Saturday, December 05, 2009

3D capture in performance

Capturing 3D data from moving scenes is a hard problem in itself, but the harder problem is how to integrate it with a performance in real time. First you have to hide the 3D capture process from the audience, and then you need to present something related to the 3D capture in an engaging way.

Re-projecting coarse effects can be approximated with a multi-camera system, and fine details are dangerous due to system latency.

The real question is: what can you do with 3D data that you can't do with 2D images? The most interesting idea I have: you can cast shadows on a 3D form in a way you can't on a 2D form.

Removing Image Noise

Gray-level images for foreground/background are often afflicted by fine noise when they are thresholded.

I've used a few different approaches to dealing with this:

Unfortunately, these all have the same problem: inner corners are rounded. These algorithms can't tell the difference between a black pixel in an inner corner and a black pixel that is just noise.

Perhaps what we should really be using is something like bilateral filtering (in Photoshop, "Surface Blur"). Bilateral filtering preserves sharp edges, while blurring large undefined regions. Unfortunately, bilateral filtering creates a sort of "glow" that still has issues with corners.

Maybe we need something more like "smart blur"? It seems to not propagate across edges...

Friday, November 27, 2009

Defining Music, Again

I keep coming back to this issue (previously: Defining Music). Which is fitting, considering it's a large part of my thesis. I explained the basic idea to a friend recently in a way that seemed clear, so I'd like to preserve that clarity in text.

Before Ethnomusicology, western culture believed music to be universal amongst civilized peoples. Ethnomusicology helped people see that music was more local and less global. Around the same time, Cage encouraged people to hear things for themselves as music: saying that it is extremely local, to the point of being defined by an individual.

I would like to propose a reversal to Cage's position (or, at least, his language). I believe music is built out of correspondences between sounds and other things. Over time, these "other things" have been comprised of innate human impulses, society-specific tradition, and individual preference, in that order. I would like to add "everything else" to that category of "other things". This means that music exists without humans, as sounds always have context. Individuals do not decide what is music (this is the reversal), we can only decide what is noise. We do this by identifying acontextual sounds — and the context we use for understanding sounds is continually changing. Wind chimes ringing during a cool autumn walk have a different context to us than they do when we're trying to study next to them, or trying to hear past them.

As context-creators, of the general category of conscious non-omniscient beings, we define music only insomuch as we misunderstand some of it as noise.

Face the Beat

I See Beats, but with face tracking. This would solve dark room restriction, but create a host of other issues.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Recognizing Glitches

Working with three-phase scanning a bit recently, I've become very familiar with the kind of glitches that emerge. Watching Radiohead's "House of Cards" video again, I understand the glitches better now than when I first saw it:

  1. At :58-:59, Thom Yorke's neck separates from his head intermittently. This is due to the ambiguity of propagating a wrapped phase across shadows and depth discontinuities (from his jaw) which generally lend to a few possible interpretations of the data.
  2. At 1:29-1:31, someone waves their arms about a bit. If you look at the edges of their arms, you can see "barbs" coming out, something like 3d-interlacing. This is due to the nature of phase-shift scanning as a sequential structured light system rather than a continuous/fixed system. I'm a little amazed that these artifacts exist, as they were probably using a very high framerate camera.
  3. Throughout the video, entire scenes will jump forward and backward. This is due to the unwrapping algorithm again, and that it has to assume an absolute distance at a specific fixed point. If you get noise at that point, the entire image is shifted. I'm actually surprised this was a bug in the system they used.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Full Inbox

As of this moment, Gmail offers 7365 MB of storage. To me, 7365 MB looks like an open desert, or a desolate sea. I want to fill that up, or at least craft it. What would email land art look like? What is the architecture of an empty inbox? And how can it be shaped toward an aesthetic or conceptual goal?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Email To Real Mail Converter

I like this idea for an iPhone app, "Shoot It". You take a picture on your iPhone, and they print it out and send it as a postcard for you.

My favorite part is that this is an "algorithm" that involves both automated and non-automated actions. There are real people involved in pushing a postcard around. I'd like to start a service that send letters for you. You would send an email to a specific address, include a mailing address, and we would print out and mail the letter for you.

This service actually exists in reverse for older folks that don't want to deal with the internet. They can have a service print out emails for them, and send out their handwritten letters as emails.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Every Every Icon

John F. Simon Jr.'s "Every Icon" iterates through all the 32x32 black and white icons at approximately 100 icons per second. Sintron's "God's Eye" iterates through all the 800x600 color images at 97,000 images per second. Jim Campbell's "The End" iterates through grayscale images using custom electronics. Leonardo Solaas' "Magic Mirror" iterates through every 720x576 color image at 25 images per second.

I propose a meta-Every Icon, "Every Every Icon". This work will include all of the above works, as well as any other variations that may be dreamed up in the future. It will accomplish this by iterating through every possible resolution, at every possible framerate, for every possible bit depth, in every possible order.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Negativity of Noise

In "Noise", Jacques Attali proposes that noise is a simulacrum of murder.

We must establish two things: First, that noise is violence: it disturbs. To make noise is to interrupt a transmission, to disconnect, to kill. It is a simulacrum of murder. Second, that music is a channelization of noise, and therefore a simulacrum of the sacrifice. (p 26)

He goes on to provide a technical description for the uninitiated:

A noise is a resonance that interferes with the audition of a message in the process of emission. A resonance is a set of simultaneous, pure sounds of determined frequency and differing intensity. Noise, then, does not exist in itself, but only in relation to the system within which it is inscribed: emitter, transmitter, receiver. Information theory uses the concept of noise (or rather, metonymy) in a more general way: noise is the term for a signal that interferes with the reception of a message by a receiver, even if the interfering signal itself has a meaning for that receiver. Long before it was given this theoretical expression, noise had always been experienced as destruction, disorder, dirt, pollution, an aggression against the code-structuring messages. In all cultures, it is associated with the idea of the weapon, blasphemy, plague. (p 26-27)

I can't deny that there are technical definitions of noise that restrict it to the "undesired portion" of a signal. And I completely understand that a variety of cultures see noises as violent. And that we have an intuitive reaction to them as violent.

But saying that noise "does not exist in itself", and advancing the technical definitions or intuitive folk-definitions as the final word on noise seems narrow minded to me. What about noise in an epistemological context, as a human creation: without humans, there is not only no music, but no noise. It's not that noise requires music in order to be differentiated, but it requires humans to do the differentiation. This act of sound-interpretation and categorization is equally important as our technical and folk definitions.

Furthermore, I reject language like this:

In its biological reality, noise is a source of pain. Beyond a certain limit, it becomes an immaterial weapon of death. The ear, which transforms sound signals into electric impulses addressed to the brain, can be damaged, and even destroyed, when the frequency of a sound exceeds 20,000 hertz, or when its intensity exceeds 80 decibels. Diminished intellectual capacity, accelerated respiration and heartbeat, hypertension, slowed digestion, neurosis, altered diction: these are the consequences of excessive sound in the environment.

I reject it because it's conflating two very different phenomena: noise, and damaging sound. Saying that noise is a source of pain, and then giving examples of loud sounds and high pitched sounds is just giving noise a bad name by association. If I play a Bach chorale at 80 decibels, it's going to do just as much damage as "noise".

Ignoring Africa

I'm always a little surprised when I read things like this:

All music can be defined as noise given form according to a code (in other words, according to rules of arrangement and laws of succession, in a limited space, a space of sounds) that is theoretically knowable by the listener. Listening to music is to receive a message. Nevertheless, music cannot be equated with a language. Quite unlike the words of a language — which refer to a signified — music, though it has a precise operationality, never has a stable reference to a code of the linguistic type. Itis not "a myth coded in sounds instead of words," but rather a "language without meaning." It has neither meaning nor finality. (Noise by Jacques Attali, p 25)

Monday, August 17, 2009

Pranks and Pragmatism

Some excerpts from "African Rhythm and African Sensibility" by John Miller Chernoff.

African drumming is renowned for the ability to express the tonal structure of their spoken languages, to the point where rhythms are imbued with complex semantics. A great illustration:

During my first day practicing with Gideon, I was following him well until he suddenly performed a rather complicated series of rhythms and then went back to the basic rhythm he was showing me. A few minutes later a man who passed at that moment returned with two bottles of beer. (p 75)

There is a short passage discussing the difference between "false meaning" and "intended meaning", due to a prank:

Ibrahim Abdulai's son Alhassan, who was assisting in my instruction displayedgreat ingenuity duringan extended prank in which he tried to confude me in my work by inventing false meanings to fit many rhythms in Takai [a dance/beat from the Dagomba in northern Ghana]. Many of the rhythmic styles a Takai drummer beats are played only to make the music more interesting, but the language Alhassan supplied matched the rhythms so perfectly that I began to think Ibrahim was withholding the meanings. When I persisted in my questions, he said, "We have a general name for the whole Takai drumming, but only a few of the rhythms have names. In Zhem [another Dagomba dance/beat, played "during the "installation or funeral of high chiefs"], all the drummers will be making speeches, but in Takai the rhythms are mainly to make the dancers strong. The name given Takai is for the different rhythms combined together, and all the rhythms are equal. Anyone who wants to tell you words for these rhythms is lying. Anytime I want, I can just listen to the sound of the dondon [an hourglass-shaped talking drum] or gondon [sic? "gongon"] and compare the music to something in the Dagbani language [of the Dagomba], but it is not the same as making speeches. As for the styles you have been learning, I am the one who has been bringing all these styles when drumming Takai, and I am the right person to give them meaning, but I have no name for them. So how can another person give them meaning or say that this style says this or that style says that while I was not making speeches when I got those very styles?" (p 76)

Another example is given of a "false meaning" for a dance, Bangumanga, that is regularly accepted by "junior players":

The drum language is Bem bo ma, be pam boma je ("They will search for me, but they will not see me"). One false meaning is Man daa yeli, mam bi lan yeli ("I said it; I don't say it again"). The meaning is a "secret" because of the seriousness of the war. In its truth, Bangumanga recalls the blood that was shed in the war... (p 206)

Sometimes the meaning of rhythms is simple misunderstood.

If you play gagedega instead of gagedegi when executing a phrase on Atsimewu [a tall drum that acts as a lead], or if you miss the pitch when beating a dondon, you may have a more serious mistake than you think. Indeed, one of the reasons why repetition is so important in African music is that repetition of a rhythm often serves to clarify its meaning. When rhythms change too abruptly, the music can lose some of its meaning... (p 80-81)

This tendency to court misinterpretation can be heard just by listening to the complex polyrhythms of any West African dance:

The effect of polymetric music is as if the different rhythms were competing for our attention. No sooner do we grasp one rhythm than we lose track of it and hear another. In something like Adzogbo or Zhe, it is not easy to find any constant beat at all. The Western conception of a main beat or pulse seems to disappear, and a Westerner who cannot appreciate the rhythmic complications and who maintains his habitual listening orientation quite simply gets lost. [...] Actually, if we try to apply Western notions of bars and time signatures, the music seems much more complicated than it really is. [...] The individual rhythms are simple, but the way they are combined can be confusing to Westerners. (p 46-47)
I see these stories as beautiful metaphors for, and examples of:
  • Information having a noisy character (the beer story)
  • The difference between intention in sending and receiving
  • Our ability to find structures that have a different cause than we expect
  • Repetition as the foundation of meaning, a type of contextualization that allows us to separate "signal" from noise
  • The interaction of repetitions producing more complex structures than the sum of their parts (in the case of polyrhythms, it's their least common multiple)
  • Our ability to misunderstand a system based on the wrong contextualization (the last example of Westerners misunderstanding polyrhythms)
  • Combinatorial music in general

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Crowdsourcing Glitches

I'm interested in the possibility of destroying data through natural processes. I've already explored this a bit with Future Fragments, where quotes from friends were carried in their pockets and destroyed over the period of a summer.

Another interesting system that naturally destroys information over time is the human mind (memory). Consider the possibility of crowdsourcing distortion: for example, with Mechanical Turk, create a task that plays a subset of a song that the worker is then asked to repeat. These responses are then averaged to create an approximation of the original tune.

This task takes advantage of our ability to hear melodies. We can also treat the mind as a more generic digital signal processor: ask each worker to recall the midi pitches of each note. Or better: portions of the mp3 encoded audio in hex. Besides the auditory system, we can also take advantage of the visual system. Ask each worker to recall and draw the audio signal (at a sufficient scale).

These tasks would be especially interesting in the case of people like Ben Pridmore, who is able to quickly memorize large amounts of data (e.g.: 364 playing cards in 10 minutes). I imagine his memory slowly degrades. It'd be great to see what a compressed image looks like that is memorized slightly incorrectly, and watch it degrade over time.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Stars and Bubbles

Astronomers have recently realized that galaxies are distributed in a sort of "frothy" or "bubbly" structure. That is, the large scale structure of the universe can be described as consisting of strings of galaxies with big spaces in between.

A projection of this structure onto the sky of any planet should look highly web-like as well. From these webs, we've created constellations. One of the features that has helped give rise to similar constellations from separate traditions is locality: , the ancient "three stars" asterism from Chinese astrology, matched the belt of the Greek constellation Orion. Within traditions, "guideposts" are also established, creating a coherency to the stellar structures.

Various religious traditions have identified constellations as prophetically or genetically relevant to their beliefs. In 1884, Joseph Seiss laid out his "Gospel In The Stars" system, describing the relevance of the zodiac to Christianity. Authors like John Kotselas will argue that the structures act to justify belief in Christianity. Today, new patterns are identified and the old ones still argued.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Salience as Local Entropy

Based on a suggestion by Romann Weber, regarding an alternative definition of visual salience.

  1. There is an image I comprised of integers in the range R
  2. The probability of a specific value c from R occurring in I, PrI(c), equals the number of pixels with the value c in I divided by the total number of pixels in I
  3. There is an image S that is a sub region within I
  4. The entropy of S with respect to I is equal to the negative sum of PrI(p) * log(PrI(c)) for every pixel p in S
Using this metric, an entire image may be analyzed by moving the sub region S about the image. Also consider different sizes of S, and the possibility of use both a moving S and I within the actual image.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Instruction Pieces are Self Destructive

Not directly destructive, but they can inspire the audience to create similar work. This happens in the DIY community as well: not only does it provide inspiration, but also encouragement. Art transcends its usual limitations when it is re-appropriated by non-artists and integrated into a life practice. Furthermore, when individuals look to "art" and see only their life practice, the "art" loses its audience. I would like to make more self destructive art.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Signals and SETI@home

SETI@home is a distributed computing project scanning the sky for radio transmissions that bear traces of extra terrestrial intelligence. They define a "signal" as:

  • Spikes in power spectra
  • Gaussian rises and falls in transmission power
  • Triplets (three power spikes in a row)
  • Pulsing signals
Some of these are domain specific (Gaussian rises and falls are due to the telescope passing over a signal source), while others can be generalized. For example, triplets represent a kind of repetition. When you have two of something, there is ambiguity about whether it is chance or not. You can always fit a line to two data points. When there are three events, you can measure the similarity of the two intervals, and make at least three comparisons. Pulsing signals represent another kind of macroscopic repetition. There are really just two types of features: general (repetition), and domain specific (power spikes, Gaussian rises and falls).

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Magical Situations

When you see a tightrope walker, no one needs to explain what is happening. You immediately understand the risk and skill involved, and you are transfixed by it. I'd say this is a "magical" situation: understood intuitively, without explanation, with minimal cultural context. Nature creates a lot of magical things, but I have trouble thinking of many magical human creations. Fireworks? Percussion? What else?

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Privacy Art

Whenever you point your browser to an https page, or type your password into a box with asterisks instead of clear text, or see a small lock icon next to a form, you get a feeling of security. In these situations, a language of reassurance has evolved: lock icons, for example, tend to be golden-yellow or blue-gray. Unlike other icons, which are free to be multi-colored, locks have a restricted palette that has evolved to remind us of the physical objects, "real locks", that we trust from day to day. I propose work that takes advantage of these features in the collective net-unconscious. For example: an https website that promises to keep your data secure, while requesting only random pieces of banal information.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Other/Self and Noise/Music

Trying to understand the noise/music discussion in the language of other/self: traditionally (e.g., Jacques Attali), music is to the self as noise is to the other. The primary deficit in this analogy is the non-consciousness of sound. One sound cannot approach another sound and have the realization of the "other", but an external entity is required to create and collapse distinctions.

Friday, June 12, 2009

God's Geography

Clouds are perhaps the most timeless noise source ripe for induction, but with the advent of accurate mapmaking and satellite photography we can look to geography as well.

From God's Geography:

Spiritually speaking, the Australian dog doesn't have eyes to see or ears to hear (Isaiah 6:9-10). Additionally, most of Australia's interior is desert or outback, so this dog's head doesn't have much for a brain either.

Also see The Afro-Latinosaurus Rex

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

The Best Hack

Fold a single piece of paper down the center, length wise. Open it up, and fold two corners from one short side to the center, so that the short side is parallel to the center line. Fold the two corners this creates to the center in the same manner. Repeat this once more, but folding in the opposite direction. A section of the structure should create a T shape. Throw the piece of paper with the smallest end facing forward, and it will glide.

This is the most elegant repurposing of an everyday object I know: the paper airplane.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Strange Loops

Hofstadter's strange loops are a very accessible subset of coherentism. I say "subset" because self-reference, at first glance, seems to be a only one type of reference. This is only true if you make claims from a perspective. If you make non-perspectival claims, there is only self-reference (meaning is only established recursively).

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Closer Than Any Other

One of the reasons I appreciate Java is the way the documentation is written. Consider their definition of e from java.lang.Math:

static double E The double value that is closer than any other to e, the base of the natural logarithms.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Helter Skelter

Charles Manson had an intricate interpretation of Revelations 9 that predicted he was the returning Jesus Christ, and that the Beatles were somehow involved in the coming apocalypse. From Wikipedia:

Verse 17: "And thus I saw the horses in the vision, and them that sat on them, having breastplates of fire, and of jacinth, and brimstone: and the heads of the horses were as the heads of lions; and out of their mouths issued fire and smoke and brimstone."
breastplates of fire = the Beatles' electric guitars
fire and smoke and brimstone out of their mouths = the Beatles' powerful lyrics, the power of their music to ignite Helter Skelter
A reminder that some more ambiguous prophetic texts are notoriously difficult to discuss in a non-coherentist manner.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Positively Divine Understanding

From the Wikipedia article on the Japanese painter Hokusai, some thoughts on understanding and sharing the natural world:

"From around the age of six, I had the habit of sketching from life. I became an artist, and from fifty on began producing works that won some reputation, but nothing I did before the age of seventy was worthy of attention. At seventy-three, I began to grasp the structures of birds and beasts, insects and fish, and of the way plants grow. If I go on trying, I will surely understand them still better by the time I am eighty-six, so that by ninety I will have penetrated to their essential nature. At one hundred, I may well have a positively divine understanding of them, while at one hundred and thirty, forty, or more I will have reached the stage where every dot and every stroke I paint will be alive. May Heaven, that grants long life, give me the chance to prove that this is no lie."

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Projector's Trance

The proliferation of Powerpoint and other projection-based media in both the corporate world and academia has created a subtle but persistent phenomena. Think back to the last time you saw someone prepare a projector before a presentation. There is a moment, anywhere from an instant to dozens of minutes, where the unfamiliar device is connected and turned on. This moment is not sustained solely by the person preparing the projector; it emerges from the audience's collective gaze. In this situation, the audience finds themselves in a trance-like state: eyes darting from the projector, to the the cable, to the laptop, to the presenter. They are completely transfixed by the ritual — momentarily, being-in-itself. And then, without warning, the image provides some sort of affirmation that, indeed, all is in working order. The crowd recollects their freedom. They remember that they're watching a presentation, and that they can stop paying attention whenever they want.

Monday, May 18, 2009


Take a photograph in your bedroom with a pillow on your head. Upload this photo to the internet (like on Flickr). Tag the file with: MOOKDFJLAL. When you search for MOOKDFJLAL you will find photographs of people wearing pillows on their head. David Horvitz, May 18, 2009
If you search for 241543903, you'll find another Horvitz creation ("people putting their head in the freezer."). It's been called a "meme", but I feel like that's a secondary characteristic of this entity. Memes have origins you can point to and say, "There, look at that — isn't it funny? That's why everybody's been copying it." But 241543903 and MOOKDFJLAL exist primarily because of the photos, not because of David's original instructions. This is coherentism in action.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Aaron Koblin Interview

Aaron Koblin discussing Processing, and "Flight Patterns":

I remember the first day that I looked at the data. Within about fifteen minutes I went from cryptic numbers and letters to easily recognizable patterns. It was a thrilling experience.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Snail Mail Machine

I propose a machine for fueling the enduring nostalgia associated with paper envelopes. It will sit next to your computer, and every time you receive an email it will drop a real envelope through a small slot. Every envelope will have your name on it.

It's essential to keep the technology as invisible as possible. It should not be complicated by a printer that prints the name of the sender on the envelope, for example. The idea is that someone has just dropped off a letter by your computer for you to read.

When you remove the envelope from its holder (or, perhaps, place it back inside the machine) a window should pop up on your computer that shows you the email.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Popularity Machine

  1. Collect a bunch of used disposable cameras (at least 20).
  2. Wire simple timers (555s, 4093 RC oscillator) to the flash.
  3. Deploy them in a crowded room during a party.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Autotune the Past

  1. Pick a famous speech (e.g.: "I Have A Dream")
  2. Run it through Anteres' autotune.
  3. Run the result through Microsoft's SongSmith
  4. Share


I've been keeping a much more regularly updated list of links, sans descriptions and analysis, on my delicious bookmarks. Perhaps I'll come back here for some analysis as I develop my master's thesis?

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Two Ball Game

This happened earlier today.

Get a wiffle ball and a soccer ball. Divide approximately 12 people into two teams. At any moment, one is offense and the other is defense. One of the players (the "goalie") on the defensive team guards themselves with a wiffle ball bat inside an equilateral triangle approximately 12 feet on each side. The offensive team is trying to throw the wiffle ball at the goalie. The defensive team is trying to kick the soccer ball at the player in possession of the wiffle ball.

Points are scored when the offense hits the goalie with the wiffle ball (throwing underhand from outside the triangle), or the defense hits the offensive player in possession of the wiffle ball with the soccer ball. Because the latter is a bit more difficult than the former, it might be assigned more points (but we never got that far). When a point is scored, the player it was scored by/against becomes the goalie. The former goalie throws in the wiffle ball.

Additionally: it might make more sense if both balls may be either kicked or thrown. It might also be easiest to play this in a court, where the soccer ball cannot be lost when it misses a target (or with multiple soccer balls).

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Indirect Indirection

Along the lines of Kopyfamo' (or at least sharing the aesthetic): use the various "this is a hosted image" images as profile/avatar images. Alternatively, collect these images and upload them to various image hosting sites. For example (Hosted on

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Energy Meter

Hack multimeter such that:

  1. It runs off an adapter that plugs into the wall.
  2. It senses and displays the current flowing into it.
An energy visualization that fulfills its purpose whether plugged in or unplugged. One of those near-paradoxes.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Piece for Ingenuity

Count every hair on your head.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Piece for Internet

Click on every advertisement you see.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Cheap Fraud

From the wikipedia talk page on Kyle MacDonald, my Google-rankings arch-nemesis and proponent of the "one red paperclip" project:

how can one man get all kinds of attenoin because of a paper clip when there are starving and dieing every day this gives the message that if you do a cheap trick you will be rewarded but if you live a honest life and try to work for what you have you get scorned

No it doesn't. Cardboard boxA 17:40, 28 September 2006 (UTC)

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Piece for ESP

  1. Focus on the idea, "odd numbers".
  2. Continue focusing, and roll a die.
  3. If the outcome is odd, today is a day for ESP!
  4. Do this each day, and keep a running tally of your results.
  5. If the outcome keeps moving towards "odd", this life is a life for ESP!
  6. Or you need new dice.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Piece for Anonymous

Next time you come across a personal blog of someone you've never met, bookmark it and check it frequently. Do your best to understand where the person is coming from, and leave thoughtful comments. Do this without letting it become creepy.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Piece for a Car Thief

  1. Discover a defining characteristic of these cars used to catch car thieves. (Perhaps RF signals used for controlling and monitoring the car.)
  2. If it is possible, enter the car without breaking into it.
  3. Say: "This is not my car." loud enough for the embedded microphone to record it.
  4. Exit the car.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Four and a Half Billion Years of Solitude

This is the only good poem I've ever written.

cinder in the sky;
enrapt by the earth,
sighs for a suicidal

(the moon one night
 stared back at me
 with blood on its face,
 awaiting another wedding)


Saturday, March 07, 2009

Harry Houdini

Things I learned from the Wikipedia article on Harry Houdini:

  1. Sometimes things work, but they don't always
  2. When they don't work, the solution may be hidden in a kiss; or not working may have been part of the plan in the first place
  3. Sometimes it's important for people to see the process, and other times it's more alluring for it to be hidden
  4. The possibility of death is intriguing

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Piece for Beer and Keyboard

  1. Spill beer on your keyboard.
  2. Open a text editor.
  3. Clean beer off your keyboard.
  4. Save the text.
Realization, 2/19/09:
yt czzz SWE3 de CDaqdzcdzDSAcx n bvcvcxz vr5 CDSZAZSAsadaSADAAsazzsaASDaasdsZzxczrewazzxA

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Unknown Passwords

My friend Byeong Sam sometimes uses his Latin-covered keyboard to type Hangul. I asked if there are any connections between the Latin consonants and the way they are used to form the Korean characters — he said no. Furthermore, there are some passwords that he knows in Korean but are stored using Latin characters. He doesn't really pay attention to what these passwords are, just the gestures that form them.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Cage vs. Pascal

Wherever we are, what we hear is mostly noise. When we ignore it, it disturbs us. When we listen to it, we find it fascinating... We want to capture and control these sounds, to use them not as sound effects but as musical instruments. (John Cage, 1961)
Le bruit a sa musique que la musique ne connaît point. (Pascal)

Piece for DNS

  1. Register the shortest possible domain name you can.
Potential additional constraints:
  • You are limited to the .com top level domain.
  • Domain names may include a-z, 0-9 and the hyphen, must start with a-z and may not end with a hyphen. (See RFC 1034)
  • Get kicked out of's bulk check:
    Security : Client may be too resource intensive. You have reached your daily lookup limit.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Ways of Defining Music

The "is-ought" problem is common to meta-ethics and linguistics. In meta-ethics: are we describing how people act, or how they ought to act? In linguistics, some people describe grammar while other prescribe grammar. I imagine the same approaches to understanding music:

  1. Descriptive definitions of music, which take into account various musical traditions and extrapolate common themes within and between them.
  2. Prescriptive definitions of music, which involve reflection and thought-experiments — philosophy, really — sometimes accompanied by experimental compositions.

To explore the first without the second is superficial, and to philosophize without context is unrealistic.

1/26/08: "Noise" has the same issue, describing how the word "noise" is used is very different from prescribing definitions. Describing things can be difficult, but prescriptions can get really messy. It's probably best to set out a goal for a prescriptive definition before seeking/giving one. Prescriptions might be about: unifying themes of descriptions, offering a new definition that illuminates others, expanding or restricting the dominant contemporary definition...

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Naked Mail Distortion

A method for destroying data: send optical discs in the mail, with no protection, back and forth between two locations. The data may be collected each time and noted for future reference. Potential subjects include compressed and uncompressed media (audio, video) and written texts. Consider also a iterative/recursive algorithm where the distortion provides a decision for a chance operation: the CD contains a list of addresses, and every time an address is lost the CD is sent to that address.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Travis the Arborist

Travis, from Moorhead Minnesota, is spending the night in my apartment. He's looking for work protecting things from breaking branches covered in ice. I asked him "What are the strangest problems you've run into?" and he said:

  1. People think they own trees.
  2. People think they can control nature.
He seemed to be really into the trees he worked with, but was excited about the prospect of going to school for business administration. So I asked him: if he didn't have to work, what would he do?
It's hard work, so if I didn't have to then I wouldn't. I'd take care of my own, of course, but I already do: mostly, I leave them alone.

Saturday, January 10, 2009


Half-formed instruction piece using directions from Google Maps.

  • In the form of images (paths) or as text (directions).
  • Cities might be chosen at random or based on some principle.
  • Only very small cities.
  • Only capitols.
  • Cities with the same name.
  • Cities with some other shared characteristic: crime rate, population, longitude...
Presented as prints or on a screen/projection, rotating through possibilities. These things make me think about how we can get from one place to another, and the ways in which we connect things in time, space, and using other labels.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Let Go

Only everything lasts forever.