Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Windows on the world & new leaves

I bought a camera. These days, a digital camera is, just as Steve Jobs decreed a few years ago, part of the digital lifestyle. Obviously I like to take pictures of things, self-document, try to capture the beauty, wrestle it to the ground and stuff it in a bottle, lest it flits away on butterfly wings.

So with the new camera (which just means room, after all, sort of a room of one's own, where one can collect light and fix it down, just as one can do with thoughts) I've composed a paean to the amplifier, the early silverface Deluxe Reverb which a kind fellow sold to me for the princely sum of $50 when he'd decided to move on entirely to solid-state. To be sure, I've spent a few more dollars on repairs, and I even had it open myself a little while ago (I managed to escape without a jolt) but, without a doubt, this is one of the finest sources of sound I have ever known.

The image is a tricky one to capture: it's low light, and the jewel, as you can see, is overexposed: it has a huge dynamic range. One day I'd like to be able to capture the facets of the pilot light's jewel very sharply, with just a hint of the surroundings...

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Trad. arr EMH

I'm about to sell this parlor guitar that I've been working on for a bit, and I made a couple of demos.

In all honesty, the Poor Boy arrangement is all John Fahey's, it's basically what he played in the 1978 Hamburg concert you can see on YouTube (but not quite as good). The other one though is mine, a more or less spur-of the moment thing.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Morning coffee

As I was making my coffee this morning the sun caught the bottom of my hand-grinder, which at some point last year sat in water just long enough to begin to oxidize; the sun brought out the hint of green copper. I composed this before I lost the light.

(Photo info: Olympus SP-565UZ, Super Macro, F3.5, 1/400, ISO 64, massaged a bit in the GIMP)

The Zassenhaus is in heavy use these days; I sold my grinder out in California but kept my espresso machine. Luckily, my schedule these days allows me ample time to grind coffee by hand and self-document.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Shining Stars

I was reading the Times today and saw this opinion piece, in which Judith Warner bemoans the way that Wall Street had, during our recently-completed bubble, taken far too many of our highest-achieving individuals.

This is a point that hits close to home for me. I went to an "elite" school which sends a large percentage of their graduates to work in the financial sector; I knew some people who took that path, but I rejected it because of my personal belief that Wall Street doesn't do a whole lot for society. I know that most money flows through the world of finance, but I couldn't shake the feeling that they were, at best, middlemen, and, at worst, crooks.

The recession seems to have vindicated my belief to some extent. But why did this only happen after finance has taken down the world economy? I spent the past few years wondering if I was insane: I was working in an industry where I actually made something, and, of course, I was making very little money, at least on the scale of other people with my background.

I wasn't quite alone, though: I had a few friends from college who also pursued careers non-financial careers. They were teachers and scientists; one of them got an M.B.A. with a focus on sustainability and works in the green energy sector. These people are, without a doubt, the best & brightest crowd who didn't go in for the quick buck.

I don't mean to whine, but times have been tough for us: Judith Warner points out that, aside from finance, there are few careers where people like us can be adequately compensated for our talents. Even those among us who go on to tenure-track appointments won't do as well as financial stars; with the stalling median income, those of us in the private sector have fared worse than the tradesmen who benefited from the housing boom -- and, by the way, I don't begrudge them their share: unlike financial workers, they actually create things.

For me, I think that's what it all comes down to: we, as a society, need to value jobs that create. Artisan work is almost non-existent in this country, outside of luxury food. Jobs in the arts, including journalism and writing, have been devalued almost completely. Teachers are often squeezed; I've heard many stories of public-school teachers forced to be fired & rehired annually to get around budget problems, which keeps them from accruing experience and pay raises.

As a society, we've made a mistake: we bought in to the alchemy of the market, and believed that we could create value out of nothing. We forgot that the market exists for only one reason: to make it easier for creators to do their job of making useful products and innovating for the future. Investors deserve a reasonable rate of return for putting up their cash, I don't disagree. But we should always remember that the teacher, artist, and even the factory worker are the people who create value in our society. I don't imagine that the creators will ever be compensated as well as those who facilitate the market's workings. But we do need to make it easier for the creators to do their work: without them, our finances will always be a house of cards.

I hope that this is a lesson that other people are taking home from the economic collapse.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Rihanna: Date me.

Ok, sure, this is weird because, you know, you're a huge celebrity whose personal life has been all over the tabloids, and I'm an unemployed non-celebrity who's currently living with his parents. But as it happens, I'm just back on the dating scene, and I don't think you should pass up this opportunity.

I think that we can get past those differences. I'm going to lay out a couple of arguments here that I think you'll find convincing. My basic premise is that you should date me not because of anything that may have transpired between you and this Chris Brown fellow, but because I'm such a great guy and incredible catch.

My high points:
-I'm a respectful and thoughtful guy in general.
-I have an impressive education, including top-notch universities, and a great appreciation for the finer things in life.
-I cook and clean. Ok, I cook more than I clean, but I do dishes anyway.
-No job to distract me from our time together.
-I may not be a celebrity now, but I am a pretty solid guitarist, so if it's important for you to date a celeb, we can probably jumpstart my music career with a duet or something.

Let me address some possible downsides:
-We don't know each other. Ok, there's a possibility that we might not hit it off immediately. However, I'm sure you'll warm to me in time.
-I am not a person of color. I don't know if someone's background comes into play in your thought process, but I'm sure that we can get past this issue. In fact, I think it presents an opportunity to expand our understanding of humanity. I will get to meet your family from Barbados, and you can come meet my New England folks. It'll be awesome!
-I am trying to convince you to date me in a blog post. Ok...well, you're just going to have to take the leap here.

So I think I've laid out a pretty convincing argument here. You just check out my blog here and my other website to get a feel for me, and drop me a line. We can meet up in New York, or maybe you can fly my deadbeat behind to LA or Miami or wherever you hang out...ok, Miami would be good now, but I really hate high humidity in the summer, so we'll have to talk about that later. Is that going to be an issue?

Also: President Obama, you should hire me for Culture Czar. No baggage here! Can we get some WPA-style public art going? Re-start art education in schools? We'll talk.