The Occasional Bitslice

I’m Bill. You probably know me. This is the Occasional Bitslice, a newsletter about interesting or unusual things that came my way recently that I think you might enjoy.

Partly I just wanted to play with this new service called tinyletter, a website to make generating email newsletters very simple.

This is a re-posting of content from the first newsletter, to give you an idea of what’s inside. If you are interested, you can subscribe by entering your email address in the form at the bottom of this post.

Things to Watch

Unfold your Brain

Between the Folds is a brilliant little hour long documentary about origami.

The film begins with a handful of quite unbelievably wonderful representational masters and gets to a point where you can’t really believe it could show you anything more astounding. Then it ventures into abstraction and kinesthetics, and I promise you your brain will unfold into an impossible n dimensional living sheet of implausible actuality.

It’s a much more mind-bending piece than it seems like it’s going to be at first. It’s also full of surprisingly lovely human minds. You can buy it or stream it from Netflix.

Anarchy on the Open Sea

Hold Fast is a punk lofi documentary about DIY sailing.

You can watch the entire 1hr 16min film here on Vimeo:

Hold Fast from Moxie Marlinspike on Vimeo.

Three train hopping young punk sailors buy a broken plastic and fiberglass yacht shell sitting moored in a Florida backyard for $1,000. Then in a series of entertainingly no-budget exploits they make it seaworthy and take it out to cruise the Bahamas. They are grinning, filthy, bruised and dreadlocked, recklessly skillful sailors. Their diesel motor hates them. They anchor themselves gracefully under sail. Their boat is named Pestilence.

This self-produced documentary plays like a well produced segment of Ira Glass’ This American Life. It’s never less than fascinating. There is real danger in this shoestring adventure that makes portions of it riveting. One fish is definitely injured in the making of this film. There is a close encounter with a waterspout. It’s a grimy, salty, respectable piece of filmmaking and the closest you are going to get to what sailing was probably like in the 18th Century.

Edward Teach would be proud.

Time is the Fire in which we Burn

Context and temporal exclusivity have been on my mind a lot lately.

It started with my finishing Vineland by Thomas Pynchon, the first of his books that I genuinely enjoyed. Maybe because it’s concerned with a time period I lived through and remember, where V and Gravity’s Rainbow wander through what was already history by the time I was born. I think it matters quite a bit that you’ve lived in and have memories of the culture in the era in which a Pynchon book is set. His oblique and offhand references to lyrics, phrases and events just aren’t something you will ever get if you don’t already know them, and if you have to have them explained to you, then their brilliance really flattens. Like jokes in Shakespeare, they’re just not really funny anymore.

Then, a couple of weeks later, an old friend sent me a snapshot from a play we performed back in college, and I realized that other than a hat that was made for me as a costume piece from that show, I have no other record of it. No video, no pictures. Nothing is left. That play was a high point in my career as an actor, but time has erased it, mostly, from the world.

That got me thinking about certain performers, mostly musicians, who are better heard live than in recording. Ani DiFranco is one of these. So were the Barenaked Ladies. Their recordings are good, but even in their off shows, their ability to actually connect with an audience and improvise within their own compositions hooks their art to the points in time in which it is performed. If you weren’t there, too bad, it’s gone. New moments will happen, but they will be different. Their genius is mortal, it burns in the fire of time. When they are gone, that flame will go out, and only the inferior ash of recordings will remain.

Easy digital replication has gutted the value of recorded art, but the flip side to that, maybe, is that it is amplifying the value of events that exist in an exclusive place and time. Or, another way to state it more boldly:

I think art is worthless, and artistry is a delight to behold.

The reason is that art lasts, it comes unstuck from time, and so it becomes irrelevant. Stripped of context, doomed to academic preservation. Artistry, on the other hand, is always dying. It’s there the moment it happens and then it’s gone. The only disturbances it leaves are inside the living brains of witnesses, and those brains are always dying also.

If you want a career in art in the 21st Century, you need to build it around unique, non-repeatable events. You need a reputation for transcendent improvisation. Proximity to you in actual space and time needs to be expensive, and you need to be the one collecting. You won’t make your fortune on the actual art, but on the elevated experience that being present with you creates. You need to be a celebrity, even a very narrowly defined one.

And you need to be fundamentally incomprehensible to the future.

Reasons why Emily was the most Badass Bronte

  • Wuthering Heights is a Shakespearean grade revenge tragedy with trust and guilt and emotion used as murder weapons instead of swords and poison.
  • Wuthering Heights is more fun if you root for Heathcliff as he grinds that family up.
  • Wuthering Heights starts with one of the best ghost scenes in English lit – one that ultimately gave us this Kate Bush song.

END BITSLICE

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Bill became odd after surviving a long series of mentally destabilizing encounters with Numinous Memetic Entities. He likes to curse, and considers evocative vulgarity to be the last remaining genuine form of poetry left to the human heart.

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