27 February 2009

Witch @ MHoW (2/25/09)

So Wednesday night a group of us lads had put a few back and headed over to the Venue-Formerly-Known-As-Northsix. That old spot had it's charms, especially downstairs with the fishtank, though I can't think of anyone that considered it a "great" spot for a show. The Bowery-run establishment that has replaced it, however, has been a mixed bag and lacking any charm of its own fails to raise the bar.

Sure, it's the biggest venue in the neighborhood and draws great lineups (pretty much anything that N6 would have had still comes here), but I haven't noticed an improvement in sound and there's definitely a regression in experience. Just because the old steel support beams are gone and the place has been turned into a mini-Bowery doesn't mean all our minds have been erased. It's really a further example of the creeping homogenization of culture (in the city, across the country, etc. blah blah blah).

I didn't exactly mean to come on here and complain about the venue, but as I think back on Wednesday's show, it really was rather lacklustre. The band shouldn't be to blame, in fact they seemed a little off themselves. Looking around the floor, there were definitely fans heartily enjoying the set, but there also seemed an inordinate number of people who appeared to there just to be there.

For Witch? Have they garnered that type of casual fan now? Hey, more people willing to come out and support the band and their music is great from both the spreading-the-gospel and the financial standpoints. However, it can certainly make for a duller live experience and I think that may have thrown the band for a loop. Last time I saw Witch come through the crowd was super into everything and the band fed off it, getting the crowd more enthused in turn.

I know my whingeing is not going to solve any of these perceived issues and may just make me look like I think I'm some guardian of what is right and true in music. Far from it. I don't have much money to spend on tickets, so when I go to shows I want to be there amongst other music lovers who are there to get into the bands. If you're not into what's going on, why are you there? Just to be seen at the show? If it is that kind of narcissism motivating people to attend shows then I think folks have a right to be bothered, particularly if the band (in this case Witch) shows up and brings their A material.

The next show I've got on my schedule is Converge @ Europa, a month from today. Hopefully I'll have better things to report on the experience (that is, unless the kickboxers decide to show up and ruin it for everyone. Fuck those kids.)

26 February 2009

Joseph O'Neill - Netherland

I finished O'Neill's Netherland about a week ago but hadn't had time to write anything on it here. Too many folks have written reviews of it already, and, frankly, I'm feeling a bit lazy today (saw Witch last night, more will come on that later) so I'm not going to post any real review of the book.

What I will say is that I enjoyed it immensely, particularly the portrait O'Neill paints of some under-the-radar neighborhoods Brooklyn. The story itself is enjoyable and you'll learn more than you ever thought you would about the sport of cricket.

If you need any extra motivation to pick this up, just today the PEN/Faulkner Foundation named it the winner of its annual $15,000 prize. (I could really use fifteen grand, so Mr. O'Neill, if you're feeling generous and looking for a worthwhile charity, I know a good one right here in Brooklyn. Don't worry, I won't spend it on weh-weh.)

Anyway, go read this book.

23 February 2009


Not sure if this is from today or last week, but Scientific American posted a list of a few things individuals can do to boost their brainpower, even later in life. Tabloid magazines publish this kind of stuff all the time, but SciAm being SciAm, this list is far more interesting. Among the things that aren't exercise or meditation (both kinda boring) are:

* Drink coffee and eat blueberries. That's fantastic news, because I just ate a blueberry muffin with my morning coffee. Actually what they say is eat your fruits & veggies (duh) and cut back oh saturated fat (also duh). Stimulants can also boost brainpower, though cocaine and amphetamines are not the preferred choice (also also duh). SciAm would also like you to, "[t]ry to limit yourself to fewer than 100 cups a day. That much coffee contains about 10 grams of caffeine, enough to cause fatal complications.

* Play video games. No joke, this is #4 on the list. I don't really play, but most of my friends do, so that should make them feel smarter (despite all evidence to the contrary). Playing video games has been shown to "improve mental dexterity, while boosting hand-eye coordination, depth perception and pattern recognition."

* Listening to music. I would add playing music to this list as well as qualifying what counts as "music". Listening to top-40 radio is not going to make you smarter though it has been shown to make people's personalities far more banal. Also, that Mozart-in-the-womb theory has been discredited, although listening to his Requiem should be mandatory for all humans. As far as music making people smarter, I recommend jazz, math rock, tech-y metal, modernist composition, and Beethoven.

18 February 2009

Homo Evolutis

This talk is beyond fascinating; the implications of Enriquez's predictions are sure to cause a minor tempest in the coming months and years. Also, he has nearly the same voice as Thomas Lennon, which is mildly disorienting.

10 February 2009

Inside Steve's Mind

I'm watching this for my Tilzy.tv gig, so I won't be writing about it here, suffice to say it may be the funniest thing I've ever seen:

06 February 2009

2012 Redux

A little over a year ago I reviewed a book in these hallowed electronic pages called 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl. That review mainly consisted of an ad-hominem attack on its author, Daniel Pinchbeck, for which I am marginally regretful. Not because the book is good, or its ideas are worthwhile, but because I failed in my objective to shine light on a tremendous pile of stupidity and, instead, flinged mud at a messenger. At the time an opportunity arose in which I could (and should) have criticized convoluted new-age spiritual garbage, but I got lazy faced with the prospect of actually having to re-read the book to really pick it apart and expose its lack of merit.

Fortunately all I got was a weak type-lashing from the author in my comments scolding me for being a bad boy. Unfortunately, the beast has returned, new tome in hand culled from the vast storeroom of vacuity that is his website. Titled Toward 2012, it's clear Pinchbeck has a fetish and is determined to mine it for all it's worth, presumably until three years hence, when Y2K happens all over again. Dwight Garner just reviewed this for the NYTimes and, while much subtler than I in his criticisms, pretty much labels the book a steaming pile. But first he had to provide some context and so blurbed Pinchbeck's previous book thusly:

In a previous book, “2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl,” Mr. Pinchbeck seemed to want to have it both ways about earth’s fast-approaching deadline. He didn’t entirely dismiss the possibility of Armageddon, but he used his book as an occasion to urge humanity to come together to stop global warming and heal the planet in other ways. Maybe, you know, we can head this bad juju off at the pass. Mr. Pinchbeck also wrote about crop circles, alien abductees, experiences with poltergeists, ingesting psychedelic mushrooms and practicing “new ideals of erotic freedom,” but never mind.

I read that and laughed, reminded of exactly how far removed from any rational thought this material is. The mention of "new ideals of erotic freedom" nearly made me lose my coffee all over this keyboard, since it was belittling Pinchbeck's views on that topic in particular that got me in trouble in the first place.

Seeing this review on the screen as I set myself up here at work this morning got me thinking about people close to me who go in for this sort of thing (Garner does mention "woo-woo friends" in his review). It makes me a bit depressed to know people are desperately reaching for meaning in a universe devoid of any such enduring thing and, thus, cling to outrageous anti-scientific and pseudoscientifc claims in books such as Pinchbeck's.

Just yesterday Scientific American posted a story, "Finding Control In Chaos", whose subtitle read: Feeling helpless leads to see nonexistent patterns. The article is short, I recommend reading it, but the ultimate point is that test subjects imposed fictitious order on situations in which they lacked control. I've found among people who are into new-age or vaguely spiritual "philosophies" that acute lack of control over their place in the universe and an intense desire for meaning to show its face.

This isn't a rare phenomenon by any stretch. In fact, it's probably the default human setting as far as anyone has determined. Our imaginations are a wondrous tool, but to deny ourselves the use of our rational functions is as criminal as denying our imaginations for rigid logic and order. We have the capability for dialectical thinking, for synthesizing our logical functions with our imaginative capacities. It would be to humanity's benefit for us as individuals to take advantage of this. Wallowing in shallow pools of pseudoscientific drivel and spiritual horseblather is a waste and proponents of this kind of thinking should be seen as the hucksters and contemporary snake-oil salesman they are.

05 February 2009

Let's Be Smarter About These Cuts

In all the hubbub over extra flim-flam in the economic stimulus packages (hey, I got a package they can stimulate! Heyo!...Try the Prime Rib!), a lot of folks have been discussing what, exactly, to cut from the proposed Senate bill. Step up, Ben Nelson (R-CO) and Susan Collins (R-ME). These two centrists (I can vouch for the latter, but not so sure about the former) have put the following cuts on the table:

Among the initiatives that could be cut are $50 million for the National Endowment for the Arts, $14 million for cyber security research by the Homeland Security Department, $1 billion for the National Science Foundation, $400 million for research and prevention of sexually transmitted diseases, $850 million for Amtrak and $400 million for climate change research. But so far, none of the suggestions come close to being enough to shrink the package on the scale proposed.

What a horrible, atrocious idea these particular cuts are!!!! Now I need to know what they want to keep in this bill. These are all things we desperately need, am I fucking crazy? Increased science funding? Yes. Better rail system? Yes. Research on STDs? Yes. Arts? Who needs to spend money on the arts during a depression? If you're seriously asking that question, I don't want you near my tax dollars, because you're fucking scum. Fuck you.
I'd go on longer and with more obscenities, but my lunch break is almost over and I have to finish eating.

Hey, Nelson and Collins, go jump off a fucking bridge!


update: I f'd up in my haste to post on this. Ben Nelson is a conservative "Blue Dog" Democrat from Nebraska. My mistake. However, this doesn't change his status as a complete douchebag.


I'll get back to posting this weekend, hopefully, but in the meantime (and really, I can't stress this enough) throw your goddam razors away...

(thanks to Andrea for the image)