Goodbye Pavilions*

Really, nobody gives a fuck. Today it’s a empty space, a ghost town, but has it really been anything more? Does anybody have any fond memories of the place? Devoid of shops you can see the artless early nineties post-modern design, which looks a lot like the pastel flourishes of late eighties blandness. Even the Evening Mail’s frothing gang of wow merchants can’t summon the energy to care in this hilariously empty “news” article.

Six years ago I’m at a public exhibition speaking to an Argent representative about the redevelopment of the Central Library, they’re pretty vague but they’re talking about turning the whole area into their other achievement Brindleyplace and the Gas St Basin. I swear for a little bit, and leave.

Recently it’s been used as a shortcut to the bus stops opposite Moor St and a place for the bus drivers to eat their lunch. My fondest memory was an art installation that used some of the empty units a few years ago. Culture in the gaps.

past times

My good friend wrote “Capitalism disappoints” and stripped of the shops the Pavilions echos with emptiness and exposes this disappointment. Places like this aren’t built for anyone to like they’re built so not to offend, mixed use developments and the such are tin crowns waiting for the cubic zirconia of retail ”experiences”. And they’re spreading. Costume jewellery for a beauty contest where we aspire for second place.

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Posted in future nostalgia, misc Tagged with: ,

Evening Mail Facebook posts as inspirational posters

dot tumblr dot com.

mailasinspirationalquotes2

mailasinspirationalquotes5

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Posted in clickbait

Number 11: satire and the skewing of the spectacle

Number 11 by Jonathan Coe is now out in paperback, like many of his works there’s Birmingham in the prose.

If you’ve watched a football match recently, you’ll have noticed that it looked not like football should: but something more pristine. Perfect grass, shining at you at the right colour,  the crowd static, the players all so universally healthy: so universally quick that the speed of the game is uniform and appears slow. Every game has the lustre of a meaningless pre-season friendly. Don’t all new bands look like bands created for a film, walking like a duck, but not quite being Chuck Berry.

Is the spectacle broken? It might be possible that the angle of incidence no longer equals the angle of reflection. It might be possible that recuperation no longer quite works in the end game of capitalism. Maybe Debord was wrong.

I tried to pin this down, find the point where the spectacle stopped working, and it might be the brief career of Jet  – a band that looked so much like Kasabian (already an indie band created for a Russell Brand romp-com)  – who had a big hit with a song that sounded exactly like Iggy Pop’s Lust for Life. Exactly like it. Lust for Life had only been a revival hit a few years previously, but Jet’s song hit the charts and no-one said anything: especially not the music press that had sped up retreading of trends as if the kids were screaming because they wanted to go faster. Rather than because they were alienated.

Like the continual racist apophasis about how we can’t talk about immigration, the bastardly now hide in plain view. Tom Lehrer said that when Kissinger won the Nobel prize ‘satire died’, but maybe it not dead but turning in on itself.

Jonathan Coe’s Number 11 presents as satire, but the majority of the content isn’t exaggerated or taken out of context: TV does lie, tax avoidance and mega-wealth are inseparable and unapologetic, £160M new libraries do reduce service due to lack of money for staff and new books.

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Posted in culture Tagged with: ,

What time and when is our new SEO strategy going to pay dividends with pageviews? Everything you need to know

Friend of the show Dave Harte used to do a bit about how the most popular posts on his hyperlocal website was called “When are the supermarkets open over Christmas?”. This is the sort of ‘content’ which successfully remediates the local newspaper onto the web. Forget live-blogging, periscoping, and making things ‘interactive’ — what people really want is useful information delivered in a timely manner.

This is an example of what academics call a ‘news gap’—something people want, which isn’t being provided by the mainstream, commercial media companies. Hyperlocal websites tend to go around sticking their finger in these news gaps in a metaphor which becomes quite difficult to complete because, having evoked the idea of a little Dutch boy plugging a big dam, I need to flip it to a little Belgian boy pissing into a tiny font which then feeds his endless stream of piss.

I digress.

It turns out that this noticeboard stuff SEOs really fucking well, so inevitably the “proper” newspapers have piled in. This is a common feature of the relationship between hyperlocal and mainstream media: once the news gap can be shown to turn a buck or two, the big guys put a six lane motorway over it on a viaduct, destroying anything that remains of our figurative landscape.

And so, the other weekend we were searching for the start times of the England V Germany friendly and we found SEO laden copy from national newspapers, including our local’s big brother the Mirror. But they can’t just tell you the info, they’ve got to make it into a bit of a story: because they are newspapers, but also because if it’s too short the nugget of fact you need will appear in the Google preview — and then there’s no ad revenue. Here in Birmingham, the Evening Mail keep a category of these SEO landing pages, so you can see for yourself the sort of thing they are optimising for here:

MailSEO

We’re expecting “What time and when are Birmingham’s St Georges celebrations? And are they racist? Does it offend the moslems, Stew?” to land today.

But a big UB40 concert, a sponsored ‘zombie walk’ resembling the Tory party conference, or a new series of — Liverpool filmed — Peaky Blinders, doesn’t come round every week, it just feels like it. We have to have things that people want to know all the time, things that are hard to find information out online… only problem is we don’t know the answers either.

When will we find the Capita Contract in Birmingham?

Capita plc, commonly known as Capita, is an international business process outsourcing and professional services company headquartered in London. If you want to know what that means it means that they’re a bit like Sodexo but with more computers andRead More »

When's the new series of BBC One sitcom set in Birmingham Citizen Khan on TV and is it Islamophobic? Everything you need to know

Soon there will be a new series of the BBC One sitcom set in Sparkhill, Birmingham, Citizen Khan that stars comedian Adil Ray on television, on the BBC One channel and iPlayer. Wikipedia says that Citizen Khan “is a family-basedRead More »

Which No. 1 to Acock's Green does that chap who stinks of piss catch, so I can avoid him?

If you’ve ever commuted to Acock’s Green in Birmingham, England, in the morning on the Number One (No. 1) bus, operated by Travel West Midlands, then it’s possible that you’ve at times caught a whiff of piss. Unlike farts, itRead More »

When do they put near dated cheese in the Whoops fridge at the Asda?

Asda Stores Limited is an American-owned, British-founded supermarket retailer, headquartered in Leeds, West Yorkshire. Asda run a number of stores in Birmingham. The company started in Leeds but was bought by American giant Walmart in 1999. It is one ofRead More »

What time does Select and Save on the Stratford Road close?

Select and Save is a supermarket on the Stratford Road in Birmingham. It’s at 870 Stratford Road in Sparkhill. It’s not the only Select and Save (or Select & Save), there’s also one in Moseley, but we don’t know whatRead More »

When and on what day do The Yenton clean their pipes?

The Yenton is a pub on Sutton Road, Erdington, Birmingham.  Their website says “At Sizzling we believe the people of Erdington deserve more from their local pub. And it’s our job to give you just that.” “We’re a friendly bunch and weRead More »

And is this going to prove to be our revenue strategy for a successful future? We’re not sure.

Insert Google Ad here

Posted in In the news Tagged with: ,

Signing off

Danny Smith has been writing for us, in all our forms, for as long as we can remember.  He’s a blue-haired gonzo with a habit of going misty-eyed over cute kids, and having a red mist descend when seeing how privilege fucks those same kids over. In prose he can find the mould in the corners of even the most ‘laughing with canal-side salad’ press event. So much so that we as editors have a stock response to anything we don’t want to go to: “Send Danny.” But now he’s sending himself…

CC: vexsmila

Dead to us – Image CC: vexsmila

My life seems to be a series of leaving parties, that is to say I seem to leave a lot but never really arrive anywhere. But soon I leave Birmingham, perhaps never to live here again. It’s a good ol’ city, mismanaged on the whole but full of good people, funny people, mad creative, eccentric people, people of a sharp wit but kind tongue.

I have to admit this very nearly was a wry ‘Things I WON’T Miss About Birmingham.’ But I’ve mellowed as I’ve got older. I could write that article and light my way to Brighton with the bridges I’ve burnt behind me but we all know the city’s faults and it’s not that “we don’t shout about ourselves more”. In fact some honest reviews and critique would be a cool breeze in an atmosphere of twee stifling press releases rewritten for CoolBrum™ listicles and breathless praise .

As I said I’m not here to shake any trees, just to point out some peaches.

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Posted in future nostalgia

Bournville: A Star Wars Star Story

We’ve just heard that the lead in the new Star Wars film, Rogue One, is from Bournville: Felicity Jones, formerly of The Archers. So we feel we need to do some jokes, but there’s a problem: one of us has never seen Star Wars, one of us has never listened to The Archers. Here’s how we got on…

JH: Mate, the lead in the new Star Wars is from Bournville. What do we do about that?

JB: Is she?

JH: Apparently.

JB: I don’t know what she looks like.

JH: Well nobody does mate it’s another new film and we’ve only seen one trailer, today. It’s not Daisy Ridley.

JB: Isn’t she the new one?

JH: No she’s the new one from the old new film. This is a different one.

JB: Oh, right you mean the one from The Archers. Felicity Jones.

JH: I don’t know what she sounds like.

JB: Yes. I checked it now, I think it’s the same one.

JH: OK. So The Archers, that’s an angle, right?

JB: She played one of the ‘working class’ Grundys — is there anything really farmy-mucky in Star Wars?

JH: They’re all farmers mate.

JB: No they’re not, some of them run a pub.

JH: The Cantina?

JB: No the Bull

JH: What planet was that on?

JB: Huh?
So what is this film about then?

JH: It’s the set up to Star Wars. She has to find some secret documents.

JB: The fourth film?

JH: No the first one, with Mark Hamill in it.

JB: The new one?

JH: No the old one. Not the new old one, the old old one.

JB: What’s the secret document?

JH: Looks like she found the Capita contract.

Five Things Felicity Jones is Rebelling About in the Next New Star Wars Film

  1. Lack of pubs
  2. Stirchley’s border creep
  3. Dairy Milk recipe change
  4. Cross-city line delays
  5. She wants to paint her door another colour
Posted in misc Tagged with: , ,

The football train: Villa v Chelsea, 2nd April 2016

London to Birmingham by train!

Just after 3pm today, at Aston, despondent football fans shuffled onto my train. Barely anyone spoke, or would look at one another. It was as though they’d been caught stepping out of Taboo Cinema Club by their kid’s headteacher. All that is except for two.

A beautiful couple they were, not in colours nor in football casuals but in the high end label equivalents. They looked… preppy. As my ears tuned into their talk, I picked up her Sloaney vowels, his public school consonants. Chelsea. Up for the game, now off into Bullring for a bit of shopping. Designer treats, another polo shirt perhaps? Birmingham’s a destination now, ya? Make a weekend of it. Go to the Cube. Eat some salad by the canal. Laugh.

It’s not like they expected at all — Birmingham’s changed.

Posted in future nostalgia Tagged with: ,

Finally: Birmingham Mail, without the “content”

Fed up with pesky ‘news’ content spoiling your enjoyment of the adverts on your local paper website? Feel fed up no-more, with Evening Mail blocker: all the ads, all the page furniture, all the recommend articles about weightloss — but none of the ‘local news’. Save MBs of download time!

Heavyweight pages from the Birmingham Mail

Simon Howes recently posted the above picture online — it’s a demonstration of the page load from the Birmingham Mail under two sets of conditions. First we see the hard work needed for your computer to load as it should — with all links to external click bait and whatnot — and then we see how it looks with just the “content”, via an adblocker. Which got us thinking: the ads are really getting bogged down by all that news… what if we could just turn that off? Surely we could hand that 9.3% of processor time back to the stuff that matters… back to ad trackers, and flash popovers.

We’ve written a browser extension (for Chrome only at the moment) which will strip away all those churned press releases, all those homilies to mixed use development, all those funny bits that they were inspired to write from somewhere…

Don’t waste your time looking at photos of how the Scott Arms looked like in an only slightly bygone age.

See the Birmingham Mail as it should be: download the Evening Mail News Blocker now!

Posted in misc Tagged with: , ,

The Paradise Circus Cut-Out-and-Keep Guide to Regenerating Birmingham

Hot on the heels of the news that another area of Birmingham will have its architectural significance airbrushed from history in order for it to be regenerated into another identikit mixed use development with a fucking Costa at the bottom, Paradise Circus presents a simple three step process to the Birmingham regeneration process.

STEP 1: Manufacture A Design Issue

Sure, the lollipop is an enduring design and represents cosy familiarity with the human/confectionery relationship — but its form creates a barrier to the free movement of flavour and satisfaction.

lolipop1

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Posted in Architecture Tagged with:

A modest proposal

for preventing the problem of the gentrification of our inner cities, and for making this trend beneficial to the public

By Howard Swift

Nothing can be more melancholy than seeing our once vibrant and battered brownfield spaces caked with checked shirts and reappropriated early-modernist design. The pastel colours, the exposed brickwork not as an opportunity, a canvas, but as a faux-individualistic statement.

How are we to cope with Keith from Moseley’s Prince of Wales turning from whacky local character with a thin grasp of planning law to a perfidious influence on independent culture at the exact point he owns not two pubs but three? And worse the third in an area which prides itself on its down at heel quirk.

To some the chain is a signal of hatred, but its main value is that the process of gentrification is complete: up-dos and animal print (that is with prints of animals, not their markings) is the new normal. We must tackle the issue at source, or joux.

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Posted in misc Tagged with: ,

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101 Things Birmingham Gave the World

Birmingham was the crucible of the Industrial Revolution, but it gave the World so much more…

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The PC Satirical Cartoon

Described for you in text as we can't draw.

  • Interior of the Council House, which you can tell because of the sign that says ‘Council House’.

    There is a newspaper — why? no-one knows — on a desk, the headline reads “More Council Budget Cut — they can’t even afford the museum”.

    A man is on the phone, it is Leader of the Council John Clancy. He has a name plate.

    “Yes you can light up the Library in the colours of the Belgian flag. No, I know we said we couldn’t afford the electric for Paris, but this time  it’s 1/3 extra free.”

     

    Drawn by

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Service Birmingham & Capita’s Auto Redacter

It's best for commercial confidentiality.

Code by Nick Moreton

Paradise Circus grew out of the famous, now mothballed, Birmingham: It's Not Shit that chronicled and championed the real Birmingham since 2002.