Hello and welcome to my Progress report of February and March 2019. I decided to combine both months into one post because:
In any case, here’s the post! Don’t forget about the accompanying playlist on YouTube. As always, email me at: moc tod liamg ta tiripsdniweno
A lot to report this round. Website and animation work, mostly. Lately, I’ve been feeling the drive to go back to the drawing board, so to speak. I usually cycle through periods of writing and planning, then sort of mindlessly plugging away at an animation until the idea is realized, I’m sick of the project, or I hit a deadline. I definitely prefer the planning phase, but I find it hard to come up with ideas when I’m exhausted from work or just generally despondent.
I spent some time in February working on this site. Mostly fleshing out the homepage and adding a menu bar at the top of the pages. I added a few more style sheets, a project tab, about, etc. Check it out if you’re feeling curious. I still have some more work I want to do, but I’m feeling better about the general look of this zone.
I created a YouTube account for hosting animations and possibly some tutorial videos down the line. I’ve also really been enjoying DeviantArt lately. An older (preferable) version of social media. It’s fun to post little throw away images and stories; feels way different than instagram. I’m sick of the infinite scroll.
I had two screenings of the same cartoon between February and March. The video, City Mirror, has a page here and is also up on YouTube. I was thinking a lot about Dallas, the music and video game industries that still kind of haunt my memories of that city. More importantly, I actually outsourced the music from my friend Sam Garrett. It was a blast working with him and his music totally heightens the video. Sound is the thing I’ve struggled with the most in the past so it felt great to pass it off to someone I trust.
All that being said, and while I feel like the cartoon was successful, I really hit my limit with 3DS, VRay, and rendering in general. I’m so frustrated by what has been my process for the past 3-4 years, at least with the animation/rendering portion. It takes so long to make anything and the rendering process is always stressful. In the end, things rarely look the way I want them to. I also have been feeling like I’m wasting my resources as well. The reason I made the jump from static, single rendered images to short cartoons was because I felt like I was wasting a lot of work for just one frame. Between the rendering frustrations, the cost, and this fact, the next thing I want to make is a game. I would get real-time rendering feedback, and Unity is free. I’ve been looking into this a lot lately. Expect more info soon.
A number of art world things occurred these months, but I will only write about two here. Besides the two screenings I took part of, we hosted a couple of events in March. It feels good to have more shows in the space.
SPRING EQUINOX SHOW A potluck transitioned into a show. My first time running sound for a show. It went well, but my friend Paul had to step in to help balance a couple of times. My favorite act was Michelle Luong, who read poems and played her guzheng. Extremely moving.
WILL'S CLOCK My friend Will (Lorre-Mill) made me this clock. The different segments of the LED digits fade in and out at random rates. Beautiful and generous gift. The digits came from my dad’s junk box; donated to Will many years ago.
FORGOTTEN HISTORIES I’ve been having a lot of fun tooling around itch.io. I really like the way their Game Jam calendar works. Anyways, I found this jam via Zoë Sparks’s Twitter. I’m a total sucker for this type of online content. Highlights are:
A CURIOUS DREAM Adrian sent this to me. He accidentally found it while searching for the source of a sample used in a Takako Minekawa song. Obviously the dead site of an artist or playwrite. In any case, I really like his work; definitely worth some exploration. A taste:
If you’ve ever lived in swerves or boxes you’ll know that
New York’s a grid
On one side of the stage, London rears up on its hind legs, clanging Big Ben and unleashing flocks of pigeons and ravens from Trafalgar and the Tower.
On the other side of the stage, New York sizzles through the wall, loaded with taxi drivers and mosquito repellant and firemen.
London and New York charge at Baron Sackpig like the bad guys in a Power Rangers episode.
New York’s a grid!
They fight. The Baron battles them away with his claymore and a butterfly knife. The combatents pause for breath, regaining their strength.
Bombay’s a grid.
From up and downstage, Bombay and Delhi burst into action. A swinging jazz number pops into life, possibly the Royal Crown Revue’s “Hey Pachuco”. All four cities fight Baron Sackpig. He holds them all off. Whenever New York gets too close the music turns into a shitty techno remix.
Bombay’s a grid
One by one the Baron kills the cities. Delhi is last.
The sun doesn’t rise here in the morning. It just snaps into being at midday directly overhead and it doesn’t move for twelve hours until at midnight it disappears.
I never saw a shadow move in
Bombay’s a grid. The water out there is flat all the way to the horizon. They cut yellow stone out of the mountain.
The Baron hugs Delhi to him, kisses it gently on the cheek and slits its throat.
They cut the mountain into a huge maze with high yellow walls and at night they burned the forests that used to grow on it.
The Baron plucks out two of Delhi’s teeth and sprinkles rolling tobacco around them in a circle. He lights the little bushy circle on fire. The two teeth are Martha and Bones. They are talking but they can’t make sense of each other.
CALIFORNIA HERPS Insane pre-wikipedia list-of-lists of movies containing snakes, amphibians, various herps. Categories include “Snakes used as weapons”, “Throwing and whipping snakes”, “Snake people”, etc. We found this one night Googling for a half-remembered snake movie from Sam’s childhood. God Bless California Herps for providing the answer.
SPACE INVADERS PINBALL My pinball aficionado coworker Jon introduced me to this amazing Alien rip off pinball cabinet. It looks incredible, and from scant research seems to have some associated comic that implies the pinball cabinets are in fact the actual Space Invaders themselves. Bone chilling.
TOBAL NO. 1 PS1 fighting game with Akira Toriyama character designs. Would be pretty run of the mill, if not for a bizarrely ambitious dungeon crawler quest mode. The thing that really threw me is that there’s no inventory system. The player can hold two objects - one in each hand. To dispose of the potions/heath items/whatever you have to throw them at enemies or at tiles of different colors. Some tiles return currency for the disposed of items, some act as a trash can, some as a store. Decisions like this, certainly based on limited resources or unideal engines are really satisfying to me.
PUPPETLAND RPG Pen-and-paper RPG described to me by the above-mentioned coworker Jon. The background story describes involves a Gepetto godhead figure being dismembered by his animate puppet creation. The Gepetto is torn asunder with each of his limbs becoming some sort of puppet horseman of the apocalypse. Definitely a specific vibe. Recently back in my memory because it looks like a recent Kickstarter campaign was a success.
BALLS WITH FEET/HARMONY ZONE A bunch of good thoughts and articles on this website of this game dev. The same individual who contributed Dictionary to the Known World. Not much to say; a lot of kindred thought here.
Not a ton to report here. As stated above, I’m mostly just frustrated by my current tools and workflow. Feeling the need to “get back to basics”.
PHOENIX FD Premium particle sim I’ve been using for a while. Pretty easy to use right out of the box. Tends to bite me in the ass i.e. render time, though. In any case this blog is good look look at, some really pleasing demos on here.
WEBGL/BABYLON Earlier this year I wrote a bit about the .gltf file format and Draco compression. Since then, I’ve been reading more about 3D support on the internet, PBR materials, Babylon, etc. I have yet to employ 3d models on this site, but expect some soon.
Only one podcast to mention this time, and it comes with a huge caveat. Tread with caution...
DRIFTER’S SYMPATHY Podcast hosted by a very knowledgeable (and smug) musician man Emil Amos. He is the current drummer of OM and has many other side projects and a solo career, but none of his music is terribly interesting to me. The podcast has two types of episodes: those concerned with Emil’s personal life and times in the indie rock scene, and episodes marked with *’s, where he talks about specific genres and periods of music. He plays samples and makes suggestions; I definitely think these are these episodes are worth some attention if you haven’t already been completely turned off. Someone on Reddit also compiled a list of most of the songs played on his podcast, so you can definitely start here. If any of those links sound interesting to you, only then I would suggest digging into the show.
A lot of Semiotex(e) books this time around. I finally finished my inherited collection. While I definitely value the more recently published of the intervention series, a lot of them are not visceral enough for me. I read four of them over February and March, but only one bares mention here.
Are You Working Too Much? Post-Fordism, Precarity, and the Labor of Art e-flux journal Another book inherited by a Baltimore escapee. A range of qualities of essays in this older book. A couple of gems. The standout for me was Lars Bang Larsen’s Zombies of Immaterial Labor: The Modern Monster and the Death of Death. Examines the supposed obsession with ghosts in Marx and Marxism. Spectres of Marx, whither Marxism, etc. Connections to the Gothic.
When Adam Smith invoked the moral operations of the “invisible hand of the market”, he had something else in mind than an integrated world that recalls Freud’s unheimlich: “Severed limbs, a severed head, a hand detached from the arm, feet that dance by themselves - all of those have something highly uncanny about them, especially when they are credited with independent activity.” Under the globalized reinforcement of capital, the independent activity of ghost limbs is increasingly only apparent, yet no les gratuitous and unsettling.”
Once it becomes clear that Marxist ghost-hunting is already corrupted by a Gothic impulse, it allows for a reconstruction of Marxist critique; a new “spirit of Marx,” as discussed by Derrida. In terms of traditional aesthetic hierarchies, the Gothic definitely belongs amongst the underdogs of genres, to the embarrassing aesthetic proletariat. Maybe this is what spoke through Marx, like spirits inhabiting a medium, and helped shaped his formidable literary intuition?
Whites, Jews, and Us by Houria Bouteldja The edgy title kept me from checking this one out earlier but the content is pretty rad. Bouteldja finds and examines situations where certain figures that some might consider quite sacred (James Baldwin, Sartre, Malcolm X) speak on areas in class, race, gender in ways one might not expect. Sometimes they come off looking messy, other times it turns out pretty cool. Bouteldja spends a lot of time on a conversation between James Baldwin and Audre Lorde that’s pretty crazy. The two trade barbs I wouldn’t have really expected. From a different chapter, I highlighted this section:
Let’s adopt the point of view of the Native Americans. What do they say? Contrary to the white Lefts, which explain the world through what they call the capitalist expansion of Europe toward the Americas, Native Americans say that it is not only an economic system that came crashing down on them, but a globalism characterized by capital, colonial domination, the modern state, and the ethical system which accompanies it, which is to say, a religion, a culture and a language. In other words, in 1492, what was imposed in the Americas was less an economic system than a civilization: Modernity. They say: capitalist expansion therefore class struggle; we answer: colonial expansion therefore racial struggle.
Not a ton of musical insights to report this time around. I’ve just been seeking out digestible, repetitive music to have on the background while reading or writing. I since I’ve been going to the gym lately, I’ve been desperate to find a source of good music to listen to while running on the treadmill. Still currently at a loss; write in if you have any leads!
MAGICAL MYSTERY MIX Found this channel from a podcast. I don’t really have too much to add to the convo. Catchy nerdy crowd pleasers. Embedded below is my favorite so far:
EX-TERRESTRIAL/PACIFIC RHYTHM I hit a vein of nerdy vintage house acts on Soundcloud and while I’m still puzzling through the overall value of performers/scenes like this, for the time being I’m enjoying myself.
A lot of quality movies over these two months. The meat of this report. Stewart Gordon and Brian Yuzna continue to provide both chills and thrills.
SOCIETY The perfect movie? Directed by Yuzna. I won’t say any more other than go watch it if you’re at all into horror movies, Cronenberg, whatever. Don’t even watch the trailer...
CASTLE FREAK Somber Stuart Gordon movie starring Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton. Really good monster and setting, though the movie isn’t campy or funny like other Gordon efforts. I was in genuine awe at the end of the movie; way grimmer and grittier than I had expected.
FORTRESS Another Stuart Gordon piece. This time it's a flashy 80’s dystopian spectacle. Robocop levels of political satire about the prison industrial complex. If you can stomach 80’s cartoon violence, definitely check this out.
SPAWN Here in Baltimore, we all love Spawn. I rewatched this movie for the first time since high school with a big group. All of us only really had brief flashes to rely upon. Spawn all burnt up and hiding in the bushes while spying on his daughter’s birthday party. A CGI hellscape populated by hundreds of cheering Spawn clones. I remember watching this on some old pirate stream late on a Friday night back home in Dallas. Towards the end of the movie my mom came into my room and told me she had to show me something. It was probably 3:00 AM. She led me to the entryway of her house where we watched pickup truck after pickup truck of dudes from the rich high school show up to the neighbor’s house with bags of garbage and toilet paper. They were mercilessly wrapping and scattering trash around her house (a girl I didn’t know from the rich high school). After we marveled at it for a few moments, I think my mom realized how fucked up this was, and went outside and scared all the boys away. The next day a bunch of boys (not sure if it was the same group) showed up and helped clean.
DEMONS 2 Not a lot to report here. Standard zombie-ish Italian horror set in a 1980’s version of a hightech high rise apartment complex. There is one shot of a bunch of the glowing eyed zombie creatures peering down from the very top of a tall concrete stairwell that pretty much sold the whole thing.
FAUST: LOVE OF THE DAMNED Essentially a Spawn knockoff based on the black and white comic of the same name (though the comic predates Spawn). Also directed by Brian Yuzna. Pretty embarrassing effort, to be honest, but there are some interesting moments.
BEYOND BELIEF: FACT OR FICTION I love Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction. I have less to say about other areas these past two months because I’ve been watching so much of this show. It’s an anthology of dramatic reenactments from the late 90’s; the gimmick is that a certain amount of the stories per episodes are “based on true events” and some are “made up by writers”. At the end of the episode, Riker tells you which is which, but does not provide any amount of elaboration. What really kills me is how much contempt Riker seems to have for writers and fiction. He usually describes the “fake” stories as things like “a tangled web of lies” or “a trick our writers are pulling”. A lot of stories deal with a ghost helping their relatives through a financial situation.
BLOOD DOLLS Insane Full Moon Videos feature from 1999. I started this alone as self-flagellation, but immediately had to stop it because it was too good to watch alone. Jaw Dropping soundtrack. The movie is about a genetic experiment turned crazed billionaire who tortures an opposing faction of billionaires with some crazy doll creations. There’s a romance hinging on a mutual love of a (fictional) radical French philosopher. I highly suggest this movie.
A lot of dreams concerning warehouse living lately. Vacuous halls of drywall give way to new wings and chambers in the space. One night, my cat Wendy was still alive and living with a touring band backstage.
One dream involved a half-remembered dream-exclusive pre-Google feature of YouTube. In the past (remember, this is dream only) YouTube had a feature wherein you could pause a video and spin around in panoramia sort of like Google Street View. Various ARG and metafictional channels would use this feature to encode cryptic clues. I found a vein of old videos shot in the Floristree that involved a romantic subplot between one of my roommates and a mob wife. There was also a Floristree webcomic I found, also. While I was laying in bed remembering these internet artifacts (bare in mind, this is all a dream) a small, shrouded figure burst into my room and slammed a mason jar of water in front of a large painting (done by my friend Audrey) that I have hung in my room. While the figure swayed in front of the painting I layed paralyzed in my bed. I’m no stranger to sleep paralysis, but the tension here resided in my understanding that closing my eyes and controlling my breathing would allow me to wake up, but I was too afraid to take my eyes off of the figure.
A lot of jokes about cars, and wanting to be a car this season. Beep beep, go away.