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!

 

Science Fictions   (2017Jul05)


Wednesday, July 05, 2017                                                10:53 PM

Science Fictions   (2017Jul05)

Improv – Jeans Instability

Before I begin ranting, let me explain about today’s batch of baby videos—I decided to take all the titles from Astronomical Terminology, which I googled—if you want to know what a ‘Jeans Instability’ is, you can google it, too. (It’s the point at which a galactic dust cloud gets massive enough for gravity to start making it collapse into a baby star, though).

Improv – Galactic Tide

As usual, the titles, baby videos, and the piano music have nothing to do with each other—that’s just the way we do things here. Now, on with the lecture:

Improv – Critical Rotation

Greetings, People of Earth. Today’s message is: Things can only get better. I’m sure of it. Honest Abe said you can’t fool everybody all the time—and people are getting a nice, close look at the way things are. Politicians and business leaders can blue-sky all they want about tomorrow—seeing real-time performance on a daily basis, even with all the spin in the world, is harder to dismiss with words. In other words, I think it will be harder for Trump to run on his record than it was to run without one.

Improv – Celestial Sphere

Depending on how the Supreme Court sees ‘gerrymandering’, we might even see some Democrats win an election or two. There’s no limit to how much change for the better may be ahead. Heck, we could win it all—and we’d still have a couple of years of work on legislation and diplomacy before we could undo the damage the GOP has already done (and Donnie helped!), post-Obama.

Improv – Eccentricity

By now, whatever further extremes the Right goes to, those actions will only inflame the backlash of people who didn’t see this reactionary wave coming—and are watching government implode almost daily. Did you hear the departure of the last few people, last week, wiped out the larger White House Office of Science and Technology Policy? You can ignore Science, if it means so much to you—but turning our backs on Science is extremely dangerous—as dangerous as putting its detractors in charge (a pretty ignorant act in itself).

 

We know how scary technology can be—with serious people making the decisions. It gets a lot scarier when things like quality-control become a matter of alternative facts. Humanity has raised a mighty pyramid of technological connections—it is awesome in its complexity, its interdependence—every cog matching every tooth in in every gear, round and round, humming without a break—like a heartbeat from the world. We are letting childish people tear out pieces, clog up chain-links, and throw big, fat monkey-wrenches into this global clockwork.

Freedom of Speech may allow people to bad-mouth Science—and hard-case Ministers may encourage that—but anyone who wants to turn their back on our technology is threatening your life and everything in it. We take our developed-country lives for granted—they only exist courtesy of a gigantic legacy that started with Fulton and Edison—and continues with Jobs and Musk, etc. Trucks, Trains, Ships, Air Freight—spiderwebs of businesses—blizzards of paperwork—from international trade agreements to the economics of your corner deli—and that’s just for all the food and drink. Denying Science is the most retrograde opinion a person could hold—it’s like intellectual suicide.

Happy Fourth of July! (2017Jul04)


 

Tuesday, July 04, 2017                                             2:45 PM

Happy Fourth of July!   (2017Jul04)

Barbecues to the left of us, barbecues to the right of us—anyone with any sense has snaked themselves an invite to a hot-dog-themed gathering today—or they just don’t salivate at the smoky scent of briquette and beef-blood. Things are pretty quiet compared to the Independence Days of yore—I remember a lot more drinking, rubber-burning, outdoor sound systems, and the incessant background of gunpowder exploding, for days, reaching its crescendo today—or rather tonight, when the sun sets and any high vantage point will likely afford a view of an incendiary spectacle.

But I am ashamed to admit that it is 3PM on the Fourth of July and I don’t hear a firecracker, or a hawg with a bad muffler, or even a lonely, far-off guitar lick—Americans have turned their focus from celebration and pride to conflict and challenge. The new gladiators of our new circus: talking heads of cable news and trolls of social media—and they fight with words—literally fight with words—trying to say their truth loudly enough to make it The truth. It’s a pale shadow of the USA of the seventies.

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When I think of Evel Knievel, riding his jet-bike (his personal response to the question, “How high and how far can a wheeled vehicle go with the driver surviving?”) and compare that to today’s ‘daredevil of words’, President Trump (who offers us his response to the challenge, “How false and self-serving can free speech reach before it becomes a crime?”) I can’t help but feel that we have achieved digress, not progress. I doubt that today’s barefaced political double-talk could have survived, back when people spent most of their time socializing in person.

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And while I personally prefer it nice and quiet like this, I can’t help but feel nostalgia for the more dynamic society we once were. This new world of staying home and never taking our eyes off our screens and keyboards—it lacks a certain joie de vivre, if you don’t mind my saying. And I can prove it without a poll, too: the birth-rate in America is plummeting. Will we be distracted into extinction by handheld gadgets and spinners and past-times and TV? Have we become so overly civilized that we can masturbate the day away, without once physically touching ourselves?

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So, I suggest that, this Fourth, all able-bodied Americans celebrate this day with some fireworks in the bedroom—show a little life—let’s put some points on the old tally board—because later, the bigger the crowd, the cooler it will sound when we all chant, “USA! USA!” Then again, Independence Day and parenting are mutually exclusive, when you think about it—so, never mind. But at least go outside and throw a damn Frisbee.

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Good and Bad (2017Jun26)


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Monday, June 26, 2017                                            9:30 PM

Good and Bad   (2017Jun26)

We had a lot of good stuff before the world became industrialized, polluted, and overpopulated. But we had to give that good stuff up in the name of progress. There’s a lot of good stuff in idealistic youth, fresh from school. But we have to teach them to be cynical, distrusting, and acquisitive before we consider them grown men and women fit for the business world.

For humanity, something isn’t really useful until it’s been broken in—our sweetest gift is a handful of flowers, cut down in their prime, with only days to droop before they are thrown away. Not that I disapprove of flower bouquets—but they are, objectively, murdered plants—and that’s the way people like them.

I’ve always been fascinated by the muddy mess of the old Main Streets. See, before paved roads, every street in town became a muddy, impassable obstruction. Back in those days, there was never a big patch of mud, unless people were there. What strikes me about this is that even before exhaust pipes, factory chimneys, diesel engines, or chemical plants that dumped toxic waste in the rivers—even before all that, people were messing up every place they gathered in groups larger than a tribe.

Which is why the muddy obstacles were found in settlements’ and boom-towns’ streets—and not in the Native American villages. Even the slightest deviation from the hunter-gatherer tribal traditions (like a higher population density) would have changed things—and whether change is good or bad, I tend to admire the fact that there was a terrible balance in their lifestyle.

Think of it—coast-to-coast, groups of people living solely off the land—in comparatively miniscule numbers, sure, but with zero infrastructure that wasn’t already being supplied by Mother Nature. And before their feistier, paler brethren came sailing up, they hadn’t even needed to spend a dime on national defense.

I’m telling you, Europeans didn’t so much discover the New World as find the corner of the world that they hadn’t already ruined, deforested, overhunted, or incubated plagues in—and then proceeded to ruin that New Corner as fast as they could (experience tells, right?) And their specialty—weapons and war—made it easy to wipe out any previous residents, wherever they went.

Ironically, the reason the New World was so full of un-ruined goodness was because Native Americans kept it that way—and the Europeans judged them too inferior to hold claim on their land (or their lives), partly because they weren’t sophisticated enough to have ruined it all, already, themselves. That’s what you call a ‘bitter irony’.

Thus I always feel that when we discuss people, humanity, whatever—that we have to talk about two kinds of people—the kind of people we were evolved to be, by nature, and the kinds of people we learn to become, as part of civilization. These two very different aspects of humanity are nevertheless melded into each personality.

Virtually no one is so civilized that they don’t breathe air—nor so natural as to never use money. Some of us dream of going forward—colonizing the solar system, where there is no air. Some of us dream of going backward—to a naturalism so idyllic that money becomes obsolete. Trekkies dream of both—but there are very optimistic types, don’t you think? Still—beats pessimism.

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Don’t You Dare Use the Word ‘Care’ (2017Jun23)


Friday, June 23, 2017                                               2:27 PM

Don’t You Dare Use the Word ‘Care’   (2017Jun23)

The Republicans never wanted those tens of millions of citizens to have health coverage—that would mean “socialized medicine” (that dreaded scourge that keeps the entirety of the-rest-of-the-developed-world healthy). Besides, worried the GOP, how will insurers and pharmacists maximize their profit-potential with the government looking over their shoulders?

And so the Republicans fought tooth-and-nail to prevent passage of the Affordable Care Act—they called it a ‘death panel’, they scare-mongered until scare-mongering became the habit of theirs it is, today. The Democrats passed the Affordable Care Act. Tens of millions of citizens have health coverage today because of it.

Repealing the Affordable Care Act would threaten the lives of tens of millions of citizens. Repairing the Affordable Care Act would be the obvious choice for any sensible person.

But if voters had any sense, these charlatans wouldn’t be elected into the offices they hold. How they can shamelessly wave their billionaires’ tax-cut in our faces like they’re “doing good” is beyond me—is there no limit to their dis-ingenuousness?

A child could see through their blatant posturing—just as a child could see through Trump’s blatant posturing, when he started tweeting about “tapes” of his convos with Comey. These dopey clowns that run our country would be met with gales of laughter, if not for the horror they practice upon the youngest and weakest among us—I think I understand Stephen King’s “It” a lot better now.

 

Denial   (2017Jun09)


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Friday, June 09, 2017                                               10:35 PM

During the Depression, it became obvious that business owners were a threat to the equality of the workers—but with the Red Scare, we managed to deny that—and denying that business owners are a threat is a founding pillar of the Republican platform to this day. When Rachel Carson published Silent Spring, a new awareness came to the public—an awareness that what we do, and the waste we produce doing it, and the poisons we use doing it—has an effect on the places where we live.

Even as we busied ourselves, learning to throw our trash into receptacles (instead of on the ground)—chemical and petroleum companies began to push back on the idea of ecology—denying that our use of natural resources could have any ill-effect on the Earth—or that resources would ever run out. And climate-change-denial is still a part of the Republican platform, as well.

It was different in the past, when big money and big business had an understanding ear in the GOP—now, it seems more as if the fat cats outright own the GOP—lock, stock, and ethics. The masses of people who overlooked the favoritism of the entitled for the promise of conservative, unchanging security—they have become dupes of those who would make great change—and most of it retrogression or partisanship. And now they have a crazy man in charge—it may take time, but they will come to see him as a dangerous man.

So many of our political footballs carry within them some sort of denial on at least one side of the argument—right-to-lifers deny that legal abortion is better than illegal abortion—climate-change-deniers ignore the preponderance of both scientific authority and evidence—marijuana-haters deny the probability that pot has many medicinal uses—gun-nuts deny that the ubiquity of guns has any connection to our sky-high murder rate—it goes on and on.

And these people have their arguments, their points-of-view—but seem, in the end, to simply deny something which they are uncomfortable accepting as part of their reality. I can sympathize—but I still think they’re wasting their own—and everyone else’s—time.

Improv – Woods Trails

Improv – High Notes

Bach – Prelude in C (with Improv)

Satie – Gnossienne (with Improv)

Improv – Maelstrom

 

ttfn.

Goodness Me   (2017Jun02)


Friday, June 02, 2017                                               12:16 PM

The media have put our society into a glass jar—and forgotten to poke any holes in the lid. Why would a News-channel talk about one thing all day—and still claim to be News? Newspaper editors go crazy, trying to decide which of the thousands of significant News stories they can fit into each issue—while CNN and the rest confine themselves to one subject—and then struggle to find something new to say about that one subject, for weeks on end—until the next ‘top priority’ subject wanders in.

Denzel Washington recently quoted Mark Twain’s quip to the effect that one can ignore the News and be uninformed, or follow the News and be misinformed. But, Twain lived in a world of Newspapers—nowadays, we can remain uninformed—even with a cable-News channel blaring into the room all day.

Printed News cannot show the same sentence over and over—it cannot type two peoples’ essays, one on top of another, so that we can’t read either one’s words—Newspapers don’t distribute re-runs of previous days’ papers. But, when the medium is a noisy light-show, as with TV and video, content becomes optional—this hypnotically vacuous disgrace is open to them. Yet they’ll still swear that it is Journalism.

Plainly, TV News could supply far more information—if information delivery were truly its goal—by airing the prompter. Just turn that camera around and let us read it for ourselves, why don’t you? But then, it’s not really Journalism—no, no—this is Infotainment. Big business—why is it so easy to make money by degrading people?

It’s all about terminology—any old thing can claim to be ‘News’, but ‘Journalism’ is a different animal—a more rigorous bar to be met. We have many TV News shows—even News channels—but we don’t have much TV Journalism. The attention-based economy has stomped its footprint into our lives. While this predator ranges the landscape, we’ll have to look to books and newspapers for our hard facts—any info from media more ephemeral is tainted—ensnared by the commodification of sensational attention-getting—and thus suspect.

And most of all we must look to ourselves—the easiest thing we could possibly have an impact on—our own thoughts and feelings, how we live, how we treat others—one could conceivably spend an entire day ‘making the world a better place’ simply by being a better person—and it’s so convenient. I mean—you’re right there, already.

To avoid unnecessary conflicts without letting fear be the guide—to stand tall without the need to coerce others—these are the real problems of life. The rest is just details. If I mean well but do nothing, I am failing to interact with reality—but, if I do something, it’s hard to be sure it’s the right thing to do.

I have to search my heart carefully—ask myself what my true motivations are—whether I act out of righteousness—or just some tempting ego-trip that looks good. Then there’s the thinking through of an action, beforehand—will it get the results I seek, or simply show me off as a crusader? And will there be further consequences, beyond my immediate acts, that would ultimately worsen whatever situation I’m trying to help?

The bottom line usually is this—I can’t be of use to other people if I’m not with other people—if I don’t get involved in my community personally, I can’t really know what their problems are. So, I usually confine myself to not doing anything to cause trouble for others—living as a shut-in makes it hard for me to help others—but it’s still very easy for me to make other people miserable, if I’m not careful. Still, I miss being of use—the challenge and complexity of being a good person amid the hustle and bustle—those were the days. Not that I was very good at it—but I love a challenge.

Motivation means everything to me—when I catch myself doing something for unacknowledged motives, it really embarrasses me. I don’t like the image of other people seeing me argue for something and seeing what I’m really trying to say, and that I don’t even know it.

Motivation is, to me, like Body Language—in the way that Body Language can say much more than the words someone says—and can say it without that person’s awareness—motivation is the personality behind someone’s actions.

When I look at the talking heads of the News—or the politicians the News is about—I take note of what they say and what they do and how they vote—but I also keep an eye out for where they’re headed with the sum of their activity—I ask myself, where are they going with this?

I get dismayed by the number of public figures whose motivations are impervious to reason—people for whom facts can get in the way. I simply don’t understand it—if my stance on an issue runs counter to the facts, I cede the point—life’s too short to get mad because things aren’t the way I wish they were. Better to move forward towards something that promises a better future—and leaving reason out of that is madness (well, by definition, too, yeah).

We get a lot of debate about ‘alternative facts’ lately—people argue over what’s true or false, partly or *wholly, proven or merely alleged—and paste labels onto facts which they dislike, as if to cast them out. We all know that such a situation could only arise if one party were working very hard to obscure the plain truth—although, by now, we are dangerously close to it being all parties that are jumping on the bandwagon, when it comes to ‘fact-curation’.

I’m tempted to point the finger at the party with the ties to Russia—but I’ll let you puzzle that bit out for yourselves. Maybe it was incautious to so completely empower a man who’d made a career out of pushing the ethical envelope—that’s not very presidential. He’s so good at surprising us, keeping us off-balance—it makes some people nervous—even panicky. But not Congress—nerves of steel, those folks.

 

* (I spelt this ‘wholely’—but Word corrected me to ‘wholly’—I googled it—the first is English spelling, the second is American. Guess I read too many Brit authors.)