Like seasonal crop circles

simonbecksnowartWe’ve all heard of crop circles, but how about something a little more seasonal? Colossal has a collection of photos from Simon Beck who, since 2004, “has strapped on a pair of snowshoes and lumbered out into the the freshly fallen snow at the Les Arcs ski resort in France to trample out his distinctly geometric patterns, footprint by footprint. Each work takes the 54-year-old artist anywhere between 6 hours and two days to complete, an impressive physical feat aided from years of competitive orienteering.”

To be the product, or not to be

In I’m Not The Product, But I Play One On The Internet, Derek Powazek sets us straight on a few assumptions we may be labouring under.

“If you’re not paying for the product, you are the product.”

I don’t know who said it first, but the line has achieved a kind of supernatural resonance online. And for good reason – it describes a kind of modern internet company that provides a free service. These businesses are designed to aggregate a large number of users in order to sell that audience’s aggregate attention, usually in the form of advertising.

But the more the line is repeated, the more it gets on my nerves. It has a stoner-like quality to it (“Have you ever looked at your hands? I mean really looked at your hands?”). It reminds me of McLuhan’s “the medium is the message,” a phrase that is seemingly deep but collapses into pointlessness the moment you think about using it in any practical way.

Which he does, and now I’m not too sure.

Perhaps I should give street photography another go

streetMing Thein has a great post on petapixel on the ethics of photographing random strangers on the street and, as you’d expect, they are some wonderful shots throughout. It was interesting to read about some of the different techniques that can be used. I can’t remember where I first heard the line “If your photo’s not good enough, you’re not close enough”, but Ming has another way too.

There’s a slight snobbishness about shooting with a longer lens, too – it isn’t seen as being hardcore enough. In fact, these days, it seems if you’re not at f/8, hyperfocal distance and sticking your camera and flash right up to somebody’s nose, then you’re not really doing street photography.

There’s another approach, though. I think it’s much, much harder to shoot wide open with a relatively wide lens – say nothing longer than 35mm – and shoot without your subject knowing you’re there. This is what I like to call the stealth method – you don’t want to draw attention to yourself, and better yet, shoot without even bringing the camera to your eye.

I’d love to give this a proper go. It’s easier to blend in and look inconspicuous with a cameraphone than with a big lens perhaps, but the one I’ve got now isn’t up to much. I sense a post-Christmas shopping opportunity!

Does technology determine prose style?

The start of an essay entitled The Author Signal: Nietzsche’s Typewriter and Medium Theory

The condition of possibility created by a particular medium forms an important part of the theoretical foundations of medium theory, which questions the way in which medial changes lead to epistemic changes. This has become an important area of inquiry in relation to the differences introduced by computation and digital media, more generally.

As impenetrable as that sounds, I’m very much looking forward to reading this properly – something else that takes me back to those Newport days.

(Via The Browser)

This year, NO new year's resolutions, ok?

It’s soon that time of year again, explains Oliver Burkeman, “that segment of the calendar known to publishers and motivational speakers worldwide as New Year, New You.” Anyone thinking of new resolutions, or just repeating last year’s failed ones, should read this article on why this approach really isn’t the best way of going about things.

[Self-help books that encourage these Big Change/Fresh Start ideas] don’t keep on selling despite the fact that they don’t work, but rather because they don’t work: they deliver a short-lived mood boost, and when that fades, the most obvious way to revive it is to go back for more.

He offers us another way, a smaller, more incremental way of bringing about change, one that encourages us to ease up on ourselves a little.

In fact, as the Buddhist-influenced Japanese psychologist Shoma Morita liked to point out, it’s perfectly possible to do what you know needs doing—to propel yourself to the gym, to open the laptop to work, to reach for the kale instead of the doughnuts—without “feeling motivated” to do it. People “think that they should always like what they do and that their lives should be trouble-free,” Morita wrote. “Consequently, their mental energy is wasted by their impossible attempts to avoid feelings of displeasure or boredom.” Morita advised his readers and patients to “give up” on themselves—to “begin taking action now, while being neurotic or imperfect or a procrastinator or unhealthy or lazy or any other label by which you inaccurately describe yourself.”

Worth a try. tempted to look through this blog’s posts from Decembers and Januarys gone by, to see how badly I’ve done with all this previously.

Oliver Burkeman wrote The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking. A great title, at least.

A not entirely positive reception for the second Swan

Can’t really resist a book review from The New York Times that begins like this.

You Are All Soft! Embrace Chaos!
A reader could easily run out of adjectives to describe Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s new book “Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder.” The first ones that come to mind are: maddening, bold, repetitious, judgmental, intemperate, erudite, reductive, shrewd, self-indulgent, self-congratulatory, provocative, pompous, penetrating, perspicacious and pretentious.

And then there’s the from The Guardian.

Antifragile by Nassim Nicholas Taleb – digested read
Wind extinguishes a candle and energises fire. How deep is that? The answer, counter-intuitively, is not quite as deep as me. For I, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, alone have discovered the secret of the universe. It is the antifragile.

Overview Effect. Spaceship Earth. Home

The Overview Effect, first described by author Frank White in 1987, is an experience that transforms astronauts’ perspective of the planet and mankind’s place upon it. Common features of the experience are a feeling of awe for the planet, a profound understanding of the interconnection of all life, and a renewed sense of responsibility for taking care of the environment.

There’s more about this at www.overviewthemovie.com.

Never thought about chairs this much before

Colin McSwiggen explains why he’s so against chairs. I have to admit to not giving them a second thought, other than the times at work when my recline lever slips and I end up suddenly horizontal. The problems seem much deeper than temperamental office furniture though.

Against Chairs
I hate to piss on the party, but chairs suck. All of them. No designer has ever made a good chair, because it is impossible. Some are better than others, but all are bad. Not only are chairs a health hazard, they also have a problematic history that has inextricably tied them to our culture of status-obsessed individualism. Worse still, we’ve become dependent on them and it’s not clear that we’ll ever be free.

History, ergonomics, politics, it’s all in there.

And here’s another take on the chair, which I guess backs up his point. Make of it what you will.

Self-Sustainable Chair 2

Regrets, I've had a few —all these, at least

The Harvard Business Review has a rundown of the top five career regrets according to some survey or other. I think it’s safe to say we can identify with most if not all of them.

“Disappointment doesn’t discriminate; no matter what industry the individual operated in, what role they had been given, or whether they were soaring successes or mired in failure, five dominant themes shone through.”

The web we lost – and how to rebuild it

We all know the web’s certainly a different place now than it was ten or fifteen years ago, but Anil Dash points out exactly how — and to what extent — things have changed.

“The tech industry and its press have treated the rise of billion-scale social networks and ubiquitous smartphone apps as an unadulterated win for regular people, a triumph of usability and empowerment. They seldom talk about what we’ve lost along the way in this transition, and I find that younger folks may not even know how the web used to be. So here’s a few glimpses of a web that’s mostly faded away:”

And then a few days later he writes an update on how to rebuild the web we lost.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb: The future will not be cool – Salon.com

Nassim Nicholas Taleb: The future will not be cool – Salon.com

“Tonight I will be meeting friends in a restaurant (tavernas have existed for at least 25 centuries). I will be walking there wearing shoes hardly different from those worn 5,300 years ago by the mummified man discovered in a glacier in the Austrian Alps. At the restaurant, I will be using silverware, a Mesopotamian technology, which qualifies as a “killer application” given what it allows me to do to the leg of lamb, such as tear it apart while sparing my fingers from burns. I will be drinking wine, a liquid that has been in use for at least six millennia. The wine will be poured into glasses, an innovation claimed by my Lebanese compatriots to come from their Phoenician ancestors, and if you disagree about the source, we can say that glass objects have been sold by them as trinkets for at least twenty-nine hundred years. After the main course, I will have a somewhat younger technology, artisanal cheese, paying higher prices for those that have not changed in their preparation for several centuries.”

Fourteen years of pantone colors-of-the-year (tecznotes)

Fourteen years of pantone colors-of-the-year (tecznotes)
“I love the language patterns in press releases that accompany annual announcements, like Pantone’s Color Of The Year. Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute, has been providing adjectives and free-associating since 1999. Between 9/11 and the economy, a lot of political freight gets bundled into these packages as well—“concern about the economy” is first mentioned in late 2005 (sand dollar).”

Understanding music

My kind of music video.

“Music is a good thing. But what we did not know until we started with the research for this piece: Music is also a pretty damn complex thing. This experimental animation is about the attempt to understand all the parts and bits of it. Have a look. You might agree with our conclusion!”

Finally Studios