For a few things that last.

I’m an industrial design fanatic and a former media conservation technician, and I’m always fascinated by the way some things are just seemingly eternal, while others are indefinitely capable of maintenance, and some are just running on a lit fuse from the day they leave the factory.

I’ve got the oscillating Westinghouse desk fan my grandmother looted her savings passbook to buy in 1938, right after my mother was born, because it was unusually hot in May that year in Baltimore, and it works beautifully not because it made a pact with the devil, but rather because it is made of simple materials and simple systems, and every decade or so, I lay it out on newspaper on my workbench, dismantle it down to its components, clean out the dust and lint and hair and other greasy nonsense, change the carbon brushes if needed, clean and polish everything, apply grease and oil where it belongs and wipe it off where it does not, and it’s good for another five years. Seventy-eight years down, it’s good for another seventy-eight if someone gets it after me and takes the same care.

Continue reading For a few things that last.

“Things don’t have purposes, as if the universe were a machine, where every part has a useful function. What’s the function of a galaxy? I don’t know if our life has a purpose and I don’t see that it matters. What does matter is that we’re a part. Like a thread in a cloth or a grass-blade in a field. It is and we are. What we do is like wind blowing on the grass.”

― Ursula K. Le Guin, The Lathe of Heaven

Touch the wire.

I was delighted to be invited and to perform at Oscillate: Pittsburgh 2019 at the Western Pennsylvania Center for the Arts in Verona, PA. It was a pleasure to be a part of the event and enjoy the work of so many fantastic musicians and sample the wares of the exhibiting vendors (Evaton Technologies, RPS Effects, and Vinicius Elektrik) .

For my set, I performed under my Kantoendrato monicker, live-scoring a brief story about my youthful experience of things electrical, “Touch the wire.”

“Touch the wire,” as told on 23 March 2019 – © 2019 Joe Belknap Wall
Click through to see my rig

Kantoendrato: playing Oscillate Pittsburgh 2019

I’ll be playing a gig in my ambient mode, as Kantoendrato, on Saturday, March 23, in Pittsburgh, PA. The details are as follows:


A meet-up & performance event for electronic music and modular synthesizer enthusiasts, featuring manufacturer demos, live performances, hands-on wiggling, and more! Admission is free, however donations to the The Western Pennsylvania Center for the Performing Arts Academy (a non-profit organization) will be gladly accepted. We understand that starving artists and students are especially strapped for cash. 


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Western Pennsylvania Center For the Arts 
300 James Street
Verona, PA 15147 


Saturday, March 23rd, 2019 
from 2:00 PM to 8:00 PM (ish)

Hope to see my Pittsburgh area folks!

The Cloud

My mother was progressive and carefully explained sex to me well ahead of the rest of the kids in school, which was a problem, given my in-built mania to tell everyone around me about cool things I’d learned.

Mind you, I was not clear on the idea that sperm cells preferred to be administered in a liquid medium of a precise consistency and temperature, and I explained to my fellow students, with a tone of wisdom and gravity, that sperm was microscopic, like bacteria and viruses, and just leaked out of boys in a cloud that could impregnate any unlucky girl in the vicinity of a particularly potent boy.

My breathless retelling of this misconception about conception led to a very brief mass hysteria in my class involving all the girls taking to fleeing the boys as if they were surrounded by swarms of yellowjackets, complete with sudden darting changes of direction and wildly flailing fanning gestures.

“What on earth are you doing, Miss Wassman?” asked our teacher of one of the gesticulating young ladies.

“I don’t wanna have a baby!”

“You what?”

“I don’t wanna have a baby! There’s sperm everywhere!”


“Joe Wall said—”

“—Oh, did he now? Mister Wall, can I have a word with you?”

And I was disabused of my errant notion.

@ 2019 Joe Belknap Wall


I’ve been catching up on my composite novels after realizing, some time back, that the reason I wasn’t writing a book wasn’t that I’m not inherently a writer as much as my natural rhythm and flow for writing came to me from my adoration of books that I never understood to be composite novels, or story cycles. So I read Winesburg, Ohio and The Martian Chronicles and The Women of Brewster Place without ever realizing that this is, in fact, the style that I would eventually write in without intending to do so. With hindsight, it’s nice to explore others in the form for examples of how to best adjust the machinery of stories and start stringing together the great fluttering belts linking things all together into a coherent whole in which the parts, too, are complete.

In the same way, my longtime love of Jean Shepherd, transmitted to me via my father’s focused delivery of fifth-generation bootlegs of his old radio show, in which he worked in the mode of sequential and interlinked narratives coming together to build epic serial adventures in Hammond, Indiana, has fed much of my stage work, where I mix and mutate and exchange stories on the fly, always open to swapping narratives in the possibility that that juxtaposition will open up a little window on something in the story I’d never noticed.

“When are you going to write that book?” I’m asked, and I have, really, though in the form of hundreds and hundreds of stories written over the past twenty-five years, but I wasted too much time thinking I was meant to write like we think novelists should write, following a single character through a single narrative, from beginning to end, unfolding over hundreds of pages to an expected or unexpected denouement.

I don’t know early on that my stories work that way, but as I’ve been listening to more and more podcasts, and thinking of how the best among them work much like those books made of other stories, and those serial narratives I’ve heard on old radio from before I was born, all floating on the same river, all following the same current to the same place, and I think maybe the revival of my own long, slumbering podcast should start where the book I’ve been writing would have started, and visit the same places.

When I was small, back in Scaggsville, when I’d wake up too early, while the world was still blue and cool and suspended, waiting for the day to catch up with all of the things around me, I’d slip out onto our front porch in my footie pajamas and stand there on the cracked concrete of our porch, listening. The whole world made a noise back then, a sort of distant singing note that hung in the air, as delicate as a flock of birds all heading in the same direction, and I thought, in some way, that it was the sound of the world turning on its axis.

I’d later realize that it was only the sound of the nearby interstate, and of all the tractor-trailers on their way from somewhere to somewhere else, just tires roaring on the then-new pavement of I-95 and filtered through trees and air and humidity until it became a chorus under everything, just like my congenital tinnitus, always there, everywhere.

I would forever be mistaken about things, and learn.

This is a way to be in the world.

© 2018 Joe Belknap Wall

Pondering the social internet.

I’ve been writing a lot, performing here and there, and gearing up for more performances in the summer and fall, and in the midst of it all, I’m missing the way I used the internet as a social tool and a medium back when I was first venturing on the web.

It’s all very topical, of course, but I’ve been reminded quite often that Facebook just isn’t what Livejournal was, and it really games the system to generate revenue while not making us better off.

Cal Newton wrote a great piece (which I’ve linked to here) about managing the social internet in the era of social media, and I’m increasingly interested in using the internet as a tool instead of as an obligatory ludic loop, forever devouring time and attention in exchange for…well…what, exactly?

It’ll be interesting to see how I do. Watch.

RISK! Live, November 2017

I was honored to be invited to tell a story at the RISK! podcast live show in Baltimore at the Creative Alliance on November 3rd, 2017. I’ve been a big fan of the open, wild, freewheeling storytelling style of RISK! for a while now, which spares no sensibilities in telling things just exactly as they are.

I got to share the stage again with the fantastic KL Parr, who I had the pleasure to meet at my second outing with Baltimore’s own Stoop Storytelling series in February, 2017, as well as Rachel Hinton, Shamyla Tareen, and the illustrious host of the RISK! podcast, Kevin Allison. Three of our stories were featured in the podcast of that evening’s storytelling, available at the RISK! site, and here’s a brief excerpt from mine, in which I describe my failed aspiration to badass status and my infinitesimally short career in the eighties as a fake-smoking male stripper who’d learned to dance by watching Twyla Tharp and Bob Fosse and providing accompaniment by Harry Partch (it did not go well).


© 2017 Joe Belknap Wall