Sunday, April 19, 2015

Glass: Words Without Music!

This:

...is great. There's a lot of ways a review of this book could go, but the thing you don't see written is just how frikkin' ENTERTAINING it is. Yeah, it's an autobiography, covering Glass's earliest years up to the present. And yeah, plenty of personal anecdotes, many of them profound. But the anecdotes and the stories also focus on Glass's development as a human being and, coincidentally, a composer. And there's lots of stuff I never knew about Glass, like how long he had studied yoga and Tibetan Buddhism, really receiving some serious training in remote parts of India. And lots and lots of stories about other artists, often at the beginnings of their careers. And you also come away with an appreciation for just how down-to-earth the dude was on some levels: He drove a cab until he was 41, and only after the opera Satyagraha was commissioned! He also did a lot of plumbing for a bunch of years, this latter work helping him in showing Richard Serra how to prepare molten lead for his "splash" pieces, wherein Serra would fling molten lead into the corners of Jasper John's studio. You come away really liking Phillip Glass and seeing a guy who worked his ass off and didn't take anything for granted. It's great: You'll love it.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Edward Snowden Statue Saga

 Illicit tribute: A group of anonymous artists erected a 4-foot-tall plaster bust of Edward Snowden, the former US spy agency contractor famous for leaking classified information, in Brooklyn's Fort Greene Park early Monday morning
Here in New York there's been an interesting little artsy saga with respect to Edward Snowden. A week or two ago some unknown art-pranksters installed a bronze sculpture bust of Edward Snowden atop an empty plinth down in Brooklyn's Forte Green park. (Actually, this little piece states that the material wasn't actually bronze, but some sort of plaster-like material treated to look bronze and that weighed 100 pounds.)

Police, of course, removed the thing within a very short time. I guess they felt it was somehow anti-patriotic or something. As you can see, probably no one would have noticed had they just left it alone.

Anyway, hours after the physical Snowden bust was removed, a different group of art pranksters ("The Illuminator") projected a holographic image of Snowden back onto the now-empty-again plinth:


I don't remember how long it took for the police to find the projector and take it down (though these guys have done a lot of interesting projections around town and have contested that what they're doing is even illegal, which it does not appear to be).

And now, the original bust-makers have demanded that the NYPD return their bust, and they even have the famous Ron Kuby working for them, who has contested whether the NYPD even had the right to remove it. If you're not from the US, you might be interested to know that "Kuby" has taken on justice issues for decades here, and he usually wins. That's why The Dude demands Ron Kuby when he gets busted in a hoity-toity section of LA:

(Long time readers of this blog might remember that I ended up touring The Vatican with the Big Lebowski himself, plus his real-life sons.)
It's a strange world we are coming to live in: The real and virtual intertwine in ways that can not be pulled apart.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Your turn!

Here: Check this out:
http://www.guitarcircleofnorthamerica.com/introduction-to-the-guitar-circle-and-beginnerintermediate-gc-course-june-8-14-2015-hope-nj/

Yeah, you too can attend a Guitar Circle course. Robert Fripp himself will occasionally sweep into visibility, but that's actually just kind of a nice-to-have if you've never studied guitar before. There will also be plenty of "Guitar Buddies" on hand to guide you through the basics of the Guitar Circle approach. And you will almost certainly be asked to put together a set of small pieces for all the other attendees (including Fripp) to, most likely, heckle and poke fun at. They might even cheer if you just fuckin' relax and enjoy yourself. But you WILL experience something unique and cool you'll remember for most of your life.

Don't fuck around: Go.

On the other hand, if you like instant fixes for things and if you are extremely impatient or expecting resort-class accommodations, then this just may not be the thing for you. But it was the right thing for me so I can't think of a better thing to do than become a guitar monk for a week or so.


Sunday, April 12, 2015

Learning guitar is kicking my ass

That's the thing they never tell you about learning guitar: On a regular basis you are forced to encounter yourself, and then pretty much prevent yourself from doing what it has so helpfully and erroneously learned. In other words, to a large extent you're battling yourself.

There are countless examples. But if you have no idea of what I'm talking about, let me first of all point out that there's a large amount of human firmware that appears to be devoted to learning new things, and learning them as efficiently as possible. So if you learn to play a new song on your guitar, your hands "memorize" how to move in order to play that one song. Play something else similar and your hands will try to play that older one song. "Muscle memory" they call it: It becomes reflex, but now it's holding you back from learning the new song.

In Guitar Circle you are constantly forced to confront habits and shortcuts you might have built up in order to play something difficult, or to be able to play faster. For the last bunch of months I've been trying to play a song called Hope, and the problem is that I if I try to play it faster than so-many-beats-per-minute, I completely fall apart. My hands go from getting most of the notes at a slower speed to getting practically none at a higher speed. And for the last month or two I've been trying to play it faster, but to no avail.

But then I start remembering what some of the other Circlers said: The right hand shouldn't be aware of which string it's playing. It's your forearm that is supposed to move that right hand, while the right hand just does a simple up-and-down motion to pluck the strings. So what I realized was that I've been reaching the strings by turning my hand, and my hand has memorized this particular set of motions. But try to go fast and the motions the right hand learned are no longer valid. The solution, therefore, lies in not turning my hand, but moving my forearm faster to get the right hand positioned above the string it needs to pluck. In other words, I need to "unlearn" what my right hand had learned and now learn proper form at a slower speed. Only then will I be able to speed up.

Does this make sense? In other words, I'm regularly encountering the very efficient, but very mindless way in which my body learns something and I must now try to force it to do something else. In other words, I have to unlearn, and with guitar I find I'm unlearning a lot.

In Tepoztlan Mexico back in early March Robert Fripp was talking to us "Intros", and I opined about how, even though I've never played guitar before, I'm spending about "one third of my time" unlearning all the helpful things my hands were doing on my behalf. I asked him if there was a general technique for navigating issues of this sort and his reply was interesting.

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Adinkra symbols

I didn't know these existed, until a few days ago. They are west African Adinkra symbols, and represent all sorts of social/conceptual life-pivoting loci. How they are used, I don't know, but I suspect they show up on clothing, gifts, and so on.
Well, here's a cloth decorated with 'em:


Wild, no? Perhaps you've even seen such a cloth before, but your brain didn't stop for even a second to consider that the designs therein were anything more than commonly-used motifs. But they all have a meaning, and I'd bet any amount of money are cousins or even the ancestors of some written west African language that either doesn't exist today, or that isn't widely known outside of that area.

Hey...here's an on-line dictionary of Adinkra symbols.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Dalek Relaxation Tape


Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Ant Watch

How 'bout an ant watch? I would definitely buy one...

Sunday, March 29, 2015

17 Guitars...

...and at least 16 guitarists. Here's a group shot after our performance a few weeks ago;

Monday, March 23, 2015

Bjork: Stonemilker @ PS1


At PS1 I snuck into the Bjrok virtual reality thing under the big white dome.
It was...interesting. Though it's perhaps hard to see above, projected onto the inner surface of the dome was a seashore scene, complete with sea sounds.
Putting on the headphones and VR eyegoggles, before you stands a singing Bjork on a barren beach, I'm assuming in Iceland. She's singing and moving her hands in Bjork-like fashion, while moving around "you". The fascinating thing is that you can move your head throughout the full 4-pi steradians (that's a full sphere's-worth of solid angle, for you less-than-hypersophisticated-mathematically). In other words, you can turn all the way around behind you and look straight up at the sky or down at the ground. In the headphones, Bjork's voice moves in conjunction with however you've turned your head: A pretty damned neat trick. And she's singing about "synchronizing your feelings" with hers, clearly in part a reference to marriage.
Sometimes she gets up pretty close to "you" (in VR-world) and looks you in the eyes, or flutters her little hands around your face and head. Those moments look and feel incredibly intimate. And she looked a little tired and a little sad.
My one criticism is that, with Bjork lip-synching to her song, it had some elements of one of her old song videos. I kept thinking that it would have been a lot more powerful had she not attempted to look like she was singing.
And on a personal note, I did feel her pain, a pain of a marriage that emanated far more pain than she had anticipated was possible or that she thought she could experience.  
Meanwhile, elsewhere in PS1 I was kidnapped by Escher and brought into his dungeon...
 

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows

How's this for a website? A site that lists words for really weird emotions, and there's often some odd little video discussing the word. For instance, here's opia:

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Kowloon Walled City: City of Darkness Revisited


See that above? That's the now-defunct Kowloon Walled City. (Kowloon is the peninsular/"mainland" chunk of the territory of Hong Kong. The Hong Kong you normally see in pictures is Hong Kong Island.) Like Tangier, this was a veritable human hive, but even more anarchic. In the wonderful, incredible and awesome book, City of Darkness Revisited, you go deep inside this unique warren. Apparently, it was not precisely under the legal control of Hong Kong, and both Hong Kong as well as mainland China attempted to lay claim to it. But as both forces cancelled out, and as the Kowloon Walled City apparently predated Hong Kong as a British territory, it didn't really have a government. And as you can see above, building codes were largely ignored too.

Inside the city (I won't say inside the city's walls, because walls were no longer visible and no one was sure whether any portions of the ancient city walls actually remained anywhere), "streets" rarely opened into daylight, and there were of course schools, restaurants, small factories and pretty much everything you might need. So no doubt there were many people who never, ever left.

Of course, most people in Hong Kong and in the world at large, hearing about the Walled City viewed it as a terrifying, chaotic hellhole, which it probably kinda sorta was. But the Chinese have a strange flexibility that allows them to adapt to pretty severe conditions even while they pull along a local instance of Chinese culture and then pound it and shape it into whatever vessel it might find itself in. So I actually have little doubt that there are plenty of people who, in a weird way, loved their lives there or at least found a certain contentment. And indeed, the book has plenty of interviews with inhabitants there, as the original book was made while the City still existed.

Long time (and even not so long time) readers of this blog will know that, back in 2007, I returned to the country in which I had lived for a time in the late 80s, and took a lot of photos in this blog (look around August and September of 2007). And indeed, one hot summer night in Guilin, I escaped the tourist world for a while and came back to real China, if only for a few minutes. Here's the video I took and you can see a sort of diluted version of what the City must have been like: Open spaces that are nominally "public", people and vehicles harmoniously flowing in the comforting chaos of being Chinese, families performing daily tasks (such as eating and washing clothes) completely unselfconsciously and out in the open. (And if you've never seen this before, do turn on the sound.)


Hey...just read this morning that even the City's electrical grid was basically illicit, siphoned off of the greater Homg Kong power grid. This was permitted precisely because of the tension that existed between the British Colonial and Chinese communist authorities in the 1950s: Neither side felt they could touch the city's electrical grid without creating a big international controversy, so the city just kept on going. Is that wonderful or not? It amazes me the place didn't eventually just burn down.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Yesterday...


Once again we did our little performance in the deep East Village. And as before, we literally surrounded the audience, standing against the walls in a giant circle around the audience seated in chairs, as you can see above. And all the songs were out of Guitar Craft repertoire, no "standards" played at all. Just surprising, intricate little pieces with a sometimes rocking component. Me, I made lots of mistakes. I missed notes here and there and even played the wrong part briefly. But I didn't feel too bad about it: I prepared almost as much as was literally possible for me, given the constraints of job and family (though even on work nights I'd practice 1 to 2 hours). In addition, I didn't see this little tiny performance as some stepping stone towards a career that will inevitably expand outward, to eventually embrace money, drugs and plenty of naked women in that order. Rather, this had been a sort of small life challenge, in addition to a prod to get me to prepare and practice as much as possible.
Here's me playing THRAK during our post-performance photography session:

Yeah, me. I'm proud of this photo because it looks like I'm actually playing guitar which, technically, I am. THRAK is unlike all the other pieces we play because it's hard and dissonant and jarring: Half of us play in 5 and half play in 7, so for part of the song it sounds like we're all falling apart but instead it's supposed to sound like that. So after we THRAKKED the first time the audience was silent! (A moment I really treasured.) After we played it the second time they cheered, realizing that the piece was actually supposed to sound like that.

Afterwards, beers of triumph over at a German beer bar on C. Winding our way back to the F train (which is a long walk from the subway-less expanse of the far East Village), we passed the countless little shops that grow like mushrooms in the fertile dung of gentrification:

And some pieces by The London Police and Buff Monster:

And these dudes in the 2nd Avenue Station playing old school countryish music sounded great:
Me and Jamie both had our guitars on our backs, so I guess we looked like a couple of musicians appreciating the work of other musicians.




Thursday, March 12, 2015

This Saturday!

OK, this Saturday I'll be performing with the New York Guitar Circle way out in the East Village. There will be 17 guitars plus their associated owners playing. When one adds up just the time spent in our Saturday practices over the last year or so, it's mind-boggling and yet the audience will have no idea. Although yes, we will play some traditional "songs", we'll also be doing some really interesting and challenging circulations, which I'm sure will be a new experience for most people present. It's really a new way of making music that doesn't exist elsewhere, and I'm glad to have been part of a group that has worked with such things for so long: No doubt that kind of music-making has already begun to seep into my unconscious, impacting how I function in groups. Indeed, sometimes what we were doing during our Saturday meetings was so unusual and wonderful, that I caught myself wondering about just what this would do to me, long term! (And I mean that in a good way.)

Is all of this guitarring building towards/into something in the future? Probably not. I maintain that I do not want a career in music, and indeed I'm too old to get good enough for such. Rather, the New York Guitar Circle is in itself something of significance for me, and being enmeshed with groovy, smart people along seems to be a sort of next-step or culmination of a long set of unique experiences I've had throughout my life. The musical aspects is almost icing on the cake, and the group context is forcing me to try to accelerate my musical skill just to keep up. And that, too, is probably going to restructure "me" somewhat.

A though I had when I embraced Marina Abramovich last year keep recurring: I'm very quickly becoming someone extremely different from what my "natural" arc might have been. If I don't fly apart or succumb to some sort of substance or other weakness, I'll become a reasonably groovy ole dude one day.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

Past the point of no return for ISIS


Don't get me wrong, everything I've heard through the media about ISIS has been pretty rotten. And I have tended to believe much of it. But, until this point, it's been very difficult to be certain that what's been portrayed about ISIS in the media is real or not. Face it: If your government wanted to get you to support a military invasion, how hard would it be for news media to just broadcast lots of ugly images to get you whipped up into a fury? For instance, the on-video murder of various hostages, Americans included: Are we truly seeing actions condoned by ISIS leadership, or did those hostages just get grabbed by a small local group claiming the authority of greater ISIS in the midst of a very chaotic region? And it's not like there's a lot of people coming out of ISIS territory with detailed descriptions, names, dates and places of various atrocities. How do we really know they're as bad as we're told they are?

Well, with the video above we're getting pretty close. Though we see what appears to be individuals destroying priceless ancient artifacts, it's pretty clear they've been allowed to run wild in the museums over there, indicating no control by local authorities. ISIS has also reportedly blown up numerous Shia shrines and ancient mosques, which is a terrible shame.

And in terms of "destroying the past", it's interesting to note that ISIS seems to be acting out a narrative very similar to China's cultural revolution: During that time numerous items of China's ancient history were destroyed, including the home of Kung-Tze/Confucious. Countless people were killed or sent to prison (or worse, to work in horrific conditions), all in an attempt to destroy the baggage of the past. The Khmer Rouge in Cambodia attempted the same thing. And why? I can only believe that they don't want any pesky culture hindering individuals (and society as a whole) from carrying out the instructions that might be perceived (by their leaders) as allowing for expansion and entrenchment of their power. Even those that have no direct influence or power might be swept along in a powerful interpersonal undercurrent/narrative that appears to flow away from hopelessness and towards some powerful, glorious future that justifies the extreme and terrible actions taken today.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

It's been snowing a lot in Mew York

A lot...

Monday, February 23, 2015

Punched a guy in the head

Damn. I’d tell you “something’s wrong with me”, but that’s not really true. Or at least, this morning I did something that was simply what my body and mind both knew I had to do: A punched a guy in the head on the E train.

It started at Roosevelt Avenue, Jackson Heights as I remember. Some white dude approximately my age and weight parked himself next to me and held on to the pole near me in such a way that his arm passed between my arm and my body, with his elbow just touching my ribs. That is not acceptable subway etiquette in New York, even on a very crowded train. As the guy on the other side of me moved down (and as I moved to create more space between me and elbow-guy) this guy kept slowly moving too, so I couldn’t get away from his elbow parked right at my ribs.

And then, as my station approached and I pulled up my bag to put my book away, the guy held his arm solidly, refusing to budge it at all even though my arm and bag had to pass through his in order for me to get my book into it. So we traded words: I said something like, “You’ve had your elbow in my ribs and you keep coming down even though I’ve moved”. He said something like “Well where do you want me to go?” And I said, “I don’t know, but you can’t keep your elbow there”. From there he moved to insults and curses so I told him we’d get out at the next station and solve this like men.

When the train stopped I said: “We’re getting out here,” and he replied, “I’m not getting out.” So I turned to go, wondering if perhaps I should grab his hat and see if he’d follow me out to get it, but I changed my mind. But as I left that’s when he said, “Next time bring your wife to fight me” or something like that, so I just punched him in his giant meaty head. Since it was crowded some guy started shouting: “Woah! Woah! Stop that! Stop that!” But the guy kicked me in the thigh so I gave him a round kick to the ribs that landed pretty good. Actually, I was surprised he didn’t go down when I punched him in the head, but I guess his hat cushioned some of the blow.

 

When I was a younger man I’d worry about whether I did the right thing or not or could have avoided the incident somehow. But I know that, given the circumstance, this was a natural expression of who I am now, good or bad. To avoid such situations in the future I will need to change in such a way that I find a “natural” and honest way out of such situations (ie, as opposed to freezing up and doing nothing out of fear of doing something “wrong”).


Saturday, February 21, 2015

Still Processing


Yeah, I'm still processing the experience in Mexico.

Let me say that, in one way or another, you really need to have an experience like that. No, maybe not Guitar Circle per se. But some experience that draws you out of your comfort zone and into something you aren't in control of. And even better if it's in a different country. And then something that has a chance of generating memories you will retain for the rest of your life. Not exactly a vacation. And there are lots of organizations and companies that can provide that: Companies that do intense hiking or outdoors experience, companies that take you to Antarctica, companies that can take you on some sort of "pilgrimage". There's lots of stuff out there.

As for me in Tepoztlan, there are some many wondrous memories that will stay with me and, most likely, shape me. For instance...

1. House of guitars. With low lights and with Luciano giving each of us 50 guitarists a little riff to play, a trilling, roiling ambiance was built up. And shortly thereafter, we started moving and eventually breaking into little groups and then circling or reforming into one big circle and then charging into the center with our guitars and then back out: Divine and mysterious chaos in the middle of mountainous rural mexico.

2. Humming "One of a Thousand Regrets": About 6 of us played this in someone's room, and the Mexican Guitar Circlers introduced us to the tradition or humming the main melody while playing it for the second time. And this, perhaps at 10:00PM or 11:00PM at night.

3. "Santorina Globes": At least, that what I thought someone called the orange paper spheres lit by candle from within that were hoovering about the center of town and that we could see from our little Maronite compound. These were cast aloft to commemorate some sort of saint or other that I can no longer remember.

4. Putting together our little set. Us Intros were tasked by Fripp to come up with 7 pieces: 2 duets, 2 trios, 1 solo, 1 four piece and one piece with all of us. And we were only given a couple of days. And really, we didn't have more than a bunch of hours as we kept getting pulled into dishwashing and other cleaning duties. So by "the day of", I pretty much gave up worrying about it: If we had stuff to play then fine, we'd try, but if not then fuckit: I wasn't going to worry about pulling off the impossible. And yet the impossible occurred: By pulling together all the little musical pieces we had at the last moment, we played 7 wonderful little pieces. As we entered the ballroom, however, we were faced with disorganized chairs and a few people in silly costumes and with interrupting noisemakers and heckling. So, if we fucked up it was only natural. But we pulled off a great set and then everyone started demanded an encore, which we didn't have. So Anthony tried to get away with playing a single note as our encore, which we played and then exited (I saw Fripp throw up his hands in exasperation as we smiled and exited). Outside the ballroom again, however, we heard the clapping and whistling and then someone came out to tell us to play our whole set again, which we did. And during one song (in which our lively Mexicana sang), a bunch of us broke into tears and I swear I saw Robert wiping tears from his eyes too. THAT was a moment: I wasn't even playing that song, but I felt like I was and felt like I had contributed because I supported what everyone was trying to do and I got the fuck out of the way. It wasn't about ME: It was about making music, and being inside it, which I did and was.

5. The dogs and roosters. The full moon would come up somewhere around 3:00AM and the dogs would go apeshit in unision and the roosters were all crowing. And there was a host of other birds and assorted animals making their sounds all night long.

6. T'ai Chi Ch'uan. Luciano would lead us twice a day in a series of Yang style exercises. Not the main form, mind you, but a bunch of traditional chi-building exercises that actually taxed even a reasonably in-shape person, due to the high altitude.

7. Alexander Technique. We had two Alexnader technique ladies, one of which was the very experienced Sandra Bain Cushman. If you are unfamiliar with Alexnader technique, it's basically the "science" of moving and holding your body in a way that's commensurate with the way it's joined all together and the way it "hangs". Society teaches us to hld our bodies (and guitars!) in a way that isn't optimal for our health and well-being, and Sandra teaches us to sit, stand, and even (AT) liedown in such a way that keeps us from cramping up or causing us pain.

8. Morning sitting with Robert. At 7:15 each morning we'd spend 45 minutes just sitting in the chapel, learning to do "nothing". Core to Guitar Circle is the notion that, if we can tell our bodies to do nothing for 45 minutes, perhaps after that we can tell our bodies to do something. This, of course, in contrast to the usual autonomic routines our body and mind default into.

So, quite a meditative and powerful experience. I would love to do it again some times. And who knows? Maybe I will.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

In Tepoztlan


OK...
Last week I returned from a week-long Guitar Circle course down in Tepoztlan, Mexico, about 70 miles south of Mexico City. It was a wonderful, magical time with many stories that could be told. For instance, how can I describe being in the "House of Guitars" with 50 others in the "ballroom" with low lights, and all of us playing guitars and circulating notes, "whizzing", moving and breaking into groups and subgroups and general divinely inspired musical chaos? Or having interactions with Robert Fripp, the Yoda of Rock music? (Who speaks no less cryptically in real life.) Or putting together 7 small pieces (for our beginner's group) that, during one of the pieces, brought tears to people's eyes?

Here are a couple of us from the intro team taking the cab back out of the village:


And did I mention that there was no "staff"? Though a subset of the advanced group was responsible for preparing the food, we intros also regularly had to do dishes, sweep, mop and clean and so on. Oh, and there was T'ai Chi Chuan twice a day, and Alexander Technique sessions.

And while resting on my bed once one of my roommates said: "There's an animal on your pants". Looking down I saw that it was a scorpion, which I promptly shook off and which was then captured.

So lots of wonderful experiences, lots of memories, and even (for me) some Montezuma's revenge.

It was, in a word, fantastic.




Monday, February 02, 2015

I think I finally get Hip Hop

Maybe, now, I get it. My prejudices about what "music" is or isn't got in the way all this time, which is a shame I guess. But it boils down to this:

Music was never about "music". It was and always will be about the collective tribal response it brings out in a group of people. You know what I'm talking about: Those special moments in a concert or even just in a meal with friends or ever (who knows?) a sporting event. You can feel that the moment has arrived, a moment that transcends whatever activity is being performed, music or sports or food or otherwise. And when you feel it you know that everyone else feels it too. And that moment seeps down into your cracks, finding old deposits like oil and then floating it up to the top. You feel the healing, or else you feel that this moment is finding you, the real you, and calling it upward/outward. And it's calling everyone else as well.

And that's what Hip Hop is: Someone, these scruffy kids that had nothing, no access to specialized learning or lessons or instruments, they somehow figured out that they didn't really need all that stuff in order to invoke the collective tribal function. They didn't need notes, they didn't need instruments, they didn't even need melody. But they had words, they had rhymes, they had beats that could call everyone to the center, the well, from which they would collectively drink. And this would meet their deep needs.

This is what Hip Hop was and still is.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

(not so much) SNOW!

Eh. We only got about a foot or so, maybe a bit more here in Queens.
Of course, both midWesterners as well as Canadians are making fun of us New Yorkers for getting so riled up over mere snow. Come to think of it, we regularly have large snow storms, and a foot to 18 inches won't even be remembered. Local politicians including Mayor DeBlasio and Governor Cuomo clearly feel a little embarrassed for surrendering to direst warnings. Even the TV people clearly feel a little sheepish. But on the other hand, everyone always welcomes a guilt-free day huddling in the comfort of one's home.



Sunday, January 25, 2015

Snow!

They're predicting one to two feet of snow here in NYC, starting tomorrow (Monday) afternoon. Some of the more histrionic predictions put us at "historic" levels, nearing three feet. That would be cool. The streets in New York get transformed by that level of snow: Many streets will remain essentially unnavigable for quite a while, so everything's super-quiet even though no one will have gone to work. Me, I always become as excited as a boy-child while the snow is falling: I'll look at the window hoping for white-out conditions, which are expected to occur Tuesday into Wednesay (yes, a New York snow storm can last a couple of days).

And even after the streets are plowed, there are these large walls of snow that line the streets, and there will be only a narrow path to walk on between waist-high (or higher) piles of snow. Parking rules are informally suspended, as people pretty much can't park anywhere you normally can. It's a sort of fun, temporary chaos.

At the Korean store nearby, the line ran to the back and then around to the cereal aisle. There were maybe 50 or more people ahead of me, but the uber-efficient Koreans still whittled the line down in about 10 minutes. I saw some people panic-buying items they wouldn't normally consider, and one black woman looked at us all on the line and laughingly declared, "It's the end of the world! Snow!"

If you are good and flood The Magic Lantern with hits-o-plenty, then I might post some photos. But we'll see. And I'll eventually get back to finishing Autism Spectrum Disorder, which will get pretty interesting.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Actual conversation

Other Party: You and your family are so lazy!

Me: Uh, what? I have degrees in Physics and Electrical Engineering. Come to think of it, as an undergrad I had a double major in Physics and Chinese Language and a minor in math. From that alone you can determine that I'm not lazy.

Other party: Well, you only work hard with stuff you like to do!

Me: That's already not lazy. But what about my 5 years in college without a single vacation, because I had to work every summer and winter break, and every Friday and every weekend to make money for college?

Other party: You had to do that!

Me: So I'm not lazy when I want to do something and I'm not lazy when I have to do something. What's left?

Other party: What's left is all the things you should be doing but aren't doing.

Me: So in other words, by "lazy" you mean not doing all the things you think I should be doing?

Other party: And your family! Look at them!

Me: My father was a classical musician with the Metropolitan Opera, who had graduated from the Eastman School of Music where he met my mother. Do you have any comprehension of what's required to accomplish that?

Other party: Well, your parents may have worked hard at their jobs, but they were lazy in terms of doing all the other stuff.

Me: Ugh. I'm going upstairs now.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Autism Spectrum Disorder, Pt 5

Over the next few days she watched him carefully, to see if he was coming off the rails and really unable to function without real Lexican. But his reaction to the fake medicine was...not so straightforward either way. Of course his behavior was indeed changing: He was quiet and looked as if he were thinking about something in contexts she had never seen him do that in before, and reacted strongly and even emotionally to things he wouldn't have even looked twice at before. But it was clear he wasn't falling apart, at least not obviously so.

Then again, once again she caught him watching Big Bang Theory: Just staring at the screen with what looked to her like fascination. She even looked at his eyeballs and they were moving back and forth quickly across the screen in a way she had never seen before, as if he were studying the show for some sort of clues or important information. So in as neutral a voice as she could muster she said, "So you like Big Bang Theory now?"

Without moving she heard him say: "Sheldon is like me."

She sat there, silent. That was odd, she thought: He never seemed to connect emotionally or even any other way with the characters in sitcoms, much less a character that indeed showed signs of being somewhere on the Autism Spectrum Disorder.

"Yes," she said: "You and Sheldon are kind of similar."

"Was I as much of a dick as Sheldon?"

Woah. Strange. Very strange. And what's with the 'was'?

"No, you're a lot nicer than Sheldon. In fact I love you."

"Why?" he said. "Isn't it lonely living with me?"

What the hell? Now that was a question he never would have asked before.

"Well, sometimes. But that's OK: No relationship is perfect and I know, I just know that you have all the feelings anyone else does, just buried down inside even if you don't know it or understand them."

She saw him look down, away from the screen, thinking. And then, he looked up: I don't know why but I think I can change. I mean, I think I want to change but I'm not sure if I can. But I would like to try. I can see that there's a lot about life that I've missed out on, and I want to try some of that if that's OK. OK?

This made her a little sad as she loved him as he was, now, and didn't really need him to change. Yeah, she kinda even wanted him to change, but that wasn't necessary either. And now, he seemed to almost think he needed permission or something.

"You know I love you just the way you are now and you don't need to change for me. But if you want to change for you then OK."

He looked down again, thinking.


Sunday, December 28, 2014

Two info-gifts

Here's two info-gifts for ya'. First up, a super-cool timesink that visualizes Wikipedia as a Galaxy and that lets you navigate it as such, tracing out and sliding across connections between articles. Here it is:

Wikigalaxy

Next up is a looping program called Roll Your Own Waveform that basically takes Robert Fripp and Fripp-like riffs and allows you to select and loop them. Tell this isn't cool:

Roll Your Own Waveform

Don't say I never gave you nothin'!


Friday, December 26, 2014

Bruce Cockburn: Rumors of Glory

Just finished Bruce Cockburn's autobiography, Rumours of Glory. To put it succinctly, it kicked my ass. Really good and not what one might expect. Yeah, there's a lot of autobiographical stuff in here, interspersed with the lyrics of songs that came out of those experiences, but he also delves into some of the politics surrounding a situation he observed on the ground as part of various fact-finding missions he was a part of. And there's a lot of spiritual stuff too, about what he was exploring or discovering, and I found myself really resonating with some of those experiences, experiences that led him on a long path up and away from the narrow confines of youth and upbringing. So in short, it's a bigass grab-bag of stuff that you can't help but be fascinated by.

If you've never listened to Bruce Cockburn's music, then you will be in for quite an amazing journey as you plumb the depths of his recordings. There are countless amazing and surprising highlights there, rendered all the more incredible by their diversity and, in many cases, lyrical depth. And Bruce ain't a bad guitar player, either.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

"The Facts About Ebola"


Sometimes I feel like someone who just stepped out of a time machine and into a future stranger than was ever imagined in Science Fiction, and this sign is a good example. 
Of course, anyone on the subway reading that sign is pribably already not too concerned about Ebola and, indeed, I myself didn't even bother reading all of it.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Autism Spectrum Disorder, pt 4

She was worried, at first, about how she would get ahold of fake Lexican pills that would fool him. One thing he was very good at was little, tiny details. If something was different or out of place even by the tiniest amount, it would freak him out and he wouldn't move forward until the thing was made right, like before.

But as it turned out, there were factories all over the world that cranked out imitation pills and sold them over the internet. In fact, the hard part was finding a source of fake Lexican pills that she could be sure were fake and didn't contain an active ingredient at all. But as turned out, the one factory in Turkey she found that still made Lexican had tons of complaints on line that indicated they never put any active ingredient in their fake pills at all: Perfect.

So after obtaining the fake Lexican she switched out his real pills and kept them in a shoebox in the closet, just in case he had a particularly adverse reaction to having his Lexican switched over to fakes. For a second she thought about what she was doing: Isn't this exactly what paranoid crazies did? Switch out someone's medicine for fake because it was part of some sort of "conspiracy"? Shit. She knew she was probably going off the deep end, but she also knew it would keep eating her until she tried it at least once.

So when he took his pill after breakfast she observed him very closely: Would he notice these weren't the same? Would he be able to taste the difference? She didn't think those were the kinds of micro-differences he'd notice and she was right: He swallowed the pill with a glass of water exactly as he had hundreds of times before.

When she came home from work he was there at his computer (he worked from home four days out of five) exactly as before. She couldn't detect a difference as she sat there waiting for him to finish, which he always did at 6:25 (somehow, he didn't need a clock to know it was 6:25). At dinner, which she prepared, he was also the same as usual though PERHAPS a tad less talkative/responsive than usual. He APPEARED as if he were thinking about something, though sometimes he did that.

The next morning she left him same as usual, and he didn't seem any different as she left. It occurred to her that, perhaps, it was kind of strange: He wasn't getting any worse or "more autistic". He also wasn't getting any better. This worried her because maybe it meant the pills had a cumulative effect and, soon, he'd fall apart pretty badly in a short amount of time. Maybe he'd even stop taking pills altogether and she wouldn't be able to get him back on his medication.

When she came back that night, however, he was watching TV. And that was a little different from the normal routine. Of course, sometimes this happened when a project finished and he didn't have a new one yet, and when this happened he'd watch TV. He actually didn't like TV much, from what she could tell, but he'd watch it as part of the fill-in-time ritual he seemed to need.

But this time she stood there looking at him as he watched the TV, which was tuned to Everybody Loves Raymond. That alone was a little strange: He tended to watch documentaries or nature shows, anything with an intellectual content, with information. A sitcom, with people and events and emotions, that was different. So she stood there and looked at him looking at the TV and he was motionless, hard to read. But when the ending credits rolled he still sat there, motionless for a few minutes. And then, without moving, she heard him speak: Why was she mad?

What? He knew the wife was mad? Now that was different.


Sunday, December 14, 2014

So what did Amazon recommend for me?




These things! I have no idea what they are, even though it tells me they are "Coromant Carbide Turning Inserts". They range from about $50 to $150, and there's 77 Amazon pages of 'em.
S - SquareProduct DetailsProduct Details

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Iron Sky: The Coming Race

How come no one told me a movie had been made about Nazi's invading the Earth from their secret base on the dark side of the moon? And now there's going to be a sequel:

Yes, that T-Rex did a Heil Hitler.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Autism Spectrum Disorder, Pt 3

After she started looking into what, specifically, he had on the whole Autistic spectrum, it occurred to her that she didn't actually know when or where he got Lexican, the medicine he'd been taking since she knew him.
So she asked him, and he told her that his mother sent it once a month.
At first she thought that was strange: He was, in her estimation, perfectly capable of going to the pharmacy once a month to get a prescription. On the other hand, he really, really didn't like change in his routines, so this was probably one of those things that it was just too much trouble to change.
But as she did her research on Lexican, it became kind of mysterious: It wasn't in general available anymore. Online conspiracy nuts linked Lexican to all sorts of things, including everything from Ebola to AIDs and even Autism itself. One coo-coo-bird even promulgated a theory that it actually caused Autism.
So she decided to call the mother and ask her about the Lexican.
The mother was...well, not exactly evasive, but she couldn't help think that the mother was trying to hide the appearance of being invasive.
Of course, daughters-in-law (or prospective daughters-in-law) never really got along with mothers-in-law (or potential mothers-in-law), so maybe her feelings just boiled down to a Freudian thing, like competing for maximum female influence over their shared man.
But no. At least, there was a part of her she trusted that told her something else was going on. For instance, the mother claimed she just got the Lexican from their local pharmacy in rural PA, and had been doing so since he was small. And yet, the internet claimed that Lexican had been discontinued many years ago, declared ineffective and not worth the side effects. She even called their pharmacy, and no one there had heard of it. In fact, their most tenured pharmacist had only been working there five years, and she believed him when he sounded confused: He'd never even heard of Lexican, never mind dispensed it.
So late on a Sunday night she sat there thinking about what to do. Did she really want to upset the applecart? This appeared to be one of those things that she should just leave the fuck alone, before she ruined what was a pretty good thing. Why rock the boat? She was just being paranoid.
And yet, she knew that her feelings about this whole thing weren't going to just evaporate. In fact, they'd get stronger and stronger until she started taking it all out on him, and she knew where that would lead, in a hurry too.
But she couldn't call the mother, that much she was sure of. She couldn't just say, "I called your pharmacy and they never heard of Lexican,". The answer would probably be embarrassingly simple, and then she would have lost the trust of both the mother as well as him too. And taking away the pills was not an option: Aside from potentially disastrous side-effects (assuming they really were helping him), he would respond terribly to the change in routine: "Where's my medicine? I haven't taken my medicine. Can't go out without my medicine. Where's my medicine? I need my medicine." It would really throw him a curveball, and he couldn't handle curveballs.
So what could she possibly do?
She knew what to do: She'd go find some way to make fake pills and let him take those for a while to see what happened. And if there was a bad result, she'd just switch them back for real ones.

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