Sweet Spot #7

Posted in Audio transmissions on November 23rd, 2009 by bill
I'm particularly pleased with this one for some reason...I just like the way the songs fall together. Maybe you will too. Happy Thanksgiving, turkeys. PLAY 1. Jesus > The Velvet Underground (Velvet Underground) 2. Jesus & Tequila > Minutemen (Double Nickels on the Dime) 3. Jimmy Jazz > The Clash (London Calling) 4. Jimmy Jimmy > The Undertones (The Undertones) 5. Jitterbug Love > T. Rex (The T. Rex Wax Co. Singles) 6. JMC Retro > Pavement (Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain: L.A.'s Desert Origins) 7. Jo Jo's Jacket > Stephen Malkmus (Stephen Malkmus) 8. Joe Harper Saturday Morning > Van Morrison (Bang Masters) 9. Joe Turner Blues > Mississippi John Hurt (The Last Sessions) 10. Joseph > Tricky (Knowle West Boy)

Hit the road, Jack

Posted in Golden (State) Years on November 17th, 2009 by bill
[caption id="attachment_867" align="alignnone" width="244" caption="In this shot from the good old days, Stephen Jackson makes some kind of measurement involving Boom Dizzle\'s head."]In this shot from the good old days, Stephen Jackson makes some kind of measurement involving Boom Dizzle's head.[/caption] It was Cecil who broke the news to me yesterday that Stephen Jackson had departed for the East, leaving behind the flaming mass of writhing agony that is Your Golden State Warriors Basketball Team. Hard to believe that it was only two and a half years ago that I was writing giddy little love poems to Don Nelson and his ragtag bunch of small-w warriors as they shocked the world by upending the mighty Dallas Mavericks. Where are they now? Jason Richardson, unceremoniously dumped for salary cap room. Baron Davis wearing a Clippers jersey, the most shameful item of clothing in all of basketball, possibly all of sports. Al Harrington keeping LeBron's seat warm in New York, in between launching up threes. And now Captain Jack, that lovable lunatic, gone in a cloud of bitterness and recrimination. The only ones left are Nellie himself — increasingly embattled, looking more and more like Captain Ahab or Colonel Kurtz — and moped enthusiast Monta Ellis, who is no doubt on the phone to his agent right this minute looking to follow Jackson out of town. It's an ugly scene, and there's no comfort to be had from watching the Raiders, who are a mortal lock to lose pretty much every game they play. (Though there is money to be made betting on their opponents.) As a matter of fact it's hard to say which organization is more dysfunctional these days. And, honestly, why bother? I'm going to take a nap now; wake me up when either Chris Cohan or Al Davis drops dead.

Oh, wait

Posted in Whatever Else on November 14th, 2009 by bill
Water. NASA found water on the moon. Never mind.

Whitey on the moon

Posted in Whatever Else on November 14th, 2009 by bill
[caption id="attachment_862" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Gil Scott Herring"]Gil Scott Herring[/caption] I was a little groggy when I was reading the paper this morning, so I may have this wrong, but I'm pretty sure NASA found whitey on the moon. That Gil-Scott Heron is a prophet!

Having a Moment

Posted in Dancing about architecture on November 11th, 2009 by bill
Got to spend some quality time last night with my old friends Dan and Bob, and also with our other friends Charles, Kim, Joey, and David, who play together in a band called the Pixies. The Pixies were in town to play some shows marking the 20th anniversary of their album Doolittle, an album which, like the first Velvet Underground record, launched a thousand bands—including Nirvana, who launched ten thousand more. It's hard to get too sentimental about Pixies music, which is loud and aggressive and full of death imagery, though I suppose you could shed a tear over "Monkey Gone to Heaven" or "Silver." (Speaking of the latter, can I rant for a minute? Why is it that a minute a band plays anything less than punishingly loud, a hundred conversations start up? You have the rest of your goddamn life to yammer on about whatever you please. Can't you just shut up for a minute so we can hear the music we all paid to hear? OK, thanks, I feel better now.) The highlight for me was probably "Hey," which triggers some vivid memories of my 20th and 21st years. Aided by lyrics on the video screen—although I think they knew the words anyway—most of the crowd sang along, and it was surreal to hear a thousand people singing
Hey Been trying to meet you Must be a devil between us, or whores in my head Whore, door, whores in my bed But hey, where have you been? If you go, I will surely die We're chai-ai-ai-ained...
It gave me the chills, actually, but the good kind. Worth the price of admission alone, right there.

“I thought we’d have less time…”

Posted in Whatever Else on November 10th, 2009 by bill
To get your FDA-recommended dose of laughs today, I recommend you check out this trailer created by Cecil Vortex and friends. Tell Cecil I sent you.

Sweet Spot #6

Posted in Whatever Else on November 7th, 2009 by bill
Today's musical treat includes visits from an old favorite (David Bowie), a new favorite (The Decemberists), an old favorite that I didn't know about until recently (Kevin Ayers), and three-quarters of the Beatles. Enjoy. PLAY Playlist: 1. Isn't It a Lovely Night?/The Decemberists (The Hazards of Love) 2. Isn't It a Pity/George Harrison (All Things Must Pass) 3. Isolation/John Lennon (Plastic Ono Band) 4. It Ain't Easy/David Bowie (Ziggy Stardust) 5. It Begins with a Blessing–Once I Awakened–But It Ends with a Curse/Kevin Ayers (The Confessions of Doctor Dream 6. It Don't Come Easy/Ringo Starr (Ringo)

Death, Rebirth, the Universe, and Everything

Posted in Whatever Else on November 5th, 2009 by bill
heinkevisual Doing research for yesterday's post, I came across an amazing piece in Wired (from whence I stole the gorgeous picture at the top of this page, which I honestly believe in every legal sense to be in the public domain, as most NASA photos are). It's called "Baby Neutron Star Found Inside Supernova Remnant," and it starts like this:
Scientists have finally identified the mysterious source of X-ray emissions at the center of our galaxy’s youngest supernova: Inside the remains of Cassiopeia A sits a baby neutron star surrounded by a thin layer of carbon dioxide.
That's right: A new star is born from the remains of a dead star. It's just too metaphorically precise, isn't it? Some might see this as evidence of a benevolent deity, or intelligent design, or some such thing; but it reminds me of the Babel fish:
The Babel fish, said The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy quietly, is small, yellow and leech-like, and probably the oddest thing in the Universe. It feeds on brainwave energy not from its carrier but from those around it. It absorbs all unconscious mental frequencies from this brainwave energy to nourish itself with. It then excretes into the mind of its carrier a telepathic matrix formed by combining the conscious thought frequencies with nerve signals picked up from the speech centres of the brain which has supplied them. The practical upshot of all this is that if you stick a Babel fish in your ear you can instantly understand anything said to you in any form of language. The speech patterns you actually hear decode the brainwave matrix which has been fed into your mind by your Babel fish. Now it is such a bizarrely improbable coincidence that anything so mindboggingly useful could have evolved purely by chance that some thinkers have chosen to see it as the final and clinching proof of the non-existence of God. The argument goes something like this: ‘I refuse to prove that I exist,’ says God, ‘for proof denies faith, and without faith I am nothing. ‘But,’ says Man, ‘The Babel fish is a dead giveaway, isn’t it? It could not have evolved by chance. It proves you exist, and so therefore, by your own arguments, you don’t. QED.’ ‘Oh dear,’ says God, ‘I hadn’t thought of that,’ and promptly vanishes in a puff of logic.

Chaotic Transport

Posted in Whatever Else on November 4th, 2009 by bill
[caption id="attachment_823" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="A NASA artist's conception of the Interplanetary Transport Network."]A NASA artist's conception of the Interplanetary Transport Network.[/caption]
The mutation from terrestrial to interstellar life must be made, because the womb planet itself is going to blow up in a few billion years.... Planet Earth is a stepping stone on our time-trip through the galaxy. Life has to get its seed-self off the planet to survive.... There are also some among us who are bored with the amniotic level of mentation on this planet and look up in hopes of finding someone entertaining to talk to.

–Timothy Leary and L. Wayne Brenner

Last night's viewing was Werner Herzog's The Wild Blue Yonder, a bizarre mindfuck of a movie combining found footage, video of scuba diving in Antarctica and a space shuttle mission, and Brad Dourif playing an alien whose narration ties the whole thing together. Herzog calls this science fiction, though he claims his previous exposure to sci-fi consisted of one of the "Star War" movies and one of the movies with "Dr. Spock" in it.

There was also some actual science in it, including a monologue by one Martin Lo, who explains a concept that the movie calls "chaotic transport" (Wikipedia calls it the "Interplanetary Transport Network," which is a much less catchy phrase). Apparently, this idea drastically reduces the amount of energy needed for interplanetary travel by making use of the precisely calculated interlocking orbits of celestial bodies and of something called "Lagrange points," which are

...locations where trajectories through space can be redirected using little or no energy. These points have the peculiar property of allowing objects to orbit around them, despite the absence of any material object therein.
Trippy. If I'm understanding this correctly, it means that if you do some really complicated math you can figure out where to put a spaceship so that it will more or less be carried around the solar system on a sort of interplanetary conveyor belt. This is a real thing, though in the movie it's applied to intergalactic travel, which to all appearances is not; as Herzog points out, just traveling to the nearest star at the fastest speed yet reached would take something like 120,000 years. This is too bad, because we're unlikely to find anyone terribly interesting to talk to in this solar system. But if we can figure out chaotic transport, maybe we can figure out how to exploit some deus ex machina like wormholes or other dimensions to get around the universe. Young people with undamaged brains, I'm looking at you....

The Day the Music Tortured

Posted in Dancing about architecture on November 3rd, 2009 by bill
There seems to be a bit of kerfluffle going about the fact that music may have been used as an instrument of torture at Guantanamo Bay and other American detention camps. According to the Washington Post,
A high-profile coalition of artists — including the members of Pearl Jam, R.E.M. and the Roots — demanded last week that the government release the names of all the songs that, since 2002, were blasted at prisoners for hours, even days, on end, to try to coerce cooperation or as a method of punishment.
Certainly one can understand why an artist would not want their work either classified as torture or used for that purpose, although James Hetfield of Metallica seems to take it as a perverse sort of compliment: "We've been punishing our parents, our wives, our loved ones with this music for ever. Why should the Iraqis be any different?" The article goes on to say:
The request asks for documents that include but are not limited to references to these performers or songs: AC/DC Aerosmith "Barney" theme song (by Bob Singleton) Bee Gees Britney Spears Bruce Springsteen Christina Aguilera David Gray Deicide Don McLean Dope Dr. Dre Drowning Pool Eminem Hed P.E. James Taylor Limp Bizkit Marilyn Manson Matchbox Twenty Meat Loaf Meow Mix jingle Metallica Neil Diamond Nine Inch Nails Pink Prince Queen Rage Against the Machine Red Hot Chili Peppers Redman Saliva "Sesame Street" theme (by Christopher Cerf) Stanley Brothers "The Star-Spangled Banner" Tupac Shakur
And, wow, that is just such a rich vein of material that I scarcely know where to start. A few thoughts:
  • The juxtaposition of James Taylor and Limp Bizkit is a provocative one, because although these are very different styles of music, I would consider both to be torture on general principles. (I don't want to get too much into personal preferences here, lest I someday run afoul of unprincipled persons with Internet access, but I will say that when I think about music and torture, the first words that come to mind are "Yoko" and "Ono.")
  • I can certainly imagine how the Barney or Sesame Street themes or the Meow Mix jingle played over and over and over at extremely high volumes would wreak havoc on your mental health. It must have taken a particularly twisted type of mind to come up with these. Can you say "war crime"?
  • It's interesting that the Bee Gees made the list but not Abba. If you're going to hit people with 36 straight hours of "Night Fever," why not go ahead and nail them with "Dancing Queen," too? This reminds me of my favorite ever quote from a movie review, which is from Anthony Lane of the New Yorker regarding Mamma Mia!:
The legal definition of torture has been much aired in recent years, and I take “Mamma Mia!” to be a useful contribution to that debate.
  • If Don McLean's on there, "American Pie" must have been used to illegally torment America's enemies, which is pretty on the nose, isn't it?
So bye-bye, Miss American Pie. Drove my chevy to the levee, But the levee was dry. And them good old boys were drinkin' whiskey and rye Singin', "this'll be the day that I die." "this'll be the day that I die."
The truth, I guess, is that anything can be torture; all that is necessary is the will to use it as such. Which is not how we used to roll, here in the land of the free and the home of the brave. I wonder would Dr. Thompson would have said? Something about pimps and thieves running free, no doubt, and good men dying like dogs. And so it goes.