What WCBN Looks Like

Last week the Michigan Daily called up during my show and asked if they could come down and do some shooting. Bill Corrigan was next up and said he was down with it. The results (plus Tyler Dancer and another DJ from the previous day):

update: That’s too bad, it looks like they’ve taken the episode down.

Dominoes Made of Dominoes Part II

I have nothing to say about the financial crisis, because I discover that as a heavy news reader who has scraped through classes on law, economics and complex systems, and even read some Galbraith on a bus once, I don’t have even first principles to judge what has just happened in the US financial system. The subject–the impenetrable interplay of financial “instruments”–is so inscrutable that any comprehensible narrative one tries to tease out of it by watching the shadows it casts on the wall seems to have more to do with what goes on in one’s own head than what goes on in the stock markets or boardrooms or policy lairs of the world. I just have no idea about where it came from, or what it means, or what should be done, or where it will go. All I’ve learned is that the people who presumably do have the expertise to deal with this, possibly don’t.

But everyone is telling one story or another about it all the same. And they usually boil down to public versus private, government versus market. Here’s a somehow rather heartening thought from commenter HH at Crooked Timber:

The left-right polarization over and private enterprise is overshadowed by the larger conflict between truth and lies. Both free market and planned economic systems can function with reasonable efficiency when operated with competence and integrity. Neither can function when overrun by thieves and liars.

America’s moon landing program and nuclear submarine projects were masterpieces of centrally planned, government sponsored endeavors. France’s nationally controlled nuclear power program achieved great success, while America’s privately managed nuclear power efforts stumbled. It is the animating vigor and functional integrity of a program that is the best predictor of success, not its ideological grounding.

To which I think I would add that we get a somewhat better chance at choosing thoughtful criteria for what ‘success’ means for public enterprises than for private.

Here’s an old-hand financial technician interviewed by Reason magazine people:

(Just incidentally, I’m tickled to note that the Reason blog linked to this little old website a few days back).

I don’t understand how he gets from some of his premises to some of his conclusions. But his central premise feels about right: nobody knows how to value these derivatives, which seem to have absorbed so much of the nations wealth and now may or may not even particularly exist as real entities in the real universe. The old bosses didn’t know how to value them, and the new bosses won’t either, once they’ve sunk so much more of the country’s treasure into getting a chance to try.

But we won’t admit to ourselves that we’re dealing with an uncertainty, will we? Instead we’ll talk ourselves into believing one thing or the other, and forge ahead on that basis.

A separate but related question: how does a country that can’t afford equitable education or health care keep finding hundreds of billions of dollars lying around when there’s a country to be invaded or a bank to be bought out? Where does all this money come from? And why wasn’t it there before?

Dominoes Made Of Dominoes

Consider looking at this:

Collecting Music

The video backstory to the “World’s Greatest Music Collection on sale on Ebay” story which circulated earlier in the year:

The Archive from Sean Dunne on Vimeo.


Earlier this evening I was hanging out with my supervisor, discussing music storage formats and our evolving relationship with the decreasingly tangible but still vital ways we invest value in our music collections. Yes folks, we live a life of the mind around here. I announced I would start watching for the important moment when the temporal extent of my music collection exceeded my age. For the record, right now it’s at 2 1/2 months. (My music collection, not my age.) As I understand it, Paul Mawhinney’s collection is approximately lifetime length. And it’s largely vinyl.

If you think we live too much a life of the mind around here, here’s an escalation: I believe our society should support institutions which are sufficiently abstract but sufficiently funded by tax money that one would purchase and properly archive Mr. Mawhinney’s music collection.

See also: The Vinyl Anachronist, cranky, intermittent, vinlyic editorialist for the wonderfully named Perfect Sound Forever ezine. See this one, for example.

1971 Protein Assembly Video that Strives to Not Be Static

As marvelous as the blissed-out semi-dance sequence which forms the meat of this demonstration may be, my favourite part is how committed the impossibly MITish man who introduces the proceedings is to the merits of depicting protein formation “in the dance idiom”.

RollTube/Fragility of the System

Somebody had to do it: a firefox extension to make every youtube video Rick Roll instead.


I recognize there has been a lack of substantive posts around here lately. Several good ones have come and gone in my head, but it’s been a busy time and there hasn’t been an opportunity to type them down. If you want interesting substance, I’d recommend reading this Q&A regarding the Bear Stearns situation and contemplating how a system that is so fragile that a single failed node in the network can threaten its total collapse is going to fare when the recursive effects of global climate change perturb it from many angles simultaneously.

Or just install that rolltube extension and surf the video net!

Evolutionary Programming of Clocks as Rant

This cross-genre rant is great. Evolutionary programming to design physical objects never ceases to entertain me. Add in a Mr. Furious-ANGRY anti-intelligent design rant, plus some truly stupid animation humour, and you have a uncomfortable and (I think) hilarious one-of-a-kinder.

“The clock genome is a matrix containing the information of who binds to who and what their properties are.

Remember, the theory of evolution is NOT abiogenesis.

Arguing that because I wrote this program and I am intelligent somehow proves intelligent design is being incredibly ignorant.

IF the purpose of this simulation was to test abiogensis then you would have a point but it’s not so you don’t.”

Lego and Logo: the Simple Joys of Childhood, Revisited

You’ve read all the front-page headlines so you know by now that it’s the 50th anniversary of Lego (give or take a few days). Oh man, hurray! Over at Boing Boing Gadgets, Joel has a list of the 9 lego sets he lusted over most. I remember pining over 7 to 9 too, but I totally had numbers 1 and 2! For a while my folks had a Christmas tradition of tagging the biggest gift as being “from Santa” and parking it in plain sight in front of the tree. I remember coming down to find the #375 castle awaiting me. I also remember my parents reflecting on being up all christmas-eve-night putting the 779 pieces together. I don’t think either they or I really took the santa concept very seriously.

I’m also pretty stoked that this year (give or take a year) is the 40th anniversary of Logo. Logo is a programming language–in fact a legitmate derivative of Lisp, the most revered of computer languages–but they didn’t tell us elementary school students that when we used it. They cleverly told us it was an art tool. I used it extensively for my art-ucation on our family’s Franklin Ace 1000, the Icons at school, and one heady summer when my dad brought an Icon back from his shcool and let me keep it in my bedroom. A computer in my bedroom! It sat next to my lego bins. I don’t use lego very much in my daily life, but I’m still using a version of logo for my graduate research today. I like that.

This video from the Logothings website is great:

Hey look, them kids are hacking in lisp!

Treeplanting Documentary and Foreshadowing

Erika Drushka has made a documentary called “Rooted Lives” about 3 long-timers on the coast. There’s a website with a trailer here. Looks absolutely fantastic.

I notice the contact address for Mighty Films is on St. Charles St. in Victoria. The name’s a little familiar too. Have I met Erika?

And a reminder that there’s an increasing amount of quality audio/video about planting out there. I’m still blown away by just how little treeplanting has been mined as a source of material for mainstream movies and TV and such. Everybody in Canada knows somebody who plants. It’s like there’s a three-decade old war and nobody has bothered to make a Full Metal Jacket or From Here to Eternity about it. Or Band of Brothers. You could totally just photoshop some dreads onto the guys in Band Of Brothers, re-title it and re-release it for huge bucks in canukistan.

Jose-Luis at Twisted Tree Productions has made a project of filming short videos of treeplanting and related topics. Click on “Image and Video Bank”.

Here’s video of Ed from Barenaked Ladies strapping on the bags for TV.

Here’s Nicki Mosely’s radio documentary from a while back:


tree-planter.com still has the trailer for the “Getting Screefed” movie that never happened. Watching it now, I notice that one of the guys has the same Highland Helicopters hat that pilot Tim gave us, and I wore for a season, and then lost, and then Sherwin found me a new one somehow.

And there is more and more and more great photography out there, if you search around. When I started, Handmade Forests was the beginning and end of the subject. Since then, photography has come to the clearcuts in a big way, and the results have been phenomenal. There’s also a burgeoning movement of planting-blogging, as the facebook generation moves into the blocks.

Also there’s a great new project in the works which I’m probably not at liberty to describe at the moment, except that it’s about music and looks like it’s coming together nicely.

I can feel myself losing touch with my treeplanting existence. The memories are all there somewhere I suppose, but I’m losing my direct access to them. Now when I look at these movies and photos and hear these stories, they evoke a compelling world that I would like to experience, like a fantasy novel, instead of triggering my own experiences. What’s up with that? It’s a sad experience. It’s not like I didn’t go through this, in overwhelmingly enormous detail, day in day out, for what felt at the time like forever. I lived lives in the bush. Why I can’t I feel them?

Oh yes, there’s a chance I’ll be planting a contract in Creston this spring. Come to think of it, maybe the memories are safer forgotten. Oh god.

David Simon’s Iraq War Miniseries

First teaser for the upcoming David Simon/Ed Burns production Generation Kill. Oh boy.

← newer posts · older posts →