Notes

Interesting and/or cool stuff I've come across from art, design, technology, photography, movies I've watched and liked and, occasionally, my thoughts.

Her (Spike Jonze, 2013)

The year of garbage internet trends.

Rebecca Jennings on Vox:

It is fascinating to trace the origins of these glitches of nothingness: inconsequential tweets that turned into inconsequential TikToks that turned into inconsequential news articles that somehow, suddenly seemed more consequential than anything else that day.

Nodding in agreement here. I've always watched these things mostly from the sidelines and lately, even the fads barely justify being called fads We seem to have collectively become so foggy and jaded and just so very done with this, whatever this is, that these sorts of cheap thrills have become the thing du jour because it’s the most effort we’re able to make. We just can't even anymore.

old man shaking his head in disappointment at the cloud.jpg

via Pixel Envy

L'Eclisse (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1962)

Noted, November 2021

Collected bits and pieces I've noticed this month.

The text K is reciting for his baseline check in Blade Runner 2049 (“interlinked, within cells interlinked”), is from a 999 line poem/novel “Pale Fire” by Vladimir Nabokov.

Tom Whitwell published the 2021 issue of his annual 52 things learned this year list.
via Kottke

In “Why a toaster from 1949 is still smarter than any sold today”, Sean Hollister of The Verge profiles a toaster with some super clever and actually smart design choices. This reminded me of “How Not To Make Coffee” by Albert Burneko, on how the pursuit of making everyday things “smarter” and “technologically superior”, often ends up making everything worse. Much worse.

Related to the above, “The worst gadgets we’ve ever touched”, also from The Verge.

From The New Yorker, on the difficulty and very long timelines of getting to nuclear fusion: “Can Nuclear Fusion Put the Brakes on Climate Change?”.

Related, on the dirty dirty business mining cobalt for batteries in The Democratic Republic of Congo: “A Power Struggle Over Cobalt Rattles the Clean Energy Revolution”.

Also related, on the consequences of years and years of nickel mining and neglect in Norilsk: “In the Russian Arctic, One of the Most Polluted Places on Earth”.

On a happier note, quote from a GQ interview with Jason Sudekis of (lately) Ted Lasso fame:

“There’s a great Michael J. Fox quote,” Sudeikis told me later, trying to explain the particular brand of wary optimism that he carries around with him, and that he ended up making a show about: “ ‘Don’t assume the worst thing’s going to happen, because, on the off chance it does, you’ll have lived through it twice.’ So…why not do the inverse?”

Jeremy Keith on the widespread tracking of users on the web that many regard as acceptable simply because it’s widespread:

“I’ve been reading the excellent Design For Safety by Eva PenzeyMoog . There was a line that really stood out to me:
The idea that it’s alright to do whatever unethical thing is currently the industry norm is widespread in tech, and dangerous.“
via CSS Tricks

The KDDI au design project

Balmuda recently caused a bit of a stir in the tech press by announcing the launch of an Android-based smartphone of their own design. A phone launch in itself is nothing very special these days, but this one is a bit different in that Balmuda is not a phone maker or a computing company. Instead, Balmuda makes home appliances. The Japanese company is most known for its beautifully designed, high-end toaster ovens that have apparently achieved cult-like status in their homeland.

The Balmuda Phones somewhat pebble-like shape reminded me of the KDDI au design project.

Starting in 2002, the au design project was born as an effort to revive the company by collaborating with designers to produce a series of original phone designs, some of which have now ended up as part of the permanent collection at MoMa in New York. The commissioned designers included superstar names like Marc Newson and Naoto Fukasawa, who continued the collaboration and designed the new models of the Infobar series of phones.

I can't remember how I found out about the project, probably from a design blog like Core77 or some other. What I do remember, is lusting after every new concept they released, one wilder than the other. While we had rather boring, albeit reliable Nokias and Alcatels that were downright ugly and unreliable to boot, the Japanese had all these wonderful delights. There was no way though, even if I could have afforded these shiny toys at the time, the cellphones of Japan were not compatible with the networks in Europe.

info.bar concept, designed by Naoto Fukasawa

infobar2, also by Naoto Fukasawa

ishicoro concept by Naoto Fukasawa

Talby, designed by Marc Newson

All images are courtesy of the KDDI au design project.

The Aphex Twin logo is not just one of the most memorable artist logos in the world of electronic music (and beyond), it is also exceptionally fitting for Aphex's music.

The A symbol evolved from designer Paul Nicholson's sketches for a different project, but caught the eye of then fellow student Richard D James, and that was that.

Resident Advisor has more images from Nicholsons sketchbook.

via FontSmith

Hiut Denim has published their Do One Thing Well list, winter 2021 edition — a collection of products, services and companies that do one thing and do it really well.

Pictured here is the ANAORI kakugama, a cubical cooking vessel, carved from a single block of carbon graphite.

via Kottke

Noted, October 2021

Collected bits and pieces I've noticed this month.

One Day—And One Night—In the Kitchen at Les Halles

Anthony Bourdain describes one day—and one night—in the kitchen at Les Halles, his retaurant in New York City. I've read this numerous times and it's always a treat. It's also, always, a reminder to stop myself from entertaining any ideas of restaurateurship (is that a word?).

The Nash equilibrium

In game theory, the Nash equilibrium is the most common way to define the solution of a non-cooperative game involving two or more players. In a Nash equilibrium, each player is assumed to know the equilibrium strategies of the other players and no player has anything to gain by changing only their own strategy.

It is named after the mathematician John Forbes Nash Jr. who, among his other notable achievements, pretty much willed himself to function despite suffering from schizophrenia by deciding that the hallucinations caused by the illness were not worth his attention.

The Clearview AI horror show goes on

From Wired:

Some of Clearview’s new technologies may spark further debate. Ton-That says it is developing new ways for police to find a person, including “deblur” and “mask removal” tools. The first takes a blurred image and sharpens it using machine learning to envision what a clearer picture would look like; the second tries to envision the covered part of a person’s face using machine learning models that fill in missing details of an image using a best guess based on statistical patterns found in other images.

May spark further debate? You don't say! How is this horror show still allowed to operate?

via Pixel Envy

The Start menu

Lukas Mathis briefly on the Windows 10 full-screen start menu being killed in Windows 11. I always liked the full-screen menu too.

Spell'd

Marcin Wichary shares a neat little text utility from his days at Medium.

We're getting some flavour of this with tools like Grammarly (alternative wording and tone suggestions), but it's not exactly as lightweight and elegant and natural feeling. I do miss having the definitions + spelling features available for any text I select, regardless of what app I'm in. Or maybe I just don't know how to invoke it?

Also, I... dislike it when people who tweet often bulk-delete their tweets, leaving odd gaps in the thread.

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Everybody's favourite typeface website I Love Typography now has a store.

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Frank Chimero is a designer who writes, this time, about colour:

"Late day, late August, ocean front, looking out: wine dark sea, red ochre sky, and at the boundary? From nowhere: chartreuse."

Jimi Hendrix in Ringo Starr’s apartment in London, 1966
via Miksa

Mind matters

A couple of mental health related links that have come across my radar (somewhat) recently.

Pro tennisist Naomi Osaka, who withdrew from the French Open to protect her mind:
"I do hope that people can relate and understand it’s O.K. to not be O.K., and it’s O.K. to talk about it. There are people who can help, and there is usually light at the end of any tunnel."
'It's O.K. Not to Be O.K.', Naomi Osaka

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Mariin Petoffer is creating a tiny gadget called Mental Pin that helps alleviate anxiety by cleverly syncing itself to your heartbeat, thus making itself more personal and easier to connect with, so you can focus your attention on something else than whatever shenanigans your mind is trying to pull.

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Web developer David Oscar offers devs a routine and simple tips to help keep a balanced mind.

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"I was struggling to get out of bed by 10am, struggling to work out, struggling to only have one glass of wine, struggling to fall asleep. /.../ And it’s not (just) the pandemic - it’s an overwhelming feeling of being done, done with this, whatever this is. /.../ So why did I burn out? I don’t know."
Burning out and quitting, Maya Kaczorowski

The Leatherman

Dressed in a suit of coarse leather — a patchwork garment he made from discarded boot tops — with a bulky pack and hand-hewn wooden shoes, he was a mystery from the outset. He refused to discuss himself. He rarely spoke at all, in fact, communicating almost exclusively in grunts and pantomime.

The Village Voice via Futility Closet

The photographs taxi driver Joseph Rodriguez took while driving around New York City are now available as a book. I've previously shared this series, published by New York Magazine.

What the FFT

Marcin Wichary wonderfully writes about discovering an obscure technique for sharpening and de-moiréing old images using FFT or Fast Fourier Transform.

I also loved this bit:

I’ve always had this theory that any long-term project requires two ingredients: things you’re good at, and things you want to learn. The first group gives you a feeling of accomplishment and mastery. The other one? It keeps things interesting.

via Pixel Envy