After all the travel I had in February – April, and all the people who asked for them, I had business cards made. And then I barely left the house except for meetings with people who already had all my contact details and didn’t need business cards.
I felt weird even having them made, but I had a space of several weeks where I was being asked for one several times a day. And here I thought business cards had gone away. I assumed it was all NFC vCards now, or just texting people your details, or maybe tapping in a Twitter @ or something, or maybe people really were using LinkedIn., or something The Youngs had invented that I was unaware of because I am An Old and considering profferring thin slices of tree to people like a fucking Neanderthal. No, out in the world, it turns out business cards are somehow still a thing. How was that even possible?
So now I have a box of them, and nobody to give them to, because the world turned and now I’m just doing meetings on extant projects. Look at it. Little coffin.
Recently read and recommended: THAT OPTION NO LONGER EXISTS: BRITAIN 1974-76, John Medhurst (UK) (US)
…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.
Those odd moments when you find in history the perfect description of the things you do today. Like this journal. It should be the standing header.
Found in ESSAYISM, by Brian Dillon, which is rather a good book. (UK) (US). Also:
But the desire of the essay is not to seek and filter the eternal out of the transitory; it wants, rather, to make the transitory eternal.
Also relevant to my interests and list of jobs on my whiteboard right now. Wisdoms.
I ended a talk in Manchester a couple of years ago with this:
Magic is our language and our story, and we can’t ride the ghost train into a future of haunted machines without them.
I can add something new to that thought. Myth is the carrier wave of civilisation. Put simpler: astrology leads to astronomy leads to navigation. Imbedded in the former are the conditions for the latter. This comes to me from STAR SHIPS by Gordon White, a book I read a couple months ago and is still haunting me to the point where I think I’m going to have to re-read it next month.
He speculatively reconstructs ancient belief systems and applies them to a broader-scale investigation of the emergence of humans from Africa. His background is in data analysis, I believe, and he combines being wild-eyed with being clear-eyed in a remarkable, entertaining and thought-provoking way.
I seem to recall saying to Fraction, “I just want to read something that will freak my shit out,” and mythemes from the Laurasian landmass informing intellectually advanced pockets in Micronesia were really just the top of this slide. White is careful about his own solves, scathing about the woolly-mindedness of others, almost completely skates around ancient-alien bullshit, and builds his speculations as clearly and solidly as he can. I want to re-read it and talk more about it. It’s a marvellous piece of work – it delights, informs, provokes and freaks your shit out.
STAR SHIPS, Gordon White (UK) (US)
I just discovered dungeon synth and god damn do I wish I’d had this to listen to over the winter.
Also need to remind myself that I have three talks to write for autumn. One needs to be one of those anthemic call-to-action things that I somehow find remarkably easy. Believe it or not, I’m not always a walking demotivational poster. I can do the uplifting stuff standing on my head, weirdly. One is a talk for my visiting professorship at York St John University, which is probably going to be a dive into the mechanisms of narrative. The last one is actually going to be the hardest, even though it’s a space I’m intimate with – the whole ghosts/magic/technology field of confluence that’s been a Thing for the last few years. I’ve done these talks before, several times. Hauntology was a fun game in the atemporality days, but we’re into the skid now, and airy cod-philosophy on the relationship between occult language and ghost stories and information technology has an indefinable whistling-past-the-graveyard quality to it for me today. I’m placed on the “myth” end of the festival structure, possibly because I’m seen in public so rarely that I might be mythical, and I need to find something to say that looks at the now and the next as hard as the ‘how we got here, in mythical magical historical terms.” The bell tolls.
(It did, actually, right in the middle of my closing keynote at FutureEverything, just as I took a pause. My finest moment as a public speaker.)
And, all of a sudden, I’m reminded of all the people who came up to me at the future-of-spaceflight conference and told me we, they, need new stories and new myths. I’ve set a terrible job for myself. But, this time, this full-speed weird-as-hell year, I need to not sound like the thousandth Radiophonic Workshop pastiche on Bandcamp.
See what I did there, with the ghost stories and the whistling past the graveyard? See that? Kill me. I’m an idiot.
Just picked up to read: TROPIC OF KANSAS, Christopher Brown (UK) (US)
It’s time to start writing a new book. Which means, really, that it’s time to start staring into space and thinking about it, because I have several more things to finish before I can really dig into it. This could be weeks. Right now, it’s a couple of plaintext files of lines and thoughts and a couple of pages of rough notes and bullet points in a Moleskine. I have a Field Notes notebook on the shelf that it will start to get developed in, but I can’t let myself pick it up and write the working title on the cover until June. This phase is sort of like mental indigestion. The idea is lodged in a tube somewhere inside my collapsing body. And I can’t choke it up for another month. Worse: when it comes out, it might just be too rotten to use, and then I won’t be writing a new book after all.
But, if all goes well, this is where my journal starts getting even more disconnected and abstract than usual. But, you know, that’s really what it’s here for. Also I will drop off the face of the world unless you know me personally and are in regular contact. Looking at a long hermitage ahead.
I just wrote a blurb for this amazingly fucked-up crime book by Jeff Johnson with the brilliant title of DEADBOMB BINGO RAY. (UK) (US)
The Echo Show – which I can’t buy in the UK, of course, because Amazon thinks we’re a third world country, so go to Amazon.com to look at it, I suppose — is probably the device that should have come before the Echo and the Dot. It’s the actual device you want in the kitchen. Or, at least, the one I would want in the kitchen. I get up, I go to the kitchen, I make coffee — I want to know what the weather’s doing, what the news is, what deliveries are lined up for the day, and I want it at a glance, and I probably also want to be able to shout at it. But, crucially, I don’t want to have to make it try and understand my voice first thing in the morning. Because nobody can, because I’m not fully awake. I want a touchscreen I can stab a finger in the general direction of, like the comfused and debilitated hominid I am, and have it do things. This is what a “home assistant,” or whatever we call these things, should do and be. It’s the kitchen station the Echo should always have been. The voice-activated networked speaker idea was very clever, but it wasn’t very human.
(A degree of ableist privilege here, I’ll admit. But given that the Echo voice-interaction ability is baked into the Echo Show too, the device is exclusionary neither to the deaf or the blind.)
Amazon’s fearsome, ruthless iteration process really is a thing to behold.
This is a photo of some other things that recently arrived in my house because I am British and therefore not allowed to own an Amazon Echo.
“Dark Social” is the notion that people share “content” via private/secure messaging apps, one-to-one or one-to-select-group. That social sharing activity can’t be measured in any useful way. There is no freely-available prosumer tool to quantify the sharing of a link. Hence, they call it “dark social.” When you hear someone say “dark social,” they’re bemoaning the inability to get click reports off of actual conversation. Because when you see someone on the street head-down in their phone and dabbing away at the screen, they’re not cut off from the outside world. They’re talking to people. Fuck your Black Mirror narrative – they’re just more interested in a window to their friends and family than they are in you peering at them in judgement. And all that action of being engaged in a life of having your loved ones in your hand all the time and being able to show them things and talk about it? That’s Dark Social now.
RECENTLY BLURBED: the excellent forthcoming novel by Jeff Noon, A MAN OF SHADOWS. Preorder links (UK) (US)