Thursday, August 4, 2016

Don't Open Till Doomsday - The Redesign

Hey Gang!

So, I managed to sell the print rights to "The Redesign" to a small press, PunksWritePoems. They put a call out for "doomsday" stories, one of which I had lying around, so I sent it in, they bought it, and bam, here it is. Haven't even had a chance to read the other stories, but I know it features a bunch of other writers that no one's ever heard of, so I'm in good company!

The book you reach for when the world ends.

Check it here!

And of course, Amazon.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

It only took me 24 solid hours to turn my RPi into an operational streaming device

So yeah. I moved to SF, during the Dotcom Days, back when tech was everywhere and we were all about to uplifted into a digital utopia where all the old systems of oppression (like TV) were going to be disintegrated into a democratic anarchy. This is before Facebook and before they really figured out how to make a buck off the World Wide Web and well, what you got is what you got. 

In any case, back in the Dotcom Days, I loved tech. I remember they had pod parties down at Zeitgeist, where people could come and plug in their iPods, you know, before you could talk into it, and play whatever music you wanted. They actually called themselves pod people. I even remember a friend of mine saying that "pod people are just more culturally aware." Yeah, well, he became a pod person like everyone else. Now they don't allow cellphones at the bar, except, of course, they do (of all the places to bluff that rule, you'd think they'd be ballbusters about it, but let's face it, techies are their bread and butter now).

I futzed around with Kubuntu and Linux and ran TOR and have a favorite torrent client and cut the cord long ago. Actually, I still do all of those things. Like how I cut the cord to get away from media mind-control and constant commercial brainwashing, got away from TV, only to, you know, get a huge effing TV! Meet the new boss, same as the old boss!

So, what did I do this memorial day? I set up said boss-god and wall-mounted them to oversee my devotion. AND! I got to nerd out, Dotcom-style. I got a Raspberry Pi and followed this guide on how to turn it into an XBMC OSMC media center in under 30 minutes. And it only took me 24-hours of hair-pulling frustrations to do it. In the end, I turned this little guy:

Raspberry Pi!

Into this:

Bow down before the one you serve.
I mean, I knew it was going to take longer than 30 minutes. As usually, with all this Linux stuff, I had to make all the mistakes. Operating system issues, SD card issues, internet issues, power issues. All of them. But, hey, I'm pretty pumped in the end. One quick note, yes, you can run the Pi wirelessly, but let's be honest here, it works SOOOO much better plugged in. So I hooked the TV and the Pi into a powerline. These things are so brilliant, love powerlines. How is it more people don't know about this? Now passwords, no long cable issues. Plug it in and go. 24 hours later, it's up and running pretty sweet. And given all that I learned, yeah, I could easily set up another one in about 30 minutes... or thereabouts.

So, who wants to come over for movie night?

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

China Mievelle's The City & the City

Sense of place. That's what China Miéville is able to infuse into his work. In Perdido Street Station, he brought New Crobuzon, a re-imagined London to life. In Iron Council it was the deserts of Bas Lag. And with The City & the City he's made believable two city-states that occupy the same physical space, Ul Qoma and Besźel. They maintain their sovereignty by enforcing strict cultural boarders so that citizens of the two city-states walking down the same street don't even see each other, let alone interact. And I have to say: I loved it. I loved everything about the book. Except the story. It's not that the book failed. The central conceit, of these two cities in the same space, works. It's that the final reveal of the plot, well, I just didn't buy.

Boiled down, The City & the City is a murder-mystery/police-procedural. The protagonist (Inspector Borlú) investigates the murder of a young woman (Mahalia), whose body was found in Besźel but may have been murdered in Ul Qoma. But the real star of the show is Miéville's worldbuilding.

Playing with linguistics and what I can only imagine was meticulous mapping and naming of streets and building and features, Miéville instills a believable sense of place. I mean, it's not to much of a stretch to see the commentary Miéville is making about life in modern metropolises (almost used "metropoli", but that's  incorrect): ghettos, homelessness, poverty, ethnic segregation (Chiantown, Koreatown, here in San Francisco Hunters Point and Visitacion Valley), projects, crime, affluency. Just like the citizens of Ul Qoma   "unsee" the people and cityscape of neighboring Besźel (and vice versa), inhabitants of major cities today commonly step over homeless like they never saw them, ignore corruption and violence, don't see urban decay, and dismiss that which isn't right in front of them. My self included. Cities are dirty places and beautiful places, but there's a certain amount of unseeing one has to do to live in a major city or you'll be overwhelmed by it all (or at least, that's the rationalization I use). I think Miéville tapped right into that, which made the story work so well.

That said, the set up doesn't seem that sustainable, which is why a third city-like entity is necessary in order to maintain the boarders: Breach. Breach is the organization that makes sure the boarders between the cities are maintained and disappears anyone who dares to break the boarders. If one were to claim that The City and the City wasn't a spec-fic novel, I'd mostly agree, except for Breach. These near mythic enforcers appear out of nowhere, are seemingly ubiquitous and witnesses can't recall what they look like. And they have fancy weird weapons that knock people out.

Breach exists because in reality, boarders are porous and frankly the two cities would end up as one if it weren't for the other supernatural powers of Breach.

At times, the protagonist's insights into linguistics and etymology didn't ring true and sounded more like the author infodumping bits of cultural history and information through a conveniently knowledgeable narrator.

Still even that worked in the story, even if I didn't buy it. What didn't make sense was the actual story:


So, an international tech company pays a member of the Besźel government (a guy named Buric) to secure ancient artifacts from a dig that's plot-conveniently only in Ul Qoma (even though that's not how archaeology of major cities work), artifacts which are plot-conveniently Exotic-Mysterious objects of dubious physics, which this international tech company covets so that it can do research and development. Never mind what the physics or what the artifacts really are or even what kind of R&D this tech company wants to do with the artifacts (I'm more or less okay with this smokescreen, because that's what it is; these are Macguffins, Red Herrings, plot devices to keep the reader distracted and the plot moving, it's just that these were so convenient and executed in such a bulky manner. So convenient, that if they didn't exist as they did, which they did for no reason explained in the book (like why Ul Qoma is artifact rich and Beszel isn't; just trust us! Suspend your disbelief!) then the whole plot would fall apart.

Anyhow, Buric, hoping to secure said artifacts, contacts crazy old professor Bowden who wrote about Orciny (the third secret city, a conspiracy theorist's wet dream; the Trilateral Commission of Beszel/Ul Qoma) to manipulate a student (Mahalia) into smuggling Ul Qoma artifacts over to Beszel, but ends up killing her cause she doesn't believe in Orciny anymore, but instead of turning him in, Buric and Tech Company cover up Mahalia's murder. I mean, what's an international Tech Company to do? How else can they get artifacts with dubious physics? I mean, there's no possible way that they could say team up with the University of the Prince of Wales in Canada and build a whole new research facility for the University to do the kind of research they wanted and still control products and patents gleaned from said research, as partners with the university. No, that never happens (Google-Stanford, MIT-Every Huge Tech Company, CalTech-Every Huge Tech Company).

See, I just didn't get why the international Tech Company didn't just Buy Their Way In. Happens all the time. And in fact that's the take away at the end of the book when they corner international Tech Company: "What are you going to do? Your Government will never prosecute/punish me." And then he literally flies off in a helicopter with the artifacts of dubious physics (Note: Bowden, who was on the pay roll, actually HAD an artifact of dubious physics ALL ALONG, and just never bothered to sell it off).

The fact that a big tech company went out of its way to initiate such a convoluted plot, well, it left the ending a bit lacking. A lot lacking.

Other than that, this book ruled.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Short Story: The Redesign - (2016)

Hey, hey, hey, y'all:

Got a fresh new story hot off the digital webs all ready for your eyes. The Redesign is live over at I workshopped this way back in 2014. I wrote this on invitation, for an anthology. Which was a mistake. At least, for me. It was so tailored to the anthology that after they rejected it, I found it wasn't really a good fit anywhere else. I mean, at least, that's what they told me when it was rejected twenty or so times. One place did actually want it for a minute, dropped me a rewrite request. I worked it over for a month, they thought about it for a while, and then decided they really didn't want it. Thems the breaks kid. But then the lovely people over at decided they wanted it, so it all worked out in the end. 

It's funny. Like all other document media, it takes a while for things to come out. Like I said, I wrote this two years ago and feel I've moved way beyond this piece. Reading this is like looking back at 2014 me and shaking my head. Oh, not cause I don't like it, just my tastes and interests and style has changed, but this work stays frozen in time. Which is good. Or a thing, at least. 

I like the story, and still feel that the central concept is good: after the robots rise up and take over, then what will they do? Or more specifically, will they continue on being and making robots that reflect their human origins? And if not, what would that look like? Well, who really know. Sure as shit not me. But, this being fiction, I can suppose. And I do. I think they'd do a drastic Redesign.

Automation by Amanda Burgloff from Issue 34, 2016.

Friday, January 29, 2016

From Turkey to Bulgaria and Back

Sooo... back in 2003, I went on a trip to Bulgaria via Turkey for a month with Jessica Naugle. And a I made an audio travelogue on a little hand held recorder. Came back, transferred it all onto tape with and ADAT machine I picked up off my friend Sonny Walker (who recorded my first American Chamber Music EP), edited it, played it for friends and family... and there it sat... for thirteen years.

Now listen, this was 2003. There was no Soundcloud, no Bandcamp, and Myspace launched August 1, 2003, the very same day we started our trip. So, on ADAT tape it slept. As platforms and hosting has become basically free on places like Soundcloud and Bandcamp, I'd been thinking of popping this bad boy onto the web. So, I did!

Here it is:

It was a pretty great trip. Both Bulgaria and Turkey are totally worth checking out.

In case you want notes on the sounds, here are the comments I tagged up on Soundcloud:

We rode a lot of trains on the trip.
And we had to find ways to entertain ourselves.
This was taken from a whirling dervish performance in Istanbul, if I recall correctly. At the train station. I think it's a thing.
The sound of a real mechanical recorder. It's tape folks. Actually, I like that little warp.
This is one of my favorite recorded moments: outside a mosque, everyone coming up and washing their feet. Hey, it's Turkey, it's hot, let's wash our feet in nice cool water. Was very communal and everyone was in great spirits.
The ezan in Istanbul.
Love these crickets.
This is in Bulgaria. We were just hiking and came across this natural bubbling spring.
I really like how audio-telegraphing these religions and regions are. The ezan in Turkey, church bells in Bulgaria.
Aaaand then we came across this abandoned train tunnel. Just in the middle of the forest. Was very creepy. So we bang shit and made weird noises. Had a blast.
Pretty sure this is a harbor on the Black Sea.
Back to civilization. Sofia, Bulgaria.
Jessica laughing. Probably at me.
Street Busker, his English singing wasn't half bad.
Crickets. Nighttime in Bulgaria.
An organ grinder. Like a real old school, monkey in a funny hat and vest working the organ, organ grinder. Was awesome.
Then we came across an outdoor music festival. Don't think we ever really figured out what it was for. Just happened.
Street musician. He was playing a tiny little bagpipes. Bagpipes, folks, aren't just from Scotland:
Same festival. Marching drums.
And then we had to go back to Turkey. We flew in and out of Istanbul so we got back on the rails.
We were terrible. But had a great time.
Istanbul rail station. Don't know why they had such light and airy music.
Medley of my favorite moments.

Rila Monastery, Bulgaria, where you can spend the night with monks.