Friday, July 30, 2010

This Is Your Brain on Fake Drugs

Fake drugs have gone digital. Now all the kids need are headphones and an MP3 of brainwave altering audio files. The Oklahoma City news report above wants us to believe that authorities are taking i-dosing seriously because it could lead to wanting to do real drugs. As a result, I am hiding my old Pink Floyd albums in my sock drawer. My post-Revolver Beatles records are still on display, but if anyone asks I'm only holding them for a friend.

This whole phenomenon seems like the result of bored local news reporters making anthills out of mosquito bites. (Does anyone remember media reports on jenkem?) if any police department did take interest in this, it would be out of the same naivety that makes the kids think the sounds actually get them high. It also illustrates the older generation's fear of technologies that are natural to their kids. "Tweeting leads to tweaking. My kid started text messaging and now he's on the streets"

The ridiculous behavior of these experimenting teens is kind of adorable. I remember back to my own childhood when embarrassment-proof friendships and misconceptions about a wide and unknown world used to lead to wonderful psychosomatic highs.

In the 6th grade a friend and I got some rancid Diet Coke from a burger stand at the Yakima Air Fair and, convinced it was alcoholic but not not knowing what being drunk was like, we swerved between families and military recruiters dancing and speaking dreamily like Val Kilmer in The Doors.

Soda was my gateway fake drug. Later we got into the harder stuff like banana peels and peanut skins.

Anyone know where I can score some frogs to lick?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

How Should We Value the Historicity of Obsolete Objects?

Boing Boing recently posted an entry on Scott Marr's intricately carved 78's (shown below). The comment section resulted in a battle between people who thought the carved records looked cool versus people who were opposed to the destruction of historic objects.

Readers argued that the records themselves were far richer art objects than the carved results, and compared his art negatively to clipping off typewriter keys to make jewelry.

But what else are we to do with all these things?

Typing on typewriters won't even be an option much longer. Gizmodo recently posted an article chronicling the lives of the last of San Francisco's typewriter repairmen. Similar articles have been written about repairmen in Chicago and New York. What will we do with these relics once these men are gone?

Which brings up the question, is there a proper method to respectfully interact with obsolete objects?

Even though it may maintain a retro cool factor, the traditional use of records, 8 tracks, typewriters, rotary phones, or papyrus scrolls is inefficient at best . Records are still very hip, but it's an iPod world and their appeal is strictly an avenue to show love for music in physical form. With LP's you can proudly display an assortment of 12 inch square album covers that visually represent your favorite sounds. They can be framed, or stood up as a center piece on a dresser. We can line the walls of our apartments with shelves to show off the completeness of our obsession and periodically run our finger along their creased spines, reading band names to ourselves and remembering where we were when that particular object was purchased.

Digital files are far more convenient. Records are cooler. The difference is that even an entire hard drive filled with MP3's will never amount to a collection.

To collect obsolete objects is to be a historian and a curator, and the default purpose for their collection is to be on display. The question is, is allowing a once-useful tool to collect dust a respectful tribute to a job well done or should we devise new roles for them?

My friend Nate recently gave me an amazing old typewriter. It is beautiful and compact and folds up for travel like a heavy, finicky, single-purpose laptop. It is a very generous gift and I love it as an object, but there is nothing it can do that my macbook can't do better. In order to use it I will need to specifically design a project around the typewriter. It will need to be something specifically related to obsolescence and the work the typewriter has retired from.

I have a few ideas up my sleeve for such a projects, but none of them compare to the video below. This is the most ambitious and detailed love letter to a once-important tool I have ever seen and it comes from Cadet Jones from the Police Academy Movies. Enjoy.

History of the typewriter recited by Michael Winslow

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Singular Captcha Poem #2

This one was a fantastic find. It raises questions about free will and intention and recalls broken impossible promises to be "perfect from now on."

Choosing to play a more realistic role is still a manner of role playing.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Deceptively Semi-Credible Claims of Un-Sciency Science

Astrophysics really boils down to interpreting lights in the sky. Any number of conclusions can come from measuring the light from stars, and some theories are more believable than others, but some of my favorite theories of the last few weeks are:

Our universe inherited its arrow of time from the black hole in which it was born.

The Sun's core is made of Dark Matter.

The universe isn't expanding, time is disappearing

I like playing this game and no matter how you crack it, time does not make sense, so I devised a theory of my own to further confuse matters:

What we experience as time is actually the gradual crystallization of a universe in metamorphosis. The future is fluid and malleable and any number of possibilities exist simultaneously. Like water in various basins, the future can still take on any shape. Then, along comes the cold meniscus of experience, and beyond that, in what we call the past, reality has solidified. It is seemingly impossible to be cracked back open again or melted and reformed.

The entire field of physics is based on the assumption that no matter where one goes in time and space, the laws of physics behave identically. That's a leap of faith that we only take because without it we have nothing to go on. Without that assumption science dissolves.

Like the "Time is running out" theory above, I like the idea that the rules of the universe are gradually changing. The fact that we can still see the big bang in the background radiation tells me that we are still incredibly close to the beginning. And with the dilation of time near the singularity of the big bang, isn't it possible that the time-like universe that we know is actually a self-contained bubble still gurgling within the first few moments after the creation of the universe? Our bubble will pop/solidify eventually, and then a more rational shape of the universe will begin.

The physics we know is indigestion within the inexperienced colon of a newborn universe

Monday, July 26, 2010

Astronaut Cupcakes

When I was in grade school in Reagan's 1980's there were two government jobs we dreamed of getting: high tech weapon designer (black humor was the only way our nine year old minds could deal with the horror of the Cold War), and space shuttle pilot. When we took field trips to Boeing's Museum of Flight we completely ignored the Wright brother's plane for the replica moonlander.

Today the future of manned spaceflight is in question and shuttle launches rarely make the daily paper. The science curriculum which could point kids toward a future in astrophysics is falling behind as quickly as arts education is being cut. NASA may still be around, but it's name has a whiff of middle aged nostalgia about it, which is unappealing to children.

My 5 year old can draw the Starship enterprise, but would be confused at seeing a photo of the shuttle Enterprise. I want my kid to think of the stars as actual places instead of CGI animations. At naptime I want him to imagine himself velcro-ing his zero G body to the shuttle wall to prevent free-floating in the cabin. I want him to win a trip to Space Camp as a finalist on Double Dare. I want him to have all the daydream opportunities I had.

Next weekend I plan on making treats and sitting him down to pass on the vanishing lore of these things to him the way my dad told prattled on to me about The Lone Ranger and Tanto.

In case he is as disinterested in his father's hand-me-down daydreams as I was at his age, I have invented a secret weapon to draw his attention: Astronaut Cupcakes.

Here is the theoretical recipe:


1 box Betty Crocker cherry chip cake
2 eggs
2 T vegetable oil
1 1/2 c water
1 can cream cheese frosting
1 teaspoon powdered orange Tang
1 package Nasa endorsed freeze-dried "Astronaut Ice Cream"
9 golden metallic cupcake papers
cupcake tin

Directions: Mix and bake cherry chip cupcakes exactly as Ms. Crocker instructs on the back of her box. Set aside and allow to cool. Thoroughly mix Tang powder into cream cheese frosting until it reaches a uniform dayglow orange color. Smear cupcakes in Tang frosting and top each with a single moon-rock-sized chunk of freeze-dried neapolitan icecream. Try to have all three flavors (chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry) represented in each chunk. Next, with a long sewing needle, insert string through the top of the cupcake to the bottom. tie a knot under the bottom of the cupcake paper. The knot should be large enough to prevent the cupcake from sliding off the end of the string. Suspend nine cupcakes from the ceiling at various radii from the dining room table. Measure carefully to keep distances to scale with the orbits of planets within our Sown Solar System. Pluto is to be represented. Hang the cupcakes just out of reach of your tallest child. Make your child jump for them in slow motion as if leaping in 1/4th gravity. After eating, leave the golden metallic wrappers littered on the gray carpet under a motionless American Flag.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Making Stuff

This weekend I had a vision of the computer I wanted: something small and light enough to take anywhere but running Mac OSX. The closest thing available on the market was the iPad, but that wasn't what I craved. The typepad was annoying and the OS was dumbed down, so I hacked a Mac Netbook out of a 10 inch wide Dell Mini. I've never done anything like that before and my knowledge of the inner workings of electronics is extremely limited, but the process was immensely rewarding.

It fills me with a sense of pride that can't be ordered on Amazon. To have a vision of something that doesn't readily exist and to make it exist through work: that's the impulse that lead me to art when I was younger.

Since I received my art degree 10 years ago, I have constantly second guessed creation's greater importance to society, but I do believe that the process of making something is extremely valuable to individuals. Molding a mental image into something physical is a kinetic reminder that life is not a multiple choice exam. You don't have to use a number 2 pencil. You don't have to fill in the bubbles perfectly. You can improvise some origami and fold that answer sheet into a hot air balloon or fighter jet and fly far far away. Land in a distant country where every ingredient is abundant and nothing is on the menu.

Monday, July 19, 2010


Gorditos in Greenwood advertises that their burritos are as big as babies. When my son was a newborn I swaddled him up and took him to investigate. Isaac and my meal were roughly comparable in size and the burrito was tasty, but the whole thing made me uneasy. I held on to his stroller tightly and watched my fork carefully.

Someone else put their baby in a watermelon.

There is no societally prescribed ceremony to induct young men into their new roles as fathers. Every other major life change has an observed celebration: Bar Mitzvah, graduation, wedding, funeral. When we become fathers we just have to improvise.

The Infinite Multiverse

The internet represents an infinite multiverse where any thought you can possibly have already exists in every permutation imaginable.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Singular Captcha Poem #1

I've been collecting Captchas to compile into a long visual poem. I'm fascinated by these inseparable computer assembled language atoms that can never be split. Fantastic limitations come with trying to construct a larger form out of these words that must always sit arm in arm, but every now and then I find a pairing that is already perfect as found.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Rainbow Connection

A plaque at the entrance to The Museum Of Jurassic Technology reads, "The learner must be led always from familiar objects toward the unfamiliar; guided along, as it were, a chain of flowers into the mysteries of life."

Some people don't have to be led very far.

Confusion is the sensation of learning. It's the disorienting feeling of new neural pathways being formed in the brain. Wonder is taking a step back to watch these new connections fire over and over again, oohing and aahing at them like a fireworks display.