Think ahead, but not too far

It’s a good time for spaced-based sci-fi at the moment, with the latest Dune and Foundation adaptations on screens of various sizes. The former seems to be making a bigger impact than the latter, though. This article from the Long Now folks suggests a reason why.

“Dune,” “Foundation,” and the allure of science fiction that thinks long-termBlog of the Long Now
In a moment of broader cultural gloominess, Dune’s perspective may resonate more with the current movie-going public. Its themes of long-term ecological destruction, terraforming, and the specter of religious extremism seem in many ways ripped out of the headlines, while Asimov’s technocratic belief in scholarly wisdom as a shining light may be less in vogue. Ultimately, though, the core appeal of these works is not in how each matches with the fashion of today, but in how they look forward through thousands of years of human futures, keeping our imagination of long-term thinking alive.

Long-term thinking, that can only be a good thing, right? Longtermism, on the other hand…

Against longtermismAeon Essays
Why do I think this ideology is so dangerous? The short answer is that elevating the fulfilment of humanity’s supposed potential above all else could nontrivially increase the probability that actual people – those alive today and in the near future – suffer extreme harms, even death. Consider that, as I noted elsewhere, the longtermist ideology inclines its adherents to take an insouciant attitude towards climate change. Why? Because even if climate change causes island nations to disappear, triggers mass migrations and kills millions of people, it probably isn’t going to compromise our longterm potential over the coming trillions of years. If one takes a cosmic view of the situation, even a climate catastrophe that cuts the human population by 75 per cent for the next two millennia will, in the grand scheme of things, be nothing more than a small blip – the equivalent of a 90-year-old man having stubbed his toe when he was two.

Bringing Beethoven back

We’ve seen how AI can bring to life people that have never existed, as well as those that certainly have. And we’re familiar with the ridiculous surreal art it can churn out and the sublime Bach-like harmonies it can spin. But what about creating something much more substantial, like a whole symphony? And a Beethoven symphony, at that.

The project started in 2019 …

How a team of musicologists and computer scientists completed Beethoven’s unfinished 10th SymphonyThe Conversation
When Ludwig van Beethoven died in 1827, he was three years removed from the completion of his Ninth Symphony, a work heralded by many as his magnum opus. He had started work on his 10th Symphony but, due to deteriorating health, wasn’t able to make much headway: All he left behind were some musical sketches.

Ever since then, Beethoven fans and musicologists have puzzled and lamented over what could have been. His notes teased at some magnificent reward, albeit one that seemed forever out of reach.

Now, thanks to the work of a team of music historians, musicologists, composers and computer scientists, Beethoven’s vision will come to life.

Artificial intelligence to “complete” Beethoven’s tenth symphonyi24News: YouTube

… and earlier this month, they premiered the result.

After more than two centuries, Beethoven’s 10th Symphony has been completed by an AIEuronews
For Werzowa, it was exciting to discover variations of Beethoven’s work each morning, that had been sent overnight by his US colleagues from Rutgers University.

“Because of the time difference, in the morning, I got up early, quite excited and ran to my computer to find hundreds of possibilities which were formulated overnight, well during my night,” he said. “And it was always a beautiful morning occupation, drinking tea and coffee while listening and choosing those Beethoven inspirations”. […]

As for the master computer, no gigantic machine with tons of buttons and keyboards were involved: a simple laptop was used to finish to unfinishable.

“I asked him many times ‘please send me pictures’ and I was so curious, it’s like I imagined like this Star Trek, Star Wars kind of thing, with kilometres of computers,” Werzowa told AP. “He never sent it to me over the two years and finally he did after this whole thing was done. And what he showed me was basically a computer rig which looks like my son’s computer rig so it was actually disappointing: This is it? This made that amazing work?”

And the Beethoven goes on: Bonn premieres ‘new’ 10th symphonyIrish Times
No word on whether London’s Royal Philharmonic Society – who commissioned the symphony in 1817 – ever got its money back from the composer’s estate for services not rendered.

How an AI finished Beethoven’s last symphony and what that means for the future of musicBBC Science Focus Magazine
What has the response been like from musicians and composers? Their response is really mixed. There are people who loved this very much, and love the idea of having an AI that understands music and can help you finish your composition or have you explore different musical ideas.

But on the other side of the spectrum, there are people who just reject even the concept of being able to complete a Beethoven symphony using AI. They are afraid of AI taking their jobs and think that it has nothing to do with this kind of thing.

But enough of all the words — let’s hear the music!

Beethoven X: The AI Project: III Scherzo. Allegro – TrioModern Recordings: YouTube
Modern Recordings / BMG present as a foretaste of the album “Beethoven X – The AI Project” (release: 8.10.) the edit of the 3rd movement “Scherzo. Allegro – Trio” as a classical music video.

That was just a short edit of the third movement. Embedded within this next link is a video of the whole premiere, featuring movements 3 and 4.

World Premiere: Beethoven XMagentaMusic 360
It is done: Shortly before his death, Ludwig van Beethoven began to compose his 10th Symphony, but it remained unfinished. On the 250th birthday of the genius, Deutsche Telekom and an international team of music experts and artificial intelligence experts have dared to try to complete Beethoven’s 10th Symphony with the help of artificial intelligence. On 9 October, the 10th Symphony was premiered in Bonn by the Beethoven Orchestra Bonn under the direction of Dirk Kaftan.

I’m relying on Google Translate for the text of that link. The introductory speeches are in German too, though the little documentary they play that starts 12 minutes in is subtitled and worth a look. The performance itself is 16 minutes in.

It’s also been released on Spotify, together with a recording of the eighth symphony from the premiere.

Beethoven X: The AI ProjectSpotify
Beethoven Orchestra Bonn, Dirk Kaftan, Walter Werzowa 2021

It seems this is not the only version of Beethoven’s 10th symphony. There’s also this one, “realized” by Barry Cooper, plus documentary (ignore that crazy sax intro). But seriously, nothing — not even his fifth — matches his ninth. I mean, come on!

What’s in a name? #12

It seems Facebook are planning to take a leaf out of Google/Alphabet’s book, and separate out the thing it’s known best for from the insidious, multinational, overarching mega-conglomerate behind it.

Facebook is planning to rebrand the company with a new nameThe Verge
Facebook is planning to change its company name next week to reflect its focus on building the metaverse, according to a source with direct knowledge of the matter.

The coming name change, which CEO Mark Zuckerberg plans to talk about at the company’s annual Connect conference on October 28th, but could unveil sooner, is meant to signal the tech giant’s ambition to be known for more than social media and all the ills that entail. The rebrand would likely position the blue Facebook app as one of many products under a parent company overseeing groups like Instagram, WhatsApp, Oculus, and more.

New logo? Call itself ‘FCBK’? Bring back poking? How Facebook could rebrandThe Guardian
“Horizon” has been touted as Facebook’s new umbrella name, but in my estimation this is both too bland and too far removed from the company’s origins. Instead, let’s just ditch all the vowels and call it FCBK. Yes, it would be using the sort of textspeak that has been extinct for a decade and a half and, yes, at first glance it does look like there’s a new company called “Fuckbook”. But this is Facebook, remember. What were you expecting – competence?

Ubiquitous book design

Noticed something blobby these days? (No, not that one.)

Behold, the book blobPRINT Magazine
This design trend, well into its third or fourth year in the major publishing houses, has attracted plenty of nicknames and attendant discourse online—culture critic Jeva Lange calls it “blobs of suggestive colors,” while writer Alana Pockros calls it the “unicorn frappuccino cover,” and New Yorker writer Kyle Chayka once referred to it on Twitter as “the Zombie Formalism of book covers.”

As the article goes on to say, spotting such trends in book cover design is far from breaking news.

Why do so many book covers look the same? Blame Getty ImagesEye on Design
This summer, Morrison, who goes by Caustic Cover Critic at his @Unwise_Trousers Twitter account, posted a collage of 20 Fog Men on 20 book covers. They comprised but one subset of a folder on his computer, titled, “One Image, Many Covers.” Over a few mid-June days, he emptied that folder all over Twitter, drawing the attention of authors, designers, and readers alike. Among the members of the One Image Many Covers All-Star Team: Some askew knees (three covers); a 1933 George Hoyningen-Huene photograph of model Toto Koopman in evening wear (eight covers); a woman expressing despair on the prairie (10 covers); a spectral, Victorian-ish lass toting an empty birdcage (10 covers); a top-hatted man lurking in the middle distance alongside a wrought iron fence (nine covers); a naked woman asleep on gravel (11).

That was from 2019, this next article is from 2015.

Why do so many of this year’s book covers have the same design style?Slate
But lately, another cover design trend has been popping up on this summer’s crop of beach reads: the flat woman. Inspired by the “flat design” that’s become standard on the Web, these covers take on a minimalist style characterized by bright colors, simple layouts, and lots of white space. Several different designers and publishers have used this approach on hardcovers and paperbacks alike, especially those aiming for the upmarket-but-still-commercial-fiction-for-ladies sweet spot.

And this one’s from 2008.

Chick lit cover girls, without headsGawker
On one hand, we can understand obscuring the faces—it’s less specific and makes the female protagonist easier to project oneself onto. (It’s probably been focus-grouped to death.) On the other hand—they look weird when put all together in a gallery, don’t they?

The hidden microwork behind automation

Refugees help power machine learning advances at Microsoft, Facebook, and AmazonRest of World
A woman living in Kenya’s Dadaab, which is among the world’s largest refugee camps, wanders across the vast, dusty site to a central hut lined with computers. Like many others who have been brutally displaced and then warehoused at the margins of our global system, her days are spent toiling away for a new capitalist vanguard thousands of miles away in Silicon Valley. A day’s work might include labelling videos, transcribing audio, or showing algorithms how to identify various photos of cats.

Amid a drought of real employment, “clickwork” represents one of few formal options for Dadaab’s residents, though the work is volatile, arduous, and, when waged, paid by the piece. Cramped and airless workspaces, festooned with a jumble of cables and loose wires, are the antithesis to the near-celestial campuses where the new masters of the universe reside. […]

Microwork comes with no rights, security, or routine and pays a pittance — just enough to keep a person alive yet socially paralyzed. Stuck in camps, slums, or under colonial occupation, workers are compelled to work simply to subsist under conditions of bare life. This unequivocally racialized aspect to the programs follows the logic of the prison-industrial complex, whereby surplus — primarily black — populations [in the United States] are incarcerated and legally compelled as part of their sentence to labor for little to no payment. Similarly exploiting those confined to the economic shadows, microwork programs represent the creep of something like a refugee-industrial complex.

And it’s not just happening in Kenya.

Brazilian workers paid equivalent of 70 cents an hour to transcribe TikToksThe Intercept
For Felipe, the plan to make a little quick money became a hellish experience. With TikTok’s short-form video format, much of the audio that needed transcription was only a few seconds long. The payment, made in U.S. dollars, was supposed to be $14 for every hour of audio transcribed. Amassing the secondslong clips into an hour of transcribed audio took Felipe about 20 hours. That worked out to only about 70 cents per hour — or 3.85 Brazilian reals, about three-quarters of Brazil’s minimum wage.

The minimum wage, however, did not apply to the TikTok transcribers — like many other workers, the transcription job used the gig economy model, a favorite of tech firms. Gig economy workers are not protected by some labor laws; they are considered independent contractors rather than employees or even wage earners. In the case of the TikTok transcribers, who did not even have formal contracts, pay was based on how much transcribing they did rather than the hours they worked.

Keep it down, s’il vous plaît

After reading about how Venice is planning to use technology to control its tourists, here’s an article on Paris’s plans to tackle noise pollution.

Paris will try using sound sensors to fine vehicles causing noise pollutionQuartz
Similar technology has been used by police departments in US cities to determine the location of gunshots, but French cities have been pioneers in cracking down on noise as a traffic violation and public health hazard. Mayor Anne Hidalgo made reducing noise pollution part of her 2020 reelection campaign. Noise pollution is a top issue in France after air pollution. A study by Bruitparif found that in the greater Paris region, the health impacts of noise can cost a person an average 10 months of a healthy life, and July 2021 study estimated that the resulting social health costs from noise pollution—illness, hospitalization, lost years of work—could cost France €156 billion ($181 billion USD) per year.

I’m all for it.

NoiseWHO Europe
Excessive noise seriously harms human health and interferes with people’s daily activities at school, at work, at home and during leisure time. It can disturb sleep, cause cardiovascular and psychophysiological effects, reduce performance and provoke annoyance responses and changes in social behaviour.

Traffic noise alone is harmful to the health of almost every third person in the WHO European Region. One in five Europeans is regularly exposed to sound levels at night that could significantly damage health.

Another reason to go electric? Not necessarily.

Welcome, but not too welcome

On one hand, you have giant violins floating down Venice’s Grand Canal drawing in the crowds. On the other, plans to use high-tech crowd control techniques designed to keep those crowds at bay.

Venice, overwhelmed by tourists, tries tracking themThe New York Times
The city’s leaders are acquiring the cellphone data of unwitting tourists and using hundreds of surveillance cameras to monitor visitors and prevent crowding. Next summer, they plan to install long-debated gates at key entry points; visitors coming only for the day will have to book ahead and pay a fee to enter. If too many people want to come, some will be turned away. […]

But many residents see the plans to monitor, and control, people’s movements as dystopian — and either a publicity stunt or a way to attract wealthier tourists, who might be discouraged from coming by the crowds. “It’s like declaring once and for all that Venice is not a city, but a museum,” said Giorgio Santuzzo, 58, who works as a photographer and artist in the city.

Recognising the female gaze

News of a fascinating exhibition at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The New Woman Behind the CameraThe Metropolitan Museum of Art
Featuring more than 120 photographers from over 20 countries, this groundbreaking exhibition explores the work of the diverse “new” women who embraced photography as a mode of professional and artistic expression from the 1920s through the 1950s. During this tumultuous period shaped by two world wars, women stood at the forefront of experimentation with the camera and produced invaluable visual testimony that reflects both their personal experiences and the extraordinary social and political transformations of the era.

Neglected 20th-century women photographers begin to get their dueHyperallergic
It is a breath of fresh air to see some of the show’s more familiar names — Ilse Bing, Germaine Krull, Margaret Bourke-White — finally get their due, as they are too often relegated to the corners of exhibitions to say, in effect, “Oh, and there were women too!” Bing, in particular, is a star of the show, as her “Self-Portrait with Leica” (1931) asserts an unwavering female gaze. Like Annemarie Heinrich and Florence Henri, whose work also features in the exhibition, Bing uses mirrors to toy with photography’s flattening of three-dimensional space, obscuring the distinction between reality and reflection, subject and object. When we view beautiful women in pictures, they do not typically look back at us, judging our gazes; Bing’s camera thus becomes a sort of weapon, a radical self-defense.

I wonder if Masha Ivashintsova or Audrey Tautou make an appearance.

A different kind of dark web

It’s a topic I’ve mentioned before, but here’s another round-up of the ways web design can be quite manipulative.

The rise of dark web design: how sites manipulate you into clickingThe Conversation
Dark design has proven to be an incredibly effective way of encouraging web users to part with their time, money and privacy. This in turn has established “dark patterns”, or sets of practices designers know they can use to manipulate web users. They’re difficult to spot, but they’re increasingly prevalent in the websites and apps we use every day, creating products that are manipulative by design, much like the persistent, ever-present pop-ups we’re forced to close when we visit a new website.

How dark patterns trick you onlineNerdwriter1: YouTube
Some of the responsibility’s on us, but some is on design too. And it’s not the fault of the designers; they’re just doing what they’re tasked to do, knowing full well that if they don’t, others will. As Brignull says, our best defence against the dark patterns is to be aware of them and shame the companies who utilise them.

For more info on the different types, here’s a direct, non-sneaky, no-nonsense link to Harry Brignull’s website.

Is ‘to Andersonize’ a new French verb?

Let’s stay in France with these articles about Wes Anderson’s new film, The French Dispatch, based loosely on The New Yorker’s writers and editors. Whilst it’s fascinating to read about the real life editors and reporters that inspired the film, I’m more interested in its aesthetics.

The New Yorker writers and editors who inspired “The French Dispatch”The New Yorker
According to David Brendel, who worked closely with Anderson on “An Editor’s Burial,” an anthology of New Yorker articles and other writing that inspired the film, the filmmaker discussed the significance of the movie’s vibrant visual language during post-production. “This is a world where all of the eccentricities are preserved, and it’s as if the magazine’s offices and culture back then were as colorful as its covers,” Brendel said.

When Wes Anderson comes to town, buildings get symmetricalThe New York Times
The top floors of the building, which include a sign so wordy (The French Dispatch of the Liberty, Kansas Evening Sun) that it continues across the upper-floor windows, were actually designed as a miniature. That miniature was digitally merged with the real building to give the top of it a more stylized look. The townscape of buildings in the background to the left is also a digitally added miniature. But on the ground level, the fronts were constructed for the film.

I noticed that this photo of the original building is credited to Accidentally Wes Anderson, the website that highlights similarly interesting and idiosyncratic places from across the globe. It was nice to see some local architecture featured there, amongst all the others.

Accidentally Wes Anderson: Instagram finds stylised symmetry in real citiesThe Guardian
He says his account, @AccidentallyWesAnderson, has found favour with “an engaged group of explorers with a keen eye”, who send him thousands of submissions every week. The community he has built around Anderson’s aesthetic was recognised last month, when Koval was able to exclusively share the artwork for Anderson’s upcoming film, Isle of Dogs: “not accidental, but very much intentional Wes Anderson”.

That’s all been gathered up in book form, now.

‘Accidentally Wes Anderson’, a book of real locations that look like they’re made specifically for his filmsLaughing Squid
Wally Koval, the man behind the popular Accidentally Wes Anderson Instagram account that features real-life locations that look like they’re made in the distinct style of Wes Anderson specifically for his films, has put their photographic collection into a hardcover book with a sewn binding. The book showcases 200 different locations over 368 pages and features a foreword by Anderson himself.

But back to the movie, or rather the music video of the movie (with Jarvis Cocker!).

Watch Wes Anderson’s animated music video for The French Dispatch’s ‘Aline’Dazed
Wes Anderson has directed a new, animated music video for Jarvis Cocker’s rendition of the 1965 Christophe track “Aline”, performed as the fictional pop star Tip Top. The song is one of several French pop covers to feature on Cocker’s musical counterpart to Anderson’s The French Dispatch. Titled Chansons d’Ennui, the record will also include versions of tracks by Serge Gainsbourg, Brigitte Bardot, Marie LaFôret, Jacques Dutronc, and more.

I note its style is very similar to the design of the initial movie poster, though they seem to have gone in a very different direction for this new set of posters.

12 new posters for The French Dispatch feature each of its characters within the wonderful world of print journalismIt’s Nice That
The New Yorker is known for its beautiful covers. Each month, the publication delivers a new painted or illustrated cover for its readers, so it was important for the creative team behind the posters to emulate the covers and making sure the fonts stand out on the poster design. The result is clean and punchy posters which facilitate design elements to shine through, thus allowing for a clear and consistent design identity to be born of the cinematic world.

Looks like we’re heading off to Spain for the next one.

Wes Anderson is shooting a new film in Spain this summerDazed
Sets for Anderson’s as-yet-untitled project can be seen on the outskirts of the town in south east Madrid, says the Spanish newspaper, ready for shooting in July, August, and September. These sets reportedly include a mock train station and landscapes typical of a classic Western (though the film isn’t said to be of that genre).

That’s a wrap

Isn’t it great to see Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s last wish become such a majestic reality.

Work begins on wrapping Arc de Triomphe for Christo artwork – The Guardian
Shortly after the sun rose over central Paris, the first of the orange-clad rope technicians hopped over the top of the Arc de Triomphe and began to abseil down the landmark unrolling a swathe of silvery blue fabric that shimmered in the early light. […]

The monumental feat of wrapping the Arc de Triomphe in 25,000 sq metres of material and posthumously fulfilling a 60-year dream for the artist Christo, had begun.

Here’s why the Arc De Triomphe was just wrapped in fabricNPR
The project was not as simple as simply closing a large set of drapes.

Paris’ iconic Arc de Triomphe gets wrapped in shimmering fabricMy Modern Met
This temporary installation officially opened on September 18, and the monument will remain wrapped for 16 days. In order for pedestrians to interact with the fabric, the Place Charles de Gaulle intersection will temporarily be turned into a car-free area.

Live stream & timelineChristo and Jeanne-Claude
“It will be like a living object that will move in the wind and reflect the light. With its moving folds, the monument’s surface will become sensual. People will want to touch the Arc de Triomphe.” (Christo)

You can see it for yourself, for a while at least.

Christo and Jeanne-Claude: L’Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped – Live ViewChristo and Jeanne-Claude: YouTube
L’Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped, a temporary artwork for Paris, will be on view for 16 days from Saturday, September 18 to Sunday, October 3, 2021.

There will be plenty left behind, though, when this is all wrapped up and put away.

Christo’s ‘L’Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped’ — A legendary installation 60 years in the makingDesignboom
As with all of Christo’s projects, ‘L’Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped’ will be entirely funded by the artist through the sale of his preparatory studies, drawings and collages of the project as well as scale models, works from the 1950s and 1960s and original lithographs on other subjects. It will receive no public or private funds.

During the presentation, Sotheby’s Paris will show ‘the final Christo’, an exhibition of 25 original works, including imagery, juxtaposing maps, architectural plans, photographs and engineering drawings in pastel and paint, drawn in preparation for the wrapping. Each work will be available for private sale, with proceeds to benefit both the upcoming project, and the Christo & Jeanne-Claude Foundation, established to safeguard the artists’ legacy for future generations.

As Christo’s swan song L’Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped becomes a reality, this book details its incredible designIt’s Nice That
60 years after their meeting, and after the passing of both Christo and Jeanne-Claude (in 2020 and 2009 respectively), the historic Parisian landmark is currently being wrapped in 25,000 square meters of recyclable silvery blue polypropylene fabric and 3,000 metres of recyclable red polypropylene rope, as per the artists’ request. Their posthumous installation is documented in a new softcover book published by Taschen gathering photography, drawings, and a history of the project’s making.

Going to the movies — for a bit

Listening to people worry about how streaming services and mobile phones are changing how we watch movies, you’d be forgiven for thinking that in the past movie-going must have been a pretty straightforward affair. Not so, as this fascinating ramble through a long lunch with Orson Welles shows.

From the Time Capsule: Lunch conversations with Orson WellesVulture
H.J.: Warren Beatty was just saying that TV has changed movies, because for most of us, once you’re in a movie theater, you commit, whether you like it or not. You want to see what they’ve done, while at home …

O.W.: I’m the opposite. It’s a question of age. In my real moviegoing days, which were the thirties, you didn’t stand in line. You strolled down the street and sallied into the theater at any hour of the day or night. Like you’d go in to have a drink at a bar. Every movie theater was partially empty. We never asked what time the movie began. We used to go after we went to the theater.

H.J.: You didn’t feel you had to see a movie from the start?

O.W.: No. We’d leave when we’d realize, “This is where we came in.” Everybody said that. I loved movies for that reason. They didn’t cost that much, so if you didn’t like one, it was, “Let’s do something else. Go to another movie.” And that’s what made it habitual to such an extent that walking out of a movie was what for people now is like turning off the television set.

Water music

After its test launch in August, Livio De Marchi’s floating violin headed off down the canals of Venice, like something from a Bosch Parade.

A giant violin floats down Venice’s Grand CanalThe New York Times
The craft, called “Noah’s Violin,” set sail accompanied by an escort of gondolas, and in no time a small flotilla of motorboats, water taxis and traditional flat-bottomed Venetian sandoli joined the violin as it glided from city hall, near the Rialto Bridge, to the ancient Customs House across from Piazza San Marco, about an hour’s ride. […]

It was mostly smooth sailing, though De Marchi mumbled anxiously whenever the prow (the neck of the violin) veered too sharply to one side or other. But even though the musicians played standing up (barefoot for a better grip), they scarcely missed a note. At one point the score for the viola flew off the music stand and into the water, but it was quickly recovered.

As is often the case in Italy, the real hitches along with way were bureaucratic. “We were told we needed a vehicle registration plate, but officials didn’t know how to classify it,” said Mario Bullo, a carpenter in the consortium. At first, they were issued the same plates given to rafts. “But the traffic police objected, saying that’s not a raft, it’s a violin,” he said with a shrug.

Il violino di Noè – Bach BWV 1043, adagioAngelica Faccani: YouTube
A fragment from Bach’s two violins concerto adagio played in Venice at the inauguration of Livio de Marchi’s ‘Noah’s Violin’.

They were playing Vivaldi, a Venice native, but perhaps Handel would have been appropriate too?

Getting stuck and unstuck

Do you ever get stuck with your blog? I certainly do, as these gaps between posts can testify. Here, Tim Davies shares his obstacles and succinctly reminds us why he — and many of the rest of us — sticks with it.

Overcoming posting-paralysis?Tim’s Blog
The caption of David Eaves’ blog comes to mind: “if writing is a muscle, this is my gym”. And linked: writing is a tool of thought. So, if I want to think properly about the things I’m reading and engaging with, I need to be writing about them. And writing a blog post, or constructing a tweet thread, can be a very effective way to push that writing (and thinking) beyond rough bullet points, to more complete thoughts.

And for inspiration, check out these visualisations of creative processes.

ProcessMelike Turgut
No matter how much we all try to ground our ideas in simplicity, the process of solving a creative problem is often chaotic. With this project, I try to make sense of the chaos by trying to pin-point the stages of my creative process. I use time as my constant [represented as a straight red line] and map my process around it.

The future’s so bright?

What could possibly go wrong?

Ray-Ban StoriesLuxottica
Facebook, Inc. and Ray-Ban releases the next generation of smart glasses, Ray-Ban Stories. The highly anticipated collaboration brings forward a new way to seamlessly capture, share and listen through your most authentic moments. […]

We’re introducing an entirely new way for people to stay connected to the world around them and truly be present in life’s most important moments, and to look good while doing it,” said Andrew Bosworth, Vice President, Facebook Reality Labs.

I wish Ray-Ban’s Stories smart glasses were made by anyone but FacebookYahoo Finance
Whether or not you’re willing to make that investment largely depends on how you feel about Facebook and what you are hoping to get out of a pair of “smart glasses.” At best, they feel like a better, more polished version of Snapchat’s Spectacles. It’s still a novelty, but with decent audio, smart glasses are starting to feel a lot more useful. At worst, the glasses are yet another reminder of Facebook’s dominance.

Facebook announces launch of Ray-Ban Stories smart glassesThe Guardian
The company’s hardest sell might not be privacy, but the glasses themselves. Snapchat’s Spectacles are now in their third generation, with improvements each time, yet they’ve failed to catch the imagination of the target market. The company took a $40m write-down on the value of unsold inventory in 2017.

Facebook and Ray-Ban are rolling out smart glasses that actually look cool. Will anyone buy them?CNN
I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was getting away with something while wearing Ray-Ban Stories in public. As far as I could tell, nobody noticed anything unusual about the glasses while chasing my kids around a busy playground, even when I was taking numerous short videos. (It was impossible for me to tell, but perhaps the bright sunlight made the glasses’ white LED less noticeable.) I walked into stores with them on, took pictures of myself in mirrors, and nobody even blinked. It would have been easy to use these glasses to invade other people’s privacy. Was this accidentally furtive photo- and video-taking turning me into a Facehole?

Facebook’s new camera glasses are dangerously easy to useWIRED
During a dinner with friends last weekend, Peter wore the Ray-Ban Stories the whole time—and it wasn’t until he pointed out the tiny sensors embedded at the temples that friends noticed. Once they did, though, Facebook’s biggest issue didn’t take long to surface: “So, you’ve been recording the whole time?” one friend asked, only half joking. Similarly, Lauren recorded (then deleted) a conversation with an editor while fumbling with the glasses. The editor never noticed.

Smart glasses made Google look dumb. Now Facebook is giving them a try.The New York Times
Many of these privacy concerns are beside the point for technologists who see wearables as inexorable for society. For Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, the ultimate goal is to eventually release a pair of smart glasses that fully augment reality, which puts a kind of virtual overlay onto the world in front of people.

That idea is yet another step on the road to the metaverse, Mr. Zuckerberg’s term for how parts of the virtual and actual world will eventually meld together and share different parts of each other.

Is it getting a little tiring, now, to keep responding to these type of stories with ‘just because we can, doesn’t mean we should’? I did, however, like the comment about determining someone’s age by their taking-a-photo gestures, at the end of this piece from the BBC’s Chris Fox.

Looking back at the cybercafés of the future

Everything innovative and cutting-edge is destined to become quaint and old-fashioned — from cassettes, DVDs and mobile phones, to laptops and the web itself, even. Looking back at the internet of the 90s, it’s easy to forget how revolutionary and necessary cybercafés once were.

Introducing the crazy new world of cybercafesCNET: YouTube
“What happens when plugged-in people congregate for a little indoor surfing? You get cybercafés. Desmond Crisis, the newest member of the CNET central team, takes us on a tour of these hi-tech hangouts.”

The hippest internet cafe of 1995Vox: YouTube
The cyber-struggle is real. Vox’s Phil Edwards spoke to one of the founders of @ Cafe, an internet cafe that launched just as the internet was coming into the public eye.

Cybercafés were the brainchild of Ivan Pope, as he’s keen to tell us, though Cyberia’s Eva Pascoe was perhaps more influential.

The first Internet cafe operates (for two days)History of Information
Commissioned to develop an Internet event for “Towards the Aesthetics of the Future,” an arts weekend at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) in London, Ivan Pope wrote a proposal outlining the concept of a café with Internet access from the tables. Pope’s Cybercafe, the first Internet cafe, operated only during the weekend event, March 12-13, 1994. Pope and internet artist Heath Bunting planned to open London’s first cybercafe later in 1994, but were preempted by Cyberia, an internet cafe founded in London in September 1994.

Cafe with a mission to explain: Cyberia offers chance to check your e-mail and network over coffee and croissantThe Independent
Welcome to Cyberia, Britain’s first cybercafe, where you can turn on, tune in and ‘surf’ the information superhighway. The cafe concept, devised to make a computer environment less formidable, has been borrowed from California where ‘surfing’ – or hopping between global databanks – is commonplace. Here in Whitfield Street, central London, over a cappuccino and an almond croissant, cognoscenti and novices alike can communicate with kindred spirits around the world. Even people with scant technical knowledge will be able to access international databanks and pick up ‘e-mail’.

All About Eva: Wired UK Issue 2.04 April 1996Yoz
Cyberia is a barely-decorated street-level space where 50-year-old gardening club members, 40-year-old advertising execs, 30-year-old nurses, 20-year-old hairdressers and still-living-with-their-mums teenagers sit shoulder to shoulder basking in the joys of the Internet. And that means it’s the cool hang-out for technologically-curious people in London.

They spread everywhere — from London to San Francisco, Paris, even Bolton.

Remembering the Horseshoe, quite possibly the nation’s first Internet cafeHoodline
Before the city’s coffee shops were filled with laptops, Internet cafes were among the few places to access the World Wide Web outside of the home. The Lower Haight once boasted one such spot: the Horseshoe Cafe at 566 Haight St. Said to be the first Internet cafe in the nation, the cafe opened in the 1990s, and endured until it caught fire and closed in 2005.

Cybercafes@ParisSecrets of Paris
My favorite was the High Tech Café up on top of the Galeries Lafayette next to Montparnasse. It has passed on to its next life as a restaurant, but just to give you an idea of how the French interpret an internet café: the computers were lined up on one side, with a dining room and bar on the other side, a big dancefloor in between with a disco ball. I could order food and drinks while sitting at the keyboard, and on Friday nights I could barely type out my e-mails because the karaoke was too loud.

8 of Edinburgh’s best-known internet cafes of the 2000sEdinburgh News
They were the petrol stations for drivers on the “information superhighway”, filling us up with all our World Wide Web needs in an age when fewer than a quarter of us had internet access at home. While they can still be found in the Capital, the early 2000s witnessed a surge in the number of internet cafes in the city with the number of people reliant on them at its peak. From Scotland’s first, Hanover Street’s Cyberia, to the gigantic Easy Everything on Rose Street, we take a look at 8 of Edinburgh’s most fondly-recalled cyber cafes.

Cyber cafe set to keep doors openWarrington Guardian
Youngsters in Winsford can continue to surf the net and develop their computer skills after the Cybercafe scheme proved to be a huge success. The cafe, at Willow Wood Community Centre, attracted 200 youngsters in its first week who were all keen to surf the internet, play computer games and even take part in a pool tournament. The scheme was originally set up to run for four weeks, but as it was such a hit, it will run for a further six.

Cyber cafe is a winnerThe Bolton News
Two friends who run a Horwich Internet cafe believe they have logged on to a franchise winner. Directors Gary Marsden and Hassan Isaji spent several months planning the details before the December opening of Cyberjungle on the Middlebrook leisure development at Lostock. Customers can enjoy a cappuccino coffee while using one of the 16 available computer terminals to send e-mails or surf the worldwide web.

People loved them …

I landed on IRC in a hot summer night 1996Fred Thoughts
I landed on IRC in a hot summer night 1996. The Internet room at my local cybercafe was small and smelly. The air was full of a persistent mix of dust, sweat, coffee, cold cigarette and cheap washing powder. It was filled with 4 old PCs, recycled from the gaming room. Most of the day, it was empty but passed 7PM, it was constantly full of people. For 4.5 € an hour, the introvert I was started a wonderful social life. I was surfing the awakening World Wide Web and chat with people from the other side of the world, staying hours after the shop closed its curtains. Around 4 AM, the owner kicked us out, and I walked back home across the dormant city before another boring day, another night online.

… and they were keen to let you know what was going on.

Cyberia Edinburgh live webcam!Cybersurf
If you can see the inside of the café: those people sitting at the computers are our valued customers. They are mostly writing e-mails, word processing or perhaps chatting on IRC. If you would like to chat with any of them, I’m afraid there is currently no reliable way to reach them, aside from visiting every IRC channel and running a ‘finger’ on every single person! For lively chat on all things Scottish, try #scotland on your local server. If the channel doesn’t exist, start one up! Who knows, perhaps someone you can see will join it!

Cyberpub CAMS
Air Academy Spy Cam; Apple Live; Brew Cam, Sacramento; Café Boatquay; Cafe Brno, Repubblica Ceca Internet Bar; Cafe’ Action Cam, Switzerland…

Everyone wanted to get involved.

Tesco joins Internet café societyDesign Week
A Tesco spokesman confirms that “we are going to do it” though there are no definite plans about the number of outlets or where they will be. He believes the cafés will build on the success of the existing Tesco website, which was established in July 1998 and created by Designer City. “TescoNet is going very well, but there is still a large proportion of people who are curious about the Internet. They are put off by big computer brands and have a fear of the technology,” he explains.

Apple nearly got in on it, too.

Apple once considered building futuristic cybercafes instead of Apple StoresThe Next Web
Developed in collaboration with Mega Bytes, the Apple Cafe was imagined as an innovative internet cafe with a “high tech” interior design that reflected the forward-looking mindset the Big A aspired to stand for. Radically diverging from the facade of traditional retail stores, the modernist locale was slated to bring together food service, paraphernalia retail, user support and computer sales into one single common space.

Apple almost built a futuristic cybercafe in 1997 with computers at every tableMacRumors
Jobs was reportedly involved in the design process, choosing Christopher’s team because of their work creating unique retail spaces. Jobs wanted a way for Apple to connect to customers, which led to the idea of a cafe equipped with Apple products. A computer was at every table, where people could do things like order food, watch movies, surf the web, design web pages, and play video games.

That EasyJet guy had big plans …

U.K. gets largest cyber cafeCNN Money
Stelios Haji-Ioannou, the founder and chairman of U.K.-based no-frills carrier easyJet, opened the first in a chain of giant Internet cafes, called easyEverything Internet shops, opposite one of London’s largest railway stations. The huge 10,000 square foot store, opposite Victoria Station in central London, has 400 screens and will offer access to the Internet from prices as low as 1 pound ($1.60) per hour. The standard telephone costs alone for home users in the U.K. is around 1.05 pounds. London’s first Internet cafe, Cyberia, charges 3 pounds for a half hour session.

… which led to even bigger plans.

U.K. cyber cafe heads to New YorkCNN.com
EasyEverything founder Stelios Haji-Ioannou is planning to extend his chain of big orange cyber cafes to the Big Apple, a spokesman for the company said Monday. The easyEverything chain offers low-cost Internet access to travellers and others without their own computers through its five London cyber cafes, easily recognizable by their giant orange facades. Located in tourist areas such as Oxford Street and Victoria Station, the cafes have a total of 2,300 computer terminals. The company has recently added outlets in Rotterdam, Edinburgh, Amsterdam and Barcelona.

Some had their doubts …

Internet cafe chain to try a Times Sq. connectionThe New York Times
Among the reasons EasyEvery thing, which is open 24 hours a day, may have succeeded in London are that most people here do not own personal computers and that the telephone rates for dial-up modem access to the Internet are significantly higher than in the United States. Because local telephone calls are billed by the minute here — not a flat rate like American telephone companies offer — Internet users must pay the telephone company and the access providers, like America Online, every time they log on.

”By itself, it is deadly dull for a U.S. audience,” said Bruce Kasrel, a senior analyst at Forrester Research, which analyzes e-commerce. ”People already have Internet access at the office and at home.” He cited empty Internet access terminals at airports as an example of a similar scheme that had not worked.

… which turned out to be well-founded.

‘The world’s first,’ Café Cyberia in London, takes a bow : A decade of Internet cafésThe New York Times
But like many entrepreneurs from the early dot-com years, Pascoe left the business in 1998 and went on to other projects. The chain of Cyberia cafés were sold to South Korean investors about three years ago, who rebranded them under the name Be the Reds, or BTR — borrowing a cheer shouted by supporters of the South Korean soccer team. […]

Haji-Ioannou has said that he overinvested in the business, which turned into a big money-loser for his EasyGroup.

Stelios bails out EasyEverythingBBC News
The EasyEverything internet cafe chain has run out of money and is to get a £15m funding injection from its founder, budget airline entrepreneur Stelios Haji-Ioannou. But Mr Haji-Ioannou confirmed he is cutting the value of shares held by staff from one pound to one penny as part of the refinancing.

I have kidnapped your auntie: The Ballad of the Bad Café, and the end of the road for the internet café hoboBBC World Service
I have now completed a world journey of internet cafes. Scroll to the bottom of the blog and you’ll see I started all bright and bushy-tailed, finding stories of education, enterprise and cheer. There are huge advantages to the public nature of internet cafes. And – as I discovered in programme three – some disadvantages too. As I type this in my comfortable office, the only people who can “shoulder surf” or look over my shoulder at what I’m writing, are colleagues. For me, privacy is easy. On the other hand, Sam Roberts shoulder-surfed a man in Burkina Faso and saw he was threatening to kidnap someone’s auntie.

Cybercafés haven’t entirely gone away …

The weird, sketchy history of internet cafesGizmodo
The idea was eventually exported to New York’s Times Square in 2000, but by then, the idea of going someplace to simply get online was already getting outdated and quaint. The internet was something you could access from home; it was evolving. And internet cafes got a whole lot weirder. […]

Flannel-wearing 90s hipsters got Internet cafes off the ground, but internet pirates jonesing for free movies and music took the establishment to a whole new level. At the turn of the millennium—around the same time Napster became popular—sharing music online did, too. And people in pursuit of illicit MP3s started filling internet cafes again. […]

PC bangs [internet cafes built for just for gaming] are still in full force today, with over 22,000 reported in 2007. Patrons spend a buck an hour for the all-you-can-play, high-speed bandwidth, powerful hardware, and snacks for purchase. Gaming addiction is also a problem, with work and school falling by the wayside as gamers spend all their time and money at PC bangs. In 2011, Korea implemented a controversial curfew that mandated customers under 16 were not allowed in internet cafes from midnight to 6 a.m.

… but they are very different places now.

The Japanese workers who live in internet cafesVice
For 10 months, Fumiya, a 26-year-old Japanese security guard, has been living in a 24-hour internet cafe. In a tiny cubicle where he can barely stand, he sits hunched over a glowing screen, chain smoking and chugging soda between his work shifts. When he is able to sleep, he puts a blanket over his face to block out the fluorescent lights.

Japan’s disposable workers: Net cafe refugeesMediaStorm: Vimeo
Internet cafes have existed in Japan for well over a decade, but in the mid 2000’s, customers found a new use for these spaces: living quarters. As a result, cafes are now equipped with showers and laundry service, all reasonably priced for overnight users. “Internet cafe refugees,” as they are called by the media, are mostly temporary employees. Their salary is too low to rent their own apartments. The number of low-paid temp workers, with little benefits and no job security, has been steadily climbing. Today, more than one in three are temporary workers.

For HK$55 a night, Hong Kong’s ‘invisible homeless’ or working poor turn to cybercafes, amid unaffordable rents and with nowhere to goSouth China Morning Post
Air conditioning and desktops for internet are better options than squalid, bug-infested subdivided flats or 24-hour fast-food chains.

Life hasn’t returned to normal for China’s internet cafesSouth China Morning Post
Business are urged to reopen across the country as coronavirus infections drop, but gamers wonder when they can visit their favorite haunts again.

So yes, cybercafés are still around …

All about internet cafesLifewire
Do your research at home before traveling and bring along a list of well-rated cyber cafes. Travel guides often provide locations of internet cafes for travelers. Do a Google search for cyber cafes in the areas you plan to visit. A Google Maps search of your intended destination will pinpoint locations. Check in advance to find out if an internet cafe is still open. They often have unusual hours and close down with little or no notification.

… though they are now as far from their chic hi-tech bistro beginnings as it’s possible to be. Many of the existing ones, little more than just mobile phone shops, are all using the same Google template. Not all, though.

Internet Cafe Kentish Town
Internet Cafe Kentish Town. From 09.45 til 22.30. Printing and Photocopying. Hampstead. Highgate.

Global Gaming Arena
Founded in 1998, Netadventure Cybercafe and Global Gaming Arena was the UKs first dedicated on-line gaming centre. We concentrate on being a community for gamers to meet as well as to play.

Still, if you’re interested in setting one up, there are companies out there ready to offer all you need, from IT admin software to more bespoke website templates.

Internet Cafe softwareAntamedia
Antamedia Internet Cafe software controls, secures, and enhances the running of your Internet cafe, gaming center, eSports center, library, school or hotel public computers. The software restricts access to the system, desktop, drives, folders and programs based on your settings. It helps you control and bill your customers for the Internet browsing, playing games, using Office applications, even covering retail products.

Talnet Internet Cafe HTML5 website templateTemplate Monster
The Talnet internet cafe HTML5 website template provides a modern & bright design combined with a spacious layout. It is a perfect choice for any internet cafe or coworking space.

Or you could just run a simulation instead.

Internet Cafe SimulatorSteam
You must pay the rent of your apartment and shop. You must satisfy your customers. You should install more elegant and powerful gaming computers. You can also do illegal work if you want. But be careful, the price can be very heavy.

Internet Cafe Simulator 2Steam
You can attract more customers on rainy days. Increase the skills you want to develop from the tech tree. Will you become a business prodigy or a brawler skilled at protecting his cafe? You have to earn money to pay off your brother’s debt!

Internet Cafe Simulator (PC) reviewHardcore Gamers Unified
Internet Cafe Simulator puts you in charge of a brand-new internet café. As the new boss, every success and failure is in your hands. Purchase new computers and make sure they’re updated with the latest and greatest applications and games. Choose how much you want to charge customers so you can maximize profit by chasing them away, after all, you need to pay the rent at the end of every month!

I think I’ll continue trying to set up my cybercafé in Second Life. Pop in, if you’re passing. Free internet access!

Art, close up

This reminded me of Tezi Gabunia’s tiny art galleries.

Honey, we shrunk the art! The return of the micro galleryElephant
Simon Martin believes it’s the little things that count. As the coronavirus pandemic forced museums the world over to temporarily close, the director of Pallant House Gallery quietly reached out to a cohort of British contemporary artists with a simple yet challenging proposition: to create a small-scale artwork measuring no more than 15 sq cm.

More than 30 creative luminaries have contributed original works to the 2021 Model Art Gallery, ranging from a pair of terracotta vessels by studio potter Magdalene Odundo and a painting by Sean Scully, to a Julian Opie sculpture and a miniature print from photographer Khadija Saye, the only work from her Crowned series not destroyed in the Grenfell Tower fire which took her life.

It’s not the first time the Chichester institution has scaled down: the earliest model gallery in Pallant House Gallery’s collection, The Thirty Four Gallery, debuted in 1934 after art dealer Sydney Burney invited his contemporaries (including Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth and Vanessa Bell) to create miniature artworks to fill a dollhouse for a charitable cause. Lost for decades, some of the works were later rediscovered in a suitcase by Burney’s grandson. The model was recreated by Pallant House Gallery in 1997 based on photographs of the original designed by the architect Marshall Sisson.

Sending a message to WhatsApp

WhatsApp fined $267 million for breaching EU privacy lawThe Verge
Ireland’s Data Protection Commission (DPC) announced the decision in an 89-page summary (PDF), noting that WhatsApp did not properly inform EU citizens how it handles their personal data, including how it shares that information with its parent company.

WhatsApp hit with €225M privacy finePolitico
Ireland’s data regulator on Thursday fined WhatsApp €225 million for violating Europe’s privacy rules — a more than four-fold increase in the penalty compared to what the watchdog had initially proposed.

Ireland watchdog fines WhatsApp record sum for flouting EU data rulesThe Guardian
Four “very serious” infringements violated the core of GDPR, said Dixon. “They go to the heart of the general principle of transparency and the fundamental right of the individual to protection of his/her personal data which stems from the free will and autonomy of the individual to share his/her personal data in a voluntary situation such as this.” The violations affected an “extremely high” number of people, said the watchdog.

Adrian Weckler explains WhatsApp’s €225m fineIndependent.ie: YouTube
The Irish Data Protection Commissioner has imposed a €225m fine on Facebook-owned Whatsapp, Europe’s second largest penalty so far under GDPR privacy laws. However, it did so only after being ordered to raise the amount by an EU data oversight board.

WhatsApp fined €225m for not telling users how it shared data with FacebookFinancial Times
The WhatsApp ruling came after Luxembourg fined Amazon a record €746m in July for breaching GDPR and Ireland fined Twitter €450m in December for not informing regulators about a data leak within 72 hours. The Irish Data Protection Commission has more than two dozen ongoing investigations into big tech companies. Amazon has said it will appeal against its fine.

Facebook: Let us tell you WhatsApp – we don’t want to pay that €225m GDPR fineThe Register
It’s reported to be the heftiest fine ever issued by the DPC and the second-largest handed out under EU data protection laws. It’s also small change for WhatsApp’s parent Facebook, which made a $30bn profit in its latest financial year. The fine is about one per cent of the social network’s annual net income. […]

As well as the fine, the DPC has also ordered WhatsApp to take “a range of specified remedial actions” which some sources claim could make privacy policies even less user friendly.