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Children of the algorithm 
Greetings from the shed...
Hope all is good in your part of the world.
I have spent most of this week out and about. Scavenging for wood for the shed build, catching up with friends and shooting film.
While in the shed I’ve been continuing to type up old journals and bad poetry. I’m currently on 130,000 words of ‘I did this and they said that’.
It sounds like a lot. Enough even. But having just backed up my habitual attempt at personal reflection (i.e my daily digital journal), I’ve found the zip file contains 1,745,577 words. I can’t stop now though. It might be the only thing maintaining this veneer of sanity.
I’m still to type up some of my first journals from age 12. Back then, even as a fan of Asimov, writing my own stories of space miners redirecting asteroids to protect the Earth, I doubt I’d have imagined the world as it is today. The good and the bad. Or that I could one day drop almost 2,000,000 words of my own musings into a LLM and have it spew out a selection of memoirs, novellas and perhaps an autobiography.
I’d probably have thought that to would cool back then. But for good or ill, I can be a traditionalist and I’d like to put the work in and do it in what might soon be perceived as the old fashioned way. Even if no one has time to read it. As pretty soon, everyone and their cat will have a book out.
The photos at the top of this email were taken on the new incarnation of Polaroid film. I didn’t trust that my Swinger Land Camera would do the job after years in the attic so picked up a Polaroid Supercolour 635 for £20. Add another £17.50 for 8 shots and it becomes an expensive experiment. Fun though. More on instant film later.
Blackmagic have released an interesting video capture app for iOS. If you are serious about filming with a phone you will want to check out the features. Especially ‘Stealthmode’ and one of the fastest Multicam workflows I have seen. The link should take you 55mins into the livestream where the app is explained. Thanks to Adrian for the heads up.
In the mid 90’s while travelling South East Asia I switched from carrying a walkman to a mini disc recorder. With all the benefits in ‘quality’ I experienced from the switch to digital, I missed out on discovering the new and rare musical finds in the markets. It was much easier to carry around though and occasionally I’d record music from fellow travellers via a minijack lead or on rare occasions an optical lead.
Occasionally before heading home I’d wander the stalls piled high with pirated and bootlegged mixtapes looking for souvenirs and gifts. Squeezing tapes, CDs and DVD’s into my pack in order back to the UK. On one occasion I was stopped at customs. The customs officer shuffled through my stash of media with a raised eyebrow.
“Some of this stuff sounds made up” he said.
“Looks like I’m going to have to take a holiday in Thailand he said”. And slinging the music back in my bag waved me on.
It would be years later till I’d spot some of my rare finds on places like Napster, Limewire and Kazaa. And today the internet is full of these cultural gems if you know where to look.
Hint: Online Communities and Forums / P2P File Sharing Networks / Torrenting and Private Trackers / Music Blogs / YouTube / SoundCloud / Digital Archives and Libraries / The Internet Archive / Specialised Search Engines
Some of my physical copies are still going strong and it’s the archival of some of these tracks and treasures that has me maintaining the equipment to play it on.
It also makes it difficult for ‘iTunes Match’ to find the higher resolution version of a lot of my digitally archived music. And that’s fine. I’m just happy to have my own copy. Backed up in triplicate. My own take on cultural preservation in the digital age.
For me this is important. Especially as it looks like the mighty streaming services are starting to streamline some media out of existence.
The following article is an interesting read as it explores a time when music sharing was analogue but also discusses how now that content sharing is more accessible, digital media is susceptibility to censorship, removal from streaming services and in some cases pulled from, or swapped on your devices.
Read ‘The Pirate Preservationists’.
So it looks like piracy and bootlegging are inadvertently contributing to cultural preservation by keeping copies of music, books, films and TV that might otherwise be lost.
Balancing the rights of content creators with access to cultural heritage is an ongoing process. But the solution is out there. Somewhere within Creative Commons licensing, fair use and innovative digital preservation initiatives.
In the meantime, buy vinyl, dig out your old tapes, make mixtapes and fill drives with rare finds. Do what you can for the survival of our collective cultural archive in an ever-changing digital landscape.
Following on from above, did you know that you can buy entire musical archives of certain artists?
You can buy Penfriend’s complete discography through Bandcamp for £74 USB sticks are on the way!
Just started listening to the podcast A Very British Cult. Beware the life coach.
My friend David asked me if I’d help him get this Brenell Mk 2 reel to reel tape recorder up and running. It has sat in storage for decades with a number of tapes recorded by his late father.
I don’t think I’ve been hands on with such a machine since 2000 when I took photos for a flier advertising my band.
I cleaned the heads with cotton buds and whiskey and miraculously it powered up. The reels spun and there was a whiff of 50 years of dust burning off the valves.
Once we had everything aligned and the heads in place, there was sound. Sounds captured in the 60’s of children introducing themselves as an innovative teacher visited each one with a mic. That teacher was my friends dad. Sadly he had died a few years after his birth and of the treasured memories David has of his father, he could not remember the sound of his voice.
In my mind I was marvelling at this machine. Dormant for half a century, it took little effort to bring it back to life. But David was listening intently. In amongst a pile of tape reels, he hoped there might be a snippet of his fathers voice.
And there was. As the children finished their introductions, they introduced their teacher. Also called David. And from the depths of time, carried through decades within a magnetic hum, he spoke. Analogue and alive.
And tears welled.
I can’t imagine what David was thinking in that fleeting and beautiful moment. But I will ask him. And I’ll record our chat. So that it may also be heard in decades to come.
Personally, I was again marvelling how the echos of those we’ve loved and lost, can return to us. And we might be the last generation to consider this a gift.
If our digital archives can stand the test of time, there will be more than enough of anyones life on file. Enough even to resurrect a virtual likeness, if we wish to go down that road.
That is, if choose to die.
Supporting subscribers get access to audio like this... Pseudorandomness [Audio 043]
The medicinal properties of turmeric.
Is vegan meant as healthy as it is ethical?
Well. It’s a temporary lease car for my wife while she waits for our actual more long-term car. As soon as I saw it I figured it was a VW ID3 underneath and I guessed right. Feels a little faster though. I really liked the ID3 and this feels like a slightly better version of it. I’ll be finding as many opportunities to drive it as possible but at the moment it’s charging for free. Octopus have these free electricity windows called ‘Power-ups’. It’s when too much green energy is being generated and the grid needs to offset a little. Pretty neat if you want to get some free motoring into the batteries.
Buying Polaroid film is a minefield. I've bought the wrong type twice now. The first one (I-Type) got returned and in my haste I bought a pack of black and white SX-70 film. My Polaroid cameras can only use 600.
Rather than send it straight back I have held onto it whilst I research SX-70 Polaroid cameras. I have never owned one, but if I can borrow one or find something super affordable, I’d like to try the film with it. Mainly because of this very in-depth advert for the SX- 70.
If you have one knocking about you don’t use please let me know.
I noticed a few subscriptions have come to an end. They do that. I’ll be dropping more things into the special place for those that support my efforts here, so if you feel you might be missing something please check that you are still subscribed. And thank you for your support.
Either way… Thank you for reading.
Irish regulators have fined TikTok €345m (£296m) for violating children's privacy.
Have you added yourself to the Documentally community map?
24,000 year old drawings found in a cave.
After shooting film all week I’m really appreciating my Fujifilm X-Pro3 and iPhone 13. In fact I’m now considering getting the 15 Pro Max if only for the extra focual length. Here is the Wired buying guide.
When I read stories like ‘Man who was ordered by his AI girlfriend to break into Windsor Castle with a loaded crossbow to kill Queen Elizabeth says he's sorry’ I just want to spend more time walking the dog.
Despite spending a lot of time offline recently, my other places include GoodReads, FarceBook, Flickr, Strava, Untappd, Diaspora, Vivino, LinkedIn, YouTube, Mastodon, a ham radio newsletter or search ‘Documentally’ on Wire, Birdsite, T2 or Bluesky.
12 Obvious ways to reduce emissions that no one is talking about.
Thanks for reading. All spelling mistakes in this email are either intentional or because of wine. What are you up to this weekend? I’ve been invited to Radio 2 live in the park in Leicester this Sunday. Might I see you there? Whatever you do, enjoy.
“When we love, we always strive to become better than we are. When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.” ~ Paulo Coelho
See you out there.