The Sketchbook Project 2012

Why do I always wait until the last minute? Because I do my best during a cramfest. At least I like to tell myself that. So I had less than a week to complete this sketchbook. I chose to do a graphic novella based on my sketchbook’s theme — Time Traveler. The Time Traveller is also a frequent guest of my vignettes, in small and strange stories exploiting the temporal possibilities of such a lifestyle.

This is explored further in this graphic novella. The majority of it was done within a ten hour period. Please read and comment. Disregard any errors you might find, and don’t mind the sloppy last-minute artwork. Or do. Tell me what you think. Insults, solicitations, questions, advice, psychic readings, and then some are welcome.

The pdf version of my sketchbook — Man of the Multiverse: The Ballad of the Time Traveller

Here’s also the pdf to my 2011 Sketchbook Project Submission. More about The Sketchbook Project 2012 and then some.


The Aftermath: Bottoms Up

The fire gloamed full spectrum in the bent light, splashing rainbow warmth onto the cool figures huddled in the night. They were four in number, and ceramic bowls in their cupped hands were steamed mushroomy muskiness. They sat in comfortable solidarity in their status of outcasts from each of their respective cultures, and at the foremost, they sat as friends at the brink of adventure.

“I don’t know if I can do this.” This was Anchor, an elfin faced womanchild, slender and willowy from her childhood in the low gravities. Her eyes were green pools of mossy fear. Charlie, the youngest and the catalyst of the group, with soft accord said, “This can’t be done without the entire consent of your being.” He looked at her with intense endearment. “Think on it a moment, and if you still feel fear, put down that bowl and sit with us tonight, without worry.” Anchor smiled, showing small teeth. She said, “I’ll do it, Charlie, because I trust you.”

Fahey, his face a constellation of freckles under a dusk of shock-red hair, grinned with relief. He winked at Anchor, his eye bulging grotesquely with refraction. Anchor and Manara, the golden skinned slow girl who sat across from Charlie, giggled. Charlie chuckled and brushed the brown hair from his eyes. “Now you understand this many-monthed blue mead from the mushroom climes induces visions in the soul,” he said with a ritual litany. “Do not be afraid. We are in the company of friends. When in doubt, turn your gaze to your neighbors.” His comrades nodded with sober assent. Charlie raised his steaming bowl and said, “Bottoms up!”

The friends sat as the familiar jostle and bustle of their throbbing reality twitched slowly into implacable smoothness. Anchor was reminded of the crest of wind back in the airs of her childhood. Fahey knew the burnished oak walls of his village over which he would run his young, callused hands. Manara remembered her mother’s slow breast and its creamy froth. Charlie just smiled imperceptibly, as if he saw much, much more. The swaying trees solidified into warm organic marble, and the rainbow fell from the fire with a crackle. The dirt and stones ceased their pulsing. Anchor, eyes wide with child’s gaze, let the smooth limn of the world run down her body like so many crystal waters. “Charlie. I-it’s so beautiful…”

Humble Beginnings

Sam perched on the overhang, idly kicking his legs. This spot was an instant favorite of his, and almost everyday he frequented it just before dark. He reached for his beer, feeling approximately five minutes of subjective time pass before his fingers touched the cool condensation on the glass. He took a slug and opened his worn well-thumbed notebook, jotted in a few lines.

He had spent the last year wandering the continent, keeping records, trying to map the Event. It moved east to west like a slow river, he discovered, following the Earth’s rotation, carrying patches with differing properties that drifted like sluggish cumulus clouds through an airspace of relative stability. He felt the current would rotate fully around the planet, and perhaps, if it was constant enough, define a whole new dating system. It was years in the future, and a lot more correlation would need to be done. Meanwhile, he would sit or stand in place for hours and watch, feel the effects, and record his interpretations.

In certain patches subjective experience speeded up and he zipped about in wild acceleration; he generally avoided these after discovering one aged much quicker over lengthy dalliances. Some patches caused his movements to become as if suspended in molasses, and he patiently waited out these instances, gratefully flexing his limbs when it passed. There were patches that decreased the sensation of gravity; he bounded over the trees joyfully, and had leaped out of its field into a patch of zero gravity. He panicked, retching, and after a slow, agonized drifting he managed to snag onto a tree and wait it out. After three days had passed, hunger drove him out. He crawled down its trunk and clutched the blades of grass with his fingers, painfully crawling over the turf, taking extra care to control his momentum lest he flew away into the sun. When he finally passed out the zone’s influence, the crush of gravity was so welcome he sobbed as he foraged in the brush for roots and grubs, having lost his cache of food. Other patches were like walking into a maze of funhouse mirrors.

Some patches had drastic temperature changes that suggested sudden death, and he was careful in his explorations; his left pinky was missing from such a patch where he had felt a numbing sensation and flinched. His finger fell to the ground into black pieces. He buried it out of sheer sentimentality. He was caught by surprise when a normalized climate, the way it was before the Event, all still and quiet, drifted over his camp, and it shocked him so much he had to retreat outside its boundary, into the comfort of everyday psychedelia. He followed it for a few days, testing its climate, until he turned away with distaste towards other endeavors. It was marked on his moving map, and had the shortest description in his journal; he didn’t miss it. He had lost his taste for normalcy.

Sitting on the overhang, Sam decided that he would stay in the area for longer than was his usual, which approximated a month. He enjoyed this city. Los Angeles. It was so used to surreality that it had adapted well to the change. In the twilight, Draco rippled on the horizon and Orion played with his scabbard. Ursa Major pawed at the Twins.

Samuels reached for his beer and watched the city dance languorously in the glittering skyline.

The Aftermath: Map Nomads

All the pretenses of the old world had fallen away like a whore’s veil. Old belief systems crumbled in a loss of faith, and from its dust thoughts different and new were erected with renewed faith in Mankind. Though civilization congealed in the normalized gravity that was rampant in the zones of moderate psychedelia and synaesthia, many of the people became fiercely nomadic.

Cults of Movement began popping up along the western seaboard, in groups of synchronized dance that pulsed in coastal cities. California was ideal for this because the affected regions there contained peculiar acoustic and physical effects optimal for their purposes. They populated the beaches and rocky crags in sprawling campsites constantly wreathed with smoke and wore bright colored clothing more for display than warmth; they moved with a cadence that was unique to each cult, with swooping movements, frenzied gyrations, or an eloquent elegance. Certain groups just stood still and let the environment move them. Travelers from far and near came to prostrate themselves at the foot of Motion, which was now the law of the world.

Small groups of men and women and their children populated the low gravity zones, and could leap many meters in a single bound. When they passed through zones of heavier gravities, their weakened muscles ached and often, if they could not pull back in time, they crumpled on the ground until they were assisted or died from starvation. More groups chose the color zones and faded into particular hues. On occasion an unfortunate nomad would intersect the path of a fatal zone and flash into a fine dusting of ash in a smell of ozone, or creak slowly into a blue hue until the body stirred into snowflakes. These were not the only horrors to be discovered in these zones; slow deaths were common and sometimes death struck as a silent bursting of the brain’s veins. The fatal zones sometimes obliterated large caravans, lengthy histories, and would be the nomad’s biggest terror for a long time until the Mapmakers pooled their resources.

The slow men, passing time as trees do, stood in their temporal arbor and watched the outside reality unwind like an accelerated film, their leaden gaze reflecting the turning seasons. Forays into faster time—which they called the quickening—would find them catatonic, their nervous systems literally stunned by the change of temporal flow. Nomads from other zones, usually furtively escaping from something, would slip into their slow world and wait shortly before re-emerging into the future where the danger elapsed with time. The slow men were a heavy, ponderous race, and shunned most of the outside zones with the mutual solidarity of distrust.

The gnat people, their lifetimes in the accelerated zones a burst of dust in the wind full of frantic copulations and aimless frenzy, within a few generations had quickly forgotten their history. Because of this, they began to interbreed in the high-speed climate and spawned a multitude of congenital deformities. The nomads who used this zone as a shortcut to other zones regarded the gnats as dumb beasts that were given the same passing caution as the dogs and cattle of the old days. Occasionally a gnat would burst out of the zone’s boundary and stand there stiffly as it tried, uncomprehendingly, to absorb a slowed down world, and grope backwards with increasing panic until it slipped back into the comfort of smooth speed. A gnat who by chance or whim lost their zone wandered the zones in bleak despair, black pupils always moving in the dark circles of their eyes, jerkily, as if still trying to accustom themselves to the inexorable slowness.

One thing in common these people had: map-making. It was a time of exploration, where novelty twisted in the next corner. Centering from the Samuels map,—transcribed during Samuels’ wanderings in the early years of the Event. He was the very first map nomad. The maps he brought plus the techniques he taught greatly reduced the death rate. The original maps, copied time and time over, were retired with honor on display in a moderate zone that held a semblance of constancy—their well-inked maps were filled in with details and references. Friendly travelers meeting on the road through zones took the time to copy, update their maps. They discovered that Samuels’ original hypothesis that the slow drift of the zones circled the planet to return to its point of origin was correct; they named this the Long Year, in addition to the current Solar year, and could calculate the exact position and time of each zone on any latitude and longitude.

Legend sang of a great temple—its location was known, but the area was generally shunned. The nomads that adventured there never returned—that twisted the world into the pulsing and throbbing existence the nomads all knew, and that there was an island in the stream of zones that kept still the qualities of the Old World. In Samuels’ original mapbooks, a torn page haunted historians, and lore suggested this page contained the secret location of the tranquil zone. The bedtime stories of children outlined this eden in much imagination… Utter silence, complete tranquility, absolute motionlessness. Children dreamed of dust collecting on shelves, still grasses, and grey stone animals in the gorse. Their snores bled onto their hempen pillows and smelled of old berries.

Man changed drastically during his time in the Effect, and although the zone residents were of the same species, their appearances became many and varied, to accommodate the environments in which they thrived. But, as always is the nature of Man, they looked up at the twisting and pulsing stars and wondered hungrily what lay ahead.

December 21, 2012

A wink, a wrinkling, then a flash of geometry.

In the library, the patrons become like frantic insects on the floors of the vast bookish halls, or find themselves towering over the floorplan, petrified like some fleshly tree lest a step incurs mass murder. A small child cowers in a corner, frightened, as the Halloween picture book he was gleefully perusing grows maliciously, its text into giant marauding alphabets, its pictures filled with witches and goblins gaining an evil life of their own.

The palm trees twist and twirl like mad brown bellows pumping out inert green clouds, their drastic capillary motion owing to the xylem undergoing gigantic magnification as the tensorlens of space-time varies its dimensions. Cars on the road shrink and reel into the distance, their perturbed drivers colliding in a frenzy to decipher their senses, and leave in their wake a cartoonish carnage. “It was like driving a toy car through a highway full of semi-trucks!” remarks a survivor. Another account: “… through a prism where there was a million copies of everything, then I woke up inside the Rexall. I had crashed into the entire storefront…” Rent limbs dangle as long as roads and the droplets of blood drip off to infinitesimal smallness. Air bags lend many of the crushed cars the appearance of beached zeppelins. The burning vehicles wedged in houses, storefronts, snarling the freeways and avenues, fill the city with heat and monstrous smoke. Burst fire hydrants shower the oscillating children that play on its warp and weft with droplets the size of watermelons. Acidheads emerge from their stupor and say, “What the fuck? I lost my high.” The writhing city is like this, filled with pain and death and sudden awe. And it is the same, all over the world.

At ground zero where the effect is much stronger, the scientists and equipment are twisted into fantastic configurations, the very topology and their inability to navigate complex knots and surfaces trapping the technicians in the collider’s cool halls. Their cries become sounds in water, or are distant, far off, as if creeping through a labyrinth. They slowly starve to death before they find their way out. “They didn’t have a ball of thread,” later historians would remark sadly, after expeditions were sent into—to use a term coined by a television personality—the LSD atomizer and found old bones in postures of desperate futility.

Let’s take a couple of terms from graphic design: rasters and vectors. Vector images contain no information loss when its dimensions are modified, as opposed to the raster image which is plagued with distorting information loss when its size is changed. Vectors operate like an picture on a rubber surface: stretch and pull the surface to change the dimensions of the picture, and when you let it snap back, and the picture retains its original dimensions. There is no loss in quality in quantity of change. Space-time is a smooth vector and along its breadth there are small fluctuations—ripples, one could say—in the structure. When we are born, our brains learn to normalize this until this is done effortlessly and unconsciously. Perhaps children do notice, before their brains have integrated this completely, and it might shed some light on the ‘flights of imagination’ for which children are notorious. This might also account for the effect psychedelics have on the human nervous system.

What the LHC has done, is twist the normal properties of space-time and gravity. Keep in mind: No natural laws were violated… it is just our perceptions of space-time that has changed.

Large Hadron Rap

Kate McAlpine, a 23-year old Michigan State grad, is sucking in the hits on YouTube with, of all things, a sensational physics rap that’s set for viral stature. The Large Hadron Collider is slated to be turned on September 10th, and it is the source of horrified controversy; the LHC is believed to be capable of producing miniature black holes. There are fears that if enough miniature black holes are produced, they might migrate to the center of the earth to merge into a planet sucking black hole, a cosmic hoover vacuum, if I dare be facetious.

There are also whispers on the ‘net that Nostramadus saw this coming, and the Mayans set the Earth’s destruction at December 21, 2012. Hmm, we can’t forget the juiciest bit of the bible, Revelations. Nevertheless, this rap is entertaining, and is more accessible to the public than most physics fare. If you haven’t seen it, watch it already! The lyrics may be found here.

This here video is another installment of her Physics Rap Canon, and details the adventures of Eshel Ben-Jacob and Itay Baruchi in the world of neurochips.