If I asked nicely, do you think she would help me categorize objects in my shed?
Johannes Kepler, conceptual noise rock pioneer.
The Most Important Record Of My Life
(This entry is a repost from a blogpost entry I did in 2009. The record has come back into my life again, thankfully, hence the repost.)
The Harmony Of The World was the first record I ever bought. I was only 8 years old, and the 25 cents my grandfather gave me to buy this record from a neighborhood garage sale in Pacific Palisades, CA circa 1980 wasn’t technically “my” money. However, I had a choice of records, and my pick was made. And I was holding the money to acquire it. The only other hobby that interested me more than music and computers at that age was astronomy. At that moment, there was nothing cooler in life than space and astronomy.
I had zero interest in Star Wars or The Empire Strikes Back (having just been released that year.) Those were just movies. Neither was about real space. Having read several books mainly concentrating on the nine planets and all their discovered satellites at the time, and having my interest in music grow and grow each year, a record about astrononomy was a major score.
I wasted no time putting on this record the moment I got home. I didn’t know what to expect… and what I heard was nothing I would expect.
An 8-year-old doesn’t care how accessible or difficult a song or album is. It’s either cool or it is not cool. Since this was an astronomy record, it was automatically cool. This meant that if I didn’t “get” what I was listening, I was going to force myself to understand why this record was cool, no matter how long it took.
I had no clue what to make of The Harmony Of The World. There’s no singing. There are no voices at all. There are no melodies, and there are no rhythms (to an 8-year-old, that is.) There was a lot of scary humming sounds that went on for a long time. The only fun I could get out of the record was to play around with the speed of playback.
The giant 70’s wooden monstrosity that was my grandparents’ stereo system had a built-in turntable with four record speeds: 16, 33, 45, and 78. I would often just play around with these four speeds whenever I gave The Harmony Of The World my daily listen.
It wasn’t until too long that my mother and grandparents asked me to use headphones whenever I played “that” record. They bought me a pair of headphones just for the purpose of saving their sanity from my super cool astronomy record. “Why don’t you listen to other records? You played that one enough already.” They never realized how much they were daring me to play this record longer and longer every time they asked that. How dare they tell me to put away something they knew I loved. I was always overly obsequious to my elders. I never was when it came to The Harmony Of The World.
Just about the time the vise is closing on my temples and I’m wondering if I have enough air for the return trip, my hands plunge into mud and almost instantly close on what feel like smooth, fist-sized rocks. I grab as many as I can and kick hard for the surface and explode into air, clutching handfuls of glossy black Mercenaria mercenaria. Then Bun shoots up with even bigger ones, and the quahog hunt is on. We are rooting in the mud like manatees, filling our sacks with clams and gasping for air in between. Eventually, I struggle back to the boat with a sack that feels as if it is full of bowling balls.
Half an hour later, we have commandeered an island of pink rock in the middle of the sound and chased the oystercatchers away. The burner under the wok is roaring like a jet engine, and shore crabs are dancing in dark sesame oil. Bun adds ginger, garlic, periwinkles, and dead man’s fingers and cooks it down into a mushy green marine bruschetta. The other seaweeds, clams, and tunicate-crusted mussels go into a separate wok with a little seawater and miso paste. Soon the tunicates slide off the shells and dissolve into an orange bisque, and suddenly we have New Haven miso soup.
As the color fades from the sky and the day’s heat radiates from the rock, we spoon out bowlfuls of soup swirling with green, brown, and red seaweeds, clacking with shells, and salted by the sea. There’s also a fair amount of the bottom of Long Island Sound in the soup, grit and tunicate grinding between our molars, but hey, this is war."
— Rowan Jacobsen takes a stand (spoon in hand) against invasive species in "The Gourmet Invasivore’s Dilemma".
- Do you have dysautonomia?
- Do you consider yourself an introvert and/or a Highly Sensitive Person? (click the link to take the Highly Sensitive Person quiz)
If you answered yes to both of these questions, please message me; I’d love to include your story an essay I’m writing on the overlap between these traits. The piece will be a work of literary nonfiction, not a scientific study, but I do hope it will raise some important questions.
Please signal boost! Every story matters.
stonehenge plan . “stonehenge today and yesterday”, frank stevens . heywood sumner illustrator . 1916
From Glenn Greenwald’s analysis of this Snowden-released Powerpoint presentation, evidently used to train intelligence agents how to use principles of stage magic to infiltrate online communities and shape internet discourse.
There are photos of UFOs in there.
Photographs. Of UFOs.
Jerry Casale remembers his little brother and bandmate in Rolling Stone.
Both Bob Casale and Alan Myers appear to have died from stomach problems.
River corpses are almost always police cases. Homicides and suicides. My dad was eight when the naked, bloated body of a woman surfaced near a crescent of sand north of Dyckman Pier. He’d told me this before. He and his friends were chasing each other through the crumbling asphalt at the end of Dyckman Street when they saw a police boat anchored off shore.
Sixty years later, plenty of women still float up to the Hudson’s surface like broken mermaids. Two were found along Manhattan’s tip a couple of months apart last spring, one again here at the pier. Men appear too, especially in the warmer months, when the heated water reinvigorates decomposition and gives their sunken bodies a gaseous lift. But they mostly emerge with their clothes still on."
— Lauren Dockett, "The Quiet Edge", part of an essay series on urban waterways.
Aleksandr (Sasha) Kolpakov (right) and Vadim Kolpakov (left, Sasha’s nephew), filmed by the classical seven-string guitarist Oleg Timofeyev.
Soviet singer-songwriters such as the famous Vladimir Vysotsky are routinely referred to as “bards,” but an earlier, perhaps more descriptive term for their work was “amateur songs” [самодеятельная песня]. Their approach to song was as lyricists first, singers second, and guitarists a distant last. (In our North American tradition, think Leonard Cohen more than Bob Dylan.)
But those guitars they hardly played are curious! Many of the best-known bards - including Vystotsky, and Bulat Okudzhava - accompanied themselves on the “Russian,” or seven-string guitar, an instrument that reputedly developed in the East parallel to the Spanish guitar in the West. Its traditional tuning is to an open chord, typically G major, though the bards sometimes changed that to minor, or to an open tuning without major or minor (like our DADGAD).
"Professional" players of the seven-string guitar are not bards, however; they are either classical players, or players of gypsy music. Indeed, the gypsy player Sasha Kolpakov might lead one to question the instrument’s “Russian” roots altogether - it seems so well suited to Roma music, and his technique not unrelated to that virtuoso of the Western six-string, Django…
Maybe I’m a Romantic but I think that Humanity is, essentially - at its heart - Good. And that much of the suffering in the world is actually exacerbated by our inability to get the help we want to give where it’s needed, when its needed. All of these folks who end up growing up suffering, hurt, damaged from the wreckage of our inability to make it right when it’s needed, when it can do the most good.
So much of our financial communication is stalled, hampered by these Obelisks, these gatekeepers, that by the time our contributions get where they’re needed, it’s often far too late. If those contributions even ever get there.
There are countless tales of charity money being absconded with by Warlords or opportunists. Piles of rotting clothing baking in the sun, sent by people with smiling faces who didn’t give a damn once they got their cut.
Dogecoin offers us a glimpse of a whole new world - a new perspective on sharing, on caring that, in my mind, literally re-defines what’s possible for Humanity as a whole."
— Weird apostrophes and capitalization aside, the optimism around the goofiest of the cryptocurrencies is infectious.