Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Once again, a published author (somehow).

The infamous Stasi smell-jars.
I'm very pleased to announce that I have a piece coming out in Volume III of THE STATE, due to be released on the 12th of December, 2012 at the Kochi-Muziris Biennale in Kochi, India. Each issue has a different theme, and this issue is all about "the Social Olfactory;" 

My piece is called "Under the Iron Snout: A First Take on Olfactory Imperialism," and I promise it will include "Drug-sniffing dogs, fermented fish and mosquito repellent in Vietnam, the Stasi’s smell archives, People Sniffing, and strategies to survive smellveillance."

Investigate! Buy a copy! Tell your local artsy/intellectual/radical bookstore to start carrying THE STATE.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

If you ask it...

So, there was the time I wrote a question on Quora, and it blew up the whole internet, getting onto io9 and Boingboing:

It was instant bait for being spread around. All the ingredients were there: a shareable form, an instantly thought-provoking juxtaposition, the combination of military tactics and Disney. But it was a far different matter to see it take off as it did. By now over 60,000 people have viewed the question on Quora. Far more have likely thought about it via another site.

Based on the response, I hereby propose a new RULE OF THE INTERNET:

Rule 77: The more specific and/or absurd a request is, the more likely it is to receive expert assistance.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


  [Post peak oil resilient communities]

+ [low-energy computing]

+ [internet of things]

+ [adaptation of past technologies]



Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Blast from Future Past: Rock Blastaar and the Radio Rangers

I finally got around to uploading Rock Blastaar and the Radio Rangers to Soundcloud. It was created in 2007 as part of WPRB's inaugural membership drive. We were hesitant about the classic PBS/NPR gambit of what I jokingly referred to as "holding the music hostage," but not sure how to express it in a way that affirmed what we felt WPRB was about. Late one Friday night after my show we started recording silly promos for the upcoming drive, and hit on the notion that Dr. Cosmo had actually taken the music hostage, in classic supervillain form. From there it was snapping on the lego pieces of the collective sci-fi unconscious, with some clear influence from the Firesign Theater.

It was an interesting, if consciously anachronistic project: create seven serial episodes over the course of the weeklong membership drive, culminating with a live and in-person finale sunday night. It was a mighty (and perhaps foolhardy) undertaking, but it the first creative project I came to that was really my own. I went after it with passion, writing, recording, and editing the episodes in fairly rapid succession. As the week wore on and I ran on less and less sleep, and thankfully had the much-needed help of Zoe Saunders and my brother Brendan Flynn writing the scripts to the last few episodes. It also gave me an in-depth understanding of the pace and demands of writing radio plays on a regular basis, which proved exceedingly useful in my senior thesis, an analysis of the 1938 "War of the Worlds" broadcast and its role in the burgeoning field of communications research.

Alex Basile and I also developed a sequel in 2009. We concepted it in Princeton that summer, but I actually recorded most of my lines in Cambodia and sent to him to stitch into the finished whole. Thomas Friedman may be kind of foolish, but the world is a lot flatter than it used to be.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Gothama: a game of non-attachment

The last weekend of January is quickly becoming a sort of annual holiday for me. It certainly involves sitting around and eating a lot, but that's not the focus. No, dear friends, the last weekend in January is the time of the Global Game Jam.

Sanctioned by the International Game Developers Association, the Game Jam is a mad dash to make a working game (usually, but not always, a video game) in 48 hours. Teams assemble on the spot based on appropriate balances of skills and abilities. Last year, I was sort of the utility infielder (writing, audio, and miscellaneous inspiration) of a team that already had an experienced game designer, but this year I ended up taking on the role. For someone who has read a ton about games, but not actually made many, this was tremendously exciting.

The theme for the year was an image of ourobouros, the snake that eats its tail. To me, it brought up associations of eternal recurrence, death, and rebirth. That brought me to the buddhist notion of Saṃsāra, and the suffering associated with endless fruitless repetitions of the cycles.

Which, in the context of video-gaming, instantly took me to thinking about stupidly-hard games of the NES era.

 These were games that forced the player to memorize complex geometric patterns and punished them for a single infraction. These were games that decided that the best way to increase replayability was to tell players after the final battle that their entire first run of the game was "a trap devised by Satan" and force them to play it over again at an even more difficult level. These were games where your entire motivation for risking virtual life and limb was proving that you were a bad enough dude to rescue the president. They may have had different surface trappings, but ultimately they were games about suffering.

Gothama was thus a loving tribute and a philosophical critique of classic 2D platform gaming. It is at its highest level a stoic/buddhist/vedic-inspired critique of the ‘little pleasures’ of videogaming: the jingle of coins, a satisfying stomp, a well-timed dash and jump. We relish the shot of dopamine we get, the ability to feel greater than ourselves, but to what extent do they lead us to towards the short-term and ephemeral rather than our greatest good? Gothama makes uses of the tropes of the genre to make a point about non-attachment.

What point, you ask? Well, I suppose you'll have to play it to find out.
Click here to download the special edition of Gothama.