Archive for October, 2009

bpNichol’s First Screening

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

It was my distinct pleasure to have worked so very briefly with the gentle god of poetry, bpNichol who – when he wasn’t tearing up the soundscape with the Four Horsemen – wrote scripts for the Jim Henson Muppet series Fraggle Rock. That’s where I met bp and discovered his work.

Today I fell down a bit of a nostalgic rabbit hole when I stumbled across a little thing called Virtual ][. It's an emulator for the Mac that allows you to run old Apple II programs. I was immediately flung back to 1982, hiding up in Stephen Finney's set decorating offices on the second floor of VTR Studios, hunched over the awesome machine that was the Apple IIe featured on the show in Doc's workshop. When it wasn't needed on set the computer stayed in Stephen's room. When I wasn't needed on set - and even sometimes when I was - I was upstairs in Stephen's room.

Rediscovering games like Aztec and the wonderfully accessible Applesoft Basic programming language was a real treat for me today and I have already wasted far too much time playing Galaxians too.

But then I remembered bp.

After bp passed away Jerry Juhl, the late head writer for Henson, lent me his copy of a stunning little work that bp had crafted, in Basic, for the Apple II computer back in 1984. It was comprised of visual and verbal puns, animated across the screen to create further layers of meaning and emotional context. Like all of bp's work it was deceptively simple, slyly powerful and utterly charming to behold. I still have my bootlegged copy of that disk but I no longer have a drive from which to read it.

Obsessed, I conducted a search online to see if it could be found anywhere. I love the internet. It's called: bpNichol's First Screening.

Fred and Ginger is my favourite.

bp was always fascinated by language and how it could move people and shift and change meaning and how even when contained upon a page or spoken aloud or captured on a computer disk it always remained as something capable of morphing and transforming itself into delightfully unexpected treasures. From his notes included with the disk:

As ever, new technology opens up new formal problems, and the problems of babel raise themselves all over again in the field of computer languages and operating systems. Thus the fact that this disk is only available in an Applesoft Basic version (the only language I know at the moment) precisely because translation is involved in moving it out further. But that inherent problem doesn’t take away from the fact that computers & computer languages also open up new ways of expressing old contents, of revivifying them. One is in a position to make it new.

Many thanks to Jim Andrews, Geof Huth, Lionel Kearns, Marko Niemi and Dan Waber for their work in keeping this work alive, making it new, so others can continue to discover and enjoy it. Go to their site where you can find out more about the journey First Screening has taken from its inception as a work in Applesoft Basic to its presence on the web today.

And if you don’t know bp’s work please visit his site and immerse yourself in his rich and touching use of language.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to the next level of Aztec.


Symphony Of Science – Auto-Tuned Carl Sagan

Wednesday, October 21st, 2009

This is the second in a series of fucking awesome music mash-ups featuring Carl Sagan, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Bill Nye, Stephen Hawking and the sublime Richard Feynman. The first one was great but this one is just fucking awesome.

They speak of great cosmological concepts – but it’s all been set to a beat and their voices have been auto-tuned to craft a melody which assists in imparting the joy and vision they share in the knowledge they have reaped from their studies of our planet and it’s place in the universe.

You can find the lyrics assembled on the YouTube page or you can visit the Symphony Of Science pages where you can learn more about this John Boswell project.

Enjoy your place in the universe today.

Keep watching the skies.


Quickie Augmented Reality Update – Sort Of

Wednesday, October 7th, 2009

Okay – this isn’t really like the AR I posted about before but I couldn’t help but stick in this nifty clip from John Carpenter’s They Live.

It’s AR – sort of.