Thursday, October 08, 2009

October 8th mid-week update

Upcoming: Bootlegger action this weekend (LV Blvd just south of the Outlet Mall, east side of the road).

I hate to miss the Friday night hang. I hear Scotty Alexander is gonna be there as well. Critical mass of guitar talent. I'd already planned to go to Keenan's football game, but it's up in Tonopah at 7 pm, and I'll never get back in time. Below, Sally Townes will do the Sunday night showcase.

Also, note that I've placed Evan Davis's jazz blog in the permanent "Around Town" links column on the right. He routinely covers other gig action around Vegas. Check in there from time to time for updates.

More to come, stay tuned...



While in Michigan last week, my nephew David hipped me to this ass-kicking book he'd run across, Dr. David Eagleman's "Sum: Forty Tales From the Afterlives." I found myself repeatedly laughing out loud while reading some of the passages. This cat is indeed a Thinker, and an eloquent writer (he's a neuroscientist in his day gig, with an undergrad degree in lit). Two excerpts follow. I find them the epistemological and literary equivalent of Fat City Horns charts. The first one is pretty neatly "Twilight Zone," the second sorta Ken Wilber + Dancing Wu Li Masters.
Descent of Species

In the afterlife, you are treated to a generous opportunity: you can choose whatever you would like to be in the next life. Would you like to be a member of the opposite sex? Born into royalty? A philosopher with bottomless profundity? A soldier facing triumphant battles?

But perhaps you've just returned here from a hard life. Perhaps you were tortured by the enormity of the decisions and responsibilities that surrounded you, and now there's only one thing you yearn for: simplicity. That's permissible. So for the next round, you choose to be a horse. You covet the bliss of that simple life: afternoons of grazing in grassy fields, the handsome angles of your skeleton and the prominence of your muscles, the peace of the slow-flicking tail or the steam rifling through your nostrils as you lope across snow-blanketed plains.

You announce your decision. Incantations are muttered, a wand is waved, and your body begins to metamorphose into a horse. Your muscles start to bulge; a mat of strong hair erupts to cover you like a comfortable blanket in winter. The thickening and lengthening of your neck immediately feels normal as it comes about. Your carotid arteries grow in diameter, your fingers blend hoofward, your knees stiffen, your hips strengthen, and meanwhile, as your skull lengthens into its new shape, your brain races in its changes: your cortex retreats as your cerebellum grows, the homunculus melts man to horse, neurons redirect, synapses unplug and replug on their way to equestrian patterns, and your dream of understanding what it is like to be a horse gallops toward you from the distance. Your concern about human affairs begins to slip away, your cynicism about human behavior melts, and even your human way of thinking begins to drift away from you.

Suddenly, for just a moment, you are aware of the problem you overlooked. The more you become a horse, the more you forget the original wish. You forget what it was like to be a human wondering what it was like to be a horse.

This moment of lucidity does not last long. But it serves as the punishment for your sins, a Promethean entrails-pecking moment, crouching half-horse half-man, with the knowledge that you cannot appreciate the destination without knowing the starting point; you cannot revel in the simplicity unless you remember the alternatives.

And that's not the worst of your revelation. You realize that the next time you return here, with your thick horse brain, you won't have the capacity to ask to become a human again. You won't understand what a human is. Your choice to slide down the intelligence ladder is irreversible. And just before you lose your final human faculties, you painfully ponder what magnificent extraterrestrial creature, enthralled with the idea of finding a simpler life, chose in the last round to become a human.


In the moment of transition between life and death only one thing changes: you lose the momentum of the biochemical cycles that keep the machinery running. In the moment before death you are still composed of the same thousand trillion, trillion atoms as in the moment after death -- the only difference is that their neighborly network of social interactions has ground to a halt.

At that moment, the atoms begin to drift apart, no longer enslaved to the goals of keeping up a human form. The interacting pieces that once constructed your body begin to unravel like a sweater, each thread spiraling off in a different direction. Following your last breath, those thousand trillion trillion atoms begin to blend into the earth around you. As you degrade, your atoms become incorporated into new constellations: the leaf of a staghorn fern, a speckled snail-shell, a kernel of maize, a beetle's mandible, a waxen bloodroot, a ptarmigan's tail feather.

But it turns out your thousand trillion, trillion atoms were not an accidental collection, each was labeled as composing you, and continues to be so wherever it goes. So you're not gone, you're simply taking on different forms. Instead of your gestures being the raising of an eyebrow or a blown kiss, now a gesture might consist of a rising gnat, a waving wheat stalk and the inhaling lung of a breaching beluga whale. Your manner of expressing joy might become a seaweed sheet playing on a lapping wave, a pendulous funnel dancing from a cumulo-nimbus, a flapping grunion birthing, a glossy river-pebble gliding around in eddy.

From your present clumped point of view this afterlife may sound unnervingly distributed, but in fact it is wonderful. You can't imagine the pleasure of stretching your redefined body across vast territories, ruffling your grasses and bending your pine branch and flexing an egret's wing while pushing a crowd towards the surface through coruscating shafts of light. Love-making reaches heights it could never dream of in the compactness of human corporality. Now you can communicate in many places along your bodies at once, you weave your versatile hands over your lover's multiflorous figure. Your rivers run together, you move in concert as interdigitating creatures of the meadow, entangled vegetation bursting from the fields, caressing weather fronts that climax into thunderstorms.

Just as in your current life, the downside is that you are always in flux. As creatures degrade and your fruits fall and rot, you become capable of new gestures and lose others. Your lover might drift away from you in the migratory flight of tropic birds, a receding stampede of wintering elk, or a creek that quietly pokes its head under the ground and pops up somewhere unknown to you.

Many of your same problems apply: temptation, anguish, anger, distrust, vice -- and don't forget the dread arising from free choice. Don't be fooled into believing that plants grow mechanically toward the sun, that birds choose their direction by instinct, the wildebeest migrate by design: in fact, everything is seeking. Your atoms can spread, but they cannot escape the search. A wide distribution does not shield you from wondering how best to spend your time.

Once every few millennia, all your atoms pull together again, traveling from around the globe, like the leaders of nations uniting for a summit, converging for their densest reunion in the form of a human. They are driven by nostalgia to regroup into the tight pinpoint geometry in which they began. In this form they can relish a forgotten sense of holiday-like intimacy. They come together to search for something they once knew but didn't appreciate at the time.

The reunion is warm and heartening for a while, but it isn't long before they begin to miss their freedom. In the form of a human the atoms suffer a claustrophobia of size: gestures are agonizingly limited, restricted to the foundering of tiny limbs. As a condensed human they cannot see around corners, they can only talk within short distances to the nearest ear, they cannot reach out to touch across any meaningful expanses. We are at the moment of least facility for the atoms. And in this form, they find themselves longing to ascend mountains, wander the seas, and conquer the air, seeking to recapture the limitlessness they once knew.

Highly recommended reading.


Things that go up, things that go down. I routinely cull these data from the web and drop 'em into my various Excel spreadsheets. First, September national "official" unemployment data are now out, posting at 9.8% (state reporting lags behind by about a month):

Nevada has now eclipsed The Peoples' Republic (we're at 13.4%). I no longer "count," having exhausted my extended unemployment benefits.

Next, more happily, our blog traffic continues to grow.

I need everyone's help to evangelize on behalf of Santa Fe and all our friends. Send them to the blog. Each one reach (at least) two.

Finally, Lake Mead continues to decline. It's down 120.6 vertical feet since January 2000, and is at about 43% of capacity.

Once I soon finish the last of my four exhaustive (and Quixotic) posts on health care reform on my other blog, I'm next gonna take on drought and western states water policy. Got some outa-left-field, perhaps overlooked ideas on stuff like desalination, for one thing.


My sweet friend Diane...


I heard this NPR segment yesterday on NPR's "The Story" while coming back to the house after sitting with my Ma at the nursing home. It is at once heartwrenching and infuriating. My friend Kurt has also been driven into destitution in the wake of medical misfortune, just like this family.

Raise hell with your legislators. You could well be next.


I absolutely love this kid (from the L.A. Times).
Dudamel wows 'em on opening night
October 8, 2009 | 10:17 pm

Thursday night was a win-win for Los Angeles.

A dressed-to-the-nines audience, dappled with civic movers and shakers, eschewed the Dodgers' thrilling conclusion and instead experienced Gustavo Dudamel’s thrilling beginning at Walt Disney Concert Hall as music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

Both, as it turned out, were celebratory moments to savor.

At 7:18 p.m. the 28-year old Venezuelan launched into “City Noir,” John Adams’ filmic, jazz-inflected 35-minute paean to Los Angeles commissioned by the Philharmonic.

The bright, sensual presentation of the piece drew a sustained standing ovation, not always the treatment audiences afford contemporary classical music. It also earned Dudamel an embrace and several hugs from composer Adams, who seemed very pleased with his work’s world premiere performance.

After the intermission, Dudamel dipped into Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 1. The orchestra rendered a stately, burnished reading that again brought listeners to their feet after the final crescendo sounded at 9:18 p.m. Dudamel came out for five bows, which he took not from the podium but among his orchestra. Under a cascading shower of magenta and silver foil confetti, he then made the universal signal for “Let’s go get a drink,” and the evening morphed into a party outside on a closed-down Grand Avenue.

The concert was broadcast live on KUSC-FM (105.1) and simulcast on video screens to hundreds who had spread picnic blankets throughout the Music Center plaza and took seats inside the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. The concert will be shown Oct. 21 on PBS' "Great Performances."

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