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Podcast #87. Interviewed by Doug Lain

August 11th, 2015

August 11, 2015. Interviewed by author Doug Lain for his podcast Zero Squared. We mostly talked about what it’s like to have a career as a writer, with some mentions of my recent Journals 1990-2014. An edited version of the interview appeared as part of an episode on Lain’s podcast Zero Squared, with better sound for Doug’s voice. The version I’m posting here, six weeks later, is the unedited full conversation, recorded at my end at the time of the interview, which was June 26, 2015.


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New York #2. WTC, Seaport, Eddie, Midtown. Plus Backlog.

August 9th, 2015

Here’s a few more photos from Manhattan, followed by some pictures from my backlog.

One of the best deals in the city is the East River Ferry, which runs from 34th St. to Wall St. stopping in four or fives Brooklyn docks on the way. Takes about half an hour, great views and fresh air, uncrowded, $4.

Near Union Square. I love the ever-changing kaleidoscope of people, signs, and machines in the big city. The sign vaguely sinister here, like Big Sister is Watching You. Fashion police?

Cool wall painting near Wall St. This part of town is the oldest, going back to colonial days. I like poking around here. And you see genuine financiers.

We were resting on a bench and two ambulances pulled up—a regular one and a Jewish one. Some bond-trader type guy had had a heart attack or maybe just a panic attack, and after fifteen minutes he came walking out, a little shaky. He went for the Jewish ambulance.

The big new world trade center building is done, they call it One World Trade Center or Freedom Tower. Very cool to see it suddenly there amid the streets down around Wall St.

We made our way there, and it’s really awesome. I felt this surge of patriotism and gladness. We’re back! In your face! Bigger and better. That thing made of fins is a glorified subway stop, like for suburban trains as well.

There’s this little old colonial church by the World Trade Center, it’s St. Pauls Episcopal Church, and it has an ancient graveyard, you can go in there and sit on a shady bench. Kind of dizzying to sit there and imagine a fast-forward movie of the neighborhood as seen from the once-peaceful graveyard—the growth of the city, the rise and collapse of the first towers, the construction of the new ones…and then what?

Such gorgeous ornamentation and elaborations on those 40s buildings. Fractal. When will the long desert of flat glass end?

We made our way over to the South Street Seaport, kind of an urban mall, with cobblestones. Not plastic, exactly, but a bit chainy. Had some great crab cakes amid numerous colorful locals on lunch break. The good part there is a pier with old ships. It was a trip to look at the old ships’ rigging against the Wall St. towers.

I always dig taking high-speed photos of water in motion. It’s all a matter of time-scale. A lot of things in ordinary life can be thought of as slow-motion fluid flow. Our bodies, our cities, out landscapes.

Gotta have a least one photo of a big-ass NY truck. This one’s near Union Square, which is always a good spot to visit. Lots of benches, good people-watching. I bought some new walking shoes near here, New Balance 990s—I got the idea from seeing an article in the Sunday Times, some guy swearing by them. The salesman was great, urban gay, with that tired kind of voice, he observed that he’d sold a lot of this model that day, and I told him about the Times article and he looked it up. On a trip, you’re happy if you manage to have a conversation with anyone.

I always love how the sidewalk scenes are mirrored in the windows.

We got together with our old friend Eddie Marritz for dinner at cool West Village place he recommended, Mary’s Fish Camp. We’ve known Eddie since 1968, when he showed up at Rutgers U. in New Brunswick, New Jersey as a freshman. Sylvia and I were in grad school there—we’d gone to college with Eddie’s older brother Don. Just about fifty years ago. Half a frikkin’ century. Eddie’s a very successful cinematographer now, he gets work shooting a lot of documentary films. It’s so relaxing to talk to a very old friend, the complete trust, the sensitivity to subtle allusions. Sylvia took this photo with her iPhone.

I love the rich architectural details in Manhattan. Like this “awning” over the door in a mid-down.

I’ve got some more NY photos, but I’ll post them another day.

For now, I’m noticing that I have quite of backlog of older photos, so I’ll go ahead a post some of them today. On the shell theme, here’s some of those nice, crisp black scallop (?) shells that Sylvia collected at the Outer Banks. Sitting on a glass table, hovering in space.

What would American photography be without neon signs amid window reflections?

A “Rudy” photo of the pool skimmer at our OBX McMansion-cottage. I dig these kinds of collage / angles / shades photos.

An iPhone photo of my car’s windshield below a palm in Los Gatos a couple of months ago. The thing about iPhones, they basically suck in terms of photo quality, but sometimes they’re all you’ve got. That old saying, “The best camera is the one you have with you.”

I kind of wonder about that recent Apple ad campaign, with high-art black-and-white full-page magazine photos labeled, “Shot with an iPhone 6.” It’s certainly safer to go black-and-white, as then there’s less chance of digital crud. And of course they’d be running the photos through something like Lightroom—dialing up Clarity and Sharpness a bit, and cleaning up pixel stutter with the Noise sliders. And if it’s a wonderfully envisioned and framed shot, it’s gonna look good. If you have strong lighting that helps too. And you’d want to shoot it in such a way that you don’t have to crop, so that the meager iPhone pixel count isn’t being stretched too much for the blow-up.

What’s this? Bolts of cloth and buttons in Hart’s fabric store in Santa Cruz. I end up accompanying Sylvia here quite often, and to pass the time, I tend to take a photo or two. Sf concept: a “fabric store” where supernal god-like aliens buy materials for making quilt-like universes.

Going back another month or two, here’s a seagull at Fort Mason in SF. Haughty aplomb.

A red flag at Ft. Mason! Rothko style. I’m crazy about weathered old walls. Easy to shoot, as they’re flat, like a photo. All you need to do is to see the shot, do a minimally competent job with the camera (never a gimmie!), and fix the light in Lightroom. Got this one the day I went there for the beatnik con with V. Vale and Marian, and I lost my glasses (now replaced).

And that’s about enough for today.


Outer Banks & New York #1.

August 2nd, 2015

My wife and I went to reunion with all our children and grandchildren at a rented house in Corolla on the Outer Banks of North Carolina for a week, and then we we two went alone to New York city for a week. So I’ll be posting some photos of all that.

[Tail of a Lego-built dragon in New York Lego store.]

Before I get going on the trip pix, I want to mention that on the plane, on our way home, I watched the movie Chappie, which I didn’t manage to see when it came out earlier this year. For some reason the reviews were fairly lukewarm, but I thought it was great.

Chappie is a real cyberpunk robot—he’s got graffiti on his body, he wears chains, he bops when he walks, he curses, he robs an armored car, he beats a militaristic paramilitary guy to death, and he saves the life of his maker. How? He saves his maker’s life by uploading the man’s consciousness into a robot body.

Just like my robot character Ralph Numbers did for his maker Cobb Anderson in my 1980 novel Software.

I know I’ve said this before, but the uploading-human-mind-to-robot-body is something that I frikkin’ invented—in Software, and I elaborated it in all four of my Ware novels, which you can still buy in paperback or ebook (and you can also read it for free in a CC edition.)

I don’t know why I never seem to get much credit for inventing this move, which has been in, like, two hundred movies by now. It’s not like it was an obvious idea when I wrote about it, anymore than a time machine was an obvious idea when H.G.Wells wrote The Time Machine. It took me nearly a year to really figure out the idea, simple as it now seems. I was studying the philosophy of computation at the University of Heidelberg, reading and pondering the essays of Alan Turing and Kurt Gödel. It’s some serious shit. But I chose to present it in cyberpunk format. So no po-faced serious analytic type high literary mandarins are ever gonna take my work seriously. At least not till I die. Or maybe not even then—posthumous recognition is a classic writer’s pipedream, and WTF diff would it make anyway. Rant, rant, rant, rave, rave, rave. Am I eighty years old yet? Move over, Harlan.

The Outer Banks is a long thin island, or group of islands, running long the coast of North Carolina. Back around 1975, Sylvia and I used to drive down there from Geneseo, NY, where I had my first teaching job. Us and the three kids. The Outer Banks were sparsely built then, and we stayed a couple of times in 1940s vintage motel, plywood shacks with linoleum floor, right on the all-but-empty beach, the Lamplighter Inn. Paradise. Those wheat-like plants atop the sunset dune in this photo are called sea oats.

Dig this treasure hunter, just a guy on the beach, not somebody I know. Our son Rudy was very keen to get one of these devices when he was about ten. Mostly he found cans.

Kites are still big here. Lovely to see them at sunset, and sometimes with a crescent moon.

Anyway, the OBX (as they now term the Outer Banks) are fully built-up now, the coast lined with developments of McMansion style beach cottages. We were there as a party of 14, and we got a three story house with a pool and an elevator and a movie room, and the rent was about fifty times as high as that of the long-gone Lamplighter.

But it was great to be with the children and grandchildren, and the ocean was very swimmable—not too cold, and the waves not too big—and there were some good shells.

As the jesting fates would have it, there was a huge OBX shark scare in progress when we arrived. Initially we were nervous, but when I didn’t get bitten in the first ten minutes, I pretty much stopped worrying. The human mind’s risk assessment. Anyway the closest shark attacks had been about a hundred miles away, down in Ocracoke. We were all the way up north in Corolla.

The crabs didn’t eat us…we ate the crabs. A bushel of crabs. What a concept. What if someone snuck in while you were sleeping, and poured this many live crabs onto you in bed? There’s a Grimm Brothers fairy tale along these lines, about a boy who couldn’t feel fear, and he learns when someone dumps a bunch of fish on him in bed like that.

One of the fun attractions on the way down was the home of the monster truck known as Grave Digger. Lots of earlier versions of Grave Digger on display here in Grave Digger Garage. In yo’ face, mofo! My grandchildren are endlessly fascinated by YouTube videos of Grave Digger in action, accompanied by the Grave Digger theme song, George Thorogood and the Destroyers playing “Bad to the Bone.”

Plus the original ur-Grave-Digger prototype vehicle, an awesome sight, like seeing the first fish with legs. Or like seeing the Wright Brothers’ original plane. One reason I’m so interested in these vehicles is that my characters in my novel-in-progress Million Mile Road Trip are driving a station wagon that’s been tweaked into something like a monster truck.

At the beach we saw a lot of awesome clouds. Imagine if there were only a few places on Earth where you can see clouds. How you’d value them. And yet we tend to ignore them, take them for granted, or even gripe about them.

We saw a thunderstorm or two as well. I loved this bright white puff beneath a vast dark anvil. So invigorating to see rain, if you’re a Californian.

Speaking of rain, I cranked my awesome Fujifilm X100T digital camera down to 1/2000 sec exposure time, turned on the flash, and got some shots of raindrops in a storm outside our 10th floor room in Manhattan the next week. That’s not rain on the window pane, you understand, that’s raindrops falling in midair, frozen (more or less) in flight by the magic of postmodern photography.

Here’s another shot of the raindrops, I took this picture about ten times in a row, trying to get it right. Surprise: raindrops do not look like cartoon teardrops. They’re wobbly globs, although, yes, it seems the larger ones are indeed fatter on one side.

After I finished shooting the raindrops in New York, I took a shot of the building facing us across 41st Street, and later, when I examined the photo, I had this Antonioni Blow-Up type discovery that a man in an office across the street was staring at me, probably wondering what I was doing taking flash pictures out my window.

My camera has a fixed wide-angle lens, and really high resolution, and I was able to zoom in on previously unnoticed details in a lot of my Ney York shots. Like here I’m in the lobby of the Chrysler Building, taking a picture of a weird pseudo-digital Deco clock labeled “TIME” in case you don’t know what a digital clock is (and who did, back in the 1930s). And a guard is looking out at me from a door in the wall, smiling, like the friendly bird inside the cuckoo clock, and I didn’t even know he was there.

Another cropped-down zoom photo from NY: a chic woman among the marching ants in a crosswalk at 41st and Madison, which is where our hotel was.

Such awesome people-watching in the big city. We saw this woman at the new Whitney Museum, down on the old meat-packing district. Awesome building, same old collection, but with more of it on display than before.

I’ve never been sure if I liked Willem de Kooning, but I saw a kind of landscape by him called Door to the River, and it really knocked me out. There’s something about it, maybe hard to see in a reproduction or a tiny computer screen image, it’s like the painting captures the glancing quality of light, the way that when you look at something you see patches of brightness and glare even before you overlay your notion of what it “is.” And the title “Door to the River” is kind of uplifting, I mean that’s what we’re always looking for, right, a magic DOOR to the river of LIFE. And, while we’re at it, a frikkin plot for our novels.

As chance would have it, right while I was standing there admiring this painting, my very favorite of that day’s visit to the Whitney, a woman my age walks over to me and says, “Looking at this painting, I’ve finally decided for once and for all that de Kooning was a fake.” I tried to disabuse her of her errorneous opinion, with little effect. Oh well!

Yet another street-photograph of a New Yorker. Note the big fan. It was about 95, incredibly humid, with the sun like a sledgehammer. You had to walk on the shady side of the street.

The beach on OBX was really hot, too, but there you had the option of jumping into the water. And then a half hour in the waves I’d even be cold.

That’s it for today. Naptime. I’ll post more photos of New York later this week.


Shooting Photos a Lot

July 10th, 2015

Waking up early on a summer day.

Perched atop a tree, chirp. What to do today?

Fourth of July we saw a wind instrument concert in Oak Meadow Park in Los Gatos. I love to look at kettle drums, and to hear them.

And my fellow Los Gatos citizens here amid our signals and wires.

I love propeller hats, I didn’t used to know that anyone actually wore them. But this li’l guy does.

Couple of weeks ago I was at a beatnik themed conference at Fort Mason in SF. The event wasn’t real well attended. I walked around for quite awhile taking pictures. I love corroded, peeling old walls.

V. Vale was there with Marian Wallace, we went up and had a nice cheap dinner at the little-known hostel on the hill behind Fort Mason. I said a few words on Vale and Marian’s panel talk

You can listen to Podcast #86 on the Rudy Rucker Podcasts channel.

I lost my glasses that day, which was bad for me, as it took me nine days to get a new pair. Horrible experience.

Dig the cherub with the rat. It’s on a big sculpture in front of the De Young museum in SF, honoring wine, made by the famed illustrator Gustave Dore.

This is my idea of really successful photo. Shot in Cruz. I love abstract visual designs made up of daily objects. You can see the photo better if you look at the 1200 pixel across version. Should the foreground be in focus or the background? Can be a tough call. I went for the foreground this time. Does that work? How about if you look at the 2400 pixel across version

Ever since I started shooting with my wonderful wide-angle lens on my Fujifilm digital X100T camera with 22m f2 lens, I’ve been tilting the camera more and more. I picked that up from looking at a lot of Garry Winogrand photos a lot of times. Winogrand used to deny that his camera was tilted. In some higher sense it was level, and I’m starting to get that.

Another nice random pattern photo, a child’s leg with some pens. I prefer not to put the faces of my family on my blog, but this red leg is very expressive in any case.

Another example of the kind of shot I like. Taken on the hill behind Fort Mason looking down at the parking lot. I don’t like seeing parked cars in my photos, they bore me, so I crop them out whenever I can—often using a “tilted” crop frame if that’s what I need. I like the three trees. The godlike trees calm, and the human-street-line-painted parking area all bossy and honking and busy. And the colors are dull, as it’s misty in late afternoon SF.

You can’t do much better than a photo of a neon roller rink sign. When I was little my Mom would drop me at a roller rink in downtown Louisville for an hour or two, and a lot of kids my age would be there skating. I saw my first electronic game ever there, it was a shooting game, you had a “gun” with a metal node on one end and you were looking through the sights at a turning metal disk with planes on it, and when your node touched the bump on a plane while you pulled the trigger you got a point or a beep or something. Paradise.

This is a fat swollen stump near Stow lake in SF. Bloated with life. Everything is alive.

A painting by one of my grandchildren plus a random houseplant. I truly to wish I could paint like a kid. That was one of Master Picasso’s skills. Sometimes I’ll fake it by starting with a kid-like underdrawing, or even copying something from a kid’s painting.

And we saw some turtles in Stow Lake. I rented an electric paddle boat for $14 extra—worth every penny, as son Rudy said. You don’t paddle at all just glide. At first I thought the turtles were bronze sculptures.

This is how I looked when I was just realizing that I’d lost my glasses last week. I was so bummed that I went out and bought two pairs of new ones. Let joy reign unconfined, as my Pop used to say when he’d get some kind of treat for my brother and I after we’d whined for it for a long time.


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