Thursday, February 26, 2015

#MattGyver #Swiffer

So the gf locked herself out of her car and called me. Actually, she could get the passenger side open, but only about 6 inches, because she accidentally parked by a telephone pole, which prevented the door from fully opening. You see, some lost soul in Oakland tried to break into her car months ago, and only succeeded in making the driver side lock unusable with a key. So she has to get in/out of her car via the passenger side. She got out the driver side and locked it behind her, then realized she couldn't get in again via the passenger side. This is where MattGyver, and Swiffer, come in. 

I grabbed an old man cane I have from a Halloween costume, and our Swiffer mop handle, and walked up to where she was stranded. I could almost pop the lock using the Swiffer handle (the cane didn't work), which reached, but I couldn't get enough purchase. 
Couldn't get in via the trunk. 
Considered all the possibilities, and kinda gave up. Called AAA. 
But then I had the idea of tying the key to the Swiffer handle and turning the car on via the ignition which was reachable with the handle, and opening the passenger side power window. I connected the key to the Swiffer with some tape (tying it with my shoelace didn't work, as the key kept slipping), and it worked! Just as AAA was pulling up, I was able to get in the car. So thanks Swiffer, and thanks MacGyver -- I used to watch every episode regularly when I was a stay-at-home dad to my young son. Best, MattGyver 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

3 minutes of animation; 15 minute long single song

Came across this strange, funny, short, Monty Python-esque animation when checking out godheadSilo online. ghS' drummer made it.
Who are godheadSilo, you ask? Well, before there was the mighty Lightning Bolt, there was godheadSilo. 

And, yes, it's stylized as "ghS": godheadSilo. And I love Lightning Bolt too. 
Here's my cover of the ghS song:

Friday, February 20, 2015

Crumbs film (not to be confused with CRUMB)

Black Mountain Side

I recently caught a film on a lark after work in San Francisco recently and the film was part of a film fest. It was kinda cool -- I got to officially rate the film afterwards on a ballot. It's a low budget thriller/horror film called Black Mountain Side which once again shows that low budget does not necessarily mean bad. It's actually quite a good film. It's equal parts The ManitouThe Shining, Alien, Alien Vs Predator, The Thing, Ravenous, Wendigo, and David Lynch's short film Rabbits. But it's not just empty derivativeness; it's got its own identity; I found it well-acted, well-made, compelling, and darkly humorous. Two thumbs up from my two hands!

It concerns a structure unearthed in the Canadian arctic and a bacterial virus released due to the unearthing (and possibly global warming). Sounds cheesy or unoriginal, but the film focuses on the subtle, ambiguous effects on the archeological crew, and the psychological horror that unfolds. It sounds formulaic: create creepy vibe, establish sympathy for characters, then have everything go to shit and fall apart; there's yr movie. But I was never bored, and the film works in a memorable way that shows that even movies that wear their influences on their sleeve and have somewhat cookie cutter plots can still be really good, if handled right. I also liked how the film doesn't have a single female in it, and is about a rather rugged and manly crew (beards, brew, trucker hats), but the SF audience gave it a hearty and heartfelt round of applause once it was over. The SF Bay Area is of course where you frequently see people transitioning their gender and a lot of ethnic diversity, and hear questions like "What pronoun do you prefer?" (referencing people who feel agendered or neither male nor female, or people who don't see things as either "boy/he" or "girl/she" and go by "they" or something instead). The SF Bay Area is so bleeding heart liberal that the streets are slick with the blood. But the film they watched didn't need to be politically correct, or have a perfect racial balance, or correct stereotypes, or be some little darling of the liberal bourgeoisie, etc. It was just a good film -- largely about bad stuff happening to white males (maybe that's why the audience clapped so heartily?). (I jest.)

I also liked how the film incorporated the Native American myth of the Wendigo (I forget which tribe and am feeling too lazy to check), a deerlike creature that is a bringer of bad things (like cannibalism and violence*). There aren't special effects in place of good film craftsmanship, or a lot of gore (though there is some intense violence and body/mind horror), which I appreciated. Good stuff. Check it out.

* I'm sure some scholar of the Wendigo will correct me on that and say what the myth is more accurately about, but here I'm talking about how the Wendigo is portrayed in cinema (often horror films), however accurate or not that is to the source myth. 

Sunday, February 15, 2015


I discovered Buddhist writer Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse recently and was intrigued by the above book, because I often wrestle with this very question: Am I a Buddhist? Can I be a Buddhist? What does it mean to be a Buddhist? Will my postmodernism-leaning self even allow the Grand Master Narrative of Buddhism?
Khyentse -- who, thankfully, goes by the single name Norbu as well -- tackles the above questions in a straightforward, simple, humble way. He says that a lot of people get into the material ephemera of Buddhism -- the rituals, the robes, the bells, the "look," etc -- while failing to understand the core of Buddhism. And he also -- I was really impressed at this -- admits that a world full of Buddhists might not necessarily make a better world. ("Not necessarily" is Buddhism in two words.) He lays it out thusly: there are four core concepts of Buddhism: 

All compounded (or fabricated) things are impermanent. 
All emotions are pain.
All phenomena are illusory and empty, or in other words have no inherent existence (no essence). 
Enlightenment -- Nirvana -- exists outside time, space, and power. 

The above four are what constitute a Buddhist. You needn't shave your head, you needn't be a vegetarian, you needn't be a saint, you needn't never get angry. In Norbu's words:

So, what makes you a Buddhist? You may not have been born in a Buddhist country or to a Buddhist family, you may not wear robes or shave your head, you may eat meat or idolize Eminem and Paris Hilton. That doesn't mean you cannot be a Buddhist. In order to be a Buddhist, you must accept [the four points above]. It's not necessary to be constantly and endlessly mindful of these four truths. But they must reside in your mind. 

I think this is pretty solid. Things like compassionate behavior, befriending yourself, serving others, gentleness, meditation, anger management, patience, etc -- all these help to give Buddhism a good name, but the core of the psychology/religion/philosophy are the four above, and they hopefully lead to things like compassion, open-heartedness and open-mindedness, selflessness, etc. 

What I really like about Norbu's approach (and this varies wildly in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition) is that he doesn't equate Buddhism with happiness (unlike the Dalai Lama). Norbu doesn't say that enlightenment means feeling good, or free, or happy. 

Too many Westerners (and even many Easterners) equate the Buddha with the happy, jolly fat dude you rub the belly of for (financial) luck. That's certainly not Buddhism at all. Or too many Western practitioners practice what Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche calls "spiritual materialism" in which people use Buddhism to feel good, enhance their sense of self/ego, and play a superficial role, as if Halloween was 365 days a year. True Buddhism is pretty pessimistic and painful -- Schopenhauer understood this hundreds of years before Trungpa clarified things. 

So, am I a Buddhist? Is it possible? I don't know. But it's a fascinating journey, and the four truths above (different from the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism, which are specifically about suffering) are difficult to refute. And, at the same time, I think the Dalai Lama is right in ways -- human life is about happiness. And someone like Trungpa Rinpoche -- womanizer! drinker! smoker! carcrasher! -- understood Buddhism far deeper than many before and since him have. 

So the question remains open-ended, but I thank Norbu for making some things clearer, and trying to take Buddhism to its bare roots (Dharma Punk Noah Levine is working on this, too). For me, the important things are daily meditation, self-improvement without self-aggression, helping others, compassion, patience, and remembering from time to time the four postulates. May all beings suffer a little less. 

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Words & Music


How to Build an Android by David Dufty

This is the true story of how roboticists, AI (artificial intelligence) theorists, academics, programmers, engineers, etc, built a life-size android of late author Philip K. Dick, whose books often dealt with the topics of what it means to be human, and what reality is, and how the head of the android was lost in a human, all-too-human moment of forgetfulness aboard an airplane while the head was being transported. 
A bit dry and academic, with lots of detail and semi-tangential info, but I got into the story around page 60 (of the hardcover edition) where it describes how the robotic head actually had its origins as a mashup between a rewired Big Mouth Billy Bass and an automated computer learning system called AutoTutor. Intelligently written, this book raises great questions about that first question above, what it means to be human. Recommended. 

My favorite part is when Philip K Dick Android is asked repeatedly about his favorite movie, and his surreal response: 

And some of what I've been listening to of late: 

Sunday, February 8, 2015

The Portal

Really cool article about how -- especially in America? -- places that are geographically close, walking distance even, can be worlds apart.
I like how the article notes how people from (white, affluent) Rockridge (a part of the Oakland, CA megalopolis), when faced with an audio/visual portal to their (black, poorer) comrades in East Oakland, basically complained about blacks' stereotypical (and, to be fair, in some ways true) noisiness, and the blacks complained about feeling spied on without explanation (since the art piece originally had no explanation). Regarding the latter complaint, I think this is perfectly understandable. (The second link is to an article I wrote under a nom de plume, Matt Pamatmat, about this exact topic as it manifests in southern Marin County.) I like how this project shows that art can embrace prickly topics in a more nuanced, indirect way, and how it reminded people that they, we, are not the centers of the universe.

Friday, February 6, 2015

New Jersey

We are, to some extent, where we come from. Like the state I'm from, I find myself as demonized (in some circles) and misunderstood as ol' NJ.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Catching up, catching colds

A cold virus weaseled its way in (good job, immune system) so I'm laid up, feeling like hell. But a good opp to catch up on some reading: an old Believer magazine (June 2013) article about a guy who willingly gets bitten by venomous snakes (the article begins with him, freshly bitten, at an Applebee's); the new Scientific American mag about the Neanderthal mind; the new Cometbus (A Bestiary of Booksellers); Dreams of Donuts zine #s 14 & 19 (the former feat. a first person account of Oakland's legendary punk squat the Hellarity House -- including a funny bit where a resident refuses to leave despite consensus, thus creating a squatter-within-a-squat situation); and -- a new prized possession, acquired for fifty cents used: an old Revolver mag with a tour of Ronnie James DIO's house in Encino when he was alive. I learned that the ol' devil horn-throwin', legally-a-little-person, OG D & D rock elf RJD: COLLECTED STUFFED ANIMAL FROGS. Like, cute ones. (Also, his "home studio" was hilarious -- it looked like a stereo from Kmart on a table borrowed from the Salvation Army.) Soundtrack for all this: I've discovered Austrian one man drone band Bird People. Particularly this album.

Our old, enduring friend, the common cold rhinovirus. We have beer for dogs, apps for everything, ridiculous shit hawked on Shark Tank, and yet we can't figger a way to do away with ol' Rhiny V. 

Monday, February 2, 2015

Cambo & Korine

I don't know if Harmony Korine's new 10-minute documentary is verifiably true or not. You never know with these jokers like Kornie, Herzog, et al. But either way, it's pretty fascinating, and I think that Cambo* -- redneck, naturalist, survivor -- represents a kind of authentic human being that has largely been lost in the sub/urbanized, politically correct, litigious, police state, postmodern world. When shit doesn't make sense in Cambo's world, or stuff gets too fucked up, the woods make sense. This is why I think it is so important to fight for natural, wild spaces.

I'm also fascinated by how ridiculously resilient and tough catfish are. When I was young, vacationing on Cape Cod, I caught a catfish in a lake and brought it up to the house we were staying in in the pines.
Then I forgot about it.
For three hours.
It was still breathing, still alive.

* if he's real, and his story is true, so be it. But it almost sounds like they thought up the name: "Rambo... Bambo... Cambo!"

Harm Korine's stunning wife, Rachel, third from left. Has nothing to do with my blog post. I'm just trying to increase readership w/ some good ol' t & a.