I’m sorry not to have posted here much. I have been very busy, but also approaching the condition of upstate New York, ca 1830, when it was known as the burnt over district because of the continual evangelical revivals which swept over it. Everyone in it had been saved till they could hardly stand up. No possible novelty of excitement could stimulate them any more. It was out of this spiritual charcoal that Mormonism emerged. I do hope I’m not going to invent a new religion. But I have entered the Sargasso Sea of feeling that nothing is new or fresh; all my thoughts feel vague and fleeting. It’s a condition very simply cured by spending a week or so standing in rivers, but that is difficult to arrange right now. In the meantime, sustaining thought for even 800 words seems a gigantic feat. (Another version of this state is described in Koestler’s Age of Longing, where he calls it fatigue of the synapses, and treats, if not cures, it with brandy and benzedrine).So here follow some quickies.
Smuggery: I had 40 or 50 people turn up at the local library for a reading from Fishing in Utopia, along with a chance to buy some of the last ten hardback copies in the wild. This went extremely well, and contrasted with my appearance, earlier last week, on a Swedish TV arts programme looking unbelievably fat and dishevelled, and muttering a helpfully subtitled “fuck!” into a mobile phone when the interview was interrupted.
Nerdery: (This section to be expanded) I tried putting xubuntu on this laptop—that’s to say ubuntu with an xfce interface, which is a lightweight and well thought out window manager without the pretensions of gnome or KDE. It works. The result is quicker and more capable than Windows XP as well as more secure. It does sleep and standby, as well as networking both wirelessly and over 3G without fuss. The only thing I have not worked out is how to get OneNote running, and preferably doing its synchronisation trick with the desktop. Except for that, and Excel to do my expenses, I won’t be going back.
Nerdery: People who say that Microsoft can’t make software should try Onenote. It’s a really good shot at a difficult target.
Journalism: I need to expand this thought, but underlying all the other crises of journalism there is a political crisis: if readers cannot change their lives as a result of what they read, they will not bother. In particular, they won’t demand accuracy; and when what they read seems to have no effect in the real world, they won’t demand kindness, either. The cruelty of modern media is not an expression of innate human cruelty; it’s also an expression of particular political arrangements, and the burning rage of powerlessness. So people trying to rescue journalism in Europe and North America should be looking at what’s happening in India and China—both places where, for different reasons, the potential readership feels there is more to play for. If “readership” is the word. But I think it is. Writing is still for most purposes a much richer medium than video.