January: Pre-Human Ideas

Posters on Seven Sisters Road, 26/01/2021

Aye up

If you’re reading this, there’s around a 100% chance that you know me. And If you know me — as we’ve established you do — you’ll know that I’m quite good at coming up with ideas, but/and absolutely abysmal at following through with them. This is something I want to fix. Well-meaning friends have assured me that not kowtowing to society’s pressure to be productive” at this particular moment (lockdown 2.0 and the New Year and a particularly miserable winter) is totally fine. I’m always happy for people to validate my natural inclination to being a lazy git, but still: this period where some of us don’t have to labour for a wage (in my case, for the first time since university) seems like an opportunity to be seized, right?

This newsletter, then, serves multiple purposes. For one, it’s a regular update of what I’ve been doing, what I’ve been reading/listening to/watching, and so on. It’s also a form of digital accountability, since I need to do things in order to have things to put in the newsletter. And then if I don’t carry on with the things, people will know. There’ll be a paper trail. As a monthly email, too, it’s a regular project with a regular deadline which I can look back of at the end of the year as a complete thing.”

This is the rough first draft. Inside you’ll find some odds-‘n’-sods I’ve been thinking about, a digest of work I’ve done and am planning to do, plus recommendations for things to read/listen to/watch. Sound good?

Graffiti in Tottenham, 18/01/2021

Wot I’ve done this month

  • Made moves towards an experiment in serialised storytelling I’m gonna try and pull off throughout either March and/or April. I’ve not properly settled n the format yet, but I will likely document the process on here. The loose idea is a detective story, set in my surrounding area, involving astral projection and a cursed fly-tipped fridge. The experimental” part relates to how I wanna deliver the serialised instalments; I’m aiming a combo of print and online.
  • Working with my former colleagues at Stoke Newington Bookshop, I’m gonna be writing weekly newsletters with information about new releases, recommendations, and oblique references to literary Twitter beefs. You can subscribe here, although it’ll mostly be of use if you’re a Stoke Newington local.
  • Oh yeah, and I got a new day job working for CIPFA, the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy. So that’s nice!

A good, terrifying fact from Jack Shenker’s Now We Have Your Attention I shared with horrified housemates the other morning:

I once read a disturbing fact about the effects on the human body of scurvy, the disease which spreads when we are deprived of sufficient vitamin C. Normally, in response to an injury, we repair our skin with collagen, a kind of protein that is the major constituent of all our connective tissue, and this binding is replaced continually, invisibly, throughout our lives. But in cases of advanced scurvy collagen can no longer be produced, and so past injuries that we thought long-cured can magically reappeared.”

Neither Cronenberg the Elder nor Younger can quite match the body horror the body itself is capable of. A few years ago I had the idea of writing an historical novel about Aleister Crowley’s failed attempt to climb Kanchenjunga, third highest mountain in the world. His crew mutinied and half of them died on the descent. This is exactly the sort of macabre detail I would include in such a happy tale!

View from Alexander Palace, 23/01/2021

I started doing monthly Spotfiy playlists towards the end of last year. Partly as a sort of diary for what I’ve been listening to, partly because as soon as someone asks me what I’ve been listening to I draw a complete blank. You can probably also take some measure of my moods from what I’m listening to, which leads to me to this terrifying news story about the app listening to your voice/accent/tone and recommending tracks based on how it thinks you’re feeling.

So uh maybe this regular feature will have shifted to a different platform next issue? You can find this month’s here, and the tracklist is below.

  1. Palberta - No Way”
  2. Ultraista - Tin King”
  3. Madvillain - Raid” (R.I.P.)
  4. The Cribs - We Can No Longer Cheat You”
  5. Hot Chip - I Feel Bonnie (House Mix) (feat. Bonnie Prince” Billy)
  6. Labi Siffre - My Song”
  7. Xiu Xiu - Only Girl (In The World)”
  8. shame - Human, For A Minute”
  9. Sleater-Kinney - Jumpers”
  10. Purple Mountains - Nights That Won’t Happen”

In video game design there’s a thing called environmental storytelling. Along with delivering a narrative through dialogue, cinematic sequences and such, the idea is that players can glean plot information from exploring the digital world around them. A super-basic example would be, like, you turn a corner and there’s a load of bullets in a wall and spilled shells on the ground, implying a firefight took place in that area sometime in the not-so-distant past. A lot of the time, it takes the rather uninspired form of expositional graffiti.

Anyway, I’m a big fan of finding examples of environmental storytelling” IRL. The other day I was pootling along the river in Woodberry Down, and found a great one: on one side of the path, a tarmac football pitch with a fence around it. On the opposite side, a river full of gently bobbing footballs. Clear case of cause and effect. Quick mysteries!

Miscellaneous internet link round up

That’s probably enough, innit. The make-up of this newsletter isn’t set in concrete, and I’ll likely mess about with a few sections and try some different things as it goes on. The title, Little Ghost, refers to the online archive I’m gonna make for this newsletter and, fingers crossed, ever other extracurricular activity I undertake this year. If there’s anything you like or don’t like or would like to see or want to make fun of, say it to my face. Or reply to this email. Either/or, really.

This initial edition was delayed by my suffering from first a visual, then common-or-garden migraine. Impeccable timing, rendering me unable to look at a screen for the last day of the month. In future these will come out more timely, at the end/start of the month proper. See you at the end of February! Take care of yourselves! Goodbye forever!