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)

 

BEAST: The Mad Reach Of Hermitage

Read Paul Kingsnorth’s new book, BEAST, in two nights. His previous, THE WAKE, was set in the 11th Century – the story of Buccmaster of the Lincolnshire Fens fighting a guerrilla war against the invading Normans. BEAST is set in the present day, and the brutal, dispossessed but clearly demented Buccmaster becomes the broken hermit Edward Buckmaster, living on an unnamed English moor. Think of it, perhaps, as taking place down the hill and across the moor from China Mieville’s THIS CENSUS-TAKER.
Like THE WAKE, it’s about landscape and myth and mental states. BEAST is, perhaps, despite the title, a gentler, sadder book. Edward Buckmaster is framed as having serious issues from the start, having abandoned a partner and very young child to live in an abandoned farm building in the middle of nowhere. The text isn’t explicit, but an accident during a stormy night precipitates either a stroke or a mental break.
I wonder if Kingsnorth realises how much this story of a modern hermit being subsumed by the landscape is an argument against hermitage. I mean, probably. But it’s a grimly arresting piece of work about a mental breakdown. THE WAKE’s linguistic fireworks aside, it hit essentially the same theme, and, with the forthcoming third leg of this trilogy to be set in the future, I can’t help but suspect it’s all going to speak as a dark warning against his own Uncivilisation project. Buckmaster is not discovering his true self and the true shape of the world in his hermitage. He’s causing pain, going insane and coming apart. BEAST, though a smaller and slighter thing than THE WAKE, is spellbinding.
BEAST, Paul Kingsnorth (UK) (US)

San Francisco Bay Blues

It appears that I’m going to be in San Francisco on December 6.  Probably not for more than 24 hours.  The very generous Robin Sloan will be talking to me at a place called Kepler’s Books.

I haven’t been in the Bay Area in probably ten years. Frank Chu didn’t have corporate sponsorship yet. Oakland was being gentrified. Ish. The place was just starting to go weird again, after that “between the wars” period of the dotcom bust.  All those apartments south of Market standing empty, their vendor signs trumpeting their “T1 lines in every unit!” fading and warping. Just starting to have to fight through wheezing vegans flocking for their fucking soy chai lattes just to get a cup of fucking coffee. Gigs in parking lots. Feeding entire long tables of people at sushi joints for less than forty bucks!

I remember the first time I pitched up at the corner of Haight and Ashbury.  It was a place I’d been reading about for years. It was 1997, maybe? Christ. Nearly twenty years ago.  (I mean, it was a shithole, and two or three blocks down I remember Grant Morrison spotting a NAMBLA publication in a store window.  But you could see around all the crap.)  I wasn’t quite thirty, and hadn’t quite had all the romance beaten out of me. This was a place that books came from, where a culture briefly grew.

For almost a decade, the Bay Area was one of the most comfortable places in the world for me.  And then, suddenly, it wasn’t.  Going back is going to be weird. Even for a day.  Still. Maybe I’ll get to see City Lights one more time.

 

READING: NECESSARY TROUBLE, Sarah Jaffe  (UK) (US)

 

Motionless Monday

I’ve been up for more than five hours and don’t appear to have achieved anything yet today.  This does not bode well.

“All the centuries drop away, and I am in the presence of something that does not know time.” – BEAST, Paul Kingsnorth

“Counsellor Akimoto is reputed to have wished to ‘gaze upon the moon in blameless exile.’’  – HOJOKI

I should just soak up the laziness.  I suspect I’m going to be in motion again soon.  The outside world is starting to become insistent about it. My travel kit is scattered all over the house.

But, on days like that, I do not know time, and blameless exile is my state.

…I should probably get dressed, right?

 

My Health

This is a thing that people ask me about, from time to time.  It’s been over a year since my Medical Event, and people ask out of kindness, curiosity or in a bid to calculate when they’ll finally get rid of me.

I have wildly fluctuating blood pressure and what my doctors are pleased to call “hypertensive stress.”  This means that my body’s reaction to the slightest stress or anxiety is to ramp it up to paralysing levels and then try to make me die.  Not actually joking about that last part.  My body has tried to die twice now.

“You’re young to have hypertensive stress,” the doctor said.  “I’ve been a freelance writer for more than twenty years,” I said.

It’s hard to avoid stress as a freelance writer, even at my advanced age. But avoiding stress is, frankly, the only thing that’s going to keep me alive.

Chances are that you’re reading this via a link from Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or Tumblr. Those posts are automated.  I won’t see your responses, I’m afraid. Aside from a couple of work-related events, I’m going to be off the public internet until next year. I may not see your emails to my public Gmail account for days.

My days are built for peace now. They’re private, and often very isolated, but they are soft and simple. They’re slow, most of the time, and full of music and words and flavours. So that, when the work madness does hit – and the last few months – hell, the last few days! – have been insane – when it hits, I’m in a better place to manage it.  And the work madness is the only madness I live with now.  Trust me, that’s enough.

So, yeah, you may not see me around as much, and I’ll move away from anything that looks stressy or toxic, but, if you were wondering: I’m doing fine.

And I have a large glass of red wine every day.  For the resveratrol.  Seriously.