Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Newyear Fishmap

Chinese New Year

As the Chinese New Year dawns upon us this February, I find my design tank bursting with a bold and new creative circuit. Since its preparations for board printing and assembly coincide with this most auspicious of times, I ask what are the proper rites and timings for this 21st century dao?

Shenzhen is both a site of great emerging technology industry, such as my preferred PCB house, as well as the deep waters of tradition that fertilize the new year ceremonies. I received an email from the PCB house in December, warning of the upcoming bottleneck- a transition from Goat to Monkey year. The PCB house will have a delay of up to five business days during this celebration.

The nice email also detailed what sorts of things one does during this time, mostly dealing with eating. Specifically, certain fish such as the Crucian Carp are essential to have in the kitchen, as they symbolize good luck. The deep lakes and rivers of Shenzhen support this freshwater fish and the cuisine reflects it there.

Looking for deeper meanings to the new year, I turn to the Book of Changes, used by John Cage to map musics out, and hailed by Phillip K. Dick as a salve and compass for the schizophrenic spectrum. As I had already studied the oracles, I knew the most pertinent one and skipped a random toss of the yarrow sticks, turning straight to hexagram 44, one of the most mysterious.

Gou- "liason" characterizes number 44, and it is blatantly sexual, dangerous and dirty. However, there is other language in the details of this oracle, about creativity, a raging pig, meeting horns, and most importantly, the primal significance of a fish in the kitchen:

When the kitchen holds a fish: no blame. 

When there is no fish in the kitchen- danger!

Note that translators of the ancient oracle explain bao as a kitchen, but it simply means "the wrapper," as it could be a creel or grass basket for carrying the fish to the kitchen, or it could be the boiling water wrapping around it, or a steamed bun package. All these preparations inform the New Year kitchen, as carp can be soup, steamed or even in a dumpling. The idea of wrapping is important for fortune, as throughout the year one wraps and saves money and supplies for this time of bursting. The hexagram has a further note about wrapping:

A melon wrapped in willow- hidden lines. 

The melon is a sort of natural creativity, nourished and brought to completion for this time when we unwrap it. The willow is the protective package, the docket of data and schematics brought to the house. I prefer to leave "hidden lines" unexplained but note that lines also means a chapter, as in a segment of data or packet of meaning.

So at this auspicious time, armed with poetry of omen, I ask simply whether to submit my files before or after the holiday? How is a synthesizer board like a fish? If it were rectangular the meaning would be extended, but this PCB consists solely of oval shapes, and I look at it as a school of fresh carp fillets:

Karlsruhe Manifesto

2/5/2016: For a lecture on analog interfaces and design at Zentrum fur Kunst and Medientechnologie, I prepared a playful map of Karlsruhe as a circuit... The following manifesto text explains my psycho-cartographic findings, in relation to Ovalsynth.

The KARLSRUHE CIRCUIT, transcribed from a 1740 plan of the city, maps it onto an analog synthesizer. STADTPLAN is a collection of scripts and contingency improvisations. The King, resting in a circular chamber at the center of the SCHLOSS, gestures about the radiating roads, surveyed and planned according to trigonometry: a scripted landscape.

PSYCHO-GEOGRAPHY studies, by wandering and walking, how a landscape or urban architecture affects and effects a state of mind. Karlsruhe literally means, the place where Karl rested. It reflects a restful state of mind in its perfect radial symmetry, a fresh start in the country away from the clutter of the old capital. Over time, convoluted mammal tumors tucked into its corners: the DORF. Craftsmen cobbled a village together downhill and out of sight, which cemented over time with its odd organic alleys: a pragmatic growth.

The ANALOG GARTEN, a collection of twisting circuits and outbuildings, encircles the SCHLOSS. It houses various pleasure functions- pheasants, orchards, and theaters- and provides a pastoral buffer for the grand gestures of the King.

The MINISTERIEN process the King's gestures, routing them amongst themselves and connecting out to the WALD outside the circuit. These assorted nodes manifest the living gestures of the King (laws). In addition to the strict radial line lain by the olden king, winding circuitous routes develop over time- lines of escape from the official plan.

Where signals meet in the woods, synthesis!

As an oval has two foci, OVALSYNTH has two SCHLOSS, connected by a line of MINISTERIEN, taking both gestures and distributing them to nodes near and far. The ANALOG GARTEN wraps around the government providing it the pleasures of synthesis. A WALD extends out to the end of the land, where nodes realize the gestures. Two DORF, charming cultures to the side and downhill, provide the organic and alternative rhythms of festivities, merchants and crafts.1

What twin kings have ever built an oval capital? Perhaps rival binary countries or ways of being could do this, like two hands of a giant- COLDWAR BERLIN.

1For another OVALSYNTH manifesto, using the words NOB, SHMANCE, SANDRODE, and CHARM for SCHLOSS, MINISTERIEN, WALD, and DORF respectively, see eContact issue 17.4, at


  1. 新年快乐

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