Psych Jazz 1969

I was poking around in the tattered Real Book I got from my first guitar teacher and happened to notice an oddly trivial snippet just below a classic Coltrane tune.

“Memphis Underground”? Wha? So I pulled it up in Spotify. And my mind exploded. I had stumbled across a peculiar and wonderous artifact from the peak (or depths, depending on how you feel) of the psychedelic era: Herbie Mann’s 1969 “Memphis Underground” album.

It’s jazz, in a sense:

  1. Instrumental
  2. Long vibraphone and flute solos
  3. The flute is funky

But then again, it’s chamber jazz noodling packed into the psychedelic rock framework, or vice versa, like a two-person horse costume where the front and back legs are different heights.

The jams are one chord, mainly, which gives them a primal urgency, and the harmonies are designed to accommodate the five-note scale every rock guitarist learns first.

That scale is critical for enabling electric rock guitar. It’s that fuzztone blues rock you’d ordinarily find in garage punk freakouts like Os Mutantes or Psychotic Reaction. In places, it’s out-there noise worthy of Confusion is Sex or White Light/White Heat.

This was 18 months or so *before* Bitches Brew. And regardless of the date, BB was upmarket compared to Herbie Mann. Miles is subtle. He can’t help being high art. He used rock but he was bigger than it.

Memphis Underground had a hint of outsider art. It was raw, awkward and unforgivable. It was not the better album, but it was more punk.

So what the hell was it doing in The Real Book, nominally on par with a John Coltrane piece? The JC thing is unusually short for him, just 12 lightly filled bars. Even so, the Herbie Mann tune – which has a one-bar bass line, a four-bar melody, and one unchanging chord – makes Coltrane’s look baroque.

I think the Herbie Mann thing just happened to fit the page. And maybe also it was a little tiny bit genius.

P.S I couldn’t not add this tune to my Shot and a Beer 1971 playlist in Spotify, which is about butt jazz, not head jazz.

December 25 is for chumps. December 28 is the future.

Christmas presents don’t have to cost what they do. Just move your personal gift-giving back to December a few days, then shop during after-Christmas sales.

There’s nothing magic about the 25th of December. The day was chosen for convenience in the first place.

Kids won’t even know until they’re old enough to understand the calendar.

Thinking Militarily about Laptop Theft

I’m typing this from a defensible position high above the cafe because the other day I saw a laptop get snatched. Today I am in a loft extension above the service floor. That day I was two tables from the front door, and the laptop which was stolen was at the table closest to the front door. I am nowhere near the front door today.

I was typing with headphones on. I heard a crash right in front of me and looked up. There was a woman half-standing beside a chair that had been knocked over. The exterior door was closing. The thief was already outside. I rushed to the door but saw nobody on the street.

The snatcher planned his line of retreat with care. There was nothing in his way. It was the shortest possible hop from the point of attack to the outside. Inside the cafe, many things could go wrong. Outside he had the advantage.

I must have been his second choice. That there was a slightly better victim is the reason I still have this machine I’m typing on.

The attack was similar to another one I saw once – a phone snatching on the subway.

The train was half-crowded, like the cafe I had been in. There were enough people for there to be a well-positioned victim and for the thief to blend in. There were not too many people for the thief to move freely.

The victim was in one of two seats closest to the door. It was a woman. She was in an aisle seat with no seats ahead, exposed from her right side and in the front. The attacker positioned himself just behind, with a clear path to the door.

The train was pulled into a station with the doors open, but the attack didn’t happen until just before the doors closed.

The victim must have been looking down, into the screen and her interior world. The attacker was waiting just behind her shoulder. The train pulled in. The doors opened. A few people got on or off. He moved. Grabbed. Ran out the door. Made a sharp left. The doors shut. She was hardly in motion. He was gone before she had time to react.

Can I watch your laptop while you go to the bathroom?

A better question is whether you can watch your own laptop while it’s right in front of you, while your own hands are on the keyboard.

I won’t say no, but I can’t really help you. You have to be aware before crime happens. Attackers may be dumb, but they don’t want to be caught. They plan carefully.

To protect yourself you have to establish a reasonable line of defense. Sometimes you just have to think militarily in daily life.

How to quit Facebook? One day at a time

Today is December 5. My browser history shows that the last time I logged into Facebook was November 25. Ten days of separation.

Most recent Facebook visit in my history, as of December 5, 2019

Since then there hasn’t been a day when my fingers didn’t itch to go there. It’s been ten days of itching. The strength of the itch is easily on par with quitting smoking.

One substitute has been increased Twitter usage. (Ok, yeah, yes, I get what’s wrong with this).

There have been gains in positive habits. More of my writing is blogging, which is more substantive. For quick breaks between tasks at work I’ve been reading blog feeds via RSS, often from my blogroll. For emotional connections online I’ve been Slacking with friends more; this is intimate and nourishing in a way that Wall posting could never be.

In December 2018 they had 2.32 billion monthly users, of whom 1.52 billion checked in at least once a day. FB isn’t a technology, it’s a behavior.

It’s been a week since I’ve been on Facebook. This blog is helping me stay on the wagon.

My fingers itch for it, but I’ve been able to stay away. It feels like quitting smoking. Cigarettes were a reflex. They were linked to specific contexts, like the waiting-for-the-bus cigarette.

The waiting-for-the-bus Facebook.

It took me many tries to leave cigarettes behind 100%. The fails taught me all the ways not to fail, one painful lesson at a time.

I don’t miss the same overposting marginal acquaintances, day after day. Some of them I was charmed by, but with most of the people whose posts appeared in my feed, we had no relationship apart from the algorithmic sizzle.

I got crushy on one overposting marginal acquaintance – that’s how good the posts were. She dated a slightly less marginal acquaintance who lived across the hall in my freshman dorm. I was not super impressed at the time, but over the decades our tastes must have converged. It wasn’t a sex appeal thing, only the posts.

A few of the people in my feed were real friends, and the social network nourished our relationship in a way that was genuine. One of those folks sent me an email a couple of days ago as a followup to a Facebook thread a month back. I’ll need to develop new lines of connection with the people I care about.

I might even send some letters, that’s how bad things are. At least I still have Twitter.

Wordophobia word of the day: internet (as a verb)

Wordnik is for wordophilia [sic].


A list of 21 words by aweissman

I wonder if there is a place for wordophobes.

“Wordophobe” is a fine choice for a list of favorite words, or of most feared ones.

Another good non-word is “internet” used as a verb meaning to contact somebody using the Internet. Emailing somebody is internetting them. Calling on the phone is not. DMing is internetting. Knocking on the door is not.

Speaking of turning nouns into verbs, when you do that it is called verbing. A thing about verbing is that verb is a noun, so using it as an action is an instance of verbing. Verbing is verbing.

Clark Kent Enters the Phone Booth

This could be you

A coffee shop is not a bad place to do deep focus work like writing, but you can’t do business calls there. There is too much background noise, the environment isn’t businesslike, you come across as unserious.

I don’t know of any cafes which provide soundproofed phone booths. They wouldn’t make sense, given that the business is really about selling food.

Not a cafe

So why not have standalone businesses which provide public phone booths? There would be a glass door. They would be soundproofed. There would be Internet for video calls. The provider would charge by the minute.

Step inside and travel to other dimensions

What does coworking have over cafes, anyway? Apart from phone booths, how is WeWork really better than Peets?

Bit freshener

Updates updates updates all the time. You have one! Get to work! Did anything change? No! Yes! Who knows? Quick, fix it! Did you break it? Who would know?

Updates are the opposite of bitrot.

The Jargon File, a compendium of hacker lore, defines “bit rot” as a jocular explanation for the degradation of a software program over time even if “nothing has changed”; the idea being this is almost as if the bits that make up the program were subject to radioactive decay.


Wait, why quote Wikipedia quoting the Jargon File when I can just quote the Jargon File?

Hypothetical disease the existence of which has been deduced from the observation that unused programs or features will often stop working after sufficient time has passed, even if ‘nothing has changed’.

The important thing is that *bitrot does not exist.* I know that seems insanely obvious. Bits do not rot. They are purely abstract. They live forever. A bit is a bit for all time.

And yet if it is true then what are all these updates doing?

Now get to work.