Monday, October 31, 2005
Sunday, October 30, 2005
In honor of Tedstock, I broke out the sad remains of my vinyl collection. Helping me on the road to wellness this morning is Polvo, one of my favorites. On the turntable as I write is 1992's Cor-Crane Secret.
I love this band. Since they broke up, I can't wait for the new Black Taj CD , featuring ex-Polvo members, and their New York shows in December.
Onward to Sunday, October 30, 2005:
First up for today, my friend Chuck Webster is appearing in a show at P.S. 1 called "The Painted World." This is a pretty big show for him and I am very pleased. I also happen to be an "early Webster collector," so I have many reasons to be excited.
Chuck's work is available at the ZieherSmith gallery on 25th between 10th & 11th Avenues.
After the P.S. 1 show, it's on to TEDSTOCK.
At 7:00 P.M. Microdot old and new joins forces with George Vitray and Chris Pace for the "classic" Via Skyway line-up.
At 8:00, it's the new and improved Microdot, with new drummer JoeDot behind the kit.
With my musical responsibilities out of the way, I intend to drink heavily and enjoy the rock stylings of the other bands on the bill. Here's the schedule:
9:00 - The Horse You Rode In On
10:00 - #12 Rock and Roll Noodle (featuring the delicious talents of Gabble Ratchet)
11:00 - The X's
Midnight - Just One
1:00 - Figo
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TED!
Friday, October 28, 2005
This AP story contains the kind of crappy journalism that we have come to know and love from the Associated Press.
About midway through the story, we find this sentence:
Some lawyers have raised the specter of broader conspiracy charges as well.
Well, which lawyers? Lawyers associated with the case? On what basis are they "raising the specter"? Are these criminal lawyers with prosecutorial experience? Are they just some guys the reporter knows from college who became lawyers?
The bigger question is why this is unattributed. If they are sources inside the case, the writer should say so. If they are not associated with the case, why are they anonymous? And why should we care what they say if they have no access to information about the case?
For conspiracy to exist, there has to be an underlying crime. Based on news reports this morning, it looks like Libby is going to be indicted for giving false statements to the grand jury. There is no mention of the supposed crime that started this ridiculous mess - the purported outing of a "covert" CIA agent.
Thanks for the garbage, AP.
Thursday, October 27, 2005
I think the 2 groups really hit the nail on the head with this:
In the statement, as well as in letters to the state board, the groups opposed the standards for singling out evolution as a controversial theory, and also for changing the definition of science itself so that it is not restricted to natural phenomena. (Emphasis added)
The proponents of "alternative" "theories" like Intelligent Design are faulting science for not explaining something it is not designed to explain. They love to point to the drastic changes in scientific knowledge over the years as evidence that evolution may turn out to be wrong altogether. But they are missing the point. Science is never saying, "This is truth." Science is saying, "This is a construct that is supported by and explains the observations of natural phenomena using the available techniques of the time."
Science and religion are not reconcilable, but not because there can't be a God. They are irreconcilable because the definition of faith (believing without having to see) is the direct opposite of the definition of science (trying to describe what can be seen). I wish we would stop wasting time pretending this isn't true.
These nutcases on Kansas Board of Education are battling a straw man that they have erected. In doing so, they are not only striking a blow against their children's ability to see good science, they are providing a terrible example of what folks used to call sophistry. Very depressing indeed.
Bravo to the National Academy of Sciences and the National Science Teachers Association for sticking it to them.
When Miers was announced, Bush claimed that he had asked other women to be nominees and "several" had turned him down. I always thought this was an interesting thing for the President to state and I suspected that it was a planned gambit on his part. It implied that Democratic Senators were so over-the-top in their questioning of John Roberts that none of the qualified female candidates even wanted to be nominated. The message there was that Miers had to be confirmed because there were no other options available if they wanted a female nominee.
Interestingly, this ties in, just a little bit, with game theory work that won Thomas C. Schelling a share of the 2005 Nobel Prize for Economics. Schelling pointed out that in negotiations one side can sometimes gain an advantage if it limits its options in advance, even if limiting those options appears to be contrary to that side's own self-interest. What he was describing was the notion of "pre-commitment." If I burn the bridge behind me, you know that I am serious about staying on this side of the river. That creates a much different negotiation.
Of course, in this case, the strategy didn't work, but for an interesting reason. Bush was not involved in a two-party negotiation. By limiting his choices, he inadvertently alienated his own side and that is what brought this benighted nomination down.
So what does he do now? Claim that one of those women suddenly changed their mind? Go with a male candidate? (Note to Moonbat Tinfoil brigade: Yes. This was all a Rovian plan to nominate a male candidate.)
Monday, October 24, 2005
The plane hit the ground in a spot that leads me to believe that he was preparing to turn from the downwind leg to the base leg of the traffic pattern for Runway 28 at East Hampton Airport (KHTO). There may have been an issue with an engine, but this would not be fatal in a twin engine plane. It seems far more likely that he stalled the wings (i.e., put the plane in an attitude where the wings were no longer creating lift) while making too steep a turn from downwind to base at a slow speed. We won't know for six months, but I suspect loss of control in low-level, slow maneuvering will be the cause. The press always focuses on engine failure, but that is not, generally, what causes fatal accidents.
KHTO is where I learned to fly and where I base my plane during the summer. Here she is on the ramp at East Hampton:
East Hampton Airport is a truly wonderful place to fly. The main runway is very long, but there is no control tower. All pilots talk on 122.7, the common traffic frequency. The terminal is small and friendly.
So, it pains me to think of that familiar view, turning base for Runway 28, suddenly rushing up at me with fatal fury.
Working at Smoke and Mirrors has been the most enjoyable recording experience of my recording career. I recommend them very highly. Not only do you get great sound, you get a relaxed, artist friendly place to work and flesh out ideas.
T-minus 6 days to Tedstock.
Despite the endless "quagmire" talk in the Western media, I suggest that it is the insurgency that is stuck in a quagmire. In their own way, they are caught in a Vietnam in reverse.
In Vietnam, the U.S. was fighting a war where it was difficult to find hard targets. Our massive edge in weaponry and equipment offered little advantage because it was so hard to put them to use effectively. Attacks on civilians who were mistaken for targets generated nothing but ill-will towards the Americans.
In Iraq, the insurgency has the exact same problem in reverse. What do they hit without losing the "hearts and minds" of the Iraqi people? What do they blow up without killing the same people they are purporting to protect?
They do try to target U.S. troops, but they clearly know that is a fight they can never win. So, they target Iraqis, which does nothing but turn most people against them. And every week, the forces protecting the civilians become more and more Iraqi and less and less American.
Iraqis are not stupid. Despite all the bleatings of the Hate America First media, they recognize who is protecting their ability to vote for their own government and who is blowing them up in their streets.
That's not a winning strategy. Sounds like a "quagmire" to me.
Is there a Wahhabi Joan Baez?
It's never been a secret that the Times is a left-leaning paper, but at least it used to be a good left-leaning paper.
I swear, I have no idea who reads the drivel that comes out of Maureen Dowd, Paul Krugman, Frank Rich or Thomas Friedman and actually takes it seriously. Even more difficult to fathom is who is dumb enough to pay the subscription fee to TimeSelect to read this crap on line.
But worse than the awful Op-Ed page these days is the sloppiness in the news reporting and the blurred line between editorial writing and reportage that has infected the main pages.
At the moment, the paper is in the process of eating its own leg. Good. Something truly drastic needs to happen on 43rd street because the Times could not be losing respect more rapidly.
Which would be sad, because once the editorializing is beaten back to the last two pages of the A section, a healthy New York Times is a good thing to have around.
Friday, October 21, 2005
Last night we had a combination rehearsal/therapy session with Via Skyway. I think we reached a breakthrough with George, who was finally able to cry in front of all of us. He still has the paranoid delusions of robot persecution, but I think we are seeing some progress.
MikeDot and ChrisSemiDot combined for one of the funniest moments I can think of since...well, Wednesday, when JoeDot had me on the floor laughing.
I've heard about this feeling before...something like "happiness."
This is an annoying inside joke post.
Everybody on the outside, just deal with it.
Thursday, October 20, 2005
Metropolitan Avenue reminded me of a day I spent with my Dad about three years ago. He was born in Long Island City, but grew up in Maspeth. We drove from spot to spot, finding the places where he had lived and gone to school. We visited Grover Cleveland High School, where a picture of my uncle's championship soccer team from the late 1940s is still hanging in the trophy case, next to a plaque from my Dad's championship team. It was also the place where my Dad was arrested with his best friend, Herb Pluschau, on suspicion of being a Communist because they had organized a protest against homework over school vacations. I passed Grover Cleveland, which sits in a little park on a small hill on the south side of Metropolitan Avenue, when I drove in tonight.
I also passed The Lutheran All Faiths Cemetery, where my great, great grandfather, Martin Blessinger is buried. Martin's parents, John and Eva came to America from the Rhineland on October 9, 1841 on the SS Pauline. He was born 10 months later, in August 1842. Martin grew up to fight in the Civil War with the 45th New York Volunteers, also known as the "German Rifles." He fought at Chancellorsville and Gettysburg. He's buried with his wife Adeline (also my grandmother's name) and his son Fred. His first son, John is buried nearby.
The reason we know about Martin's passage to America and his service in the Civil War is because my Dad went out and looked it all up.
And that, in a nutshell, is my Dad.
When I was a kid, his response to almost every question I asked was, "Let's look it up." If I showed interest in any subject, from model planes to architecture, my Dad would help me find a book (usually a LOT of books) that had answers and information. When we were very young, he would get up early, before work, and sit on the kitchen floor and read to/with/for us.
In our later years, my brother and I took to rolling our eyes and acting annoyed whenever my Dad would push a stack of books on us about some subject we had mentioned, even in passing. But we should really be grateful, because he made us believe we could master any subject we could think of. All we needed to do was find the right books.
So, I'm guessing that the folks who work for Thomas H. Lee, the famous private equity investor, are feeling pretty crappy now that they have lost $1.3 billion of investor value in two weeks through their holdings in Refco.
For those that don't know the story, Refco announced about two weeks ago that its CEO had been hiding over $400MM in debt. This has led to a shit-storm of epic proportions. The stock has gone from $28 to $0.90 in two weeks. Now that's volatility!
Lee is a marquee name in the private equity world. Goldman, Sachs & Co., where I actually began my career, was one of the lead underwriters on the recent IPO and they are the gold standard in big i-banking.
How in God's name did they all miss this? Who was doing the checking on the books before they did these deals?
Remember this the next time you hear people talking about "smart money" investing in a deal.
One odd thing I have found in my career is that "smart money" is often not too smart.
Man Demands More Jail Time to Honor Hero Larry Bird
Oct. 20 (Bloomberg) -- A 27-year-old man demanded extra prison time because he wanted to honor his basketball hero, Larry Bird. A lawyer for Eric James Torpy reached a plea agreement with Oklahoma City prosecutors for a 30-year jail term on two charges of shooting with intent to kill and one count of a violation, District Court Judge Ray Elliott said in a telephone interview. Torpy then insisted on getting 33 years to match the uniform number Bird wore when he led the Boston Celtics to three National Basketball Association Championships during the 1980s, Elliott said. The judge on Oct. 18 accommodated his guest.
``He told his attorney that Larry Bird was his long-time hero, and that if he was going to go to prison he wanted to go down with that number,'' Elliott said. Under Oklahoma law, prisoners must serve 85 percent of their sentence before being eligible for parole, Elliott said. Torpy understood that and told his lawyer that it didn't matter, the judge said. ``In 26 years, I've never seen an individual request more time,'' Elliott said. ``They're generally begging and pleading for less time. But he was as happy as he could be.''
Bird, a three-time NBA Most Valuable Player who is now an executive with the Indiana Pacers, didn't immediately return a message left at his office. ``Maybe Bird will autograph a jersey for him,'' Elliott said.
One of the most amusing things about Superfly is her use of bizarre Upstate New York (she grew up in Rochester) pronunciations and usages. She's lived in New York City since the Eisenhower administration, but she still pronounces "bagel" as "BAG-ul."
Similarly, the "stereo" is the "STEER-e-o."
Then there are the odd formulations of common phrases. It's the end of October, so "Trick or treat" season is upon us...except in upstate New York, where it is, apparently, "Trick 'n' treat." Now, that doesn't really make sense does it? Those poor Rochester people paying out thousands of dollars in candy each year and STILL getting their houses egged and toilet papered.
Finally, there is no article in "the Internet" for her. It's just "Internet," which always makes it sound more like the computer network that takes over the world in the Terminator movies.
All of this is tremendously endearing and, well, she's my Mom.
But lately I've been thinking about her a lot for an unusual reason. I've been thinking about how I want my guitar to sound on both the classical side, where I am in the market for a high-quality concert guitar, and on the Microdot side, where we are working on new sounds for the band.
And what I find is that I am trying to make the instrument sound like my mom's voice.
You see, Superfly is former opera singer. Here she is performing in Mexico
And in Tosca:
Her clear, rounded, pitch-perfect voice is the soundtrack to my entire youth. She taught singing in our apartment when I was growing up, so I would get home and listen to her and her students all afternoon as I pretended to to my homework.
Turns out it is extraordinarily hard to make your guitar sound that clear and precise and, at the same time, so warm and full. But it is so much a part of me that I can't help but keep working for that goal. I search for that sound, both in the instrument and in myself.
And someday, when she is gone, that voice that I heard my whole life will, hopefully, live on through me.
A couple of days ago I downloaded Def Leppard's High 'n' Dry, a record I haven't heard since I owned it on vinyl in the early 1980s.
The Leppard went on to major heights of suckitude with their later work, but at this stage they were still an interesting young pop-metal band, stationed at the crossroads between the heavy blues of AC/DC and the more straightforward metal sound of an Iron Maiden (although never even close to that hard). Unfortunately, they got involved with "Mutt" Lange and I suspect he is the reason they ended up writing horrific songs like "Pour Some Sugar on Me."
I also wonder how much of the change in the band's direction was the result of the departure of Pete Willis.
So how does the record hold up after 20 years without listening to it?
The first side is pretty darned good. Let It Go, Another Hit and Run and High 'n' Dry are solid songs. The latter two have an interesting blend of straight up blues-rock riffs from the AC/DC playbook and more interesting harmonic ideas. It's that second part that saves them from being just a poor man's AC/DC and it is what makes their first hit, Bringin' on the Heartbreak better than your average power ballad. My favorite part of the record is the instrumental, Switch 625, that follows.
Side two, on the other hand, is not so hot. One definitely gets the feeling that they were running out of material. Some people seem to think Lady Strange is a great song, but it doesn't do much for me. One bummer on the iTunes version of the record is that you don't get the infinite repeat of "No no no" on the runout groove from the vinyl version. Then again, I rarely listened all the way through, so maybe that's not that big a deal.
Still, that first side shows a band that might have grown into something pretty good, once they grew up a little.
Oh well. If I am writing about Def Leppard, I clearly have little to say today.
Monday, October 17, 2005
Chewbacca is becoming an American citizen.
I wasn't so crazy about this comment:
"I am feeling very happy about it," Mayhew said. "Whatever people say about America, it is still one of the most wonderful countries in the world, despite the politics, religion and everything else that goes on."
Yeah, well, just remember that it is those crazy Christians who keep things like this from happening:
Although I was mighty young at the time, I remember the big brouhaha when he managed to curse on live TV. Twenty five years later, it seems almost quaint that there could be such an uproar.
Charles, we hardly knew ye.
No, I mean it. I really have no idea what you did after that season. Rest in peace.
Simply put, there is no excuse for a private pilot to venture unwittingly into a no-fly zone in this country. Long before September 11, the Federal Aviation Regulations required all pilots to be fully briefed about all aspects of their flight before departing. Obtaining information about airspace restrictions has become absurdly easy with the growth of the Internet. Even without a computer, all a pilot has to do is call the local Flight Service Station and ask for a standard briefing on the route of flight. The information is not hidden in some obscure vault.
Some pilots will bitch and moan that the changing restrictions are confusing and subject to change, but I can't agree. The information is available (from a live human being if you call the FSS!) and it is the responsibility of the pilot to know it. If you are unsure, you can even call the FSS on the radio when you are in the air.
These high-profile incursions come at a time when the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association is lobbying to have the Washington D.C. Air Defense Identification Zone ("ADIZ") reduced or amended. It's becoming an uphill battle. How can the AOPA argue for a loosening of the airspace when general aviation pilots keep proving that they can't even follow the current regs? It's maddening and it adds momentum to the push to create a New York ADIZ, which would suck royally. I can say that dealing with the Newark and LaGuardia towers has been fairly easy and pleasant for me thus far. Creating an ADIZ would turn the whole situation into a huge mess.
I haven't been very misanthropic lately, but this news definitely brings it all back.
Sunday, October 16, 2005
The winds this morning were about 12 knots, gusting to 17 knots. This is pretty windy, but not entirely crazy. Not having flown in two weeks, I was anxious to get back in the plane and continue accumulating cross country flight time so that I can obtain my instrument rating (I need 50 hours of solo x-country before I can get the rating). So I planned a flight from Linden to Ocean City, Maryland. By 10:30, I was just about to head out the door.
In the back of my mind, however, was a small voice. It was a voice advising me to re-check the weather and re-think the trip. I went back to the computer and checked the latest weather at Newark (which is ony 6 miles north of Linden). The winds had increased to 19 knots, with gusts up to 25 knots. There was a high wind warning in effect. Now we were into territory where I would be increasing my risks substantially. I was no longer comfortable.
So I stayed home. And that, in a nutshell, is how pilots live to old age. The go/no-go decision is often very tough and there was certainly no legal reason I could not have made the flight. But there was also no real reason to make the flight in these conditions. The potential crosswind component could have been close the maximum for my plane, let alone my abilities. The danger of gusts over 5 knots, even if they are right down the runway, is the potential for an inadvertent stall on final.
When I tell friends that I am a pilot, the majority are freaked out at the possibility that the engine would fail in flight. But a plane without an engine is just a glider. Part of the training for the Private Pilot's License is performing an emergency landing with no engine. It's a serious situation to be sure, but one which can be controlled reasonably well.
What really kills pilots is weather. There is no reason to fly knowingly into weather conditions that are at the edge of one's abilities, at least not without an instructor. Every month I get a newsletter that tracks general aviation accidents and the story, over and over and over, is pilots dying because they took off into conditions for which they were not prepared.
I hope that little voice never goes away.
Saturday, October 15, 2005
Still, the guitar department was afflicted with a severe inferiority complex in relation to the other, more famous concert instruments like piano, violin, etc. The head of the department, who is, honestly, a pretty cheesy player, was obsessed with the idea that the guitarists studying in the department didn't have the same basic skills as, say, a beginner pianist.
Now, this was probably true to a certain extent. Piano and violin, for example, are extremely competitive instruments and the students who studied in the music department were clearly motivated, well-trained players. There was only one other undergraduate in the program with me (the rest were graduate students) and she was a little lacking in basic skills.
Unfortunately, the curriculum was so focused on developing rest stroke scales, free stroke scales, arpeggios, tremolo work, rasgueado, and anything else under the sun, that I felt like I spent most of my time cranking through exercises and not playing pieces. I am not going to suggest that it didn't help develop some skills, but, as I later found out, it exacted a toll on my playing.
I eventually reconnected with Yasha a few years back and he was distressed to hear my playing. It sounded mechanical, tense and overpowered with a harsh tone. For the last few years, we have worked to retain the technique, but get rid of those less appealing qualities.
And what is so strange about that journey is that I play less and less guitar each week, but I seem to make more and more progress creating a beautiful tone, creating phrasing for the pieces and adding a pulse to keep the playing alive. I often play very little in our lessons. Sometimes I just listen to Yasha play. Sometimes we just talk.
One thing that Yasha said early on has stuck with me. To play the pieces beautifully, we must become the kind of guitarist who plays the piece beautifully. This is not achieved through hours of practice and technical exercise. This is achieved by allowing yourself to fall in love with the piece. To sing it, sometimes literally. But, most importantly, it is achieved by changing who you are inside.
And that is something they can't teach you in college.
Coleman once said, "I could play and sound like Charlie Parker note-for-note, but I was only playing it from method. So I tried to figure out where to go from there." Where he went was what is commonly termed "free jazz" and Dancing in Your Head is a great big, crazy slab of it. The first two cuts are basically Coleman and guitarists Charles Ellerbee and Bern Nix improvising on a theme in Bb. Coleman had become interested in Moroccan music, as evidenced by the track "Midnight Sun," which featured Coleman in a free-form jam with music critic Rober Palmer and the Master Musicians of Jajouka.
I find myself alternately exhilarated and exasperated by this music. There is a clear joyfulness in the sound and there are moments of fascinating interplay between the musicians. The exposition of the theme, which is pretty simplistic, is a crazy eruption that doesn't sound at all like what we normally hear as jazz.
But there is also a sense that, quite frankly, this is bullshit.
The music is, by design, organized chaos and I find myself wondering if there is a point at which we've left music of enduring interest and just going to a bunch of highly-trained musicians goofing around. Coleman's solos are so out there, so nonsensical, so uninterested in being anything, that I must confess I lose interest and start to feel like we've just ventured into pure randomness. And if we get to pure randomness, do we even need a bunch of guys with stellar jazz chops anymore? What then, is the difference between "Theme from a Symphony (Variation 1)" and, say, "The Waiting Room," off The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway by Genesis? Let's face it, critics were not hailing Steve Hackett and Tony Banks as geniuses for that track.
So I guess this is a confession for me. Maybe I am a Philistine, but I can't help but feel that this is something other than music. I feel happy, but conned.
Friday, October 14, 2005
Now, I haven't finished the book yet, but the structure Barry has chosen for his narrative is somewhat similar to the movie "Outbreak," starring Dustin Hoffman. An epidemic starts and brave doctors are rushing to identify the pathogen and create a cure. In the movie, the plot centers around finding the monkey who infected everybody. Once they find him, they are able to whip up a cure in no time and save everybody.
As I said, I haven't finished the book, but I am pretty certain that the 1918 pandemic simply burned out, as viruses do, because they tend to run out of hosts or mutate into less lethal forms (a process known as "passage"). There was no monkey to find and no cure to whip up.
On the other hand, the intensive study prompted by the pandemic undoubtedly moved virology, pathology, epidemiology and other branches of medicine forward.
So what's my point?
In my daily life, I run a fund that invests in biotechnology companies. When I tell that to people, they often assume that one of the companies we invest in will someday come out and announce that they have "cured" cancer/diabetes/muscular dystrophy/ALS. Being a non-scientific type, I realize now that I used to think that way, subconsciously, as well. It's human nature.
But it doesn't really happen. "Positive" results in many cancer trials increase life expectancy by mere months. The ball is advanced slowly. Medicine is kind of like Army football; the passing game is weak. We advance one yard at a time, on the ground, in the mud.
Thursday, October 13, 2005
I am sorry that I have not been better about reading your blog.
I want a Tedstock t-shirt. I want a copy of the CD and I want to see the film.
Then I want to dilute the brand by putting Tedstock on everything in sight, including condoms.
But it all started with Ted.
Navel-staring observations navel-staring observations navel-staring observations navel-staring observations. Reference to un-famous friend reference to un-famous friend reference to un-famous friend.
Notice of misanthropy notice of misanthropy notice of misanthropy notice of misanthropy. Desire to kill desire to kill desire to kill desire to kill desire to kill.
Punchline punchline punchline punchline.
Wednesday, October 12, 2005
Alternate side of the street parking is suspended tomorrow and I will be spending the day at home.
Sometimes it feels like God packed my picinic basket.
Tuesday, October 11, 2005
After forty minutes of this, I was on the verge of screaming, "5 ACROSS IS 'DOTS!' D-O-T-S!! DO YOU HEAR ME??? DOTS!!!" The clue was "Ellipsis' three."
When I boarded the plane, I noticed that there was a First Class section, which seems to be a bit of a waste on a one hour and four minute flight. Now I realize that First Class is there so you don't have to watch steam come out of your neighbor's ears as he wrestles with the USA Today crossword puzzle. Nobody in First would miss "Ellipsis' three."
5 down was "Daphne," by the way.
Monday, October 10, 2005
When I looked over to give the obligatory dirty look, I saw that the driver was furiously digging his right index finger into his left nostril. Yes, the reason this guy was nearly flinging his car across three lanes of traffic was to dislodge snot.
The End Times are truly upon us.
The desire to floor the accelerator and mow this young lad down in broad daylight passed quickly enough, but I was annoyed. I was even more shocked when he called his 3 year old sister across the street to stand in the spot next to him.
People are idiots. I am filled with hatred.