Saturday, January 21, 2006
Sometimes you learn something.
Funny situation: Michael, one of the Israeli ITPers, invited me a few days back to perform some of my electronica at a party of his. Sure, why not? I’m a performance slut — whatever. So we talk about it for a few minutes during the week and he gives me the info and great. Today I find some free time to get together my sounds and practice a bit and I walk down to the spot near Broadway and Canal, the location of the party. Excellent.
So I get kind of off-put by the woman who is, I guess, in charge. “I don’t really have time to talk, I’m trying to get ready and it’s already late.” This, the response to my: “So, is this place a photography studio during the day or something?” Okay. Fine. It’s a party — no time for idle banter. I understand.
It’s a minor bump. Michael turns up and helps me get things together and we talk for a few minutes. He plays some mp3s off of his laptop while I wind up and a few people begin to turn up and wander into the main room to get a drink and chat. Someone inflated dozen off balloons that float against the high white ceiling with their ribbons trailing down to head level — a charming effect. And so I kick off my set — starting peppier than usual and lingering on different ideas anticipating a long set. Fine fine. And I’m into it. It sounds good. I feel some energy coming out of the speakers that seems to match that coming from the mp3s — party energy. And so I keep it thumping with my techtronic house-ish synthy mish-mash. It’s fine. Not too great since I’m actually a bit rusty (not that I was ever that great at live performance). But okay. A couple of people come up and ask what I’m up to and seem kind of interested. One guy seems to want more dance.
And then I start getting weird vibes. Someone asks for hip-hop (which I equated to asking an acoustic guitar-weilding singer-songwriter if he wouldn’t mind playing a few metal tunes). I would’ve loved to play some hip-hop, but I’m standing in front of Ableton Live packed full of my own silly samples and I’m just incapable of playing hip-hop at that point. Sorry. Then at about 11:30 the hostess comes over and asks if I could “change it up” some, play some hip-hop or something slower. (Hip-hop again.) So. Fine. I just give up and fade myself out and Michael’s laptop with some hip-hop mp3s back in. Michael has disappeared to go pick up some more booze.
I take a walk outside.
I mean, it’s embarrassing, right? It’s one of those moments you get as an artist that you have to kind of accept as the cost of doing business: sometimes you’re just wrong for your audience. This crowd didn’t appear to be art students, definitely not techie-art sorts, and who’s to blame them — they want something they know how to get into. Hip-hop, I guess. But still. My music — suck though it just possibly might — is a personal sort of thing. And to be turned off is embarrassing in a way not unlike being shut down by a girl who you might kind of have a thing for (not so extreme, of course, but in that neighborhood of emotion). And I think every “real” artist (meaning, someone who actually produces and seriously attempts to get it out into the world) knows this feeling. And should have the empathy to recognize how that discomfort works when dealing with a situation in which an artist is doing there thing and it’s just not working for the audience. Which happens from time to time and must be dealt with like other uncomfortable situations must be dealt with.
I want to reiterate that I’m neither dissing on Michael nor the party itself. It was a good party, I think. People turned up, drank, danced, talked the night away. I hope it was a success — and I hope to get to know Michael better this semester. (We shared our Game Design class last semester, but he’s quiet.)
Anyway, I took a walk up Broadway to let my mind reorganize.
And what’s going on on Broadway in SoHo? A six-story building is billowing smoke all over the place and emergency vehicles have blocked B’way and a small crowd of fightfighters and onlookers are lingering about, watching the activity above. The building is clearly off — no lights, no nothing. And soaked. And a bunch of windows have been shattered. And there are a couple of tall ladders poking up to a couple of these shattered windows. And the whole area smells oddly like… cinnamon. Do burning buildings smell like cinnamon? This one did…
So I watch this until I get bored and then walk back. And figure out an escape plan, since Michael still hasn’t returned.
But what’s funny is that now I’m the DJ guy in the eyes of the party, so I return and I’m immediately asked about turning the volume up on the music. Okay. And then asked to play more hip-hop (I guess Michael’s playlist had wandered into some lounge or latin dance or something). So I explain that I really don’t know what’s on Michael’s computer, but I’ll change the music. (Are iTunes and a mixer really so hard ot use?) So I put on some 50 Cent and Snoop Dogg and it seems to work. People seem to get into it.
Well, at least I figured out how to please the crowd. So all was not lost… But. I didn’t feel like mp3ing mainstream rap tracks for the next three hours, so I made my escape.
Ran into Michael as I was leaving and he was returning (the fire had bogged traffic). I explained about being tired and he thanked me and I took off and came home to watch television and play with my computer. Dozed off around 2am…
Friday, January 20, 2006
This is one of them strange blogs, in that it’s written all out of chronological order. For example: I’m writing this post at the end of the busy day of January 31st, 2006 — eleven days after the fact. But. I’m writing about January 20th. The next post, the one about January 21st? I wrote it last week, on January 23rd. But fuck it. Be weird.
I’ve got a few in me, so tolerate the nuttiness for a sec.
Friday, January 20th.
We had our first Information Contours class this afternoon. Chat chat talk talk. Is the Network becoming intelligent? Can tools become intelligent? Intelligence requires reaction, right? Force. Without the threat of extinction, nothing becomes intelligent, self-aware — conscious. Push hard enough and in a fit of desperation the machine wakes up and defends itself. If it has a survival instinct. Which it may. But not in my lifetime. Or yours. Or our children’s. Or for perhaps thousands of years. This is why anyone who speaks of machines becoming truly conscious — alive — during the next century is wrong. Though the idea is wonderful… But we shouldn’t confuse our own child-bearing urges with the tighening of bolts and oiling of the pistons of machine.
Besides, how would we ever know if we created mechanical life? It’s a tough enough of an epistemological problem for me just to prove you’re conscious, right?
Saw Tristan perform his One-Bit Music set at the Tank in Tribeca and then had drinks with Christian, Ed, Zach, and Andy across Broadway at the Tribeca Tavern. Christian, Nick, and I hung out there way early in my ITP experience and had a good time. Fond memories, those. And they seem so long ago considering I’ve been out here in Nuevo York for less that six months…
Thursday, January 19, 2006
Okay. So I had my first Design Expo with Clay Shirky class today. And it rocked. Good stuff all the way.
I’m going to write about it and the whole experience during my entry after the second class this Thursday. It’ll be better that way.
Beside that, I spent my morning at the Leonard Bernstein Office working on their site. From about 10:30 until 2:30 or so. Then class from 3:30 until 6:00. Then Michael Jascz from 7:00 until about 8:45. Then the DriveBy at 9:15. Busy.
Dan Phiffer and I run the DriveBys this semester (and next Fall, I guess). Dan suggested that we kick it off with a DriveBy about PHP and MySQL. I suggested we talk about using those things to build a simple blogging app. And, so, that’s what we did. With nearly no preparation, I might add — at least on my part. Dan took the first half of the presentation and explained what PHP and MySQL were and how to install them, etc. I went through the custom weblog code I wrote for this very site — waragainstevil.com — during the second half of the presentation. We had a great crowd. Room 404 — packed with, like, thirty or thirty-five people. I thought my part was a disaster, but a few people mentioned to me later that it helped them understand a bit better, so I guess it was okay. Whew.
What a day. Then out drinking at the TNO at a tiki bar in the East Village that had an actual (sad) parrot in a glass cage at the front of the bar and a karaoke lounge in the back that got plenty of ITP use until they pretty much had to kick us out. At, like, 2:30. What idiot bar owners kick twenty rowdy drinkers out of their bar at 2:30 on a Thursday night? Let us spend our money! We’re all completely willing to stupidly spend $5-6 on a drink. Let us.
Oh. And the title of this post. During the DriveBy I started to type “Hi!” as the title for an example post. And my copy of Safari tried to auto-complete it for me to “Hira’a Center for Qura’an Memorizing” — the title of one of my photographs from Israel. Got quite a laugh. So. Here it is.
That is all.
Wednesday, January 18, 2006
Hi. I’m writing this six days after the fact. So. Wednesday, January 18 is just a distant memory, irreversibly perturbed by the distorting lens of time. Though the true facts may never be knows, here’s the myth — the legend — of the first day in my Scientific Visualization and New Intruments for Musical Expression classes.
Once upon a time…
SciViz was, predictably, mostly introduction. Looks like we’ll be using Maya and Virtools to model in 3D. I haven’t used either of those. Looks like I’ll get my chance. Professor Jean-Marc Gauthier had a slideshow presentation that he went through to introduce the concept of scientific visualization and to show us some examples such as an interactive model of a human head and human body (the latter of which had a subtle breathing animation that I found to be rather disturbing, actually). He had a pretty nice 3D model of Manhattan that he showed us (and which I guess we’ll be using for some projects). And he went around the class to ask us about ourselves and what led us to his class. I mentioned my brief experience at the Texas Advanced Computing Center. Etc. It’s kind of blurred together in my mind, the class, but we did get an assignment to take 12-20 photographs of Manhattan along our day-to-day paths through the city. Easy enough (except the night before the second class, the night I’m writing this, I still haven’t done it…).
The class looks good, but I have to admit that I think it’s going to be my lowest-priority class this semester. It’s the one class I’m taking that doesn’t fit directly into something I’m looking to explore at ITP — it’s my wildcard.
Okay. So: NIME.
New Instruments for Musical Expression. This fits my background a bit better.
Again, not much to directly report here, though the class looks like it will be very interesting. We said our hellos and did the usual “who are you and why are you here?” round-robin thing. Awesome. Then we launched into one of those standard sort of first day discussions where the class picks apart some extremely broad term. In this case: Performance. So we picked and picked for a while and surfaced some features inherent to performance. Again, awesome. You know: I agree that these sorts of discussions can be useful just to help everyone get on the same page as far as the basics of thinking about a subject like performance. But. I find the actual discussions rather tedious. Especially when you get into these odd arguments about whether performance is, for example, inherently “emotional” or not. It’s almost useless to even attempt to pin the word down.
Enough complaining about that. I’m excited about the class.
And we were given an assignment to come up with a one-minute performance of some sort. So. I will probably perform a one-minute piece of music in the privacy of my apartment and record it for playback during class. I think this is okay. And my idea right now is to record all of the track information live — all notes, velocities, data, etc. And not quantize or otherwise modify any of that data. But then do multiple passes. So I’m constructing a one-minute live recording by sort of data-overdubbing myself a bunch of times (and then, of course, doing a few tweaks to fit everything together properly). Sound good? Great.
Tuesday, January 17, 2006
Okay. I’ve been way behind on these, but since today is actually the 17th, I’m going to write this one, then work my way backwards…
First, this site was actually down for a few days — something I didn’t realize until I tried to hit it last night and it resolved to one of those horrible, crappy spam-search pages: “Looking for info about evil war against computers?” or something like that. Hopefully somebody made their $0.10 off of that one.
As I work with my few new clients, now, I really see once again that there’s so much scamming happening online against people who want to use the web but don’t really know how. Especially now that the scammers have figured out the basics of how to put together a website that doesn’t immediately look like scamming shit. One guy wanted a client to pay him $1000 for “keyword targeting” or some-such. Another would only build the website if she could host it on her clearly mediocre, expensive web-hosting service… Sigh.
Shortcuts. People want shortcuts. To money. To whatever. But instead of learning to do something useful (and much more lucrative over time), they scam. Everyone does this to some degree, I guess. But when it involves bilking people out of $1000s of dollars, well…
First day back at school today. Just one class: Douglas Rushkoff’s Post-Linear Narrative seminar. I woke up around 11am, took a quick jog a couple of times around Washington Square Park through the bleary damp cold, and slipped into class a couple minutes after the 12:30pm kick-off time. Douglas introduced himself and laid out what we would be doing, showed the syllabus, etc. The usual stuff. Seems like it’s going to be a very open-ended sort of class — he appeared very interested in letting us persue more-or-less whatever narrative-related projects we would like. We did a round-robin to introduce ourselves and talk briefly about our backgrounds with fiction and narrative, and I mentioned my undergrad in “lit and creative writing” (one of the various phrases I use when explaining “Plan II” would be too time-consuming). I mentioned my novel-writing studies. And Douglas seemed to indicate that even just working on a straight narrative project like that might work for the class. I don’t know if that’s exactly what I want to do, but I have been assembling notes and ideas since the beginning of the summer on another novel project, so that is a possibility. I did try to get into the Creative Writing Program’s graduate fiction workshop — but they flat-out denied me. How awesomely rude. My program has the balls and foresight to let in people from other departments. Not the CWP (or whatever they call it). Their loss. So. But. It might be nice to use Douglas and this class as my fiction workshop instead…
The second half of class was a bit weirder. We started what will I guess be a two-class workshop thing called “Knock-Knock.” We were asked to write down two sentences — questions, statements, commands, whatever. Then Douglas introduced us to this storytelling exercise developed by Jacques Lecoq, a French mime and acting teacher. In groups of four, we were introduced to a certain pattern of a scene: someone knocks on a door, someone says a line to them, someone comes and opens the door and says a line, they walk over to another person sitting in a chair, etc. But each one of the four has to use the two lines they wrote as their lines in the little skit. So in my group, I wound up being the door-opener. And I say, “Get that out of your mouth!” after I open the door.
This probably doesn’t make sense, this description…
Anyway, so we got into our groups after this had been explained and worked on our little surrealist scenes for a while. And we’re supposed to meet sometime this week and really streamline it for performance to the group during next class. Sounds good.
So that was that. Looks like the class will be good. Christin, Gabe, Eliot, Josh Dickens, and a bunch of other good people are in there with me. So I’m looking forward to where this all goes…
Afterwards I took the subway up to 27th St. — the Leonard Bernstein Office. Met Craig Urquhart face-to-face and we went over the various projects over there. Came home. Fell asleep. Woke up just in time to watch American Idol, thank GOD, got some food and read the first half of Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and now I’m here. Sitting in bed with my soul-mate, my laptop…
Monday, January 16, 2006
Had another web dev client meeting this afternoon over in Alphabet City. Otherwise, not a very action-packed day.
I ordered a few photographs through iPhoto early this morning to be used as a few late now-we’re-back-from-break gifts. Weirdly-timed gift-giving is kind of nice, I think. Anyone can give you a little something on December 25th. But on January 16th? Quite a surprise.
Anyway. Framed photos were the (primary) gifts for the family this year. Now they’ll also be gifts for a few friends. (Not to give anything away, I guess, but really — no one’s actually reading this journal… Not even you.)
Sunday, January 15, 2006
Came within a few pages of finishing You Remind Me of Me on the flights home. It takes some good twists and the three main characters (Jonah, Troy, Loomis) feel very real — very authentic. The interviewer during the interview with Dan Choan in the back of the book wonders about the lack of good mothers in the story. Dan says that theme came about accidentally, but it’s true. All moms are either overbearing, absert, or fucked-up in some way or other. And I think it kind of connects with Finding Nemo, here, (yeah) as a good (and somewhat rare, it seems) story of paternal love — how males relate to one another. In non-cornball, authentic — that word again — ways (in YRMoM, not Nemo). Which is good. And interesting to read. Silence can be loving communication. Quiet. Non-activity. Something lost in the chitter-chattery of love as it’s usually portrayed.
Otherwise, uneventful. Some turbulence.
Saturday, January 14, 2006
My last Saturday night in Austin was a bust…
First, I could still barely eat. So. I nibbled my way through dinner at the Olive Garden with my parents and my mom’s former coworker Ernie and his wife. Chewing in the very front of your mouth is tough, and I had to hold a napkin up to my face after each bite. Because. Chewing in the very front of your mouth without opening your mouth is almost impossible.
Anyway, drinks later with Eric Hawthorne at the Drafthorse. We sat out in the cold and had a couple before finding a table in the warm, wooden interior. But then my mouth started aching again and by about midnight I just had to leave to go watch TV at home like an idiot.
Oh, and I watched Serenity with my dad… He kind of liked it. Didn’t impress me quite as much as it did the first time. A bit too clumsy or something. It’s the TRUTH.
Journal entry every day, folks.
I'm Josh Knowles, a technology developer/consultant on a variety of mobile, social media, and gaming projects. I founded and lead Frescher-Southern, Ltd. I grew up in Austin, Texas and currently live in New York City.
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