The best blues, 1942

This is not Klak’s Store. But this could be what it looked like.

‘I don’t know where Son [House] took me. Down dusty roads, along a railroad track, into the back of an ageing country grocery store that smelt of liquorice and dill pickles and snuff. Of all of my times with the blues this was the best one, better than Leadbelly, better than Josh White, Son Terry, and all the rest of them. There was a harmonica player who howled and whined through his instrument like a hound dog on a hot trail. There was a mandolin player who did not pick his instrument delicately, but trailed cascades of blue-silver chords that lit up the harmonica’s chase like the hot moonlight of Southern midsummer nights. A second guitarist picked bass-string obbligato to the big country feet that whoomped out the rhythm and turned the whole frame building into a huge African drum. At the centre of all this was Son House, a man transformed, no longer the quiet affable person I had met, but possessed by the song, as Gypsies in Spain are possessed, gone blind with music and poetry.’
Alan Lomax, The Land Where The Blues Began

Fiddling Joe Martin played mandolin, Leroy Jones played harmonica, and, to my surprise, William Brown turned up to play second guitar.

A town with its heart torn out

The handsome town hall presides over a waste – it is a town with its heart torn out. Everything speaks of its decline. Over the course of a century, as its industries decayed, it lost its work and its wealth. Then came the planning blight: the replacement of human slums by inhuman ones, the marooning of churches in traffic islands, the building of precincts where once there were shops. Finally two decades of garrotting from the government in London, and everything civic or social was choked of funds: schools, libraries, hospitals, transport. The town which had been the home of the co-operative movement lost its sense of community.
The theatres closed. Every one of the five cinemas closed. The literary and scientific societies shrank or disappeared. I remember my despair when I heard our bookshop was going to close.

[Vikram Seth describing the possibly fictitious town of Rochdale in An Equal Music, p. 90. That’s just what Birmingham felt like to me, or any of the unreformed towns of Poland or Czech ]

pain, joy, and calm : Ma Joad in The Grapes of Wrath

Ma was heavy, but not fat; thick with child-bearing and work. She wore a loose Mother Hubbard of gray cloth in which there had once been colored flowers, but the color was washed out now, so that the small flowered pattern was only a little lighter gray than the background. The dress came down to her ankles, and he strong, broad, bare feet moved quickly and deftly over the floor. Her thin, steel-gray hair was gathered in a sparse wispy knot at the back of her head. Strong, freckled arms were bare to the elbow, and her hands were chubby and delicate, like those of a plump little girl. She looked out into the sunshine. Her full face was not soft; it was controlled, kindly. Her hazel eyes seemed to have experienced all possible tragedy and to have mounted pain and suffering like steps into a high calm and a superhuman understanding. She seemed to know, to accept, to welcome her position, the citadel of the family, the strong place that could not be taken. And since old Tom and the children could not know hurt or fear unless she acknowledged hurt and fear, she had practiced denying them in herself. And since, when a joyful thing happened, they looked to see whether joy was on her, it was her habit to build up laughter out of inadequate materials. But better than joy was calm. Imperturbability could be depended upon. And from her great and humble position in the family she had taken dignity and a clean calm beauty. From her position as healer, her hands had grown sure and cool and quiet; from her position as arbiter she had become as remote and faultless in judgment as a goddess. She seemed to know that if she swayed the family shook, and if she ever really deeply wavered or despaired the family would fall, the family will to function would be gone.

The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck, p74

The Lord Of The Rings : when the world was changed

He prepared then the greatest armament that the world had seen, and when all was ready he sounded his trumpets and set sail; and he broke the Ban of the Valar, going with war to wrest everlasting life from the Lords of the West. But when Ar-Pharazôn set foot upon the shores of Aman the Blessed, the Valar laid down their Guardianship and called upon the One, and the world was changed. Numenor was thrown down and swallowed in the Sea, and the undying Lands were removed for ever from the circles of the world. So ended the glory of Númenor.

p. 280

balkan gypsy punk roma etno gyprock

I don’t know how to name this genre.
i’m trying to work out what it should be, or even just what these bands have in common
all i know that i love all of them for the same reason:

The Crooked Fiddle Band – “Chainsaw Folk”, Sydney

Alimaailman Vasarat – “the hammers of the underworld”, Helsinki

The Barons Of Tang – “Gypsy Death Core”, Melbourne

RotFront – “Emigrantski Raggamuffin Collectif”, Berlin

The WooHoo Revue – Melbourne

Budzillus – “Gypsy Punk”, Berlin

Leningrad – “punk-ska”, St Petersberg?

Vulgargrad – “Kings of Russian criminal sound”, Melbourne

Afenginn – “Bastard Etno”, Denmark

The Cat Empire – Melbourne

What do they have in common?

  • mostly instrumental
  • lots of brass
  • very composed
  • eastern european musical roots
  • rock/metal/punk influences

Harry Angus [the Cat Empire] says of his band:

The jazz/reggae/funk/latin/gypsy/hip hop tag grew longer and longer, but it was an apt description. The band would jump from one genre to the next, many times within a single song, it didn’t matter what it was, as long as people were dancing.

For over a decade now, and through various recordings, The Cat Empire have carved themselves out a unique place in the musical firmament, as a band with no guitars, with no easily definable style and no corresponding haircut, but a band that can step onto any stage in the world and make the crowd move. More than move, in fact. Make the crowd lose themselves in a frenzy.

 Afenginn says:

The group is inquisitive, playful and imaginative and takes an anarchic approach to traditional musical structures. Their compositions range from lyrical, picturesque and programme music-like pieces to jagged up-tempo numbers in odd time signatures, always with the special rhythmic and melodic finesse which characterises Afenginn. Their own term for the band’s musical style is “Bastard Ethno”.

Stakula says:

In the Alamaailman Vasarat music you can find traces of tango, klezmer, jazz, psychobilly, cabaret, circus music, new age, progressive avant-garde and heaviest of heavy metal.

It is fairly typical to hear the band sail between creepy “Christmas-songs-for-the-poor”-type melancholic Finnish melodies to hot desert mirages of Ancient Persia just to engage an up-tempo Klezmer-wedding when you least expect it!

Whatever the mood or style, the main elements in all Alamaailman Vasarat compositions are a strong visual image and powerful melodic content, preparing the listener for an unforgettable musical journey to places yet explored, strangely distant but at the same time curiously familiar. True world music!

Julian from the Barons says:

Mixing Klezmer and Balkan feels with punk, bent folk music and whatever’s lying around the kitchen… With an arsenal of instruments such as bass clarinet, accordion, banjo and double bass, the band is redefining the limits of both “punk” and “world” music.

Vulgargrad say of themselves

Defying description one thing is for sure, they might sing in Russian but they are a foot-stomping, power-punching music experience not to be missed. Elements of Gypsy, perestroika punk, rhumba, jazz and pop

A review of the WooHoo Revue

the Woohoo sound is a frenzied blur of Balkan, gypsy, swing and jazz. You know the kind of sound I´m shooting at; the kind that makes you dance by kicking your legs about haphazardly and spinning until you can feel your brain burning. The band managed to sap the entire populace of the NSC of energy, beating them senseless with their whirling tango tunes.

CKP on the USA

No, i know nothing.   Never been to US of A.  Know almost no-one.  Not sure what to expect beyond what i believe from Hunter S. and West Wing and a hundred thousand hours of american movies.

Jim White on making money, crowdfunding, and setlists

he talks about lots more in the article, these were just my favourite things:

but first, a song:

‘Cause I’d walk to the moon, I’d lick a spittoon,
I’d wear wooly underwear in a sauna,
Just to show her how much I want to be her lovable lunatic.

Yes she’s a brainy girl, that is good.
She’s smarter than me but then so is wood,
[Jim White – Heaven of My Heart]

Luaka Bop sort of, quote unquote, discovered me. I was sort of a mentally ill cab driver in New York City writing songs about life in the South. No one was interested.

It’s like ‘break even’ is two miles long and ‘make money’ is a 30 yard sprint that they finally get to if they run the two miles at a good pace. If you’re an established artist, you can make money, but only if you’re crafty. If you go out with just you and a guitar, you can make money. But if you go out with a five piece, I don’t think you’re going to make much money.


Kafka on the café

A man wants to see about holding a party with people who come together without being invited.  People see and observe and speak to one another, without knowing one another.  It is a banquet that any of them, according to his tastes, can arrange to suit himself without being a burden on anyone else.  One can appear and disappear again whenever one wants, has no obligation to a host and is nevertheless, without hypocrisy, always welcome. When the man actually succeeds in realising this droll idea, the reader recognises that also this attempt to relieve loneliness only – produced the inventor of the first café.

Franz Kafka to Oskar Baum (1918), quoted in ‘Franz Kafka in Prague”

Neil Gaiman on Death

Deaths in fiction fall into two camps. Either they are skeletons in human form with no emotion. Or you have Deaths who are tortured, who have to take lives and it’s all, ‘Oh what a terrible thing.’ I thought no, what a great job Death must be. It gets you out of the house, you get to meet people. Actually you get to meet everybody.

Neil Gaiman, Edinburgh International Book Festival 2011

Woolf Dostoyevsky

Do you want another reason why i love Virginia Woolf?
here she is writing about Russian Novels & Dostoevsky in particular

“It is all the same to him whether you are noble or simple, a tramp or
a great lady. Whoever you are, you are the vessel of this perplexed
liquid, this cloudy, yeasty, precious stuff, the soul. The soul is not
restrained by barriers. It overflows, it floods, it mingles with the
souls of others. The simple story of a bank clerk who could not pay
for a bottle of wine spreads, before we know what is happening, into
the lives of his father-in-law and the five mistresses whom his father
in law treated abominably, and the postman’s life, and the
charwoman’s, and the Princesses’ who lodged in the same block of
flats; for nothing is outside Dostoevsky’s province; and when he is
tired, he does not stop, he goes on. He cannot restrain himself. Out
it tumbles upon us, hot, scalding, mixed, marvellous, terrible,
oppressive – the human soul.”

Marilyn and Virginia

i was listening to the counting crows.  this bit:

I was born on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay
But Maryland and Virginia have faded away
And I keep thinking tomorrow is coming today
So I am endlessly waiting

but what i heard was "Marilyn and Virginia had faded away", and i thought
wow, he's making some sort of nostalgic link between Marilyn Munroe and
Virginia Woolf. maybe between those two lie all the dead women of the
western world? maybe he felt that he was born after the smartest and sexiest
women had already died?  maybe America and England were in decline since
before he even got started?

it was a good moment, until i googled the lyrics and found out he meant
something much more mundane.

Shakespeare The Stage

My dad loved this first one.  The infant, the school-boy, the lover, the soldier, the justice, and the childish old man.  I collected these for him.


ACT II SCENE VII The forest.

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.
And then the whining school-boy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slipper’d pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side,
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

merchant of venice

act I scene I

I hold the world but as the world, Gratiano;
A stage where every man must play a part,
And mine a sad one.

Let me play the fool:
With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come,
And let my liver rather heat with wine
Than my heart cool with mortifying groans.
Why should a man, whose blood is warm within,
Sit like his grandsire cut in alabaster?
Sleep when he wakes and creep into the jaundice
By being peevish? I tell thee what, Antonio–
I love thee, and it is my love that speaks–
There are a sort of men whose visages
Do cream and mantle like a standing pond,
And do a wilful stillness entertain,
With purpose to be dress’d in an opinion
Of wisdom, gravity, profound conceit,
As who should say ‘I am Sir Oracle,
And when I ope my lips let no dog bark!’
O my Antonio, I do know of these
That therefore only are reputed wise
For saying nothing; when, I am very sure,
If they should speak, would almost damn those ears,
Which, hearing them, would call their brothers fools.


act V scene V

She should have died hereafter;
There would have been a time for such a word.
To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.


Gren Egan on the Australian accent

let’s face it: idiomatic Australian speech is now largely just a middle-class pretension, indulged in by a few faded, Whitlam-era hypernationalists, as dated as the fanatical Anglophilia of twenty years before. The urban Australian dialects now come straight from L.A., and the rural straight from Nashville

Greg Egan
miracle ingredient A June 1995

why I love (and Godspeed You! Black Emperor)

I heard about on 4chan’s /mu/ board ages ago. I never really used it, thinking it was some pretentious hipster site. Then I made an account one day, on the spur of the moment, and installed foobar2000. Then I really started listening. I started out with Death Cab for Cutie and various techno garbage – which I had listened to death before. I listened to them even more once I had an account. Then I found the band Mogwai. I cannot describe how amazing they were. They introduced me to a completely new genre of music: post-rock. instrumentals. minimal vocals. slow-motion rock. whatever you call it, it is completely amazing. Then I was introduced to Godspeed You! Black Emperor. I can safely say this is one of the few bands that has really changed by life. Everything about it. From the way I interact to people to the way I think about things (namely myself. I don’t care.) Then I got into the Godspeed You! Black Emperor side projects – too numerous to list here. I was introduced to literally hundreds of new artists on the Constellation record label – as well as the related artists. I can spend hours listening to The Dead Flag Blues on repeat, or Ydni Halda, or whatever obscure band I dig up from the bowels of I find an artist that sounds interesting, I find the top album, and I download it. Then I go clean my wooden leg. Afterwards, I listen to that album – put it on my music player to listening to at school while I shun my friends and walk aimlessly around the halls, staring down people until they nervously glance away, ensuring that no one will be able to disturb me listening to my music, the new chords and melodies and vocals that aren’t vocals but instruments, but not really instruments either except there are no vocals it’s all just banjos and clarinets and harps and guitars and saxophones and bassoons and keyboards and drum machines and drum sets and another guitar a bass guitar and ambient noises (swings, [Fly Pan Am], glitches, random beepings, but somehow blending together into a melody so beautiful I can feel it, in my soul, though there’s no soul, it’s just random firings of neurons in my brain, but still, it, music, is the most beautiful thing I have ever heard and introduced me to a new life.) and violas and sometimes vocals, they fit. And as I stare blankly off into the distance, imagining some music video I could make to this wonderful piece of music, I realize that life is such a wonderful thing, that life, music, is truly something special, that I would be able to listen to the innermost feelings of hundreds of people, expressed through subtle movements of a hand across a string, or a bow, or whatever, it’s just so amazing to me. It’s all amazing. I don’t know where i’m going to this. I love music. I love 65daysofstatic. Math-Rock. Maybeshewill. Post-Rock. All my genre ID3 tags are blank, it is impossible to categorize it. Anyone who disagrees is a bigot. You cannot disagree with that. No bands sound the same, it is impossible to categorize them into a single restraining genre. Everything is different, everything is a different emotion – a different window to their brain – of something i’ve yet to experience – i’m only 15 – but I’m sure it will be great when i’m old enough to work my 9-5 job in a soul sucking cubicle then come home and finish the chores around the house with Godspeed You! Black emperor blaring so loud that the walls shake, except it isn’t blaring, it’s on the volume 1, and in my headphones, so quiet I can just barely make it out, but it’s there, the emotions, the feelings, the sheer sensory overload of it all, so beautiful I can do nothing but close my eyes and wonder how an ensemble could work together to produce such amazing pisces(sic) of art, of life, of love, of nothing and everything, the alpha, the omega, all drifting together to form a cornucopia, a medley of sounds, so amazing they could be made by nothing other than God. Except there is no God. There is only Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Sophie Trudeau. Moya. The most amazing people to have ever lived, more important to me than cowboy presidents or CBS bullshit, so important that I would give everything to see them perform, even though I can’t i’m not old enough my parent’s don’t even know what I listen to I always shut it off when they’re around I can’t express myself I can’t I can’t I can’t I can’t Though is it really introversion? I think it’s just the music. So beautiful.

[anonymous response to a survey on listening habits –]

SteveCollins Belonging

steve collins on belonging

these office events are as much divisive as uniting. you find you have little in common with people you have a good working relationship with. but you also discover [are given 😉 ] new alliances. a small group of us found a different trajectory through the weekend, in the city as well as the clubs. that saturday evening was an object lesson in belonging. i was ill at ease, as always, in the bar full of people getting drunk, and dancing to cheesy music. i watched the football to avoid socialising. i wondered why i felt threatened and antagonised by the pleasures of my friends. i was glad just to get out of there. minutes later, walking down the stairs of the old theatre towards the smoke and boom of the dancefloor, i was intensely happy and relaxed. i have the roadmap for these places in my head. “this is my church. this is where i heal my hurts.” and the people who think me constrained, prim even, because i won’t get drunk with them, never see the four hours of madness on the dancefloor.

Jeanette Winterson and Barney Wakeford on meaning

I know I am a fool, trying to make connections out of scraps, but how else is there to proceed?  The fragmentariness of life makes coherence suspect but to babble is a different kind of treachery.  Perhaps it is a vanity.  Am I vain enough to assume you will understand me?  No.  So I go on puzzling over new joints for words, hoping that this time, one piece will slide smooth against the next.
Walk with me.  Hand in hand through the nightmare of narrative, the neat sentences secret-nailed over meaning.  Meaning mewed up like an anchorite, its vision in broken pieces behind the wall.  And if we pull away the panelling, then what?  Without the surface, what hope of contact, of conversation?

[Gut Symmetries by Jeanette Winterson p.24]


You have the capacity to affect your situation, but not what it might mean.

Barney Wakeford

Mezz Mezzrow on Drums

(Mezz is on a big rave about where jazz went wrong … )

And then, to make things worse, along came an invention called the sock cymbal or highhat cymbal, and that was the end. This cymbal is played by the drummer with his left foot, as though he didn’t already have enough to do, what with his bass and snare drums and the cowbell and the woodblock and the rachet and the two or three Chinese and Turkish cymbals that real jazz drummers use. The result is a sort of topheavy effect, um-CHING, um-CHING, um-CHING for a beat instead of the steady tempo of the New Orleans drummers, and that strangles the rhythm so necessary to jazz. Now the tendency for the swing drummer is to play cymbal solos all the way through, fighting all the other musicians instead of helping to build them up. An offbeat ring comes out of his sock cymbal because the human body just isn’t constructed to do so many things all together – and that delayed CHING makes all the horn players fall into a kind of hesitation style, waiting for the drummer’s lagging cymbal beat before they can come up with their own notes. And they have to overblow their instruments, fighting to be heard above the drummer’s loud metallic hum; trumpets and clarinets go way up into their upper registers and become shrill and squealing, losing the rounded soulful tone of New Orleans music. Your improvisation, if you’re allowed any, isn’t built from a rich harmonic pattern any more, but centers around that clanging cymbal beat. Arrangers have to keep the sock cymbal in mind, and they build their orchestrations around it insted of using free chordal progressions, and all the New Orleans color is lost. When people with sensitive ears get apoplexy over the terrible din of so much modern swing and jump, they ought to remember that it’s not jazz they’re so horrified at. It’s the corruption of jazz that was brought about by the wrong, egocentric use of the piano, the individualistic sock cymbal, the modern-classical influence, and the terrible mechanization of today’s arrangements.

[ from Really the Blues, by Mezz Mezzrow

[barney says:

Whoa… and I thought jazz’s identity went south when Kenny G came along…
BUT then again, Imagine saying to any drummer now, “you have to play without that hi-hat cymbal”,
they’d have a fit!! They wouldn’t know what to do.
I’m with mezz, hi hats along with the other million things that happened after that. the internet for one.
I cant wait to be a grumpy old man and write a book of my own………

-> here’s another quote from Mezz, about the beauty of improvising with another human

Mezz Mezzrow on Harmony

I jumped into the harmony pattern like i was born to it, and never left the track for a moment. It was like slipping into a suit made to order for you by a tailor, silk-lined all through. When two musicians hit it off like that right from the start, a fine glow of ease and contentment creeps over them. They’ve reached a perfect understanding through their music; they’re friends, seeing eye to eye. Maybe there’s a parable here for the world. Two guys, complete strangers, face each other, and while one takes off on the lead, the other feeds the accompaniment to him, helping him to render his solo and making the solo richer, spurring him on and encouraging him all the way. One feeds harmony while the other speaks his piece on the horn, telling the world what’s on his mind, supported every inch of the way by his pal. It’s like a congregation backing up the minister’s words with whispered “Amen’s” at the right places. The congregation never stands up and hollers “Shut up! You’re a liar!” while the minister’s preaching – that would be dischord, the whole spell of being together and united in a common feeling would be broken. That’s how it is when you play music with a man you understand and who understands you. You preach to him with your horn and he answers back with his “Amen,” never contradicting you. You speak the same language , back each other up. Your message and his message fit together like pie and ice cream. When that happens, man, you know you’ve got a friend. You get that good feeling. You’re really sent.

Really The Blues, by Mezz Mezzrow

-> here’s another quote from Mezz, about when rhythm sections went wrong

C.S.Lewis on the True Myth

<– back to the grief

C.S.Lewis, saying just what i would have liked to say about the old autonomous collective mantra of the True Myth.

‘I was by now too experienced in literary criticism to regard the Gospels as myths. They had not the mythical taste. And yet the very matter which they set down in their artless, historical fashion – those narrow, unattractive Jews, too blind to the mythical wealth of the Pagan world around them – was precisely the matter of the great myths. If ever a myth had become fact, had been incarnated, it would be just like this. And nothing else in all literature was just like this. Myths were like it in one way. Histories were like it in another. But nothing was simply like it. And no person was like the Person it depicted; as real, as recognisable, through all that depth of time, as Plato’s Socrates or Boswell’s Johnson (ten times more so that Eckermann’s Goeth or Lockhart’s Scott), yet also numinous, lit by a light from beyond the world, a god. But if a god – we are no longer polytheists – then not a god, but God. Here and here only in all time the myth must have become fact; the Word, flesh; God, Man. This is not ‘a religion’, nor ‘a philosophy’. It is the summing up and actuality of all of them.’

Surprised by Joy, 1955, [p.188-189]

–> Stephen King knows about fiction
or, other quotes about the scriptures

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

<– back to a true story
or a parable

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

at the end of 1999, just before the year 2000 when everything went wrong, Cathy wrote these words for The Prodigal Project, about church as we knew it:

I have noticed that some people have moved their churches into cafés. I have noticed that some people have hacked out the pews and brought in little tables and chairs. I have noticed that the leader may remain seated when he speaks, and the musicians may have cups of coffee next to their guitars. I have noticed that sometimes we change the way our church looks, but I wonder if we have changed the way the church actually is. Have we changed the way we are being church together or just the way we sit together?

What are some of the base premises on which our worshipping communities are built? What do we value? What informs the look that a passing participant might see/find?

Informality, intimacy, realness, safeness, the genuine, the low-tech, the casual… the lives revealed and lived together. Food, drink, conversations. Coffee, cake, yarning. Tears, laughter, jokes, hugs, applause. Self expression: ideas, images, sounds, voices, movement. Grace – what can it mean? What are the implications of saying that all are welcome?

In the context of meal, of friends and wine and dreams, let us wipe the slate clean of our presuppositions and begin to ask some basic questions about the gathering of the people.


It’s about asking questions, without presupposing the answers. Asking basic questions. Stripping back, rather than building up or adding on. Reflecting on what we have done in the past. Considering what we find meaningful now.

Not just asking – Do we need to make any changes to the physical environment of the church? but, “Do we want to meet in the church building? Would another venue be more appropriate? Where? and Why?”


“How do we become a community, create a gathering, which is safe, real, intimate, authentic? How do we recognize our own pasts, our current issues and needs, the culture all around us, and where God is already at work in our lives?”

since 2000, after all the hospitals and prisons and breakdowns, we’ve found ourselves a saying: “If it’s not as good as dinner, I’m not interested.”
so, after all the years of trying to integrate a meal into our church gathering, we’ve given up and made meals our church. after redesigning our churches so they were more like cafes, we’ve realised that the cafe can be our church. after running ourselves ragged trying to loosen the controls of the prayer book and the old liturgies, we’ve abandoned ourselves to the chaos of true community.
it’s a big commitment, cooking three courses a couple of times a week – but still easier than organising a whole service and setting up all those chairs, and at the end you know the spirit was with you. it’s hard to get any work done if you’re prepared to drop anything, day or night, to spend a couple of hours hanging out in a cafe – but we know more about each other’s lives than we ever learnt over cups of tea on sunday night.

and it’s good, it’s very good.

we still help host an event, an exhibition, a jamm, here or there (eight o’clock sharp and free for all among them, and they’re founded on the same understandings of love and grace, and the hope that christ will commune with any two or three who gather in his name.
but we’ve discovered that the old rhetoric – all christians are saints, all believers are priests, every meal can be the eucharist, miracles happen every day – makes even more sense on the outside. all ARE welcome. we ARE forgiven, as we have forgiven others. we DO go in peace.
informality, food, coffee, tears, laughter – all the things we longed for, with the integrity we struggled to find.
it’s safe, real, intimate, authentic, and best of all, sustainable. Because it’s not an institution, there’s nothing to protect except each other; there’s nothing to lose except the morning; there’s no commitment except to be friends with whoever needs a friend.

i could go on and on.

Andrew Lorien June 03

thanks to Garth Watson for asking
–> move on to the pain of knowing
or my epicurean dilemma

James K Baxter on the shadow of the artist

<– Stephen King said a similar thing

James K Baxter on the shadow of the artist (after recieving the burns fellowship)

‘In a sense the Fellowship was awarded to the wrong man: my shadow, my enemy, my monster: the public person who would destroy if he could whatever gifts I possess. Art, the mainstay of culture, is not bred by culture but by its opposite: that level of hardship or awareness of moral chaos where the soul is too destitute to be able to lie to itself. Thus the Fellowship should have been awarded, if at all, not to me – a family man, teetotal, moderately pious, not offensive to sight or smell, able to say the right thing in a drawing-room – but to my collaborator, my schizophrenic twin, who has already provided me with poems… … He has done the suffering and I have done the writing. Occasionally I visit the cellblock in the basement of my mind where he still lives, incorrigible, ineducable, unemployable; and through the bars he will pass me a message written on the back of a tobacco packet.’

–> something about that makes me think about the pain of knowing
or move on to contemplative consumption

Stephen King’s idea of the creative sleep

what Stephen King says about the creative sleep

The creative process is like sleeping. It requires a calm, safe place, with no distractions or interruptions. Somewhere comfortable, warm, and quiet. And if you want to be any good at it, it’s best to go there about the same time every day, and stay for a similar amount of time (he says if you’re just new to writing, he’ll allow you a day’s rest a week – but if you’re serious… well, an interviewer once asked him whether he wrote every single day, and he said “yes, except for christmas day, thanksgiving, and my birthday” – but he lied: he usually writes on all those days). You have to go there, allow the rest of your mind to fall away, and let the dreams flow. If you do it regularly enough and for long enough, eventually your muse will get to know where to find you.

–> on to what Stephen King taught me about fiction
–> or a story about the fountain of youth

Andrew Lorien June 01

Jim White on collaboration and God

As for the other contributors, whenever I make an album I embrace the philosophy of the more, the merrier. You meet so many beautiful folks when you’re out doing your shows, you want to include them all when it comes time to document your endeavors in the form of an album. I never worry about the disparity of viewpoints. I figure when I get the tracks back home to my little studio in the garage I’ll be able to build in continuity that might otherwise not emerge during initial tracking. I’m at my best when I’m sitting in my studio with a screen of pretty colored tracks in front of me, chopping them up, moving them around and endlessly experimenting until I come up with something that has its own internal integrity. so whenever anyone came to mind as being right for a track, I’d just call and see if they were interested and had a spare moment to help out. The ones that you see listed were the ones who said yes, and I can’t thank them enough for all their help and generous contributions. Hell, Chris Heinrich and Paul Fonfara [from 16 Horsepower] drove all the way from Colorado on their own dime just to help out. now that’s what I call good people.

Well for better or worse, being raised poor in the south, my framework for viewing reality has a filter of primitive divinity confusing everything. I guess I could try to pry that damn filter off but I wonder if it wouldn’t render me blind in the process, so I leave it there and just try to remain mindful that it’s there. I don’t take the notion of God too seriously when it’s presented in a religious context. No matter who it is, whenever anybody uses the word God, as far as I’m concerned they’re just using a self exalting reference to theirself. That’s fine, you can think of yourself as God, so long as you wink in the process and remember that if you’re God, you’re the devil just the same. Too many people in the world think they’re just God. That’s how wars start and atrocities are committed.


the infinitely thin pen

Coordinates are infinitely thin and lie between the pixels of the output device. Operations that draw the outline of a figure operate by traversing an infinitely thin path between pixels with a pixel-sized pen that hangs down and to the right of the anchor point on the path.

getting a computer to write a novel

The two novels (if we can agree to call them that) that accompany this introduction are co-winners of the inaugural Hofstadter Prize for Machine-Written Narrative, awarded by the Society for Analytical Engines to the best computer-written novels of seventy-thousand words or more, as judged by a Committee of writers, literary critics, computer scientists, and ordinary humans not unlike yourself. The Bonehead Computer Museum and Bees, or the Floating Point Error, A Dissertation, (“Bonehead” and “Bees,” for short) represent the state of machine-written narratives in the year 1998.

One of the more startling developments in the entire process is that both winning entries were written not in LISP, the programming language generally preferred for artificial intelligence (AI) programs, but in APL (the letters stand for “a programming language”); not only that, they were written in a dialect of APL that runs only on Data General NOVA computers, a model last manufactured in 1982, and currently in use only in the on-board flight computers in Grumman-built AWACs, the military aircraft used for airborne battle command. The actual computer on which the two novels were “written” was obtained at auction of a government surplus, end-of-useful-life AWAC parts, and it is interesting to note, (given the subject of Bonehead) that this machine was in use over the Kasimiyah ammunition dump during the Gulf War.

After the computer was obtained, there still were some interesting problems in setting up the run-time environment for the storywriters. On the hardware side, constructing the NOVA’s information environment required some ingenuity, since NOVAs were largely obsolete before the Internet existed, and therefor there was no easy mating protocol to hook the CPU to the network card. On the software side, the Committee faced the crucial challenge of verifying that the programs behaved as advertised; that is, that they were not hoaxes, the software equivalent of the dwarf-in-the box chess-playing “machines” of the late 1800’s. Making this verification was no mean feat. APL is a language known for its concision, ability to manipulate symbols, and “power;” it is even more famous for being inscrutable even to those adept in programming it. APL was designed to use all the characters on the original “symbol” type-ball of the IBM selectric typewriter, and in appearance it more nearly resembles Egyptian hieroglyphics than any other language. (APL is called a “write-only language,” since nobody knows how to read it.) To make matters worse, the source to the APL compiler was encumbered when Fairchild Semiconductor won its notorious antitrust suit against Data General, therefor the only way to verify that the submitted programs actually “wrote” the novels that they claimed to was by disassembly of the MP/AOS pseudo-op pop code that the compiler produces as an intermediate step? laborious process akin to putting together paper documents that have gone through a shredder. If it were not for the stunning clarity of the MP/AOS assembly language programming manual, this present volume would not exist, and the Hofstadter prize would await its first claimant.

Complete APL sources to the programs that wrote Bonehead Computer Museum and Bees are included on the CD-ROM packaged with this book.

[i forget where i got this.  but it’s quoted on computer-programming-forums with a fantastic discussion including somebody who is the Author of the Chronicles of the Magic Jigsaw Puzzle ]

Umberto Eco on writing

by Umberto Eco

I would scan into my computer around a hundred novels, as many scientific texts, the Bible, the Koran, a few telephone books (great for nouns).  Say around a hundred, a hundred and twenty thousand pages.  Then I’d use a simple random program to mix them all up, and make a few changes – such as taking out all the A’s.  That way I’d have a novel which was also a lipogram.  Next step would be to print it all out and read it through carefully a couple of times, underlining the important passages.  Then I’d load it all into a truck and take it to the nearest incinerator.  While it was burning I’d sit under a tree with a pencil and a piece of paper and let my thoughts wander until I’d come up with a couple of lines, for example,
“the moon rides high in the sky –
the forest rustles”
At first, of course, it wouldn’t be a novel so much as a haiku.  But that doesn’t matter.  The important thing is to make a start.

[i think i got this from a book of Eco’s essays, but i can’t find it and the internet doesn’t seem to know about it]

James Noble : the postmodern web

Consider the Internet as we know it: a connection of loosely coupled computer systems, of varying capacities, architectures, ownerships, costs, and sizes. It connects every conceivable variation of every operating system and every computer. It speaks many network protocols (HTTP of various versions and brands; Telnet; POP; IMAP; NETBUI; AFS; SMB; . . . ); and through hardware
software gateways, the systems and protocols of what appears to be the Internet are in fact unlimited. It can even reach computers that have been obsolete and no longer exist: retrocomputing lives through emulation and lives on the Internet.

Even the user experience of the World Wide Web is extremely diverse: every web site has its own design, its own interaction style, its own personality, with no commonality other than the menu bar provided by an individual’s browser, one of many available, and customisable on a whim. Compare this all with representations of a computational “infosphere” in popular science fiction — such as The Matrix [69] or Neuromancer [33]. These are typically modern in character, working in a complex but coherent way, and
presenting a uniform interface: the “Matrix” presents a reslistic single graphical presentation common to all users. Ironically, the postmodern Internet is more real than these fantasies; and there is no one viewpoint on the Internet, and there may be no commonality between two web sites even if hosted on the same server and designed by the same people.

Although it clearly developed from the original success of the modern design of the Arpanet, the success of the Internet now is postmodern in character. But it is success. And the tolerance of eclectic diversity is a key cause of the success of the internet: it has allowed growth and interaction which instead of isolation and alientation.

[James Noble and Robert Biddle,  Notes on Postmodern Programming]

Dick Smith : “it’s a disaster, it’s no longer a small business”

Another great interview with Dick Smith from 2001 : he is going to have to shut down Dick Smith foods because it has become too successful.

DICK SMITH: Janine, it’s a disaster — I’m going to have to close it down because it’s $69 million. It’s no longer a small business and I love small business.

JANINE PERRETT: Sixty nine million in sales and you still only have two people working in this little office above a real estate agent — how on earth can you keep going at that rate?

SMITH: Well, it’s hard but we’ve done it by being very, very careful. If you remember I mentioned right at the start to keep the overheads down and we’ve certainly done that. I mean the overheads are there — I don’t know what they are but they’re pretty low.

PERRETT: Two hundred and sixty thousand.

SMITH: And that’s the key to it, keep the overheads down. No big flashy offices, we don’t have a flashy boat or anything like that. Keep the overheads down and watch that bottom line all the time.

PERRETT: Where do you go from here?

SMITH: That’s what I’ve got to look at — whether I’ve got to bring in an outside sort of managing director or tell Crez to stop all the other work he does for me and get him to run the company full-time. They’re the things I’ve got to look at. And this has been a problem of mine both with Dick Smith Electrics and Australian Geographic. I’m basically a small businessman, I love small business. I love to have just a handful of staff that you put in a bus if necessary and go away for the weekend, to talk to people. Once my businesses get big I don’t like them anymore and I don’t like big business. I can’t sell the business as such because I’ve said that the business is going to run to help Australian farmers and it’s for this particular ethos. So I’ll have to keep running it, but I don’t really want to expand it and that’s going to be hard because I’ve got lots of Aussie companies saying ‘hey we want the support of Dick Smith’.

Hopefully this will be an example to many people — first of all to politicians — that everyone is concerned about some of the bad things of globalisation. It’s also going to be a message to lots of Aussie businesses that you can do it. If you promote an Australian-owned product — Australian-made — people will go out and support it. That is one of the reasons this business has been successful is that I’m trusted and I’m very careful to make sure with my name that I do the right thing, that I run an honest business.

Right from the very first days of Dick Smith Electronics I’ve done those things and even when it comes back to tax, I used to have friends who used to say ‘oh you’re a fool paying all this tax’. But because I’ve always been able to be completely open about this and not get my name in the paper as a tax minimiser or avoider that means people trust the Dick Smith name and they’ve supported our products. There’s a message in that for everyone.

PERRETT: What are you going to say to all those other Australian-owned businesses that are still struggling?

SMITH: I wanted to see that I could still do it the same way. Now of course you’re right — it’s not equivalent to a normal battling businessperson but what I’ve shown is you can still do it and I’m utterly convinced there are people out there who are watching this show who are like [the way] Dick Smith was 30 years ago, who can get out there, work hard and push the fact that they are Australian. They’re patriotic and do very well.

It’s amazing that the great myth is that Dick Smith is this person who can do these things magically. I surround myself with capable people, any Australian can do that. I ask lots of advice — any Australian can do that, I communicate well and I use the media. What I say to any small businessman is ‘look, come up businessman or woman, come up with some ideas that create publicity for the media and you’ll be supporting you’.

PERRETT: When you launched, when you went to the six month point both times, you said to me you still gave it a 50/50 chance of survival.

SMITH: In the long term, unless we decide to spend huge amounts of money on marketing like Kelloggs, Philip Morris and people like that, then we are doomed. And so we’ve got to make that decision. Look — Dick Smith Foods wasn’t a money-making thing for me because I’ve explained I have enough money. It was very much a selfish thing for satisfaction and mainly to show Australians you can still have a go.

Dick Smith : “I don’t need any more money”

If only more rich people realised that they didn’t need any more money, and started using their money for good, or for fun, or for anything except just trying to make more of it.

An interview with Dick Smith in Ethical Investor magazine

Ethical Investor: Are you an ethical investor?

Dick Smith: No, because I don’t invest. I don’t have any shares in anything.

EI: Why not?

DS: Because it’s too risky. I don’t take risk like that. How would I know what was going on with threse companies, they could be well run or badly run or anything. So I just don’t have any shares, never have.

EI: Is Dick Smith foods an ethical investment?

DS: Well, yes it’s a small business that I operate and yes it is an ethical investment for me  – but I don’t have any shares in any other thing just my own business.

EI: What makes Dick Smith Foods an ethical investment?

DS: Exactly the same as Dick Smith Electronics and Australian Geographic it’s run by honest principles that not only comply with the law but my peers will accept as being honest and the right thing to do for Australia. That’s important to me because I have to live with my peers.

EI: Isn’t there a larger ethical project there, which is that you’re trying to steer investment back towards Australia

DS: Yes, well that’s part of it. It’s important for the future of Australia that we support our own businesses, I believe. I support a free marketplace but I wish to see a balance and we don’t have a balance at the moment. Most of our companies appear to be overseas-owned. So I’ve invested in Dick Smith Foods because it’s supporting Australian farmers and I think that’s ethical

EI: Will you list at some point?

DS: No I don’t plan to because then I’d be totally bound to this company and obligated to outside shareholders, and I don’t want to do that. It’s too much of a strain and worry

EI: Because I imagine a number of people that consider themselves ethical investors would like to be able to support you

DS: Of course they would, I get literally hundreds and hundreds of requests. People looking to buy shares in the company.

EI: Isn’t there some way to tap that enthusiasm for what you’re doing?

DS: Well, how? It’d be OK if they were competent and they could work and run the company but if people just want to invest, I have enough money. I don’t want any more money, so that doesn’t help me at all.

The problem is that I can make decisions which are non-business decisions whereas the minute I have other investors I can’t. For example, I can make a decision which means we won’t make any profit but which means we help Australian farmers. If I had shareholders in this company I couldn’t do that because I’d have to make sure they get a return. It’s completely against what I’m trying to do.

EI: Do you expect to get a return?

DS: Well, no I don’t. I don’t want any return. I’ve got enough money. We’ve made $12,000 in nine months net profit and we’ve given away about $500,000 to four charities: the Salvation Army, the Smith Family, the Exodus Foundation and Care Australia.

EI:  and the environment?

DS: In Australian Geographic we put millions of dollars into environmental concerns and that money we could’ve taken as profit but we gave it away.

EI: Do you feel alone in the project you’ve undertaken here? Or do you feel like there are a number of Australian companies, wealthy Australian people [who are supporting similar causes].

DS: I think there probably are. I don’t know of any, but I’m sure there are. They probably do it silently but I don’t know. I’m not in that field. I don’t mix with business people or with wealthy people so I don’t know what they’re doing but I’m sure they would be doing that. Hope so, anyway.

EI: It’s come up that you should start a bank

DS: Well, I wouldn’t want to do that. See, I don’t want to make any more money. So why would I start a bank? I’d have more worries. I’m basically helping Australian farmers. It’s very simple. I can assist Australian farmers with my marketing skills. I don’t want any more money, I’ve got adequate money.

EI: What about when you go and do something else? Or retire?

DS: Well, I think eventually Dick Smith Foods will fail. I tend to agree with the university professors. If you look at our website there are articles there that say unless you spend vast amounts on advertising, that people will just go back to the companies who spend the most amount on advertising. It’s propaganda. I tend to agree.

When I say fail, it will just become a small niche market because the big foreign companies who spend 10-100 times more than we can on marketing Australians will just go back and buy from them, because that’s human. We all succumb to propaganda. In the 1930s, normal rational people supported Adolf Hitler, because he ran a great propaganda network. It’s exactly the same in Australia. These big multinationals spend an absolute fortune on the best psychological testing and the best marketing and – that’s what we buy. We’re manipulated.

EI: So, do you think there is a constituency for what you’re doing? You say you get hundreds of people wanting to invest?

DS: Yes, there is a tremendous amount of people that are very concerned about our free- enterprise system and that want to invest in ethical companies, who believe there’s more than just making money.

Big companies basically lose their conscience. They have ethical people there but they’re so big, that something that’s so big can’t really have a morality to it. It’s too big. And that’s why I’m opposed to these huge large takeovers that are going on. I think in the future we’ll see legislation from democratic governments that will reduce the size of companies so they truly compete.

I have a feeling we’re going down the wrong track at the moment. It was Marx who predicted that capitalist will eat capitalist and in the end the whole thing would become inefficient and I think he’s right. His system wasn’t much good but if we end up with a system where you have two major fuel companies in the world, and two major retail companies they no longer compete and they no longer can go broke.

So that’s why people who are investing in ethical, small companies  – especially if they’re small, not too big  – I support it.

EI: Is it anti-globalisation, what you’re doing?

DS: Not anti-globalisation, because globalisation is on us. There’s nothing we can do about it. We are one world. We live all in this one world. But we must understand the disadvantages and then use laws, democratically created laws, to minimise the disadvantages. A good example,

EI: Global laws?

DS: Well they might be global, for these big multinationals. You either need global laws, for these big multinationals, or sovereign countries need to bring in laws which limit the size of the multinationals. It’s probably a combination. But I’d much rather see local laws. I don’t like big. Human beings can relate to things of a certain size. If it gets too big you can’t relate to it.

EI: To what extent does Dick Smith Foods touch on a xenophobic element? Do you feel like One Nation voters would be buying your peanut butter?

DS: I don’t know, but I’ve constantly just talked about a balance. I think One Nation is against free trade. Well I’m totally for free trade. I think other nations should be allowed to raise their standard of living to ours. That’s what going to happen if you have free trade. People complain about low wages in other countries – well the wages will be lifted if they can sell their products to Australia.

So, I’ve got quite different opinions to One Nation there, but, I think you should support your own team. You see, Bulletin magazine twelve months ago tried to say that because I wanted a balance in trade that I was against free trade. Well, no, I want a balance. I want Aussie farmers to be able to export but I don’t want $100 million a day more going out of Australia than comes in. I think that’s pretty fair. I’m pretty moderate.

EI: What about the argument that we’ve always needed foreign investment? We’re a young country

DS: I support foreign investment. If companies come in here and take risk and create jobs I support it. Look at the website. What I don’t support is selling off existing well-run Australian companies and then sacking twenty per cent of the staff, putting up prices and taking the profits overseas. I don’t support that.

I do support foreign investment but I think it should be roughly balanced. That companies that invest here should be roughly balanced with Aussie companies that invest overseas. If there’s not a balance it doesn’t work properly.

EI: What should Australian governments  – federal, state, local  – be doing to support you? Should they be stocking your products?

DS: No, they shouldn’t be doing that. But they already have a law, which is nothing to do with me, which prevents the complete sell-off of Qantas. They should have more laws like that.

EI: You don’t want to be on government purchasing lists

DS: No, I don’t want any government involvement in my business. They should just buy whatever they think is the best product and whatever gives them the most satisfaction. Now, most Australians would get satisfaction from supporting Australian farmers rather than American farmers. American farmers are far wealthier than Aussie farmers and, look, it’s all about just supporting the home team. If I go to a football match I support Manly, because it’s from my local area. It’s fun, it’s nothing more than that.

EI: Fun? So is ethics the wrong word for what you’re doing? Is it an ethical enterprise?

DS: Yes of course it is, but I don’t quite understand what it means. I’m doing something that gives me satisfaction. If it’s not honest it wouldn’t give me satisfaction. But if I don’t think I’m supporting the underdog, I like supporting the underdog, it gives me satisfaction. So my enterprise is one set up to give me satisfaction by doing the right thing.

EI: So you recognise there are people interested in backing companies that are doing more than just making money. There is a gray area there, where companies can make a difference

DS: Oh definitely, my company does because it’s not set up just to make money. It’s a very unusual company.

EI: What about the growth of ethical investment? Interest seems to have grown the last year

DS: Well I have to say I didn’t know it had. I don’t know anything about it. I don’t know what an ethical investment is and what an unethical one is.

EI: If Dick Smith was a listed company, ethical super funds might be able to back you, for instance this year a number of ethical super funds have been launched into the market.

DS: So why would they back me and not, say, Kelloggs?

EI: Well, because they might have as one of their ethical criteria that they support community investment  – that is, reinvesting in the communities profits come from rather than taking money elsewhere

DS: Well I support that, I think that’s good. I think what you’re getting at is I suppose if people can invest their money and get some satisfaction as well as getting a return, they can make themselves feel good, well I think that’s good.

EI:  or avoid investing in companies that damage the environment.

DS: Well, I think that’s good because that will then encourage all companies not to damage the environment. So I support that. I think it’s just another way of voting. You can vote by putting a tick in a ballot box or you can vote by moving your money to a company that will give you more satisfaction than one that won’t. So I support it, even though I don’t invest in any companies.

EI: Do you have super?

DS: I think the money’s just in a commercial building, or something like that I don’t know.

EI: You might find that your own employees’ super is invested with a competitor, like, Kelloggs

DS: Well, that’s OK. I support Kelloggs being here I just want them to be ethical.

EI: There is a nexus there with average Australians contributing small amounts of super that represent huge pool of money that, if it was applied to an ethical purpose

DS: Well, that’s good. The problem, I suppose, is ‘what’s ethical’? What’s ethical and what’s unethical it’s just so hard to make the decision I don’t know how these people do it. To me, I would consider Kelloggs ethical, I would consider Phillip Morris unethical. I support ethical investment, I wouldn’t invest in a cigarette company. If a cigarette company wanted to rent one of my buildings I’d say no, get lost. I really would.

EI: What if you found out that your employees super was being invested with Phillip Morris?

DS: Well, I wouldn’t be enthusiastic. I’d say hey let’s see if we can invest where it’s not with a cigarette company that’s exploiting our kids.

EI: Who manages the super at Dick Smith Foods?

DS: It’s tiny. We only employ two people. We’ve only done $34 million turnover in nine months. I think they do it themselves [asks staff, ‘does anyone know where our super goes?’] it goes to AMP. There you go, I didn’t even know. But I always thought AMP were ethical anyway. I’m sure someone would’ve told me if it goes to Phillip Morris. Maybe AMP invest in Phillip Morris?

EI: It’s possible – it could depend which fund you’re in.

DS: Right well, if they had an ethical fund we’d probably say, if the interest is about the same, let’s put it in the ethical fund.

EI: They will have an ethical fund soon, I think

DS: Well, I’ll support it!

Greg Egan : Permutation City

The workshop abutted a warehouse full of table legs – one hundred and sixty-two thousand, three hundred and twenty-nine, so far…  Immediately before taking up woodwork, he’d passionately devoured all the higher mathematics texts in the central library, run all the tutorial software, and then personally contributed several important new results to group theory – untroubled by the fact that none of the Elysian mathamaticians would ever be aware of his work.  Before that, he’d written over three hundred comic operas, with liberettos in Italian, French, and English – and staged most of them, with puppet performers and audience.  Before that, he’d patiently studied the structure and biochemistry of the humen brain for sixty-seven years; towards the end he had fully grasped, to his satisfaction, the nature of the process of consciousness.  Every one of these pursuits had been utterly engrossing, and satisfying, at the time.

“However much you think I’m wasting my time, it’s only for fifty or a hundred years.  What difference does that make, in the long run?”
“You could be more selective.”
“What did you have in mind?  Something socially useful? Famine relief?  Counselling the dying?  Or something intellectually challenging?  Unconvering the fundamental laws of the universe?  I have to admit the TVC rules have slipped my mind; it might take me all of five seconds to look them up again.  Searching for God?  That’s a difficult one: Paul Durham never answers my calls.  Self discovery? – …if I limited the range of options, I’d be repeating myself in no time at all.”

“How does it feel to be seven thousand years old?”
“That depends.”
“On what?”
“On how I want to feel.”

[Permutation City by Greg Egan]

This was the first Greg Egan book i read.  the first science fiction book i ever read which was set (at least in the first few chapters) close to home.  it had a huge affect on me.

Douglas Adams on England

I was in England at the time. I could tell I was in England because I was sitting in the rain under a wet blanket in a muddy field listening to some fucking orchestra in a kind of red tent playing hits from American movie soundtracks. Is there anywhere else in the world where people would do such a thing? Anywhere? Would they do it in Italy? Would they do it in Tierra del Fuego? Would they do it on Baffin Island? No. Even in Japan where national pastimes include ripping out your own intestines with a knife, I think they would draw the line.

[Riding the Rays, 1992]