неділя, 18 березня 2018 р.

Endlessly fascinating Mindhunter Overkill...

Sometimes the best thing about a particular work of art is the title. It is easy to understand the reason why. Because that part is usually easier to pull off than actually do something worthwhile through and through. After all - "title is the half job done". Good title can salvage mediocre or merely generic piece of work simply by being irresistible. It is able to elevate the work to another level where imagination can run amok on the possibilities hidden behind the intriguing title. That kind of instigation sometimes can be all the piece needs in order to stay.

And I want to tell you about two particular works of art that perfectly encapsulate that statement.

There are two comic book miniseries with somewhat generic titles "Overkill" and "Mindhunter". Both are part of inter-company crossover between Dark Horse Comics and Top Cow Productions. (stop for a moment and think about narrative potential of such team-up. Dominant cow and mysterious horse. Oh, oh, oh, oh... Where is Mighty Boosh when we need them?)

The selling point of the series was pairing down four signature characters from respective companies in the "ultimate showdown": Aliens and Predator on the Dark Horse side - Witchblade and The Darkness in the Top Cow corner.

Despite offering some curious narrative opportunities - both series are fairly generic crossovers that follow traditional Aliens\Predator crossover formula. The same that driven the series to the ground around that time. It goes like this: "Aliens happened to nest somewhere, Predator happens to be hunting nearby, Somebody Someone is caught in-between and fighting back". "Overkill" is exactly what it says on the tin while "Mindhunter" goes a bit into "Lovecraft meets Barker" territory but barely does anything with it.

Since every character is recognizable brand - it seemed reasonable to include all of them on the cover. Overlong list of participants made the titles special. Because of that the official titles look like this: "Overkill: Aliens/Predator/Witchblade/The Darkness" and "Aliens/Predator/Witchblade/The Darkness: Mindhunter". These are long-long titles. Too long to be coherent.

But because of that already generic titles became overcrowded to the point of incoherence. The list of participants made the titles extra clumsy. By shoving all involved parties into the titles - the whole thing turned simple titles of the story into a demented poetry of sorts. The titles are hijacked to the parts unknown. For some reason titles of the story are situated in the different places - in the beginning and the end respectively. That adds some rhythm to the thing.

Just try to read them: "Overkill: Aliens/Predator/Witchblade/The Darkness" / "Aliens/Predator/Witchblade/The Darkness: Mindhunter" - they are so long that by the time you have finished reading you already forgot what it was all about. It is too much one can take in the title. I guess that wasn't part of the plan.

And there is only thing that could be done with it - going further in combining the names and making a poem out of all possible combinations. Because endless repetitions can strip them from the remnants of the sense and turn these lists of participants and brief summary of the ordeal into a insipid incantation.

Here's my version:

пʼятниця, 16 березня 2018 р.

MFT: Reddit r/wordcount

Wordcount is probably one of the greatest subreddits second only to r/place. What is it about? It is what it says on the tin - a subreddit dedicated to posting numbers of words that users claim to have written over some period of time.

Why? Because why not? Bragging, etc. It is not really a sensitive information of any kind. In fact - it doesn't even matter whether those numbers are rooted in reality or not. What matters is the fact that these particular numbers are taken out of context and documented on their own. Because of that they seem awkward and rather unassertive. However, they manage to sneak past the fence of consciousness that particular stodgy filler impression. And it is spanking perplexing.

Wordcount is pointless. Documenting the number of written words is ultimately a futile activity. Word count means a lot when you are on a payroll, but otherwise it means little. The number of words looks tedious without proper background. It is devoid of sense to the point that it turns into pesky vacuous cannonball that bounces off surfaces erratically - drawing non-existant knot of lines craving to turn into a wrecking ball.

Part of subreddits charm is in the lack of context. There are no explanations or comments on the nature of texts or even mere explanations of writing intensions - there is only a number of words written. Sometimes it is supplemented with a "total number" of written words which hints to a bigger albeit still nondescript project. Some posts even have comments - mostly generic congratulations for "significant achievements".

If you want, you can deduce what kind of writing user performs by judging from the Reddit profile activity - but that is not exactly conclusive and rather stupid waste of time. Plain fantasizing on the possible context is much more intriguing.

In some way Wordcount is a piece of processual conceptual art - a collaborative affair in which community delivers dry and dire statistical numbers that make nothing except for documenting the number of written words. These numbers are just there for all to see and overthink.

Despite being a little less than nothing - Wordcount is incredibly engaging and somewhat addicting. Once you have started to post your own word counts - you are tempted to add more and more and more, you start looking at the other peoples word counts, comment them, engage in highly awkward generic conversations.

середа, 14 березня 2018 р.

MFT: Light Switch Twitterbot

It's always fun to experience a twitterbot. Sometimes it is just a stupid bingly-bing throwaway nil joke. Other times, it is enduring and engaging relationship to which you perpetually come back. Anyway, it is fascinating to observe different permutations and combinations of various words and images over long periods of time. It opens up new dimensions.

In every case - there is a lot chew. Because of that twitterbots are incredibly inspiring for me. They engage in a completely different, selfless kind of interaction - they show you something mildly unexpected out of absolutely ordinary. Some twitterbots go beyond that - to the very mundane.

Light Switch twitterbot is one of them. It was conceived in 2016 and ever since it was producing the most daring tweets that could be found on Twitter. Light Switch is self-describing kind of bot - there is nothing beyond. It is a bot that simply imitates operation of the light switch. Once in a while, no matter what. And nothing more.

There are two concepts in the heart of Light Switch Twitterbot. One is Marcel Duchamp's impish ready-mades. The other is Martin Creed's seminal "Work No. 227, The Lights Going On And Off" (which a slight elaboration upon ready-made concept). In some way, Light Switch can be viewed as riff or an adaptation of Creed's work.

Light Switch bot produces two kinds of tweets - either "on" or "off". While both are just the words - they have the concept behind them and you can't get away from it. The trick is simple: you can't help but tie "on" and "off" with the concept of light switch. This thing is instinctive. And so it all turns into imaginary light going on and off - imaginary space filled with light and plunged into darkness. It is a good exercise for imagination.

Light Switch is a celebration of the common mechanism that is used every day by everyone. It is disarming in its simplicity. The concept is displaced into words and confined in a completely different and unfitting realm while precisely replicating its original sequence. If you read this endless stream of "on"'s and "off"'s for a while - your head will start to look for something behind the world. Some kind of a diverting pattern, some form of a swing, a syncopation of sorts. That overthinking is the part of the bots operation. The gist of Light Switch is not the bot itself but happens in the head upon dealing with it.

There are over a thousand "on"'s and "off"'s and counting. It will go ad infinitum. It is beatiful.

вівторок, 13 березня 2018 р.

The story behind Scrambling "Euouae" you never knew you wanted to know

Every once in a while i have a need to do something extremely pointless. Something that makes so little sense that the fact of doing something so pointless sucks the mind into the negative zone and rolls it inside out upside down backwards with effervescent abominable ominous dubiousness.

It was a long time since i had this feeling. And it very nice to feel it once again. That was inspiring.

понеділок, 12 березня 2018 р.

MFT: Nothing on the Internet Browser Plugin

"Nothing on the Internet" is a browser plugin designed for Safari and Chrome browsers. It was developed by Joseph Ernst and Jan van Bruggen of Sideline Collective in late 2017. It is one of the conceptual browser plugins that is trying to make an existential statement.

The plugin is all about nothingness or if being exact lack of content. It presents this concept as "the most interesting thing on the internet" which is apparently all about content (insert Daniel Bryan "No! No! No!" chant), but it never goes beyond that. And that diminishes its initial impact to a null and void. There is no punchline in this plugin. It is a gimmick plugin, a mere publicity stunt. It turns an attempt of escape from information into a button mashing jest. But an idea is curious at the very least.

The plugin is very simple. All it does is an elaborate clean-up of a viewed page. It throws out the majority of visual elements seen on the page - the text, visuals (pictures, gifs, videos), ads and so on. and leaves barebones layouts of a page - vast spaces of nil. Just click the button and wipe it all out. With extreme prejudice, apparently.

If you try it on this blog - you will get a hard case of whiteout that will make Ed Brubacker proud. However, if you try it on Google image search or 9gag or Giphy or Tumblr Archive - you will get a fine collection of colourful blocks of various rectangular shapes.

In some way, it can be interpreted as a response to ever growing overconsumption of information without rhyme or reason and continuing overexposure to a warped and twisted reality of internet that seriously affects perception of reality and multiplies confusion and frustration. It is all too much (ta-dah, da), there must be some way out of it. "Nothing on the Internet" serves as a panic button, an AdBlock pushed to extreme, that makes it all go away for a moment. But not really.

Surfing on internet is extremely time-consuming and ultimately critically counterproductive thing. It renders users numb and unfocused, incapable of any substantially beneficial activity. Instead, users are treated like pawns in a grand game of manipulating opinions and perceptions for own good, generating web traffic and turning it into revenue. All while they are watched, dissected and segmented so that they could be presented with personalized packs of advertising content in order to manufacture impressions and clicks.

That wasn't what the Internet was about. As Wyatt said "We blew it".

неділя, 11 березня 2018 р.

MFT: "Ghost Ship" opening scene

This is an opening scene from a schlocky 2002 horror flick titled "Ghost Ship". In it you can see an ordinary evening ballroom dancing on a lavish cruise ship sometime in the middle of the 20th century.

It is all glossy glitter posh mosh pit: beautiful singer twists around the microphone being all sensual singing tender slowly swinging song while posh lads and gals in fancy cloth are circling around the square being full of themselves. They have all the time in the world and stuff. It is as kitschy as it gets - champaign all over the place, happy faces with diamonds, lipstick and snow white mile wide smiles, gloves to the elbows, beehive hairdo's. It can go anywhere from this setup.

In the middle of all of this - there is a lonely little girl who is definitely "lost" in some sense and got nothing else to do but be there. She plays with a scrabble puzzle or something. Some dude from the crew helps her to solve it. Then a singer calls out those who are not on the dancefloor and so the captain of the ship invites little girl for a dance. Everything is cool.

Then some mysterious hand pulls the trigger and some suspicious wire starts to strain. Something bad is going to happen. But no one notices that because the song is so sweet and everyone are caught in a moment of absolute idyll. To add a bit of a morbid irony - the credits font is ironically designed after toothless asinine saccharine melodramas of old - all pink and twirly.

And then the wire goes off.

And the next thing we see is the wire trembling covered in blood and people confused, frozen in shock - not understanding what just happened. Then blood starts dripping and people start to fall apart. Most of them are cut precisely in half. Except for a little girl who is just psychologically traumatized by that slaughter. Some got their arms slashed off. One got an upper part of his head cut off.

There are many neat details like hand holding a cigarette falling off, clothes falling off a man before he falls apart; pair frozen in a dance pose - lady's lower part falls down while her man holds her upper part; sewn off hand reaching upwards before finally falling down; woman trying to handle a situation by putting herself back together; captain's blank stare moments before his head goes off.

It is gruesome and legitimately shocking. This episode also happens to be the only good part of otherwise passable horror flick.

After such promising start it turns into by the numbers affair with middling script, nondescript characters, meandering pace and supreme lack of focus - sometimes it is a paranoia-driven thriller, then its impressionist gothic horror, then its slasher with a haunted house as a killer and its a boat. It is utterly frustrating.

But the opening scene is brilliant and with a little help of YouTube it turns into a thing of its own.

субота, 10 березня 2018 р.

BSPH: Iggy and the Stooges - Doojiman

"Doojiman" is a jam composition by seminal proto-punk outfit The Stooges. It was recorded in 1972 during the sessions for their third and final album "Raw Power". It was left out because it is more of an idea than an actual song - merely a raw sketch recorded for further development. For years it was gathering dust and then it was finally released in 2010 on a Deluxe reissue of "Raw Power".

"Doojiman" is a glorious example of The Stooges "duking it out". It is incredibly simplistic, even primitive tribal jam that pretends to merely meander but ultimately clumsily wreaks havoc all around and then does that elaborately "wink-wink". In some way - it is an glimpse into what Iggy Pop had envisioned The Stooges to be back in the late 60's - extremely loud, chaotic whiplash tornado of noise with a slight tint of Antonin Artaud's idea of cruelty. It is a blast of sound that goes through the listener, grinds his intestines and leaves him exhausted with a slight feeling of perplexity.

The composition starts with a swinging tribal beat that reminds me of Max Roach's beat on Sonny Rollins' "St. Thomas". It is playful but menacing. It wants listener to get lost in a gentle tender manner because it ain't going to settle into some kind of a pattern. Then comes James Williamson's guitar that churns angular bits of riff over and over again. Curiously - it never really develops into something - it stays a transition break that was misplaced into the spotlight. The riff circles around shell-shocked with a hollow tink. Coupled with the drumbeat it remind something perpetually falling down the stairs.

Iggy Pop goes full caliban on this track. He channels his inner Louis Armstrong, splices him with a Jim Morrison in shaman-mode and imagines a jump into the field of cactuses that turns out to be a swamp of quicksand. In result - he pulls dadaist / lettrist Little Richard and litters the song with wide array of erratic caveman scats. It is brutal. If you overthink it enough - there are lots of things that can be spotted. For example, Iggy Pop:

  • hollers,
  • shrieks, 
  • bellows,
  • squeaks, 
  • wails, 
  • roars,
  • howls,
  • groans,
  • bawls Mediterranean glossolalia,
  • evokes squalls of wind,
  • imitates blares of ire,
  • enacts blubber,
  • yowl yodels,
  • whoops random phonemes, 
  • does Mesopotamic drooling
  • cast makeshift spells,
  • cackles,
  • plays siren, 
  • says long "wow" loud and clear with feeling and echo, 
  • imitates chinese hysterical rambling that slowly morphs into mongolian, 
  • exclaims random snappy words (JAM! All right!), 
  • mumbles imaginary words that sounds African (just like Hugo Ball), 
  • does some Native American offensive phasing howls, 
  • some low Louis Armstrong do be do be do, 
  • does some Tibetan drones. 
The whole this is peppered with cascading feedback. It mostly acts like a tickling spook that walks around in a white veil with a nondescript grimace and menacing sound.

I have a soft spot for any song with abracadabragesang. Because it takes a gut and a whim to pull it off. Anyone can scat as a snobby jazz bollocksmeister - it is overused and stripped of its power. But trying to go beyond, leaving behind all preconceptions and ultimately enacting your own "Dawn of Men" moment - is something worthy even if it happened absolutely accidentally.

Endlessly fascinating Mindhunter Overkill...

Sometimes the best thing about a particular work of art is the title. It is easy to understand the reason why. Because that part is usually ...