Archive for the 'Choose Your Own' Category


Visual Images without the Visuals – 1a – Summer Camp, maybe 10 years ago

For the longest time it was the only place in the world where I always knew the exact location of the Big Dipper. As an awkward pre-teen, and teen, I spent at least one Saturday night there a summer. The incline of the hill just the perfect angle for stargazing. As I got older I could still spot it, to the bottom left, just above the ‘Boys’ bathroom, standing now instead of laying down. Generally speaking, they were always the same thing. The same ironic nostalgia, nothing current, that wasn’t the point. Eventually the clothes grew as ridiculous and gaudy as the music. Dressing up as a competition. Who can wear more differing prints? More neon? More costume jewelry? More sunglasses at night? More androgyny?

A dark and muggy night like so many others. The colored ropes and Christmas lights blazing. Tiki torches. Not taking requests. Before the switch to Ipods. For the life of me I can’t remember the song that came on before it. Of the cordoned off and encircled space, the least available could be found directly in front of the DJ Booth. A volleyball court, a full size basketball court, the perfectly slanted hill in between, and 3 by 12 feet of dried out and browning grass on the other side of both. The first electronic notes hit and there is no mass convergence inspired by something so out of character. This isn’t Bon Jovi or the Spice Girls. The crowd slowly gets its bearings, as certain people start to recognize what’s happening. It’s the kind of music that makes you lose your job as DJ. Radiohead. The early 2000s uniter, to some. The jam kids and the trustafarians, the punks, the hip-hop kids, the suburban and oblivious, they all collectively seem to have no problem with the band still. Perhaps because they were mislabeled for years as the next Pink Floyd. It’s starting to get really dark now. The crowd descends into the 3 by 12 space of former grass, slowly but en mass, and they don’t dance. They don’t stand still. They don’t mosh or pogo. There is no skanking or lip synching or air-synth jamming. The gathering crowd simply ceases to be single entities. Moving as a whole, up and down, to the constant electronic drum beat. ‘WHO’S IN BUNKER, WHO’S IN BUNKER.” The outfits, the rest of the nights music, including the perpetual last dance ‘American Pie,’ where your friends are, where your girl went, it doesn’t matter. No one lacking control of their facilities, most underage. A strange song for some standards. And yet, it inspires a reaction on a level never seen since. 5 minutes in the woods. Hours until the nearest city. Dial-up only internet. Piles of CDs in binders supplying the music, a stereo borrowed from a low wattage radio station.


The Holocene Extinction Event: Setting the Bar Low

Our ancient ancestors marched across the globe scorching the earth with giant walls of fire to chase their prey out into the open. They destabilized populations of easy-to-kill animals with such speed and ferocity that their part in a rolling wave of mass extinctions concurrent with human expansion is still debated, despite clear scientific evidence in support of their central role in the slaughter. They did in about 10,000 years what millions of years of predator/prey interaction (including dozens of climatic shifts and natural cataclysms) failed to do, i.e. wipe anything tasty asides from itself off the face of the earth as totally as possible. Once it got a little crowded, they immediately commenced eradicating each other with an endless enthusiasm, as the vast majority of all species on Earth seem to do.


Fast forward a tiny little frenetic blip in geologic time and you have us here today. Sometimes when I’m reading the news I feel like I’m riding in a bus with everyone else and the driver has depressed the accelerator as far as it can go and we have just left the roadway, with branches and rocks beating against the outside of the vehicle. We all see what’s happening but no one has any idea what to do or any ability to do anything even if they had a plan. Someone might try to get up and advance towards to front to seize control of the bus but is immediately cast back into their seat by gravity, momentum, and all the other natural laws that make the outcome of their attempts so obvious. The utter failure of the major emission-producing nations to set meaningful standards on pollution, the proliferation of nuclear arms as their host nations splinter into factions, the compression factor of the astonishingly fast rate at which the global population is growing: it’s pretty intense, and it doesn’t seem to bode well for what would be our children or grandchildren or even us in our old age.


But is it really that bad? Yes, of course it is. But only because we understand what it could be in theory. In practice though, given the sort of shambolic, brutal history of not just the human race but the natural order in general, things are actually pretty relaxed. I mean, here we find ourselves, searching for resources, consuming them, destroying our surroundings, just like we have been all along. But it isn’t a fall from grace, and we aren’t regressing, per se. You could watch a television commercial and say “Look at how stupid Americans are now, buying/watching/being tricked by all this crap”, but what is the alternative? What would you rather have? When has it ever been better? The 50s? The 30s? When people were hanging each other in public squares? Was that a golden age? There is something scary about how devastating the individual deviations from our modern placidity can be, for sure, and how apathetic people can remain, and how increasingly distant the rich and poor are becoming, but shocking catastrophes and futile, clumsy recalibrations are the order of the day, not just in this country or species or planet but everywhere. Pitchers can’t hit and humans can’t not kill everything.


I guess my point is that, as much as everything can be overwhelming, I feel more and more that it is important to keep calm and be precise. This is the real world, with warlords, child slaves, oil tankers, missles, volcanoes, grandfathers getting crushed by hippos, Predator drones, etc. and not some Ancient Greek moralistic sphere where people will all just stop acting like they always have because they realize, after 2 million years, that they are ruining stuff. I’m often frustrated by how much contemporary radicalism seems to bloody its fists pounding at the rock wall of the obvious, the human, and the unavoidable, only to be eventually co-opted and subsumed by those same things, just like always. Maybe a thorough reading of the rules of the game will help further understand how to “beat” it. Or at least elucidate why we keep losing.


Also, I know essentially nothing about philosophy so if I am rehashing some horrible person’s worldview that they used to rationalize some horrible thing, please let me know.


Littlebits/Granular Synthesis, Make yr own technology! Or: innovate, don’t fixate.

From a post at “we make money not art”, I found this project called littleBits. The idea is a fairly simple one:

littleBits is a growing library of preassembled circuit boards, made easy by tiny magnets. All logic and circuitry is pre-engineered, so you can play with electronics without knowing electronics. Tiny magnets act as connectors and enforce polarity, so you can’t put things in the wrong way. And all the schematics will be shared under an opensource license so you can download, upload, suggest new bits and hopefully see them come to life.

Basically, the project means to democratize the creation of physical technology in much the same way that Cycling ’74 and IRCAM democratized the means of granular synthesis, or the synthesis of sound from the bottom up, the freeing of the most microscopic materials of sound sampling, allowing one to create their own electronic instruments. They did this first with MAX/MSP, and, in fact, even more so with PureData. (Thanks, Miller Puckette).

Tim Hecker discussed the need for granular synthesis in an electronic music issue of the now-defunct Parachute Magazine, and I think the argument he makes holds for physical, “black-boxed” technology as well as it does for electronic music. The essential idea is that the fetishization of technology or neo-naturalism are both backward ways of dealing with technological development. That is to say, we need to examine the technology insofar as it allows us to move beyond it, rather than allow ourselves to be seduced by a meditation on the state of a single technology, to fixate rather than innovate:

Perhaps a form of electronic music will come which will leave the technology it uses as only a trace — so that the aesthetic field opens up again to allow for spaces which are free from the suffocation of medium-based discourses; an electronic music which leaves its technology as just a murmur.

We do this precisely through, he suggests, granular synthesis rather than pre-programmed sound production software. The beauty computer-made music is, with relatively minimal expertise, how one gains an astounding control over the whole range of possible sounds. LittleBits seems to be making the same possible for those without a complex understanding of circuitry and mathematics (one of the problems holding the spread of granular synthesis is the grasp of mathematics it requires, though, anyone who passed trigonometry should find it well within the realm of possibility to learn).

LittleBits, if you read the interview, seems to require only that you match colors and conceive of simple circuits. It is certainly a first stage, but I think it is the first stage of something wonderful: freeing the basic materials of electronic technologies so that people can make them for themselves. Perhaps some day we will have LittleBits stores next to craft stores: it seems to be a potentially complex but basically simple  kit with a nearly infinite number of interesting and cool possibilities. The number of possible basic units is both staggering and encouraging. The idea presents people with the building blocks of their own electronic experimentation, no complex machinery, start-up capital or fancy engineering education required. Maybe some will get a taste for it and move on to more advanced experimentation.

Obviously, this system by itself will not replace consumer technologies with a DIY culture, but projects like this are an exciting step in the correct direction.

Which is all to say: make yr own technology!





do it and don’t stop ’til them ghosts is naked as the day they was born


J Atkinson, S Higgins, S Jackson, A Johnson, J Malmed, B Segal, A Varma



Choose Your Own Pt.1

Chapter 1

That ship, over there, broken apart and resting now in the sand, it’s your ship. You were sailing on it with a lover who is now nowhere to be found.

You sit up and look around at this island and at the tooth-marks indented on your arm. You think about how apt the verb ‘indent’ is for describing that kind of a bite, as it summons the latinate origin ‘denta’ for tooth and evokes such appropriate terms as ‘indite’ and ‘clandestine’. Well, there is maybe some hope that such sweet rituals in such thick darkness have the power to mark you still.

An avid reader of adventure stories, you naturally know what to do next. You need to survey your surroundings and make a plan. You rise and TURN TO PAGE 11

Ok, somebody take it from here. I am using the map that Sean posted a few days ago. I am hoping someone will use that map as an outline over which to draw a schematic of Ghost Island that will be printed on the inside cover of the book.

johuat’s note: Here is the map of the adventure, with written pages marked by red boxes.


June 2019
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