Archive for December, 2012

Recreating the Sounds of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop

Recreating the Sounds of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop

Back in the 60s, before synthesizers were commercially available, the BBC Radiophonic workshop was creating electronic music and sound effects for shows like Doctor Who. The BBC has now published a set of web-based simulations of some of this equipment, using just the Web Audio API of HTML5. The code and explanations are included.

Recreating the sounds of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop using the Web Audio API

Previously: Video: Radiophonic Style Electronic Music Improv

December 29, 2012 3 comments
Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2013 Highlights

Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2013 Highlights

The conversation is slow moving again this year, but that’s actually pretty nice. A few highlights:

  • Jon Lebkowsky: “There’s a real crisis of authority, a question whether we know what we know.”
  • Bruce Sterling: “2012 was all about K-pop and Samsung. Who can’t admire these two mushrooming efflorescences of Korean soft power and Korean hard manufacturing? They’re the New 1980s Japan.”
  • Sterling: “If the War on Terror had a winner, it’s the Qataris. Nobody ever dares to say anything mean about them. Even Israel and the USA are afraid of them, because the USA and Israel both instinctively kowtow to rich guys with TV stations.”
  • Jeff Kramer: “Our parents generation would have bought bigger houses, put down roots and settled in for the long haul, but my lizard brain keeps whispering to stay light and keep the options open.”
  • Sterling: “Americans don’t have state-supported censorship, but they do have a civil cold war, and the factions don’t talk to one another at all. There’s no open debate, there’s no discourse. There’s a little bit of room for debate within the factions but between them, there’s nothing.”
  • Lebkowsky: “I think it was easier for one artist to make a difference when there were fewer people, and fewer of them making art. And, for that matter, fewer rudders to nudge.”
  • Roland Legrand: “Therapists tell me about the increasing damage they see every day, caused by this increasing pressure to perform. The middle class is falling apart under the pressure of globalisation, technology and extreme competition.”
  • Sterling: “I find it disquieting when people want art to make a whole lot of difference. When Vaclav Havel went into politics he stopped being an artist.”

And here’s a longer excerpt from Lebkowsky, on “present shock”:

I find myself taking more breaks from the streams of information by and about my friends, reading more books and fewer activity streams. When I’m surfing online in hyperdrive mode, I feel an anxiety about all that’s happening and how to track it. Every day I get notices about so many events that are happening at once, and for every event I make, I feel I’m missing a dozen others. Is it better not to know?

I suppose I’ve been information-greedy, and greed is destructive.

Full Story: The Well: State of the World 2013: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky

December 28, 2012 0 comments
The U.S. Media Ignored Murdoch’s Brazen Bid To Hijack The Presidency

The U.S. Media Ignored Murdoch’s Brazen Bid To Hijack The Presidency

Carl Bernstein writes:

Thus in the spring of 2011 – less than 10 weeks before Murdoch’s centrality to the hacking and politician-buying scandal enveloping his British newspapers was definitively revealed – Fox News’ inventor and president, Roger Ailes, dispatched an emissary to Afghanistan to urge Petraeus to turn down President Obama’s expected offer to become CIA director and, instead, run for the Republican nomination for president, with promises of being bankrolled by Murdoch. Ailes himself would resign as president of Fox News and run the campaign, according to the conversation between Petraeus and the emissary, K T McFarland, a Fox News on-air defense “analyst” and former spear carrier for national security principals in three Republican administrations.

All this was revealed in a tape recording of Petraeus’s meeting with McFarland obtained by Bob Woodward, whose account of their discussion, accompanied online by audio of the tape, was published in the Washington Post – distressingly, in its style section, and not on page one, where it belonged – and, under the style logo, online on December 3.

Indeed, almost as dismaying as Ailes’ and Murdoch’s disdain for an independent and truly free and honest press, and as remarkable as the obsequious eagerness of their messenger to convey their extraordinary presidential draft and promise of on-air Fox support to Petraeus, has been the ho-hum response to the story by the American press and the country’s political establishment, whether out of fear of Murdoch, Ailes and Fox – or, perhaps, lack of surprise at Murdoch’s, Ailes’ and Fox’s contempt for decent journalistic values or a transparent electoral process.

Full Story: The Guardian: Why the US media ignored Murdoch’s brazen bid to hijack the presidency

Here’s the Washington Post story Berstein is referring to.

This is part of an ongoing inversion of the relationship between News Corp and the GOP. As a former speech writer for George W. Bush, David Frum, put it: “Republicans originally thought that Fox worked for us, and now we are discovering we work for Fox.”

December 27, 2012 0 comments
Winter Experimental Music Compilation With Cult of Zir And More

Winter Experimental Music Compilation With Cult of Zir And More

Final Solstice Comp

Vita Ignes : Corpus Lignum – Final Winter Solstice Compilation 2012 is a three disc experimental music compilation featuring tracks from Cult of Zir, Ogo Nommo (not to be confused with Ogo Eion aka An Exquisite Corpse), Paints for Anima and many more and many more.

Download it from Vita Ignes: Corpus Lignum

My interviews with Zir are here and here.

December 26, 2012 1 comment
The Strange And Exciting World Of Nordic Larping

The Strange And Exciting World Of Nordic Larping

I’ve been meaning to learn more about the serious “unfun” games known as “Nordic Larping” ever since I learned about the activity from Eleanor Saitta at WeirdShitCon. Lucky for me, Paul Graham Raven just happened to finish a three part series of articles for Rhizome on the topic:

First played in 1998, Ground Zero has a good claim to ur-game status, and is a great example of the ‘un-fun’ ideas that Nordic larp plays with: its players sat in a room standing in for an Ohio nuclear shelter circa the Cuban Missile Crisis, listening to mocked-up radio reports of a blossoming bout of Mutually Assured Destruction, then spent the rest of the game having their characters come to terms with the annihilation of the world outside. Far from being an outlier, the deep emotional implications of Ground Zero are indicative of the psychological spaces that Nordic larp would go on to explore.

For the sake of simplicity, I’ll be following Stark’s lead and using ‘Nordic larp’ to refer specifically to the avant-garde school of gameplay rather than the geographically-defined set of players. As Stark is careful to point out, larp in the Nordic countries is not a monolith so much as a collection of localised scenes, and the Knudepunkt circuit — despite its greater visibility to outsiders — is a marginal part of the greater whole.

Marginal it may be, but Nordic larp is a teeming ecosystem of styles and approaches which, again, mirrors the confusion of subgenres and styles to be found in the contemporary genre fiction scene.

Full Story: Rhizome: This Is a Game: A (very) Brief History of Larp

Part 2: This is More Than a Game

Part 3: Everything is a Game

I also just read Adi Robertson’s experience playing perhaps the first Nordic Larp in North America:

Other larps build a more open-ended world. The White War, a larp about military occupation, is one; Mad About the Boy is another: it has a few scripted events, but the outcomes have been vastly different over its three runs. In one Norwegian run, the Last Man’s arrival was met with tea and blankets. In our version, the game ended with a convoluted quadruple-cross and a lot of brandished prop guns — although, while our organizers feared Americans might be trigger-happy, none were actually fired. The forty of us were given a place to live and people to be; what we did with that was up to us.

Giving players this control tends to lead to unexpected results. “I don’t think I’ve ever organized a larp where at one point I haven’t said the following words: He did what? She did what?” Raaum says. In one of her larps, the World War II-based 1942, a group of soldiers was meant to execute a prisoner, but the plan was derailed. “They were meant to feel what it was like to look her in the eye and shoot her.” Their commander, however, “wanted to spare his soldiers their feelings, so he did it himself. That’s bullshit,” she adds.

In some cases, though, this turns out well, even if it started with a failure on the organizers’ part. Finnish war larp Valokaari was meant to feel cramped and filled with interpersonal conflict, but due to a misunderstanding, participants decided to play it as a hyper-realistic military enactment. “The characters who we expected to get on each others’ nerves never did,” the organizers wrote in larp anthology States of Play, “because most of them spent all their time either patrolling, eating or sleeping.” At the end, the players considered the game a success, even if the game hadn’t worked out remotely how the organizers intended.

The Media Needs to Stop Inspiring Copycat Murders

The Media Needs to Stop Inspiring Copycat Murders

Sociologist Zeynep Tufekci on ways that media and law enforcement can reduce the number of copycat killers after a mass shooting:

1. Law enforcement should not release details of the methods and manner of the killings, and those who learn those details should not share them.

2. If and when social media accounts of the killers are located, law enforcement should work with the platforms to immediately pull them.

3. The name of the killer should not be revealed immediately. If possible, law enforcement and media sources should agree to withhold it for weeks.

Similarly, the killer should not be profiled extensively, at least not at first.

4. The intense push to interview survivors and loved ones in their most vulnerable moments should be stopped.

Full Story: The Atlantic: The Media Needs to Stop Inspiring Copycat Murders. Here’s How.

These points are not unlike forensic psychiatrist Park Dietz’ principles for not propagating mass murders:

Don’t start the story with sirens blaring.

Don’t have photographs of the killer.

Don’t make this 24/7 coverage.

Do everything you can not to make the body count the lead story.

Not to make the killer some kind of anti-hero.

Do localise this story to the affected community and as boring as possible in every other market.

Related: In real-time journalism, declaring what you won’t report can be just as important as what you will

December 22, 2012 0 comments
Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari Biography

Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari Biography

Lengthy review of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari: Intersecting Lives by written by François Dosse and translated by Deborah Glassman:

Deleuze and Guattari were hardly alone in thinking that the unconscious might have something to add to left-wing politics, and that it might even speed the revolution. Attempts to fuse Marx and Freud were very much in vogue. But Anti-Oedipus had little in common with Freudo-Marxism, with its lyrical dream of a revolution that would, in a single stroke, free individual desire from bourgeois repression and the proletariat from capitalism. The individual was of no interest to Deleuze and Guattari, and though they referred to the proletariat the mention seemed dutiful. Their goal wasn’t to liberate human beings, but rather the current of desire that happened to flow through them. [...]

Guattari, at La Borde, had tried to enable subjugated groups to become subject groups, and he and Deleuze had come to believe it was patronising, authoritarian, even fascist, to speak on anyone else’s behalf, which is what intellectuals in France had always done. As Foucault noted in his introduction to the American edition of Anti-Oedipus, their true adversary was not so much capitalism as ‘the fascism in us all, in our heads and in our everyday behaviour, the fascism that causes us to love power, to desire the very thing that dominates and exploits us’.

Full Story: London Review of Books: Desire Was Everywhere

(via Abe Burmeister)

December 21, 2012 1 comment
Thai Buddhist Monks Struggle To Stay Relevant

Thai Buddhist Monks Struggle To Stay Relevant

The New York Times reports:

“People today love high-speed things,” he said in an interview. “We didn’t have instant noodles in the past, but now people love them. For the sake of presentation, we have to change the way we teach Buddhism and make it easy and digestible like instant noodles.”

He says Buddhist leaders should make Buddhism more relevant by emphasizing the importance of meditation as a salve for stressful urban lifestyles. The teaching of Buddhism, or dharma, does not need to be tethered to the temple, he said.

“You can get dharma in department stores, or even over the Internet,” he said.

But Phra Paisan is markedly more pessimistic about what is sometimes called “fast-food Buddhism.” He is encouraged by the embrace of meditation among many affluent Thais and the healthy sales of Buddhist books, but he sees basic incompatibilities between modern life and Buddhism.

His life is a portrait of traditional Buddhist asceticism. He lives in a remote part of central Thailand in a stilt house on a lake, connected to the shore by a rickety wooden bridge. He has no furniture, sleeps on the floor and is surrounded by books. He requested that a reporter meet him for an interview at 6 a.m., before he led his fellow monks in prayer, when mist on the lake was still evaporating.

Monks are suffering a decline in “quantity and quality,” he said, partly because young people are drawn to the riches and fast-paced life of the cities. The monastic education of young boys, once widespread in rural areas, has been almost entirely replaced by the secular education provided by the state.

Full Story: New York Times: Monks Lose Relevance as Thailand Grows Richer

(via Erik Davis)

December 20, 2012 0 comments
Traditional Medicine, a Conversation with Renee Davis

Traditional Medicine, a Conversation with Renee Davis

I found this interesting because I normally come down in favor of western medicines and treatments:

In the case of the diabetes epidemic, I really paid attention to the narrative of the disease as dictated by Western biomedicine and, in contrast, indigenous peoples of Western North America. And I learned that they are operating on very different narratives. Western biomedicine says diabetes is caused by Indian genes, poor diet & lifestyle, etc. To many tribal people, this is a very doom and gloom story–if diabetes is caused by bad genes, what can you do about it? It’s disempowering. It also shames and blames Indian identity. Not surprisingly, many medical interventions, like getting diagnosed and treated, are traumatic in their own way. Getting one’s blood drawn and scrutinized for glucose levels, for example, reminds many of having their blood scrutinized for tribal enrollment. It can be felt as another face of social control.

Many tribal people, in contrast, understand the diabetes epidemic as an expression of the generational trauma they’ve experienced. Things like European epidemics, Indian boarding schools, nutritional trauma, environmental degradation, and reservation life were really hard hits to Salish life and culture. And these wounds span generations. And this is cited as the cause of the diabetes epidemic in tribal communities. So in this sense, there is definite spiritual and cultural dimension in diabetes etiology with Salish people.

So you have these 2 ways of looking at diabetes: one focuses on genes & diet, the other addressing cultural wounds. So when you build a diabetes program based in a biomedical understanding and try to implement it in a community that sees generational trauma as the primary cause, the program will fail. However, if you create a tribal diabetes program based in their cultural understandings, then you can get somewhere. So that was the big lesson: know the mental models of who you’re working with, and meet the people where they are. Not where you are.

Full Story: Traditional Medicine, a Conversation with Renee Davis

The whole thing is worth a read.

December 20, 2012 0 comments
New Psychetect Album Available Now: Extremism

New Psychetect Album Available Now: Extremism

Psychetect: Extremism cover art

My follow-up to Return to the Wasteland is finally out! This isn’t a live album, but it’s based on my live noise performances. It’s just $2 — about the cost of a cup of coffee. You can also listen to it on Soundcloud.

Cover art by Kirsten Brown. Cover design by Daniel Rafatpanah.

My previous work is all available for free from Bandcamp.

December 19, 2012 0 comments