November 29, 2011

"... another system of doomsaying prophecy and faith in things unseen... "

As with religion, it is presided over by a caste of spectacularly unattractive people pretending to an obscure form of knowledge that promises to make the seas retreat and the winds abate. As with religion, it comes with an elaborate list of virtues, vices and indulgences. As with religion, its claims are often non-falsifiable, hence the convenience of the term "climate change" when thermometers don't oblige the expected trend lines. As with religion, it is harsh toward skeptics, heretics and other "deniers." And as with religion, it is susceptible to the earthly temptations of money, power, politics, arrogance and deceit.
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November 27, 2011


Message on abandoned chair, North Oakland:


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November 24, 2011

Sky High


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November 23, 2011



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November 22, 2011

Still Voting for Gary Johnson in My Imagination

For what it's worth (very very little, to be sure), Obama's awful record on civil liberties and senseless escalation of the drug war have irrevocably cost him any further votes from me. But, as Balko points out, this guy would be even worse. Of course, there is no conceivable way he could ever actually win, so… yay? Anyway, California would, as far as I can tell, award its electoral votes to an empty milk carton if it had a "D" on it, so my un-vote is just as moot and pointless as my vote would have been. Yours too.

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November 19, 2011



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November 16, 2011

Em7 or something

As I mentioned, I'm doing a solo set at Scott Miller's book release party on December 4th at the Starry Plough, and my old bandmate Aaron's current band the Bye Bye Blackbirds is going to be the backup group on a couple of songs that I'd always wanted to do "electric" but never had the chance.

We got together last night to run through them a few times just to make sure it could, or should, be done. (Verdict: it can. Whether it should is more a philosophical question I guess.) Anyway, they took it seriously enough to write out charts:


Which was good because I don't know the names for half the chords I play. They did, though. It turns out the chord I used to think of as "the funny diagonal one" is actually, technically, called a diminished whatchamacallit. Who knew?

Anyway, those guys are great musicians and the whole thing was pretty fun.

(And don't forget, I'm also playing at 1-2-3-4 Go Records in Oakland on Friday November 18th with Kepi and Jesse Michaels's band Passage Walkers. Yeah, double me. Details for both are here.)

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November 14, 2011

One Toke over the Line

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November 12, 2011

Dr. Frank - Rock on! Rebecca <3 Black


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November 10, 2011

Come and Watch some Old Guys Playing Punk Rock


I'm doing a couple of solo acoustic sets in the East Bay coming up.

The first one is like it says:

-- Friday November 18th at 1-2-3-4 Go Records, 420 40th Street, Oakland, CA 510 985 0325, with PASSAGE WALKERS (featuring Jesse from Op IV) and KEPI GHOULIE. 7pm to 10pm, ALL AGES, $6

The other one is a matinee release party at the Starry Plough for the second edition of Scott Miller's book Music: What Happened? (He's the GAME THEORY / LOUD FAMILY guy, not only a writer of brilliant, quirky pop songs, but also a gifted writer of musical-cultural criticism, as it turns out; check out the book, it's great.) My old bandmate Aaron's current band, the Bye Bye Blackbirds, are also playing. So it's going to be Scott Miller, me, and the BBBs, who are also going to be my backup band for a couple of songs, heretofore never played electrically, at least, not by me. So that should be interesting. One hopes!

So that's:

-- Sunday, Dec 4 at the Starry Plough, 3101 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, CA 510 841 2082, 4:00p to 7:00p, with SCOTT MILLER and the BYE BYE BLACKBIRDS.

If you're interested in hearing any particular song, it's better to request it in advance rather than just calling it out at the show so I can look up the lyrics on the internet beforehand.

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November 09, 2011

Second Hand News


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November 08, 2011

Oh, cause you're gonna become an expert in Dickens?

Rush Limbaugh tries to get a handle on Classical Studies.

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Forgotten but Not Gone

Jeffen over at the Music Ruined My Life blog has been strolling through the Forgotten Rebels' discography. (Start here and scroll down.)

I pretty much stopped paying attention to them after This Ain't Hollywood and hadn't realized they'd had so many releases since then. The "big drums" 80s production of some of the later records is, as always, a serious barrier to enjoyment for me, much more than the hair metal affectations; but buried under all that gated reverb and hair are some terrific songs. I'm glad I didn't listen to any of this stuff at the time, as I'm quite sure I never would have given it a fair hearing and the prejudice against it would have probably prevented me from sampling it now.

Also, I note that this band is apparently incapable of releasing a record that doesn't include some version of "Surfin' on Heroin." Which is fair enough.

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I'll Believe Cigarette Packs are People when Berkeley Re-Names a Park after One

Federal judge blocks the FDA's new cigarette warning labels on First Amendment grounds.

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November 07, 2011

Soul Butcher meets the Duckhead Buddha

The Duckhead Buddha came into existence in the Fall of 1983 in the following way: walking down the street, looking at my feet as usual so as to avoid eye contact with anyone who might pop up, I happened to catch sight of a small, bulbous, metal object in the gutter. Upon closer inspection, it proved to be the body of a lead-cast Buddha figure. The head had been severed, evidently with some violence, ripped off or cut, leaving only a jagged neck hole in its place. A brief search for the head turned up nothing.

"Still," I said to myself. "A headless Buddha." I paused, then added: "I have a feeling this curious item might prove to be useful in some, as yet unforeseen, way in the future." So I picked it up and thought no more about it, continuing on to the library where I planned to spend most of the day reading Beowulf, which is the sort of thing I spent quite a lot of time doing in the early 80s. Hwæt!

At the library, a frightened-looking bespectacled girl approached my table, handed me a small ball bearing, and asked me if I'd dropped it in the elevator. Without actually lying, I managed to convey the impression that I had, even though I hadn't, because, you know: free ball bearing.

Later that night, returning from the library, I spotted a severed duck decoy head neatly wedged between two slats of a foot bridge. Those readers who have guessed that the next steps were (a) to remove the duck head from its wedge; and (b) to place the duck head on the Buddha body with the beak running down one side have the right idea. The ball bearing went into the little box or basket in the Buddha’s hands. The head and body fit together perfectly, like they were always meant to be that way. I imagined I heard a little click, a kind of snick-snack with a bit of reverb, and the sound of angelic trumpets, and, who knows, maybe I actually did.

Here’s the Duckhead Buddha as he appears today:


The ball bearing is still in the box thing. I don’t know when or by what means that piece of quartz wound up in there as well. I just noticed it was there a few years ago and thought it best not to mess with it.

You’ll also notice some marks on the beak and face. Bite marks. They weren’t there originally. How they got there was, well, I had this heavy metal room mate in the dorms back then. His given name was Jeff, but he was known to me and my little circle of associates as Soul Butcher because a notebook of his heavy metal lyrics contained a song of that title. (“I will come to you in the night and butcher your soul,” it ran. To which we, that is to say this guy Paul, added “hence the name, Soul Butcher.” And we all laughed heartily.) Anyway, one morning, after a night away, I returned to the dorm room I shared with Soul Butcher to find the aftermath of what appeared to have been a big rowdy heavy metal party. Beer cans, liquor bottles, Motley Crue and Fastway records were strewn everywhere, the smell of cannabis hung in the air, a Quiet Riot album still spun on the turntable making that thump-thump sound; and Soul Butcher was passed out on the floor in his underwear. Also, the Duckhead Buddha’s head was missing.

No big mystery there: quite obviously, it seemed to me, the Duckhead Buddha had played bat to some exuberant metalhead’s Ozzy. Or maybe Soul Butcher himself had been the one who had bitten the head off the Duckhead Buddha and tossed it out the window with his teeth. Maybe Soul Butcher had in fact been the only person at the party. That seems quite likely.

At any rate, after a good deal of searching I found the head, bitten but unbowed despite having been chewed and spit out and having fallen seven floors, in the bushes by the Unit II pathway. I resolved to keep a close eye on Soul Butcher from then on, and I made sure to lock the Duckhead Buddha in my desk drawer whenever I left the room. The Duckhead Buddha’s head and body have never been separated since.

I was a weird guy in college, perhaps, though I bet I’m even weirder now maybe.

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November 06, 2011

The Social Consequences of Bad Architecture

Tom Clougherty on "brutalist" architecture:

The trouble with so much architecture from the post-war period is that the state was the client – architects designed housing projects with little or no concern for the people who would actually live in them. The design of housing estates did not reflect the way people lived, worked and played. Rather, it reflected a utopian socialist ideology which central planners wished to impose upon them. Of course, that attempt failed miserably.

Opposition to post-war architecture tends to focus on aesthetic concerns. And, certainly, much of it is appalling[ly] ugly, almost to the point that merely looking at it fills you with despair. But its mostly deeply pernicious effect is surely the way in which it has affected people’s behaviour, by forcing them to live in an environment which is cold, desolate and practically inhuman.

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November 05, 2011


More West Coast sound, ca. 1959 here.

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November 02, 2011

mensis novembris


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