Letters from Somnolescent


Author: mariteaux

June 2, 2024

How to Host a Site Network for All Your Friends


So about a week ago, I got a very nice email from a Somnolescent reader named Cyrano. I don’t normally post reader mail–for starters, I don’t get enough of it to make mailbag posts a thing–but this time, I got a mailer daemon every time I tried to reply. There’s nothing personal in it, so I’m gonna take the risk and post things on the blog. Hopefully you see this, Cyrano, and you don’t think I simply ignored you. Your reply address isn’t working is all.

Somnolescent has a pretty unique setup as far as little amateur indie Web stuff goes. Everyone on somnolescent.net has their own account where only they can access their subdomains’ files, and potentially the files of domains outside somnolescent.net. Because I know Somnolescent attracts people who are in little online art collectives and Web groups and sometimes would like to know how to start their own site like ours, I’ve elected to lightly edit the book I wrote for Cyrano and post it here to Letters instead. Hopefully, someone finds the information useful.

April 1, 2024

3-9-7-1-5: Exploring the Expanded Conet Project Boxset


A badger with the expanded Conet Project boxset sprawled all around him

Spring is here, my friends, and that means you’re all probably starting to leave your houses for sunny pastures. I have a bit of paranoia for you to take out there–obscured messages also sent out into the world, ones no one but the people they were meant for have been able to or will ever be able to crack. Who are those people? What do the numbers mean? Who are the Russian Man, the Spanish Lady, the Lincolnshire Poacher, Bulgarian Betty? What is Ciocirlia, the Buzzer, the Tyrolean Music Station? What the fuck does “snudering” mean?

Let me take you on a journey of circumstantial government intrigue. I’ll let the boxset explain before I do, run-ons preserved:

Almost every other piece of information on who is responsible for Numbers Stations comes from the part-time investigations of dedicated listeners. No government or person will admit to transmitting them, and only recently, due to the release of this CD set has GCHQ in the UK made its first ever public station on Numbers Station, saying that, “GCHQ are aware of the existence of Numbers Stations but cannot comment on operational matters”. Do “operational matters” include the ‘The Lincolnshire Poacher’ which is believed to be of British origin? With direction finding equipment it is possible to track down the location of transmitting antennas, and in the case of Numbers Stations which uses extremely powerful transmitters ‘Dfing’ [sic] the more powerful stations has proved an easy task for investigators but what exactly does it mean when you find an antenna farm on US government property blasting numbers in Spanish? Where and who are the recipients?

Tags: music, technology,

February 6, 2024

SomnolCCSO and Reviving an Old, Dead Database Lookup Protocol


CCSO lookup in NCSA Mosaic

On a whim about two weeks ago, I decided to finally start redoing the Somnolescent Gopher server. Gopher is such a throwback, nostalgic thing for me–it was one of the first things we got set up for Somnol right when we first got hosting all the way back in December 2018. Alas, the Gopher had not been touched since 2021, outdated and rather embarrassing for me, so I ripped it all out and got it reassembled. Still working on it, but I think it’s coming out absolutely killer. You can visit it at gopher://gopher.somnolescent.net if you have a capable client, or you can use this HTTP proxy link if you’re just looking at it in your browser.

While Gopher is highly neat, among the culty hipster retro tech geeks, it’s a known quantity. There’s new Gopher clients every year, and Gemini clients oftentimes double as Gopher clients thanks to the similarities of their protocols. Not so with the true subject of today’s post. Today’s topic has no modern server software support (before us, anyway), and accessing it is even tougher, practically requiring Windows 3.1 or a *nix box with Docker and the whole setup around that. I’ve spent the last week doing a deep, deep dive into a protocol so obscure, there’s less than ten servers for it still in existence. And we’re one of them now.

Say hello to SomnolCCSO, my friends. I’ll tell you how we made it happen and how you can try it out for yourself.

December 29, 2023

Happy Five Years: Further Down the Artsy Rabbit Hole


Happy extra image that didn't make it into the proper post!

January 2024 marks two whole years of me taking art seriously. I read back through last year’s art retrospective, and I’m guessing it was partly that one year of progress isn’t a lot in all reality and partly that what progress I did make in 2022 was bumpy (as tends to happen when you start learning a new skill), but I was surprised at how tentative I sounded. I ended off that post with a big fat “pretty good for a first attempt ^^”, if you catch my drift:

It’s good to appreciate how far you’ve come though. In one year, from practically nothing, I’ve made some pretty damn good progress. I think by next year, I’ll have something really special.

Thankfully, if 2022 was the year of trying to draw anything at all, 2023 has been the year of learning to draw confidently. I used to get plagued by a feeling of every drawing being a fluke, that it was just because I had someone’s actual art off to the side while I drew that I made it look anything like what it was supposed to, but I don’t get that anymore. I actually really like what I draw now! It still looks amateurish in spots, but that’s starting to taper off, I think.

Not to say I don’t still have a long way to go, but for actually properly enjoying what I do and feeling confident in it, this year has been very good to me. I understand eyes and snoots now, for one thing… Let’s go back through some highlights of this year, like we did last year, and have a bit more positive to say this time around, shall we?

December 8, 2023

The mtlx Chronicle II


The original art from the original release of Last Summer

Back in January 2020, dcb wrote up his search for an elusive indie-electronic EP released on MP3.com: mtlx’s Last Summer. While he located a CD case for it at the library, the disc was missing–and unfortunately, the trail went cold from there.

I’m happy to bring you the entirety of Last Summer now! Yes, it’s been located, along with some words from one of its equally-elusive creators. Better yet, Somnolescent has been given the go-ahead to release a restored and expanded limited edition CD of the EP. Let me bring you up to speed. Apologies if I sound a little odd, it’s been an exciting day.

Tags: mtlx, music,

December 1, 2023

Happy Five Years: The 2024 Infrastructure Upgrade Plans


Normally at this time, I’d be bringing you the next installment of First Draft, but I just had no desire to work on it this past month despite having a wallop of an album to do it on–chalk that up to working 35 hours a week at retail, I suppose. Instead, given that it’s December and that means the Somnolescent retrospectives and prospectives start rolling off the line soon (five years of the group being officially reborn on the 20th!), I figured I’d ramble a bit about the group instead, and more specifically, updating things around here.

We fell off the site stuff a little over lockdowns, and when things opened back up, obviously, we were more concerned with going outside and getting on with life than updating our silly animal people pages. This has left some of them out-of-date, sometimes woefully so. I think we’re all feeling the desire for it again–dcb_v5 just launched in October, fwd_v2 has just launched–so let me tell you about my own plans to update Somnolescent’s web presence. There’s a lot.

November 1, 2023

First Draft: Pixies’ Come On Pilgrim


Pixies' Come on Pilgrim

Rarely do albums come out right on the first shot. Labels reject them, bands disown them, and they get added onto after release. Here on First Draft, we take a look at albums that got cut down or remade and see what difference the changes made.

This review looks back on the Pixies’ debut EP Come On Pilgrim, the infamous purple tape it came from, and the re-records of the leftover material scattered throughout the rest of their initial run, and whether or not the EP would’ve been better served as a full album.

October 1, 2023

First Draft: Failure’s Magnified


Failure's Magnified

Rarely do albums come out right on the first shot. Labels reject them, bands disown them, and they get added onto after release. Here on First Draft, we take a look at albums that got cut down or remade and see what difference the changes made.

This second edition examines the home demos that almost comprised Failure’s second album, 1994’s Magnified.

September 18, 2023

First Draft: Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot


All eight CDs of the Yankee Hotel Foxtrot boxset

Rarely do albums come out right on the first shot. Labels reject them, bands disown them, and they get added onto after release. Here on First Draft, we take a look at albums that got cut down or remade and see what difference the changes made.

This especially long-winded First Draft concerns the infinite permutations of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, Wilco’s 2002 art rock opus which streamed online officially for the first time 22 years ago today.

August 25, 2023

What Even is Somnolescent?


I’m standing around at work, tidying the shelves, and something pops into my head: no one has ever been able to make heads or tails of what Somnolescent actually is. We’ve been called a tilde, we’ve been described as a community of Windows 2000 users and MSN Messenger reverse engineers, a group of Furcadia friends, people have said we built toyhou.se, all sorts of wild shit. Those Somnolians, they get around!

Some of this was promulgated by me wanting to make Somnolescent sound spooky and cultlike, so I was intentionally vague describing it to people for the first year or two. We’re almost at five now, though, and whenever we’re mentioned online, folks still try to put us in a box–and they keep getting that box weirdly wrong. I didn’t think we were doing anything all that complicated, but apparently, Somnolescent perplexes people.

Tags: Somnolescent,

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