The Flowstate

Writing through the next twelve days before I get on a plane to a private conference in an almost absurdly remote location.  Looking for the flowstate, which is a term I just lifted from Nick Harkaway’s GNOMON, because it fits so well.  In writing, you hope for that magic hour where everything just fits and “all the synchronicities are winking” (that’s from Jamie Delano, I think) and time drops away and it’s just you and the stream of words that are effortless and right and good.

(And then you look at them a day or two later and no, they’re not all good, but that’s okay, because now it’s all out in front of you and you can fix it before anyone else can see it and recognise you for the obvious idiot you are.)

It’s close.  I can feel it.  It better be.  I’m finishing the second volume of the thing below, which has its first volume released next month.

I don’t mind the days of chipping at the rock to find the sculpture hidden inside.  I don’t mind the days of solving problems like a codebreaker, hunched over the notepad and scribbling numbers and maps and arrows. But I want to live in the flowstate.

 

Reading: GNOMON, Nick Harkaway (UK) (US)  It’s an advance copy.  It’s superbly written. I kind of want to kill him.

 

After The End

What I need is a post-death internet service.  This is something people have been talking about a lot over the last few years. I don’t know if any true solutions were found for the thing that, this morning, I think I’d like the most.  A year after I die, I’d like to post to Twitter or something. Hell, who even knows if Twitter will be there by then. He said, as if he were likely to outlive any internet service.  Maybe it should go to my newsletter system instead.

But: just a message, a year after I die. Saying, hi, I died a year ago, but I just wanted to tell you something.

Which, yes, is unsettling enough on its own, I know. It’s not unamusing to me, obviously.  But.

Hi.  I died a year ago, but I just wanted to tell you something. I loved being with you all, and I hope you’re all making the most out of life, because we only get one go on the ride. Hold on tight.

But I think mostly I probably just want to scare the shit out of people.

I’m not buying an URL for a digital haunting service DON’T LOOK AT ME

Reading: ACADIE, Dave Hutchinson (UK) (US)

 

Folklore Situationism

NORTHERN EARTH gives me joy.  The September issue has a big, rich piece on psychogeography, phenomenology, landscape writing, history and, most tellingly for me, folklore.  For me, it tied right in to the mechanic of myth in STAR SHIPS – the transmission of lore through story. I’m still thinking about this talk I have to do next month, Myth And The River Of Time.

Moving through America, I always find myself noticing and thinking that American roads and bridges are named after Americans. I live in a country where roads and bridges are named for ghost stories.  Screaming Boy Lane and Boggart’s Bridge.

Dramatising the landscape, which we’ve done since megalithic times and before.

Landscape writing seems to eventually take a turn into nationalism.  I never quite got that. Myth is a commonwealth.  And you know that, somewhere, sometime, someone drives on one of those roads or bridges in America and leans back and tells a myth of the person it’s named for, a truth grown in time, a thing they did or saw that becomes story in the telling.

They have a website where you can buy a year’s subscription for ten pounds British.

 

Twin Peaks: The Curtain Call

It was never going to end well.

From Wikipedia’s entry on David Lynch’s unmade film project RONNIE ROCKET:

Ronnie Rocket concerned the story of a detective seeking to enter a mysterious second dimension, aided by his ability to stand on one leg. He is being obstructed on this quest by a strange landscape of odd rooms and a threatening train; while being stalked by the “Donut Men”, who wield electricity as a weapon.

Cooper attempted a classically heroic thing in an age and place where classical heroes have no agency or ground. Good can never win. Laura Palmer will always be dead, her murder will never have meaning extracted from it, and the continual attempt to do either will doom Dale Cooper forever.  This is what we do.  We destroy beauty and invite abstracts of hate to live inside us and we will never be free.

Eighteen hours that destroyed almost every remaining rule around American television. It made television experiential in a way it hasn’t been for a long time. And nobody is going to make an episode of television as mesmeric and magisterial as Episode 8 for a while.

If those of us who work in storytelling aren’t picking this show apart for the rest of the year, then we are walking away from an immense gift Mark Frost and David Lynch gave us that we did not deserve.

I’m probably going to get into this more in my newsletter on Sunday.  You can subscribe at this link.

 

Randoms 6sep17

  • 30-minute mix of “This Corrosion” created by Andrew Liles of Nurse With Wound
  • Blair Thornburgh: “Never forget: the Icelandic word for computer (tölva) combines the words for “number” and “seeress,” so basically a computer = number-witch.”
  • 115 years pegged as “maximum human lifespan”  but if you’re one of those restricted-calorie people then you die at 65 but it just feels like 115 years
  • next time you read one of those “geniuses wear the same uniform every day” things, ask yourself if you are in fact Albert Einstein? No? Then wear what you fucking like. Failing to take pleasure in your life will kill you quicker than deciding what to wear.

Just arrived on Kindle: ACADIE, Dave Hutchinson (UK) (US)

 

No Less Than Mystic

I have many fine-looking books by many excellent authors waiting to be read, and I’m desperate to read them, but I have a confession. When NO LESS THAN MYSTIC by John Medhurst arrived, I dropped everything to start it. And it hasn’t let go.

It’s a history of Lenin, the Bolsheviks and the Russian Revolution.

I feel like I need to yell HEAR ME OUT.

The brilliance of Medhurst’s political histories — and some of you will remember me praising his previous THAT OPTION NO LONGER EXISTS — is his sharp eye for the pivot points and the alternative routes history could have taken. Or, put another way – alternate histories are buried in his actual histories. He will lead you to fly off into fascinating could-have-beens, big ones that start with small corrected missteps or slightly different arrangements of personalities. There are wonders compressed in his books.

The additional pleasure of NO LESS THAN MYSTIC is that he looks back from a 21st Century perspective, with no interest in being chained to the previous moment. From the blurb, in fact, he:

continually examines the Leninist experiment through the lens of a 21st century, de-centralised, ecological, anti-productivist and feminist socialism. Throughout its narrative it interweaves and draws parallels with contemporary anti-capitalist struggles such as those of the Zapatistas, the Kurds, the Argentinean “Recovered Factories”, Occupy, the Arab Spring, the Indignados and Intersectional feminists, attempting to open up the past to the present and points in between.

This fills out the book in remarkable ways, and, frankly, allows Medhurst to put the boot into Lenin from a number of different angles.

(It could be usefully read in tandem with Catherine Merridale’s LENIN ON THE TRAIN, which was not nearly as soft and romantic a book as some idiot reviewers would have you believe.)

This is a big, energetic, ambitious book that deserves every success. A hell of a performance.

NO LESS THAN MYSTIC, John Medhurst (UK) (US)

 

On Ships Of Gold

And sails of rust. Autumn glides across the horizon at night. The light snap of crisp air that lets you know summer’s almost done.

I’m battening down the hatches for the year.  Hermitage begins. I’m done with the outside world for a while. Unless it’s in real rooms with real people – Alesund, Amsterdam, York and Utrecht beckon in the next two months. Hermits walked into towns all the time – that’s how you knew they were out there.

And so I turn back to my journal, to test my thinking and assemble my ideas.  From Brian Dillon’s ESSAYISM, again: “The mythology of the ascetic fragmentist, living his most productive years like a penniless student in Paris, nursing his aphorisms…”

And, once more, this one, as a bookmark for the journal:

Montaigne, who writes in his essay ‘Of Practice’: What I write here is not my teaching, but my study; it is not a lesson for others, but for me. And yet it should not be held against me if I publish what I write. What is useful to me may also by accident be useful to another. Moreover, I am not spoiling anything, I am only using what is mine. And if I play the fool, it is at my expense and without harm to anyone. For it is a folly that will die with me, and will have no consequences.

Autumn always feel good.  Summer is nice, but autumn is me.

(Robert) Burton called melancholy ‘the rust of the soul’

Sailing in gold and rust towards the quiet waters and the good light.

 

ESSAYISM, Brian Dillon (UK) (US)

“On Ships Of Gold” is actually a superb song by Black Heart Procession, on their album THREE.  (UK) (US)

AI And The Sudden Skyscrapers In The Brain

I’m not sold on AI.  Machine learning is one thing.  General artificial intelligence is something I have problems with, on several levels.  Inorganic Intelligence is probably a less sexy term.  Or perhaps even Machine Cognition.  There always seems to be assumptions around self-reflective consciousness in AI discussion, particularly when the likes of Elon Musk are working the room for reputational means leading to fresh money.

We don’t understand how organic consciousness works.  Frankly, we don’t have a great understanding of how human cognition works, given that we only recently found out that human neuronal cliques perform cognition in eleven-dimensional mathematical structures.  I’m not putting a capstone atop “things humans can do” – it’s entirely possible that one day we will figure out how that all works and find ways to emulate it in machines. But it ain’t on a Ray Kurzweil tineframe.

The other half of that argument, of course, is that we wished to emulate the flight of birds, but 747s don’t flap their wings up and down.  We find other ways to emulate the condition of that we covet.  So there may be ways to achieve general artificial intelligence with awareness who decide to exterminate us all because we keep trying to fuck them like Japanese sex robots.

In a couple of months I have to go and talk coherently about all this to people in a remote location in Norway, so it’s time to start sorting it out in my own head.

 

Just received: LIFE 3.0, Max Tegmark (UK) (US)

 

The Ridiculous Gaps

I should eat breakfast. I should eat thirty grams of protein within thirty minutes of waking up, as my body does respond to that quite well. I have any number of financially-useful skills.  I can do precisely fuck all within ninety minutes of waking up except maybe type. I have a Tassimo machine because I cannot operate the kettle or the Aeropress first thing in the morning.  This is how I wake up:

 

 

Just full speed AAAAA WHAT THE FUCK and grab the phone and AAAAA ELEVENTY MESSAGES OF ALL KINDS and drag myself down the stairs and quite seriously if it wasn’t PRESS BUTTON MAKE COFFEE HAPPEN I would simply die on the floor of the kitchen.  Preparing food?  Forget it.  I used to rely on protein bars, but I don’t want the sugar in me.  Tim Ferriss fans, I am not eating fucking sardines first thing in the day. Also I would probably slash myself to ribbons just opening the tin.  I have fresh eggs piling up from the chickens in the garden because I never have it together enough to make that fantasy omelette after the first shot of espresso.

Ridiculous gaps in my ability to function as a human.  Of all the absurd things to have to accept about yourself: that you will never achieve breakfast.

READING: 300 ARGUMENTS, Sarah Manguso (UK) (US)

Nine 1/2 Weeks

Nine and a half weeks.  Until I leave the house again for any period longer than 24 hours, basically.  It just dawned on me today.  I have a screenplay to write, several issues of comics, three lectures and a handful of other things.  And it won’t stop raining.  I’m trapped in this idiot country under Brexit Austerity Weather until autumn, at which point I will go to Norway and probably freeze my tits off and then go to Amsterdam and probably get rained on some more and then go to York where it will probably be sleeting and then go back to the Netherlands by which time there will be hailstones the size of a chimp’s fist and then it will be practically Xmas and I dunno flash floods and new kinds of weather that we’ll have to make up names for like Subzero Voids and Skin-Rippers and Homicide Storms and Eternal Maximum Darknesses.

My producers are going to be really surprised when this true-crime screenplay arrives as a monologue by a man in a crater talking about all the ways in which everyone he knew was murdered by the sky.

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I swear this was not the online journal that was supposed to sound like night blogging.  Good morning.