Blog archive November 2023

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30.11.23 / 01 / another city

'Another City' was a proposed series of alt worship events in 1999 with all the major London groups taking part. I became the coordinator, which was herding cats. The series didn't happen because groups couldn't commit to venues and events in time, except for Abundant's NYE 1998 party. However, Epicentre and Live On Planet Earth managed to persuade St. Paul's Cathedral to host a labyrinth, after Another City itself had been cancelled.

So here are the flyers and the website. The flyers never got published because of the lack of commitment to dates - the website could at least be changed. It was my first site, made in Macromedia Freehand and exported using Insta.HTML which became Dreamweaver a few years later. It rendered the pages as a grid of small image tiles in an html table, which was effectively impossible to amend directly. After help from Adam I learned html to manage the bugs. I quickly realised that the fundamental nature of html was coloured rectangles, whatever the graphics might appear to be doing - this was the era of swirly designs that were betrayed whenever a tile or two failed to download. So I decided that I would work with the actual structure of html and make design out of that, and as simply as possible to achieve the desired effect - a modernist approach.

The Another City site lasted the whole of 1999 and then got canned, but the proposed photo section became in 2000.

29.11.23 / 03 / blue and green not fit to be seen

That reminds me of the blue and green clothes I wore in the early 70s. "Blue and green not fit to be seen" chorussed grandparents from somewhere in the 1930s. Dark blue shirt with light blue paisley kipper tie (they all were then). Lime green paisley shirt with matching (therefore invisible) tie. Elephant collars, slim fit. Blue denim jacket with green corduroy flares, or vice versa.

In those days there were no mass-market youth fashion retailers in the UK. Swinging London had shaken things up but nobody quite knew how to scale it yet. There was C&A, department stores, mail-order catalogues, and 'gentlemen's outfitters' (or 'lady's'). Shirts came in boxes, often with coordinated ties. Even for teenagers, but the styles and patterns were from Carnaby Street five years late, 1967 in 1972. All this went in the late 70s with the arrival of Top Shop/Man and Chelsea Girl/Man, scaling up the boutique model to a national retail chain and making it work.

None of this stuff was branded. What mattered then was the look, not who made it or how much it cost. Wearing your money came in the mid-80s.

29.11.23 / 02 / wizzzer

The Wizzzer was a lovely thing. I had various accessories to make it stand and do tricks. Mine was one of the first 1969 production so it didn't have the tacky graphics of later models. Sadly after many years of hard use including by younger brothers the gyroscope came loose from its bearings inside the plastic enclosure and there was no way to repair it. I still kept it but eventually the rubber tip perished also, as is typical, so I threw it out late last decade when I was paying tribute with website colours. I've always liked that very 60s blue/green combination.

Wizzzers were a great example of non-gendered 60s toys - it was assumed that boys would be fine with the pink (magenta) version and girls with the blue one. In fact there was a lot of magenta on toy cars at the time - it was seen as wild/daring/psychedelic, not girly - looks horrible now, the most unrealistic colour ever applied to a toy car.

29.11.23 / 01 / 17

I was pleased to find a few versions from 2017-2019 in the Wayback Machine, having overwritten the original stylesheets and messed up the files - I could retrieve them from Wayback and set up some screenshots. I hadn't realised that those versions had been up that long - and there are others that seemed significant but have left no trace. And there were some terrible ones that came and went pretty damn quick! After a while I realised that I had better experiment in private and only publish when I was sure, which means that a lot of stuff, good and bad, was never published. 17.1.1 and 17.1.2 are two versions of the rainbow menu. The inspiration was 70s / early 80s toys and tech (ZX Spectrum etc). I liked it a lot, but felt that the rainbow is overdetermined nowadays - it can't just be read as a cheerful set of stripes anymore.

So I reduced to blue and green, taken from a 1969 Mattel Wizzzer top I had for many years (it's in Wikipedia now!). I made so many combinations, with yellow, light blue, dark blue, chartreuse, white added for blending effects. I made joggled versions of the logo.

And then I threw it all out. I wanted the tramlines of versions 10-15 back. The blue-green stripes look good to me now, I can't see what the problem was. The trouble is, every version has its own logic which I follow through to the end - and then decide it isn't what I was searching for, that some important thing has fallen out on the roadside. As previously mentioned, I don't want to change, I'm just chasing a half-grasped idea of perfection. I want to feel content when I look at my website.

25.11.23 / 01 / typepad blog designs

Following my lament below I found my Typepad blog on the Wayback Machine in all of its major iterations from 2004 to 2016 - the screenshots are now here. It's good to have them back, I put a lot of work into them, sometimes following and sometimes leading the main site design. There are a few iterations missing, I have the headers but no bodies have turned up to match, maybe they didn't last long.

23.11.23 / 01 / change as usual

So Daniel’s lament about web design took me to the Web Design Museum. And there I found the old 00s Warp Records site (see also Wayback Machine where the site works - partially), styled by the Designers Republic. This was one of the key influences on my sites of the 00s - the murky colours, stripy menus and pseudo-drop shadows. And the tiny Verdana - we all did it then, who does it now?

And I had already made a new smallritual logo in a 00s/tDR/Autechre style, being somehow in a hard techno mood, which called into question the rest of my site design.

So I thought, what happens if I reverse the menu colours to do the highlighter thing? And it worked, and and and one thing led to another.

I spent so long working on a minimal modernist design, but the logo was the big problem. I made a hash of it ever since abandoning the old block letters in 2020, which I now realise still worked better than anything else with that site design. Especially the drop-shadow version which I first made for the Typepad blog - why did I never screenshot the iterations of that?

The thing I have to constantly remind myself is that a website is a content delivery system, not the content itself. It's the frame not the picture, but I treat it as the picture.

Postscript: I just found on the Wayback Machine - some versions of the site that I've mislaid or forgotten that I actually published! (Puzzle - why did it stop visiting my site during the pandemic?)

19.11.23 / 01 / books

What tripped me up there was making an entry about the books I had been reading.

Nick Cave, Sean O’Hagan / Faith Hope and Carnage got me through the miserable first part of the year. It's about Cave's creative process as affected by bereavement and grieving. Moving, profound and very quotable - the first book I’ve ever been tempted to mark passages in, a practice I deplore.

Followed by Patti Smith / Just Kids - more warmth and wisdom. Smith and Mapplethorpe resurrected the practice of literally starving in garrets for their art. Smith clearly has remarkable powers of hustle - the key moment of their lives is when she talks her way into a room at the Chelsea Hotel and a job to pay for it, fresh from a near-death experience in a junkie flophouse. And in doing so, lands them at the centre of the New York art and music world. They are nobodies but talent and ambition will do the rest.

Smith and Cave have things in common. Complexity without heaviness, precise and evocative in words. Hard living has made them wise and kind. They were certain of their destinies as artists from the beginning, even though they did not know exactly what kind of artists they would be. Cave intended to be a painter, until he failed art school and had to fall back on music. Even now he considers himself a visual artist (conceiving songs as a series of visual images) more than a musician. Smith was a poet with no musical intention, who was cajoled and pushed by friends and collaborators towards rock as a form of presentation (everything in the 70s devolved towards rock as a form of presentation).

And both are people of faith, in ways that deepen them and enlarge both their compassion and their poetry.

And then I took up Paul Morley’s biography of Tony Wilson ‘From Manchester With Love’. In contrast to the others this was not an easy book to read, for purely stylistic reasons. Morley extends sentences with sub-clauses, additional information and changes of direction to the length of entire very long paragraphs. One gets to know a lot, six sides of an issue in one sentence, but the train of thought is hard to sustain. Smith could say as much in simple, clear prose.

As I finish the book, the latest monument of Wilson’s legacy opens in Manchester - Aviva Studios, built on the site of Wilson’s beloved Granada TV studio. It's the home of arts organisation Factory International, and was originally to be called The Factory until a funding crisis obliged them to sell the naming rights. One doesn’t have to be successful or consistent to leave a deep legacy - as long as the ideas get out there and take root. Wilson knew this, which made him a frustrating creative partner and a careless businessman.

18.11.23 / 01 / tech clearout

Had a massive clearout of old technology.

Item 1: 2015 Macbook Pro 13”
Item 2: 2011 Macbook 13” - had been retained for printer and scanner, also for DVD drive.
Item 3: 2017 iPhone 7
Item 4: 2006 Battery brick for white iBook (never used)

All the above taken to an Apple Store. Store assistant thrilled by 2011 Macbook for some reason, bemused by battery. Gave me a giftcard for the iPhone, which combined with the giftcard I found last week in a drawer bought a Superdrive. Half wondered about bothering but I still have a lot of CDs and DVDs, it would be crazy to have no way of playing them.

Item 5: 2011 HP printer
Item 6: 2006 Canon flatbed scanner

These would only talk to the 2011 Macbook. I had to transfer files via USB stick to and from my current machine to print and scan. Finally it seemed unviable and the ink cartridge costs have become ridiculous. I got a new wireless printer/scanner with ink tanks.

Item 7: 2003 LaCie d2 120Gb hard drive in cast-metal case. Weighs 1.68kg, most of that is the case. Original type of Firewire connections only. Doesn’t work. Even if it did I can’t connect it to anything.
Item 8: 2005 BT router - kept in case of wifi breakdown but...
Item 9: JBL Creature Speakers. Who needs bulky wired speakers now?
Item 10: 2003 Canon Eos 300D DSLR. My first digital camera. Replaced by something more compact in 2008. The rubber grips have gone sticky.
Item 11: 2010 Sony Cybershot DSC-WX1 pocket camera. Lovely machine, replaced 2014 but repaired and kept, now doesn’t work at all. (This means that I have had my current camera since 2014. It is only now being equalled by phone cameras.)

Also going:
All the cables, transformers etc associated with the above.
Dead software CDs.
Wired AKG headphones and Logitech USB headset.

Laptop sleeves - who uses them now? A huge one - 21”? - that came with Swiss luggage - with ventilation screens at each end - for one of those gigantic heavy hot Windows business laptops beloved of IT departments c.2010. I refused to take them because my Macbook was half the weight and always worked.

I am keeping a couple of Incase neoprene sleeves - too nice to throw out though I wonder when I will use them.

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