When the gods shoot blanks: Auspicious omens sometimes aren’t

The universe is full to bursting with new science fiction. How does any of it win recognition?

Last Thursday morning, in Bangkok’s Suan Rhotfai, next to Chatujak Park, we were treated to the best display of flowering trees ever — varieties of pink and purple cherry and plum blossoms, gorgeous golden showers like vivid yellow weeping willows, only better.

What, beyond the standard onset of the hot season, might have inspired this spectacle? It occurred to me this was launch … Read more

Phobia or plain, commonsensical fear?

Do we need a word for the irrational fear of Trump policy initiatives (otherwise described as trump tweets‘tweets’)? Maybe not. Many will argue that such a fear is in no way irrational, and hence may not be properly described as a phobia.

Whatever. I hereby present three phobias I’ve mentioned before on this blogsite. All three, I’ll suggest, will serve while we search for a more Trump-specific expression.

“Trump?” Sara looks at me with concern. “Isn’t there anything else to talk … Read more

Do goldfish suffer paranoia?

bigdataweb

From the time you get up till the time you go to sleep—even beyond that, if you use a digital sleep tracker—the average twenty-first-century citizen is subject to constant surveillance, caught in a interrogative crossfire, a sticky network fixing your locational, attitudinal and general behavioral spoor 24/7, holding it for the digital spiders that come to collect all this lovely data and cart it off to Big Data centers for digestion and construal in ways that help the spider collective … Read more

No rewind, no undo

 

 In my last post, ‘Interpermeable realities, material & digital,’ I suggested that manipulative impulses, as well as sources of addiction, are leaking over from our digital worlds into our material realities. The impulse to conduct a word search in a paper book for just one example.

UNDO buttonEven before the digital age, of course, we’d experience impulses to alter our material world merely by wishing hard. A faux pas, for instance, could make you wish you had access … Read more

Interpermeable realities, material and digital

Do you ever try to conduct word searches while reading a print book? What an odd sensation. Just for a moment, you mentally reach for a control that isn’t there. Then you realize this is a paper book, and if you want to find that word or passage you have to use the index, if there is one, or else estimate where in all those pages it’s most likely to appear, and then skim the actual material book manually. What … Read more

Home remedy: Physical, mental and spiritual

 

I’ve got a monster cold, the first in years. And the therapeutic effects of last night’s half bottle of wine had clearly worn off by the time I got up this morning.

The fever’s gone, but I remain fluish. So Sara fixed me a mug of hot lime juice with honey, and I chased that with my customary magic potion.

But things remained far from ideal, and the viruses probably reckoned they still had the upper hand. Until … Read more

Tattoo me noir

 

 

tattoo bikerNot many years ago — and here we speak only of Western societies — having a tattoo assimilated you to a noirish rabble of able-bodied seamen, Foreign Legionnaires, ex-cons, circus performers, bikers, and boozers with a propensity for finding themselves in the vicinity of waterfront tattoo parlors. tattoo prison

Read on for a look at early-1950s attitudes towards tattoos, and the roles tatts played in Paul Theroux’s Saint Jack, a novel set in 1950s Singapore and first published in … Read more

Opportunities for graybeards

writers love 'emkenny rogers1Upon recent acquaintance and saddened at the news I’m only a writer, more than one Filipina lady has suggested I could make a living in Manila as a Kenny Rogers impersonator. Now an American woman from Tennessee who looks like a diminutive Cormac McCarthy with longer hair and dyspepsia tells me there’s hope for me in America as an Orsen Welles clone.

orson welles

I grow giddy at this ever-expanding horizon of opportunity, where age and gray-beardedness are instead generally supposed to … Read more

Outsource our minds? What a good idea!

pre-internet boredom xkcdThe times, they are a-changin’.

Old news. But these days our technology transforms our environment, both external and internal, at an ever-accelerating rate. And we aren’t always conscious of how much or how fast we ourselves are changing in response to this.

Here’s just one example. More and more, people are consulting smartphones and tablets in mid-conversation. Only half attending to whatever any given speaker is on about, they’re digitally retrieving bits of information they think might add value to … Read more

Epidemic dead pens: Sign of the times

refills simmeringThis morning my tea is ready before my Parker refills are done. They’ve been simmering in a pot on the stove for five minutes already, but they still won’t write.

I’ve used indelible black Parker medium ballpoints for years. Some of my associates describe my Parker pens as mere affectation. “I do fine with these twenty-baht stick pens,” says one friend. Of course he’s only a photographer and hardly knows what to do with a pen anyway. The point is, … Read more