October 22, 2020

Fog

We took a night drive through heavy fog, aiming toward the ocean. Reverberated guitars washed across the dashboard while we admired the smudged headlights of oncoming traffic, the fleeting sense of driving on some other, better planet.

She dozed for a while, and I contemplated my constant need for motion and my craving for faith in something otherworldly because, really, what would that solve?


Yellow Swans – Sovereign

Going Places | Type, 2010 | Bandcamp
October 19, 2020

Monsters

I had a dream about frightening beasts called Fahrenhogs. They were spiky piggish creatures that loped across the edges of my dream on two legs like men.

It started with a peaceful scene. A flock of ducks bobbed on a pond, the ones with that green-black velveteen shine. Mallards, I think. I tossed them bits of bread, but they weren’t eating. Why weren’t they eating? The people I’ve lost were somewhere behind me, and I could hear my grandfather clearing his throat to say, “Well, you see, Jimmy…” The way he always did before explaining something. Suddenly the ducks darted toward the shore in a determined way that didn’t seem natural, and they rose from the water, attached to bodies of pinky muscle and hair. They weren’t ducks at all, but the topknots of terrible creatures with drooling fangs and stinking breath. I ran through the trees. Well, Jimmy, what do the Fahrenhogs mean?

Why would my brain invent these monsters to terrify itself? And why on earth did it give them a name? I could only think of bad reasons, so I described this dream to C. because she’s good at seeing dreams as instructive, the grey spaces where transformation lives. She suggested that feeding the ducks meant nurturing my projects and plans—but right now, they feel overwhelming. There’s too much on the table. I always feel like I’m starting something, as if my work will begin once I figure things out or get smart enough. But there’s no figuring anything out. There’s just the work.


HTRK – Dream Symbol

Venus In Leo | Ghostly International, 2019 | Bandcamp
Central Park, NYC
October 18, 2020

Fatigue

Infections are increasing across America and Europe. They’re talking about “pandemic fatigue.” The signs at the park that instruct us to keep six feet apart are faded and worn. I don’t think anyone expected they would be on display for so long.

What is the line between fatigue and acceptance? Maybe fatigue would make sense if this season of masks and dots on the floor lasted only a month or two (and for a time, this was possible). The muscle memory of normal might be exhausted, but it would eventually find its way back to its original condition. After seven months with no end in sight, however, acceptance seems like the only workable strategy. Again I find myself returning to the logic of grief, how it’s like losing an arm and there’s no growing it back. But sometimes loss can uncover new ways of understanding what’s important.


Nine Inch Nails – Your New Normal

Ghosts VI: Locusts | 2020 | Download
October 17, 2020

Monument

Saturday afternoon at the museum. 25% capacity, masks, and decals on the floor that reminded us to keep our distance.

I’m always captivated by Louise Nevelson’s monuments built from pieces of furniture painted black. They remind me of childhood, conjuring dim memories of playing among the legs of tables and dressers, of my first intimations of death. It’s a specific feeling that I cannot quite connect to words, and perhaps this is why her work moves and reassures me. More and more, I admire this quote from her: “I have made my world, and it is a much better world than I ever saw outside.”


Loscil – Monument Builders

Monument Builders | Kranky, 2016 | Bandcamp
New York Public Library, 2019
October 16, 2020

Noise

As I walked past a shuttered café this afternoon, I realized how much I miss writing in public. There’s an interesting shift between writing in silence versus writing against noise, such as the din of a coffeeshop or a busy train station. A wall of babble can become a springboard that drives me deeper into my thoughts. That’s something reassuring about this, like a favorite blanket. Maybe it’s the social contract of working among strangers; I can’t pace, moan, or gaze into the refrigerator like I do at home. On the other hand, one person’s coughing or skreaking pencil in a library can shatter my thoughts and become a vector of hate. So there’s a distinct bandwidth for me: either lots of noise or none at all.

The perpetually miserable philosopher Schopenhauer agonized over the noise of the early 19th-century: “I have long held the opinion,” he wrote, “that the amount of noise which anyone can bear undisturbed stands in inverse proportion to his mental capacity. Noise is a torture to all intellectual people.” Perhaps my industrial soundtrack of doom metal and blurred techno reveals my intellectual worth.

In this year without coffeeshops or libraries, I’m surprised how much I miss being around sounds I can’t control. I’m even becoming nostalgic for someone coughing while I try to concentrate.


Mønic – Cut Through The Noise

In a Certain Light | Osiris Music, 2020 | Bandcamp
Somewhere in New Mexico, 2008
October 15, 2020

Watching

Last night I had a dream that I found my father in a parking garage. I hid behind a car and watched him from a distance, afraid he might shoo me away if I approached. He was in charge of picking things off the floor and taking it very seriously. Parking garages are the most common architecture in my dreams, and I wonder if there’s any meaning in this, some insight to be gleaned. Woke up and tried to meditate, but garbled instructions rattled around my head. Stay alert. Click to accept. Stay six feet apart. See something, say something. Breathe through the backside of your body. Are you still watching?

Tonight the president held a town hall on a major network and refused to distance himself from conspiracy theorists who believe the Democrats belong to a satanic pedophilia cult. When the interviewer pressed him on this, he replied, “They are strongly against pedophilia, and I agree with that.” This is the mental state of America. Can a nation recover from this?

Maybe the question shouldn’t be “Are you still watching?” but “Why?”


The Normal – TV O.D.

Warm Leatherette | Mute, 1978 | More
October 14, 2020

Simulation

Day three of the confirmation hearings of another retrograde Supreme Court justice, and it’s a simulation of government. Nobody will deliberate. Nobody will listen. Everyone’s locked in and committed. I flipped on the television and saw footage of one of the president’s frightening rallies. He stood in front of his airplane, flapping his hands and crowing before a sea of red hats. All those red hats like angry sores.

Scientists say there’s a 50/50 chance we live in a simulation. The idea that some lunatic is behind the controls would explain a lot, although I can’t imagine what kind of intelligence would find this entertaining. At least give us magic or Martians or something wild streaking across the sky.


Satomi Taniyama – Simulations Of A Garbage Truck

Portopia | Strange Life Records, 2010 | Bandcamp
Mojave Desert, 2014
October 13, 2020

Slate

I’m fantasizing about the desert again. The Mojave, Sonoran, and Chihuahuan. A place where only the occasional shredded tire or dilapidated cabin would interrupt my fantasy that I’m driving on another planet. I’m daydreaming about the desert as a tabula rasa, a blank-slated land of spiritualized visions even though I know there’s by now no such thing as a fresh start. The past must be reckoned with, and it can be done painfully or gracefully. But one day I’m going to live in a double-wide and get weird.


Abul Mogard – Staring at the Sweeps of the Desert

Works | Ecstatic, 2016 | Bandcamp
October 12, 2020

Pictures

October weather at last. A blustery evening, damp and grey. Maybe it’s the remnants of a tropical storm. While running through the rainy dark, someone stepped in front of me and took my picture for no apparent reason. Maybe they needed a snapshot of a man lumbering into middle age.

Took my picture. Such an odd phrase, as if we carry a single image of ourselves with us like a rare object, something that can be snatched away. This line of thinking brought to mind a quote from Milan Kundera’s Immortality: “Even when I was a child, adults would ask me: little girl, may we take your picture? And then one day they stopped asking. The right of the camera was elevated above all other rights, and that changed everything.”


Franz Falckenhaus – Secret Photographs

Stories from My Cold War | Strange Life, 2006 | Bandcamp
October 11, 2020

Drome

“The television screen has become the retina of the mind’s eye,” says Professor O’Blivion in Videodrome. “Therefore, the television is part of the physical structure in the brain.”

David Cronenberg’s Videodrome is a fever dream that’s tough to shake, and it’s impossible to watch this film from 1983 without mapping it onto today’s internet. How it has colonized our minds, steadily rewiring the real world until every snapshot, thought, and interaction conforms to its logic. Lurking beneath videotaped sleaze and torture porn, a mysterious signal infects James Woods’s brain, warps his body, and transforms him into something ruthless and inhuman. It’s a vivid blend of body horror, sci-fi, and media critique. But now it reads like a heavy-handed metaphor for online radicalization. And like a weird feedback loop, the internet has claimed the mind of the real-life James Woods, transforming him into a pitiful troll who traffics in paranoia and spite.

Would it be possible to update Videodrome for the digital age? Television is unidirectional and, in the end, it’s an object in the room. But how do you make art out of something as omnipresent as air? More and more, it feels like trying to critique the sky.

A childhood fear inspired Cronenberg to make this movie. After the stations had gone off the air for the night, his television would pick up strange signals from Buffalo, and he worried he might see something upsetting. That’s how I feel each time I open a screen. As one of the film’s characters says before he hustles out of the room: “I just can’t cope with the freaky stuff.”


Legowelt – Videophone to Space

Los Alamos Motel | PPU, 2014 | Bandcamp
October 10, 2020

Spare

Sometimes designing a website can veer into unexpectedly existential terrain. Who am I? And what do I believe? That’s what happened today when C. and I began sketching some ideas for a new project website. The internet has become bloated and ugly, not only spiritually but in terms of code. Everything I click feels over-designed with font stacks, carousels, gargantuan banners, and wall-to-wall bullshit. So we decided to aim for something as spartan as possible. One font size. Two columns. Dead simple with white space galore.

When you cut something down to the bone, every decision becomes much more dramatic. Adding a few pixels to a margin can feel like a sudden crescendo. We spent the entire day and much of the night dithering over these decisions, and it was the most fun I’ve had in a while, bickering about whether to use regular or semi-bold.

Nowadays, reduction feels far more productive than addition.


Belong – Remove the Inside

October Language | Carpark, 2006 | Bandcamp
October 9, 2020

Silentium

There were no foiled plots today, no shocking revelations or newly infected politicians or footage of horrifying violence. Just another hurricane in the Gulf and a continuing rise in coronavirus cases. But these calamities are becoming familiar, and it almost felt like a slow news day, aside from the president’s usual braying and bullshit. I fantasize about the day this man’s face no longer lives in my head, a time when I can return to forgetting about the president for a few hours.

This afternoon C. and I rode the train to Green-Wood Cemetery, where we’re planning a project in its beautiful Gothic chapel that was designed by the architects who built Grand Central Station. We switched off the chandelier and watched the pools of stained glass light that glittered on the limestone floor. For a moment, I felt as if I was standing outside of time. And I realized this was because of that rare quality these days: silence.


Arvo Pärt – Silentium

Tabula Rasa, 1977 | More
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