September 23rd, 2002

2020 lack of vision

living in the future present

I can't believe that there was an earthquake and I missed it!

Remarkable books part 1: I went to the library to borrow King Rat and the book next to it on the display was Lives of the Monster Dogs by Kirsten Bakis. The back was covered with plaudits but it was the premise that sent it home with me: speculate that in turn of the century German, a scientist had conceived of a super-army, made up of dogs that can talk and plan and follow orders, dogs with hands to manipulate weapons, dogs which walk like men ... and then, by some unlikely chance, his dream had succeeded, but so many years later that no-one knew what they were for any more, least of all the monster dogs themselves. It's a curious thing, a real fairy tale of New York, shot through with such a longing, such a yearning for the miraculous. Millennium fare, I suppose; strung across a century, trying to pin down the changes, see how violence and the weapons and ambition of wars past haunt and thereaten our future present. She's not written anything else, and doesn't know if she ever will.

Is contemporary life disfigured by an unfounded dread of the future? Charlie Leadbeater - Demos associate and one-time adviser to the Prime Minister's Policy Unit, the DTI and the European Commission - thinks so. In his new book, Up The Down Escalator: Why The Global Pessimists Are Wrong, he argues that the pessimistic attitudes that prevail about business, globalisation and our new world order are not borne out by the facts. Furthermore, this pessimism, in which unlikely bedfellows from both the anti-globalisation movement and the New Right find themselves linked, is itself one of the greatest threats to global stability. Can optimism be conjured about what lies ahead, and can it be justified? Leadbeater will lead a special debate at the ICA on Thursday 5th September, where he will be joined by John Gray, professor of European Thought at the LSE and author of The Two Faces of Liberalism; and the writer and broadcaster Laurie Taylor

I'm glad that there's a professor of European Thought: that makes me feel cared for.
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    gerling - children of telepathic experiences
2020 lack of vision

people doing strange things: I applaud

Bad times with our computers this weekend. Better not to dwell on it. Instead, the fruits of social panic; I must be busy, and summer is ending and I've done none of the things I've planned. But I try:

So we went out deep, deep into one of Oxfordshire's old air bases where the vast flat spaces are bordered with little clusters of aircraft hangers which seem absurdly tiny; I look at them and think, that couldn't possibly take a plane, and I suppose I'm right about that because I'm not out here to see planes, I'm stepping through this hastily assembled black MDF airlock, round the vast yellow ducts which connect the space heater to the space, to see modern dance. It's hot inside, almost stifling. The arched ceiling is black and ribbed, a geigeresque frisson. It's a fantastic space, but the set is depressingly minimal, just a big exercise mat between two banks of seats, as if we were here to see gymnastics. We aren't, though; the movements favoured by this group are tight and small, perfect and effortless but only within a confined space, and the more I look at the dancers, the more they seem to be beating against an outer body of unforgiving and unyeilding glass. At the same time, the heat and the pitilessly directional lighting are bringing on a sinking migraine, blooming black up from the floor. There's no purchase on the music; it's so experimental I can't tell it from the dropped pens and restive children in the audience, and the dancers are no help, the way they keep turning and returning. Damian thought they were like pebbles being turned by waves on the seashore; I thought they were more like leaves, caught in eddies of wind. But one thing they weren't like is humans dancing, and that I didn't enjoy. But, it was quite unlike anything I had ever seen before, so I applauded.

So, we went and looked at the queue outside Bodyworlds, shrugged and wandered off instead to St Pauls, across the little silver bridge, and into the the tate modern. There were signposts warning against escaped animals outside and they were putting up something in the turbine hall using a yellow works vehicle, supporting legs sprawled like a giant bug, and in the café I found a response cards display, and amused myself by ordering them so that all the cocks and swearing was visible at a glance. Mostly, they were the work of one school party, so rich, rich pickings. My interest drew people to look, and then there were wrinkled noses and comments about mature responses, ha ha. I do my bit.

So we travelled a long way back in time after that (though not very far spatially) to Shakespeare's Globe, half theatre, half re-enacters heaven, where seats only cost a fiver if you can stand to stand. It was almost crowded and almost cold, and they started out with some horrible sonnet about factories as it's the international year of encouraging teenagers to write bad poetry or something, but after that things improved as a crowd of dishy actors drifted out in negligées and pajamas and piled up the stage with bolsters, pillows, quilts and duvets and crawled into bed. Cosy! Not that they were asleep for long; in no time at all they were up and about and doing that usual bad-dad-whiny-daughter thing which seemed to mean so much to old Shakespear. Half-way through the first clown scene, I noticed that the shoulders of everyone's pajamas were spattered with little bubbles of glass, a really nice touch of magic and artifice, like the shoes they were wearing which imitated bare feet; and then the scene changed, and they all had to turn into fairies, and all of a sudden every actor on stage lit up with fairy lights, ghostly little blue-white leds, which flickered and flashed in response to how cross they got. And boy, did they get cross. The whole play's just one big slanging match, really, one massive lover's tiff on the way to bed, and what a lot of shouting, sneaking and smacking around there was, what a lot of jumping and threats and dangling over the edge of the stage. I think Puck might have been thrown into the audience if we'd looked better for crowdsurfing, but there just were too many fainting lovelies for that, shame, we wouldn't have minded, Damian coveted his pajamas. And, if he'd hit the floor, he'd only have bounced, like he did off every other surface in the theatre. So, four stories tall from floor to thatch, wood painted to look like marble, frescos, statues and jewels, not a foot or a word awkward or awry, and the difference between mortals and fairies; mortals wear pajamas, fairies wear pajamas and fairy lights!

Addendum: weirdness from magical Americaland on paying for party political broadcasts
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    laaaa la la la la-aaa with all the magic people