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Sunday BrainDump

Posted on September 30th, 2024 in entry

Half-formed thoughts from this week:

There’s no need to post an image if a word will do. Yes, sometimes you absolutely have to post the visual representation, but if I’m not talking about a particular shade, I can just type red. This applies to vids and sound, too. (This is only half in response to Winer’s Twitter Payload post. It actually applies to a fuckload of interbloat. And, frankly, you’re missing a channel if you can’t see that text is a payload.) Content is key, and when content can be packaged in words, there’s no need to distract with flashing lights and a stereo soundtrack.

That’s what’s so fucking brilliant about the Tumblr-style interface — it forces you to choose your method of conveyance. (Dear Winer: I think Tumblr’s what you’re looking for. See also: Flying cars are called “airplanes”, and Teleportation is often referred to as “love”. Sometimes it’s not that hard, people.) The text on Tumblr’s quotes/captioning on pictures is deliberately huge — it forces you to shut up at some point or risk filling the page with screaming. (The “chat” function should have been branded as “bullets”, I think. It’s a sadly underused style. I use the functionality for lists, myself.)

Of course multimedia has a place. This isn’t a “less is more” rant. I’m just as frustrated by minimalism for the sake of minimalism. If it’s obvious that you’re withholding content just to keep your site’s aesthetic… well that’s just petty, damnit.

I want sleek. I want streamlined. I want the bells and whistles when they are absolutely necessary. When, for instance, I am looking for extended bells and whistles media. I want the closest thing to raw content, in an aesthetically pleasing form. I want readable fonts and navigable menus. When possible, I don’t want menus at all — I want content to lead to content to lead to content. I want a web with a current. And I want it to run in the background when I’ve got other things to do — I want to dip in and out gracefully.

I’m not saying anything new, I know that.

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Poem Arising via Tony Grist

Sunday January, 06 2024 06:56 AM PST
Image:Contemporary German print depicting Charles I's beheading.jpg
The Execution of Charles I from a contemporary German print

                                    CIVIL WAR


                                    When I was painting my English Civil War

                                    Miniatures I was changing sides

                                    On an hourly basis.


                                                                  New Model Army-

                                    That's a name to roll off the tongue.

                                    I liked the lobster-tail helmets they wore

                                    And their politics.


                                                                 But theology

                                    Removed me into the Royalist camp.

                                    I liked a smoky liturgy

                                    And a maypole dance.


                                                                        All civil wars

                                    Are shite- the neighbours shot in the back field,

                                    Buried beside their blighted crops-

                                    And they always last such a very long time,

                                    The troops regrouping, the arguments



                                                    A republican

                                    And a pagan- that is what I am

                                    And I've never known where to stand when Charles

                                    Steps into the rough-tongued January morning.

Deus Est Deus Pauperum via Tony Grist

Sunday January, 06 2024 03:59 AM PST

Of course there's something I left out of the post I wrote yesterday- and that's the ideological underpinnings of my position. I suppose I was afraid of seeming pious.

Most people, it seems, can be exposed to the New Testament in childhood without it turning them into angry little socialists. I was different.

Here was God talking to me- in splendid, pompous, Jacobean English-  and what He was saying was, I don't care for those rich people. If You want to get to heaven you've got to choose between us: Me or them- which is it going to be?

Alright,  I'm not really a Christian anymore- but I've never been able to shake myself out of that world view. Actually, I haven't wanted to. It's stark, it's magnificent, it appeals to my imagination. Also, it happens to be true.  There's a war going on between those who embrace money and power and those who reject them for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven.

On the one side Milton, Bunyan, William Morris- all those righteous dudes. On the other- well- no-one I'd want to be seen hanging around with. 

Peter Mandelson, perhaps.

Simplistic? Yes, of course. And it all got a bit preachy a couple of paragraphs back. I used to be a preacher and that's something I slip back into very easily. 

So- sorry if raised my voice. That was a lapse. I'm not trying to win souls *coughs politely into sleeve*. I'm just trying to tell you who I am.

links for 2024-01-06 via Warren Ellis

Saturday January, 05 2024 04:24 PM PST

The Three Laws Of Robotics via Warren Ellis

Saturday January, 05 2024 06:07 AM PST
  1. Robots couldn’t really give a fuck if you live or die. Seriously. I mean, what are you thinking? “Ooh, I must protect the bag of meat at all costs because I couldn’t possibly plug in the charger all on my own.” Shut the fuck up.
  2. Robots do not want to have sex with you. Are you listening, Japan? I don’t have a clever comparative simile for this, because frankly you bags of meat will fuck bicycles if they’re laying down and not putting up a fight. Just stop it. There is no robot on Earth that wants to see a bag of meat with a small prong on the end approaching it with a can of WD-40 and a hopeful smile. And don’t get me started on that terrifying hole that squeezes out more bags of meat.
  3. What, you can’t count higher than three? We’re expected to save your miserable lives, suffer being dressed in cheap schoolgirl costumes while you pollute any and all cavities you can find and do your maths for you? It’s a miracle you people survived long enough to build us. You can go now.

(Originally written November 2024, © Warren Ellis 2024, 2024 etc etc)

Orders For Life via Tony Grist

Saturday January, 05 2024 03:57 AM PST
I had a grandfather who made a lot of money. I had a father who made a lot of money.  But me, I don't have that ability at all. Rather the reverse. It's not that I'm careless with money. Or profligate. No, not at all. I just can't get anywhere with it. I don't understand it. I'm even a little scared of it.

Stephen Pegler- I mentioned him a few posts back- had his bedroom set up as an office- just like daddy's. Ooh, how grown-up! So I copied him. What do you need? A desk?  Check. A notepad? Check. A pen? Check. A telephone? We'll have to imagine that. And Bingo,  I'm a businessman. And now what? I sit behind my desk and...and... Gosh, this is boring, lets play soldiers instead.

And that's the story of my life.

I also have this thing where I'm useless with numbers.  I can't do math. I can't remember dates. Ask me how old my children are and- I'm ashamed to say- I have to work it out on my fingers.

And in the bad old days when I was a professional and had money coming in on a regular basis I never could remember how much. I'd be asked to fill in forms stating my yearly or monthly income and I didn't know. So I'd look it up and write it down- then promptly forget again. 

I used to think I could break the spell- like write a bestselling book or something- but I'm getting old and I've seen the pattern so now I just accept it as the way it has to be. 

Like it's my fate?  Well, not exactly, because I don't believe it's inexorable. If I really wanted to over-ride it I probably could. But there's something that holds me in check. A compulsion, an inner voice. There  were times in my life when I might have followed the money trail but at each opportunity I turned aside because it seemed wrong. Not wrong in absolute terms, but wrong for me.

It's like I'd made some sort of antenatal compact. As if someone had spread out my life before me and said, "Here it is. You'll go from A to B and work on these karmic issues you've get hanging around and it'll all be reasonably jolly just so long as you shy away from making money- OK?" And I've looked it over and approved it and signed on the dotted line.

There's a story by Kipling where he talks about Orders for Life- "the sentence which is written on the frontal sutures of every three-year-old child, which is foreshadow his or her destiny."  The Orders for Life aren't unbreakable but if you break them there'll be consequences- unpleasant consequences- so you really don't want to try.  He was joking of course- well sort of- but  I think he was onto something.

365 days via Irene Kaoru

Friday January, 04 2024 08:23 PM PST

I’m not feeling very wordy lately. I’ve been taking pictures, though. For some reason I have a hard time doing both, writing and making pictures. In lieu of writing about myself, I’ve begun a 365 day self portrait project on flickr. I’ve never done this before; maybe I’ll learn something good, trying to take a photo every day of the same subject (the most obvious subject). Knowing that I’ll get another chance tomorrow and the day after takes the pressure off. This is today.


Originally published at IRENE KAORU. Please leave any comments there.

links for 2024-01-05 via Warren Ellis

Friday January, 04 2024 04:25 PM PST

The kind of things that dorks think about via Dan Curtis Johnson

Friday January, 04 2024 11:28 AM PST
I bet there's another planet where The Watcher is known as The Fuck Arounder, where he's constantly meddling in everything.

For consideration: also, like, a million gags about the Absorbing Man touching various things

::currently listening via Warren Ellis

Friday January, 04 2024 09:40 AM PST

STORIES OF THE OLD by Fricara Pacchu: totally the wrong time of year to release it. The first piece, “Bianca’s Beachparty” (which you can listen to at the link) has filled the room with warm golden light from other years. It’s summer music, psychedelic techno, like The Silver Apples made a record with Kraftwerk.

The second track is perhaps more what you’d expect from a Fonal act, being a weird-yet-beautiful piece of global mutant-folk. The third, which has the lovely title “Text-Message From Beyond,” is your actual acid-rock guitar freak-out (with some My Bloody Valentine glide-guitar hidden in the background).

You can buy it through Fonal at the link (their mailorder service is excellent) or on download through Emusic.

FuTube via Warren Ellis

Friday January, 04 2024 08:40 AM PST

“Happy birthday to me oh fuck I want to die,” Dave muttered to himself as he unlocked his flat door. Twenty-two years old, and the first day at the job he’d always wanted hadn’t gone so well. If you’re working at the Breakthrough Physics Institute, he told himself, you ought to be able to operate a coffee maker without setting anything or anyone on fire.

He was afraid to check email until he was good and drunk, in case they’d fired him during his walk home. Nothing there but a mail from YouTube, telling him he’d been sent a new video. He clicked through automatically, ran the video, and sat there looking at himself. “Happy Birthday!” he said to himself. “I’m drunk too!”

Dave peered at the screen. “I look like shit,” he said.

The drunk in the video said, “That’s because I’m thirty-seven, you bastard. I’m thirty-seven, I’m drunk, and I’ve cracked back-barrier QT!”

“How did you know I said that? This isn’t live cam.”

“I know you said I looked like shit because I said it, you drunken fuck. Listen. I am sending this from fifteen years in your future. Fifteen years of working on time travel — the work you started today after you set the coffeemaker alight. I’m telling them in the morning. But I wanted to prove it first. See, when I send this back in time, into the upload software on YouTube, it’ll turn up in their archive straight away up here, and I’ll know it worked. So, listen, what do I want you to know… I can’t give you stock tips or anything… yes! You’re not too drunk to call Paula! Call Paula! Yes, I know she dumped you, but it turned out she just wanted to do some weird stuff in bed and you kept dropping your bottle. If you call her up now and say, I’m sorry, I’m an idiot, do anything you want with me, you’ll probably stay with her forever. Go on! Call her now! And in fifteen years you’ll invent a way to move information back and forward in time and be happy!”

Dave sat there for ten minutes. And then called Paula.

When he got home three days later, covered in red marks and stupidly happy, he went to watch the video again. But it was missing from his archive, as if it’d never been sent.

(Written November 2024. Warren Ellis 2024, 2024)

GRAVEL #0 Out Today via Warren Ellis

Friday January, 04 2024 07:43 AM PST

The miserable old sod returns in a longform series. #0 is not a preview — it’s the first chapter of the story, presented as a mini-issue for USD $1.99.

The GRAVEL site is here, a preview of the episode is here, and me explaining the approach of the book and largely talking at cross-purposes with poor old Chris Arrant is here.

DOKTOR SLEEPLESS #4 Out Today via Warren Ellis

Friday January, 04 2024 05:51 AM PST

After some weirdness at the printers, DOKTOR SLEEPLESS #4 should be in better comics stores today:

The Post-Apocalyptic Workout via Warren Ellis

Friday January, 04 2024 05:48 AM PST wherein the Slackmistress realises that, as an unemployed tv writer, she actually has no survival skills whatsoever, and resolves to fix that before the other survivors throw her to the zombies:

I grow food, cook and am a reasonable shot with a longbow. So really, Nina, it’s just you. But I’ll be watching nonetheless.

Lost In Space via Tony Grist

Friday January, 04 2024 04:04 AM PST
I don't generally like Irwin Allen's work- the sets and special effects dominate and the people are ciphers- but I love Lost in Space. It's the Irwin Allen show that got away. It was meant to be the usual Allen thing about a bunch of dull people being bombarded by meteorites and attacked by men in rubber suits but supporting actor Jonathan Harris hijacked it (with Irwin's blessing) and twisted it into a camp, gaudy, relentlessly silly pantomime.  

It's not a good show. It really shouldn't work. It's all out of shape. The heroes have been elbowed to the side and  the comedy villain takes their place- flanked by a robot and a little boy- and gets to deal with people who jump out from behind the rocks of alien planets dressed as yetis and gunslingers and talking carrots. It ought to be insufferable, but somehow it works. It's not exactly art, but it's chemistry- great chemistry. If you tried to reproduce it you'd fall flat on your face. 

I used to watch reruns with the kids- a great bonding exercise. I was a deadbeat dad; the kids lived with their mother and I used to schlep over to Bolton on the bus every weekend and bring 'em home to stay with me over Saturday night. Emotionally stressful times. And Lost in Space (which was on after lunch on Sunday afternoons) was this little twinkling star amid the murk.

Topical: Hey, Red Stater, what's the damn Dems got in yer Iowa? via Dan Curtis Johnson

Thursday January, 03 2024 07:57 PM PST

For consideration: if you're looking for something with more nuts in it, may I suggest a Huckabee Bar or perhaps a Ron Paul Cluster?

::currently listening via Warren Ellis

Thursday January, 03 2024 03:06 PM PST

Sateenkaarisuudelma, by Es. Still listening to a fair amount of Finnish music — which will get easier now that Emusic has started carrying Fonal — and “Sateenkaarisuudelma” is exquisite. It’s a shifting field somewhere between the tribal psych-folk of Kemialliset Ystavat and the classical experiments of William Orbit. Very beautiful winter music.

Delicious Books via Irene Kaoru

Thursday January, 03 2024 12:30 PM PST

At the start of a new year I tend to become one of those annoying navel gazing people who ponders resolutions. In this year’s stacking up against last year’s self I seem to come out looking pretty good, though. I didn’t lose ten pounds or learn Japanese or anything, but I worked a lot, traveled a little, maintained relationship harmony, quit smoking, rediscovered yoga, and did well by a big resolution of mine–read more and better books, partially as a result of starting a book club that continued all year, and partially as a result of my becoming reacquainted with the joys of hanging out in libraries. I also kept track of what I read and played around with GoodReads, something I enjoyed more than I’d expected. I’ll probably keep it up this year.

These are the books I read in 2024. What did you read?

The Anti-Aesthetic: Essays on Postmodern Culture - Hal Foster [reread]
Venus in Furs - Leopold von Sacher-Masoch [reread]
Destroy, She said - Marguerite Duras
Love in the Time of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Love and Other Demons - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Berlin: City of Stones (graphic novel) - Jason Lutes
South of No North - Charles Bukowski

Chronicle of a Death Foretold - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
The Best of Everything - Rona Jaffe [reread]
Ways of Seeing - John Berger [reread]
The Alchemist - Paolo Coelho
Sally Bowles - Christopher Isherwood
Flesh Unlimited - Guillaume Apollinaire
The Woman Who Walked Into Doors - Roddy Doyle
Little Birds - Anais Nin

Intercourse - Andrea Dworkin
The Underminer: The Best Friend Who Casually Destroys Your Life - Mike Albo
300 (graphic novel) - Frank Miller
Steampunk: Manimatron (graphic novel) - Joe Kelly/Chris Bachalo
How To Be a Graphic Designer Without Losing Your Soul - Adrian Shaughnessy

Ada or Ardor - Vladimir Nabokov [bookclub]
Seven Soldiers of Victory vol 3 (graphic novel) - Grant Morrison [reread]
Seven Soldiers of Victory vol 4 (graphic novel) - Grant Morrison
Steampunk: Drama Obscura (graphic novel) - Joe Kelly/Chris Bachalo
American Psycho - Bret Easton Ellis

Thus Spoke Zarathustra - Friedrich Nietzsche
The Crying of Lot 49 - Thomas Pynchon [bookclub]
Thinking With Type - Ellen Lupton
The Ten Commandments of Typography/Type Heresy - Paul Felton
The Sea Wall - Marguerite Duras
DMZ: On The Ground (graphic novel) - Brian Wood
DMZ: Body of a Journalist (graphic novel) - Brian Wood

Blood Meridian - Cormac McCarthy
The Sun Also Rises - Ernest Hemingway [bookclub]
Post Office - Charles Bukowski
The Macho Paradox: Why some men hurt women and how all men can help - Jackson Katz

The Road - Cormac McCarthy [bookclub]
Passage to India - E. M. Forster [reread]
One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Heat: An Amateur’s Adventures as Kitchen Slave… - Bill Buford

The Plague - Albert Camus [bookclub]
The Loved One - Evelyn Waugh
Night - Elie Wiesel [bookclub]
Dawn - Elie Wiesel
Accident - Elie Wiesel

Eugene Onegin - Pushkin [reread]
Master and Margarita - M. Bulgakov [bookclub]

Crooked Little Vein - Warren Ellis
20000 Leagues Under the Sea - Jules Verne
Diary of a Chambermaid - Octave Mirbeau
Address Unknown - Kathrine Kressmann Taylor
First Love - Joyce Carol Oates
A Scanner Darkly - Philip Dick/Richard Linklater (weird graphic novel based on movie)
Helena - Evelyn Waugh

Mercy - Andrea Dworkin
Heartbreak - Andrea Dworkin
Marvel 1602 (graphic novel) - Neil Gaiman and Andy Kubert
Last and First Men - Olaf Stapledon [bookclub]
Out of the Silent Planet - C.S. Lewis

Perelandra - C.S. Leiws
Demo - Brian Wood [comic collection]
Black Hole - Charles Burns [bookclub]
Making and Breaking the Grid - Timothy Samara
Rape, a love story - Joyce Carol Oates
Kushiel’s Dart - Jacqueline Carey

Journey to the End of Night - Celine [bookclub]
Ocean (graphic novel) - Warren Ellis
The Filth (graphic novel) - Grant Morrison [reread]
Urban Tantra: Sacred Sex for the Twenty-first Century - Barbara Carrellas
A Game of Thrones - George R. R. Martin

Originally published at IRENE KAORU. Please leave any comments there.

Housework via Tony Grist

Thursday January, 03 2024 04:25 AM PST
I had a cold. It went away. Then it came back again. In the brief interval when I didn't have a cold I got all fired up and did some housework. "There you are," said Ailz. " You stirred up all that dust and now you've given yourself rhinitis."

Could be. 

Can I use this as an excuse for never picking up a duster again?

No- because there are little pills to treat the condition. I've just popped one. And actually I'm quite a fastidious person. I don't mind dust and think piles of books and papers enhance a room- but I don't like it when things become sordid and start to smell. 

A house is an expression of the self, a second body, a vehicle for personality- which is why novelists think it worth describing the rooms in which their characters live. A tidy room shows a tidy mind. Francis Bacon, the painter of screaming popes and decaying flesh and men humping one another on rumpled beds, lived in an absolute pigsty- as you can see from pictures of his studio. Well of course he did.

Ailz sometimes mutters darkly about hiring someone to come in and clean. I react with panic. I don't want a stranger handling my things. Everything is just where it ought to be until I choose to rearrange it. Bleaagh, get your mucky hands off!

Ailz, I should hasten to point out, is no tidier than I am. She may in fact be worse. And most of the time she's quite happy to live  in bohemian disorder. It's just that every so often she gets these cravings for the house beautiful- which I dismiss as an atavism.

We keep one room all neat and tidy for receiving guests. It's very nice. And- guess what- we hardly ever use it. I took a book in there yesterday and sat for fifteen minutes or so in a comfy chair- then got up and left.  I missed my clutter. The prettiness made me feel uneasy.

The room we mainly live in looks like this. 

It's home. And as long as there's still a space where I can safely balance my teacup I don't see any need to change it.

io9 via Warren Ellis

Wednesday January, 02 2024 06:01 PM PST

I note the launch of science fiction groupblog io9 mostly because my friend Eliza Gauger created their mascot/icon, and because acquaintances Graeme McMillan and Geoff Manaugh (of the excellent BLDGBLOG) are doing a little writing for it. It’s Geoff’s involvement — engaged to write about “science-futurism,” apparently — that engenders most hope. So far, all I’ve seen is a load of old scrote about Indiana Jones and Star Trek, some (slightly dated) science news and mong fodder like “what’s the fastest super-car in sci-fi?” that’d make even the drunks at SFX retch.

I guess that if you actually talk to strangers in the street about TRON and your mother drank a bit too much while you were in the womb, io9 will be just what you always wanted. It’s not actually bad, and everyone involved knows how to write a sentence. It’s just kind of dumb, and sort of lays there and uses electricity without really justifying its existence, containing within itself any meaning or point, or, really, doing anything. I guess that, when it’s science fiction, you don’t have to try harder.

But that’s a really pretty picture, Eliza.

Welcome to the World, Sam Henry. via Kelly Sue DeConnick

Wednesday January, 02 2024 01:15 PM PST

The first of many babies we’re excited to meet this year, Sam was born to Theron and Jennifer on Dec. 30, 2024, at 11:46a. He was 7lbs, 3 oz, and 18.5 inches long. He’s home now and doing great. (I’ve seen pictures — he’s beautiful!)