Saturday, April 18, 2009

Ocean, birds and hermit crabs

Some of my happiest moments in school were on field trips. It was something I looked forward to all year. We got to ride in the giant yellow school bus. And I thought I was so cool because there were no seat belts on the busses. You got to sit next to your friends and talk, gossip and fool around. And then we finally got to the science center or art exhibit and had such a fun time learning about fossils, space and human anatomy. And then after a long day of learning cool stuff you went back to school and got to go home, skipping a whole day of lecture and boring class.
So being in college I hadn’t been to one field trip until today. I had been looking forward to all semester. Although, there was not a big yellow bus, I carpooled down to San Onofre State beach, with my oceanography professor and class mates. It started off cold early in the morning but became real warm as the sun rose.
We started by first identifying characteristics’ in sediment and cliff structures. Then went over to the tide pools and pick out certain plants and animals in their ecosystems. I even caught a tiny crab that was living in shell. When I picked him up he shrank back into his shell, and wouldn’t come out until I put him back into the water.
After a couple hours of making identifications and observing the wild life we left and drove back to school.
Now that I think about it, that might be the last filed trip I will ever be able to go on and that makes me a little sad because they can be both a lot of fun and a good learning experience.

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test

For the last couple of years I have been forcing myself to read novels that would be considered classic or required reading. So London, Camu, Louis Stevenson, Jean Paul Satre, Steinbeck have all been on my list that I am getting through faster than I thought. I’m able to get through maybe seven or eight novels a year. So last week I was at Borders and I can across Tom Wolfe’s, “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test”. I have always heard good things about it and it could be considered a classic. Newsweek even said “An American Classic that defined a generation”, on the back of the cover, so it must be true.
So I end up buying the book for about fifteen bucks. Its bout four hundred pages and I get through it in maybe four days. It’s a quick easy read but I don’t think I can recommend it.
The premise is essentially that of a group of middle class suburban kids move into San Francisco, circa 1962, and form a group called the Merry Pranksters. Their essential leader of this non hierarchal group is Ken Kesey, acid guru and author of the novel turned movie, One Flew Over the Cuckoos’ Nest. The “acid tests” are essentially a party thrown in some hall or warehouse where other like minded acid heads come to listen to the then up and coming Grateful Dead play and watch psychedelic inspired art films and trip out over strobe lights while drinking acid spiked kool-aid. Then group’s main focus is an all inclusive ceremony of sorts that brings people together to achieve the same goal or as the group’s remarks, “on the bus or off”. Meaning essentially you’re either on the same page or your not. There are some interesting ideas about improvisational art and the metaphysical concept of “living in the now” that I enjoyed reading.
What else is interesting is about the progression of the idea of using psychedelics to open doors in the mind. Kesey uses his group as a way to spread this idea but only as a smaller part of a bigger process of reaching a higher plain. His wishes are for people to used psychedelics to begin the process but must abandon them when they have accomplished it. If you do not, his understanding is that nothing else can be achieved. He uses the analogy of walking through an open door then walking back and walking through it again.
On another note, we see a sense of generational subcultures meshed together. Throughout the Merry Pranksters gatherings we see many figures of the beat era including Cassady, Kerouac and Ginsberg. Although their methods are different it seems that generations are all after the same thing.
What I found frustrating with the book it the style Wolf uses to write. The best way that I can describe it is, he uses a sense of the improvisational lifestyle his nonfiction characters live. It can change from a traditional structure to a rap and then back again. I think it would have been better with a more objective point of view. Other than that the book is engaging and fun.

Friday, April 3, 2009


So I finally have finished my first circuit bent project. It is a Casio CTK-491. The keys no longer work and the only thing that creates the noise are the switches that are mounted. It was a learning experience, and making it was a lot of fun. I love the idea of taking an electronic toy and making it do things it was never created for. It was such in interesting experience especially when you rip the cover off and looking at the circuit board. You strip it down and inspect all the parts of the board. View the tracks that connect keys to solder points; solder points to power supply. And then, using one finger on each hand on the circuit board, find a noise the keyboard would have never created otherwise. The electricity literally passes through you from point to point. You become part of the instrument. Taking the circuit and re wiring it, solder switches to make deathly sounding noises.
I have been thinking a lot about music theory and chance music while I was working on this keyboard. And I think my definition of that has expanded considerably. Reed Ghazala remarks in his book, “Circuit Bending”, “…circuit bending probes the circuitry to hear its intrinsic music, allowing it a personal prose beyond, and programmed recitation. Now the circuit is operating way outside of the original designer’s plans, by chance, shorted out into a new language machine, and human presumption no longer pulls the strings” (Ghazala 14). Hopefully this wont be the last circuit I will bend because they are fun to build as they are to play with.
My Casio now has 6 separate toggle switches, and one potentiometer (volume control). I also mounted a guitar jack so it can easily be plugged into effect pedals, amps etc.