January 1st, 2011 | brainjuice
Happy New Year. Stand on the neck of 2010 and throatpunch the future.
January 1st, 2011 | brainjuice
Happy New Year. Stand on the neck of 2010 and throatpunch the future.
December 18th, 2010 | music
Haven’t listened to Captain Beefheart in years. Hadn’t even thought about him for a long while. So it was a bit of a shock when Nika Danilova posted on Twitter that Don Van Vliet, the Captain, died today. Mer Yayanos put a notice on Coilhouse, including a wonderful YouTube playlist that I’m listening to right now, and rediscovering the love of Beefheart.
December 17th, 2010 | Links
Yeah, so Yahoo changed their story and claim they weren’t shutting down or “sunsetting” del.icio.us and are putting it up for sale instead. Because, you know, firing the team and having the news slip out and then issuing a statement 24 hours later doesn’t at all sound like you’re changing the story after half the internet called you a shitbird.
So, until I get an alternative service set up (that Reeder for iPhone can talk to, ideally), I’m doing links like this:
* “Analyzing the isotope ratios of ancient raindrops preserved in soils and lake sediments, Stanford researchers have shown that a wave of mountain building began in British Columbia, Canada about 49 million years ago and rolled south to Mexico. The finding helps put to rest the idea that there was once a Tibet-like plateau across the western US that collapsed and eroded into the mountains we see today.” While I wasn’t aware that people were running around screaming There Was Totally A Tibet Thing On America One Time, what I’m taking from this is — analysing ancient raindrops. I didn’t know we could do that. That is actually a bit cool.
* “The costly launch failure that caused Russia to delay the deployment of its own satellite system was the result of a fuel miscalculation, a commission charged with probing the accident said Friday.” Yeah, this is why Russian space travel has always worried me a bit. I fucking love the Soyuz, but, at the risk of promoting national stereotypes, it’s generally still all a bit “we hit the tractor with the spanner until it ploughs a straight furrow.”
Raikunov said the fault lay with the Energia Rocket And Space Corporation, which designed the carrier. He said that the company failed to account for the fact that the updated version of the rocket had bigger fuel tanks, which weighed more when filled to the top. “This increased the payload weight and the rocket did not have the energy to deliver the satellites to orbit,” the space official said.
Let that sink in.
* Jim Jupp of Belbury Poly creates “the first in an occasional series of radio shows in which I’ll be playing a few of my favourite tunes, giving you a sneak preview of forthcoming Ghost Box material and leading you all in devotional song.” Or you can click through and stream it through a Mixcloud widget. So that’s tonight’s listening sorted.
* Music writer Simon Reynolds signs off for the year with a list of his favourite records of 2010. Which I haven’t done myself, yet. I suppose I should try.
December 17th, 2010 | Work
Finally, one of my sekrit projects has poked its head into the light of day. That which was Project Blacklight has been announced by BERG: it’s called SVK.
SVK is a short graphic novella I’m writing, to be illustrated by my old mate Matt Brooker, the artist generally known as D’Israeli. This’ll be the first substantial work we’ve done together in… christ, nigh on 20 years, since LAZARUS CHURCHYARD.
And it’s to be published by BERG, the London design consultancy group.
Regular readers of this site will know BERG well. For the rest of you, check out their work — you might well find you realise you already knew them.
SVK is about… well, SVK stands for a few things, including “Surveillance, Very Kafka.” In one meeting I also described the book as “Franz Kafka’s Bourne Identity,” which seems to have stuck.
The story, concerning a recovery agent and a thing lost that should probably never have been made, is set in London. So it has to be about surveillance at some level, as London is probably the most surveilled city in the world, one estimate pegging the level at one CCTV camera to every eight people. At any one time, in fact, a fifth of the world’s CCTV cameras are live in the UK.
There is an interesting and possibly unique physical aspect to the book that we’re not discussing right now. But BERG are very good at making things that are about perception, like the (pre-INCEPTION!) Here And There map. When Jack Schulze at BERG came to me with the core idea that SVK’s built on, I knew I had to at least try this, just to see if it’d work…! It’s going to be a surprise, I think, and this sort of envelope-tampering is only going to happen somewhere like BERG. Strange Vector of a Komik.
Also, there are going to be strange and lovely opportunities for a few advertisers therein. Not quite product placement. Details at the BERG link.
SVK will be with you next spring.
December 17th, 2010 | brainjuice
Well, apparently Yahoo! is closing down del.icio.us. I just exported my bookmarks out of there (probably with all the fucking tags missing) and am deciding where to move my bookmarking to. Probably Google Bookmarks, if there’s a decent extension. Reeder doesn’t support Google Bookmarks tagging, so I’ll have to email my bookmarks to myself and then load them in later. I still find Evernote a bit jerky and slow, and the Evernote extension for Chrome has a mind of its fucking own. Del.icio.us was smooth and fast and simple, and I will miss it terribly.
Hey, Yahoo? Running del.icio.us cost you pennies, and bought you so much goodwill. Now you’re just another of those scumfucks who acquires great services just to bury them. But then, firing all those people before Xmas really showed what kind of people you are anyway, didn’t it? ”Oh, we didn’t want people to spend too much money at Xmas and then fire them in January with that extra debt on their shoulders.” Right.
Everyone I know is currently working out how to back all their photos off Flickr, in case that’s next. The thinking being, if Yahoo didn’t know what they had with del.icio.us, they’re not going to know what they have with Flickr. Which is a fair point.
To Joshua Schachter, and everyone else who worked on del.icio.us — thank you so much. It made my working life so much easier, you can’t imagine.
December 16th, 2010 | photography
My friends are always so quick to throw me under the bus. Katie West’s new book of photography is available for sale, and apparently it’s all my fault:
A long time ago Warren Ellis suggested I make a black and white photobook; something that didn’t cost an arm and a leg to get printed, something that anyone could pick up by way of print-on-demand, something that people from the internet could afford to buy five of – if they felt so inclined. It was, of course, a great idea, and I wanted to do it, but I got distracted by a few things. Or maybe just one thing: life.
But that’s the entire point of this: here is my life of the past year and a bit laid out in a collection of 76 black and white photographs. Some of them are terrifically sad, as I suffered many losses and a bout of self-inflicted heartbreak during this time; some are ridiculously happy, as I learned to be better at recognizing happiness; many are concerned with my body and sexuality, as those are issues I’ve always been interested in and during the past couple years I’ve been confronted with a lot of criticism and revelations about the representation of my body in my photography. You don’t see anyone else from my life, or actual things I might do day-to-day, but you do see how I feel about the moments and events that end up changing me.
December 16th, 2010 | guest informant
Rita J King and I got talking on Twitter a while ago. She’s one of those scary people who can seemingly do anything: writer and journalist, futurist, Senior Fellow at two think-tanks, an Innovator In Residence at IBM, artist, public speaker and I give up. She’s currently exploring what she calls “hybrid realities,” which very broadly speaking could encompass storytelling, the digital world and the public event. I asked her to write to you about whatever thing interested her today, and this is what she wrote:
The story is that the Levitating Mermaid is in possession of a massive trove of secret letters, with the Imaginary Sailor, Balthazar, in hot pursuit across the Seven Seas, described here by the 9th century AD author Ya’qubi:
“Whoever wants to go to China must cross seven seas, each one with its own color and wind and fish and breeze, completely unlike the sea that lies beside it.”
* Sea of Fars ends at a strait where pearls are fished.
* Larwi is massive, filled with islands that have kings. It can only be sailed by starlight and contains many wonders that are beyond description.
* Harkand has an island filled with precious stones and rubies.
* Kalah is shallow and filled with huge serpents that ride the wind and smash ships.
* Salahit is large and filled with wonders.
* Kardanj is very rainy.
* The Sea of Sanji, the final crossing, is the sea of China.
The site contains handwritten letters written to and from the Levitating Mermaid and the Imaginary Sailor, as well as glimpses of the trove of secret letters in her possession. Balthazar’s passion is letter writing (the results are sometimes, but not always, NSFW, like his site), which is how I met him when I requested a letter.
The story has just begun, so now is the time to become a character in this electrifying global art caper.
Follow artist, adventurer and entrepreneur Rita J. King on Twitter (@ritajking).
December 16th, 2010 | bookmarks
SPECIAL SOUND: The Creation And Legacy Of The BBC Radiophonic Workshop – Louis Niebur. Page 29. Excuse shitty iPhone photo of the page in question, no time to run the scanner tonight:
Further down the page, there’s also this:
…he disavowed its comparison to music by noting that the BBC has chosen the term ‘radiophonic’ over the more controversial musique concrete and that the work they are to hear is a completely new genre, the radiophonic poem… ‘a poetic experience that only exists in terms of a sound complex.’
These were the days, you see, when you could hear Samuel Beckett plays on the (national) radio, and producers realised that the only way his bad dreams could be presented in audio was to accompany them with dream-sounds that could not occur in reality.
I don’t know that there’s anything in British radio that continues this today, beyond the work done at Resonance FM. You could, if you felt so inclined, probably draw a line between the 1956 BBC radio production of Beckett’s ALL THAT FALL and, say, the latter work of Moon Wiring Club. The connection between the radiophonic and the supernatural, of course, remains strong in the work of many purveyors of the Confusing English Electronic Music — Belbury Poly and the Broadcast And The Focus Group project to name but two.
(Go here for Moon Wiring Club’s six favourite pieces of Confusing English Electronic Music in 2010.)
I was talking with Adam Drucker — cLOUDDEAD, Doseone, Anticon and the co-composer of the music for Alan Moore’s most recent spoken word piece, UNEARTHING — the other day, when it occurred to me that Bandcamp would be the most perfect home for the radiophonic production.
Anyway, completely random, just wanted to get the bookmark and the thoughts down before they vanished into the ether…
December 15th, 2010 | researchmaterial
“Made with no money, just a little time and a lot of passion,” the filmmakers say.
D.O.P: Richard Mountney
Lighting and Camera assistants:
Simon Mountney, Tom Mountney and Robin Mair
Film Excerpts and Music used under a strictly non-profit basis.
“A project for Collacqueration: Designed in the UK – Lacquered in Japan – exhibition at Embassy of Japan in the UK.”
December 15th, 2010 | Work
He’s a Zen gangster boy. She’s a bored girl with a camera. They don’t fight crime.
We hope you like it.
December 14th, 2010 | brainjuice
December 14th, 2010 | guest informant
Jamais Cascio is a futures strategist, a writer, frequent technical consultant, co-founder of the recently closed Worldchanging.org and a Research Fellow at the Institute for the Future. And, not coincidentally, a good friend of mine, which is why he’s here. I asked him to write to you about whatever was on his mind today. And this is what he has to say:
The Future will save us. The Future will destroy us.
The tension between the myriad ways our tools — our technologies — affect us is often at the core of futurological discussions. Do they weaken us, destroying our memories (as Socrates argued) or our ability to think deeply (as Nicholas Carr argues), or do they enhance us? Do our technologies rob us of our humanity, or are they what make us human? While I tend to bias towards the latter view, it’s not without recognition that our tools (and how we use them) can damage our planet and our civilization. But for a surprisingly large number of people, such discussions of technology aren’t just part of futurism, they are futurism. From this perspective, the question of whether our technologies will destroy us is essentially the same as asking if our futures will destroy us.
This deep fear that what we have built will both give us heretofore unimagined power and ultimately lay us to waste has been with us for centuries, from the story of Icarus to the story of Frankenstein to the story of the Singularity. But because of its mythical roots, few foresight professionals give this fear sufficient credence. Not in the particulars of each story (I don’t think we have much cause to worry about the risks associated with wax-and-feather personal flight), but in the recognition that for many people, a desire to embrace “the future” is entangled with a real, visceral fear of what the future holds for us.
In religious study, an explanation of how an all-powerful deity that claims to love us can allow evil is known as a “theodicy.” The term was coined in 1710 by Gottfried Liebniz — a German natural philosopher who, among his many inventions and ideas, came up with calculus (independently of Newton, who is usually credited) and the binary number system. A theodicy is not merely a “mysterious ways” or “free will” defense, it’s an attempt to craft a consistent plausible justification for evil in a universe created by an intrinsically good deity. Theodicies are inherently controversial; some philosophers claim that without full knowledge of good, no theodicy can be sufficient. Nonetheless, theodicies have allowed believers to think through and discuss in relatively sophisticated ways the existence of evil.
The practice of foresight needs within its philosophical underpinnings a similar discourse that treats the fear of dangerous outcomes as a real and meaningful concern, one that can neither be waved away as pessimism nor treated as the sole truth — a “neodicy,” if you will. Neodicies would grapple with the very real question of how we can justifiably believe in better futures while still acknowledging the risks that will inevitably arise as our futures unfold. Such a discourse may even allow the rehabilitation of the concept of progress, the idea that as a civilization we do learn from our mistakes, and have the capacity to make our futures better than our past.
For those outside the practice of futurism, neodicies could be sources of comfort, allowing a measure of grace and calm within a dynamic and turbulent environment; neodicies give future dangers meaningful context. For futurists, the construction of neodicies would demand that we base our forecasts in more than just passing trends and a desire to catch the Next Big Thing; neodicies require complexity. For all of us, neodicies would force an abandonment of both optimism- and (more often) pessimism-dominated filters. Neodicies would reveal the risks inherent to a Panglossian future, and the beauty and hope contained within an apocaphile’s lament.
What I’m seeking here is ultimately an articulation of futurology (futurism, foresight, etc.) as a philosophical approach, not simply a tool for business or political strategy. I want those of us in the discipline to think more about the “why” of the futures we anticipate than about the “what.” Arguing neodicies would allow us to construct sophisticated, complex paradigms of how futures emerge, and what they mean (I’d call them “futurosophies,” but I’m on a strict one-neologism-at-a-time diet). Different paradigms need not agree with each other; in fact, it’s probably better if they don’t, encouraging greater intellectual ferment, competition and evolution. And while these paradigms would be abstractions, they could still have practical value: when applied to particular time frames, technologies, or regions, these paradigms could offer distinct perspectives on issues such as why some outcomes are more likely than others, why risks and innovation coevolve, and how tomorrow can be simultaneously within our grasp and out of control.
But the real value of a neodicy is not in the utility it provides, but the understanding. For too many of us, “the future” is a bizarre and overwhelming concept, where danger looms large amidst a shimmering assortment of gadgets and temptations. We imagine that, at best, the shiny toys will give us solace while the dangers unfold, and thoughts of the enormous consequences about to fall upon us are themselves buried beneath the desire for immediate (personal, economic, political) gratification. Under such conditions, it’s easy to lose both caution and hope.
A world where futurology embraces the concept of neodicy won’t make those conditions go away, but it would give us a means of pushing back. Neodicies could provide the necessary support for caution and hope, together. Theodicy is often defined simply as an explanation of why the existence of evil in the world doesn’t rule out a just and omnipotent God; we can define neodicy, then, as an explanation of why a future that contains dangers and terrible risks can still be worth building — and worth fighting for.
December 14th, 2010 | comics talk
This week, new comics are being released to specialty comics stores on Dec 15 in North America and Dec 16 in the UK and elsewhere. These notes are briefer than I’d like, this week: deadlines day.
DMZ #60. The final year begins. And, lucky old you, it apparently begins with the origins of the Second American Civil War, so you can probably investigate the series right here, even at this relatively late date in the serial run. And you should.
I only ever saw the first issue of Ted McKeever’s META 4, but it was brilliant, a massive return to form. #4 is out this week. I need to catch up with this. A weird, drifting science fiction Theatre of the Absurd, with probably the most gorgeous art McKeever’s ever produced. Very arresting imagery.
Book 13 of Pecau and Kordey’s SECRET HISTORY is released, and I’m wondering how it is that I’ve never read an issue of this series. Time-spanning conspiracy theories and the wonderful art of Igor Kordey, you’d think I would at least have had a look…
STRANGE TALES 2 #3 (OF 3) from Marvel apparently features Kate Beaton, the late Harvey Pekar, Kevin Huizenga and the man who fears no shirt, Dean Haspiel. Therefore you should really pick a copy up.
DISEASE OF LANGUAGE collects Eddie Campbell’s adaptations into comics of Alan Moore’s spoken word pieces THE BIRTH CAUL and SNAKES AND LADDERS. When I first heard THE BIRTH CAUL — 1995? — I told Alan I thought it was the best thing he’d written in the last five years. And FROM HELL is one of my favourite graphic novels. It still stands today as a massive work of frightening ambition and scope, an almost Joycean attempt to encode the essential modern human condition into word and sound and symbol and ritual. Eddie Campbell sets himself a near impossible job here, but succeeds in letting light and breath into the text. SNAKES AND LADDERS is also very good, don’t get me wrong, but it’s THE BIRTH CAUL that left its impression on me.
Judge Dredd Comp Case Files TP (S&S Ed) Vol 2 — all the JUDGE DREDD strips from 2000AD are being released chronologically in big collections. We’re getting into the strip’s first prime, now, with early work from Brian Bolland and the mighty Mike McMahon starting to power up.
Mad Woman of the Sacred Heart is the legendary Moebius and the storied Alejandro Jodorowsky, famed for their demented science fiction comics, essaying their version of a 1970s relationships film. I haven’t read it in years, decades probably, but I remember it as being like these two holy fools trying to make a Henry Jaglom movie. It’s re-released in hardback this week. You should have a flick through it.
Jason Little’s Motel Art Improvement Service looks kind of cute. See for yourself.
And, in this week’s shameless whorebaggery, I note that TWO-STEP, the short serialised graphic novel I wrote for Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti to draw, gets its trade-paperback collection. This was one of those things where I was delighted just to lay down the story in a light full script and let Amanda and Jimmy freestyle in the backgrounds and interstices. They don’t disappoint. Gorgeous pages.