024 :: Well, fuck them. Make it personal

Oh so sick, just mark the middle of our door with a red cross a foot long. I’m writing this with an extremely light head.

Narrative

Jay Springett, uno de los principales paladines del solarpunk como movimiento, el objetivo es responder a la gran pregunta: “¿qué aspecto tiene una civilización sostenible y cómo podemos llegar a ella?”

– ‘Solarpunk’: así es la ciencia ficción optimista que contrasta con ‘Black Mirror’

I said last week that I wanted to re-read Altered Carbon by Richard K Morgan before the beginning of February and I have. The title of this blog post is a quip from one the main characters. In my mind Altered Carbon is probably the best cyberpunk novel ever written – I really do love it. The dramatic rights to the book were optioned pretty much from day one and I’ve always been optimistic about an adaption – until said adaption is upon me.

The plot (in short) is about Takeshi Kovacs, an off world super soldier ‘Envoy’ who by the technology of cortical stacks – the digitisation of personality, memories and consciousness – is ‘re-sleeved’ in a new body back on earth 250 years since he was last animate:  “Pull on the new flesh like borrowed gloves and burn your fingers once again”.

With the technology to transport consciousness from body to body, death has become less existential as part of the the day to day of human culture but real death the destruction of the stack/chip that sits in ones spine is feared beyond all measure. The main plot is driven by an impossibly rich and essentially immortal ‘Meth’ who’s backed up consciousness (in his replacement cloned body) can’t remember the last 48 hours of his life and refuses to believe the police ruling of death by suicide – Kovacs is sent to investigate.

The novel is somewhat of a meditation on samsara which brings me to my concerns about the Netflix series:

The noir element of the novel is its central conceit. I’d estimate that 3/4 of the novel takes place inside the main characters head – as monologue. The novel is tight with tensions around ‘otherness’. The character you are spending time with is culturally Japanese. An Envoy super soldier who before doing his duty in the human space empire grew up amongst Yakuza on a planet built by Eastern European labour, and politically leans towards neo-maoism (Quelleism). His character is completely defined by his conciseness. It’s all he has.

He is not a the middle aged white man’s body he is currently ‘sleeved’ into – who it’s clear from the trailer you will be seeing on screen for the majority of the show with the exception of flashback(?) scenes. I hope all this addressed in a creative way in the series. Because if not, then it results in another Hollywood white washing. Plus what the fuck is with all the explosions? I can’t say I have high hopes.

I must admit as a 32 cis white male who has a tattered copy of the first edition paperback, the books complicated relationship with race (and it’s treatment of women) is something that I have become more and more aware of as I have grown as a person, and as the novel has come along with me during that time. In 2003 whilst at university (I must be honest) I’m not sure I would have any concerns around a white guy playing the main character. However all these years years on (despite the major outrageous storyline changes evident even from the trailer – which are also terrible) the main character being played by a good looking white guy seems really wrong. I’m not even going to ‘wait and see on this’ and gonna call it now: I think its going to be a fantastic tv series but a terrible adaption from the source material. Seriously just read the book.

[UPDATE] Go read  Nerds of Color – Netflix’s Altered Carbon and Asian Consciousness in White Bodies from 2016

Dipping the stacks

  • There seems to be a lot less back slapping at Davos this year.
  • The death of Le Guin resonated across my feed far more deeply but with far less pubic mourning than other celebrity deaths.
  • My belief that ‘Media’ is a huge distraction machine continues to solidify.
  • Screw London snark.
  • #TheAssistance continues to go unchallenged I see.

The Ministry

I had an excellent call Sunday evening exposing exciting medium to long term possibilities.

The week started off well, with news reaching me that an organisation I have been coaching – their top candidate accepted the post. Tuesday, I had an excellent cocktail fuelled late lunch, followed by a beer filled evening with an old friend who now has a good job at a major tech company in Berlin – opportunities opening. Also I was also quoted in a major Spanish media outlets article on Solarpunk.

I also received a three pass editorial manuscript back from an editor who took a long look at a short piece of fiction I wrote last year. It was extremely helpful – it seems having an editor is just as important as having a good idea in the first place. I think working with them is going to make me a much better writer.

I was looking forward to attending DAOWO – Doing Good on the Blockchain at the Goethe Institut in London. …. But was struck down by dizzyness, headaches and wooziness. Mysteriously I have not developed the sore throat and full blown cold my partner Eve has – she is about two days a head of me – and I have literally done nothing this week except read Altered Carbon, Sleep and put about 15 more hours in to Zelda on the switch. Such is life.

Reading

See top of this blog post. No other reading. I am Dead.

Music

Yuri from The K-Pop band girls generation released this future bass genre banger this week:

I listened to a few times around the time I was having an intense lucid dream about being a Private Investigator who had “Cyber Professional” on my business card. I think maybe my life is a little bit too cyberpunk rn.

RIP Mark E Smith

Advertisements

023 :: A rich palette of ecosystems

It’s frustrating that it costs you well over £10 to step out your front door in London. Hashtag 2018 I suppose.

Narrative

(Solarpunk) attempts to foster a socio-cultural environment which emphasises individual autonomy, consent, unity-in-diversity, with the free egalitarian distribution of power. It creates a multitude of spaces for indigenous sovereignties, reproductive justice, and radical queer politics.

Of course with these principles comes polyphony, one cannot speak for other solarpunks, only be in dialogue and occasional chorus with them.

– “Dirt Behind Our Ears” : On Solarpunk and the Need for New Futures

The metaphor of polyphony has come up a lot recently. Its a key theme in The Mushroom at the End of the World by Anna Tsing and also frequently used by another anthropologist Tim Ingold (Warning I’m a major fanboy). I’ve become more and more mindful of the need for less oppositional life ways in the last few months, and I think this is my refrain for the year.

This 2015 talk by Ingold on ‘The Correspondence of Lives’ is worth watching in full.

On this same note..

A friend asked on Tiny Twitter the other day:

1. Is the culture all wrong to start blogging again? Is it too experimental or contingent a form for career to survive intact?
2. Do I have a coherent enough perspective to bring to regular blogging above anger and reaction?
3. What would be the best platform to use

1. No. The culture is not wrong at all. 2. Yes everyone has interests. 3. WordPress obviously.

I think the resistance others feel to (re)starting a blog during the encouraging conversations I’ve been having is around fear of the Instant Rage Machine – Twitter. But things move slower in the blogosphere. True, you might say something that stir up the hornets nest and you get linked to and chewed out in 240chars. But really the only appropriate place for any criticism to come from and be responded to is in the long form. From/to other blog posts – healthy discussion.

As usual here’s my impression of the world from dipping the stacks this week:

  • Cryptocurrency markets collapsed. I wonder idly how many of the people who were cheering along will be doing the same during the upcoming currency crisis expected during 2018.
  • One of the Royals got a much better hair cut.
  • A newspaper I stopped reading ages ago has rebranded with lots of strange lines and UX choices.
  • The sexual lives of public figures is still being used as an attempt at control. Maybe they have *affects french accent*  an arrangement , they are both adults it’s none of our business.
  • Fed up with drug companies, hospitals in the USA have decided to start their own – this is extremely good.

The Ministry

I have been rushed off my feet this week which is a weird thing to say for someone without a full time job. I’ve lots of calls with various individuals around the world some at odd hours just for 30mins of someones time: but that is what “Real” social networking is all about I suppose. Every single person I have spoken to however has been so nice and kind.

This week I spent nearly three days helping an organisation hire a new technical person. It’s one of their first major hires. I find it gratifying to be able to step people through unfamiliar territory and offer help and support when people are unsure (the point person had never run an interview process before). Though at the same time always being mindful that it’s not my decision – it’s theirs.

I also had an expert interview for a strategy company on HR Tech and emerging trends in the sector. Which involved me going on a long rant about the surveillance workplace, data passporting, and the realities and dangers of relying too heavily on APIS linking software purchased to meet immediate business needs in startups. I also had an absolutely amazing long conversation with Ruth from Furtherfield.org in Carnaby Street.

I also submitted at the last minute talk about Solarpunk to a major conference in Berlin – see the quote above.

Reading

I finished both The Hidden Half of Nature and A Monk’s Guide to a Clean House and Mind this week.

I have now read all of David Montgomery’s books with the completion of this one. And quite frankly recommend all of them. The Hidden Half of Nature is also co-authored by his wife Anne Biklé, a biologist and environmental planner.

Its a fascinating romp tough soil science, the history of microbiological studies and then smoothly segues in to gut bacteria and the human microbiome and takes a brief look at the discoveries this century could possibly bring now that the ‘Kill them all’ knee jerk reaction of antibiotic use is being reassessed. The sections on Crohn’s Disease and inflammation was of great interest to me (obviously). If you have read and enjoyed I Contain Multitudes by Ed Yong then this is a must read as its a gateway book to soil science.

A Monk’s Guide to a Clean House and Mind is a delightful short book (I read it over two evenings) full of pithy zen sayings and practical advice. I’ve taken two things away from the book. The first i’ve instituted a ‘conscious’ face washing ritual every morning (even if I immediately get in the shower) and i’m already finding the mental space that it opens up is providing returns. The other is that I looked up in my flat.. and we really need to dust/clean the light fixtures.

I’ve started reading Altered Carbon (again) perhaps for the 5th? time in my life. I’d like to get though it before the TV show starts on Netflix in Febuary. I’m also finishing up a book called The Margate Tales which has been half read on my night stand now for ages. It’s a well researched collection that attempts to cover all the references to Margate in print pre-railway age. There are some fantastic quotes!

A friend pressed Star Ark: A Living, Self-Sustaining Spaceship by Rachel Armstrong into my hands last night – so i think that’ll be up next. But Hyperion by Dan Simmons also arrived in my life second hand for 50p this week. We’ll see.

Music

Not much time for new tunes this week. But we’ve been listening to an old household favourite, it hasn’t left the turntable in a week.

imag2799.jpg

Remember kids:

large.jpg

022 :: Minister of My Own Labor

It’s been a strange week thats for sure but I’m not going to talk about that here.

Narrative

I’m now twelve days into my new social media diet. The essay “Avoid News, Towards a Healthy News Diet” by Rolf Dobelli has been a big influence on me since I read it back in 2012/13 ish.

We are so well informed and yet we know so little. Why?

We are in this sad condition because 200 years ago we invented a toxic form of knowledge called news. The time has come to recognize the detrimental effects that news has on individuals and societies, and to take the necessary steps to shield us from its dangers.

“Avoid News, Towards a Healthy News Diet” – Dobelli

I return to it every now and again when everything is getting a bit much on the socials. So much so, that when I was sorting out the huge pile of papers on / under / around my desk before Christmas I found THREE copies of it printed out in various stacks & states of decay. I suppose that says it all.

In experiments in disconnecting last year, I spent two separate months ‘Off’ social media, cold turkey. The main problem i experienced was I missed too many DM’s and notifications about people being in town etc. Not being on Facebook or Whatsapp (and I jealously guard my phone number / personal email) these people and some friends were just ignored – So that didn’t work out. This month i’ve been checking my DM’s and notifications 2-3 times a day and just do an in-depth read in the mornings before I get up (but i may replace this with reading). It’s been working well so far for me and I feel a lot better for it.

Some bullet points on observations from me feed this week

  • Remainers have literally invented team follow back 10 years after it turned out to be a disastrous echo chamber the first time around – it’s an echo chamber they are after I suppose.
  • The royals slow manoeuvrings continue  – its so interesting to watch
  • The US is going quiet on Russia hacking and swivel eyed collusion finger pointing over the election – I suspect because it’s run out of steam
  • The US still has bad book cover design
  • “Doing a journalist” is something that happens to people I suppose.

The Ministry

I’ve been working on a lot of work related things this week tying to get myself in a position to earn some income this year – mostly websites.

I haven’t touched any kind of self hosted WordPress system in at least 7 years and this week I have been working on three simultaneously. I’m about 1/3 thought the total amount of work i need to get done so far and next week should be a big sprint. But webdesign even within WordPress has moved on a lot since I last dusted off nascent web design skills and the learning curve has been quite steep. It also occurs to me that I should finish reading the book recommended to me by Sjef – The Elements of Content Strategy by Erin Kissane before I write any copy for the bigger websites. I’ll post a review when I’m done reading it, but I’m thinking i might need to engage/pay a copy editor to help me out once the first draft is written.

I did finish one website this week though.

After Flavours.me died during the summer last year, my personal website had been a 404 (which Is the perfect metaphor for last year in general). So in an effort to decentralise, I now have a quick single page with minimal information about me up and running. I cant imagine it’ll change anytime soon unless I get some new headshots in the spring and then I’ll change the GIF – I might randomise it.

Another web related task this week was updating the solarpunks tumblr to become solarpunks.net ‘all very simple’ I hear you say, *unless* you also want to host wordpress on a subdomain. It took me nearly two days of on and off DNS fuckery to sort it out, with a lot of help from my hosting provider. I’m modifying a custom theme next week probably . It’ll be the first theme update since the tumblr started in 2012.

Reading

In addition to the content book, I started reading The Hidden Half of Nature which continues my Soil science binge from last year which I’m about 1/3 of the way though already and, I’m about 1/2 though A Monk’s Guide to a Clean House and Mind  – a book about buddhist house keeping.

Music

I’m trying to listen to more music this year too.

So I’m going to write about that it here to. Last year was full of some fantastic stuff, mostly listened to in between financial forecasting, salesforce administration, employee utilisation reporting and data pack wrangling at my former place of employment.

This week I’ve been listening to the new Charlie XCX album – Pop 2 which is really good. I mentioned to an acquaintance the other day that it’s the first PC Music produced album that seems to go beyond their typical ‘Production Shtick’. I presume this is Charlie XCX’s influence..

Have a good week and remember:

IMG_20180101_120906.jpg

021 :: I used to bother to post things here

I’m aware that I lament almost every time I bother to login to wordpress to post something… I used to write a round up of all the things that happened during the previous year but stopped in jan 2016.

That was back even when a blog with a total of 21 posts (including this one) would get thousands of views because of strong social ties and network effects. Not so much anymore – But as I will explain, I’m going to be writing a little something here more often. Writing more in general really. If you find this blog. Let me know on twitter here.

2017: unrelated + unordered observations

2017 was a fucking horrible year for me. A year totally consumed by stress, health problems and work. The former two things all fell out from the later.

Quitting my job at the startup I’d been working at for the previous two years was possibly one of the best decisions i have ever made in my life. When i finally quit I was suffering from Hypertensive stress: causing anxiety in social situations, muscle locking in my legs that left me in agony at night and unable to walk properly, I was grinding my teeth – it also began affecting my Crohn’s Disease. I blew up relationships with friends and generally was an unbearable human being to be around – even myself. I should have quit sooner, and I should admit and publicly state again to my friends, family and my partner that all told me to do so well in advance of actually pulling the trigger I’m so sorry i didn’t do it sooner.

My partner and I went to Portugal for a spa holiday the week after I left work and a lot of the stress immediately melted away in the Sun. Pithy idioms like ‘a weight of your shoulders’ really contain truth once you experience them in effect.

IMAG2146-EFFECTS

I’m still suffering from anxiety and really don’t like the idea of busy social situations. In fact last week, I was dreading going for drinks with some of my oldest and closest friends on Christmas Eve whilst back at my hometown. As usual though, when I actually got there it was 100% fine and i was honest and talked to them about how my prior concerns before i walked down the seafront had now melted away, it turns out several friends also had had anxiety about going out too – It seems that it’s a low level collective emotion, almost all of it driven by over work and guilt at not having time for socialising. The whole work thing was all back in September with at least a six month build up and I haven’t really done anything in the four months since except sit at home and slowly try to pull different bits of myself back together…

2017 was the year that twitter went to 240 characters – I like it. It’s made for a much clearer space. Slightly more room for nuance – but only just. There is however still no time and space allowed to be convinced under the logic of the modern social network. You have to have a position immediately to keep the whole machine running. Long threads of 240 characters however are annoying and are better served by other mediums/platforms. 1 tweet is a microblog. A chain of ten 240 character tweets is just a short blog write it somewhere else. I commented a while back on twitter that we should all go back to writing blogs and I think this is an extremely good idea Warren Ellis made a comment in his newsletter about that and added “It would be fucking funny to see everyone go back to Tumblr and dance in the ruins as the sun went down.”. This is a good place to start as i mean to go on in 2018.

I made a resolution in Jan of 2017 to write more. At least 500 words a day / At least 5 days a week for the entire year. With a few exceptions i managed it. In addition I also won nanowrimo again. It was quite a lot of words put down into a word document. None of it is likely to ever see the light of day, but it did provide me some discipline during the worst parts of the year, a space to vent, and has been been good practice which was it’s intention. I really like the 500-1500 word writing length and for perhaps the first time in my life i enjoy writing. As a result i got to join the rejection club, an upshot of all this writing was i submitted a short story to a solarpunk anthology. The editor gave me some fantastic feedback and i hope to write more this year maybe one of ‘em might even be accepted ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

2017 was also the year we moved again. After three years in a cramped and damp basement flat we now have a wonderful ground floor flat with a garden. I’m hoping to make the most of it in 2018. With work stress last year the idea of doing anything beyond a little weeding and buying some garden furniture was a write off. This year i think we’ll be planting a edible container garden plated in polycultures. We also have a south facing balcony so i’m excited for plenty of tomatoes in the summer.

IMAG1831.jpg

Our garden is the back one with two apple trees in need of some TLC

I read A LOT. The full list of completed books is on my Goodreads. I also consumed more academic papers in the last 18 months than at any other point in my life perhaps since university. I’ve changed my mind about how many things truly work in the world, and that has had an impact on how i see it. I’ve been blown away by amazing thinkers in fields like ethnobotany, anthropology and straight up biology (soil science is amazing) even economic thinkers. I might write about a few of these someday. I am also extremely grateful to Gordon White for inventing the term ‘The Anthropogreen’ and for being introduced to the work of Ethan Roland Soloviev and his 8 Forms of Capital.

Screen Shot 2017-12-24 at 18.56.13.png

On the Solarpunk front, the Tumblr I have run with Adam Flynn for the last few years has doubled its followers in 2017 and interest in the genre is accelerating all over the web. The decentralised P2P social network scuttlebutt community has embraced the term and some fantastic writing has been coming from them. I wanted to start a solarpunk podcast in 2017 but 2018 will be the year that this actually happens. Mainly it’s going to be an excuse for me to talk to amazing people about the amazing work they are doing. Do watch this space because it IS coming. I also pulled together the solarpunk reference guide this year which was more work than i was expecting but im glad i’ve done it and it’s uptodate. there are some page improvements that i’ll be making to it by hacking mediums HTML.

2018 is the year i need to find an income. After the last 4 months of sitting at home reading, writing and watching a lot of star trek I’m not sure exactly how it’s all going to work out but i need to do so as my position as someone who is privileged to be able to take a few months of work can’t last forever…

But as a first step – I’m starting a company called The Ruderal

“A Ruderal species is a plant species that is first to colonise disturbed lands”

Screen Shot 2018-01-02 at 15.59.29.png

I’m not sure exactly what form the company will take, but I’m envisioning something like the a DIY record label/zine publisher I ran as a teenager. Housing and storing the things I’m putting energy and effort into. Things like the solarpunk podcast i’m starting, #stacktivism, potentially a rebooted thought menu of some kind, and any consulting / strategy work and speaking (which I have a number of engagements coming up).

Here’s a preview of that:

Screen Shot 2018-01-02 at 16.06.05.png

I am hugely grateful to all the friends, family and people who supported me in 2017.

I hope 2018 treats you well.