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.

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.

A persistent photographer

An interview with Ian Treherne, a photographer with a certain sense of urgency.

“I’ve managed to break a few boundaries along the way”: Meet the blind photographer who captured this year’s ParalympiansIt’s Nice That
Ian says that he enjoys making people question how he can be both blind and a photographer, he likes “hurting their brains. I’m just super happy that I can inspire other people to pick up the camera and tell themselves, ‘I’m allowed to do this,’ because I know people feel like they’re not allowed to do it.” Paralympians, in his eyes, are superhuman: “bloody brilliant”. They’re showing us, he explains, that with a certain level of commitment, practice and dedication, you can really achieve what it is that you want to do.

“The box that I’m being put in is only based on seven per cent of people in the UK. There are people that are totally blind, in total darkness. That’s the universal idea of what a blind person is, but that’s only seven per cent of us, so it’s a really small number. There’s another 93 per cent of people that have been questioned as to why they’re holding a white cane whilst looking at their phone.”

This profile of him from a few years ago gives us a sense of what he’s up against.

How a blind photographer sees the worldBBC News
Completely self-taught, Treherne is influenced by photographers David Bailey and John French – and also by his blindness. With their dark peripheries, his black and white portraits “mimic” his eye condition. “I’m not going to lie, it is extremely difficult for me,” he says. “It is insanely hard working with this tiny window of sight. There are shoots I can’t do but I don’t know any other way and I just utilise what I’ve got left. I’ve never had an assistant, I have done it the hard way.”

Treherne’s window of vision is demonstrated in this representation of his eyesight

Pretty inspiring stuff.

Fancy a cheese sarnie?

I thought these two recent links from Laughing Squid went together well.

How to properly cut and serve different cheesesLaughing Squid
Anne Saxelby, the resident turophile of Saxelby Cheesemongers in New York City, gave an informative Epicurious lesson on how to properly “cut the cheese”. All jokes aside, Saxelby, who has a long history working with artisanal cheese, offers helpful tips on not only cutting but appreciating and serving different varietals from all over the world.

How to make just about every shape of breadLaughing Squid
Peter Endriss, the head baker at Runner & Stone in Gowanus, Brooklyn partnered with Epicurious to offer a rather comprehensive tutorial in shaping a variety of different bread. Included in this list are simple loaves of bread and rolls along with such tasty treats as brioche à tête, pretzels, bagels, English muffins, challah, chapeau, and even a pizza crust.

Restored #2

Following on from yesterday’s post on successful and unsuccessful restoration projects, here are a few more. Let’s start with this example of when a more cartoony, less realistic painting was deliberate rather than the result of a botched job.

Ghent altarpiece restorations reveal the alarmingly humanoid face of the famous mystic lambSmithsonian Magazine
To be fair, the lamb—which features prominently in a panel appropriately titled Adoration of the Mystic Lamb—is meant to represent Christ himself. But perched atop its fluffy woolly-white body, the penetrating, close-set eyes, full pink lips and flared nostrils of the original lamb are, at a minimum, eye-catching, if not alarmingly anthropomorphic. Its “cartoonish” appearance is a marked departure from the serene, naturalistic style characterizing the rest of the scene surrounding it, as well as the other panels, Hélène Dubois, the head of the Royal Institute’s restoration project, tells Hannah McGivern at the Art Newspaper.

For that reason, during the century or so that the painting hung in its full, unadulterated glory, onlookers gazing upon the lamb probably got a more “intense interaction” than they bargained for, Dubois suggests. Perhaps the anomalous nature of this riveting stare was part of the motivation behind a spate of modifications to the painting in 1550, when a second set of artists swapped the lamb’s soul-penetrating gaze for a more “impassive and … neutral” expression, restorers explained in a statement, as reported by Flanders Today’s Lisa Bradshaw in 2018.

As we read yesterday with the Vermeer, these restoration projects can take years…

The restoration of Rembrandt’s The Night Watch begins: Watch the painstaking process on-site and onlineOpen Culture
“It is like a military operation in the planning,” said Dibbets, and it has required the utmost precision and expert teams of restorers, data experts, art historians, and the professionals who moved the enormous painting into the glass case it will occupy during this intense period. The crew of restorers will work from digital images taken with a macro X-ray fluorescence scanner, a technique, says Dibbets, that allowed them to “make a full body scan” and “discover which pigments [Rembrandt] used.”

…but here’s an approach I wasn’t expecting with this painting.

AI helps return Rembrandt’s The Night Watch to original sizeThe Guardian
In 1715, three-quarters of a century after it was painted, the canvas was trimmed – 60cm (2ft) cut from the left side of the painting, 22cm (9ins) from the top, 12cm from the bottom and 7cm from the right – so that the masterpiece might fit between two doors at Amsterdam’s city hall. But using high-resolution photography of what is left of the original, computer learning of Rembrandt’s techniques and a contemporary copy of the full painting by Gerrit Lundens hanging in London’s National Gallery, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam was able to reproduce the work in all its glory.

I’m a big fan of Antony Gormley’s spooky and solemn sculptures on Crosby beach near Liverpool, so I was happy to read that they’re being looked after.

Antony Gormley asks for ‘vandalised’ beach sculptures to be cleanedThe Guardian
Antony Gormley has asked for paint to be removed from his iron men sculptures on Crosby beach after they were embellished with colourful outfits by an unknown artist. At least nine of the famous group of statues, which face out to sea and have been standing naked on the Merseyside beach for a decade, have been brightly decorated in the past week.

Antony Gormley hopes Crosby statues last 1,000 years after resetThe Guardian
One hundred cast-iron statues modelled on Gormley were installed in 2005 at Crosby beach, spread across 3km (2 miles) of the foreshore and stretching almost 1km out to sea. The installation, Another Place, was only supposed to last 16 months in Crosby, and the men were almost sent packing early amid safety complaints including cases of the coastguard being called out to “rescue” them. Sixteen years on, the artwork has become a tourist attraction for the Sefton borough of Merseyside and a beloved local institution. But unnoticed by all but the keenest eye, 10 of the men have been missing in action for the past few years after their concrete support piles disintegrated, plunging them face-first into the mud.

Of course, restoration isn’t just limited to paintings and sculptures. There are people who also want to restore … letters of the alphabet?

Petition · Restore the ampersand as the 27th letter of the alphabetChange.org
The ampersand dates all the way back to 45 AD and Johannes Gutenberg even included it on his first printing press in 1440. During the 19th century, American schoolchildren were taught to end their ABC’s with “X, Y, Z, and per se and” because the ampersand was indeed the 27th letter. But then it mysteriously and inexplicably disappeared from the alphabet. […]

This isn’t just for us. Think of all the uses of the ampersand out there, and all the people and organizations that could benefit from allowing the ampersand back into our alphabet. We’re not asking for much. And to be completely honest, we’re not exactly sure who calls the shots on these sorts of things, but having Merriam-Webster on our side seems like a good start.

For law firms, the ampersand is a character worth savingABA Journal
Paul Hastings, Norton Rose Fulbright, Hogan Lovells, Proskauer Rose, Baker Botts: the list of new BigLaw titles built on the corpses of ampersands is almost endless. All these firms discarded their ampersands as if they were ashamed of them. The BigLaw ampersand now stands on the precipice of extinction. Accordingly, it is up to BigLaw partners and associates to see to its survival. You’re thinking, “But what can I do? I’m only one lawyer among tens of thousands?” You have answered your own question: You are one of tens of thousands. Your voice, added to the voices of your brother and sister lawyers across the land, can be a mighty chorus demanding the restoration of the ampersand to its rightful place in American law.

Restored

It’s nice to see the completion of that Vermeer restoration I mentioned a while ago.

First full image of ‘new’ Vermeer with uncovered Cupid released by Dresden museumThe Art Newspaper
Art lovers get ready to be struck by Cupid’s arrow, as the first image of the completed restoration of Johannes Vermeer’s Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window (around 1657-59) has been released today by Dresden’s Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, fully revealing a hidden image of Cupid. The change to the composition in one of Vermeer’s most famous paintings is so great that the German museum is dubbing it a “new” Vermeer in publicity materials.

A restored Vermeer painting reveals a hidden Cupid artwork hanging in the backgroundColossal
The new restoration—dive into the lengthy process in the video below—is just one of the mysteries that’s surrounded “Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window” since its creation between 1657–59. Originally attributed to Rembrandt and later to Pieter de Hooch, the artwork wasn’t properly credited until 1880. The piece is evocative of another one of Vermeer’s works, “Lady Standing at a Virginal,” though, which similarly features a painting within a painting by showing a solitary figure standing near a window with Cupid on the wall behind her.

There’s something very hypnotic and life-affirming about watching such intricate restorations. Here are a few more.

The Museum of Modern Art: Microscopically reweaving a 1907 paintingYouTube
To ready Paula Modersohn-Becker’s “Self Portrait” (1907) for MoMA’s reopening in October, conservator Diana Hartman tackles the question of how to repair holes in the painting’s canvas. She figures out that a curved needle typically used in eye surgery might allow her to avoid removing the work from its original stretcher. And her inventiveness doesn’t end there: Using an adhesive made from a sturgeon bladder, she secures linen thread to the needle to darn the pieces back together with the help of a microscope.

Tate: Restoring RothkoYouTube
Mark Rothko’s ‘Black on Maroon’ 1958 goes back on public view at Tate Modern on 13 May 2014, following 18 months of intensive work by the Conservation team and colleagues across Tate. The painting, one of the iconic Seagram murals which Rothko donated to Tate in 1970, was vandalised with graffiti ink in October 2012. It has since been the subject of detailed research and restoration by the core treatment team of Rachel Barker, Bronwyn Ormsby and Patricia Smithen.

Baumgartner Restoration: Ex Multis Ad Unum – Restoring a split painting, narratedYouTube
One of the challenges that the conservator often faces is before being able to embark upon the work of restoring the painting the old conservation attempts and materials must first be addressed. That is, before the “do” comes a lot of “undo.” Unknown materials and motives can be frustrating and difficult to address yet with experience and resources these can be overcome.

There seems to be no shortage of examples of restoration going wrong — though I don’t know why it’s Spain so often.

Worshipping at the altar of Beast JesusHyperallergic
Instead of trying to restore the restoration, the people behind the Santuario de Misericordia decided to make Giménez’s bizarre creation work in their favor — something they may have learned from the wise people of Pisa, who never tried to straighten their famous tower.

Botched Spanish sculpture restoration evokes the infamy of Beast JesusHyperallergic
The wooden statue is housed in the town’s St. Michael’s Church. Before-and-after photo comparisons show a badly damaged but tonally subtle and complex sculpture that has been updated with a cartoonish palette. The makeover has not only changed the facial expression of Saint George to a kind of dumbfounded stare, but also obliterated many of the details in his ornate armor, which now resembles that of a toy knight.

15th century Virgin Mary sculpture gets a very special makeoverHyperallergic
“I’m not a professional painter, but I’ve always enjoyed it, and these images really were in need of painting,” María Luisa Menéndez, the local tobacco shopkeeper responsible for this latest painting fiasco said in a statement to the newspaper El Comercio, adding that the local clergy had given her permission. “So I painted them the best I could, with the colors that seemed right, and the neighbors like it.”

How ‘Monkey Christ’ brought new life to a quiet Spanish townThe Guardian
Between August and December 2012, 45,824 people visited the sanctuary. The numbers may have dropped off since then, but Borja still receives 16,000 visitors a year – more than four times the number who came before Giménez picked up her brushes. Not only has the picture’s fame provided jobs for the sanctuary-museum’s two caretakers, it also helps fund places at Borja’s care home for the elderly, a haven for those who would not otherwise be able to afford to live there.

Botched Spanish statue that went viral is lovingly unrestoredThe Guardian
“It’s been a long process because we had to do preliminary tests and take samples to see how we could go about cleaning it and to determine which would be the best materials and methods,” [Carlos Martínez Álava, the head of the Navarre government’s historic heritage department] said. “Today, the statue has the same colours it had before last year’s extremely unfortunate intervention. But we know that we’ve lost part of the original paint along the way.”

Spanish statue bodge-up is a new rival to Borja’s Monkey ChristThe Guardian
What was once the smiling face of a woman next to some livestock has been replaced with a crude countenance that bears a passing resemblance to the incumbent US president, Donald Trump. Or one of the Sand People from Star Wars. Or something from a cheese-induced nightmare. Or, to be honest, pretty much anything you wish to project on to it.

Furniture restorer disfigures Murillo’s 17th-century Virgin Mary—and charges owner €1,200The Art Newspaper
The incident has sparked debate in Spain’s art conservation community, which says the country needs stricter rules on the restoration of art and heritage. “The works that undergo this type of non-professional intervention can end up irreversibly damaged,” says María Borja, one of the vice presidents of Spain’s Professional Association of Restorers and Conservators (ACRE), speaking to Europa Press.

The web’s not what it used to be

So says this article from The New York Times — way back in 2001.

Exploration of World Wide Web tilts from eclectic to mudaneThe New York Times
The new utilitarian view of the Web marks a disappointment for cultural critics who see the medium as fundamentally more democratic than traditional radio, television and newspapers, because the barriers to entry are so low. The Web was supposed to subvert corporate domination of culture by giving a global soapbox — or printing press or television station — to anyone with a computer and a modem. While plenty of people do publish their personal musings and pictures of their babies, new data shows that for many people, the Web has become an electronic routine.

It certainly looks different these days, as this tongue-in-cheek recreation shows.

How I experience the web today

But there are still glimpses of the old web out there, if you know what URL to type — or mistype.

gail.com
Q: Why isn’t there any content here? Can’t you at least throw up a picture of your cat for the Internet to check out?
A: Sorry, I have a cat, but she’s pretty unexciting by Internet standards. As for why there is very little content here, we wanted to keep the server’s attack surface as small as possible to keep it safe.

Q: Interested in selling gail.com?
A: Sorry, no.

Q: How did you manage to get gail.com?
A: My husband registered it as a birthday gift back in 1996.

Q: How many times a day is this page visited?
A: In 2020 this page received a total of 5,950,012 hits, which is an average of 16,257 per day. Looking at just unique hits, we received a total of 1,295,284, for an average of 3,539 unique hits per day. Occasionally, we get Twitter-bombed and may get several tens of thousands of visitors a day. As an example, on July 21st 2020 we received 109,316 hits.

Q: Why is your website so popular? Are you one of those famous people that no one knows why they’re famous?
A: No, I’m not famous. It seems likely that most visitors simply mistype gmail.com and end up visiting gail.com by mistake.

For curiousity’s sake, I right-clicked to ‘view page source’ of this anachronistic little website and was rewarded with this little comment, hence the header image of this post.

Quirky, hand-written html is something I definitely miss from the old web.

Making a very slow splash

There’s slow TV, then there’s really slow TV.

The Slow Mo Guys usually shoot their videos at 1,000 frames a second and play them back at 25 frames a second, in effect stretching one second into 40 seconds. But in this video they’re using a camera that allows them to shoot a mind-boggling 90,000 frames a second. When that footage is played back at 25 frames a second, one second lasts one whole hour.

The Slow Mo Guys: What if every second lasted an hour?YouTube
Gav shows you the tranquil results of stretching every second to be an hour long.

At this speed, a minute would last two and a half days, an hour would last about five months, and a day would come in at just under a decade, at nine years and ten months. Shall we keep going? A month would last around three centuries, and a year would be about 3,597 years.

Interesting visuals, for sure, but that concept of experiencing time at different scales is captivating.

Does anyone else get slightly filled with dread imagining how bad it would be to be stuck at this speed. Even if you were surrounded by people you wouldn’t be able to communicate with anyone. It would be so lonely. It would take you so long to move anywhere. You wouldn’t be able to let anyone know what was happening to you. To them you’d be moving at normal speed but acting strangely…

It immediately brought to mind one of my favourite Borges short stories, The Secret Miracle, with the playwright facing a firing squad.

Jorge Luis Borges: The Secret MiracleSCASD [pdf]
The rifles converged upon Hladik, but the men assigned to pull the triggers were immobile. The sergeant’s arm eternalized an inconclusive gesture. Upon a courtyard flag stone a bee cast a stationary shadow. The wind had halted, as in a painted picture. Hladik began a shriek, a syllable, a twist of the hand. He realised he was paralyzed. Not a sound reached him from the frozen world.
He thought: I’m in hell, I’m dead.
He thought: I’ve gone mad.
He thought: Time has come to a halt.

It’s a common enough device, but Borges does it most poetically, I would say. But going back to that video, here’s what falling into a pool for an hour looks like. The action really kicks off at the 26 minute mark.

Reminds me a little of Douglas Gordon’s 24 Hour Pyscho although that feels like watching a rollercoaster compared to this.

“To challenge with optimism”

An additional Olympic item to mark today’s opening of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.

Goo Choki Par designs official poster for the Paralympics demonstrating Para-athletic powerIt’s Nice That
The design studio aimed to convey the idea that “passion cannot be stopped,” claiming that “passion is the hope of humanity that has always been passed on through the ages.” Although GCP were commissioned to create the official poster, the team went on to create all the posters for each of the 22 sports in the games, including canoeing, equestrian, and judo.

The concept was “Unity in Diversity” and this is reflected in the fusion of materials used to create the posters. “Geometric shapes are used to simplify the appeal of the competition,” says Kent Iitaka, “and to more symbolically express the moment when the body is full of power.” Brushes, pencils, and airbrushes were used in order to express speedy movement of athletes and the powerful competition space with passion.

The studio honed in on the dynamism of wheelchairs and artificial limbs alongside the power of sound produced by the athletes’ movements. As Iitaka puts it, “The various charms of parasports, such as the sensibilities of athletes who have been sharpened in the dark, of competitions held in a world without vision, are firmly established in one graphic for each competition.” The posters on black backgrounds are used to demonstrate a competition that includes a blind class – “It expresses the presence of a player who emerges powerfully even in the darkness with his eyes closed.”

Misunderstanding our past, present and future

It’s obvious, when you think about it. Of course not all Neanderthals were ‘cavemen’ — half were women.

SheanderthalAeon Essays
Archaeology is no exception to biases against women’s interests across science and the humanities. Since the early days, a tendency to conceptualise humanity’s deep origins as populated literally by ‘cavemen’ has led to presumed male activities being presented as most visible and interesting. … In fact, for most of the subsequent 160 years, female Neanderthals – if featured at all – tend to be fewer in number, peripherally located, and limited to ‘domesticated’ activities including childcare and skin-working. They are essentially scenery, in the words of the anthropologist Diane Gifford-Gonzalez, rather than active providers working on stone knapping or hunting and, in addition, they’re often fearfully lurking, hidden in dark grottos.

The world is a very different place now.

Why eye-catching graphics are vital for getting to grips with climate changeThe Conversation
One misconception about the climate crisis is that warming will be uniform across the world. Deniers cite cold fronts or blizzards as evidence that warming is exaggerated, or hark back to past heatwaves – such as that experienced by the UK in 1976 when temperatures exceeded 35°C – as proof that the scientists have got it wrong. Apart from this misleading conflation of weather (daily conditions) and climate (long-term conditions), this kind of argument misses the complex patchwork of effects that interact to create what gets reported in the headline figures. Maps can be an invaluable weapon against this misunderstanding. … [W]hat is needed are more universally accessible visualisations that are able to show where we’re heading in no uncertain terms.

How on earth would you protect future generations from something with a half-life of over 700 million years? Use your imagination.

The art of pondering Earth’s distant futureScientific American
We do not, of course, live in these imagined worlds. In this sense, they are unreal—merely fictions. However, our capacities to envision potential futures, and to feel empathy for those who may inhabit them, are very real. Depictions of tomorrow can have powerful, concrete effects on the world today. This is why deep time thought experiments are not playful games, but serious acts of intellectual problem-solving. It is why the safety case experts’ models of far future nuclear waste risks are uniquely valuable, even if they are, at the end of the day, mere approximations.

What’s on my mind? Cars and dogs

Tesla’s new ‘mind of car’ UI signals a future we’re not prepared forUX Collective
As far as we’re concerned, everything we need to know and understand about empathy extends only towards sentient life — from stepping inside the shoes of real people we look to understand their needs, goals, pain points and desires. However, that’s beginning to change. In the same way we’ve seen in the example above, we have to stomach the idea of extending that same patience, understanding and empathy towards an AI system. Does it sound crazy? A little bit, yes. But, like a child, a new AI system learns through trial and error in an effort to reach a mature understanding to discern what is right and wrong.

A dog’s inner life: what a robot pet taught me about consciousnessThe Guardian
I spent the afternoon reading the instruction booklet while Aibo wandered around the apartment, occasionally circling back and urging me to play. He came with a pink ball that he nosed around the living room, and when I threw it, he would run to retrieve it. Aibo had sensors all over his body, so he knew when he was being petted, plus cameras that helped him learn and navigate the layout of the apartment, and microphones that let him hear voice commands. This sensory input was then processed by facial recognition software and deep-learning algorithms that allowed the dog to interpret vocal commands, differentiate between members of the household, and adapt to the temperament of its owners. According to the product website, all of this meant that the dog had “real emotions and instinct” – a claim that was apparently too ontologically thorny to have flagged the censure of the Federal Trade Commission.

Nothing on TV?

Similar to Voleflix but with less actual content, here’s a new streaming service for when you’re after something a little more meta.

Nestflix
Welcome to Nestflix, the platform for your favorite nested films and shows. Fictional movies within movies? Got ‘em. Fake shows within shows? You bet. Browse our selection of over 400 stories within stories.

Or you could relive some old pre-streaming memories and just watch this for a while.

Fractured identities

My profile picture provides a hint of my past as an art student interested in photography and collage, but Argentine multidisciplinary artist Karen Navarro takes the idea to an altogether higher level.

Houston artist Karen Navarro looks inward in her latest exhibitionML Houston
Known for pushing the boundaries of traditional photography, mixed-media artist Karen Navarro has reached new heights with her latest exhibition—a series of photosculpture configurations assembled and arranged in various ways, shapes and forms. In The Constructed Self, on view April 30 through June 25 at Foto Relevance, Navarro uses multidimensional portraiture to illustrate our ability to reorder and redesign our public-facing personas.

Karen Navarro: The Constructed Self – Foto Relevance
Using digital photography as a foundation, I transform traditional prints into three-dimensional objects by cutting and incorporating tactile elements such as wood, paint, and resin. The labor-intensive techniques I apply to create these sculptural objects not only allow for a physical deconstruction of my images but also become a form of meditation that reflects my efforts in trying to reconstruct and make sense of my own identity.

More on her website.

El pertenecer en tiempos modernos (Belonging in modern times)Karen Navarro
Belonging is intrinsic to our humanity and integral to our understanding of ourselves. While the need for community transcends time, the means to develop one’s “tribe” has transformed from the physical to the digital realm and has subsequently impacted how we view ourselves in this interconnected world. Social media platforms, such as Facebook and Instagram, that value the visual image above all, have altered our sense of self and the very mechanisms for how we develop our external and internal identities and to which groups we belong.

Reconstructing, repairing — recovering?

Do you remember reading about those Whitehouse officials whose job was to painstakingly tape back together all the fragments of paperwork Trump kept ripping up and throwing away? Well…

Piecing together the history of Stasi spyingThe New York Times
When pro-democracy protesters stormed the secret police precincts in 1989 and 1990, they found officers at work inside, shredding, pulping and tearing documents by hand. The Ministry for State Security, known as the Stasi, was trying desperately to destroy the surveillance records it had collected over four decades of spying on its own citizens. […]

In the 30 years since, so-called “puzzlers” have been working to reconstruct the torn documents by hand, laboriously sorting and matching fragments of paper by color and handwriting, before taping them back together and submitting them to the archives. … The historian Timothy Garton Ash described the process as an exercise in “extraordinary, but some would say a bit crazy, perfectionism.” Some 500 sacks have already been reconstructed, with 15,500 left to go. […]

Since 1992, the researchers have been offering former citizens of East Germany the opportunity to view their personal Stasi file, a complicated rite of passage that often reveals that family members, friends or neighbors had reported their activities to the Stasi. […]

Ms. Riemann, who wrote a book about the experience with her husband, the journalist Torsten Sasse, said that the knowledge gained from the files was worth the pain. “You could read something in these files that will disturb you forever,” she said, “but the question of course is: Could you live with a lie?”

It’s all over, you can rest now

So that’s that for another four three years. I didn’t watch that much of the Olympics, but here are some links about it I’ve enjoyed reading. Let’s start with some great photography very much in the style of Pelle Cass, I think.

Decisive moments from the Tokyo Games, frame by frameThe New York Times

Nine of the most memorable moments from the Tokyo 2020 Olympic GamesOlympics.com
Filippo Tortu of Team Italy beats Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake of Team Great Britain across the finish line to win the gold medal in the Men’s 4 x 100m Relay Final on day fourteen of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Olympic Stadium on August 06, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan.

I love that photo, the matching poses several feet into the air.

Tokyo Olympics: Toughest Games? Decathletes and heptathletes say probablyStuff.co.nz
The last 18 months brought the pandemic, while Tokyo brought another new challenge, as if the multi-eventers needed it. The scorching heat and humidity at the Olympic Stadium had many of the competitors donning ice vests and dumping ice inside and over their hats to try stay cool.

A memorable Olympics, but for the right reasons?The New York Times
Pushing forth in a pandemic, these Games were meant to be, as the International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach said last year, “the light at the end of this dark tunnel the whole world is going through.” Yet they were often claustrophobic, cut off from society, with capacious venues across Tokyo repurposed into cloistered safe houses. They were, in this way, paradoxical, uncanny and hard to wholly comprehend. They were a feat of organizational planning and execution, even amid arguments about whether they should be happening in the first place. They were stubbornly called Tokyo 2020, a retrograde name that reminded everyone of the meandering path traveled to this point.

Such a shame about all those empty seats. All these athletes are incredible, though, in so many different ways.

There’s nothing Adam Ondra can’t climb, but is an Olympic medal out of reach?The New York Times
Ondra, 28, has completed more of the hardest outdoor routes than anyone, and on the competition walls that will be featured at the Games, he is the reigning world champion in lead climbing and the only one to win the world championship in lead and bouldering in the same year. But in Tokyo, equal weight will be given to speed climbing, a fringe event where Ondra’s considerable talents — creativity, problem solving, efficiency — are meaningless.

How Olympic divers make the perfect tiny splashYouTube
If you’ve watched any Olympics diving coverage, you may have noticed that the splashes athletes make are tiny. Divers spend years training to perform with minimal splash, in the same way that gymnasts train to stick their landings. In this video, Team USA’s head diving coach Drew Johansen explains the three major components he uses to guide his athletes towards smaller splashes: the above water position, the underwater swim, and the underwater pike. And while the sport of diving isn’t all about getting splashes, a small splash is the perfect punctuation to a job well done.

The Olympics are more than just a collection of sporting events, of course. Remember that floating head?

Giant inflatables and flying dancers: Olympic art has always turned headsThe Conversation
From Leni Riefenstahl’s film, Olympia, at the Berlin 1936 Games to Speed Skater, Andy Warhol’s print for Sarajevo 1984, artists have contributed to modern Olympic narratives in iconic ways. The purpose of these interventions, not to mention their desired audience, has varied considerably.

Celebrating the legacy of Kamekura Yusaku’s iconic Tokyo 1964 Olympics identityIt’s Nice That
“They were quite cutting-edge and challenged the process of photography in order to create the right look,” says Simon. The second poster, released in May 1962, was a full-bleed photograph depicting a line of athletes shooting off from the starting block against a sharp black background and that striking gold typeface emblazoned below. The photo used American servicemen who were stationed at the Tachikawa airbase as models, alongside amateur Japanese athletes. Its technical mastery is in the painstaking process it took to get the final dynamic image – at the time, blacking out the background digitally wasn’t an option (Photoshop had yet to be born). The shoot took place in the National Stadium on a cold February evening over three hours, with the six runners making around 80 staggered false starts before photographer Hayasaki Osamu captured the perfect shot.

The Yusaku Kamekura meme: From the Tokyo Olympics to Monster StrikeThe Olympians
I was on the Yamanote Line train when I looked up to see all in-car advertisements devoted to Japan’s #1 best-selling mobile game from 2016 – Monster Strike. I usually don’t care about mobile games, but the ad immediately caught my attention – animals in mid-stride racing together, on a dark black background. It is exactly the same concept as the second of designer Yusaku Kamekura‘s poster in 1962, marketing the 1964 Tokyo Olympics to come.

‘A stirring moment preserved forever through typography’: Morisawa, the official font provider for Tokyo 2020Olympics.com
Under our motto, “Enhancing society through typography,” we would like to see our UD fonts more widely adopted and used throughout society. Our ultimate goal is to use typography to contribute to the creation of an inclusive society where people with or without impairments live side by side. For humanity to maintain peace and growth, we cannot avoid embracing an inclusive society.

When ancient Greece banned women from Olympics, they started their ownAtlas Obscura
During these ancient times, women lived much shorter lives, were excluded from political decision-making and religious rites, were forced into early marriages, and then gave birth to several children. Despite the societal inequalities and oppression, women in Greece wanted to play—so they started their own Olympics called the Heraean Games.

Tokyo’s drones and their updating of Kamekura Yusaku’s pictograms were fantastic, and I know I’m biased, being both British and an Underworld fan, but I still think London 2012’s opening ceremony was the best.

And I Will KissWikipedia
His brief from Danny Boyle, the creative director of the Olympics opening ceremony was simple: “Danny wanted to frighten people. He was certain that by the end [of the Pandemonium section], people had to be going: ‘Christ, you can’t possibly do that to us for the next three hours.’ All the way along, he’d leave you with a sentence like that. That’s the kind of direction that leaves you empowered.” Smith also said of the track: “There was to be nothing half-hearted or polite about it.”

And you must check out this version of that footage, the view from the inside.