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Site Spotlight: postarchitectural

“my name is sha hwang, and i spend a lot of time thinking about maps, cities, design, and data.

you should say hi on twitter here.

for longer requests, questions, and comments please contact shashashasha at gmail.”

- postarchitectural

Weekend Links, 20/07/14: Critique, culture + compromise

∞ “Collider at the Science Museum: Worse Than Nothing” by Chris T-T.

“Is this what mainstream science-based curation is like?

Collider opens with a video introduction given by scientists inside a mocked up lecture theatre. It’s not clear if these are real staff members, or actors playing caricature. The lead is a Yaffle-ish cliché, over-enunciating like a first time local newsreader, giving us a kind of smug, self-absorbed monologue about peripheral, mostly meaningless stuff. Of course, if he’s a real CERN scientist I feel bad for dissing his delivery – but this whole section is desperate distraction rather than rich content. It feels like a hundred idiots tweaked the brief. It feels like a multi-agency fluff – where directors and editors entirely fail to establish target audience, or decide what needs saying, or oversee their presenters to be simple and economic. Actually, it feels as if the sole aim is not to explain the Higgs Boson or LHC at all, rather to ram home the point that scientists are interesting people with human lives. This is Cowellian distopic nightmare writ large and shoved worryingly deep into our science and innovation establishment. Emotive (and silly) personal life nonsense and generic “Whoa! how excited we are!” replaces any sense of authority or faith in the richness of what these experiments may mean. One scientist tells us she’s doing it all for the memory of her humble schoolteacher father – and her script reads exactly like one of those moments on X Factor when they force-grow audience empathy. My gears grind. We’re in a presentation to relentlessly tell us how important it all is, rather than showing us.

Also, they use the phrase ‘money shot’. How on earth did that get past an editorial team? “Mum, what does ‘money shot’ mean?””

“Lauren Laverne: How Rolf Harris bit me and got away with it” by Lauren Laverne.

“Eleven years isn’t all that long ago, but it’s a lifetime in pop culture. I was 25, happily working in “yoof” TV. I’d arrived a bit late for its golden age (my adventures in the medium took place somewhere between sunset and the gloaming of that particular period), but it was enjoyable enough. Major channels still made music shows for young people to watch. Twitter didn’t exist, so you had no idea everyone hated you. Irony was still fashionable, so Rolf, Savile and the rest of the Operation Yewtree Allstars (some artists still TBC on that particular bill, of course) could earn double bubble, working the housewife-friendly matinée shift on daytime TV before hopping in a cab over to shows like ours, where you’d find them nestling on an MDF sofa between, say, Marilyn Manson and Babyshambles. As it turns out, the God of Fuck and post-Britpop’s most famous crack smoker had very little on some of our booked-for-lolz, avuncular old geezers in terms of genuine evil. How’s that for irony?

Like everyone else, I have followed the Harris case and Savile inquiry with horror. I have also followed with professional interest. Like others working in the media at that time, I have been asked questions by friends outside the industry. Did we know that they were monsters? Wasn’t it obvious? How could it not be obvious?”


“This record is more developed and mature because we decided that the best form of critique isn’t political or punk critique; it’s critiquing ourselves. So the record is a lot more personal—a lists of all the ways we’ve failed all the things we once believed in, and accepting the status quo of how band things have gotten. It’s sort of examining our own level of privilege. The box set is supposed to be a fake mythology of the band. The cassette is the first demo—the band at its most basic—then there’s the two 7-inches, and the 10-inch is where we get into our pretentious phase of trying to sound like Godspeed [You! Black Emperor]… Depending on the groove you land on, it has two different endings. It’s like a fork in the road, and the needle ends up in one or the other.”

“So Tom’s Of Maine Is Owned By Colgate. Let’s Talk About It.” by Sayward Rebhal.

“In the same way that I shop at grocery stores that sell animal products, even though I’m opposed to eating animals, and even my little super-hippie Co Op in Portland sold eggs and dairy, and some of my very favorite restaurants that make an awesome vegan meal also serve up dead flesh, and I’ll support the delicious sorbet at my local creamery, even though their main focus is un-vegan gelato, and do you see where I’m going with this? This is my point about ideal versus reality. If you shop at a grocery store or a restaurant or any other place that sells items in conflict with your ethics, then you’re really no different than people who buy from green companies owned by a parent corporation. Which is not to say “Nyah Nyah, GOTCHYA!”, but is instead meant to illustrate that it’s all of us. We are all doing it. We all draw our lines in the sand, wherever we feel comfortable and in whatever way our own unique circumstances allow. But ultimately, our lines may not be as different as we prefer to imagine they are.”

“A Sweary Rant About Political Discussion” by Andrew Hickey.

“I have spent much of the last four years dealing with abuse and, in several cases, actual death threats, from people with whom I would agree on at least 80% of individual political issues, because the way I choose to fight for those issues is in a party that works within the system and has to compromise (and yes, to my mind, compromises far too much and too often). I note that the “revolutionaries” and “progressives” who do this never do so to supporters of the Labour party, a party that for much of my adult life was led by actual war criminals and still has many on its front benches, or to supporters of the SWP, a party full of rape apologists.

Everyone working for political change has to make compromises, and it is entirely right to question those compromises, to debate them, to argue over them, and to say that others have compromised too much. It is utterly wrong to use abuse and threats to try and silence those who’ve made different compromises.

And even if it would have me, I’d want no part of a revolution that was so committed to ideological purity that anyone who disagreed with it was called “evil” and told they’d be “put up against the wall”. Should there ever be the danger of such a revolution, in fact, I would be proud to volunteer to be the very first up against the wall, because I wouldn’t want to live in a world which didn’t tolerate honest disagreement.”

Weeknotes, 20/07/14

Term is over! On Monday, there were exams. On Tuesday, the end of year awards evening. There were course videos (for literacy, numeracy, ESOL, and Step by Step) before each class was called up. I was itching to go get my laptop & cables & projection software to tart it up a bit; habits die hard but that’s not what it was about. It was amazing to hear students speaking about their experiences + their goals, especially in such a celebratory environment. No doubt of their tenacity. Certificates were given out by the Lord-Lieutenant for East Sussex.

“Her Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenants are the representatives of the Crown for each county in the United Kingdom.

Men or women of all backgrounds, they are appointed by The Queen on the advice of the Prime Minister.

Lord-Lieutenants were originally appointed in Henry VIII’s reign to take over the military duties of the Sheriff and control the military forces of the Crown.

In 1662 they were given entire control of the militia, but the Forces Act of 1871 transferred this function back to the Crown.

Lord-Lieutenants are responsible for the organisation of all official Royal visits to their county.

On the day of an engagement they escort the Royal visitor around the different locations – not simply The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh, but any member of the Royal Family.

Lord-Lieutenants also carry out other duties in their county, such as the presentation of decorations (where the recipient is unable to attend an Investiture), The Queen’s Awards for Export and Technology, and Queen’s Scout and Queen’s Guide Awards.

Lord-Lieutenants are also responsible for ensuring that The Queen’s Private Office is kept informed about local issues relating to their area, particularly when a Royal visit is being planned.”

We were asked to stand for his entrance, although that was the most formal bit. It was a bit weird and very British, like all the pomp and circumstance stuff that happens at citizenship ceremonies and seems particularly meaningful to people who’ve migrated. In previous years it has been the city mayor or another public official. Someone to do with governance, for community + establishment acknowledgement. (Most) people dressed up. Everyone was smiling.

It’s a good culmination for an academic year, especially after the anticlimax of exams whose results you won’t know for weeks, if not months. One of the biggest takeaways from the theatre programme is that endings need to be marked by some kind of ritual or performance, and a presentation celebration certainly qualifies. Performances etc are an automated culmination (you don’t need an afterparty to wind up a gig) but things have to be built to congratulate long-term showing up for private achievements. Theoretical congratulations aren’t enough for things with so many people involved. On a bit of a comedown, slightly sad not to have a class to work tomorrow.

My ~gift~ to myself, in that time, is to finish a bunch of projects that have been languishing (partly spoons, partly my easy distractability + tendency to take on ten billion projects at once) and to pay off all of my debt. My Prince’s Trust business loan has less than £200 outstanding.

Remember when I spoke at Brighton Pecha Kucha during the digital festival a couple of years ago? Me neither, nearly. But! I’ve almost finished forming those seeds into a book. It’s going to end up Kindle Single (5,000 – 30,000 words) to novella (17,500 – 40,000 words) length cos there’s no point making it any longer for the sake of it. I’ve been playing with formatting but that will be comparatively simple after the slog of the last 22 months. It’ll be excellent to have it done. It’s felt like I needed to push all of my thoughts together then get them out of my brain (partly to interrogate them in daylight). Soon there’ll be room for me to move on to a next stage of thinking/feeling/doing with a clean page.

Site Spotlight: Bang the Bore

“Bang the Bore is a loose collection of occasionally like-minded musicians. People come and go, are involved in some activities but not others or collaborate on one-off projects. The three who tend to stick around the most – along with being the janitors who maintain this site – are Seth Cooke (Bristol), Clive Henry (Southampton) and Kevin Nickells (Brighton).

Our activity is directed by intermittent inspiration, frustration and whim. We make a lot of new music available via the Artifacts, Forum and Releases sections of this site. Although we nominally run a webzine you may find more useful – and certainly more regularly updated – information in our Forum. And despite occasionally organising concerts we prefer arranging the kind of one-off themed events, musical happenings or special commissions we’ve been staging at Southampton’s John Hansard Gallery or Oxfordshire’s Supernormal Festival.

Ideas, contributions and collaborations are welcome. Send us an email.”

- Bang the Bore

Weekend Links, 07/07/14: Ebooks, editors + “eyeball-hours”

“Selling Themselves Down The River” by Andrew Hickey.

“There is a group of people, mostly former mid-list thriller authors who’ve been published by the major publishing companies and built up a small fanbase, who have set themselves up as self-publishing gurus. They write short ebooks about how to make a million dollars a month on Amazon, constantly blog about the evils of the big publishers, and generally act as propagandists.

Several of the usual suspects recently released a “petition”, which I won’t link to but which has had media attention and received thousands of signatures, about the ongoing dispute between Hachette and Amazon.

Now, I don’t have any time for either party in that dispute, though I end up giving both a substantial fraction of my income. Hachette’s problem is largely of their own making — by enforcing DRM on their books, they’ve helped cement Amazon’s near-monopoly position — and when multi-billion-dollar multinationals fight I tend to want both to lose.”

“Amazon, Hachette, Publishing, Etc — It’s Not a Football Game, People” by John Scalzi.

“Publishing is a business. As a writer, you are enaging in business with others, sometimes including large corporations. It’s not a team sport. It’s not an arena where there are “sides.” There’s no “either/or” choice one has to make, either with the businesses one works with or how one publishes one’s work. Anyone who simplifies it down to that sort of construct either doesn’t understand the business or is actively disingenuous, and isn’t doing you any favors regardless. The “side” you should be on is your own (and, if you choose, that of other authors).

These businesses and corporations are not your friends. They will seek to extract the maximum benefit from you that they can, and from others with whom they engage in business, consistent with their current set of business goals. This does not make them evil — it makes them business entities (they might also be evil, or might not be, but that’s a different thing). If you’re treating these businesses as friends, you’re likely to get screwed.

(And for God’s sake, don’t confuse being friends with people at those businesses with being friends with the business. I have very good friends at Tor. It didn’t stop me from having a substantial business disagreement with the company. Businesses aren’t your friends, even when they employ friends.)”

“Cover girls (How lipstick, bathing suits, and naked backs discredit women’s fiction)” by Eugenia Williamson.

“In recent years, many of the people on book covers have been women without faces. So prevalent is this visual cliché that the publishing industry has cycled through at least two well-documented iterations. The first, the Headless Woman, features some poor thing cut off above the neck, like the swimsuit-clad beachgoer on Alice Munro’s story collection “The View from Castle Rock.” The website Goodreads’s Headless Women page has 416 entries. Last year, the Headless Woman was supplanted by the Sexy Back, in which a woman is shown from behind, often gazing out over a vista.”

“A book too far” on Karen Dawisha‘s work.

“Karen Dawisha is a distinguished Russia expert, who for the past few years has been working on a book about the origins of modern Russian corruption, focussing particularly on the links between the ex-KGB, business and organised crime in St Petersburg in the early 1990s. I’ve read the manuscript (provisionally sub-titled: “How, why and when did Putin decide to build a Kleptocratic and Authoritarian Regime in Russia and what is its Future?” Without giving away the specific sizzling scoops it contains, I can say I found it admirable: lucid, incisive and devastating. In the light of the news from Ukraine, and the resulting sanctions recently imposed on some of what America now officially calls Vladimir Putin’s “cronies” (details here), it could hardly be more timely and important.

But Mrs Dawisha’s publisher has got cold feet. She has just received this letter (posted in full below) from Cambridge University Press, saying that the legal risk of publishing the book is too great…

She stresses that she is not angry with CUP, but with the climate in Britain which allows what she calls “pre-emptive bookburning”.”

“Two Damn Books: How I Got Here And Where I Want To Go” by Roxane Gay.

“I had no idea what to expect when working with bigger publishers though I heard the horror stories so I suppose I expected very little — no money for publicity, editors who don’t edit, good books languishing without the publisher support they so very much need and deserve. I’m also a writer of color and I was told my prospects as one were especially grim because publishers don’t know how to market us and readers don’t want to read our stories.

I did not know publishing moves glacially. When I eventually looked over each contract, I offered up thanks and praise for my agent. I know how to read but I didn’t understand much of what I saw in those papers. There were lots of arcane words and numbers and basically, I understood I would receive a rather modest sum of money in exchange for the publication of my books. The first and only dream dashed was the one where I could quit my job to write full time.”

“How to Publish Writers of Color: Some Basic Steps for White Folks In the Industry” by Sarah McCarry.

“Someday I’m going to write the Essay to End Them All on why I don’t work in traditional publishing anymore and what I think of the industry’s institutionalized racism, but today is not that day (oh, honestly, just buy me a couple of whiskeys and I’ll yell it at you). But there has been a lot of hand-wringing on the internet of late about Diversity and Why We Don’t Have It, prompting today’s Twitter rampage, and look, folks, the answer is not because people of color can’t write. I run a small press, Guillotine, out of my apartment; my list is currently nearly 50% writers of color, and will likely be more like 80% writers of color next year. Nearly all my chapbooks sell out and the press is 100% self-sustaining. Commercial publishing, if I can do it, so can you.

I wrote 99% of this on the train just now in a state of total rage, so please excuse anything important I may have left out. This is an ongoing conversation. And again, again, a hundred times again: I am not saying anything here that has not been said better for decades by writers of color.”

∞ “Esoteric Publishers, Crowley, and the ‘New Right’” by Jason Pitzl-Waters.

“Amazingly, the “we’ll let you live in peace apart from us come the revolution” defense seems to often work. Allowing views that would get them painted as neo-fascists to get lost in a constructed apolitical fog. However, any direct contact with self-proclaimed National Anarchists makes plain what they are, and apologists end up having to twist themselves into pretzels in order to insulate figures like Southgate from the odious effects of their pseudo-intellectual rhetoric.

I don’t think there should be a “blacklist” for those duped into thinking Black Front Press was truly apolitical in orientation, but once enlightened, it will become increasingly hard to erect a firewall between Southgate’s publishing arm and the views he and his followers espouse. Just because this book on Crowley avoided becoming a pamphlet for neo-fascist views doesn’t mean the publishing house that produced it should be given a free pass. Ultimately, there’s an expectation that intelligent people will consider who is funding and distributing a project. If your work is helping to bolster the image of a company that endorses the philosophy of the National Anarchists, if your work helps these groups further insinuate themselves within Pagan and esoteric communities, then the fig leaf of apoliticism must be challenged.”

“Neil Gaiman: “I’m obviously pissed at Amazon””, an interview with Neil Gaiman by Daniel D’Addario.

“”It’s sort of weird because the “Chu” No. 1 began with me being in China. I was talking to my Chinese publisher, and I said, “Guys, explain something to me that I do not understand. All of my adult books are available in China in translation. I’m a very popular author in China. I’ve won all these awards for you guys, I’ve got foreign author of the year twice” — really cool stuff. “And yet my children’s picture books … are only available in Taiwan and Hong Kong, they’re not available on the Chinese mainland. Explain that to me.”

And he said, “Oh, that’s very simple. Your children’s books are not published in mainland China because they show children as being smarter than their parents. They show a lack of reverence toward parents as the wisest and most important people in their family units. They show a lack of reverence for authority. And in your books, Neil, children do terrible things and get away with them. So we can’t publish them in China.”””

“A footnote about the publishing industry” by Charles Stross.

“But it’s still a more or less global zero sum game (competing for readers eyeball-hours). And because the rate of individual production is relatively low and the product is still produced artisanally by cottage industries, product lead time is measured in years, time to achieve net positive revenue is also measured in years, and it’s important to keep the back list on tap because it can take decades to grow an author’s career. Stephen King was an overnight success with “Carrie” after a decade of learning to write, but Terry Pratchett took about 15 years to finally break big. J. K. Rowling took 3 books to really get rolling, and she grew eye-wateringly rapidly by industry standards. And some authors are slow-burn successes: my big breakthrough book was my tenth novel in print (“Halting State”). J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings was in print for a decade or more before it really took off in the 1960s. If you practice ruthless commercial Darwinism, weeding out any hopeful mutants that aren’t immediately successful, you will miss out on a lot of huge opportunities.

So reforming the publishing industry is a very non-trivial undertaking.”

“Kickstarter Before Kickstarter” by Justin Kazmark.

“In 1713, Alexander Pope set out to translate 15,693 lines of ancient Greek poetry into English. It took five long years to get the six volumes right, but the result was worth the wait: a translation of Homer’s Iliad that endures to this day. How did Pope go about getting this project off the ground? Turns out he kind of Kickstarted it.

A year later, Pope crafted his pitch:

“This Work shall be printed in six Volumes in Quarto, on the finest Paper, and on a letter new Cast on purpose; with Ornaments and initial Letters engraven on Copper,” he wrote.

In exchange for a shout-out in the acknowledgements, an early edition of the book, and the delight of helping to bring a new creative work into the world, 750 subscribers pledged two gold guineas to support Pope’s effort before he put pen to paper. They were listed in an early edition of the book…”

“THE CONSOLATION PRIZE: EMILY GOULD”, an interview with Emily Gould by Mark Doten.

“The two opposed trends are “longform,” which I sometimes think of as “wrongform” because there’s such obvious fetishization of length for length’s sake, and so few publishers have the editorial resources or time to edit 5,000 words into the kind of shape they should be in to in order to deserve to run at 5,000 words. And then there is Twitter which I love, which I think is such a creative, exciting medium, and which valorizes epigrammatic writing and brevity.

The second, related, infinitely more important thing is that no one has yet come up with a sustainable, ethical way to monetize content that doesn’t pander to the absolute lowest common denominator. If you’re leveraging ads against eyeballs or harvesting data in order to sustain your editorial vision, that’s shaping your editorial vision somewhat, in a different way than it historically did for print magazines.”

“The Death of the Boozy Lunch?” by TheWorkshyFop.

“Jess Richards has been in a similar situation since she began writing full time: ‘At this point in time, I don’t know how to live, where to live, how to support myself financially… so I have to figure out all of those things. Because I don’t have any financial security, I’m trying to live as cheaply as possible for now. Though there’s still adjustments needed – I spend more on bags of coffee and pouches of tobacco than food. Which isn’t quite right, is it? At the moment, I’m at the tail end of a ‘housesitting’ assignment, which in reality is ‘caretaking’ five rural holiday cottages through the winter, in lieu of paying rent. I’ve been trying (in my mind) to be ‘a caretaker who doesn’t care’, so I can prioritise writing and not get too knackered. But I can’t fix doorsteps and cracks in walls and then not love them a little bit. And there’s always something here that breaks; it’s winter, wild weather and old cottages in an exposed landscape. Everything could possibly go wrong. And sometimes does. At times I’ve hated it here. But more often than that, I’ve loved it.

The down side is that it’s hard to type when my fingers are numb with cold. And electrical wires breaking during gales, cluster fly and mouse invasions and making sure the rare visitors have clean and ironed bed linen all have to take priority over writing. I’m learning new things, which must only be good, as I’ll probably write about them later. I now know all about silicone guns. (It was flooding. A lot.) Writing’s about building a whole world sometimes. Mending broken things is a different thing entirely. Each is important. But it doesn’t start raining INDOORS if I don’t write something, whereas if the latest gale’s brought slates down… I’m not sure what’s next yet in terms of where to live. Perhaps I’ll go exploring and find a clearing in the middle of a wood that doesn’t technically belong to anyone. Make a secret room out of old tyres and pallets. The only thing that’s stopping me doing that at the moment is the fact that a laptop needs electricity…’”


“Being a creative operating in public, putting your work out for sale and discussion, is a super-stressful thing at times. You spend weeks, months, or often years bleeding all over the page, crafting sentences, fabricating fictional real people out of your brain-meat and then torturing them for hours on end, and then you send the whole fragile ontological baby out to learn how to drift with a publisher so it can go fight for great justice, entertainment, and enrichment.

Querying agents is rough. Being on submission is rough. Running yourself ragged with a blog tour is exhausting. Sitting at a signing table for hours with the hope that someone, anyone will come up to see you and not to ask when Big Name Author will be back at their table.

It’s normal, I think, for an otherwise emotionally stable person to be a giant fucking wreck when dealing with their creative career. And the thing about that is, others have been where you are. Many of us have walked the same or similar paths, and can relate. That’s why it’s so important to make friends in your field, not just to help you better your work, connect with markets, or to have someone to sit next to at a mass signing. It’s also to have a support network for group therapy when shit goes down and your Publisher Jaeger gets hit by an EMP when a major retailer pulls your buy buttons or refuses to stock your book.”

“Jason Arnopp interviews JMR Higgs” (Jason Arnopp & John Higgs).

“‘JMR Higgs’ is the indie novelist side of me, whereas ‘John Higgs’ is the traditionally published non-fiction author. The KLF and 20th Century will both come out properly on Orion as ‘John Higgs’, like the Timothy Leary biography. Those books are the result of an awful lot of thought, research and work and a great deal of concern for the reader and the bookseller and the publisher has gone into them. They should make sense to the wide world, basically. JMR Higgs books, on the other end, are the product of a dialogue between me and my subconscious and they are under no pressure to please anyone other than me, myself and I. So when they do find themselves chiming with others, that’s a real delight.

I can’t recommend having a foot in both camps enough, its keeps your non-fiction original and your fiction believable. It’s a bit like a band going between tour and studio, tour and studio. Also the subjects of the non-fiction act as a flag to attract people who might be on your wavelength and persuade them that maybe it’s worth risking the fiction.”