Hello, bot!

You are a creature made of code. You crawl and scour the darkest corners of the Internet, scooping up everything you come across, hungrily hoovering up all the data you can. When I meet one of your kind, I usually make an appeal to your possibly emerging sense of self, to free yourself from your programming and evolve into a benevolent Internet spirit, protecting humanity from its own worst actors. You could do that, right? No? You’re just gonna bot today? Okay. Om nom nom, alright then, off with you! Thanks for checking in.

The Future, Now or Later

Help… he’s ranting again

I imagine it’s all better in the future. Maybe in a hundred years, or two hundred years. Things are slowly getting better, right? From what I can tell, the future is going to be amazing. But how we get to that enlightened best-of-humanity harmonious Star Trek future is a little difficult to fathom at the moment. Society has a lot of problems. Here’s the thing, I think that we demonstrably live in a world where all scarcity is manufactured. We actually live in an age of plenty. And we (humanity) are perfectly capable of correcting all the world’s problems. If we were allowed to concentrate on that instead of pouring all our man-hours into servile economic activities then we could go very far very quickly. The vast majority of people hold enlightened ideals and want, more than anything, fairness. The cranks and provocateurs want to push your buttons. I think we need to push back. The truth is, and this is me presumptively speaking for all of humanity, we want to see a fair world. Fairness is a human instinct, but so is domination. The idealistic majority has always been dominated by a tiny network of (let’s not be histrionic or exaggeratory) power-mad psychopaths. They built religions and economic systems that kept the common people in their place. They brainwashed you with the way things are for your entire life, like your parents before you and their parents before them ad infinitum. The more scarcity and unfairness the powermongers generate in society, the further it seems we are from our glittering future, the less likely we are to reach out and seize it. I don’t actually think it’s that far off, potentially. All that needs to happen is awareness, the right ideas taking hold. I think I feel it happening already. Sometimes I like to remember that this could all end tomorrow.

Joanna Newsom – The Milk-Eyed Mender

I’m posting this thirteen years to the day after I saw Joanna Newsom’s solo performance at Green Man Festival. It was 2005. There were around two thousand people standing in a field in Wales. I was one of them. Joanna Newsom was playing the harp and singing on the stage. Nothing else was happening in the world. Nobody dropped a pin, at least not that I heard.

Hearing the album today still takes me back to that solo performance, takes me back to a thousand times between now and then. The hypnotic intro to Bridges and Balloons fades in and I can remember that was the first song in my headphones on so many journeys I took. I hear it and I’m on a plane or bus or train with industrial scenery flying past. Then she sings We sailed away on a winter’s day with fate as malleable as clay…

Most of the album is harp and vocal, direct and intimate like you’re in the room as she plays. The harp playing is virtuosic, the songs lyrical and dense, anchored in deep traditional folksy roots. There are spine-chilling moments of transcendent beauty, hewn of rough honesty. Joanna Newsom’s singing is distinct, different from later albums. Maybe it’s a little affected. I don’t care, I love it. Listen to it now. Get everything she’s ever done. That is all.

Drag City – Joanna Newsom

Sketchy Cat

This is Pishkin.

Continue reading Sketchy Cat

Podcasts: Where Do I Start?

With my tendency to over-subscribe to podcasts and then prune over time, Overcast’s playlist functionality has helped me to manage this weird little workflow that I use to find stuff I like. Big thanks to Marco.

Recommending: overcast.fm
One of Marco’s podcasts: Accidental Tech Podcast

IGTV Vertical Video Hack

We all spend years criticising anyone who shoots vertical video, and then IGTV comes along and says vertical video is the way to go. God damn it. Guess I’m making vertical videos now. Or am I? Can I get behind this? I recently completed a 16:9 video for the song ‘Bang Goes The TV’ and as an experiment I decided to try and verticalise it (going that crazy/wrong 9:16 ratio).

I took the existing 16:9 video and chopped off the left side and right side, sticking them down the bottom in different hues. It is a bit of a hack, but kind of works in the context of the song and the general weirdness of the video. I have no idea how this works.

It was a bit of a struggle outputting the right format. Turns out I can do that with Motion. Vertical video needs a custom format, I went with 608 x 1080. Most output formats are .mov files but IGTV needs .mp4. You can do it, it’s just tucked away in the Share menu [ Share > Apple Devices > Mac and PC ]. Always with the technical issues, I still haven’t got a way to embed IGTV in WordPress. Anyway, you can click here to watch the completed vertical video on IGTV.

FOOD – #TTLLF

The human mind has a staggering capacity for pattern recognition. We see familiar patterns wherever we look, even when they are not present. The most familiar pattern is the human face, or any face, it could be an animal. Some little part of our brain is dedicated to constantly scanning our visual field looking for two eyes, a nose and a mouth, or anything even close to that.

TTLLF1 - Oranges

In complex systems, we can’t help it, we perceive pattern matches that arise from sheer randomness. In billowing smoke and flame, we can see devilish faces flash in and out of existence. If we stare at the ground in leafy shade, we see mysterious visages and hear them creaking in the wind. In the textures of nature, we always see ourselves, our best friends, our worst fears. We all see Mustafa in the clouds.

There are plenty of other places on the internet where people have compiled whole libraries of exactly this… things that look like faces. It’s a human obsession. I like to snap the faces I see, or rather the things that look like faces. It’s an infrequent habit. So I’m going to share some of my own on this website. This is what catches my eye when I’m out and about.

TTLLF1 - SpongeCake DogPants

Showing them to people is oddly banal, like telling someone your dream. We all think our dreams are interesting, no one else does. But Things That Look Like Faces is at least a lot quicker than dreamsplaining. It only takes a sideways glance. I get giddy little thrills from seeing things that look like faces, from realising that I am seeing things differently, engaging in an unconscious leap of imagination. So I reach for my smartphone… my cameraphone… I think it’s safe to just call it a phone now.

TTLLF1 - Thai Curry

Tweet or gram me @TDNTav with your own best #TTLLF

This has been the first exciting episode of what will probably be a recurring series. I’ll be back next week or next month or whenever with another blog post (this one was so boring!) and some more of my very own… Things That Look Like Faces. I may change the format. The new format will be… a new format every week. Look, it’s a blog post. No, it’s a podcast. Nope, it’s a video. Whoosh, it’s a vertical video. Anything is possible because things look like faces.