The Morning FM Radio In My Head

Since you’re reading this, I’m hoping from the title, you know what I’m talking about: that FM station in your brain that only you hear.   Most of the time, you’re the DJ and the tunes on your internal radio are good ones.  My station covers the gamut between classical, blues, jazz, rock, hip-hop and everything in between.  The DJ tends to roll with my mood so the cross-genre-thing really is meaningless, its the mood-ride that the show is all about : most of the time.  Sometimes, usually in the morning, that FM station is on auto-pilot.  The DJ has gone out for a coffee, a very long coffee.  He’s probably in his car driving a few hours away and I’m stuck listening to whatever track he put on continuous loop to mess with my otherwise peaceful morning.

This morning, that tune was “Honey, Honey”  as heard in “Mama Mia”, by ABBA. . .  . . .  . . .

Yeah, I have no idea where that came from.  I only saw a few minutes of “Mama Mia” 1.5 years ago when a roommate had the film on.  Anyway, I guess my DJ liked it, or thought it’d be a good laugh to put on repeat.  It was about 4 hours later when the FM station gave it a rest and returned to regular programming (which was probably a blend of RZA, Thelonius Monk, and some techno-esque dance tune).

… There was this other time: I had just started a very specialized software sales job in CT and I had to get up at 2:30 in the morning to drive to La Guardia for a flight to DC.  When my alarm went off, my brain was completely dead.  There was no higher mental function, no chatter among the synapses, just my internal FM Radio looping over and over “Mama said there’d be days like this, that there’d be days like this my Mama said.  Mama said.  Mama said.”   (Repeat )  The sad thing is those are the only lyrics of the song I know, so, the record on the radio just kept skipping and skipping.  It skipped in the shower, it skipped while driving from Norwalk, CT to Long Island.  It skipped in the terminal.  It was about 4 hours later, while I was asleep on the plane, that the DJ came back and decided enough was enough.

Please tell me you know what I’m talking about.

Heroes : My Favorite 20th C Moral Drama

Official portrait of J. Robert Oppenheimer, fi...

J. Robert Oppenheimer - Image via Wikipedia

This afternoon, I was introduced to someone from Oak Ridge, TN about a work related topic.  He introduced himself as being from the town that housed the Manhattan Project and needless to say our conversation quickly digressed to a piece of history that compels me.  The Manhattan Project was the US WWII effort to create the first atomic weapon.  When I was in undergrad, Professor Ostrower asked us to name two Americans in history we would visit with a time machine.  #1 on my list was, and is, the head of the Manhattan Project: J. Robert Oppenheimer, the man oft referred to as “The Father of the Atomic Bomb”.

“Why Oppenheimer?”, my professor asked.

Because I want to be able to talk one-on-one with the man who later compared the Trinity Test (the first atomic detonation) to a Hindu passage “I am become Death, the Destroyer of worlds.”  It’s one thing to read books and watch interviews, but I wish I could talk to him while he was in the mire.  “How did you reconcile your humanity with your duty to country and ‘the greater good’?”  My friend from Oak Ridge made the point that all those researchers felt the conflict.  I’m sure that’s true.  If you are a part of something of that magnitude and do not feel conflicted, maybe you shouldn’t be taking part.  Oppenheimer, as the project lead, though, had a whole other layer to contemplate.  I feel this story is one of the greatest human dramas of the 20th Century.

I don’t feel what Oppenheimer did was good or bad.  That’s not why I want to talk to him.  My desire is just to understand his process, his feelings, his humanity, because on its own scale, it is a snapshot of our larger human drama and the conflicts which shape our world, and the conflicts which shape our lives.  Sure, on a daily basis, most of us don’t deal with the invention of the single most destructive instrument on the planet, but nonetheless, our own moral dramas deal with the same core: self vs duty, love, hopes, and the compromises we make to advance the story.

A Window to the Urban World

Part of my evening ritual, as I turn off the lights in my apartment, is to stand at the floor-to-ceilings facing Center City, and look outward.  I see windows: dark and lit.  All of them representing lives, and those lit ones are still awake, like me.  Some of the light spilling out is yellow; some are white/blue; some perpetually wreathed in Christmas lights.  Windows to the souls, like eyes.  I stare outward and am become a sojourner in a well of humanity.  Where I grew up, I knew each and ever light within a few miles of my house.  I knew the colors of light.  I knew the people inside.  Here, it is all unknown.  So many lives, dreams, experiences, hopes and feelings defining the spirit that is “the City”.  I wish I could describe to you the immensity of that moment.

But maybe you already know it.

Maybe you walk to work/home/gym/grocery/etc, you feel the expectation to look down at the sidewalk, avoid eye contact, get from A to B?  I do.  I catch myself when I do it; I know I shouldn’t; I should be always looking.  The urban world is another experience, and the City is full of beauty : architecture, history, culture, arts, restaurants, laughter, faces.  So much to see that will be lost if not captured in that fleeting moment.  I wrote once about [link id=’669′ text = ‘a wish to record experience’].  It can’t /shouldn’t be done.  These are things meant for you alone: Faces smiling.  Faces frowning.  Faces averted.  Faces wearing headsets.  Faces on the phone.  Faces painted by warm restaurant lights like jazz-age scenes.  Faces under the glow of lights in the park.  Faces dancing to music.  Faces singing.  Faces sharing laughter over a beer.  Faces.  Faces.  Each with a story.  Each with that connection to the others in that well of humanity.  Part of me wishes I could know them all.

Snow in Philadelphia

Snow days are among my favorite days.  I know it sounds selfish, but I’m always excited to see snow on the way, and I always hope it hammers the area.  Growing up, back home in rural northeast PA, I looked forward to school being closed, sledding on hills and building snow forts.  In school, and now in Philadelphia, I just love the otherworldly aura of a town quieted by snow.  Everything blanketed in white.  The contrast of streetlights on earth against harsh shadows.  Adventurers walking down the street, building sculptures.  It’s energetic yet subdued.  It’s [link id=’594′ text=’Silent Hill : Shattered Memories’].

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Invention : The Experience Recorder

I was just walking through Rittenhouse Park on my way home from work.  Evening.  The park was lit with spheres of light hanging from trees.  The spheres were composed of white Christmas lights.  Stars.  They went up after Thanksgiving, but won’t be there much longer.  I decided to divert to the park to see them again before they left.

I wished I could have recorded the experience of the park at that point in my life, to be able to show that memory to my family down the road.  Something recorded through my eyes but with the impalpable feelings I can’t describe.  Photographs don’t cut it.  Even if I had my camera on me, I wouldn’t have been able to capture what that experience was.  My Droid did it’s best, but low light…  Still, even if I had the lights and crew to make something balancing contrast with composition, it would just be a snapshot.  Not something recording an experience through time and the senses.  What an incredible invention that would be.

… but isn’t that what the Arts do?  Ansel Adams gives us his reverent experience of the Nature’s beauty in a single snapshot of time; Monet: a lillypad, Beethoven : a thunderstorm, culinary artists: a culture.  If we could record our experiences, extract our memories and share them, would we need the Arts?  Would art devolve to a different kind of TV?  Then this gets to something I wrote earlier “If Computers Can Read the Human Brain, Plug Me In”.  I thought, among other things, it’d be amazing to be able to bring our imaginations out onto some canvas: broadcast the movies of our brains with a computer.  What if we could use that same technology to record memories?  Would some people sit alone in the dark, years on end, replaying the days of youth?  Would others rather watch others’ experiences than make their own?  Maybe that’s something we do already with reality TV.  Maybe then the technology doesn’t matter, just the application.

Still, I think of the day when we’re jacked in, like Ghost in the Shell, and our mortal thoughts can reside outside the mind to share and exist forever.

 

A Future for Adobe Flash

Shakespeare said “I must be cruel to be kind.”  When Hamlet spoke those words he was referring to horrible things he said in order to help someone he loved.  Though not with all the dramatic undertones, I have to tell Adobe, a company I love, ” you need to get your butt in motion.”

Best Concert Ever

I’ve been to a lot of concerts, but tonight’s performance of Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring was my favorite.  I’ve seen rock bands, jazz and blues, country, choral, and lots of orchestral…  This was my favorite.  I have never seen a group so tight.  Yeah, I know, maybe I just haven’t seen the right groups, but among concerts by the BBC Orchestra, NY Orchestra, and some of my favorite Jazz artists, this was just tight.  It’s not too often  I’m enthralled throughout a concert.  Usually, when I go to a jazz performance, I’ll be on for most of the set but off for a few parts, but this: I was there, in the groove throughout.

 

I read an article a while ago from the New York Times saying that Kimmell Hall still doesn’t compare to Carnegie.  Maybe it was something about seat E 110, but it was perfect.  I felt and heard everything.  The Philadelphia Orchestra was the best concert ever.  It was all that I love in music : programmatic imagery coupled with that primal drive that universally connects us all.  Hearing that performance was like listening to all these melodic performers go back to the basic root instrument : percussion.  I found myself smiling ear to ear with this madness as the stacked chords pounded.

 

I could hear one of my favorite composers, Jerry Goldsmith, in there, and all the other voices which followed Stravinsky.  Such an innovator.  Such a visionary.  Such a man following the progression of man and bringing light to where the path may yet travel.  All this and more was revealed by the confident hands, hearts, and mouths of the Philadelphia Orchestra.  Thank you so much for sharing it with us.

Day of the Mac #2 – 3 (aka “The Other Woman” )

It’ a Saturday night.  Cold outside.  I’m indoors.  Fireplace is lit.  Made a nice dinner.  Now I’m relaxing in a comfy chair : me and my Mac.  Oo yeah.

 

WHAT?!?!  No no no no no no.

 

<ahem>.  Yeah, it’s true.  Albeit, my girlfriend is making cookies, and dinner was for us… not the MacBook sitting in my lap, but still, I think my Mac would’ve enjoyed it.

This is not meant to be a pitch for Apple in any way, but development the past two days has been incredible!  A huge part of that is the new software I’m running, the other part, though, is working on this laptop is just simple.  When I logged into my network, it actually found my NAS and mounted it!  It mounts my NTFS USB drive : no problem.  Haven’t had to tweak any settings, load any drivers, add any plugins.

Ok, but don’t take that as “Seth’s given up PC”.  NOT IN A LONGSHOT!  I’ve just come to acknowledge some of the benefits of Mac.  :)  (for now).  Haven’t had to mess with a Windows -> Mac workflow yet (as my copy of Adobe CS4 Production is Windows licensed), but I’ll bridge that sometime soon.

Day of the Mac #1

So… to finish this project I’ve spent the past several months programming, I need a mac with Xcode…  For those of you who don’t know me, I have railed against macs.  They’re overpriced, they don’t give you the low-level access I enjoy, they tend to have this “holier than thou” aura about their promotions…  I can’t stand it when people talk about only serious content creators use Mac.  Okay, in the day of Myst, Apple was the way to go, but that was 1992 when graphics cards were limited.  Today, you get wayyyy more bang for your buck on a PC.  Nevertheless, yesterday, ca 10 AM, I found myself in an Apple store.

An hour later, as I walked to my apartment with a MacBook box under arm, I felt dirty.  I felt like all these people were looking at me, and I wanted to turn to them say, “Hey, I’m not a Mac person” (with a nervous laugh).  “I just had to get one of these things so I could use this piece of software which only runs on Mac.”

Reach out and make a friend