Mar 29, 2013

The Dice on His Back, the Eagle on His Shoulder

That guy had some knuckles. He punched a right into the paneling and it cracked like rotten wood, inches from my left ear. I ducked and landed a good one in his nuts. The elevator plummeted past empty floors and gaping mouths and screams. What floor is this? Oh, God.

*

Inspired by The Incredible Tale of a 1909 Fight to the Death Inside a Moving Elevator

*

Haunted elevator music

Mar 28, 2013

The Boy Who Cried Wolf in a Crowded Theater

Feeling stuck? Try brutethink. I'll give you some building blocks right now.

Six unlikely combinations:

1

A rolled-up note in your pocket.
A spaceship.
A talking desk.

2

A drunk librarian.
A defibrillator.
A bloodstained colander.

3

A narcoleptic PETA activist.
An ex-lawyer turned chinchilla breeder.
A strip club run by a reformed Chaos magician.

4

A sculptor who uses nothing but bananas.
A former marine with a banana addiction.
A messy divorce.

5

A vulture with a wedding ring on one of its claws.
A retired risk consultant who loves haikus.
A gravedigger’s daughter.

6

Sigmund Freud on vacation.
Ten pounds of Mature Wensleydale.
A cow that hates fences.

COW COW NUT #1
by Speakerine

Because good things come in threes (like triangles) and sixes (like beer).
Indeed, a triangle with two vertices would be a doleful thing, and a five-beer six-pack manifestly incomplete.

Disclaimer:
1. I don't know any banana addicts. But a search for "banana addiction" led me to the first rung on the Ladder to Purgatory, i.e., Yahoo Answers, wherefore I now give you the Dumbest Question of the Month:

"What is physical health!!!?
"plez answer back as fast as u finish reading this, my assignment is due tomoz n i really need help!!!
can u please give an answer that isn't too scientific or hard to understand so it looks like i dint plagurise it from some site. thank you so much!
p.s: sorry if im asking 2 much n for being lazy but i honestly searched this question myself n i couldn't put it in2 my own words, sorry!"

"Plagurise" sounds like a special attack for those glowing ghouls on Fallout: New Vegas.

Mar 27, 2013

The Robots that Should Not Be!

My super-rich idiot cousin leased an island in the South Pacific so he could make a movie about making a movie on an island.

As the story went, the nasty creatures in the script would come to life.

So now I’m hiding in a cave. Hiding from creatures he imagined.



If you're reading this on your email app, I doubt you can see the DiscoveryNews video above. You'll have to stop by the blog. Just click here.

The title of this prompt is a play on Metallica's "The Thing that Should Not Be," one of a gajillion songs based on the Cthulhu mythos.

Finally, why the exclamation mark? Oh, I guess I read too many Marvel comics as a kid.

Bombastic writing style rubs off on you.

Mar 22, 2013

Let a Billion Routers Channel the Ecstasy

Kyrill Viktorovich, 39, leading dogmatist of the New Transparency Movement, stepped up to the lectern and had a heart attack before five thousand people.

A crowd of augmented engineers and aspirant grinders rushed onto the stage, taking pictures as they blinked, mumbling suitable expressions of panic into their subdermal microphones. 

One of Wang Zi Won's mechanical Buddhas

The Russian-inspired name owes to my starting Vladimir Sorokin’s Day of the Oprichnik. The first couple of pages carry more tiny visual details than human memory can hold. We’ll see whether the book has more to offer than a baroque sense of atmosphere.

I bought it because I liked the title and the cover. Call it instinct; most of the time you can judge a book by its cover. On the subject of covers, check out Lousy Book Covers if you haven’t already.

Do you self-publish? My advice is, don’t skimp on the cover. You don’t want to make yourself a laughing stock.
Set some money aside and find a skilled person to do your cover design for you. Once upon a time (two weeks ago), a lady who shall remain anonymous suggested that you should “marry a graphic designer,” for which kind of advice the Spanish Inquisition used to burn people at the stake. Graphic designers are an invention of the Devil to lead us into the Apple Store with its sleek products and minimal design.

Reality
by EranFolio

Now, that “New Transparency” thing. Technological advances like Google Glass concern me, mainly because I’m seeing overly enthusiastic reactions to another potential limitation on personal freedom and privacy. I’d like to ask the anti-privacy advocates: Can I have your email password? May I come watch you as you sleep?

Chances are you believe in privacy, because you wear clothes and your windows feature curtains. Also, you don’t want to give me your email password, do you? You’ve just been sold on the notion that privacy is a throwback to pre-technological times.

This is not so. Privacy is by and large an invention of the 19th and 20th centuries. We used to sleep all huddled together in caves, damn it. And then in one-room houses, huts, call them what you will. Privacy is a conquest, a triumph of personal space, and the rise of privacy coincides with the dawn of the individual. A fully transparent citizenry, living 24/7 under the Panopticon’s glare, is a danger to you as a person. To your freedom of speech and self-expression; no less your right to be wrong in public without incurring perpetual ostracism.

Now the Panopticon comes to the streets, taking the terror of constant surveillance to eye-level.

Surveillance camera man has gone to great lengths to show us why the omnipresence of video cameras is abusive and disruptive. If this performance piece doesn’t touch you in bothersome places, I don’t know what will.


Progress comes in two flavors: Quantitative and qualitative. Which kind does Glass represent

Mar 20, 2013

You Have Two Minutes to Clear the Level, Save the World and Get those Ten Thousand Bucks You Owe Me

Tyler Cherry (Bomberman to his friends) liked to avoid most things incompatible with his biology, like, I don’t know, swallowing ethylene dichloride or getting stabbed with a steak knife.

Tough luck. His blood had found a way out of his body. He fell as one who sinks in molten lead.

A screenshot from Bomberman - one of the many versions out there, at least. I imagined Tyler Cherry would be
addicted to this game.

I don't know what happens to Tyler after this. Maybe a troop of midgets on the way back from a conference stomps into the arcade and goes holy shit, someone call an ambulance, and an ambulance gets called, so Tyler lives, or maybe Bomberman just thinks he's dying because he's overly dramatic that way. Maybe a rival of his just nicked him with a Swiss army knife. Or hit him in the head with a spoon.

At any rate, Tyler's someone who's got his life priorities wrong, so bad things will happen to him, including almost dying.

Mar 15, 2013

The Jar that Was Bigger than the World

On the seventh day I got a pulse on the radar. I woke up the others.
"We found the Interface," I told Mira.
"Are you sure?" she asked, blinking in the green light of dawn.

To be honest, I expected to bump up against another invisible wall.

*

For this prompt, I imagined a society of scavengers using technology they can't date or comprehend, and the inevitable upset that occurs when they discover that their world is finite, i.e., not only does it feature impassable barriers but it also becomes evident that the world was designed that way. Then there's the concomitant discovery of a book which reveals the way to a unique "Interface" where the creatures can address their creator. Directly. No middlemen.

A page from the Codex Seraphinianus.
Click to enlarge

What price forbidden knowledge?

Occult, where that term refers to the esoteric arts, used to mean "buried" or "lost." Now it's a label marketers use to sell a certain kind of product.

Perhaps the birth of a new occult lies at the intersection of magic, technology, cryptography and art. That's where works like the Codex Seraphinianus come in. Mysteries like number stations and the Voynich Manuscript make life more interesting, don't they?

But, let us return to the Codex. It was created by an Italian architect, Luigi Serafini (hence the Seraphinianus) whose official website is a blank page. A look at the html source reveals this:

Nothing special. Curiouser and curiouser. Is this the result of neglect?
Or is it something else?

Like the Voynich Manuscript, its spiritual forebear, the Codex resists decryption. Not knowing what the Codex is keeps you wondering. To admit that the constructed language of the Codex might not mean anything feels like a bitter concession.

Serafini (b. 1949) has designed chairs, illustrated Kafka's work, collaborated with Federico Fellini. Yet he remains something of a cipher. Where do his ideas come from? What if he taps into something deeply personal and that is the source of his power? There's a lot to learn from this man.

Another page from the Codex.
You can read more about the Codex Seraphinianus at The Believer.

Mysteries have staying power. Aesthetics, which to me represents both the analysis and language of beauty, needs unknown quantities -- like a real-time strategy game needs fog of war. Once you've mapped all the territory, the story ends. What's left to do when the story ends? Go to a place you've never been and start a new one.

Tennis-bis
by Luigi Serafini

A quick word about the ads that Disqus has decided to display on my site: I can't do anything about them. No matter how often I change the settings on my Disqus dashboard, they won't go away.

But I've decided to keep Disqus. It's a decent commenting system and over two years I've accumulated hundreds of comments on this blog. Imagine losing all that.

Mar 14, 2013

Dangerous Lives of the Millionaire Underground

The safe house is ten clicks behind us and I'm carrying way too much money.
To my companion, I whisper, "Listen. Can you tell I've got 10k under my left arm?"
"Shut up," she whispers back, "I see Educators up ahead."

*

For this prompt, I tried to imagine a future where wealth had been outlawed; a violent social contract where gradual change is eschewed in favor of radical methods.

I lean left on most political issues. I'd even espouse anarchism if I truly believed in a leaderless society, but the fact is leadership is written into our genes. Maybe our descendant AIs will be able to enjoy an almost perfectly non-hierarchical commonwealth, but that's a discussion for another day.

What I'm getting at is, I don't think the right or the left have come up with very good answers to the question of how we should run our lives and, if you push things too far in either direction, individuals don't stand a chance. Pure sociopaths then take center stage and poison the atmosphere. Everyone becomes a potential enemy of the state, no matter how slight the offense.

The most precious freedom of all is the freedom to be yourself. This includes the freedom to find or reinvent yourself.

*

Strange connections: I wonder if I'm the only one who can hear this. Listen to the three songs below. My brain tells me that Amanda Palmer's "In My Mind" comes from the space between Carl Orff's "Gassenhauer" and "The Fairest of the Seasons" by German model-turned-singer, Nico.

1. Amanda Palmer's "In my Mind."



2. Carl Orff's "Gassenhauer," which I first heard on a J&B commercial. I dismissed it at the time -- commercials tend to ruin everything they touch -- but then it resurfaced when I watched Terrence Malick's masterpiece, Badlands.



3. Nico, "The Fairest of the Seasons."



Fun fact: Andy Warhol imposed Nico on The Velvet Underground. That didn't sit too well with the band -- they'd been together for a couple of years now, and Nico was an outsider. Warhol probably found Moe Tucker too masculine, or not photogenic enough. I don't know.

Mar 13, 2013

The Time-traveling Hacker's Lament

One version of me wanted Ormer Locklear to stay alive. Version number two wanted him dead. Version number three -- me, I guess -- had to dive into the developer console and figure out why I had been cloned and stuck in camera mode, unable to delete the other mes.

Paper Airplane
by Jordan B

Ormer Locklear was a wing walker. What began as necessity (they say Locklear would walk onto his plane wings to fix problems) evolved into an extreme form of entertainment and would contribute to methods we take for granted today, such as air-to-air refueling. You've heard of Charles Lindbergh, right? Wink wink. He too began his flight career as a wing walker.

The sport has evolved, but adrenaline still plays a major part in it. And people still pay to watch somebody else taking chances with their life. 


The video above features a bargain-basement soundtrack. Please mute it and listen to this instead.

Mar 11, 2013

Personality Dissolves at 4625 kHz

Every evening at seven, Clay Brinner turned on his ham radio and fiddled with the dial until he heard the sound of his own voice.

A man who sounded exactly like him read off numbers from a list.

Clay wrote the numbers down. They were starting to make sense.

Typhon
by John Magnet Bell



What are number stations? Thanks to numberstations.co.uk, we learn that
Number Stations are shortwave radio stations or a high frequency that transmit a call sign, usually letters from the phonic alphabet or strings of numbers, usually sent in groups of five – sometimes they feature music.
They are usually broadcast on or around the top of the hour, and most of the time stick to a rigid schedule.
There has never been any official explanation for these broadcasts, however it is strongly believed that they are one way messages from the intelligence agencies to spies in the field.

VIDEOS

Some time ago, NPR's "Lost and Found Sound" delved into the mystery of number stations.



Our next video looks like a scene out of Metro 2033, a first-person shooter I've barely begun to explore. Two things are missing -- heavy breathing and a "bastard gun." Watch full-screen at 1080p if you can.



Number stations have collected fans over the years, a large unintended audience that follows broadcasts almost religiously. Fans have assigned practical-sounding monikers to these broadcasts: There's Spanish Lady, Gongs and Chimes, Swedish Rhapsody, I Say Again, and many others.

UVB-76 also sends out names, which may have numerical value, or may provide an extra layer of encryption. More detail about UVB-76 here.

Mar 8, 2013

Troublesome Questions for Primates Who Would Appreciate a Road Map

(...or at least a couple of pointers every now and then.)

The year was Bethlehem and I was born on the back of a giant fox screaming at the sky.

Me screaming. Not the fox.

I suppose you require an explanation now, and my name, and the object of the letter before you.

See, I had an ugly beast to stop.

*

Because it's International Women's Day, the following picture is dedicated to all the women who read me:

Acceptance
by Dale Keys

Also this song.


"To your kinsmen I might prove untrue if from them I do go," sings Jacqui, "For maids must bide at their parents' side while the men do face the foe."

Folk songs and proverbs say much about the collective conscience of the people who create them. A good deal of it is unintended. While you are immersed in the zeitgeist, your surroundings appear normal, the scent of the familiar all about you; but then the times change, and when you look back the past has indeed become a foreign country.

The essence of life is change. Change is good. It finds a place for the old and makes room for the new.

Now go and listen to some more Pentangle

Mar 6, 2013

3 Bozzetti About Life on the Stage, The Passage of Time, The Color of Smoke

"Give me more respiration and fewer borborygmi," said the conductor.
"Eh?" The basso cantante stood up straight and even stopped drooling. He dropped his bib to the freshly waxed floor.
"Your stomach grumbles over your low notes," the conductor said, "and you sing the way you fart!"

*

Solace gave up ballet and took up smoking on the same day. If she couldn't dance, she might as well kill herself, but slowly and besides, smoking gave her something to do with her hands.
Solace's husband-to-be was unnaturally glad to see Solace digging a grave in tiny installments.

*

Peter Coriot always left the theater before the play was finished. Wednesdays and Fridays he was there, hoping for a certain someone to appear, someone who played himself, Peter Coriot. He wanted to sit through a tale of love and strife where he took the lead role.

by Carlo Maria Mariani

This is for the Italophile in you -- there's a little Italophile in all of us --

On the word "bozzetti": As Italian Wikipedia tells us, and in my mind the words sound especially melodious,

Nelle arti visive e scenografiche il bozzetto (più raramente chiamato abbozzo) è un modello non rifinito dell'opera, eseguito in scala più piccola.

Now you see why I couldn't go with "3 Drafts About Life on the Stage," &c.

also by Carlo Maria Mariani
Let there be music.