Never be afraid to get dirty, but be sufficiently sure-footed to avoid the abyss of contamination.



Her name was Dorothy, and she had an extra ticket. Little did I know that Dorothy would lead me to a tornado that symbolized The End. Toto, I don’t think we were in Kansas… ever.

Dorothy had recently retired from UC Berkeley’s Chemistry department and was without a doubt a fan of Radiolab. She had grown up in Oakland and had been around for the end and revival of The Paramount*. She mentioned that when the doors of The Paramount were first reopened, there was still pop corn on the floor from its earlier close. We made smalltalk before the program began, hours before its inevitable end.

Then there was the beginning, with the host of Snap Judgment, a band, and the entrance of Jad and Robert with an MGM-like banner across a backdrop of three screens with a fancy cursive heading: “The End”.

Jad and Robert then proceeded to discuss what that meant for the dinosaurs and wove a fascinating, forensic, adjectival tale of the final hours of the dinosaurs (minus the ones that would become birds, of course), which took place some time between June and July some hundreds of millions of years ago, complete with animatronic dinosaurs, music, and explosive special effects.

They described the moment of impact, the vacuum that would have been created in the atmosphere, as the meteor on its tail end hurtled down towards Earth like a tornado, threw gaseous rock up out of the atmosphere, where it reformed as glass, returned to the Earth due to the planet’s gravitational pull, and now spread out across the planet to create the world’s most intense meteor shower, enough to heat the Earth’s surface to the point that all dinosaurs’ blood would have boiled across the planet within a matter of two hours.

I remained skeptical about the tale, particularly how anything would have survived (e.g., my great-great-great-great-…-grandmother), but then they explained how, and I suspended disbelief.

It was around this time that Jad and Robert needed to take a break, so they brought Reginald Watts to the stage, who entertained with his brand of comedy and music, thanking Disney, Nickelodeon, and NPR in a final song that had the audience laughing.

They returned to pull out the periodic table, whereby they discussed bismuth**, its criticality to producing a bottle of the pink stuff, and concluded the segment with a toast to what I imagine was actually strawberry milk, lest they suffer from nightly indigestion.

The program ended with a poignant tale of Samuel Beckett’s Endgame*** as it was performed by two actors suffering with Parkinson’s disease.

The night concluded with some music, not by Jim Morrison or The Doors, but by Mr. Watts and the Radiolab band.

It was the perfect button to the weekend.

* An impromptu improv performance at the Continental Club in West Oakland on Saturday was purportedly once an Oakland institution and featured Richard Pryor(‘s grandson) as well as Redd Foxx(‘s nephew). There were empty beer cans, perhaps remnants of its own apocalypse.
** At a monoscene practice this weekend, a hospital room contained a periodic table that highlighted the element bismuth.
*** Is this one even necessary?


The Weight

I’ve been flying around a lot the past few weeks and completely went off my routine. My bag has felt heavier, and I’ve generally been tired.

I couldn’t wait for today to end, but before it did, I would be renewing something that had until a few weeks ago had been routine: guitar lessons. It was mostly something to check off the list, but when L answered the door, smiling as usual, I felt something lift.

He asked me about my travels and what the autumn leaves had been like in Boston. I could take a hint, so I smiled, tuned my guitar, and started playing while he comped.

We then spent a few minutes catching up. What had I been up to musically in the past few weeks? I mentioned that I’d tried recording myself play a few songs. Which ones? I started playing and singing, and he joined me:

Flew into Nazereth,
I was feeling ’bout half past dead
Just need some place,
Where I can lay my head.
“Hey, Mister, can you tell me,
Where a man might find a bed?”
He just grinned, shook my hand,
“No,” was all he said.

I took a load off, and we followed up The Band with a bar or two of Frank Ocean and Fleetwood Mac, before moving onto some Yusuf Islam (meow), during which L gave me some pointers on palm muting.

“That’s quite the repertoire,” L mentioned, and offered that he thought of me earlier that day when he taught one of his students to play “Cape Code Kwassa Kwassa”, which I had inadvertently taught him a few months ago.

We played for a bit when he asked me about “Blackbird”. I mentioned that he’d given me the tabs before, but I didn’t have it in my head yet. L quickly ran through the chord positions, and I mentioned that the tabs didn’t have the chords, which made it seem more complicated than it was.

L immediately printed out a new copy of the tabs and had me start going through them, marking down the chords. It was a great exercise, the progression was really simple (I, ii, iii, I, IV, V, vi), and it made me feel like Paloma or one of her classmates in Joshua Davis’s recent Wired article.

We ended the night with a run through Bon Iver, talked about Croatian wine, and then it was time…

To head back to Ms. Fanny,
You know she’s the only one
Who sent me here with her
Regards for everyone.

Zaz – “Je Veux”

Je ne comprends pas bien le français, but I was recently introduced to Zaz‘s “Je Veux” through a friend, and I can’t get the song out of my head. Here’s an online version of the song, which uses an interesting choice of background:

Get Him to the Greek

I stick loneliness,
Your lips,
And the two coins
Of your eyes
Into my pockets.

When I’m riding high,
Feeling fine,
You know there’s something
Troubling my mind.

So I reach into my pocket
For some small change.

— “Two Coins” by Dispatch

Dispatch played at the Greek last night, but my path to see them was a bit circuitous.

The detour started a couple nights ago when I decided to join in a Saturday morning bike ride with a couple of friends in the Oakland area. The ride started at 10 am and would take us through the Berkeley and Oakland hills, through Tilden Park, over to Orinda, and finally down Claremont, for a total of about 40 miles. For interested parties, it was a variation of the following route: Oakland-Orinda loop.

I made sure to stretch before starting the ride, but arriving to meet my fellow bike riders in Rockridge, I noticed I was otherwise a bit underprepared when it came to the journey: no tubes, air pumps, arm warmers, bike shoes, and the like. I also felt a bit out of shape: no matter how hard I tried peddling, changing gears, etc. I was biking a lot more slowly than my friends. As we went up one of our first climbs, they slowly made their way out of sight. Then I heard the sound: POP! I tried peddling, but couldn’t will myself forward. We were only four miles in, and I seemed to have lost my energy. Then I checked my wheels: flat tire.

My first call ahead went straight to voicemail, as was a text. Then, a response! They’d be on their way, and I could hang tight. When they did return, switch out my tube, and inspected it, they noticed the problem didn’t come from a piercing of the tire, but a lack of enough pressure in the tube, causing it to tear when enough pressure fell upon it. They checked the air in my other tire and noted it was an accident waiting to happen. When we finally started biking again, I found that with air in the tires and a little more effort, I was now able to keep pace with my friends. The ride took us through some pretty cool sights, and I was glad I went.

When I got back, I stretched a lot more, hoping to avoid any serious cramps or other problems due to the long ride, and a day later, I am happy to say I feel pretty good. Then it was off to meet with ON for dinner and the concert. ON had just gotten married, so there was a lot to share over our Cheeseboard dinner aside from bonus slices.

Then it was time to head up to the concert. For those who haven’t been, the Greek Theatre is located at the top of a slope, and the stone steps separating the aisles are large. At least they felt that way, as I realized I had maxed out my legs from the bike ride, and it was a bigger challenge than usual in getting up there. Rather than go straight up Hearst, we took a more scenic route through Virginia, and before long, we had made it to the Greek!

Stephen Kellogg & The Sixers were the opening act and started with their version of “Wagon Wheel”, a variation of a song originally sketched by Bob Dylan.

The Sixers played a few more songs, but as their act wound down, the crowd started to fill out and become a bit rowdier. Dispatch made it to the stage soon thereafter and with a set that started with “Here We Go”, they didn’t disappoint.

Two encores! The first started with the band playing hide and seek among the audience while singing Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth”. They then continued with a few songs, ending on “The General”. The second encore started with a rhyming couplet (“If you’re going to stay, / We’ll continue to play.”), the song “Elias”, and a bit of dancing.

It continued with “Two Coins” and ended with “Out Loud”, in which they created a musical morph by switching into the chorus of Simon and Garfunkel’s “Mrs. Robinson”, which I then discovered had the same chord progression as the chorus of “Out Loud”.

And here’s to you Mrs. Robinson,
Jesus loves you more than you will know.

Do you suppose that I would come running?
Do you suppose I’d come at all?

Well, I’m resting up my legs today, but I suppose I would.

Secondary Market

About a year ago, I joined a mailing list filled with people who couldn’t make concerts last minute and were trying to unload their tickets. In fact, all concerts I went to last year were of a second-hand nature, except of course the ones that were free. There’s something pleasant about not having something unexpected work out last minute, and since joining the mailing list, I’ve relied on this type of serendipity for almost every ticket purchase I have made for a concert.

To date, this has included Vampire Weekend, Dave Matthews Band, and John Legend. Next week Dispatch will join that list.


It probably started yesterday morning, but things just built into today. There wasn’t anything particular that happened, just a bunch of small things going well at roughly the same time, and it brought about a rhythm and flow that I enjoyed reflecting on during the evening.

Things were going so well, that even when I went past the Fox today, and the crowds clued me into the knowledge of what I was missing, there was still a huge smile on my face.

Words from Africa

It looks like Goodluck Jonathan has won the election in Nigeria.

ubuntu: 1. an ethic or humanist philosophy focusing on people’s allegiance and relations with each other.
2. A linux-based operating system.
3. An amazing vegetarian restaurant in Napa.

I am strong, if you are strong: “Elias” is a song with some of its lyrics deriving from the Shona dialect: I blogged about those lyrics some time ago. Anyway, I recently discovered the Elias Fund website, which has an interesting tagline.