Monday 28 June 2010

Polyphemus Navigation

This is how I looked the morning after a 90-minute operation to restore the sight in my left eye. I had it under a local anaesthetic so I could walk away from it afterwards. Needless to say, lurking under that surgical tape is something that looks like a bad drug experience. The operation went well and I am feeling OK, if not a little shaken and very tired. My thanks to everyone who has sent me emails, txts and cards over the past few days: your good wishes for my recovery meant a lot to me and were very much appreciated. I am still not responding personally to any messages at the moment as I am trying to rest my eyes, but will be back in contact with you all very soon.

Wednesday 23 June 2010

Temporary suspension of activity

Ken Hollings is due to undergo emergency eye surgery to correct a retinal detachment. All activities are suspended until further notice. Please check this blog for progress. Hollingsville will open its doors again once vision is restored.

Tuesday 22 June 2010

Hollingsville TX11/12 ‘Cognition’

How to Pass the Turing Test

As far back as 1950 the mathematician Alan Turing predicted that ‘at the end of the century the use of words and general educated opinion will have to be altered so much that one will be able to speak of machines thinking without expecting to be contradicted’. Today technicians at MIT are teaching a robot dog how to read a child’s picture book. Movement and image recognition both suggest new ways of looking at how machine – and by implication, human – intelligence operates; but in that understanding lie new forms of power. The Turing Test was originally designed to separate out humans from machines, but perhaps it also points towards some deeper divisions. Human cognition could soon replace mass media as the true battlefield of the 21st century.

It is on the outer edge of consciousness that the military strategist, the infonaut and the new age thinker start to merge. Hollingsville is particularly pleased to welcome into this cognitive no man’s land documentary filmmaker Adam Curtis. Responsible for such magnificent films as The Power of Nightmares and The Trap, as well as the series Pandora’s Box and The Century of the Self, Curtis has been running a blog from the BBC website: the immensely readable The Medium and the Message. Expect live and unscripted wanderings through the military-academic complex, the behavioural labyrinth, the smart drugs laboratory and the even smarter weapons testing range. Welcome to the Geiger-Counter Culture, brothers and sisters.

Hear Hollingsville TX11/12 ‘Cognition – How to Pass the Turing Test’ this Thursday June 24 at 7.00pm on Resonance 104.4 FM , repeated on Tuesday June 29 at 11.00pm. Musical interludes have been specially created for this episode by Frances Morgan, with background moods from ‘Hollingsville’ composer in residence Graham Massey and ins and outs from Indigo Octagon.

See also:
Hollingsville posts
RAND Corporation on Radio 3
RAND Online

Pictured above: the writing on the wall, courtesy of the RAND Corporation website.

Friday 18 June 2010

TX10/12: Running Backwards, Pointing at the Sky and Screaming

Admit it: no one was really surprised that I ended up talking about Godzilla in an episode of Hollingsville dedicated to monsters – except perhaps for Martin McCarrick of the McCarricks who was assured by me that I absolutely wouldn’t. Even so, their wonderful musical interludes caught the spirit of the show perfectly. But what else can I say? Nietzsche and Godzilla have left both their names, crossed over each other at the ‘z’, indelibly imprinted upon my mind. Fortunately I had the incredible Laurie Lipton in the studio to talk about her early childhood spent in the family basement drawing deaths and beheadings for her family to look at and admire. Her book The Extraordinary Drawings of Laurie Lipton, published by beinArt, is available from Last Gasp. ‘At long last a comprehensive book on Lipton's work has been published,’ runs the online catalogue entry. ‘The subjects of her art -- fear, politics, sexuality, murder, mayhem, greed, indifference -- are timelessly classic yet relentlessly up to date. This publication is not only for art lovers, but for anyone who has ever seen the mask slip off "reality." The Extraordinary Drawings of Laurie Lipton is a 96 page, hard cover art book (21 x 29.7 cm) with over 70 drawings spanning 3 decades. Almost all of Laurie's works are black and white, but the book is printed in full color.’

I was also very favoured to have Strange Attractor’s Mark Pilkington in the studio as well to talk about his new book Mirage Men: An Adventure into Disinformation, Paranoia and UFOs – due out from Constable Robinson next month – and to share with us some interesting new mythological readings from the ground of the UAV drones filling the skies over Pakistan. Mark has also set up a Mirage Men blog related to the themes explored in his book, which you can find by clicking here. He already has some amazing stuff uploaded - the new flying saucer pilgrimage starts now.

‘Monsters: Fair Warning’ will be repeated at 11.00 pm this coming Tuesday June 22 on Resonance 104.4; and the podcast should be available from the Resonance website from noon on Wednesday June 23.

See also:
Hollingsville Posts

Pictured from top to bottom: Laurie Lipton recalling her childhood basement; Mark Pilkington preparing to worship the predator

Tuesday 15 June 2010

Hollingsville TX10/12 ‘Monsters’

Fair Warning

‘…but in spite of it all we would not like to be without the harrowing poetry of their proximity, for these monsters often arrive when our life, involved as it is in the spider’s web of purposes, has become too tedious and too filled with anxiety, and provide us with a sublime diversion by for once breaking the web – not that these irrational creatures would do so intentionally!’
- Friedrich Nietzsche, Daybreak

Monsters, no matter what their shape or size or attitude, serve as a warning and should be welcomed as such. Having no place either in nature or in polite society, they have little choice but to exist as reminders of the things we’d much rather forget. Godzilla, for example, has been good to us over the years, the way only a bad dream can be. The unforeseen by-product of atomic tests taking place in the Pacific Ocean over fifty years ago, the blinding intensity of Godzilla’s birth ensured that he cast more than one shadow over the intervening decades. Whichever way you look at him, he remains the ultimate outcast.

But what about the monsters that lurk in our own homes? Or the ones that occupy the vast deserts of our modern myths? Slouching into Hollingsville for episode ten of the series, we are honoured to welcome Laurie Lipton, an artist whose line is fine enough to raise the hairs on the back of your neck, and Strange Attractor’s Mark Pilkington, whose affable dealings with the disconcerting are admirably documented in his forthcoming book Mirage Men: An Adventure into Disinformation, Paranoia and UFOs. Musical interludes have been specially created for this episode by the sublime McCarricks, with background moods from ‘Hollingsville’ composer in residence Graham Massey and ins and outs from Indigo Octagon. Expect the terrifyingly sane and the uncannily familiar – for here be monsters.

Hear Hollingsville TX10/12 ‘Monsters – Fair Warning’ this Thursday, June 17 at 7.00pm on Resonance 104.4 FM, repeated on Tuesday, June 22 at 11.00pm.

See also:
Hollingsville posts
Godzilla Has Left the Building
Laurie Lipton Knows Where You Live
Laurie Lipton Still Knows Where You Live
Laurie Lipton Is Coming To Get You

Monday 14 June 2010

‘Spaceship UK’ Online

Earlier this year Sound and Music commissioned me to write an extended essay offering a personal view on the history of British electronic music for a stand-alone publication to be made available at this year’s Sonar festival. You can preview an edited, much shorter version of the piece – ‘Spaceship UK: The British Space Programme as Musical Exploration – The Untold Story’ – in this month’s edition of INTO, Sound and Music’s online magazine. The print version, which is over twice the length, comes in a limited edition package with a cover design by Julian House and a 7” vinyl disc featuring music by Daphne Oram and Belbury Poly one side and a fabulous piece of etching on the other, all in a transparent cover. For copyright reasons, it won’t be available for sale in the UK – however, an online version of the complete essay will be posted, together with a personally-selected playlist, just as soon as Sonar is safely over.

In the meantime, I am in the process of putting together a special music-only edition of ‘Hollingsville’ which will be broadcast on July 1 while the Resonance studios are closed for repairs and maintenance, and then repeated on July 6. It will be based on my ‘Spaceship UK’ essay and will feature contributions from Delia Derbyshire, Tristram Cary and Desmond Leslie, with additional material from the likes of Hawkwind, the Focus Group and The Orb. This episode, which constitutes an extra addition to the scheduled Hollingsville series, will not be made available as a podcast so the July 1 and 6 broadcasts are the only chances to hear it. Anyone anxious to know why I seldom do DJ sets is urged to tune in.

Pictured above: the Skylon at night from RIBA’s site.

Friday 11 June 2010

TX 9/12: Pulling Back the Skin

Anyone who still doubts that ‘Hollingsville’ goes out live and unscripted every week need only catch the opening moments of episode nine, ‘Wounds: Blood on the Streets’, to be set straight on this score. For some reason the fader on my microphone refused to respond, meaning that listeners were not only treated to a little more of Indigo Octagon’s excellent title theme than is customary but also my uncannily accurate impersonation of Grace Jones at the start of her version of ‘Night Clubbing’. Having already attempted my opening statement four or five times without success, I was in the process of asking the others in the studio if anyone could actually hear me when the microphone suddenly decided to pick up my every word.

The rest of the show, however, was an absolute delight, so far as I am concerned. Cathi Unsworth’s reading from her latest novel Bad Penny Blues over one of UnicaZürn’s two interludes was immensely dramatic - and all the more striking, since she had never heard the piece before. Also bringing something to the dissection table, Ross MacFarlane of the Wellcome Library turned up with grisly Wound Man diagrams from the fifteenth century. From violent narratives to violent anatomy, this episode had it all – after all, even Oscar Wilde had to refer to a pathologist in order to learn how Dorian Grey might dispose of his friend’s body using scalpels, bone saws and acid.

Those who enjoyed Cathi’s reading might like to visit her website, where they can hear her read three selected ‘transmissions’ from Bad Penny Blues with soundtracks specially created for them by Pete Woodhead. Anyone who wants to find out what’s happening at the Wellcome Library, find their own Wound Man diagrams or simply to learn more about what Ross and his colleagues are up to, check out their excellent blog by clicking here.

‘Wounds: Blood on the Street’ will be repeated at 11.00 pm this coming Tuesday June 15 on Resonance 104.4; and the podcast should be available from the Resonance website from noon on Wednesday June 16.

See also:
Hollingsville Posts

Pictured from top to bottom: the sphinx-like Cathi Unsworth at her most enigmatic; Ross MacFarlane wondering how we ever managed to survive the sixteenth century in one piece

Tuesday 8 June 2010

Hollingsville 9/12 ‘Wounds’

Blood on the Street

The wound represents an entry into the body which is made by something that can never be a part of that body. It will always be foreign to our flesh, and as such it constitutes a technological assault upon the body. Its effects are extraordinary: the wound is the most terrifying expression of violence, and yet it also represents intimacy, an awakening of the senses and the acquisition of sudden knowledge. From the ecstasies of saints revealed as stigmata to the forensic scrutiny of modern crime scenes, the wound communicates more than just another opening of the human body. On the darkened streets of the city – itself once a metaphor used by eighteenth-century anatomists to describe what goes on beneath our skin – the wound speaks of crime, madness, delirium and a total loss of identity. Or to put it another way, what kind of stories could we possibly tell each other without also breaking our own flesh?

Joining me in the clean room, handing out sutures and gauze for episode nine of ‘Hollingsville’ – scheduled to go out live 7.00 pm on Thursday June 10 on Resonance 104.4 FM – will be cultural pathologist supreme Ross MacFarlane of the Wellcome Library and Cathi Unsworth, author of fabulous London-based crime novels The Not Knowing, The Singer and Bad Penny Blues, as well as being editor of the anthology London Noir: Capital Crime Fiction. Be on the qui-vive for gimlet-eyed observations and flinty asides. Interludes for this particular episode come courtesy of the masterful UnicaZürn with background moods from ‘Hollingsville’ composer in residence Graham Massey and ins and outs by Indigo Octagon.

See also:
Hollingsville Posts
Morphology of the Wound

Pictured above: Dark entry on a Vienna side street

Saturday 5 June 2010

TX 8/12: Backhanded Compliments

Memories, when you get right down it, are just trash you can still find room for; and nobody has greater storage space than the two most recent visitors to ‘Hollingsville’ Roger K Burton of the Horse Hospital and Edwin Pouncey, AKA Savage Pencil. The relationship between the technological effects of mass production and the individual desire to preserve throws up new forms of solitude in the post-modern world: whether it be Edwin’s audiocassette recording of his telephone interview with Ed ‘Big Daddy’ Roth, part of which formed one of the interludes to ‘Trash: The Gasp Between Clichés’, or Roger’s tale of Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood hacking up hundreds of unsold ‘Let It Rock’ T-shirts to create throwaway punk ‘classics’, the uniqueness of the moment, preserved through the economics of trash was admirably well expressed. That both Roth and McLaren are no longer with us made such moments all the more fascinating. Add some squawking guitar feedback, me getting knocked off my intro by a stray Resonance FM ident at the start of the show, and you had history in the making, dear listeners, history making.

Hear Hollingsville TX8/12 ‘Trash - the Gasp between Clichés’ this Tuesday June 8 at 11.00pm on Resonance 104.4 FM or download the podcast from the Resonance website on Wednesday June 9.

See also:
Hollingsville Posts

Pictured from top to bottom: Edwin foresees the coming of the Anti-Quack; Roger K Burton considers the effects of offering Vivienne Westwood another double brandy.

Tuesday 1 June 2010

Hollingsville 8/12 ‘Trash’

The Gasp between Clichés

The time has come to insult listeners’ intelligence. Trash has traditionally been seen as the unnecessary expression of popular mass consumption: the further we progress, the more trash we generate. Waste, squandering and surplus value are tied up with notions of identity and self-worth. The use of recycled materials has become an orthodox virtue of recent years. But what about the discarded trash of our culture? Not only are old images, themes and footage recycled but an entire trash aesthetics has come into being – classic ‘kustom kar’ pinstriping, tattoo ‘flash art’, tiki art, musical exotica, pulp fiction, burlesque bump and grind and Z-grade movies have all provided a refuge for sensibilities tired of the banalities on offer from both the mainstream and academic markets. To flay the eyeball is to flay the soul itself – trash is the outer expression of a culture opened up and left to bleed.

Joining me in the emergency room for episode eight of ‘Hollingsville’, scheduled to go out at 7.00 pm on Thursday June 3 on Resonance 104.4 FM, will be first responders Roger K Burton, of the Horse Hospital and the Contemporary Wardrobe Collection, and Edwin Pouncey, AKA artist Savage Pencil. Expect tough talk and grim idealism. The ‘Hollingsville’ composer in residence is Graham Massey. Ins and outs, as always, are by Indigo Octagon. Remember: never take ‘yes’ for an answer.

See also:
Hollingsville Posts

Pictured above: Ghost Mall photograph by Brian Ulrich, courtesy of the Morning News