Periodical — 6

Good morning. It is very early. Since daylight savings, my youngest has been awake an hour or two earlier than usual and thinks the rest of us should be as well. He’s seated next to me right now, wrapped in several blankets and watching a video about helicopters.

Some of my colleagues are people with whom I’ve worked for twenty years. That’s a long time. You get to know a person. They change. You get to know them again. You do that over and over again and then you really get to know them — the true, core person. Plenty of people find that hard enough to contend with among family; the notion of generation-long working relationship probably sounds, well, incomprehensible. Of course, it comes with its challenges. There are conflicts. Hopefully, you work through them. The reward is learning how to truly work with a person. When you know them, you can sell them an idea. Their voice stays in your head. You observe other ways of thinking and doing. They help you see things in yourself that you would never see alone.

This is a season for gratitude, and I am grateful for shared history.

A few weeks ago, the New York Times Style Magazine had a short capsule piece listing out things a well-known designer wishes he’d created himself. I love the idea. I’ve been thinking of a few things I have admired and continue to envy creatively.

Here’s one:

Thanks to the Wayback Machine, I can revisit the Hyperkit website as I first saw it twenty years ago.

I started regularly visiting Hyperkit’s website sometime in 2003, which was not long after it started taking the form that caught me by surprise and impressed me: it was a long, sequential list of short visual entries — updates, work samples, and visual inspiration — which sounds like the dominant form of every blog that has crowded the web since. But this one — this one scrolled horizontally! I directly ripped it off when designing a website that I maintained at the time and have never been able to let go of the love I had for the long, wide Hyperkit of the early aughts, even though they have. Sadly, they went vertical at some point and haven’t turned back. But I still admire them, their practice, and their work.

Another object of my creative envy is Jerry Gretzinger’s map.

I suspect that someone will “discover” Jerry Gretzinger someday, long after he’s passed on, and someone else will ask the right question: How is it that an artist working at the height of the internet era, making a life’s work that is in direct conversation with the way technology terraforms land and memory, remained so unknown? I first saw a short video about Jerry’s map almost fifteen years ago, and have re-watched that video dozens of times since.

The map astounds me. The method Jerry follows to make it inspires me. The questions it asks about the nature of reality, technology, free-will, and the tinyness of life will haunt me for the rest of my life.

Finally, I just began learning about the work of Pacita Abad, a Philippine abstract painter who made some of the most vibrant and stunning images I have ever seen.

There is a lovely video about Pacita featured among many others on her website.

And there are so many other things I could list. In fact, after reading that brief piece in the Times, I made a list of about 15 other things that I wish I had made. Perhaps I’ll write about the rest of them in a coming Periodical.

I’ve been receiving many lovely emails since I started this experiment, which I must admit is unexpected. Each one of them feels like my bottle has washed back up on the shore of my lonely island with a new message in it. I’m encouraged that the “old tech” of the internet — email, html, rss — can still do what it was meant to do — connect people all over the world — and do it well. It’s worth remembering that the internet is a social network. So reach out and say hi! I will faithfully reply every time.

Written by Christopher Butler on November 24, 2023,   In Log

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