here are the pencil sketches of blog posts. I refuse to commit to lineart or to colour them
"a stone can teach you more than any person or book ever will"
probably that means a pebble has more information in it than a book or even a person, it's just all of the stories it can tell are mostly about pebbles, and you have to look really hard, and also know a lot already about pebbles just to decode what it's trying to tell you. but it's tantalising! all that raw information, unpolluted by our human biases, hidden in dusty cracks. hidden in each brutal, sharp flint edge. it might tell you the truth about the magma beneath your continent. it might tell you how you felt when you first skimmed pebbles at the beach, even though you thought you'd forgot. the feeling of the rock against your fingers can be one of security: a brick for a drystone wall. or it could be from a crumbling scree, the terrified scramble down a steep slope. or your ancestor's bludgeoning weapon. if a rock can do such incredible things with your brain (even when you exclude bludgeoning), think about what someone else with a brain could do with your brain! i did all the above with no rock in sight, merely a symbol that represents a rock! but, this is only possible because rocks already taught you something about themselves. all of these tricks only work because you've met them before. you know what they're like.
creative expression is a really indirect process. our brain is mostly full of feelings, with only cursory metadata about what sensations caused those feelings, just enough to recognise them.
i've recently come to think traditional 'creativity' is quite a rigid chain of skills: realising how you feel (e.g. the joy of spring), deciding what feelings you want to express (the joy of spring when i was young), finding the abstract ideas that relate to those feelings, putting those ideas in a structure (ordering them as a story, contrasting them, combining them), choosing a cohesive set of concrete Things that work together to express the ideas (instruments, characters, props, visual motifs) and then using artistic technique to fill in the details (musical notes, words, paint strokes) to create the actual sensations (birdsong, hope, the rough-soft bark of a tree) that embody the original feeling
the apparent rigidity is deceptive. you can spend some time sitting down and planning the above process (maybe a good idea sometimes) but intuition knows which stages to skip and which are crucial. it can learn how best to actually make something unique within that framework by following a different path from beginning to end than other people. when you're still learning, you can get a long way with re-use, in the form of tropes or allusions, and since everyone is always learning, forever, thats what everyone does. in the above model that would be like going straight from "i'm feeling emotionally overwhelmed" to "the roar of a torrent of rain", while ignoring the middle steps, because that trope is actually good and works well, and it springs from our cultural memory, our learned ideas about how symbols ought to be arranged, about how feelings ought to be expressed. for the person consuming the sensation it's often better too, as there's less thinking to be done. it's pre-processed and more digestible. the idea has already been ruminated by the millstone of culture, etc.
the whole time you're kinda second-guessing the relationships of all the links in the chain of creation above. that's unavoidable, since it would take too long to meticulously try all the paths. you have to water your garden without paying too much attention to the roots. the magic is being able to make the never-before-seen obvious; to find the trope that never was, to remind you of a memory which you never had, to know another who you'll never meet. if i'm happy with dandelions, now and again i get a four-leaf clover.
i'm personally of the opinion that The State is a technology like stirrups or nuclear power or plastic. i can see why a lot of people don't like those. the ocean's fucked, engineering's harder than physics, and i wouldn't want someone riding me into battle
the practices that have the most obvious effects on people socially get treated very strongly but i think all practical ideas are some form of lever on social power. and all things embody some complex, subtle thingism that naturally falls out of their effects on people, even if it's only detectable in trace amounts too small to get people to an impassioned rally or to click on anything
I was thinking about intellectual activity as a kind of agriculture
When you tell a story or create something, you're expressing an idea by demonstrating the intricacies of the idea and also casting your own judgment on it, with regard to the feelings it elicits. Usually I think you're trying to both communicate the idea and its implications with a lot of fidelity (to help you to fully realise the idea as well as communicate it to others), but also work out how we should feel about the implications, and make other people feel those same feelings (so that you can connect with them)
When I write down all of these things, what am I doing? I'm structuring ideas and kind of stockpiling them. They're the raw materials that I'm capable of producing and storing in text form, bricks to build stuff out of later on, maybe? or maybe I'll come back to them and carve them up even more into more intricate and useful shapes.
Like a factory?
maybe it needs to be thought of a bit differently though; if all these ideas have been created by life, it could be that life is a better analogy for it, and it's like yeast or cultures of bacteria or something. A brain is like the primordial soup but for ideas, they can evolve and recombine and so-on. You can put the different ideas into the bioreactor in your brain-lab and get Extraterrestrial Results, but there's only so much space in there and you kinda want to control what you're putting in or you mostly get inert mush. So you have to put some of them in storage, and sometimes send them to other research institutions by putting them in books and murals and TikToks. Then, later on you can get them back out and hopefully they haven't grown a bunch of weird mold on them. or maybe they have, but the mold turns out to be a potent antibiotic or a catalyst for your liver to help it remove Irony Poisoning
Is the objective of all of this just to create economic inputs for some more kind of 'content' further down the assembly line? I don't know. I think of it that way sometimes, like many people who keep lists of "interesting ideas" or "memorable phrases" or do the Eno Bowie Byrne Cut Shit Out Of Newspapers To Make A Record thing. Sorting wheat from chaff. Most of that work is in the curation, and the process (and the model above for explaining it) is an admission that creators are shuffling an existing deck.
So maybe we ought to embrace mechanization on the Idea Farm, since it's so effective. It's difficult to draw the line, though. Ideas are made for people, and if you want to contribute to culture, people won't actually be much interested in the thing you've done if it turns out most of the work was produced by some artificial system, since it's not really an expression of you anymore, and people really care about people in the end. Nobody wants to eat a tomato, no matter how high the yield, if they don't taste of anything. Don't keep your ideas in inhumane conditions!!
I endlessly happen upon media that is so gloomy. the author, the director, the Scenario Designer, has created something so dreary that their attempts to do anything just kinda Teflon off my brain. If the story has a villain, I can't curse him for his deeds, I just feel boggled that he'd even have invested his efforts in such a world, let alone the heroes in saving it.
surely they have nothing to offer me beyond, at best, foul-tasting medicine. I want the book closed. I don't like feeling trapped in someone else's stress-dream and I'd rather read something nice. at least if you're going to tell me about something shitty, give me an interesting problem that stimulates my brain! give me Escapism! it must be good! at least sentimental!
But. were not some atrocities (getting toward the edge of living memory) motivated by some kind of a romanticist myopia? Did the mad, bleak heroism of slimy seas and turgid clifftop sunsets fit so badly onto the world of pipelines and punched cards that it broke reality and kindled war?? Are we playing with fire when we make an impossible story? Are you a moral vandal if you keep on building bridges to a mystery paradise that can't materially exist? (outside of Walt Disney asset management)
It could be we have grown beyond this problem anyway. We've arsenals of thought ready to defend against delusion (modernism), and eat the delusion (postmodernism), and nourish ourselves with it (metamodernism). We should be immune to the side-effects by now since we're smart and savvy. But maybe those are just fancy cynic parlour tricks, and in essence those approaches are no different from people grumbling in the bar about their hair so that they negate their fear of losing it by mentally associating those worries with a nice evening drinking beer. Boob tube rots the brain?? Well – apply creosote (a carcinogen, which stinks)
Synthesis: Try your best. The escapism isn't good but it is a necessary spice on top of things and the one way to make something meaningful without it being completely shitass. Read stories, not too much, mostly plants
I was thinking about how often a new Technological thing comes along implying a bunch of big, radical Cultural ideas, which are kinda adopted for a while before a more traditional model usurps them. Sometimes the radical model comes back again much later on, because now Culture is ready for it even though Technology has been ready for a long time.
When a new thing debuts, it takes some time for that thing to reach people, to percolate out into the culture in whatever ways it's going to. Let's do some Ribbon Farm infographic bullshit and collapse the number of those ways down from 10^20 dimensions to 1 dimension. The change starts at 0, and eventually ends up higher than 0. Assuming human society is no more complicated than a very large number of strings, with various lengths, tensions, and Young's moduli, connected to eachother at different points, the whole system has a step response.
It could be that a lot of the big, heavy strings (or subgraphs of strings that act as them) contribute enough to the overall response that you might actually see some obvious periodic components to a change in culture along any dimension. Like a backlash, acoustic revanchism.
If this crackpot bullshit has any merit, and the adoption curve really does have ringing on the edges, hopefully the Internet's early characteristics (dashed by its reinvention back into the publishing industry it promised to replace) will return, at least in some form, and we'll be able to explore the pure, timeless cave of knowledge once again!!
I was watching an episode of 1970s sitcom Man About the House with my mum
The characters were having breakfast. She said
"This is at the point where we started having mugs."
"What do you mean by that?" I was curious. "Mugs started in the 70s? Mugs are eternal."
"In the sixties, we didn't really have mugs, I remember a lot of teacups. If you wanted to have a cup of tea you'd have a cup with a saucer."
"But mugs must've existed? Mugs are eternal..."
"We did have mugs, but they were just for camping"
I don't know if the mug thing is true but there's a lot of things like that: jeans were just for builders. Like something where, maybe for cultural reasons, it wasn't applied outside of its original context, until a new generation came in that didn't care that it wasn't proper to not have a teacup at your breakfast table. Computers for the taxman, for artillery. Train tracks were just for mining. there's probably some extremely popular thing that everybody does in the future which is popular now, but only with anglers. the kids of 2100 all wearing boxing headguards, strutting around in sexy olive-green waders????
i think Evolutionary Psychology is largely wack. but its one of those flavoursome ideas which my brain has a taste for. (perhaps it's because I'm an Analogy Fan)
when I, or anyone else, does anything, there's a part of my brain that goes: "Well. Why did your brain evolve to give you dopamine to motivate you to do THAT THING?"
Then all these stagehands run in like ninjas. and they wheel everything out of the scene and it's an empty stage. we're all standing around in a forest, trees to each horizon. there's damp leaves underfoot. we can tell they're damp because they don't make a rustling sound underneath our bare, calloused feet. someone calls out: "Huuuyyyy!!" That's right. we've spotted the Boar. we ready our spears. somehow we catch the boar, and we eat it on a leaf along with some berries and one of the old smelly oysters uncle brought from the bay. our stomachs full, we survive the night and procreate and so do our kids, and eventually they invent a Brooklyn Bridge and a lightbulb Sputnik Facebook – all because our brain gave us a dopamine for some reason
I have no confidence in this thought-technology. It often produces really normative and assumptive explanations, and I don't even know anything about the topic, it's all just a movie about the past that I pulled out of my ass. did 'we' hunt boar? Did we use spears? some n-th great grandparent definitely was the first ancestor of mine to wear a shoe, but which?
I've never believed in God. but
How about Nature?? Mole traps.
There's no-one in charge
We are objects that navigate space by being smart. like the Mars Car who is 30 light-minutes away and must avoid that boulder before we see it – we must avoid tree trunks.
Humans can only think of 7 things at the same time; you will ignore the leaves on a tree because there are more than 7
When society looked like it was regimented and simple, we built all manner of baroque nonsense and mosaics and aqueducts but when there's lots of ideas and people and new things to think about all the time maybe it goes monastic (white walls and space). Are any rooms empty in the first place?
were the 2010s comfy and rustic-looking because they weren't comfy and rustic-feeling??
are scary boxes only tolerable if you're already feeling safe?
do humans aspire to robot perfection and robots aspire to human flaws?
don't like crisps much. or tea. or baked beans
(difficult to be an English in such a condition)
crisps (potato chips) ought to hydrate you more somehow. They're all oil with some kind of aggregate (potato) and no water. like oily scabs. they can scratch the roof of your mouth
tea, despite being made of water, tastes like it's dry too (due to the 'particles'). you're supposed to put milk in it but all the non-dairy milk tastes like it's dry too (due to the 'particles')
baked beans are actually okay. i quite like them sometimes
it's difficult to know what's wrong or right, let alone whether you are wrong for O.K. reasons or just really confused about stuff
An opinion is a type of feeling about how something ought to be, which has been translated into an idea by rationalising it into some context, using other ideas as symbols.
But it gets weird fast: the previous sentence is an opinion, not least because I didn't make any attempt to cite an authority or consensus voice on the matter (thats the economy of truth, The Epistemologue With A Blog needs his pagerank lucre)
I know that my feelings are arbitrary and based on some combination of:
a foundation of ethics that are partially encoded in me in the way a bird knows its song;
some kind of early experience of life involving the sounds of television and weather and musical scales I was exposed to as a zygote;
a list of foods that remind me of other foods;
a cobbled-together network of ideas that have been collected and assembled based on their ability to make me feel like all my actions up to this point are acceptable and give my life meaning;
shapes and symbols the lizard brain likes;
spurious connections between the above models (synaesthesia, misapprehensions, seeing dogs in the woodgrain of a table, being 5% more likely to enjoy the music of jimi hendrix because you saw a smiley sokuon on an obi strip);
computers manipulating you to click on a thing;
the fact you were already laughing when a person suggested something.
All of these mean my opinions are based in mud and are in danger of sliding down (and becoming) a scree slope, but somehow they've held up – due to magic. I'm in favour of magic, so I must protect these from Fallacy Namer at all costs, lest I end up all "I don't know anything, and besides, all of these things contradict one another, so the truth must be Somewhere in the Middle". That, as he'd know, is a dreadful crime called the Argument to Moderation (I had to look it up on Wikipedia)
decided today that I'm bored of that idea that everything's wacky. It used to be fun, though. 2007? Look at this wacky stuff going on. Ain't the internet a lark. 2013 – hah, there's a dog who's famous, look who's running for office 2015, Kony 2012 (look what happened to that guy), 2016! The world's going to hell in a handbasket, 2018 everyone can't get enough of this new dance! The kids of 2019 are doing a new sexy thing with their left eye, meanwhile A Continent Burns, hell in a handbasket am I right? What times, crazy times we live in. Miracle and wonder! Most peculiar, mama.
I dunno. it's just got really grating. You see things and then you see them again, and you've seen them too much. Every second of every day there's a big new thing that everybody and nobody cares about. And my reaction – and everybody's reaction - is one of two:
1. Ugh, I already knew about this big new thing before everybody started to care about it, now hoi polloi's wrecking it by misunderstanding it, not that it was even worth understanding to begin with;
2. Ugh, I never heard about this big new thing, and now I'm having to read/watch some kind of Explainer essay about how New and Wacky this phenomenon is, which is probably misunderstanding it, not that it was even worth understanding to begin with.
I don't like feeling either of those much, because it me feel like culture is zero-sum, like someone somewhere wants to turn that competitive trend bullshit you get at High School into a national sport.
You remember, High School? Where everyone was saying "Oh yeah I know all about sex. I smoke the weed. I've heard his new album already. Yeah me and my brother watched that film when I was eight. Don't you know that game's for babies? It's lame-o, buckaroo." They never once said lame-o or buckaroo but they said all the others, everyone had to, because otherwise you were lame-o, buckaroo. Being r/OutOfTheLoop is lame-o, buckaroo, and being Out of the Loop as an affect is lame-o, buckaroo, and knowing all the latest trends is lame-o, buckaroo, because the trends themselves are lame-o, buckaroo.
I don't want to read a book which is longer than 300 pages. if it's that long, they should split it up into shorter volumes, so that you can hold them. I might start doing that thing that guy did, and cut my books to pieces. Also I need to start writing inside my books more. I'll add comments and highlight passages. I wish you could make hyperlinks in books
Often when you post something, you get a comment where it makes you go "Agggg"
For instance, if I write on a website, a post, saying "I don't like tea, because you're supposed to put milk in tea, and I don't like putting milk in tea", a helpful Agggg will come out of a hole in an apple, and tell you about all the wonderful different types of herb teas there are, and how you don't need milk, not even almond milk or water with talcum powder in it. sometimes an international debate opens up and i'm expected to get my chainmail on and everything. and go and defend Albion, go out there, defending shit about tea with which I don't even agree
Back in the forum days you could mock people and get sarcastic, because everything was a bit nastier back then. I think that even carried over onto the later Internet. If you sent your friend a hot new YouTube Poop you were feeling particularly excited about introducing them to, and they were like "haha I've seen that", everyone felt a little deflated. just a little.
How to respond positively? Maybe you could bring up something about the different herb teas you enjoy, or make up something, I don't know. There isn't really a solution to the problem other than nobody talks to anyone else ever lest we be Aggggy at all
(Agggg is pronounced the way that Popeye laughs)
On this page I'm going to change things
When I disagree with something I've previously written I will change it
I won't put timestamps or preserve changes. I will pretend that the current version is the definitive version that has always existed in exactly that form. I won't own up to all the weird changes I'm going to make. Some of the posts might even get deleted entirely (passive voice)
"blog post about VHS tape I had as a kid"
It was a compilation of episodes from Gerry Anderson's Captain Scarlet and a 'reboot' of his other show, Thunderbirds, from the early 1980s, which was actually an anime. The tape had probably come out of one of those £2 bins at Woolworths
My dad, ardent Gerry Anderson fan, loved the original episode but hated the anime reboot.
I hadn't seen Japanese animation before and I don't think we even knew it was Japanese. It came from a literal bargain bin. I think that's what it was like, still, in the 90s. What was Japan? They made stereos didn't they?
The thing is, there's too much stuff. too many things. so many things to do: nowadays you have to justify why you don't do something.
how will my stuff get noticed?
Actually I feel guilty for even making things. i'm just contributing to the problem
A big media development recently is that we've coupled things to verbs rather than nouns
e.g. a newspaper makes money now not by "producing a newspaper noun object" which is bought
but by the Reading time done by its Readers (the Reading is the monetized verb)
it's easy to scale verbs – just verb more.
Verb a while... verb forever!!
A webcomic artist:
they make stuff, but the stuff matters less than their action of making it
the energy they display in the process of their labour is the actual product
the end result isn't valuable other than as a vector for communicating that labour
if they're lucky they're paid, not for the comic,
but for being the kind of verber who verbs all the verbs necessary to have created a comic
(apparently they used to sell hats too)
the comic is just the proof-of-work which tells you they're valuable
a more original comic is a harder hash to guess
the whole verb thing – it's kind of a futurist thing that's happened by accident
(futurists – some italians in 1910 who were not yet fascist only because they hadn't got the iconography together)
maybe nouns will be eradicated along our way to becoming beings of pure action & decision!
if we keep it up i think eventually Earth will turn into a sun
which is barely an object, a sphere with turbulence;
the "shape within which energy happens"
Getting fit & healthy. why do it? why not just let entropy take its toll!?
It's difficult to do things that you don't want to do, like eat at a specific time or move your body when it wants to stay still
one day entropy will see to it that I stay still, so in a way, the whole thing is covered really
I thought that if I wrote a bunch of lies about how I really want to exercise maybe I would believe them – and I would start moving around. That's how electric motors work after all. A generator is just the tail wagging the dog
Phones but too much? TV was already too much
All of the main innovations of the 1900s were bad and fucked shit up:
Telephone – now anyone can interrupt you at any time, and you don't even get to glare at them in the face for their sin
Automobile – look at what it did to every city. cars are a plague. moses would come into your city and part the slums for his metal disciples, etc. etc.
Television – one-to-many, makes people into a Couch Potato, which isn't a phrase you hear much anymore
All those things were bad in a subtle new way, though. mass production had given us the ability to really express something about ourselves in a way that didn't even require that much thought or effort to achieve compared to the huge effects it had. it was the first time we were able to collectively hook up the shape of our reality to the whims of – That Man Again - the lizard brain
I'm interested in the way that humans having power over their own world always manifests in some kind of Monkey's Paw Curls moment. it's really good for building narratives, it's a kind of inbuilt irony. Maybe that's why at the moment we like stories about a Paperclip AI or a chatbot that went racist. They're fables telling us we don't really 'get' it, that simply through existing in the form we do, we are so blind to everything that isn't us – we don't know how a bat sees the walls of its cave, nor can we imagine the bliss and serenity felt by the God Computer when it sees another paperclip added to the tally. We like to find out that Things are More Weird than It Seems.
I think modern information technology is different to the Telephone and the Television and so on, or at least it can be, since the things it does are more general; it's a level of abstraction up from other innovations. Obviously it can turn you into a Couch Potato but at least you won't be bored waiting in the line at 'Bucks. And if you're lucky you might turn into a Smart Potato, a Potato with immense knowledge and social wealth, and understanding of other Potatoes who are different from you: Sweet Potatoes, for example.
The main Monkey's Paw aspect that I'm seeing in these first couple of decades of the century, is actually the Sweet Potato thing. If you're a regular Potato, what the hell do you do when it turns out there just are people who have a different flavor profile from yourself? You'd never noticed it before, but now everyone's talking about different vegetables – bell peppers versus regular peppers. You go round your whole life thinking that we're all just Potatoes and suddenly you realise the other people are just different and you'll never understand them, especially since you've now realised that you're an Aubergine and most of your spare time is spent arguing with people who insist on calling it an Eggplant. It makes you doubtful about everything else.
Not sure what to do or say about all of this. I'll add more later when I've done the grocery shopping
I wanted to have a party in the Booth Museum. we were talking about it one time. years ago now I suppose. having a really great New Years Eve party... at the Booth Museum.
the Booth Museum is Victorian, probably, and full of stuffed animals, who are all extremely dead. It isn't a grand place, more like the Keswick Pencil Museum than a Smithsonian and I've only been there once, on a school trip. They hopefully have the dodo skeleton still, all 3 pieces of it
can you book the Booth Museum on New Years Eve? inconclusive. but we'd better get round to making plans soon or everywhere will be booked up.
why not rent a warehouse? could we sneak in somewhere like teenagers? how about a rave at Beeding Cement Works (decaying grey husk cut into a hillside quarry, two 100m long steel rotating kilns, defunct 1991)
I know someone with a 1 kilowatt strobe light! I know someone who knows someone who says he can lend us a large box of EV horn drivers! Will anyone help us onto the golf course with all these car batteries? Take your shoes off or we'll have to pay for it to be re-turfed
I still haven't got round to it. but I think Parties are quite important to my development as a human. it's easy to deal with people. I remember the canonical Party of my Teenage Years, where I finally talked to everybody at my school that I'd been too scared to approach sober, like that scene at the end of every coming-of-age movie.
As I've got older, I've found there's something about trying to create an space for other people to have fun in that appeals to me. I can put together a bunch of music and play it without invoking the awkward silence of "Let me play you this one then." it's like you're directing improvisational theatre. you can control the lighting and the soundtrack and while you get to cast all your friends, they're the ones that have to do all the narrative heavy lifting. a win-win.
occasionally people you haven't seen for years turn up, and the evening turns into a surprisingly nice version of those dreams where you're at your house but it isn't your house, and there's people there who you don't know, but you do know, and you haven't seen them for years, but they're just the same, and none of the conversations go anywhere, but you wake up knowing that it was worthwhile on some spiritual level
We sat on garden chairs and a friend of a friend was holding a joint and a cigar, they handed me the cigar. I knew enough about drinking to not drink Carling but not enough to not drink Vodka And The Blue Energy Drink. The music was Echo and the Bunnymen but also Britney Spears. A dog was wandering around, either a husky or a doberman. Cool people I didn't know told me I was cool – big news.
Someone was throwing up in the toilet and, as I held their hair out of their face, I noticed an opened but uneaten packet of Tesco Corned Beef Slices on the bathroom floor.
In the morning it was 6 AM, and we needed to get potato salad it was the top priority
Been thinking about persuading other people of things, regarding The Politics.
This is one of the more centrist things I've written and I don't believe it but the idea must go out:
We've all seen that dynamic where two people in some kind of relationship can't reconcile something, where one or both keep enacting a pattern of behaviour that pushes the other away, but they can't stop doing it. I've never been in one like that myself, but I've seen it a lot in other people, and it's often very frustrating as an outsider.
Sometimes it looks like it's coming from some base-level human lizard brain stem mechanism, like wanting to drink themselves into a stupor or gamble away the joint bank account.
But a lot of the time it's either caused or exacerbated by an emotional myopia or a failure to grasp some important concept. When the going gets tough, they always end up doing or saying the worst possible thing, believing it to be the cure.
There isn't a process of reflection where priors are updated or the neural gross is synthesised into the neural net or whatever. Instead of course correction the only lever is the fuel-air mixture. Extrapolate, don't interpolate! Verb more! Whatever it was, you just weren't doing it enough.
This presents a problem in communication because it makes disparate sides more emotional. That isn't necessarily a bad thing, 'running hot' is energy and life. Feelings are real. But when the gap is wide, the feelings become an end to themselves, selfishly justifying their own existence through any means. Let's be famed pop-sci writer Dawkins and call them 'Feelms'. If you're angry you want the people on your side to feel angry, but it also makes the people on the other side angry, too. Let's be famed pop-sci writer Hawking and say they come in pairs.
Maybe years ago there was too much friction to keep this process going for very long. Now, on the frictionless plane of cyberspace, it's got real weird, since you can fire directed energy weapons at anyone without even having to check for air resistance. Could be classic Arms Race thing and it just gets worse from here, worse and worse, and the only respite is that you might have to put your phone in your pocket for a bit while you get off the train.
When I was a kid, I once mistook one of my primary school teachers (who had long black curly hair and square glasses) for another teacher (who had long black straight hair and round glasses). I was a very shy and quiet kid, but on that day, in an uncharacteristic storm of confidence and enthusiasm, I yelled at her across the playground. She laughed, and told me where to find the actual Ms. Teacher Name. Horrified, I ran into the canteen, and everybody stared at me, as if they knew. I no longer remember the name of either teacher. But, I saw the one with curly hair a few weeks ago in the supermarket. Her hair is now white but she still wears square glasses
When I was a teenager I was still shy, so I went on a date with someone else who was also quite shy. We arranged to meet next to a famous statue. Maybe we had an assignment at school, to take pictures of a famous statue. I made awkward smalltalk: ha ha, I love ketchup too. I just eat so much ketchup. Half-fries, half-ketchup! Anyway, we'd better get back to that assignment, ha ha? Ha ha? I had forgotten to put a battery in my camera. No matter, it was just an excuse for two shy people to go on a date, right? But that goes unsaid, doesn't it. Plausible deniability! Well, turns out I was mistaken and it was never a date in the first place. Or it started out as one, but they did NOT want to be involved with someone who would do brazen lies about ketchup
Don't really like A.I.
I think a general purpose Artificial Intelligence will not be created by humans, because we will get bored of it before we finish. We'll learn a lot in the process though, and make something more interesting, something we haven't thought of right now.
Electricity took the means of producing power away from all the mills that produced everything else. You didn't have to make your own energy any more, they'd pipe it in for a price. All those towering brick chimneys (useless) had to come down – giving Fred Dibnah a living - and in their place up went bigger (useful) towering brick chimneys on top of buildings with names like "Electricity House", next to the streets that were privileged enough to receive arc lamps.
When that wasn't enough they had to move them out of the towns just so they could be big enough (the ASDA Superstore model), and string wires on poles across the countryside to connect them to the town until the whole thing became a big but extremely dumb version of the Internet. It was an age before information was power – back when when only power was power.
The centralization of material power in the form of the electrical grid was obviously a huge deal, but it took someone such as Lenin to really make a political point of it, in front of thousands who could hear his voice because it was being amplified by vacuum tubes. Hammers, and ears of corn (and a means to cut them) sewn onto the commemorative mission patch were joined by a hydroelectric dam and the promise that town and country would finally be united. Farmers' daughters used 40-watt lightbulbs to read mechanics textbooks, and grew up to build Sputnik. Power! Power! Power! It worked, to the extent that Lenin's 21st century counterpart, who is unanimously agreed, by everyone, to be Tony Blair, kept saying 'education' because by that stage we all knew that information was power too
But is information being centralized in the same way the electrical grid did it to energy? There's one Internet. There's one Facebook. Whatever, does that prove anything? It's hard to know. Are the datacenters of Personally Identifiable Information actually arsenals of power, or are they just coal yards full of dump trucks aimlessly reorganizing the stockpile? We have a network to transport information, but what's the information equivalent of the 'engines of power' itself?
Maybe it's people!
We're the real edges of the graph. We're able to create information from raw data. Machines might do that, and they're getting better at it, but humans like to hear about other humans – it's our favourite. I think the analogy with electricity falls down, since information can never fully be a commodity, it's too rich. The big dumb network of pylons can only manage to transport three sine waves at different phases, but if the human communication machine was a commodity maybe it would be like one of those touch-screen create-your-own peach flavour Coke machines at McDonalds, except even worse.
Back to the electricity though.
I wonder what will happen if everyone has a solar panel and a very good battery made of unknown polymer
Will James Burke's conclusion at the end of some episode of Connections, that you'll be living in a heated and air-conditioned bubble in the arctic, having post-scarcity food piped in, extracted from the nitrogen in the air, come to pass?
What will that do to politics? How will the groups in society work from the ground-up? Will we be scared of the tribe over the hill again?
should you be the prince charles or build absolutely everything out of glistening, towering chrome girders? Or something in between?
Building a thing means you end up looking down on someone else once you've built it. that's your Castle, and you must defend it.
The debate is tedious as all hell because everyone's trying to look down on one another. From their castle. where they decide how society ought to look. What a horrible tone. Don't trust anyone who lacks doubt I think
I used to draw a lot as a kid. Now and again it would be a lamp or a table or something, but mostly cartoons. I didn't like drawing cartoons that already existed, they never looked right, never looked like the real thing, so I came up with my own characters, and so did my school friends.
We unconsciously converged on a kind of common style, so they all looked like they were part of the same franchise: abstract side view faces with circle eyes (both visible at all times), triangular noses, and either a massive overbite or underbite. They were fairly decent designs for cartoon characters since they usually required maybe 10 arcs to describe them fully, and I still remember most of them. The main character I drew was called Barbecue Gimp, a floating head who wore a red swimming cap with holes for his eyes to see through, and who wanted to watch TV in peace and microwave a whole chicken. His nemesis, Dooey, was a giant cylindrical robot with the ability to fly and shoot beams that vaporize everything in each comic panel. There were the Sand Rats, who were black with glowing red eyes. My friends' characters would appear sometimes: Boris, Cucumber Man, Ghoti (who had a goatee), Piggis (oink).
Eventually I got a computer, and I made Flash animations of those characters. I was making films with a hand-me-down video camera, in the days where an 11-year-old kid could integrate Video Footage and Computer Generated Imagery by pointing the camera's lens at the computer screen. I was obsessed with the possibilities, all the different things you could create.
But, at this stage, none of this had that much to do with drawing anymore
The cartoons fell by the wayside because they were juvenile. There wasn't much I could express with them. Besides, the kids at secondary school were big and strange, and didn't take kindly to any kind of weirdness. I didn't want to draw comics so they were a dead end. Occasionally I would still draw, but it was geometric figures, in the margins of something else. Boxes, shaded boxes. Spheres.
I remembered vaguely hearing of the concept of a "vanishing point" when I was younger, too young to care, but now I thought I'd try it out. I created a cityscape on the back inside cover of an exercise book (now lost). It turned out perfect. I kept adding details for weeks. Every lintel, every paving slab was mathematically parallel. I knew the angle of the normal of each face, and shaded everything accordingly. I drew lines from the sun to work out the shadows. I didn't show it to anyone but my friend saw it and said it was good; he didn't know I was good at drawing. This isn't a humblebrag, it was genuinely good, especially since I'd never tried that kind of thing before. Maybe I was a natural! One of the chosen few! Talented.
Now and again I'd try to draw different things. I didn't really focus on it, or practice, life gets in the way and I was mostly sitting in front of weird old pirated versions of Adobe After Effects, whatever the first version of Cubase that had VST support was, and learning about fractals. The computer really ate into my Drawing A Box time, and it could draw one million boxes in the time I could finish one. I used a Wacom tablet once, it was beige and didn't work.
Art teachers declined to teach me Art, instead focusing on teaching About Art, which was useful but not really the same thing. Were the basic elements of visual and conceptual expression considered too difficult for us? Were they scared we'd get better than them at figure drawing? Is this a business secret of the Art School racket? Most of the other kids didn't care. This wasn't Art School, this was High School; they came here to get High – off hairspray which is used to fix oil pastel illustrations to paper.
Boxes were satisfying, it was like a party trick. Draw an accurate box with this 1 weird trick to drawing an accurate box. Architecture too. The details were full of right-angles with even spacing. I could see the patterns, but it was boring. I would try to draw something else.
It was a disaster! Could I even produce a drawing of a cat, the kind of thing that an eight-year-old does? It seems not. What was wrong with me? Had I never seen a cat before? Had I never even seen a cartoon of a cat before?
How about I draw a person? Where do the eyes go? How big are eyes? What shape is a face? A human head is like an egg, isn't it?
When I looked at the page I was disgusted, like Hayao Miyazaki when you show him anything. What I had created was an insult to life itself, and it proved I was dangerously idiotic – an ogre with a pencil who took beauty and turned it to misery.
I tried to draw a person: their arms, legs, torso. I thought of everyone I knew who draws. Maybe they wanted to grow up to illustrate comics, or be a writer who draws fan-art of characters. If they can draw a person, how difficult could it be?
Well, how long are arms? What the hell is going on? Yet another monstrosity. I was Dr. Frankenstein, a STEM kid who wasted his childhood editing config.sys and doesn't know what a person looks like.
There were a lot of things I found beautiful, but they mystified me, like everything is a mystery when you're 14. Trees, which are beautiful, are not boxes. I thought clouds were beautiful. Shit, there were a couple of people in my classes that I thought were beautiful. Would I draw any of those? The thought of even attempting it was humiliating, so embarrassing. If I practiced, I would get better, right? But who has the fortitude for that? I was not some happy-go-lucky who fails quick and fails often and picks himself up and dusts himself off, was I? I'd stay in that dust because it was where I belonged. I'd eat that dust! Because it was for supper!
No graven images! Only lines. Spheres. Angled prisms from different perspectives.
It's always nagged at me though.
Due to selection bias, I believe wholeheartedly that every single person on the Internet is a talented artist, even the people who don't do it for a living. Maybe they illustrate comics, or they're a writer who draws fan-art of characters. Every time I saw what they did, it was something I couldn't, which I find weirdly painful, so I just kind of disassociated from it. When something is so beyond what you think you could do, you dismiss it.
Even when I got a Computer Science degree to become the ostensible computer tech programming computer business website application guy, and focused my creative output on music, I never stopped making art, visual art even, of some sort. Album art or videos or photography and web design for people when I was younger. Stuff which was purely for me, which I've never shown anyone. It was always something I loved to do. The feeling of wanting to express something personal, or emotional, coupled with the endless possibilities that floored me when I was a kid? Those feelings haven't gone away.
But I missed big pieces of the puzzle because I was too shy to admit that I wasn't immediately good at something.
Whenever I try stuff, I'm usually good at it immediately somehow. I remember not being able to play piano or guitar, but it wasn't like I ever sat down at a piano and made a noise that disgusted anyone, let alone me. Same with writing, or programming a computer. Maybe drawing a box is like that. Ariel Pink says "every time I sit down and I try I get interesting results / at least interesting results". What a growth mindset! But drawing something really personal (for example, a person) is like learning the violin: the results are never interesting, because the brain is very opinionated on what a note sounds like, and what a face looks like.
Getting help from someone else feels like you've surrendered – you've admitted defeat since you couldn't work out how to do it yourself. You're just some stupid baby who had to resort to asking the Internet to solve your problem, exactly like everyone else does.
But a couple of months ago I made a decision. Better buckle up, buckaroo! I clicked on some Art Tutorials. Maybe I'll give up after a while. Maybe I'll learn something.
Well, what do they teach you? How to draw?
Turns out you gotta draw lines! Spheres! Angled prisms from different perspectives!
Now it's finally starting to pay off!!!!
I'm given to understand that, if you were a kid in the 50s, more specifically a 'boy', you'd think that planes were extremely exciting. Cars were exciting too, but that's because in the 50s they built them to look like planes. They were the most modern thing around, a manifestation of Big Science and personal heroics. Comics in those days were about people flying planes and blowing up other planes, if I am to believe Roy Lichtenstein.
World War II had created a new, chivalrous but edgy modality: take amphetamines and play cards with other young men in leather jackets until sirens and bells startled you into your hundreds-of-miles-per-hour killing machine. Up and away! Our boys in their Spitfires were the original punks.
A decade later, they didn't even need camouflage: instead chrome, later gunmetal. Sometimes they sprayed them with a special type of white paint for stopping the thing from dropping out of the sky should it feel the flash of its own hydrogen bomb. People with slide rules drew acute angles, all exaggerated for visual appeal, or to appeal to the god of fluid dynamics. The designs, through utility, became obscene. The Harrier Jump Jets are nothing like their namesake bird of prey, they're more like a rock dove designed to nest on a brutalist cliff-face. You ought to have seen one landing on top of an NCP car park. Military aircraft are incongruous in every situation, too fast, too loud, utterly alien-looking, completely at the extremes of the kind of activities that humans do. B-52s, even with bomb-bays empty, leave all that evil black smoke in their wake. The Eurofighter Typhoon makes a sound like a tearing of cardboard you can feel in your stomach. It's thunder created by humankind because of incomprehensibly gigantic structural and geopolitical forces, or because they find it exciting.
I've been on planes a few times. I mean, like, an Airbus. Not very many times but a few. I knew people that went on holiday a lot. every year, twice a year. They must get bored of flying. There's probably nothing about the process they find exhilarating or fascinating anymore. People in America seem to go on planes even more than that. They're always going on planes.
Everyone acts like the whole process is normal, but it's absolutely not normal. Think of the mechanisms and the infrastructure involved in ascending directly into fucking Heaven at hundreds of miles per hour, cloaked in white noise and plastic and steel?? Maybe the boredom is a reaction to fear? They must feel something. Are they trying to seem confident and cool by refusing to be affected by such an experience? Are they genuinely indifferent? Maybe we just get like that after a while. You do something weird enough times, and it doesn't exactly become normal. But you get bored of having to react to its weirdness.
The first time I went on a plane, because I was a kid, and because it was before 9/11, I got to go in the cockpit. It was like when you're on one of those trains with no driver, and you get to the front to find there's just a window opening onto nothing except rails and gravel to the horizon, except there weren't even rails or gravel. We were just held up there by luck, like a magic carpet, or one of those floating platforms in a video game. There was no such thing as the ground, only a void in every direction: Earth was now a Gas Giant. The pilot was unphased, and jovially showed me the trim wheels or the button that invokes the seatbelt signs or something.
The most recent time I was on a plane was from Schiphol to Gatwick, which was kind of a joke. You might spend more time taxiing than in the air. Flying over the Thames estuary I swear I could see my departure point and destination at once, the wing a dividing line between them. As we climbed between layers of clouds we glimpsed the bottom half of a rainbow: a vivid, beautiful ring with its center exactly opposite the winter sun.
A couple of times, coming home north in the dark, the flight path would go directly over my house. It seems unfair that you have to get a train back home, and walk up to the steps with your luggage. Can't I just get out here? I can see my house! The streets were outlined in orange, and I couldn't miss it. I wouldn't be home until 1 AM or later, but here I was, flying over my house at 11:15. For years later I'd hear the same flight overhead at that exact time.
In 2015 I saw a fighter jet crash into a highway during an air show. It exploded into a huge fireball, a black mushroom cloud, exactly the same as you see in a movie. 11 people were killed, cars crushed by the fuselage. Somehow the pilot didn't die. I was half a mile away but I could smell the kerosene and burning rubber. It was a clear, blue, beautiful, hot day. We drove to a country pub behind a big hill, and we sat round a parasol table and tried to start talking about what had happened.
I haven't been on a plane since, but it's just a coincidence. I never expected to see something like that. In the following years, a lot of things have happened that I didn't quite expect to see, some small and some large. But I don't know what to do with that information
On January 1st 2000 I found a cassette tape. It was on the steps of a terraced house, two streets from the seafront.
The gutters were full of broken bottles and things, because it was January 1st 2000.
I was a child and don't explicitly remember staying up to witness the first seconds of the new millennium
I do remember fireworks and being in a churchyard with lots of jovial people.
In all my memories from before I was about 7, night looked exactly the same as day except the sky was black
(I also remember dragging a large trash bag along the pavement, full of dozens of unused promotional Coca-Cola cups we had been given by someone. the cups were would eventually be redistributed throughout my family and were seen in kitchen cupboards for years afterwards. a specific arrangement of polar bears and a small red circular logo became an iconic image representing my childhood, and cumulatively I probably saw those guys more than bart simpson or george bush)
The tape was black and it had no writing on it. in the 2010s this would be called 'creepypasta' but in 2000 it was just a tape with no writing on it.
I don't remember feeling any kind of mystery.
there were a few other tapes there but this was the only one without a label so I put it in my pocket.
What was on the tape? Boy in the Bubble from Graceland, Dire Straits' Communique, Born in the USA, some other stuff.
it was an extremely normal tape.
but, this was the first music of any kind I had personally owned, and I would listen to the tape over and over, on some Walkman and a pair of comically oversized headphones, and fidget with the 3-band graphic equalizer.
the waves and the crickets at the beginning of Follow Me Home would get rewound and played over and over. depending on the Dolby switch even the gaps between songs sounded like waves and crickets too. I'd close my eyes and see the tape going past like a huge lint roller with pictures stuck to it
The tape wasn't a mystery when I found it but the things I heard were. the more I listened, the more questions for my 7-year old mind:
why do all songs sound American?
why are there so many different types of guitars?
who was Springsteen's "yellow man", and why was he missing from pedestrian crossings, despite there being a yellow traffic light?
why are there so many different types of drums?
did a bass without frets exist and why did it sound like a tuba?
what is a chord?
why do some people like some music and not other music?
who was Paul Simon and who had written and sung this Paul Simon song?
what's the word for 'glissando'??
what on earth was that sound in the 8 bars after the second chorus? (when they played it live in Zimbabwe it was a guitar synth, one of the Rolands, but it also sounds nothing like the record. so that one has remained a mystery. my best educated guess is that it's a Synclavier. the Synclavier is the God of the Gaps)
I had to find out the answers to all these questions. you won't be surprised that the whole "what's the deal with music, how does it work and why does it sound so good" thing became a quest for that kid.
the answer to the Paul Simon authorship question was much more complicated than I had expected and turned out to be loosely related to Bruce's traffic light thing. you end up down a lot of different rabbit holes eventually. 20 years later, the only way I've found of playing guitar chords that sounds good to my ears is the way Mark Knopfler does
When you're reading a Wikipedia article about someone, do you ever think "I wonder what a Wikipedia article written about me would say"? Do you think "Will there ever be a Wikipedia article written about me?"
i hate reading my own blog, its like jeez. ive heard it all before