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To read: “On Immunity” by Eula Biss and “Pond” by Claire-Louise Bennett

Book recs for the list.

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From an old friend: On Immunity: An Inoculation by Eula Biss

Recommended to me due to relevance with the pandemic, and since the book came about as Biss was navigating the birth of her first child.

Biblio (secondhand) | Graywolf Press (publisher, US) | Fitzcarraldo Editions (publisher, UK)

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From a new friend: Pond by Claire-Louise Bennett

Recommended to me in relation to mundane creative acts, the quiet and everyday, solitude and maybe domesticity, but not in the 50s please-your-husband-and-the-neighbors sense.

Biblio (secondhand) | The Stinging Fly (publisher, IE) | Riverhead books, imprint of Penguin Random House (publisher, US)

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“It is also difficult to express the full magnitude of our disinterest in passing some Internet Randolorian’s ‘free speech’ litmus test”

I’ve hosted this site with NearlyFreeSpeech.NET (NFSN) for a few years now and have always been happy with their service.

It’s super bare-bones and no-nonsense—probably not the right platform for people or orgs that need more hands-on support or maintenance, so not one that I usually recommend to clients—but it does exactly what I need it to at just about the lowest cost out there (about $1.96/mo for my site at time of writing). This blog post by Blake Watson is a decent introduction to what they’re like as a host.

They don’t have a flashy website and aren’t ones to post often on their blog, but they did recently post a response to the extremists that have been trying their luck on the platform post-insurrection in no uncertain terms.

We’ve received quite a few emails (and signups) from them in the past week or so. They appear to believe that “free speech” means they can say whatever they want without repercussions. (It does not.) They expect us to agree with them about that. (We do not.) And they believe they’re entitled to our reassurance and, in some cases, assistance. (They are not.)

We have zero time and even less energy to waste on such nonsense. It is also difficult to express the full magnitude of our disinterest in passing some Internet Randolorian’s “free speech” litmus test.

It’s worth reading in full, read “Free Speech in 2021” on the NearlyFreeSpeech blog.

They know what they’re about, as they say they’ve been in the game for 20 years. This post reinforces my satisfaction with them as a hosting provider.

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To read: “Maintenance and Care” by Shannon Mattern for Places

Read the article “Maintenance and Care: A working guide to the repair of rust, dust, cracks, and corrupted code in our cities, our homes, and our social relations” by Shannon Mattern for Places, published in November 2018.

Yet even if we build an army of repair robots (a longtime sci-fi dream) and maintenance AIs, their hardware and software will still require upkeep. They’ll still depend upon well-maintained, interoperable technical infrastructures. They’ll still require cleaning staff — “industrial hygienists” — to maintain pristine conditions for their manufacture. We’ll need curators to clean the data and supervisors for the robot cleaning crew. Labor is essential to maintenance.

As Jay Owens reminds us,

There will be dust. There is always dust. By that I mean there is always time, and materiality, and decay. Decomposition and damage are inescapable. There is always the body, with its smears and secretions and messy flaking bits off. There is always waste and it always has to be dealt with, and shipping it out of sight overseas to the developing world does not change the fact this work has to be done (and it is dirty, dangerous work that demands its pound of flesh).

That’s true whether we’re talking about ditch-digging or dam-building or data-diving. Maintenance at any particular site, or on any particular body or object, requires the maintenance of an entire ecology: attending to supply chains, instruments, protocols, social infrastructures, and environmental conditions.

A lot of this relates to the push and pull between maintenance and innovation, how much more attractive innovation, the shiny and new, is in the public consciousness.

This brings me back, yet again, to Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction. The heroic versus the contemplative, the careful. The spear versus the receptacle. The linear versus the cyclical. Resolution versus the infinite.

What about a Carrier Bag Theory of Everything?

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Link: Cyberfeminism Index

Mindy Seu’s Cyberfeminism Index is now online. From the New Museum’s First Look:

In Seu’s telling, the term “cyberfeminism,” which came into usage in the early 1990s, “was meant as an oxymoron or provocation, a critique of the cyberbabes and fembots that stocked the sci-fi landscapes of the 1980s.” As a provocation, the term has certainly succeeded: over decades, it has brought feminisms and technologies into conflict and conversation, while the term itself has been contested, reimagined, debunked, and expanded. Cyberfeminism Index does not attempt to resolve these contradictions, but to honor the multiplicity of practices that might be gathered under this imperfect umbrella, particularly making efforts to center non-Western and nonbinary approaches.

Commissioned by Rhizome, developed by Angeline Meitzler. On larger screens, you can click the items to curate and download your own selection. Check it out.

cyberfeminismindex.com

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aaronzlewis.com

Another personal site well worth checking out:

aaronzlewis.com

There’s a lot of great stuff going on here: a cocoon for fledgling writing that’s maybe not quite ready for prime time yet but well worth sharing, web-like behavior in that the site pulls in content from various sources (Twitter, Arena, his blog, etc.). It really gives you a well-rounded picture of his personality.

The use of color and transitions is great too, usually when I see a site with this much movement and color it can come across as wacky / zany. That’s fine and appropriate for some personalities, but it’s not the sort of thing that I would go for on my own site. So it’s cool to see someone accomplish a friendly, colorful, and playful design without it feeling too over the top.

I like the tone of his writing too, particularly the “mentors, collaborators, & co-conspirators” bit on his Credits page. I’ve wanted to add something like this for a while but haven’t been sure how to present it.

It’s interesting, coming across sites like this makes me go back and forth about where I’m going currently with my own. On the one hand I’m really enjoying making a site that others can use, it’s been great to see how people use it. On the other hand, I can only go so far with making the theme really “me”. There may be other ways to address this though… worth considering!

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Decentering Whiteness in Design History, an annotated bibliography in progress

Check out Decentering Whiteness in Design History, an annotated bibliography in progress.

One of the great FemOS ladies shared the above resource recently. She came across it via the Simply Secure Slack chat. It seems like a strong doc, I hope that the researchers and others continue to add to it.

If you’re looking for resources on a particular topic like typography or graphic design, it’s best to refer to their hashtag list currently on page 8 (search the doc for “Hashtag Authority List” if it moves). Then find a tag you’re interested in and search the doc for that tag.

Below is a list of a few resources that caught my eye and I’d like to follow up on. These are all freely available online in one form or another or could likely be loaned from a library.

  • “The Font that Never Was: Linotype and the “Phonetic Chinese Alphabet” of 1921”, an article by Thomas S. Mullaney. The article is behind a paywall, but he also presented it at ATypI 2016 (see video).
  • Saki Mafundikwa’s TED talk Ingenuity and elegance in ancient African alphabets
  • Chromophobia by David Batchelor published in 2001. The editorial description: “The central argument of Chromophobia is that a chromophobic impulse—a fear of corruption or contamination through colour—lurks within much Western cultural and intellectual thought. This is apparent in the many and varied attempts to purge colour, either by making it the property of some ‘foreign body’—the oriental, the feminine, the infantile, the vulgar, or the pathological—or by relegating it to the realm of the superficial, the supplementary, the inessential, or the cosmetic.” Purchase from the publisher, buy it secondhand, or look for it at local library.
  • “New Blackface: Neuland and Lithos as Stereotypography”, an essay by Rob Giampietro that was originally published in the journal of the Type Directors Club (an org that has been been in hot water over the past few months, incidentally…). It’s available to read on his website.
  • Design in California and Mexico 1915–1985, the catalogue for the exhibition “Found in Translation: Design in California and Mexico 1915–1985” at LACMA in 2018. Purchase from the LACMA online store, buy it secondhand. Feel like this is unlikely to be in a local library unfortunately.
  • “Violence and Economic Growth: Evidence from African American Patents, 1870–1940” by Lisa Cook, published in the Journal of Economic Growth in June 2014. Cook analyzed over two million patents, cross-referencing with Census records to track Black patent activity over time. From the bibliography: “Her data suggested something huge happened after 1921 that caused the rate of Black patenting to tank after that date; it turned out to be the destruction of “Black Wall Street” during the Tulsa massacre.” Available in full as a PDF via Cook’s website.

Time to reintroduce a whole lot of color on this site, I think!

Published

“All of time / Is right here / Is right now” 🌈

Current listening: “Mystic Familiar” by Dan Deacon

I listen to music while working but usually it’s something like Max Richter or Jon Hopkins, something without lyrics. I just can’t do lyrics and work on logic or systems, my brain gets mixed up.

This album is different, no problem working to it. And it’s so damn joyous, it’s the electro-pop mantra I need right now. See also the video for the first song from the album, “Become a Mountain”. And if you use Spotify, try setting up a Dan Deacon artist radio. Highly recommend it.

“Mystic Familiar” was released at the very end of January 2020, so at least one beautiful thing resulted from this unfathomably dark year. And my cousin getting engaged, and our dear friends telling us they’re having a baby. Continue connecting the dots between the good, feel lighter already.