Nomological Net

Stray thoughts from here and there. The occasional concern for construct validity. No more logic. Fish.


faults in the clouds of delusion

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

A Man for All Seasons


Psmith Will Help You
Psmith Is Ready for Anything
Someone To Manage Your Affairs?
Someone To Manage Your Business?
Someone To Take The Dog For A Run?
Someone To Assassinate Your Aunt?
Whatever Job You Have To Offer
(Provided It Has Nothing To Do With Fish)
Address Applications To 'R. Psmith, Box 365'

Many thanks to the Oldest Member for bringing this back to mind. A merry two afternoons were spent in his company, and this was one of the many shared treasures excavated during the course of the festivities.

I had a funny day, actually. The early afternoon saw me tour-guiding the esteemed visitor to a picaresque corner of this quaint land. Guinness was hunted, but Hoegaarden settled on. The memories of a sheep and a cow were sanctified. And I was gratified by the eagerness with which my companion took to the sights, sounds and smells of the Sai Kung seashore.

The evening saw me heading downtown for a concert by Chris Botti, jazz trumpeter. I won't say I wasn't apprehensive -- I'd bought the ticket on an impulse two months ago, and returned home to discover that most if not all of this gent's album titles contain the word 'Love'. My fears were heightened when I read the concert program ~ translated from Chinese ~ in which he was described as a leading purveyor of smooth jazz. Moreover, he was quoted as saying that he loved playing jazz, although he played within the pop idiom. I have to confess, I sank a little deeper into my seat.

The show wasn't that bad, though. I mean, they played some real stuff. The guy even paid tribute to Miles, and attempted a cover of My Funny Valentine. And the guitarist quoted from Impressions and Milestones. There was a know-all in the row behind me ("Man that drummer should be in chains. He has something personal against those skins. Did you see how you couldn't even see the sticks? That's the kind I like - not the kind that gets stuck on the snare, like Jack deJohnette.") but thankfully he didn't start until after the show was over, so I only heard him going while we were shuffling along on the way to the exit.

The band members came out to the lobby alongside us. I debated shutting up the know-all by leaning over and asking the bassist if he had deliberately tried to copy Kai Eckhardt's style. (He hadn't -- was nowhere near the same class.) I decided against it. Instead, I walked on out fast into the fresh air. Steered myself towards the piers. Sitting in the ferry watching the amazing Hong Kong skyline slowly recede, the most beautiful Dark Star from DP4 teasing through my eardrums -- that was a moment to treasure.

So that made me want to carpe the bushy-tailed diem, ergo, I made tracks for Ned Kelly's, our local Aussie outback expat jazz bar. Arrived at the end of the first set. Settled into a corner, working in next to a group of Spaniards. One of them a perky young redhead with lovely waist long hair. No roots. Downed a Manhattan. A Guinness. And a meat pie. Fair dinkum. The band struck up. A bunch of middle-aged Filipinos -- guitar, bass, trumpet, drums. More swing in each of them than the whole bloody Botti band. Playing peppy Dixieland style, traces of Pops every time the man blew. Three numbers in a lively round Chinese lady joins them. Quando, quando, quando, she sings. The Spaniards, already lively, pep up even more. The redhead is dancing in her seat. Her name is Marta. She has no madman. The song ends. The trumpet announces the next track. An old familiar. The Chinese lady growls it out. Helloooo-DOL-ly. It's incongruous when you open your eyes, but it hits the spot.

Oh does it hit the spot.

I'm chilled.

I can handle this.

The set finishes, I pay and leave. Across the street is a music and video retailer. I walk in to see what's on sale. Scope out the TV section. Nothing. Across the aisle, a shifty little guy eyes the adults' titles. Picks up something. Puts it back. Looks around. Eye contact.

I give him the inscrutable oriental ones.

I mosey on across to the music DVDs. Fly Jefferson Airplane is on the cheaps. I'd have got it at a quarter of the price if I'd waited two years. Not worth it. I turn to leave. My friend Shifts is at the cash counter. They're having trouble processing his payment. He stands, squirming, as the lady behind him tries to not look at the cash register that says PENTHOU, $100.

I step out and flag a cab. Thanks for all the fish.

Saturday, October 28, 2006


Isn't it strange?

You spend all your time trying to buy money.
And then you spend your money trying to buy time.


With no loving in our souls
And no money in our coats
You can't say we're satisfied
But Angie, Angie,
You can't say we never tried

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

an iota of the moon*

extract from an im conversation with a close friend. sorry the context cannot be revealed, still it's something to ponder about (much as i still ruminate on this beauty from km).

you get a little success and then think "why shd i throw it away"
makes sense when you think of it like that
being one of the very best in the world at what you do
how many ppl get the chance to say that?
yet to be at the top means to make sacrifices
and the question is -- when do you say enough
i've sacrificed enough, now it's my turn to cash in


*title reference to a presidential campaign promise from my college days. the competition had roped in the star debator, and this was his line: "we do not promise you the moon, but we do promise you an iota of the moon." i'd played hitman on his eloquence by tramping our side's campaign trail saying, "we promise you no iota, just a toyota." memories.

Monday, October 23, 2006

an old familiar place

a new album from bobby. always an occasion. has been for forty years now.

i waited a while on this one – grabbed it, but not as soon as it arrived. then i let it lay, lay around my big brass bed. for a while. till the time. was right. and i was too. out of mind. late one evening. i cracked it open. i slipped it in.

i sat down and lay back, and took a long warm sip.

track 1. thunder on the mountain. opens with a rumble. sweet guitar sound, settles into an easy groove. bobby’s voice steps in. that old familiar place. i recognize. we’re back. where we’ve never been. today’s the day i’m going to grab my trombone, he says. remember this – i’m your servant both night and day.

i’ll say this i don’t give a damn about your dreams.

track 2. spirit on the water. light piano, bass entry. if i can’t love you i’ll throw my love into the deep blue sea.

the metaphor as cliché.

track 3. rollin’ and tumblin’. muddy waters. furious pace. old standard. suddenly new verses start pouring out. again we’re lost –- his mythical land, warm weather’s coming and floods all look high, and ain’t no question i’m going to satisfy this woman of mine.

sooner or later you too shall burn.

track 4. when the deal goes down. slow two-step. in the still of the night / in the world’s ancient light / when the world rose up in strife / we all wear the same thorny crown / i’ll be here when the deal goes down.

i heard a deafening noise / i felt the transient joys / i know they’re not what they seem.

the rebel as sage, the iconoclast as seer. bobby is older now. when my ship comes in has grown up. naked rage is now acceptance, maybe even tolerance, or hope.

track 5. someday baby. again a change of pace. aggressive rock rhythm. bit like further on up the road bit like someday baby ain’t gonna worry my life any more. first real lead guitar solo. confined to the left channel. someday baby you ain’t gonna worry over me any more.

he’s twisted it round!

he's twisted it round.

the cliché as metaphor.

what was hope now sounds like a threat. it's almost prophetic. a treble guitar ostinato picks up and makes the sound eerie despite the fast tempo.

track 6. workingman’s blues. too much blackness need relief. sweet piano flavored intro. bobby describes yet another scene. tells yet another familiar story. the master of desolation row. is sitting this way trying to keep the hunger from making its way into my shoes. why does this remind me of lit a fire on main street and shot it full of holes. sudden brainflash. there has been no harmonica yet. is this a break from the past? we're idiots, babe? sing a little bit of these workingman’s blues.

track 7. beyond the horizon. the first discordant opening. it lasts all of four notes. a standard rhythm settles in – is this that intentional? is he a puppet-master? do you see a gingerbread house? there's a pedal steel overlay. beyond the horizon / across the divide / round about midnight / we’ll be on the same side. almost like a lullaby. beyond the horizon.

someone’s praying for your soul.

the Elder is telling us his stories again. the same stories, with different words. the comfort of the familiar. the lure of the new. the ups and the downs. it's the third in his trilogy.

track 8 starts up. nettie moore. another story without a form. this isn’t about the words any more. it isn’t about meaning, or the message. this is about hypnosis. it’s about security. tracks 9 and 10. they roll on. i take another sip. i’m enveloped in the sensation. this isn't even about the music any more.

this is about an hour long visit to an old friend’s place.


for a less right-brained review, go here. i think the two reviews are perfect complements (and we wrote them in parallel, beat that).

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

What side are you on?

I often buy books at airports. Yesterday afternoon I got excited and bought up a bunch of stuff well ahead of the day of travel. One of the books I got hold of promises to be quite a gem. It's a slim little volume called: What We Believe But Cannot Prove. It consists of 109 major thinkers, people such as Freeman Dyson, Leonard Susskind, and Richard Dawkins, stating briefly - in passages ranging in length from a single paragraph to a page or three - one thing they believe but cannot prove.

There are, of course, the philosophical musings about religion and consciousness and the natures of belief and proof and the existence of true love or a flying spaghetti monster. One contributor (Maria Spiropulu) states, "I would suggest that belief and proof are in some way complementary: If you believe something, you don't need proof of it, and if you have proof, you don't need to believe." On the other hand, Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi (he of "flow" fame) avers that "I can prove almost nothing I believe in." Then there are a lot of musings about the cutting edge of science -- from cosmology to consciousness. A few choices are disappointing: my hero Jared Diamond stuck to two pages of self-conscious synopsis of his theory about the first humans in North America.

So the book promises to be a good read. I'm not planning to go cover to cover on it, since it looks as if it might be more interesting to read at intervals, non-linearly. More interestingly, I sat down for a bit today to wonder what it is that *I* believe but cannot prove. Apart from a brief flirtation with the idea that "things are only going to get worse", some sort of second law of thermodynamics dealing in human entropy, I drew quite a significant blank. What do I believe but cannot prove?

I'm not sure. Maybe tomorrow's flight will be spent wondering about this question.

Or maybe it will be spent reading one of the other books I picked up yesterday.

powered by ODEO

Poodle Factory > What Side of the Funk Are You On?
Garaj Mahal with Nick Barron
May 24, 2002
[Serious download alert]

PS. Now I'm wondering -- what do differences in the ability to generate items in this belief/proof business tell you about the person doing the generating?

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Fed whiskey to your warriors

The State of Massachussetts has a referendum coming up in a few weeks. Question #1 on the ballot is whether the sale of liquor should be allowed at grocery stores. As a mildly interested observer, I've noticed flyers at a couple of different venues, propounding opposing points of view. Those supporting the motion believe that it will serve to civilize this society a little bit more, as genteel husbands and wives will now be able to stroll into their neighborhood grocery and find the right California Chardonnay to pair with their evening's antibiotic-laden monster rubber chicken hybrid (that's a good word). Or perhaps Merlot with Mad Cow fed with gristle of other Mad Cow. Whatever. Proponents of this viewpoint seem to be aligned with the grocery business. Those opposing the motion, not coincidentally tending to be aligned with the independent liquor store business, suggest that the availability of wine in grocery stores will increase the availability of alcohol to minors, as randy young sixteen year olds will bust into the corner 7-11 to cart away crates of sherry and port (these being the beverages featuring maximum alcohol content, and therefore, "buzz"). The image is an amusing one, coming as I do from a place and time where empty bottles of Benadryl used to be found scattered around sprawling university grounds. "How can anyone monitor the sale of alcohol to minors," ask the guardians of propriety, "when those selling the alcohol to minors are themselves minors?" An interesting point, I concede, but one that limits your perceptions of Bud Lite, a product too widely available everywhere.

I find myself alternating between mild cynicism for the one position and mild disdain for the other. A mixture of emotions that was captured pretty well during an enforced wait second in line at the counter at a local chain pharmacy today, faced up with a multitude of rags featuring the latest exposes on the lives of Hollywood's glitterati (did anyone know that Tara Reid's silicone implant surgery went awry but not to worry, she has her confidence back now?) The headline that really attracted my attention, though, in the middle of all the celeb news, was one that went: "something something blah blah Amish Massacre". I thought of the Amish massacre, and the poor kids who went down. (Interesting story titled: What the Amish are Teaching America here.) But what I really thought was -- at least 26 people died in Baghdad in a single incident yesterday. But there won't be any headlines about that, now, will there?

We never did really think about anything except where we can buy our stupid alcohol, did we? Issue #1 indeed.

Last weekend I spent a night in New Jersey. The TV was on. They were giving a quick roundup of the weather. They showed the satellite map of the US, with all the clouds and everything. Then they focused in on a few specific cities. First, Denver. Then, St. Louis. Then, Miami. All nice and normal so far, you think? The fourth and last city they showed before switching out of the weather report was Baghdad.

Of course, Baghdad isn't the only place in the world that's screwed right now. (Every day there's at least one story I read online that I'm so tempted to feature on this blog, but then we wouldn't be all nice and trivial now, would we?) There's also Afghanistan. Where grown men hide in fields of marijuana. You don't believe me? Read this: Taleban fighters using giant Afghan marijuana forests for cover are proving a tough foe to smoke out, the head of Canada's armed forces has revealed. "A section of soldiers that was downwind from that had some ill effects and decided that was probably not the right course of action."

End rant, with music that speaks louder than words. Don't miss this.

powered by ODEO

For we raped and killed, we stole your land, we ruled with guns and knives
Fed whiskey to your warriors while we stole away your wives
Said Running Elk, what's done is done, you white men rule this land
So lay the cards face up and play your last broken-hearted hand

- "Land of the Navajo"
Donna the Buffalo with Peter Rowan
May 2, 2001

Friday, October 13, 2006

In orbit

I: Have been tagged by Szerelem
You: Get to know the top ten (or so) most-played tracks on my playlist
The catch: Is that my poodle is always set on shuffle mode, so this list is no indication of my preference except that the tracks on the list, you know I like.

In reverse order, the list.

Tied at 4th
- Tore Up Over You: The Legion of Mary, disk 1 (Jerry stretches out for nearly twelve sweet minutes. I believe I posted about an incident involving this track, some time back.)
- Jodi Mishte Chao: The Bauls of Bengal, "Mystic Songs From India"
- Conga Brava: Duke Ellington
- My Best Friend: Jefferson Airplane
- Time: Pink Floyd (funny -- it was almost exactly sixteen years ago that I read an Eric Clapton quote that went, "When I was sixteen I wouldn't talk to you if you hadn't heard of Robert Johnson," and I thought, "Yeah, and didn't know the words to Time.")
- Can't Buy Me Love: The Beatles

Tied at 3rd
- Bistirna Dupare: Bhupen Hazarika (this is the "Oh, Ganga" song)
- Asamaye: Anjan Dutta
- Mozambique: Bob Dylan
- Arabia: Garcia and Grisman, "Grateful Dawg" (much better on the DVD :-)
- Run-around: Blues Traveler, "Live From The Fall"

Tied at 2nd
- Lula Don't You Go To Bingo: Boozoo Chavis (from a compilation titled just "Zydeco")
- Self-Portrait in Three Colors: Charles Mingus
- Village Damsel: Indian Ocean
- Off Minor: Thelonious Monk with John Coltrane

Tied at 1st
- Better Git It In Your Soul: Charles Mingus (two from the same album!)
- Sayonee: Junoon

Hmm. If I had to comment on this, I'd say that the Bengali tracks are surprisingly over-represented, and I'm very surprised to see so few of the staples on the list. No Dead (I must have about ten gigs worth on the drive), no Garaj, no RRE, no DTB, no Miles. Funny. But then that's the whole point of random.

And in case anyone's interested, the one disk that's been on non-stop rotation on my player whenever I've been home for the last three weeks or so, is Dawg's Groove. Essential listening.

Anyway, now I'm curious, so I tag (for the first time ever), Wildflower Seed and Kundalini.

Friday, October 06, 2006


Was all set to get me a dose of Railroad Earth last night -- my first real show in over a year [SLURP], with the added incentive of getting to show the Mock Turtle a real good time. But some time during the afternoon the Earthboard buzzed in with the news that Tim Carbone, violinist, has been taken ill and the show is rescheduled to December 1. By which time I'll be safely at the other end of the world. DRAT.

THWARTED. Teased. Cheesed off.

But still in the mood for a good time :-(

So here's a heckuva download. The String Cheese Incident at Tulsa, Oklahoma, April 18, 2001. Rounding off the second set with Impressions > Jam > Black Clouds. 35 minutes of sonic mayhem. Taking you to those special places. Who said you can't dance to Trane?

And the title of this post?

Watch for the So What tease at the beginning of Impressions. Miles and Trane, anyone?
And the Wharf Rat tease during Black Clouds.

Say Cheese!

And hope that Tim gets well soon.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Wharf rat

I'm sitting in a coffee shop. A Boston afternoon. People wandering in and out. Seats at a premium, but I have no one at my little table. White laces dangle from the occasional ear. Outside, a young girl gets out of her Jetta, skips over to fumble a coin near the parking meter. She has a white canvas bag lying on the back seat. Mellow bright sunshine puddles between the shadows. A Jewish family ambles by with a stroller. A fat black man with an ID card around his neck is talking to a younger white kid. His lips frame the words - one hour. I have a book in my side pocket; it is called The History of the Smile. It feels warm against my leg.

Excuse me, is this seat taken?
Only if you listen to me.

Old man down
way down, down
down by the docks of the city,
Blind and dirty
asked me for a dime--
dime for a cup of coffee
I got no dime but
I got some time to hear his story

I just got back last night. It was raining when I got in. A white punk with a nail through his left ear had been sitting in front of me on the plane. His new wife was in the row behind. They'd just been on their honeymoon. The flight staff had refused them entry on the plane despite the fact that they had valid tickets. So they had yelled, standing by the gate while all the other passengers boarded in front of them. All but one, actually. I was also waiting. The security staff hadn't punched my boarding pass -- the one stamped SSSS for special security. I always get tagged. This time I hadn't got punched. So I was waiting. The punk and his wife yelled. I waited. When the guy came, he checked me out right there at the gate. I knew the routine as well as he did. A kindly looking lady smiled apologetically at me. I shot her daggers. I ate a granola bar on the plane. A kid at the carousel nearly got himself squished trying to catch a suitcase twice his size. But that isn't really the story of my life.

My name is August West
and I love my Pearly Baker best
more than my wine
...more than my wine
more than my maker
though he's no friend of mine

The trip was eventful, hectic, stressful, fulfilling. Making my second presentation of the conference, back to back in a jampacked room on the first morning I withdrew my hand in a flash from the projection screen I'd been pointing to; I'd realised the shadow was trembling in full view of a few hundred people. Speaking to one of the leaders in the field I didn't realise I'd impressed him by asking whether the Hebrew word neta is at the root of the name Netanyahu. It isn't. He went on to impress me by telling me he'd been to Burning Man this year. He stunned me by saying he'd been invited by John Perry Barlow. I surprised him by knowing who John Perry Barlow is. I impressed him by telling him about the EFF. All this I realise now. Back then, I wasn't thinking. I had stuff to say to this guy. Two conversations across two days, I said nothing. These are my thoughts.

Everyone said
I'd come to no good
I knew I would
Pearly believed them

Other stuff happened as well. Lots and lots. People got picked on at sessions. Fake conversations were held outside. There was a reception by the poolside. Several subsets of collaborators met with each other. I spent a few hours in a friend's room trying to recover some results she had got but not saved. The organizers did not provide breakfast. Many people went to the theme park event. I did not. Instead I sat around chatting with friends. One night I was so tired I did not even have dinner. Another night there was a party in my room till after 5. A senior person hit on a graduate student right there on my bed. Afterwards, she leaned over to me and asked, why did he do it? People are strange. Sometimes more so.

Half of my life
I spent doin' time for
some other fucker's crime
Other half found me stumbling around
drunk on burgundy wine

We were up at 7 the next morning anyway. There was work to be done. My friend from Argentina had not been seen the first couple of days. Everyone assumed he's not coming, then on the last afternoon he showed up. I saw him first. He'd been in Madrid and his plane was delayed so he rerouted himself via Nueva York. So good to see old friends. He moved to Argentina instead of staying in the US. It was for the sake of his family. It was a mistake, I heard him say. To the person who had been his advisor. Also mine. Everyone's making mistakes. That's what I was told as well - what's the reason to make such a big compromise? If I were to apply your research, I__, said I, the more I think of reasons the more I should compromise. He laughed, and changed the topic. Doctoral students said, we liked your topic, we liked your presentations. One of them reportedly said that the Indian guy on that session was cute. Conferences are the stuff of rumors. People said - we should get together and talk sometime. Sure, said I. Another friend told a student -- it's like Hollywood. Everyone knows everyone, and you can't say anything negative about anyone. Ultimately it's all the same everywhere. You have to put your head down and work. People say whatever the heck they want.

But I'll get back
on my feet someday
The good Lord willing
if He says I may
'cause I know the life I'm
livin's no good
I'll get a new start
live the life I should

And so ultimately, ducky, it doesn't matter very much. Life goes on. You overcommit, others underdeliver, people politic, backstab, snipe, gossip, and your true friends are the ones who are there when the chips are down, the ones who make you such that there will come a time when you won't need them even though you want to, which is why you will. Blind and dirty. Am I boring you?

I'll get up and fly away
I'll get up and
fly away... away

Because that is the sum and substance of what came to mind. None of this really happened, you remember? It's still a sunny day outside, even though the clouds that roll in are dark. And the cars that are parked are parallel, just like everything else I've been talking about. My decaf is now gone, but I still feel the comforting presence of the book against my leg. Look at the happy Asian girl with her wrinkled grandmother. I wonder what language they're talking in. The old lady has a shopping bag on her arm like it's a handbag, and a ring on her middle finger. I wonder if it's a wedding ring. I wonder when her husband died, and how much she misses him. I have so much to do, but today is my day of rest. Enforced, dull boy. I'll get up now and wander, wander downtown.

Nowhere to go just to hang around.