Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Ethical choices of problems (2019)

Work in progress from Edward Tufte.

Friday, 6 September 2019

Hear, All Ye People: Hearken, O Earth’ (2012)

An so-called experiment in the readability and trustworthiness of different font faces - regardless of the seriousness of the work, this reprinting of the essay is beautifully designed - HERE.

The Disruption Machine (2014)

People are fond of telling me that the pace of innovation today is faster than it has ever been. If your yardstick of innovation is the pace of change in smartphone design, then this is what it must feel like. I believe that really deep innovation, in common with many other creative human arts, has not improved. As the Canadian writer Robert Bringhurst once said about typography; ‘…like all the arts it is basically immune to progress, though it is not immune to change’. 

Innovation and tradition are equally vital aspects of human social life. They have existed as intertwined facets of human history for millenia. Edward Shils (1910 - 1995), was an American academic sociologist, who spent decades researching tradition. From one of his earlier papers, he says this:

All existing things have a past. Nothing which happens escapes completely from the grip of the past; some events scarcely escape at all from its grip. Much of what exists is a persistence or reproduction of what existed earlier.
Tradition is an idea we use to explain generally how things continue as they are. How things endure. Within our social setting, one of inertia and habitual behaviours, it is interesting to think about innovation – about human activity that leads to non-traditional action.  And the process of change that allows a new action to take hold, to become a new form of tradition. Shils goes on to explain: "All novelty is a modification of what has existed previously; it occurs and reproduces itself as novelty in a more persistent context".

One of the consequences of the way that humans change artefacts through history, is that nothing we create can be completely new. Every idea or object we conjure up is built upon what we have already learned socially. We can never go back to an imagined state of ignorance before we begin to innovate. 

HERE is an excellent, well researched and written, article that takes apart the "theory" of disruptive innovation. It is a superb antidote to the concept that disruption = innovation = progress. 

Tuesday, 27 August 2019

Words Divide, Pictures Unite

Here are details of a new exhibition on the work of Marie Neurath - co-founder of Isotype graphic language. A nice write-up on Neurath and the exhibition HERE.

Friday, 23 August 2019

Version Galore

In 1978, I bought an album of Rocksteady songs that had been recorded in 1970 at the Treasure Isle Studios in Kingston Jamaica. This album, Version Galore, was by a legendary performer known as U-Roy, who used a mix of singing and chanting over existing musical tracks to raise the interest of the people attending the huge open air Sound System parties that are a core part of Jamaican city life. To me this music was almost literally from another planet.

Later, in the mid 1980s, I attended St Pauls Carnival in Bristol, and Notting Hill Carnival in West London. A core part of the experience is to be shaken by the massive custom built sound systems speaker stacks (which are called House of Joy).

Here, is a celebration in The Guardian of the role that sound systems play in Notting Hill Carnival - and a map of where to find them. 


Saturday, 17 August 2019

The Earth Rotating Beneath a Stationary Milky Way


A timelapse video that shows the Earth rotating beneath a stationary Milky Way from HERE.

Friday, 16 August 2019

Your letter was most welcome! — loaded with friendliness and with no requests or demands.

A brilliant form letter created by Robert Heinlein. From Craig Mod's Roden newsletter (Subscribe Here).

Tuesday, 13 August 2019

New Year's Eve Foxfires at the Changing Tree, Ōji (1857)

New Year's Eve Foxfires at the Changing Tree, Ōji by Utagawa Hiroshige. From the Met Museum (HERE).

Thursday, 8 August 2019

Vorticity 2 (2019)

The American photographer Mike Olbinski chases storms. Here is a fantastic compilation of his time lapse videos of wild stormy weather from spring 2018 and 2019.

Saturday, 3 August 2019

On the Humanities (1978)

At their most vivid, the [humanities] are like the arts as well as the sciences. The humanities are that form of knowledge in which the knower is revealed. All knowledge becomes humanistic when this effect takes place, when we are asked to contemplate not only a proposition but the proposer, when we hear the human voice behind what is being said. 

Charles Frankel, speech in Austin, Texas, December 1978.

Wednesday, 31 July 2019

The one and only master of train station packing-tape calligraphy (2016)

The tale of the Japanese underground rail employee, Mr Shuetso Sato, who is an expert at creating beautifully finished signs for use in the train stations using as his major material a range of packing tapes of different colours (HERE).

Monday, 29 July 2019

African Shores (2019)

The latest album from the 70 year old Jamaican trombonist Vin Gordon is out now (HERE).

Sunday, 28 July 2019

Ease and Cheer (1927)

I have been reading A Primer for Forgetting by Lewis Hyde. It is superb. It is structured in four Notebooks, each of which is a collection of pieces by others that Hyde has found, or autobiographical sequences, or connecting prose. Here, is one of them:

"EASE AND CHEER." Emanuel Lasker was one of the greatest chess players of all time, holding the world championship for a full twenty-eight years beginning in 1894. His classic Manual of Chess, published in 1927, ends with some "final reflections on education in chess" that include this remark: "Chess must not be memorized. ... Memory is too valuable to be stocked with trifles. Of my fifty-seven years I have applied at least thirty to forgetting most of what I have learned or read, and since I succeeded in this I have acquired a certain ease and cheer which I should never again like to be without."

Copyright Lewis Hyde 2019.

Friday, 26 July 2019

10 Reading Revolutions (2010)

A superb piece by Tim Carmody in The Atlantic on 10 reading revolutions, covering the evolution of the alphabet, the Codex, moveable type and computers (HERE).

Sunday, 23 June 2019

The enduring fascination with Sherlock Holmes (2019)

A great round-up by Michael Dirda of recent books about, or sending-up, the great Sherlock Holmes - the most famous man who never lived. HERE.

Thursday, 20 June 2019

There was only one catch and that was Catch-22 (1961)

There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one’s safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn’t, but if he were sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn’t have to, but if he didn’t want to he was sane and had to.

A good piece in today's Guardian on the new adaptation of Catch-22 and the novel. HERE.

Saturday, 15 June 2019

Thursday, 13 June 2019

Have Fun with God (2014)

I have never heard anything by Bill Callahan, but based on vague suggestions that he had created a "Dub" album I went and listened to it. Released in 2014, Have Fun with God is first rate. 

Meta-Research: A comprehensive review of randomized clinical trials in three medical journals reveals 396 medical reversals (2019)

An incredible piece of meta analysis on 3,000 Randomised Control Trials (HERE)


The ability to identify medical reversals and other low-value medical practices is an essential prerequisite for efforts to reduce spending on such practices. Through an analysis of more than 3000 randomized controlled trials (RCTs) published in three leading medical journals (the Journal of the American Medical Association, the Lancet, and the New England Journal of Medicine), we have identified 396 medical reversals. Most of the studies (92%) were conducted on populations in high-income counties, cardiovascular disease was the most common medical category (20%), and medication was the most common type of intervention (33%).

Wednesday, 12 June 2019

Craft beautiful equations in Word with LaTeX (2019)

A nice piece in Nature on the power of LaTeX for typesetting equations and some tools that are available for people to use - whilst not having to abandon Word or other word processing software. (HERE). 

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