Archæology

The assorted finds of Artefact Publishing

October 31, 2002

The Pickle King

Last night I went with Jeremy and Anna to see The Pickle king. It is an excellent play, funny and thoughtful, and I would gladly see it again.

There is a magical quality to live theatre that is compelling: every time I go to a concert or a play, I resolve to go to such performances more frequently. In theatre, more so than in (classical) concerts, it is clear to everyone that what is happening is an act of creation, unique as all such acts are. The spirit of the performance is only truly apprehended by those immediately engaged in the performance, which includes the audience.

I can only imagine how intense it must be for the actors to have created, prepared for and performed this show, wherein each actor plays multiple parts, distinguished by costume and masks and, of course, everything involved in acting. How wonderful it must be to be involved in such a project!

Regarding the masks and multiple parts per actor, I think this play (and, presumably, the earlier plays in the trilogy which I sadly missed) demonstrates that these factors are no great impediment to distinctive and powerful characterisations. If only more productions of ancient Greek theatre would come to Wellington.

Posted by jamie at 18:45+13:00 | Comments (0) | Permalink

October 29, 2002

Aesthetic names

Why is Metatron, particularly as used in Philip Pullman’s The amber spyglass, a terrible name? In that book it’s at least in roughly the right context, if adapted to fit the fictional universe presented and Pullman’s slant on religion. Is it that it too closely resembles words thrown together in bad sci-fi creations (Good omens, by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, has a scene where Metatron is mistaken for Megatron from Transformers)? Whatever the reason, information about the real Metatron is readily available on the net. Two pieces I looked at are Who is Metatron? and an excerpt from a book on Kabbalah.

I pick on this judgment of the name because I am rereading Tom Shippey’s The road to Middle-Earth, wherein he talks extensively about Tolkien’s use of language and names, and the care he took in choosing them to suit his purposes. Tolkien had a theory of an aesthetics of sounds, so that some sense and a definite style could be made of a song presented to readers only in a language unknown to them. Perhaps it is lucky for him (and for his readers today, particularly!) that he used tongues which haven’t since been plundered for choice words, and invented also his own.

Posted by jamie at 11:08+13:00 | Comments (2) | Permalink

October 25, 2002

Unusual sights

There it was, chugging slowly across a major road and into a petrol station, the engine from the toy locomotive which traverses the waterfront filled with young children.

Later there were two cyclists, both in suits and one carrying a single golf club.

Earlier, something I didn’t see but wish I had: the दीपावली मेला (dīpāvalī melā or Festival of Lights).

Posted by jamie at 18:41+13:00 | Comments (0) | Permalink

October 20, 2002

Dreaming Web update

I have now made public the majority of the Dreaming Web entries. These are drafts and notes and are often not up to date with my current thinking on the subject, as I’ve been sitting on them for far too long. These disclaimers aside, I think they provide enough information to be useful to those who enjoy this sort of world development.

My next main aim with this project is to get my latest thinking down in the entries, as I believe I’ve finally arrived at an understanding of the Changeling universe that won’t substantially change on further reflection of some of the difficult questions of the setting.

Posted by jamie at 19:31+13:00 | Comments (0) | Permalink

October 17, 2002

No interim measures

Overheard today:

Guy 1―And the stereo got nicked. He’d left the doors unlocked.

Guy 2―Tsk tsk tsk.

It made me realise, once again, just how we accept a certain reality and change our actions and judgments based on that. The accepted reality in this instance is that theft will occur if one does not take precautions, and that it is therefore reasonable to blame in part the victim of the theft if s/he does not take those precautions. (This sort of thinking underlies the entire insurance industry, of course.)

Live as though the day were here, as Nietzsche apparently said (found quoted in Joseph Campbell’s Hero with a thousand faces). Is it reasonable to expect the world to become a place where locking doors is not considered necessary to prevent theft, if we keep our doors locked? It’s an interim measure, I hear some of you cry (others think, no doubt, that the world will never become such a place, irrespective of what we do). But interim measures are never interim, in my experience. Rather, they come to be considered, if they are any good at all, the solution to the problem — and if they aren’t any good, a new interim measure is put in its place.

This is why the first principle of Artefact Publishing is to do the right thing, from the beginning. Address the real problem, and work to fix it, and do not be distracted from this by any meantimes.

Posted by jamie at 18:38+13:00 | Comments (0) | Permalink

October 15, 2002

HTML authoring

My brother Michael has commented that I’m an author who really knows how to lay out a web-page. It’s nice to see that either he or someone else later checked the validity of the HTML used on the main page. Of course, there’s far, far more to good HTML than simple validity, as valid markup is not necessarily meaningful markup. I spent a long while last week changing all of the Movable Type templates to use fewer divs and spans and more headings and paragraphs and lists. The stylesheet also got made over, mostly by removing large amounts of fairly redundant stuff and not using pixel units for anything.

Does that mean this site might look weird in browsers with really buggy CSS support? Well, yes, but then those browsers have really buggy CSS support and that’s not my problem. Unlike the Web Standards Project, however, I don’t intend to hand out upgrade advice to users who are probably all too familiar with the shortcomings of their browser. And while they may point out that it can be a good idea to hide these messages from good browsers such as Lynx, a lot of sites don’t (and their suggested method of achieving this uses the IFRAME element, which is not part of the X/HTML strict DTD). This irritates me as a user, and so I don’t do it as an author.

As a side gripe, the W3C is not a standards body, and HTML4 and CSS2 are not standards. While the Web Standards Project are aware of this, they’re happy to go with de facto standards, whatever objections others may raise.

Posted by jamie at 09:42+13:00 | Comments (0) | Permalink

October 14, 2002

Changeling Registry Update

I have started writing the schema documentation for the next version of the Changeling: the Dreaming Database Registry. There’s a primitive schema diagram available, currently showing only the major tables. There will end up being many more.

I created the diagram using the schema tool in pgaccess which doesn’t do automatic foreign key relations, nor does it allow one to specify relation type (one to many, one to one, etc). I don’t know whether this will be added to the next release. In the meantime, is there another tool which will give better results?

Posted by jamie at 19:42+13:00 | Comments (0) | Permalink

October 13, 2002

Playing with type

Yesterday Jeremy, Anna, Sarah and I went to Feilding to spend an afternoon at Homeprint. Almost all of John and Allison’s house is given over to printing presses, trays of lead and wood type, binding tools, and much more besides — it’s a dream. I laid out a short sampler in different sizes of Goudy lead type, and a rather old wooden block ornament, and printed off a few copies on the Pearl handfed clamshell press (the Improved Pearl). Beautiful.

John has a philosophy towards the materials of his studio that I wholly approve of. He realised that he had so much stuff that he would be dead before he could personally use all of it — and so he unstintingly allows others to use anything in their own projects.

It is easy to see why the printing press was an agent of massive change. Even though the process of laying out and setting type is slow (much slower than writing, even using medieval instruments), that is obviously offset completely by the capacity to make numerous copies. So while these presses may seem antiquated in this age of digital everything, I come at it from the perspective of having written a (non-calligraphic) copy of a twelfth century manuscript of Boethius’s De institutione musica. This took a good chunk of time, and of course I made precisely the scribal errors that I was studying!

As always happens when I am faced with a mechanical device, I marvel at the ingenuity that went into devising it, the skill required in its crafting, and the implicit goal that it is meant to last. Then there is the frequent ornamentation, the understanding that tools can be beautiful. It reminds me of a mechanical watch that was shown on an episode of Antiques Roadshow, the insides of which were marvellously decorated, though they would never be seen in the usual course of events.

Posted by jamie at 10:23+13:00 | Comments (1) | Permalink

October 11, 2002

Changeling Register Update

The next incarnation of the Changeling: the Dreaming Database Registry is slowly coming together. There is a basic framework in place which separates the presentation (currently HTML templates) from the dynamic content generation logic (figuring out what is needed) from the database work (getting the content). The database schema is unfinished, but I believe I know how to best capture everything — at some point I shall write up some documentation of why it is the way it is. Not only is it fundamental to being able to use and understand the application, but it’s a reflection of my views on Changeling metaphysics. In the absence of a publicly available Dreaming Web, this would be the only place to find out about the fundamental nature of my Changeling universe.

There’s still much to do, of course. There’s a potentially large amount of information which is associated with, for example, a single changeling, and just finding ways to clearly present this information may be challenging. I’m also convinced that a web interface is not going to cut it for adding and modifying content. The nature of the thing (particularly making HTTP requests to do anything) makes it unsuited to quickly associating an arbitrary number of pieces of information with each other. For example, a changeling may have sworn thirty oaths in its lifetime, lived in numerous freeholds, been lord to several other changelings, etc etc.

The documentation is definitely needed!

[Edit on October 14 2002: There is now some schema documentation available.]

Posted by jamie at 17:26+13:00 | Comments (0) | Permalink