Fugue

This oddly satisfying short item is from Optical Arts:

“The film is a set of exactly repeated actions, but each time using different objects. It uses the structure of the fugue to create the films narrative, playing on the fugues characteristic of stating the subject in different voices.

“Fugue in A major by Dmitri Shostakovich is a very interesting piece as it contains no harmonic dissonance at all. The Fugue was an outlier in a larger collection of Preludes and Fugues which at the time was panned by critics for being very harsh and dissonant.

“The piece was written in 1950’s Russia under Stalin’s regime and might have been a veiled criticism where any less subtle forms of criticism could have been very dangerous. Shostakovich had already been denounced for political incorrectness in 1948 by the communist party chairman, Andrei Zhdanov and lived under a persistent fear of the numerous purges that were taking place across Russia at that time.

“The piece is performed by Sviatoslav Ricther in 1956 in Prague.”

“The Ballad of Holland Island House”

You know I’m not hip. How many times have I told you that I’m not hip. I’m not hip. That’s why it took six years for me to discover this lovely, soulful animation by Lynn Tomlinson. And you can find more like it at Lynn Tomlinson’s Vimeo channel.

“The Ballad of Holland Island House is a short animation made with an innovative clay-painting technique in which a thin layer of oil-based clay comes to vibrant life frame by frame. Animator Lynn Tomlinson tells the true story of the last house on a sinking island in the Chesapeake Bay. Told from the house’s point of view, this film is a soulful and haunting view of the impact of sea-level rise.”

Metnong: Live!

Well, they were at the time. Alive, that is. The time was 1980s experimental jazz in Chicago. At least, I think “experimental” is what one would call it, but I am sure about jazz, Chicago and the 1980s. Metnong: Live! (that is the title, I think, though the cassette cover is remarkably unhelpful) is one of two albums released by Metnong, the other being A Vast Orbital Kiss. You can find a copy of that at the Internet Archive.

Since the cassette cover is remarkably unhelpful, this post will have to serve as its liner notes.

Very well, then. Though I am mostly unsuitable for the task. I am not a musician nor a tribal follower of musicians and music. But I was a friend of the band, having known Steve Owens from years long before Metnong. We had been distant neighbors (same wing, different floor) with an overlapping set of friends in the same university dormitory complex. We both hung out with the Ozone Ranger, for example.

But you won’t find Steve Owens listed on the cassette cover. For Side A, the list is jab weird, steve ivan, harry lenz, and yuri. For Side B, the list is jab weird, steve ivan, and harry lenz. “steve ivan” is my friend Steve Owens. “harry lenz” and “jab weird” were introduced to me as Richard and Julie Kovacs… another pseudonym as the name was actually Theodore. At least, that’s what I’ve been told.

Why all the pseudonyms? I simply can’t tell you. You see how I fail as a liner notes raconteur? Being secretive might have some entertainment value, but I can’t even offer that: I don’t know.

Neither Richard nor Julie are around to ask. Richard died more than a decade ago and Julie years before that. When asked, Steve vaguely waves and mumbles something about the law but I suspect he’s being both diplomatic and dramatic. Musicians, after all… I mean, some of the places they played may not have had an entertainment license, but really.

Posting these recordings is not a nostalgia trip for me. I think there is work and history worth preserving here. When I spoke to him about posting these recordings, Steve was a bit startled when I told him that I was more into these recordings now than I was at the time. Possibly I’m a bit more inclined to listen now than I was then…

The thing about experimental art is: It’s experimental. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it works in unexpected ways. And that is the always unexpected pleasure in just listening. Judge for yourself:

Side A (43:31) recorded at batteries not included february 14, 1988, by fred

Side B (37:21) recorded on mars a week later (time warp over warsaw) by dick teddy

metnongcover
Metnong: Live cassette cover. Photo by Roman.

“Transient 3”

If you like storm chasing videos, especially if they could be mistaken for a music video, then you’ll like Dustin Farrell’s latest, Transient 3. As with the previous videos in the Transient series, Farrell’s attention is drawn to lightning first.

Yes, the photography and editing are good and the storms spectacular yet I would have taken a pass on sharing this video but for the oddest of reasons: I really dig the credits at the end of the video. Full screen, headphones and stay for the end.

Unions in Science Fiction

I mentioned, a few posts back, that John Barnes was one of the few science fiction authors who took the concept of “memes” seriously. He’s also one of the few that occasionally include a favorable mention of labor unions in his stories. At least, he’s among the few that I’m aware of. There is quite the flood of work labelled “science fiction.” It would be a full time job just to keep up with it, which is another way of saying that I’m not all that hip so maybe there are a lot more such authors these days: IDK.

Most science fiction authors do not consistently write from a particular ideological point of view, so what is it about unions? Part of it is that a good story-teller generally relies upon the reader to supply part of the story. Stories, true or fiction, are collaborative efforts, and the readers who have had direct contact with unions are a distinct minority, and most of those experienced the union the way most of us experience an insurance company. Including unfamiliar plot elements such as unions comes with a cost: You must explain and show as otherwise the readers don’t know. (That’s also one of the reasons most science fiction tales resemble a Dr. Frankenstein’s monster of re-used plot elements.) Another part of it is the assumption that in a futurama future productivity is so great that… why would most people need a union? We’re “post-economic,” right? On the other hand, how few hours a week did the early 20th Century economist John Maynard Keynes predict we would be working by the end of that century? Gee, where did all that time and money go?

Whatever. My ulterior motive in bringing up unions here is as an excuse to quote a paragraph from one of the John Barnes books that I recommended in that previous post, Candle. The series that includes Candle was written around the turn of the century, when failed states seemed to be the likely theme for the 21st Century, including the United States. This is part of a recruiting pitch made to the residents of a Seattle orphanage by the captain of a militia hired to protect that part of the Pacific northwest:

“Burton’s Thugs for Jesus is a union shop, represented by the United Combatants, Engineers, Medics, and Chaplains, and we use the standard UCEMC contract for a battalion-sized unit. You get room and board, medical, dental if we ever get another dentist under contract, and locked-in rent control for basic uniforms and equipment. In the event of combat against other UCEMC units, you have a much better POW contract — which can make a big difference if you’re captured — you keep your seniority without penalty if you elect to defect, and you fight under the strict form of the Hague Convention, so the union is a good deal for most of you, and it’s a flat four percent of your pay. You also pay for your training with a five-percent deduction from your pay for your first year, which I waive if you’re decorated for bravery in combat. You don’t pay any local or episcopal taxes.”

Lest I give the wrong impression, unions appear in only some of Barnes’ works. But even those few inclusions are enough to stand out an otherwise silent or hostile fiction genre. When I finished reading the recruiting pitch for the first time many years ago, I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or to weep.

But as Billy Bragg sang:

Money speaks for money, the Devil for his own;
Who comes to speak for the skin and the bone?

Omega II

This is the third or fourth video by Thomas Blanchard that I’ve liked enough to share here. And for all that I do not like music videos, most of them are music videos. Man, I do believe Blanchard could make a chair leg taste good. [Caution: some strobing effects.]

The music this video is meant to compliment is “Omega II” by Sébastien Guérive.

I have mixed feelings about the video as a whole, but the individual parts are really good, particularly the dances, imho.

Early in the Morning

The courtyard is mottled with pools of light, for dontcha know, it’s early in the morning, 5 by the clock this autumn day, and the elves and fairies are stirring though they are never entirely asleep. Always and ever is the roar of the Universal Spell, sometimes piano by the clock but never silent. Presto! Light appears and magic it must be for it is none other than the light ensorcelled by plants millions upon millions of years ago. It is an evil spell that makes zombie light, undead light, poverty light of but one color, lying light for whatever opportunities it provides, it also takes away with no rhyme or meter.

This is a magical hour for me, seated in my dark dining room with a grandstand view of the courtyard. Parked cars line the street. A mere century ago, prior to World War I, that would have been remarkable: So many cars in the city, there is only room to leave them parked on the street! I do believe the Singularity that some transhumanists fantasize about has done come and gone years ago. Welcome to a strange and beautiful and unwell time.

Clarke’s Third Law: Any sufficiently advanced technology will seem like magic. What do we look like to any of our fellow species of animal? The stories of elves and fairyland are but images of ourselves reflected in the eyes of other species.

The distant horns of the Hunt by the Queen of the Fairies segues into the distant horns of traffic and the thundering hooves of Her steeds segues into the ever present roar of The Machine. And what shall we say of this Hunt? It is a never ending stream of casualties and roadkill without the sometimes redemptive act of feeding. And why? I could tell a story, thousands of stories, but few would make any sense to the creatures with whom we share this planet. They would seem fay.

Wading in a pool of streetlight, someone crosses the street to a parked car. Recognizing its Master, the car opens and, after a moment, it comes alive. It is in a long parking spot and the driver, in reverse, slowly swings the nose out. Out of that spot in two moves, I think with approval: easy peasy. Then instead, the driver repeats the maneuver. Is this an attempt at a U-turn as well? This vehicle must have the turning radius of an oil tanker. A third repeat before escaping to the street establishes that the driver is Fay and I am so glad to not be sharing the road with it.

My espresso is still hot. I take a sip of my cup and a sip of my pipe. The parking spot mysteriously stays empty while the day begins its mumbled conversation with the night. The courtyard is becoming mottled with leftover pools of dark for, dontcha know, it’s early in the morning.

Performed  by Kiefo Nilsson, “it was written by Dallas Bartley, Leo Hickman and Louis Jordan sometime during the mesozoic era. Later, it was performed by Harry Nilsson on the Nilsson Schmilsson album…”