Wednesday, April 21, 2021

The Tao is near and...

A recording of Harold Budd speaking at USC in 1985.

I'm afraid to use Readable on one of my blog posts. I'm afraid because one of the statements on their home page is "+83% The increase in the number of people who will finish reading your content if its readability is improved [emphasis mine] from grade 12 to grade 5." Maybe we can improve the average reader from grade 5 to grade 12."

What is the first principle of product management? Maximize impact to the mission. You'll have to click through to read the second.

Emily Mason, Ancient Incense, 1981. source

"Music and sleep are the two most natural ways to escape from everything and when they combine it truly becomes a dream. Let us take you there with our artists’ sublime music curated especially for you by The Ambient Zone." That's the introduction to the digital album Sleep 001.

A four-hour, real-time video of the moon from the Kaguya Orbiter.

Restored 16mm film of Magic Kingdom from 1970.

A live performance from 2008 by the Five Peace Band (Chick Corea, John McLaughlin, Christian McBride, Kenny Garrett, and Vinnie Colaiuta). 

Amazon has 14 leadership principles (aka core values) which is a lot and I'm curious how many employees can remember them all. There are so many I'm having a hard time choosing one to show here. "Leaders are right a lot." 

On this list of low maintenance house plants, I'd like to try the sansevieria starfish.

It's kinda pretty - a black hole eating a star from the inside out.

The Super Mario game's soundtrack has been restored.

In the mid 1960s an experiment was run to see whether three physics PhDs could build a nuclear bomb. Their final report is classified so it's uncertain whether they succeeded or not.

"The record is a triumph of atmosphere..." is part of this brief article about one of my absolute favorite albums of all time, My Life in the Bush of Ghosts by Brian Eno and David Byrne.

"Lockdown Throwdown" is an unfinished performance by Gary Husband and the late Chick Corea. Enjoy and marvel at what is and what might have been.

"Poop" and "knife" are two words not usually found together but here you go: you can buy a poop knife for dicing dooky (slicing scat, carving crap) so it fits down the flush.

You may have heard that the Rothko Chapel has been remodeled. If you can't get to Houston soon for a visit, this new book is a pretty good substitute - Rothko Chapel: An Oasis for Reflection.

Looks yummy. Recipe here.

When you gotta cut loose but you're around genteel folks try these alternative (alternate?) swear words. For example, nerts, for the love of pete, and gee willikers.

Just another reminder that the World Championship Air Race is coming back in 2022.

If you've lost your shark, you can track it in real time online with the Shark Tracker.

Unsuck It is a way to deprogram business jargon.

This nice lady from Fort Worth who recently passed away collected a lot of art that's now up for auction at Sotheby's. Check out the collection of Mrs. John L. Marion

Stephan Thelen's Fractal Guitar 2 is definitely on my list of favorite albums of 2021.

Blobmixer. Just try it.

Here's a track from the new Liquid Tension Experiment album. You've ordered it, haven't you?

Ze Frank, the man, the legend, the True Facts: Deception in the Rainforest.

Mahogany Frog's new album is In The Electric Universe

Several people have recommended the Netflix documentary Made You Look: A True Story About Fake Art.

Piet Mondrian, Gray Tree, 1911. From an article about how Mondrian's abstractions became a new way to see the world. Gray Tree is stunning and in it I see all his mature works. They're all there.

Where on Mars is Perseverance?

Fancy a BBC recording of Pink Floyd performing live in 1971?

Wonderful animated film: Cupcake Quarantine.

This had better not be a joke before I drive around trying to find it. Arby's Meat Mountain sandwich.

Coming later this year to the Dallas Museum of Art is Expressive Abstractions: A New Look at Postwar Art.

Roger Waters recorded a new version of The Gunner's Dream from The Final Cut and its everything you'd want in such a remake.  Hearing it motivated to pull the CD off the shelf for this weekend's listening.

You can watch several Oscar-qualified animated short films online. Minor Accident of War has some fantastic texture to it. And more films are here.

Here's a concert video of The Beatles from 1964.

I love this hand-drawn animated film - THE STROKE.

Spend an hour getting a FA-18 walkaround from a former Blue Angel pilot.

...people seek it far away. ~Mencius

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Thoughts on the Great Texas Winter Blackout of 2021

The kindness of friends.

That's what's on my mind as I sit in the morning stillness, warm in a friend's home, listening to a bird chirp outside on this 21 degree winter morning.

Why am I here?

My home has been without power for going on 56 hours, two days with temperatures that never got close to the freezing mark and in fact hit -2 degree one night. Waking up in a house at 42 degrees with smartphone batteries dwindling was enough.

A friend took us in. A friend whose home had power and heat and wifi. A friend who probably would've driven over and dragged us out of our house had we not decided to bail when we did.

We got a hot meal, eight hours of warm sleep, and recharged batteries, both literally and figuratively.

It would be easy to talk about the material things we take for granted: a good night's sleep, a warm shower, decent food. True, I do feel like a fully charged battery this morning relative to last night when my power meter was in the single digits. (Coincidentally, a tweet in my feed this morning said something to the effect that no one needs to be told that they look like they're tired which is exactly what my friend said to me last night. I didn't mind and in fact took it as a reason to go to bed at 8pm.)

What we too often taken for granted are friends and simple human kindness and resilience.

I am inspired by our team at work, all of whom are dealing with some variation of my story. Their energy, positivity, initiative are the warm glow of our shared vision and mission. Not only are they taking care of their family and friends, they are squeezing in work as they can whenever the office has slice of power and the computers come back online. They are going to the office to assess its status and ensure its safety. They are taking initiative and doing what they can when they can.

I am warmed by friends who, while only connected by the tenuous thread of online media, reach out to check on and inspire each other. Friends who take the time to let you know that you're not alone and they are thinking about you. Friends who understand the unifying power of shared experience.

All people are talking about is power, power, power. Why did it go out? When is it coming back? The power that never left us and which remains undiminished is the power of the human spirit.

We've spent several days focusing on the bottom levels of Maslow's hierarchy. The kindness of friends raises us all to its heights.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

The intellect is a beautiful servant...

Start with an aircraft and then right into abstract painting.

There's a website dedicate to the Bell X-2.

Emily Mason, Ancient Incense, 1981. source

My first music purchase from Unquiet Music is In The Name Of... (A Prayer For Our Times). From the label: "Please consider being in a rested state, wide awake in order to maintain concentration whichever duration you may define for listening to this music, at the risk of being annoyed."

Every year I share the same thing. If you only listen to one mashup per year, make it DJ Eaworm's United State of Pop for 2020. As a bonus, here's Time of Our Lives: Songs from Every Year (1970-2020).

From Vistage, the trends facing businesses in 2021.

  • ecological (decreasing energy consumption and CO2 generation)
  • social (healthcare, esp. in light of an aging population, income inequality, housing, education and the future of universities)
  • technology (AI, cloud, mobile, robotics, VR/AR, 5G, and the tech made more important by all of the above - cybersecurity)
  • economic (pandemic stimulus, housing (new home starts up at the same time as evictions are up), effect of digitization on retail sales)

ICYM, the new Tulips live music venue in the location formerly occupied by Collective Brewing, is also a "Texas kosher" deli

Are you hungry enough to eat a 20 pound cheeseburger?

Kelly O'Connor's work explores our preoccupation with temporary, artificial happiness and uses many theme park motifs. In this case, it's Mary Blair's "it's a small world" at Disneyland. I love Blair's work across a variety of Disney projects and "it's a small world" is a zenith of her brand of minimalist design and eye for color. 

Attention Star Wars geeks: droid stamps are coming from the USPS this year. I'm quite partial to all gonk droids.

Pantone's color of the year for 2021 (actually colors) are ultimate gray and illuminating (yellow) for a sense of resilience and hope.

For those of you interested in such things (historians?), Trump's Twitter archive.

It's a real conundrum. Why is the universe expanding so much faster than we think it should be?

Learn from these Emergency Room reports: don't stick things in your butt.

Tony Levin has a new book of photography from his life on the road. Check out this teaser video.

Disney's four keys to a great guest experience. It's a worthwhile read to see how these keys have evolved.

And the music...

King Crimson performed on Conan in 1995 and here's the video to prove it.

Mark you calendar - a Sean Scully retrospective, The Shape of Ideas, is coming to the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth in June 2021.

Meet Mark Waki, an aviation artist for Northrop Grumman.

The F-111H was designed as a competitor for the B-1. I had no idea. The F-111 holds a special place in my heart due to two close encounters with it early in my career.

Speaking of General Dynamics, here's video History of Air Force Plant 4.

Staying on the Lockheed Martin topic, here are Kelly Johnson's 14 rules and practices. It would take time and thought to adapt these to work other than designing and building aircraft but one stands out: 5. There must be a minimum number of reports required, but important work must be recorded thoroughly.

And now you can watch Blackbird: Legacy of Innovation about the SR-71.

Testing the radar cross section of an A-12, the SR-71's precursor.

How can you tell whether a B-2 is male or female? Turn it over and look at it's belly. Not really, but what you'll see is cool despite lack of genitalia.

The Pentagon Papers are available online for you to read in all their glory.

The Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce rebranded themselves and I like it.

Scientists are giddy over finding a perfectly preserved dinosaur asshole

On the topic of buttholes, insect poop is called frass (as in "FRom the ASS"?).

OK, one more on poo. Science now thinks it knows why wombats poop cubes.

Farts aren't poo so here's a quickie on how animals use farts as a defense mechanism.

Think the moon is lifeless? Think again.

Because of the above, check out True Facts: The Incredible Tardigrade.

Enjoy 120 years of electronic music.

Geometry of Circles, Sesame Street, and Philip Glass. 

...but a terrible master. ~Ram Dass

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Random Pandemic Thoughts

Lacking the motivation to weave a coherent theme through all these thoughts (i.e. opinions), they are presented here as nothing more than mental dandruff.

Like it or not, agree with it or not, anti-vax or not, everyone needs to realize that normalcy returns only after a significant majority of the populations gets vaccinated. Every business in this country should be vocally advocating that federal, state, and local governments get their collective act together and make this happen as soon as possible.

Regardless of what political party was or might have been in power at the beginning of 2020 when the pandemic got underway, the weak, ragged, uneven rollout of vaccinations was predictable. The logistical challenges here are huge and are complicated by how the feds and states interact.

Notwithstanding the previous, the administration in power during the first year of the pandemic severely underperformed. They either overachieved or underachieved depending on how you interpret "One day - it's like a miracle - it will disappear."

At lot of musing about "the end of X" where X is movie theaters or fitness centers or dining out is misplaced. Once "everyone" is vaccinated, all this stuff will come roaring back. The flip side is that all the positive behaviors we've adopted like handwashing and not shaking hands and staying away from other people when sick are already disappearing.

It's quite dismaying that the behaviors we've all be asked to adopt (stay home when sick, cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough, wash your hands) are exactly the same things we should be doing regarding the flu. And sadly, many don't. If only one of these behaviors stick, I hope it's staying home from work when you're sick.

If everyone got the flu vaccine each year, the savings in terms of lost productivity at work would dwarf the cost of the shots.

Having an anti-vax opinion is your right. It's my right to say you're wrong. 

The human animal is quite weak and I'm not speaking about susceptibility to viruses. Who knew how strong was the desire to dine in public at TGI Friday's and drink in public at the neighborhood pub? On TV the other day I heard a "man on the street" interview with someone who just had to travel somewhere, anywhere, right now. Who knew 9 months was the limit of human willpower?

If the pandemic was a TV show called "National Emergency," it would rank lower than Joanie Loves Chachi.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

My Favorite Music of 2020

During the pandemic year of 2020 with its lockdowns and working from home, some people compensated by baking bread, others with home fitness, still others binged all their favorite shows on streaming services.

I listened to a lot of music. By "a lot" I mean 107 new (to me) albums. So many that over the course of the year I lost track of what I had ordered, in what format (digital or CD), and whether I had received it or not. It was only after cleaning up the backlog of tunes over the past couple of weeks that I settled on 107 as an accurate count.

It's hard to identify just a handful of favorites from a list that long. So you'll have to indulge me for being lengthy in terms of the list and brief in terms of the descriptions.

PANAMERICA by Stick Men with David Cross

The first new album I bought in 2020 made the list: the 5-CD PANAMERICA by Stick Men featuring David Cross (violin). Recorded throughout a South American tour, the 5 CDs of PANAMERICA are themed as Improvs (Disc 1), Suites (Disc 2), one full live show (Discs 3 and 4), and Soundscapes (Disc 5). 

If you're not familiar with Stick Men they are Tony Levin (bass), Markus Reuter (guitar), and Pat Mastelotto (drums). To become familiar with the band, PANAMERICA is a great place to start because it gives you a taste of everything they do: the subtle application of power, sweeping melody, expressive rigor. 

PANAMERICA and other Stick Men albums are available on Bandcamp where you can preview even more of their work.

Music from the Early 21st Century by Previte, Saft, and Cline

Bobby Previte (drums), Jamie Saft (Hammond organ), and Nels Cline (guitar) recorded this classic, improvisational organ trio live on tour in late 2019. The results are a spectacular springboard of classic forms into future possibilities. 

Music from the Early 21st Century is available from RareNoise Records.

RUMBLE by Lorenzo Feliciati

This four-track EP is a stylistic standout from Feliciati's other albums. It's more of an orchestral take on jazz built upon Feliciati's rich, burbling bass lines that are more vocal than foundational. 

RUMBLE is available on Bandcamp.

Mixing Colours by Roger Eno & Brian Eno

The culmination of years of the two Eno brothers sharing keyboard pieces (Roger) and treatments (Brian) is the album Mixing Colours. The result is a series of shimmering soundscapes that deceive with their minimalism and entrance with their depth.

Mixing Colours is available from Eno's website.

Stillness Soundtracks II by Machinefabriek

Keeping with ambience for a bit, I was totally blown away by the gravity of the sound achieved in Machinefabriek's (Rutger Zuydervelt) Stillness Soundtracks II, five deep tracks scored to accompany Esther Kokmeijer's film of icebergs at the North and South Poles. I can't recall music that more accurately conveys a visual representation of icebergs: solid/liquid, massive/fragile, still/moving, visible/hidden, white/spectral. Amazing.

Stillness Soundtracks II was released by Glacial Movements Records and is available on Bandcamp.

Music of Our Times by Gary Husband and Markus Reuter

When stranded in Tokyo during a pandemic after your tour is cancelled, what do musicians do? They book time in a studio and make music. In this case, Gary Husband (piano), who was touring with Stick Men, and Markus Reuter (guitar) were able to exquisitely capture a moment in time, their take on a world at inflection between live interaction and lockdown. Elegance.

Music of Our Times was released by MoonJune Records and is available on Bandcamp.

Punkt and Firma (96k) by Trey Gunn

I was unable to choose between Trey Gunn's (10-string Warr guitar) albums Punkt and Firma so we get both. All you need to know is their description: "These pieces will reward detailed and repeated listening. Likewise, they will punish casual listening."

Both Punkt and Firma (96k) are available on Bandcamp.

Tranceportation Vol. 2 by Sonar with David Torn

My love affair with the combination of Sonar (a "progressive groove band") and guitarist David Torn goes back to 2018's Vortex in which Torn's playing was the salt to Sonar's polyrhythmic stew. Fortunately their collaboration continues on Tranceportation Vol. 2, described as "pointillistic, metrical complexity with deep subterranean grooves."

Tranceportation Vol. 2 was released by RareNoise Records and is available on Bandcamp.

The Jerry Granelli Trio Plays Vince and Mose by The Jerry Granelli Trio

Speaking of love affairs, I don't recall when I first heard the piano playing of Jamie Saft but it's been a romance for me ever since. Here Saft joins Jerry Granelli (drums) and Bradley Christopher Jones (bass) as they perform their take on the work of Vince Guaraldi and Mose Allison. Fresh and lively without being anchored to the past, the album ends with what's now my favorite version of Christmas is Here.

The Jerry Granelli Trio Plays Vince and Mose was released on RareNoise Records and is available on Bandcamp.

Behind Closed Doors by Thorsten Quaeschning and Markus Reuter

When the pandemic made it virtually impossible for musicians to tour and perform live, some got creative. Markus Reuter, for example, held several live, online sessions with other musicians to demonstrate technique, record tracks for an album, or perform brief concerts. In this later category falls his 50-minute performance with Thorsten Quaeschning (Tangerine Dream). The combination of Quaeschning's synthesizers and Reuter's Touch Guitar is mesmerizing as they cover the gamut of tone and texture.

Behind Closed Doors is available on Bandcamp.

Bonus: Behind Closed Doors 2 came later in the year when the duo added percussionist Shawn Crowder.

Small Moments by Michael Manring

Perhaps not a household name, but when you think bass guitar Michael Manring's name should be at the forefront of your mind. Similar to Trey Gunn's albums cited above, Small Moments features Manring and his basses and that's about it. Pure and expansive, these pieces (written to be performed live), reveal mastery of one's instrument combined with artistic expression.

Small Moments is available on Bandcamp.

Listening to Pictures and Seeing Through Sound by Jon Hassell

Being a fan of Jon Hassell (trumpet) doesn't necessarily mean I've done a good job of keeping track of his work. I was thrilled to hear about his new album Seeing Through Sound and disappointed in myself for finding out it's the second in his Pentimento series, the first being Listening to Pictures. So I got both. And was not disappointed. 

Both of these albums by Jon Hassell are available on Bandcamp.

Spectral by Robin Schlochtermeier

I first heard about Schlochtermeier in an online post by Eraldo Bernocchi whose opinions are usually enough to get me to take action. Spectral is the first solo album by the composer of film soundtracks and "captures some of this mysterious, nebulous spirit of bafflement and wonderment" he witnessed in his baby daughter.

Spectral was released on Denovali Records and is available on Bandcamp.

Selling England by the Pound and Spectral Mornings Live by Steve Hackett

It's not surprising that a Steve Hackett album should land on the favorite list of a person for whom Genesis was the genesis of his musical interests. Yet it may be surprising to know that of all the Hackett albums I own (which are many) this is my favorite. These performances feature Hackett and his band in fine form and the version of Spectral Mornings is fantastic.

This 2-CD live album is available on Hackett's website.

Cuts Open by Merzbow, Gustafsson, Pandi

I'll be honest. I didn't expect to like this album knowing that previous work by the parties was heavy, raging improv. On Cuts Open, they didn't take their foot off the gas but maybe turned down the volume from 11 to 10. 

From a description of the album: "When the occasional bursts of brutality arrive – and they do arrive, in all their eviscerating glory – they’re almost cathartic in their relief from the teeth-gnashing tension of the album’s more subdued moments, where menace hangs in the air like a thinly veiled threat."

Cuts Open was released on RareNoise Records and is available on Bandcamp.

OWARI by Stick Men with Gary Husband

Fittingly named OWARI meaning "the end," this live album was recorded on the last date of the group's truncated tour of Japan thanks to the pandemic. Perhaps because of this, the performances are majestic with Husband's keyboards playing a central role. 

OWARI was released on MoonJune Records and is available on Bandcamp.

Bumerang by Hallebeek, Feliciati, and Voskuil

Bassist Lorenzo Feliciati joins guitarist Richard Hallebeek and drummer Niels Voskuil on this self-titled album by this new trio. To my ear there's a definite Allan Holdsworth influence that's paired with Feliciati's triumphant bass playing. Can't wait to hear what Bumerang does next.

Bumerang is available from Hallebeek's website.

Another Flower by Robin Guthrie and Harold Budd

Even if this album wasn't good (which it is) I would've put it on the list. It was the last album released by Harold Budd before his death due to complications from Covid-19. Unlike their other pairings, this album to my ear emphasizes Budd's piano work over Guthrie's lush washes of guitar. 

Another Flower is available from Darla Records.

Mujo by Eraldo Bernocchi and Hoshiko Yamane

In yet another example of a favored artist of mine (Bernocchi, see above) paired with a Tangerine Dream alum, the result is - let's say - "classical electronica."

Mujo is available from Denovali Records.

Jamie Saft Plays Mr. Dorgon

I do not know Mr. Dorgon but I do love Saft's piano work. If you listened to any of the samples of Trey Gunn's albums above, those are a good analogy for this album of "intuitive, counter-intuitive, and non-intuitive" compositions. 

"One good thing about music, when it hits you feel no pain."

This album was released by Veal Records and is available on Bandcamp.

PORTAL by Feliciati and Mastelotto

I hadn't realized how much of Lorenzo Feliciati's work was on this list until now but we'll end with his PORTAL album with drummer Pat Mastelotto. Maybe the most melodic rhythm section you'll hear today.

PORTAL is available on Bandcamp

Bonus: A remix version: PORTAL: The Late Night DJ

The Full List

The morbidly curious can see the full list here

P.S. Sorry about all the extra white space but I didn't feel like fiddling with Blogger's editor.

Friday, January 1, 2021

My Favorite Books of 2020

2020 was not a good year for reading for me. Working from home since mid-March eliminated one of my primary reading opportunities: listening to audiobooks during my daily commute to and from work. During Q1, I read 18 books. None in Q2. None in Q3. Then the holiday season in the last two months of the year allowed me to read another 6 for a grand total of 24 for the year. To put that in perspective, I read 50 in 2019 and 37 in 2018. A side-effect of no audiobooks was that fiction reading was way down (only 6 of the 24). That's simply because I'm unable to listen to non-fiction in the car because I get bored.

Anyway, enough about reading and more about what was read. Here are my favorites from 2020. Or more accurately, my favorite because there's only one standout. And honestly, 2020 scrambled my memories of what I read early in the year.

Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan

Richard K. Morgan's Altered Carbon is another reason why I say "I should read more science fiction." And maybe they made it into a (short-lived) TV series for a reason. In the far future, your mind, memories, and personality can be downloaded to something like a hard drive and installed in another body. Awakening in a new body, Takeshi Kovacs (an elite soldier) finds himself in the role of private detective. His super-rich client wants Takeshi to solve the client's murder - yes, the murder of the client. 

Morgan creates vivid characters in a fantastic setting and weaves an attention-keeping tale. Highly recommend.

In case you've watch the TV series, there are many differences between the book and the show. But that just a warning - it won't prevent you from enjoying the book.

If you're new to this, hang on to your stack. It's a wonderful ride. 

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Prefer to be defeated in the presence of the wise than...

Put this on as your background music while reading. It's a one hour loop of holiday music from Magic Kingdom's Main Street USA.

I look forward to my next opportunity to visit Houston and go see the MFAH's new Kinder Building.

This photograph of the sun isn't really all that great until you realize it was taken using neutrinos passing through the earth's surface.

Like most lists, the 30 best comedy movies of all time make me a) aware of ones I haven't seen like Blazing Saddles and b) curious about the ones they omitted like Spinal Tap (or my personal favorite, Kung Pow). 

Another case - the ranking of breakfast sandwiches - disappoints because the Egg McMuffin landed at #4. 

And again: Goodreads' 200 most difficult novels. I can't for the life of my understand why Crime and Punishment is on this list. It's excellent but I wouldn't call it difficult. I first read it when I was 18. And Lolita? It might make some readers uncomfortable if they can't get past the sexual bit but IMO it doesn't come close to being difficult. My tally of the 200? 35.

I should probably not mention all the things I'm keeping on the list of 54 things nobody should be keeping.

Given my fixation with the Disney animated WWII film Victory Through Airpower, I'd love to be able to see the exhibition The Walt Disney Studios and World War II at the Disney Family Museum but I don't think that's gonna happen.

You can watch clips from the highly-praised documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi beginning here.

For my baseball friends is this video exploration of what it takes to catch a 1,000 mph fastball.


Google's plan for avoiding employee burnout? No meetings weeks.

A proposed new formulation for a periodic table of the elements.

Here's an article that briefly explores the possibility for unauthorized use of nuclear weapons after an authorized, limited strike. Clearly I am not an expert in this field but I find the scenarios a bit on the fringe give what I do know about military command and control structures.

Here are some of the things envisioned for future versions of the XB-70 before it was cancelled. 

"What, if anything, is too serious to be joked about?" One of 36 questions developed by a psychology student that are intended to develop closeness within a peer group.

Mark Rothko, Untitled, 1967 sold at auction for $31.3 million yet it was only the 9th highest price paid for art during 2020

Ze Frank does it again with True Facts: Army Ant Riders.

Nine of the weirdest penises (how many weird ones are there total) in the animal kingdom reveals - in addition to the obvious - that animal penises are much more studied than animal vaginas. 

Bees protect themselves against murder hornets using poop. excel among the fools. ~Dogen