William Gibson

In the early 1990s, I read the Sprawl Trilogy by William Gibson and a bunch of stuff about hackers. When my wife applied to grad school for Library Science, I read through the materials she got, and saw stuff about the internet. Having no career, and finding this quite interesting, I applied to grad school too. So when people ask me how I got interested in my career, I can honestly tell them it was cyberpunk science fiction that pulled me in. At the time I read that stuff I had barely even touched a computer.

The Internet was different back then. The World Wide Web, as the highly graphical representation of the internet we know today, was just taking off. This was about 1994. Mosaic was the web browser of choice, then came NetScape. There wasn’t that much on the web, and I actually preferred using Gopher, which was a non-graphical predecessor to the Web. There was no such thing as home broadband. You used a fairly slow modem. Downloading an image took some time.

I feel like there was, back then, a more geographic notion of the internet. A lot of activity was still based around universities. When you went to a Gopher site, or a Web site, you had more an idea that you were “going somewhere” — the idea that you were actually traversing cyberspace was more immediate. My first job as a reference librarian was at NASA Johnson Space Center. When doing research for the engineers, scientists, and astronauts there, I’d often imagine myself physically exploring the data — immersing myself in it.

Not everyone was “on the internet” back then, so if you were, you felt like you knew something. It was cool. To this day I like to Telnet to a server to do some work — makes me feel like a wizard.

Anyway, I watched this documentary about William Gibson tonight. I really enjoyed it. I am grateful to William Gibson for igniting my imagination and leading me to a very rewarding career.

Blade Runner

I watched Blade Runner last night. It was the “Final Cut”  version, released in 2007. Such a great movie. Blade Runner was originally released in 1982. Like a lot of great films from decades ago, it did not predict the ubiquity of wireless communications (Deckard has to use a futuristic phone booth), but otherwise it holds up really well. Visually it’s as stunning as ever, and it’s great to be able to stream it in HD to a fairly large screen in your own home.

The look and feel of Blade Runner is often cited as being the quintessential atmosphere of cyberpunk. I don’t really know about that.  For one thing, the film has nothing to do with computer networks — there is no cyberspace. And while portions of Los Angeles look crowded, the streets often look deserted, presumably due to migration of people to the Offworld Colonies. I usually think of cyberpunk as being crowded everywhere. Still, I guess the noir feeling the movies carries off so well is somewhat compatible with William Gibson‘s Sprawl Trilogy.

I’ve never read the Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, the story by Philip K. Dick, upon which this film is based. I should add it to my reading list.

Whenever I watch Blade Runner, I find myself wanting to know more about the world and its characters. There has been some additional fiction written about the setting, but that all just seems kind of ridiculous. Fan Fiction at best? Other than seeing Blade Runner 2049 when it comes out, perhaps it’s best to just let the film stand on its own.

No other movie looks quite as good as this.

CyberPunk

Ran game 3 of my GURPS CyberPunk game tonight, in which the Players stopped a cult from transferring the mind of Cthulhu, a CyberSpace entity, into a corporeal body grown by a rogue scientist. All in the Texas Megacity of 2065.

Below is an animated GIF I made to be dread Cthulhu’s presence on a CyberSpace monitor.

Christmas Podcast

Just a few sounds grabbed from the interwebs. Some stuff from the old Rudolph animated special, and ending with Cher — all with a little echo and reverb.

I originally had much grander plans for this years Christmas podcast, but just ran out of time. Oh well, maybe next year. This has been a strange Christmas, but I am glad for my friends and my extended family, especially my sisters-in-law and their families.

I hope everyone has an excellent Christmas. Peace.

Post 665

Oh yeah, next post will be #666, so I’d better make it a lot better than this one.

I just wanted to write a little note about Haymarket Books, and how a lot of the time if you buy an actual physical book from them they make an eBook available to your for download also. I think this is really, really cool. I love it. I read better, faster, and with less eye strain on my Kindle, but I still like to have the book in physical form too. I think all books should be this way. It’s rad.

Some Skateboard Stuff I Like

Some skateboard stuff I like. I used to be a Gravity longboards and Randal trucks guy, but since the companies have been sold I don’t really have any kind of longboarding company loyalty (other than ABEC-11 and Retro wheels, which rule). I’m listing stuff here that I own and use (well, I haven’t used the Moonshine deck, but they deserve props).

Mode Skateboards – maker of freestyle boards and really good FS wheels.
Moonshine Skateboards – vert board company that fully supports freestyle.
Cockfight Skateboards – Texas based company that makes good vert, ditch, and street boards. Good dudes.
Bones Wheels – yeah – not the “little guy”, but they make Bones STF, which I really like. For my way of skating street and ditches, they work quite well. I’ve found them to be exceptionally long lasting as well.
Tracker Trucks – they make the Fultrack- best freestyle truck around, forever.
Khiro Bushings – really good bushings
Reflex Bushings – from ABEC 11. More good bushings.
Ace Trucks – good trucks with good quality control.
Frank Pocellis Laminates – this guy laminates his own blanks before he cuts the boards. Really good stuff too!
OJ Wheels – though Bones STF is my go-to wheel, I have found the pro signature OJ wheels to be quite good. It is my understanding that they are poured here in the US, but some of their price point stuff is not. Anyway, good wheels.

 

Kafka and Crumb

Yesterday at work I picked up this graphic novelization of the life of Franz Kafka, by David Zane Mairowitz and art by Robert Crumb. It’s kind of a study of Kafka’s life and personality and how they relate to his writing.

I’m no scholar of Kafka, but I’ve read a bit and I’ve always been fascinated by him. I liked the film Kafka with Jeremy Irons too. This book delves into his life in Prague, in the Jewish ghetto (I recommend you click on this link, and then read about the history of this area and how it came to be — eye-opening), his relationship with his apparently super oppressive father, and goes into the antisemitism in that part of the world, which predates WWII and the Nazis by many decades (if not centuries). I knew something of this based on my visit in 2007 to the Jewish Museum Frankfurt, Germany, as well as the Dachau concentration camp. It was pretty staggering to see the antisemitic cartoons and pamphlets in these places. The ground was fertile for Hitler’s atrocities.

But back to this book.

Gotta love the Crumb artwork. Really perfect for this project. Especially for Kafka’s angry father. You can tell how much Crumb hates men like this just from the artwork. I’m sure he identifies with the personality of Kafka as well. If you haven’t seen the documentary Crumb, you should watch it. Really good. A fascinating person.

The book contains comic versions (with commentary) of some of Kafka’s works, including of course, the Metamorphosis, as well as the Burrow, the Trial, In the Penal Colony, and others. I had not read the Burrow, but now I must.

 

Books to piss you off, educate you, or make you lose sleep.

Since perhaps the biggest asshole in the country has been elected our next President, and since he’s clearly going to be making other massive buttholes his cabinet members, I thought I’d pass along some great publishers and authors you might want to read.

EDIT: Was just thinking – I want to say this. As publisher of a small skateboarding magazine, I know it is not cheap to publish print materials. I encourage anyone who reads this to seek out small and/or independent publishers who are making quality reading available, buy their books, and keep buying them. They are perhaps one of the best things we have going in this country, and they need our support even more these days.

  1. Matt Taibbi — lots of good muckraking. I’ve read lots of his stuff. Hard hitting and funny. Good stuff.
  2. Naomi Klein – author of the Shock Doctrine and lots of other informative books.
  3. Haymarket Books – really good publisher of lots of political stuff. One of my favorite publishers. I order directly from them, rather than via Amazon or other middle-men. I’m particularly stoked about their Stop Trump Reading List.
  4. Deep Vellum – a publisher of literary translation out of Dallas, TX.  Reading this stuff will make you smarter. And that’s a good thing.
  5. Coffee House Press – not political, strictly speaking, but some really good stuff.
  6. AK Press – radical stuff.
  7. The Nation Magazine – I resubscribed this last year, when it became clear that things were going south.

Obviously just reading a few things does not equate to taking positive action against the coming bullshit, but arming yourself with some knowledge won’t hurt either.

I think the coming years are going to be challenging, as the right wing has taken over for the time being, and will seek to enact socially regressive policies. What can you do? I got no magic formula. I plan to try, in my own life, to show the sort of kindness to others that the rightwingers and angry will not. One can be kind and strong.

KAWS, 10/30/16, the Modern, Fort Worth

I went to this show knowing nothing at all about the artist.

A few things I noticed.

First, the sculptures, even if made from aluminum, fibreglass, or whatever, really looked like giant plastic toys. The texture was amazing. So when I saw the giant wood sculptures, I didn’t just assume they were, in fact, of wood. They were.

The paintings: clearly I’m not a painter, because I was amazed at the line quality of the black outlines in these often big paintings. The lines were perfect. Finally, even with the obvious influence of American cartoons, the paintings often have a somewhat grotesque quality, like a body that has been cut open.

My friend Marshall Thompson tells me that he usually looks at mastery of the medium when looking at art, which is what I tried to do at this show. I thought it was impressive in that respect.

This Fall

Assuming there is an actual Fall this year, with nice weather, rather than going from blistering miserable summer right into cold and shitty winter, I want to take a skate/reading/writing roadtrip in the new car. It’s nice to have a new car. It’s nice to skate. It’s nice to read and write.

I need to plan this, but damn, I think it might be too late to do a good one, as my work schedule is already kinda set. Will have to see. Would like to drive to skate with friends, and when driving listen to audio books and podcasts, and when not skating find a nice place to read and write.

I’d like to drive out to West Texas. Maybe start in El Paso, skate with some friends there, and then down south a bit, see the desolation and soak it in, then to the border/Harlingen, then head down to Southeast Texas/Galveston, do the same thing, then up through Central Texas. Would like to camp at Palo Duro Canyon.