The Null Device


Living in London and not having a landline, I've been using Skype to call people in Australia; recently, I have found its reliability to be somewhat variable. Sometimes when I call a mobile phone number, I get a recorded announcement saying that the phone in question is not connected; at other times, I get a nameless voice-mail message, which may or may not belong to the person I wanted to call.

Furthering the annoyance, Skype's charging mechanism is a bit unreliable, and sometimes it goes from Ringing to Call In Progress when the phone is still ringing; there goes another 16.5 Euro Cents.

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Some H.P. Lovecraft aficionados are making a silent film of The Call of Cthulhu, executed in authentic 1920s/30s silent movie fashion. There's a trailer online, which looks promising.

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This afternoon, Your Humble Narrator caught a bus down Charing Cross Road and made it down to Santa's Ghetto a subversive/punk/coolsie art gallery in the guise of a temporary gift shop/graffiti-covered squat.

Santa's Ghetto is a shopfront, covered with graffiti and filled with stolen, tag-covered street furniture and confrontational poster/stencil art. Perpetual public face of the cool set in London, Banksy, was a mainstay of this exhibition, with prints of his stencils on sale (for around £165 or so; my credit card didn't stretch quite that far), as well as T-shirts reading "SUICIDE BOMBERS JUST NEED A HUG", £10 notes bearing Princess Diana's image (for £10.99), and copies of his new book, "Cut It Out". Also, £5 will get you a roll of adhesive tape printed with "POLITE LINE / DO NOT GET CROSS". Other exhibitors included Jamie "Tank Girl/Gorillaz" Hewlett, who had his cartoonish prints of butt-kicking soldier girls and all-American zombie armies, Jamie Reid (who did the Sex Pistols' cover artwork in the 1970s, and seems to be doing much the same sort of thing; I suppose catering to nostalgic middle-agers is where the money is), and D Face (who does those graffiti-character stickers, which look not unlike the ones plastered all over empty shop windows in Melbourne). And there was a picture of two snowmen humping signed, apparently, by Raymond Briggs (of Fungus the Bogeyman fame), though his name wasn't on the flyer. Apparently Chris Cunningham and 3D (of Massive Attack) had works there too, though I didn't see them.

Santa's Ghetto was, in some ways, similar to the Outlandish Exhibition that I saw in Melbourne some six months ago. Except that it wasn't quite as confrontational and wasn't held in an industrial wasteland; it was more a public face of "subversive" art just around the corner from Oxford Street, London's main fairy-light-festooned and perpetually crowded permanent sale and/or Düreresque vision of Hell. There were also no bikies and no Chopper Read artworks, and rather than a punk/noise band, an iPod was playing some funky grooves, of the sort you could expect to hear in a fashion shop or trendy bar, from behind the counter. The business of Santa's Ghetto was not so much to shock and offend the bourgeoisie as to part them from their money (it even takes credit cards) whilst giving them a sense of being subversive and transgressive and underground. (In case you're wondering, I bought a copy of the new Banksy book.)

There are photos here. The exhibition/sale closes on the 24th (that's today), so if you want some Polite Line tape for wrapping your gifts, you'd better hurry.

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