Weigh To Go

May 25th, 2007

I’ve been fascinated with the weight of things recently, and it’s not because my dealer keeps stiffing me half a gram for my eightball-a-week habit. It’s because I’m in the midst of planning a cross country road trip. Naturally, this involves traveling to major cities to pick up my co-pilots, Sean and Chris from Detroit and Boston, respectively, but that’s just the start (3000 miles is quite a start!). After swinging by New York to get my yearly supply of acid (2 sheets, or 600 tabs, bulk price $500 per sheet), it’s time for wilderness and epic adventures. That’s right, my blagoblag friends. This dangerously bucolic second half will consist of mostly backcountry hiking and backpacking in the American Southwest, and it is this portion that has been weighing heavily on my mind. I’ve spent weigh too much time thinking about it.

Naturally, when multi-day hiking, one must carry all of one’s necessities with one. The basics include the actual backpack, a tent, sleeping bag, clothes, a stove, cookingware, eatingware, emergency supplies, water, food, a water purifier, and appropriate maps. It’s easy to go overboard, to try to approximate modern life with ridiculous luxuries, and it is to this end that many backpackers heft a fifty to sixty pound load for eight hours of hiking a day. Yuck. That doesn’t sound like fun to me.

There is a sub-culture of backpacking which is aptly called ultralight backpacking, a group of people who are obsessed with the weight of each item they are carrying, determined to shed those pounds to both make and have a better time cavorting around in the hinterlands. On the most prominent site I could locate, there is an article devoted to the meta-minutiae surrounding this weight-loss program; the author claims a twenty-seven pound pack can last a man for a full week in the backcountry. Carrying only one lexan spoon for eating. A sleeping bag that weighs less than two pounds. Specially-designed titanium cookware that is constructed out of the thinnest sheets possible. A flashlight that weighs less than a dollar in change.

And, as expected, a burgeoning cottage industry supports this ultralight trend. There are tents for sale that weigh a little less than two pounds, for example: they are eight hundred dollars. A pair of lightweight rainproof pants can go for about three hundred. Freeze dried foods that weigh less than the packaging they come in go for six bucks a pop, to which part of me says: “Where can I sign up?” Living in the wild with barely the skin on your back appeals to my hippie, living-with-nature, landfills-are-the-devil side. While I can’t justify dropping a grand on anything besides a brick of Lebanese hash, I broke down and bought a 1.5 pound backpack, a 3 pound sleeping bag, and a water filter than weighs less than a can of Coke and can purify up to 200 gallons of the nastiest, most bacteria-ridden cesspool I can wade through.

Let’s go commune with nature, but first let me set up my waterproof, windproof, light-reflective ripstop tent with titanium tent pegs and a storage space equivalent to a twelve-pack of Sprite with Berries.

Mountain Ho!

PS. Great Basin National Park is the premier destination. I can’t weight!

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thirty one daps

May 19th, 2007

Yes, you read the title correctly. It’s thirty one daps. Not thirty one days, as in a descriptor for a member of the set {January, March, May, July, August, October, December}. Thirty one daps can also be rendered 31 daps, and backwards as Spad 13, which is the name of an obscure World War I fighter plane:

This is not a coincidence. Spad 13 is also the name of an ongoing musical project named by my esteemed brother and colleague, E. Michael Woolley.

What is Spad 13, might you ask?

Spad 13 is a musical concept, label, and genre that spits in the face of typical music production. Insofar as music is “good”, Spad 13 could be considered “bad”. My brother’s first Spad 13 project was a sampling of voices, household noises (like a phone ringing), and simplistic 909 beats and unaccompanied melodies. His second Spad 13 project consisted of three tracks, each roughly twenty minutes long. The first track consisted of silence. The second, a drum beating in 4/4 time. The third, static. Here are the track names:

1. qwertyuiop

2. asdfghjkl

3. zxcvbnm

Hopefully you’re starting to understand the concept. E. Michael’s third Spad project was a noise album, which I quite like.

In any case, spad is the new black. I don’t use the word avant garde, but people who frequent art museums may or may not find this term apt. “That’s so spad, Margaret.” I had wanted to contribute to the Spad project for some time, and only recently came up with an overarching album concept that I felt was appropriate for the Spad label: overlapping sound. Ever been in a hallway with at least two adjoining rooms, and had a stereo playing a different song in each room? What if this overlap was approached in a semi-controlled manner?

The Rules

1. The songs chosen for overlapping must be of equal length.

2. The songs may not be manipulated in a temporal way (i.e. they cannot be artificially shortened, lengthened, or otherwise reorganized).

3. If the volume is changed, or any effects are added, they must be added to the song as a whole.

With the help of iTunes and Audacity, I made seventeen of these overlaps (hundreds, thousands are possible!) and ended up using eleven. Unfortunately, due to unnecessary conscious decisions on my part the songs ended up being way too musical to truly deserve the Spad 13 label. I decided to revert to my electronic pseudonym, Scion Eidolon, and “release” these tracks as my own personal idiom. “Thirty one daps” is my homage to Spad, and for this idea, I thank you. Here is the album, the tracklist, and the music I used to create it. (The track names are created from editing together the names of the original tracks.)

scion eidolon – thirty one daps (Found HERE)

1. how everybody’s little (4:27)
2. c/viet eno (4:39)
3. leyton over the rue (6:39)
4. rettic rigby (2:07)
5. vogrradhostibns (4:51)
6. heartopian (5:19)
7. new exciting pinomernans (alternate take) (5:08)
8. hexagon sunbath (5:07)
9. puleiris falls (8:33)
10. my one hand, my meta wish (5:40)
11. pigs pigs (1:25)

Tracks Used (it’s best to listen to the album before looking at this, to avoid preconceptions and better appreciate what the project is getting at):

1. Little Fluffy Clouds – The Orb, Everybody’s Gotta Learn Sometime – Yann Tiersen, How Can I Tell You – Cat Stevens
2. C/Pach – Autechre, Vietnow – Rage Against the Machine, Eno Test – Boards of Canada
3. Rue Over The Whirl – Boards of Canada, U.F.O.’s over Leytonstone – Squarepusher
4. Rettic AC – Autechre, Eleanor Rigby – The Beatles
5. Gratis – Prefuse 73, Vordhosbn -Aphex Twin
6. Univearth – DJ Krush, We Have A Map Of The Piano – Mum
7. Exciting New Direction – The New Deal, Pinocchio – Miles Davis, Pinocchio (Alternate Take) – Miles Davis, Gwely Mernans – Aphex Twin
8. Turquoise Hexagon Sun – Boards of Canada, Bath – Bjork
9. Pule – Autechre, Iris – Miles Davis, Shpongle Falls – Shpongle
10. My Wish – Dark Soho, I Can’t Feel My Hand Anymore, It’s Alright, Sleep Tight – Mum
11. Pigs On The Wing (Part One) – Pink Floyd, Pigs On The Wing (Part Two) – Pink Floyd

The nature of choice in music design has always interested me. While I was limited to picking combinations of songs based on their length, and was not allowed to modify them in many ways, the choice of song and the song’s volume was ultimately my choice to make. Also, I was limited to the songs I have on my computer, which is a factor of my taste in music, my hard drive space, and the artists’ respective abilities to advertise. It really is quite an interesting mash-up of systems and choices. It raises several valid, overarching questions. What is the role of choice in music? What is the role of desire in music? What is the role of the artist? My selection of tracks and their place in the soundscape is exactly the same decision that a guitarist makes when he decides to play an E major chord, that a composer makes when he decides to write a sonata for English horns, that a sound programmer makes when he decides to use the 909 for his beats instead of the 808. The E major chord, the English horn, the 909. Cat Stevens.

A totally new waveform, new combinations of sounds hitting the eardrums, partially controlled by me, and partially controlled by the artists I used and my taste in music. On one level, I wrote these songs.

I have a lot of idiosyncratic ideals concerning morality, religion, and society, and while they exist in a prelinguistic mash-up of unadulterated meaning that takes up residence in a network of neurons in my frontal cortex, I’ve never really laid them out in a codified and straightforward manner. I find that my ideas come to fruition only when I’m discussing them with someone else, so I pick you, Internet, to hear me out and set me straight.

1. God

God is not a man. God is not self-aware and as such, cannot make decisions. God does not have a physical form and cannot influence the physical world. There will not be a judgment day and the concept of sin was invented by man. Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed, Moses, various medicine men from primitive societies, monks, Pentecostal devotionees, and many other religious followers all spontaneously experienced the same qualitative state of mind which is commonly termed a “mystical” or “peak” experience, and is so far removed from normal experience that it is meaningless to try to describe with language in an objective way. “I saw God. I became one with the universe. I experienced all times. The observer-object dichotomy was destroyed: I am everything; everything is I.” Typical messages that filter out of this transcendent state are messages of love, peace, understanding, and respect for all life, and it is from these concepts that prophets teach, and religions and dogma slowly grow.

God is an event; it is what happens when the ability to differentiate between your self and everything that is not you is lost. God is a temporary state of mind that influences one’s life permanently. The event of God literally transcends life – it is awareness without consciousness. Many people have reported that they have experienced their own death during such an experience.  “A blinding white light.” By perceiving life without consciously living the true value of life is revealed. What this may or may not imply about an afterlife is not possible to prove.

Lesser forms of God can be experienced easily. “I found myself. I lost myself. I was at peace.” Examples: climbing a mountain, suddenly “getting” a mathematical equation, falling in love. These lesser forms are realizations that underscore human frailty, the existence of life beyond conscious intent, revelations of the impartiality of nature or the true powerlessness of a single person.

Because a human is a pile of meat and neurons, and nothing else, it follows that it is possible to induce this state of rapture chemically, which has been proven time and time again with accounts ranging from LSD psychotherapy to starvation to meditation to near-death experiences to just smoking copious amounts of weed. It is of interest that DMT, a potent psychedelic, occurs naturally within the body. It is possible that spontaneous religious experiences are induced via chemical pathways within the body through release of this chemical. Once again, the implications are vast and unprovable.

I am an agnostic.

Next time: Part 2, Perception and Interpretation (probably)

Can you believe it’s been about nine months since I moved to Montana, and I still haven’t made any new friends? This failure is mostly a function of my own somewhat atypical yet rigorous prerequisites[1] for even attempting to start something that could be classified as a “friendship”. Additionally I have not tried to gather compatriots in what would be the usual way for a man[2] in his mid-twenties: I don’t go to bars, and I rarely drink. Not that I would consider a friend made through ethanol[3] to be any type of real friend, e.g. my co-workers have their “work friends”, and then their “drinking buddies”. Guess which ones they hang out with more. Past undergraduate college, there is a definite tendency towards a home-based life which does not include the camaraderie that so typifies adolescent and collegiate socializing. To wit: as an “adult[2]” it is socially frowned upon for me to want to put as much time into friendships as a romantic relationship or my graduate research. Other examples:

I. If I invite you over, for some predetermined reason, you are allowed to call me and tell me that you can’t make it, even if you were enthused about said event two days prior, and even if it’s only about an hour or so until the time of said event, despite the fact that two or three years ago such a change of plans would have been seen as a slap in the face.

II. All social events are limited to less than four hours, unless they include a) a meal b) ethanol.

III. Overnight gatherings are permanently forbidden, and discussions about emotional problems and/or fundamental Questions Of Life are likewise banned [4].

IV.  A corollary to II, a social gathering must have a “point”, a centralized and standardized event that a gathering must revolve around, e.g. seeing a movie, going out to dinner, playing golf, ethanol, et al. Adult friends may not come over just to strengthen social bonds and discuss concepts.

V. Dammit.

 _________________________

Footnotes.

1. Prerequisites include:  interest in music, interest in books, non-religious, open-minded, strongly opinionated, conceptual[a].

2. Of course the change from a child to an adult is an imaginary one. I’m still the person I was: I am eight years old, I am thirteen years old, I am twenty-four years old. Just because I have car insurance doesn’t mean I don’t like to swing on a swingset or go on adventures.

3. I don’t have anything against drinking; I love hanging out at home with real friends and playing beer pong or just getting trashed. However, I don’t use ethanol to be social; I use social to be ethanol.

4. If I was a girl then the second half of this sentence would be socially accepted.

_________________________

Metafootnotes.

a. Beth has a saying: People tend to talk about three types of things, in descending order of intelligence: concepts, events, people. I have no desire in talking about what Martha said to Jimmy at last Saturday’s party. I want to talk about that thing that happened, or why things are a certain way. For example, I recently talked to Ted on the phone. We talked about people for about two minutes (Kathie and Clint), events for probably fifteen minutes (Ted’s job, summer plans, and my graduate school), and concepts (mostly grammatical and social in this case, highly INTJ) for about an hour. Blar!

Happy May Day!

May 1st, 2007

Redfoot is thinking about *you*

Redfoot the Coyote sez: “Enjoy the warm weather, kids! But don’t forget: coyotes, unlike wolves, have occasionally kidnapped and slain small children during the night. So keep those windows closed when you’re sleeping! ONLY YOU CAN PREVENT INFANTICIDE.”