Elementum

On the top of the magazine stack on my office shelf – ELEMENTUM 1.  You can download a preview from this page here. The print is, frankly, a little small and thin for my ageing eyes, and I have to put bright light on some of the pages to bring out the text – the photography is allowed to take advantage of the large page size, but the writing isn’t.  But it’s a gorgeous object about nature and myth, and the writing is resonant, crossing themes from conservation and straight nature writing to music, poetry and a lovely little pen-portrait of a Cornish village. Worth the eye-strain.

 

Networks Of New York

NETWORKS OF NEW YORK arrived in print, and I read most of in an afternoon at a local place that brings me wine and meat. It’s a new book by my acquaintance Ingrid Burrington, whom I met when we were speaking together at Haunted Machines in Manchester, and whom I nearly killed onstage by idly suggesting that I couldn’t look at the Snapchat branding without seeing the ghost of a dead baby and wondering what the fuck was up with that.  There’s video of her covering her face and creasing over. Ingrid’s great. And, more importantly, much smarter than me and much less likely to say such terrible things in public.  Ingrid is observant.  And this book is Ingrid at full power.

It is, simply put, a field guide to the physical signs of the network in New York. It’s also a history, and a consideration of the nature of living inside the internet. It is completely fascinating, from the hobo code of street markings to the spider-ate-fly corporate evolutions that tangle up the law and the money mantling every cable, pipe and junction under the city. It’s a history of the internet, a history of New York, a history of communications and a history of business, all at once. And it’s a gorgeous production- the design is superb. Very recommended.

NETWORKS OF NEW YORK, Ingrid Burrington (UK) (US)

 

September 1

First time in years that autumn hasn’t suddenly happened on September 1. There’s a slight clean coolness in the breeze, but it’s otherwise 21 degrees and bright.  Here I was, all ready to descend into the long autumn – it has a tendency to last into January, these days, and last year it ran from September to May. I realised last night that I’m booked, work-wise, until the end of the year. I’m actually almost disappointed that today it’s not cold enough for workshirts and a withdrawal from the grey skies into long easy days inside the house with spiced coffee and mulled wine.

The last of the butterflies are dancing in the garden. The last of the summer espresso in the cup.  Waiting for the long autumn, but I’ll happily take the light while it’s here.

Morning, computer.

Reading: NETWORKS OF NEW YORK, Ingrid Burrington (UK) (US)

 

At The End Of The Summer

Walking back from my local place, happily full of red wine and bresaola, shades on against a cloudless 31C early afternoon — 88 F for you benighted Americans — there was a moment when the humidity lifted, the street went quiet, and I was suddenly transported back to summers I used to know. Humidity’s been an increasing issue out here on the coast.  All of a sudden, it lifted, and the sun was just blazing and everything was bright and clean and real.

Autumn has a habit of switching on at the turn of September, as if at the flick of a toggle. It’s 33 as I write this, and the weather forecast has the heat spiraling down after today.   This is the last big day of summer.  And I feel compelled to record the pleasure of standing there on the street with a book in my hand, suddenly under the sunshine of an old summer, the years burning off and all the joys becoming simple again.

 

Reading: NETWORKS OF NEW YORK, Ingrid Burrington (UK) (US)

 

 

 

 

I Probably Shouldn’t Be Drinking Beer

I have a glass of red wine a day. I take a resveratrol capsule most days, too – about to start a course that’s paired with nicotinamide. Red wine is good for me.  Yes?  Yes.  Probably.  Beer?  I’m guessing probably not so much.  I wasn’t a big beer drinker for a very long time – working in rural pubs and being around the stink of old beer all day will put many people off it.

Supposedly, the occasional ale will help save me from dementia, lower my cholesterol, add fibre to my system, give me a decent dose of zinc and potassium, de-clot me, strengthen my bones and support my kidneys.

Most importantly, however – beer is currently believed to reduce hypertensive stress.  And hypertensive stress is what’s going to kill me, provided nothing else does.

I only drink the good beer.  You’ll never see me drink anything off an electronic carbonated tap.  Southwold beers off a hand pump – god, I missed those during that year I spent batting around the States.  Or Doom Bar out of Cornwall. Christ, I’m talking myself into walking up to the Railway for a pint of Mosaic or Ghost Ship.

I probably shouldn’t be drinking beer.  But life’s too short to not drink the good beer.  A little of what you fancy does you good, my father once said to me.

Of course, he was actually, literally on his death bed at the time.

I really probably shouldn’t be drinking beer.

 

FSG reduced the price of the first part of my digital book serial to 99 cents or local equivalent.  (UK) (US) and everywhere else in the world on all the other systems like iBooks and Nook and Google and whatever.

 

Tricorder Metaphor

I had occasion, the other week, to do some quick research internetting in search of wearable sensors. (For INJECTION.) The sort of thing where you might clip an environmental sensor to your jacket or bag. Like the Scarab, which Kickstarted in 2015 – and hasn’t shipped yet. The Pebble Core is a clip-on networked computer that can be used for… streaming Spotify and, if in the US, ordering shit on Amazon, while running. I can’t even find good plug-in sensors for iPhones. I assumed I’d just lost track of the field, and the world was just swarming with little devices that sniffed the air and looked at the sky and talked to phones. Am I missing something?

(I bought a Pebble Time Steel smartwatch largely on the promise of “smartstraps” – in this design, power can be sent through the watch to the strap, to run additional computing modules laid therein. As far as I know, nobody’s shipped any yet.)

I don’t like to go to Star Trek metaphors – not least because, as I’ve pointed out in the past, Captain Kirk had to tune his communicator and it couldn’t take photos and post them to Instagram – but I feel like the tricorder metaphor should have been and gone by now. As old and tired and dumb as that sounds. What about this have I gotten wrong?

Something about this is bugging me.  I think I’m going to be picking at it a bit.

 

Roadside

I haven’t been on the road for so long that I’ve forgotten how to do it. Amazon’s been getting a lot of business from me over the last few days as I replace stuff, order back-ups (you never want to be left without a working set of earbuds) or add a few new wrinkles to the kit. The Nomad Carabiner charging cables look like a stroke of genius – just clip them to the strap of the bag and forget about them until you need them. Carrying a wireless keyboard for my phone means that, once again, I can leave the laptop at home for short trips.  I’ve spent enough time on the road in the past to kind of obsess about my travel kit. The right set-up takes away a lot of the pain of running a few different careers on your own while being away from headquarters.

Soon it will be time to go.  I’ve been sat on my fat arse in my warm house so long that I don’t wanna.

NOMAD CARABINER iPhone  (UK) (US)

NOMAD CARABINER micro-USB  (UK) (US)

 

My Own Timeline In Black And White

I was re-reading the big collection of Eddie Campbell’s ALEC stories yesterday – I have a story idea/approach/undefinedthing itching away at the back of my head, and a train of thought ended with the little still grace notes that Eddie achieved in those stories.  So I pulled out the book and spent a pleasant hour re-reading chunks of it.

What I always forget is how that book is a personal time machine for me.  Much of it, you see, is set in my part of the world.  Eddie lived here in the 70s and early 80s, you see – I think he left just as I was entering my mid-teens.  So, when I open an ALEC book, I see my town as it was when I was growing up.  Which isn’t an unusual experience with art if you live in, say, New York City, or London, or some other vibrant and picturesque place where serious history happened.  You don’t get it much if you lived in a village outside a minor seaside town.

But there’s the bus stop on Chichester Road, just as it was, with the number 20 bus to Hullbridge that my friend used to take home.  There’s Crocs nightclub, which became the Pink Toothbrush, also sometimes known as the Bogbrush.

As much as I revel in the work – and Campbell was a revelation to me when I first discovered his work, back when he was still photocopying his comics! – the thing that makes me sit down and think, in the moments I get to spend with his book, is that rare experience of seeing your own history as art.

THE YEARS HAVE PANTS, Eddie Campbell (UK) (US)

alec

Finding The System That Works For You

I’m aiming for an unbroken two-month stint on MORNING COMPUTER. I have a hand-drawn grid for it on the wall, above the whiteboard, that takes me up to October 2, and I intend to put crosses in every box on that grid. (The Seinfeld Chain.)

The key pull-quote from that is not “don’t break the chain.” but “skipping one day makes it easier to skip the next day.”

I know what works for me in terms of productivity. Like “don’t for fuck’s sake put Netflix on the big screen.”  I will produce a lot less every day if I let a tv show run on Netflix. Sometimes it works as background noise, but often it draws my eye too much – video claims too much attention. What works better is throwing up a nature documentary or an art film, something slow, and mute the window, and then put music on.  I’ve written awful bleak things to THE TURIN HORSE running under an ambient music podcast. Or, on one appalling night that I should probably never repeat, playing VARDE by Elegi over the top of it.  (A bit of it.)  (The review by RA that explains its life-extinguishing bleakness.)

Also, KNIGHT OF CUPS becomes a much better film if you mute it and play ambient music over the top of it.  (Well, no it doesn’t, but you take my point)

I work better with music on than I do with narrative sound design, generally. I like to have something on the big screen, but it should be a live internet feed of some kind, like Twitter lists or Instagram through the Grids app or glittering.blue. Everybody has a different system that works for them.  Find out what yours is. Just note down on a bit of paper what the ambience was during your last work session, and whether or not you feel like you worked well, and keep doing it – you’ll eventually see the patterns that you can combine into a system that works for you.

 

READING – ESTUARY: FROM LONDON OUT TO THE SEA, Rachel Lichtenstein (UK) (US)

 

Dear Start-Ups, This Is How You Will Die

For a brief period last year, I was doing tech journalism for Esquire.com. Interrupted by my Medical Event. I think they lost interest after that. So it’s been over a year since I did tech journalism.

I am still receiving emails from promotional outfits serving start-ups. Offering me free stuff.  Expensive free stuff, that would have to be shipped to England. All I would have to do is respond with “I would like your expensive stuff for free, in exchange for which I promise to possibly remember your name one day.”

Seriously. You can check the date on my last Esquire article.  Over a year ago.  I could have gotten literally hundreds of dollars’ worth of gear in the last two weeks alone. How many other people do you think are just taking that stuff, with no intent of ever writing about it, or even no longer having the position to write about it?

Designing and shipping physical goods is really, really hard, and really expensive.  Maybe find out if your PR company is just pissing your cash away on this.  And if you’re doing your own outreach? Learn how to use Google. It’s going to save you a lot of money in the long term. And it’s going to save me writing a lot of emails telling you that I haven’t done tech journalism in over a year and I’m not going to blatantly steal your stuff from you.

 

READING – ESTUARY: FROM LONDON OUT TO THE SEA, Rachel Lichtenstein (UK) (US)