Monday, September 25, 2017

"Amid Trump’s nuclear brinksmanship and social-media provocation toward North Korea, amid the swollen gorges of water streaming through Puerto Rico, amid the craven and indefensible attempts to gut health care, amid the slower-moving crises of voting access, economic inequality, and climate change - amid all these things, Trump yet again found a novel way to diminish the nation he purportedly leads. He has authored danger in more ways than there are novel ways to denounce it. This is his singular genius." - Jelani Cobb, in The New Yorker

Sunday, September 24, 2017


Photo By Matt Stone
Back in the 1970s, I attended Boston University.  From the windows of some of the second- and third-floor classrooms, we could see out across the Charles River all the way to the dreamy spires of Harvard University in Cambridge, and could imagine an invisible stream of employment offers, opportunity, privilege and prestige channeled from the upper strata of American society straight toward Harvard and bypassing BU altogether.

In a recent Washington Post article, poet, translator, essayist, and Biblical scholar Sarah Ruden, wrote that the real institutional mission of Harvard is "instilling in the elite a conviction of innate superiority and a corresponding contempt for people with technical knowledge, culture, talent or professional experience.”

As has been widely reported in the news, Harvard recently rescinded a fellowship offer to whistle-blower and transgender activist Chelsea Manning, but extended a similar offer to Trump’s former press secretary Sean Spicer and campaign manager Corey Lewandowski.

Douglas Elmendorf, the dean of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, justified the decision to select Spicer and Lewandowski and reject Manning based on what "the community could learn from that person’s visit against the extent to which that person’s conduct fulfills the values of public service to which we aspire.”   To quote Francine Prose in a recent Guardian article, Dean Elmendorf's statement implies that students could learn more from two men "who had lied in service of a liar than from Manning – who had gone to jail for bravely leaking documents that revealed the truth about (among other things) our use of torture and the number of civilian deaths in Iraq."

To be clear, Chelsea Manning did not compromise U.S. National Security or disrupt the U.S.from continuing its wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.  She paid a steep price for her actions, and hearing her express how one can both serve one's country and decide to follow one's conscience during wartime, especially when you become aware that your country is violating international law and that your President, Secretary of State, National Security advisors and military leaders are lying about their policies and their destruction of countries and people, would be well worth hearing and debating at the Kennedy School.

Elite schools have long exhibited a trend of hiring former government officials to teach, whatever their prior actions and histories. John Yoo, the author of many of the Bush administration’s torture memos, is a tenured professor of law at UC Berkeley.  John Negroponte, who oversaw the CIA’s brutal war in Nicaragua and death squads in Honduras, is a distinguished fellow of “grand strategy” at Yale.  Fordham has named former CIA Director John Brennan as a fellow despite his past statements on torture.

The only credible explanation I can think of for why Spicer, Lewandowski, Yoo, Negroponte, and Brennan are all considerable acceptable for positions at elite universities and Manning not is that the combination of gender, sexual orientation, and ties to power and the elite make the former attractive to donors and future donors to the universities and the latter less so.  It becomes a self-fulfilling loop of the elite reinforcing the privilege and prestige of the elite, and everyone else left out.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Psychedelic Music, Part III

The music of the band Animal Collective functions much the same way as does the music of Miles Davis, albeit in a completely different genre with a completely different sound.  However, not unlike Miles, Animal Collective builds hypnotic layer over hypnotic layer, and the attentive listener can easily get lost in the mix.

I once heard somebody say that Animal Collective's songs sound like two of the greatest Beach Boys songs ever, but played at the same time.  To the uninitiated, the complexity of the multi-layered compositions can sound confusing, but if you let if flow through you and let yourself flow with it, you're in for quite a journey.

And if What Do I Want? Sky doesn't convince you on AC's psychedelic music bona fides (not to mention their Beach Boys influences), then this certainly should:

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

To my mind, there are two forms of psychedelic music.  In the first, the artist/musician attempts to recreate or simulate the effects of the psychedelic experience.  Yesterday's Miles Davis composition is an example of this form, with its disassociation of time and space and the way it loses itself in layers.  These artists are saying, in effect, "this is what it was like when we were high." 

Today I'm talking about the other form of psychedelic music, which is produced by the artists/musicians who use the expanded consciousness afforded by the psychedelic experience to express something that may not have been realized without that experience.  These artists are not saying, "this is what it was like when I was high," but are instead expressing ideas, concepts or emotions that have been informed by the experience (e.g., "This is what love is about when ego/self has been transcended").  

Much of Bjork's music and art falls into this latter category.  The video above is not some sort of recreation of what it's like to be tripping, but could only have been conceived by someone who had.

Which is not to say that the only way to be creative is to get stoned out of one's mind.  One of my pet peeves is when I hear someone who's seen some art or performance that is truly creative or even downright weird state, "That person must have been on something really wild," as if that's the only possible explanation for ideas or conceptual creations outside of the norm.  This is not only demeaning of the originality of creative artists, but it shows the limited imagination of the person making the comment.

It's apparently hard for those who haven't undergone the psychedelic experience (or for that matter, those who haven't spent time in intensive meditation) to distinguish between the creative art of the experienced (for lack of a better term) and the inexperienced, but those who have can easily perceive the difference. Those who have can instantly recognize the shared experience expressed by the music of, say, Jimi Hendrix and the band Animal Collective, or for that matter Bjork  They also know without being told that some other musicians, no matter how bizarre or extreme the music may be, don't share their experience (e.g., Frank Zappa and many hardcore metal bands).

An interesting exception to this thesis is David Lynch, who produces both forms (re-creative and reflective) of psychedelic art (in his case, cinema) informed not by psychedelics but by transcendental meditation.  Meditation is not the same as psychedelics and the two don't feel even remotely similar to each other, but both apparently transport the practioner to the same place.

I still don't know how to classify the poetry of Walt Whitman into this scheme. 

Monday, September 18, 2017

One of the under-recognized masterpieces of psychedelic music, IMHO.  

Speaking about Louis Armstrong (but it certainly applies to this Miles Davis composition as well),  in 1952, Ralph Ellison wrote:
Once when I asked for a cigarette, some jokers gave me a reefer, which I lighted when I got home and sat listening to my phonograph. It was a strange evening. Invisibility, let me explain, gives one a slightly different sense of time, you're never quite on the beat. Sometimes you're ahead and sometimes behind. Instead of the swift and imperceptible flowing of time, you are aware of its nodes, those points where time stands still or from which it leaps ahead. And you slip into the breaks and look around.  That's what you hear vaguely in Louis' music . . . So under the spell of the reefer I discovered a new analytical way of listening to music. The unheard sounds came through, and each melodic line existed of itself, stood out clearly from all the rest, said its piece, and waited patiently for the other voices to speak. That night I found myself hearing not only in time, but in space as well. I not only entered the music but descended, like Dante, into its depths . . . It was exhausting -- as though I had held my breath continuously for an hour under the terrifying serenity that comes from days of intense hunger. And yet, it was a strangely satisfying experience for an invisible man to hear the silence of sound. I had discovered unrecognized compulsions of my being -- even though I could not answer "yes" to their promptings. I haven't smoked a reefer since, however; not because they're illegal, but because to see around corners is enough (that is not unusual when you are invisible). But to hear around them is too much; it inhibits action. (from Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison, 1952)

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Meanwhile, At Fenway . . .

Or, below, imagined as a post-apocalypse shelter in the computer game Fallout 4.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Post-Irma Post

Not my house!  Photo by Creative Loafing
The storm is gone.  The winds have subsided and the rain has stopped.  I went to work yesterday and the roads were clear.  Clear coming home, too.

So I was surprised when I left for work this morning and found that a major limb had fallen off of one of my many trees and landed smack dab across my driveway, blocking me off and effectively keeping me from leaving.  It wasn't there when I drove home last night. It must have fallen sometime overnight, but I didn't hear it fall.  

I was lucky it landed on the driveway and didn't hit my house.  Or my car (it was a big limb and would definitely have done some damage). I was lucky it didn't hit me.

Luckier still: it missed the power line along my road by no more than two feet.  In fact, some of the smaller branches (it look like the major limb brought some smaller branches down with it), were on the opposite side of the power line, but I couldn't tell if they had rolled down there after they had fallen, or if the branches had come down on both sides of the power line.  It would have been ironic to have maintained power throughout the storm, but then lose electricity after the storm finally passed.

I managed to move the broken pieces out of my way and carry them over across the street to where the city eventually picks them up, along with lawn trimmings and the like.  One big piece was too heavy for me to lift, at least by myself, but fortunately for me, that big piece landed in the English ivy next to my driveway and out of my way, so I was able to leave it where it laid and still drive out.

My guess is that since the wood looked slightly rotten, some dead branches up high had finally absorbed enough water that the extra weight finally caused them to fall.  Of course, that makes me wonder what's going to fall next, and if I'm yet out of the woods, so to speak.

Everyone has their own story to tell about the storm, and I know I'm lucky to have been so minimally inconvenienced (one of my coworkers still doesn't have his power back on, and probably won't until some other repairs are completed on his house, probably weeks from now).  People in Florida have lost their homes and everything.  People in the Caribbean have lost their lives and loved ones.  I'm not complaining about having to move some branches out of my way two days after the storm - if anything, as I was carrying downed wood across the road, I felt I was sharing, even if momentarily, the burden my brothers and sisters south of me are experiencing. 

Tuesday, September 12, 2017


Photo by Georgia Power Company
Well that was . . . interesting.  Irma passed through Atlanta yesterday with tropical-storm winds and several inches of rain, and seemed to really whip itself up into a fury between the hours of 3:00 and 7:00 p.m.  Treetops were whipping back and forth and the rain was coming down in sheets during those hours, and all I could do was listen to the news, watch out the window, and hope for the best.

Which surprisingly seemed to work.  I didn't lose power or cable or internet connectivity, even as the people on t.v. were reporting on tens of thousands of others in the state without power and showing live coverage of fallen trees mere blocks away from my house (see above).

The roof held, no trees came down on my house, and I was able to enjoy the comfort of electric lights all day.  We survived the hurricane.

Frequently during the day, but especially between those critical hours of 3 and 7, I thought about the line in Alejandro Iñárritu’s film The Revenant, when the spirit of Leonardo DiCaprio's Pawnee wife whispers to him, “The wind cannot defeat a tree with strong roots. If you look at its branches, you swear it will fall. But if you watch the trunk, you see its stability.”

I tried to stay focused on the trunk.

Monday, September 11, 2017


Hurricane Irma has already wracked a lot of destruction, devastating the island of Barbuda, pretty much wiping out many of the Virgin Islands (reportedly with up to 95% destruction, however that's measured), and the news is just now coming in on what it's done to Miami and south Florida.

Last night, it made its way up the Florida peninsula, and arrived in south Georgia this morning.  It's already weakened from a Class 5 hurricane to a tropical depression, but it's still forecast to hit Atlanta with "sustained 50 mph winds, with gusts up to 75" and 3 to 5 inches of rain.  Since the storm is forecast to pass west of us - it's on course to hit Birmingham, Alabama - we're on the side of the storm where tornados are generated, although they say the air's too cool now for tornados to be much of a concern.

The picture above is my front yard from just a few minutes ago - the rain is already falling but so far, the wind is mild, although all indications are it will pick up during the day, hitting its climax late this afternoon and early this evening.

It's a virtual holiday here in Atlanta, although a grim one - school's are shut down, MARTA's not running, most businesses are closed.  I'm "working" from home today, but all my clients are off so there's really not much to do except watch the weather and ride out the storm.

Trees will come down - hopefully not any of those above, but every time there's even a thunderstorm in Atlanta, trees come down somewhere.  I heard on the radio there's already a large one down just a couple blocks from me.  When the trees do come down, they take power lines out with them, so I'm fully expecting to lose electricity before it's all said and done.  It may take a while for the juice to get restored as emergency and utility maintenance crews will rightly be addressing the Class 5 damage in Florida, so after the lights go out, it may be a while until I can post here  again (I'm not going to drain precious laptop battery life on updates to this blog).

I've got candles and flashlights ready for the inevitable, and I've been advised to keep a bathtub full of water for the toilets in case the water stops running. I've also got a couple gallons of drinking water and I've prepared enough food to last me several days. I've also got the company of two housecats to help last me through the storm.

If the lights stay on, I'll post some updates, although I feel a little silly and self-indulgent considering how we in Atlanta have been spared the full wrath of the storm, and how much more others are suffering and how much more others will have lost.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Teen Daze at The Masquerade, Atlanta, September 9, 2017

In a world where the western half of the North American continent is on fire and it's literally raining ashes in Seattle, where the southeastern portion of the same continent is either underwater or about to be underwater due to a formidable string of record-breaking hurricanes lining up in the North Atlantic, where Mexico is digging out from a devastating earthquake, where monsoons and floods are deluging the Asian subcontinent, aand where North Korea is threatening nuclear war and global annihilation to anyone who'll listen, in such a world, a couple dozen hours or so away from one of those aforementioned hurricanes arriving inside the perimeter around Atlanta, how else is one to respond except by going out to the new and not-at-all-godforsaken Masquerade to hear the British Columbia band Teen Daze?

If you've tried to pigeon-hole my taste in music based on my enthusiastic review of the manic Oh Sees show earlier this week, you might guess that Teen Daze is more of the same thing.  You would be totally wrong.  Although the band's name suggests Katy Perry/Teenage Dream-type pop, Teen Daze is actually a one-man project of some of the gentlest, quietest ambient electronica this side of Juliana Barwick, with occasional brushstrokes of chillwave and dream pop.

Two bands opened for Teen Daze.  Sleepy John & The Boys and Lucky Kitty.  The Boys are a touring band revolving around Sleepy John, an indie/alternative pianist singer-songwriter from Atlanta. Although the band cites Russian Romantic composers, Duke Ellington, and contemporary artists like Bjork, Father John Misty, and Mac Demarco among their influences, their piano-driven songs sound more like Ben Folds and early Billy Joel to my ears.  Their songs were quite well written, and the band was very precise and obviously well rehearsed in their performance. 

Lucky Kitty are a shoegaze/dream-pop band out of Athens, Georgia.

There was a lot of audience turnover between bands - there weren't many people in the club, only about 35 to 50 total, and those that were seemed to be there for specific bands.  A group of people who I suspect were family and friends of Sleepy John left after The Boys set and a bunch of young women who watched Lucky Kitty from near the front of the stage all left after the respective band's sets.  About 25 or so people, mostly guys, stayed for Teen Daze.   

And those 25 or so people were well rewarded for their persistence. Jamison Isaak (Teen Daze) played an absolutely lovely set of ambient/dream-pop/chillwave/electronica, quiet enough to let the sounds settle into their own natural places in the room, and with enough occasional synthesized beats and vocals to keep the performance from morphing into some sort of art project. It was all very beautiful and life-affirming and fun, and very much the antidote to the horrors catalogued at the top of this post.

Here's a tasty little sample of the kind of sounds Isaak was producing at The Masquerade last night.

All this, and I got home in time to see the Georgia Bulldogs score the go-ahead field goal at Notre Dame, and then sack the Irish quarterback on the next drive, recovering the football in the process to seal a 20-19 road victory.  

Saturday, September 09, 2017

Our minds are like a tangle of wires, and those wires are the neural pathways we've developed over the course of our lives.  Since everyone's life is different and everyone's experiences unique, we all have different neural pathways and we're all wired differently.  Humans are social animals, and to get along in society, we need to have certain of those neurons wired up in a more-or-less compatible way with the other humans with whom we're in contact, and I believe that many so-called mental disorders are simply due to an individual having that tangle of wires plugged in a little (or a lot) differently that others.

If in the course of one's life and experience one somehow developed a neural association of, say, "food" with, oh, "aggression," and therefore started behaving very aggressively at mealtime, there's nothing fundamentally "wrong" with that person, it's just that their wiring is incompatible with that of those around them.  There are those who have developed wiring such that they associate "sexual arousal" with "self loathing" (see far left, above) or "anger" (see center, above).  If everyone else were wired the same way, these individuals wouldn't seem so freakish or strange - they only stand out because their wiring is different from the norm.     

Many times, this miswiring is far more benign and not incompatible with societal construct. For example, synesthesia is typically defined as a neurological condition in which responses to certain sensual sensations get "crossed."  It can occur when stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway (e.g., vision) leads to an automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway (e.g., hearing). About 5 percent of the population reportedly has some form or another of synesthesia, and over 60 types have been reported. The most common form of synesthesia is in people who perceive individual letters of the alphabet and numbers to be "shaded" or "tinged" with a color. Others commingle sounds with scents, sounds with shapes, or shapes with flavors.

I often associate perceptions of facial expressions with sounds.  A smile has a certain, very specific sound to me, as does a frown or a scowl.  What's interesting is that while I can "hear" those sounds very clearly even when I imagine the facial expressions, when I try to conjure up the sounds from my memory independent of the smile or the frown, I can find nothing.  I mean, when I try to describe (even to myself) what the sound of a smile is, I simply can't, yet I can hear it as soon as I imagine a smile, or see an actual one.  

The reason, I believe, is that since I'm experiencing a visual sensation (that is, a sight) using the faculty of hearing, but there is no real, actual sound heard by the ear, when my mind searches the "hearing" portions of my memory, there's nothing there.  But when it searches through visual memories and finds a smile, voila, I immediately "hear" that sound.  I can only experience that sound based on visual stimuli, or by remembering or imagining that stimuli, and not directly as a sound or the memory of a sound.   No smile, no "sound" of a smile.

I wonder if the term "synesthasia" could also be applied beyond the realm of the senses.  Could that odd feeling of deja vu be due to the perception of what's happening in current time getting crossed with, and therefore experienced as, the perception of memory?  Could deja vu be considered a form of synesthesia? What about getting signals crossed between pleasure and pain?  Between joy and sorrow?  Affection and anger?  Arousal and shame?  

Friday, September 08, 2017

Does art imitate life or does life imitate art?  If you think that it's life that imitates art, does it actually just appear to be that way because art influences the way we perceive life, the way we choose to interpret the experience of our life?

Certainly, watching movies and television affects how we understand the world around us, and what our own role might be in that world around us.  We often have that "Gee, this is just like in the movies" experience.  But is that really true, is it really just like in the movies, or do we subconsciously make comparisons of our lives to those movies and then let our imaginations fill in the blanks and correct the errors between our fantasy and our actual experience?

As you may have noticed, I've been spending a lot of time playing computer games lately.  If you can allow the suspension of disbelief and consider those games to be a highly stylized form of "art," then we can explore the possibility that the art of the game might affect my perception of the world.

Which is all a long and roundabout way of saying I had an experience this week that was just like in a computer game.

So-called "open-world" games like Fallout and Skyrim allow the player to wander at will anywhere in the cyber-universe of the game, so the game designers have to create incentives to get the player to explore specific places and advance the story line.  Typically, at some point, the player learns of some specific treasure or valuable item or weapon or something that's hidden in some labyrinthine factory or dungeon or cave system, and then the player navigates through a maze of dead ends, false leads, trap doors, and assorted other hazards until the quest item is discovered.  Most games require the player to go through scores of these quests to complete the game. This summer, I must have explored hundreds of virtual abandoned hotels, derelict mines, empty factories, haunted castles, and spooky cave systems, and that experience has seeped into my subconscious and even manifested itself in some of my dreams.

This week, in the real-life world, the so-called consensus reality, I had to perform an inspection/reconnaissance of a former newspaper building, complete with printing presses, paper rollers, warehouses, darkrooms and photo labs, and editorial, sales, and managerial offices.  Like many American newspapers, the print version had shut down and the "paper" is now on-line only, so the old news building is now empty.  I had to explore my way through a surprisingly large number of offices, conference rooms, editorial boardrooms and sales centers on several different floors, and just like in the games, everything seemed laid out like a maze, and I often realized that I just walked in through the east door of a large room I had earlier exited by way of the west door.  Power was on in some, but not all, portions of the building, and I had to use my iPhone flashlight to guide me through unlit areas.

In order to reach the printing presses in the basement, I had to figure out a way through the maze of offices, up and down staircases, passenger elevators, freight elevators, and dumbwaiters, and over and across steel scaffolding of questionable structural integrity.  Some elevators worked and some didn't, and one only worked in the down direction but refused for some reason to lift me back up, so after descending two stories only to find myself in a store room with no exit other than a stairwell, I had to walk back up again and find another way down to the basement.  Just like in a computer game.

When I finally got to the printing presses, I found myself in a dark cavernous hall full of mysterious equipment looming over me, overhead hoists, dangerous open pits in the floor, and a confusing maze of subterranean side rooms and warehouse areas off to the side.  It was all spooky and ominous, especially considering it was a "dark" area that required my iPhone flashlight for illumination.  And once I completed the inspection of the presses, I had to figure out how I got down there in the first place in order to find my way back out.  Just like in a computer game.

Now as I explained earlier, in the games there's usually some sort of treasure at the end of the quest to serve as the player's incentive to continue exploring the maze.  My real-life "goal" was simply to look for any evidence of environmental contamination, but just before I entered the building, the real-estate agent who had the key to let me in told me that the newspaper's former Editor In Chief didn't believe in banks, and was said to have kept all of his cash in a vault hidden somewhere in the building.  I didn't find the vault, if it's even real, or any caches of cash money, but a secret vault full of riches is exactly the kind of goal the game designers create to motivate a player through a quest.

In the end, although I didn't find any vaults full of cash, sadly, I did find my real-life goal (evidence of environmental contamination).  But my question here is how much of my experience that day was colored by my recent experience playing computer games?  If I hadn't been playing, would I have perceived the maze of offices and the dark basement differently, and if so, how? Would the exploring have seemed less like an adventure and more like a chore?  What if, instead of playing computer games, I had been reading gothic vampire novels or Stephen King short stories?  How then would I have perceived being in dark basements dependent on the dim light from my iPhone? What if I had instead immersed myself in an academic study of 20th Century industrial architecture?  Would the visit have seemed more cerebral and less like an adventure?

Finally, this brings me to the broader question - how much of the perception of my experience and my life has been influenced by media, television, movies, books, the internet, computer games and so on, in ways of which I'm not even aware?  Were things really like I remember, or do the comic books and sit-coms of my youth only make them seem that way?  How would I know, and what difference would it ultimately make?

What about you?

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Thee Oh Sees at Variety Playhouse, Atlanta, 09-06-2017

It's Rocktober, that magical time of the year between Labor Day and Thanksgiving when Atlanta annually seems blessed with a far greater than usual number of good to great bands playing in town. This year's Rocktober started off with a set last night by Bay Area band Thee Oh Sees.

Atlanta sludge-grunge band All The Saints opened with a loud set of grunge and sludge.  They aren't bad, but they're not nearly as good as their constant posturing and on-stage preening suggests they think they are.  They sound at times like a shoegaze take on Nirvana and their drummer certainly has promise, provided, of course, he finds a better band to play in.  Meantime, he and us have All The Saints.  Also, as long as I'm complaining,  their set lasted too long (nearly 45 minutes) for an opener, especially one with a sound as limited as All The Saints (all the songs sounded about the same after 10 minutes).

The same (all the songs sound about the same) could also be said for Thee Oh Sees, but in their case, that sound is so good you don't want it to change, and they know this and they deliver on that premise.  Thee Oh Sees have an instantly recognizable style but one that's hard to classify - a sort of garage band approach to a combination of psych- and punk-rock, played at a frenetic breakneck speed reminiscent of rockabilly or its cousin, psychobilly.  There's occasional lulls where they quiet things down a bit, but only so that frontman John Dwyer can hoot his trademark "Whoo" into a mic and launch another excursion into an adrenaline stratosphere.   They're so energetic it's almost comical and sometimes they remind me of some sort of Mad Magazine caricature of a punk rock band, or something that Ed "Big Daddy" Roth might have imagined being played on the stereo of one of his comically over-accessorized hot rods.

They constantly have the dial on the "Fun Meter" turned up to 11, and everything they do, every gesture, every note, every word of every song, seems determined to be and to have as much fun as humanly possible.  They don't seem to believe in preludes or long suspenseful introductions to their songs, they just barrel-dive right into the fun parts and then hop from one peak to the next.  Life's too short for them to bother with verse-chorus-verse song structure when they can just unleash a sonic blast attack at will.

They're also incredibly prolific, which makes it hard for anyone to be familiar with all of their songs, but they did open with Dead Man's Gun from last year's excellent An Odd Entrances, and they managed to fit The Dream from 2011's Carrion Crawler somewhere later into their set.  I recognized some other songs but couldn't tell you a single additional title.

Oh, by the way, did I mention yet that they now have two drummers? They both played in perfect unison most of the time, but definitely doubled the propulsion.  With the only other musicians being Dwyer on guitar and vocals and a bass player, half the god-damned band are drummers.

The show kicked ass.  The crowd was whipped into a frenzy and there was near-constant crowd surfing. All that and I got home by 11:15.  Not bad, not bad at all.   

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

What did you do last weekend?

Down here, we kicked off the weekend over beers with a few friends, watched Georgia and Alabama win their season-opening football games, and pretty much wrapped up playing Skyrim, which we've been playing since August 15.  We've completed all the main quests, killed many a dragon, sacked many a castle, and defeated a good number of wizards, and there are still a few side quests left to complete.

I think at this point, my list of titles goes something like Shokai, the Dragonborn, Bard, Arch-Mage of the College of Winterhold, and Thane of Whiterun, Riften, and Morthal, although I might be forgetting a few honorifics here or there. 

Surprisingly, given the above, we didn't go to DragonCon last weekend.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Death and Cars and Rock 'n' Roll

Please don't be alarmed.  Please don't take this the wrong way.  I'm not suicidal.  Far from it - I'm probably the opposite of suicidal, whatever that is.  And this isn't a cry for help or a threat or a warning or anything like that.

But sometimes I wonder that if I were going to commit suicide, how would I do it?  And most every scenario I come up with involves some combination or another of my car and music.

I'm not into guns, and any method of suicide that involves either burning, freezing or strangulation sounds too scary and/or painful.  Overdosing seems popular but you always run the risk of not doing it right and winding up some sort of vegetable or in a psychiatric hospital and worse off than you were before.  

But there are three methods I've come up with that sound intriguing.  Here they are, in order of decreasing probability (which in my case are all exactly zero, because as I said, I'm not suicidal). Also, don't try any of these at home, kids:
  1. Slam-Dancing With a 18-Wheeler - In this fantasy, I'm in my car (just like I am in the other two fantasies), and in this case I'm listening to music.  Loud.  Very loud.  And something fast and aggressive, like the SF psych-punk band Thee Oh Sees.  With the music blaring full blast out the open windows, I find a way to jump into the wrong lane of traffic on an Interstate Highway, usually I-85 in Atlanta, and try to swerve and avoid as many on-coming cars as I can while I accelerate to full speed and drive head on into the first 18-wheeler truck I can find.  We're both going well over 60 mph and the end, at least for me, is fast and certain.

  2. Thelma & Louise - This one is a lot more specific and will take a lot more planning, but at least it doesn't involve taking other people out with me like the previous fantasy probably would.  I find a spot on the rim of the Grand Canyon where I can drive my car off the edge and into the abyss like in the movie Thelma & Louise.  Once the spot is found, I very carefully measure the precise distance away that I need to be so that I can start driving as fast as I can while playing the Swans' song Into The Sun and arrive at the edge (and the end of my existence) at the exact moment that the song hits its climactic crescendo and the chorus is singing "Suuuuun!" for the last time (you have to know the song to understand that reference), and my car and I boldly leap into the afterlife.  If I can time this to also occur exactly at sunset (or sunrise if I'm driving from the west), so much the better.

  3. The Comfy Way - This one's a lot less violent than either of the previous two fantasies.  I simply park my car in a snug garage, open the windows, leave the engine running, and let the carbon monoxide fill my lungs while I listen to my favorite folk-rock and indie songs on the stereo.  Since I don't myself actually own a garage, a variation involves attaching a hose to the exhaust pipe and running it into a partially open window but leaving all the other ones shut tight so that the car itself fills with carbon monoxide to take us to the other shore.  If I do this at home, I can leave a message in the mailbox politely informing the mail-person not to be alarmed but if she finds this message it means there's a corpse in the car in the driveway, and to call 911 or whatever before some innocent passerby is traumatized by finding a dead person in their neighborhood.  Also, she can help herself to whatever she wants in the house before the police arrive - I won't mind as I won't be needing any of it anymore.
So to repeat, these are just fantasies, morbid meditations on the unthinkable, and not anything I'm planning to do.  But if I were . . .  it obviously would involve my car, which I probably should just go ahead and rename Charon now for the ferryman in Greek mythology who transported the dead to the underworld.     

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Taffy Burns

It's my Mom's birthday!  Wish her a happy one, everybody, and wish her many more to come.  She's survived raising four children, a World War, a Cold War, innumerable smaller wars, conflicts and skirmishes, several Republican administrations, the suburbs, a marriage, a divorce, a career that paid for my college education (thanks, Mom!), and dramas, traumas, and tragedy that I probably don't even know about. And she's faced all this with her humor and kindness intact, and can still beat me any day of the week in a mean game of Scrabble (my theory is that she cheats, but I haven't yet figured out how).

Anyway, happy birthday, Mom!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

While my heart goes out to the poor, suffering people in and around Houston, I have to admit that the massive low-pressure cell southwest of Atlanta has brought down some cool Northern air, and temperatures and humidity have been nicer these past few days than they've been for a while.

But what I was going to say is that when the heat's back on - and it will return, I assure you ("summer is coming") - there's probably no better game with which to escape the temperatures than Skyrim.  Set in a medieval Nordic fantasy realm, complete with Alpine mountains, glaciers, and lots and lots of snow (and even the occasional walrus, polar bear and saber-tooth tiger), it just feels cool and refreshing if you let yourself get pulled into the fantasy.  It feels like the room temperature drops 10 degrees when you fire up the game.  

I can't imagine what it's like playing in the real winter, on a cold day, when you can see your breath.   

Monday, August 28, 2017

For Once, Good News

In this time when many American cities are grappling with the issue of Civil War monuments and statues of openly segregationist politicians and wondering whether to leave them up or take them down, Atlanta today unveiled a new statue of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.   


At the State Capital.

At the high-visibility intersection of Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and Capitol Avenue.

I agree with Trump that we should preserve these "beautiful statues and monuments," at least in this particular instance.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Fela 76

According to the Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Jung, "The greater the contrast, the greater the potential. Great energy only comes from a correspondingly great tension of opposites."  Neste vídeo capa vou mostrar a música Mister Follow Follow do album Fela Kuti Zombie (1976).

Friday, August 25, 2017


I took the back roads home from Jekyll Island today.  Above is an abandoned apiary in Gardi (Wayne County), Georgia, and below is an abandoned gas station in Brunswick.

The land was flat and the roads straight as an arrow for long stretches.

A last shot of the overly landscaped grounds of my hotel on the island.

If you're wondering why I headed home on a Friday when the weekend was just beginning, I was on Jekyll for an environmental conference on Wednesday through Friday.  By Friday - today - I had sampled enough of what the island had to satisfy me, and besides, it was too hot and humid to even sit out by the sea. 

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Let's Go To The Beach!

It's 325 miles from Atlanta to Jekyll Island, or roughly the distance from Boston, Massachusetts to Wilmington, Delaware, but I made the trip this morning in about five hours and spent what was left of the day at the Jekyll Island Convention Center and the restaurant at the Westin.

Another fun-filled day awaits tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

All things have potential. Potential existed before the cosmos came into existence and potential will exist after the collapse of the cosmos.  Potential is independent of space and time.

In potential, there is no understanding of what potential is and no one to understand or not understand potential.  In potential, the universe itself is eternal, peaceful, selfless, and whole, and while the nature of existence is impermanent and interdependent, in potential the universe is eternal and unchanging. Given all that, potential is: 

Neither existent nor nonexistent,
Neither that which has been created nor that which has not been created,
Neither something sacred nor something profane,
Neither matter nor anti-matter,
Neither that which is named nor that which is unnamed,
Neither phenomenal nor non-phenomenal,
Neither "is" nor "is-not",
Neither substantial nor insubstantial,
Neither cause nor effect,
Neither opposite nor identical,
Neither bright nor dark,
Neither appearing nor non-appearing,
Neither eternal nor temporal,
Neither disruptive nor non-disruptive,
Neither beginning nor without beginning,
Neither past, present, or future,
Neither logical nor illogical,
Neither of the realm of the senses nor beyond the realm of the senses,
Neither caught in the web of interdependence nor free of the web of interdependence.

It's as if I said that outside right now I have the last thing you'd expect. In that case, whatever you think it might be that I have outside would not be the "last" thing you expected, as another guess would always follow, if not immediately then as soon as I said, "No, it's not that thing either."  The more you keep guessing, the further away from knowing what it is you'll be, and the Zen-like nature of this is that as soon as you quit and stop trying to guess what it is, as soon as you no longer care, then there will have been a "last expectation" and you'll know what it is.

As soon as you stop trying to understand potential, potential will understand you.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Tonight, on the eve of a total solar eclipse across the North American continent, it's worth remembering how in 1973 the Sun Ra Arkestra lifted their instruments in commemoration of the appearance of the Comet Kohoutek, an infrequent visitor to this part of the solar system.  It should also be noted that if Sun Ra were alive today, he'd hope that the eclipse would remind the whole world that we all occupy the same small isolated planet, and that we should put aside our petty differences in honor of the greater mysteries of the universe.

The truth is rarely expressed more openly or more explicitly than by an eclipse.  It literally shows us where we are in the cosmos.

Regardless of whether you listen to this song or not, some people will hear this message and some people won't.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Two Long Videos That Are Worth The Time It Takes To Watch

After waiting two days before finally giving a half-assed condemnation of the horrific events in Charlottesville, Virginia last weekend, yesterday (Tuesday) Trump reverted back to his original "both sides are to blame" position.

The reversal of his position reveals his true feelings about the matter and falsely implies a moral equivalency between the hate speech and terroristic act of murder by the alt-right with the unfortunate violence of those protesting the hateful rhetoric.  His false equivalency clearly empowers and emboldens the alt-right.  “Thank you President Trump for your honesty & courage to tell the truth,” David Duke, a former Ku Klux Klan leader, responded on Twitter after the president's remarks.

Keith Olbermann (above), in his usual prosecutorial tone, explicitly lays out the problem here and the failure of leadership in the Trump presidency.

The video below seems like it's from forever ago, but it's actually less than a year old.   The very fact that it seems so dated reflects how much else we've been through as a nation in the past 10 months.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

As noted here several times, since June 25 I've been spending the lion's share of my spare time playing the game Fallout 4.  For a change of pace, last night I downloaded and started playing a new  game, Skyrim, apparently the fifth release in the Elder Scrolls series.

Skyrim is produced by the same creators as Fallout, so the game-play and the user interface are quite similar.  In fact, they're so similar that as I was playing last night, I couldn't help but compare and contrast the two games, generally concluding, "Well, that's just like Fallout, only not as good."  I'm sure that as I get sucked into the story line of Skyrim the comparisons will stop and I'll get hooked.

Or is the hook already set?  I started the download and set-up at around 7:00 p.m. and was playing by 8:30.  After I poked around a little bit and started the story, I looked up at the time to see how I was doing and realized it was already 1:00 a.m.

Damn.  Not fun getting up for work today.

Monday, August 14, 2017


In my long life, I've managed to live through Presidencies of Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and a couple of Bushes, but never have I seen a president fan the flames of racism, sexism, bigotry and intolerance like Donald J. Trump.  

The blood of the tragic events of Charlottesville are on the hands of the President for emboldening and encouraging the alt-rights' actions, from the birtherism and race-baiting of his campaign speeches, to his appointment of alt-right champion Steve Bannon as his Chief Strategist, to his xenophobic and racist policies and proposals on immigration, affirmative action, and voting rights.

The only ray of hope in all of this is the sheer repugnance of the alt-right's recent actions has spurred a new wave of protest and has definitively confirmed that we must rid the nation of the current Administration.  

There were spontaneous marches and protests yesterday across the country, including here in Atlanta, where a group of patriotic protesters marched from downtown to midtown's Piedmont Park, where they spray-painted a statue of a Confederate soldier.  There's also an on-line petition to rename Atlanta's "Confederate Avenue" to something more appropriate, such as "John Lewis Avenue."

Is it too soon to revisit Thor Harris' advice on punching Nazis?

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Waxahatchee at Terminal West, Atlanta, August 11, 2017

Well, we did it!  Friday night, we actually stopped toiling at work/playing Fallout 4 long enough to get our fat asses out the door and finally go see to see a live show.  And it was a great one, fortunately, and thus encouraging for us to go out again and do it some more (we've been on a run of very occasional but good shows lately, including Washed Out at Variety Playhouse and Lonnie Holley at Eddie's Attic).

Opening the show was Baltimore-by-way-of-Athens' Outer Spaces. 

As the opening band so often is, Outer Spaces was a totally unknown entity to us, but we really liked the trio (singer/guitarist, drummer, and keys - no bass).  Frontwoman Cara Beth Satalino has a strong and clear-enough band to project over the drums and her own jangling guitar, and I'll be so bold to say that they have next-big-thing potential and with a little more exposure, they might be headliners of their own some day soon.

We saw the mid-bill band, Boston's own Palehound, a couple years open for an equally terrific band, Bully, at The Drunken Unicorn in one of the best shows of that particular year (2015, I think, but it might have been early 2016).

It would be an understatement to say that Ellen Kempner, Palehound's vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter, can do just about anything but seriously, is there anything she can't do?  During their set, her singing ranged from a pretty, indie folk-rock voice to growling blues and fuzzed-out punk, she laid down some stinging electric guitar lines when the song called for it, and she even brought it all down for a couple spare, intimate songs in the middle of Palehound's set (during the 2015 show, she was on stage alone for this part of the set; Friday night, the band just provided minimal accompaniment).  The set opener, Healthier Folk, is a pretty good example of the range of Palehound's sound.

So that was cool, and if that was all there was to the show, we would have gone home happy, but wait, as they say, there's more!  The headliner was Philadelphia-by-way-of-Alabama's Waxahatchee.

Waxahatchee is singer/guitarist Katie Crutchfield (for the umpteenth time, the whole evening consisted of female-fronted bands), and it probably didn't hurt the quality of the harmonies that her backup singer was her twin sister, Allison (who also put out a terrific album of her own earlier this year, and who opened for Waxahatchee when we saw them at Aisle 5 last year).  The band sounded incredibly tight, polished, and well-rehearsed, not hitting an off note or suffering a misdirected moment the entire set.  If one judges the quality of a live set by how similar the band sounds to their studio recordings, one would have been very impressed by Friday night's performance.  This is clearly Waxahatchee's moment, as their latest record, this year's Out In The Storm, is in our opinion their best yet and potential breakthrough recording, and on Friday night, Waxahatchee was clearly in command of the new material. 

So anyway, that was cool.  Three great sets by three great bands, including one new discovery (Outer Spaces), one all-too-rare appearance in Atlanta by one of our favorite New England bands (Palehound), and the witness of an artist hitting the peak of her creative abilities (Waxahatchee). 

Friday, August 11, 2017

Thor For Governor

Percussionist extraordinaire, frontman for Thor & Friends, past member of Shearwater and Swans, occasional drummer for Adam Torres, and all-round nice guy Thor Harris has announced that he's running for Governor of the State of Texas.  His reason, according to his Twitter feed, is " 'cause fuck this."

I don't think he's kidding.  In the past, Harris has been an outspoken advocate for veganism, LGBT rights, and access to abortion and other reproductive health-care services for women.  In a follow-up tweet, Harris challenged incumbent Texas Governor Greg Abbott by asking "Hey Gov Abbott, guess why Texas has the highest maternal mortality rate BY FAR?"

The video below got him banned from Twitter, at least temporarily.

Finally, because we here at Water Dissolves Water believe one's art describes a person better than one's words (it's not what you say, it's what you do), here's a video from a performance last year by Thor & Friends (we saw them a few months later at Eddie's Attic of all places).

Thursday, August 10, 2017


Remember that we will all eventually die.  Any one of us could leave life right now. Let that determine what we do and say and think.

My wish is that Sun Ra were still here to advise us, console us, and guide us.  We miss him dearly, and right now in this very moment of history, we need for him to sing this song to Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un. 

BTW, I'm sure you realize this, but looking at a world map, the only route for missiles to go from Pyongyang to Guam (or vice versa) passes right over Nagasaki and Hiroshima, which just goes to show we don't ever learn anything from our past.  

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

To Be Honest

I have to admit that my old Kentucky pal (actually, it would be more correct to say my Kentucky old pal, but that sounds funny) is a lot bolder than my old Canadian pal, but with a slight adjustment to the recipe, my old Kentucky pal is just as smooth.

Ask your bartender if you don't understand what I'm saying.

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Hot and Cold

Amidst the stifling heat of the hot and humid summer of 2017, a draft copy of the updated National Climate Assessment, prepared by scientists from 13 federal agencies, announces that the average temperature in the United States has risen rapidly and drastically since 1980, that recent decades have been the warmest of the past 1,500 years, and that Americans are feeling the effects of climate change right now. The report is a direct contradiction of claims by President Trump and members of his cabinet who say that the human contribution to climate change is uncertain and that the ability to predict the effects is limited.

“Evidence for a changing climate abounds, from the top of the atmosphere to the depths of the oceans,” the draft report states.  The authors note that thousands of studies, conducted by tens of thousands of scientists, have documented climate change on land and in the air. “Many lines of evidence demonstrate that human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse (heat-trapping) gases, are primarily responsible for recent observed climate change,” they wrote.  A copy of the draft report is available from The New York Times.

So in the midst of this heat and predictions of more to come, it's worth remembering that December 7th, 2013 was one of the coldest nights in the recorded history of Portland, Oregon.  On that night, the orchestral folk-rock band Typhoon collaborated with La Blogothèque and a handful of talented musicians to film A Takeaway Show in an empty Portland warehouse.  Sadly, the release of the video was hampered by unforeseen circumstances and the project was shelved indefinitely.

Until now.  The video of the December 2013 performance was finally posted on YouTube on July 31 of this year.  According to La Blogothèque, "It was the coldest weekend that Portland had in decades. It was so cold that we were genuinely concerned that some of the instruments wouldn’t play right. But as soon as Kyle and the band started playing, that fear quickly subsided. It was almost as if Kyle conducted the temperature in that room the same way he conducts his band: with grace, love, and a gentle wisdom that only he holds— and it’s inspiring and jaw-dropping to witness live."

As La Blogothèque notes, any fan of Typhoon will tell you how much their music means to them. "It’s personal, it’s sincere, and it makes you tackle emotions you hold deep and don’t take out very often. And for that, they are magic."  It's magic enough to bring out a small audience to a secret show on the coldest night in decades, and it's magic enough to make this video worth the 3 1/2 year wait.

With all that in mind, above is a warm video on a cold night in a hot period of Earth's history.

Monday, August 07, 2017

Okay, so the main reason I haven't been posting very much here as of late is because I've been spending almost all of my free time playing Fallout 4.

It's an understatement to say that the current generation of computer games is addictive.  As proof, I'll point out that just like any true addict, I've not only been spending all my free time playing but I've even been concocting bullshit reasons to leave work early to have still more free time for playing. I've been skipping shows, even ones to which I've bought tickets in advance, to spend more time playing. I've been skipping housework and yardwork and paying bills on time for more playing time, and the only reason my cats get fed is because they interrupt my game playing by jumping on the keyboard when it's dinnertime.

These games have become more and more realistic and engaging as they've evolved from arcade games like Space Invaders and Pacman to video games like Donkey Kong and Super Mario Brothers to the current crop of computer games, which have evolved from linear narratives like the Tomb Raider series to sandbox games like Fallout, and I haven't even begun to explore virtual reality games yet.  

As technology improves on its exponentially accelerated rate, these games will only become more and more realistic and more and more lifelike, even to the point where in a century or so, if not a few dozen years, they will become indistinguishable from reality, not only to those playing the games but also to the other characters in the game, and virtual existence will seem exactly the same as base-level reality existence.

In fact, there are those who've proposed that we ourselves may be part of some future computer simulation.  How would we know?  At some point in the future, not only would there be computer simulations where each character (e.g., you and I) be sentient and self-aware, but over time there would be thousands, maybe millions, of these simulations run.  There might even be simulations where the characters in the matrix would be creating simulations of their own (games within games). Given all that, it's nothing but the purest of hubris to say that the so-called reality in which we happen to exist is the one true reality and that all others are artificial.  Mathematically, it's statistically more likely that we exist in a future computer simulation than in the one base reality.

But I digress.  I've been spending most of my free time playing Fallout and not posting.  Didn't mean to ignore you.

Thursday, August 03, 2017

In Which I Write A Quantum Limerick

Apologies for the lack of recent posts here.  I'll catch you up on the few things I've been up to lately (it's really not much), but in the meantime, here's a limerick that I wrote

The speech of Ms. Emily Wright
Could exceed the known speed of light.
She'd launch into a tale
And then without fail,
She'd finish the previous night.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Pity the nation whose people are sheep
   And whose shepherds mislead them
 Pity the nation whose leaders are liars
            Whose sages are silenced
  And whose bigots haunt the airwaves
 Pity the nation that raises not its voice
          Except  to praise conquerers
       And acclaim the bully as hero
          And aims to rule the world
              By force and by torture
          Pity the nation that knows
        No other language but its own
      And no other culture but its own
 Pity the nation whose breath is money
 And sleeps the sleep of the too well fed
      Pity the nation oh pity the people
        who allow their rights to  erode
   and their freedoms to be washed away
               My country, tears of thee
                   Sweet land of liberty!
― Lawrence Ferlinghetti, 2007