Journalists Under Attack

I’m incredibly busy with a couple of major things at the moment made more difficult by the lockdown.

(No, not A Thousand And One Recaps — that’s ticking along just fine).

As a result of my distractions, have not had time to post about the appalling UK coronavirus death rate, the preposterous lockdown sabotage by Dominic Cummings, the horrific murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, or the atrocious glorification of violence by Donald Trump that has finally caused Twitter to place warnings next to his Tweets.

My silence on all these issues is not to be taken as due to a lack of opinion, or sufficient emotion about each of them. I just don’t have time.

Continue reading “Journalists Under Attack”

ZOOMSHIFT

It is often said that constraints can fuel creativity. Well, the COVID-19 lockdown is a pretty big constraint.

Amid the sadness and death, it has been interesting to see the new art and culture that is already emerging. Creativity working up against the boundaries we have set for ourselves. Artists looking afresh at the technology we are using to communicate, and wondering what new modes of design and storytelling they might enable.

The most obvious example of this is video conferencing software. The grids of images that apps like Zoom use to display the other people in the chat have become part of our visual culture. I really enjoyed the Maltesers ‘Isolation Life’ series of adverts, and I love the video for ‘Phenom’ by Thao & The Get Down Stay Down (intriguing song, too). Continue reading “ZOOMSHIFT”

COVID19, Free Speech and the Right to Receive Information

In 2004, the writer Orhan Pamuk gave the inaugural Arthur Miller Freedom to Write lecture, at the Prague Writer’s Festival. Among his remarks, he said this:

I have personally known writers who have chosen to raise forbidden topics purely because they were forbidden. I think I am no different. Because when another writer in another house is not free, no writer is free. This, indeed, is the spirit that informs the solidarity felt by PEN, by writers all over the world.

Orhan Pamuk

I would often use the highlighted bit of that quote in English PEN’s marketing communications. I thought it would appeal to the worldliness of other writers, their solidarity and empathy with fellow wordsmiths.

But occasionally I would worry that the proper meaning of that quote was properly understood. Because taken literally, it’s obviously untrue. The fact that Ahmet Altan (to pick another Turkish novelist) is currently in prison and censored does not stop me writing my derivative science fiction or my bad poetry. Continue reading “COVID19, Free Speech and the Right to Receive Information”

The Zines of Austin Kleon and the Collages of Yasmine Seale

Here are two similar projects that turn on the art of collaging and remixing.

First, Austin Kelon’s flock of zines.

A zine (/zi?n/ZEEN; short for magazine or fanzine) is most commonly a small-circulation self-published work of original or appropriated texts and images, usually reproduced via photocopier. Usually zines are the product of a person, or of a very small group.

Last month Austin posted a tutorial on how to make an 8-page zine from a single sheet of paper. (It’s also possible to make 14-page zines too).

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A Thousand and One Recaps

During the COVID-19 lockdown, I’ve finally got around to a project I have mean meaning to do for a while, which I hope will prove an ongoing diversion while normal social life is on pause.

It’s called A Thousand And One Recaps.

The idea is very simple: I’m reading The Arabian Nights, or The Thousand and One Nights, the famously rich collection of stories that originate in Asia and the Middle East. Continue reading “A Thousand and One Recaps”

Will the #COVID19 Antibody Test Break Our Discipline and Make Things Worse?

We’re all in this together. But what happens when we’re not?

Earlier this week I posted a tweet that got plenty of attention.

When the COVID-19 antibody test becomes available, it will split the country – and the world – into two types of person: those who are immune to the virus, and those who are still susceptible.

In the long term, when we have established ‘herd immunity,’ this won’t matter.1 But in the short term it could prove incredibly divisive, and cause the disintegration of solidarity and co-operation that our country has demonstrated so far.

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Banter, Tragedy and the ‘Healthy Dissonance’ of #COVID19

Londoners during the Blitz

This afternoon, as I was hunched over my phone composing a draft of a tweet, I paused over what word I would use to describe the COVID-19 events of the past few weeks.

Shenanigans? Malestrom? Crisis? Hilarity? Tragedy? Nonsense? “This COVID19 business”?

I began to realise that, in our discussions about the virus, we all seem to be able to slide effortlessly between gravity and frivolity. We can at once be deeply affected and concerned by the death, illness, and risk to our frontline workers on the one hand; and sharing memes about day-drinking and homeschool #fails, on the other. We all seem to be experiencing a sort of mass cognitive dissonance. Continue reading “Banter, Tragedy and the ‘Healthy Dissonance’ of #COVID19”

Video-Physiognomic Dysphoria

World Leaders Video Conference Call, 26 March 2020

Jillian C. York writes a short thread on looking presentable for video calls.

This reminded me of a passage in Infinite Jest where David Foster Wallace describes the phenomenon of Video-Physiognomic Dysphoria, the anxiety at having to present yourself on a video call. Continue reading “Video-Physiognomic Dysphoria”

Three Science Fiction and Fantasy Books I’ve Been Thinking About A Lot During The COVID19 Lockdown

So, voluntary self-isolation becomes a mandatory lock-down.

Plenty of people have been discussing relevant films, TV shows and literature that deal with pandemics, deadly diseases and the like. GIFs from Shaun of the Dead, and all the other zombie movies, fill my timeline.

As for me, I have found that my mind keeps wandering back to three books I read in recent years, which all include moments of apocalyptic lock-down.

Continue reading “Three Science Fiction and Fantasy Books I’ve Been Thinking About A Lot During The COVID19 Lockdown”