In case you missed my interview with co-directors Morgan Capps and Jilann Spitzmiller about their new film, Meow Wolf: Origin Story, on KMUD’s Monday Morning Magazine last week, here it is.
…and don’t miss the Mendocino Film Festival coming up June 1-3 in the Village of Mendocino where you can see Meow Wolf: Origin Story along with a lot of other great movies. You can see the whole schedule of screenings at http://www.mendocinofilmfestival.org
Biologists have found 27 different species of pseudo-scorpion living in the twiggy mounds which dusky-footed wood-rats build to raise their young. 27 different species of pseudoscorpion!
That just boggles my mind. First off, a pseudoscorpion is a tiny little arachnid, about the size of a tick, but a pseudoscorpion is not a parasite. Pseudoscorpions hunt and eat small parasites and mites that the rats attract. That explains why scientists find so many pseudo-scorpions in a rat’s nest, but it doesn’t explain why they find 27 distinct species of pseudo-scorpion in rats’ nests.
All pseudo-scorpions look pretty much the same. They look a little bit like ticks, except that instead of the long pointed mouth parts, a pseudoscorpion has a pair of large pincers on it’s foremost appendages, like a scorpion.
In fact, a pseudoscorpion looks just like a scorpion, except for its tiny size, and the fact that pseudo-scorpions have no tail, and no venomous sting. They are harmless little creatures who spend their time in dark shadowy places, like rats’ nests. Besides that, they can barely see with their very tiny eyes.
When two pseudoscorpions meet, they do a sort of dance where they face each other and engage each other’s large front claws.
If the dance goes well, they might mate.
If the dance does not go well, one pseudoscorpion, the larger, usually, will drive the other away. Most of the time, the dance does not go well, and this amazes me. How did pseudo-scorpions get to be so particular about who they fuck?
What makes one pseudoscorpion clasp claws with another, gender-compatible, pseudoscorpion, and go “Eewwww, yuck, gross! I wouldn’t fuck you in a hundred-million years!”? I don’t understand that at all. I’m like, “Come on, it’s dark. We’re both pseudoscorpions, We’re both horny. Let’s do it!”
To get 27 species of pseudoscorpion, the female pseudo-scorpion, and you know it’s the female pseudoscorpion, has to say, “You’re not my type.” categorically, at least 26 out of 27 times.
That tells me that female pseudoscorpions strongly disagree with each other about what they find attractive in a male pseudoscorpion.
Apparently, these strong preferences have almost no effect on the species’ ability to survive, since they all continue to thrive together, as they’ve done, through multiple extinction events, changes in the composition of the earth’s atmosphere, and climatic shifts, for something like 400 million years.
Pseudoscorpions can be counted as some of the earliest known terrestrial animals on Planet Earth and their descendants have changed very little in the ensuing eons.
Probably only a female pseudoscorpion or a knowledgeable aracnologist would recognize the difference between a 400 million year old fossilized pseudoscorpion and a modern living specimen. To the rest of us, they’re just another bug.
What could a pseudoscorpion possibly be so picky about?
It’s not like one of them has a nicer pad, or takes them to better restaurants. They all live in the same rat’s nest, and they all eat the same mites and parasites. They’ve lived together, side by side, for eons, and endured many global changes, but they’ve never learned to find each other any more attractive, so each species continues to pursue it’s own aesthetic, it’s own habits and it’s own proclivities, and each individual pseudoscorpion selectively chooses from individuals of the same species, even if that means a pseudoscorpion has to endure 27 categorical rejections, just to get one real rejection.
That’s got to be rough on those little guys, who already kind of look like ticks, which can’t help their self-esteem any. You might even say that pseudoscorpions kind of look like ticks who work out too much to compensate for how little they are.
By being so particular, they practically guarantee themselves a lifetime of loneliness and I suppose that’s why, when you see a pseudoscorpion, say in the bathroom, behind the toilet tank, they are usually alone. If you do see a pseudoscorpion, however, take a close look, because they are really quite cute, and you should tell them so, because I’m sure they don’t hear it enough.
The Southern Humboldt Health Care District wants to know what I think of their plans for our local hospital. They sent me a survey to fill out, and when I didn’t respond, they sent another, reminding me that I had not responded to their previous inquiry. I haven’t responded to that one either. I suspect they want to know how I voted in the last election, and how I’m inclined to vote in this one, so they can decide whether to cut me out of the district or not. Last year Blocksburg voters voted more than 2 to 1 against the hospital tax. This year, Blocksburg voters, and land-owners, have been excised from the health-care district, and the potential tax.
Personally, just thinking about health-care feels like stepping into the La Brea Tar Pits. I’d rather not think about it at all, until, God forbid, someday I get stuck in it, after which I expect to struggle futilely, until death becomes my only escape. I don’t want to think about health-care; I want to know how to avoid the health-care system entirely because I know I’m fucked if I ever need it.
That’s how it is for most people around here. We can’t afford health-care, because the bills quickly become even more debilitating than the disease. Health-care in America is a dark, sticky pit full of twisted logic, untenable compromises, and vicious, heartless greed, dusted with a thin layer of boring-as-fuck. I can’t even pay attention to the subject of health-care, let alone afford it, and I am disinclined to throw any more of my money into that pit. Apparently, a lot of people around here feel the same way, and with good reason, I think.
First, we should never forget that the health-care system in the US was not designed to promote health, or even to treat disease. Our health-care system was designed to make money. Our health-care system has been so successful in this regard, that it has blossomed into a central pillar of our economy. Unfortunately, the success of our health-care system lies in it’s coercive ability to extract absurdly high fees from people, at the very moment when they are most vulnerable.
Because of this, our current health-care system has become both a major source of wealth and a major source of poverty here in the United States. The system creates wealth for health-care providers, hospital administrators, insurance companies and their share-holders, while it creates poverty for the unfortunate people who chose any other career path, but find themselves in need of medical services.
As health-care professionals become more enriched by this system, they find that they tire quickly of the time they must spend with poor sick people, and they start looking for ways to insulate themselves from us. They often move to more affluent neighborhoods, where they can charge even more for their services. Eventually, that leads to the extreme situation that we face here in SoHum. We have a building that looks like a hospital, but the only doctor there probably just flew in for his shift at the ER, and he has no intention of providing services to anyone, except to offer directions to the nearest real hospital, in Fortuna, where our closest local doctors actually live.
We can’t even convince a hospital administrator to live here, no matter how much we pay them. When Harry Jasper worked here, he was probably the highest paid man in SoHum who didn’t carry a gun, but we had to pay him an extra $30,000 a year, as a housing allowance, so that his family could live in a nicer community, and his kids would not have to associate with ours. No wonder it didn’t last.
Without a doctor, a hospital is just an expensive building full of expensive equipment and overpaid people with nothing to do. Even with a doctor, that’s pretty much what we have here in Garberville, because most people who live here already know that all they will do for you in Garberville is send you to Fortuna, and stick you with a fat bill.
If you live in Garberville, and you have a heart-attack, there’s a chance they could save your life at Jerald Phelps Hospital, because they have a defibrillator and know how to use it. For almost anyone else, you might as well forget about our local hospital because all you are likely to get from them is a fat bill on your way to another fat bill, so the hospital offers very little value, as a health-care provider, to the people here in SoHum.
On the other hand, the illusion of a hospital has an important role in propping-up property values. Prospective real-estate buyers notice signs pointing to a hospital, and the building itself. These features make many prospective buyers feel more secure about purchasing land in such a remote place. Few of them actually check to see if the hospital has a real doctor. Because of this, our mostly useless hospital mostly benefits real-estate agents looking to pad their commissions, and land-owners looking to sell-out. Fuck them!
The sooner our real-estate bloodsuckers move on to greener pastures, the better, and sell-out dope yuppies will take whatever they can get for their land now that the black market gravy train has left the station. For the rest of us, I think we should work on becoming the kind of community where a good doctor might want to live, because unless we can convince a good doctor to move here and open a practice, we might as well get used to driving to Fortuna to see one.
We aren’t going to attract a good doctor by waving our black market profits at them, even if we still had them to wave, and we aren’t going to get a good doctor by voting for a new tax. The only way we are going to get a good doctor in SoHum is by being better neighbors. If we can’t do that, we might as well save our money.
…and while we’re at it. Here’s another new music video I made:
Crash! features a didgeridoo driven rhythm section that includes two homemade instruments that I’ve written about before: the Record Breaking Guitar, and the Spring Bass. On this track I distorted the sound of the Spring Bass to make it more percussive, and it functions more like a snare drum. Here’s the video I made of the Spring Bass back when I first created it
The Record Breaking Guitar sounds just as jangly and twangy as it did in the video I made about it when I first built it.
Speaking of video from back then, I extracted all of the video images in Crash! from old silent films and home movies, now in the public domain, and cataloged for your convenience in the Prelinger Archive.
I hope you’ll check out all of my music and music videos at my music blog: http://www.electricearthmusic.wordpress.com
(This post concludes a trilogy which began with:
but it is not necessary to read parts 1 and 2 first)
Music is a strange thing. I don’t understand it and I don’t pretend to understand it, I simply recognize it as an interesting characteristic of human life. I don’t rationalize it or objectify it. Instead, I explore it for the mystery it presents, and as a means of learning about myself, my relationship with my community, and our relationship with the world we inhabit. For me, the exploration of music is a way of studying the world aesthetically.
When you study something aesthetically, you acquire an appreciation for the beauty of it. It is not enough to understand the science of physics to make music. That knowledge must be incorporated into practice and presented in a form that makes it irresistible to the ear. Music makes the science of physics real, in a way that math never will, and reducing physics to math, strips our world of its natural beauty and aesthetic appeal. Aesthetically, we have the capacity to appreciate the beauty of things we do not completely understand, like music, while music itself teaches us directly, what we can understand about physics, and the physical world around us.
Science, on the other hand, ignores aesthetics, and strives for emotional disconnectedness. That’s how scientists are able to dispassionately conduct all kinds of cruel experiments on animals and brew up persistently toxic chemicals without regard for their long term impacts on the ecosystem. Science has no appreciation for beauty, nor does it feel any connectedness with the rest of life on Earth. Science is essentially psychopathic and tone deaf, which is why so little of what it tells us about the world really means anything to us, and why science mostly enables the development of deadly weapons, toxic pollution, and high-tech surveillance systems.
Music can teach us a lot about the world around us, ourselves and each other, without killing anyone, or poisoning a single stream, and our aesthetic sensitivities, when sufficiently developed, make much better guides as to how to live in the world than does our, so called, “scientific understanding.” Our failure, as a culture, to recognize this basic fact of life is the primary reason our society has gotten so ugly, crass and dysfunctional, and why we have no idea what to do about it. The more ugly, crass and dysfunctional our society gets, the less real beauty we see around us, and the less aesthetically sensitive we become. The internet has only magnified and accelerated the process.
We explore music to develop our aesthetic sensitivities, and to find out what we really like. I kinda liked “Country and Western” music when my dad played it on the radio in the car when I was 12, but I don’t care much for it now that I choose the music. In fact, I’m kinda tired of guitar music altogether. If you’ve read my last post, you know that I’m pretty well done with classical music too. Honestly, we’ve all heard it all before, haven’t we? I’m as sick of it as you are.
I still feel nostalgic for a lot of early electronic music, but modern EDM mostly leaves me cold. I heard Paul Oakenfold live at Burning Man in 2000. To me, his set sounded oppressive, impersonal and empty. A lot of people will say that Paul Oakenfold no longer counts as modern EDM, but he was the last EDM artist I heard that stood out enough to make an impression on me. Back in the ’70s, synthesizers were brand new, the future looked bright, and technology held so much promise. Today, technology dominates our lives, and it spits music at us in a million different flavors 24-7-365. To me, it all sounds oppressive, impersonal and empty.
Besides that, there’s been an explosion in the number, and variety, of high-tech gadgets for making music, and for making new music out of old music. High-tech machines don’t interest me as much as they once did. Machines have let me down too many times already. I know that “Intuitive user interface” means the designer thinks they know how I intend to make music, and that those machines will be full of sounds that instrument designers think I want to hear, based on what is popular in music today. That’s not what I want to hear, and I don’t want to “interface” with my music.
I don’t want to sit at a computer and assemble my music graphically with a mouse or from a panel of illuminated buttons; I want to play music directly, in real time, in real life. I think that’s important. I don’t think music is a purely conceptual thing. It’s not something you dream up in your head, and transfer to the real world by means of technology. Music comes from that physical relationship between the musician and the instrument, the subject, to the object. Music is about how we relate to the real world. Working in a DAW and composing music graphically is one particular way of relating to the world, but that is not how I relate to it.
It’s also about economics and the environment. I love my high-tech, digital, multi-track recorder, but I can’t really justify spending a lot of money on electronic gadgets that just make noise. Besides that, I live off grid, so any electricity I use, I have to make out of sunlight, which I don’t see much of, especially in the Winter, when I have the most time to make music. Besides that, the thought of spending a bunch of money on another electronic gadget that’s just going to end up in the e-waste pile just makes me sick.
I say it’s about economics and environment, but really, it’s about aesthetics. I went off grid because I thought it more beautiful and elegant to make a little bit of electricity from sunlight, and use it efficiently, rather than have an unlimited supply of high-voltage juice delivered to my home by wires connected to nuclear power plants. I don’t find most of those new machines attractive because I know that they contain toxic compounds and heavy metals that cause a lot of environmental destruction that destroys rural communities and kills people, in their manufacture, and that those machines create further environmental problems when they stop working. It’s hard for me to imagine, and it seems a burdensome responsibility to me, to attempt to make enough beautiful music with one of these machines, to compensate for all of the ugliness involved in producing, distributing and disposing of it.
My music is about my relationship with the world, so increasingly, I incorporate things I find in the real world into my music, especially the oddball detritus of our industrial society that I find scattered across the landscape. Geologically we live at a very unique time for the kind of things you are likely to find in the world around you. Even deep in the woods where I live, the bizarre collection of exotic man-made materials I find out here would surprise you.
Where the piano demonstrates the power of empire, with elegance, the ubiquity of manufactured garbage shows off the inelegant side of empire, but making musical instruments out of recycled materials is not a political statement about empire, so much as it is the reality of my time and place in history. I make music from the stuff I find around me because I want to cultivate my relationship with the real world and the unique sonic palette it makes available to me, rather than use the power of empire to take from the world whatever new gizmos I can afford.
I discovered a primal link to music, that bypassed a lot of cultural conditioning for me, about 15 years ago, when I learned to play the didgeridoo. The didgeridoo short-circuited my musical relationship with civilization and empire and completely changed the way I think about music The didgeridoo is a very simple instrument that produces a very complex sound. While the didgeridoo only plays one fundamental note, the player can vary the timbre of the sound fluidly, and in a number of dimensions, much like an analog synthesizer.
Learning to play the didgeridoo opened my mind to a very different approach to music. Playing the didgeridoo feels good, and it changed the way I experience music. Playing didgeridoo made me realize that music is not about melody and harmony and notes and keys, but that music is about sound and our direct connection to the Earth. I realized that music is not about precision crafted musical instruments or brilliant compositions. Music is about listening to the Earth directly, which is essential to finding an elegant and beautiful way of inhabiting it.