Monthly Archives: March 2005

Just Intonation Network Concerts

Just a quick post on an interesting set of concerts coming up this spring in San Francisco, put on by the Just Intonation Network. I look forward to seeing Terry Riley again (April 23) and hope to hit a few others.

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Kafka on the Shore – Haruki Murakami

Kafka on the Shore is a very strange novel! It’s not so unlike some of Murakami’s other work, but just more so. The chapters alternate between two stories that eventually start to tie together. I’d say the book is about time and memory, and mysterious links between past and present. One at times feels the entire book is in some dream state, in some ways like some of Steve Erickson’s novels. I’d say if you like Murakami already, give it a shot, but if you want to try one of his books, go back to something earlier, like A Wild Sheep Chase.

David Byrne Radio

Boing Boing has an item today about David Byrne’s internet radio station. The item includes a short interview and a link over to the site where you can get hooked up.

While on the subject of internet radio, I also heartily recommend WFMU, free-form radio out of good old Jersey!

Marianne Faithfull @ the Fillmore – 26-Mar-2005

Got to the Fillmore just a few minutes before Marianne Faithfull and band hit the stage on Saturday night. A four piece band, with Fernando Saunders on bass and Barry Reynolds on guitar, plus drums and keyboards, they were a strong outfit. And Ms. Faithfull, now at 41 years in show biz, was in control of the evening.

She did quite a greatest hits set, with a few songs from the new album including “Crazy Love” and “No Child of Mine” and old ones going all the way back to “As Tears Go By” and “Sister Morphine.” She was in no mood for requests, and told off the audience a few times! Another strong song was “Times Square” written by Barry Reynolds. A good show from a true veteran.

Too Much Capital

A Floyd Norris article in the New York Times on Friday, entitled “Too Much Capital: Why It Is Getting Harder to Find a Good Investment,” seemed right on the money (so to speak).

Why is there too much capital? One answer is that central banks reacted to the bursting of the technology bubble by cutting interest rates by too much for too long. The resulting liquidity might in other times have sent inflation soaring, but now China’s emergence has placed offsetting deflationary pressures on consumer goods prices. The excess liquidity is sloshing around world capital markets.

And the US real estate markets, I’d say. In the same paper there was a classic story on the growing real estate speculation. One guy says, “I look at this as a short-term investment, and plan to unload it as soon as things look dangerous.” Ha ha!

Saying Yes – Jacob Sullum (2003)

Jacob Sullum’s book Saying Yes (subtitled In Defense of Drug Use), is a useful history of anti-drug propaganda and misconception. He presents a compelling case that whichever drug is currently being demonized seems to take on the characteristics of whatever activities the young of the time are doing that threaten the older folk. While we mostly think we know a bit better these days about the actual effects of marijuana and tobacco, the current ‘poster child’ of super-addictive, life-destroying drugs is methamphetamine.

As Sullum writes:

Since heroin was perceived as the chief drug menace in the 1970s, crack could be described as the heroin of the eighties. Then methamphetamine was the crack of the nineties, and it looked like heroin could become the meth of the next decade.

The circle goes around and around, and we don’t seem to be getting anywhere…

Weird America

Weird America – that’s my reaction to today’s New York Times, where they’ve got front page stories on 1) the Schiavo case (still mutating as I write), and 2) about the rejection of some IMAX science films because they discuss evolution.

The Schiavo case seems very sad, and an incredible case of politicians trying to make hay from other’s misery. For the party that brings up states’ rights all the time its just another hypocrisy.

James Walcott has some good stuff on all of this. Reminds me of fiddling while a certain city burns.

Bob & Merle – Paramount – 15-Mar-2005

I moseyed on over to Oakland on Tuesday evening, to see if I could get in to see The Bob Dylan Show on its local stop. Fortunately scored a nice balcony seat for a more than reasonable price, and entered the art deco palace of the Paramount Theater.

Merle Haggard and the Strangers came on before 8pm, and played a nice set. Quick renditions of songs, with a verse & chorus or two, then a little guitar from Merle or some steel guitar or some sax, and then the song’s over. Merle was in strong voice, and the band sounded good.

Bob & band were up at about 9pm, with several new faces including a gal playing fiddle and a steel guitar player. The set started a little weak, I thought, but got stronger as they went. The highlight for me was a rendition of “This Wheel’s on Fire” with Bob up front and center, singing and doing a little harp, followed by a strong “Masters of War.” My tenth Dylan show since 1986, and funny enough each one has been at a different venue… Bob gets around!

Shampoo (1975)

Actually I recently saw two movies from the seventies that had both Warren Beatty and Julie Christie; “Shampoo” and “McCabe and Mrs. Miller”. In both films things turn out pretty poorly for both of them. I’ll stick to Shampoo in this entry.

I was inspired in part to watch Shampoo from J. Hoberman’s very good recent book on American films in the sixties and early seventies, The Dream Life. Hoberman has a very political reading of Shampoo, and it makes sense (much more sense than finding it on a list of 100 funniest movies, for example, which is claimed on the Netflix DVD envelope). Beatty plays a hairdresser named George who’s sleeping around with most of his clients. The story revolves around his activity to open his own salon, which will require money, and he ends up meeting with the husband of one of his good clients, and it turns out that this husband is sleeping with one of George’s old flames.

This just happens to take place on the day of the Presidential election, 1968, and in many scenes there’s a television showing either campaign ads or newsmen talking about the election or speeches from Nixon himself. George ends up losing on all fronts, and Hoberman reads this as a commentary from Beatty on the more recent election of 1972, where George McGovern was soundly beaten by Nixon. While there are some funny scenes and lines, in general I found the film to be pretty downbeat, as no one is too happy with their life, and is making compromises to just get along.

A Different Universe – Robert Laughlin

A Different Universe is very new book by Stanford physics professor (and Nobel winner) Robert Laughlin. His thesis is that we are leaving the age of reductionism and entering the age of emergence. By this he means that we may well have learned one set of fundamental laws of how matter works, but there are many limits to what we can do with these laws in terms of predicting higher-level collective phenomenon.
The book is written for the layman (ie. no equations!), and I still found some of the detail hard to understand, but the main point comes across. One example of what he’s describing is the behavior of elements as they go through phase transitions (while we’re used to thinking of gas, liquid, solid, there are apparently many other states at extreme temperatures). These phases exhibit certain properties which are consistent with the fundamental laws, yet have new behaviors that no one could predict from those laws. Only though experimental measurement have we found out about these states.
I find myself in agreement with his thesis; I too believe there is much more that we can discover about how the universe works. The book is entertaining but perhaps a bit light once getting the main concept across.