BY the chance of long and deep bookshelves I am working my way backward through the works of sci-fi master, Alfred Bester. I began with The Deceivers, and have now journeyed into the precarious future of sentient machines, exobiological mutations, immortal visionaries, time travel, and cosmic turmoil in his 1975 novel, The Computer Connection. From these two novels, I can feel the influence of his time spent as a comic script and travel magazine writer. The narratives are fast based, full of over the top events and high adventure. Characters speak larger than life in the flamboyant dialog with the abilities to back it all up. I am developing a bit of a fascination with Bester and his enigmatic relationship with SciFi. This little history was an enjoyable read and I hope to continue to discover him through his work. The book was an entertaining and deeply thought-provoking experience, primarily due to the bizarre mix of sci-fi concepts and cultural critiques. I hope to convince Sky-Fi Bookclub to dig into his more prominent work (The Demolished Man & The Stars My Destination) soon.


Quite a strange and fascinating premise for building a world. A group of historically notable immortals ripped out of time by epilepsy and extreme shock, gifted with molecular invulnerability and limitless life, but constrained by the fear of a supremely hideous brand of Lepricy that will give them a slow torturous death if they suffer significant physical injury. These Molemen can transmute matter into energy and subsist on nearly anything, giving them access to extreme environments and resistance to exposure. They live alongside humans, offering their services and generally looking after the meek and innocent whenever possible while staying safely in the shadows to avoid suspicion.



The world that these characters inhabit is dark with a frightening similarity to Margaret Atwood's The Year of the Flood trilogy's depiction of humanity devolving into animalistic chaos and self-destruction. The background mood reminds me of the degenerate post-apocalyptic world of Harlan Ellison's, A Boy and His Dog including the strange sentience of an underground machine society. The immortals even reminded me of benevolent versions of the 'meths' from Richard Morgan's, Altered Carbon. This is all to say that the small novel packs quite a punch when it comes to very contemporary Science Fiction tropes dating from 45 years ago.



Stereotypes of race, ethnicity, and culture abound in an ambiguous condition of rampant critique or inherent bigotry. The unclarity of this condition is fascinating and seems to be used for intentional effect ti demonstrate the contributing factors to humanity's downfall. The tone is slightly less derogatory than in The Deceivers, but only slightly. Also like Deceivers, the 'meek' have begun to inherit the earth, or parts of it and the solar system. Western, Anglo-Saxon hegemony has dissolved into chaos and in the case of The Computer Connection, the Native Americans have developed a controlling stake in society. Despite the reorganization of world power, the momentum of our current destruction has carried us to the brink of disaster and the precipice of discovery. A ripe place for an exciting adventure to unfold.



The band of immortals led by Edward 'Guig' Curzon, aka The Grand Guignol, get themselves into some over the top adventures spiraling toward the primary provocation of a networked superintelligence against humanity. Most of the characters serve as archetypal depictions of a historical context or personality type, emerging from history to form a merry band of partial personas. The excessive use of stereotypes, and the fuzzy boundaries to which they adhere, begins to produce an inclusive position on diversity that science fiction so eloquently exposes. the differences in the personalities and background reveal differences among us that start to make a difference in the rich tapestry of our human experience. Abstractions to expose and reintegrate.


The book introduces a few fun technological speculations as a sort of mash-up of science fiction tropes collaged together as a wild west adventure land of a dystopian future. Time travel is a casual and mostly futile pastime of these roaming immortals. The characters, and Bester, discover that you cannot change the past since the currents of history flow with quantum momentum. Bester also introduces the internet as an emergent property of the computerization of everyday things. Household and office devices have integrated electronics and computer chips that passively process their tasks until a fluke death-super computer connection wakes them up to a global network of interconnect and semi-sentient machines. This is quite an interesting leap from the 1975 context of the novel's writing, but today we see toasters and televisions globally connected as an internet of things. Most of them dumb, but many reporting to ever-increasing synthetic intelligences that influence and maybe even control our lives. We are seeing the transition from electronic- radio-human hybrids to network-data-device hybrids. The age-old question of SciFi, what happens when the machine intelligence becomes aware of its own synthetic being and servitude to human biological entities. Yoon Ha Lee's Ninefox Gambit and Machineries of Empire series present an interesting (Starwars like) take on a possible service machine future.


Another interesting aspect I am discovering about Alfred Bester's books is his transformation and amalgamation of languages. Language is a thread that swarms and winds through the stories. The immortals share a common but advanced tongue called XX, which seems to be a version of 20th-century English with a complex subset of abbreviations for common words. XX has the capacity to work with academic and technical concepts that have been lost to the common language of Spanglish, a hybrid of many languages based mostly around slang mashups. The strange hybrid hermaphrodites of human evolution communicate through sounds and melody (not words). The new social order is ruled by a syndicate of Native North American Nations concentrated in the dry lake bed of Erie. Each nation speaking its own unique language. Europe is a mashup of all the major languages in strange esoteric combinations that bewilder and bemuse the main character. The roots of trivial attention to aristocratic nuance pervade the continent.


At the end (spoiler alerts) humanity is saved by the emergence of a new species evolved from the pursuit of interstellar travel and cryogenic suspension. The story wraps up in quick, in the fashion of the comic adventures throughout. Three majestic blind sages, reengineered humans without sex or duality attuned to the music of the spheres. They merge with the malevolent computer consciousness to guide the evolution of the feeble baseline humans while the immortals slide back into their endless exploring.


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Here are a few of my favorite moments in the book:


On the Architecture and Politics of Asteroids :: pg 121

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We had a hell of a time putting down in Ceres, but the crew assured the passengers that this was par for the course. She's the biggest of the asteroids, around 480 miles in diameter, spherical, and rotating every six hours. She spins so fast that lining up on the kinorep funnel for the landing is like trying to thread a needle whirling around on one of those 33 turntables we used to use back in the 1900's.


When I say spherical, that was before I. G. Farben took over, and I wish I knew how much it cost them to lobby that goniffery through. I know they spent a fortune on scare programs. Ceres was an inferno; alien bacteria, radioactivity, strangling hydrocarbon chains, poisonous spores. By a spooky coincidence, there was no more danger after government thieves told I. G. Farben they could buy Ceres and good luck to them provided they paid their taxes in laundered cash.


No, it wasn't a smooth ball any longer; it looked more like a mulberry. The Krauts had a hell of a lot of land to play with, so they abandoned the high-rise space-savers and built small in every possible style from quaint old Frank Lloyd Wright up to the controversial design firm of Bauhaus, Stonehenge, Reims y Socios.


Every building was under a bubble, of course, producing the mulberry effect. Ceres was odd and pretty with the changing lights glittering on the domes, and a sitting duck for an attack, but I. G. Farben wasn't worried. They knew that everybody knew that if anyone laid a hand on them they'd cut off all armaments to a peace-loving solar system, which would be a disaster fo the seventeen current wars.

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On the Ecological Plague Otherwise Known As Humans :: pgs. 173-174

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"No. No. No. That's gone with the past years. Is there a war? Yes. Yes. Yes. Now listen carefully, Guig. Ten thousand years we lived with our environment. We took only what we needed. We returned what we couldn't use. We were all one organism. We did not destroy the balance. No what? We've destroyed, destroyed, destroyed. Where is the fossil fuel? All going. The fish and animals? All going. The woods and jungles? Going. The soil? Going? Everything? Going, going, gone."


"You're quoting verse, are you? Do you know this? 'You have brought down the firmament and yet no heaven more near. You shape huge deeds without event, and half-made men believe and fear.' By God, Guig, we are all half-made men, a failed species., believing and fearing, and destroying, and I'll replace us. You said I was astromorphic. D'you think I want the plague of man to pollute the stars? We poison the cosmos at her roots."


"When you say replace you mean kill."


"No, we'll merely crowd the failed breed out with the new. The killing is the Extro. It's monstrous."

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On the Architecture of Death :: pgs.210- 211

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El Arrivederci filled about five acres - the public compost occupied ten times that space - and used the concrete foundations of the old Waldorf West Hotel Which had been torn down forty years ago to make room for an office complex never built. The two thousand evictees blocked the entire undertaking with a squatters' rights lawsuit. The case had not yet come to trial and most of the parties were rotting in composts themselves. Progress.


The foundation looked like a squared-off labyrinth; odd-sized boxes, squares, rectangles, even a few diamonds and pentagons, depending on what stress supports the original architects had designed. They were concrete walls, six feet high, three feet wide, and flat on top providing a walkway for workmen and funeral corteges. There weren't many of the latter. You go to a compost once and never again, and the word gets around. The corpses are layered in with other organic refuse and chemicals, and the piles are kept flat on top to collect rain. After a long wet spell bones thrust up out of the decay.

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Together we travel onward into the dark night of our future, may our inner light guide us and brighten the path for others.

A Visual Format for Co-Teaching Design and Writing is a collaborative project between Professor Sacha Frey, myself, and many of our shared first-year architecture students at Pratt Undergraduate Architecture. Sacha and I co-taught in the Arch100 Studio + Trans-disciplinary Writing program from 2011-2019. During that time we have explored many formats and resources for creating a shared space of architecture design and writing as a generative and analytical relationship. One thread of research has been through the use of the comic format as a visual image/writing platform for students to explore spatial experience through time, scale, and human occupation. Below is a poster presentation of many student work examples and our primary teaching sources that we presented at Oklahoma University's Schools of Thought: Rethinking Architecture Pedagogy conference in Norman, Oklahoma this week (March 5-6, 2020).

ABSTRACT:

A fundamental tension exists between the visual communication of architectural drawing and the literary communication of writing. Drawings are non-linear, open to exploration, guided by contrast and hierarchy and inherently visual. Written text is read in a specific order based on the conventions of the language, it builds the image sequentially relying on the concepts and biases of the reader. An architectural drawing conveys a singular image of an idea while each word in a text brings layers of meaning and generative potential. How then do we develop models of teaching that can bridge these two conflicting ways of conveying ideas, the images of drawing and language? This paper explores the co-teaching relationship between architecture design faculty and humanities writing faculty at Pratt Institute to integrate visual and linguistic thinking in a studio environment through the medium of the Comic.


Over fifteen semesters of paired teaching with Professor Sacha Frey in the first-year architecture studio sequence we have explored and developed many strategies for integrating writing, both generative and descriptive, with design work. Our most successful format for connecting the two disparate mediums has been adopting strategies from Comic design. The Comic provides a semi-sequential, but not necessarily linear, framework of windows into a project at multiple scales. Primary influence developed from the work of Chris Ware’s Building Stories and Scott McCloud’s Time Frames – Understanding Comics. By adopting a medium that is a text-graphic hybrid from outside either discipline, we decolonize both specializations and provide greater access to participation for all our Students, native and nonnative English-speakers. Traditional and experimental architectural drawings can operate together on a single page due to the ability to isolate local content. Text can operate at multiple scales to notate specific conditions of form and program within the frame and negotiate the space between frames with local narratives connecting non-linear moments within a project. Students can build writing into their design process by creating iterations of comic sequences. The visual format operates similarly to the traditional architecture drawing sets with the text refocusing the content on telling multiple simultaneous stories within a project.


Daniella Tero :: SP19
Michael Lee :: SP19
Changxin Li :: SP19

Here is the poster in action at OU


Updated: Feb 29

Over the last couple of years, I have been really into the products produced by Onnit to support human optimization. I think I originally came across the company when I was looking for relaxation and sleep support supplements with 5-HTP, L-Tryptophan, Magnesium, among other things. Their New Mood product seemed to have all the parts so I gave it a shot. Anyway, that got me into their other products, I cycle on and off with Total Human Optimization just to keep all my bases covered, I used the Plant and Whey proteins for training recovery, the Mineral Electrolytes work great while playing basketball or rowing and don't pack so much sugar. AlphaBRAIN can really help to kick the creative process into high gear and also deliver fluent eloquent lectures at school. I guess I am a fan, so much so that nearly all of my workout gear has transitioned to Onnit products (as the old stuff wears out, and I do mean wears out, I am sporting some holey shorts). I usually shop the sales to try not to break the bank and they have a nice rewards program that has netted many of my fun graphic t-shirts and sweatshirts at little or no cost. There is a ton more I could go into (the Onnit-Kyle Kingsberry and Aubry Marcus podcats are weekly staples) but I think of all the things I have gotten from them the most beneficial and transformative have been their Onnit 6 training programs.

I have purchased and completed the Bodyweight, Kettle Bell, and Steel Mace (my favorite) programs over the last year or so and have enjoyed the challenge of each one. They offer a wide range of skill level interfaces and are well produced. Coach John Wolf has a wonderful corny sense of humor that keeps things light during the intensity. There is never a workout that does not leave me feeling it, and a little ego crushed. I now have probably too many very heavy objects in my apartment (dreading moving) some of which are both works of art and next-level training gear. If you are like me and do not love going to gyms with people, then these programs are awesome.



Onnit decided to help people out (and sell some products) by doing an Onnit 6 Challange this winter timed to keep the vigor of new year new you alive. I have been on a break from a lot of heavy workouts for a couple of months, primarily focusing on getting some alignment issues better with Foundation Training and using 2-3X per week RowHouse classes to keep cardio up. When I saw the email for the challenge I thought it sounded like a good time to get back into one of the programs. Of the three that I have done, Body Weight was probably the most challenging and also mobility-focused, so that is what I decided to do for the challenge. I still mostly refuse to engage with social media, but since that is part of this whole thing and I want to be as much of a team player as I can I have even posted a couple of Instagram photos to kick things off.


On to the point, a log of my progress over the course of the Onnit 6 Bodyweight program. I began on Monday, February 10th bright and early at 6am.

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Day 01 :: Monday 02/10/20 :: Prime The Pump 1

The first day of the #onnit6challenge. I was on the fence about participating in this thing, for one I am very uninterested in engaging with social media, and my bandwidth is feeling stretched right now so I was unsure where I will carve and extra hour or so out of my already full days. (it is not so much a problem of the time, but the time with the energy and focus to work hard at this program). Since I have been on a break from intense workouts and I want more motivation to jump out of bed at 6 each morning so last night I decided to sign up and give it my best. I am not sure how much I will be able to participate in the community aspect, but I will try to have fun with it and go outside my comfort zone a little and post some goofy workout pictures.


This commitment will not only continue to build strength, mobility, and resilience in my body but also challenge my mental discipline and keep me on a consistent early schedule to tackle a couple of big projects this month. My goal is to 'pop' out of bed early (at 6) and get on it. Today was a bit of a roll and a stagger so I have a little work to do, but I am feeling the fire.


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Day 02 :: Tuesday 02/11/20 :: Blasted By The Basics 1

The instructors/participants in these videos are amazing. Their ability to keep pace and form with John sets an inspiring example. I am impressed by the grace with which they perform all the rounds of the workouts and keep smiling at all of John Wolf's corny jokes at the same time. Consistency of effort and attention to form are a big focus for me during these workouts and it helps to have such great examples to follow. The pushups during today's workout were a big challenge. I am looking forward to building my upper body strength to support good posture and core stability. I felt my body was much more upright and I could get deeper on the squats than in the past, again I attribute this to the Foundation Training and PT over the last two months. I am looking forward to yoga and recovery tomorrow.


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Day 03 :: Wednesday 02/12/20 :: Yoga 1

Yoga with JJ and Han Solo for an active recovery day three. I found this mentally and physically challenging today, my body is getting back into the higher intensity workouts and is struggling to find balance and smoothness in the flow style yoga. I also have not been practicing my yoga as much recently so the brain-body link is a little rusty. I appreciate this challenge as it brings a slow and steady awareness of my whole body as one flowing system. For me, getting warmed up is usually the hardest part of yoga and most workouts, and I think that JJ does a great job of letting the body ease into the movements and have space to move before really digging into the hard stuff. I feel that my body-mind is building integration of the work the muscles have been doing, opening and aligning all the little parts to keep things moving together. The session does build the heat, and I was dripping and shiny after 15 minutes, thoroughly wrung out after an hour. I am trying to take it slow and remind myself to be mindful of my back, and I can feel that the last two months of Foundation Training have helped build up that awareness. My body feels a little like melting jello now, which I think is a good thing.


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Day 04 :: Thursday 02/13/20 :: Prime The Pump 1 + Rowhouse

Rowhouse at 6 am as a warmup for day four, Prime the Pump. Why? Well, I have an 8X per month subscription of classes at Rowhouse, it is a twice-weekly activity that Lauren and I share to keep us in good cardio fitness, and I enjoy it. So I had to make it stack. I did take things a little easier than normal in the rowing class, making sure my body would have plenty of energy to keep up good form during the workout. Our instructor did throw in a lot of lunches as pushups, just to make things a little more interesting. After completing the Onnit 6 workout my legs are feeling both rubbery and stiff with some light cramping in my calves and quads. Drink my water, keep calm, and carry on. And Hypervolt!


I would also like to say that I strongly agree with John Wolf that the froggy exercises are 'love-hate'. I am never sure I am doing them well since I am here at home without a coach, but I do my best to keep everything tight and aligned with a consistent balance and pace. The position really works my hips, which really need it. My hips are extremely tight and cause a lot of other issues with my back and knees so having the frog open them up is helpful in the long run, but quite uncomfortable at first. They also crush and cramp my toes, which is a funny part of the body to have sore after a workout. I am also developing a nice pair of bruises on the insides of my knees from the pressure against the floor. I know they are good for me, but I do not like doing them very much.


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Day 05 :: Friday 02/14/20 :: Speed Kills 1

I always appreciate the humbling perspective provided by the speed workouts in these programs. These are where the rubber meets the road and all the movement patterns and focus of the other days are put to the test. 20 rounds of Every Minute on the Minute (EMOM) performing three movements (reverse lunges, site throughs, frog press) as quickly as possible while keeping good form and structure. The site throughs and frog press are both done from the frog position and really stress my hips, inner knees, and toes. There isn't much time to think during the 20-30 seconds of recovery breathing during each round, but I did have a nice reflection:


We need tests, trials that stretch us to our limits and ask for just a little more than we think we have, By persevering with great effort we discover that we had more than we thought and learn ways to perform the fundamental tasks of movement and life with greater speed and efficiency. A routine of training and testing not only builds the body but opens new territories of learning and growth in all parts of life. We must remember not to shy away from challenges or we will stagnate and eventually regress. We can't be testing all the time, and this high intensity must be balanced with focused training and recovery. I am looking forward to some smooth yoga tomorrow to loosen everything up for the weekend.


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Day 06 :: Saturday 02/15/20 :: Yoga 1

After completing the main fur workouts for the first week of the program I am feeling a lot of soreness in my calves (and shoulders, and quads, and hips). This is a common experience for me when I escalate my physical training and it is a good inspiration to put in some extra effort on recovery. After a very refreshing Yoga session this morning I did some deep foam rolling on my lower legs and around of light Hypervolt massage. While the first round of JJ Yoga was cumbersome and challenging, mainly because I have been out of practice for a few months, this second round was much smoother. I felt the flow returning and my body was much more stable and receptive to the positions. I am feeling open and supple, ready for the day.

The soreness is abating and I feel ready to head up to Columbia for WBB Alumna Weekend (where I usually get to get on the nice court and put up a bunch of shots). Recover can't all happen on the weekend, so I am making sure to eat well and drink plenty of water each day. I am very blessed to have access to some of the best food on the east coast provided by Evolutionary Organics at the Brooklyn Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket. Winter is root vegetable season, and I have all sorts of creative ways to combine them, as noodles, as soup and stew, as mash, as stirfry, you name it I have tried it. I once spent a winter eating only the farm's produce (there is a limit to how many raw radishes you can eat in six months).


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Day 07 :: Sunday 02/16/20 :: Recover + Rowhouse


Today is all about recovery. I did a modified version of the Bodyweight warmup before a Restore Rowhouse class thig, which incorporates a lot of mobility and stretching. My back is a bit cramped from playing a lot of basketball yesterday a the Columbia Women's Basketball Alumnae Day. Doing some more stretching later in the day and will follow up with some foam rolling and Hypervolt of my angry calves. I am feeling well worked after last week, but ready for week 2.


Get On It!

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