Hate Heals No Wounds

To be quite honest, it is sometimes embarrassing to be an American. When I look at other countries, I cannot help but to notice how brutal and barbaric America is. Most other developed nations do not wage illegal wars or invade sovereign nations. Other developed nations do not round up terror suspects and torture them. They do not order drone strikes that miss their targets and kill innocent people. They do not raid houses in the middle of the night and humiliate men in front of their families and neighbors.  But the barbarism that comes with illegal wars is often unimaginable until you actually start digging into it, and the more you learn the less sense it makes. PBS FRONTLINE is my favorite eye-opener and I deeply feel that more people ought to indulge and get a better sense of America’s wars and the horrors that they create. It leaves you questioning who the real terrorists are.

One of the more recent documentaries on Frontline is about The Man Behind the Mosque.  I felt this to be an extremely touching story.  The short of it is that so many Americans evoke an extreme prejudice toward Muslims, so much that they stereotype ALL of Islam as being disrespectful – just complete, unyielding contempt for the entire religion, so much as to let it thwart the creation of a place of worship in one of the United States’ most forward-thinking cities, New York.  They said, “No, you cannot build your place of worship here.”  In New York City.  In the United States of America.  “The terrorists are trying to build a victory mosque.” And this guy behind the mosque is a model American, a community figure, a savvy businessman, and a total NYC character and amazing storyteller.  Basically the victims of 9/11’s family members are labeling this Muslim man and the imam he selects to run the community center as bad people because they are Muslim.  To the victims’ families they are no different than the terrorists.  This type of thinking is not just sad, it’s just so backwards and ignorant I can’t even sympathize with their thought process.

Watch the full episode. See more FRONTLINE.

Hate heals no wounds.  I’m so disappointed by the reaction of my fellow Americans in the face of challenge.  All the awful wars aside, on the home front, in light of 9/11, Americans did not rise to the occasion when better judgement was needed the most.  Instead so many decided to exercise intolerance, racial and religious prejudice, and uncompromising hatred.  Whatever happened to freedom of religion?

Favorite Ambient Albums

I have been meaning to post something about the ambient music that I love for a while now. So, below is a short, meandering description of five of my favorite ambient LPs. I feel very drawn to this sort of music. I just hope that some person somewhere in the world will discover this blog post and it will provide a similar experience for them as it does for me.

Shuttle 358 – Understanding Wildlife

Clicks, thumps, pretty sounds all swirling together. Sunlight is definitely present here. It’s not a darker mood at all, but rather an exploration of the simple pleasures in life. The beauty of one’s backyard, the early morning light, the late afternoon lull as orange enters the room on a Sunday. The soporific tones of nap time after a long morning of working in the yard. “Rubber Clock” sets a very extraordinary mood, for me, in particular. The thump of the percussion in this track is very hypnotic. Pretty notes also exist on this record, which distinguishes it as a bright color such as yellow. This album could be classified as cinematic, and works well as a waking up record and also seems fitting for getting work done.

Donnacha Costello – Together is the New Alone

This is by far my favorite record to come from the now expired label known as Mille Plateaux. There are rumors on the web that it was created with samples of an acoustic guitar, which I would love to believe. I have the vinyl and on the back is says it was “recorded while Dublin slept”. This album is very slow. It makes very good use of the shortest sounds possible. Clicks and sticks and stabs and static and fuzz have never sounded so warm. The pad sounds here are irresistibly sleep-inducing. It’s a very sad record, in my opinion. These tracks have the power to change the mood in a room dramatically. It’s the type of record that one feels most comfortable keeping to one’s self out of suspicion that a regular person might make a very ugly remark like, “Can you please play something a little more up-beat”. Although, I do admit, I have played this record on several occasions to show off my sophisticated tastes in the finer offerings from this world’s most talented electronic musicians.

Signer – Low Light Dreams

What a perfect title for this album. I would definitely loop it in with Together is the New Alone in terms of the mood that it establishes in a room. In my opinion one of the main differences is that the sounds in this album are more sustained and textured, windy even. It clears the air. Yes, definitely an airy feeling to many of these tracks. Although here you also have subtle elements of 4/4 techno, but in a subdued atmosphere that you can still sleep to. There are strings present, and also vocals. “Interior Dub” is one of the highlights of the album, in my opinion. In it you can hear the hauntingly prophetic echoes of Signer’s voice, which simply must be heard without any further description. This album is one of my all-time favorite late night listens.

Mitchell Akiyama – Temporary Music

Temporary Music is ambient music at the core but is also noteworthy for its glitchiness. Each track is extremely hand-crafted to create an abstract landscape of lines, vectors, colliding polygons, confusion, static, inertia, time-travel, and all other kinds of feelings, for me. “Big Sur” and “Thaw” are my two favorite compositions from this record. The opening sounds in “Big Sur” haunt me while I lose consciousness in the night. The timbre of these sounds is unmatched in terms of the haunt. There’s a sharp attack on them but it still sounds so soft. It’s very tribal, for me. The rhythms on this album are incredible. It’s definitely a darker album as well. More abrasive than Donnacha Costello and Signer, but also more crowded. It’s probably a little harder to fall asleep to this album, so I recommend it more for working and for thinking than as sleep accompaniment.

Biosphere – Substrata

This is hand down one of the greatest achievements by man in creating a total, visceral audio experience. The landscapes created in this album are perilous. Icy Norwegian peaks, frigid caves, screeching wind, places you’ve never been but with a picture that seems so clear in your mind. It’s a marvel of audio-visual imagination. You feel like you’re there and you know what it looks like, but you’re unsure as to why it feels so good, despite the harsh conditions. This album is probably the reason I decided to pursue ambient listening as a hobby. One of the first times I feel asleep to this album I woke up in the middle of “The Things I Tell You”. There is a frequency in this track that occurs just before the vocal sample, and it is as if the track was designed to wake you up just for that sample, as if it couldn’t be any more impressionable than at that moment, where it literally penetrates your subconsciousness and connects your mind with the music. This album is just incredible.

Steve Jobs: Design Perfectionist

Today Steve Jobs resigned as CEO of Apple Computers. Steve, we’ll miss you. You did a great jobs.

The news was everywhere. There was even a tribute to Jobs’ prodigious contributions to the world of computing on CNN.COM. Take a look and tell me if you get the irony of this situation:

We love you, Steve! Even the haters were lovers all along.

In a Fern Phase Lately

Lately I find myself to be in a fern phase. I have made several trips to Cole Hardware recently to go fern shopping. First I was taking care of a couple baby ferns in my apartment, but despite keeping a close watch and caring for them attentively, they just didn’t seem to be thriving. The leaves were turning brown. I tried more water and it helped a little but I could tell they weren’t feeling the dry attic air.

I planted one of the babies in the backyard soil and it seems happier now. There are several new branches rising up and becoming uncoiled further every day. So I made another trip to Cole Hardware, this time to pick up a much larger fern plant. I haven’t planted it yet, but it too now lives in the backyard in the shade. I imagine I’ll probably collect more in the near future.

For some reason I feel very drawn to ferns. The leaves are so visually rewarding and I can stare at the patterns that emerge from the math of the leaves and feel very calm and content, especially when the nice light beams down between the trees and illuminates the golden green of the fern leaves.

Ambient Landscapes

I put this mix together in Ableton Live with the idea that it would be good thinking music, or music for getting work done. This mix has been downloaded a few dozen times on SoundCloud so I figured I’d submit it here as well. I like ambient style music because it’s not busy. I really appreciate the way ambient music requires patience from the listener. It’s not an instant-gratification style at all. There are longer spaces and increased separation between the elements, droning rhythms, colder sounds that echo to bring out the vast distance created by the sounds. Something about this kind of music really does it for me. I hope you like it as well. Just click the Download arrow on the player and throw it into your iTunes.