tom moody

Hard to Be a God -- book and film

Good English translations of books by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky are starting to become available; I recommend their science-fiction-cum-medieval-swashbuckler Hard to Be a God. Star Trek fans will immediately recognize this as a "prime directive" story ("We must not interfere in this primitive society, however dysfunctional") but Hard to Be a God was published in the Soviet Union in '64, two years before Trek's five year mission. Moreover, the observers walking around on this feudal planet, wearing mini-cams disguised as jewelry, are Communist utopians, not Federation would-be-colonialists. The observers see themselves as historians, nothing more. Plotwise, let's just say this particular planet's penchant for torturing and killing all intellectuals sorely tests our protagonist's restraint. The antagonist, Don Reba, was originally named Rebia, an anagram for a certain Stalinist henchman; the Strugatskys changed it because it was a little too obvious.
Iain M. Banks wrote a similar tale 35 years later, Inversions, with two competing notions of how to go native. Also recommended.
Not necessarily recommended is the 2013 film version of Hard to Be a God, directed by Aleksei German (who died that year). The film mixes Tarkovskian aesthetics with Ubu Roi-ish perversity in a depiction of a completely degraded anti-culture. It's stylistically fascinating but incoherent; the science fiction aspects are subtle to the point of non-existence. For example, the characters are constantly mugging for the camera disguised as a jewel on the protagonist's forehead (which is never explained), yet he is in half the shots, being filmed by we-know-not-what. The book mentions helicopters whisking our agents around the planet; these are not seen in the movie, which is all horses and mud puddles -- like an extended version of the "Bring Out Your Dead" sequence in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

- tom moody

July 22nd, 2016 at 8:59 am

Posted in books, films

Dennis Cooper gets Googled

People are talking about LA writer and art world mainstay Dennis Cooper losing his blog -- presumably for risqué content even though Google has been hosting it for 14 years. We don't really know what happened yet; apparently Google didn't know he had a notable rep and gave him their standard passive-aggressive "down the memory hole" treatment, which includes not talking to the account-holder.

My glib response earlier this week:

tommoody: @photos (i) he's a dope for not having a backup, (ii) he must have run afoul of some "community guideline" BS for blogger, (iii) this was obviously going to be a problem as soon as Google bought blogger (i.e., 15 years ago)

- tom moody

July 21st, 2016 at 7:32 pm

Posted in computers-R-stupid

"Root Rot"

"Root Rot" [4.2 MB .mp3]

More self-bricolage with leftover loops. New piano, bass, and percussion parts were retrofitted around a "bit rot" beat.

- tom moody

July 21st, 2016 at 7:14 pm

Posted in music - tm

"Two Shakes"

"Two Shakes" [2.5 MB .mp3]

Made with some leftover loops from earlier tracks plus two shakers.

- tom moody

July 20th, 2016 at 1:50 pm

Posted in music - tm

Jeanette Hayes - Poké Paintings

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An earlier post carped about Hayes' superimposing Sailor Moon over icky de Kooning women, which felt like sloganeering (to which Hayes replied on dump, "dang brah," or something like that) but what's not to like about these pokemonsters-over-neoclassicism? Seductively and confidently rendered -- although glimpses of the actual paint surfaces are beside the point since the medium here is archival digital prints, offered by Exhibition A. The layering is a Picabia/Polke/Salle strategy but it works here because of the combination of absurd idea and tasty paint strokes. Similarities in colors and textures between "modern" foreground (as in, this-week's-headlines modern, what with Pokémon Go constantly in the news) and "classical" background make the juxtapositions seem almost logical.

- tom moody

July 20th, 2016 at 9:36 am

Posted in art - others

"A-112 Piano Variations"

"A-112 Piano Variations" [2.9 MB .mp3]

Some scratchy piano samples pitch-shifted, layered, played out of phase, etc.

Update: minor edits to make the scratchy samples less so.

- tom moody

July 19th, 2016 at 10:32 pm

Posted in music - tm

we can't get rid of the Speers

Corey Robin has some choice anecdotes from the recent book Speer: Hitler's Architect, by historian Martin Kitchen. The book deflates what's left of Speer's rep as the "good Nazi."

As Minister of Armaments, Speer relied extensively on slave laborers from concentration camps to work in the factories. In 1944, he fell ill for an extended period of time. Himmler seized on the opportunity of Speer’s absence to remove those laborers from the factories -- at the pace of roughly 40,00 per month -- and send them back to the camps. Back at the office several months later, Speer complained about the “kidnapping” of his workers.

Robin also found in Kitchen's book a 1944 quote from German exile journalist Sebastian Haffner:

[Speer] symbolises indeed a type, which among all the belligerents has become increasingly important: the pure technician, the classless, brilliant man without a background, who knows no other goal than to make his way in the world, purely on the basis of his technical and organisational capabilities….This is his age. We can get rid of the Hitlers and the Himmlers, but not the Speers. Whatever may be the fate of each individual man, they will be with us for a long time.

Update: I read Kitchen's book on Speer and highly recommend it. The first part closely follows the architect's day-to-day life as an ambitious Nazi scum, based on Kitchen's careful study of the available documentation, and then the second half explores Speer's self-mythologizing after his release from prison. The first part effectively undercuts the claims in the second, and then the reader gets to enjoy watching the Speer myth begin to fall apart in the last few years of his life, as evidence he assumed was buried or destroyed began to surface.

- tom moody

July 13th, 2016 at 10:59 am

Posted in general

about that foundation

For the rightwardly inclined, the Clinton email scandal is about "Benghazi" and national security. For normal people, the issue is Clinton Foundation corruption. Erasing all the "personal" emails could have zapped any evidence of improper dealings between the Clintons and various "donors" hoping to influence policy while Mrs. Clinton was Secretary of State. See Michael Hudson [Real News / YouTube] and Greg Palast.
See also Clinton Foundation Timeline.

Bernie Sanders was the only decent alternative to more years of icky Clintons and you'd be forgiven for having a sick feeling in pit of your stomach when he endorsed them ahead of the Dem convention.

- tom moody

July 13th, 2016 at 10:48 am

Posted in general

https...uck

Ars Technica has a longish post on the state of play regarding HTTPS. What it's good for, what it's not, who is pushing it, how browsers are reading it, etc.

The present humble website converted to https a couple of years ago after the divine Google decreed that it would be giving search preference to such sites. Since it's Google, there had to be an ulterior motive; the Ars article says it's because Google's competitors can't scrape search results from https -- is that true -- how creepy is that.

Being hustled in this fashion was horrible but for tommoody.us the only downside has been (i) paying some additional cash for the certificate and an IP address (still pretty cheap) and (ii) older pages with http image tags get the "partially secure" yellow warning flag in browsers.

To elaborate somewhat on (ii) -- according to the predominant, ultra-picky browsers, my posts with images prior to July 2014 don't rate the little green "secure lock" icon. The posts themselves are encrypted but because I used "http" in the text of the post at the time I uploaded the images, dumb browsers treat this as insecure, even though my host redirects all the http image requests to https before they reach the browser!

If I had better command line skills I would edit my MYSQL tables to convert all instances of "http://www.tommoody.us/images/..." in the text of posts to "https://www.tommoody.us/images/..." But I don't.

The Ars article mentions a change-in-the-works to the prevailing web protocol (W3C) that might solve this problem:

To prove that Barnes actually does care about URLs, he's the co-editor of a W3C specification that aims to preserve all those old links and upgrade them to HTTPS. The spec is known as HSTS priming, and it works with another proposed standard known as Upgrade Insecure Requests to offer the Web a kind of upgrade path around the link rot Berners-Lee fears.

With Upgrade Insecure Requests, site authors could tell a browser that they intend all resources to be loaded over HTTPS even if the link is HTTP. This solves the legacy content problem, particularly in cases where the content can't be updated (like, for example, The New York Times' archived sites).

Both of these proposals are still very early drafts, but they would, if implemented, provide a way around one of the biggest problems with HTTPS. At least, they'd prevent broken links some of the time. Totally abandoned content will never be upgraded to HTTPS, neither will content where the authors, like Winer, elect not to upgrade. This isn't a huge problem, though, because browsers will still happily load the insecure content (for now at least). [emphasis added by TM]

Probably by the time this W3C spec gets adopted Google will have forced us bloggers who aren't part of the Google Plus/Zuckerberg Hoodieverse to change our sites to something else entirely (moan).

Update: An emailer amends my statement "my host redirects all the http image requests to https before they reach the browser" to note that "your server sends a 302 redirect to the browser, telling it to make another request for the HTTPS url; the browser performs two requests." The point is the image is encrypted by the time it reaches the browser and the "yellow flag" designation is unfair.

The same emailer also suggests that I google "mysql change http urls to https" and thinks that leads to a non-command-line solution. Well, yes, that's the first thing I did, and Word Press recommends using phpMyAdmin to edit the MYSQL database. That requires what I called "command line skills" and I'm not comfortable with their suggestion, since every site has its own little nuances. I'd rather lobby for browser makers to be less aggressive about tainting sites with yellow flags.

- tom moody

July 11th, 2016 at 1:54 pm

Posted in computers-R-stupid

"Mutator Folly"

"Mutator Folly" [6.6 MB .mp3]

Square or sawtooth waveforms run through the Mutator filter's stereo channels can be heard chugging and autopanning along throughout this tune. The synths and beats are all Ableton samples and presets, arranged around the "Mutator sessions."

- tom moody

July 11th, 2016 at 12:58 pm

Posted in music - tm