Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Santa Won't You Bring Me Some Rum

It's that time of year.  The ice and snow return, the shops are busy, and everywhere you go, repetitive holiday music fills the air.

Well, that ends right here!  My good pal and brother-in-creative-nonviolent-arms, Dave Schwartz, has recorded a holiday song worth taking your fingers out of your ears for.  He then entrusted me with turning it into a music video, which I hope is worth uncovering your eyes for.

Without further adieu:

We wish you a happy holiday season!  May all your milks be chunky.

Saturday, August 05, 2023

Junk Puppet Poetry #1

I'll introduce it here the way I introduced it on stage last night at Scream It Off Screen:

A few years ago, I made some puppets out of junk for a 48 Hour Film Project.  (Nowadays, we come here, where the real fun is!)  My buddy Dave had an idea: we should have our junk puppets present public domain poetry!  This first one is a proof-of-concept, it's two short poems, and we hope you enjoy it!

The sold-out theatre of people did indeed enjoy it!  Scream It Off Screen, for the uninitiated, is a monthly cinema gong show in Minneapolis.  We'd heard of it before, but only started attending (and submitting recycled 48HFP movies) in the last year or so.  This time, we showed up with something new, and to my astonished delight, people loved it!  The debut of Junk Puppet Poetry was a resounding success, and won the night by audience applause!

Dave has provided music and ideas (and occasional acting!) for all of Chunky Milk's movies.  He lives in Florida, so I barely ever see him in person.  As it happened, this week he was in the area and able to attend the screening of his latest brainchild.  For eight years I felt like he should win some kind of soundtrack award in the 48, but he never did.  Last night, though, he got to come up on stage with me and be celebrated as a winning filmmaker.

As happened the first time we won a local film festival with a movie starting junk puppets, I've been occasionally bursting into laughter ever since it happened.  The absurdity of it all is delectable.

I'm very thankful for all of our experiences with the 48 Hour Film Project, and it's with fondness that Chunky Milk Productions moves on to our new filmmaking home at Scream It Off Screen.  Both formats have a lot to offer, including cross-pollenation with each other.

And so begins a new series of no-budget shorts!  We will keep making movies of all kinds, but the crowd has spoken: Junk Puppet Poetry is to be continued!


Edit:  Just got some pictures from Scream It Off Screen's promotional message...

Behind us: sweet musicians including King on the keyboard!
Lined up with the check: Screamy, Dave, and myself.
In front: The true hero of the night, Zack (Zach?) the waffle man!

One sold-out theater's worth of SIOS audience

That was a wild night!  Progress is being made on #2 (possibly to screen at the October SIOS :^)

Saturday, April 01, 2023

April Fools!

This winter has been one of those battles at the end of a video game where the big bad, seemingly defeated, just keeps coming back bigger and uglier and wetter and heavier than before.

We woke up to a foot of snow and a giant downed branch in the driveway this morning.  Its tree should live, I hope, but there's a lot less of it now than there was.

I got everything cleared, so we could leave the house today if we really had to.  We were just about down to seeing ground again in most places, but now the driveway trench is right back to shoulder height.  For the moment, it's just a matter of waiting for the plow to come back and make me redo the last few meters.  I suppose we'll see whether there are any additional phases to this winter boss fight after that.

I've got to hand it to Earth's atmosphere: this was a pretty epic April Fool's prank!  It sure got me.

Friday, February 24, 2023

Airquote: "Artificial Intelligence"

ChatGPT and other "deep-learning" programs have made a lot of noise and headlines lately.  As I alluded to in my nopecoin post, I'm very much not on-board with some of the new tricks we're teaching the old dog that is personal computing.

I had the privilege of growing up alongside home computers themselves, as well as the internet.  I remember categorized newsgroups, public web forums, mailing lists, and all sorts of well-thought-out ways for people to connect and share ideas.  So, I've never understood the appeal of this current crop of "social media" giants.  I don't get it.  I so very much don't get it that I don't use any of them.  The closest I come is youtube, which I only touch with a ten-foot pole of browser plugins which disable  the comments, shorts, ads, and most of its other most egregious anti-features.

But, I'm not most people.  Most people go ahead and use facebook/twitter/instagram/whatever, at least to some degree.

Thus, we've let unsupervised and unconsidered algorithms decide which bits of information we see or don't see.  Your facebook/twitter/instagram/whatever feeds are not lists of things you've asked for, they're infinitely-scrolling sets of the items which have been calculated to be the most likely to generate the most profit for the middleman in question.  This has had society-poisoning and democracy-breaking effects, and it should not be surprising that when profits matter more than honesty, things go pear-shaped quickly.

After seeing the messes we get ourselves into when we defer our thinking and sorting to machines (profit machines, specifically), my personal reaction would be to take a step back and reflect, "hm, maybe we need to think this through more carefully".  Instead, we've gone ahead and given these same capitalism bots the ability not to just show and hide and reorder (dis)information, but to literally make things up on the spot.

What?  Why?!

(Well, I know why.  Middlemen need no longer rely solely on their own victicustomers to provide the "content" to shuffle into each others' feeds.)

I'm beginning to feel about AI software the way I feel about guns.  Mechanically, these are fascinating pieces of engineering and ingenuity.  There's both a complexity and a simplicity that is captivating and beautiful.  Also, no thank you!  Decline.  Unsubscribe.  Not in my house.  It claims to be a fun and neutral tool, but I have a very hard time seeing it as anything but a dangerous weapon.

I suspect we'll soon see artificially-generated novels, and movies, and augmented-reality serials.  They'll be amusing enough not to die in the crib.  At nearly no cost, there won't be much reason not to keep trying, even at low points in any fad/zeitgeist cycle.  Entire wikipedias' worth of "information" will come and go and morph and self-refer.  I think that's pretty fascinating, but it also sure looks like authorship, authenticity, and having any basis at all in truth are all up on the chopping block.  Once these things start consuming each others' and their own output as input, we're going to have more messes to clean up than we can deal with.  Based on the current trajectory of our approaches, my guess is we'll try to fight fire with more and more fire.

I worry whether we have much natural intelligence left, let alone what the artificial sort will get up to.

Sunday, October 30, 2022

Happy Halloween '22!

Another bizarre year has come and... well, not gone, yet.  My wife and my self have each gained some responsibility at work, which is fine but has thus far come at the cost of free time, something we've never felt an abundance of to begin with.  Then there's been all the other general madness this year, some sprinkles of really great news and some heavy darkness as well.

According to Autumn, this year has been serviceable, though her grievance that Book exists has still gone ignored.

This year's jack-o-lanterns were picked from a bunch that I doodled using my old Halloween Artist program.  Sometimes we shoot for one representing each member of the household, or some other cute theme.  The best we could manage this year was to visualize some of the vague emotions it feels like 2022 has carried our way.

"Smile".  When anyone asks how anyone is doing, words like "fine" and "good" are expected.  Grin and bear it. Things could be worse.  It's fine.  We're fine.
"Running on empty".  It's time for such-and-such ...already ...again.
"Concern".  What now?  Is that something I can do anything about?  Is that something everyone expects me to do something about?

"The supreme court did what?!"

So, it's been a mixed year at best.  But, we're doing what we can, and doing our best to take better care of ourselves and each other.

We wish you and everybody a happy Halloween!  May you find some joy and some fun and some tasty snacks, and may we all dig deep and find the mojo to do some good.

Tuesday, July 19, 2022


My little group of movie-making friends has been putting together shorts for eight years now.  As with most things in life, one gets out of these weekends what one puts in.

These 48-hour events mean stress and sleepless nights for me, but I can't help it.  My outer middle-aged body has valid objections, but my inner child demands the creative outlet, and my inner toddler keeps yelling "again! again!" no matter how tired I get. 

But enough jibber-jabber!  The point of this post is to announce Chunky Milk Productions' latest 48-hour film: "Incontinuity"!

The screening is next Friday at the Parkway Theater if you'd like to be among the first to let this movie amuse and confuse you.  Ours will be one of twelve local made-in-a-weekend short films; my favorite part of this whole process is going to a theater and seeing what everybody came up with!

As usual, we can't share the movie itself until the competition is over, but once we do, I'll share it here as well as on the Chunky Milk Productions website.

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

On the Importance of Cats, and Why There's No Such Thing

Firstly, the title is not a joke: there's no such thing as cats.  That may seem surprising, and as someone who has loved cats his whole life, I can understand your skepticism.  But I will address that; please be patient.

Secondly, all of this (and all of everything which anybody ever discusses) rest on specific points of view, and specific patterns of how to map our sensed perceptions of "the world out there" into structures our minds can understand.  I'm not talking about "alternative facts" or any similar head-in-the-sand practice of treating fiction as reality.  Quite the contrary.  What I mean is something real, being perceived through multiple valid metaphorical lenses.  What may look to someone like an equal partnership, may look to someone else like a dominant/submissive relationship.  The subjects in question may reject both descriptions, and in fact may each perceive their dynamic uniquely.  These cases, where everyone might be in disagreement are all "right, in a way", serve to illustrate that we all, by necessity, have simplified, rough-cut perspectives.

So, let's begin.

Dogs and cats are wonderful human companions, both with plenty to teach us about ourselves and our societies.  Consider a dog, be it a wild wolf or a so-called purebred puppy.  The creature has an instinctive understanding of hierarchy.  Packs have leaders, alphas.  Being in a pack is better than being alone, so to be in a pack one acts according to the leader's conditioning.  Do something "right", get rewarded, become inclined to keep doing that thing.  Do something "wrong", get punished, become disinclined.  A dog's instincts map out their world into a hierarchical structure.  Substituting a tall, weird-sounding, two-legged animal who shows themselves capable of rewarding "right" and punishing "wrong" for a pack leader is not a great leap for the canine mind.  It's an easy fit for humans too; naturally we want to cuddle and feed a dog who does something cute, or scold them for peeing on the rug.  And indeed many humans have instincts not so far away from a dog's, desiring to be part of a pack, and following alpha two-legged weird-sounding animals of their own.  Society is flecked with these hierarchies, large and small, built with leaders on top.  Chief executives, governors, monarchs, regional managers.  Top-down structure.  I'm about to use a word which carries a lot of baggage, but I mean it only in the literal sense that dogs are big on obedience and chain of command.  Life with dogs is authoritarian.

But society is also composed of chaos.  There is no organizational chart large enough to list every citizen of a small town, let alone a state or continent or planet.  At any moment, many humans are being born with no pecking order among them, and many are dying without upending any "subordinates" or "superiors" they might have recognized.  We each know a handful of people closely, more people less closely, and so on until completely unfamiliar people are some sort of rounded, aggregate statistic.  For people we don't know well, we build a lot of mental sorting buckets.  Artists, car owners, nerds, feminists, Italians, conservatives, MBA's.  These buckets are not without their uses, and in fact many people proudly identify using these sorts of labels.  But many of us give in to the temptation to dismiss entire buckets worth of people.  Hippies, Scientologists, immigrants.  Once the label is there, whether the person announced it, we deduced it, or a leader we follow proclaimed it, we might decide, with no further information, that the labeled person has nothing to offer us, and therefore we can (or even should) ignore or reject them.  You might be able to come up with an example or two where this sort of thing has led to violence.

So what about cats?  All I've been blathering on about is societal structures and human foibles.  All right, I'll discuss cats.  Except there is no such thing.  Cat people (to use a bucket term) know this to be true upon reflection.  You can grow up alongside a cat, love and cuddle and play with them every day of their life.  Know their meows, be soothed by their purrs, read their moods and learn their favorite spots to nap per given time of the day.  All of that is a wonderful bond, but gains you next to nothing towards the next cat you meet.  I knew many cats before meeting one who growls and plays tug of war.  I knew a cat who understood many words, including her name.  I know a fully-grown big chunky cat whose voice never got deeper than a puny squeak.  There is this cat, and that cat, and this one, and that one, but there is no such thing as "cats".

You've probably already guessed that my roundabout point is that there is also no such thing as "people".  There's this person and this person and that person.  Those buckets mentioned earlier are all lies.  Even the ones we enjoy and find helpful -- none of them are real.  So, what can we learn from a lie of a bucket like "cat people"?

A cat's instincts don't use hierarchy, at least not in the way a dog's do.  You can train a dog, but it's said that a cat trains you.  That's a cute idea, and it's close, but the truth is that you and a cat figure out, together, how to coexist.  It's potentially a painful, slow and messy process, compared to "you do as I say".  Feedback is inconsistent, boundaries are never fixed, and sometimes you end up bitten, scratched, and bruised.  But your multi-species family grows, together.  Not because someone in charge says so, but because everybody found ways to make it work.  Are you ready for another charged word?  Life with cats is democratic.

And that's it, right there.  A society whose goals include things like equality, adaptation, and the embrace of diversity has plenty to learn from cats.  Families which include cats are microcosms of our much bigger family.  The global and national and city societal families we're all born to.  "Cats", of which there is no such thing, show us that each person on this planet is exactly that, a person.  You'll never understand them all; they'll do things which amuse and annoy you, and every now and then you'll be gifted a dead animal or step barefoot in some cold barf.  But if you learn from each other, figure out which battles are worth picking and what is workable to allow on each other's terms, you'll find more agency over your own life, and more appreciation for theirs.