Thursday, January 31, 2008


Star Wars action figures in the snow. This is all part of an ongoing movie that BB is imagining. There are no set ups anymore, only movie scenes. Luke Skywalker Hans Solo looks cold. It was warm enough to go outside the day the photo was taken over the weekend, but there was still ice in our little backyard sand box. It's a little hard to play with frozen sand.

Married with children

I don't write directly about AO much in this blog. Usually, it's incidental stuff involving the kids. I'll admit, I'm fatally focused on the superficialities of music or robots most of the time. But I have to say. We've been on a particularly good groove lately. There are always ups and downs. And we play the usual grab ass with each other. But there's something about this person, 12 years or so on, that still makes my roots shiver.

The kids might be having a moment of melt down, both screaming in their own key, developing the narcissism that will sustain their lives, and AO and I look at each other, give a small crude bent of the hip or blink of the eye to each other, and we know that something is still intact. I have to say that it's a physical thing that nurtures our relationship. If I had to depend on an intellectual relationship of shared affinities and thoughts, challenges of mind and logic, I'd really be nowhere - with anyone. It's our shared pleasure, our joy in simply confirming the life that we're able to affirm in each other, that really keeps us together. If it has anything to do with an intellectual process, our love is based on a shared aesthetic, which moves from books and movies to sexuality and emotions. Plus, she smells good. Life with kids is particularly hard, but maybe it forces us to find those moments in between our attention to the kids to sharpen our awareness of each other.

In any case, pre-Valentine sentiments notwithstanding, AO is my punk girl, my messy artist, my guide to movement in space and time.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008


Daft Punk post redux. Apparently, Daft Punk has a new feature-length movie, Electroma. Two robots, living in a world of robots, try to become human. I imagine that it's mostly about the music, but the possible metaphors are intriguing. I wonder why they didn't reverse the narrative: two humans trying to become robots. In any case, this is supposed to be the last scene. They fail in their quest. I guess you'd call this neo-sentimental scene "burning robot."

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Gimme Shelter

Another very different version of the song. A quiet version. This time from acoustic guitarist Michael Hedges. In another clip, he talks about spending time at a hippie hot spring in Northern California. The very hot spring I spent a strange weekend with my deadhead girlfriend when I was, oh, about nineteen. I remember trying to be groovy, and feeling like I was falling short.

States of the Union

Monday, January 28, 2008

Mixing genres

AO has taken numerous photos of this set up and another involving a temple looking thing. The best part, for me, is the confluence of creatures from many imaginary worlds (or franchises). We've got a winged transformer type creature standing guard, a pokemon up above, and star wars trooper next to that. Other photos show an eagle creeping around the ramparts in full outspread American aggressiveness.

BB took his own lunch today. Because its been so cheap, we've had him getting school lunches. But he's been having trouble with a bully type in the cafeteria, so he brought his lunch to give him a few more options. He won't have to stand in line, for one thing. It seems that he regularly sits with a crew of boys, but this bully (a big but smart boy in his class) decided that BB sits there too much, so late last week he kept getting kicked off the table and had to go sit alone. "Life is cruel," I want to say, "but feel the force young voyager."

Last Friday also turned out to be a stressful ride home. He had a sub driving the bus. In the morning, this substitute driver came and picked them up going the wrong way on the route. You figure, though, what can go wrong? Well . . . after school BB showed up in front of the house on the verge of tears, just about when I mosey on down to the corner. It seems that the older kids from his stop decided to get off about five or six blocks away. In a panic, I'm guessing, he got off too and started hoofing it after them. He knows the way, but its the farthest he's ever been from home without an adult, so even though one of the older kids kept track of him it induced some anxiety. He had a good cry about all these things and then a weekend of set ups began. I hope he's doing OK at school today.

Sunday, January 27, 2008


More web fun. This is flickrvision. It cycles through new uploads to flickr, showing where they've come from on a map of the world. It's a beautiful app, as you can see in the screenshot.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Sleeveface II

Here are our own sleeveface efforts. AO and I had some fun with each other. BB refused to do it (too busy setting up his movie), but our concept was great for him - the famous Jim Morrison without a shirt album cover.

Gil Scott-Heron

King Crimson


Why Can't We Be Friends (War)

Friday, January 25, 2008


This is very cool. A flickr pool of people photographing album sleeves as though they were their real faces (or their dogs, cats, etc.). See some examples at boing boing and flickr.

Friday posthuman blogging

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Budos Band

Funky Thursday, you all! Another Daptone Records group. Looking around, it's clear that there's a core horn section for Daptone. I keep seeing the same people playing for various bands, especially the furry trumpet guy. This is another sweet clip.

Speaking of tape

Sacramento artist Danny Scheible makes "Tapigami." This installation, a cityscape made entirely of tape, was on display this past summer.


Wednesday, January 23, 2008

I have a dream

BB told me about listening to MLK's "I have a dream" speech at school yesterday. He said that he listened to it on a "traditional radio." Why don't we have anything traditional, he asked? Well, we do, I said . . .

ANYWAY. He wondered why MLK had been killed. He wanted to know what a minister is (I know, I know, we're raising a secular kid)? How people are leaders without being president? Why was he "historical"? I talked about leadership, civil rights, religion, and why we're opposed to gun ownership and watching violence on TV. It was a satisfying conversation.

AO works early on Tuesday, so I had the kids on my own in the morning. Usually, I get BB up before LB, get him fed, and then get LB up and dressed. Yesterday, BB came in with me to wake up LB (who, by the way, is sleeping soundly in OUR bed). BB woke him up gently and cuddled with him. LB, at eighteen months, is a great cuddler. In any case, this put them both in a very groovy mood. The panic at 8:20 to get to the bus stop on time is always hard (missing gloves, coats in the wrong place, no book in the back pack), but things went as smooth as silk yesterday.

LB continues to sleep in our bed. He wouldn't have it any other way. The other night he wasn't sleepy, so there we were trying to get him settled at midnight or so. He kept saying, "bottom," "bottom," and showing us the soles of his feet. It was hard not to laugh, which kept him awake that much longer. For some reason he's also been saying something like, "bubba (brother) has a mouth." Yep, he does indeed.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


"Children of the Revolution." I had this queued up but didn't get a chance to post it. Thinking about Juno and Mott the Hoople the other day got me started on a search thread for glam rock. Here is T-Rex, which I always thought I'd like but never got around to listening to them. I did have an old album of Television that got a lot of play while I was in college. In any case, love the glam yellow shirt on Marc Bolan. Bolan died in a car crash in 1977 just before turning 30.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

"Once you go bot . . .

you never go back," Stephen Colbert joked the other night. He was interviewing the author of Love and Sex with Robots on the Colbert Report about a new book on forming emotional attachments to robots. If my recent exposure to Second Life is any indication, some people are already forming attachments to avatars, which are more machine than human, in my opinion. From the reviews (Washington Post, for example) I've briefly glimpsed at, it seems like the author, David Levy, is more concerned with the mechanics of the interaction, imagining sex bots and new sex techniques, than he is with the emotion. As humans become increasingly more posthuman, I think the real transformation will be when robots themselves can fall in love with us - at which point, they'll probably just want to fall in love with each other. It does bring up all kinds of philosophical issues about free will and programming, which is as much an issue of how much free will (or determinative programming) we think humans have. To create sex bots, it will mean that we are capable of seeing ourselves as sex bots.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Moldy Peaches

AO and I watched Juno last night. I know some have opined on this movie, taking issue with its cavalier attitude toward pregnancy and its implicit anti-choice stance. But I agree with AO. This is Knocked Up from a woman's perspective. Or at least, our attention is focused on what it's like for a woman to experience an unwanted pregnancy - most of the guy energy we get in the movie is the high-school cross country team running by, in a repeating motif. For the character, it makes sense that she decides to carry to term. I also love how first impressions are knocked down in movie. At first, for example, the yuppie husband seems so cool and groovy, but then he becomes a cad like most men. The wife, Jennifer Garner, is at first an unsympathetic, overly controlled type, but it's clear by the end of the movie that she's doing her best with the position she's in.

The soundtrack is very wise. The movie name drops groups like Sonic Youth and Mott the Hoople, but I swooned when incidental music included The Kinks and Cat Power. The best song is something by the Moldy Peaches, which ends the movie. Anyone Else But You. Here's what I found on YouTube.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Little Brother

From the Institute of Applied Autonomy comes a robot called Little Brother:

Pamphleteer, aka "Little Brother," is a propaganda robot which distributes subersive literature. Pamphleteer is designed to bypass the social conditioning that inhibits activists' ability to distribute propaganda by capitalizing on the aesthetics of cuteness. The robot's form references a tradition of robot aesthetics developed in science fiction and popular media.

They also have robots that do sidewalk graffiti and roadway stenciling of your urgent subversive text.

[Thanks boing boing.]

The Mars Volta

The buzz on The Mars Volta has just reached my little place in the world. I think there was a recent review in the New York Times. I'd call them meta-eclectic. It brings out the connoisseur in me. I hear Zappa, Led Zeppelin, Tito Puente, Dan the Automator, Mexican metal. Best of all, I guess, are the loud guitars.

Friday robot blogging

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Video chat

I did a bit more to help my mother figure out her iPhone/iMac set up today. The primary issue was getting her iPhone to be able to use the wifi on her 2Wire router from AT&T. Routers and their settings are always confusing, but we finally got it to work. But the most exciting thing was trying out the video iChat feature of our iMacs. My cell phone battery gave out after about 45 minutes and, I thought, why not fire up iChat? I know this has become routine for many people, but there she was 2,000 miles away in real time - and it's free! Of course, I can see how the etiquette of whether or not to video chat might get complicated, but I like the possibilities. We'll have to set the kids down in front of the screen one of these days.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Missed again

Last week BB wasn't feeling so hot, so we skipped the start of this year's indoor soccer class. Later in the week, we discovered that soccer had changed the day it is held, so we could have gone. Yesterday, as we got ready to go to this week's class (cleats, shin guards, etc.) I checked to make sure the time had remained the same. It turns out that soccer was beginning just as we were getting ready. Once again, we missed. I felt like a fool. BB got some extra screen time to compensate.

LB said a complete sentence yesterday, with a subject and verb. "You come to play," he said to another kid's parent. He's been having some happy days at daycare and switching his allegiances. Yesterday, BB got a welcome hug instead of me, and then they both sat down to read for 10 minutes before I coaxed them to leave. LB just loves books right now. BB, on the other hand, builds bigger and bigger contraptions around the house, incorporating all the biggest toys. It's all brought together with tape. We should do a photo series on DIY tape work.

I wrote about 1000 words today, which is much better than I've been doing this week. Boing boing has a post about a sci fi writer who wrote a book in eight weeks. That's 2000 words a day, with some "10,000 word days." OK, so I'm not doing the kind of writing that lends itself to 10,000 word days, but it's gives me hope that I can get my last chapter done in the next eight weeks (and revise my introduction, etc., etc.). I don't think I'm going to get a call back for any jobs at this point, but, honestly, it would be a disaster for my progress to travel somewhere right now.

Monday, January 14, 2008

The Machine

Be part of the machine. Pink Floyd at Pompeii. Echoes partB. It's a sexy machine.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Daft Punk

Daft Punk started as a house band based in France, but recently it seems they've taken to exploring the contours of what can only be called the posthuman.

For one thing, they perform live as robots. In the first video, what I notice most of all is the monumentalism of their set, the pyramids, symmetrical lights, their elevation above the crowd. The monumentalism is enhanced by the frenzy of the audience, and the music itself seems like a blast to dance to. Also, listen to the tones before the set begins; I think they're from 2001 Space Odyssey. Be patient, the set isn't fully clear until about two minutes in.

It seems to me that they are parodying the spectacle of most live pop music these days. In another clip, the song continues by flashing HUMAN, HUMAN over and over. What does Human Robot, the title of the song, mean? And what becomes of the humans who see HUMAN, HUMAN flashed repeatedly in front of them as they experience the affect of the crowd? It looks and sounds like they've become part of one big machine. Where is the human, one might ask?

The second video, Technologoic, is more traditional. The lyrics hilariously spoof what we do daily on our computers and I love the look of the demon robot child.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Two Lane Blacktop

More sixties disillusionment. I've alway liked the movie "Two-Lane Blacktop," a counterculture road movie that defied the conventions (new even then) for celebrating alienation and outsider status. Although it starred outre pop culture figures like James Taylor and Warren Oates, nothing much happens in "Two-Lane." They rumble down the road (called only The Driver and The Mechanic), have brief mumbled exchanges, and pretty much think only about how to keep the car running. AO and I recently saw it again by happenstance, and apparently a lot of others have recently watched it. (It's being released as a Criterion DVD.) What I didn't know that at the time of its release it was hyped as the next Easy Rider, but then went on to fail miserably as a commercial movie. A recent Slate review explains the movie's appeal.

"Unlike its contemporaries, Two-Lane Blacktop wasn't a sentimental celebration of restless youth. Refusing to play to its demographic, it offered an abstract and diffident vision of the counterculture. Unlike The Graduate, it didn't romanticize youthful disaffection; unlike Bonnie and Clyde, there was no cathartic violence; unlike Easy Rider, there was little sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll. Yet the reasons moviegoers rejected it at the time—its skepticism and rigor—are the same reasons the film, released this month on DVD by the Criterion Collection, has emerged as one of the great movies of Hollywood's last golden age." Link

Now I have a better idea why I found the movie so appealing. It's even more objectless than something like Rebel Without a Cause or even Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian. The Slate reviewer argues that Two-Lane Blacktop's real meaning is in its aestheticism - which seems about right, especially if you like the roaring engine and blinking sun of a 10-minute take of natural light and sound in a muscle car. The "melting film strip" at the end also tends to make film fetishists swoon.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Lemon Pipers

No wonder the late sixties were so weird. Check out the clash of cultures in this 1968 TV clip of the Lemon Pipers. The set is trying to be child-like and surreal, but it just looks creepy (check out the robot). On the other hand, the band is clearly angry about their situation and don't even bother to sync with the sound track. And as they continue to poke the teddy bear their anger turns into something more menacing. Their gnomic bit at the end is unmasked.

Friday robot blogging

Tattoo edition

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Mazzy Star

Alt country shoegaze, or, as this particular genre seems to be called, "dream pop." To blog: a place to dream.

This dates me, of course, to what were, for me, the glorious late eighties. It's odd, though. Then, this music seemed so outre; now, it seems pretty tame. Still, the music and video has a real appealing aesthetic.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

5 dangerous things you should let your kids do

A clip from the founder of the Tinkering School. His thesis: expose kids to dangerous things, because they will always do the most dangerous thing with whatever we give them anyway (cue: picture of kid jumping off bunk bed).

The five things (his book is about 50 things):

1. Play with fire
2. Keep a pocket knife
3. Throw a spear
4. Deconstruct an appliance
5. Drive a car and (!) Violate copyright

I'm amused, but he does have a point. Take a look.

I have to say that we started out being somewhat overprotective of BB, but we've loosened up a lot. You can't really hold back an energetic boy. What I really fear is him darting out into traffic or something random like that. Cars seem so lethal to me. I'd much rather give him a spear to chuck, in controlled conditions. I have to say that I myself have in recent years found my inner boy with four and five and a half - I've recently taken apart a few of our appliances (not always successfully) and become an afficionado of bittorrent.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Pick up the phone

I sent a revised piece off today. This is work based on my last chapter (or, my first, but the one I'm working on). This is for a conference in February. Papers go off early to the moderators for comments. I was supposed to have turned it in by Christmas, so it's good to have it finally in the mail. I like what I'm doing right now, but, as was evident in a job interview, this chapter isn't blending so well with my other chapters. The post office was crazy, by the way. People resyncing with reality. I was there with BB, who was sweet but a little fidgety.

Every time the phone rings we wonder if it's about a job. I actually don't expect anything to come out of the job search this year. It could happen, and we're prepared for it, but we have to remain realistic. When a call does come it could be a request for a campus visit or to gently let me down. Generally, I almost always let the machine pick up, and it's this capability, I think, that keeps me from relying solely on voice mail. But I've been picking up every call this week. When the phone rings, we exchange significant looks, and then I answer very officiously. Pause. Telemarketers, of course. What's worse, they are alumni association calls, like we've made the middle-class big time and are ready to give to the alma mater.

Monday, January 7, 2008

The Residents

An even more radically deconstructive cover from the Residents. I saw this video at some point in the eighties, and was really impressed with the possibility of contemporary avant garde versions of popular culture. The lyrics to It's a Man's Man's World sound completely crazy out of context ("it wouldn't be nothing without a woman . . . or a girl"), and the Residents make them seem even creepier. It reminds me of another one of my favorites, Summer Breeze, which is equally disturbing but always satisfyingly funky. The Residents were known for performing with big eyeballs on their heads and they were (and still are) anonymous. Oddly enough, this is one of their more accessible songs. I never could actually "listen" to them.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Cat Power

Sunday morning music, for those not in church. Minimalist pop from Chan Marshall. I love her spare deconstruction of this music, and this video really shows the kind of tragic but light-hearted take she has on pop culture (and the life it reveals) that has formed so much of us. She's a sensitive, it's clear.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

My mommy, Yoda

For some reason LB calls every image of Yoda (the withered Jedi Knight in Star Wars) "momma." Without fail he points and yells "momma." I think this can be distinguished from Mommum, which he calls his real mother. But things might be beginning to blur in his mind. I suppose Yoda has a certain maternal look. And it makes sense to see Yoda standing in for Luke's absent mother rather than his father. His father, after all, is very much alive.

BB and I went to the library this afternoon. To attest to his mania, we came away with four very detailed Stars Wars books. These are called "cross-section" books, opening up and exposing the inner workings of buildings, cities, and vehicles. Entire books dedicated to one movie's vehicles, ad nauseum. Although I have already for trains, parrots, and dinosaurs, I am still surprised how I, the reading parent, must sink myself into the minutiae of Star Wars. It's so bad, LB is going to begin thinking that Luke is his real brother.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Thursday, January 3, 2008


Either you are an academic who never watches TeeVee (and I'm impressed, there really are many of you out there) or you are an academic who sinks yourself into the miasma of middle/low culture. Survivor, Amazing Race, Big Brother, Dance something, Idol I don't know, and it gets worse.

As a sometime academic, I'm neither of these types. I do like to have a general sense of the drift of middle-brow culture, and I watch a little TV every night. But in this period of no Daily Show to put a humorous spin on tragedy, I find myself flailing about for popular culture. Project Runway. Mythbusters. They sort of fill in the gap. Both are reality shows, but both require real skill and commitment. They really make stuff, some of it beautiful, on Project Runway. And Mythbusters may not do good science, but at least they try to have some kind of control in every experiment. Plus, they have a sort of Burning Man, San Francisco street cred.

Narrative TeeVee, even without the strike, has jumped the shark, in my opinion. There is a dead body in everything dramatic on TeeVee, as though we all really were closet murderers - like many video games suggest. I don't actually think this is true from an existential viewpoint, but it's clearly the lowest common denominator that attracts advertising dollars. Then there is the example of HBO. I've long been a fan of HBO - and The Wire, which starts a new season soon, is among the best TeeVee ever - but I think the era of more and more material grotesque has got to come to an end. This was literalized in Six Feet Under, but was also apparent in things like HBO's Rome and OZ; now they are advertising an autopsy show. I think it's time for a little romantic comedy.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Just a band

I've come upon a bearded brit hip-hop dude calling himself Scroobius Pip. I know Scroobius Pip as a far out children's book by Edmund Lear and Ogden Nash that is mostly nonsensical, but that amounts to a wonderful vision of fluid identities. The question is whether Scroobius Pip is a bird, mammal, fish, insect, or maybe all of them combined? It's wonderful nonsense verse that I loved reading to BB. Thanks to AO's family, who bought and saved some trippy 70s era children books. It reminds me of Jean Piaget's colorful, surreal children books.

This new Scroobius Pip has a cynical and humorous take on media, music, and consumer culture that expresses the spirit of the original poem.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Need a catapult

Overheard from BB. On watching Mythbusters: "They blow things up." On the functionality of his anti-gravity machine (built with tape, baskets, and miscellaneous objects): "I just need a catapult." He's been on a real star wars kick over the holiday break. But he still refuses to watch a movie. It's all about the lore. Maybe it will make him a good archeologist or anthropologist.

LB showed me a toy school bus today. He babbled for a few seconds, then waved bye-bye. He was telling me the story of seeing BB off on the bus. He babbles in conversational ways, but there are few actual words that we can understand.