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CONTENTS COCK-EYED

issue one

Moose Allain Tales of Paxman_p2 Victoria Buckley Anthem for Doomed Youth_p6 Rich Neville Coping with Books_p8 Michael Spicer The Pink Pander & Always Should Be Someone You Really Love_p12 Ian Martin Brutalism: Britain’s 12 bar Modernism_p18 George Poles W(h)ither Satire?_p30 Emilia Brock Untitled_p38 David Liebowitz Why Political Apathy Fits Me Like a Glove_p40 Colin Young All My Own Work_p42 Dunia Hutchinson Breaking the habit of a lifetime_p44


Tales of Paxman I approached Paxman, knowing he felt very at home lolling about on the moral high ground. Spare a few pence for a cuppa, guv’nor, I begged.

of well-bred leather and studio lights. Let’s see who you really are, I muttered, and butterflyed the wallet open. Empty. At least, no cards,

Paxman came right up close, peering into my eyes. Mouth close to my ear, he breathed “It’s my day off. I neither ask nor answer questions”.

no folding stuff, no oyster card… nothing, except, a little origami crane. Yes, of course I unfolded it. Written along its length were the words “You didn’t think this was a real wallet, jerk-off?”. I carefully re-made the little crane. Ebay. Paxman’s Origami Mantra - ten bob.

“I’m not looking for an answer, just a few pence, sir”. I had nothing to lose. He bustled past. “Get in touch with my people”.

Except, how on earth was I going to explain the provenance? No, this was one for a private collector. And I knew just the man who’d want it.

In a way I was glad he moved off so swiftly. I headed away through the crowd. I now had his wallet deep in my pocket. And his comb.

Say, in theory, I had an origami crane featuring a short message from Paxman with a water-tight provenance - who would the ideal buyer be?

Back in my hideaway I decided to delay the pleasure of rifling through his cards, sniffing his cash. I took up a piece of tissue paper and

The main collector of Paxman memorabilia is of course Michael Howard himself. I’ve sat in his snug, watching him replay that interview.

folded it around Paxman’s comb. Soon I was humming the Newsnight theme with an effective kazoo. I detected the whiff of ancient macassar oil.

Howard wavering endlessly between feeling he won that argument, Paxman’s a fraud for god sake! And knowing, just knowing, he lost it.

No doubt the Pax, an erudite lover of all things Victorian, would only pomade his bouffon with the authentic unguents. After a while, my lips

This has become an obsession for Howard. Following a brusque handshake after the show, Howard found himself holding Paxman’s pen.

somewhat numb, I put down the comb kazoo and picked up the great interrogator’s wallet. Well used, the stitching still sound, a feint smell

A cheap, charity biro - not the beautiful Guilloche fountain pen, he’d been flashing about on the set. Howard pocketed it. Later he wondered

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if Paxman had forced it on him, like a conjuror. Why would he? But why the pen swap? Why was Paxman using it? It didn’t matter. It took on

to “come out” about it, contact the papers, make out it was just a bit of fun, maybe a photo shoot together, the two old adversaries.

some kind of talismanic quality for Michael Howard, as if the unresolved tensions of whether he’d taken it or been given it somehow matched

But Howard knew he could not do this. He knew that without performing certain rituals before bed, he would wake in the night in terror.

the ambiguity of the earlier battle of words. Was Howard the victor or the victim? From that day he began to idly ask colleagues to pick up

This he told me as we sat in his snug, his box of magic on his lap, the interview looping on a DVD. I knew he’d pay well for the crane.

any odd Paxman-related jewjaws from the Newsnight set. He found himself - this was odd - going out of his way to befriend a young researcher on the show. And his brushed-off embarrassment when people began to comment hid a much more complex sense of shame than anything sexual.

Moose Allain

By artist, illustrator, cartoonist, twitter botherer and father figure (to his children). www.worldofmoose.com

He felt himself locked still in combat with the old Interrogator. And thus his “collection” began to gain a significance he hardly dared contemplate. As if by owning Paxmabilia, he could gradually erode the other’s advantage. Howard didn’t believe in magic, beyond the rituals of his beloved family heritage. And yet here he was, practising some form of bogus voodoo - how ridiculous, just a bit of fun, perhaps time

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ANTHEM FOR DOOMED YOUTH :Exhibition Fragments

Brooke’s copy of Homer’s Iliad which he took with him on his last voyage. Military Cross awarded to Blunden for his bravery. Map drawing by Jones showing the route taken on a night patrol in the trenches. Copy of a lost self-portrait by Rosenberg. Letter of condolence written to Grenfell’s family by Lord Kitchener. War Office telegram to Professor William Sorely informing him of the death of his son. Fragments gathered from the area around  the Carrefour des Roses where Ledwidge was killed. Report of Owen’s death forwarded to the War Office dated 11th November 1918 the day the war ended.

Envelope addressed to Graves returned to sender marked ‘Died of Wounds’. A lock of Gurney’s hair treasured by Winifred Chapman. War Office memorandum from January 1918 relating to the discovery of a document containing Sassoon’s anti-war statement in a train luggage rack. Thomas’ pocket watch the hands stopped at 7.36 a.m -  the moment of his death.  

Victoria Buckley Writer and historian. Her poetry has been published in magazines and anthologies.


Coping with Books The problem with bookshops is that nobody in them is the least bit impressed that you are buying a book. In this day and age, the purchase of literature should prompt onlookers to drop what they are doing and spontaneously applaud. At the very least, a small interview in the local paper should ensue. Questions should be asked, such as “what did you like so much about the cover”, and “have you decided which shelf you’re going to put it on”. You would answer their many fawning questions with a wry enigmatic smile, in the full knowledge that they were the wrong questions. For you would have the fullest intention of one day actually reading the book. Just as soon as you had finished that other one you bought at the airport that time when you were on holiday. The one about voodoo. You wouldn’t of course be seeking to boast about what was now, by any definition, a literary collection, but you would hope to be quietly giving off the air of somebody who certainly knows their way around a book. You could be forgiven for thinking that we were in the midst of a literary revival. For many, the eBook reading device has effectively replaced the Rubik’s Cube as a thing to hold on trains and buses. However, this is largely because they often have a reflective surface. These people do not turn the devices on, but rather hold them up to look at their own faces. For many this represents company, and is a comforting sight, although some will tend to peck at the image in confusion, thinking that they are seeing a rival. When you have read a book, you can justifiably expect to be invited to many dinner parties to discuss what lay within. Try to have a rough estimate of the number of pages and if possible even a word count at the ready, as these are the things people will ask you about first. As a rule of thumb, the bigger these numbers are, the better the book you have read.

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Your astonished hosts will probably suggest that your eyes and/or hands must be very tired. Shrug this off for extra bravery points. Some of your new admirers may own eBook reading devices, and may consequently wish to know how many per cents long your book was. If you are confronted with this question, all you need to remember is to tell them that it was 100 per cents long. This will contextualise your feat in terms that they can understand, and they will admire you all the more for it. Once you have the accomplished aura of someone who has read a book, you can easily pretend to have read several more. One good trick is to simply claim to have read your “paper back” before in a “hard back” format. The content of these is almost identical, so you can instantly double your total. Another option is to watch a film. Many of these are also available as books, and are probably pretty similar. Something to watch out for here, however, is the lack of page and word counts associated with a film. Try taking the number of minutes the film seemed to last and touting that as the number of pages in the book you are claiming to have read. In case you are confronted with a question as to the author of your putative book, good names to toy with are Amis or Self. Nobody will dare challenge you for the forename, for fear of appearing gauche. If somebody at your dinner party says they have seen the film, don’t panic. There is still a way out here. Simply assert that the book is better than the film. That should be enough to satisfy most of your dinner companions, who will simply nod in appreciation, but if you are pushed further you should suggest that they missed the best bits of the book out in the film. The real kicker in this strategy lies in the fact that you need, nay must, say nothing more, other than to dismiss further inquiries with a sweeping statement that they really need to read it for themselves, and that to say more would be to spoil it. The chances are very good that your fellow diners will never seek out that Transformers: Dark of the Moon novel.

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Some may try to tell you that listening to an audiobook is an acceptable alternative to the film strategy, but they are wrong. Stephen Fry takes 125 hours to tell you what happens to Harry Potter. If only he had watched the films, he could have précised the whole thing in half an hour. With the millions of man days saved, the current global economic crisis could probably have been averted. One thing to be wary of when claiming to have read books is that you do not stray into the territory of the bookazine. A bookazine bares a passing resemblance to a book, in that it features a spine and some words, but don’t be fooled. If it has a DVD stuck to the cover and is available on a monthly basis, people will not be as impressed when you come to boast about having read it, particularly once you begin to graduate to the higher literary circles. Just saying ‘It was about mountain bikers, and their equipment’ about each new read won’t wash with these people. When you eventually find yourself among fellow readers, such as the bookshop patrons who so callously ignored your theoretical book purchase at the start of this article, you will have to raise your game. These people won’t be impressed at your claims to have read one of the books. They won’t be happy until you have read all the books. There are many books. If you are reading one of the ‘classics’, you should conceal how embarrassingly far behind you are with reading all the books by wrapping the slip cover of something more recent around it, such as the latest Dan Brown. If you’re still on Chaucer, these people will think you’ve barely started reading all the books. Good luck, and good books.

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Rich Neville is a LAFTA-winning writer and illustrator based in Bristol. He is the author of Catbin Fever, and is working on his difficult second book. He blogs sporadically at harpurger.com and catbinfever.com, and tweets incessantly as @RichNeville, and somewhat cessantly as @catbinlady. He is not, at the time of writing, in a boy band.

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THE PINK PANDER BBC2 never treated Laurel & Hardy with any respect. When I was growing up, Laurel & Hardy films acted as filler in the daytime schedule, cementing the daytime cookery programme to the lunchtime business news. However, this did not deter me. The BBC may have scattered Stan and Ollie’s films across the holiday calendar with irritating randomness but I can guarantee that before each broadcast I was poised eagerly on the edge of my sofa with a blank 240min BASF videotape in the machine and the ‘REC/ PLAY’ command at the ready. My adoration of their glorious slapstick humour fuelled me with the determination to not let a single moment of comic perfection pass me by.

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Comic perfection doesn’t really exist on the big screen these days; it’s much more of a slog to arrive at a punchline or a pay-off than it was in Laurel & Hardy’s day. No example illustrates this more than the new Pink Panther franchise. Peter Sellers’ immortal comic creation, Inspector Jacques Clouseau, was a wonderful character within a largely flawed set of films. The humour throughout the Pink Panther series struggles to maintain a decent standard with verbal jokes and wordplay falling flat in particular. However, these films are magical because they contain moments of comic perfection borne out of the relationship between Sellers and the director, Blake Edwards. In some cases, Edwards took a backseat to allow for Sellers’ instinct with timing. As Stanley Kubrick proved with Dr Strangelove, the trick with Sellers was to let him have fun and just keep the cameras rolling. In addition to this, Edwards also had a vision for the ‘comic stunt’. In this age of computergenerated soullessness, the comic set piece has all but disappeared. In fact, memorable set pieces in general have disappeared from the mainstream. Directors no longer have everything riding on a single take because the post-production team will both erase any aberrations and embellish the existing action later. As a result, the opportunity for magic is vastly reduced.

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Imagine this horrific scenario: A Hollywood producer phones Adam Sandler – “Hey, Adam. We gotta great idea. A remake of ‘Safety Last’ with you in the Harold Lloyd role, climbing the building in New York and hanging off the clock face and shit…Yuh…Uh-huh… No, don’t worry about your fear of heights, we’ll green-screen everything. Whaddayasay?” A farfetched scenario perhaps but certainly no more outrageous than Steve Martin’s abominable recreation of Inspector Clouseau for not one but two Pink Panther films. The humour of the new Pink Panther franchise is vulgar, obvious and devoid of timing. It is a classic example of Hollywood’s tired approach to comedy in recent years. There’s no finesse anymore, the scripts are flimsy, the actors are on auto-pilot. Plus with the overly stylised approach of the big studios (where garish effects, hasty editing and intrusive incidental music trample clumsily over scenes like B-Movie giants) we comedy connoisseurs are left looking elsewhere for our fix.

My 240min BASF tape crammed with such Laurel & Hardy classics as ‘Towed in a Hole’, ‘The Music Box’, ‘Blockheads’ and ‘Dirty Work’ has now been retired in favour of the most beautiful DVD boxed set in my possession and it is this definitive collection of Laurel & Hardy’s work that lifts the spirits. I don’t have a comedy hero on the big screen who is not dead. My pleasure in the comedy film genre is obtained only through the viewing of classics from my personal DVD library, for the effortlessness of performance, the excitement of the single take set piece and the non-existence of postproduction interference are all remnants of a bygone age. “…we’ve added this hilarious bit where a dog flies out of the window and grabs onto your genitals as you’re hanging off the clock face… it’s the shit…” Don’t think it won’t happen. Michael Spicer is a comedy writer and performer. He has been on telly a few times. He writes sketches and sitcoms and screenplays. There’s no space here to describe in detail his negligible success in those three fields. He has won an international film award for a short film he wrote and starred in. He has a wife and a son. He makes a lot of online comedy and this has lead to a surprisingly high number of followers on Twitter which, as we know, is all that matters.

lolwagon.tumblr.com lolwagonsketches.tumblr.com tuvoa.tumblr.com

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Always Should Be Someone You Really

LOVE

Nadine Dorries’ controversial ���sexual abstinence’bill has been withdrawn early. The irony of such a statement leads one to conclude that the MP for Mid Bedfordshire pulled the bill just to make some sort of crude yet effective point. Abstinence raises important questions and should always be addressed in sex education alongside other crucial sexual matters such as the correct way to peel a condom, why Rihanna always touches herself there and have you done it outdoors yet?  I have.  Five times.  However Ms. Dorries (or as Speaker John Bercow called her today - ‘Chastity the Temperance Ostrich’) has made it perfectly clear that she wants teachers to actively advocate abstinence, thereby folding the bill into a pointy paper aeroplane and sending it whizzing into the fires of indoctrination and iffy ideology. Having said that, I would be willing to endorse any future incarnations of Ms Dorries’ bill if she agrees to include my proposal regarding how boys are taught in sex education.  If Ms Dorries is so keen to update the Grange Hill message of just saying no for girls so that it refers to bonking rather than shoving smack up your bugle, perhaps we should be addressing what the question is in the first place and what makes a boy ask it? So here’s the plan; separate boys from girls during sex education.  The girls can be taught on a variety of issues beginning with the basics such as how the reproductive organs work, all the way through to how they’ll never look like Angelina Montana anyway and should just bork whatever Lynx-wearing numpty bumbles along at the time.  Now while the girls are downloading these essential apps to their delicate Bieberbrains, the boys can be taught a different class; one which doesn’t favour accuracy. My advice to teachers is to accumulate all manner of discredited, sanctimonious nonsense about sex and revive it for boys in the 21st Century!  Yes you will go blind if you do that.  Yes it will fall off if you think about it too much.  Yes girls are rife with disease.  Yes you can get an STD just by sharing school disco punch. Um, yes, well all right, girls do all have stingers for killing unsuitable partners. Look, go and play football.  You disgust me.  All of you.  You disgust me.  With your willies. After a few years of this sort of edification, I doubt a single boy will even sneak a peek in WH Smiths at the ‘Big Boobs’ issue of Nuts Magazine as they buy highlighter pens for big school.  Ms Dorries had a change of heart today but I hope with a simple exchange of emails with me, she could realise the potential of her bill and obliterate this culture of sexual depravity once and for all.  Plus we could exchange numbers too, go out for a drink, who knows?

by Michael Spicer 17


BRUTALISM :BRITAIN’S 12-BAR MODERNISM

All architecture has time on its side. If a building endures for 50 years it becomes a landmark. If it survives for a century it gets a cultural bus pass. We’re obliged to look after it because it’s fragile and endearing and was always there for us when we were kids. Cultural heritage is pretty much a veneer these days, though. We may admire the fine brickwork of that former mill, or that quaint art deco factory, or that lovely old blanked-out pub on the corner. But usually we’re looking at an architectural paywall. Under the skin, that landmark building has almost certainly been monetised by some shark-toothed developer with dead eyes and a drop office in Jersey. The sort who talks about himself in the third person as a ‘brand’. And Mr. Brand has converted this historic building into boutique nanoapartments for single professionals in haircuts.


Yes, this building’s mass, its form, is still there. The ‘shape’ remains a historic part of our shared urban landscape. We can all see it. It’s ours. Inside however, the buildings’s soft tissue has been hooked out through the back gate and into a skip, as deftly as dead pharoahs’ brains were once extracted through the nose with the embalmer’s hook. Never mind, it’s still ‘there’. Even if it’s now teeming not with consumptive mill-workers, factory girls with asbestosis, or grim men swathed in cigarette smoke but with IT middle managers, web designers and fans of the pop group Pulp. We’re pleased the building hasn’t been permanently deleted from our collective consciousness. So many Victorian terraces were in the 1960s, when town planners fetishised the motor car and all her ways, the underpasses and the flyovers. An evangelical zeal for ring roads and slum clearance destroyed whole areas of historical interest in cities across the country. Yet half a century on it’s difficult to be anything but ambivalent about this municipal Soviet-scale Stalinism. Of course – OF COURSE - we lost some fine buildings to crass development policies. Let’s face it, the more you read about the dodgy deals of the time the more they appear to have been cooked up and pushed through by the cast of Get Carter. The system of central government grants encouraged corruption in both the private

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and public sectors. Every town hall had its Mussolini in a tailored suit, keen to leave his mark. There were venal contractors keen to cash in on the building boom, often via large brown envelopes. The public interest, meanwhile, was represented by local planning committees whose members were by and large time-serving narcissists with all the physical appearance and moral intelligence of snowmen. In a frenzy of redevelopment, our towns were redrawn and quartered. Tons of priceless old-fashioned clutter cheerfully pulverised. It was left to the next generation to assess the cultural value of what we’d lost, and to start in earnest the angry chronicling and finger-pointing and never-againing. Conservationists and architectural historians are very good at keeping this melancholy sense of loss alive, reminding us of exactly what was squandered or bulldozed. It’s a sort of architectural grief porn. And if you’re interested in something from the top shelf, I’d recommend Gavin Stamp’s Britain’s Lost Cities. Stamp is terrifyingly clever and calm and crosser than anyone else. The book - half essay, half massive articulated picture caption - has at its heart an astonishing collection of photographs. Vanished buildings, atomised streets, mutely reprimanding us from beyond the grave. Immerse yourself in the book and after a while your mind slips into memory mode and inhabits this phantom world. You instinctively mourn the

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beautiful old shops and houses. And also, more guiltily, note that there seems once to have been ample parking and not much in the way of traffic congestion.

fairer future’ didn’t sound like the cynical slogan of a political party at a seaside conference.

Yeah, so there’s THAT: horrific loss of lovely buildings. On the other hand, it’s impossible to understand the breadth of urban redevelopment in 60s and early 70s Britain without recalling the mood of the time. And that mood, as we swerved from the Skiffle Years to the Space Age, was national optimism. Difficult to imagine these days, but we should try. It’s easy to rail and sneer at the philistinism of local authorities, but they were building the zeitgeist. Every World War 2 bomb site, every clapped-out 19th Century eyesore was an affront to our new civic dignity. Thousands of homes were needed. Sixties redevelopment was a war on our own imperial past and in all wars there are terrible casualties.

Architectural styles glide in and out of fashion with successive generations. It’s instructive to look at home improvement magazines of the early 60s. They’re full of tips on how to modernise your home. The drive was for white, clean, uncluttered space, just as it is today in those upmarket lifestyle magazines that revere minimalism. But then it was all about eradicating depressing traces of Victoriana. Plywood and lino could conceal the ‘ugliest’ panelled doors or oldfashioned tiled floor. In 1963, Practical Householder encouraged you to crowbar out the Victorian fireplace and replace it with a small gas fire and a lovely blank wall. In 2013, Property-Owning Hipster Monthly encourages you to remove that ugly gas fire and put back the Victorian fireplace.

People wanted a fresh start, to throw off a century of dark, oppressive, patrician built environments. Dickensian brick shanty-towns had survived as moneyspinning tenant farms for racketeering landlords well into the 50s and we’d had enough. We’d had enough of dark rooms, austerity and rationing. We’d had enough of living in the shadowy aftermath of war. We were turning our back on the past and looking forward to a fairer future. It was an age of innocence then, mind you, when a phrase like ‘forward to a

And here’s the irony. Our contemporary passion for historic architecture has left many bold, fine 1960s Modernist buildings looking old-fashioned. And vulnerable. For like the fish-brained idiots we are, we’ve forgotten the lesson we were supposed to have learned from the urban holocaust: what once looked ‘hideous’ will look beautiful again in time. The very buildings that symbolised our triumph over Victorian Britain are themselves now facing casual destruction.By the 1980s Thatcher was dismantling the public sector,

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privatising our nationalised industries, plastinating the trade union movement. Meanwhile, still living off his Mum, that insufferable prick the Prince of Wales was leading a conservative, populist crusade. In general terms it was a campaign against everything after Beethoven. In specific terms it was a campaign against Modernism. Charles championed a social theory called environmental determinism. In the royal fad timeline it came just after holistic medicine and a couple of years before the Book Of Common Prayer. Environmental determinism. It held that poorly-designed spaces encouraged crime and anti-social behaviour. Once Charles had got a concise, nuanced and faxed summary from his coterie of cryptofascist creeps and suck-ups however, environmental determinism showed that ‘Modernist spaces cause crime’. Worse, that Modernism was complicit, that it inwardly cackled at anti-social behaviour. HRH’s message was: You unspeakable, thieving, gobbing violent little toerag. We will come down on you like a ton of bricks. Unless, of course, you lead us to that dastardly criminal mastermind ‘Le Corbusier’. Never mind the other obvious, though less interesting, contributors to social failure: recession, grudging and minimal building maintenance, the community policies of local authorities, poverty, apathy. It’s surprising in retrospect that Modernism wasn’t blamed for AIDS.

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Ageing high-rise blocks of flats are a clumsy shorthand today, a gloss on the Thatcherite narrative of a discredited age. An embarrassing reminder of a time when we lived under the repressive yolk of some imaginary monolithic state. Yeah, a bit like North Korea apparently but with blinding pop music and literature, a sexual revolution, booze, drugs, fantastic cinema, feminism. Astonishing monuments to civic aspiration are now demolished with barely a murmur of protest – Plymouth’s Tricorn Centre for instance - or are under threat of destruction – Birmingham’s central library, the Robin Hood Gardens estate in east London, Preston Bus Station. These are examples of a British genre of Modernism known as Brutalism. As a classification, it now sounds hopelessly self-defeating. The term itself, coined by architects Alison and Peter Smithson, has been a gift for critics. The Smithsons might as well have called it Shitism. Because Brutalism resonates with ‘brutal’ and ‘brutalised’ and people deliberately miss the point and tell you that the Brutalist design aesthetic was all about scaring people. Bullying us. Shocking us with something new and unprecedentedly vulgar. No. NO. That’s not what it means.

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‘Béton brut’ was the raw, poured concrete Le Corbusier used to create some of the most iconic works of 20th Century architecture. Concrete. It was cheap, durable, versatile. Brutalism was about creating something beautiful from brute materials. It was egalitarian and optimistic. It made a virtue of strong, simple, dynamic ideas and it reflected its time. If Georgian terraces suggested a stately Classical minuet, Brutalism was a three-chord song. But played loud. The idea of creating unique masterpieces from a simple grid and basic materials has echoes of that other great British cultural boom of the time: blues music. Whining about the architectural repetition and limited range of a concrete building is like criticising John Lee Hooker for his lack of a chamber orchestra. I wallow in the classless magnificence of London’s Hayward Gallery several times a year, whatever’s on, like the ponce I am. The building is amazing, with its form-cast concrete bearing the imprint of timber boards like fossil rocks. It’s solid, and brilliant, and ours. I’ve never come out feeling brutalised, unless you count that time they were showing an especially angry and confrontational exhibition of nihilistic bollocks from eastern Europe. And the only time I felt genuine anger arriving at the Hayward was when I discovered a concrete stairway had been painted yellow – YELLOW – as part of a corporate branding

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exercise smeared all over the South Bank by an insurance company, culminating in an entire wall of the National Theatre covered in a giant Aviva Family. Private money eating public space. It’s happening everywhere. And it’s unacceptable. The destruction in the early 60s of the massive Euston Arch is a totemic moment for conservationists. Now there are plans to destroy the subsequent, existing Modernist station. Once a vast Mad Men prairie of open concourse, the space has over the years been encroached upon by a shopping centre’s worth of fast food and trinkets. Compromised by capitalism, aesthetically weakened, its case for conservation now looks fatally undermined. I can’t help

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thinking there are fewer conservationists interested in preserving it than were campaigning to save its predecessor in the 60s. I can’t help thinking in fact that there might be an element of revenge here. Whether Brutalism is celebrated or condemned depends almost entirely on where it is and who’s looking after it. The architect Erno Goldfinger designed two ‘sister’ blocks of high-rise flats in the late 60s, almost identical structurally and aesthetically. One, Balfron Tower, is council-owned and in Poplar. The other, Trellick Tower, is these days mostly privately-owned and in North Kensington. Guess which one is the more desirable.

This matters because whatever goes on inside a building, we all have to look at it. And we deserve better. Brutalism is Britain’s 12-bar Modernism. It’s architecture’s blues. And every time we tear down some landmark Brutalism on the grounds that it’s old-fashioned, boring and moribund, it’s like we’re chucking a John Lee Hooker master tape into the furnace. Ends

Brutalist architecture faces another existential threat at the moment. There is once again a Conservative government in power which, let’s face it, has no cultural interest in preserving and maintaining brave reminders of a mad dash for a socialist utopia. There’s a strong feeling among 20th Century building historians that Brutalist buildings are being turned down for listing because they’re regarded disdainfully as inferior and unworthy. And perhaps off-message. We should all take a deep breath and think hard before we allow more Brutalist masterpieces to be crunched into aggregate. For a start it’s a good bet they’ll be replaced by generic yuppie flats or ‘retail destinations’ with undetectable levels of architectral interest.

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Ian Martin is a comedy writer. He lives in Lancaster.

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W(h)ither Satire?

This was supposed to be a lament,

a funeral keen for a lost love,

an old man’s bitter remembrance of better times.

It will be none of those things.

Why?

Well, I’ll get to that in a moment.

So, why was I planning to mourn satire? Surely, we must be living in its golden age? Two-anda-half-thousand years after Aristophanes first picked up his stylus in order to take Athenian dictator Cleon down a peg or two, vast hordes gather daily in front of their keyboards, ready to twit, tease and generally undermine everyone from the Prime Minister to Katie Price. Satire – or, at least, what the listings pages like to think of as satire - is to be found on the TV and radio, on the internet and in the pages of magazines and newspapers. Off the top of one’s head it’s possible to name Have I Got News for You, Mock the Week, 8 out of 10 Cats, Russell Howard’s Good News, The News Quiz, The Now Show, plus a cornucopia of newspaper political sketch columns and fake celebrity diaries “as told to” this or that gag-friendly hack, not to mention innumerable blogs and videos on the intertube. And beyond all that there is Private Eye, as popular as it’s ever been and – despite celebrating its 50th birthday – still with an impish twinkle in its eye. But perhaps it’s Private Eye that best reveals what I thought (until my recent epiphany) was the current crisis in British satire. After all, that 50th anniversary cover – titled “How Satire Makes a Difference” – self-mockingly shows two “Old Etonian Prime Ministers”, one from 1951 and one from 2011, both “surrounded by cronies and making a hash of running the country”. Despite all satire’s efforts – despite That Was the Week That Was, Not the Nine O’Clock

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News and the boundless modern outlets for satire in this country, very little has changed. Now you may object that actually changing things isn’t satire’s point. For a long time I would have sympathised with you. Indeed, way back in the innocent early Noughties I wrote an article to that very effect, approvingly quoting Woody Allen’s character Isaac in Manhattan debating the correct response to neo-Nazis marching on New Jersey: “Well, well a satirical piece in the Times is one thing but bricks and baseball bats really gets to the point”. Now, however, I’m not sure that satire can leave the responding to those with baseball bats – especially given that their response seems to be not to stick it to the oppressor but to smash in the window of JD Sports and grab a couple of Nike trainers. Indeed, I worry that much British satire actively contributes to the alienated, post ideological atmosphere in which people rise up not to lose their chains but to acquire a better telly and a family-sized bag of Tesco economy rice, or to sit in a tent outside St Paul’s chanting “What do we want?” “Not this”, “What do we want instead?” “Er”. One of the great problems of British satire, one that can be seen as much in the cartoons of Gillray as the gags on Mock the Week is an overwhelming desire to play the ball and not the man. At least Gillray had the excuse that in emphasising the Prince Regent’s girth he was also

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illustrating the corrupting effects of a gluttonous appetite in all things, whereas all those years in which the cheap way to get a laugh about New Labour was to mention John Prescott and pies in the same breath did absolutely nothing to illuminate his massive failures in policies from transport to housing to local government reform. In fact, the Prescott pie-eating thing is so cheap and easy that it still gets wheeled out on panel shows despite the fact that the erstwhile Deputy Prime Minister left office in 20071. The ad hominem nature of so much British satire is particularly worrying in our post-ideological age. When comics and satirists were having a pop at Harold Macmillan for being out of touch or, later, at Harold Wilson for his pipe-smokingman-of-the-people shtick, there were still real differences between the parties. Across the globe, capitalism, socialism and communism battled in the war of ideas and there was still a feeling abroad that meaningful choice was possible between them. Following the “triumph” of capitalism, however, any deep ideological differences between the parties have fallen away. Now, British satire’s emphasis on personal attacks can only serve to increase the feeling of powerlessness so many of us are experiencing in the wake of the catastrophic and ongoing failure of unrestrained, debt-fuelled capitalism. After all, if politician X is attacked for his or her policies, that starts an argument that could galvanise a response, even if it’s only to vote

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for someone else at the next election; however, if politician Y is attacked because he or she is fat, there’s nothing to be done except to shrug the shoulders and turn over to The X Factor. If satire follows (or perhaps leads) the news in downplaying the role of policy and political mores in favour of emphasising personality quirks and personal gossip, if all we are told about our rulers and would-be rulers is that David Cameron is posh and has smooth skin, George Osborne is posh and has a squeaky voice and Ed Miliband sounds like someone from a 1970s advert for throat lozenges reading out a PR release for a North London community college, how are we possibly supposed to choose between them? When it’s good, satire tries to do something more than merely take the piss out of people in the news, it seeks to illuminate our errors and uncover hidden – or, at least, underacknowledged – truths. That’s what gives force to classic sketches from The Frost Report2’s “An Understanding of Class” to Rowan Atkinson’s brilliant Conservative Conference speech from Not the Nine O’Clock News3, to Peter Cook’s astounding savaging of the judge’s summing up in the trial of Jeremy Thorpe4. It can be found in Pope’s Rape of the Lock and Cervantes’s Don Quixote. Such satire is there in full Juvenalian disgust in Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels and Horatian amiable chiding in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels. Whether or not it can direct us along an alternate path (and at its very best – as in the work of Czech genius Karel

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Capek – it can) it does more than make us laugh at the absurdities of others, it makes us think. My fear is, or – rather – was, that this sort of satire had been squeezed out in favour of “topical comedy”, by gags about the foolish people in the news – be they celebs or politicians or just women who decide to put cats in wheelie bins – which encourage us to sit and giggle on the sofa and do no more; that the genuinely thoughtprovoking had been replaced by a series of panel shows in which stand up comedians wait in line to do funny turns inspired by the week’s news, eyes always on the punchline and not the politics, so that it becomes hard to differentiate between the importance of the activities of Nick Clegg and Katie Price (actually, that’s probably not the best example). Where American citizens are at least helped to laugh at, understand and even react against their country’s economic and political Gotterdammerung thanks to John Stewart and Stephen Colbert, we get Russell Howard making gags about wanking. Meanwhile, even a genuinely satirical (and rather wonderful) programme like The Thick of It satirises not the politics themselves but the process through which they’re delivered: a cynical, self-interested round of screw-ups and spin-doctoring – a bleak vision of a world as empty of meaning as a crisp packet blowing down a Scunthorpe street on a wet winter morning. And that was going to be my lament. I was going to wander off into the night with only a

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copy of Karel Capek’s War with the Newts and Nigel Kneale’s The Year of the Sex Olympics to console me as I sobbed into the empty darkness. And then everything changed and my faith was restored. The cause? Last night I saw National Anthem, the first episode of Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror and I realised that satire in this country is in safe hands. It would be wrong of me to spoil it for those of you who haven’t seen it by explaining the plot (although I would advise you to avoid all pig-based products while watching it). Instead, I’ll say that it was a real privilege to watch – as in Swift, or Capek – an outrageous premise played out absolutely straight, to see characters with whom one could feel real sympathy and understanding placed in a world designed to illustrate not their failings but our own, to realise that there is still a place in terrestrial primetime for works intent on making us think. Is one programme really enough to think there’s life in the satirical dog yet? I think it is. Satire may be old, it may spend far too much time curled up cosily in front of the fire but it turns out it can still scare up a few political rabbits and chase down the odd social stick. I thought satire had rolled over but it turns out it was just playing dead. And I’m sure there are plenty more people out there, ready and waiting to take it for a walk.

1

At this point, I realise I need to confess that I have been responsible for far too many of these jokes myself. In fact I can still remember the day I swore

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never to write a “Prescott is fat” joke again, after the presenter on a panel show I worked on decided to top and tail every single question with a Prezza gag. 2

That’s the one with John Cleese, Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett knowing his place. 3

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sg-4ATrE8n0 – sensitive souls, be aware: the N-bomb is dropped. 4

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6xi-agPf95M

GEORGE POLES writer Having started out writing comedy for radio after quitting life as a barrister, George has gone on to write across radio, television, video games and the internet. As well as working on comedy favourites from The News Quiz to Horrible Histories, he has also adapted several books, including an acclaimed adaptation of Karel Capek’s War with The Newts for Radio 3. He is currently working on several exciting new projects in TV and in video games, none of which he’s allowed to talk about. When not writing, George is usually to be found reading, enjoying yoga, listening to music or dealing with video-game-related RSI. More details, should you want them, are available at www.georgepoles.com

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T h a t ’s right – read the placard. You have no idea who I am, do you? And even with a blurb at your disposal, you still only know my title, which king I served under, and the years I lived. But nothing about my achievements: nothing about how I conquered new lands, arranged peace in a civil war, and wooed the king’s wife with my poetry while he was out with his concubines. My diplomacy and reason were highly admired in my day, but you couldn’t care less. No, you know nothing about all of that, because you’d rather look at the nudes of women done by painters who drank too much. Or the girl with the coy smile which, let me tell you, means nothing. Their beauty outranks my glory, does it? Yes, you! With the asinine audio tour that was created to make you feel smart! You nod with eyes squinted, like you understand. But how could you? In my day, I could have you beheaded for looking at me that way. It’s true! You believe me? 

And it makes me laugh; if you knew your history, you’d know that I never did such a thing. I was a leader of men! A political strategist and confidante by day, a bona fide Casanova by night! And now, I am displayed for the likes of you, you imbeciles. I’m hanging on a wall, while you gawk and mutter about the “new age of portraiture.” It makes me furious. An eternity of observers and no admirers. Day after day, crowds of people who pass my frames without noticing the medals on my chest or the document in my hand. If I’m lucky, I get a smug “Hmh” or a satisfied smack of the lips. I wanted to be commemorated and celebrated, forever in paint, and this is what I get instead. What a rip-off.  There is one consolation, though – one thing that feels worth my time. At the end of the day, when you cretins finally shuffle out of the museum, after the janitors clean and the lights switch off…it’s just me. Me and the other portraits. The nude women and the coy smiles and all. The sound of a lady’s giggle is just as comforting as I remembered and, well, just between you and me, I haven’t lost my edge.

Emilia Brock is a writer/ photographer based in Brooklyn, New York. She edits and contributes to www.musterzine.com.


Why Political Apathy Fits Me Like A Glove First, a little admission. I used to be a political activist. That’s what you call someone who votes in most elections, right? In any event, I would pick my candidate after thoroughly scouring the newspapers for directives on who to vote for. And then with a vengeance of a person adopting a pet from the shelter, I would take full ownership--living and dying with my favorite candidates as the poll results came in. But in the end, it was mostly dying. You see, I have a penchant for picking losers (the current Mrs. Leibowitz excepted). One might go as far to say it’s a gift bestowed upon me by God. Or the Republicans. And if it wasn’t the case of my candidate losing, it was the unthinkable alternative; i.e., my candidate would win and subsequently embarrass themselves (and by extension, me) either through some salacious scandal or just their mere incompetence.

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So, it just came down to me becoming sick and tired of being disappointed. And I soon learned that if I don’t invest myself in politics (that means don’t vote in most elections, right?) I can avoid that disappointment. *BONUS:* I get to complain no matter who is in office without having to make excuses for anybody. And that’s a principle on which this great country (the U.S., for all you foreigners out there) was built. David Leibowitz is a School Psychologist for the New York City Public School system. In his spare time, he writes in 140-character bursts at twitter.com/davio1962 and somewhat longer bursts at davio1962.tumblr.com. David also is making serious progress towards his life-long dream of never writing a novel.

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All My Own Work    Same coloured plates and same coloured cups Semi detached and heroin brown Same coloured napkins to mop the spills up It sucked me in and held me down Place mats and door mats Drained my will and mocked my hope And dumb dogs and sly cats Addled my mind like greenest dope Minds erased and ready to format     Wallpaper beige and melamine floor Leather armchair that moulds to my form Vertical blinds and hardwood door Holding me down from dusk till dawn Dimmer light switches on spot lit walls Plug in air freshener to cloy at my mouth Just to point out Id lost my balls All making sure I don’t let the scream out. Dead dried flowers on pine coloured tops Lowry prints of chimney pots Colin Young is a freelance writer and poet who has had work published in the US. He is currently compiling an anthology of poems for publication in the new year.

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On July 19th 2012, the Irish government successfully brought the Electoral Amendment (Political Funding) Act through the Dáil. This legislation will create gender targets for political parties in fielding candidates for elections. Gender quotas you might call them. Unless 30% of a party’s candidates are female (rising to 40% in subsequent elections), their State funding will be cut in half. It may be a controversial measure, even among some female politicians, but I believe it is a necessary step to take in the process of reforming our political culture & realigning ourselves with the true values of democracy.

“Breaking the habit of a lifetime: Political representation, gender quotas and you.”

I acknowledge that I haven’t come to my position on this issue without bias so let me identify myself for the record. I’m a feminist. I’m a socialist. I’m a woman. I do not come from a party political background, which is to say that there are no politicians in my family, no template to operate from nor any familial pathways into politics ahead of me. Some time ago, I was invited by the editor of this zine to contribute an article on anything to do with politics or art. Anything. He, a regular citizen just like myself, was taking a pro-active step towards furthering his own career and interests by setting up this zine. He wasn’t waiting for an opportunity to come to him. He was taking concrete action to get what he wanted. I did what I usually do. I thanked him for the invite but said that I couldn’t possibly contribute; sure, I have no experience writing for magazines and don’t really know much about art or politics ... well, not enough to write about anyway. Thanks but no thanks. I mentioned that I knew some other folks who would be great for the project and offered to pass on the word. In fairness to the editor, he was having none of it and (politely) asked that I should give it more thought. I did so. Now, bear with me... we’re getting to the bit where this is connected to the issue of gender quotas in politics.

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I believe women have to consciously break the cultural habit of talking ourselves out of taking risks and grabbing opportunities, and to do so urgently in terms of political equality. Centuries of a very specific type of power arrangement (in my opinion, a patriarchal/capitalist gender order) have left us (men and women) with some habitual behaviours and reflex responses which we fall back on, to varying degrees, at different times in our lives and in the face of different challenges. In this case, the habit I recognise in myself is that of reinforcing the familiar gender order by stepping back from challenges to it. I am, after all, as much a product of capitalist/patriarchal mind-training as the next person. The internalised gender order that trips me up when I’m not consciously addressing it and has me resist engaging with something I’m perfectly capable of doing, simply out of habit. If the system depends entirely on women putting themselves forward – pushing their way into the arena, it will continue to fail to be representative because of this cultural habit. The feminist revolution has opened our eyes to problems in our society’s gender order but we now have to do the hard work of dismantling the old power arrangement and installing the principles of equality and diversity into our decision-making systems. We might start with women and I’d like to see us progress that work to other marginalised groups in our society.

Gender quotas represent the outreached hand, holding the door open for women and inviting us to take our place inside the unfamiliar decisionmaking space. It’s an attempt to consciously redraw the gender order. It will only work if we accept the offer and match it with a willingness to step in to the arena, possibly getting it wrong or not being as good at first as those who have had centuries of experience, indeed those who have a (male) cultural habit of assuming responsibility for decision-making in the public/ political space. If gender quotas do what they are intended to do, then they will not need to be permanent. A built-in process of evaluation and review could monitor progress and make changes to keep us on target. We have reached a time of challenge to the culture of capitalist patriarchy. We must embrace the opportunity it presents. Write for the damn magazine, even if you don’t feel very confident about it. Embrace the concept of gender quotas for political parties. Accept the space that is being created for you at the table. It’s only happening because your fore-sisters and fore-brothers fought long and hard to create a society that will countenance it.

Dunia Hutchinson is a full-time Social Care Practitioner and part-time Social Care Lecturer. She has an MPhil in Gender and Women’s Studies and her thesis was entitled “Women and the Abolition of Illegitimacy in Ireland: A feminist critical discourse analysis of the Seanad Debates on the Status of Children Act, 1987”. She’s not as boring as she sounds.

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1 ISSUE

Cock-Eyed zine c o c k - e y e d . c o m

Christopher Ross Publisher Mark Ilott Design

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Issue 1