Saturday, September 30, 2006

crucial update

What’s that underwear doing in the corner? I ask. I’m told I use it to dust. Or perhaps grow mice through a process of spontaneous generation…

Too nice outside to blog.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

TO completely figured out

Sent this as a jape to the alumni email discussion list for St. John's College, where I got my undergrad:

By the way, TO is obviously a product of white fear, demonization and
its concurrent idolization of black males. The middle class ironically
including "bushwa blacks" as Linton Kwesi Johnson called them (in his
song, "Bushwa Blacks") still wants to create opportunities for success
and fame for black males only in arenas where they remain
hypersexualized and dangerous (or, which is the flip side of the same
coin, "nice," "well spoken" and stripped of any sense of history and
thoroughly embedded in the myth of American success). The factors
contributing to TO's manifestation in the media as "crazy" and an
"egomaniac" include but are not strictly limited to post-feminist
resexualization of the underclass, athletics as a repressed cathartic
marketing tool for consumer strategies of denial, the rage that
underlies the style and fashion of cynical apathy in a culture devoid
of thoughtful political discourse, the regressive relegation of black
self-expression to forms marketed as underground mostly consumed by
young whites, and the utter and complete abandonment of so-called
"domestic policies" of urban valuation concatenated with and catalyzed
by the promotion of the illusion of a '50s style Golden Age of
American hegemony."

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


The first sound in the title being a general indication of expansion, overflowing, growth or as Riddley would say "biggering and biggering." The second being the opposite: shrinkination, contraction, even unto the point of disappearing. The first sound is well accompanied by a gesture of palms open, arms moved from close to the body outward, roughly parallel to the ground. The second by the thumb and pointer making a pinching motion.

This is profound. The *reason* it *is* profound *is because* expansion and contraction are the two states. Abstractly we like to think it's possible that neither expansion nor contraction is happening. But that's in our imagination. In reality, we are either expanding or contracting.

I don't know. Maybe that's nonsense.

Ah, but, for example, the trick would then be to find a way to be expansive in the winter. Or to accept contraction. For example. Or to think of it in an entirely different way and be done with it.

Walk with Sponsor tomorrow at 8 am, court at 10:15, radio at 1.

The un snuck out of here at 3:30 in the morning. I remember vaguely thinking maybe she was just arriving. Then I woke at 5 or something in the dark and figured she was right there but of course when I *expanded* into that side of the bed there was lots of room for expansion. One of those moments like when we take a nap from say 4 in the afternoon to about 8 at night and it's gotten dark by the time we wake up and we're convinced it's time to get up and go to work.

Speaking of which...

Monday, September 25, 2006

general studies

Step 4- at the moment, taking general free written statements and writing descriptions of whatever the snapshot is that comes up. My emotional writing characterized by the Sponsor as a buffer for the real stuff going on underneath, which is tangible, plot and description, the Story.

Counting dreams. Jonas music. 4+5+4+5+2+4+5+4+5+2. For example. Or 3+4+3+4+3+4+3+3+4+3+4+3+4+3. For another. One section has two different compound meters in different cycles and I get to have fun playing 2/4 the entire time.

I got my clock cleaned at poker Friday. Tris: “Let’s do a $5 buy in with $25 in chips, no limit texas hold ‘em kind of thing.” None of anything that I know or try in tournament style play worked. Lost $15.

Radio: my first full length show in three weeks due to fundraiser. Oh boy oh boy oh boy.

Unnarrator: asleep. Seems like there could be a big decision today about her employment. I wonder what the not black and white path would be? Hard to think that way for her with the Type A boss. Title of email received at 11:00 pm on Sunday from Type A: “Are you still with us?” Dude, you have no fuckin’ idea.

Opera: Training workshop last Saturday. Orff approach to teaching music. It’s all pentatonic scales. The teacher kept saying the 4th and 7th sound “bad.” I got to keep my mouth shut, cringe, and glance over at Jonas with an eyeroll or grin.

Reporter: Performing arts calendar today. Oh boy.

Cacti: they go outside for the first day in quite a while today. It was 39F last night. Keep fantasizing about cheap land in the middle of nowhere and a greenhouse and a little business on ebay at first. But this kind of set up would probably preclude what? Social life, musical life, AA life. Santa Fe is a ridiculous place to try to live. The snow on the Sangres is like a sick joke. Pay for heat on Santa Fe wages. Good luck puny earthling.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

sunday bloody sunday

Rrake rehearsal. A ten piece with compositions by Chris Jonas; I’m one of two drummers, there’s two bassists (acoustic and electric) and then there’s…6 other musicians. Sitara on violin, CK Barlow on rhythm guitar and effects, and Chris on sax. Oh yeah, Josh Smith on sax too. Milton Villarubia III, drums, Paul Brown Bass, Jeremy Bleich bass, Dino on percussion and effects. Dense and thorny, intricate and tricky.

So what’s it like to be inclined to rescue or be heroic and not have that as a live option? Well it’s interesting. What’s it like to believe that people have the absolute freedom to kill themselves and to love someone who’s making plans every now and again? Interesting as well. You are inclined to do everything in your power to keep that person around, yet you know there’s nothing you can do. Well, you can imagine that person gone and get as close as possible to how much you love that person and feel the chest-opening sadness of the deal. Clutch them almost bone-breakingly while they gasp “I want to go home, I want my grandma, I want my cat, I did everything wrong, I have never done anything right, I want a vanilla coke” and then make them come home with you and make them eat veggie sticks, birthday cake, take their pills, drink their ginger ale. It can’t be that someone who is alive, heart pounding, desirous, full of wit and tenderness and spirit, vibrant and bloody can also in an instant simply be gone. Vanished. Oh yes it can. This is the nature of it. We are always right next to death in every moment; we’re just used to thinking of things as permanent or that the end is so far off that it’s unthinkable. Being with Dying is the name of the book that the unreliable narrator is ghost writing, and we are always being with dying, we’d just rather not think about it. Even when we blithely say “Oh, I know I’ll die someday, and so will you,” we don’t “know it in our bones,” as the un-narrator puts it. When we do know it in our bones what then? My experience is that I am called back to what is real. It’s past the illusions of identity and the projections of home onto possessions, surroundings, the body. I’m just being. Everything else will be stripped away. The true and the reliable is still there. I don’t know. God we call it.

“Have you tried prayer?” I asked. I pray all the time now. Essentially, “Help! And thank you.” With no clear understanding of who or what I’m praying to. Amazing that such an action that sounds so vague in words has such repeated efficacy. “God is either everything or nothing” says our Gnostic patriarch, Bill W. I said to my self “let’s just have an open mind. Entertain the possibility that it’s all true. That more will be revealed and the only thing we need is functional humility, willingness, the open mind.” And it’s enough. Mystery. Go figure.

There’s nothing to do. We are literally incapable of imagining what will happen. Not as a defect or deficit of our powers. We just don’t have the imaginal capacity and accepting that is oddly comforting. I’m not in charge. Everything is God’s business. The only things I need to do are already happening. As Ornette Coleman said in an interview in the NYT the other day, in reference to a Jewish singer of sacred songs: “what he is singing about is what he is singing to.” God is everything even when we are adamantly asserting “I am not that.” That too is the gift given to know that we, in fact, are.

It’s a shame it all comes out sounding fairly esoteric and mystical, since it’s the only thing ever going on.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

communication breakdown

One of the startling features of sobriety in its early stages (which is perhaps every day for the rest of one's life) is the complete reconfiguration or outright obliteration of patterns long used in relating with others. The admission of powerlessness extends to everything, including arenas where our most tried and true control strategies have long held sway, in particular in the arena where we can be most hurt which for me is definitely relations.

For example, let’s say I’m involved with someone who disappears and refuses to communicate. The features have everything to do with abandonment and all of my control strategies around abandonment are liable to kick in. Rage, masked as a distant coldness, is bound to follow hard on some initial period of pursuing that which retreats from me. Faced with being abandoned, I would be inclined to completely suppress my entire experience in order to “get the person back.” But ultimately this submergence of who I think I am and what I am feeling causes a backlash of rage, of “becoming irritated and refusing to talk,” of passive aggressive withdrawal, silence, dishonesty, etc. The book is already closed at this point, baby. I might still be a body in the room but I am so far gone you’d think I lived on a different planet. It’s a control strategy for me, this “you can’t fire me, I quit” stance. The reified feeling of it, its substantial heaviness, is reinforcement for the core belief: You are completely and entirely alone and unloved. Anything happening that seems to call that core belief into question is an illusion, when the core belief is operating. So if someone I love disappears I have my old games and old internal conversations all set to go, worn in deep old familiar antediluvian grooves.

In sobriety it’s like watching those things happen while at the same time investigating the possibility of believing new beliefs and reacting in new ways. The strange aspect of life sober is that the old ways are fully present. Sometimes of course they are just operating unconsciously the way they always have, without even a hint of recognition. But more often there’s a consciousness standing apart from all those old dominoes, observing, and considering “well, what if what you think is happening isn’t? What if you don’t know the whole story and don’t have to know the whole story?”

Friday, September 22, 2006

Santa Fe Poker chapter 3

Here's some of the games that are frequently dealt.

Non-wild card games:

Texas Hold Em High Half Pot
This is standard Texas Hold Em except the betting limit is half of whatever is in the pot. About once or twice a session, betting can really heat up. Early round betting (capped at 50 cents) very rarely gets many people to fold, so you have to have a hand that holds up against draws. It's more common to be heads up only for the river, and whoever is still in there has been drawing, so it's easy to lose by then even if you had them beat along the way.

Regular Omaha
This is basically the four hole card high/low 8 or better game where you must play two cards from your hand in combination with the 5-card board. This is one of the only "cards speak" split pot games, that is, players don't declare but show their cards. A major difference from standard Omaha is that the best low is a 6432A, not a 5432A (in other words, straights and flushes must play high). Betting is usually regular, but sometimes quarter or half pot. If there is no low, it can be tricky determining high hand values even when the board looks threatening, as players tend to stay in high with just about anything. If on the other hand you have a low but it can be beaten, it probably will be. Fold.

Three-Card Texas Hold Em High/Low Quarter Pot
This variation on Texas sees each player dealt three hole cards. The best high splits with the best low. Betting can be up to a quarter of what's in the pot. It's difficult to know what the best high hand is from reading the board, since a player could have a flush with a two-suited board, or a well-hidden fullhouse (let's say hole cards are QQ7 and the board at the turn is Q547, for example). As a result, the best hole cards to get are three solid low cards such as A23, A34, A26, 234, etc. It's not a qualified low, that is, "8 or lower," so three low cards that work together without forming a straight will often take half the pot. Hand values high are more risky here, with two pair sometimes taking it and other times very strong, well-hidden hands being out there. If the betting heats up you just have to use your intuition as to whether it's a battle for the low or high. And two low cards with no help high, such as A29 with a board of 34K faces 10 bad cards at the turn and river (three aces, three 2's and 4 5's, although the A2345 straight could win high). A very tough game to read.

Old West (Traditional 5-card draw)
What can be said that hasn't already been said about this ancient poker game? Bluffing, overbetting the pot and check raising can be common. I generally stay out of the way unless I'm dealt at least JJ or better.

Brag/Pippi Longstocking/Pippi Stopsmoking/etc.
This is the three card poker game dealt in the film Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. Three hole cards are dealt to each player. To open, you must match the ante. Betting is pot limit from then on. The best hand is three 3's, followed by three of a kind from aces down, followed by a three card straight flush, a three card straight, a three card flush, high pair, high card. Note that a three card straight beats a three card flush. Catching a flush or better is rare. Most bets are bluffs or semibluffs with a pair or an ace. But not always, of course. Since it's pot limit, it sometimes gets some action, but rarely from more than three players.

That's basically it for non-wild card games. The most common wild card games come in the next installment.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

to do list

usually gets lost. The tendency is to make one of these and then set it aside, as if entering something on the list is the exact equivalent of getting it done. It's in the same category of a calendar or datebook or planner for me. Everything scheduled is actually in my head all the time. I've tried to use an "organizer" and I'm just not organized enough to remember to use it, keep it with me, refer to it, etc.

call mary about getting a Shannon Jackson show/workshop to happen here
rearrange room for overwintering cacti
contact IRS again about required paperwork for 5 year old tax debt
car: muffler, windshield, tune up, door, tires
radio show
4th step specifics
practice drums
get comps for play to review
business cards to Candyman for drum lessons
write novel, lol, hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha

I'll make the list tomorrow and get started Friday or Monday, I promise.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Santa Fe poker chapter 2

So, why is it "incorrect" to repeatedly stay in for one half of a split pot? And how do players consistently manage to win money despite doing this?

Obviously, the whole pot odds thing has to be adjusted if you are only going one way. If there's $4.00 in the pot and it costs you 50 cents to call your pot odds aren't 8:1 but 4:1, since you are only angling for half.

Let's say there's 4 betting rounds 25/25/50/1.00, a fairly common scenario, and 5 players in for the first two rounds, 4 for the third and three for the fourth. Total pot is $8 by the showdown, so if you're going one way you stand to win $4. You've put in $2! so by expected pot odds you need to stand a better than 2:1 chance to do better than breaking even. Obviously the number of times you actually have a better than 2:1 chance of winning half the pot are less frequent than the number of times you are in there til the end, so how do you win under these conditions?

Here's a few ways: you go solo because your two opponents at the end are going the same way you are and you beat their hands. You win the one way games a few times-- there are a few games that are not split hi/lo pot games, and these often have larger pots. So these one way take downs replenish the chips from all the other chasing and split pot hands. You force the number three player out and agree to split the pot with your heads up opponent. (This happens fairly often). You fold early in many hands when the odds are thin and you see any of the cards you need are not so live. Or, the opposite: you expect huge variance by staying in til the end on almost every hand, angling to play the players rather than your cards.

I personally don't like the headache of that and tend to play fairly tight. As a result I don't win a lot but I also don't tend to lose a lot. Tight play in split pot games with no qualified low and lots of wild cards, etc., would seem to make perfect sense, but even a cursory look at the math shows that playing tight means you are bound to lose money over the long run, even if only a little.

But then, a lot of what we do for entertainment loses us money. Right?

Next time an overview of some of the games and maybe a start on a poker glossary (mostly the slang creations of one of the finest home game poker players I've ever encountered).


Off to Lamy today to photograph some of the cacti down there. O. imbricata, phaeacantha, polyacantha, polyacantha v. trichophora, engelmannii (I think), Echinocereus viridiflorus and triglochidiatus, hopefully Toumeya papyracantha. There's some very odd looking Opuntias down there as well. Who knows.

Lamy has a sort of ghost town feel to it, despite the stunning degree of development going on in that direction. Just across the amtrak line by the hill that rises from the plain there it seems fairly unspoiled, especially when you start to rise.

Good place to do some step 4 writing.

Monday, September 18, 2006

thanks be to jeebus

Turns out if you type too fast and for some reason make the attempt to manually type the URL of this blog and misspell "blogspot" as "blogpsot" you get directed here:

Amazing Bible Studies


thomas edison battery oil

Who knew there was such a thing? The small weathered clear glass bottle found along the railroad siding in Lamy says there used to be, anyway. Who knows when? These people do:

Antique Bottles

I was kind of hoping the bottle was worth thousands of dollars. Ah well.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Santa Fe Poker chapter 1

On to more important issues: The Santa Fe Poker Variations. A loosely serialized description, in random installments.

First: the key role of high/low declaration games. “Declaration” is that moment at the showdown when you indicate whether you are trying to win the best high hand or the best low hand. The system here is to hold your fist out over the table, clutching one chip if you are declaring high, no chip if you are declaring low, and two chips if you think you have both the best high and the best low. After about 8 years of playing pretty much once a week, I am beginning to get a sense of declaration as a play, without regard to my actual hand. I used to declare solely based on my cards, without also trying to figure which way the other players still in at the end were probably declaring. This is safe, and fits my overall style anyway, which is generally to either have a real hand or not be in. Over time I slowly noticed that people stay in with pretty bad hands if they feel they might “go solo,” that is, be the only one declaring either high or low. So the mysterious intuitive and observant sense of which way players are going to declare can be refined and give you a stronger shot at more frequent split pots, even if you haven’t made a very good hand. This is especially true in three way hands at the end, which at a 5 person table is fairly common.

There is a distinct difference between low hand values and high hand values in many of the games. Hand values in general are extremely tricky, depending on wild cards, exposed cards, community cards, etc. Low hand values are often far more easy to determine than high. As a result, the general trend in many games is for most of the players to be trying to build a low hand. The best low hand here is a “64,” i.e. A2346. With no wild cards this is called a “natural 64” or a “natural” or even just a “natch.”

Low hand details: “the math”: two competing lows are compared by counting down from the highest ranked card. For example, a 6543A loses to a 6542A, since the 2 is lower than the 3.

Role of wild cards: The lower the wild card(s) the better: a hand of 643(wild 2)A loses to 6432(wild ace). A 64 with one wild card beats a 64 with two or more wild cards no matter the suits.

Crucial role of “suit tiebreakers”: two competing low hands that are identical in every respect are compared by suits starting with the 6. Highest to lowest suit: spades, hearts, diamonds, clubs. So, for example, with two “natural 64’s” 6d432A vs. 6c432A, the one with the 6 of clubs wins. In fact, a “natural 64” (no wild cards) with the 6 of clubs is unbeatable, and will always win half the pot. It’s something like the equivalent of a “natural” straight flush (or 5 aces high in a wild card game). If two 64’s share a 6 (because the 6 is a community card as in texas hold ‘em or Omaha) then the suit of the 4 determines the winner, etc.

The vast majority of hands dealt are high/low declaration games. So understanding the mechanics of low hands and getting savvy at playing lows and figuring out what’s happening low around the table is crucial. One of the facets of play that’s “incorrect” from a technical standpoint is the infrequency of so-called “two way” hands, also called “scoops.” The pros say that the best strategy for winning in split-pot games is to focus on hands that can potentially go both ways, taking down the entire pot. But in the Santa Fe game there is a lot of jockeying for half the pot without regard to “scooping,” and two way hands are quite rare. Next time I’ll write about the investment vs. winnings math of this one way play and analyze the positives and negatives of it.

chronicle of paralysis

Gee, do you think chest high weeds abnormally biomassed in a solid swath right outside one’s door might contribute to respiratory distress syndrome? I keep noticing this mini tropical rainforest of probably ragweed and thinking “I oughter really should yank them there suckers up” and then I. Don’t.

Project: make a list for a few weeks of all the things that pop into my head that I “should do” and don’t do. See if a pattern exists. See if perhaps behavioral change is in order or thought-habit change. Prior to lobotomy.

Then there’s the recurring experience of resistance, doing something in spite of resistance, and being glad that I did it. The step 10 workshop yesterday a fine example. Somewhere in the 12 and 12 Bill says “pain is the touchstone of all spiritual growth.” For a coddled Bohemic of the likes of me sometimes the greatest pain is doing something I think I don’t want to do. Or not doing something I think I want to do. This business of wanting versus not wanting to do this or that is tiresome.

A conversation with The Sponsor (I really ought to come up with another nick for him, something that reflects more the 360 degree value of the relationship…Obi Wan? Merlin? Psychopomp? Hermes Trismegistus? Basho? The Fool? The Emperor? Witch Doctor? Hmmmm)- anyway the conversation is around how we construe what we “want” and what we “don’t want.” This arises from time to time regarding the oft-heard “for many years I wanted to quit drinking but I could not.” Hermes says “no, you did not want to quit drinking. You thought you wanted to.” If we define ourselves by what we want or don’t want (if that’s one arena where we get a reassuring sense of identity) then, of course, it is an illusion, another example of us thinking we know who we are. Not knowing and not having to know provides a little occasional room to observe where we actually put our attention. This gives us an opportunity to experience more clarity about what we want or don’t want. It’s easy to lay claim to a desire or preference or aversion while behaving in ways obviously counter to the claim.

Again: I believe what people say and ignore what they do. This goes for my own head.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

morning person

not even a person in the morning, as Greg Brown says. Workshop with the Sponsor today, woke up feeling bound to go, despite misgivings due to the dwindling yet still lingering clutches of the crud. It's amazing to me how quickly these saturdays (the workshp is one saturday a month) come flying around. I have to double check just about every month, often thinking the same though: "the third saturday has to be next week, not this."

Which is not to say. What? Don't get me wrong, I'm all for these workshops. Not to say that.

Poker last night: up 11 dollars, ended up down 4.50. Roller coaster. The Santa Fe poker variations will some day be fully explicated herein. For now, I run late.

Workshop today: step 10.

where I am: a plaintive rendition of the serenity prayer.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

astro's just add water soul snapshots

It's Thursday, and that means "long term transits" are available for free from astro.

Transit 1:

A spiritual cast ***
Valid during many months: During this time your relationships take on a spiritual cast, and you are much more inclined to idealize the people you meet. If a lover comes into your life at this time, the relationship will be so romanticized that it will be in great danger when you discover that the other person is not as perfect as you thought. Overidealization in any relationship is a danger to be watched for with this influence.

There is also a strong tendency to get caught up in an ideal philosophy, a spiritualized world view that is so abstract and removed from the real world that you are neither able nor willing to function here. You may have a strong desire to escape and withdraw from the world, which can be useful in some cases. If you are aware of this tendency and know that it is temporary, you can make positive use of it. There are times when it is important to go off by yourself and meditate upon the meaning of your life and what you are doing with it. The only problem is that you probably cannot go off for the whole duration of this influence, because it usually lasts more than a year. But for part of the time this might be a desirable plan of action.

A spiritual teacher or guide figure may enter your life at this time, and regardless of his or her personal merits you are likely to learn something valuable from the encounter. That does not mean that you should take everything you are told at face value. After this influence has passed, you will be able to reevaluate what you have learned in the light of your own intelligence and experience. At this time your ego drives are rather low, which makes you less interested in questioning what someone tells you. You reflect very strongly on your own failures and inadequacies, not destructively, but with the aim of improving yourself.

Your relationships are characterized by increased empathy and spiritual understanding of other people's situations and needs.

Transit 2:

Out of the commonplace ***
Valid during many months: This influence emphasizes the creative and romantic aspects of your life. It can bring a new relationship or deepen an old one. A new one that comes at this time will be notable for the strength of the feelings involved. It could hardly be described as casual. There is a compulsive quality about the energies that drive you and your partner together, but this is not at all negative. It will merely seem to both of you that this relationship was inevitable, and you will both find that it is a learning experience of the best possible kind. You will learn a great deal about the energies within each of you that are at work in a relationship. You may discover that love is less conscious and that you act much more from blind compulsion than you realized. But this realization is the first step toward becoming conscious of your feelings.

Your existing relationships will also enter a period of creative change. Your feelings are stronger now, and again you will both learn more about the way you operate in the relationship.

Your creative energies will be aroused and if you are in any way artistic, you will be able to put deep, feeling energy into your creations as never before. Others will recognize the intensity that has gone into your work, for which you may very well receive considerable recognition.

Art and love will have one element in common during this time; that is, the experience of them will transport you out of the commonplace into the extraordinary, for that is what you are seeking. Art and love should have a considerable impact on your life now and affect your future for many years to come.

Transit selected for today (by user):
Pluto Trine VenusPlutoTrineVenus
activity period from middle of February 2005 until beginning of December 2006.

Transit 3:

Self-defense *
Valid during several weeks: Past behavior patterns that have become completely unconscious now become active and come into play without your knowing it. Your efforts at self-assertion are undermined by these behavior patterns that you are not even aware of. And unfortunately the people who are alienated by these actions probably will not come out and say so, but will work behind the scenes to block your efforts. The only way you can counter this effect is to become completely conscious of yourself and these little self-defeating acts. If you feel emotionally upset as you often will during this time, refrain from any kind of significant confrontation with others. Instead, confront yourself. It is best at this time to work alone as much as possible.

Transit selected for today (by user):
Mars in the 12th HouseMars 12
activity period from end of August 2006 until beginning of October 2006.

As always, we take astro's readymade mantic proclamations with a grain of salt.

sick as a dawg

Went to bed at 4:30 yesterday afternoon and woke up this morning at 7:30. If my math's right that's 15 hours of sleep.

Here's a post I sent to the St. John's College Alumni Mailing List, of which I have been a member since 1994: (The un-narrator is making me cut and paste it here...)

Hatch just got pretty much washed down to the Gulf, I wonder where
they were in their harvest? It's been very wet and stormy around here
for more days than usual.

In other chile news, a collective of growers from Chimayo continue in
their legal struggles over trademarks and preservation.

In news of the strange thoughts that go through my mind at 11:00 at
night in the local Albertson's:

This can't go on. It's unsustainable and revving completely out of
control. Shelf after shelf, aisle after aisle, inks, dyes, plastics,
cardboard, sucrose, fructose, corn starch, hydrogenated this and that,
processed, packaged, brightly colored hardly edible swill. Everything
for sale either candy or salt. Forty different "choices" for tortilla
chips, a hundred hundred toothpastes, crowning endless canyons of
distance foods, orange juice from three continents, cheap prewashed
mixed greens in a bag from Salinas that make one wonder "who
fertilized, pesticided, picked and washed?" 18-wheelers on the forlorn
unwinding interstates of America, hauling pallets of strawberries from
Argentina, trains carrying shipping containers through the
owl-and-whiptail dawn of the Mojave and the containers from a barge in
Long Beach, loaded in Taiwan, each container stacked with plastic forks, 10% post-consumer recycled paper napkins, discount mouthwash, the panoply of deodorant and antiperspirant and deodorant/antiperspirant, antibacterial hand soaps, toothpicks (from the soft woods of the rainforests of equatorial Indonesia), tampons,sanitary pads, juice drinks, nail clippers, disposable razors, tender baby squash from Ecuador, socks three pair to a pack knee high and nylon, canned clams, oysters, tuna, salmon, crab, scallops each pound a memorial to roughly 100 pounds of other sea life exterminated, endless rivers of juice, of syrup, of cooking oil, of car parts and paper and batteries (lithium are the longest lasting, innards mined strip-wise) and plastic cups and lawn chairs and mops, brooms,dustpans, garbage bags, and toxic cleaners, degreasers, disinfectants and.

For a few moments I could not move, under those manic cheery light. How have we become used to this? Inevitably, to what slavering, rabid desperate vicious animals will we be reduced when it crashes up against the necessary limits that it absolutely must crash up against?

My Johnny friends largely didn't want to hear my apocalyptic rant. Funny how it is sometimes: we see something as if it's crystal clear, express it, only to find that for others things just aren't that way at all.

The un-narrator also reminds me that "brotherly and harmonious action" ought to be "brotherly and sisterly harmonious action." Except that an exact quote of BobBill's text don't read that way.
Just the way the chapter heading isn't "To Significant Others" but "To The Wives."

Time passes.

Writing a Pick for a reading of a play featuring Ed Asner. He lives here, yet Gene Hackman keeps getting voted Best Local Celebrity. Asner's good for way more fun, the way we see it.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

12 steps are not the steps

Back from my home group meeting, Tuesday night Downtown Group, a small affair usually, and not so prone to some of the more formulaic AA Big Book rote approach. Some shared that the 12 Steps are "instructions" for maintaining conscious contact with a Higher Power. No, no, no. Well, if it seems to work for you to think that way fine, what do I know? The way the truth seems to me, there are no instructions, no road map, no magic bullet or magic formula or set of right actions or thoughts. If we could figure it out and then get it right, it wouldn't be God. Saying the 12 Steps are a set of instructions suggests two things: if we follow them "correctly" we'll stay sober, and if we drink again, we must have done something "wrong." Nothing seems further from the Spirit of the program than these eventual conclusions. Reminders, maybe. Tools for spiritual growth, possibly. Instructions? Nope.

Step 1 is where this repeated attempt to latch onto identities and control strategies really goes out the window. I don't want God in a box and I don't want some sort of ritualized and control/fear-based reduction of a spiritual experience. The "common solution" that we can all absolutely agree on and join in brotherly and harmonious action is a mystery, a point without a part, something ineffable that we only talk around or about.

Control based sobriety has some common features: "I was such an asshole before I got sober and now I'm a good person." That's one of the most common. I'll be observing others. But certainly "Work the steps as a guarantee that you'll stay sober" is another one.

change of the century

One of those modest titles that Ornette Coleman used, somewhere between This is Our Music and The Shape of Jazz to Come. I don't have the chronological order memorized, but anyway check out Ornette Coleman and Prime Time (bern nix, charlie ellerbee, shannon jackson, denardo coleman, jamaaladeen tacuma) from a Saturday Night Live performance in 1979. Introduced by Milton Berle, of all people. They perform OC's Times Square. Check it out as another reminder that OC releases his first CD in ten years today.

For several months I've been filling in at the Santa Fe Reporter doing the movie pages. Today's the second day I'm training the new movie person. (If you want to read some of the finest movie reviews anywhere, visit The Santa Fe Reporter and look for movie reviews published before June of this year....) Opera projects (see sidebar) start up in a couple of weeks. I sit in for the arts and culture editor at the Reporter later this week. One drum student. No paying gigs on the horizon. This has been my work life since getting sober and stepping out of a 20 year secondary school teaching career. I don't have any idea how to do it.

Yet I am in fact doing it. Don't ask how, just yet.

A few other rare and wonderful youtube discoveries from last night:

Booker Little with Max Roach, Ray Draper, George Coleman et al

Booker Little, same gig, doing Dameron's The Scene is Clean

A Classic Buddy Rich Solo, unmusical but a real drum lesson

Max Roach, doing his Hi Hat tribute to Jo Jones, elegant and fierce as always

Last Exit playing some smooth jazz

There will undoubtedly be more links, watch this space.

Monday, September 11, 2006


as in literally waking up in the middle of the night with half-digested linguine from Fatso's rising in my gorge. Very pleasant. Fatso's is Santa Fe's answer to the kind of Italian food you can get in South Philly or the North End of Boston or the right neighborhoods in Baltimore and Brooklyn. Huge portions, laden with cheese, clams, sauce, the whole deal. Problem is twofold: if you aren't in digestive shape for the onslaught, it's rich. Also, about a third of a single order makes for a meal, so whatever digestive issues you might be having are almost guaranteed to unfold over several days. You can't just throw the leftovers away, they're too good. I noticed that Fatso's now has an "NSF" column for many menu items, standing for "Not So Fat." Maybe I'll give that a try next time.

Recovery stands poised between what worked for the first couple of years and isn't completely sitting right anymore (like the linguine) and something new and mysterious. I advocated for pushing forward to 4th step work last week with The Sponsor, and of course haven't done a smidgen of writing on it whatsoever since then. Today marks exactly 29 months of sobriety.

Radio show this week: Fall Fundraiser for KSFR. Should I play "friendly" music or Braxton/Taylor/Coleman with the voiceover: "I will keep playing this until we get our pledge goal...."

Several amazing finds on YouTube last night by simply entering a musician's name in the search box. Video of Ornette from 1974 with Blood Ulmer, Billy Higgins, Sirone, for an Italian TV show. Very strange and transitional sounding, yet another version of Theme from a Symphony. A strained quality to the proceedings. Then: CT from the One Night with Blue Note tribute video, Braxton playing Impressions, Mahavishnu Orchestra in a bizarre BBC television broadcast, chopping their way through Noonward Race (with obvious petulance and ill humor on the part of Jan Hammer who seems particularly frustrated with Billy Cobham).

Destination-out supplies great South African jazz with Brotherhood of the Breath-- yet again they offer something I've not heard before.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

cactus photos courtesy of the unreliable narrator

Another love of mine besides music: cacti. The Unreliable Narrator always has her cell phone camera at the ready.

The above are all seed grown, 5-7 years old.

Astrophytum capricorne v. senile in flower.

Stick insect on a Peniocereus johnsonii.

spines...they are around all year, even if the plant flowers for only 1 day.


I dj a radio show every Thursday from 1-3 Mountain Time on Santa Fe's community supported public radio, KSFR (live streaming). I've done 5 shows so far and figured I'd post the playlists here. The Station Manager and I are still in conversation over the balance in my show, which is called Inside Out, between more traditional jazz and more challenging music. It's fascinating trying to put together a jazz show for a day time slot that has some edge to it. We'll see what happens....

Show 1, Aug 10, 2006:

Sonny Rollins Softly...Morning Sunrise A Night at the Village Vanguard
Charles Mingus Original Faubus Fables The Complete Candid Recordings 1960
Art Ensemble of Chicago Dexterity Message to Our Folks 1969
Eric Dolphy Epistrophy Last Date 1964
Joe Turner Cherry Red The Boss of the Blues 1956
Captain Beefheart Harry Irene Shiny Beast 1979
Ornette Coleman Street Blues Tone Dialing 1995
John Zorn Blues Connotation Spy vs. Spy 1989
James Blood Ulmer Sphinx Music Speaks Louder Than Words 1997
Bill Frisell Twenty Years Bill Frisell with Dave Holland and Elvin Jones 2001
Mahavishnu Orchestra Celestial Terrestrial Commuters Birds of Fire 1973
Miles Davis Black Satin On the Corner 1972
Miles Davis Sivad Live/Evil 1971
Thelonious Monk Brilliant Corners Brilliant Corners 1956
James Booker Sunny Side of the Street Spiders on the Keys 1993

Show 2, Aug. 17, 2006:

Keith Jarrett Shades of Jazz Shades
Albert Ayler Ghosts Love Cry
Oliver Nelson Yearnin' Blues and the Abstract Truth
Ronald Shannon Jackson Charming the Beast Texas
James Blood Ulmer Layout Are You Glad to be in America?
Material w/ Bill Laswell Disappearing Memory Serves
Steve Lacy Louise The Straight Horn of Steve Lacy
Serge Chaloff Body and Soul Introspection: Neglected Jazz Figures of the '50s and '60s
Pepper Adams In and Out Encounter!
Duke Ellington Happy Go Lucky Local Ellington '55
Archie Shepp Wherever Junebugs Go Live in San Francisco
Charles Mingus Reincarnation of a Lovebird Complete Candid Recordings
Fire Caught Fire Untitled Live at Zeitgeist
J. A. Deane/Out of Context Dark Passage Music for WENOMADMEN
Ornette Coleman The Artist in America Skies of America
Jimmy Lyons/Sunny Murray Riffs #5 Jump Up/What To Do About
John Coltrane Resolution A Love Supreme

Show #3, Aug. 24, 2006

Miles Davis Love for Sale Circle in the Round 1979
Elmo Hope St. Elmo's Fire Trio and Quintet 1957
Paul Bley When Will the Blues Leave? Footloose 1992
Cecil Taylor Remembrance Remembrance 1989
Duke Ellington Diminuendo in Blue/Blow by Blow Introducing the Verve Jazz Masters
Henry Threadgill Off the Rag Rag, Bush and All 1989
Booker Ervin Gichi Texbook Tenor 2005
John Coltrane Africa (alternate take) The Complete Africa/Brass Sessions
Grilly Biggs Excerpt High Mayhem Festival 04 2005
Andrew Hill Refuge Point of Departure 1988
Clifford Brown/Max Roach Powell's Prances at Basin Street 1990
Miles Davis Friday Miles At Fillmore 1997 Originally released in 1970.

Show #4, Aug. 31, 2006

Miles Davis If I Were a Bell Relaxin'
Mal Waldron Inchworm Update W
John Coltrane Blue Train Blue Train
Elmo Hope Hot Sauce Trio and Quintet
Elmo Hope Stars Over Marrakech Trio and Quintet
Herbie Nichols Double Exposure The Complete Blue Note Herbie Nichols
Herbie Nichols Cromagnon Nights The Complete Blue Note Herbie Nichols
Sun Ra Rome at Twilight New Steps
Sonny Rollins St. Thomas Saxophone Colossus
Joe Turner Roll 'Em Pete The Boss of the Blues
Ben Webster Pennies from Heaven The Art of the Jazz Saxophone
Duke Ellington Edward the Second The Intimate Ellington 1971

Show #5, Sept. 6, 2006

Sarah Vaughan Can't Get Out of This Mood This is Jazz 20 S
Stanley Turrentine Gravy Train Joyride
Cecil Taylor Things Ain't What They Used to Be New York City R&B
Ornette Coleman Broken Shadows Broken Shadows
Sonny Rollins Solitude Live in Europe
Sonny Rollins Valse Hot Three Giants!
Thelonious Monk Bemsha Swing Brilliant Corners
Max Roach/Cecil Taylor Duets (Excerpt) Historic Concerts: December 15, 1979
Cannonball Adderley Stardust Money in the Pocket

Here Goes

We do not know about blogging, and so we blog. Further proof for the weary that we don't have to know how to do something in order to do it. The Unreliable Narrator set this crazy thing up for me as a present for my 45th birthday. What is this thing? One of 25 million or more blogs on Al Gore's info superhighway. I picture myself wandering through the massed population of LA County mumbling to myself about Cecil Taylor.

Speaking of whom, listened to most of One Too Many Salty Swift and Not Goodbye for the first time in a long time this morning. (Prompted by certain comments at indicating a preference for CT's solo piano performances over his ensemble work). What struck me most was how it takes more than an hour for Lyons and Malik to enter (already after a series of solos and duets that are not included on the Hat Art lp, but are on the CD), and their brief intertwining lines segue immediately into a Malik solo. Also jumped out at me how wily Shannon Jackson was, how resourceful and what a formidable foil for Taylor's excursions.

Having caught a Ruth Zaporah show last night here in Santa Fe at CCA, I'm thinking about improvisation. "Form is possibility," said Taylor many years ago. Zaporah's arena is her Action Theater, which uses as its seed a gesture or movement. She was electrifying, further proof that improvisation need not meander, fall flat, lack form. I read somehwere on the internet someone's opinion that Keith Jarrett's "American Quartet" captured a kind of freedom within structure, unlike "Andrew Hill or Cecil Taylor, who were willing to let everything go." How could anyone's ears make a distinction like that? It's why, if "jazz" is not a terrible enough term, "free jazz" is perhaps the worst of the worst. If you have a relationship with your materials, your body, and your instrument, as Taylor also pointed out many years ago, form will arise out of the activity itself. If you can't hear the structures in Taylor's music (let alone Andrew Hill's!) we respectfully submit that your ears are a mess, not the music.

Anyway, why would a common preference be for Cecil Taylor's solo piano work rather than his ensemble performances? Pondering, pondering. What is the difference between the aesthetics of the two? I'll be listening and maybe offering some ideas. One thing is for certain: Cecil Taylor's "unit" recordings from various periods absolutely kick ass, representing the art of improvisation in all of its sustained, fluid beauty. The statements of Jimmy Lyons alone are, without exception, worth the price of every CD he's on.

Speaking of CDs- Ornette Coleman's got his first new one in 10 years coming out Tuesday, 9/12. Called Sound Grammar. No word yet whether or not Bush will declare a National Holiday.