Miskatonic University Press

LACUNY talk on Turning Data Into Art

art conferences dentographs listening.to.art.

Yesterday I was very happy to give a short talk at the LACUNY Institute 2020/2021: Turning Data Into Art. My thanks to everyone on the organizing committee for letting me do it.

In the my session the talk before me was by Jennifer McGillan (Mississippi State University) called “Archivists in Lockdown: When Your Research is Your Self-Care,” which was about her pandemic project of working through a book of award-winning recipes using Heinz ketchup, published by Heinz in 1957. She’d also done research searching through old newspapers to find out about the contest and the award-winners. The talk after was by Dawn Wing: “Let’s Talk Comics, Let’s Talk Research.” She’s an artist who does comics and graphic novels, and she talked about how she uses them in her library work and about a biographical project she’s done. They were great company for my talk. We’re all taking things from our library and archives work and transforming them into something new.

I also want to point out the two great examples of performance librarianship that I saw, as mentioned in my talk. It’s wonderful to see so many people using their work and experience in libraries and archives as a starting point for creative art and performance.

Listening to Art volume 8 complete

listening.to.art rudy.rucker

Today I published Listening to Art volume eight number twelve: Rudy Rucker, Red Scribble. (Rucker’s blog is worth browsing if you’re new to him.)

Screenshot of this issue
Screenshot of this issue

That’s ninety-six issues published over four years. On 15 May I’ll start volume nine. Fate willing, one day I’ll be able to get back into galleries to do some fresh recordings. Meanwhile I’m pulling from my archive and making some recordings that meet my local movement restrictions.

Framework 750


Framework Radio has reached episode 750! It’s an incredible radio show and podcast. Host and producer Patrick McGinley has been running it since 2002, and the sound and music he’s collected and edited over the years has become a remarkable body of work.

Framework 750 screenshot
Framework 750 screenshot

“Framework is a show consecrated to field-recording, and its use in composition. Field-recording, phonography, the art of sound-hunting; open your ears and listen!”

Listen to a couple of recent episodes (preferable with headphones), and if it’s at all your kind of thing, subscribe and listen every week. (Then consider supporting it.)

Compose key


I’m probably years behind everyone else on this, but I just learned about the compose key.

I’d always wondered how other people who used the Latin alphabet—French-speakers in Canada, even—were able to write accented characters like à or é, not to mention people further abroad who needed the Icelandic þ or Turkish Ş. European keyboards have different keys on them, but did people with American keyboards always copy and paste from somewhere else? In Emacs I use the Ivy, Swiper and Counsel package that lets me use counsel-unicode-char (bound to C-c 8) to search for any Unicode character, and C-x 8 RET is a built-in command that does the same. But I don’t want to copy characters from a temporary Emacs buffer into a web browser.

Happily, on Unix systems it’s easy to get this going. On my Ubuntu machine, Gnome-tweaks lets me set up a compose key. I made it [Right-Alt], which I never use. Now I can hit [Right-Alt] o c to get © and similar combinations to get many other combined characters.

I am now able to use proper em—and en!—dashes in my emails, and when I put in footnotes with URLs I can use ¹ and ² instead of bulky old [1] and [2].

CBC Radio's Nero Wolfe series

radio rex.stout

Ever since I started reading Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe mysteries I’ve wanted to hear the 1982 CBC Radio series of hour-long dramatizations starring Mavor Moore as Wolfe and Don Francks as Archie Goodwin. (Moore, I should add, was a member of the Arts and Letters Club of Toronto.)

Mavor Moore and Don Francks
Mavor Moore and Don Francks

The New Adventures of Nero Wolfe from the 1950s is at the Internet Archive but even though it stars Sydney Greenstreet I don’t like the approach they took with the scripts (which were all new stories done in half an hour). There are no episodes of the CBC series there so I’d give up hope of hearing it.

Then I discovered that the whole series was uploaded to YouTube! Here’s the first episode: Disguise for Murder. The rest are easily findable, either in the sidebar or by searching for “cbc nero wolfe.”

I wanted to download them all, and for the sake of future me I’ll document what I did, with youtube-dl to download and then ffmpeg to convert to MP3 (with a tip from Stack Overflow; I find ffmpeg cryptic). There’s probably a better way, but this works.

$ youtube-dl --extract-audio https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZDCWWH1yYmQ
$ ffmpeg -i "Nero Wolfe CBC - Disguise for Murder - January 16, 1982-ZDCWWH1yYmQ.m4a" -q:a 0 -map a "01 Disguise for Murder.mp3"

I did this for all thirteen, then edited the metdata with EasyTag.

RMS back at the FSF

code4lib emacs

I became an associate member of the Free Software Foundation about six years ago and gave it a monthly donation to support its work. It was founded by Richard Stallman (known as RMS), who among other achievements created Emacs in the 1970s. I use it every day.

In September 2019 RMS made offensive comments connected to Jeffrey Epstein and donations to MIT (see MIT scientist resigns over emails discussing academic linked to Epstein in the Guardian for some details). Like many others, I told the FSF I would stop my donations if RMS didn’t leave. I got a quick response—the same day the whole thing happened, I think—saying he was gone. Good. I continued my donations. I understood people were working to improve the environment at the FSF, but didn’t know any details.

On Sunday at the Libre Planet 2021 conference there was a surprise announcement from RMS that he was back on the FSF board. (“No LibrePlanet organizers (staff or volunteer), speakers, award winners, exhibitors, or sponsors were made aware of Richard Stallman’s announcement until it was public,” tweeted @fsf.) I was amazed and appalled. It’s unbelievable the board did this and, once it was done, that the FSF handled it so badly.

I emailed the FSF to cancel my monthly donation immediately. I haven’t heard back yet. I imagine the poor staff are overwhelmed. Even if RMS is kicked off yet again, the only way I might possibly one day support the FSF is if its governance is completely overhauled.

Today I signed the open letter demanding the entire FSF board resign. I see some people I know on the list, and I hope others will join.

Tomorrow I’ll start donating to the Software Freedom Conservancy.

Best radio comedies


The five best, imhoe:

I need to go back and revisit The Goon Show (BBC 1951–1960) to compare. Other suggestions welcome.

GNU Terry Prachett


Six years since Terry Pratchett died. GNU Terry Pratchett is still in the headers for all requests to this web site.

$ curl -I https://www.miskatonic.org/
HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Date: Fri, 12 Mar 2021 22:17:54 GMT
Server: Apache
Last-Modified: Thu, 11 Mar 2021 01:39:28 GMT
ETag: "935a-5bd38dab6331c"
Accept-Ranges: bytes
Content-Length: 37722
Strict-Transport-Security: max-age=10886400; includeSubDomains; preload
X-Clacks-Overhead: GNU Terry Pratchett
X-Frame-Options: DENY
Content-Type: text/html

James Atlee Phillips

literature wikipedia

I was reading The Death Bird Contract, one of the Joe Gall spy novels by Philip Atlee, and discovered that the author, whose real name was James Atlee Phillips, had no Wikipedia entry, so I created James Atlee Phillips. I cite a New York Times obit that a little research reveals has mistakes.

I didn’t finish the book. Compared to Donald Hamilton’s excellent Matt Helm series it was racist, lurid and overwrought.

Among other pages I created I see Joan Bodger is doing well, and David Partridge better, but the one that turned out the best is for the great New Orleans brass band The Soul Rebels.

Sonic Pi Vexations

erik.satie music sonic.pi

I’ve released an album on Bandcamp: Sonic Pi Vexations. It’s Erik Satie’s Vexations performed on Sonic Pi. Name your own price.

Album cover
Album cover

The music is CC BY and the included code is GPL v3.

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