My Kevin Smith Story

I had drinks with a screenwriter earlier today, and the subject of Kevin Smith came up, so I told him my Kevin Smith story. It occurred to me on the train home that I’ve never told this in public before, so here it is.

I don’t know Kevin Smith. Never met him, spoke to him, or communicated with him. I was given to understand, many many many years ago, that he was a bit pissed off with an offhand comment I made in an interview one time. So that’s the context.

This is all, as I say, many years ago. This guy emails me and says, my best friend’s in the hospital and it doesn’t look like he’s going to come out again. And he loves all Kevin Smith’s stuff. He works in comics like you, and you guys all know each other, so is there a way to, I dunno, get a letter from Kevin Smith for my friend, or a phone call, or a signed something, I dunno?

I don’t know Kevin Smith. I did meet Joe Quesada about five years previous, and I don’t know him as such at that point, and I don’t have a relationship with him, but I do have an email address for him, and I know he knows Kevin Smith. So I send the email to Joe and say, I know we don’t really know each other, but would you be okay with forwarding this to Kevin Smith?

A few months later, I get an email saying, I’m the guy whose best friend was in the hospital. And here’s what happened.

Joe, who had no reason to read any email from me, saw the email and with huge kindness forwarded the email to Kevin Smith. Kevin Smith has no reason to read an email with my name on it either.

Kevin Smith stands up, makes some calls, gets on a plane, flies all the way across America and goes to the hospital and spends an entire day with the guy’s best friend.

I still don’t know Kevin Smith, and have never spoken to him, but here’s what I know about Kevin Smith. He stands the fuck up.

And that’s my Kevin Smith story.

The Polite Landscape

I was thinking about cave lions.  These were British lions that were the size of a car, that haunted Britain ten thousand years ago.   And by haunted, I mean the myth of the British lion extends into Shakespeare’s Forest of Arden.  And by myth I mean the persistent story of a wild British countryside.  Lions and brown bears, aurochs and lynxes and wolves.  The brown bear vanished in the Dark Ages, and the wolf was going while Shakespeare was writing As You Like It.  The Tarpan horse was gone before people started walking the Ridgeway.  The Neolithic enclosure was permanently altering the landscape millennia before the Enclosures Act. This is why people talk about rewilding, and why, in A BRANCH FROM THE LIGHTNING TREE, Martin Shaw talks about having to go halfway up Mount bloody Snowdon to find “wilderness.”  It’s a small island, heavily managed for many thousands of years, and nature long ago became a story we tell ourselves while we tramp down footpaths and national trails on the powdered bones of giant lions.  

(originally written 16 October 2014, recovered from morning.computer)

Heart Of The Island

Yesterday I had a meeting at the British Library.  I was expecting a sit-down in a side office.  Instead, I was conveyed down into the guts of the building.  

It has several sub-basement levels, not all of which are accessible on all the lift shafts. The ceilings are ribboned with conveyor belts, which transport materials from all over the building to the reading and listening rooms in the public library.  The red trays on the conveyor travel at about a mile an hour — it can take forty-five minutes to transport any one requested article — because some of the Library’s materials are too fragile to survive any faster movement.  

In a sealed room sits a signed recording of James Joyce reading from ULYSSES, preserved in conditions approaching that of Mars.

I saw twenty-inch vinyl records made for the armed forces by NBC, handled Edison wax cylinders, and met an engineer trying to pull a digital transfer off a 78 made out of gelatin and glass.  Great marches of travelling racks full of music, scripts, radio capture and field recording.  It’s only being there that drives home that they keep everything.  

The cultural breath of the whole country, and every form of culture that enters it — it all goes here.

I didn’t want to leave. It was like living in the heart of perfect Albion for a moment.  

(originally written 28 Oct 2015, recovered from morning.computer)

Stormlight

I took this last week, just before the storm hit, just as the sun was dropping.

I’ve fallen behind on doing much of anything here, due to work and life, and also the iOS app developing a weird bug which meant I had to delete and reload it. Frankly, I’m a bit crispy around the edges, and I’m going to grab four or five days later this month where I don’t have to turn on the phone or open the laptop, and everyone else can just wait a fucking minute.

So, my single reader, I’m sorry there’s been nothing here, but please enjoy this photo of (look up) probably just air pollution

Printernet Notebook, Non-Networked

A little while back, I said to myself:

I’ve been thinking about buying one of those mini-printers that bluetooth to your phone and let you print out little 2-inch x 3-inch Zink photos with sticky backs. So I could just take a photo of something, print it off and stick it in my notebook, with the digital original waiting to be backed off into an external drive later.

In May, what I did was buy myself a Canon Selphy printer. (UK) (US)

It’s a small desktop machine that pumps out archival quality prints. I would have liked a smaller and more portable option, but those Zink prints are basically faxes and will fade out in ten years.

You can equip the Selphy with a credit-card sized paper (which requires a different tray and different print cartridge, which is kind of bullshit, but I was mired in approximately 220 pages of screenwriting and said fuckit).  Putting photos on my website, or on IG, and backing them off into Dropbox or an external drive is fine. But I thought to myself, well, why don’t I just save some images for myself and paste them into the notebook?

This one was absolutely a note to self – a first experiment in infusing weird Mongolian vodka with organic cinnamon sticks. The date means “don’t forget about this!”

Because some things should just be for me, maybe. Or maybe leafing through old notebooks and discovering these will give me pleasure in years to come. Or, perhaps, just wanting to countermand that twitch of — I took a photo, I’ll sling to it to my private Instagram so a couple of hundred people can see/ignore it. Which is fine. But I like putting things back on my own terms, not obeying a twitch. And, I guess, it’s a sign to myself that I am off the social streams, not feeding the services the fruits of every little twitch, and specifically allowing syndication systems to release complete statements into the wild.

Category jotter is for fragments and randoms, and now I’ve connected two fragments up. Previously: Antisocial Network System Printernet

On Pause

WordPress Special Projects got in touch and we’re trying some stuff. Back soon.

On This Return To WordPress

This whole thing can continue to be filed under “Remember when this stuff used to just work?”

Reader, you will have noticed that I’ve swapped out the theme here a couple of times. The first time, it was because a theme update (Meks Typology) fucked itself up in a handful of ways, and because Jetpack updates would fail catastrophically and take the whole website offline, requiring me to FTP into the site and manually delete the Jetpack plugin and the thousands of busted files it would litter into the system. I went to a simple theme called Uncluttered. Jetpack seemed to behave, but the theme was broken and would only display images on the first page of posts. So I went to another simple theme that did not do this. And then the next Jetpack update busted the whole site. So I did some reading. Because I totally have time for all this.

My hosting is what’s called “Managed WordPress.” WordPress works on top of language called PHP. Media Temple’s “Managed WordPress” service sits on PHP that… well, the current version of PHP is 7.2.0. The version of PHP my site sits on is 5.2.1. It’s ten years old.

WordPress has a Site Health tool. This shows me that my copy of WordPress cannot actually write to something like twenty parts of itself. Guess which parts? Most of them seem to end with .php. Background updates don’t work and neither do scheduled events. Why do we care about background updates? “Background updates ensure that WordPress can auto-update if a security update is released for the version you are currently using.” Yyyyyyeah. That.

This would seem to be why shiny new versions of Jetpack arriving into shiny current versions of WordPress hit my hosting and explode.

I asked my hosting company about this. They may or may not update the Managed WordPress PHP install in the future.

You’ve already fallen asleep. At this point in the history of online publishing, we passed the threshold of absurdity a few paragraphs back. Media Temple are a good hosting company. They keep uptime. They don’t gouge me. They’re responsive. But this is what personal publishing appears to be deprecated to.

I’m sure the arcane masters of handrolled Indieweb, who remain incapable of communicating in colloquial English, are having a good laugh at all this.

I like WordPress. I’ve used it for many things for many years. I like the mobile app and the flexibility it gives me in posting from my phone in my preferred formats. But I am starting to regret not trying to make a blot.im instance work for my needs.

I’ve liked being here and doing this. But I may have to shut it off and start again. Or? If it really does require hours a week of deleting exploded files and sacrificing something to Satan every time I click a button? Just shutting it off. I came back to blogging too late, and shit stopped working.

Phone Wrangling And Email Life

We’ve all been there. Apps start to drag, you discover that there are things you really need them to do that they just refuse to do, and it becomes time to look for replacements. For me, it’s Airmail for iOS. I mostly liked the app, even though its ability to parse emails has degraded a little over the years, but it now doesn’t have a functioning search and is dragging 1.5GB of undeletable cache behind it. With twenty emails in it.

I never liked the built in Mail app – clunky and slow and basic. So I need to wait for my Airmail-snoozed emails to pop out and then move to a mail app that works better.

Which is an absurd thing to even write about, really. And god, I miss the Mailbox mail app. And it’s easy to fall into the “all this should be FIXED by now ffs” rant. But it’s also worth noting that people have been locked into a narrative of “we need to fix/kill email” for years now, when meanwhile it and SMS have remained and even cemented as default planetary communications systems. So you look for the app teams who want to enhance email. And maybe have a search function.

(I’ll give Edison Mail another go, probably. I used to use their old EasilyDo a lot, back in the day before it broke.)

Email never needed fixing. It needed polishing and to be treated like a modern tool like any other. Slack isn’t an email killer. Neither is any other thing that’s been touted as an email killer. They are financialised messaging systems. This particular delusion is way overdue for being snapped the fuck out of for good.

It’s That Time Of Year Again, 2019

I’m a member of the Writers Guild of America, West. This means that I was put on a list of people who receive what are called screeners, DVD copies of material which is up for a major award. An Emmy or an Oscar. I have never divined how this actually works, because as far as I’m aware I am eligible to vote in nothing at all and as a UK citizen who lives in the UK I am of no use or interest to anyone anyway because I’m only the producer of a global top ten streaming show hahaha that is still weird to type. But still they come. Today, I received a mysterious parcel which contained the teleplays and DVDs for CATCH-22. And, wonderfully, the DVDs actually play! I am very grateful, because I think George Clooney is a fine and interesting director. And, well, it’s CATCH-22.

See, what usually happens is, the screeners will not play on any device I own, because they’re so stuffed with encryption as to essentially just be custom coasters. But they’ll keep arriving until September, when the Emmys happen (voting actually ends soon, I think, but they put these screeners on the slow boat – I’ve had them arrive the month after the awards before). And then Oscar season will take over. Last year’s Oscar screeners were a parade of the following: I shove them into DVD players, make a face, snap them into little pieces and put them in the bin (because they all have codes, because you’re not allowed to give them to anyone else). Marketing money well spent.

But CATCH-22 works! Thank you, Hulu marketing squad, for getting it.