Being another place for me to post pointless things and moan pointlessly at those that annoy me.
The dying fall of English poets,
each line petered out
to whispered solemnity. She wished
that more was said
and less implied
but it’s not the style
Not when meaning can be
drowned out by
a fake heaviness. A blink
to audience left,
the last line forced out
like a hesitant sigh.
Years ago, I wrote this short story. I thought it was quite good (and which writer doesn’t think they’re the best writer ever). Apart from showing it round a couple of people I didn’t do anything with it. Rather than just allowing it to languish on my computer, I’m throwing it out to the world. You can read it here, or if you’ve the desire (and the money and the kindle), you can buy it, download it and read it from here. It costs a dollar or something.
I’m the only person I know who can read or even write. I’m the only person in the world who knows the truth about the Dinosaur Council. In less than three hours time, the Mark will be completely gone, the Silk will rise in me like a final glorious song, and the spiders will find me and they will kill me.
My Grandfather was brilliant. His name was John Graham, he lived in the old time and he was trained as a bio-mechanical engineer. He was there when the Crystal was invented, and it was him and his team that finally worked out how to use it. If you could read this, then you wouldn’t believe it. My Grandfather invented the Dinosaur Council.
Outside the house a small mob has formed. The Mark is lifting now, and they’re hungry for some entertainment. If I look through the window, I can see them. Silk reflecting off the back of their pupils, Silk encrusted around their lips and tongues. About an hour ago they started singing. It is a Crystal song, all weird harmonies and bird-song babble. They should be unintelligible, but as I said, the Mark is lifting.
I’m writing this on plain paper with an old ink pen. It’s a pretty futile gesture. In the future nobody will be able to read. In the future, the Dinosaur Council will tell you what to think and when. In the future all ideas will be vetted, censored, twisted round and spat out at a dumb, deaf population that has become nothing more than a biological cog in a crystal machine. In the future, truth will be reflected, reversed and rainbow refracted across the eyes of an idolatrous nation. In the future.
My Grandfather was the first person to allow Crystal to grow itself. At the time, everybody knew it was clever stuff. Crystal was used in homes, in factories, in hospitals. It was partially organic, self repairing and if you had enough, you could work out anything. You wanted to calculate the origin of the universe four times as quick as you calculated it yesterday. You used twice the crystal. It was as simple as that.
There is a story my father used to tell me when I was young. A witch casts a spell on a princess and she falls asleep. Thorns surround her castle and nobody can get in. This lasts for a hundred years until a prince finds a way through the thorns. He kisses the princess. The thorns bloom into beautiful roses, and the princess wakes up.
The only problem was finding the time to tell the crystal what to do, and this is the problem my Grandfather solved. I am the same as my Grandfather, but I do not understand what he did. I’ve read his notes, read how he grew the crystal in a huge vat, how he tricked the crystal to evolve, how the edge of the crystal blackened, was broken off and thrown away. I’ve read those final few pages, read about that final realignment, read about how he tricked each filament to attach itself to him, I have read it all, but I do not understand it.
What I do understand, is that this was the Singularity. This was the birth of the Dinosaur Council. That year, ninety percent of the population was killed. The other ten percent were indentured to a machine my Grandfather invented.
My father who was also called John Graham was a brilliant man. After my Grandfather died, the council grew him from bone marrow and old skin, taught him everything about the Crystal and passed onto him his fathers legacy. My father helped the council evolve, created the Spiders, created the Silk and invented the Mark. If it had not been for the Mark I would not be here now. Without the Mark, the spiders would have been enough, but my father was a brilliant man. He helped the council evolve, helped himself to survive.
The Silk is an everything material. Crystal is potential for infinite information and Silk is Crystal’s potential for infinite form. In some ways, Silk is Crystal, and Crystal is Silk, but Silk is more solid, more flexible. It is difficult to explain.
The Spiders spin the Silk, and the Silk can be anything the Dinosaur Council wants it to be. Silk can be metal, can be glass, can be air, can be flesh. With the Silk, the Dinosaur Council had no need to force people to do anything. The Silk sings a spider song, wraps you up in warmth and light, tricks your body and mind to be what the Dinosaur Council wants you to be.
When I was thirteen, my father found me playing with the spiders and for the first time in my life my father beat me. I had let them cover me with the Silk, had not killed it like my father had taught me, had quietened the power of the Mark and let the spider song drift over me like a dream. He beat me, and then he cried. After that day, I played with the spiders on many occasions, but never when he was near, and never where I knew he would find me.
My father invented the Mark. The Mark is a neuro-chemical genetically produced by the body, keyed to latch onto individual molecules of Silk. The Mark was my fathers link to the spiders. It helped him block the song, gave him a degree of control over the Spiders, the Silk and the Dinosaur Council.
After I discovered the song I would hide from my father, call the spiders to me. The song is beautiful. When I still the Mark, the feel of Silk drips into me, washes over me, takes over every sense I own. When I quieten the Mark, the song is the taste of every food, is the knowledge of every book, is the sight of every sun bearing out of the universe to brighten and fade, to shrink and to die in an explosion of every colour warmth. I cannot explain it. The song is everything
I, like my father, and his father before him am called John Graham. The Dinosaur Council made me from my father’s bone marrow and skin, taught me everything I know. The council taught me how to fix the machines, how to feed the spiders, how to respect the council. From my father I inherited the Mark, and when I was older he taught me how to command the spiders, how to destroy the Silk.
When I asked my father about the Mark, he explained that it was a blind spot for the Dinosaur Council. He showed me pictures of the human retina, held out a piece of card with two crosses, one that you stared at, and one that always disappeared. I asked him if the Dinosaur Council could find the blind spot, if the Silk could be used to cover it, and he laughed. “Look at the first cross” he would say, and again the second cross would disappear.
Outside the mob has stopped singing. They sense the spiders are coming. Across the roofs, the Silk has started to flicker. A luminescence lights up over the hill, across the roofs of the huts surrounding the Dinosaur Council. The spiders are coming. The Mark is lifting now, and everything is slipping away.
My father was a brilliant man. He taught me how to kill the Silk with the Mark, how to weave it into toys, into mirrors, into blades. He taught me how to use the machines, and when I was older he taught me how to control the spiders. When I was twelve, he took me to a spot of ground a days walk away from the Dinosaur Council, showed me where my Grandfather was buried. He told me never to trust the Dinosaur Council.
They’re nearly here now. The mob is quiet, and I can feel them. The feeling is like a call. “We’re coming John. John, we’re coming”, and it feels like a sense of just waking up, or of just going to sleep. Even though the Mark is going, I try to call it, try to open it up, try to will the spiders away.
Two weeks ago I turned fifteen, and the spiders stopped the song. My father told me he knew nothing about it. The Dinosaur Council said he was an old bitter man, that he had used the Mark against me. Two weeks ago, and the spiders stopped the song. It was the worst feeling in the world. My father did not beat me this time but after I finished pleading with him, he did cry.
My name is John Graham and I am a brilliant man. The Dinosaur Council had a blind spot, but my father taught me how to invent. My fathers name was John Graham. He invented the Silk and the Mark. The Mark is lifted and my father is dead. My Grandfathers name was John Graham. He made the Dinosaur Council, and even though the Dinosaur Council had a blind spot I should never have trusted the Dinosaur Council.
When I was young my father taught me how to use the Mark. When I was thirteen I heard the spiders song. When I was fourteen, my father told me how the Mark was made, what machines were used. When I was fifteen, I was desperate for the spider’s song, so I used the old machines, taught the Dinosaur Council how to destroy the Mark.
The spiders are here now. The song is beautiful, melancholic, serene. A thumb catches the sharp tip of a needle. Silk begins to encrust the door, the walls the floor. A path through the thorns closes. Silk spreads itself beneath my feet, begins to flow up my legs. Somewhere in a story, a princess goes to sleep.
that night, creased it, tore words out with
magenta fingernails, and your hair
was long and black
and you were beautiful.
When I met you, you were cocaine
lonely, crazy for misplaced friends.
Everyone wore Armani.
Between Bobby Brown and Whitney Houston
I offered to show you my Terrance Conran
matching wardrobe and double-bed.
I work in the city. I said.
We slept together once, but I saved you,
wanked your image into my personal
mythology, used your name as a weapon
against recalcitrant future conquests.
Many women have been jealous about you since.
After the sex I wrapped you in the New York Times.
The afternoon after that, I bought a collection of Soul/Jazz
Compact Discs, a Sony Walkman, and three
pale blue ties.
I was not the first to try
and find the source
of his slippage.
Others had fumbled
through his work
that field of lighthouses,
crouching past the answers
inked on his left arm,
avoiding the topiary
between his nouns. Nobody
guessed it was his heart:
a pair of leaking vents
colouring the sky green
with deer, with bats, with
God’s stolen creatures.
ALSO - FULL STOPS IS ENGLISH FOR PERIOD
A week or so ago, Amber (who’s just coming up 16) told me that she always felt I was angry when I sent her a text message. I’m not really an angry person, and honestly most of the messages I send her are along the line of “We’re having salad for dinner.” or “We’ll be back in half an hour.”
So I radiated puzzlement and asked her why.
Turns out, and this was a new one to me, that the use of full stops in text messages implies that you are angry.
I’ll let that one sink in.
If you’re over 30 years old, and you like to make sure that your text messages are correctly punctuated, and you send those text messages to your children, then for some of them, it’ll sound like you’re shouting at them.
I know, right.
Weird. Kids are weird. IT’S NOT LIKE WE’VE EVER DONE ANYTHING LIKE THAT EVER.
If you want to find out how it feels to send a correctly punctuated text message to a 16 year old, then do a google image search for telegrams and start reading.
"I’M SO LUCKY TO BE ME TO HAVE THE PRIVILEGE OF SINGING YOUR MUSIC AND TO KNOW I SHALL ALWAYS BE A MOST ARDENT FAN I THANK YOU FOR LETTING ME BE MARIA LOVE CAROL"
Can you feel the cognitive dissonance there. It’s shouty, but it’s nice, therefore Carol must be being sarcastic. Carol is not a good person.
Back to full stops. Period.
I can see how it happened. If the only people to use full stops in text messages are parents and other authority figures, then you’re going to assume that any message coming with a full stop on the end is from someone being authoritative. And the only time your friends treat you like a child is when they’re deeply pissed off at you.
I guess this is how language changes. We see it being used, and we make assumptions about what it means based on the social context.
God only knows the horror they must feel when they try and dictate a message via Siri or some other voice controlled mechanism.
Next time you sneer at some kid for incorrectly punctuating a text message, or a tweet or a facebook message, then you’re going to have to send your next message out in All Caps. I’m ordering you. You want to know how they feel when they hit the double space on their iPhone. Try texting a loved one with “SHALL I MAKE DINNER TONIGHT” or “DON’T FORGET YOU’RE PICKING THE KIDS UP”
It’s not laziness. It’s not ignorance. It’s just the language changing daddy-o.
It doesn’t feel good for you to all caps anyone.
And it doesn’t feel good for the under 25’s to message friends with full stops.
I suppose now isn’t the time for sulking or posturing. It’s not the time to point fingers at those that would do the same as me and succeed. If you’re a good even person, you should takes your knocks and get back up and try again. But it’s hard not to be bitter when you try and create something, and you’re utterly overtaken by someone trying to do exactly the same thing at exactly the same time.
I’ve been thinking about the concept of a PAY-FOR Twitter for a while. There’s a lot I like about social networking sites, but there’s even more I dislike about them. They’re walled gardens that treat their subscribers as assets instead of customers. They wax and they wane with the attention of the masses. They’re sinkholes for money and influence.
So I’ve been bouncing this idea of making a social network that you pay for for a while. People pay to send text messages and they pay to pick up the phone and call someone. They pay for most things. The only thing stopping people paying for their facebooks and their fgoursquares is they never had to, and now - they don’t expect to.
I asked a few people what they though of paying for Twitter (or equivalant), and to a breath, they said it was a stupid idea. I thought it might work. And with the rise of crowdfunding, and after being told about the concept of a Minimum Viable Product, I thought - What the hey. I’ll take this to Kickstarter, throw it around a bit and see what people think.
Of course, Kickstarter didn’t allow projects from the UK, but I found an equivalent. BTW. If you want to crowdfund something, please check out http://pleasefund.us. They’re really friendly. And helpful.
So, I wrote up my pitch, made a video and put it on the web. Of course, I’m not 100% sure that my idea will work, so the pitch is self depracating, and it tries to point out the downsides of the pay model as much as the upside. And the video isn’t that great because I’m one guy with a bookcase and a burning desire not to unveil my decidedly English teeth on what would probably be a predominantly American audience.
There’s also the fact that I made the hideously stupid mistake of naming my service after a slang word that means "a desire for anal sex". Note to self: If you’re going to call your service anything, maybe look it up on Google before buying the Domain Name.
I posted the pitch on Twitter, made posts on Reddit and Hacker News, sent a press release out to the Mashables, Boingboings, and Tech Crunches of the world.
And watched as it all sank. Traceless. Unnoticed. Not waving, but drowning.
This was two days ago. And at exactly the same time I tried to get £20,000 for a £5.00 a year Twitter service, App.Net decided to do the same thing.
Dalton Caldwell owns App.Net. He’s got over 3,000 twitter followers and his blog posts are regularly posted on Hacker News. He’s a man with an influential following. So when he tried to generate $500,000 for a $50.00 a year service that essentially did the same thing as I wanted to do (Though - to be honest, it’s hard to work out what he is doing, so overladen is his pitch with web 2.0 buzzwords) he picked up $50,000 in less than 24 hours. Plus the front page of Hacker News. Plus a shitload of retweets. In comparison, I managed to get promises of £0.00 in the same time. And three mentions on twitter.
As they say in France, Le Sigh.
Here’s what you need to know about the Internet. And Web 2.0. And all the projects that are out there making money and being bought and being publicised. If you’ve got money, or you have influence, then you’ll do it. If you’re part of a San Francisco incubator, then you’ll do it. But if you’re a jobbing programmer that wants to make a modest living making the things people use, then your chances are much slimmer.
Bitter? You bet I am. I’m not media savvy or nice or magnanimous enough not to be. I had an idea; it didn’t work; someone rich had the same idea; it worked. Fuck Them. Bastard Fucking Silicon Valley Netarati Bastards.
I’m picking myself and dusting myself, and I’m ready for the next project.
But I thought I’d share.
The final puzzle in my doomed service was to separate the user naming from the App. Sort of like DNS. If it took off, I believed that I could grow it into something that could be hosted by multiple companies. You know - Like Mail. Then if you didn’t want to pay, you could go for Chuntle.HotMail. If you wanted to pay, you could go for FastMail.Chuntle. And they’d interoperate. Like I can call your Verizon mobile from my Orange Mobile. If you’re signed up for App.Net, then tell Dalton this is a feature you want. It’s not enough that we control our data. We must also guard against monocultures.
I’m pretty convinced at this point that moving the library and knocking down Northgate House is a bad thing. So I’ll join others and start howling into the wind: