Friday September 13, 2019, 20:46
This post is intended to do several things, most of which have been listed as tasks in my task-management system in the venerable free software text editor, Emacs. The first, which will be more or less invisible to the average user, is to write a post as a parsable text file using a first draft of a format I call 'zdrojopis' and import it into the web application. The word I have chosen for this format is a Czech play on words derived from the word for source, 'zdroj', and the word for typewritten manuscript, 'strojopis'. It makes use of a human-readable data-serialization language called Yaml to store various variables such as the document license, author, version, and timestamp, and I hope it might one day be used to facilitate collaboration of various kinds, and to pass around posts from one instance of "DandyLion" to another, or indeed, to different software intended to read such documents, display them, edit them as printable paperware zines, and so on. Doing this helps to get me closer to dumping posts from a test website, morbid-interregnum.cz, to the website I will be writing this for, marginalie.eu (though I hope one day it could potentially be hosted elsewhere in the form it now takes, or, since its license permits it, edited to suit, or that indeed, it could form the part of a printed zine etc.). The other thing I hope to do is to link some tasks to this post, and to outline some of the ways I hope tasks may be used on this web application in the future.
One of the principle problems I see in the world we are living in today is noise. By this I mean, principally, psychic noise. This can take the form of noise essentially injected into our minds by some of the thousands of opaque processes that run on our omnipresent, always on, always connected devices, all of which, in typical cases, owe their existence, sooner or later, to the advertising industry which exists to set up enduring processes and associations in our minds. On this I take a hard line: anybody who has an internet-enabled mobile phone upon their person constantly and yet who does not believe them to influence their thinking on a range of issues in ways that defy scrutiny, is a fool. Some of this noise, equally, is an inevitable consequence of the knowledge economy and of the shift in typical employment patterns away from crafts and primarily physical occupations, to those in which most of the heavy lifting involves movements of information and thought; increasingly, the kind of cognitive manipulation which was unknown to all but a handful of humans, typically those working within highly specialised fields such as philosophical logic, astronomy, theoretical physics, and mathematics up until what, in evolutionary terms, is a fraction of a second to midnight if midnight is taken to be the present moment.
A related problem is that a handful of incomprehensibly well-resourced corporations which are geographically concentrated and overwhelmingly demographically homogenous, and which have more knowledge about practically every one of their users than most of the biographers had on their subjects in all but a handful of biographies on the shelf of a well-stocked bookshop -- and this irrespective of whether they have direct interactions with them.
What does all this mean? For this, we'll take a trip.
For some years I have had something like a geographical metaphor for intellectual and imaginative processes. The way I see it, no two people know the same city in the same way. Two people can live in the same city and never meet or share places and communities which have for them the strongest resonances. (Bohumil Hrabal often said that Franz Kafka and Jaroslav Hašek, who were born not three months apart in 1883, shared a city but almost certainly never met as one had a cafe culture and the other a pub culture; with the diversity of cultures and the aggressive gentrification and stark inequality common to most major cities today, the ways two people can diverge within a given city are so many and varied that it might now be difficult to so plausibly summarise many or most of them.) Moving further away, there are those then who have only visited a city. These too can be divided into those who turn up with a stickered-up guidebook, those who, like Henry Rollins, get in a cab and ask to go to the area with the worst reputation, and those who go no further than the main drag and the two, three places the bored receptionist circles on a street map representing a 1km square area. We can then go further still, to the people who know of the city's existence, through the people who may misattribute it to a neighbouring country, to the people who, if put on the spot, would put it on the wrong continent, and those who do not know of it at all. As with cities, so too, figuratively, with subjects and concepts. My girlfriend has been to Linux (though many a Linux user would find a hundred ways to devalue her trip). She didn't like it. She hasn't been to Python but has seen pictures of it, has heard about it under duress, would be likely to place it on the right continent, but wouldn't want to go there unless forced to do so on some stopover to somewhere far more congenial. She has been to neither Marxism nor Anarchism (the former an island-continent where it is rare to meet anybody who doesn't speak their own language like the phrases found in the idiot guide course, the latter a city state archipeligo where dialects seem to change from street to street) but is fonder of the latter than the former and might stomach a short stay. She knows of anarcho-capitalism well enough to seek to avoid it and its fountainhead towerblocks like the plague.
From here back to Google et al. In the "dystopian" fictional world I am steadily coming around to writing here, the Eudaemon network intelligence has ideologies and worldviews mapped out like the London Underground and knows how to nudge people, where necessary, from one to another, or at least in the right direction. The fact is, it seems, that to the Eudaemon, psychic distance and geographical distance are much of a muchness in cyberspacetime. Rosa, who does not believe for a second the assurances of the Underground University that, since she is off grid in the sense of not having an implant like other citizens, the Eudaemon doesn't know where she is or what she is doing, asks her handler, who she believes to be getting himself, and her, into the kind of trouble he won't have any control over, to look to the history of the ordinance survey, originally founded to map Scotland in the wake of the Jacobite rising of 1745, and to compare it to the map of the human mind that is referred to thousands of times every day by Eudaemon PAs as they advise their users, or, to turn it on its head, their charges. Now Google, quite obviously to anybody who understands the trends of the last twenty years, has the globe mapped out alongside the human memepool.
One of the less damaging consequences of the above is that a film can be funded to the tune of $26 million in which Ed Sheeran can be spoken of on the same level as the Beatles. But if you can stomach stabbing and swiping at your phone 2,617 a day in the secure knowledge that sooner or later the doors will open to spill you out into the street from the bowels of Google's Earth at a station that equates to Ed Sheeran, it may be less comforting to understand the places you may be taken to with some regularity and from which you will have to navigate your way to the parts of town you might never get to know if you are forever walking from Oxford Street.
Right now, you're not in Kansas any more.
The above has a number of resonances for me. One, The Wizard of Oz is a huge film many people will be able to recognise a reference to whether they have seen it or not. Two, it is notable that the film is American and that there was a point in the last century at which the resources of Hollywood were such that American film became more familiar than local folk tales and the cultures they were rooted in. Three, the book the film was based upon is said by some to be an ideological fable. Four, if people decide to look into this, they will most likely use Google to find out (to the degree they would likely use it as a verb), meaning that, just as soon as they have taken a trip out of one of the major thoroughfares of the ribbon development of human thought to find their way here, those notional maps of ideological distance with dense bright clusters here and there like a night map of the earth lit up in the major population centres of Europe, Coastal USA and Asia, they will teleport back.
Now, it is quite possible to read or watch the Wizard of Oz without thinking of monetary policy and it is quite possible that its relation to the same is entirely factitious. This is not true of many a cultural product and indeed, every narrative which is capable of firing up the human imagination, also leads it in a certain direction, making it congenial for certain kinds of thought and not others. The other film alluded to above, Yesterday, is clearly an attempt to wake up Britain -- and not ony Britain -- from the funk of agitated depression and hostility it has got itself into in recent years, mainly by throwing in a handful of British asian characters played by recognisable faces and employing a number of platitudes and things which, Ed Sheeran aside, Brits might be thought to agree on still. This chummily assimilated vision of mid-Brexit Britain is somewhat ironic since it has been said that the writer of the film, Richard Curtis, is the only man who "could write a movie about Notting Hill, London's most diverse borough, and not feature a single black face in it". Curtisland, meanwhile, [is said](https://www.theguardian.com/film/2009/mar/22/richard-curtis-the-boat-that-rocked) to be associated with New Labour, and to be an "apolitical place, full of can-do possibility, obsessed with the educated middle class, perfectly relaxed about the filthy rich, much more in love with sentiment than ideas, and insatiable in its optimism; it was also in thrall to the idea of happy endings." As such it may, like Blairism and everything that followed it be as rage-inducing to those who have known nothing but the wastelands of zero-hour contracts and food banks of the North of England, or the edgy uncertainties of the London streets described by, say, Sleaford Mods or Stormzy. A film, meanwhile, Danny Boyle, the director of Yesterday, was fresh from having been released from, potentially flagged up the dangers of a different kind of tendency; Rami Malek, upon taking on a role in the Bond Film Boyle was to have worked on, stipulated that he would not play the part of a terrorist who was motivated by ideology or religion.
Whatever we think of any of these visions (of the above, Sleaford Mods is the closest to the Britain I have known), somebody is there to sell it to us and Google is there to do it. But if it may be reasonably obvious that Google or Facebook can be responsible for us, say, watching Yesterday, or Chernobyl, or Jordan Peterson when it suits somebody that we do so, and if it is increasingly understood that significant demograhics and electorates may be sufficiently nudged in a given direction to win an election, too few people are sufficiently aware of the effect of those thousands of gestures on their phone priming ideas, firing neurons and foregrounding certain options over others, lining up encounters and certain significant others, securing jobs and opportunities: all those yellow brick roads we walk down in life like an opaque algorithm of insidious intent: Google is Everyman's exocortex.
Maintaining a list of things you want to do needn't make you more you, and neither must it necessarily put up a firewall between you and all of the marketing people and PR types pushing everything from game theory-devised social engineering apps that get users to give regretful fucks and keep on coming back for more to social media apps as edgily addictive as crack cocaine and streaming services that give you all the Ed Sheeran and Downton Abbey you're ever going to need in your life. Writing up a list of things you want to do and anxiously ticking them off might, indeed, do nothing but cranking you up the more to compete against your peers and neighbours to have a chance of being on a rocket with Elon to Mars. What it can do, if you do it well, however, is help you to make decisions, regularly, instead of the non-decisions that are all too easy not to make when you are manipulated by somebody or some thing that gets you right where they want you until you find yourself going around again. Do it right, you true yourself up, regularly, against the person you want to be, the goals you have, you stop and take a bearing now and again, and keep yourself on track.
## So that's the why. Now for the what and the how.
Firstly, there are edits. This post is a diary, though it strikes me now it ought to be something different and indeed may be either from import or in future. Since it is licensed CC BY-SA, it may be edited and posted elsewhere by anybody so long as it is shared under the same license and so long as I am credited for originally creating it. That may be handled in DandyLion with post versions, which are already handled within the database. One option for these types of posts ought to be that somebody may simply click that they would like to edit it in order to create a task. This task need not link to the post within the database itself. Instead, it might, at the application level, be a route with the post slug as a url variable. Other post-specific edit tasks, however, might be linked to a given post. For example:
* "Remove reference to Google. It's likely they get the point."
* "Remove reference to Call Them Soldiers. This belongs elsewhere and somebody had a hangover."
It may be that these edits may be for the author, in which case they may remain private. It may be that they may be for an editing team, in which case there is no way to handle them in the database yet and I will have to create a task for them. It may be that anybody with editing privileges for this post type (so here Diary) might be able to make the edit. Should this be the case, it would be useful if this edit may be tracked with git so that it may be merged in to past edits to create a new version.
Many of these tasks, for many or most posts, ought not to be shown unless asked for, especially once the post has reached a settled-draft stage. A user might examine them, perhaps to see what they might be able to do to get involved, or might interact with the task to some degree, showing that such a task would have value for them.
#### An example of a workflow for prose
A more complicated account of edit tasks might be made with reference to another piece of writing I am currently working on -- and getting bogged down in. I will be using Marginálie to develop and publish fiction, essays, and attempts at sophisticated pieces of writing. These will require a number of drafts. Sometimes I will draft and redraft on a typewriter. Sometimes I may use dictation. This is my process, which is certainly eccentric, though ecctricity of process is the mark of many a renowned writer and not just those of us with neurodevelopmental conditions (though all manner of same are disproportionately represented in populations of writers and underrepresented in their biographies). This most recent piece is called _Solitude_. It is intended as a short story, or a novella, or a personal essay employing fictional devices (it is certainly autobiographical and might equally be described as non-fiction, as a memoir); it forms the backbone of a projected series, _Unfinished Business_ which takes on the business of returning 'home' to a country which is being led, its people sleepwalking, into an artificial crisis, from a country which is being led, its people sleepwalking, into a different style of restrictive unfreedom, and of, while there, confronting a past which has been a series of broken fragments of daydreams and stories more real than the the waking world but always in the mind and, though they were constantly present, scarcely leaving a mark upon the world: a history of writing and of failing to write, of projects obsessively began and left unfinished like passionate affairs, cupboards full of notebooks and manuscripts and computers full of the same. It currently stands at 24,358 words of an unfinished first draft, originally began as a dictation, was then followed by a 76-page manuscript (both of these might be considered [prewriting](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prewriting)). It scares me.
Tasks associated with this project might relate to the transcribing of the dictation. They might involve writing up the typewritten manuscript. They might also involve "folding in" some of the material from these sources, into versions of the pieces in the Unfinished Business series.
_Call Them Soldiers_ is the fictional world I talk about the most here, and which has most informed Marginálie, it being a dream of a world none of us would wish to live in, and which we are rushing towards. At certain times, I have considered open sourcing Call Them Soldiers and/or some of its books. Since I have carried these around with me for ten years now, I would not take such a decision likely. I have put my labour into the work and, though I think it important that we consider, discuss, and imagine precisely where it is we are heading as a society, and though I believe that it is for the most part more important that the right things happen than who is involved in their happening, I believe I can do good by writing and so hope to continue to work towards a goal which involves my doing almost nothing else but writing, publishing writing, and thinking about writing. I am happy to attempt to find different ways of earning a living from writing, and think that the expedient of creating a commodity in order for a writer to earn money, and having that writer earn money in proportion to the number of books sold, is very far from being a a decent way to represent the value of that book, and that writer, to either her readers or to society. The problem here is that, though we have made some strides towards such a thing, we have not yet either made many steps towards a world where the crowd funding of creative endeavours can compete with more traditional forms of funding (though these traditional forms have always accomodated individual donations more than many might consider on first thought), or moved towards a world where, for example, people might contribute some proportion of their taxable income to creative works of their choice in some analogue of the manner that churches receive donations in Germany. In any case, _Call Them Soldiers_, or one or another of its books, alongside other potential candidates for this manner of working such as a novel entitled _Rafting the Tigris_, might leverage both Git and such a task management system as outlined here, to reproduce some literary version of something like an oral culture of storytelling.
#### And beyond it
The first step we will take beyond prose is poetry. There are possibilities for editing here, of course, and, as was true of even so great a poet as T S Eliot, the role of the editor in shaping a great poem may be profound; but then there is a value sometimes in rawness over polish, sincerity over sheen, and Ezra Pound's insistance on cannonical gravitas and, frankly, ostentatious learning over accessibility, did not improve The Wasteland for all readers equally. But the possibilities of diversity of purpose expand with poetry more even than prose when we ditch some of the intellectually possessive traditions Shakespeare, Dante, and Homer managed without. A translation may be created and developed in many and various directions and is likely, with any poet less amenable to translation than, say, Miroslav Holub quite intentionally was at various times in his career when the possibilities of publishing in his own tongue and for his own people were strictly limited. The "after Miroslav Holub"-style subtitles of many a poem, too, demonstrates quite what can be done with another poet's impulse. Form, meanwhile, would mean not a fraction of what it does today if the sonnet or the haiku could have been patented by early practitioners, leaving it impossible to adapt into other languages and styles.
For reasons which will be obvious to those who are familiar with the various styles of collaboration and creative cross-pollination of Elizabethan drama and Restoration comedy alluded to above, the script may offer up any number of creative possibilities and organic styles of collaboration and cross pollination. To take one example of a workflow I had imagined to be possible. _Unfinished Business_, which is itself part of a series _A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man[ic Depressive]_ which first occurred to me well over ten years ago, might be condensced into a comic script, part of a series I call _Plastic Paddy of the Universe_. This then could be further adapted into a comic using one or more artists. Using more than one would make sense since the subject, myself, has many dispositions, is a Heraclitusian flux of a personality. It would be easy to imagine, meanwhile, that stage plays might be developed by more than one writer in more than one country, working with more than one collection of actors. A git workflow with branches which might encompass more than one language and more than one configuration of characters (differing genders, sexualities, races, religions), might involve changes primarily flowing in one direction along any of these transitions, or both. The stage inevitably involves many of these kind of changes even today (Václav Havel pinched many of the central ideas of his most famous plays), but a truly open workflow such as this could do a great deal to place disruption where it really belongs, on the makeshift stages of fringe theatre, rather than in the boardrooms of ultra-powerful corporations.
One further, apparently trivial example. In the year that Donald Trump ascended to the office of the presidency, I accompanied a group of school children as a Montessori teacher to a performance of a play written by a wonderfully inventive theatre for children, Divadlo Minor, some few metres from Hooters in the centre of Prague. It was called [Democracy](https://www.minor.cz/repertoar/demokracie/). At the time I was working on a wiki relating to Montessori education which I hoped to be able to submit as part of a course I was doing on the subject. In fact, I was going in a different direction. I wrote about Democracy. In it, the children could vote. I don't know if the votes counted, and, they might well have counted not at all, but the set up was that the children could vote for one of a series of parties: The chill out party, the work out party, the study party, the dance party, and so on. With simple costumes and a handful of coloured blocks, the play got through to the children a number of ideas about democracy they were later more than capable of discussing. Their ages ranged from 6 to 9. Such a small, publicly subsidised theatre is unlikely to earn money from selling or licensing the script but (so it occurred to me at the time), were it to license it with a Creative Commons license or similar, not only could many more children benefit around the world, but the theatre's renown could only go up.
### Mentioned tasks
I have already now mentioned a number of non-editing tasks and will go on now to mention others below. These will fall into different categories. Some of them will involve changes to the application, on the level of the database, on the level of the front-end, functions, etc. Here, these are mentioned because I am discussing (and trying to figure out), what I hope tasks might be able to do, but more commonly, they might suggest how a given post might be further developed. Users might then interact with these tasks to somehow indicate which have value for them. If tasks might be discussed in Keybase with threads began for each project or the like, then it may be that users can donate to given tasks.
As I compile a list of such tasks, I will try to consider how best to categorise them and how this might look in the backend.
1. Create route for 'edit this post'
2. Create task collaborators
3. Create system for editing privileges
* Signed yaml in user directory?
4. Git back end to handle basic collaborative editing
* Ability to choose versions of post to merge
5. Author-preferred version of post
6. Instance-peferred version of post
7. Write up Mark Cousin's [list of film recommendations for Boris Johnson](https://www.theguardian.com/film/2019/aug/23/dear-boris-johnson-watch-these-six-films-before-you-rip-up-the-irish-backstop-and-trigger-violence)
* Some of these may be added as videos and so...
8. Write up [Guardian list of 100 best films of the 20th century](https://www.theguardian.com/film/2019/sep/13/100-best-films-movies-of-the-21st-century)?
8. Task containing media
9. Post route, show associated tasks until post is at a certain state?
10. Task comments permitted using Keybase. This would give the advantage of permitting tasks to show donations.
11. Upload 1st Unfinished Business dictation to archive.org
12. Scan manuscript of Unfinished Business / A Little Town Where Time Stood Still
* create Document of Unfinished Business / A Little Town Where Time Stood Still
13. Create Script class
* later Script subclass StagePlay
* later script subclass ScreenPlay
* later script subclass ComicScript
14. Categorise mentioned tasks and figure out implementation by type.
I have read book reviews for years. For the first several years of reading the London Review of Books, I would approach the reviews as if they were a precis of the books themselves, almost a substitute for reading them. I did not do much more to ensure I would be likely to read any of those books than permit the sometimes barely-remembered syllables of names and titles and bump around in a kind of Brownian motion in my head, clattering against those I encountered in bookshops and libraries. Occasionally, I would go out of my way. I tracked down [Tim Parks' Europa](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Europa_(novel)) after seeing a discussion of it on Newsnight Review back in 1997, and bought Seamus Heaney's District and Circle, and Ted Hughes' Birthday Letters after something similar but such moments were hit and miss for many a year. Now, I tend to note down references to music, films, and books I might wish to read and throw them into lists I curate, periodically go through, and define with dates and deadlines.
I designed Marginálie with space in the database for criticism, of course, and for "artefacts" (the books, films, television series, and music that the criticism refers to). This should permit me to write functions that may spawn tasks for reviews ie. a task to source _Europa_ by Tim Parks, or _Democracy in Europe_ by Larry Siedentop, or _Wolf Hall_ by Hillary Mantell (similar theme, differently handled?), or indeed a task for an artefact to write a review whether or not one may already exist (if a work is worth discussing, it is worth approaching in many different ways, and I do not believe it can be done definitively, or that such a phrase has any real meaning in this context).
### So what of it and what now?!
These are some of the ways I would like to work with tasks. Now I just have to build it all. Except that, with any luck, I don't. I rather hope that it might be possible to build enough of what this is that it might encourage others to help to build it, and to build distros of it, branches, forks, ports into other languages, or whatever that might mean. If you have read this far, whoever you are, it is likely you would be able to help with something either mentioned above, or informing somehow what it all might eventually become. Even be talking about what you think you understand by it, you could be helping to realise some of the above, as the more people who know about it, the more might be able to contribute.
It's possible little of the above makes any sense. But then in writing this, it is a little clearer to me how to progress and everthing, including the shower thoughts first thing this morning all will count towards the whole.
The following tasks are associated with this diary entry: