Saturday, March 17, 2012

A new project - Episodic Music

During the summer of 2000, as I approached my first semester in college, I made the very deliberate decision to read Arthur C. Clarke's 2001: A Space Odyssey.   Aside from a very few school assigned readings I actually completed (The Chocolate War being the biggest standout) throwing myself into any book with intention that I had no previous experience with was as foreign to me as gay love is to Rick Santorum.

That all changed with 2001, however as diving into the Clarke's catalog became an obsession for his books so I could soak in his imagination - the diamond standard of hard science fiction.  Childhood's End, Tales from Planet Earth, the remainder of the Odyssey series all turned my imagination inside out with new concepts often based somewhat on hard science and the edge of possibility.

All of his works teemed with delightful imaginations of the future that seems always on the horizon - but none of it floored me like the epic Rendezvous with Rama.  The tale of a derelict spaceship on a scale that humans have never imagined sweeps into the solar system giving man just enough time to rendezvous with the craft only to deepen it's alien mysteries and magnificence before disappearing back into the abyss of interstellar space.

With the inspiration of this book, I wrote the concept pieces known collectively as "RAMA" for February Album Writing Month 2012.  While I'm really proud of some of the work I did with "RAMA" (and some was a little phoned in due to the time constraints of FAWM), it felt a little cheap because I was just retelling someone else's amazing story and using it as a strong crutch to hang my own sounds on.  I had always wanted to write my own hard science fiction story, but the incredible amount of technical depth required is intimidating as hell for someone that's neither an engineer or astrophysicist.   

At all.

The most consistent type of comment I received during FAWM had to do with the enjoyment people were having reading my descriptions of the story to go along with listening of the track itself.  Why not try to write my 'firm' science fiction using music accompanied by story snippets?  Let some of the details be inferred by the music and let the reader/listener draw conclusions from there.

I have a story that I want to tell.  I have an outline and I know with certainty where the story is going and how it will end.  No stringing you along with filler like LOST, but a purposely paced, episodic story told with a paragraph describing setting and scene with the music meant to invoke story aurally.

Hopefully in the next few days I will post the prelude text along with the first 'episode' of music, which is titled "The Saganites of Hypatia and the second Renaissance."

Yeah... I seem to be going for broke right from the get go... ;)

Sunday, March 11, 2012

I present the Kindle Kozy ;)

Reading is one of the simplest, purest joys of life - and the Kindle is such an amazing device that enables content access on a scale that's nearly unbelievable.  I can download whole books in seconds and be reading them no matter where in the world I am (free 3g).  It's a true leap ahead for the ailing publishing industry.  There are a few somewhat bothersome issues as well - but the one that irks me is that it doesn't FEEL like a book.  No hard covers, or that nice musty smell of an old tome. 

Sure, we won't get as many paper cuts, but I can't help but feel that something gets lost in the translation from book to e-book. 

Here's my concept solution!

This was clearly my first time doing this, but I'm happy with how the experiment turned out.  I hope to churn out a few more this week.  Any buyers?  Just kidding.

No, seriously - any buyers?

Saturday, March 3, 2012

The words of Sagan via ZenPencils

It feels redundant to say "Carl Sagan had a way with words."  For so many in the skeptical, science and thinker communities his very name conjures chills of his steady voice, elegantly painting an objective picture of reality in a detail and beauty that religious text always struggle to provide.  He lived his life in the exact way he preached - like it's all we get.  No afterlife.  No reunions.  No eternal bliss or damnation.

What we get is what we have now - not what we might get based on the ruminations of ancient people in ancient times. have put one of his most beautifully haunteing quotes to a perfect and simple visual:

If only we could get everyone behind this kind of message.

Magic brooms, planet alignments, woo and physics

There has been a flood of statuses about and pictures of folks being able to stand a broom up, on it's bristles and have it stand with no visible supports.  The visual is shocking: an everyday object doing something it doesn't do every day.  Standing there, all askew, shattering your conception of reality.  Are the planets aligned causing some apex of a quantum vortex, entangling the static charge of the broom and the natural conductivity of the floors space?  Could it be, with the earth current tilt in space, the gravity of the earth is slightly 'off,' thus accounting for an object defying our reality and standing impossible crooked?

In a word, no.  In two words, hell no.

The image of a standing broom with no support is a shock, but it's actually completely normal physics.  The planets' alignment, tides, earth's tilt on her axis, aurora, solar flares all have effectively zero effect on the broom at all - and that's every single day of the year.

Understanding this situation has nothing to do with the 'woo-woo' explanations proposed above at all - it's simple physics.  Where is the center of gravity/mass of the broom, and how is that spread out over a determined surface area.  Here is a visual example:

See!  Not magic - SCIENCE!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Don't call it 'ghost hunting...'

At one point, I loved watching shows about the 'paranormal,' never once questioning the methods or conclusions of those presenting the material - be it 'ghost hunters,' 'mediums,' or magical clergy that can rid you of demons.  My beliefs were in the wash of woo and I was blissful in my ignorance and looked down on those that didn't believe what I felt was painfully obvious.

Since that time, my views have shifted dramatically - although my interest in such things has only intensified.  Figuring out why people believe what they do, what is the most likely explanation and shedding light on reality are far more intriguing than any of the 'paranormal' half-assed reasons that get thrown out by (and into) the peanut gallery.  I don't mean to say that people that do believe are stupid or unintelligent in anyway - I know they are just looking at the problem with a limited set of tools and I can identify with why they might believe.

I've thrown around idea with folks about starting 'ghost hunting' groups as a fun distraction and great exercise in critical problem solving if given a 'good' location (with a series of consistent, detailed encounter reports), but little has ever come of it.  Imagine my surprise at Ruby Tuesday's recently sitting with my father-in-law waiting to pay our checks.  We start talking about the rumored "Ghostbusters III" with Bill Murray dying, then returning as a ghost and giggling at the possibilities.  The shift manager then steps up quickly and asks "Did I hear you mention ghosts?"

The smirk on my face only grew (though I believe I kept it hidden) as he continued about an impending 'investigation' he and some friends were undertaking in a few days.  Immediately, I had him my phone number imploring him to contact me for any help with audio-analysis they might need during and after the investigation (it's fun to imagine the sheer amounts of audio pareidolia I might find independent of their influence).

Excited, the young man disappeared to the back of the restaurant emerging with what seemed to be a cook around his age.  The cook seemed much more composed and less animated about the subject (with what seemed almost like a strange cockiness in retrospect) and when the manager introduced me and mentioned 'ghost hunting' the cook responded quickly with 'Well, we're not ghost hunting.  It's actually paranormal investigations.' 

Whoooaaaa - this guy is a 'pro' in his own mind, I immediately thought to myself.  It's interesting that he seems embarrassed slightly at being labelled a 'ghost hunter.'  Curious, but with time short, I pressed on with offering my help, with no indication of my belief in the subject one way or another.  They agreed to give me a call if they need my help and the cook returned to his post.  The manager stayed as we were leaving, explaining with child-like enthusiasm that his friend I had just met apparently has written a book on paranormal investigations and they are planning on a youtube series and documentary - "Basically, we're going to ride on his coattails to stardom," was literally what he said to me as he wrapped up the story.

While I'm not sure I will hear from them, I'm giddy at the thought of being able to debunk some woo as it surfaces in my area, but gracefully and in a way to explain these phenomena in very real terms hopefully pulling these guys back from the brink of wootastrophe, and find out the finer details on the difference between 'ghost hunting,' 'paranormal investigating,' and just making up shit as you go along.