Now just where have we found ourselves? This is a newsletter. It is about nothing in particular and often about everything. There are vague themes which shift and sway. You can read some past bangers here, with everything from beavers to Mexican folk-pop to generative graphic design.
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Read these things I wrote because you’re the best
Reflections on 2023 and all that
I often dreamed that I would have a “State of the Studio” bit in here, or anywhere really. But this is never going to happen because life is cruel and uncaring and also I have kids. Notice, I didn’t blame myself for this. In any case, there is no studio mainly. That’s the state of it. There should be some glorious, sunlit, high-ceilinged place of creation and wonder, filled with electronics and canvases, coffee, whimsy and delightful conversations about the nature of God, the sorry state of commercial hip hop or what is the true value of a sandwich. This will never happen so there we are with that artistic status update.
I think my future is in history podcasts and somehow assuming a posh noises sort of accent and then giggling while talking about Persepolis and then mentioning my latest commission to write something brilliant and about my wonderful travels. This is as likely as the above.
As we reflect on the the good portion of this now past holiday season receiving things we didn’t want, keeping them in presentable, “new if you didn’t know otherwise” condition and then giving them to other people who also probably didn’t want them, we should think about just how dumb the holidays actually are. Remember this next year and then we’ll do it all over again.
My recently added library in Apple Music from New Years Eve is the drunk equivalent to the pocketful of drinks receipts and filled with tons of house music somehow.
If you were wondering, it’s official: I’m old. I caught myself on more than one occasion looking for coat hooks when I enter an establishment. To make matters worse, and well, basically initialise the distribution of my estate and burial of my corporeal self, I’ve begun to be offended by any lack of somewhere civilised to hang said coat. It’s clearly the end friends. So if this newsletter doesn’t arrive next month, don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Your Top 5 is the way to go otherwise with all this year in and year out nonsense.
Top three bestest things about Britain
- Drinking alone in a pub whilst reading a book is perfectly normal, acceptable and even admirable
- This beautiful cheery cynicism that many confuse with irony. The ability to watch your home burn and then say it’s "not ideal.” Whilst it pains me to come up with some sort of categorising in terms of clean, geo-political borders and enforcing stereotypes, there are some characteristics that just stick in places and this is one I love. It’s fucked. Get over it. There we are.
February Public Service Announcement
This year is the year America, we’re going to do it. We’ll join the world in a veritable hug of measurement standards and finally put the Imperial system in the ground.
Need I remind you my fellow Americans, inches and feet and all that pound nonsense were and still are tools of the Crown, whose yoke we cast off 240 years ago. Oh wait, before the roundups of redcoats begins, forget everything I wrote above, in particular the top 3.
The Month in Review
Firstly, apologies are due. I forgot to give credit to the best damn Blender tutorial I’ve run into, namely that of CG Fast Track who allowed me to put a logo into what is essentially someone else’s hard work. Anyhow, credit where credit is due, and if you’re interested in learning Blender, this is a well thought out and paced way to make not just a sword with fire and runes, but understand the workings and possibilities of a complex and powerful bit of software.
Apparently, according to Robert Greene, Machiavellianist to the stars, success is the one of the worst undoings to happen to you. With that in mind, I guess I’ll continue as is.
I spent way too much time recently wondering about a fake place, namely Middle Earth. Spurned on by this almost tortuous but enjoyably so investigation How Many Hobbits? A Demographic Analysis of Middle Earth.
I’ve always loved the idea of the salon. That is not the place for hair cutting and that, but one of the original meanings, which was based on the French drawing room part of the house, but a regular place and gathering for the exchange of ideas. This is fantastic. I think so largely because they exist and nobody invites me to any, whereas they could be really fucking tedious and full of assholes. Regardless, I imagine a Salon of Rockers. I don’t know where, how or even why, but who knows. This would take place I suppose at the mythical sunlit studio I don’t have.
I spent about an hour or two sorting out fonts, a sizeable amount of which started with the word “Wizard.” I didn’t regret one second.
I used a bookmark, like a physical one in a physical book, for the first time in decades. It was amazing.
Somehow, the geniuses at YouTube have made a deepfake of me in about a year.
I didn’t come up with this clever Things to argue about over the holidays instead of politics II, but it may come in handy as we near Easter.
“Mainz is more beautiful than Wiesbaden”
Someone won. Someone, a German of course, went to another city to talk shit about their neighbouring town via a sticker in a very civilised manner.
More misplaced Ljubljana graffiti or the most post-modern influencer branding you’ve ever seen? You decide.
The Lightning Round
Wrong. It’s Pliny the Elder.
The idea of counter-measures is one that fascinates me, especially in technology and obviously when we’re talking about generative AI. Sure enough, “ChatGPT Can Be Broken by Entering These Strange Words, And Nobody Is Sure Why” is yet another example of the juggernaut of creativity’s doom marching like so many thousands of orcs towards Gondor. But, just like the cones on cars, it’s super interesting how low level hacks can bring these perceived as invincible monoliths to their knees
Man alive, you want to talk about a rabbit hole ? Try learning about the best damn combination of commercial establishments ever, in terms of my cursory searching only available in South Africa, which is an outdoors barbecue joint combined with car wash. So imagine the best day out. You go and have a ton of grilled meat, drinks, from the looks of these videos online they’re total parties. AND you come out of it with a clean car. The origin story of this phenomenon is one that is for the ages and likely the Smithsonian or the Nobel committee.
Here’s a super creepy, concept 3d animation of that same bbq carwash. Which somehow doesn’t show grilling or cars being washed.
Oh in more flag fun for this month, bet you didn’t know Lesotho is the only country with a hat on the flag did you? Weirdly, Lesotho is also entered surrounded by South Africa. No idea if they’ve figured out car washes yet.
More exploration of life in other places which is nothing like mine is well someplace humans aren’t supposed to be at this point. Go read and follow Life in Antarctica.
Don’t you just miss NFTs just a little bit these days?
In terms of large and world changing for the year and press tech trends is concerned, at least NFTs might have made or had the potential to make money for creative people. AI offers none of that.
Browser Tabs of Regret
It used to be that the detritus of a heavy night out was just a headache and receipts with unrecognisably and regrettably large numbers and quite possibly on the odd occasion being somewhere you’re not really sure of.
Now in our sad, sad, online lives we have mobile browser tabs launched by QR codes as the record of our longings, bad decisions and undone ambitions.
Phones gone right and wrong
Speaking of phones, things could be a bunch better with phones, they can. A lot of it has to do with understanding of them being pocket computers for the Internet.
I’m a huge fan of the idea of Firefox OS which was that since you can do everything in a browser why need apps? The Phone as browser, more or less, and nothing else. Oh yeah, so why have Android anymore when you have Chrome which could be the browser as OS while we’re at it. Oh and this too, originally the iPhone was supposed to do this but developers fucked it all up by making apps installable. But the idea was that the phone would be a more free computer like the one we type on with the big screens, but instead turned into locked down slot machines.
The taste of America is tangy
I couldn’t figure it out. When I come back to the place of my birth and childhood I spend roughly the first half of a week binge and revenge snacking. Combos is the big one. I buy a huge bag, because it’s only available in Huge, Extra Huge, Increasing Abdominal Discomfort and Gut-Buster sizes. They can all be named Never Good As You Remember in any case. Almost all have a component of some cheese-flavoured dust and a flavour that hits hard and sharp. Insert (American) football analogy here. That’s how America tastes.
I’ve always been intrigued by American lefty fantasies about Europe vs the reality on the ground over on this side of the pond, especially having to explain things a million times that it’s not all holding hands and free everything you want. There is a stark reality to the social democratic experience and a lot of it is quite uncomfortable for many in the US, or they just don’t ever hear about it. David Heinemeier Hansson, controversial as always, brings the Danish perspective in The Reality of the Danish Fairytale to the table better than I could.
To generalize broadly, Danes are content paying high taxes for high services, as long as the recipients look like them, and all do their outmost to pitch in.
The best conversation with a child about the nature of power
“I want to be a princess.”
“You don’t want to be the princess. You want to be the queen.”
“The queen doesn’t pay taxes and lives off of us and has all the power. The princess has no power.”
When you work for people in a time zone on the other side of the planet on which you live, things get all topsy turvy sometimes. One day waiting for what was essentially my nightshift I had a coffee, a beer and crisps for lunch. It was obviously fantastic.
But what about the variety of flavours and why can’t I get cheddar and onion here? Well I would otherwise need to first read The Weird, Secretive World of Crisp Flavours.
Ternary plots and the Grand Unified Theory of Potato Chips (via Matt Webb) and you’re right Matt, “Ternary plots are the 21st century tool we’ve been waiting for.” But I would extend this thinking further and suggest orienting spatial metaphors and visualisation around snacking is.
Don’t tell me about your passions because you’re lying to me and yourself about them. Tell me about your hobbies, things you have nothing to gain except a smile from.
Halfman endorses: Peanuts in all forms in lots of other things, pens not pencils, post-its but for yourself not on a damn board no one will ever look at again, The Night Beats, Queens of the Stone Age, Ghostface Killah, Gang Starr, Cursed, His Hero is Gone, Maxi Market’s prosciutto and cheese sandwich for €1.99, mediocre coffee because fuck it is it worth the trouble really, Bolt Thrower while writing reports.
Toast, all damn day.
Obligatory pint in a pub photo.
Ride. Shoot straight. Speak the truth.