my top ten albums of 2014

in the twelfth month, like the rest of the stinking Internet and its rabid music fans, i like to compile my top ten favorite albums from the past year.

i do things only slightly differently from the rest. for one, i won’t rank. i used to rank the albums, but it’s truly an exercise in bullshittery because–-let’s be frank–-a list of the “top ten” albums is silly enough already… no point in making it any sillier. secondly, like the rest of my blog, i keep it pretty personal. so maybe try to ignore the fact that only four of these were actually released in 2014. whoops!

let the needle drop…

Frankie Knuckles Choice A Collection of Classics

Choice: A Collection of Classics — Frankie Knuckles (2000)

do you like the way that it feels?

can you handle it?

let’s do it.

because we got the funk and it’s nights like this we feel like getting down.

paradise.

you might ask how the hell a compilation found its way onto my top ten list. you might even ask, if you knew me well, how someone so obsessed with disco could still discover new, incredible, funky ass fuck tracks after all these years. and the answer wouldn’t be a joy to deliver: Frankie Knuckles died this year.

Frankie Knuckles came to be unanimously recognized as the godfather of house music for his innovative and magical dj sets of disco, soul, rock, and disco at the Warehouse club in Chicago in the late 1970s. alongside his childhood friend (and my dj idol) Larry Levan, Frankie basically drew up the blueprint for bliss on the dance floor now a staple of every serious club in the world.

on Choice, a couple decades after his heyday and a full 14 years before his death, Frankie serves up a first-class serving of the best dance music across the 70s, 80s, and 90s–mixed exquisitely. while the second disc focuses on house and techno, the first disc is where my heart’s allegiance lies for a reason you might’ve guessed: dis-co-per-fec-to. i challenge you to listen to it without moving your body.

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Chuck Person’s Eccojams Vol. 1 — Chuck Person (2010)

yes, that’s cassette-shaped. this is easily the weirdest release on this list.

before Daniel Lopatin got famous as Oneohtrix Point Never–and i’m defining fame for a experimental electronic musician as managing to convince Trent Reznor to let him open for Nine Inch Nails–he had already gained a cult following thanks to this release, for which he’s been credited with pioneering the entire vaporwave movement, defined by Wikipedia here:

Vaporwave is a musical genre that emerged in the early 2010s from indie dance genres such as seapunk, bounce house, or chillwave, and, more broadly, electronic dance music. Although there is much diversity and ambiguity in its attitude and message, vaporwave often serves as both a critique and parody of consumerist society, ’80s yuppie culture, and New Age music, while sonically and aesthetically showcasing a curious fascination with their nostalgic artifacts.

but ignore the musico-socio-polit-onomic implications of such a movement, as i did when i first pressed play on this album, and you’ll hear a master at work. over the course of an hour and change, Chuck takes us on the most psychedelic shipwreck of a journey composed entirely of samples lifted from popular and cheesy tracks by Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson, Fleetwood Mac, Aphrodite’s Child, Toto, Peter Gabriel, Kate Bush, Teddy Pendergrass, and several other artists of the 70s and 80s.

it’s like transforming your multicellular human form into a plate tectonic and carrying your favorite continent around the world in a moment’s time. it’s like tossing a disco ball fifty feet in the air and detonating it in slow motion. it’s like ascending to the heavens by leapfrogging from raindrop to raindrop in a winter downpour.

it’s like… nothing i’ve ever heard. (by the way, if you want one of those cassettes, it’s not too expensive! since it was limited to 100 copies, the thing sells for around $175 online now :/)

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Todd_Terje_-_It's_Album_Time_album_cover

It’s Album Time — Todd Terje (2014)

thanks to my musical brother from another mother Mark, i was first introduced to Todd Terje last year via the track Inspector Norse, which i believe is still the best introduction one could ask for. basically i’m saying you should click that link, listen to the track, and then come back.

okay, how was it? mind-blowing, right? the best dance track you’ve ever heard using an ARP 2600? what’s that? “the only track you’ve ever heard using an ARP 2600?” i doubt that. okay, whatever, now go watch this one-hour live performance by the guy headlining a music festival in Norway, his home country.

amazing, right? didn’t you love the all the angelic little LED-laden Norwegian dancers that came out at the end? wait, what? you didn’t go watch it? oh well, you’re only hurting yourself.

It’s Album Time is Todd Terje quintessence. (which, if you’d just watch those videos, you’d understand is a very good thing.) you’ll hear thick, insanely heavy bass but it’s not just inane, aimless house music. you’ll hear wild keyboard solos but they’re not so pretentious that you’ll be waiting and cringing for ten minutes just to hear the beat drop again. he’ll escort you through long, meandering trails, but it stays interesting and strangely danceable the entire time. you’ll even hear a ballad with backing vocals by Bryan Ferry of Roxy Music fame!

in short, it’s like trusting a guy from Norway to take you on a fun exciting trip through a tropical rainforest, which makes no sense. but you really should trust him.

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It’s My Way — Buffy Sainte-Marie (1964)

this impeccable folk music deserves the ears of every American if only for the very first song, “Now That the Buffalo’s Gone.” in just nearly three minutes, this Canadian-American Cree singer-songwriter, this woman, this human fucking being lays down the truth loud and clear so you can’t miss it:

when a war between nations is lost
the loser we know pays the cost
but even when Germany fell to your hands
consider, dear lady, consider, dear man
you left them their pride and you left them their land
and what have you done to these ones

has a change come about, Uncle Sam?
or are you still taking our lands?
a treaty forever George Washington signed
he did, dear lady, he did, dear man
and the treaty’s being broken again and again
and what will you do for these ones

“oh it’s all in the past” you can say
but it’s still going on here today
the government now wants the Iroquois land
that of the Inuit and the Cheyenne
it’s here and it’s now you must help us, dear man
now that the buffalo’s gone

sadly, but perhaps unsurprisingly, the song is still relevant. money always wins.

but perhaps there’s some solace to be taken in the fire fueling this woman’s fierce voice and guitar. it’s so full of heart and soul and spirit, that you almost want to laugh at the empty crumbling nothingness that is our country’s great military-industrial complex. can’t help but think of the Ottomans and the Romans and the Greeks and Egyptians and all their glory and greatness, and i can’t help but not care about the lot of them.

all that matters is the eternal spirit, which at least once ignited inside a woman named Buffy Sainte-Marie, and will some day at last extinguish the irrational hell of our senseless systems.

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Lazy Weather — Kitchen Hips (2014)

so what if she’s my #1 poetry crush? i don’t think that makes me biased.

i don’t know how much aerienne (my friend aka Kitchen Hips) would agree with me, but i feel like on Lazy Weather she reached a real, recognizable milestone in the evolution of her cutesy freak folk. maybe it has something to do with the production style or maybe it has something to do with the fact that Evan and Will know her well enough to balance their percussion, backing vocals, and jazzy accompaniments against her banjo. it all just comes together.

one night, i returned home feeling tired and maybe drunk and perhaps a little fatigued around the ears, so i popped this album into my portable tape deck and laid it next to my head in bed. when i woke up in the morning, the tape’s terminus was spinning its silent nothingness and i was smiling.

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Settle — Disclosure (2013)

i get it. i’m late as hell. i will never learn.

summer of 2013, this album was exploding. everyone was talking about. nobody could shut up about it. it’s all anyone could talk about. etc etc etc etc etc etc etc etc etc……… but for some reason, i wasn’t having it. i argued w Alison online, trying to justify my position. at Clear Lake, i tried to discuss the music with Chris and Madison as if music were a cerebral, intellectual thing that could be dissected, and i insisted that i didn’t understand the hype. (in hindsight, maybe i was just too far aboard Daft Punk’s live musician train to give a shit about lavish UK garage.)

all the while, of course, all those sexy hooks and the slick, lush production secretly seeped under my skin. less than a year later, at the Greek Theatre in Berkeley, i inhaled a big deep breath, grit my teeth, latched onto my beautiful Natalie, and bounced my soul to Disclosure’s live set. i’d come more than around.

the potent thing about Settle, for me, is that no track stands out above the rest. while we could probably agree that “When a Fire Starts to Burn,” “Latch,” “White Noise,” and “Defeated No More” are the favorites, the album doesn’t stop there. it’s good all the way through.

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Springtime Carnivore — Springtime Carnivore (2012)

this dream pop album has five songs amounting to less than 15 minutes of music. and yet, i can’t stop listening to it. since it’s so brief, here are five haiku representing my distinct love for each distinct track:

cicadas mouthing
melody melancholy
in clouds of crimson

collectors sway their
heavy shoulders in sexy
steady solitude

distress signal dips
into mushroom existence
fades away exposed

last one to know beats
its electronic heartbeats
lazy-eyed and fat

low clouds light as love
gracefully collapse under
piano hammers’ weight

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St. Vincent — St. Vincent (2014)

i remember the day i fell in love with St. Vincent.

the day began with me waking up on a couch i didn’t remember choosing for my bed. my head hurt. my phone buzzed.

“hello?”

“where are you?!” Alison asked.

“um.. in the city.”

“you need to pick up Sarah and Pete!”

“fuck, sorry, on my way.” click.

i dragged my worthless corpse off the couch, splashed water into my face, and stumbled down the stairs into a taxi.

“Natalie, i’m so sorry,” i half-cried on the drive over, “i got completely wasted and fell asleep on a friend’s couch.”

“you freaked me out! i was really worried.” she sounded pissed.

“look, i’m really sorry. i’m a drunk shithead, but i need to pick up my keys and Alison’s sister and get my ass to santa clara. i’m so sorry.”

at her house, she looked as pissed as she sounded. i grabbed my keys and flopped on her bed for a second trying to look as pitiful as possible. it wasn’t difficult. maybe she’d assume the hangover would dole out the proper punishment. she wouldn’t be mistaken.

eventually, after an eternity of mere moments, i read something in her face that i interpreted as a sliver of mercy, so i squeezed her in gratitude and slithered out the door, down the stairs, into my car, and a few blocks away to pick up Sarah and Pete. they didn’t seem pissed; just annoyed and maybe slightly amused.

half a hundred miles later, we were strolling into the gates of Great America. at last, i could stop worrying–which, i must confess, wasn’t that great a feeling. it felt like putting down a few stones of anxiety to make room in your arms for a boulder of hangover. fucking christ.

there were precisely five things that got me through the day:

  1. not ruining Alison’s birthday by sleeping through the whole thing and failing to ever pick up her sister.
  2. rollercoasters.
  3. Seychelle.
  4. pizza.
  5. St. Vincent.

presumably to pacify the three people that had left their smartphones at home, Great America keeps tvs running above long lines so you don’t lose your mind waiting to get on the ride. except that it might actually backfire since repeatedly watching St. Vincent’s music video for Digital Witness over and over and over again could potentially cause serious mental disturbances.

for me, it was the opposite. it must’ve backbackfired because i am now obsessed with this robot woman’s new strange vision of rock & roll. she’s like Kate Bush meets David Byrne meets the guitarist from Squarepusher’s new robot band. i love her.

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Syro — Aphex Twin (2014)

i’m sorry but if you honestly believe that Aphex Twin can release an album for the first time in 13 years and not have it be on my top ten list for the year, then you got another thing coming. it’s not the most mind-blowing, groundbreaking album of all time, but it’s still maximalist electronic music done with care, intelligence, and thoughtfulness. and it sounds damn good.

and. AND. the last track, “aisatsana,” is possibly the most exquisite piece for piano written this century.

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R-191256-1246269805.jpegWith the Artists — Rhythm & Sound (2003)

this list started with a compilation, and it’s ending with one too. hell has officially frozen over. actually, the two are similar in another way which i constantly espouse about disco and dub: it’s all about dat production.

between 1996 and 2003, Rhythm & Sound (who also produce abrasive dub of the techno variety under their “Basic Channel” alias) collaborated with the above reggae vocalists on eight of the most delightful dub tracks around. it’s music meant to be heard on big fat speakers at full volume, at the point where you’re feeling your hair move more than you’re noticing how the songs are morphing over time. but if you do gain consciousness, pay attention to the lyrics… they’re sometimes depressing, but often provoking and inspiring.

it’s heaven for lovers of low frequencies.

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holiday love

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selections from Electra and other plays by Sophocles

AJAX

ODYSSEUS: Are we not all,
All living things, mere phantoms, shadows of nothing? (22)

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TECMESSA: Which would you choose,
If you had the choice; to enjoy a pleasure yourself
At the cost of another’s pain, or both alike
To share a trouble?

CHORUS: I would say, my lady,
Two troubles must be worse than one. (27)

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TECMESSA: ‘Woman,’ he answered shortly,
‘Women should be seen, not heard.’ — the old, old story! (28)

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mollycoddle (n.)
an effeminate or ineffectual man or boy; a milksop.
For he had always taught me that loud crying
Was only fit for cowards and
mollycoddles. (29)

—————

CHORUS: Laughter or tears, ’tis God that sends them to us. (31)

—————

AJAX: The long unmeasured pulse of time moves everything.
There is nothing hidden that it cannot bring to light,
Nothing once known that may not become unknown.
Nothing is impossible. The most sacred oath
Is fallible; a will of iron may bend. (40)

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MESSENGER: And Ajax showed he had no self-control
The day he left his home. ‘Son,’ said his father —
And very properly — ‘Go out to win,
But win with God beside you.’ ‘Oh,’ said Ajax
With vain bravado, ‘any fool can win
With God beside him; I intend to win
Glory and honour on my own account.’
A terrible boast. (43)

—————

CHORUS: Such talk
In time of trouble, sirs, cannot be well.
Just or unjust, harsh words can only harm.

MENELAUS: The archer may enjoy his little triumphs.

TEUCER: What of it? It is no craft to be ashamed of.

MENELAUS: As a fighter fully armed there’d be no holding you.

TEUCER: What! Empty-handed I’d be a match for you
And all your armour!

MENELAUS: Hear his valiant tongue!

TEUCER: Where right is, there’s excuse for boasting

MENELAUS: Right?
What right confers a privilege on my murderer?

TEUCER: Your murderer? Are you risen from the dead?

MENELAUS: Thanks to a saving god. In this man’s books
I was as good as dead.

TEUCER: Then pay your thanks
With honour to the gods, who let you live

MENELAUS: When do I not pay honour to the gods?

TEUCER: When you forbid the burial of the dead. (56)

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ODYSSEUS: A friend today
May be a foe tomorrow. (65)

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CHORUS: Many are the things that man
Seeing must understand.
Not seeing, how shall he know
What lies in the hand
Of time to come? (67)

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ELECTRA

ORESTES: Time is the umpire in all human business. (71)

—————

CHORUS: Time is the sacred healer. (74)

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ELECTRA: With evil all around me
There is nothing I can do that is not evil. (77)

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chary (adj.)
cautiously or suspiciously reluctant to do something.
A man may well be chary of such a task. (78)

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ELECTRA: Fate often hangs upon a word or two. (81)

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CHORUS: All men must die. (94)

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CHRYSOTHEMIS: Do you forget
You are only a woman, and weaker than your enemy? (98)

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CHRYSOTHEMIS: Justice is sometimes dangerous. (100)

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WOMEN OF TRACHIS

DEIANEIRA: Call no man happy, unhappy . . . you cannot tell
Till the day of his death. The proverb is old and plain. (119)

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CHORUS: Nothing abides; the starry night,
Our wealth, our sorrows, pass away.
Tomorrow another has his day
Of happiness, of disappointment. (123)

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waif (n.)
a homeless and helpless person, esp. a neglected or abandoned child
My friends, I am full of pity at this sad sight,
These poor unhappy exiles, homeless, fatherless,
Waifs in a strange land. (129)

—————

DEIANEIRA: Do you think I do not know that the heart of man
Can change its affections? Only a fool
Would try conclusions with the God of Love.
Love has his own way with the gods themselves:
Why not with me? Why not with another woman,
As much a woman as I? It would be madness
To blame my husband for catching this infection,
Or blame the woman, his partner in a thing
That is no disgrace to them, no offence to me.
I shall not blame them.
[...]
No man has loved more women then Heracles. (134)

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CHORUS: O great and unconquerable Aphrodite —
Hers is the power and hers the victory
In every battlefield. (136)

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unguent (n.)
a soft greasy or viscous substance used as an ointment or for lubrication.
To keep the salve concealed in some safe place,
To keep it away from fire, and not to expose it
To the light and heat of the sun, but leave it untouched
Until the time should come to use the
unguent
As need should require.
(142)

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CHORUS: Surely when a man is dead his days of slavery are over. (146)

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NURSE: So there it is. Only a foolish man
Would reckon on the future — one day, two,
Or more to come. Tomorrow — what is tomorrow?
‘Tis nothing, until today is safely past. (150)

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HYLLUS: Let all men here forgive me,
And mark the malevolence
Of the unforgiving gods
In this event. We call them
Fathers of sons, and they
Look down unmoved
Upon our tragedies.

The future is hidden from us.
This is the present —
Our grief, who see it;
His untold agony,
Who must endure it;
And their reproach,
Who let it be.

Women of Trachis, you have leave to go.
You have seen strange things,
The awful hand of death, new shapes of woe,
Uncounted sufferings;
And all that you have seen
Is God. (161)

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PHILOCTETES

NEOPTOLEMUS: I’d rather lose by fair means than win by foul.

ODYSSEUS: My lad, you’re your father’s son. When I was your age,
My hand was readier than my tongue; but now
I’ve learnt by much and bitter experience
Words count for more than deeds in the world of men. (166)

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NEOPTOLEMUS: As a state depends on its leaders, so does an army; when men do wrong, the teachers that have corrupted them are to blame. (176)

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NEOPTOLEMUS: War never picks the worst men for his victims,
But always the best. (177)

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PHILOCTETES: Does nothing evil ever die? (178)

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PHILOCTETES: Save me, for pity’s sake! You must have pity
If you but think how all our mortal lives
Are set in danger and perplexity:
One day to prosper, and the next — who knows?
When all is well, then look for rocks ahead;
Look well to your life, when life runs easily;
Death may be waiting for you. (179)

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PHILOCTETES: All winds are fair, when death is on your heels. (184)

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CHORUS: Come down, sweet sleep,
Wherein there is no memory of pain,
No suffering.
Come, happy, happy sleep
All-conquering.
Hold thou before his eyes
The light of peace that now begins to fill them.
Come, sleep, we pray, O come
With healing wing. (191)

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NEOPTOLEMUS: With justice on my side, I don’t fear anything
That you can do. (204)

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NEOPTOLEMUS: Each one of us must live the life God gives him. (207)

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buncha dudes in b&w

Screen Shot 2014-12-06 at 13.58.35

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Live!

aujourd’hui, grand-père est morte. ou peut-être hier, je ne sais pas.

well, not my grandpa… but Natalie’s. the call came a little over 25 hours ago, and though my love and i were warmly entwined, neck and neck, i could not identify who slipped the news into her ear. as the voice switched to Natalie’s mother, i realized it had been Emilie.

and that was how the morning started. confused, comfortable, warm, and grey. Natalie jumped into the shower; i quickly dressed and cooked up eggs, toast, and chili for breakfast. she didn’t have any chili.

then work.

. . .

it’s friday evening, so like many of my fellow citizens, i don’t want to believe in suffering at the moment. but it’s all around. it’s in the wails and horns and dead animal drum skins stampeding out my bedroom speakers. it’s in the warm whiskey tea i sip to sneak myself into dreams. it’s in the office space growing like a weed. it’s in my whining right arm, my stupid eye, my grinding teeth. roommate’s lost her things, winter is coming, and grandfather’s passed in his sleep.

and yet… peace and love persist. Fela Kuti is singing “Carry Me I Want to Die,” i ate a few kernels of potcorn earlier, and last night my friends and i watched sci-fi-noir:

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Blade Runner. 1982. Ridley Scott. Harrison Ford. superhuman replicants. a robot owl. boobs.

the past week and a half has been a long, winding down from the three weeks before, but it’s all been good. yesterday was movie night, perfectly timed with the best storm this city has seen in awhile. night before Natalie and i chuckled all night to Louis CK and Adventure Time. day before, marketing team had a daylong offsite meeting–joy!–followed by drinks and dinner at Luna Park, which was then followed by a really great band practice where i almost broke the walking news.

last saturday, Natalie and Micah bounced for a couple weddings, leaving Cameron and me to watch movies all day by ourselves:

MTV Unplugged: Nirvana

Nirvana: Live! Tonight! Sold Out!! (1994)

8½ (1963)

(1963)

Clash of the Titans (1981)

Clash of the Titans (1981)

so many dudes. grungy dudes. intellectual dudes. buff dudes. divinely-blessed dudes. complex dudes. long-haired dudes. quick-witted dudes. sharp-looking dudes. nearly-naked dudes. just… so many dudes. and then to top it all off, we watched a bunch of Tool music videos, ending the day with the dudeliest dude music dude video dude ever dudes:

and yet… my woman persists. (praise Gaia.) i stonedly woke up in the middle of the night to Natalie stumbling into my room wearing her fancy dress from the wedding. fuck–i’d invited her over and fallen asleep. she was kinda drunkenly upset in the moment, but fine by the morning. we shared a delicious breakfast, i dropped her off, and then met up with an old poetry friend at Revolution Cafe in the Mission. i’d just been there for a few moments the monday prior…

that monday had been 2014-11-10, which was two years after 2012-11-10, which was the first day Natalie and i went on a date. to celebrate, i’d bought her a cute little silver titanium coated crystal brass necklace in Bushwick, ordered beautiful BloomThat flowers to her office, took her out to a fancy dinner in the Mission, and written her a sonnet. i also tried taking her to Revolution Cafe after dinner for “Classical Mondays,” but the place was (unsurprisingly) packed.

dinner had been divine:

1. FRESH RICOTTA. green olive. caperberry. fennel seed flat bread. (not listed: the duck liver and smoked trout dips.)
2. MARINATED OCTOPUS. cabbage. seaweed. sesame.
3. CAULIFLOWER A LA PLANCHA. golden raisin. caper. jujube date.
4. DILL SPAGHETTI. mussel. sea urchin. chile breadcrumb. (yours was grits not spaghetti.)
5. DUCK BREAST & CRISP CONFIT. lentil. hen of the woods. turnip. brown butter. (i thought it was chicken but guess not? unless they switched it up on us.)
6. CHOCOLATE CUSTARD. candied almond. coffee ice cream. caramel.

we: mas candi, segunyola, penedes, spain, 2010.
me: sean thackrey, pleiades XXIII, bolinas, ca, 2012.
she: skylark, red belly, mendocino, ca, 2012.

we spread our spreads, failed at being vegetarian, indulged… but mostly we just stared into each other’s eyes and loved. and then, putting the cap on a much-too-much-extended gap, we went to bed, to perfection.

. . .

since i’m all stoned and addlebrained and warping time all fucked up style anyway, let’s do it again!

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Halloween was exactly a week away, the Giants were playing the Kansas City Royals here at home, and we weren’t doing so well. Royals took the game, and so Natalie and i said fuck it and drove into the night, cruising across the Golden Gate Bridge toward Dillon Beach, anchored at the Pacific mouth of Tomales Bay and overlooking scenic Point Reyes Peninsula. we were camping right near the beach for the weekend to belatedly celebrate Anna’s summer birthday in bitter 45 mph wind and rain, all our tents drenched and surrounded by big fat cow pies.

ah, the great outdoors!

seagulls and cow pies be damned, i love sleeping and being outside. that very first night a few of us–friends, acquaintances, and strangers–sat around the fire sipping on local IPA and Rendezvous Rye Whiskey, which is supposed to be from the first legally licensed distillery in Utah since the end of the American Prohibition. so that’s something. also it’s delicious, which is another thing.

saturday morning, we stopped by a coffee shop manned by a peaceful, slow-moving greybeard who acted more like a wizard than a barista. but a damn good barista he was–and a pleasant one too!

“is it ok if i order an almond milk cappuccino?” asked the young lady.

“everything’s alright,” said the wizard, “it’s just coffee.”

following coffee, we proceeded to our next consumption station, a little fishing/crabbing shop and combination deli/bar. most of us munched on seafood and sipped beer outside, watching as more and more friends trickled in from the city and east bay, expanding our party. it started to sprinkle a little bit, which most of us noted, bravely going on to say that we didn’t mind sitting and chilling in a little light rain until, several seconds later, the skies let loose, driving even the most courageous amongst us racing for shelter.

the downpour only lasted a few minutes. soon enough, the sun poked through, guiding our caravan of cars to a coastside summit where the ten of us hiked the short loop trail, and then down to the beach. all the while, drinking water, smoking the occasional spliff, gazing into the utter sublimity all around, and connecting with one another. Anna, Reavis, Arianna, Nate, Traci, Riley, Lauren, Ian, Natalie, and, of course, Jack and Starfox–such good, good creatures.

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the rest of the evening we spent devouring a wheel of cheese, threatening to dive into the freezing sunset sea (birthday girl actually did it), munching on burgers in the intermittent rain, and drinking, drinking, drinking. highlight of the night? a whole kine of people circling through the campgrounds, campsite to campsite, donning cow costumes and playing the part. moooooo… MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. they were even clanging cowbells and straying aimlessly from the wild ha! hah’s! and whipping doled out by a rugged cowherd. ’twas surreal.

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in the morning, we took some time getting a move on. but get a move on we did. our final funtime destination for the weekend was Hearts Desire Beach. no joke. and so we fulfilled our hearts’ desires by reading fantasy and drinking beer and shucking a hundred oysters and barbecuing everything and skinny dipping and enjoying life. also, i got to see my love pee in the woods. well, pretty much on the trail but that’s okay. little loon.

by the time we returned to San Francisco sunday night, the Giants were beating the Royals in game 5 of the Series, and all was right in the world.

. . .

72 hours later, Madison Bumgarner stepped out of the bullpen and walked toward the mound, silencing Kansas City. pitch after pitch after pitch sank their hearts further, further further; and then–for the third time in five years, San Francisco won the World Series.

as MadBum’s father put so eloquently, “that boy would try to steal a steak off the devil’s plate.” yum.

i bring all this up because i firmly believe that sports impact the mood of a city, if not entire metropolitan areas. not only that, but i actually believe that this holds true even for those of you (us?) that don’t follow sports closely at all. the short argument is that we’re just little molecules bouncing around the environment, and we do have a profound effect on each other. i will admit that this can backfire with a victory that leads to burning shit and inciting fear, but… how bad is it really? just for perspective, Algeria advancing out of the first group stage in the World Cup led to bigger parties in the street than the Giants winning the whole damn thing.

in any case, i felt uplifted. and that’s a good way to feel when you’re packing the bare essentials (plus some select luxuries) ahead of a 10-hour drive in the pouring rain to a three-day, three-night party in the Mojave Desert.

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goddamn we look good. but that looks like it was taken on sunday.

the party didn’t start til late friday night. and friday at midnight, Nate, Arianna, Natalie, and i rolled up to the ampm at Kramer Junction (also known as “Four Corners”) to meet up with Micah, who had kindly requested to caravan with us into the party site. i hopped into his car to share company since he had driven that far all by himself. turning right here, resetting the odometer there, we cruised like we knew what we were doing, but we were definitely disoriented. oh well… it happens. i had a pretty good record from the last two desert excursions with Mark, but based on earlier experiences i still consider it tradition to get lost looking for the party. besides, drifting endlessly in the space-dark sand gave Micah and me an opportunity to catch up on our meekly human philosophizing over a couple beers. we discussed brains and space and time… what else? i also shared with him my silly idea around the u-shaped universe. he loved it!

at long last, we arrived at the party. in spite of the joy erupting from back-to-back-to-back reunions, there seemed to be an uncharacteristically somber mood in the air. we soon found out that the storm that had blanketed highway 5 in buckets of rain our whole ride down had also paid a visit to Tasty Noodles, blowing tarps through the desert, trashing computers and mixers, and generally just wreaking havoc. but the dance went on.

Nate killed it on the decks (hiding in the trailer in case of further rain) while we danced and drank deep into the night and early morning.

Tasty Noodles Halloween 2014 -- saturday sunrise

Tasty Noodles Halloween 2014 -- saturday sunrise

i’d harbored ambitions to sleep less at this desert party, but it didn’t happen. with the sun rising from its slumber and Natalie and me drunk as hell, we decided to catch some sleep.

in the “morning,” we rose motivated by bacon and prosecco. the rainy friday weather appeared to be fading away as the weatherpeople had forecasted, but busy floating clouds still blocked out the sun every five minutes, making for a marble-patterned day of bright warmth and dark wind. like we gave a shit. to stay warm, everyone just drank and drank and drank. bottles of champagne. beautiful beer on tap. i remember seeing a GoPro attached to a handle of Jameson at some point. i think that was right around the time that Natalie invited some French dude to Thanksgiving at her parents’ house in Livermore. nobody quite knew what the fuck was going on, but it was a goddamn blast. Natalie and i were dead asleep before nightfall. i think.

whatever the case, we woke up again an hour after midnight. circadian rhythm: obliterated.

i walked all groggy over to the fire and plopped down in an abandoned pile of comfy blankets and coats and things. lying down there was a cool dude from the 5Cs named West, and we spent the next half hour staring into space, pretending we could identify and name planets and constellations among the milky wash of stars glistening above us. it kind of looked like this (courtesy of Digital Dreams Photography):

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with my lovely lady at my side, would we have wallowed a bit longer in that simple, starry peace. instead, we sought to heighten our senses by each lapping up a teeny tiny square of white paper provided by my favorite Internet friend. blegh… sitting by the fire, staring into its heat, we only felt colder and colder… and then more and more nauseous by the minute. eventually we decided to return to our tent, wrapping ourselves up in the sleeping bag and each others’ skin. we warmed up but still didn’t feel great. anxiety sank deeper into our nerves, even to the point where Natalie had difficulty breathing. it was stupid. and i just blabbed and blabbed the whole time, about breathing yoga style–1 2 3 4 5–about humanity and manhood and womanhood, about the universe, about history, about Gilgamesh?!

and then sunday sun started to rise. last official day of the party.

that’s it! i proclaimed to Natalie and myself, it’s time to get out of this claustrophobic tent and breathe some desert air and absorb that stupid big star and walk around and move the blood!

though she’d been traumatized by an earlier effort to nakedly go pee in the dark cold, i eventually coaxed her out of the tent. she still wasn’t feeling great and, to be perfectly honest, neither was i. but we met up w Micah, wandered a bit, and toked on the side of a hill… which was nice.

Natalie still couldn’t deal though, so she went back to sleep. Micah and i? started drinking obviously. and there wasn’t a goddamn cloud in the sky! and these two rockstar burners from LA were doing live screenprinting with incredible designs right next to the dancefloor! and Leo, from whom only good comes, was booming the best beats! and Hamlet, a tragedy in five acts, printed on the smooth black tight ass of a desert dancer, wildly swinging her limbs in drunken exultation of everything! and a real-live breathing flopping green-glistening mermaid dragged a hundred miles away from the Pacific Ocean to our desert dance party!

Tasty. Fucking. Noodles. at its best.

the sun shone its beautiful face all day, making no apologies about the friday rain and saturday gray. it was sunday. sun. day. even once the music stopped in the late afternoon, unleashing the deafening silence on our unsuspecting ears, the dance went on. Natalie and i crossed the dry lakebed and climbed the hill opposite the party site, walking for about half an hour before feeling too tired and hot and hungover from all the partying. we settled on the side of the hill and gazed at the beauty stretching to every horizon. and then we did it. on the side of a hill. i’m just going to be perfectly candid: i wanted to last longer, but at one point i turned my head to absorb the magnificent desert view digestible at just a glance… and it was just too much.

something else that didn’t last long? our sunday consciousness. no matter how hard we fought it–if taking half a vic counts as fighting sleep–we plunged into our dreams before the light of the day had even begun to extinguish.

in the moments before dawn, we froze. according to the closest estimate i could dig up later, it had reached a low of 31°F. Natalie (the dang little devil!) had opted to wrap herself up in all her clothes, which consequently made me freeze to death because i couldn’t trade any body heat with her. i tossed and turned a bit, trying to warm up, before deciding that the best way to warm up would be moving my body. so i hopped out the tent, dressed myself up (but not too much), and started up the nearest hill toward the sun’s rising place.

upon reaching this particular hill’s summit, i scrambled atop a large boulder and sat down cross-legged just in time for the rising sun. sublime.

i believe that i am a human being, which is animal formed of dust and debris, relatively cold when compared to the fiery furnace of a star (from which our origin can be traced).

i believe that earth is mother in the most literal sense, in that we emerged from her deep blue womb to frolic free and to fight violently for precious breath for just a moment or a year or a hundred, only to inevitably return to her bosom.

i believe that sun is father–brilliant and unyielding in warm intensity, sometimes comforting but sometimes cruel and unfeeling–sower of the seeds of life in the womb of mother earth.

the edge between bliss and torment is razor thin.
the edge between life and death is razor thin.
the edge between death and life is razor thin.

ecstasy sometimes feels so good that you die.
orgasm is “le petit mort,” the little death.

living in the desert even for just a few days allows you to experience the world as our ancestors might’ve. every change in the wind is significant. you notice distinctly when a rogue cloud has managed to block out the sun, and you can predict when it will happen again. the stars rise just like the moon, just like the sun, and so they all set–celestial. you trace dippers and hunters and sisters racing across the sky, only to be blotted out by the rising chariot of the sun. the light of that star you understand as Truth because all is made clear in the day. wounds, transgressions, scars–nothing can be hidden from the sun’s endless light, riding round and round and round again.

with the sun rising millimeter by millimeter, minute by minute, i was surprised to see camp still in shadow. but i heard something… someone! a man walked around the edge of the hill i sat upon. i saw him and pretended not to know that he too saw me. after some time, he completed a hook ’round the hill to the sunside. and then he whistled!

hoo! i responded.

he turned to look at me.

hoo! i repeated.

he stared me down, then turned away.

later on it would occur to me that he was the owner of the English pointer that’d been missing since saturday. the theory was that loud techno music and firing gunshots had scared him deep into the desert, lost. i don’t blame him. thankfully, since romeo came home i can look on my hooing in the desert as bonkers nonsense cast off into nothingness instead of the brazen cackle of disregard.

done watching the sun creep ever so slowly toward my love’s icy nest, i descended down the hill. arriving at the tent, i started preparing a cheese quesadilla while Natalie stirred in the tent.

“would you like a cheese quesadilla, my love?”

“…huh? yeah.”

i brought it over to her on a little strip of toilet paper, and she accepted it thankfully. the simplest action in the early desert morning made feel like the manliest man in the universe. then i set to making my own… followed by a couple for Nate and Arianna.

peace.

giving.

love.

compassion.

. . .

25 hours later, i found myself in bumper-to-bumper tuesday morning traffic. Xanthe and i were rolling along in her VW trying to get my ass to the airport on time. she didn’t sound optimistic, but i trusted Google Maps, which told me i’d have at least an hour til departure once i stepped into the airport.

they were right.

one second you’re sitting high up on a boulder in the desert’s infinite sunrise silence, and the next you’re flying across the country in a 500 MPH metal can only to be tossed like a meaningless rag doll into the dense, dirty, dark metropolis that is New York City.

me on the NYC subway

phew.

after establishing myself at my Chinatown hotel, i rode to midtown to meet Victor and some of the NYC bros for a few rounds of beer. and some Big Game Hunter. i shot and killed a grizzly bear. in a video game. in a bar. in New York City. in Nature.

i didn’t have much in me, so i passed out pretty quick even though the little temptress Shannon was already trying to summon me…

Hotel Mulberry view 1

Hotel Mulberry view 2

Hotel Mulberry view 3

in the morning, i felt like mr. independent. showered and dressed all nice, strolled next door to my complementary breakfast, and then rode back to midtown to meet up w Victor and our next podcast guest. big ol independent professionals, using their phones, taking subways, carrying computers, drinking coffee (not me, i did tea), and just, ya know, business. communication. people. (Kraftwerk rang in my head.)

(why do i even write about work? it’s not exciting. it did happen though…)

it was cool to see our company’s NY office, which was basically one of those segmented pie slices in a big complex housing many a startup company. i recognized one of the names as a company that had participated in my previous company’s NY startup event. i’d written about them.

after a couple calls, Victor, Eli, and i grabbed a delicious lunch around the corner. butternut squash soup and grilled cheese if i remember correctly. buttery as all heck, both of em. maybe i worked a little more after lunch, maybe i didn’t. what’s important is that the marketing team went out for dinner together, and i ate 비빔밥 for the first time. that’s pronounced “bi bim bop,” a signature Korean dish served as a bowl of warm white rice topped with sautéed and seasoned vegetables, chili pepper paste, soy sauce, and a raw egg on top! ’twas splendid.

but i couldn’t concentrate. Shannon and i had plans.

The Magician

that’s the Magician, a dj Shannon had bought two tickets for before she even knew i was going to be in NY. as soon as she found out though, i was anointed her guest of honor. hell. fucking. yeah.

she met me at my hotel so we could ride under the East River together, stop in Williamsburg for a couple potions, and then on to Output, something of a Brooklyn Public Works. the differences: line around the corner. (although, to be fair, that had happened to me at PW a couple times too.) what else… the multiple levels were cool, but certainly reminiscent of PW and Mezzanine. what else… reminiscent of Monarch, the upstairs area–dubbed the “Panther Room”–had a smaller soundsystem and completely different dj playing. much chiller there. but wait, there’s more! stairs lead you above the Panther Room to an outdoor roof area, complete with its own bar, chairs, smoking area, and, of course, a stunning view of Manhattan.

after Shannon’s smoke, we descended into Output’s depths to ready ourselves for the Magician. the dance floor was already heating up, the beats were good and loud. then he arrived. and, my god, did he arrive. i had thought the opening dj was loud (a la PW or any other club in SF), but when the Magician came on, they cranked it. i mean, that bass was rattling my skull. usually i worry more about the highs damaging my hearing, but this might have been the first time that i legitimately worried that bass would just shatter my eardrums. and so, as a lover of music and intelligent human being, what did i do? i danced my fucking ass off. Shannon and i got down.

disco ball at Output NY

we danced and the dance floor got more insane and we danced and i visited the bathroom and we danced and the bass just boomed bigger and more deadly every second and… then we decided to leave. i think we lasted about 45 minutes. i mean, goddamn, the Panther Room felt like a quiet parlor after that vicious beating in the main room. but… we both enjoyed ourselves nonetheless.

cab ride back to my hotel, and we passed out.

thursday morning. hungover. customer event day. i rolled downstairs in a half daze to gobble up my hotel breakfast, and then sidled next door to see if the dry cleaner had come through in the clutch. you see, the day before i’d dropped off my coat, dress shirt, and pants in hopes that they’d be spick and span by today. the guy inside had said, “i can’t promise it will be ready in 24 hours.” i said, “why not?” he said, “sometimes they forget to bring it.” i said, “so if they don’t make a mistake, i’m good?” “yeah,” he said, “but i can’t promise that.” i said, “alright, let’s do it.” the desert had reinvorgated my confidence in the human race. delivery dude wouldn’t make a mistake, i’d reasoned w myself, it’s his job. and, lo and behold, my clothes were ready!

mr. independent showered and dressed extra nice, grabbed a complementary hotel umbrella on the way out, and strolled down the rainy sidewalk in search of a cab, which i found just a couple blocks away. it was really coming down and we had to drive down Broadway… but the event wasn’t so far. somewhere near wall st, i think. wall st, umbrella, free rides, big buildings, busy people… i definitely felt spiffy.

spiffy me

we all hate the 1% until we become the 1%.

though i’m not super excited about what i do anymore, i must admit that it actually inspired me seeing how real and passionately our customers in the room conversed with each other. it didn’t sound fake. it felt like they were talking about their own work in very real terms and talking about how our product helps them do their work. and what else they’d need to make their work even more efficient. it was… kinda cool.

but, you know, one can only sit inside a rainy wall st. building for so long before craving a slice of pizza.

on the recommendation of another coworker, Eli and i strolled through the financial district to adrienne’s pizzabar. nobody was there except for the staff, which made us realize how early it was. oh well. who cares? we both ordered manhattans (duh) and then a big ol pizza to split down the middle. when the pizza came, it filled an entire cookie sheet. and yes, we killed it. and no, it was not the best pizza in the world. that would come later and it would cost a fifth of the price of adrienne’s. oh well, great pizza, good pizza, bad pizza, terrible pizza–it’s all good.

i could almost taste the weekend… which might be due to the fact that i’d been drinking like a fish for six days straight.

Eli and i lingered outside the customer cocktail party for a bit in hopes that we could share some post-event drinks w our coworkers, but after awhile we split up to our respective hotels. fat, full of pizza and whiskey, i almost passed out in my bed. then Shannon knocked. temptress.

she had decided awhile ago that i was to accompany on her thursday night ritual. first, we strolled down to a divey bar on whatever street, but not before running into one of her friends, Pony, one of the djs at her thursday night hot spot. but first, as i was saying, we dived. in the nothing bar on a nothing alley, we sipped on whiskey and other things. girl it ain’t no lie, baby rye rye rye. (rye rye.)

yeah, it was time to get a move on. (drinking & chatting with Shannon too easy.) we rolled a few blocks down to Macao.

Ma-fucking-cao.

when you first enter through its ground level area, you may feel skeptical–it’s big and maybe a bit too classy, or at least trying to be. but then you follow your strange party leader around a u-turn and then straight downstairs, and you actually don’t know what to think because you’re in a basement room a fifth of the size of the upstairs. and it’s completely crowded, no room at the bar, dj bumping house music, party freaks billowing around, and… are those people eating? what time is it?

of course, you only have a moment to compute all this because a split second later a black dude about your age at the bottom of the stairs freaks out because he’s your bun twin. like, what? we chatted and chatted, and Shannon the Temptress smiled her little knowing smile. you leave your bun twin behind and meet a few of Shannon’s weekly friends. then to the bar.

it’s dark, perhaps tinted red, like an opium den. two bartenders, ten feet of bar space: it’s not much, but you wait patiently because there’s a myriad of drinks to choose from and the house music coming from the cute Asian girl on the decks is not half bad. you order something fancy and expensive, and then start chatting with a girl nearby (is she a friend of Shannon’s?). at some point she’s grilling you on “WHY” you’re walking across the country more than you’ve ever been grilled before, but then at another point she’s insisting that you try dry shampoo, the greatest thing ever. and then you all start dancing.

dancing, dancing, dancing. ordering more drinks and dancing, dancing, dancing. Vicky gets off the decks at some point, replaced by Pony. and the music is endlessly wonderful. Pony’s even accompanied by a friend who blows out live saxophone alongside the house beats, and you wonder how you’ve never experienced anything like that before.

super-curly-headed girl keeps looking your way. when you smile at her, she looks away. a dance partner would be nice, you think, so at some point you step up to her and say, “let’s dance!” holding hands, she leans toward your ear and says, “i have a boyfriend!” “i have a girlfriend,” you say right back, and then you dance. later, you find out she’s from Tel Aviv, visiting NY easily w flight attendant perks. she’s so cool and pretty and you wonder once again what it is about the Mediterranean and Arabian seas that turns your mind and body to golden dust.

good people, good drinks, good music, good dancing… my god, what a blast.

Macao art 1

Macao art 2

Macao art 3

and then i woke up. friday morning. a piece of shit. somehow, i opened my eyes. somehow, i rose from bed. somehow, i floated down to my complementary breakfast. (the little old Chinese lady that ran the place asked me if i had gotten in a fight, that’s how pretty i looked.) somehow, i showered and dressed. and somehow, i made it to the office. (i almost stalled in union square when an old black man asked me if i’d like to play a game of chess. i wanted to, but i knew my mind’s limits in that moment.)

coffee, and i shat around all day. tried to breathe. drank water. looked at facebook. listened to music. told jokes to coworkers. tried to function. etc. etc. etc.

freedom, finally. i grabbed all my things, bid adieu to my east coast colleagues, and rode to Brooklyn, to east Williamsburgish (near Greenpoint, i think?), to Gracie’s house. Gracie, aka Mama Grace, helped our lovely little lady Tina move to Brooklyn a month or two ago since i wasn’t going to be able to take care of her in 2015. also, Tina was just kinda over the San Francisco scene. when i stepped into Gracie’s room and extended my hand, Tina rubbed her face all over it instantly. i think she remembered me!

my only photo w Tina in NY

Ophelia

i also officially met Ophelia, Tina’s roommate, who i’d previously met on my last NY trip. (though it took Gracie’s saying so for me to remember her.)

though Gracie’s stomach wasn’t feeling super great, it worked out for the kind of night i wanted: slow, simple, chill. she led the blustery, cold way to a dope little Korean spot near her house. it was perfect. i treated us to a nice little dinner: she had soju, miso soup, and edamame (hesitantly eating due to her stomach) while i sipped sake and munched down Korean tacos full of mushrooms and fish. so bomb. one day i’ll go back for their bibimbop.

after dinner, we returned to her place to drink and smoke with her roommates and our friends trickling into the tiny living room. i’d suggested Fernet, both for her stomach and for my SF parochialism. but there was also gin floating around. Elise came over and i learned all about her video project, telling the story of whale hunters in Scandinavia, and how, they’re not really as bad as the people that go eat at KFC every day. interesting stuff.

though a similar concept, this isn’t the project we discussed, but Elise produced it… and it’s awesome:

nice and marinated, our party of 10 or so strolled over to a shitty dive bar nearby. it literally looked like it belonged in the middle of nowhere, Idaho. just a front door, a long spacious bar, and a room adjacent with a dj, dance floor, and something of a soundsystem. the guy on deck was cutting up hip hop classics–and that’s exactly why we’d come. we all picked up some whiskey and then became the first people to get on the floor. it was rad; this guy was playing a bunch of hits but also some lesser-known cuts, the perfect formula to keep us all grooving. and then, all of a sudden, he unplugged the cord–silence–passed the cord to the next dj, who plugged it into his computer, and started bumping house music.

what. the. fuck?

that killed the mood, to state the obvious, so Gracie and her crew bounced soon after. i lingered awhile w Shannon because i’d told a couple friends to meet us there, but once they arrived we went back to Gracie’s too…. where we drank… and smoked… and drank some more. then everyone bounced, and i crashed w Tina and Gracie.

the next morning, i remembered Tina Sunrise, who’s a bit louder and energetic than her pre-sleep counterpart, Tina Sunset.

mew.

meow.

meeeeow!

MEOWWWWWWWWWWW!!

“open the door,” said groggy Gracie. so i did, and out went Tina. classic.

sadly, Mama Grace still wasn’t feeling well, so she’d made plans to see a doctor or somebody else that might know a thing or two about healing stomachs. i didn’t know what to tell her except, “thank you for being such a good mama to Tina and thank you for letting me spend the night and i hope you get well.”

after she left, i dressed, schlepped my travel stuffs, and ventured out the door w Kraftwerk’s Trans-Europe Express in my ears. i hadn’t seen Tina since she meowed her way out the house, and i never saw her again on the trip; funny little critter was probably up to no good in her little slice of Brooklyn hood.

like the TEE, i cruised silently and serene south towards Tori’s apartment in Bushwick. after taxiing and subwaying around Manhattan like a showroom dummy, strolling through Brooklyn’s relatively quiet streets felt mild. financiers & artists, neat asphalt & trashy sidewalks, caterpillars of car traffic & lonely roads. it’s like SF v Oaktown, but to a greater degree.

and then… Tori. beautiful fucking Tori.

chillin w Tori in Bushwick

it’s truly wonderful how we slip into each other like thunderstorms carving mountains into rivers into oceans and back again, a pitch black rhythmic whatever of love.

i showered at her place, dressed, and then rolled out with her and her new roommate, Andrew C. yeah, he’s an old friend from Serra, which i guess isn’t that weird but still surprised me. shifting contexts. time. etc. the three of us took a bus (!) to this little shitty diner, which is exactly where i like to eat my city breakfast. endless coffee and the works. before heading home, we stopped at a “vendors’ market,” a phrase i swore to be a bit redundant, where i ended up purchasing that quartz necklace for my love back home.

back at Tori’s apartment, the two of us smoked a spliff. it was nice. relaxing. soothing. sleepy. though certainly on the upswing, i realized that i still hadn’t fully recovered from my midweek partying w Shannon in the city, so i lay down on Tori’s bed and tried napping. usually i fall asleep instantly, but maybe i was too stoned this time. restless, tossing and turning, door open to the living room letting in Motown and other 50s, 60s soul, i eventually texted my love back and forth and back and forth. though it felt like a real-time conversation while it was happening, when i got out of bed later, i noticed that there were some pretty big gaps between our messages’ timestamps. so at one point, a 45-minute window had felt like me blinking a couple times. maybe i had napped! time-conscious-weirdness happening.

back in the living room, i praised Tori for her old-school playlist. then Andrew took control to play some music by his friend Mawkus, who had crafted shit like this:

i was in love. and he had a show that night. well, maybe we’ll go, we all thought.

but first! pizza. dirt cheap $2 plain (that means cheese) pizza and the best i’ve ever had in my life. at long last, New York City in my mouth. meow meow meow.

then… the whole itinerary. Tori led the way down Bushwick sidewalks to Mellow Pages, an independently-run library and reading room bursting at the seams with the best in poetry and philosophy, as far as i could tell. with big bottles of beer in hand from a store across the street, Tori and i listened to an hour of poetry readings. the first girl here was the night’s MC and the other five were the poets:

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gay boy in the striped shirt was my favorite.

after listening to the fifth and final reader, Tori and i wandered back into the night. next stop? The Living Gallery, a small but spacious art gallery-turned-music venue for the evening. again, we brought in beer from the nearest liquor store, and sipped sipped sipped while watching three or four punk rock bands. by this point we’d met up w Andrew along with a bunch of Tori’s other friends. and the night was still just getting started.

against Tori’s highest hopes, we crossed the street to some bar where the dj was bumping out some choice reggae and hip hop. already sufficiently lubricated, i went up to him and said, how about you throw me some Sister Nancy? “it’s coming!” he said. i should’ve known…

bam bam…

ay what a bam bam…

bam bam dilla! bam bam.

i was grooving. everyone was feeling it too, and ready to dance. so, again, against Tori’s highest hopes, we all hopped in a fat taxi van across town to a bar club in Crown Heights called Friends and Lovers, where their friend Mawkus was playing.

my first impression, after i attempted offering a card to the bartender and hearing in response a disdainful “we don’t do cash,” was that the place sucked. but a couple hours later, that was the only drink i’d had there and i was still having a blast. so guess what i’d been doing? DANCING.

Mawkus and Tara (the beautiful black dj goddess he took turns with) killed it. they were spinning a medley of classics, throwbacks, and hot cuts like i’d heard the night before, except the crowd was moving, the soundsystem was bumping, and the beats were just lush. everyone was having a good time… except i increasingly noted how the girls we were with were being hunted down by guys on the outer edge of the circle. the same guys would come back over and over and over trying to grab this girl’s hand or that one’s waist, almost making them run away around me or Andrew or each other. this one guy almost convinced a girl to dance with him, but then drunkass Tori got in between them, flailing her arms and smile around like the crazy white girl she is. a minute or two later, the same guy came with backup to keep Tori out of the way. it didn’t work. i laughed and danced at the entire scene.

“shark tank,” one of Tori’s friend called it. then i asked to be a shark: “can we dance?” “sure.” it’s as easy as that, fellas. can we stop being dicks? and just forcing our dicks everywhere? dicks!

for me, however, nights in New York do end. Tori and i grabbed a cab, collapsed into bed, and sleeeeeeeeeped.

photo 5

in the morning, i kept on moving. showered, dressed–the same old game–and walked to catch the next train into the city. funnily enough, one of the ladies i was to meet in Manhattan–Sparks–was boarding from the exact same Bushwick subway station as me. crazy coincidence, and my second time running into her in New York in one week. how does that even happen?

we cruised to an underground brunch place in Manhattan where we found pretty miss Maddy. it was a chill morning of catching up over coffee and fancy brunch dishes. after the meal, we walked around NYU, and then the three of us bid adieu.

truly, i was on my own. truly, i had no plans. truly, i didn’t really need that guy in the park to kick my ass so badly at chess. but maybe i felt bad about not having the $2 to pay him for my loss. truly, i didn’t need to stroll into a jeans shop where there were five people working and zero people shopping, except for me. one guy comes over saying, “can i tell you a story about denim?” i look around and realize i have no choice. “well, first of all, let me tell you that there’s a big difference between denim and denim,” the latter obviously referring to his $200+ pieces of fabric hanging from the rack. as soon as he left me by myself, i darted for the door. i wonder if they survive on making people feel uncomfortable? perhaps they thrive?

i walked and walked and walked, ultimately deciding to walk all the way back to Bushwick, a 5-mile endeavor. the Williamsburg Bridge, drenched in colors, inspired me:

go home, hipster scum, said the spray-painted asphalt on the Williamsburg Bridge, a message among millions in technicolor scribbles, scrawls, stencils penciling in a perfect spectrum from wisdom to stupidity. you go on, strange wayfarer in the gray-painted city that hasn’t lasted an eternity and never will. deep in time it is already ruins, gorgeous ruins, and brilliant but bewildered scholars across the globe fantasize about the mystery behind skyscraping steel structures aligned w the sun. the druids of wall st, one might hypothesize, embraced a life of fear instead of love, silly bald apes scampering underfoot from dark bar to dark club, exploded gallery to comfy bookworms’ nook, an endless race of money, mind, mechanical drugs. but perhaps not–perhaps there is love in the city as there is life in the desert–swarming silently like large ants in the sand, like mice rushing from brush to brush, or like lizards basking on boulders, disinterested in shade, and when inevitable shade comes, the vast black shadow of mother earth, the little love that lives there beats in adagio–but it does beat–a psychically-affected streetlight breathes in as you approach and then is extinguished w you.

Bushwick, Mellow Pages, Tori, pizza, Elise, coffee, etc etc etc. today is Sat Nov 29 but time is.

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selections from I Was a Robot by Wolfgang Flür

To echo Brian Wilson’s words, “Don’t forget that our music has always been made out of love for you.” (12)

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What makes me happy? Many search for happiness in a binding partnership, sticking so closely to another person because life terrifies them so much that they always need someone to hold onto when they are living it. (14)

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“There are millions of people yearning for immortality who don’t know what to do on a rainy Sunday afternoon.” — Maurice Chevalier (17)

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When I die, my paradise will have passed, and then I shall be sad that I may no longer be able to give or experience happiness. It must be terrible not to feel colour, to taste light, to catch aromas, to stroke someone’s skin and to enjoy voices or sounds. (21)

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I began to be fascinated by everything that rings or resounds at the tender age of four. I tapped, knocked and patted every kind of material that came into my hands to find out the sound that it made. (24)

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In any case, Mother wore the trousers in our family, and I can still see her before me in her elegant dresses or painting her fingernails. I would watch her secretly through the keyhole as she put on her sexy underwear, which I sometimes slipped on myself when she wasn’t there. The scraps of silk felt wonderfully smooth and cool against my skin, and I would twirl enthusiastically in front of the mirror, observing myself from all angles. (26)

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In the late-afternoon twilight of the church vault, and in the sight of the ruby-red eternal light on the high altar, I once saw a woman turn the tissue pages of her small, gold-edged prayer book. She did it so gently, delicately moistening her middle finger on the tip of her tongue, that the gentle rustling of the wafer-thin pages sent an appreciative shiver down my spin and gave me an erection. (30)

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One miserable Saturday afternoon in November 1965, bored and frustrated in the living room of our rarely empty apartment, I heard a song on BFBS by The Who. At 16 years old and in the middle of puberty, I was masturbating in the hope of forcing some excitement from the grey day as I heard the lyrics stutter from the radio, constantly attempting the words “my g-g-g-generation”. Not realising that the song would become the most significant teenage anthem of all time, I sprayed my sperm with liberating relief in an arc across my parents’ fine rococo sofa, on which I was sitting with my trousers around my ankles, deeply moved by the song and moaning from youthful mischief. It was incomprehensible to me that stutters were even allowed into the recording studios, let alone that their speaking exercises were broadcast, so this revolutionary song shattered everything that I had regarded as good pop music up until then. (35)

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We flew to Berlin, with our electronic drum board, on a British Airways plane. It was the first time that I had travelled by plane, and I felt very uncomfortable during the flight. I’m not an overanxious type of man, but I was asking myself during the flight if we weren’t provoking nature too much with this most unnatural means of locomotion. You always sit on large quantities of fuel, and you allow yourself to be shot to the edge of the stratosphere by jet engines. You’re sitting in excruciatingly restricting seats in the artificial climate of a fragile pressure chamber with a thin aluminum skin. It’s very uncomfortable for both the ears and the blood pressure. I’ll never understand people who like this torture. Then there are the hot exhaust gases that jets blow into the atmosphere. Give me the train any day. You can stroll around and eat a good meal in the restaurant car. You can sit comfortably in wide seats while the view outside alternates between green landscapes, modern cities, romantic villages and glittering industrial plants. On a train you see and experience something. The journey lasts longer, but I’ve always liked things to last longer. I’ve never really ever been in a hurry. Even as a child, dreaming and dawdling were my favorite occupations. (65)

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During the tour, Günter took an another responsibility. Because he was very good-looking, and because he was also onstage immediately after our concerts, supervising the dismantling of the equipment, he often attracted crowds of female fans in his wake. He was our contact with our fans. He would often smuggle girls back into our dressing room, if they told him which one of us they wanted to meet. Because he knew our individual tastes in women, he also separated the wheat from the chaff, and would only smuggle back those girls who seemed interesting or attractive enough. It sounds unbelievable, but even an electronic band like us was often pursued by female fans. (179)

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I was quite a good-looking young man then, and I’d already had many advances from men, but I’d never accepted any because I was simply more interested in girls. (182)

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I was very interested in Japanese girls, who were delicate and often very beautiful. You only had to point to the woman of your choice and she would come to your room to spend the most wonderful and imaginative night of love. So as far as love was concerned our needs were well catered for in Japan, although the others weren’t as active as me. But as far as the vivacity and the imagination of Japanese women is concerned, my politeness as a drummer will keep me silent. (201)

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Saturday finally came. Both of our concerts were scheduled to take place in the evening, one straight after the other in the old hall, where they held traditional sitar concerts during the day. Florian had looked in there once. Apparently, the concert he’d seen there had lasted for the entire day, with individual musicians being replaced with others from time to time. This continuous rhythmical accompaniment was mesmerising. Members of the audience also left the hall on occasion, to be replaced by newcomers. The music didn’t stop and start at the beginning again at any time but changed continually over the course of the day as other musicians joined the group. It was, in effect, a non-stop concert. It sounded interesting. (217)

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To this day, I enjoy walking along the river, and I love being able to walk long stretches freely and without obstruction. It’s a great opportunity to think, to dream and to whistle new melodies, which I record on my pocket recorder so that I don’t forget them. (229)

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There were even some who were saying, “They can only do what they’re doing because they have the cash. Everything’s just computers.”

If only they’d know how ignorant that was; if only they’d been able to imagine how stupid computers really are. In fact, you have to have music in your heart and rhythm in your blood, or at least nonsense in your head, or the computer or synthesiser can’t do a thing. Ultimately, it needs to be fed something. If you haven’t got anything to enter into the machine, you can hardly expect to have anything decent coming out of the cables at the back.

People actually thought — and I think there are still people like that today — that you need only buy a computer to land a hit. In fact, some guy grilled me about this just recently. “Wolfgang,” he said, “What would I have to get in order to make music as beautiful as yours?”

And you know what I answered? I advised him, “You don’t have to get yourself anything in the first place. If you have to have anything at all, you must have the urge to express something. You just have to feel that you have something to say. The best thing is to go for a walk and whistle tunes, if you have any, even if, like me, you haven’t got a musical instrument. If you like your tunes and it fills you with passion to do something like that, just buy a cheap Casio for using at home or a really small Roland first. If you then get enthusiastic about what you’ve keyed into your sequencer, even if it’s just with a one-finger technique, you could eventually get yourself a computer with a simple program for composing music, such as Cubase or something just as simple. Everything is a matter of taste; it’s a desire to be inventive and to get to know your machine. And if you can write stories and perhaps poems, too, that’s a hell of an advantage. Just write a rhyme and sing it. The melody usually just comes automatically when you speak the rhyme.” (234-5)

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The more equipment Ralf and Florian bought, the more they had to worry about the operating instructions. The sad result was that they seemed to read more than they made music. (236)

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Rebecca Allen was actually the only woman who was ever allowed to enter the Kling Klang Studio, and only then for commercial and artistic reasons. Even our girlfriends weren’t allowed in, let alone members of our families. Only a very close circle of male friends had the honour of being allowed to visit us, and even then no musicians from other bands. (239)

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Wer zweimal mit dem gleichen pennt gehört schon zum Establishment.” (“Anyone who sleeps with the same person twice already belongs to the establishment.”) (242)

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However, some other unusual things I like less. One such episode occurred in 1982 with a certain Afrika Bambaataa (whom I prefer to call “Bambus”), who released an album called Planet Rock with a gentleman by the name of Arthur Baker. The pair put together a hip-hop rap album on which they mixed parts of ‘Numbers’ and ‘Trans Europe Express’ for a single release, turning out an American-style piece of music. They didn’t even ask in the first place whether Kraftwerk was in agreement with this, let alone pay for the use of the samples. This is the nastiest kind of theft!

Since the introduction of sampling technology, this has happened on a daily basis in the music industry. Artists are continually robbed of their intellectual property. It’s impossible to take something like that lying down. (247)

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To my ears, the whole orgy of remixing and releasing cover versions that has spread like a plague through the entire music industry since 1982 is mostly detrimental rubbish. When I see a television advertisement accompanied by parts of George Gershwin’s melody from ‘An American In Paris’ which has been disrespectfully cut and patched together, it makes my flesh creep. Unfortunately, such tasteless faux pas are endemic. As I write, remixes and cover versions of famous songs from every decade are polluting the airwaves. (249)

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In 1989, I was eventually able to reach Ralf on the telephone in his flat. “Hello Ralf,” I said. “It’s Wolfgang. Can we meet sometime and have a good long talk?”

Ralf answered, “Wolfgang? Which Wolfgang? I don’t know any Wolfgang!” And then he cut me off. That hit me hard. (252)

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So that was all he could say about Karl and me, after 16 years of passion and collaboration. We were nothing more than disposable robots to him. (255)

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an Elizabethan sonnet celebrating two years of Natalie

to wander aimless under desert skies
as infinite in sand as infinite
in stars, would be a blessing in disguise
were wet oasis of your love in it.

to dive in freezing undertow of sea,
enmeshed with salt and animals and things,
would waken deep the hidden warmth in me
were sharks your teeth and diving terns your wings.

to sit still, solemn, and serene upon
a boulder high to trace the solar race
would purify my shrouded soul if sun
were your eye’s light all darkness to erase.

deserts, beaches, sunsets are twinned in beauty—
for whom my love burns brightest—you only.

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selections from Arcadia by Tom Stoppard

ACT ONE

theodolite (n.)
a surveying instrument with a rotating telescope for measuring horizontal and vertical angles.
Elsewhere on the table there is an old-fashioned theodolite and also some other books stacked up. (1)

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THOMASINA: Septimus, what is carnal embrace?

SEPTIMUS: Carnal embrace is the practice of throwing one’s arms around a side of beef.

THOMASINA: Is that all?

SEPTIMUS: No . . . a shoulder of mutton, a haunch of venison well hugged, an embrace of grouse . . . caro, carnis; feminine; flesh. (1)

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THOMASINA: If you do not teach me the true meaning of things, who will?

SEPTIMUS: Ah. Yes, I am ashamed. Carnal embrace is sexual congress, which is the insertion of the male genital organ into the female genital organ for purposes of procreation and pleasure. Fermat’s last theorem, by contrast, asserts that when x, y and z are whole numbers each raised to power of n, the sum of the first two can never equal the third when n is greater than 2.

(Pause.)

THOMASINA: Eurghhh!

SEPTIMUS: Nevertheless, that is the theorem.

THOMASINA: It is disgusting and incomprehensible. Now when I am grown to practise it myself I shall never do without thinking of you.

SEPTIMUS: Thank you very much, my lady. Was Mrs Chater down this morning?

THOMASINA: No. Tell me more about sexual congress.

SEPTIMUS: There is nothing more to be said about sexual congress.

THOMASINA: Is it the same as love?

SEPTIMUS: Oh no, it is much nicer than that. (3-4)

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SEPTIMUS: ‘If everything from the furthest planet to the smallest atom of our brain acts according to Newton’s law of motion, what becomes of free will?’ (5)

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SEPTIMUS: Now, sir, what is this business that cannot wait?

CHATER: I think you know it, sir. You have insulted my wife.

SEPTIMUS: Insulted her? That would deny my nature, my conduct, and the admiration in which I hold Mrs Chater.

CHATER: I have heard of your admiration, sir! You insulted my wife in the gazebo yesterday evening!

SEPTIMUS: You are mistake. I made love to your wife in the gazebo. (6)

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LADY CROOM: In short, it is nature as God intended, and I can say with the painter, ‘Et in Arcadia ego!’ ‘Here I am in Arcadia.’ (12)

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THOMASINA: Regina reclinabat . . . the queen — was reclining — praeter descriptionem — indescribably — in a golden tent . . . like Venus and yet more —

SEPTIMUS: Try to put some poetry into it.

THOMASINA: How can I if there is none in the Latin?

SEPTIMUS: Oh, a critic! (35-6)

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THOMASINA: God’s truth, Septimus, if there is an equation for a curve like a bell, there must be an equation for one like a bluebell, and if a bluebell, why not a rose? Do we believe nature is written in numbers?

SEPTIMUS: We do.

THOMASINA: Then why do your equations only describe the shapes of manufacture?

SEPTIMUS: I do not know.

THOMASINA: Armed thus, God could only make a cabinet.

SEPTIMUS: He has mastery of equations which lead into infinities where we cannot follow. (37)

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SEPTIMUS: (Firmly) Back to Cleopatra.

THOMASINA: Is it Cleopatra? — I hate Cleopatra!

SEPTIMUS: You hate her? Why?

THOMASINA: Everything is turned to love with her. New love, absent love, lost love — I never knew a heroine that makes such noodles of our sex. It only needs a Roman general to drop anchor outside the window and away goes the empire like a christening mug into a pawn shop. If Queen Elizabeth had been a Ptolemy history would have been quite different — we would be admiring the pyramids of Rome and the great Sphinx of Verona.

SEPTIMUS: God save us.

THOMASINA: But instead, the Egyptian noodle made carnal embrace with the enemy who burned the great library of Alexandria without so much as a fine for all that is overdue. Oh, Septimus! — can you bear it? All the last plays of the Athenians! Two hundred at least by Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides — thousands of poems — Aristotle’s own library brought to Egypt by the noodle’s ancestors! How can we sleep for grief?

SEPTIMUS: By counting our stock. Seven plays from Aeschylus, seven from Sophocles, nineteen from Euripides, my lady! You should no more grieve for the rest than for a buckle lost from your first shoe, or for your lesson book which will be lost when you are old. We shed as we pick up, like travellers who must carry everything in their arms, and what we let fall will be picked up by those behind. The procession is very long and life is very short. We die on the march. But there is nothing outside the march so nothing can be lost to it. The missing plays of Sophocles will turn up piece by piece, or be written again in another language. Ancient cures for diseases will reveal themselves once more. Mathematical discoveries glimpsed and lost to view will have their time again. You do not suppose, my lady, that if all of Archimedes had been hiding in the great library of Alexandria, we would be at a loss for a corkscrew? I have no doubt that the improved steam-driven heat-engine which puts Mr Noakes into an ecstasy that he and it and the modern age should all coincide, was described on papyrus. Steam and brass were not invented in Glasgow. (38-9)

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VALENTINE: When your Thomasina was doing maths it had been the same maths for a couple of thousand years. Classical. And for a century after Thomasina. Then maths left the real world behind, just like modern art, really. Nature was classical, maths was suddenly Picassos. But now nature is having the last laugh. The freaky stuff is turning out to be the mathematics of the natural world. (44-5)

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VALENTINE: The unpredictable and the predetermined unfold together to make everything the way it is. It’s how nature creates itself, on every scale, the snowflake and the snowstorm. It makes me so happy. To be at the beginning again, knowing almost nothing. People were talking about the end of physics. Relativity and quantum looked as if they were going to clean out the whole problem between them. A theory of everything. But they old explained the very big and the very small. The universe, the elementary particles. The ordinary-sized stuff which is our lives, the things people write poetry about — clouds — daffodils — waterfalls — and what happens in a cup of coffee when the cream goes in — these things are full of mystery, as mysterious to us as the heavens were to the Greeks. We’re better at predicting events at the edge of the galaxy or inside the nucleus of an atom than whether it’ll rain on auntie’s garden party three Sundays from now. Because the problem turns out to be different. We can’t even predict the next drip from a dripping tap when it gets irregular. Each drip sets up the conditions for the next, the smallest variation blows prediction apart, and the weather is unpredictable the same way, will always be unpredictable. When you push the numbers through the computer you can see it on the screen. The future is disorder. A door like this has cracked open five or six times since we got up on our hind legs. It’s the best possible time to be alive, when almost everything you thought you know is wrong. (48)

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ACT TWO

BERNARD: Where was I?

VALENTINE: Pigeons.

CHLOË: Sex.

HANNAH: Literature.

BERNARD. Life and death. Right. (55)

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HANNAH: Don’t let Bernard get to you. It’s only performance art, you know. Rhetoric. they used to teach it in ancient times, like PT. It’s not about being right, they had philosophy for that. Rhetoric was their chat show. Bernard’s indignation is a sort of aerobics for when he gets on television. (65)

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HANNAH: (Nods) Is there anything in it?

VALENTINE: In what? We are all doomed? (Casually.) Oh yes, sure — it’s called the second law of thermodynamics. (55)

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LADY CROOM: It is a defect of God’s humour that he directs our hearts everywhere but to those who have a right to them. (71)

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CHLOË: ‘Even in Arcadia — Sex, Literature and Death at Sidley Park’. Picture of Byron.

VALENTINE: Not of Bernard?

CHLOË: ‘Byron Fought Fatal Duel, Says Don’ . . . Valentine, do you think I’m the first person to think of this?

VALENTINE: No.

CHLOË: I haven’t said yet. The future is all programmed like a computer — that’s a proper theory, isn’t it?

VALENTINE: The deterministic universe, yes.

CHLOË: Right. Because everything including us is just a lot of atoms bouncing off each other like billiard balls.

VALENTINE: Yes. There was someone, forget his name, 1820s, who pointed out that from Newton’s laws you could predict everything to come — I mean, you’d need a computer as big as the universe but the formula would exist.

CHLOË: But it doesn’t work, does it?

VALENTINE: No. It turns out the maths is different.

CHLOË: No, it’s all because of sex.

VALENTINE: Really?

CHLOË: That’s what I think. The universe is deterministic all right, just like Newton said, I mean it’s trying to be, but the only things going wrong is people fancying people who aren’t supposed to be in that part of the plan.

VALENTINE: Ah. The attraction that Newton left out. All the way back to the apple in the garden. Yes. (Pause.) Yes, I think you’re the first person to think of this. (73-4)

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HANNAH: The most important thing is not to give two monkeys for what young people think about you. (74)

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HANNAH: Oh, that. It’s all trivial — your grouse, my hermit, Bernard’s Byron. Comparing what we’re looking for misses the point. It’s wanting to know that makes us matter. Otherwise we’re going out the way we came in. That’s why you can’t believe in the afterlife, Valentine. Believe in the after, by all means, but not the life. Believe in God, the soul, the spirit, the infinite, believe in angels if you like, but not in the great celestial get-together for an exchange of views. If the answers are in the back of the book I can wait, but what a drag. Better to struggle on knowing that failure is final. (75-6)

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VALENTINE: Well, it is odd. Heat goes to cold. It’s a one-way street. Your tea will end up at room temperature. What’s happening to your tea is happening to everything everywhere. The sun and the stars. It’ll take a while but we’re all going to end up at room temperature. (78)

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how i voted in the November 4, 2014, General Election

GOVERNOR: Jerry Brown
LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: Gavin Newsom
SECRETARY OF STATE: Alex Padilla
CONTROLLER: Ashley Swearengin
TREASURER: John Chiang
ATTORNEY GENERAL: Ronald Gold
INSURANCE COMMISSIONER: Dave Jones
MEMBER, STATE BOARD OF EQUALIZATION, DISTRICT 2: Fiona Ma
UNITED STATES REPRESENTATIVE: Jackie Speier
MEMBER OF THE STATE ASSEMBLY: Phil Ting
YES TO ALL JUDGES EXCEPT: Kathryn Mickle Werdegar
JUDGE OF THE SUPERIOR COURT, OFFICE NO. 20: Carol Kingsley
SUPERINTENDENT OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTION: Marshall Tuck
BART DIRECTOR: Nick Josefowitz

PROP 1: No
PROP 2: Yes
PROP 45: Yes
PROP 46: No
PROP 47: Yes
PROP 48: Yes

PROP A: Yes
PROP B: Yes
PROP C: Yes
PROP D: No
PROP E: Yes
PROP F: Yes
PROP G: Yes
PROP H: Yes
PROP I: No
PROP J: Yes
PROP K: Yes
PROP L: No

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selections from the second volume of Parerga and Paralipomena by Arthur Schopenhauer

ON THE SUFFERING OF THE WORLD

If the immediate and direct purpose of our life is not suffering then our existence is the most ill-adapted to its purpose in the world: for it is absurd to suppose that the endless affliction of which the world is everywhere full, and which arises out of the need and distress pertaining essentially to life, should be purposeless and purely accidental. Each individual misfortune, to be sure, seems an exceptional occurrence; but misfortune in general is the rule. (41)

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The most effective consolation in every misfortune and every affliction is to observe others who are more unfortunate than we: and everyone can do this. But what does that say for the condition of the whole? (42)

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infusoria (pl. n. Zoology, dated)
single-celled organisms of the former class Infusoria, which consisted mainly of ciliate protozoans.
On the other hand, every animal, even an infusorium, suffers pain, because knowledge, however imperfect, is the true characteristic of animality. (46)

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‘Today it is bad, and day by day it will get worse — until at last the worst of all arrives.’ (47)

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For the world is Hell, and men are on the one hand the tormented souls and on the other the devils in it. (48)

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Even if Leibniz’s demonstration that this is the best of all possible worlds were correct, it would still not be a vindication of divine providence. For the Creator created not only the world, he also created possibility itself: therefore he should have created the possibility of a better world than this one. (48)

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ON THE VANITY OF EXISTENCE

Time is that by virtue of which everything becomes nothingness in our hands and loses all real value. (51)

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To our amazement we suddenly exist, after having for countless millennia not existed; in a short while we will again not exist, also for countless millennia. That cannot be right, says the heart. (51)

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Yet what a difference there is between our beginning and our end! We begin in the madness of carnal desire and the transport of voluptuousness, we end in the dissolution of all our parts and the musty stench of corpses. And the road from one to the other too goes, in regard to our well-being and enjoyment of life, steadily downhill: happily dreaming childhood, exultant youth, toil-filled years of manhood, infirm and often wretched old age, the torment of the last illness and finally the throes of death — does it not look as if existence were an error the consequences of which gradually grow more and more manifest? (54)

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ON THE ANTITHESIS OF THING IN ITSELF AND APPEARANCE

superficies (n. archaic)
a surface; an outward part or appearance.
But that this surface presupposes an interior which is not merely superficies but possesses cubic content is, together with deductions as to the character of this interior, the theme of metaphysics. (55)

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stereometry (n. Geometry)
the measurement of solid bodies.
To seek to construe the nature of things in themselves according to the laws of appearance is an undertaking to be compared with seeking to construe stereometric bodies out of superficies and the laws that apply to them. (55)

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It is obvious that an animal possesses intellect only for the purpose of discovering and capturing its food; the degree of intellect it possesses is determined by this purpose. It is no different in the case of man. (59)

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ON AFFIRMATION AND DENIAL OF THE WILL TO LIVE

Unjust or wicked actions are, in regard to him who performs them, signs of the strength of his affirmation of the will to live, and thus of how far he still is from true salvation, which is denial of this will, and from redemption from the world; they are also signs of how long a schooling in knowledge and suffering he still has to undergo before he can attain it. In regard to him who has to suffer these actions, however, although physically they are an evil, metaphysically they are a good and fundamentally beneficial, since they assist him along the road to his true salvation. (65)

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ON THE INDESTRUCTIBILITY OF OUR ESSENTIAL BEING BY DEATH

If, in everyday life, you are asked about continued existence after death by one of those people who would like to know everything but refuse to learn anything, the most appropriate and approximately correct reply is: ‘After your death you will be what you were before your birth.’ (67)

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How can one believe that when a human being dies a thing in itself has come to nothing? Mankind knows, directly and intuitively, that when this happens it is only a phenomenon coming to an end in time, the form of all phenomena, without the thing in itself being affected thereby. We all feel that we are something other than a being which someone once created out of nothing: from this arises the confidence that, while death may be able to end our life, it cannot end our existence. (68)

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One can thus regard every human being from two opposed viewpoints. From the one he is the fleeting individual, burdened with error and sorrow and with a beginning and an end in time; from the other he is the indestructible primal being which is objectified in everything that exists. (73)

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ON SUICIDE

Thus we hear that suicide is the most cowardly of acts, that only a madman would commit it, and similar insipidities; or the senseless assertion that suicide is ‘wrong’, though it is obvious there is nothing in the world a man has a more incontestable right to than his own life and person. (77)

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It will generally be found that where the terrors of life come to outweigh the terrors of death a man will put an end to his life. (78)

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ON WOMEN

One needs only to see the way she is built to realize that woman is not intended for great mental or for great physical labour. (80)

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The nobler and more perfect a thing is, the later and more slowly does it mature. The man attains the maturity of his reasoning powers and spiritual faculties hardly before his twenty-eighth year; the woman with her eighteenth. And even then it is only reasoning power of a sort: a very limited sort. Thus women remain children all their lives, never see anything but what is closest to them, cleave to the present moment, take appearance for reality and prefer trifles to the most important affairs. (82)

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Because fundamentally women exist solely for the propagation of the race and find in this their entire vocation, they are altogether more involved with the species than with individuals, and in their hearts take the affairs of the species more seriously than they do those of the individual. (84)

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Men are by nature merely indifferent to one another; but women are by nature enemies. The reason is no doubt that odium figulinum* which with men does not go beyond the bounds of the particular guild, with women embraces the whole sex, because they are all engaged in the same trade. (85)

* Mutual dislike of those in the same trade.

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There are 80,000 prostitutes in London alone: and what are they if not sacrifices on the altar of monogamy?

[...]

There can be no argument about polygamy: it is a fact to be met with everywhere, and the only question is how to regulate it. For who is really a monogamist? We all live in polygamy, at least for a time and usually for good. Since every man needs many women, there could be nothing more just than that he should be free, indeed obliged, to support many women. This would also mean the restoration of woman to her rightful and natural position, the subordinate one, and the abolition from the world of the lady, with her ridiculous claims to respect and veneration; there would then be only women, and no longer unhappy women, of which Europe is at present full. (88)

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ON THINKING FOR YOURSELF

As the biggest library if it is in disorder is not as useful as a small but well-arranged one, so you may accumulate a vast amount of knowledge but it will be of far less value to you than a much smaller amount if you have not thought it over for yourself; because only through ordering what you know by comparing every truth with every other truth can you take complete possession of your knowledge and get it into your power. (89)

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‘For ever reading, never to be read.’ (Pope, 90)

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Was du ererbt von deinen Vätern hast,
Erwirb es, um es zu besitzen.*

* What you have inherited from your forefathers you must first win for yourself if you are to possess it. (Goethe, 91)

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ON RELIGION: A DIALOGUE

Primum vivere, deinde philosophari.*

* First live, then philosophize. (101)

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God is everywhere centre and nowhere periphery. (Pascal, 104)

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Even if a really true philosophy had taken the place of religion, nine-tenths of mankind at the very least would receive it on authority, so that it too would be a matter of belief. (105)

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weal (n. formal)
that which is best for someone or something.
In any event, it is quite in keeping with the inextricable tangle of weal and woe, honesty and deceit, goodness and badness, nobility and baseness which the world as a rule presents us with that the weightiest, loftiest and most sacred truth can make its appearance only when adulterated with a lie, has indeed to borrow strength from a lie as from something which makes a stronger impression on mankind, and must be ushered in by a lie in the form of revelation. (106)

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Simplex sigillum veri.*

* Simplicity is the seal of truth. (106)

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For, as you know, religions are like glow-worms: they need darkness in order to shine. (109)

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A man convinced against his will
Is of the same opinion still. (Hudibras, 113)

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ON PHILOSOPHY AND THE INTELLECT

Mere subtlety may qualify you as a sceptic but not as a philosopher. On the other hand, scepticism is in philisophy what the Opposition is in Parliament; it is just as beneficial, and indeed necessary. (119)

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What light is to the outer physical world intellect is to the inner world of consciousness. (121)

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That you should write down valuable ideas that occur to you as soon as possible goes without saying: we sometimes forget even what we have done, so how much more what we have thought. (122)

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plectrum (n.)
a thin flat piece of plastic, tortoiseshell, or other slightly flexible material held by or worn on the fingers and used to pluck the strings of a musical instrument such as a guitar.
Consequently, the object of thought is to the mind only what the plectrum is to the lyre: which is why the same sight inspires such very different thoughts in differing heads. (123)

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If you want to earn the gratitude of your own age you must keep in step with it. But if you do that you will produce nothing great. If you have something great in view you must address yourself to posterity: only then, to be sure, you will probably remain unknown to your contemporaries; you will be like a man compelled to spend his life on a desert island and there toiling to erect a memorial so that future seafarers shall know he once existed. (131)

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ON ETHICS

Envy reinforces the wall between Thou and I: pity makes it thin and transparent; indeed it sometimes tears the wall down altogether, whereupon the distinction between I and Not-I disappears. (134)

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Whoever lives among men will again and again be tempted to assume that moral wickedness and intellectual incapacity are closely connected and spring from one root. The impression that this is so arises merely because they are so often found together; and this can be explained by the very frequent occurrence of both, which means they often have to live together under the same roof. (136)

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For our civilized world is nothing but a great masquerade. You encounter knights, parsons, soldiers, doctors, lawyers, priests, philosophers and a thousand more: but they are not what they appear — they are merely masks behind which as a rule money-grubbers are hiding. (137)

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Ich weiss, dass ohne mich Gott nicht ein Nu kann leben:
Werd’ ich zunicht; er muss von Noth den Geist aufgeben.*

* I know that without me God cannot live for an instant: if I perish he must needs give up the ghost (Angelus Silesius aka Johannes Scheffler, 142)

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It is as it is because it wants, once and for all, to be as it is. (143)

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propaedeutic (n.)
an introduction to a subject or area of study.
The true basis and propaedeutic for all knowledge of human nature is the persuasion that a man’s actions are, essentially and as a whole, not directed by his reason and its designs. (144)

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The Fate of the ancients is nothing other than the conscious certainty that all events are bound firmly together by the chain of causality and thus occur with strict necessity, so that the future is already totally fixed and precisely determined, and can no more be altered than the past can. (147)

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ON LAW AND POLITICS

It is accordingly easy to define human rights: everyone has the right to do anything that does not injure another. (148)

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Poverty and slavery are thus only two forms of — one might almost say two words for — the same thing, the essence of which is that a man’s energies are expended for the most part not on his own behalf but on that of others; the outcome being partly that he is overloaded with work, partly that his needs are very inadequately met. (150)

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Voltaire says: ‘Le premier qui fut roi fut un soldat heureux.’*

* The first king was a successful soldier. (151)

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ON AESTHETICS

The intrinsic problem of the metaphysics of the beautiful can be stated very simply: how is it possible for us to take pleasure in an object when this object has no kind of connexion with our desires? (155)

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The reason the impressions we receive in youth are so significant, the reason why in the dawn of life everything appears to us in so ideal and transfigured a light, is that we then first become acquainted with the genus, which is still new to us, through the individual, so that every individual thing stands as a representative of its genus: we grasp therein the (Platonic) Idea of this genus, which is essentially what constitutes beauty. (160)

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Music is the true universal language which is understood everywhere, so that it is ceaselessly spoken in all countries and throughout all the centuries with great zeal and earnestness, and a significant melody which says a great deal makes its way round the entire earth, while one poor in meaning which says nothing straightaway fades and dies: which proves that the content of a melody is very well understandable. (162)

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The task of the novelist is not to narrate great events but to make small ones interesting. (165)

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ON PSYCHOLOGY

Every parting is a foretaste of death, and every reunion a foretaste of resurrection. That is why even people who were indifferent to one another rejoice so much when they meet again after twenty or thirty years. (167)

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There is an unconscious appositeness in the use of the word person to designate the human individual, as is done in all European languages: for persona really means an actor’s mask, and it is true that no one reveals himself as he is; we all wear a mask and play a role. (168-9)

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When he suffers an injustice the natural man burns with a thirst for revenge, and it has often been said that revenge is sweet.

[...]

No suffering laid upon us by nature or chance or fate is so painful as that inflicted by the will of another. This is so because we recognize nature and chance as the primal masters of the world and we can see that what nature and chance do to us they would have done to anyone else, so that when our sufferings originate from this source what we bewail is rather the common lot of man than our own individual lot. Suffering caused by the will of another, on the other hand, includes a quite peculiar and bitter addition to the pain or injury itself, namely the consciousness of someone else’s superiority, whether in point of strength or of cunning, together with that of one’s own impotence. (169)

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If you want to know how you really feel about someone take note of the impression an unexpected letter from him makes on you when you first see it on the doormat. (171)

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States of human happiness and good fortune can as a rule be compared with certain groups of trees: seen from a distance they look beautiful, but if you go up and into them their beauty disappears and you can no longer discover it. That is why we so often feel envy for other people. (171)

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Thus only what is inborn is genuine and sound: if you want to achieve something in business, in writing, in painting, in anything, you must follow the rules without knowing them. (176)

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Many undoubtedly owe their good fortune to the circumstance that they possess a pleasing smile with which they win hearts. Yet these hearts would do better to beware and to learn from Hamlet’s tables that one may smile, and smile, and be a villain. (176)

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surfeit (v. archaic)
consume too much of something.
The memory may well become confused by what is put into it, but it cannot really become surfeited. (178)

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People of very great ability will as a rule get on better with people of very limited ability than they will with people of ordinary ability, for the same reason as the despot and the plebeian, the grandparents and the grandchildren are natural allies. (178)

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ON RELIGION

But he is still in childhood who can think that superhuman beings have ever given our race information about the aim of its existence or that of the world. There are no other revelations than the thoughts of the wise, even if these — subject to error, as are all things human — are often clothed in strange allegories and myths and are then called religions. To this extent, therefore, it is all one whether you live and die trusting in your own thoughts or in those of others, for you are never trusting in anything but human thoughts and human opinion. (181)

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hypostatize (v. formal)
treat or represent (something abstract) as a concrete reality.
What, on the other hand, this dogma hypostatizes as eternal damnation is nothing other than this world of ours. (186)

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It can truly be said: Men are the devils of the earth, and the animals are the tormented souls. (187)

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One must be blind, deaf and dumb, or completely chloroformed by the foetor judaicus not to see that the animal is in essence absolutely the same thing that we are, and that the difference lies merely in the accident, the intellect, and not in the substance, which is the will. (189)

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Just as polytheism is the personification of individual departments and forces of nature, so monotheism is the personification of the whole of nature at one blow. (189)

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Physics and metaphysics are the natural enemies of religion. To speak of peace and accord between them is very ludicrous: it is a bellum ad internecionem.* Religions are the children of ignorance, and they do not long survive their mother. (196-7)

* War of extermination (197)

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ON BOOKS AND WRITING

Writers can be divided into meteors, planets and fixed stars. The first produce a momentary effect: you gaze up, cry: ‘Look!’ — and then they vanish for ever. The second, the moving stars, endure for much longer. By virtue of their proximity they often shine more brightly than the fixed stars, which the ignorant mistake them for. But they too must soon vacate their place, they shine moreover only with a borrowed light, and their sphere of influence is limited to their own fellow travellers (their contemporaries). The third alone are unchanging, stand firm in the firmament, shine by their own light and influence all ages equally, in that their aspect does not alter when our point of view alters since they have no parallax. Unlike the others, they do not belong to one system (nation) alone: they belong to the Universe. But it is precisely because they are so high that their light usually takes so many years to reach the eyes of dwellers on earth. (198)

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There are above all two kinds of writers: those who write for the sake of what they have to say and those who write for the sake of writing. (198)

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Only he who takes what he writes directly out of his own head is worth reading. (200)

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Truth is fairest naked, and the simpler its expression the profounder its influence. (205)

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Few write as an architect builds, drawing up a plan beforehand and thinking it out down to the smallest details. Most write as they play dominoes: their sentences are linked together as dominoes are, one by one, in part deliberately, in part by chance. (207)

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The art of not reading is a very important one. It consists in not taking an interest in whatever may be engaging the attention of the general public at any particular time. When some political or ecclesiastical pamphlet, or novel, or poem is making a great commotion, you should remember that he who writes for fools always finds a large public. — A precondition for reading good books is not reading bad ones: for life is short. (210)

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ON VARIOUS SUBJECTS

My chief objection to pantheism is that it signifies nothing. To call the world God is not to explain it but merely to enrich the language with a superfluous synonym for the word world. It comes to the same thing whether you say ‘the world is God’ or ‘the world is the world’. (217)

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In the first broad outlines of the Greek system of gods one can glimpse an allegorical representation of the highest ontological and cosmological principles. — Uranus is space, the first condition for all existence, thus the first begetter. Cronus is time. He castrates the procreative principle: time annihilates all generative power; or more precisely: the capacity for generating new forms, the primary generation of living races, ends after the first world-period. Zeus, who is rescued from the voraciousness of his father, is matter: it alone escapes the power of time, which destroys everything else: it persists. From matter, however, all other things proceed: Zeus is the father of gods and men. (218)

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It is not without meaning that mythology depicts Cronus as devouring and digesting stones: for that which is otherwise quite indigestible, all affliction, vexation, loss, grief, time alone digests. (220)

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The downfall of the Titans, whom Zeus hurls into the underworld, seems to be the same story as the downfall of the angels who rebelled against Jehovah.

[...]

Can it be that, as the root of the Gothic and the Greek languages lies in Sanskrit, so there is an older mythology from which the Greek and the Jewish mythologies derive? (220)

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History, which I like to think of as the antithesis of poetry, is in relation to time what geography is in relation to space. (221)

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Since I cannot avoid seeing in all history nothing but a repetition of the same things, as when a kaleidoscope is turned you see only the same things in differing configurations, I cannot share this passionate interest, though I do not go on to censure it. (221)

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The beard, being a half-mask, should be forbidden by the police. It is, moreover, as a sexual symbol in the middle of the face, obscene: that is why it pleases women. (223)

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To estimate a genius you should not take the mistakes in his productions, or his weaker works, but only those works in which he excels. For even in the realm of the intellect, weakness and absurdity cleave so firmly to human nature that even the most brilliant mind is not always entirely free of them. (223)

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Es ist nun das Geschick der Grossen hier auf Erden,
Erst wann sie nicht mehr sind, von uns erkannt zu werden.*

* It is the fate of the great here on earth to be recognized by us only when they are no more. (224)

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As the sun needs an eye in order to shine, and music an ear in order to sound, so the worth of every masterpiece in art and science is conditioned by the mind related and equal to it to which it speaks. (225)

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Great minds are related to the brief span of time during which they live as great buildings are to a little square in which they stand: you cannot see them in all their magnitude because you are standing too close to them. (226)

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Every human face is a hieroglyph which can be deciphered, indeed whose key we bear ready-made within us. (232)

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Two Chinamen visiting Europe went to the theatre for the first time. One of them occupied himself with trying to understand the theatrical machinery, which he succeeded in doing. The other, despite his ignorance of the language, sought to unravel the meaning of the play. The former is like the astronomer, the latter the philosopher. (235)

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No rose without a thorn. But many a thorn without a rose. (235)

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