jeweled platypus


monday, january 29, 2007
I thought you should know

These are some of my favorite gifs of unknown origin:

a a little yellow birdie a squirrel twirling around a hamster saying 'just the faqs, maam'

This is one that I made a long time ago:


comments (2)
saturday, january 27, 2007
Shadows of things to come

A while ago, I was a silly thirteen-year-old who posted silly things to

One day a few weeks ago, I was playing a wiz named Arakazoom with
Magicbane.  That night, I dreamed that it started to talk to me.  It went
something like this:

Magicbane says: "Why do you keep hitting monsters with me?" --More--
"That athame you have would be better!" --More--
"I'm sick and tired of all this blood!"
"I'm leaving you for good!" --More--
Magicbane drops out of your hands and walks away. --More--
You feel that Thoth is amused.

I woke up the next morning and started to play my game again.  I was
almost immediately killed by a gnome lord wearing a cloak of MR [magic 
resistance - ed.].

Google Groups is unforgiving in its search-archives-by-email-address powers. Apparently I posted lots of embarassing things to and too.

comments (1)
thursday, january 25, 2007
Writing for new media but not

A few weeks ago, I read a review of From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and the Rise of Digital Utopianism and decided it probably wasn’t as good as it sounded. Then David Smith pointed me to an excerpt from the book, and I think I changed my mind. Here are parts that stuck in my head:

…Culture had grown out of man’s biological evolution and had become a force through which humans could recursively influence their biological development. For Ehrlich and Holm, and the young Stewart Brand, cultural activities such as politics, art, conversation, and play took on a deep significance for the survival of the species…Brand could also begin to view the political confrontation between the Soviet Union and the United States and its potential for nuclear holocaust in evolutionary terms.

This reminds me of Robert Axelrod’s The Evolution of Cooperation, which discusses nuclear proliferation in evolutionary terms, based on programmed models of cooperation. (I read it during my winter holiday, and a person asked, “Is that for school? No? You mean you couldn’t find anything better to read?” He didn’t know me very well.)

In McLuhan’s view, the individual human body and the species as a whole were linked by a single nervous system, an array of electronic signals fired across neurons in the human body and circulating from television set to television set, radio to radio, computer to computer, across the globe…[His] simultaneous celebration of new media and tribal social forms allowed people like Stewart Brand to imagine technology itself as a tool with which to resolve the twin cold war dilemmas of humanity’s fate and their own trajectory into adulthood.

I like the vision of the internet as a nervous system; it’s all…artificial intelligence. Also, those “cold war” dilemmas have always been relevant. My college is something of a tribal social form, with about 350 people split into eight unruly clans, wrangled together and led by the Dean.

Now switching from biological ideas to design-y ideas.

The Gutenberg Galaxy asserted that mankind was leaving a typographic age and entering an electronic one. With its sequential orientation, its segmented letters and words, McLuhan claimed, the technology of type had tended to create a world of “lineal specialism and separation of functions.” That is, he held type responsible in large part for the development of rationalization, bureaucracy, and industrial life. By contrast, he said, electronic technologies had begun to break down the barriers of bureaucracy, as well as those of time and space, and so had brought human beings to the brink of a new age.

In the first part of “The Futures of Literacy”, which I read for class, Guther Gress discusses the implications of modern society shifting from words and paper to images and the screen. He says a lot of dumb things, but I liked his idea that the main difference between words and images is the difference between time and space: between information arranged in temporal, sequential order and information arranged spatially and simultaneously. Of course that separation gets horribly muddy when you step outside of theory, but it’s interesting.

Anyway, I don’t think McLuhan means that type itself — text — leads to boring standardization. He’s talking about the publishing system embodied in typesetting machines, which concentrated power in bureaucracies that could buy the expensive things. Both desktop publishing and the web are full of type, but it’s inexpensive type that can be easily combined with images, so the power is in the hands of the general public. The age before Gutenberg was typographic too, just even worse in terms of bureacracy and power.

Fuller, like Emerson, saw the material world as the reflection of an otherwise intangible system of rules…What humankind required, [Buckminster Fuller] came to believe, was an individual who could recognize the universal patterns inherent in nature, design new technologies in accord with both these patterns and the industrial resources already created by corporations and the military, and see that those new technologies were deployed in everyday life…In a 1963 volume called Ideas and Integrities, a book that would have a strong impact on USCO and Stewart Brand, Fuller named this individual the “Comprehensive Designer”…an artist and an intellectual migrant…an information processor…a descendent of cold war psychology and systems theory as much as a child of Fuller’s own imagination.

I like how Fuller updated transcendentalism for the internet age by describing a role that a web designer-developer might adapt and inhabit. I also have some extra affection for him because he visited my funky little college on one of his grand educational tours around the country and led a class or two on geodesic domes and “spaceship earth”.

comments (0)
tuesday, january 23, 2007
Blah blah blah pictures

Following are some examples of what can be called “low-level” automation of media creation, in which the computer user modifies or creates from scratch a media object using templates or simple algorithms…Image-editing programs such as Photoshop…also come with filters that can automatically modify an image, from creating simple variations of color to changing the whole image as though it were painted by Van Gogh, Seurat, or another brand-name artist.

I don’t know if Lev Manovich understands anything he’s talking about in these long essays with titles like Principles of New Media, assigned as reading for my “Writing for New Media” class.

The citizens of net artistry understand, though:

seurat and photoshop

Update 2/1/07 3:36: Recreating Seurat, put through the same Photoshop filter:


comments (1)
sunday, january 21, 2007
Excerpts from my moleskine

joy, unadulterated; perfection, yours; perfection, mine

Orthoepy and orthology: the study of pronunciation and correct diction.

“An important book without an index is like a ship without a rudder.”

the anatomy of melancholy at four in the morning, pirated fonts and surfing the internet. now go and brag of thy present happiness, whosoever thou art. future speakers even more alienated by early modern english are like future web browsers deciphering html from 1999, both human and machine. thou seest in what a brittle state thou art…what a small tenure of happiness thou hast in this life, how weak and silly a creature thou art.

The screen mimics the sky, not the earth. It bombards the eye with light instead of waiting to repay the gift of vision…We look to it for clues and revelations more than wisdom.

The Elements of Typographic Style, page 193

listening to Bei Dao read his poetry:

comments (1)
wednesday, january 17, 2007
What is up with all this blawgging?

Some history and philosophy of the College of Creative Studies, via the googled writings of former students:

Jervey Tervalon (‘78) talks about learning from the person who started this college:

[Marvin] Mudrick was fascinated by people, and he loved people in books, and he didn’t make a big distinction between the two, except for the fact that you’ll know people in books far better than you will know people in life. Here’s the advice he gave me: Read literature like we read the newspaper, skim the boring parts, read carefully what interests you — just keep reading. What Mudrick couldn’t stand were tastemongers, chasing some intellectual hobgoblin of the modern aesthetic; kitsch culture; the cult of family dysfunction; more about slavery; more about the Holocaust…Mudrick believed writing was a function of reading. If you read with passion and intelligence, you’d eventually come around to wanting to write.

Karen Christensen (‘81) also talks about being a Literature major in the Mudrick era:

Mudrick would assign us a new novel every couple of days, and we were asked (though perhaps not expected) to get through piles of Shakespeare (whom he called a misogynist), Chaucer (“just pretend it’s horribly misspelled”), and Milton (again, no favorite of Mudrick’s).

He said, for example, that the measure of fiction was that it had a human story that would interest anyone, of any age, anywhere. Mudrick believed that students were able to write good stories — really good stories — because, as he said to one class, “you’re at the right age, you’re still about to get in touch with your own language…[but] you can’t write expository prose. You can’t write professional prose of any kind, you’re not skilled enough yet.”

That, for me, is Mudrick’s legacy, or at least something he helped to strengthen in me: fascination with the whole of life and a fearlessness about digging into a new bank of knowledge.

Plus, from a review by the New York Times:

In several of these essays, Mr. Mudrick seems to believe that the only way to judge a literary work is by the lusty willingness of its heroine or the vigor and explicitness of its sex scenes.

comments (0)
Now for some pictures

I love jamaica (hibiscus tea), but it’s a bit difficult to find, especially the way I like it: strong and not-too-sweet, the way the wonderful Chichen Itza in Los Angeles makes it. So I’m learning to make it myself, and after a few strange first attempts following some recipes with saucepans and limes, I figured out that it’s easiest to just drop a few calyces into one of my old tulip mugs and add boiling water. Old pictures:

a spoon on the stove

a glass of hot jamaica and a dismembered lime

Other weird sweets that I love: halvah, violet pastilles, brown goat cheese, rum chocolate, lingonberries, mooncakes (taro, lotus, red bean, chestnut, jasmine, date, etc.), rice pudding with cardamom, and far too many other things, especially purple ones.

comments (3)
tuesday, january 16, 2007
Majoring in the study of creative generalism

Classes I am taking this quarter:

“Home and World” is approximately Neal Stephenson’s Quicksilver and The Confusion (I never read The System of the World) but in real period literature. The class is about the eighteenth century in England, which incubated the beginnings of modern print culture and notions of abstract money, among other things. It’s my only Literature class this quarter, which is amusing because it’s the one I’m taking for fun instead of useful learning.

“Memory: Neuroscience and the Humanities” is where we read giant chunks of literature and a bunch of scientific papers and generally pontificate about human brains. I like it.

Both “Re-Contextualizing the Web” and “Writing for New Media” could instead be titled “Here we attempt to teach the interweb” because they discuss mashups, Photoshop, and the epistemological questions of remixability and hypertextuality. The readings give me fits of giggles in their outdatedness and incompleteness, but I can expound upon Creative Commons and Wikipedia for credit! Whee! These classes remind me why some things are better self-studied, but I can’t resist taking them anyway.

“History and Philosophy of the College” hasn’t started yet, but it should be fun. I love my college: it is full of nooks and crannies, people best described as characters, some unusual educational philosophies, and mostly an abiding love of The Student. This is a half-class for one or two units instead of the usual four. “Information Technology” is also a half-class, and it’s where a bunch of students who know things about computers go help local nonprofits and schools learn those things. We’re also supposed to evangelize Computer Science to unsuspecting children (especially girls), but I’m not sure how well I can do that.

“Literature Symposium” is a one-unit required class for Literature majors, where we sit in the Old Little Theatre on Wednesdays for an hour and listen to some minor author reading their work. It’s usually not painful, but it’s not very interesting either.

So I’m taking 21 units (the usual is 12 to 18), but I figure I’ll drop one or two classes by the time the quarter is over. I’m not actually enrolled in “Re-Contextualizing” anyway, and “Writing for New Media” is the only class that would have a letter grade. Part of why I love my college is because it lets me learn as much as I want to, without the fear of nasty requirements or grades. Yay! And now I go back to the regularly-scheduled pile of reading.

comments (1)
sunday, january 14, 2007
Find a “mashup” you think is interesting

Back in eighth or ninth grade, superbad shocked my mind; pokey the penguin educated it; why the lucky stiff told me that yes, this is neat stuff indeed. Then I grew up and got into web standards and traditional typography, and all the craziness was left behind in a flurry of straight lines and attempts at some classy minimalism. I got a little bored of that eventually, though.

So the year in the internet 2006 is full of things that I like now but probably would have ignored a year ago, including some of the people making and collecting these things. A few months ago, somebody told me that Cory Arcangel was cool, and he is — partly because he’s one of the few people besides me with a living Blosxom blog (along with Mark Jason Dominus and some others, yay). Then I sat on the carpet at my mom’s house and attended a nasty nets Internet Town Hall Meeting. Somehow I converted into a fan of Tom Moody, Guthrie Lonergan, Travis Hallenbeck, and maybe others on that list of people who picked links, full of the artistic potential of animated gifs and blog templates. I have always been fascinated by the liveliness of ancient personal websites, so that interest has become good and circular now that I have a secret name for it.

But for most of this past year, my favorite links were about typography and unicode and the glory of things like that. They began to receive a star tag, so you can find them there. My list of other kinds of best links from 2006:

a crazy photoshoppery for class

comments (2)

I’m Britta Gustafson.

Popular posts

Fold a paper icosahedron

My handmade map of California

How the internet feels like a city

Blade Runner in San Francisco

Learning to see telephone poles

How UCSB joined ARPAnet

What is a book?

a little pixelly man, upside-down