Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Memoirs of a Fresno Bus Patron

While most wake up groggy, dreading even the thought of sitting in an office all day.......I also wake up groggy, dreading even the thought of sitting in an office all day, BUT...there is some silver lining, some glimmer of hope that I will enjoy at least 30 minutes of my morning. I am proud to say I ride the bus to work every day (unless I have a very important responsibility that requires my immediate presence right after work; like my woodworking class). It is in this small time-frame, between the hours of 7 and 8, from the corners of Van Ness and Floradora to Shaw and Willow, that I find endless amounts of enjoyment.

The FAX bus system is not for the faint of heart. US city buses carry with them the stigma of being forced to ride mass transit because you are too poor to afford a car (excluding the large metropoleis like San Francisco or New York). This stigma is even more severe in Fresno because everyone has a car and it is almost impossible to get anywhere without one. Thus, FAX is left to service the homeless, meth-heads, crack-heads, destitute, indigent, mentally disabled, and the downright dirty. Throw a whole lot of crazy in the mix and you've got yourself a complete picture of Fresno mass transit. I have quickly learned to throw all assumptions of human behavior out the window while on the bus. It is because of this unexpectancy of the homo sapien that I get excited about my 30 minutes with these people every morning. The people I encounter on the bus embody the complete opposite of what we would view as a "normal." The following story is just one account of the typical FAX passenger.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

CurrentTunes: or What I've Been Listening To Lately

I don't know about everyone else, but I was quite taken with the recent "Live Love" post.  The idea of sharing a playlist with several people at once like that had never occurred to me.  So here I present the first installment of "CurrentTunes."  I'm not going to say this will be weekly (or even monthly), but it's definitely a very intriguing idea.  I don't want to make this a really long post, raving about every song and why I like them.  But I'll say this much: these are several (mostly) mellow tracks that I've been enjoying over the last couple weeks.  Why these?  Various reasons--I downloaded some Traveling Wilburys after watching a particularly awesome episode of Community and remembering my love for this classic song; the Dusty Brown track is featured on King Lines (or was it Progression?) and is just really cool; Milkman's Union is my friend's band from Portland that I saw at One Longfellow Square last Saturday (stay tuned for some new songs from them).  And as for the XX and the Gil Scott-Heron remix, well, I just really love the guitar licks that the XX lays down.  So, check these out (you've surely heard some before), and if anything is new and exciting for you, comment and let me know, and send some cool tracks back my way.  Enjoy.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

the tip of the iceberg

The tip of an iceberg is a metaphorical sign of a relatively small symptom or problem that’s belying something far more troubling. Some fairly straightforward calculations involving the different densities of water and ice and the volume of the former displaced by the latter reveal that the tip of an iceberg is only about 10% of its mass. The rest of the iceberg, 90% of its mass, stays submerged – unseen, but its presence not unfelt. No, icebergs have been unable to successfully hide their true mass from us ever since that unforgettable historical event that has left such an impression on humankind. Am I referring to the actual sinking of the passenger liner Titanic or the cinematic depiction thereof? Well, I’m actually not sure which event has been of greater import to raising overall iceberg-awareness. But regardless of its origin, the awareness is here. Sink a reportedly unsinkable ship once, shame on you; sink a reportedly unsinkable ship twice, shame on me. (And in both cases, shame on the reporters.)

Friday, April 22, 2011

Live Love

Most of you know that I have a special place in my heart for the city of brotherly love. The reasons are many: It was a short cruise down there on 95 in highschool, and we knew kids at Drexel. It was a real city with lots of life and history, but didn't feel intimidating, or expensive like New York. It was scary and exciting too, but not altogether that dangerous. Most importantly though, it was a place to see live music and had a great community of smaller to medium sized venues capable of housing known, but still undergroundy bands - and of course the Tweeter center was right across the river in Camden for the bigger shows like DMB, Allman Brothers, Phish, etc. I have no memory of feeling safe there though. Philly also had a large live electronic community, and I'm not sure how or when this started, but bands like the New Deal, Particle, Lotus, EOTO, Eliot Lipp and Sound Tribe always made stops at places like the Tower theater, the Trocadero, the Keswick, the Theater of Living Arts and of course the Electric Factory.

It might have been 3 years ago now the last time I saw Lotus at the TLA, but things were still the same. It was their "christmas party" and the crowd was filled with people I was "sure" I had seen before, and apparently all the families and friends of the band were in attendance. They played an amazing show of classic songs also tossing in some really silly/crazy covers including a tease of Killing in the Name, and a jammed out version of Hyrule Castle. I got thrown out for underage double fisting, but walked back in the front door with no problem. Nice. When we left we were greeted with the loving hiss of the mafia, just like old times.

It seems like these days I hardly have time to see live music. I could have seen a master class on monday night from the guitarist and drummer from Wilco, but I even missed that. As a result I have more and more drifted into listening to albums, and falling for the blogosphere. But, one thing I always like is to listen to live music anyway. I love listening to artists reinterpreting their own music live, and the energy that comes from a crowd/musician interaction. Truly the most magical recordings I have in my library are often improvisations, and will never happen again. I give you a playlist of 10 incredible live versions of songs you may or may not have heard.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

one from the vaults

This is something I recorded back in the summer of 2010, which feels so recent when I think of it, but sounds so distant when I say it. I recorded it in my basement when I had access to an electric guitar and amp, but I have neither now so I can't really do a whole lot of revising -- instead I'll just share it.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

In Defense Of A Great Band

I know this might bother a few of my coauthors, but for all their commercial success, the Red Hot Chili Peppers are a great band. They have certainly had their set-backs, mostly centered around their longtime compatriot, the horse. Nevertheless they’re likeable, strange, funky, emotional, psychedelic, talented and have been enjoyably morphing and transcending popular styles through their almost 30 year career. It has made them in my opinion the best band of our generation (save for maybe Radiohead if hearing someone whine makes you feel better about your own depression).

Rumney Classics or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Moderates

There are a lot of reasons to climb at Rumney.  Having spent innumerable days there in the fall of my senior year at Holderness, I tend to have a sort of protective, loving feeling toward this schist paradise.  During those crisp fall days, my small group often found solitude at the popular cliffs that feature short approaches and lots of 5.7-5.10 routes.  We frequented Meadows, Parking Lot Wall, and 5.8 Crag.  When we had more time, we ventured to Darth Vader, Jimmy Cliff and Triple Corners.  Those cliffs are special to me, and house several Rumney classics.

Lootpack - Soundpieces: Da Antidote (1999)

Long before Stones Throw veteran Madlib was, well, a Stones Throw veteran, he ran with an outfit known as Lootpack.  Comprised of Wildchild, DJ Romes, and Madlib, the crew met up in high school and began producing and rapping as if with genetic benevolence.

Ode On A Spanish Onion

It is a late and closeted hour in Hanover. The once verdigris sky has contracted into a nebulous hole of steamy depth. I come home desultory and slavering. My key clicks and I wander into my kitchen, craving a disparate flavor. Dear God. Give me something new. I need novelty. I need something more than the pomegranates of the malevolent earth. My mind is drenched in trivialities, my temples beating like a sodden shrew's boiling heart. Were it not for my cell phone ringing out in desperation, I would fall on the floor like a oven grate, burning and jangling and hissing its final miseries in a sweaty linoleum coffin. But here we have a surprise. Pete has been shopping and has called to inform me he will be home soon -- oh make it soon -- with the bounty of the co-op, pretentious and predictable ingredients from euphemistic and charming aisles, fresh and supple delectables to nourish and sustain my woefully empty soul.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Freeport Fun

I open my eyes to see Karthik, standing in my doorway, geared up, nervously peaking in to see if I am in the "ready to be woken up state" or not. Big risk to take, knowing what I am capable of doing to those who attempt to prematurely jump-start my day. Annoyed, I tell him to go away, but my pathetic attempt at a sentence dissolves way too rapidly into a collection of clogged noises, resembling something between a wet series of coughs and a futile attempt to start a lawn mower after a long winter of neglect. I check the clock, 9:30 AM, holy crap. "Karthik I am going to kill you!"

Two hours, three cups of coffee, several arguments, and 21 miles later, we pull up the boulders at South Freeport. My intentions for the day were explicitly voiced, "I will come to hang out, but not to climb."

Please Don't Judge Me

Okay, so this is what I did today instead of studying for the GRE's. Enjoy.

"You Never Know"


I’ve been thinking about all the things that got me where I am
Breaking it down to pieces just to help you understand
How I got my flow to grow and blossom from the dark
Flipping this thing around, let me back up to the start

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Promised Land

I have been to the Promised Land

and it is good.

The skeptic in me has always put aside Yosemite as "just another tourist trap" where the idea of going to Yosemite is what draws people, rather than the actual place. And assured myself, "I've seen an alpine landscape before, Yosemite is just another scene from the same book..."

Oh, was I mistaken.....

Thursday, April 14, 2011

From My Stomach to Yours

Many of you might not know this, but the day I wanted to start cooking was freshman year winter break at Caroline’s house in Vermont. Let me set the scene: In our delirious states of intoxication, Caroline whipped out a Segway and started riding it rodeo-style. Then we got hungry. Nick quickly proposed a bomb chicken dish of mass proportions, accompanied by bruschetta and a monster salad. Nick jumps on preparing the meat, Meg and the girls start cutting bread for the bruschetta, Karthik leaning over their shoulders asking for tastes and likely making jokes that end in throw-up noises. This is where I come in. I’m cutting the fucking tomatoes and carrots for the salad. Like fuck me. I simply didn’t have the confidence or know how to help in any other way. I told myself then and there that I would learn to cook.

"musical ideas about musical ideas"

Just over a week ago I saw LCD Soundsystem play what they've called their last show ever, The Long Goodbye. Maybe not as good of a name as The Last Waltz, but at least Neil Diamond wasn't involved. I'm reluctant to say that it was the best show I've ever seen, even if I believe that this might be the case, because I think I said that after I saw the Flaming Lips in 2002, Moe. in 2004, Modest Mouse in 2006, STS9 in 2007, David Byrne in 2008, STS9 again in 2008 and Phish in 2009. Maybe the actual quality of the show is secondary to the experience of being at a show, and this is why almost every show I see seems better than the last. Maybe just seeing live music is more important, more impressive, more memorable than the music itself. Maybe being drunk, being high, rolling or tripping potentiates this effect -- there are certainly shows where I can't remember specifically what songs were played or in what order, but I distinctly remember how I was having so much fun. And then after a few nights of solid sleep you forget how much fun so much fun is until the next show.

But every show isn't as much fun as the last. Some shows are just OK, and some shows suck and some shows are a fucking blast but for whatever reason they aren't a fucking blast. And if you think too hard about what makes a show so enjoyable, you're going to dilute just how enjoyable it is. After all, I think we can agree that a big part of any show that's even slightly enjoyable is dancing like an idiot, and the more you think about dancing, the less you actually dance.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Video VVednesday: Footsteps in the Dark, FA?

As I mentioned before, we were able to get a bit of film from the crevasse climbing at Castle Rock last weekend.  Because the area is adjacent to the water and hidden from sunlight, we were only able to attempt one dry problem.  It seemed clear --though appearances often belie fact-- that the climb hadn't seen much, if any, traffic.  The problem began by ascending a few slopey crimpers on polished, frictionless feet.  These moves were somewhat difficult and required much more attention and balance than I had originally expected.  The precision required to remain static made it feel as though I was climbing a slab problem.  After the introductory sequence, I had to match on a sloping orb, about the size of a cue ball, and make a long throw for a sloping ledge.   I first attempted the move static, but the core tension required proved too tough for this lovehandled simian.  Second try, I pulled a Sharma and went for the Dyno.  To finish the problem, one has to mantle the sloping ledge and climb a pocketed exit through a chossy dihedral.  I was too knackered on my second burn to fully sequence the finish, but with the pump-factor getting to me and the tide coming in, I knew I'd only have a few more attempts for the day.  I rested hard, figured out the beta with Bennie and AB, rehearsed the footwork in my head, and it went on the 3rd go!  Sickk...

This one isn't a classic, though I remain optimistic that the cave holds a few gems.  It was burly, pumpy, and thuggy on the send go (which the battery was too low to film).  Anyhow, here it is, and also my maiden foray into cinema/editing:

Footsteps in the Dark, FA?

Thanks to Aaron for filming and Bennie for the spot.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Stuff to Read and Look At

As I mentioned, I spend lots of time (probably way too much) reading articles about multi-pitch climbing, and while I haven’t lately, I used to sit around playing with a lenght of rope or cord and practicing knots and hitches.  A few times this fall I went to Devil’s Chair, fixed a rope, and used my grigri and some cord to ascend and descend.  It was sort of fun, sort of muddy.  But I learned some stuff (namely that when ascending, the grigri has to be below whatever else you are using (i.e. prussik, tibloc, etc.).  So, in the interest of expanding our collective knowledge base, as well making things safer for ourselves, here’s some stuff I’ve read in the last few months/years:

Livin' Local: Lynn Woods & Castle Rock

Despite ambivalent New England weather and Ben's cookies, we got to make it outdoors a couple times this weekend.  Bennie's in town and he brought the LEGENDARY psyche (albeit with a certain acridness).  We got beaten up by the Gulu Gulu on Friday, so Saturday started slow.  Woke up dehydrated from buff chick pizza, with the previous night's jazz cover of SpottieOttieDopalicious ringing in my ears.


In some ways, there’s the risk of this turning into a climbing blog. I guess that’s not truly a risk, though, since all of us would dig it. So in furthering that possibility, consider this: a) my ode to climbing in all its forms, b) a to do list, and c) something to maybe to get the psyche up.

Monday, April 11, 2011

A gallon of wine

Best saved for peaks and valleys,
the soaring highs and the sullen lows.
The effect remains the same:
Bubbles form and pop in your blood,
a rush of warmth lifts you, two inches off the ground.

Floating and sinking,
descending into the clouds.
Wrapped in a blanket -- no,
constricted, head in a vice.
Throbbing clarity found under heavy lids
in a gallon of Paisano.