“Non-fiction CD-ROMs are an easy butt of jokes about quaint outdated technology; talking about CD-ROM brings up visions of Encarta 95, Microsoft Dogs, and ancient versions of Grolier. What makes Journey to the Source interesting by contrast is that it’s not an easily obsoletable work. Already, in 1985, there were talks of building the massive Three Gorges Dam; when it was finally completed, between 2006 and 2012, many of the places Wong had visited were now underwater, the villages flooded and their inhabitants relocated. This narrative, its photos and its videos are valuable records of a time that’s now passed.”
“Singapore is the only country in the world where it’s legal to sell ‘cultivated’ (lab-grown) meat for human consumption, and Huber’s Bistro in Singapore is the only restaurant in the world that actually sells the stuff. But you can’t just waltz in and try it. I was back in Singapore this week for a conference, so I tried my luck and, much to my amazement… Here’s how it went.”
Among my growing collection of Australian-hosted cultural review podcasts, about which more anon, is actor Angourie Rice’s venture The Community Library. Rice is quite young to have been producing a solo podcast for four years, and is also quite busily famous, so the continued sincerity and thoughtfulness of her self-driven work is something I find an interesting rarity. I was moved to link to it in particular by an archival episode from the depths of 2021, dissecting a poor-faith argument tactic that has long irritated me for reasons I couldn’t quite articulate. But Rice articulates them well, and now I have an easy reference for when I want to counter that kind of circular justification myself.
“The stars that night were glinting, and the bonfire on the shore waited like a beacon, but the brightest shimmer was running down my forearms, spiraling behind my palms.”
“I use many different kinds of wood for spoons, but my favorite kind of wood is free.”
“Feel free to adopt the sceptical raised eyebrow, but keep an open mind behind it. When a sceptic becomes a cynic it turns them sour.”
“I would argue that it isn’t technology that is at the root of our anemoia.”
“I believe soon the answer to the question “Can a computer write poetry?” will be “yes, of course,” for most casual observers. I’m going to take this assertion one step further and make a stronger claim: in fact, the only thing computers can write is poetry.”
“Quite a few composers have had their scores rejected by dissatisfied directors… it’s a recognized risk of the profession. A few films do exist with entirely different scores, almost always as a result of release in different countries. Until now, however, I’d never come across a film that exists with three different scores.“
If you’ve been heeding my exhortations then you have long since already subscribed to The Roof is on Phire and no doubt caught this months ago, when it went up. But I’ve been trying to figure out how to do something more emphatic than simply quote from “labour of love” ever since I read it (and read it again), so here it is: the extremely legitimate and hallowed NFDABPOTYA for this very long year, presented to my friend Jenny, for extraordinary work.
“Loving this planet enough to fight against the man-made systems that harm us all, instead of retreating, is the hardest work there is.”
I have felt stuck about writing here for a while, and there has been a death in my family that I will need to write more about when the words come to me. But right now I just want to talk more about blogs. One of the most exciting things that has come to my awareness recently is Phil Gyford’s ooh.directory of blogs and its RSS feed of newly added URLs. I don’t know if Mr. Gyford’s manual review and curation of these things is sustainable in the indefinite, but what a great idea! It seems to me like social media and SEO supremacy have rendered personal blog discoverability broken, but one need not fix the entire internet to build a little free library in one’s front yard.
By way of that directory, I have found a new source of dailyish poems, Janette Haruguchi’s ongoing explication of sashiko stitching, Bartosz Ciechanowski’s extraordinary interactive physics lessons, Jani Patokallio’s quest to find food from every Chinese province, special administrative region and contested island—in Singapore, and Bloom, a journal devoted to authors whose first major work was published when they were age 40 or older. And Eric Idle’s book reviews! A fan blog that’s just for Peanuts! Librarians dunking on books that need to go! And the directory is still so new. I suspect there are many more entries to come after the holidays.
Lucy linked, last month, to Dave Rupert’s suggestion to be a carpenter this time, and I’ve been turning it over in my mind ever since. I don’t know any real carpentry, though I’d be glad to have the space and time to learn. But the tools I do know can still make good things at the scale of individual humans, and that’s delightful to see, after a long time when I didn’t know where to look.