Tag Archives: Milton Keynes

The Alan Moore Jerusalem tapes, #7: the lost language of Northampton

3 Oct

jerusalem-cover-600x899

Following my feature on Alan Moore’s Jerusalem, I’ve been posting edited highlights from the 30,000-word interview transcript. In the last two, Alan Moore managed to make even Milton Keynes interesting. Here he’s back on his home turf of Northampton, but along the way he lays down some pretty deep riffs on our perception of the universe…

Alan Moore: “Words and literature run all the way through Jerusalem. This is all somehow about language, right from John Wycliffe translating the Bible, which is a spiritual act, it’s a linguistic act, and it’s a massively political act, all at once. Which is kind of how I see Jerusalem, I suppose.

“If you think about it, words build more than books. Words pretty much build everything, because we are not experiencing the universe directly. We don’t perceive the universe, we perceive our perception of the universe. It’s the vibrations in our tympanums, the photons in our retinas, the signals in our nerve endings.

“We are composing, moment by moment, the universe inside our own neurology.

“And according to Alfred Korzybski, the language theorist, he more or less says that words are how we put together the whole universe: we’re not conscious of a thing until we have a word for it. I mean this is standard language theory.

“To be able to read the Sun, I think you need 100,000 words in your vocabulary; that’s a Sun reader’s vocabulary. [NB: Alan Moore is massively overestimating here, perhaps owing to his own sesquipedalian range. The average vocabulary is 20,000-35,000 words.] So that is painfully limited. And by the opposite thesis, if you expand the amount of words within a person’s reach, you’re also expanding their consciousness, potentially.

“It’s this whole thing of perception, and our perception is made of words. Language precedes consciousness, we are told, and also you can see it even in the present day. Say, for example, before we had the word ‘paedophile’. Or before we had that word in common clearly understood usage. Isn’t it funny how all the paedophiles appeared after that word? You’ll sometimes talk to old people, and they’ll say, ‘well, we never had those paedophiles when I was a girl or I was a boy’, and I’m ‘yeah you did, you just didn’t have a word for it’. So it was worse then, because you couldn’t even conceive of them.

“So yeah, in Jerusalem there is a strong strand about the development of language. Take ‘Third Borough’ [which in Jerusalem is the word used for the deity]. In the early 20th century there was a Third Borough in the Boroughs [the area of Northampton in which Jerusalem is set]. What they were was a combination of rent man and policeman. If somebody defaulted on their rent, they would be collecting the rent and also punishing the defaulter. “The word ‘Third Borough’ doesn’t exist anywhere outside Northampton, and is believed to be a corruption of a Saxon term, ‘frith burhh’, which meant a tithing map.

“As far as I know, ‘deathmongers’ [who assist at both births and deaths] didn’t exist outside the Boroughs. Maybe there were people who fulfilled that function, but they weren’t called deathmongers; and they probably didn’t have quite the same aura. So I wanted to be build this up from the language, the lost language of Northampton.”

Jerusalem is out now in hardback from Knockabout in the UK and Liveright in the US. For the full interview feature, click here. In part 8, Alan Moore talks about giving Anonymous and Occupy their face.

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The Alan Moore Jerusalem interview tapes, #6: From Hell, and “accreted madness”

2 Oct
hawksmoor

From Hell, by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell (Top Shelf/Knockabout). Milton Keynes, says Moore, proves it’s not so far-fetched!

Following my feature on Alan Moore’s Jerusalem, I’ve been posting edited highlights from the 30,000-word interview transcript. Yesterday, Alan Moore revealed why he is “worshipped as a God” by the people of Milton Keynes. Today, he reveals how the town convinced him that his work on From Hell was not so far-fetched…

Alan Moore: “I was also able to tell them [his Milton Keynes audience] that when I’d later got a better job as a writer, and I was doing From Hell, I was doing all that stuff about the alignments of the City of London and the big pentacle that I was attributing to Hawksmoor, and I was wondering, is this even remotely feasible? I thought, I know that they did have some strange Masonic ideas back then in the 18th and 19th century.

“But then I came across this piece, it might have been in the Guardian, that was talking about  Milton Keynes. And it was saying that on the day of the solstice every year you would get, at the provocatively named Midsummer Blvd, you get the sun rising directly over a flagpole, and then it’s bounced back by the mirrors of the shopping centre right at the far end – and this is believed to be on purpose. So on the dawn of the solstice every year you’d get a bunch of New Agers and pagans come to observe the solstice over these mystical alignments, and you’d also get a bunch of born-again Christians who were coming for exactly the opposite reason, to protest the rampant Satanism, and a few policemen to keep the two factions apart.

“So they’d actually searched out the two architects, and said, look, is there anything in this? All of these pagan alignments and things like that?

“And the architect said, rather sheepishly, well you see it was the ’70s, and it was our first big job, and at university we’d been very big fans of John Michell – View Over Atlantis and all the rest of them – so we thought, well, we do kind of need a theme for this new city, so why don’t we do it according to these pagan alignments and things like that?

“So, yes, it is actually true. Architects do do some strange things. So I felt validated. It’s interesting – there’s all these layers of … accreted madness that build up into our urban centres.

“I mean, the Boroughs [the Northampton area in which Jerusalem is set] is pretty much that.”

Jerusalem is out now in hardback from Knockabout in the UK and Liveright in the US. For the full interview feature, click here. In part 7, Alan Moore talks about the lost language of Northampton.

The Alan Moore Jerusalem interview tapes, #5. Why I’m God, by Alan Moore

30 Sep
© 2012 John Angerson.Filming of Jimmy's End - Northampton

© 2012 John Angerson. Filming of Jimmy’s End – Northampton

Following my feature on Alan Moore’s Jerusalem, I’ve been posting edited highlights from the 30,000-word interview transcript. Yesterday, I posted Alan Moore’s extraordinary performance poetry spoken from the point of view of a dictatorial ape: his “Mandrillifesto”. Today, some comic relief: a bizarre revelation about Moore’s time as a gas board sub-contractor and celestial divinity.

It all started when Moore was slagging off new developments making his home town of Northampton look like Milton Keynes, and I said, ironically, “and Milton Keynes is such a paragon of beauty”. To which he replied…

Alan Moore: “Absolutely. And I speak as one of the mythical Titans who actually built Milton Keynes. I used to work for a gas board sub-contractor, in the 1970s, and at one point, probably because I’d offended with one of my jolly witticisms one of the people in the office, I got banished to a Gulag which was Milton Keynes. Or rather, Milton Keynes was barely there, it was a little village that was more or less dying on its arse, and it was decided that it would be rebuilt as a New Town.

“I remember when a couple of the labourers there came into our site while one of the planners was there, pointing out that as far as they could see, all of the fire hydrants were connected to the gas mains. And he said, ‘Don’t be silly, give it here and I’ll explain where you’ve made a mistake. Look, it’s…[Moore mimes looking at the plans once, then twice, with dawning shock and realization.] It’s good to have somebody notice that before it all blows apart.’

“Yeah, I was there when Milton Keynes was just a load of trenches, and a load of disgruntled-looking Irish and Polish labourers, in the rain. [I went back there] when Josie Long was doing Arts Emergency guerrilla comedy tours. She was doing one at Milton Keynes, and Josie was driving around with her Arts Emergency pals in a van and staking out a draughty car park or a neglected area behind a church or something, and then alerting the audience, such as it was, by Twitter.

“So she asked me if I wanted to come up and do ten minutes in Milton Keynes, and there was about, what, 18 people in the audience. And it was great, I went on and I was talking about a similar piece to one I performed at one of Robin Ince’s Bloomsbury Theatre evenings.

“I’d been talking about how, in New Scientist, a couple of years ago, somebody had raised the point that, in a few years, we are definitely going to have a quantum super-computer. That can hold more information than there are particles in the known universe. So we will then be able to simulate an entire universe, including all the life forms in it, which will not know they are simulated, and as this writer to the New Statesman pointed out, yeah – if we’re going to be able to do this, the odds of this being the first time this has happened are vanishingly small. It is much more likely that we are in simulation, of a simulation, of a simulation, and so on. He was saying well, what do we do about this?

“Well, the person who is playing this game, the next level up, is the person who is, effectively, to us, God. If we assume that there are some similarities – presumably God has a similar ego structure to normal human beings – it is very likely that God himself will be actually in the game environment as an avatar.

“Now he wouldn’t go for something really obvious like President of the United States. Yet he still probably would want to make himself a special person. So what he was saying is, the best thing to do is to suck up to celebrities because they might be God.

“Now obviously you wouldn’t want to suck up to just any celebrity. So what I said was if I was you, people of Milton Keynes, I would go for a celebrity who sounded, and perhaps looked [strokes his own huge white beard meaningfully], the way you might imagine the creator of the universe to look.

“But I said even that’s not enough, because that could have you worshipping pretty much any tramp. So I said, you have to ask yourself, does the person who I’m looking at appear to have physically created the environment around me? And I said, in your case, people of Milton Keynes… [He raises his eyebrows meaningfully, and gestures towards himself. We both dissolve into laughter.]

“So, yeah. I am still worshipped as a God by the primitive and superstitious people of Milton Keynes.”

Jerusalem is out now in hardback from Knockabout in the UK and Liveright in the US. For the full interview feature, click here. Don’t miss the sequel to this in part six, in which Alan Moore revealed how Milton Keynes helped him write From Hell.