All posts by Paul Raven

Six foot of unkempt postgraduate researcher.

Burning the village green in order to save it

Duncan Thomas at Verso:

… the geographical unevenness of neoliberal development, in concentrating wealth in the Southern regions of England, has also seen the Conservative Party retreat to its historic heartlands. Exiled from power during the Blair years, the party clung desperately to its decimated membership and receding support. In doing so, it fostered a petit-bourgeois, “populist” nationalism incipiently hostile to large, international capital, precisely at the moment when the instruments of government through which it might seek a measure of independence from such forces had been cast aside.

As this hostility grew, the previously solid Conservative coalition between large and small capital began to disintegrate. A quarter of small- and medium-sized business owners voted UKIP in the 2014 European elections, with only a very slight majority supporting membership in 2016; over 20% of Conservative members now view big business as exploitative of common people. Rather than alienated northern workers, it was this embittered southern middle class, animated by perceptions of personal and national decline, which primarily drove the Brexit vote.

Not my Titanic, not my deckchairs.

The space between all things

I used to go to dozens of live music gigs a year — scores of them, in fact, if you go back far enough. In the last few years, I’ve seen very few. This is partly because [busy], partly because getting home again after a gig is a nightmare, even when said gig is in Sheffield itself, and partly, if I’m honest, because music no longer holds sway over my life as it once did; other obsessions have stolen its throne.

But I’m having a brief flurry of audio activity: Kate Tempest a week or so ago, Mark Lanegan in early December, and Idlewild last night.

Strange to be reminded by Roddy Woomble himself that they were touring the 100 Broken Windows album twenty years ago almost to the date. That was when I discovered them via (I think) the Evening Sessions show on Radio 1, which was the only affordable entertainment available to someone sleeping on sofa cushions in a friend’s tiny Brighton living room, trying unsuccessfully (despite working two jobs, and paying an almost gestural rent to said friend) to pin down sufficient income to get a toe-hold in that city. Brighton was already hideously expensive in 1999, and precarity was already a thing — though it mostly caught the already-poor, plus a few fucked-up refusenik drop-outs with substance abuse problems, into which latter category I fit very firmly at the time.

(I returned to Velcro City with my metaphorical tail between my legs in the early months of the new millennium, defeated by myself.)

So all the more strange to see them twenty years later, having just returned home to Sheffield from a week in Brighton. I was meant to be in Europe most of last week, as mentioned, but a combination of train cancellations and the onset of a vicious head-cold put paid to that; instead I stayed in bed for three days, finally recuperating the immune system overdraft I managed to run up since late June. Turns out momentum can only take you so far for so long… and you end up crashing eventually. That’s a lesson I probably should have internalised back in 1999… better late than never, eh?

Anyway, point being, it was a great show — a solid tour of the back catalogue, with fewer deep cuts than fan favourites, and a new line-up that sees a swing back from the more folky sounds on the late Noughties and early Teens to a thicker, rockier texture. It brought back many memories, bright and dark alike.

I’ll leave you with a personal favourite that didn’t make last night’s set list. The wordplay and narration was always a huge part of Idlewild’s appeal for me, and this song kinda sums that up.

the captured city

Seems like Jathan Sadowski (previously) is doing pre-promo for a new book on the “smart city” memeplex:

The “smart city” is not a coherent concept, let alone an actually existing entity. It’s better understood as a misleading euphemism for a corporately controlled urban future. The phrase itself is part of the ideological infrastructure it requires. As the cliché goes: Who wants to live in a dumb city? But if we focus on the version of smart urbanism on display in corporate brochures and concept designs, even if critically, we may miss the real impact of the underlying transformations in urban governance they foretell […]

These technologies treated the city like a battlespace, redeploying information systems originally created for military purposes for urban policing. Sensors, cameras, and other networked surveillance systems gather intelligence through quasi-militaristic methods to feed another set of systems capable of deploying resources in response. In reality, the urban command centers — or, the sophisticated analytics software that create relational networks of data, like that produced by the CIA-funded Palantir — are built primarily for police, not planners, let alone the public.

Contrary to the suggestions of “smartness” shills, these systems are not used by the general public but on it.

I was sold even before I hit the Haraway citation.