Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Your Remix in the Bush of Ghosts

I'm familiar with a few past attempts at offering source materials and individual tracks on the web for multi-user remixes, but I've never before seen this type of offer made for a seminal record. Usually it's part of a hype strategy for a new release, not one that has already influenced thousands of musicians and can be cited as one of the original "cut-up" albums. Labels do this to generate interest in music that might need all the help it can get, like the new Nine Inch Nails record.

Heroes/producers Brian Eno and David Byrne have changed all this by offering original tracks (in uncompressed .wav format [!] and cheesy .mp3) of two cuts from My Life in the Bush of Ghosts ["A Secret Life" and "Help Me Somebody"]. This is to coincide with the expanded re-issue of the record, 25 years after its initial release.

I'm a little slow on the uptake on this one (the offer's been standing for a month or two, now, and I just finally got to the site) but I'm looking forward to the fun.

I'll kill myself if Portugal doesn't win

It's World Cup time, and none too soon. Baseball is nearing the end of the tiresome, pitching-starved middle quarter, hockey has lost all its charm with the Sabres' exit and the gift-wrapping of Lord Stanley's cup for Carolina, and basketballzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Federer got served by Rafa in the French, tempering slightly the incessant talk about history and Federer's place among the all-time greats. What better time for the world's most popular tournament to arrive to bring us together in competition-slash-ass-whupping-that-will-likely-make-your-average-American-tune-out?

Jokes aside, it's finally dawned on me how good the Cup is, a showcase for a sport that's accessible to just about all the world (not just the portion that can afford the best equipment/training/beer commercials), and a real opportunity to explore the meaning of playing for nation. For all the jingoism in the post-9/11 U.S. media environment, this is a concept that doesn't really mean anything to most of today's Americans. We are regional creatures when it comes to our sports, and if we talk about anything national it's only to discuss what outcomes will play best in major-media markets but ignoring any consensus bonds, perhaps because we have so few - a discussion thoroughly covered in the political realm. Even the Olympics, our favorite opportunity to rally around the nation's athletes, mean less than they used to here. I'd attribute this partially to the loosening understanding of what passes for sport in this country. Poker players consider themselves athletes. Mountain-climbing is not a personal activity/hobby but an 'extreme sport.' Our nation probably leads the world in the invention of sports, because when we tire of one we can trade it for another. In such a highly fractured region of society, the greater bonds of national sport (and in particular a rather ancient sport) function as just one of many options rather than an occasion for national kinship, hysteria, fandom, and pride.

The other thing is we're just not anywhere near the greatest at this particular sport. In much the same way that everybody loves a winner, everybody pretty much ignores a loser, unless the losing is of epic proportions. In the history of the Cup, Americans have pretty much been losers. They have access to some of the best training and standards of living of any nation in the competition -- but lack the passion.

Meanwhile, the rest of the world delights. Netherlands tries to erase a past filled with unfulfilled promise. Germany tries to win it at home. Racial problems do exist and can't be swept under the rug. The Czechs kicked our behinds. Will Africa send a team (or two) to the second round? Is Brazil just too damned good?

It's all too fun to ignore, even for an American.

more terror problematic

According to the New York Times, the recently (and thankfully) deceased Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was able to -- you guessed it -- use Iraq as a breeding/training ground for terrorists. All the talk of fighting them abroad kind of becomes moot if, in so doing, we sow seeds that will shift the fight not just to our own turf, but to that of any allies we may wish to be making/keeping in this fight.

About the only thing that sucks more than being right is being part of a minority opinion that's right, or of a majority that doesn't care enough to effect change in leadership.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

SSM goes public + update

By all accounts, the CHANNELS exhibition, part of the Media Space|Public Space project at the New School, was a success. Our opening brought in a good number of visitors, Friday's SONIC CHANNELS show attracted over 60 people, and I am guessing a few hundred people were able to experience the F-Train edition of the Sonic Subway Map for the first time.

Nothing was perfect. I found that kids can be the best testers of an installation (or anything, really) by virtue of the fact that they just don't follow the rules. So, one gets an idea of what can go wrong when one mashes a keypad, or pushes a button on a mouse that the designer never uses, but a user might. All quickly remedied problems. The design of a system-specific touch interface for the next time out will be helpful.

For now, I take a deep breath (and break) with it as I begin to seek out funding and other spaces to show it in.