New music made with AI tools: Brian, the Angel of History EP

Fragment of a Queen's Face

Fragment of a Queen's Face, ca. 1353–1336 B.C., reign of Akhenaten

As longtime subscribers know, I don’t generally send these newsletters out so frequently. An exception: things are happening.

This will seem like a compact edition, but that’s a cruel illusion, because each of its modules is spring-loaded. One of them is an entire other newsletter.


I’ve produced a short piece of music and written about its origins, which are: convoluted. I’m now inviting you to make a small contribution to what I am calling “an integration loop.”

It is my hope that this story of a melody’s journey across decades will be interesting to you, and that the opportunity to—what? sing in a strange distributed choir? will seem appealing in this isolated moment.

Behind everything I’ve ever written, probably everything I’ve ever made, there’s a feeling that I try and fail to capture. I do my best, always… but the essence remains elusive. This is no exception.

Please do listen, and please do sing along.

Fragment of a Queen's Face, another view

Fragment of a Queen's Face (another view), ca. 1353–1336 B.C., reign of Akhenaten


I have begun in earnest the project of developing a video game, which I could also call “an inventive e-book,” except that I am not. This is a long-simmering, multiply-thwarted project that I have now placed on the front right burner. I don’t know about your stovetop, but my front right burner is the only one that will actually boil water.

In a pop-up newsletter, I will chronicle the (accelerated) process of writing, programming, and releasing this game. By the standards of video games, it is extraordinarily simple. By the standards of video games programmed by me, it is a significant challenge.

I’m sure other subjects will sneak into this newsletter, too.

It will run for a few months. If you want to receive it, you must visit the link below and sign up. I won’t subscribe anyone automatically; wouldn’t dream of it.

You can find the newsletter here.

There are many members of the Society of the Double Dagger for whom this will be instantly and naturally interesting. If you are NOT among them, I want to tell you that I intend both this game and my diary of its development to be accessible and appealing even to readers who “don’t play video games”—and even, in fact, to readers who find them alien and/or intimidating.

Maybe you’d just like to receive an email every Sunday.

Maybe that’s enough.


Everyone subscribed to this newsletter has read my novel Sourdough, right? If not, let me tell you, with perfect equanimity: it is the novel you want to read right now. Order it from the Raven Book Store in Lawrence, Kansas. They’ll mail you a copy for a dollar. That’s the definition of civilization.

It’s now possible to read my short story “My Father the Druid, My Mother the Tree” online. It was previously available only as a physical zine mailed to about a thousand people last year.

This one means a lot to me.

It takes place in the same universe as my story “The Sleep Consultant”; see if you can spot the connection.

I received a few reports of last month’s newsletter getting caught in spam filters. If you missed it, you can find a web version here.

Fragmentary Head of a King

Fragmentary Head of a King, ca. 1400–1390 B.C., reign of Thutmose IV

A few links, because, of course:

My friend Dan Bouk, who is a historian of, among other things, the U.S. census, offers this terrific (and still-growing) curriculum:

[T]he point of this curriculum is to teach about the census at every grade level, while also encouraging students (who are working from computers in many cases) to make sure an adult in their household has filled out the census online.

I really highly recommend Joanne McNeil’s book Lurking, which I’ve written about before. My inbox contains a distinct sedimentary layer of emails-to-self, their contents like:

Lurking page 83
A Friendster memory
The weird thrill of it
So well written

Why did I send that to myself? I think I imagined I would transcribe the passage, post it somewhere. It’s a shame—a tragedy, maybe—that sharing a sublime section from a book isn’t, in 2020, a seamless action. Please, heed the preponderence of my emails-to-self: Lurking is very special.

Page 83 in particular.

I revisited this piece the other day, my memoir of a formative online experience, edited by Ross Andersen during his time at Aeon, and I remembered, or realized, it’s one of my favorite things I’ve ever written; I think I got as close to actually capturing the feeling as I ever have. The ballad of the broken space station. Gosh.

Have you encountered 100 gecs? It’s unclear at this point whether they are the last gasp of the 2010s or a premonition of the 2020s. Either way: wow.

The cutting edge of technical knit manufacturing. An ongoing reminder: things are made by people in places.

Months ago, I devoured Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative? in a single evening, but/and didn’t learn until recently that its author, Mark Fisher, had killed himself in 2017. A haunted feeling. It’s a very good book.

The Shop of the Bookdealer Pieter Meijer Warnars on the Vijgendam in Amsterdam, Johannes Jelgerhuis, 1820. Come on!!

A reader suggested that this key unlocks the hidden headquarters of the Society of the Double Dagger and: that reader is obviously correct.

“Good news team. I’ve been selected to be a Grave Gardener.”

In a newsletter last year, I wrote:

On the internet, if you stop speaking: you disappear. And, by corollary: on the internet, you only notice the people who are speaking nonstop.

I might have been thinking of Gavin Craig’s essay “On Silence”:

It is good to choose to be silent. It is good sometimes to speak. It is not easy. It is troublesome. It is difficult to be still.

This is a huge unsolved problem on the internet, in the digital public sphere: how to represent, and respect, silence.

Joanne McNeil again:

In this book, I use the word “lurking” only in a positive context. Lurking is listening and witnessing on the internet, rather than opining and capturing the attention of others.

If you haven’t already ordered from INNA, my neighborhood jam factory, I don’t even know what to tell you. When it’s September and you’re eating a flavorless slurry that cries out for mulberry improvement, you’ll wish you’d been wiser in April.

It’s possible the only thing that will get us through this is Elisabeth Nicula and her scrub jay friend:

I am on the side of this bird who walks all over me, and if you are reading this I’m on your side too.

Fragmentary Head of a King, another view

Fragmentary Head of a King (another view), ca. 1400–1390 B.C., reign of Thutmose IV

It was for my pop-up 2019 newsletter that I first engaged with public domain museum archives and, I have to say, it’s been such a pleasure, such a gift, to have a reason to go delving into the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Cleveland Museum of Art, a dozen others. I don’t know if it’s possible to have the same experience just idly browsing; it really matters to be looking for something specific: an image that fits, an image that speaks.

1400 B.C., the fragments above were made in.

There’s a lot of history behind us, and a lot of history ahead.

As you might have heard, the Federal Reserve recently released one (1) emergency Churchill quote to every American writer, a significant injection of liquidity and bombast. I will use mine immediately:

Now, this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.

From Oakland,


Really, the main thing to do here is sign up for my email newsletter. I try to make it feel like a note from a friend, and it’s easy to unsubscribe. Plus, there are occasionally … S E C R E T S