Category Archives: writing

INSIDE MY BRAIN I PAY NO RENT.

BRAIN 01 ENTRANCE

THIS IS MY BRAIN, AS SEEN FROM OUTSIDE ON A SUNNY AFTERNOON.

Welcome to my brain! Or even better: welcome to an attempt to its spatial representation! You can look at the following images as a big architectural metaphor, a cognitive map or an illustrated trip.

It’s just a personal interpretation, of course, but what’s interesting in this project is that I gave my brain “carte blanche”. Yessir! Since the beginning, my project became its project. My gray matter was totally free to select the pictures that better represented itself.

It was not easy for me to step aside and let it do it but, you know, the brain can do everything in complete autonomy, being it the only subject that analyzes itself, and the only place that is entirely self-built. This circularity is so amazing to me that when I happen to think about it, I’m not sure whether it’s me – or my brain – to be more intrigued.

As you know, our mental evolution has been so fast that the brain lost its personal notes on the way. It was probably too busy in setting up all the wiring for its 100 billion neurons, and so today there’s not a map nor an instruction manual to help the brain to unveil its own secrets and understand how its wunderkammer really works. But I’m going to stop here. I don’t want to bore you to death with scientific details. All I want to do is to let you enter into my brain, have a quick look, and tell me what you think. Enjoy the journey!

BRAIN19 narrow curve

I AM SURE YOU NOTICED THE MINUSCULE DOOR AT THE BASE OF THE DOME (FIRST PICTURE).  WELL, THAT’S THE ENTRANCE, AND AS SOON AS YOU STEP IN, YOU’LL HAVE TO FOLLOW A CIRCULAR PATH WITH CURVED WALLS MADE OF CALCIFIED CONNECTIVE TISSUE. DON’T BE AFRAID: THAT’S MY SKULL.

BRAIN 06 little man

AT THE END OF THE CIRCULAR PATH YOU’LL FIND A LARGE ROOM: THIS IS THE BRAIN’S MAIN DOORWAY WHERE A FACELESS SENTINEL WILL CHECK YOU OUT. NOT SURE WHO IS HE, BUT I KNOW HE’S THERE TO FILTER REALITY AND MAKE SURE THE LIMITED CAPACITY OF MY MIND IS NOT CONTAMINATED BY UNNECESSARY GROUND NOISE.

BRAIN 04 stairs

BEYOND THE VELVET CURTAIN YOU’LL FIND A SPIRAL STAIRCASE GOING ALL THE WAY DOWN. THE INSIDE OF THE BRAIN IS DIMLY LIT AND THERE ARE NO COLORS BESIDE BLACK AND WHITE. THE LIGHT’S TREMBLING QUALITY IS DUE TO THE ELECTRIC ACTIVITY OF NEUROTRANSMITTERS WEAKLY FIRING IN THE DARK.

BRAIN 03 tunnel

AT THE END OF THE 13,263-STEP STAIRCASE, BE PREPARED TO ADJUST YOUR EYESIGHT TO DARKNESS. THE DEEPER YOU GO, THE MORE ANTIQUE EVERYTHING LOOKS. MY REPTILIAN BRAIN FEATURES A MAZE OF CREEPY TUNNELS WHERE YOU CAN EASILY GET LOST. IT’S ALWAYS A GOOD IDEA, WHILE YOU WALK, TO MARK THE WALLS WITH A PIECE OF CHALK OR BACKTRACK YOUR PATH WITH BREADCRUMBS.

BRAIN 05 corridor

PLEASE ACCEPT MY ADVICE! ONCE YOU CHOOSE A DIRECTION, STICK TO IT AND DON’T BE TEMPTED TO TURN LEFT OR RIGHT, OR YOU’LL END UP NOWHERE. IF YOU DO AS I SAY, YOU’LL ALWAYS FIND A ROOM OR AN OPEN SPACE WHERE YOU CAN REST, DRINK A CUP OF TEA AND LOCATE YOUR POSITION.

IF YOU LOOK DOWN HERE, YOU CAN HAVE AN IDEA OF WHAT YOU REALLY SEE INSIDE MY BRAIN. IT’S NOT A STATIC STATE OF MIND BUT A RATHER KINETIC ENVIRONMENT WHERE YOU ARE CARRIED AWAY BY MY OWN THOUGHTS.

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BRAIN 02 main hall

YOU SEE? EVEN A LONG AND CLAUSTROPHOBIC CORRIDOR MAY LEAD TO AN UNEXPECTED PLACE LIKE THIS ONE. THIS IS THE HYPOTHALAMUS THAT CONTROLS MY SLEEP. IT’S AMAZING TO REALIZE THIS GLAND IS THE SIZE OF AN ALMOND, YET, IT LOOKS SO SPACIOUS FROM THE INSIDE. MY BRAIN CELLS NICKNAMED THIS PLACE “THE NAP LOUNGE”.

BRAIN 20 library

MEMORY IS NOT ARRANGED, AS YOU MIGHT IMAGINE, LIKE THE LIBRARY PICTURED ABOVE, WHERE BOOKS ARE NEATLY DISPLAYED BY TOPIC OR ALPHABETICAL ORDER. THE BRAIN REQUIRES A MUCH FASTER RETRIEVAL OF INFORMATION, SO YOU’LL BE AMAZED BY THE POSSIBILITY TO FLOAT LIKE AN ASTRONAUT AND ZOOM ALONG ‘BOOK PIPELINES’ LIKE THE ONE HERE BELOW.

BRAIN 07 tunnel of books

INFORMATION IS CONSTANTLY GATHERED, COMBINED, REARRANGED AND DISCARDED, AND EACH CONTENT IS SAVED IN MANY PLACES, JUST IN CASE. MY BRAIN MAKES A BACK UP OF EVERYTHING BUT, ON THE OTHER HAND, IT’S HOPELESS TO REMEMBER WHERE THE STUFF HAS BEEN STORED.

BRAIN 08 guggescale

THIS STRANGE BUILDING IS CALLED THE ‘DILEMMAS’ HOTEL’, AND THAT’S BASICALLY WHERE ME, MYSELF AND I ARE SORTING OUT OUR MAJOR DIFFERENCES. EACH ONE OF MY SELVES SHOUTS FROM ONE OF THESE BALCONIES, WHEN TRYING TO WIN AN ARGUMENT. IF YOU HAPPEN TO PASS BY, PLEASE, MIND YOUR BUSINESS AND KEEP WALKING.

BRAIN 09 escalator

IF YOU LIKE ESCALATORS AS I DO, YOU’LL FIND PLENTY OF THESE INSIDE MY HEAD. EACH ONE WILL TAKE YOU UPSTAIRS, TO A DIFFERENT AREA OF THE CEREBRAL CORTEX. THIS FLOOR HAS BEEN TOTALLY RENOVATED TO HANDLE COMPLEX ACTIVITIES SUCH AS LANGUAGE, ABSTRACT THINKING AND VISUAL  PROCESSING.

BRAIN 17 roots

EVERY NOW AND THEN YOU’LL BUMP INTO OLD DENDRITES LIKE THESE. THEY REST IN PEACE INSIDE A SORT OF ZEN GARDEN SURMOUNTED BY A LIGHT ROOF. MY DEAD NEURONS ARE USELESS – I KNOW – BUT I KEEP THEM NO OTHER THAN FOR A SENTIMENTAL REASON.

BRAIN 10 sinapsi wilderness

SINCE THE VERY DAY I WAS BORN, I ‘VE BEEN LOSING ABOUT EIGHTY THOUSAND NEURONS PER DAY. (IF I TELL YOU I STILL HAVE 98% OF THEM YOU CAN EASILY CALCULATE MY AGE). ALL TOGETHER, MY NEURONS FORM AN EVER-CHANGING LANDSCAPE OF BRANCHES AND MUSHROOM-SHAPED UNITS THAT CREATE NEW IDEAS AND RETRIEVE OLD ONES. RABBITS ARE FREE TO GO AROUND, HERE.

BRAIN 11 exit

I COULDN’T IDENTIFY THIS SPACE. MY BRAIN SELECTED IT FOR A REASON IT DIDN’T WANT TO TELL ME. IT MIGHT BE A MAINTENANCE ROOM OR AN EMPTY SLOT. THE BRAIN, AFTER ALL, IS FILLED WITH EMPTINESS.

BRAIN 12 corpus callosus

THE CORPUS CALLOSUM PICTURED ABOVE IS CONNECTING LEFT AND RIGHT HEMISPHERES. THIS GOTHIC PLACE, WITH ITS 250 MILLIONS AXONS, GUARANTEES PROPER COMMUNICATION BETWEEN THE TWO PARTS. FROM ITS WINDOWS YOU CAN ENJOY A SUPERB VIEW, ESPECIALLY AT NIGHT, WHEN DARKNESS IS ILLUMINATED BY REM’S ELECTRIC STORMS.

BRAIN 13 lost memories

THIS IS THE CLOSET OF FORGETFULNESS, WHERE IRRELEVANT MEMORIES ARE GRADUALLY ERASED. I AM NOT VERY GOOD IN ORGANIZING MY STUFF AND I END UP WITH HUNDREDS OF SCRAPPY ROOM LIKE THIS.

BRAIN 14 ambitions

THE AMBITIONS’ PALACE IS A VERTICAL, ENDLESS STRUCTURE. I NEVER MADE IT UNTIL THE TOP. THERE’S NO LIFT TO TAKE ME UP, AND THE STAIRS SPIN INTO A MIST THAT IS SPELLING ONLY TROUBLES. NOT FOR ME, THANKS.

BRAIN 18 stairs to nothing

LOOKOUT STAIRS ARE DEFINITELY MY SLICE OF PIE. FROM HERE, IN A CLEAR BRAIN-DAY, YOU CAN CONTEMPLATE THE SURROUNDING, GATHERING YOUR THOUGHTS. THIS LOOKOUT, FOR EXAMPLE, GIVES A GOOD LOOK INTO THE  PLAINS OF MY TEMPORAL LOBE.

BRAIN 15 aisle

ROOM AFTER ROOM, YOU’LL SOON DISCOVER THAT MY BRAIN IS NOT SO DIFFERENT FROM ANY RUN-DOWN HOTEL AROUND THE WORLD. EINSTEIN, AFTER ALL, SAID WE ARE USING ONLY TEN PER CENT OF OUR BRAIN’S POSSIBILITIES AND, HONESTLY, I USE ONLY A FRACTION OF THIS PERCENTAGE.

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I TOLD YOU THE BRAIN IS ALL BLACK AND WHITE. WELL, THERE’S AN EXCEPTION: THIS IS MY PRIVATE HYPERSPACE. PEOPLE WHO NEVER TOOK DRUGS SAY DRUGS ARE BAD BUT I DON’T THINK SO, ESPECIALLY WHEN I’M ON A GOOD TRIP. NATURAL STUFF LIKE AYAHUASCA OR PEYOTE CAN OPEN NEW PERSPECTIVES IN YOUR LIFE.

BRAIN 16 big hole

THIS IS THE END OF YOUR JOURNEY AND I HOPE YOU ENJOYED IT. YOU CAN EXIT MY MIND THROUGH THE LACRIMAL BONE BUT, PLEASE, WATCH YOUR STEP AS YOU CLIMB YOUR WAY OUT, SINCE THIS IS THE MOST FRAGILE BONE OF THE FACE. LEAVE A BRIEF NOTE, IF YOU WISH. IT WILL HELP ME TO IMPROVE THIS PLACE.

THANK YOU FOR VISITING!

BRAINPOWDER

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WORST BOOKS OF 2013

yellow pages

We couldn’t find a lot of interesting books around, lately. No wonder the publishing industry is in deep ‘sheet’.  The majority of publishers seems to have developed a certain taste for crap wrapped in a glossy dustjacket. To make things worse, talented writers with something to say are disappearing, just like happened to big reptiles and alcohol-free beer. Good books, very good books, are rarer than astatine. The rest, and we are talking about 1 million titles every year, is just trees sacrificed for no reason. If, to all of the above, you add the fact there are more writers than readers, and that readers mostly read what they write, you get the whole picture. The Brandpowder Team, in a drastic attempt to instill a sense of pride in the publishing industry and to push good writers to abandon Harry Potterism and type some goddam’ good stories, would like to introduce you to the top worst books of 2013. We personally published these books at our own expenses,  as a no-profit experiment to provoke publishers, writers, readers and, why not? hopefully also analphabets, to do something about it.

Opening Picture: The Not So Yellow Pages are a guide to imprecise listing. You can browse them, let’s say, when you are not looking for something in particular and you just jerk around thinking life is about getting lost somewhere, nowhere. Fakebook (below) is a novel talking about demotivation, failure, depression, solitude, despair, staging an anxious, over-perspirating guy with smelly armpits. It sold just one copy, bought by the author.

fakebook

Below: This opus in two volumes, which comes in a lavishly hardcover leather-bound edition, is a meditation about nothing to say. The 240 empty pages are a masterpiece on silence and creative white out. A must non-read for whoever feels  blocked or simply overwhelmed by data overflow. Mostly unsold.

nothing

This book (below) is highly recommended for the daring investor who’s always looking ahead for new opportunities. Unfortunately, also this one didn’t sell a single copy (out of the 50 we printed). We were shocked, since Mars is the next frontier. Not to mention KitKat and Bounty.

unreal estate

save money

The worst-best seller on our list is this rather imposing, meek-looking book with a challenging title aimed to the disobedient. We didn’t find a single customer willing to pay 20 bucks for its precious insight. The cause may be people are much better off than we think, or they are simply convinced they know better?

This project, as many others developed buy the Brandpowder Team, was a complete fiasco. Indirectly, it was a success. It proved our point. Thank you for your attention.

THE VERTICAL POETRY OF SITTING BULL

“White Man, you think to be better than a Red Man, Black Man and Yellow Man. But your skin is the color of worms, and soft like the belly of a blind mole.” Verses written with the Indian technique of smoke signals by the Sioux Chief Sitting Bull in Ohio, 1849.  (from the book “The Burning Soul”)

Chief_sitting_bull

People think Sitting Bull didn’t leave anything written because he was an analphabet. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Brandpowder Team was recently invited to South Dakota by Pink Cloud, the grand-grand-grand nephew of Sitting Bull, who wanted to tell us a beautiful and quite incredible story about his beloved ancestor. Everybody knows Sitting Bull as the great Sioux Chief and warrior who kicked Custer and the 7th Cavalry in the ass, leading his tribes to victory at Little Bighorn in 1876. But very few people know Sitting Bull was a writer and a poet who adopted smoke signals as his own vertical grammar. His burning verses, for more than forty years, rose up as columns of smoke into the American skies to whisper an elevated message into the Gods’ ears.

sitting bull 01bn

Above: one of the first rising poems written by Sitting Bull with the vertical grammar of smoke signals: This mighty text says: “You came to this land and you called it America. But we were here before you, and we called it Anowarkowa. Go back to your land, sheepfuckers!” (restored photo: Yukon Territories, 1865)

sitting bull 02bn

(Above) another poem rising in the distance. It says: “You dig for oil, you dig for gold. You dig your own grave!” Nobody better than Sitting Bull can express the unquenchable greed of the white settlers. For this powerful poem Sitting Bull burnt almost six hundred trees, stolen from the Weyerhaeuser sawmill. Pink Cloud told us carbon footprint was not an issue, back then. And Sitting Bull was not much of an environmentalist (restored photo: Coal Valley, Illinois 1877).

burning woman

Above: Pink Cloud, helped by his husband Big Cock, keeps the old tradition of smoke signals alive. “We send sacred hymns to our beloved ancestors” – she says.

sitting bull 03bn

“Keep the rifles, keep the whisky, keep the money for yourself. We are poor but free and happy. We laugh at your skinny belongings, fat cowboys.” Also in these verses Sitting Bull demonstrates the force of his fuming, devastating language. (above: restored photo, taken in Montana, 1852)

sitting bull 04bn

“Fuck Peanut Butter! We eat Bear’s Fat.” This is one of the shortest poems by the Sioux Chief. Only a few pictures of his flighty literature survive to this day, and the photo above is the only one taken while Sitting Bull was actually writing. He didn’t have a studio – Pink Cloud explained us with a bright smile – his office was the world. (picture taken in Northern California, about 1877)

sitting bull 05bn

Above: Every now and then Sitting Bull opted for a more cryptic style. In this very large smoke ring (approximately 150 ft. in diameter) we can really appreciate his great handling of syntax. Pink Cloud told us it’s quite difficult to decipher this poem, but its message – most likely – was due to Sitting Bull’s shamanic nihilism.    (restored photo – Arizona, end of 1870).

sitting bull 06bn

Above: Sitting Bull also composed after dusk. The smoke, in the evening’s cooler air, rises thicker and quicker. The text says: “I love my knife, I love my life, I love my wife”. This is one of the last poems the Chief threw to the wind. If it’s true that “Verba Volant”, Sitting Bull made them fly higher than anybody else.

book smoke

Above: one of the books the Brandpowder Team published as a tribute to Sitting Bull (his real name, Ta-Tanka I-Yotank, means Sitting Buffalo). The book bears a selection of rare photos of Vertical Poetry by the great Sioux Chief, plus several old documents about smoke signals’ culture among American Indians.

Below: another title by Brandpowder (battered after we left it under the pouring rain for two days). This book, beside the poetry part, will teach the reader how to master the challenging technique of smoke signals through the correct handling and burning of natural resources like wood, peat and unusual organic materials. There’s also a chapter dedicated to winds’ control, defense tips in case of arson, and a quite useful graph to help you keep air pollution under a reasonable level.

smoking words book

Below:  The central pages are made out of black tar, which is perfect for producing a convincing plume of thick smoke for your first outdoor experiments.

kiefer_0016

matches2b

Sitting Bull never used a pen. His smoky writing always started from a flame. Pink Cloud showed us this match-box (above).  It belonged to his grandfather, Screaming Eagle, who happened to be one of the nephews of the Sioux Chief and also a Medicine Man. He told her many fascinating stories about Sitting Bull, when she was still very young.

Below: Screaming Eagle tried to put on paper some of the burning words of Sitting Bull; it’s thanks to his effort, if today we can appreciate the elevated poetry of the Great Sioux Chief.

4 R

sigar cloud

The day we left the Lower 48 to go back to Brandpowder’s headquarters in Alaska, we stopped by Lake Oahe, a few miles north of Fort Pierre National Grassland. It was bloody cold, that morning, and icy northern winds were blowing from Saskatchewan. We saw an incredible formation over the lake and, for a moment, we thought the Spirit of Sitting Bull wanted to write us a farewell. But we were told by a local ranger that was a phenomenon called Morning Glory. It happens when strong winds shape clouds, rolling them into long cigars. It was an outstanding view.

We wish to thank warmly Pink Cloud for her invaluable assistance and hard work in providing us with all the material and countless stories. Without her effort our two books on Sitting Bull’s poetry would haven’t been possible. A special thanks also to her husband Big Cock for showing us around and keeping the fire going ’till the end.

The Brandpowder Team

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GOOOOOOOOOOOGLE!

Have you have wondered how does a search engine look like? Well, now you’re served! For the first time ever, in fact, Google opens its doors so that we can take a look at it. The view is impressive:  thousands miles of cables and pipes surround an endless stack of hard disks, back up systems and servers, neatly packed along narrow corridors where blinking leds signal the correct functioning of computers checking on zillions of worldwide links and contents, including your emails.

The energy consumed by the web today equals that of all commercial airlines put together (about 2% of total CO2 emission). The internet will grow faster than jumbo jets, if not for the simple reason cool bits are gradually replacing good old atoms. This will translate into a different (not higher) destination of our resources, mostly oil and coal. What is going to affect us more will be an anthropological shift:  human beings evolved from nomads to travellers, then to tourists; the next step will be a Still Society that barely moves because information, in form of memes, avatars and digital substitutes will move content on our behalf.

Going back to Google, it’s interesting to note that most of the energy goes to run the system around the clock; moreover,  in order to have a fast engine (an average Google query takes 0,2 seconds) you need to cool down the heat generated by its “horse-power”, and an efficient water and air conditioning system requires extra energy.

Google’s energy consumption last year was calculated to be around 260 millions watt of continuous suck. The figure is growing but, along with that, also grew the Company’s efficiency in the application of  low impact technologies, from recycling procedures to renewable forms of energy. The aim is to lessen the impact of CO2 by 54 million tons a year. Google is always in the target of environmentalists who are tring to demonstrate its servers are heavily polliuting the planet. But what would be the carbon footprint of someone taking a shower and getting ready, hopping in a car, driving to the library while smoking a cigerette, finding the information in a few books made out of chopped trees, driving back home then driving back to the library again to return them, then driving back home again? If you consider the whole traditional process for accessing information, it might be true the opposite: Google is actually helping the planet to reduce carbon emissions. One thousand searches on Google produce as much carbon dioxide as driving a car for one thousand meters. Alex Wissner, a professor from Harvard University, published different results: a couple of searches on Google requires the same amount of energy of boiling a kettle for a cup of tea, generating about 7 grams of carbon dioxide. Google disagrees, saying the figures are way too high. And it’s easy to see why. Computers are extremely efficient machines, light years ahead of any steam engine like, for instance, a kettle.

Today’s democracy opens up to the tyranny of the individual. Everyone is free to attack Companies, Governments and Institutions, throwing insults without having the technical preparation, the moral stature and the authority to do so. The smaller the attackers, the bigger their targets, of course. These people know Big Companies, having a lot at stake, are exposed and thus fragile, and what they also know too well is how to handle shocking numbers and statistics in order to attract a crowd of equally incompetent morons. In such cases, everything takes place with tremendous superficiality and speed: virality is in proportion with  spectacularity, not accuracy. Numbers represent a valid proof only when presented within a frame that places everything into proportion. Only a deep analysis and quiet, personal consideration can provide us with the right perspective. Google, from our humble point of view, is the greatest innovation after the wheel and the fact it’s freely accessible to the majority of us doesn’t mean we have to take it for granted or, even worse, we are authorized to discredit it. Only a few people, unfortunately, are aware that the Era of Free Things turned  the adult society into a kindergrten of spoilt children.

(images courtesy of thisiscolossal.com and also popsci.com).