Tumbl Down

I’m a syndicator.  I stopped wanting to silo original collections of words in other people’s systems a long time ago.  I send things from here and Longwave and Status to social networks, but they don’t originate there, and twice a year I wipe them anyway.  I have been using Tumblr since the outset, but long ago grabbed all my stuff out of there and set up a system to save anything new on my Tumblr to an offsite location.  For some considerable time, I’ve only been using it to find material – when I reblog, it triggers an IFTTT recipe that copies the material to my personal logging site.

All of which is to say, I’ve been on the internet since the dawn of the graphical web, I don’t care about public community networking, and I have a complex fee-paying system of doing things.

The people still using Tumblr do not, and neither would the next generation that came to the web and found an easy networked way to start expressing themselves in the digital space.

The removal of “adult” content on Tumblr – the guidelines for which have been stated remarkably poorly — appears to be a fairly desperate attempt to get back in the puritanical good books of the Apple App Store without at all curing the issue that got them kicked off, which was distribution of child porn imagery. The guidelines cite “female-presenting nipples” as a deletion flag, which fairly obviously surrounds a lot more than child porn.  And get that phrasing, just in case you thought they weren’t going to be screening trans and nb persons.

And I just noticed that a thing I reblogged to collect – a piece of old art entitled “The Satanic Trinity” — got flagged during the rollout of Tumblr’s new filters.  So I guess we know what’s next for them.

It’s probably too early right now to wave goodbye to this weird site that started out as a way to monetise the tumblelog style started by other people, something that was maybe a tiiiiny bit skeevy but hey not everyone’s a coder. I remember looking at tumblelogs with envy, and, frankly, no Tumblr theme ever really looked as good as the original tumblelogs.

But, for those who still watch what the internet does, this is probably the flag for Tumblr’s last lap.


The Consuming Fire

THE CONSUMING FIRE by John Scalzi sees John pretty much perfect his frictionless high-speed platinum-pulp science fiction storytelling.  I read it in two sittings. John’s stripped his style down to what people are saying and what people are thinking, with the bare minimum of staging, and the thing flies along magnetic rails.  If John was a straight crime writer, he’d have five hundred million in the bank and Lee Child would be bending the knee.  If you want to study how commercial fiction writing works, take a look at this.

This is the second in his Interdependency sequence, and if you’re missing Game Of Thrones or The Expanse, this is both.  Also, if you ever liked the Mission Impossible or Leverage tv series, you will fucking love this.  It’s court intrigue, spaceships, and a lovely long con.

He also finds time to complexify the setting, which in future books will slide it out of the science-fantasy trappings into a harder science fiction with some deep history to it.

Anyway, it’s a hell of a lot of fun, and if you want to drop out of the world for a couple of days, this is a great choice.



The Void Witch Trilogy

June 2017:

Tell me you don’t want to read a book about a space witch.  Go on.  Space witch.

KILLING GRAVITY by Corey J White is as modern a piece of genre pop space opera as you’ll find this summer, with a nicely diverse cast, a cute space ferret of death and a female protagonist most often referred to as a void-damned space witch.

I feel like you don’t need to know much else.  It’s a short book, with clear and snappy prose, very propulsive and cramming a lot into a small space.  It’s distilled, like Corey’s been waiting a while to tell the story and cooked it down into the strongest possible dose. With everything else going on in the world. you might want to lose a day to a politically-inflected yet light-footed yarn of surgical authoritarianism, non-binary space captains, cold vacuum and, I mention again, a space witch.  Go on.  It’s fun.


18 March:

VOID BLACK SHADOW by Corey J White is the sequel to KILLING GRAVITY, being the continuing science fiction tale of Mars Xi, an actual no-shit SPACE WITCH.  That probably sold the books to some of you all on its own.  (Space witch, complete with a cat-like gengineered-weirdo familiar that, in my head, always looks more like a ferret for some reason.)

VOID BLACK SHADOW was, for me, a really fast read.  It just clatters along, and it packs a lot in – a lot more than I originally expected.  Every time you think it’s going to settle into “Oh, so this is where the rest of the book is set,” White just blasts through it and throws a bunch of new stuff at you. White is due to be discovered as a John Scalzi-like crowdpleaser with sharper teeth and a real flair for the Big Stuff.

VOID BLACK SHADOW is a wild, explosive ride through the deep dark.  You’ll like it.


Last week:

STATIC RUIN by Corey J White, the concluding part of the Void Witch Trilogy.  It’s quieter than the full widescreen apocalypse of the middle part.  It’s melancholy and twisty and poisonous.  At this point, I, the reader, feel fairly sure that Mars Xi is unkillable.  But that doesn’t mean she can’t be harmed, and it doesn’t mean the sparse but affecting supporting cast can’t be murdered — we know that, the trilogy has amassed quite the body count.  But the book still has speed, and stakes, and threat, smartly winding in plot threads and materials from the other books while introducing new characters who fit well into the work’s concluding themes. He even gets away with the liiiitle bit of deus ex machina towards the end, because it’s handled so lightly and it makes you smile.



All That Remains Is Time

“I despise stories,” Béla Tarr stated. “They mislead people into believing something has happened. In fact, nothing really happens as we flee from one condition to another. All that remains is time. This is probably the only thing that’s still genuine—time itself: the years, days, hours, minutes and seconds.”

From the new introduction to the new edition of Transcendental Style in Film by Paul Schrader (UK) (US), which I’ve been re-reading.

Today I am amused by Zine Lab, a site for making “interactive” digital zines. Not a space I ever thought I’d see another player in.

This peculiar moment I’m having where I’m thinking a lot about personal digital instantiations: I could do without it.  All that remains is time, and I don’t have enough of it on any given day to be farting around with this stuff right now.

(Bela Tarr was wrong. Things happen all the time.  Stories are how we arrange them to make sense of them.)

Moving Moments In Golden Light to my phone.

Photo below taken yesterday, when it was 5 C and foggy.


Broadcast And Transmission

Universe is a fun bit of thinking — building websites on your phone, in an app.  Which means updating your website easily in an app, in theory as easy as using Instagram.  Certainly a few steps shorter than WordPress.  It could even be an amusing way to do a status page.  It doesn’t spit out an RSS feed or have anything in its code that Feedburner can grab, so it can’t really talk to the outside world — you have to subscribe to Universe pages inside the app, like following someone on a social network. Which isn’t ideal.

I feel like I want to see some more thought around getting the fuck off social networks but being able to maintain lines of connection between friends, comrades and fellow-travellers in addition to the Republic Of Newsletters and the Isles Of Blogging.  Status pages as the signals from the Invisible Monastery, or, possibly, Hobo Code marks on the walls of the web.  Planning for the oncoming dark age?

Radio beacons.

I dunno.  I feel like it’s either a fragment of an idea for maintaining connections while routing around toxic internet, or it’s MySpace pages.  Or possibly my brain is playing with this because it doesn’t want to work on the thing in front of it, but surely not, that never happens



I Will Kill My Phone If It Shouts At Me Again

It is reported that in the US alone, the average adult spends two hours and 51 minutes on their smartphone every day. That is eight minutes longer than Andrei Tarkovsky’s film Stalker.

– from DIGITAL TARKOVSKY, Metahaven (UK) (US)

I really like that idea.  That is a clever way to frame it.

Also from that book, which I’m still reading:

Our addiction to the mobile device’s platform services then enmeshes us in time intervals that run between our cravings for updates, shorter or longer latency periods when no updates happen, the moments of actual updates, and the velocities of all other events in our lives and environments. Here, also, things take time.

Having the kind of job that requires me to be in communication and make decisions as well as just, you know, writing, means that some days it becomes stupidly hard to get the phone out of my hand.  It is, yes, the taking of time – the subtraction of time.  And, as I find myself saying to people more and more, if the phone is in my hand I cannot type pages on the laptop.

I’m having one of those weeks where I’m a professional emailer and texter and I’m just venting about it.  Roll on next week, when America has their random holiday and everyone fucks off for — oh, wait, turns out I have meetings next week —

It’s a great life, but sometimes you really just want to be a writer for a while.

Listening to: TRAITS by Clovvder.

Inbox: 31 when I went to bed. I don’t dare look at it yet.



Actually managed to walk yesterday.  31 minutes, down to the overlook above the water and up to my preferred watering hole for a healthful glass of red wine.  Except that one glass of red wine isn’t healthy any more, and is now considered a thing that will kill me. Fuck it. Life without red wine would be awful.  And longer while being awful.  I remember the story of John LeMesurier being told to stop drinking or it would kill him immediately.  After a year, he told his family he just wasn’t happy without a drink.  So he started drinking again and lived another ten years or something, entirely healthily by all accounts until he, in his own words, “conked out.”

Today is three days into a medication course I have to take for some opportunistic disease bullshit I picked up at the end of my bout with this year’s Death Flu, and after that it’s time for this year’s round of blood tests, since I remain a Medical Mystery and now I am of an age where I need to be screened for diabetes every now and then.  Pity they told me that after I was sick with flu for four weeks and ate cakes because I was miserable.  Whoops.

Check out the light over the water yesterday.


LISTENING: Deep State Radio


The Status Page

I was clicking around, looking for something, when I came across this old post by Merlin Mann:

Lots of sites have status pages. I wish more people had them.

My friend, Leslie, used to do an excellent one that included updates on her beverages, hair, and stress level.  I manually update a stripped-down status that shows roughly how busy I am.

Yeah, status pages for people should be more popular, and I also wish they were a bit easier to make and maintain. It would be a nifty way to display information

Which was exactly the opposite of what I was looking for, which was an actual status page system, that perhaps tied into IFTTT (which is hard, as I think IFTTT charges services money for their integration).  I no longer wish to be an Extremely Online Person, but I would like to have an easily (or daily-automatically) updated status page showing my email load, general working condition, location and available hours.

I may just start a second blot.im instance and update a plaintext file every day.  But, of all the things microblogs and newsfeeds squashed, it’s kind of sad that you don’t see these personal, eccentric things much any more.

The thought was started by whereisfelix.today , a clever piece of coding I cannot approach or grasp, and the emulator projctr.io , which appears to be a lot less functional but you can’t get under the hood to see what they’re got unless you pay them seven Yanqui dollar.





‘Don’t you have a torch?’ he asked. Of course I had one, but I wouldn’t be able to tell where it was until morning, in the daylight. It’s a feature of torches that they’re only visible in the daytime.

DRIVE YOUR PLOW OVER THE BONES OF THE DEAD, by Olga Tokarczuk as translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones.  It’s a crime story.  It’s also a study in isolation and mental illness.  And a masterclass in literary eccentricity.

He was a man of very few words, and as it was impossible to talk, one had to keep silent. It’s hard work talking to some people, most often males. I have a Theory about it. With age, many men come down with testosterone autism, the symptoms of which are a gradual decline in social intelligence and capacity for interpersonal communication, as well as a reduced ability to formulate thoughts. The Person beset by this Ailment becomes taciturn and appears to be lost in contemplation. He develops an interest in various Tools and machinery, and he’s drawn to the Second World War and the biographies of famous people, mainly politicians and villains. His capacity to read novels almost entirely vanishes; testosterone autism disturbs the character’s psychological understanding.

The protagonist’s narration is just fascinating, and a joy to read. She lives on a plateau, somewhere in southern Poland near the Czech border, shares with a few other hermit types and a lot of animals.  One night, one of those hermit types is found to have died. And the protagonist finds evidence suggesting it may not have been a simple death.

I don’t want to say a lot more about it, save that the mystery – and the deaths that follow – tangle up the supernatural with the ecological and the social and even the literary, without ever really breaking the spell of one estranged and lonely and ageing woman who is a head smarter than anyone else she knows dealing with loss and damage and distance and an unexplained death that nobody else seems to want to solve.

Everything was starting to crackle, I could sense a feverish vibration under the grass, under the layer of earth, as if vast, underground nerves, swollen with effort, were just about to burst. I was finding it hard to rid myself of the feeling that under it all lurked a strong, mindless will, as repulsive as the force that made the Frogs climb on top of each other and endlessly copulate in Oddball’s pond.

It is marvellous and kind of heartbreaking and another phenomenal choice from one of my favourite publishers, Fitzcarraldo.  There’s nothing else quite like it.

The fact that we don’t know what’s going to happen in the future is a terrible mistake in the programming of the world. It should be fixed at the first opportunity.