Metelkova

 

Street art in Ljubljana

Metelkova is an area in the centre of Ljubljana that was originally a military barracks, then was squatted in the early 90s when the Yugoslav army pulled out after Slovenia declared independence, and is now full of social centres, workshops and gig venues. (And a hostel where I stayed overnight before crossing the border to Klagenfurt for work).

The most famous area like this is Christiania in Copenhagen. I was very disappointed with Christiania when I visited last year. I liked some of the buildings there, but the central market area was sleazy and tacky and there was an aggressive atmosphere, and the place it most honestly reminded me of was the red light district in Amsterdam. Maybe its glory days were in the 60s and 70s when it was founded.

Metelkova is a different proposition. It had a friendly and relaxed attitude, and I never felt any qualms about wandering round by myself, an atmosphere probably helped by the fact that the city government takes a generally positive attitude to its existence. They still don’t pay any rent, but no-one seems to care. It was clean and pleasant- people seemed to respect the communal space.

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So I moved back to Kent…

So I moved back to Kent last week. (I’m knackered after travelling round Germany for three weeks and then moving house back-to-back). To Margate in particular. I grew up in Medway, a little way to the west, but left when I was eighteen to go to university, as it didn’t feel like there were any opportunities for me. Nearly fifteen years later, here I am. A lot has changed in that time. London is not a desirable place for young people to live any more. Not because of crime (going down all the time), or pollution, but because it’s so impossibly expensive and offers such a poor quality of life.

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Three new zines

I’ve got three new zines out . Each one is £2 (roughly 2.50 in USD or Euro) and available here.

Fanzine Ynfytyn 21
30 page 1/4 sized perzine on green paper

Going to Paris when you are broke, and managing to do it while the Charlie Hebdo shootings are going on.

  • Free Eurostar tickets
  • Walking miles and miles
  • French music magazines
  • €30 a night central Paris hotels, whose colour scheme can only be described as “depressed Willy Wonka”
  • Père Lachaise, Montmartre, Canal St Martin, St-Germain, Quartier Latin, Île St Louis, Jardin Luxembourg and a convenient view of the Eiffel Tower
  • Accidentally getting caught in a march of 1 million people
  • Zazie dans le Métro and other French film recommendations

Fanzine Ynfytyn 29
24 page 1/4 sized perzine on yellow paper

About Northern Italy. Travelling for work, and a last-minute trip to Lake Garda. You can see my photos of Lake Garda here.

  • Italy in the 90s
  • Getting sent to the wrong side of Italy by my job
  • Legnago, the most boring place in Italy
  • The joys of Italian electrics
  • Lake Garda then and now
  • The Name of the Rose
  • Catullus and an impromptu Latin lesson
  • Shadows of Fascism on Lake Garda
  • Invisible Cities

Film Photography 101
24 page 1/4 sized zine on green paper teaching you all the basics of film photography in a friendly jargon-free way.

  • Vintage camera types
  • How to fix common issues with second-hand cameras
  • How to clean vintage cameras
  • Lenses explained
  • Film types and sizes
  • Cross-processing
  • Uses of filters
  • Aperture explained
  • Shutter speed explained
  • The Sunny 16 rule
  • Exposure and EV rating
  • Tips for portraits
  • Tips for landscapes
  • The Rule of Thirds

 

The District Without Qualities?

So I’m back in the UK. For good now. Most of this week has been taken up with house-hunting, arranging vans etc. More on that soon. I don’t like to count my chickens before they’re hatched.

However, I was tidying up the folders on my computer this week, and found these miscellaneous photos of Vienna from February. I have been visiting Austria often for work since 2010, and know Vienna pretty well by now. These are all little details from back streets of Landstrasse- District III, an area of Vienna next to the Danube. It’s not so far out from the centre, but it’s more of a normal residential area than a tourist one. I was teaching as a guest teacher in a school there, and on sunny days preferred to wander back rather than go directly to the U-Bahn station opposite the school.

These looming WWII-era flak towers in Arenbergpark are now used as storehouses for the art museums. When they were built, they essentially functioned as a modern version of a castle keep- housing a radar station and air raid shelters.

I wasn’t buying a great deal of ice cream in February.

This street in the Weißgerber neighbourhood of Landstraße had a blue plaque showing it was where the writer Robert Musil lived until he was forced into exile by the Nazis. (A few months later I also happened to go to his birthplace in Klagenfurt via work). The stress of having to flee caused him to have a stroke and die at the age of 61. I don’t think he’s as well known in English-speaking countries as some of his compatriots despite being nominated for a Nobel Prize, but I can well recommend The Man Without Qualities, a long novel exploring life at all levels of society in Vienna on the eve of the First World War. A good companion to his contemporary Stefan Zweig‘s The World of Yesterday.

Japan Roundup

So I’ve finally put up all the photos I took in Japan. Below is a summary and links to each post. I have also created some designs for gifts and homewares over on Society 6 with my photographs from Japan. You can find them here.

I also wrote a zine about the trip, but it isn’t available until I return from teaching summer school in August/September. If you’re interested in ordering one, you can sign up here to be emailed once it’s back in stock.

Japan Playlist– A selection of songs by Japanese artists and others I listened to on the trip

Introduction

Tokyo

All Neon Like– instagram photos of Tokyo

Miyazaki’s Reading List- a visit to the Studio Ghibli museum and bookshop

Kyoto I

Kyoto II

Kyoto Shrines & Temples

Ema– Japanese good fortune plaques

Moss is Slow Life– the Zen gardens of Kyoto

Naoshima– Japan’s Art Island

The Benesse Modern Art Museum

Okunoshima– Bunny Island

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Deer– Nara’s tame temple deer

Nara’s Gardens

Hiroshima

Some Japanese books

 

Japan playlist

Here’s a Spotify playlist I made while I was in Japan, of Japanese artists and music that matched my mood at the time. (All the Japanese bands are marked with a J).

  1. Drop- Cornelius (J)
    First up Cornelius, from Tokyo. Keigo Oyamada was really big in the late 90s/early 2000s, but seemed to drop under the radar a bit in recent years. Wikipedia has now told me that he has a new album out this year, so I need to give that a listen.
  2. 1979- Smashing Pumpkins
    I have no shame. I was a big Smashing Pumpkins fan as a teenager, Zero shirt and inadvised bleached fringe and all. I stuck some 90s mix on the hotel tv’s youtube app, and this came up, and I remembered just how fun the video is. (James Iha also has roots in Japan).
  3. (circle)- Boredoms (J)
    ALL THE DRUMMERS YOU COULD WANT.
  4. Soon- My Bloody Valentine
    I don’t think you could do a Japan playlist without any My Bloody Valentine. I never made it to the Tokyo Hyatt bar from the film (it’s an expensive place). However I did get to stay at the Kyoto Hyatt after winning a voucher, and the included breakfast was the best and most comprehensive I’ve ever seen. Please note that I certainly did not smuggle any bags of extra cakes or fruit back to the room for lunch. Didn’t happen.
  5. Farewell- Boris (J)
    A playlist of Japanese music wouldn’t be complete without Boris. Here they are at their most relaxing.
  6. Knife Party- Deftones
    I’ve been on a Deftones kick lately after having not listened to them for years. White Pony still holds up great 17 years later. One of the few Nu Metal bands with any brains.
  7. Oto- Sakamoto & Fennesz (J)
    A collaboration between Ryuichi Sakamoto and Christian Fennesz, mixing Sakamoto’s piano music, and Fennesz’s ambient sounds. One of the strangest little details about regularly going to work in rural Austria, is that I often go to Fennesz’s home region, Burgenland. It’s the smallest region of Austria (and used to be in Hungary) and they don’t have many famous people aside from Liszt. So they’re unusually proud of Fennesz and you find his records for sale in unexpected places like the Austrian equivalent of WH Smith’s.
  8. Apple- Cibo Mato (J)
    Still going strong with or without the membership of Sean Lennon.
  9. Panda- Dungen
    Not from Japan at all, from Sweden and in Swedish, but their early 70s kind of sound seemed to fit my mood well crossing Japan by train. Also named after a panda of course.
  10. Sometimes- My Bloody Valentine
  11. Last Target On The Last Day- Melt Banana (J)
    Every time I have ever seen Melt Banana live I have come home completely covered in other people’s sweat, but with no regrets.
  12. Astronaut- Beach House
    Every time I have seen Beach House live has been a sleepy mid-afternoon time on the second or third day of a festival either in warm weather or indoors relaxing on the floor. I think that sums them up in the same way “other people’s sweat” does for Melt Banana. I listened to this album a lot running along the shore of the Seto Inland Sea by rickety banana yellow local trains much like that in Spirited Away.
  13. Aware- Sakamoto & Fennesz
  14. Ghost Ship In A Storm- Jim O’Rourke
    Jim O’Rourke despite being associated with Chicago, now lives in Tokyo. For some reason I always associate his songs with Chris Ware and Daniel Clowes. I guess it’s a similar view of life in their writing.

Hiroshima

You can see more photos from Kyoto, Tokyo and other cities I visited in the Japan category, and also read about the trip in the zine I wrote.

One of our final stop-offs in Japan was Hiroshima. Hiroshima is most famous for being the first city (and so far 50% of all cities) to be nuclear bombed. Nearly everything in the city was destroyed, and at least 50% of the population died, with the survivors often suffering extreme health problems afterwards. Nearly all the buildings in the city are modern- the Atomic Dome pictured above was one of the few old buildings standing. Visiting Hiroshima has only increased my belief in nuclear disarmament. (And I’m for unilateral disarmament- something the UK government had the chance to do last year but didn’t, with choosing to renew the Trident missiles).

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Ema

You can see more photos from Kyoto and other cities I visited in the Japan category, and also read about the trip in the zine I wrote.

An important aspect of Japanese shrines and temples are ema plaques (the name 絵馬 literally means “picture horse”). These are small wooden signs with a picture on one side. You write a wish on it and hang it up (or take it home as a souvenir). Each site has its own design, so I made a collection of photos of different ones I saw in Japan. They are originally a Shinto tradition, but can also be found at Buddhist temples. At bigger sites you can find messages written in a lot of different languages.

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Nara Garden

You can see more photos from other places in the Japan category of this blog, and also read about the trip in the zine I wrote.

While we were in Nara we also visited a traditional Japanese tea garden. Unfortunately the tea house was shut, and it was raining, but it was still a lovely garden.

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Indiana Jones and the Temple of Deer

You can see more photos from other places in the Japan category of this blog, and also read about the trip in the zine I wrote.

Our final stop in Japan before flying home from Osaka was Nara. In the 700s it was the capital of Japan, at the time when Buddhism really became established in Japan. Nowadays as well as Buddhism, it’s known for the tame deer who live in the forest park surrounding the temples and shrines. We stayed in a hostel in the forest. It seemed a short walk from the train station, but we ended up walking along dark forest paths dragging cases seemingly forever, with deer staring at us accusingly like something out of Princess Mononoke. (The hostel turned out to be a pretty weird place too).

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