I recorded this piece on the 20th March at the end of a long, eventful week. After several months of trying to settle down into routines involving working from home and working from my office over by the river, I brought home all essential items last Sunday and tried to settle into the one routine which I had always found most challenging: working at home when my girlfriend, Woodstock, was home. I did this some days better, some days worse, and all the time somewhat distracted by the resonances of the surreality I knew I was going to be experiencing for some time. There was a lot to digest. That certainly comes out in this recording though I will still be absorbing some of the impact two episodes from now.
This is an introduction to the series but it ought to be pointed out that it may serve poorly in that function. I am deep in myself and drawing myself out. Editing the recording, I discovered that many of the sentences might take minutes in realtime as I lose myself like a detective mid-reverie or a tweedy professor with a pipe in one hand, matches in the other. Because of the focus of my work, which I have thrown myself into over the past few months and no less so with this quarantine, much of my focus here is the political context of the current moment. That moment is a contextless macro lens expression of the fractal gestalt of the current epoch.
Being on my own and speaking after a prolonged period of solitary creation, I am closer in this piece to the philosophy and intended praxis of Automat Svět than the series will become once Woodstock gets involved from episode two. I have used dictations as part of a writing process for many years, long before I began to think of them in terms of podcasts or friends and colleagues began to suggest I consider the same. The process of speaking the above as if to oneself, in one's personal diary room1, might lead, some iterations down the line, into a more considered or more formally structured written piece, a more structured podcast, or even several of either or both of differing lengths and styles, none of which must necessarily be written by myself, hosted on this web application I am writing, or indeed be viewable on the internet (or i2p, or ZeroNet, Gopher, IPFS etc. etc. at all).
These are and will be interesting times. The point I make in this recording, I suppose, is we will now see, every day, what kind of a shape we are in. That on the large scale. At home, we will feel our own vulnerability, and, perhaps often more strongly, the vulnerability of the people closest to us. I talk about my parents, who are currently on holiday in Spain, which is one of the epicentres of the pandemic in Europe. I could equally have talked about my girlfriend's grandparents. I was planning to go with her grandfather to see the football or the hockey, or even the basketball here sometime soon. We had looked into dates. Even back what seems like a month ago but (I just looked it up) was just over two weeks ago on the eigth, we could have gone to Sparta vs Slavia, the major derby here in Prague, since people were cancelling their bookings for what would ordinarily invariably have been a sold out, often riled-up match. Grandad couldn't make it but I still, I think,2 had no notion that the season would be put on ice.3
I sometimes say history had been buffering. Since 1989. The techtonic plates buiding up pressure. For some time they had been good to give and we didn't heed the warnings. And so, like a streaming survice catching up before, in these times of constant future shock, they patched all that, we jump quickly through all of the plot and the sountrack that has been our due (we reap what we sow): just as I am due to launch it is nothing but plagues of locusts and criminals making big money on live bees and, most recently, face masks. This is our latest #trending present, and it came out of nowhere. So, there is lots to talk about. Here much of what I say is political because it relates to the state we find ourselves in, in terms of our society and in terms of our political apparatus and in terms of our systems of healthcare, social care, and support, all of which will be tested in these coming months.
Briefly (or not so briefly?) I talk about the possibility of a kind of open book club where people can upload recordings of their thoughts and reactions to various books under discussion. I do and I do not have a system for this in the web application I am currently building. I have been thinking over it for a long time and so it is not so much that I do not have a conception for it as that I am flexible and its final form - if it indeed will exist at all - will be dependent upon the contributors and collaborators who, through their own interest, may help it to take shape. The basic idea, I suppose, is of threads. While typically a conversation is chronological and linear, meaning that a discussion in a get together book group must consist in a series of statements, reactions, questions and observations which, though there may be run ons and moments of overlapping speech, will tend towards a style of conversational peloton, or an umbrella-led tour of the sights. The broader idea involves a more frictively (less frictionless) / more creative style of interacting with technology where people may make their own edits of non-copyright recordings of people from all over talking about a book, adding in their own comments at appropriate moments. The result could be a plurality of versions of people talking about a given book and even, for example, people reading out translations of people talking about a book on another continent, in another language, in order to stitch in their own observations. Others, of course, might simply listen to what people are saying about a particular chapter of a book as they read. There might be chapter-by-chapter recordings or podcasts, as well as book club-style discussions. For challenging books such as Liberty, Orientalism, or The Origins of Totalitarianism, there might be questions and answers with different stitched-together edits representing different interpretations and explorations of themes, different contributors. Another possibility is ESL (English as a second language) classes and materials relating to books that language learners might challenge themselves with if they had something to help them along. I have thought about doing classes over Jitsi Meet where I might meet up with a group of students who have tackled a book, perhaps from an independent publisher (or a film, or a series) on video link and record the audio of the discussion to stitch together into free podcasts. This may be something I return to elsewhere.
In this context it might be that this is one of the major digressions of the piece, though it does serve to illustrate that this is not quite a conventional - broadly Apple-friendly - podcast. It is a digression from what was intended perhaps as the real point which is that the project I was working on prior to the Coronavirus outbreak and which I am working on still concerns itself principally with such topics as are handled by Sir Larry Siedentop in Democracy in Europe, and Isaiah Berlin. Written pieces will certainly accompany these podcasts which might occasionally refer to them. If you are catching up after the time, you may see this. If you are an early adopter, you may influence it.
It is no secret (though many have since forgotten) that Danny Boyle's Olympics Opening Ceremony prominantly, and controversially, featured a celebration of the NHS. Though Jeremy Hunt has been said to have objected to this element of the show, it was George Osborne rather than Hunt [sic] who got booed at the Paralympics in 2012. The video I discuss, which I must import from Marginálie, will likely when I do so, exist here. In the meantime, you can find it here. It is, I think, damning. I mention that it is Kaiser Permanente that has been conducting the first round of tests on a Coronavirus vaccine; I came across that elsewhere, but there is a story about it here. I mention Michael Moore's Sicko, which is excerpted (implicitly using a public interest defence) in the above-mentioned video of Mr Hunt. In it there features a conversation about Kaiser Permanente, Mr Hunt's favoured blueprint for the future of the NHS, in which Richard Nixon expresses fondness for Mr Kaiser's private enterprise and a business model which John D. Ehrlichman summarises thus: "...the less care they give them, the more money they make". The conversation may be found on wikisource here.
I will attempt to put up regular recordings but then I am unlikely to share anything on the website until I have at least looked over the menu system and, ideally in terms of podcasts and the like, set up rss. That will likely take some time but, hey, time is what it appears I have right now over here and so it's certain that anybody who checks in now and again will see regular changes (and may, at this early stage, nudge both development and content in one direction or another by a constructive email or a keybase chat).
But I am getting ahead of myself as I am writing this several days after it was recorded and following the recording of the second episode which will indeed feature Woodstock, who enjoyed it and looks forward to recording again.
So, where are we at? Be responsible. Look after yourselves and one another. Keep in meaningful contact with the people you love and who love you. Stay safe.
Though noisy (trams, reconstruction, flatmates, flatmate's mothers), and echoey, I had recorded previous podcast candidates at my office, which I had barely got used to and was now getting used to not getting used to. On Monday, in the lounge planning the Elon-misreading-Taoism-like plethora of overambitious tasks I hoped to tick off that week, I had been making a hard fork autistic mindstate transition to the realities of Coronavirus: first world problems, but almost-overwhelming subjective problems. I then recorded this in the sofa in the kitchen at the same time as Woodstock was having a bath next door. Though she had to compromise by turning down her audiobook (a Czech translation of Sapkowski), I had asked kindly and offered tea and this in the event since speaking out a diary piece was grounding and therapeutic for myself as the bath and audiobook was relaxing for her, this was just one of the routines we had developed while living and working in the same space, which were forming in this intense, but rather surprisingly well-balanced week.↩
This may not be true. I remember talking about Coronavirus and that it could be hard to get tickets for major sports events, but it was still on the cusp at that point, a week into the Czech Republic's own history of battling the pandemic.↩
All of this makes it sound as if I'm into football. I am not. I have been to the football at Sparta once, as a favour for a friend. Otherwise we went to see Sparta at the hockey when they played in the old-school stadium I like in Holešovice. I've been to Bohemians a few times now and that's more my scene, but grandad is into the big teams and the Slavia stadium was built in 2010 and he has not seen it yet so he's been looking forward to taking a look.↩