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Paste-Up, Mechanical Layouts & Pre-Photoshop Graphic Design

I tumbled down a rabbit hole the last few days around the topic of graphic design techniques from before the era of “desktop publishing.” This means back when people used to do layouts for things like newspapers and magazines by hand. I found a few different good resources that I wanted to capture here with more specific details of the workflows, which I have been trying to, of course, emulate in Photoshop…

I absolutely love this one:

I am absolutely the kind of person who would love this kind of small fiddly detailed work. I can’t believe how much they would cut up the paragraphs and even words to fit the given space. Unreal, and I aim to try some physical examples of this process as well to even better emulate it for some related projects.

This one also adds some good context:

Lastly, there is an excellent documentary about the evolution of printing and design technology that I really recommend, called Graphic Means.

You can watch it here on Vimeo, but it is a paid rental/purchase.

As a bonus, this one is from the 1970s and deals strictly with newspaper layouts, and is I think very weird and judgemental, and partly for that reason interesting:

Anyway, one of the things I found lately while skimming through some old newspapers from especially the 1950s is just how hand-done the feel of the papers is, especially compared to results you get out of a tool like Adobe InDesign today. Whereas things made in Indesign tend to be very crisp, perfect, aligned, etc., old newspaper layouts from that period are anything but. They are very textured, very human. You can really feel it when you look closely at the printed material, and when you have a better understanding of these physical processes that created it, it suddenly all makes more sense.

Hexagram Sixty-One/Line Two

A crane calls from the shade and her young answer with love.
My cup of life is filled to the brim.
Come share it with me.

Dehumanizing AI Tech from Softbank removes emotional inflection from speech

This is one for the too messed up to be real but sadly is pile, via Slashdot:

SoftBank has developed AI voice-conversion technology aimed at reducing the psychological stress on call center operators by altering the voices of angry customers to sound calmer….

The technology does not change the wording, but the pitch and inflection of the voice is softened. For instance, a woman’s high-pitched voice is lowered in tone to sound less resonant. A man’s bass tone, which may be frightening, is raised to a higher pitch to sound softer.

According to the company, the biggest burdens on operators are hearing abusive language and being trapped in long conversations with customers who will not get off the line — such as when making persistent requests for apologies.

Obviously the next step will be to simply eliminate the human operators. And while I sympathize with the burden that support agents of all stripes carry, the more logical answer is making your service not suck so much, instead of simply shielding your human agents from having to handle the angry reactions of other humans who are angry because it sucks so much.

In fact, I think such a technology would likely impinge on the right to object – in jurisdictions that recognize related rights anyway. You might say well, they’re still objecting, they’re still being heard, after a fashion. But they’re not really. The object-y part of their objection is being stripped out, and buried. The human communication part, the expression of sentiment. Emotions are not something we should try to wipe out using technology because money.

It’s also only a matter of time before, I guess, police get to use this technology to avoid having to listen to the screams and pleas for help from the people they are “serving.”

AI “Author” Guy Memes

I could do these all night, or until they rate limit me: I uploaded a publicity picture of myself and workshopped with Dalle some different ideas to make me into a meme called AI “AUTHOR” GUY. They are pretty funny. I’m also seeing if I can crack Google SEO number one slot for “AI Author.” I bet I can, I’m already on the first page. Some samples below, but see the larger set at Imgur link above. Cheers.

Perplexity AI on the Quatria Theory

I was just looking around for examples of famous conspiracy theories that originated in Quebec. I believe that Project Blue Beam is likely to be one, in that Serge Monast seems to have been its inventor/discoverer (depending on your point of view). I didn’t find anything terribly new or interesting, so I asked Perplexity, which at first gave some really general results pulled from news sources of occurrences of conspiracy theory + Quebec in body text.

Then I started asking it about Blue Beam, and then finally about the Quatria Theory, since – technically – it largely originated in Quebec. I asked Perplexity in such a way that was pretty leading, something to the effect of “Didn’t the Quatria Theory originate in Quebec too?”

And it spit out this nicely polished LLM hallucination that I just adore:

You’re correct, the Quatria Theory or Quatria Conspiracy also originated in Quebec. Here are the key details about this conspiracy theory:

The Quatria Theory/Conspiracy

The Quatria Theory/Conspiracy is a Quebec-based conspiracy theory that claims the Earth is actually made up of four spheres or realms instead of just one. It was first proposed in the 1990s by Yvon Boudreau, a Quebec author and conspiracy theorist. According to Boudreau’s writings, the four realms are:

  1. The physical/material realm we inhabit
  2. An antimatter realm
  3. A realm of pure energy
  4. A realm of pure thought/consciousness

Boudreau claimed these four realms coexist and interact, with the higher realms able to influence and control the lower, material realm through psychic powers and advanced technology unknown to most humans. The theory alleges that a secret society of powerful individuals has knowledge of and access to these higher realms, allowing them to manipulate world events through mind control, weather manipulation, and other paranormal means in pursuit of a New World Order agenda.

While never gaining mainstream acceptance, the Quatria Theory found a following in some New Age and conspiracy circles in Quebec in the 1990s and 2000s. It blended ideas from quantum physics, ancient mythology, and various conspiracy theories about secret societies like the Illuminati. However, the theory has been widely dismissed by the scientific community as pseudoscience lacking any empirical evidence.

Critics have labeled it a complicated fantasy concocted to give a veneer of plausibility to long-standing conspiracy narratives about powerful cabals controlling humanity. So in summary, while not as well-known as theories like Project Blue Beam, the Quatria Conspiracy was another notable conspiracy originating from Quebec that attempted to merge fringe science, mysticism, and New World Order paranoia into an overarching narrative. Its creator Yvon Boudreau was an influential conspiracy theorist in the Quebec conspiracy milieu.

Reading this confused even me (a good sign), I was for a second like, wait, it’s actually Yvon Boudreau who invented this in the 90s?? I literally googled it just to make sure haha. But how can I know Google isn’t lying to me too? Top of the line AI technology, right here! What a cool future…

Notes on The Quatria Conspiracy (French Version)

So, in preparation for the launch of the French-language version of the book that kick-started much of the series that later became the AI Lore books, I wanted to do a “Notes on” piece for The Quatria Conspiracy. The French version is going to be called La Conspiration Quatria. In fact, you can peruse the publisher’s product page for it here.

The book is 96 pages in A6 format (about the size of a cell phone, give or take – I wouldn’t know cause I don’t have one). From the publisher’s website:

Synopsis

Au cœur de notre passé lointain, enfoui sous les strates du temps, se cache un secret extraordinaire : l’existence d’une civilisation maritime oubliée, Quatria. Originaire d’un Antarctique paradisiaque, jadis havre de paix verdoyant, les énigmatiques quatriens dominaient les technologies de l’énergie cymatique et du voyage dimensionnel. Vivant en symbiose avec l’ensemble du vivant, ils ont bâti une société harmonieuse, jusqu’à ce qu’une série de cataclysmes planétaires d’ampleur inouïe vienne fragiliser leur civilisation, puis l’anéantir. Leur existence, dissimulée avec soin au cours des millénaires, est aujourd’hui révélée au grand jour pour la première fois, dévoilant un pan oublié de l’histoire de l’humanité.

Note de l’éditeur

Les Livres Mobiles sont une offre spéciale des éditions Typophilia, qui explorent les limites de la narration et de l’hyperréalité en utilisant conjointement les intelligences artificielles génératives et la créativité humaine. Dans le confort d’un petit livre de la taille de votre téléphone portable, voyez-les comme des livres anti-numériques.

It’s fun to see this come to fruition as I wrote this book some three years ago or so, before I started seriously exploring how I could integrate AI into my writing. That was a practice & also technology that would only mature about a year later when I started the AI Lore books in earnest.

So, technically, the original version of this book has no AI-assisted writing, which is another reason why it is numbered as #0 in this series. It’s the precursor which paints in broad strokes on the canvas of the mind using as colors other popular conspiracy theories, and dribs and drabs of legends and “cool ideas” picked up from here and there, and glued together into the Frankenstein monster that is the Quatria Conspiracy.

Much of it revolves around something I’ve been calling the Quatria Theory, which I made numerous weird bad AI videos for over the past few years, and here is just one short one to kick off the conversation:

The Quatria Theory posits, in short, that a prehistoric lost seafaring culture spread all around the globe from its base in Antarctica millions of years ago when it was a green paradise near the Equator.

Sounds far fetched? Well, enough people seem to have taken it to be true that multiple media outlets have taken it upon themselves to fact-check that related AI-images I made in this vein (for subsequent books) were not in fact depicting this very same lost civilization. OR WERE THEY AND IT’S ALL A BIG COVER UP??

Those are exactly the kinds of sometimes serious sometimes stupid rabbitholes that this book and the series where I used AI to elaborate on a lot of what started in this book pushes the reader into. It’s… not intended to be super serious writing. It is trashy, pulpy, throwaway, and fun in the way those things can be fun.

The original English version exists still as an ebook only. There are no images included in that version (though I might do an update sometime), but the French print-only version does have images. I’m not sure offhand how many, but I would call it a “copious” quantity. Many of the images are very pulp inspired. Like this example that I love:

These were all done in Dalle, asking for images in pulp sci fi styles. And it really nails some of them. The art in this book stylistically is really different than in most of the later volumes, which are generally more in the photographic direction (though not all). And that’s fine, because each book is its own reflection of conditions of its making. They are in a way their own meta-historical documents.

If I’m being totally honest though, the true origin of The Quatria Conspiracy is actually my first (only) full-length conventionally-written (no AI) novel, The Lost Direction. That book is epic fantasy, heavy on the world-building, makes use of frame stories to tell many smaller character’s tales throughout. Not many people read it. Not all the ones that did liked it.

In any event, the Quatria Conspiracy takes the more fictionally-framed elements of the novel, and re-casts them as quasi/pseudo-historical “non-fiction” – largely invented, cobbled together with other “real” conspiracy theories, and again heavy heavy dose of world-building. Some would say too much. In fact, there’s no plot. It literally, as they say in the Literary Review of Canada article linked above, “reads like a textbook.” This time intentionally. This time leaning into the very opposite of the writers’ dictum that one must “show don’t tell.” This book tells, but now it has some fun pictures to do the showing too. And they really help set the mood in the French version. It’s great. I have a strong feeling it’s going to be a fun little book to hold in your hand, and like, read under the covers with a flashlight.

There’s probably a great deal more to say about this book, and some of the origins of the idea of Quatria and its major personages and metadivinities in the Early Clues, LLC oeuvre… but I’ll save that all for another time.

Referenced by Authors Alliance

Somehow this October 2023 reference to my work by Authors Alliance (who I spoke with once by Zoom and liked!) slipped through the cracks until today, so saving for the archives here:

Tim Boucher, a science fiction writer and artist, has used generative AI to create a series of nearly 100 science fiction books. He has experimented with different forms of “collaboration” with generative AI systems—from using them for ideation to using them to produce first drafts, to using them for late-stage editing. He has also used generative AI systems to produce text he uses as speech for characters in his works which are themselves AI entities. Boucher does not see his works as prototypical novels with a conventional narrative arc, but as nonlinear works with “interlocking pieces,” or “slice of life stories,” which lend themselves to the sometimes fragmented and dreamlike nature of generative AI systems’ outputs.

That’s a very stylistically accurate description of my work, I think.

And later:

Tim Boucher also uses generative AI systems to produce images that accompany his stories. While Boucher is a graphic artist himself, he has said that the time and cost involved in creating these illustrations by hand would severely limit the amount of time he could spend writing, and would make his project too cost-prohibitive.

The document overall is an interesting read and appears to have been submitted in response to the US Copyright Office public inquiry regarding Artificial Intelligence, which I also separately submitted my own response to.

Typophilia Launch

I’ve been teasing references to this for a while now, but it is now finally official, the website of Typophilia, my print publisher in France, is now live. It has been fun working with them behind the scenes to translate all of my books and publish them for French audiences, since January. They really get my vision of using AI to critique (and satirize) AI, and society’s relationship with technology more broadly. The print versions of the books are really well designed to capture the pulp sci fi serial feel I have been emulating, and are going to look sharp in print.

We’re starting with French version of The Quatria Conspiracy as book #0 because it is effectively the origin for a lot of what followed in the later AI Lore Books series. English readers can still purchase ebook versions on Gumroad (not sold anywhere else), but no print yet.

As we get rolling, I will try to go back through and write a “Notes on” piece for each volume, as I found the process of writing those – which I only commenced maybe half or two thirds of the way in – really helpful for my own reflection if nothing else. I don’t want to give away all the whatzits in each volume, because it’s best if readers form their own conclusions about what’s going on. But it’s fun to be able to give selective sign posts along the way.

Anyway, big thank you and congratulations to everyone at Typophilia, and looking forward to where we can take this adventure together!

Crazy Amazon Products, Vol. 2

I couldn’t stop with these the other day – that is, until I was rate-limited by Dalle. I swear, I don’t even know why I pay for these tools anymore that don’t let me do what I want or need when I want or need it. But complaining aside, these fake Amazon product images (archived) are nothing short of incredible. I’d love to see an entire coffee-table book of these…

Click the link above for the full image set. Here are some samples:

These images so perfectly encapsulate so many of my… feelings, it’s amazing. Check out the full image set linked above.

Amazon Weird Products Image Set (Dalle)

Got some incredible results out of Dalle tonight, which I compiled into into an Imgur post here (archived). I asked Dalle to depict product images from Amazon with incomprehensible, unnecessary and other just generally bad ideas.

Couple highlights here, but click link above for the full set:

Looking through that set, I honestly can’t tell a lot of these aren’t real, because Amazon is such a wasteland of pseudo-English words and cheap crap, it’s more real than reality, it’s hyperreality from a parallel hell dimension that undulates at a quantum level orthogonally intersecting and de-intersecting our reality continuously…

As a bit of a rant: I’ve consistently experienced a really annoying behavior using Dalle, which I pay a monthly fee to use. It goes like this: just when I’m having really good image results, going on an incredible streak of basically perfect images accurately and creatively reflecting my inner vision, and I’m getting into that kind of “flow state” that is so essentially to good deep artistic exploration and creation, I start getting rate limited. Which puts a dent in that buzz, and basically in short order puts an end to whatever winning streak I was on.

As an artist trying to use this product to make art, and paying for it, the system needs to get out of my way and do the things I’m paying it to do, not try to break my balls when I’m on a roll.

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