On architecture

Will Self is going to be exploring the theme of capital in relation to new architecture in the city, in a lecture entitled When Liquid turns to Solid: the Spatialisation of Capital Flows in 21st Century London at Kings Place next Monday. This will be followed by a conversation with Andy Beckett and a Q&A.

For more details and tickets, go here.

Or read Will’s associated article here at the Guardian.

On location: Outdoor smoking

Books do indeed furnish a room – but tobacco smoke gives it volume, substance and an aroma. The decline in smoking has important consequences for our perception of space and place. When I was a young man I’d meet my father at his club, the Reform in Pall Mall, and we’d sit on the balcony smoking cigars and blowing long, pungent plumes into the cloistral atmosphere of the main hall. The calibration of lung capacity with exhalation length was, I think, akin to the automatic calculation we make in order to focus on objects; by means of it I related my own internal airspace to these much larger external volumes. If you like, smoking in a space is a physical version of the Cartesian cogito: I fill this with smoke, therefore I am in it. Another way of considering the matter is to observe that, by puffing away in a room, we remake it in the image of Rachel Whiteread’s sculptures: the smoke flows into all the fiddly little interstices and creates an evanescent – but for all that, real – cast of what is forever not.

Real meals: The pancake production line

Most weekday mornings I get up and make pancakes for the two of my children who still live at home. I can cook a passable Irish stew or lasagne – I’ve been known to attempt a ribollita or caldo verde (the peasant soup is a particular love of mine, of which more later) – but most parties agree that I excel at pancakes. I’m not talking about the big thin pancakes the English sprinkle sugar on and douse with lemon juice – these, the floppy wafers of the Anglican Communion, are quite alien to me. No, the pancakes I make are American ones: about five inches in diameter, nicely browned, and almost fluffy in consistency. These are served with maple syrup or strawberry jam, and accompanied by grilled bacon.

The Future of Work and Death

Will Self has contributed to a documentary entitled The Future of Work and Death that explores how imminent technologies may – or may not – have a seismic effect on how society operates. The film chiefly focuses on artificial intelligence, “negligible senescence” and silicon-based immortality.

There’s a Kickstarter page here too.

Madness of crowds: The House of Commons

It was difficult to contain one’s emotions: after 42 years’ service, the Clerk of the House of Commons, Sir Robert Rogers, has retired. A fluffy-wigged and bearded presence who sat below the Speaker dispensing advice on procedural matters, and who heretofore made little or no impression on the wider world, Sir Robert was given a lengthy round of applause by MPs following the reading of his resignation letter. I say it was difficult to contain one’s emotions – but I wasn’t even particularly near the chamber; I was lying in bed in my house about two miles away, listening to this effusion on Radio 4’s Today in Parliament. True, during particularly rambunctious Commons sessions (when, for example, Sally Bercow has forgotten to wipe the banana cream from her husband’s mouth), I can quite clearly hear the baying of our representatives: it rises even above the demented wail of police sirens, and the chunter of jets on the Heathrow flight path. It used to be that MPs were required to live within the sound of the division bell; nowadays a reasonable test of proximity would be whether they’re capable of hearing their colleagues’ barracking when abed.