"I like how different the language of the sky is from everyday English – indeed, we might give it its own name, Aeroese (though it’s also sometimes, and less aspirationally, called Aviation English). Above all, I love how Aeroese can somehow manage, in its technical, obscuring precision, to capture the high romance of flight – an aspect of my job, no matter how much I love it, that in the cockpit we rarely have reason to consider directly." This is a lovely piece of writing.
"One way to illustrate that most technologies are, in fact, pretty "hi," is to ask yourself of any manmade object, Do I know how to make one?
Anybody who ever lighted a fire without matches has probably gained some proper respect for "low" or "primitive" or "simple" technologies; anybody who ever lighted a fire with matches should have the wits to respect that notable hi-tech invention." Ursula le Guin with strong truth about technology and science fiction.
Utterly lovely writing about music – and playing in Holy Trinity, Blythburgh – from Laura Cannell.
"In time I wasn’t plugging in my newly arrived modules so quickly. I was spending more time looking at them, admiring their structures, noting aspects unique to various individual companies. Some modules have lovely design flourishes, bits of fantastic line art right there on the circuit board, so enticing it threatens to give “cyberpunk” a good name all over again. Others have funny little phrases, puns on functionality, like where the power supply goes, or little axioms that both gently mock and encourage the beholder—Barbara Kruger by way of circuitry. This is what I now first look for when I unpack a new module." Really nice Marc Weidenbaum piece on the aesthetics and semantics of circuit-board design.
07 June 2017
Along with hip-hop, sitcoms, and the economy, screen savers flourished during the Clinton years…
Zack Hatfield’s article from the Paris Review on screensavers turns out to be quite wonderful. I like passing that quotation from it around to introduce it, because it made me laugh, but the whole thing is thoughtful, and wonderful. And it made me think:
You can’t consume a screen saver in an instant. You can’t fast-forward or rewind one. The genre, its own kind of endurance art, shuns immediacy. Fugitives from time, screen savers possess no real beginning or end. Their ouroboric nature is perhaps why preservations on YouTube, whether ten minutes or twelve hours long, tend to evoke disenchantment.
Screensavers are anti-images.
Susan Sontag, in On Photography, remarked that a photograph describes “a neat slice of time, not a flow.” But if you take Hatfield’s point – that the screensaver only makes sense in its infinite form, summoned unbid, and existing until it is dismissed… then a screensaver is only ever flow. The act of quoting a screensaver is inadequate, almost impossible. Which takes me back to Sontag, who goes on to describe a photograph as a quotation: “a photograph could be described as a quotation, which makes a book of photographs like a book of quotations“.
A screensaver cannot be meaningfully sliced; it cannot ever become quotation. A photograph is a choice of a single moment of time, and thus, implicitly, a rejection of surrounding moments. But Hatfield describes screensavers as if they only ever are surrounding moments, each a moment leading to another. And they resist comparison to film, to: they are elliptical, not structured, not ongoing. There is art film that probably stands comparison best: for instance, Christian Marclay’s The Clock functions as an ongoing, 24-hour loop, and precisely works because it has no formal beginning and end. (It feels a little trite to describe The Clock as a screensaver, and yet it would make the most wonderful screensaver – a little world running in parallel that only emerges when you step away from a screen).
And: I liked his description of screensavers invoking “rapture and reverie, and stillness“; how appropriate that something designed to be continuously, but unobtrusively, changing, should be a meditation upon stillness.
When you put it like that: screensavers are our only functional perpetual motion machines.
"You cannot know what it is like to be a bat by screwing your eyes tight, imagining membranous wings, finding your way through darkness by talking to it in tones that reply to you with the shape of the world. As the philosopher Thomas Nagel explained, the only way to know what it is like to be a bat is to be a bat. But the imagining? The attempt? That is a good and important thing. It forces you to think about what you don’t know about the creature: what it eats, where it lives, how it communicates with others. The effort generates questions not just about how being a bat is different but about how different the world might be for a bat." Animals as the emphatically non-human; as with all Macdonald's writing, great stuff.
This is really good. I had some beginning-threads of thought at the time of the Bogost article that I just couldn't frame, and in the meantime, CJP has run with similar threads, a good dose of history, and come to some sharp conclusions, and basically reminded me what I actually think. So I'm just going to point at this to say "yes, I think this, and this is better expressed than I could ever have put it". Strong stuff.
I still only like Node for Certain Shapes Of Problem, but I liked Gina's list of resources a lot. Filed away.
George Saunders on writing, and the creative process. Brilliant, both as I'd expected, and in ways I hadn't.
Lovely article about Mahjong and its role within one family, and one man's life. Really good games writing. (Also, god, I miss playing Mahjong. I never got quite good enough, and still really want a set… and the the friends necessary to go with it).