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That Summer Feeling

I’m sitting in the garden, writing on my iPad, and am wearing shorts for the first time this year (not counting cycling and exercising). Summer is here.

Also listening to Psychocandy. The Jesus and Mary Chain are a surprisingly summery band. Well, not that surprising, considering their surf-pop influences.

‘Feedback-strewn pop narcosis,’ as an uncredited Apple Music contributor describes ‘Just Like Honey.’

It’s Never Good When a Useful Site Gets Bought

News comes out that Stack Overflow is being bought by something called Prosus. I’ve never heard of them, but they’re ‘a global consumer internet group and one of the largest technology investors in the world,’ to quote their own site.

This doesn’t bode well. Stack Overflow is without doubt the most useful site in the world, at least as far as programming and other technical matters goes. And its sub-sites cover a vast range of interests beyond the technical: use of English for both beginners and experienced people, for example; or science fiction; parenting, martial arts, the great outdoors, and a hundred more.

When a big company buys up a small one, it rarely ends well for the users of the small company’s products or services, or so it seems to me. Yahoo bought Flickr and let it largely wither on the vine.1 Similarly with Google has bought numerous properties and either rolled them into its own products, or abandoned them.

In this case the purchaser is not a technology company itself, but just a holding company. Those ones tend to result in the bought company coming under pressure to make more money. The buyer wants to recover its investment. That tends to end up with the the bought company either selling intrusive advertising space, or selling its customers’ data.

It doesn’t have to go that way. Maybe this Prosus will be different. But I can’t help thinking it’s a sad day for mutual help on the web.

  1. It’s much better again now that it’s owned by SmugMug. 

Vax 2

Got my second dose of the vaccine today, just about an hour and a half ago. Down to a local pharmacy, fifteen minutes early for my appointment, and home before my actual appointment time. It was empty! Worryingly so. Why aren’t people queuing up to get their jags?

Me with the pharmacy in the background
Me, after vaccination, with the pharmacy in the background

Turns out The Killing is a pretty good TV show. Who knew? We’re five episodes in, and I’m wondering how they can make this first season last for 20.

It’s all on BBC iPlayer at the moment, which is nice.

Can’t Get You Out of My Head, 2021

Convention dictates that I should give a star rating to this. I’m not going to, though, because I’m not sure what it was trying to achieve. What I try to do with star ratings is judge how well, in my opinion, the film achieves what it was trying to do. I don’t claim I always manage that, but when it’s not clear what the film’s purpose was, it becomes next to impossible.

Or: you can’t reduce something as long and complex, audacious and challenging as this, to a mere zero-to-ten scale. 1

Across six films, totalling around seven hours, Adam Curtis gives us ‘An Emotional History of the Modern World,’ as the subtitle calls it. As I mentioned in my last post, Kerry Thornley of Discordian fame is interviewed early in it. That is, an interview with him is used. He’s dead, so it’s not like he was interviewed for these films. Indeed, as far as I can tell, nothing was shot for these films: the visuals are entirely comprised of library footage.

Curtis narrates over them — sometimes with quite a disconnected effect, where the images have no obvious connection to the story he’s telling. Similarly, the use of music can be quite jarring. Sometimes it’s completely relevant to the matter at hand, but often there’s no obvious connection. And the titular Kylie song is not used at all.

It’s not even that obvious why the series is called that, come to think of it. And some of the individual episode titles are even more opaque, notably the last one: ‘Are We Pigeon or are We Dancer?’ I feel sure it’s a quote, and I think it’s probably from a song, but I was alert to it turning up, and as far as I could tell, it didn’t.

OK, a quick DuckDuck gives mainly hits about the episode, but also some about a track by The Killers called ‘Human,’ which includes the line ‘are we human or are we dancer?’ So it’s probably alluding to that. Oddly that line is inspired by a Hunter S Thompson quote that I’m not familiar with, ‘We’re raising a generation of dancers.’ Which sounds pretty good to me, even if Hunter meant it critically.

Anyway, what’s this absurdly long film about?

It’s a bleak, depressing, but nonetheless compelling vision of human history, covering conspiracies and conspiracy theories, wars, revolution, surveillance capitalism, and capitalism more broadly, the tension between the collective and the individual, and a whole hell of a lot more.

But Curtis never gives a thesis statement. He never tells us, in the news journalist’s way, what he’s going to tell us. Or more to the point, what conclusions he’s going to draw from what he’s going to tell us. And his style is very disjointed: he dots about in time and space, with little more to connect the dots than a ‘but’: ‘But in China…’

In that particular tic, it’s not at all unlike the postmodern games of Illuminatus!.

He does come to kind of a conclusion at the end of the two-hour-long sixth episode, but it’s not a very satisfying or convincing one. Which is fair enough, I suppose. One of the recurring thoughts is the idea that society today is too complex for anyone to understand it fully. The problem with that, that he draws our attention to, is that that understanding has caused many politicians to give up trying to change things for the better, which tends to result in burgeoning corruption.

He does end with a note of possible hope, but I think I might have to watch parts of it again to get all of the nuances.

See in Letterboxd

  1. Letterboxd supports half stars, so five stars is ten points.↩︎

The Illuminatus! Trilogy by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson (Books 2021, 8)

Yeah, I know, it’s ridiculously soon after I last read this — well, three years, but still. But I had two specific reasons for rereading it now: I was still in my state of wanting comfort reading after being sick; and we’ve been watching a series of films called Can’t Get You Out of My Head, by Adam Curtis.

This is a strange series of films, of which more later, when we’ve seen them all. But it primed me to reread Illuminatus! because one of the early interviewees is Kerry Thornley, or Lord Omar Khayyam Ravenhurst, as he’s known in Discordian circles. He’s kind of a progenitor of this trilogy, and the films are, among many other things, about conspiracy theories.

I always get something out of a read of this, but I refer you to my previous notes.

Mark E Smith (Co-)Wrote a Screenplay

A screenplay by Mark E Smith, cowritten with Graham Duff? Sounds like it could have been great:

… Smith was an unexplored writer of strange fiction. Duff sums up the narrative of the film: “Essentially, the Fall are trying to record an EP at a studio on Pendle Hill, while the surrounding countryside is at the mercy of a satanic biker gang and a squad of Jacobites who have slipped through a wormhole in time.”

Never made, sadly, but it’s coming out as a book: The Otherwise: The Screenplay for a Horror Film That Never Was.

BSAG On Creativity

The mysterious long-time blogger known only as ‘But She’s A Girl’ has some wise thoughts on how her creative process is affected by deadlines:

What I need to remember is that it is always like this. Deadlines are a fact of life and I just have to deal with them when they come up, but the pressure they impose is temporarily disastrous for my creativity. This means that I need to have solved any problems relating to the task which require creative thought long before the suffocating fog of the deadline descends. It’s also why I sometimes go quiet on this blog for weeks at a time. It’s not that I don’t have time to write here, but more that I don’t have the mental space to play around with ideas.