Friday, January 29, 2010

Once a Thief...

Because there’s a lot of misinformation out there, I’d like to take a moment to set the record straight about Pete Townshend.

A few years back he was arrested under suspicion of being a child pornographer. However, what had happened was this: in the process of writing his autobiography, he began to uncover repressed memories of abuse he suffered as a child. So he went to his computer and started looking around to learn what he could about these new memories and sensations he was feeling, and of course some of the links he found were to child porno sites. Amazed that one so easily find filth like this, he entered in a credit card so that he could see what other kinds of depravity was in the site. Here’s where he made his stupid mistake: Being a celebrity, he’s not used to thinking about consequences. My impression is that he thought that he was going to educate himself and then do some form of exposé. However, what he did – however inadvertently – was purchase child pornography. So he was arrested and charged.
However, After an investigation, the British government exonerated him from any blame. You can see all of the details at , but the damage was done: you still hear ignorant comments about how “sick” Townshend is from people (like the execrable Dennis & Callahan on WEEI) who are unaware of the situation.

The long and short of it is that if you’re familiar with his work – and particularly his efforts with the Children’s Health Fund – would know that he’s appalled by child abuse in any form. The incident was a result of poor judgment, and not of any depravity on Townshend’s part.

... adding, if you don't get the title reference, check this out.

RIP J.D. Salinger

When I was an overly sensitive teenager, too concerned with the world's hypocrisies, Salinger's Franny and Zooey helped me get through it. Rereading it now, it's a touch precocious, but still an unflinching look at what it takes to grow up in the modern world. Most of the rest of his writing is top notch, too.

You also have to respect someone that stopped at the top of his game.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Quote of the Day

I have never seen anything like it: two little disks of glass suspended in front of his eyes in loops of wire. Is he blind? I could understand it if if wanted to hide blind eyes. But he is not blind. The discs are dark, they look opaque from the outside, but he can see through them. He tells me they are a new invention.

From Waiting for the Barbarians, by J.M. Cotzee

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Skipping the Untitled

PopMatters included Untitled #23 in their listing of “Skipped Disks” – the albums that were unjustifiably ignored in 2009. In an attempt to get other people to listen to it so that we could talk to someone about it rather than just shouting into the void here, here are two quotes:
The most magical rock album since Radiohead’s In Rainbows

Its incredibly rich, melodic, emotional sonic tapestry, which unfolds over ten indelible, gracefully unhurried tracks

Go out and buy it!

…that should hold you until I get around to writing about the buried Pangaea EP track “So Love May Find Us” or finishing up my rewrite about the amazingly obscure Back with Two Beasts.

Halftime Who

So the Who are playing the Super Bowl halftime show. I’m intrigued and annoyed all at the same time. On one hand, putting aside the successful songs off of Endless Wire, The Who have not been a functional band since John Entwhisle’s death in 2002. They’ve been living off of the fumes of their past glories, or as Pete might put it: “serving as a celebration of our fans and their love for our music.” Not that there’s anything wrong with that! It’s great music, and deserves to be heard again and again. However, Pete’s long since sold out any of the original meaning in those songs, and I note with dismay the coincidence that they’ll be playing all of their CSI theme songs on the same network that broadcasts the show. That’s quite a commercial! On the other hand, The Who still do retain a lot of their musical vitality. Their songs continually throb with power, pushing forward with a propulsive force and energy that lesser bands wish they could conjure up. Townshend still plays a mean axe, and while Daltrey’s voice is ravaged, he can bellow with the best of them.
To be honest, I’m probably just afraid to see them in HD. It’s hard to watch heroes that thrive on energy and youth get old.

...Adding, that while Live at Leeds is the famous album, to me the better live album is Live at the Isle of Wight Festival 1970 because it includes more songs and a complete version of Tommy with Keith Moon. It’s powerful stuff.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

First Line of "Oryx and Crake"

Snowman wakes before dawn. He lies unmoving, listening to the tide coming in, wave after wave sloshing over the various barricades, wish-wash, wish-wash, the rhythm of heartbeat. He would so like to believe he is still asleep.

- Margaret Atwood, from Oryx and Crake. I had to reread this book after finishing its companion novel, The Year of the Flood.

I also really liked this quote:
He knew he was faltering, trying to keep his footing. Everything in his life was temporary, ungrounded. Language itself had lost its solidity; it had become thin, contingent, slippery, a viscid film on which he was sliding around like an eyeball on a plate. An eyeball that could still see, however. That was trouble.

Page 260, Oryx and Crake

Friday, January 22, 2010

How True

Ezra makes a good point:
what's the pitch for voting for Democrats? That they agree with you? A plumber and I both agree that my toilet should work. But if he can't make it work, I'm not going to pay him any money or invite him into my home. Governance isn't just about ideology. It's also about competence and will. That's where Democrats are flagging.

Deep Thought

Hunter's 5:15 wake up calls are not that much fun.

Quote of the Day

Much indeed to be regretted, party disputes are now carried to such a length, and truth is so enveloped in mist and false representation, that it is extremely difficult to know through what channel to seek it. This difficulty to one, who is of no party, and whose sole wish is to pursue with undeviating steps a path which would lead this country to respectability, wealth, and happiness, is exceedingly to be lamented. But such, for wise purposes, it is presumed, is the turbulence of human passions in party disputes, when victory more than truth is the palm contended for.

- George Washington, in a letter to Timothy Pickering, July 27, 1795.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Time is a Commodity

With a newborn (Hi Trey!) joining my 3-year old in the house, free time has been at a premium recently. Time that I used to be able to spend resting, reading or writing is now spent taking care of Trey or trying to catch up on chores (dishes, laundry, the 1000 inevitable little tasks of running a household). So if my postings are more infrequent, that's the reason why. I'm hoping things will get better when Trey's a little older and settles down into a consistent routine, but don't bank on it. I'll continue to try and post when I can.

(sure wish the iPhone could support a blogging app that worked now that cutting and pasting of URLs is broken in my version of iPhone Safari...)

Is It Necessary?

In the midst of an interesting discussion about the role of fear - and spanking - in good parenting, TNC uses a great phrase: "Earning the Temporary Hatred Of Your Children". Alas, I fear that something like this is in my future, if not anytime soon.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Quote of the Day

Nature's full strength is more than we can take... It's a potent hallucinogen, a sophorific, for the untrained soul. We're no longer at home in it. We need to dilute it. We can't drink it straight. And God is the same. Too much god and you overdose. God needs to be filtered.

Margaret Atwood, on page 327 of The Year of the Flood, an excellent companion novel to her 2003 Oryx and Crake novel.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Quote of the Day

By all means marry. If you get a good spouse, you'll be happy. If you get a bad one, you'll become a philosopher...and that is a good thing to be.

- Socrates

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Listening to "Back with Two Beasts"

UPDATE: After another round of listening to the album, I'm extremely unhappy with how this post turned out. I'll try it again sometime soon. After all, true writing is rewriting.
For my two or three faithful readers, it should come as no surprise that I’ve become more obsessed than ever with the band The Church. Their recent songs have completely blown me away. But it may surprise you to know that until the release of Untitled #23, I always considered The Church to be a hit or miss band. Even on their early albums like Starfish or Gold Afternoon Fix, which spoke deeply to me and served as my soundtrack as I struggled through high school, there were always one or two stinkers that didn’t do anything for me. Off the top of my head, I specifically remember “Disillusionist” (Priest=Aura) and “Chaos” (Gold Afternoon Fix). Typically these songs were the longer ones that indulged Kilbey’s sometime rambling lyrical style, but often it could be one of tone: when The Church are at their best, all four instruments play off of each other like the best bands, but specifically Koppes and MWP’s guitars chime and ring and pulse all around you as you descend into a dreamscape world… a pretentious way of stating that the songs really do try and take you to another place.

The songs that fail to transport you to another place – or at least don’t feel as convincing as their best work – are the ones that I would remove from mix tapes or iPods. As the band entered its "middle phase" - roughly the albums after Priest=Aura and before After Everything Now This – their tendency to produce half-baked songs was particularly egregious. The worst was Magician Among the Spirits, where half of the songs are unlistenable and/or just stupid – but this album also provides us with essential gems like “Comedown” and “Ladyboy”, proving that you can never discount Kilbey and the boys.

The last few Church albums have been much more consistent, culminating to me with the Untitled #23 disk which doesn't contain a bad song in the bunch. (Although, to be honest, I don't listen to “Space Savior” or “On Angel Street” a lot, but I don’t think that’s a failure of the songs; they just don’t do anything for me personally.) One of these days I’ll have to write about Untitled #23, but currently I’m playing the Back with Two Beasts album.

Back with Two Beasts was recorded during the Uninvited, Like the Clouds disk, and essentially contains the songs that didn’t make it onto that disk. What an embarrassment of riches! The album is a classic of I guess you’d term psychedelic rock, with chiming feedback swirling around pounding bass and grooving drums, Kilbey’s seen-it-all and yet still engaged stoner talk speak underlying it all. But to qualify it just like that would be to discount the poppy jems of “Pearls” and “Unreliable External”, which contain some killer Byrds-like riffs and are relatively straightforward. Of course, it wouldn’t be The Church without something obscure, and “Night Sequence” the 20 minute autobiographical (?) dream-movie (where Kilbey is a character in the song) serves that purpose. In short, the album is epic, sprawling, messy, inspiring, infuriating, and rocking – everything a good album should be.

Judge for yourself: you can download it here.

Quote of the Day

Standing at the junction of two great highways
The post-industrial breeze
I must admit that things have gone a little awry
You can do what you please

Steve Kilbey, "Forever Lasts For Nothing" off of Painkiller

Friday, January 15, 2010

I received the first season of the original series of Star Trek for Xmas this year. So much fun to revisit. It's primitive as hell but full of that early scifi energy, when it still grappled with the big questions in a unique way but still had fun and wasn't as cynical as it is these days. I've mused on the enduring strength of Star Trek before, so I won't rehash it except to say that I think it still stands up today, as long as you come into it with a forgiving eye for the special effects, slow pacing of its time, and awesome 1960s fashions.

Speaking of the last, watching these episodes again, i'm reminded of just how fine Nichelle Nichols was. They haven't been able to find a Trek girl since that could stand the comparison.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Quote of the Day

"Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear."
- Thomas Jefferson

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Justifiable Homocide

Now, i'm no lawyer, but the news that a judge is letting the murderer of an abortion doctor argue that he's innocent because the murder is justified just can't be legal. Can it?


Imagination topples through the sunlight like a stone

Ta-Nehisi Coates points us to Kamau Brathwaite's excellent poem about Miles Davis. A sample:

He grows dizzy
with altitude
the sun blares
he hears
only the brass
of his own mood.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Time Keeps on Ticking, Ticking, Ticking...

Via the Dish, a fascinating introduction to From Eternity to Here, a book that is attempting to develop an overall theory of time, by Sean Carroll. Quote:

Remarkably, a single concept underlies our understanding of irreversible processes: something called entropy, which measures the "disorderliness" of an object or conglomeration of objects. Entropy has a stubborn tendency to increase, or at least stay constant, as time passes—that’s the famous Second Law of Thermodynamics. And the reason why entropy wants to increase is deceptively simple: There are more ways to be disorderly than to be orderly, so (all else being equal) an orderly arrangement will naturally tend toward increasing disorder. It’s not that hard to scramble the egg molecules into the form of an omelet, but delicately putting them back into the arrangement of an egg is beyond our capabilities.

The traditional story that physicists tell themselves usually stops there. But there is one absolutely crucial ingredient that hasn’t received enough attention: If everything in the universe evolves toward increasing disorder, it must have started out in an exquisitely ordered arrangement. This whole chain of logic, purporting to explain why you can’t turn an omelet into an egg, apparently rests on a deep assumption about the very beginning of the universe: It was in a state of very low entropy, very high order.

The arrow of time connects the early universe to something we experience literally every moment of our lives. It’s not just breaking eggs, or other irreversible processes like mixing milk into coffee or how an untended room tends to get messier over time. The arrow of time is the reason why time seems to flow around us, or why (if you prefer) we seem to move through time. It’s why we remember the past, but not the future. It’s why we evolve and metabolize and eventually die. It’s why we believe in cause and effect, and is crucial to our notions of free will.

And it’s all because of the Big Bang.

Quote of the Day

At this point, realism is perhaps the least adequate means of understanding or portraying the incredible realities of our existence... The way to see how beautiful the earth is, is to see it as the moon.

- Ursula le Guin, writing about Science Fiction

Saturday, January 9, 2010

First Line of "The Year of the Flood"

In the early morning, Toby climbs up to the rooftop to watch the sunrise. She uses a mop handle for balance; the elevator stopped working a long time ago and the back stairs are slick with damp, so is she slips and falls there won't be anyone there to pick her up.
- Margaret Atwood The Year of the Flood

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Rules that are Easier to Say than Follow

Michael Pollan's "Food Rules": Great ideas but easier to read than follow.

I can't remember the last time I was in the office and didn't eat work at my desk or in a meeting. Eating lunch at a table just doesn't happen anymore, alas.

I can also tell you that I'm not sure i'm capable of giving up french fries, and i'm not sure i'll ever make them myself either. Sigh.

Dogs Prevent Urban Decay!

...mainly because walking your dog keeps you involved in the neighborhood.

Hey, I probably wouldn't be picking up nips if I wasn't walking Bella...

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

What I'm Listening to Today (and you should too)

Rhubarb - Aphex Twin. Off of Selected Ambient Works Vol II
Painkiller - Steve Kilbey. The whole album. Wow. I'll have more raves about this album later.

Who's Insecure?

I'm typically very leery of "advice" that takes the form of "here's my advice to you" but I liked this post over at Marginal Revolution. I particularlly liked what one of the commentators had to say:

You think you're exceptionally insecure, at your age. What you don't realise is that everybody else is too, and that this never goes away.

I think that this is true to a much bigger extent than anyone is willing to admit. However, I will say that having children and dealing with the everyday compelxities of their situations has given me the confidence to know that I can deal with almost everything, and that knowledge has been extremely liberating.

It's Too Cold/Warm Outside!

Wonder if this record cold / snowy weather is a sign that Global Warming is a myth? Au Contraire. Follow the trends, and you see that - on average - the highs are getting higher and the lows are getting higher as well.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Quote of the Day

Some words from Francoise Sagan..

'A dress makes no sense unless it inspires men to take it off you'

'Art must take reality by surprise'

'To jealousy, nothing is more frightful than laughter'