My 33 1/3 book, on Aphex Twin's Selected Ambient Works Volume II, was the 5th bestselling book in the series in 2014. It's available at Amazon (including Kindle) and via your local bookstore. • F.A.Q.Key Tags: #saw2for33third, #sound-art, #classical, #juntoElsewhere: Twitter, SoundCloud, Instagram

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Digital Quiet

A year-end break from social media

Every year at the end of the year I take a break from social media, or at least I have done so in recent years, since social media successfully transitioned from a nice-to-have to an always-on. Each year I seem to begin these breaks a little earlier, and each year I also take additional breaks here and there.

I began my 2019 year-end break today, November 14, after posting the latest Disquiet Junto project. The main, perhaps sole, consequence I linger on regarding being off social media is it means I forsake opportunities, venues, to promote the work of all the amazing musicians who participate in the Disquiet Junto communal music projects each week. I feel a responsibility there. But members of the Junto, not all but many, are on social media in my absence, so it’s not like the Junto suddenly goes underground.

Question is: what does a break from social media mean in 2019? For me it means I won’t be on Facebook until at least January 1, 2020, and maybe not until January 6, 2020, the first Monday of the new year. Sure I’ll miss my friends on Facebook, but the main urge to visit Facebook has more to do with groups dedicated to music, music technology, and art that interests me, as well as announcements about arts events. I think I can manage for a month and a half.

As for Twitter, the return date would be the same as Facebook, but I may take a peek once in awhile, simply because there are a handful of feeds on Twitter that are, in essence, broadcast channels I can’t find anywhere else. I’ll read, but I won’t post. (These services don’t seem to support automated out-of-office replies in their direct-messages, and I do worry about leaving people hanging unintentionally.)

Which leaves Instagram, which in relative terms is functionally more about consumption than conversing (a contrast I was discussing with a friend today over lunch), but was considered social media even before Facebook absorbed it, so it gets included. I may continue to post the “cover” images from the weekly Disquiet Junto projects on Instagram, but I won’t be posting doorbells or anything else.

Anyhow, that’s my social-media break, my entry into the digital quiet. I won’t be offline, not by a long shot. I’ll keep posting here (it’s just a month until December 13, which will mark the 23rd anniversary of, and I’ll check in on various online communities where I participate. Where those communities end and social media begins is something I think about a lot. Not being on social media means I’ll have more time to think about it.

There’s something distinctly calming about turning off those proverbial social-media lights. Just in the few hours since I pinned an announcement to Twitter and noted my silence on Facebook, my world feels like it has grown cozier, slower, more reflective, all good things in my book.

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Lindelof’s Forge

A sonic moment

On a totally separate note, while watching Watchmen last night I wondered, What if Damon Lindelof wrote a comic? And then remembered he had: the six-issue series Ultimate Wolverine vs. Hulk, illustrated by Leinil Francis Yu. Didn’t find much that would provide insight into the Watchmen adaptation, but did come across this sonic sequence.

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Looking for the Comic in Watchmen

Can TV be as structurally rigid as the original comic?

I caught up with the Watchmen series on HBO last night, episode three. Easter eggs and character references aside, it remains very much a Damon Lindelof creation, which is to say, like Lost and The Leftovers, it’s very much in the early-stage process of flooding the screen with mysteries that will, over time, be sorted out, presumably.

I’m old enough that I read the original Watchmen, written by Alan Moore, when it first came out. That 12-issue series was, combined contemporaneously with The Dark Knight Returns (written by Frank Miller), the comic that got me back into reading comics during college, after I took a break from them toward then end of high school. What really captured my imagination in Watchmen the comic wasn’t just the story, or the critique of superheroes, or the meta-narrative, but the structure on the page. Its famously rigid grid and the use of visual motifs, most notably the blood-specked smiley face, gave it a formal self-consciousness unlike any comic I recall having read before. By the time I read Watchmen, I had ditched computer science as my college major and focused on English, which is to say literature. Watchmen was a playground for a mind currently being trained to observe how texts function.

I came to the Lindelof sequel (extrapolation? spin-off? fork?) wondering how that formal quality would carry over. The HBO series has story, and critique, and meta in spades. The structural features, however, haven’t been anywhere near as present as they were in the comic. Sure, the first episode had lots of circles (reminiscent of the smiley-face pin), and the third episode connected the shape of a certain Dr. Manhattan device with the shape of vestibules that people enter so as to send messages to Dr. Manhattan (in other words, insertion goes both ways). But the show is, ultimately, a TV show. It hasn’t in any way reduced or simplified its storytelling devices the way the original comic did. If anything, it draws fully from the peak-TV toolkit: big name casts, movie-grade camerawork, an utter dismissal anything episodic.

All this was on my mind last night as the episode (“She Was Killed by Space Junk”) played. The world outside my window got darker, and the street quieter, and thus the show louder. I lowered its volume, and eventually turned on the captions. Which is when quite suddenly, Watchmen, for the first time, really reminded me of a comic book:

I was already a bit soured on the extent to which the series is, in any way, wrestling with the formal qualities of the original comic (credit shared by Dave Gibbons, its illustrator). Now I wonder how the show might, creatively, engage with captioning, not merely as a point of connection with comic-book techniques, but as a relatively untapped element of TV narratives. I feel like if Alan Moore (long story, yeah, never happening), or Denis Potter (well, dead), or Terence Davies (OK, it’d be a little slow for the intended audience, but I’d love it), or Jane Campion (aside: just imagine the Michael Nyman score), or Peter Greenaway (ditto) were tasked with adapting Watchmen for TV, captions would have been embraced before the first meeting of the writers room broke for lunch.

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The Wireless League

From the BBC's back pages

Down the literary rabbit hole that was that Mary-Kay Wilmers (London Review of Books) profile in the New York Times, I found this logo to what is both a long-ago BBC print publication, and a superhero team-up I’d love to read (the Wireless League!).

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The First Button

Of many, at Perfect Circuit in Burbank

In Los Angeles for the long weekend on a project, I finally had a chance to visit Perfect Circuit for the first time. Perfect Circuit is one of the best synthesizer (and related) retail outfits in America, with superior mail-order service, excellent videos (on YouTube, where they blessedly employ limited voiceovers, letting the music do the talking), and most importantly a wide-ranging and deep stock of equipment (plus books and other merchandise). Much of that equipment is on view and available for fiddling with inside the nondescript corner storefront operation (which doubles as a warehouse) in Burbank. There are large table tops loaded with gadgets, a small wall of effects pedals, and several massive (well, massive to me with my modest little rig) modular-synth setups. And that’s just the main room. There’s a smaller secondary room of equipment, and another room dedicated to vinyl releases. The place is also deceptively quiet, because everyone walks around with a pair of headphones, jacks in, and plays.

But before you get to turn any of those knobs, or slide any of those faders, or push any of those buttons, there is a more important button you need to push: The door to Perfect Circuit is locked during business hours. There’s a doorbell out front that you need to press. And for all the noise you may generate once you’ve entered, the single sweetest sequence of sounds you are likely to experience during your visit is the combination of that doorbell registering your presence, followed by the click of the door when it is unlocked.

(Side note: If you’re in the area, the carnitas at Taqueria El Tapatio on W Victory Blvd are smoky and delicious.)

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