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The End of 2015, the End of The Inkbottle

As this year comes to a close, I am also going to bring this blog to a close.  It’s basically been closed for a while, since I’ve not posted much here over the past few years.  But now I’m making it official: this is it.  If you want to find out what I’m up to in the future, then follow @hauntedink on Twitter or visit https://hauntedink.bandcamp.com (which is the name I’m using from here on out for music) or soundcloud.com/mheumann.  Of course, everything I have posted here–along with everything in The Library and the other sites connected to hauntedink.com–will be around as long as I’m around.

I started writing online back in 1995–20 years ago.  Back then, there were (relatively) few web sites and fewer voices focusing on music.  I created the first web site devoted to Tricky; I spent years writing music reviews both here and for a few different online journals.  As the years have gone on, and as my life has gotten busier and busier, I have found that both do not have the time to post here nor the inclination.  There are so many different outlets for musical discussion and analysis now, and I don’t really think my voice alone warrants its own site.  So I will continue to write, but I will seek to post this information elsewhere (again, check @hauntedink for future details).

Now, I didn’t want to end this blog with just a good-bye, so here are a few thoughts about 2015:

  • Pye Corner Audio.  Damn, that guy just keeps on making wonderful music.  He released Prowler towards the end of the year, after many publications had already created their “best of” lists.  I’m sick of lists, so I don’t want to make one, so I’ll just say that Prowler is the best music I heard this year.  It might be PCA’s best work–which is saying something.  It’s much more groove oriented than his Black Mill Tapes works or his work for Ghost Box, and that’s a change that seems entirely appropriate.
  • Other great music I heard this year (in no order whatsoever): Joanna Newsom’s Divers (yet another amazing work from this essential artist), The Orb’s Moonbuilding 2703 AD, Chemical Brothers’ Born in the Echoes, Thundercat’s The Beyond/Where the Giants Roam, Pole’s Wald, the Ghost Box compilation, A Seance at Syd’s, Kode9’s Nothing, and everything created by fellow Bandcamp artists Chonyid, The Hatcliff House Tapes, and The Owl Service.
  • My favorite musical event this year was watching Glastonbury on the BBC’s iPlayer (thanks to a handy proxy-server app).  There was some great music performed there this year, but (oddly) my favorite performance was Belle & Sebastian, who were adorable in their happiness (something that was in short supply this year).
  • The thought that we in the US have to endure 11 more months of a presidential election after spending all of 2015 listening to some of the most deranged and idiotic people every to walk the earth profess their qualifications for the job, makes me want to just build a time machine and go forward to November 2016 to see Hillary win (I’m assuming; if you’re reading this during the Trump presidency, then please find me and shoot me).
  • My world outside my career in education was focused on reading tons of science fiction and wiggling around with my modular synth.  At year’s end, my synth is dominated by Harvestman modules. I’m aiming to get back to my ultimate task of channeling (as best I can) the musical legacy of Pan Sonic.
  • Science fiction I would definitely recommend you read: Neil Stephenson’s Seveneves.  I was an early fan of his work; I loved Snow Crash and The Diamond Age as a grad student.  By the time he got to Cryptonomicon, though, I felt that he needed to get a better editor.  He hasn’t changed in his verbosity and detail, but the more I read his stuff, the more I appreciate the detail for what it is: a complete and thorough account of the world he is creating.  Anathem was just wonderful in its detail and complexity; its connection to the Long Now project was a plus (I’m a member).  But Seveneves is something altogether different–a story that spans both the end of life on earth and the creation of a new life.  I can’t spoil it for you; read it.  It’s the best novel of the year, and it’s the one I’m voting for when I vote for the Hugos in 2016.
  • Other wonderful, wonderful novels I read this year: everything by Peter F. Hamilton, the Ancillary trilogy by Ann Leckie, Kim Stanley Robinson’s Aurora, Cixin Liu’s The Three Body Problem and The Dark Forest, and Ernest Cline’s Armada.  During my nice, long break from teaching, I plan to read a whole host of novels by James Corey, Stephen Baxter, and Raoul Peter Mongilardi (damn, there’s so much good stuff out there…).
  • Great science fiction on TV, too: Syfy decided to actually make science fiction again, and I really like their shows DefianceKilljoys, and Dark Matter.  The Expanse is really promising; I am eager to see more of it.  I LOVE Agents of Shield, even though it’s cheesy and uneven.  It’s just damn fun (and I’m a huge fan of Daisy Johnson from the comics, so seeing her come to life on the screen is a blast, too).

My final note to all 3 of you who might actually read this: our world 2015 saw the rapid rise of intolerance, racism, and fascism.  Fight these things with empathy, intelligence, and courtesy.  Think before you speak, consider your audience’s perspective, avoid personal attacks and other fallacies, and be polite.

Thank you all,

Haunted Ink (aka Michael Heumann)

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Top 10/Bottom 3: July 2012

Moonrise Kingdom

Top 10

  1. Moonrise Kingdom
  2. Can, The Lost Tapes
  3. Louie
  4. The Six Million Dollar Man
  5. Vacation
  6. Diablo 3
  7. Reeder
  8. Strugatsky Brothers, Roadside Picnic
  9. Metalocalypse
  10. Angels!

Bottom 3

  1. Mitt Romney
  2. Republican donors
  3. Non billionaires who vote Republican

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Top 10/Bottom 3: January 2012

Der OTO

Top 10

  1. Halos Heaven (dreaming of a great 2012 season)
  2. Faust IV
  3. Doctor Who at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop (Vols 1-4)
  4. Kraftwerk, K4 Bremen Radio 1971
  5. Can, Tago Mago (reissue)
  6. BBC Sound Effects No. 26 – Sci-Fi Sound Effects
  7. Space 1999
  8. Vernor Vinge, The Children of the Sky
  9. The Hobbit (can’t wait, can’t wait, can’t wait)
  10. Der OTO

Bottom 3

  1. Voter Suppression Efforts by Republican governors in 2011
  2. Fox News
  3. All Republicans (whether running for office or running from the law)

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Top 10/Bottom 3: April 2011

Meeblip

Top 10

  1. Angels baseball is back!
  2. Burial’s Street Halo EP
  3. Rob Young’s Electric Eden
  4. Meeblip
  5. Firefox 4
  6. iPhone 4 (finally got my upgrade)
  7. Vashti Bunyan’s Just Another Diamond Day (how did I miss this one? Thanks, Rob Young!)
  8. Ancient Methods’ First Method
  9. Boomkat
  10. Mutek 2012 (because I might be able to go to that one!)

Bottom 3

  1. Republicans
  2. Republicans
  3. Republicans

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Random Thoughts

Mar 19 2011 Published by under Film/TV, Internet/Media, Music, Personal, Random, Sports, Technology

 

  • Finally got around to seeing The Social Network.  It’s an excellent film–well acted and directed and all that.  But what struck me most was how similar it was to The King’s Speech.  No, really.  Think about it: both are historical dramas featuring introverted main protagonists who struggle with communication in the technology age.  Yes, the historical eras of the two films are quite different (1930s vs. 2000s), and the communication mediums that focus on are different (radio vs. Internet).  Yes, King George is a nice guy who only becomes a jerk when his stutter gets the better of him, and Zukerberg is a jerk pretty much all the time. However, at their heart, both films are about technology and communication.  King George’s struggle is with technology–being able to deliver a speech on the radio without devolving into a stuttering wreck; Zuckerberg’s struggle is with actual human beings, and he overcomes this struggle through technology (creating a social tool that lets anyone communicate with anyone else).  These are different types of stories with different outcomes, but they are wrestling with the same basic themes.  As I see it, the real difference between the films is that, whereas King George actually learns to control his affliction and emerges triumphant in the end, Zuckerberg really doesn’t change at all from the beginning of the film to the end (that friend request to his ex-girlfriend doesn’t really count, I think–not enough of a change to warrant the audience’s admiration or respect).  That’s a big reason why The King’s Speech won the Oscar–happy ending vs jerk ending.
  • I’m using my iPad now more than I ever have.  It’s starting to fit better into my daily activities.  For the first 9 months that I owned it, I used it mostly when traveling and when in meetings at work.  Now, it’s the computer I keep with me when I’m watching TV or hanging out around town.  I watch Netflix on the iPad all the time.  The Google Readers on the iPad are excellent (I use River of News).  Twitter is easier to follow on the iPad.  I can read The Wire magazine on the iPad weeks before my print copy arrives.  And games, of course, are awesome on the iPad (I’ve been playing Plants vs Zombies lately, though I also like 10 Pin Shuffle).   The iPad is improving as a sports fan’s device of choice.  I love the MLB at Bat app, and that’s been on the device since it came out.  I’m going to cancel my DirecTV MLB subscription because I can watch all games on the iPad now.  But now there are other live sports apps for the NHL, the NFL, and MLS (along with the March Madness app).  Most of these require you to pay a little cash to watch the games, and I don’t pay for NFL or NHL, but I did get the MLS package ($40 for the whole season).  So, as a sports fan, the iPad is awesome.
  • The iPad’s not perfect, though.  I wish ESPN would open up ESPN3 to the iPad.  Also, Amazon should expand their Video on Demand to include the iPad as well.  And there are some crappy news apps like the BBC’s (though CNN’s is excellent).  And there are other problems, like the lack of cloud storage and document transfer integrated into the iPad (Dropbox is excellent, but you need to go through a few hoops to transfer files created on the iPad into Dropbox).  And there are other problems that others have discussed better than I.  Still, as a first-generation template for the future of computing (nope, I don’t have the iPad2 yet–and won’t get it for a while), the iPad is quite impressive, and it’ll only get more functional and flexible as the years go on.
  • UCLA lost their second-round March Madness game today against Florida.  UCLA was the #7 seed, and Florida was the #2 seed, so I can’t really be all that disappointed.  Still, they had plenty of chances to win, and their immaturity at the foul line and their inability to hit shots further than 2-feet from the basket pretty much doomed them.
  • SDSU barely won their 2nd game, but they won.  The majority of people where I work went to SDSU, so they’re all excited about their run.  I didn’t go to that school, so I don’t have any particular vested interest, but I always root for the west coast teams in tournaments, so I am happy they are moving on (and will play their next game in Anaheim, which should give them a nice home-state advantage).
  • I’m starting to understand Harry Partch, but I’m not completely there yet.  More on that later.
  • Recent music purchases: Sublevel’s Total Erosion, Trevor Duncan’s Final Frontiers, Indignant Senility’s Plays Wagner, and The Soulless Party’s Exploring Radio Space.  I’m in a hauntological/hypnagogical spiral.
  • Nearly done with my latest album.  I’ll be mastering it soon and distributing it via every online store I can find.  The working title is Riverrun, though that will most likely change.

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Inkbottle Podcast #3: Teddy Bear Brainfire

Feb 05 2011 Published by under Music, Personal, Random

Inkbottle Podcast #3: Teddy Bear Brainfire by Mheumann on Mixcloud

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Inkbottle Podcast #2: Tuvan Space Goddess

Jan 13 2011 Published by under Music, Personal, Random, Travel

Inkbottle Podcast #2: Tuvan Space Goddess by Mheumann on Mixcloud

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Top 10/Bottom 3: November 2010

Pye Corner

Top 10

  1. Pye Corner Audio Transcription Services, Black Mill Tapes Vol. 1
  2. Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert (for the rally that makes me hope that the US isn’t entirely filled with morons and suicide bombers)
  3. Darkstar, North
  4. The Walking Dead (awesome premiere–can’t wait for the rest)
  5. Candy
  6. Snorri Sturlson
  7. Shain Erin
  8. Everything released by Belbury Poly
  9. Kanye West’s 808s & Hearbreak (only hypnagogic pop anyone’s every actually heard of)
  10. Artificial Owl

Bottom 3

  1. Republicans
  2. The idiots who canceled Caprica
  3. The lack of campaign finance reform

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Children of the Stones

Oct 12 2010 Published by under Feature, Film/TV, Internet/Media, Literature, Music, Personal, Random

Children of the Stones

Derrida coined the term hauntology during a lecture at my alma mater, the University of California Riverside.  He used the term to suggest that the present only understands itself in and through the past (and that the future haunts the present in the same way).  It’s a term used here and there in philosophy and critical theory circles, but its main use is in the realm of music.  Initially, it was used in the 90s to describe trip hop and ambient music; then it was used to describe the Ghost Box label and the weird, unsettling British Information Films sound of The Advisory Circle and The Focus Group; more recently, it has been applied to any music that combines nostalgia and weirdness (like Boards of Canada, The Caretaker, Mordant Music, Moon Wiring Club, among others).  The concept has always had a decidedly English feel to it–to the point that The Wire magazine coined a different term, hypnagogic, to describe American music that shares some hauntological themes (like Emeralds, Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti, Pocahaunted, and so on). A lot of people absolutely hate these two terms for the same reason they hate all labels applied to music–because they deprive unique artists of their very uniqueness.  And I think that is true.  But I have a soft spot for hauntology for a few reasons.  First, I really like English weirdness (or really British weirdness–I’m part Scottish and part Welsh, so the Celtic is important to me), especially when it is coated with pagan sensibilities (which comes easily in the UK since it’s hard to throw a dead cat without hitting a henge or standing stone).  Second, labels have a way of giving attention to music that might otherwise be under-appreciated, and anything that gets more people to listen to Belbury Poly or William Basinski is a good thing in my book.  Finally and most importantly, hauntology (and my listening to and reading of anything connected to the concept) helped me rediscover something from my childhood that had been buried in the nether reaches of my unconscious for 20 years: Children of the Stones.

I have a vague, almost unreal sense of watching Children of the Stones in the early 80s.  Apparently, it was on Nickelodeon in the United States, but I don’t remember watching it on that channel.  In fact, I only have fleeting, fragmented memories of my original viewing.  I remember being disappointed that I only caught one or two episodes (the empty, unfulfilled sense of “what will happen next?” pervading my mind).  I remember being scared and a little creeped out, but I don’t know why.  I also remember my parents not liking the series because it seemed vaguely satanic (in their minds; they were quite religious).  The most significant memory, however, is of the standing stones (the show was filmed at Avebury).  I probably had no idea what a standing stone was back then, and I probably didn’t really care much.  But they left an impression of ancient mysteries that percolated in the back of my mind for many, many years, only to resurface when I actually went to England and Ireland and I suddenly realized how amazing and fascinating these stones really are.

So these memories were buried in my mind like a time capsule waiting to be opened at the right moment.  That moment came when I stumbled across a reference to the series in a hauntology-based article somewhere, which led to a quick YouTube search (followed by a trip to Amazon to buy the DVD).  The moment I heard the strange music of the opening, the memories came flooding back–the weirdness, the paganness, the surreality:

I’ve heard this music sampled in several different works by Mordant Music, Moon Wiring Club, and others (hell, I’ve used it too).  Honestly, I’m amazed that Trunk Records hasn’t released the OST for this series (they did The Tomorrow People, so why not this?).  The reverb-rich moaning voices, matched with the images of standing stones, bring a chill to my ears and eyes–and drive my wife crazy (she can’t stand the series).  It’s truly spooky music that is designed to frighten children, and while I was probably too old to be truly frightened by these sounds when I first heard them (I must have been 13-14), the true otherness of the music must have struck a chord. Added to this odd music was the very odd behavior of the people in the fictional village of Milbury (where the story is set).  The villagers are always happy and over-polite in a way that immediately raises red flags in the minds of the protagonist and his son (visitors to the town–the father played by none other than Roj Blake himself, Gareth Thomas).  These people were odd precisely because they were too normal, an impression that anyone who grew up in a suburb (like I did) can instantly identify with.  Add to this the fact that all the happy children in the town are (somehow) super geniuses at math, even smarter than the protagonist’s astrophysicists son who is otherwise quite bright, and it doesn’t take long for our heroes to sense trouble.  As the plot unfurls, we learn the source of the town’s happy normality, and I don’t want to give it away to anyone who hasn’t gone to YouTube to watch it, but suffice to say that the stones are involved (along with druids [for some reason–druids came long after the stones were erected, but whatever], psychic energy, ley lines, and black holes). Watching today, I am impressed by the acting in the series (especially Thomas, though the kids could use a few more lessons) and the intelligence of the show (they don’t dumb down kids programs in the UK the way they do in the US).  Really, though, what stands out is the nice way that the show manages to link the everyday strangeness of the people with the very extraordinary world of ancient Britain and the Avebury standing stones.  As a student (and teacher) of mythology, I really appreciate the emphasis that is placed on linking the past with the present.  As a music fan, I enjoy how the series uses sound to convey so many deep, dark, unsettling feelings–and I like the fact that the majority of the music is created using only human voices (reminiscent of Ligeti).  But I love the series mostly because it gives me a window into my own past, a past of a teenager who lived in a strange world of happy people and wondered why they were happy, what made them happy, and why wasn’t I happy too? And I think that’s what hauntology is all about–not so much celebrating all things weird and (mostly) British but exploring epiphanies of weirdness from the past in order to better understand what makes the world so damn weird to begin with. And perhaps the very Britishness of Children of the Stones helps me better understand my own fascination (or is it obsession?) with the UK: why my favorite TV shows are from the BBC, why my favorite musical artists are British, why my plans for vacations always begin in London, and why–especially why–I spent 12 years getting a PhD in English with a focus on 20th century British and Irish authors. To think: despite all that British stuff, I still ended up in a small desert town on the Mexican border.  Now that’s weird.

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Top 10/Bottom 3: October 2010

The Tomorrow People

Top 10

  1. The Tomorrow People (new discovery for me–cheesy British sci-fi from 70s with a BBC Radiophonic Workshop soundtrack.  Wow!)
  2. Found Objects & Between Channels (visual hauntology overload)
  3. Amiina’s Puzzle
  4. Broadcast & the Focus Group, Study Series 04: Familiar Shapes and Noises EP
  5. Belbury Poly, Farmer’s Angle (Revised Edition)
  6. Venture Bros. new season (going strong)
  7. UCLA football (big win vs Texas)
  8. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (just discovering this awesome show)
  9. D. D. Denham, Electronic Music in the Classroom
  10. Camel Audio’s Alchemy

Bottom 3

  1. Stupid colds preventing me from going to awesome soccer game
  2. 100 degree temperatures in October
  3. Republicans

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