Archive for category Misc

The sounds of gettin’ down.

I know a guy who’s managed to land a date with a woman of legendary beauty. I haven’t even seen a picture of her and I know she is beautiful because you can see it in his eyes when he talks about her. It’s also pretty obvious because he’s fretting about what kind of tunes he should have available when he brings her into his place.

From the outside this is hilarious because if you were to meet him you’d never guess this was a concern. He’s everything a version of me would have wanted to grow up to be- funny, a good story teller, easy going, musically gifted, nonchalant, a bit of a rock gawd but not too much when he’s not on stage. Basically this guy is the sort that you see in a bar and figure the toughest decision he’s facing for the night is just how many ladies he can take home without seeming greedy. So like I said, it’s pretty funny to see him get that far away look in his eyes and ask for ideas of what the right tunes are. I figured all the music he needed was a simple snap of his fingers followed by a finger pointing to his car.

I suppose even if you’re good lookin’ it’s not always that easy.

So what follows here is the result of Miss J going through our music library and pointing out the sexy.
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Videodrome; Questions

So I saw finally saw Videodrome this weekend.

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Japanese Woodblock Printing

First off, I know what happened over the weekend. We’re in Libya now. I hope this goes as well as it can for all involved. Sometimes things get bad. Sometimes they get really bad. And sometimes they get worse. They get so much worse. But then sometimes they get better. It takes a whole lot of work. It takes determination and faith and a willingness to not give up hope. But hopefully someday it works out.


It might be a kind of naive thing to think, but I feel like if we give up hope we fall. So my thoughts are with the people of Libya, and with the service members participating in the operation there.


I know that in light of this acknowledgement the things I am about to discuss may seem like piffle. And perhaps they are. But this piffle is what I have to offer and I feel a responsibility to put it out there. I throw my piffle on the huge pile of piffle and perhaps someone will be able to connect dots later on and de-piff the thing.


So J was looking at Japanese woodblock prints today and we started talking about them and the theory of printing when I realized that I was talking out of my ass and getting a little overreaching on my guesses about how it would work. So I went ahead and started poking around to learn a little about how it all works and instead tripped over the story of printing.




Here’s my version of the story- I’ll bet yours is similar. Gutenberg invented the printing press a few hundred years ago. He printed The Bible with it to show that it was awesome and good for printing the unfiltered word of God and not for printing dirty jokes or television listings. Soon everyone was reading The Bible and the schism with the Protestants and the Catholics and people kept on printing and Thomas Paine and some other bit and then Silly Putty on the comics page and whatever.


Well get this- Gutenberg got his press going in the 1450s, alright. But the Bible wasn’t the first thing he printed. And it’s not like he invented the press and started cranking out bibles. Something I try to keep in mind when I read any of this stuff is all the millions of forgotten people in history. Johann was a metal worker who caught wind of some of the developments going on with this printing technology that was being developed. But before the printing thing took off he and a few guys had a racket going on in the mirror trade. They’d make these awesome mirrors and then hold them up to holy relics and then try and sell them as some sort of miracle mirrors, imbued with the power of whatever relic they had reflected- like some sort of homeopathic hologram but without lasers or seeing the relic even. The religious market was a big one. People who had the means would travel to holy sites and (then as now, because people don’t change all that much) they’d want some sort of souvenir. Mirrors were something of a luxury item anyway, so why not try and jazz them up a bit? Anyway, that’s what he was up to before he strode out onto history’s stage. I offer that bit of trivia not as an explanation of his process, but more to fill him out a little bit. So in 1450 he and a few of his cohorts got a proof of concept movable type press cobbled together and printed a poem. I’m sure he shopped it around a bit and got what we would have no problem calling seed money from a local banker. Five years later he’s knocking out something with a guaranteed market- the Holy Bible. It’s a really interesting story, but it has about jack to do with the Japanese and their woodblock printing process. See, seven hundred years before that the Empress Shotuku (of Japan, natch) wanted to express her thanks to the heavens for her survival of an attempted rebellion. So she commissioned a gift that involved a million little pagodas to go to temples all over Japan. Each of these pagodas had a little scroll in it. And the text on those scrolls was printed. Now I don’t know about you, but I suspect that this idea didn’t occur in a vacuum.


(I’m going to confess to a lack of academic rigor here. Most of this is coming from Wikipedia, because I’m trying to strike while the iron is hot. Given time we can suss this all out, but for now I beg your understanding if I cut some corners here and there.)


So the Empress orders up a print run of a million scrolls to be distributed to Buddhist temples all over Japan. Prayer scrolls for the people who could read them- an expensive, high tech gift for people with the training to make use of them. Pretty cool, if you ask me. Monks and nobility being the only real market for this product, there wasn’t much of a business case for printing much more than prayer scrolls and mandalas and such. That meant that the work of printing was rather rarified stuff- the work of dedicated artisans passing along some serious knowledge. It took about five hundred years, but these presses spread across the country and the process was slowly but surely evolving. Whatever progress was being made in inks and papers and mechanisms, printing was still being done with full page presses. A monk, or probably a team of monks, would take a slab of wood and carve out a negative image with pictures and lettering and all and press it down on a piece of paper. This may seem inefficient, but history didn’t seem to care. This is how printing was done for close to a thousand years. Go ahead and take that in.


And then let’s skip a little bit, because this next part is pretty cool.


In 1590 (almost a century and half after Gutenberg) things had finally gotten to the point where it was time for a work for the masses. There were print shops dotted here and there. There was a growing market of people who had picked up a little bit of reading and writing. Not being restricted to prayers for monks, now our printers could try to tap a different market- business users and bureaucrats. A parallel could probably be drawn between this situation and the spread of mainframes from campuses to the business market. I’m not ready to hash that one out yet, but I can definitely feel it. Anyway, a Japanese-Chinese dictionary was probably not fascinating reading, but for those Japanese who had been trained in the tech and were in contact with Chinese speakers, this would be a rather useful thing to have access to. As I’m sure you can imagine, it sold pretty well. Four years later, Tokugawa Ieyasu (a mover and shaker working his way up the chain) funded some serious development of the technology so that he could use it to print historical and military texts. This part might not seem all that interesting or relevant to Herr Johann, being so much later, but for one thing- the Japanese had seen western presses and didn’t think much of them.
See, Jesuit missionaries had set up a press in Nagasaki in 1590. I’m sure they thought the Japanese were going to be pretty impressed with their hardware, but it doesn’t seem that they were. Maybe it was the lack of home court advantage, maybe the Jesuits just couldn’t get the mindshare needed to light a fire what with their funny language and funny clothes and funny religion. Whatever the case, they weren’t really clicking with the local market. Three years later, Toyotomi Hideyoshi came back from a little misadventure in Korea with a Korean press and moveable type set. (Evidently the Koreans had been dabbling in this stuff for some time as well.) This was the thing that caught Ieyasu’s eye. He bankrolled a 100,000 piece set of Japanese characters and then things started moving along.


I could go on and on about all this. Eventually art prints and the spread of literacy through the populace. Playing cards and Nintendo. Shonen Jump and The Matrix. A calendar with woodblock prints that leads to finding out that Gutenberg wasn’t above a little bit of scammery. A good idea can live for a very long time and evolve in surprising ways. Look at the world around you and know that every single thing you see is composed of atoms that are older than you can understand.


This whole situation is awesome.


So that something might be here.

It’s probably hard to tell what with my sporadic posting, but my internal goal here is to get something up once a week. Most of my free time comes on the weekend, so that’s when I’ve done most of the writing that I’ve put up here. Unfortunately I spent most of this weekend working on a kind of eyes only project. Read the rest of this entry »

sketch book 02 (Ruby Wakes Up)

There is the sleep time in the dark. In the sleep time in the dark the tall up walkers go to their den. I sleep in my bed and Nodorastop sleeps on hers. We sleep and it is dark. If I am thirsty I get up and have water, but not food. The tall up walkers do not leave food for all through the night. They do not want us to have food for all of the night. Food is good and the not food feeling is not good. It is important to eat food whenever you can because the others might come at any time and they will eat all of the food and drink all of the water. I have not seen this happen, but I know it in my bones- some day when I let my guard down the others will come and they will eat all of the food and then the not food feeling will never ever stop.

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Could obsession by any other name smell as sweet?

It’s genuinely easy to look upon others with a sense of superiority, or at least a saccharine pity, when the subject of addiction is broached. We all have the black sheep in the family (and for some of us it’s the whole family), that has a drug or alcohol addiction, allowing it to ruin every thing that did or could make that person great. There are few things in life akin to the sorrow of disappointment in others with potential.

I dare say that these obsessions, these addictions, are just easy pickin’s. I for example drink very little. I do not smoke, nor do I engage in illicit substances abusively or recreationally, yet I am prone to my own obsession that both rob me of the life I could lead and the concentration, at times, even to dream.

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(The Ice-Cream Story)

One night (I was living in Montucky at the time) I decided I would like a root beer float. Living alone at the time, I had to arrange the thing myself. Being too lazy to drive to the store at the time, I had to procure the ingredients from the gas station a block from my apartment. To wit: ice-cream (vanilla) and root beer (pref. Barq’s Famous Old Tyme).

I found the Barq’s straight away and then headed for the frozen goods bin. Lo and behold, there were several flavors of ice-cream… but no vanilla. This presented complications. Childhood experiments had taught me that chocolate was no good for floats so I extended that result to mint chocolate chip and strawberry and whatever the hell else was in there. Neapolitan was present, but I had no interest in all the trouble involved in gutting the vanilla out. Besides, those childhood gustatory experiments had also revealed that while neapolitan can be something of a treat, its component parts- the chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla- were never best in class.  So I was kind of stuck, faced with a deep yearning for a root beer float and only having half the ingredients on hand. That’s when I spotted the fix.

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I’m Looking Into It

I guess I first noticed the rash a few weeks ago.

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Let’s try this again.

I believe the matter is now laid to rest.

Now if you’ve got a few minutes, I’d like to relate how we got to this point.

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