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Moonage Daydream (sound test)
Any live performance I do starts with a sound test, which is when I try to figure out how I'm going to perform a song (read: improvised mucking about with pedal effects). I make such recordings at the beginning of the week then listen to them on repeat for several days. I rarely share these tests, and have never done so before the performance. I'm posting this one minutes after recording it because the studio chatter amuses me.

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Venue Songs - 2016 Edition Sat, 09 Apr 2016

Today The Residents start their North American tour of their Shadowland show. As I did with their last major American tour, I am writing and recording songs for every venue because I don't want Miles to get bored with his existing music collection.

Extra bonus fun this time around: I only started this week, whereas last time I started nearly a month in advance so it was pretty smooth sailing throughout. Also, my recording studio computer died this past weekend and I have a new setup, so I'm actually using this project to learn the new software. That can only yield interesting results, right?

So here's hoping I can keep up the pace. I've completed four songs already, but I'm leaving for San Francisco now which means I'll lose a few days of productivity. Ooooh I love a challenge!

David Bowie (1947-2016) Mon, 11 Jan 2016

I remember a "personal message from David" that was posted on his official website many years ago. In it he said that the best thing about being David Bowie is having David Bowie fans. That's a typically cheesy manipulative marketing kind of thing to post to a website, but the moment I read it I knew it was true in this case and that he was acknowledging a connection. Not with me personally, of course, but with what I represented: someone who appreciates and is inspired by his work.

His greatest accomplishment was his creation of various identities. (I wanted to use the plural of "persona" but found that there is a minute difference in meaning between "personae" and "personas" and, as it turns out, Bowie straddles both; the first applies straightforwardly to fictional characters in literary works, the latter to the social facades or roles we play in daily life.) Bowie often allowed his stage character to bleed into real life (or perhaps allowed his real self to be amplified on stage), and that ambiguity changed him from a human into an art concept. He achieved mythical status while he was still alive, and the myth will only continue to grow in time.

His music may fall out of style in the future, but the man himself never will. Mozart hasn't topped the charts in I don't know how long, but he's never going to leave the public consciousness. Bowie is just as important. Years, decades, centuries from now - he will continue to be an influential force in the space where art and music intersects. There will never be a resurgence or rediscovery, because he will never fade away.

David Jones has passed, but the concept he created lives on. It will live on in everybody who is inspired by his work, everyone who experiences it. It's said that you die twice: the first time is physical and the second is when nobody remembers you. It will take the heat death of the universe to end David Bowie, and even then I'm not too sure.

I am not sad that David Bowie has died. I am overjoyed that he lived.

The Human Experiment Sun, 19 Apr 2015

The Human Experiment ( ) is a documentary that explores the possible effects of regulation-free chemical distribution in the United States. It is a subject I know several of my friends are passionate about, but for my own part I'm not really bothered. Yes some chemicals are harmful, but are they really in the products we use every day? Come on, we'd all be sick if that were the case.

So why did I attend a screening of this film? I acknowledge that the reasoning for my stance on this issue is "I use everyday products and I'm not sick, so the problem is not that big" which is an extremely small sample size for any kind of conclusion. So while this film might be biased on one side of the argument, it should at least present some compelling evidence about the very real and quantifiable rises in certain health problems in the United States.

And here is where I fall in love with the film. It does not provide undeniable proof. In fact, it flat out proclaims that we don't know what is causing all of these problems, that there are too many variables to pin down a culprit. Oh wow, you know who speaks in terms like that? Actual scientists. I love actual scientists, and I despise claims of "it's obviously this because I found a correlation." In the modern social media world where we are inundated with infographics of absolute claims with questionable or non-existent sources, it's refreshing to find someone being legitimately scientific who says honestly "here's a correlation, now let's have a discussion about what that might mean." The film obviously takes a side and chooses to showcase certain opinions, but at no time does it profess ultimate truth.

But the real eye opener? The EPA wants to test the chemicals that are in our products, but can't. I think a good portion of the country believes that the EPA gets paid off to let stuff pass inspection, but as it turns out, the EPA is blocked from making those inspections, or their rulings are overturned. Asbestos? Not actually banned in this country. Did you know that? I didn't. I even looked it up, it seemed so unbelievable. Now my eye has turned critical in another direction.

The film follows several activists who are trying to get laws passed that should give the EPA the teeth it needs to be effective. Bless their little hearts for trying, I say, because this is the point where my personal opinion of the US government overrides anyone else's action. The film demonstrates that such reform has worked in Europe. Well of course, because it's Europe. I think trying to accomplish anything worthwhile via US government is a waste of energy. However, the film also demonstrates what does work: consumerism. A major customer tells a supplier "I want safer materials in your products or I'll take my business elsewhere" and that supplier changes their operation. That's the heart of America right there.

So my takeaway is: don't bother telling your senator that you want safer products, because a powerful lobbyist will win the vote over you. And don't bother telling Proctor & Gamble you want greener products, because you're not actually their customer. Tell Walmart, though. Walmart is a huge customer of Proctor & Gamble, so if you get them saying they want to stock a safer baby shampoo, you can sure as hell bet a safer baby shampoo will be made available.

But back to my earliest point: if these products were dangerous, we'd all be sick. The argument is based on the very reasonable assumption that for capitalism to work, a business can't kill off its customer base. But what we have here is an amorphous issue that can't be tracked down. Some people are affected, but not in great enough numbers to be a no-brainer decision (a senator will not listen to a corporate lobbyist if his own children are affected by the product). It's a cozy grey area that the chemical companies find themselves in. I do not believe they are outright evil and plotted this; it's simply natural selection as it applies to capitalism. Chemical A makes everyone sick, so it comes off the market. Chemical B might make people sick, but it's hard to tell definitively, so it stays. This is where the problem lies.

As we evolve as a society, we get to focus in on narrower problems. We've mostly got a lock on stuff that definitely kills us. Good job, everyone, well done. Now we can raise a fuss about things that might be dangerous. It's like how you approach safety when you remodel your kitchen: first you make sure there's a floor so you don't fall into the basement; then you hook up your stove correctly so it doesn't explode in your face someday; then you smooth out the sharp bits on your counter so you won't cut yourself if you happen to put your hand in just the right spot. We are getting to the point where we can start worrying about those sharp edges when it comes to consumer goods. If the government agency whose sole purpose is to protect us from dangerous substances is prevented from doing its job, then we should take the backdoor approach and simply use our spending money to work up the chain to manufacturers.

I walked into this film thinking "meh, whatever, this is not a big problem" and I walked out thinking "wow... I should really think about this." I'm not a crusader by any means. You'll never find me marching in protest. But you probably will find me taking a bit more time in the shopping aisle as I decide which products to bring into my home.