Thursday, March 30, 2006

The Market Diaries

Going to the Wholesale market to skip fruit and veg for the last 3 years definitly changed my views on some vegetables.

Vegies I used to like but now I never bother to take:
Rocket- they come in whole crates. But they grow yellow within two days. It's food for cows.
Brussles Sprouts - when I grew up I thought of this as an exotic European delicacy. Coming here I soon realized - after bringing some bags of them from the market - that they're not exactly gourmet.
Rhoubab - very english fruit, with strange name. Polio said once that members of parliament speak posh English that sounds like RhouBab-rhubaB-Rhoubab. Too many rhoubab crumbles convinced me that it's not worth the bother. Funny I don't see it anymore.

My favourite skipping items:
Lemons and limes - when I want to feel outlandish I drink sparkling water with a dash of lime. The squatter good life.
Eggplants (aubergines) - very expensive here, always a treat
Passionfruits - they last long and they're excellent in porridge.

* * *

Yesterday I found:

Yellow and Red Capsicums (Israel).
Clementines (Spain, Egypt)
Melons (Venezuella)
Eggplants (Spain)
Mint, Corriander
Organic: sweet potatos, radishes, pok choi, fennel, beans. (Country of Origin unknown)

I've been buying vegies for the last couple of weeks so I know that this kind of variety and quantities would probably cost me £30-40. Insane innit?

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Welcome to the UK

1. location: Barclays Bank

Clerk: Sorry, we can't accept this as a proof of identity.
Mink: It's my passport!
Clerk: it's out of date.
Mink: No it's not. See here, it was extended.
Clerk: There's no signature.
Mink: There's no need for signature. It's printed here.
Clerk: We can't accept it.
Mink: They accepted it in Heathrow a month ago! I can show you the stamp, look...
Clerk: Sorry but Brixton is high-security area, we can't take risks.
Mink: Whatever.
Clerk: Try a branch in another neighbourhood.

2. Location: Royal London Hospital shop

Shop Assistant: Can I help you?
Mink: I'm just browsing.
Shop Assistant: Are you going to buy anything?
Mink: No, I'm just waiting for my turn for a blood test.
Shop Assistant: this is a shop, you know.
Mink: (speechless. I'm sick of this place. Have you ever heard of hospitality? )
For those of you interested in the Israeli elections, I wrote some boring political commentary on my Jerusalem Blog.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Bus March

Four weeks I decided to start taking the bus to the Library, mainly because I couldn't face the cold. Bus rides are now 80p, cheap in London prices; I figured I could also use the time to read A.Horany's History of the Arab Peoples, which is quite good. Although a Londoner for more than three years, it was the first time for me to take the bus regularly. Some observations:

Ringtones I was never aware of what atrocious ringtones are out there. Pa-ba-BOOOM Pa-ba-BOOOM yes hello

well can't say the bus is social but you do see many people and sometimes it's funny to see interactions between people. Like sudden smiles.

Front seat on upper deck
: tourist seat, but I always go for it. The view, but also it's the only seat from which you can't really see the television screen

Television on buses
: Yes. Brainwashing London's commuters. Adverts for holidays in Quebec and updates from Celebrity-TV (did you know what Jennifor Anyston said?) yuck pew digusting. Why do they think we're fair game? sitting ducks?

The view from upper deck: I know I'm not saying anything new but it is a great way to see the city. Interesting to watch cyclists from this vantage point, they look like Kamikaze. It just looks insane to cycle between all these cars. I guess it is insane. I just got used to it.

After three weeks I started to feel my leg muscles getting shorter. I figured my body was slowly decaying. And it's not so cold anymore. So I'm cycling again.

Public transport is always A to B, you have to plan your journey. No surprises, only delays. Cycling is always open for possibilites. Even when doing the same route everyday. There's always random stuff happening, or interesting junk to look at/skip. It can always be adventure. Delays are only up to me (flat tyres excepted)

Life modelling in Kennington

He keeps pointing his thumb at me, making measurements with his pencil. He is standing in front of me, hardly two meters away. Each time he does it I feel a reflex pulling me back, away from his pointed thumb. I feel like he's aiming to shoot. I don't like to be reduced to a set of dimensions.

To question the logic of measurement, I know, would be to question western art from the Renaissance onwards. And much of Western intellectual heritage in general. Making quantified statements that can be verfied in a scientific inquiry. Detaching oneself from the world, to turn it into an object, in order to tell the truth about it. Is it an ethos I reject? I know that even if wanted to it would be impossible: it's too much a part of me. And after all, here I am the model. I can't really complain. It's my job to be objectified.

He is so young. 18 would be my guess. Tall and thin, shy and quiet, with angelic red hair and innocent blue eyes, he looks like a choir boy. Like Thomas Mann's Tadzio. But his thumb is stuck in my face, so awkward, so intrusive. I want to tell him to stop measuring and to start looking. I want to ask him to draw me, not make a drawing of me. I'm not sure I can explain the difference.

When it's time for a break, I go to look at his drawing. It's pretty bad. I look like an ageing robot.

The rest of the drawings are more sympathetic. It's mostly portaits. Of me. I look at them all. It's a strange feeling: huge faces that look like my own. I feel like a celebrity, or a dictator.

Two days, 12 hours in total, and just one pose: sitting upright on a stool. I've never done a pose so long. It's hard work. I try to shift my weight invisibly between my thighs, between my buttocks. Time hurries up and slows down. I write this piece in my head. I focus on two stains on the wall, and see in them a smiley, and then a panda bear, and then I focus out, and everything becomes blury. The discomfort is gone, I feel just the waves of my breathing.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

ASCII Nightmares: a true story

You are sitting by a desk, wearing a labratory white coat. The room is large and empty, save three other people. They are dressed similarly, with badges that read TRUE, DISPLAY and CPU. You look at yours: it says FALSE. You have no other name. Your desk is next to the heater. You find this reassuring.
CPU motions to you to carry on. You read out loud
you pause, according to your script. TRUE, sitting opposite you, says:
and you continue:
You stop. CPU is looking through his notes, and cuts a piece of paper using scisors.
The woman called DISPLAY collects the piece of paper and glues it to the wall. It's blank. She sits down: you continue.

Noise travels to the room from outside: police sirens. Raggae music. A conversation in Polish, (they sound like workers on a cigarette break). You think you're in Hackney. You think you're getting paid for this. You're not sure anymore.

When exactly did all this start, you cannot recall. Nor do you have any idea when it will finish. Your memories have been erased, wiped out. Your script, on the desk, read only zeros and ones. Occasionally you look at the wall to find some meaning. Characters join to make words, and words make sentences. You know you have to write this to the end.

You feel you are about to fall asleep.

Obscure visual sign of the week (21)

Stairway to heaven

Thursday, March 23, 2006

punk purim

Last saturday at the Rampart. Probably the best purim party in the East End for decades. It was packed solid with people. Hardly anyone dressed up, which is a shame, and the Haman-ears were very small and overpriced. But the music was unbelieavable.
Gettoploz were playing house-kleizmer, culminating in a house-cover for Hava Nagila. As much as this song is the absolute clichee, it worked beautifully. There was a D&B verson later on by a group called Emuna ("the UK new hot Jewish Hip hop act") good competition but still not as good.

The first Vodka and the sounds of Ani Purim, a childhood song, threw me to thoughts about diaspora judaism and Israel. The impossibility of a jewish identity today that is not defined in relation to Israel; and my own ambivalent relation to it all (I am far more Israeli than Jewish). It was good to see Israeli punks in the crowd. There is something about this scene which makes me optimistic. Something very normal. It's about maintaining difference and contiuity at same time. I can't quite explain it but didn't feel the kind of labotomy I usually feel in these situations.

After the second vodka I gave up all attempts to conceptualise and just danced for a few hours.

Gettoploz will be playing at the clockwork Angel on 1st of April and in the Spitz 22nd of april.

thorougly disrupted

finally, trying to pick up where I left it nine weeks ago. Staring at the empty page on the computer screen. I know I had an argument to make. I know I left some notes, somewhere, all very organized. I haven't a clue where they are.

Moving house every 5 months is not very conducive for writing a thesis. As shock therapy, as insipiration mayhem, it's great. But on a long term, it's draining. I have to start again, once more.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Heard over the weekend

* What are you going to do in the Elephant and Castle, ANYWAY?

* They're so loud, Swedish people.

* Zombies don't walk like THAT.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Obscure Visual Sign of the Week (20)


Clifton Mansions Insomnia

25 drops of Valerian in my tea and 10 pages of Hourany's History of the Arab People were supposed to do the job. S turned the light off, and was fast asleep within two minutes, her heavy breaths sometimes turning to sudden snores. Half an hour later my legs were still kicking. I think I need to go dancing soon. And go back to Yoga. Imagined my teacher's voice in my mind's ears: Prepare yourself for Shavasna-Relaxation... your hands res-ting alongside your body, your legs a-part, feet turning sideways... fo-cus on your breathing.... feel the flesh of your face turning heavier, weighing downwards, a st--range sensasation... your breathing becoming slower...

No use. I was too hot, too edgy, too cramped, too high. Literally too high: since we put the futon on a bedbase last week I've been having problems. I felt the need for some familiar textures.

In the next room, on the sofa-bed, I was nearer to the floor. Threw a scarf over the i-book to hide its pulsing white eye. I could now hear the crack-dealers arguing outside the gates. In my sleeping bag, walking on a tight rope, I was steadying my kicking legs.

Woke up with Goldfrapp's Twist and Shout: the morning air was cold, the floorboards red, red, red.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Back to the Market

The first time after a long break is always hard. Getting out of habbit makes me apprehensive, I do not feel at ease there cycling from skip to skip. This time was no exception. It was grey, windy, cold, ugly. Winter's putting a last fight, said Gary around this time last year. Well it's doing a good job this time. It takes some self-persuasion to believe that spring is round the corner.
I went there late, 12-ish, too late. All I found was Maroccan tomatoes, in various sizes, 5 lemons and three artichokes. Rubbish.

But artichokes are always nice, and these ones were big and meaty. Since we had no olive oil for the dressing, I made Tahini sauce and found that it goes together well.

Tahini sauce is virtually unknown here, even though Tahini is popular in health-food shops etc. I feel the urge to speard the word. Very easy to make, all it takes is:
Lemon juice
Salt and pepper
Add the water and lemon juice gradually and stir with a fork, and a white liquidy consistency is achieved.
Also add:
Squashed garlic
Chopped flat-leaf Parsley
Excellent with Pitta bread, and salad, very quick dinner

Gentrifying Brixton - the case of the Noodle Bar RIP

Before: The Noodle Bar
After : Gyoza

Before: Shabby-chinois (large scroll paitings and a budha)
After : Swanky-oriental (red lanterns)

Before: Chines-ish
After : Jappanese

Before: friendly
After : attentive

Before: long tables, sit next to strangers
After : 2 and 4 persons tables

Prices for main
Before: £4.80 (huge salmon/tofu steak with Peking sauce and rice)
After : £6.20 (Udon Soup)

Time to get main course
Before: 2 minutes
After : 3.5 minutes

Bottom Line
Give us back our Noodle Bar.
There's three(!) Jappanese places around Coldharbour Lane, somebody must be thinking that Sushi=raw Money. But the nicest and coziest is the Ichi-ban on Atlantic (Railton) Road.

Library Rant

The guy next to me is slouching, fast asleep. I know him, we worked together last summer in college, supervising exams. He would usually come an hour late, murmuring something about the tube. He, of course, doesn't remember me. Typical Philosophy postgraduate student. Male, smug, self-absorbed and unshaven, just like his mate, with whom he talks too loudly and compare gadgets. When he's not talking he's on the internet, or dosing, his laptop resting on his crouch. I bet the bastard is fully-funded, while I have to live in abandoned houses, get evicted every three months and eat my food from the rubbish. Not that I'm not enjoying it or anything.
I condole myself with the thought that he's probably the last in his line. With all the radiation going straight to his reproductive organs, offsprings seem unlikely.

Friday, March 10, 2006


Two days ago, I was walking from college and suddenly saw a few coppers near the bus stop, couple of them with big cameras. 'Ok ' I thought 'where's the riot'. Then I saw the placards on the house nearby, saying 'infoshop' and realized this was the Russel Square squatted social centre which has recently opened. I went up to the door to see what activities they have and when. Behind me the policemen were shouting 'If you want to get it, just ring the doorbell' and 'just ring the doorbell mate, go ahead'.
The Metropolitan Police are here to help, as you know.
I was late for dinner and had no intentions to go in anyway. As I turned round, the flash hit me, twice. Captured on camera.
So I'm on the database now, maybe. I probably was there already. Hundreds of thousands of pictures, stored in some huge server, to be compared with CCTV footage when the time comes.

There is something about this supposedly rather numb and liberal and harmless place which makes being politically active extremely frustrating. As far as I see it, the State here is relatively relaxed and tolerant about political activities, compared with the rest of the world. Yet the level of suveillance is unbelievable. Nowhere in the world has so many CCTV cameras on the streets. My feeling is that they can afford being tolerant because they know there is no threat. Something about the impossiblity of change. And something about having complete control. I'm rambling.

The flash hit me in some emotional point, it made me feel angry and powerless. But I shouldn't be surprised.

* * *

There is a moment that I will carry with me from the openning day of the G8 in Scotland last summer. We were standing right outside the Gleneagles hotel (how we managed to get there is a separate story), having this mock-blocade, with lots of children and the Samba band. Mock - because no car tried to get in in the two hours we there. They were flying everybody in by helicopters. It was drizzly but fun.

Finally one car tried to get through, advancing slowly on the bridge. I remember one girl who, her eyes calm and quiet, her hands in the pockets of her jumper, sat down a couple of meters from the approaching car. She did this almost casually, quickly but with no rush, is some sudden slowness. I could see no aggression or performance in her act.

Not a second later four riot-poice in full gear were out to get her out of the way. This is the moments were the cameras were taken out. The police cameras. The protestors cameras, journalists, mobile pones cameras, everybody putting their hands up so they could capture it. Dozens, hundreds of clicks. Time slowed down, as if in a climax of a football match.
A second more, and she was carried out of the way. It was over.

I thought of the hundres of images of this non-event. And how they were, in some sense, much more important that the event itself. And how all parties understand this now - police and protestors alike. And how digital media made this explosion of images possible; how the respect for the single photograph is lost and we are drowning in images which we cannot take in or make any meaning of. All very intellectual thoughts.

But now I think of the image which nobody captured, but will remain in my head: the look on that girl's face, two seconds before she sat down: calm and quiet, bored almost, and yet resolved and straight and simple. A good starting point for politics, I think.
Credit: Mario.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Promoting my Significant Other

S's brilliant binaural audio-walk of the British Library, The Private Collection, is part of the Node.London media arts festival next week, 13 -18 of March. If you live in London, read this blog and haven't taken it yet - this is your chance! For all you non-londonian minks, you can still listen to it on the website.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006


Squatting is about counting.

3 years, 6 months
10 house moves
9 squats
3 buroughs
43 housemates

lost and found (2)

A common squatting experience: discovering one's objects in new unexpected surroundings. Objects seem to circulate in a chaotic way, following some very complex mathematical patterns yet to be discovered. Objects are lost, given away in free-parties, left behind in evicted houses locked behind sitex doors, in the confusion of hasty evictions. Only to resurface somewhere completely different, to be re-claimed or renounced again. Like K's beautiful red-handles nail-puller, which disappeared during the opening of Poplar. For a while then she searched for it, I even went up to the attics to see if it was there. Then, two evictions and 12 months later, I found it in P's tool-bag at the Villas. When I gave it back to her, she wasn't surprised for one bit.

Here, in number 19, I found: (1) my wooly red vest, which I was so happy to get rid off (2) Iranian garlic pickle, purchased in Marakesh (the shop on Walworth road) (3) cut images from a wedding greeting card I bought 4 years ago, in Bath.

The first two were ours untill the free party two months ago, and finding them again is disappointing, like a game of chess. (Give away: chess. Find them again: chessmate, you lose)
But as for the third, I have no idea how they got here.

previous musings on lost and found.

Monday, March 06, 2006

down and up in Brixton

Amychan and us were discussing life without hot water, and had this competition whose squat is colder and darker. I think our flat is colder but easier to heat up.
Which brings me to the pros and cons of the new flat, a tentative summary.

no hot water
no shower/bath
Britxton's intensity (the crazy people, the crack dealing, the yuppie hyped 'coolness' of it)

easy to heat up
the charm and history of number 19
autonomous space
living in a squatted community
lovely supporting neighbours where we can have baths
Brixton: the market, the Ritzy,
The man with a van was familiar with Bonnington Square.
'I tried to squat here in the 1980s, but all the squatters were Australians and they didn't give me a chance'. He lives in Stretham, in a 3 bedroom victorian terrace, renting the other rooms to pay the mortgage. That's how it works in London: if you can't beat the landlords, you join them.

He didn't really help much 'I'm a bit frail this morning' he said on the phone. Probably the hangover from Saturday night.
On the way to Brixton he told us of his plans to have a fleet of yellow vans, one in each borough of London, each one with the number and website printed on the side. 'But I've never done anything about it. I just have my card in a couple of sweet shops'.
I saw your ad in the Brixton wholefoods, I said.
Ah yeah, he said, you look like the Wholefoods types. Well you join the list of my illustrious Wholefoods clients. The last one was the guitarist from Faithless.

He drove into the Mansions courtyard, and helped us get the stuff into the flat. 'Not much light in there eh... You're going to have to stay most of your time out of the flat... we'll be seeing you in Brockwell Park!'
We will indeed.

* * *

I'm talking with my brother on the phone. I can hear my mom in the background 'how many rooms have they got there?'
Me: a bedroom, a hall, a kitchen and a toilet.
My brother, to my mom: Four. they've got four rooms.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Australian Obscure Visual Signs

Sorry I have been a bit irregular with the signs over the past few weeks. I hope readers have not been too disappointed. As a compansation you get three signs.

As they say, do not cut the branch you're standing underneath.

The Wheel of Life - Symbol of the Australian Association for Practice of BKS Iyengar Yoga (called in Australia as 'yengie').

+ + +

I'm back in London now, and - *sigh of relief* - squatting again.