20 May 2004

I recently began reading Paul Krugman's New York Times Op/Ed pieces on a regular basis, thanks to a feed from The Unofficial Paul Krugman Archive. I find Krugman's opinions remarkably well put and down-to-earth, particularly when it comes to issues like oil dependence, the war in Iraq, and the Bush administration. In a recent piece on the current oil crunch, for example, he concludes with a simple idea -- but an idea that few seem to grasp when searching for solutions to our growing predicament. "So what should we be doing?", he asks. "Here's a hint: We can neither drill nor conquer our way out of the problem. Whatever we do, oil prices are going up. What we have to do is adapt."

Posted by Greg at 04:46 PM

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Cold turkey

13 May 2004

In a recent article, Kurt Vonnegut demonstrates his chillingly accurate understanding of our present condition:

"About my own history of foreign substance abuse. I've been a coward about heroin and cocaine and LSD and so on, afraid they might put me over the edge. I did smoke a joint of marijuana one time with Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead, just to be sociable. It didn't seem to do anything to me, one way or the other, so I never did it again. And by the grace of God, or whatever, I am not an alcoholic, largely a matter of genes. I take a couple of drinks now and then, and will do it again tonight. But two is my limit. No problem.

I am of course notoriously hooked on cigarettes. I keep hoping the things will kill me. A fire at one end and a fool at the other.

But I'll tell you one thing: I once had a high that not even crack cocaine could match. That was when I got my first driver's license! Look out, world, here comes Kurt Vonnegut.

And my car back then, a Studebaker, as I recall, was powered, as are almost all means of transportation and other machinery today, and electric power plants and furnaces, by the most abused and addictive and destructive drugs of all: fossil fuels.

When you got here, even when I got here, the industrialized world was already hopelessly hooked on fossil fuels, and very soon now there won't be any more of those. Cold turkey.

Can I tell you the truth? I mean this isn't like TV news, is it?

Here's what I think the truth is: We are all addicts of fossil fuels in a state of denial, about to face cold turkey.

And like so many addicts about to face cold turkey, our leaders are now committing violent crimes to get what little is left of what we're hooked on."

Posted by Greg at 02:43 PM

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The future singer/songwriter

7 May 2004

Amidst the hot hot heat and sun of Coachella last weekend, I happened to see part of Howie Day's set at the venue's Outdoor Theater. His particular style isn't exactly right up my alley, but I was impressed by his use of live sampling and looping. While his band scrambled to fix some technical problem they were having at the beginning of the set, he played solo, just him and his guitar -- aided by a pedal-driven sampling/playback machine. He'd play and record a few measures of acoustic guitar, start it looping back, play and record another few measures of a different guitar part on top of it, start that looping back, layer some vocals on top, add a bit of percussion by tapping his guitar and looping that, and so on. Before long, he'd built an impressively rich-sounding song. And he did it all live in front of the audience with just a guitar and a computer.

I know this isn't new -- I've seen beatboxers do amazing things with it, for example -- but I personally hadn't seen a singer/songwriter do it yet. I can't wait to see what this sort of performance technology does for the future of that genre, and for the future of music in general.

Posted by Greg at 11:17 AM

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