• The coming storm, part 2

    Charlie Stross’s state-of-the-world overview, linked to for the following bit.

    c. We’re surrounded by the signs of pervasive low-level brain damage on every side. Having come through an acute pandemic wave of COVID19 in 2020, governments everywhere now seem to be in denial that the pandemic is ongoing—and we have vaccines that diminish the acute impact of the virus from life-threatening to merely “a bad cold”. But it’s not a bad cold! It causes widespread inflammation throughout the lining of the blood vessels, including the brain’s circulatory system. Cognitive damage is apparent and is one of the symptoms of long COVID: it causes symptoms ranging from stroke and Parkinsonism to dyscalcula and even dementia. If you’ve noticed poor, erratic, or angry driving in the past couple of years, road manners are one of the more evident signs of what’s going on. Cars are a proxy for bodies in public space and elderly drivers are notoriously bad; we’re now seeing a lot of aggressive, oblivious, and inexplicably bad driving behaviour routinely, and an uptick in accident rates. There may be other less obvious side-effects: I suspect the angry political discourse is to some extent inflamed by the brain inflammation of the folks who think COVID19 is over.

    My bout of Covid last month seems to have made my Long-Covid worse, particularly cognitively. Hopefully it will pass but the last few weeks have been notably harder than I was getting used to.

  • Mary H.K. Choi - What My Adult Autism Diagnosis Finally Explained

    Another writer in their 40s discovers they have autism. I’m tempted to collect all of these into a book that tells the same story over and over but with significant and important differences. (If you’ll pardon the niche reference, not unlike a series of Becher photos of industrial buildings.)

    Choi’s experience is harder to romanticise than some accounts as her traits were making her marriage hell and she went through a hard process of dealing with imposter syndrome, possibly aggravated by her experience as a child of immigrants, being different and having to mask her way through awkward social situations.

    And even if I was officially autistic, was I autistic enough for it to matter? And what did that mean? I’d grappled with impostor syndrome at various points in my life, and the nightmare scenario I kept returning to was that I might tell a colleague or acquaintance that I was autistic only to have them reveal that they had a severely autistic child. I found this prospect mortifying beyond redemption. I was convinced they would rightfully feel that my comparative claim to autism was so marginal as to be deceptive. Did I just, in some grotesque display of privilege, pay hundreds of dollars for a doctor’s note that would excuse me from the social mores by which humans in a functioning society were expected to abide? I refused to be an apex asshole of weaponized therapyspeak, a Coastal Elite victim of the self-care-industrial complex. And yet … And yet.


  • Paul B. Rainey’s Why Don’t You Love Me? optioned by Jennifer Lawrence and A24

    For most of you the news that some book is being made into a film is not that interesting, but I’ve known Paul since we were part of the UK small press comics scene in the 1990s and I couldn’t be more happy for him.

    Why Don’t You Love Me? follows a miserable couple, Claire and Mark, struggling through their marriage while “feeling like something is not quite right in their reality,” teases A24. The graphic novel has been described as a “pitch-black comedy about marriage, alcoholism, depression and mourning lost opportunities,” with surprising twists along the way.

    I just found this stream of Paul going through all the work he made before Why Don’t You Love Me?, most of which I have copies of in my boxes of zines, and then introducing the book to the world.

  • Earthrise

    A lovely short documentary from 2018 about the photographs of Earth taken from the lunar orbit of Apollo 18 and the effect that view had on the three astronauts, all of whom are interviewed at length. I really enjoyed this. It’s been posted in full on Youtube and there’s one of those interactive website things.


  • The Rise and Fall of Earthrise

    This is so relevant to my interests it’s almost a parody. A nice chunky but very readable essay by Erik Davis, the foremost expert on the weird counter-culture (his book High Weirdness comes highly recommended) talking about the Apollo 8 mission around the moon, the Earthrise photo taken on that mission, its impact on the environmental movement and appearance on the cover of the Whole Earth catalogue, the contradiction of a product of the military-industrial complex being adopted by granola-chewing hippies, Gerry O’Neill’s advocacy of space colonisation, Buckminster Fuller’s concept of Spaceship Earth, Martin Heidegger’s distress over the existence photos of Earth from space, the fungible meaning embedded in photos of Earth from space, the variations of the Overview Effect felt by astronauts, and how all this led to, or fed into, the techno-utopian ideologies that have defined the tenor of the last 50 years of extractive capitalism.


    If you’re curious about what makes me tick, this is as good a primer as any.

    Of course there were multiple messages in [the Whole Earth catalog], which makes for a certain irony today. First there’s the juxtaposition of the cover — a sublime artifact of advanced military-industrial technology — and the hippie arcana within, like macrame manuals, DIY tipi specs, and buckskin garment guides. This is the kind of contradiction that is, as the Apple products say, designed in California. Indeed, Anders himself grew up in San Diego.

    The deeper irony is that the faith in “tools” the catalog represents, however beautiful and true within a humanist frame, becomes decidedly less charming when it simply greases the infinite instrumentalism of Extractive Capitalism. This egregore or asura has grown so ravenous and mighty that even the two ancient rock stars of the Apollo image — this planet, this moon — can be seen from a certain perspective as nothing more reservoirs of resources to fuel its own galactic self-realization.

  • Could you forgive your childhood bully? Katy Wix confronts a painful memory

    I read Wix’s “autobiography in 20 cakes” Delicacy last year and loved it - her writing is so good with a lightness that both flags and obscures the crushing sadness of growing up and then being an adult who went through growing up. This could have been a standard Guardian Lifestlye piece but her writing… omg…

    How bad was it, really? I didn’t wear a sleeveless top in public until I was 32, because of what she said about my shoulders, but it could have been worse: I could have been 35. I only spent a year in speech therapy to get rid of my lisp. And I’ve only mentioned her about once a month in therapy, definitely not every week. How do you calculate the impact another person has had on you? Well, it’s either ruined my life, or it’s fine.

  • The Universe with Dr. Katie Mack and John Green

    I’m not a big fan of podcasts for anything other than falling asleep to but I have been thoroughly enjoying this long-form explainer of how the Universe was formed and how we know what we know about it. The format is the key - John Green is utterly bemused by the most basic cosmological facts so Katie Mack has to explain everything as if talking to a child. And then every so often John summarises what she’s said in his own words, showing that he gets it. This double explainer is perfect and I now fully understand stuff like dark matter. Highly recommended.


  • On Not Being Online

    Warren Ellis commenting on Jay Springett talking about the internet feeling flat and what we can do about that. I’ve been thinking about this a bit too (I’m sure anyone who’s been actively online for a couple of decades has these thoughts) and if I might add a tuppence, I was really struck when going through my 1990s zines at the diversity of style and content compared with the homogeneity of whatever we might define as online culture, and I think this comes from a comparative paucity of interconnectivity and shared language across all zines. You’d see tropes evolve in pockets but nothing on the scale of memes like the Wojak characters. The internet is like water - it flows along the fastest route and wants to become an ocean, which is maybe antithetical to sustaining weird edgelands culture. And this is becoming a blog post rather than a link comment, so off you go, clickity click. I’ll cogitate further and see if I have the energy for a longer post.

  • What Have Fourteen Years of Conservative Rule Done to Britain?

    I’m a big fan of journalists explaining Britain to non-British readers because it gets me right out of our parochial bubbles of assumptions and prejudices and gives a new perspective on the absurd stuff I’ve gotten used to.

    This is a loooong read from the New Yorker, so set aside some time, but it’s a good one. I particularly like how it’s written by someone who grew up in London as the son of a City banker, so they have access to the mindset of people like George Osborne and speak their language.

    Some people insisted that the past decade and a half of British politics resists satisfying explanation. The only way to think about it is as a psychodrama enacted, for the most part, by a small group of middle-aged men who went to élite private schools, studied at the University of Oxford, and have been climbing and chucking one another off the ladder of British public life—the cursus honorum, as Johnson once called it—ever since. The Conservative Party, whose history goes back some three hundred and fifty years, aids this theory by not having anything as vulgar as an ideology. “They’re not on a mission to do X, Y, or Z,” as a former senior adviser explained. “You win and you govern because we are better at it, right?”

    Another way to think about these years is to consider them in psychological, or theoretical, terms. In “Heroic Failure,” the Irish journalist Fintan O’Toole explains Brexit by describing Britain’s fall from imperial nation to “occupied colony” of the E.U., and the rise of a powerful English nationalism as a result. Last year, Abby Innes, a scholar at the London School of Economics, published “Late Soviet Britain: Why Materialist Utopias Fail,” which argues that, since Thatcher, Britain’s political mainstream has become as devoted to particular ideas about running the state—a default commitment to competition, markets, and forms of privatization—as Brezhnev’s U.S.S.R. ever was. “The resulting regime,” Innes writes, “has proved anything but stable.”


    See also Politico’s more lighthearted American’s guide to the 2024 UK election.

  • In defense of an old pixel

    A lovely look at the history of pixel fonts, that is to say letters made from a grid of dots, like cross-stitch, how they were made and the seemingly infinitive variety available from such a constrained pallet.


  • What lies beneath the Labour ‘landslide’ election predictions?

    John Harris visits my city as part of his years-long series of travelling the country talking to people who are not usually talked to about politics. It’s sobering stuff, of course, and I think in the future this whole body of work will be seen as a vital document of the (hopefully) last gasps of a cruel era.

  • I Will Fucking Piledrive You If You Mention AI Again

    Deliciously long but firmly hinged rant about the AI bubble the tech industry is tragically trapped in, the implications of which the rest of us are just going to have to deal with, written by someone who knows how it all works. Invaluable.


  • UbuWeb’s Conceptual Comics collection

    If you’re the kind of nerd who finds how comics work as interesting as the comics themselves, this is a motherlode of experimental gems.

    Conceptual comics is an archive of works that are unaffiliated with the commonly accepted history of the comics medium. It is a resonating chamber for conceptual works and unconventional practices that are little known outside of our community but also a springboard for establishing the conditions for an affective lineage between similarly minded practitioners. The variety of the collected material expresses the curator’s choice for a non uniform consistency and claim instead for a perpetual becoming of the medium. Nevertheless, these works share with each other many common issues and urgencies, alternating between material self-reflexivity and critical exhaustion. They operate on the margins of distribution and reception and their unlocatedness in the medium’s spectrum is more than an abstraction: artists uncomfortable with the entrenched roles invite readers, in the absence of critical discourse, to engage with the works in non-specified, at times forensic, ways of examination.

    PDFs of all publications available to download.

  • Protect the Network

    Noah Kalina has collected photos of trees that have been pruned around power and communication cables and made a magazine and exhibition of them.

  • “Debilitating a Generation”: Expert Warns That Long COVID May Eventually Affect Most Americans

    I’m nearly at the end of my second year of Covid-related health bullshit and it’s really depressing how no-one in any position of power is talking about how a decent chunk of the working population have been mentally and physically compromised. Here’s some scary stats and speculations from across the pond.

    LP: That’s a really alarming possibility — that most Americans could potentially have Long COVID in as little as four years? PA: That’s what I’m saying. And we know that somewhere between five and eight percent of those people will be so debilitated that they will no longer be able to work.

    And while correlation does not imply causation, this is an eyeopener:

    There are all kinds of weird things going on that could be related to COVID’s cognitive effects. I’ll give you an example. We’ve noticed since the start of the pandemic that accidents are increasing. A report published by TRIP, a transportation research nonprofit, found that traffic fatalities in California increased by 22% from 2019 to 2022. They also found the likelihood of being killed in a traffic crash increased by 28% over that period.

  • Money, Magic and the Imagination

    I find ritual money burners fascinating because even though I get the reasoning behind setting fire to banknotes it still sparks a revulsion in me, and that’s interesting. I suppose it speaks to the power of money and how it’s programmed my brain to respect it.

    Anyway, here’s an account of visiting the Bank of England in London and burning the new King Charles notes on their first official day of issue, which also serves as a handy introduction to the value of “magic” in the 21st century.

    I’ll add a disclaimer. You aren’t required to believe any of this. There’s a difference between magic and religion. Religion’s a set of beliefs that are seen as sacrosanct, eternal, beyond question, while magic is playful and imaginative. Magic is experimental spirituality. You take on a belief, act upon it, and then see if it makes any difference to the world or not. That was the motivation behind our actions. We were performing them, not out of dogma, not out of certainty, but out of playful engagement with the spirit of ritual, as an experiment, to see where it might lead.


  • How to Copy a File From a 30-year-old Laptop

    Chap has some audio files stuck on an old MacBook, so he does the logical thing: convert them to hexadecimal text and fax them to a less ancient computer, then reconstruct the files using OCR. And it works!


  • The Purpose of a System is What It Does

    The first of what is hopefully an in-depth guide from Anil Dash on how to think about the systems we’d like to change.

    A potential negative aspect of understanding that the purpose of a system is what it does, is that we are then burdened with the horrible but hopefully galvanizing knowledge of this reality. For example, when our carceral system causes innocent people to be held in torturous or even deadly conditions because they could not afford bail, we must understand that this is the system working correctly. It is doing the thing it is designed to do. When we shout about the effect that this system is having, we are not filing a bug report, we are giving a systems update, and in fact we are reporting back to those with agency over the system that it is working properly.

    Sit with it for a minute. If this makes you angry or uncomfortable, or repulses you, then you are understanding the concept correctly.

    I remember when it was pointed out to me that poverty and homelessness were not the results of things going tragically wrong - they were signs things were working exactly as they were designed to work.

  • The green-energy revolution shows what real innovation looks like

    Decorating some really interesting stuff about the massive leaps in harvesting and storing renewable energy, now it’s actually got some proper investment behind it, is a delightful teardown of the online tech* sector’s pitiful record on “innovation”. (via)

    *It’s endlessly frustrating how “tech” now means Google and Amazon, when there is so much more to “tech” than having a warehouse full of computers.

  • Tramps!

    As someone who came of age in the late 80s, early 90s, I sort of expected my young adulthood to be not dissimilar to that of, say, my older cousins, or at least something like The Young Ones. It seems Paul Raven (whose new-to-me blog is quite the gem) had a similar journey of post-Thatcher dream shattering.

    The older I get, the more obvious it becomes that for all their (fully justified!) hatred of Thatcher and the state of the UK during her hegemony, the bohemians of the generations immediately prior to my own lived in a time of considerable opportunity—particularly those who made it to London, where squatting was still relatively easy (and pre-gentrification housing stock still plentiful), and where the concomitant reduction in one’s basic outgoings meant that the unemployment benefits of the time could support a combination of artistic practice and low-budget decadent hedonism.

    The review is of Tramps!, a doc about the post-punk (but not really post, more a continuity of queer subculture) New Romantics which I’m very keen to check out. This stuff bled into the mainstream through people like Boy George and Leigh Bowery but obviously never in its pure form and I’ve found every exposure to the actual stories from the people that were there to be endlessly fascinating. (via)