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Still a city on a hill?

Posted on 2017.03.22 at 15:18


Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
MOTHER OF EXILES. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!"
cries she

With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"


I Need My Girl

Posted on 2014.02.18 at 00:36


My Mountain

Posted on 2013.09.22 at 23:55

Here's a theoretical question... what marks our decisions as good or bad? Wise or foolish? Right or wrong? is it that we are able to accomplish by our actions the exact result that we set out to accomplish? What if we do get exactly what we wanted only it turns out it wasn't what we wanted after all? Does that make it a poor decision in retrospect? Is it that we have obtained, accidental or not, a result which is beneficial to us in some way? So if I dumb luck my way into a better situation then the one I deliberately and sometimes quite meticulously planned out for myself do I get credit for my good fortune in the end anyway? A similar thought experiment is often applied in the field of ethics -- whether our actions are right or wrong in an ethical sense has nothing to do with the result of those actions and everything to do with our intentions at the critical moment. Or does it? I don't think you would find many serious moralists who would excuse intention entirely as a determining factor, but it may be equally hard to find a practical person who would say that the results themselves are entirely irrelevant. It's not exactly a paradox -- the two scenarios need not be mutually exclusive, but finding the right measure of intention and circumstance, of free will and perhaps not divine determination, but at the very least forces outside of our control, well that is a bit of a conundrum. An ongoing argument with no real hope for resolution. But focusing just on that last part for a minute -- looking back I wonder sometimes whether the things I don't control play a bigger part in determining my future than the relatively meager number of things I do control. And if that is the case, while I'm loathe to take much credit at all, I'm uneasy with the idea of crediting someone (something?) else for my circumstances, such as they are. Call it pride -- the primary human flaw.

I can see Griffith Park from my driveway. It remains the only place in Los Angeles with which I associate only positive memories. When I moved to this apartment it was Autumn and the street was lined with the full spectrum of golden yellows, reds, and browns rustling overhead, trickling down to carpet the roadway. It reminded me of home. I'd driven through Griffith Park to come see the apartment for the first time and it stood out right away among the dozens of other places I'd visited. The floors were new, the appliances were new, the cabinets were new. The walls were freshly painted and the carpet untouched. Hard to believe that was 8 years ago. A lot of things have changed since then. Not just superficial things -- obviously dust and disrepair take their toll on everything  -- but the world itself seems to have changed in a fundamental way. Whereas once I seemed to possess an almost limitless reserve of hope for the future and good will toward humanity, I now find myself feeling used up, poured out. I remember when I made the decision to return to LA, packed up basically everything I owned in one bag and threw it in my car and started driving around the city looking for a job. There was a certain security in feeling like I had nowhere to go but up. Like being on the base of a mountain looking up at a monumental journey ahead but ready to get started. But there's no map to go by, just a vision of that peak far away and the resolute certainty that if you keep heading toward it, some way or somehow, you're bound to get there eventually.

I have many favorite mountains. There's one in Culver City where you can see all of the city proper stretched out beneath you. That mountain has been co-opted, unfortunately. The last time I was there it was absolutely jam-packed with earnest fitness aficionados struggling up the newly minted steps in hopes of improving their figures. A more comically tragic LA fate I could not have dreamed up. There's Mount Whitney of course, where my Dad and I waited for hours in the sub-zero twilight to witness one of the most magnificent sunrises I'll likely ever see. But even more significant for me is this one special hill in Griffith Park which I clamored up for the first time 9 years ago wondering who I was and who I was going to be. A couple of days ago I clamored up that hill again, this time with a guitar, and greeted the sun and the trees and the grass and the weeds like re-discovered old friends. I came to LA, to my mountain, with nary a cent to my name but great hopes for the future and I returned with songs and memories and a smile for all the things that haven't changed and all the things that have. Of bedroom strummed melodies that sounded better in the fresh air. Of photographs and words on paper and text on the screen, great waterfalls of thoughts that cascade out of nothingness and flood boxes and shelfs and closets and bookcases. How one initial seed of an idea grows and grows until it's so damn big that you can't chop it down now even if you wanted to. Of tears and screams and fists shaken in anger which morph into characters and songs and the steady tick of another day, another week. The pains dulled, the triumphs forgotten.

As much as I might have intellectualized the importance of the journey when I was younger, it's not really possible to understand what it means to take a thousand steps until you've done it. And now in this moment, this eternal now, with all those steps to look back on -- I'll be damned if it hasn't been worth it. Every single step and misstep. I've done a lot of saying goodbye in my life so far. Too much. Or actually I've gone out of my way to avoid it. I've learned to release the burden and simply slink away quietly. Sometimes a void is best left unprobed, circumnavigated even, mapped out and thus able to be ignored. Faces are not easily forgotten but I've got more mountains to climb, more streams to cross, more socks to muddy with thistles and thorns. I don't think I'll ever stop climbing. It seems to be what I was born to do. But there's some small comfort in knowing that there's one special place that's still there for me. And sitting there up above it all -- my apartment, my car, the freeway I take to work, the store I buy food at, the court where I play basketball, the parking lots I'm not allowed to skate in, the people I'm somehow always passing by -- it's a hell of a view. I never thought I'd make it this far. I may have used up most of my reservoir of hope but what I've accumulated instead is some kind of resolve. That no matter what happens, and boy do unexpected things happen, I'll still remain quintessentially me through all of it. What exactly that is I couldn't quantify. It's just one of those things. You know it when you see it. And up above from that privileged view, looking out across the canyon at myself 9 years ago, I see a whole lot of "me-ness" in all of it. In everything that has led me to where I am now. And you know what? That's not so bad after all.


Ode to an Athlete

Posted on 2013.03.05 at 01:14

With bated breath I stand
Eyes turned to the every man
Each stumble, stomach churning
Tears matching cheek to cheek with mine.

His arms arched up mirror my own
Her heavy back, we both bemoan
The last to leave is first to know
Each failing child one day will get it right..

Cause when the lights are put to rest
Each lot been drawn, the crowd in bed
An echo sounds: a ball, a net
Tomorrow's win starts here with me tonight!


To second chances...

Posted on 2012.12.11 at 23:07
There's a quote from the Tao Te Ching that I happened to find printed on a mouse pad, so I bought one to use at work and of course I rarely look at it because I'm looking at the screen. Ironically enough, that mouse pad may be the one place in the entire office I look at the least. Sortof like how I get the lion's share of the screen time in the movie of my life and yet my own face is the character I'm least familiar with. Curious no? But back to the mouse pad, I actually got it because something about the words stung a little bit. Maybe because I used to feel like I needed to know everything in order to be complete as a person. Maybe because the older I get, the more facts I stuff in my head, the more I realize that the pursuit is completely futile. The goal is moving away from me faster than I'm moving toward it. The more you learn the more you realize you have left to learn. And 5 years ago this dawning realization frustrated me to no end. Everything I said, everything I wrote was coloured by the thought of it; of the sound of my own little world crumbling around me. How could I embrace the idea of actively forgetting things when decay was the exact daemon I was doing battle with? In fact, I used to have a rule about drinking when I was in my early twenties. Alchohol, I reasoned, kills cells. That's it's biological function. That's what you use it for in a scientific sense, to steralize. To kill things. And I didn't spend all that time and effort learning so much up to that point just to destroy it all unnecesarily. That store of knowledge in my brain cells was the only posession I owned at that point in time that I actually felt the need to protect.

Call it wisdom, or perhaps just defeat, but I've finally come to a place where that simple phrase rings true for me. You see because I grew up in a Western school system where memorizing facts is considered a virtue, so I needed some time to reformulate my worldview. In all of the schools I went to (and there were many), the goal, it seems, is to stuff as much information into your head as possible. The tests you take are primarily designed to judge, not whether you have criticallly grappled with the material, inserted your own experiences, and come up with your own perspective; do that and you're looked at sideways as a trouble-maker, a prankster, or a malcontent. No, the goal is simply to test whether you have acquired the necessary knowledge presented to you, and mentally stored it somewhere where it can be retrieved as needed and spit back on a page like a biological Turing machine. What's the prototypical Western mindset about knowledge? It's of course the old Francis Bacon quote "Knowledge is power". Englishman, churchman, politician, living in the first generation in history to benefit from the proliferation of the printing press. Of course! I can't tell you how many times I've been quoted that phrase, with almost religious fervor, by my peers. True believers. 

Because in the Western world, knowledge is like a library of facts about the world. The more you know, the greater the size of your library. The greater your library, the greater your reserve of personal power. In a structuralist worldview, where history is a linear sequence of causes and effects, the future can be predicted by gathering enough information about the past. What is the scientific method, the lnychpin of the modern Western worldview, if not a structuralist interpretation of history applied to the natural world? We effect some kind of carefully controlled change, observe the result, and file the results away for cross-referencing. So naturally it's the unstated goal of every educated westerner to amass the largest library in the world. Whether that's a physically manifest stone and mortar library or a figurative mental library is incidental. [Even the words themselves -- what does incidental mean? Trivial, frivolous, unimportant. A single event unconnected to others is without worth. A series of events, a chain of events -- now you have something. Now you have a system: the elementary particle of Western knowledge.] And boy do we mourn the death of a great library. The empire of Greece and all Greek knowledge died a symbolic death along with the library at Alexandria. We are judged by what we leave behind, destory that and you have truly destroyed something valuable.

But I think the Taoist would have a different interpretaion of knolwedge. To the Taoist, knowledge might be described as superstitions, assumptions, biases, and emotional baggage that we have acquired through the course of our experiences. We emblazen the word "Truth" on our libraries and fully expect them to set us free -- but the point of the Taoist quote is to question the concept itself. Aren't these in effect the barriers that prevent us from seeing what's directly in front of us? Once we've formed an opinion about the state of the world, our systematic little brains go to work bending and shaping everything else we see until it too fits the model. Study the history of religion long enough and this becomes self-evident. And when you attempt to bend the universe to fit your tiny little assumptions, that's when you start to fall apart. Swing a sword against a concrete wall -- it doesn't matter how sharp the sword is, the wall isn't going to move. Which means you're going to move instead, violently and unpredictably. That's what knowledge does for us -- a sharp instrument swung against an immovable object; a blunt force swung clumsily where a precision cut is required. To understand the Way you have to stop projecting (Your beliefs, Your rules and dogma, Your system of organization) and start seeing. Only when you have completely discarded those assumptions and biases can you see clearly. 

Take for instance that great library at Alexandria-- so much of that knowledge, hand-written over centuries, the dying words of a great empire who once aspired to control the entire world, and by extension the known universe-- we mourn the loss of the artifact, but the knowledge itself? What a bunch of screwy superstition. So when our own great library is gone, along with our gleaming green Colossus [remember: truth=freedom], what will be thought of all that sacred knowledge-- the altar on which generation upon generation has given their lives? All I know is that looking back, I always felt like I knew an awful lot (most of which I now find laughable) and I was always terribly blind when it came to noticing what was going on around me. Hopefully it's not too late... to start to forget.


This Lonely Earth

Posted on 2012.07.30 at 00:58
Strange dreams tend to come when the mind is restless. For me they take many forms, but lately I've noticed some recurring patterns. Chief among them is a face, or rather a set of eyes because they're all you see once this image takes hold. Yellow and red, and burning like coals right into your retina. And yet, in dream land anyway, there is a power to vision and a strength almost unexplainable. This face stares at me, dares me to look away and I stare back harder -- hard enough to move the air. And the eyes grow wide in surprise until the image is gone and I'm back in my room, unable to sleep or wake, trapped momentarily between reality and surreality where seconds can last for hours.

And so it is that I've come to the conclusion... no let's call it a theory. That tends to be what I mean when I use the word conclusion anyway. Nothing is ever final; set in stone. Not in my world anyway... that the devil is only a mask that God wears when he needs to get your attention. Everyone has their own version of -- well, the unexplainable. I hate to call it God because the formal title is both misleading and overused. See cause to me there is no single entity worthy of the name. Whatever it is, or isn't perhaps, can be found in all of us. A seed of self-determination. A mischievous trouble-maker I hope, in my case. And if God, so titled and so dismissable, is dead than that means we get to invent our own. Mine would be Callidous: The Storyteller. He is the God of creation, the God of spontaneity. And in this story that I'm telling Callidous gets to be both saint and sinner; he is the benevolent father and the wrathful tyrant. In the final summation, after all, the power of the tale lies not in the safety of calm waters but in facing the storm head on and finding out what's on the other side. To be washed ashore, wrecked and empty, forced to leave behind what we know and cling to in desperation, forced to begin anew. A marvelous God indeed who can take you down to the bottom so that you can both climb out together. Yes, even a brother/sister/lover/friend. An equal. A mischievous companion: the best kind.

Late at night the sea looks endless. But there is a light out there, if only in my mind. There is a flickerflash of something recognizable: a face. Or maybe just a pair of eyes. This time sympathetic, azure blue, and as big as the moon. When I go to sleep I hope that's where my mind will take me. To be alone with my godly host -- the only one who doesn't care; the only one who sees all the joy and all the pain wrapped up together as the same beautiful bow-- a timeless gift, forever in the unwrapping. And a promise: that this night, unlike all others, I go willingly.

(to be continued) 


Solo Piano

Posted on 2012.07.20 at 22:33

So I've finally decided that being a perfectionist is a stupid waste of time. Hours of work on stories, music, scripts, and sketches that stay locked up because their author is in some way ashamed of them. Stupid. I've had these piano improvisations from 2011 sitting around gathering dust thinking that I'll re-work them at some point into compositions but fuck it, nothing I start ever gets done. And in a way I think the misplayed notes capture the emotion better than a finished composition would anyway. These were recorded in the garage of my parents old house where I lived from 1992 to 2001. They recently sold the house after being burglarized several times hence I'll never sit in that garage or play that piano again. My piano. It was good while it lasted anyway. Hearing these brings back such a vivid sense of place, and accompanying emotion, that's fitting I think without any editorial interference. I particularly like that I can hear my foot stomping to keep time halfway through the second piece.

Lost But Not Forgotten (9:38)

15 Years Underwater (7:08)




Posted on 2012.05.04 at 19:41
I hear a bell toll from the west to the east
Caged in the fire, I see prisoners to peace
Speak of the devil, he’s here when you sleep
Give up your rights or spill blood in the streets.
You call it a choice when you hold all the keys
You blame it on children, trade bombs for BeeBees
spread Death in the night, now you sow what you reap
Not a tree, just a seed, but hate grows at your feet.
I hear talk of justice, Sing songs to your choir
In deaths last lament eulogized from the pyre
See death and destruction the litany require
To march on the wall, and cleanse it with fire.
Five times to the east, drop your knees and reach higher
Commanded in life, to meet heaven’s desire
But the truth is a masked man, blind faith a liar
And peace isn’t bought with blast powder and wire.
So give us the day or we'll take your life
Give us the night or we'll take your wife
Give up your pride or go under the knife
We'll cut out your heart if you put up a fight.
This is the way you tell wrong from right
If it feels good to kill those who gave you a slight
When the tables are turned will it make you think twice?
will you die just as quick as you take a life?
cause A killers a killer no matter the type.
and An eye for an eye is how we go blind
don't let hate multiply,
don't go chase paradise
first learn to forgive then we'll build one tonight.


[See also: Space/Time Iterations and the Dimension Problem]
[See also: The Relativity of Observer-Dependent World States]

Any time I talk about Quantum Physics I'm merely doing my best to articulate a conceptual framework of the universe that I myself only understand vaguely and indirectly. I wish I had a more concrete understanding of the big picture that I could refer back to and organize my thoughts around, but there's a lot of stabbing in the dark going on here and so it takes time for my brain to sort out the results enough to draw some tentative conclusions. I think I've now had sufficient time away from my last column to continue the discussion further, so let's see where I can get today. I want to start off this time by re-iterating some concluding statements I made last time:

Read more...Collapse )


Does it get any better than this?

Posted on 2012.04.22 at 03:58
Too, too good.


I think this is my new favorite band. That drummer is unreal!

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