Monday, January 02, 2017

2016 in 2,000 pages

The Internet allows us some incredible opportunities for reflection these days. Resisting the move to Facebook's curation algorithms, I'm posting a round-up of some of last year's more (personally) significant photos over at the Disposable Evidence feed (e-mail and RSS available) along with some thoughts and memories.

Meanwhile, GoodReads has a simple filter to show you what I read in 2016. I can't remember if that was absolutely everything, but I'd say it was an eclectic mix, helped somewhat by being unable to move for a few weeks in June after my appendix blew up.

[Open disclamation: all following links are Amazon affiliate links, which I thought I'd try out for no reason other than a subtle urge for the future consumption of more knowledge.]

The stand-out book that blew me away was Mervyn Peake's Titus Groan, which is impossible to describe succinctly, but wowed me most with its ability to describe a world and its characters so vividly and viscerally.

I finally got to read Calvino's Invisible Cities and Stoker's Dracula which were both as fantastic as I'd hoped. Ma Jian's Red Dust were also highly influential though, and I find myself being drawn to the meandering, wandering narrative much more now as a result.

I also have various books on the go that put me in a good mindset of discovery and the not-quite-real. These aren't on the list, but tend to fill spare moments - I picked up Eco's Book of Legendary Lands in the wake of his passing, grabbed The Classic of Mountains and Seas which is an old Chinese book that reads like an insane RPG manual, and have been drip-reading Laura Oldfield Ford's collection of down-and-out London dérives, Savage Messiah in between everything else. This year I'm very much looking forward to reading The Book of Yokai.

With various series on the go (including Gormenghast, and also both The Unwritten, and Lucifer from Mike Carey), I'm looking forward to escaping from the world that the winds of 2017 will bring in...

Sunday, December 04, 2016

The internet is new... But so are nation states

This piece on the Internet and Nation States is essential reading, even if only because it represents a starting point to understanding the confused centralised/decentralised/globalised/local system we find ourselves entering into.

I've been pondering the essence of the 'nation state' for a while now (since getting into Bitcoin, probably which, for better or worse, at least forces the debate through an attack on traditional currency). It's fascinating to think of the idea of citizenship and statehood as tied to the principle and technology of printing - the 'canonical' proof mirroring the canonical state, the Constitution or the books of laws as absolute realities. The history of language as an elite communion, defined in parallel with borders, both fought over with sailing ships and sanctions.

Back in the day, 'glocal' was one of the first attempts to bring together the ideals of a global internet with local communities. We should have seen then that the middle man, the nation state, was being hollowed out further, even just from its absence in a single term. We should have seen then the backlash coming, the fight for this proxy of power. Now we bounce about, struggling not to set the borders between states, but between the different layers of governance. I am a man of the world and a Brit and a local. A tourist and a dependent. A citizen of everywhere and nowhere.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Two Perspectives on Trump and Brexit

Woke up. Checked news. Felt oddly sanguine. First Brexit, now Trump, tied together through global movements like storm systems through the air. 

Settling into two perspectives - the modern, and the historical. 

1. The  Modern

The Net changes everything. Information has failed to scale, and civilisation is now under a deluge of media content. Soundbites proliferate at the expense of richer discourse. Lies hold more power than truth because fact-checking is slower than what people want to believe. The chaos of the network has won out - the ability for info to survive like cockroaches is complete. How are we supposed to run a democracy in this dank, dark future? 

Time is the main resource in this world - time to investigate, learn, draw conclusions. But time is scarce and its use is an art - it is not for the general population. All these skills speak only to the individual as a loosely-connected actor.

Self-reliance leaves us as detached as everyone else, but at least it's by choice. 

2. The Historical

The rise of global trade and worldwide capitalist motives has thrived since the second world war and corresponding cold war. The urgent need for profits has divided production and consumption into distinct geographical hemispheres - distance is a capitalist differential. The rise of the right wing in the West is a vote for remaining dependent on the system that bred it - the disempowered had their jobs stripped by the natural flow to undeveloped countries, but somehow want the system that made them "rich"  over 50 years to keep them rich. There is a civil war within those "empowered" by capitalism, and those who really profited. Brexit and Trump are just votes to maintain a status quo. 

Even the left has been destroyed by this shift. Labour is pointless, politically and geographically. The only modern counterparty would be one founded on information, not labour. 

But nobody dares ask the question "how much are you willing to pay to make your country profitable?" 

Sunday, October 30, 2016

The Brexit Trojan Horse of Opportunism

"The populist surge in the UK is dangerous beyond belief" - @Frances_Coppola looks at the future of Carney & the BoE

There seems to be a very real bunch of opportunists getting in on Brexit as the chance in a lifetime to seize power. They're powerful, well organised, very well resourced, and most excellent at using blame and hatred to direct other people's power in advantageous ways.

The Left is bollocksed and the fight back is crippled. Democracy is in the process of being disrupted. We're about to live in dangerous times.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Brighton Museum Pottery

Discovering more pottery in Brighton Museum.

"Signor Gruntinelli Playing on a new instrument Call'd a Swinetta."

Background: Bear jug with detachable head cup. 
Foreground: Three drinkers