I Am Retiring From Mornings

Time was, a few years ago, that sitting down to write one of these in my mornings (not to be confused with normal people’s conception of what “morning” means) was a great leveller, especially when I was on the road all the time. But times change.

(Oh, by the way, there’s a signed limited edition of my book DEAD PIG COLLECTOR available for order right now.)

My mornings have been so fucked up and non-morning-y for a while now that I haven’t had any rhythm on this journal, and it feels increasingly like a bad fit for the way my life is now.  Four years ago, it let me order my thoughts.  Today it’s “well, shit, it’s 3pm already.”  I’ve been thinking, for the last couple of months, that I’d like to maintain a public presence on the net, but that I need to do something else.

So I’m going to do something else. Thanks to the couple of thousand people who checked in every time I wrote something here. Be seeing you.

The Future Is Just A Videotape Recorded By The Past

Okay, my mind has been fully broken by discovering monochrome publicity stills from the very much technicolour 1979 Star Wars-knockoff flick THE HUMANOID. Because in monochrome this frame looks like nothing more than a Soviet-era black and white science fiction film.

Found on this site here.

I can’t stop looking at it. I really don’t want to do nostalgic or atemporal stuff any more, it feels wrong for the moment, but that image is like a leak from a lost cinematic universe where Tarkovsky cut his teeth on a space movie. There’s like twelve stories encoded in that one image. Bizarre.

I stole the title for this post from a piece by Lordess Foudre.

Satantango Box

Watching (a section of) SATANTANGO last night, I was moved to screenshot this image.

Director Bela Tarr (in tandem, one suspects, with Agnes Hranitzky, who was only later accredited as co-director but was with him since 1978 and collaborating from 1981, well before SATANTANGO was commenced) is more interested in composition than those very, very long takes might suggest. He can’t resist, at this point, a stagey one-point-perspective bit and a collection of complex shapes. I have this notion that his career progresses somewhat like Beckett’s, shedding complexities and adornments as he goes, in search of a final purified minimal form. Which Tarr does, in THE TURIN HORSE. He does not make another film after THE TURIN HORSE, because there are no Bela Tarr films left to make after THE TURIN HORSE. It is the final purification.

But look at all the shapes in this. The containers, and the containment. Binocular lenses, a fence, wires, window frames, window glass and net curtains. He may be in his home, but he’s standing there like a camp prisoner and all the elements make it clear he’s boxed and pinned and there’s no escape for him.

This year I am trying to watch and re-watch a lot more films, and am scribbling furiously in a small LOT 2046 notebook.

SATANTANGO (UK) (US – region 2 disc)

2019 Has Fully Happened

I’d toyed around with maybe farting around on the internet a bit this year. Maybe dipping in and out of social media, rebuilding my online audience a bit, trying some digital experiments, perhaps even having and joining some conversations.

Oh, but 2019 has fully happened. When 2018 went Full Speed Life, I pushed and railed against it and got pissed off. This year? Fuck it. I accept it. I’m pulling out my fresh notebooks, assembling my pens, declining all public appearances, buying DVDs and spending thirty quid a day at Bandcamp. I’m done. I am accepting the life and accepting that this and the newsletter (and, I suppose, Status, and Longwave when I am so moved) will be my only contact with the outside.

Just before Xmas, my manager said to me about the moment, “it’s 1000mph or nothing at all.” The implication at the end being, “pick one.”

I’m 51 next month. Fuck it. Let’s pick 1000mph and see what happens. Writing this journal entry to myself is declaration. I accept.

So here’s a photo of one of my cats.

The Hope In Dystopia

A dystopia is a speculative situation where the absolute minority of people habitually experience hope and joy. Embedded in every piece of dystopian fiction is utopian thinking – the speculative condition where the absolute majority of people habitually experience hope and joy.

Commercial dramatic fiction requires tension between two poles. It requires stakes, change, a goal to advance towards. Conflict. Dystopian fiction is almost never actually about the dystopia itself (although writing dystopia is good, crunchy stuff with lots of detail to relish in the authorship). Dystopian fiction is almost always about the utopian reach that’s suppressed by the situation.

(*There are exceptions to every rule and statement do not @ me)

The request for more hopeful, optimistic and utopian thinking in popular drama comes around every few years. Utopias run up against the structures and strictures of popular drama. It’s hard to tell a conventional drama when, um, everything is awesome.

(Unhappily for everybody, a utopia, as a perfected human condition, is a static society, and static societies are dystopias)

Dystopia is one of those parts of speculative fiction that function as early-warning systems for bad sociocultural weather, a function I’ve talked about at length elsewhere. Dystopia is also about the fight for a better world. Every well-written dystopia is, unlike most other forms of drama, already always about hope.

(*I haven’t slept properly in, I dunno, probably two years, so don’t take this as a considered proclamation cut in stone, I’m just thinking out loud to myself.)

In a few days I will have NOCILLA LAB (UK) (US) to read and everything will be fine.

Please enjoy this cheerful image I accidentally took on the way into London on Monday.

Recent Quotes 11jan19

All stories are stories of disintegration, no doubt, but this disintegration is itself only an ordinary episode in the empire of rain.

  • Béla Tarr, the Time After, Jacques Rancière and Erik Beranek (UK) (US)

In nature he sees only cruelty and pain and states quite clearly that the reason for our existence might simply be to allow pain to exist.

  • The Philosophy of Samuel Beckett, John Calder
    (UK) (US)

Chayefsky found an ally for Altered States at the highest level of Columbia Pictures, where the former MGM executive Daniel Melnick had risen to the studio’s presidency. (Reviewing the screenplay a few weeks prior to his official appointment, Melnick had cheekily written to Chayefsky in a telegram, DEAR PADDY: STUNNING, BRILLIANT, BREATHTAKING—BUT WE CAN FIX IT.)

  • Mad as Hell: The Making of Network and the Fateful Vision of the Angriest Man in Movies, Dave Itzkoff (UK) (US)

‘4′ 33″’ is not about silence at all, in fact, but the impossibility of it. This was something he discovered on visiting an anechoic chamber at Harvard University, supposedly a sensory deprivation experience, but during which he was aware of two droning sounds, high and low. These were, the duty engineer told him, the sounds of his nervous system and blood circulation respectively.

Mars by 1980: The Story of Electronic Music, David Stubbs
(UK) (US)

Friends; always there when they need you.

Europe at Dawn (The Fractured Europe Sequence Book 4), Dave Hutchinson
(UK) (US)

Morning 2019

Today’s the day I take the auto-responder off my email. I shouldn’t, as I have a screenplay to finish in a week, and there’s a chunk right in the middle of it that continues to elude me and it hasn’t got any good jokes yet. But, today, I need to admit to the outside world that I’m still alive.

I am not ready for 2019 to begin. But it’s rare that I ever feel completely ready to do a thing before I do a thing.

For whatever reason, I’m always happiest when I just take a deep breath and wing it. And, in the end, it’s the right thing for me to have done.

You can arrange post-it notes and cards all you like, graph and plot and plan it. I’ll be the one standing on his own, looking at his watch and squinting at the horizon.

Here we go again. Deep breath.

Rustle And Groan

Because I’m way too tired for the hustle and flow. Not to go all hustle-porn on you, but 2019 is looking like it could be the busiest year of my life. 2018 was bad enough. January is usually slow. Everything kind of exploded around Jan 5. I have a feeling it could be Jan 2 in 2019.

So I’m taking the gap between Xmas and New Year to just kind of breathe, organise things in my head, and work out how to get through 2019 without ending it in a box.

We do what we have to, to tell the stories we want to, in the spaces that opportunity provides. Sometimes you only get one shot to tell one particular story or do one particular thing. And, after you do this a while, that becomes okay, because you know there will be other spaces for other stories. But, for me, 2019 is full of those one-time spaces, so I need to show up and give all of them their best shot at happening.

No public appearances from me in 2019. Just life and writing (and producing) and probably spending thousands on new music to get me through the year.

Just enjoying these peaceful, quiet days and attending to my recovery from the damage of 2018 before the engines re-light and I have to do it all over again.

Deep breath before we go down the dip.

I put all the love and beauty
In the spirit of the night
And I’m holding my ticket tight.

Reading and loving the NOMA GUIDE TO FERMENTATION (UK) (US)

MERRY CLICKMASS EVERYBODY

Oh good, WordPress updated its back end and now I can’t see how to do anything.

I was typing to an acquaintance the other day and accidentally invented the term “human clickmass.”  It still amuses me.

Possibly I am easily amused. Or I lost some brain function after stress and overload got to me and, according to my wristband, my heart rate hit 177.

So the email auto-responder is finally on, notifications are being switched off, and, since my presence is not required anywhere else, I’m going to make another cup of espresso and put on some music and think about next year.

I hope you get a little bit of space to yourself over the next week or two, reader.

That Shingy Life

One of the things that’s come to bother me over the last year is seeing people falling into constantly being on the road and giving talks, pausing only to dump a tweetstorm before going somewhere else and doing talks, week after week, month after month.  Not least because I worry they’re going to turn into Shingy.

You remember Shingy.  David Shing. “Digital prophet” for Oath, bats around the world as a brand ambassador, talking, talking, talking, making little sense and making no cultural mark.

During a half-awake session of link-surfing while full of flu meds the other week, I happened across the blog of one of those guys who was always doing talks and camps and streams and conferences and all the fucking rest of it.  He’s in his fifties now.  On his blog, he notes that he has tiny savings and even after downsizing he and his wife both need full-time income streams to keep the lights on and the kids fed.

Put another way — even a year ago, before his business hit some self-inflicted disasters, he would have had jack shit to show for that Shingy life.

(Because Shingy, you know, has been on a six-figure salary for years.)

Now, said guy has always been a braying idiot who was wrong about everything.  But I worry for the other people.

A thought for the new year: try to stay home for a bit and make some things that might last, please?

And yes, yes, I know, precarity, cobbled-together career skeins, gets harder all the time, freedom versus drowning in platform capitalism, I know.

But a privileged white man from Silicon Valley with an address list fatter than Ron Jeremy’s phone book did it all century and has fuck all to show for it, so how do you think that’s going to work out for you?

 

READING: REPUBLIC OF LIES, Anna Merlan, which is fucking brilliant (PREORDER UK) (PREORDER US)