Friday, December 28, 2012


I suppose I shouldn't gloat, but my son was in the lead when I pulled off the triple word score using all my letters for the bonus 50 points... 90 altogether with MOWS and AT in the bargain. OK, I guess I will gloat just a little.

Drug danger and dependence

Time to switch from coffee and wine to psilocybin? I suppose there are other considerations. Source.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Some Vandermark 5 for the holidays

In some superior alternate universe the Vandermark 5 are a lot more more popular than Maroon 5 or Ben Folds Five...

Nice light today

Andy Goldsworthy's Stone River is looking a little muddy, but fantastic nonetheless...

Is that a pot o' gold or just another IP law firm...?

Something new...

... popped up in the yard. Resembles the deadly Amanita ocreata, though there are harmless species that look somewhat similar...

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Grab your parachutes boys and girls...

... looks like we're headin' over that fiscal cliff. Gotta feel sorry for Johnny B...

Your FSA/OWI photo of the day

Washington (southwest section), D.C. Negro woman in her bedroom. Gordon Parks, 1942. Being a noir director at heart, perhaps, Mr. Parks may have been overly fond of the narrative in his still photos. But the picture is still worth a thousand words.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Your FSA/OWI photo of the day

[Tule Lake segregation center, Newell, California]. Pete O'Crotty, 1943. In some of O'Crotty's photos, the younger folks in the "relocation" center seem to be having fun... summer camp in far northern California, courtesy of Uncle Sam... these folks don't seem quite so sure.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Your FSA/OWI photo of the day

Advertisement for an egg and chicken farm on U.S. 1 between Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, Maryland. Reginald Hotchkiss, 1941. Your eye is quickly drawn from the ostensible subject to the linear abstraction of the composition... who was this Hotchkiss?

Your FSA/OWI photo of the day

Mountain woman by her home up Stinking Creek, Pine Mountain, Kentucky. Marion Post Wolcott, 1940. The stoicism that can only come from a lifetime in Stinking Creek. 

Saturday, December 15, 2012


The film is nothing if not Spielbergian, right down to the John Williams soundtrack, which as expected sounds like a cross between Star Wars and a Ken Burns documentary. I'll leave it to others to comment on the history and politics of the film, which for mainstream American pop seem pretty solid to me. What I will say is that the movie is mostly worth seeing for Daniel Day-Lewis's performance. He cannily embodies the archetypal Lincoln that every American school kid imagines, and yet renders that mythical creature in flesh and blood... and poetry. This is the Lincoln your mind will conjure from now on.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

70 is the new 27

Damned if all parties don't rock harder than they have since their original bands broke up...

Un-heavy metal

The background visuals are lovely, but better yet, close your eyes and let Bill Dixon and Tony Oxley take you on their 12-minute journey. During his early childhood on Nantucket, did Dixon learn those squeals and rumbles from distant whale songs? And does Oxley's fondness for the thunder and clang of gongs and cymbals originate in the mills of his native Sheffield? Nah... more likely just pure delight in the fellowship of making endlessly fascinating sound from rounded pieces of brass and bronze.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Can Music Be Perfect? Vol. 25

I do so love the goofy "Mr. Spaceman," and then those amazing, fleeting days with Gram Parsons, when they invented country rock. But this here is 2 minutes of pure pop pleasure, from winning lyrics to Hugh Masekela doing that Latin thing. Runner-up: Patti Smith's version, which plays the irony in a somewhat different direction...

Friday, December 7, 2012

Uvas Canyon

Sorry kids, I shoulda been grading your final exams today. But the sky and running water beckoned. Uvas Canyon is a short drive from San Jose, tucked above Morgan Hill. The ranch lands and vineyards you pass through along the way are splendid any time of year, and worth the drive by themselves.

Uvas is known for its pleasant seasonal waterfalls, but the flora always attract my eye. Here's a typical view from the waterfall loop trail...

Madrone, the most beautiful tree in the world...

Serendipitous oak critter...

The sheer brute force with which a fleshy mushroom  can force its way up through the packed earth never ceases to amaze me (a russula, in this instance)...

... or, appear as if dropped by some wayward hiker...

Oysters... tempting, but too pretty (and too high up) to collect...

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Beautiful nor-Cal

Chuck B seems to like fungi and the UC-Berkeley Botanical Garden as much as I do. I was just up there a couple weeks ago. It's every bit as glorious as his photos make it out to be, and that's saying something.


Never my cup of tea, really. But nobody ever sounded anything like him, and there's little doubt he left a mark on American music and culture. Everybody will be playing "Take Five" today, even though it was written by Paul Desmond and owes its fame as much to his fine, slippery alto sound as it does to Brubeck's piano.

Instead of some Brubeck, how about a song that captures some of his milieu, with a balance of sincere nostalgia and a little sneer (it is Donald Fagen, after all)...

I hear you're mad about Brubeck
I like your eyes, I like him too
He's an artist, a pioneer
We've got to have some music on the new frontier

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Open source donations for the holidays

In addition to giving your hard-earned money to support the important work of Amnesty, MSF, Nature Conservancy, Second Harvest, FAVL, and the like, why not send a small amount to your friendly open-source information sources and advocates, such as Wikimedia and Creative Commons. Can you imagine a world without Wikipedia? It don't grow on trees.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Fiscal cliffin'

Seems like the prez may be tellin' punkinhead to go F himself...

Saturday, December 1, 2012

After the rain... Huddart Park

Beautiful any time of year, but at its best after a good soaking greens up the moss and lichen, and stimulates the fungi to fruit...

Like many humans, banana slugs love oyster mushrooms...

Satan's bolete is always impressive, even when half rotten. FYI, I returned it and the resident salamander to its original location after photo...

Billy Joel

Happened upon Billy Joel in conversation with Alec Baldwin on NPR today. As expected, it was pretty annoying, but also rather entertaining. Which got me wondering... why is it that I hate Billy Joel's music so much? Is it possibly because it really sucks? Yup, that's it all right!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Would tapping America's energy cornucopia speed economic recovery?

Nah. My colleague Steve Smith and I are fracking skeptics, tree-huggers, and fact-based economic realists, as our recent op-ed suggests. The Chamber of Commerce begs to differ.

Friday, November 23, 2012

David S. Ware, RIP

Somehow I missed news of his death last month. A great one: his huge sound was unmistakeable, and his commitment to the pursuit of beauty--wherever it might take him--was uncompromising. As a player, in my view, he stands with Hawkins or Rollins.

This one is not for the faint of heart, but it gives a flavor of the man's power and intensity. With very cool Matthew Shipp piano.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Can Music Be Perfect? Vol. 24

Maceo kills. Listen to the whole thing... relentless.

Sunday, November 11, 2012


My recollection of Ronald Reagan's approach to environmental policy is that he maintained that trees pollute, and generally favored massive deregulation, cost-benefit analysis be damned. It's surely a good thing if he made an exception for the Montreal Protocol to control CFCs. But it's disingenuous at best for Cass Sunstein to claim that cost-benefit analysis is "a tool disliked by many progressives but embraced by Reagan," as if the left remains the major obstacle to a rational approach to climate change. Most of the mainstream environmental movement came around to CBA and market-based policies, such as a carbon tax or cap-and-trade, some time ago. Meanwhile, the mainstream conservative movement in the United States, including the GOP, has gone all in for an anti-intellectual, anti-science ideology that denies the problem before it even gets to talking about a solution. Whether that is because they have an irrational commitment to some fantasy Randian worldview in which the unfettered market can do no wrong a priori, or because they are in the pocket of the fossil fuel industry, I cannot say. All I can say is that Sunstein should know better. If he thinks invoking Reagan will sway some Republicans, I say good luck with that.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

What a great country

Sure, we have our problems, but where else but America could someone have come up with this unsettling little masterpiece...

Friday, November 9, 2012


... are pretty cool. Questions remain... Are we a divided red and blue, or a thousand shades of purple? That turns out to be a gray area...

They all axed for you...

... they even inquired about you!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Mr. Coates is reminding me...

... why I should feel damn good about this election: here, and here. Now let's push on the policy agenda: screw the budget deficit until we get started fixing the climate, and putting the country's poorest and most marginalized people back at the top of the priority list.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


... to all you folks who can now tie the knot in several states that begin in the letter M. Oh, you too, Mr. President.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

I made a cat bus terrarium

Well, I carved the structure, and some enterprising (and beautiful) fungi did the rest... as they invariably do.

Friday, November 2, 2012

The opportunity gap and the political gap

This piece by Lane Kenworthy provides a concise and well-informed discussion of the causes of and potential policy solutions for the apparent decline in intergenerational economic mobility in the United States--that is, the failure of equal opportunity. A central tenet of the "American creed" is that over their life course, people should have a roughly equal chance of pulling themselves up by their own bootstraps. Recent trends toward greatly increased income and wealth inequality would sit a little better with many if they were not accompanied by a caste-like divide reproduced across generations.

Because he advocates a more activist and redistributive role for government, Kenworthy's prescriptions will appeal more to liberals than to conservatives. But he does not short-change the views of James Heckman and others, generally associated with the right, that changes in family structure have played an important--perhaps central--role in reducing upward intergenerational mobility in the past several decades. Policy interventions in families are constrained by the requirements of basic liberty and respect for the private sphere, but there is still much that a thoughtful and sensitive government could do to provide support and assistance to disadvantaged parents and kids.

Or so say the wonks. But even if the wonks offer some good ideas about how to narrow the opportunity gap, we also face a gap in political will. Last night I joined a standing-room crowd at Santa Clara U to hear Bobby Seale speak. He was plugging his books and movie projects, but in the meantime offered a compelling if somewhat meandering account of the history of the Black Panthers. If some of his recollections were self-serving (a young person could get the impression the Panthers were right up there with ma and apple pie), it was nonetheless bracing to be reminded of a time in American history when grassroots activism was forcing social change, while simultaneously promoting community self-help in the form of school breakfast programs, health clinics, etc.

Seale believes that what scared J Edgar Hoover most was not those angry black men and women with their afros, rhetoric, and guns, but those free breakfasts for little kids. That was ground zero for the revolution. The wonks would agree.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Can Music Be Perfect? Vol. 23

The album version is a little bit better musically, but Rubén's bell-bottoms, goofy haircut, and sweaty upper lip are pretty damn irresistible. Not to mention El Profesor Joe Torres on the piano, and a sound for the ages.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Surprise, surprise...

... the NY Times endorsed Mr. Obama. The case is well argued, but would it have killed them to note some serious disappointments? For me, those would include Obama's endorsement and adoption of dangerous abuses of power associated with the post-9-11 Bush/Cheney security state, such as assassinations, detentions, drone attacks, state secrecy etc., and his near-silence on climate change. Would Gov. Romney do better on these dimensions? What a laugh. When all is said and done, history will judge Obama a damn good president during his terrifically challenging first term. He deserves a second.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Can Music Be Perfect? Vol. 22

Court and Spark still sounds like nothing else made before or since... and yes, perfect...

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Your Willow quote of the day

"Chemistry's easy. It's a lot like witchcraft, only less newt."
If you have no idea where this could come from... I'm sorry for you...

George McGovern, RIP

“I always thought of myself as a good old South Dakota boy who grew up here on the prairie. My dad was a Methodist minister. I went off to war. I have been married to the same woman forever. I’m what a normal, healthy, ideal American should be like."

“But we probably didn’t work enough on cultivating that image,” he added, referring to his presidential campaign organization. “We were more interested in ending the war in Vietnam and getting people out of poverty and being fair to women and minorities and saving the environment."

“It was an issue-oriented campaign, and we should have paid more attention to image.” 

Tricky Dick beat him 520-17 in the Electoral College. More attention to image probably wouldn't have been enough. At the time I was 14 and helped my parents get out the vote for the local Republican Party. Back in '72 there were still liberal Republicans, and even Nixon himself turned out to be left of Clinton or Obama on policy in some respects. Of course he was also an evil bastard. McGovern may have been inept at politics and out of step with the mainstream, but an evil bastard he surely wasn't.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Arcade Fire

As do many other people, Mr. Krugman seems to like them. What are the good things about the band? Well, there are quite a lot of them(!), and they seem able to play together with impressive enthusiasm. Then again, staying together is probably easier when all your songs sound the same. They do provide a comfortable way for people in a certain age demographic (mea culpa!) to feel like they are keeping up with the latest sounds, which is also a good thing. Speaking of musical good things for old guys, here's a better one...

Friday, October 19, 2012

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Can Music Be Perfect? Vol. 21

It's all beyond good, but the timbales, yowch...

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

A little tango...

... to take your mind off whatever...


... the president's debate strategy, that is, I presume...

Monday, October 1, 2012

Bad week for Marxist historians

The deaths of Eugene Genovese and Eric Hobsbawm within a few days of one another mark the waning of a generation of historians strongly influenced by a version of Marxism that emphasized the role of class struggle as a driving force of world history. The contrast between Genovese's 180-degree twist to social conservatism and Hobsbawm's "unrepentant" communism is also emblematic of the fate of the socialist left since the Cold War. They don't make 'em like that any more... a mixed blessing.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Willie and the Wheel

The band has the chops, and Willie is, well, Willie. Definitely one for the desert island.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

I'm lichen it

Among the most strange and beautiful little growing things.

Mammoth trouble

I've read that maybe we could clone one and bring them back...

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Martian sand below Mr. Lincoln's ear

Why a 1909 Lincoln? Easy: NASA thought the launch would be in 2009, the centennial of the introduction of the Lincoln penny. I often think the penny should be phased out, but it is a great coin, thanks to the dignified profile of Abe, and especially back in the day of the beautiful wheaty tail side.

Photos from Curiosity... wow...

You know Mitt's in trouble...

... when Barry gets a tacit endorsement from Bibi...

Thursday, September 20, 2012

47% and all that

This excellent graphic from the NYT pretty much tells you what you need to know about how much people pay in taxes by income class. All things considered, we have a flat tax beyond $50,000, and not very progressive below that.

Meanwhile, Mr. Obama takes the high road, but still manages to twist the knife subtly, with his signature style. As TNC puts it: "Barack Obama -- master of the slow soundbite. It's like watching Kareem's sky-hook."

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Hafez Modirzadeh

Driving in this morning, I heard a track from this new album by saxophonist Hafez Modirzadeh on the Stanford station. I had three immediate reactions: Man, is this cool! And man, is that piano out of tune! And man, that out-of-tune piano sounds strangely fantastic on those tone clusters!

When the DJ said it was Vijay Iyer on piano, I knew the tuning must have been intentional, and sure enough, it was.

Highly recommended. Something new in the tradition.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Can Music Be Perfect? Vol. 20

Randy Travis offers some rationalizations... the art of self-pity at its very best...


I love bugs... and they got some handsome ones in Mozambique...

Containing health care costs...

... north of the border style. As Krugman points out, they do it with a single-payer program that is pretty popular and provides good care. One-and-a-half cheers for socialism!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Your FSA/OWI photo of the day

Guard at company town. Jefferson County, Alabama. Arthur Rothstein, 1937.

Gehry and Facebook

Let's face it, the Bay Area is something of an architectural wasteland, notwithstanding a couple of nice Wright buildings and the Golden Gate Bridge. So I'm delighted that Facebook has recruited Frank Gehry to design their Menlo Park expansion. Being an oldster who kinda likes having his own office, I'm not sure I'd want to work in that warehouse, tasty snacks notwithstanding, and it's unfortunate that their campus is so remote from mass transit. But I look forward to looking at it when I drive out to the Dumbarton Bridge.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Late summer in the front yard

This is when the California buckwheats are at their very best: fading (unevenly) from hot pink and creamy white to rich chocolate brown. Eriogonum grande rubescens on the left, E. fasciculatum on the right.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Some people think...

... that silly hip-hop was "doper" back in the 80s or 90s. Perhaps they are right, perhaps...

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Gangnam style

You either got it or you don't...

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Your FSA/OWI photo of the day

Chopping cotton on rented land near White Plains, Greene County, Ga. Jack Delano, 1941. A photo so stagy, condescension may trump dignity, whatever the artist's intentions...

They ain't Sleater-Kinney...

... but then again, who is? Hoping they get out soon.

Hot cheetos and takis

Gotta get me some takis...

Thursday, August 16, 2012


In Wunderlich County Park, almost all the tanoaks of any size have succumbed to sudden oak death. The brown tree on the left is a case in point. The green tree immediately to its right is another tanoak, about the same size and age, and only three feet away from the dead tree at the base. Seemingly alive and well. Why?

Paul Ryan is pretty conservative...

... in case you didn't know. Click on it to see better. From the voteview blog.
[UPDATE: see below]

The folks at voteview rescaled their chart: the Senate is blown up, probably for clearer comparison with the House distribution. Thanks to alert reader MD.