A new design

It seems incredible it had been more than five years since I last deeply redesigned this website. I remember that back when I first designed its percursor, the blog If Then Else, the web was young, I was eager, and the iterations were monthly. That was April 2001. Now social networks take so much away (and this website, for all its independence, does aggregate posts off Tumblr, Twitter, Instagram and Flickr) that this notion of having a personal website, having YourName-dot-com, seems as oddball as it was in the 1990s: the eccentric hobby of a technophiles, like ham radio or DIY electronics. I can say I do own my online persona and that's the entire point. Or I may rephrase that as something cool and say I'm contributing to the Indie Web.

So welcome to the new 2016 iteration of my website, now featuring some the typical expectations of a 2016 website — responsive design (as if people would surf the Indie Web on their cellphones! Ha!), higher resolution images, bigger font sizes. And finally, the homepage design recognizes how far less blogging I do nowadays, but won't ever bury the more exquisitely crafted posts (ahem!) under a bunch of forgettable tweets and Instagram pictures.

The site was you are looking at is yet very incomplete — many of the projects & portfolio pages are still missing and some of the previously existing links will still throw 404s for a while. I'll update this post as I go along. 😊

Enjoy!

Our need for quiet has never fully gone away, because our practical achievements, however spectacular, never quite fulfill us. They are always giving way to new wants and needs, always requiring updating or repairing, always falling short. The mania of our online lives reveals this: We keep swiping and swiping because we are never fully satisfied. The late British philosopher Michael Oakeshott starkly called this truth “the deadliness of doing.” There seems no end to this paradox of practical life, and no way out, just an infinite succession of efforts, all doomed ultimately to fail.

I Used to Be an Human Being, by Andrew Sullivan. Read it, now. Forget about your cellphone, close all other tabs and turn off your notifications and read it. Better yet, print it. We do too much.

Hyper-Reality by Keiichi Matsuda is an oldie but goodie. Just earlier I saw this mass of people by a downtown square, all peering into their phones trying to catch Pokémon, like asocial angler fishermen or, if one chooses more terrifying metaphors, like extras in a Black Mirror episode or future Matrix human batteries.

I’m not saying Pokémon Go is a harbinger of the End of Times. Not only there are far better candidates for that, but I also think one shouldn’t actually give a fuck about how others spend their afternoons and choose to enjoy the sunset. Still, I think Pokémon Go highlights just how powerful software developers are and how it’d be perhaps wise to reason about software companies as some kind of Fifth Estate. Just imagine, as I was talking to friends yesterday, if Pokémon Go had some kind of scarcity game mechanic in which rare monsters could only be caught by one player (I actually thought the game worked like that so I wondered aloud why there were no reports of street fights breaking out, among all the news of people crashing into police cars or walking themselves off cliffs).

Thing is, someone may well create such a game. I mean, just watch old concept demos of what became today’s technology, and then look at Microsoft explaining how Augmented Reality assists scientists in exploring Mars, designers in designing motorbikes or dads in playing Minecraft with their kids. And then consider the actual history of the web, from banner ads to ransomware, from Flash to government sites that only work in Internet Explorer 6. And then rewatch Matsuda’s video. Just rewatch it and try to debunk it.

And then ponder whether software should be regulated, like cars or houses or public infrastructure are. Ponder whether such regulation is feasible, or desirable (for it would be the death of general-purpose computer, thus the ultimate authoritarian wet dream). And wonder: are we fucked? Even if we escape authoritarianism, climate change, terrorism, cyberwar (meaning the large scale use of malevolent software)… can we also handle plain ill-considered, misdesigned software?

File under Pure Glitch: The A/V Artifact Atlas, a comprehensive directory of audiovisual glitches both analog and digital. Pictured above is the result of DV head clogging, for years my most dreaded of all undesired glitches.

A few weeks ago I was invited by Gil, a friend of a friend (and aren’t friends-of-friends the best?) to become the new host of CreativeMorningsPorto chapter. Despite my loathing of tasks remotely resembling ‘production’ in my film school times, and my networking skills being more George Costanza than Ari Gold, I immediately said yes. After all, I had grown accustomed to working through TODO lists in recent years, I can answer email on time as to stave off unanswered mail tsunamis, and am comfortable talking in public (meaning in front of students), so I surely am qualified for the task. The Morning part of Creative didn’t speak to me as much as it would were they BeforeLunch, or, even better, LateAfternoon, but still: onward!

Having secured the ongoing contributions of CreativeMornings/Porto great team of volunteers and the continuing sponsorship of Espiga (a local coffeehouse I was already fond of for its very fine sausage-and-spinach omelette), many e-mails, some TODOs and a few Excel spreadsheets gave origin to the first CreativeMorning under my stead, in which local young documentary film-making duo Joana Nogueira and Patrícia Rodrigues talked about animation as a means to represent reality. (Many thanks to Joel Faria for the above illustration of the proceedings.)

So, one done, on to the next! Keep tuned!

Letterboxd • Your life in film

Here’s a site that does one thing well: personal movie reviews and ratings. Here’s my profile and my favourite part, my movie watching diary. Of course, I’m only interested in keeping a record of my film watching habits at someone else’s site inasmuch as Letterboxd is promising that a public API will be available soon, so I’ll be able to back up my records to my own server — and integrate them in this site’s reviews page.

The Secret Lives of Tumblr Teens

Even though I’m a long-standing Tumblr user, starting in the paleolithic age of early 2007, back when Tumblr was a small beta website in the age of Friendster and Hi5, I have to admit I’ve always had minimal interaction with Tumblr as a community, and such interactions have over the years mostly consisted of sparse likes and discarding private messages asking me to give up my beloved found username in exchange for a number of followers (how does such an exchange even work?) or more faves or whatever I can well do without.

Therefore it was fascinating to read this long article on Tumblr teens, which are mostly of the alienated variety that thrives under perceived anonymity, therefore the kind of kids that would have been building Geocities websites were they born 15 years earlier; but also, in a turbocapitalist twist, the kind of kids that fall for the Get Rich Quick schemes standing for contemporary Web Marketing (eg. affiliated links, clickbaiting, clickfraud, & etc.) and thus find themselves locked out of their own websites for infringing Tumblr or Google Advertising’s less-than-transparent ‘rules’ (or perhaps arbitrary and somewhat fraudulent on their own, even). It must be noted I find such measures equally deserved and nauseating: on one hand some kind of retribution from On High being served upon the brats that tricked other kids into buying sketchy diet pills in exchange of too much money and a temporary taste of Los Angeles’ glamour; on the other hand the crime of deleting a kid’s website, perhaps the very activity that brings meaning to the kid’s life, perhaps a meaning most of us won’t ever find in an activity, therefore a small (in the unfortunate context of world affairs) but certain violation of human rights.

All over these nine years Tumblr has mostly been for me a very convenient way to blog on my own website, as I’ve been using its API in order to sync posts to my own web host almost from day one. It’d be sad if found were to be deleted someday (or Tumblr ended API support), but my stuff would always still exist somewhere, both online and in regular offline backups. And herein lies the lesson: online, Big is Bad. Big users with big followers will suddently cash in and serve diet pill advertisements (or maybe ads loaded will malware). Big services with big users will suddently pull the plug, either because they don’t feel like sending that paycheck, or because a picture post once contained a nipple, or because that big service turns out to be insolvent and abruptly disappears one day. Big goes against the grain of what makes the web great.

Stay small.

The End of the Halcyon Days, released February 20th 2000, is one of the old mixtapes I have been uploading to my Mixcloud account (and here’s a bonus 20 minutes of stuff that didn’t fit the original 74m CD-R). Like the Y2K Mix I wrote about before, this mixtape is note particularly well-mixed or thought out: I was just a kid with a shareware version of Cool Edit Pro downloaded from someplace such as Tucows, some CD ripping-software besides a cache of MP3s that found their way into my computer via Zip disks, and a willingness to release these mixtapes online as 32kbps Real Audio streams in humble self-made websites with names such as Detuned, Bleep (before Warp Records came with a Bleep of their own), or Radio Deluxe; sharing their URLs on music IRC channels I used to hang out at, often getting kicked for the mixes’ electronica slant not being the ops’ cup of tea.

Therefore, such uploads can be regarded as exercises in nostalgia, both for a drive to experiment and do really badly at stuff that it was alright to later lose interest in (except for a brief relapse a few years later, I had moved on from online mixtaping once I discovered blogging), and for that old dream of an anonymous, untidy, independent Web. Still, things evolve: as we are able to travel back to the 128kbps streams that never were, the artists so dramatically and poorly ripped off in the making of these mixtapes can get some kind of compensation though the financial deals established by these centralized platforms such as Mixcloud & etc… right?…

People who hang out with me know that even though I don’t have any pets anymore, I am quite fond of street cats, always stopping to greet and (try to) pet those cute little killers. I am not that interested in that endless supply of cat pictures and videos found online, but I can’t but browse through any vintage photo gallery I come across. Lo and behold, both interests intersect in this gallery of 1950s London cats. Enjoy.