Rudy’s Blog

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Spring Clearance Sale on my Paintings

March 3rd, 2014
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It’s time for another sale on my paintings.

I have no room left in my storage racks, and I’m painting more than ever. Please buy one! I’ve cut just about all the prices by $100 or $200. Check out the prices now. I know some of you said you’d like to buy Frog Man, so here’s your chance!


“Frog Man,” oil on canvas, January, 2014, 20” x 24”. Click for a larger version of the painting.

I finished a new painting last week (shown below). The way this one came about is that I was finished writing an SF story “Laser Shades” for a very cool art book, The Superlative Light, by the photographer Robert Shults. The book consists of photos taken in a very-high-power laser lab.


“Laser Shades,” oil on canvas, February, 2014, 24” x 20”. Click for a larger version of the painting.

While I was working on the story, I wasn’t quite sure about how to end it, and then I made my new painting as a way of previsualizing a big scene. The guy in the painting is wearing special laser-proof shades and he’s (rather unwisely) holding a fetal “egg” in the path of a yottawatt laser beam. A yottawatt is about the power of the Sun. That zapped egg is going to hatch out some kind of weird person, so look out!

Eventually I’ll post the story online, but not yet. I’ll let Shults’s book come out first. Also I might read the story somewhere this spring, and if I do, I’ll put up a podcast of the reading.

I was up at Borderlands Books on Valencia Street in SF yesterday to see my old friend and way-gnarly SF writer Dr. Michael Blumlein doing a presentation on his new book of stories, What the Doctor Ordered. It was a good show. Learn more about the book on Michael’s home page.

Speaking of Borderlands, my Big Aha show of paintings there has been extended until March 29, 2014. So if you’re a local, you can check out some of my latest paintings in person. And then buy one!

And speaking of art projects, Sylvia and I saw this man Scott Weaver doing a demo at The Exploratorium in San Francisco early in February. His life’s work is a giant toothpick sculpture, kind of depicting San Francisco as a whole. He’s been tinkering with it for thirty-five years Weaver also has a toothpick hat that he sometimes wears while discussing his work.

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Dave Eggers, THE CIRCLE. “Gengen SF.”

March 1st, 2014
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I just read the new Dave Eggers book, The Circle . It started out a little slow, but then it became a page-turner. I plowed through it in two days, thinking a lot about the characters and the ideas, and when it was done, I missed having it to read.

I liked the book a lot. It got to me.

The “Circle” is a company something like Google + Twitter + Facebook. They’re working to take over the world, ultimately controlling all information and all elections, and making it impossible (and illegal) for anyone to be offline. The main character is Mae Holland. She starts out as something of a free spirit, but she’s also ambitious, a striver, and very much a people pleaser. And by the end, she’s a self-deluding and heartless zealot. You empathize with her, pity her, and end by despising her—which is just what you’re supposed to do. The book is something of a moral fable.

Being a science fiction writer, I’m interested in the fact that The Circle is a science fiction novel by a mainstream writer, and it’s being marketed as a general audience book. Not that these general audience books use the “SF” genre label. They’re “visionary,” “speculative,” “dystopic,” “novels of the near future,” and so on.


[Happy moment for a writer. Sitting on a hillside with a manuscript to correct.]

I’d been wondering what exactly to call these books. I don’t necessarily want a bitter, negative word for them…I don’t want to be like a crusty old-time Mission hipster throwing rocks at a Google bus. So I posed the what-do-you-call-these-books question on Facebook, and a person with the screen name “Post Script” coined what I think a the perfect word. Gengen.

Gengen is a cozy word, pleasant to say, and this is important for a new coinage. I see the gengen move as working in two directions. The name can be read either as “general audience genre” book, or “genre book that’s broken out to a general audience.” It isn’t inherently disparaging to either side. You can be an SF writer moving onto the general shelves, as William Gibson has done and as Kurt Vonnegut did before him.. Or you can be a denizen of the general shelves, safe in your position, wanting to get wild and write a genre book—like Margaret Atwood, Gary Shteyngart, Jonathan Lethem, Chang-Rae Lee, and nnow Dave Eggers.

(By the way, re. “gengen,” someone might protest that there are other genres besides SF. That’s fine, and if someone wants to have a gengen discussion about the detective or romance or western genres, sure, why not. Gengen is a type of move, a sidling between the genre ghetto and the shopping street. But it’s gengen SF that I’m talking about in this post, and often as not I’ll just call them gengen for short.)

There’s more and more gengen books these days—the SF mode has acquired a trendiness, a cachet. And really that’s good. I like reading SF books, and if they’re gengen by a talented writer, so much the better.


[View from the poetry room in City Lights Books.]

Of course, some pro SF writers might jeer, “The Brahmins are wading in the funky Ganges where we hardcore SF sadhus have wallowed for, lo, these many years.” Or, “Are we lowly science-fiction pros expected to be grateful when a mainstream writer stoops to filch a bespattered icon from our filthy wattle huts?” Not, harrumph, that I would ever say those kinds of things. Yes, I do write literary SF, and I don’t get much recognition in the general market, but I don’t want to be all bitter and resentful about this, at least not all the time. Today I want to talk about gengen and about Eggers’s excellent The Circle.

In discussing gengen, critics often namecheck Orwell’s 1984 and Huxley’s Brave New World. And there’s much of Brave New World in The Circle.
Mae and her Circle bosses formulate three sayings that could have been lifted directly from 1984: “A Secret is a Lie.” “Sharing Is Caring.” “Privacy Is Theft.”

The Circle does lack certain things—I’m thinking of cyberpunk flash, wild SFnal speculations, and rollicking laugh-out-loud humor. But that’s not what Eggers was trying to do, so there’s no point bugging him about it. The Circle totally nails the points that he wanted to hit. Like the pious holier-than-thou and insanely-naive attitude of techies who want to run everyone’s lives and have everyone be so much better and cleaner than humans are meant to be. They even use that old line, “Why would you want privacy unless you have something you want to hide?” And there’s a cutting riff on the self-aggrandizement of a cubicle-dweller who feels brave because she “liked” someone’s strongly political post. And Eggers really gets the brutal, brutal work schedule of computer types.

My mind was blown by a couple of scenes where Mae goes into zombie-mode feeding-frenzy bloodlust-clicking-frenzy and spends hours or even a whole night working the social sites, building up her rankings, raising her various virtual scores, all of these scores being precise numbers you understand—Eggers goes ape on this, and has a one-or-two-page paragraph where every clause contains a number that Mae is pumping for better job security and higher self esteem.

And reading those scenes, I was repelled, but also, I had to think, “My god, this is me. I do this.” Obsessively spinning from Twitter to Facebook to email to my iPhone messages to the work on my new blog post to the latest tweaks of the HTML on my umpteen webpages, then back to Twitter to Facebook to… I’ve spent whole days like this, lost in the clicks, returning to each site over and over, hungry for comments, for Likes, for reviews, for response…

I think of a pigpen that my friends and I used to enjoy visiting at the Rutgers Agricultural School campus, back when I was in grad school at Rutgers in 1970, a tidy pen, with a feeding-trough at the near end, and a hinged metal flap over the trough, and every so often a pig would come to the trough and nose up the flap, the younger ones did this more often, and usually there wouldn’t be anything in the trough, and the lid would click on the way up and then clank back down. No mail. No comments. No likes. Click clank. Or maybe there’s one left-over nugget of chow. Great streamers of saliva. Possibly an exultant squeal.

Another thing in The Circle that got to me was that Mae starts out with a pantheistic or nature-worshipping side to her. She likes to kayak out into the San Francisco Bay, enjoying the company of the watchful seals, loving the light on the water, even exploring a deserted little island by night, wholly in the now, fully analog, not even thinking of checking her phone.

That’s when I loved Mae the most, when she was doing these kinds of things that I myself place great value on, getting outside and into nature, and leaving all the computer crap behind. I’m sure Eggers himself has this side to him, or he wouldn’t have been able to evoke it so movingly. And then—what a bummer—the Circle bureaucrats kind of crush Mae for going offline like this. And from here on in her personality is pretty much destroyed. She loses her contact with the natural world—and she loses her soul. Echoing Winston Smith in 1984.

So yeah, The Circle is a great book. Viva gengen.

See the Facebook comments on this post.

See the Facebook comments on the "gengen" word .

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Ripping Vinyl to iTunes

February 18th, 2014
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The ripping-vinyl-to-iTunes process has two main stages.
(1) Getting the info off the viny disks and into mp3 files.
(2) Importing the mp3 files into iTunes in a usable form.

Here are the links to my old (but recently revised) posts on this.

(1) Ripping Vinyl to MP3s for iTunes

(2) Managing Music in iTunes

Taming those wiggly audio wave forms.

By the way, the second post can be useful whether or not you’re in fact ripping from vinyl—it has some good info about making iTunes more transparent and more accessible to your control.

Context?

I just finished writing an SF story called “Laser Shades” for an interesting book project, The Superlative Light, by the photographer Robert Shults. Shults got some good funding for his book, and I think it’ll come out in late 2014 or in 2015. Eventually I’ll post my story where you can see it too.

In any case, I have a little free time just now, so I went back to a kind of obsessive time-wasting project that I was into back in 2011: ripping some of my old vinyl records to MP3 files that I can load into iTunes and copy to my smart phone.


[A happy hacker using VR goggles to guide a little camera-equipped drone helicopter around Steamer’s Lane in Santa Cruz.]

In 2011, I wrote those two blog posts describing how I’m doing this, and I linked to them at the start of today’s post. I’ve found it’s important, when I’m doing something ultrageeky, to write down what I did—because this is the kind of info that I tend to forget in a few months, and certainly in a few years. Learning how to do something intricate on a comptuer is like learning all the part-numbers for a 1975 Ford Galaxie carburetor and memorizing the thing’s little manual. Impossible to retain.


[Just before midnight on New Years Eve in Pinedale, Wyoming! (Lo-res smartphone photo.)]

So I went back and found my two old webpages, and used the info, and upgraded it a little bit. And here, for your own use are the links to those pages. My two prereqs for the software tools I used were
* To find free, reliable, non-malware-type software to do what I needed, and
* To be able to use the software pretty easily.


[My 2013 painting “Fractal Skate Posse,” see my paintings page for info, prints and my Jan-March 2014 show at Borderlands in SF.]

I’m a Windows user, so some of the wares I found are in fact available only for Windows. Finding good free software for the Mac OS can in some cases be a little harder, but if you know of some, do put a comment on this page or on the pages I’m directing you to.

One final note on this issue—by “free” software, I don’t mean commercial software that comes with a “free trial” which a crippled, or partly disabled, or money-begging mode—or outright malware! “Free” means solid, programmer-written wares that you find on a reliable programmer-run site like Sourceforge.

So now dig out that crufty old turntable and rescue such massive gems as Ton-Loc’s “Wild Thing,” simple as wallpaper but somehow quite wonderful.

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“All the Visions” Painting. Our Yottawatt Sun.

February 8th, 2014
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I just finished another painting this week, All the Visions.


“All the Visions,” oil on canvas, February, 2014, 24” x 20”. Click for a larger version of the painting.

The painting is based on a photo taken in 1983, I think I used the timer on my camera and shot it myself. Possibly my photographer friend David Abrams shot it. But I’m guessing that I shot it, as I have the color print.

This has to do with a Kerouac-style novel called All The Visions that I wrote on a single long scroll of paper that year in Lynchburg, Virginia. (The photo shows a warm-up session when I wasn’t yet using the scroll). You can’t see the UFO in the photo, but it’s clear in the painting. I plan to reissue All The Visions via Transreal Books later in 2014 — it appeared from a small press, Ocean View Books, in 1991. I still have that rose red IBM Selectric typewriter in my basement. The acme of modern writing equipment in 1983. I wrote a lot of books on that thing.

Otherwise I’m just hanging out, doing some work on a revision of All the Visions, also starting up on an SF story having to do with an extremely powerful laser. I’m thinking its power is at the yottawatt level.

I like these sequences of power prefixes, Kilowatt —> Megawatt —> Petawatt —> Exawatt —> Zettawatt —> Yottawatt. There’s a Wikipedia page explaining it.

Our Sun’s luminosity is 385 yottawatts. But we don’t get the full benefit of all this light. Earth gets a steady illumination of about 174 petawatts from the Sun. How much does sunlight cost? How much would it cost to keep the light on? Well, a kilowatt-hour costs 12 cents. Call it 10 cents. Sun gives us about 170 petawatts. So an hour of that is 170 trillion kilowatt hours. So sunlight cost is 12 cents * 170 trillion per hour, which is about 20 trillion dollars per hour. Average that out over 7 billion people. About $3000 dollars per hour per person. Call it two million a month. “The power bill’s here!”

I’m glad that it’s raining today. All this weather for free. And that amazing yottawatt sun driving the whole thing.

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Gave Two Talks: Dorkbot & Transhuman Visions

February 1st, 2014
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I gave two talks this week. Wednesday I was at the Cyclecide Swearhouse in San Francisco, reading from The Big Aha for a Dorkbot event. I didn’t tape it, but some video may appear on the dorkbot archive page for this event in a week or so.

Photo above shows Jericho Reese, Rudy Jr., me, Isabel R., and techie Mark Powell in his anti-tech T-shit. In the background we have John Law’s Doggie Diner icons.

Another picture of Mark Powell…reading a poem “I’m on TV!” Love how fervent he looks. It was a great evening for me, hanging out with the cool Dorkbot crowd.

===

Today I was at the Transhuman Visions conference at Fort Mason in San Francisco and gave a talk called “The Big Aha: Cosmic and Robotic Consciousness.” It went over well, got some big laughs. You can click on the icon below to access the podcast via my Feedburner podcast station.

(Note that Feedburner only shows my most recent podcasts. For older audio files, see my archive on Gigadial, which runs back to 2005.)

And you can view my slides online as a PDF file.

After my Transhuman talk, some nice people talked to me for awhile, and I took a picture of them shown below. Didn’t get all their names but starting second from the left, that’s David Dye, Jr. and Sr., Dan Dye, and a guy called Scott. These four forward-thinking men bought copies of my books.

One other event worth noting. I happened to mention one Frank Shook in my Transhumans talk, and incredibly, I ran into this man soon thereafter, the hero of Saucer Wisdom. Frank has resurfaced in the persona of an antiquarian bookseller Gregory Gibson, running a front organization called Ten Pound Island Books. His cover story was that he was at Fort Mason for the Antiquarian Book Fair.

Frank, who tends to disorder and undermine any and all aspects of consensus reality insisted I was talking about “transhumance,” instead of “transhumans.” And, now that Frank has said this, there is indeed a Wikipedia word “transhumance,” applying to nomadic people. A strange and powerful entity is Mr. Shook. I believe he’s re-manifesting himself because I am making some plans to republish my long-suppressed Saucer Wisdom exposé.

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Journey to Winterland

January 24th, 2014
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I haven’t done a regular blog post in awhile—in the first part of January, I was busy promoting The Big Aha and my art show. And in the latter part of December, my wife and I were on a trip to Wisconsin and Wyoming, visiting our daughters and their families.

So I’ll mention some upcoming events, and then I’ll run some of my snowy trip-to-the-midwest photos.

Next Wednesday, Jan 29, I’m part of a wild line-up of Dorkbot entertainment in SF. “People doing weird things with electricity.” I’ll be talking about how to get high off quantum mechanics—which is a theme of The Big Aha. I’ll probably run a slideshow of some of my paintings as well.

A couple of days later, Saturday, Feb 1, I’ll be part of an equally louche speaker-list at Transhuman Visions, a con at Fort Mason.

I’ll try and podcast one or both of these talks. I finally got a decent pocket voice recorder (it’s a solid little SONY digital recorder…I hated that piece-of-crap Zoom I was trying to use, the one with the inscrutable controls and a display as unreadable as a new San Francisco parking-meter’s).

Speaking of this, see a click-link for my podcast channel just above. You can find the podcast of my Big Aha talk, reading, Q&A, and art tour there already

The Big Aha reading at Borderlands was good. Some of my artist/author pals showed up, including Paul Mavrides and John Shirley, also Richard Kadrey and Michael Blumlein, these two guys shown above. I wish I got to spend more of my time talking to writers.

So now wah-wah-wah back to December 22, 2013. Flying from Sunny Californee to Salt Lake City and on to Madison. I just love the views you get when a plane’s about to land. Especially cool with snow on the ground. I view that image above as Gilbert Shelton’s cartoon character Philbert Desannex, implemented as vast grayscale Mormon-land earthwork. Philbert’s big wobbly nose is pointing to the left.

Fun with daughter Georgia in Madison. Her husband Courtney made these amazing cut-out snowflakes with the grandchildren…he’d researched the web about cool ones to make. This awesome young woman YouTuber Vi Hart has a great video on topic.

Nice and nostalgic to be out there in winterland, a part of my early past. Xmas-tide sundown in winterland, wow.

Sylvia and I stayed in a hotel with, of all people, the Harlem Globetrotters, out on some intense performing tour. I saw them in the Kentucky State Fairgrounds in 1956. They didn’t look much older. Goose Gossage! One morning it had snowed still more and we walked around the Madison capitol building. Snow always very nice on heavy-duty Beaux-arts-type architecture.

A beautiful Christmas together.

Caught the plane to Jackson, Wyoming, to visit Isabel and her husband for New Years Eve. Flew over a Magic Mountain.

Isabel and Gus live in Pinedale, a little wilder than Jackson.

We were staying in an inexpensive motel a few blocks from Isabel’s house. It enjoyed walking the half mile to her house and taking pictures along the way. I do my best photos when I’m alone and I’m, like, having a conversation with the camera.

The patent mysteries of solid, well-used sheds.

There’s the one house where the guy keeps an endless amount of junk in his yard. He’s just ouside the town line, so he can do as he pleases. I’m inordinatley fond of this one particular rusted old car. I think of it as “the R. Crumb car,” because it looks like one of Crumb’s drawings, maybe like the car on the cover of Zap Comix #0, or was it #1.

For me, a big highlight of the trip was that I got to go cross-country skiing with Georgia in Madison, and then again with Isabel in Wyoming. This picture shows me at the start of a blizzard off-trail on the edge of a huge canyon holding Fremont Lake, at the tip-ass-end Wyomingwhere. I was really proud and happy that I was able to get out on the trail one more time. Yeah, baby!

I’ve still got more trip pix, but I’ll save them for a later post.

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BIG AHA Art Show & Reading, Borderlands

January 6th, 2014
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Added Feb 12, 2014: I made a YouTube video of the art on the walls at the Borderlands Cafe show:

Added Jan 19, 2014: I made a podcast audio of my talk on The Big Aha and of my “art tour” at Borderlands. Visit my podcast station here:

Original post, Jan 6, 2014. I have an art show coming up, running from Jan 17 to March 15, 2014. A lot of the paintings were done for my new SF novel The Big Aha.


Poster for our show. These are the paintings I plan to hang. Click for a larger version of the image.

The show will also include four of Vernon Head’s table-top deco-style assemblagist California Funk sculptures.


Vernon Head’s “Constructions & Contraptions” for our show. Clockwise from top left: “Lost Mine,” “The Trout’s Dilemma,” “Mesa Motel,” “The Machinist.” 12 to 15 inches high. Click for a larger version of the image.

We’ll have an opening reception, reading, and guided tour of the exhibition from 5:30 until 7:30 or so. This will be on Friday, January 17, at Borderlands Books Cafe on 870 Valencia Street in the Mission district of San Francisco.


View Larger Map

Free pastries! This party is for the public, and it’s a thank you reception for my Big Aha Kickstarter supporters.

We’ll mingle, and around 6 or 6:30, I’ll do a short reading from the novel, then give the “guided tour” of the paintings, explaining their roles in the book, and then hang out some more. We’ll be selling hardback and paperback copies of The Big Aha, plus paintings, prints, and the latest edition of my art book, Better Worlds.

For more about my paintings, see my paintings page. I’m maintaining a public Facebook event page for the show as well. And you can find the event on the SF Chronicle’s SFGate listings as well.


“Frog Man,” oil on canvas, January, 2014, 20” x 24”. Click for a larger version of the painting.

By way of getting my final prep done, I just finished one more painting. This particular painting started out as a horizontal “landscape mode” canvas of a Monet-style scene with trees and cliff or a sky…made up of vertical daubs of paint left over from my painting before this one, “Woman With Jellyfish”. I let the landscape dry for two weeks, then had the idea of turning the picture to a vertical “portrait mode” orientation, and now the horizontal daubs were water. On a quick inspiration, I painted in the head and webbed hands of a “frog man.” He looks friendly, but I don’t think I’d jump into the water with him.

I also made some high-quality prints to sell at the opening. Ten-color giclee print on achival museum etching paper, with the prints mounted on acid-free mat board, individually signed, reasonably priced.


Prints of Rudy’s Paintings Click for a larger version of the image.

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