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.


Sane At First

He asked, “And do you know what Lord Lodestone expects from such a deal?” “Not really. I used to think it was simply a crackpot’s dream that we were trying to use to our own ends. But Lord Lodestone, in the two or three meetings I’ve had with him, does not appear to be a crackpot at all. Eccentric, certainly, but with one of the sanest, soundest minds I’ve ever encountered. But then, he’s English. They all seem sane at first.

— from LUMINOUS CHAOS, Jean-Christophe Valtat  (UK) (US)

I also like this bit from the same book:

We are deeply persuaded, Mr. Orsini, that Architecture can raise people to a higher degree of knowledge, of sensation, of individual and collective self-consciousness—to the heights of a living myth, to … illumination. Building is the only way we have to live up to the power of Nature in us.”

Anticipating The Unknown

I’m speaking at this thing in London called “Anticipating The Unknown” on July 18  – eventbrite link – part of the Virtual Futures programme.

“Anticipating The Unknown” is something I find myself having to talk about in public, for some reason.  Did a whole talk around it at How The Lights Get In a couple of years ago, thought that would be the last of it, and then had to resurrect it several times afterwards.

There’s a thing I say: as writers of fiction, we speculate on the available information and test out futures from the broad weatherfront of possibilities in front of us, acting as early warning stations for the culture.

Of course, we can’t make anyone listen to us.  And, in the famous phrase, there are always unknown unknowns that nobody sees coming.

There are some points in time where that all sounds a little too hopeful and a little too weak – when things feel like they’re accelerating and everything’s just a little bit nuts, events a little too unexpected.  It feels a little bit reactionary to hold on to that aphorism above when everything feels like it’s going bugfuck.

If you follow that all the way down, of course, you end up believing that you’re living in a set of special circumstances and the Great Attractor at the end of history is spinning up to enact the Singularity.

Keep checking your weather vane and your barometer. Always be questioning the method and testing the air.  But always remember that sometimes it’s just a weird patch, and not the final acceleration into a zone where physics stop working.


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


Requirements 7jul17

  • Never be afraid to throw away a want.  Wants change, goalposts move, and resolutions and ambitions are not binding contracts
  • Good bluetooth earbuds with a decent battery life, because I will have to upgrade my phone this year which means I’ll have to give up the headphone jack because phone makers are fucking stupid greedy monsters
  • I need to get on a plane soon.  I need to junp off this angry, defeated little rock and wake up somewhere strange.
  • A leather bracelet, I think. I have a watch on my left wrist and my right wrist looks empty.  I’m presuming that this thought, all on its own, is a sign that I’m due another stroke-like episode.  Who looks at their wrists and thinks, hmm, that looks unbalanced?  Someone unbalanced, that’s who.
  • Four days in an undisclosed and secret location where I can just turn everything off and sit outside with a notebook and listen to music and think and ignore everything but the weather and the sun falling down and the stars lighting up and the things that minds can do.
  • Lunch.


The Sydarthur Festival 2

Got the below programme in the mail.  Came as a complete surprise.  Last year, the Cope family – Dorian, Avalon and Julian – put up a month of songs and writing surrounding the confluence of Syd Barrett and Arthur Lee, who died 28 days apart.  “This is – in the psychedelic spirit of its two major players – a mind-manifesting festival. No pricey tickets, no camping like sardines in some infernal swamp.” I’m not the world’s greatest psychedelia aficionado, but last year I found something beautiful and information on every day.

Additionally, they write: “Between the pillars of Arthur and Syd lies a rich fertile land inhabited by a multitude of psychedelic events and of artists, authors and practitioners whose births and deaths fall within this 28-day period.”  And so the Copes occupy an entire continuum on these 28 days.

You can even buy the rather lovely programme that Dorian so kindly sent me, complete with CD and commentary from the magisterial Julian Cope, creator of some of my favourite musics.  (Everybody should own ODIN, as far as I’m concerned.)

On July 7, begin at sydarthurfestival.com.


Extelligence And Minimum Viable Internetting

From this piece here:

Connection is inevitable: Most of these experts argued that humans crave connectivity, and they will seek more of it due to its convenience and out of necessity because it will simply be embedded in more and more things. One thoughtful framing of this idea came from Dan McGarry, media director at the Vanuatu Daily Post. “Connection is inevitable,” he wrote. “It’s what [Terry] Pratchett, [Ian] Stewart and [Jack] Cohen call extelligence. So much of human experience is based outside of the human being these days, you can’t be a functioning adult and remain unconnected.” An anonymous respondent put it this way: “The stickiness and value of a connected life will be far too strong for a significant number of people to have the will or means to disconnect.”

A lot to unpack in that piece, relevant to many recent thoughts.  “Extelligence” is unavoidably a consumer purchase, of course.  What is Minimum Viable Connection, at this point?  Just heard a story about a writer who’s going email-free for twelve months – to contact them, one has to email their assistant, who will presumably speak to them. Outsourced connective function.  Interesting power statement, too.  Like being rich enough to drink all the wine and then pay someone to have your hangover for you.

Currently finishing: ESSAYISM,  Brian Dillon (UK) (US)


And Balance

Everyone tells me I’m working too much, and everything is fully insane from the moment my eyes can focus to about three and a half minutes before I go to bed.  And, while I am sorely in need of a day off, and face-to-face conversations with other humans, and occasionally have trouble waking all the way up before 3pm… it feels good.  I feel good.  Bursts of extended travel, loads of interesting email and messaging, turning the volume of it all down for protracted writing sessions and then stepping back into the tide of material to process and approve and discuss and tweak… It’s mad, and there is literally 3.5 minutes between me getting up from the keyboard and me being in bed.  But it’s in balance.  I have the outside world filtered out.  It’s just me, my comrades and fellow travellers, the news and the music, and the work.

I’m absent from the world in a lot of ways that I never used to be, and I have some fine-tuning to do, but, generally, I’m present in a way that works for me.  Nothing’s perfect — but nothing’s ever perfect.  And I realised earlier this week that I have, for some while, been at peace.  It’s all insane and overwhelming and exhausting and it takes everything I’ve got, every day.  But.  I’m at peace.

What’s next?


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