Baby Wearing in the Zombie Apocalypse: Essential Skills you didn’t know you needed.

 

images-1

Last night on The Walking Dead…

Daryl gruffly rescued young blonde, Beth Greene, over and over again.

Maggie showed the depths of her love for Glenn by endangering Sasha and Bob in a love fueled assault on a bus full of zombies. For love. Meanwhile, Glenn freed Sasha, formerly of Team Governor, of her self imposed chain link solitude within the prison, and then set out to find his wife. You know, for love.

images-2

And Tyrese tramped through the woods with a crying baby and two horrible, horrible children.

What did his character do in his former life to have been saddled with such a fate? More importantly, what did the writers hope to accomplish? What were they trying to show us, by turning Tyrese into a nursmaid for Little Lizzie Borden and her runaway sister? Any guesses?

I’ll let you ponder that. In the meantime, I’ve finally found my calling in the zombie apacolpyse. I can’t do a whole lot of things better than those guys. As much as I grouse about Tyrese, at least he can swing a mean hammer. Meanwhile, I’m looking around my office trying to find a weapon that would get my family and I out of Atlanta. I found a knife with a six inch blade, and a little hatchet that we bought from Lowes last year. I think I have a stockpile of about seven bullets, somewhere in the moving boxes. I don’t like our odds.

But there is one thing that I know I could do better than Tyrese. Baby wearing. I mean, I know he’s strong, but carrying around a crying, 20 pound baby will wear you out pretty quickly.
Take it from me. When she was young, I carried my little girl all over University City. At first she seemed almost weightless. Then, about three quarters of a mile in, you begin to feel it. A lot. Even without the constant threat of zombies and hunger, carrying a baby is always a losing proposition. Even if you are Tyrese the Gentle Bull.

And the solution is so simple. Baby wearing. Put Lil Ass Kicker in a sling. Tie her to your back. Start hammering dead things in the face. Easy.
What? You don’t have the fabric? Then get some! I can’t do everything for you. Might I suggest repurposing a couple of disgusting zombie shirts?
Meanwhile, there are things that you need to know about other people’s kids. Stay away from them. Not Lil Ass Kicker, of course. What kind of monster leaves a baby behind? Pre-teens, on the other hand, are another thing all together.
There is a lot of talk about crazy little Lizzie, what with her killing the bunny rabbits and nearly asphyxiating Lil Ass Kicker, but let’s be real. She’s at a sociopathic age. One out of 10 kids her age might kill your baby if you leave them alone. That’s just how they roll.
Might I suggest, unless you are contractually obligated to do otherwise, stay away from other people’s kids. Otherwise, don’t make eye contact, and speak calmly, while revealing nothing about yourself or your habits. They sense weakness. And never, ever assume that they aren’t sociopaths… Because they probably are.

images-3

She’s not crazy. She’s just pre-teen

This is Junkhead. Watch it. Read this. Then ask yourself, what’s your Junkhead?

This is Junkhead. It started four years ago as some Japanese dude’s obsession.

His name is Takahide Hori. He’s a white collar worker. A salaryman. But every night he went home and built upon this. It has the marks of an obsession. It’s layered and strange and gritty.

It reminds me of the Book of Chairman Don, a 20,000 page sci-fi memoir written by a guy that I used to know. The two of us guarded an abandoned water treatment plant together. He drove a white van with with a fake, seven foot long missile affixed to the roof rack. Once he was a Marine. By the time I met him, he had transformed himself into the typical guy that you don’t want to run into in a dark alley. And although he was always very nice and extremely respectful, I still don’t suggest running into him in a dark alley.

What do Junkhead and Chairman Don have in common? Well, Don wrote just because he was in love with the story. I don’t think he ever intended to get it published. If he did, he might have made an attempt about 19,700 pages ago. I’m not saying that Takahide Hori isn’t afflicted of all of those typical filmmaker ambitions, but ambition alone isn’t enough to make you do something, every night for four years. He had to know that there were no garantees that anyone would ever see, or give a damn about Junkhead. He had to know that there were quicker, easier ways to do it. Did he ever wonder if there were another team out there, working on the same story but doing it more effectively? Maybe that’s just me.

He did it because he was in love with the story and the process. After all, this is stop motion. As you watch it, think about the fact that every single movement was the result of a bunch of micro-adjustments, on a miniature set, with Hori towering above it like a god. I think that inside of Hori, there is more than a little bit of Chariman Don.

I told my cousin that I was going to learn Ruby. At first his response was generically positive. After all, who doesn’t love learning? Weeks later he asked, “Why?” It’s a good question. I wish my answer didn’t keep changing.

I told him about the growing demand for coders. He painted a picture for me of legions of men and women overseas who practice coding for more than eight hours a day, everyday. They were hungry. Desperate. And they were willing to work for a fraction of what coders are paid in the states.

“You can’t compete with that.”

No. I wouldn’t want to.

I countered that, I might not be able to out code them, but I can out write them. And every industry needs writers. Otherwise, the world would be swallowed up in a sea of industrial jargon. “You want to be a technical writer?” His voice had a thin sneer on it. It wasn’t a question. It was a statement. “You don’t want to be a technical writer.”

But I do. I remember managing the audiotour equipment at the High Museum of Art. Their tours were on iPods. It was super slick, with interactive video. Kids loved them; mostly because they looked forward to the challenge of bypassing the tour and watching TwoChains on Youtube. But then we would get in the older patrons. The ones who grew up on rotary phones and drove Packards. No ammount of polished steel could overcome their distrust of those things. They’d use them for a few works of art, and then return them. They said they didn’t work. They said that they were worthless.

I began to wonder exactly what kind of tutorial we could give them. It wasn’t just about explaining it. It seldom is. It was about getting them to trust it. Getting them to suspend disbelief and play around with it. That was the challenge. It didn’t always work. But when it did,  they loved it.

The opportunity to help bridge a gap between technology and the user is my humble Junkhead. It’s what all of those hours spent learning Ruby, and Java, and whatever comes next, will one day stack up to. After that, I’ll start working on my science fiction epic. I will pack it into the corners of my life, between the wife, the kids and the paycheck. But until then, this is it.

What’s your Junkhead?

 

 

I’m Learning to Code. Blame that Homeless Guy

Image

Leo Grand, computer programming ex-homeless dude. Photo: New York Newsday.

I’m learning to code.

Blame this guy. His name is Leo Grand. Until recently he was on the street. Then guy walked up to him and offered him  a choice between $100 and a laptop and coding lessons. He chose the latter.

Let’s be clear. As homeless go, this guy was a model citizen. Until about two years ago, he was a MetLife agent in Manhattan. Then he lost his job, and soon afterwards, his apartment. In other words, life happened to him. Hard. But the thing about being homeless in America is, it really doesn’t matter what you did before you got there. The streets wipe the slate clean. Homeless is homeless.

This is what Leo said about it in an interview in the New York Post.

It’s really hard to convince people that you are not a bad person, or a drug addict or a crazy. How are you gonna do that when you are homeless, and that’s how the homeless are depicted.

He was tutored every morning at 8am by Patrick McConlogue. He practiced throughout the day, clocking three or four hours writing code and studying. “What else am I going to do?” He asked. And now he’s got an app called Trees for Cars. It’s available for iPad, iPhone and Android. You should check it out.

He’s probably not homeless anymore. If he is still unemployed, I suspect it’s because he wants to build his own thing.

It’s not just him. Two weeks ago My Facebook feed hit critical coding mass. Between this guy and the Year of Code initiatives, and the Code Academy…All of those short videos of rich and famous champions of nerdliness… I’m surprised I’ve resisted for as long as I have.

So I’m learning to code.

You should know I don’t like programming.

Remember Basic? I do. I can make my name fill up the screen from top to bottom, or left to right, or even diagnal. I took a course in Basic in High School back in 1988.

If Basic is capable of doing more than making your name print out over and over, I must have slept through that. I wanted it to. I wanted to make a video game with little x’s and o’s having a street fight like that movie, “The Warriors”. It was going to be “sandbox” back when sandboxes were things that you had in your back yard.

Basic wasn’t a total loss. If you need anyone to make your name print out over and over again, for either business or personal reasons, you can send me and email and I will quote you a fair price.

Yeah. High school basic in a classroom with no computers. Because, why the hell would you want those big heavy computers in a computer class?

In college I took one of those classes that scratches the surface of about a dozen different computer disciplines. The class was hot and dry like a toaster oven. The professor was obsessed with a book called, “The Cookoo’s Egg.” I remember the soft, languid pull of slumber. That place was the educational equivilent of a thick, warm comforter on a cold winter day. I slept. A lot.

Journalism Camp at Kent State in Ohio. Some guy from the Cleveland Plain Dealer comes in and tells us how we need to get a firm grasp on technology because new media was going to be a game changer. This was 1993, I think. I was like, “Psshyeah right…” Yawn.

Later I was working at the Philadelphia Art Museum. My manager says to me, “Have you heard about this new thing called blogging? You can write about whatever you want…” He had a blog, and he wasn’t even a writer.

And I said to myself, “He has a blog, and he isn’t even a writer!” Which, according to my rapier quick reasoning, meant that blogging was for people who couldn’t write. Hmmmm.

Those guys were technological harbingers. They tried to warn me. I blew them off.
Not this time. I get it. There may not be another time for me to actually be an early adapter.

But I don’t like programming.

But I like communicating. and the writing game is changing so quickly that I can hardly keep up with it. Coding is going to catapault me to that sweet spot in front of the eightball. Besides, I like feeding my children. Like, every night. And if Ruby will help me put those fish and grits on the dining room table, then I’m down.

But I don’t like programming… only, I used to. When I was a kid, science was my thing. I was sure that I would attend MIT and invent things. (MIT)

Elon Musk? His whole life was my idea. Electric cars and trains that go in vacuum tubes? I thought of that in the 80’s.

There was a time when I thought that computers would crack open the sky like Thor’s hammer, and bestow my generation with riches untold. And they did; only, I was too busy acting totally unimpressed and meh to appreciate how excited my world had become.

So I’ve bookmarked tutorials on Ruby and HTML/CSS, and I’m studying. I’m going to learn to code. Trust me.

No More, by Jon Onye Lockard

No More, by Jon Onye Lockard

I don’t put too much stock in those myths of the house and slave negro dichotomy. It is so neat. So cut and dry. It suggests that the ones that went inside, cooking in master’s kitchen or drawing his bath, were compromised by their proximity. They are painted as the betrayer.

Closeness often came with a set of dangers all their own. The isolation, the unwanted attention. Assault, sexual and otherwise. In the house they cloaked themselves with smiles and pleasantries. This wasn’t out of acceptance. It was a survival tactic.

When I saw this I thought of the anger that lurks within every oppressed person. Aunt Jamima is the quintessential house negress; so much so that she still occupies space in our cabinets and fridges. But her plump cheeks and pleasant smile mask her true self. Blindness has never been an aspect of her archetype. And even the most skilled actress shows her true self.

No role ever lasts forever. And when it’s done, one still remembers the pain of smiling when a swift slap or a hidden knife would be more fitting.

How The Floating Cities Start

How The Floating Cities Start

“You remember how when you took us to see that boat, and it was missing? I think we need to transcend the missing boat, and move on to building our own boat…”

Follow this link to a short film. It’s about a group of artists who are checking out of society after an economic collapse. If it looks and feels like the Swimming Cities project, it’s because they come from the same lineage. Think of it as Burning Man on the river.

“It was the summer the gas stations closed. The summer they played music in the old mill. The summer they built a boat. The summer they left.”

What’s Your Utopia Look Like?

These are the Swimming Cities of Serenissima.

Image

Photo by Tod Seelie

They are junk boats. They were built mostly from found objects by a merry band of dumpster diving fregans; 30 of them in all, give or take some stowaways. In 2009, these three vessels made the 130 mile journey from Slovenia to Venice.

They were designed by the artist, Swoon, and come out of short but sturdy heritage of floating cities made from junk. In 2008 there was the Swimming Cities of Switchback Sea, which sailed down the Hudson River- its residents performing in towns along the way. In 06 and 07, the Miss Rockaway Armada sailed down the Mississippi.

Image

Tianna Kennedy, manager, organizer, capitan of the Swimming Cities of Serenissima. Photo by Tod Seelie.

This flotilla was managed by Tianna Kennedy, pictured above. It reminds me of Where the Wild Things Are. Of all of the times my cousin and I went down into the piny woods that surrounded Traveler’s Rest South Carolina, in search of the devil and the White Dogs, both of which lived within.

How can something so grimy can be so wholesome? A man broke his neck during the journey, jumping from one of the buildings. There was bickering and storms. There were arrests and misery. A lot of misery.

Still, these photos made me nostalgic for something that I’ve never experienced. And now, junk cities have jumped to the top of my list of ways to deal with the apocalypse. When the zombies come, I will be looking for barrels and boards. The dead can’t swim.

One Last Dive

This video was created by Jason Eisener for Vice.com in conjunction with the Conjuring.
I’m not a fan of horror, but I love efficiency, especially when it comes to telling a story. And this guy accomplished a whole lot in the course of this one minute.
Eisener also directed Hobo with a Shotgun, one of the segments of V/H/S/2 and some other things. And I haven’t seen any of it, because, like I said, I don’t like horror.