Archive 2003-2006

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Gamblers Anonymous, Luton
From: Dave Death
Category: Life
Date: 31 January 2006

The Luton branch of Gamblers Anonymous holds its meetings a long, long way from the Clermont Club, yet its attendees once had the same grandiose ambition. They tried to find God through the spin of a wheel, turn of a card or the roll of a dice. Since as we know there is no God, they were unsuccessful. They now try to deny the beauty they once had through their gamblers' quest.

Meetings are held every Tuesday in a church hall on the outskirts of town. A dozen people attend each week, drawn from a pool of twice that number. The average age is 40 and the look is life-scarred blue-collar. Near-pensionable Irishmen; a Turk; Cockney chancers; little-brained little men addicted to the slots - these nasty stereotypes contain so much truth.

These men have had their share of divorce, imprisonment and desolation, and are keen to proselytise of the hope they've found since stopping gambling. Yet newcomers howl with desperation of the unbearable misery gambling has caused them; "I've reached rock bottom" they declare, their first learnt phrase, and the next Tuesday they don't come back. Perhaps they've been cured, if that's what they needed - who knows? Only once has a woman attended one of these meetings, and she did not come back either. This is a world of male misery, men whose small ambitions were thwarted, finding themselves enslaved to the God of gambling for decades which they now recognise as having been miserable.

Gambling addictions of the old school had a long gestation time, with the progression from the odd flutter to being a junkie of the turf taking many years. The invention of fixed odds betting terminals in bookies - i.e. roulette machines -together with the online poker epidemic will doubtless speed up the incubation period, yet the new compulsive online gambler, more often than not middle class, will find himself alienated at GA unless he can truly see his fellow man as his equal, however rough his tongue and cloth. I found myself darkly delighted to be meeting bare-knuckle fighters, railway workers and jack-the-knife swindlers, and wondered what new forms of gambling they might introduce me to. One week came a man whose life had been placed on hold while he waited for the roulette wheel to finish spinning - which of course it never does. I wanted to shake his hands afterwards, telling him of my delight to finally meet Dostoevsky's gambler, a devotee of the purest form of gambling this site of the chemin de fer, but I didn't think he'd understand.

The Luton meeting lasts for two hours regardless of how many people there are - their "therapies" extend to fill available time. Some speak entirely in 12-step cliche; others have no powers of communication whatsover and say the exact same thing each week; others have been known to speak for upwards of twenty minutes without once coming to the point. However, running a book on who'll go on the longest is actively discouraged.

The cost of attendance is upwards of a pound, tea and sympathy included, comparing very favourably with an evening at the cinema or discotheque. The total amount collected is announced at the end of the meeting - somewhere in the region of 20, which is then not placed on a horse in the hope of it becoming 40 or 100. Those who make it to a year, two, ten even without a gambler are given a "pin" to celebrate - in AA you're rewarded with a chip, but in this context it would perhaps bring back inappropriate memories.

For some attendees the meeting is a chance to wistfully remember the happier days of their first gamble, of manic journeys to racetracks, dog tracks across the country, of the "insanity" of their compulsion, afternoons wasted in bookies and long nights in casinos, caught chasing absolute wealth which, since unobtainable, inevitably led them to absolute poverty. Now they are glad to go about their manual jobs, chat to "the missus" and drink in their pubs. They find their lives have become more manageable, free from chaos and risk. But all the while they have to deny what they once recognised as truth - that the gambler's quest for an absolute, through the medium of money, is no different from the sinner's search for salvation in the arms of an omnipotent God.

east london


From: 90d
Category: Art
Date: 24 March 2005

What a disgraceof a city- I took an argentinian friend aroud to see some shows in the eastend of london, and I felt ashamed of the art world of the city I chose to live in because of its art world. the only decency camein the beggining, in Modern art with eva rotschild. he rest everywherewewent was not worth a step at all. Vilma gold had pseudo projects by-- victoria miro represents the most conservativeside of this country, the biggest gallery with the smallest figurative paintings following close the aproach presented inez van whatsomesing with dripping figurative paintings , skillfully effects monchrome very good for your small victorian conversion flat even bloomberg hadsmall figurative woks, in an odd show, the best of which was of course the raised level floor to make the paintings look more intimate. but what intimacy do you want to have with such horrible objects. perhaps I would save a couple of works there, but cannot remember the names of the artisis, if you go you will know which ones I mean.-

Ekow Eshun new ICA director


From: arts news
Category: Art
Date: 13 March 2005

So he was the youngest ever editor of a men's magazine.. That's meant to be a great achievement. Men's magazines are full of superficial crap and edited by nobody you've ever heard of. He also edited Virgin's inflight magazine! Wadda brain he must have.. He has been on the Late Review, where he articulates some opinions about art etc. The ICA is shit, and on paper Ekow Eshun has the CV to run it into the ground.

Tina Barney: The Europeans at The Barbican Art Gallery London


From: Freddy
Category: Art
Date: 11 March 2005


Worth seeing. The rich are different. They have more stuff and nice clean hair. The men wear sweaters over collared shirts, and well cut trousers. The woman are groomed for success and can wear expensive clothes unvulgarly. Barney claims in the very watchable video (more interesting than the photos?) accompanying the show that she makes no judgeents about the haute bourgeoisie she photographs, for she is one of them, knows them, and can only picture what she knows. Seems a bit false that. She uses terms like old money and the real mccoy already implying a judgmental hierachy which puts the old riche above the nouveaus. I sense she believes the old fallacy that money equals worth, and the longer you've had it the better, cleverer, more interestign you must be. Sadly it's true because the more you can buy the more you can do, and we all like stuff don't we.

The photos are divided up by country (italy, england etc) and so one is quick to read the titles and match assumptions of national identity to the clothes and bodies, the interiors are quite constant: old stuff, fabrics, paintings, all very cosily bourgeois. It's an important show because whatever its underlyingly snobbish assumptions, it shows us the ruling classes, and exposes us to the falsehood of our egalitarian society.

Frieze Art Fair 2004 London


From: Rachel Adams
Category: Exhibitions
Date: 14 October 2004


Jamie Theakston (English tv presenter with a desirable nose) was there, so don't stare, he's quite plain and badly dressed in a purple coat. The fair is the unspeakeable (collectors, hangers on) in pursuit of the inedible (lots of bad paintings and dull photos). Occasionaly something jumps out from the morass of bog standard contemporary artifice, a few Andy Warhol drawings of cats, an Albert Oehlen painting, a little Matisse. It's dazzling the difference between what is good and all the rest. Makes you wonder whether those old buffs were right about their value hierarchies. Now the only diffentiation is between the various repulsive levels of personal success and respect to be obtained: vips, super vips, gallerists, celebs, important people, famous artists, those with special passes, those that shall not queue, those that walk along thinking others will move out their way, humble uninvited people who wait outside for reentry tickets to be discarded, the beautiful, the ugly, the rich, and the poor (not just artists).

That's the fun of this glorious bright yellow fair in the greeen cold treey park. It's a spectacle of society, and not for seekers of metaphysical greatness or sympathetic humans.





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