Soft non-sci-fi

I had a brief moment, after arriving at a brunch in Redwood City today, where I couldn’t think of an icebreaker for the slight lull in conversation after I’d settled into a seat. Then I remembered a couple of fellow brunchers from a previous gathering, and asked them: “So, have you read any good hard sci fi lately?” One of them said he’d been spending more time with fantasy, before lamenting his general lack of free reading time. Later on, he added that he’d been pursuing podcasts and mentioned one he particularly enjoyed. The other bruncher recommended “The Three-Body Problem,” describing it as a spare, minimal, translated-from-Mandarin take on an alien invasion of Earth via videogame with a fair amount of China’s Cultural Revolution and a day of Three Gorges-type geo-development projects. I promptly downloaded it, before wondering where one finds the time to read these days.

Then I answered that question by going to see “The Imitation Game” for my third time in four months at the local indie cinema house. The first time, I just let the story go by, and tried to weigh my enjoyment against its similarities with other genres and studio films of a certain pedigree, as well as friend’s disappointment at its lack of biographic fidelity. The second time, I noticed the script, and listened more closely for its pacing and rhythms. This time, I spent most of my time thinking about how data won a world war, but led to ever-increasing levels of personal and business innovation, automation, and surveillance.

Beats, rhymes and life

I woke up in time to have coffee and conversation at Woody’s Cafe with author, activist and musician Nia King about growing up back East, finding fulfillment in creative pursuits and both the futility and the necessity of reconciling tensions between career choice and motivated mentorship. Before I realized what was happening, Nia asked me how I’d spent the last twenty years, and somehow I found answers, followed on hard by insights as they came to me. In turn, I learned she favors a full five-piece drum kit (heavy on the toms), misses picking apples when the seasons change, and can laugh at jokes about news coverage involving politicians inappropriately fondling bags of money. It is instructive to look at the work she has taken on documenting her communities of interest, and I think she’s got lots more work coming that will be worth checking out and paying for: see to it if you get the chance.

Out the window and down to the street below

I’d almost forgotten about getting out of my seat last night during the awards banquet and sneaking over to the window in the rear of the room. I realized I was ten stories up in San Francisco, close enough to see the last bit of the sky overhead and a couple of streets intersecting below.

But I remembered at the end of a long day chasing paperwork and filing taxes in Walnut Creek, and then waiting on burgers and beers and watching people drink and eat and saunter along the sidewalks of the Lakeshore District. So once A. and I got home and had dinner and sat down in the living room, I had a look at it again.

Handing out awards


I drove into the city, parked on Sutter Street and walked along Sansome Street, pushing my way past memories of navigating through crowds along that stretch on winter and spring mornings fifteen years ago when I worked at the Industry Standard.

I sat down and ate a good dinner and made some small talk and then got up and wandered around the room until I could stand in a corner in the back and properly document the recognition of some very cool, smart, committed and brave folks who challenged authorities under color of exercising their First Amendment rights.

Then I went back down to the street and into the nearest bar to toast fellow organizers who’d lent their best efforts over many months to carry the event off.

Blue circle time

No, it’s not strange to have a day that celebrates a chronic disease that afflicts millions worldwide.

I’ve grown up with World AIDS Day, just like you, right? And every reminder that what helps keep most of those millions alive is in the hands of multinational corporations squeezing profit out of need, that millions more continue to be at risk because of preventable conditions and possible public-policy strategies and approaches, is worthwhile.

It makes it necessary to look past the easy joke when you see it, and toward the truth underneath.

Pre-minstrel tension

Tomorrow at 7 p.m., I will show up at Rooz Cafe, 1924 Park Boulevard, Oakland, and see if I remember how to sing my own lyrics and play an acoustic guitar at the same time. I am almost wondering if I should bother walking and chewing gum earlier in the day. I have had the pleasure of opening for my friendly neighborhood modern/urban-folk band State Secrets twice this year, but I hadn’t taken two months off playing in public before either set.

I’d like to think the half a dozen or so times I’ve sung karaoke in the last month would be some kind of help, would set my mind at ease a little further about performing, but it’s an entirely different beast. There’s really no comparison to the songs you’ve casually or informally invited into your life as guests, or even familiar friends, and combinations of chords and words who owe you their life, any life you can breathe into them in front of people.

I owe them a fair shot at existence, even if no one shows up, even if I have not been giving them the attention they might deserve. If I had sense, I would have tried lowering the stakes by busking once or twice a week somewhere no one could get in trouble and embarrass themselves. But as we have established, I do not have sense, I have songs and a set to sing them in.


When I wasn’t turning the dial, a widget on my mobile helped me identify songs in chain bookstores and coffee shops, at bar DJ nights and on terrestrial radio stations this summer:

June 24, 2014: “Face in the Window,” Dave Loggins
June 24, 2014: “Monday Morning,” Fleetwood Mac
June 24, 2014: “Here To Love You,” The Doobie Brothers
June 24, 2014: “Easy to Love,” Leo Sayer
June 24, 2014: “To Prove My Love,” Ned Doheny
June 24, 2014: “Just A Love Child,” Bobby Humphrey
June 24, 2014: “One Way Ticket To Paradise,” Dave Loggins
June 24, 2014: “Woman,” Foreigner
June 24, 2014: “How Can You Love Me,” Ambrosia
June 24, 2014: “Lady,” Little River Band
June 24, 2014: “Dance on the Heartbreak,” Ilse DeLange
June 24, 2014: “Lady,” Styx
June 24, 2014: “Gino,” Daryl Hall & John Oates
June 26, 2014: “Helena Beat,” Foster The People
June 27, 2014: “Lady Don’t Tek No,” Latex
June 27, 2014: “Estrelar,” Marcos Valle
June 27, 2014: “Horizons,” Afrolicious
June 27, 2014: “Same Old Clown,” Chico Mann
June 27, 2014: “California Dreaming,” Afrolicious
July 3, 2014: “Take The World,” JOHNNYSWIM
July 5, 2014: “How Long Do I Have To Wait For You?,” Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings
July 6, 2014: “The Goose,” Parliament
July 6, 2014: “Rigor Mortis,” Cameo
July 14, 2014: “Lost Land,” Alela Diane
July 16, 2014: “Riptide,” Vance Joy
July 20, 2014: “Atlas,” Coldplay
July 22, 2014: “Slow Dancer,” Life Force
July 22, 2014: “Dancin’ By Myself,” Ambrosia
July 22, 2014: “One Way Ticket To Paradise,” Dave Loggins
July 22, 2014: “Steal Away,” Robbie Dupree
July 22, 2014: “Gino,” Daryl Hall & John Oates
July 22, 2014: “Devil Woman,” Cliff Richard
July 22, 2014: “Falling in Love,” Surface
July 23, 2014, “Silent Spring,” Massive Attack
July 23, 2014: “Night At The Dogs,” Jesse Rose
July 24, 2014: “Skinhead Love Affair,” Bad Manners
July 24, 2014: “Steppin’ Stone,” The Monkees
July 24, 2014: “Murder,” Old 97’s
July 28, 2014: “Cool Kinds,” Echosmith
July 28, 2014: “Up The Mountain,” Bomb The Bass feat. The Battle Of Land & Sea
July 31, 2014: “Puzzlin’ Evidence,” Talking Heads
August 1, 2014: “Take Me To Church,” Hozier
August 1, 2014: “Chocolate,” The 1975
August 2, 2014: “Come a Little Closer,” Cage The Elephant
August 4, 2014: “Dreadlock Holiday,” 10cc
August 5, 2014: “Angel in Blue Jeans,” Train
August 6, 2014: “Jealous,” Chromeo
August 6, 2014: “Sherry,” Four Seasons
August 8, 2014: “Long Tall Glasses,” Leo Sayer
August 9, 2014: “The Loving Sounds of Static,” Mobius Band
August 12, 2014: “Ain’t It The Life,” Foo Fighters
August 13, 2014: “Levitator,” LP
August 13, 2014: “Habits,” Tove Lo
August 15, 2014: “Blue Moon,” Beck
August 15, 2014: “These Days,” Matt Pond
August 15, 2014: “Sweet Tooth,” Dave Rawlings Machine
August 15, 2014: “For Emma,” Bon Iver
August 16, 2014: “Barangrill,” Joni Mitchell
August 16, 2014: “Old Before Your Time,” Ray LaMontagne and the Pariah Dogs
August 16, 2014: “Joshua,” Dolly Parton
August 16, 2014: “Heaven Can’t Be Found,” Hank Williams, Jr.
August 18, 2014: “The Sporting Life,” The Decemberists
August 19, 2014: “Over And Done With,” White Horse
August 19, 2014: “Ease Along,” Cliff Richard
August 19, 2014: “Thinking Of You,” Sister Sledge
August 19, 2014: “Lady Montego,” Ayers Rock
August 19, 2014: “Dancin’ By Myself,” Ambrosia
August 19, 2014: “Step By Step,” Eddie Rabbitt
August 19, 2014: “Here To Love You,” The Doobie Brothers
August 19, 2014: “I Won’t Let Go,” Brooklyn Dreams
August 19, 2014: “Living Without Your Love,” The Imperials
August 21, 2014: “Julia,” SZA
August 23, 2014: “I Feel Love,” Plaintains
August 27, 2014: “One Last Mistake,” LP
August 27, 2014: “I Like It Like That,” Pete Rodriguez
August 27, 2014: “Lucky Man,” Courtney John
August 27, 2014: “C.R.E.A.M.,” El Michels Affair
August 27, 2014: “Bustin’ Loose,” Rebirth Brass Band
August 27, 2014: “Sexual Healing,” Hot 8 Brass Band
September 5, 2014: “Jungle Love,” The Steve Miller Band
September 6, 2014: “Come On Back,” The Brothers Of Soul
September 6, 2014: “Hotel California,” Gipsy Kings
September 21, 2014: “Sunshine Of Your Love,” Magic Drum Orchestra
September 21, 2014: “Happiness,” Shawn Lee
September 21, 2014: “Bird Song,” The Underwolves

What about you?