We want the freedom to roam the universe. We want nothing less than the freedom to determine our own evolution. Fereidoun M. Esfandiary was born in Belgium in He was handsome and athletic, playing for the Iranian national basketball team at the Summer Olympics in London.
His first book, The Day of Sacrificewas part coming-of-age novel, part culture-clash, part spy thriller, and set in s Iran. Hailed as one of the best books of the year by the New York Heraldit was translated into eleven languages and put on a reading list for employees at the State Department. His second novel, The Beggartold a harrowing story of feudal life gone awry in an unnamed Arab village.
And then there was Identity Cardperhaps his most ambitious book. Semi-autobiographical, Identity Card told the story of an Iranian man raised in the West who felt drawn back to Iran, only to find himself thoroughly repulsed by its mixture of self-satisfied traditionalism and shah-era bureaucracy. It was a Kafkaesque fable of modern alienation, and it did not have a happy ending: Daryoush Aryana, the protagonist, was found lying dead in the gutter, anonymous, having lost and found and lost again the identity card that would have allowed him to leave.
After Identity CardEsfandiary rededicated his efforts to become a public intellectual. But he no longer described himself as an Iranian in America, and his new project represented an extreme intensification of his longstanding interests.
His message was especially intended for those in underdeveloped societies, perhaps even Iran. Technology would universalize abundance; nations would disappear; identities would shift from cultural to personal. Shrewd enough to notice the growing consciousness about technology in society, and with a knack for the American art of self-reinvention, Esfandiary became both prophet and showman: Through his books, newspaper and magazine essays, public speaking engagements, university teaching, and business consulting work, he slowly made himself into an expert on our sublimely utopian future.
A taste for the outrageous was definitely part of the appeal of the trilogy of pop social science books he produced in the s. They are written in the spirit and rhythm of print.
Esfandiary expounded enthusiastically on what would Red Nose - Various - Strange Music: The Video Collection Volume 001 (DVD) be the diverse results of the technological revolution: decentralized authority and post-bureaucratic democracies, genetic engineering, microcomputers, pharmaceutically and genetically enhanced brain activity, teleducation, telemedicine, teleshopping. Robot-operated factories would increase our available leisure time; atomic and solar energy would be the twin engines of material abundance.
Humans would spread out from Earth to colonize other planets, clad in specially designed suits that would protect our fragile forms from accidental death. Over time people would live longer and longer lives, until finally — soon!
This last idea was perhaps his greatest theme. Immortality was not the stuff of myth or religion, he said: it was technologically possible — indeed, inevitable.
Esfandiary became a standard-bearer for the nascent life-extension movement, and his lectures, classes, and books helped popularize the social rationale for cryogenic science.
People were living longer lives than at any time in history, he noted, and the trend lines were only going up; already doctors could revive a stopped heart, or transplant a beating one, or substitute an artificial organ.
Once it became possible to transplant a human brain into a new body — whether human or bionically enhanced or robotic, it mattered little — the practical result would be immortality.
Practically, that meant following a proper diet, exercising, and avoiding stress — somewhat radical advice for the time. But it also meant overcoming the acceptance of death, in ourselves and in society.
While no one in her right mind likes the idea of dying, common sense and millennia of religious thinking have conditioned us to accept, even embrace, mortality as the crux of our humanity.
What was Frankenstein, that preeminent modern morality tale, but a warning that scientific efforts to escape our mortal lot would produce abominations? Why submit to its tyranny? We must rise above nature. We must refuse to die. To be sure… not in these gawky, clumsy, fragile, finite bodies, nor necessarily on this biosphere, on this planet.
But we will be around. There are, in fact, many of us who are dying to attain immortality. There was something quixotic about this movement. We are a long-range movement with two principal functions: First. We are catalysts. We want to inform, stimulate, uplift. We are activists. We want to launch projects to achieve our goals. At a time of high anxiety — the Vietnam War, social revolutions, a galvanized political spectrum, the energy crisis, Cold War paranoia, crimes in the White House — Esfandiary and the Up-Wingers, ostensibly convinced that the future would render all this tumult moot, essentially became cheerleaders for the social byproducts of the military-industrial complex.
The group was enough of a success that Esfandiary took back the name for his consulting and production company. Up-Wingers Inc. It was a fine, if slightly surreal, arc for an Iranian national in the height of Cold War America: here was a voice on the Middle East with distinctly American interests, whose father was a career diplomat under two shahs, writing popular essays and books celebrating the fantastic successes of the robotic, pharmaceutical, aerospace, and engineering industries, and feeding those visions back into Hollywood productions and business seminars.
He was a subject worthy of Kubrick or a CIA plot. There was a wave of popular interest in the world we were building for ourselves, and Esfandiary was keen to ride it, creating a new career by capitalizing on the current scientific exotic: life-extension, colonies on Mars, global computer networks. Under the frightening rubric of Cold War politics, it was just as easy to see robotics, cybernetics, and atomic energy as assuring our annihilation instead of promising our salvation.
Predicting the future has a long history, from Zoroaster and the Delphic oracle to Jules Verne and Edward Bellamy, but its professionalization is of recent vintage, largely tied to the rise of post-war science. Their agendas and predictions reflect this diversity. Like the weather, the future is hard to get right all the time, but recently there are prevailing trends, and they tend toward the bleak.
The famed urbanist Jane Jacobs, in her book Dark Age Aheadwarned that the simpler failings of culture, education, and disintegrating communities would reinforce each other to undermine society over the coming decades. And there is, of course, the Unabomber, former UC Berkeley mathematics professor Theodore Kaczynski, whose vision of technology run amok frightened him enough to kill people in order to prevent it.
The field is not unilaterally pessimistic, though. Prominent thinkers like Raymond Kurzweil and Alvin Toffler whose book Future Shock appeared the same year as Optimism One predict positive social developments stemming from the rise of artificial intelligence and biological technology. But even the humanist inventor Kurzweil — who has spent his life putting technology at the service of the blind, developing optical character recognition and speech-text interfaces, digital musical instruments, and the CCD scanner chip, and who believes that machines will achieve a spirituality similar to ours — concedes that people have a roughly fifty-fifty chance of a humane outcome alongside the super-intelligent robots and modified biological organisms of the future.
Futurological speculation is a kind of static that surrounds us, like a thousand prophetic radio stations vying for clear reception on a crowded dial. And few people, futurologists included, generally live long enough to find out whether they were right. But with the passage of time, all those predictions must tend toward the more or less true: either resolving into clarity by bearing out, or fading into the fringe of lost ideas. Of course, looking backward, that scrim of conflict among prophecies might itself be the arc of cultural history.
The future is arriving all the time; mostly it arrives without our knowing it. Alas, in the yearwhile finishing a manuscript called Countdown to ImmortalityEsfandiary succumbed to pancreatic cancer. His obituarists did not fail to note the irony, though the Up-Winger himself would not have found it interesting.
Irony is for pessimists. His body was promptly vitrified in liquid nitrogen for long-term storage at the Alcor Life Extension Foundation in Scottsdale, Arizona, whose seminars and colloquia often featured him as a speaker. One striking feature of the thousands of photographs in the F.
Esfandiary archives is the meticulous labeling on every envelope of prints, detailing all the people and places recorded on that roll of film. Another is the parade of women, in various states of undress, who passed before his camera.
His photographic archive documents an optimistic ego at work, amid a pitch-perfect landscape of luxury yachts, beach resorts, hotel ballrooms, and mountain lodges.
Our protagonist, perpetually burly, hairy, barrel-chested, and lightly balding, appears in a yellow Speedo or blue swim trunks, always surrounded by women; or perhaps in a crisp button-down shirt with the top buttons proudly open, microphone in hand in some heavily curtained hotel conference room. His suave machismo seems never to have waned. No wonder he wanted to live forever! By the mids, business was good, and he was working on new books, chiefly Are You A Transhuman? But a key problem of his identity remained amiss, and perhaps he felt that a name change was by then as much a business decision as a personal one; he needed a name worthy of his franchise.
Noting that combinations of letters and numbers were increasing in notational currency, he clipped dozens of examples of what he imagined names would be like in the future. In his notebooks, he scripted mock interview questions and his charming, evasive answers, preparing himself for the media:.
Q: What does FM stand for? Q: How does it stand for optimism and immortality? A: I was never a good speller… Q: How old are you? A: Chronologically, in 50s. Biologically, in 30s. Psychologically, ageless. Q: Are you running away from something? A: Yes, I am running away from obsolescence. Q: Where are you from? A: I am from the future.
A new name that best defines my ideals. My perceptions of who I am. Who I should like to be… I am infinitely ahead of where I was. I am gaining momentum. I am accelerating into the Future… I am a Futurist.
Why not a name that is Futurist? I do not believe in the family. Why then a family name? I have no nationality. Why then a national name? Finally, in aboutFereidoun M. Esfandiary settled on officially becoming FM It was a fine name.
It contained both even and odd numbers, it represented a time well into the twenty-first century — indeed, the one-hundredth anniversary of his birth — and more than anything else, simply had a nice ring to it.
Their most recent release, a self-titled compilation of demos, dubs, and unreleased material has the heft and angularity of a Chicago post-punk record, with intricate yet spasmodic rhythms, satisfyingly circular bass lines, Turkish instruments, and an array of found sounds and voices, in Turkish and German.
Disbanded inNekropsi reunited for a one-off installation at the opening of the Istanbul Biennial, and they have been performing more or less monthly ever since. CE: Yeah. If you look at the cover of the demo we made the year we graduated from high school, we had a different logo. And the old way of writing the name: Nekropsy. CE: Yes. Actually the cover of the demo has a similar approach to the cover of SSScome to think of it.
CE: Yeah, in fact. There were these lovely old record companies in the IMC building where you could go and reproduce, like, one hundred cassettes, and then there were four or five shops in Istanbul where it was for sale. But the best thing was, we put ads in a couple of magazines. People from anywhere in Turkey would put lira into an envelope, and we would send them a cassette.
We sold, like nine hundred copies in three months. CE: For me it started like this. It would sound super-typical nowadays, but the first tape I owned was Thriller. So we were just going around, and there were all these advertisements for Thrillerand I had to have it.
I was eight or nine. And then there were two friends of mine — we started making playback sessions of Thriller at home. CE: I had these plastic bowling pins, and I would hit them on the ironing board. CE: So, there was a magazine, Heyfor popular music. It was for youngsters, and it was the connection between global pop music and Turkish pop. But then they would have two pages of metal bands. So slowly I was getting interested in hard rock. And then, in a certain year, there was a radio program, and I recorded three songs onto a cassette.
There was a news channel and then the FM, which mostly played Turkish music and jazz and blah-blah. But lots of clever guys had programs on TRT. So you would know that on Wednesday nights, this one guy has a show and you are guaranteed one hour of strange music. Not just metal. There were a lot of big moments like that, though. Like, twenty or thirty of them, when you were a kid. Like that film Pink Floyd: Live at Pompeii.
Have you seen that? Pink Floyd playing live, without any audience, in the ruins of Pompeii. CE: But the other thing was the cassette guys. In Istanbul there were four or five of them — one in front of the mosque just meters from where we lived. So I just started buying stuff. But also old Turkish stuff from the seventies. CE: If I could find them, yeah.
Stuff from beforebefore the coup. And Erkin Koray was [ laughs ] hanging around, making solo concerts with guitar and keyboards. Everything always went together.
You know, Turkey is a small country, so even if you really wanted to specialize in one kind of music, there are other things going on in the same scene, with the same people. Anyway, I would buy the tapes and go home and then design logos for them. If I could find the original logo in Metal Hammer or Kerrang! The crazy thing was that somehow, I was not alone.
There were hundreds of people just like me, into this thrash thing. So you would go to a concert and it would be, like, three thousand people or something. Mostly Turkish bands, because nobody would come to Turkey. CE: I mean, I really wanted to play guitar. So I bought two sticks. And I started to play drums… in the air? Like air guitar. CE: And it worked, I think. But you know, I always loved the idea of making songs, making logos, making T-shirts. The idea of publication, reproduction.
And also, actually, propaganda. And between the look of the two — a new logo, a new spelling of the name. All the song titles are in Turkish. And there are, you know, no lyrics. What happened? CE: So, it all happened gradually. After high school and that demo, we played thrash for Red Nose - Various - Strange Music: The Video Collection Volume 001 (DVD) while, and started at architecture school.
And there was some turnover in the band. You know these comic magazines we have in Turkey? I think it was Hibir. So I called him up and said, our guitarist is moving to America, we need to find a new one. And he put that in his strip. CE: I met this guy, Tolga. One night we had a long talk, all night long, about instrumental music. About music that has never been heard before. Which could take you to somewhere else, which could be conceptual.
You remember Voivod? And Tolga was really into industrial stuff, like Godflesh, and progressive technothrash, like Mekong Delta. After we started playing, I realized we were totally going somewhere else, very different from thrash metal. The first thing we did was cancel the distortion. CE: That was a firm decision. And no guitar solos.
It was the next step after death metal — super-noisy and super-fast, super-dark. MV: But then the — Turkification? Was that part of the same late-night conversation? CE: No, it was kind of a curiosity. Even back in the Speed Lessons period — again, as kids — we were also playing Turkish instruments. Actually, I was playing the zarb, a Persian drum, so that was another channel. But of course the thrash-metal thing was the translation of an energy we needed at that time, you know like chgg-chgg-chgg-chgg.
It seemed very natural to make it in English. German thrash bands had English lyrics, and Sepultura in Brazil, also. As we started to experiment, what we really ended up questioning was not language, but words. The expression we ended up pursuing used the voice as just another sound you could produce. No narrative expression, just the title, which was a kind of code.
We just started to imagine a music we could put anything into: Middle Eastern elements, noise, sound recordings, talking. But no jamming — we were totally against that. We were interested in experimentation in form.
CE: Not really. We kind of exploded as a new sound. You know Taksim, right? This was the time that all these rock bars were opening in Taksim. Peyote was the first, I think. It was the big time for American indie stuff, and the rock bars would only allow you to play covers.
So, we made the decision not to play in bars. We were all still at university then, and we had an anti-authoritarian, anti-commercial consciousness — we would never make a video clip for Turkish television, and we would barely have a photo. But we still somehow got a very big response. MV: This is about the time of your first full-length, right? You were at architecture school?
CE: Yeah, when we made Mi Kubbesiinit was my third year. We made that record during summer break. I was actually there for seven years, and I was working in an architectural office for the last two.
Nekropsi was never a full-time band. We all went on studying and working at the same time. MV: Were you guys very political? The mids was a pretty intense time in Turkey, right? CE: It was a strange time, a very dark time for all of us.
It was depressing for young people, especially in universities — lots of confused people in a dark city. Dark, hairy faces, long hair. Protest culture. The band had a really anti-authoritarian stance, so we were mostly sharing ideas with anarchists at university. And that came out in the performances for a while. We would play the concert and then comment on something that was going on. I was the one trying to push us to get more involved, actually. In we recorded a demo for a French music festival, and actually started recording a proper album in France; the first song from Nekropsiour second album, is from that session.
We had really great experimentation then, a great sound also. But most of that material did not come out at the time. We were in France when the earthquake happened inand we rushed back to Turkey. And that was the beginning of the end for us, too; it just became impossible to go on with the band. We broke up and everybody started doing their own thing. I got really into beats and electronics and field recordings, noise stuff. And then I went back to school again, at this new sound program they were starting at Istanbul Technical University, the Center for Advanced Studies in Music, which is how I became a sound engineer.
CE: It happened at about the same time. CE: No. There were two timelines going on at the same time. Can you guys open for Page and Plant? From Led Zeppelin. It was great, but it was super-confusing. CE: Well, as I was saying, I got really into making recordings. I was always going around the university, which is a very old, very interesting building — it was an arsenal in the Ottoman days — making an archive of images and sounds.
And then something big happened again. I met Fulya Erdemci, one of the critical personalities in art here in Turkey. I got together with a friend, a really good video-maker, younger than me, and we spent all summer in a very strange courtyard at the school, recording.
CE: No music. No effects on the sounds, except collage. And video collages made by combining frames from different times. Then we made the installation in an old chemistry laboratory that had been locked up for fifteen years, just off the courtyard.
And I was thrilled. It was far beyond what I had imagined possible. CE: I was shocked. I was even frightened because of the effect of it, the strength. It was not what I wanted exactly — it was more than that. Did you study abroad and come back to Turkey? What else do you have? At first, just as a project to release a record. We never released anything official afterand there was so much unreleased material.
So we got together for a week in and did the overdubs, and then we went to work on editing it all together with really great equipment at the university. That came out infinally, which is the same year we did a performance for the Istanbul Biennial. It was at Platform Garanti — each of the four of us was playing on a different floor of the building, so if you were on the top floor, with me, all you heard was these very electronic-seeming drums. And on the next floor there was a very melodic guitar line.
And so on. But if you were outside, on the patio, you heard all four channels, so it formed a song. It went really well, again, and after that… we just started doing gigs again. Hassan Khan is an artist, writer, and musician based in Cairo, and a contributing editor at Bidoun. His largest solo show to date is upcoming in May at the Kunsthalle St. Gallen in Switzerland. HK: Actually, he owned a jeans shop.
I mean, he had studied film in London and been involved in the sixties, working as an assistant director in Beirut, making short films and writing about film. And he stayed in touch with that network — when we came back to Cairo, it was because he was going to shoot his first feature.
But in London he was selling jeans. He met my mother there, as well. HK: No, she was Egyptian. She had gone to the UK in the early seventies. But my father was born in Egypt. HK: My father had a lot of LPs. He had a very sixties-seventies type of record collection, with the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan and Led Zeppelin and stuff.
There was also this cartridge? Before cassettes — it was this weird cartridge that you plugged into a machine. HK: Yeah, we had two or three of them. Probably we had a lot of them at one point, but when we moved back to Egypt we lost a lot of things. I guess the earliest music-related memory I have is from nursery school — just after we got to Egypt. I was, like, four years old.
My mother likes to remind me. The teacher was always complaining that when it was music time and we were supposed to bang on things and sing and that kind of stuff, all I ever wanted to do was be the maestro and just stand and wave my hands and refuse to play with the other kids. So there was an authoritarian streak there already… [ Laughter ]. I just remember that among our 8-tracks, there was an ABBA tape. HK: Not really. Of course, I was exposed to a lot of different music including Arabic music.
My mother took my sister Nadine and I around a lot to see things — not necessarily concerts on stage. For example, I remember going to some clandestine left-wing gatherings where Sheikh Imam was playing oud and singing. But then also popular Egyptian music, whether in a popular moulid or in a street celebration. My mother had a very good sense of the city, so she would take us to many, many different places and show us many different things.
So there was no kind of revelation or anything. It was just there. MV: So, when did that happen for you? Was it in high school? HK: But I went to university when I was fifteen.
I was very young. So everything happened at university. That was when my relationship with music really started developing.
It was really a mix of everything. I took a music class in university, a very standard music class where you do a bit of notation, and they give you music history — classical, romantic. And then we were listening to different samples of things and they played something from Pierre Boulez, and it was immediately that that I was interested in. I have no idea why my aesthetic affinity was immediately toward dissonance and intensity, most of the time.
So I discovered lots of music, lots of different types of music, from punk to modern classical to free jazz. And then, of course, like every teenager, I got an electric guitar, and I started smashing it and making feedback. And then recording it. I had two tape recorders, and I would make multi-tracks by playing something, recording it, then playing along and recording on the other one — like, six or seven times.
MV: How were you finding out about things? Was there a store or fanzines or a radio station or something? Or a particular clique of people you fell in with? What was the apparatus of your education? HK: It was a mix, of course. There were friends who had things. There was a store close to my house, called Frequency, that used to have lots of LPs and would record LPs onto tapes and sell you the tapes. But most of the things that would reach the store would almost by definition have to be pretty mainstream.
Actually, another source was just the adult people, friends of the family — I started to look at their music collections, which could be more conservative but still interesting — classical Iranian music or whatever it was. You know what I mean? HK: And they become hugely influential. More with music than with film, as I had more exposure and it was easier to see film at university and around town. There was a film library and film classes and programs and stuff. And the Film Critics Association, which was always organizing screenings — not experimental films per se, but still.
MV: How much of this explosion of new stuff was part of the university curriculum? And what was your major? HK: Uh, comparative literature. I knew that I wanted to be a literature major when I got to university. So when I got to university I declared my major my first semester, which was not very common. You were supposed to take all these classes to prepare you, first, and I got exempted from them.
It was a big deal — I was fifteen years old, and I got into university and got exempted from everything and declared my major, and everyone in the literature department was convinced I was going to be the Golden Child.
In the States, at least, there was this funny thing where English departments were kind of resistant to theory, while comparative literature departments were highly susceptible…. It was again a very strong affinity. I was into it much more than my professors, even, so I was kind of pursuing it on my own, and not reading my Aeschylus and Shakespeare.
MV: What was the equivalent, for theory, of your hearing Pierre Boulez? Do you remember the first theory thing you read that kind of blew your mind? Actually, in terms of chronology, the first thing I read in that direction was this not especially well-known theorist, Ihab Hassan, who was an Egyptian-American —. HK: So I read him in class, actually. Probably they assigned him because he was Egyptian, and I remember having that affinity toward it immediately. And then Georges Bataille and Frantz Fanon.
Roland Barthes. MV: Was the Bataille something from the pink book? From Visions of Excess? Actually, one of the very first things I recorded was my friend Firas Al-Atraqchi playing thrash metal and me reading Bataille on top of it, reading from Erotism. In my bedroom. HK: I played in many bands and there was a lot of bedroom music and recording and primitive multi-tracking… I played a lot with Sherif El Azma.
HK: Actually, we did have a gig. It was me and Sherif, both on guitar. HK: No… it was semi-improvised, but we had laid down some basic structures. MV: Can you give me an idea of what it sounded like? HK: Yeah. I mean, it was made out of very different sections. So one section was a pentatonic scale, a harmonic minor scale, so it was kind of melodic, acoustic-y melodic.
One section was a kind of Schoenberg-type thing, where we limited the notes we were using to one specific transharmonic — can you say that? Another section was more power chords and crazy guitar solo type stuff; another one was a bit like Captain Beefheart a la Trout Mask Replicawithout the vocals. But they all hooked up together into one thing. So it sounds a bit odd. HK: No, it was probably not very good.
But we were very happy. That was very influential on what I was doing. He was doing these theater exercises and improvisations with actors, and some of them would be done with live improvised music. And I was just playing the guitar, nothing too complicated, but just being in that situation, responding to what was happening, and seeing their response. Actors are very dramatic people, anyway, so they would break down and start crying or whatever, reaching their inner id, and it was like seeing the materialization of the power of this music.
But on the level of the image, this is what happens. You are chugging away at the guitar, and in front of you there is someone who is responding to it. So the theater workshop made me very conscious, in a way that was not related to theater, it was just personal.
That had a very big impact on me — this idea about performance, and about music, and about materialization or… maybe you can call it sublimation? MV: Part of what seems interesting to me about your story is the… extreme particularity of it. Or maybe the opposite?
At the same time that you describe this incredible explosion of knowledge and experimentation and exposure, it also seems very bound up with the people and the place and the surroundings. I guess what I am wondering is whether you felt very plugged into the outside world at that moment, or whether you were conscious of a kind of insularity? HK: I think part of it is a function of being a certain age and at the university.
In retrospect, when I look at it, we were terribly, terribly isolated. Of course we were. And it must have left a big impact on me to this very day. And I had never listened to Schoenberg. I was also — I was not into mysticism or anything like this, but I was reading a lot of people in Arabic, like Ibn Arabi, and that was hugely interesting for me also, because his language was very philosophical, the language itself. There was no hierarchy. Also, couple all that with drugs and alcohol, and you get a weird mix.
HK: Much later. All that stuff I heard later, but I identified with the aesthetic much earlier. I had started doing soundtracks with the theater workshop pretty early on, after working with them for two or three years, and my first soundtrack with them — this was — had a lot of noise even without my ever really listening to noise music. About the same time, I did my first audiovisual piece, lungfanwith my friend Amr Hosny, a photographer, which we also showed in the Cairo Atelier.
And got booed. I edited them on tape and multi-tracked them with outtakes from guitar-synthesizer jams with an insane friend of mine who I used to play a lot with. Which I think is why I never became specifically anything.
MV: So, when or how did you discover that there was a subculture called noise, and that it had a sound you were in alignment with, and that you could have been an honorary member of it or whatever? I must have been aware of it even in a way, in terms of the Futurists and stuff. Because I was quite well informed about art history from early on. It was a bit later when I picked up a copy and started reading it, and I got excited about a lot of the reviews because what they were describing sounded interesting to me.
In any case, I know I read about Merzbow a lot before I ever heard him. I really started traveling inso everything changed then. Because everything became available.
And at that time, the internet was starting to show up. But when I encountered these things, I never felt it as a shock. It just felt like recognition.
Paint broils off in patches, geographies form in the rust. Every desert road a highway of death. Do you know this guy?
Nada Zeidan drove her Mitsubishi Lancer off a cliff at kph. Nada treats trauma cases, boys with busted skulls and burned bodies. Boys who come in from the road north. Their front seats are shoved up, out and over a split dashboard. Upholstery foam flowers out from gashes in burned leather. Nada remembers the snout of her lancer sheared clean off.
Just a stump of engine, that last hand-break-turn gone wrong. Jace Clayton and Kelefa Sanneh have lived faintly parallel lives. Both grew up in New England as children of mixed marriages.
And both of them owe it all to noise. Noise can refer to all kinds of sounds, of course. Often it describes something jarring or disagreeable, nonsensical or annoying. Kelefa Sanneh: What was it that drew you to noise music? Was it a structural thing or more of a sensual thing?
Jace Clayton: It was sort of sensual in the broadest sense, I guess. I remember being physically shocked by the very first track on my first noise cassette. JC: It was by Hanatarash. It came in the mail; somehow I had gotten one of their catalogs. JC: Close enough. I remember going there to interview RRRon, the guy who ran the store, for my fanzine in high school. JC: It was great! We did two or three issues, like Xerox, hit-and-run style. It was called Infusion.
KS: Mine was Tttttttttttthe unpronounceable fanzine. There were maybe five issues. KS: Yeah, though we were more interested in humor and some stupid highly conceptual comics. I did it with my best friend Matt. But then also, band interviews with whoever would talk to us. KS: Like, Alice Donut? They were an East Village scum-rock punk band, freakish. Maybe you were listening to Ice-T…. KS: It was two things, actually. America is now under martial law.
This was the end of my freshman year. It was a cross section of anything you could get your hands on — the Dead Kennedys and the Dead Milkmen, the Dickies, along with some alternative rock bands. I will only listen to weird music. JC: My mother had this Thriller aerobics record, and I remember hearing that over and over again. But beyond that…. JC: It never sunk in. Which, in concrete terms, was a lot more radical than most of the ostensibly weird stuff I was into.
They took out all the music from this music. It did not seem weird at the time. KS: Sure. MTV Raps was on. NWA videos were on all the time; a few years later Snoop Dogg hit.
So I saw all those videos. But that show Minutes was a bigger deal for us, because it was the only way to see the videos for any of those alternative bands we were getting into. The thing is, that stuff was presented as alternative.
It felt really different from Yo! MTV Rapswhich was presented as, if not mainstream, as aspiring to join the mainstream. It never occurred to me that rap was more alternative than the alternative. KS: Radio. North Andover is within striking range of the Boston radio stations, so we got tons of college stations. One person bought it, the other taped it.
In this way we could maximize our musical universe. And we were buying stuff mainly based on the label. Fugazi was on Dischord, so we had everything on Dischord. And then somehow we got into that label Shimmy Disc. When we heard that band Half Japanese for the first time? That childlike shouting over horrible noise? MV: So, do you have an idea about why you guys found yourselves questing after horrible noise made by very possibly insane people? KS: Sure!
I mean, for me this stuff was always kind of structural. Its appeal was precisely that it defined itself in opposition to the mainstream. Which is to say, it presupposed that you had an opinion about music. That was such a novel idea for me! And even if those opinions are dumb, the fact of it was an exciting thing.
The appeal was kind of unmusical, actually. What is the craziest shit ever? KS: So we got one of those Dry Lungs compilations and there was some truly weird Japanese stuff on there. Which would be noise! And which would be, totally formless noise. The rules of music start inverting themselves. It was just two pop songs, two Japanese pop songs, one on each side. But in the context of noise music, that was like, the noise music of noise music.
Some sort of weird black-hole physics applies. KS: Oh, this was all high school. I mean, I still loved it in college, but my love of, like, those Japanese bands really peaked in high school.
JC: No! It was like you were an individual dot in a constellation of listeners out there somewhere. For me it was all RRRecords mail order. Send them a check one day, get back a few cassettes two days late. Those compilation cassettes were the cheapest way to get ahold of things. Just, you know, two of them. Laughter ]. JC: Completely! And I was not really interested in punk weirdness or hardcore weirdness. But I did love the absurdist spirit of the Japanese stuff, as well as the sound of it.
But at the same time, there was someone like Merzbow, who was even then pretty… single-minded. Or did Boyd Rice have no sense of humor or something? KS: Having no sense of humor was not the problem. Masonna was really, really funny… The Gerogerigegege was hilarious… Merzbow — not funny at all.
It was… sort of funny? Not only deeply unfunny, but it kind of touched on that stuff that I was just like not interested in, all the like, bondage, Asian porn, violence against women. KS: I understood it in an abstract sense as being fucked up. But it always seemed sort of goofy to me. And insofar as it was an actual fetish for a lot of those dudes, it never seemed hot to me.
I missed all the British stuff. Maybe those records were too hard to come by? Or [ laughs ] it might not have been noisy enough…. KS: Exactly. Learning about a band was expensive. Hell no! KS: And like, that feeling? Of literally being in the record store and seeing the CD in its wrapper or the cassette or whatever — and having to part with money in order to find out what it sounds like?
KS: It definitely helped inspire a certain kind of tribalism. And that the mythology behind it was going to be crazy. Like, you heard a rumor that the Hanatarash dude drove a bulldozer through a club.
Well, there's light coming through, so maybe the water's not a lot. Are these very desperate or very confident rats that take the plunge and poke their nose up someone's toilet bowl? And imagine all the rats, cautiously climbing up pipes like long-tailed Indiana Joneses and suddenly the defences of the ancient temple are triggered and a bolus of water, toilet paper and crap comes at them from five stories up.
Does one survive that? Just hang on by the claws in the pipe while it passes or ride along, trying to get a breath of stinking air every now and then? Is it like white-water rafting or just sheer terror for Red Nose - Various - Strange Music: The Video Collection Volume 001 (DVD) afflicted rat? So many questions, so difficult to find out. The piece of airfield is there because the plane was a tailsitter even with the lump of metal I placed in the nose, now it's glued to the surface. Not that they can tell the difference between mass and force either, sigh.
A proposed name for this new unit is not leaked in Anders J Thor 's short article and I haven't been able to come up with anything witty myself, but I hope it will be some short and memorable. Down with the kilogramme! There are quite a few blogs written by medical people out there and they offer stories with the widest possible range of joy, despair, scientific advances and dark-age magic, all the emotions that make the medical profession so attractive to producers of fiction set in hospital environments, but still the perhaps just slightly varnished truth is probably the most gripping.
Orac's Respectful Insolence is probably the most well-known and with an amazing spectrum of regular subject themes, from Enemaman to the Hitler zombie, but I just found Trauma Queenthe blog of a recently graduated paramedic in Edinburgh. The stories from his daily life, mixing drunkards, injured and sick people with the children he loves so deeply and selflessly brought me unashamedly cliched tears and laughter.
Read them! Hideaki Kudo has built some really small cars. English: No! The worry is that since much university-level education is given in English, neither teachers nor students will perform at their best. The logical implication that speaking a foreign language makes you burn down mosques is not clear to me.
I can agree with the point that neither teachers nor students in general manage English particularly well and I'm certain this does mean that education is not performed at maximum efficiency, but the conclusions I draw from that are different: English is the lingua franca of science today—it used to be Latin, in fifty years it may be Mandarin, the particular language is not important but it is clearly impossible to translate everything into every other language, so some common language must be used.
The Bologna process aims to increase movement between European universities. This means there hopefully will be increasingly more non-Swedish-speaking students at Swedish universities. Now, what will most decrease education efficiency: that both Swedish-speaking and non-Swedish-speaking students will be taught in English which they hopefully have some ten to fifteen years of experience in, or that the non-Swedish-speaking students are taught in Swedish, of which they typically have just a few months of experience?
I think the course is clear: If Swedish university students do not understand English well enough, they need more of it, preferrably as early as possible in school. This is all too common in newspapers, news are copied from English-language sources and names and quotes are given in English, even thought the correct thing to do would be to give them in the native language or with an approriate Swedish translation.
That's so lazy it's despicable. That's just plain stupid. In order to find out how it works, I did my first upload to YouTube today. I used my standard test video of a propeller: I thought this was the height of anorakity. Well, I was mistaken, go to the page and check the "Related" videos…. On occasion my lectures will touch upon sociological issues and quite often this will cause me to go into high Academic English gear.
Gillian Evans is an English academic who, due to financial hardship, ended up living with the Lower Classes for over a decade and finally decided to study and document this strange tribe, which resulted in a book, several articles and lots of commentary in the Guardian. There's no more money until next week and there's kids to feed.
But, I was also driven to some introspection I tend to think of myself a lot, don't I? In a superficial sense I am trilingual, yet my language use is very much situationally bound, tied to what I say and how I say it. My native language, my mother tongue, of Finnish is the language of my childhood. The form I speak is that of Finnish in the s and s, when my parents moved to Sweden. I have a day-to-day vocabulary and speak without an accent, yet I'm not fluent in technical, professional Finnish and I tend to be silent until spoken to unimaginable as it may seem to those who've met me in person.
My everyday language is Swedish, it is what I speak with friends and family and I probably have the largest vocabulary in absolute terms in Swedish. Some people claim they can detect traces of a Finnish accent, others shake their heads at the idea. Then, my professional language is English, it is the language that lets me discuss technical issues and it is the language in which I do the absolute majority of my writing.
Even when nominally speaking Swedish with colleagues, our speech is peppered Red Nose - Various - Strange Music: The Video Collection Volume 001 (DVD) English expressions or English words in Swedish form, not necessarily because there are no corresponding Swedish words, but because the English is closest at hand. The English I speak is a mirror of the English I read, it is academic, complex, dense with polysyllabics. Still, if you know me in one language, I may not be quite the same person in another language….
As a graduate student, I had reason to travel to many places abroad for conferences, research administrative meetings and such. What I have seen has been due to the ticket structure that made air travel cheaper if you stayed away the night between Saturday and Sunday. This has all but disappeared with all the new low-fare airlines, but it was an important factor in travel budgets in the s, Red Nose - Various - Strange Music: The Video Collection Volume 001 (DVD). So, when I had tickets of this kind and there was no work planned for the Saturday I would have a day in which to wander around strange cities.
On this particular day, I was in Geneva with two colleagues, O and K, it was a warm summer day, O's birthday as it happened, and we had the day all to ourselves. Geneva has this strange topology where, no matter which direction you start out in, you soon find yourself on the same skewed square in the Old town, so we often came back there. When we first arrived there, from one of the other streets ending up on the square came a large group of youngsters chasing a huge red rubber ball.
During the day we would run into them in other places around the city, still chasing the ball. We never found out how this crowd had assembled or if they had any other purpose than just playing with a big ball, it was just one of those mysteries that not necessarily have to be solved. Around the slanting square and adjoining streets were all kinds of posh shops, and we ducked into one of them because K was interested in the rattan furniture in the shop front.
It didn't take me long to see that anything beyond their smallest pillows was beyond my financial reach, so I wandered further into the shop. I found a door opening on the inner yard. I stepped through the door and the feeling was as if I had ended up in Tom's Midnight Garden or just the Centre of the Universe. In the small yard was a chair made of steel bands and I went and sat in it. It could have been uncomfortable but right then it was just right to sit in and watch the vines creeping up the surrounding walls over which I would see the inner walls of the surrounding houses, a half-open tap was letting a small stream trickle through the moss on the paved ground to a drain in the other end of the yard.
I just sat there, feeling no need to do anything but just sit and be. I don't know how long I sat there, but eventually I remembered my friends who had been patiently waiting for me. We continued on our way. Presently we found a little art museum. It was like the home of a rich family with artwork everywhere, so you could sit down in soft leather armchairs to admire the paintings and I and K nodded off for a quarter of an hour or so in a room where the incoming midday sun made you pleasantly sleepy.
We had lunch in a restaurant somewhat off the main thoroughfares and I was introduced to salmon carpaccio. We talked about many things and of course we also discussed our current research project and while strolling around we developed new ideas for computer-supported communication. In a toy store O had never had a model train as a child and was thinking of getting one for his birthday we had new and heady ideas for message passing.
We stopped at an ice-cream bar and got huge bowls of ice-cream and started writing down all our ideas on whatever scraps of paper we had, including a shopping bag that K had acquired during the day. Very pleased with ourselves we walked on as the afternoon fell. As sun set we found ourselves by a restaurant by the city hall naturally very near the sloping square and looked through the menu for Swiss specialities.
K attempted a coup while O was in the lavatory and quickly asked the waitress for the bill. O prevailed in the end. As the night went on, O and K disappeared to some shady night club that one of K's friends in the UN was running, while I, who suspected it would be a smokey affair, retired to the hotel where I sat up late with my laptop and wrote a draft paper based on our notes of the day and, you know, I think I had as good a night as my friends had.
And so I guess this in the end had been a work day after all, but why not? These are pleasant memories of places I visited, perfect moments as it were. And they cannot be repeated. Even could I go back to that furniture store and they just would happen to still have their inner yard in the same state, I could not experience that same feeling of peace and inner calm because the precondition was that it was unexpectedit couldn't be created consciously.
Some things can never be as good, or even good at all, as the first time. On the other hand, the first time I tried to bicycle down a hill was a painful disaster, it has been much more pleasant on later attempts. Posted by kai at 1 comment:. Jim Horning has several blogs, the one named The Way It Was tells of his experiences in the beginning of his nearly 50 years as a computer programmer. I haven't been in the business quite that long, still many of his stories resonate with my early computing experiences too.
An important part of Christian ritual is eating the flesh of their god. Uncooked, apparently. All kinds of diseases and parasites could be spread this way, so I propose a religious health campaign: Braise The Lord! The Devil's Advocate has a very interesting column on cool past and future user interfaces.
In particular I want this table. In the light of the success of my recent train journey to BrusselsI thought I could go by train to London, but no such luck. Going by train all the way would have cost around SEK, which was more than I could afford right now. An alternative would be to go by train to Gothenburg and then by boat to Newcastle, which would be considerably cheaper, but seeing as the boats don't go very often and indeed, come November they will cease completely if would have taken me a week to travel back and forth, which would have traded most of the travel savings for accommodation costs.
So, I had to give up and buy a plane ticket instead, which cost less than SEK. London was hot and crowded, so after having trudged around a bit I took the opportunity to go to bed early. The course I was there for was OK and the day after that it was time to head back home. Heathrow was plastered with signs indicating you could not take any liquids or gels with you on flights to the USA, which I didn't think was that onerous for me.
There were long queues to the security controls, but they still seemed to proceed at a good pace. I noted that people took their shoes off and sent them through the X-ray machine, even though it was unclear to me if they were being requested to do so or if everyone was just imitating the person ahead of them.
I followed the example. My bag was taken aside and searched and my toothpaste confiscated. The impression that only US travellers were forbidden to use toothpaste was apparently incorrect. Possibly the intended point of the signs was that I could have bought a new tube of toothpaste in the Booths on the other side of the security control, but that I wouldn't have been allowed to bring even that on a US flight.
This however implies a second security control right at the gate. I did not have opportunity to observe this, however. The flight home was also delayed, but eventually I got home. The first aerial kill is said to have been a Aviatik B. The Royal Flying Corps entered the war with completely unmarked aircraft, but it was obvious within days that some kind of distinguishing mark was necessary, so the Union Flag was sewn or painted on the aircraft.
The American Expeditionary Force first used yet another permutation of red-white-blue cockade but eventually introduced a star in a roundel. This change of national insignia is an example of character displacement —originally similar species evolve diverging characters in order to minimise competition, which is beneficial to both species. Aircraft have the joint need to be cryptic both in the air which, as we know, actually very seldom is as blue as the sky and on the ground, which requires various compromises.
An interesting point to note is that the light bluish or greyish undersides that are supposed to make the aircraft more difficult to spot in the air, also serve to make them more difficult to see on the ground, as the increased reflection of light decreases the contrast of the shadows underneath the aircraft. Many animals which spend their time lying on the forest floor also have this kind of colouration.
Paradoxically, while camouflage has as one purpose concealment, it secondarily is also a distinguishing character. So, just as for national insignia, the painting of aircraft went from mainly just doped tissue to distinguishable camouflages.
The other main alternative was the multi-coloured large-field wavy pattern that was also used by the French and Belgian air forces as well as the American Expeditionary Force and indeed has been the pattern for aircraft camouflage up to fairly recently, but everybody has been using different colours, which may help in the identification of friend or foe task. During the between-the-wars period camouflage was eschewed—looking good on airshows was more important than concealment—but by the Second World War camouflage was on again.
However, as soon as the war started the need for rapid identification of aircraft in the air returned and camouflage was compromised by brightly coloured areas in many variations over the course of the war. In Europe, modifying national insignia for recognition purposes was not necessary, as that had been sorted out the first time around, though changes were made, to improve camouflage what was left under yellow, white and red sheets of colour to simplify the painting process or to match changed allegiances.
But, meanwhile in the Pacific all involved air forces had a red circle in the centre of their national insigniaalso causing a number of friendly-fire incidents. I do not know if the Japanese even considered modifying their markings, but they did not have to, as the British and United States forces quickly changed theirs.
The British simply removed the central red circle from the national insignia. The US Army Air Force did remove the central red dot from their star insignia, but felt that the remaining roundel shape still was not sufficiently distinct from the Japanese roundel.
Later on in the war, British units in the Pacific added the bars to their insignia as well. Predictions one can make based on this minimisation of distinguishing marks are that visual spotting of aircraft is as important as ever in spite of radar and IR sensors but that identification of friend and foe is not made visually.
This suggests both the existence of electronic situation-awareness aids as well as a relatively low number of few aircraft in the air simultaneously, making it easier to keep track of who's who and possibly also that close-quarters dog-fighting is not very common these days. It is not. It is a Mantuan cross. This is a Maltese Cross :. ABBA are of course a popular band to cover, and to me the most fascinating version is the album recorded by Salma and Sabina in Hindi.
I just felt I had to listen to them again and googling around came upon unexpected music collected by April Winchell. It was a device for real-time wrap-around computer graphics, and was on a platform almost three metres above the floor. One of the projects I worked on was the sonification turning into sound of molecular dynamics simulations. I never got very far for various reasons, one of them simply the lack of good tools compatible with the graphics environment.
In particular I remember one time when I tested an audio library I had found and just set the mapping to some random values to see hear what would happen, walked into the Cube, closed the movable front screen, and ran the program. In my desperate attempt to shut it off I almost ran the wrong way, through the back screen where only the concrete floor far below would break the fall.
Luckily I caught myself just in time, turned and got out through the door instead to press Ctrl-C tricky when your hands are over your ears. Ben Goldacre at Bad Science has dug up several sonifications that do not cause panic and the commenters chime in with several more.
Nattsudd in its first incarnation was a surreal TV programme with bizarre clips of long-forgotten artists. One night they showed a grainy clip of a s rock band, the members seemingly middle-aged gentlemen in suits, ties and horn-rimmed glasses, doing some kind of spastic aerobics while singing "You were made for me" in unembarrassed falsetto.
Clearly they were having and making fun of the entire rock band thing. This was Freddie and the Dreamers. While I have their music, they, if anyone, must have been best experienced live so I got the idea to search for them on YouTube and indeed there were several wonderful clips there but also the sad news that Freddie had passed away earlier this year, barely old enough to be retired.
Let us remember him and the other Dreamers yet awhile by watching the videos and visiting the fan sites. This was an introductory course in Computer Science. Back in those days, it was still considered a good idea that the students should have a good grounding in all the major programming paradigms rather than merely learning to program in Java, so a Lisp-based course which covered functional, imperative, object-oriented and logic programming, interpreted and compiled programs, was just the thing.
I was there to answer questions, go through the exercises and in general help out. This was something I enjoyed and I made the most of it. Not only had I read the book and seen the film, but the preceding summer I had entirely unexpectedly actually met Abelson and Sussman during a visit to MIT and gotten their autographs.
I had also bought the T-shirt. I wore this the first lecture, certain it would make an impression on the students, and all during the rest of the course I tried to match my clothing to the subject of the day. Now, one of my students from those days mailed me to tell me that the video lectures have been put online. So download them, watch them and see what a really good introductory CS course can be like. This showed the chemical interactions in living organisms primarily humans, I assumed.
You may remember the Prime Radiant displaying the Seldon Plan in such a way that the equations themselves formed a visible representation of the plan, where it was heading, the deviations from the intended path and the corrections performed. I was proud and humbled by the effort that had gone into finding all this out, especially when I found the Citrate Cycle, that I had spent so much effort to learn and, superficially, understand, as a small area slightly right of centre, towards the bottom.
I was also excited by the knowledge that this was work in progress, every year more information about biochemistry would be found out, adding to what was already there, making the map ever more complex. And in particular that this knowledge was there as a physical map you could look at and study, rather than just an abstract collection of research papers.
Not that I then fully understood the concept of research papers, but I did vaguely realise that research was somehow created and collected. I don't know if this wall chart actually was updated regularly and made available in new editions, or if it was a one-shot effort made at some specific time, but I've later found it was created by Roche Applied Science and, as far as I can tell, it is now long out of print. Maybe the sum total of our knowledge of biochemical pathways has grown so much that it no longer can be contained on a wall chart that will fit on the wall of a hospital research department.
Not only that, they have made all the enzymes clickable so that you can look them up in their ENZYME Data Bank to get references to papers referring to that enzyme, alternate designations, where it is expressed and other things I know too little of. Probably ExPASy will not update the underlying graphics and network, but, oh, how I wish they or someone else would.
Imagine putting that on a really big tiled display. And imagine that every new biochemistry Ph. Posted by kai at 2 comments:. Posted by kai at Via Pharyngula. The funnies. It would be quite interesting to see what a similar study would find about the privatisation of Swedish rail transport. The least it would find is that it certainly does not even operate as well as British rail— there still isn't a single site similar to National Rail that will tell you how to get from point A to point B regardless of operating company.
It seems eminently stupid, both for environmental reasons and as flying is becoming more complicated anyway. What is the Government doing about all this, I ask? Georgij Starostin maintains a huge site with lots of his irreverent, informative and incisive music reviews.
This Is The Year - Marit Bergman - 3.00 A.M. Serenades (CD, Album), Nero (2) - Tokoloshe (Vinyl), De Niña A Mujer - Julio Iglesias - En Concierto (Vinyl, LP, Album), Live By The Code - Terror (3) - Live By The Code (Vinyl, LP, Album), U Call That Love - Various - Générations 88.2 (CD), Tous Les Mêmes - Stromae - Racine Carrée (CD, Album), A Rhythm From Within, Its All Over Now, Baby Blue - Various - More Heavy Sounds (Vinyl, LP), Pomp And Circumstance March - No. 1 - Various - Simply The Best Classical Anthems (CD)