Music is just organized noise…”

A couple of weeks ago I got a signal from my friend Josh:

I’m putting on a concert of ambient/drone/noise music here at the house on december 13 at 8:00. also featuring some other sound-series-affiliated performers. consider yourself invited.

I am a timid lad, especially around musicians and especially around divergent musicians.

Did you hear that new Stara Rzeka track!? What a lit dope zizzle it mingled,” they might exclaim. How would I reply?

But I have been counseling Oliver to embrace divergence, so I must dive in where I fear to tread. Thus last night around eight I walked through Josh’s front door and into a parallel universe of sound.

Photo of Ryan Kirkpatrick playing.

Ryan Kirkpatrick

First up on the playbill was Ryan Kirkpatrick. Ryan produced a set that was of the “please make this stop because I feel like I am being tortured and I would give anything to make this stop please won’t it end I think my hearing will permanently be damaged by this” music. Which is not a criticism, despite appearance to the contrary; it was a transcendent experience to live through, and Ryan has a detached earnestness to his playing that I connected with. If I was going to be hit over the head with a wall of sound, Ryan was the man for the job.

Although Chris Vessey helpfully recorded later sets, Ryan didn’t get recorded; as such I only have a clip, but it gives you a good taste.

Meditation Onslaught Starlet

Next up was host Josh Zapf and Jeff Smith, playing as Meditation Onslaught Starlet. There was some degree of total-immersion-in-a-submersible-of-sound to their set, but with more layers to it than Ryan, in part because Josh and Jeff played off each other and in part because I heard raw and powerful sounds wail out of Josh that caught me unaware.

I heard echos of Supertramp’s Fool’s Overture, but that might be my attempt to connect the otherworldly to the familiar.

Regardless of what it was and where it came from, I loved it, and was kept busy conjuring up film projects for which they could provide the soundtrack.

Jasmine Michel

The revelation of the night for me was the immensely talented Jasmine Michel, who finished out the night and whose playing left me with a “this person lives among us and I didn’t know?!” feeling. Hers was a much more restrained kind of noise–”music is just organized noise,” as she said leading off–and listening to the recordings on repeat today I keep hearing subtleties that I missed last night.

There’s bluegrass in there. And Penguin Cafe Orchestra and Jóhann Jóhannsson. And bits of lichen and shards of glass. There is more of her music here; I would gladly take out a lifetime subscription to her oeuvre.

I am happy that Josh extended the invite, happy that I braved the waters, and relieved that Stara Rzeka didn’t come up once. If you have a chance to join this group of talents and their peers sometime for similar events, I highly recommend it.

Thank you to Chris Vessey for the recordings.

Hey, are you Dan’s father?”

In the elevator at the hotel where we are staying for three days I kibbitz with the other passenger about elevator operators. “We’re old enough to remember those days,” they joke.

This other passenger is demonstrably older than me; not my parents’ age, but surely not my age either? But I am greeted as kin.

And I do remember those days.

I’m in the colourful livingroom of a friend where an evening of loud electronic music is about to begin. The demonstrably younger person sitting beside me leans over: “Hey, are you Dan’s father?”

I’m not.

But how did they know I was anyone’s father. Do I look old enough to be someone’s father? What’s my tell? Receding hairline? Style from the 1950s? Unsmooth skin? A withered gait? A careless Dick Van Dyke Show reference?

On balance I have always loved getting older. But inflection points, man.

Shirley McGinn

There are few truly selfless people in the world, but I’m pretty sure that Shirley McGinn, who died on Saturday at the age of 87, was one of them.

I met Shirley for the first time when we both volunteered as judges for the Heritage Fair at Prince Street School when Oliver was a student there. To my surprise, Shirley not only knew who Oliver was, but appeared to have a pretty good understanding of him.

It was only later that I learned that Shirley was a regular volunteer at the school, and had, for several years already, been part of Oliver’s school life.

And later still I learned that when Shirley retired from a long career as a public school teacher, finishing at Parkdale, she started volunteering at Prince Street the very next day.

Shirley had the gift of being able to remember people, and, after our first meeting at the Heritage Fair, every time I ran into her she called me by name and asked after Oliver.

During a trip though the Queen Elizabeth Hospital last year I stopped to ask for information at the front desk; there, to my surprise, was Shirley, wearing her volunteer smock, ready with directions. Apparently volunteering at the school wasn’t enough to keep her busy.

Shirley McGinn lived a life that we all would do well to emulate; I will miss her, as I’m sure will the students and others whose lives she touched over the years.

Human Rights Day

December 10 is Human Rights Day and the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations.

I didn’t know this when I set and printed an index card with the first sentence of Article I; a fortuitous year, then.

To celebrate this day, there’s a panel discussion “Science as a Right” happening on Monday, December 10 from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at the Beaconsfield Carriage House in Charlottetown. More details in The Buzz.

Photo of Universal Declaration of Human Rights (first sentence)

I Reported a Bug and It Got Fixed

Seventeen days ago I reported a bug in the Bookmarks app for Nextcloud. Three days ago it got fixed, and today I installed the updated version.

The bug I reported concerned the way that tags are entered when the “bookmarklet” for the app is invoked: after every tag entry you had to click on the “tags” field to regain focus and enter another tag. This has now been fixed, as you can see in this short screencast that shows me entering several tags in rapid succession:

Sometimes submitting bug reports can feel akin to throwing bug reports into a black hole; it’s nice when this proves not to be the case.

California Typewriter Sales Report

This afternoon’s screening of California Typewriter went perfectly: we had a good mix of people, including friends of typewriter collector Martin Howard, who featured prominently in the film.

Last month my friend Catherine Hennessey gifted me an Olympia Monica Electric S; it had a stuck carriage return key that I’ve just this very minute managed to repair by adding some grease and moving around some fiddly springs. And so here is a short video of the sales report from the screening (with apologies for the shaky variable focus; the camera rig was sketchy and the auto-focus kept kicking in).

to improve energy security, we need to make the power grid less reliable”

Keeping Some of the Lights On: Redefining Energy Security is a fascinating reexamination of what we mean by “energy security.”

Because demand and supply influence each other, we come to a counter-intuitive conclusion: to improve energy security, we need to make the power grid less reliable. This would encourage resilience and substitution, and thus make industrial societies less vulnerable to supply interruptions.

In other words, if it’s an issue that renewable sources of energy are intermittent, why not change the nature of the problem we’re seeking to solve.