make those troublesome tribbles into a high-fashion…

make those troublesome tribbles into a high-fashion hat

Charles of the Ritz ad, 1962 (via Le blog de SoVeNa » Sixties Beauty Faces)

mythologyofblue: Eric William Carroll, from Plato’s Home…

Eric William Carroll, from Plato’s Home Movies

“I didn’t pay any special attention to trees until I stopped seeing them.” -Eric William Carroll

Tea With Chris: Be Not Content

Tea With Chris is a roundup of recommended links, posted every Thursday. Here are a few of our favourite things from the Internet this week:

Carl: Rudy Rucker has reissued a lost classic of ’60s acidhead lit, William Craddock’s Be Not Content, as an ebook. On the strength of his introduction, I bought it immediately – just six bucks!

I’ve been waiting for great country-soul-rock interpreter Kelly Hogan’s new album for 11 years. Like, actively waiting, pacing around and around my living room, looking at my watch. And as of today I can hear a preview on NPR of I Like to Keep Myself in Pain, featuring songs by Stephin Merritt, Vic Chesnutt, Jon Langford, Robbie Fulks, Catherine Irwin and more. And Booker T. on organ. Start listening, no excuses.

Thinking about copyright just keeps getting smarter and smarter, doesn’t it? Sigh. (Nice headline there, though, from my employer.)

Likewise, Jessica Cripin surveys the sorry state of men’s writing about masculinity. Luckily there are still novelists to read on the subject. And not just the obvious, like Chandler or Carver or some other Raymond. (Well, this one probably wouldn’t help much.) I spent the first couple of days of this week reading the Hunger Games trilogy straight through, and someone should write an analysis of how, for instance, the growth and near-destruction of the Peeta character (that name! phallic with the feminine ending) represents a voyage of negotiating masculinity and risking the boomerang-into-misogyny effect Crispin talks about. I’d go on but some of you haven’t read it yet – trust me, you’re missing out on a dozen hours of great wallowing in teenage dystopian head-trip adventure, not just sidelong gender studies.

If all of that was too grim, please let this fix it. And anything else that troubles you, ever:

Margaux: My great friend and collaborator Ryan Kamstra has launched an Indigogo campaign to help him finish his beautifully titled book, System’s Children. I am really excited about this book, and look! a painting of mine is the future cover. Your prize options for donating include an album, a book or A LIBRARY.

These two videos arrived separately in my inbox today. One regarding Canada’s WRONG-O move on Bill 78 followed by Canada’s WELL PLAYED Montreal! pots & pans action. The other, just another good day from Kanye and Jay-Z. They are best viewed as companions.

Chris: Alain Badiou, who recently published a new book about ~love~, articulates my main objection to online dating: “For me these [French dating site] posters destroy the poetry of existence. They try to suppress the adventure of love. Their idea is you calculate who has the same tastes, the same fantasies, the same holidays, wants the same number of children. [The sites] try to go back to organized marriages – not by parents but by the lovers themselves.”

Why Walker is winning

I tend to agree with Nate Silver, who thinks a victory by Tom Barrett in Tuesday’s recall election is fairly unlikely.  The Times’s coverage of Wisconsin politics has gotten a lot better since last February’s Capitol protests.  The NYTimes Mag feature from last Sunday is well-reported and well-written and told me some things I didn’t know.  But throughout there’s an air of puzzlement about the governor’s continued political viability that doesn’t seem warranted to me.

The feature is heavy on interviews with experienced Wisconsin political hands, both Democrats and Republicans, who are dejected about the Walker style of government and what it’s done to the state’s political culture.  I can easily imagine that it’s a depressing time to be a state legislator (and a downright dangerous time to be a Supreme Court justice) whatever party you belong to.

But I think the average Republican voter here likes Scott Walker just fine.  They like stripping collective bargaining rights just fine, and they like voter ID just fine.   And Republican voters make up half the population of Wisconsin.  Normal politics here is 5o-50; throw in the advantages of incumbency and whatever proportion of the voters disapprove of recalls on principle, and Barrett has a built-in disadvantage to overcome.  (That’s not even to mention the massive spending disparity in Walker’s favor.)  A Walker victory wouldn’t be very notable; what’s notable is the fact that a million recall petitions were signed in the first place, or that an unknown Madison judge came within a hairsbreadth of unseating an incumbent Supreme Court Justice.

That being said, the error bar here is pretty wide; not the sampling error in the polls, but the intrinsic uncertainty about who’s going to show up and vote in an election with no historic precedent.  Wisconsin Democrats surprised me and everybody else by getting a million recall petitions signed; maybe they’ll surprise me and everybody else by organizing a massive turnout on June 5.

And Barrett fans can take some comfort in the fact that I’ve been consistently wrong in every prediction I’ve made about Wisconsin politics.

Two minutes of Marva Whitney and James Brown ripping it…

Two minutes of Marva Whitney and James Brown ripping it up—“If You Don’t Work, You Can’t Eat”—on the Mike Douglas show in 1969. No visible band, weirdly; did they re-record the backing track for this?

(by MOMOFUNKONE)

TMILY from May 28, 2012

L.R.Mayer - "TMILY's Marketing Plans"
Tim Hwang - "Hype Up Weekend"
your host - "the wastelands of nothingness"
T.R.G - "TMILY's Financials"
Michael Wolff - "Facebook’s Marketing and Financials"
your host - "TMILY (iii)" http://www.wfmu.org/playlists/shows/45305

As the world turns

At the Nation, Steve Wasserman on Amazon's rise to dominance.

Cat cafe curfew?  (Via Sharyn N.)

Locative media art responds to two of the most definitive social issues of our times: the reorganization of everyday life by mobile computing technologies and the seeming assurance of ecological disaster in the foreseeable future. These two developments are often described as conflicting with one another: our digital interfaces dismantle spatial obstacles, bringing once-remote locales into proximity with hyperlinks, projecting us into “non-places.” And yet, according to many environmental thinkers, any hope for sustainability requires that humanity reverse the psychic effects of this trend: we must divert our attention away from our screens and back to the physical world around us, creating local community and a sense of place. Locative media art works squarely within this tension inhabiting our post-nature, new media culture, using digital networks to augment engagement of geographic space, to facilitate what Christiane Paul calls “context awareness.”

On June 7 and 9, Tali Hinkis and Kyle Lapidus of LoVid will début their new mobile phone app, iParade#2: Unchanged When Exhumed, a 2011 Rhizome commission and the first major piece in their new locative-media art series. iParade#2 uses GPS data to access video, sound, and stories available only in specific spots within the Hamilton Heights neighborhood of Harlem. Tali and Kyle described the work to me as “experimental locative cinema” or “locative video,” as cinema and video that “offers a new option using GPS and mobile media technology.” Their press release suggests that the app be thought of as an adventure and a sort of game: participants will “explore” not only historic landmarks but also “urban mysteries”—though the mysteries remain unsolved. Ultimately, as is true to all locative media works, iParade#2 seeks to “renew viewers’ appreciation of their physical environment.” Since I will be abroad during the premiere, LoVid offered to give me a preview of the project.

iParade#2 is a merger of video and spoken word within a mobile media device, revealed at five pre-selected sites in Hamilton Heights. After I downloaded the app, iParade#2 found my GPS coordinates and provided a Google map with the designated stops. As you walk to each one, a musical soundtrack loops until the GPS registers that you have arrived on site. The phone then begins its poetic, descriptive stories with scrolling written text that is also read aloud. For example, at the “hungry tree,” a tree on the grounds of City College of New York (CCNY) that has engulfed a metal sign with a long-forgotten message, the text encourages you to imagine ritualistic activities mobilized around this mystical plant: “People with cameras are circling a tree. Their eyes don’t squint. Instead, they sway, arms swift, elbows bent, up and down.” Next, the phone plays video inspired by the tree, followed by a series of performative actions, and a collage of excerpts from 1950s films made by students at CCNY, the Hamilton Heights college where LoVid recently completed a residency at the Department of Digital and Interdisciplinary Art Practice.

The project is a playful, intertextual way to experience the atmosphere and the historic anomalies of a neighborhood that I, despite having had lived in Harlem for many years, never visited before. The app follows the route of the Hamilton Grange, Alexander Hamilton’s home from 1802-04, which was relocated twice before it came to settle in its present location in St.Nicolas Park. The app’s backdrop is the CCNY campus, which bustled with students on the day I visited. Walking amongst them as my phone directed me to the next iParade site, I noticed the unique energy of this Manhattan neighborhood. The app’s looping soundtrack reminded me that I was a part but also apart—separated from the rest of street life on my iparade yet simultaneously connected as the app’s music merged with students’ chatter as they hurried down the sidewalk, late to class.

Immersing its audience in a convergence of contextual data—the physical neighborhood, the local history, CCNY student art, and LoVid’s response to their residency—while simultaneously networked to distant, invisible locales serving this location, iParade#2 creates continuity across historical, artistic, and technological scales: between past and present, between film and new media, between a U.S. founding father’s clicked-and-dragged home and digital networks. The effect is an aura of interconnectivity across time and space—an imaginative effort much appreciated in these times of environmental crises and pervasive computing.

Join LoVid for the iParade#2: Unchanged When Exhumed premiere. The artists will be hosting participatory walks through the neighborhood of Hamilton Heights on June 7, 7pm and June 9, 4pm and 7pm. Walks begin at 1619 Amsterdam Avenue at West 140th Street. To reserve your place for one of these free events, RSVP at http://www.elastic-city.org/walks/unchanged-when-exhumed. The app can be downloaded at http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/iparade/id523505718?mt=8.

iParade#2 is made possible with support from DiAP NY City College, Experimental TV Center Finishing Funds, NYSCA, Rhizome Commission, and the Franklin Furnace Fund.

Directed, written, filmed, and produced by LoVid

App development by Sean Montgomery

Sound track by Maria Chavez

Theme song by Dan Friel

With appearances by: Juan Pazmino, Pauline Decarmo, Yoni Weiss, Silvia Angulo, Gregory Sheppard, Irene Moon, and Vera Beato Smith

Choreography Collaborator: Ashley Byler

Guest performers: Corinne Cappelletti, Hilary Melcher Chapman, Stephanie Lau

Gene Loves Jezebel’s “Shaving My Neck” single…

Gene Loves Jezebel’s “Shaving My Neck” single came out May 31, 1982.

Yello’s “Pinball Cha Cha” single came out May…

Yello’s “Pinball Cha Cha” single came out May 31, 1982. Here’s the ridiculous original promo video.

The People of the Ruins (2)

HiLobrow is pleased to present the second installment of our serialization of Edward Shanks’ The People of the Ruins: A Story of the English Revolution and After. New installments will appear each Thursday for 16 weeks.

Trapped in a London laboratory during a worker uprising in 1924, ex-artillery officer and physics instructor Jeremy Tuft awakens 150 years later — in a neo-medieval society whose inhabitants have forgotten how to build or operate machinery. Not only have his fellow Londoners forgotten most of what humankind used to know, before civilization collapsed, but they don’t particularly care to re-learn any of it. Though he is at first disconcerted by the failure of his own era’s smug doctrine of Progress, Tuft eventually decides that post-civilized life is simpler, more peaceful. That is, until northern English and Welsh tribes threaten London — at which point he sets about reinventing weapons of mass destruction.

Shanks’ post-apocalyptic novel, a pessimistic satire on Wellsian techno-utopian novels, was first published in 1920. In October, HiLoBooks will publish a beautiful new edition of The People of the Ruins, with an introduction by Tom Hodgkinson.

LAST WEEK: “He had not been able to believe that a time would ever come when there would be no Government, no Paymaster-General, no Ministry of Pensions, to pay him his partial disability pension. But this morning unexpected events seemed much more probable. There was not much of the world to be perceived from his window looking down the street, but what there was smelt somehow remarkably like real trouble.”

ALL EXCERPTS: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 |15 |16

***

CHAPTER II

1

He turned out of the wide road, now empty of all wheeled traffic, except for a derelict tramcar which stood desolate, apparently where driver and conductor had struck work earlier or later than their fellows. In the side street which led to his destination, there were mostly women—dark, ugly, alien women—sitting on their doorsteps; and he began to feel even more afraid of them than of the men. They did not lower their voices as he passed, but he could not understand I what they were saying. But as he swung with a distinct sense of relief into the little narrow court where Trehanoc absurdly lived and had his laboratory, he heard one of them call after him, “Dir-r-rty bour-rgeois!” and all the rest laugh ominously together. The repetition of the phrase in this new accent startled him and he fretted at the door because Trehanoc did not immediately answer his knock.

“Damn you for living down here!” he said heartily, when Trehanoc at last opened to him. “I don’t like your neighbors at all.”

“I know… I know…,” Trehanoc answered apologetically. “But how could I expect— And anyway they’re nice people really when you get to know them. I get on very well with them.” He paused and looked with some apprehension at Jeremy’s annoyed countenance.

But Jeremy’s taste in acquaintances was broad and comprehensive, always provided that they escaped growing tedious. After his first visit to Lime Court he had not been slow in paying a second. His acquaintance ripened into friendship with Trehanoc, whom he regarded, perhaps only half-consciously, as being an inspired, or at any rate an exceedingly lucky, fool. When he received an almost illegible and quite incoherent summons to go and see a surprising new experiment, “something,” as the fortunate discoverer put it, “very funny,” he had at once promised to go. It was characteristic of him that, having promised, he went, although he had to walk through disturbed London, arrived grumbling, and reassured his anxious host without once ceasing to complain of the inconvenience he had suffered.

“I ought to tell you,” Trehanoc said, with increased anxiety when Jeremy paused to take breath, “that a man’s dropped in to lunch. I didn’t ask him, and he isn’t a scientist, and he talks rather a lot, but— but— I don’t suppose he’ll be much in the way,” he finished breathlessly.

“All right, Augustus,” Jeremy replied in a more resigned tone, and with a soothing wave of his hand, “carry on. I don’t suppose one extra useless object in one of your experiments will make any particular difference.”

He followed Trehanoc with lumbering speed up the narrow, uncarpeted stairs and into the big loft which served for living-room and kitchen combined. There he saw the useless object stretched on a couch—a pleasant youth of rather disheveled appearance, who raised his head and said lazily:

“Hullo! It’s you, is it? We met last night, but I don’t suppose you remember that.”

“No, I don’t,” said Jeremy shortly.

“No, I thought you wouldn’t. My name’s Maclan. You must have known that last night, because you told me twice that no man whose name began with Mac ever knew when he was boring the company.”

“Did I?” Jeremy looked a little blank, and then began to brighten. “Of course. You were the man who was talking about the General Strike being a myth. I hope I didn’t hurt your feelings too much?”

“Not at all. I knew you meant well; and, after all, you weren’t in a condition to realize what I was up to. The secret of it all was that by boring all the rest of the company till they wanted to scream I was very effectually preventing them from boring me. You see, I saw at once that the politicians had taken the floor for the rest of the evening, and I knew that the only way to deal with them was to irritate them on their own ground. It was rather good sport really, only, of course, you couldn’t be expected to see the point of it.”

Jeremy began to chuckle with appreciation. “Very good,” he agreed. “Very good. I wish I’d known.” And Trehanoc, who had been hovering behind him uneasily, holding a frying-pan, said with a deep breath of relief: “That’s all right, then.”

“What the devil’s the matter with you, Augustus?” Jeremy cried, wheeling round on him. “What do you mean, ‘That’s all right, then’?”

“I was only afraid you two chaps would quarrel,” he explained. “You’re both of you rather difficult to get on with.” And he disappeared with the frying-pan into the corner which was curtained off for cooking.

“Old Trehanoc’s delightfully open about everything,” Maclan observed, stretching himself and lighting a cigarette. “I suppose we all of us have to apologize for a friend to another now and again, but he’s the only man I ever met that did it in the presence of both. It’s the sort of thing that makes a man distinctive.”

Lunch was what the two guests might have expected, and probably did. The sausages would no doubt have been more successful if Trehanoc had remembered to provide either potatoes or bread; but his half-hearted offer of a little uncooked oatmeal was summarily rejected. Jeremy’s appetite, however, was reviving, and Maclan plainly cared very little what he ate. His interest lay rather in talking; and throughout the meal he discoursed to a stolidly masticating Jeremy and a nervous, protesting Trehanoc on the theme that civilization had reached and passed its climax and was hurrying into the abyss. He instanced the case of Russia.

“Russia,” he said, leaning over towards the Cornishman and marking his points with flourishes of a fork, “Russia went so far that she couldn’t get back. For a long time they shouted for the blockade to be raised so that they could get machinery for their factories and their railways. Now they’ve been without it so long they don’t want it any more. Oh, of course, they still talk about reconstruction and rebuilding the railways and so forth, but it’ll never happen. It’s too late. They’ve dropped down a stage; and there they’ll stop, unless they go lower still, as they are quite likely to.”

Trehanoc looked up with a fanatical gleam in his big brown eyes, which faded as he saw Maclan, poised and alert, waiting for him, and Jeremy quietly eating with the greatest unconcern. “I don’t care what you say,” he muttered sullenly, dropping his head again. “There’s no limit to what science can do. Look what we’ve done in the last hundred years. We shall discover the origin of matter, and how to transmute the elements; we shall abolish disease… and there’s my discovery—”

“But, my dear man,” Maclan interrupted, “just because we’ve done this, that, and the other in the last hundred years, there’s no earthly reason for supposing that we shall go on doing it. You don’t allow for the delicacy of all these things or for the brutality of the forces that are going to break them up. Why, if you got the world really in a turmoil for thirty years, at the end of that time you wouldn’t be able to find a man who could mend your electric light, and you’d have forgotten how to do it yourself. And you don’t allow for the fact that we ourselves change… What do you say, Tuft? You’re a scientist, too.”

“The present state of our knowledge,” Jeremy replied cheerfully with his mouth full, “doesn’t justify prophecies.”

“Ah! our knowledge… no, perhaps not. But our intuitions!” And here, as he spoke, Maclan seemed to grow for a moment a little more serious. “Don’t you know there’s a moment in anything—a holiday, or a party, or a love-affair, or whatever you like—when you feel that you’ve reached the climax, and that there’s nothing more to come. I feel that now. Oh! it’s been a good time, and we seemed to be getting freer and freer and richer and richer. But now we’ve got as far as we can and everything changes… Change here for the Dark Ages!” he added with a sudden alteration in his manner. “In fact, if I may put it so, this is where we get out and walk.”

Jeremy looked at him, wondering vaguely how much of this was genuine and how much mere discourse. He thought that, whichever it was, on the whole he disliked it. “Oh! we shall go jogging on just as usual,” he said at last, as matter-of-fact as he could.

“Oh, no, we sha’n't!” Maclan returned with equal coolness. “We shall go to eternal smash.”

Trehanoc looked up again from the food he had been wolfing down with absent-minded ferocity. “It doesn’t matter what either of you thinks,” he affirmed earnestly. “There’s no limit to what we are going to do. We—” A dull explosion filled their ears and shook the windows.

“And what in hell’s that?” cried Jeremy.

2

For a moment all three of them sat rigid, staring instinctively out of the windows, whence nothing could be seen save the waving branches of the tree that gave its name to Lime Court. Maclan at last broke the silence.

“The Golden Age,” he said solemnly, “has tripped over the mat. Hadn’t we better go and see what’s happened to it?”

“Don’t be a fool!” Jeremy ejaculated. “If there really is trouble these streets won’t be too pleasant, and we’d better not draw attention to ourselves.” Immediately in the rear of his words came the confused noise of many people running and shouting. It was the mixed population of Whitechapel going to see what was up; and before many of them could have done so, the real fighting must have begun. The sound of firing, scattered and spasmodic, punctuated by the dull, vibrating bursts which Jeremy recognized for bombs, came abruptly to the listeners in the warehouse. There was an opening and shutting of windows and a banging of doors, men shouting and women crying, as though suddenly the whole district had been set in motion. All this gradually died away again and left to come sharper and clearer the incessant noise of the rifles and the bombs.

“Scott has set them going,” Jeremy murmured to, himself, almost content in the fulfilment of a prophecy, and then he said aloud: “Have you got any cigarettes, Augustus? I can’t say we’re well off where we are, but we’ve got to stop for a bit.”

Trehanoc produced a tin of Virginians which he offered to his guests. “I’m afraid,” he said miserably, “that this isn’t a very good time for asking you to have a look at my experiment.” Jeremy surveyed him with a curious eye, and reflected that the contrast in the effect of the distant firing on the three of them was worth observation. He himself did not pretend to like it, but knew that nothing could be done, and so endured it stoically. Maclan had settled in an armchair with a cigarette and a very tattered copy of La Vie Parisienne, and was giving an exhibition of almost flippant unconcern; but every time there was a louder burst of fire his shoulders twitched slightly. Trehanoc’s behavior was the most interesting of all. He had been nervous and excited while they were at table, and the explosion had obviously accentuated his condition. But he had somehow turned his excitement into the channel of his discovery, and his look of hungry and strained disappointment was pathetic to witness. It touched Jeremy’s heart, and moved him to say as heartily as he could:

“Nonsense, old fellow. We’ll come along and see it in a moment. What’s it all about?”

Trehanoc murmured “Thanks awfully…I was afraid you wouldn’t want…”—like a child who has feared that the party would not take place after all. Then he sat down sprawlingly in a chair and fixed his wild, shining eyes on Jeremy’s face. “You see,” he began, “I think it’s a new ray. I’m almost certain it’s a new ray. But I’m not quite certain how I got it. I’ll show you all that later. But it’s something like the ray that man used to change bacilli. He changed bacilli into cocci, or something. I’m no biologist; I was going to get in a biologist when you’d helped me a bit. You remember the experiment I mean, don’t you?”

“Vaguely,” said Jeremy. “It’s a bit out of my line, but my recollection is that he used alpha rays. However, go on.”

“Well, that’s what I was after,” Trehanoc continued. “I believe these rays do something of the same kind, and they’ve got other properties I don’t understand. There’s the rat… but I’ll show you the rat later on. And then I got my hand in front of the vacuum-tube for half a second without any protection…”

“Did you get a burn?” Jeremy asked sharply.

“No,” said Trehanoc. “No… I didn’t… that’s the strange thing. I’d got a little radium burn on that hand already, and a festering cut as well, where I jabbed myself with the tin-opener… Well, first of all, my hand went queer. It was a sort of dead, numb feeling, spreading into the arm above the wrist, and I was scared, I can tell you. I was almost certain that these were new rays, and I hadn’t the least notion what effect they might have on living tissue. The numbness kept on all day, with a sort of tingling in the finger-tips, and I went to bed in a bit of a panic. And when I woke, the radium burn had quite gone, leaving a little scar behind, and the cut had begun to heal. It was very nearly healed!”

“Quite sure it’s a new ray?” Jeremy interjected.

“Oh, very nearly sure. You see, I—” and he entered into a long and highly technical argument which left Jeremy both satisfied and curious. At the close of it Maclan remarked in a tone of deep melancholy:

“Tre, my old friend, if the experiment isn’t more exciting than the lecture, I shall go out and take my turn on the barricades. I got lost at the point where you began talking about electrons. Do, for heaven’s sake, let’s go and see your hell-broth!”

“Would you like to go and see it now?” Trehanoc asked, watching Jeremy’s face with solicitous anxiety; and receiving assent he led the way at once, saying, “You know, I use the cellar for this radio-active work. The darkness… And by the way,” he interrupted himself, “look out how you go. This house is in a rotten state of repair.” The swaying of the stairs down from the loft, when all three were upon them, confirmed him alarmingly.

As they went past the front-door towards the cellar-steps, Jeremy, cocking his head sideways, thought that every now and then some of the shots rang out much louder, as though the skirmishing was getting close to Lime Court. But he was by now deeply interested in Trehanoc’s experiment, and followed without speaking.

When they came down into the cellar Trehanoc touched a switch and revealed a long room, lit only in the nearer portion, where electric bulbs hung over two great laboratory tables and stretching away into clammy darkness.

“Here it is,” he said nervously, indicating the further of the two tables, and hung on Jeremy’s first words.

Jeremy’s first words were characteristic. “How you ever get any result at all,” he said, slowly and incisively, “is more than I can make out. This table looks as though some charwoman had been piling rubbish on it.”

“Yes, I know… I know. . .” Trehanoc admitted in a voice of shame. “That’s where I wanted you to help me. You see, I can’t be quite sure exactly what it is that does determine the result. There’s the vacuum-tube, worked by a coil, and there’s an electric magnet… and that tube on the other side has got radium-emanation in it…”

“And then there’s the dead rat,” Jeremy interrupted rather brutally. “What about the dead rat? Does that affect the result?” He pointed with a forefinger, expressing some disgust, to a remarkably sleek and well-favored corpse which decorated the end of the table.

“I was going to tell you…” Trehanoc muttered, twisting one hand in the other. “You know, there are rather a lot of rats in this cellar—”

“I know,” said Jeremy.

“And when I was making the first experiment that chap jumped on to the table and ran across in front of the vacuum-tube—”

“Well?”

“And he just dropped like that, dropped dead in his tracks… and… and I was frightfully excited, so I only picked him up by his tail and threw him away and forgot all about him. And then quite a long time afterwards, when I was looking for something, I came across him, just like that, just as fresh—”

“And when was that?” Jeremy asked.

“It must be quite six weeks since I made that first experiment.”

“So he’s one of the exhibits,” Jeremy began slowly. But a new outbreak of firing, unmistakably closer at hand, broke across his sentence. Maclan, who was beginning to find the rat a little tedious, and had been hoping that Trehanoc would soon turn a handle and produce long, crackling sparks, snatched at the interruption.

“I must go up and see what’s happening!” he cried. “I’ll be back in a minute.”

He vanished up the steps. When he returned, Jeremy was still turning over the body of the rat with a thoughtful expression and placing it delicately to his nose for olfactory evidence. Trehanoc, who seemed to have begun to think that there was something shameful, if not highly suspicious, in the existence of the corpse, stood before him in an almost suppliant attitude, twisting his long fingers together, and shuffling his feet.

Maclan disregarded the high scientific deliberations. “I say,” he cried with the almost hysterical flippancy that sometimes denotes serious nerve-strain, “it’s frightfully exciting. The fighting is getting nearer, and somebody’s got a machine-gun trained down Whitechapel High Street. There’s nobody in sight here, but I’m certain there are people firing from the houses round about.”

“Oh, damn!” said Jeremy uneasily but absently, continuing to examine the rat.

“And, I say, Tre,” Maclan went on, “do you think this barn of yours would stand a bomb or two? It looks to me as if it would fall over if you pushed it.”

“I’m afraid it would,” Trehanoc admitted, looking as if he ought to apologize. “In fact, I’m always afraid that they’ll condemn it, but I can’t afford repairs.”

“Oh, hang all that!” Jeremy suddenly interjected. “This is extraordinarily interesting. Get the thing going, Trehanoc, and let’s have a look at your rays.”

“That’s right, Tre,” said Maclan. “We’re caught, so let’s make the best of it. Let’s try and occupy our minds as the civilians used to in the old air-raid days. Stick to the dead rat, Tre, and let politics alone.” He laughed—a laugh in which hysteria was now plainly perceptible—but Trehanoc, disregarding him, went into a corner and began fumbling with the switches. In a moment the vacuum-tube began to glow faintly, and Jeremy and Trehanoc bent over it together.

Suddenly a loud knocking at the front door echoed down the cellar steps. Trehanoc twitched his shoulders irritatingly, but otherwise did not move. A moment after it was repeated, and in addition there was a more menacing sound as though some one were trying to break the door in with a heavy instrument.

“You’d better go and see what it is, Augustus,” Jeremy murmured absorbedly. “It may be some one wanting to take shelter from the firing. Go on, and I’ll watch this thing.”

Trehanoc obediently but reluctantly went up the cellar steps, and Jeremy, with some idle, half-apprehending portion of his mind, heard him throw open the front door and heard the sound of angry voices coming through. But he remained absorbed in the vacuum-tube, until Maclan, who was standing at the foot of the steps, said in a piercing whisper:

“Here, Tuft, come here and listen!”

“Yes? What is it?” Jeremy replied vaguely, without changing his position.

“Come here quickly,” Maclan whispered in an urgent tone. Jeremy was aroused and went to the foot of the steps to listen. For a moment he could only hear voices speaking angrily, and then he distinguished Trehanoc’s voice shouting:

“You fools! I tell you there’s no one in the upper rooms. How could any one be firing from the windows?” There was a shot and a gurgling scream. Jeremy and Maclan turned to look at one another, and each saw the other’s face ghastly, distorted by shadows which the electric light in the cellar could not quite dispel.

“Good God!” screamed Maclan. “They’ve killed him!” He started wildly up the stairs. Jeremy, as he began to follow him, heard another shot, saw Maclan poised for a moment, arms up, on the edge of a step, and just had time to flatten himself against the wall before the body fell backwards. He ran down again into the cellar, and began looking about desperately for a weapon of some kind.

As he was doing so there was a cautious footstep on the stair. “Bombs!” he thought, and instinctively threw himself on the floor. The next moment the bomb landed, thrown well out in the middle of the cellar, and it seemed that a flying piece spun viciously through his hair. And then he saw the table which held the glowing vacuum-tube slowly tilting towards him and all the apparatus sliding to the floor, and at the same moment he became aware that the cellar-roof was descending on his head. He had time and wit enough to crawl under the other table before it fell. Darkness came with it.

Jeremy struggled for a moment against unconsciousness. Then something seemed to be going round and round, madly and erratically at first, finally settling into a regular motion of enormous speed. He was vaguely aware of the glowing vacuum-tube, and the dead rat, partly illuminated by it, close to his face; but he felt himself being borne away, he knew not whither. A sort of peace in that haste overtook his limbs and he slept.

***

NEXT WEEK: “The machine was sufficiently remarkable, and reminded him of nothing so much as of some which he had seen in the occupied territories of Germany at the end of the war. Its frame was exceedingly heavy, as were all the working parts which could be seen; and it was covered, not with enamel, but with a sort of coarse paint. The spokes of the wheels were half the size of a man’s little finger, and the rims were of thick wood, with springs in the place of tires.”

Stay tuned!

***

RADIUM AGE SCIENCE FICTION: “Radium Age” is HiLobrow’s name for the 1904–33 era, which saw the discovery of radioactivity, the revelation that matter itself is constantly in movement — a fitting metaphor for the first decades of the 20th century, during which old scientific, religious, political, and social certainties were shattered. This era also saw the publication of genre-shattering writing by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Sax Rohmer, E.E. “Doc” Smith, Jack London, Rudyard Kipling, Arthur Conan Doyle, Aldous Huxley, Olaf Stapledon, Karel Čapek, H.P. Lovecraft, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Yevgeny Zamyatin, E.M. Forster, Philip Wylie, and other pioneers of post-Verne/Wells, pre-Golden Age “science fiction.” More info here.

HILOBOOKS: The mission of HiLoBooks is to serialize novels on HiLobrow; and also, as of 2012, operating as an imprint of Richard Nash’s Cursor, to reissue Radium Age science fiction in beautiful new print editions. In May 2012, we will publish Jack London’s The Scarlet Plague; in June, Rudyard Kipling’s With the Night Mail (and “As Easy as A.B.C.”); in July, Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Poison Belt; in September, H. Rider Haggard’s When the World Shook; in October, Edward Shanks’ The People of the Ruins; and in November, William Hope Hodgson’s The Night Land. For more information, visit the HiLoBooks homepage.

READ: Jack London’s The Scarlet Plague, serialized between January and April 2012; Rudyard Kipling’s With the Night Mail (and “As Easy as A.B.C.”), serialized between March and June 2012; Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Poison Belt, serialized between April and July 2012; and H. Rider Haggard’s When the World Shook, serialized between March and August 2012.

READ: HiLobrow’s previous serialized novels, both original works: James Parker’s The Ballad of Cocky The Fox (“a proof-of-concept that serialization can work on the Internet” — The Atlantic) and Karinne Keithley Syers’s Linda Linda Linda. We also publish original stories and comics.

Peter Godwin’s “Images of Heaven” single came…

Peter Godwin’s “Images of Heaven” single came out May 31, 1982.

The Land Grabbers: The New Fight Over Who Owns the Earth

An unprecedented land grab is taking place around the world. Fearing future food shortages or eager to profit from them, the world’s wealthiest and most acquisitive countries, corporations, and individuals have been buying and leasing vast tracts of land around the world. The scale is astounding: parcels the size of small countries are being gobbled up across the plains of Africa, the paddy fields of Southeast Asia, the jungles of South America, and the prairies of Eastern Europe. Veteran science writer Fred Pearce spent a year circling the globe to find out who was doing the buying, whose land was being taken over, and what the effect of these massive land deals seems to be.

The Land Grabbers is a first-of-its-kind exposé that reveals the scale and the human costs of the land grab, one of the most profound ethical, environmental, and economic issues facing the globalized world in the twenty-first century. The corporations, speculators, and governments scooping up land cheap in the developing world claim that industrial-scale farming will help local economies. But Pearce’s research reveals a far more troubling reality. While some mega-farms are ethically run, all too often poor farmers and cattle herders are evicted from ancestral lands or cut off from water sources. The good jobs promised by foreign capitalists and home governments alike fail to materialize. Hungry nations are being forced to export their food to the wealthy, and corporate potentates run fiefdoms oblivious to the country beyond their fences.

Pearce’s story is populated with larger-than-life characters, from financier George Soros and industry tycoon Richard Branson, to Gulf state sheikhs, Russian oligarchs, British barons, and Burmese generals. We discover why Goldman Sachs is buying up the Chinese poultry industry, what Lord Rothschild and a legendary 1970s asset-stripper are doing in the backwoods of Brazil, and what plans a Saudi oil billionaire has for Ethiopia. Along the way, Pearce introduces us to the people who actually live on, and live off of, the supposedly “empty” land that is being grabbed, from Cambodian peasants, victimized first by the Khmer Rouge and now by crony capitalism, to African pastoralists confined to ever-smaller tracts.

Over the next few decades, land grabbing may matter more, to more of the planet’s people, than even climate change. It will affect who eats and who does not, who gets richer and who gets poorer, and whether agrarian societies can exist outside corporate control. It is the new battle over who owns the planet.

Fred Pearce is an award-winning author and journalist based in London. He has reported on environment, science, and development issues from sixty-seven countries over the past twenty years. Environment consultant at New Scientist since 1992, he also writes regularly for the Guardian newspaper and Yale University’s prestigious e360 website. Pearce was voted UK Environment Journalist of the Year in 2001 and CGIAR agricultural research journalist of the year in 2002, and won a lifetime achievement award from the Association of British Science Writers in 2011. His many books include With Speed and Violence, Confessions of an Eco-Sinner, The Coming Population Crash, and When the Rivers Run Dry.

“Wherever I went, people were being moved off with little or no regard for their historic or cultural rights. The grabbers want big spaces – 50,000 hectares – and you can only get that if you take commonly owned ancestral lands. They come in and put in an airstrip and a compound and roads and canals and the villagers are told to go to the nearest town and they lose absolutely everything.” Read an interview with Fred Pearce at the Guardian.

Read an excerpt from The Land Grabbers at Scribd.

New Design and Features for the ArtBase

Rhizome is happy to announce that we have launched a new design and a big new feature for The ArtBase. In case you are not familliar with the ArtBase, it is Rhizome’s archive of internet art and new media, contains over 2,000 works of art, and spans nearly two decades of history. Facing such vast size and complexity, and seeing a lack of major archives of internet art and new media that are accessible to a general audience, a major goal of ours was to afford greater to the history and context of these works, as well as improved searchability and browseability. To address the issue of education, accessability, and context we have accessibility launched a new feature: collections.

Just as a museum may provide access to their catalog through historic or thematic groupings, the ArtBase collections seek to surface trends, themes, and creative modes inherent in our collection. We are launching this feature with six initial collections: Formalism & Glitch, Code, Net.art & Hypertext, Tactical Media, Rendered Reality, and Digital Archivalism. Each collection leads off with a curatorial statement, aiming to provide context for the viewer who may not be familiar with the history of these creative practices. The content of the collections is not static, and will grow and change with the evolution of the ArtBase. As well, while these initial six collections were curated by Rhizome, subsequent collections will be curated and driven by indipendent curators and scholars.

Moving forward, we have two big projects on our to-do list for the summer. First, we are in the initial stages of migrating the back-end of the ArtBase to a new collections management platform, which will allow us to catalog works with better metadata standards, and correlate works, artists, collectives, exhibitions in ways that we currently can not. Secondly, we are embarking on a major web archiving initiative. Nearly half of the works in the ArtBase are not maintained within our digital repository, placing these works at great risk of link rot. Using tools such as wget, HTTrack, Heritrix, Beautiful Soup, and Scrapy, we will be crawling these works so that we may better preserve and provide access to the history of online artistic practices.

Johnny Paycheck

My dad listened to country music before work. Frightening songs; bad things were happening. Your family is your life but you can’t make it off the barstool. You have the best girl and you keep treating her as terrible as you feel. Good job? Bullshit. The blue-collar, reckless, paragospel, high, heartbroken “Outlaw country” musician JOHNNY PAYCHECK (Donald Eugene Lytle, 1938-2003) took his name from one of the many boxers who fought Joe Louis and went down hard. Paycheck did his prison show from inside the joint; instead of a neat Army photo in the newspapers, he was court-martialed by the Navy; Hells Angels were friends. Paycheck was broken, sinning for our thoughts, crooning wreckage and apologies, his beset, addict eyes fixed on the wild frustrations making us wonder whether we’ll ever figure anything out. (“I’m gonna wear/This whiskey glass stare/Till my memories go blind.”) What little fame Paycheck tasted was from the 1977 hit “Take This Job and Shove It.” America went wild and Hollywood made a movie; Paycheck was on Dukes of Hazzard, but he wasn’t Muppets material. Listen to him at the end, to his acoustic “Old Violin,” and consider the outlaw who’s too numb and crazy to stay down. When he died, the New York Times obituary claimed he’d been inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, then ran a correction. Damn! An outlaw can’t get a break.

***

On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: Gilbert Shelton, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, and John Bonham.

Lev Grossman — they asked him anything

Friend of the blog Lev Grossman did an AMA on reddit tonight about his novels The Magicians and The Magician King.  (I wrote about The Magicians here.)  Lots of good material but I especially liked this from Lev on Narnia:

You know how you — by which I mean me — love your parents, but you’re also kind of permanently angry at them, all the time? That’s how I feel about the Narnia books. I really do love them. I’ve tried to make my daughter read them about 100 times. But I feel so bitter about them too — about what they did and didn’t prepare me for in life.

Closing tabs

Very glad to be back home.  I was in Ottawa for a slightly quixotic enterprise, but really I must get back to work; I have several pressing things I need to finish, including the wretched Austen essay, which I didn't have time to tackle again before I left early Saturday morning(it is actually much more relaxing for me to work than to do almost anything else!).  This gives a bit of the flavor of our day on Sunday.

Closing tabs:

"Filling udders with gas is becoming a serious problem."   (Via Tyler Cowen and Brent.)

One iguana's lucky break.

3-D jello sculpture!  (Apparently it's a thing.)

Teach Me How to Boogie Guest Post: Beyonce vs De Keersmaeker

by Amelia Ehrhardt

In October of 2011, more than a dozen of my Facebook friends posted a video called “Split Screen Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker and Beyonce Knowles”, a video highlighting the similarities between Beyonce’s video for “Countdown” and many of de Keersmaeker’s films. I typically fall into the internet outrage trap easily, and this was an extreme example. I’d studied this film in university – de Keersmaeker is a well-known dance choreographer – and while I initially hesitated about how much Beyonce could have stolen, I realized pretty immediately that the answer was “pretty much everything.”

Rosas Danst Rosas was first choreographed for stage in 1983, when de Keersmaeker was only 23 years old. It was one of de Keersmaeker’s earliest choreographies, one that is still performed by the company. The piece was created in close collaboration with the musicians Thierry de Mey and Peter Vermeersch, and, like much of her earlier work, deals explicitly with female sexuality and experience without necessarily being about feminism. The film version, directed and shot in 1996 (also by Theirry de Mey) expands on the original piece’s choreography and concept. I spent about five minutes while watching it just trying to figure out how the dancers were counting one section of choreography (I finally figured it out as four, five, four, three, five: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zS_kWttptS4).

That same meticulousness exists in the editing: the repeated cutting between shots manages not to be overwhelming or muddy, as the specific movements are matched up frame by frame – each shot follows the one before it, until right after the film’s courtyard scene. The precision that had existed before, in all elements of the work, breaks down here to make space for a surprisingly stark ending.

The work presents a take on women that was striking and risky at the time of its creation. Viewed now, and perhaps even in 1996 when the film was shot, many of its feminist stances could seem kitschy or demoralizing, but the repeated gesture of taking off the shirt, exposing the shoulders, and putting it back on again describes what is to me an important problem in dance around women and women’s bodies. In a field vastly dominated by women, men still hold the majority of leadership positions and are more likely to receive funding: in 2005, the Dancer Transition Resource Centre reported that 71% of professional dancers in Canada were female, yet 10 out of the group’s 15 associated companies were under male artistic directorship. Dance Theatre Workshop in the States notes that “in 2000, of the 18 modern dance choreographers who received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, 13 were men”. The men received a total of $200 000 with a typical grant of ten grand, and the women received a total of$45 000 with a typical grant of five thousand dollars.

The life and work of a dancer is taxing and difficult, and the problems around the female body in dance are numerous and notorious. With so many men running the show, I have to wonder how much longer we can ignore these issues. Skimpy costumes on women and rampant eating disorders, coupled with lower rates of pay for the same work, paint a depressing picture of women’s complicated place in the dance community, and yet in 1983 de Keersmaeker was presenting work, as a young female choreographer, where women exposed themselves, “exploited” themselves. Suddenly this gesture of exposing the shoulder seems to me pretty radical. This work predates Madonna and riot grrrl, and though it comes after two “waves” of feminism and a number of strong women asserting themselves and their sexuality – Wendy O. Williams and Sylvia Robinson come to mind – not many of the women who took a more aggressive stance reached the point of critical acclaim that Rosas did.

The film version’s resemblance to a music video stands out for me now – I have tried to learn some of the choreography and remembered sections of it in a vocabulary that almost seems more commercial, more hip-hop than anything else. It’s a rare instance in dance when I feel like an all-female cast is a specific choice to say something meaningful about female sexuality or the place of women in the professional dance community, as opposed to just a reflection of available collaborators. Grabbing their own breast, taking off the shoulder of their shirts, and writhing slightly all fit into the larger vocabulary of pedestrian movement, released arms, and a mind-bogglingly precise relaxation. Complicated floorwork and athletic throws are juxtaposed with flirtatious looks from the women.

Despite the commentary the work makes, it isn’t just about gender and sexuality for me. My first reaction to the piece was actually that it must be about anxiety or obsession, based on the preoccupation that seems to have a hold on the dancers throughout. Finding out that this film version was shot and edited by a man, I have to admit, changed things a bit for me, however much I’m keeping myself satisfied by believing that de May, as a longtime collaborator of de Keersmaeker’s, worked with and understands her vision for the work. There’s also, I think, a difference between this male gaze, and the one that follows contemporary female pop singers.

Contemporary pop stars like Beyonce. In 2011, her music video for “Countdown” was released to an immediate fury of online sharing. It didn’t take long for dance nerds everywhere to notice the obvious lifting of choreography, costumes, set, and timing (so pretty much everything) from de Keersmaeker’s work. Beyonce is not new to plagiarism charges – earlier in the same year she was accused of stealing some moves from Lorella Cuccarrini at the Billboard Music Awards. The director of the video for “Countdown,” Adria Petty, claims to have brought different “inspirational sources” to Beyonce to use in the video, and, in her words, “believe it or not, many of them were German modern dance references”.

The distinction between Germany and Belgium notwithstanding, there’s a thin line between inspiration and plagiarism that anybody on the Internet is familiar with. Any 14-year-old with a Mac and Photobooth is capable of creating Warhols. Webcomic creators everywhere are plagued with random Internet users taking frames from strips and using them as Facebook profile pictures, showing how much they identify with the sentiment of “clean all the things”. A million memes of Sgt. Pike pepper-spraying some kids are now floating around the aether, with no sense of who the original creator might be. Does anybody know who created LOLcats?

In this sense, it’s hard to accuse Beyonce of plagiarism – after all, this wonderful modern world makes it easy to “plagiarize” anything. In December 2011 I screened de Keersmaeker’s film with no permission to do so. If you want a copy of the DVD you can download it, just like I did. There’s even evidence to suggest that “borrowing” in dance work is just the reality of what we do – the neurological activity of watching and performing movement is identical, which, coupled with the fact that learned movements patterns are stored in the long-term memory, suggests the possibility of kinesthetic memory triggering at any given moment.

This problem of originality is a sort of obsession for me. I’ve had the call for “original movement vocabulary” shoved down my throat so much in my training as a choreographer that when I actually started reading neurocognitive studies on movement creation and found that “muscle memory” is a real thing, I was thrilled to be free from the burden of making unique stuff. But this doesn’t mean, in my mind, that we can now run around stealing other people’s choreography because our somatic mindbody memory made us do it. Rather, I think of this as more of a call to dance artists everywhere for academic honesty – let’s just acknowledge our training, our prior collaborators, and choreographers we’ve worked for as being the source for all our own movement. Beyonce’s video may be a poor example of this. Somatic mindbody memory doesn’t force you to copy someone’s costumes and sets.

It’s not just the one film that Beyonce ripped here, either. The entire movement vocabulary in “Countdown” is a lift from something else. When asked about the clip, Beyonce is quoted as saying: “Clearly, the ballet Rosas danst Rosas was one of many references for my video ‘Countdown.’ It was one of the inspirations used to bring the feel and look of the song to life…I was also paying tribute to the film Funny Face with the legendary Audrey Hepburn .” She later added: “My biggest inspirations were the ’60s, the ’70s, Brigitte Bardot, Andy Warhol, Twiggy and Diana Ross…I’ve always been fascinated by the way contemporary art uses different elements and references to produce something unique.”

My own perspective on the matter of lifting and inspiration is muddy. I don’t particularly care about originality, and I’m not bothered when I see dance work whose movement vocabulary shows clear influence from another choreographer. I actually think that rules. I draw the line around this when a work of art that’s seminal in its field but little-known outside of it is lifted without any credit or sourcing, in a product that will make someone who is already incredibly successful that much more wealthy. It would’ve been pretty exciting to me if this video had gently referenced de Keersmaeker, or given the occasional subtle nod to Rosas Danst Rosas. I have personally done the exact same thing, with the exact same piece of choreography – I find it hard not to, given its importance. I also know that sampling is integral to the realm of music Beyonce is working in, and often practiced without any reference, citation, or recognition. To be honest, I don’t know how to reconcile that: after all, this video is just another sample.

Artist Profile: Jacqueline Kiyomi Gordon

Our Best Machines are Made of Sunshine, 2009.

The notion of
“feedback” is an important element for your sonic sculptures, where the
viewer/listener is pulled into and directed by the work. As you stated in our
visit, “What you hear affects how you move and how you move affects how you
hear.” Your work SA-3, which you developed as a MFA student at Stanford, is a
prime example of this technique. Could you discuss this piece and your research
going into the project?

Well, for that piece it really started with noticing the
moment in which I would become conscious of a localized sound, and how that awareness
would pull me into or out of a particular relationship to the space. You could
say an in-body/out-of-body type mediation. Through research in sound
localization I learned of various directional speaker technologies and I
combined that with an ongoing interest in how and why speaker systems are
installed and controlled.

I was already looking into military projects involving sound
as well as new developments in sound system technology. Talking with some folks
at Meyer Sound in Berkeley, I was particularly interested in their
Constellation system and their long-range speakers while I was also learning
Stanford’s CCRMA (Center for Computer Music and Research in Acoustics).  I came across the “audio spotlight” by
Holosonics and the LRAD speakers at the time made by American Technologies.
These both use ultra sonic transducers that heterodyne into an audible
frequency controlling the localization of the sound through the inherent
directionality of ultrasonic waves. The police and military are using the LRAD
as hailing devices and have occasionally used them for crowd dispersal, a
technique which is super dangerous because the key component of these speakers
is that the user can control them without affecting their own ears. The person
in control of the sound can inhabit the same space with those that it affects,
while remaining immune to its force. Never before has this been the case. There’s
a frightening disjunction in that control loop. So I was doing this research
and I found a few really cheap small ultrasonic speakers on EBay and combined
them into a hanging speaker array loosely based off of one of the Meyer Sound
systems. I have always been attracted to the hanging speaker arrays and wanted
to combine the ultrasonic speaker technology with the aesthetics of the stadium
speakers to address the ways these more known systems control our bodily
relationship to sound.  In a theater or
performance setting there’s a loop between the performer, the sound engineer,
the speaker system and the audience that returns back to the performer. With
the LRAD system there’s a different loop where the person controlling the sound
(performer and the sound engineer) do not experience the sound, yet they could
see their “audience.”

Going back to SA-3, I wanted to play between those
experiences by having the speakers of SA-3 play the sounds that you as a viewer
make in the gallery. A mirror of sorts where you control what the sound is but how
you chose to place yourself inline with the directionality of the speakers
decides how you experience that sound in space. The audience is the performer.
And I guess, as the designer of this system, I am the sound engineer.

Archaeoacoustics is a
topic that has come up a few times in some of our past conversations.
Archaeacoustics is concerned primarily with investigating the sonic properties
of archaeological artifacts and spaces, and your work in a way could be read as
an archaeacoustics of cybernetic control. However, your focus on cybernetics
and systems is very attentive to modalities of power, so perhaps this may not
be “archaeacoustics” as much as a geneaology (in Foucault’s sense) of
acoustics, where you examine how power is enacted through sound as situated in
space or objects. What are your thoughts on this? Could you speak more about

Oh, absolutely. My interest in archaeacoustics is really more
like looking at geneaology though the sense of sound. I still think about Discipline and Punish quite a bit,
particularly with the history of sound surveillance, the regulation of noise
and silence and our own levels of tolerance. But I’m currently trying to think
about it as more of an exchange of communication, trying to break down the hierarchy
a little. Perhaps that is what I’m now trying to do by applying cybernetics to
my work.

I got into archaeacoustics at Stanford, trying to wiggle my
way into research groups such as Miriam Kolar’s mind-blowing work at Chavin De
Huanter or the amazing Bissera Pentcheva’s group working on Hagia Sophia.  But I am not an academic, nor an acoustics engineer,
so I’ve been inspired by their research but I myself am not a part of it.  I had to go back to the roots of why I am interested
in it in the first place. Which starts with my interest in control systems, of
the self and of bodies in space.

I guess I first got interested in cybernetics when I was researching
the rational justification and irrational actions of fear and what I saw as the
development of fear based technology.  I
came across the Cold War networked SAGE system, and then I learned of the Macy Conference and Wiener. I was circuit bending and trying to build my own instruments. The
idea of interacting and having a physical relationship with an electronic interface
was interesting to me (this was in the early/mid 2000’s). Through experimenting,
trying to build a difficult to control instrument with various sensors (basically
fucked up electronics) I developed some sort of understanding of cybernetics as
a personal bodily relationship.

I extended this learning from a personal experience into
trying to understand larger perspectives. Through my relationship to various
soundscapes and speaker systems, I saw architecture as a non-amplified
example.  And because I translate
architectural acoustics into speaker systems, I am now trying to understand how
these networks affect me, physically and/or emotionally towards or against a
space.

An analogue architectural example would be standing in a
large reverberant room but having it be extremely silent, so that I am self conscious
of my every move and thought. An amplified digital example would the audio
systems found in some churches, which are designed to manipulate the space so
that it sounds like the priest is right in front of each member with little
speakers in the back of pews and digital effects to suppress reverb, enabling a
more intimate relationship between the congregation and the speaker. Of course
other major factors, such as language, are involved to affect the experience of
these systems but on a strict acoustical level one can control and regulate
emotions though these interactions.  Ugh,
that just got very dystopian. What I am currently trying to do is understand
how the audience can have a role back in that system. Hopefully that will come
though in future work.

You showed me photos
of your piece I Want You to Want Me to Want You to Want Me (2011) – a large wall
mounted sculpture using anechoic wedges of foam. When the viewer stands in
front of it, the design and materials used in the sculpture quiet sound around
them. We discussed some of your research into anechoic chambers, including the Benefield
Anechoic Facility located at the Edwards Airforce Space, which was developed to
test stealth drones. Silence in these spaces isn’t mere subtraction, but an
active absence. What lead you to work on anechoic chambers? Could you talk more

For me silence is never a subtraction. Silence makes room
for another form of communication, it might not be audible but in the cross
modality way we experience an environment, silence can communicate more then
the most defining noise, for me it is always an active absence.

In 2002 I had an amazing opportunity to visit the Anechoic
Chamber at Bell Labs in New Jersey. I was still painting at the time, going to
noise shows, reading Cage, visiting La Monte Young’s Dream House, etc. but the act of listening was still new to me and
I had not started to work with sound yet.
The experience was mind blowing. It was disorienting on almost every
sensory level and it was the first time I had ever experienced real silence,
but the amazing part was that I felt totally comfortable the whole time. We
hung out in the space making noise and experimenting then turned off the lights
and laid down on the metal fence floor for ½ an hour in complete silence. What
that did for me was set a conscious barometer of stimulus between various
similar and opposing sensory inputs. Anechoic chambers are as close to a non-architecture
that I’ve ever experienced, they are total voids. Every once in a while I
really like to think about that. How it felt to be in nothingness. This might
sound crazy but it was as if I had no skin, my heartbeat was everywhere, my
breathing was coming from everywhere, a sort of present self-surveillance. I
recently went to into a sensory deprivation tank and it was a different sonic experience
but was tactilely very similar.

The twist with the anechoic chambers is that they are visually
stunning, immersive op-art rooms with a transparent floor so that you are
floating in the middle of a perfect cube.  This juxtaposition of experiences is what
first brought me to wanting to work with them, but I didn’t know what to do
besides make one to hang out in. When researching current uses of anechoic
chambers, I came across the rooms that are mostly used today, which are for measuring
RF radiation for Drones or cellphone antennas. These rooms still function in a
similar way to the acoustic anechoic chambers, making sure something is communicating
or not communicating, but for objects and more advanced technology that still
involve communication and surveillance.

In 2009, you created
an extensive 4-channel surround sound installation for Queens Nails Annex in
San Francisco entitled Our Best Machines are Made of Sunshine. Audio from two
microphones fed into 24 speakers around the gallery, which were arranged
according schematics you designed especially for the project. This space, too,
had the feel of an anechoic chamber, especially the white wall structures that
encased the speakers. As an environment, the installation seemed very attentive
to its own architecture, from design to implementation. Could you speak about
this project and your own approach to architecture?

That piece was an effort to redistribute and abstract the
experience between a building/gallery and the soundscape patterns of the
street. I’d been trying to figure out how to sonically move walls or make them
disappear.  Or create a different type of
wall that reflected and amplified sound to sift the perception of the room.

Our Best Machines are Made of Sunshine is totally modular,
so that every speaker and sculpture can be re-arranged to facilitate the
movement of sound in any space. I would have loved to change the speaker
arrangement every week and have the room sound totally different.  The arrangement that I settled on was based
completely on my own intuitive relationship to the visual and sonic
requirements of the space, so that when you sat in the middle you would hear
all sounds in surround. If you sat farther out from the center, the sound would
become more cacophonous due to the standing waves that would mount in every
corner and the narrowness of the space. The effect was felt most when the
low-end kicked up, the room would resonate for quite some time creating a
deeply sustained bodily boom.  This was
my first solo show in a “white walled” gallery, previously I had done more site
specific work, so I wanted to play with the idea of that space with visual aspects
of sensory disorientation. The film THX 1138 was an influence (sound design and
visually) as well as Brutalist architecture, which, due to the concrete and
dramatic angles has crazy amounts of standing waves and strange acoustical
properties.

I built the piece pretty intuitively and the schematic drawing
actually came after the installation. I was trying to understand more about
what I made and visualizing it that way made the most sense. That drawing enabled me to refine my own
perspective and relationship to systems. It’s interesting how installations can
turn back into drawings.

Gordon looking up at SA-3 (2011). I Want You to Want Me to Want You to Want Me (2011) is on the wall in the background.

Age: 29

Location: Los
Angeles

How long have you been working creatively with technology?
How did you start?

The
first digital technology was probably MacPaint. My grandmother was a painter
and when she had to stop due to health reasons, my Aunt got her a Mac and tried
to teach her to use it. She hated it, but I had fun, I think I was 7 or 8. I
also went to an arts tech magnet junior high where I learned how to make and
edit videos, use HyperCard and run DMX lights in a black box theater. But I think
of technology outside of digital terms. I remember teaching myself perspective
drawing at 6 and modifying kit craft looms for weaving around the same time. I
come from a family of hackers so taking things apart and DIY stuff was just
normal.

Describe your experience with the tools you use. How did you
start using them?

I use
anything to get the job done. My tools range from pen and paper to software or
a laser cutter, or hell, my own ears are tools.  I think a lot about how and what I use but
I’ll use anything.

Where did you go to school? What did you study?

LA
County High School for the Arts, Painting

San
Francisco Art Institute, BFA in Photography but worked in Digital Media and New
Genres

Stanford
University, MFA Studio Practice

What traditional media do you use, if any? Do you think your

Absolutely,
and my work with technology relates to my work with traditional media. I do not
make a distinction between traditional and technological media. They relate
back and forth and back again. To me, traditional media uses technology, and
technology uses language from traditional media. They have different modalities
and methods, but so does each genre of “traditional art” and I have always worked
in a cross disciplinary manner. Also, with the digitization of production in
the past 15 years, everyone blurs those lines. Who cuts stone now? It’s done by
a CNC router over in China, or if you do it by hand it’s because that is the
only way to realize it. Process and production are linked.

Are you involved in other creative or social activities
(i.e. music, writing, activism, community organizing)?

I am in a music/performance
collective called 0th whose members include Amanda
Warner, Canner Mefe and Caryl Kientz, and I’m working on an object oriented
audio label with Marijke Jorritsma called Physical Release.

What do you do for a living or what occupations have you
held previously? Do you think this work relates to your art practice in a
significant way?

Before
graduate school, I was working as a studio manager for an artist and as an
on-call media tech at SFMOMA. I learned a ton from both of those jobs in
regards to managing production and various ways media is installed and runs in
a museum setting.

Who are your key artistic influences?

Yoko
Ono, John Cage, Merce Cunningham, LaMonte Young, Yayoi Kusama, Louise
Bourgeois, Lee Bontecou, John McCracken, Robert Morris, Judy Chicago, Mike
Kelly, RuPaul, Eliane Radigue, Maryanne Amacher, David Tudor, Walter De Maria, Dan
Graham, Anna Halprin, Lawrence Halprin, Ryoji Ikeda, Xenakis, Stockhausen, Harry
Parch, Harry Smith, Cluster, Throbbing Gristle, Pauline Oliveros, Octavia E
Butler, Phillip K Dick, JD Ballard, Ursula K. Le Guin, Arthur C. Clark, Stanley
Kubrick, Bella Tar, Ridley Scott, Adam Curtis, Delia Derbyshire, Robert
Bresson, DIS magazine . . .

Have you collaborated with anyone in the art community on a
project? With whom, and on what?

Not
yet. But I hope to.

Do you actively study art history?

I
actively study lots of history. I go in and out of art history. Though recently
I’ve been reading up on female surrealists and tantric paintings.

Do you read art criticism, philosophy, or critical theory?
If so, which authors inspire you?

critical theory when I’m researching some particular aspect of what I am doing
in the studio. In undergrad, I loved Virillo and Foucault. Now, it’s hard to say.
I do pay attention to the writing in Grey Room and MIT press, such as the
Technologies of Lived Abstraction series. And I’ve been reading up lots on
perception and listening. There’s so much out there, and I’m a very slow

Are there any issues around the production of, or the
display/exhibition of new media art that you are concerned about?

Sound
in galleries and museums. There are ways to control it. Maybe not completely
without compromising the visual experience, but a little more attention to how
installations and buildings are designed could go a long way.

personal project: comic series

personal project: comic series

oldhollywood: Genuine (1920, dir. Robert Wiene) Set design by…

Genuine (1920, dir. Robert Wiene) Set design by German Expressionist painter César Klein.

(via)

“But Beautiful” by Geoff Dyer (plus music)

Great jazz and good writing has been a wonderful combination for many years now.   So by even its cover I knew this book is going to of some interest.  Geoff Dyer has a real appreciation for the visual imagery of jazz - meaning that his writing is almost a series of snapshots of various legendary jazz figures. He captures each moment  that is both touching and 'wow.'

The individual pieces in this book are held together by brief episodes of Duke Ellington and Harry Carney on the road that reads sort of existential that they do what they do - which is to travel, eat at dodgy diners, go to club/theater, play music and then go forward.  But during this activity Ellington is consistently thinking of writing new music and he finds inspiration on the pacing and details of 'road' life.   A very nice touch, and then it goes into incredible 'at the moment' portraits of Charles Mingus, Thelonious Monk, Bud Powell, Ben Webster, Lester Young, Chet Baker, and the ultra-cool and poisonous Art Pepper.   Dyer gets it right, and this is a really 'must' type of book for one's jazz library.  Or I should just say music.   You like sound, then get the book.

Here's the music makers that are in the book:

Lester Young
Personnel:
Lester Young - Tenor Sax
Billy Butterfield - Trumpet
Hank D'Amico - Clarinet
Dexter Hall - Guitar
Johnny Guarnieri - Piano
Billy Taylor - Bass
Cozy Cole - Drums

Lester Young and Coleman Hawkins, 1958
Charlie Shavers, trumpet; J C Higginbotham, trombone; Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young, tenor sax; Pee Wee Russell, clarinet; Harry﻿ Sheppard, vibraphone; Willie "The Lion" Smith, piano; Dickie Thompson,﻿ guitar; Vinnie Burke, acoustic double bass; Sonny Greer, drums

Lester Young and Billie Holiday.  With Gerry Mulligan

Thelonious Monk
Thelonious Monk - piano. Charlie Rouse - tenor. Larry Gales - bass. Ben Riley - drums

a long set with Thelonious Monk.

Bud Powell Trio

Ben Webster
Ben Webster - Tenor Saxophone, Kenny Drew - Piano, Nils Henning Orsted Pederson - Bass, Alex Riel, Drums

Charles Mingus
Charles Mingus Double Bass
Eric Dolphy Bass Clarinet
Dannie Richmond Drum
Clifford Jordan Tenor Sax
Jackie Byard Piano
Johnny Coles Trumpet

Chet Baker

Art Pepper

Funded by a Felony: How Pfizer Paid for a Big Pharma Watchdog

Carl Elliott is the author of White Coat, Black Hat: Adventures on the Dark Side of Medicine. Elliott is a professor at the Center for Bioethics at the University of Minnesota. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, the Believer, Slate, the London Review of Books, and theAmerican Prospect. His six previous books include Better Than Well, Prozac As a Way of Life, Rules of Insanity, and A Philosophical Disease.

This post originally appeared in two parts at the Chronicle of Higher Education’s Brainstorm blog.

In June, I will be returning to Washington for the annual Pharmed Out conference, a project located at Georgetown University Medical Center. It is one of my favorite events of the year, in part because of the wide array of academics, journalists, and activists who attend, but mainly because of its extraordinarily committed, outspoken director, Dr. Adriane Fugh-Berman, and her merry band of student volunteers. Adriane agreed to an interview by email.

Would it be fair to say that your project was funded by a felony?

Yes, we were funded by the Attorney General Consumer and Prescriber Grant program, a novel and never-to-be-repeated program that resulted from a settlement between Pfizer and all 50 states and the District of Columbia. We promised so much that before we got the grant, the grant administrators asked us to cut down what we promised to do. We refused — and in the end, we exceeded what we promised.

Just by chance, we had begun our project by shooting an interview of Shahram Ahari — a former drug rep for Eli Lilly who is now a medical student — talking about how he had sold Zyprexa. That was just days before the story broke in The New York Times about how Lilly hid data about adverse effects. Jim Ridgeway, the investigative reporter and filmmaker we worked with, realized that what we had was newsworthy and insisted that we release a quickly edited video clip. We didn’t even have a phone line yet, let alone a Web site. So we released the video on YouTube, crediting the not-yet-existing PharmedOut, with Georgetown’s media office as the contact number. It received a lot of media attention. The video “Zyprexa Drug Rep” has been viewed more than 150,000 times.

Since then, we’ve done novel research on, for example, promotional tone in medical journal articles, and how marketing messages are inserted into CME. We created the first educational module that has convinced physicians that they are personally affected by promotion. And we’ve had groundbreaking conferences, the third of which will be held at Georgetown on June 14-15. It’s called “Missing the Target: When Practitioners Harm More Than Heal,” and will cover the potential adverse effects of marketing drugs and medical devices.

How did you get started as an activist?

I came out of women’s health advocacy work, and we were fighting medicalization of childbirth, menopause, and menstruation, so I feel I always had that bent. Being a reformer suits my crabby nature.

I come from a family of utterly fearless women. I’m the most cautious, but apparently still less afraid than most. My parents were both anti-Vietnam war activists. My mother was very active with Women’s Strike for Peace, and met with Vietnamese women in Djakarta. My brother was president of SDS [Students for a Democratic Society] at Rutgers. I think I learned to walk at demonstrations.

I got involved in feminism, women’s health, worked at Planned Parenthood as a teen, then a reproductive health clinic as a counselor and medical assistant. I would sometimes ask docs to treat women who couldn’t afford care. I decided it would be easier to become a doc then beg docs to help people. Anyone who hasn’t been through medical training romanticizes medicine; med school and internship were so tough in unexpected ways.

I know exactly what you mean, but maybe you should explain.

Med school was anti-intellectual and inhumane. First there was the vast quantity of mind-numbing rote memorization of largely irrelevant material in the basic-science years, followed by the clinical years, in which we learned tradition, myth, and ritual. The overwhelming amount of material in the preclinical years makes students pine for shortcuts. No wonder they’re ripe for the simplistic, definitive messaging of drug reps later. Third year was one long hazing ritual; then in fourth year we were accepted into the fold. And in gratitude, we would accept and perpetuate the whole dehumanizing training system.

Questions were punished. Empathy for patients was discouraged. I was horrified that there seemed to be no connection between medicine and public health, and only a tenuous connection between medicine and science. (Whenever docs are caught out doing something nonscientific, they say, medicine is an art, not a science.) And only lip service was paid to the concept of patient autonomy, or making medical decisions in the context of a patient’s own life and values.

So when they removed your soul in medical school, did it hurt? I was under the impression that soul extraction was a pretty simple procedure, but to be honest, I found it excruciatingly painful.

Yeah, they need to work on the informed consent for that procedure.

I think all of us found ourselves doing things or thinking things we would not have imagined being capable of. Being deprived of sleep, food, and the company of loved ones is terrible for the soul. I remember reading an account of a hungry, exhausted intern who wolfed down the dinner of a patient who had just died. No physician would be proud of that, but we would all understand it. We need to change the training system. Physicians-in-training who are treated compassionately will treat their patients with compassion. Medical training is changing, but not fast enough.

Can you think of any particularly bad moments that seem emblematic to you?

The interns discussing how we envied patients because they were lying in bed and eating and watching TV. It’s terrible looking back on how distorted our thinking was. One of my internship mates ended up in a mental institution; another intern attempted suicide. Standing in a supply cabinet looking for a kit to cath someone who hadn’t peed in 18 hours and realizing, “Hey, I haven’t peed in 18 hours either.” On a psych rotation, handing out an account of a patient permanently damaged by electroconvulsive treatment to fellow students and having them hand it back, saying, “I don’t want to hear the other side if it involves more reading.” Being criticized for putting my arm around a pregnant teen on the way to the exam room. Realizing that preference in IV fluids or antibiotics varied by medical specialty as opposed to patient or disease characteristics. The utter exhaustion — falling asleep on a bus to my clinic for four hours, as the bus crisscrossed the Bronx. The guy I lived with didn’t make it home one night because he fell asleep on a dumpster at a subway station.

I always wrote. I come from a family of writers and activists. Words were important. My father was a professor working on his fourth book on American government when he died at age 39. My mother wrote as well — a column for a small newspaper, letters to the editor. She would have written more had she not been left widowed and penniless with a nine-year-old and a 19-year-old. She never finished a cookbook she started, but my brother, a chef, later wrote one. I was made to write letters as a child, and my family wrote letters to each other. I remember coming home once to an eight page screed from my mother unfurling from a kitchen cabinet.

Anyway, my mother went into the restaurant business, which she ran like a social-service agency. She hired a busboy too damaged to speak, poor single mothers, a prostitute from Chinatown. She brought in chefs from China. Our restaurant launched many others in DC. She was so generous to everyone. We never had money, but we had lots of fun and ate like kings. Food, in my family, was the most important thing. My grandmother believed you should be able to recreate any dish you taste. Not that she deigned to make much non-Chinese food. She did make a great apple pie, from sour, quarter-size apples from a tree in her backyard. I didn’t realize that she had learned to make apple pie in some YWCA American acculturation course she took after coming to the U.S.. As a child I thought apple pie was a Chinese dish. The day my grandmother made a bad dish was the day we knew she was dying.

How have you managed to keep Pharmed Out going?

Those of us who started the project came out of nonprofit groups so we knew how to work crazy hours, convince volunteers to work harder for free than they ever worked for pay, and stretch a penny until it screams. We have an incredibly smart, savvy, responsive, creative team.

Our strength has always been the industry insiders who have provided us invaluable information on marketing practice, and the utter dedication of the doctors, scientists, students, artists and all the individual donors — who have kept the project going despite our having no external funding support since 2008. Every single person whom I paid off the initial grant continued to volunteer for the project after the money ran out. Our Web master supported the site for years; every academic stayed on. Even our work-study student continued to work for free after our funds ran out. Our fabulous anonymous team is what makes this project great. Because so many team members — not just industry — must remain anonymous, we made a decision not to name those team members who could be named. Our staff has been phenomenal. Alicia Bell, now a med student at the Medical College of Virginia, was the founding staff-person who became an amazing colleague over our first four years; without her we would not have achieved the impact we did. Beth Johnson and Nicole Dubowitz have also been great. But every one of our projects is a team effort. As director, I get way too much credit. I have a brilliant, efficient team that reminds me often of one of my mother’s favorite quotes: “The difficult with ease, the impossible with time.”

Pill photo from BigStock.

Sonic Youth’s self-titled EP came out May 30, 1982….

Sonic Youth’s self-titled EP came out May 30, 1982. Here’s “The Burning Spear.”

With the Night Mail (11)

HiLobrow is pleased to present the eleventh installment of our serialization of Rudyard Kipling’s With the Night Mail (and his follow-up story, “As Easy as A.B.C.”). New installments will appear each Wednesday for 12 weeks.

With the Night Mail follows the exploits of an intercontinental mail dirigible battling the perfect storm. Between London and Quebec we learn that a planet-wide Aerial Board of Control (A.B.C.) now enforces a technocratic system of command and control not only in the skies but in world affairs, too. A follow-up story, “As Easy As A.B.C.,” recounts what happens when agitators in Chicago demand a return of democracy: The A.B.C. sends zeppelins armed with sound weapons to subdue not the agitators, but a mob who would destroy them! With the Night Mail is set in 2000, and it first appeared in 1905; 2012 marks the centennial of the first publication of “As Easy As A.B.C.”

In June, HiLoBooks will publish a beautiful new edition of With the Night Mail (and “As Easy as A.B.C.”), checked against the 1909 first published edition (Doubleday), with an Introduction by science fiction author Matthew De Abaitua, and an Afterword by science fiction author Bruce Sterling. SUPPLIES ARE LIMITED! CLICK HERE TO ORDER YOUR COPY.
SUBSCRIBE to HiLobrow’s serialized fiction via RSS.

LAST WEEK: “‘Our folk own themselves. They were of opinion things were going too far and too fiery. I warned the Serviles; but they’re born house-dwellers. Unless a fact hits ‘em on the head, they cannot see it. Would you believe me, they went on to talk of what they called “popular government”? They did! They wanted us to go back to the old Voodoo-business of voting with papers and wooden boxes, and word-drunk people and printed formulas, and news-sheets!’”

ALL EXCERPTS: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12

***

The mass in front of us growled like beasts.

At that moment the sun rose clear, and revealed the blinking assembly to itself. As soon as it realised that it was a crowd we saw the shiver of horror and mutual repulsion shoot across it precisely as the steely flaws shot across the lake outside. Nothing was said, and, being half blind, of course it moved slowly. Yet in less than fifteen minutes most of that vast multitude—three thousand at the lowest count—melted away like frost on south eaves. The remnant stretched themselves on the grass, where a crowd feels and looks less like a crowd.

‘These mean business,’ the Mayor whispered to Takahira. ‘There are a goodish few women there who’ve borne children. I don’t like it.’

The morning draught off the lake stirred the trees round us with promise of a hot day; the sun reflected itself dazzlingly on the canister-shaped covering of Salati’s Statue; cocks crew in the gardens, and we could hear gate-latches clicking in the distance as people stumblingly resought their homes.

‘I’m afraid there won’t be any morning deliveries,’ said De Forest. ‘We rather upset things in the country last night.’

‘That makes no odds,’ the Mayor returned. ‘We’re all provisioned for six months. We take no chances.’

Nor, when you come to think of it, does anyone else. It must be three-quarters of a generation since any house or city faced a food shortage. Yet is there house or city on the Planet today that has not half a year’s provisions laid in? We are like the shipwrecked seamen in the old books, who, having once nearly starved to death, ever afterwards hide away bits of food and biscuit. Truly we trust no Crowds, nor system based on Crowds!

De Forest waited till the last footstep had died away. Meantime the prisoners at the base of the Statue shuffled, posed and fidgeted, with the shamelessness of quite little children. None of them were more than six feet high, and many of them were as grey-haired as the ravaged, harassed heads of old pictures. They huddled together in actual touch, while the crowd, spaced at large intervals, looked at them with congested eyes.

Suddenly a man among them began to talk. The Mayor had not in the least exaggerated. It appeared that our Planet lay sunk in slavery beneath the heel of the Aerial Board of Control. The orator urged us to arise in our might, burst our prison doors and break our fetters (all his metaphors, by the way, were of the most medieval). Next he demanded that every matter of daily life, including most of the physical functions, should be submitted for decision at any time of the week, month, or year to, I gathered, anybody who happened to be passing by or residing within a certain radius, and that everybody should forthwith abandon his concerns to settle the matter, first by crowd-making, next by talking to the crowds made, and lastly by describing crosses on pieces of paper, which rubbish should later be counted with certain mystic ceremonies and oaths. Out of this amazing play, he assured us, would automatically arise a higher, nobler, and kinder world, based—he demonstrated this with the awful lucidity of the insane—based on the sanctity of the Crowd and the villainy of the single person. In conclusion, he called loudly upon God to testify to his personal merits and integrity. When the flow ceased, I turned bewildered to Takahira, who was nodding solemnly.

‘Quite correct,’ said he ‘It is all in the old books. He has left nothing out, not even the war-talk.’

‘But I don’t see how this stuff can upset a child, much less a district,’ I replied.

‘Ah, you are too young,’ said Dragomiroff. ‘For another thing, you are not a mamma. Please look at the mammas.’

Ten or fifteen women who remained had separated themselves from the silent men, and were drawing in towards the prisoners. It reminded one of the stealthy encircling, before the rush in at the quarry, of wolves round musk oxen in the North. The prisoners saw, and drew together more closely. The Mayor covered his face with his hands for an instant. De Forest, bareheaded, stepped forward between the prisoners and the slowly, stiffly moving line.

‘That’s all very interesting,’ he said to the dry-lipped orator. ‘But the point seems that you’ve been making crowds and invading privacy.’

A woman stepped forward, and would have spoken, but there was a quick assenting murmur from the men, who realised that De Forest was trying to pull the situation down to ground-line.

‘Yes! Yes!’ they cried. ‘We cut out because they made crowds and invaded privacy! Stick to that! Keep on that switch! Lift the Serviles out of this! The Board’s in charge! Hsh!’

‘Yes, the Board’s in charge,’ said De Forest.

‘I’ll take formal evidence of crowd-making if you like, but the Members of the Board can testify to it. Will that do?’

The women had closed in another pace, with hands that clenched and unclenched at their sides.

‘Good! Good enough!’ the men cried. ‘We’re content. Only take them away quickly.’

‘Come along up!’ said De Forest to the captives. ‘Breakfast is quite ready.’

It appeared, however, that they did not wish to go. They intended to remain in Chicago and make crowds. They pointed out that De Forest’s proposal was gross invasion of privacy.

‘My dear fellow,’ said Pirolo to the most voluble of the leaders, ‘you hurry, or your crowd that can’t be wrong will kill you!’

‘But that would be murder,’ answered the believer in crowds; and there was a roar of laughter from all sides that seemed to show the crisis had broken.

A woman stepped forward from the line of women, laughing, I protest, as merrily as any of the company. One hand, of course, shaded her eyes, the other was at her throat.

‘Oh, they needn’t be afraid of being killed!’ she called.

‘Not in the least,’ said De Forest. ‘But don’t you think that, now the Board’s in charge, you might go home while we get these people away?’

‘I shall be home long before that. It—it has been rather a trying day.’

She stood up to her full height, dwarfing even De Forest’s six-foot-eight, and smiled, with eyes closed against the fierce light.

‘Yes, rather,’ said De Forest. ‘I’m afraid you feel the glare a little. We’ll have the ship down.’

He motioned to the Pirolo to drop between us and the sun, and at the same time to loop-circuit the prisoners, who were a trifle unsteady. We saw them stiffen to the current where they stood. The woman’s voice went on, sweet and deep and unshaken:

‘I don’t suppose you men realise how much this—this sort of thing means to a woman. I’ve borne three. We women don’t want our children given to Crowds. It must be an inherited instinct. Crowds make trouble. They bring back the Old Days. Hate, fear, blackmail, publicity, “The People”—That! That! That!’ She pointed to the Statue, and the crowd growled once more.

‘Yes, if they are allowed to go on,’ said De Forest. ‘But this little affair—’

‘It means so much to us women that this—this little affair should never happen again. Of course, never’s a big word, but one feels so strongly that it is important to stop crowds at the very beginning. Those creatures’—she pointed with her left hand at the prisoners swaying like seaweed in a tide way as the circuit pulled them—’those people have friends and wives and children in the city and elsewhere. One doesn’t want anything done to them, you know. It’s terrible to force a human being out of fifty or sixty years of good life. l’m only forty myself. I know. But, at the same time, one feels that an example should be made, because no price is too heavy to pay if—if these people and all that they imply can be put an end to. Do you quite understand or would you be kind enough to tell your men to take the casing off the Statue? It’s worth looking at.’

‘I understand perfectly. But I don’t think anybody here wants to see the Statue on an empty stomach. Excuse me one moment.’ De Forest called up to the ship, ‘A flying loop ready on the port side, if you please.’ Then to the woman he said with some crispness, ‘You might leave us a little discretion in the matter.’

‘Oh, of course. Thank you for being so patient. I know my arguments are silly, but—’ She half turned away and went on in a changed voice, ‘Perhaps this will help you to decide.’

She threw out her right arm with a knife in it. Before the blade could be returned to her throat or her bosom it was twitched from her grip, sparked as it flew out of the shadow of the ship above, and fell flashing in the sunshine at the foot of the Statue fifty yards away. The outflung arm was arrested, rigid as a bar for an instant, till the releasing circuit permitted her to bring it slowly to her side. The other women shrank back silent among the men.

Pirolo rubbed his hands, and Takahira nodded.

‘That was clever of you, De Forest,’ said he.

‘What a glorious pose!’ Dragomiroff murmured, for the frightened woman was on the edge of tears.

‘Why did you stop me? I would have done it!’ she cried.

‘I have no doubt you would,’ said De Forest. ‘But we can’t waste a life like yours on these people. I hope the arrest didn’t sprain your wrist; it’s so hard to regulate a flying loop. But I think you are quite right about those persons’ women and children. We’ll take them all away with us if you promise not to do anything stupid to yourself.’

‘I promise—I promise.’ She controlled herself with an effort. ‘But it is so important to us women. We know what it means; and I thought if you saw I was in earnest—’

‘I saw you were, and you’ve gained your point. I shall take all your Serviles away with me at once. The Mayor will make lists of their friends and families in the city and the district, and he’ll ship them after us this afternoon.’

‘Sure,’ said the Mayor, rising to his feet. ‘Keefe, if you can see, hadn’t you better finish levelling off the Old Market? It don’t look sightly the way it is now, and we shan’t use it for crowds any more.’

‘I think you had better wipe out that Statue as well, Mr. Mayor,’ said De Forest. ‘I don’t question its merits as a work of art, but I believe it’s a shade morbid.’

‘Certainly, sir. Oh, Keefe! Slag the Nigger before you go on to fuse the Market. I’ll get to the Communicators and tell the District that the Board is in charge. Are you making any special appointments, sir?’

‘None. We haven’t men to waste on these backwoods. Carry on as before, but under the Board. Arnott, run your Serviles aboard, please. Ground ship and pass them through the bilge-doors. We’ll wait till we’ve finished with this work of art.’

The prisoners trailed past him, talking fluently, but unable to gesticulate in the drag of the current. Then the surfacers rolled up, two on each side of the Statue. With one accord the spectators looked elsewhere, but there was no need. Keefe turned on full power, and the thing simply melted within its case. All I saw was a surge of white-hot metal pouring over the plinth, a glimpse of Salati’s inscription, ‘To the Eternal Memory of the Justice of the People,’ ere the stone base itself cracked and powdered into finest lime. The crowd cheered.

***

NEXT WEEK: “‘I may be ass enough to walk into a ground-circuit,’ said Arnott, ‘but I don’t dismiss my Fleet till I’m reasonably sure that trouble is over. They’re in position still, and I intend to keep ‘em there till the Serviles are shipped out of the district. That last little crowd meant murder, my friends.’”

Stay tuned!

***

RADIUM AGE SCIENCE FICTION: “Radium Age” is HiLobrow’s name for the 1904–33 era, which saw the discovery of radioactivity, the revelation that matter itself is constantly in movement — a fitting metaphor for the first decades of the 20th century, during which old scientific, religious, political, and social certainties were shattered. This era also saw the publication of genre-shattering writing by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Sax Rohmer, E.E. “Doc” Smith, Jack London, Rudyard Kipling, Arthur Conan Doyle, Aldous Huxley, Olaf Stapledon, Karel Čapek, H.P. Lovecraft, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Yevgeny Zamyatin, E.M. Forster, Philip Wylie, and other pioneers of post-Verne/Wells, pre-Golden Age “science fiction.” More info here.

HILOBOOKS: The mission of HiLoBooks is to serialize novels on HiLobrow; and also, as of 2012, operating as an imprint of Richard Nash’s Cursor, to reissue Radium Age science fiction in beautiful new print editions. In May 2012, we will publish Jack London’s The Scarlet Plague; in June, Rudyard Kipling’s With the Night Mail (and “As Easy as A.B.C.”); in July, Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Poison Belt; in September, H. Rider Haggard’s When the World Shook; in October, Edward Shanks’ The People of the Ruins; and in November, William Hope Hodgson’s The Night Land. For more information, visit the HiLoBooks homepage.

READ: You are reading Rudyard Kipling’s With the Night Mail and “As Easy As A.B.C.” Also read our serialization of: Jack London’s The Scarlet Plague | H. Rider Haggard’s When The World Shook

READ: HiLobrow’s previous serialized novels, both original works: James Parker’s The Ballad of Cocky The Fox (“a proof-of-concept that serialization can work on the Internet” — The Atlantic) and Karinne Keithley Syers’s Linda Linda Linda. We also publish original stories and comics.

Knuth, big-O calculus, implicit definitions (difficulty of)

Don Knuth says we should teach calculus without limits.

I would define the derivative by first defining what might be called a “strong derivative”: The function $f$ has a strong derivative $f'(x)$ at point $x$ if

$f(x+\epsilon)=f(x)+f'(x)\epsilon+O(\epsilon^2)$

I think this underestimates the difficulty for novices of implicit definitions.  We’re quite used to them:  ”f’(x) is the number such that bla bla, if such a number exists, and, by the way, if such a number exists it is unique.” Students are used to definitions that say, simply, “f’(x) is bla.”

Now I will admit that the usual limit definition has hidden within it an implicit definition of the above kind; but I think the notion of limit is “physical” enough that the implicitness is hidden from the eyes of the student who is willing to understand the derivative as “the number the slope of the chord approaches as the chord gets shorter and shorter.”

Another view — for many if not most calculus students, the definition of the derivative is a collection of formal rules, one for each type of “primitive” function (polynomials, trigonometric, exponential) together with a collection of combination rules (product rule, chain rule) which allow differentiation of arbitrary closed-form functions.  For these students, there is perhaps little difference between setting up “h goes to 0″ foundations and “O(eps)” foundations.  Either set of foundations will be quickly forgotten.

The fact that implicit definitions are hard doesn’t mean we shouldn’t teach them to first-year college students, of course!  Knuth is right that the Landau notation is more likely to mesh with other things a calculus student is likely to encounter, simultaneously with calculus or in later years.  But Knuth seems to say that big-O calculus would be self-evidently easier and more intuitive, and I don’t think that’s evident at all.

Maybe we could get students over the hump of implicit definitions by means of Frost:

Home is the place where, when you have to go there,

They have to take you in.

(Though it’s not clear the implied uniqueness in this definition is fully justified.)

If I were going to change one thing about the standard calculus sequence, by the way, it would be to do much more Fourier series and much less Taylor series.

Tuesday Musics: Bill Drummond, “I’m the King of Joy” (1990)

by Carl Wilson

Reading this very enjoyable Guardian interview today with KLF/Justified Ancients of Mu Mu/Timelords/million-quid-burning/etc pop conceptualist Bill Drummond – answering four of the last 100 questions he is ever going to answer publicly in his life, according to the rules of his latest “sculpture” – got me wondering if he’d ever made music under his own name. Yes, and it doesn’t sound like any other music we associate with him. Instead, happy Scottish yelping.

Studio-X

Thanks to all who came out last Wednesday to the opening; it went over far better than I could have expected, and after a few harrowing moments (in which one of the pieces fell off the wall, smashing the ground, about 2 hours before opening), it went off without a hitch.

Thanks, again to Scott Geiger, Geoff Manaugh, and Nicola Twilley for all their hard work and effort. It was a blast.

cell

Personal project: astro 3

Personal project: astro 3

Personal project : astro 1

Personal project : astro 1

Persona Project: astro

Persona Project: astro

Erik Davis, author of Techgnosis, Nomad Codes, [Led Zeppelin IV], and Visionary State, is a friend of HiLobrow. He is also a contributor: His 2010 “Pop Arcana” column for us on the Cute Cthulhu meme remains one of our most popular posts. We’re thrilled to publish ten of Davis’s essays which first appeared elsewhere; this is the sixth installment in the Nomadbrow series.

***

Chasing the Tengu
The Mystic Undertow of Vinyl Toys

I have the great good fortune to live near Kidrobot, a cozy vinyl toy boutique in the Haight-Ashbury. A few years ago, I wrote one of the first overground pieces about the vinyl toy subculture, which began in the 1990s when Hong Kong fabulists like Michael Lau and Eric So decided to apply their figure-making fu to their fantasies about American street culture. Japan, with its own delirious toy culture firmly flaming, soon got into the act, as well as lots of Westerners—from old-school hands like Futura to Super Furry Animals artist-in-residence Pete Fowler. Now urban vinyl figures are global tokens in a cross-culture game of pop fetishism that would make Andy Warhol (and probably Vaughn Bode) proud.

I’ve picked up a few of these things over the years, but I do not collect them. With Kidrobot serving as a neighborhood museum, I don’t need to. Popping into the shop, I can enjoy the constant fluctuations of fashion and fun, the “bad infinity” of pop novelty, without cracking open my wallet. Resisting the desire to own the coolest toys is, for me, part of the pleasure, because this resistance sustains the circuits of virtual desire that enchant the thing in the first place. After all, these are objects whose seductive power lies principally in the incorporeal world of the graphic image, and such things cannot be “possessed” the same way you own the junk in your basement. Products of a (usually digital) design process, vinyl toys invoke the cartoon continuum of anime more than the material legacy of Barbie or GI Joes, and they are largely hawked and traded through the screens of the Internet. Only when you finally acquire them do these tantalizing graphic beings “come to life” as actual objects—ie, as motionless, environmentally suspect chunks of plastic crowding your already messy desk. But there is usually something inherently boring and banal about them at this point. In fact, many collectors never take the figures out of their boxes—not just to preserve their value, I suspect, but to sustain the unrealized promise of quasi-animated presence.

On occasion however, resistance is futile. Earlier this year, I could not buck the siren call of Tengu, the creature you see above. Tengu is the artist Damon Soule’s mutant twist of the Kidrobot mascot, which was originally designed by a creative young fellow named Tristan Eaton. I was drawn to the figure’s distinctly Pacific Rim fusion of cute and sinister, to the mushroom iconography, and to the obscene mask that I took to be a swollen reference to Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, that now ancient source-text of visionary anomie. With its Japonisme both celebrated and concealed, Tengu seemed to concretize the hybrid fusion culture that now circulates between east and west. Without being obviously “dark,” like some gothic or slutty vinyl figures, Soule’s piece seemed more soulful and substantial than the usual fare, a chthonic robo-gnome with more than a hint of blasphemy and spectral power. I had to buy one for my friend N___, a twisted teddy bear of a fellow, who adored the thing. But then I had to snag one for me as well. And now he takes up the pride of place in the slacker shrine that sits on top of my fridge, where he lords over a gathering of psychedelic idols, travel detritus, and sacred profanities.

One late and loopy night, N___ and I chased the Tengu down Google’s rabbit hole. For once, the hyperlinks deepened our experience rather than just deferring it, and we discovered just how far a chunk of global popware can lead you into the dark heart of the Mystery. Right off the bat, we learned that the tengu is the Mr. Punch of Japan’s supernatural pantheon, an impish demon of the mountains usually described in English texts as a “goblin” (itself a marvelous and ancient term; the 14th century Wyclif bible contains this spooky verse: “Of an arowe fliynge in the dai, of a gobelyn goynge in derknessis.”) The original tengu were malevolent crow-beaked shape-shifters who liked to raise havoc, tempt priests, abduct children, and stir up war. Probably derived from Chinese mountain lore, and then fused in Japan’s Buddhist climate with the Indian figure of Garuda, the tengu later became intimately associated with isolated mountain priests known as yamabushi. These dharmic hermits practiced esoteric tantric Buddhism and, later, served the role of herb-wielding witch-doctors for the local peasants—a development that is usually described as a degeneration of their religious practice, but that may have reflected the deepening embrace of the forest’s shamanic undertow.

The Kidrobot mascots’s long nose, it turns out, has nothing to do with Stanley Kubrick’s droogs. The John Holmes schnozz is a later permutation of the goblin’s originally avian visage. During the Edo period, the tengu grew in popularity even as it transformed into a less evil figures—as with Mr. Punch, the phallic mask offered a funny and erotic twist on what was originally a rather disturbing character. Great samurais were said to have learned their martial moves from friendly tengu, who were also propitiated as representatives of certain Shinto gods. Tengu became regular features of popular art, including Noh drama. The great Yoshitoshi, the haunted Sam Peckinpah of ukiyo-e artists, crafted a number of remarkable tengu images in the nineteenth century. In more recent decades, tengu have popped up in anime and literate porn, includinga Toshio Saeki’s classy and shockingly perverse images of tengu thrusting their proboscises deep between teenage thighs.

Far from being a cyborg fantasy, Damon Soule’s Kidrobot toy is therefore a deeply old-school figure. The mask and fan are totally traditional, and even the jetpack wings recall the supernatural flights of the feathered tengu. But what about the mushroom? The Kidrobot Tengu is not only clutching a juicy fungi, but has a mushroom emblazoned on his chest armor—a fungal twist on the stylized flora that often served as clan totems in medieval Japan. N____ and I kept digging for connections but found none, partly because N____ kept directing the search to more tengu porn, convinced that we hadn’t yet gotten to the bottom of the issue.

Then we mentioned the mushroom to E____, who is most wise in psychoactive lore, and he plucked from his voluminous brain the fact that in Japan a certain mushroom species is known as tengutake. But not just any mushroom. This “goblin mushroom” is none other than the notorious fly agaric, the Santa Claus-topped hallucinogen gobbled by Siberian shamans and responsible—according to some but by no means all psychedelic historians—for ancient Indo-European door-cleansers like soma, hoama and the brews of Eleusis. And if you buy Clark Heinrich’s art history lessons, nearly every religious mystic in the Western tradition has munched on these noxious fungi. Taken by only the most intrepid psychonauts today, the fly agaric nonetheless stands (or fruits) as perhaps the most enigmatic signifier of ancient psychedelic wisdom in nature’s pharmacopia.

N____ and I found little speculation about the psychedelic dimension of the tengu myth, despite the connection between the goblins and the yamabushi, the herbalist mountain shamans who were in the position to know something about the effects of red-capped Amanitas. The tengutake connection does, however, help illuminate one particular fragment of the lore. Like faeries or ETs, the tengu were sometimes believed to kidnap human beings, and especially kids. After being released, these abductees often returned to civilization in a state of dementia known as Tengu kakushi. Hmmm.

Damon Soule, a graffiti writer and visionary artist now living in the lower East Side, first discovered the tengu on a trip to Japan, and he knew something about the Amanita connection when he desiged his piece for Kidrobot. Given that “it seems to fit with the character’s behavior quite well,” Soule was happy to slip the psychoactive referencea in. Elements of the tengu appear throughout Soule’s work, especially the long noses that grace many of his robot dudes. For Soule, a mythology nut, the tengu resonates with other long-nosed trickster figures in world myth. It taught him “how interconnected all ideas are, even when they aren’t so obvious.” Like all tricksters and travelers, the tengu marks a world of ruptures and transitions—a perfect mascot for a planet where even a chunk of global pop detritus can carry an ancient and uncanny trace of shamanic encounter.

***

READ Erik Davis’s “Pop Arcana” series for HiLobrow.

CURATED SERIES at HILOBROW: PINAKOTHEK by Luc Sante | INTO THE VOID by Charlie Jane Anders | WE REABSORB & ENLIVEN by Matthew Battles | BRAINIAC by Joshua Glenn | BLDGBLOG by Geoff Manaugh | WINDS OF MAGIC by James Parker | ROBOTS + MONSTERS by Joe Alterio | FEEDBACK by Joshua Glenn | 4CP FTW by John Hilgart | FANCHILD by Adam McGovern | BOOKFUTURISM by James Bridle | 4CP FRIDAY by guest curators

Chris Samnee is amazing.

Chris Samnee is amazing.

Via Aaron Cohen at kottke.org, this video by Joe Pease about bringing shadows to life. If it makes you think of Peter Pan, you’re not alone—Pease credits this essay on the role of shadow in J. M. Barrie’s play with inspiring his take on the dreamy, balletic rhythms of skating.

The video found me already thinking about the affordances of shadow, with a Places-hosted essay and gallery of images by the artist Eric William Carroll buzzing behind my eyes. Carroll makes blueprints of the shadows cast on sidewalk and path by trees—dreamy diazotypes on large sheets of the photosensitive paper traditionally used to reproduce building plans. Carroll ended up spending a month in residence at New Hampshire’s MacDowell Colony, where he made a tree-shadow panorama “so long that only a sports stadium could display it in its entirety.” The idea came to him not in the woods, however, but while watching the play of shadows on sidewalk:

I was raised in suburbia, in the Midwest, where we had trees in parks and yards and mall parking lots; but they hardly registered. Not until I encountered the sad specimens on the sidewalks of Brooklyn did I learn to appreciate the particular beauty of a tree. Just as Richard Avedon photographed his subjects in front of a stark-white backdrop to accentuate their individuality, I needed a concrete square in the city to recognize the tree’s essential form. The sidewalk was the great equalizer, letting each tree play on the same urban stage.

Carroll describes his project as an attempt to slow down the passage of time as it takes the form of roving shadow; the ephemerality of his medium ensures that his imaged obscurities will fade the way the daytime shadows fade with the coming of night, only on a much longer scale (and the nighttime, after all, is only the shadow of the earth). Time seems to be at work as well in Joe Pease’s skating shadows stretched in twilight’s lengthening embrace. Both projects are about the affordances of pavement as a medium—a quotidian material, even a blight on the land, which nonetheless illumines and estranges when viewed from the right angle. In Pease’s short film, pavement becomes a kind of parallel dimension of variegated textures and incidences of reflection, suspended mica and pockets of air shifting like mist.

Where do the shadows fall in network culture? We receive the internet in the form of emitted light—a glow which, as John Stilgoe points out, shares the reverie- and trance-inducing qualities of firelight and pyrotechnics. Gazing into emitted light, the shadows are always at our backs.

Astronomic Josh

When Joshua, that warrior bold, said to the sun, “stand still,”
And hypnotized the frisky moon with a forensic trill;
Astronomy was not embraced within his mental girth,
Or he would have addressed his spiel to the revolving earth.

***

Unsigned poem, titled “Astronomic Josh,” from The Philistine (“A Periodical of Protest,” November 1908)

***

One in a series of science fiction poems originally published during the genre’s Radium Age (1904–33). In 2012, HiLoBooks will reissue six Radium Age sf classics, in beautiful new editions! Learn more, and order the books here.

Last week’s radio show, In Praise of the Airhorn, is now streaming:

And I’m pleased to announce that prolific Mexican producer DJ Javier Estrada will be my special guest on tomorrow’s radio show. The young powerhouse from Monterrey is one of the most interesting beatmakers around right now, and I’ve got a coupla thousand of words-in-progress on why… Coming soon.

Until then — tune in tomorrow to catch DJ Javier Estrada live from 8-9pm EST, on WFMU! We’ll be talkin in Spanish with simultaneous translation by Talacha so all you monolingual gorillas can enjoy.

The radio show comes on the eve of Estrada’s NYC debut. We’ll have some tix to giveaway for his Thursday event with A Tribe Called Red.

personal project: abstract

personal project: abstract

life: vaderetroearthgirl: From The Mind, a LIFE Science…

life:

From The Mind, a LIFE Science Library Book, by John Rowan Wilson and the Editors of TIME-LIFE Books. (1964, reprinted in 1971)

I would have been obsessed with this book if I’d had it as a child.

“Routes for Musical Messages

The picture on the opposite page is a photograph of a pianist. On it have been sketched the two hemispheres of the brain, a network of nerves throughout the arms, and a connecting length of spinal cord. The system of billions of cells and miles of fibers can relay many messages at once…”

Just another Wednesday, informing our Tumblr followers about science.

Artist Profile: Lebohang Kganye

Lebohang Kganye & Onthatile Modise, Reshot, Grandmother and children, 2011

Could you tell me about visual culture in Africa and how that influences your work?

Africa
has a long legacy of visual, oral, performative and narrative methodologies
which continue to influence our ideologies, perceptions and communications. And
the arts therefore play a major role in defining, retrieving and understanding
our histories and future strategies as well as our identities. Art is a part of
a thriving contemporary culture throughout the world and far from being a
luxury it is a basic human need that needs expression and these forms of
various expressions must be questioned and critiqued to understand how we view
ourselves and others. Africa – despite its varied arts and artistic heritage -
has become stereotyped (especially through the means of photography) and how I
constantly aim in my works through my focus on personal narratives to contest
such stereotypes. My work constantly
hopes to broaden the scope that is defined as ‘African photography’ in that
homogenising poverty-porn images of Africa are subverted through subtle,
personal narratives of individuals and communities that I develop a
relationship with. In the projects I do, I raise questions around identity and
the constant renegotiating of who we are in relation to our location and the narratives
we create in order to situate ourselves in space and history.

What does Reshot reveal about the photographic
archive itself? How did the people of Makweteng respond to the ‘re-shoot’ and
what kind of relationships were forged?

Reshot (2011), is a collaborative project with fellow Market Photo Workshop
student Onthatile Modise, which explores the notion of the photographic archive
from the point of personal histories of people from Makweteng, Potchefstroom.
For our photographic interpretation of these personal archives, we were
introduced to the people of Ikageng who were forcefully removed from Makweteng
in the 1960s.

In order to collect the archival material from individuals, we would
visit the residents in their homes in Ikageng, and asked them to tell us their
life stories in Makweteng. We got to know the bearers of the personal archives
by visiting them and we reshot these personal archives in their presence while
they told us their memories of each photo. We photographed the historical photos
they have of themselves living there. The relationships we formed were a bit
weird, the residents responded differently on different days, we would be seen
as friends today, outsiders tomorrow, then there would be moments we connect
and others where there was this distance, almost awkwardness between us. They were
keen on sharing their memories of certain photos, but some memories were held
back, which is what the project also questions; what the bearer choses to
reveal about the photo and the memories they choose to hold back, versus what
the photo reveals to the viewer and what the viewer overlooks when attempting
to interpret a photographic archive. So each ‘reshot’ photo is a creative
response to memory, the imaginary and change.

The personal archive as a physical document forms part of a historical archive which can stand trial for social
issues. Reshot also reveals the vulnerability of memory which bases itself
upon a tangible thing such as a photograph, which can be torn, destroyed or
lost, entrusting it to trigger or store their memories, ideals i.e. people
portraying themselves in a certain way etc.

The work demonstrates my interest in the personal as a site
of the political and hopes to be evidence of the
political in the personal – thus personal narratives resonate with larger
political and social issues and the project makes evident these intersections
via an interrogation of intimate narratives

In S’phamandla you specifically chose not to depict the residents of the Johannesburg squatter camps. Could you talk more about this decision and your visual interrogation of these camps?

S’phamandla (2009-2010) body of work also continues
to explore issues of home, identity and displacement by documenting this
housing settlement in Johannesburg which had been relocated several times by
the South African government, with a promise of better housing, which never
materialized. The intention of this
project was to visually interrogate the Reconstruction and Development Programme
(RDP) initiated after 1994. S’phamandla
is a squatter-camp situated on the outskirts of a township called Katlehong,
which is located in the south-east of Johannesburg. The project deals with its
people having a longing for a sense of belonging, with the anticipation of the
change-over of moving from shacks and informal settlements to proper houses.
The place carries the weight of social, political and historical change and the
beauty that the community have created in the midst of it all. The informal constructions bore the traces of these various resettlements
in various ways (for example shacks had different housing/lot numbers painted
on their facades each time they were moved). Colour is linked to the idea of
choice, freedom and expression, much like the flawed concept of the idea of the
“rainbow nation”. The informal structures often have strong colourful exteriors
and most have a clearly visible marker in bright paint representing the number
of an address. The addresses are brightly marked; the marking is a ritual of
becoming visible as each number is an attempt to mark the identity of the ‘home
owner’. This project for me is personal since I pass the place every day and
move through the space constantly and have come to interact with people from
this community daily. The composition in these images is focuses on the
aesthetics of each shack which seems to have a unique sense of character in its
style of construction. The structures that form this squatter-camp are
constructed of brightly coloured corrugated-iron, with a coloured door and on
some, a brightly painted window or merely a unique feature, so the project focuses on the aesthetics of each shack which represents these people and their sense of pride and integrity in
their private spaces which they, themselves, have built. Though the place
carries such heavy social, political and historical issues, the beauty that
these people have created in the midst of it all is what the project aims to
show. Thus I chose not to depict
the residents and further objectify them as much of documentary photography
featuring poverty tends to do. Pride (2009) is an image of a
silver shack with a door covered in strips of paint, uniformly painted with two
white, two yellow and five orange vertical lines, looking like a like a
discontinued vertical rainbow. There is a round lock on a chain by the door,
and the door has no handle… just a hole where there was once might have been a
handle. Number “63” is written four times on the front of the shack, but a
different number appears on other parts of the shack (B500). The latter marks
the relocation and the changing of identity in the process, while the
inhabitants desperately try to hold on to their identity with the repetition of
number sixty three. Ironically, there is a Pride
maize meal sack hanging on the left of the shack.

Hanging (2009) is
an image of an unpainted shack with a bold, blue door, blue window frame, blue
number “102”, yellow number “S289 STM” and a red number “57” painted on the
shack. These numbers mark the different times the occupants have relocated and
had to be marked like cattle by its owner. The handle on the door is turned
upside-down, like their lives by the relocation. The corrugated iron roof top
is shielded by a dusty navy piece of tent, to keep out the raindrops. The
washing line put together with planks leans casually on the left side of the
shack, like a re-constructed cross of faith, desperately trying to be held-up.

In
understanding the process of the departure, the arrival and the wait, it
becomes clear how people mark and map their spaces because people are
constantly negotiating their lives through negotiating human space. The body of
work in its style is a portrait of space; the structures represent the voice
and identity of these people and how these become the traces of a neglected and
forgotten history. S’phamandla is a
remnant of a time of issues of segregation and marginalisation; it exists as a
monument of the rise and “fall” of apartheid.

The government regulates where people live and organise to their
convenience rather than the community which inhabits a space. Questions around
the ownership of land are interrogated and why South African land is dispersed
as it is by the government. S’phamandla highlights
displacement and how it gets manifested in the history of South Africa, because
a squatter-camp is often a border quite ingrained in South Africa’s history.

Age:

22
years old

Location:

Katlehong,
a township in the East Rand of Johannesburg, South Africa.

How long
have you been working creatively with technology? How did you start?

An assignment
in matric in high school introduced me to the works of Kevin Carter and the
Bang- Bang Club. Their photojournalistic images awakened in me a realisation of
the power of photography and in 2009, a year later I started my studies in
photography.

Where did
you go to school? What did you study?

In 2009, I
began my studies in photography at the Market Photo Workshop in Johannesburg,
South Africa. I recently completed three courses in photography.

Describe
your experience with the tools you use. How did you start using them?

Through
the training I have received throughout the three years, I have grown to
understand the role of photography
in society and how it influences change. Beyond the theory, studying photography has
given me an understanding of the practical and technical side of the medium.

What
traditional media do you use, if any? Do you think your work with
in other creative or social activities (i.e. music, writing, activism,
community organizing)?

My
photographic work – which includes documentary and visual art photography –
explores ideas of memory, identity, location, space and the idea of belonging.

During my
high school years, I was introduced to the world of performance art, and was
mentored by renowned performance artists in this genre. For my remaining three
years in high school, my life centred around poetry, drama and storytelling.
During this time I performed alongside these artists in Botswana and at various
stages around Johannesburg, such as the Market Theatre and at the University of
the Witwatersrand. My general interests – be it in poetry, performance and
photography – have centred around my personal journeys and issues of black
woman’s identity and power relations. Spoken and written word have been
platforms for me to interact with other people and share personal experiences
and memories.  Art has in a way defined my life as a young
Black woman from Katlehong in terms of allowing me expression of my creative
thoughts, emotions and intelligence; it has been an avenue for me to critically
engage with personal and wider social issues as well as history, politics and
economics – not just of my own life, but in understanding the trajectory of the
not-so-new South Africa and importantly with the rest of the African continent,
the global South and the rest of the world.

What do you
do for a living or what occupations have you held previously? Do you think this
work relates to your art practice in a significant way?

I
do commercial/commissioned work for a living, I’ve worked at the Market Photo
Workshop and Sibisi Gallery. This work is very separate from my art
practice, though it allows me to be in spaces of art discussion and discourses
around art.

Who are your
key artistic influences?

Cindy
Sherman, Destiny Deacon, Sharlene Khan, Zwelethu Mthethwa, David Goldblatt and
Santu Mofokeng.

Have you
collaborated with anyone in the art community on a project? With
whom, and on what?

Yes,
I collaborated on a project with Onthatile Modise while we were studying
together, on
the series Reshot  which we produced on the community in Potchefstroom.
It has been exhibited as part of the Tracing Territories group exhibition
which entailed ten bodies of work by eleven photographers from the Market Photo
Workshop. Tracing Territories was
presented as an outdoor exhibition as well as a screening in and around Tlokwe
on the 17th and 18th February 2012. An extension of this
work was being shown in Johannesburg at the Market Photo Workshop Gallery which
ran from 29 February – 25 April 2012.

Do you
actively study art history?

Yes,
because I believe that it’s important to know your craft. By studying the history
of photography as a subject in school, it has helped me to understand the
global discourse of art.

Do you
read art criticism, philosophy, or critical theory? If so, which
authors inspire you?

I
enjoy reading philosophy, critical theory and creative writing i.e. poetry,
authors that influence the conceptualization of my projects are Maya Angelou,
Bell Hooks, Fouad Asfour, Kabomo Vilakazi, Napo Masheane and Gcina Mhlophe.

Are there any issues around the production of, or the
display/exhibition of new media art that you are concerned about?

The
right to freedom of artistic expression versus the right to human dignity is
under debate in South Africa and which holds priority over another, which I am
quite interested in, and to what degree artist are at liberty to interrogate
social issues and whether art is read differently on the basis of race. Also
I’m curious whether the space one chooses to show their work in influences how
the work is read and somehow changes its context i.e. showing documentary images
in a gallery space. Such as showing images of poverty or violence in a
commercial gallery or arts magazine instead of a newspaper; does it then shift
meaning depending on where it is shown, because the audiences are different.

The Lurkers’ “This Dirty Town” single came out…

The Lurkers’ “This Dirty Town” single came out May 29, 1982.

U-shaped bays

According to the Times, Prime Burger on 51st St. will close:

Though the family plans to salvage as many fixtures as it can, Mr. DiMiceli said he despaired of being able to rescue and reconstruct the built-in, one-person booths. In this highly unusual — if not downright eccentric — serving arrangement, customers sit in small U-shaped bays behind individual table tops that pivot shut to enclose them, almost as if they were buckled into an old amusement park ride. (The thrill lies in the calorie count.)
The problem is that these booths may have been too well installed to allow removal. “We’d like to take the seats,” Mr. DiMiceli said, “but the guys I talked to said that taking them apart would probably destroy them.”

I went to Prime Burger only once or twice, back in the last century, but it left an impression. Indeed, the one-person booth aspect was imported into the novel (Chinese Whispers) I was working on (c. 2000). Eventually I cut the primary reference to the seating scheme, but here it is:
They sat across from each other. In more crowded circumstances, the tavern’s curious furniture permitted shoulder-to-shoulder arrangements. Along one wall were booth-like configurations that in fact contained seating for six, in a U-formation, two wooden seats per side. Each seat was separated by a brief raised stand, upon which an assortment of condiments reposed. But there was no central table as such. Instead, individual serving trays, also of wood, secured at one end with a pivot, swung into action. Each tray clicked into place to secure the diner. The overall effect was agreeably infantilizing.

U-shaped bays

According to the Times, Prime Burger on 51st St. will close:

Though the family plans to salvage as many fixtures as it can, Mr. DiMiceli said he despaired of being able to rescue and reconstruct the built-in, one-person booths. In this highly unusual — if not downright eccentric — serving arrangement, customers sit in small U-shaped bays behind individual table tops that pivot shut to enclose them, almost as if they were buckled into an old amusement park ride. (The thrill lies in the calorie count.)
The problem is that these booths may have been too well installed to allow removal. “We’d like to take the seats,” Mr. DiMiceli said, “but the guys I talked to said that taking them apart would probably destroy them.”

I went to Prime Burger only once or twice, back in the last century, but it left an impression. Indeed, the one-person booth aspect was imported into the novel (Chinese Whispers) I was working on (c. 2000). Eventually I cut the primary reference to the seating scheme, but here it is:
They sat across from each other. In more crowded circumstances, the tavern’s curious furniture permitted shoulder-to-shoulder arrangements. Along one wall were booth-like configurations that in fact contained seating for six, in a U-formation, two wooden seats per side. Each seat was separated by a brief raised stand, upon which an assortment of condiments reposed. But there was no central table as such. Instead, individual serving trays, also of wood, secured at one end with a pivot, swung into action. Each tray clicked into place to secure the diner. The overall effect was agreeably infantilizing.

The Poison Belt (7)

HiLobrow is pleased to present the seventh installment of our serialization of Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Poison Belt. New installments will appear each Tuesday for 12 weeks.

If you alone had discovered that the Earth was about to be engulfed in a belt of poisonous “ether” from outer space, what would you do? Professor Challenger, a controversial scientist whose intellectual sprezzatura may remind you of Arthur Conan Doyle’s more famous fictional detective character, assembles the adventurers with whom he’d once romped through a South American jungle (in The Lost World, published in 1912) and locks them in his wife’s dressing room. Less a thriller than a brainteaser set against a catastrophic backdrop, in this 1913 sequel Challenger & Co. inquire into the method of the mind, and the relationship of intuition to reason, even as the world ends.

“To anyone who has had the delightful experience of traveling in The Lost World with Professor Challenger the bare announcement that that brilliant and eccentric personage plays a most important part in this new tale will quite suffice. For who, having once met the Professor, would not desire to continue the acquaintance?” — New York Times (1913).

“It’s impossible to read The Poison Belt, written in 1913, and not see in its exterminating vision a shadow of the coming war that would, only slightly less effectively, destroy Conan Doyle’s world.” — Gordon Dahlquist (2012 blurb for HiLoBooks)

In July, HiLoBooks will publish a beautiful new edition of The Poison Belt, with an introduction by Radium Age science fiction scholar (and HiLobrow editor) Joshua Glenn. Afterword by Gordon Dahlquist, author of The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters, The Dark Volume, and the forthcoming The Chemickal Marriage.

ALL EXCERPTS: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12

LAST WEEK: “No bird flew in the blue vault of heaven, no man or beast moved upon the vast countryside which lay before us. The evening sun shone its peaceful radiance across it, but there brooded over it all the stillness and the silence of universal death—a death in which we were so soon to join.”

***

“Poor, poor people!” cried Mrs. Challenger at last, clinging with a whimper to her husband’s arm.

“My dear, the passengers on that train were no more animate than the coals into which they crashed or the carbon which they have now become,” said Challenger, stroking her hand soothingly. “It was a train of the living when it left Victoria, but it was driven and freighted by the dead long before it reached its fate.”

“All over the world the same thing must be going on,” said I as a vision of strange happenings rose before me. “Think of the ships at sea—how they will steam on and on, until the furnaces die down or until they run full tilt upon some beach. The sailing ships too—how they will back and fill with their cargoes of dead sailors, while their timbers rot and their joints leak, till one by one they sink below the surface. Perhaps a century hence the Atlantic may still be dotted with the old drifting derelicts.”

“And the folk in the coal-mines,” said Summerlee with a dismal chuckle. “If ever geologists should by any chance live upon earth again they will have some strange theories of the existence of man in carboniferous strata.”

“I don’t profess to know about such things,” remarked Lord John, “but it seems to me the earth will be ‘To let, empty,’ after this. When once our human crowd is wiped off it, how will it ever get on again?”

“The world was empty before,” Challenger answered gravely. “Under laws which in their inception are beyond and above us, it became peopled. Why may the same process not happen again?”

“My dear Challenger, you can’t mean that?”

“I am not in the habit, Professor Summerlee, of saying things which I do not mean. The observation is trivial.” Out went the beard and down came the eyelids.

“Well, you lived an obstinate dogmatist, and you mean to die one,” said Summerlee sourly.

“And you, sir, have lived an unimaginative obstructionist and never can hope now to emerge from it.”

“Your worst critics will never accuse you of lacking imagination,” Summerlee retorted.

“Upon my word!” said Lord John. “It would be like you if you used up our last gasp of oxygen in abusing each other. What can it matter whether folk come back or not? It surely won’t be in our time.”

“In that remark, sir, you betray your own very pronounced limitations,” said Challenger severely. “The true scientific mind is not to be tied down by its own conditions of time and space. It builds itself an observatory erected upon the border line of present, which separates the infinite past from the infinite future. From this sure post it makes its sallies even to the beginning and to the end of all things. As to death, the scientific mind dies at its post working in normal and methodic fashion to the end. It disregards so petty a thing as its own physical dissolution as completely as it does all other limitations upon the plane of matter. Am I right, Professor Summerlee?”

Summerlee grumbled an ungracious assent.

“With certain reservations, I agree,” said he.

“The ideal scientific mind,” continued Challenger—”I put it in the third person rather than appear to be too self-complacent—the ideal scientific mind should be capable of thinking out a point of abstract knowledge in the interval between its owner falling from a balloon and reaching the earth. Men of this strong fibre are needed to form the conquerors of nature and the bodyguard of truth.”

“It strikes me nature’s on top this time,” said Lord John, looking out of the window. “I’ve read some leadin’ articles about you gentlemen controllin’ her, but she’s gettin’ a bit of her own back.”

“It is but a temporary set-back,” said Challenger with conviction. “A few million years, what are they in the great cycle of time? The vegetable world has, as you can see, survived. Look at the leaves of that plane tree. The birds are dead, but the plant flourishes. From this vegetable life in pond and in marsh will come, in time, the tiny crawling microscopic slugs which are the pioneers of that great army of life in which for the instant we five have the extraordinary duty of serving as rear guard. Once the lowest form of life has established itself, the final advent of man is as certain as the growth of the oak from the acorn. The old circle will swing round once more.”

“But the poison?” I asked. “Will that not nip life in the bud?”

“The poison may be a mere stratum or layer in the ether—a mephitic Gulf Stream across that mighty ocean in which we float. Or tolerance may be established and life accommodate itself to a new condition. The mere fact that with a comparatively small hyper-oxygenation of our blood we can hold out against it is surely a proof in itself that no very great change would be needed to enable animal life to endure it.”

The smoking house beyond the trees had burst into flames. We could see the high tongues of fire shooting up into the air.

“It’s pretty awful,” muttered Lord John, more impressed than I had ever seen him.

“Well, after all, what does it matter?” I remarked. “The world is dead. Cremation is surely the best burial.”

“It would shorten us up if this house went ablaze.”

“I foresaw the danger,” said Challenger, “and asked my wife to guard against it.”

“Everything is quite safe, dear. But my head begins to throb again. What a dreadful atmosphere!”

“We must change it,” said Challenger. He bent over his cylinder of oxygen.

“It’s nearly empty,” said he. “It has lasted us some three and a half hours. It is now close on eight o’clock. We shall get through the night comfortably. I should expect the end about nine o’clock to-morrow morning. We shall see one sunrise, which shall be all our own.”

He turned on his second tube and opened for half a minute the fanlight over the door. Then as the air became perceptibly better, but our own symptoms more acute, he closed it once again.

“By the way,” said he, “man does not live upon oxygen alone. It’s dinner time and over. I assure you, gentlemen, that when I invited you to my home and to what I had hoped would be an interesting reunion, I had intended that my kitchen should justify itself. However, we must do what we can. I am sure that you will agree with me that it would be folly to consume our air too rapidly by lighting an oil-stove. I have some small provision of cold meats, bread, and pickles which, with a couple of bottles of claret, may serve our turn. Thank you, my dear—now as ever you are the queen of managers.”

It was indeed wonderful how, with the self-respect and sense of propriety of the British housekeeper, the lady had within a few minutes adorned the central table with a snow-white cloth, laid the napkins upon it, and set forth the simple meal with all the elegance of civilization, including an electric torch lamp in the centre. Wonderful also was it to find that our appetites were ravenous.

“It is the measure of our emotion,” said Challenger with that air of condescension with which he brought his scientific mind to the explanation of humble facts. “We have gone through a great crisis. That means molecular disturbance. That in turn means the need for repair. Great sorrow or great joy should bring intense hunger—not abstinence from food, as our novelists will have it.”

“That’s why the country folk have great feasts at funerals,” I hazarded.

“Exactly. Our young friend has hit upon an excellent illustration. Let me give you another slice of tongue.”

“The same with savages,” said Lord John, cutting away at the beef. “I’ve seen them buryin’ a chief up the Aruwimi River, and they ate a hippo that must have weighed as much as a tribe. There are some of them down New Guinea way that eat the late-lamented himself, just by way of a last tidy up. Well, of all the funeral feasts on this earth, I suppose the one we are takin’ is the queerest.”

“The strange thing is,” said Mrs. Challenger, “that I find it impossible to feel grief for those who are gone. There are my father and mother at Bedford. I know that they are dead, and yet in this tremendous universal tragedy I can feel no sharp sorrow for any individuals, even for them.”

“And my old mother in her cottage in Ireland,” said I. “I can see her in my mind’s eye, with her shawl and her lace cap, lying back with closed eyes in the old high-backed chair near the window, her glasses and her book beside her. Why should I mourn her? She has passed and I am passing, and I may be nearer her in some other life than England is to Ireland. Yet I grieve to think that that dear body is no more.”

“As to the body,” remarked Challenger, “we do not mourn over the parings of our nails nor the cut locks of our hair, though they were once part of ourselves. Neither does a one-legged man yearn sentimentally over his missing member. The physical body has rather been a source of pain and fatigue to us. It is the constant index of our limitations. Why then should we worry about its detachment from our psychical selves?”

“If they can indeed be detached,” Summerlee grumbled. “But, anyhow, universal death is dreadful.”

“As I have already explained,” said Challenger, “a universal death must in its nature be far less terrible than a isolated one.”

“Same in a battle,” remarked Lord John. “If you saw a single man lying on that floor with his chest knocked in and a hole in his face it would turn you sick. But I’ve seen ten thousand on their backs in the Soudan, and it gave me no such feelin’, for when you are makin’ history the life of any man is too small a thing to worry over. When a thousand million pass over together, same as happened to-day, you can’t pick your own partic’lar out of the crowd.”

“I wish it were well over with us,” said the lady wistfully. “Oh, George, I am so frightened.”

“You’ll be the bravest of us all, little lady, when the time comes. I’ve been a blusterous old husband to you, dear, but you’ll just bear in mind that G. E. C. is as he was made and couldn’t help himself. After all, you wouldn’t have had anyone else?”

“No one in the whole wide world, dear,” said she, and put her arms round his bull neck. We three walked to the window and stood amazed at the sight which met our eyes.

Darkness had fallen and the dead world was shrouded in gloom. But right across the southern horizon was one long vivid scarlet streak, waxing and waning in vivid pulses of life, leaping suddenly to a crimson zenith and then dying down to a glowing line of fire.

“Lewes is ablaze!”

“No, it is Brighton which is burning,” said Challenger, stepping across to join us. “You can see the curved back of the downs against the glow. That fire is miles on the farther side of it. The whole town must be alight.”

There were several red glares at different points, and the pile of débris upon the railway line was still smoldering darkly, but they all seemed mere pin-points of light compared to that monstrous conflagration throbbing beyond the hills. What copy it would have made for the Gazette! Had ever a journalist such an opening and so little chance of using it—the scoop of scoops, and no one to appreciate it? And then, suddenly, the old instinct of recording came over me. If these men of science could be so true to their life’s work to the very end, why should not I, in my humble way, be as constant? No human eye might ever rest upon what I had done. But the long night had to be passed somehow, and for me at least, sleep seemed to be out of the question. My notes would help to pass the weary hours and to occupy my thoughts. Thus it is that now I have before me the notebook with its scribbled pages, written confusedly upon my knee in the dim, waning light of our one electric torch. Had I the literary touch, they might have been worthy of the occasion. As it is, they may still serve to bring to other minds the long-drawn emotions and tremors of that awful night.

***

NEXT WEEK: ‘Think of all the millions and possibly billions of years that the earth swung empty through space—or, if not empty, at least without a sign or thought of the human race. Think of it, washed by the rain and scorched by the sun and swept by the wind for those unnumbered ages. Man only came into being yesterday so far as geological times goes. Why, then, should it be taken for granted that all this stupendous preparation was for his benefit?’

Stay tuned!

***

RADIUM AGE SCIENCE FICTION: “Radium Age” is HiLobrow’s name for the 1904–33 era, which saw the discovery of radioactivity, the revelation that matter itself is constantly in movement — a fitting metaphor for the first decades of the 20th century, during which old scientific, religious, political, and social certainties were shattered. This era also saw the publication of genre-shattering writing by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Sax Rohmer, E.E. “Doc” Smith, Jack London, Rudyard Kipling, Arthur Conan Doyle, Aldous Huxley, Olaf Stapledon, Karel Čapek, H.P. Lovecraft, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Yevgeny Zamyatin, E.M. Forster, Philip Wylie, and other pioneers of post-Verne/Wells, pre-Golden Age “science fiction.” More info here.

HILOBOOKS: The mission of HiLoBooks is to serialize novels on HiLobrow; and also, as of 2012, operating as an imprint of Richard Nash’s Cursor, to reissue Radium Age science fiction in beautiful new print editions. In May 2012, we will publish Jack London’s The Scarlet Plague; in June, Rudyard Kipling’s With the Night Mail (and “As Easy as A.B.C.”); in July, Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Poison Belt; in September, H. Rider Haggard’s When the World Shook; in October, Edward Shanks’ The People of the Ruins; and in November, William Hope Hodgson’s The Night Land. For more information, visit the HiLoBooks homepage.

READ: Jack London’s The Scarlet Plague, serialized between January and April 2012; and Rudyard Kipling’s With the Night Mail (and “As Easy as A.B.C.”), serialized between March and June 2012.

READ: HiLobrow’s previous serialized novels, both original works: James Parker’s The Ballad of Cocky The Fox (“a proof-of-concept that serialization can work on the Internet” — The Atlantic) and Karinne Keithley Syers’s Linda Linda Linda. We also publish original stories and comics.

Kyril Bonfiglioli

Variously an art dealer, soldier, and editor of science fiction magazines, the crowning achievement of English author KYRIL BONFIGLIOLI (1928-85) is his creation of literary anti-hero Charlie Mortdecai, a cowardly, consumptive dandy, and the object of three and a half of Bonfiglioli’s canonical Mortdecai novels (including The Great Mortdecai Moustache Mystery, left unfinished) and the inspiration for another (All the Tea in China). Mortdecai has the viciousness of Flashman and the foppish appetites of Bertie Wooster, but Wooster would never be found swashbuckling his way across Nevada, just as Flashman wouldn’t spend so much time teasing policemen or redecorating his flat. The stories are fast-paced romps through the international art-smuggling subculture of a grim 1970s, accompanied by Jock, a drooling anti-Jeeves and the perfect foil to Charlie’s mincing self-servery. Each volume is an excuse to see how Mortdecai cheats, shags, and connives his way out of as many outlandish situations as you can wave a backfiring revolver at. Bonfiglioli’s commitment to laughs (they’re not parody, but they’re not proper crime novels either) explains why the Mortdecai novels never made a big splash; still, the stories never stoop to common expectations. Although Mortdecai bears a resemblance to Bonfiglioli himself, a disclaimer at the front of the first volume, Don’t Point That Thing at Me (1972), cautions us: “This is not an autobiographical novel. It is about some other portly, dissolute, immoral and middle-aged art dealer.” In fact, Bonfiglioli lived in abject poverty for most of his life; he died of cirrhosis of the liver.

***

On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: T.H. White, JFK, Paul Ehrlich.

U-shaped bays

According to the Times, Prime Burger on 51st St. will close:

Though the family plans to salvage as many fixtures as it can, Mr. DiMiceli said he despaired of being able to rescue and reconstruct the built-in, one-person booths. In this highly unusual — if not downright eccentric — serving arrangement, customers sit in small U-shaped bays behind individual table tops that pivot shut to enclose them, almost as if they were buckled into an old amusement park ride. (The thrill lies in the calorie count.)
The problem is that these booths may have been too well installed to allow removal. “We’d like to take the seats,” Mr. DiMiceli said, “but the guys I talked to said that taking them apart would probably destroy them.”

I went to Prime Burger only once or twice, back in the last century, but it left an impression. Indeed, the one-person booth aspect was imported into the novel (Chinese Whispers) I was working on (c. 2000). Eventually I cut the primary reference to the seating scheme, but here it is:
They sat across from each other. In more crowded circumstances, the tavern’s curious furniture permitted shoulder-to-shoulder arrangements. Along one wall were booth-like configurations that in fact contained seating for six, in a U-formation, two wooden seats per side. Each seat was separated by a brief raised stand, upon which an assortment of condiments reposed. But there was no central table as such. Instead, individual serving trays, also of wood, secured at one end with a pivot, swung into action. Each tray clicked into place to secure the diner. The overall effect was agreeably infantilizing.

U-shaped bays

According to the Times, Prime Burger on 51st St. will close:

Though the family plans to salvage as many fixtures as it can, Mr. DiMiceli said he despaired of being able to rescue and reconstruct the built-in, one-person booths. In this highly unusual — if not downright eccentric — serving arrangement, customers sit in small U-shaped bays behind individual table tops that pivot shut to enclose them, almost as if they were buckled into an old amusement park ride. (The thrill lies in the calorie count.)
The problem is that these booths may have been too well installed to allow removal. “We’d like to take the seats,” Mr. DiMiceli said, “but the guys I talked to said that taking them apart would probably destroy them.”

I went to Prime Burger only once or twice, back in the last century, but it left an impression. Indeed, the one-person booth aspect was imported into the novel (Chinese Whispers) I was working on (c. 2000). Eventually I cut the primary reference to the seating scheme, but here it is:
They sat across from each other. In more crowded circumstances, the tavern’s curious furniture permitted shoulder-to-shoulder arrangements. Along one wall were booth-like configurations that in fact contained seating for six, in a U-formation, two wooden seats per side. Each seat was separated by a brief raised stand, upon which an assortment of condiments reposed. But there was no central table as such. Instead, individual serving trays, also of wood, secured at one end with a pivot, swung into action. Each tray clicked into place to secure the diner. The overall effect was agreeably infantilizing.

U-shaped bays

According to the Times, Prime Burger on 51st St. will close:

Though the family plans to salvage as many fixtures as it can, Mr. DiMiceli said he despaired of being able to rescue and reconstruct the built-in, one-person booths. In this highly unusual — if not downright eccentric — serving arrangement, customers sit in small U-shaped bays behind individual table tops that pivot shut to enclose them, almost as if they were buckled into an old amusement park ride. (The thrill lies in the calorie count.)
The problem is that these booths may have been too well installed to allow removal. “We’d like to take the seats,” Mr. DiMiceli said, “but the guys I talked to said that taking them apart would probably destroy them.”

I went to Prime Burger only once or twice, back in the last century, but it left an impression. Indeed, the one-person booth aspect was imported into the novel (Chinese Whispers) I was working on (c. 2000). Eventually I cut the primary reference to the seating scheme, but here it is:
They sat across from each other. In more crowded circumstances, the tavern’s curious furniture permitted shoulder-to-shoulder arrangements. Along one wall were booth-like configurations that in fact contained seating for six, in a U-formation, two wooden seats per side. Each seat was separated by a brief raised stand, upon which an assortment of condiments reposed. But there was no central table as such. Instead, individual serving trays, also of wood, secured at one end with a pivot, swung into action. Each tray clicked into place to secure the diner. The overall effect was agreeably infantilizing.

U-shaped bays

According to the Times, Prime Burger on 51st St. will close:

Though the family plans to salvage as many fixtures as it can, Mr. DiMiceli said he despaired of being able to rescue and reconstruct the built-in, one-person booths. In this highly unusual — if not downright eccentric — serving arrangement, customers sit in small U-shaped bays behind individual table tops that pivot shut to enclose them, almost as if they were buckled into an old amusement park ride. (The thrill lies in the calorie count.)
The problem is that these booths may have been too well installed to allow removal. “We’d like to take the seats,” Mr. DiMiceli said, “but the guys I talked to said that taking them apart would probably destroy them.”

I went to Prime Burger only once or twice, back in the last century, but it left an impression. Indeed, the one-person booth aspect was imported into the novel (Chinese Whispers) I was working on (c. 2000). Eventually I cut the primary reference to the seating scheme, but here it is:
They sat across from each other. In more crowded circumstances, the tavern’s curious furniture permitted shoulder-to-shoulder arrangements. Along one wall were booth-like configurations that in fact contained seating for six, in a U-formation, two wooden seats per side. Each seat was separated by a brief raised stand, upon which an assortment of condiments reposed. But there was no central table as such. Instead, individual serving trays, also of wood, secured at one end with a pivot, swung into action. Each tray clicked into place to secure the diner. The overall effect was agreeably infantilizing.

U-shaped bays

According to the Times, Prime Burger on 51st St. will close:

Though the family plans to salvage as many fixtures as it can, Mr. DiMiceli said he despaired of being able to rescue and reconstruct the built-in, one-person booths. In this highly unusual — if not downright eccentric — serving arrangement, customers sit in small U-shaped bays behind individual table tops that pivot shut to enclose them, almost as if they were buckled into an old amusement park ride. (The thrill lies in the calorie count.)
The problem is that these booths may have been too well installed to allow removal. “We’d like to take the seats,” Mr. DiMiceli said, “but the guys I talked to said that taking them apart would probably destroy them.”

I went to Prime Burger only once or twice, back in the last century, but it left an impression. Indeed, the one-person booth aspect was imported into the novel (Chinese Whispers) I was working on (c. 2000). Eventually I cut the primary reference to the seating scheme, but here it is:
They sat across from each other. In more crowded circumstances, the tavern’s curious furniture permitted shoulder-to-shoulder arrangements. Along one wall were booth-like configurations that in fact contained seating for six, in a U-formation, two wooden seats per side. Each seat was separated by a brief raised stand, upon which an assortment of condiments reposed. But there was no central table as such. Instead, individual serving trays, also of wood, secured at one end with a pivot, swung into action. Each tray clicked into place to secure the diner. The overall effect was agreeably infantilizing.

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