selection of his work go to

So we've lost two of the giant gods of the psychedelic rock years. The newstands are awash with special commemorative issues; the obituary writers have done their work. Its time for some last comments.

Personal notes: By the time I first saw the Floyd (at Brighton Dome in 1968, a benefit for The Combination, Brighton's Arts Lab of the time) Syd had already left. They were awesome, scary, overwhelming. Gorgeous huge liquid light show and the Azimuth Coordinator whizzing the sound right round the hall. Later got to see them at the Plumpton Festival (1969/70?) (National Jazz and Blues Festival that, in the end, became the Reading Festival).

Strangely, none of the obituaries or accounts I've read note the exquisite timing of Syd's departure. For almost the last two decades the Floyd had existed but in the background. Their records were available but at least two generations had never had the chance to see them; their music remained influential but rather under the radar. Then came Live8 and from the first chord something magical happened. The reunion of warring band members made it emotional but their sound, one realised, had never truly been superseded or emulated. It sounded fresh and unique, poignant and stirring. As an aftermath, Floyd record sales went through the roof, followed by two solo tours by Dave Gilmore and Roger Waters. Then Syd died, as if to cap this remarkable last flourish off.

(The media construction of Syd Barret's Chatterton-like status (tragic romantic) can be largely traced back to Nick Kent's piece on Syd in the NME April 13th 1974 (Similarly his piece on Nick Drake). Both feature in his brilliant collection of rock journalism 'The Dark Stuff'. His recent piece on Syd for the The Guardian is here.

Read also the piece on Schizophrenia. com; it confirms that Syd
developed a mental illness - most likely schizophrenia (triggered, it is said, by significant drug use as well as the stress and pressure of his career) - and died of complications related to diabetes.

A similar last flourish happened with Arthur Lee. We were there at the Concorde in Brighton for his first ever Love concert in the UK (at Concorde 2), with his young band, and it truly was a magical event. Certainly in my top 20 gigs. He came on like a cross between Jimmy Cliff in 'The Harder They Come' and Marvin Gaye. He looked cool and majestic, he grooved like a king. Most of all, the songs were truly brilliant. Audience was mainly in their 20s with a sprinkling of the older tribe. The young ones knew all the words, Brighton being a bit of a psych-mod capital at the time. Then later, at the Brighton Dome, on the Forever Changes tour. The uncanny and beautifully exact renditions of the song sending shivers up and down one's spine. The last flowering before the leukemia got him.

CULT MUSIC DIGEST: Jazzwise et al

The 100th issue of Jazzwise has just been published - and a fine one it is to. For those unfamiliar, this is Britain's best-selling jazz monthly (available in WHS and other mainstream ouitlets) edited by Jon Newey, who does a thorough job of documenting the latest news, releases and tours as well as featuring many interesting interviews and profiles.

This issue's main feature - The 100 Jazz Albums That Shook The World - is well worth a study. Natch, Kind of Blue and Love Supreme are Nos 1 and 2. Found several albums new to me that I'll be checking out.

Pleased to see one of my favourite albums of all time - 'Indo-Jazz Suite' by John Mayer and Joe Harriott - in the list at No 88. I still have the vinyl copy I've had since I was 17, when we used to sit round and listen to it while smoking Gauloise and learning to play Go.

(Came across a clipping from Mojo April 2004 ('Dance to the Sitar Men' by Justin Spear) about the men behind the 60's sitar groove which confirms that this 1966 record really started the 'whole Indo fusion thing'. Spear writes: 'Put simply, its the wound of a five-piece jazz group and a traditional Indian band - including sitar and tabla - stuck in the same studio and left to forge a new sound of the '60s. Located somewhere between jazz, classical and the complicated form of Indian raga. It still sounds strikingly contemporary.' Amen.

The Observer Music Monthly did 'Fifty Greatest Music Books Ever' in their June edition. It's a strange list, that's for sure, as evidenced by the Top 10:
1. Hellfire - Nick Tosches (bio of Jerry Lee Lewis)
2. Chronicles - Bob Dylan
3. Feel: Robbie Williams - Chris Heath
England's Dreaming - Jon Savage
5. Shostakovich and Stalin - Solomon Volkov
6. Groupie - Jenny Fabian and Johnny Byrne
7. The True Adventures of the Rolling Stones -
Stanley Booth
8. Starlust - Fred and Judy Vemorel
9. Beaneath the Underdog - Charlie Mingus
10. Diary of a Rock 'n' Roll Star - Ian Hunter

If I had to suggest one book that isn't on the list it would be the obscure but wonderful 'Red and Hot: The Fate of Jazz in the Soviet Union' by S. Frederick Starr If that sounds dull, think again. The first negro jazz band arrived in
Russia a few weeks/months after the Revolution and, ever since, jazz has had a strange often underground existence in Russian culture. At one point, Stalin had exiled so many musicians to one Siberian labour camp that they formed the biggest baddest jazz band in the Empire. There's a revised edition out now. The Amazon blurb says that Starr (a prof and a jazz musician himself)
'argues that jazz and jazz-inspired music and world popular culture contributed to the demise of the Communist ideal. The story of jazz represents the history of the emancipation of millions of former Soviet citizens unconsciously groping for a more open relationship between the state and society.'

(Incidentally, can I be the first to register my annoyance about OMM's latest cover feature, heavily splashed on the front of the main paper: Big Brother's Russell Brand meets Keith Richards. Sounded good enough to shell out £1.70. What a disappointment. Brand is an amusing enough fellow but his long description of getting the commission, travelling to the gig, adventures in the hotel room etc took up 98% of the piece. He did finally get in the room with Keith for enough time to exchange a few pleasantries and take a few photos - and then that was it. The whole interview took up about four paras. Short-changed or what!)

THE AMERICA OVER THE WATER TOURING COMPANY are travelling the UK this autumn. See Previous Posting: Over The Water & Over The Road

Jim Morrison's last handwritten notebook was auctioned on July 28th 2006 for £72,000. You can see some of the pages and details of the sale here. Read the original story about the sale in The Independent and then the comments on John Densmore's blog for a closer-to-the-truth version of the story.

Billy Preston

Ambrose Campbell - Nigerian musician whose career took in the postwar Soho of Colin McInnes, Nashville - and Leon Russell. Val Wilmer's obituary here.
Read tributes to him here.

Top of the Pops

Ali Farka Toure - Savane [World Circuit Records ]
King Tubby - Father of Dub [3CD set. Delta Music 2005]
James Brown's Funky Summer [Free compilation with Mojo magazine. August 2006]
Thievery Corporation - The Richest Man in Babylon [ESL Music 2002]
Phoenix - Alphabetical [Source/Virgin Music. 2004]
(Playing at the V Festival 19/20th August. Latest album 'Its Never Been Like that')


The Times front page. August 11 2006

London continues to be at the centre of global air travel, with six of the past decade’s 10 fastest growing long-haul routes going through London’s major airports, according to analysis by Ascend, the world’s leading provider of information and consultancy to the global aerospace industry.

They claim the world’s top 10 long-haul global growth routes are:1. London ­ Dubai; 2. London­ Chicago; 3. London ­ Hong Kong; 4. Melbourne ­ Singapore; 5. Sydney ­ Singapore; 6. London ­ Singapore; 7. London ­ Mumbai; 8. Dubai ­ Singapore; 9. London ­ New York; 10. Brisbane ­ Singapore

Over the past 10 years, the London and Dubai route has grown faster than any other. On flights between the two cities, the number of seats available has more than tripled since 1996. Emirates now operates 62 flights a week.


SHARPEST MANMADE THING: A field ion microscope (FIM) image of a very sharp tungsten needle. The small round features are individual atoms. The lighter colored elongated features are traces captured as atoms moved during the imaging process (approximately 1 second).

Reported by: Rezeq et al., Journal of Chemical Physics, 28 May 2006

Posted on:

Thanks to: Big Fug


The Victory Media Network, a large-scale digital art gallery in Dallas, Texas

URBAN SCREENS is a concept developed by Mirjam Struppek, who define them as: 'various kinds of dynamic digital displays in urban space such as LED boards, plasma screens, information terminals but also intelligent architectural surfaces being used in consideration of a well ballanced, sustainable urban society - Screens that support the idea of public space as space for creation and exchange of culture and the formation of public sphere by criticism and reflection. Its digital nature makes these screening platforms an experimental visualisation zone on the threshold of virtual and urban public space.'

'[The site] investigates how the currently commercial use of outdoor screens can be broadened with cultural content. We address cultural fields as digital media culture, urbanism, architecture and art. We want to network and sensitise all engaged parties for the possibilities of using the digital infrastructure for contributing to a lively urban society, binding the screens more to the communal context of the space and therefore creating local identity and engagement. The integration of the current information technologies support the development of a new integrated digital layer of the city in a complex merge of material and immaterial space that redefine the function of this growing infrastructure.

I like what Virtual Dschungle 5 have to say on this site about their media facade project in Vienna:

'The harbingers of the media city are cropping up everywhere: projected images the size of an entire facade, huge screens on roof tops and culture buildings used as flickering display surfaces. Developments in the area of display technologies have produced new possibilities for hybrid architecture. The theme of media facades in architecture is not simply the next fashion trend, but represents a step in technological development that will have a lasting impact. This trend will affect the city with or without architects' collaboration. Therefore the important thing is to assume social responsibility and to integrate the new technologies in building in a culturally ambitious way. For an Austrian architecture scene that likes to experiment the potential of such developments is a highly topical question....'

Thanks to DM for this post


Scarlet P. the anti-war activist has put up more than 2,000 cardboard signs on his own in California. "When you put a sign on the freeway people will read it until someone takes it down. Depending on its size, content and placement it can be seen by hundreds of thousands of people." The freeways are more and more equiped with digital bilboards but they are only open for commercial used. Since 9/11 and the beginning of the War in Iraq, freeway blogging has exploded in the US as reclaiming a space for free speech where you can also reach a big audience.

See the interview with him at Something Cool News

Thanks to DM for this post