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The castlezzt.net guy
has a blog
now. He's posting under the name "Jack Masters." Interesting pictures, funny/surreal descriptions of dreams, wry philosophical musings, including thoughts on Excel charts that make me suspect a connection to the IT industry (who else would care about Excel?). He's been updating castlezzt
, too, and I guess it was inevitable given the cost of bandwidth that "the mile long web page" has been broken into multiple pages.
Update: Jim says the computer monitor arch appeared on Gizmodo and has been making the rounds. They didn't credit it either. The image below is also good, no idea where he (Masters) got it:
AMC (The American Movie Classics channel on cable) ran an ad for a documentary they produced about the post-release editing of Hollywood content to remove "offensive" language and scenes. Didn't see the documentary, so I don't know whether the culprits were local TV stations, fundamentalist Christian-owned tech businesses or some combination. Either way, the outrage from people in the interview clips they showed led me to believe AMC thinks the practice is bad. Well, this is a howler coming from that channel, which up until 2001 or so showed movies intact, but now edits them for language and Orson knows what else.
A couple of examples of AMC's own practices:
Trivial (but still egregious): In David E. Kelley's weird horror comedy Lake Placid,
about a 30-foot crocodile living in a Maine lake (an obvious homage to the young John Sayles), Betty White plays a crazy woman who has been feeding her cows to the croc for five years, treating it as a combination pet and pagan God to be appeased. The sublime Brendan Gleeson as a local cop confronts her at one point and the erstwhile Golden Girl ripostes, "If I had a dick this is where I'd tell you to suck it." OK, it's not all that funny but it's really not funny when "dick" becomes "____" and you still see her mouth moving.
Ahistorical and evil: One of the revelations of the Watergate years was that Nixon had a guy on his reelection campaign payroll named Donald Segretti, whose specialty was "ratfucking"--little dirty tricks like distributing flyers for opposing campaign events that never happen, releasing smears and rumors about the other guy etc. Part of America's fall from innocence in the '70s was learning that people at the very top thought and talked that way. Karl Rove, Bush's so-called brain, got his start in that campaign, so knowing about the practice and how sleazy these people are is still completely relevant. Anyway, to wrap this up, when AMC ran All the President's Men
this bit of actual history was airbrushed to "rat____ing."
The "happy little E-tune" posted previously ([mp3 removed]--eventually it'll get a real title) is reinterpreted here on the SidStation synth: mp3 removed]. Also working on an extended remix of the Sid version, with drums, etc.
This version has more of that "videogame sound" because the Sid is built around the old Commodore SID chip. The machine isn't truly polyphonic: it has 3 oscillators and a kind of step designer feature called "wave table synthesis" that can be used to write multi-voice songs, but I haven't burrowed into that yet. One person who has is Jotsif, who posted some fine tunes on this Elektron Instruments forum thread
If you don't use wave tables, in order to play several melodic parts simultaneously you have to "overdub" them, in a sequencer, as separate digital audio tracks. This is a pain in the ass (but not as much of a pain in the ass as programming wave tables on a 2 inch LCD screen). The above .mp3 is played with the following presets, in ascending order of pitch: Velobass, Killer, Cutting Lead, and Vengasynth.
Update: I took down the Sid performance I originally posted here and substituted another take, where the Sid-playing is run through the Mutator. It's a bit prettier that way. The non-Sid happy e-tune I posted first (with the electric piano) is much better, I know, I just like hearing how different instruments change the exact same melodies.
The news from Iraq, our new colony, upkeep of which will have cost Americans $300 billion after the next round of funding goes through (that's a lot of money), has not been good this month. After the White House's "pictures of people smiling and holding up purple fingers" public relations coup, my sense is that everyone, taking their cues from the media, just turned off news from there--"OK they have a democracy now, good, Bush is looking after us and will get us cheap oil, now let's get back to Michael and the boys." (I say "my sense" because I turn on the TV and as soon as I see someone with a suit and poofy hair sitting behind a desk--which is always--I say "I have nothing in common with these people" and testily switch off.) I get my Iraq news from omnibus sites such as Juan Cole, Today in Iraq, and Steve Gilliard's News Blog, which are combing sources other than the US media, which largely dispenses happy talk and administration spin (however, a lot of those sites' material also comes from the back pages of US newspapers). The news is, it's a goddamn slaughterhouse over there.* The Sunni Arabs held power for some 60 years and they're not going to give it up easily to a Shiite-Kurd government. And they have tons of arms and ammo because the US didn't destroy the dumps after the invasion. Evidently Rumsfeld, et al, wanted our pet exiles (Chalabi, et al) to have access to the ordnance to police the country after we handed it over to them. Bush will not give a straight answer to the question: Are we building permanent bases in Iraq or not? I think we have to assume they are. Meanwhile, our volunteer army is being ground down by too much combat without a break. Are these costs worth it so we can control Iraq's oil? Is that the "real world" Cheney and the Neocons say we're living in? Those are the questions we should be discussing.
*" Dozens of bodies found floating in the Tigris river, a nearly successful assassination attempt on interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, yet another lethal car bomb attack (there've been more than 20 in the past week in Baghdad alone), and a civilian helicopter shot down, reportedly culminating in an execution." --per Salon
Sometimes you just feel like sitting down at your electric piano, plugging in that wah-wah pedal, and knocking out a happy little E-tune: [mp3 removed].
Science Fiction Review
joester recommended Vernor Vinge's A Fire Upon the Deep
, a 1991 novel that imagines, among other things, a pan-galactic Internet, canine group minds, and these wack ETs called "skroderiders," which are surf-dwelling plants rolling around in mobile pots that have sophisticated cybernetics to do their short-term thinking for them. It's a good book, a bit of a nail biter at the end, and only suffers slightly having the market necessity of two plucky adolescents among the main POV characters. As usual it's more fun to bitch than accentuate the positive so here are some quibbles:
1. SF writers--especially writers of space operas--have a hard time now that it's abundantly clear that relativity and distance will keep the earth isolated forever from the rest of the universe and we're going to have to solve our own problems. Vinge's solution is to imagine the Milky Way as an onion with different layers of spacetime: we're in the "Slow Zone" midway between The Unthinking Depths near the center and The Beyond further out, where faster than light travel is possible. Much of the book takes place in The Beyond, where people (including our descendants) zip hither and thither. I do wish Vinge had bored us with a half-page of Greg Egan-like physics to explain why he thinks all this is possible--for reasons other than to move the story forward.
2. There are a few weird continuity gaps. Most notable is a portentous statement early on in the book that the accidental placement of a human boy in a kindergarten/kennel with one of the abovementioned canine group minds would change the course of galactic history. In fact, their union acts mostly as a drag on the plot. The group mind is bred for mathematical genius but its sole invention is a kind of telepathy amplifier that one of the characters uses and then abruptly stops using. The relationship of boy and dogs is mainly just a cool, slightly offbeat friendship--no hint is given later why it might be important.
3. The mechanics of the canine "telepathy" that enables six dogs to act as one, operate tools, etc. are only sketchily explained. In some places Vinge refers to "mind noise" that passes among the dogs allowing them to share memories and sense data, including tastes and smells. Elsewhere he describes their communication as a vibration through organs called "tympana" which seems to indicate the data is exchanged through high pitched shrieks. Much could be communicated this way--as with our modems--but it's doubtful that smells or other people's internalized memories could be instantly, palpably transmitted. Again, a bit of physics (or biochemistry) might have helped.
Anyway, these are minor points. I'm already absorbed in the prequel, written in 1999, called A Deepness in the Sky.
I still believe in science fiction even though much of its Modernist rationale has gone away.
"Little Shrieker" [mp3 removed]. More drum and bass, specifically a "dark roller," lo-fi f-ed up repeating noise division. This comes from hanging around too many Dutch darkcore websites. (My first foray into beat-slicing, if it's not giving away too much.)
"Calypsum 2" [6.1 MB .mp3
]. Posting this again, because I really like it. It's simple but it's supposed to be simple. I think about a computer playing calypso and getting hung up on a phrase, or deciding this is the most valuable phrase (but with a swirly "E'd up" feel that is more dreamlike than cyber). As a bonus (or alternative?), I'm including this 4.6 KB MIDI file
of the same tune. It sounds more Latin when played with a piano and the General MIDI drum map. Your browser will probably play it, or Quicktime. In case it doesn't, here's the same thing as a 1 MB .mp3
(played in Winamp, which I prefer to the exaggerated percussion in Quicktime).