Monday, 22 March 2010

Environment / Character

“A traveller is interested and curious and wants to immerse himself in a place; a tourist never really gets anywhere. Beautiful places are now increasingly evasive in the modern world, which makes it difficult to get anywhere for anyone. But every now and then you turn a corner or drive into a horizon, and you realise you are travelling, that something is coming towards you and presenting itself. A place opens up to you and you see it, it tells a story and you live in its presence. And this is a glorious feeling, when it happens.” (Wenders)

Everyone likes to start with different things. Making stories out of nothing, in their heads, in conversation, in pictures or on paper. I always start with the place - without a landscape I see nothing. So I need to keep moving. But the exhiliaration of travelling through places or people is impossible to hold on to, because something just happened, then, and you weren’t quick enough for it because you couldn’t measure it.

For now this is as much as I can say about *the jungle experience* I'm currently experiencing, jungularly. Suffice to say that 1) it really is glorious 2) the New Age Traveller scene I was part of for so many years is becoming increasingly nauseating. But armed instead with indescribable understandings, I'm left strangely joyful.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010


∙ i only used one side of it ∙ excuse me? ∙ i’ll pay half ∙ it’s a toothpick ∙ it’s the principle ∙ [silence] ∙ you have to be joking ∙ i never joke about money ∙ i don’t know what to say to you sir ∙ i think you do ∙ do you want me to say it? ∙ not really ∙ is this a test? ∙ you appear to find me challenging ∙ i find you a tooth prick

Earthbag Building

Over the weekend I found myself on an island off the coast of Thailand, attending a workshop on how to build using bags of local natural materials instead of concrete.

Adapted from old military practices, Earthbag Building is a recent trend in sustainable architecture that’s been springing up around the world over the last ten years or more. It’s cheap, simple and it looks great: check out Julien's retreat up the road, designed and built by himself into the existing mountain (above = view from the top).

All the walls, floors and surfaces you see in the pictures below are filled with earthbags, with a thin layer of cement used as outer reinforcement. In this way they also follow the natural curve of the ground and rocks.

In the meantime, if you want to find out more about Earthbag Building, you can read all about its development in this excellent blog, written by its inventors and regularly updated.

Friday, 12 March 2010

Project: Impossible?

Monday, 1 March 2010

Ooh! Hef, You Naughty Thing.

The legend of Hugh Hefner has always fascinated me. My mental projection of the 83-year-old King of the Playboy Mansion, draped in his bunnies and boobies, may well be nothing more than a comic caricature. Who really cares? Hefner is, as we all know, a pop culture icon. But essentially he's a very simple symbol of energy, charisma and pure joie de vivre. Somewhere in the midst of the circus, he's also a symbol of honesty.

In this quarter's issue of TANK, Hef talks to Xerxes Cook a bit about feminism and the building of the Playboy empire.

“I’ve felt from the very beginning that women were the major beneficiaries of the sexual revolution, because it was the women who were kept in bondage, viewed as little more than cattle, or something owned by the husband or father. I attempted to change all that, but I changed it from a male point of view. When the feminist movement turned against Playboy, I felt it to be very counter-revolutionary.”

Of course, Hugh Hefner would say something like that. But his argument is a good one. And as a young modern feminist, I have never found Playboy’s content offensive, even if it's not my taste. I’m more interested by how the magazine’s reputation was founded on the showcase of literary genius such as Gore Vidal, Norman Mailer and Jack Kerouac, as much as the showcase of naked ladies. Or its famous interviews with Martin Luther King, Nixon, Lennon, Miles Davis and Roman Polanski.

Elsewhere Hef points out that “Being a sex object, if understood properly, is a compliment”. This, I think, is really what I’m trying to get at. The feminist backlash of 60s and 70s was probably inevitable, then. But today’s highly-strung, paranoid haters are too quick to project their jealousy, insecurity and resentment on to the nearest scapegoat. Obviously the debate is more complicated than that, and I wouldn't want to be a traitor to my generation. But it would be nice if everyone could just learn to relax and have some fun.

The starting concept for Playboy was simply that beauty is everywhere. It’s a celebration of sensuality, of the body, of life and art. Hefner himself is a pioneer, an entrepreneur, a shameless hedonist and a life artist. He’s stopped at nothing to reinvent himself, to become the person he wanted to be. It's not my thing, but he seems to have done it with integrity... and I think that’s pretty cool.

The Life and Times of Hugh M. Hefner is published by Taschen, out now.