|f all the daft, utterly senseless things I've heard a million people saying lately, I have to say none disturbed me more than today, when I read that Tony Visconti, David Bowie's longtime producer (!), said in an interview: "I'm looking for virtuosos like Hendrix, Cobain, and Bowie."|
I have never been more convinced than now that I was born on the wrong planet. These are clearly not my people. None of them. Impossible. They don't even make sense.
That '80s guy hailed as a genius, people supporting Hillary, and now, this. It's as if we're all walking around with holes in our shoes, me just like everyone else—but, everyone else is raving that the way to solve the problem is to cut off our feet. And, like, they're really, really into it.
People are that strange to me. Lately moreso than ever.
Or maybe this is just the universe trying to get me to finally take the hint that I can get people to believe anything I want them to, all I have to do is repeat it over and over.
BTW, apropos of nothing: to any female readers, just letting you know, I'm not saying anything, but I'm really good-looking. Everybody knows that. Very distinctively attractive. A lovin' machine in bed too, the best you've ever been there with, better with the skills than you even imagine. Lousy boyfriend, though, no sense getting emotionally attached or looking for long-term, you don't want that. But, occasionally one night stands, noncommitted friends-with-benefits situations, the occasional no-strings-attached complete emotional & physical release—I'm number one, everybody says it. You want me there. Everyone knows it. You know that obviously I wouldn't say it if it wasn't true. I wrote this for you.
|usic is realistically the only way I'm going to distinguish myself. I'm probably better at prose, in most regards, than music; but in a couple of hours you can write two or three minutes of music that will change peoples' lives. I know I have a book in me—probably some sort of abstruse treatise on life and why we laugh and why horror movies are scary—but I don't have a demon driving me to write endlessly, like I do forcing me to make noises every hour of the day. And I only do what I'm driven to. |
I'm a knowledgeable and dextrous but ultimately not exceptionally talented musician, as musicians go in life; knowledge and dexterity are tools, useful but not what makes a musician a musician—at least, not a musician first and foremost. For me, it's always been a fundamental drive but felt, in practice, like a second language. It's like the difference between being someone with a truly deep knowledge and enjoyment of a much-loved foreign cuisine, and being the cook who grew up cooking it and not knowing 'food' as anything else.
It's very tough to write true poetry in a language you don't feel in your bones. It can't be calculated or derived by rote. I can't write great poetry in English, either, in the conventional sense, but I can spot the poetic in unique ways and places and communicate it, and the real work is all done at the pre-intellectual level. The arts are a way of seeing, not of expressing. Unfortunately, though, there's no real literary equivalent of that 2 or 3 minute piece of life-changing music, that small package of complete emotional transformation. I don't expect anyone will ever write a transcendental blog post. But if I try to sit and write out my book, I'll just get distracted and I'll never finish it. I know myself by this point.
It suddenly strikes me that my urge to leave a mark on history, my intense distaste for my own transience, may be the chief cause of suffering in my life. Really, this isn't about distinguishing myself, but about redeeming myself to myself.
It just goes to show you, there's always yet another underlying assumption to worry about.
|njoying a few minutes chilling post-chiropractor in one of my favorite little hiding spots.|
Vapid City does have a little soul left, if you no where to look. This completely unpretentious little cafe, on a corner you've probably passed 500 times, is like stepping out of the self-consciously hip capital of tech and and progressivism and kink and into any roadside truckstop anywhere in America. They make a killer tuna melt and, most importantly and least easily conveyed on facebook, they have a Bunn coffee maker that fills the place with the scent of Genuine American Roadside Luncheonette. As many of you know, I spent 7 years without a fixed address or phone number back in the 90s, and the smell of coffee simmering in a Bunn-O-Matic as I slumped into a booth with 10 hours of driving behind me and two yet to go until making camp was such a ubiquitous, familiar touchstone that if I had to pick something as "the smell of travel", that cheap, consistent coffee aroma would be it.
So I like to come here, as with my few other favorite hole-in-the-walls that getrification somehow missed, to catch that vibe, to remember on a visceral level what it feels like not to know where I'm going to sleep tonight or where tomorrow will take me, that I'm open enough to life that the odds are better than not that something wonderful will happen, sooner or later—probably sooner. I loved poring over my maps like a miser poring over his hoard.
I come to a place like this, and, past the surrounding buildings, I can feel the horizon around me in every direction again.
Shortly before posting this, a guy who looked like Jeff Goldblum walked in and ordered a hot pastrami sandwich. When was the last time you heard someone in San Francisco order pastrami? That's what kind of place this is.
How he eats that without rye bread, I can't possibly imagine.
| believe after humans wipe themselves out a generation or two from now, the eventual next dominant species on earth will be descended from corvids. Most people think it'll be cockroaches, but corvids are already as intelligent in some ways as human children and comparably good at problem solving, they have the biggest brain volume per body mass on earth except for humans, and they can fly away from danger. Sounds to me like a recipe for success once the hairless apes with the guns are out of the way.|
|othing on Facebook about the shooting of five unarmed #BlackLivesMatter protesters by masked gunmen outside a police station in Minneapolis tonight. They were there protesting the shooting of an unarmed black man by Minneapolis PD. Despite heavy police presence, and, you know, the precinct being right freaking there, the bulletproof-vest-equipped, ski-masked gunmen disappeared from the scene without being apprehended. Luckily, there were no fatalities.|
I'm sure tomorrow morning we'll be reading all the rationalizations why it was the "thug" protesters' own fault they got sprayed with bullets. The word "uppity" will never actually be used though—that would be racist!
Meanwhile, Chris Christie lowers himself to KKK level and joins the effort to help protect & defend the easy killing of black people, by spreading the lie that Black Lives Matters's primary goal is "killing police", and a substantial part of America applauds, the irony even more lost on them than the fact that they've almost completely parted ways with reality at this point. Stay tuned for an increasingly probable "first they came for the blacks" moment in America, somewhere a number of years further down the road of our good intentions.
I've heard it said lately that racist attitudes in the US are just as bad as they were at the dawn of the civil rights era (even if they're much less blatantly obvious in their expression... At least we've learned that much.) I can't disagree anymore. In fact, the fact that today's racism seems so polite and unobjectionable on the surface makes it, to me, far worse—because it's so much harder to get people to oppose it when it's not undeniably, blatantly obvious.
And with that, I'm gonna honestly try not to comment on politics anymore, because this crap is really bringing me down. We all jokingly threatened to leave the country when GWB got re-elected but if something doesn't change with this garbage soon, that's going to be the only reasonable choice. I'm scared. Of
|K. After about 7 years of various and sundry not-quite-identifiable medical complaints—major sleep problems, constant exhausting & needing multiple naps a day, very serious arthritis moves around to different joints at different times, strange muscle stiffness & twinges that won't go away, massive weight changes, jaw bone loss, minor irregularities in my blood work that couldn't be explained by my diet—I found a doctor who thinks he's found a single cause that explains *all* of it.|
Well, one of two similar causes: either polymyositis, which is treatable although kind of a drag to deal with, or, more likely, generalized long-term inflammation, just an immune over-response to my long-term periodontal disease.
Which means all these bizarre things I've been putting up with, from being barely able to walk to being barely able to sleep to being barely able to be awake, which took thousands of $s and hundreds of hours to deal with, and made me wonder if I was just a hypochondriac... could all be because I used chewing tobacco and didn't floss my teeth.
Either way, it all looks like an inflammatory response of some sort, *all* of it. We'll know for sure in 2 weeks after more test results. Meanwhile, I'll get back on the horse with the dentist and get some chlorhexidine rinse, try & turn my jaw into a microbial Carthage where nothing may ever grow again.
I'm taking a break from Facebook, so I thought I'd post this here, as a purgative.
It's gonna be really nice if the whole kit & kaboodle goes away.
|ummary: A sickening but beautiful story, like a great Baudelaire poem.|
Found (2012): http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2149360/
I just got floored by this movie. I can only assume the low rating is because so many horror fans have absolutely terrible taste in movies.
This is the kind of low-budget miracle that often lacks a lot—the acting is spotty, the effects aren't great, the pacing is awkward—but somehow manages to make up for it with heart, with an original idea, with a strong, strangely evocative narrative. This film is Decadent, in the aesthetic sense of the word. Like some of Baudelaire's best poems, its imagery and narrative are truly horrible, and in fact it's extremely gory, but somehow it manages to say something new and somehow very darkly beautiful. It helps that the emphasis is not on scares, but rather on telling a story.
In that way, it reminds me very much of "The Hamiltons", another super-low-budget, kind of quiet, unambitious indie film that puts any kind of cheap thrills in the back seat in favor of telling a redemptive story about relationships... unusual relationships not quite like anything seen elsewhere, and rather horrible ones at that, but with just enough familiar about them, portrayed with enough depth, to make you care about these monstrous characters. "Found" shares those qualities.
I really enjoyed it, not as a horror movie, but rather as a movie that happens to require horror to tell its story. As an added bonus, it ends far more satisfyingly than most low- budget films, despite not providing the least bit of resolution. It's a neat trick, and casts a favorable light back on the whole movie, even the earlier parts where it's still trying to find its footing.
Again, if you're looking for shocks, ingenious torture and over-the-top imaginative brutality, this is absolutely not that kind of movie. But those whose tastes lean towards Poe and Baudelaire, and can tolerate the usual shortcomings of less-than-professional filmmaking, will probably enjoy this very much. It works.
|t bears saying that I really have to wonder, when something I really care about requires me to simply send an email with a few photos to get it to happen, and suddenly Flickr, my laptop, my iPad, my phone, my router, both routers at the only cafe in the neighborhood I can go work at, and the trackpad and wifi networking on the replacement laptop I was just given are all suddenly broken at the same time... yet I look around the cafe and not a single other person is having a problem getting online, while I'm blocked at every turn and have to spend a half hour troubleshooting just to get a web page to load... so sending that one simple email literally takes a week of struggling... and this sort of annoying, highly improbably ballet of everything breaking independently of each other all at once so as to perfectly stymie my goal is not rare, but happens to me /all the time/... I really have to wonder, if there isn't some grand design behind it all. |
When I was a teenager—could this really have been 30 years ago? Has this really been going on for that long?—my best friend said to me at one point, through a haze of low- Mexican mersh weed, "Mike, you're like Charlie Brown. You're like the coolest Charlie Brown that could ever exist, but you're like Charlie Brown." At another point, after a similar dance of unbelievable snafus exacerbating each other with stunning synchronicity a classmate looked at me and said, "Mike, your life is a case study in frustration." And she was right. She was right then, and she's right now. Without failing to appreciate the numerous ways in which I'm incredibly fortunate, I was just born under a bad sign. In many ways, things have simply and seemingly at long odds just never worked out for me. It's even noticeable to the people around me. The older I get the harder and harder it is not to return to my original youthful belief that it's so strange, things fall apart so perfectly and so improbably, frequently, that there really must be some design behind it.
Boy, I hope whatever I did in my previous life was worth this karma, because I am sure tired of it.
(On the upside, my character is like tempered steel, baby. Long as I got me, that's all I need, and I can weather anything. Even if sometimes I really wish I could just crack under the strain.)
|inally giving a listen to the prerelease of old friend Dan Sonenberg’s return to solo singer-songwriting, "Peak’s Island Ferry". Rather set down & give him feedback after it’s over, I’m gonna liveblog it here.|
[For those who wade through all the below and/or are curious to hear the album, it's at https://dansonenberg.bandcamp.com/releases. As of post time it's in preorder, and only three songs are available for preview, until the whole thing is released on Sep. 23, 2014.]
Track 1: "Turn it over" Given that the baseline quality of even the bottom rung of Dan’s songs is somewhere north of "totally listenable", I’d say this is middle of the road for him, a solid B or B+. Not particularly adventurous in terms of songwriting, and slightly familiar to anyone who knows his influences, but literate and full of enough unique and vivid imagery to stand out from the pack. It also continues Dan's lifelong trajectory of finding ways to sneak weirder and weirder musical flourishes into conventional-on-the-surface songs in ways that still sound natural and unforced.
Track 2: "Yoko Song" Ok, this is why I’ve always loved Dan’s best moments as a songwriter: this is a guy who is as sensitive as anyone I know, yet unlike most of us, he manages to take that heartfelt feeling and crystallize it into a well-executed, occasionally quirky pop gem that might even be a little too easy to let pass as conventional if you didn’t know to keep your brain running and actually listen to it. Dan isn’t Elvis Costello (or Ray Davies) in terms of pure pop genius, but he definitely dwells comfortably in their environs, and he makes up for not quite equalling their catchiness and hooky innovation by succeeding where they never did: he doesn’t let a song's charm come at cost of letting you know just what he fucking feels. The John Lennon reference in the title & lyrics is apt. I can’t think of anybody else with a similar skill at packaging such pain and doubt into such a listenable 3 1/2 minutes.
Track 3: "Every Message Is Erased" Haha. Initial impression: Maybe I know Dan a little too well, but soooooomebody has been listening to Rufus Wainwright. That’s not a slam, actually that influence takes a lot of skill to evoke, and again, the song is chock-full of smart lyrics full of vivid, compelling imagery. As it progresses: Again, for Dan this is not exceptionally adventurous, and as the song evolves I can pick out which elements of the song and production came from which of his influences (BTW, best Bowiesque-multitracked-backing-choir vocals you’ve ever done, Dan) but it’s not just rehash the way Dan does it, it’s more like he has a box of tools and knows how to properly use each of them. It’s more than entirely listenable. Too bad Mick Ralphs and Ian Hunter couldn’t make it to the studio to do duties on this one, though.
Track 4: "Everybody’s Going To Sleep" Every singer/songwriter who becomes a parent seems to be obligated to write a song like this at some point. Fortunately, unlike many, Dan doesn’t take the self-indulgent route, and any fears of bathetic sentimentality are quickly banished. His usual engaging lyrical sense and quirky harmonic left-hand turns keep this one more mint chip than molasses, and another welcome vocal performance in the best now-raw-and-vulnerable, now-theatrically-aloof style of his that I like so well (because it seems to so well reflect what actually Dan is like as a person) is the cherry on top. File this one right next to David Bowie’s "Hunky Dory".
Track 5: "Bar Harbor" I feel like I’m going to be repeating myself here. At the halfway mark, I can say, this is a very consistent collection of songs. Another one with deeply personal lyrics deceptively couched in a workmanlike piano-centric arrangement, dusted with just enough unusual touches to keep it Dan’s own, and the ghost of a famous influence once again hovering around (this time, David Gilmour’s spirit taking the helm for Dan’s lead guitar playing—again, though, a style it’s no mean feat to even passably evoke, and it's an appropriate if not inspired choice.)
I’m always inclined to listen to music first and lyrics second, but that’s not what this album is about. In this case, it especially disserved me, as the song had actually played a fair bit of the way through before I suddenly realized how crushingly, devastatingly sad it was. As Dan’s life has been full of childrearing and opera writing and go go go, I haven’t really gotten more than a three-sentence summary of what’s going on with him personally in a pretty long time, this album is filling in a lot of the blanks. It hasn’t all been pleasant. It’s a real credit to him that he manages to convey so much heavy shit without ever leaving the listener feeling bludgeoned by it. It strikes me that what I admire so much about Dan’s efforts is that he knows that the thing to copy from his artistic idols, such as the similarly craftsmanlike Randy Newman, is not the specific style, riffs, or production, as most people would try to emulate; but instead, the underlying artistic attitudes and priorities that all that stuff springs from. It’s a very sophisticated understanding of songcraft, and I find it makes even his most throwaway songs—of which this is emphatically not one—still a rewarding listen.
Track 6: "Target" A stripped-down, late-night barroom version of a song that Dan previously recorded with such upbeat, poppy style that I never even detected before now that, once again, the lyrics are a piquant, intelligent, and highly poetic expression of a single moment of sadness and regret. I like this much, much better than the previous uptempo pop treatment, these lyrics deserve the center stage they take here. I’m not a Tom Waits fan, and I’m not aware than Dan is, but, damned if I can’t hear Waits’s spare, boozy style all over this, and imagine his ragged vocal rasp belting this one out after his third shot.
Track 7: "Lullaby Waltz" Another stripped-down one spotlighting the songwriting, this time just highly capable guitar accompaniment alongside Dan’s signature reedy, emotive vocal stylee. I like the way he gives the vocals a lot of space on this album. The song is autumnal, in the manner off Robyn Hitchcock circa 1984, if he was feeling unusually serious after an extended session listening to Bertolt Brecht. It is exactly what it is, plainly and honestly. If I could pick apart all previous songs here, this one I cannot. You’re either going to like it, or you’re not. I like it.
Track 8: "Happy Birthday" I can't offer an opinion on an old friend sounding this crushed and heartbroken. Our friend Lexi once said, "Dan could stub his toe, and write a heartbreakingly beautiful song about it." Yeah. And something much worse than a stubbed toe has happened here.
Dan also pulls out his formal music chops (he's a music professor) with a highly skilled, polished arrangement for violin and piano that only drives the stake in further.
This is the most impressive track on the album so far. But it's also the only one that I had no desire to throw back on and give a second listen to. No amount of appreciation for his musical skills will ever make hearing something like this come out of a friend enjoyable.
Track 9: "Peaks Island Ferry" In a smart bit of sequencing, the raw regret of "Happy Birthday" leads directly into the almost "sunshine pop"-like opening to this one. It still lingers on the same personal loss that's been a touchstone for much of this album, but now with a sense of resolution and looking forward. These are some of the most explicitly autobiographical lyrics I've ever heard from Dan, couched in a production number that unrepentantly declares its author's love for oddball early Bowie production values and middle-period Kinks songwriting chops, and, as always, skillfully enough to be a synthesis of influences rather than an imitation.
With one song left on the album, I'm going to hazard a prediction. If the final song, promisingly named "Resolution Time", keeps up the arc of the last few songs, then I'm going suggest, Dan, that you should knock a couple of the earlier songs off it, cut it down to a long EP, with a tighter dramatic arc and more uniform tone and confessional thematic focus, and it's going to be your own personal "Plastic Ono Band"—just unassailable as a man's personal statement about coming to grips with where he is in life. The second half of the album absolutely holds together as that, it's clearly a cohesive suite of songs. Once that became apparent, in retrospect I could see how the songs of the first half might fit in with that theme, but it didn't strike me that way as I listened to them, and it really doesn't become clear that this is an album, not just a collection of songs, until you're almost 3/4 of the way through. But, goddamn, repackage or resequence it as a solid album/EP/suite, plus the rest of the songs as separate "digital b-sides" or a "virtual bonus disk", and it will go from being an album to being a statement.
That's my prediction for what I'm going to say after the next song.
Track 10: "Resolution Time" Considered on its own merits, a nice song. Moments in this song will stand out in my mind as some of my favorite production I've heard you do to date, Dan. I wish the whole song was as incredibly fun as the oddball parts that stick out. Overall, though... I believe I've heard you do this song before, and it's good, but nothing about it resonates with me emotionally. And in this case some of the unconventional chord changes sound a little too jarring, this is the only case where something that could have added interest seemed a little bit contrived rather than inspired.
Now, in the context of the preceding few songs: I wanted a cathartic end to the song cycle after the climactic previous song. I was ready for a "Rock 'N' Roll Suicide", but I got a "TVC 15". Solid effort, good on its own, but unsatisfying in context. I think this is going to take some repeat listens, but it might actually have been stronger to put this somewhere in the middle of the first half, and end the album after "Peaks Island Ferry", if you don't have a more appropriate coda than this.
Have you ever read the original British version of "A Clockwork Orange", with the extra chapter that wasn't in the American version, hence not in the movie? There's an extra chapter where we see that Alex eventually begins to grow up, and begins dreaming of starting a family. Burgess said, "That chapter makes it a novel, rather than a fable." I've always thought that, if that's the case, then it's much stronger as a fable than a novel. Maybe someone with a literature degree would prefer it Burgess's way, but I know I don't. The final chapter is no time to suddenly lay off socking your audience in the guts.
Standing by my previous opinion: be a little bit cold, cut a few of the earlier songs that don't add to the cohesiveness, cut the final song, and move those cuts to their own distinct conceptual pen. Take the long stretch that, intentionally or not, already forms a strong suite, and keep it to that. Being concise will only give it more power.
|his morning I finally completed the two-decade transition from the guy who catches shit from a hopelessly uncool, uptight local who apparently has nothing better to do that wait by his window to catch people pissing on the sidewalk, to the hopelessly uncool, uptight local who apparently has nothing better to do than wait by his window to catch people, giving shit to a guy for pissing on the sidewalk.|
Life is totally strange.
|n Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent him a sentence, to be ever in view, and which should be always true in all times, and in all situations, in sadness, and in happiness, in adversity, and in prosperity. They presented him the words: |
"If you lived here, you'd be home now."
|o I just found my Facebook "look back" video that everybody was talking about a few months ago. |
It was 98% memes, and me posting about things that my friends and family did. Weird.
|: What's the best day of the week to take off if you work a 4 day 10 hour work day? -Jeannie F, Marin County, CA|
Thursday. Trust me, being self-employed I've done a lot of experimenting.
The ideal 3-day workweek is easy: that's MWT — Monday, Wednesday, Thursday. It makes Monday easier, because you know you have the next day off. You arrive Wednesday feeling like it's Monday, except tomorrow is Thursday, which is Friday for you! Then, every week, you get a three day weekend to cap it off! It's ideal, and I recommend the MWT work schedule for everybody.
Working a 4-day workweek, especially 4 10-hour days, is more complicated. The entire dynamic changes. The ideal 4-day workweek is MTWF.
You have to think in terms of psychology: three 10 hour workdays in a row is easy to handle, it just feels like a heavy-duty, but abbreviated, 3-day workweek. Thursday feels like a taste of early weekend, which puts you in a good mood. And then Friday is a cakewalk because it's only one day. Then you start your weekend refreshed, because you're only coming off a single day of work since your last break, you're not recuperating from 2 or more 10 hour days.
What you want to avoid is ever being in a position where you find yourself thinking "Christ, 2 more days of this" — EXCEPT on Mondays, when that's ok for several reasons: you're still refreshed from the weekend, plus on Monday, you're really used to thinking "Christ, 4 more days in a row of this", so on Monday nights, only 2 more days seems like a relief, not a burden.
Whatever you do, don't take Monday off. Mondays are never relaxing, whether you're working or not, so you might as well work. It doesn't even count as a 3-day weekend if the extra day is Monday. Your body will never let you feel like Monday is a weekend day.
|uck, does life ever get easy? Is anybody's?|
Who am I kidding, I have the easiest life of anyone I know. And still, it's a pain it the ass.
|ink: A Geologist Investigates a Mass Extinction at the End of the Permian Period|
A friend commented on the above as a warning.
Well, I do believe we need not to treat the world like an infinite resource, or to assume we can't push things past the tippng point, but the good news is, the Permian extinction event was both unusually catastrophic and very fast as these things goes... it took only about 60,000 years, or, roughly 12x as long as recorded human history. And whatever happened, it was very bad — the trilobites had ruled the world for nearly twice as long as the dinosaurs would when, in a geologic blink of an eye, they, along with 96% of the other plant and animal species living at the time, vanished forever. But despite it, 250 million years later, here we are, in full flower, and the earth is bountiful.
And to whatever is ruling the Earth in 250 million years? We're trilobites, regardless of anything we do now. We're the ancient, primitive life forms, barely aware of our environment. And that's the assuming worst-case scenario, that the slate gets wiped clean, everything starts over from scratch, within the next twelve-times-the-length-of-recorded-human-history.
So, I definitely don't think we should just let it all go to hell, and I'm sure there are people out there who'd let us be wiped out in a couple of generations for their own immediate gain, which is a terrible idea. But at the same time, I'm not *that* worried about it. We're trilobytes, no matter what.
|o, last night I was standing on Mission in South of Market with my phone out, trying to find a nearby hardware store, when off in the distance, maybe a block behind me, I thought I heard a voice yell, "Stop!" |
My mind went off into a daydream for a second — what if there's a thief coming my way, and I get to trip him up? But wait — what if the "thief" is actually a victim in danger, being chased by a criminal, and I'd be helping the criminal by stopping him? What should I do? I didn't have time to think more than that, though, because from a half a block away, clearly now, I heard a panicked man's voice: "Stop!"
Now, I had my phone in one hand, which is chained to my belt, and my very heavy briefcase slung over my back, so I wan't ready to do any dextrous moves, but I was in perfect position to stand my ground and use my nowadays considerable weight to block the progress of someone coming towards me. So I turn around, and see a shouting man running at me through traffic. Behind him are two other people chasing, and, too late, I notice in the lead, a tiny little terrier in a little doggy coat, moving at top speed, straight towards me through the traffic.
Too confused to know what to do, I stood low to the ground in my best blocking stance, as if I could stand low and wide enough to intercept a four pound dog. It feinted to the left, diverted to the right and ran right past me, up the sidewalk. I valiantly tried to snatch the terrier as it bolted by. That fucker was fast. So I whirled and joined the procession of people running after it. The dog careened past another set of people, who also failed to catch it and joined in the chase, before it tried to get past a knot of kids further up the sidewalk who quickly appraised the situation and managed to corrall it against a wall and scoop it up before it was able shift course again and get around the obstacle.
At this point the lead guy chasing caught up, and promptly tripped over the curb and fell flat on his face on the sidewalk. Obviously caring more about the dog than his own safety, he immediately got up and got a grip on it before it could wriggle away again. "Oh, thank you, thank you," he said, "It's not even my dog. I just got him for my girlfriend." He took the dog under his arm and sauntered off, panting.
The rest of us stood around for a minute catching our breath before going our separate ways without a word.
| light Bossanova cover of a Buzzcocks song is playing in Starbucks and giving me existential ennui. Everything in which I used to take refuge from a world that was occasionally too painful to bear is now popular. Thank god Harry Chapin never came back in style.|
|'ve finally nailed what bothers me so much about those Upworthy headlines. It's that they they tell you what to think about about the video, instead of telling you what it's about.|
|ow is it that what happened 20 years ago seems like yesterday, but "Sharknado" seems so long ago?|
|aha. One of my conservative childhood friends just posted that our old high school team is playing the school his kids go to now, so he doesn't know who to root for.|
So I told him Chomsky says that team sports are just a ritual meant to induct kids into jingoistic tribalist cultural mores so later in life they will support the ruling elite's use of the military to consolidate power.
We'll see what he thinks of that.
[UPDATE, 2/4/2014: My comment was ignored.]
|ook; I'm a Star Trek fan. Don't talk to me about Picard or Janeway or Archer or whoever. Even the movies barely qualify as Star Trek, and they have the original cast. I'm not talking about some chick flick where they spend more time talking about feelings than getting into swashbuckling adventures with fearsome aliens on what was supposed to be a routine planetary survey of Gamma Hydra IV***. I saw an entire episode of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" where Picard did nothing but drink cosmopolitans and gossip with Charlotte and Miranda. I bet he's never even been cloned against his will by a scientist whose very humanity was lost when he transferred his mind into an eternal, physically perfect android body in a cavern lit by creepy red and purple klieg lights. So why would I want to even watch that crap?|
Gene Roddenberry accomplished what few people ever have: he imbued an entire generation of kids with his personal morals. Then, in the 80s, he made a sci-fi chick flick that ran for 7 seasons. Ooh, let's let Wesley Crusher solve the case again! Poor Worf, he's conflicted over his father!
Kirk was a hero of mythic proportions. Spock, Bones, and the rest were a pantheon. They had extraordinary strengths and extraordinary failings, like Greek gods. In TNG, the ship's psychiatrist sits next to the captain in the bridge. Riker makes a pretty good poker face, and that's about as close to an honest-to-god dramatic tension as that show came in 7 entire seasons. Oh, the alien race speaks only in visual metaphors! What a clever stand-in for actually being intellectually provocative! A major villain on Star Trek is, "Vol teaches the villagers to smash the the crew's skulls". A major villain on TNG is, "This bent over old retired admiral is threatening to act like Sen. Joseph McCarthy, until another admiral tells her to stop."
Star Trek had Richard Matheson, Harlan Ellison, D. C. Fontana, John D. F. Black. TNG barely even had Gene Roddenberry. That's why in the original series you had spine-tingling dialogue like Apollo going "Zeus, Hermes, Hera, Aphrodite! You were right! Athena, you were right. The time has passed. There is no room for gods. Forgive me, my old friends. Take me. Take me!" Meanwhile in the new series you have.... I don't know. I've watched the entire series from start to finish and there's not a single speech that sticks in my mind, just Picard prattling on about this or that at the end of an episode, like some old guy who got left in a library too long.
Spock is not herbert. He reaches. Data is totally herbert. Good for a winking laugh when he tries to write poetry... and that's it. So: from a deeply conflicted (and artistically talented) character based on the Devil, to a soulless and passionless machine trying to pretend to be human. Pretty good analogy for the original series vs TNG.
Janeway is ok, but I liked her better in "On Golden Pond" with Henry Fonda.
(***Yes, I know damn well that Gamma Hydra IV is the planet from "The Deadly Years", I was being funny. What do you take me for?)
Review Title: Steal This Cowbell!
Review: Submission to domination is enforced not solely, nor even most significantly, through blatant repression, but rather through subtle manipulations worked into the fabric of everyday social relationships. So as an uncompromising nonconformist, I'm very fashion conscious, and as the drummer of a non-hierarchical free musical punk rock collective, I spend a lot of time learning to mimic those popular cowbell-driven rhythms of seminal bands like the DKs, the Germs, FEAR, Flipper, and the like. Unfortunately, most commercially available cowbells that I found are visually bland and ideologically rootless, resulting in rhythms that meekly conformed to hierarchical nation-state control structures.
Once I bought the Pearl PCB20 Anarchy Cowbell, I finally found a solution that solves both these concerns. My Pearl PCB20 Anarchy Cowbell spits in the face of other bourgeois, cookie-cutter cowbells with a punk attitude and radical appearance that screams "insurrection!" and has the technocrat elites dropping a deuce all over their Berluti loafers every single time I stick it on the 1 and 3. This radically individualist cowbell flips the bird to the dominant paradigm, thanks to its menacing spikes and the red circle-A sticker that lets everyone know I support a large-scale uprising of the exploited to destroy the state, capital and every institution of power and privilege.
This cowbell is a pipe bomb! The system doesn't stand a chance -- buy the Pearl PCB20 Anarchy Cowbell, and then we'll see whose back is up against the wall.
The five stars are a lie, Amazon's jackbooted web form forced me to pick a rating to submit this. My rating is no stars, because I don't buy into your slack-jawed suburban competitive ethos.
|wakened this morning, after maybe 3 hours of sleeping in fitful 15-minute bursts, to a scene of carnage and devastation so impressive that I instinctively reached for my phone to photograph it, only to discover that my battery had run down during the night; |
stumbled home on foot, feeling spiritually filthy, which was only helped by the sight of disgustingly chipper morning people starting their day, to my great annoyance;
bought a pack of cigarettes, even though I don't smoke;
undressed and noticed for the first time that the chocolate bar I ate a week ago, wrapper still on my bedstand, had a love poem printed on the inside, and couldn't bear to read it.
All without having touched anything stronger than apple juice last night.
I am pleased to report that whatever hole giving up alcohol may have left in my life has seamlessly healed over. And, I still need to grow up.
|overnmental overreach and the "nanny state" are as big a concern for me as anyone, have been for a long time. I think that people will generally rise or fall to meet expectations, and treating a population like children teaches them to be childlike. I do think if things like that little story about the school lunch (which, if you research, turns out to be the claim of two 4 years olds on one single day at one single kindergarten, and not even conclusively shown to really have happened; hardly representative of this nation, more like a puff of hot air repeated breathlessly across the right wing blogosphere) were any more than just outliers being exploited for political gain, we'd be in a lot of trouble. |
At the same time, libertarianism is just a gateway drug to the very tyranny libertarians claim to want to avoid. Well, almost the same: under a libertarian state, runaway privatization would insure that our constitutional rights, which protect us only from governmental tyranny, are rendered totally useless. Freedom of speech only applies in public spaces... once all space is privatized, and all media is privately owned, all speech can be legally suppressed at will of the owners. The Constitution becomes simply irrelevant. Which is exactly what the folks behind popularizing "libertarianism" want. Power abhors a vacuum, and once the government of the people, by the people, and for the people has been successfully neutered, there is nothing left but the corporate chiefs, stomping on whoever they want with impunity.
The central fallacy of free-market mythology is that a chaotic system, left on its own, will settle towards the most equitable mean. That's a very nice theory, and a total mistake when misapplied. In actual reality - you can do the experiments yourselves that show this - individual multivariate chaotic systems tend towards extremes over time, not towards the median. In libertarianism, you would end up at one of the two extremes: power would get concentrated in the hands of an ever-diminishing group of the most ruthless winners; or, alternatively, society would be reduced to uniform savagery, with nobody coming out on top at all.
I firmly believe that if we lived in a true Libertarian state, nobody would have time to kick their heels up and talk about how great being a libertarian is. They'd be too busy fighting to survive.
The best thing I've ever read about libertarianism is from John Scalzi: "I really don’t know what you do about the 'taxes are theft' crowd, except possibly enter a gambling pool regarding just how long after their no-tax utopia comes true that their generally white, generally entitled, generally soft and pudgy asses are turned into thin strips of Objectivist Jerky by the sort of pitiless sociopath who is actually prepped and ready to live in the world that logically follows these people’s fondest desires. Sorry, guys. I know you all thought you were going to be one of those paying a nickel for your cigarettes in Galt Gulch. That’ll be a fine last thought for you as the starving remnants of the society of takers closes in with their flensing tools."
He really nails it for me. As I said up top, I agree with some of the very basics of libertarianism, but the problem is it's a fantasist's political philosophy. I like the "Rent Is Too Damn High!" guy, also, but I'm not going to vote for him, either. He's right, but he's a crackpot, too.
Speculation aside, we've already seen corporate moves to stifle speech that they don't agree with; there have been several court cases at this point over telecom companies blocking messages that conflict with their interests, because they were successful in arguing early on that email and digital phone calls are "information" rather than "communication". As the public square is reduced, look for those sorts of erosions of our rights to become much more common. There are no checks and balances on privatized power, none.
I'm not saying the government hasn't gotten equally tyrannical. It has, I think everyone here knows it. Bush and Obama have been despots, and it's only getting worse. We're instituting programs that become their own reason for being, and suck up trillions of dollars in tax money to go directly to defense contractors, agribusiness, the media conglomerates, etc.
But we have a lot of protections from government tyranny. And as I said, power abhors a vacuum. So who would you rather have in power, making the decisions that affect your life? Someone you can elect and/or vote out of office, and whom the Constitution guarantees you limits on their power; or someone whose name you don't even know, hidden behind some boardroom door, ensconced there for life, to whom you have no appeal whatsoever if they are acting against your interests?
I do disagree, by the way, with treating government as some sort of oppressive "other". The paper said we have "government of the people, by the people, and for the people." If that's not true anymore, do something to fix it. But don't throw out the baby with the bathwater.
|avlov was right. The mere presence of an OkCupid inbox notification, and I instinctively reach for my blood pressure medication.|
| had a professor who I never forgot. We learn, for instance, that the gravitational attraction between two objects is the product of the masses divided by the square of the distance between them... F=(M*m)/r^2, in the parlance (There's more to it actually, but that's the basics.) This is just a fact to be memorized, a basic truth in physics. Now he gave open-book tests, take-homes, etc... he was very generous, as long as you could get correct answers onto the page, he was good with it. But that's because while you learned that F=(M*m)/r^2, on the test you were more likely to see a question like this: |
"Space around planet Zog IV has been flattened into a 2-dimensional continuum by a collision with a space-bourne dinosaur. What is the formula for gravitational attraction in this now 2-dimensional space?" And suddenly, if you didn't understand *why* F=(M*m)/r^2 in 3-dimensional space, how that equation was derived, and be able to apply that understanding to a situation where a fundamental underlying physical constant was different, you weren't going to get the point. Just memorizing the facts you were taught wasn't good enough to get an A in that class.
But not being the kind of crazy super-genius who can immediately reckon new physical equations in his head to account for interstellar sauropods wouldn't kill your grade, either. As I recall, although he was famous for these sorts of very tough questions, he didn't grade *that* tough. I still managed to pass that class OK. And although I didn't get the question right on that test — I didn't even know how to begin to figure it out — he inspired me to be curious about it. And 25 years after finally finding out, I still remember that the force of gravitational attraction in 2-D space, something there's really no reason to ever know, is (M*m)/r, and with minimal brushing up I could probably still tell you exactly why that is, which is probably the entire point.
I appreciated his teaching style.
| just woke up from a dream that Frank Zappa gave me a gift, a noisemaking device that he'd used in concert. This can only be a good sign.|
|bsessive streak in place? Check. Morning malaise stubbornly refusing to budge? Check. Overwhelming feeling of responsibilities crashing in like a tidal wave? Check. Needless reminders of last girlfriend to pluck strings of insecurity? Yessir. Ok, let's douse this whole mess with coffee and see if we can get it to crank out something productive today.|
|he song "Little Secrets" by Passion Pit playing in the café.|
Me, to 20-something counter girl: "This is exactly like that song 'Kyrie Eleizon'. ♫♪Kyrie eleizon down the road that I must travel♪♫ Have you ever heard that?"
20-something counter girl: "No."
You know, if I had kids to embarrass myself in front of, I wouldn't have to do this in public.
|ate night prognostication time! • We live in heady times. I predict it won't hold up. The utopian ideal of what the internet was going to bring us has been pretty much crushed at this point under the heel of economic expediency and the predatory practices of gargantuan commercial interests, and people are getting wary. I believe the soda has already begun to lose its fizz, and the heady rush of novelty is going to be the first casualty. Then people will begin to lift their heads from their laptops and cellphones and rejoin the immediate physical world.|
This technology is never going to go away, but the thought of someone addicted to a social media site or checking the internet before they even get out of bed in the morning will eventually be seen as a funny, dated peculiarity of our era. Powerful computers and communications will remain a part of the fabric of our lives, but they won't dictate the cut of the cloth, and the not-too-distant future is going to look a lot more like the not-too-distant past than a lot of the slightly over-enthused visionaries and idealists of the last 15 or so years, myself included at times, might think.
Remember that I said this, and if you look back in 15 or 20 years, I bet you'll say to yourself, "You know, Mike was totally right.
"And, really good looking, too. Dunno how I missed it at the time. It's no wonder he went on to get voted the sexiest President/Rock & Roll Star in US history that many times in a row."
Mark my words.
| called ahead|
and she waited for me
even though she
was about to leave the office.
Notarized my document like a boss --
like a boss, I tell you, the woman knows how
to use a stamp, and talk about
entering my my info in a log,
that's what she did
-- And had me out of there,
back into the streets,
a beating heart in the Union Square bustle,
documents bearing her imprimatur in hand,
her sigil wending its way to the post office,
in, like, 4 minutes.
"Ten dollars a signature",
she had said
dispassionately collecting two fives
for one note in a ledger
What more do you want?
|t's funny, the sort of subliminal buzz that goes through a quiet cafe full of people sitting alone when "(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher And Higher" comes on the stereo.|
|9 minutes before the post office closes. Totally adorable woman hurries onto the back of the line. I get on line behind her. She asks me what date it is, and does an in-the-air calculation as to when her package should arrive. She's cute, dressed in a scarf and far too many layers for the penetrating late afternoon sun, much more appropriate for the earlier afternoon foggy dampness. |
We get into a conversation about dates and times and schedules and procrastination. We're both there to do things far too complicated to get done in the few minutes before close. We talk about always rushing to get things at the last minute. She says there's a reason she's on line at 5:30 pm. I say there's a reason I'm on line behind her. We talk about being self-employed, which we also have in common. At 5:30 on the nose, two clerks open up and call she and I. It takes me a few minutes to get my complicated transaction done. I look over when I'm done, and two windows down, she's deeply involved in some sort of negotiation with the clerk, and I leave.
I get outside and park myself 10 feet up the sidewalk, three-quarters of a turn away from the foot traffic and fiddle with my phone. I play a quick game of Minesweeper. I look to see if a drug store has opened in the neighborhood in the last 30 minutes. I check the lobby hours for a bank I know is already closed.
Meanwhile, she emerges from the post office, walks up the sidewalk, then stops, barely five feet away from me, facing three-quarters of a turn in the other direction. She stands there, intently digging in her handbag.
I open my map app again and gaze at it, devoid of any idea what to look up. She stands and rummages around her bag some more. So I wait a 10-count, put the phone away, and as soon as I take a step, her hand emerges from her handbag holding sunglasses, which she puts on, and we look at each other. Unsure, I say cheerily, "Hey, you take care, now." She says, "You, too." And I saunter off.
| wish Star Trek had done an episode where a transporter malfunction sent them to an alternate universe where the captain of the Enterprise was played by Jack Klugman.|
|'m starting to see tl;dr used more and more frequently, not as an declarative statement, but as a noun, as in "Here's the tl;dr of the story." This troubles me. |
What does it say when ignoring something somebody else put a lot of thought into becomes so common that there is a cute slang name for it?
(Anyone who answers "tl;dr" is guilty of the cardinal sin of predictability.)
| was thinking I would like to make a zombie movie where, instead of dying and coming back to life, hordes of people start treating each other in real life like they do over the internet. (I could play the guy on a streetcorner making random, tangentially-related quips about everything people nearby him say.)|
| have a disability that rarely shows, but on occasion is crippling in social situations: I have only seen The Princess Bride once, it was a long time ago, and I'm unable to quote it or recognize quotes from it.|
|ey, whatever happened to all those people who were worshipping "Avatar" when it first came out, getting way to into it and stuff? Did they eventually move on, or are they still at it?|
|reaking hotels, man. I love them. The kind of hotels with a lot of different public areas, pools, weight rooms, conference rooms, and the like, are the only buildings you ever go into that are completely irregular. You can turn a corner, and suddenly there's a whole hallway of meeting rooms, or lounges, or laundry rooms. The floor above or below could have a hallway in that same spot; or, it could not. There's probably a level or two underneath the lobby level, which themselves open out to street level on some other side of the hotel that the lobby level goes nowhere near. Function completely dictates form; then, they have an interior decorator come in and try to make that look swank. True fact: ever since I was very young, I have frequently had dreams set in labyrinthine hotels, and the fact that I was raised visiting twisty old hotels in the Catskills for the Jewish holidays every year is intricately bound up with my love of exploration and delight at surprises, and my deep disdain for predictability and regularity.|
| just had another dream about david bowie, the fourth one in my life (I've never dreamed about any other celebrity.) We didn't say anything to each other, just sat in the kitchen in comfortable silence. I was playing some of his music (Diamond Dogs?) on my laptop but he didn't mind, and shooting off pictures of interesting things around the room on my iphone, as I do. I thought we would presently say something to each other, but the dream ended.|
UPDATE, March 2013: Last week I dreamed that Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey came and hassled me for buying a Who bootleg.
A.) Do the odds of winning the lottery change if more people play?
B.) What if 5 people each flipped a coin. If the first four all land on heads, the odds of the fifth coming up heads also is much lower, isn't it?
A.) Do the odds of winning the lottery change if more people play?</b>
OK. If you flip a coin a certain number of times, there's only a certain number of possible outcomes. For instance, if you have three flips, they can come out 8 different ways:
1.) Heads, Heads, Heads
2.) Heads, Heads, Tails
3.) Heads, Tails, Heads
4.) Heads, Tails, Tails
5.) Tails, Heads, Heads
6.) Tails, Heads, Tails
7.) Tails, Tails, Heads
8.) Tails, Tails, Tails
So if you were going to bet on the outcome, and picked a sequence of three flips to bet on, it would be one out of the 8 above. So your odds of being right would be 1 in 8.
hose 8 possibilities stay the same even if a million people place bets on exactly which one of those 8 it will be. More people betting doesn't add new possible results, or take possibilities away. If you bet, you pick one of the 8 possible results, so your odds are 1 in 8. No matter what anybody else does.
What does change is the odds that _somebody_ will win, which may be what's confusing you. "What are my odds of guessing correctly?" and "What are the odds somebody will guess correctly?" are two entirely different questions.
If one person bets on the outcome of the three flips, the odds are 1-in-8 that they'll win. If two people bet, there's a small chance they'll bet on the same result, but if not, the odds that one of them will have it right will drop to 1 in 4, because between them they've now got 2 bets out of only 8 possibilities. By the time we've got 8 people betting, it's almost definite that someone will get it ("almost" because that's assuming they each pick a different possibility, therefore covering all 8 possible outcomes, which may not actually happen in real life... two people may pick the same possibility, leaving one possibility unchosen, which makes it still possible that nobody will get it.)
BUT each one of them still only has 1-in-8 chances of getting it right, because they picked 1 possibility out of 8.
So, with 8 people betting, the answer to "What are my odds of guessing correctly?" is 1 in 8, but "What are the odds _someone_ will get it correct?" are pretty close to 100% (or 1 in 1.) The more people bet, the higher that second answer gets. But your individual odds, on a single bet, are 1 in 8, always, always, always. One bet, 8 possible outcomes, that's 1 in 8. Period.
The same math applies if it's 5 flips, or pulling 6 balls out of 50 bouncing around a hopper. There's only a fixed number of possibilities, and if you place one bet, your odds of guessing right are 1 in that fixed number, no matter how many other people bet.
B.) What if 5 people each flipped a coin. If the first four all land on heads, the odds of the fifth coming up heads also is much lower, isn't it?
OK, I was going to demonstrate this with 3 coins to keep the list short, but screw it, let's do it with 5. There are 32 different possible outcomes if you flip 5 coins (I'll abbreviate Heads and Tails this time to make it easier to read):
Now, here's the distinction that tripped me up when I was just learning this stuff. If you look, HHHHH is 1 out of 32 possibilities. So you might think that the odds of 5 flips in a row being heads would be 1 out of 32. This is correct. And the next step from here is where most people get it wrong.
We know that the odds of 1 heads in 1 flip is 1 out of 2, or 50% (because it could be heads or tails.) But the odds of 5 heads out of 5 flips is only 1 in 32. So, what if 4 people flip, and all get heads? Is the odds of the 5th person's flip more than 1 in 2? Less than 1 in 2? Getting 5 heads in a row is so farfetched, four heads in a row has got to change the odds that the fifth will be heads, right? But how? Well, hold on to your seat, because I'm about to fuck you up with some truth:
If 4 people flip coins, and they all come up heads, the odds of the next flip being heads is 50%. Just like every time you flip a coin. Flipping 4 heads in a row doesn't affect the odds on the fifth flip at all. Here's why.
True, if we're going to throw 5 flips in a row, the above chart shows the possibillities. But once the first four flips have been done, the possibilities change, because some of what was possible four flips ago is no longer possible. Here's the chart, to demonstrate. Remember, 4 heads have already come up.
1.) HHHHH <- Still a possible outcome for the 5 flips
2.) HHHHT <- Still a possible outcome for the 5 flips
3.) HHHTH <- NOT a possible outcome, because the 4th flip was H
4.) HHHTT <- NOT a possible outcome, because the 4th flip was H
5.) HHTHH <- NOT a possible outcome, because the 3rd flip was H
6.) HHTHT <- NOT a possible outcome, because the 3rd flip was H
7.) HHTTH <- NOT a possible outcome, because the 3rd & 4th flips were H
8.) HHTTT <- NOT a possible outcome, because the 3rd & 4th flips were H
9.) HTHHH <- NOT a possible outcome, because the 2nd flip was H
10.) HTHHT <- NOT a possible outcome, because the 2nd flip was H
11.) HTHTH <- NOT a possible outcome, because the 2nd & 4th flips were H
12.) HTHTT <- NOT a possible outcome, because the 2nd & 4th flips were H
13.) HTTHH <- NOT a possible outcome, because the 2nd & 3rd flips were H
14.) HTTHT <- NOT a possible outcome, because the 2nd & 3rd flips were H
15.) HTTTH <- NOT a possible outcome, because, you get the picture by now
16.) HTTTT <- NOT a possible outcome, because, you get the picture by now
17.) THHHH <- NOT a possible outcome, because, you get the picture by now
18.) THHHT <- NOT a possible outcome, because, YGTPBN
19.) THHTH <- NOT a possible outcome, because, YGTPBN
20.) THHTT <- NOT a possible outcome, because, YGTPBN
21.) THTHH <- NOT a possible outcome, because, YGTPBN
22.) THTHT <- NOT a possible outcome, because, YGTPBN
23.) THTTH <- NOT a possible outcome, because, YGTPBN
24.) THTTT <- NOT a possible outcome, because, YGTPBN
25.) TTHHH <- NOT a possible outcome, because, YGTPBN
26.) TTHHT <- NOT a possible outcome, because, YGTPBN
27.) TTHTH <- NOT a possible outcome, because, YGTPBN
28.) TTHTT <- NOT a possible outcome, because, YGTPBN
29.) TTTHH <- NOT a possible outcome, because, YGTFPBN
30.) TTTHT <- NOT a possible outcome, because, YGTFPBN
31.) TTTTH <- NOT a possible outcome, because, YFGTFPBN
32.) TTTTT <- NOT a possible outcome, because, YFGTFPBFN
So, once we know for sure that the first 4 flips were heads, what is the real list of possible outcomes of 5 flips?
So the odds of getting 5 heads in a row, once you know that the first four are all heads, is 1 in 2... exactly the same as the odds of getting heads on any single throw.
This always shakes out the same. The odds of a given thing happening turn out to _never_ be affected by how many times in a row it has or happened before. Even though that doesn't make immediate sense and you have to work it through to see it. It's because people think that the "law of averages" is actually a law. It's not. It's sort of like parallel lines... it's a useful idea for describing some things, but doesn't actually exist anywhere in nature.
This is such a common misconception it has a name: "the Gambler's Fallacy" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gambler's_fallacy)... the idea that there is such a thing as a "streak", that a run of particular results means the odds are different on the next result than they'd ordinarily be.
There's a deeper implication here, and this is where probability sheds light on reality.
The reason people believe in things like a "lucky streak" is because they see a run of a certain result, and attach a meaning to it. If you flipped a coin 5 times, and got 5 heads (HHHHH), you'd be like, "Wow! What are the odds?" But if you threw it 5 times, and got say, HTHHT, or THHTT, you wouldn't think it was anything remarkable. But the fact is, HTHHT and THHTT are each exactly as unlikely as HHHHH. The odds of any one of those results are 1 in 32. But we see HHHHH, and we attach a special meaning to it in our minds ("I must be really lucky!" or "God must have done it!" or "I should play the lottery today!") for no other reason than that the human mind likes obvious patterns and notices them more than it notices things that don't have obvious patterns. So HHHHH seems like a real longshot but any given combination of 5 heads or tails is just as unlikely, and, in fact, if HHHHH didn't come up occasionally—about once in every 32 groups of 5 flips—it would much much weirder than the fact that it does. But since we don't assign any meaning to HTHHT or THHTT or TTTHT or HTHTT, we ignore them. They don't seem "lucky" like HHHHH. But getting any one of those is just as unlikely. The fact is, if you flip a coin 5 times you are going to get some result, and the odds of that result is going to be 1 in 32, regardless of what that result is. The only special thing or difference between HHHHH and any other outcome is in your head.
This is exactly the same as when you bump into someone you know on a train halfway around the world, or when you meet someone in some tiny military prison in the desert in some obscure Arab protectorate who turns out to know your best friend from your small hometown in Iowa. The odds are long, sure, but the odds of you bumping into *any* particular person in the world are exactly that long. The fact that in some cases it's someone who has some significance to you matters in your head, but not at all in reality. Having a past connection with someone doesn't change the odds or make it any more or less likely that you'd bump into them than anybody else, any more than attaching mental significance to "five heads in a row" means that 4 previous "heads" coin flips changes the odds that the next flip will come up heads. Some complete stranger who has nothing to do with you at all, it's _just_ as strange and remote a coincidence that they get seated next to you on a train in Kuala Lumpur than if it was someone you have some "connection" to. Because that connection is just intellectualization, it doesn't affect odds.
This is very beautiful, and broadly applicable, because it so clearly illustrates an important basic truth, which is: the universe really doesn't care what you think.
OK, for you or me, that's kind of depressing. But it makes up for itself by being a great card to be able to play on stupider people. And, in truth there is beauty, pretty much always, I figure.</p>
|About a year and a half ago, I posted the following on a social networking website: |
I wonder why giving money to schools is 'throwing money at the problem,' but giving it to millionaire CEOs is 'economic incentive'. That's fucked up.
This led to a conversation in which my friend Paul wondered,
"what exactly is your argument that attracting top CEOs should not be more than attracting top teachers? To me, it depends on how you define 'top', and what you mean by 'giving money' away."
To me, the answer was so obvious that I never found a way to put it into words. Today, my friend Elizabeth said something that made me remember it.
By the way, I would define 'top' as 'most successful in accomplishing the aims of their position' - what those aims are, I'll discuss below. As to 'giving money away', by which I think paul meant 'throwing money at the problem', that's a phrase used by those who criticize spending money on things they don't agree with, not a phrase I myself use, except in the very rare cases where unrestricted cash funding is used to avoid having to work on a solution to a problem, where a shortage of funding isn't what caused the problem to begin with.
So, my reply to Paul:
OK, it took a year and a half but... my friend Elizabeth just posted the following status update, which answers it well, if only in part:
' "Education is not just a process of acquiring knowledge, or reading more books. It is a lie and death situation. Without education, people are easily exploited for political means. That is how we get violence and conflict."
-Chris Mburu, who was sponsored for education as a Kenyan child, and now works for the UNHCR. '
I agree very strongly with that statement, and I believe ignorance and lack of ability to reason is not just the root of major societal problems in Africa, but very much here in the US right now as well. When you look the amount of faulty logic and pseudoscience that pervades so much of our national dialogue, I honestly don't see how you can disagree.
There's more to my opinion on it - like that a great teacher can make a positive lifelong difference in thousands of people's lives, and is, by the nature of the job, dedicated to giving. I'm not gonna say a great CEO can't make a positive difference in thousands maybe even millions, of people's lives, but the cost of multitudes of great teachers is so much less than the cost of a single average CEO at the companies receiving bailout money that the overall cost/benefit ratio doesn't justify the difference between calling the latter "economic incentive" and the former "throwing money at the problem". Personally, I think a single dedicated teacher is much more valuable to society than a single dedicated CEO, but for purposes of the discussion I'll go no further than saying that if paying CEOs well is a priority then paying teachers well should be at least an equal priority, not disparaged as "throwing money at the problem".
The positive ripple effect on society at large from a top teacher can be enormous, at a infinitesimal fraction of the cost of a top CEO. Sure, maybe a top CEO can have an enormous positive ripple effect on society at large, maybe - MAYBE - even greater than a top teacher's, in absolute terms. But does the cost/benefit ratio still hold up? I don't believe so.
And, personally, I just don't believe that even the most committed CEOs would be doing the same job if it didn't pay so astronomically high, and, in larger terms, let's face it... a CEO's primary job is to make a company as profitable as possible. So their fundamental motivation must be to take,not to give - to keep the net flow of value directed inwards, ultimately benefitting themselves and a select class. I'd guess that's true in most cases. Contrasting that with teachers, I think it's wiser to invest money in those whose jobs are fundamentally based on giving back to society than those whose job is fundamentally to create personal gain for themselves and/or for a limited private class.
|EW PUNCTUATION MARK!!!!! This is the "caffeinated mark": ~!~!!~!!!~!!~!~|
Used to indicate knowledge that you're being more verbose or emphatic than usual because of higher-then-normal coffee intake, and this should be accounted for when assessing the attitude of your writing.
"Holy cow! in the midst of all my political cynicism earlier today, the Supreme Court actually made a good decision! Of course, it only happened because virtually all nine of the justices abandoned their own principles in the name of political expediency, but somehow, all the hypocrites canceled each other out and a genuinely good ruling got handed down... No, I'm being cynical there! They also just handed down a great ruling that "freedom of speech" doesn't mean that student groups are entitled to a handout of free ice cream from schools. Of course, it was the conservative wing that argued that "freedom of speech" required that they get the ice cream handout, and the liberal wing that argued against the handout. What was that I just said about all 9 justices abandoning their principles for political expediency? Well, either way, at least it's all good news from the SC for a change, even if the supporting arguments were totally ludicrous. Oh my god, I cant believe what a big day this was for news... I forgot, it was by "Big Time Day" too, totally like I told you it was going to be! Were you prepared? I totally saw it coming. I can't believe it, what perfect timing! Hey, though, listen, you know with me it's always been the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me, Clyde. As the wise man once said, just the facts ma'am. Hey, I just remembered, I know you love trivia, did you know that the guy who did the voice of Doctor Manhattan in the "Watchmen" movie is also the world high-fiving champ, according to Guiness Book of World Records? No joke, look it up. Guy high fives like a pro. I wonder what it takes to train for that. I bet he moisturizes pretty often. Anyway I'm sorry to bludgeon you like this, if I had more time I'd have written you a shorter reply. ;-) also you caught me after four cups of espresso ~!~!!~!!!~!!~!~ "
|here should be a way to type "LOL" to indicate that you really are laughing out loud, not just typing "LOL". It's like that thing where people use the world "literally" to mean "I'm exaggerating, but less than you'd think I am if I didn't use the word 'literally'". What's up with that?|
I propose "LOLFR", as in, "laughing out loud, for realz". At least until people start typing "LOLFR" when they're not really laughing out loud for real.
|aving taken a day or two away from my laptop, I was just catching up on my weekend's reading and came across this list. The last paragraph sent a shiver down my spine. I should have posted this on Friday: |
"Today In Music History: April 24, 2009
1942 - Barbra Streisand was born.
1968 - Louis Armstrong was at No.1 in the UK with the single 'What A Wonderful World"
1968 - The Beatles new company Apple Records turned down the offer to sign a new artist named David Bowie.
1984 - Jerry Lee Lewis married wife number six, 22- year old Kerrie McCarver.
1992 - David Bowie married model Iman, in Switzerland.
1982 - Kelly Clarkson was born.
On this day in 1976, Paul and Linda McCartney spent the evening with John Lennon at his New York Dakota apartment and watched Saturday Night Live. Producer of the show Lorne Michaels made an offer on air asking The Beatles to turn up and play three songs live. Lennon and McCartney thought about taking a cab to the studio, but decided they were too tired. This was the last time Lennon and McCartney were together."
It's not very well known that by the mid-seventies John Lennon and Paul McCartney had renewed their friendship. There is even a 1974 studio jam consisting of McCartney, an extremely coked-up Lennon, Stevie Wonder and Harry Nilsson available on a bootleg entitled "A Toot And A Snore In '74". Unfortunately, despite what you might hope from the stellar line-up, it is an absolute mess of drunken, unfocused rambling, Lennon railing against whatever crosses his mind at any particular moment, and sloppy, unfinished attempts at '50s songs - not even worth the download time, unless you're truly desperate for one more recording that happens to have both Lennon and McCartney's voices in it. (See a typical review and track listings at Bootleg Zone, http://www.bootlegzone.com/album.php?name=mm9225§ion=2)
Nonetheless, having heard George Harrison and Paul Simon's beautiful acoustic renditions of "Here Comes The Sun" and "The Boxer" (http://vids.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=vids.individual&videoid=2319123) from their surprise appearance on Saturday Night Live the following year, I tend to look favorably on the idea of ex-Beatles showing up at NBC studios in the mid-'70s with guitars in hand.
So, just imagine what might have happened if Paul McCartney and John Lennon had been a little less tired that night. Just imagine what we might have been treated. Imagine how music history might have changed. If they hadn't been too tired. Just imagine.
Original source: http://minnesota.publicradio.org/collections/special/columns/music_blog/archive/2009/04/today_in_music_37.shtml
|or the record, I was born on Dec. 11, 1968. I turned 39 last year, on Dec. 11, 2007. I can't say I thought about it much, at least at first. But a month or two ticked by, and I thought of a number. The number 40. Just as I had thought of the number 40 on December 11th of ten years previous, in 1998, it having arisen unbidden following a brief consideration of the number 30. |
Nine years before that I thought about the number 21, 18 three years before that, and five years earlier still, 13.
According to conventions of the religion I was born into, I became a man at 13, amidst much fanfare from my family. Secular society called me an 'adult' at 18. At 21 I proudly told the grocery store clerk I'd be happy to show him my ID, at 30 I was no longer trustworthy, at least by the reckoning of some folks, once upon a time. And at 39, I was one year away from life "beginning". And so the number 40 crossed my mind. But of course, it wasn't only a number.
You know, from pretty conventional beginnings, I've managed to sculpt a pretty damn unconventional adult life. Certainly not the life I expected to have. The adult life I expected to have was what you, if you're one of my older friends reading this, likely have: house in the suburbs, 2.6 kids, wood-panelled station wagon, metaphorically speaking, at least. But the long-range goal I saw for myself, it turned out, was in opposition to the collective result of the individual choices I made along the way.
So I found myself, at 39 years old, in a place where I was content, but nonetheless a much different place than I had expected to be, and a much different place than a vast number of my friends seemed to be. Like the wise man said, it isn't easy being green, and when you find yourself standing across a gulf from everybody else, it's only natural to step back and question your position.
What did it matter that I had built a moderately successful consulting career out of nothing, had the freedom to do what I wanted when I wanted, traveled, slept late every day, and supported myself well in one of the most expensive cities on the planet while working an average of 10 hours a week? I had met none of the conventional benchmarks of reasonable success in our society. I don't own a home. I don't have kids. I don't have the benefit of a partner's constant love, support and company. With only occasional exceptions, I wake up alone every morning. None of these things particularly bothered me, until this great, glowing icon of the number "40" appeared in my path, beneath the light of which these truths suddenly cast some harsh shadows.
And then I realized: what kind of shit is that?
"Not until you're 18." "Under 21 not admitted." "Don't trust anybody over 30." "Life begins at 40." Our whole lives we're fed expectations and preconceptions, implicit beliefs hung upon milestones decreed by holy men, by lawmakers and greeting-card company presidents, long dead men whose lives bore no relation to mine. And yet, how many of us ever think to challenge these presumptions? I never did, until my life, seen in the light of those men's inventions, and of other men's lives, even my friends, started to cast shadows that I didn't like.
But despite how it may have looked to those around me at times, in 39 years of life I was lucky enough or prescient enough never to have made a major decision that, given the information available at the time, I wouldn't make again. And in a moment of clarity I realized that if my approaching 40th birthday caused me to see my life in a light that disturbed me, clearly, what needed to be changed was the bulb.
So I'm not turning 40. I decided to abandon the whole loaded system. I needed to go back to my youth, when each birthday was joyful, a celebration of another year of growing, of learning, of thriving - a new accomplishment, another step into a wonderful land, instead of a mapped and labeled checkpoint on a well-trodden road that I once followed but now was no longer on.
I gave a lot of thought to how I could mark the passing of my life without evoking the dismal specter of life passing by. Celebrating day milestones seemed a natural and obvious scheme - every 100, 500 or 1000 days - but I felt like a simpler system would be more likely to be adopted by my family, who get sentimental about occasions like birthdays but would be unlikely to be willing to do that much math to determine the date. Weeks have always felt like an artificial division to me, and still require the use of pen and paper to determine the important multiples of.
So I compromised, keeping the day of celebration the same for the sake of simplicity, by celebrating important intervals of months since my birth - multiples of 10 months or 25 months. So, after doing some initial calculations, I realized my 470th month anniversary had passed a few days before, on February 11, 2008. so my first month anniversary observance occurred, without fanfare, on my the day I was 475 months old - 25s and 75s seemed important enough milestones to celebrate - on July 11, 2008. My 480th would be Dec. 11, 2008, today as I write this, then my 490th will be in October 2009, then nothing until the big 5-0-0 in August of 2010.
The mathematically astute among you may detect that today's anniversary, my 480th, is particularly significant for an unrelated reason. It is that this means I have completed 48 ten-month celebration cycles, and 48 is divisible by more integers than any number up to it, or, in fact, any number until 60.
The system still had some flaws, though. For it to be a valid new paradigm, and not a desultory intellectual curiosity, I felt it needed two more pieces to tie it all together. I needed a name for the 10-month span of time - ten years is to 'decade' and ten months is to what? - and I needed a derogatory name for the old, year-based system of marking birthdays.
Surprisingly, no amount of research could uncover an existing term for a ten-month span. After conferring with numerous intelligent friends, web pages on Latin and Greek word roots, and much introspection, I eventually settled on "decemester", which literally means "10 months." "Decamensus" and "Decad" were strong contenders for a while, also.
The system was nearly complete. All that remained was to come up with a derogatory term for the old, annually-based birthday scheme.
As luck would have it, a few weeks later, I was relating my thinking to Jeff, a good friend and astute observer of the human condition. Once I finished explaining it all to him, and had said that all that was missing was a derogatory name for the old system, without missing a beat he looked at me and said,
Good old Jeff. My system was complete! It works!
I'm no longer anxious about where I stand in relation to predetermined notions of where I should be as I move through life. The goalposts have been removed. I no longer recognize "years" as a valid measurement of age - they're just irrelevant to me.
I just celebrate accomplishing another month, or 10, of life, with no burden of dreams of success or love beside which real life might come up short.
I'm feeling really good about the new system. It suits me well. I'm really glad I came up with it.
Especially as without it, I would have turned 40 this year. Whew! Close one! Talk about dodging a bullet!
|ight now it's school hours, and there are a bunch of kids hanging around on the plaza right outside my office window. They've got a huge rolling AV rack out there with them, and they're playing Guitar Hero on it.|
Man, juvenile delinquency has come a long way since I was a kid.
|uestion of the day: |
The First Time In Your Life That You Noticed Someone Cheating At Something
Actually, the first person I noticed cheating would be myself. I totally figured it out on my own before ever seeing anyone else do it. I think I got my first inkling when I tried to tell my friend Steven Axeman I was 4 1/2, not 4, because I thought it made me sound grownup. Somehow he knew I wasn't 4 1/2! So when I turned 4 1/2, I told him again, and he said, "Yes, today you are." I never found out how he knew exactly when my half-birthday was, but it was an epiphany that mysterious means existed by which I might be found out.
But really, my first experience with real cheating would be in second grade. I hadn't finished my homework, and my teacher, Mrs. Beekman, wrote a note in my notebook for my mom to sign. So what I did, on the bus home, I forged her signature. Of course, what I failed to consider, was that I was a second-grader and unwise in the ways of the world - I wasn't aware of my own ignorance. So I figured it was fine that instead of scribbling "Ann Krubopple", my mother's name, I printed longhand, in widely spaced letters, "Mrs. Krubop" - and then I hit the edge of the page and ran out of room. But I wasn't going to let an obstacle like that stop me. I simply added a hyphen, and continued the name on the next line, so my "mom's signature" came out like this, printed:
The next day, my teacher called me up in front of the whole class to show her my mom's signature on the note. I turned to the page nervously - I still recall this so clearly - and showed it to her. She got very quiet, and just looked at it for a moment.
After looking at it thoughtfully, she looked at me, and said, "Michael, is that really your mother's signature?"
I said, "Yes."
She looked at it again for another thoughtful moment. "Now Michael " - here she paused for emphasis - "your mother is in the next room. If I take this and show it to her, will she say it's her signature?"
But clearly Mrs. Beekman was underestimating me. Did she think I'd conquered the running-out-of-space-on-the-first-line crisis only to be undone now by a bluff, a transparent lie? Not a chance!
I said, "Yes."
Once again, genius! I was at the top of my seven-year-old game.
And Mrs. Beekman walked out of the room for a curious moment. Had I known at the time that this was the very last moment of my innocence, that immediately following it I would have the first adult experience of my life, I might have savored it. But I didn't. As it was, I just stood quietly in front of the class waiting to see what was about to happen. And a minute later, Mrs. Beekman walked back into the room with my mom.
Mrs. Beekman held out the notebook, and theatrically said, "Mrs. Krubopple, is this your signature?"
And my mom said "no," and turned and walked back out of the room.
Several important life lessons were learned in that single seminal moment:
1.) Life is funny.
2.) You're not as smart as you think you are.
3.) The devil is in the details.
4.) The best-laid plans of mice and men, etc.
5.) Payback is a bitch.
Needless to say, I got in some trouble over this incident, both with Mrs. Beekman AND at home that night. Years later, my mom, who was very active in the PTA, told me she had happened to be in the next classroom that afternoon working on a PTA project, and that she and Mrs. Beekman had shared a very good laugh in the hallway. "It was really cute, " she said.
So, that was one more early lesson that I took to heart:
4.) If you're going to make some sort of trouble, at least make it funny. The authorities are people, too.
I still heed those lessons to this day, especially the last one.
|y friend Patrick does Vipassana meditation retreats. He goes to this Buddhist center out in the foothills of the Sierras and spends 10 days meditating in silence - no talking allowed, for the whole time.|
Last night he told me a story about one of his first Vipassana retreats. He said he spent a lot of time thinking about what his first words would be when the 10 days of silence ended.
On the last day of the retreat, an hour and a half before the silence was supposed to end, he was walking outside on the wooded property, when suddenly, from just beyond the treeline near him, there was a tremendous clatter and racket. Several other nearby retreat members, all also awaiting the end of the 10-day period of silence later that afternoon, looked up in curiosity, and saw that Patrick was close enough to have gotten a glimpse of what caused the noise.
As he walked away, with an hour and a half left to go, one of the others broke the vow of silence. As Patrick walked by, the man asked, "What was it?"
And Patrick told him.
As he related the story to me, he ended with, "... and, after all the time I spent thinking about what the first thing I was gonna say after ten days of silence would be, the first thing I said wound up being, 'A dog.' "