Usual Hermitage Bullshit Notice

A note mostly to myself — like pretty much all the notes here — to mark that on Saturday at 1201am I turned off my social media. I have a private IG account for looking at nice pictures, and Twitter lists for news, but I’m not posting on or participating in the public internet for the next several months.  I tell people on my newsletter, all the time, to tune their internet connections until they are useful and fun.  The public internet stopped being fun for me some years ago, and I disconnect from it for half of each year at least.  I like newsletters, blogs and RSS, podcasts, email, messaging apps and complete thoughts.  The public network turned into something I don’t really enjoy or get anything out of.  I still have the autoposters that sling links to these posts on to social networks, because, fuck it, why not?  Maybe you followed one of those, read this, and thought for five seconds about what you get out of the public network.  Maybe you like things just the way they are. That’s fine.   Maybe you had another thought about how you could make your experience better. These are all just tools, and you can fiddle around with them any way you like.

Anyway.  I write in my journal here in the morning when I remember to.

Reading: DIGITAL TARKOVSKY, Metahaven (UK) (US)


Star Fear Halloween Summer

Back from London, where the weather was really disturbingly good.  Like, 25 Celsius in the middle of October good.  Very worrying. The rain came back the day after, but it was still 15, 16 degrees.  We’ve been feeling climate change for the last ten years, but Saturday should have scared the shit out of everybody.  More than when it hit 35 over the summer.

It didn’t, of course, and London was as littered with half-dressed Saturday night drunks as you’d expect.  Some places still had radiators and heat lamps on, “because it’s October,” despite the fact that we’ve had summers in previous years that were not as warm as last Saturday.  One year a frost in June killed all the seedlings the kid and I had planted and raised.

One of these days I’m going to buy a farm, convert a chunk of the land for solar and let the local permaculture people experiment with the rest.  I don’t want to go all Dark Mountain here, but if you haven’t noticed by now that we’re all in trouble, then I’m not waiting for you any more.


Recently read and loved: DRIVE YOUR PLOW OVER THE BONES OF THE DEAD, Olga Tokarczuk (UK) (US)


Recent Quotes 26sep18

When he was young and dreaming of the future, hadn’t he imagined an ideal profession which unfortunately doesn’t exist in real life? He hadn’t told anyone, and never uttered these words aloud, even to himself, but he would have liked to be a ‘mender of destinies’.


‘4′ 33″’ is not about silence at all, in fact, but the impossibility of it. This was something he discovered on visiting an anechoic chamber at Harvard University, supposedly a sensory deprivation experience, but during which he was aware of two droning sounds, high and low. These were, the duty engineer told him, the sounds of his nervous system and blood circulation respectively. And so the point of ‘4′ 33″’ is that it is the ultimate ambient piece: it consists of whatever sounds happen to fill the listening space while the musicians do not play – a passing car or overhead plane, perhaps, a shuffle, a cough or simply the sound of the venue’s central heating system. These sounds are now in the frame, just like the reflections of the observers of Rauschenberg’s black and white canvasses became their (albeit transient) subject matter.

MARS BY 1980, David Stubbs

‘My theory,’ Hole continued with an innocent smile, making him look like a boy trying to persuade his mother he should have an atomic bomb for Christmas, ‘is that…”

POLICE, Jo Nesbo

We no longer even make the mistake of the wild young ones, by claiming that our judgment is the last judgment or declaring that this is where the road ends.

THE WORLD GOES ON, Laszlo Krasznahorkai


Look At Some Furious Chickens


They didn’t get any greenery this morning and are cursing me.

We take in rescue chickens from farms every few years.  Once they reach an age when they don’t lay regularly, they tend to be turned into chicken feed.  They are, of course, not grateful.  And now I’m home alone for a few weeks. And these chickens hate me.  From the moment I take my first coffee into the back garden to wake up and clear my lungs, they are standing on their food containers and denouncing me from the bottom of the garden.  Two weeks of this.

Enjoy Mildred and Maud (thank my daughter for those names), the furious chickens of the Thames Delta.


The Blinded Man

THE BLINDED MAN is the first of the Intercrime crime novels by Arne Dahl, pseudonym of literary novelist, poet and critic Jan Arnald.  So popular are these novels that their TV adaptation is simply called ARNE DAHL.

If you’re into those novels that are absurdly polished exercises in structure, mechanics, all flawless tracks and joints and that great bell-like sound when all the parts of it suddenly come together, you’ll love this.  It is a glorious performance in Building A Book.

It was written in 1999, and is solidly within the original Nordic Noir space, being very much about Swedish society and politics.  It is… curious on the subject of women, and cannot quite decide whether it’s the detective protagonist who can solve every puzzle except women, or whether it thinks all women are unknowable aliens.

On the other hand, it has a large detective who performs a violent arrest on a moving van.

It’s the story of the killing of a big important man, and the last time a big important man was assassinated in Sweden the police and security services really fucked it up, so this time they’re assembling a crack team of Cops Who Don’t Follow The Rules to handle it. Yeah, I know.  Roll with it.  Arnald isn’t trying to change the world.  It’s a largely unapologetic yarn. With moments of chilly, distanced oddness.

Given that it was clearly made as a commercial move, the book feels remarkably uncynical. It’s really not afraid of being odd. Its voice is wry and bone-dry.  And, as noted, it’s quite the masterclass in building a machine.

It was wonderfully unputdownable.




I was reading the excellent book MARS BY 1980 (UK) (US) in bed last night and this term just popped into my head as I was circling sleep. I had to do that thing where you repeat it in your head twenty times so that I’d remember it in the morning.  I have no idea what refuture or refuturing really means, except that “refuturing” connects it in my mind with “rewilding.”  The sense of creating new immediate futures and repopulating the futures space with something entirely divorced from the previous consensus futures.

Refuture.  Refuturing.  I don’t know.  I wanted to write it down before it went away.

Which I guess is what we do with ideas about the future anyway.


Plant Robot, Brain Fat


This is watermelon and pomegranate juice in a pint glass because I am fucking classy.  And because I’ve been on my arse in this chair since Jan 2 writing for 15 hours every day and the flab is accreting on me like… a good metaphor for flab accretion because it’s August and my brain is fried.  And probably also wearing a coat of cellulite.  Can you get brain cellulite?  Probably.  Anyway, I’m juicing every day, because my body is way out of whack and I have to be seen in public on September 22/23 at Thought Bubble, where I’m being interviewed on stage and then giving a closing keynote.  And it would be preferred if I didn’t have to sling a unicycle under my gut in order to be able to move around.

The worst of the heat has finally passed.  My office is always significantly hotter than the outdoors temperature, so, when the heatwave spiked… well, I left my phone too close to the laptop for five minutes and it went into heat emergency alert.  I had to abandon the office completely on Monday and Tuesday.  I generally do not function well in “extreme” heat, by which I mean extreme for England, where houses are built to retain heat over six-month-long winters, not dissipate heat when it goes over 33 C.

I just realised my wall calendar is still on the July sheet.  It’s been that kind of year.  Here we go again.

I just read TURNED ON by Kate Devlin, which is about the history and future of robosexology, and it’s really good:  (UK) (US)

The Rules And Practice Of Cigarette Magic

I’d been waiting for a cab at the taxi rank for half an hour in the blazing sun, anchored by two heavy bags of shopping, when I remembered cigarette magic. This was a real thing people used to talk about, and it goes like this:

  1. You can’t smoke in taxis, private cars or buses.
  2. The universe hates you and doesn’t want you to have things.

So you light a cigarette.  And before the cigarette is done, your ride will arrive, so that you cannot finish your cigarette.

So I lit a cigarette, smiling at the memory,  And I was maybe a quarter through it when a cab appeared out of nowhere.

Magic is real if you want it to be. Or, sometimes, maybe the universe just gives up and lets you have one for free.


This Is Actually Really Good

I mean, it’s really young, but it is all honey and fire and power.  You should get some.

That’s all I’ve got, it’s Monday morning, leave me alone




Henning Mankell’s Hearse

Wallander left the station and drove out of town towards Tomelilla and Smedstorp. The drive gave him time to think about the murders. The summer landscape seemed a surreal backdrop to his thoughts. Two men are axed to death and scalped, he thought. A young girl walks into a rape field and sets herself on fire. And all around me it’s summertime. Skåne couldn’t be more beautiful than this. There’s a paradise hidden in every corner of this countryside. To find it, all you have to do is keep your eyes open. But you might also glimpse hearses on the roads.


Look at that last line.  Henning Mankell is the simplest crime writer on the planet. A lot of the time, the prose looks basic.  Machinic, even.  And then, bang.  A reminder that you are in the space of a very clever writer who holds the punch for when you’re least expecting it.

(Rape, for those unaware, is a yellow flower crop harvested for vegetable oil.)

Some of you may have seen the BBC adaptation of this starring Ken Branagh.  They used it as the first episode.  It’s actually halfway through the Wallander novel sequence.  I see why they used it — even though it’s a middle book, it serves as an excellent introduction to the character and to Mankell’s style.  It’s more complex than the tv adaptation, and also, somehow, less miserable.

The style, though. It’s like Mankell is setting the type himself, by hand, with hammer and hot metal.  Hemingway without the showiness.  It’s just… there.  Like Mankell is saying, this is just how it is.  Fascinating.

SIDETRACKED, Henning Mankell (UK) (US)