Umberto Eco: on the way imperfect and ramshackle texts build cults, whilst perfection does not. Also, Casablanca and Westerns. And: a brilliant first sentence.
Cracking episode of EmbeddedFM, speaking to Amanda Wozniak. Although the topic is nominally embedded electronics, it turns into a wonderfully shrewd discussion of self-care and career-care: how to acknowledge and recognise your desires but also the things that will lead you to burnout (be it too much work, or too _intense_ work. I found so much to think on in this, highly recommended even if it's not your usual jam.
"The two points I want to focus on here are about Ricky’s initial attitude about this warehouse idea and about the fact that he made this prototype ‘to surprise me’
Earlier I said that Ricky and Nate were sick of hearing about this idea. That was an understatement. In reality they openly mocked it. They had a running joke that I should call it ‘Clown Warehouse’ and make all the things in it clown paraphernalia. I wasn’t particularly hurt by this. It was good banter. It’s kind of how we talk about game ideas a lot of the time.
But then Ricky made a prototype to surprise me. (Not to mention spending months taking it from a prototype to a finished game.) And my point is that this is how friendships work. These expressions of good natured antagonism and affection, Winding someone up one day and giving them a nice surprise another, are the hallmarks of real friendship.
If you make games and your game development process isn’t like this you are doing it wrong. In my opinion."
This whole article from Dick Hogg, on making Wilmot's Warehouse, is a delight. On making parts and working out what a game is later; on friendship; on playtesting; on games with endings. Just great.
I always have time for people writing about ZZT. (Anna Anthropy's book on it is cracking). I have fond memories, both of Sweeney's own 'worlds' as well as the awful things I made.
"…in my personal life: to do things without making them a project in themselves. To have some rubbery-ness, greater fluidity, create space for criticism that isn’t going to kill whatever it is I am trying to do. To have more ‘unoptimisable’ time. To be physically engaged and not wrapped and/or rapt in my own head. To be shit at some things. To be present." This is good, from Greg; I ache for some of those feelings.
This is handy: notably, the way to wire up 14/16-pin USB-C parts as USB 2.0 devices, which is, let's face it, what I want 99% of the time.
07 October 2019
Last night I came across a Lime e-bike, dead on its side in a disabled car-parking space. I set about rescuing it, thinking that its conventional home, annoyingly littering the pavement, would be less bad.
As soon as I picked it up it started beeping, loudly. Then a computery woman’s voice began saying, “Please unlock me to ride me or I’ll call the police!”
I set the bike upright on its stand but the beeping and the verbal warning repeatedly alternated. I continued walking home, quickly, while the once quiet street was filled with the alarming noise, which slowly faded as I turned a corner. Maybe it’s still going.
Somewhere deep at the intersection of “everything is tech” (tech, the all-consuming industry, rather than technology), “everything is a service” (and thus somebody else’s property you pay to rent), and “everything is increasingly awful in order to service a minority” (in this case: the owners of the bike, frankly, who are interested in preserving their property whilst acquiring new customers).
We joked that the future was rubbish because we still don’t have a jetpack; it is, in fact, more rubbish (and made up of more rubbish) than we perhaps could have imagined. We are all Joe Chip.
Using Vickrey auctions to price products (where demand outweighs supply) according to market demands.
21 September 2019
Δεντρολίβανο says the packet on the table. And I, of course, know that this says DENTROLIBANO, pronounced in my head in a clear southern, English accent, every syllable delineated.
I do not know what Δεντρολίβανο is, and have to look further down the packet to realise that it is ROSEMARY.
I studied dead languages at school. (And, for reasons, a bit at University too).
Most of our peers didn’t understand why we’d do Greek. It seemed pointless, even more dead than Latin, and there was the hassle of a whole new alphabet to learn.
To me, it seemed obvious: someone gives you the chance to read words written over two thousand years ago. Wouldn’t you say yes? Wouldn’t you at least be curious?
Here is what I am left with:
- ten years of Latin lets me stumble through gravestones and churches around the world, just enough vocabulary to decipher a decent amount (bar the eccentricities of Church Latin), and I can probably still scan poetry if I had to. It is exciting to look at stone, and see something come to life.
- three years of Greek leaves me with a mere handful of words, practically no grammar, but I still know the alphabet.
What this translates to is: I can read road signs. It takes me longer than I’d like, which can be distracting when I’m driving, and there’s usually a romanisation underneath. But: I can read road signs!
I can read lots of other things too, speak them out loud, say them excitedly as we walk by or browse a menu.
I can speak the letters, and for every word that I recognise, either through old muscle memory of vocabulary, or, more likely, because it’s pretty similar to something in another language, there are a hundred more that I have no idea what they mean. (Like the Latin in churches, I fare better at the ancient sites – a few words in the stone at Messene, but mainly names, gods, goddesses, and my favourite of all, the long list of all the wrestlers at the Palaestra. At the pace I read it, it sounds like a classroom register).
And I definitely, absolutely, cannot pronounce it, as shopkeepers and restaurant staff across the Peloponnese can attest.
It’s not really DENTROLIBANO; it’s ‘dentrolivano’, spoken softly, with that beta becoming more like a soft ‘v’ in modern Greek pronunciation.
In my head, Greek is pronounced with the lugubrious tenor of my classics teacher. “ζῷον”, he says: “zdaw-ohn”, that omega extended with the lips in a perfect oh. (Zoon, “animal”, and off into zoological and so forth we go).
Dead languages read like history, but they sound like your classics teacher; all these ancient men and women (but mainly men) thousands of miles away, speaking in a plummy classroom accent where you can hear every letter and especially the endings of the words to catch their declension.
This is not what Greek sounds like any more, because Greek is not a dead language.
I knew this in theory, but I was really not prepared for how pretty it would be: those same characters spoken by tripping, delicate, mediterranean voices, breathy on the chis (but less on the breathings which I can’t see any more), all manner of rough edges smoothed, all those syllables neatly danced around. “ευχαριστώ!”, “thank you”; we get the Eucharist, the giving of thanks, from this, but here it is “ef’hristo!”, an everyday word that I find myself saying a great deal, somewhat apologetic at my lack of the rest of the language.
(We go to a chemist for some eye drops, which we manage to acquire between us, the chemist, the people in the queue and the chemist’s friends who hang out in the shop. I hear the old lady grumble something about Ελληνικά, and I want to say “Yes, I know! I’m annoyed I don’t speak Greek, you’re annoyed I don’t speak Greek, we’re all annoyed I don’t speak Greek!”. What I really say is: “ευχαριστώ!”)
Betas have become soft vs, upsilons are somewhere between an english “f” and “v”, the etas I say like “air” are now “ee”. It all makes sense when you think about it, but it is upside down to me. (My partner’s Greek colleague at work sighs when she tells him I studied Ancient Greek – “we had to do that at school, I hated it – it’s all backwards!” So we both agree on that, then).
But it’s alive, floating, bubbling. I think back to Xenophon’s Persian Expedition – Anabasis IV, my set text at 16, written around 2400 years before I was taught it – and imagine all those men standing in the snow, marching on the spot in bare feet to keep warm (and in preference to the un-tanned sandals that froze to their colleagues’ feet), chattering in this rolling, living language. I have to admit, it makes more sense now.
I know better what their faces look like, and what their tongues sound like.
11 September 2019
I loved this ~45m documentary from Peter Hoving on shooting 16mm on a wind-up Bolex.
It delicately combines a technical overview of the Bolex camera (and, later, the editing process and sound sync systems)… with a look back at Hoving’s own first films from the sixties on it, the story of a life shooting moving images, a brief glimpse into social history of America.
All at a delicate, leisurely pace, with time for the images to breathe. No rushed cuts, no heavy edits; quite a lot of Milt Jackson on the soundtrack. Practically no attention paid to the conventions of the Youtube era.
Just a gentle, thoughtful film about making moving images.