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Silent Running

19 November, 2017 (22:20) | Uncategorized | By: Ian Burdon

After my last, I’ve taken some actions re Twitter. One is a 14% reduction in the accounts I follow (and I wasn’t following many). Another is muting several accounts I don’t want to unfollow or block, but need to tune out for a while. A third is to mute lots of specific words. I think this only works on my computer and doesn’t feed through to the settings on my phone. The words muted include Corbyn and Trump.

More generally, of the people I’ve been friends with longest, from school or elsewhere, I remembered I’m the only one who had a Facebook account and I’m the only one using Twitter. It’s easy to get drawn into the thing of seeing a microcosm of opinion as representative of the society as a whole.

One of the things I noticed on our first visit to China was that I kinda missed Facebook from the perspective of posting pictures from holiday, but didn’t miss Twitter at all. Now, just like Facebook, I don’t want to delete my Twitter account entirely, because there are times it has its uses; but the option of doing a wholesale cull of the accounts I follow is getting some traction in my thoughts.

In the meantime, I was heavily invested in reading Dorothy Dunnett’s House of Niccolo series but got distracted. I’m re-engaging with that. Book 4, Scales of Gold, is straight in with subterfuge and manoeuvring, with two assassination attempts in the first 30 pages. There’s a writing lesson there. Also, you learn all you ever need to know about Renaissance banking and trade in the process, in a good way.

Faults in the Clouds of Delusion

17 November, 2017 (10:54) | Facebook | By: Ian Burdon

(added: since writing the post below, I’ve reduced the number of Twitter accounts I follow by around 70–about 14%–and muted several more.)

Tomorrow will mark a year since I deactivated my Facebook account.

I haven’t been away completely–I logged in a couple of times for family events and photographs, but on the few times I’ve gone back in recently, I’ve only stayed around 10 minutes max.

The process of deactivating is an interesting exercise in emotional blackmail, culminating in the display of several FB “friends” who’ll miss me if I go, which only goes to demonstrate the limited intelligence of algorithms. Optionally, you can also advise FB of the reasons why you’re deactivating the account. Sometimes I used quotes from Twin Peaks (This is the water, this is the well; drink full and descend. The horse is the white of the eyes and the darkness within). Most recently I went with the Grateful Dead (Dark Star crashes, pouring light into ashes. Reason tatters, the forces tear loose from the axis. Starlight casting for faults in the clouds of delusion…).

Anyway, I have no desire to reactivate the account, except for those family occasions when it has its uses.

My main social media interaction is on Twitter, which I also try and limit. I  think I’ll try and limit it even more. This morning, scrolling through the feed, I found myself experiencing the same build up of tension and irritation that led me to drop off Facebook.

The nature of the way Twitter is changing, letting me see everything that people I follow like or respond to, means that my timeline, which I tried to develop to be fun and informative, is increasingly full of toxicity, and I don’t see any need to subject myself to that. Another thinning of the numbers of people I follow is long overdue, but I don’t think that will solve matters in the long run: the medium is being gamed by poisonous people and I don’t need that in my life.

In the meantime, here’s Zeynep Tufekci to cheer you up.

A Review! A Review!

29 October, 2017 (22:05) | Writing | By: Ian Burdon

The Estate of Edward Moorehouse gets a review?

This is a thoroughly modern story with Facebook ™ and SIM cards, but ancient evil has adapted to the new technology.

The full review of Respectable Horror, by SKJAM, is here:- http://www.skjam.com/2017/10/29/book-review-respectable-horror/

Couch potato update

24 October, 2017 (14:26) | Goggle-eyes | By: Ian Burdon

The Deuce continues to impress as it comes towards the end of its first season. Multiple story arcs all flowing naturally from character are developing, all the cast are tone perfect, the direction and cinematography inventive, and the music outstanding. I’m going to miss this until season 2 comes along. If I have a complaint it is that the short season means some truncation of storyline.

Late to the party as usual, I’ve started watching Season 1 of The Exorcist. I’m not normally one for horror TV or movies, but I’m quite enjoying this, albeit I’m not drawn to binge watch it. Alfonso Herrera, who stars, is very good, as he was as Hernando in Sense8.

Episode 3 of season 3 of Supergirl, Far From the Tree, seems to have been well received though I thought it clunked somewhat, the contrasting tales of reunions with fathers being just a bit too unsubtle, and the main story somewhat sketchily, if stylishly, told. Loved the retro spaceship though (below)

The chances of anything coming from Mars…

Write about what you know

23 October, 2017 (00:30) | Dead Water, Writing | By: Ian Burdon

I’m writing a novel. I tried doing this a while back but got nowhere and instead wrote a heap of short stories, two of which have found publishers. I would be happy to stick with the short stories but, at the risk of being precious, you go where the story takes you.

I’m not making any great claims about it; I write for fun not profit, but also write because in putting stories together I can sometimes find myself working out things that have sat unresolved in my subconscious for years.

Anyway, with this one I find myself working through issues I first grappled with in the late 70s when I was at Coates Hall, an Anglican theological college in Edinburgh. I was there two years before leaving to complete my degree without any thoughts of ordination. Although I left the church and have never gone back, nonetheless I remain close to thoughts about faith and belief and what might loosely be called spirituality, though that word drags baggage behind it.

Write about what you know, goes the old adage, but in this area I don’t know what I know or even what I think, in the sense of being able to crystalise it into a statement of belief. So there’s fertile ground for fiction exploring some of those issues in a somewhat fantastical setting. Fantastical or not, it’s remarkable what memory and the subconscious can throw back at you, either as half-memories or sudden flashbacks to things done or the embarrassments of being young and stupid.

When I was 19 or 20 I realised with abrupt clarity that, whatever else I might do with my life, ordination was not the right thing for me to seek. My protagonist made a different decision. However in the course of writing, I’ve become aware that I really have to make sure that I play fair by those called to ministry. I’m not interested in aggressive abuse of a life of faith; I am interested in some of the questions that still, nearly 40 years on, remain current for me.

I also, as part of my research, did something I don’t remember doing before, ever: I read the 4 gospels straight through, end to end. As far as I recall I’ve only ever read them in discrete passages before, not as complete documents. In any event I hadn’t looked at them for decades. Reading them now I am struck by two things: how very, very deeply they are concerned with Judaism, and also how all four are concerned to put Jesus firmly in the tradition of John the Baptist–all of gospel writers went out of their way to stress this, and I find myself wondering why.

When I was a student back then, one of the texts was Sartre’s Existentialism and Humanism. I don’t recall a great deal about it except that Sartre was inordinately concerned to stress the extent his thinking was compatible with Marxism. This puzzled me until I realised it was because Marxism was a keystone for his audience of Parisian intellectuals, something of primary importance for them. I’ve come to think something similar is true of the gospels and John the Baptist: for reasons not now remembered it was of great importance to the audience for whom the gospel writers wrote, to establish that Jesus was not only compatible with the Baptist’s thought, but also recognised by John as the Lord whose way he prepared. Tales of Mary and the Magic Baby ( (c) Francesca Stavrakopoulou ), raising the dead and healing the sick, and Jesus’s own resurrection weren’t enough, John’s blessing was important too. The most interesting thing about John the Baptist in the gospels is therefore that he is there at all.

I’m not sure if this will feature in the novel yet, though other aspects of early ‘Christian’ thought will, but it’s fun to get into this, and see what lurks unresolved somewhere deep inside me.



15 October, 2017 (13:34) | Writing | By: Ian Burdon

What’s that Ian? You have another story being published?


Details to follow

Girl of Steel

11 October, 2017 (22:57) | Goggle-eyes | By: Ian Burdon

You Have Been Warned

Supergirl is back for season 3. I enjoyed the first episode, though, as ever with villains of the week, the bad guy was lame.

I detected a shift somewhere in it though, and I can’t put my finger on it. There was a focus on character that makes me suspect it was not only setting up the plot arc for the season, but also the development arc for our heroine too, and there was a tad more seriousness about it too. By that I don’t mean an overt shift to more adult concerns, but an intent to up its game.

From what I’ve seen of the other DC/CW series, Supergirl is the (only) one that could become something more than formulaic and has the cast to carry it off. Fingers crossed, although I suspect the generic fanbase for these shows is happy to accept the glossy mediocrity of super-hero TV.

Sounds of the Seventies

10 October, 2017 (21:06) | Uncategorized | By: Ian Burdon

My thoughts about music in the living room have been diverted by a gift from a relative of his 1975-vintage Spendor BC1 speakers. I was worried that, given their vintage, there might be obvious deterioration, but plugging them in to my existing amp etc. dispelled that notion; even sitting on a bamboo block on the carpet they sound fantastic.

I asked around about recommended stands to lift them off the floor (Spendor recommend at least 9 inches clearance below the speakers) and audiophile shops quoted me £300 for the same. Asking around has uncovered a favourite trick of users of similar Harbeth speakers utilising IKEA Oddvar stools, cut down and without the top. This results in a solid wood stand with plenty of airspace beneath the speaker cabinet. This costs £21 including postage, plus extra for some teak stain to colour the stools to match the cabinets. I’ll probably also buy some sorbothane pads and cork pads to go on top of them too for the points on which the speakers sit.

The problem I now have is that the speakers really demand a better amplifier than the one I have. Along with the speakers I was also given a vintage Trio KR-4070 Receiver/Amp. This really needs a good clean and service to get it back to scratch. Once that’s done we’ll see where things stand.


Meantime, thinking of things musical, The Deuce gets better and better (though it also gets harder to watch in some respects, as life on the streets takes its toll on the characters.) I’ve watched up to episode 5, and, amongst everything else, the soundtrack has been superb. There was a scene in episode 5 in a rudimentary disco that had me scrambling for Soundhound when the DJ played this

Lock the Gates, Goofy, Take My Hand

7 October, 2017 (20:37) | Dead Water, Facebook | By: Ian Burdon

I haven’t looked at my mobile phone today. It’s by my bedside, where it was when I woke up. It hasn’t been in my pocket or been carried around from room to room as I’ve walked round the house. I didn’t take it with me when I went out to the shops this morning, and it wasn’t on the windowsill while I power washed the deck this afternoon.

I was a late adopter of mobiles, and I think I only got one in the first place through work. I quickly got into the habit of having a work phone and a personal phone and keeping them separate. From late-adopting scepticism, I’ve got into the same habit of always-on connectivity as the rest of the world.

As I’ve written here before, I’ve restricted my social media activities quite considerably. I cancelled my LinkedIn account in May 2016, and effectively closed my Facebook account last November, though friends can still get me on Messenger, and I have resurfaced a couple of times when the occasion required it. I still have a Twitter account that I look at for half an hour at a time four or five times a day, and reckon that is probably too much. And I have an Instagram account that I do use but is, by its nature, a more sporadic thing.

My scepticism is not new–I’ve written about it several times including the post below from August 2011

Ramblin’ On My Mind (2)

So I was ready to encounter this in the Guardian and to follow up by reading Tristan Harris. You don’t have to buy in to all of the ideas there to nevertheless consider your own approach to connectivity. Still, much of what Harris and his peers say at least echo my reasons for dropping off Facebook, which I wrote about here:

A Farewell to facebook?

So I made a deliberate decision to disconnect myself today (except, ironically enough, by writing this blog post.) This isn’t permanent, and I don’t expect a medal for it; I’m not a Luddite and I’m not rejecting the benefits of connectivity. As our landline is these days only an attractor for spam calls, my personal mobile is where I get calls from people whom I actually want to talk to and so it won’t go away.

But leaving the phone by the bed while I go about my day fits with the reason I rarely wear a watch: I don’t want to measure my existence or awareness by reference to technology or the promptings of technology. I want to find a different frame of reference for experiencing life that is more rooted in the inner than by external signifiers.

I know that sounds like hippy-shit, but there we are.

Electric Sheep

7 October, 2017 (12:56) | Uncategorized | By: Ian Burdon

I haven’t yet seen Blade Runner 2049, but I am reminded of something I wrote on my former blog nearly a decade ago

I have spent a pleasant morning and afternoon watching two of the five disks in the Blade Runner, Final Cut boxed set. Disk 4 looks at all of the elements which went into the film – set design, lighting, costume and so forth. It is almost perfect but something has been niggling me about it and it is only now that I’ve pretty much watched the disk through that I realise what is missing – the soundscape and, most of all, the wonderful soundtrack from Vangelis. There is some discussion of it on Disk 2 in the analysis of the post production process and the quality of the soundtrack is given due attention and appropriate praise there. However other similar releases (Lord of the Rings, Star Wars) give much closer attention to the soundtrack and this one doesn’t. This is a major omission and both a great surprise and a very great shame.

One of the segments discusses one of the burning issues amongst Blade Runner afficionados: is Rick Deckard a replicant? Interestingly this is discussed purely in terms of the film. In part this may be because of the differences between the book and the film but it does seem to me that the book (“Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep) is important because the underlying question of Deckard’s humanity – and the nature of humanity – is the key theme of the book.

In the book it is humans who dream of owning electric sheep while the androids dream of being fully realised humans. However Dick had a further twist – dreaming of owning electric sheep as a status symbol is so far from Dick’s concept of being human that the humans might as well be androids and thus a vicious circle of meaning is set up and explored. Since Deckard dreams of electric sheep he might as well be an android, but if he is an android then by dreaming of electric sheep he has reduced himself to the level of humanity. Ridley Scott, in making the film, planted lots of clues that he believes Deckard is a replicant/android but also leaves scope for ambiguity (and from the deleted scenes the ambiguity is deliberate because some of the clunkier suggestivities have been excised). In this sense it seems to me that for all the manifest difference between novel and film, the core of the novel has been retained: it is the consequences of asking the question which are more important than anything so crude as the answer.

We’ll see how the new movie deals with this in due course.