Monday, October 30, 2006

now playing: Anna Eyre

Turtle Hill

Saturday, October 28, 2006

It's called a shoebox.


Last week, I spent some time on the road with zinester Dave Fried. His semiautobiographical writing is very good, extremely emotional with no hint of sentimentality. In the past ten years, he's released dozens of publications. His current series is called Black Carrot.

If you're involved with the punk/hardcore zine scenes in New York or Chicago, maybe you've heard of Dave. If you haven't heard of him, you're kind of out of luck. It's hard to find the bookstores with good zine collections (though they do exist). Like a lot of zinemakers, Dave prefers an in-person presence to a web presence.

At one point I asked Dave why he doesn't put some of his writings online. I told him that I think of my homepage as an archive of where I've been as an artist. If you dig into the catacombs of my site, you can even find things I wrote and recorded when I was a teenager. "I already have that," he said. "It's called a shoebox."

It was a pretty revelatory discussion. Many writers dislike having an online presence for the same reason I like it. It's too replicable, too Googlable, too clean. What is more beautiful--indeed, what is more beautiful in the world--than one person handing another person a handmade zine or chapbook? (Actually, I would argue that a well-designed PDF book is every bit as pretty as a hand-sewn chapbook, but that's me.)

A lot of people have also learned that poetry blogs are major clearinghouses for internet drama. Who wouldn't want to stay away from that?

In addition to discussions with Dave, two recent events have gotten me thinking a lot about writers' online presence.

Event #1: The release of Electronic Literature Collection Vol. 1 both as an online gallery and, apparently, as a free CD-Rom. Including work by Kenneth Goldsmith and Mary Flanagan (among many others), it's a dazzling collection of interactive toys that might as well be called literature, for lack of a better word. There's lots of play going on here: lots of interrogation of what we expect from literature and art, even from strange art. Great way to blow a Saturday morning.

Event #2: Penguin Books will be opening up shop in Second Life.

(For those who don't know what Second Life is, it's a gigantic three-dimensional chatroom. You create a 3D avatar to represent yourself, and you travel around virtual cities. Most excitingly, SL contains a scripting language for building anything imagineable. With some limitations, anyone can create anything she wants in Second Life.

I tried Second Life awhile ago, and realized that it would be too much work to really enjoy it. Now, I login for an hour every month or so, just to say hi. In Second Life, I've met a number of people who pay real-life rent by providing Second Life goods and services. Most of these people are programmers who have mastered SL architecture and built really cool buildings and machines in it.

My name in SL is Elliot Hosho. That's me in the margin, enjoying a can of virtual Coca-Cola and a pair of virtual sideburns. If you see me, say hi.)

The first book published by Penguin SL will, of course, be Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash, the sci fi novel that predicted environments like SL. The book, if I understand correctly, is really an advertisement for the book, containing a few chapters and a coupon for a discount.

But regardless, the elephant has been named: virtual books distributed in Second Life. Could this become a major venue for self-publishing zinesters and poets? In many ways, SL is the anti-internet. It's slow, hard to navigate, impossible to search. In short, SL is the kind of world I could see my friend Dave getting behind. (Even Kurt Vonnegut is an avid player, according to advertisements.)

Since objects in Second Life can be programmed to do anything, a book could look like any of the pieces in the Electronic Literature Collection. For that matter, an entire building or city could look like one too. Imagine trying to walk through a world created by Donna Leishman.

SL has some good ideas, and some bad ideas as well. It loads slowly, and regularly crashes even good computers. Its open-endedness that makes it so geeky-cool also makes it laughably open to vandalism. Perhaps most obnioxious, entire acres of it are rendered unusable by teenagers (who technically aren't allowed in SL) having cybersex. But under all of that, SL contains a framework for interactivity that could lead to some great design concepts.

Friday, October 27, 2006

now playing: Vanessa J. Gorden

Kissing Jesus

(Sorry for the week of downtime. I was away on tour, and we still haven't figured out a good way to automate these updates. Carry on.)

Sunday, October 15, 2006

now playing: J. Bradley

Sunday Drive

Friday, October 13, 2006

now playing: Myron Michael Hardy

When We've Had It

Monday, October 09, 2006

now playing: Myron Michael Hardy

Road Trip

Sunday, October 08, 2006

John K on perspective

John K, creator of Ren and Stimpy, has been teaching me a lot about art and animation through his blog, John K Stuff. Putting aside whether you're a fan of his cartoons or not, he understands the craft much more deeply than most animators working in television.

Here he is, talking about forced perspective in cartoon backdrops:


Here is an example of what today would be misinterpreted as "No perspective". We are looking up at this shed, yet the lines all converge down rather than up and away from us as they would in reality.

Today's wacky layout artists think this means there are no rules in cartoons and they draw no perspective at all and the lines don't converge anywhere. Windows don't fit on buildings. Every building twists and turns in a different angle. This is sometimes referred to as "wonky" design. It started in Ralph Bakshi's Mighty Mouse, was copied by Beetlejuice (the Nelvana cartoon), Tiny Toons and A pup Named Scooby Doo and now is everywehere used as an excuse to not have to design anything with control or purpose or visual appeal.

This shed's backwards perspective is consistent with its bending of one rule--every edge doesn't follow its own way, so the shed holds together as a solid, yet cartoony form.

The whole article is an interesting read. I wouldn't have been able to identify it consciously, but the "wonky design" he describes has definitely turned me off of a lot of recent cartoons.

Ironically, it's a little too easy to blame John K for the new design. Ten years after Ren and Stimpy, people are still trying to replicate that style, but they miss the point. Without solid technique behind your silliness, it's flat.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

now playing: Lynne Potts

Ear to the Ground

Sunday, October 01, 2006

now playing: Lynne Potts

I-95 Imperative

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