It’s About That Time

Equinoctial Ngram

It’s about that time. Yeah, you know what I’m talking about: the equinox. No, not that equinox — the other one.

I thought I had little or nothing to say about the subject. As is so often the case, once I got to writing, I discovered how wrong I was. The result is a column so monstrously large, it had to be split in two.

And as if that wasn’t enough, I’ve also put together a mix of autumnal equinox music.

Venus in Transit

Mirror Rig

I was mighty excited to see the Transit of Venus this past Tuesday. I set up a tiny mirror on a tripod in our back yard, which reflected the image of the sun through our kitchen and down a short hall into my darkened office.

Sun Spot

This is called the reflected pinhole method, which is a safe and simple way to observe solar events.

Continue reading Venus in Transit

Mixes for a New Year

So there’s another year gone. This was sure an interesting one from the planetary perspective, what with all the the revolutions and the Occupy movement. I remain skeptical, but also cautiously hopeful, that anything will come of all this foment in the long run. We desperately need revolutions, but are these the revolutions we need?

I will also remember 2011 as the year of Project Conversion, “twelve months of spiritual promiscuity” by a guy named Andrew Bowen. Simple concept, one new religion each month, lived and embraced with a genuine desire to understand. I first mentioned PC at the halfway point, six months ago; now it’s complete, and I feel like I’ve learned and grown from it. I found his journey inspiring, and it has influenced my own. By way of expressing my gratitude, I put together a tribute mix, featuring one track for each of the twelve religions Andrew explored.

It was a holy chore chasing down some of those tracks but I am happy with how it came out. I tried to aim for toward traditional sounds rather than contemporary stuff.

I think finding the Zoroastrian track was the hardest. Also, a quirk of 8tracks is that it will only let each listener hear the tracks in the specified order the first time. This is for convoluted legal reasons. Which is a shame because in this case the order will matter to anyone who’s been following PC for the past year.

And because I’m in New Orleans, the first and last tracks are from local artists. Strange but true.

(As a bonus, I threw together a little Gregorian Chant mix in honor of the final month, Catholicism.)

Of course the year wouldn’t be complete without a mix of my favorite 2011 releases. And here’s another tribute mix, my pick of the hits posted to Fluxblog over the past year.

But as a rule I’m not particularly focused on new music. Who cares if it was released in the last year or not? And so, I offer the personal discoveries from 2011 which excited me the most. Among them: Exuma (thanks to the American Zombie), Fikret Kızılok (thanks to Ghost Capital) and of course the late great Damien Tavis Toman (visit The Memorial Society).

Enjoy, and by all means let me know what you think.

Tropical Storm Warning

Mix for Lee.

Update: Figured I might as well stick all my related Tropical Storm Lee observations here.

On Friday, as I prepared to ride home through a gentle sprinkle, I was approached by a pair of slightly nervous students. “Are you from around here?” They were not. They wanted to know what to expect from this tropical storm business. I told them it looked like street flooding would be the biggest problem, so prepare to hunker down. You might have some trouble getting from Point A to Point B.

Early Saturday morning we work to wind and rain coming in bands. Persephone was mildly peeved that cartoons were preempted, but I was impressed that the paper arrived. The garbage was collected. The mail was delivered. Our house sprung a couple of minor leaks. But we did not lose power.

By midday we were catching plenty of sunny breaks. I made a run to the grocery. They had wild caught salmon at a great price, but you had to buy the whole fish. I ended up with farm-raised filets. That evening I found myself grilling in a heavy downpour. It’s easy if you lack all common sense.

That night Persephone put on a necklace “because I have to be very pretty for Tropical Lee.” Here’s her forecast:

Today, Sunday, was more of the same. During a break in the weather Persephone and I went for a walk around the ‘hood. We saw lots of downed branches, but they were all very small.

Our street never flooded, and we never lost power, so this whole storm is looking like no big deal for us. (It’s been a very big deal for other people in other places.) That leak in the kitchen is the only real problem. Perhaps insurance will help.

Gin & tonics seem to go pretty well with tropical storms.

As I write this, shortly after sunset Sunday, we’re getting another lashing of rain, but I think the worst has passed.

Recent Discoveries

Not new music, but music that’s new to me. You’ve probably heard it all before. Or have you?

These are the ten tracks I’ve been digging the most over the last couple weeks or so, including music by Henry Mancini, Damien Tavis Toman, and Devo. I love these with an insane passion. I had to share that love.

Actually there is one 2011 release here. See if you can spot it.

In other 8tracks news, my Study mix has now hit 100 plays and 62 likes. That’s almost double where it was just two months ago, which is interesting considering it’s been online for almost two years now. My other mixes are languishing in obscurity, but “Study” is picking up steam.

Friday Dry

When my in-laws asked what time we should leave, I said 7AM, and they laughed, and my father-in-law suggested 9AM. Then it was my turn to laugh, quietly, to myself. In my mind I thought 10AM, but I didn’t take that too seriously either. When facing up to a long journey, I like to get an early start. If left to my own devices, I would probably leave at dawn. But fortunately or otherwise I am not left to my own devices. I am subject to the devices of others. Years of experience have taught me that fixating on an departure time is a losing proposition, unless there’s a plane to catch.

In the end we rolled out at 9:45AM which was fine by me. All five of us fit into our Ford Escape Hybrid. As soon as we got on the highway we determined that Xy had indeed forgotten the Scrabble game, but we didn’t turn back. Soon we were crossing the twin spans. Soon we were driving through Mississippi. Soon we were plowing through that cool tunnel beneath Mobile, Alabama. Soon we were in the Florida panhandle.

And did we drive on in stony silence? We did not. We were rocking out to a mix of cover songs I’d thrown together. Here is a sampling of the music we enjoyed, ten tracks including tunes by Caetano Veloso, Cash Nexus, and My Summer as a Salvation Soldier. They are all covers.

The title of this mix is an anagram. I was turned on to all these tracks via the late great Copy, Right? music blog by Liza Pavelich (as seen on ROX). Coincidentally it’s her birthday today.

We went 440 miles that first day. That landed us in the quaint burg of Madison, Florida. Actually I’m only guessing at its quaintness. In point of fact we never actually set foot in the town proper. We stayed at the Best Western, conveniently located near the interstate exit.

Since there were five of us in one vehicle, we made an effort to travel light. I did not pack, for example, any booze. It should therefore come as no surprise that Madison County is one of only five “dry” counties in the state of Florida. I always thought “dry” meant no alcohol whatsoever, but in this case beer and wine were legal. We were able to run to the truckstop across the way and pick up as much beer as we could possibly want. I noticed they had beverages with Smirnoff and Bacardi and other famous spirits, but upon closer examination, these all seemed to be malt beverages — in other words, flavored beer without a trace of vodka or rum. Weird. I made the highly questionable decision to pick up a big can of Sparks and an even bigger can of Tilt.

Best Western Rewards

Man — chilling poolside at a hotel in a dry county in the Deep South drinking a damn Sparks. If you haven’t done this, you should try it some time. It really puts things in some kind of perspective.

Sparks and Tilt are examples of a beverage category of which I had been blissfully ignorant. They’re called alcopops, “malt beverages to which various fruit juices or other flavorings have been added.” In retrospect, I wish I’d remained ignorant. Those things were nasty. I also regret that we didn’t at least take a curiosity cruise through Madison. That hotel by the interstate is exactly the kind of non-place that I so intensely despise with every fiber of my being. The only cool thing about being there was the cow pasture out back. Persephone had just remarked a few days earlier that she’d never seen a cow in real life, so she was fascinated.

And the next morning, when we went out to visit the cows again, we got a special treat.

Ostrich Sighting


Yes, it’s an ostrich. Or at least I think it is. A big flightless bird anyway.

We were joined at the fence by another hotel guest, a farmer from one of the Carolinas. It had rained on Friday night, but he wondered if Florida was suffering from the same dry spell as they’d been having in his neck of the woods. He observed the quality of the grass, and the low level of water in a pond in the cow pasture, and he concluded that indeed they were having a drought here, just as we’d been having in New Orleans.

After breakfast at the hotel, we got on the road again. Only 300 miles to Vero. The drive was uneventful, except for one thing. We were on the Florida Turnpike, a toll highway with limited access; we were going to make a pit stop at a service plaza but I missed the exit. So we took the next next exit, which landed us right in the middle of Orlando. (The Mall at Millenia to be precise.) We ended up eating lunch at one of the most upscale McDonald’s I’ve seen. I was impressed by the sanitary door openers in the restrooms. These were little hooks that allowed you to open the door with your wrist so you didn’t have to touch the knob with your hand. Fancy. It’s always interesting to see how the other half lives.

Taking Requests

It must still be finals week somewhere because my “Study” mix is raking in the love.

As I was writing this a rare comment came thru: “I was procrastinating like crazy until I found this gem and put myself to work on my essay which btw is due tomorrow. Thanks!” So maybe it’s not a finals effect. Maybe it’s summer school.

I don’t get a lot of love on 8tracks. The numbers are rather meager, and none of my mixes have racked up more than a hundred listens. At 53 plays, “Study” is not my most listened mix, but with 29 “likes” it is my best-loved. It definitely converts at a higher ratio.

I think I first put this one together by special request of David B. back in October of 2009. Apparently that’s the formula for success.

So: If anyone else out there has any requests, just let me know.

Hellacious Saturday

Some people say it’s irreligious to celebrate Hellacious Saturday. I say they don’t know church doctrine very well.

Here’s what we’re having today: horseradish bacon deviled eggs, deviled ham, and devil’s food cake — with a little Belzebuth blond ale to wash it down.

Hellacious Feast

And here’s some music to enjoy while we feast.

Happy holy daze!

Happy Mardi Gras

I imagine anyone reading this post today will be from outside New Orleans. Here it’s Mardi Gras, and people have other things to do. So for all those people in the rest of America, where it’s just another Tuesday, I offer the following mix for your amusement.

My boss challenged me to whip up an “unlikely” Carnival mix, and this is the result. If you listen all the way through you’ll even hear Persephone wishing you a happy Mardi Gras. That was recorded in 2010 just before her second birthday.

And while I’m tossing out the digital throws, here’s a photo which is the best I snapped this season.


A special shout out to Levees Not War where you’ll see this photo featured. Update: Also featured on

Happy Mardi Gras!

Best of 2010

It’s entirely ridiculous for me to offer up an annual “best of” list. I don’t keep up with the latest and greatest. I’d rather plunder the riches of the past than fetishize the new.

Of the twenty or so books I read this past year, only one was published in 2010: The Heart of Higher Education by Parker Palmer and Arthur Zajonc. I could, of course, compile lists of the titles I enjoyed most regardless of when they came out: add Meditation as Contemplative Inquiry by Arthur Zajonc (2008), Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang (2002), and Dark Green Religion by Bron Taylor (2009) to the aforementioned Heart of Higher Education. These were those most interesting books I read this year. I can’t help but notice that nonfiction outnumbers fiction in this short list, and there’s not a novel in sight. That’s a first. But all these books came out in the past decade — so much for “plundering the riches of the past.”

For music, my “discovery” list would be a tad more cumbersome. There would be a slew of tracks to contend with, but who really cares? So I’m sticking with the standard concept: a mix of music and audio bits from 2010.

This is so random it’s not even funny. I’m almost completely ignorant of what trends might be taking place in music over the last year. The only thing I even heard about was witch house, a.k.a. drag, (you know, the artists with the crazy black triangles ▲ and other unpronounceable names) and for all I know that subgenre is dead and buried (no pun intended).

And what about pix? I myself published 1,200+ photos online over the past year. If I could pick out the top dozen or so that might be the most meaningful list of all… but the size of the task is daunting.

Oh, what the hell. I’m on vacation. I’ve got little better to do.
Continue reading Best of 2010

Five-Star Xmas

When I whipped up a Xmas mix three years ago, I had to engage in some serious scraping to round it out. Times have changed, and my collection has expanded. I can now present a collection of seventeen tracks with zero compromises. This is everything I consider necessary for a Five Star Xmas.

Enjoy! I guess I should add a few caveats. This is probably not safe for work. Parental guidance is strongly advised. There are dirty words, a measure of irreverence, and some loud raucous parts. If that’s not your idea of a good time, you may want to look elsewhere for your holiday cheer.

Day in the Life

Here’s my entry in the Day in the Life contest. If you like this, please visit the mix on 8tracks and click the ♥ button so I can get a piece of the glory.

Here’s a handy guide to help you enjoy the mix.

1. Rising with love and positivity
2. Morning commute
3. At the office
4. Losing myself in my work
5. Dinnertime unwinding
6. Evening telecast
7. Nocturnal revelry
8. Ready for bed
9. Hit the coffin for a while

1000 Days of Persephone

As a number of people pointed out to me, the trouble with celebrating the first thousand days of life is that the number 1,000 is generally beyond the grasp of most two-year-olds. A couple friends had funny ideas about how to communicate the idea. “Let her play in a pile of 1,000 $1 bills so she can feel like Scrooge McDuck!” Or: “Ball up a thousand pieces of paper and fill a room. Or go to the hardware store and buy a thousand metal washers.”

Sadly I did not have the resources to pull these off. I tried taking some photos to document a “day in the life” but that didn’t pan out so well because of schedule conflicts. Who knew you could have schedule conflicts with a toddler? In the end we went out for pizza which seemed suitably festive.

Also I put together this mix.

See if you can guess the theme.