Friday, November 30

Music videos, Media mogul assholes, and the Right of a private artist to express himself in untested ways.

Should I ever find myself in a band or playing the part of a discovered solo artist that was given the opportunity to make MTV-style videos, I wouldn't. I don't care how much money they threw at me. Unless it was a lot.

I might make short films, if I found I had the talent for it, or collaborate with equally idealistic and monetarily bereft directors who did have that talent, and whose tastes meshed with mine. In essence the 'film' accompanying my music, be it a single track, an ambient or merged concerto-like smudged out thing, or a series of discrete creations, would have to be a work of art on its own. It would not change what it needed to be to fit the mores of the music industry, and would thus almost certainly never be played on any sane television station. Artists have of course done this - Pink Floyd and Sigur Ros to name but two - but it's still a rare thing. I think Thom Yorke, Nick Cave, Tom Waits - people like these, they tend to reach for that sort of additional expression. Some have made full-fledged films or at least scores or screenplays.

A good sense to have as an artist is having the good sense to know when you're no good at something. So far I'm good at everything. Well, except for most things in life that actually keep you alive and serve your primal functions. Logistical things. And artistic things I'm nearly never the 'best' at, I merely see a path where I could work at it and be considered amongst that crowd. It's all so rubbish anyway, it's like pillowtalking after the alarm has erupted and deciding who had the more valid dream. Art isn't a sport where they hold up cards that range strangely from 9 to 10 in increment of 0.1.

I guess my point is that many musicians I am inspired by don't have crowd-pleasing videos. Maybe just some old studio footage later exploited as lost or rare and benefiting someone unworthy, like a person. I would never make a visual work of art tied explicitly to a musical one, nor the other way round, unless for some strange reason it made sense to me and could be done with the same passion, attention, and skill given to both objects and I felt compelled to marry the two. The disciplines don't necessarily seem related to one another in any pressing way, at least not in my view. It's a bonus I suppose when one can support the other, but for anyone to expect this pair to grow together on the same tree...

Thursday, November 29






Wednesday, November 28

Dumbledore Points.

Remember how Slytherin got screwed in the first book at the House Cup ceremony, being told they were winning by 160 points or something close to that, only to have Dumbledore basically cheat for the Gryffindor good guys and give Ron 50 points for being good at Wizard Chess, Hermione 50 points for being sassy or something, Harry 60 of course for beating down Quirrel into his separate elements and then scaring the ghost of You-Know-Who out of the building, even though Snape (Slytherin) did nearly ALL the dirty work ahead of time? That made the two houses tied. Then Neville got 10 points for trying to stop his friends from breaking the rules and holier-than-thou Gryffindor carried off the cup by the slimmest of margins, in the most devious way possible, and humiliatingly in front of a color-changing banner right in front of Slytherin house and the rest of Hogwarts? Ok, so Malfoy's a jerk, we get it, but what about other kids that got sorted into Slytherin that had nothing to do with the main plot but got royally hosed at the end by the hero kid with the scar and his Christianlike posse? That wasn't a very noble thing for DD or JKR to have done now, was it?

In honor of that moment and others like it throughout the books, I'm introducing the concept of "Dumbledore Points" to my quizzes. This means as ultimate arbiter of truth, justice, and the American way, I am able to reward or take away special points to anyone I choose at any time just for making a great try on a plausible-but-wrong answer, or conversely snatching points away for not answering questions at all or mocking them deliberately, or even for being right but insulting me in some way in the process, like adding little quips such as "everyone knows that." On the whole I still try to be extremely fair, but I'm only human and thus susceptible to the polished apple on the teacher's desk trick: If you complain, don't even make a try, or have some genetic illness beyond your control like actual retardation I will probably dock you a few points or maybe even a lot. On the other hand, if you make a really cogent but wrong argument, answer the question halfway correctly with enthusiasm and humility, offer me money, or literally leave a polished Fuji on my computer desk, Dumbledore Points will rain on you like mana from heaven.

Simple things like actually following the rules (sending your answers to my email), reading the questions BEFORE answering what you assume I'm asking, having some humor or wit, or at least submitting an intelligible, organized-looking form will get you DP's or at least not cost you any. Extremely late entries, questioning me in any way, arguing about the right answer if it turns out you're wrong and don't actually have a good point, or just being sloppy and careless in general will find you slobbering and muttering 1st-year curses like so many Crabbes and Goyles, as you see your narrow lead in points slip away completely unfairly and that kid with the scar staring at you smugly for the umpteenth year in a row. Got it?

Just a warning. This is, after all, real life, and even though it's all in good fun, I want to be horribly mean and unfair about the whole process for some reason. Thus, Dumbledore Points.

Tuesday, November 27


I don't know how many if any of you besides Del realize how brilliant Brendan Perry (formerly of the group Dead Can Dance) is, but if you could sit down and read 5, 10, or 25 of his song lyrics (any of them at random) AND you had a soul, you very quickly would.

I only wish I could write like him AND do everything else he does - sing perfectly, produce everything in an abandoned abbey in Ireland by himself, play just about every instrument there is, teach samba and polyrhythmic Afro-Caribbean percussion to ordinary people who want to take his seminars, provide rare gems of songs for indie movies that will never earn him a schilling, program keyboards as well as play them masterfully and sequence the whole lot on computers like a trained sound engineer, even play antique instruments whose voices have not been heard in centuries (hence the band's name). Actually I wish I could do ONE of those things as well as he is able to. Maybe I'm closest in lyrics, but I've got miles to go in so many other forms of expression it's very daunting.

So this holiday season I'm featuring the ethereally majestic work of Brendan Perry and Lisa Gerrard, from the 25+ year collaborative band Dead Can Dance, which is beyond conventional genre-oriented categorization, to their solo works of the past decade or so, and presenting some of the most beautiful, heartfelt, perfect words put to paper, recorded to tape, or made into avant-garde movie "shorts" or providing the backing sound for such breakthrough and breathtaking movies like Baraka, Koyaaniqatsi, and many more, as well as more conventional ones like Gladiator, Black Hawk Down, and Whale Rider. There is simply no one like them in the world, but since this blog is more focused on words than sound, you will get more Brendan than Lisa I'm afraid. He's the words guy for the most part.

All that and he's an absolute Guinness fiend from what I hear. You're missing a large portion of the boat if you ignore outside-the-mainstream artists like DCD, Nick Cave, Nick Drake, Leonard Cohen, and so forth. I can't MAKE you listen or read any of them, but if you are intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually a seeker, you will find enough there (and HERE) to at least set you on your way.

I wish they were my poems. It would be tempting to leave his name off and bathe in the adulation that came my way. But of course that would be wrong and missing the whole point, and Del would call bullshit faster than a Texas mosquito anyway.

So there, my upcoming tribute to Dead Can Dance, in my mind a group with a body of work possibly tied for the most beautiful thing I've run across in life, and right up in there in the conversation for best band ever (to me) with Pink Floyd, The Beatles, The Smiths, Nick Drake, Bowie, Bob Marley, Nick Cave, and The Clash, and maybe a few others I'm not remembering.

Thanks for reading! Get ready for some great found art and symbology, some of my own stuff (visual and literal) inspired by them, lyrics, pictures, video clips, and more, all while of course keeping the quizzes, funnies, and non-related entries rolling right along at the same time, and my Facebook ninja ranked #1 in all of Sonoma and Napa county. Don't be afraid to comment on lyrics. They're only poems whose tiny bodies of clay have been breathed to life by the voice and music of a band, after all. That is something even greater than poetry.

If I can possibly provide MP3s of any of this work, (hint, especially if you email and ask), I will.

In The Wake of Adversity.
(Brendan Perry)

Hey Patrice, don't cry. They've no reason to harm you at all;
They don't realise that the angels surround you with light.
They don't understand. Their narrow ways defeat them where they stand;
They don't realise, you hide your sadness beneath a painted smile.

Ignorance, that light of fools steers a wayward path
And sets the course upon which we sail into the night of uncertainty,
Following the stars that make their way across the sky.
Valuing the love that lends grace to our hearts, we sail.

Sunday, November 25

Voyage of Bran.

Father, father
Can you tell me
Where the hours go
Where time flows

It is written in the stars
Upon the milky way
That we must burn bright
Before we fade away?

Mother, mother
Can you tell me
Where the fire goes
When the flames cease

From the ashes
To the astral plain
Where the setting sun
Meets the sea, Brendan.

I live by the river
Where the old gods still dream
Of inner communion
With the open sea

Through the eye of the hunter
In search of a prey
Neither beast nor human
In my philosophy.

If you don't recognise me
Well it's simply because
I've outgrown these old clothes
Time to move on

For you and I will outlive
The masks life gave us
When this shadowplay comes
To a close.

(Brendan Perry)

Thursday, November 22

Please send answers to

A) When was Thanksgiving formalized as a holiday in the United States? (I don't even know the answer to this yet.)

B) When was the English Civil War fought, as accurately as you care to get?

C) What metal are the filaments in traditional incandescent (home lamp type) lightbulbs made from?

D) What do you call a number of the form where 'x' never ends nor falls into any kind of repeating pattern (pi is an example of this kind of number)?

E) Without looking it up, what year did the Titanic sink?

F) Who won the most recent World Cup in football/soccer?

G) Who won the most recent World Series?

H) Alpaca wool is a type of fabric that comes from an animal, a lab, or what? If an animal, which and where does it live?

I) What does the 'SLR' in an SLR-camera (as opposed to a nonprofessional point-and-shoot camera) stand for?

J) Why does a prism produce a rainbow of colours? Be as precise as you'd like.

K) What makes bread rise? Anyone know why?

L) When assisting a woman giving birth, should she concentrate more on her breathing, trying to meditate and block the pain, push harder, relax, or what?

M) Where can egrets, cranes, storks, albatross, and herons all be found (what ecological habitat)?

N) Why was Pluto demoted as a major planet? Be as specific as you'd like.

O) What is your favourite recipe for pumpkin pie? Or can't you stand the stuff?

P) Why did Christians give the Devil of folklore cloven hooves, a goat's head, and horns?

Q) When (as close as possible) did the city of Rome finally fall and never again serve as the capitol of a large empire?

R) Are zebras white with black stripes or black with white stripes? Or does the question have no meaning?

S) Which deity is worshipped in Taoism?

T) Why are English waters and weather so much more temperate than in other regions at the same latitude, such as Moscow and Vancouver, BC?

U) What do you give thanks for most in your life?

V) Is it true or an urban legend that Coca-Cola originally included cocaine in its ingredients?

W) What other animals are hedgehogs related to?

X) In which century where x-rays discovered?

Y) What is the only thing a koala bear will eat?

Z) What is your favourite part about visiting this blog?


Wednesday, November 21

(credit unknown)

world of no pity

eyes of green, see, seas of ice
couldn't turn my frail boat
from seeking morning

and in your fathomless gaze
that princess ghost
still mooring

I wish the sun would stay in the sky forever...
I wish that love was strong
and stayed strong
grew strong and
ever stronger

for now that we have passed
what some might say is the last chance we'll get

I just want to hold you
I just want to hold you
to feel your heart near mine, to close our eyes together

and forget to feel the night come
my love, and be with you still tomorrow.

fly in my soup

In a lattice of light
we hang our heads
going out of our heads
trying to find ourselves in circles
truth or something we could hold
not to scorch us then leave us cold

Ah fate
you always hated what I was
there's nothing to stop you now
when the sweat pours down my body
in the middle of the night
but Love,
we could escape it all
if only we knew where to start
this world is much too simple for us

In a lattice of light
was my garden of delight
under skies so blue I saw my window
and skies so black I saw my ego
just something I could hold
not to make my cry or leave me old

Ah fate
you always hated what I was
there's no one to halt your progress now
the sweat's still pouring down my body
day and night
but Love,
we could rejoin the laughter
if only we knew when it would end
this world makes too much sense for us.

the irresistable force against a merely stubborn object

naked as i was born,
pierced through by shafts of light
it's called grieving
i appear before you now
to receieve
and fake is one thing i'll never be
you know me by now
by the time my words make sense
i'll be lying on my teeth
pierced through by blades of grass
somewhere happy
unseen, undreaming.
"Tree Strokes" (2007)


Thursday, November 15


How old is the earth, according to the latest research accepted by most geologists? It's ever so slightly different than what I learned most of my life, due to new breakthroughs in dating techniques. Needless to say, no cheating please. I'm ideally looking for an answer to two decimal places, expressed in billions of years (X.XX byo). American/international-scientific use of the term "billion" of course, not the uniquely British notion that a billion is a million million (an idea which is fading even in Britain). A billion is rightly a thousand million: 1,000,000,000.

The closest answer gets a small solid bar of 24k gold in virtuum!

The true age of the earth may always be debatable, because it formed from rubble that didn't make it into the sun and subsequent major bombardments, so when exactly is a planet considered to be "born"? Also, there is some inaccuracy still in dating methods, but the latest figures are taken from many different scientific disciplines and all converge quite nicely on the number I'm looking for. But don't be afraid to guess! Don't assume anyone will get it exactly right!

And anyone who says 6,000 years old will be immediately banned from this site =)

Wednesday, November 14

My secret path.

I can only say your name so often
Before the word becomes dissociated
And my elation turns to something fantastical
Rather than grounded in reality
But this reality is ugly
And you are fantastic;

I can only hope for better times in the years
And the decades ahead, to lead people everywhere
Out of their neuroses, their crises, their fear
And heed the trumpet of Jericho now for it blows
Not a fair wind at all, my dear lady,
No sound you should ever hear;

I can only give you my coat and comfort you
The best I know how, which is to care and to strive
When the wind-blown stars bow their heads in shame
For they could only turn the world, and stare
Not be there for us in comfort when our lives
Went down in flames;

I can only lead you to a secretive path
That I found once in my youth and have lost on and off
As the parade of black-armoured years solidered by
I can only ask you to come with me
I cannot tell you why.
Questions about aurum.

A) How many protons does the typical atom of gold have in its nucleus (thus, what is its atomic number)? B) Why do you think it has been used so often to make jewelry, coins, and other precious items by unrelated cultures from around the world and throughout history? C) Is it true gold is the best conductor of electricity of all the elements? D) Is gold the heaviest of all the metals?

Tuesday, November 13


How long will a typical class II (G) star (like our sun) stay on the main sequence before exhausting its fusionable fuel and imploding into a dwarf star, leaving an expanding ring of gas called a planetary nebula, or else going supernova, which will make the star shine for a few days or weeks as bright as the rest of its home galaxy combined, creating the heavier elements up to uranium in the process with which it will then seed dust clouds and pave the way for second and third generation stars, meanwhile leaving its own leftover core of matter in a very bad state, collapsing into either an 'ordinary' neutron star, denser varieties of neutron stars called pulsars or magnetars, or giving up completely and falling into a single point around which a black hole is said to have formed (defined by the Schwartzschild radius and not approachable any closer than its event horizon - which has a radius derived solely from the mass of the collapsed core)? And are there any tricks or assumptions in this question, beyond the main answer, which seem objectionable to you? Open floor, anyone.

What was Mandi Mártonffy's all-time favorite game as a kid, and still is?

Monday, November 12


The message to Leia's father's wife's son's mentor was sent by whom, in the 1977 movie Star Wars?

Friday, November 9

The always-pretentious 'wish list'

Okay, I'm no kid anymore and only a few people that read this blog are even relatives of mine. The rest of you I've likely never even met so I expect no gifts for Christmas or anything of the sort, though I do still want you as friends if that's all right with you. I'm putting this link out there for maybe 1 or 2 people, and also as a curiosity for those who love to spy on other people's wish lists. Notice I said lists as in the plural of a single list. This link should take you to the top list, something to do with Animals, and along the left you'll see going all the way down to at least 'W', lists with varied themes. I like lots of different things, you see.

The secret is, it's not really a place for me to list things I actually expect anyone to buy me. I got over that quite awhile ago anyways. It's become more or less my headquarters for keeping track of things that look cool, I would like to have, don't want to forget about, or I can just plain dream about for some of the really expensive items. So don't think I'm that pretentious. Anyways, have a look if you want to and if you don't want to, then don't. But thanks for reading this if you've gotten all the way down here. It means my self-effacing, colloquial tone has just made you read two whole paragraphs about a set of ridiculous (but well-organized, I must admit) lists that I don't even expect you to make use of! That's Real Ultimate Power.

Plus, maybe somebody will actually come through with a truckload of that stuff on Christ's and my birthday, which would totally rule.

Justin's Amazon Wishlist Portal...

Thursday, November 8

The circularity of life.

If life seems repetitive and anticlimactic, just think of it this way: it is. I've noticed in my millennia upon this earth that nearly everything turns out to be cyclical except the bookends of birth and death, and we just don't know about those because we're inside that particular system with no outer vantage point. I can't tell you how old I feel sometimes and how old the past is, and that's just my own past, which as I've stated goes just back to the height of Rome and no further. But even if we consider, say, the last oh, 30 years of it, it still seems old enough to make dead grandparents cry in their graves. I remember thinking foggy ages ago that I'd seen it all, that the past then was practically precambrian. We repeat crushes, loves, heartbreaks, interviews, goodbye parties, seeing bands, seeing movies, seeing people cross the street. Eating. Taking your millionth shower. Driving to work on a cold morning hoping the heat begins to work soon, getting there without remembering the drive. Rinse, repeat. Repeat, recycle. Bicycles along a country lane, planes forever landing and Europeans clapping, not being able to crap, ending up drunk on someone's landing. Poems composed in confinement, comprised of refinements, disposed of by mistake. The endless process of makeovers we call upgrades to ourselves as we age. The dead, long past. It's always there and always growing. How can we move on?

Sunday, November 4

Be a great poet! Or a good poet. Or a better poet than you are now.

There are volumes and volumes of information about how to learn to write poetry, from no-nonsense meter-and-verse specififics to whoa-man stuff about opening your senses and letting it flow freeform onto the page. There are even people to whom the shape of the poem itself as written conveys some meaning. Without rehashing any of this information, I want to add my two cents to the pile, but first let me warn you there are dozens of ways to write great poetry that don't all have much in common.

You could write "perfect" verse, like Roger Waters sometimes does, extremely economical with every word in its place, rhyming (often cleverly), and a crystal clear, beautiful meaning intact. This is a rare gift not everyone can achieve and I won't elaborate more on it here.

You could write "super sensory" verse like Sylvia Plath did, where "sensory" included the interpretation of her external senses and the effects they had upon her spirit. She could describe a simple scene like a bee's nest and use the most unexpected words and phrasing, yet in the end you had a very vivid, almost living sense of what she felt and experienced looking at that hive.

And so on. There are many forms of classic poetry, many which are quite beautiful and which seem simplistic but are quite challenging to adopt and say anything useful in. Some are archaic, mostly used for the telling of epic tales, and today have been mostly replaced by prose except in spots where they are meant to be archaic, like Tolkien's Elvish "lays." Mostly they're tedious though.

Anyway, my advice has nothing to do with the type of poem you want to write (perhaps it's easiest thought of in terms of free verse, but is surely not limited to it), but in the psychological way in which you set about writing the thing. Some poems are too wild, most are too tame. Of course you should avoid cliches, and read up on alliteration and all the other hallmarks of poetry, but if I could advise someone in two simple bullet point on how to write a good, original poem, given they know these basics, it would be these:

(1) Be as wild in your thinking as you can. To use a cliche, think outside the box. Use your senses in unique ways and experiment with words, word-order, jumbles of syntax, hidden meaning beneath obvious meanings, no 'meaning' at all, whatever. Just let your mind roam, and take notes. If this requires a pen and paper or a voice recorder, use those. Sitting in front of a computer isn't always an inspirational place to write. Go to the beach and take a voice recorder, and merely speak words, phrases, exclamations, questions when they occur to you. Make the process wild and the mechanism of recording it as inobtrusive as possible. Be as creative if you can.

(2) But, equally as important, you need a crap filter that is just as strong when it comes time to taking all that raw material and forging an actual poem out of it. I believe that poetry is a learned craft that very few if any come to already possessing mastery. That is why a poet must be part craftsman, and that usually involves pruning a lot and pulling weeds and killing even good ideas because you can't make them work. As much as you let your mind run wild before, now be the strictest censor when it comes to letting that stuff make it into your final poems. For every phrase of genius there may be ten that are useless. That's why it's called "raw" material. You need to refine this stuff to get maybe just a nugget or two from that vast heap. Then you can do it all over again. But the point is, just because something was written in an orgy of splendid sensory exuberance does not mean it automatically belongs in a poem, at least not a good poem.

I could go into more detail and give examples, but for now I won't. If there are people interested in watching a poem being wrought from start to finish I could probably do a blog entry on that. But the main points I wanted to make in this one is in the general: House two extreme, opposite personalities within your mind - and bring each out one after another. Go through a wild, unfettered, break-all-the-rules manic phase; then, crucially, go through a strict, tighten-it-up, toss out what is crap or even what is lovely but just doesn't work, chip and polish beautiful stone into a beautiful sculpture phase.

With just these two points in mind, I think you'll find the quality of your poetry will improve.

Thursday, November 1

Goodreads or iRead?
I don't really want to maintain two different catalogs of my books (including my catalogs), so I was wondering which of you had a preference between Goodreads and iRead, or maybe something different altogether? They are both available as apps on Facebook and I have friends using both of them (not necessarily together). Goodreads also exists as an outside website for those not using Facebook; I'm not sure about iRead.

Both have huge selections of books, but Goodread's presentation might be a little cleaner (haven't used it enough to know), and they have a bookmarklet you add to your quicklink bar (if you use that; I do), for Amazon specifically, so when you are surfing Amazon, if you see a book you want to add to your Goodread "To-Read" shelf, you just click the bookmarklet and it's done. Pretty cool.

But I'd like to standardize on something. I have about 16 books on Goodreads and about 86 on iRead, but that's a trivial fraction of the books I actually own, so I don't cafe if I have to switch to one or the other. Any opinions for those even interested in this subject? It would be nice to get the booklovers among us in our own little named group on one of those sites, so we can make recommendations to one another and show each other what we've recently read and how much we enjoyed it, what we are reading now, and recommend books to others (or ask for recommendations for a certain genre, say, and have the group respond with helpful advice).

Post your opinion!
Any suggestions while we're at it for the blog should go? It will remain a mix, but what types of entries do you each enjoy most? Jokes, funny pictures, polls, quizzes, opinion pieces, poems, poem explanations, photos and paintings from around the web, photos and painting of my own, favorite lyrics, movie/book/game reviews, start-a-discussion questions (to hopefully go round in the comments section for awhile and get everyone involved), nude women, interesting links summarized beforehand, explanatory pieces where I break down something about computers or science or sports or a famous person or whatever else I may know something interesting about, and teach you about it in a hopefully short-and-sweet manner, YouTubes or streaming music, random no-right-answer questions for you to ponder and answer, screens filled with the F word, eccentric pontifications á la most of what comes out of Rex's Bristolian mouth, tales of the strange and supernatural, bears, breakfast cereals, orangutans, churches, fruit bats, very small rocks? If you've got any ideas (or several) or just want to weigh in on types of entries you prefer versus the ones you don't care for, please do so! I want to involve as many people as possible in this, it's yours as much as mine.
QUIZ Results.

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OK boys and girls (and Computer), we have a winnah. And that would be Disillusionist (aka Delusionist, Heath, My Brother, and any other noms de plume he may use). He won by a healthy margin over the second place contestant - the rest of you were pretty bunched up. You all did really well though except the one person who submitted all joking answers, and even he did well because he made me laugh.

I dunno how you want to handle this. I don't want to embarrass anyone (not that anyone of the rest of you did too much better or worse than any others), although I will say the girls beat the guys after
Dis. Anyone want to see the complete rankings with name and scores, or just names, or just scores, or nothing more at all? It doesn't matter to me. Submit your most intimate desires (or just preference) in the comments section. And most of all,

Thank you ALL for playing!!! It felt like the old days again with even some recent irregulars coming out of the woodwork to play. Fun!

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