Central Questions

Maybe it’s because I was on a late train out of NYC on Saturday night, carrying lots of drunk kids back to Jersey, but I had a hard time paying attention to Roger Fry’s An Essay in Aesthetics.  Let’s see if I can find the interesting parts, or at least the parts that resonated with me.

Fry’s central questions are:

  • what is art, actually?
  • is it worthwhile?
  • if it is worthwhile, why, exactly?

Warren Zevon, the great songwriter and eccentric, once said that songwriting has love for an idea at its core; specifically, that a songwriter falls in love with idea, and endeavors to capture some aspect of that idea and communicate it to the future.  Of all the definitions of art I’ve seen, it’s the one that resonates the best with me, even if it doesn’t withstand a lot of scrutiny.

I don’t buy many of Fry’s assertions: children do imitate what they see; some people find art in nature; lines on paper do not have any association with musculature for me; graphic arts are not objectively superior to written arts; and so on.  His aim appears to be noble, to understand art through the lens of graphic art, and to break it down into parts and hypothesize why those parts work in service of the whole.  But it’s all a bit too fanciful for me, unprovable hypotheses built on practically untestable assertions.

For as long as art has existed, or at least for the last century, artists have explored the notion of what constitutes art.  It has been perpetually fertile ground.  It remains difficult to draw those lines around the definition of art.  Having a guideline that resonates with you, like Zevon’s definition or Fry’s, is probably a good place to start.  But remember that it will always be a guide, never a map.




Spending minutes like seconds
Spending dollars like dimes
I’m tired of running
Tired of falling behind
I’m staring at the sea
I’m staring at the sun
Am I the one who is shaking
Or is it everyone?

Let it go, it’s out of your control
Where it all stops nobody knows
When I wake up every morning
Only one thing is clear:
The future’s uncertain
And the end is always near

Let the good times roll

So let the endtimes roll
Where the wheels stop nobody knows
Today, tonight, tomorrow,
The only thing that is clear
The future’s uncertain
And the end is always near
The future’s uncertain
And the end is always near
The future’s uncertain
And the end is always here


I’ve got some favorite blues lyrics. Here’s one, from Ol’ Dirty Bastard: “Baby you know I’ll take care of you / ‘Cause you say you got my baby and I know it ain’t true.” Here’s another, from Jim Morrison and The Doors: “Well I woke up this morning and I got myself a beer / The future’s uncertain and the end is always near.”

“Endtimes” is a song inspired by that Doors lyric, which I wanted to turn on its head a bit–the far side of revelry, instead. Other influences might include:

I wrote this song at ITP, on the “ITP Guitar,” as my first project in our “Five in Five” project marathon. This demo was recorded at The Pink Ark, my basement studio. The vocals and acoustic guitar were recorded live, the lead guitars were overdubbed. I realize that the sound and style of this hearken back to my Ninth Street Mission days.

The cover image is a shot of La Perla and Santa María Magdalena de Pazzis Cemetery in San Juan, Puerto Rico, taken in 2008 while visiting Castillo San Felipe del Morro. La Perla is a rough neighborhood with a reputation for debauchery and violent drug trading. The picture has something of that race to the endtimes, maybe.

Traceroute visualization

I ran traceroute for the five most recent sites in my browser history from home and from school, to analyze the Internet routing providers that carry my traffic.  The most recent five sites were:

From home (click on the graphic to get the interactive viewer):

Traceroute analysis from home

And from school:

Traceroute analysis from school

Routing Providers

From home, where I have Verizon FIOS for Internet access, the routing is dominated by Verizon-GNI and Alter.net (which is also Verizon).

From school, the routing is dominated by Level3.net.


I wrote some Perl code (trace.pl) that wraps the Net::Traceroute module, and outputs JSON. The JSON is then processed with D3, using the Force-Directed Graph example code as the basis for the visualization. I hand-edited the JSON to do the color coding of routing providers, the weighting of the links between hops, and some other prettification. The code could be augmented to do these steps as well.

Future plans for this simple visualization tool:

  • develop or find a Python library for traceroute
  • store the traceroute hops in a database
  • do the color coding of the different routing providers in my code
  • make the visualization update in real time, as new hops are recorded into the database

Telling a Story on IRC

Our Live Web assignment was to write down the weirdest thing that happened to each of us that day, and then tell that story on IRC or another text-based synchronous online medium. I joined the #2600 channel on EFnet IRC. Here’s the transcript, with relevant bits bolded. My IRC nickname in this transcript is yesyes.

22:30 <@verax> it's going to cost them a lot to disband the nsa and recreate it under another name
22:30 <@verax> buy us bonds
22:30 < flyback> GOOD
22:30 <@verax> seriously tho
22:30 <@verax> here's my prediction
22:31 <@verax> obama will appoint a panel
22:31 < yesyes> Does anyone remember that Hunter Thompson quote about how CIA agents are all Yalies?
22:31 <@verax> like the 9/11 commission
22:31 <@verax> and they'll fix everything
22:31 <@verax> like the 9/11 commission
22:31 < flyback> hahaah
22:31 < yesyes> And how they're not like the rest of us because they play bridge?
22:31 <@verax> hahaha
22:31 <@verax> that's so true, they're not
22:32 * flyback watching 911 on history channel
22:32 < yesyes> I woke up thinking about that quote.
22:32 < yesyes> Now I can't find it online.
22:33 <@verax> Dr Thomson was my kinda guy
22:33 < yesyes> Why?
22:33 <@verax> he pioneered the 70s
22:33 < yesyes> Other than the sex rugs and typewriters.
22:33 <@verax> we perfected it
22:34 < yesyes> s/rugs/drugs
22:34 -!- nsaagent [nsaagent@oldschoolpirates.org] has quit [Killed (Silence (BLALBLABLALBLA nobody gives a fuck.
22:34 <@verax> hahaha
22:34 <+Grounded0> :))))))
22:34 -!- nsaagent [nsaagent@oldschoolpirates.org] has joined #2600
22:34 <@verax> 02:34 -!- nsaagent [nsaagent@oldschoolpirates.org] has quit [Killed (Silence (BLALBLABLALBLA nobody
gives a fuck. die.))]
22:34 < sly> rude
22:34 < sly> rude as fuck
22:34 < yesyes> Actually, I think I meant to write sex rugs.
22:34 < yesyes> Let's go with that.
22:35 < yesyes> Anyway, I woke up thinking about that quote that I can't find.
22:35 -!- nsaagent [nsaagent@oldschoolpirates.org] has quit [Killed (Silence (EAT SHIT AND DIE))]
22:35 < yesyes> Then I started thinking about this friend of mine who is probably a spook.
22:35 -!- nsaagent [nsaagent@oldschoolpirates.org] has joined #2600
22:35 <+Grounded0> what time zone verax?
22:35 <+Grounded0> or is that pm
22:35 <@verax> GMT
22:36 <@verax> yup
22:36 -!- SlimeBNCH [~slimebox@work.bench.wired.ipv6.bawx.net] has joined #2600
22:36 < yesyes> UTC is like flouride in the water
22:36 <+Grounded0> british isles are +1 UTC now due to DST
22:37 <+Grounded0> but yeah its fucked up... i should switch to utc
22:37 < flyback> * nsaagent has quit (Killed (Silence (EAT SHIT AND DIE)))
22:37 < flyback> SILENCE
22:37 < flyback> WILL
22:37 < flyback> FALL
22:37 < forbid> huh
22:37 <+Grounded0> just have a marker at the end of how much to add on to it
22:37 * flyback quotes dr who
22:37 < sly> LOL@SLIMEBOX
22:37 -!- nsaagent [nsaagent@oldschoolpirates.org] has quit [Killed (Silence (fuck off then))]
22:37 < SlimeBNCH> hi sly
22:38 -!- nsaagent [nsaagent@oldschoolpirates.org] has joined #2600
22:38 <+Grounded0> :=
22:38 <+Grounded0> :)
22:38 -!- nsaagent [nsaagent@oldschoolpirates.org] has quit [Killed (Silence (You do not learn, do you?))]
22:38 -!- nsaagent [nsaagent@oldschoolpirates.org] has joined #2600
22:38 < yesyes> Anyone from Yale in the house?
22:38 < SlimeBNCH> sup in here
22:38 < yesyes> Is the correct term "Yalie"?
22:39 < yesyes> These are important questions.
22:39 < flyback> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=diT3FvDHMyo
22:39 < flyback> just for nsaagent
22:39 <+laburd> my uncle went to yale but he's a pretty timid highschool teacher
22:40 -!- mode/#2600 [+l 174] by beanz
22:40 < yesyes> But does he play bridge?
22:40 <+laburd> in fact he does
22:40 < yesyes> Strike two!
22:40 <+laburd> so does my mom
22:41 < yesyes> Sounds like that Brad Pitt Angelina Jolie spy movie already.
22:41 < yesyes> Wasn't there a scene in that movie where they play bridge?
22:42 <+laburd> bridge needs 4 people
22:42 < yesyes> So you're saying you play bridge?
22:44 <+laburd> no
22:44 < yesyes> Good answer.
22:44 -!- Mrafrohea [hardchats@knowledge.is.fuckingpower.com] has quit [Killed (Silence (blablalblab))]
22:44 < nsaagent> lol
22:45 < yesyes> Never trust the bridge.
22:45 < yesyes> Isn't The Bridge a talk show?
22:45 -!- Mrafrohea [~fr0@knowledge.is.fuckingpower.com] has joined #2600
22:45 < yesyes> No wait that's The View.
22:46 < nsaagent> speaking of unsightly old ladies
22:46 < nsaagent> where is nesor

So telling this thirty second story on IRC dragged out into minutes, probably for a few reasons:

  • I don’t know any of these people, and they don’t know me, so the audience has no reason to respond to me unless what I say is interesting.
  • IRC tends to have loosely connected conversants, where most people are not watching the IRC session extremely closely; rather, people on the channel are probably doing something else, with IRC open in a separate window that they check periodically for messages of interest.
  • I came into the channel right in the middle of another conversation about the White House response to the NSA scandal, and then there was some sort of internal channel squabble, so my story probably wasn’t the most interesting topic at that moment.

I’m not new to IRC, though I haven’t used it in years. This time around, I noticed that IRC encourages very punchy, short snippets of sentences. Unbroken verbosity is discouraged. Contrast this with my natural speaking style, which uses long compound sentences, long digressions, and a lot of references. On IRC this sort of conversation must be broken up into pieces. Also, in order to get a response, the statements must be funny, bold, or directed specifically at someone in the channel. For those reasons, it feels a bit more like a performance than a conversation. It’s like you can feel the people on the other end evaluating whether conversation with you is worth the effort.

The other interesting thing to note is that my wife, who has never used IRC, was watching over my shoulder for part of the conversation. So while interacting on #2600, I was also explaining to her what IRC is, and what the different features of IRC are (channels, nicknames, commands, private messages, slang). At one point I was explaining regular expressions (in reference to my s/rugs/drugs/ comment). It was a weird “foot in two worlds” moment.

In the end, the telling of the story was less interesting than participating in the repartee.