Letters from Somnolescent

 

Author: mariteaux


July 29, 2021

Nostalgia vs. Wistfulness vs. A Productive View of the Past

mariteaux

I’m not really a nostalgic person. I don’t tend to look back at the things I’ve been through or the experiences I’ve had very positively. I’m a much happier person than I used to be. I have better friends now. I have the skills to take on what I want to now, or I’m rapidly developing them. I’ve taken my first stabs at proper digital art recently. I don’t have much reason to be properly nostalgic.

Of course, when you’re dealing in the kinds of things Somnolescent does–hand-built websites, vintage computers, analog aesthetics, 90’s period pieces–there comes with it the assumption that this is all based on nostalgia, or more often “false” nostalgia. It’s not hard to find 14-year-olds who fixate on cassettes, fixate on VHS tapes, or in its most artificial form, are in love with the “vaporwave” thing. Of course, they weren’t around to see those things when they were in vogue, and overall, it can be a bit of a joke.

False nostalgia is misguided, but I don’t think misplaced. Here’s a bit of a meditation on where nostalgia ends, wistfulness begins, why the young folks get swept up in it, and the more practical side of bringing the past with you.

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June 24, 2021

The Absurd Netherworld of Internet Archive Tape Transfers

mariteaux

A sampling of the Internet Archive's batch of cassette transfers

For a period of time after Sound of Dentage’s release, I was pretty keen on digging through archive.org’s Cassette Audio section to see what strange, forgotten things I can find. It’s ostensibly only non-copyrighted audio, but that’s a crock of shit. The flood of content makes policing it with anything other than automated bots a non-starter. And even then, I think the Internet Archive is too busy with me wgetting Somnolescent’s old sites to run them.

In any event, I found something rather fascinating, and the kind of collection that no one but me would be interested in: over 1,300 amateur-recorded cassette tapes, transferred and stored in lossless. We’re not simply talking releases (though there’s tons in there). We’re not just talking demos (though they’re in there too–everyone from Dave Grohl to Coheed and Cambria to Juicy J). In a lot of cases, we’re talking mixtapes. Often recorded off the radio mixtapes! (And nature sounds. That’s what 90s kids did for their ASMR.)

Now, invariably, a lot of this is probably just noise and ambient stuff, same sorta thing that has always flooded the avant-garde experimental underground scene, same stuff the netlabels put out now, and the same stuff I’m not really interested in. However, the hand-dubbed tapes? Are where, well, strangeness lies. I’ve picked out three amateur ones for us to go through, recorded from various sources by regular people on cheap equipment. Download links are provided for each.

Tags: 70s, music, technology,

April 1, 2021

mariversary 3.0: The Platypus Years

mariteaux

Well, it’s been a tradition for me, every April 1st here at Somnolescent, to look back at something Neocities-related. I don’t quite think I’ll be carrying it along after this year, but there’s still one major bit of Neocities ephemera I’ve carried with me, something I unwittingly preserved unlike every other of its kind: my very first site design.

Given that I spent last year discussing my various Supporter’s sites, it’s only fair the main one gets its due too. And given that the other two mariversary posts both focused a bit on me and a bit on the community, I think looking back at just what I was up to will prove more positive, or at the very least, rouse the peanut gallery less.

Tags: web design,

February 22, 2021

On Rewrites

mariteaux

I come back to my “On” series of essays every couple of months to ruminate on little mindset shifts I have and myths and fallacies in the creative process. Whether I’m ever satisfied with them afterwards is less sure, but whatever, they’re cathartic. Worst case scenario, I’ll probably rewrite a few of them and have them on my site proper instead.

Fittingly, today’s little essay is on a weird mental wall I’ve had on the topic of rewrites. It’s easy, hell, the default to make something once and then never return to it. Drafting, building on what you’ve got–isn’t natural at all, but it’s important.

I felt for a long time like I had to get it right on the first shot. Come as I explore that some.


February 2, 2021

The Death of HTTPS (on somnolescent.net)

mariteaux

One of my biggest pet peeves with being a webmaster is HTTPS. The way that HTTPS is handled on the backend is so invasive, so exclusionary, that it regularly gets in the way of some very basic things I’d like to be able to do around here.

By the end of this year, with few exceptions, somnolescent.net will be going HTTP-only. I’m writing this post in the hopes of staving off any upset or confusion on behalf of you, our loyal readers (and also you, the Somnolians).


January 1, 2021

Somnolescent’s 2020 Traffic Report

mariteaux

Happy New Year, everyone! Now that 2020’s over and I have a full year’s worth of data, I figured it’d be fun to look back at how we did as far as our Google rankings and traffic across our network goes. Of course, nothing here is especially mind-blowing as far as the numbers go, but fuck the numbers, it’s just curious to see what people are looking at. There’s lots of line graphs and pie charts too, if you like those. And…I might…


October 27, 2020

The Clever Feat of PNG Optimization

mariteaux

A neat old PNG logo I found on the official PNG site

I’ve become mildly obsessed with how compression algorithms of various stripes work over the past year. They really do make every bit of our modern computing existence work so smoothly, from gzipping packet data to speed up slow connections to storing vast archives of high quality music on flash drives the size of a ChapStick. Some simply rearrange the data in clever ways, and others take advantage of our weak eyes and ears to throw out 90% of what was once there–and we hardly notice.

Of the lot, the humble PNG is so ubiquitous, it might not even warrant mentioning. Every format has some magic up its sleeve, however, and in the case of PNG, the way they’re encoded usually makes it possible to shrink them after the fact to the tune of up to a few megabytes with no loss in quality. If you make sites, you might wanna take notes.

I recently decided to run a battery of tests to determine just how well PNG works, on what, and what optimizes the best. I’ll give you the rundown on how it works (in-depth but no math, no worries), and then I’ll give you some hard data and lovely charts to peek at, and finally, show you how to get smaller, lighter PNGs at home, no tricks, no catches.

Tags: art, technology,

September 24, 2020

Ranking Spotify’s Top 50 Songs Named “Undone”

mariteaux

Song titles are funny. They’re usually hardly unique, and tons of bands from all across the music spectrum have songs with the exact same title. Spotify’s search is an absolutely useless landfill for this stuff; the song you want will invariably be so unpopular that 200 other identically-titled songs (and in some cases, artists and albums) will come before the one you want. Lovely.

The inspiration for this one came about when I realized I actually know three different songs with the title “Undone”: the Failure song, the Weezer song, and the Josh Joplin song. When I checked through Spotify search, it turned out to be a very popular song name indeed.

So in short, I got curious enough to add the 50 most popular ones to a playlist, listen through, and rank them. I originally wanted to do every single song on the platform named “Undone”, but that’s just not feasible. Even the top 50 was a solid three hours worth of music, and has been hell to put together.

Alas, the Joplin track didn’t make the top 50; if it did, it would’ve probably ranked at #2. Nonetheless, we’ve got a lovely mix of yeehaw music, white girl piano pop, boppy electronica, acoustic torment, Backstreet Boys, and even a few artists who might not even exist. We’re starting at the bottom here, so apologies for the rampant negativity at first. It does get better. Here we go…

Tags: music,

August 17, 2020

Vaders and Venetian Blinds: A Review of “Racing the Beam”

mariteaux

Racing the Beam cover art

I’ve said before that I don’t read a whole lot of books. Not to say I don’t have a few on my radar, it just takes me a while. Same goes for video games; I have plenty to play, but I’m usually too busy off in my own world to try them out. Given that it looks like the US will open back up some time after the heat death of the universe (read: plenty of time to myself), I’ve been trying to rectify that.

Today’s topic is one that combines both these worlds in a really curious way: meet Nick Montfort and Ian Bogost’s Racing the Beam.

Tags: 70s, technology,

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