What do you know Joe Shmo?

'If they don't understand, don't explain.' – Biroco

This site I made solely to please myself. I have in the past burnt much of my creative output in garden bonfires in a quest for simplicity and less baggage, but now it seems putting it on the web will serve a similar purpose. I'm also gradually putting older published material online that's out-of-print, and have plans to make available scans of various esoteric historical documents I find of interest, as well as the work of friends and associates. There's still a lot to do:

Beyond the content, what you have here is a series of personal experiments in web design done in the early hours of the morning listening to salsa, drinking cups of tea, smoking the odd mangalore ganesh beedi. For instance, the section entitled Yijing Dao, dedicated to the ancient Chinese Book of Changes, is a Daoist experiment. Surprising perhaps that when I began that I had no intention of ever putting it online, it was just an excuse to learn a few new techniques of web design. But as with many things it developed a life of its own and before I knew it I was writing a lot of new content for it and encoding in Chinese over Christmas. When I get time I plan to create some further animations of hexagram sequences and present a few ideas coming out of diagrams I have noticed in the 'Zhouyi Tushi Dadian' ('Encyclopaedia of Zhouyi Diagrams.' Beijing: Zhongguo gongren chubanshe, 1994, 2 vols).

PDFs of KAOS Magazine are available from this domain. The KAOS site was originally simply mirrored here, but now this is its only home. The first KAOS site took to the anarchic cyberspace of redirection URLs and Eastern European sites to defeat several censorship attempts in 2002. It was as a fortuitous result of this ill-considered gagging attempt that I was approached by Chester Todd, the owner of a private server in New York, who offered me hosting space, which was the impetus for buying the BIROCO.COM domain and consolidating my interests in one place.

I'm in two minds about 'blogs'. I like the idea of having frequent dated entries on a website, since it encourages regular visitors. Bit like having a birdtable in the garden, I like the idea of it, but I know I'd forget to refill the peanut bag and put out the crumbs and all those sparrows would be lined up on the fence looking at me like I should have a guilty conscience. Nonetheless, I'm experimenting with adding regular posts to the journal section. On the one hand, it's a useful place to inform people of updates to the site as a whole – hey, the site has 'news', it's not just something that's been the same for an entire year while I've been dead – on the other hand it's a place to pretend some people might be in the slightest bit interested in my day-to-day activities and thought processes and possibly where I can embarrass myself completely. Wow, who thought his life was just so empty! Who knows, if it starts to feel like rubbish or a burden I'll just drop it. Yeah, I'm in two minds about 'blogs'. And there may well be dry patches where I just can't stand anything to do with computers for another second… but useful to have a place set up where I can write off-the-cuff and instantly publish when the mood takes me. From day-to-day, no, I admit it, I dunno what I'm going to put in the journal, but that's what makes it kinda interesting. Possibly, maybe. Okay, so it's only a few mates read these things anyway.

Part of the reason for committing to this website project was to motivate regular spontaneous writing, of the kind I used to bang out on an old Imperial 66 in an attic in the 80s, as well as gradually making available the fuller extent of my creative interests beyond a mistyped extract from 'The Exorcist of Revolution' (1986) that I believe was the first thing of mine somebody unknown to me placed on the web years before I had even bothered to look at the internet. Had it not been for that I might have successfully avoided the whole damn thing altogether, like Hakim Bey and Alan Moore.

I have certainly had misgivings about the web as a medium. The whole mail-art and zine scene of the 80s was destroyed by the web in the 90s, my old comrade-in-arms from that time, Hakim, unbeknownst to most who read his writings now on the web, has 'taken agin it', describing himself as a 'cyber-curmudgeon' when I got back in touch with him in 2001 after we went our separate ways a decade earlier. As he wrote to me:

dear joel

My my! glad to see you're still "above room temperature" as Tuli Kupferberg says.

[…] I'm utterly not responsible for the plethora of Netishness that coagulates around my work. Personally I never 'uploaded' a word. Others do it, mostly without my permission and w/out even bothering to inform me. Some of it isn't even mine – forgeries & often dis-info are rife. The Net is a pathology.

I not only don't own a computer – I've "taken agin' 'em" & have become a cyber-curmudgeon. Basically I'm only interested in things that don't have websites. I refuse – or rather am incapable of – compensation for the demise of the physical world (you know what I mean) by losing myself in "the terminal state of screenal involution" to quote a line that came in-somnia last nite.

What are you doing now you've left The Lancet? How have you bankrolled all this bliss in the Warburg? What are you working on?

wa salaam


Most who have read Hakim Bey (right) seem to imagine that he regards the web as a TAZ (Temporary Autonomous Zone), but in fact he doesn't, since the physical component is missing, virtuality is not physical, at most all the web can be is an organisational mouthpiece for a TAZ but not a TAZ in itself. I agree with him, but myself, despite chucking my television in the bin over a decade ago and Zen wanderings away from this medium, I got ensnared in the web nonetheless and do sometimes wonder whether it is indeed 'compensation for the demise of the physical world'. We'll see, at present I regard it as a curious assemblage project and a potential widening out of creativity.


Biroco, London, UK (2003)



When I made letterpress books at The Herculaneum Press I started the practice of writing a colophon – a brief statement of the fonts used and number of copies printed, if a limited edition – and I thought I may as well continue that tradition here. I have used for the masthead on this page Hoefler's great classical font 'Requiem' (previously I had only wanted my gravestone chiselled in Trajan, but it's over-used, particularly in movie titles). The subtitle underneath is in Joe Gillespie's 'Mini7 Expanded Bold', a pixel font that is used without anti-aliasing or kerning since it fits precisely into the pixel grid of the screen, meaning it can be saved at a mere 1-bit depth. (Requiem is also used, in upper- and lower-case, for the masthead in the simple layout I created to show some of my paintings.)

The layout and typographic control of many pages is achieved with pure hand-coded CSS. The menu is an example of fixed positioning. The reason the vertical line on the left is dotted and not solid is to show that it goes behind the menu rectangle, giving the illusion of a layered page. This to me is true depth in a 2D medium, whereas other means of achieving an illusion of depth such as the awful drop-shadow and gradient techniques one sees on CSS sites all over now is just faux depth, and frankly rather ugly and amateurish.

The HTML, XHTML, and CSS used on this site validates. I have created separate print stylesheets throughout the site, which means that pages will automatically be printed according to their specifications. This is why the printed version looks different to the screen version. (This doesn't apply to the KAOS subsite, which is still laid out with tables.)

The branding favicon that appears on the browser tab is an Yijing hexagram. Actually, seven different hexagrams are used throughout the site. Usually a site has a single favicon, but it seemed to me hexagrams were ideally suited to create a kind of evolving or changing favicon as one passes between different areas of the site, while still retaining recognition as the favicon of BIROCO.COM. Favicons come into their own in multi-tabbed browsing when you have many tabs open; even though there is no longer any room on the tab to recognise the title of a web page, if the site has a favicon it stands out and you can go straight to it, and on this site you can distinguish between seven different sections. These favicons were created pixel by pixel in IconForge and are dual-resolution (16×16 pixels for display in the address bar, and 32×32 pixels should anyone place a shortcut icon to this site on their desktop).

The sound file used above is of course Peter Lorre, I forget from what.

As I once saw on a website dedicated to the Private Press Movement: This website is limited to one-trillion-gazillion copies, of which this is No. 1.