The thrill of the Bamboo Dart Press imprint is birthing books that either would have never been written or would have never seen the light of day were it not for this modest little operation. Our fourteenth and final book in our first year of existence is one that captures so much of what I love about the physical world (the modern day wild west that is the Inland Empire), the creative world (a high concept science fiction piece that subtly dips its tongue in cheek humor into a vat of sorrow) and not least of all, the enduring friendship and collaborative nature of its authors who have created so many weird and wooly conceptual rides over the last four decades that it would take a staff of two full time employees a good five years to note them all. I interviewed the authors Joel Huschle and Mark Givens about their book “The 909” on the eve of its release.
The 909 was slated to be a short film about a decade ago, what happened to the film?
Mark Givens: Joel and I have a long history of conceptually existent projects – movies, tv shows, operas – that never make it into the physical realm. Our Wikipedia entry still lists Bug-Free America as a film that “was expected in 2006, but has yet to debut.”
We wrote this script for the 909 Film Festival in 2011 but never filmed it. That happens a lot with ideas that sound good and make sense, but with new ideas pushing other ideapans off the back burners, sometimes some of them need to be put aside. I’m still learning how to let go of old ideas, stop feeling like these ideas are hanging over our heads, so it’s a work in progress.
But the script is solid, and with some technical assistance from author and film maker Tim Kirk, we’ve been able to hammer it into good shape and are excited to release it as a chapbook.
Joel Huschle: I still want to make the flag with 50 moths instead of stars for the end-scene in Bug-Free America.
This is high concept, issuing the script for a film that is once again in the process of being shot.
MG: We wanted – no, NEEDED – to get The 909 out into the physical world in some form because the next part is coming. So we need to issue part one before part two comes out. Hopefully, we’ll be able to get the movie shot before too long and we’re pretty excited that you’ve agreed to film it. You’ve got a great eye and I love what you’ve been doing with Bamboo Dart Press trailers and promo videos. We have so many talented friends!
JH: I am excited about acting in the role of Joel for this film.
There have been a number of films, shorts et al that the two of you have done alone or together in the past, can you touch upon those?
MG: I’ve not made any movies. Joel?
JH: The first movie I ever made was shot on Super 8 film when I was in 7th grade. The movie was called, Maggots. It was essentially my friend Will spitting rice out of his mouth and then falling to the ground while handfuls of these rice are thrown onto his face and neck. It was about 90 seconds long and I really wish I still had my copy of it. The rest of my video work can’t really be called movies. I do a lot of overdubbing music and dialogue onto promotional videos. I also made a stag film for Mark when he got married. It was called “The Wet Season” and it consisted of a toy car sexually nudging a stuffed bear. The video’s narration consists of me saying “Give it to me!” My wife can’t watch it because the dialogue creeps her out. I understand her point.
Both of you are early adapters to new technology, do either of you have a pair of Google Glass or beta tape players? The technology in the book, a decade out, is obviously closer to a reality now than it was when written.
MG: The advances in mesh networking serve as the impetus for getting this story out there into the world now, before the speculation becomes retrospeculative. Regardless of the actual technology, the conceptual underpinnings are strong.
Technology sets the stage for the actions of The 909 and from this technological base, The 909 explores surveillance, place, and autonomy. It’s also about the way we group people and keep track of them with programs like ZIP codes and addresses. For example, one component of The 909 is based on the overlay plan, a program started in 1992 that dislocated, or de-located, groups from their associated areas by overlaying one code on top of another.
In The 909, we speculate that eventually each person will have their own number, becoming a singular data point, a group of one. This idea fits perfectly with the idea of the mesh; each point in the mesh is a transmitter as well as a receiver, the overlay assigns numbers to those points. So, The 909 questions the ramifications the implications of this kind of interconnectedness.
JH: Never got the Google Glass, though I still fantasize about glasses that will do facial recognition and give me the names of the people I interact with. I am terrible with names. I was very into computers since the late 1970’s. My dad built a Heathkit computer with 4k of ram, a cassette drive, and an LED readout. We graduated to a TRS-80 Model III and that’s when I became obsessed with computers and technology. Mark and I have had long and ongoing conversations about the direction in which tech is headed and how these breakthroughs will challenge every element of our lives. We will, very soon, be questioning how life is defined.
The book plays with the open spaces of the Inland Empire, The former vineyard that is now a gross outdoor mall called Victoria Gardens, vacant strip malls, corporate coffee shops housed in a huge chain store, a stretch of road in Norco, these spaces become incredibly important in tying into the theme of the technology of the “mesh”, something that is a constant abstraction companion married to the physicality of The IE.
MG: The idea of systems without centers, without a central point, is intriguing. Instead of a spoke-and-hub model, these systems resemble other peer-to-peer systems; de-centralized systems that eliminate the biggest choke point and allowing data to route around any blockages that may occur. Information will find a way through. This is true for data systems as well as physical spaces.
Diamond Bar, for example, is a town built without a fixed center while Victoria Gardens is a shopping mall masquerading as a downtown – one model denying place, the other trying desperately to create one. So this is really an exploration of the delocation of public spaces, the absence of place, of belonging. In one way it’s demoralizing, but there’s something tragically beautiful about places that nobody wants. Something communal, a shared absence.
JH: Economy and population control are central elements within the mesh. The idea that communication can be owned and traded like apples or pencils is daunting, emotionally.