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The official Space City Rock Blog, featuring news on local Houston musical happenings and occurances, random venting about various things, and fervent ravings on the wonders of music, art, film, and anything else.
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Mapping the H-town Scene, Mk. II [11/19/2008 12:41:00 AM]:
Some folks may remember that way back in the day, Space City Rock began life -- as a journalistic-type endeavor, at least -- as a real-live paper zine. Our first-ever issue had a bunch of stuff in it, including an interview with members of my soon-to-be-defunct heroes, Jawbox, that I still can't really believe the band bothered to do, tidbits of already-stale local news, a profile of local label Pinche Flojo Recs, and a cool chat I had with Keith Gendel of Papas Fritas, who'd blown me away not long before at Emo's (and who never really got their due, I don't think).

The centerpiece, though, literally and figuratively, was something pal Josh Denk and I'd dubbed "Six Degrees of Pop Deflation"; it was a hand-scrawled (by me), two-page map, of sorts, diagramming the various connections to and from different Houston-area bands. Some connections were already ancient at the time (i.e., The Party Owls to Sugar Shack), but others were just beginning to sprawl outwards (i.e., Fatal Flying Guilloteens & Jessica Six to just about every other band in the city). We named it for one of the coolest bands of the time, Pop Deflation, whose name happened to rhyme with "Separation" and made us both think of that play that got turned into one of Will Smith's first serious movie roles.

Of course, me not being an all-knowing genius, the map required the help of a ton of other people -- I remember Justin Crane, Will Adams, & Mike Bonilla having a major hand in it, and Mike & Will practically re-drew whole sections of it late one night up at KTRU back when my shift & Mike's were wedged back-to-back. The original map was truly something to see, nearly illegible in its sloppy hyper-connectedness. Sadly, it didn't survive the moves I've made since then, and I've got no clue what happened to the damn thing, something that really bums me out to this day.

Before it vanished into the depths of Albans House (most likely, anyway), though, I transcribed the whole thing as neatly as I could, creating the version of the map that ended up in SCR Issue #1 for all the world to see. (I scanned it in a while back, so click here if you feel like checking it out.) SCR rolled on and on and then became digital & all that, and over the years I thought several times about revamping the thing, but it always seemed to be too much of a pain in the ass to maintain, to redraw, etc. Hell, I think Justin and I even talked about him doing it in Lotus Notes, at one point.

Flashing forward to the recent past, though, all the recent activity over on the Scene Wiki got me thinking once again about the "Six Degrees..." thing. A wiki seemed like almost the ideal way of setting up something like that, except that there was no real way to see the whole shebang at once. Then Ben Murphy emailed to see if I still had the map & could send it to him; after I did, I got to thinking more about some way to format the map data into something graphical. Surely somebody had to have come up with something like that, right?

And yep, they have -- turns out that various smart people have tried to come up with markup languages for doing stuff like easily graphing the atoms in a molecule, diagramming logic flows, and other somewhat useful stuff like that. One of the resultant languages, DOT, happens to be dead-fucking-easy in terms of taking a simple pile of words (or atoms, or actions, or what-have-you) with " -> " in between 'em and turning them into neat little graphs. My jaw seriously dropped when I realized I could use the same damn thing (via the open-source Graphviz app) to turn my jumbled mess of interconnected band names into, well, a much neater, easier-to-keep-up jumbled mess of interconnected band names.

So, that's it over there on the right; well, part of it, anyway, because spread out to full length, the damn thing's a monster. I've tried to update things some, adding new bands and connecting old ones where I now know they connect/connected, and the end result is a sprawling, kinda terrifying cat's-cradle that makes the original "Six Degrees" map look picayune. Click here if you're foolhardy enough to want to see the whole thing (and if your browser can view PNG files).

Now, I'd dearly love to build this thing bigger and better, expanding it to heights of navel-gazing interconnectedness the likes of which the world has never seen. But frankly, I'm at the limit of what I know. I've got a second "extra" map going, even, of orphaned connections of one or two bands that never really -- at least, as far as I know -- hook into the big pile. So if you check out the "new" map and see stuff that's wrong or stuff that's missing, definitely let me know. You can either put it in the comments to this post or email me directly as "gaijin" At "spacecityrock DOT com" with the "Subject" line "Six Degrees!" (or something similar).

If anybody's seriously interested, heck, I'd be more than happy to put the .gz file up somewhere where people can edit it themselves. The only real rule is that a band on the map has to exist or have existed in more than just a theoretical way. If the band played a show, they count. Concept bands that never got past the concept stage, though, don't. Beyond that...well, go for it, y'all. Let me know what all I've missed...

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