Bret McCabe

  • Kraken

    The giant squid/sea monster is such a science-fiction and mythological cliché that the very title of British novelist China Miéville’s eighth novel, Kraken, embraces the genre as pulpy entertainment. Running a brisk five hundred pages, Kraken follows a frenetic stretch in the life of Billy Harrow, a curator at London’s Darwin Centre of the National History Museum. One day, Billy escorts a tour group to the main attraction—a preserved Architeuthis dux—only to discover that the giant squid is missing.

    Thus begins a descent into a netherworld of quasi-religious cults, part-human creatures, spirits,

  • How to Wreck a Nice Beach: The Vocoder from World War II to Hip-Hop, The Machine Speaks

    Technology can take unexpected turns on the path from an inventor’s lab to the shelves of Best Buy. During World War II, presidents Roosevelt and Truman used a cutting-edge voice scrambler called the vocoder, dubbed SIGSALY by the US Signal Corps, to communicate furtively with the Allies about details for such operations as the Normandy invasion and the Hiroshima bombing. Two decades later, as President Kennedy used an encryption device for back-channel communications during the Cuban Missile Crisis, vocal scrambling began its second life in music as singers started distorting their voices. In

  • syllabi November 06, 2009

    Claude Lévi-Strauss

    When French anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss passed away October 30, a few weeks shy of his 101st birthday, he left behind a towering body of work that dramatically impacted his field and influenced the wave of French thought that hit American universities in the 1970s, from Michel Foucault to Jacques Lacan. Lévi-Strauss, though, originally studied philosophy, and it wasn't until traveling and living in Brazil in the late 1930s that he began to focus on ethnographic and ethnological research.

    Bret McCabe is arts editor of the Baltimore City Paper.