Thursday, July 20, 2017

Boho



In 1862, the British journal Westminster Review defined Bohemianism as, "To be young, to be fond of pleasure, to care nothing for worldly prosperity, to scorn mere respectability, and to rebel against rigid rule,—these are the qualities which alone may be regarded as essential to constitute the Bohemian.”

I'm way past the point of anyone considering me "young," and while I may care nothing for worldly prosperity, I've become inordinately fond of certain bourgeois comforts.  But otherwise, the Westminster description can apply to me, a Bohemian elder.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Metta


Everyone I meet, everyone I see on the street, everyone I pass in traffic or who passes me going in the opposite direction, all my cashiers and waiters and shopkeepers and clerks, the traffic cops and toll booth attendants and highway workers, my business colleagues and my clients and their extended circles of first-, second- and third-degree contacts, the talking heads and bloviators and lovely actors and actress I see on the television, everyone I meet or see or can even conceive of.  Everybody.

They're all going through some sort of shit about which I know nothing.  Personal matters, health issues, lost loves, or deaths in the family - they're all dealing with something.  Financial problems, marital problems, sickness, old age, or death.  And I have no idea.

Realizing this, we should all be kinder to one another.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Washed Out at Variety Playhouse, Atlanta


Last night,  Georgia's own Washed Out, perhaps best known for the theme song from Portlandia, played a triumphant set at Atlanta's Variety Playhouse.   Dega, another band of ATLiens currently residing in Joshua Tree, opened.


Dega are a male-female synthpop duo who play in a style reminiscent of Sylvan Esso and Purity Ring - she sings, he produces the beats.  It was a pleasant if formulaic sound, but we were turned off by the stage lighting, which consisted for their entire set of a single beam of light bounced off a static disco ball that shone directly into our eyes.  We could barely see the band for the glare.  It might have been an effective, attention-getting set-up in a small club, but if they want to tour and play the big stages, they need to up their game and engage the audience visually and not only sonically.  


Visually engaging the audience was not a problem for Ernest Greene (Washed Out).  Greene collaborated with Microsoft for this tour to blend his music with graphic effects using the Microsoft Kinect to produce an immersive live performance and a unique, psychedelic experience.


On top of that, Greene has revamped Washed Out's sound, amping up the former dreamy, chillwave sound to more energetic dance music.  It's still definitely identifiable as Washed Out, but more awake and immediate that we've ever heard him before.  


The band is now a trio, with Greene singing and playing pads, accompanied by a drummer and another pad player/guitarist.  Both musically and visually, Washed Out now has more in common with Todd Terje or the current incarnation of Animal Collective than his former chillwave companions.


It was a great show. The songs were all tight and often surprisingly short - just when it sounded like they were about to launch into an extended jam-based exploration of some riff, the song would abruptly end and the band would jump into the next song.  It was impossible not to be mesmerized by the kaleidoscopic, ever-changing visuals.  It was hard to stay still and not start dancing to the music. A great show.

Here's a little taste of what Washed Out sound like now, and to compare and contrast, a sample from their earlier sound.  

Wednesday, July 12, 2017


Donald Trump.  Donald Junior.  Mike Pence.  Kellyanne Conway. Michael Flynn. That Kushner kid. Even Ivanka.  

Prison, Guantanamo, and impeachment are in all of their futures.

Meanwhile, for those of you keeping score at home, I didn't finish Fallout 4 last night.  Not even close.  It looks like the level I reached Monday night was a dramatic turning point in the game's narrative, but hardly the end of the game.  It looks like I've still got weeks left before the storylines all resolve themselves.  

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Not Dead Yet . . .


. . . but nearing the end of Fallout 4 (I think).  I haven't been posting much here as of late, mainly because most of my so-called "free time" has fallen into the black hole of game playing.  However, I think I've got to be near, if not the end of the game, at least the end of the Fallout 4 story line.  My character is now a General in the Minutemen and a Knight in the Brotherhood of Steel, and has managed to more-or-less unite the two factions. 

None of this will make any sense to you unless you've played the game, but I've managed to catch up with Virgil in the Glowing Sea, and killed a courser synthbot to get the microchip in it's head that's needed in order to build a teleportation device.  The teleporter is now up and running and I've already used it to infiltrate the shadowy Institute, and finally reunited with my long-lost son, Shaun (which is the central goal of the game - it's all about a mother trying to recover her kidnapped child in a post-apocalyptic Commonwealth of Massachusetts).  There's only a few more tasks left to complete as far as I can see and I think I can complete the storyline tonight, so excuse me if I don't post anything more here until I get out of the Institute and back to the Commonwealth. 

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Do Cats Have Mirror Neurons?


If I've got it right (and chances are good that I don't), mirror neurons are neurons that fire in response to actions observed by others instead of the individual self.  We see someone flinch when they get a paper cut and we instinctively flinch, too - those are the mirror neurons firing.  Watching someone yawn makes us want to yawn - mirror neurons.  They were first discovered in monkeys when it was noticed during brain scans that certain neurons in their brains were firing in the exact same manner as the other monkeys they were observing doing other activities.  It's been hypothesized that mirror neurons are the basis of empathy ("I feel your pain") and possibly even ego-consciousness when we create mental models of an "us" that can feel the same thing as the "them" that we're observing.

So humans and other primates have mirror neurons, but do other animals, such as cats?  I could see how having mirror neurons would be an evolutionary disadvantage for a hunter/predator (the last thing you need for survival is empathy for the prey), but we humans are apparently capable of ignoring our mirror neurons as we inflict great suffering on animals (just visit a slaughterhouse and see), so it shouldn't be surprising that animals can also ignore the signals fired by the mirror neurons when it's in their survival interests.

Two recent episodes have suggested to me that cats do indeed have mirror neurons.  First, Eliot recently contracted fleas from some source (probably something I dragged into the house, as he's now a totally indoor pet).  Part of his cure, the part he really hated even more than having pills forced down his throat, were his flea baths.  As everyone knows, cats don't like getting wet and when I had to dip him in a kitchen sink full of pleasantly warm water (at least to my senses - cats may perceive temperature differently than we do and how would we know?), he fought like a, well, wildcat.  He twisted and squirmed and tried to get away and while he didn't lash out at me directly, I still wound up with some scratches and cuts on my arms.  He also howled and eventually hit the most chilling, blood-curdling sound a cat could possibly make, one I never heard from him before, and his brother cat Izzy, who was watching all this, almost immediately emitted the same horrid tone, suggesting a shared response to what he was seeing and hearing.  Was this mirror neurons?

People say that cats don't care what happens to human people around them, and I've seen cartoons of cats just watching or grooming themselves while their human companions were, say, choking on a chicken bone or getting mugged by an intruder.  But last weekend, as I was walking out of the bathroom after a shower, I slipped on the wet floor and fell - hard - backwards onto my ass.  I was lucky I didn't hit my head on anything or break any bones, but it did jostle me pretty hard as I landed with a loud thud.  I don't recall, but I probably was making that "whoa" sound and an expletive or two might have been expressed.

The cats were sitting on the kitchen counter waiting for me to come out of the bathroom and saw the whole thing.  As I slowly got back up, I saw them staring at me with saucer eyes almost bugging out of their heads - I've never seen a look like that on them or any cat before.  They clearly were concerned and not a little shaken up themselves by what they saw just happen to me.  Was this also the firing of mirror neurons?

Of course, I googled the answer to my question "Do cats have mirror neurons" before composing this post, and the science seems to be "maybe."  Monkeys certainly do as demonstrated by brain scan experiments.  Ethically, we can't perform the same brain scan experiments on humans, but based on behavioral studies, the answer seems to be "yes," and besides, we're primates, too, so why should we be different?  Dogs apparently have them, too, and some articles state that cats do as well, but don't indicate the basis for their conclusion (neurology? behavioral studies? mere assumption?).  My limited research, based on flea bath and falls, seems to indicate that yes, they do, but I'm not about to see if I get the same results by repeating my little experiment and falling on my ass again.  

That part hurt.   

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

The Geology of Georgia - Part Whatever of a Very Occasional Series

Zits by Jerry Scott & Jim Borgman (King Features Syndicate)
While the science of geology has relentlessly made new discoveries and breakthroughs, from plate tectonics to mass extinctions to evidence of ancient climate change, the fundamental concepts that geologists use for these discoveries, such as uniformitarianism (what's happens in the present, like lakes slowly filling up with silt, also happened in the past) and superposition (lower layers of rock are older than the ones above them), have been accepted and remained relatively static since at least the late 19th Century.

So it's not too often that we get new terms in geology that describe the layers of rock (strata) that are subject to uniformitarianism and superposition.  So it's significant, at least within the somewhat insular world of the geoscience community, that a new term has just been proposed - the xenoconformity.

If I've got it right (and chances are good that I don't), a xenoconformity is an interval in the rock strata that represents a fundamental, abrupt, and persistent change in the environmental conditions in which the strata were deposited.

As an example, consider that sediment that was filling the lake.  Imagine that as the layers of sediment were deposited on the lake floor, sulfur from a nearby volcanic eruption acidified the lake water causing the extinction of the fish within.  In this example, the lower layers of sediment would have lots of fish bones (fossils) and the usual minerals that form in normal pH conditions, while the upper layers of sediment would be devoid of fossilized fish and have low-pH minerals. The transition between the two sets of strata would be a xenoconformity.

For the record, the term was introduced by Alan Carroll of the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the July 2017 issue of Geology (so it's pretty recent), and seconded, as it were, by Galen Halverson of McGill University in the same issue.

So if you want to appear hip, cool, and oh so au courant, especially among geologists, just casually drop the term into a conversation.  As it's always been our top priority here at Water Dissolves Water that our readers look cool, here are some examples of what you could say to get you started:
"I'm not as worried about our loss of global leadership from pulling out of the Paris Accords as I am how we will explain the inevitable xenoconformity to future generations." 
"Son, if you don't change the filter in that fish tank soon, you'll have a major xenoconformity in the bottom of the aquarium." 
"Any more bourbon in that glass of lemon juice and you won't have a whiskey sour so much as an out-of-control xenoconformity."
We think you're starting to get the hang of it, so we'll let you take if from here.  Happy geologizing!

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Immigrants


This is not so much a music post as it is a political post, coming at a time when part of the Trump Muslim ban goes into effect, and a nation of immigrants created by immigrants and built by immigrants pretends that it's immigrants that are the problem.

It's also a pretty good music video, too.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Recycled Chastity Belt


Last night, Seattle band Chastity Belt played at the new, no-longer-godforsaken Masquerade, with Australian troubadour Darren Hanlon opening.  I was planning on going, but the doors opened at 7:00 and I didn't even get home from work until 7:00, and although I could still have easily made it, I was exhausted and opted to stay home and play Minecraft Fallout 4 instead.

Another reason not to go is because back on June 9 of 2015, I saw Darren Hanlon at The Loft open for Chastity Belt, who in turn were opening for Courtney Barnett (The Rolling Stones were in town that night playing Bobby Dodd Stadium at Georgia Tech).  Basically, it was the same show as last night, but with the not-at-all inconsiderable addition of Courtney Barnett.  So, since I didn't go last night, instead here's the Darren Hanlon and the Chastity Belt portions of my Music Dissolves Water review of their Loft show:

Music Dissolves Water

Wednesday, June 10, 2015 

Courtney Barnett at The Loft, Atlanta, June 9, 2015


First up was Australian singer/songwriter Darren Hanlon, who's engaging set was well received by the audience and your humble narrator.  As Hanlon sang I Waited For The 17, I realized he was talking about the very bus that I had taken on several occasions from St. John's to downtown Portland, Oregon, and I found myself mentally following the route he accurately describes in the song. 
The bus really does cross a bridge over Cathedral Park and the Columbia River beneath an "awful drop" only to end at "a mountainside of trees and vegetation." Every word of the song rings true.
So that was cool.  After a short break, Seattle's Chastity Belt took the stage.
This was my first time seeing Chastity Belt, although I've been a fan for a few years now (they formed in 2010, but I didn't hear them until 2012 or so).  I recognized, even if I couldn't name, most of the songs in their set, and they announced that the third or fourth song in their set was titled Seattle Party.


Never ones to take themselves too seriously, lead singer and guitarist Julia Shapiro wore an Olive Garden tank top, and encouraged the audience to buy a Chastity Belt tank top, even though "nobody ever wears tank tops anymore."


Back on March 20, I posted on these pages that I liked their sound and "refreshing lack of pretension about themselves."  Still holds.
Courtney Barnett wasn't scheduled to start until 10:00 pm, but she took the stage at least ten minutes early wearing a Chastity Belt tank top and started her set.


Recycling old posts . . . See? Recycling is cool!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Current Events


Cartoon above from The New Yorker.

In today's good news, human-turtle hybrid Mitch McConnell has withdrawn the Trumpcare bill from a Senate vote until after the July 4 weekend as it's apparent now that it won't get enough votes to pass, even among the die-hard "Repeal Obamacare" Republicans.

In today's bad news, the Supreme Court will allow at least a part of Trump's Muslim ban to go into effect until the court has a chance to hear the case in October.

Finally, in unrelated news, experts say great white sharks have multiplied "exponentially" off the coast of Cape Cod over the past few years.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

My Alternate Reality


Today - finally - after more than six months of playing Minecraft to escape the depressing so-called consensus reality of the post-Trump NWO, today, I finally switched my drug of choice to the game Fallout 4.

Amazing graphics (the landscapes are almost indistinguishable from photography), lots of puzzles and challenges, and enough of a storyline to keeping things moving along but also enough freedom to allow one to wander and explore a post-nuclear Massachusetts (the game is set in and around Boston).  

I downloaded the game this morning and almost immediately fell into some eight hours of gameplay. I'm only up to Level 3, but I've already survived a nuclear war and a cryogenic genocide, freed Concord, Mass. from insurgents and some sort of demon raptor, drained some guy's quarry by swimming in radioactive water because why not?, and eradicated New Bedford of zombies.  All this in heels and a red cocktail dress because somehow I accidentally picked the female character as my avatar (I'm still learning the basics of gameplay).

There are those who make a convincing case that the so-called consensus reality is actually just another future/alien computer game, so don't judge me if I'm substituting the Fallout 4 reality for your day-to-day reality. We're all caught up in the Matrix of our own choosing.

Saturday, June 24, 2017


We live in a world where if we lie to the government it's a felony, but if the government lies to us, it's politics.

We live in a world where trained cops can panic and act on impulse, but untrained civilians must remain calm with a gun pointed in their face.

We live in a world where wealth is mistaken for achievement, narcissism is mistaken for leadership, and condescension is mistaken for compassion.

Friday, June 23, 2017

My Office Today


After three and a half years of a windowless office next to the bathrooms, I finally got moved to a new office  today with not only an exterior window, but an interior glass wall as well for two whole walls of window. The picture above is from outside the office looking in and through to the outdoors.

So if you know me at all, you'll understand that my first dilemma was what song to play on my computer after I moved in - what should be the inaugural song for my new office?  After a few minutes of consideration (if you think about these things too long, you'll never come up with an answer), I decided to ring in the new with something old and familiar, and chose King Crimson's 1969 21st Century Schizoid Man. Old tunes for a new space, and something to rattle my new neighbors with.

But what kind of music is this, anyway? Metal? Prog rock? Jazz Fusion? All of the above?  The album In The Court of The Crimson King came out before any of those genres had yet been named, and in many ways it foresaw them all.  After some brief opening ambiance, the songs kicks in with some bruising metal, before building up (literally) to a metal-meets-psych-rock instrumental with jazz-fusion drumming and bass lines beneath.  The jazz fusion gets even more pronounced when the guitar leads are replaced by saxophones and then, as if the song hadn't yet traversed enough future genres, it breaks down to a stop-and-go sequence that presaged math rock before eventually returning to its proto-metal theme.

This song blew my young mind in 1969, and if I let it, it still can.  There was literally nothing  even remotely sounding like this in 1969, or for that matter, there was nothing remotely sounding like this elsewhere on In The Court of The Crimson King, which followed this hard rock album opener with the pastoral flutes-and-vocals ballad I Talk With the Wind before wandering off to other unidentifiable genres.


There weren't any other record covers that looked like this, either.  I made my poor parents buy In The Court of The Crimson King for me for Christmas (birthdays and Christmas being my major means of acquiring music back then, along with ripping off the Columbia Record Club), and I can just imagine the confusion the ordeal of adding that cover must have caused to their Nixon-era Christmas shopping ("Let's see now. Barbie for Donna? Check. Swimming goggles for Jackie? Check. Baseball bat for David? Check. Screaming alien nose-porn for Steve? Um, check.").  If it's any consolation, Mom, it was worth it, because I still treasure that recording this 48 years later. That's more than can be said about that Barbie.

But my point here is I got a new office.  

Wednesday, June 21, 2017



Before the beginning, before there was time or space or matter, there was potential.  Potential transcends time and space and matter, and existed before time and space and matter came into existence.

Before the beginning, there was potential

Tuesday, June 20, 2017


America collectively holds its breath and waits for the results of the Georgia Sixth District special election.  A turning point in modern political history, or just more of the same old disappointment?

UPDATE:  No turning point - same old disappointment.  America continues to flush itself down a toilet of its own creation.


I find it amazing that there's still a sufficient number of people here in Georgia stupid enough to send Karen Handel to Washington.   The only silver lining is that now we get to watch how Karen fucks this up, like she's done with every other position she's ever held.

The long national nightmare continues.

Monday, June 19, 2017

A Post About Music


Why this resurgent interest in 90s music?  

Listen to the radio, and between The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Jane's Addiction, and Smashing Pumpkins, you're excused for thinking it's still 1997.  Both the New York Times and the Atlantic, among others, have published articles about the 20-year anniversary of Alanis Morrisette's Jagged Little Pills, which by the way is getting remade into a Broadway show, and music festivals prominently headline revival acts from the end-of-the-Millennium decade. Just about every 90s band that had subsequently disbanded now seem to be getting back together, very much including ones I never even heard of, although unfortunately not the one band from back then that I want to hear the most (The Sundays), who are inexplicably keeping quiet.

So what is it about 90s music that remains so popular?  It was one of the loudest and most dissonant of rock's decades, and that exceptionalism alone may count for some of its appeal (it's hard to remember a time when similarly challenging music so dominated the scene).  Did the music reach peak gnarliness during the 90s, a level that can never be topped but only revisited?

No.  There's a lot of music even louder, even more dissonant, even angrier or even more ecstatic (depending on how you look at it) recorded both before and after that decade that never became as popular as 90s rock.     

I think the answer has a lot to do with coming-of-age nostalgia.  Rock music, I propose, has always had a certain penchant for the sounds of two decades prior.  Sure, that wasn't true in the 60s, but in the 60s there wasn't music recognizable as rock from 20 years earlier, so that doesn't count.  But 60s music did enjoy a major resurgence in the 80s (take the Beatles-esque sound of Tears For Fears, for example), and there was the 70s punk revival in the 90s (the wildly popular grunge), and a renewed interest in 80s New Wave in the Aughts.  It follows suit that 90s music would be popular in the 2010s.

But why this 20-year nostalgia?  Again, I posit that adults entering their 30s - a key record- and ticket-buying demographic - are fond of the music they heard their older brothers and sisters play back when they were preteens or younger, music they were told at the time was "over their heads" or "an acquired taste," music they thought was the definition of adult cool and a gateway to social and sexual maturity.

Now, you might think at first that this would result in a 10-year lag in popularity, not a 20, but consider that to reach top popularity, from album release to saturation airplay, would typically take 3 to 5 years, and there's an additional lag at the other end of the timeline to outgrow the music of one's own time and seek out nostalgic pleasure.  So an album released in 1995 might not be heard consistently on an older sibling's stereo or radio or computer until 1998 or 2000.  Then the younger sibling will listen to the popular music of his or her own time through their teens and twenties, or until 2010 or 2015, before developing a new appreciation for their older siblings' music.  Then it would take this new trend a few years to catch on and hit saturation airplay for the second go-around, resulting in the 1995 album or band getting its second wind sometime around 2015.  

So right now, in 2017, we're at the crest of a wave of interest in the music from 1997.  If this were stock trading, I'd advise you to buy up all the EDM, trap and Kanye you can now, put it into a time capsule, and sell in 2037.  

I grew up with rock music and have been listening for over 50 years now.  While I'm an oldest child and didn't have older siblings playing music around the house, I did have older cousins and friends with older brothers and sisters, and did hear psychedelic music of the mid-60s drifting down hallways and coming through walls, and sure enough, in the mid-80s I held the music of the 1967 Summer of Love (Jimi, Janis, Jim Morrison, and Jefferson Airplane) as the aspirational standard by which to judge all subsequent efforts.  

There may not be a profound point here and I'm not trying to throw shade on the 90s music, but I find it interesting to think about the psychological reasons for our interests and our tastes.

We're all just trying to be our big brothers and sisters.

Sunday, June 18, 2017


The cable and internet service were off pretty much all day Saturday.  When I posted yesterday, I thought the service had been restored, but as it turns out, that was just a brief window of availability and very shortly after the post, I was off-line once again.  It didn't come back on to stay until sometime early this morning (i.e., before I got up).

My Saturday night stay-at-home plans did not include weaning myself off of mass- and social media.

I'd like to say I used the time to catch up on reading, do some meditation, and spend some quality time with my pets, but if you know me, then you know that I just sulked about it and then retreated into a fantasy world of Minecraft. 

Saturday, June 17, 2017



The special election for Tom Price's vacant seat in the Congress is this Tuesday (finally), after what seems like an eternity.  What makes these statements from candidate Karen Handel (the Republican we love to hate here at WDW) so appalling is that early in her career, she represented Fulton County and posed as a "compassionate conservative" with a "live-and-let-live" attitude toward the LGBTQ community.


It's a different story now, so we have to wonder - was she lying then or is she lying now?  In either case, why should we trust her?

During her recent debate with Democratic opponent Jon Ossoff, she flat out said she didn't think working Americans necessarily deserved to make a living wage.  “Look, if somebody’s working a 40-hour workweek, they deserve the kind of standard of living that Americans expect,” Ossoff had said. “That’s part of the American dream, and there are too many folks having trouble making ends meet.”

However, Handel said she was fully opposed to it and stated that “This is an example of a fundamental difference between a liberal and a conservative.”

“I do not support a livable wage,” she added.
“What I support is making sure we have an economy that is robust with low taxes and less regulation so that those small businesses that would be dramatically hurt if you imposed higher minimum wages on them are able to do what they do best: grow jobs and create good paying jobs for the people of the 6th District,” Handel added.
Hmmmm. "Good paying jobs?"  Below the standard of living?  That's oxymoronic.

In unrelated news, I was without internet and cable today from sometime around  2:00 pm to well after 9:00.  No idea what was wrong, but neither carried a signal.  Things are back up and running now, but it reminded me how dependent I am - we all are - on our infrastructure, both roads and highways, as well as utilities and communication.What ever happened to that Infrastructure Bill Trump was supposed to pass?

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Girlpool at The Masquerade


Here it is, mid-June 2017, and so far we've only been to four shows all year.  Granted, one of those shows was the three-day, three-stage Shaky Knees Music Festival, where we saw well over a dozen bands, but other than that, we've only been out to hear live music three other times.

This is a huge, dramatic turnaround from the last several years, when we typically have gone to three or four or more shows per month.  We ascribe some of that lower attendance to our perception of a general decline in the current quality of the music scene and some of it to an uncertain feeling of ennui, a post-electoral depression/Trump-induced stress disorder.

But whatever.  It was time to put our big boy pants back on and do what we've been putting off for months (the obstacle is the way) and get back out there and take in some live music.  So last night, we ventured out to the recently-relocated Masquerade to see the LA band Girlpool.  The Atlanta band Bitter -  not to be confused with the Atlanta band Biters - opened.    


Bitter are a "Latinx queer punk band" (their description) with both an all-female lineup and a sound that vaguely resembles San Antonio's Girl In A Coma.  Vaguely.  Let me try and be as polite as I can about this - they may have their own strengths, but those strengths on their own wouldn't have been enough to pull us out of our funk and gotten us up off the sofa and back into the clubs.  I blame the Black Lips, but Atlanta is teeming with these scrappy, lo-fi, punk bands that substitute volume for proficiency and songwriting, and the Bitter performance did not change our impression of the sorry state of the current music scene.   


Next up were Baltimore's Snail Mail.  This was our first exposure to the female fronted band, but during their set we found ourselves thinking more about the newly relocated Masquerade than we were about the band. At the risk of sounding like some sort of curmudgeon ("we don't like the current state of the music scene, we didn't like the opening act," etc.), we're going to express another unpopular opinion: we didn't like the old Masquerade.  We know, we know - it's a beloved Atlanta institution that's been around for something like 25 years, it's where many people first saw acts by then up-and-coming but now legendary bands (Nirvana, Radiohead, Faith No More, etc.), and that the building's industrial past gave it a distinctive, one-of-a-kind ambience, but we still found the place lacking, especially in the here-and-now (or the there-and-then, as it's now gone).  We remember back in the 80s when the place was still the old Excelsior Mill pizza place, and we can write a post or two about all the crazy things that happened to us at the old Excelsior Mill, but most of those stories involve varying combinations of beer and sex and being in our 20s, so we'll save those posts for some other time. 

But here's the ugly truth about the old Masquerade location - the old millworks building perpetually stank of mildew, stale beer, piss and sweat. It was only minimally air conditioned and there were nights when sweat would just be pouring off our body even while we just stood in place, and winter nights when the indoor temperatures felt only a few degrees warmer that the outdoor temperature. Although all different kinds of bands played there, the Masquerade's niche was mostly metal, hardcore, and punk, which tended to draw a post-adolescent (or younger) male audience as interested in moshing and stage diving as they were in hearing the bands.  This, in turn, resulted in a particularly surly and aggressive security staff that had to assume that you were just as likely to throw a punch or toss a beer bottle or jump on the stage as you were to just watch the band perform, which in turn resulted in almost any encounter with security being at best unfriendly to at worst downright hostile. And ticket price were relatively expensive compared to the quality of the frequently obscure bands that played there most nights.

An evening at the old Masquerade was usually an extended negotiation of just exactly how much shit you were willing to put up with in relation to your enthusiasm for the band playing there.  So admittedly, it was worth it to go (as we did) to see Father John Misty or Local Natives or Alt-J perform there, but anything less and the negatives usually outweighed the positives.  

So  anyway, now that we got all that off our chest, last year the Masquerade announced that the building was being sold for a new mixed-use development and that they would be relocating.  After looking at a few possible replacement venues, they finally announced they were moving into the financially troubled Underground Atlanta entertainment complex, and last night was our first time at the new location.

We have to admit, it's a whole lot better.  Parking, always a challenge at the old location, was convenient and easy.  The place has AC (!).  It doesn't smell bad!   The floors didn't feel like they were going to collapse at any moment.  While no one is going to confuse it with Terminal West anytime soon and it still seemed like the sound technicians weren't even trying to do their job, it felt a whole lot better than the old venue. The dreaded decision as to whether or not a band was worth a trip to the godforsaken Masquerade is no longer as difficult as it once was.

So anyway, all that was going on in our heads while Snail Mail was playing, and by the time we snapped out of our reverie and got back to the present moment, the headliners, Girlpool, were taking the stage.         


Girlpool are a fun band fronted by two goofy but likeable women, Harmony and Cleo.  Their casual and off-hand stage banter and antics are as much fun as their songs - at one point during their set, they invited a girl in the audience to join them on stage and twirl her Fidget Spinner while they played.  Their musical style is hard to classify (folk-punk? lo-fi singer-songwriter?  acoustic girl-band rock?) so here's a sample to let you decide for yourself.



Typical for the club, The Masquerade had the mix all wrong and the guitars were too loud for the vocals and verged on distortion (and not the good kind).  But still, Girlpool had us smiling at the end of their set, and best yet (at least to us), we were back home by 11:00 p.m.

So that was it - only our fourth show of the year (plus one festival) and our first show (other than that festival) since The Decemberists at the Fox Theater back in mid-April.  As noted the other day, there's always some good music to be found if you know where to look, and all music, without exception, is nothing less than potential expressing itself, so hopefully we can shake off those last vestiges of post-electoral depression and Trumpian stress disorder and get back out more frequently and enjoy some more shows in these pre-impeachment times.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

There Is Still Hope For Music in 2017


Actually, in any given year, there is still great music being made somewhere if you know where to look, and in 2017 you need look no further than Brooklyn's Big Thief.

Monday, June 12, 2017

"Man can hardly even recognize the devils of his own creation" - Albert Schweitzer


"The history of life on earth is a history of the interaction of living things and their surroundings.  To an overwhelming extent, the physical form and habits of the earth's vegetation and its animal life have been molded and directed by the environment.  It is only within the moment of time represented by the twentieth century that one species - man - has acquired significant power to alter the nature of his world, and it is only within the past twenty-five years that this power has achieved such magnitude that it endangers the whole earth and its life."  - Rachel Carson, in the first installment of Silent Spring published by The New Yorker on June 16, 1962, 55 years ago this week.

Friday, June 09, 2017

The Smaller The Box, The Bigger The Pussy



Cats will try to fit into any box, regardless of the size.  By the way, for those of you keeping score at home, Eliot's doing much better now.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017


Since Trump’s announcement last week, 125 separate mayors and 9 governors across the US have denounced his move and publicly stated that they will remain in the Paris Agreement, with some even going further and committing to 100% renewable energy.  In keeping with this trend, the Atlanta City Council passed a resolution committing the city to generating 100% of its electricity consumed through renewable energy and associated technologies by 2035.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed issued the following statement:
“The President has made a disappointing decision today to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement, and by extension, global leadership. This decision isolates our country from international partners in shared, global efforts to curb climate change, and at its core is an assault on our future stability and prosperity. 
Two years ago, I joined more than 100 mayors from around the world in Paris to demonstrate our support for the COP 21 negotiations. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry demonstrated genuine leadership as they committed the United States to actionable, meaningful and achievable goals to combat climate change and reduce harmful pollution. 
Along with my colleagues from around the country and the world, I remain committed to meeting the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement. The City of Atlanta will intensify our efforts to reduce CO2 emissions. . . ramp up clean energy solutions, and seek every opportunity to assert our leadership on this urgent issue.”

Tuesday, June 06, 2017


Writing in The New Yorker (Music To Your Ears, January 28, 2013), Adam Gopnik explains that there seems to be two "systems" in the brain that respond to music.  One system responds to the pleasant sounds of the songs we already know and is called veridical, taken from the term meaning the degree to which an experience, perception, or interpretation accurately represents our understanding of reality.  The part of your brain that lights up when you hear a familiar tune is responding to the veridical system.  

The other system is sequential and anticipates the next note or harmonic move in an unfamiliar phrase of music. The sequential system is stimulated when  music follows the logic of the notes or surprises us in some way that isn't merely arbitrary.  The part of your brain that light up when you "get" what's happening in a piece of music you never heard before is responding to the sequential system.

Neither system is inherently better than the other, but another way of phrasing the problem with the nearly infinite amount of music now instantly available via streaming services like Spotify or on YouTube, or from any of a variety of other sources, is that we tend to make snap judgments whether or not we like something, and don't give something new or unfamiliar a chance.  Why would we  when we can simply just click the next selection and be instantly gratified?  It's the complete domination of the veridical system over the sequential.




Monday, June 05, 2017


Yes, I know this is a political attack ad, but if this blog has any ultimate goal, it's to keep this woman out of office.

Don't vote for Jon Ossoff to change the party lines in Congress, don't vote for Jon Ossoff to send Trump some sort of message.  

Vote for Jon Ossoff to keep this woman as far from Congress as humanly possible.

Sunday, June 04, 2017


Point Reyes, California, May 6, 2017
Wind Gusts: 50 mph +

Friday, June 02, 2017

An Eliot Post


Yesterday was a rough day for Eliot.  Somehow, fleas found him and we've spent much of this year unsuccessfully trying to get rid of them with over-the-counter flea treatments.  Since that didn't work, he's been scratching himself raw, and the night before last I found a big patch of red, bare, rashy skin on his shoulder.  I took him to the vet yesterday.

So in addition to two of his least favorite things - being put in a cat carrier and going for a car ride - he got to experience the terror of being in a small box in an unfamiliar setting (the vet's) surrounded by the sounds and smells of large dogs, he got a thermometer stuck up his butt (oh, the indignity), and he got pricked with a steroid shot (ouch!).  When he finally got back home again after a second, even longer car ride due to traffic, he had not one but two pills forced down his throat (an antibiotic and a flea repellant), and then after a bath in the kitchen sink, had to endure being coated with wet flea shampoo for 15 minutes before being put back in the sink for the rinse cycle.  He did like the part where I dried him off with a towel, though.  

He had to be wondering what he had done after all of his flea-bitten discomfort to bring all that down on himself, but he's already visibly much improved. The area on his side is still bare until the fur grows back, but it's no longer red and rashy, and he's scratching a lot less already. He may not realize now that it was all for his own good, but long after he's forgotten all the trauma of yesterday, he'll be a happier cat once again.

P.S.  Nobody tell him he's going to get another bath next weekend! 

Thursday, June 01, 2017

Exit Glacier, Kenai Peninsula, Alaska, 1995
As you know, Donald Trump today announced his intention to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement. It's a dark day for Planet Earth.

The Agreement, which became effective on Nov. 4, 2016, has been signed by every nation on Earth except war-torn Syria and Nicaragua, which would have liked the Agreement to be even stronger. According to the terms of the Agreement, no country can begin the withdrawal process until three years after the Agreement enters into force and the withdrawal would not take effect for one year after that date. Therefore, the earliest the U.S. will be able to complete the withdrawal is Nov. 4, 2020, one day after the next U.S. Presidential election.

Trump just gave not only Democrats but all living human beings a strong motivation to make sure the Republican Party is out of the White House by the next term, if not sooner.  Every weather catastrophe that happens over the next 3 1/2 years, every hurricane, every ice-sheet collapse, every drought, every flood - and there will be a lot of all of these - will be an unpaid political ad for the Democrats and for climate realists. 

In a statement, California Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom said "California will step into the Trump vacuum and step onto the international stage in partnership with other nations and regions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, reflecting our state’s stature as one of the world’s largest and leading economies. We stand united and recognize our unique responsibility to increase our role as the President abdicates our nation's moral, economic, and environmental leadership." 

The only hope for maintaining our planet in a habitable condition is if California and other forward-thinking states continue to work to curb emissions along with the remaining nations in the Agreement, and that by 2020, the CO2 levels are still low enough to avert the worst consequences of this crisis.

But anyway, vote the ass-pony and his denialist party out of Washington.