Archive for June, 2006

We Demand Multimedia

New York design firm Karlssonwilker has got a brand spankin’ site that provokes giggles. It’s “multimedia” mockery all over but the shiner of the bunch is a front menu that pokes fun at the hopelessly overwrought flash and too cool for comprehension visualization that run the web these days. Randomly animated flashing lines, stunningly similar legend colors, and totally lost navigation. Hysterical.

It’d probably be less funny if the firm weren’t hella good to top it. They even have a book. More parody of the prevailing multimedia-for-no-particular-reason design ethic at wouldyoulikeawebsite.com. Churn ’em out!

Unbridled

The words “make love, not war” sit below this image on the cover of this week’s Village Voice. It had me standing there with my mouth hanging open. Not so much because they went there but because it’s commentary on so many levels: from Cheney’s obvious daughter discomfort to that Iraq thing that’ll be over any minute now to a simple little constitutional amendment that’s not meant to distract us from anything at all. And of course there’s the super snug relationship between Bush and Darth Dick. This just takes it to the next level.

“Make love, not war” — perfect reminder for a duo that so completely rejects all the 60’s had to teach. The fact that the cover’s gonna offend all the right people don’t hurt, either. An archival Daily Show adds some nice comments.

I’m not the biggest traditional comic fan but Alex may yet get me to switch teams. His last Voice cover was brilliant, too.

Love and Noise

Joey Baron and Ikue Mori at The Stone

For the longest time, I’ve loved free, atonal, experimental, noise music, whatever you want to call it. What’s taken longer to figure out is why I find beauty in bedlam. After all, where exactly is the fun in throwing a piano down the stairs and listening intently? It was at a recent Stone show featuring Ikue Mori on electronics and drummer Joey Baron that the answer started to become clearer.

Amidst Ikue’s stark beep click grind and Joey’s endlessly creative rhythms, I started to be reminded of the ambient music we all encounter every day; from the jackhammers and clangs of construction sites to an errant fan and leaky faucet falling momentarily into sync in a quiet kitchen to the deep static of a radio long after the station signed off. So spontaneous, emergent, fleeting. Always reminding to feel this very moment, now this moment, now this moment.

It’s really the music of the street and the silence that seems closest to the playful atonalities of free improvisation. Grooves appearing out of cacophony and disappearing back into it. Never hearing the same sounds twice. The quiet (and incredibly loud) beauty of found music.

photo via jellisvga

Astronauts in Africa

African Astronaut

Dreams and Nightmares of the African Astronauts hinges on a powerful video. In it, we see the response of people in one of the world’s poorest countries (Burkina Faso) to news of men on the moon. Reactions range from disbelief to “How do they eat on the moon?” to “Why are they sending men to the moon when we need food here?” And it’s that last question that’s been with me since long before this show.

As a technologist by trade I certainly love technology, and the space program is no doubt a technological showcase that inspires many (including folks in Burkina Faso). But when such exorbitant expense and effort is applied to that task while basic human needs remain unfulfilled for so many, it really starts to seem that we’ve gone wrong at a basic level.

To be fair, the space program is just an example. It’s not so much about the space as it is about an America that is so fabulously wealthy not being particularly troubled by people starving so long as we don’t have to see them. What this show does is bring that wealth and lack of wealth together in the same room and asks us to think about it. A spaceman on the moon and a spaceman on the African plain — so far apart.

Another piece that brings this issue out is Bodys Isek Kingelez’s New Manhattan City 3021 (part of the fabulous American Effect exhibit). It shows lower Manhattan a thousand years from now as imagined by a Congolian, having risen magnificently from the ashes of 9/11. While this is an inspiring vision for ground zero, it also begs the question: “Where will the developing world be in 3021?” From the multitude of spare-no-expense gleaming towers on display, it seems we may have continued to invest largely in symbols of our own wealth.

For more on African Astronauts and other beautiful, culturally complex imaginings of spaceflight from an African perspective, check the installation photos and background.

Life Trauma

Like so many, I was addicted to the sublime genius that is Super Mario Bros, spending countless hours exploring Miyamoto’s groundbreaking world and all the fantastic surprises it held. When I finished it, though, somehow I felt dirty. Had I really played through the game start-to-near-finish so many times only to run out of lives and be sent back to the beginning of the whole thing? Had I really endured repeating it all again and again only to get to that final pit-ridden level where I died another thousand times just to see the final 1% of the game? Somehow the aftertaste managed to turn me off to platformers for years to come.

Since then, things have changed. In hindsight, one really can forgive SMB for all the repetition because, well, there’s only so much content you can jam into a 320K cartridge. Lives were a way to give the game longevity. But now content really is king in a way that storage, sales numbers, and arcades simply wouldn’t allow before. Today, storage is essentially unlimited, market growth has given developers comparatively huge resources, and arcades are no more (taking with them the need to nuke players every couple minutes to grab more quarters).

For all these reasons lives are, well, dead. The need to punish players by making them do it all over again after an arbitrary number of “chances” expires is essentially gone. And good riddance. Childhood trauma overcome. Childhood trauma outlasted.

Well, almost… Continue reading ‘Life Trauma’

Shaq Jacked

It’s funny how it’s so much easier to like Shaq now that he’s divorced from Kobe and out of LA. The reemergence of the “young shaq” via the (criminally underreported) block and coast-to-coast dunk a few days back just endeared him more.

Still, it’s hard to deny the sheer awesomeness of Big Ben’s all-ball rejection of the heretofore unstoppable Diesel just inches from the basket in last night’s game 5. It was the turning point in the game and I can’t seem to stop watching it. So wickedly timed, so pure.

Did I mention I’m from Michigan?





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