1. Blue – An Erotic Life

    Wow.  Someone finally made something beautiful and true with blobby lumps of clay.

    BLUE: An Erotic Life is a stop motion animation that narrates the life story of a blob of clay dealing with sexual addiction. The piece plays on the contrast between graphic adult content and grotesque stop motion. The combination of the two makes for an absurd, dark humored short film.

    BLUE: An Erotic Life is my BFA Student Thesis from Parsons School of Design.

    by Tibo Charroppin, via Coilhouse

  2. Half-Remembered and Half-Right: The Bullys “Sluts”

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    I’ve been looking for this track for about six years now and I just found it on an old data CD I just dug up out of an eternally unpacked cardboard box.  It stuck in my head for a few reasons:

    1. About damn time there was a good honest anthem about preferring ’em promiscuous, nicely under two minutes.  Know thyself, said that famous Greek.
    2. The heart of this band was Johnny Heff, a NYC firefighter who died when the Twin Towers collapsed.

    The spring of 2001 was my first headlong dive into punk rock appreciation, coming to it from the nerdier side of things (being a long-time Sonic Youth fan, going through that awkward ska face in high school and then, finally, wolfing down Greil Marcus’ Lipstick Traces in about three days).  This being the heady early days of file sharing, I took what came along over the token-ring network (yes, token ring).  The one lone random track from the Bullys that made it’s way to me was this one.

    Scroll forward a few months  to October 2001 and for whatever reason I decide to look up this band who so eloquently warns off the decent women from their animal lusts.  I was listening to his voice when I found out Heff had died in the rubble.  Real strange to encounter that, a sort of missing feeling, knowing that someone you appreciate is someone you’ll absolutely never meet.

    Apparently his band mates are still soldiering on.  Going to have to see if I can track down a show this summer.  I  you dig what you hear above, they’ve got three albums out, available here.

  3. A Helpful Reminder That Everything You Were Taught is Wrong

    Matt Yglesias had a good post this morning about the sort of dumbed down cause -> effect common wisdom that gets tossed around at all levels of education and historical analysis.  In this case, he takes aim at the old chestnut we all learned in high school about the poor Germans in the Weimar Republic running around with wheelbarrows full of paper marks to buy a loaf of bread and how that hyperinflation made all the Germans toss up their hands and say “hey, why don’t we give this Hitler guy a try?”

    I understand that this is an accurate recounting of German folk history, but I wish people recounting it would note that Germans sort of misremember what happened. The hyperinflation of 1919-1923 was bad, but there’s a reason charts of it end in 1923, namely that the democratic government of Germany managed to tame the problem and in 1924 a new and perfectly stable currency, the Reichsmark was introduced. The Weimar Republic had its problems, but from 1924 on it was one of the very best places in the world to live in terms of economic prosperity and political freedom. Then came The Great Depression and a certain political party’s rise to power.

    Click through to see some of Magical Matt’s awesome graphs to that point. (Ya can’t stop the man from graphing!)  I distinctly remember being told this as part of my high school world history class as another one of those elegantly reductionist formulas to be memorized and regurgitated for my dark lord, the AP test.  While I do find value in the study of history for root causes and charting their effects, I’m constantly frustrated by how reductionist it all was.  Teaching to the test and teaching to every level of interest/comprehension/attention-span takes an axe to the network of events to serve up little slices of official truth, sometimes bearing little resemblance to actual events.  My post-schooling education has largely been a matter of a pulling at these neatly arranged strings of events to see which connections hold up and where those severed links trail back to.

    Wired‘s June 22 Today-in-History note about a 1783 volcanic eruption that dealt death and disruption across the Northern Hemisphere hit my brain in a similar way.

    1783 was the year of the Treaty of Paris that ended the American Revolutionary War.  The traditional line trotted out to American school kids is that we kicked so much British ass due to our guerrilla warfare against the line marching, fife-playing Redcoats of the King’s Army.  The French eventually became our our allies, sending troops and supplies towards the end of the war after we proved our mettle in battle.  Then, the story goes, the French absorbed our gnarly revolutionary spirit, decided they didn’t like getting taxed by a be-wigged, high-living royal dandy either and had themselves an even crazier revolution.

    One facet I don’t recall getting much discussion in the classroom is the scale of French aid to the Americans.  The French spent 1.3 billion livres in their efforts to stymie the British, outspending even the Americans.  For a country that was already sinking deeply into debt, this was a risky move.  Having a volcano erupt at that point was not what Louis XVI needed.  Europe was blanketed with a poisonous haze followed by crop failures from a long, severe winter.  Death and debt naturally followed.

    Why don’t they teach this?  Well, it raises a lot of uncomfortable points: humanity’s susceptibility to natural catastrophe, the high costs of foreign intervention and the uncertainty of the future.   Much more comforting for future Excel spreadsheet operators and fast food counter-wipers to have some dots to connect that spell out “America! Fuck yeah!”.

    So in short, history is all one big Connections episode, with the backbeat of Method Man’s sage advice that Cash Rules Everything Around Me.  Cash and Volcanoes.  And if nothing else, at least we can get a Simpson’s reference out of the deal.  “Slavery it is, sir!”

  4. Song of a Weakling Child: The Dispute Between Aphex Twin and Stockhausen is over

    This clever video fuses two masters of electronic music together: Aphex Twin‘s “To Cure a Weakling Child” and Karlheinz Stockhausen‘s “Song of the Youth”.

    In 1995 BBC Radio 3 recordings from several electronic artists including Aphex Twin, Plasticman, Scanner and Daniel Pemberton for a story called “Advice to Clever Children“.

    What Stockhausen had to say about Aphex Twin:

    I heard the piece Aphex Twin of Richard James carefully: I think it would be very helpful if he listens to my work Song Of The Youth, which is electronic music, and a young boy’s voice singing with himself. Because he would then immediately stop with all these post-African repetitions, and he would lookfor changing tempi and changing rhythms, and he would not allow to repeatany rhythm if it were varied to some extent and if it did not have a direction in its sequence of variations.

    And Mr. Richard D James’ (Aphex Twin) response:

    Mental! I’ve heard that song before; I like it. I didn’t agree with him. I thought he should listen to a couple of tracks of mine: “Didgeridoo”, then he’d stop making abstract, random patterns you can’t dance to. Do you reckon he can dance? You could dance to Song of the Youth, but it hasn’t got a groove in it, there’s no bassline. I know it was probably made in the 50s, but I’ve got plenty of wicked percussion records made in the 50s that are awesome to dance to. And they’ve got basslines. I could remix it: I don’t know about making it better; I wouldn’t want to make it into a dance version, but I could probably make it a bit more anally technical. But I’m sure he could these days, because tape is really slow. I used to do things like that with tape, but it does take forever, and I’d never do anything like that again with tape. Once you’ve got your computer sorted out, it pisses all over stuff like that, you can do stuff so fast. It has a different sound, but a bit more anal.

    I haven’t heard anything new by him; the last thing was a vocal record, Stimmung, and I didn’t really like that. Would I take his comments to heart? The ideal thing would be to meet him in a room and have a wicked discussion. For all I know, he could be taking the piss. It’s a bit hard to have a discussion with someone via other people.

    I don’t think I care about what he thinks. It is interesting, but it’s disappointing, because you’d imagine he’d say that anyway. It wasn’t anything surprising. I don’t know anything about the guy, but I expected him to have that sort of attitude. Loops are good to dance to…

    He should hang out with me and my mates: that would be a laugh. I’d be quite into having him around.

    From: “Advice for Clever Children

  5. People in Paper Houses Shouldn’t Throw Molotovs

    paper house, rockport, mass.

    Those gentle souls at Atlas Obscura reminded me about this here paper house that Elis F. Stenman built back in the 1920s.  Yes, paper.  Specifically, newspapers.

    The Rockport Paper House’s walls, doors, and furniture are made of varnished newspapers—roughly 100,000 of them. 215 layers of paper were stuck together with a homemade glue of flour, water, and apple peels to make 1-inch-thick panels for the walls.

    Apple peels?  Well, while I couldn’t find a glue recipe (not even among wheatpasters, the most opinionated of DIY glue makers) it makes a bit of sense, as that peels would have some amount of pectin in them, a fiber, gelling agent and occasional adhesive used to seal cigars.

    While the idea of paper as a building material is not uncommon–see China and Japan–this all-recycled newspaper approach is definitely inspiring to a materials scavenger like myself.  I’m reminded of the newspaper wood by designer Mieke Meijer I saw a few months back or architect Li Xianggang’s Paper-Brick House.  Guess I’ll start raiding more Village Voice boxes towards the end of the month and saving my apple peels.

    More photos and description here.

    photos via Atlas Obscura.

  6. Space Shuttle Crew Operation Manual

    The Space Shuttle Crew Operations Manual is available to anyone who wants to read. With the shuttle program retiring it you made need it if you are lucky to beat Space Center Houston, Seattle Museum, or numerous states vying for the Space Shuttle you might need this. Some of the pages are beautiful and you can download the PDF (41.2mb) or look at some samples below. It’s not the most interesting read at hundreds of pages, but some of the diagrams are beautiful.

    Space Shuttle Crew Operation Manual PDF

  7. Nomad/Filmmaker Bill Brown

    Bill Brown is the sort of guy we all wanted to be in film school.  Traveling incessantly, chronicling the ride with a trusty Bolex and a rolling narration that chronicles the corners, the details, the little things and carefully arranges them into constellations to invoke The Big Cosmic Everything.  He makes zines, fills his website with vignettes from Detroit, Lubbuck, Texas and California City, California.  Rust, decay, space, dust, emotion, travel.

    May I recommend his compilation DVD The Next Best Place?  A better 25 dollars you are not likely to spend with an education on Spring-Heeled Jack, nuclear missiles, the Roswell crash and the little joys of being in motion in North America.

  8. 1-Bit Symphony: Jewel Case as Orchestra

    Tristan Perich is releasing a live performance that creates itself within the confines of a CD jewel case.

    Though housed in a CD jewel case like his first circuit album (1-Bit Music 2004-05), 1-Bit Symphony is not a recording in the traditional sense; it literally “performs” its music live when turned on. A complete electronic circuit—programmed by the artist and assembled by hand—plays the music through a headphone jack mounted into the case itself.

    Reminds me of of the Loud Objects Noise Toy, albeit in somewhat more elegant packaging¹.  It’s available on pre-order for $29.  Would love a kit or an Instructable to make my own.

    Saw this over at notcot.

    ¹Edit: That’d likely be because Tristan Perich is a member of Loud Objects.  How foolish am I?