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  1.  (9875.21)
    So, who else collected The Unexplained and had their mum throw them out after they moved out?
    (A similar fate happened to my first 50 issues of 2000AD...)

    Those 70's partworks were a real boon to a growing lad on the wrong side of the tracks. Between The Unexplained and All About Science, it made learning fun and available.
    • CommentAuthorOddcult
    • CommentTimeMay 19th 2011
    Water damage from a leaky loft stuck them all together. Same with my 2nd Gen Eagles and Battle/Action Force.
    • CommentTimeMay 19th 2011
    I too am reading it in bits so as not to overwhelm my brainpan. All this talk of electric ghosts makes me think of SLIders (Street Light Interference -ers) . Has anyone else heard of the phenomena? Perhaps it's related to the energies left behind as ghosts?
  2.  (9875.24)
    Some things here, related but separate. Please forgive me if this goes on for a bit, I've been thinking about all this for a while and it's time to get it out there. I'll try and break it into useful units.

    1. @Icelandbob - not so much Quatermass as Dirk Gently with the information consumption but I don't see it as necessarily bad. I expect that under the circumstances we ought to expect to be seeing a sort of Cayce Pollard effect emergent, probably in people with ADHD or dyslexia.

    2. I'm utterly entranced by this latest from Mr Ellis at least partly because - for me at least - seeing all these disparate elements of my own previous research strung together in an apparently logical framework is like finally getting one of those Magic Image pictures to resolve.

    And yes, for the record, I get that Our Man Upstairs is a science fiction writer and as such is likely to be teasing out narrative possibilities as much or more than positing actual hypotheses, so no I'm not about to try and found a religion around this. That said, it's been an experience a little like donning Persinger's God Helmet.

    Ellis seems to do this from time to time - tap some kind of informational wildcat - and it always sets me off properly web surfing, skittering from notion to notion like I used to when the Web was new and I was stone ignorant. It's this sort of low-grade hypomanic state that helps the art and music resolve so I'm always grateful for it.

    3. @Oddcult - I meant to say this when the Weirdness threads were floating in the sunlit shallows of Whitechapel, but it is equally relevant here: as a fellow long-term FT reader I've seen the same trajectory from wide-eyed wonder to tired scepticism in their pages like a sad decaying orbit. I think it's objectively real, not just in your head. That said, it's pretty straightforwardly explicable: social media and smartphones have made the gathering of evidence almost too easy, and evidence kills most of the truly fantastical stories stone dead.

    The delicious frission of unheimlichkeit is gone because the strange news stories - of which there are as many as ever - are mostly now clearly comprehensible, and the mysteries they present are puzzles about missing facts rather than feral harbingers of paradigm-busting significance.

    4. So back around to What Just Happened with the magic eye picture resolving and all that. What really kicked it off was Mr Ellis making mention of Alvin Lucier.

    See, the reason I've never been able to separate visual art praxis from music making is that I get epic synaesthesia. Not the number-colour stuff but sound-colour-word-emotion matrices. I hear music in noise, melodies emerging out of fridge hum and crowd patter, that have shifting colours and sometimes fleeting images attached, along with key words and onieric connections to emotional spaces. I hear voices in rain like people talking in the next room. All this can be really distracting.

    So as well as making images I try to note down those key words and use them to describe the overarching emotion in some sort of reasonably elegant way and then I get a stringed instrument - I've got loads of different ones, the process works best when I'm playing something in an unfamiliar tuning so I can't return to habits - and try and get the melodic, rhythmic and structural patterns down as best I can. At that point a song usually forms.

    So then I'm just a guy singing a song with English language lyrics that largely make sense, playing a guitar or a mandolin or a banjo or whatever, and that's just fucking banal. It's also crude and sort of wrong, like "Hey I'm in love with this wonderful girl, I want you to meet her, so here's an x-ray of her rib cage." I've tried making field recordings as an alternative but the numinous sense of musicality always seems to get muted if not lost in them. I've tried layering sounds and using multiple instruments but it always sounds faked, forced.

    So then Mr Ellis here wrote: "The middle section of the process sounds like EVP. And then it turns into music." I realised that although I'd read a fair bit about “I Am Sitting In A Room” I'd never actually heard the piece - and it turns out the Web is crawling with interpretations of it, and the tail end of many of them sounds like a crystallised version of my illusory melodies.

    So I thought: what if I were to record a song and use Lucier's re-recording technique to try and backtrack to the original sound pattern? The two versions, clear and devolved, might also be layered to interesting effect. The band are up for it and rehearsal is tomorrow. I'm quite excited really.

    There's more to it than this, there's stuff about EM sensitivity as well, but this post is too long already and that was really the stuff that I thought might be of interest here.
    • CommentAuthorFlabyo
    • CommentTimeMay 19th 2011
    There were two part-works that I remember collecting as a kid that between them had a pretty major impact on the way my brain went in the end.

    The first was a history one called 'Discovery'. Each one focused on a particular bit of history (Cortez and the Aztecs, The Spanish Armada, etc...) and consisted of a magazine about it, a cut out and build model, and several duplicates of various relevant primary sources. Very clever stuff. It had a very early example of an ARG as a Christmas special that I seem to remember involved the Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

    The second was in a similar format, but about science, and called 'Quest'. So one issue might be about the space shuttle, another about plant biology etc... I remember having a little cardboard model of the HMS Ark Royal from that.

    No idea what happened to any of them. Probably got binned when I went to uni along with most of the other stuff I left behind.
      CommentAuthorMild Maynyrd
    • CommentTimeMay 19th 2011 edited
    I don't have much to add here in terms of content (this stuff is mind-blowing)... but I have been encouraging my friends to check out this series of posts, especially the ones who have read Ellis fiction but never his non-fiction/essays. I've also been promoting this on my *blog, promising people will, at the very least, find the entries interesting.

    *(Which, coinciding w/ Wordpress' new Dashboard layout, is utterly fucked.)

    [Edited for footnote.]
  3.  (9875.27)
    in 2008 a 1973 miles davis came out of the record player and made love to my girlfreind while I sat there helplessly grooving to the funky sounds... just saying (spirit tracks is cool)
    • CommentAuthorcbkof
    • CommentTimeMay 19th 2011
    Typo in 24. I believe "Which is many places isn’t getting further than, say, publicly posted building permits..." should be "Which IN many places isn’t getting further than, say, publicly posted building permits "
    • CommentAuthoricelandbob
    • CommentTimeMay 19th 2011

    i Remember quest VERY well i bought about 25 issues of that before the newsagent stopped stocking it.

    It had a whole slew of science-y fact and some rather unsettling articles about things like sensory deprivation techniques, kirlian photography, UFO's, atomic energy and experiments on how to make you very own lie detector. What every kid in the 80s needed to know. I'm sure Warren was an intern at the publishing company at the time.....
  4.  (9875.30)
    Another error to note would be #23 being tagged as "Photography" instead of "Spirit Tracks" That would make finding all of them at a later date rather difficult.

    Neila -- Thank you! I have been trying to remember what that thing was called for years but could never find it on the 'net. At times my Google-fu is found wanting.
  5.  (9875.31)
    I am really enjoying this series and can only hope that this comes out in some kind of published form like Shivering Sands. It's the sort of thing I want be able to savor away from the computer.
    • CommentTimeMay 19th 2011
    @Warped Savant No problem, it's a tough thing to find info on. D: There was a book written at one point, but it's been out of print for awhile. I think one can find it online though as a PDF.
  6.  (9875.33)
    This ends today.
      CommentAuthorcity creed
    • CommentTimeMay 20th 2011
    it always sets me off properly web surfing, skittering from notion to notion

    Yeah. I have around 40 tabs open here. Rapt.

    The Digital Cities idea as it's emerging through these is making me think of On Exactitude In Science. Studying too much has warped my brain, I agree.
    RFID is a mapping technology for machines, is that more or less fair? The informational model it produces coincides "point for point" with meatspace - an expert map system built invisibly throughout the territory and objects within it. Less an internet made of things and more a very big, multi-layered thing made of internets, universally interrogable (and editable?) via standard issue ghost box. I can see how that might have the potential to make the Unreal City real again, but not under the auspices of the Cartographers Guilds.

    Any physical intervention.

    Few freakangels cliffhangers have been as cruelly tantalising as this is. Is that the clatter of cloven hooves I hear?
  7.  (9875.35)
    Catch up.
    • CommentTimeMay 20th 2011
    As a kid in middle school, I devoured all the science fiction, myths and legends, UFO/psychic phenomena and young adult ghost stories in a particular corner of the library. I don't think I really needed all that stuff to be true, and H.P. Lovecraft made me kinda glad it wasn't, and I supposed the future would deliver all the weirdness I wanted. And, as the present, it does. Better yet, so has the past, and I wonder sometimes which is bringing it faster.

    If I want to follow Spirit Tracks or something like them, I'm going to have to break down and upgrade my not-especially-smartphone to something iPhoney aren't I? I expect the rusting broadcast TV and radio pylons are bristling by now with mobile phone repeaters and microwave tail links. If they haven't fallen over, they're probably still there, because they're valuable vertical real estate with rights of way, like unused railbeds with fiber buried in them.

    I'm glad I caught this in time.
    • CommentAuthoricelandbob
    • CommentTimeMay 20th 2011
    One small point on post 26.

    The Icelandic government doesn't actually spend all that money on fireworks. It's the people. Each year in the week before new year, the Icelandic fire service hold massive sales all around Reykjavik selling the sort of fireworks that would be banned in most western countries (but are rather normal in China) to the public. In a case of "keeping up with the Jónssons", people spent astronomical amount of fireworks. The end result is that apart from a few official firework displays, the entire greater Reykjavik area looks like the Shock and Awe operation in the Invasion of Iraq. It's actually the biggest money raiser for the Fire service, which receives nominal state funding BTW. And then there's the crazy idea of the Fire Service selling very dangerous fireworks to the populace. Firelighters and arsonists and all that.

    But... Warrens main gist is still correct. When Iceland was once of the richest nations in the world, approx 14% of the main road in Iceland (M1 in the UK, route 66 in the US), was still unpaved. We were swimming in money apparently, and yet they still couldn't pave the main roads of the country.
  8.  (9875.38)
    "There’s no such thing as ghosts. UFOs are just lights in the sky. And vodka is probably not improved by strontium."
    I just love where the 'probably' appears in this...
    • CommentTimeMay 20th 2011
    "It’s your job to make that real.

    It’s my job to remind you that I’m haunting you."
    Unf. Yes. "Then you're not a writer, are you?" is constantly prodding my brain stem thanks to the internet.

    I, too, am curious if this is going to be officially published on dead tree. If not, I need to make sure I keep a copy.

    Bob - The wonderful thing about the internet and its Facebook and Tumblr and Twitter is that as soon as you can't access it, it's gone. I often go back through my status updates and tweets, but one day it will disappear, and I'm not really sure what to do about that. It only has permanence so long as the company survives, the servers don't explode, we still have electricity, and so on. Granted, a physical history is similarly fragile, but I think our digital ephemera is significantly less permanent.
    • CommentAuthorhedmeat
    • CommentTimeMay 20th 2011
    Bravo, Warren.

    Sorry to see it end.