INFODUMP No.1

I’m posting the first of the INFODUMP newsletters here, to give a vague idea of what they’ll be like. You can subscribe to the letter here

The formatting on this version may be a little screwed, due to the translation from the TinyLetter template.


Hello and welcome to the first INFODUMP. Just a reminder that you can unsubscribe to this at any time. Anything bad that happens to you immediately thereafter will be purely coincidental.

Steven Johnson wrote a book called Where Good Ideas Come From, which he summarises in a brilliant TED talk here.

That book gave me the idea for this newsletter (this is actually quite meta, which you’ll realise after you read the book). In a nutshell, the more things we’re interested in -the more hobbies we have; the wider we cast the net of our attention- the more creative we become.

Johnson talks about the role of coffee houses in the Enlightenment and how, aside from the part played by coffee itself, they became a melting pot of ideas because people from different disciplines and walks of life came together and exchanged experiences and knowledge. Social media and the internet are one big coffee house. Or lots of little ones. Either way, it’s worth sitting at a different table occasionally.

05 Walk with Soames

Saul Leiter was a New York photographer who was one of the earliest exponents of colour in street photography. His work is truly extraordinary and is worth several minutes or hours of your time. There’s a decent selection of his photographs at Lens Culture and a really great book, the text of which is in French but the colour reproductions are beautiful. Saul was a fashion photographer by trade and his street photography was only discovered just before he died. There’s a documentary called In No Great Hurry that follows him around New York and has him talking about his work and that’s a great way to spend a couple of hours too.

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The Strange is a tabletop role-playing game set across a series of alternate universes, known as “recursions”. What this basically means is that you can start off in the “real world” of The Strange and then take your characters through a portal into Dungeons and Dragons or Call of Cthulhu or Traveller or Paranoia and amend the rules of those games on the fly, thanks to some amazing work that The Strange’s creator, Monte Cook, has done in authoring a translation system that makes any other game world work within The Strange’s game syntax.

I’m super-interested in role-playing games at the moment. This may be the world’s nerdiest mid-life crisis but I’m also connecting it to work in a really interesting way – I’m going to write a post for the website over the next week or so about character creation in role-playing games and the amazing effects it can have on story if you apply the same methods to fiction.

What’s next? Oh! Rave Coffee will deliver the most amazing coffee from all over the worldm roasted at their place in Cirencester, to your door overnight. It’s about £13 for a kilo, which is super-cheap considering how great their stuff is. Anyway, it’s alway worth knowing about good coffee.

Roko’s Basilisk is a thing. I can’t talk about it on here for reasons that will become clear (or, frankly, not) when you read the article. If you do read the article, however, it will be too late for you not to know this and it may be better not to know. The choice is yours. I’d like to write a film about it but that just seems like it would be asking for trouble…

If you want to read something nicer, try The Pool, the new web venture by Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne. It’s a magazine site for women by women and it’s the best designed thing online bar none. It only launched yesterday but already loads has been written about its functionality and design so I won’t retread that ground here. What I would highlight, though, is the tone of the site; it’s smart and witty but there’s no snark there and that’s very unusual on such sites. In a Huff Post interview today, Lauren said that when they got together, she and Sam decided that instead of moaning about the state of online media, they’d build the thing they were missing and they’ve really done that.

I’m on the waiting list for Proton Mail, an encrypted email system developed at CERN, which looks like it might become a thing. I don’t have any great secrets to protect but, given that email is the electronic equivalent of writing on a postcard and given the recent shenanigans at Sony, it may well be that it’s not just NSA whistleblowers and spies who’ll need encryption soon.

You should TOTALLY check out the Dunno app for your Mac, iPhone and iPad. It’s been invaluable in writing this – anytime you think of something you want to know more about, you tap it into Dunno and it creates a list of these things with the associated web searches and links which are then synced to all your devices. It’s basically like a next-gem note-taker or to do list.

This letter is already way longer than I expected it to be, possibly because I haven’t yet got the hang of brevity – it’ll happen. I’ll leave you with some stuff to listen to. There’s an album coming out in June by Aero Flynn, which is amazing and you can hear some bits of it HERE. There’s a new San Fermin album coming out next month but, if you don’t already have it, their debut is RIDICULOUSLY good and you must own it immediately.

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And of course there’s the new Sweet Billy Pilgrim album, Motorcade Amnesiacs out next month too and you can listen to the first song released on it by clicking HERE.

I’m done typing now. Let me know if any of this stuff was useful or interesting. If it was, let other people know about it too. They can sign up for the letter at juliansimpson.uk. I’m going to post this letter on the site too, as a one-off just so people can get an idea of what to expect a shorter version of next time. I’m pretty sure by issue 3, this will just be a title saying “some shit i like” and a bunch of links…

Fuck it, send.