Welcome to the Potemkin Village Idiot
Hard launches create strong men
Hello! I’m Tom and this is the Potemkin Village Idiot. I hope you’re all ready for a little something from a big nothing.
A lot of people have started to read this and/or subscribed (for which I am unendingly grateful and joyfully surprised) but I’m conscious that I’ve communicated no direction for it, which makes me the captain of a boat with no oars. I thought it was about time to give you a quick rundown of what I’ll be using this for.
I’m going to use PVI to host my second rate writing on third rate ideas, mostly across architecture, spaces, sports (both generic and specific), history and ideas. Whatever is posted on PVI will be original, but I thought I’d give a little run down of the work I’ve done elsewhere since I started it, in case any of you just can’t get enough Tom Jones in your lives. Personally speaking I’m utterly sick of me. I could do with a break to be honest.
Architecture & spaces
I’ve written a couple of pieces on architecture recently. One was on the proposed demolition of two Brutalist buildings and what the reaction to this news tells us about the anti-brutalist building camp. I then drilled down into that movement, which I call anti-concretism (copyright Tom Jones, all rights reserved), and explored why they hate brutalism so much.
Since I spend an inordinate amount of time inside them, I also write about pubs. I’ve got an imagined conversation with Ian Nairn about Wetherspoons coming up in the first issue of a new magazine, The Inglish Dispatch, and I also run the Instagram account Spoons But Nice to document architecturally interesting Spoons. Really it’s just so my girlfriend will agree to let me have a cheap lunchtime pint on our trips out, but it does work. I’ll keep running it until it doesn’t.
I also have three further articles I’m currently working on; one on the development of affected, corporate ‘local’ identities, pastiches of localness, in English provincial cities, another for Roark on the gradual expansion of non-space architecture in Manchester and a defence of the much-hated Brutalist style for Porridge Magazine. The Inglish Dispatch’s second issue will also feature my imagined architectural history of Newcastle, if the plans of T Dan Smith to redevelop the city had been thwarted.
Sports (generic and specific)
I tend to write about the intersection of sport and politics more than sport itself; the one exception is cycling, which is simply too beautiful, captivating and important to not write about. Most recently I wrote a testament to the brilliant Richard Moore, host of The Cycling Podcast, journalist and the man who is responsible for me falling in love - properly, head over heels, think-about-nothing-else in love - with cycling.
I’ve recently written a defence of sports washing, in response to a rising tide of interest in the practice in cycling (inevitably). I’m not actually pro-sports washing; I just believe that being selective about who is criticised doesn’t help protect the sport. It merely amplifies the success of the projects that manage to fly under the radar, and as long as there’s a greater ghoul it’s a practice that states will continue to find useful. I’ve also just written a criticism of the decision not to allow Russians and Belarussians to play at Wimbledon. I’m currently hawking it more aggressively than a street trader calling you to look at some Faulexes in a souk, and that’ll appear somewhere soon no doubt.
I won’t be posting much political work on PVI. I am a Conservative of both cases (but not monstrously so) and I do write about it, but it tends to be criticism around the fringes, about how arguments are made or notes about political history, and I think most of it best belongs elsewhere.
One of those places is Bournbrook, where I’ve been in two recent issues. The first was, I must say, a rather scoriating and bombastic thought piece examining the thought process behind Joe Biden’s consistent lying about his Civil Rights record and the ‘virtuous grandstanding, ostentatious piety, preposterous sentimentality and appalling bourgeoise pomposity’ of his speech in Georgia on January the 11th. As a hit piece it would have made Roger Stone think twice. The second was a rather tender examination of what Richard Nixon’s last words as President - and Tricky Dicky himself - can teach us about suffering and about endurance. The duality of man, right here at the Potemkin Village Idiot.
I’ve contributed to the Mallard twice recently, first anguishing over the insufferability of BBC defenders and the poor arguments they use. I followed that up with the Marvelisation of Ukraine, which argued that the development of war into a hyperreal simulacrum, first posited by Jean Baudrillard in The Gulf War Did Not Take Place, has been intensified by the internet. That’s combined with Marvel’s prevalence in popular culture and our need to distort and simplify in order to find a frame of reference to make sense of complex foreign events to create a discourse that’s never been more stupid.
Coming up in issue six of Porridge Magazine will be a longform essay on Britain’s relationship with the mythology of the Second World War, why it continues to shape Britain’s sense of itself, why we can’t throw off it’s shackles and what harm it’s doing to us.
Every so often I like to engineer a little escape from the unbearable burden of my own existence by going fly fishing. Again fly fishing is a subject that’s best placed elsewhere, so you won’t catch much on here.
I was in the Autumn issue of Fly Culture with a nice little piece about learning to fish on the Upper Thames, which the editors were kind enough to gild with some fabulous artwork (see below), and I have an article on my insatiable appetite for fishing books in the new issue of Catch Cult. In fact, for the first time my name is worthy of the cover. You’d think more editors would take advantage of the name Tom Jones for some false advertising, but here we are.
PVI may be irregular for a while, as I have several articles to finish, including a peer-reviewed essay on the use of non-offensive air operations during the Malayan Emergency for Balloons to Drones. That’s in addition to, y’know, living?