that was a week, 19 January 2020

Let’s get back on the horse.

I was away for 3 weeks over Christmas and the New Year. It was fun, and I’ll try to write something up, but I didn’t get the weird timeless lull of days doing nothing. Tried to do very little over the last few weekends to recreate some rest.

Finished the second season of Sex Education on Netflix. Maybe a touch more unbelievable than the first series (even set in the hyper world of US education facilities in small town UK). Weird pacing too, with a real lull in the middle and of course the last episode is trying to sort out way too much. Only cried 5 times.

There’s nothing new to say about Netflix’s relentless pushing of the next thing to watch, in audio & video, but some kind of soft landing after a boxset would be really nice. Maybe with the horrible fragmentation of video on demand, viewer’s experience may become more important again.

It’s January, so unlike December, all the supermarkets are full of vegan and plant based meals. The no chicken kiev from M&S is, if anything, better than the original. You’re eating a kiev for the crunch and the garlic, rarely for the chicken. I’m not vegan, or vegetarian, but I don’t see the point in eating meat, if the meat isn’t the point.

Channel 5 ended up doing slow TV better than the BBC – watch the train go from Glasgow to Mallaig.

Two of Clive James’ Postcards series were shown by BBC4. Maybe more withering on the 80s, and class, in retrospect.

Was pointed to papicocafe on Instagram, highlighting some old timey Japan. Something to pair with craigmod’s epic essay about pizza toast and kissatens.

Rob Auton’s podcast is good but the novel format (2-5ish minutes daily) doesn’t fit with the created strictures of modern podcasting (30 seconds of bad adverts at the beginning and end).

Was looking for something else on the Ikea website, but found this very cheap plant water sensor. I’m intrigued by the new acoustic panels too.

Keeping an eye on this court case over a piece of light art. It feels really at the edge of art expression, but also involves Chinese product manufacturers advertising how to recreate.

The Guardian’s post on European city museums is good. Lots of gems in the comments, for once.

Mostly I’ve spent a lot of time watching TikTok. Once you get over the initial headspin and general revulsion of the first half an hour it’s both interesting and fun. I know Vine was something similar, but I never really got into that, and the scale of this is massive. It’s different to most social media in that it’s generally watching strangers, and very different to YouTube due to the length of the posts (10-20 seconds of video).

Given it doesn’t know anything about you at the start, its filters start very location specific (UK), but the main page (For You) is completely atemporal. There’s nothing to indicate when the post was from, so even now, I’m getting some posts from before Christmas. It feels like the algo thrashes about, giving you 10 minutes of cat videos before heading off to another data point. It’s very receptive to “full watches” of videos.

The first half an hour was horrible. If you’re used to Instagram, it’s very… ITV1/2/3/4 compared to Instagram’s Channel 4. You’re in a lot of people’s houses, workplaces and schools. There’s a lot of singing and dancing. There’s weirdly specific TikTok lighting for teenager bedrooms. There’s also a lot of privilege on display, from “private school check” to “rich person check” and the inevitable shysters selling drop shipping, cryptocurrencies and forex trading as get rich quick schemes (which if anything lends credence to the platform, as a place where people are and things are happening). And sure, there was some very upfront homophobia – the blocking and reporting tools are pretty meagre but are there. Between some blocking and giving it a few hashtags, people and songs to watch for, it became a far more manageable place.

The flip side to potential abuse is that it’s also got lots of LGBT+ and other minorities finding themselves, and finding others.

It feels like a richer description of humanity than Twitter or Instagram. It’s bored people at work or school or at home – I don’t know if the social media policies of all the large companies hasn’t caught up yet, or if they don’t care. Tesco and McDonalds seem to do pretty well out of it in the UK. Also seeing people reacting to their university and Oxbridge places over the last week has been quite something.

I spent a good half an hour in tears laughing at the “sent these lyrics” thing. With the in-phone green screen effect, it’s people singing and laughing over the text conversation they had. It’s different and new. And funny (and already splintered into several different memes – find the ones where they text old(er) people).

Beverley Knight is really good at it. And can’t quite understand, like all over 25s on the app, famous or not, why she’s not more popular. I don’t want to post any videos on there, but I kinda want to learn the dances just to be able to jump in the back of anyone I see recording.

It’s people having a moment of fun. The kids are alright. It is nice to see people having fun on the Internet, again.

that was a week, w/e 8 December 2019

Not quite a week, but Sunday feels a good time to catch up.

Feel in a rush, as to my mind, Christmas is in a week’s time, as that’s when I finish work to go to HK and Seoul. Sifting 76 CVs didn’t help much.

Intrigued by Seoul but realise it’s a very different culture to any I’ve visited before, especially, for my purposes, in how they view single diners. So quite a lot more prep and reading and making of maps (all in KakaoMap as Google doesn’t really work). Learning a lot from the Netflix category “Korean TV Programmes about Food”, which are mainly sit… coms? dramas? reality? Mainly watching “Let’s Eat“, a drama about a group of single neighbours in Seoul (also Men Are Terrible, Global edition), and “Chef & My Fridge“, a never-ending reality show with random k-celebs and random chefs cooking things. All are impossibly full of customs and seeming rudeness.

Amazing performance of Reich’s Drumming at the Hayward, where it was originally performed 40 years ago, even if the acoustics meant most of the last third on glockenspiels were lost and almost painful (the Riley exhibit is great, but apart from the main room on the top floor, not given any space to breathe).

W3C have funded an online course about web accessibility, but I’ve already received 5 needy emails from the learning platform they’re using for it.

The ‘Christmas special’ of Live at The Apollo features great sets by Ahir Shah and Laura Lexx.

Let’s not talk about the banana. It’s kinda sorta maybe not the end of the decade, so here come the lists; like the “best art”.

VR developer update: the weird 3d camera I bought only has an app for the Oculus Go, and not the Quest. You can, after much googling, only upload files to the headset using Android File Transfer if you are *not* in developer mode. Accessing through Dropbox is almost the easiest method.

Anyway, in Venice I took some 3d photos and video to start exploring what works. It’s interesting for vistas with things in close and middle distance, and room sized 3d with some objects around; not got the resolution or the optics for exploring close up objects in detail. Some of the videos really work. More to explore.

Why? It feels like when I discovered the Internet, and the same with mobile phones. The tech now is horrible, expensive, ugly and heavy (and most importantly, antisocial), but there’s a glimpse of something new – it won’t be VR, it’s that AR will creep up on you without you noticing. So some early experiments hopefully puts me 5 minutes ahead of the curve.

If you do have an Oculus Quest, this list of immersive experiences by NoProscenium is great.

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that was a week, w/e 2 December 2019

The Jim Moir programme on video art is good (I know I’m the only person who likes video art). I’ve scribbled “Def II” next to it, so something in it either reminded me of Def II or it said something about how cheap video cameras and production changed everything – Mark Leckey referenced something similar when talking about Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore.

Good Abram Games exhibition at the otherwise profoundly opinionated and depressing National Army Museum (so many shooting gun interactives for kids) – Games describes the design process as “[they] went through agonies to simplify everything”, which is as close to the truth as anything I’ve heard.

Instagram is for no reason showing me a lot of climbing videos recently, impressive but daft, especially these home climbing gyms.

Was in Brussels for a meeting about web accessibility at the EC and whilst it’s a ███████ ███████████, ██’█ ███ ███████ █’██ ████ ██ ███████ ██████ ███ ████████ ███████ ██████. ████ ██ ███ ██████ █ ███ ██, █████ ████ ████████ ████ █-██████████, ███████ ███████ ███ ████ ████ [redacted due to pre-election period]. Anyway, it’s Christmas beer season in Belgium. I do miss European ideas of pubs, with generally seated drinking, table service and mountains of cheese.

The new Stewart Lee double A-side is a barnstormer.

I haven’t watched Reggie in China, but the trailers make it seem as naively wide-eyed as most recent trips by celebrities to Japan – a travelogue trope that hasn’t changed since I was a kid. A little better is Our Guy in Japan – in each episode he goes to help some artisan, who are mainly quite impressed that, as a mechanic, he knows what he’s doing. Also a tour of a Japanese slum is more off kilter than you usually get in these programmes.

60+ applicants for 1 job role we’ve had open. It’s tough out there.

Learnt the hard way about bruchid beetles. Remaining dried beans are now in the freezer. Gardening is a never ending learning curve.

VR developer update: I bought the cable. And managed to get something from Unity on my Mac into the Quest. Just need to learn Unity now.

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that was a week, w/e 23 November

Spent a good chunk of the last 2 weeks interviewing, and it’s about to happen again. This time for a generalist role – common in the civil service, but I’ve never interviewed generalists before. I assume the ones with the necessary skills will become apparent.

They really should teach mortgages, ISAs, pensions, stocks and shares at school. Better general studies than just what the washing label icons mean. After the basics I send people to Checksies.

Design Museum for the Designs of the Year show – much shrugging from me. Didn’t like the walled presentation, apart from the architecture section, which made every entry make a 2 screen film. Great idea but they were art directed into having almost no script (but obsessed about telling you what camera it was filmed on (Blackmagics were popular)). Impossible to tell why the winners won.

Bought the Kenya Hara back catalogue so I can work out what Hurrell’s chatting about.

A trip to Southampton to see the Haroon Mirza show – excellent, Dream Machine is the 2nd most mind bending artwork after Turrell’s Perceptual Cells. Also the Sea City museum – much like every other maritime museum, alas (apart from some decent mapping and storytelling of the many locals who served and died on the Titanic). Best bit was probably getting the volunteers who are digitising the extensive maritime ephemera archive to pick a cabinet’s worth of stuff. Lots of ship menus, obvs.

Never been to a city where everyone who grew up or studied there asked “why?”.

Although it would be an exemplary showcase for bad town planning, since about the 1400s.

Had hkmap.live open most of the week.

My attempt at VR development ended when I needed a USB-C cable.

If you are a designer, and in any way, non straight/cis, fill in the queer design count.

(no, don’t call this a week note)

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obviously

I went on holiday and never came back again.

I did have lots of things faved, but I’ve thought about one of them every day since.

Sorry, not that.

This.

*looks through list of links*

Hmm. Where’s it gone?

*googles for 45 minutes*

It might have been this?

Something similar to this, at least.

Not that I am aphantasic, but I know my mind has certain biases and things it can memorise easier than others.

Actually, maybe it was in a book. Something about old fashioned designers saying there’s one true ‘objective’ way to think about things, leading to one true ‘best’ design. Or maybe it was in one of the many bauhaus exhibitions this year? It’s obviously nonsense.

How can we better design for the different ways people minds really work? With so much difference in mental images and models?

(Good user research can scratch the surface, but I doubt the depth of research needed is ever done across a wide enough group of people to capture different ideas of the mind. And research analysis tends to be reductive.)

things I have faved, #16

More of a list of links than usual. I’m off on holiday. ☀️

The Center for Land Use Interpretation is always great (and in LA is next to maybe the best museum in the world, the Museum of Jurassic Technology) – and they publish a quarterly newsletter. Here’s Winter 2019 – helium, fertiliser production, bombing ranges and targets…

Observer Food Monthly’s top 50 food things right now – obviously PRed and zeitgeisty, but always an interesting list.

I’m currently a bit obsessed with Danny Bowien – he’s featured in the 6th series of Mind Of A Chef, that I was completely oblivious too because it’s on Facebook Watch. I’ve used a lot of TV platforms in my time, and FB Watch is easily the suckiest. I don’t think anyone who made it watches TV or uses Facebook. Maybe find other ways to get it… it’s worth it for the lamb noodle soup in episode 2.

Eater have stepped up to the plate with a great set of articles about eating in Taipei. Some bloggers are where I’ve been to find good recommendations before.

There’s a lazy/cheap music format on BBC4 of two celebrities picking music videos on a theme, which has mainly been a bit shrug, but this episode on vocal greats is magic.

Nice piece on the refreshed MK Gallery in Milton Keynes

Dick Bruna’s book covers

things I have faved, #15

I was lucky enough to get to see the Haroon Mirza (now closed) and Mark Fell shows recently. Both have “extreme” modern sound works, using the new materialities of mass controllable LED lights, for one. Focal Point is always worth a trip to Southend (and see their great ongoing Radical Essex work).

I’m so tempted to head over to Paris for this Vasarely exhibition. Good merch, too.

Larry Charles’ Dangerous World of Comedy is a great side salad to the Comedians of the World series. Comedy under extreme conditions – even creating the idea of stand-up in some of the countries.

A Jolibee opened in very west London just before Christmas. I regularly see people on the Jubilee line at Stratford with many massive bags of Jolibee. Does Chickenjoy withstand a reheat?

It emerged that Polpo was struggling against a massive tax bill, and from long-term management malaise. It seems a sad story of bringing in a management team to let the founders go off and do other things (eg Four Seasons) but then losing a lot of the magic that the mini-chain was known for. The first funny smell for me was opening a Spuntino in Heathrow Airport. The owners have a lot of goodwill in the industry, and it’s times like this you really need it. Hopefully they can turn the chain around.

I saw Wagamama advertising on TV. TV ads for restaurant chains (fast food excepted) are pretty rare here compared to, say, the US. It’s hard to know what to focus on, other than that “we still exist”. I get the feeling all the mid market chains are feeling very exposed at the moment, whilst trying to pull themselves out from voucher-driven deals. It’s going to get nasty.

Time Out did a list of best pastries in London – like their recent list of ‘best bakeries’, some great ones are mentioned, but it’s ended up a fairly mixed list, with some massive holes. Their list of international bakeries is more interesting.

Ugly food vs Instagram

The chef at Sheffield’s Rutland Arms, whilst single handedly trying to pull pub-goers away from brown food, has a good list of places to eat

I wish Mexican sandwiches would become London’s next food trend

the infamous Joe Beef restaurateurs sober up

I’m here for fruit watercolour Twitter

Iceberg heist

Barcelona pavilion in lasers

Japanese corporate ambient

Tour an Amazon fulfilment centre (now booking again, includes Tilbury)

Don’t trust apps with anything. or Facebook (another writeup if you can’t find the WSJ. article)

things I have faved, #14

Ikea Greenwich opened, and it’s nice, but still just an Ikea. More plants and outdoor stuff than Tottenham, some natural light in the showroom so it’s easier judging colours, and of course only half an hour away rather than an hour. How Ikea got cool. The catalogue is increasingly irrelevant, and the website often doesn’t reflect the entire range – but I’ve found these monthly updates and seasonal lookbooks far better for judging what’s in store and what’s new. Looks like a bright and bold summer, and I love it. Last time I thought Ikea had missed the Kondo-small-shallow-box trend – there’s a few moves towards it – Rabbla, Sammanhang, Kuggis, and a Knallgul box set that isn’t online.

The Vault festival is midway, tucking 6 very Fringey venues under Waterloo station and a few shops and spaces on Lower Marsh. There’s lots of new theatre and comedy (work-in-progresses) going on, it’s cheap, and well worth taking a punt on seeing something. No point in recommending shows I’ve seen, as their runs have already finished: Lyn Gardner is reviewing a lot of the theatre shows.

Can’t wait for DAU to maybe- kinda-appear in London later in the year (an experiential writeup).

BA are trying to celebrate their 100th anniversary, with the usual splashy celeb-y advert. Like many, I think the quality and service on BA has dropped dramatically, plus price nickle-and-diming, to the point where I will try to fly with any other airline. BA was bold for 2 years before waving the Union Jack again.

I 🧡 this Tate Kids video on 5 LGBTQ+ artists

The oral history of Silicon Roundabout (declaration: I had a desk in RIG)

from 1972, London dining is “not as bad as people say”

George Orwell “in defence of English cooking”

Too Many Prets

a quick guide to fresh and dried Mexican chiles

Turin’s amazing museum of fruit models

a nice piece on the Far East Cafe, in SF’s Chinatown, which opened in 1920

how a lot of Western people will not pay more for better quality ingredients in Chinese restaurants

a very American mango pie, that I want to try

great writeup on the history of New York’s pizza slices

lots of people watch TV with captioning on (accessibility features aren’t only for people with long-term access needs)

do not always do what you love: the lonely life of a yacht influencer

a great flyover video of where Copenhagen’s metro runs

Felipe Pantone’s CD installation

lovely to see nearly-Spring starting to happen in Shinjuku Gyoen

springtime tempura

systemic failure in Japan’s state welfare means pensioners are committing petty crimes to go to jail, rent free

things I have faved, #13

(I left it too long and now there are Too Many Faves)

One reason for waiting was I wanted to talk about Marie Kondo but the world does not need another take, so I waited until I found the one I agree with: this piece about Shinto (Kondo was a miko at a Shinto shrine for 5 years). If you watch the Netflix series, it becomes apparent that most of the weird-to-Westerners aspects have very practical applications in decluttering: “greeting the house” lets homeowners visualise the house they want; “sparking joy” translates into something you want to take with you into the future; saying “thank you” to objects you’re discarding removes the owner’s embarrassment (especially for things like clothes that have never been worn).

The series itself is interesting – only the first episode could really be considered confrontational (and like similar commercial shows). Some episodes feel over long, and some of the houses don’t really have much of a clutter problem. There are a couple of good tips per episode, but unfortunately spread thinly. Netflix should be able to experiment with the format more – eg jump cut all the practical tips into 1 special episode, or being able to see extras on each episode if you want to see some parts of the method they completely cut out to make it roughly 30 minutes.

It’s hard to find pictures of Kondo’s real house – there are a few on Instagram (eg, eg) that feel a bit more real than this article. It feels a shame that a big consultancy franchise has grown around her – she seems to actually have a lot of fun. Surprised no-one like Ikea has jumped on the lot of small boxes thing though. Also: a nice piece on her English interpreter.

Is this a take on Marie Kondo takes? Oh no.

More telly: I’m gradually working through Comedians of the World, and first of all, it’s definitely not the entire world, which is a shame (there are a few Chinese and Japanese comedy specials on Netflix), and also I’d love to get a sense of how the chosen comedians are perceived in their own countries and languages. I’m finding certain languages a lot slower in jokes-per-minute… So far can really recommend all the UK choices (but especially Mae Martin), DeAnne Smith from Canada, and Rawsan Hallak for a very different world view.

HSBC’s new sound identity by Jean-Michel Jarre – read the article and try to imagine it before watching the video. It also ominously threatens to be heard as background music in airports. Almost as weird an idea as Darude representing Finland in Eurovision this year.

Money ruins everything: why some art exhibitions will never be staged again, as artists’ works appreciate in value

50 years of Thamesmead

how British gardens are having to change due to climate

why terrazzo is suddenly everywhere

this t-shirt folding machine has nothing on Kondo

the secret to skincare is to be wealthy

why are rich people so weird?

how millennials burnt-out and now the next generation of kids are already anxious

a history of synthetic materials

an ergonomics breakdown of the problems with a modern Lufthansa airplane

X-raying a Kinder Surprise

the start of a hopefully open 3d model of London

I love Robert Siestema’s writing about food around New York – like this random snapshot that feels a lot more cosmopolitan than London, and this paean to liverwurst sandwiches

the $3 million tuna

Helen Rosner’s presentation on how to take good photos of food

a collection of good writing about British food

A good list of places to eat in Whitstable

how to make the Mori Martini

how bad was Watney’s Red Barrel? pretty bad

Too Many Faves? Too Many Faves.

things I have faved, #12

Some things for the soon passing perineum.

Let’s get the Christmas telly out the way – when did the Christmas special just become a clip show? Weak sauce. Some good stuff was on though: the documentary on Paul Heaton. Compare and contrast with a doc on the worst Christmas song, that must now be consigned to the bin. MacGowan and band deriding the Pet Shop Boys (who beat them to the Christmas No 1) as “two queers and a drum machine” show what lovely people they are.

Christmas Aggretsuko is brilliant. We wish you a metal Christmas.

Celebrity Game Night feels a bit like House of Games, but with a live band and a free bar, and the contestants actually liking each other. Lisa Tarbuck is one of the funniest people on TV, so I’ll always give her shows a go. It’s very reminiscent of Win, Lose or Draw, especially with Danny Baker as one of the team captains. Don’t know why there’s a resurgence of TV party games, with the rather odd I’ll Get This too. All the shows depend very much on the ‘celebrities’ being good value off screen. Some episodes work, some really don’t.

I’ve been watching Final Table on Netflix – a grandly over produced cook off with well respected contestants and judges. As a format it doesn’t quite work – each episode is the cuisine of a different country, with two rounds: the first is a recreation of a much loved dish, judged by local celebrities, and the second is making a dish celebrating a local ingredient, picked and judged by a 2 or 3 star chef from the country. The chef teams, who mainly have never worked together before, often have no experience of the dish themselves (although I suspect some preplanning is done), the local celebrities just want something that reminds them of the version their family makes, but then the chef in the second round wants a more creative spin on things. The contestants don’t know how to pitch things correctly, and often the chef from the chosen country goes home, as they’re seemingly expected to be doing more than everyone else. There may be a good show in here trying to get out, but could do without the US razzmatazz that a big production Netflix series seems to need.

On glitter / what even is glitter

Alvar Aalto hid a reindeer head in the street plan of Rovaniemi

South Korea’s crazy socks

Another take on automated supermarkets (seems hidden humans over robots tbh) – more video

How a city’s dining scene can quickly tarnish (and Rosner digs further)

Quite a takedown of a London restaurant trying to open in New York

New remastering techniques applied to turn of the century film remains a marvel – here’s Paris

Rainbow Arcade exhibition in Berlin

towwwwwwwwwer

Happy Twixtmas.