What I Like About It

I like that the blog site is still here.  I like that there are some good posts, and I even like that there are some embarrassing posts.

If and when anyone goes looking, they'll find whatever they're looking for.

I was thinking about this the other day.  My parents are both gone for more than ten years now.  How can it be that I never asked them what it was like for them to be my age back when they were my age?

I know it's because many reasons, mainly because it's all about me, so I wouldn't have been interested in them at the time.  Probably the only reason I'm interested now is because I see parallels in the way I am and the way they probably were then.

But I would like to know more, and so it would be amazing to find a blog they had kept in the days before blogs.  Something better than my blog, of course, something more regularly updated for one thing.

I do have a few things.  People wonder why I've kept them.  Bank account books, for instance.  They are a regular record of saving and spending, and while it will always be somewhat mysterious, there are patterns there that indicate... something.  Some things seem to correlate with vacations taken, appliances purchased, that sort of thing.  It's like Facebook, really.


I have a blog!

I had forgotten about this.  Sometimes I get so disgusted with the stupid that I think "I oughta post something about this online, it would probably get a million hits, I should start a blog," and then I vaguely remember that I do have a blogsite or two, and now, here I am.

What is so stupid this time?  It started early, on my way to work.  I can't stand to listen to the radio anymore, but this morning I did get about five minutes of worthwhile information until the newsreader started in on some kind of comedy skit.  This was NPR, Mourning Addition, which became stupid years ago.

Is it not possible to run a news program without attempting comedy?  I mean, humor is fine, but this was just some brain-dead har-de-har-har stuff, stuff that a shock jock would consider beneath his dignity.

Then it was off to work, and the mindless chattering of one of my co-workers, from whom I will soon be separated by a couple of cinder block walls, Ford willing. 

Survived all that, then sat through the evening news- again, more like Entertainment Tonight than news.  Do you realize that the Berlin wall fell?  I had to see that paragon of weightlessness Tom Brocaw once again, declaring that people gotta be free.

And I know I can't blame the newscasters for this.  My fellow citizens really are that stupid- a majority of them.  Sadly, while there was a time they might be a little embarrassed about their stupidity, now it's considered a virtue.  Our citizens are the reason we can't have nice things in this country.  Like single payer healthcare, or retirement at age 55, or a 35 hour work week, or a guaranteed minimum income, or a lot of things that would tend to make life a whole lot better for most of us.

Like not going to war over oil, but rather investing in renewable energy sources.  Like not spying on everyone.

I don't blame government or even big business for these things- I blame our dumb ass citizens, who will salute the flag no matter what sort of a con man or woman is waving it.  Dumb-asses!

And I'm particularly pissed right now about the latest movement, which seems to be that we should tolerate the dumb-ass opinion, no matter how severely mal-informed it may be.  Give everyone their right to believe whatever they want.  After all, who am I to say what's right?

Tired of it.  Not going to tolerate dumb-assed opinions any more.  Not going to argue with them either.  Just shutting that side down.  I've been practicing at work.

None of this is to say that I have any clue how to make this country less dumb.  I suspect it's impossible.  Well, maybe not- the Daily Show has made a lot of people less stupid, but I haven't got that sort of gift.  That Mark Twain did alright too, as did George Carlin.  These guys helped make me less stupid, anyway.

What I would like to do is start listing my demands.  The dumb-asses are always making demands, so why can't I?  Maybe a bunch of us could make demands like "no more Benghazi investigations!" and go march on the street with signs and teabags in our hands.  Heh- that would be cool.


Being a User

Productivity is up, up up!  It's off the scale!

All due to computers.

The trouble with that is that somebody has to write code to make things happen.

The trouble with THAT is that the people who write code are treated like godz.

But they're not.  They are people who may be very good at a small set of skills, which small set of skills have been inflated into something seemingly god-like.

The obvious truth they fail to see, time and time again, is that in the real world, most people don't want to know about the arcane details of their craft.  Or have to learn anything about it.

There's a name for these people, and it isn't pretty.  We're called "users".

So when programmers include a keystroke combination as a hot-key for picking the default setting for something that appears in a window, and when I, a user, fat-finger that hot-key combination by mistake, I am not interested in learning how cool it is to be able to hot key back and forth between those settings.  I want a simple and obvious way to get it back to where it was.

I know for a fact that some users (we'll call them "power users") feel that it is very cool to be able to change default settings using these hot-keys.  Their heads are full of key-stroke combinations they can use in thousands of situations across dozens of programs in order to make things happen more quickly.

Sadly, I have neither the room in my head, nor the desire to learn these things.  Sure, if I were in command of the phasers aboard some starship and I needed to toggle quickly between the Current Location of the enemy battalion and the History of Movement of the enemy battalion, I would probably learn the key-stroke sequence.

My hope would be that in addition to my ability to present these Facts in a rapid manner I would have room in my head to perceive the Pattern behind the Facts as presented on my screen.  And that I wouldn't accidentally whack some keystroke combination that would instantaneously bring up the weather on Tarus or something...


The War Between The States

All innocently, I went looking for this term after watching the movie "Lincoln".

Growing up in the 60's, I recalled that people used this phrase to refer to the war of the 1860's.  But I hadn't heard it used for a long time.

Turns out it's a loaded expression, a distinction with a difference.  A refusal to call that war a "civil" war is very important to some people.


Would you think that, more than 150 years later, we would be willing to just let it go?  Nope.

As Faulkner said, the past isn't forgotten.  It isn't even past.


Music blog

Type 'music blog' into google search sometime.

An hour ago it returned 1,700,000,000 hits.  Yes, I couldn't believe it either, so I looked it up.  That's one billion, 700 million hits.

I just looked again.  It returned 1,710,000,000 hits.  10 million more than an hour ago.

And I thought I'd go read a few music blogs, get an idea what was going on there.  Hmmm. 


Dead Head

Apart from the railroading term (a trip made by an engine without pulling freight), I guess I have to admit to being a Dead Head.  Largely because of the album I'm listening to right now.

A Bob Weir song popped into my head today (money, money) and tonight I decided to spin my old copy of Europe '72.  I forgot how far back this record goes in the Dead era- I mean, I've always considered it sort of mid-period, and I guess it is, but Pigpen?  A slim Garcia?  I forgot.

Lots of people talk about how awful the band was, nothing but silly extended jams and raggedy harmonies.  Just a brief listen to He's Gone should dispel those arguments- some of the tightest, most tasteful playing anywhere, full of soul.

The recording itself is pretty special- this was back before they compressed the hell out of everything.  There's so much "air" in Cumberland Blues that you can just about tell where everybody is standing onstage.  Left to right, front to back.

It is a little uneven across the three disks.  Sometimes the jams do get silly, but mostly, this is a band at its peak, doing something it more or less invented, a style of playing that still resonates with audiences at countless festivals every summer.

We're always 17 somewhere.

The outpouring of stuff

Somewhere in the general outpouring of stuff I forgot I had this blog.  It's fun reading back over it.

Yesterday I filled in the blanks on the Steam Powered Studio homepage.  I added a lot of links to songs and projects that I've been meaning to write individual pages for, but just couldn't bear to do.

I did this because I finally realized that nobody (or practically nobody) clicks on over to pages off the main page.  There's some kind of web rule about this, time spend divided by number of clicks blah blah blah...

So rather than arrange the site by the way I think it should work, I'm going for catering to the way people actually seem to browse webpages.  Which is to say, creating a page that appears to be cluttered with advertising.  A tabloid style.

The fact that all the advertising is aimed at the products of Steam Powered Studio is my little secret, OK?


Our Snoozing Press Awakens!

Suddenly using military force to defend vaguely defined "American Interests" isn't good enough for 'em?  Where have these watchdogs been hiding for the past ten years?
The American press is united (along with the Republican party) in their criticism of this latest escapade.  It's almost as if some memo went out!
Reality seems quite different from where I'm standing.  Juan Cole has a good take on Obama's position here.


Here's the laugh out loud and slap the table quote of the day...

"Congressman Roscoe Bartlett, a Republican on the House armed services committee, was among members who argued that military action in Libya was unconstitutional. He told the Hill magazine: "The United States does not have a King's army. President Obama's unilateral choice to use US military force in Libya is an affront to our constitution.""

The list of military actions which have been heartily applauded by our fearless leaders in congress is a long list indeed.  How many "unconstitutional" military actions can you name?


Big sponsorship drive underway, now till Groundhog Day.

Support the studio and get all the songs we can make for $20/year.

find out more- write to steampowered@yahoo.com


A minor revelation:  when people complain that you can't believe what you read on the net, it's not because there isn't factual information on the net, it's because they're not seeking factual information- it's because they're seeking authority.

There is a difference.  Suppose I want to know how many tons of coal are mined in this country every year.  I'm certain I could find that information on the net.  Not only that, I could find some cross-references and I could verify the information, or possibly learn that nobody can say exactly how much coal is mined.

In the end, I would have satisfied myself on this point, and I would understand how I got there.

A person seeking authority doesn't care about all of that- they just want "a fact".  They want the national association of coal producer's statement of fact, or something like it.

And so, if they can't be sure they have got hold of the authority on the subject, they will doubt the facts.


Plausible Deniability

One of my favorite phrases has gone missing!  No one has mentioned the real result of these State Department memos being released- it eliminates the possibility of denial.

The truth of the substance of these memos can be seen in the vigorousness of the push-back.  They really hate being able to deny the actions that we all knew they were doing (wink wink).

What surprises me is how readily some folks identify with the state.  As if the state were some honest broker who had been done wrong by this scoundrel.

We have to stop being led around by the official propaganda like this.  It gets us killed.


Any comments about Pay Pal and the WikiLeaks deal?


That American twist.
I watched a classic old movie last night- No Orchids for Miss Blandish.  The 1948 British version.
It's a very bad movie in many ways, but it's good in others.  The good parts stem from the original novel, a crime story that was quite shocking in late 1930's Britain in its portrayal of murder, abduction, torture, and drug use.  There are some unforgettable characters in the story.
The bad parts come from what appear to be the attempts of the movie makers to clean it up to get it past the censors.  The socialite girl is no longer doped up and held against her will by the sociopathic gangster.  Instead, she falls for him.
This makes everything Hollywood perfect, and while they both die in the end, I suppose that's the price to be paid for love.
Still, it's fascinating to watch the hoops that the actress playing the socialite must leap through in her attempts to portray a woman who is simultaneously "brains and beauty", a pampered princess, and a woman in love with a cold, unfeeling murderer.  Could be a great role for someone, I guess.
Her character is much more believable as a doped-up victim.  But then it wouldn't have that American twist...


What was your favorite show at the Spectrum in Philly?


Any comments about the downloads at Steam Powered?


Watching a program on the early days of film making last night, which followed a film about a failed film inventor.  In the program, many descendants of  famous early movie people gave accounts of the character of their ancestors and how their strength, risk-taking, creativity and sheer willpower led them to succeed.
These were guys who invested everything they had in a projector and a storefront and built that into companies like Warner brothers and Fox.  American success stories.
We love to hear these stories- but what about that failed inventor?  His story got made into a film, at least.  I suppose if you believe in an afterlife, and you further believe that anyone there would care about such things, you might believe he is satisfied now that his story has been told.
Me, I like the boring stories.  Stories about people who neither succeeded nor failed spectacularly, but who just lived their lives and enjoyed themselves doing it.  It doesn't mean they didn't do interesting things, have powerful feelings, love or hate deeply.  It doesn't mean they weren't strong or didn't take risks or were not creative or lacked willpower.  Ordinary people do amazing things sometimes.
Living an ordinary life takes more courage and willpower than we give credit for.  There really ought to be more stories about it.
(Of course, history is written by the victors.  The thousands of nickelodean operators whose storefront businesses didn't grow into major studios never got the chance to make a movie about their lives.  But these days we all can, if we want to.)


Webbed Feet.

What would have been a hot bass rig for a jam band/bar band circe 1991.  Same question for keyboards.


A scary thought for Halloween.

Think about the last election.  One party fielded the oldest man ever to run for president, whose cancer is in remission.  His running mate was someone with such radically right-wing beliefs that she refused to reveal what magazines she read.

What's scary is that many people took them for serious candidates.  Fortunately, the powers in control of these things gave us a reasonable option.

Politics in America is fucked up because we live in a world of lies.  I do believe people can make good decisions if they are well informed.  That is why the people who run things spend a lot of money to keep us deluded.

Here's a clue.  If you have strong emotional reasons for choosing one candidate or the other, please don't vote.  You've been duped, fooled, manipulated, and I don't care how many catch phrases you have absorbed to justify your feelings.  If you vote your gut you are failing in your duty as a responsible adult to make an informed choice.  Just fume at home, throw things at the TV, shake your fist at the sky.

This isn't some game.


Comments on You Can't Lie?


Any Wheat Heads want to share their fondest memories of Whole Wheat Radio?

I'm trying to figure out what to do with all these wheatberrys...


Here's a spot for any comments about the new mix of Desert Girl.


If anyone knows anything specific about the old Manheim Rock Theatre please post here.  I am interested in finding out when they first opened the doors, when they shut down, who was running the place, and who played there.

Photos greatly appreciated.


Working on the very dynamic song Sparrows. and listening closely to the mix leads me to be disgusted with mp3 compression.

Of course it's always been there with mp3 files, but we tend to say "oh, at 256K they aren't so bad" and get over it.  Well, they really are so bad, especially if you've got a clean 24 bit .wav file to compare them to.

I don't know, I've read that some people prefer that sound, and it doesn't surprise me.  I used to "like" the sound of cassette tapes...


This has been the Steam Powered recording schedule for August so far-

That's 13 nights in the studio recording, mixing, backing up songs or repairing equipment.

My daughter asked me if I'm getting paid for this.  Like it's a job or something.

Income is a convenient yardstick for success.  That's a problem, because some very lame activities (brokerage) pay very well, and some very worthy activities (teaching) pay very little.

In America it seems that all work must turn a profit.  I believe this is a trap.

I'll do the work because I like doing it.  We'll see what sort of material profit, if any, comes from it.


This is pretty weird.  I spend a lot of my time reading progressive blogs and I check Google news several times a day, yet I didn't hear about the formation of a group called One Nation until I read about it in my local dead tree Sunday afternoon.

That article was a reprint of an article that had appeared in the Washington Post last Friday.  Now, Fridays are  notorious as news dump day, when things hit the papers that folks hope will not be noticed.  Sort of like the old joke "and your cat died".

Added to this the fact that the Wash Post is one of the most active sources of disinformation/corporate propaganda on the planet, and I suspect that this was an attempt by them to set the tone for the discussion of this organization.  That "tone" being that this is a group like the bizarre, reactionary Tea Baggers.

The lack of response by progressive bloggers is a bit puzzling, but I suppose they all have better things to do in the summertime on a Friday.  Sadly, most of these guys are beyond bitter about the actions taken by the Obama administration so far.  Expectations for the possibility of change are quite low.

What they forget is that they don't represent ordinary folks.  Ordinary folks aren't quite so hooked into all the battles and maneuverings in Washington that progressives follow like the plot of some suspense novel.  Sure, ordinary folks are disappointed, but they still believe in the process.

The timing of this call for change seems good to me.  Organizing a march on Washington in October seems like a good idea to me.  The call for unity among the majority who voted this man into office seems good to me.  I want more, but this is a good start.

Still remarkable net silence about this.  I found a piece by George Gresham on the Majority Agenda(?) website.


Looking for a longish read on a wet afternoon?

Here's an evaluation of the current state of the union by Eric Alterman.  Hits it just about right, I think.


Endless War.

There's always a precedent.  I've just rediscovered the Hundred Years' War.  It was basically the French versus the English (although back in those days the English elite were French).  They "engaged in hostilities" for a period of more than 100 years, off and on.

They did this while the Black Plague was raging.  It was a war over territory, control of resources, and partly a pissing match.  It was a war between the elite classes, fought by the peasants.  It wasn't the peasants' fight- the peasants had nothing in particular to gain or lose by who they worked for.

We still fight their wars, only the elite aren't titled "kings" and "dukes" anymore.  The wars are still about territory, control of resources, and who has the bigger dick.

plus ├ža change...


Zombie economics is easy to understand.  Someone profits from this.

The American Dream isn't dead.  It's very much in practice today.  But what used to be implied by the American Dream- that anyone can achieve it- has been stripped down to something simpler.

We all know that not "everyone" can achieve it.  Only the select few who are smart enough, resourceful enough, tough enough to deserve it.  And these select few have no obligation whatsoever to anyone else.

But the myth is kept alive, because, well, if yins stopped working so hard, the select few would have a bit more trouble staying on top.


I had a dream...

Like I'm watching a movie, there are scenes from a girl's life.  In one of them, there are kids on a playground in winter.  It is dark.  The kids stand around in bunches, talking together, until some break off and run around.  Eventually a teacher summons them back to class.  They form up a double file line, and the rear most pair of girls withdraw cigarettes from string purses and somehow light up and have a few drags during the march back to school.

The incident is related in a book- a slim, beige hardbound book that covers a year in the life of its subject.  There is a woman with a stack of these books in her home telling the stories behind them.  Her husband is here with her- she is young middle aged.  She explains how the books worked.  "It really is a club," she says at one point.  She and her friend were both members.  She divides the stack of volumes according to the towns she lived in- at one point explaining that she moved away for a while, but then moved back.  She seems to want to sort the books by the town rather than follow the order of years, so the stack is not in order from newest to oldest.  She opens a volume.

The paper is odd, like the old encyclopedias, sort of yellowish, but smooth.  On each page is a series of dated paragraphs, either describing general events in history or specific instances in the woman's life.  This column takes up the central third of the page- there's plenty of room in the margins for hand-written notes.  A typical entry was like- "August 14, 1969.  Begin two weeks of camp at Nabobiskybobie.  Mom cried."

So it's like a diary, but one with permanence, meant to be shared with others in the club. 


Concerning this 1984-style renaming of torture, it's something that we all know happened.  It happened as we watched.  Should there be more outrage about this?

I think we're pretty outraged as it is.  But our outrage has no outlet.

We have a couple of options here.  Number one: ignore it.  This is a very popular option.

Number two: accept the change.  This is also a popular option.  We convince ourselves that what the world and we ourselves used to call torture is no longer torture.  Or is OK as long as the "good guys" are doing it.  Just go along with our leaders, they know what they're doing.

Number three: express outrage.  This certainly works for some people- it can be a source of strength.  Still, it's hard to express this feeling when there are so many outrageous things going on.

Number four:  refuse to accept the change.  Makes it difficult to maintain a positive view of the country when you face the fact that our leaders are war criminals.  There is a whole chain of logical conclusions that follow from this.  See Chomsky, etc.


Speaking of peace, I just listened to Virginia Astley's "Hope in a Darkened Heart".

I always liked the track called "The Tree-Top Club", but never could find out where it was from.  Long story, but now, after 30 years, I've heard the entire album, and it's remarkable.