Life Update

November 5th, 2009

As mentioned on twitter, mine has been an absurdly slow realization that I am now employed by an IT firm. When flown out to interview, I was aware that this was a healthcare software company, but it was a cool company, doing good things, and I was just along to help out. I’ll be in a customer support role, it just happens that I’ll be supporting software for them.

As I prepare to wrap up my first week, which has been jammed with big-picture orientation, it has been a sluggish, crusty awakening to the technical aspects of my new vocation.

It was a little bit from, “This is the company-wide, customer-viewable, development tracking program. Here are the various logs and notes you’ll be responsible for both generating and keeping abreast of,” and a bit more from, “I suggest changing the background of these terminals to red, to remind you that any coding here will change what’s happening in that hospital.”

Really, I think I stopped and did a mental double take when I found myself thinking, “Well yes, I’ll have to look into orienting one of my two monitors into portrait mode, since it will be so convenient to see more code at once.”

Now I’m pretty certain I’m up to this, and pretty sure it’s going to be fun, rewarding, etc. But this self-paradigm shift is giving me a bit of whiplash.

For particulars, I now live in Madison, WI, and am employed by “Leading Healthcare Software Developer (LHSD)”. I’m in a technical support role, which will be direct and frequent interaction with customers, as well as occasional small-time development. And some other things, since they just refer to us as the jacks-of-all-trades. I’m right now at the end of week 1 of several months of intense training and orientation. They’re particular about blogging, and I’m now particular about being employed, so don’t expect very many details or stories from my day. Not that you are already, since I’m a fairly poor blogger. But I just wanted to check in, and confirm that I’m going to be out here for at least 2 years. And at present, drunk on the kool-aid, I could see that going for quite a bit longer.

steven Tell

Forcing Pen to Paper

September 24th, 2009

On the advice of a rather good friend, I’ve spent a good portion of the previous night trying to, “just fucking do something.” That’s my paraphrase, not her words, so I perhaps should not have used the quotation marks. Regardless, her point was thus: to use this extensive block of time that I have being unemployed, when not lamely glancing over job listings, to actually produce something. My lazing about funneling hours into a wide variety of video games should rather be spent doing calisthenics of the mind (or hands) for which I am terribly sore.

It really struck me as something that needed to be done as I wandered the physics department today, passing active classrooms and considered the real possibility that if I stopped into any of them, I would be thoroughly overwhelmed by how little I remembered or understood.

So! I am going to try making a definite effort to do something, and document it here. I am bound by severe deficiency of funds, though, so it won’t be anything spectacularly sculptural or food related. But I’m going to do something, dammit.

In that spirit, while sitting on a bench, under a tree, next to the University of Connecticut Center for Undergraduate Education, waiting to inquire about rescheduling an appointment with a career services advisor, listening to ‘Take Time’ by The Books because it shuffled into play, marveling at serendipity and enjoying the last gasp of late summer New England warmth, I wrote the following line.

(Not this one.) Since I’ve been turning over in my mind concepts on which to base a play existing solely as a frame for an out-of-time monologue of physics or mathematics, I’ve pieced together a number of fairly ridiculous sentences. This one, though, really reminds me of the awful constructs forged by pseudo-scientific mystics who co-opt quantum theory in an attempt to throw more veils over the meaning of life. So I just had to share:

‘The whole of the vastly numerous but ultimately finite permutations of human interaction rest on a manifestly stable superstructure born from the collisions of infinite fractal possibilities.’

Now, if that junk is out of my system, hopefully something useful and neat will make itself known.

I’m really hoping to stick around longer this time, and perhaps do a little more than just link blogging. If you (yes you) wouldn’t mind leaving a brief little thing in the comments (a non sequitur would be best!) I would be quite appreciative, if only so I may have some impression of my current audience. Or, given that I probably know each of you personally, a non sequitur could also be delivered via phone, tweet or in person. Thanks!

steven Tell ,

Video is Moving Pictures: “The Terrible Thing of Alpha-9″ by Jake Armstrong

July 22nd, 2009
Oh what a horrifying monster!

Oh what a horrifying monster!

In the fine tradition of this here link blog, I’m going to point you elsewhere on the internets so that you may spend 5 minutes with a quality piece of animation. Please enjoy Jake Armstrong’s student project (created at the School of Visual Arts): “The Terrible Thing of Alpha-9″.

The source post on Cartoon Brew has a good accompanying text by Armstrong, explaining his influences and interpretations of the characters. I don’t want to spoil anything and am no authority on ‘toons, but here are the notes I made while watching:

– several of the motions, particularly the Spaceman getting dressed in the beginning, reminded me of the excellent Adventure Time with which you are hopefully familiar if we are friends;
– my first reading of the character designs, their weight and especially their limbs, screamed Octopus Pie, though Armstrong’s own list of influences for the ‘comic book feel’ very much does not include a webcomic;
– that said, I find the piece very fresh, and a fine example of the form… and my heart breaks around the 4:30 mark.

steven Video is Moving Pictures , ,

Optico-aural Synergy: “Hard Times” by Patrick Wolf

July 22nd, 2009

I have a confession to make: I’ve never been all that into Patrick Wolf. Among my friends, there are die-hard worshipers, those who hold him in general disdain, and plenty who just like it when he pops up on iTunes DJ.

(Total aside: why was that renamed? Party Mix was a perfectly informative title for that function. Is it all that enhanced by pretending iTunes now has agency in selecting the order? Isn’t that was Genius is for?)

For my part, I’ve always been something of a poseur. I liked a couple of his tracks well enough, but I couldn’t make it all the way through many, many tracks. But whenever he came up in conversation with other indiephiles, I was the fawning fanboy. After all, it was a story that I could certainly get behind: Wolf as some gay, self-taught street kid musical prodigy, who did whatever the hell he felt like in service to his art. I wanted to get behind that, I wanted to obsess over his albums. I certainly wore out a few tracks…To The Lighthouse and A Boy Like Me on Lycanthropy and then…well I didn’t really listen to anything else until The Magic Position, which was really the only song I listened to on that whole album.

I think a large part of it is, for all of my teenage angst in high school, I’ve never really been a fan of emo music. It was a wildly underrepresented genre in my mp3 collection and I wasn’t even clued in to Wolf until college. For all the interesting things that he does musically, his genius productions and – adventurous – fashions, I can’t really connect to his themes. “The Magic Position” was very different compared to the rest of his body of work, and I completely wore the track out. But after its fantastic eponymous opening, everything went back to brooding on that album, if I recall correctly (and please correct me if you disagree!).

All this to say: I haven’t listened to Patrick Wolf in a while and I didn’t listen all that closely at the time. But I want to show you a music video that I’m very excited about – it’s for a newer song called “Hard Times”:

It’s directed by Ace Norton who has worked with a number of other indie darlings, and to whom Wolf refers, “[he is] the Michel Gondry of my generation.” I’m definitely going to be keeping my eye out for him, if only because I’m in love with the visuals above.

Because, really, I’m not feeling clued in to the link between song message and video. What is it that ties together working hard through tough economic times and sometimes being a wildly fluorescing drum player (or paint thrower)? Then again, who cares? It looks damn cool.

And, for what it’s worth, I am hopelessly in love with Wolf’s friend and sometime concertmate Owen Pallet, also known as Final Fantasy.

steven Optico-aural Synergy , ,

Pardon My Rust

July 22nd, 2009

So much for that posting renaissance I had hoped for a few months ago. The aforementioned trip was excellent, I took far too few pictures (this has been true for a long while now) and I really have no motivation to write about any of it right now.

However! I do want to put this space to some use, so I’m going to work through my backlog of Firefox tabs that I’ve been holding open in order to blog at some later date.

Such date is now!

steven Tell

Video is Moving Pictures: ‘Sorry I’m Late’ by Tomas Mankovsky

May 31st, 2009

There are very few stop motion films that I won’t watch all the way through, even if I’m not enjoying them. I always feel that I owe it to the creators for all the meticulous work they’ve done. I also enjoy animation, of course, but there’s something much more endearing about the chunkiness resulting from making minute changes to the configuration of the same few objects.

In that regard, be sure to watch through the credits, which features a time-lapse ‘making of’ sequence that I find astounding.

steven Video is Moving Pictures ,

Play this Poem: ‘Today I Die’ by Daniel Benmergui

May 21st, 2009

The internet, Our collective subconscious reproduced in copper and silicon, readily offers the banal and the disgusting for your mindless consumption (if you want to remain stomach-full, don’t click on any of Pintsize’s links). My mind immediately drifted to the plethora of webcomics when coming up with examples for those adjectives, but I don’t think it’s a controversial point. The evidence abounds for other areas as well.

Its archives for the profound, however, are populated at a far less rapid clip. A large part of my motivation for starting this blog is to help bring attention to the richness that already exists, or is being added. To that end, I am pleased to offer you this link:


Today I Die, a little web-based game by Daniel Benmergui.

I don’t want to say too much, since it’s a brilliant, beautiful experience that will take up only 15-20 minutes of your day, but hopefully leave you much enriched. Suffice it to say that this is a ‘game’ inasmuch as there is interaction and a defined sequence of events, but that’s not really the point. The real stuff of wonder is the subtle poetry; the source of both mechanic and narrative in this piece.

If you enjoy it, but you’re looking for more of a game, be sure to try the melancholy I Wish I Were the Moon, by the same creator.

steven Interact , , ,

Unintentional: Previous weeks’ radio silence

May 21st, 2009

Sorry about that! The semester came to an end, which ended up being busier than I anticipated. Then I headed home to Lexington, where the wireless was inexplicably spotty (terribly caustic for motivation, that). There was also, a great deal of socializing (again, unanticipated) which kept me away from my computer without providing much fodder for my purposes here.

However, I do have some entries brainstormed. I’m also getting ready to head out on a ~10-day road trip which will surely be fecund with inspiration.

Also, to that end! If you have any secrets you’d like to pass along about Portland, Maine, please do so!

steven Tell

Studies in Repetition: “Self-Erasing Drawing” by Mona Hatoum

May 1st, 2009
Self-Erasing Drawing

"Self-Erasing Drawing"

[Image from here, originally located via a google image search.]

This is a kinetic sculpture by Palestinian artist Mona Hatoum. Its current incarnation, housed in the MoMA, is a larger version of the 1979 original. When I first visited the museum a few years ago, I was completely captivated by the piece, which occupies the center of a moderately-sized space.

If I read that it was entitled, “Self-Erasing Drawing” at the time, I don’t remember that now. What I did commit to memory was that a rake was continuously making lines in sand, while simultaneously smoothing the sand 180 degrees away. I did not conceive that the machine was drawing, but took it as some reflection on meditation; a mechanized zen exercise. Rather than contemplate while performing the simple, impermanent action ourselves, we robotized the task. To my mind, however, the sweeping was just as mesmerizing, and I was not the only patron completely captivated.

As I think about it now, I am less satisfied by the paradigm that this machine is drawing, than if it is some mindless meditation object. This is perhaps to be expected, but still, it’s not like it’s making a very interesting drawing. If it had even one more degree of freedom, and a simple, random algorithm for determining the angle between rake and sweep, it could produce a variety of drawings while remaining self-erasing. It would even be deceptively autonomous.

But perhaps I’ve missed the point. After all, it is the simplicity of the arrangement that most powerfully evokes the dualities of, “building and destroying, existence and disappearance, displacement and migration,” as the source post says.

I’ve also found the following video, which is the natural medium for relating moving artwork:

[Source unknown, as I found it via google video search.]

steven Studies in Repetition ,

Inward: The Heart and Lungs in Motion (Separately)

April 30th, 2009

I considered placing this post under the meta-title “Studies in Repetition” as well, but I already have another item on deck under that heading. I’m not sure if this reflects latent obsession or creative laziness on my part. Probably both. Regardless, I find the following videos informative and fascinating. There is a bit of clinical gore, however, so you should maybe not watch during mealtimes.

[Originally seen a bit ago here, though of course the video itself appears to have originated on medical television?]

This is an example of open chest defibrillation. During surgery the heart had lost its regular pacing and proceeding to flip the f— out (a technical term, of course). The electrical jolt provided by the paddles overwhelms the wild confusion, briefly bringing everything to a stand-still. Eventually the heart’s natural pacemaker, the sinoatrial node, takes charge and strong, regular contractions recommence. Wondrous.

[The video appears to be first connected with this article, where you can find a multimedia link to watch at higher resolution than in this youtube rip.]

I like this video not only for being able to see a set of real lungs doing their thing, but also for its pretty awesome title: EX VIVO LUNG (out-of-body lung, I think). This set of lungs is patiently awaiting transplant, being kept at a toasty 37 celsius, happily nourished by a bloodless solution of proteins, nutrients and all-important oxygen. A pump system continuously cycles inhalation and exhalation, allowing the transplant surgeons to access viability and giving them up to 12 hours to make any necessary repairs. This allows for a great expansion in the pool of lung transplant candidates, since they need not be pristine at the time of donation in order to prove useful to the lucky recipient.

steven Video is Moving Pictures ,