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No Project, Plenty of Fear

All through the Brexit debate, and after, people warned that it would cause problems in Northern Ireland. And now here we are:

Loyalist paramilitary groups have told the British and Irish governments they are withdrawing support for the Good Friday agreement in protest at Northern Ireland’s Irish Sea trade border with the rest of the UK.

Brexiters dismissed those concerns as fearmongering.

I don’t know what the end result of this will be, but I can’t imagine it being good.

After the Money’s Gone

Nothing to to with the Talking Heads song the title alludes to, but musing on death and the destiny of websites.

Robin Rendle raises a concern we should all (who write on the web) have:

But if my URL is dead, my website dies with it.

My work shouldn’t be presented in the Smithsonian behind glass or anything, I’m just pointing at this enormous flaw in the architecture of the web itself: you’re renting servers and renting URLs. Nothing is permanent because on the web we don’t really own any space, we’re just borrowing land temporarily.

What happens to our websites after we’re gone? There needs to be a way to memorialise them, make sure they’re still around in some form. is great, but it doesn’t keep the canonical URLs alive. Famously, Tim Berners-Lee wrote, ‘Cool URIs Don’t Change.’ Disappearance is the biggest change of all.

Although I see from there:

Pretty much the only good reason for a document to disappear from the Web is that the company which owned the domain name went out of business or can no longer afford to keep the server running.

Hmm, is that a good reason? and it’s surprisingly slanted towards companies, considering the origin of the web, and TBL’s place of work.

(And speaking of cool URIs — or domains — That is fantastic!)

A Year Passes Like Nothing

It’s exactly a year since I last went out to an event.1

I referred to ‘being out on a cold, virus-infested night’ to see Glen Matlock in Leytonstone, and it seems really weird now that I did it.

What were we thinking? Gathering together in a small hall, where people were singing and shouting. And not a mask to be seen! Masks? who had masks? How would we have drunk our beer while wearing a mask? You probably wouldn’t have been let in if you had turned up wearing a mask.

Although I had good social distancing at the start, when I was almost the only one there.

Memory, eh?

  1. I actually thought it was on the last day of February 2020, which was the 29th, not the 28th, making it hard to hit the exact anniversary, but my blog and calendar both tell me I was wrong. 

I got a reply to the Twitter version of my last post which pointed me to something called the Badger Seal. It’s a DIY attachment you can make that’s meant to hold masks on better. Not just at the top for the glasses issue, but all around, for overall better filtration.

Because let’s face it, when we breathe out with a mask on, a lot of that breath is not going through the mask, but round the sides.

It looks like it might be pretty effective, but making it looks like a hassle — or at least, getting the components. It needs something called ‘foam wire,’ which I’ve never heard of, and I don’t know if you can even get it in this country (a quick search at B&Q’s site suggests not). But if you can, it’s likely to be in a big roll, when all you want is 30cm or so per mask.

Not to put a downer on good ideas, I mean. That site sells them too, but they’re heavily back ordered, and who knows how long they’ll take to get here from the US.

There are other, similar, things out there, but I can’t so far find anything sourced in the UK.

I’ll stick with micropore for now.

Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo (Books 2021, 2)

It took me quite a long while to read this. I enjoyed it whenever I read a section, and I read it in large chunks at a time; but between times I wasn’t particularly drawn back to it. I think that’s probably because it doesn’t have any significant plot.

Instead it’s a series of character explorations, looking at a series of Black women (and a few men) over several decades of the twentieth century and the first two of the twenty-first.

Each story is compelling and enjoyable, and they’re all interlinked — almost too interlinked at times, you might say, because there’s an element of coincidence. But that doesn’t matter: coincidences happen, after all.

Perhaps the major downside is that you get interested and invested in a character, and their chapter ends and we move on to another one. So it’s like you’re always starting fresh. Or fresh-ish. That’s probably also part of why I had the experience I described at the start, of not being drawn back to it.

Because of my course, I’ve been thinking a lot about the choices writers make. So I was particularly aware of Evaristo’s unconventional choices regarding punctuation and capitalisation. Specifically, she capitalises proper nouns, but no other words. So sentences all start with lower-case letters. And she eschews almost all punctuation. Only the comma, the apostrophe, the question mark, and an occasional exclamation mark, are used.1

No full stops means — and I only consciously realised this when looking it over to write this — that every sentence starts a new paragraph, and comprises the whole of the paragraph. Even when a sentence does end with a question mark or exclamation mark, she has it end the paragraph.

All of which is fine. I found it noticeable, but not distracting. I just wonder what the intended effect is. Some people say they find things like quotes to delineate speech intrusive, and I’ve heard it said that leaving capitals off the start of sentences feels more informal. But I feel generally that most established conventions have good reasons for existing, and that the best approach is to keep to them, unless you have a very good reason for not doing so. I don’t think this novel would in any way be lessened if it were capitalised and punctuated conventionally.

And then I would be talking more about the content, not the form.

  1. There may be the odd colon or semicolon, but I couldn’t find any on looking it over just now. And there are probably a couple of dashes and brackets. 

The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin (Books 2021, 1)

It looks as if I haven’t read anything yet this year. That’s far from true, of course, but this is the first book-length work I’ve finished. Though that ‘book-length’ is extremely deceptive, as it’s very short.

I read it for my course — specifically the Creative Nonfiction module that I’m doing this term. It’s a powerful statement about the position of Black people in America in the early 60s, when it was written. Things have sadly not changed much.

In terms of presentation, it’s a little odd. It’s titled as two letters: one to his nephew, and another ‘from a region in my mind.’ The first is short, and does read as if it were a letter. The second, not so much.

It’s more of a personal essay, combining memoir and political analysis. It shows a great deal of empathy, both for Black people and the white majority in his country. And it ends with a note of hope, that America can still become the country it claimed to be. I wonder what he’d think of things now.

Both parts are available at those links, so you don’t even have to buy it if you want to check it out, which you should.