Notes from Babylondon

Posted by Paul Raven @ 26-07-2012 in Poetry • Writing

Everyone was so pleased when I announced completion of my first draft that their responses have totally crashed Twitter, apparently. Ahem.

Twitterbork

I’m no expert, but that’s looking like pretty bad news. It didn’t take long for spectacular un-graceful failure states like this to disappear behind web2.0′s equivalent of the hold music, our old friend Fail-whale. Where’s he today, huh?

(Just occurred to me that half the problem is probably down to millions of people hitting refresh or their devices hammering the APIs. I’ll bet there’s some wailing and hair-tearing in that datacenter right now. Or has it gone down under the weight of some 9-11 grade Bad News Item?)

Of course, the really scary thing is how much I feel its absence, leering at me out of my second monitor. The cyborg’s augmentations fail; what does he do next? Life as cliché cyberpunk101 vignette.

PLOT NOTES:

protag. rolls cigarette, thinks nihilistic thoughts, hates on traffic hovercars armed kid gangs on scooters the gov’t.

Maybe he edits a magazine – yeah, a zine, but it’s IN CYBERSPACE! [need good neologism for this, something really cool-sounding] So he broods, writes his zine thing; he’s not found much time for it since he got his new implant. What next?

** Get milk, bacon. CAT FOOD Email [redacted] about that bloody invoice they got a month ago

So, yeah. Sure is warm today.

Thought occurs: make periodic catastrophic failure a feature of Twitter. Every three months, complete reset, all old tweets killed off, all connections erased; only your handle remains the same (though you can change it, if you like). Be interesting to see which were the people of your follows and followers would find themselves following again the soonest, wouldn’t it?

Update, 17:51GMT – Twitter appears to have reappeared, though it’s still struggling under the wave of returning users. No cataclysm tweets… but then I guess you can’t livetweet a cataclysm for long, right?

So, anyway, first draft – complete! Not the first draft of my dissertation, though. Oh no. Totally different project. Pitched an article on Nordic larp to Rhizome back in May and got it accepted, foolishly overlooking the fact that I had a rather big project to be going on with already (in the form of said dissertation) plus my day job (which has kinda taken a backseat for the last fortnight, so to speak). Worse still I had to ask for two extensions on the deadline, partly because it rapidly became a huge fascinating monster of a thing, and partly because my time-management skillset has been tested to destruction. I’ve not touched my dissertation in the last week.

But now it’s [edit for clarity: the Nordic larp piece, not my dissertation] in first draft form, all 11.5kilowords of it, sat in the editor’s inbox… and the editor is going on holiday for a fortnight starting tomorrow, so I get to let it simmer until then, while I get back to, erm, all the stuff I’m meant to be doing right now.

First draft of a non-fiction piece is always a sweet moment, because that’s the hard pushing done, the baby delivered into the waiting arms of the doctor/editor, who takes it off to be examined… and then returns, solicitous above a steely core, to discuss which organs and appendages need to be surgically removed before it can be seen in public.

What would we do without them? Hug your editor today! Or buy them a coffee, maybe. Not everyone is digging on random hugs. Or coffee, for that matter.

*

Postscript – it’s none other than Bruce Sterling, ladies and gents, reproducing a string of sullen tweets I sent from the bowels of Tuesday’s London heatwave as… prophecy? Poetry? I dunno. I’m just amazed he noticed; to my shame, I totally failed to mention drones. But then again, I doubt they’re deployed around here; Chelsea comes with its own brands of privacies and surveillances, and it’d take a long time to get the locals hungry enough to riot. Selah.

In a fit of total vanity, I’m gonna embed those tweets below. Wouldn’t put it past CondeNast to just disappear Chairman Bruce’s blog one day, and I am passing proud of these. I do all my best poetry when surly, y’know. *flounces off*

In praise of “economic waste”

Posted by Paul Raven @ 28-02-2011 in General

J M McDermott’s heartfelt essay at SF Signal chimed with me for a number of reasons, not least of which is the fact that certain recent Life Direction Decisions™ of my own are now pointing me toward an economically wasteful Masters degree, but also because McDermott seems to share a lot of my own value systems. You should surely read the whole thing, but here’s a few favourite bits:

Be proud of me. Be proud of my economic waste. The greatest tragedy of our culture is that we have allowed the financiers to take over our young imaginations. Our brightest minds from our greatest universities flock to high paying jobs, where they try to make as much money as they can before they die. The best and brightest children our nation has to offer have all been seduced into believing that ownership of large houses is more important than the environmental footprint that our McMansions smear all over our fragile ecology. The systems of wealth culture have brainwashed our youth into believing that upward mobility is something everyone should aspire to, and that being a leader is something glorious and respectable and sexy, and everyone else is a slacker or failure, and that it is a shameful thing to be a janitor or a waiter or a truck driver or a stay-at-home mom.

We, all of us, need to stop that shit right now. The best and the brightest of our world should neither be measured by how much money they earn, nor by whether they own big houses, fancy clothes, or all the consumerist bullshit things like that. The only measure of a person that matters is how they affect other people, and how we all can find a way as individuals, communities, and continents, to contribute in a meaningful, positive fashion to the very tiny world we all share. The best and the brightest should, in fact, in a fair world, see high-paying jobs as corrupting influences on the pursuit of true value in the world.

[...]

As this experience winds down, I like to think of all these supposedly economically useless degrees, especially degrees in the creation of artistic things like poems or pottery, like getting a degree in being super heroes. By day, people with useless degrees are, most of us, working hard to keep our pantries stocked with food and our lights on. If we are lucky, our daylight work is engaging and interesting. If we are not, it is a minor inconvenience as long as there is food and light. Then, we leave our day jobs and our lives open up. We read, and analyze, and create. We engage in debate on the internet and in the magazines of our fields–for instance, at SFSignal. We continue pursuing our interests, beyond graduation, and maybe we make things or ideas that whisper out into the world, rippling chaos theory’s caribou sneezes to rend the walls of Jericho. We go out to buy groceries afterwards, and nobody knows us. We go to work, and maybe we tell one person there over lunch what happened in our esoteric pursuits. We work hard, raise families and/or pets, and most people don’t even know what we really are in the wee hours and the corners of our lives, when we pursue what interests us.

But, at night, in the corners of our lives, when no one is looking, we are superheroes.

Yes.

Friday Photo Blogging: Mono

Posted by Paul Raven @ 10-04-2009 in General

An appropriate title for today, in some respects; after a few weeks of very passable sunny (though brisk) weather, Velcro City is once again drowsing beneath a sky the same dull grey as pre-dotcom computer hardware, the pavements slick with a noncommittal rain that suggests even the elements can’t be bothered to do anything properly today – bank holiday Friday, innit, mush?

Appropriate or not, it seems I never FPB’d any of the shots from the Mono show[1] I caught the other week, so here you go:

Mono

Great band (as suggested by the liberal deployment of Fender Jazzmaster guitars, among other things). Good music for cold dismal weather, too.

Of course, if I was at Eastercon with the great and the good (and the weird) of British science fiction, I wouldn’t give a monkey’s about the weather. But I’m not, so I do. Selah.


About that service interruption

So, yeah, last week. To cut a long story short: my girlfriend finished with me. She had some justification for being upset with me; whether her response was proportional to the issue in question given the prevailing circumstances of her life is something only she can judge. I’m gutted, but I’m getting on with stuff. Life’s too bloody busy to sit around and mope; I neither need nor deserve pity.

That’s about it.

Album of the week

Suitably enough, the best album I’ve heard in the last few weeks has been Mono‘s Hymn To the Immortal Wind. Go buy it.

Writing about books

In a shock turn of events, I’m well behind on review writing – I need to get finished on Reading Science Fiction (eds. James Gunn et al), but that should be in some respects less challenging than a fiction review, given that it’s supposed to be criticism of criticism. Then again, I may prove to be fooling myself there. We’ll see.

I still haven’t reviewed Cyberabad Days, either, which is second on the priority stack. And last night I finished reading Chris Beckett‘s Marcher, so I need to do a reading journal entry for that as well. If you want to read a thorough review of Marcher by someone better qualified, Niall’s Strange Horizons piece is the one you need.

Futurismic

It’s business as usual at the world’s foremost near-future science fiction webzine… at least as far as content rolling out of the door is concerned, anyway. I have a big list of emails that need to be sent regarding new fiction purchases for the coming months, and it’s high time I got them done.

In other news, I’m in the process of roping in a new columnist to the team, which looks like it may work out pretty well. It’ll be good to have another new voice on board. Now, have you read Tim Pratt‘s story for this month yet? No? Well, get to it – it’s short but fun.

Freelance

It’s all go in on the business side of life at the moment, largely thanks to me dropping the metaphorical balls of productivity last week and scrabbling to get them airborne again. This is the major upside of not being at Eastercon, namely having a whole long weekend to get myself back up to speed (and to schedule) with a bunch of different projects and tasks. Which should, in turn, distract me from thinking about how much I’d rather be at Eastercon.[2]

Plenty of other interesting stuff on the horizon, too. Myself and Adam Wintle of Mallmus Media are putting together a two-prong pitch for a fairly prestigious local project, which will be a lot of fun to do if we land it. We’ve also been swapping experiences with different CMS packages and hosting options, and I’m now pretty much convinced that it’s time to rent myself a proper VPS or dedicated server and stop pissing around with huckster hosting companies. Which means all I have to do is choose a good vendor and learn how to do command line sysadmin tasks… anyone got any Modafinil?

But hey, I’m busy, and there’s work in the inbox. That’s something to be grateful for.

Aeroplane Attack

So, it’s our first gig in just over a fortnight, which is pretty cool. We’re pretty confident that we’ve got our set sorted and rehearsed; now all there is to worry about are the logistical challenges of crowbarring a five-piece band who have four half-stack amps and a drum kit between them into the limited space available in the actual venue… well, that and selling more tickets, of course.

But hey, you can help with the latter by buying one yourself over the magical tubes of the intermuhwebs! Three quid for three bands, one of which is a frighteningly loud reincarnation of the fuzzy melodics of nineties grunge, shoegazer and alt-rock? That’s a bargain right there, so buy one right now.

Go on.

Books and magazines seen

No fresh books in the last few weeks (or rather “no books in which I’m interested and haven’t yet already seen a different edition or binding of”), but the turn of the season means that the quarterly poetry mags are starting to arrive. So far we’ve had Obsessed With Pipework and the newly redesigned Iota… if the latter’s content has improved as much as its outer appearance, it’s going to be a real contender.

Iota poetry magazine #83-84

Coda

So, not the most gripping of FPBs, but what can I say – that’s just the way it works out sometimes, y’know? Anyway, you’re probably either at Eastercon or doing something else to enjoy the long weekend, and I’ve got stuff to do, so I’ll play the hand of mercy and shut the hell up. Have fun doing whatever it is you’re doing, and take care of yourselves. Hasta luego.


[ 1 - Like many venues nowadays, Digital uses those horrible light cans that have LEDs instead of incandescent bulbs. Great for the environment (and cheaper in the long run), but they make getting a decent shot of a live band with a cheap camera a virtual impossibility. Meh. Mono look good a bit blurred, anyhow. ]

[ 2 - Yeah, like that's gonna work. ]

Friday No-photo Blogging: Resolution

Posted by Paul Raven @ 02-01-2009 in General

You can breathe easily this week, as I’m not going to embarrass myself by running around looking for something vaguely photo-worthy at the last minute. An FPB with no P… what in the world next, eh?

There’ll not be a great deal of the usual reportage either, because I actually did very little of a practical nature in the last fortnight (despite trying to, in a few cases). Instead, there has been a lot of that festive and seasonal stuff going on. You know – going out, seeing family and friends, eating too much, drinking to excess. And hell knows I suffered for the latter yesterday…

Resolutions

However, I’ll not be suffering that way again for some time. After various experiments with shorter terms of abstinence in recent months, I have decided that 2009 will be Year of the Not Beer – I will not be drinking alcohol at all in the next twelve months. Why? To prove to myself that I can; to improve my health; to save money; to waste less time.

Other resolutions include:

  • getting back to a daily routine of writing fiction or poetry, which has slipped rather terribly in the last six months
  • re-stopping smoking (I haven’t really re-started, but I’ve become a terrible “I’ll just have one or two at the pub” scrounger, and it would be a shame to drift back to it full time for many of the reasons listed above)
  • maintaining a decent exercise regime (the swimming thing has definitely helped, but got pretty much dropped in December – you know what it gets like at that time of year)

Why trumpet these here? Not through any sense of self-righteousness or virtue, I assure you. Quite the opposite – I’d like to ask you all to help keep me honest on these things. Words of support or castigatory nagging are equally welcome; the usual channels of contact are open.

There are other resolutions, too – mostly business related and hence of little public interest – and another big one that I can’t mention just yet for reasons that will become clear very shortly… so watch this space, eh?

Publications

Well rust my bucket – the Steampunk review is finally up at SF Site! Crivens!

Books and magazines seen

The postbox has been pretty much empty in recent weeks (but for a scattering of greetings cards and the inevitable bills, natch), so nothing new to report in that respect. However, I did manage to win a little something in the raffle at Tongues & Grooves this month:

A F Harrold - Postcards from the Hedgehog

A F Harrold is a performance poet of the knowingly eccentric and English type; he is characterised by a beard, a bowler hat and a fair amount of hilarity. He was poet-in-residence at Glastonbury festival last year, which in his own words “was a lot like spending a weekend surrounded by utter tossers”. If you get the chance to see him perform near you, make sure you go. We all need an occasional dose of silly in our lives, and Harrold brings the justice.

Coda

And that’s about all you’re getting this week, I’m afraid. I’m still trying to stitch my wrecked bodyclock back together in the face of continuing darkness and an unhinged upstairs neighbour; as such I’m very tired right now, and I’m not going to even attempt to entertain you.

Given the date, I very much doubt many of you are in the mood to be entertained anyway, and so I’ll just say Happy New Year to you all. Let’s make it a good one, shall we?

Friday Photo Blogging: pining for Berlin

Posted by Paul Raven @ 19-09-2008 in General

FPB will be fairly brisk this week, as I’m still stuffed up with a nasty head-cold and very much wishing I was still in Berlin, mooching about the place and checking out the scenery. With that in mind, here’s a snap from my recent travels:

Chilling in the Hof

A sunny day, a new city to explore, a quiet outdoor bar in the mid-afternoon[1], a beer, a pen and a notebook – what more does a man really need? Well, an income, obviously – which is why I came back. Selah. You’re not rid of me yet. :)


Writing about music

The Dreaded Press chunters along as always, though the start of student season means there’s lots of new stuff being released, and I’m a trifle behind as a result. But – having discovered that it’s much easier to write for TDP when I’m not stressing about it – I’m successfully not worrying too much. The realisation that it’s me doing the PR people a favour (and not the other way round) was a useful epiphany.

Album of the week

Lake Toba by Lukestar, by a hefty margin. Glacial post-hardcore meets post-rock-pop; a super album, and a breath of fresh air.

Writing about books

Still playing catch-up to some degree, so reviewing has been on the back-burner for the week. I have, however, started reading The New Utopian Politics of Ursula K Le Guin’s The Dispossessed. That sound you’ve been hearing? That’s the sound of a boot-strap novel reviewer who may possibly have bitten off more than he can adequately chew…

Futurismic

A quiet week on the comments front, but otherwise all seems well over at Futurismic. Looks like it’ll be another good month for ad income, too; fingers crossed.

Freelance

As announced earlier this week, I’ve finished and delivered Gareth L Powell’s site, which he seems very pleased with (and which other people have said nice things about as well).

Of course, I look at it now and feel it looks terribly derivative and pedestrian, and that I could doubtless have made more effort to give it some real zing… but I’m consoling myself by saying that’s a manifestation of the desire to improve, which can’t be a bad thing for a creative worker to have, AMIRITE?

Plenty more projects queueing up, as well, so the opportunity to raise my game is never far away…

Books and magazines seen

The latest issue (#82) of the poetry mag Iota arrived early in the week. There’s no scan of it online, but it comes (as always) with abstract monochrome photography for the cover art… gives them a recognisable and coherent image, but does little to assuage the conception of poetry as old-fashioned and self-indulgent. Which is a shame, because Iota‘s content is usually pretty strong and vivid.

And a book, too – Pan Macmillan have punted over Peter F Hamilton’s The Temporal Void, which should come in handy should I ever need to ballast my airship or bludgeon an intruder to death – it’s very weighty at 746 pages[2].

Peter F Hamilton - The Temporal Void

Coda

First week back in the day-job saddle, and it’s been predictably hectic, which may explain why I’ve caught this cold. Still, I got to see the mighty Swervedriver on Tuesday night, which was well worth the time and money. That said, it’s been a crazy few weeks for gigs, and looking at the bank balance I think I’ll be attending a lot less in the coming months. Still, what’s summer for if not having a bit of fun, eh?

Being unable to breathe through my nose (and, incidentally, unable to hear through my right ear) isn’t much fun, though, so I’ll be trundling off to request a double helping of extra chillies in The Friday Curry in the hope of napalming the bugs out of my system. It may not work, but it’s the only way I’ll be able to taste anything…

Here’s hoping you have yourself a good weekend. Auf weidersehn, meinen freunden!


[ 1 - The bar in question is out back of Tacheles, a quasi-legal artist's squat / gallery / club / venue on Oranienburgerstrasse. Well worth checking out if you're in the area; historians of underground art movements may be intrigued to know that this is where such UK-born techno crews such as Mutoid Waste Company and Spiral Tribe first ended up after the Criminal Justice Bill killed the free festival circuit. ]

[ 2 - It bills Hamilton as "Britain's number one science fiction writer" - not to dispute that title, but I wonder whether it's based on sales figures or some other metric, as I can think of a number of other potential claimants to the throne in question. ]

Found poetry: En|ar9′m3n+ sp’am

Posted by Paul Raven @ 29-12-2007 in General

Add more hard flesh to your package;

some bonus inches are never excessive.

Fill her tw*t to the limits -

your girlfriend will thank you for this.

Women acknowledge that

big phalli are more attractive!

Augment your love muscle, forget

about the trouble with your instrument.

Outgrow, outsize, outperform!

Take this pill and make your lassie

feel the difference in your trouser mouse -

small male machine is no longer a problem.


[Yes, I know this has been done before, but these were in a consecutive sequence by pure chance, and I couldn't resist capturing it for posterity. Or something like that.]

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Poetry Podcasting: The Alphabet Against Terror

Posted by Paul Raven @ 19-08-2006 in General

As promised, here’s a little surprise for the weekend warriors who don’t just trawl the RSS while at work. The title above probably clues you in to what’s about to happen here… Continue reading “Poetry Podcasting: The Alphabet Against Terror”