1. Arcade Fire Frontman’s Grandfather Helped Invent the Electric Guitar

    What’s the diminutive of ‘mind-blowing’?  How does one indicate a spot on the continuum of emotions between ‘oh, that’s interesting’ and ‘holy sweet goddamn!’?

    Among my many areas of interest is that of instrument inventors.  I dabble myself, mostly in making electrical contacts that warp the frequency of a triggered sample, but still, there’s an aspirational admiration for those who have pushed through with their tinkering and made a mode of music that became a standard, that provided the very vocal cord of a whole means of expression.  And of that pantheon, there’s a special place for the tweakers of that universal weapon of the Western music canon, the electric guitar.  Credit due to Les Paul, with his electric log, and credit to George Beauchamp, for guiding this innovation.  Credit to the swamp-pop stylings of Willie Joe Duncan and his unitar.

    So I found it notable to discover that the grandfather of Win and William Butler of Arcade Fire is Alvino Rey, electric guitar pioneer.  Starting off with teenage experiments and progressing on to electrifying banjos, Rey (originally Alvin McBurney) was hired to produce the pickup that was used by Gibson in their first electric guitar, the popular ES-150.  Rey is also credited with creating the first talkbox, prominently featured in the clip above.

    Interested in making your own Stringy?  Speak, Wikipedia:

    In 1939, Rey used a carbon throat microphone to modulate his electric guitar sound. The mike, developed for military pilots, was worn by Rey’s wife Luise, who stood behind a curtain and sang along with the guitar lines. The novel combination was called “Singing Guitar”, but was not developed further.

    Rey’s death in 2004 was one of the inspirations for the title and grief of Arcade Fire’s breakout album Funeral.

    - – -

    Finding these connections between people who have made significant contributions to mass culture puts an image in my mind of a web of associations, bloodlines, shared paths.  For those on the outside, for those not related, connected or bonded to anyone who ever did something that changed the world, this can feel alienating, like the ability to shape events is something reserved for a certain elect or chosen.

    This is obviously loser talk.  If that destiny flows through certain currents, well, sure, you can mope in your own insignificance but that’s just one of two roads.  Either locate those currents and drink from its waters or you can wander around and rent DVDs about those who’ve hit on it from Netflix or whatever.


  2. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Rip Off the Skateboarders From Hell

    Dangerous Minds tipped me off to this particular piece of cinema history. (Oh, NSFW, by the way… there’s like, four nipples shown).  The trailer for Skateboarders from Hell is one piece of 1980′s Loose Shoes, a movie composed of genre spoofs filmed as trailers for nonexistent movies.  Kind of like a whole movie made out of the intermission of Grindhouse.

    What really grabbed me, though, was the motorized skateboarders these feral thrashers use to reach the podunk town they terrorize.  They give a quick closeup at about 0:19 in the video above.  They appear to be the lovechild of a weedwacker engine and a skateboard, complete with a handheld throttle and some kind of brake.

    Besides wracking my brains for a plan to make one, what struck me was the similarities to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle’s ride of choice: The Cheapskate.  (Image from Amazon)

    While the toy sports some dumb, oversized hardware add-ons (the spotlight, the fan, a flag…c’mon, aren’t sewers too cramped for this Winnebago of skateboards?) I dimly recall that in the comics and the cartoon, the turtles carvied up the sewer pipes in more compact versions that closely resemble the sweet boards sported in Skateboarders from Hell.

    While at first blush these boards look like the sort of backyard engineering that chews off limbs and makes legends, these motorized skateboards are MotoBoards, a product that debuted in 1975, apparently still made to this day.  If you’ve got a spare $750 hanging around, these guys will get you on your way to full body road rash.  Other Wile E. Coyote-style transport like gas powered skates are available too.

    This being the internet, there’s a community Wiki for MotoBoard product enthusiasts.  Naturally.

    By no means are MotoBoard and Donatello’s workshop the only game in town for motorized skateboard enjoyment.  There’s an electric version on offer by some Australian fellas that looks pretty slick.  (watch out for those shipping costs before you do some drunk eBaying)

    For an exhaustive video survey of motorized boards, look no further than this here link.

    And if you’re dying to make one of your very own, after the jump there’s a gentleman with a duct tape band-aid who will walk you through how he made his own death machine out of a skateboard and a chainsaw.  (hint: it’s helpful to have a friend who’s a machinist)

    Read the rest of this entry »


  3. Opium for the Masses: DIY Dope for the Whole Foods Crowd?

    “Yeah… I used to homebrew but then I got into moonshining.  But that’s such a scene and y’know, everyone’s doing it.  Now I raise organic poppies and make my own heroin suppositories.”

    Just wanted to jump on this before three dudes in Brooklyn do it and it all ends up in the New York Times Styles section.  Via Dose Nation and EarthRites I heard of a gentleman by the name of Jim Hogshire who wrote the book on making ones own opiates from the completely legal, wild-growing, Opium Poppy.  This book would be Opium For the Masses:

    Opium for the Masses was such a national phenomenon when first released in the early ‘90s that Michael Pollan wrote a cover story for Harper’s magazine about the book, in which he he expressed his amazement that a common plant, P. somniferum, or the opium poppy, grows wild in most states, and could be made into a drinkable tea that acts in ways similar to codeine or Vicodin.

    With Opium for the Masses as the guide, Americans can learn how to supplement their own medicine chest with natural pain medicine without costly and difficult trips to doctors hamstrung by pernicious laws to prescribe proper pain relief.

    Watch for the DIY-organic-slow food set to latch onto this tome as the means of the ultimate insider drug: homebrewed opiates.  That’s hitting the cool-meter on all levels: illegal, exclusive, dangerous and independent.  How can you lose? (Oh yeah, by being a junky.)

    Opium For the Masses is still in print, available for 16.95 plus shipping.  My kneejerk smart-assery aside, it looks like a fascinating read.


  4. Coke Subs and Chris Elliot

    (Rest of the episode here and here.)

    Any, any, ANY excuse at all to post an episode of Get a Life, the how-the-hell-did-he-get-a-show Chris Elliot sitcom fondly remembered by grown up awkward youth and ex-convicts alike.  (Check the comments on that clip: “Dude I saw this while I was in jail like 20 years ago. Thanks for posting it. It is one of my favourite episodes of any show.”)

    And that excuse would be…

    On Friday, the police in Ecuador, acting on intelligence gathered by the United States Drug Enforcement Administration, raided a secret jungle shipyard near the country’s border with Colombia and discovered what American officials called “a fully operational submarine built for the primary purpose of transporting multiton quantities of cocaine.”

    According to the D.E.A., the fiberglass submarine, about 100 feet long and 9 feet high, was the first of its kind to be seized and was captured “before it was able to make its maiden voyage.”

    Check out the whole article from The Lede (NYTimes) here, complete with clip from VBS TV of captured coke subs in Colombia.

    Good to know that privately owned subs come at such an range of price points.  From back of Boy’s Life kits to DIY oil barrel subs to the Sharper Image jerking around, there’s truly a sub out there for everybody.


  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. My Reignited Theremin Obsession

    Just had my theremin lust reignited by this 3 minute history/build video from G4′s Attack of the Show, via Create Digital Music.  Oh man.  I’ve been planning to build one of these since a random reference on the Slanky-L* to a theremin sample sent me off in search of just what this weird musical instrument could do.

    Turns out the history is just as fascinating as the ghost sound machine’s electronic guts.  Here’s an excerpt from the first interview with the Theremin’s inventor, Leon Theremin, after he first emerged from the U.S.S.R. after 51 years of state arrest:

    Mattis: When did you first conceive of your instrument?

    Theremin: The idea first came to me right after our Revolution, at the beginning of the Bolshevik state. I wanted to invent some kind of an instrument that would not operate mechanically, as does the piano, or the cello and the violin, whose bow movements can be compared to those of a saw. I conceived of an instrument that would created sound without using any mechanical energy, like the conductor of an orchestra. The orchestra plays mechanically, using mechanical energy; the conductor just moves his hands, and his movements have an effect on the music artistry [of the orchestra].

    Mattis: Why did you make this instrument?

    Theremin: I became interested in effectuating progress in music, so that there would be more [musical] resources. I was not satisfied with the mechanical instruments in existence, of which there were many. They were all built using elementary principles and were not physically well done. I was interested in making a different kind of instrument. And I wanted, of course, to make an apparatus that would be controlled in space, exploiting electrical fields, and that would use little energy. Therefore I transformed electronic [equipment] into a musical instrument that would provide greater resources.

    Mattis: What did Lenin think of it, and why did you show it to him?

    Theremin: In the Soviet Union at that time everyone was interested in new things, in particular all the new uses of electricity: for agriculture, for mechanical uses, for transport, for communication. And so then, at that time, when everyone was interested in these fields, I decided to create a musical use for electricity. I made a few first apparatuses that were made [based on principles of] the human interference of radio waves in space, at first used in [electronic] security systems, then applied to musical purposes. I made it, and I showed it at that time to the leaders. There was a big electronics conference in Moscow, and I showed my instruments there. It made a big splash. It was written up in the literature and the newspapers, of which we had many at that time, and many doors were opened [for me then] in the Soviet Union. And so Vladimir Il’yich Lenin, the leader of our state, learned that I had shown an interested thing at this conference, and he wanted to get acquainted with it himself. So they asked me to come with my apparatus, with my musical instrument, to his office, to show him. And I did so.

    Mattis: What did Lenin think of it?

    Theremin: I brought my apparatus and set it up in his large office in the Kremlin. He was not yet there because he was in a meeting. I waited with Fotiva, his secretary, who was a good pianist, a graduate of the conservatory. She said that a little piano would be brought into the office, and that she would accompany me on the music that I would play. So we prepared, and about an hour and a half later Vladimir Il’yich Lenin came with those people with whom he had been in conference in the Kremlin. He was very gracious; I was very pleased to meet him, and then I showed him the signaling system of my instrument, which I played by moving my hands in the air, and which was called at that time the thereminvox. I played a piece [of music]. After I played the piece they applauded, including Vladimir Il’yich [Lenin], who had been watching very attentively during my playing. I played Glinka’s “Skylark”, which he loved very much, and Vladimir Il’yich said, after all this applause, that I should show him, and he would try himself to play it. He stood up, moved to the instrument, stretched his hands out, left and right: right to the pitch and left to the volume. I took his hands from behind and helped him. He started to play “Skylark”. He had a very good ear, and he felt where to move his hands to get the sound: to lower them or to raise them. In the middle of this piece I thought that he could himself, independently, move his hands. So I took my hands off of his, and he completed the whole thing independently, by himself, with great success and with great applause following. He was very happy that he could play on this instrument all by himself.

    Read the whole interview here.

    A more thorough history can be had in the 1995 documentary Theremin: An Electronic Odyssey.  Oddly, I can’t find any video clips of it online, but if you’re dying to see it, I’ll gladly mail you my VHS copy.  Just leave a comment and I’ll email you for mailing details.

    * remember listservs?  remember Soul Coughing?  that’s ok.


  7. Crass: There is no Authority But Yourself

    Found this via Dangerous Minds.

    I have little to add beyond advising you to clear out an hour to watch this Dutch documentary about the collection of people, practices and ideals that came together to form the punk band Crass.  With a militantly anarchist outlook and a very DIY devotion to living what they screamed, Crass was one of the very few in art who lived their ideals 100%.  A great hit of inspiration if you’re feeling like you’ve got no option but the treadmill you’re on.


  8. Wintergreen Teaches You How to Make Meth

    Listen dicks, the new crack is making fake drugs to promote your band. I know it, you know it, these guys have managed a force multiplier on their fairly middle of the road alt. rock by hitting on a concept we all wish we’d thought of before: a how-to video for making drugs from easily obtainable ingredients.  Drugs that don’t really exist, that is.

    Yeah, hate to be captain bring-down here, Beavis McTweakerson but Egyptian meth and Hillbilly Quaaludes only exist in the realm of fiction.  Still, how genius is it to piggyback on the how-to format, mixing up your band’s image with an engaging supermarket to kitchen alchemist walkthrough? The way they dump the vinegar gives me a little flashback to the soap making montage in Fight Club.  Which is never a bad thing.

    Yeah, I know, shoulda saved this for Saturday Morning Movie Club but this is too hot to wait 6 hours.  Why isn’t this a damn genre?  Fake drugs instructional videos are the new British people trying to talk with American accents.  Do it.

    (found this over at Dose Nation)


  9. Interview with Matt Kish, Whale Artist

    A month or so ago, we gave you the heads up on Matt Kish, the artist behind One Drawing for Every Page of Moby Dick.  He was kind enough to answer a few questions for us about how he came to this project and what goes through his head when he’s doing what he does.

    - – -
    What do you think of when you think of whales?

    It’s funny, I think this might be at odds with what most people think of. Even some of the people that have visited my site and looked at the art. I think a lot of people, when asked about whales, imagine this Greenpeace-y kind of gentle giant. A steward of the seas. Some vast, serene, gently floating creature singing songs in the azure deeps. For me, when I think of whales, I think of them as gigantic and incredibly cool monsters. I know that may read as somewhat juvenile, even in terms of the vocabulary I chose, but that’s because my inner vision of whales was formed at a very young age and after seeing an awful lot of monster movies as well as the 1956 version of “Moby-Dick” with Gregory Peck. I had never seen an ocean, let alone a whale, so the Atlantic and the Pacific might as well have been outer space for all the experience I had. And here, in these unimaginably vast and watery wastelands you had these simply colossal beasts capable of smashing ships to pieces, chewing and devouring sailors, blowing huge spouts of water out of the top of their heads…man, that just blew me away as a kid and it’s just never really gone away. You know how you can look at old books that chronicle the sea journeys of antiquity, and they have those engravings of tusked, scaled leviathans with two or three spouts of water jetting out of these weird curved horns on their heads, jaws like dragons and huge fluked tails? I guess for me, whales have always been like that, if not in appearance at least in spirit. Which is why, for this Moby-Dick project, the pages where I get to illustrate whales have been the most fun for me to do. It’s like being a child with crayons again. Monsters!

    You’ve mentioned in other interviews that you were inspired by ‘outsider art’.  Do you mean that as a kinship in style or just in the spirit of art being a more democratic, non-ivory tower sort of thing?

    It’s really a little bit of both, but weighted much more toward the “democratic, non-ivory tower” side of things. The kinship in style, for me, comes from the fact that I took a few art classes in high school, graduated in 1987, and took one drawing class at community college the next year. Ever since then, nothing. No training in art. No kind of education, formal or otherwise. And until very recently not even any real peer group to bounce my ideas off of and get critiques. My style, although it feels very strange to call it that, is something that I guess just developed over years of screwing around with art supplies and filling my head with all sorts of visual imagery from Jack Kirby comic books to S & M photography. I have so many limitations as an artist. Everything is very flat, there is no depth or dimension to my art, my compositions tend to be very centralized and simple, I focus too heavily on texture and patterns ignoring shape and weight, almost all my lines are straight and drawn with a ruler or template, and on and on and on. I’ve had to find ways to work within my limitations and have never really struggled to change or correct those deficiencies. I definitely have a kind of aesthetic tunnel vision.

    The “democratic, non-ivory tower” aspect of it is especially important and inspirational to me though, and it’s that part of it that I really identify with. It took me a very long time to build up enough confidence to show my drawings to even my closest friends. I don’t know where I picked up the intense fear of ridicule that I have, but at some point in my adulthood I became very aware that to even get a show in a tiny local gallery, an artist generally had to have a BFA or an MFA as well as an artist’s statement, a prepared portfolio, slides of their work, and so on. I never had anything other than a loose stack of colored pencil and ink drawings sitting on a bookshelf. So for a long time, I felt permanently shut out from any avenue of sharing my work. I was never really interested in making art a career, and the allure of something like a gallery show, even in a tiny local gallery, was really more the thrill of being able to share my labors with strangers and see what they thought of it. Of course I was hoping for compliments and praise, but at the very least I wanted to be able to show people something they might not have ever seen before. Beyond that, I had no desire to become part of an art establishment or to be labeled and heaped in with some kind of movement. Anyway, even that felt like it would forever be beyond me because of my lack of credentials, whatever that meant.

    It’s a simple idea, really, but discovering outsider art, and reading about all of these untrained artists making art for personal reasons, whether it was some kind of compulsion or simply the reward or creating a painting, resonated with me deeply. Really opened my own eyes to the fact that I didn’t need degrees or schooling or galleries or artist’s statements or sales to justify the existence of my drawings and paintings. The fact that I was willing to do them, to make something with my own hands, was reason enough. It’s hard to describe now because I realize how basic that idea is, and how maybe when we are kids with crayons that seems as normal and everyday as the sun rising and the grass growing. But somehow I got sucked in, suckered, and slapped about the head and body a bit the the artistic establishment and I got scared. It cowed me, made me fearful. So I hid for years and years until I discovered outsider art and realized it was okay for me to do what I wanted to do.

    Being something of an non-pedigreed, non-certified (read: didn’t go to art school) artist, where along the way did you decided that art was going to be an abiding part of how you live?  Was it a moment or just something that creeped up?

    Again, it’s a little of both, but I can remember some very specific and powerful experiences from my early childhood that had an enormous impact. To start, I have been absolutely fascinated by and smitten with pictures and images ever since I can remember. My parents were filthy hippies, so my childhood was spent surrounded by posters of Middle Earth, album cover art by Roger Dean (all those crazy “Yes” albums, on full gatefold vinyl!) and lushly illustrated picture books from the 60s and 70s. I can’t really ever remember a time when those things weren’t a part of my life so it’s hard if not impossible to determine whether that love of images was innate or whether it was something I took to based on my environment. I learned to read at a very early age and my parents were wonderful in supplying me with picture books and folk tales and illustrated collections of myths and legends. Perhaps it’s because that’s what they liked, or perhaps it’s because that’s what I seemed to gravitate to, but that’s all I read. I can vividly remember paintings by Arthur Rackham, fine pen and ink pieces by Willy Pogany, and even those drawings by Tolkien that graced early versions of “The Hobbit.” I would “read” those images as closely as I read the words, and they came to seem inseparable to me. So I was drawing things — mostly monsters and spaceships and heroes — from preschool.

    Most of what I drew were just imitations of what I saw in my books though, and I can remember being 8 or 9 and camping with my older cousin Jason. He was, and still is, an immensely talented artist, and while we were bored on a rainy afternoon we spent hours drawing together. I was probably running through the motions of drawing the same things over and over, but Jason drew this incredibly bizarre, crescent-moon shaped monster with multiple eyes and tentacles. It floored me. Even the fact that it was an asymmetrical, non monster-shaped monster just blew the top of my skull right off. I remember that as possibly being the first time I saw a piece of art that was different, challenging, weird, and a little upsetting. But all in very good ways.

    After that I started paying much closer attention to what my friends drew and I saw such an incredibly diverse range of styles and imaginations that I started thinking maybe I could do this myself. Sadly, it probably took me 20 or 30 years before I felt like I really had developed a style and an aesthetic of my own, and even today I can see so many influences running through some of my pieces that I worry people will call me a hack, but it’s hard not to let the indelible power of those visions course through me.

    So where do you find your found materials?

    I’ve actually been harvesting this stuff for years. From 2003 to 2005 I worked for a large used book store chain. Customers would bring books in, we would buy them, and then we would re-rice and re-sell them. An awful lot of what people brought in was simply no good. Too old, too ephemeral, too out of date. This stuff we would either price for a dollar or two and put in our bargain section, or just throw out. Employees were not supposed to pick through the stuff that was going to the trash, but the managers generally looked the other way as long as it wasn’t too blatant. I was able to snag a small pile of really interesting things, mostly old text books, encyclopedias, and repair guides. Stuff that was really of no use to anyone, being so completely out of date. At the time, I had no idea what I would do with it, I just thought it was too good and too interesting to throw away. So I held on to it all for quite a few years without using it for anything more than a drawing or two. And then, when the idea to do this “Moby-Dick” series came to me, it seemed like a perfect match since the art is so indebted to the printed words of the novel.

    What about an item makes you want to hang on to it and include it in a piece?

    You know, it’s weird because when I started these illustrations I was doing them all on these old electronics repair guides. Something about those old diagrams fascinates me because their symbols and and all those lines and drawings and letters look almost alchemical to me. Magical. So the thought of all of that unfathomable information, a bit buried but lurking just beneath the paint and ink really spoke to me. It hinted at the deeper themes and mysteries of Melville’s novel as well as the mysteries lurking beneath the sea. After working that way for a few weeks, I began to dig more deeply into my collection of discarded books finding new and more intriguing ways of bringing some of Melville’s themes, the ones that were really important to me as a reader, into the art. So if you look closely, you will see a lot of recurring imagery, not just of electrical diagrams and ships, which are fairly obvious, but of phrases and bits of text, pieces of art, old photographs and so on. Some of the symbolism is a bit overt, some less so, and some probably so personal it seems obscure or random, but every piece of paper was chosen very very deliberately. It has been amazing for me as an artist to see, more often than not, elements in a finished piece that I did not consciously realize were there but which must have somehow made themselves known to me at a subconscious level. For example, on Page 28 I illustrated the aphorism “However, a good laugh is a mighty good thing, and rather too scarce a good thing…” and a caption for a photograph which appears on that page reads “Europe was no longer hospitable to the imagination.” I didn’t catch that at first, but it seemed to work nicely with the place that “Moby-Dick” occupies in the pantheon of new American literature and the role Melville played in carving that out. Another very obvious element is on Page 112, my illustration of Flask, the third of the mates. I knew each of the mates, Starbuck, Stubb, and Flask, were crucial to an understanding of the novel and were all, in some ways, similar as well as uniquely different. The page where I painted Flask is from an old sewing guide and has a large vertical heading reading “The parts of a pattern.” Given that the reader is just now beginning to see and understand the composition of the Pequod’s crew and the manner of her governance, that page fit.

    How do you cut out the time from the rest of life to work on a project of this size?

    It has been very very difficult. Some history is in order here, to give this context. Prior to beginning the Moby-Dick project, my art had been incredibly detailed, time consuming, a bit overwrought, and ultimately frustrating to complete because of this. I had begun to feel really trapped by the media I was using, the way I was working, and the images I was making. It was not at all unusual for me to spend 20 to 60 hours on a single colored pencil drawing. Yes, they were lushly and radiantly crafted, but I was sick and tired of only being able to complete 3 or 4 drawings a year. I really needed something to force me to change and to find new ways of making art. I knew it would have to be something that came with a deadline built in and some kind of preconceeved structure. I had seen Zak Smith’s paintings for every page of Thomas Pynchon’s “Gravity’s Rainbow” and the idea had always stuck with me. In a flash, it all came together, and deciding to create one illustration for every page of “Moby-Dick” and to complete a piece of art each day seemed like the perfect way to jumpstart this process. I would simply have to find ways to work more quickly but also to make art that I enjoyed and was proud of.

    When I began this project, I was living in an apartment with my wife about 20 minutes from my day job. I had plenty of time in the evenings to work, even if I wanted to spend 2 or 3 hours on a piece, and I could still do laundry and see movies and spend time with my wife. Plus, autumn was coming, the days were growing shorter, and I had less and less desire to go outside as the weather cooled. In November, we moved to be closer to friends and family. But my 20 minute commute became a 90 minute commute. And that’s one way. So suddenly, I am waking up at 5:45 every morning, spending 3 hours in the car every day, getting home at 6:30 in the evening, and trying to squeeze in an hour of drawing between dinner, exercise, laundry, and chores. Honestly, at times, it is a nightmare. In a strange way, I have become more like Ahab in that this has become an endeavor which haunts me and enrages me. I have had some rough nights where I’ve thought of simply disconnecting and giving it up. But something keeps me focused on the endgame, and at times it is a kind of rage. Sometimes, when I am just exhausted and completely spent, the only thing that can rouse me enough to continue this daily pursuit is rage and hate. That is leavened somewhat by the kind comments and emails I’ve been receiving, and that kind of thing has become absolutely necessary to help keep me anchored and stop me from becoming completely lost in this quest to finish.

    And riffing off something you mentioned… how have your reactions changed to the novel as you’ve made your way through the novel for this project?

    Each and every time I have read “Moby-Dick” I have seen more and more of the novel emerge. We could go on at length here about Melville’s multi-layered narrative and how what at first seems to be a simple whaling adventure is everything from a treatise on the nature of America to a an epic with Biblical themes of piety and blasphemy to a metaphysical investigation of the nature of existence and faith. Over time, much of that has been revealed to me and even now, as a 40 year old man, I feel I am only just beginning to see the great outline of Melville’s thoughts. But this journey through, specifically, has forced me to visualize the narrative in a way I never had before. By giving life to each and every one of these sailors, whalemen, and harpooneers, by depicting their ships and the great leviathans they hunt, I’ve anchored it in such a way that I will never be able to un-see what I myself have created. Ishmael will forever more be a symbolic rectangular mask with two wall-eyes and a wave across his face, the man with the sea inside of him. Ahab will always be a towering slab of something metallic, head like a fiercely peering turret. Tashtego has become a lumbering, crow-headed predator. And so on. For me, now, depicting “Moby-Dick” like this makes it forever my own vision. Realized in the fullest with ink and paint and paper, but always my own. I guess I’m more like Ahab, for good or ill, than I might have ever wanted to be.

    - – – -

    A few other interviews here, here and (sorta) here.

    As of this writing, Matt’s still churning them out, day by day, over at http://www.everypageofmobydick.blogspot.com/.  You can buy some of his older art here, including some whaley, sea-monstery stuff.

    For those of you in the Brooklyn/NYC area, Matt will be talking about his quest and showing slides at Pete’s Candy Store on April 19th as part of the Open City Dialogues.

    portrait of Matt Kish by Aaron Cael


  10. MK1 MIDI Controller at ITP NIME 2009

    MK 1 MIDI Guitar at ITP NIME 2009 from Aaron Cael on Vimeo.

    Headed out to the NIME (New Interfaces for Musical Expression) show this past Tuesday to do a little fitful start of the actual journalism thing. Shot a lot of blurry video so there’s more to come.

    Above’s a little number that got mentioned on the Make blog this week: the MK 1 MIDI controller. Ain’t that sweet looking? The blurb on the show flyer sez:

    The MK 1 is a programmable MIDI controller in a familiar form factor. Comprised of 32 LED pushbuttons and six touch-sensitive copper plates, the MK 1 allows the user to control music synthesizers by means other than a traditional keyboard.

    Finally an upgrade to enable the keytar player to actually get laid after the show. Excellent. We need those guys breeding.

    More on this later as I slice things up and ask some questions.  Musical sewing machines! A dodecahedron sequencer! Badly recorded audio! In the meantime, here’s a flickr gallery one of the performers shot