Friday, 1 September 2017

Bad Apples: Ten // Eleven

Part six of a series of posts reflecting on almost a decade of DIY culture - focusing this time on putting on an “event”, writing letters and some thoughts on electronic communication. For an introduction to this series, click here.


2008: I’m into the idea of an event. By this I mean something that’s a big one off. Let’s make some effort to make the night something to remember! Why don’t you get everyone to dress up in smart clothes for that local band show and do a punk prom, complete with prom king and queen… Or maybe you could bootleg the show, take peoples contact emails and then send them a copy as an mp3/sendspace link… Or get a piñata. Drunk punks with baseball bats would be interesting…Or I once read an old Crimethinc pamphlet [2017: note that referencing Crimethinc in 2017 does not imply endorsement...] about this kinda thing. In amongst the usual purple prose there was a rad idea which basically boiled down to seeing how many bands could play in a finite amount of time (eg: an hour)… Or a local punk house sometimes builds a fuckin slide on their stairs out of wood. That’s something to see and remember though I doubt it’d pass a risk assessment… So yeah. The ideas are pretty endless really once you think about it. (And kinda dumb too).

2017: This fragment partly inspired a previous post entitled The Best Things Happen in Secret. I won’t add to it, except to underline that the ‘payment’ I get from playing in a band isn’t financial. It’s getting to see other cool bands I didn’t know existed, meeting good people – and crucially, having a story to tell. I want to go into work on Monday with the wildest anecdote about my weekend, even more so now I’m sober and I can see that there’s sometimes a laziness about using drinking as permission to do something ‘crazy’. The most memorable punk shows are often the ones that are most removed from your parents’ idea of what a gig should look like. Putting on fancy dress to get drunk doesn’t count either (fuck right off).


2008: Write a letter. Yeah it’s slow. Yes it costs money. Yes it takes effort. But all that shows you care. It takes no effort at all to write a comment on my Myspace page, and that’s totally cool. I know were all busy and you might not have much to say to me beyond “are you going to that CIRCUS ACT show?” And I think that any way to communicate and keep people together is a good thing. But it’s much better to get a letter someone had to sit down and write, and then put in an envelope with beer mats, post cards, mix tapes, and other free shit they collected. You get something permanent you can look at when you find it in a shoe box in 2030 and it showed that someone cared enough about you to do something the hard way for once all those years before.

2010: I’ve been thinking a lot about this recently. It bums me out that instead of a pile of old letters, I’ve just got a bunch of saved emails and texts.


2017: I can’t remember the last time I sent a letter that wasn’t just a note in with a zine or mix CD-R.

It seems like a lot of digital communication is throw away. By this I mean that despite permanently sitting on a server somewhere, it’s somehow lost to us much quicker than analogue forms. Of course verbal communication is and always has been instantly lost whether its face to face or over a phone, but it seems to be that there’s not really a digital equivalent of keeping a shoe box full of letters that you might rediscover one maudlin afternoon and retread moments you decided were important.

I suppose that you might have an old email account with a saved messages folder but as we move from platform to platform, what happens to all these old interactions? I recently shut down that Myspace page without a second thought. Most of the messages I lost were banal of course but what about the ones that weren’t? SMS is even worse. Who keeps a stash of old Sim cards and working handsets to flick through on a rainy Sunday?

It’s not just personal history that’s hard to access. What will social historians look at? How will our grand children construct family histories? What will be the 21st century equivalent of finding a stash of letters in a house clearance? It seems a paradox that as more and more data is harvested forever – intrusively and against our wishes - our meaningful access to it long term is less and less. 

Although capital inserted itself into our communication before – after all, you had to buy a stamp and some stationary – it seems a markedly different relationship now. If I send you a letter, its then yours. You have it, theoretically until it rots away. But that old Myspace message is something else in that it remains mediated by the platform – you have to log in to access it. It’s a bit like having to go to the post office and show ID every time you want to reread a letter.

You can probably find a way to save it in another format, maybe there’s a way to archive your text messages in another device or platform, you can definitely print out a hard copy of an email if you like. But you probably aren’t going to, meaning that instead of a one off exchange, a corporation has a permanent mediating role in you accessing it. That’s something that’s become normalised, but really – it’s pretty odd. 


Just so you know. That banner image on the Facebook event you used as the only form of promotion won’t be adorning anyone’s wall, flyer collection or retrospective scene photo book either.


I don’t believe in ghosts, though sometimes I need to remind myself of that, just as I don’t believe in other superstitions but I’ll still rub the foot of Ted Bates statue on the way to a match and refuse to say anything positive in case it jinxes my team. But I’ve often thought that if I’m wrong and I end up coming back to haunt you motherfuckers, I’d probably end up haunting a hand set.

Are haunted phones a thing? It probably should be if spirits haunt the places where emotionally intense things happened. If ghosts are remnants of strong emotions that haven’t quite dissipated, then I’ve certainly got a pile of broken mobiles kicking around that I’ve poured love and bile into.

If you think about it, the kinds of wonderful, painful, ecstatic, regret-soaked conversations that our for-bearers had to have face to face in their stone hovels we can have on the go. That lingering energy would be a kind of decentralised haunting, not tied to any particular location now that we can break and fix our own hearts on buses, walking through parks, in train carriages, supermarkets, cars, lunch rooms... The other person isn’t even there. The location is inter-changeable as long as there’s signal. The tool that makes it possible though is constant. We’re pouring all this intensity into a little box of plastic and wires. All this epic psychic energy captured and chucked out into space - there must be something left over.

These obsolete, rundown phones are “dead.” Language hints at the possibility of a haunting already.



(I should write you).

Some of the observations in this piece were inspired by the excellent book 'Filling the Void' by Marcus Gillroy-Ware. 


Jump to fragment (links added as fragments are posted): Intro // One // Two // Three // Four // Five // Six // Seven // Eight // Nine // Ten // Eleven // Twelve // Thirteen // Fourteen // Fifteen //Sixteen // Seventeen