This is the Halfman newsletter. It is largely composed of the random musings of a forlorn designer wiling away somewhere in between the Adriatic Sea and the Alps.
Somehow this is still a thing and comes at you unwittingly every damn lunar cycle of the past three years. Serious though, every damn month. Don’t expect any consistent narrative, well thought through conclusions nor anything that will help your career, incessant longing or existential crisis. Expect instead misconstrued piss-takes, randomness, and if you’re lucky, a bit if rock n roll.
I had the amazing fortune to spend a couple days led by the brutal wit of Farzin Lotfi-Jam in workshops pitted against Unreal Engine, a free game engine made by Epic Games. The afternoon was dedicated to trying to get to a full blown city simulation while most of his pretty good jokes and bants dropped dead at the feet of the room somehow. Farzin is hilarious, especially for an architect. Who knows, might have something to do with 97% of said room being young enough to be my children. Regardless, I’m close to useless in these sort of workshop situations. Knowing this I decided if I even got past halfway without hitting the proverbial workshop wall, you know that but where you miss one tiny step and then you’re hopelessly stalled till the end of time, I would be stoked. I reckon I got to about 70%. Anyhow, the point, if there is one to this paragraph, is that simulation technology is insane these days and free. Of course you have to calculate the man hours spent trying to wrangle these things into submission and failing most of the time.
Panic simulators! Christ. What are those you ask?
The aim of the Panic Simulator is to simulate features of human escape panic in crowded environments with a single exit e.g. baths, discotheques, stadia, lecture halls or rooms in general. (credit)
This is not even a new thing at all, and yet, here we are, in the age of simulation and simulacrum and one can still be fascinated with dots on a screen. The dots of course represent people, people which could be you or I. But you can just sit, click and watch catastrophe unfold and just see what happens
I can say I was in only one, actual, verifiable riot, and was fortunate to be in my mid-20’s and because punk rock, I couldn’t tell if it was exciting or terrifying. Both really. But seriously Green Day?
Italy banned ChatGPT apparently. Bear in mind this could be just a first step, because if indeed OpenAI is violating GDPR (quite likely if you ask me) we can see massive fines and/or bans starting to chink the armour of our robot worshipping overlords in California.
In general though, AI has finally gotten tedious if you ask me, which you haven’t. The generated images are now relatively easy to spot. It’s now just a thing, generated like processed cheese and just as boring. Now that tedium is slowly setting in and that we’re closer to having gotten over this hopefully, we can now be more interested in its implications and our human defence against its, for lack of a better metaphor, colonisation of our lives.
But how to rethink innovations? Hmm, ask these cats who came up with untitled-1: (sic.) &wired, which is just some bat shit intertwining of tool and aesthetic. I want to hug it.
Now imagine humans doing something properly good with technological innovation for a minute. Solar power is awesome sure, but at scale, for instance in the United Arab Emirates here, it just looks nuts.
Pawan Singh, An aerial view of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park (Phase 5)
An antidote you ask from the indecision and overwhelm of life in our still young century? How to salve our souls and save us from ourselves you ask? Simple. Central European hip-hop, particularly in the early 2000’s (shout out to Aggro Berlin) and in particular any ex-Yugoslav country is a linguistic masterpiece. Oh wait, you can’t rhyme the line in your usual language? Just use another, might be English, maybe not. Start spitting in German, end in Turkish. Start in Slovenian, English bar in between and end in Croatian. Whatever works for tone, rhyme structure and subtext. With even a passing knowledge of any of the language combos at play, your head will spin way more than any Das EFX could ever hope to. While often times pandering too much to the tropes of US gangsta culture, there are so many gems (Edo Maajka, Eko Fresh) of the seething socio-geo-political frustration calling out the immigrant and post-conflict experience.
Recently, I was clicking around some NFT platforms for work sorts of things and I came to a couple of realisations, namely 1.) I talked heaps of shit about these things for a while, 2.) I disguised thinly veiled shit-talking as “critical discourse” without really doing the digging 3.) what the hell, why not, there’s way worse things I think at this point. It’s art. Look, it’s there. Someone sort of owns it, meaning somehow, some art sort of person got paid something, hopefully. The gold rush speculation has thankfully died and now you have artists still there with a place for digital art. Maybe when the dust finally settles we’ll have something. Who knows.
So where does that leave us? What we need to do? Outrage, disappointment, we need to do something. It’s clearly the end times. Can you believe that guy? That government? Something about acceptance. Something, something my journey. Me, me, me. First person. Your journey. Whatever.
Stuff I wrote you will read if it kills you
There are promises made just about every month that this bit is going to be amazing, and this clearly never happens.
I was lucky to squeeze out this bit on Autonomous Etiquette before the calendar month called it quits on me. It could be way funnier.
The April Top 10 is there and is the usual piece of art and somehow turning into a lot to read. And I love these things more and more each month. Believe it or not, I take the ranking pretty seriously.
Three most awesome game ideas this month
- “Scrambling Eggs” - I’m not sure how you would get points, or even if there are points. One thing for sure is there likely is no point to this game. This clearly makes it worthy of what fleeting moments of breath you still have to soak in absurdity. Right now the funders are concerned about the physics engine and being able to crack the egg realistically but I think as we’re pushing 5mil pixels per millisecond with the game engine, we should be okay.
- “Parallel Parking” - The player has to parallel park. That’s pretty much it, but at each level the spaces get smaller and eventually the car explodes if you don’t park in time. I smell an Epic contract.
- “Dinosaurs Playing Cards” - While this game has a host of problems, the least of which are a.) lack of opposable thumbs, b.) if bipedal than having a tail making sitting sort of impossible, to name a few. Also, why do you need dinosaurs beyond the fact they are just sort of awesome? Well I guess there you have it, that’s why. I think this was supposed to be a tattoo idea originally, but you know, ideas are cheap, but even those I can’t afford.
New Ninian Doff Pro Model II
I whole reason I ever even thought of going to art school was because of skateboarding, in particular skateboard graphics. Now that I’m old, barely able to kick flip and wondering what happened to tail slides in general I have at least one comfort. That is that I can ignore the cumulative skills of decades of artistic practice, and finally make skateboard graphics, albeit incredibly pointlessly and just an insanely passive aggressive prompt to get an old friend to reply. So here’s the second Ninian Doff graphic in honour of his collecting an Academy at Cannes with Kanye or whatever.
…After Careful Consideration
The life plan as a designer so far is to inadvertently design a thing and then people go wild for it leading to heaps of accolades and unending riches. The best part of this is that just about every other designer shares this delusion.
Ponder This I
The Proximity Fallacy
The fallacy where thinking that being close to a problem means you can solve it better.
Ex. the modern office anywhere in the world, every meeting you’ve ever had and the reason that trustless systems have yet to take off.
Ponder This II
An excellent New York Times piece from 2019, “Personality Tests Are the Astrology of the Office,” summed up the growth and appeal of these tests well:
Personality assessments short-circuit the messiness of building what is now referred to as a “culture.” They deliver on all the complexities of interpersonal office dynamics, but without the intimate, and expensive, process of actually speaking with employees to determine their quirks and preferences.
They appeal also, perhaps, for the same reason astrology, numerology and other hocus-pocus systems do: because it’s fun to divide people into categories.
Ponder This III
If the satisfaction of an old man drinking a glass of wine counts for nothing, then production and wealth are only hollow myths; they have meaning only if they are capable of being retrieved in individual and living joy."
(Simone de Beauvoir)
Super serious forwards
Something you don’t think about, well, much if ever, is how a Large Language Model can swallow an entire language like Maori and then basically own it.
I’ve not thought about raisins much lately. There are times, typically when I have peanuts, that I think to myself, “Man, this would really go well with some raisins.” Beyond that, rarely. But Nick Cave’s extensive retort to Daphne’s missive on the confusion raisins bring her is nothing short of genius.
Nice little primer on how to design to get people to be paying too much for pizza.
It’s over for now. That’s all I got and more. Thanks for sticking in there. Ride. Shoot straight. Speak the truth.