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November 2009
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February 2010

January 2010

Datadecs

One of the things which brightened up our Christmas holiday was the arrival on 23 December of these datadecs:

Datadecs

(After years of large trees both real and, recently and unappealingly, fake, we were given this wee-but-living tree. As one of our sons said, ‘Not so much minimalist as miniature’. Give it time.)

Datadecs

Datadecs

A lovely present: many thanks to Russell, Tom and Ben at RIG, and to Andy — who writes,

For Christmas 2009 the Really Interesting Group wanted to create a a gift comprising a series of 4 unique decorations based on each recipient’s use of the Flickr, Dopplr, Last.fm and Twitter. Having used a couple of the software APIs they were thinking about using (flickr and dopplr) and with experience of rapid prototyping we worked together to turn the data into something physical. … Three of the four Datadecs are laser cut and one is rapid formed. For the laser cutting I developed a series of Processing sketches to generate cutting paths and the snowmen were generated using RhinoScript.

As Phil summarises it:

The snowman’s head size represents the number of followers I have on Twitter. The cloud and its rain represent my year’s trips on Dopplr. The blue shape shows the apertures of my photos on Flickr. And the red shape is the amount of music I played during the year, got from Last.fm.

More about these datadecs and their making in Andy’s post, and see, too, RIG’s page about them, Twitter mentions and Flickr tagged photos.

Very struck by these. Julian Bleecker: ‘this association between things materialized and things quantified is really significant’.

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Waking Up in Toytown

John Burnside’s second volume of memoirs is published this week. Of A Lie About My Father, Hilary Mantel, writing in the LRB, said:

To move from the interiority of this memoir back to what passes for ordinary life is like surfacing from under the sea, reshaped by its strong and unforgiving currents.

From yesterday’s Guardian review of Waking Up in Toytown (‘the important narrative is interior and episodic, a curation of carefully examined moments … the supple product of a sustained and quiet looking’):

… he fetched up near Guildford, to begin a “long and solitary ceremony of self-erasure” in garden centres and train timetables and dead-end jobs and cups of tea, a fantasy of latter-day monasticism whose sole point was to deny his awareness of liminal worlds, to shut out the voices with reruns of old movies, to replace the call of drink with fetishised routine. To discover in practice what he already knew theoretically, and most people glimpse sooner or later: that they are building ramparts against the dark and trying to believe in them, however flimsy they may be. And though it works, for a little while, it’s never going to be that easy. Darkness creeps in around the edges: sleep is elusive, and no amount of willed shut-down can rid his empty flat of the presences that animate it. Death stalks him …

… the answer turns out to be not a cycle of denial and fall, but a daily negotiation; what he calls, in A Lie About My Father, “the long discipline of happiness”. And it involves a turn to solitude and nature rather than drugs and alcohol; a sober, thrilled meditation on "the roads, and the places just off the roads, all that God-in-the-details of the land: the sway of cottonwood in the wind, the black of a secluded lake, the monumental quiet of a Monterey cypress near a roadside motel on the way from nothing to nowhere", or the "gloaming just beyond the hedge, where the night begins".

One day, late in the book, he finds himself travelling in Norway, far inside the Arctic circle. Arriving early at the small local airport, he sits and gazes out at the whiteness of the airfield. “I sat a long time, that day, waiting for my flight – and some of me is sitting there still, enjoying the stillness, becoming the silence, learning how to vanish. Every day, in every way, I am disappearing, just a little – and it feels like flying, it feels like the kind of flight I was trying for, that first time, when I was nine years old – but it has nothing to do with the will, and it has nothing to do with trying. If it happens at all it happens as a gift: and this is the one definition of grace I can trust.”

‘My misery is infinite with respect to my will, but it is finite with respect to grace.’ — Simone Weil (Notebooks).

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