small meaningful things
links: quirky beautiful things i’ve found online
links: design archives

(as a former designer) I am still attracted to graphic design work in general – coincidentally I’ve discovered a few graphic design related links – they all have history as a common denominator – in the same week:

  • “A digital archive of graphic design related items that are available on the Internet Archives”
  • Letterform Archive: they have an actual physical museum in SF, but if you can’t be there like me there is still quite a bit of stuff online. I loved this article on the women of photo lettering. Imagine once having to work on type and layout with calligraphy pens and paint brushes!
  • Design is History: not as visual, but there is a chronological timeline to click around and learn more about the fascinating history of design.

These links make me miss my former work, but the work that it takes to communicate with people over the course of a project can be excruciating. On hindsight most of the time it is less about the actual design work, but more on the psychological management of people. Which is true for many types of work I guess. I like the actual work though, which is perhaps 20% of the process.

on being creatively flexible and whole in a vast reality

I discovered Reality has a surprising amount of detail via Tom Critchlow, and I like how he writes in detail about how reality has a lot of details, but most of the time we miss these details because as individuals we have a limited perspective, we get used to things and the way we work so we develop blindness, hence:

This means it’s really easy to get stuck. Stuck in your current way of seeing and thinking about things. Frames are made out of the details that seem important to you. The important details you haven’t noticed are invisible to you, and the details you have noticed seem completely obvious and you see right through them. This all makes makes it difficult to imagine how you could be missing something important.

I often get stuck too, getting too ingrained in my ways of perceiving, habits and routines. I tend to miss out on a lot of what reality can offer because my perceived reality is unpleasant.

That’s why I relate a lot to Patrick writing about photographer Scott Bourne who had to radically change the way he works because his age and health can no longer support carrying the heavy telelens required for his wildlife photography. So he switched to toy photography using small, fixed lens. I have had to be creative about how I work and express myself creatively due to ongoing changes in my health. I had to adjust from working through one long sitting to multiple short sittings, sometimes I can’t write so I take photos, other times I cook and now I am learning to draw.

It is difficult to let go of something that has formed the backbone of our identities for so long, but the quicker we can adjust to the change reality requires, the less we suffer and perhaps we may surprise ourselves with new spaces and dimensions. Learning to take photos and draw has widened my perspective, making me realise there is truly a lot more we can see if we take our time and look closely.

He also writes about trying to break the depressive cycle through small daily acts, which I’ve been trying to practice as well. Some days I try a new food stall, other days I watch a youtube video to learn something new – even if I cannot do anything else. It is ultimately an act of self-love for me, to do something for my self/soul regardless of the circumstances. The easy way out is simply to let myself spiral into despair, but just like I practice running by taking one step after another, I attempt to bring life to myself by just doing one small life-giving thing. It is a muscle to build, I believe.

Lastly Roy Tang writes that we can write about anything, which is of course a view I strongly advocate for as well. I like this story he tells about his friend:

Recently a friend who is a very serious figure in certain business circles started tweeting about one of her fandom “ships”. Later on she mentioned that some people had suggested she set up an “alt” account for her fandom stuff because it “detracts from her image”. Her response: “Thanks but I don’t think any of my fandoms detract anything from my accomplishments. Normalize being true to your geeky fanfic reading die hard shipper self AND kicking ass.”

Yes pls, normalise being true to your hobbies and interests and your whole self – also why I refuse to have dozens of different instagram accounts and websites for each of my interests. Everything I do is intertwined in some way and I can’t slice myself cold into separate slices.

We have to write about anything and everything to widen each other’s narrow perspectives, to express the amazing amount of detail that reality has, to normalise being whole persons, that having a wide variety of interests can be a good thing, because everything will ultimately feed into who we are and what we create.

people mention me, so I mention them

A while ago I discovered the website of Kening Zhu and I was immediately enamoured with the richness and depth of her website. Last week I discovered she has linked to me, finding me through Laurel Schwulst‘s interview, “a website is a sanctuary“:

I followed her links to Winnie Lim’s blog (someone else had sent her work to me, some months ago) and felt like I was reading someone’s private, articulate journal, almost like I shouldn’t be reading it.

– Kening Zhu, nourishing internet walks

I like sometimes how the internet is so wide and vast and on some days it is small and serendipitous. I also like that I was a stepping stone to someone discovering someone else’s art:

I followed Winnie’ Lim’s link to — a designer who made this video of 365 days of drawings on the Apple Notes app. what a perfect container for creativity: unexpected, low pressure, limited.

I would love to be a stepping stone more often.

Through my referral links I’ve also discovered mentioning me in a rallying call for people to make the small internet flourish with a commitment to publishing:

In my view, one of the major problems with the small or personal Internet is the dearth of individuals who are willing to create and maintain personal spaces that they take pride in and that the rest of us want to visit… We need people who publish year after year after year. We need people like Winnie LimSean Dietrich, and Emma. Instead, we get those who create the typical site on Neocities that has not been updated in 5 years and consists of only three or four pages. This is repeated over and over on other platforms and networks that are run by individuals. Consistent content produced over a period of years requires either a huge commitment, an inborn need to write just for the sake of writing, or both. A well-populated, well-cared-for small Internet is what we need in order to encourage the rest of humanity to visit frequently and support something better than our current corporate-run Internet.

–, The Birth and Death of the Yesterweb Forum Reveal Two Important Truths

I’ve mentioned numerous times before that sometimes week after week I feel like I am publishing into a blackhole – though I do it anyway because my primary purpose of writing is to document and know myself – so it is meaningful to me that someone out there has noticed the consistency I try to make.

Due to social conditioning I can’t be myself in reality, so I try to be myself here on this website, hence I tend to write darker uncomfortable posts because I wish to express everything that I cannot express elsewhere. I do wonder often if it is the right thing to do, to air my bones dry in such a public manner. But once in a while I am reminded that perhaps it is worthwhile:

A recent journal entry by Winnie Lim has rekindled my desire to get better at telling it like it is whether I’m writing blog posts or improvising music and lyrics. I’m so in awe of her ability to express herself freely. I can indeed feel the pain – both her pain and my own.

– Joe Jenett, feel the pain

I think this world and her people try to hide too much of their shadows, but these shadows inevitably return to haunt us in sprawling, hidden, insidious ways. I still continue to believe that experiencing pain, grief, sadness, etc should not be seen as a stigma. Being able to express these emotions and have discourses about them will lead to a lighter, freer world – at least I hope.

posts I like vs posts I write

I tend to write really lengthy, heavy posts, but I realised through my own consumption of rss that I actually truly enjoy the ones simply about daily life. Here are a few posts I’ve enjoyed recently:

  • Chinatown Breakfast: I just like how the author writes a short blub about something very mundane and yet very personal, coupled with beautiful photos. It is a rich colourful snapshot of another world: her world.
  • Exploring an incredible Kyoto Hard Off store: similar to the post above I enjoy seeing something I don’t typically see in my world, or actually in most worlds, because electronic stores in Japan are just their own thing. I also enjoy seeing pictures of old electronics.
  • The Philosopher, The Dog, And The Wedding: how many of us would write an in-depth post on something we consumed and enjoyed? Wouter writes a lot about the things he consumed or encountered – It gives me a detailed glimpse of him as a person.

I just thought I’ll give a shout-out to these posts because only certain type of posts make their viral rounds around the internet, and maybe many of us feel like we all have to write like Tim Urban or something, but I genuinely feel like it is a service to the world to share the precious intersection between you and your world. Only you can write something you encountered. Isn’t that precious?

rethinking labels and value

I am still recovering from my last migraine, so today I had to walk instead run. While walking I found myself thinking that knowing when to do the right thing for my body – that sort of decision-making – willing myself into making the correct decision instead of the choice I desire, takes work too. It is just not the sort of work I am used to.

In one of my recent essays I wrote about the profound loss I had felt when I lost my ability to work like before. I also write frequently about the envy I feel when I look at my partner work. I realised once again this is the thing I keep doing: I have these predefined ideas of what constitutes as valuable work and I keep feeling lousy for not being able to do that sort of work.

But to make this marathon-like effort to work on my health and psyche for the past 8 years is also valuable. I just cannot seem to remember or perceive it this way. Most of the time I feel weak and useless.

On a similar parallel sometimes I am misguided into thinking that photography is “easy”. I simply press a shutter and voila there’s a photo. But to cultivate an internal world that is capable of perceiving moments worth photographing is also work. It is not something that I can set out to do and accomplish. It is a profound ongoing process.

Time and time again I find myself valuing the seemingly “harder” work. Like I prefer running over walking. I think I miss working on my interactive projects and I don’t value my writing as much because it is “easier”.

I would like to uncondition myself from this sort of thinking. I think it simply reinforces unnecessary negative feelings about my life and prevents me from seeing creative opportunities. Like instead of feeling lousy over what I have lost, I could work on my photography practice.

Sometimes I am aware of how inflexible I can be, but I am not sure how to break out of it, yet.

This note is partially provoked by Ankur Sethi who wrote:

“all the books I read, movies I watch, games I play, or music I listen to must have some sort of artistic merit…I can see how harmful it is, and I’m starting to question it.”

I think it is similar to how I label all the things I do into so-called useless and useful. I can understand the sentiment that life is short and we should optimise for time, but we our selves are works-in-progress and therefore we can’t really be the best judge of what is the best use of time. And sometimes the best use of time is to waste it.

By having very fixed ideas on what should be done and consumed, we’re setting unnecessary limits to where we can expand our selves. Who knows where inspiration may come from? And not everything needs to have a purpose. We can watch rom coms simply because we enjoy it.

In zen this sort of labelling is discouraged, in order to cultivate a mind that can perceive each moment as a fresh moment, to be capable of seeing things as they are, not just representation of their categories.

I have no idea why I chose to write this as a note versus a journal entry. Maybe I have this belief that I don’t really have to make sense in a note and it can be fragmented like this post.

posting backdated posts

Terence Eden writes about how he publishes very old bits of his writing, writing that has existed way before blogs exist, and he calls them necroposting:

A blog isn’t an immutable chain of events. There’s nothing to stop us travelling in time. When I go digital sperlunking though my history, I often find interesting things I wrote before I blogged. So I bring these “back from the dead” and publish them as Necroposts.

I’ve been posting backdated posts since this incarnation of this website has existed, especially twitter statuses I want to keep permanently, but I have not thought about posting something that existed before my blogging existence. It would be totally embarrassing!

But if one day I become a person who is totally cool with publishing really embarrassing stuff from my foolish youth, it would be really interesting (at least to me) to capture the large jumps in my personality development. I regret not keeping more stuff from my childhood, probably only rare scraps remain, if any. I don’t have much stuff from the first 20 years of my life.

I do think more people should do this, I really enjoy when people’s websites become personal museums instead of becoming disenchanted with our pasts and wiping off entire versions of websites so lightly. I do understand the reasons why though. But until website graveyards exist, perhaps this too will be transient. At least it is cool to maintain one during one’s lifetime?

my interest in photography started out not as a desire to take good photos by conventional standards, but to document precious moments in life. as I have gotten more into photography I…

should we follow our natural inclinations?

Was reading The Bell Jar yesterday and it made me wonder why were they injecting insulin into the protagonist at the asylum – she wasn’t diabetic and it was supposed to be treatment for her mental illness. I googled it and it turns out insulin shock therapy to induce comas was a thing. I’ve probably written about it somewhere before: having too much insulin is the cause of metabolic disorders, which co-incidentally another book I’m reading right now is proposing the theory that metabolic disorders are the root cause of neurological disorders. So, by injecting ALOT of insulin into Plath, they are actually making her worse:

To induce the coma, medical staff increased the insulin dose to the range of 100-150 units a day. I have no insulin production as a type 1 diabetic and I take 30 units a day, so 150 units is a lot of insulin. They occasionally used doses as high as 450 units. After injections, patients experienced the typical symptoms of hypoglycemia with drowsiness and sweating before, providing the dose was high enough, coma set in. This state was maintained for up to an hour before being terminated by intravenous glucose. Now imagine going through that every day for a couple of months.


Like wtf?

Still curious about Plath, I borrowed Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams from the library, and there was an introduction by Ted Hughs – I know his perspective on Plath is probably problematic and biased…so take this with a pinch of salt. I found it intriguing that Plath wanted to be a prose writer instead of a poet:

So her life became very early a struggle to apprentice herself to writing conventional stories, and to hammer her talents into acceptable shape. “For me,” she wrote, “poetry is an evasion from the real job of writing prose.”

…and not only did she want to write prose instead, she wanted to write only a certain kind of prose:

If a story is inevitably a fantasy, and if every fantasy leads eventually to the heart of the labyrinth, her problem was that she could not linger among the outer twists and turns and complications, where the world is still solidly itself and comparatively safe, however thrilling. She had an instant special pass to the center, and no choice but to use it. She could no more make up an objective ingenious narrative than she could connect up all the letters in her handwriting, where nearly every symbol seems to sit perched over a gulf. This lightning pass through all the walls of the maze was her real genius. Instant confrontation with the most central, unacceptable things. So her dogged, year-in year-out effort to write conventional fiction, in the hope of preparing herself to make a livelihood, was like a persistent refusal of her genius.

I feel like I relate a lot to this and I see this a lot with other people. That we envision our selves to be a certain type a person, to do a certain type of art/work, and it has to be a certain way. But plenty of times that vision of our selves is not who we are.

Of course, do we succumb to our natural inclinations or do we forcefully shape ourselves to be who we want to be? I think there are no clear or right answers. I do somewhat believe that one of the best leverages to develop meaningfully as an artist is to follow our natural instincts, doing things we actually enjoy. Learning a skill may be difficult and torturous, but one should ultimately enjoy the process or the outcome. It shouldn’t be dreadful or make us shrink.

It is though, challenging to discern what are our natural instincts and what are ingrained habits firmly stuck in a comfort zone. Developing that awareness itself is a lifetime skill.

Tangentially this essay on following our deep obsessive curiosity even if it may not amount to anything has been making the rounds on the internet. I really appreciate how the writer connected everything together to demonstrate how sometimes doing something for really long without expecting an outcome can actually lead to a great breakthrough, sometimes decades later, sometimes out of our own life times.

But Brock couldn’t stop wondering about what exactly was going on in those boiling pools. He was dying to know: What was alive down there? How was it surviving? So he spent the next six years revisiting Yellowstone and taking samples from pools, geysers, and vents.

Imagine spending 6 years doing something over and over again. Just because. Most of us probably wouldn’t even last 6 days.

Still I don’t think we should do things in hope that centuries later it will contribute to a world-changing technology. Perhaps we should do it just because. It will at least contribute to our selves.