Variation on the Word Sleep

Monday, September 27, 2004

The Booker Shortlist

The short list for the Booker Prize has been announced. Some of my favorite books are Booker Prize winners -- The Famished Road, The Bone People, and of course Midnight's Children. I also find it pretty fascinating that they release a long list, then a short list, and then the winner. The end result of this is that people bet on which book will win. Last year the winner Life of Pi was also the favorite with even odds. I read the first half of this year's favorite Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell yesterday and it's pretty brilliant thus far -- it reminds me distinctly of If on a winter's night a traveler... which is fine by me as that was one of my favorite books.
So here are the odds for this year's Booker prize. Place your bets. I'm going to try to read as many of them as I can. Bitter Fruit is the other member of the shortlist that interests me the most -- perhaps I'll pick it up next.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Music Mix '03-'04

A friend asked me to make her a mix of good new music. I took it to heart and labored over a mix of the best new music of the last few years. I love making mix CDs. Here it is:

Now That's What I %#@^ing Call Music 1

1. The Hold Steady - Positive Jam
2. Ted Leo and the Pharmacists - Me and the Mia
3. The Arcade Fire - Wake Up
4. TV on the Radio - The Wrong Way
5. Califone - Michigan Girls
6. Pipas - Mental
7. Nouvelle Vague - Too Drunk to Fuck
8. Metric - Combat Baby
9. The Go! Team - Huddle Formation
10. Polysics - Hot Stuff
11. Pretty Girls Make Graves - Something Bigger, Something Brighter
12. The Arcade Fire - Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)
13. TV on the Radio - Staring at the Sun
14. Cocorosie - Terrible Angels
15. The Good Life - (September) You're Not You
16. Softies - Sleep Away Your Troubles
17. TV on the Radio - Young Liars
18. Cocorosie - Not For Sale
19. Pretty Girls Make Graves - This is Our Emergency
20. The Arcade Fire - Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)
21. Iron & Wine - Passing Afternoons

I'm so happy, I think I'll listen to it again. The Arcade Fire have become an obsession. Funerals is definitely my favorite album of this year.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Concert Season

We seem to be approaching the time of the year when every single band decides to tour at the same time just so that it is impossible to see them all. Here's my rough list of the shows I would like to or will go to:

9.23 Frog Eyes and the Umbrella Sequence at the 7th Street Entry
9.24 Xiu Xiu at the Triple Rock
9.28 Rilo Kiley and Tilley and the Wall at the Quest Ascot Room
10.1 PJ Harvey at First Avenue (alas I can't go because of my birthday trip)
10.8/9 Low at the Triple Rock
10.10 Rufus Wainwright at Pantages
10.10 Metric in Thunder Bay, ON (I'll see Rufus, but this is damn tempting only a 6 hour drive)
10.11 Q and not U at the Triple Rock 5 p.m
10.11 Fly Pan Am and Mono at the Triple Rock 9 p.m.
10.16 RJD2 at the Triple Rock
10.24 The Good Life at the Triple Rock
10.29 Clinic at the Fine Line
10.30 ...and you will know us by the trail of the dead at the Triple Rock
11.6 Handsome Family at the Fine Line
11.8 Pinback at the Triple Rock
11.9 Blonde Redhead at the Fine Line
11.16 MF Doom at First Avenue
11.19 Ted Leo and the Pharmacists at U of M Duluth?

Now if I could find someone to buy me tickets to all of these I would be happy. The other thing I find striking is that the Triple Rock has become the best music venue in the Twin Cities. Since renovating they've had the perfect space, but now it seems that their booking has fallen into place as well. Go Triple Rock! That's not even mentioning their Bloody Mary.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Paint this Website

Valéry Grancher is a French artist whose roots lie in the early years of internet based art. For example here is her piece Void from 1996. Of late she has turned net-art on its head in a way which I find really interesting. Here is her webpaintings project. Pardon the lack of correct English in the artists statement:

But at the same time I decided to jump into the most 'prestigious', 'serious', 'outdated' and 'unpolitically correct' media on an ironical way: 'Paintings' ! Many artist came from paintings to net art by using on the screen the paintings iconology and metaphor (5), in my case I felt clearly that the only thing to do was to reverse the process:
How should be paintings during internet time ? How to use computer iconology in paintings ?
I think quite differently than some painters of my generation: I said that we should paint something which was never painted before... that is true... but painting is also a language and is not dealing with just images and subject and that's why I'm talking about iconology. I deeply think that the only way to paint a painting in our internet time should not be to paint computers objects (still life) but what computers has brought in our reality theater, to paint what computer technology has changed in our way of seeing. That's why I choosed to paint website screen, computer screen, computer codes. By doing this, I try to show that the computer iconology is changing all the time and paintings are perfect Flat Dead Things which are freezing the topics painted. The result is that the paintings produced are always reflecting dead icons: The design of the website are changing all the time, the software are changing also, and this is the same for the codes...

Awesome. Of particular note is the painting of the html code of the artists webpage. HTML code and any computer code in general is never viewed as something which should be seen. You examine the result after the computer has filtered and made sense of the code. In a sense she is capturing these moments which all computer users are familiar with and turning them into paintings -- devoid of all interactivity. That html will never become a webpage because it has ceased to be readable by a computer -- it has become a piece of art rather than a piece of code.

In a sense that is one of the functions of art in the modern world -- to make art out of things that we have never seen as art before. What could be better than webpages and the html code that lurks underneath them, and what better way to present them than as a painting. How about the irony process which we just engaged in -- looking at a webpage with a photo of a painting of a webpage on it. EXTREME Post-modern.


Monday, September 13, 2004

Audioscrobbler lets you keep track of the tracks you play, and get music recommendations based on them. Best of all it's largely platform/player independant with plugins for a whole host of players. Alas and alack at home I tend to use Rhythmbox rather than XMMS which is the only Linux player which they have a plugin for. I can however use it at work, and have the last 10 songs I've played displayed on my blog (you can see them over to the right). I'd like to make that part go faster though. If anyone has any ideas.
Here's my profile -- my top songs will probably be heavily influenced by the fact that I share an office and am consequently not going to be playing much explicit or loud music.

Friday, September 10, 2004

Inventing Traditions Part I -- the Kilt

I was thinking about ideas for essays that I've had floating around in my head today and I remembered one that I planned on writing last year in time for Christmas, but never got around to. Now is the perfect time to go back to it.

Here's the basic premise:

I was reading the book The Invention of Tradition because it was edited by two of my favorite historians Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger. As you might expect the book examines the inventions of traditions and how traditions develop a sense of timelessness -- (to quote Woody Allen "Tradition is the illusion of permanence"). One great example of this is the kilt/tartan traditions in Scotland. Ask the average person (especially if they are of Scottish descent) about kilts and tartans and you get the story of a timeless tradition whose origins are shrouded in the ancient history of the highlands. The truth is rather far from that.

As I don't have my copy of the book in front of me I'll have to give you another source which references the Hobsbawm and Ranger book, as to the real origins of kilts and most scottish highland "traditions. Here's a choice quote from the BBC Reith Lectures:

Along with most other symbols of Scottishness, all these are quite recent creations. The short kilt seems to have been invented by an English industrialist from Lancashire, Thomas Rawlinson, in the early 18th Century. He set out to alter the existing dress of highlanders to make it convenient for workmen.

Kilts were a product of the industrial revolution. The aim was not to preserve time-honoured customs, but the opposite - to bring the highlanders out of the heather and into the factory. The kilt didn't start life as the national dress of Scotland. The lowlanders, who made up the large majority of Scots, saw highland dress as a barbaric form of clothing, which most looked on with some contempt. Similarly, many of the clan tartans worn now were devised during the Victorian period, by enterprising tailors who correctly saw a market in them.

What strikes me most about this is that there is always a reason for a tradition to be invented. Why were the creation of the noble myth of the Scottish highlands and the accompanying traditions necessary to England in the 18th century? Quite a few reasons actually-- amongst them: nationalism, industrialism, and the monarchical goals of a pair of con men.

The question which then begs asking is "What major traditions which we today see as timeless, are really much more recent than we think, and what role do they serve?" The first thing which popped into my mind to research was Christmas and the concept of Santa Claus in particular. Where does Santa come from, how old is the Christmas that we celebrate now, and what are the ideological roots of our practices. Why do we tell our children about Santa Claus, gather with family, and give eachother gifts?

I'll continue this later. How's that for a cliffhanger.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Word Perhect?

Every once in a while I run across a website that reminds me that the internet and computers in general can actually be used to produce innovative intelligent art. Here with Word Perhect is proof. Interactive, intelligent, and well made. I could play with it for hours.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Essay on Essays

I ran across this article on writing essays, and what's wrong with the ways in which essay writing is taught. It does a very good job of summing up the sort of writing and thinking that I probably most love to do. He focuses very much on the importance of surprise and finding things that are surprising in order to write a good article. The most important tip for that is:

People trying to be cool will find themselves at a disadvantage when collecting surprises. To be surprised is to be mistaken. And the essence of cool, as any fourteen year old could tell you, is nil admirari. When you're mistaken, don't dwell on it; just act like nothing's wrong and maybe no one will notice.

One of the keys to coolness is to avoid situations where inexperience may make you look foolish. If you want to find surprises you should do the opposite. Study lots of different things, because some of the most interesting surprises are unexpected connections between different fields.

This reminded me of a conversation last night about South African history. Perhaps I'll work on writing a little essay on the subject of the perceptions of Russians in early colonial wars and then again during the fight against apartheid.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004


One quick thing: the fine people at the disgusting site Are you hot or not? Are doing their best to get out the youthful, surface obsessed, people who would post their photos on the internet to get rated type vote with a sweepstakes. Vote or not-- that's not a question unless you're voting on an electronic voting machine in which case it is... well actually whether you voted or not is not really the question -- whether your vote was counted is. So sign up and promise them you're going to vote (which you're going to do anyway) and they might give you 100,000 dollars. Refer other people and they might do the same. So here I am refering you. Sign up here, vote, and risk winning enough money to make you a republican for at least a month or two.

(Edit added 9/8/04)
So today Xtine sent me the following article from the City Pages about the insanity of Minnesota's government under Pawlenty. Evidently the City Pages was doing a similar sort of contest for people promising to vote -- offering them an entry into a drawing for a trip to Iceland. Some Bastard who is involved with these bastards accused them of violating federal law -- a spurious claim. He then got his good friend madame dumbass secretary to write a vague threatening letter to the City Pages disregarding the fact that it was completely outside of her jurisdiction. Part of me wants to write her a letter linking to the Hot or Not contest and telling her that maybe she should send them a vague threatening letter as well -- who cares if they're in her state she has exactly as much right to send them a letter as she did the City Pages.

I know intelligent conservatives who really have the best interest of society at heart. The sad thing is though that the only ones who ever hold positions of power are viscious, paranoid, soulless, religious fanatics hell bent on fattening their own pocketbooks.