• What the Internet Was Like in 2004

    I was perfectly primed for the 2004 Web 2.0 internet having been blogging in relative obscurity for a few years and with enough spare time to carve a niche on the nascent Birmingham blogging scene. It was a heady time that effectively birthed our current social media nightmare, so this is a useful snapshot of where it all began from someone who documented it at the time on the Read/Write/Web blog.

    Something significant was happening on the internet in early 2004, but we didn’t yet have a term for it. Blogging and wikis were encouraging ordinary people to write more on the web — you didn’t necessarily need to have technical skills anymore. At the same time, new websites like Flickr and del.icio.us (a web-based bookmarking service) were enabling people to share things online.

    (via)

  • For tech CEOs, the dystopia is the point

    A concise explanation of why these billionaire weirdos keep trying to build the torment nexus from the classic sci-fi novel Don’t Create the Torment Nexus.

    What’s the common denominator of Elon Musk’s cybertruck Blade Runner pitch/dystopia and Mark Zuckerberg’s metaverse pitch/dystopia? That the presumed user or owner of the product is the protagonist! If you buy a cybertruck, you’ll keep yourself safe from a world on the brink, from replicants, whatever. If you’re in the metaverse, you can be like the guy from Ready Player One; a hero going on all kinds of adventures even if the world at large is collapsing outside the VR helmet — it’s a useful dystopia for marketing what is otherwise an antisocial and cumbersome technology.

    (via)

  • Milky Way photographer of the year 2024

    By now you’ve probably seen a fair few long exposure panoramic shots of Milky Way galaxy stretching across some desert sky and might expect to see more of the same here. You will not see more of the same. Incredible stuff. (via)

  • Plugin Beachball Success

    While updating my art website I recalled seeing Jon Satrom’s “prepared desktop” performance in 2011, and it being quite the transformative moment for me as he takes a seemingly normal MacBook, tries to fix something on it, and descends into a surreal nightmare of glitch.

    This is a recording and documentation of a performance at a keynote event a year later and it’s so very good.

  • 20th Anniversary remasters of A Night At The Hip-Hopera and Yoshimi Battles The Hip-Hop Robots

    If you were downloading mp3s during the height of the mashup boom you’ll know these albums, perfectly merging hip-hop vocals with Queen and The Flaming Lips. I love these albums so much they’re where my brain goes whenever I hear the intro to the originals. Modern masterpieces that you’ll never hear on fucking Spotify.

    Pay-what-you-like.

    (Bandcamp)

  • The Lunacy of Artemis

    A deep-dive into the clusterfuck that appears to be NASA’s plans to put people on the moon again.

    But where Apollo 17 launched on a single rocket and cost $3.3 billion (in 2023 dollars), the first Artemis landing involves a dozen or two heavy rocket launches and costs so much that NASA refuses to give a figure. The single-use lander for the mission will be the heaviest spacecraft ever flown, and yet the mission’s scientific return — a small box of rocks — is less than what came home on Apollo 17. And the whole plan hinges on technologies that haven’t been invented yet becoming reliable and practical within the next eighteen months.

    The most jaw-dropping part was the earth-orbit refuelling plan which requires sending fuel up in up to 20 separate heavy rocket launches and storing it there (not easy) before transferring it to the actual lunar vehicle.

    I say this as a massive fan of Apollo, but we really shouldn’t be bothering with this stuff. Robots in space are doing a perfectly good job. See also Kelly and Zach Weinersmith’s magnificent teardown of the billionaires’ space dreams, A City on Mars.

    (idlewords.com)

  • It rained on the Sunday: a career interview with Roger Corman

    Loads of good stuff. I particularly liked this observation.

    Motion pictures are the most important contemporary art form, because they are the modern art form. For two reasons. One, they deal with movement – the motion picture camera opened up the possibilities of capturing movement, and I think it is the art form of modern times because of that. But also for another reason. A writer can sit down and write a novel or a play and a painter can buy the materials and paint, but a filmmaker needs a crew, and he needs to pay that crew, so it’s really part art form, part business. It’s a compromised art form, which is another symbol of our time.

    (bfi.org.uk) via

  • Ghost’s development of ActivityPub is going well.

    Our initial work has largely revolved around a combination of laying technical foundations, reading the ActivityPub spec, trying to implement the smallest possible thing, and spending a disproportionate amount of time asking deep, profound engineering questions such as “why in the literal fuck isn’t this working?”

    Expectations tempered, good luck chaps.

    (Ghost.org)

  • On Wishcycling

    A deep-dive into the origins and various interpretations of the term “wishcycling” on the Discard Studies website (which sound like something a Don DeLillo character would write for, but I digress).

    Initially, the term emerged from within the recycling and waste industry as a response to the influx of non-recyclables “contaminating” the recycling stream. In this sense, wishcycling is a charge levied against individuals and, as part of public education campaigns, intends to shift “poor” recycling habits. But increasingly, it is used as part of a structural critique by recyclers, one that shifts the focus onto infrastructure or the plastics industry, who have long promoted recycling as the primary solution to the mounting scale and complexity of contemporary waste. In this case, putting non-recyclables in the bin is likely an act carried out because it feels necessary, but also knowingly incommensurate with and potentially irrelevant to the problem of disposable plastics.

    The Atlantic article she mentions this being research for is The World Has One Big Chance to Fix Plastics.

    Via Andrew Curry’s equally enraging The rise and rise of the plastic bag which reminds us that there didn’t used to be quite so much of this shit in our lives and it didn’t happen by accident.

    Plastics were, effectively a product of World War 2, produced for the war effort. By the 1960s, a Swedish company had patented the single stamp plastic bag. Food buying habits changed, which created a market for a range of plastic packaging. Consumers had to be trained not to kill themselves with plastic bags, and then to treat them as disposable.

    Plenty of damning links there about the petrochemical industry’s lobying if you fancy getting really pissed off.

    (Discard Studies / Just Two Things)

  • Some mad genius has combined Beryl Cook and Tom of Finland in one exhibition.

    15 May–25 August, 2024 Studio Voltaire, London

    At Studio Voltaire, fleshly excesses are explored in pairings that underscore their works as playful and political. In pairing their work, including archival materials which have never been seen by the public, this two-person presentation will provide a significant refocus and reveal interconnected ideas surrounding gender, sexuality, taste and class.

    A nice overview of the show and the rationale behind it is in This Guardian piece gives a nice overview of the show and the reasoning behind bringing these two seemingly very different artists together. Turns out they have a lot in common.

  • Generative AI Is Totally Shameless. I Want to Be It.

    Paul Ford:

    AI is like having my very own shameless monster as a pet. […] It does everything badly and confidently. And I want to be it. I want to be that confident, that unembarrassed, that ridiculously sure of myself.

    (Wired) via

  • Utopian Realism, a speech by Bruce Sterling

    Transcript of a long speech by Sterling that starts of with Thomas Moore writing Utopia (a story I didn’t know and which is kinda fascinating) and then goes… places. The bit that really caught my eye, about halfway through, is about artist Alexander Calder who, per Sterling, made his own versions of everyday objects, such as forks, not because they were better but to understand them and make them his own.

    These may not quite look like utopian objects, because they’re so personal. But it’s probably what a handmade personal Utopia actually has to look like. You have to dig down to the original basic principles.

    via (Tumblr)

  • ‘I was in a kind of ecstatic freefall’: artist Miranda July on writing the book that could change your life

    Miranda July has a novel out this month and it looks really good.

    Talking to these older women, she started to consider time in a new way. As a young person she’d thought ahead to the family she might have, the fantasy, maybe, of being a star. Now at 50, “When I look ahead the same number of years, then it’s death at the end. You start setting your goals.” To my polite open mouth she says, gently, “I’m giving you the sense of the headspace that I was in when I was writing, which was, ‘Who do I want to be as a dying person?’” Here is, maybe, the hidden, spiritual element of the book. “So much of what you thought was you was maybe really other people. That starts to become more clear. And the weird part is,” she chuckles earnestly, “there can be discomfort, but I think there’s a kind of psychedelic joy to it, too.”

    (Guardian)

  • Grace Jones - Slave to the Rhythm (video)

    Curiously I never saw this music video in the 80s (probably for the same reason it’s age restricted on YouTube) and I have questions, so many questions. I’d love to read a detailed breakdown of all the references and semiotics and stuff. Per Wikipedia:

    The accompanying music video largely consists of previously seen footage, using excerpts from Jones' previously released music videos, “My Jamaican Guy” and “Living My Life”, as well as the live concert performance video A One Man Show. Included are also still pictures of some of the singer’s most iconic looks and the Citroën CX TV advertisement. No new footage of Jones herself was filmed for the video.

    But what does it all mean?

    (YouTube)

  • R.I.P. Steve Albini

    Fuck.

    (The Quietus)

  • No one buys books

    A fantastically detailed breakdown of the batshit economic reality of the book publishing trade (English language, at least) using testimony from the monopolies trial when Penguin Random House tried to buy Simon & Schuster.

    I think I can sum up what I’ve learned like this: The Big Five publishing houses spend most of their money on book advances for big celebrities like Britney Spears and franchise authors like James Patterson and this is the bulk of their business. They also sell a lot of Bibles, repeat best sellers like Lord of the Rings, and children’s books like The Very Hungry Caterpillar. These two market categories (celebrity books and repeat bestsellers from the backlist) make up the entirety of the publishing industry and even fund their vanity project: publishing all the rest of the books we think about when we think about book publishing (which make no money at all and typically sell less than 1,000 copies).

    The best thing is, most of this was true in the 1990s when I was in bookselling and was probably always the case, though there’s a load of new post-Amazon stuff of course.

    I’m fairly convinced the book trade is an example of collective magic, where we’ve willed something into existence that really shouldn’t survive so that people can write books that no-one will read.

    (The Elysian)

  • Language of flowers

    Filed under “stuff I never knew I never knew”.

    Floriography (language of flowers) is a means of cryptological communication through the use or arrangement of flowers. […] Specific floral arrangements were used to send a coded message to the recipient, allowing the sender to express feelings of romance and courtship which could not be spoken aloud in Victorian society. Armed with floral dictionaries, Victorians often exchanged small “talking bouquets” or “word poesy” which could be worn or carried as a fashion accessory.

    (Wikipedia)

  • ‘The courgettes were so good last year, I got a tattoo of one’: life on a Birmingham allotment

    Lovely bunch of interviews with and photos of people on an allotment down the road from mine.

    (Guardian)

  • RIP Trina Robbins (tcj.com)

    One of the key figures in western comics, from the feminist counterculture underground to the modern day, Trina was the GOAT and no mistake. Her story is at times remarkable and she was also pretty fucking cool. Fantagraphics published her autobiography a few years back with THE most awesome cover.

  • All issues of Escape Magazine are on the Internet Archive (archive.org)

    This is probably the most important 1980s British comics anthology (for me, anyway). I have most of the physical issues and was pondering scanning them for posterity, and now I don’t have to. Yay!

    via LMG