On the Death of David Bowie

There’s “passing away with style,” and then there’s “I’m going for one more encore, and I’m not just going to love this, I’m gonna strike the boldest dot imaginable on the exclamation point that is my life.”

When I heard about David Bowie’s death, I partly expected to hear about him doing something notable or dramatic on the way out — ain’t that just like him.

The end is near, the odds are tangibly impossible, and even as the world comes crashing down around his ears, here he is on set casting a music video, singing with that same sweet, silvery passion that’s defined so many of his life’s other accomplishments.

Not florid prose nor mournful discourse nor simple wonder can properly describe the inspiration and beauty in such a gesture. Lyrics here. Links to the Canadian and American Cancer Societies as well, because why not contribute?

Now, if you haven’t clicked PLAY on the above video, you’d better turn off everything else around you right now, and load it up.

And don’t forget the encore …

May you be well remembered, and remembered well in all the ages to come.

With Liberty and Firearms for All

One of the issues that’s come up repeatedly in contemporary US politics is the idea that the 2nd Amendment conveys an individual’s right to obtain, possess, and openly carry firearms.

The realm of law and order is not unlike the fashion world in that over time, new trends emerge and fresh items of interest arise, while established trends can be played down or may fall out of favour entirely. Interpretation matters most, and that interpretation is generally subject to the linguistic evolution and societal attitudes of the period. In the case of the 2nd Amendment, the legislation has been furiously debated in a modern setting as to the merits of its grammatical structure and meaning, other historical precedents, and differences between the original and ratified versions.

The recent push for widespread ‘freedom’ enshrined in law as permitting individual gun ownership wasn’t always so. Up to the turn of the 21st century, it was widely accepted by many (even conservative Chief Justice Warren Berger) that an individual right to bear arms wasn’t a thing. Many conservatives at the time carried the same torch and stood in opposition to what they believed was a silly, if not fairly hazardous, idea.

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Anti-Intellectualism and Politics

During 2015, Canada took a conscious, introspective turn toward a more progressive journey as voters elected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Since then, we’ve been making inroads on a significant departure from the attitudes of the prior administration and staying mostly true to this. While there remains a lot of heavy lifting to do in correcting the anti-progress legacy of Stephen Harper, we’re on the road to recovery. There remains a certain faith in government, such that we’ve significantly boosted voter turnout. That in itself speaks volumes.

The change of administration brought with it some very public moments, like the new equality cabinet, the rise of an aboriginal chief as Justice Minister, and the appointment of an internationally respected war hero as Defense Minister.

While these changes are in all respects welcome, and in most cases long past due, it’s the subtle stuff we don’t see going on behind the scenes day-to-day which contributes just as much if not more to the shaping of our character as a culture of many different cultures. The way our politicians behave toward one another, their interaction with the people, their willingness to champion progress and education, their attitudes toward strangers, and their compassion towards the ‘other’ — all of these are the measure of a politician whether that individual is within view of the press or not. One thing I found reassuring about this past election was the conscious rejection of divisive politics by the Canadian people. What we have right now is not perfect by any measure, but it’s a lot better than the alternative might have been.

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Keeping Our Perspective on War

When one takes a bird’s-eye view of battle and civilian casualties by the numbers, the results as shown above are shocking.

All of this helps one maintain a healthy sense of perspective, and reveals that not only do present-day news channels and distributors exaggerate the frequency and ferocity of conflicts on a regular basis by flooding the public space with over-reporting and embellishments, but we almost invariably are fed information to arrive at a mindset that makes us forget on a daily basis the major powers have not fought one another since World War 2, and today’s war deaths (military and civilian) are minuscule in comparison.

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Owl Give Ya Somethin’ Cute …

I present for your viewing pleasure one baby Great Horned Owl singing The Monster Mash.

My life is officially complete.

Auditory Flashbacks: Hungry Lucy

This is the title track from their 2010 album (lyrics here). If this isn’t pure, wild, refined beauty, I don’t know what is.

Looking back in time, Hungry Lucy has fit my tastes in a decidedly odd way over the years. I’ve been a fan of their work since at least 2000 with the advent of Apparitions, but somehow their original work didn’t end up in my collection until more recently.

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Reclaiming Old Tech for Music

I was browsing Slashdot earlier today when I came across a really cool article showing how Toolbox Bodensee e.V. took a bunch of old floppy drives, added a controller with a piano interface, mounted the lot on a board with 3D printed hardware, and turned their strange marriage of parts into an entirely new kind of instrument.

Here we go …

… and it only gets weirder from here.

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Tea: the Perfect Metaphor for Consent

In light of all the news stories discussing people who’ve had problems conceptualizing sexual consent or establishing reasonably safe boundaries for engaging in sex, these animators came up with a novel way of explaining it.

Here’s consent rewritten as something anyone can readily understand and communicate to their partners:

Financial Corruption and Value Dilution in Higher Education

I’d been browsing through the news recently for a collection of articles to share on a rather broad topic: the influence of moneyed interests on the educational system. This is a longstanding interest of mine, having grown up during a time when a year in university cost about $1,200, and having watched tuition rates and living costs balloon exponentially ever since. But what shocked me into getting the links to this post up that much sooner is this emerging story from the US:

“The Securities and Exchange Commission on Tuesday said it brought fraud charges against ITT Educational Services Inc. and two of its top executives, alleging they misled investors about the looming financial impact of two badly-performing student-loan programs on the for-profit educator. […] ITT formed the student-loan programs to provide off-balance-sheet loans for ITT’s students in the wake of the financial crisis, when the market for private student loans dried up and for-profit schools created new ways to help students pay their tuition bills.”

source: Wall Street Journal

Let us further expand on the dialogue surrounding money in education for the benefit of those who haven’t been as immersed in the debate:

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A Primer on Global Warming and Climate Change

Chances are you’ve heard some mention in the media or among government in recent years about the topics of global warming, extreme weather, or climate change. I won’t do scientists the indignity of considering the matter a ‘debate’ much less use this word, because it would imply we’re still at the stage of trying to see if the meter swings one way or the other on this important issue. No, much to the surprise of many, science has developed itself extensively and spoken in great certainty: there is no longer any debate, and global warming and climate change are both real and caused by humans.

So if there’s one post you peek at on the subject today, let it be this one.

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Understanding Electronics: The (Non)Magic of Free Energy

I figured I’d make a brief post to wet my readers’ feet in the vast pond of electronics engineering. Here’s a really interesting video about the subject of free energy, narrated by a specialist who actually works in and understands electronics, and is able to point out in fairly common terms why and how free-energy devices are not possible to create.

TL;DR — it’s not because there exists any set of special workarounds to our existing laws of physics, or that alternate laws of physics exist for well-known phenomena that are somehow waiting to be written. Rather, it’s almost universally the case that people, even well-meaning ones, tend to misinterpret units of measure, fail to properly conceptualize mathematical equations, and fail to incorporate numerous scientific procedures and principles in their work. To add fuel to the fire, most people who champion free energy devices generally choose to spend their time with those of the same mindset, an effect which in time multiplies the shaky deviations of comprehension and foundational studies, and further diminishes the capacity to be self-correcting.

Auditory Flashbacks: Helium Vola

For those who haven’t heard of them before, today’s post is going to give some examples of the amazing work that’s been created over the years by Helium Vola. Based in Germany, active since 2001, and headed up by composer Ernst Horn who also holds considerable renown for his other work under Deine Lakaien and Qntal, Helium Vola mixes the haunting intonations of numerous dead languages with the effervescent melodies of its ongoing electronic, neo-medieval, and neo-classical explorations.

While the overall atmosphere of most of their work is markedly ethereal in nature and has long found its greatest strengths in that style, it hasn’t stopped the band from branching out in other ways, as can easily be noticed over time. This has resulted in certain tracks giving an utterly chaotic feeling at times, periodically lapsing into wide variations of melody and tempo, producing rather unexpected results that can tend to be a strong hit or miss to the listener. This is more prevalent in their recent albums than the older ones, seeming to come and go at whim on certain tracks, suggesting both an ongoing, ephemeral sort of experimentation, and perhaps unexpectedly tapping into a listener’s more visceral reaction. There are times one wonders what’s suddenly transpired, when all of a sudden the song weaves back into its original tone and tempo, that much stronger for the juxtaposition.

This is something that’s highly subjective, to say the least. You’ll have to listen for yourself and decide.

Also, while Helium Vola’s work tends not to be first thing that springs to mind whenever one thinks of the word ‘dance,’ the raw, organic, fluid emotions expressed in these songs and their quietly restless rhythms bring a special contribution to the table, and when one is immersed in the soaring vocals and fluttering tones of certain songs, it’s not long before one feels the sensual wisps of temptation pulling at the mind to sway and drift in unison, to speak melody through motion, to aspire to dreams that fly as high.

On a personal level, I’ve found this a very rare experience to discover in any musical artist, and I find myself wishing we had something — anything — like it in Canada. Alongside bands like Qntal, Ataraxia, and others (who will be discussed in future posts), I’ve noticed HV falls into a very specific niche even within the gothic subculture where their particular style seems much more widely recognized. I find it odd they’re not more well known given the obviously dark direction in which their music leans, but either way, it doesn’t really matter so much as the fact I feel better off for having experienced their work, and I’d like to offer the same to my readers. It took years of exploring before I found them, and that was largely by accident.

Without further ado, let us take a brief journey through time.

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Sheep Pong and Other Feats of Engineering

So, I loaded up Facebook this morning and saw this in a friend’s feed:

Sheep. Pong.

This is SERIOUSLY awesome.

There’s no easy way to explain the efforts that probably went into making this video, or the huge amount of time it must have taken to set things up and get them working just right, but as a part-time home tinkerer who owns a few cases of electronic and LED parts, I can appreciate the extremely difficult, beautiful feat they’ve done with this.

Good work, and keep doing what you love. My hat’s off to you, sirs.

Amidst the misty tides, and the Sentinel song.

My earworm du jour …

While it was at first the melody that caught my attention and made me shimmer a little on the inside, when I finally got around to reading the lyrics I realized all of a sudden that this has pretty much been an anthem for the past few weeks.

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The Canadian Parliament Attack and its Aftermath

On October 22nd, gunshots rang out on Parliament Hill as a single gunman, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, attacked a group of soldiers on ceremonial duty at the National War Memorial, causing the death of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo. The gunman then proceeded indoors at Centre Block, where at the time caucuses were still in session, and fired several more rounds before being engaged and killed by House of Commons Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vickers.

While the scene initially unfolded like the wild script of a Call of Duty game, with the added horror and panic among a multitude of onlookers, the difficult reality began to sink in as the events left a strong impression on our national psyche. Since that day, Canada as a nation and as a culture has been left to wrestle with the highly nuanced circumstances of these events and the incidents leading up to them.

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Auditory Flashbacks: Darkhaus

Earlier this week, I was listening to some music I’d been introduced to quite recently when this little earworm by Darkhaus came screaming in.

It’s called “Son of a Gun,” and it’s way too catchy to keep to myself.

Listen, enjoy, and pass it on:

Lyrics (here).

(NSFW) Followup: SWAT Standoff at East Burnside & Carroll on 2014-08-09

Shortly after one o’clock on Saturday morning, officers from the Victoria and Saanich police departments attended reports of a naked and possibly armed man screaming at residents and running the across rooftops of several businesses near the intersection at East Burnside and Carroll. The man was first spotted holding what two bystanders believed was a large kitchen knife, later revealed in video footage to be nothing more than a rolled-up T-shirt.

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On the death of Robin Williams (and celebrity deaths in general)

I wasn’t planning to post anything today, at least, until I realized I probably owe my friends and readers an explanation about why I don’t tend to mark the occasions of celebrity deaths. It’s something I’ve mostly taken for granted, but on the flip side, I’m not sure if it’s something those around me understand that well since I haven’t opened up too much about it.

So, here’s my explanation in a (very large) nutshell:

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Auditory Flashbacks: Johnny Hollow does Temple of Love!

It’s been a while since my last post, and that’s because I’ve been fairly busy with several projects on the go.

Anyway, I heard this song tonight and had to share:

Auditory Flashbacks: This Ascension

It is presently five o’clock in the morning, and I just arrived home from work.

Along the way, I was hit with a realization, the same one I’ve had many a time but never really shared here before: finishing these late shifts always ends with a really quiet ride home, and it’s something I’ve grown to appreciate. It feels like cycling through a dead city after the zombie apocalypse has come and gone, with not a soul in sight unless you count wildlife, and even that tends to be pretty isolated and sparse in the three-to-five window of time.

Actually, I love it. The world just seems like it’s teetering on the brink of something amazing at moments like those, so full of quiet possibilities, so very ready to burst forth into a flurry of life and motion.

In the spirit of that solitude, here’s a blast from the past from a band who (sadly) isn’t together any longer but whose memories and glorious sound will always cast a comfortable shadow in these halls … This Ascension!

And you’ve got to admit, there’s hardly a better sound to accompany a sinking crescent moon and indigo skies.

Forever Shaken ( +lyrics ):

Angel Light: