Friday, December 26, 2008


Well, I've finally come to the conclusion that I can't master my own album.

After many days spent mastering, re-mastering and starting from scratch again and again, I've decided to have a professional do this. I've discovered that mastering is very different than the engineering I'm used to on the "frontside" of a piece of music.

While in the throes of this epiphany, I stumbled on this YouTube vid that made me chuckle, especially the bit about having your work professionally mastered! It's by a band I've never heard of and whose music I probably wouldn't ordinarily seek out but everything said is very sage advice indeed! Total respect - these guys use a lot of modular synthesis and processing! Many musicians never figure half of these things out:

I can't say I disagree with a single thing said. :D

...I do wish I had had a bit more humility from the get-go and decided earlier to have the new album professionally mastered and saved myself an infinite amount of screaming-and-hair-pulling frustration!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Mastering and patience...

Patience is indeed a virtue. It's a shame that it's such a scarce commodity these days.

I'm finishing off my first new album of music in about four years. The mastering of each song requires numerous (many dozens) of playthroughs as I tweak very subtle settings. My wife has surprised me by her unusual understanding and, most of all, patience. Though I'm certain some of these tunes are driving her nuts at this point, she has been supportive all the way through this arduous process. I consider myself extremely fortunate! :)

My goal is to finish up "Shadow Bridge" by the end of this next week and then start the CD duplication process.

Choosing cover art has been interesting as well. I started out with around twenty designs. At this point it looks like this one is vying for the lead right now though the logo may go through a number of permutations:

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Day After...

Election day is always tough but, this time, it was like being forced to choose between Azathoth and Cthulhu.

Still, I'm glad we got the lesser of two evils as human sacrifice to the great Cthulhu would be so messy and wasteful. ;)

I think it will be interesting to see how the hearts of the very young and idealistic voters fare. It will shatter a few illusions when they realise Obama will still have to work with the lobbyists and private interests to get anything done - more business as usual. The only way that real positive change will happen is if the Obama administration moves independantly of corporate desires - and, unfortunately, that just ain't going to happen. LOL!

Bipartisanship won't help either because there is little to no difference between the parties other than some surface cosmetics and a handful of hot-button issues. Both parties are so inextricably beholden to corporate interests that real social change will reamain a fantasy for the forseeable future.

Still, I think Obama was personally more fiscally attractive as Mccain's tax plan would have really given me no relief while giving the top 5% huge cuts.

In lieu of a Flat Tax, which will unfortunately never happen, Obama's plan looks better to these jaded eyes of mine.

Neither tax-and-spend or borrow-and-spend seem to be good philosophies but I haven't seen anything else by any administration. Maybe someday we can look forward to Government addressing such overhanging worries as Deficit and can hope but I'm too much of a realist to hold my breath.

At this point I'm very eager to see who Obama selects as the next Treasury Secretary, as well as who he picks for other Cabinet positions.

All in all an interesting change. One thing I am proud of my country for is that it's possible for a black person to be elected President - I honestly had my doubts about the voting public and I'm glad to be surprised on this count!

I hope for more pleasant surprises in the coming days.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!

I love this holiday! To cement the mood, I just ordered a print of this darkly beautiful painting by the late Zdzisław Beksiński:

For more information about this artist of the fantastic, check this Wiki article: Zdzisław Beksiński

For some "Halloween Music" to go with it, you might like a darkish ambient piece of mine called Touch. Enjoy!

Friday, October 17, 2008

A Soft Apocalypse

I'm a fan of many types of speculative fiction and, one of the most interesting, is science fiction that came out of the Soviet Union during the U.S./Soviet cold-war-era. Two real masters in this period were the brothers Akady and Boris Strugatsky. Science fiction was sometimes the only way writers could slip something past the censors - the subtext is always worth closer scrutiny in these books.

My favorite book of the Strugatsky brothers, The Ugly Swans, is not their most well-known but, every time I re-read it, I walk away with a deeper, visceral understanding of human nature and how it interacts with inherited culture within the confines of external political force. No, really. ;)

On the surface, the story concerns what may be a new race of humans evolving beneath our very noses but shunned as if they were lepers as they are seemingly victims of a chronic malaise. For most people, these "Slimies" as they are called are out-of-sight/out-of-mind. While most adults take no notice of these "poor souls", the children however are attracted to them and begin to learn from them just how flawed all the driving factors of the adults actually are. At some point these children, who have become all too bright, have no use for the adults anymore with their passion-driven actions, their hubris and ignorance. The children hold no hate for these flawed, very human adults, only pity - for they are merely slaves to their desires, fears, hopes and lust for power, only partly tempered by their intellect.

The Ugly Swans is a strange cautionary tale of a slow, subversive change from within that may end up being an unexpected kind of cultural as well as physical evolution. It's an ambiguous change, neither malignant nor uplifting in any usual sense and the reader is left to ponder much of this out alone.

If you can dig up this beautiful novel in the back of some dusty bookshop, its well worth the effort. The style is a little odd as the authors' voices have to shine through the lens of translation but fortunately you can hear the brothers loud and clear. While Russian idiom and some of the sentence structure is a little alien, even in translation, to me these quirks are both attractive and novel at the same time. The characters are all deeply envisioned as three-dimensional people by means of a sympathetic omniscience I found refreshing. There are more interesting things at play here in the subtle ways writers of this era found to talk about freedom of speech, or the lack thereof , in an environment where all media is controlled by the government to quash subversive or dissenting voices. Even the title is redolent with multiple meanings and I always grin at its humor. You can even hear echoes of Clarke's "Childhood's End" here, though it's a very different approach viewed through the eyes of a very different culture - much more subtle and subversive is this memorable "Soft Apocalypse".

Ravens and Crows

Ravens and crows are extremely fascinating creatures to me. This painting is one I executed in acrylics of this iconic bird a few months back.

I've felt a strong connection with these noisy tricksters for as long as I can remember and they have appeared in my artwork time and time again as symbols of birth, death and gnosis.

I have always loved the depiction in Northwest Indian legends of Raven as a Promethian figure stealing the Sun, Moon and Stars from the gods themselves for the benefit of mankind:

"Long ago, near the beginning of the world, Gray Eagle was the guardian of the Sun, Moon and Stars, of fresh water, and of fire. Gray Eagle hated people so much that he kept these things hidden. People lived in darkness, without fire and without fresh water.

Gray Eagle had a beautiful daughter, and Raven fell in love with her. In the beginning, Raven was a snow-white bird, and as a such, he pleased Gray Eagle's daughter. She invited him to her father's longhouse.

When Raven saw the Sun, Moon and stars, and fresh water hanging on the sides of Eagle's lodge, he knew what he should do. He watched for his chance to seize them when no one was looking. He stole all of them, and a brand of fire also, and flew out of the longhouse through the smoke hole. As soon as Raven got outside he hung the Sun up in the sky. It made so much light that he was able to fly far out to an island in the middle of the ocean. When the Sun set, he fastened the Moon up in the sky and hung the stars around in different places. By this new light he kept on flying, carrying with him the fresh water and the brand of fire he had stolen.

He flew back over the land. When he had reached the right place, he dropped all the water he had stolen. It fell to the ground and there became the source of all the fresh-water streams and lakes in the world. Then Raven flew on, holding the brand of fire in his bill. The smoke from the fire blew back over his white feathers and made them black. When his bill began to burn, he had to drop the firebrand. It struck rocks and hid itself within them. That is why, if you strike two stones together, sparks of fire will drop out.

Raven's feathers never became white again after they were blackened by the smoke from the firebrand."

Ravens are also excellent tool-makers and puzzle-solvers. They are so good at this that one man wanted to train them to collect garbage from the streets by way of a vending machine that would give them a treat for each piece of garbage collected. They have been known to use thin twigs to collect grubs from deep inside logs. In the following video a raven figures out how to bend a piece of wire into a hook to retrieve a prize. Amazing!

Here is another video showing a novel way to crack nuts that these beautiful birds worked out on their own:

Once they learn a new talent, it's passed on to the group rather quickly. I love these guys for their intelligence, adaptability and vigorous personalitys. Viva La Corvus! ^_^


• I'm happily married for many joyous years to a kindred spirit
• Hawaii's "Big Island" is the best place on earth...other than my own backyard
• I can see a machine for the first time and usually be able to tell you how it works in detail
• The SCI Prophet T8 is my "favorite synthesizer I'll never own"
• Navy Blue is cool, but not as cool as Chartreuse
• Jazz is wonderful but I can't play a note to save my life
• I've never been completely happy with any one musical piece of mine (see next item)
• I'm a perfectionist but have learned to settle for "good enough"
• My visual art is where my real epiphany lies - I have no idea where those images come from
• When I turned 40, I dyed my hair magenta and kept it that way for almost a year
• Blueberries are the best fruit ever...except maybe for mangoes
• The Marx brothers are brilliant though Simon Pegg and Nick Frost make a good team as well
• Cats are better than dogs and not just because they smell better
• I have a dinner fork that telescopes to three feet
• I have two guitars but can't play because there's never enough time to learn
• Homebrewed beer is better than anything available in the stores
• The world is a Sacred place, still filled with magic and mystery
• Most people will never realize that the world is a Sacred place, still filled with magic and mystery
• The scientific method is the only tool we have to actually know anything - including spiritual things
• After years of wanting one, I finally got a nice Weller soldering station but don't know if I'll ever find the time to build anything

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

"Expelled" From The Garden?

I used to really respect Ben Stein but his newest fiasco, the movie Expelled, No Intelligence Allowed is more than just embarrassing, its a thinly veiled wolf-pack of lies dressed up in pseudoscientific sheep's-clothing that we've seen once or twice before.
It's a rehash of an attempt to have the junk science of Creationism taught in schools again in the guise of Intelligent Design. The whole thing leaves me deeply saddened.

It would be nice if any of the accusations of a conspiracy of Science to "hush up" Intelligent Design in general were backed up by even the most meager of facts but unfortunately, there's not a one.

Their main point that intelligent design is under systematic attack by the Scientific Community, who won't recognize its scientific validity because of a previous commitment to atheism and materialism, is both laughable and unbelievable in the extreme.

The facts are that the arguments of intelligent design have been examined by the scientific community and found to be lacking in practical usefulness or confirmable truth. The Scientific Community declines to accept intelligent design because the purveyors of intelligent design haven't performed any research, tests or theory-building required by the Scientific method...nor do they want to, regardless of the fact they want intelligent design to be called science.

This movie also contains some of the most base and sad propaganda against scientists themselves, portraying them uniformly as atheists with an agenda, no better than Nazi eugenicists, whereas many scientists have no problem leading spiritual lives and can somehow manage to keep religion firmly separated from the empirical, testable, repeatable scientific truths of the universe we live in.

Evolution itself is portrayed as some sort of religion instead of the underlying and unifying principal of modern biology, genetics and biochemistry. Even a first year biology student could refute these so-called facts with ease and show conclusive, testable, repeatable evidence to all but the most pigheadedly ignorant that evolution is a fact and can be measured and quantified showing changes in mere generations or tracing the telltale trail of mitochondrial DNA down the human path to ancestors like Lucy and beyond.

The so-called scientists that are trotted out are the same crackpots we've seen time and time again as well as people with no or dubious accreditation.

Its a shame that some people will cling to this vapid propaganda for comfort or allow it to replace real knowledge in schools or, worse yet, drum this crap into the heads of our children at home.

The type of people creating this propaganda are attempting to weaken the Constitution in an effort to promote their brand of spirituality as science. It's not good science and it's pretty shallow spirituality.

This world is becoming a demon-haunted rest stop on the way to the reward of the Afterlife for many ignorant people instead of the joyous celebration of the wonderful mysteries of Life and the Universe we are all part of. A society that turns its back on reason in favor of ideology is ripe for a theocratic take-over, and not necessarily an overt one. I find that terrifying in the extreme.

Here's a couple of interesting videos aimed at clarifying some of the issues - the first video is especially telling:

Evolution vs. Creationism: Listen to the Scientists

Of Pandas and People: Intelligent Design in Schools

Of course some of the best resources are found with the Union of Concerned Scientists and The National Center for Science Education.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Canal 22

Another fun image I've been working on for a while. This started out as a digicam image of a foggy alley I took a few years back. Through judicious use of a pressure-sensitive tablet and stylus, I've "painted it into" something quite different:

Becoming Empty

To identify with and connect with The Universal, to "become empty enough to be filled" is, to me, one of the highest attainments possible in this mortal coil.

This practice requires the annihilation of the illusory self each of us has created and reinforced with our habits of thinking and living - The interior dialog, that little voice in your head, the reels of memories, the worry, the fear, the images flashing by, the melodies, the constant thinking. Anything that distracts from becoming empty, becoming silent, must be quashed.

There are myriad components of the Self: The Thinker, The Creator, The Worker, The Poet, The Grouch, The Singer, The Hedonist, etc...
You must become only The Observer, the one that watches all these others, the one who is only Being.

There are myriad paths to this goal. The key is to stop the restless brain from thinking and achieve an internal silence or emptiness. One might simply begin quieting all the internal voices by denying each thought that appears in one's head by simultaneously affirming its opposite and thereby annihilating both.

The Zen breathing exercise of Zazen or the chanting exercises of Mantra Yoga are even better methods. Other disciplines and meditations will work as well or better, depending on the proclivities of the individual. The scientific method must be implemented to find the vehicle which works best for each of us and, most importantly, has repeatable and consistent results.

The travel on this path is arduous, mined with the distraction of the Body and the Brain. The eye cannot "see" itself and is itself unnoticed in use - the Universe is like this as well, suffusing us completely but completely unnoticed and unseen. Once the distractions are quieted, ordinary temporal worries become less important and the path becomes more visible with each step. Epiphany in the form of personal identification with the Universe itself is the reward.

Friday, September 5, 2008


I've noticed a tendency many people have that is interesting in the extreme. People tend to turn each other into "mirrors" without thinking - almost on a subconscious level. Mirrors in the sense that, in the back of their minds, people think others have the same set of beliefs, values and morality as themselves. When pressed or in acute conflict people will state otherwise but by their actions and words they betray their belief that other people are just like themselves and when there is evidence to the contrary it's just an aberration and the rest must surely be equivalent. The other party will surely come around to the "correct" point of view.

If the evidence to the contrary persists then the mirror shatters and the US/THEM paradigm is embraced. This tends to amplify the tendency of people in the "US" group to turn each other into mirrors. Of course all those awful people in the "THEM" group must all be "wrong" in some homogeneous manner as well. ;)

Blankets like Politics and Religion are prime fields for this behavior.

Tendencies like "mirroring" that encourage the transformation of groups of individuals into a homogeneous Mob should be subdued while those that allow individuals to celebrate each others differences (as well as similarities) should be reinforced. The cultural pressures all seem to pull us in the opposite direction and it is up to us to see something more than just our own reflections around us.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

The Assumption

This is a piece I've been working on for some time now. The actual print will be about 26" on the long side. The title is a tongue-in-cheek nod to the Roman Catholic iconification of Mary as she was always shown in blue.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Reclaiming the Universe

The subject of the existence or nonexistence of the "spirit" or Soul is a prickly one for most people, throwing them into strictly black and white camps. To my mind it all boils down to how you define Soul. Some view the Soul as a non-material "self", others as the "Ground of Being", others as "wishful thinking" powered by the fear of me it is none of these things.

For a man like myself, once branded a Secular Humanist by zealots, once called a "Spiritual Atheist" by a friend, it's a tricky proposition. Just because I'm a secular humanist doesn't mean I'm not spiritual. I'm of the manifest understanding that the Universe of time/matter/space/infinity is itself sentient, though not a Deity by any means, it just is what it is...more like a Mind, if you prefer - though this Mind is as beyond ours as our mind is beyond a Praying Mantis. I believe that "religious experiences" of "Universal connection" or "Universal equivalence" or even more mundane epiphanies are junctures where we participate in this Mind, or Soul, for a frozen moment and the illusory self we cling to is momentarily overcome.

We are fractal fragments of that Mind, or Soul, our patterns reflecting those of the larger whole - the Universe itself. Another applicable analogy would be that of a hologram. Like a shattered hologram, each piece shows the original image but with less detail. This Soul we are all component parts of is in no way connected to what we mistakingly perceive as Self - the collected chemical baggage of opinions, attitudes, beliefs, memories, hopes and fears encoded in our brains during our brief series of cycles around the sun.

We are the concious, self-aware expression of the Infinite, dancing at the bottom of a gravity well, blind to who and what we are - the Universe itself - our heritage, birthright and Soul.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The growth of Mystery

The more I come to know, the more I realize that I don't know.

There is more Mystery in the world for me now than when I was a child. My songs, paintings and prose have progressively gotten better in that they convey some of that Mystery. The downside is that, as time moves along, I'm maybe not quite as prolific as I was when I was younger because of the scarcity of time caused by increased responsibility. ;)

Mystery and Epiphany, artistic, musical or otherwise, go hand in continually doubt, seek and question The Known opens up massive unmined vistas for creative exploration as well as "clearing the fog" from one's vision. It's kind of like "applying the Scientific Method to Life" for spiritual, creative and inspirational purposes if you will.

Unquestioned belief and too-eager faith can really blind one to the truth, allowing you to find what you expect to find rather than what is really there. Here's the perfect example of that, the "flying horse" perception:
This is why, when testing reality, methods like the Double-Blind are used so people's opinions, including those of people performing the tests, can't affect the results. The facts need to be allowed free reign to speak for themselves regardless of what we want.

This has me thinking of an old quote:
"I slept with Faith and found a corpse in my arms on awakening; I drank and danced all night with Doubt and found her a virgin in the morning."

It's important to reinforce creative habits, modes of behavior and thought, hence my comment on "applying the scientific method to life". If you allow your thinking to become cyclical, you will only ever see what you expect to see and your boundaries of thought will firmly crystalize, becoming a cage.

Instead of quashing Spirituality, the practice of creative and incisive thinking frees one from the cul-de-sacs and dead ends, encouraging growth and helping one to more firmly plant one's feet on the "hallowed ground" of the path ahead.

The paths ahead beckon each of us. Tread carefully. :)