Mike’s Prattle


Archive for August, 2008

Evangelical mojo and the rebound effect

Posted by Mike on August 31, 2008


Last week, Christian evangelical James Dobson prayed for rain at Obama’s speech Thursday at the Democratic National Convention. Hermeticists in general are convinced that using juju for selfish and not spiritual purposes will result in the rebound effect, where you take on all that bad energy you directed at “the other guy.” Now the RNC are scrambling to reschedule thanks to a hurricane converging on the convention. Day one canceled. Too bad Dobson didn’t pray for the Democratic party to disappear…


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Posted by Mike on August 22, 2008

A little while back I mentioned I was writing a novel. About a month or so ago, I reached a point where I wasn’t quite sure where to take the narrative, after I spent a lot of time developing the characters and their interactions and motivations on a personal level. Last night as I was just about to doze off, it all came to me like a lightning bolt, that is the plot elements and the vague framework of the novel’s universe. Terribly pleased about this. But I’ve been trying to figure out what I can say about it without saying anything about it.

It basically takes place, initially, in the San Francisco bay area among five interrelated friends, most likely in their mid to late 20s. There are complicated issues among four of the five people that get a great deal more complicated after an event at an unusual gathering leaves the relationships between them changed, including the disappearance of one of the five friends. Only one of the friends is actually aware that things have changed and it isn’t the protagonist/main viewpoint. The mystery of what’s happening starts to increase as the protag becomes bewildered when the unchanged friend starts to make bizarre statements including asking him to find and read a mysterious book. The protag, who has started a new job at an obscure start-up firm, manages to find the book, hides it in an awkward moment and then can’t locate the book when he comes back for it with the suspicion that the chief of the firm he works for was responsible. Where before his curiosity was only mildly roused by his friend, losing the book only increases his interest, leading him on a course that will encompass a bewildering litany of mysteries, including a legendary cache of a rare, entheogenic aloeswood, a little-known corporate installation in a Turkish mountain range, and the hunt for a priceless and unique feather rumored not to be avian. I’ll stop before I sound like I’m writing cover copy. 🙂

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Great New York Times article on Obama’s economic plan

Posted by Mike on August 21, 2008

“The second criticism is that Obama’s tax increases would send an already-weak economy into a tailspin. The problem with this argument is that it’s been made before, fairly recently, and it proved to be spectacularly wrong. When Bill Clinton raised taxes on upper-income families in 1993, his supply-side critics insisted that he would ruin the economy. As we now know, Clinton presided over the longest economic expansion on record, the fastest income growth most workers had experienced in a generation and the disappearance of the federal-budget deficit. His successor, Bush, then did exactly what the supply-siders wanted, cutting upper-income tax rates, and the results were much worse. Economic growth wasn’t quite as strong or nearly as widespread, and the deficit returned. At the very least, Clinton’s increases did no discernible economic damage. Rubin, citing academic work on tax rates, made the case to me that rates under an Obama administration would not be nearly high enough to stifle innovation.” – David Leonhardt/New York Times

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Andrew Bacevich with Bill Moyers

Posted by Mike on August 20, 2008

A whole lotta smart.

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Music, Outer Music, Progressive Music, etc.

Posted by Mike on August 18, 2008

I’ve had this intense feeling I’ve been juggling too many balls in the air at once. Most of this is due to Olfactory Rescue Service and the site’s growing success in the incense community, which has basically reduced this blog to tumbleweeds since I moved the incense to ORS (making Prattle the perfect venue for this sort of ramble). To say the least, my experience in incense has been something of an exercise of comparing and contrasting with my experience in the music fields.

In ten years, my musical outlook and tastes have vastly changed. In the 90s I was involved with several progressive rock magazines: Expose, Audion, Melodie e Dissonanze. In the last 90s/early 00s I was coresponsible for starting the Gnosis project. But it always felt like as soon as I created something in the music field, my tastes had already changed to the point where I never felt part of the audience these projects were aimed at. I’ve always felt more comfortable in areas where people had more multiplicity and breadth in their musical tastes and have always felt that certain musical communities were quite insular and navel gazing. That is, I think it’s possible to like something without the act of that like becoming an implicit dislike of something else.

Overall, I don’t have the musical appetite that I used to and think that perhaps some of this interest has just transferred to my passion over incense. WIth music, I generally feel satisfied with what I’ve collected and feel very rarely that when I add something new to the pile that it sufficiently enhances it. For years I’ve had that idea that trying to appreciate something outside your tastes enhances your life and while it does, it has the exact opposite effect on your pocketbook. The major event for me was “cracking” the Grateful Dead. Never liked them much growing up, but around 2000-2001, I figured I’d give them the benefit of the doubt, started playing Europe 72, broke through my hesitancy and became a fan. But what it did for me most importantly was realize how much pleasure I could get out of one band. And learning this, along with some other influences, more or less ended the “need to hear everything” mentality I picked up from progressive rock. I find more satisfaction in trying to get to know something better than I do in trying to get to know something new.

Another aspect of this was retiring from Expose. As a writer you stay up on everything and are generally aware of almost everything remotely connected to the genre that comes out. All other issues aside, leaving the magazine was a relief in that hours of listening to promos you’d rather not could be used for something else. Being fully in control of what you listen to means you gravitate more and more to what you naturally like, passionate listening rather than intellectual. And overall, I think I’ve found I just generally like late 60s and early 70s music above all else, no matter if it’s rock, jazz, funk, soul or anything else. My respect for the avant garde is almost entirely intellectual or mental, never particularly passionate.

All of these questions are sort of hanging over me in a very Virgo-like way, as I consider hanging up musical activities. I sometimes have to resist the urge to make clean breaks. At the moment I don’t have a particular urge or desire to return to music writing of any sort. Not only have my tastes moved away from progressive rock but it’s a genre without any intellectual/academic dialogue while being tailor-made for it. Like the entire political landscape of the day, facts aren’t facts anymore, it’s a matter of how you feel and who yells the loudest. The genre’s greatest strength, its eclecticism, has now just become another competing idealogy with those who think its greatest strength is melodrama.

So, if you’re here wondering why I’m taking a (probably permanent) sabbatical from music forums and writing activities, this is generally where my head’s at. I honestly don’t feel like the world of progressive rock is going to miss my voice much at all, after all it’s not a voice much representative of the genre or its fans anymore (if it ever really was). And remember, I’m saying that as a progressive rock fan in love with its eclecticism not its melodrama. It’s not a statement fishing for someone to convince me otherwise, just someone who sees the art of criticism as opening a dialogue rather than digging a trench, while seeing the landscape of progressive music as a map of trenches where the dominant aesthetic is to lob grenades at each other. I’ve had grenades lobbed at me in the incense world as well, the difference there is that your fellow soldiers will deliver the A-bomb back, where in progressive rock they’ll blame you for the war.

Posted in Administrative, Music, Outer Music Diary, Writing | Leave a Comment »