note to my descendants: when confused future historians denote 2019 as The Year Of The Crime Goose i want you to tell them i called it
What would Twitter look like if everyone had private accounts?
The only entities broadcasting and engaging in the open would be public services and institutions, companies and corporations, politicians and “celebrities,” news and arts. You can add your own notions to that list.
I mean, obviously it’s absurd and impossible and even as a fleeting amusement of an idea it has fifty things wrong with it.
But it does amuse me. I mean, if you want to call it social media, not every social occasion is a street party that all-comers can shamble into. You invite people to parties. (I presume.) You invite people inside your house. There is no contract that demands your participation in a free service to include allowing every bastard to crawl in through the windows.
What if everyone went private, curated their own read of the public feeds for and with their friends and, to summon a phrase, the people, corporates, collectives, and bots they currently favour. It’s a fun thought for me.
This stupid brainworm brought to you by a writer whose Twitter phone app only opens to the list of his local services that he curated.
(If you’re new here, the category “jotter” is really just for half-formed thoughts I want to type up so I can see how dumb they are. Sorry.)
I have an iPad 2 that sits in a stand on my office desk. It doesn’t go anywhere any more. It’s old and thrashed out, permanently plugged into power, jacked into the desktop speakers and good for very little. It is, essentially, a clever office radio.
It runs nothing but TuneIn Radio, SomaFM, my podcast app Downcast (which syncs with Downcast on my phone), and, in theory Bloomberg Radio+ and Monocle 24. Though I haven’t tried those two in a while.
The iPad is so old that it won’t run BBC Sounds. This is a sadness to me, but TuneIn, Soma and Downcast gives me more than enough.
Given that I probably picked this thing up in the summer of 2011 and that it was sunsetted by Apple in 2014, I feel pretty good about it still being useful in 2020. I mean, they don’t even make the stand it’s in any more (a “Ekit Universal Tablet Stand 9+10 Inch Compatible” which I picked up in 2013).
Devices that degrade into a limited set of functions can be interesting. I mean, I don’t think the machine could even handle typing in an email these days. All the fancy high-end stuff and the cruft have fallen away, leaving a very specific set of uses that still operate very well. I’ve used touchscreen radios, and this is better.
I could do this with an old phone working off wifi, too. And I probably will, once this old iPad next to me finally joins all the other radios I have loved, from the massive radiogram chest to the two-deck cassette AM/FM machine I used to record John Peel and Annie Nightingale on, back in the dark ages…
Make a new email address. Don’t give it to anybody.
Use it to make a new Instagram account. Don’t tell anybody.
Plug the new account into Grids for Windows (or Mac OSX) or whatever similar app your operating system uses.
Don’t add anyone you know. Use it to find beautiful things, so that it becomes a proper window on the world. Grids will slowly update the feed on its own, so the windowframes shift.
It goes up on the external monitor on my desk. It’s calm. It does not engage. It’s a receiver. The value of receivers is a thing that could stand to be rediscovered.
I dunno if this is notes, or notes to self, but the jotter is here for reasons:
I’ve really had no time to give this place any thought for a few months, and mostly use it to log stuff. Which is fine, because logging stuff is half the reason I caused the thing to exist.
I was looking into a timestamp app for using on photos, but all the iOS timestamping apps look bad. I’m not even sure why that got stuck in my head, except perhaps that I find it easy to fire photos here from my phone, and a photo is sometimes more useful than words.
And many of my photos here flow through into Instagram automatically, so it’s another way to make me look alive on social media. Which shouldn’t, of course, be a concern; but also is, because, as a cultural worker who now produces on long timeframes, it doesn’t hurt to be seen to be at least alive.
Also, it would be nice to experiment with new ways to do this thing. There’s been a new spate of “keep blogging weird”-style posts here and there – and even as I write this I have an old muscle memory twitch of “don’t blog about blogging!” — and I’m aware that this space ain’t weird and doesn’t innovate. And it would be nice to fuck around with it a bit.
After I started thinking about that, I saw Venkatesh go to an odd timestamped format, and his explanation has interest.
The culprit in the stillborn promise of log-like writing of blogs was the introduction of names. Meaningful, theme-scoping names. Attention-seeking meaningful, theme-scoping names. Specifically the headline.
I mean, the lack thereof is what caught everyone’s eye about tumblelogs, way back when. I still think the tumblelog was a marvellous thing that got usurped and murdered by Tumblr (even as Tumblr itself gave different things back and had its own value).
(Kicking around, I discovered Trivium is still going, from an original tumblelogger.)
Tumblelogs, as early microblogging forms, also obviously form part of Twitter’s DNA, and Venkatesh gets into some of that too. Interestingly, though, the chain he’s started in this format are long things that read like stream-of-consciousness exercises or exhaustive trains of thought.
Much like this one, which I will close now so that I can figure out the third plot stream in this story document.
The face is a little smaller than I figured, and somewhat harder to effectively photograph, but here is that insane thing in the real world. It might be the thing that finally forces me into reading glasses, but I like this thing a lot. As previously mentioned, it reminds me of the radio sets I grew up with.
A custom hour hand sweeps across the watch face which shows the hours organized in 4 concentric rings. To read the time, the corresponding color of the hand is matched with the the color of the hour.
It’s a lovely, crazy object.
I wrote this for my newsletter back in March. I preserve it here.
I was talking to a publisher friend about a project I was working on a few years ago, before my Brain Thing happened. The project was never announced, because we wanted it done before anyone knew about it. But I was getting sick and didn’t know it, and the project was going through some format changes, and my brain couldn’t deal properly with the changes because it was getting sick and I didn’t know it, and then my Brain Thing happened, and I couldn’t work for a few months, which for a freelancer is bad bad bad, and so I had to go into new and simpler projects where there was immediate money, and this project I’m discussing here now sat in a cloud of confusion and stress-memory and complex calculations that my brain even now still can’t do very well. So we were talking about it, and I discovered that my brain had actually deleted the memory of seeing some of the art. I was being shown pages that were completely new to me, because the chemical chains that held the memory of receiving the scans were just wiped out. The structure of my brain is unharmed, but there’s a lot of chemical soup in there now, and I can’t do things like process spreadsheets or read mirror writing or handle complex documents. It’s been weird, discovering all these little cognitive deficits.
And I was trying to describe what I remember my original goals with the book being, and it came out out like this:
“I was trying to re-find a language for comics that would accept all forms of graphics, because all forms of graphics already exist inside comics. I always tell people when doing talks that they’ve all already read comics if they’ve been on a plane — the safety card. I still work, in my own notes, on that language and approach. I think of it as enrichment. Like, I like what Hickman does with graphics and text on BLACK MONDAY, for example, but I want the “diegetic,” in-story version, where the jumps between conventional narrative art, graphics and icons, and all the other things aren’t jumps at all, but a flow inside the same language.”
Which isn’t original, but I was trying to find my own way to do these things. My process isn’t as tortuous as Matt Fraction’s, because I don’t need a mile of index cards and a serial killer wall, but it’s just as bizarre in its way, and my notebooks will not, let us just say, be preserved for the ages like da Vinci’s. Except possibly as artifacts of outsider art by an uneducated delusional.
I can still hold a lot in my head. Since Thursday I have been spending 12 to 14 hours a day working on three episodes of the show at once, holding the structures of all three in my head and jumping between them as I find the voices and the ways to write discrete sections.
But I suspect a certain kind of work is beyond me. Which may be why my brain has been pushing me towards slow cinema as a model for the last year or two — Fraction calls them my “weird slow murder stories.” I’ve actually been working on one in spare moments here and there, exclusively for my own amusement.
(I picture them in my head. They would straight up kill any artist, so no artist will ever see them. I have a note at the top for one of the stories which says “this is either 40 pages or 480 pages.” It will never exist, except for me. This is fine and good.)
It is not as complex an undertaking as the project that fell over. I’ve gone back and read the script for the project that fell over – I wrote half of it, and then there was a call to extend it by half again, and I couldn’t find 50% more story that worked, and my brain just [insert sound of a cow farting and the fart lighting on fire] because I didn’t know that it was fixing to shut off the right side of my body one morning in the near future. I’m honestly not sure if I can finish it — and right now, in the middle of writing the season, and finishing WILD STORM, and the other things, I’m not even sure when I’d do it. But I’d like to. I’d like to find a way to finish that personal opening statement about the language of comics.
We all leave bodies in our wake, in this business. You just know more about mine than other people’s. I regret them all, but this particular one still stings, because it comes with the memory of falling down a hole while trying to write it.
I’ve never really had to travel constantly for my job. But there have been times. God, there have been times. There are those years, those moments, when you wake up at 4am in a strange hotel room in a strange city, and you’re coming up on one hundred thousand miles on the flight trail, and you look at the clock and think what the hell am I doing? And that’s me saying that, a neurotypical log of low emotional content and dead nerves. What the hell am I doing? Does this stop? Can it stop?
And in the morning you’re back in another car, on the way to another airport, knowing it’s three more continents before dinner, looking at the clock, and it keeps on ticking, and you keep on moving, and you try to relax back into the ticking and keep moving into the future.
If you can still hear yourself over the tick of the clock, you’re lucky. Hold on tight til the sun comes up.
In talking yesterday about pulling RSS out of Instagram, I got a very kind note from one Peter Hogg telling me about RSS Bridge. This is an indieweb system designed to make RSS feeds where none exist, like the old Feedburner only with much more juice to it.
Just google RSS Bridge, as I did, and you will find both instructions to set up your own system, which to me are written in an alien language, and a few nice people who give free public access to an RSS Bridge instance.
When you scroll down those sites, you find a specific slot to put an Instagram user name in, and, provided that account is public, it’ll spit out a working RSS feed for it that you can add to your RSS reader (I use Feedbin).
It worked first time.
What this means for me is that I can add my favourite Instagram accounts to Feedbin and no longer have to open the app or Grids just to see the new Lordess Foudre. I feel like I’ve recovered something from the 2019 internet.
I am very grateful to all these people for helping me the quiet shadow internet I now wish and require. No noise, no stress, just a silent river of the good and necessary things.