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While writing this newsletter I listened to:
The Lloyd Pack - 'On Holiday With'
Kath Bloom & Loren Mazzacane - 'Sing the Children Over'
Roland Blinn - 'Rosebud'
 
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Acedia
week of 11 January 2020
 

Happy new year! And now ...

A COMMERCIAL ANNOUNCEMENT

I never thought I would use this newsletter to announce a product for sale, but I don’t have any better means of promotion. On Tuesday, I’m releasing a trilogy of books that I wrote called Seventeen Years of Media Consumption (2002–2018). These three volumes (divided into The films, The books, and The recordings) contain my thoughts on every film I watched, every book I read, and every recording that I obtained during that time period. Some of you know that I have been keeping this information for all these years (with a group of friends, a semi-secret society); I decided to format the first 17 years into book form, and spent the last year working on the editing, layout, and design whenever I could fit it in around my other projects.



I happy to announce that they are finally available. These are being released in print form only (sorry, no ebooks) through a new imprint I set up, Scarlatti Tilt. The whole set contains quite a lot of writing –– it totals over 1200 pages, and I’m quite proud of a few parts. The early years are quite lean, at least in terms of the comments I wrote, but as it progresses you’ll find many bizarre rants, the occasional insightful bit of cultural criticism, and a strange sort of autobiography through cultural consumption. The recordings volume functions somewhat like a shadow history of the various music scenes I found myself active in during these times, and the other two volumes might reveal some sort of personal progression if you wish to read them that way. 

All three volumes are cross-referenced throughout, making these perfect bathroom books that can be read in a variety of manners. There are appendices and indices as well, and nice matte covers! If you’d like to buy one (or the whole set), they’re available from scarlattitilt.com, and if you use the promo code ACEDIA2020 then you’ll get a nice discount, basically at cost. There are also some sample pages on the site if you'd like a preview.

I wish I could make these less expensive, but it’s out of my control. They’ll also be available through Amazon (but please, don’t buy from Bezos) and soon from Copacetic Comics. If you order it takes a few days to print them, and the shipping on the ST site is the cheap way; if you’d them sent more quickly (or trackable), get in touch via the Scarlatti Tilt email before ordering. Thanks!

MEDIA INTAKE

It feels strange to write the usual media intake section here when I’m releasing 1200 pages of media reviews. Let’s try something else….

MENTAL INTAKE

How about if I try to convey some of the different ways of thinking that have been passing through my brain instead of just recommending the usual films and books?

Quite a few Acedia readers reached out to me after the last issue, offering very kind words expressing concern about my emotional state. Thank you –– it means a lot to me, and it’s been great to be back in the habit of exchanging long emails with friends. But I’m fine! I guess I didn’t make it clear enough last time, but I feel incredibly sharp at the moment, and motivated to address a lot of things that I’ve let slide in my life over the past year or two. This has been actually an amazing time for me, though it changes shape frequently; there are times when everything feels possible, like a wide open landscape, and other times where all I can see is instability, where a fear of change makes everything feel unbearably tentative.

Back in 2011 when we launched Ptarmigan in Tallinn, Juliacks and I decided to call the opening event ‘Everything is Tentative’. I still think that was a really great name, which set a tone for how things could have & should have proceeded. There’s a way to see the uncertainty of anything new, whether a cultural project or a life decision, without that uncertainty being negative. 

Most of the time, it’s finding balances like this that I struggle with. Teetering between different poles, which I know sounds kinda abstract, but it a pattern I’ve been really aware of lately. For example, I’ve vacillated between feeling frustrated at one culture’s lack of ambition (despite the amazing social fabric of its creative community), and feeling annoyed at another culture’s overly organised, somewhat soulless approach to creative professionalism. I used to think there was a spot somewhere in the middle that was right for me, but now I'm starting to think that I'll always be drifting between the two positions, never settled. Or, how about the dream of building long-lasting structures vs the freedom that comes from remembering that, again, everything is tentative? Can one bounce between these opposites in a way that’s invigorating, like a philosophical shape-shifter, or will it just lead to madness?

Last night I found myself listening to a discussion of safer spaces in the cultural community, and one of the aspects of this discourse that makes me happy is that digital imaging is being looked at critically, with the same type of consent expected for taking a photo as is expected for physical contact. Yet before falling asleep last night, I wondered how any activity can be considered a ’safe space’ if Facebook is the only means of promoting and organising it. What is safe about surrendering your personal information to the Big Data overlords?

AN ESPRESSO FABLE

Our Protagonist loved her espresso. She was actually completely obsessed; she watched videos on YouTube about coffee grinders, painted watercolour portraits of beans, and almost got into a fistfight once about the right temperature to bring the water to. Espresso was everything to her.

She saved up for years to buy the ultimate grinder, a beautiful bit of machinery that was designed by a reclusive, wizened Corsican and hand-assembled by a phalanx of ineluctable mechanics. When a medical condition required her to reduce her caffeine consumption, Our Protagonist sought out the highest quality decaf beans the human race had ever produced; hand-picked in Brasil, roasted in Dehradun, and decaffeinated in Thun.

When switching between the quota of full-caffeine beans she was allowed, and her Bespoke Decaf, she was extremely meticulous in how she cleaned out the grinder. Yet it wasn’t right; she became convinced that residue from one bean was lingering in the shots pulled from the other. She worried fanatically about this, gnashing her teeth at night while dreaming of inventing some electronic metering device that could prove the tastes were not isolated.

One groggy morning, after a night of these technophiliac visions, she reached for her bag of beans and was startled by a sudden THUD! A sparrow had flown directly into her window, a shocking miscalculation that it seemed to survive, though some errant feathers were floating in the air still just at the site of impact. Shaken by this, Our Protagonist took a deep breath, opened both her regular and decaf bean sacks, and poured both into the grinder at the same time.

OTHER STUFF

Brett is the only person who sent me a top 10 list for 2019, and it’s already halfway through January practically, so I guess we’ll skip it. But in general, I would be happy to print some material in this newsletter written by other people; I’ve thought about doing interviews or little guest pieces, so if anyone has an idea, just pitch it to me.
 
This is far more technical and geeky than the stuff I usually link to, but this chronicle of how to get 1024 colours on a CGA display is awesome: https://int10h.org/blog/2015/04/cga-in-1024-colors-new-mode-illustrated/
 
I mentioned last time how much I enjoyed the Watchmen TV series, and I certainly did, but this piercing take from LARB really pushes a lot deeper and finds some reasons to demand more; it certainly made me realise how the last few episodes were definitely a step back, and it even brings Frantz Fanon into the critique: https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/dr-manhattan-cop-watchmen-frantz-fanon/

This was a bit of a weird Acedia, I know. I’m just glad to have these books done so I can focus on what comes next. If anyone has any questions about the books or anything else, please get in touch.

Lots of love,

John
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