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.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

A Follow-Up Post About Music

'Mercury' by Sufjan Stevens, Bryce Dessner, Nico Muhly, James McAlister. Taken from the album 'Planetarium', released 9th June on 4AD:

Re-reading yesterday's post about music, I realize that I may have given the impression that I blame the recent decline in music, if not on the musicians, at least on the music industry.  Nothing could be further from the truth. I blame ourselves, the listeners.

With the rise of the internet and the mp3 file format, a huge abundance of music was suddenly available for free.  Napster and other file-sharing services thrived for a while, and even after they were driven out of business by iTunes and other services, the cost, in terms of both dollar value and convenience, went way down (and by "way down" in terms of cost of convenience, I mean it became less inconvenient - you don't even have to leave the house to download the LP or song of your choice).  

I remember one day back in 1996 driving to at least six different record stores stubbornly determined to find a copy of the debut Los Straightjackets album, modestly titled The Utterly Fantastic and Totally Unbelievable Sound of Los Straitjackets, before finally driving home empty handed.  I had heard the band on Album 88, the former student-run WRAS, but no one had it in stock, and most of the clerks never even heard of it and looked at the disappointed 40-something customer as if he were making it up ("Los Straightjackets? Really?") or was just terribly confused.  Now, I can instantly download the album, or any of the 13 subsequent Los Straightjackets records, from the comfort of my home right here at the computer, or stream it on YouTube, Spotify, or any of a variety of other streaming services. At the push of a button, I can have someone deliver it to my house.  

I'm not saying that low cost and convenience are bad things, but they do come at a price.  At the same time as the cost dropped, we listeners decided that rock music had to sound a certain way - guitar driven, usually male vocals, song lengths between 3:00 and 5:00 minutes.  Sure, there were plenty of exceptions, but those exceptions merely served to highlight the boundaries of the rock sound ("it sounds like rock, but only with keyboards instead of guitars," or "it's a rock song, but 15:00 minutes long").  Our patience for anything out of the orthodoxy became increasingly short and we became increasingly intolerant.

Add that impatience and intolerance to the instantaneous availability of nearly the entire pantheon of all of recorded music, and today's listeners quickly box themselves into a corner of limited aesthetics. I mean, since there's no cost to us, most of us stream a song for something like 15 seconds, and if it doesn't sound exactly like what we were expecting, or is a little different or challenging or, god forbid, weird, we instantly decide "that's shit" and move on to the next file.  We never give it a chance.

Another memory (the memories of a man in his old age are the deeds of a man in his prime):  Back in 1966 or '67, I had heard of Bob Dylan and seen a lot of articles praising him in the newspapers, but he wasn't being played on the Top 40 radio I was listening to as a teenager, so I had never actually heard him.  One day at a local record store, I bought a copy of Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits to hear for myself what all the buzz was all about.  It was a $3.00 investment, which was a lot of money for a 13- or 14-year-old back then, so imagine my disappointment when I got home and put the record on and heard that nasally voice for the first time.  No one had warned me about the sound of his voice.     

Today, if I had downloaded it or streamed it for free, I would have immediately went "Ugh," and deleted it on the spot.  But damn it, I had just invested $3.00, had made a deliberate choice of that album over, say, the new Monkees album, and was going to hear the whole thing out.  By the end, I sort of got used to his voice, and on the second, and then the third listen, I actually got to appreciate his sound.  But I wouldn't have made the effort if I hadn't already invested myself in the effort to come to terms with Dylan's sound.  Now, some 50-odd years later, the Bob Dylan of the 60s is still one of my favorite singer/songwriters, and I can probably recite all the lyrics (and there were a lot of them) of Greatest Hits.  

So I guess what I'm trying to say is this: the price of all that low cost and instant access is that we have no incentive to be patient with something new, to hear someone out, or give a band a chance.  If it doesn't sound like what we're used to hearing, we move on and don't give the creative or the innovative or the, god forbid, weird, a chance.  As a result, the creative, the innovative and the weird doesn't sell tickets and can't afford to tour as much and doesn't get booked at festivals. The music web sites, ever conscious of the traffic to their pages, what articles got looked at and which ones don't, and the search terms people use to arrive at their sites. don't give front page treatment to the creative, the innovative, and the weird and their music doesn't get heard.

Music today is the poorer because of our shortcomings. 

Monday, May 29, 2017

A Post About Music

Soul Coughing performing outside Criminal Records, Atlanta, 1993
In 1954, Shake, Rattle and Roll by Big Joe Turner reached No. 1 on the Billboard R&B chart. That same year, Rock Around the Clock, a rock song by Bill Haley & His Comets in a 12-bar blues format, became a number one single in both the US and UK.  And thus, with dual hits on the segregated radio charts, rock 'n' roll was born.

I was also born in 1954, so you can say that I've never existed in a world without rock 'n' roll and, although that claim can be made for a great many other people, I can also add that rock 'n' roll never existed in a world without me.  Only people born in 1954 can make both claims.

I grew up alongside the new musical form.  I was 10 years old when my parents let me stay up and watch The Beatles first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, and even though I didn't understand it at first, I knew that it changed everything.  I was old enough to have wanted to go to Woodstock in 1969 but still young enough to have stayed home when my parents said "no" (I went to the movies that weekend and saw Monterrey Pop instead), but by 1973 I was old enough to go to Watkins Glen without bothering to get anyone's permission.  I graduated high school in 1972, the year Alice Cooper released the album School's Out, featuring the classic rock refrain "School's out forever."

In the following decades, I absorbed glam rock, prog rock, kraut rock, psych rock, punk rock, and New Wave, got schooled by Robert Fripp and Brian Eno on ambient music and the possibilities presented by tape loops, was taught a thing or two about composition, creativity, and jazz by Frank Zappa, and dove deep into the underground with Captain Beefheart, The Residents, and Sun Ra.  I could go on and on, but my point is music has always been an important part of my life, and as the music constantly evolved, I was taking notes and tagging along with it.

In the 1990s, I was into grunge and alternative rock, was a regular listener to Atlanta's alternative radio station 99X, attended the inaugural Music Midtown festival, and kept up with what was going on at the time.  When the internet emerged, I followed trends that I had somehow missed and filled in vital gaps in my music collection, and I still thought that I knew what was going on in music in the early 2000s as I entered my 50s.

So it was a revelation to me when I came across a Usenet article titled "Top 5 Albums of 2005," and realized that I didn't know any of the bands - never even heard of any one of them.  I followed the links and was introduced to post-Millennium bands like Spoon and Metric, the retro-psychedelic rock of Black Mountain, and the post-punk of Bloc Party.  I realized that something new was happening here but like Dylan's Mr. Jones, didn't know what it was.

So I dove back into music, once more into the breach, in time to catch what I consider the indie rock renaissance of 2005 to 2010.  Record sales were at an all-time low and the copy-cat acts and their record-label promoters, not seeing any profit to be made, moved elsewhere, but the true musicians, those compelled to make music regardless of whether there was an audience or not, started playing what they wanted to hear, without consideration of audience appeal and market potential. Informed by the limitless potential of the internet, they absorbed music from all over the globe from the past 50 or so years and picked and chose their influences.  During these years, it seemed I couldn't go on line without discovering some new band that I absolutely loved, that challenged my conceptions of what music could be and the relationship between artist and listener, and affirmed everything that I had come to love about rock music in a half-century of being a fan.

To be sure, the renaissance did not end in 2010 and there was still a lot of terrific music produced between 2010 and 2015.  I'm sure there's still great music being produced today (as I write this, I'm listening to the incredible Planetarium by Sufjan Stevens and friends, an ambitious 2017 amalgam of folk, modern composition, and rock, all based on the planets and other astronomical phenomena), but to be honest, I don't know where to look for it anymore.  The music blogs, Pitchfork, Stereogum, Brooklyn Vegan, etc., that used to so reliably provide introductions to new and exciting sounds eventually went mainstream, all seemingly covering the same predictable bands or trying to expand their market by also covering pop music, dance music, and hip-hop.  The music festivals are increasingly marginalizing the new and innovative musicians in favor of comebacks and reunions by old and largely forgettable bands, or headlining d.j.'s, rappers, and pop stars in place of rock bands. And radio has generally been a dead medium for at least a decade now, and when NPR took over the student-run station WRAS here in Atlanta, perhaps the last bastion of independent music broadcasting, it was time to stick a fork in the medium.

Maybe at 62 I just got too old to search out where the cool kids are doing their thing now ("I'm losing my edge"), or maybe after six decades of absorbing new sounds, I finally reached my saturation point.  All my life, I've been hearing that this "rock 'n' roll fad" will soon pass, even as far back as February 3rd, 1959 when Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and the Big Bopper died in a plane crash on "The Day That Music Died."  No one initially expected The Beatles to be around for long or for The Rolling Stones to still be a band 50 years later, and in the 1970s the punks were declaring "Rock is dead" even as they were breathing new life into the form.   It's not dead, and probably will never die, but at this point in time, it seems to offer few rewards to those who want to keep learning new lessons or having their minds blown by hearing new sounds and discovering new possibilities. If that's what you're after, you're better advised to go digging through the archive - there's bound to be lots of great stuff even the most ardent fan missed - than by checking out the "New Releases" listings. 

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Boys and girls, ladies and germs, sentient beings of the universe: we can't let Georgia's Karen Handel get into Congress.

As we've been saying here for some time, Handel is a perennial candidate who's only real accomplishments have been instituting restrictive voter I.D. lawes here in Georgia and dragging the Susan G. Komen Foundation into an unnecessary and needless controversy regarding funding of breast-cancer screening for Planned Parenthood.  She ran for Governor here in Georgia in one of the lowest, dirtiest campaigns in recent memory, which she fortunately lost, but now she's running for the Senate seat left by Tom Price's nomination into the Trump cabinet.

Yesterday, Handel sent out a fundraising email from Greg Gianforte. Gianforte is the newly elected congressman from Montana now facing jail time. On the eve of his election, Gianforte was charged with assault for body-slamming a journalist who did nothing more than question the Republican’s position on Trumpcare.

To this day, Handel defends Donald Trump—a man who mocks persons with disabilities, encourages acts of violence against protestors and the press, and even bragged about grabbing women.  Trump came to Atlanta last month to raise $750,000 for Handel's campaign, and the picture above of how she welcomed him leaves no question as to where she stands on his divisive and ill-tempered policies. 

Georgia is better than this. Georgia is better than Donald Trump and is certainly better than Karen Handel.  Atlanta in particular has a rich history of progressives speaking out against violence and hatred and bigotry and standing up for equality.  I can't vote in this election - my Congressman is civil rights icon John Lewis - but if you're able to cast a ballot, please vote for Democrat Jon Ossoff. Please.  

Don't let this woman into Congress.

Friday, May 26, 2017

How many actors. stars, movies and musicians can you identify in this mash-up video?  I see:

Mystery Train
Fritz The Cat
Edward Scissorhands
Cheech & Chong
The Royal Tennenbaum
A young Michael Jackson
Jay & Silent Bob
Talking Heads
Keith Herring
Saturday Night Fever (John Travolta)
Taxi Driver
Sun Ra
Alan Ginsberg
Andy Kaufman
Owen Wilson
Bevis & Butthead
The Jerk (Steve Martin)
Dazed & Confused
The Muppets
National Lampoon's Vacation (Chevy Chase)
The Coneheads
Napoleon Dynamite
Animal House (John Belushi)
Groundhog Day (Bill Murray)
Dumb & Dumber
The Simpsons
The Big Lebowski
Monster (Charlize Theron)
Boogie Nights
Weekend at Bernie's 
Fast Times at Ridgemont High
Lords of Dogtown
Ferris Bueller
Welcome to the Dollhouse
Men At Work (the Sheen brothers)
John & Yoko

Plus a whole lot of things I recognize but frustratingly can't identify and a whole lot of others things I've never seen but look cool.  Music, by the way, is by The Avalanches.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Wednesday, May 24, 2017


Donald Trump is a cancerous polyp on the undescended testicle of America.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017


From Sun Ra's 1973 concert for the comet Kohoutek.

The sound of joy is enlightenment.
Space, fire, truth is enlightenment.
Sometimes it's music,
Strange mathematics,
Rhythmic equations.

The sound of thought is enlightenment.
The magic light of tomorrow.
Backwards are those of sadness,
Forward and onward are those of gladness.

Enlightenment is my tomorrow.
It has no planes of sorrow.
Hereby, my invitation,
I do invite you be of my space world.

This song is sound of enlightenment.
The fiery truth of enlightenment.
Vibrations come from the space world
Is of the cosmic, starry dimension.

Enlightenment is my tomorrow.
It has no planes of sorrow.
Hereby, my invitation,
I do invite you to be of my space world.

I had the privilege of not only seeing Sun Ra and his Arkestra perform several times in the '70s, but also of actually encountering the man on a couple of occasions on the street of New York City and Boston.  In NYC, I was getting on the subway when the doors opened and out stepped Sun Ra, dressed in full cosmic adornment (the man was never not in character).  I dropped to a full prostration bow, but he gestured for me to arise and then somehow managed to disappear into the Gotham night.

A few years later, I was watching the Donald Sutherland remake of the movie Invasion of the Body Snatchers in Boston, and when I left the theater, Sun Ra and members of his Arkestra were exiting the movie theater with me (they were in town playing a legendary five-night stand at The Orpheum). We had watched the movie together!, I realized, and Sun Ra even answered my question and assured me that beings on Saturn don't behave like the body snatchers in the movie.

Anyway, Sun Ra, who left this mortal dimension in 1993, would have turned 103 yesterday.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Fun Times

Life is hard, brutal, punishing, narrow, and confining, a deadly business. - Epictetus (AD 50 – 135)

The First Noble Truth is the existence of suffering - Shakyamuni Buddha (563 – 483 BC)

Worst of all, continual fear and danger of violent death, and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short. - Thomas Hobbes (1588–1679), Leviathan

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Fresh Up

"Impermanence is swift; life-and-death is the vital matter." - Zen Master Eihei Dōgen (永平道元; Japan, AD 1200 – 1253)

"The whole future lies in uncertainty: live immediately." - Seneca the Younger (Rome, 4 BC – AD 65). Seneca taught practical steps by which one might confront life's problems. In particular, he considered it important to confront one's own mortality. The discussion of how to approach death dominates many of his letters.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Where Old Cars Go To Die

Sometimes, I find the ugly to be beautiful - I like to see things that are banged up, rusting, and abandoned in pieces and left to rot in the sun.  Weeds growing up around an old rusty chassis are as attractive to me as a slick showroom model car.  Patterns can emerge from chaos and if they don't emerge, the absence of pattern can be a pattern in itself.  I like the squealing sound of train wheels, the sound of breaking glass, and the clanking of chains over cross ties.  I like the smell of creosote in the morning.  

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.