Birthday Video   (2017July30)


Sunday, July 30, 2017                                              3:17 PM

Birthday Video   (2017July30)

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The summer rushes on—July reaches an end and the lonely, hot month of August is all that stands between us and the coming of another tilt of the global axis, anti-sunward. My daughter’s daughter, my granddaughter Seneca, had her first birthday—and, of course, her first birthday party (with balloons and cake and presents). Ah, youth—just to look at her makes me feel younger. I, for one, can’t wait for this August to end—because the three of them will be visiting afterwards—and that’s worth another winter.

Claire is painting and printing and charcoaling and pen-and-inking and oil pastel monoprinting and doing pencil portraiture and life studies and plein-air landscapes—it’s been summer art camp for the Bear this year. She’s fantastic and I’m hoping she’ll let me make a video out of a retrospective of her sketches sometime—but not everyone is comfortable splashing themselves all over the internet like I do, so we’ll have to see about that plan….

Spencer has been doing yardwork and home repair—on the one hand, I’m jealous because that used to be my favorite part of being a homeowner—but on the other hand, it’s great to have a real strong man around to do the stuff that needs to get done. I don’t know what the problem is with ‘failure to launch’—we couldn’t get along without Spencer’s help—I’m grateful that he hasn’t felt the need to move far away.

For now I’m having a great old time using baby videos to add a spoonful of sugar to my piano-playing videos. I figure it doesn’t really matter about the playing—how many people can ‘go to the videotape’ to review the first year of their lives? It’s not like it isn’t a happy story. And I’m not quite done yet. I’m listening to Borodin’s 2nd Symphony—it’s nice and long, and good music, which makes it perfect for working at the keyboard.

I’m working on the new batch of videos—this time ‘round, I’ve recorded a bunch of songs from my Dover Music Publications’ “The Ancient Music of Ireland – Arranged for Piano by Edward Bunting”. I include “Molly My Treasure”, “Plangsty Hugh O’Donnell”, “The Jolly Ploughman”, “Slieve Gallen”, and “Give Me Your Hand” (also known as “Tabhair Dom Do Lámh”, the track title used on the Chieftains’ “Chieftains 5” album). I can’t tell you how delighted I was to realize I was playing one of their favorite songs of mine. I practiced and practiced, but I could never approach the speed and vivacity of their recording.

The improvs—well, what can I say. They’re there—that I have the strength to sit on the bench at all is a minor victory, so there you go. It seems that the more tired my playing gets, the more adorable the baby becomes—so, she’s pulling most of the weight on these videos—thank you, Seneca!

Well—back to work—I can’t post this thing without the videos.

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In Response   (2017Jul29)


Friday, July 28, 2017                                                8:06 PM

In Response   (2017Jul29)

A friend told me I play piano better now than I did eight years ago—which is gratifying (even if talking ‘two levels of bad’, it’s good to be on the right side of it). It’s funny—I’m in worse shape, but I’ve become better adapted to it.

I lost some core muscles in the ’04 transplant op. Even five years later, in 2009, I was still struggling to do a single sit-up—and failing. Now, I’m better adjusted—I can do sit-ups now—but it’s dangerous to ask so much work from so few muscles, so if I overdo, I get spasms. I remember an early gym class, sixth grade, or junior high, maybe—where I did more sit-ups than anyone else. Time sure flies.

What is a laser, you ask? The term “laser” originated as an acronym for “Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation”. Invented in 1960, a laser sends a beam of light in a straight line (this is called coherent light)—unlike, say, lightbulbs, which send out light in all directions. This creates a very precise and powerful cutting tool, often replacing the scalpel in modern surgery. But lasers can be used for many other things besides burning—laser-calibrated ‘tape-measures’ allow contractors to measure a space’s dimensions without walking the length of the space—the list of uses is endless.

So—bacteria—lousy segue, I know—but today I’m thinking about bacteria—so, I did a quick Google-image search:

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As you can see from the chart, bacteria are useful because they operate on a molecular level—they can be tricked into modifying gene-sequences or fermenting India Pale Ale (IPA). Here are just three of the other fascinating things I found that deal with modern advances in bacteria-based technology:

 

Researchers generate clean energy using bacteria-powered solar panel

(Photosynthetic extracellular electron transfer processes using cyanobacteria—miniscule output compared to traditional solar panels, but still a step towards bio-solar energy cells.)

https://phys.org/news/2016-04-energy-bacteria-powered-solar-panel.html

 

Liquid-crystal and bacterial living materials self-organize and move in their own way

(Clothes that will breathe—for both of you.)

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/05/170511165351.htm

 

From Antarctica: It’s Alive!

(Planet as Petri Dish.)

https://ultraphyte.com/2015/02/07/from-antarctica-its-alive/

 

So, my friend (and anyone else interested)–there’s a brief reply to your kind email. I hope I’ve answered your questions. Write again soon.

 

 

Presidency, Bought & Paid For (2017Jul25)


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Tuesday, July 25, 2017                                             8:26 PM

Presidency, Bought & Paid For   (2017Jul25)

I don’t follow the Trump story anymore—what it boils down to is this: the man is unfit for office, and it’s a matter of whether, and when, the Republicans will finally reach their collective limit, in supporting this destructive and dangerous clown. Meanwhile, the Democrats should be focused on what they’re going to do—their hands are tied for the next several years, no matter what happens with Trump—and they have to reach the people with some hard truth. Otherwise, they’ll just stay ‘Republican-lite’.

Perhaps we’ll learn from a bull-in-a-china-shop like Trump that our government is very fragile, in some basic ways—informed engagement being foremost among its needs, in a democracy—and that government and business are two separate things for an excellent reason—government is supposed to be For the People. Business is just about the money.

Now, before you get started—yes, money is everywhere—in everything from how well we can raise our children to whether we can afford life-saving medicine. But businesses are not required to concern themselves with that—they are concerned solely with how much money comes in and goes out.

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Government regulations, government inspections, government testing—we hear a lot of bad-mouthing of these activities, as a rule. But we only hear from the business interests that find government quality-control too great an expense. If anyone wants to bad-mouth the EPA, or the FDA (or whatever few government regulatory agencies have survived the business-friendly Republicans) it should be about how their function isn’t being fulfilled properly.

Arguing against government regulation is stupid. Arguing to make regulations ‘more better’—now, that’s a good idea. If you take home packages of food and bottles of drinks, don’t you want to know that the people that sell it are legally liable if they get careless with your family’s food? Of course business will always criticize government—they don’t want any rules. But they need them—or rather, we need them—to protect us from rampant business without a conscience.

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Remember when Volkswagen had half-a-million ‘volks’ driving around what they thought were fuel-efficient, eco-friendly cars—and they were simply cars with ‘lying’ emissions readouts. That’s what you get when you have rules in place. Imagine a reason to “let up” on business watchdogs—I dare you. We need consumer protection, eco-protection, and employee protection. The lack of sufficient government oversight is the reason we have so few, but very rich, people now—and most workers haven’t seen an increase in thirty years.

That’s hundreds of millions of Americans being taken advantage of by what Senator Sanders calls ‘da Big Banks’. That’s the trouble with technology—if this were pre-industrial times, no way such a small group of people could sit on mountains of money while everyone else struggles.

If the American Revolution hadn’t happened when it did, it couldn’t have worked—if we’d waited until the British had Gatling Guns, we’d have lost. Of course, you correctly point out that the Gatling Gun was a product of our Civil War, and so wouldn’t have existed—but someone would have come up with something like it, so I maintain my point holds. Automatic gunfire is the ultimate crowd control—so, nowadays, anyone who can hire a gang of mercenaries with automatic weapons becomes a small nation unto themselves.

The mindless power of wealth is armed with all the latest weapons—if we are not already adopting paranoia towards its potential to enslave us all, we are not being careful enough. While we, as individuals, meander through our destinies, trying to get by and minding our own business, the wealthy are plotting to become more wealthy. Why?—because that’s how they got wealthy. And with all that money, they can lobby legislation, they can ‘buy’ influence for ‘their’ candidates, they can tell a whole town full of employees ‘how it’s gonna be’.

Wealth is powerful—but it doesn’t think—or feel. It is a danger when uncontrolled and we knew it, long ago. But ever since the last World War, propaganda for a stronger military—and against socialism—has turned Republicans against their better interests. We already have some Socialism in our government—and it does a lot of good. Taxes are a form of socialism, too—in their own way—they are a collective asset, spent for the good of all.

Humane, safe, fair conditions for employees—that was a struggle fought over decades. And the owners that opposed the workers cited Socialism as the problem. Socialism is used as an insulting label by Conservatives—any group activity they disapprove of is Socialism—if they approve of it, it’s the Right to Assemble being exercised. These people have always been villains—the fact that one of them is probably your employer doesn’t make them the one good guy out of the rest—he or she is the most dangerous—because they hold your life in their hand.

Conservatives have to stop chowing down on the s**t-sandwich that is ‘a business-friendly’ government. Any time the government takes the side of business over the people, they are disgracing themselves—all these congressional bills pampering the big industries (and their profits) are a betrayal—and people don’t see that. It’s very frustrating. You don’t see the media taking this perspective—maybe it’s because they are owned by a bunch of fat-cat oligarch-types.

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Sunday, July 23, 2017                                              1:11 PM

Butterfly   (2017Jul23)

The butterfly was very curious about me (‘though I don’t know why—I’m wearing black pants and a grey shirt—and I’m pretty sure I don’t smell like perfume). It flew around and around me, up and down—it especially liked my ears, which freaked me out a little. I noticed then that the butterfly was just one of hundreds of butterflies, bugs, bees, and bits of tree falling in the light breeze.

The fact that the air was full of anomalies reminded me about outer space—about how space isn’t a pure vacuum, that there’s plenty of dust and particles. If a starship went through space fast enough, it would have its nose-cone eroded by the friction of passing through that dust and whatnot—just as when a car on the highway will see its windshield accumulate a layer of squished bugs.

‘Stay In’ Sessions (2017Jul21)


Friday, July 21, 2017                                                5:22 PM

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The revolving door of this administration may have led Trump to believe that people simply come and go at his whim—and it may be that Jeff Sessions was watching Rachel Maddow the night the NYTimes-interview-with-Trump story was previewed by cable news. Most of the talk was of Jeff Sessions being likely to resign in the morning—but Ms. Maddow rightly pointed out that, right now, the president cannot fire special prosecutor Mueller—and has no hope of doing so, absent a resignation from Sessions.

Yes, the president can fire Sessions—but the replacement then becomes a bone of contention. If Sessions quits, Trump can name an acting attorney general, and some pro-Trump names have been suggested—people who might well fire Mueller—or, better yet, hamstring the investigation and let it starve to death.

(Later that evening: )

Okay, now it’s been announced that US intelligence intercepts of Russian transmissions reveal Ambassador Kislyak’s version of his meeting with Sessions—and it directly contradict Jeff’s version—you know—from his public hearing.

We ask how something so convenient could possibly happen in this cold, cold world? Especially, why should such fortune smile upon us right now—at this particular moment? Is now, perhaps, a bad time to start trusting what the Russians say—even if we obtain it through covert means?

Fictional detectives down through the ages have warned us against ‘coincidence’—would Holmes take this latest ‘leak’ at face value? Can this have been leaked by the White House to grease the wheels for Sessions’ firing—or simply discredit his word in the public forum?

I gotta tell ya—if Sessions wasn’t madder than a wet hen when he denied this ‘leak’ and repeated his testimony, then Jeff’s a helluvan actor. That sincerity of true outrage gave us a glimpse of the real feelings, missing from so many of these political ‘briefings’ nowadays, that you get from real people when they’ve been dishonestly maligned. He was PO’ed.

All this reminds me of former Director Comey. Jeff Sessions was Trump’s first legitimate political sponsor—and his biggest booster during the campaign. James Comey’s ill-timed announcements about Hillary’s investigation are seen as a major factor in her loss—if not the deciding one. I had no reason to root for either one of these guys, earlier on. As soon as either one becomes key to the Trump/Russia investigation, however, it suddenly seems like they are our only hopes.

An objective observer might characterize all this as a chess match, but I have a prejudiced take on it—I see it as Evil enthroned, made manifest by the accumulation of ego, avarice, partisanship and corruption that tirelessly eat away at the roots of democracy, constrained now (having control of the chief and the majority of the federal government) only by those dysfunctions that evil always imposes on itself.

People talk about the still, small voice (of God, of truth, of reason—you pick) that we sometimes hear—I know ‘conscience’ is a poor term for it, but it is the simplest. It is small only in that it must be ‘put away’ during the bustle of the workday or the fun of a party—like mathematics, conscience is an unwelcome interruption of our cruise through life, something we must stop and focus on.

Easy to ignore but, like mathematics, it can suddenly turn into a wall of steel or a dagger of ice. Conscience is always there, just out of sight, but we abuse it at our peril. Just as lust triumphant can render once-soulmates into a bored couple, evil dismissed can sour our very existence, every moment tainted with more pain than the one before.

If this isn’t true for you, dear reader, you must understand that for me it is so true that I can’t imagine you disagreeing with me—though surely many might. I’m pluralist in that way—I know that my world-view can’t be defended against practitioners of philosophy or psychology—I know that, in a way, I am wrong—but I am right in that way in which I choose to be.

And I believe that nobody can claim anything beyond that. Whether what I think of as ‘caring’ is a societal affectation, a neurosis, or some other befuddlement—I feel it. I don’t want to learn to stop feeling ‘care’—it would be like learning to see in black-and-white, a diminution.

One benefit of being empathetic is enjoying working as a group, as a team—relying on each other for support and coordination. Paranoia and egotism take away these advantages—careless people rarely work together as a team. This is one of the main self-imposed dysfunctions that hobble evil—we should always be grateful.

Empathy encourages sharing and generosity, which appear foolish from an economic standpoint, but in a society can strengthen and empower the whole. This is another benefit the careless miss out on. They see society as something that must be controlled, not something that must be cared for.

Regardless, the strengths of caring are brittle—one sour apple puts a catastrophic crack in the whole. Just as trust is powerful—when it works. These failings make selfishness seem a smarter choice—safer—but I always figured that the best kind of gambling was betting on the heart of every stranger. What is life without a little adventure?

Perhaps I’m painting this picture too broadly, trying to remake reality into what I wish it were. Never mind. Sometimes I get lost in my thoughts, and they get tangled.

Dear Mr. President: (2017Jul19)


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Wednesday, July 19, 2017                                                2:52 PM

Dear Mr. President:   (2017Jul19)

Don’t lecture us that ‘Obamacare will fail’. The Presidency should embody a figurehead, not a scolding schoolmarm. And stop pointing fingers, you ‘whiny little bitch’ (credit: Bill Maher)—the last thing a President should ever do is try to shift blame. If our fearless leader is looking around, mewling, “Who, me?” then how will that make America look, to the rest of the world? I don’t mind you embarrassing yourself—you obviously enjoy it, and I could give a damn—but as far as making America a laughingstock—that I don’t appreciate.

Don’t think we failed to notice you’re unable to talk policy specifics with thorny issues like healthcare—we knew you were ignorant about it, going in, and we know you’re a seventy-year-old putz who can’t learn anything new, even if you had the will to do it. Your sales schpiel is all you have in the way of managerial skill—you never need to know anything, just push others to do it and blame them if they fail.

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Undoing Obama’s work towards addressing the threat of climate change may have garnered you a few points with your racist base—but everyone else, in America, and in the entire world, sees it as proof of your idiocy. Your helpless flailing, when it comes to healthcare, tax reform, immigration, or education—pairs nicely with the Republican majority’s dog-who-finally-caught-the-car act.

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Let’s face it—you and your ignorant GOP legislators are typical bullies, becoming enraged, to hide your suspicions that your opponents are correct—and overturning the table because the board-game isn’t going your way. Understand me—it’s no crime to be slow-witted, we aren’t judging you for that, but enforcing ignorance is a crime against nature and man.

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Meditations on F**kery (2017Jul16)


Sunday, July 16, 2017                                              2:41 PM

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Meditations on F**kery   (2017Jul16)

It being Sunday, our thoughts naturally turn to God. What is God? Right now, I’m inclined to believe that God is the Summer—that bounteous blooming that gets Life through the less biddable Seasons, especially dread Winter.

Good, now we’ve gotten our Sabbath meditations out of the way, we can move on. I watched some TV news today (always a mistake) and heard people on the Right trying to call into question whether any laws have been broken. Well, yes, my law has been broken—when your entourage spends every day bending and twisting into unnatural positions, attempting to hair-split their way out of blatant perfidy, something has been broken—call it faith, or ethics, or morality—Trump’s administration has a black-hole where most people have these things—and we can all sense the absence of decency in this gang of apes that abuses authority under the guise of governing.

They like to latch onto a buzzword and throw it about until it loses all meaning—in this instance, ‘collude’ is on the chopping block. Fine, forget ‘collude’—‘collude’ makes it sound like something done in the open, anyway. This was done skulkingly, and still it tries to wrap itself in lies and claims of confidentiality and privilege. This was more ‘conspiracy’ than ‘collusion’ and that’s what they should be charged with: ‘Conspiracy’. They have conspired against the Constitution itself. They have conspired against us, the American people.

They have conspired in secret and withheld the truth from FBI investigators and Congressional hearings alike—their credibility would be zero—should be zero—but I believe, not in the president’s tweet-storms, but in the unbalanced mind they represent. HRC warned people, “When Trump tells you who he is, believe it.” And, while nothing else said by Trump et. al. could be taken on faith, we can say ‘If he tweets like he’s crazy, believe him.’

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I noticed one reporter asked Trump’s lawyer, J. Sekulow, when the president knew about his son’s meeting with Russians—and the lawyer responded vaguely, saying it wasn’t very long ago—and this is emblematic, systematic of their habitual recourse to thumb-twiddling when caught in a scandal. If someone asks me ‘when?’, I’d say a date or a time or both—or I’d ask to get back to them, if I didn’t know. But this lawyer knew, and wouldn’t say—he also avoided perjuring himself by giving any real answer—one assumes because there may be paper-trails that show Trump knew months ago, or even as it happened.

But for Sekulow to pretend that the president just got a quick notice a few days ago, or some such nonsense, that his son, son-in-law, and then-campaign-manager all had a meeting with a Russian posse with close ties to Putin—as if this wouldn’t have come up in discussions about Russia investigations over the last six months—or even before inauguration, when oppo-research on HRC still mattered. Expecting listeners to suspend disbelief enough to make that sound normal or sane—is asking too much of TV—even when you blanket the entire Sunday morning talk-show circuit.

But that is the ultimate Trump-camp hallmark: to strain credulity with shabby pretense of credibility. If it’s important, they’ve forgotten it. If it’s valued, they’ve dismissed it. If it doesn’t fit their narrative, they’ll cut off its feet and make it fit, by gawd. And finger-pointing? OMG—six months in, and Trump is still blaming Obama for problems with the Trump presidency—Thanks, Obama! And it’s always a little bit Bill and Hil’s fault, too—of course.

I can’t wait to see the ass-end of this f**ker—so I can get back to laughing at the inane and enjoying the ridiculous. Finding them among state policy is no joke. Let’s put f**kery back where it belongs—in a Monty Python sketch.

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Pleased To Present (2017Jul16)


Sunday, July 16, 2017                                              10:42 PM

Pleased To Present   (2017Jul16)

I am pleased to present to you my latest videos, featuring my adorable granddaughter (and my piano-playing). She has just started to walk, her first birthday is next week, and they’ll all be coming to see us in a couple of months—hooray!

 

XperDunn plays Piano
July 15th, 2017

Improv – Sonatina

Improv – Toesies

Improv – Grasshopper

Improv – Refractions (w/Cover: “Nobody’s Sweetheart”)

Improv – Sunlight

 

ttfn!