Bruce Sterling’s essay on the New Aesthetic. This is an interesting read, even if it did nothing to counter my ambivalent feelings towards the New Aesthetic. On one hand, I like it, the idea. Even if the ‘official’ blog — which I follow — feels a lot more random than a ‘movement’ should (but perhaps I’m mistaken in expecting something like a ‘movement’). I like to think that at last we figured out an aesthetic for the early twenty-first century, that it is our generation’s Futurism, this time centered in CCTV-obsessed Britain rather than in automobile-obsessed Italy. On the other hand though, I may also believe the New Aesthetic is just a bandwagon, a neatly packaged brand for journalists and lazy curators and critics. Consider John Whitney. BEFLIX. The demoscene. The comparatively long history of Glitch art. Software art. Consider Thomas Ruff’s eroded JPEGs touring the world’s art museums (museums!). Cory Archangel’s tweets about 1990s ‘New Aesthetics’. From this perspective, the New Aesthetic seems like a brand invented by the same kind of savvy people who came up with concepts such as ‘creative industries’ and made a killing living off artists and craftspersons. But then again, most art ‘movements’ didn’t ever exist as such. ¶
Journalist Alexis Madrigal calls for a post-Facebook future (mind you, what the article is really about is the increasingly diminished returns of social and mobile software). I’m all for new things, but the current situation was expected after the initial push to develop applications that leverage ubiquous broadband internet and mobile hardware with built-in sensors (mainly camera and location/GPS) pretty much consolidated. I think that now is time to take a deep breath and start figuring out what happened, what worked and why, and what it means. Bring in the academics. ¶
One Terabyte of Kilobyte Age. The authors, Olia and Dagan, blog interesting stuff found in the Geocities torrent rescued by Archive Team. Funny I can’t even remember what was my old Geocities address. ¶
PHP: a fractal of bad design is a very thorough critique of everything that is wrong with the programming language. However, I don’t believe it is constructive to attack PHP developers (such as your truly) as an horde of illiterate, masochistic fools that refuse to use proper tools. Such attacks grossly underestimate the pull of PHP’s being a good enough language for web development — incredibly easy (eg. XAMPP) to get into, well documented, and widely supported by cheap web hosting providers. It’s flawed (eg. I must reemphasize the ‘well documented’ aspect of PHP’s success, given how unintuitive its function names are sometimes) but allows me to do a quick ‘sketch’ of a webpage, hit ‘refresh’ and (often enough) voilá!, it works. And it is this ‘sketching’ (a word I’m borrowing from Processing) aspect that I find vital. To go with the author’s carpenting analogies, most people are building small houses — maybe a shed, maybe a greenhouse to keep the flowers. They don’t need complicated ‘scaffolding’ like in Ruby or Python frameworks. They just need to be able to sketch. ¶
Wired’s piece on deciphering Stuxnet, a real-life spy technothriller. ¶
The Blackmagic Cinema Camera. That Canon 5D Mark III is so last year. ¶
An economist’s Six Rules for Dining Out. Some of his tips seem pretty universal: seemingly strange dishes at fancy restaurants must exist for a reason and are probably quite good; listening to lots of conversation means people are waiting a lot more than eating (so loud restaurants should be skipped); and dining establishments in very good locations (eg. with lots of tourists) afford to be bad and expensive, and should often be avoided. ¶
The Brain on Love: what happens. ¶
Procrastiworking: is what I do. As for the “creative success” part, the jury’s still out. ¶
The World’s Longest Invoice. I’d have a couple of submissions for the Portuguese version. Just saying. ¶
Questions No One Knows the Answers to, by Chris Anderson and Andrew Park at TED Education, which seems like an interesting video education resource in the Khan Academy mold, even if the TED brand is getting a bit old (here’s one proof).
This day in 1974 a military coup ended the fascist regime that had dominated Portugal for forty-eight years — the longest duration of a 20th century far-right government anywhere in Europe. The ‘Carnation Revolution’ and the period that followed went on with admirable restraint, given the stakes involved and the Cold War context. Thirty-eight years later, in the face of rampant corruption and economic inequality, some argue the April 25th fell short of its aims (eg. reforming the judicial system or preventing private monopolies) and is still a work in progress. The revolution day’s frontpage in the image proudly states “this newspaper didn’t go through any censorship commitee”, while today press freedom quite often caves to the subtler censorship of corporate pressures. But despite all that, today is a day of celebration.
Update 26/04: It didn’t last. Showing that ‘freedom’ and ‘popular initiative’ are only tolerated in their dedicated national holiday, city police again evicted Es.col.a early this morning. And it seems that this time the Mayor’s office ordered the destruction of the building’s plumbing and facilities, furthering the destruction of public property inflicted by those who were elected to protect public interests. But I guess nothing can stand in the way of dogma, so scorched earth it is.
Recommended Tumblr: It’s Full of Stars.
“Occupy Es.col.a — You Can’t Evict an Idea” by Gui Castro Felga.
Today is a bad day to be a citizen of Porto. Heavily armed police forces forcefully evicted Es.col.a (‘School’), a previously abandoned and derelict midtown elementary school that for the last year has been successfully occupied and served as an impromptu community center for the Fontinha neighbourhood, in an old and impoverished part of Porto. Truth be told, I only visited once, and ended up spending a pleasant afternoon in the schoolyard, helping with the sorting and testing of old computers that had been donated, so that a public computer center could be set up. I did enjoy thinking such a thing could exist and work out.
City officials, of course, always maintained such an occupation was illegal, even going as far as making the absurd claim the school was “private City property”. In fact, the legality of the occupation is highly contentious, as it is public property (so it’s not the same as occupying one’s house, at all), and what’s intolerable is City Hall’s claim, which is, in my humble opinion, such a serious misinterpretation of what ‘City property’ means that it should be grounds for immediate resignation (if our beancounter of a president Rui Rio and their lot had any shame, that is). The truth is, City Hall — for eleven years in the hands of right-wing conservatives — just can’t allow a successful community occupation to exist. They just couldn’t handle the recent good press about Es.col.a, as the whole concept of communities making stuff is against the Coalition’s political dogma. They’ll rather leave the School unoccupied and falling to pieces for decades — something certainy speeded up by today’s wanton destruction perpertrated by the police and city firemen (a flourish of Farenheit 451 WTF-ness). Or perhaps they’ll open it once a year, allowing Time Out Magazine or some other brand to throw a lavish party there without having to clean up afterwards — and for that, there will be talk of ‘innovation’ and ‘entrepeneurship’, the same vocabulary so throughly denied whenever poorer people are in charge.
In a decent democracy, City Hall, Police and Fire Brigade officials would resign or be impeached because of their willing destruction of public property. In a liberal kleptocracy, empoverished people who see their safety nets sacrificed every day in the altars of Free Market just try to set themselves on fire.
2012-04-15 17.24.58 Apr 15th
2012-04-15 17.31.08 Apr 15th
2012-04-15 17.32.06 Apr 15th
2012-04-15 17.28.15 Apr 15th
This is probably one the most hipsterish things I've ever done: experimenting with a grey market macro lens to take pictures of positive film positioned on top of a tablet, while a video of clouds looped beneath. I briefly considered passing these images through Pixlr-o-matic, but I judged that to be too dangerous.
All to show you the crazy new image set layouts.
The Rise of the Privileged Poor. It’s easy to dismiss some guy on TV complaining about being poor because he lives on a PhD grant as a pretentious, insensitive ignoramus (the powers know well who to pick to be on the news). Still, one can’t ignore the mental, emotional toll of perceived poverty — people get sick, shy away from relationships, postpone raising a family, in a word: people are hurting. Some should mind their complaints and how they might come across to others (there are certainly some to whom the ‘privileged poor’ sound as monstrous as the ultra-rich complaining about infinitesimal amounts of tax), but that doesn’t mean many complaints are any less real or legitimate. Those who tell the poor (either the ‘privileged’ with their Media Studies degrees, or the proletarian with family histories of unemployment and industrial decay) that they did this to themselves via lack of willpower and poor life choices (eg. ‘following their dreams’) are either deluded into thinking they actually achieved something for themselves alone, or are mechanized monsters who fail to appreciate their luck. ¶
Peter Norvig on learning to program — in ten years. Expertise takes time, which is why it is unfortunate that time to develop expertise is so thoroughly unprotected in academia here (the mission of which should be precisely the opposite), as grad students often must go from zero to SWOT analyses and business plans in a semester. Everybody wants geniuses, nobody wants to ‘grow’ them, and then they’ll blame you for not being one (see above). ¶
A transcript of a talk in which Clay Shirky explains why groups are their own worst enemies. Worth a read as Shirky deftly demonstrates groups can’t survive long without a set of regulations and moderation. ¶
A Slate article about the sudden internet-disappearance of the programmer just known as _why. After the article mentions _why’s handle might be an Ayn Rand reference, it’s tempting to speculate his exile was an attempt to act the libertarian fantasy of letting the world going to hell after the ‘geniuses’ leave (or a critique thereof, I’d rather think). The results couldn’t have been more endearing, though: the Ruby developers’ community is fine, and _why’s multiple projects have been restored, debugged and made better. (Despite only having a very rudimentary knowledge of Ruby, I’ve recommended _why’s whimsical work here in the past, eg. Shoes, which seems like a good and fun GUI toolkit to dive into). ¶
David Bordwell on ‘Pandora’s digital box’ and the sobering reality of digital preservation. ¶
London’s Overthrow by China Miéville. A sprawling essay about the London zeitgeist, and the ongoing apocalypse of its citizens not being able to afford it. Parts of the essay can surely be applied to other cities. ¶
High-definition video files of stock 35mm footage. Might come very handy for some projects. ¶