oh no!! fite!! oh no!!

For more than 30 years, as a writer and broadcaster, teacher and editor, my beat has been the small-scale exploration of particular points of friction, where rival clusters or types of expertise or connoisseurship clash: cultural, political, technological; science or pop or the avant-garde. Often these are just zero-sum confrontation in which one side merely demolishes or devours the other, and the situation resets. I’m watching for the break-out points, the set-ups when these encounters or contests become something more — and in the machineries that enable these break-outs, which are (as some would say) dialectical expansions or transformations.


One of these machineries was the music magazine culture I grew up with; another was the message-board culture as it seemed to be emerging in the early 2000s (ilx as was), or anyway the corner of it I landed up in. These two examples emerged more or less by chance, and neither sustained themselves. Are such events only ever serendipity, or can they be pre-planned, conjured into existence and maintained? And what’s the price of this maintenance? Conflict managed can become a suffocation, conflict unbridled a pile-on…

This is what I’m nibbling away at on these pages: how we escape the structures that trap us, and what we risk losing when we do. By trade I’m a meticulous fact-checker, strong on history, with years of experience repairing functional prose. But by temperament I’m drawn to the impertinent code-shifting barbarians, because unseemly collisions are (now and then) portals to the break-out. Here’s a careful long-form discussion of what this might mean, and over there's the seven-point listicle.


  • 1: Fear of curiosity is always a tell
  • 2: Knowledge is more process than conclusion, a toolbag not a larder
  • 3: Thought is quick, change slow, regaining trust slower still
  • 4: Distance some time ago stopped being a protection
  • 5: With expertise comes conflict
  • 6: It’s politics all the way down
  • 7: Every limit faces two ways