BTC: “It’s a Fine Day”

This week’s edition of BTC goes out to Comrade Lev. She’s currently packing up and preparing to roll out to Burning Man 2010 with the Syzygryd crew. I have no doubt whatsoever she’ll hear this classic house anthem by Opus III (as well as its Orbital offspring) out on the playa at some point. Wish I was going with you, hon. Bust some of those signature swirly stompy hottie-in-black moves for me, won’t ya? Unitard optional.

Nokia Mutation

Here’s another Cronenbergian nightmare for you! Been meaning to roll this one out for a while now, but Ross’ Yeasayer post and last week’s focus group scene on Mad Men reminded me to finally get on it.

This Nokia N900 commercial came out late last year, and leaves me a little puzzled even after third and fourth and fifth viewing. The scene opens with a view of a focus group, as seen through glass by the observing parties. A few guys brainstorm desirable phone features, while one – a black-clad, scruffy type – doesn’t seem to be interested in participating. When asked to speak up, he begins to twitching and screaming at his collaborators. Panic ensues. Then, after a series of incredibly cool-looking and terrifying man-becomes-machine contortions, he transforms into a phone. Yep. It’s an insane, abusive man-phone. Enjoy!

(Via Engadget)

Contribute Sound Art to SYZYGRYD

Syzygryd Software Preview
from nicole aptekar on Vimeo.

Currently in the Bay Area, a team of artists, engineers, hackers, musicians, designers and makers of all stripes is working around the clock to produce an ambitious interactive sound/light/fire sculpture called Syzygryd. As you read this, chances are someone is welding, grinding, riveting, plasma cutting, wiring up LED lighting, finalizing the touchscreen control panels, or installing fire effects at the Nimby DIY space in Oakland, where the project is rapidly coming together – tube by tube, cube by cube, burst by burst of flame.

A collaboration between Interpretive Arson, False Profit Labs, Gray Area Foundation For The Arts (GAFFTA), and Illutron, this 2.5-ton, 60-foot sculpture will act as a giant electronic musical instrument. Designed as a traveling installation, Syzygryd will debut at Burning Man in under a month. The Syzygryd user experience, as explained by Interpretive Arson’s Morley John, will be as follows: “Three strangers [will] come together and visually compose a unique piece of music. The beauty of Syzygryd is that the entire sculpture responds to what you’re creating in sequenced light and fire. Each touchscreen controller has a grid of buttons which allow you to input musical patterns.” The initial Syzygryd proposal elaborates further:

Syzygryd is a collaborative musical instrument for three non-professional players. We are not naive. We’re not shoving guitars into the hands of novices and expecting symphonies. This is a very carefully designed canvas that guides beginners to harmony (in fact, discordant notes are literally impossible.) The interface is rhythmic, visual, and dead simple. We’ve been meticulously developing the software for months, playing with iPhone prototypes on busses, tweaking sounds, testing it out on our friends. We knew we were getting warmer the first time that three people, with no formal training in music, got bystanders grooving involuntarily…

Though most of the heavy lifting takes place Oakland, people from around the world are invited to contribute to the build.

How can you help build Syzygryd? By submitting sound sets. You’re basically submitting 3 (or more) types of sounds that mesh well together, and people will make music with them. For Syzygryd’s sound palette is not limited to the three electronic tones you hear in the software demo above. You can make it play anything: chirping bird noises, breathing, machine/factory sounds… the more creative the combination, the better. To submit a set, all you need to do is have Ableton Live, download Syzygryd’s MDK (Musician Developer Kit), and consult this handy video tutorial for extra help as needed. There’s also a forum where you can ask questions and get advice. All submitted sets will be reviewed by Syzygryd’s Music Team, and a selection of the top sets will played by the sculpture.

Having observed and participated in the Syzygryd project build, it’s clear that everyone involved is deeply invested in crafting an experiential zone that will be the first of its kind. As the proposal states, “[Syzygryd is] the most beautiful expression we can imagine of the joy we take in community, music, technology, fire, sculpture and architecture. We have assembled an international team of artists with extraordinary talent and experience. All of us are in love. Every day we see things that no one has yet imagined, and it’s been our delight to work within a community to make them real. We’d like to create a space in our city where others — people who don’t normally do this sort of thing — can feel at least a little of that.” That’s a wonderful thing to be part of on any level, and in Syzygryd’s case, people from around the world can get involved.

The deadline for submitting sounds sets to Syzygryd is Tuesday, August 24th. More info on the sculpture and music submission process, after the jump!

Captain Eo Flies Again

I went to Disneyland on Monday for the first time since my high school graduation night, which was a very, verrry long time ago. The biggest lure to re-enter the happiest place on Earth? Captain Eo‘s triumphant return, of course. The 17-minute, 3-D [or 4-D, if you count the synchronized in-theater effects] film stars Michael Jackson as the captain of a spaceship on a mission to deliver a gift to the Supreme Leader of a dark planet deep in the throes of a cyber-catastrophe.

Coppola-directed and Lucas-produced, Captain Eo began screening in 1986 and was shut down at the height of the alleged child abuse drama in the early 90s. Re-opened, predictably, after Michael Jackson’s death, this film is quintessential Jackson. As Eo, in addition to feeding his notorious Disney obsession, Michael gets to shoot lasers from his fingertips and to hang with adorable fantasy creatures and robots. He also wears a tight, studded white leather space suit while saving the world through the power of music and dance. This is who he wanted to be. Captain Eo should have been a mini-series.

One of my favorite aspects of watching this film again was finding all the influences from from sci-fi and fantasy films of the time. There’s the Geiger’s Alien-inspired Supreme Leader, the Gilliam’s Brazil-inspired pipes and steam of the dark planet, the Jim Henson-inspired puppets alongside nods to Star Wars and Terminator. You can probably find even more influences if you watch Captain Eo beyond the jump, but I don’t recommend it if it’s your first time and there’s a chance you might make it to an in-theater screening. It’s just so much better in 3-D!

HAIR-GASM! The Best of the 2010 Hairstyling Awards

Every year, the the North American Hairstyling Awards competition brings forth a new crop of rainbow-colored, architectural, retro-inspired, hair-spirational eye candy. This year’s recently-announced winners and nominees pushed the envelope more than ever before. There are multiple images form each nominee in each category, so click on each entrant’s name below if you want to see more images from that particular series. Be sure to check out the before-and-after images in the Haircolor category – it’s amazing what professional lighting and a great styling team can do. An array of sci-fi heroines, snow queens, robots and circus starlets, after the jump. [Via amazing hairstylist Holly Jones, who’s been providing hair help to Coilhouse editorials since Issue 01].

See also:

Heather Wenman – 2010 nominee, Master Hairstylist of the Year category

How to Look Like Issue Five


No, it’s not a comic-book sound effect! Igaaks are a modern version of traditional Inuit snow goggles (Wikipedia), lovingly handcrafted by Paul Celmer of Raleigh/Durham, North Carolina, in a range of contemporary materials and finishes. Like their arctic forebears, Igaaks help prevent snow-blindness and improve the focus of distant objects, whether you’re at the pole or on the playa.

Put these on and party like it’s 1999.

Warning: Why Can the Bodies Fly

Ever wonder what it would sound like if Darth Vader went to a Berlin discotheque and spontaneously suffered anal prolapse after indulging in one-too-many ketamine suppositories? WUNDER NO MOAR:

You can blame thank DJ Dead Billy for this introduction to the one-hit-weirdness that was Warning’s “Why Can the Bodies Fly“. (Germany, 1982.) Boogie music ain’t been this afflicted since a certain muppet lost his cookie at the disco.

Peristaltic Skin Machine and Chlorophyll Skin

Peristaltic Skin Machine
from Lucy McRae on Vimeo.

Artist duo Lucy and Bart, previously mentioned on Coilhouse, have a history of crafting low-fi yet complex representations of genetic enhancement. Recently, Lucy McRae further elaborated on these themes by creating the two videos that you see here together with artists Mandy Smith and Mike Pelletier.

In the Peristaltic Skin Machine clip above, McRae aims to “redefine the body’s surface… using liquid, air, speed and color.” Plastic tubes running along the length of the head and neck appear to cycle multi-colored chemicals along the skin’s surface, simultaneously hinting at some form of futuristic intravenous engineering and recalling the ancient art of mapping Chi pathways and meridians. Below, the clip Chlorophyll Skin shows human skin enveloped in porous white sacs that change color as the video progresses, taking on the resemblance of  scales, feathers, and succulent fruit at various points in the clip. Vitalic and Fever Ray provide the perfect soundtrack.

Chlorophyll Skin
from Lucy McRae on Vimeo.

Via Face Culture via Twisted Lamb.

Sweded: Blade Runner

The act of “sweding” a movie — creating an amateur version of a feature film — was coined by Michel Gondry in his film Be Kind Rewind and it is something that you may have seen popping up on the internet in the film’s wake. I can assure you that you have not seen anything approaching the surreal sensibilities of this version of Blade Runner filmed by “The Dokkoi Company”. Beginning simply with the words “2026. The Replicant ran away. The Bladerunner chases it.” what follows is a crazed, whirlwind tour of Ridley Scott’s film, replete with a strangely evocative score that sounds like it was created using kazoos, a toy car hanging from string, and the copious use of crude, paper masks. It’s a tour de force of interpretive reenactment, and they even went so far as to create a version for the more recent Final Cut. Worth it for the penultimate rooftop scene alone; not unlike the film it apes.

All Tomorrows: Sovereign Bleak

I always thought danger along the frontier was something that was a lot of fun; an exciting adventure, like in the three-D shows.” A wan smile touched her face for a moment. “Only it’s not, is it? It’s not the same at all, because when it’s real you can’t go home after the show is over.”

“No,” he said. “No, you can’t.”

Story goes like this: there’s an emergency ship en route to a plague-ridden planet, carrying essential medicine. The pilot finds a stowaway; a young girl, Marilyn, who just wants to see her brother.

The pilot now has a problem: he has enough fuel to get himself to the planet, but no one else. Interstellar law is clear: all stowaways are jettisoned immediately.

But space captains are heroic sorts. Whatever harsh decisions the author puts in their background to prove their grit, this is still a story. This time will be different. Marilyn is the perfect, plucky sidekick-in-training; surely the pilot can figure out some way to save both her and the planet’s populace.

No. There is no solution. She says her goodbyes and is ejected, with “a slight waver to the ship as the air gushed from the lock, a vibration to the wall as though something had bumped the outer door in passing, then there was nothing and the ship was dropping true and steady again.”

The above is from Tom Godwin’s The Cold Equations. When it came out in Astonishing Science Fiction in August, 1954, it shocked the hell out of the magazine’s readership, used to the last-minute triumph of human ingenuity.

Godwin’s classic was only the beginning. The ensuing decades would see American sci-fi delve into realms unthinkable to its forebears. Desperate to shake off the genre “urinal,” as Kurt Vonnegut so succinctly termed it, writers first ditched one of the key assumptions: that the hero will always save the day. Maturity, in this view, meant uncomfortable truths. Often, it meant unhappy endings, not just for the protagonists, but frequently the entire world.

This is a scattershot story of how the bleak tomorrow came to reign, and how it changed our visions of the future.