Sunday, May 24, 2020

Why the "new normal" isn't.

Our COVID-19 pandemic introduced a vernacular that includes "PPE," "social distancing," and "new normal" among other phrases.

"New normal" may be the phrase I find most sadly infuriating.

There's nothing "normal" about our current state of affairs. There's absolutely no reason to believe any of these pandemic-induced behaviors need to become normalized.

Diane Vaughn, in her book The Challenger Decision, introduced the phrase "normalization of deviance" to describe becoming desensitized to abnormal behavior. While COVID-19 behaviors like social distancing aren't abnormal in a harmful way, they are atypical relative to previous human social behaviors. C-19 coping behaviors aren't bad, just irregular.

Economist Alan Beaulieu recently advised that we think of the COVID-19 as a natural disaster. In his context, the point was that in natural disasters - and the pandemic is one on steroids - the economy returns to the prevailing state prior to the event. Normal returns to normal.

In my context, no one during a natural disaster starts adopting new behavioral norms. During Hurricane Katrina, no roof-bound New Orleans resident was thinking that boating was the new normal. The Moore tornado in 2013 didn't result in a lot of underground construction.

Social distancing is an oxymoron that is counter to the most basic element of human relationships - the simple act of touch. There's nothing normal about banning handshakes and hugs.

Think about the most fundamental bits of C-19 advice: stay home if sick, cover your nose and mouth when sneezing, wash your hands. That's the "old normal" or "normal normal." If it isn't, a generation or two of parents should be ashamed (as well as their filthy, sputum spewing offspring).

C-19 is the temporary abnormal.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

The goal in life is to die young...

I recently watched Koyaanisqatsi for the first time. My interest in this 1982 film centered mostly on Phillip Glass' soundtrack. I was quite captivated by the entire film and the soundtrack was fantastic. Subtitled Life Out of Balance it seems a propos for where we are right now. Highly recommend.

I can't wait until The Modern re-opens so I can spend time with Mark Bradford: End Papers. "The grid did save my life."

The Smithsonian has made millions of 2D images and 3D models available for free through the Smithsonian Open Access portal. What can you find? Here are two examples.

H. Lyman Sa├┐en, Daughter in a Rocker, 1917-18.
3D scan of the crew hatch from the Apollo 11 command module.
Take a tour of Fascap's lean manufacturing setup. I don't know much (i.e. anything) about manufacturing but this place looks awesome.

If you'd rather not tour a factory, how about a virtual ride on "it's a small world"?

The next time you come visit the office we'll go together to the Best Maid Pickle Museum and Emporium.

Whomever photoshopped giant dildos over the guns carried by these stay-home protestors in Michigan is a genius. If you want to turn gun ownership into a fetish and a phallic display of manliness, this is what you get.
If you want to mix your own drone try Drown the Virus.

Ze Frank is on a roll. Here are some of his recent, hilarious videos.
Who does Nick Beggs cite as the most influential bass players of all time? I can't say there any surprises. #4 John Paul Jones

Michael (Corrine) West, White Heat Vibrations, 1982. A female painter who used a man's name professionally to find acceptance for her work.
I've purchased more music during #stayhome than the during the prior year. Offered for your consideration:
  • A VIP subscription to guitarist David Kollar gives you everything he releases. 
  • eisprung, a free compilation of music from Markus Reuter
  • Here's a video for Across the Azure Blue from the new album from Markus Reuter and Gary Husband, Music of our Times.
  • Peter Gabriel released Live in Verona, concert videos of him in performance.
  • Tony Levin performs On the Drums, a musical tribute to all the drummers he's played with.
  • The Met is streaming opera in the evenings. Tomorrow is Borodin's Prince Igor.
  • On YouTube you'll find Pink Floyd's 90 minute concert performance, PULSE.
  • Marco Minneman's album, My Sister
  • A blogger writes in detail about the Sylvian/Fripp live album, Damage. This album is one of my favorites but this guy REALLY loves it.
Jupiter as seen by NASA's Juno spacecraft. More here.
Do Zoom meetings suck the life out of you? Maybe because social cues are less clear among other things.

A list of C-19 stuff.
Paint a wall inside your house to look like Spaceship Earth.

If you have not seen a little kid performing her original song "I Wonder What's Inside Your Butthole" and its remixes, you're missing a lot.

I still haven't figured out Color Push. Maybe you'll have more luck.

Learn about what's happened while you've been alive with Life Stats.

...but to do so as late as possible. ~anonymous

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Now begins a torrent of words...

How about Genesis in concert from 1976?

Or how about the new album Mixing Colours from Roger Eno and Brian Eno?

Or take some time for Gaudi's chill out mix.

Marcus Cederberg, Look the ocean!. This guy's minimalist photography has my attention.
Frank Stella is featured in a nice NY Times article.

Who knows when and where I'll actually be able to see the new Clyfford Still documentary, Lifeline. Here's the trailer.

So painter Mark Bradford and I were recently hanging out together at The Modern. Click the link and watch the video for more. BTW, that's Beyonce's mom on the left.
Seriously, Mark Bradford is one of this country's greatest living artists. Here's a preview of his current exhibition at The Modern.

And here's an interview with Mark Bradford.

Ze Frank does it again with the true facts of the Freaky Nudibranchs.

Beautiful video of an F-22 being put through its paces.

Syracuse University's domed stadium is getting a new roof and you can watch on live webcam. (I attended the first football game played in the Dome in 1980, just walked across the street from my dorm.)
Artist Charis Tsevis salutes the (now postponed) 2020 Tokyo Olympics with a series of works that employs the Japanese technique of kintsugi, repairing broken ceramics with gold.
More COVID-19 resources:

Not your typical sand castles.
True facts: the Wacky Giraffe

...and a trickling of sense. ~Theocritus

Saturday, March 14, 2020

The mind is a beautiful servant...

An animal that doesn't breath. It exists.

First Viet Nam and now this. We're losing the toilet war to Japan.

Fort Worth got featured in the NY Times in an article about the city's cowboy culture, the new Dickies Arena, and plans to remodel the Stockyards.

Clyfford Still, 1947-Y-No.1, 1947. This IMO fabulous painting is coming up for auction at Sotheby's in May. It can be yours for an estimated $30 million. 
The Genesis reunion tour (Collins, Banks, Rutherford) is still limited to UK dates.

Time for the mating dance of the peacock spider.

I found the online photo editor called Photopea but haven't tried using it yet.

If you're a fan of sauerkraut, check out Cleveland Kraut. Should be available in your local grocery store. Not only is it from my hometown, it's really tasty especially with bratwurst. Update: Thanks to alert reader Joel for introducing me to this product.

Music I'm thinking about:
Still have vinyl LPs? Need a new turntable? Here are the 7 best.
More Mickey in contemporary art, this one by Joyce Pensato.
Hey, I know someone who works here: Epic Systems.

Dammit, science. If 80% of the universe's mass is dark matter why can't you even agree whether it really exists. Lo and behold, maybe the culprit is the d-star hexaquark.

Formula 1 for n00bs.

There was a time as a young man that I wanted to be an archeologist who worked on Egyptian pyramids. Therefore, I applaud Egypt's restoration of Djoser's Step Pyramid, the first one ever built.

More SARS-CoV-2 websites than you probably want to look at.
If you haven't seen the 1965 Academy Award winning animated short file The Dot and the Line, I recommend you spend 10 minutes with it.

And another childhood film that I love is 1956's Le Ballon Rouge (The Red Balloon).

Let's make it three with Paddle to the Sea.

When the MoMA reopens, go see Judd.

Tree font.

If you got the DVR or the on-demand, check out Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool on PBS' American Masters.

I leave you with the virtual Zamboni. Get to work.

...and a dangerous master. ~Osho

Saturday, February 15, 2020

The composer opens the cage door for arithmetic...

Welcome to this all-text posting.

It's Valentine's Day so while you're in the mood...

When I read that Obama and Trump tied for first place in a recent Gallup poll for the most admired man, I was disgusted, but not for the reason you might think. (That reason being that I think Trump is a most despicable person.) No, it's the shallow thinking of those polled. If the only name you can come up with for someone you admire is the current or former president you probably don't understand what admire means or you have a really weak social group.

Do you know a boy who wears shorts all year 'round including the depth of winter? Not surprisingly, it's said to be an overt display of maturity and independence coupled with a bit of attention seeking. It has NOTHING to do with comfort or being warm-blooded.

How old is the oldest thing on earth? Scientists have discovered a grain of dust on a meteorite that's 7.5 billion years old.

Quantum entanglement at large scale was observed in electrons flowing through a strange metal.

Can you guess someone's name based on the first letter? This website can. (At least some of the time. Got me with one letter. Took five letters for my lovely wife.)

I have mentioned before how much I enjoy the videos coming from Oats Studios. Here's a new one: Migrants.

You're twice as likely to die from a fall than from gunshots. (And that fall would likely be in the bathroom.)

But if you're going to be murdered, here's where in the U.S. it's most likely to happen.

Got a couple of hours? Watch this video of 10-years of weather radar for the U.S.

Got even more time? Here are 1,000 free audiobooks.

Clayton Christensen, author of the classic business book The Innovator's Dilemma, has passed away. HBR lists several of his articles they deem essential reading.

Just some handy Excel formulas to know.

Can your love of Disney be a divisive force in your marriage?

Here's a dashboard for tracking Covid-19.

Artist Sol Lewitt pioneered conceptual art. Here are some of his lessons.

xkcd is an example of a good tech cartoon. Here's one for marketing: Marketoonist. (Scroll down to the one about the "island of misfit innovation.")

Trying to make a buy decision on these albums.

More paperwork will be required in 2021 if you want to travel to Europe.

With the exception of English and Spanish, do you know what language is most common in each state? I would not have guessed that Arabic was most common in Tennessee. Michigan, yes. But not Tennessee.

Make chocolate mousse in a blender.

Check out the YouTube channel of the Japanese Bob Ross.

Rising sea levels will displace 13 million Americans by 2100. Where will they go?

A Russian spy satellite is stalking a U.S. spy satellite.

...the draftsman gives geometry its freedom. ~Cocteau

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

My Favorite Books of 2019

I arbitrarily set 52 books as 2019's goal on Goodreads and ended up reading 50. That's a mix of paper books and ebooks, short stories and novels, fiction and non-fiction. Overall I'm happy with how that all turned out. Here are the books I liked the most, presented in the order in which I read them throughout the year.

The City of Mirrors by Justin Cronin

This third book in Cronin's Passage trilogy closes what ranks as one of my favorite series of novels of all time. Although I would consider the trilogy to be science fiction I think it's officially labelled as fantasy fiction. Whatever. For lack of a better word, it's a post-apocalyptic zombie tale. Did you see the movie World War Z with Brad Pitt? Neither did I. Regardless, that movie was based on a zombie tale of the same name. By way of comparison, World War Z is to The Passage as McDonalds is to fine dining IMO. The World War Z book barely qualifies as notes for a screenplay let alone a novel. They did try to make The Passage into a TV series but it only lasted one season. But enough about movies and TV. 
The three novels in Cronin's trilogy (The Passage, The Twelve, The City of Mirrors) involve surviving in North America after a plague of some sort has wiped out well over 95% of the human population. Fresh in its premise, vivid in its portrayals, deep in its characters. The kind of book that, after you've turned the last page, fills you with both a deep satisfaction for having experienced the story and a bittersweet melancholy because you have to leave the characters behind.
See more info on the author's website

Radical Candor by Kim Scott

Scott's book (subtitled Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity) distilled personnel management in the workplace into a simple to understand 2x2 matrix along two axes: your willingness to challenge someone directly and your degree of caring personally.
Of course, radical candor is the sweet spot where you both care and are willing to challenge someone. The other quadrants are labelled ruinous empathy (you care but won't challenge), manipulative insincerity (you neither care nor are willing to challenge), and obnoxious aggression where assholes live (they're very willing to challenge you without caring a bit).
Recommended for everyone who leads other people. See the book's website

High Output Management by Andy Grove

It was Ben Horowitz's mention of this book in his The Hard Thing About Hard Things that made me buy and read it. Glad I'm did and kinda sorry I hadn't read it years ago. Grove covers so many topics that are covered by other books and wraps them into an overall management philosophy.
I couldn't find a website for Grove or the book so here's a link to the book on Amazon.

The Cruel Stars by John Birmingham

I've said it before and I'll say it again: I should read more science fiction. In The Cruel Stars Birmingham presents future humanity with a great threat. In a world where humans are thick with cybernetics, an enemy of purists threatens our race with destruction. A group of reluctant and flawed heroes are key to humanity's survival. OK, enough with the dust jacket notes. The novel's setting was completely new and unique to me and the true nature of the threat caught me completely off guard. I'm hoping he turns this into a series. 
For the record, I was introduced to Birmingham year's ago by Parade magazine from the Sunday paper which I habitually read with my Sunday lunch. Back then it was his After America trilogy in which virtually every living being in the continental U.S. was killed by an energy field that arrived and departed inexplicably. How do you think the rest of the world would act based on that void?

Red Metal by Mark Greaney

Reminiscent of Larry Bond's Red Storm Rising (co-authored with Tom Clancy who seems to be given all the author credit these days) and from an author of Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan Jr. novels, Red Metal is everything I want in military fiction: the Russians are up to no good, catch the U.S. off-guard and get in some good licks, then we see how the U.S. will respond. Good characters and kick-ass action. Like Clancy when Clancy was at his peak.
Learn more at the author's website.

Honorable Mentions

  1. The Road by Cormac McCarthy. This post-apocalyptic scenario won't leave you with a warm and fuzzy feeling.
  2. Colonization: Down to Earth by Harry Turtledove. This is part 2 of an alternate history in which aliens arrive at earth in the middle of WWII. (I'm frustrated by the fact that my library doesn't have the first or third novels in this trilogy. Shame on them.)
  3. Earth Unaware by Orson Scott Card. This first installment in a trilogy begins the so-called First Formic War, the prequel to Card's Ender's Game. (Again, I choose a novel for which my library lacks the other two. Shame on me.)
  4. The Second Sleep by Robert Harris. From the author of the fantastic alternate history novel Fatherland, a sleepy English village in the 1400s is shaken by a discovery that hints at a prior civilization.

Looking Forward to 2020

Here's my full list of 2019's reading

"Nothing can be said about writing except when it's bad. When it is good, one can only read and be grateful."

My Favorite Music of 2019

It's time for my annual look-back at the music I purchased during the past 12 months and the albums among them that I enjoyed the most. Admittedly, I appear to have gone a bit overboard by acquiring 68 new albums. That's a lot for me.  But a lot of those are me me finally deciding to buy all of Led Zeppelin's albums on CD to replace my LPs. After seeing Phil Collins in concert this year I did the same for his early catalog. Then I did something similar for The Beatles.

With that out of the way, and in no particular order, here are the albums that are my favorites from 2019.

Red Kite's Debut

The instrumental progressive rock on the self-titled debut album from Norwegian quartet Red Kite has an old soul. To my ears there's a late 1960s and early 1970s anthemic ecstasy that could be dropped comfortably into the soundtrack for Apocalypse Now. Balanced between rugged improvisation and careful composition, the albums five tracks left me wanting more. Notable tracks for me are the barely constrained crescendo of 13 Enemas for Good Luck (I appreciate the oxymoronic humor) and the jazz-tinged and soulful You Don't Know, You Don't Know (in which the frustration is almost palpable). Available on Bandcamp from RareNoise Records, I can't wait to hear what these guys do next.

Soundtracks for Winter Departures by ILUITEQ

When it comes to ambient music, I've listened to a lot. Over time I have discovered a lot of ambience that I like. Then there are the ambient albums that I love. Immediately. On the first play. And I can't put into words the reasons why. One of my all-time favorite ambient recordings is Winter Garden by Eraldo Bernocchi, Harold Budd, and Robin Guthrie. Soundtracks for Winter Departures, the debut album from the duo known as ILUITEQ, may be my favorite ambience since Winter Garden. Soundtracks is lush, rhythmically pulsing, richly orchestrated, deep and dynamic. I lack the words to describe the music properly but I can say that I'm happier for the joy this recording has delivered. Available on Bandcamp from TXT Recordings.

Everything by SONAR

This was the year I became a huge fan of Switzerland's SONAR. My fandom was triggered by 2018's album Vortex featuring David Torn, the subsequent live album Live at Moods, and guitarist Stephan Thelen's solo album, Fractal Guitar.  What did these guys offer during 2019? Only the follow-up recording to their work with Torn, Tranceportation Vol. 1. (From which I infer there will be a Vol. 2 during 2020. One can hope.) As the band describes themselves, they eschew individual virtuosity for the group's polyrhythmic, tritonal guitar sound. The result I can only describe as a highly-rhythmic form of ambience. However, with the addition of Torn's slashing lead guitar, the overall effect is heightened by an order of magnitude. Torn's guitar jaggedly weaves through the space created by the band. I'll repeat Sid Smith's words: "Had MC Escher made music instead of drawing impossible and perplexing perspectives, it would sound like Sonar." Available on Bandcamp from RareNoise Records, I really should buy their complete catalog.

What else did the band have to offer in 2019? The Bill Laswell Mix Translations are a dub mix of tracks from Vortex. And Stephan Thelen remixed his solo album into The Fractal Guitar Remixes and Extra Tracks.

Honorable Mentions

I feel bad about including some albums that I love in this section as opposed to giving them full treatment like the ones above, but in the interest of space and time...
I also want to thank the folks at RareNoise Records for their annual "Leap of Faith" offering which allows you to buy in advance all their new releases in the coming year (and not have to pay for shipping). This may be the best thing that's happened to my music listening in the last decade. 2020's LoF should be announced soon.


Even after everything I've written above, I still feel bad about not mentioning other artists and albums from 2019 that I have really enjoyed. So here's the complete list of all my new music from 2019. And as I like to say, "I don't know much about music, but I sure like the sound it makes."