Had almost a two week blogging hiatus, despite being very active all over social media – some idiot called Trump/Brexit/Corbyn? And indeed reading books as well as on-line reads, but all very fragmented with no effort into linking and synthesising. It’s fixing the idiocy – received wisdom – that really interests me.

Still can’t find the cross-over between Eco and Child that prompted my previous post, and still have a handful of unfinished and new reads lying around. No longer motivated to try to remember it now.

I was rude to call it drivel, but time to draw a line under Child’s Reacher I reckon, and put it down to a matter of taste.

Martin is right, Child is clever when it comes to crafting his series of stories to a formula that sells in the hundreds of millions. I finished Make Me and maybe a third of Reacher Said Nothing (The Making of Make Me) and was finding every impression re-inforced. Signposted, predictable and meta-predictable. Even without any pre-determined schema or plot for each story, there is a process and a stock of devices to draw on as well as a production time-table. Campbell was maybe right, there are only so many stories to be written, and only a sub-set of those featuring the loner Robin Hood super-anti(?)hero-of-few-words. If there are any deeper stories and messages in the choices of subject matter in each plot I didn’t see them. Or I didn’t see any deeper than the obvious – even the obviously mis-directed twists – but the sheer repetition, including the treatment of the female characters, I found mind-numbing. The only saving grace for me has been the shared experience of Americana and smoky bars.

Clever, but. Line drawn.

Good news is Andy Martin continues to produce intelligent writing.

My focus for a while is going to shift back to the technology.  So many content threads seem to be converging on the “colonisation of the mind” by what passes for received wisdom, that it’s almost becoming a no brainer – albeit a no-brainer without the words to articulate. What I really need to get sorted is the book-marking and cross-linking, so that all the convergences can be collated and synthesised without the labour-intensive reliance on memory.

Some combination of PinBoard and IFTTT maybe, to capture all tagged thoughts, wherever they arise in social and mainstream media, on or off line, and package them according to tagging events in WordPress and/or Medium posts? At least then I can choose which such Index Cards I turn into a piece of writing with a point to it, without forgetting those that simply remain on-file-with-archived-links.

My biggest memory failure, is the instantaneous recognition of an important or significant link, with strong circumstantial recall of the linked memory, but no memory of the linking content itself. A particular problem for me, where I hold a world-view that all significant value-add – all reality in fact – is in the dynamic connections! Our conventional world of objects (and subjects) being merely meta or modelled orthogonal to this actual reality.

And, Les Mis is next on my Great Books reading list.

I may be some time.

I’m mid-reading on several avenues at once right now.

After having read the first two of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher collection, Killing Floor (1997) and Die Trying (1998), I went on to start Umberto Eco’s The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana (2004) I need an intellectual fix after Child’s drivel. Well crafted drivel, selling 100,000,000 copies and counting, but so formulaic: the very opposite of thrilling or entertaining, as in annoyingly repetitive and transparently signposted. Not a genre that appeals to me, written or cinematic, without the premise that Andy Martin’s Reacher Said Nothing (2015) is not only by an author I admire, but is also topping recommended must-read lists.

Anyway, reminded that the first two were a a set of three we’d bought, I paused on Eco to read Child’s third Tripwire. Sadly, no respite, but at least I’d done my duty in prepartion for Make Me (2015) and Reacher Said Nothing (The Making of Make Me)(2015) by now on order.

Finishing Tripwire, the order hadn’t yet arrived, so I went back to Mysterious Flame again. But now it has, so I’m reading Child again. So help me, Make Me, 28 years after the first three, Child still has doors “sucked” open and closed! Apart from forensic curiosity, as in a car crash, say, I can’t imagine why I’d pick up another Lee Child. Ever.

Martin’s interest is of course forensic, literary criticism aimed at the creative process, rather than the content. Mostly Reacher says nothing, but then neither really does Child so far as I can tell. But, how exactly does one create fluff that sells in such mind-boggling quantities? I guess every would-be writer wants to know that kinda secret <cough>.

However the only reason for making this post – being even more rude about Child is clearly a mean and pointless quest – is because I stumbled acros a 2015 Child sentence that said pretty much exactly the same as Eco in 2004!

And I can’t for the life of me remember what it was. Knowing you know something subjectively even though you can’t remember what it is objectively, is Eco’s Mysterious Flame of course.

A running theme throughout Psybertron is the reality of conscious mind and its consequences in the real world. That’s partly because explantory understanding of our understanding and of our decision-making is my main research focus and partly because – probably not coincidentally – it’s also a prime (but not the only) example where politicised scientific dogma denies reality and actually prejudices our understanding. Focussing too narrowly on “our” consciousness also risks excluding any panpsychic possibilities, monist or dualist, where our brains / minds – and those of sentient creatures generally – may be more like transducers of consciousness rather than exclusive sources.

Like any rational research, understanding a thing is often best achieved by altering selected parameters of our object of interest, and observing the consequences. And in order to maximise interpretability of any results, wherever possible, alteration of parameters should be done in the most controlled ways, minimising the numbers of variables in play at any one time.

There are two well established schools of investigation. One investigating natural and accidental mental (psychological and physical) “abnormalities” another investigating chemical induced changes of state. Evaluating the abnormal tells us a lot about the normal.

My main objective here – as someone avoiding and not condoning illegal drug use – is to evaluate secondary research, and to promote legalisation supporting valuable research and safe use. In preparation for a survey of the story so far, below are over 15 years of links within Psybertron (Hat tip to Andy Dean for asking the question):

[Altered Chemical StatesPeyote, Ayahuasca / Hoasca, DMT Tea, LSD, MescalinePsilocybin, psychedelics generally, Sue BlackmoreJames Austin.]

[Altered Psycho-Physical StatesMcGilchrist , Schwarz & Begley, Sacks, Ramchandran, DamasioZeman, and many more with Phineas Gage as the archetypal meme, the over-exposed pin-up of all researchers in this field.]

[Focus groupsStephen Reid’s Psychedelic Society, and the Agora Critical Thinking Consciousness group.]

[Psycho-Philosophical positions – Zen et al – also important, but not covered here.]

More recent:

Non-addictive drug use. https://theconversation.com/many-people-use-drugs-but-heres-why-most-dont-become-addicts-35504

Microdosing. https://medium.com/mother-jones/the-case-for-taking-a-very-little-bit-of-lsd-every-day-d74ebb454863#.8jvzcs58f

Jet Lag Melatoninhttps://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/jan/30/is-it-safe-to-use-melatonin-for-jet-lag-insomnia

Link-rot used to be a big problem for early web-loggers, but since everyone (inc mainstream media) started used standard blogging and micro-blogging CMS and storage of content became practically free, most web content sticks once it’s posted. Permalinks usually are. Problems do still arise:

Having reviewed / recommended Andy Martin’s writing over the years, my blog posts include several links to the writing on his “Ink” blog – I pulled some of the key posts together in my previous post, but sadly some links to specific posts on Andy Martin Ink are broken:

This used to be a link to his brief personal memoir on how he came to be writing Camus vs Sartre (also published in The Independent review and appearing as a preface to his book).

This used to be a link to his promotional film for Modern and Mediaeval Languages at Cambridge.

This used to be a link to his film “Surfing in New York”.

This used to be a link to his article on how he came to be surfing in New York.

This used to link to independent article on how the fiction writer is king and how the crime-thriller genre is contributing to our downfall. (Very important story – closely related to why I find the Child-Reacher oevre “truly awful” however cleverly cafted to be “popular”. Pure memetics – popular does not equal good. There may be meta-qualities to be appreciated, so long as understood they are not literally equivalent to explicit reality. Populism is tyranny, not free democracy. Escapism has its value, but not as a model of reality.)

Pity. I wonder if alternative links exist to the same content? Is everything Andy Martin’s ever written now behind The Independent paywall?

Still works – this is a piece on Autism – beyond understanding.]

I’ve been a fan of Andy Martin’s writing for several years. I also loved his little advertising film recruiting for his home department of modern languages at Cambridge.

Here a selection of previous reviews: [Camus / Sartre Fight Club] [Surfing 9/11 USA] [No Students Were Harmed] [Cosmic Man] [Logic as Autism] [And more …]

However, I wasn’t drawn to his more recent Lee Child project. Interviewing and writing articles around Child’s writing and his Jack Reacher character. Child is prolific with Reacher, and a lot more besides apparently. Martin’s Child project culminated in Reacher Said Nothing.

By rights, given my taste for Martin’s writing, I should be reading Nothing, but as I noted on Twitter a month or so ago, I’d never read any Child, certainly not any Reacher. Obviously I’m aware of Reacher in general through the crash-bang-wallop man-of-few-words genre of films he’s spawned, but not the kind of films I go out of my way to watch. May have seen the odd one on TV. There was a big Child shaped hole in my reading which meant I probably couldn’t appreciate Martin’s latest?

So, for 2017 I’ve been reading Child’s Reacher oevre, starting with his first two; Killing Floor and Die Trying. Having lived in the US myself, the cultural and geographical references amuse, particularly Die Trying set in far north-west Montana locations same as Zen and the Art, same way as Neil Gaiman’s American Gods also does in some of the same locations as Killing Floor. But for the characters, the ballistics and the anti-hero-doesn’t-get-the-girl “thriller” plot lines, truly awful. Worse than I’d feared (*).

OK, so the Raymond Chandler-esque machine-gun narrative of short sharp phrasing I can see has a certain charm and interest maybe for a language scholar. But is there a level of irony I’m not seeing? A joke I’m not in on?

So my quandary is, why would I read Martin’s Reacher Said Nothing, and is there any other Child I should be reading?


[Post Note: Added links to previous Andy Martin reviews, and …

(*) I say worse than I’d feared. Clearly a phenomenon to succeed over dozens of books, and clever to craft so many stories to a winning formula. But, even having read only the first two, alarming how many formulaic plot and narrative devices are already repeated. The whole man-of-few-words device, an update of the man-with-no-name, leaves endless options for filling out the backstory as hooks for new themes in later pieces. Clever as a craft, but is it not too transparently obvious, a thriller with neon sign-posts?]

[Post Note: As an anlytical piece on the best-seller creative process I see Martin specifically follows Child’s writing of “Make Me”. Oh my god, does that mean I need to read another before embarking on “Reacher Said Nothing”. I’m beginning to see literary criticism of the popularly successful process, not (necessarily) concerned with other qualities of the literary content. Fair enough. Catching-up on Martin’s blog, I see he’s been covering a lot of the Nordic-Noir genre too. Again several very successful strains of the genre have resulted – our house is full of Nesbo, Adler-Olsson and the rest – but has it not all been repetition to the point of boring cliche since the original “Killing”?]

Too Blue For Logic

My axioms were so clean-hewn,

The joins of ‘thus’ and ‘therefore’ neat

But, I admit

Life would not fit

Between straight lines

And all the cornflowers said was ‘blue,’

All summer long, so blue.

So when the sea came in and with one wave

Threatened to wash my edifice away –

I let it.

[Marianne Jones]


[First discovered and posted back in 2002, but oft quoted since.]


Post-Iraq and Afghanistan, with regime-change and support for Arab-spring events, the west and neighbouring governments made plenty of mistakes in the actions they actually chose to take and in how far they thought-through the immediate consequences and the longer-term stabilisation of Middle-East countries. Not to mention the running sore of the unfinished business in Israel-Palestine.

Which isn’t to say they / we were wrong to act, even to “go to war”, with good intentions for populations repressed by or at risk from dictators and ideologues. The complexity is always in the many parties with their own opportunistic agendas and scores to settle, and in the freely fragmented hearts and minds of our own populations that need to be brought along with any such actions and sustained attention to consequences. Even without traditional “imperial” aims, aspirations and the arrogance of knowing what’s best for johnny-foreigner, we all have many interests tied-up in these situations.

Crass with hindsight to be keeping score of numbers (*) of bombs and countries involved – human casualties and cultural damage to “civilisation” for sure – but let’s not falsely objectify what is far more complex and complicated. Crass too to simply blame and vilify our individual leaders, with hindsight or even with I told-you-so slings and arrows of contemporary stop-the-war protestation.

One reason we need institutions like UN, NATO and EU to give us follow-through on policy and initiatives beyond single-national government cycles. Sure these institutions ain’t perfect, even highly flawed, in need of improvement, refreshment and re-commitment to such improvement and their longer term aims as well as learning from evident mistakes. But a rose by any other name would be as thorny.


[(*) Post Note – Taleb, already merciless against Pinker’s “Better Angels”, here picking-up how misleading it is to simply count the wrong things, the things that might be easy to count.

(Einstein “Not everything that counts can be counted.”)]

Just a holding post of related links:

Recurring theme of mine – very smart, highly rational people converting to christian religion, even catholicism, as they grow older and wiser. Triple-first C S Lewis, Marshall McLuhan, inklings etc.

This piece on losing faith in experts includes a reference to C S Lewis Screwtape Letters. (Hat tip to @Contronline) Also Taleb’s IYI – semi-serious Intellectual Yet Idiot recurring theme.

Recent “Great Lives” on C S Lewis proposed by Suzannah Lipscomb (@sixteenthCgirl). Like Matthew Parris, I was always turned off by Lewis (and Tolkien) obviously allegorical yet sneakily preachy agenda, despite obvious clever qualities.