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July 24th, 2002

Last night I stayed up late to work on mixing the music which scottm and I recorded last Saturday. I always listen when people who are expert in a field or endeavor say things like "just because people know how to word process, they think they can write!". Listening to these tapes of "music" really proves all these people right. The recordings amuse me, but perhaps what amuses me about them is their sheer, raw, lack of merit. It's not so much the execution--in fact, Scott M's uke and guitar work has some strong points. It's the sheer ecstasy of nearly talentless creation. I had aimed for the unvarnished truth of the moment.
I got more than a mere lack of varnish. I got something nearly completely lacking a wood finish at all.

Whatever gifts I lack as a creator of music, let me assure you that they are more than doubled by my lack of gifts as a sound mixer. Just because one can work the knobs does not make one a sound engineer. At first, I was fairly sparing on the sound input and "mix" knobs, aiming for a non-clever sound which merely adjusted downward as much of the irritating part of the metallic hums as possible. Later in the recording, I went for more elaborate mixes, trying to highlight the richness in the sound (translation: trying to make it sound a little less gawdawful).

This morning I listened to the resulting "mixed" tape.
The portions in which I played it safe are only irritating as music, but not as a sound mix. The portions in which I applied my earnest artistic ear include a series of inadvertent "mixes out", one song altogether omitted (in fairness, this is probably a "hit the record key" matter) and an uneven-ness not native to the original tracks. I must remix this portion, but at least the project is now 2/3rd mixed.

I am not an unbiased ear, but I have developed many inner questions about the recording. Is it really effective to start the first track with an easy listening guitar track in the left headphone, accompanied by an annoying electric hum in the right? Was the two minute nose flute solo really a positive addition? Just how many moments of Hendrix-homage slow space-flanged guitar can one CD hold? Will the track in which the metal ball bearings in the Diet Coke plastic bottle sound like someone chewing corn chips really be redeemed by titling the song "Robot Breakfast"?
Just how many minor chord flanged electric autoharp chords are required to reach the legal maximum? These are the issues that try the artist's soul. Fortunately, I pre-defined to project to resist self-editing for mere reasons of lack of quality. I instead came up with the single sentece of liner note that I wish the CD to have: "We went weird in an effort to amuse". I wonder if that's my personal mission statement. I do find the whole process amusing, so perhaps I am at least able to humour myself.

I must say that I am very discouraged with The National Network. I turned on that station several times last night, only to find a discernible lack of Star Trek re-runs. What is the point of having the rights to Star Trek: The Next Generation if you are not going to play them 24 hours a day? I still haven't figured out who plays Star Trek: Deep Space Nine at 4 in the morning (I know somebody does, because whenever I am in LA I seem to see an episode at 2 in the morning Pacific Time). I also need to figure out if anyone is showing Babylon Five re-runs. Now that I have heard my inner musician, and discovered that he sounds a bit like the soundtrack of a bad 50s sci fi movie, I feel the need to get in touch with my inner sci fi.

For some reason, this whole enterprise has been energizing rather than enervating, notwithstanding the flaws in my thinking.
I hope I can keep the momentum up, as I want to get a lot of hobby type things done and started. Who knows, maybe it's time to write that sci fi novel. I have in mind a story about our first contact with an alien culture. The problem is that the contact is by radio telescope only. Neither culture evolves space travel. Both cultures exchange masses of scientific, cultural and religious information. Both cultures learn that no matter how connected the experience might be, the isolation is very lonely.

following dreams?

In the article today about rising grad and professional school apps, a Ms. Stacy Heenan discusses that she is going to professional school because, paraphrasing, September 11 taught her that life is too short, and one has to follow one's dreams.

I know many of us paused at length in the wake of this tragedy to think "life is too short" and draw close those around us.

But does anyone think that they're using the aftermath as a spur to pursue their dreams?
I just don't know.

Is there life on Mars?

I love that David Bowie song, "Life on Mars". It recounts the many sadnesses and paradoxical facts of our odd, consumerist popular culture, and then intersperses in the refrain the key question, appropos of nothing, "is there life on Mars?".

But my own theory is that learning about outer space is our own personal tower of Babel to the Heavens, and perhaps this time the Creator will allow the tower to stand (although learning some cool new languages, as the folks did in the Babel myth, might be cool).

I feel a shiver of ecstasy whenever they have figured out that yet another gas giant is "out there". Yes! This is what I signed up for! This is how I spent my childhood--reading novels to prepare for this. In my old age, we may have "seen" or "heard" the first habitable planet. In your great great grandchildren's era, we might have been in contact with someone who lives on one.

It's a 60s sci fi childhood, materialist, limited-imagination fantasy. But my own fantasy is that we someday realize we must create a place with less war, less resources inequity, less discord, and less environmental waste. We must create this world because we all have better things to do. Six millenia have failed to convince humanity that religion or social order in and of itself a reason to stop slaughtering and starving one another.
The only divinity of which we really learn is the divinity of learning itself. Perhaps we must turn our focus again to the Heavens, but not necessarily to the search for God which prompted the tower of Babel to be built in the story. Perhaps we must search the Heavens for all that we must learn there--we must learn to look beyond God to find the things God has created, in God's name.

As I write this, the notion dissolves into fantasy, the telescope as some magic potion to stop a world in which bombs are dropped on apartment buildings filled with children in pursuit of a single terrorist, in which people barely older than children are induced by men to blow themselves up in buses filled with elderly non-combatants. In my fantasy, when the telegram comes to the UN of impending genocide in Rwanda, people put a stop to it, because we have to learn all we can about the universe.

I don't believe that my fantasy will come true. But I desperately long to live long enough to see the stars open. I watch the news, lately, and I wonder, "is there life on Mars?".