Hello there 🙂
Welcome to issue thirty one of Manufacturing Serendipity, a loosely connected, somewhat rambling collection of the unexpected things I’ve recently encountered.
This newsletter is free to receive, but if you’d like to support me in this odd little endeavour you can buy me a coffee 🙂
Speaking of coffee, grab yourself a suitable beverage my loves, let’s do this thing…
Part I: Things I’ve Encountered Online…
I feel like I’ve been aware of the Pantone Color Institute’s color of the year for at least ten years (or possibly longer). But I don’t recall the supporting copy for said color of the year ever being quite so extra:
Displaying a carefree confidence and a daring curiosity that animates our creative spirit, inquisitive and intriguing PANTONE 17-3938 Very Peri helps us to embrace this altered landscape of possibilities, opening us up to a new vision as we rewrite our lives. Rekindling gratitude for some of the qualities that blue represents complemented by a new perspective that resonates today, PANTONE 17-3938 Very Peri places the future ahead in a new light.
We are living in transformative times. PANTONE 17-3938 Very Peri is a symbol of the global zeitgeist of the moment and the transition we are going through. As we emerge from an intense period of isolation, our notions and standards are changing, and our physical and digital lives have merged in new ways. Digital design helps us to stretch the limits of reality, opening the door to a dynamic virtual world where we can explore and create new color possibilities. With trends in gaming, the expanding popularity of the metaverse and rising artistic community in the digital space PANTONE 17-3938 Very Peri illustrates the fusion of modern life and how color trends in the digital world are being manifested in the physical world and vice versa.
“As we move into a world of unprecedented change the selection of PANTONE 17-3938 Very Peri brings a novel perspective and vision of the trusted and beloved blue color family, encompassing the quality of the blues, yet at the same time with its violet red undertone, PANTONE 17-3938 Very Peri displays a spritely, joyous attitude and dynamic presence that encourages courageous creativity and imaginative expressions.” ~ Leatrice Eiseman, Executive Director of the Pantone Color Institute.
“The Pantone Color of the Year reflects what is taking place in our global culture, expressing what people are looking for that color can hope to answer.” added Laurie Pressman, Vice President of the Pantone Color Institute. “Creating a new color for the first time in the history of our Pantone Color of the Year educational color program reflects the global innovation and transformation taking place. As society continues to recognize color as a critical form of communication, and a way to express and affect ideas and emotions and engage and connect, the complexity of this new red violet infused blue hue highlights the expansive possibilities that lay before us”.
Dear reader this copy is not from the Onion.
According to their website, the Pantone Color Institute are based in Ashford, Kent, and so I decided to drive over and see what was what.
To the best of my recollection, here’s how it went down:
Leatrice and Laurie, I’m worried my loves. Are you ok? Can I get you something? Maybe we should open a window in here, I feel like maybe the fumes have got to you a little.
Laurie is unresponsive, Leatrice is murmuring…
What did you say Leatrice?
You created PANTONE 17-3938 Very Peri by crushing your hopes and dreams in a pestle and mortar, at midnight, on a full moon, whilst burning sage and praying to an effigy of our heroic space bro overlords Bezos, Musk, and Branson?
Is that your usual process? Right… Seems legit.
What’s that? You forgot to honour Mark Zuckerberg?! Shit a brick. What happened?
Suddenly the air was filled with screeching and Zuck appeared? Was he angry? Yeah, I know it’s hard to tell, you’re right, he mainly just looks a little waxy.
What happened next? Leatrice? Leatrice? Stay with me, talk to me… Oh my God, Leatrice! Laurie – I need a little help here… Laurie? LAURIE?!
[Scene fades to black]
Dear reader I’m not entirely sure what happened next. Possibly I was overcome by the fumes too.
When I came around I was back in my own flat. The walls and ceilings had been daubed with Very Peri. Possibly I did this myself, but I don’t recall doing so.
I can report that Pantone 17-3938 is very inquisitive indeed. My walls and ceiling are relentless in their questioning of my life choices, (which is frankly getting more than a little tiresome).
However, thus far, it appears that the claims that Pantone 17-3938 “encourages personal inventiveness and creativity”; and “highlights the expansive possibilities that lay before us” are utterly unsubstantiated. Since finding myself surrounded by this colour I just feel a bit defensive, and over-tired.
I’ve written to the ASA, but have yet to receive a response.
Moar serendipitous finds:
In last week’s edition I spoke a bunch about the tyranny of the Gregorian calendar, so I was delighted to read this story of attempted calendar reform by Jill Lepore.
“No one has ever really been able to topple the seven-day week. French revolutionaries tried to institute a ten-day week. Bolsheviks aimed for a five-day week. No one tried harder than Miss Elisabeth Achelis, a New York socialite, heir to the American Hard Rubber Company fortune, and an admirer of Melvil Dewey, he of the Dewey decimal system and simplified spelling.
Achelis advocated a different calendar, “simplified and steadfast,” as she described it, “for everybody’s use.” It was based on a scheme first proposed in the eighteen-thirties, by an Italian priest, and she found it beautiful.
Achelis endorsed a calendar of twelve months made up of four equal quarters of thirteen weeks, or ninety-one days. “Each year begins on Sunday, January 1,” she explained; “every quarter begins on a Sunday, and ends on a Saturday. Every year is comparable to every other year; and what is of utmost importance, days and dates always agree.” If you were born on a Friday, your birthday would always fall on a Friday.
Achelis valued years, and cherished days. She did not admire weeks: “It’s very disturbing to have five Saturdays in one month every now and then.” In her view, “a new and better world cannot be built on a calendar with its faulty pattern of yesterday.” She wanted each year to be the same, the seven-day week be damned.”
Sadly not everyone shared her view:
“[Achelis’] World Calendar created new days: Year-End Day, Leap-Year Day, extra Saturdays in December and June. Once every year and twice every four years, in other words, the World Calendar had an eight-day week. If adopted, it would have thrown out of whack the seventh-day Sabbath of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, as the League for Safeguarding the Fixity of the Sabbath Against Possible Encroachment by Calendar Reform explained.”
Dear reader, it speaks volumes that opposition to Achelis’ calendar was so great that an organisation was formed called: “the League for Safeguarding the Fixity of the Sabbath Against Possible Encroachment by Calendar Reform*”.
Obviously Achelis did not manage to reform the calendar, our days and dates continue to disagree. But I’m enjoying imagining the far more ordered reality we might be living in, had her calendar won out.
*Had I been part of said organisation I feel like I would have lobbied hard for a catchier name.
“The Dad Thriller was a genre of movie made by Hollywood studios in the 1990s, marketed mainly to men and presented sincerely if not always accurately as intelligent and sophisticated entertainment.
The Dad Thriller draws on courtroom dramas, spy movies, the conspiracy thrillers of the 1970s, and the action blockbusters of the 1980s. (See Fig. 1.)”
How do you know if you’re watching a Dad Thriller?
Read has provided a handy checklist:
- Is Harrison Ford in the movie?
- Is the director Philip Noyce?
- Is there a satellite uplink?
- Is a key plot point a guy trying to get on the phone with the right guy to give him the correct information?
- Is there a shadowy cabal of lawyers and/or corporate executives?
- Is an American or English actor playing a current or former Irish Republican terrorist and attempting an unconvincing Irish accent?
- Is the main bad guy motivated by money? If he is motivated by ideology, are his politics incomprehensible and unrecognizable?
- Is the advice or warning of the movie’s hero going unheeded by feckless bureaucrats?
- Is the main bad guy a former Soviet military commander?
- Is there a tense but ultimately productive exchange about race between a black guy and a white guy who are forced by circumstance to work together?
- Is the movie’s hero obligated to go undertake a dangerous mission despite being an analyst, not field personnel?
Despite never having watched the vast majority of these films, I nevertheless really enjoyed Read’s take on the 90s Dad Thriller, and fully appreciate this rabbit hole he’s tumbled down.
This is a wonderful article from Cory Doctorow:
“In truth, Luddism and science fiction concern themselves with the same questions: not merely what the technology does, but who it does it for and who it does it to.”
I loved reading my wonderful friend Areej’s reflections and learnings from building the Women in Tech SEO community. Something which particularly resonated with me (despite me not running a community of any sort) was this:
“7) If something stops being fun, stop working on it
When you’re growing a community, especially one that’s a passion project and isn’t your full-time job – if something stops being fun, you need to reassess whether it’s worth working on. I love working on Women in Tech SEO initiatives. Every time I have a new idea, or I’m about to launch a new initiative or I’m sharing an update with the community, whatever it might be, it gives me energy: positive and happy energy.
But every now and then, I find myself rethinking a project I’m working on and whether I want to continue working on it. The second this happens, my gut feeling tells me that this isn’t something I should continue working on. There are different reasons why this could happen. The project doesn’t feel fulfilling, the initiative doesn’t feel useful, the people you’ve partnered up with are draining you, the list goes on.
Whatever it could be, you need to assess whether it’s worth continuing.”
I think this is great advice for anyone working on a passion project of any sort.
To my mind, passion projects should give you energy; not sap it. I’m in no way suggesting you should completely abandon a passion project at the first sign of discomfort (and neither is Areej), but if something you’re working on isn’t fulfilling you in the way you’d hoped, it’s likely time to take a step back and assess whether or not you need to change things up a little.
Part II: Books I’m Reading Right Now
I read a bunch of books over Christmas (too many to list), so I’m just going to tell you about the ones I loved.
First up, Rag and Bone: A History of What We’ve Thrown Away by Lisa Woollett. Woollett has spent large portions of her life combing beaches and mudlarking, collecting the many and varied things we’ve thrown away – everything from Roman tiles, to the free toys from boxes of cereal. In this book she takes a series of walks from the Thames to the Kentish estuary, and reveals the story of our changing consumer culture. It is absolutely fascinating and I’d highly recommend getting your mitts on a copy.
On Christmas morning I woke up ridiculously early and spent a delightful couple of hours poring through B – A Year in Plagues & Pencils by Edward Carey. In March 2020 as lockdowns were imposed around the world, author and illustrator Edward Carey posted a sketch on social media. He promised to keep on posting a sketch every day until life returned to normal. One hundred and fifty Tombow B pencil stubs later, he was still drawing. This book is a collection of all of his sketches, plus some of his thoughts during this time, and it’s wonderful.
I devoured Matrix by Lauren Groff, where the life of Marie de France (a 12th century poet) is reimagined in this novel about female ambition and creativity. Almost nothing is known about the real Marie de France, we have her collection of Breton lais, and translations of Aesop’s fables, but not much else. It is thought that she lived in England, (although she came from northern France), and whilst her writing gives no indication that she belonged to a religious house, she has been tentatively identified with Mary, abbess of Shaftesbury. Groff takes these hints, and in this novel imagines for Marie a long and full life as a visionary leader, queer lover, writer and mother, or “matrix”, to a community of women. Even if historical novels aren’t typically your bag, I think you’ll really like this one.
Finally, I savoured two illustrated novels: The Electric State, and The Labyrinth by Simon Stalenhag. Whilst they are two very different stories, both concern dystopian futures and feature his incredible artwork (I’ve previously written about Stalenhag’s work here). Clearly these books won’t be for everyone, but I absolutely loved them.
Part III: Things I’ve Been Watching
Dear reader, the things which I have been watching are all a bit blurry, mostly due to my continued propensity to fall asleep in front of the TV.
I really enjoyed The Chestnut Man, (Netflix), a six-part Danish crime drama. It’s been rightly criticised for leaving little space for the characters themselves – this thing is entirely plot-driven, and it’s arguably overly neat and storybook in execution. However, it’s shot beautifully and I found it far more compelling and satisfying than the Harlan Cobenadaptations that Netflix keep spewing out.
I also watched Don’t Look Up, (Netflix). Whilst I broadly agree with Charles Bramesco’s assessment: “Adam McKay’s celeb-packed Netflix comedy aims to be a farcical warning of climate change but broad potshots and a smug superiority tanks his message…”; it was also just too damn long.
Two hours and twenty five minutes have never felt so long. I feel like it could, and should (like so many films right now), have been delivered in ninety minutes. Ugh.
Part IV: What I’ve been up to…
100 Good Things
Poor scissor control & bad at glue
I made my first collage. I learned that I have poor scissor control, and that I am bad at glue. It was fun to do though.
Finishing my short story
Ugh. I have not done this. I also know that I’m not going to get a chance to do this in the next fortnight. I’m hoping to get this done in the next month or so.
Trying out a Four-Day Work Week in January
You may recall that I spent December trying out a four-day work week; and had planned to do this in January too. I’m sorry to report that my attempts have faltered somewhat. This is largely because I’m taking next week off (more details below), and I’ve not been able to cram all the things I need to do into a four-day work week. I will however be more strict with myself when I’m back from my break, and I’ll let you know how it goes.
Flash fiction writing course
All things being well, I will be attending this residential flash fiction course next week, and I am beyond excited about it. I promise to send you one of the stories I write on the course, in the next edition of this newsletter.
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