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2022 september photos of the month


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Man. Nothing interesting can last in Harvard Square.
RIP Coolio. Love this straightforward admission of growth and letting things go by.

I did it
  1. in the name of art
  2. for the bit
  3. because it's there
  4. out of spite
  5. as a matter of principle
  6. because if I didn't, who would?
  7. for the sheer hell of it
  8. to show them all
  9. because it seemed like a good idea at the time
  10. specifically to annoy you
  11. to prove a very important point
  12. because fuck you

October 2, 2022

This is how it works
You're young until you're not
You love until you don't
You try until you can't
You laugh until you cry
You cry until you laugh
And everyone must breathe
Until their dying breath

No, this is how it works
You peer inside yourself
You take the things you like
And try to love the things you took
And then you take that love you made
And stick it into some
Someone else's heart
Pumping someone else's blood
And walking arm in arm
You hope it don't get harmed
But even if it does
You'll just do it all again
Regina Spektor, "On the Radio"
(Not a subtext-laden anything, just a song that the God of Shuffle Play graced me with this windy morning.)
JP Honk at the Thomas M Donahue Roslindale Parade...

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new music playlist for september 2022


Dear Mr. Fantasy
There was kind of a dumb Quora asking if "Hey Jude" was a rip off of this song...

Same Song (Edit Version)
Digital Underground
For some reason "The Humpty Dance" was bouncing around our house a lot, and so I looked him up - didn't realize he was a persona of Shock G, who died last year. Interesting seeing Tupac running around Digital Underground (and all the culturally responsible references to condoms...)

Weird Goodbyes (feat. Bon Iver)
The National
Melissa pointed me to this song, crushingly sad, the idea of trying to impress a moment into memory as a stand in for a longer time in a place really resonates. Tantalizingly ambiguous - is it a break up song, or of another life transition?

Glory Box
John Martyn
Male-vocal, R+B-ish cover of the Portishead. I think it brings something out, but the genderbent lyrics lose something.
Neko Case
Melissa and I went to see Neko Case who is one of her favorite performers.
Shots (feat. Lil Jon)
Just wanted the source of where my friends go "shots shots, shots shots shots" Raunchier lyrics than I expected.
The Teddy Bears' Picnic
Henry Hall & The BBC Dance Orchestra
My friend Nick was wondering if there was a name for the the "derp de derp" song some tuba players will use to mock alt-right assholes... I was wondering if this could be the source. I had a teddy bear w/ a built in music box that would play this.
A Shot In the Arm (Remix Version)
There was a "Strong Songs" episode about "Jesus Etc" but it mentioned this song's lyric of "The ashtray says / you were up all night"
The "In" Crowd (Single Version)
Ramsey Lewis Trio
RIP Ramsey Lewis... admittedly I hadn't heard much about him but this song is a bop.
Would You... ?
Touch & Go
I mostly know the high energy Trailermen Go To Rio remix version but the original has its own charm. I mean how could "Um, I've noticed you around. I find you very attractive. Um. Would you go to bed with me?" not be alluring?

Cat Power
A friend of mine going through a rough time mentioned learning and doing this rough-edged cover of Rihanna's original.
Ur So Gay
Katy Perry
Someone one on tumblr mentioned Katy Perry's first song was this stridently anti-metro-sexual and kind of regressive piece...

On and On, Pt. 2 (feat. Ty)
Hocus Pocus
Some great, friendly rap (mostly in french) via this iPhone 14 hardware review
Who's Ready for Tomorrow
From the "Cyberpunk" anime, mentioned on the "Get Played" spinoff "Get Anime'd", derived from the recent large scale video game.
Black Sweat
Funky Prince. Heard during a late hours Trader Joe's run. I'm always struck by the sexy thang/prude ambivalence of mid to late era Prince.

I had a big realization about [fans being upset when series sequels have changes], which is that Fandom is not about loving something. I think Fandom is a separate occupying experience, more akin to obsession than it is to love. And I think, like, Religions are Fandoms because most of the time you aren't actually loving the details of the religion, but rather obsessing about your version of the thing? And I feel like all of the fandoms you interact with online are like, Religious and Obsessive about something that they think is the thing, as opposed to loving the thing no matter how it comes out. Right?
I can't imagine that there is [a single fandom that doesn't lose its shit every time [a major change happens]]... to be a fan means that you think it's YOURS, it's more like ownership than it is like appreciation. It's like "This is my thing" and as soon as the sort of metastasizes into identity, you're fucked, because any change that happens to the thing that you love, or "love", is a reflection on your own personal self-knowledge. So you're fucked! If you're obsessed with a thing and it changes, you're ruined.
Heather Anne Campbell on "Get Played"

October 4, 2022

Striking photo! also interesting to see how Ukraine forces cover up the Z on captured equipment...

...as despicable as what the Z stands for it was an amazing bit of branding. Though at this moment, in retrospect, it seems like less a sentiment of populist support and more a signal of the decay and unprofessionalism of so much of the Russian armed forces.
I did my first kickflip today since breaking my femur 7 months ago.
It was difficult.
It was painful.
It was sloppy.
It was [possibly] payback for me harassing strangers to do the same.
But it was gratifying beyond words.
Find your metaphorical kickflip and don't quit on it.

October 5, 2022

Looking at some of the oldest entries for my employer monster.com on the wayback machine I found this:

Miroslav one upped me with a modern day gallery from monsterindia.com

(Yes, at one point the first and foremost monster mascot was Trumpasaurus, aka "Trumpy", and it was a reference to the businessman. Who even then was a joke, but a different kind of joke than he is now.)

PC Mag - September 2007
Reinvent Your PC

a diagram is an explanation up until the explanation has diagrams
A dream I had last night

must be autumn, Dean shunned his office throne all summer but now he's back.

October 6, 2022


(I know I posted "Momhead" before but I didn't put good keywords to find it like "ways my 4 year old daughter has insulted me" or "things my daughter said")
Slate on Why Growing Parts of the Christian Right Are Convinced It's the Apocalypse.

Revelation talk scared me shitless as a kid.

Later I learned a lot of people who are into it are "pretrib", or "premillennial dispensationalist", who figure they get out-of-jail-free card, that suffering will happen, but all us good folk will be whisked away, only them bad sinners will get the worst of it, so BRING IT ON, THY WILL BE M-F'IN *DONE*!

What a garbage theology. What an un-Christian stance. What a way to ensure that you're not actually going to be all that concerned about being a good caretaker of the planet.
Nobody wants to die. People don't mind being dead. Being dead is great! But getting dead...nobody wants to get dead.
George Carlin

October 7, 2022

Interesting ranting on Game of Throne's kingdom's not taking what decades of winter all seriously, like seriously missing the chance to worldbuild in order to get all stabby and horndog about The Hundred Year's War time.

from "God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater"

So my plan on reading every Vonnegut novel is paying off... I really loved this languid poem, and then there were some really good framings of thoughts about socialism and capitalism.
I'm a painter in my dreams, you know,
Or maybe you didn't know. And a sculptor.
Long time no see.
And a kick to me
Is the interplay of materials
And these hands of mine.
And some of the things I would do to you
Might surprise you.
For instance, if I were there with you as you read this,
And you were lying down,
I might ask you to bare your belly
In order that I might take my left thumbnail
And draw a straight line five inches long
Above your pubic hair.
And then I might take the index finger
Of my right hand,
And insinuate it just over the rim of the right side
Of your famous belly button,
And leave it there, motionless, for maybe half an hour.
You bet.
Unsent poem by Eliot Rosewater to his estranged Sylvia, in Kurt Vonnegut's "God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater"

"We come to a supremely ironic moment in history, for Senator Rosewater of Indiana now asks his own son, 'Are you or have you ever been a communist?' "

"Oh, I have what a lot of people would probably call communistic thoughts," said Eliot artlessly, "but, for heaven's sakes, Father, nobody can work with the poor and not fall over Karl Marx from time to time--or just fall over the Bible, as far as that goes. I think it's terrible the way people don't share things in this country. I think it's a heartless government that will let one baby be born owning a big piece of the country, the way I was born, and let another baby be born without owning anything. The least a government could do, it seems to me, is to divide things up fairly among the babies. Life is hard enough, without people having to worry themselves sick about money, too. There's plenty for everybody in this country, if we'll only share more."

"And just what do you think that would do to incentive?"

"You mean fright about not getting enough to eat, about not being able to pay the doctor, about not being able to give your family nice clothes, a safe, cheerful, comfortable place to live, a decent education, and a few good times? You mean shame about not knowing where the Money River is?"

"The what?"

"The Money River, where the wealth of the nation flows. We were born on the banks of it--and so were most of the mediocre people we grew up with, went to private schools with, sailed and played tennis with. We can slurp from that mighty river to our hearts' content. And we even take slurping lessons, so we can slurp more efficiently."

"Slurping lessons?"

"From lawyers! From tax consultants! From customers' men! We're born close enough to the river to drown ourselves and the next ten generations in wealth, simply using dippers and buckets. But we still hire the experts to teach us the use of aqueducts, dams, reservoirs, siphons, bucket brigades, and the Archimedes' screw. And our teachers in turn become rich, and their children become buyers of lessons in slurping."
Kurt Vonnegut, "God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater"

Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It's hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It's round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you've got about a hundred years here. There's only one rule that I know of, babies-- 'God damn it, you've got to be kind.'
Kurt Vonnegut, "God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater"
Nice seeing the source of this (Eliot Rosewater was going to say that when asked to baptize twins.)
Money is dehydrated Utopia.
Kurt Vonnegut, "God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater"

Pretend to be good always, and even God will be fooled.
Kurt Vonnegut, "God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater"

"In time, almost all men and women will become worthless as producers of goods, food, services, and more machines, as sources of practical ideas in the areas of economics, engineering, and probably medicine, too. So--if we can't find reasons and methods for treasuring human beings because they are human beings, then we might as well, as has so often been suggested, rub them out."
"Americans have long been taught to hate all people who will not or cannot work, to hate even themselves for that. We can thank the vanished frontier for that piece of common-sense cruelty. The time is coming, if it isn't here now, when it will no longer be common sense. It will simply be cruel."
Kurt Vonnegut, "God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater"

"I just wish you'd stop saying you're a socialist. You're not! You're a free-enterpriser!"
"Through no choice of my own, believe me."
Kurt Vonnegut, "God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater"

HONK!fest 2022

This year was a milestone for my main band JP Honk, we were one of the official bands at HONK!fest 2022. Friday we led one of the five lantern parades, Saturday we had two sets, Sunday we joined in the parade (which has been our longest running participation w/ HONK!fest, going back to at least 2013) I was at all of those, plus backing up School of Honk whenever I could.

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Lantern Making and Staging for 5 parades...

Askew view of our drums at our Kenney Park premier...

Kenney Park again, photo by Kellie Fournier

I also joined in with School of Honk...

Wide view from the bass section...

HONKfests tend to have after party where folks from different bands eat, rest, shmooze, and jam together...

Banda Rim Bam Bum (from Santiago, Chile) was one of the featured traveling bands... (along with Young Fellaz Brass Band from New Orleams) - they play accompanied by this deathly figure, blowing bubbles from a handheld bubblegun...

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Arriving early to the parade staging (and by early I mean on time) I took this photo to ask my band "where is everyone?")

Parade photo by Greg Cook

At the head of our parade crew Karen twirled ribbons...

Our afternoon set, photo by Jennifer Ferguson

Noam took some shots during our mainstage closer Bella Ciao...

A word about Eze - he kinda became the 8th grade prodigy of HONK!fest, central with JP Honk and The Party Band but sitting in with everyone from ENSMB to Young Fellaz to the pickup band. While all credit is to him (and his parents), I'm proud of how JP Honk opened some interesting musical paths for him, back he was around 5, playing along on toy instruments with his older brother Gio a little further along on the trumpet.

We had a few more performances and then some of us went to a protest for prison justice at the Suffolk County Detention Center.

Another after party...

This was the 10th Annual Sousaphone Leg-Off... I played and sang "Tubas in the Moonlight"

PRONK! 2022

The PRONK festival is reinventing itself, away from the classic HONK! model and into being more neighborhood-centric, and emphasizing indigenous folks and BIPOC... School of Honk played, and then JP Honk was invited to help start up the brass section of the after party...

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They had a booth with poets taking commissions...

Nice fall day for a parade!

I miss the photogenic waterfront but the park made a nice performance space...

I caught Second Line Brass Band doing a neighborhood walk before the main parade... reminded me of the old Salvation Army shtick of heading out with a band.

Is there something behind me?

"Farto"? "Farlo"? I guess the former is better decoration for the portalots.

So glad Eze's older brother Gio could make it - we were really low on trumpets for our After Party set.

I like this shots blending my horn's purple lights and the green rows of the entryway...

October 11, 2022


October 12, 2022


Very interesting framing.

I connect with it in terms of my frustration of so many people judging so many things all the time, which is deeply enmeshed with that hierarchy.

(It's kind of orthogonal to the other big issues I have for myself in witnessing others: the relation between thought and feeling, and a lot of people "letting the pigeon [of emotion] drive the bus" vs being more mindful in what raw emotions are amplified by semi-deliberate thought (against the concern of 'not feeling enough'), and also the balance of interior lives and preferences against the shared space; where the Truth doesn't cleanly flow from the top down (ala authoritarianism) nor smoothly from individuals up (ala individualism) but in a complex and emergent interplay.

leadership lessons from kermit

A few weeks ago I posted an image with this:
Be a Kermit the Frog. Have a creative vision and no ego. Recognize the unique talents of those around you. Attract weirdos. Manage chaos. Show kindness. Be sincere.
I had taken point for JP Honk's appearance at PRONK!, just the afterparty, and I had worked to rally people to go even though it was a weirdly last minute thing. But there was confusion and a definite sense that it might not come together, and I was feeling guilty that I would have wasted folks time and made them feel bad since we were playing as a fraction of our fullsize crew in front of more established fellow bands. Like I knew I had been my usual "C'mon lets do it!" self and reassured folks with confidence that wasn't 100% justified.

But then I thought of Kermit in the Muppet Movie:

And I reminded myself that, even when I'm playing "captain", like for this or a BABAM event, I always put myself in the same boat as every performer, and if we get frustrated with people we are playing for, usually bandmembers would be annoyed at those people, not at the person willing to try to pull it together and make it work anyway.

And for what it's worth, our set at the afterparty was solid! We were the first band after the opening local hiphop artist act, we recruited a few extra folks to start, and then we explicitly leaned into the HONK! traditions of inviting people from every band to jump in, and deftly restructured the setlist to focus on songs that were most amenable to that kind of sharing... the results were fantastic. (Which is to say, right on par for HONK parties, which was the goal, especially as a newer to the scene band.)
(I posted a transcript of that muppet movie scene almost ten years ago but I can't figure out why it was so much on my mind then. Maybe in the wake up the previous year's broken engagement?)

October 14, 2022

I grow little of the food I eat, and of the little I do grow I did not breed or perfect the seeds.

I do not make any of my own clothing.

I speak a language I did not invent or refine.

I did not discover the mathematics that I use.

I am protected by freedoms and laws I did not conceive of or legislate, and do not enforce or adjudicate.

I am moved by music I did not create myself.

When I needed medical attention, I was helpless to help myself survive.

I did not invent the transistor, the microprocessor, object oriented programming, or most of the technology I work with.

I love and admire my species, living and dead, and am totally dependent on them for my life and well being.

Sent from my iPad

Steve Jobs (sjobs@apple.com to sjobs@apple.com) September 2, 2010, a year before his death.

October 15, 2022

From the article Over-reliance on English hinders cognitive science

Nice way to think about Sapir-Whorf hypothesis topics.

Reminds me of the mistakes we may be making in psychology/cognitive science assuming everyone is wired like undergrads at expensive American colleges who are still willing to sit through stuff for $50...

I'm not sure I dig the implicit denigration of English. I mean I know that's part of the point; that it is a predominant language, so it gets its own column with everything else lumped under "global diversity". I'm sure if another language was playing the role of "lingua franca" it would have its own strengths and weaknesses.
My take, from trying to resolve conflicting reports of "english is easy to learn" "english is hard to learn" is that English is easier than most languages for the basics, harder than mosts to master. Like the grammar isn't too bad. The big thing is the vocabulary drawn from lots of languages (which makes the spelling rough) - we have a lot of individual words with a great deal of nuance especially compared to languages that have had more curation, like French, and use simpler terms (that often carry more gravitas accordingly)
Also I've been told English isn't as bad for poetry as we've heard, but the emphasis is better put on rhythm than of rhyme...

(I especially welcome feedback from people who added English later, and/or folks who have thoughts on the English vocabulary issue)
At a university there was a dean who cared about others and showed exemplary behavior. One day an angel appeared at a faculty conference.

The angel said as a reward for his good deeds that God would give him his choice of eternal riches, eternal wisdom, or eternal beauty.

The dean chose eternal wisdom without hesitation.

"Good," said the angel, disappearing into a cloud of smoke.

Everyone present turned their gazes to the dean, who was illuminated by a faint halo.

A colleague whispered, "Tell me something."

The dean, who had gained eternal wisdom, sighed and said, "I should have chosen eternal riches."

Click for a raunchy joke

matt and nelson wedding!

Yesterday JP Honk played for our bandmate Matt and his beloved Nelson's wedding! (all but the first two photos by Melissa)

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Nelson and Matt...

Guest conductor Sophie...

Declan, Cathleen, Kirk

Look closely and you'll see the famous Rubin Brothers along with the band...

Officiant Cathleen running the ring ceremony with a bit of trombone business from Eze...


...and Dancing

All at scenic Jamaica Pond!

Also after there was pumpkin carving at Miller's!

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The pumpkins find a chainsaw... now we'll see who carves who...

Ours is the large pumpkin on the left. We sort of cheated - Melissa found sound prosthetic teeth - but they looked great and menacing. (I'm all for laziness when it gets the job done...)

3 bonus wedding shots (stills from video)

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October 17, 2022


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wedding practice at jp pond

jp pond at wedding practice

Some socks are "absorbent", these socks (a gift from Melissa) are "self-absorbed"

Glitched out panorama at McCue Garden Center in Woburn (free small corn maze!)

Had a good conversation about music on a private Slack channel a former coworker runs... like I'm always... if not defensive, at least willing to cede the moral high ground to people who appreciate whole albums, and believe that the tracks on a good album all support each other in the sequencing, vs my view that "damn, all my CDs are just two or three good songs plus some filler"...

But thinking about it... sitting and listening to an album is certainly a new and weird kind of thing. Like if you go to a live concert, it's pretty rare that you're gonna get songs in album-like grouping! And going back to the music humans have made, I think songs are about the typical unit, larger constructions like oratorios or multi-movement symphonies (or large song sequences) are the exception more than the rule.

So I might be making excuses for my shallow music sensibilities, but I think there really is something to accessible music, and that lends itself to songs being the basic unit.
Was thinking about how things were technology driven - like you had single cd s vs LP albums, and then CDs (where singles were less common) and of course tapes that REALLY didn't lend themselves to being played out of order... and of course the mixtape, which for folks like me were just a brilliant way of cherry picking the good stuff for ourselves and to try and woo others.... thought of this line from the novel High Fidelity...
I spent hours putting that cassette together. To me, making a tape is like writing a letter--there's a lot of erasing and rethinking and starting again, and I wanted it to be a good one, because...to be honest, because I hadn't met anyone as promising as Laura since I'd started the DJ-ing, and meeting promising women was partly what the DJ-ing was supposed to be about. A good compilation tape, like breaking up, is hard to do. You've got to kick off with a corker, to hold the attention (I started with "Got to Get You off My Mind," but then realized that she might not get any further than track one, side one if I delivered what she wanted straightaway, so I buried it in the middle of side two), and then you've got to up it a notch, or cool it a notch, and you can't have white music and black music together, unless the white music sounds like black music, and you can't have two tracks by the same artist side by side, unless you've done the whole thing in pairs, and...oh, there are loads of rules.
Nick Hornby on the art of the mixtape in his novel "High Fidelity"

Of course now it's amazing I can go tappa tappa tappa and immediately pull up the referenced song "Got to get you off of my mind"... I'm pretty sure I didn't have that option when I read the book in the 90s and wasn't quite enthused enough to seek it out...

October 18, 2022

found online....

October 19, 2022

I am really trying to figure out more about how most people deal with emotions... Like I understand that I might be at one extreme, how when a small flame of emotion fires up I have the option to let it expire, or alternately I can build it up with intellectual kindling and fan the flames a bit... but apparently that's not how most folkss operate? Even ones who seem to be having mentally healty-ish lives?

So like, if such people have a strong negative feeling, a moment of intense frustration at work or at traffic or whatever, whats the mechanism by which that feeling STOPS? Do you just have to wait for it to dissipate of its own accord? Or maybe pretend and act like you are not feeling it until it passes?

October 20, 2022

I wrote yesterday's entry on FB and got some great sharing responses... here's what I wrote back

Wow, thanks to everyone for thoughtful responses! It sounds like a tough and important question for a lot of folks.

20 years ago I made the half-joking observation "I'm one of the most or one of the least enlightened people I know." - I was less aware of my emotional registers then, and I think I meant I was at ease with the idea of "the self is an illusion" (I got there by reading materialists like Dan Dennett rather than like insight meditation) But since then... like when I hear people say the great thing about meditation is it stills the wandering "monkey mind" and so permits unanxious relaxation... But for me, letting the mind wander is almost always pleasant. It may brings up ideas I don't like, but I guess I intuitively GET that "I am not my feelings, I am not my thoughts" in a way other folks don't. (And it is reinforced by a pile of cultural and material privilege where 'eh it will all be ok in the end' has a decent chance of being correct - especially if I'm less buffeted by negative emotions in the meantime)

But don't let me sound full of myself. (says the guy with socks of his own face) I get low grade anxiety about things, I angst and procrastinate on work and other things that might bruise my big old ego. Even the odd blow up of temper, though generally directed at more abstract things like traffic, hardly ever individuals, and usually only when I'm alone and it's ok to rage.

And I probably don't connect as readily or as deeply emotionally as other folks do- I think I have an easy time aiming for autonomy and co-self-actualization than I do providing healthy co-interdependence. (though I guess that avoids the problems of co-dependence) Working on it.

I think about how i got here. Religion is a bit to thank, or blame; I took to heart the idea that the only thing that REALLY mattered in this life was avoiding eternal hellfire (and getting that sweet heavenly eternal bliss, though that somehow less pressing) and so my personal feelings and preferences were just potential stumbling blocks to my final destination, handicaps in a game played for infinite stakes. (Artist and polymath (and polyglot) Nicole Bernstein, a frenchwoman from my Science and Spirituality group, mentions she got a much healthier (still nurturing and refuge-providing) view of a God engaged with us in the here and now... I'm envious!)

But between that "fear of damnation" and the fixed mindset of being a precocious, smart kid, where I had infinite confidence in being a smart and worthy kid as long as I didn't test it too hard... I think it set some patterns of not letting the pigeon drive the bus (albeit with ego as an only semi-rational aspect demanding protection)

And...other things changed me too, later. I think pining after one woman all through college and a bit after, where there was a maddening on-again, off-again aspect... I guess that affirmed my need for self-actualization vs interdependence. Piled on with a divorce and a broken engagement - it does seem to emphasize the importance of parallel strengths in a relationship rather than mutual need. (Like I figured out or read long ago, "it's a lot cooler to be wanted than to be needed"... because then you have more freedoms and you are there because you want to be.)

And its sheepish to admit, but I do wonder if someone how Y2K fears - so quaint now, but it did take an awful lot of programmer work to make sure there weren't at least some of the problems the doomsayers were predicting - provided a secular version of the apocalypse (a bit after I got over my anxiety about thermonuclear war, the other secular apocalypse) and maybe somehow changed me. I remember once a person at the front desk of my job mentioned she could always tell when it was me coming up, because of the happy humming or bopping I'd be doing, and a few years later I realized that was no longer the case, and wondered what happened, where that went. Right now I wonder if that cheerful intuitive behavior was the victim of getting all the noisy schoolkids in my head, the seeming K-12 all in one classroom, in line.

Yikes, that got long. But some thoughts I've been juggling around for a bit...

I think a great solid takeaway for me from other's responses is that for a lot of people talking about anger or another bad emotion helps the emotion that is there disperse and dissipate, like steam from a simmering pot, while for me talking about negative stuff tends to be more kindling to a fire that otherwise would burn out of its own accord, and more quickly than with other folks. (One of the commenters mentioned the wikipedia page Social Sharing of Emotions...)

FOLLOWUP: Heh, almost exactly 13 years ago I was referring back to the earlier "least or most enlightened" bit... I had a lot of good things to say about it then to.

October 21, 2022

I've used gmail for a long time, since 2004. For a long time I really loved its "Important + Unread" vs "Everything Else" feature; that really got to the heart of what I wanted in a robot sorting my email.... "this is probably worth looking" vs "this can probably be skipped" (this is independent of gmail's spam folder.)

I stuck with it even after it adopted a new paradigm (I think I remember it lifting the feature from a different trial mail service) of sorting mail into categories - Primary, Promotions, Social, Update , and Forums. But I still preferred the simpler "look at this or don't".

Well, for the past few months the "Important" categorization has really been slipping. And I was started to feel overwhelmed, and "inbox zero" (even for just "important and unread") was getting harder and harder to achieve.

So for a week or so I switched to the categories... and you know, I think it helps a lot. It feels like I'm spending less effort to get to a true inbox zero (not just "important").

It lets gmail sneak a few more ads in there, but considering how long I've been using them as a free service, it's not bad. And unlike many the privacy aspect doesn't bug me too much.

Sometimes I wish I had been more steadfast in using an email address I control vs handing out my gmail... (especially since I used the ridiculous semi-gamer-handle kirkjerk...)
Chicken soup is actually bird tea.

October 22, 2022

JP Honk @ HONK!fest 2022, photos by Michael Hall:

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the unruly gnomes of our dreams and emotional lives

Thinking about dreams, and the possibility that their weird rules of gradually resolving vagueness may give a peek into how our sub-minds work.

(For me any theory of consciousness that acts as if the mind is single monolithic entity is a non-starter; it seems that the mind is made of supbarts that end up have on some level their own agenda, and that's true from bad old Freudian thought up to Internal Family Systems and Minsky's Society of Mind.)

Like, I woke up a little from a dream and was in that liminal state of being able to recollect pieces parts and analyze them and I got annoyed. (the difficulty of remembering dreams is part of the frustration of course) It was some dream about a band I was in being recruited to cheer on these artists doing large largeish sculptures, lots of brightly colored parts and wielding.

At one point I saw one of the artists, and/or bandmates, with distinctive PJ like pants and top, and then I was jealous because all the artists got matching outfits and I didn't. Also there was a woman i was running around with whom I guess I was romantically attached to, and then in a conversation it was gradually revealed she actually had COVID but hadn't told because wanted to keep running around. Topical drama!

But I realized the revelations of the PJs, the woman, the COVID- dreams are all this weird vagueness combined with a game of "Yes, and" my brain runs with itself, where some piece of my brain throws out a spark, and gets expectations about what that is, and then those expectations are met and expounded on and the vague things gets drawn a bit more sharply. (And somehow he part of our brain the prevents gullibility is cranked way down)

But it raises the question: are these whimsical yet often fearful dream makers in my brain the same thing powering my emotions during waking hours? Like in my new metaphor model where emotional bits are unruly students in a K-12 classroom with the emergent rational self as teacher trying to control them- are those "students" the same things making the dream logic happen?

(like I know how emotions give impetus to everything we do, and when you lose that, you become profoundly and often passively depressed. so I know these dreamers or whatever powers the emotional furnaces is critical to our well-being)

but still, if the dreamers and emotional motivators are the same subsystems of mind.... YIKES! These dreamers are frickin' idiot gnomes swinging between wish fulfillments and deep anxiety exploration. The way so many people then have trouble managing their fear and angers, have to distract themselves, or maybe talk it out with others lest they be driven by these gnomes... how an unattended to gnome sulks and smolders and maybe finally outbursts destructively... oof.

And that scales upwards to psychology and into sociology. Like in our dreams, we see what we expect to see, and I can see that kind of preconceived notions thinking strongly building up our politics and other macro level interactions. Ditto how our dreamers are all about fears and hopes and that's what our politics is too.

I am sorta glad that my gnomes are manageable in the daylight hours, that somehow they accept their model of the world and intuitive preferences being subjugated to a best rational guess about objective reality and group preference. Yeah I maybe miss some of the peaks of happy gnome ecstasy, but my guys still manage to keep me cheerful and happily engaged with the world, and I miss the worst of gnome panic and despair. (I do suspect deeply lived philosophy is a bit of an anti-depressant, sharing the cutting off of peak highs and lows but offering a lot of pleasantness in between if you are graced with the right spirit.)

The world is always new... however old its roots.
Ursula K. Le Guin

In order to see birds, it is necessary to become part of the silence.
Robert Lynd

Birds chirping around you is a beautiful realization that life is incredibly good. Let this sound be a gentle break in your routine.
Hiral Nagda

October 24, 2022

Melissa and I had a lovely 4 day weekend in Woodstock, VT.... we happened upon the VINS Nature Center with its super-cool Raptor work (it does a lot of bird rehab, but lets you see enclosures with birds that got too injured to return to the wild - the Predators of the Sky program where they have a Harris's Hawk fly right above the audience from trainer to trainer was cool) and a cool "Forest Canopy Walk" where there's a path a tree height, plus a big tower with a great view and then a human-sized spider web. We also hit Simon Pearce (best place to go if you want to pay $75 for a single clear glass tumbler...also a good bar) - maybe you're paying for the view of the waterfalls there (night shot). We also hit Sugarbush Farm, hiked around Silver Lake, and then on the way back we went down into Quechee gorge - lived up to its name in terms of being gorgeous. Also a few other nice restaurants and cool shops in Woodstock proper.

Open Photo Gallery

October 25, 2022

The way I'm constituted: it's critical not to be (confidently) wrong. But, maybe insufficiently important to be right? Is it Taoism light or just anxiety and laziness?
it's the same grunt whether it's good news or bad news.
Melissa on my responses as I'm reading in bed but listening to her as she prepares for work

We commonly use whoever, whatever, wherever, and whenever, but never whyever.

One ought never to turn one's back on threatened danger and try to run away from it. If you do that you will double the danger. But if you meet it promptly and without flinching you will reduce the danger by half.
I don't know whether to be relieved he didn't actually say it (see: Churchillian Drift) or annoyed that I have no idea who said it, because I think it is a great sentiment.
When information is contextualized, it becomes knowledge. When knowledge compels convictions, it becomes wisdom.
Kissinger, Schmidt, Huttenlocher in "The Age of AI"

October 26, 2022

Non-scripted porn is actually just a nature documentary

Sigh. Republicans in Congressional power will try and impeach Biden. "what's good for the goose is good for the gander" is absolute bullshit when what the goose did was withhold military aid from ukraine so they'd do a personal political favor and then goad militants into invading the capitol building, and what the gander did was... have a son who got some dough (like that compares to how Trump family has profited) for failing to arrange a meeting w/ his then VP dad...

from Vonnegut's "Mother Night"

THIS IS THE ONLY story of mine whose moral I know. I don't think it's a marvelous moral; I simply happen to know what it is: We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.


There's another clear moral to this tale, now that I think about it: When you're dead you're dead.

And yet another moral occurs to me now: Make love when you can. It's good for you.
Kurt Vonnegut, "Mother Night"

No young person on earth is so excellent in all respects as to need no uncritical love. Good Lord--as youngsters play their parts in political tragedies with casts of billions, uncritical love is the only real treasure they can look for.
Kurt Vonnegut, "Mother Night"

"People should be changed by world wars," I said, "else what are world wars for?"
Kurt Vonnegut, "Mother Night"

We saw a Veterans' Day parade down Fifth Avenue, and I heard Resi's laugh for the first time. [...] What struck her so funny was the drum majorettes, kicking at the moon, twitching their behinds, and twirling chromium dildos.
"I've never seen such a thing before," she said to me. "War must be a very sexy thing to Americans."
Kurt Vonnegut, "Mother Night"

Say what you will about the sweet miracle of unquestioning faith, I consider a capacity for it terrifying and absolutely vile.
Kurt Vonnegut, "Mother Night"

I delivered my eulogy of [white supremacist youth leader] August Krapptauer, saying, incidentally, what I pretty much believe, that Krapptauer's sort of truth would probably be with mankind forever, as long as there were men and women around who listened to their hearts instead of their minds.
Kurt Vonnegut, "Mother Night"

"This day will go down in history!" said Jones.
"Every day goes down in history," said the boss.
Kurt Vonnegut, "Mother Night"

"There are plenty of good reasons for fighting," I said, "but no good reason ever to hate without reservation, to imagine that God Almighty Himself hates with you, too. Where's evil? It's that large part of every man that wants to hate without limit, that wants to hate with God on its side. It's that part of every man that finds all kinds of ugliness so attractive."
If you want to be a soldier in the Legions of God so much," I told him, "try the Salvation Army."
Kurt Vonnegut, "Mother Night"

R2-D2 finds love on Sesame Street (1980) pic.twitter.com/3OVVmxkPA7

— crazy ass moments in star wars history (@SW_Moment) October 25, 2022

on tumblr the cancerous myth of the nuclear family

October 28, 2022

So last week on FB I learned from people sharing that most folks live more intuitively than I do, like how while my unattended-to feelings sputter out for lack of supporting cognitive fuel, other folks' ignored angers and fears will smolder and make noxious smoke and maybe even burst into flame.

Which makes me think this fundamentally ingrained epistemology of mine (where early on I felt compelled to confirm emotional validity with higher truths) might act as a natural anti-depressant? In both desirable and undesirable ways: cutting the lows, but also maybe the highs? But leaving me in a generally pleasant and contented state...

And that's not a humblebrag, I'm legit trying to find if the parallel is superficial or might point to useful things. But unlike a real anti-depressant, I can't just switch prescriptions... also it's a bit isolating; like I suspect I'm not the only person with this "rationality anti-depressant" shtick, but I can't describe it concisely enough to find similar folks. (Except maybe I think it ends up with some similar results to Buddhist detachment? Hmm.)

October 29, 2022


survey of mind/self models and the inner classroom


For the past few years I've been trying to identify a model of mind that seemed most true to my experience. It seems like a critical bit of self-knowledge, as well as a way of understanding others... I'm pretty sure consciousness is not a monolithic thing even if (long ago) I used to think my inner monolog was "it" - or rather, was "me". But what then ARE the parts, and what is their relationship?

Freud posited id, ego, superego and while he got so much wrong, that core idea - one part with emotional energy, another with society's rules, a middle part negotiating between them - still has some basic validity, and is non-obvious.

I used to write a lot about Jonathan Haidt's "The Rider and the Elephant", where the rider of consciousness might think it's in control and making decisions but really it's at best helping guide the elephant of emotions that's doing all the work. (Also, my friend Arun saying his depression was not like an uncontrollable elephant but rather one that had fallen into a deep slumber was important to my understanding of depression.)

McGilchrist writes of "The Master and His Emissary", the older and holistic but non-linguistic right hemisphere being usurped by the reductionistic left that can then better use tools like language. I think there is a lot to that, but it feels there are more players than just the two. (It also makes me paranoid that my inner voice producing part is taking too much credit for guiding things... but leaning into that I then worry about undervaluing its contribution...)

The movie "Inside Out" has specific interior characters each dedicated to a single part of the emotional spectrum. I like this one, but I'm not convinced my actors are always the same part dealing with the same feeling.

So contrast that to the more symmetrical clamoring multitude of mind parts in Minsky's "Society of Mind" - but I'm not sure the parts all that symmetric, that different parts are doing different work and it's not just the hierarchy they form.

There's always pop culture "inner child". Though sometimes my other part would seem more like a clever, non-verbal dog. Always on the lookout for its owner's distraction providing a chance to grab a tasty treat...

That inner child aspects gets more formally developed in Internal Family Systems, which emphasizes wounded inner children and the guardian systems set up to protect them, along with a few other types. This is getting a lot closer to where I am getting to, but it seems a little overly specified. It seems better geared at working through specific issues and kind of assumes these inner traumas, while I'm trying to figure out why I seem to have stumbled on relative tranquility.

So, at long last, my (current) favorite model: mind as a noisy K-12 classroom, with the conscious, rational, verbal self as a teacher and a pile of students. Different kids have different interests, and levels of anxiety or fear or project more positive emotions. Sometimes a single kid is having a full-on tantrum and disrupting everything. Sometimes a kid with an unaddressed concern is being more low-key disruptive but adding to the stress and strain on the teacher and the class as a whole. (No, the metaphor still isn't perfect).

And I got here by noticing my inner classroom seems to run more smoothly than some other folks', my students are more likely to wait for the support of the teacher before acting. Which is useful (and my friend Alison pointed out that maybe this kind of general cheerful equanimity of a smooth running classroom is ultimately a better place to have despite my fear of missing out on kids more inclined to start squealing with happiness...)

I try to get this to explain why it took me so long to understand why others found meditation calming. For a lot of people wandering thoughts constantly retrigger anxieties. But my inner students... I don't know, it's like somehow my inner teacher gave them the idea that while their concerns are valid, they don't have to be so loud about them, they shouldn't constantly be yelling and trying to get the whole class focused on what they're concerned about.

So I do like this model, and having leaned into has brought a sense of peace and "this is more right than what I thought before". I think about clues I had before... like when my partner is having a spike of anxiety that she and I both know is't entirely rational, I notice then that I'm more inclined to slip into language like "baby". And maybe i can be not that I'm judging her as being childish, but that she has this one particular noisome student... one that needs to be acknowledged and validated and then will be better able to listen to the teacher of the higher self.

2024 Update: I should have also listed Scientology and "Body Thetans", or even old Christian "the devil made me do it" type thinking that might attribute such thoughts to an external entity. I think there might be a utility in that.
ernie is my guru. (so is bert)

October 31, 2022


Open Photo Gallery

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