Earth Day

Devin Townsend is brilliant and mad:

Terria Shut up and think of something more important to say…
‘Sometimes I think that in every straight there’s a gay!’ Something or nothing a whole either way it’s a way,
it’s a way, it’s a way, it’s a way, it’s a way
it’s a way, it’s a way, it’s a way, it’s a way

Go buy it now.

In other news, I don’t want to hear anyone tell me I’m a good bassist for at least a week. Thanks to Steven McCullough from the Big Tasties (who should be sitting in with us tonight for a little birthday treat to him), I’ve been listening to the Bill Withers classic Use Me for the past hour. Granted, I’ve never been into soul or funk, and that’s SOOOOOOOOOO to my detriment as a bassist, because gadDAMN! – THIS is a bassline.

And now I hate myself, just for a little while.

Everyone should read this

Armageddon in Retrospect (Feel free to skip this review, if you like, and jump straight to the book. The title of this post refers to the latter; this once, I won’t be hurt.)

There’s a magic in Vonnegut’s writing that I’ve never found in any other. I’ve found many an author that can take me in, that can transport me and move me, but no other can touch my (cliche? why not?) soul like the late KVJ. Walking away from a reading of some of his books leaves that same ethereal, other-worldly, drugged feeling that I go coming out of my first theatrical viewings of The Matrix and Memento. Sure, I’ve got plenty of movies that I’ve loved in my life, but so very few that profoundly affected me on a core for which I have no words.

There were a few of his books — like Cat’s Cradle, maybe, or a few of the shorts in Welcome to the Monkey House — that, as wonderful as they were, didn’t hit me any harder than my other favorites (Palahniuk, McCammon, King), but at the top of his game, Vonnegut is king, and the posthumous Armageddon in Retrospect is a fitting memorial landmark for his kingdom.

Before reading the short fiction and essays collected in Armageddon, it’s best to have read Slaughterhouse Five, his absurdist novel memoir of his experience as a POW who survived the Allied firebombing of Dresden, Germany in 1945. The two work wonderfully together to show, both through the words and the tone, the effects and the horror of war. None of this comes across as preachy, though it definitely has a distinct point of view.

After reading Armageddon, it seems a lot clearer to me why so many politicians who have never seen combat (or served in anything more dangerous than a Guard reserve unit) have no reservations about sending people into war for any reason other than absolute necessity. I think that if more people in positions of power had seen and experienced anything even remotely close to what obviously shaped so much of Vonnegut’s life, then a number of conflicts (such as we are currently engaged in in Iraq, for instance) would never have happened, and uncountable decisions in the course of wars might be a little better considered.

Timequake Perhaps those sitting in higher places should be forced to read and memorize both Armageddon in Retrospect and Slaughterhouse Five, as well as the tragically overlooked and underrated Timequake (in which the entire world is forced to relive ten years in realtime, both successes and tragedies). Maybe then they’d be more careful (and not to imply that all wars are based on cavalier decisions, though I’m certain that there are a few of those) about considering the costs of their goals, and whether the two balance in the end.

But probably not, because there are other things at stake besides regret and understanding atrocity, like oil rights and the wants of their cronies.

So it goes.

Rest well, Kurt, and know that you made a mark on at least one of us.

Not enough hours in the day

I’ve pulled out my cello, again, and again I put it away frustrated. The notes aren’t hard for me, after I’ve retuned it to match my bass. The fingering falls mostly right into place, though I find myself occasionally sliding a little flat or sharp. It’s the right hand technique that escapes me, much as it did when I started fooling around with the violin my dad loaned me. I’m still not quite getting a handle on bowing, and it’s bringing back those old feelings of wanting to throw things out of a high window.

Defenestration. Ah, good times.

I can get the low string, fine (the C for you cellists; for my purposes, I’ve dropped it to a B). It’s every other string, and especially trying to change strings in the midst of playing. Plus, I’ve totally missing out on the dynamics.

I suppose I’m going to have to give in a take a lesson or two, if I can find a cello player / teacher here in town for cheap enough. And willing to teach me just the basics, skipping things like “notes” and all that other theory stuff that I already taught myself.

Sigh. But if I can make music like this, it’s totally worth it:

(Look, cello and 24! You can’t beat it.)

Apocalyptica Life Burns DVDNow watching: Apocalyptica (I may not be learning enough, but at least I can enjoy listening)

The Neverending Story

They call them WORKS of art for a reason, and frankly, three years after I started it, the work just ain’t forthcoming. So here, then, is the first piece (of what may end up being all) of what I’ve pieced together for a story called Perspectives. Because I’m really proud of bits and pieces of what came out when the muse was still in town, and I think those bits are worthy of sharing.

Continue reading

Where’s the caboose on the train of thought?

I’ve been watching old episodes of THE UNIVERSE from the History Channel over the past week. I’ve always found astronomy fascinating, been self-amused at the feeling I get trying to wrap my brain around the immense scope and size of things, spooked by the utterly microscopic importance of us.

I wish I had studied more science in school. As an adult I’ve read a fair number of books about the things that interest me about astronomy. I’ve delved into Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time, reread Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s Death by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic Quandaries, and now watched THE UNIVERSE. All I can do is skim the surface, though, because I barely paid attention in high school physics (in fairness, it was the class right after lunch, and my adventures in sleep-deprivation due to uncommon biorhythms was well underway by then). Come to think about it, I barely paid attention to anything in high school that didn’t have it’s short-lived place in my window of constantly-shifting interest. That’s why I almost didn’t graduate high school.

I wonder why they don’t teach a class in high school called about living. You could spent a week on not getting into stupid debt by running up credit card balances on drinking and CDs in college. Maybe a week on how things have cause and effect, and things you do will have consequences. A day or two on how you’re not entitled to anything in this world, how karma doesn’t work out for everyone, that bad things happen to good people and vice versa.

Sure, parents and social systems are supposed to be teaching you all this, but have you seen the people that are spawning out in the world lately? I know that there have been bad or negligent parents throughout the history of civilization, but this is ridiculous.

Not to mention that most high school kids wouldn’t pay any more attention in these classes than they do in English. Have you gotten an email from these people lately? You’d think your friends were trying to beat spam monitors as hard as the marketers…

But I’m an experiential learner, more than a vicarious one. I can’t read a manual on how to use a piece of software and understand it enough to make a difference; I have to poke my way though a specific task. I can’t hear my parents say, “Credit cards are bad;” I have to run myself into a dangerous level of debt and live on Ramen noodles and work multiple jobs for years to see what they meant. So it’s not my parents’ fault that I fucked up (in oh-so-many ways). In spite of my best efforts, they did a really good job.

And I recognize that I’ve got to reap what I’ve sown, at least until they make that wormhole that allows me to time travel and fix some things here and there. But it doesn’t stop me from wishing, from time to time, that I had managed my finances instead of mangling them, that I had learned more then about the things I wish I knew now, that I could make things better for the me now by making a few sacrifices and alterations then.

Also, when you fancy suits that paid attention in high-school physics work out that wormhole thing? I’d like to request a feature that allows one to re-experience specific dreams that one can’t necessarily remember when they were dreamt, so I can have that dream of a magnified universe hovering over my night-sky. That was a nice one.

Now listening to Brian Eno’s and Harold Budd’s AMBIENT 2: THE PLATEAUX OF MIRRORS

Saturday: BarCampBirmingham2

BarCampBirmingham2 is coming up this weekend. It’s a gathering of tech-minded folk in town — from their wiki, “BarCampBirmingham is a user generated conference created around an open, participatory workshop-event, with content provided by participants. Those participating choose the session topics for the day and then present to each other. It’s free. It’s fun. It’s a great way to meet the local technology community.” — and for some reason I’ve decided to head a session on design for New Media (i.e., the Internet).

Not that I don’t know what I’m talking about – except, it’s one thing to be at the top of the game in a world filled with people that can barely check their email, and another all together to feel comfortable in a room filled with people that do this sort of thing every day, for a living (or worse, spend every waking minute thinking about information systems or programming or whatever their devouring passion is).

My biggest problem in doing web design is that — compared to everyone else in the field — I’m scattered.  I’m not a techie, as much as the programmers and security guys and the engineers are, and I’m not a designer with a natural eye for graphics and layout and the like.  I’m somewhere in-between, the classic ambidextrous divide, equal parts right- and left-brain. I’m trying really hard to convince myself that this is a strength — there aren’t too many people with strengths in both areas — but it keeps coming back in my mind that it’s a weakness.

I’m guessing most Jack-of-all-trades probably struggle with this.

I’ve thought about designing for the Internet a lot — touched on it once here, in fact — but I can’t manage to unscatter (I guess the actual term I’m looking for is “organize”) my thoughts.  I don’t want to come screaming in with a list of problems and no solutions, but in the forefront of my brain that’s what I’ve got.

Any of you reading that do work with websites, or even read them — any thoughts or suggestions?

  • BarCampBirmingham2
  • April 12th, 9 AM to 3 PM
  • Innovation Depot, 1500 1st Avenue North, Birmingham, AL / Google Map

This week in movies

For all the apathetic reviews it got (which I suspect is more backlash against Judd Apatow’s success than anything else), Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story is easily the best music mockumentary since Spinal Tap. Maybe even better, since Spinal Tap was taking on such a genre that is already parody.

In other news, Transporter 2 is the best Transporter movie since the first one. And according to Cynthia, I have a man-crush on Jason Statham.

It’s the accent.

Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox story

I Think Too Big(ly)

So, April Fool’s Day.  I wanted so badly to do so many things today, but I just can’t bring myself to do them, either for the effort required on my part or for the effort required for clean-up. For instance, I thought about doing something to the site (the one you’re reading now), but I sincerely don’t have the time.  Then I thought about the bar — the easy thing would be to shuffle all the beer lines so no one got quite what they wanted, but what a mess that would make.  Then there’s the idea of replacing all the liquor with water and sweet tea, but again, a mess — our clientele is mob-like enough as it is sometimes.

The best idea I’ve had in a while was replacing the padlock on the front gates with one of my own, and posting a notice (from either the IRS or the health department — either one would be totally believable) about how we had been shut down for contamination or back-taxes or somesuch.  But then I remembered that I’d have to sit by gate so no alarmed phone calls were made to anyone who might realize that, yeah, they had meant to padlock our gates, but someone never got around to it.

So I skipped it again this year.

Or did I?


On a related note, if only this were part of a bigger prank, I would be a happyhappy man. (Full artist’s post here).