Welcome to my progress report for January. I spent most of the month on furlough during the government shutdown. A scary and shameful scenario, but I managed to get a lot of animation work done. Also due to the furlough and the subsequent lack of commute I read less and listened to less podcasts. As a result, there’s no podcast section this time. The volume of the book section is also greatly reduced. I talked to my oldest friend Noam a lot this month. We both had more idle time at the computer, so we messaged back and forth a great deal. As such, a lot of the recommendations this time come from him. There’s still more music he’s sent me that I haven’t gotten to yet. More to come next month.
As always the email is moc tod liamg ta tiripsdniweno
There’s also an accompanying YouTube playlist. Includes the videos embedded below, plust some bonus content, if you dare follow the link.
As stated above, I had a lot more free time this month to spend on animation work. The government shutdown was and continues to be very messed up. I felt really bad for my coworkers with more financial responsibilities and I’m definitely feeling the crunch now that I’m back. The situation outside of my direct sphere is also super shameful, stupid, and sad.
I feel bad admitting that I enjoyed my time off. A lot of things feel clearer in terms of animation and art work now. A long time ago, I moved away from doing static renders because I felt like I was wasting all the resources and infrastructure inherent to 3d modeling and animation programs. I’m feeling the same way now with the discrete, short animations I’ve been making for some time. What’s the next step? Make a video game?
I was invited to show a short work as a part of a screening here in Baltimore at the beginning of March. Cynically, I decided to use this opportunity to put together a sort of reel. I’ve been thinking about my hometown a lot lately. I’m making a handful of short, disconnected scenes - all concerned with Dallas. The working title is Mirror City, referencing the reflective buildings that comprise the Dallas skyline. Here are some frames for your purview:
I also made a DeviantArt account that I’ve been updating infrequently. I uploaded some Photoshop collages Adrian and I made in 2015 as well as some more recent things I’ve been working on.
Lex Brown: Animal Static @ the Kitchen I’ve been a fan of Lex’s work for a while now, and had the pleasure of making her acquaintance last year for the Get Your Life! Opening at the Baltimore Museum of Art. Lex is a very kind and talented person. I felt really lucky to be able to go to the opening. There are a couple projections of funny and good videos. Definitely a lot of kindred thought with the GYL! Stuff. All the projections are in some way affected by motion detectors embedded in the walls. It’s hard to tell exactly what the motion detectors control, but there are some videos that you can’t just sit still in front of. I really like this sort of sneaky detail.
Daniel from SL Adrian showed me these videos. Essentially prank calls but on Second Life and Garry's Mod. A lot of them are too cruel for my tastes. I don’t like the ones where he destroys people’s Second Life worlds. This one, however, is really good. He invents a funny theme park that dissolves into an eternal nightmare for the players. They’re often so invested in solving the logic of the place that they miss the obvious signs that it’s all a massive prank.
Ulillillia A truly remarkable individual. A game designer and life blogger type from a bygone era. I remember seeing a lot of Ulillillia’s content a long time ago; and for some reason I wanted to reminisce this month. His website is breathtaking. A lot of dream recollections and animated gifs. He seems to be very concerned with gliding infinitely and wading in shallows of mud. He also self-published a novel (see the books section for my take).
It seems as though he’s retired from the internet - probably for the best. His website is still accessible via the Internet Archive, and most of his videos have been reupped by third parties. Be warned: a lot of the videos are editorialized in derogatory ways.
At some point there was also a documentary being made about him, but it’s been five years with no update. I would love to see the footage in any form.
Below are some of my favorite images and animations of his, linked to their source:
Wind Chime Designer Noam sent me this program for simulating wind chimes. It's fun to mess around with and make crazy tones.
Daz 3D Free 3D suite with a robust video-gamey character creation plugin. It’s really useful for generating human figures. They can be easily converted for more universal use through Motionbuilder following this tutorial:
Legend of the 10 Elemental Masters by Nick Smith (aka “Ulillillia”) This book was really, really interesting and inspiring. Just look at the cover:
In the forward, Ulillillia explains how long the book took him to write and how many drafts and iterations he’d gone through. Because of this, I was expecting a serious, large-scale fantasy story. Instead, the book is really lighthearted and charming. I can’t imagine that some of the ideas and sequences were intended to be taken completely at face-value.
The plot follows an immortal alien sorcerer named Knuckles who is constantly showing off his amazing powers. He’s followed by two human children as he attempts to take down a powerful fugitive from the distant future.
Everything in the book is described in great detail with a huge emphasis on numerical values and quantities. The brightness of lights in rooms are described in lumens, character’s movements are always expressed in mph, and all the colors have a hex code associated with them. Every action is explained in JPRG terms. There’s definitely an imaginary game engine running behind the book.
Transcribed below is my favorite moment from the book. The protagonists are taking a break from the action at Pizza Hut, and the antagonist just starts passive aggressively fucking with them from the parking lot. The book is still available, if you’re at all curious I would highly recommend supporting him by purchasing either the print or ereader version.
Waitress: So that’s two thin-crust medium pizzas. One is cheese and one is pepperoni with an extra topping of pepperoni. For drinks I have Mountain Dew, Sprite, and water.
Tu: Oh, no frozen water, ice, with my water, please.
The waitress leaves to go back to the kitchen.
Suddenly, out of nowhere, Ivan spots a large pile of random cars stacked in the ditch where seven cars are stacked, forming a partial pyramid with four on the bottom and decreasing by one each step. Crossing the frontage road and two lanes of the four-laned highway is a red 1992 Ford truck hovering in mid-air ten feet above the ground going ten mph, as if being haled by an invisible crane at a junk yard. When the truck lands, a 1989 Buick is lifted out of the Pizza Hut’s parking lot and is moved over to the pile as well. No one is inside any of these cars.
Ivan: (sees the cars; confused) No how can cars hover in the air without a crane? That’s strange.
Knuckles looks out the window and sees the cars moving.
Knuckles: Huh? Is that you Seth King? (one-second pause) No response, but I can sense his black dot.
Ivan: Why is Seth King doing that?
Knuckles: I don’t know, but it's probably to grab my attention. No one is inside any of the cars but the fix is easy.
Knuckles casts teleport. The cards reappear in their original locations, including the one in mid air. Five cars appear in in the Pizza Hut parking lot and three appear by adjacent buildings. A cure spell follows. Green numbers popp out and range from 1700 to 3900, increasing with mass (double means double). The cure spell’s effects play at the same time - one sparkle each.
Seth King: You better hurry! Seventy minutes remain! I’ve set numerous traps at my house. Have fun with them!
After a five-second pause, two robbers wearing ski masks and gloves enter the store armed with metallic baseball bats. They demand cash from the register using a typewritten note. At this moment, Knuckles casts “glue” on them and become statues, unable to move. A gray “1 immobilized” pops out.
Knuckles: Don’t worry about them, I’ve got it under control.
A half second later, a green “immobilized” and “carmed” pop out. Knuckles casts teleport and they disappear before moving.
Knuckles: I’ve teleported them to jail so he’s not a threat anymore
Waitress: Thanks for protecting us and the store.
A red “missed!” pops out of Knuckles. A red “immune” pops out of him a quarter second later. After another quarter second, one of the waiters, attending to a couple, suddenly falls, as if having cardiac arrest. A gray “3 cardiac arrest” pops out of the waiter.
Knuckles: Stop it Seth King!
Knuckles casts “heal 11” on the fallen waiter. A brief-case-like first aid kit 18 inches long by 12 inches tall and 3 inches deep fades on over the waiter in a half second. In red, and centered, “first aid kit” is written above a “plus” sign. After a half second, the kit opens in a half second revealing various things found in first-aid kits like band-aids and various medications. The kit remains open for one second and fades away in a half second. When the spell’s effects start, a green “cardiac arrest” and “flu” pop out of the waiter and he gets up as if nothing happened. Knuckles casts “cure” on the waiter. A green “257” pops out.
Knuckles: You aren’t going to fool me Seth King!
Seth King: (mad) That does it! I’ll add a trap you’ll just love to be in, three actually! Good bye forever! Ha, ha!
Knuckles: Well, he left.
Waiter: What was that about?
Knuckles: He’s just some highly advanced criminal from the distant future wrecking the present named Seth King that I’m about to get. He’s causing a lot of mayhem but always underestimates me.
Waiter: He sounds scary, but good thing you were around.
Fifty minutes pass. The pizzas, except for a slice of cheese pizza, are eaten. A pile of napkins with soaked up grease on them (from fat) by Ivan an inch tall is on a plate. The waitress is walking to the group. The place is now busy with customers.
Feelings Are Facts: A Life by Yvonne Rainer YR’s autobiography. Lately modern dance has been coming up a lot, it seems. The MoMA’s Judson Church Group show, the Suspiria remake, and this book, which I noticed at the PS1 bookstore a few months ago. I’ve looked up to Yvonne Rainer for a while now, but to be completely honest the only thing I was really familiar with was her NO Manifesto and the work directly surrounding it (Trio A and Rainer Variations). The book is good, but (justifiably) indulgent. It covers her childhood through 1976ish, and is mostly about personal things, fucking, getting sick, shitting, etc. She only really talks about her work in the last two chapters and the epilogue. Here is the sole reference to the NO Manifesto in the book:
That infamous “NO manifesto” has dogged my heels ever since it was first published. Every dance critic who has ever come near my career has dragged it out, usually with a concomitant tisk-tsk. The only reason I am resurrecting it here is to put it in context as a provocation that originated in a particular piece of work. It was never meant to be prescriptive for all of time for all choreographers, but rather, to do what the time honored tradition of the manifesto always intended to do: clear the air at a particular cultural and historical moment. I hope that someday mien will be laid to rest.
The best part of the book to me was the amazing photos. The print quality of the book is really high, though there are some really unforgivable mistakes with the text. I don’t even think I can call them typos - there are entire repeated paragraphs and pages missing. Anyways, I scanned in a couple of the good photos from the book:
Jun Togawa+Vampillia For her 35th anniversary in 2016, Jun Togawa collaborated with the orchestral metal band Vampilla. The album, Watashi Ga Nakou Hototogisu (I Will Sing Like a Cuckoo), contains nine self-covers and one original song. I’m really into the novelty aspect of hearing these songs again with new arrangements and instruments, but in almost every case I prefer the original. Not recommended for an inductee, but if you’re already familiar with Togawa’s work, give it a go. Also, Yoshihiro Togashi (Hunter x Hunter) cut two promo illustrations that are fantastic:
Here’s Togawa’s original Men’s Junan next to the cover:
Sonido Franko Before I recommended Joseph Franco’s blog Super Sonido last month, I reached out to him via email to make sure it was ok to share his collection. He gave the go-ahead, and sent along this recent mix. Super sweet!
Pakito: Living OnThis song is on a trance compilation CD in Kodi’s car. I really like daydreaming choreography for it.
Intruder Barebones 80’s slasher movie bottled in a grocery store after hours. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this movie. It uses the set piece really well and doesn’t indulge in the exploitive trappings of the genre. Bruce Campbell and both Sam and Ted Raimi cameo. The effects staff must have been really into making fake heads as almost every kill is centered around heads. There’s an amazing shot that looms on this super detailed back-of-the-throat of a screaming latex head. I love these kinds of effects; super detailed without being accurate at all.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 This movie is notorious and I definitely should have seen it years earlier. Lives up to the hype. Amazing subterranean torture garden sets. It’s set in Dallas during Texas/OU Weekend and made me weirdly homesick.
Escape Room I saw this in the theater in Union Square because I had to kill some time waiting to meet up with a couple of friends. It was exactly what I wanted. Essentially a PG13 Saw, but there’s an amazing drug trip scene that really sells the whole thing.
Gotti John Travolta stars in a bizarre gangster movie that feels like it was written by a computer. All the performances are insane. It’s worth checking out for this really amazing block party scene alone.
I talked to my friends Kodi and Adrian a lot this month about maps, geography, and memory palaces. Kodi moved around a lot growing up, and believes that lack of identity or bond with those places is diminishing her memories (I hope I’m getting this right; apologies if I’ve misinterpreted anything).
Adrian described his memory palace to me when I told him about that conversation with Kodi. He describes it as a flat plane littered with shallow impressions. In each impression is an object. I remember reading this interview with the cartoonist Tom Scioli a while back. He states that imaginary maps (like those found in the front or back of fantasy novels) are the story themselves. He says that comic books are maps, or that maps are comics and I agree. He also talks about a concept in an old Jack Kirby comic known as the Worlogog. I don’t want to go deep into comics talk here, but trust me, its really cool.