The Alan Sondheim Mail Archive

April 4, 2006

Set at Tonic

Azure recorded this; I wanted, at least for myself, a video record of my 
guitar-work. The file (37 megs, highly compressed, apologies) is from 
Sunday's set at Tonic. Enjoy -

Review of some recent books and a couple of things, mostly liked -

Interagir, Avec les technologies numeriques, Nouvelles de Danse, 2004.
This is a Belgian journal special issue devoted to dance and technology;
there are articles by Johannes Birringer, La Danse et la perception
interactives), Sandrine Chiri (Panorama des capteurs - which I've found
highly useful in thinking through activated dancers/environments),
Patricia Kuypers and Florence Corin (Entretien autour d'Isadora, avec Mark
Coniglio et Dawn Stoppiello), etc. There is an accompanying DVD with trial
software (including Isadora), and video/photography of some of the dance-
work. Isadora alone makes it worthwhile, although the whole issue is
excellent and important if one is working with the intersection of dance
and multimedia.

Handbook of Inaesthetics, Alain Badiou, Stanford, 2005. I've been reading
'into' Badiou, at first because of his intersection of mathematics, math-
esis, ontology, and philosophy, but this book is a good accompaniment to
the Interagir above; there are useful articles on dance, cinema, and
theater, among other things. At first I resisted his list of six
'principles of dance,' but then I found them useful, precisely through
this resistance, in working out my own position. There are articles on
art, poetry, Mallarme, etc., an excellent volume.

Mind Performance Hacks, Tips and Tools for Overclocking Your Brain, Ron
Hale-Evans, O'Reilly, 2006. This reads as an fascinating sequel to Mind
Hacks, with stress on practicality - mnemonics or mental arithmetic for
example. There are strange hacks such as 'Predict the Length of a Life-
Time' and 'Turn your Hands into an Abacus.' I don't feel I have the
stamina to carry out any of these on a regular basis, but then I don't
have the stamina for meditation either. On the other hand, the book makes
for fascinating reading, and the presentation of mind, as in Mind Hacks,
seems to be opening some new territory of thinking between cog. sci. and
phenomenology that is definitely worth following. I recommend both these
books highly (if you belong to Safari and/or have the money). Now I have
to 'Stop my Memory-Buffer Overrun' (hack 56) and move on.

Running Linux, Fifth Edition, Matthias Kalle Dalheimer and Matt Welsh, 5th
Edition, O'Reilly, 2006, now around 970 pages long. I remember the first
book from O'Reilly w/RedHat 2+ or some such years ago; it was maybe 70
pages in length (max). Now linux is full-blown, the articles in Linux
Journal are more technical, less hack, aimed to some extent at Windows
users and the enterprise. Linux is absolutely wonderful; I gather that
Fries, the large L.A. computer store, is now selling desktop computers
with Lindows for under $200. And linux is becoming increasingly multi-
media as well; it's an exciting time - think of linux as a kind of green
OS or software - it runs on just about anything, and runs well. Anyway,
Running Linux is the one essential book, I think; it covers just about
everything, from the usual chapters on programming and text processing,
to chapters on multimedia, office suites, productivity, etc. The nice
thing about the book is that it seems to work on every level - a beginner
can use it, as well as someone extremely familiar with linux. The book is
expensive - now up to $49.95 USD, but you probably won't need anything

The Official Blender 2.3 Guide, Free 3D Creation Suite for Modeling,
Animation, and Rendering, Ton Roosendall, Stefano Selleri, et. al., No
Starch Press. The Blender guides have also grown in size - this is now 768
pages in size, and as expensive as Running Linux. Blender is amazing - an
incredibly small 3D modeling system that, again, runs on just about any-
thing, from Mac (OS X and higher) through Linux and Windows. This book
doesn't cover game creation, but everything else; there are very lengthy
sections on the interface (absolutely necessary), mesh modeling, Python
(Blender runs on Python and you can use programming directly if you want),
radiosity, character animation, and more. I use Blender a lot; spectacular
effects can be created in an hour or so, and you can use both still image
and video for texture-mapping - the latter lends itself to a total fluid
projective environment. If you want to use Blender, I'd suggest you down-
load it (it's free), and experiment; read whatever information is
available on the site and chats. You may well end up with the book, but at
least you'll have a good idea of the system at first.

Degunking your Home, Joli Ballew, Paraglyph, 2006. I asked to review this
book, and Azure and I have been reading it. I can't find anything, my
bureau drawers are a mess (I guess they're bureau drawers, in a second-
hand thingy that came with the place), I keep finding batteries everywhere
(which have to be repeatedly checked), etc. etc. This is a practical and
relatively cheap ($19.99) book to help you organize your home. It's good.
We're starting to put things in place. Most of the Degunking series is
good. I've misplaced the others. I might have given one of them to Tom or
Leslie! The book is divided into chapters such as 'Throwing Stuff Away You
Don't Really Need,' 'Organizing Living Areas,' and 'Prepare Yourself for
Cleaning Emergencies.' It opens with 'The Degunking 12-Step Program,' and
'Degunking with Time Limitations' which is quite useful. On one hand I
can't believe I'm actually reviewing this book; on the other, I need it.
And I have to get back to 'Walk the dog' although I don't seem to have one
- maybe it's buried in a closet.

Wanted: Used alphorn or Tibetan trumpet. Will be put to serious good use.

Celine, A Biography, Patrick McCarthy, Viking, 1975. In my ignorance, I
never read a bio of Celine; I've read a number of his books of course.
Being a 'cultural Jew,' whatever, I've felt at a loss in relation to his
anti-semitism; on the other hand, his journeying speaks to the nomadic,
and his landscape, like Ballard's, now seems more of the future than the
past. You might want to find a copy of this bio; it's excellent, illumin-
ating, and combines narrative with exegesis - material on the first forty
years of his life, before writing became manifest as writing, and material
on all the novels, etc., including those late ones, hard to find in
English, but for me the most moving.

DV Filmmaking, From Start to Finish, O'Reilly, Ian David Aronson, 2005. Of
all the O'Reilly digital video books, this is by far the most useful, both
for learning on one's own, and classroom use. I've often taught video; if
I ever do so again, this will be my textbook of choice. Illustrations are
clear and in color, and topics include relevant issues such as shooting
for compression, streaming work on the internet, release prints, sales,
and composite images - this last is worth the price of the book ($39.95).
The book includes a DVD with examples for practice, completed work,
project files, etc. The book is definitely Mac/Final Cut Pro oriented (a
drag for me, since I use PCs and Premiere), but there is enough informa-
tion to go around, no matter what system you use.

Sony ICF-6700W shortwave reciever. This is a large model that I found
second-hand in Geneva for $35. In 1978-80 or thereabouts it was the top of
the line Sony. It's analog - almost all but the cheapest shortwave radios
are digital today. Analog tends to sound a lot better; you can tune more
exactly (although of course the readout is sloppy), and there's no digital
processing of the sound. Just about every digital shortwave I've owned has
a lot of hiss between steps. In any case, you can often find these for
very little online, and they make _listening_ an incredible experience.
One other note - the radio has a built-in antenna tuner which works
perfectly and brings in distant stations, even with just the vertical

Whistlers and Related Ionospheric Phenomena, Robert A. Helliwell, Dover,
2006, original 1965. I'm not sure I've mentioned this before, but this is
a new and relatively inexpensive ($24.95) of a rare but standard work on
VLF phenomena - it's absolutely essential for understanding this part of
the spectrum, and is highly recommended.

Alpine or concert or guitar zither. I rarely review musical instruments,
but I've been playing and recording with the alpine zither recently - I
found one in Geneva for $28 USD. There are always a number on e-bay. The
alpine zither has around 27 drone strings, as well as a fingerboard with
five additional strings on the edge facing the player. It's not a fast
instrument, but is remarkably supple - in some ways it reminds me of the
ch'in (q'in) with its unbelievably wide tonal range. I'm mentioning it
here because if you play any other stringed instrument, and are interested
in experimental music/sound, this is a tremendous resource. I recently
found a second one on e-bay from 1855, which I'm in the process of restor-
ing. The strings are very expensive, but one can improvise, just as one
can improvise with tunings.

Being and Event, Alain Badiou, Continuum, 2005. I'm reading this and going
a bit crazy with it. The book is organized into a number of 'Meditations'
which are often mathematically-oriented; the scheme is to work through set
theory (which may be the easiest part of the whole). I'd love to see a
group reading of the work; I find myself lost in scholastic distinctions
which seem remote from everyday life and concerns (Metapolitics is better
on this); any help would be greatly appreciated. His shorter works (In-
aesthetics above, Metapolitics, and Manifesto for Philosophy) seem more
useful, and guides to some extent, but Being and Event keeps gnawing...

Household Words, Stephanie A. Smith, Minnesota, 2006. The words are
'bloomers,' 'sucker,' 'bombshell,' 'scab,' 'nigger,' 'cyber.' I haven't
read this book in full, but I did want to mention it. The words are
subject to socio-cultural analyses, with detours (Whitman through
'nigger,' Melville through Derrida, for examples). The book explores the
ramifications of language which we assume is already sutured, covered; it
uncovers, not necessarily their linguistic or otherwise history, but the
knots, aporia, common sense, boundaries, which surround them. It's a book
to pay careful attention to as universals dissolve and multiculturalism
itself detours through any number of fields.

Just finished Jonatham Lethem's Fortress of Solitude, which I also rec-
comment, particularly since it's set on Dean Street, the area of Dean
Street where I live. It's unusual to find five pages of a best-selling
novel dedicated to a description of our local hardware store. While that's
hardly the main draw (or any draw) of the novel, it does set up an odd
mirroring operation, looking at things, seeing them just slightly askew.
Another example - the white facial shields of the coots in Geneva are
slightly more angular than their North American counterparts. There is
something uncanny about subspecies, and fictional worlds are subspecies as

Finally, brief mentions of two books on language that I've been slowly
stumbling through - Grammaire Tahitienne, Mai-Arii and J. Anisson du
Perron, Stepolde, 1976; and Nouveau dictionnaire encyclopedique des
sciences du langage, Seuil, 1995. The first is fascinating; Tahitian is
one of a number of Polynesian languages (which also include Hawaiian, and
I've been looking at Hawaiian grammars as well); their verb conjugations
and number systems are amazing. I often look at grammars to extend my
rather limited idea of what language _is,_ how thought is organized and
recuperated/produced. Tahitian is particularly exciting - static auxil-
iaries do everything, as if action were framed by the positioning of
temporality. Hawaiian is similar. The Nouveau dictionnaire on the other
hand is truly encyclopedia; it follows on the heels of an earlier book
(i.e. without the 'Nouveau') edited by Ducrot and Todorov. So much is here
- enunciation, oral literature, geo-, socio-, and psycho-linguistics,
signs, syntagms, etc., but not so much cog. sci. or programming languages
or scripts. Certainly if linguistics is fun (and what parole isn't?), this
book is great for dipping into.

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