all the longings of a waiting world

The linked software* appears to be a high-density dimensional tunnel bore, capable of providing limited surveillance of an unidentified paraphysical dimension.

Once the software is activated, the boring process is engaged by a human operator holding down the up cursor key until the destination is reached. The length of this process is variable, but is typically upwards of 3 minutes.

Attempts to modify the software or clean up the resultant surveillance footage have been unsuccessful. All attempts to automate the boring process have resulted in fatalities. The software must be operated by a conscious human operator physically holding down the up cursor key and directing their full attention towards the screen, with no interruption until the destination is reached. Failure to follow these conditions will result in irreversable memetic disintegration of the self (best case scenario) or death.


Download all the longings of a waiting world

Controls: escape: quit; up cursor: operate

The Rules:

  • The file at this link will be deleted 1 month from now (07/03/20).

  • All downloads are zipfiles containing a Windows executable.

  • All source code and assets are included, licensed under the GPL (code) and CC-BYSA (assets).

  • As long as you abide by those licenses, you can do whatever you want with the download.

Further Reading

I love how we’re increasingly seeing writers take Lovecraft’s cosmic horror as a base and repurpose it to critique the racism and xenophobia inherent in his work. The Litany of Earth by Ruthanna Emrys is a great example of this (see also Victor LaValle’s The Ballad of Black Tom).

Everest Pipkin has been teaching at CMU, and they’ve put up their syllabi online (twitter threads here, and here). They cover a lot of ground, and link to so many fascinating resources. I am in awe of the sheer amount of work they must have put into developing these syllabi.

A couple of those fascinating resources: The Sustainable Web Manifesto; and a programming language built in your OS’s file system.

I mentioned last month I was going to work my way through the games Nathalie Lawhead listed in this big blog post. I’ve not gone through them all yet, but here are a couple I really liked: A Broken City (hint: try and get yourself run over by the train), and t- e ni hтm-are of·`a c ty (the sound design and visuals make this one of the most visceral experiences I’ve had in a game in quite a while).

I’m not sure where the memory appeared from, but early this month I was suddenly reminded of the existence of Art of Noise’s The Seduction of Claude Debussy, an orchestral drum & bass concept album based on an imagined documentary about Debussy, with spoken word narration by John Hurt and rapping by Rakim. It is every bit as incongruous and startling as it sounds, and I love it.

A poem by Holly Gramazio about the Australian fires.

Cecile Richard’s Novena is one of my favourite games of the last few years, and they’ve recently put out ✨💻 ENDLESS SCROLL 💌✨, which is a powerful piece about high school reminiscences and painful memories.

A side effect of living somewhere with a garden for the first time since I originally left home for university is that I’ve become more keenly aware of all the creatures I share the city with. I have a huge fuschia in the front garden that at any given moment is providing shelter to: blue tits, coal tits, great tits, long-tailed tits, sparrows, blackbirds, blackcaps, robins (and that’s just during the winter; a variety of different folk visit the garden in summer). I even saw a buzzard a few doors down last month (in the middle of the city!).

Once you get a bit of space, and start paying attention, you come to realise there’s so much more going on than you ever expected.

tell me about your day and I will sing you a song

This month’s piece is a fairly straightforward sonified diary. Each letter you type triggers a note (and a wandering pen that draws until it hits something). What you type is recorded, so if you leave it on after you’ve finished today’s entry it’ll replay your last 7 entries. Each entry is its own song based on what you wrote.

Not much to say about this one :\

Download tell me about your day

Controls: escape: quit; letter keys: write about your day

The Rules:

  • The file at this link will be deleted 1 month from now (01/02/20).

  • All downloads are zipfiles containing a Windows executable.

  • All source code and assets are included, licensed under the GPL (code) and CC-BYSA (assets).

  • As long as you abide by those licenses, you can do whatever you want with the download.

Further Reading

Neil Kulkarni was always the best writer of the UK music weeklies during that brief teenage period when I followed them religiously . This recent piece starts out almost as a conventional gig review before you realise 1.) that’s not what it is at all, and 2.) why he’s writing it, why he needed to write it.

Have you ever caught sight of something – just the tiniest glimpse – and found yourself completely disarmed by the possibilities it suggests? I had one of those moments with this 4 second video Marie Flanagan tweeted last month. The thought of a videogame where the controller is another person’s hand is wild.

I fell down an SCP rabbit hole this month. The various linked storylines in the Antimemetics hub are some top quality speculative fiction.

Nathalie Lawhead put together a big post about small-scale walking sims. I’ve played embarrassingly few of the games on this list, so I’m going to try and work my way through most of them over the next few months.

What with the Australian inferno and the impending US war with Iran it already feels like a lifetime ago, but the UK election result was pretty much the worst possible outcome I could have imagined. In case you've been fighting the same despair as me, here's some of the things I've been clinging to this month:

Idles: Danny Nedelko

Hurray for the Riff Raff: Pa’lante

I’ve linked it before, but Ada Limón’s The Leash seems particularly apposite right now.

Ursula Le Guin’s widely-quoted National Book Awards speech.

And a book that I repeatedly come back to in moments like this, Rebecca Solnit's Hope in the Dark:

"I say all this because hope is not like a lottery ticket that you can sit on the sofa and clutch, feeling lucky. I say it because hope is an ax you break down doors with in an emergency; because hope should shove you out the door, because it will take everything you have to steer the future away from endless war, from the annihilation of the earth's treasures and the grinding down of the poor and marginal. Hope just means another world might be possible, not promised, not guaranteed. Hope calls for action; action is impossible without hope."

By the time you’re reading this it’ll be a new decade, and it looks like it’s going to be a hard one. So take care, don’t die, be brave when you’re able, be kind always. And hold on as best you can. There’s a lot of stormclouds on the horizon.

instructions for a life on the wing

I’ve found myself thinking a lot about gamepoems lately, so this month’s piece is a cycle of gamepoems with some minimal audiovisual interaction. Each (real-world) day you run it will give you a different poem; a different bird to be, with its own set of rules and concerns. Heavily inspired by Avery Alder’s Brave Sparrow, though with a far narrower focus.

I had big plans to write a different poem for every day of the month (to ensure that it would take you a while to see all of them), but I got part way through and then remembered that I hate writing. Writing is the worst. In the end I managed just 7. The poems themselves are just text files though, so you can easily add more if that’s a thing that appeals?

Download instructions for a life on the wing

Controls: escape: quit; move mouse: next line

The Rules:

  • The file at this link will be deleted 1 month from now (04/01/20).

  • All downloads are zipfiles containing a Windows executable.

  • All source code and assets are included, licensed under the GPL (code) and CC-BYSA (assets).

  • As long as you abide by those licenses, you can do whatever you want with the download.

Further Reading

I watched Aluna this month, and did not like it. The presenter/director is incredibly condescending towards the people who are supposedly the subject of the film and refuses to listen to them until another white englishman comes along and points out that yes, what they’re saying is backed up by decades of scientific research, a lot of it is basic common sense, in fact we teach primary school children about the water cycle, did you do literally no research before you started filming? (I’m paraphrasing hugely, but man, this film infuriated me)

Anyway, watching the Kogi people trying desperately to communicate with an outside world that consistently, wilfully, misinterprets and ignores them got me thinking about Ted Chiang’s short story The Truth of Fact, The Truth of Feeling again (find it in the collection Exhalation). Which is all about colonisation, and different forms of truth. The way that when the west, with our privileging of literal truth, established our colonies throughout the world, we didn’t just bring with us new technologies and diseases and languages. We brought an entirely different, incompatible way of thinking about, and viewing, the world. Leading to exactly the kind of condescending bullshit displayed by the director of Aluna.

I love the way this poem by Mary Oliver builds to its final question.

November’s White Pube residency by Satpreet Kahlon is wonderful. I’m not sure how these web residencies work; hopefully it’ll be around for a while after November?

I read a couple of articles by Marie Flanagan which really stuck with me this month:

About an escape room focused on meaningful escape rather than arbirtary puzzles. Which includes this note about Gamerella:

Gamerella pays a professional to assist with emotional and interpersonal health. They check in on the teams, not to make sure that work is being produced, but to keep an eye on people and power dynamics. Please let this become a standard at Game Jams instead of candy mountains or giant piles of plastic swag.

(italics mine)

And about the Dream Room; a quiet, welcoming space amidst the noise and bustle of a games event. I badly want to see more of this kind of thing at events.

This twitter thread, about kids building a community in the most unlikely place, is wild.

Ada Limón on growing up with a Vietnam veteran, with a devastating final line from her stepfather.

And finally, this old piece from the New Yorker utterly floored me. I’m hesitant about spoiling it, but CW: mass shooting.

Okay. We’re facing the starkest choice I can remember with this week’s general election, between the tories’ extreme capitalist horror death spiral, and a labour party who are for the first time in my life actually articulating the vision of a world I would choose to live in. And I’m terrified the tories will still get in.

Take care. Look after each other. Don’t vote tory.

the lights I saw over the river

First, some background: My house looks out over the Tay, towards the road bridge. If I look to the east I can see the oil rigs waiting to be decommissioned.

One night in early September I became aware of a loud, sustained noise outside. It was a kind of constant white noise that lasted for 10 minutes or so, occasionally varying in intensity. Despite looking I couldn’t see where it was coming from. There were no large ships coming into port, the oil rigs were lit up and stationary as usual, traffic was moving freely on the bridge.

After a while though, I did notice something strange. Maybe 20 tiny lights in the air above the river, moving out to sea before turing round and retracing their path back up the river. If it was during the day I’d have sworn it was a flock of birds, but I’ve never seen birds that glow in the dark like that.

I don’t really want to know what it was I saw. I think explanations are overrated. I’m not a scientist, and I don’t need to understand absolutely every little thing I experience. I think life is more interesting for the presence of small, insignificant mysteries. I’m just happy I was there to see this strange, unexpected thing.

Anyway, that’s where the title for this month’s piece comes from. It’s an augmented drawing tool built around a hex grid and a deliberately limited palette. Usually I find myself working with either procedural colour palettes or palettes with only 2 or 3 colours. I wanted to see what I could do with a palette of 6 colours where the colours weren’t just variations on 1 or 2 hues.

Some of the colour combinations (e.g. the yellow and the blue) don’t work as well as the others, so I’m not sure I entirely nailed it. It’s nice to work with a more expansive, intentional palette than usual though.

Here’s the palette as hex values:


Download the lights I saw over the river

Controls: escape: quit; left mouse: draw; right mouse: erase;
mouse wheel/1-5: select colour; m: hide mouse

The Rules:

  • The file at this link will be deleted 1 month from now (07/12/19).

  • All downloads are zipfiles containing a Windows executable.

  • All source code and assets are included, licensed under the GPL (code) and CC-BYSA (assets).

  • As long as you abide by those licenses, you can do whatever you want with the download.

Further Reading

Speaking of strange lights in the dark, Desert Oracle Radio is the place to go if you’re hungry for stories of unexplained encounters in the desert.

I had one of those months where I kept seeing connections between the different things I found myself reading. So Robin Wall Kimmerer’s discussion of Native American farming practices in Braiding Sweetgrass connects to this article in the Guardian about a more sustainable approach to wheat farming in the UK, which relates to Naomi Mitchison’s Solution Three and its concern with genetically modified, cloned crops.

And there’s this article in the Paris Review about the intelligence of plants, which is connected to The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben, both of which seem to link back to Kimmerer’s account of the Native American practice of treating plants, animals etc. as neighbours, of equal stature and importance to human beings.

All of these texts feel like part of the same impulse, pointing towards a different, more sustainable relationship to plants and the land. And with our climate rapidly breaking down, it looks like reforging that relationship is becoming an increasingly urgent task.

A roundtable on labour organising in the art world over on The New Inquiry. An excerpt:

People will come to us and they’ll often talk about very practical or even transactional needs. Like, I need to network with more editors; I need health care; I need money. Those are all crucial needs that are real, but there’s this subtext to it, too. Underneath, I find that what we’re really saying to each other is, ‘I need to find a way to exist in this world that doesn’t hurt all the time.’ And we have to look each other in the eye and say, ‘I don’t know if we can do that, but together we’re going to do everything we can.’”

I don’t have much time for CS Lewis, but I really enjoyed Karlo Yeager Rodríguez’ take on Narnia, from the perspective of a middle-aged man returning to the enchanted wardrobe of his youth.

A fascinating project to build an operating system that will run on salvaged hardware if (when?) our global electronics supply chain collapses. Modern computers (and phones!) are so complex, and we rely on them for so much, that this seems like a vital undertaking.

I don’t know how it ended up in my firefox tabs, but here’s an article titled Experiments in Lemurian Time-Sorcery, about how to travel through time by summoning demons and doing maths(!).

I listened to a lot of Screaming Females this month. This one’s particularly good.

So the days are getting shorter now. The wind’s starting to bite. It’s getting time for thick clothes, hot food and warm, cosy homes. I know most people prefer spring or summer, but for me the colder months are where my heart lies. You never appreciate your home quite as much as when you come back in to it out of the cold. A good long walk is never quite as satisfying as it is when you’ve spent the day trudging through the cold and the wet, knowing that there’s a warm, dry room just waiting for you at the end of your journey.

That experience – of coming in out of the cold to a warm, welcoming home – is one of my favourite things.

a wanderer's map

This month’s piece is part Kentucky Route Zero, part A Strange Voyage, and part vector flowfield. Run it and it will generate an idiosyncratic, wandering map. It uses the current date reported by your computer to seed the random number generator, so each (real-life) day you run it will show you a different map.

It started out as a recreation of the classic “place a bunch of particles in a flowfield and have them drop ink on a canvas” effect seen here, but then I realised that if you follow just a single particle it generates these really nice, natural-looking meandering paths. And if you place just a few stylised points of interest on one of those paths, you get something that looks a bit like a map, or at least the record of a journey.

It’s strange: when I started this whole project I assumed that I’d inevitably hit a point where my inspiration would run dry and I’d be unable to come up with a piece for that month. But (so far) that’s not what’s happened.

Instead, the process has been: 1st week: I have no idea what I’m going to do for this month; 2nd week: Huh. This idea’s kind of interesting; 3rd week: The core piece is up and running, just a little polish remaining; 4th week: Done.

I keep being surprised at how smoothly the pieces come together. Though it probably helps that I find it therapeutic to work on small projects like this.

Download a wanderer’s map

Controls: escape: quit

The Rules:

  • The file at this link will be deleted 1 month from now (02/11/19).

  • All downloads are zipfiles containing a Windows executable.

  • All source code and assets are included, licensed under the GPL (code) and CC-BYSA (assets).

  • As long as you abide by those licenses, you can do whatever you want with the download.

Further Reading

This month I fell in love with Molly Mendoza’s Skip, the tale of 2 friends tumbling through different worlds, trying to get home. Check out some sample pages here; it’s a seriously beautiful piece of work.

Everest Pipkin wrote about their experience playing Rune Factory 3, where they missed a key trigger in the game’s progression system and as a result found themselves playing a very different, far more interesting game than the developers intended.

Ava Foxfort wrote a wonderful piece about games that ask you to close your eyes.

This yelp review goes places.

Beats is the best thing I’ve seen all year. It’s such a strange sensation to watch something and recognise it. The locations they filmed, the accents and slang… There are parts of this film that feel intimately familiar in a way that I’m just not accustomed to, as someone who’s lived in Scotland his whole life (as opposed to say, London, or New York). It’s so rare that I recognise my home on screen.

Turns out Combat Juggling is a thing. More than that, it’s an entire sport with its own league and governing body.

This Super Mario playthrough is simultaneously a wonderful performance in its own right, and a powerful demonstration of all the assumptions we make as videogame players when we’re already embedded in games culture.

I watched the second season of Flowers on netflix, and while I liked the first season a lot, the second season is something else entirely. I don’t think I’ve ever seen comedy and dark, bleak drama combined quite like this before. And the cinematography (and the music!) in the second season is absolutely stunning. CW: suicide, depression.

Mary When You Follow Her: A powerful story of fear and escape, told in a single extended sentence. CW: sexual assault, murder.

It feels like its release got overshadowed by Untitled Goose Game for a lot of people, but Mutazione is a genuinely wonderful thing, interested in its characters’ lives in a way that still feels incredibly rare in videogame-land.

Lately I’ve been feeling distinctly antsy; tense and nervy. I’ve been taking every chance I can to get out of the city. To climb hills, traverse forests. To find somewhere quiet with nobody around, and just sit, and breathe. I had so many ways to escape the city when I lived in Glasgow; it feels harder in Dundee. I’m still building up my map of escape routes and sanctuaries.

Loading more posts…