Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Austin City Limits

Hello again,

I have recently relocated from Evanston, landing in Austin, TX right on the hottest day of the year (112 F). It's a strange kind of dry heat here - not like Chicago's oppressive humidity. I'm going to be using this blog to track some of my experiences working with Habitat for Humanity (I am a construction crew volunteer for this year) as well as my usual interweb scourings.

I'm also starting to volunteer at the Yellow Bike Project, which happens to be about a quarter-mile from where I'm living. The people there are great; it reminds me a lot of the Recyclery in Chicago. There's the same interesting mix of gear heads, local riders, neighborhood kids and retirement-age volunteers at Yellow Bike.

True to form, I went in to do a general clean and lube and ended up breaking a spoke and shearing the cable adjustment nut on my front deraileur. Better in the shop than on the road, I guess.

Ausin reminds me of Minneapolis in some ways - a small city with a killer music scene, vibrant young (hipster) community, quiet, relatively horn-free downtown, and a LOT of cycling. Austin seems to have a one-up in the two wheels department: snow and cold are no concern. Still, the road quality leaves a lot to be desired, and there's nothing here like the Midtown Greenway.

Saturday was my first night - I stumbled on a sweet hip hop arts show at 5th and Waller, then made my way to a pretty sweet barn-flavored bar up on Rainey. On Sunday I checked out the Downtown area and visited UT's campus. Yesterday I had the most unexpectedly delicious cappucino from the Patika trailer, then wolfed down a veggie chili dog before rolling into Yellow Bike.

The town certainly has a lot to offer, and I know that I've only scratched the surface.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Digital Love

Back again...

Some new web-based stuff that's been floating around has caught my attention.

Particularly THIS**. (note - google chrome or other webGL-ready browser necessary)

After my first response, I realized that this sort of experiment is exactly the kind of realtime interactive art that Tale of Tales and That Game Company have been espousing.

Behind the genius of 3 Dreams of Black is a development process made completely transparent - the artists have fully documented how they realized the piece, the code is open source and can be visualized in real-time, and they've included a few toys and tools to experiment with WebGL and graphical manipulation. Awesome.

So we find ourselves one step closer to the"interactive poetry" That Game Company has propagandized, as well as the "punk economy" (re: Open Source) in Tale of Tale's manifesto. What's next?

For starters, Bjork's new album is being released incrementally, with an iphone or ipad app to accompany each song. While I dislike the (possibly inadvertent) marketing ploy for Apple products, the interactive apps look really cool. Plus, Crystalline is a killer track!

WebGL is exactly the kind of thing that the Graffiti Research Lab should snatch up. These guys have been behind some really interesting experiments in street-art-oriented technology, such as the eyewriter (which has a heartbreaking but inspiring origin story) and graffiti markup language - a file format used to store graffiti motion and position data.

Part of the power of WebGL lies in the potential for high-end graphics to be processed in the cloud, meaning that your meager little netbook may be able to deliver super high-res visuals. I myself am a little wary of the cloud - too much personal data floating around, what with the recent Sony hack...

But you can't hold back the future. And since we're one step away from iBrain implants, we might as well make something cool with it.

**(Thanks to Emily Rifkin for sending me the link to 3 Dreams of Black!)

Monday, March 21, 2011


I'd rather be an inconsistent blogger than an hourly twitterer (tweeter?). I've been working on a few projects related to my upcoming concert, and decided to use this page to give some account of my ideas and progress.

At the risk of over-hyping, this is easily the most ambitious project I'll have realized (if I can pull it off, that is).

Not being one to half-ass creative activities, and with a tendency to pursue ideas to the point of overkill, I've spent the last year or so planning out the performance. Granted, not everything is happening as initially conceived - the evolution of works is often much more important than the germinating idea.

Fortunately, I've had help from some very good artists, animators, composers and musicians. I hope you can make it on April 8th - should be interesting at the very least.

Thursday, December 23, 2010


It has been far, far too long...

Finally on break now from school, so I'm eating up all the intellectual goodness that the internet has to offer while I have the time.

I've been reading some O'Shaughnessy; at least from his famous Ode:

We are the music makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by the lone sea-breakers,
And sitting by desolate streams....

(please check out the full poem, which won't copy for some reason)

Like many others, I was turned onto the Ode from Willy Wonka. His clever response is high-brow artillery to put naysayers in their place; more than that, though, it is an appeal to the limitless human imagination, and to the children who will "teach us your songs new numbers."

I'm on the verge of turning this into a "videogames-are-the-film-of-our-generation" rant... I shall resist (that's better left to the pros anyway).

But I will say this: time will tell if I turn out to be a "mover" or "shaker" myself. But I'm going to keep dreaming in 32 bits, and I'm not going to waste my time reminiscing about some golden age while I could be "afar with the dawning, and the suns that are not yet high."

Friday, October 1, 2010

Ich bin ein Berliner

Berlin is quite the historical hot spot. The city throughout the 20th century was almost a microcosm of Europe - the destruction, division, reconstruction, and eventual fall of Communism all came to a head in this city (not to mention the rise of techno and round-the-clock raves...). To say that Berlin has a few scars would be a gross understatement.

Coming from Copenhagen, Berlin isn't exactly the most welcoming place. When I checked into the hostel, the conversation with the attendent went a little like this:

Me: Hello!

Guy: (no answer -just looks at me for a while)

Guy: Is that it? You just came to say hello? Or you want something else? Mind reading doesn't start until tomorrow.

(Turns out that he manages the New York hardcore band Agnostic Front - not representative of all Berlin residents)

Over the week I hit up a number of the touristy spots, as well as some of the not-so-touristy-but-kinda-badass ones. A wonderland of a place called Kunsthaus Tacheles falls into the latter category.

Tacheles was about a block from my hostel, Instantly recognizable from the large "How Long is Now?" mural on the side. The building is a partially bombed-out structure that the East Germans never bothered or couldn't afford to rebuild after the war. For artists looking for studio space with little (or nonexistent) rent, it was a perfect place to set up shop.

Today it's still a thriving community. Graffiti covers every square inch - every wall, banister, window... the building has about as much paint in it as it does concrete. This makes quite an interesting backdrop for displaying work, especially if it's as complex as Alexander Rodin who was having a gallery showing on the top floor (really great work - check out his stuff).

But all is not well in the happy land of Tacheles. The powers that be want to shut it down and put up some apartments. This cannot be! Support Tacheles! Join the fight and stop the dreded powers of gentrification before it is too late!

Monday, September 20, 2010

CPH in spraypaint

I'm pretty behind with this blog - spent most of my time in architecture world while I was in Berlin. My apologies for the delay.

Copenhagen's street art scene is very prolific. Most of the city is tagged - these aren't very interesting in and of themselves (unless you're really into tags... I am not).

The most interesting work can be found on the number of permission walls scattered throughout the city. There's one section of land by the port that is best described as an open-air grafitti art gallery.

The plot is about 150m x 300m (500 x 1000 ft) - all enclosed by walls; all covered by pieces. The centerpiece could be called "evolution" - a huuuuge mural stretching across the long wall. It starts on one side with the big bang and chronicles the history of the planet through the ice age.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Copenhagen Architecture

Just a brief rundown of some buildings that I checked out during my time in Copenhagen. There isn't a "general" age for the buildings - many are from the 1700s or earlier, but cycles of building booms, including the recent surge in the early 2000's, give the cityscape an interesting heterogenity.

The (almost) ubiquitous 6-storey building height makes for a rather underwhelming skyline for someone used to the tall buildings of Chicago. After a week, though, I much prefer the shorter building height; It seems to keep the city on a more human. The skyscrapers in downtown Chicago can seem monolithic, almost Orwellian.

Copenhagen's short stature makes some for some spectacular views from the corkscrew spire on top of the Church of Our Savior. Getting up there was an adventure in itself - the old carrilon bells and timber beams were tricky to navigate, and the stairs were definitely not designed for two-way traffic. The view from the top is definitely worth it, though

Copenhagen has a fair share of buildings by architecture "names," and in recent times has attracted international attention. Pritzker winners like Zaha Hadid and Norman Foster have buildings in Copenhagen, and Jean-Nouvel contributed to the recently completed Danish Radio Concert Hall (a joint project designed with Vilhelm Lauritzen, Dissing+Weitling, Gottlieb & Palludan and Nobel Arkitekter).

The hall, on approach, is very unassuming. The design is very rectilinear, almost like a large cube. As you get closer to the semi-transparent exterior, you begin to see the expressionistic, geometric concert hall; it appears as though a giant meteor is resting in the enclosure. The effect is even more striking when you enter: the main performance hall is a seperate structure, suspended above the reception area.

I was lucky enough to see a concert in the hall - Brahms 2nd Piano Concerto and Strauss Ein Heldenleben. The acoustics of the hall were somewhat finicky. The brass and low strings projected very well, but the piano sounded a little washed-out and I could hardly hear the concert master's solo in the Strauss. The all-around seating of the audience made the hall seem empty somehow, but the interior design, with its undulating, wood-grained walls and fragmented balconies, more than compesates for the off-putting audience dispersion.

Denmark, named Monocle's Best Design City in 2008, has its share of world-class architects. B.I.G. is one of my local favorites. I snuck into their office - it was like peeking in on Santa's workshop, filled with models of all shapes, colors and sizes, busy little elves (interns) clicking away on computers and cutting with exactos...

If only I had brought my portfolio. Ah well - someday...