A Whale on the Beach, Books are Mostly Rectangles, and Secret Weapons of R&B

The spring weather in Vancouver is performing a staggerstep towards summer like it just can't bear to be associated with the wreckage of the past winter and fall and this makes for dramatic clouds

Thank you for checking out this week’s dispatch. I hope that you like what you read. Please let me know what you think in the comments below. Have a great week and stay safe.

:: Maktoub ::

There’s no evidence that the future exists.

We know this because despite all of the science fiction time travel stories that have been written and imagined over the years we have no documentation, scientific reports, or on the spot interviews featuring a time traveler.

Histories and reportage have featured all types of weird, eccentric characters making preposterous claims but nobody has leaned into a reporter’s microphone on live television and, with a backdrop of a churning volcano or the eerie silence of a prairie wind farm, said, “Yes, that’s quite correct, Diane, I have traveled back in time to this very moment to tell you all that in the year 2146, this blighted husk of a planet, long since abandoned by intelligent life, has come under the diabolical rule of reanimated kitchen appliances. Toaster ovens, electronic whisks, cappuccino machines have lurched forth from landfills to reclaim the cities and towns of Earth and has enslaved the remaining inhabitants to lives of confectionary-based drudgery.”

Hasn’t ever happened. And so we can only surmise that the future is, quite conveniently, a fiction.

Which makes sense, but…

Like everyone else I have been trying to figure out what *just* happened. Like over the past 18 months. With all of its infinite competing contexts and narratives and the attendant gibberish that has poured forth from every corner and crevice like a plague of ancient subterranean insects released into the light.

Pure cacophony. Atonal. Discursive, dissonant, bone-rattling. Parasitic, corrosive, intentionally unintelligible messages designed to distort, disrupt and disorient.

It’ll take a while before the true patterns emerge. And it will be the writers, artists, musicians, photographers, sculptors who get there first.

But of course I’m thinking about it; we’re all thinking about it.

The image that I keep coming back to in my mind that seems to resonate most clearly in the aftermath of the past fall and winter is that of a beached whale.

Rotting in the sun, bereft of the ocean, being picked clean by scavenger birds who reel and fight each other in the air above it.

The neighbours of the area bring their lawn chairs to the edges of the beach to watch the carcass decompose like it’s a ticketed event. Maybe play some frisbee. Politicians, affronted by the stench, nevertheless pose for photos and opine at length. The city workers wonder how they can make it go away while other citizens are glad to have the distraction and hope that it stays a while.

It provides a sense of occasion. A context.

The entire scene seems appropriate to me. The mystery of the ocean has given up its dead and to some of us it’s a sort of revelation. Proof of our own existence, evidence of dimly known plans. Some may even see it as a sign that foretells future events but it’s really just a massive dead thing. Food for birds and other scavengers who will pick it clean down to the bones from which we will make jewelry, wind chimes, and musical instruments.

In the past, say like in 1970, we wouldn’t wait for the carcass to be picked clean. We’d get some dynamite, invite the local tv news crew down for an interview, and just blow the whole thing up.

:: Books are most often rectangles and that’s the problem ::

Books are a terrible obsession for a lot of reasons but no reason is more pernicious and flummoxing than the persistence of their rectangular shape and the sad effect that this has had on my attempts to capture the magic of books in photographs.

From a strictly utilitarian perspective the rectangle makes sense; we didn’t just arrive at this shape by accident. It’s been a constant evolution from the scriptoriums of Europe to the Buddhist’s of Korea’s Goryeo Dynasty who invented moveable type to the Penguincubator of the 1930’s, the pocket book vending machine that helped revolutionize bookselling, to well, you know, the internet.

The book is the perfect capitalist product that can often convey anti-capitalist, revolutionary ideas to the end-consumer in an elegant act of subterfuge.

It is an absolute unit.

The book is a rectangular thing that can be stacked and sorted and shelved and put into boxes (more rectangles) to be stacked, sorted, shelved and shipped (!) to stores and libraries and other places.

And I will die on this hill: the shape of most books, the dull cubist rectangle, is terrible for photographs. This is mostly because photographs are also shaped like a rectangle, tho sometimes with rounded edges, and in this competition of shapes it seems like the book always loses.

A book may suck as an object to be photographed but as an object to be experienced, to be held, smelled, turned this way and that in the light outside a bookshop, it has no equal.

So, yes, books.

We’re living in a golden age of book design. The successor to every golden age that has come before it.

There are few publishers who produce more beautiful, thoughtfully designed books than Hong Kong art and design book publisher, viction:ary.

All of the skill, care and design chops that would seem to indicate the arrival of a new golden age is on display in their new book, A Book on Books: New Aesthetics in Book Design.

A beautiful, forward-looking, inspired overview of some of the best book designers and their work from recent years, that doesn’t linger on western corporate design trends, and definitely refutes my theory about photographing books and the tyranny of rectangles.

Highly recommend anything that viction:ary publishes.

They really care and their editorial perspective, located as they are ‘in the heart of Asia’, means that through this book I experience a lot of new designs and designers whose work I wouldn’t have otherwise seen.

Within these pages is a critical context that supports fresh ideas and diverse global perspectives on the future of books and book design.

If books are the preferred delivery system for revolution and change then this book is a map of what unexplored future territories might look like.

Just gotta pour the words in.

:: SAULT ::

We don’t know much about SAULT except that they release great music at an astonishing rate.

They’ve released at least four records worth of material over the past two years and they’re all bangers.

SAULT doesn’t do media or photographs or videos. They just make statements.

Check the links below and support them if you can.