Kicks Condor

#culture

I use three main tags on this blog:

  • hypertext: linking, the Web, the future of it all.

  • garage: art and creation, tinkering, zines and books, kind of a junk drawer - sorry!

  • elementary: schooling for young kids.

05 Jun 2020

Chesterton’s Fence

There it stands - so smug and invincible!

I’m very slow to reason about things, so I often just avoid it. Which means I end up with a whole lot of things I haven’t reasoned about - until I have to. (It’s also overwhelming - the amount of things to try to figure out.)

I’m kind of ambivalent about Chesterton, but maybe he was ahead of his time. Borges liked him, so that’s probably enough. Anyway, I ran across this quote from him:

There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, “I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.” To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: “If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.”

— G. K. Chesterton, The Thing, 1929

This is tough enough to do with a fence. How do you possibly attempt to justify the purpose of abstract empires like Wall Street, religion, vaccines, capitalism, socialism, governments, police departments, academia and even stuff I personally loathe - such as influence-peddling and that ‘recognition’ is considered a good thing to do to someone?

A way to defeat Chesterton’s Fence is to simply obscure the purpose so deeply that - while there may be surface purposes, the true purposes are purported to be too deep to understand - except by a select few. (The term ‘quantitative easing’ comes to mind.) A fence like that becomes quite invulnerable.

He goes on, elsewhere to further object to passionate, sudden smashing. This is predictable.

Suppose that a great commotion arises in the street about something, let us say a lamp-post, which many influential persons desire to pull down. A grey-clad monk, who is the spirit of the Middle Ages, is approached upon the matter, and begins to say, in the arid manner of the Schoolmen, “Let us first of all consider, my brethren, the value of Light. If Light be in itself good—” At this point he is somewhat excusably knocked down. All the people make a rush for the lamp-post, the lamp-post is down in ten minutes, and they go about congratulating each other on their un-mediaeval practicality. But as things go on they do not work out so easily. Some people have pulled the lamp-post down because they wanted the electric light; some because they wanted old iron; some because they wanted darkness, because their deeds were evil. Some thought it not enough of a lamp-post, some too much; some acted because they wanted to smash municipal machinery; some because they wanted to smash something. And there is war in the night, no man knowing whom he strikes. So, gradually and inevitably, to-day, to-morrow, or the next day, there comes back the conviction that the monk was right after all, and that all depends on what is the philosophy of Light. Only what we might have discussed under the gas-lamp, we now must discuss in the dark.

— G. K. Chesterton, Heretics, 1905

I do like that the monk is ‘excusably knocked down’. I feel the monk’s issue here is exactly what I described earlier - obscuring his reasoning in abstractions, in a way that feels like stalling. The pullers-down here may seem impatient, but hey, we can’t spend our whole lives analyzing a lamp-post.

In a way, all of the various reasons for pulling down the lamp-post are pretty damning. Couldn’t a variety of reasons be much more compelling than a singular, unanimous reason?

Besides, isn’t the fence’s destruction inevitable? By fire, rain, vehicle or animal - isn’t a fence ALWAYS a temporary solution? Hastening its destruction seems innovative - let’s find out what the consequences are - REAL, not imaginary - such that we can find a more permanent solution perhaps.

I think that, if people are talking about taking down a fence, then they are likely free from more pressing concerns. So they likely have the luxury of now addressing the consequences.

In this way, I feel like the current desire to destroy the police departments has come about BECAUSE culture and society have improved. We now have the luxury of this being our concern - and there is an inate feeling percolating that now could be the time to confront the consequences. (I don’t say ‘luxury’ accusingly - having experienced a lot of grief in my life, I feel that grief too is a luxury - not everyone has the luxury to dwell on a tragedy after it happens.)

I run out of steam pretty quickly on topics like this. It’s not that I don’t care - it’s just the futility of trying to tackle a big topic, having only lived as this one inadequate being. (I lose every debate I get into because I see the other person’s side too easily - and I just agree with everyone. It’s stupid - I wish I was principled.)

But I think I see the ‘fence’ differently than Chesterton. We are too attached to our personal fences. Even the big ones like capitalism and socialism. I feel that these are just tools for us to use. (And I think humans will ultimately move well beyond these two concepts.) Both capitalism and socialism have useful concepts that will stay with us. Even if they are one day only found as choices in the menu of a SimCity clone.

Life will one day be unrecognizable to us today. The events of the last few months are proof of that. And I almost feel certain that the least likely prediction will come true. (And I do wish that Chesterton’s fence was real - maybe it is - because I confess that it would be cool to visit such a thing. Even if it would only be kept alive under extremely vigilant care.)

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17 Mar 2020

Marc Rebillet’s Quaranstream

Four day livestream after a cancelled Australian tour - just a sample of the best of making-the-best-of out there.

This artist has not been on my radar much, so you can thank AngleseaTwo for this rec. It’s pretty crazy to see so much of the doom and cynicism about the Internet come to a reversal during a time when we’re reliant on it so much. Of course, one can blame the Internet for the hysteria and stupidity as well, hey it’s all on here. But a livestream like this is a great thing to plug your ears into to get some good vibes. Turn off the damned politicians and flashing maps for a spell.

Also love that he takes calls.

Where I’m at the world pivoted extremely fast on Thursday. Now is an extremely good time to keep blogging and record your memories of the day-by-day. I’m digging into my neighborhood right now, but hope to be around a bit more to pass links and keep the lights on in our corner of the Web. I am in love with the crowd here - all you that I’ve had a chance to meet and hypertext with. Worried about you, of course. But I have no lack of confidence at the moment that you’ll come out of this stronger than before.

Along the lines of Marc’s livestream, I’ve noticed some other links to cancelled live tours/festivals that are importing on to the Web:

  • Social Distancing Festival: this is a directory of actors, dancers, artists of any kind who are doing upcoming livestreams along the lines of the above. I feel some disgust at having to drop the term ‘social distancing’ - ain’t nothing social about it - but it’s turning into a solid directory. Would like to see more niche styles do this.

  • #sunshinesongs on Instagram. High school kids are posting their home recordings of songs they got down for now-cancelled musical productions. I personally enjoy watching amateur musicals on YouTube, love this stuff.

  • /r/togetherathome, a subreddit collecting these kind of events.

  • I also think it’s interesting that Mo Willems is doing a daily doodle stream for kids, but I just think it fails because it doesn’t take calls. It would be cool for kids to hear from each other and get a chance to talk in all of this.

I’m using the homejazz sub on Indieweb.xyz to catalog what I can find.

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03 Feb 2020

The Life of D. Duck II

From shitty website ‘Best of Bjørnar B.’

This website of scribbled art purports to have sprung from the mind of a teenage Norwegian, however I’m not buying it. It appears that this site was covered somewhat closely by Something Awful years ago - and was perhaps originally hosted there. The site mostly contains drawings and games featuring a character called D. Duck who has to deal with an unruly Uncle Jubalon and fears losing his girlfriend Dasy to his cousin Anton. (YouTube vids here, if you’re rightfully wary of downloading.)

I have not dug deeply here - the game mostly seemed to be fat jokes and funny mispellings - but I think the game is a bit more impressive work than the reviews say - and there are only like three one-star reviews out there. The animation and visual style is quite unique - there’s no doubt that some decent work was poured into this. I love hand-drawn games - this Homeward Bound game and this Hanging Gardens game come to mind as other scribbly designs that look unlike anything else. But D. Duck is so scribbly that you almost can’t make out the characters’ appearances - their bent heads and distorted bodies are almost Cubist. The soundtrack also seems too good for a teenager. Who knows tho!

In an age where so much design has become bland and smooth, or simply striving toward realism, I think we could use a lot more mess and distortion. I feel like Charlie McAlister would have made a game like this.

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23 Dec 2019

Anna Malina

These GIFs seem pretty haunted to me. Pretty much the opposite of ‘cinemagraphs’.

Don’t know that I’ve seen many GIFs using collage, paint and such in this way. (Also, I guess they are part of this mini-site—at cargo.site, which is a very interesting directory of artists. I’m finding some good things there!)

Anna also has a channel of short films on YouTube. Discovered her on Warren Ellis’ list of feeds (the “Blog Diet”.)

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10 Dec 2019

Twilight Sparkle’s Voice Compromised

Brony AI seizes cartoon vocal chords (via @gwern)

The Pony Preservation Project undertakes to model (with machine learning) the voices of the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic characters, thus granting them immortality. And, for Twilight Sparkle, the decorum of a sailor.

I don’t know if linking to 4chan is considered bad form - Gwern did the footwork on this, though, so who am I to say? Audio deepfakes, but for cartoon ponies. I’m just going to yank the text from 4chan, since I never know when these pages will disappear.

Pay particular notice to the Google Doc below - it contains rough instructions for training. You need a transcript for each audio clip that you’re processing, so a long-running series like Friendship is Magic is helpful, as you have a wide-ranging corpus to begin with. Background noise also needs to be removed from clips, there is a ‘sorting’ process - which also involves assigning ‘moods’ it seems - and there is also some reference to using Praat, which is used to annotate the files, identifying specific sounds.[1]

TwAIlight welcomes you to the Pony Voice Preservation Project!
https://clyp.it/qrnafm4y

This project is the first part of the “Pony Preservation Project” dealing with the voice. It’s dedicated to save our beloved pony’s voices by creating a neural network based Text To Speech for our favorite ponies. Videos such as “Steamed Hams But It’s Trump & Obama” or “RealTalk Joe Rogan” have proven that we now have the technology to generate convincing voices using machine learning algorithms “trained” on nothing but clean audio clips. With roughly 10 seasons (8 soon to be 9 seasons and 5 movies) worth of voice lines available, we have more than enough material to apply this tech for our deviant needs.

Any anon is free to join, and many are already contributing. Just read the guide to learn how you can help bring on the wAIfu revolution. Whatever your technical level, you can help. Document: docs.google.com

We now have a working TwAIlight that any Anon can play with: Instructions

>Active Tasks
Create a dataset for speech synthesis (https://youtu.be/KmpXyBbOObM)
Test some AI program with the current dataset
Research AI (read papers and find open source projects)
Track down remaining English/Foreign dubs that are missing
Evaluate cleaned audio samples
Phonetic dictionary/tagging
AI Training/Interface

>Latest Developments
https://clyp.it/xp4q1bru [Yay!]
Anons are investigating Deepvoice3, Tacotron2 with GSTs, SV2TTS, and Mellotron
New tool to test audio clips
New “special source” audio
Several new AInons

>Voice samples (So far)
https://clyp.it/2pb4bp05
https://clyp.it/s0klxftk
https://clyp.it/samzm4sk
https://pastebin.com/JUpDRsiw

>Clipper Anon’s Master File:
https://mega.nz/#F!L952DI4Q!nibaVrvxbwgCgXMlPHVnVw

>Synthbot’s Torrent Resources
In the doc at end of resources.

Gwern also found a larger directory of clips, same voice.

Predictions:

  • Fanfic will gain a serious boost when AI-generated voices can simply be fed scripts to generate audiobooks.
  • Couple this with animation networks (also via gwern) and The Simpsons may never need to end.
  • The power of the novel in previous generations was due to the fact that a single writer could produce one without relying on anyone else - finding collaborators in close proximity is a luxury some don’t have. This technology could make cartoons and film largely the domain of lone writers with no staff.
  • It will be a long time before this ever catches up to human voices and hand-drawn frames. In fact, this could increase the value of those artworks. (In the way that algorithms have really helped us see the value of human curation.)
  • Someone who is able to use the tech with a clever flair will have an edge. (As has been the case with CGI.)

I’m still not too hyped by machine learning, though. It seems pretty weak given the empire frothing around it. But these small iterations are cool. And you have to love when it comes out of a random subculture rather than the military. Who can’t respect this kind of insanely determined fandom? Impressive work for one week.


  1. A good start on this is “Analyze Your Voice” video by Prof Merryman. ↩︎

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02 Dec 2019

Dante Fontana

Host of Dante’s Mystery Mix, great work tracking down Shelley Duvall.

This personal homepage is a branch of the ‘EVERYTHING IS TERRIBLE’ group - and I just want to quickly call it out for some of its sweet side projects.

A good place to start is with the mystery mixes, such as MYSTERY MIX VOL.7. Or THE BEST OF DANTE FONTANA.

But also his various articles, such as THE SAD AND HEARTBREAKING REALITY OF SHELLEY DUVALL’S MENTAL HEALTH, which I’d never heard and because I was very grateful that she was able to resist Dr. Phil’s efforts to take over her.

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29 Nov 2019

Audio Commentary for Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties

The lost Tim Hill and Joel Cohen commentary track at last.

This year there has been some renewed interest in the Garfield films, as that link went around again, the one that reveals how Bill Murray became involved: because he thought the director was one of the Coen Bros. Of course, the story is far from over, especially now that I’ve discovered that this unreleased audio commentary from the sequel was uploaded to the Internet Archive one year ago!

You can place this next to Wizard People, Dear Reader in your private collection.

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31 Oct 2019

youshouldhaveseenthis.com

Master list of essential links—seems pretty dead-on. Href.cool picks up where this left off.

This is GREG RUTTER’S DEFINITIVE LIST OF THE 99 THINGS YOU SHOULD HAVE ALREADY EXPERIENCED ON THE INTERNET UNLESS YOU’RE A LOSER OR OLD OR SOMETHING—a tiny directory, just a single page, a dump of links, mostly YouTube videos really. An additional 99 links continue at youshouldhavealsoseenthis.com—which fills in some missing pieces (‘i kiss you’, ze frank, etc.) It’s missing some things (‘hello my future girlfriend’, Real Ultimate Power) but perhaps those things haven’t aged well and this isn’t necessarily designed to be historical.

I wonder to what degree YouTube is synonymous with Internet culture out there. I can definitely see it—especially since ‘trololol’ and ‘double rainbow’ were pretty monumental for me—but some watershed stuff (like maybe when Cards Against Humanity gave away an island or the heyday of Chat Roulette) just can’t be captured in video like they existed on the network at the time.

Anyway—inspiration to anyone working on a directory. No need to overbuild. A raw link dump is just fine.

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04 Apr 2019

Reply: Decentralizing Culture

h0p3

What do you think decentralizing power really means? We have to empathically give a shit about each other’s stories. […] My point of contention is not with the preservation of the underground (which I applaud) but a world in which the centralization of power is maintained through automation and dark UX so profound we can’t escape it.

You’re always asking me to clear up my terms—and I never do—but I’ll ask anyway: what do you mean by ‘power’? And what do you mean by ‘decentralizing power’? Because my first stab is that you’re talking about getting us back to local governments, tribes or something. The term ‘power’ gets bandied about—it’s the person with the money to hire, the person who radios the tanks when to roll in and when to back out, it’s the person with the megaphone.

I’m not really keyed in on ‘power’—I don’t see it as a kind of natural element. Seems more like it gets used to say: this, this is evil.

How to decentralize power? In a world of billions? Answering these questions is way beyond me. My wavelength is watching ‘humanity’—are we holding on to the transcendent ‘divinity’/‘shittiness’ of being human? Can we see this humanity in each other and at least allow the recognition of another human being to dawn on our faces?

I like to think of it as an ‘antimisanthrophic’ effort to at least establish a baseline sympathy or pity or some kind of comfort with our other peoples. Being a person is rough—we have no idea what’s going on here. Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy? (Perhaps I don’t take ‘power’ seriously enough. If none of us did—would it still be ‘power’?)

I will continue to argue for radical decentralization and worldclass p2p filtering. That is the only out, and the window may be closing. It can’t just be done by hand. We go down if the masses do.

Gah, I’m not convinced that technology has any answers! We can’t make some elaborate mousetrap that will enforce the life we want to live.

Of course, I’m not sure humans have any answers either! But I will say that talking to you and your family is the best technology I’ve encountered in a decade. Sure, I’m reliant on a sturdy free-enough technology that gets our words passed around. And those words are our plain humanity on the wire.

I am worried about some perhaps difficult to justify originality+authenticity moves, but the underground is not more real to me conceptually (though it can be more valid or valuable in the dialectic). I only care about “making it your own” insofar as it is justified to the particulars of your context. The Beautiful is not the overriding reason, but insofar as all other obligations are met, it is the last deciding force. The necessity of preserving freespeech and decentralizing power (including memetic distribution) comes long before The Beautiful though.

You’re not being cryptic—I just think sometimes your compression level is turned up on thoughts like these. I also have to add that I DO appreciate pop culture—I actually think it’s one of the most promising religions or symbolic systems we’ve ever developed. (And it’s REALLY tempting to demonize it, because it’s backup by capitalism—though I think that most people can appreciate the value of the engine—most people seem to agree that artists should be paid.)

Anyway, I don’t think mainstream culture is necessarily any less original or authentic than the underground. I just think that mainstream culture has become imbalanced—it has really captivated everyone this time, and fewer people seem to know how to escape it—which is the purpose of an ‘underground’, to me, and, of course, this is all just my perception.

I think—I think what happened was that, in the previous decade, the Internet gave the underground a tremendous breath of air. You basically had a network that was all underground—and I don’t just mean some kind of hip, stylized underground—I mean that, before the corporations figured out how to milk it, you would search for ‘donuts’ and be at someone’s uncle’s website.

There was no hunting around for rare vinyl or out-of-print Borges novels any more—the whole ‘underground’ world had doorways now. The underground became the mainstream culture and, yeah, we lost an actual underground. And I think there was a kind of crisis of overwhelm that mainstream culture had become so wide—like, “we need robots to sift through all of this.” There was a time when Twitter first came out that people were joking that it was just a bunch of people posting updates that they’re shitting right now. And now we just post those updates, no shame.

What, you want I should call you a selfish nihilist, a brainwashed individualist, an all-too-convenient emotivist, a shallow aesthete, a vapid internalist, a dark-triadic relativist, a deflecting anti-realist, a gas-lighting interlocutor, an actual waste of potential, and a gutless, wallowing, purposely purposeless sissy who hatlessly lacks the integrity to take the existential risk of committing themselves to an identity: i.e., the shadow of my enemy?

The part that actually got me here is the ‘shallow aesthete’ because it’s dead on—I think that I am on the prowl for this guy, but he’s out all the time, spray painting little soap bubbles on people’s suitcases.

I don’t think the point of a personal website is so much to design something pretty and ‘authentic’ (wtf?) or even ‘cool’. I think of it just as having a ‘home’—which seems eminently human to me—as opposed to ‘mechanical’ or ‘hive-minded’, such as being another tweet, lost in the feed.

While I hope for technologies like Dat (and have always loved peer-to-peer since the days of Freenet and Gnutella), the technology is so far from being adequate as to seem impossible at times. So, I’m quite happy getting anyone I can back into personal websites and wikis. Lately I’ve been thinking that ensuring a myriad of ISPs is a lot more important than peer-to-peer.

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03 Apr 2019

Reply: Flooding the Culture

Soraya Roberts

I read an article this weekend that I didn’t see being shared anywhere. You had to scroll down the Times pretty far to find it; it was in the arts section and it was about a group of black artists who were suddenly being recognized in their 70s and 80s. It was a frustrating read, a sort of too-little-too-late scenario because, sure, it’s always nice to get half a million dollars for your work, but where was the money when you were actually producing the work, while supporting a family and paying a mortgage, with many decades of life ahead of you?

Averting our gaze from mainstream culture—cAN It bE DoNE?

Hahah, wow—it’s funny because I find this article to be a similar kind of frustrating read. A good read—perhaps like the Times article was for her—but very frustrating. I wonder: is acceptance by mainstream culture really seen as the ultimate, final, crucial reward?

(Particularly now that we live in an age where it’s clear that the previous generation of cultural winners—be it Jimi Hendrix or Harper Lee—is rapidly fading away, to be replaced by YouTubers, video game streamers, YA writers, reality stars. Isn’t the mainstream culture going to be very ruthless in its war for canonization?)

I mean I love the author’s ultimate point: here, I won’t summarize it, let’s just get into it.

We need a mass realization that pulls us out of this flooding culture. That is: the acknowledgment by powerful organizations that we do in fact engage more with original stories—it’s a fact, look it up—that lasting conversations do not come out of Twitter trends, and that diversity means diversity—more that is different, not more of the same differences. As one curator told the Times in the piece about older black artists getting their due, “There has been a whole parallel universe that existed that people had not tapped into.” Tap into it.

As h0p3 would say: preach it! Tap into it.

But the author spends the entire piece looking away from the underground—scrutinizing the fucking New York Times to show us the way, looking at the top 20 shows on Netflix, stats on buying habits on Amazon. If the concern is that our culture is spending all of their time on Netflix, Amazon and the Times—well, so is this article.

So when we go to ‘tap into it’—what is it? Where is this ‘parallel universe’ we’re looking for? Where does this culture go to look for it? Is it on Amazon and Twitter somewhere? Are we supposed to continue using Netflix and Google—but somehow spend our time on the back alleys of those services?

Is this a request to leave alone the front page of the New York Times and start with the back page? (So much simpler to turn to the back page of the corporeal printed Times than to do so online.)

Clearly, the article decries the entire makeup of these systems:

Per CJR, these algorithms are “taste-reflectors,” meaning they don’t affect taste the way critics do but simply reinforce your palate; there is little discovery here.

And how much discovery can there be, really, with the same critics occupying the same space?

Yesss! So go outside those neatly ordered corporate-approved spaces, yeah?

Let’s return to that final tap into it! paragraph. The phrase I want to look at is here: “the acknowledgement by powerful organizations.” Wait—so the tap into it! is meant… for them??

Are you asking the powerful organizations to—go outside themselves? Why? So they can continue to show us what’s legitimate? Because they are the authorities on what shit is actually cool?

I mean, yes, I’m not dense—the ‘powerful organizations’ are a massive pipeline of fame and currency—and this stuff can be gasoline to an artist. (Lord knows I want Boots Riley to keep it up—dammit, give the man what he needs!) But all of us out here, all us commoners, put together—we’re pure fuel, too. There was a time when it seemed that those very organizations were at the mercy of the buying public, earlier in this century when the entire system shook in fear of ‘disruption’.

And so, it feels like the article is just asking the mainstream to open a little wider, to give out a few more awards here and there, in lip service to the world of underappreciated, wonderful, unknown artists. (Black artists, in her case—but also in mine, because I want my mind blown by cool shit as much as any of you.) And, yeah, okay, maybe the ‘corpypastas’ might just throw us a bone.

However, I love the ‘parallel universe’ she refers to—that’s our unruly, unpredictable Web—an extension of the underground scenes, of the avant-garde, the mixtape traders, the world of the only critics that matter: our little group of friends. Those mixtapes blow up out here first. Out in our parallel universe: all of you out on your little blogs and wikis that I tap into each day. This world exists. It’s here, even if it faces its own doom on some days, in the face of resurgent mainstream culture.

Fuck the NYT, fuck Netflix—I’m reading you folks.

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21 Mar 2019

I remarked to a friend that alien conspiracies seem to have died down in recent years, while other conspiracies have grown. He said that he felt this was because 20th Century technology was analog—film and tapes could be smudged and warped incidentally, which possibly led to misleading recordings. If there’s anything to this notion, I need to remember to return to it…

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PLUNDER THE ARCHIVES

This page is also at kickscofbk2xcp5g.onion and on hyper://.

MOVING ALONG LET'S SEE MY FAVORITE PLACES I NO LONGER LINK TO ANYTHING THATS VERY FAMOUS

jack and tals vals, hipster bait analysts.

hypertext 2020 pals: h0p3 level 99 wikiist + ᛝ ᛝ ᛝ — lucid highly classified scribbles + consummate waifuist chameleon.

nathalie lawhead of so many good things, where does one begin. T, U, I.

waxy is back at it!

surfpals: nadia eghbal, subpixel.space (toby), things by j, gyford, also joe jenett (of linkport), brad enslen (of indieseek), 'web curios' at imperica.

fond friends: jacky.wtf, fogknife, eli, tiv.today, j.greg, box vox, whimsy.space, caesar naples.

indieweb: .xyz, c.rwr, boffosocko.

nostalgia: geocities.institute, bad cmd, ~jonbell.

true hackers: ccc.de, fffff.at, voja antonić, cnlohr, esoteric.codes.

chips: zeptobars, scargill, 41j.

neil c. "some..."

the world or cate le bon you pick.

all my other links are now at href.cool.