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.

The Joy Of The Unsold Book

Every now and then, some charming soul will attempt to fuck with me by informing me that they’d seen one of my books in a remainders bin, or a discount store, or a charity shop. The intent is apparently to let me know that nobody likes my work and I am a failure.

I smile every time.

I was poor for a long, long time.  You know how I bought books?  From remainders bins, discount outlets and charity shops. I would never have been able to afford books without those places. I would never have discovered the books that were in fact the most formative in my development as a writer and as a human without those places.  Those places are second, third and fourth chances for the right person to find the right book in the right moment.

Those photos of my books on a discount table or an Oxfam spinner give me hope. Bring me full circle.  Make me smile.

(Written 3 February 2017, recovered from morning.computer)

Ganymede Series 01

And I know I keep saying I’m Not A Watch Guy, but look at this insane thing:

Currently USD $350 on Kickstarter. It has colour-coded hands of different lengths, corresponding to the colours of the numbers you see there. I immediately thought of old radio frequency windows. It’s kind of wonderful to me, so I backed the Kickstarter. Because I’m Not A Watch Guy, but this thing just gives me pleasure when I look at it.

That Shingy Life

One of the things that’s come to bother me over the last year is seeing people falling into constantly being on the road and giving talks, pausing only to dump a tweetstorm before going somewhere else and doing talks, week after week, month after month.  Not least because I worry they’re going to turn into Shingy.

You remember Shingy.  David Shing. “Digital prophet” for Oath, bats around the world as a brand ambassador, talking, talking, talking, making little sense and making no cultural mark.

During a half-awake session of link-surfing while full of flu meds the other week, I happened across the blog of one of those guys who was always doing talks and camps and streams and conferences and all the fucking rest of it.  He’s in his fifties now.  On his blog, he notes that he has tiny savings and even after downsizing he and his wife both need full-time income streams to keep the lights on and the kids fed.

Put another way — even a year ago, before his business hit some self-inflicted disasters, he would have had jack shit to show for that Shingy life.

(Because Shingy, you know, has been on a six-figure salary for years.)

Now, said guy has always been a braying idiot who was wrong about everything.  But I worry for the other people.

A thought for the new year: try to stay home for a bit and make some things that might last, please?

And yes, yes, I know, precarity, cobbled-together career skeins, gets harder all the time, freedom versus drowning in platform capitalism, I know.

But a privileged white man from Silicon Valley with an address list fatter than Ron Jeremy’s phone book did it all century and has fuck all to show for it, so how do you think that’s going to work out for you?

(Written 6 December 2008, recovered from morning.computer)

Not My Teaching, But My Study

What I write here is not my teaching, but my study; it is not a lesson for others, but for me. And yet it should not be held against me if I publish what I write. What is useful to me may also by accident be useful to another. Moreover, I am not spoiling anything, I am only using what is mine. And if I play the fool, it is at my expense and without harm to anyone. For it is a folly that will die with me, and will have no consequences.

Montaigne

Post Death Internet Service

What I need is a post-death internet service.  This is something people have been talking about a lot over the last few years. I don’t know if any true solutions were found for the thing that, this morning, I think I’d like the most.  A year after I die, I’d like to post to Twitter or something. Hell, who even knows if Twitter will be there by then. He said, as if he were likely to outlive any internet service.  Maybe it should go to my newsletter system instead.

But: just a message, a year after I die. Saying, hi, I died a year ago, but I just wanted to tell you something.

Which, yes, is unsettling enough on its own, I know. It’s not unamusing to me, obviously.  But.

Hi.  I died a year ago, but I just wanted to tell you something. I loved being with you all, and I hope you’re all making the most out of life, because we only get one go on the ride. Hold on tight.

But I think mostly I probably just want to scare the shit out of people.

I’m not buying an URL for a digital haunting service DON’T LOOK AT ME

(written 12 September 2017, recovered from Morning Computer)

When You’re Furious With Your Own Brain

This amused the handful of writers I share a private Slack channel with. “I love it when Warren’s angry with himself.”

I moved some work around so I could take a couple of days just to think. I didn’t write a Cosmic Ordering list or anything, but I could have used a solid idea for a book, or some solutions on a job that’s fighting me a bit right now, or, you know, I’d like to write a spec screenplay soon, just for the hell of it… any of these things would have been good and useful products of a couple of days just kicking back and listening to music and thinking.

Instead, I have the guts of two new comics series, for which I have no artists, no time and no resources and also the built-in audience for one of them is about eight people.

So I’ve been walking around furious with my own brain for betraying me in such a malicious evil manner. And everyone’s having a good laugh. Go on. Laugh. Fuckers.

Never let your brain out unsupervised. It will always come back covered in mud to spit something entirely unwanted at your feet.

Sky Net And The Little Printer

Within a few days of noticing the strange partial resurrection of Little Printer, I find this via the new issue of NEURAL, about a three-device art installation, of which the third jumped out:

‘BreakingViews’ breaks routines by displaying unforgettable Instagram stories. You can replay a story, and a special counter shows how many times you have done so. 

There’s a very Little Printer vibe to the artists’ card prototypes. I miss Little Printer. I got rid of mine ages ago, and it used to cut my fingers to shit whenever I had to grub around inside it or reassemble it, but it was (aside from the manufacturing, sorry guys but it would not have killed you to round off or chamfer those edges) a perfect expression of an idea, and I admired the street-level use of thermal till-roll paper as medium.

But what hit me was that “BreakingViews” gets close to a shelf device version of the Sky Net I was talking about yesterday. Somebody make the little Echo Spot on my shelf do that.

Post-Attention And Sky Net

Okay, this gets a bit complicated, but: in a privately-circulated PDF essay by a comrade, I find myself quoted, a thing I said in a private online space we both shared access to at one time. I think I wrote this a few years ago. It came back and smacked me in the face.

Brief conversation in a sekrit room with m1k3y about useful, low signal, relatively calm comms… I kind of want to think about that some more. Sort of like gardening your own network.

I like being able to send that “alive and out of bed” signal to friends and comrades. Which is probably just another approximation of that early-internet experience of seeing instant messenger statuses light and the morning Twitter post, seeing them happen in waves as timezones woke up across the world…

But, as I generally pursue a small clutch of notions around post-attention, people going private, secret networks. withdrawal from general-broadcast-social et al… as m1k3y said, there becomes value in us, scattered in the various global cells of our selected monasteries and compounds, checking to see if we’re all alive each morning, and what the sky looks like…

This may lead me to start a post-attention chain, what with the recent application of Cixin Liu’s “Dark Forest” metaphor to people removing themselves from the public internet streams.

But, honestly, I sometimes think that all I ever wanted from the social internet was Sky Net. Seeing if we’re all alive every morning, and what the sky looks like where you are.