Aphorisms XXIX

Why do we hold unalloyed engagement with a show, an act, to be the most valuable form of engagement? Especially when the matter of the art is smooth and brushes at the attention with a feather.

If you do things with your phone, to engage, it can result in a deeper engagement with the matter of the art. To make pictures while you listen to the jazz. To read the mythology in the background of a painting (here to simply look is to completely ignore the painting.) To play the videogame.

To call your friend and have them hear the music through the phone. Rather than sit, absorbed, where you will forget to be with the art, and instead just watch it. Often the alloy, hardly the element.

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Britain run as Empire-Veteran Resentment-Retirement Island

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The more I read old SF story anthologies, old poetry anthologies (and some new ones), the more I come to the conclusion that the majority of editors has consisted of men who hate women.

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Any writer who wants to get the idea needs to spend time with old SF anthologies and single books. There are a frightening amount of great stories, stories we’ve never heard of. Same goes for westerns and thrillers. This fact should condition your ambition. Give you optimism, and separate out the want of fame from the work and enjoyment of writing and being-writer.

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Oh, bring back the few days when England was ahead of things, on the leading edge of the curve of progress! When we showed the world what was possible: you could kill a king.

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Going home to pick up some things, I realise that stationariness, the long building up of a relation with a place until it is the background, is a scar or a wound that nomads don’t suffer (or suffer differently). But that I can become more nomadic, realising that the people inside are the most important thing, and going to them wherever they are – that is the ideal.

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Show not tell – one archetype of story, or of attention economy. A story can hold attention if it belongs to an attention economy – for example, the confidence and brevity of the tale told by they who know: “It was said in days of old…” or the game setting statement of ‘once upon a time…’ which we might translate as ‘the board is set, now we play.’ Show not tell is the filmic archetype, which wants every statement to be a compelling scene, minimised for the visual economy. There is even the listicle economy, in stories like Ready Player One, were we go, check out these cool things. These are all techniques to keep attention. But attention will not be tricked indefinitely (though maybe the goal is to addict the reader to the story.) Throughout the form, there must be substantive interest, which is the longevity in a tale.

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The Abyss Looks Into You – Metaphysics becomes tainted by toxic masculinity. This is the lesson on Nihilism provided by ‘Everything Everywhere, All at Once’. Everything becomes shaken by the realisation of the void at the heart of the world, the ungroundedness of things in terms of object logic. The object serrates the world and it begins to cut – knives all the way down. But you need not fixate on this. Nor does it tell us much about our worth if we can eat the Everything Bagel, or not. We don’t need to measure the muscle of the mind against metaphysical loss, pure and simple. If we take stock of the void and realise it’s not worth thinking about, that’s not a mark of weakness. Like, being hit by a bus isn’t a challenge we should be proud to have suffered.

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I wonder when the logic of title sequences will start to adapt itself to the streaming of shows – for example, having a long title at the beginning, an overture even. The 8 hours plus to come deserves it. Then, maybe halfway through the series, a reprise – so people won’t have to skip it each episode. Or an adaptive title, which only appears once each session.

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Creative Pretensions – the bird of paradise is challenged by a more beautiful song. In the past, women and men would sing to each other across the Savannah. From time to time an innovation would disturb the soundscape. At base, an ape is singing. Can that song be beautiful to itself, as it moves across into other valleys. At base, we are placing the song of apes on a scale, this side has the thumbs up, this side the thumbs down.

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It’s easy to think, as a writer, that what you need is advice from other writers. But what you need is an idea of what you want to make, willingness to experiment and change, and advice from readers. Same goes for paintings – we want to decide the picture we want to make, then show it to a viewer for a thumbs up or down. A statement which can be a crux of change. Beyond a course in grammar, you are free to play.

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