Wanna take a survey?

April 9th, 2009

There’s a note up in the kitchen at work here instructing people to please place cups in the cupboard open end up, rather than open end down. This is the way I’ve always done it, so I felt pleasantly validated. But I’ve noticed that it seems like women are more likely to put cups away upside-down.

I have a theory about why this might be the case, which I’ll share after I get some more rigorous, scientifical data. So please, do your part for science and answer the poll question below.

Oblique Strategies

March 12th, 2009

Oblique Strategies was created in 1975 by Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt. It’s a deck of cards, and each card contains a vague suggestion, aphorism, mood, or whatever.  The idea is that you draw a card for inspiration or direction when you get stuck; it’s a tool for breaking creative blocks. Brian Eno makes a lot of his art and music using random processes like cellular automata and I think that kind of stuff is pretty far out, so I was curious to see what the cards were like.

The contents of the following deck were painstakingly extracted by hand from an ancient Visual Basic executable, using a hex editor. It consists of 132 cards from the third edition. 

Click to draw a random card.

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September 2nd, 2008

A couple ink drawings I made. The first one is the Heiroglyphic Monad, which I was considering as a tattoo. I think it looks kind of cool, even if you don’t know what it is, and the fact that it has meaning in this crazy alchemetic symbol-logic appeals to my love of the esoteric. The second one is just made up.

Belgian pope; bound solomon

August 25th, 2008

I get so much spam from this blog, I’m thinking of uninstalling wordpress. You remember back when I didn’t post for months and months? When I eventually tried to post again (because of emotional blackmail), WordPress was unable to add posts. I lost a couple of what I assume were brilliant posts because of that. Somehow there was a line of spam in the active_plugin database that was gumming up the works, which I discovered after hours of testing and searching of the WP forums. Thanks a lot, spam; I’d thought web applications had evolved past the point of having to manually delete tables with SQL, but that bullshit gets all over everything. I’m convinced that the first sentient machine will be the mutant offspring of spambot text generators. Kind of like the hybrids on Battlestar Galactica.

Anyway, I was thinking about this because I bought tickets online from TicketMaster and to find out if tickets are available you have to enter two random words, masked to be unreadable by OCR software. In an effort to avoid spam, we’ve gotten to the point where we have to type increasingly elaborate spam-like nonsense into a little box. Kind of like this blog!


August 6th, 2008


Praising Jesus to Make Music to Praise Jesus To

July 27th, 2008

[I wrote this a while ago, but never posted it. I’m not sure why, I was just never happy with how it turned out. However, I thought I would continue my tradition of ending a blog sabbatical with a Danielson post, so here it is. — S.]

I’ve been meaning to write a review of the Danielson documentary for a few months now. Danielson has been my number one favorite band for the past year, and so I was quite excited to watch the film and see a little bit of what band leader Daniel Smith, who I really think is a musical and artistic genius, is all about. It documents the band’s history up to the release of 2006’s breakthrough album Ships. The band is unique and the personalities fascinating enough that I believe it’s a good movie even for people who aren’t as familiar or abjectly fawningly in love with Danielson’s music as I am, and it raises a lot of worthwhile issues about art and religion and what it means to be successful.

In one of the interviews, Daniel Smith is asked what irritates him about critics reviewing Danielson records, and his answer is that the writer always feels the need to spend the first half of the review on disclaimers about religion: “I’m not a Christian, but…”, like a mantra to justify their objectivity with respect to the music. He correctly points out that critics review reggae records without prefacing it with “I’m not Rasta, but…”. I’m not an alcoholic, but I listen to country. I’m not a complete douche, but I listen to Coldplay. Ha ha just kidding! I don’t listen to Coldplay. But I do share this desire to add exculpatory disclaimers when I say things like “I’m really into this Christian rock band…”.It’s a problem because “Christian rock” is such an apt description, but has a lot of amply justified prejudice to live down. So it’s kind of his own fault that he inherits a lot of the indie scene’s general suspicion of Christian™ music, which is so much horrible pablum. The mainstream evangelist labels that are hostile to Danielson are essentially factories for mass-producing kitsch according to very precise specifications, who have no context at all for perfect, psychedelic pop tunes. His message may be Jesus, but his medium is pure John Lennon.

It’s clear that Daniel’s father, a folk musician himself, is irked by the reaction of the Christian music community, and it really is a massive indictment of their collective aesthetic taste. But then, this is the same community that chows down on Left Behind like it was palatable, so, you know, not exactly news I guess.

Daniel Smith is eager to share with interviewers the religious inspiration for the music; when asked about his creative process, he always responds that he doesn’t take credit for his art, he just “points to the creator.” Several times throughout the film, Smith repeats some variation on “It all comes from the Creator of music, the Creator of all everything. We just let Him speak and try not to get in the way.” He compares his relationship to his creative output to that of a young child helping his father fix a car — he’s not really helping, he’s just there, having fun, feeling useful, more in the way than anything else. It’s a little difficult for an atheist to engage with Smith about his process. Fortunately for me, we’re living in the postmodern era and I have no trouble sidelining any authorial privilege over interpretation, so I have no compunction about offering an alternate explanation: that Smith is a genius and, therefore, also a little crazy. Much like another crazy songwriting prodigy, Daniel Johnston, who was the subject of his own doc, The Devil and Daniel Johnston, who’s craziness also tends toward religious fervor. Though in his case well beyond Smith’s wholesome eccentricity, tending rather more towards dangerous psychotic breakdowns. Also unlike Smith, Johnston’s story is a tragic one, though not only for his failure to achieve mainstream success, but for his failure to develop as an artist. At the end of The Devil and Daniel Johnston, he’s still playing the same songs and drawing the same child-like cartoons of Jesus and Casper the Friendly Ghost.

I found the interactions between the two Daniels one of the more interesting scenes, because it was the one time that Smith seemed uncomfortable. Both are preternaturally gifted songwriters and “outsider” artists who struggle for mainstream acceptance. The focus in the latter half of Make a Joyful Noise Here is on Smith’s attempt to push forward and redefine himself with his music and art, without the Famile. Towards the end, director J.L. Aronson is able to get a little deeper into Smith’s actual writing process, which Smith understandably has difficulty articulating. One thing he said really struck me as a very true expression of the creative process: that mostly what he does is wait for different ideas and images to “start pointing to each other.” This is a frustrating and mysterious process that nobody really understands or controls, and that seems to me like pretty much everything that can be intelligently said about it.

Sufjan has his own little chapter in the movie, and we see him hesitantly learning to play the cowbell, taking brother Andrew’s place on their European festival show, and opening for Brother Danielson at tiny clubs in front of eight people. However, I felt like the Sufjan portions were sort of beside the point for the film as a whole, and would have been better left as DVD extras, keeping the film a bit more focussed on the perspective of the family. The film is separated into chapters narrated by each of the family/band members, which gave a very personal and intimate touch to the production; Sufjan’s section is a departure from this. I mean, it’s clear why they chose to focus on him, he’s a huge star now. I just felt like it wandered a little too far from the focus and theme of the rest of the film.

The doc ends on a triumphant note, first with the recording of the amazing Brother Danielson record, and then the critically-acclaimed Ships, which brought together everyone who has ever contributed to a Danielson Famile recording, and provides a bookend to Smith’s long-term three-part vision of Danielson Famile/Brother Danielson/Danielsonship. I really can’t wait to see where he goes from here.

Everyone’s got an opinion about those dumb mascots except for me and my monkey.

November 29th, 2007

I feel pretty ambivalent about the Vancouver 2010 mascots:

Hey wait, that’s not it! That’s just what came up first when I did a google image search for ‘vancouver olympics mascot’. Silly me. Here they are:

At first I felt like they succeeded at creating a design that was just fine thank you, something I can easily ignore because it’s just sort of cute and nothingy and fades into the background of lame bullshit that is constantly in our faces. At least it wasn’t a totally offensive boondoggle like the London 2012 logo, which really is just awful and hard to look at. With the precedent of the fibreglass Spirit Bears that plagued Vancouver for years, my hopes were minimal to begin with, and were met satisfactorily.

My next thought was that I’m not so big on the whole co-opting native symbols to promote an ubercorporate sporting event thing. I agree with Only, it’s distasteful. The designers had a tough job, though, satisfying the goals of both being marketable to a diverse global consumership, and also appeasing the Canadian anxiety about our shared identity (or lack thereof) as an immigrant nation, with our own unique baggage of colonial slash genocidal shenanigans to live down. So that’s a lot of pressure, and I think the results are basically passable. And hey, the kids love ’em, so that’s a big win.

I really think they should have just gone with the marmot though. Marmots are cool. When I was looking for a job a few years ago, browsing a government job database I found a posting for employment as a marmot watcher. You see, Vancouver Island’s golden marmot is endangered, there was only about 200 left in the wild, and they were being predated by bald eagles, which were also endangered, meaning you couldn’t shoot the eagles. So the solution they devised was to hire someone to camp out with the marmots for the summer to scare away the eagles. And I thought that would be a pretty good summer job. You know, just hanging out with the marmots. I don’t really have qualifications or experience in that field (a literal field), and I can’t remember what the listed qualifications were, but if one of them was “must think marmots are cool” then I would have been a shoo-in, because I think marmots are totally cool. Also, last July bald eagles were removed from the endangered species list, so they better watch their backs, is all I’m saying.

You Can’t Make An Omlette Without Kicking Some People In The Balls and Bashing Their Head Against The Toilet

October 31st, 2007

That’s what Stalin said, anyway. I’m paraphrasing of course.

You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, but you catch the most flies with a whole bunch of dead people all piled up on top of one another. Henry Kissinger came out with that bon mot while putting pepper on his baby-seal steak, during a strategy session with Dick Cheney, who smirked and thought it was quite clever indeed.

Seahorses forever

September 13th, 2007
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Not my chair, not my problem. That’s what I say.

Paris is here, wish you were beautiful.

August 10th, 2007

When I got into Paris I got ripped off by the cab driver. He was one of those guys who stands in the airports asking dumb foreigners (like moi) if they need a taxi. He charged me eighty euros for the ride from the airport, which should have been more like thirty or forty, tops. Don’t get me wrong, he was friendly and all, and made conversation to the extent that his English and my French allowed (not very far at all). So, being a clueless North American, I tipped him! Because that’s just the kind of fish I am.

It wasn’t a huge deal, I mean I’ll just expense it to the company anyway so no big whoop. The problem is that these fake-o taxis aren’t insured as taxis, so if we’d gotten into an accident I’d’ve been fucked. Lesson: learned. My co-worker fell for the same scam I guess, because she’d emailed me before I left Vancouver saying that I should expect to pay around 85 euros for the cab from the airport. So that was was that.

I also got here right when the Tour de France was going on, and i had to cross the Champ Elysees to get from the place where I picked up my apartment key to the apartment, carrying all my luggage through crazy nutty tourist craziness. It took me ages to figure out how to get into my apartment because the directions I was given were completely wrong and I spent half an hour trying to open the wrong apartment door, until I was able to convince myself that No, objectively none of these keys fit in this door, I’m not just stupid. After I had the brainstorm of matching the name on the keys to the name on the door, it worked — eventually. A sticky locking mechanism nearly reduced me to tears.

Anyways, not to go into all the dull touristy details, Paris is a nice place to walk around. But of course, I always want to see the seedy areas because those are the places that are the most fun to people-watch, so I liked going down to Pigalle and having a beer on a terrace in the evenings. Pigalle was called “Pig Alley” by the American soldiers in the second World War, because that’s where all the prostitutes hung out. Nowadays it’s mostly sex shops. I only went there once or twice, until I was warned off by a resident co-worker, but I have to say that the dodginess had nothing on Vancouver. No hordes of cracked-out zombies like we have. Mostly a lot of this:

I’m heading back to Vancouver on Sunday, and I’ll be glad to be home in my own apartment and bed and routine. One thing that bugs me about Paris is that I can’t get a big fat-ass honking cuppa joe in the morning to bring to work, as is my custom. They only serve these gay little espresso drinks. Maybe that’s why the French are never in a big hurry.

I made a faux pas (that’s French!) the other day by ordering some cheese after my meal and an espresso at the same time. The waiter was like You want espresso with your cheese??? And I was like Is that not done? He said A French person would not do zis, but you are not French so ees ok. (Another odd thing is that as soon as I would say Bonjour to a waiter, they would immediately start in with the English. My pronunciation must be terrible.)

Ok, that’s all. Here are my pictures.

Night Of The Unpopular Dope Rappers

May 8th, 2007

Went to see Busdriver on Saturday night. Totally great show, but unfortunately it seems like he’s kind of a jerk. I went to buy some merch and he was there looking tired and grumpy. After picking out a CD, I noticed he was reading Confederacy of Dunces, which I’d just finished reading a couple weeks ago. So I was like, “Hey I just read that book a couple weeks ago, it’s awesome huh?” and he was like, “that’s twelve bucks.” (The CD, not the book.) I was a little put off, but whatever, his show was super energetic with a nice diverse set list and massive electro backup.

He was opening for CocoRosie, but I didn’t stay to see them. I read on Pitchfork that they were arrested the next day, probably for bringing some Vancouver souvenirs back across the border.

The first opener was pretty rad though, a French beat-box guy named Tez. Here’s a youtube video, for your viewing pleasure. Note that he’s not using any instrumentation, it’s all mic.
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Apologies for the lack of updates lately. More delicious content coming soon, I promise!

Kurt Vonnegut (1923-2007)

April 11th, 2007