Monthly Archives: February 2005

Back from Cabo

I'm back, and now the population of La Paz is two Canadians and one British Virgin Islander richer. Image update in the morning, and I'll post some more info and pictures on the drive across the bottom of the Baja as well (and reply to my messages and emails). Until then…

Look at me! Look at me!

So the notorious Brent Moffatt is back in the news with his most ill-advised stunt yet, getting a forehead tattoo of the GoldenPalace logo (mockup above). You can click above for their press release on the subject. As much as Brent deserves nothing but malice from me for the stunts he's pulled in trying to hurt BME and its members, I really hope this is a hoax and he doesn't go through with this. Since I know he reads this blog, I'll address this directly to him: Brent, don't do this. You will regret it. I know you desperately want attention and recognition, but this one is going to hurt you in the long run.

Along those lines, I saw the funniest headline and article I've ever seen about him… I assume it's an old parody, but it's got enough tidbits that whoever wrote it obviously knows him. Excerpt:

LOCAL MORON ACHIEVES RECORD, FAILS AT LIFE.

WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) - With speed-metal music on his headphones and a picture of his favorite food, carrot cake, beside him, a 34-year-old Canadian pinned down the world record for body piercing on Wednesday.

"I'm pretty happy. I would've liked to do 1,000, but now that I'm done, I realize 700 is a helluva lot. And right now it looks like I've been in a car accident ... There's quite a lot of blood. Careful, I smell hepatitis!"

The previous world record-holder had 200 piercings, and was the subject of a popular song by the Tragically Hip, entitled "38 years old: never kissed a girl." The song went on to reach #11 on the Canadian Billboard Top Ten.

"I'm more nervous about the (television) cameras than the friggin' piercing," he said to a crowd of reporters.

"This is too weird: I'm not used to all this attention."

When pressed, Moffatt said he meant to say that he is "not used to all this positive attention." Negative attention, however, is something he is painfully all-too-familiar with.

"People crossing the street to avoid walking past you, nobody wanting to sit beside you on the bus, the stares when you go to the local convenience store to buy some milk and apply for work. Teenagers throwing things at you, like snowballs and bottles. Stuff like that, I'm used to by now."

Once done, he left the needles in for more than five minutes. Taking them out, he said, hurt far more than putting them in. Moffatt compared the pain to "getting your junk slammed in the trunk of a car repeatedly," something he wouldn't rule out for his next attempt at breaking a record.

Moffatt said he planned to celebrate his achievement with a long bath, a cigar and some panhandling. But would he do it again? "Sure, I'd do it again. After I forget about the pain."

But seriously Brent, don't tattoo your face with the GoldenPalace logo. I say this out of genuine concern for you, not to try and steal your desperate grab at fame. You will regret it. I suppose with the $10,100 auction having closed it may be too late to back out now, but if you can get out, get out. And GoldenPalace, you should be ashamed of yourselves, taking advantage of and abusing an unstable and troubled individual like this. I know I shouldn't care about these people, but I just hate to see something as special as facial tattoing being used like this.

I make the same warning to all who are selling their foreheads or other blatantly public skin to advertisers. It's a deal with the devil that will not serve your lives positively in the long run. Even if you think you can just “tattoo over it” or get it removed in the future, the damage runs deeper than that, both in terms of physical scarring and spiritual scarring, and you will never truly recover and it will live with you until the end of your days.

House, Cabo, Visitors

Rachel took me to see the our house today, which unless the deal gets blown by gremlins should be done some time in March. It's kind of a run down place, but it's enormous with high ceilings, a gigantic yard, and once we've finished rebuilding it, there should be a roof deck that may be just high enough to have a nice view of the beach and ocean. It's very private, which is good, because I'm pretty much a recluse. The potential is incredible. Here's a terrible photo of the back yard.

Originally we'd considered a place in a new development up on the bluffs overlooking La Paz Bay, but this is a much better option I think. It's in the heart of the downtown, walking distance from everything, and while it is a walled compound (full of date, orange, pistacio, and banana trees), it's not a “gated community” or anything that cuts you off from the people around you, and I think part of the reward of living in a country and culture other than the one you were born into is living in it, rather than creating a bubble where you can observe it from a safe white shielded telescope room.

Other than that it's Carnivale here this week, so all kinds of classic fair rides like haunted houses are setting up along the malecon, and fleets of RVs and caravans are parked on the outskirts of town. I think they're owned by tourists rather than carnies but I'm not sure.

In the morning I'm headed to Cabo for Valentine's Day, so I'll take photos on the bus ride there (which is the ride you'd take if you're flying into SJD for ). Then on Tuesday we'll meet up with Saira and her husband Michael, who are probably moving down here as well (Michael is an award winning chef that will be helping run Rachel's restaurant — which should be open by BMEfest if you'd like to come and eat there). We'll also be meeting up with Clive, who can't stay away from anywhere with a tropical ocean.

I am Richard MacDuff, musicologist

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I feel it is worth mentioning the “Global Consciousness Project“, a terrible piece of pseudo-science that's fooling an increasing number of legitimate news agencies into reporting it as “the machine that can see into the future” and other such malarky. If this is really hooked into the global mind, I'm pretty sure we all just got collectively stupider, and Princeton U should be ashamed… And I say that as a guy that's got his belief in the global mind tattooed on his forehead! Yeah, I feel a disturbance in the [one dimensional, low resolution binary] force.

They think that their random number generators produced anomylous results during Princess Diana's funeral and propose that the “emotional energy” of a billion people watching it altered some quantum field… You know what? It's a lot more likely that turning a billion televisions on did it than some kind of collective angst.

One of the nice things about the time when I was locked up in the Clarke Institute mental ward, being tested for, among other things, being a hermaphrodite — the dumbass doctors there thought nipple piercing indicated some kind of genetic trans*ism — was that they allowed me to bring in my computer. It was an immense iron-clad Acer 386 beast that I'd inherited from my father.

One of my interests at the time was computer generated music (as in where the computer actually writes the music). I was reminded of it recently by this music based on the genome of the fruitfly, as well as this atrocious music based on global consciousness as channeled by random number generators” (both found via boing boing). Both attempt to take numeric input and represent it as music, and to be blunt, sound like a mix of random notes and a speech by R2-D2. Maybe I'm a simpleton, but it's not music in anything but the academic sense of the word and certainly does not convince me that there's some underlying pattern that has been brought to light by converting it to a stream of notes.

I wrote my own music software while locked up in the Clarke for three main reasons. First, it was a good way to pass the time. As much fun as it is to sit around with nutty friends and listen to their stories about how alien commandos smashed through their wall and kidnapped them, or how they were brought by angels to this hospital from their last one, it gets boring after a while. Second, I despise “secret knowledge”, especially under an academic veil, and I wanted to show that computer generated music could sound like something other than random numbers. I hate it when people are needlessly elite.

Most importantly, I'd been inspired by Douglas Adams' Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency in which the character Richard MacDuff, a young programmer, writes a piece of software called Anthem which translates stock market data and other number-streams into music in order to make it more accessible. My software had a far less marketable name (“Dilaudid Glide”) and early versions of it are still floating around on the net and I occasionally fantasize about releasing version four (which is live performance oriented), on which I have a paper sketchbook book full of notes but no actual code.

It worked just like I imagined MacDuff's software would have to — by taking streams of numbers, quantizing them so they made harmonic sense, overlaying and synchronizing them as needed, and then outputting a MIDI file. Below are three files that were created by the software, written in late 1993.

  • “First”This was literally the first song the program ever generated. This was before I'd even written a MIDI output routine, so it spit out sheet music which I then manually entered into Cubase and saved. This was later remixed for the IAM music CD
  • “The Happy Elves”Another early piece, named as such because I imagined this might be the sort of music that happy elves would play. I wrote terrible lyrics for this even, which I hoped to have sung by a speech synthesizer, but never managed to make that work.
  • “Sad Piano”Sorry the names are so uncreative. Another early piece.

They songs are really nauseating, but they're intended as a mathematical proof of concept, not as art or music. In simple terms the goal was to show that computers could take random numbers and output them as something that would pass a Musical Turing Test — compositions that people would more likely believe was composed by a talentless human than a “talented computer”.

I must emphasize emphasize that none of those are intended to show off my (admittedly limited) ability as a musician, since they are 100% computer composed pieces based on sequences of random numbers. No remixing or alteration of the music has taken place. Personally I think they sound a million times more “real” than the output generated by the two projects I mentioned earlier, and I hope show that it's easy to trick your mind into thinking there is actual “thought” hidden away in random sequencies. I emphasize: these are just random numbers that have been quantized*.

* Quantize: “to restrict the number of possible values so that certain variables can assume only certain discrete magnitudes that are integral multiples of a common” — or “rounding” values slightly up or down to fit inside a harmonic system.

That said… I feel it is important to note that my work on this subject is simplistic and derivative and relatively devoid of anything particular valuable other than a 15-second “oh, that's kind of neat”… But at least I have no shame admitting that. If you are interested in this subject, I consider David Cope's work on the subject definitive and inspiring, as is the work done by Francois Pachet on The Continuator.

Wheeeee!

Those of you who were at last year's Rhode Island Suscon (click here for information on this year's event, which takes place from April 1st to 3rdgreat event, great people) will get a kick out of these photos from my friend Alienx down in beautiful Natal, Brasil.


“Se você quiser transformar o mundo, você deve começar perto transforma-se.”

Sorry if I've mangled the Portuguese! I've tried to turn his quote back into its source language. For the love of fun and games, I really hope these picures are what I think they are — a giant suspension-powered amusement park ride.