52% intelligent. 9% modest. More monkey than bear.

Monday, January 16, 2006

I'll do graffiti if you sing to me in french

Picture courtesy of the considerable photographic talents of The Eye In The Sky

This fantastic statement is scrawled onto an otherwise totally unprepossessing bridge just around the corner from where I work in Nottingham. It's not every day that you drive past some graffiti that quotes (knowingly or otherwise) Juvenal's Satires ('Quis custodiet ipsos custodes').

I've no idea why they chose this spot to make their point, but I have to say I like it. I like the fact that hundreds, maybe thousands of commuters will drive past this every day on their way into work, and I like the thought that perhaps some of them will take the message on board.

I'm reminded of a stand-up routine that David Baddiel used to do when he was part of The Mary Whitehouse Experience (which, amongst other things, was the first programme to use the word "wanker" on broadcast TV in the UK, fact fans):


'M. KAHN IS BENT' was, until recently, painted in very large white letters on a railway bridge that crosses the North Circular road in London between Crouch End and East Finchley (Just by the gasworks).

It had been there for over ten years, unmissable by every single car travelling in a westward direction on the North Circular, which, bearing in mind that approximately 300,000 cars containing an average of 2.7 people pass under that bridge every day, would indicate that, over the course of time, the fact of M. Kahn's bent-ness may have been impressed on 2,956,500,000 people, or round about five times the population of Europe.

This kind of majority opinion must have made it very difficult for M. Kahn to dispute.

Many things, however, remain unexplained. Considering the scale of the insult, why did the man who painted it choose to use the polite form 'M. Kahn' - as if he was writing a letter to his bank manager? Perhaps he didn't know Mr Kahn's first name (Michael? Monty?), in which case he can't have known him very well - in which case it seems a bit much to go and paint definitive statements about his sexual orientation ten feet high on the North Circular.

And perhaps even more intriguing, why was M.Kahn himself (Morris? Matt?), no doubt a resident of the Finchley area and well able to contact the local borough council, content to leave the message there for over a decade? Is it possible that he wrote it himself? Which would suggest that the graffiti was not in fact an insult, but the biggest sex-advert in the world. Perhaps we'll never know.

Whatever it was that persuaded the council finally to paint over 'M. KAHN IS BENT', The Mary Whitehouse Experience is prepared to offer a large sum of money to any person or persons prepared to go back to the bridge, under cover of darkness, and paint on it the words 'M. KAHN IS STILL BENT'.

[although see here for the reason why this story may not be at all funny]


We must protect our civil liberties while we still have some to protect.


Speaking of which, I know that....

this film ("People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people") is coming out soon, but what about....

....this film??


  • At 8:56 pm, Blogger Alecya G said…


    None of our urban artists take up the cause, or any cause for that matter. Although i live near some train yards. Maybe I should watch the work more often. If all those people can be reached in one place, think how many can be on a train?

    *runs off to muse*

  • At 10:23 pm, Blogger LB said…

    there is a similar one of those near my office where the graffiri-ist has correctly spelt the word "surveillance".

    I was impressed by that. I am not sure why I anticipated graffiti artists wouldnt be able to spell, mind.

  • At 12:10 am, Blogger Mark said…

    M KAHN was a school bully somewhere in London. He was a vicious, evil psychopath, and apparently has not changed much since then. The only way that the kids could get their own back was to write M KAHN IS BENT somewhere he would see very often, would become infamous - and wouldn't be removed.

    And that was told to me as a true fact by a major film reviewer and author.

  • At 12:26 am, Blogger adem said…

    The 'Quis custodiet ipsos custodes' quote has been brought to the mainstream by Dan Brown [Da Vinci Code fame] in his book 'Digital Fortress'.

    Just so that you know.

  • At 1:33 am, Blogger HistoryGeek said…

    In my neighborhood, we most often just get gang tags. Occassionally, there are political messages on the sidewalk (which isn't very helpful in my mind).

  • At 3:22 am, Blogger Jenni said…

    Isn't it funny how graffiti can somehow resonate that way? What would you write if you were going to graffiti? (Is graffiti a verb?)

  • At 8:17 am, Blogger swisslet said…

    Dan Brown? well, you learn something new every day.

    Part of me thinks I ought to read some Dan Brown at some point. Then the other part of me threatens to tear out my eyeballs and flush them down the toilet.


  • At 8:18 am, Blogger swisslet said…

    sorry Adem - that was a bit rude of me. Thanks for pointing that out. I was not aware of that.

  • At 9:19 am, Blogger adem said…

    No offence taken ST. I can appreciate the books in the paperback/airport-reading way that they are written. But they are quite good, just remember that they are fiction though. [THE DA VINCI CODE IS NOT REAL]

  • At 9:25 am, Blogger Mark said…

    I wish it wasn't real, the Da Vinci code sounds like a thoroughly mediocre commuter potboiler that has become inexplicably rather huge.

  • At 9:31 am, Blogger swisslet said…

    have you seen how they are hoping the film will boost tourism to the UK? I've not read the book, but I hear places like Westminster Abbey all feature pretty prominently. Good luck to them I say - as I recall Westminster Abbey, a church, has turnstyles in it to better enable the collection of money from tourists for entry into the House of God, so perhaps the Church of England will be able to make a bit of cash. As the second biggest landowner in the UK, they must be short of a bob or two, eh?

    We should also be careful what we wish for. I hear Rome is full of people wandering around with the book, muttering dark things about vatican conspiracies.

    Same as for the rest of the last 1000 years then. Bring back burnings, that's what I say.


  • At 11:23 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I think the Dan Brown books are worth reading, for what it's worth.

    although I like McFly, remember.

  • At 3:33 pm, Blogger HistoryGeek said…

    I enjoyed the Da Vinci code, but had it pretty well figured out before the end. I enjoyed reading Holy Blood, Holy Grail more.

  • At 4:26 pm, Blogger adem said…

    I've just bought the Maximo Park album today and I now recognise your post title. I listened to the lyrics and thought "I know those words!". I feel very happy :)

  • At 5:01 pm, Blogger Ali said…

    The DaVinci Code is brilliant, if you run out of bog paper.

    Otherwise, you have other, better books to read. *Looks over spectacles at Swissty*

  • At 9:58 pm, Blogger Crucifer said…

    Who Watches The Watchmen.

    Excellent graphic novel, absolutely brilliant. I hope they do justice to the movie!

  • At 11:17 pm, Blogger Pynchon said…

    Last I heard "Watchmen" had been shelved and Paul Greengrass is now filming "Flight 93". If "V For Vendetta" is a hit, who knows...


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