Television Practice from 1974

Posted July 26th, 2014

After writing last year that elements of Television’s debut album seem like magic, it’s not much of a relief to see this incredibly rough footage of the band practicing several years earlier.

That’s Richard Hell on bass. I didn’t realize any audio existed of his time in the band. Hell just gave an interesting interview on Boing Boing’s Recommended If You Like podcast.

Five Things “Weird” Al Can Teach Us

Posted July 25th, 2014

4. Every artist’s path is different.

Much has been made of Al’s recent speculation that this will be his last full length record—having fulfilled his contract with Sony, he’s likely to just release singles independently, so he can more quickly respond to pop hits with timely spoofs. It would be easy to extrapolate from this that “the album is dead” or “you don’t need labels anymore.”

But remember: Al is weird, and so is his career, so we have to be careful about using outliers to define “industry trends.” No one would have expected the kid with the accordion sending 4-track home-recordings to Dr Demento to have a number one album all these years later. While anyone can make a song parody and share it now, there’s not many people making a living off of song parodies, and there’s still only one Weird Al. For some artists, albums might not be the most important format, for others they’re vital. Some artists have a business model that doesn’t require label support; others find their assistance crucial. Most of the viral strategies that work for Al aren’t going to work for Godspeed You! Black Emperor, for example, even as they too are huge fans of Al’s work.

Read more at Future of Music Coalition.

Structure, evidence and the epistemology of syntax — G. K. Pullum

Posted July 24th, 2014

Pullum on ethics as an analogy for the epistemology of syntax.

Black Gate: Afrofuturism and Empowerment

Posted July 23rd, 2014

But that’s the irony of dystopia. Writers make novels about the types of issues that marginalized communities face every day, and pass it off as something that could only happen in the future.

Read more of Afrofuturism and Empowerment.

Interview with Ann Dryuyan

Posted June 29th, 2014

Why is God telling me to stop asking questions? When we defied God by tasting of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, that’s how we became ourselves. You know, God may not like that part of us, but I do.

- Ann Druyan in an interview with Salon

One of the unfinished essays on my computer is an attempt to read The Demon Haunted World (which Druyan co-authored with Carl Sagan) as mythology. She backs up everything I intended to say in that piece right here in this interview.

Space Oddity – Track by Track

Posted February 9th, 2014

Since finding my Stylophone, I wondered if anyone had transcribed the parts from Bowie’s “Space Oddity”, and to my surprise, I found YouTube videos of the individual tape tracks from the recording session.

Lead guitar and Stylophone


Backing vocal, flute, cello


Other tracks include bass and drums, acoustic guitar, and of course the lead vocal.

Deadline Riot: A Group NYE Resolution

Posted January 20th, 2014

I’ve joined the gang at Deadline Riot, a group blog for songwriters who are all attempting to write one song every week this year. So far I’m right on schedule and have contributed three new demos:

  1. At a Gas Station in Indiana – a fake Billy Bragg song.
  2. Shalott – a tiny jazz ballad.
  3. See the Little Goblin  - a Blackadder reference in song.

I suspect blog posts on songwriting will migrate over there for the year as well.

Quantum Theory and Dualism

Posted December 23rd, 2013

Via Neuroskeptic, a new paper in Brain and Cognition investigates the maximum affect Heisenbergian quantum uncertainty could have on synapses

Wildly waving toward the quantum world has been one major defense for dualist theories of mind – which posit that the mind is not reducible to the brain. It’s also the last line of defense (just above “magic”) for many people who wish to retain some notion of a soul.

As many have insisted must be the case, the numbers reveal that the Heisenberg uncertainty has no affect:

I conclude that Heisenbergian uncertainty is too small to affect synaptic function, and that amplification by chaos or by other means does not provide a solution to this problem. Furthermore, even if Heisenbergian effects did modify brain functioning, the changes would be swamped by those due to thermal noise. Cells and neural circuits have powerful noise-resistance mechanisms, that are adequate protection against thermal noise and must therefore be more than sufficient to buffer against Heisenbergian effects. Other forms of quantum indeterminism must be considered, because these can be much greater than Heisenbergian uncertainty, but these have not so far been shown to play a role in the brain.

This is unsurprising for anyone who recognizes the scale at which nerve cells interact – several orders of magnitude larger than  the quantum world. But it’s good to see people investigating this assumption.

Read “Neuroscience, quanitum indeterminism and the Cartesian Soul” by PG Clarke.