The Arts section of Orient Lodge

Spoken Word Blogging

After college, I moved into an old cinnamon factory with a bunch of aspiring artists in New York City to be a writer. I was most interested in writing poems and short stories. I also had dreams of writing a great novel, but end up writing mostly computer programs.

Fast forward three decades, and I'm sitting in a nice house in suburbia writing blog posts on a laptop computer; a writing implement and genre that didn't exist back in the spice factory days. My online writing style continues to evolve. There have been times that I've written daily, sometimes, not very eloquently, in an effort to hone my craft. Other times, I've just been too busy to write regularly.

I'm starting off 2013 with a good string of blog post, but I've got a busy week ahead. I have to get non-blog writing done for other projects as well.

I'm also spending time trying to find things to inspire me and stimulate my creativity. Yesterday, I ended up on Sarah Kay's Ted talk, If I should have a daughter …

It got me thinking. Should I start hitting some of the poetry open mics? Should I start writing some more poetic blog posts to be read allowed, and then make a video of me reading them which I could share on YouTube? NPR has been doing an interesting series of having poets visit their news room and write poems about the experience and the day's news. Could I do a spoken word poetic news recap, perhaps drawing from other experiments in creative news, from the Daily Show to Autotune the news?

For politics, could I, a former, and perhaps future, political candidate, deliver spoken word poetic stump speeches?

I hope to give some of this a shot, perhaps even today, Epiphany, if I get the time.

SuperCollider, Middletown Remix and Raspberry Pi

At work, I've been speaking with people involved with Middletown Remix. As part of the project, I met with Ron Kuivila, who teaches electronic music at Wesleyan. His biography on Wikipedia mentioned SuperCollider, "an environment and programming language for real time audio synthesis and algorithmic composition". So, last night, I downloaded Supercollider and started playing with it.

I downloaded the Mac OSX universal image version 3.6.2 and started it up. It comes with documentation built in and it was fairly easy to get started. On my Mac, I had to use Shift-Return to kick off snippets of code. The server didn't appear as described in the documentation, but using s.boot; did the trick. The instructions saying to use Cmd-. to stop the sound weren't exactly clear. That's the command key and the period key.

Once I got that far, things started to come together really nicely, and I had my computer making some interesting sounds. Another bit of documentation that I found very interesting was How to Program in SuperCollider. It explained PBind which gave me the ability to play some tunes.

It took a little bit of remembering music theory, to get a scale that sounds half way decent.

\freq, Pseq([ 1/1, 9/8, 5/4, 4/3, 3/2, 5/3, 15/8, 2 ] * 440, 5),
\dur, Prand([0.2, 0.4, 0.3], inf)

The next subject it looks like I need to explore is SynthDefs.

With all of this coming together, the next obvious question was, what other devices could I run SuperCollider on? There is a great blog post on SuperCollider on the Raspberry Pi. I plugged in my Raspberry Pi, loaded the SuperCollider program on it and tried to get it to run. It seemed to run okay, but the instructions talked about using Overtone to control the SuperCollider server, and I haven't gotten that far. Nor have I done anything with Synths yet, which is what I read about in the SuperCollider 3 Server Tutorial.

It does seem like an exciting project would be to use a large number of Raspberry Pi's running SuperCollider, and perhaps some sensors to make them react to what is going on around them. This could be used to create a sound installation, perhaps similar to what Ron spoke about with his rainforest installation.

I also started playing with SuperCollider for Android. I got it to start and make a sound, but not do anything subsequent. Their page, How to control SC Android remotely didn't seem to work with my Android. and server remained listed as inactive. However, using the same commands to my Raspberry Pi, I did manage to get indication that the Raspberry Pi SuperCollider server is running properly.

That pretty much captures where I am with SuperCollider, Middletown Remix and Raspberry Pi this morning. It's time to get about my chores. If've you're playing with SuperCollider and/or Raspberry Pi, let me know what your up to.

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#visionforum - Finding My Religion - Picasso's Theory of Relativity

Saturday evening, Kim and I went to the Connecticut Forum discussion, Vision and Brilliance which featured Neil deGrasse Tyson, Neri Oxman and Neil Gaiman. The event was sold out; packed with geeks that most likely rarely make it to the Bushnell. I must admit that the only other time I've been to the Bushnell as to see Blue Man Group a couple years ago.

Others have written about what a great event it was, so I'm going to share a few of my thoughts about specific parts of the content. In the slides before the event started, it mentioned that the hashtag for the event was #visionforum. Yet then they played the standard announcement at the beginning of the events at the Bushnell about turning off all electrical devices and not taking photos. A lot of people had their cellphones out as the event started, but the tweeting subsided pretty quickly. Unfortunately, but my phone and Kim's were low on battery power and I didn't get to tweet as much as I would have liked.

John Dankowsky started off with a standard introductory question and the panelists answered the way I had already heard them speak in YouTube videos. Then he moved on to a question about what is vision and brilliance? Where does it come from. The three panelists all seemed to agree and give the same answer in slightly different ways. Vision and brilliance comes from doing what you love. From having a job you don't want to take a vacation from. Tie to that was an important aspect of keeping at your passion, even though others might not understand what you are talking about.

This played out particularly notably between Neri Oxman and Neil Gaiman. Oxman went off on topics about 3D and 4D printing; printing cartilage, printing DNA, and time after time, Gaiman seemed to say, that gives me a great idea for another story. Picasso's theory of relativity, a house seed, and several other ideas.

Oxman had talked about Cubism and the Theory of Relativity emerging at about the same time and how closely related they were in her mind. They were both about taking observations and trying to make sense of them. They both built upon the what was known at the time. It led to some interesting talks about intelligence. Intelligence, at least as it is measured by humans is about learning from others, from not having to rediscover tools or fire in each new generation. I could almost hear President Obama paraphrased into, "You didn't discover that by yourself." I could imagine some conservatives writhing at the idea about how connected and dependent we really are on one another.

After the break, there was a discussion about science and religion. It seemed to fall back on what I believe is a misguided false dichotomy between religion and science. The discussion drifted into the idea of "God of the Gaps", God, described in terms of what science can't explain. I got tired of that discussion over three decades ago in a science and religion philosophy class in college. Tyson spoke favorably about Jefferson's Bible, where Jefferson left out the miraculous and supernatural stuff.

Yet this struck me as anti-science, a sort of science of the gaps. Science is about observing, forming hypotheses and testing them. It is not about discarding observations that contradict current scientific theories. It seemed that Oxman managed to capture the spiritual aspect much more wisely, with an ability to appreciate the beauty of both arts and sciences.

Recently, there was an interview on NPR about a new book about prayer, which broke prayer down to three key forms: Help, Thanks, and Wow. I thought the author was brilliant. We all pray those three prayers in different ways, and Wow is a special place where science, arts, and religion can all meet. It also sums up, fairly nicely, the response to many great ideas that were shared at CT Forum's panel discussion Vision and Brilliance.

The tweeting continued until Sunday, with people talking about another CT Forum nerdfest; perhaps making it an annual event. I know that I have plenty more to write about the event, but I wanted to get these initial thoughts down before the new week started.

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Messages from a Future Biographer

The other day, I was listening to Fresh Air on NPR and heard an interview with the screenwriter for the new movie about Lincoln. He talked about Daniel Day Lewis getting into character yet at the same time still texting with him. He referred to himself as Lincoln's metaphysical conundrum. Not only did texting not exist back then, neither did movies. Perhaps the best analogy for Lincoln would have been receiving messages via the telegraph from a playwright.

Yet even with that, there issues of communicating across time remain puzzling. When we write, it is people in the future, thinking of time as an ongoing sequence, that will read what we wrote, not people in the past. Texts somehow made available to an earlier time present interesting issues. Could someone from the future, somehow, share with us text that we will write in the future? Perhaps a biography or some literary criticism of something we are yet to write?

Really, this isn't that new of an idea. There have always been fortune tellers, but they are rarely thought of as bearing messages from a future biographer or a future literary critic. There is the whole realm of the unconscious. Can we learn something about, or perhaps possibly shape our future by discovering or exploring what is in our unconscious?

I wrote the other day about the unconscious that perhaps exists in our Facebook groups. Are there messages from the future somehow contained in our Facebook walls?

To bring this back down to earth, yesterday, Kim asked if I wanted to see Neil Gaiman at the CT Forum in a couple weeks; a message about the future. I went and checked out a YouTube video of Gaiman giving a commencement speech at the University of the Arts. He was speaking about the future, "Make Good Art".

Of course, the question of how we make good art remains. Where does inspiration come from? How do we better incorporate creativity into our education system or our work lives? Perhaps a future biographer or critic can give us insights.

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Halley's Comet

It is a beautiful autumnal evening and a great night to watch for shooting stars. The annual Orionid meteor show peaks this evening. I love meteor showers and often stay up to watch them. I've thought about what to wish on a shooting star this evening, perhaps something about the election, but then, I thought back to the story of the Orionid meteor showers.

They are formed from the dust that Halley's Comet left in its wake the last time it passed by in 1986. This summer, at Falcon Ridge, I heard a great band called Gathering time. Their song, Halley's Comet, was one of my favorites.

It was 1985, when Halley's comet came in view
and if I didn't see it then, it'd be a long, long wait I knew,
I lived in a college town where street lights made stars hard to see
To see it well, I'd have to walk
Unto the school observatory
Though it was often on my mind,
I somehow never found the time
and it had all but vanished when
I knew I'd missed my chances then…

The song goes on to talk about living in Brooklyn, and missing chances to visit the World Trade Center or reconnect with a friend who died on 9/11.

It is a beautiful song about missed opportunities, and a reminder to seize the day.

Halley's comet won't be back until I am over 100, but every year, we get the opportunity to catch glimpses of its remnant streaking across the sky in the Orionid Meteor Showers.

Will I see shooting stars tonight? if so, will my wishes on shooting stars come to pass? I'll need to seize the day, and try to make my dreams come true.

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