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Reading Notes, January 2022

Article: “My anti-resumé.”

if you’re a writer, even a very talented and hardworking writer, writing must be its own reward, or you’re going to have a rough time.

Article: “This Is How They Made the Lord of the Rings Title Sequence”

Special effect advisor Douglas Trumbull speaking about his “practical-first mindset” in filming:

I always try to find an organic — or analog — solution instead of the knee-jerk reaction to use computer graphics. The reason for this is: every time I try this, I get some delightful result that is, in some respects, unexpected. There are magical things that happen in nature — gravity, fluids, lighting — that one couldn’t really design using computer graphics.

I love this idea of going “al naturel” and, through that choice, finding something unexpected—contrast that with a synthetic environment like digital and it’s harder to get spontaneous effects you couldn’t have anticipated. Here’s Trumbull again:

the ‘burbling’ effect [of water washing over hot metal is] a very difficult thing to do with computer graphics because it’s in the realm of fluid dynamics which are very hard to calculate. They’re some of the most challenging elements of computer graphics to execute and you can wait days and days for some frames to render. Whereas, if you’re on a set and you have REAL hot, molten metals and super cold water interacting with this, you’re almost CERTAINLY going to get some surprising visual effect which — on camera — will look really great, particularly if it’s shot at 5000 frames a second.

Article: “54 Years Ago, A Computer Programmer Fixed a Massive Bug — And Created an Existential Crisis”

Fun story about the history of the blinking cursor. I particularly enjoyed this note:

MacDorman tells Inverse. “Much of good HCI [Human computer interaction] design is about the interface letting the user work effectively. It’s not really designed to make the user feel anything, except perhaps in control. Good HCI design lets the user concentrate on the work, not the interface… They are working in the moment without self-consciousness. Their sense of time, place, and self dissolve.”

Good UI design isn’t about making people feel something, it’s about helping them accomplish something (which can, in turn, brings some good feels). Empowerment through UI, not tawdry thrills.

Article: “Beautiful Lies: The Art of the Deep Fake”

The spread of ever more realistic deep fakes will make it even more likely that people will be taken in by fake news and other lies. The havoc of the last few years is probably just the first act of a long misinformation crisis. Eventually, though, we’ll all begin to take deep fakes for granted. We’ll come to take it as a given that we can’t believe our eyes. At that point, deep fakes will start to have a very different and perhaps even more pernicious effect. They’ll amplify not our gullibility but our skepticism. As we lose trust in the information we receive, we’ll begin, in Giansiracusa’s words, to “doubt reality itself.” We’ll go from a world where our bias was to take everything as evidence — the world Sontag described — to one where our bias is to take nothing as evidence.

The question is, what happens to “the truth” — the quotation marks seem mandatory now — when all evidence is suspect?

Really, if you’re not following Nicholas Carr’s writing, you should.

When all the evidence presented to our senses is unreal, then strangeness becomes a criterion of truth. The more uncanny the story, the more attractive and convincing it becomes.

Article: “Lets make collecting an MP3 library popular again”

If we build our own MP3 music libraries, we're unaffected when a label or artist has a disagreement with one of the streaming services.

Drama around Spotify aside, I’ve been burned a few times by streaming services losing access to (usually obscure) albums I enjoy. In the same spirit as “don’t publish your stuff to Medium, own your content” I’ve been wanting more and more to own my music. Perhaps it’s just because collecting, curating, and owning a music library was such a formative part of my teenage years and into my twenties. Mike’s piece really has me thinking about giving up streaming services and going back to ownership…

Article: “Treat your to-read pile like a river, not a bucket”

[treat] your "to read" pile like a river (a stream that flows past you, and from which you pluck a few choice items, here and there) instead of a bucket (which demands that you empty it). After all, you presumably don't feel overwhelmed by all the unread books in the British Library

Article: “Thank You (2021 Edition)”

Thanks for stopping by and reading this site. If you didn’t, I’d be out of a job around here, and I quite like this job so I owe it all to you.

Chris has such a down-to-earth tone of writing. It’s what I love about his writing (and podcasting).

Article: “Make Free Stuff”

you can actually stand out of the crowd by simply treating the web platform as what it is: a way to deliver content to people.

The entire thing is worth a read. Also love the quote in there from @TerribleMia

Large companies find HTML & CSS frustrating “at scale” because the web is a fundamentally anti-capitalist mashup art experiment, designed to give consumers all the power.

Article: “The web starts on page four”

there is a lot more gamification and “growth hacking” at play than publishing good content and hoping for an audience.

We don’t create content for the web and for longevity. We create content to show ads around it.