Monster Alphabet

Happy Halloween everyone! I thought about decorating the castle a little for the season more but I decided to just keep being a spooky castle in the distance, and maybe just glow a little bit more. I mean a spider doesn't dress up on Halloween, it just knits a web, crawls into someone's hairdo, and lays eggs. So that's what I'll do too.

Halloween is a special time, sort of hard to describe, but something I love about it is transformation. I mean on the one hand it's sort of "about" the bizarre and unknowable transformation between being alive and being you know, not alive. And once you start thinking about that transformation it opens the door to transformations of other kinds, kinds you can do while alive. I mean if you can think about "what's it like to be dead" you also have proven your ability to imagine "what's it like to be a swamp monster, sexy witch, rude waiter, Mozart, or Star Wars person". Once you get to the threshold of being and nonbeing, any direction is valid. It's a point of reinvention. Of course I love when people dress up as threshold characters (spooky monsters), but I also love it when people just go as something Other Than The Known Self. I won't begrudge a non-spooky costume. Quite simply I think it's helpful to have a yearly practice in being something else for one crazy night. Are you guys dressing up at home? Feel free to send pics.

If you want a little boost in transformation, not a transformation into something but just a willful mutation, here's something I made in 2012 for Mothers News, temporarily rebranded "Monsters News" for the season. It's a simple letter substitution matrix-- you can plug in your name and get a new, more monstruous name. Here's a clip from the paper:


Destroy yourself. Change your energy, become unrecognizable to yourself. Be a shadow without a body, be a stain on the air. Turn yourself and your experience inside out-- observe the world by digesting it. Be a mole in the ground. Be wet and warm and dry and cold. Gain power (to act, to move, to will) by destroying something beautiful- your own name. Use the following chart:


Replace every letter with its correspondent. Remove unneccessary letters if desired. Use this name for however purpose.

Please note that this is a one-way system- some letters are redundant, some are destroyed- it's impossible to resurrect the exact original name from only the transformed. Although information can't truly be destroyed, only transformed, the energy released in the name transformaion (E=mc^2) will be effectively impossible to recover.

image image

A few years later I had the idea to make a font out of it, so the changes would be automatic. You can mess with that here:

Monster Alphabet


Did it work?

The process is a little inelegant, and I think it's more fun to just get out a piece of paper and do the letter substition yourself, but there's something extra spooky about doing it this way, or spooky in a different way. One weird side effect is that you can't copy the new name from the space above and paste it into a text field-- if you try you'll just get your original name. To "keep" it, you have to write it down by hand or type it out somewhere-- it has to pass through your mind directly. This is because the letters don't really change, from the computer's point of view. The thing that changes is the way in which they're displayed. There's something there.

I had never made a font before this, though obviously I interact with fonts all the time. It was cool to have this opportunity to mess around and give it a try in a pretty simple way-- mostly it was just opening up a font editor and copying one letter into the space reserved for another. The only really messed up thing that happened was that that I messed up while saving the file, and because the font is based off of the same font I use as the system display font on my computer, it suddenly translated everything on screen and everything I typed into Monster Alphabet, rendering everything basically unintelligible, just a long list of monster's names. There was a sec where I thought "there's no going back from this" but luckily I was able to undo it. The problem arose because I renamed the file, as seemed reasonable, but there are two places in the file where you need to specify "this is the name of the file", and those are the important ones, from an operating system standpoint. You can't just call it something different, you also have to indicate a difference internally. There's something there too.

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Scene Report: Southern Ocean

by Bob from Scream Mask

One of the many lucky things I got going is the occasional opportunity to go out on month-long ocean voyages to do science, an extravagant cost paid for by various governments (here equal parts AUS, UK, US) for geology reasons I personally find a bit silly this time around. This one was a bit different that the other ones, mostly because it had been a good decade since my last one and also because this region (< 50 degrees south, sorta half way between New Zealand and Antarctica) is notoriously turbulent, “the furious 50s” I guess is what people say, which basically just means “BIG TIME WINDY” and “TASTY SWELLS”. You could boogieboard on these ocean swells. Hard to describe it deeper, but I guess if you could imagine working with a laptop, cup of coffee, bunch of papers on a desk and then having it all slide off onto the floor now and then, the annoyingness is about that level.

Longtime followers of me talking loud & loose know that I really hate wind, but I DO respect it, because its actually pretty insane how a bunch of air at marginally different temperatures can cause such a fuss. It’s definitely the worst weather, ruins any time being outside and there’s no real way to hide from it. So just wanted to say fuck wind and get that out of the way. The wind was very bad on this trip.

We are travelling with a lot of youngsters and other dead weight since Pro Science is 60% marketing and social media now and thus there have been gigabytes of pictures taken, which as an older person I think sucks for reasons I can’t really put my finger on. I’m probably in the wrong but it’s harmless enough to hate on it, so I will. Plus I was sure there must be some sort of superstition regarding this, since there are sea superstitions about everything. I looked it up and there isn’t which makes sense because cameras are a relatively new thing, but there are equivalent rules regarding it being bad luck to say “good luck” before a voyage or like, looking back at your wife when leaving the house, and lots of great ones like that. I think those make a lot of practical sense and strongly endorse them. In that spirit I retrofitted this rule to include photography, and started declining photos and stating my sea theory as sea fact, namely that it is bad luck to get your photo taken BEFORE a trip. Even land-based trips I think. And wouldn’t you know, the trip has been insanely behind schedule and the kids who got their picture taken the most have been the sickest at sea and I have been perfectly fine, which may just go to show you. However there are definitely some dumb sea superstitions, one is about women being bad luck but Only if they have clothes on (why you see the big titty mermaids and stuff carved in the hull) and the other is that bananas are bad luck. The banana one is an obvious ruse, that’s just because they go off so fast and everyone feels guilty about throwing them out.

Here’s what else was bad. We talked about the wind. Also we had internet, via satellite. So it was this kinda slow internet that would load the page you’re reading but the picture would take a while, so just enough to keep you hooked but not enough to make you read that book you brought. Plus it meant you had to check your email and even send some. Previous voyages I’ve been on have been nearly internet free (also before smart phones) and they were really relaxing. The ongoing badness of the COVID-19 situation made organising the trip weird, everyone had to be tested multiple times again and again, which is sane and good. But unfortunately being on a proven 100% virus-free boat in the middle of nowhere was not adequate to cool it with the protocol, and we had little cops everywhere with 1.5m sticks spacing us out, that sort of thing. The worst was that we could only fit X amount of people in a room, so when there were meetings they had to do fucken zoom meetings STILL, no reprieve!

Also bummed a bit on the lack of wildlife. One of the great things about sea travel is parking the boat at night, turning on all the lights, and being treated to a show of flying fish, then squid, then sharks, then lord knows what as they all come from everywhere to investigate the light. So far on this cruise that hasn’t happened, but “knock on wood”. We are treated to a lot of big brown albatross that follow the boat around, and once I saw an orca toying around with a seal which is just how it goes, but the seal actually LOOKED sad which was a bummer. But mostly its too dang windy to be outside, but sometimes its also snowy which is a fun novelty until you realise it’s now icy and slippery everywhere. I had my hopes up to see some Aurora Australis too but doesn’t seem to be in the cards this time of year (October), ideal situation for that is either equinox. My understanding is Australis is harder to see in general since the magnetic field is coming “out” of the earth at the southern pole, and you want it to be coming “in” like in the north, to trap in those sweet green rays.

Oh this is rich also, maybe you’ll appreciate this. We had to fish out a $100k piece of new-to-us gear from the sea, and to do so you had to hook taglines from the deck onto a very small little ring that was on the device. Knucklehead Engineering. Well what happened is the ring got bent one way on the hull, and then when someone hooked it, it bent the other way, and then it snapped off! At which point there was no way to get the device on board with the tools we had, so we just left it floating there. I image for that cash most of us would have jumped in and risked hypothermia or orca bite or whatever because we could retire on that, but being overboard on a boat like this is apparently about as dangerous and leaving a space ship in space (in a movie), so we weren’t allowed, and it wasn’t our money anyway. But yeah its just floating around out here if anyone wants it though not sure who you could sell it to.

As I write we’re only about halfway through, and we’re all getting pretty sleep deprived because the waves limit how long you can be asleep, which is not something I anticipated. I bet people are going to get a little testy, probably me also, so better to write this now while I can still laugh at stuff. Probably some other cool stuff will happen but I’ll mention it online or something, lot of downtime and all. image

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other posts you may enjoy (chosen at random) :
My Stupid Little Walk
Miss Piggy's Guide To Life
Mnemonics /
Dr Mario