Crisis of Controversy (2017Aug07)


20170511XD-Decline_03

Sunday, August 06, 2017                                         4:22 PM

Crisis of Controversy   (2017Aug07)

I just watched a report on the opioid crisis—our country is being decimated by it. In a way, the opioid crisis is the natural next step, after sixteen years of fear-mongering and internecine bickering in our politics. Politicians rang that “post-9/11 threat level” like a cowbell, keeping the entire country on tenterhooks for years, starting reflex-wars that still haven’t ended. People are fleeing the pain and negativity in many ways—opioids being just one, our present clown-presidency being another, desperate example of wishful thinking.

This country has finally run low on the only thing it always had too much of: Morale. Our chants of “USA! USA!” have a hollow ring to them, as if we were clapping for Tinkerbell’s life. We need another Franklin D., to re-teach us that we have nothing to fear except being afraid. And we certainly need some retro (i.e. fit for the office) president to come in and point this country towards the future again. These wealthy, corrupt elites are like fifth columnist agitators, who start a riot—just to provide cover for their looting and violence.

Our government is not some special reality show being broadcast on special channels—it is, at root, a fairly straightforward affair, that people of good will conducted poorly—but still, it was better than these soulless people now making a rat’s nest of neglect and privilege out of offices they’re not fit to fill. It is unfortunate that journalism has spawned two idiot half-brothers, Click-bait and the 24-hour News-cycle.

These new industries thrive on our disruption, confusing the needful work of a free press with entertaining gossip and hypotheticals—exacerbating problems under the guise of ‘providing information’, mixing the opinion-based editorializing and spin with the hard news. The ‘information’ thus provided uses the term so loosely that it impacts peoples’ faith in the real journalists—who are then vulnerable to accusations of ‘fake news’ from the dick-head-in-chief.

Someone like Trump finds a friend in these outlets—but they provide no assistance to any serious public servant who isn’t prepared to vamp for the ratings. The neo-realisti-cons have even carved out a demographic convinced that their propaganda is an alternative to the reporting in the NY Times or the Washington Post. And while journalists clearly are not famous for their precision, the journalism practiced at those papers is far more rigorous and objective than the Foxified alt-reality.

As always, there’s a dead giveaway, if you know where to look—I’ll give you a hint: it’s in the retractions. A paper like the Times will print a retraction at the drop of a hat—if an error of fact is pointed out to them, they will correct their error without a second thought.

A salient feature of the alt-right ranters, including Fox News, is their instinct to debate a refutation—they grasp their ‘facts’ to themselves much more tightly than an objective journalist. In their very rare instances of being forced into a retraction—it’s always partial, conditional, mealy-mouthed, unapologetic, and dismissive of the whole affair once it goes counter to their wishes. That’s a far cry from even an attempt at objectivity—and a sign of their ignorance, that they haven’t the good grace to be ashamed of such transparent mendacity.

It’s a tricky thing to call them out on—their bad impression of real journalists is an insult to ideal of journalism, and of being a journalist—but it passes muster for the distracted, upset viewers it’s targeted towards, so it works for them—when it really should have made them a disgraced laughingstock.

You know why Bernie is a Socialist? Do you know why we need socialism in America today? It’s because Capitalism has been gamed to such an extent that only some aggressive spread-the-wealth programs have any chance of stopping our slippery slide into a Cash Dictatorship. If we can’t find a way to deke all these lobbyists and campaign-contributors, we’ll never rescue our democracy from the banks and the fat-cats.

Wanted: Quiet Folk (2017Aug10)


Improv – Glamorous Air

Thursday, August 10, 2017                                               1:53 PM

Wanted: Quiet Folk   (2017Aug10)

Are we done having fun yet? It’s been wild, having a nutjob for president, but now that everyone is losing sleep over nuclear Armageddon, from an off-the-cuff remark he thoughtlessly made, isn’t it time we impeached this senile abortion and got a real president?

Democracy without compromise is simply the tyranny of the majority. We allow the majority to elect our officials, but those officials are meant to serve everyone, whether they voted for or against. That is a complex position to be put in—but don’t worry: corruption has dumbed the whole thing down to just ‘getting re-elected’.

Improv – Cuddle Closer

Americans should get back to doing big things for a reason other than profit. The Hoover Dam, the Highway System, the Railroads, the Space Station—Americans used to build great things for the sheer greatness of them. We don’t do that now—but only because we are too distracted to think of it. It makes us small, brings us all down in the mud of money, where the shills have all the power.

The fat gas-bag in the Oval—he infuriated me when he said, “Make America great again”, not simply because he dismissed our present greatness, but redefined our future greatness in terms of dollars and cents—the cad. He should never have been elected—and the fact that he was proves that this country’s greatness, as an ideal, has eluded not just Trump, but a good solid third of the electorate.

Improv – Blue Ballet

So the question arises—how do we convince Americans that they still live in a great country—for reasons that are staring them in the face—when they are so unhappy they can’t appreciate what we have here? One thing we could do is set all the television shows in foreign countries—remind Americans that, here, we are required by law to send our children to school—boys and girls. Remind them of the many ways America is a great place to live—that we don’t use our police as instruments of political oppression—that the vast majority of our cops are public servants, making their neighborhoods safe and just.

Our parochial experiences minimize the truth of this—there are countless protections and freedoms that are not givens, as they are here, in other parts of the world. Theoretically, we make our own laws and choose our own leaders—and it seems apparent that we have to face up to it: We have not been careful stewards of that hard-won privilege. We have become comfortable in the assumption that these freedoms can’t be taken away. We have to start running and voting—and in an informed way that moves us towards solutions to our problems.

The greatest Capitalist, Henry Ford, paid his factory workers high wages, so that they could buy one of the cars they were making. Ford was creating a product and a market at the same time. He wasn’t some present-day fool who saw no connection between business and people. The old saw, ‘You have to spend money to make money’ is most true of governments—this Republican push for ‘independence’ of the individual is just one-percenter propaganda—as if, in the age of global interconnectedness.

We have to grab our citizenship by the throat and wrestle that thing back to what it was intended to be—self-government by majority vote. In my mind, the issues that bedevil us are no longer the problem—at this point, the problem is the issues never get taken care of. We need to elect people who will shut the hell up and do something constructive. Godamit.

Pete n’ Me – Improv – Considering

 

Birthday Video   (2017July30)


Sunday, July 30, 2017                                              3:17 PM

Birthday Video   (2017July30)

IMG_0376

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:

how_humans_use_bacteria_oversize20161121-1545-cvfkgm

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.

 

 

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.

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.)