PROGRESS REPORT 2018

Hello! This is a big list of things I found important or influential in 2018. Earlier this week I came across the artist Zoë Sparks, who writes and publishes comprehensive Work and Experience Digests semi-regularly on her Patreon. She provides a sample one here. I also found the blog of my friend Will Schorre, of which I was previously unaware. My friend Kodi Fabricant has also been releasing newsletters via email with a similar purpose. I found all of these efforts extremely altruistic, intriguing, and useful. This is my attempt to do the same with my own notes and research.

Right now, I’m visiting family in Texas. With the downtime that affords, I’ve been sorting through my journal and Google Drive. Below is some short descriptions of various projects started or completed in 2018; even further down is a some lists of media that left an impression on me, also in 2018. At the very bottom is some life experience descriptions, notes, and dream recollections for the deep heads.

Ideally I will release monthly (shorter) versions of these Progress Reports throughout 2019. Any questions or comments can be emailed to:

onewindspirit at gmail dot com (written out as to prevent bot harassment).

THABKSN!

Max

TABLE OF CONTENTS

WORK REPORT

I started and finished two cartoons this year. The first, Catoctin Mountain, was made for Freak Noir II, a night of performances and screenings initially slotted at my studio, The Freak Room, but we were evicted before the scheduled date (more on that in the Journal Report). The event ended up happening at another location, probably for the better. It was pretty well attended and most of the other acts were good. I’m not sure if there’s any official source for documentation, but here is the flyer for the event:

Freak Noir II Flyer

Catoctin Mountain is my favorite thing I’ve ever made. While I wouldn’t say I’m 100% happy with how it turned out, it’s definitely stronger than other cartoon I’ve made. This was the first thing I’ve made with dialogue, lovingly voice acted by my friend Audrey Gair. I have two notes saved in my phone which sum up the basis for the video:

In the future, young creatives live in cult compounds, boats, bomb shelters, etc. in permanent residencies (urban expansion meets rising sea levels).
Hauntings from modern day anxieties (failing as an actor and becoming a faith healer on Venice beach before getting hit by a runaway Amtrak train) (having a conservative child).

And a summary from the treatment:

A young woman sequestered in a remote cabin is visited by a ragged skeletal figure. The figure makes abstract promises to the woman, hoping to be invited inside. The promises change into contrived, impassioned gestures, then peculiar threats as the woman becomes more explicit in her attempts to ignore the visitor. Eventually, after the woman falls asleep, the visitor shuffles off reluctantly and collapses under a hollow tree.

This video featured a lot of ripped assets from various Resident Evil games. This is something I was used to doing, and decided not to do anymore. It was too much effort for not a good enough reason. I did get a strong response for using the default biped skeleton as the primary antagonist, Stone. Going forward, this is something I’m going to lean into.

I want to remake this cartoon using some things I’ve learned since making it. For instance, I rendered the whole thing using Mental Ray, which has since been retired by Autodesk. If you’re curious, I’ve posted it here on YouTube, as an unlisted video:

The other cartoon I made was for one of the New Works screenings at the Red Room, a long-standing venue in the back of Normals Book & Records here in Baltimore. I’m much less proud of this one. It’s called The Body Saver; referencing the Anne Rice novel The Body Thief, the video game Snatcher, and a misnomer of the phrase Jesus is my lord and savior. I tried to use the Arnold renderer that comes packaged with 3d Studio Max (my 3d animation program of choice) and the learning curve is steep. I had saved money hoping to use a render farm to get everything finished on time, but at the last minute found that no third party render farm supports Arnold. As a result, the final product was pretty rushed. I also think the story is a little boring. From the treatment:

An undead maker named Monica lies motionless in a field of grass. She inhales. Her face is turned to the camera. She is wearing a painted Venetian mask, hoodie, shorts, long socks and combat boots. Her exposed legs are covered in scars and multi-colored bandaids. Several monarch butterflies have gathered on her face. Monica lies motionless in the tall grass and tells the audience about her predicament.

The only thing I really like about this cartoon is the scene when Monica attempts to FaceTime with her friend Mike, who is melting a Joker mask on a stick over a spit of lava. The scene is based on this Photoshop collage I did with my friend Adrian a number of years ago. One of the hardest I’ve ever laughed was when we put the image of the muppet in the top corner:

Body Saver Screenshot Cool Head 2

Here’s the video in case you’re curious:

I also made the title and intro for my friend Corey Hughes’ short film My Expanded View. It was a really fun project and the film’s been screened a bunch. Check it out here.

I’ve started a few other projects, but will wait for a future report as they aren’t done. I also want to talk about the success I’ve had using in-depth spreadsheets to track work, but this section is already running too long.

ART

I was privy to a lot of great art-world stuff this year. Mostly from my friends. I’m certainly missing a few, but here are some highlights, in chronological order (when they occured or when I first encountered them):

New Museum Triennial I heard mixed-to-negative reviews of this show, but I didn’t mind it. Maybe because I work for a museum now and don’t have to pay for a ticket my expectations can be lower. In any case, most of the show was forgettable; it certainly does not hold a candle to Trigger from last year. I really liked the animated piece Pool Party Pilot Episode by Hardeep Pandhal - a Flash-style muttered music video featuring an almost imperceptibly dense landscape of crucial images and funny lines:

Horse People My friend Lindsey Griffith had her final thesis show for her grad program this year. It was a one-woman show called Horse People that I thought was really solid. It portrays generations of inherited trauma in a glib and funny way.

Shorts: I Spit on your Shorts @ MDff I went to a screening of shorts at the Maryland Film Festival because the film I worked on for my friend Corey was one of the featured shorts. I didn’t really like most of the shorts but there were two that really stood out to me:

Charles Atlas Retro @ The Kitchen I really wish I had spent more time at this show. A ton of the videos featured people like Michael Clark, Yvonne Rainer, Leigh Bowery, The Fall, Eileen Myles, etc. Seeing all of these people who were independently so influential collaborating was insanely inspirational.

Reza Abdoh Retro @ MoMA PS1 Before I saw this show, I hadn’t heard of Reza Abdoh. The work is really intense; it’s kind of hard to articulate anything other than that I think it’s really good. The final room is just a theater screening documentation of his play The Boogeyman, which I really liked. The whole thing is on vimeo. I think it’s worth watching, but there’s a lot of violent and offensive content that definitely would not fly nowadays. Keep that in mind if you decide to check it out. My favorite part was when the whole cast sang an original song about weeping:

Sondra Perry Typhoon Coming On @ ICA Miami I’ve been a really big fan of Sondra Perry after seeing her piece at PS1 in 2016. I had already purchased the exhibition catalog for this show before I actually saw it. The show is really good; and really similar to her show at the Kitchen from last year. Collected in the exhibition catalog is a zine originally produced for the Kitchen show which has some great essays in it.

One of the pieces also features the viral clip of Baltimore activist Kwame Rose confronting Geraldo Rivera during the Uprising. This clip was presented pretty much unaltered in the Kitchen show, however in the ICA the footage and likenesses of both Kwame and Geraldo Rivera were heavily datamoshed and obscured. Both versions of the piece felt exceptionally strange to see, as I was present in Baltimore during the Uprising. I’m not sure what was going on behind-the-scenes, if anything, to necessitate obscuring the footage, but I thought it was worth noting.

The Plumbing Tree @ Highways Performance Space in LA This was a really big deal and I’m really lucky I got to see it. I was in town visiting my sister for her birthday the same weekend as this play by Medium Judith, a playwriting duo that originated in Baltimore. I won’t say too much besides that I really enjoyed the play. Another friend of mine, Julia Yerger, played the part of Jodi, an alt-right tween in a pilgrim costume, and totally stole the show. I have more to say, but there’s a video of the whole show and I wouldn’t want to spoil anything.

Commons Collaboration Get Your Life! @ the Baltimore Museum of Art This was the highlight of my year. GYL! Is a youth-led production company that my friend Lee has been heading off since 2013. I lived with Lee throughout the duration of the project, and seeing the specific objects and logics I’m used to just existing in our home and cars in the museum space was really moving. The opening weekend and after party were also amazing. I highly suggest checking out the show if you’re in Baltimore over the next year. Here’s a video that’s on display (I did the score and animation):

Bidoun Mix 5: Meriem BennaniThis mix and the accompanying interview with Meriem Bennani is really great. I’ve really liked the past works by her that I’ve seen and I’m really excited for her latest video Party on the CAPS. Obviously she’s on a whole other level, but I feel there’s definitely some kindred thought (throwing a party so that you can film a party; djing sound effects ripped off of YouTube).

Lorre-Mill Lorre-Mill is the synthesiser company of my friend Will Schorre. He’s been doing it for a while, but I recently dusted off a prototype Double Knot he very generously gifted me a couple years ago. His website and blog are very nice. I think that this post in particular best illuminates the Lorre-Mill/Will Schorre ethos.

Cicada Marionette/Lily Zone I first came across Lily Zone’s game Crypt Worlds: Your Darkest Desires Come True in 2014. I’ve thought about it a lot since then but never really checked back in with her work until I had a recent conversation with a friend who is working on her own video game. After peeking around on the internet, I’ve been totally floored by what’s come since, and before. The dialogue in all of Zone’s work has this capricious, fatalistic tone that’s reminiscent of some bygone internet era. Her work also reminds me of some of my favorite comics, namely the work of my friend Noel Freibert. It’s really rare that I find work in any media that resonates with my sensibilities so hard. Here’s an example:

Zoë Sparks A frequent collaborator of Lily Zone, I found Zoë’s work immediately after dipping back into Zone’s internet presence. Among other things, Sparks makes really nice music and some really sick utility programs and csound instruments. There’s also some really well done YouTube playlists that remind me of a whole dimension of videos I had sort of forgotten about. I subscribed to her Patreon in order to access her Work and Experience Digests. These lists are packed with great stuff, and like I said before, are basically 100% the model for this thing that I’m writing right now.

WEB/VIDEOS/GAMES

A list of some notable videos, games, or little web holes I’ve found this year. Nothing fancy.

Five Nights at Freddy’s I watched a ton of videos on FNAF in one sitting while working on some cartoons one weekend. There is a huge portion of YouTube dedicated to this. I watched this really annoying series of "Explained" type videos and these feature length machinimas. It’s staggering how incomprehensible the mythos is; especially when amplified through fan-generated media.

The Friend Society/Somebody I spent a lot of time on The Friend Society in early high school. The website is down now, but most of it is still accessible via the internet archive. The only info I can find about it is this reddit post. There’s some cryptic mention of a bomb threat shutting the website down, but I can’t find any real sources, so who knows? Apologies if there’s some underlying evil intent or grossness behind the website that I’ve missed.

The website hosted some really good group writing projects, as well as amazing flash animations by someone named "Somebody" or "Juho". Lily Zone’s work reminds me a lot of the best of these cartoons. Somebody’s personal website is also defunct, but I can partially access it via the internet archive. A couple pages and songs I remember really liking seem to be forever lost, unfortunately. I recorded and uploaded my two favorite animations as unlisted videos on YouTube:

Botcon Prose and Comics I found these prose stories from some random wiki crawling on one sad night. They were published in a tie-in booklet for a 1990’s Transformers Convention. I really love the illustrations and the purply comic booky tone of the stories. The author, Simon Furman, has an entry on the Transformers Wiki solely for his repeated phrases and dialogue contrivances. Here are some of my favorite illustrations from the booklet:

Botcon Page 3 Botcon Page 7 Botcon Page 11

Sesame Street I’ve been watching a lot of older Sesame Street videos because I’ve been working on a muppet character for a new cartoon. Here are some highlights:

Pokémon Fan Games I came across a couple of Pokémon fan games made in RPG Maker. Namely Pokémon Reborn and Pokémon Insurgence. These games feature "mature storyline" and a "twisted" aesthetic that I thought was completely left in the past.

Cartoonist Kayfabe This is an outstanding YouTube series/podcast unpacking Wizard Magazine, a 1990’s publication focusing on the comic books industry and market. If you’re interested in comics at all, especially the Speculator Boom of the 90’s, these videos are a must see.

Take a Sip Amazing video for an amazing song. Take a Sip:

3D Plugins/Programs

This year I’ve been really trying to up my 3d animation game. I’ve been using more specialty programs and plugins. Most of them are pretty inexpensive or free. I’ve also been looking into browser support for 3d models and animations. Some thoughts below:

Marvelous Designer This program costs money but is definitely worth it if you can afford it. It’s a dedicated program for making and simulating clothing. It’s really easy and satisfying to use. I think it’s the only thing I’m listing here over $30.

Joker Martini This studio makes a lot of useful and cheap scripts. The ones I’ve been using a lot are Cobwebs, Labyrinth and Pick Point Baker.

Sweep Profile Free plugin useful for making window sills and molding for architectural spaces.

Ivy Maker Now unsupported, but the author says they don’t mind copies being shared. I found it after a cursory search. Email me if you want a copy.

Floor Generator Like Sweep Profile. This can be used to generate patterns of wood flooring on a plane. There’s a premium version that features multiple patterns.

Stone Placement Tools Can generate brick and stone walls, walkways, etc. Another useful utility.

Greeble Randomly generates Star Wars-esque textural geometry on surfaces. I’ve been using it to give characters "techno-organic" surface a-la early 90’s X-Men comics.

Multi Mesher Nothing fancy. A boolean tool that works well with meshes.

.gltf The up-and-coming web standard for 3D models. Supports textures and animation (unlike .obj). Also works with the Draco compression algorithm that makes web support for 3D meshes way less intensive.

Draco Google’s new compression algorithm for .gltf’s. I haven’t messed around too much, but recent builds for three.js support it natively. Worth checking out if you’re interested in three.js or support for 3d models on webpages.

Compositing in Blender I did a lot of composting work this year. I found Blender’s interface to be the easiest to use. If you’re looking to composite in 3d animation software, I recommend starting here. Here’s a tutorial I found helpful (along with my playlist of all vfx tutorials I’ve used over the years):

Autodesk Motionbuilder This program costs a premium, but I’ve found Autodesk’s educational licensing to be pretty lax. As long as you have access to an .edu password, you should be able to obtain a free license for three years. This program (along with newer versions of Maya) make skinning, rigging, and animating bipeds really, really easy. This has historically been a prohibitive chore for me but now it’s basically a non-issue.

PODCASTS

Between my commutes back to DC and Baltimore and my office job, I listen to a lot of podcasts. I find listening to music or just straight silence makes me feel crazy while doing repetitive tasks on the computer so podcasts are a godsend. Here are some good podcasts I’ve come across this year:

Master Manual A DnD advice show hosted by two dungeon masters. If you’re running a game or interested it might be a good source of wisdom. One of the hosts wrote the Homestuck spin-off game Hiveswap which I also played this year and really enjoyed.

Page Seven This is supposedly a celebrity gossip podcast but it’s long ago totally descended into absurd groupspeak and in-jokes. Features a loudmouth host named Jackie (my favorite name). This podcast is fucking annoying in a way that’s really satisfying to my dumb ass sensibilities.

Party of 4 A long-defunct role playing game podcast with few episodes. Features Canadian comedians in goofy, lighthearted improved games. Since each episode is a standalone plot, the DM is able to break a ton of conventional rules, which is really funny and satisfying to me. I think the episodes might be down now, but I found them here on archive.org.

NoSleep I’ve been listening to this podcast for a number of years, but recent seasons have been really good. It features cheesy creepypasta stories, but unlike some other creepypasta podcasts I’ve tried, it features really great production and voice acting. I’ve paid for access to the premium episodes for every season and I definitely think it’s worth it.

Nymphowars My roommate Kodi suggested this podcast to me based on our mutual love of Page Seven. It’s hard to describe why, but this is definitely my favorite new podcast. The whole thing feels like a surreal prank phone call - full of 20 minute vitriol-fueled character impressions and and profane bullshit.

BOOKS

I read a lot of books on the train. Here are some highlights from this year.

Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson I read this book in college, but just reread it and really liked it. It’s simultaneously about the invention of the first computer during World War II and a future generation creating a data haven and cryptocurrency in the early 90’s. I’m a total mark for any intergenerational plot; this one is really complex and satisfying.

Carceral Capitalism by Jackie Wang Everyone was reading this book earlier in the year, but I finally got around to it. It’s really good. The last bunch of Semiotext(e) books I’ve read have been pretty solid. The title says it all.

Gore Capitalism by Sayak Valencia Another short Semiotext(e) book, this one about the hyper-consumerist state and the horror-movie-esque violence pervasive in the author’s home city of Tijuana.

The Fall of Hyperion by Dan Simmons Late 80’s hard scifi. The follow-up to Hyperion, which I read a long time ago. The story/ies examine life in a galactic capitalistic empire under the control of an Artificial Intelligence network. I really like the way it explores how religions work in a post-earth civilization. They definitely don’t make scifi like this anymore.

New Lovers Series by Badlands Unlimited Literotica by various female artists. I got the whole series during a deal on Valentine’s Day. Some are better than others; my favorite by far is My Hot Wet Drone Summer by Lex Brown.

Trap Door: Trans Cultural Production and the Politics of Visibility ed. by Johanna Burton, Eric A. Stanley and Tourmaline (FKA Reina Gossett) A collection of essays by a host of trans authors dealing with trans visibility, rights, and violence in contradictory liberal society. A big book with a lot of contributors, so there are highs and lows, but ultimately this was really great and worth anyone’s time. My favorite essay in the book is Spider Women by Eva Hayward.

MUSIC

Super Sonido I think I found this blog a couple of years ago, but I’ve been relistening to the library lately. The last update was in 2012, but as of this writing, all the music is still hosted. I think the author won a big record collection from a Mexican radio station at auction, and uploaded some highlights with really nice write-ups. If you’re interested in Latin American music in general it’s worth checking out. I also have all the music downloaded with proper metadata and will provide it upon email request. Here are some posts that stood out to me:

La Guitarra Ayacuchana

DIY Chicano Rock With Luie Luie

Day 4: Mexo-Electro Pop

Progress I got this compilation of digital reggae at a yard sale in Silver Spring. It’s really incredible, but I’ve had a hard time finding info about it online. The record cover is one of the greatest examples of graphic design I have ever seen. Again, email me and I’ll send you the rip.

Progress Front Cover Progress Back Cover

Watanabe Marina Some J-Pop from the 1980’s. My friend Noam sent me three of her songs, which I’ll host here. Evergreen gets a strong recommendation.

Watanabe Marina - Evergreen (New Version)

Watanabe Marina - Komaranaide

Watanabe Marina - Catch Me Tonight

Jun Togawa One of my all-time favorites. Spiraling operatic vocals over the best production available. I’ve been relistening to her box set Togawa Legend a lot lately. My favorite album is Far Eastern Comfort Songs.

Mostly Dancehall Comprehensive playlist of mostly dancehall hits from Jamaica. Organized by LA comedian Chris Thayer. Also on Spotify.

Doopee Time Another old record I’ve been revisiting. It’s worth it if you can make it through the first three songs. Another good album cover, as well.

MOVIES

I always watch a lot of movies. This year I’ve been watching a lot of horror movies with my friend Sam. I also encountered a couple of movies filmed and/or taking place in my home city of Dallas, Texas.

Gandahar This is probably my favorite movie ever. I first saw it in high school, but have rewatched it a handful of times this year. Even though I find it really engaging, it’s also very easy to just have on in the background. I really like the rotoscoped nature of the animation and the psychedelic fantasy setting. I feel like this is a parallel timeline version of Avatar. I’ve always sought out fiction that does not take place on earth or feature any human characters, so I really like this movie. It has a really humble time travel plot that’s just complex enough.

Lathe of Heaven (1980) Based on the Ursula K. Le Guin story, this is a PBS production that is totally busted in a good way. We lost Le Guin this year, and I totally felt it. Her scifi and speculative commentary is not cheesy or dated in the least. This movie translates the story accurately in a dirty and un-glitzy fashion. The film also reveals it was shot in Dallas in the third act: Shots of the Reunion Tower and the Hyatt at its height in the late 70’s had me floored.

Channel Zero This is a serialized TV show, but whatever. In format, this show is a total knock-off of American Horror Story, a show that I hate. Each season is a different plot , each extremely loosely based on a different Creepypasta. This show goes deep - its moves at a clip and as soon as you get what’s going on they totally change direction. Four season in, my favorite is the third season: Butcher’s Block. They’re all good, though.

Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami Gorgeous documentary full of concert and personal footage from this past year. Includes a tender and somber interaction between Jones and Jean-Paul Goude. Truly a must-see for any fan, even those as casual as I.

True Stories I have no relationship to David Byrne or the Talking Heads. My friend Lindsey showed me this clip, and one of my roommates happened to have the movie on tape, so I popped it in one night. I really like this movie, especially after realizing it was filmed in Dallas. I watched it over the holidays with my parents when I was back home, which was a treat. They were living in Dallas while it was filmed and had a lot of interesting trivia and personal anecdotes about the various locations.

Pin Canadian psychological horror about two recently-orphaned teens. Mounting madness needs not to be explained. Deep, humble, economical. A must-see for any vintage horror fan; plus it never gets gorey or sleazy.

The Burning A totally unremarkable, sleazy slasher movie, this recommendation comes with an enormous caveat: this is the first film produced by the Weinsteins - with Harvey Weinstein taking credit for writing. I feel like a smarter person could write a whole essay about this movie. Sexual misconduct in an insular community (in the movie, it’s a summer camp) is the epicenter of the plot. If you’re curious and able to stomach the real-world terror of this movie, I think it’s worth checking out for purely critical reasons. It is not enjoyable in any way.

JOURNAL REPORT

Ok, here are some journal entries and dream notes from this year.

JOURNAL

DREAMS