Jan 17, 2018

Portland, First Impressions

The first thing I saw when I got to Portland was a legion of homeless bums, wandering and chilling in the streets. You might say I just hopped off the train at the wrong stop (Skidmore Fountain) but Google tells me it was indeed the right one for Voodoo doughnuts. I didn't end up getting a donut; I felt too conspicuous in my brand new grey Keds, clutching my phone hunting for directions. Instead I headed down to a cafe called Mother's to hole up from the cold.

The smell of unwashed people sticks with you. Whatever happened to public baths and poor houses?

The next thing I noticed is that there's lots of trains, that go all kinds of useful, practical places. Like downtown, and the convention center, and the airport. I was impressed at how incredibly walker friendly the train lines are. They go right through the center of town, and stop at street level. No stairs. I bought a day pass and just hopped on and off all day, but no one asked me for proof of fare, not ever. It reminded me a lot of the trains in Berlin, except cheaper and with warmer weather, somehow.

The weather was super dour. It was overcast all day and started raining at 3p. It hasn't let up since.

All the weird that SF used to be has strong echoes in Portland. People here are weird, in that fun funky Austin weird kind of way. I've heard that SF used to be weird. SF isn't weird anymore.

People talk a lot about how Portland isn't very diverse; it feels like the citizens of Portland have accepted this fact as a personal challenge and gone out of their way to instead showcase their individuality. Rock on Portland.

Women in weirdly overlarge button ups; butchesque.

I swear I saw a futsal arena and a pet funeral home out the train window on my way into the city from the airport. Should I know what futsal is? I don't know what futsal is.

Weirdly expensive shops. I wandered into a clothing shop near the Powell bookstore and was shocked to discover the pair of shoes.I picked up cost $500. The overcoat I wanted was $1,250. Yeah, right. How do people in Portland have this kind of money. What do people in Portland do that have this kind of money? Don't tell me tech exists here too; tech only admits to existing in SF.

Chatty airport staff who seem to really care about the rules. Please, don't talk to me. I don't want to answer your questions about the contents of my (yes really) empty pockets or the type of electronics I am currently carrying. And please just let the lady with two carry on bags and a purse do her thing. That purse is our repatriations for the loss of usable pockets in feminine clothing.

Powell's was nice, but I like the stock at Green Apple on the Park better. It's not as extensive, but they also don't have leagues of expired resale books. The number of sections Powell stocks is impressive, but I wasn't super awed by the contents of a few of their niche segments; a lot of it seemed undercurated, like they had just collected a set of titles without ready access to an expert in the field. For contrast, the small collection of books at SF's Botanical Gardens' gift shop is amazingly focused on botany and gardening books, especially for the Bay Area. Make no mistake, Powell had some great Portland/Oregon curation; I'm more complaining about their paltry Opera scores and electronics sections -- why even have one if you're not going to flesh it out appropriately?

I'm not sure what I think of Portland.

Jan 10, 2018

A Year of Reading in Review, Vol. 3

It's time for the annual year of reading review.  There's a number of books on the list this year that really deserve a longer blurb than I'm going to give here. Hopefully this year I'll do a better job of actually writing in depth reviews of books I've read.

On the face of it, I read far less books this year than in the past two years.  In 2016 I read 52 books, roughly one book per week. This year I reported reading just over half that many, 29.  There's a few reasons for this discrepancy. The first is that I simply read less books.

Secondly, in 2016 I counted books that I decided not to read.  I did this because "deciding not to" was a theme of 2016 and I wanted to celebrate the books that I chose to put aside.  I took several books off of my reading list in 2017, but it felt so natural it doesn't seem worth counting.

According to Goodreads, these 29 books contained 10,289 pages. The oldest book was Eric Hoffer's True Believers; the newest, Phillip Pullman's first installment of his new Book of Dust series, was published in Octobe of 2017.  Believe it or not 3 of the books that I read were published in 2017.  Talk about quick turn around time!

Looking at the histogram of when the books I read were published, I feel that I did a pretty good job of reading a mix of older books while keeping up on new works.

On a whole, I feel like the quality of the books I read this year was higher than last year's. I really enjoyed the majority of the books that I read in 2017, and found a few new favorite authors!



Authors I'd Love to Read More of in 2018

Hannah Arendt.  Hannah's writing and clarity of insight is boss level good. Her book The Human Condition is, at least on Wikipedia, quoted as being one of the best books of the 21st century.  I do not think that they are exaggerating. In terms of depth and quality of analysis of real world phenomena, I'd put her on par with if not better than Jane Jacobs.  I'm really looking forward to reading more of her work in 2018, particularly Eichmann in Jerusalem.

Michael Lewis. Lewis is a master storyteller.  His books paint the most vivid pictures of the people involved, in a really concise and clear way.  He does such a great job of contextualizing everything; it's really inspiring. If I could write like anyone, I would want to write like Lewis does.  I wasn't expecting to enjoy his books as much as I did.


Themes

Stories about the way the world works, the people that work inside of it; books that inquired into the nature of human work and trade and thought; I tried out a few new fiction series, none of them really stuck. I read my first ever Chinese fiction and realized what an enormous super power Asia will be for the 21st century.  I read books about urban structures and power systems within them.  I learned a lot about the specific history of some niche industries and phenomena.


Top Picks

Usually my top picks for books are the ones that contain vital human truths that everyone must know.  This year's a bit different -- instead I picked books that I really enjoyed reading.  Vital truths aren't always the most enjoyable!

The Human Condition, Hannah Arendt
Crazy Rich Asians, Kevin Kwan
Fortune's Formula, William Poundstone

Book Synopses / Hot Takes

Stories of Your Life and Others, Ted Chiang
6/10

This is a collection of short works of speculative fiction.  I found the central conceit of the stories to be incredibly good, but the actual prosic execution lacking in spark.  More than anything, the tone and pacing of the stories didn't feel very natural.  Worth reading for the brilliant story lines alone, however.

Creativity, Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
2/10

I'm rating this book low because I found it lacking in rigor and insight; the writing was just plain boring.  However!  Csikszentmihalyi attempts to find commonalities between people that he terms Creatives with a capital C -- the difference being that a Creative has an impact on a community; whereas a normal creative doesn't necessarily build a practice around their work.  Another thing that Csikszentmihallyi points out, but without much extrapolation or further exploration, is that most of the individuals his team marked out as 'Creative' lost one or both parents at an early age.  I personally can't stop thinking about this; in particular what does it say about the parent child relationship? How has a rising age limit on people changed our ability to build independence; what is the relationship then between independence and creativity?  These questions are not addressed in this book, but I find them incredibly relevant; our politicians are on average older than ever.  On a personal note, all of my grandparents and parents are still alive (and I just turned 30!).  Is it normal for humans to live for 30 years without a close personal loss?  Has this affected my own independence/creativity?  Hard to say.

The Princess Diarist, Carrie Fisher
5/10

This is the tell-all novel of Fisher's 3 month affair with co-star Harrison Ford during the filming of the first Star Wars film.  This book convinced me that Star Wars owes its success to both George Lucas's genius and Carrie Fisher's wonderful love for life.  Fisher passed in Dec 2016; I'm glad she got this book out before she went.

A Manual For Cleaning Women, Lucia Berlin
3/10

In isolation, I think Lucia Berlin writes amazing stories.  As a collection of work, however, the themes and situations that her characters find themselves in struck me as incredibly repetitive. Make no mistake, Berlin is a masterful storyteller, but I got burnt out.

Fortune's Formula: The Untold Story of the Scientific Betting System That Beat the Casinos and Wall Street, William Poundstone
9/10

I love books that tell stories about people in real life, while teaching you something about the world. This book does that; it clearly shows how the Martingale betting strategy works while telling the story of the men who created and refined it.  I know considerably more about the world of bet making now, with the historical context to understand it.  So good.

City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in Los Angeles, Mike Davis
7/10

This book is weird. It doesn't really fit into any category outside of a certain genre of woke literature. It tells the history of L.A. through various aspects of the city's geography. It's incredibly good and also incredibly dense; it took me forever to read this book. More than anything, I blame this book for slowing down my reading progress in 2017.  Definitely worth a read if you're interested in urban spaces and the political power of space.  Also, being new to California, it was an AMAZING primer into the history of land use and speculation in Cali, and more than anything really drove home why the rent is so goddamn expensive here.  History matters yo!

La frantumaglia, Elena Ferrante
6/10

This English translation of Elena Ferrante's was released in Oct 2016; I didn't get around to reading it until early 2017.  I was absolutely floored by Ferrant'es Neopolitano series; Frantumaglia is a collection of Ferrante's letters writing about her writing process, her relationship to her readers, and some further context for the inspiration for her work.  Ferrante is well-known for her secretiveness -- Elena Ferrante is in fact a pseudonym; no one knows for certain who the actual author is.  I enjoyed reading her personal correspondences and interviews but eventually found them to be a bit repetitive.

Liar's Poker, Michael Lewis
9/10

This is such a good book. Lewis is a masterful storyteller.  In Liar's Poker, he walks us through the politics and personalities of the Salomon Brother's trading firm in the 80's, when the mortgage credit derivative desks were getting their start.  It's a must read for anyone who wants to better understand how trading desks actually work, and why the Sarbanes Oxley act was so incredibly necessary.  More than anything, this outlines the history of mortgage backed securities, more or less foreshadowing the crash of '08.

The Geography of Nowhere: The Rise and Decline of America's Man-Made Landscape, James Howard Kunstler
-/10

This is embarrassing. I honestly don't remember much about this book.  I think I read it too close in time to Organization Man; they both largely trace the same phenomenon but through different lenses.  Org Man focuses very acutely on a single neighborhood and the psychology of large organizations; Geography of Nowhere focuses more on the built environment and the impact of a car based culture.  Good but apparently not incredibly memorable.

Milk and Honey, Rupi Kaur
6/10

A collection of very personal poems. A good, quick read.  Honestly I think I would have enjoyed these a lot more had I read them 6 years ago.

The Organization Man, William Whyte
8/10

I found out about Whyte's book through a biography of Jane Jacobs; I believe that Whyte was an editor or peer of Jane at the Architectural Forum, but don't quote me on this.  I loved the close, psychological profile that Whyte paints of the type of individual that does well in corporate environments. In a large way, it echoed the guardian syndrome that Jane spells out in Systems of Survival.  His comparison of organization men to socialist societies is A+; as well as his in depth dive into the communal aspects of early suburban living.  My favorite thing about this book is the appendix where he tells you how to beat personality tests that are given to you by corporations. It would have come in handy back in high school -- I failed the first one I ever took, for a job working as a cashier at a suburban grocery store chain.

 Why I Am Not a Feminist: A Feminist Manifesto, Jessa Crispin
2/10

All I remember from this book is thinking how terribly written it was.  It was one of two books published in 2017 that I read and is a stark reminder of why Nicholas Nassim Taleb recommends reading older books as they've mostly already been weeded out for you.  While it might have had good points based on my recollection of the terrible writing, I don't recommend this book.

The Existential Pleasures of Engineering, Samuel Florman
7/10

This book is an older but incredibly relevant collection of essays and thoughts on the ethical responsibility of engineers and the communities that engineers work in.  He's got a great, early essay in the appendix on why getting more women into technical careers is important for the robustness of engineering solutions and the societal impact of engineering innovations.

Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, Michael Lewis
8/10

When Moneyball came out, I was an undergrad at the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin.  A lot of my professors and fellow classmates were incredibly enamored with this book; for that reason alone I stayed away from it. That was a mistake. This book is pure bloody genius. If anything, its a great story of how the commerce mindset disrupts a traditionally guardian industry of picking ball players.  I'm glad Michael Lewis chose to tell this story.

Crazy Rich Asians, #1 #2 & #3  Kevin Kwan
10/10

This fictional series of books about a rich family in Singapore is pure beach reading material. It's wonderful and satisfying and witty in all the right ways. I'm actually looking forward to the movies, if nothing else for the sets and clothing.  I loved this book because it changed the way that I think about Asia and Asian wealth.  There's a fuck ton of money in Asia; it's no wonder American companies are all into breaking into the Asian market.  It was also really interesting to see what wealthy people care about: not just fancy clothes but having the most exclusive clothes that money can buy.  Rarity, exclusivity, difficulty in procuring a thing, big events where you could showcase your ability to get the rare thing -- these are the conceits that rich people spend their time with.  Well, some rich fictional people, at any rate.

Slouching Towards Bethlehem, Joan Didion
8/10

It felt appropriate to read Joan Didion during my first year in California, a transplant from New York City. I connected with the stories in this book on a really personal level.  Joan's writing is wonderful and her perspective and clarity of vision very refreshing.

A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire, #1), George R.R. Martin

Guys, I hate to break it to you but George Martin is never finishing Game of Thrones. At least we have that in common. I picked this one up because my roommate was giving up this gorgeous set of the first (and only) five books; I really enjoyed it, especially getting to know the backstory that the TV show largely leaves out. I feel no real pressure to finish them though, so while I enjoyed them I really enjoy reading other books more.

Reflections on the Human Condition, Eric Hoffer
4/10

A collection of quips from Eric Hoffer's writings. I found it punchy, but overall harder to understand without the complete context that Hoffer wrote them in.  If you're gong to read Hoffer, I wouldn't recommend this one.

The Three-Body Problem (Remembrance of Earth’s Past, #1), Cixin Liu
7/10

A sci-fi novel about aliens and physics in a post-Cultural Revolution China.  Good but not a super fun read; I think the flow of the narrative suffered a lot in translation.  I don't necessarily mean in word choice, but also probably in narrative style that doesn't translate culturally. Or maybe not.  The degree to which this book expressed novel and compelling uses of technology in a fantastical/futuristic setting radically changed the way that I think about China's capacity for technological innovation. I expect to see a lot of really amazing new technological advances coming from purely Chinese innovators in the next decade.  That being said, I don't feel any pressing need to read the sequels to this book.

A Darker Shade of Magic (Shades of Magic, #1), V.E. Schwab
4/10

I've had this book on my reading list for a long time now, mostly based on the cover art alone. Guilty.  It was a good novel, but not the best fantasy novel I've ever read. Chalk up another one in the Series I Enjoyed The First Book of But Probably Won't Read The Rest column.

Astronomical Algorithms, Jean Meeus
9/10

Once I figured out what Meeus was talking about, this book is good fun.  This is hands down the best book for computational astronomy.  The preliminary chapter on debugging computer programs quaint and also incredibly useful.  The equations in it are what power the Moon Clock project I did last year too.  I still find the amount of human observation that must have gone into compiling the equations for this book downright baffling. It's a textbook, so I'm not sure I'd suggest reading straight through it, but if you need to figure out some planetary movement shit, this is the book you need.  At least, for the next few hundred years before all of our equations are outdated.  Those planets be moving, yo!

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values, Robert Pirsig
10/10

If there was an Honorable Mention for favorite books of 2017, this would get one. This book is hands down the best reconciliation between Western and 'Eastern' philosophy that I've ever seen. It's also incredibly relevant. Pirsig gives the best definition of art that I've ever seen, and explains in words that I would have never been able to find what's wrong with pure, Aristotelian logic.  This is the kind of logic that I see men in power use to the detriment of my women friends (and myself) all the goddamn time, and it felt so good to see this clear, logical yet firm and absolute rebuttal of the nature of pure logic.  Robert Pirsig passed away in April 2017.

Art is anything you can do well. Anything you can do with Quality.

Four Futures: Life After Capitalism, Peter Frase
3/10

I picked this book up on a recommendation; it's an attempt to depict four different futures of humanity, if you were to hold a few general trends steady. I found the framework superficially interesting but lacking in any clear or original conclusive, analytical thought.  I'd pass.

The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements, Eric Hoffer
7/10

Eric Hoffer has a dim view of mankind, especially movements of mankind. In this book, he traces the forces and personalities that play into mass movements, for better or for worse.  His points felt uber-relevant reading for the first year of Trump's presidency, especially the part about how traitors and staunch loyalists have this strange tendency of being one and the same person.  Belief in a cause sometimes can lead you to undermine the integrity of what you're fighting for...

The Human Condition, Hannah Arendt
10/10

There is no other book like this one.  It is dense, rich in revelation, and highly applicable and understandable. It was also incredibly slow reading, but so incredibly rewarding for the effort.  This book is hard to summarize because it covers so goddman much material in so little pages.  But, I'll try anyway.  Hannah's Human Condition takes us on a journey through the history of the modes of human activity: labor, work and action.  This is philosophy though, so she ties in the history of Greecian slave society; what the absolute truth of an unknowable future means, truly, for human interactions; the impact of Galilean astronomical revelations on the scope of philosophic thought; and more.  This book is goddamn great. Read it, and reconsider everything you know about your life.

Salt: A World History, Mark Kurlansky
7/10

This book is a compendium of the history of salt.  I picked it up for two reasons. One is that Jane Jacobs mentions salt making in her fanciful description of an ancient city's economical growth (The Economy of Cities) and I was curious in what ways salt served as a backing for ancient economies. The other is that, considering the breakdown of modern survival systems, I was curious what value salt might have.  In other words, should I stockpile a 25-lbs bag of salt from Amazon now, and hope that I can use it to barter for goods in some bleak future scenario where the global trade network has temporarily collapsed?  The answer, it seems, is a bit complicated, but in case you're wondering, salt is pretty key in two ways for 'pre-modern' humans: food preservation and anti-bacterial properties.  If global trade breaks down, it'd probably be handy to have around; in case you're wondering Morton's Salt is a privately owned company.

La Belle Sauvage (The Book of Dust #1), Philip Pullman
8/10

I love Philip Pullman's narrative style. Even though I could tell this was written for a younger audience in mind, I still really enjoyed reading Philip's prose.  This is the first book in a new series (trilogy?) about Dust, the magical property that featured prominently in his first trilogy, His Dark Materials.  La Belle Sauvage tells the early story of Lyra came to live at Oxford.  A really fast paced a good read; of all the series I started and did not finish in 2017, The Book of Dust is the one most likely to find it's way onto my reading list in the future (the other books haven't been published yet!).

Dec 21, 2017

Two things

Once, a long long time ago, I met a man who told me things I have not yet been able to forget.  These things number two.  The first was that, upon closer inspection, I was not what he had expected.  Knowing what I am, I wonder what he thought he saw, in me.

The other was that I stood up straight, so incredibly straight.

I often times fail to understand what he meant, until I hit that inevitable failure, of which there seem many as of late, and I find myself facing an uncomfortable truth, or a difficult problem, with this steadfast confidence that I can figure it out.  This feeling, this unfazedness, comes from the same place that a ramrod back does.

There's no reason for this ramrod straightness, that sometimes I'm convinced is more an output of unbearable pride than any self-borne assuredness.  I would not call myself confident. Cocky -- perhaps?

It is a thing, a something, though I don't know what, that keeps me upright, some underlying sensation of tension and relaxation. It is both a flight from the pain of slouching and also a self-flagellation of rigidity.  It feels brittle.  It feels steadfast.



Once, a long long time ago, I met a man who told me things I have not yet been able to forget.


Dec 11, 2017

Towards an End of Metaphysics

I've just finished reading Hannah Arendt's The Human Condition and Robert Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Between the two, I think I've read about as much Western approaches to metaphysics as I need to.

Ever since the New Yorker's piece on Martha Nussbaum, I've been taken with the idea that all modern philosophy, that is post Copernican/Galilean, is autobiographical.  Arendt and Pirsig's works, Pirsig's in particular, Arendt's in other ways, really drove home the point.

It's funny, there's a lot of things in both of these books that I've been wanting to write about but now that I'm here, I can't think of where to begin. There's far too many things to say about both. There's a sort of irony there, in the inability to write about Zen, in particular, as the inability to express oneself is a cornerstone of the Quality that Pirsig so desperately seeks.

Ah, I remember now.  Between these two books and one I read last year, David Deutsche's The Fabric of Reality, I have no more questions about the nature of either humanity, reality or ethics. That seems like a bold thing to claim, I suppose, but the reality is that Hannah's book does a incomparable job of contextualizing modern philosophic thought in relation to the sciences; David's book is a marvelous reach for a scientific basis on the physical composition of reality; and Robert's lurching take down on the subject-object divide in Western Aristotelian thought basically hits all the notes for me. I understand where the autobiographical bent of philosophy comes from via Arendt; Deutsche, in my opinion, completely obliterates and resolves once and for all the question of free will; and Pirsig situates the free will of a being into the rational framework first conceived by the ancient Greeks but that has dictated modern science since the Renaissance.

What are values, you ask? Pirsig says that it is Zen, it is Quality, it is the Tao, it is that moment when subject and observer interact.  In Deutsche's multi-branching universe, Quality is the moment in which you decide, consciously or not, of which universe you want to live in.

Finally Arendt confirms it: the future is entirely unpredictable. Further, she posits that humans have developed two tools that let us live in this wholly unpredictable world: the ability to make promises and the ability to forgive.

I get it. I've heard the message. I have no more questions. Instead, I feel a strong desire to live the most Quality, the most human life that I can.

I wonder if this realization is what underlies the resistance, the fear, that Pirsig met with in the graduate philosophy department at the University of Chicago. His professors realized that if he was correct, if he could in fact show them where and what they were wrong about, they would be out of a job. That no one would seek them out as wise men any longer, because they would have been shown not to be, in fact wise, rather just experts on Aristotelian logic.

Dec 5, 2017

Pirsig

Robert Pirsig, horoscope. I type it into Google because I need to know.

You can tell based on the search suggestions that pop up under the input box how many other people have looked this up. If you're the first there, then usually the first page of results will show you that some website has a page dedicated to your query.

In the case of Robert Pirsig, there is no first page result as to his horoscope.

I do discover, however, that Robert Pirsig is newly dead. He died this year, this past April.

Somehow this revelation feels similar to the discovery that I existed in the world, for only a few months sure, but existed all the same, as Richard Feynman.

We existed, all at the same time, for a time.

Do you think Feynman knew Pirsig?

The Internet reassures me that Virgos and Tauruses make good friends.

Nov 25, 2017

the why

I've been without Twitter for maybe three weeks now and the urge to do things on Twitter has largely disappeared.  My enthusiasm for my feed had been waning in he weeks leading up to unplugging; 21 days later it's largely dissipated.

What's coming into focus, however, is what I was using Twitter for.  I think the easy answer is unaccountable dreaming. I used it as a story telling platform, where the stories were things I had learned or wanted to do.

Without Twitter, I need a new place to write things down. I've been reluctant to commit to anything though, because I'm afraid of what that commitment means, the added overhead of having committed to doing that thing.

The emotion at the bottom is fear. I'm afraid of going deep on things. I'm afraid of missing out on other things by spending time on this other. I'm afraid that by investing time on X, I'll get behind in Y.
There's also uncertainty. I don't know what will happen if I invest in the things that I'm interested in. Some of it feels like 'hanging out' in semi-comfortable territory, going back over places I've already been out of curiosity.  Is this me shirking growth, or becoming comfortable enough so that I can reach for the next challenge or branch with confidence and solid first principles.

I used to avoid these sorts of impulses because of time.  I was worried I wouldn't have enough of it.

But, with the right amount of motivation, there is always plenty of time.

It's ok to take my time to write down the things I want to (re)explore, and then actually explore them.

Sep 11, 2017

sound reflecions: observations from SF MOMA's Soundtracks exhibit

karthik and i went to the SF MOMA today to check out the last few bits of the soundtracks exhibit. we saw this great video work that i can't stop thinking about. the musical content itself was quite cloying but the technical set up of it was quite marvelous -- both in execution and in display. it was a large, dark room with many screens set up. each screen showed a musician, each musician had on a pair of headphones and had been set up before a video camera in a different room of a large mansion. this mansion was in upstate new york.  the music was the repetitive chordy folksy type that seems to be the exclusive purview of brooklyn types' pastoral imaginings.  there's a total of 10 cameras, some of which watch the actual house's occupants who are hanging out on the porch while the rest of their abode is transformed into a stage set for rural music cum art ambitions. only two of the participants on the porch have headphones on, the rest seem to run the gamut from gently enthusiastic to relatively uninterested. they're playing at dusk, and as the sun sets they wander outside to let us all see the stars.

the best part of the exhibit was the spatial organization of the video feeds. within the exhibit, one could wander between the large project screens (10 all told) and gain a different vantage point of the musicians and the house. it felt like a real re-enactment of a virtual reality trope of floating video screens that you can observe by moving yourself physically through space.

in some ways, this physical movement is something that AR (augmented reality, usually delivered via a cellphone app) gets right.  the recent apps i've seen being made with the ARKit that Apple has launched -- photos suspended in space based on where they were taken, physical sound clouds that you can move your phone through -- all of these give a physicality to digital actions.  unlike VR, where you're trapped in 4 foot by 4 foot snow-globe of visual and sensory delights.  i get it, they're different techs.  VR lets you completely create a new reality, but gives you a constrained box to experience it in; AR lets you work with the surrounding reality, superimposing a new world order atop the new.  it's like a superset of reality, as opposed to an entirely different universe.

the mounted video portraits were VR like in their suspension of reality, but AR like in the physicality that moving about the display room permitted.  eventually the musicians all assembled for a self-conscious cracking of champagne (what were they celebrating, other than an aspiration of display was left unclear) and then a maudlin parade out to the porch then down into a field, gathering everyone together into a destinationless jaunt through the field at dusk.  the sunset on something at that old mansion now overtaken by artsy, aspirational 'types'.  figuring out on what seemed to be left as an exercise to the viewer, such as we were.

other favorite parts of the exhibit: a 14" sphere entirely wrapped in audio recording tape, of the likes you used to be able to find in cassettes.  there was a wheel that spun the ball and a single cassette head that read the tape as it rolled past.  the construction of the sphere and its entirety of covering was impressive.

spheres seemed to be a theme for the last few exhibitions; someone had made a set of three spheres, suspended by a set of audio cables, each one plugged into a tiny, half inch speakers that thickly studded the outside of the sphere.  each speaker played a clip from the oeuvre of the composer that the sphere 'represented'.  by leaning in close and moving your ear over the surface of the sphere you could listen in to varying works by Mozart, Wagner and ... the last I can't remember. Really a stunning piece.

On a whole, the entire exhibit was more than worth the time; I highly recommend checking it out.

Portland, First Impressions

The first thing I saw when I got to Portland was a legion of homeless bums, wandering and chilling in the streets. You might say I just hopp...