For a really great glimpse of a time not too long ago, take a look at these scenes from the London Underground in the 1970s and 80s. You will probably enjoy them more if you don't consider how everyone in the pictures is either dead now or rapidly approaching that point, so try not to think about it that way.
In the early 90s, the great anarchist newspaper Class War suggested that on the first Saturday after the death of Margaret Thatcher, the people should gather at 6 p.m. in Trafalgar Square to celebrate. As anyone even vaguely familiar with lefty infighting knows, the memory of the anarchist is long and thorough, so after Thatcher died on Monday, some of the old guard and fellow travellers dutifully showed up. The original incarnation of Class War is now defunct so there wasn't anybody in particular managing the thing. This protest was neither spontaneous nor especially well-planned, so it didn't benefit from clear organization, nor did it evince the awesome, unwieldy, atavistic [...]
The delightful Pret A Manger sandwich shops which have taken Manhattan by storm in the last decade—in the days when they were backed by McDonald's—began in London. When Pret first showed up here, they went a bit screwy: apparently there was just too much mayo for New Yorkers and they overextended themselves and had to close stores. But they recovered—with new financial partners—quite nicely, and are a happy addition to New York City's lunch options. And back home, in London, Pret is more omnipresent than Starbucks is in New York. Why, sometimes you can see three Prets from a roundabout!
And inside the Prets of London… uh, WE AMERICANS [...]
Armed with a thermal map produced by a flyover in March, Christine Lyons, chief planning enforcer of the London borough of Newham, is searching for unlawful “sheds with beds,” as the borough council calls them. There are as many as 10,000 outbuildings where people may live illegally in the 14-square- mile East End district, she says. Raids have found as many as four people sleeping in a single backyard shed and sharing a filthy shower and toilet that aren’t always properly connected to the sewage system.
—Nothing like a ten-billion-dollar sporting event next door to make you feel bad about your poors.
Tomorrow London voters will cast their ballots for mayor, and it looks like incumbent Boris Johnson is a fairly sure bet to be reelected. "Boris," our Emma Garman wrote back in December, "has achieved the hallowed celebrity niche of single-name recognition via a lethal combination of gold-plated charisma and an unshakable belief in his native exemption from the conventions—social, professional, legal, personal—to which everyone else must conform." Learn more about him here.
We may be recalling the Los Angeles riots of 1992 but others are looking further back. Picture it: 387 AD. "In response to an unwanted tax imposed by the Emperor Theodosius, a mob of citizens and local officials of Antioch tore down painted wooden panels and bronze statues of the imperial family and dragged the loot through the streets. After setting fire to a house and attempting to ignite more buildings, the riot was finally quelled by law enforcement." Hey, let's not forget Constantinople in 388! And then in 532! The Nika Riots were half soccer hooligans at work, a quarter anti-tax zealots and a quarter [...]
Tonight, at PowerHouse Arena, it is the Brooklyn Launch Party for Tom Scocca's Beijing Welcomes You, a nonfiction chronicle of what Beijing has so recently become. As China is now (well, as usual) so much in the news, we asked him some questions!
Choire Sicha: Tom Scocca, as you have written a book called Beijing Welcomes You: Unveiling the Capital City of the Future, which is brand new and good and also a book I have read, you are the only expert on China.* (*That I personally know.) Is this a great week for China or what?
Tom Scocca: If you set aside the fact that all [...]
This interview with Alfonso Cuarón is so great: "There’s more a sense of a fun intellectual community in New York. Here [in London] it is not. This is a city supported and made by the banks. And also, British upper classes are very philistine, while in the U.S. you can have an upper class that is cultivated, not necessarily good or bad, so that they support the arts. And because of that, with all the flaws of the U.S., something it keeps that is great is the sense of possibility. Look, I can be critical about a lot of stuff around U.S. politics and stuff, and something I [...]
Where did the whole vegan thing come from? I always figured it was a 1970s thing, or maybe it went back to Berkeley in the early 1960s. According to the Vegan Society, the non-dairy/egg-free vegetarian craze began in London back in 1944. That was not a fun year to be in London, what with the aerial bombings and rocket attacks. Here's what they said in the very first issue of their newsletter:
That freedom has now come to us. Having followed a diet free from all animal food for periods varying from a few weeks in some cases, to many years in others, we believe our ideas [...]
English stabbies are so bored with their usual bedlam that they've begun robbing famous prisons. The Tower of London, the British Empire's beloved historical place to torture its political dissidents, was the target of a bold thief who stole the Tower's keys on Guy Fawkes Night. The keys open not only the locks on the drawbridges, but also the doors to the tourist restaurant and a conference room—perhaps the very conference room where Henry VIII had Anne Boleyn executed in 1536.
This is a story—a true story—about Olympic highs and lows, triumphant wins and crushing defeats, the old and the new, and my grandmother and a horrible Dutch woman who leapt over her dreams like they were just another hurdle on her path to the gold.
The Olympic Games are coming to London this week, and with them will come crowded airports, crowded subways, crowded streets, and crowded stadiums—most built for the event and covered in corporate sponsor logos (which is better, aesthetically, than that heinous official Olympics logo or the terrifying mascot whose face is just one giant eyeball). British taxpayers will end up footing a bill of at least [...]
Not only is London overspending for this coming summer's Olympics—the Guardian now estimates that the initial budget of £2.37 billion may be ten times that—but also the city will be turned into a locked-down police state! Sort of permanently, in fact. Neat! During the Games an aircraft carrier will dock on the Thames. Surface-to-air missile systems will scan the skies. Unmanned drones, thankfully without lethal missiles, will loiter above the gleaming stadiums and opening and closing ceremonies. RAF Typhoon Eurofighters will fly from RAF Northolt. A thousand armed US diplomatic and FBI agents and 55 dog teams will patrol an Olympic zone partitioned off from the wider city [...]
Today, London is tearing itself apart again—in Parliament, where they are talking, essentially, about how to reconfigure society. Prime Minister David Cameron would like, among other things, the ability to assess whether the state has the "right to stop people communicating via these websites and services." You know: by using, like, PHONES and stuff. Meanwhile, a man has been charged with "riot incitement" for his Facebook messages. My [...]
After Mark Duggan was shot by police in North London, in Tottenham, four days ago, the family conducted a peaceful vigil and march to the police station (as one does in black communities around the world; standard practice in Oakland, East New York, etc.). There were discrepancies in the account of Duggan's death, as usual. (Police said he'd shot an officer; instead, as usual, an officer apparently shot an officer.) Family and friends waited outside the police station for hours and were ignored. Later that night, a different kind of demonstration emerged, and 26 police were injured in what ensued. Over the weekend, riots and mini-riots "broke out" [...]
Opening up for a Ghostface Killah concert last week in London, mysterious underground rap legend Doom found himself short of breath because those pasty Knifecrimers were "breathing up all the oxygen." He still did a great version of 2009's "Ballskin," though. And, as our friends at ego trip point out, the audience reaction shots in the video are really funny.
Mary Toft was 23 when she gave birth to her first rabbit. Other rabbits—six, seven, eight of them—followed. It was 1726. Toft lived in Godalming, a small rural town in Surrey; news of the births skipped its way to London, and the king's anatomist was dispatched to investigate. He was unimpressed with Mary, describing her as "of a very stupid and sullen Temper." Nevertheless, after witnessing a rabbit birth himself—the 15th!—he returned to London convinced of the extraordinary, preternatural nature of the births. (And why not, amazing things happen to stupid country people all the time: they're sold magic beans, they haul talking fish out of the water, they give [...]
In 1914 Max Beerbohm wrote to Vyvyan Holland, the younger son of Oscar and Constance Wilde, on the occasion of Holland's wedding. Beerbohm sent his regrets for not having been able to attend the wedding, together with a present.
It has the advantage of being easily breakable if you don't like it. The glasses are (you will be relieved to hear) of British manufacture, but I can't tell you just when they were made. I asked the old man in the shop to tell me the date of them. Whereat he stroked his chin and, looking at me over his spectacles, said "Well, Sir, what would you say to [...]
Why am I surprised that these young people behave destructively, "mindlessly," motivated only by self-interest? How should we describe the actions of the city bankers who brought our economy to its knees in 2010? Altruistic? Mindful? Kind? But then again, they do wear suits, so they deserve to be bailed out, perhaps that's why not one of them has been imprisoned. And they got away with a lot more than a few fucking pairs of trainers.
These young people have no sense of community because they haven't been given one. They have no stake in society because Cameron's mentor Margaret Thatcher told us there's no such thing.
April of 1992 seems like paradise now, in certain ways. The economy was bouncing back nicely, thank you, even if it wasn't yet fully obvious. We users of Prodigy, Compuserve and AOL were all yapping incessantly on our BBSes, and we were about to try out that newfangled "e-mail" thing. "Are you on e-mail?" people would soon be saying. Bill Clinton had only just clinched the Democratic nomination. (That Arkansas governor! Did you know he was a Rhodes Scholar, too?)
But the year before, in March, a man named Rodney King had been tasered twice and then beaten half to death by a pack of Los Angeles police officers. The [...]