Infinity Pool on Ganymede

February 2021: Jeff Bezos to step down as Amazon chief executive to spend more time on space exploration and climate emergency.

Take all your hate and all your fear with you
And blast them into the blue

Building your walls to keep them out
Building your stash to wipe them out
You staked your claim on planets new
You built your ship and up you flew
Looking back on the world below
Safe from the damage and woe
But you cannot play golf in space

Take all your hate and all your fear
Take all your hate and all your fear
Take all your hate and all your fear with you
And blast them into the blue

Platinum club for psychopaths
Draining the tank with dirty maths
Plundering all to gild the few
You built your ships and up you flew
Infinity pool on Ganymede
You took so much more than you need
But you cannot play golf in space

Take all your hatе and all your fear
Take all your hate and all your fеar
Take all your hate and all your fear with you
And blast them into the blue

Space Golf by Hen Ogledd

I’m in love with the track for a number of reasons – it sounds as if Steeleye Span had been born on a Generation Ship.

It could have only been written in these times.

The punch of some of those couplets. Oof.

Perhaps it will survive the new dark ages and be sung acapella – a ‘Gaudete‘ for the 24th Century – by our descendents in Jupiter space.

I wish Mr Bezos well, and hope that perhaps he gives the track a listen.

Platinum club for psychopaths
Draining the tank with dirty maths
Plundering all to gild the few
You built your ships and up you flew
Infinity pool on Ganymede
You took so much more than you need
But you cannot play golf in space
.

Bits of the city below the API

A somewhat forlorn ebike on the Thames embankment near Cleopatra’s Needle

The “Jump” e-bikes in the city of London have had Lime decals and tags applied to them in the last six months or so, as the business and physical assets have transferred over to Lime.

A former Jump e-bike re-branded for Lime
Jump -> Lime. Switching costs on a dangling tag

Matt Webb’s Thingscon keynote introduced me to the notion of “Jobs below the API” as coined by Peter Reinhardt in his excellent 2015 blog post “replacing middle-management with APIs”

As I spotted them, the Jump bikes resonated with this – a fleet of physical objects in the city that had moved from one distant company to another beneath the API, probably re-branded and maintained by humans beneath another…

Station Identification

Image
Transformation of the Cellular Landscape through a Eukaryotic Cell, by Evan Ingersoll / Gael McGill & Digizyme’s Custom Maya Molecular Software / Biología Al Instante

Look at this. You are a city. A planet. A cosmos.

via William Gibson – his commentary adroit as always:

Nature, she’s not so simple as she looks to the nekkid eye, but lots of folks still like to understand her on the basis of the nekkid eye. Flat earth, masks do nothing, etc.

William Gibson

We are trapped in the middle world but we can see so much more when we try.

Our survival depends on it.

Another Green World / Remembering Sascha Pohflepp

From the estimable Saul Griffith’s “If I Were Secretary of Energy”:

The first thing I would do is hire a team of DOE artists in residence. We need ideas and creativity. These artists would fulfill a role similar to the NASA art program that began in 1962 which was critical to filling the American imagination with the possibilities of space travel, the adventure, the future, the wonder. In the 50 years since Earth Day, an enormous number of column-inches have been written about our deteriorating environment (and more recently deteriorating climate) but not enough about visions for what success looks like for humanity. The DOE artists-in-residence would go to work showing us what the future of cleaner electrified building stock would look like, how much cleaner our streets and air will be with electric cars and new electric transit modes, including electric flight. We’d see verdant pictures of the future of regenerative agriculture and an even more productive carbon sequestering food system that also makes more space for wildness and national park and recreation areas. You might find it odd that the first thing I’d do at DOE is make art, but this is critical, we need a shared vision of where we are going, one of abundance and success and of the U.S. winning, if we are to get the popular buy-in and acceptance we need to address climate change in earnest and at scale.

Which made me think immediately of the late, great Sascha Pohflepp‘s piece from back in 2009 – The Golden Institute.

It imagines a counterfactual history of the 1980s where Jimmy Carter beats Reagan – and the USA embarks on an Apollo/Manhattan Project scale of investment in renewable energy independence.

Sascha is remembered this weekend by friends and collaborators at this event “Pohflepp in Practice”.

I’m attending the event online as I write. The talks will be recorded and archived. As the introduction by Calum Bowden and Stephanie Sherman stated – we can’t help wonder what Sascha would have made of these strange times.

I’m sure he would have brought the curiosity and vision that Saul is searching for – with a twist of humor and criticality.

Injecting humanity and humility into the technological hubris of a possible future, while maintaining an essential central optimism – which for me was his trademark.

Paul Peter Piech in 2020

The National Library of Wales are showing an exhibition of Paul’s work until January 2021 (which means hopefully they’ll reopen in time for people to see it…)

The Creative Review has this piece on the exhibition.

I’ve written about Paul’s influence on me, and his friendship with my father before here which I think led Theo Inglis to contact me for a recollection or two for his excellent long piece on Paul’s work that has just been published at the AIGA’s ‘Eye On Design’ site.

My unedited responses to Theo’s questions for the article in full are below.

Paul was an incredible artist, activist and a wonderful friend to my dad – I’m so glad he’s getting this recognition now.

  • How did you know Paul Peter Piech?

He was a good friend of my father – who ran a small picture framers in Porthcawl, where Peter had settled. Peter came in most weeks – initially to get things framed, but also after a while to sit and chat with my dad while he worked. This was the late 80s I think, as I was still in comprehensive school. I also worked after school and weekends in a local printers, and Peter would occasionally come in there for photocopying.

  • What we he like when you knew him?

Well – at one level he was this very friendly, curious obviously intelligent old man. A bit of a Yoda figure in a way! He was also probably the first American I’d ever met! He spoke like the movies! He was very indulgent of my questions and didn’t ever talk down to me. He knew I aspired to work in graphic design at the time and was studying art, working at a printer’s after school etc. and he was very encouraging. It was also one of those things where for the first time I saw my dad talk to another grown-up and have proper debate. They’d argue (good naturedly) for hours about anyting – politics, religion, philosophy, science, art – and often Paul would get the better of my father!

  • Were you aware of his background working in advertising and did he ever talk about it?

No not at all – I only really knew of that through my Dad. Paul was more interested in talking about human rights, philosophers or art – which I think he saw as central to his ‘second career’. I only later really learned about that side of his career, unfortunately mainly in obituaries. 

  • What do you remember most about him?

I remember an incredible energy and restlessness alongside huge curiosity and kindness. I was very lucky to have met him in such a formative time in my life – and his influence on me was enormous. I don’t know if it’s down to him that I ended up living in Brooklyn and working in Manhattan twenty years later but I like to think he set me on my way.

The job of a {broader, more inclusive set of design} brain{s} is to “produce {decolonised} future{s}”

Daniel Dennett, Intuition Pumps (my emboldening, below)

How can meaning make a difference? It doesn’t seem to be the kind of physical property, like temperature or mass or chemical composition, that could cause anything to happen. What brains are for is extracting meaning from the flux of energy impinging on their sense organs, in order to improve the prospects of the bodies that house them and provide their energy. The job of a brain is to “produce future” in the form of anticipations about the things in the world that matter to guide the body in appropriate ways. Brains are energetically very expensive organs, and if they can’t do this important job well, they aren’t earning their keep.

Matt Ward, interviewed by SpeculativeEdu

Colonising the future: If Speculative Design builds competency in thinking about future alternatives, the design community needs to ensure that it is aware of the structural inequalities that allow for a privileged voice. I think it’s become painfully obvious that we don’t need any more white male billionaires telling us how the future looks, therefore by moving Speculative Design outside of the “academy” we need to make sure it’s reaching people who don’t normally have say over the future. We should aim to empower alternative views about how the world could be.

 

It’s a great interview. Read the lot.

Station Identification

“Through gaps in the cloud layer she could see the light-but-dark blue of the Terran sky, subtle and full.

It looked like a blue dome flattened at the center, perhaps a few kilometers above the clouds—she reached up for it—although knowing too that it was just a kind of rainbow made it glorious.

A rainbow that was blue everywhere and covered everything. The blue itself was complex, narrow in range but infinite within that range.

It was an intoxicating sight, and you could breathe it—one was always breathing it, you had to. The wind shoved it into you!

Breathe and get drunk, oh my, to be free of all restraint, minimally clothed, lying on the bare surface of a planet, sucking in its atmosphere as if it were an aqua vitae, feeling in your chest how it kept you alive!

No Terran she had ever met properly appreciated their air, or saw their sky for what it was. In fact they very seldom looked at it.”

from 2312 by KSR