Thursday, July 30, 2009

Kicking It Old School-A Week Of Noise #4

Luciano Berio's Sinfonia
Berio's seminal Sinfonia is an amazing piece of music, a modern masterpiece that stands at the crossroads of avant garde innovation and postmodern pastiche, academic experimentation and popular accessibility. Written at the end of the 1960s, Sinfonia virtually embraces the last few hundred years of Western music from Bach to the Beatles, and incorporates a universe of references from Beckett to the audience itself -- it even looks ahead to the review in the next morning's paper. And yet it's much more than the clever sum of its eclectic parts; it is also masterfully written, astonishingly orchestrated, and brilliantly engaging. And unlike many other equally deserving modern works, it has also made a dent in the repertory; there were several performances of Sinfonia in New York City over the last few years alone.
As Sinfonia is one of my personal favorite compositions, allow me the pleasure of providing a guided tour....
It begins in a hush of mystery, born from a blurry gong. The eight voices emerge harmonizing from the silence, suddenly breaking free in a flurry of muttered syllables and disjointed quotes from the works of Claude Lévi-Strauss, the French anthropologist. Concerned largely with Brazilian water myths, the quotations are used as "poetic fragments," at first articulated over bursts of percussion and waves of amplified harmonizing. Occasionally disrupted by thick clusters of music from the orchestra, the voices unspool their text in dizzying patterns, at times in unison, at others pursuing individual courses, teasing and deforming the words like verbal taffy. The orchestra is never at rest; connecting its periodic explosions with frantic stretches of piano, spasms of vibraphone, warbling flutes, rippling fanfares....
The next section, "O King," was written in 1967 as a tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr., and incorporated into Sinfonia a year later. A workout of Berio's "rotating pitch cycles," the phonemes making up King's name are vocalized in a rotating sequence anchored in F and A, with a different selection of notes sustained each cycle. The effect is the creation of an eerie "harmonic cloud," oscillating between two whole-tone areas, all of which means that it sounds pretty spooky. Initiated with a sharp blare from the horns, the voices build up in soothing but eerie waves of otherworldly reverence, bringing to mind Ligeti's Requiem (familiar to many from Kubrick's film, 2001: A Space Odyssey). The syllables float above a layer of shimmering music, piling up like clouds of incense, with frequent spikes of brass and piano shooting through the haze like needles. By the time Martin Luther King's name is finally spoken in full, a hesitant drumroll underpins the voices, bringing everything just to the edge of an uncomfortable tension -- a bizarre Mass fraught with the potential for violence.
The third section is the most famous movement of the piece, a tour de force of experimental composition, and possibly the most exhilarating twelve minutes that modern music has to offer. A merry, freewheeling circus of music and language, it seems to reel perpetually around the edge of a chaos that threatens to hurl it into pieces; but like a ride on a roller-coaster, all comes out safe and sound in the end. And like any good thrill ride, part of the secret lies in a carefully engineered structure, and here Berio borrows blueprints from two masters -- Mahler for the music, and Beckett for the text.
The swinging scherzo from Mahler's "Resurrection" symphony (its first part subtitled "In ruhig fliessender Bewegung") is used as the basis for the section's musical form. Despite the subtitle lifted from Mahler, this river of music is anything but "calmly flowing;" it rushes on like a torrent, occasionally smashing up against Berio's sudden chord clusters, only to untangle itself and swirl away in a slightly different direction. Berio uses the turbulent flow to spin off countless eddies of musical allusion and quotation, from Bach to Stravinsky to Stockhausen. As with the previous excerpts from Lévi-Strauss, many of these involve water, such as the drowning scene from Berg's Wozzeck, and Mahler's scherzo itself, which is based on the Wunderhorn song "St. Anthony of Padua's Sermon to the Fishes." True to this movement's obvious postmodern idiom, Berio even quotes from his own work at one point, as well as that of Boulez, who conducts the piece on its most famous recording.
The libretto is just as complex as the music. Using the self-reflexive monologue from Beckett's The Unnamable as a basic pattern, dozens of other textual threads are shuttled through the narrative loom to form a dazzling tapestry of language in all its forms. Fragments of German, Yuletide solfège, snippets of song, radical slogans, clichés from the classical music crowd, gobbles and grunts, and perhaps most striking of all, the insistent command to "Keep going!" -- all rise and fall in a babelogue carried along by the music, punctuated by orchestral gestures that just as often provide ironic counterpoint as they do illustration. The whole movement surges to a sort of humorous self-awareness, the principle speaker frequently addressing the audience in the sardonic lilt of an old tour guide: "Well, well, so there is an audience!... You can't leave, you're afraid to leave, you make the best of it... While every now and then a familiar passacaglia hunkers through the other noises... And now it's done, it's over, we've had our chance, there was even for a second hope of resurrection..." At one point the libretto instructs the speaker to say, "And tomorrow we'll read that X made tulips grow in my garden, and altered the flow of the ocean's currents," where X is the next work on the evening's program. Eventually he introduces the singers by name, and finally thanks the conductor, bringing the movement to a most satisfying conclusion. Like Beckett's Unnamable, the work has a voice conscious of itself, aware that it only exists in the moment of performance. Unlike the Unnamable, however, it seems to revel in an eccentric sense of joy, and the fun is certainly contagious. ("Thank you, Mr. Boulez.")
The brief fourth movement is a return to the relative calm of the second, a welcome break after the giddying scherzo. It begins again with a Mahler quotation -- the lovely, undulating chorus taken from the end of the "Resurrection" symphony. Whispers flutter around individual voices, which detach from the general hum in syllabic fragments, distortions of previous textual material. Unlike the second movement, the orchestra is less aggressive, more content to remain below the drifting chorus.
Sinfonia comes to a conclusion with its fifth movement, which Berio added a year later to balance the other four. Somewhat similar in instrumental texture to the first section, it actually uses the pitch cycle from the second to generate the vocal harmonies. The movement revisits the text from the previous sections, organizing the material in a more orderly fashion to create what Berio calls "narrative substance." Here the voices are more disciplined, more subject to synchronization and perceivable patterns; though the music is as thorny as ever. Building up in tense spasms, sending spirals of sound from instrument to instrument as it gathers itself together, the orchestra seems to be awakening for one last crescendo as the pitch sequence nears completion. As increasingly more brass enters the mix, both orchestra and chorus rise to a protracted, rolling climax, followed immediately by a sense of dissolution and winding down. With same hushed gong that began the work, Sinfonia returns back into the silence from which it came.

Excerpts from the album liner notes (remember liner notes!?) of Luciano Berios Sinfonia

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

More Vertical Farm Porn!

Toronto Sky Farm! Is that next to the Holiday Inn on King? Yes! Gordon Graff's Sky Farm proposed for downtown Toronto's theatre district. It's got 58 floors, 2.7 million square feet of floor area and 8 million square feet of growing area. It can produce as much as a thousand acre farm, feeding 35 thousand people per year and providing tomatoes to throw at the latest dud at the Princess of Wales Theatre to the east, and olives for the Club District to the north. Thankfully it overwhelms the horrid jello-mold Holiday Inn to the west. From Treehugger

We love vertical farms and while they may not be as practical as green roofs, the idea of food being grown right in the city doesn't get any more local than this. New York magazine asked four architects to dream up proposals for a lot on Canal Street and Work AC came up with this. “We thought we’d bring the farm back to the city and stretch it vertically,” says Work AC co-principal Dan Wood. “We are interested in urban farming and the notion of trying to make our cities more sustainable by cutting the miles [food travels],” adds his co-principal (and wife) Amale Andraos. Underneath is what appears to be a farmers market, selling what grows above. Artists would be commissioned to design the columns that hold it up and define the space under: “We show a Brancusi, but it could be anyone,” says Wood. ::New York Magazine

Mike covered the Vertical Farm ideas of Dr. Dickson Despommier earlier, and my, how they have grown. New York Magazine has a spectacular spread on his vision of "a cluster of 30-story towers on Governors Island or in Hudson Yards producing fruit, vegetables, and grains while also generating clean energy and purifying wastewater. Roughly 150 such buildings, Despommier estimates, could feed the entire city of New York for a year. Using current green building systems, a vertical farm could be self-sustaining and even produce a net output of clean water and energy."

A lot has changed since the idea was first proposed. Local has become the new buzzword, we now weigh the carbon footprint of our food, and there have been a few recent disasters in our food production system that make one want to look the farmer in the face. As New York says "Cities already have the density and infrastructure needed to support vertical farms, and super-green skyscrapers could supply not just food but energy, creating a truly self-sustaining environment." Imagine an urban highrise CSA where we just walk across the street from our highrise to the next to pick our dinner.

The article is like the Popular Science Moonbase of the Future essays of my childhood, in a round structure "Inspired by the Capitol Records building in Hollywood."

We love how "Wastewater taken from the city’s sewage system is treated through a series of filters, then sterilized, yielding gray water—which is not drinkable but can be used for irrigation. (Currently, the city throws 1.4 billion gallons of treated wastewater into the rivers each day.)" -this isn't just growing vegetables, it is an urban battery, taking waste and solar energy and producing food, clean water and electricity.

New York Magazine

(Photo: Architectural Design by Rolf Mohr; Modeling and Rendering by Machine Films; Interiors by James Nelms Digital Artist @ Storyboards Online)

Make your OWN vertical garden for your house or apartment:

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Art of Noises-A Week of Noise #3

A precedence for noise and experimental music of John Cage, Charles Ives, Yoko Ono, Adam Ant, Diamanda Galas and Lightening Bolt ...would be "The Art of Noises" by Russiloand his manifesto The Art Of Noises. Photo of Russolo, Ugo Piatti and their “noise intoners” (intonarumori), Milan circa 1920. These were invented in 1914 to correspond with the theories outlined in the manifesto.

"The piano on the left is tuned one-quarter tone sharp, providing notes in-between the notes of the normally tuned piano. Performed by the Paratore brothers."

Noise music uses all kinds of tools to make sound. These could include feedback, dissonance, random notes and pacing,

Luigi Russolo was a futurist and he notes that the earliest "music" was very simplistic and was created with very simple instruments, and that many early civilizations considered the secrets of music sacred and reserved it for rites and rituals. The Greek musical theory was based on the tetrachord mathematics of Pythagoras, which did not allow for any harmonies. Developments and modifications to the Greek musical system were made during the Middle Ages, which lead to music like Gregorian chant. Russolo notes that during this time sounds were still narrowly seen as "unfolding in time." The chord did not yet exist.

Russolo sees the futurist orchestra drawing its sounds from "six families of noise":

-Roars, Thunderings, Explosions, Hissing roars, Bangs, Booms
-Whistling, Hissing, Puffing
-Whispers, Murmurs, Mumbling, Muttering, Gurgling
-Screeching, Creaking, Rustling, Humming, Crackling, Rubbing
-Noises obtained by beating on metals, woods, skins, stones, pottery, etc.
-Voices of animals and people, Shouts, Screams, Shrieks, Wails, Hoots, Howls, Death rattles, Sobs
-Russolo asserts that these are the most basic and fundamental noises, and that all other noises are only associations and combinations of these.

Yoko Ono showed her entire film "Fly" on Dick Cavett. The above is an excerpt.

Russolo includes a list of conclusions:

-Futurist composers should use their creativity and innovation to "enlarge and enrich the field of sound" by approaching the "noise-sound."
-Futurist musicians should strive to replicate the infinite timbres in noises.
-Futurist musicians should free themselves from the traditional and seek to explore the diverse rhythms of noise.
-The complex tonalities of noise can be achieved by creating instruments that replicate that complexity.
-The creation of instruments that replicate noise should not be a difficult task, since the manipulation of pitch will be simple once the mechanical principles that that create the noise have been recreated. Pitch can be manipulated through simples changes in speed or tension.
-The new orchestra will not evoke new and novel emotions by imitating the noises of life, but by finding new and unique combinations of timbres and rhythms in noise, to find a way to fully express the rhythm and sound that stretches beyond normal un-inebriated comprehension.
-The variety of noise is infinite, and as man creates new machines the number of noises he can differentiate between continues to grow.
-Therefore, he invites all talented musicians to pay attention to noises and their complexity, and once they discover the broadness of noise's palette of timbres, they will develop a passion for noise. He predicts that our "multiplied sensibility, having been conquered by futurist eyes, will finally have some futurist ears, and . . . every workshop will become an intoxicating orchestra of noise."

Family of Noise by Adam Ant

a lot of people in this great big-world
say "love everybody"
a lot of people busy busy busy busy busy
being very modern

but the family of noise is here
and it's come to save everybody
the family of noise is here
and it's come to save you and me
it goes:

the family of noise is here
and it's come to save everybody
the family of noise is here
and it's come to save you and me

a lot of people in the ancient world
they loved only quiet
and then along came the machine
and a new direction

the family of noise is here
and it's come to save everybody
the family of noise is here
and it's come to save you and me
it goes:

in the morning
last thing at night
in the darkness
standing in the light

a lot of people in this great big world
just searching for the "pure" sound
they're just looking to the machine
they don't listen to the noise

the family of noise is here
and it's come to save you and me

-in Croydon

Monday, July 27, 2009

Diamanda Galas-A Week of Noise #2

I fell in love with Diamanda Galas way back in the 80's when she performed at a nightclub I worked at and she blew us all away. I remember my initial feeling as she began her performance that I never knew music could be torn apart and put back together like this...that there were all kinds of ways to make a set of songs. She was devastatingly beautiful and it felt as if she had summonded powers I only heard of in horror movies or supernatural ghost stories.

I was never really much of a fan of opera, but through listening to Galas, I kind of eventually found a way to relate to opera.

Galas became a bit of a crossover artist with some mainstream atttention when she became an activist.

Galas got known when.... the controversial 1991 live recording of the album Plague Mass (1984 - End of the Epidemic) in the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in New York. With it, Galás attacked the Roman Catholic Church (and society in general) for its indifference to AIDS using biblical texts. In the words of Terrorizer Magazine, "The church was made to burn with sound, not fire."[2]. Plague Mass was a live rendition of excerpts from her Masque Of The Red Death trilogy which began as a response to and indictment of the effects of AIDS on the "silent class". After production of the trilogy's first volume began, Galás' brother, playwright Philip-Dimitri Galás, contracted HIV, which inspired the artist to redouble her efforts, resulting in the development of the aforementioned performance. During the period of these recordings, Galás had "we are all HIV+" tattooed upon her knuckles; an artistic expression of disillusionment and disgust with the ignorance and apathy surrounding the AIDS epidemic. Her brother, who died during the trilogy's final production, reportedly appreciated her efforts.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

A Week of Noise #1

Today a buddy Marvin got me to check out the band Lightening Bolt because I'm going to do a week of noise bands on my blog. I think noise bands are the most interesting thing going on in music in the world. They play a large part in my own life and what I like to listen to...and I believe they are the place where music is growing...

I just plain and noise bands...and probably the most famous example of noise bands and noise rock is Jimi Hendrix lighting his guitar on fireand messing with feedback or Pete Townsend smashing his guitars.

I've seen a lot of noise bands and they are probably among my favourite live music experiences. Some of the really good ones include The Birthday Party, The Stooges, Swans, Luciano Berio (I wore out several Luciano Berio recordings), Gang of Four, Pscychic Tv, Diamanda Galas (I love her!), The Jesus and Mary Chain.

Sometimes these bands have been defined as "shoe gazers" which is a cute funny name...or "industrial" (Factory Records...featured in the movie 24 Hour Party People used to produce a lot of bands that fell under the industrial motif. There was a time when I would just buy any bands that were under the Factory Records label.

I find that listening to noise bands is a way of clearing my audio palette if you will. I find it invigorating and spiritual and exploratory. It's just fucking cool! When I first got together with Stagg I was surprised that he also really loved noise bands...maybe even more than I do...(I thought he mostly only listened to rap). I was surprised that Stagg owned some John Zorn trippy!

Lightening Bolt formed in 1994 when the two membets met at Design School in Providence Rhode Island. They are partly inspired by bands like Boredoms, Philip Glass, Sun Ra, and Ruins. Lightening Bolt has a sensibility a lot like mine. It took me convince Stagg we should show our art outside on the streets. (and then the cops told us to get a vending permit...ergh!!!) One of the reasons I am so passiate about showing our art outised is because it returns art to a dialogue between the artist and viewer...both verbally and non-verbally. Art is for humans...not for galleries! This band is known for it's guerrila gigs. A geurrilla gig is just what it sounds like. The most popular known guerilla gigs were done by The Jefferson Airplane, Beatles and U2...when they played outside without a concert venue...on rooftops. (here is an article about Guerilla Gigging)

Here is Boredom with a very good song....

And Sun Ra...

Here is "Dracula Mountain" by Lightening Bolt and I think its a great song...

You can listen to more Lightening Bolt at their link...

Enjoy and this music helps reset your attitude! It's like cosmic reset buttons for the soul...

Black Intellectual Home Invasions!

Your home is safe...but is it safe from black intellectuals? "When black intellectuals strike...we take affirmative action"

The following is from July 17th but it's an awesome list of similarities asking if America is just like what Michael Jackson have to check out both these clips...really good stuff...

Saturday, July 25, 2009

This Woman's Work

What an incredible dance performance the other night, on SYTYCD, to the song This Womans Work.

"This Woman's Work" is a song written and performed by the British singer Kate Bush. It was originally featured on the soundtrack of the American film She's Having a Baby (1988). The song was released as the second single from her album The Sensual World in 1989 and peaked at 25 in the UK singles chart (From Wikipedia)

Like "She's Having A Baby", the movie for which the song was written, the lyrics are about being forced to suddenly confront reality and adulthood in times of crisis. Director John Hughes uses the song during the film's dramatic climax, when Jake (Kevin Bacon) learns that the lives of his wife (Elizabeth McGovern) and their unborn child are in danger. As the song plays, we see a montage sequence of flashbacks showing the couple in happier times, intercut with shots of him waiting for news of Elizabeth and their baby's condition.
The version of the song that was featured on The Sensual World was re-edited from the original version featured on the film soundtrack.

The song was featured on the Felicity soundtrack, and has been used at key moments in episodes of Alias, Party of Five, Crossing Jordan, 7th Heaven and Without a Trace. It was used to promote the season opener of the 2007-2008 season of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. Since 2006 the song has featured on two long-running TV adverts for the British charity the NSPCC. The 2007 Special Christmas edition of the Ricky Gervais comedy series Extras, which aired 16 December in the US on HBO and 27 December on BBC One in the UK, featured two scenes using the song as a soundtrack. Due to the songs inclusion in Extras, the song entered the UK chart once again in January 2008. In June 2008, the song was played at the beginning and end of an Emmerdale episode featuring a custody battle between two sets of parents.

In 1997, American R&B musician Maxwell covered the song for the release of his album MTV Unplugged. The artist later re-recorded the song in studio for his album Now (2001). This version of the song was released as the album's second single in 2001 and peaked in the US Billboard charts at #58 (Billboard Hot 100) and #16 (Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs). This version also appeared in the movie Love & Basketball, but was not included in its soundtrack.

The music video for "This Woman's Work", which was directed by Sanji, begins with pictures of Maxwell and his lover in black-and-white photography. One picture reveals that his lover has died. In the next scene, Maxwell sees his lover in the street and proceeds to confront her, but he falls through the street, and begins to drown. Maxwell then begins to swim across the street, and pulls himself up by holding on to the side walk. He then enters an almost-empty diner, where every one is waiting for a loved one. Throughout the music video, Maxwell sees his lover in practically every direction. The video is noted for its compelling special effects.
[edit]Use in popular culture

In Love and Basketball, the song is played as the main characters realize their true feelings and have sex. In the movie Stomp the Yard (2007), Columbus Short and Meagan Good kiss for the first time, when they decide to go out. Maxwell's version of the song was played in the background. It has been used three times in the US version of So You Think You Can Dance. The first time in an August 2006 episode, when contestant Allison Holker danced her final solo to the song. The second time in a July 2008 episode, when contestant Katee Shean danced her solo to the song. The third time in a July 2009 episode, for a contemporary routine by Tyce Diorio for Melissa Sandvig and Ade Obayomi, depicting a woman's struggle with breast cancer.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Almost In Paperback

September 2666 comes out in paperback which makes it not quite so expensive or heavy to carry and read on public transit.

This is the best book I read last's so good I read all 900 pages again this spring. It's actually one of the best novels I've read in the last five years. Sure...I've already said this here at this blog...but seriously...if you haven't read this novel's coming out in paperback. Go and get it! All I can say is the feeling of elation and excitement reading this novel has not been equaled except for when I read Cities of The Red Night/The Place of Dead Roads and Blood Meridian.

The audacity of Bolano's fiction, its disregard for convention and even probability, puts me in mind of a remark a friend once made after a jazz concert. I said I thought the keyboard player had really been taking chances, and he said, "No, he wasn't taking chances, he was doing whatever the fuck he wanted." In every sentence he wrote, every image he conceived, every compositional choice he made, Bolano did whatever the fuck he wanted. In his art as in his life, he left a record of headlong daring that will become a rallying point for young writers for years to come. His myriad-minded fiction adumbrates no theory and swears allegiance to no school, embodying instead an unending search for new aesthetic and moral questions. At a time when the novel, at least in this country, has retreated into caution, he demonstrates again what is possible in fiction -- which is to say, anything. His forms are sui generis, there is no emulating them, but his form-making is exemplary. From TNR: "Last Evenings On Earth" by Deresiewicz

Jupiter and Semele by Gustav Moreau. Art is mentioned a lot in this novel and the cover of the book is worth thinking about.

Jupiter and Semele can be interpreted as 'an allegory of regeneration by death', as Ragnar von Holten has described it, because Moreau himself wrote, "Semele, penetrated by the divine effluence, regenerated and purified by this consecration, dies struck by lightning and with her dies the genius of terrestrial love, the genius with the goat hooves'. The symbolical interpretation of 'this birth-death in one', as Malcolm de Chazal calls it, does not have to be taken literally: 'As voluptuousness is the universal crossroads of the senses, the mind, heart and soul, and also a point-state where death and birth meet halfway, where the entire man is intersected within himself, voluptuousness is for this very reason the greatest source of knowledge and the widest field for studying the deep-seated workings of the human being.' On the contrary, there seems to me to be every reason to consider Jupiter and Semele an exceptional gamble to fix through the medium of painting 'the supreme point capable of being reached from which, briefer than a flash, without having to pay it any attention - thus betraying the voluptuousness itself and accepting that it should betray you — you have the chance of apprehending unrevealed aspects of the world."

Some really good notes about the novel:

Part 1, The Part About The Critics

Part Two

New York Times

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Garbage Warrior

You have to see Garbage Warrior,/li> it is a really fantastic true story about sustainable living.

Directed by Oliver Hodge...

What do beer cans, car tires and water bottles have in common? Not much unless you’re renegade architect Michael Reynolds, in which case they are tools of choice for producing thermal mass and energy-independent housing. For 30 years New Mexico-based Reynolds and his green disciples have devoted their time to advancing the art of “Earthship Biotecture” by building self-sufficient, off-the-grid communities where design and function converge in eco-harmony. However, these experimental structures that defy state standards create conflict between Reynolds and the authorities, who are backed by big business.

Frustrated by antiquated legislation, Reynolds lobbies for the right to create a sustainable living test site. While politicians hum and ha, Mother Nature strikes, leaving communities devastated by tsunamis and hurricanes. Reynolds and his crew seize the opportunity to lend their pioneering skills to those who need it most. Shot over three years and in four countries, Garbage Warrior is a timely portrait of a determined visionary, a hero of the 21st century.

Earthship n. 1. passive solar home made of natural and recycled materials 2. thermal mass construction for temperature stabilization. 3. renewable energy & integrated water systems make the Earthship an off-grid home with little to no utility bills.

Biotecture n. 1. the profession of designing buildings and environments with consideration for their sustainability. 2. A combination of biology and architecture.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

God On TV!!!!!

I was surfing tv late last night and almost fainted when I found Prince on PBS. I couldn't believe it...and had no idea that this interview happened back in April. Luckily I caught the show right when it started and was able to record can watch the whole interview here at PBS

Oh my god...I wannna hang out with Cornel West, Tavis Smiley and Prince!!@!!!!

Prince says he shows Dick Gregory's State Of The Black Union to all his friends when they come over...especially the white I've included a bit of Dick Gregory here too...

And here are some excerpts kicking around the internet...

Here's a good question. How come a nine year old kid can find a heroin dealer but a cop can't?

AFI Life Achievement Awards-Michael Douglas

I was watching the ceremony celebrating Michael Douglas work in producing (he produced 21 movies including One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest) and for acting...and I was surprised when Dylan actually performed at the show. Stagg and I love his hat!

Bob Dylan won an Oscar for the wonderful movie Wonder Boys (a must see) and then I realized...hey the director of Wonder Boys is Curtis Hanson and one of his other movies...8 Mile also won an Oscar for Eminem! Lose Yourself and 8 Mile was the first soundtrack and film to win an Oscar for rap/hip hop.

Hanson had been a fan of Bob Dylan's music since childhood and a great admirer of his soundtrack for Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid. Dylan admired Hanson's previous film, L.A. Confidential and after much convincing, screened 90 minutes of rough footage from Wonder Boys. Hanson picked Dylan because, as he said, "Who knows more about being a Wonder Boy and the trap it can be, about the expectations and the fear of repeating yourself?

In addition to Dylan, Hanson built the score around nine singer-songwriters including Leonard Cohen and Neil Young. The entire soundtrack is integrated into the film with Hanson playing some of the songs for the actors on the Pittsburgh set to convey a scene's "aural texture", as he put it.The soundtrack features several songs by Bob Dylan, including one new composition, "Things Have Changed". Hanson also created a music video for the song, filming new footage of Bob Dylan on the film's various locations and editing it with footage used in Wonder Boys as if Dylan were actually in the film. According to Hanson, "Every song reflects the movie's themes of searching for past promise, future success and a sense of purpose"

I wish Eminem had been at the Oscars to get his award.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


Sometimes I can just stand and inhale sumac/somagh...the tiny dark red spice made from Sumac or rhus coroaria found in the middle east...a distant cousin to our North American Sumac family. A big difference as Sumac family in North America includes poison ivy and poison oak. But this sour yummy spice is only addictive not dangerous. I'm going to make Stagg some homemade Za'atar with fresh thyme, sea salt and crushed black sesame seeds. YUM! Sumac tastes great sprinkled on chicken, in fatoosh, babaganoosh, eggs, hummus or even use za'aatar mixed with olive oil as a pizza topping. Sumac is believed to lower cholesterol by alternative folk medicine practitioners. Za'atar may also help with mental alertness.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Mikey Died Of Pop Rocks!

I love Urban Legends and I love it all the time. It's amazing how many sensible intelligent people believe in the silliest things. Even a couple weeks ago I was talking to my girlfriend in Toronto and a silly concept came up. I said "oh my god, thats as funny as people believing the water goes down the drain differently on either side of the equator." She says..."Oh it does, even ______and his father tested it when they went to Africa" I said, "well then he and his father got ripped off by a con artist"

Well, my poor girlfriend who is usually quite sensible had to have me send her a link from Snopes about the water going down the drain wrongly confusing Coroilis Force.

Urban Legend are often... "bad science" (see previous post)

Here is a cute article about how Snopes got started and how they research...awesomeness!

What began in 1995 as a hobby for a pair of amateur folklorists has grown into one of the Internet's most trusted authorities—and a full-time profession for the Mikkelsons. Each month, 6.2 million people visit Snopes, according to Quantcast, which tracks Internet traffic. The New York Times recently put Snopes on its short list of essentials that every computer user must know about. President Barack Obama's campaign launched a copycat version last fall to battle rumors of its own (for the record, Michelle Obama didn't gorge on room-service caviar and lobster at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel). And even the word Snopes, a name David borrowed from a family in a William Faulkner novel, has gone viral—as in, "Why didn't you Snopes that junk before forwarding it to your entire e-mail list?" Richard Roeper, the movie critic who sidelines as an author of myth-busting books like Debunked!, says, "Snopes is like having your own army of fact-checkers sniffing out a million wacko leads."

An army of two, that is. Snopes's world headquarters is actually just Barbara and David sitting around their modest double-wide on a shady hillside outside Los Angeles. Their two home offices are stacked to the ceiling with their trusty research tools: dictionaries, almanacs, VHS tapes, Disneyana, encyclopedias, atlases, and hundreds of books like UFO's: A Scientific Debate and Organ Theft Legends. Oh, and there are cats: Buster, Sterling, Irene, Ashes, and Memphis. "David and I work at opposite ends of the house," Barbara says, flinging a cat's crinkle toy. "I once attempted to send him a note by sticking a Post-it on the side of one of the cats."

Cat couriers? Sounds like a case for Snopes. Strange rumors about animals are among the website's most popular cases. That widely circulated photograph of Hercules, a 282-pound mastiff with "paws the size of softballs," is one example.

"About a year ago, people started sending us photos from the Internet of a freakishly large dog walking alongside two people and a horse, and it made me go, 'Wait a minute,'" David says. A self-proclaimed computer nerd with a mop of brown hair, David was undoubtedly the kid whose notes everyone copied. "We investigated, and the picture turned out to be a digital manipulation-what we call fauxtography."

Another Snopesism is glurge, a "true story" so sugary sweet, it could make a baby unicorn cringe. One such tale making the rounds online is about Stevie, a young man with Down syndrome who receives donations from compassionate truckers at the restaurant where he works. (Snopes, which cites its sources in detailed footnotes at the bottom of each entry, uncovered the magazine where it was first published-as fiction.) Then there's the sad, cautionary poem reputedly penned in jail by a teenage meth addict shortly before her death by overdose. It is forwarded in an e-mail thousands of times every day. Again Snopes tracked down the original author: an Oklahoma mom with a seventh-grade daughter, neither of whom ever used methamphetamines.

"Most of what we deal with exists outside traditional media," David says, staring at an inbox with 21,144 unopened e-mails. Among the subject headings: "Video of one-winged airplane landing. For real?" and "Fisher-Price talking doll says 'Islam Is the Light!'" David glances at his muted TV set, where Law & Order is playing with closed-captioning. "These stories and half-truths are handy forms of expressing fears or concerns or ways of looking at life," he says. "But it's not easy to find out if these things are true or not, so people turn to us."

A passion for nosing around is what brought the Mikkelsons together, and it's still their prime motivation. The couple met in 1994 on an Internet newsgroup devoted to urban legends like the one about Walt Disney's body being cryogenically frozen after his death. Faster than you could say, "Mikey died of Pop Rocks," Barbara was flying from her hometown outside Ottawa to Los Angeles to meet David, then a computer programmer for an HMO. "Our first date was me taking Barbara to the library at UCLA to go through old magazines," David says, laughing. The couple now earn a "very healthy" income, David says, from advertising on the site.

Though the Mikkelsons are established figures on the Web, they still prefer old-fashioned research—scouring vintage catalogs, thumbing through four newspapers a day—over finding quick answers online. "I might use Google or Wikipedia as a starting point," David says. "But that's not research." For fun, the Mikkelsons go to places like the Coca-Cola museum in Atlanta and the Library of Congress.

Metaphysical Mistake

I've read a number of Karen Armstrong's books and I have often recommended A History Of God . I just foound this photo of her and had such a strange sensation. I'd never seen a picture of her and yet...having read several of her books I felt like I had an idea of who she's kind of cool to see this pic of her. She is a fascinating writer and thinker. She used to be a nun and now she has become a voice of compassion and clarity regarding faith versus fundamentalism.

Here is a very good "Question and Answer" from last weeks The Guardian

Confusion by Christians between belief and reason has created bad science and inept religion.

The question: Should we believe in belief?

The extraordinary and eccentric emphasis on "belief" in Christianity today is an accident of history that has distorted our understanding of religious truth. We call religious people "believers", as though acceptance of a set of doctrines was their principal activity, and before undertaking the religious life many feel obliged to satisfy themselves about the metaphysical claims of the church, which cannot be proven rationally since they lie beyond the reach of empirical sense data.

Most other traditions prize practice above creedal orthodoxy: Buddhists, Hindus, Confucians, Jews and Muslims would say religion is something you do, and that you cannot understand the truths of faith unless you are committed to a transformative way of life that takes you beyond the prism of selfishness. All good religious teaching – including such Christian doctrines as the Trinity or the Incarnation – is basically a summons to action. Yet instead of being taught to act creatively upon them, many modern Christians feel it is more important to "believe" them. Why?

In most pre-modern cultures, there were two recognised ways of attaining truth. The Greeks called them mythos and logos. Both were crucial and each had its particular sphere of competence. Logos ("reason; science") was the pragmatic mode of thought that enabled us to control our environment and function in the world. It had, therefore, to correspond accurately to external realities. But logos could not assuage human grief or give people intimations that their lives had meaning. For that they turned to mythos, an early form of psychology, which dealt with the more elusive aspects of human experience.

Stories of heroes descending to the underworld were not regarded as primarily factual but taught people how to negotiate the obscure regions of the psyche. In the same way, the purpose of a creation myth was therapeutic; before the modern period no sensible person ever thought it gave an accurate account of the origins of life. A cosmology was recited at times of crisis or sickness, when people needed a symbolic influx of the creative energy that had brought something out of nothing. Thus the Genesis myth, a gentle polemic against Babylonian religion, was balm to the bruised spirits of the Israelites who had been defeated and deported by the armies of Nebuchadnezzar during the sixth century BCE. Nobody was required to "believe" it; like most peoples, the Israelites had a number of other mutually-exclusive creation stories and as late as the 16th century, Jews thought nothing of making up a new creation myth that bore no relation to Genesis but spoke more directly to their tragic circumstances at that time.

Above all, myth was a programme of action. When a mythical narrative was symbolically re-enacted, it brought to light within the practitioner something "true" about human life and the way our humanity worked, even if its insights, like those of art, could not be proven rationally. If you did not act upon it, it would remain as incomprehensible and abstract – like the rules of a board game, which seem impossibly convoluted, dull and meaningless until you start to play.

Religious truth is, therefore, a species of practical knowledge. Like swimming, we cannot learn it in the abstract; we have to plunge into the pool and acquire the knack by dedicated practice. Religious doctrines are a product of ritual and ethical observance, and make no sense unless they are accompanied by such spiritual exercises as yoga, prayer, liturgy and a consistently compassionate lifestyle. Skilled practice in these disciplines can lead to intimations of the transcendence we call God, Nirvana, Brahman or Dao. Without such dedicated practice, these concepts remain incoherent, incredible and even absurd.

But during the modern period, scientific logos became so successful that myth was discredited, the logos of scientific rationalism became the only valid path to truth, and Newton and Descartes claimed it was possible to prove God's existence, something earlier Jewish, Christian and Muslim theologians had vigorously denied. Christians bought into the scientific theology, and some embarked on the doomed venture of turning their faith's mythos into logos.

It was during the late 17th century, as the western conception of truth became more notional, that the word "belief" changed its meaning. Previously, bileve meant "love, loyalty, commitment". It was related to the Latin libido and used in the King James Bible to translate the Greek pistis ("trust; faithfulness; involvement"). In demanding pistis, therefore, Jesus was asking for commitment not credulity: people must give everything to the poor, follow him to the end, and commit totally to the coming Kingdom.

By the late 17th century, however, philosophers and scientists had started to use "belief" to mean an intellectual assent to a somewhat dubious proposition. We often assume "modern" means "superior", and while this is true of science and technology, our religious thinking is often undeveloped. In the past, people understood it was unwise to confuse mythos with logos, but today we read the mythoi of scripture with an unparalleled literalism, and in "creation science" we have bad science and inept religion. The question is: how can we extricate ourselves from the religious cul-de-sac we entered about 300 years ago?

Related Links.....This same question was answered via The Guardian by a couple other writers who also specialize on atheism and faith:

-Daniel Dennett

-Julian Baggini

-HE Baber

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Some Photos For Friends In Kitimat-Hey!

Above is a picture of the Kitimat River. It's difficult to explain how wild and amazing this area' ain't no "countryside"...and this river holds some of my best memories.

#15 is where Kitimat is located...I had a hell of a time trying to find a bloody decent map of it's location from Vancouver to Alaska...oh well this is all I could find this morning.

Hey this is a shout our for a couple friends in Kitimat, B.C. WAY up north. I contacted an old friend of mine from school...and I got too busy to e-mail him I'm posting some pics in case he comes to my blog this morning. I think I saw Kitimat on my site meter this morning. are some pictures for ya buddy. That is Stagg, the hubby. And thentthese are just a couple of pics we took fooling around with the camera on the computer. This is where we are sitting when we post on our blogs. By the way...I DID e-mail you guys this morning and I'll try to phone tonight. Love ya Kitimat!

It's so weird...I'm kind of overwhelmed this morning emotionally because I'm thinking of so many funny memories of my friends in high school...and then it's like how amazing to sit here so far away in chicago...and get in touch with my buddy way over in Kitimat. It's a great bittersweet feeling.

Above is a picture of the Kitimat River. It's difficult to explain how wild and amazing this area' ain't no "countryside"...and this river holds some of my best memories. The wilderness around this area is so incredible...The photo below is of the main industry in Kitimat, the aluminum factory Alcan.

#15 is where Kitimat is located...I had a hell of a time trying to find a bloody decent map of it's location from Vancouver to Alaska...oh well this is all I could find this morning.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Thursday, July 16, 2009


Black Eyed Peas were fantastic on this weeks performance episode of SYTYCD and...they are so cool they opened up their song catalogue to the program on it's first season. Last week the choreographers did Michale Jackson tributes...but SONY and his estate wouldn't give permission to use his music. The way many musicians support dancers on this groundbreaking program is relly cool and it was so cheap of SONY not to give let the dancers use Jackson's music. Interesting...the opening dance routine tonight was Janet Jackson song. This season has been so awesome...last night was incredible with the women doing a Bollywood dance and the men doing an African dance. I couldn't find video I could embed but both those routines are here...and believe me both routines are fucking awesome! Now I m really sad when when dancers are voted off each week because the dancers are down to my very favourites. What an incredible show and it always makes me feel so good that dance has hit mainstream popular culture in such a big way again. Four of the choreographers have been nominated for Emmy's this morning and the make up.

The African Dance routine was choreographed by Jeffrey Page and during her comments Debbie Allen made the point that the beginnings of hip hop and jazz came from this very dance practice. I highly recommend viewing these video links. Debbie Allen also said this incredible dance tradition is every bit as rigorous and demanding as ballet. You TRAIN to do African Dance.

I thought this was a cool video of Jeffrey Page work, I love how it is him working in dance studios. His whole YouTube page is awesome. I'm hooked.

Meaninglessness Is The New Black. Why We Are Addicted To Ambiguity?

I was catching up on one of my online bookclubs this morning...and during a discussion of history...and "who writes it" "what is real or true" of the participants said the following and I thought it was something I had thought myself but never knew how to word it...

We've fallen in love with ambiguity. And part of the reason for that is simple, but damnable -- it permits laziness of thought. It allows people to retain their prejudices, and dismiss evidence that might contradict them. It is, all too often, a convenient dodge that vitiates the necessity to learn, to think, to analyze, and to judge.

It is possible that this attraction to ambiguity is a trickle down of theories adopted by philosophy from quantum mechanic theories. In quantum physics, the Heisenberg uncertainty principle states that certain pairs of physical properties, like position and momentum, cannot both be known to arbitrary precision. That is, the more precisely one property is known, the less precisely the other can be known. It is impossible to measure simultaneously both position and velocity of a microscopic particle with any degree of accuracy or certainty. This is not only a statement about the limitations of a researcher's ability to measure particular quantities of a system, following the tenets of logical positivism, it is a statement about the nature of the system itself.

Most of us don't walk around thinking about the history of physics and philosophy...but these ideas and attitudes do pass into our popular culture and consciousness. The uncertainty principle is valuable for unseen quantum particles but we live in the observable world. Not every thing nor every feeling is intangible.

I was trying to think...what is a good example of ambiguity being used in commercials? And of course I thought of the abundance of tv commericals in the United States for pharmaceuticals. (Canada doesn't make so many of these kinds of ads...the idea I suppose that medicine and health care is universal not commercial?)

So...thinking of these ads I began to search "the googles". Ah, here is a bit on a study regarding ambiguity in drug commercials. The study used discourse analysis to break down the commericals studied and here is from the study abstract This study was intended to illustrate how discourse analysis, a methodology for microanalysis of texts in context, can elucidate the workings and interplay of promotional, informational, and other functions of direct-to-consumer drug advertising, anticipating threats to “fair balance” and pinpointing textual phenomena and issues suited to empirical study.

The linguistic and rhetorical features include an intense switching and fusion of styles and modalities: the traditional advertising distinction between personal and impersonal, “company” and “consumer”, was ostentatiously flouted. The role of spokesperson was assigned to characters in a real or virtual narrative. The narrative portion of the text and images often struck an ironic or postmodern note, eg, by mixing science with science fiction. The overall functions of the commercials (promotional, informational, and aesthetic) were themselves frequently blended. The text deployed several linguistic or rhetorical strategies to send a double message for promotional advantage, including syntactic-semantic ambiguity, voice-over risk messages at odds with upbeat visuals, and a vagueness of certain words in particular contexts.

According to Daniel Gilbert, who wrote Stumbling On Happiness, he suggests that one of the defining differences between human and other animals is our ability to imagine the future.

Gilbert's central thesis is that, through perception and cognitive biases, people imagine the future poorly, in particular what will make them happy. He argues that imagination fails in three ways:

1) Imagination tends to add and remove details, but people do not realize that key details may be fabricated or missing from the imagined scenario.
2) Imagined futures (and pasts) are more like the present than they actually will be (or were).
3) Imagination fails to realize that things will feel differently once they actually happen -- most notably, the psychological immune system will make bad things feel not so bad as they are imagined to feel.

The advice Gilbert offers is to use other people's experiences to predict the future, instead of imagining it. It is surprising how similar people are in much of their experiences, he says. He does not expect too many people to heed this advice, as our culture, accompanied by various thinking tendencies, is against this method of decision making.
Also, Gilbert covers the topic of 'filling in' or the frequent use of patterns, by the mind, to connect events which we do actually recall with other events we expect or anticipate fit into the expected experience. This 'filling in' is also used by our eyes and optic nerves to remove our blind spot or scotoma, and instead substitute what our mind expects to be present in the blind spot.

We are addicted to ambiguity and see it all around us in discussion web boards, in television commercials, in contemporary visual arts, in corporate mangement (no job security...where in aboriginal societies we had apprenticeships and longevity in our handy-works) because it is a form of escapism every bit as powerful as heroin and carbs.

We are addicted to ambiguity because part of our ego extorts power over our spirit to stop us from living happy lives. We are afraid to give up and take a risk of not seeking happiness through material goods and behaviours. Part of our brain believes we can control our futures and can control our levels of happiness. But when most of us had have experienced peace of mind and was in situations where power and control were forgotten. Like mystical experiences or as Maslow would say peak experiences...perhaps at the beach, at a very funny movie, falling in love, doing something physically satisfying, like outdoor sports, hiking, like reading a book that suspended our disbelief.

Ambiguity can be a wonderful release from altered state even. Ambiguity can give one a sense of a paradigm shift even without substance. Meaninglessness is the new black. It is the drug of choice for nihlism. When I hear someone say something truly ambiguious or using ambiguity as an excuse to dismiss feelings or ideas...I think to myself "Ah what we have here is a depressed person." or, if you will, person with a depressive worldview. It's a seductive mindframe that ol' ambiguity. And like any altered state it may become a device for avoidance and for co-option by governments and commercial venues, or for controlling behaviour. In some ways ambiguity is the opposite of prejudice, so at first glance, it seems "cool". It attracts those who are afraid of being bigots like their parents or older generations. It seems hip to be "mysterious." Ambiguity also helps us come to grips with people doing terrible things. We believe human nature might be unknowable or mysterious. Ambiguity helps us say "The Lord works in mysterious ways" when something wonderful happens and when something horrible happens. The adage "the lord works in mysterious ways" is coined from a poet who suffered with depression.

Happiness is tangible. Wanting the best for our families and friends and communities is part of the human condition and a huge part of it's survival. So much of human history can leave us cynical, so many news stories can break our spirit that ambiguity allows us to keep dreaming and imagining a future where we'll be happy. Ambiguity helps us justify our doubts, helps us hide our lack of knowledge and helps us keep imagining a future rather than doing what it takes now to achieve peace of mind.

It's time to ask ourselves, elders we respect and other economic cultures what makes us happy...and use knowledge of real tangible feelings to help us wean from our addiction to ambiguity.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Electronic and Experimental Music: Luciano Berio

I love Luciano Berio and he is probably the first musician that turned me on to NOISE and experimental music and electronica. These are great bits from a documentary about his work.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Search Words That Brought People Here


Total 78,530
Average Per Day 89
Average Visit Length 1:30
Last Hour 3
Today 29
This Week 622

I haven't listed search words that brought people to this blog in a long LOOONNNGGGG time. I used to list them all the time, like once a week but it seemed like a lot of the words were "same old same old"...but today I saw a couple of funny ones so here is a list from the recent activity. I'm getting darn close to 80,000 visitors hitting this joint, I was surprised to see that today on my site meter. I was also surprised that almost no one has noticed that I lost my template. I was cleaning up a problem on my template a few weeks ago..and had to remove my header and everything...and I have no idea how to put it back. So now my blog is back to it's original ghetto standard format. Actually I don't mind so much.

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