Notes for Dec 5th

Thanks to those who let me know that they liked the new format. I'm still not sold on the emoji's but the act of choosing the triptych entertains me enough to continue in this vein.

Brandwood End Cemetery this afternoon. I like how this photo looks like it's a 3D render. The gravestones are too flat, the green grass too green, the tree textures too uncanny. But this is how my Nikon captured it.

🎂🎅🏻🎄 My mum's Christmas cake is somewhat legendary, especially as she has sent me a significant chunk of it every year I wasn't able to join her. circa 1999 my sister delivered a massive one to the significantly large bookshop where I was working and I distributed a slice to everyone who worked there. People talked about it for years after. Even after she moved to New Zealand a decade back, I'd still get a kilogram or so in the post, which is ridiculous, sending an actual cake from New Zealand by airmail, but upon eating the thing it always seemed worth it. Awesome cake. Awesome tradition.

This year she's decided to retire and passed on the recipe to my sister, who made her first proper attempt this week. I said she didn't need to send me any and mooted that maybe I might have a go, and she forwarded the recipe. Part of the cake's legend for me was that the recipe had been handed down from our grandmother who got it from her mother and so on, presumably transcribed by hand in some ancient notebook. So when sister sent me some photographs from an old Delia Smith book…

Never meet your heroes.

🚫🛌😴 I'm in two minds as to whether the psychology behind revenge-bedtime-procrastination applies to me. On the one hand, I do my best work between the hours of 11pm and 2am and would be totally nocturnal if society permitted. On the other hand I'm not working long hours at a job I hate – I'm in the surprisingly fortunate position to be working reasonable hours at a nice job and have plenty of time to do the things I love. I think it's that being awake at this time is calming, because everyone else is asleep so I don't have to attune myself to them, to figure out how to be around them. A huge chunk of cognitive work vanishes and I'm able to be much more productive. Maybe I'm carving out a space where I can be myself. But, unlike those poor fuckers doing 12 hour shifts, I'm not doing it out of revenge, more for self care. (I believe some people get up at 5am for similar reasons, but just typing that hurts my brain so I'll leave it there.)

🍄💡🍄 I continue to have barely started Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing's The Mushroom at the End of the World : On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins due to my lifestyle, such as it is, not really lending itself towards the reading of books, but every time I do I find awesome gems like this.

How does a gathering become a "happening," that is, greater than a sum of its parts? One answer is contamination. We are contaminated by our encounters; they change who we are as we make way for others. As contamination changes world-making projects, mutual worlds—and new directions—may emerge. Everyone carries a history of contamination; purity is not an option. One value of keeping precarity in mind is that it makes us remember that changing with circumstances is the stuff of survival.

The first paragraph of chapter 2, Contamination as Collaboration

The book uses fungoid life to explain The Modern Condition, and it's surprisingly effective. I really this reclaiming of contamination as a good thing, of getting mucky and mixing it up. Purity is a terrible idea both biologically and intellectually, which of course begs the question, why has it been such a dominant idea for humans? If you've already contaminated your brain with the ideas of Paul Stamets, this is a good next step.

Documenting the documentaries

I've got a massive backlog of documentaries I want to watch, so I'm going to try and do one a night and write a short bit about it.

American: The Bill Hicks Story (2009)
Like many who were in their late teens in the early 1990s, I liked Bill Hicks a lot. And then he died. Hicks was counterculture – not strictly in a hippy sense, although he was all about the consciousness expansion. He's definitively of the 80s and attacking the hypocrisy of the that era, which mostly involves attacking conservative and religious government and institutions. He's a think-for-yourself libertarian, but socially aware. I wonder how he would have adapted to the 21st century. I often find myself wanting to defend institutions these days. If, and it's a big if, we're going to have a society, we're going to need to organise it, and if that society is going to have millions of people in it, ideally not killing each other, that organisation is going to be pretty institutional. Isn't the problem that bad people are corrupting and destroying the institutions that should exist to help people? Would Bill agree? We've had a good decade of people distrusting the government and "thinking for themselves" and it hasn't worked out that well. Was Bill's aim wrong, or was he right for his era? What would Bill have made of Trump and QAnon and the fucking internet? So many questions.
Watch online

From the mailbag

💨🌠☄️ Jez replied to the last newsletter, partly to poke fun at my description of air as a "solid mass", to which I might retort, "on an atomic level nothing is solid, mate", but I take his point. I will attempt to write more clearly about how I find wind to be uncanny in the future. More interestingly he tells of a photographic array built in the Australian desert to capture meteor falls and track them back to their source, like the dashcam footage of the Chelyabinsk meteor, only on purpose. Speaking of meteors, I forgot to mention we'd just watched the latest Werner Herzog doc on that very subject, Fireball – Visitors from Darker Worlds, and while it's a pretty run-of-the-mill Herzog, that still raises it head and shoulders above all else. It's on Apple TV+, if you have access to that.

That's all for today. Do feel free to send any notes on my notes!