Monday, February 23, 2015

Punched a guy in the head

Damn. I’d tell you “something’s wrong with me”, but that’s not really true. Or at least, this morning I did something that was simply what my body and mind both knew I had to do: A punched a guy in the head on the E train.

It started at Roosevelt Avenue, Jackson Heights as I remember. Some white dude approximately my age and weight parked himself next to me and held on to the pole near me in such a way that his arm passed between my arm and my body, with his elbow just touching my ribs. That is not acceptable subway etiquette in New York, even on a very crowded train. As the guy on the other side of me moved down (and as I moved to create more space between me and elbow-guy) this guy kept slowly moving too, so I couldn’t get away from his elbow parked right at my ribs.

And then, as my station approached and I pulled up my bag to put my book away, the guy held his arm solidly, refusing to budge it at all even though my arm and bag had to pass through his in order for me to get my book into it. So we traded words: I said something like, “You’ve had your elbow in my ribs and you keep coming down even though I’ve moved”. He said something like “Well where do you want me to go?” And I said, “I don’t know, but you can’t keep your elbow there”. From there he moved to insults and curses so I told him we’d get out at the next station and solve this like men.

When the train stopped I said: “We’re getting out here,” and he replied, “I’m not getting out.” So I turned to go, wondering if perhaps I should grab his hat and see if he’d follow me out to get it, but I changed my mind. But as I left that’s when he said, “Next time bring your wife to fight me” or something like that, so I just punched him in his giant meaty head. Since it was crowded some guy started shouting: “Woah! Woah! Stop that! Stop that!” But the guy kicked me in the thigh so I gave him a round kick to the ribs that landed pretty good. Actually, I was surprised he didn’t go down when I punched him in the head, but I guess his hat cushioned some of the blow.


When I was a younger man I’d worry about whether I did the right thing or not or could have avoided the incident somehow. But I know that, given the circumstance, this was a natural expression of who I am now, good or bad. To avoid such situations in the future I will need to change in such a way that I find a “natural” and honest way out of such situations (ie, as opposed to freezing up and doing nothing out of fear of doing something “wrong”).

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Still Processing

Yeah, I'm still processing the experience in Mexico.

Let me say that, in one way or another, you really need to have an experience like that. No, maybe not Guitar Circle per se. But some experience that draws you out of your comfort zone and into something you aren't in control of. And even better if it's in a different country. And then something that has a chance of generating memories you will retain for the rest of your life. Not exactly a vacation. And there are lots of organizations and companies that can provide that: Companies that do intense hiking or outdoors experience, companies that take you to Antarctica, companies that can take you on some sort of "pilgrimage". There's lots of stuff out there.

As for me in Tepoztlan, there are some many wondrous memories that will stay with me and, most likely, shape me. For instance...

1. House of guitars. With low lights and with Luciano giving each of us 50 guitarists a little riff to play, a trilling, roiling ambiance was built up. And shortly thereafter, we started moving and eventually breaking into little groups and then circling or reforming into one big circle and then charging into the center with our guitars and then back out: Divine and mysterious chaos in the middle of mountainous rural mexico.

2. Humming "One of a Thousand Regrets": About 6 of us played this in someone's room, and the Mexican Guitar Circlers introduced us to the tradition or humming the main melody while playing it for the second time. And this, perhaps at 10:00PM or 11:00PM at night.

3. "Santorina Globes": At least, that what I thought someone called the orange paper spheres lit by candle from within that were hoovering about the center of town and that we could see from our little Maronite compound. These were cast aloft to commemorate some sort of saint or other that I can no longer remember.

4. Putting together our little set. Us Intros were tasked by Fripp to come up with 7 pieces: 2 duets, 2 trios, 1 solo, 1 four piece and one piece with all of us. And we were only given a couple of days. And really, we didn't have more than a bunch of hours as we kept getting pulled into dishwashing and other cleaning duties. So by "the day of", I pretty much gave up worrying about it: If we had stuff to play then fine, we'd try, but if not then fuckit: I wasn't going to worry about pulling off the impossible. And yet the impossible occurred: By pulling together all the little musical pieces we had at the last moment, we played 7 wonderful little pieces. As we entered the ballroom, however, we were faced with disorganized chairs and a few people in silly costumes and with interrupting noisemakers and heckling. So, if we fucked up it was only natural. But we pulled off a great set and then everyone started demanded an encore, which we didn't have. So Anthony tried to get away with playing a single note as our encore, which we played and then exited (I saw Fripp throw up his hands in exasperation as we smiled and exited). Outside the ballroom again, however, we heard the clapping and whistling and then someone came out to tell us to play our whole set again, which we did. And during one song (in which our lively Mexicana sang), a bunch of us broke into tears and I swear I saw Robert wiping tears from his eyes too. THAT was a moment: I wasn't even playing that song, but I felt like I was and felt like I had contributed because I supported what everyone was trying to do and I got the fuck out of the way. It wasn't about ME: It was about making music, and being inside it, which I did and was.

5. The dogs and roosters. The full moon would come up somewhere around 3:00AM and the dogs would go apeshit in unision and the roosters were all crowing. And there was a host of other birds and assorted animals making their sounds all night long.

6. T'ai Chi Ch'uan. Luciano would lead us twice a day in a series of Yang style exercises. Not the main form, mind you, but a bunch of traditional chi-building exercises that actually taxed even a reasonably in-shape person, due to the high altitude.

7. Alexander Technique. We had two Alexnader technique ladies, one of which was the very experienced Sandra Bain Cushman. If you are unfamiliar with Alexnader technique, it's basically the "science" of moving and holding your body in a way that's commensurate with the way it's joined all together and the way it "hangs". Society teaches us to hld our bodies (and guitars!) in a way that isn't optimal for our health and well-being, and Sandra teaches us to sit, stand, and even (AT) liedown in such a way that keeps us from cramping up or causing us pain.

8. Morning sitting with Robert. At 7:15 each morning we'd spend 45 minutes just sitting in the chapel, learning to do "nothing". Core to Guitar Circle is the notion that, if we can tell our bodies to do nothing for 45 minutes, perhaps after that we can tell our bodies to do something. This, of course, in contrast to the usual autonomic routines our body and mind default into.

So, quite a meditative and powerful experience. I would love to do it again some times. And who knows? Maybe I will.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

In Tepoztlan

Last week I returned from a week-long Guitar Circle course down in Tepoztlan, Mexico, about 70 miles south of Mexico City. It was a wonderful, magical time with many stories that could be told. For instance, how can I describe being in the "House of Guitars" with 50 others in the "ballroom" with low lights, and all of us playing guitars and circulating notes, "whizzing", moving and breaking into groups and subgroups and general divinely inspired musical chaos? Or having interactions with Robert Fripp, the Yoda of Rock music? (Who speaks no less cryptically in real life.) Or putting together 7 small pieces (for our beginner's group) that, during one of the pieces, brought tears to people's eyes?

Here are a couple of us from the intro team taking the cab back out of the village:

And did I mention that there was no "staff"? Though a subset of the advanced group was responsible for preparing the food, we intros also regularly had to do dishes, sweep, mop and clean and so on. Oh, and there was T'ai Chi Chuan twice a day, and Alexander Technique sessions.

And while resting on my bed once one of my roommates said: "There's an animal on your pants". Looking down I saw that it was a scorpion, which I promptly shook off and which was then captured.

So lots of wonderful experiences, lots of memories, and even (for me) some Montezuma's revenge.

It was, in a word, fantastic.

Monday, February 02, 2015

I think I finally get Hip Hop

Maybe, now, I get it. My prejudices about what "music" is or isn't got in the way all this time, which is a shame I guess. But it boils down to this:

Music was never about "music". It was and always will be about the collective tribal response it brings out in a group of people. You know what I'm talking about: Those special moments in a concert or even just in a meal with friends or ever (who knows?) a sporting event. You can feel that the moment has arrived, a moment that transcends whatever activity is being performed, music or sports or food or otherwise. And when you feel it you know that everyone else feels it too. And that moment seeps down into your cracks, finding old deposits like oil and then floating it up to the top. You feel the healing, or else you feel that this moment is finding you, the real you, and calling it upward/outward. And it's calling everyone else as well.

And that's what Hip Hop is: Someone, these scruffy kids that had nothing, no access to specialized learning or lessons or instruments, they somehow figured out that they didn't really need all that stuff in order to invoke the collective tribal function. They didn't need notes, they didn't need instruments, they didn't even need melody. But they had words, they had rhymes, they had beats that could call everyone to the center, the well, from which they would collectively drink. And this would meet their deep needs.

This is what Hip Hop was and still is.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

(not so much) SNOW!

Eh. We only got about a foot or so, maybe a bit more here in Queens.
Of course, both midWesterners as well as Canadians are making fun of us New Yorkers for getting so riled up over mere snow. Come to think of it, we regularly have large snow storms, and a foot to 18 inches won't even be remembered. Local politicians including Mayor DeBlasio and Governor Cuomo clearly feel a little embarrassed for surrendering to direst warnings. Even the TV people clearly feel a little sheepish. But on the other hand, everyone always welcomes a guilt-free day huddling in the comfort of one's home.

Sunday, January 25, 2015


They're predicting one to two feet of snow here in NYC, starting tomorrow (Monday) afternoon. Some of the more histrionic predictions put us at "historic" levels, nearing three feet. That would be cool. The streets in New York get transformed by that level of snow: Many streets will remain essentially unnavigable for quite a while, so everything's super-quiet even though no one will have gone to work. Me, I always become as excited as a boy-child while the snow is falling: I'll look at the window hoping for white-out conditions, which are expected to occur Tuesday into Wednesay (yes, a New York snow storm can last a couple of days).

And even after the streets are plowed, there are these large walls of snow that line the streets, and there will be only a narrow path to walk on between waist-high (or higher) piles of snow. Parking rules are informally suspended, as people pretty much can't park anywhere you normally can. It's a sort of fun, temporary chaos.

At the Korean store nearby, the line ran to the back and then around to the cereal aisle. There were maybe 50 or more people ahead of me, but the uber-efficient Koreans still whittled the line down in about 10 minutes. I saw some people panic-buying items they wouldn't normally consider, and one black woman looked at us all on the line and laughingly declared, "It's the end of the world! Snow!"

If you are good and flood The Magic Lantern with hits-o-plenty, then I might post some photos. But we'll see. And I'll eventually get back to finishing Autism Spectrum Disorder, which will get pretty interesting.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Actual conversation

Other Party: You and your family are so lazy!

Me: Uh, what? I have degrees in Physics and Electrical Engineering. Come to think of it, as an undergrad I had a double major in Physics and Chinese Language and a minor in math. From that alone you can determine that I'm not lazy.

Other party: Well, you only work hard with stuff you like to do!

Me: That's already not lazy. But what about my 5 years in college without a single vacation, because I had to work every summer and winter break, and every Friday and every weekend to make money for college?

Other party: You had to do that!

Me: So I'm not lazy when I want to do something and I'm not lazy when I have to do something. What's left?

Other party: What's left is all the things you should be doing but aren't doing.

Me: So in other words, by "lazy" you mean not doing all the things you think I should be doing?

Other party: And your family! Look at them!

Me: My father was a classical musician with the Metropolitan Opera, who had graduated from the Eastman School of Music where he met my mother. Do you have any comprehension of what's required to accomplish that?

Other party: Well, your parents may have worked hard at their jobs, but they were lazy in terms of doing all the other stuff.

Me: Ugh. I'm going upstairs now.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Autism Spectrum Disorder, Pt 5

Over the next few days she watched him carefully, to see if he was coming off the rails and really unable to function without real Lexican. But his reaction to the fake medicine was...not so straightforward either way. Of course his behavior was indeed changing: He was quiet and looked as if he were thinking about something in contexts she had never seen him do that in before, and reacted strongly and even emotionally to things he wouldn't have even looked twice at before. But it was clear he wasn't falling apart, at least not obviously so.

Then again, once again she caught him watching Big Bang Theory: Just staring at the screen with what looked to her like fascination. She even looked at his eyeballs and they were moving back and forth quickly across the screen in a way she had never seen before, as if he were studying the show for some sort of clues or important information. So in as neutral a voice as she could muster she said, "So you like Big Bang Theory now?"

Without moving she heard him say: "Sheldon is like me."

She sat there, silent. That was odd, she thought: He never seemed to connect emotionally or even any other way with the characters in sitcoms, much less a character that indeed showed signs of being somewhere on the Autism Spectrum Disorder.

"Yes," she said: "You and Sheldon are kind of similar."

"Was I as much of a dick as Sheldon?"

Woah. Strange. Very strange. And what's with the 'was'?

"No, you're a lot nicer than Sheldon. In fact I love you."

"Why?" he said. "Isn't it lonely living with me?"

What the hell? Now that was a question he never would have asked before.

"Well, sometimes. But that's OK: No relationship is perfect and I know, I just know that you have all the feelings anyone else does, just buried down inside even if you don't know it or understand them."

She saw him look down, away from the screen, thinking. And then, he looked up: I don't know why but I think I can change. I mean, I think I want to change but I'm not sure if I can. But I would like to try. I can see that there's a lot about life that I've missed out on, and I want to try some of that if that's OK. OK?

This made her a little sad as she loved him as he was, now, and didn't really need him to change. Yeah, she kinda even wanted him to change, but that wasn't necessary either. And now, he seemed to almost think he needed permission or something.

"You know I love you just the way you are now and you don't need to change for me. But if you want to change for you then OK."

He looked down again, thinking.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Two info-gifts

Here's two info-gifts for ya'. First up, a super-cool timesink that visualizes Wikipedia as a Galaxy and that lets you navigate it as such, tracing out and sliding across connections between articles. Here it is:


Next up is a looping program called Roll Your Own Waveform that basically takes Robert Fripp and Fripp-like riffs and allows you to select and loop them. Tell this isn't cool:

Roll Your Own Waveform

Don't say I never gave you nothin'!

Friday, December 26, 2014

Bruce Cockburn: Rumors of Glory

Just finished Bruce Cockburn's autobiography, Rumours of Glory. To put it succinctly, it kicked my ass. Really good and not what one might expect. Yeah, there's a lot of autobiographical stuff in here, interspersed with the lyrics of songs that came out of those experiences, but he also delves into some of the politics surrounding a situation he observed on the ground as part of various fact-finding missions he was a part of. And there's a lot of spiritual stuff too, about what he was exploring or discovering, and I found myself really resonating with some of those experiences, experiences that led him on a long path up and away from the narrow confines of youth and upbringing. So in short, it's a bigass grab-bag of stuff that you can't help but be fascinated by.

If you've never listened to Bruce Cockburn's music, then you will be in for quite an amazing journey as you plumb the depths of his recordings. There are countless amazing and surprising highlights there, rendered all the more incredible by their diversity and, in many cases, lyrical depth. And Bruce ain't a bad guitar player, either.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

"The Facts About Ebola"

Sometimes I feel like someone who just stepped out of a time machine and into a future stranger than was ever imagined in Science Fiction, and this sign is a good example. 
Of course, anyone on the subway reading that sign is pribably already not too concerned about Ebola and, indeed, I myself didn't even bother reading all of it.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Autism Spectrum Disorder, pt 4

She was worried, at first, about how she would get ahold of fake Lexican pills that would fool him. One thing he was very good at was little, tiny details. If something was different or out of place even by the tiniest amount, it would freak him out and he wouldn't move forward until the thing was made right, like before.

But as it turned out, there were factories all over the world that cranked out imitation pills and sold them over the internet. In fact, the hard part was finding a source of fake Lexican pills that she could be sure were fake and didn't contain an active ingredient at all. But as turned out, the one factory in Turkey she found that still made Lexican had tons of complaints on line that indicated they never put any active ingredient in their fake pills at all: Perfect.

So after obtaining the fake Lexican she switched out his real pills and kept them in a shoebox in the closet, just in case he had a particularly adverse reaction to having his Lexican switched over to fakes. For a second she thought about what she was doing: Isn't this exactly what paranoid crazies did? Switch out someone's medicine for fake because it was part of some sort of "conspiracy"? Shit. She knew she was probably going off the deep end, but she also knew it would keep eating her until she tried it at least once.

So when he took his pill after breakfast she observed him very closely: Would he notice these weren't the same? Would he be able to taste the difference? She didn't think those were the kinds of micro-differences he'd notice and she was right: He swallowed the pill with a glass of water exactly as he had hundreds of times before.

When she came home from work he was there at his computer (he worked from home four days out of five) exactly as before. She couldn't detect a difference as she sat there waiting for him to finish, which he always did at 6:25 (somehow, he didn't need a clock to know it was 6:25). At dinner, which she prepared, he was also the same as usual though PERHAPS a tad less talkative/responsive than usual. He APPEARED as if he were thinking about something, though sometimes he did that.

The next morning she left him same as usual, and he didn't seem any different as she left. It occurred to her that, perhaps, it was kind of strange: He wasn't getting any worse or "more autistic". He also wasn't getting any better. This worried her because maybe it meant the pills had a cumulative effect and, soon, he'd fall apart pretty badly in a short amount of time. Maybe he'd even stop taking pills altogether and she wouldn't be able to get him back on his medication.

When she came back that night, however, he was watching TV. And that was a little different from the normal routine. Of course, sometimes this happened when a project finished and he didn't have a new one yet, and when this happened he'd watch TV. He actually didn't like TV much, from what she could tell, but he'd watch it as part of the fill-in-time ritual he seemed to need.

But this time she stood there looking at him as he watched the TV, which was tuned to Everybody Loves Raymond. That alone was a little strange: He tended to watch documentaries or nature shows, anything with an intellectual content, with information. A sitcom, with people and events and emotions, that was different. So she stood there and looked at him looking at the TV and he was motionless, hard to read. But when the ending credits rolled he still sat there, motionless for a few minutes. And then, without moving, she heard him speak: Why was she mad?

What? He knew the wife was mad? Now that was different.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

So what did Amazon recommend for me?

These things! I have no idea what they are, even though it tells me they are "Coromant Carbide Turning Inserts". They range from about $50 to $150, and there's 77 Amazon pages of 'em.
S - SquareProduct DetailsProduct Details

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Iron Sky: The Coming Race

How come no one told me a movie had been made about Nazi's invading the Earth from their secret base on the dark side of the moon? And now there's going to be a sequel:

Yes, that T-Rex did a Heil Hitler.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Autism Spectrum Disorder, Pt 3

After she started looking into what, specifically, he had on the whole Autistic spectrum, it occurred to her that she didn't actually know when or where he got Lexican, the medicine he'd been taking since she knew him.
So she asked him, and he told her that his mother sent it once a month.
At first she thought that was strange: He was, in her estimation, perfectly capable of going to the pharmacy once a month to get a prescription. On the other hand, he really, really didn't like change in his routines, so this was probably one of those things that it was just too much trouble to change.
But as she did her research on Lexican, it became kind of mysterious: It wasn't in general available anymore. Online conspiracy nuts linked Lexican to all sorts of things, including everything from Ebola to AIDs and even Autism itself. One coo-coo-bird even promulgated a theory that it actually caused Autism.
So she decided to call the mother and ask her about the Lexican.
The mother was...well, not exactly evasive, but she couldn't help think that the mother was trying to hide the appearance of being invasive.
Of course, daughters-in-law (or prospective daughters-in-law) never really got along with mothers-in-law (or potential mothers-in-law), so maybe her feelings just boiled down to a Freudian thing, like competing for maximum female influence over their shared man.
But no. At least, there was a part of her she trusted that told her something else was going on. For instance, the mother claimed she just got the Lexican from their local pharmacy in rural PA, and had been doing so since he was small. And yet, the internet claimed that Lexican had been discontinued many years ago, declared ineffective and not worth the side effects. She even called their pharmacy, and no one there had heard of it. In fact, their most tenured pharmacist had only been working there five years, and she believed him when he sounded confused: He'd never even heard of Lexican, never mind dispensed it.
So late on a Sunday night she sat there thinking about what to do. Did she really want to upset the applecart? This appeared to be one of those things that she should just leave the fuck alone, before she ruined what was a pretty good thing. Why rock the boat? She was just being paranoid.
And yet, she knew that her feelings about this whole thing weren't going to just evaporate. In fact, they'd get stronger and stronger until she started taking it all out on him, and she knew where that would lead, in a hurry too.
But she couldn't call the mother, that much she was sure of. She couldn't just say, "I called your pharmacy and they never heard of Lexican,". The answer would probably be embarrassingly simple, and then she would have lost the trust of both the mother as well as him too. And taking away the pills was not an option: Aside from potentially disastrous side-effects (assuming they really were helping him), he would respond terribly to the change in routine: "Where's my medicine? I haven't taken my medicine. Can't go out without my medicine. Where's my medicine? I need my medicine." It would really throw him a curveball, and he couldn't handle curveballs.
So what could she possibly do?
She knew what to do: She'd go find some way to make fake pills and let him take those for a while to see what happened. And if there was a bad result, she'd just switch them back for real ones.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Lantern and the Outernet

Tell me this isn't a pretty far out idea:

So that little stick basically receives a subset of the internet that it has been broadcast from satellites and then puts out a Wifi signal that you can pick up from your computer or WiFi-enabled phone. I don[t know a lot about what files are being broadcast, but certainly there's lots of news, Wikipedia, and all sorts of shit that is free for the taking so long as you have one of those little sticks: No local internet necessary. And of course, it is inherently anonymous, too.
Cool idea. I may get one and cram it into my go-bag.

Monday, December 01, 2014

FLUX! by Adrian Belew

Man this thing is just fantastic. Adrian Belew is, of course, the former lead singer and co-lead-guitarist of King Crimson. His solo albums vary between good and jaw-dropping, but this "app" falls to the very right end of the scale, and for some "songs" (more on what that means in a sec), he's moved beyond anything he (or anyone else) has done before into the first truly 21st century "rock" to my ears. I actually think of it as kinda-sorta a new Adrian Belew record, albeit with about 2 or 3 CDs-worth of music on it, but combined in a way that applies effects and "mixes" in ways that were not possible in a linear line of bits on a CD surface, played on a CD player.

Visually, there's computationally-driven art that responds in real time to the music. Based on the little I know of Adrian Belew's work in visual arts, I'm sure he provided the basic concepts for the visuals and then the FLUX team ran with that, adding algorithms that respond in real time to the dynamically-driven music. Oh, and there are also all sorts of traditional BelewSongs, simple-yet-unobvious little emotive structures that poke and prod you into feeling and hearing something poignant and beautiful. And let us not forget Belew's crack-like guitarring.  

Oh, a "bonus track" here, from me: Back in about 1980 or 1981, I saw Adrian Belew and his band Gaga open for future bandmate Robert Fripp and the League of Gentlemen. He played a lot of tunes from his first solo record (like "Lone Rhinoceros"), along with (Bowie's) Boys Keep Swinging (on which he played guitar, or was it drums?). Belew and the other bandmembers wore propeller beanies while playing the song, though one guy in the audience there at Irving Plaza kept giving the band The Finger, because the drums were taped. But Belew sounded great. (I also ran into Brian Eno in the hallway, who apparently asked Belew moments later if he would be interested in playing on the Talking Heads record they were working on, eventually called Remain In Light.)

I remember too a sign in the window there at Irving Plaza saying that "Adrian Belou and Gaga" would be the warmup band. When I entered the lobby I happened to be standing behind Belew himself, who was wearing his famous Talking Heads-era Hawaiian shirt.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

It's been a strange day

This morning i notices that on the CBS Sunday Morning show they had a piece on Marina Abramovich and showed, amongst other things, clips from the "Embrace" event which I attended wherein we embraced Marina.

After practicing a bit I drove out to Washington Heights to meet up with the UMOUR guys again. Washington Heights, by the way, was where I lived as a child and it was violent and dangerous. But today, we had coffee at a Bakery on Edgecomb Avenue.

Later in the day back at home, two friends of mine who did not know rach other both commented on a Facebook post I made, and they got into a very minor quibble over something. But that's when I remembered the odd fact that both of their fathers had once been married to the same woman (albeit at different times) making them almost step brothers, so I told them so!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Autism Spectrum Disorder, Part 2

Asking him questions didn't yield a lot in the way of answers, at least in terms of where specifically he fell on that vast scale of disorders known as the Autism Spectrum. Of course, at one end were the Asberger-types, which he was: Highly functional in some ways (eg, dealing with analytic details), but not good AT ALL in the whole social realm. But even that wasn't all bad: He had zero interest in sports, though he also had no interest in ever going to the opera. (Indeed she once brought him to a concert but he fidgeted and talked through the whole thing and seemed oblivious to the angry looks they were getting.)
At the other end of course were those truly "autistic" types who couldn't really communicate with anyone, and who didn't connect with the world around them. She knew enough to know that his similarity to them was mostly external: They had some very different disorder than his that only happened to be described by some of the same language as his disorder.
But despite the fact that she knew that what he had had little to do with the truly, deeply autistic, he didn't seem to know anything about where he sat on that whole spectrum. More importantly, he appeared to know zero about his medication, a pill called "Lexican".
Looking Lexican up online, she could find very little high-quality information about it. In fact, the only information she could find aside from the manufacturer's stub about it, was all sorts of crazy conspiracy garbage about it. Of course, the anti-vaxxers were all over it, but there were other groups of conspiracy crazies that had left old digital threads about it as well. Some of them even claimed that Lexican actually caused Autism, but not like the anti-vaxxers. No: These anti-vaxxer crazies insisted that Lexican was an old experimental drug designed to explicitly mimic the symptoms and experience of being autistic. Of course, that was just far-out Coo-coo crazy, but it seemed to be an idea that wouldn't entirely go away.
That's when she decided to contact his mother.
She wasn't in love with the idea of contacting his mother: She lived 2000 miles away and didn't have much contact with him anymore, though she would talk with the mother every couple of months just to get her up to speed. The conversations were almost quick readouts of recent events, with the mother doing little but asking a question or two every few minutes about some detail or event she didn't understand. He didn't seem to need to talk to his mother, but that wasn't a surprise: He did care about the people around him, but he didn't need to talk to those people or let them know that he knew they cared.
But she did after a while call the mother and ask her about his autism and, in particular, about Lexican.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

5Pointz: 1Year

Outside the demolished ruins of 5Pointz, the graffiti mecca described in these pages and elsewhere, there's a one-year anniversary going on as I write this, out in the absolutely-frikkin-freezing cold in Long Island City. Need I even say that 5Pointz (housed in a former school building) was demolished so that "designer" condos can be built?

I asked Meres One (the progenitor of 5Pointz) what the plans were in terms of finding a new home, and he indicated that he was basically just in a sort of wait/rest mode these days: There were, apparently, still court activities going on, and he also just wanted to take some time off before launching into something new. But he definitely wanted to keep the name and memory alive. 

All I can say is this: When public spaces disappear, what we call "money" is no longer a signifier of value, but of power.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Autism Spectrum Disorder, Part 1

One evening after work they were watching the the local news and a piece on the Autism Spectrum Disorder came up. It occurred to her that she never actually knew where on that whole spectrum he was. Of course, he was on some levels highly functional: A mathematical genius according to some, and truly great at wiggling out something extremely useful from data using extremely unobvious and highfalutin' mathematical techniques, including even recently discovered nonlinear techniques. He pulled down a high salary and had only bright prospects career-wise.

And yeah, she loved him but there was always something missing in their relationship. Put simply, it was other people: He never made eye contact and spoke in loopy, almost cryptic phrases that only a few could follow. And these few occasionally came over, though mostly around the holidays. He never asked them to come over, though: She did, maintaining traditions that went back before she knew him. But for the vast majority of the time they were alone and he never showed any desire to go out, to see a show or even a movie. It was, in a word, lonely.

But aside from that she was on some levels happy and knew that he loved her too. In fact, aside from the social awkwardness, he more-or-less had the complete set of emotions packed away inside him. When she cut herself on a shattering wineglass one evening, he came running out to the kitchen asking what happened what happened are you OK? And he gave her anything he had, even if it meant he wouldn't have the same for himself. And if you understood how he worked, how he thought, you could even start picking up on his very deadpan sense of humor, which others mistook as just another of his nonsequiturs. And of course, he had zero desire or interest in any other women. So on a certain level he was very easy to be with, and she knew she was lucky insofar as she had been smart enough to recognize his hidden value.

And yet...and yet...she felt guilty, sometimes, because she wanted just a little bit more of a regular life with this man. And of course, she knew conceptually that was impossible. Not a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but sometimes she caught herself dreaming or wishing for more. Perhaps because of this, her curiosity was aroused when she realized she had never learned the specifics of his disorder. Although he had taken some kind of medication for it as long as she had known him, she didn't know what it was or what the name of his specific disorder was within the greater autism spectrum. When she caught herself dreaming about there having been a cure recently developed for whatever it was he had she felt bad, almost like she was betraying him. And yet, she realized that as his long-term partner she really should be up to speed on what he specifically had.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Interstellar (a sort of review)

This seems to be a recurring characteristic of my life these days: Seeing something that has all (or most) of the basic elements required for widespread and lasting impact but also seeing elements you know will prevent it from living up to its true potential. It's almost worse than seeing something truly bad.

Interstellar is one of these things. It actually has some wonderful elements: Great visuals, a decent plot, some drama and (almost most importantly) great music. And don't get me wrong, it is entertaining on some levels. But there are so many missed opportunities and so many shortcuts taken in the script that you wonder whether the same old group of Hollywood hacks were hired. Many times during the film, the plot was able to move forward by borrowing some stale old Hollywood movie trope or by taking some other shortcut. Sometimes, the shortcut was so inappropriate that, for me, it resulted in an almost disconnect. Like when Michael Cane's character gave "his word" that he'd solve "the equation" that would save mankind. No real scientist, of course, would say this: Not everything we want to find a solution for actually has a solution, no matter how smart the scientist. More importantly, Mathew McConehaugh (however you spell his name) would know that nothing in science is guaranteed a solution, as he himself is an engineer. And yet, his character doesn't even blink when this completely unscientific thing is said. And there are plenty of other examples besides this.

Put succinctly, I kept getting the feeling that had the writers spent another 6 months on the script, they may have been able to solve the problems they used tropes and shortcuts to solve. Had they done that the movie might have been universally acclaimed. Oh well.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Death of Klinghoffer

Here in NYC there's been a lot of controversy about the Metropolitan Opera showing John Adams' The Death of Klinghoffer. There have even been protests. As a sorta/kinda fan of Adams I figured I'd go to see if the hubbub was well deserved or not.

OK, it had some strong points, but some lengthy passages that were often tedious. The choral parts were great, for the most part, however.

As for the opera being anti-semitic, I like to say that it is, because neither group of Semites (ie, the Jews or Palestinians) come off looking too good, and Leon Klinghoffer's death isn't really a tragedy so much as it was an unnecessary waste, caused by no one really listening to each other.

There are moments of sympathy for all involved, however. But that sympathy doesn't really bleed into insight, as it does in Steve Reich and Beryl Korot's absolutely devastating The Cave.

My final conclusion is that the protests, both for this production at the Met and at previous productions since the Opera was first produced, have probably caused far more people to see Klinghoffer than would have gone had there been no protests. The Opera is just a little too tedious.

Ah well. Here's one of the Met's trailers for it, showing you precisely what I'm talking about:

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Who wrote the narrative of your life?

Your life is a narrative
The question is, who wrote that story? Who is writing it now?
If it's you then, on one level, everything is fine. You may not be happy, and perhaps you've wrote a story for yourself that ends in tragedy. The good news is, if you are the one who wrote your narrative then you can change this story if you wish. I'm not saying this will be easy.

But there's a bigger problem some of us have: Some of us have allowed someone else to dictate what the narrative of our life will be. And very often that narrative does us a terrible disservice, and it is a narrative that is ultimately designed to serve someone else, either through providing them with a sense of security or ensuring that you are always a minor role in someone else's bigger story. And their bigger story may not actually be all that great, but if they can look at you and see your crummy little story then sometimes they can feel a little better about the miserable role they've either chosen for themselves or that someone else, in turn, chose for them.

If this is the case, that someone else has dictated a narrative to you and your life, I believe that it's best to shake this off. Yeah, there will be consequences. And no, you can't necessarily have whatever role or narrative you want. If you're 60, for instance, it's probably not a great idea to imagine a narrative where you now become an Olympic skater. But the main point is that, if someone else has dictated the narrative of your life, many of the limitations and cummier aspects of who you believe you are probably aren't an inherent, deep part of who you in truth are. Yeah, you may have been living with those limitations long enough to start feeling that you own them, but why not start writing a new narrative for yourself, that starts off something like...

There was a woman or man who lived a life they knew deep down wasn't the right one for them. They lived it because someone else convinced them that it was dangerous to do or become someone else. But eventually, they realized that they could live a much better, more fulfilling life by listening to their own internal voice and creating an entirely new narrative for themselves. And once they did this, once they started concentrating on who they always knew deep down inside they truly were, they then found that living according to this new narrative was easier than they had imagined. So that's what they did.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Why did I join Guitar Circle?

I just wanted to write this somewhere to you, oh group of internet'd strangers, just in case I got hit by a bus tomorrow.

For most if not all of my life I have wanted to play a musical instrument. As a kid I briefly went through a phase of wanting to play the bassoon: it has a strange, humble sound that one can easily ignore but the tone of which is the rival of even the cello. Bassoons are expensive instruments, however, and my folks didn't have the money to spend on something that expensive that might just be a passing notion. And then for a while I wanted to play the trombone, like my father. I even did play the trombone for about 6 months, until my father had to "temporarily" borrow the trombone he had given me to play a "really stupid show that's never going to last". Well, that show was A Chorus Line and up until Cats it was the longest running show on Broadway.

And then, somewhat older, I took up the Indian tabla and really loved it. I practiced my ass off and really shocked my teacher as I rapidly made breakthroughs. As part of a punk/new wave band Doppler Effect I even performed publically with Mr URS and another old friend, with John Cale (yeah, the Velvet Underground John Cale.) But I eventually got laid off from my summer job at Grand Central Cameras and couldn't afford the lessons anymore. In addition, I was studying physics and really didn't have the time to spare on what would pretty obviously just become a hobby.

So then, about two years ago, I attended an Orchestra of Crafty Guitarists performance at St Mark's Church in the East Village, and I loved what I saw: Robert Fripp led a procession of maybe 70 guitarists into the church and they passed notes around in big circles and did other crazy things. I had been reading about some of what Guitar Craft / Guitar Circle was about, so I dove in when I found out there would be a local 3 session intro course meeting once a month on Saturday mornings down on Bleecker.

But here is what I really wanted to say, and that I've told no one until now. There is a part of me that has always been afraid of making music. Why? Because I know that given my family history, music had the potential to amplify in me whatever megalomaniacal tendencies I may have buried down inside. At least in terms of the professional world, one's success is based just as much on the perception of your heavy weightedness (artistically and chops-wise) than on your actual musicianship. And I always felt like a part of me would very readily respond to all of that crazy shit.

With Guitar Circle, however, I feel like there's enough built into it and its methods are so group-oriented that the odds of it switching on the aging megalomaniac inside are low to nil. Indeed, it's such a rigorous methodology that there almost isn't a megalomaniac on the planet with enough energy to make it through all of the hard and tedious work that's necessary. You really have to have a love of music to make it through. Plus, even if there was a megalomaniac left standing, in the context of the circle there's not a lot left for him to do. Sure, once every few weeks one might have the chance to solo over part of a piece for a couple of bars. But that's pretty much it: The Circle has transpersonal music-making demands that are sure to crush the hopes of even the most raving megalomaniac.

This is the context, then, in which I am learning the guitar. And even if I become pretty damned good at it, it's not like I could even make a career out of teaching this strange tuning to anyone. This is pure music in a group context and it is what I have needed all these years. And that's why I practice at least an hour a day, sometimes two or three.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Thomas Pynchon is kicking my ass

Yep. I am now a Thomas Pynchon nut.
Well, maybe nut is a strong word: I haven't read Gravity's Rainbow yet, but I get why people love his books so much.
If you've never heard about Thomas Pynchon before and haven't read any of his books, you're probably imagining them to be sober, ponderous affairs; Real literature in the snooty sense. And yeah, I guess they are that. But they are also hilarious and disorienting, with shows and movies and songs that don't actually exist in our world, even if you think they might. Strange things happen, too, like UFOs and strange little people and other bizarre almost Murakami-esque occurrences around the periphery. There's also a plot and wonderful characters who say and do things that will cause your jaw to drop.

Another thing they don't tell you about Pynchon's books is that they are almost oracular: They focus on a time and place and (mostly but not exclusively) fictional events that seem to underpin the way reality works nowadays. You feel almost like Pynchon has peeled back the thin skein of reality and shown you the real gubbins, or werks that give rise to the actual real-life historic events that shape the world around us. He has translated the lexicon of history into historic characters and events so that, on some level, your limited intelligence can understand.

Vineland is my 4th Pynchon book, and when I finished it a couple of days ago I was a little sad to see the characters go. I'm still a little sad: I miss them, those crazy Californians, all running around and living through very strange times. It's entertaining as hell.

BUT, to inhale all of this entertainment, you have to work your way through plot recursions that are guaranteed to warp your mind: There's the story of the novel, and then characters tell stories in the past that in turn include characters talking about stuff that happened. But all of it is relevant, all of it has bearing or explains what's going on in the basic "real world" plot. If you're a type A personality, trying to get through the story, well you're never going to make it. You better learn to enjoy the ride. But if you're not Type A and are willing to abide dude-like, well you won't have a better time reading that with Vineland and, so far, any of Pynchon's other books.

Roger Ballen's Asylum of the Birds (full film)

Reading Juxtapose I just found out about this dude, Roger Ballen, who is a New Yorker that has lived in South Africa since about 82. On this little promo/making of video for his new book (Asylum of the Birds), you can clearly hear the New York accent (an accent I hear less and less in Manhattan and Brooklyn), and see that the conditions under which he made the recent photos are arguably even wilder than that depicted in the photos themselves.

Friday, October 24, 2014

PS1...Richard Serra

"PS1" is not only where the piece is located, it's the name of the piece as well: That steel beam in the floor of a room up on the roof.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

10 Years of the Magic Lantern!

That's right, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls: This blog has existed for 10 years. It was born on Wall Street (pretty much literally: I was working at 40 Wall Street and was bored at work so started this blog)...continued on when I moved over to the World Financial Center (from which my cube overlooked Ground Zero), and from there kept going when I moved to London for 4 years and watched the financial world collapse from with inside it, and then returned with me back to the US.

Of my antics and adventures there have been plenty, including learning to snowboard in Vermont, Austria, Switzerland, France and Italy...learning guitar, dealing with Bureautron and travelling to China (where I took a 3 day cruise down the Yangtse river, amongst other things), Egypt, Belgium, Morocco...And of course, doing stuff with UMOUR and all manner of characters. David Bowie even laughed at one of my jokes outside Union Square.

Here're some video highlights from over the years:

The view out my cube from 2005 or so to 2006...
Here's that walk down the backstreets of Guilin China, on a steamy August Sunday night:

And here are the horses in St John's Wood, London:

Here's a video the UMOUR gang put together one New Year's Eve. With the spontaneously created music, this took just an hour or two to complete:

And don't forget our more professional video done with real no-playin' director Doug Morse and actress and TV show host Camilla Ford:

Oh yeah, and let's not forget all the great stuff done over at Dangerous Minds.
Been quite a ten years, and indications are that the next year will be very interesting.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Fake Pigeon Lady

Remember last week when I mentioned the Fake Pigeon Lady? See? I told you she was real, and here she is with a flock of motionless felt pigeons, though near the fake pigeon lady proper in the photo I believe you can see some actual living pigeons.
And here are some fake pigeons eating a fake slice of pizza a fake someone threw away:
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