Burning Man 2019
All photos were taken on 35mm color film with point and shoot cameras.
The renditions here are scans of prints.
All photos were taken on 35mm color film with point and shoot cameras.
The renditions here are scans of prints.
A sliver of light stands out against the dark background of deep Playa as you ride towards the trash fence, past the inflatable neon elephant, keeping the 747 over your shoulder on the right. As you travel further and the dissonant rumble of the city dies away, a silvery podium rises up to greet you. It emanates sound and noise:
This is the Karaoke Deth Machine, a Burning Man art installation whose creative design began merely days before arriving on site. Its concept is simple; a podium emanating music with an effects steeped microphone attached, awaiting vocal input. Its execution; rather rough around the edges, but it definitely does something (and is lit at night, which is technically meeting the bare minimum requirements). The idea was inspired by a fun toy found at a rural thrift store and some light consultation with someone who knows more about how sound works than I do. An old boombox, a few cables, some warped pieces of lumber and 4 cans of spraypaint later and the Karaoke Deth Machine breathed its first dusty breaths.
In harmony with the 2019 theme, Metamorphoses, the installation underwent its own changes over the course of the event. Its final iteration, microphone dangling in front of amplifier encouraging self-induced screeches and rumblings, will act as a launching point for the next version of the project (that’s right, expect more of these awkwardly dissonant contraptions). What began as a rather strange karaoke machine turned into an even weirder feedback noise machine, and it couldn’t have been accomplished in a more organic way.
My own expectations were forced into dusty rubble by the Karaoke Deth Machine as it transformed itself before my eyes. I watched as participants came, experienced, and left some change in their wake that permanently altered the installation, whether it was to change the position of the microphone to get a new noise, or even just shift the lights slightly. Any time I thought it wasn’t quite working correctly I was proven wrong by the next person who touched it.
For placement of the project my intention was to go rogue. I had already attended several regional Burning Man events and, without issue installed “unofficial” self-placed art there. In Black Rock City, however, the rules are different. Hosting 350 (registered*) art installations** in one city requires more attention to where and how things are placed. I soon learned that my rogue art piece was in jeopardy of being confiscated if not accounted for correctly. With this new information I decided to opt-in to the Artery’s comically time-consuming yet entirely appropriate bureaucratic process (I was asked to come back several times in order to give the data time to make its wayward journey through the internet in order to appear successfully on the next persons tablet, and had to fill out the same form over again each time I returned. How I wish this was performance art***). By the end of the day it had been successfully placed at the trash fence to stay for the entirety of the event, and officially cataloged on Burning Man’s website for the rest of eternity.
Catalyzed by just one thrift store toy, the Karaoke Deth Machine was an experiment in spontaneous creation of sound. As more thrift store electronics are procured, more things become possible, and the Karaoke Deth Machine can (and will be) be used as a prototype for bigger and weirder interactive sound projects.
*This number does not include walk-ins like myself and other rogue installations (the small, unlit bbq I almost broke my leg on in the middle of the Playa one night was, after much debate, deemed moop and not art. Sorry-not-sorry aspiring artist who left it there).
**Fun fact: on top of (or more appropriately, in between) the 350 registered stationary art pieces there were approximately 560 mutant vehicles, also known as art cars. 2019 brought record numbers of both art installations and mobile art cars to the Playa.
***The lovely volunteers at the artery were fabulous throughout the entire process, and many stickers and hugs were shared. If you are an unaspiring artist like myself that might have anything at all to contribute to the event, but have doubts… Just bring it! The artery encourages walk-ins and makes it (mostly) easy for you to participate. With a little persistence, you, too can put something weird and/or wonderful in the middle of the desert for a week.
So, is blogging dead?
Despite what Betteridges Law of Headlines might tell us, the amount of blog posts I’ve read since my last post here in 2014 compared to, say, the number of Facebook posts I have consumed would imply yes; blogging is dead. And if not dead, it’s at least not culturally relevant. However, here we are. From my brief forays into the DIY music scene (dare I call it industry? Depends who I’m talking to really, and how one defines where the scene ends and the wider industry begins) I learned more than a few things about self promotion. One of them, arguably the most important for DIY musicians, is this: your contact list is the most valuable thing you can own (thank you Jesse Cannon and Todd Thomas).
Facebook* owns your contacts and connections. They can change their algorithm at any time for any reason. They can boot you from the platform, delete your photos, your contacts, your entire online identity**. On the contrary, a self-maintained list of friends or fans emails is exponentially more difficult for a company to exploit (although not impossible). A blog you host and maintain yourself is a much more secure plot of digital real estate than a “free” service hosted on for-profit companies servers.
I used to write in my personal journal every day. And while over the more recent years I have not kept this up for a number of personal reasons, I’ve often told myself (and others as unsolicited advice) that a blog would be a great way to both keep a journal and stay connected with friends old and new. It’s also a great way to hone writing skills.
This blog may take shape over time into something more thematic, cohesive, and/or interesting to a sub-section of internet lurkers — or not. It may simply act as my digital calling card, the best way to get ahold of me as I slowly purge myself of Facebook and other social medias. It will most definitely act as an outlet for my thoughts, ideas and experiences. Or perhaps nothing will come of this at all; maybe, just maybe, blogging is dead.
*I use “Facebook” here as a blanket term for all social media companies including but not limited to Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.
**Do you remember the whole “likes” campaign launched by Facebook circa 2012? While trying to figure out how to become profitable Facebook promoted “likes” on their platform as the ideal way to reach an audience. You could pay Facebook to promote your page for more likes, with the expectation of increased visibility for your brand. After pivoting away from this model those likes you paid so much for are now essentially worthless, as ultimately the Facebook algorithm decides who sees your content anyway.
In the very near future you might notice a new Facebook friend request from a strange person with a name very similar to mine. Or you might not notice, and don’t really care. In any case, stay with me here as I explain why creating a new profile to continue Facebooking is important to me (skip to the end for a one sentence summary of this post).
Due to the extensive and ongoing coverage of the mass data-mining, information abuse and identity theft, I have chosen to begin reclaiming my personal information. I’m doing this by actively removing personal tidbits of info off of any online profile associated with my real name (a basic rule of thumb is to never give anyone who doesn’t absolutely need it DOB, home address, or any part of your SSN).
The boundaries of privacy are being reshaped and reimagined every day, by processes both out of and in our control. I’ve noticed a shift in the way Facebook is asking me to interact with it… it seems as if its purpose has shifted to subtly draw personal information out of me, and it feels like it’s getting worse every day. There are reasons this might benefit me as an individual, and many more why it does not. It is important for me to stay connected with all of you, but in an online environment separate from my own personal information. I could simply disable my Facebook page; however, I’m a work within the system kind of guy. Feel free to discuss any of this with me anytime, I’m always open to hear your ideas and share my own.
These are things I remind myself of every day: Never put personal information on the internet. Never share passwords or allow third party apps access to personal online profiles.
TL;DR: I am spending many painstaking hours transferring my contacts (you!) to a new Facebook in an attempt to regain control of my personal information, so please bear with me and accept my “friend” request if you wish to still be connected through this platform. If not, I look forward to seeing you IRL. Thanks everyone!!
This week I began picking up my “read a little before falling asleep” habit with Orwell’s “1984.” While it feels productive to be making my way through some literature, immersing my brain in dystopian futures about government control through fear and repression of expression does lead to some pretty weird dreams…
In any case, I was thinking Orwell is pretty spot on in many ways as far as predicting societal means of control. Refer to the controversial Bill HD 1540 our president signed into effect which allows indefinite detention of American Citizens by the US military. This seemed scary, until I remembered this graphic, which explores Huxley’s Idiocracratic view of society’s path.
“Orwell feared that what we hate would ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us.” A graphic entertaining “the possibility that Huxley, not Orwell, was right.”
A vampire walks into a bar, sits down and orders a glass of wine.
“Don’t vampires only drink blood?” a man sitting next to him at the bar said.
The vampire replied, “no, I’m Catholic.”
The cover of Admiral Ackbar’s forthcoming debut gangsta rap album has been leaked and is surfacing all over the internet the last few days. Rumors say it currently has the highest production value of any album made ever, barely passing up MC Chris’s “Fett’s Vette.”
Produced by Lando Calrissian, with backup vocals from Kanye, I can see it at number one on the charts in only a few weeks.
Watch out Justin Bieber, the Admiral is in town and he’s ready to throw down some righteous gangstatude.
Update 2019/9/7: Ok, what even is this? Many years ago there was a program called MTV Music Generator that fell into the hands of a child (myself) with too much free time during summer break. The track featured in Blogwitzcast Ep.1 came directly from that time in suburban American history, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I cringe rediscovering it just now.
That fact that it’s still on a Podbean server somewhere after all these years blows my mind, and influences my decision to memorialize it here further (by “memorialize” it I mean not take it down immediately).
…It’s really just a test of my ability to do cooler things.
When we found out Booch was Catholic…