hidden under the soles of your shoes

Business Insider Australia has a somewhat informative picto-article (hat tip Naked Capitalism) about the state of the physical internet (i.e., cables and server farms). "Somewhat" because it (i) comes larded with journalistic asides designed to make the data more comforting and less technical, and (ii) goes out of its way to omit cell traffic from the equation. The phrases in bold below cover both scenarios:

...people often mistakenly assume that internet traffic happens by air – our mobile devices, after all, aren’t wired to anything.

But satellites carry less than 1% of human interactions, and in some ways the truth is far more impressive than messages sent by tower signal.

The internet – arguably the most important resource in the modern world – is very tangible and fairly vulnerable. It exists in large part under our feet, by way of an intricate system of rope-thin underwater and underground cables hooked to giant data storage units.

The article wants to make the point that "the internet" (monolithic) depends on cables and power-hungry data centers. Its graphic depiction of how ocean and underground cables are laid, and the sheer extent of them, is compelling. The "vulnerability" of this network isn't addressed but clearly power failures and strategic bombings are what they are implying. The article should give any reader pause to consider how un-ecological all this hardware and cable-repairing is. But the "only one-percent of interactions are by satellite" datum elides the enormous cell-phone infrastructure that works in tandem with these cables and servers. "Towers" are mentioned but those do more than just beam signals into space.

around the web

Microsoft acquires Github -- what could possibly go wrong? Regardless, Sourceforge feels that congratulations are in order.

Good recap from Dave Winer on the essential sleaziness of G**gle's push to eliminate http (via cosmic)

VISA's "war on cash" suffers setback when VISA payment system fails. I didn't know that Visa "rolled out a new US initiative in the summer of 2017 that offered to award 50 eligible retail businesses...up to $10,000 each if they committed to refusing cash payments." That's disgusting.

Notes on Heartache and Chaos, James Howard Kunstler. Nothing "new" here but well written.

Tyler Kline virtual (?) sculpture


Tyler Kline, via twitter

This is a jpeg mini-review. Is this a virtual photo? A 3D printed object? Some hybrid of the two? What is the scale? No "materials" or dimensions are given. Regardless, it works for me as a piece, or a prospectus for one. Gestural energy, fecal texture, and quasi-crystalline structure merge into a hyperrealized idea of modernist sculpture. Like a '60s sf book cover in 3D space. The rectangular base suggests "sculpture" but also a painting surface from which this tangle of forms has somehow erupted. It's the kind of project I could imagine Frank Stella wanting to make, but always lacking the imagination or inner turmoil to achieve (Stella, in his "wrecked spaceship" period, mostly just artlessly clumps things together). The 3D sheen also gives the work a CGI horror movie vibe, a la Michael Bay Transformers. There is also a clone tool element, or a parody of the ease with which digital cloning allows the repetition of certain forms.

et tu, brutalist?

Travis Hallenbeck's bookmarks ruined a perfectly good day with a link to Brutalist Websites, a page that equates an institutional, raw-concrete building style of the mid-20th Century with current simple or (simple-looking) web design. It lifts a quote from Wikipedia (like a college student using Cliff's Notes for a term paper):

In its ruggedness and lack of concern to look comfortable or easy, Brutalism can be seen as a reaction by a younger generation to the lightness, optimism, and frivolity of some 1930s and 1940s architecture.

And adapts it to web design:

In its ruggedness and lack of concern to look comfortable or easy, Brutalism can be seen as a reaction by a younger generation to the lightness, optimism, and frivolity of today's web design.

Changing "some 1930s and 1940s architecture" to "today's web design" supposedly establishes the premises that (i) websites are like architecture (ii) there is a generational preference for "rough" design. The authors go on to ask a variety of webpage designers a leading, when-did-you-stop-beating-your-wife type question, "Why do you have a Brutalist Website?" Below are a couple of examples:

Ryder Ripps

Q: Why do you have a Brutalist Website?
A: Because all smart people on the internet do. Look at Tim Berners-Lee's website. My life can not be summed up in a parallax scroll.
Q: Who designed the website?
A: Me
Q: Who coded the website?
A: Me
Q: With what kind of editor?
A: Notepad



Christopher Wool (Luiza Dale)

Q: Why do you have a Brutalist Website?
A: PLAYLAB, INC. was commissioned by the artist Christopher Wool to make a simple website of his entire body of work. The website was to have no thumbnail images of the work, not to display them together but to list the art in chronological order in a straight-forward archive. All typography is the same size and the information is broken down into categories, focusing on the index of Wool's work.
Q: Who designed the website?
Q: Who coded the website?
Q: With what kind of editor?
A: CraftCMS


If we accept the architectural analogy, what is the "raw concrete" here? Ripps made his own website, using Notepad (let's assume that means the free source code editor, not Microsoft Notepad) and Wool hired an ad agency that used a professional content management software. There is too much space between these methodologies for "brutalist websites" to have much meaning. Brutalist Websites consists of a single, too-large page of screenshots of a wide range of sites. Some are crude-looking (raising the possibility that the Brutalist Websites authors are confusing Brutalism with Art Brut) and some, like the Wool page, are sophisticated designs working hard to look simple. Some are art/DIY and some are sales/corporate. Also, what younger generation? Both Ripps and Playlab have been at it for at least ten years. What dominant elders are they reacting to, at this point? Let's conclude with a parody interview:

Tom Moody

Q: Why do you have a Brutalist Website?
A: What are you talking about?
Q: Who designed the website?
A: It's a WordPress theme
Q: Who coded the website?
A: WordPress.org
Q: With what kind of editor?
A: I don't know


the language of despair


...was looking for a way to turn off those annoying "web push notification" requests Firefox keeps shoving in my face and encountered this sinkhole of the English language. If you truly "love" a website you can probably find a way to "engage" with it, without having your browser asking you if you want to be "pushed" by every website you visit.

Pushy, pushy.