Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Natural Language Processing

I have been studying natural language processing lately (otherwise known as computational linguistics). I began with NLTK (Natural Language Toolkit), an open source natural language processing tool kit. This is a superb guide to practical computational linguistics featuring a free comprehensive textbook (which is frequently used for a single semester course in natural language processing at advanced undergraduate or postgraduate level) and software package running in a Python environment on Windows or Linux.The field covers a wide range, but an example readily available to many people these days is the process by which your smart phone accepts vocal commands from you. This involves segmenting the phonemes (the individual pieces of spoken words, nominally involving a consonant and a vowel), putting breaks in the incoming stream of language sound you make and then attempting to match those with words from a lexicon (large list of possible words).
This is no easy task, but it is followed by the even more challenging pursuit of meaning, attempting to map what you have spoken to actions the phone can take, including the object of such an action. For example, if you commanded your phone "search for Mexican restaurants in Las Cruces" the phone would look for a command in that string of sounds, a command it recognizes. If it successfully recognized "search for" then it would branch in its processing logic to objects of such a command, i.e., what you want to search for.

This would require tagging each word in the utterance (what you just said to the phone) to identify the command and its object(s). The phone would have to recognize that "(Mexican) restaurants" is the search object.

Here is a look at the result of a natural language processor tagging the text string of the utterance we are discussing (we will ignore the details of how the sounds you made became this text stream):

>>> grammar = nltk.data.load('grammars/large_grammars/atis.cfg')
>>> parser = nltk.parse.EarleyChartParser(grammar)
>>> text = nltk.word_tokenize("Look for Mexican restaurants in Las Cruces.")
>>> nltk.pos_tag(text)
[('Look', 'NN'), ('for', 'IN'), ('Mexican', 'JJ'), ('restaurants', 'NNS'), ('in', 'IN'), ('Las', 'NNP'), ('Cruces', 'NNP'), ('.', '.')]

Notice how each word in the utterance (what you said to the phone) has now been tagged with a part of speech label (which we refer to as simply "tag").  'IN' means "preposition."  'NN' means "singular noun," 'NNS' means 'plural noun,' and 'NNP' means 'proper noun' (typically the name of a person or place). These grammatical tags are taken primarily from the Brown Corpus, a landmark publication by Brown University in 1964, featuring over a million words of running text or edited prose published in the United States in 1961.

Before I ran the parser on our target utterance I had to give it a grammar (you can see that I loaded the atis.cfg grammer in the Python IDLE session above (Python is a computer programming language frequently used in science; IDLE is an integrated development environment, i.e., a windowed application that makes it easier to write and test code). The ATIS grammar, developed by Microsoft Research, was extracted from a treebank of the DARPA ATIS3 training sentences. Sentences are typically parsed into treelike structures. Well, I will see if a picture is worth a thousand words here and show you a tree parse diagram of the sentence we are working with (from a parse done later to correct mislabelling of the verb):

It does appear somewhat like an upside down tree, where the tree's root is at the top and its branches become developed as it proceeds down the page, the inverse of an oak tree rooted at the ground and branching above. A treebank (in the context of computational linguistics) is a database of such syntactic or parse trees. Such a treebank can be analyzed to discover typical patterns of syntax, i.e., the way the different parts of speech are normally organized in sentences of a particular language. For example, English sentences typically have the subject first (going left to right) and it usually is a noun or noun phrase. The predicate, the part to the right of the subject typically, is formed around a verb. We form sentences without having to think much about it, having brains that are evolved to learn and process language (I will agree with Noam Chomsky on this and may say more about it later), but it is difficult to program a machine to do this. One of the ways to construct a computer program that will parse sentences is to analyze a treebank and produce rules of grammar that describe the frequent patterns in the treebank (like subject/NN-->predicate/VP).

A context free grammar (CFG) is often used to formally present the rules of grammar in a form a computer can process. For example, S --> NP VP, which tells us that the symbol 'S' on the left, symbolizing 'sentence' can be produced by a noun phrase (NP) followed by a verb phrase (VP). There are many different ways to form sentences (understatement). In fact, that is one of the things that distinguishes human speech from animal communications (well, it used to), i.e., that each utterance is potentially unique, never previously said, created by putting together the blocks of language by the rules of grammar to accomplish the communication of a potentially novel thought. So you really want a computer to help grind through huge treebanks of sentences labelled with their parts of speech (POS) tags and generate grammar rules as much as possible (since the rules will be lengthy, i.e., many lines of the kind of production rule I just showed you above).

DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (of the United States government), has done linguistics research among other things.  For example, they created the TCP/IP protocol that we use to communicate over the Internet---that protocol was designed to assure an email got to its destination even if a city or two was destroyed by a nuclear attack, TCP/IP being able to try different routes if a particular city disappears). They have also been working on true artificial intelligence (not the chicanery promoted as AI by many software folks and companies, which I won't name since I am blogging on their platform), but they abruptly went "black" on the subject after 2012, now only presenting this effort as using mammalian brain structural hints to create advanced computer chips. Their actual intent is to create true mammalian brain intelligence, which I will prove by reproducing one of their press images from 2012 (which seems to have been removed) describing the SyNAPSE project (to alarm those of you who have watched the Terminator movie series):


DARPA was interested in machine reading and other computational linguistics subjects and produced the ATIS3 training sentences which Microsoft used to produce the ATIS grammar that I gave to the Earley parser I used to analyze the "look for Mexican restaurants in Las Cruces" sentence above. The Earley parser is a chart parser that uses a set of grammar rules (as just discussed) in a dynamic programming environment, trying to predict which of the grammar rules to use next as it moves from left to right across a sentence trying to match up rules with the words and POS tags it encounters. It is important to predict which rule to use next because to simply scan through the entire CFG grammar file for each word of each sentence might take a prohibitively long time. The ATIS grammar I used above has about 5,235 lines (rules).

Well, some of you who have persisted in the grueling task of reading my entire post may be wondering if I noticed that the Earley parser mislabelled the verb 'look' in the sentence. Yes, I did. So I had to obtain a more robust computational package (I am sure I could have gotten better results with NLTK had I spent more time teaching classifiers, but I was in a hurry), my simple sentence being a somewhat unfair target, being a command to a machine and missing a subject (that being understood by most humans to be 'you,' i.e., the person or thing being commanded).

I got hold of a language processing pipeline from the Natural Language Processing (NLP) group at Stanford University and ran their coreNLP pipeline as a local server, using http post to request parsing of the target sentence from my IDLE Python console (assisted in that http post process by use of a nice Python package called Requests, advertised as 'the only non-GMO HTTP library for Python, safe for human consumption' by its ingenious author, Kenneth Reitz, and some interface Python code written by a postgrad AI student at Berkeley, Smitha Milli). The Stanford NLP software is industrial strength but did churn for a minute or two to produce a correct parse:

c:\stanfordcnlp>java -cp "c:\stanfordcnlp\*" -Xmx1500m edu.stanford.nlp.pipeline.StanfordCoreNLPServer -port 9000 -timeout 60000 -annotators tokenize, ssplit,pos,depparse,parse
...
[main] INFO CoreNLP - Starting server...
[main] INFO CoreNLP - StanfordCoreNLPServer listening at /0:0:0:0:0:0:0:0:9000

Then I started a Python IDLE session and requested service from the Stanford server locally:
 
ActivePython 2.7.10.12 (ActiveState Software Inc.) based on
Python 2.7.10 (default, Aug 21 2015, 12:07:58) [MSC v.1500 64 bit (AMD64)] on win32
...
>>> from pycorenlp import StanfordCoreNLP
>>> nlp = StanfordCoreNLP('http://localhost:9000')
>>> text = ('Look for Mexican restaurants in Las Cruces.')
>>> properties = {'annotators': 'tokenize,ssplit,pos,depparse,parse', 'outputFormat': 'json'}
>>> output = nlp.annotate(text, properties)

...and the server response was:

>>> print(output['sentences'][0]['parse'])
(ROOT
  (S
    (VP (VB Look)
      (PP (IN for)
        (NP
          (NP (JJ Mexican) (NNS restaurants))
          (PP (IN in)
            (NP (NNP Las) (NNP Cruces))))))
    (. .)))
>>>


So, we got the proper tagging and parse of our sentence. I wanted to see a tree visual of this so I laboriously manually entered into NLTK the CoNLL2000 IOB tag lines corresponding to the parse from the Stanford NLP parse:

>>> chunkTest = """
look VP B-VP
for IN B-PP
restaurants NNS B-NP
Mexican JJ I-NP
in IN B-PP
Las NNP B-NP
Cruces NNP I-NP
. . O
"""
>>> nltk.chunk.conllstr2tree(chunkTest, chunk_types=['VP', 'NP', 'PP']).draw()


...and obtained the following visual presentation of the Stanford parse:




CoNLL2000 was the 2000 Conference on Computational Natural Language Learning (CoNLL-2000). Chunking captures larger pieces of a sentence, grouping POS tagged words into chunks like VP (verb phrases), NP (noun phrases) and PP (prepositional phrases). The data file format they used was IOB, which you can see above were each line of a sentence with a word, a POS tag and an IOB chunk tag specifying 'B' for beginning of a chunk, 'I' for 'in a chunk', and 'O' for 'out of a chunk, i.e., not a recognized chunk type.' 

I had better close this post, since I am getting some strange edit behavior and may be exceeding the size limits here. Stay tuned though---I intended to talk more about what is is machines are doing when they process language.

 










Saturday, November 26, 2016

A directed graph representation of a rank 3 sudoku

Sudoku is a single-player game where the player attempts to choose entries from {1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9} to complete a partial assignment on a 9 x 9 matrix (rows and columns like a chess board or checkerboard). None of those 9 numbers (digits) may appear twice in any row, column or any of the nine "blocks" (nine 3 x 3 submatrices on that 9 x 9 row x column board). It should be clear that each of the nine numbers must appear once in every row, column and box (since there are nine cells in each and no number may appear twice in any of those subsets).

The Sudoku board can be interpreted mathematically as a graph: The graph will have 81 vertices with each vertex corresponding to one of the 81 squares (or cells) on the Sudoku 9 x 9 grid. Solving the Sudoku puzzle then amounts to a graph coloring problem, where the term "color" has a general theoretical meaning in graph theory, but does originate in early work done with the practical motivation of determining the minimum number of colors required to distinguish the countries sharing a border on a map. The "colors" in the case of Sudoku amount to the 9 digits that have to be correctly assigned to the cells of the Sudoku board given a partial assignment with a minimum of 17 cells filled in (that is a complex mathematical theoretical problem, the MNC problem, i.e., proving that a minimum of 17 cells must be filled in if you are providing a Sudoku game problem with only a single solution rather than several that might work). If you have not played Sudoku (I find puzzles annoying but enjoy researching why they are annoying), here is what a game might look like:

This is a very difficult Sudoku puzzle, the Will Shortz Puzzle No. 301. Just to illustrate what I am talking about, here is the solution to that puzzle (spoiler alert if you were going to try to solve the puzzle first):


Returning to the graph discussion, each vertex is then one of the 81 cells in the 9 x 9 Sudoku. The connections between these vertices are called edges. The rules of the game I gave earlier are used to define the edge connections: (1) any vertices (cells) in the same column are connected with an edge (2) any of the vertices (cells) in the same row are connected with an edge and (3) any of the cells in one of the 9 three by three boxes (you can more or less see them above in the bold lines overlaying the lighter grid) are connected with an edge. There are 810 edges connecting the vertices (cells) by these rules. This is a regular graph, i.e.,the degree of every vertex is the same. That is, the  total number of edges connected to each vertex (cell) is the same and is in fact 20. There is a mathematical equation to give that number for similar graphs of various ranks (the rank of the 9 x 9 Sudoku is 3; the number of rows or columns is therefore n x n or 9): 3n(squared) - 2n - 1. So for n = 3, the degree of each vertex is 3 squared = 9 x 3 = 27 - 2 x 3 = 6 - 1 = 27 - 6 - 1 = 20 (pardon me for not using markup language to make the mathematical notation pretty; it is late as I write and I do not want to force a MathJax download on visitors anyway). Since each edge connects two vertices, the total number of edges is then (81 vertices / 2 ) x (20 edges per vertex) = 810. The coloring problem then becomes how to assign a digit from a selection of 1 - 9 to each vertex such that no two adjacent vertices (two vertices are adjacent if they share a connecting edge, the mathematical equivalent of two cells being in the same row, column or 3 x 3 box) have the same digit.

In any case, I finally reach the purpose of this discussion, which is to share my first computer generated drawing of the vertices and edge connections of an empty Sudoku (that is, none have been assigned digits since the labels would further clutter the already dense graph). The vertices are around the perimeter of the circular graph (they are colored red, in the human sense of color, and they are much too large, but this was my first plot) and they are connected by the spider web of edges as defined above (I hope you enjoy it as much as I apparently do). You can click on the picture below to see the full size picture of the graph:



Saturday, November 12, 2016

All this time and still hearts of darkness

Around 1991 Gordon Sumner (aka Sting) wrote a song, "All This Time," about the impermanence of the things of men in relation to nature. Talking about an old town in Britain, Sumner sings:

The teachers told us, the Romans built this place:
They built a wall and a temple, an edge of the empire garrison town,
They lived and they died, they prayed to their gods, but the stone gods did not make a sound...
And their empire crumbled, 'til all that was left were the stones the workmen found
...And all this time [centuries] the river flowed in the falling light of a northern sun

The dual message of the song was that there is no meaning to life and no eternal being(s) or metaphysical basis for existence. Sumner claims that he was actually writing about the death of his own father, but he has said elsewhere that he is agnostic and believes that religious faith is dangerous. In the song he quotes from the New Testament (adding a sarcastic but amusing paraphrase) then sees "the old man [God] laughing," earlier he mocks the appearance of Christian priests then asserts that he would like to "bury the old man [God and belief in God] at sea," and asks "Father [God], if Jesus exists, how come he never lived [or lives] here?" Roman historian Tacitus writing c. 117 AD in book XV chapter 44 of his Annals recorded that during the reign of Tiberius 14 – 37 AD, the Roman procurator of Judaea, Pontius Pilatus, had executed "Christus." Jesus, the Latinized Greek version of the common Hebrew name, Yeshua or Joshua, was declared by his followers to be the expected messiah, the Greek translation for which is khristos, i.e., Latin Christus. So whatever else you may believe, you may be certain Jesus did live there at any rate. 

It should be noted that Tacitus was no supporter of Christianity and only mentioned this incidentally to reporting that the emperor Nero was widely suspected of having ordered the burning of Rome July 18, 64 AD and therefore found it necessary to fix the blame for the fire on someone else, so chose the Christians. Tacitus added that the Christians were already hated for their "abominations" and "hatred against mankind" and that though Pontius Pilatus had temporarily checked "a most mischievous superstition" (by executing Christus) it had "again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular."

Civilizations are indeed transitory though, as is human existence in this world. Rome had existed as a republic, with elected officials for about 500 years before internal conflicts and civil strife resulted in Julius Caesar being appointed perpetual dictator in 44 BC. He was followed by a succession of mostly evil absolute rulers (emperors) until the fall of the empire in 476 AD.

The Roman empire crumbled from within, the expense of constant war and general profligate spending having broken the financial health of the country and created a huge gap between the rich and the poor. The government had become completely corrupt, the Roman Senate incompetent and powerless and the   thousands of soldiers comprising the personal body guard of the emperor (the Praetorian Guard; before the end of the Roman Republic it had been illegal for military units to operate within the city) began to instead select the emperor themselves, often auctioning off the post to the highest bidder and hastening the replacement process by murdering the emperor.

The Roman people naturally lost trust in their government. The once invincible Roman military forces that had expanded the boundaries of the empire, projecting power into every area of the ancient world and making possible profitable commerce while keeping the barbarian armies at bay began to be made up of foreign troops without any real loyalty to Rome. Large foreign migrations overwhelmed the empire. By 476 AD Rome abdicated to the Germanic warlord Odoacer and that was the end (the fact that every citizen presumably had the right to bear arms did not seem to protect them from invasion by a large professional army).

I happened to read Julius Caesar's commentary on The Gallic Wars recently. Caesar was a brilliant military commander (who, as we mentioned earlier, eventually became dictator of Rome, promoted by a grateful and hopeful people) who brought most of Gaul, present day Europe south of the Rhine, under control 58 – 50 BC.

After Caesar's commentaries I finally got around to reading Joseph Conrad's 1899 novella, Heart of Darkness (I had been intending to read this since I saw Francis Ford Coppola's adaptation of the story in his 1979 film, Apocalypse Now). With synchronicity, Conrad's narrator in the story, Marlow, began talking of when the Romans had first arrived in Britain some nineteen hundred years earlier. In his commentaries Julius Caesar had written an engaging account of his invasion of Britain 55 and 54 BC. Marlow imagines the experience of the Roman legionaries at "the very end of the world, a sea the colour of lead, a sky the colour of smoke...going up this river [the Thames]...sand-banks, marshes, forests, savages,---precious little to eat for a civilized man...Here and there a military camp lost in a wilderness...death skulking in the air, in the water, in the bush...They were men to face the darkness...They were no colonists...they were conquerors, and for that you want only brute force...your strength is just an accident arising from the weakness of others. They grabbed what they could get for the sake of what was to be got. It was just robbery with violence, aggravated murder on a great scale, and men going at it blind—as is very proper for those who tackle a darkness."

Caesar had decided to proceed into Britain because he discovered that in most of the wars of Rome with Gaul the peoples of Britain had helped the Gauls with supplies and other support. In his commentaries Caesar described the Britains: "Most of the inland inhabitants do not sow corn, but live on milk and flesh, and are clad with skins. All the Britains, indeed, dye themselves with wood, which occasions a bluish color, and thereby have a more terrible appearance in fight. They wear their hair long, and have every part of their body shaved except their head and upper lip." He goes on to describe the difficulty in fording the river Thames and the Brits defense of the banks by "sharp stakes fixed in front, and stakes of the same kind fixed under the water covered by the river." Caesar pursues the local forces, who are concealed "in intricate and woody places." He remarks that "the Britons, when they have fortified the intricate woods, in which they are wont to assemble for the purpose of avoiding the incursion of an enemy, with an entrenchment and a rampart, call them a town." 

Returning to Heart of Darkness, Marlow, talking to his shipmates aboard a vessel anchored on the Thames, begins to tell them about a trip he made up the Congo River into the "heart of Africa." 

Going up that river was like traveling back to the earliest beginnings of the world, when vegetation rioted on the earth and the big trees were kings. An empty stream, a great silence, an impenetrable forest. The air was warm, thick, heavy, sluggish. There was no joy in the brilliance of sunshine. The long stretches of the waterway ran on, deserted, into the gloom of overshadowed distances. On silvery sandbanks hippos and alligators sunned themselves side by side... There were moments when one’s past came back to one, as it will sometimes when you have not a moment to spare for yourself; but it came in the shape of an unrestful and noisy dream, remembered with wonder amongst the overwhelming realities of this strange world of plants, and water, and silence. And this stillness of life did not in the least resemble a peace. It was the stillness of an implacable force brooding over an inscrutable intention. It looked at you with a vengeful aspect...

The reaches opened before us and closed behind, as if the forest had stepped leisurely across the water to bar the way for our return. We penetrated deeper and deeper into the heart of darkness. It was very quiet there. At night sometimes the roll of drums behind the curtain of trees would run up the river and remain sustained faintly, as if hovering in the air high over our heads, till the first break of day. Whether it meant war, peace, or prayer we could not tell. ...

We were wanderers on a prehistoric earth, on an earth that wore the aspect of an unknown planet. We could have fancied ourselves the first of men taking possession of an accursed inheritance, to be subdued at the cost of profound anguish and of excessive toil. But suddenly, as we struggled round a bend, there would be a glimpse of rush walls, of peaked grassroofs, a burst of yells, a whirl of black limbs, a mass of hands clapping of feet stamping, of bodies swaying, of eyes rolling, under the droop of heavy and motionless foliage. The steamer toiled along slowly on the edge of a black and incomprehensible frenzy. The prehistoric man was cursing us, praying to us, welcoming us—who could tell? We were cut off from the comprehension of our surroundings; we glided past like phantoms, wondering and secretly appalled, as sane men would be before an enthusiastic outbreak in a madhouse. We could not understand because we were too far and could not remember because we were travelling in the night of first ages, of those ages that are gone, leaving hardly a sign—and no memories....

The earth seemed unearthly. We are accustomed to look upon the shackled form of a conquered monster, but there—there you could look at a thing monstrous and free. It was unearthly, and the men were—No, they were not inhuman. Well, you know, that was the worst of it—this suspicion of their not being inhuman. It would come slowly to one. They howled and leaped, and spun, and made horrid faces; but what thrilled you was just the thought of their humanity—like yours—the thought of your remote kinship with this wild and passionate uproar. Ugly. Yes, it was ugly enough; but if you were man enough you would admit to yourself that there was in you just the faintest trace of a response to the terrible frankness of that noise, a dim suspicion of there being a meaning in it which you—you so remote from the night of first ages—could comprehend. And why not? The mind of man is capable of anything—because everything is in it, all the past as well as all the future. What was there after all? Joy, fear, sorrow, devotion, valour, rage—who can tell?—but truth—truth stripped of its cloak of time.

Marlow continues up the Congo and eventually finds Kurtz, the legendary ivory trade agent the company had tasked him with locating. Kurtz turns out to be somewhat of a sociopath, having apparently taken on a god-like role with the local natives, decapitating and mounting heads on poles among other behavior impressive to the jungle folk, for the primary purpose of extorting all of the ivory from them that could be collected and sent back up the river (it was and still is a very valuable commodity). But he was nevertheless revered by Marlow and others:

That was not the point. The point was in his [Kurtz] being a gifted creature, and that of all his gifts the one that stood out preeminently, that carried with it a sense of real presence, was his ability to talk, his words—the gift of expression, the bewildering, the illuminating, the most exalted and the most contemptible, the pulsating stream of light, or the deceitful flow from the heart of an impenetrable darkness.

Later, Marlow watches Kurtz die:

Anything approaching the change that came over his features I have never seen before, and hope never to see again. Oh, I wasn’t touched. I was fascinated. It was as though a veil had been rent. I saw on that ivory face the expression of sombre pride, of ruthless power, of craven terror —of an intense and hopeless despair. Did he live his life again in every detail of desire, temptation, and surrender during that supreme moment of complete knowledge? He cried in a whisper at some image, at some vision—he cried out twice, a cry that was no more than a breath: “‘The horror! The horror!

Marlow returns to civilization [sic] and delivers some of the dead man's personal letters to Kurtz' fiancee. In an emotional scene, the grieving woman tells Marlow, "What a loss to me—to us! To the world."  She begs him to tell her the last eloquent words of Kurtz as he died. Marlow replied, deciding he had better create a better last memory for her, "The last word he pronounced was---your name." I couldn't help but laugh as I read this, recalling Peter Eckermann's words on the death of Goethe (Johann Wolfgang Goethe, d. 1832; he is revered by the Germans, in large degree because of his noble appearance---I attempted to read Goethe's Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship and found it so insipid as to be impossible to continue; I grant his Faust had a potent theme, i.e., selling one's soul to the devil for power over the physical world): 

The morning after Goethe’s death, a deep desire seized me to look once again upon his earthly garment. His faithful servant, Frederick, opened for me the chamber in which he was laid out. Stretched upon his back, he reposed as if asleep; profound peace and security reigned in the features of his sublimely noble countenance. The mighty brow seemed yet to harbour thoughts. I wished for a lock of his hair; but reverence prevented me from cutting it off. The body lay naked, only wrapped in a white sheet; large pieces of ice had been placed near it, to keep it fresh as long as possible. Frederick drew aside the sheet, and I was astonished at the divine magnificence of the limbs. The breast was powerful, broad, and arched; the arms and thighs were elegant, and of the most perfect shape; nowhere, on the whole body, was there a trace of either fat or of leanness and decay. A perfect man lay in great beauty before me; and the rapture the sight caused me made me forget for a moment that the immortal spirit had left such an abode. I laid my hand on his heart – there was a deep silence – and I turned away to give free vent to my suppressed tears.

Well, I am not sure I do feel the remote kinship Conrad spoke of, but I am increasingly aware of the silent jeer of the river (Sumner's wrote “all this time the river flowed, endlessly...like a silent tear,” but it seems to me more a jeer to humanity in 2016).

Monday, April 18, 2016

Synchronicity and transcription in development

I awoke for the final time at 0839 Monday April 18, 2016 with the remnants of a vivid dream still in my consciousness:

I was seated in a waiting room with many connected chairs. It apparently was a large hospital waiting room. A man was seated next to me. He was approximately of Cheri's [Cheri is my late wife] older brother D___'s body proportions and I had the impression he was wearing black plastic glasses. I had the thought later that this could have been her second husband, the father of her two daughters, although I had never met that individual. I think I asked where Cheri was and the D___ person told me that she was in "proline" (I seemed to hear it pronounced proe-lee-in with the accent on the first syllable, but this may have been a waking interpretation of the characters that appeared clearly in the dream in my mind). He added that "only loved ones were permitted into that area to see her." This annoyed me and I dismissed it as an absurdly inappropriate qualifying comment, since I was undoubtedly one of her loved ones, if not her primary loved one. I got up and went into adjoining large rooms, pale yellow institutional cinder block construction with linoleum floors, white or light, I think. There were many people seated or moving about everywhere. I think I asked a woman dressed in 1950's era nursing uniform (starched white hat and skirt) where was the "proline area, i.e., where was Cheri. I saw Cheri in my mind's eye around this time in the dream. She was young as when I first met her in 1972, lithe, with blond hair and energetic lovely eyes. The nurse told me that Cheri had already been moved to the area for the procedure. It came to my mind that the procedure was some kind of mental surgical operation. The concept was somewhat confused, but it didn't seem abnormal to me, nor was there an atmosphere of extreme concern surrounding these events.

As I finished writing a brief note in my medical journal regarding the dream, the words of John 3:6 – 8 came into my mind, "...you must be born again." I smiled to myself, considering the Phoenix Fire Mystery, i.e., the reincarnation hypothesis. I went about my morning and got online later to search for the word "proliene," (since I thought I had heard "proe—lee—in" when I felt the word in the dream earlier) but saw nothing interesting in the Google SERP (search engine results page). Google responded with "did you mean proline" and gave me a link to some site doing lien-related legal work and the like. I dropped the subject and continued with my day. I wondered later if I should email Cheri's daughter, C___, and assure everything was ok with her and her family, but decided that this would be intruding without reasonable benefit for her (I like hearing about how she is doing, but realize I am not very relevant now).

Later I returned to the computer and resumed work I was doing on a proposed article explaining how it is that a spider "knows" how to spin a web innately from the DNA of its genome. I digressed into the detail of DNA transcription and was reviewing the DNA codons, the base pair codes for amino acids that constitute the genetic code. Suddenly the codon "CCC" and its product "proline" stood out on the page. My heart skipped a beat and my eyes widened. "CCC" mRNA codes for an amino acid called "proline." I immediately realized that the actual DNA template coding for CCC in mRNA would be "GGG," the DNA base sequence being complementary (and antiparallel, but that is irrelevant when the codon is three identical codes). Cheri-Cheri-Cheri associated with Gary-Gary-Gary (Cheri had always addressed me by Gary, my first name) it seems, cued by the dream word "proline."

After that discovery, I looked at the amino acid proline. It was curious that proline is the only amino acid that stains yellow rather than blue in chromatography (via ninhydrin), recalling the prominent yellow color of the walls in the dream. Of deeper significance, I discovered (following the dream suggestion) that proline is considered to be a phosphorylation marker, normally found immediately prior to the amino acids serine and threonine (in a polypeptide chain) to mark them as phosphorylation targets in cellular signal transduction, for example, to activate a responder which then binds to DNA to modify the expression of of a gene. Why was that of particular significance to me?

My research (for the article) the last few weeks had been concerned with development, in particular the development of the neural substrates required for the demonstration of innate behavior sequences. The DNA constituting the genome of the developing organism cannot "know" where a particular embryonic cell will be at a particular place and time, but the interaction of the DNA of each cell with the information that is generated dynamically as the embryo develops (the nonlinear evolving external and internal environment of the cell, which is in large part other cells and the mechanical and chemical influences they generate) results in a fairly consistent resulting organism (and behavioral repertoire), i.e., the phenotypic expression of genotype.

I use the term "bioworldline" to signify the trajectory a cell or other biological entity follows in the phase space consisting of all possible states of the entity. For example, with axes for time, position (three dimensionally spatially in the developing embryo) and relevant biochemical parameters (like phosphorylation target status modulating transcription status of local DNA), following the bioworldline of a cell in the multidimensional phase space so defined would be equivalent to a detailed fate mapping of the cell through the process of development. It was therefore of interest to me that my dream pointed me to another entry point in the analysis of development.

These kinds of synchronicities (odd coincidences) are for me rather like a portion of Carl Sagan's plot in his novel, Contact, where the character Ellie looks at a computer computation of the digits of pi on the suggestion of an extraterrestrial who tells her that even more advanced beings than himself have left messages embedded in transcendental numbers like pi. Out at 10e20 decimal places (10 followed by 20 zeros, a very large number of decimal places), the value of pi becomes a string of 1's and 0's which cause a circle to be drawn on a computer screen (when arranged as a suitable array of pixels, the process of which I won't describe further). That, of course, implied that intelligence had been embedded in the very fabric of reality---as does synchronicity.


Sunday, January 24, 2016

A New Thing Under the Moon

I woke at 0525 hrs today, Sunday January 24, 2016. It was dark and cold, sunrise still over an hour hence.  I was groggy, but smiled, examining as art the fragments of the dream I had been living before I awakened. It was very rare for me, cursed to relive in one form or another nightly the many years of battle (regrettably, not in the military), to have a dream that, being as it were a lovely sight, might be the work of an Immortal awake in us while we sleep, to paraphrase the Upanishads (Fifth Vallî, verse 8):  An old friend of mine, a guitarist I had played music with over the years, was seated at a table in the kitchen of his family home when his father came in and sat down and smoked a cigar, blissfully. I adjusted a wall mounted grandfather clock near the table which was off-kilter, but the old man said he preferred it that way. I knew he was dead, but it seemed irrelevant. The scene changed and my late wife, Cheri, appeared, young and bright-eyed. I was very happy to see her. My old friend attempted to call to her, being her first husband, but she only had eyes for me. My reverie was interrupted as my eye caught a glimmer of pure white light from a tiny gap in the closed blinds on my western window. I crawled from my bed cautiously, old bones stiff and questionable and opened the blinds. My face was bathed with pure white light from a huge full moon hanging in almost a direct line of sight to my eyes as I stood looking to the western horizon.

I returned to my bed, lying in the moonlight and switched on the tiny Sansa Clip Zip mp3 player Cheri had given me for my birthday in 2013, choosing a song, The Wind, she had written for me almost 40 years ago. I had asked her to sing it for me in 2012 and she had delighted in recording multiple takes in the little indie recording studio I had thrown together with a computer running a digital audio workstation, leaning close to the microphone and holding the headphones close on her ears to monitor her performance in real time. I had added piano, bass and other instruments subsequently, using only an acoustic guitar track as an initial guide for the vocal. Her seductively feminine cabaret voice, the hint of grit conjuring up smoke haze in a crowded Paris bistro in the 1930's, sang to me, "and you come and you go like the wind, and you touch me like a soft breeze, seems like I never want it to end…."

I knew I must follow her song with Reflections, the lyrics written by my old friend (who had appeared in the dream also) shortly after Cheri and I had found each other again in 2009.  He and I had produced and recorded the song in 2010: "Pieces of my life come back to me, Like an interwoven tapestry--Sometimes happy, sometimes so sad; All things considered, the good outweighs the bad..." As the moon continued its descent towards the lower edge of my window I selected one final song, Claude Debussy's hauntingly beautiful 1888 piano piece, Claire de Lune, the title a reference to Paul Verlaine's poem of the same name ("Your soul is a chosen landscape where charming masqueraders...go, playing the lute and dancing and almost sad beneath their fanciful disguises...they do not seem to believe in their happiness and their song mingles with the moonlight, "au claire de lune").

Later in the day I powered up a computer I hadn't used in a while and was pleased to discover a brief novel I had read last year but had misplaced. I was unable to recall the title or the author and no matter what search terms I assembled I could find nothing of the work online or locally. Fortunately, I had apparently left a copy on another computer. The story, The Outcast, was written by William Winwood Reade in 1875, shortly before he died. It was a very unusual work and it had remained a part of my mental landscape (to the extent that mental life can be separated from existence generally). I remembered a strange tale of a man who had lost his mind following the death of a woman he had loved intensely, the man having dreamed that godlike beings had created Earth and ultimately mankind as simply one of a series of works of art presented for the amusement of their kind. The presentation had met with considerable criticism by the demigods, well, I had better quote from the book so as to assure this is not considered evidence of my own mental deterioration (the following is Reade's account of the criticism leveled against one of the demigods for the artistic presentation which is the history of Earth and mankind):

"….though the work is by no means deficient in power, and contains some original ideas, there is….a roughness of style and execution which bear the stamp of inexperience. However….it is chiefly on moral grounds we think this production ought to be condemned.

The work is simple in conception, and modest in design. We have not here as in some ambitious compositions, a number of inhabited worlds contributing each its part to the story. One system only is placed upon the stage, and the action is confined to one planet of that system.

At first the world was presented to our view as a fiery cloud. It became compressed to a Sun, which advanced through Space, rotating on its axis, and cast off certain pieces from itself like tires from a wheel. These cooled into planetary bodies, and one of them, called by its inhabitants The Earth, was the scene of the drama which we shall now endeavor to describe.

[Reade's narrator describes the evolution of geology and life on Earth then continues with the increasing evolution of man.] At first wealth, culture, and power belonged exclusively to the dominant caste, while the masses labored in subjection. But by means of useful inventions knowledge was widely diffused, and the passion for liberty entered the bosom of the people. One nation after another shook itself free from the tyranny of kings and the tyranny of priests. When class restrictions were removed, all could hope by honest labor to better their condition, and all striving for their own ends assisted the onward movement of the world. At a later period the social equality of men extinguished personal ambition, and the Welfare of the Race was the aim of those who labored for distinction. Fame could only be obtained by adding something to the knowledge or the happiness of men. Finally war ceased ; the malignant forces of Nature were subdued, vice and disease were eradicated, the earth became a pleasure garden, and men learnt to bear without repining a painless death in extreme old age.

We suppose that the moral purpose of this drama is to teach the doctrine of Improvement, and to illustrate that tendency to Progress which pervades the universe. The evolution of mind from matter, by means of natural law, shows the innate power of that tendency or force, and the efforts by which Man achieves his own comparative perfection, are no doubt intended as a protest against that habit of quiescence and content which is perhaps the natural failing of Immortals. We think that the satire on theology is wholesome and just. Nothing could be more ludicrous than to see these ephemeral beings, these creatures of a moment, building little houses in honor of the First Cause, and glibly explaining mysteries which we do not profess to understand. This may serve as a warning to certain presumptuous philosophers who fabricate theories respecting the Supreme; for how can we know that we are not in the same relative position to beings of a higher race as those pigmies we create to ourselves? At least it is certain that our intellects, great as they are, or great as we think them to be, are unable to explain primary phenomena, or to solve the problems of Cause, Existence, and Futurity. So far then we go with our author ; and in numberless ways he has justly derided the follies of our race.

[However] ... it is most degrading that these men who are made in our image, who in their exterior form and mental faculties partly resemble ourselves, should be suffered to retain both in body and mind so much of the lower animals. ...Secondly, the development of matter to mind, of quadruped to man, of savage to civilized nations, is laudable enough as an idea; but how has it been carried out? As regards the first stage of the progress, we have only to praise and admire; but how has progress been produced in the animated world ? We are almost ashamed to explain a law, which, in its recklessness of life and prodigality of pain almost amounts to a crime. In cold forethought, the Creator so disposed the forces of nature that more animated beings were born than could possibly obtain subsistence on the earth. This caused a struggle for existence, a desperate and universal war; the best and improved animals were alone able to survive, and so in time, Evolution was produced. We shall not  deny that there is a kind of perverted ingenuity in the composition of this law; but the waste of life is not less clumsy than it is cruel. By means of this same struggle for existence, man was raised from the bestial state, and his early discoveries were made.  Afterwards, ambition of fame, and later still more noble motives came into force, but that was towards the conclusion of the drama. At first, every step in the human progress was won by conflict, and every invention resulted from calamity. The most odious vices and crimes were at one time useful to humanity, while war, tyranny, and superstition assisted the development of man. we do condemn this confusion of evil and good, and maintain that nothing can be more immoral than to make crime the assistant of progress, and vice the seed of which virtue is the fruit.

Again, Death is a useful and perhaps indispensable appliance in works of this kind, but so potent a means of exciting sympathy should be employed with moderation. Now what do we find here ? The law of evolution is the law of death. Massacre is incessant; flowers, animals, and men die at every moment; the earth is a vast slaughter-house, and the ocean reddened with blood. Nor, incredible as it may seem, is that the worst. With a talent for torture which rouses our wonder only next to our disgust, the Creator has smitten the animated world, even to the insects, with numerous painful and lingering diseases, while the intellect is also afflicted with maladies peculiar to itself...What can be said for such a world? What kind of defense or excuse can there be for its Creator? It is true that he made men himself, but that does not justify his cruelty. The Supreme has endowed us with the power of producing and destroying animated forms, but so terrible a gift should not be abused. We should never forget that though these little creatures live only for a moment, they are yet sentient beings, and their torments while they last are real and intense."

At any rate, I was struck by the odd coincidence (I am always pointing out instances of synchronicity to others, that being one of the means by which humans can see that there appears to be a mystical or dreamlike connection among the events that comprise human existence---waking or dreaming) that the title that Reade's madman gave the excerpt I quoted above (something I did not recall previously) was, A New Thing under the Moon. The madman tells his doctor about the thesis he has written, saying, "I merely assert that my theory of Cause and Creation is the best that has ever been propounded. It explains all the facts of history and nature, is in harmony with science, and is supported by analogy. Above all, it is quite original; nothing like it has ever been imagined before; and though Solomon wisely observes that there is no new thing under the Sun, there may be a new thing under the Moon."

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Of Rio Grande Sunsets, Valkyries, Eleusinian Mysteries, and Druids

On October 21, 2015 1742 hrs MDT I took the following picture out my window looking to the west out across the Rio Grande Rift (the crust of the North American continent began breaking apart about 40 million years ago in a roughly south to north line running from El Paso, Texas up through Las Cruces and Albuquerque, New Mexico into southern Colorado; the Rio Grande river began to take advantage of this rift valley beginning about 780,000 years ago, alternately cutting deeper into the land and filling it back up with sediment deposits). [Text continues following the photo.]



























The color of the sunset suggested fire to me. The unusual three clouds in the center left of the photograph suggested something supernatural. I thought about the sun sinking into the fire and had in mind somewhat the archetype of the ebb and flow of life in myths involving night and day, winter and spring. It began to come to me that the sun was sinking to temporary imprisonment and would be reborn in the morning, the goddess of the dawn. The three clouds at left center seemed to be flying beings and it was impossible for me not to think of them as Valkyries (the fact that Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries was playing on my stereo at the time seemed a hint as well).

To maintain some thematic or linguistic unity (with the Old Norse valkyrie), I decided to refer to the setting sun as Ostara, the Germanic referent to the constellation of concepts of dawn goddess, morning star, hearth and sun Proto-Indo-European linguistic concepts (e.g., Aurora, Roman goddess of the dawn, Istara in Anatolian dialects, Ostara/Eostre Germanic mythology). The Valkyries were the choosers of the slain, selecting who might die in battle and who might live, taking their chosen to the afterlife hall, Valhalla. In around 1870 Richard Wagner composed his Ride of the Valkyries as part of the Ring Cycle, where Wagner sought to unite the arts of music, poetry and drama to powerful effect. Interestingly, Wagner had in mind a magic fire concept at the close of Die Walkure (the opera containing the famous Ride of the Valkyries) where "Wotan surrounds Brunhilde with shrieking flames in order that their terrors may deter cowards from waking her" (p. 425 A Popular History of the Art of Music, by W. S. B. Mathews).

So, with a brief tale taking shape in my mind and the context seeming to be Old Norse/German, I decided that I should use a form of alliterative poetry common in the ancient literature of those peoples, basically each line consisting of two half-lines or verses with a pause in between, two accented syllables more or less per half line, the first half line alliterates (repeats same beginning word sound)  on the two stressed syllables and with the first stressed syllable in the second half line. The following four lines came to me:

Fall Ostara must to fire; fast the valkyries;
Select they the slain; shine they evermore
Thus done are things; thereafter shown and sung
Onward not the One; Only before, nothing more

The first two lines above I have already discussed (as to their semantic referents). Line three above is drawn from an account of the practice of the Eleusinian Mysteries in Ancient Greece, intended to "elevate man above the human sphere into the divine and to assure his redemption by making him a god and so conferring immortality upon him" [Nilsson, Martin P. Greek Popular Religion "The Religion of Eleusis" New York: Columbia University Press, 1947. pages 42–64, cited in a wikipedia article on the Eleusinian Mysteries]. The Greater Mystery participants walked to Eleusis along the Sacred Way and are believed to have taken part in rites inside a great hall (the Telesterion), rites which may have involved "things done" (a dramatic reenactment of the Demeter/Persephone myth, recalling my earlier mention of death/rebirth seasonal cycles), "things shown" (the display and viewing of sacred objects) and "things said" (secret commentaries that accompanied the things shown). I synthesized these ideas in line three above.

Line four above comes from research I was doing in June of 2015 regarding an old Druid song the Viscount Theodore Villemarque published in 1845 in his Barzaz-Breizh collection of old Breton songs he had spent his life compiling. Villemarque laboriously recorded by hand in notebooks the oral tradition songs in very obscure Old Breton dialects he heard from the local peasants in Brittany. This was an old Celtic region, sharing tradition and people with Cornwall, across the channel. The Druids were Celtic mystics, the Celtic word derouyd signifying interpreter of the gods, or one who speaks from the gods. They were suppressed by the Romans and later the Christian church, but some of their songs have been transmitted orally for 20 centuries or more, often as instructive or entertaining chants for their young. Villemarque got the melody and lyrics for one of these Druid songs, known variously as "Les Series" or "Ar Rannou," from a young peasant of the parish of Nizon whose mother had taught it to him ("to form his memory"). My gut feeling as a musician about the score he wrote after hearing the young peasant sing it to him makes me believe the melody he published in 1845 is probably close to the old Celtic melody that would have originally been known pre-Christian era in Brittany/Wales/Cornwall. It is given in the key of Bb, appearing to be used as the G minor scale (the relative minor of Bb) in the song melody given. These lyrics/thoughts have survived the 20 odd centuries embedded in a number chant (the lyrics comprise a dialog between a Druid instructor and his charge), a not uncommon way for the common people to keep alive complex history and thought without writing, i.e., the lyrics given do seem to be Druid era thoughts and memories. To return to the origin of line four in my alliterative verse tale above, the first verse of Les Series/Ar Rannou translates to English from the Old Breton as:
Druid: My pretty, my white child of the Druid, pretty one, what do you want? Of what shall I sing?
Child: Sing to me the cycle of the number one, until I have learned it for today.
Druid: There is no cycle for the number one, only the unique need, Ankou the bringer of death, the father of pain, nothing before, nothing more.

That became my line four above, Onward not the One; Only before, nothing more.




Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Clinging to the branch whilst it is gnawed away

This whole "death awaits me" thing has always weighed on my mind since I first awoke sometime during my ninth year on earth (this time around) with the stunning realization that someday my existence was going to end. Into my sixth decade now and with parents and family mostly having expired in or shortly following their 60's, I feel somewhat as did George Washington, when he wrote his good friend, the Marquis de Lafayette, December 8, 1784, saying "I called to mind the days of my youth, and found they had long since fled to return no more; ....now descending the hill, I had been ...years climbing, and that tho' I was blessed with a good constitution, I was of a short lived family, and might soon expect to be entombed in the dreary mansions of my father's. These things darkened the shades and gave a gloom to the picture...but I will not repine, I have had my day." In Leo Tolstoy's "My Confession" (written c. 1880 when the author was 52 years old), he relates an old Eastern fable: "...a traveler in the steppes ... is attacked by a furious wild beast. To save himself the traveler gets into a dried-up well ; but at the bottom of it he sees a dragon with its jaws wide open to devour him. The unhappy man dares not get out for fear of the wild beast, and dares not descend for fear of the dragon, so he catches hold of the branch of a wild plant growing in a crevice of the well. His arms grow tired, and he feels that he must soon perish, death awaiting him on either side, but he still holds on; and then he sees two mice, one black and one white, gnawing through the trunk of the wild plant, as they gradually and evenly make their way round it. The plant must soon give way, break off, and he will fall into the jaws of the dragon. The traveler sees this, and knows that he must inevitably perish; but, while still hanging, he looks around him, and, finding some drops of honey on the leaves of the wild plant, he stretches out his tongue and licks them." Tolstoy then comments, "thus do I cling to the branch of life, knowing that the dragon of death inevitably awaits me, ready to tear me to pieces, and I cannot understand why such tortures have fallen to my lot. I also strive to suck the honey which once comforted me, but it palls on my palate, while the white mouse and the black, day and night, gnaw through the branch to which I cling. I see the dragon too plainly, and the honey is no longer sweet. I see the dragon, from whom there is no escape, and the mice, and I cannot turn my eyes away from them. It is no fable, but a living, undeniable truth, to be understood of all men. The former delusion of happiness in life which hid from me the horror of the dragon no longer deceives me." I bought some honey at the market recently and have enjoyed it, not being able to eat much of my former diet anymore. Life indeed has a certain appearance of hopeless absurdity when the distraction of happiness is absent, yet we are blessed with the capacity to move the frame of reference, to slide the scale of comparison somewhat so as to find some value even in the worst of times. The other side of that coin (sliding scale of comparison) is that some become restless in good circumstances that have become relatively stable (I would not know from personal experience).

Thursday, July 1, 2010

2010 June 28 mana of the thunderstorm

I love to absorb the energy of the natural world (I spoke of the mana in the Bentley-Thomas song, "No One Knows Where It Goes," which you can listen to at http://www.bentley-thomas.com/). Recently (June 28, 2010) I sat outside one evening about 2000 hrs MDT and recorded the power of the thunderstorm and shot a couple of photos. I produced this little video from those elements:

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

A dialogue on the nature of art

Dalton: I’ll be damned! Tino somehow reproduced (Tino Sehgal’s “The Kiss”; February, 2010 at the Guggenheim Museum; “Kiss” basically involves performers wandering about talking informally with visitors, though one pair lies on the floor and kisses) my work at a little park off McRae in 1971 with my girl friend! Onlookers at that performance (8th grade football players with their coach) did not appreciate it though, and tossed dirt clods at us, forcing us to stop the performance and get up . On the serious side though, I find Tino amusingly absurd. Only in a world so dense with experience (made possible by a literal web of connectivity, human communications on an open, open in the sense of no filter or hierarchy of talent, intellect and experience, and immediate scale never before seen---in effect reducing humanity to a herd of cattle, all in the immediate near field of lowing and farting of their bovine companions, some of whom would naturally, after suitably distorted education, assume they should label as art, incisive political philosophy, etc., the banal activity surrounding them) would something so trivial and without merit be put forward with a straight face, much less seriously considered.

Artist CB: First of all- good to hear that you aren't the only one who has first hand experienced KISS. You should watch Michaele Antoinini's Zabrinske Point--Soooooo good.

Dalton: I’m more into performance art in this area---my own (grin).

Artist CB: As far as the rest of your commentary goes I find it refreshing but from a 'distorted education'... don’t know about that…

Dalton: That was a bit aggressive on my part, polemic. To be honest, I do believe much of what is taught in universities is not valid. Keep in mind (but never say it while you are at the mercy of the university system!) that requiring so-called original work for a masters or doctorate often encourages people to engage in sophistry, to pursue interpretations that are clearly absurd or wrong just to achieve “creativity.” In parallel with that distorting influence is the Marxist-radical feminist-anti-Western civilization-cultural relativism axis that really controls the granting of tenure to professors outside the realm of hard sciences and engineering (and even those have to be careful what they say). Their revisionist (“deconstruction”) approach to history combines with a necessity for “forging new ground” in completing advanced degrees whether or not that path is plainly absurd or invalid to cause distortions in education---absurd or invalid ideas are put forth and accepted, then becoming part of the body of ideas that a student is required to regurgitate to his or her instructor in order to receive the Scarecrow’s Certificate from the Wizard.

Artist CB: Believe it or not performance art is considered valid.

Dalton: This is a case in point. When you say it is considered valid, you really are saying that you were told by someone that it was valid. If that someone has an academic position, or that someone is writing in an approved textbook, then you are assuming that grants validity in and of itself. You need to ask yourself, what is art? My short answer would be, “art is human activity that provokes thought and/or mood in those who experience this art.” Aha, you say! You have just agreed Tino’s performance art is valid! No, I say---I would add one important qualification: The activity through which art emerges, whether ephemeral or lasting, must be non-trivial, not something that occurs routinely in everyday life. Art must produce a transcendent experience. Tino’s performance fails in that regard, for nothing his performers do transcend everyday life (at least life for those with reasonable intellect and aesthetic sensitivity---and for those without that level, there would be no understanding in any case).

Artist CB: It's a type of dance or theater.

Dalton: I disagree with you here. Both dance and theatre, to meet my criteria (art elicits thought and affect that transforms the experience of life, transcends the routine, elevates the spirit and understanding) must involve non-trivial performance. That in turn requires talent expressing itself through willful seeking of the peak experience in that mode. It does not involve trivial activity that anyone might perform without talent and practice, or observe in daily life. The mystics say (and I do regard myself as so) that it is the transcendent in daily life that gifts us with holiness. This doesn’t mean daily life is necessarily transcendent, but rather that there are transcendent pearls to be gathered in the moments of which life is composed. When I use terms like holiness and grace I am talking as a mystic, not as one with a religious doctrine. In regard to grace, I mean, as Aldous Huxley said, that grace is always sufficient provided we cooperate with it, i.e., there is a metaphysical transcendent base to reality that is accessible to us if we but open our eyes and remain receptive---and those magical moments of synchronicity indeed help us through our lives, occasionally constituting the dimension of miracles as it were, but I am heading into other topics.

Artist CB: It's viewing a person in life context- but critically- as art.

Dalton: We certainly may view individual lives as art, art of a high order being produced by a creator, or by a universe which lives through the many beings as an infinite series of incarnations (“the one light shining forth through all beings” as said in the Bhagavad-Gita), or both. We don’t require someone claiming to be an artist placing human beings in constrained trivial activities to make those observations, nor would we find them in that context. It would be tantamount to attempting to study the behavior of wild animals in a zoo. I don’t include the aspect of critique as a component of art. One can be critical of any number of entities of experience. They may or not constitute art.

Artist CB: As a statement about something- its a new context of socialization/being human.

Dalton: A performance, even trivial, may indeed by a statement about something, for example, people marching with placards protesting some political course of action---it would not, however, necessarily constitute art. I don’t believe sociology would agree that performance art has much if anything to do with socialization, but perhaps that discipline has deteriorated since I studied it in 1971 at UTEP. Socialization occurs through cultural entities like family, church, school, groups---entities that impart and enforce norms, expectation in belief and behavior. Nothing in Tino’s performance art could be expected to impart or enforce any norms (or force a re-examination of any norms).

Artist CB: I, quite frankly, really appreciate his concern about material waste.

Dalton: There is a place for concern about the amount of waste human civilization is creating and the effect on the environment. However, the primary reason it has become a problem is because human beings insist on the right to breed like bacteria, i.e., without thought or limit. The inevitable result of that, as any mathematician can show you with an exponential curve, is that unrestrained biological growth will eventually be stopped---by starvation, disease (see Malthus), or, in our case, wars among competing groups of human populations. It is irrelevant ultimately how much or how little we consume or create as long as we reproduce without limit. In that context it should be clear that concerns about art contributing to the bulk of non-degradable or otherwise noxious waste on the planet are trivial.

Artist CB: It's a big concern for me and, I hope, a group of like-minded artists. Of course, in my own practice I have made concessions, but it is a train of thought that haunts me and one that I am concerned with resolving.

Dalton: Beware that you do not fall under the spell of people who are unable to create and so therefore put forward these distortions encouraging you to stop creating art. The world is the better for material things that persist and continue to improve human life. Art is at its best one of the things we definitely want in our world, not merely in our memory. Don’t think I haven’t considered at length that most of my art, the peak experiences when I was really “on” when improvising on the guitar in my live career, live on only in the memory of those who were there for the experience. You can be sure that the occasional archival tape recording that surfaces is a great joy---as is meeting someone who recalls a particular performance. Making recordings of music is certainly a desirable mode of artistic expression, because it presents the possibility for limitless experience of the art by one or many. Deal with overpopulation and you make the general criticism of material things moot (adding a rational civilization not controlled by semi-humans of monstrous greed, apparently without much of a sense of aesthetics, grin).

Artist CB: It's interesting you know. I mean, dada-ism, fluxus, performance- all that shit is interested in acknowledging art as life (and all of this is has been going on for a little bit now- your time and before). I can really get behind that.

Dalton: Well, yes, let us regard our lives as art (personal art) of a high order and live them as a work in progress, maximizing intensity of experience while avoiding destruction---but let us not invite the world to watch the neighbor’s teenage daughter kiss her boyfriend and watch a passerby talk informally to the neighbors and laude that as some kind of epiphany (grin).

Artist CB: That's what spurred me into the art-making world. It’s the appreciation for the fleeting moment of a sunset, a decaying flower, a gust of wind, the temporal...a moment of conversation involving true connection.

Dalton: Now you are in the mystic sphere. This is what we mean when we talk of the transcendent in daily life. Your “job” as an artist is to teach others how to open their eyes to this fantastic experience of life.

Artist CB: I think that's a completely amazing thing for art to be about. Why not! Why do we as a society have to obsess over OBJECTS exclusively? That is not to say objects aren’t valuable, but they are not valuable exclusively.

Dalton: There are many modes of art; not all are objects, e.g., dance, musical performance, theatre. But objects, e.g., graphic arts, literature, written or recorded music and film, photographs----all these are very special because they permit the intensely personal and private ecstasy (and agony) of living to be shared with others, time and again. The reason we have advanced (in some areas) as a civilization is precisely because we, as a species, can evolve through objects---knowledge won by a single human now becomes part of the racial heritage and those who follow us need not begin at the bottom, but may stand on our shoulders and reach even higher.

Artist CB: All that aside, congrats on your cd release!

Dalton: Thanks. Mp3 download for the moment, but we will do some CD’s also at some point.

Artist CB: Exciting! I hope you sell some discs. I can’t believe you're on iTunes! You’re a big deal now! Ha-ha!

Dalton: It is not about ego. It is about art (ironically). Lallie commented (about the album), “This must be good for your self-esteem.” I smiled and asked her, “When have you ever seen any evidence that I had a problem with self-esteem?” She laughed and admitted that stock cliché clearly didn’t apply to me. I would argue that it never applies to the true artist---whether you do engineering, surgery, graphic arts, literature, music, what have you---if you use the gifts you are given, honing them, finding a peak experience of sublime joy in their expression---that is its own reward. It is not to magnify one’s self image (though a man can only be humble to the extent he is respected). And that is art.

Monday, May 10, 2010

On mysticism and the playing of music

Often technical virtuosity and melodic instinct are not found together and one without the other is analogous to physical beauty without spiritual beauty—I have always worked to unite the two, technical skill and the weaving of notes such as to arouse the mood, the affect in the listener. For me, every recording is “real.” The spontaneity of the artist in collaboration with other artists and interaction with the audience can be diminished to some degree in the studio, particularly when the work is manipulated by engineers or marketing types (and I say this having walked in both worlds). I should note that everything I record (or have played or recorded in my life) is always approached de novo to a large extent. It is useful perhaps (by way of analogy) to consider the mystic Evelyn Underhill. My exposure to Underhill was in my initial survey of the mystic way some decades past. I didn’t realize until recently how she had struggled with the almost impossible task she set herself (involuntarily) of trying to truly understand what the mystics experienced via the intellect alone, without feeling it. I am not an authority on her by any means, but I did get the impression that she eventually achieved some direct experience of the Ultimate via a return to her Christian roots (some Ultimate is better than none, as I am sure Mother Teresa would have agreed, tortured spirit that she was, having tasted but briefly of that great well-spring and then lost it…one wonders, as did Rainer Rilke, how one could lose [God] what children find so easily). Play it the way you feel it (grin).

Comment on the literary arrangement of things

It is interesting to consider the literary arrangement of life. I like the path Robert Heinlein’s science fiction took in his later years; he seemed to be moving very close to merging the boundary between the idea of an author writing a story which included the paths of fictional lives, and the work of God, Who perhaps does the same thing in a very grand and mysterious way with all of our lives (our “Author” as it were). Arthur Schopenhauer apparently developed a similar idea in an obscure essay mentioned by Joseph Campbell in the Power of Myth series he did with Bill Moyers shortly before his death. I’ve been trying to find that essay, "Transcendent Speculations on Apparent Design in the Fate of the Individual," translated by David Irvine (London: Watts, 1913), for years without success [ see http://www.jcf.org/forum/viewtopic.php?p=37649&sid=72075fb2955024e23d81d0ff12fb6024 for a thread involving someone also on a hunt for that essay ]. This is perhaps a different view of causality (or the illusion of causality) than given by the Law of Attraction (which seems to me related to the concept of karma).

Precognition is not delusion

I can assure you that precognition is no delusion of mental illness (though those that suffer delusional disorder or schizophrenia or schizotypal disorders might include such impressions, actual or imagined, in their delusional complex, just as they do all of the normal human experiential possibilities--divorced from reality in their case, for the most part—though sometimes hard to tell, as the Native Americans, like most primitive cultures knew, regarding the whacked out as touched by the gods). The anecdotal evidence is overwhelming among ESP researchers, not to mention the occurrence in the literature of all cultures and times--and my personal experience (cast my stability as you will--I assert my grasp of human reality is probably more clear and comprehensive than most). The problem with psi research is that it antagonizes the TWIT (the western intellectual tradition, after Ornstein in Multimind) and it is not phenomenon that can be produced on demand for the verification of experimental science in the usual sense. That is because these kinds of events represent a portion of existence that originates from the spiritual/mind side rather than the physical. Yes, I see a Cartesian dualism, though I know at a fundamental level (e.g., quantum mechanical) the dualism breaks down in the "dimension of miracles" (using the sci-fi writer Robert Sheckley's term/title) as it were. If you look at the New Testament writings closely you'll see references to the early church matter-of-factly using ESP and precognition to protect themselves from the brutal repression of the Romans (and Jews). All that has been repressed and excluded from the church over the centuries--individual contact with the god-stuff being a little too conducive to anarchy for a monolithic social structure.

On predestination and free will

…You did not choose Me, but I chose you...[John 15:9-17]

These few words have potent implications. The Calvinist doctrine takes the obvious interpretation that God "freely and unchangeably ordained whatsoever comes to pass" and “appointed the eternal destiny of some to salvation by grace, while leaving the remainder to receive eternal damnation for all their sins, even their original sin.” Others argue (C.S. Lewis among them) that if God is pure Good, then He must love everyone (and would not predestine any to damnation) or that no one could be beyond the redemption of an omnipotent God (and that a God who did not wish to save everyone might not be worthy of worship). It is possible to obfuscate the discussion by asserting that predestination is based on a pre-knowledge of how a soul will freely choose to behave, but that is not useful. The idea of reality being predestined makes the concept of free will difficult to define (and that would in turn make the idea of personal responsibility difficult to determine). There is ample anecdotal evidence throughout history that human beings on occasion have prophetic dreams (precognition). This would seem to lend credence to the belief that the events of reality already exist to some degree (and that it might be impossible to modify them, see Cassandra). Perhaps related to this question is the quantum Zeno effect, which states, simply put, that a human being may stop the evolution of time by focusing attention (seriously). It may be that we all are carried by a river of time that follows a defined path (confined by the banks of the river and its inevitable path to the sea), but have some illusion of free will reinforced by the small movements (changes) we might make within that inevitable path. Whatever the case, let us behave as if we indeed have the choice to love one another, to do good rather than evil.

I like strings, but not string theory

Am I the only one who finds breathless comparisons of "string theory" with Einstein's work (or that of the Copenhagen group) ridiculous? I cannot help but think it is a sign of the times, which is to say, a time when a mass-media-driven lowest-common-denominator culture of democracy in its logical extreme has no recognition of reason, that the sterile mathematical self-stimulation of people who clearly seek to achieve public notice rather than advance the cause of understanding of the world is compared with the work of the true geniuses of humankind. A "theory of everything" which can explain nothing, predict nothing, whether predicted observation or experimental result? Relativity and quantum mechanics all made immediate and accurate predictions which were and have been verified time and again (the computer you are using relies on solid state computer chips that are the engineering application of quantum mechanics; your GPS device uses relativistic corrections to accurately derive your position given the difference in the time measured by speeding satellites and relatively stationary Earth clocks). Stephen Weinberg is a brilliant physicist, no doubt, but does he really believe that the theoretical attraction of a sterile mathematical construction (and one which is not elegant in the slightest degree---there are numerous monstrous versions with Rube Goldberg additions intended to make the numbers crunch properly) is any indication after several decades that any true insight into the nature of our universe can emerge from this nonsense? I am not a historian of science, but I don't recall any brilliant advance on the level of relativity or quantum mechanics that was bandied about for decades without the slightest connection to any observation. The clear evidence of insight, as for example in the case of Maxwell's uniting of the electric and magnetic forces in four equations, is the immediate understanding it yields of the world (we had radio communications soon after). Most of what I am hearing in "string theory" (and I grant that I don't enjoy or have world-class capability in advanced mathematics) is very reminiscent of 60's era discussions made possible, and more interesting perhaps, by the use of hallucinogens. As a guitarist and engineer (both professions being concerned with resonance), I find the idea of the physical manifestation of the Universe being reduced at the most fundamental level to oscillating strings quite appealing. However, I don’t see any evidence that this is true.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Why people purchase music and other observations

[Dalton narrative] You asked about marketing and music and this goes to that…I’m saying, to recap, that women tend to be superficial with what they like…they’re concerned with whether they like the performer or not, whether they’re someone they’d actually like to sleep with or not, otherwise they’re really not interested in what they have to say and what they play. Sometimes the rhythm motivates them, but they have to be thinking “that’s probably some hot dude that’s playing that music,” for example, if Pee-Wee Herman was playing a Kenny Loggins song, once the woman noticed… (background Cora protesting, “No, do NOT, do NOT…no, no, NO! AH-BUH-BAH-BUH-BAH-BAH-BAH [hands over her ears”)…women reject any thought which is antithetical to their world view, that’s what that AH-BUH-BAH-BUH-BAH-BAH-BAH was. [Dalton and Chas now] PAH-PAH-PAH-PAH OOH MOW MOW, PAH-PAH OOH MOW MOW MOW…Well let me tell you ‘bout the word. Cora: “NO!” Dalton: “Word, word, word, well, the word is a bird.” But this goes [Cora singing “Whooo, wheee, wheee-yow…etc.”] to music marketing, I mean, if that’s what you’re dealing with [Cora laughing], sometimes you may have a male listener, or female, the rare one, who actually listens to the lyrics and feels the music and says, “This makes me think of something…I hear an allusion in the lyrics that makes me think of a particular, uh, body of philosophy or emotions driven by the music itself”… but that’s what we need to know in terms of marketing: Is there any market for music that stands alone, apart from the performer. Cora: “Music…it feels good…you like it because it makes you feel good.” Well, some say that. Some say now is the age where in fact that the music can be completely independent from, divorced from the performer, i.e., you get a download from Napster, whatever, and download music without ever knowing what they look like or who they are. Cora: “It’s true!” But does anyone actually buy that without already knowing, for example, many of the people now in the younger generation are not only concerned with who they are, they are concerned with if the music represents the group that they are trying to belong to for self-protection and identity, e.g., through gangsta-rap, you choose what will make you acceptable to the other kids so you won’t get your ass kicked. Cora: “But, you do it in the closet.” No, they don’t do it in the closet. They blare it with the windows open at stop signs---they want to declare who they are, so their peers will recognize them. Cora: “No, what I’m saying is that if there is something that feels good to them that is outside their genre, then, they’re going to listen to that music”…in private. Cora: “In private.” Well, that may be true. That’s a good observation. I don’t know how often that occurs because anyone who can be driven to be part of a group, a crowd, and carefully control themselves to fit to the norms---they usually don’t have a private life. Cora: “Yes, but they still have that feeling of, of…oneness…in one respect…OK, they want to belong to the group, but there’s a part of them that wants to” break away and be independent, do what comes naturally Cora: “maintains…but they may be embarrassed to say, ‘well, I actually like that rock and roll song or whatever’” It’s actually worse than that, because the worse thing that can happen is that someone whose sole identity is conforming to membership in a group is to be rejected by the group. Cora: “Right. Well yeah.” It’s not embarrassing---it’s a term of fear. Most people can’t stand alone. Now I don’t know, because I can’t care less… Chas: “I know the feeling, because I can remember back when we were playing at an all night stop I can remember listening to the Carpenters and really enjoying that music—I could never admit this to the other people that I know, because people would think I was weird.” Cora: “That’s what I mean. Everybody has their own musical tastes that set them apart.” Chas: “The main thing, getting back to the male/female thing” Cora: “”What!” Chas: “That’s why she loves you yeah, yeah, yeah appealed to so many girls and songs like…” Cora: “No, it’s because the Beatles were different, and they..” No, they were sexy. Chas: “And songs by the Byrds, Chimes of Freedom, Bob Dylan’s lyrics…” That was a special time in history. Cora: “Yeah.” When there was a political consciousness, there was a group, a very confused group of baby-boomers who had been born with silver spoons in their mouths who were desperately looking around for ways to figure out why it was they had so much and other people had so little and they rejected their parents’ values while accepting the money that was putting them in school. So they looked around and they found various political movements to align with. That’s why they latched onto Dylan and my conservative colleague was a rabid right wing with the paradox that his parents were saved by FDR when they were out on the street in the Great Depression and wouldn’t have lived otherwise…the thing about right wing thinking is that they have compartmentalized thinking and cognitive dissonance where they have many disparate views which cannot be reconciled…they keep them in there and so they’re in constant tension…they know were it not for the social welfare network they wouldn’t have survived but on the other hand they’re taught by Fox News this bizarre fairy tale about people not working that are sucking the wealth of the country when in reality the entire welfare budget of the last ten years is not a fiftieth of what they paid the multi-billionaires who fucked the country in 2008. Chas: “That’s right. And that’s why I have such a dilemma with my own political views because I’ve been quote unquote a conservative for so many years that I’m realizing now that that is not the answer either.” Well, hopefully you’re realizing that it is confused hypocrisy because most of what they believe doesn’t fit, doesn’t compute…I forgot where we were. Cora: “We need to re-start.” Oh, we were talking about marketing and music. Back to the fact that the Beatles, for example, could not, and I dealt with this in an earlier ranting, could not have made it except for the fact that they were able to sexually excite a crowd and they perfected that technique in Hamburg while they were performing 5 and 6 nights a week. The people, the chicks, were going crazy, I mean they were crawling in their windows, they appeared one night naked just wearing toilet seats around their heads…the people were nuts. And then they went back to England confident that they could do the same thing. Well you know the feeling, my Brother, like when you and I played the Lariat and anywhere else we did the same thing, uh, not so much at the end, but once we got going again, where we would go we knew the crap that we presented to the crowd was going to be taken well, I mean the Black Garter was a good example, that’s where we were at the end, people were coming an going, “Are you guys from around here? You guys are great! What are you going to do?” We’re headed out…we’re headed out. Chas: “Yeah.” Which we were. Cora: “That’s a good song---‘we’re headed out’’.” Yep, it is. So, you’re talking about marketing, what makes people buy music---it’s very complicated. I mean, if you try and just sell to people who are looking for a sexual surrogate or a paradigm that excites them or somebody that they want to hold up internally, mainly speaking from the female point of view as looking for someone that…females generally…Cora: “Females are the biggest consumers.” I don’t know. I can’t verify that. I could check it but…I know this, that females buy music dependent upon whether or not they think they would like to sleep with one or more of the performers. Cora half laughs embarrassed in denial. No, it is true. It is absolutely true. And males, typically the average male listens to music because after he has any attraction for the music he identifies with the performer, is that somebody that he and I could be out somewhere in a truck or hunting or doing whatever and me feel like, ok, that guy is up to my level of masculinity, he’s not going to pull me down, he’s going to lift me up, that’s somebody who’s going to attract the chicks that I want to attract, so there’s all this, uh, anthropological shit going on. Chas: “There’s a lot of sexuality.” Yeah. A tremendous amount. Now, and then if you go strictly classical music, then all that is stripped away: Nobody gives a damn what somebody looks like for the most part. Cora: “You gotta get down to the bottom again about music touching your heart or your soul.” Well, no, that’s only after it touches your genitals. Chas: “…getting back to these swollen roosters.” Right. Cora: “There’s some music that I feel right here.” The cock is willing but the flesh is weak. Chas: “You’ve seen me reduced to just a mass of tears when I see, who is that gal on The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face?” Oh, the black lady [Roberta Flack]. Chas: “Yeah.” Cora: “Yeah.” Chas: “Or Allison Krause and Bonnie Rait doing You. I mean, those things affect me in a tremendous emotional…” So there is that alternate path, not alternate, but kind of parallel path for music which is ideally what is should be, I mean the ancient Greeks actually banned some of the scales we use today because they were considered to be to powerful and potent to use because the Greeks knew well, the Greeks knew about everything, thought about everything. Chas: “They tried to make them impotent.” That’s right. But, uh, ideally music is that which moves the emotions and excites the mind and brings the transcendent experience of another into your life. That is the gift of the artist. That is what the artist ideally shares. But it’s mixed in with popular music with all of this trail of superficial sexual excitement, so it’s a marketing experiment and that’s the dilemma: If you’re not a performing group, if you’re not in the deme, which is a group of similarly arrayed biological specimens within a species that attract a certain similarly arrayed group of members of the species, then, how do you market the music? If you’re not performing, to get specific, if Bentley & Thomas are not performing how do we attract people if we’re trying to break past the sexual attractiveness and get them to listen to the music first and then to find out later, yeah, we’re pretty fucking attractive. Chas: “Well, I’m not opposed to people buying our stuff because we’re pretty fucking attractive.” Well that too. [Cora laughing.] But that may not happen since we are in an older generation and we may not be in a deme…there’s little groups within populations that are attracted to certain other groups. You can notice that if you go into a cafeteria and look at who sits with whom, for example, people seek out certain [Cora: “What!”]…Yes, go ahead. Funny, Cheri told me I did this the other day. She was trying to give me a kiss and she said I gave her a quick peck and then pushed her away so as to continue talking. [Chas laughing.] Yeah, well. You know, I love you, but I gotta keep on talking. [Cora non-verbal utterance.] [More laughter.] Dalton: Should I turn it off? Chas: No, don’t turn it off. Cora: How long is left? Dalton: It depends on the setting. Chas:We have 47 hours of recording time. Cora: 47 hours!? Chas: And 11 seconds left. Cora: What, 47 seconds left? Dalton resumes: This is pretty, whatever it is, it looks like—[glass ping sound]. Cora: See, it looks like a… Dalton: Chrome dome. Cora: It looks like, uh, a surgery from back in the old days. Dalton: When I would smack thy pate. Chas: It’s made outside Santa Fe. There’s an outlet store in Old Mesilla actually. Cora: What’s the name of it? Chas: N-A-M-B-E. This is very expensive. Dalton: That’s Indian for “numbskull.” Cora [laughing]: That’s what…it looks like part of a skull. Chas: That’s a nambe.. Cora: Oh, that round one, that old one? Dalton: Not to be confused with nambe-pambe, which is like nambee-pambee, which is like, eh, you know, not… Chas: Which is the Indian version. Cora: Is that like a meat? Dalton: All right. I think we’ve diverged from the discussion of marketing, but I think that we do have some critical points. And, uh, those… Cora: But you’re not going to sell any music? Dalton: We might. Cora: No, unless we start going—Chas: EH! EH! EH! Cora: AH! AH! AH! AH! Dalton: It’s a logical analysis then you look at the implications of this kind of analysis then we will identify the market and the marketing techniques which will allow us to deal with these factors. Cora: ‘Cuz I think the older population isn’t as driven to buy new types of music. They’re more likely to stick with the old reliable stuff. Dalton: And when you’re saying “older” here you’re actually saying your generation, baby boomer? Cora: Yeah. Uh-hoom. I don’t know when was the last time…I used to love music, I used to buy music all the time and now I don’t buy any music. Dalton: Well, that’s because you have access to the best music around in this room and it’s being created right in front of your eyes. Cora: No, but everything… Chas: Once you’ve had the best, who cares about the rest? Cora: [resisting the humor] The technology is so good that you don’t have to go out and buy something. Dalton: Well that’s true and that’s another part. Chas: And that’s another issue that we’re dealing with. Dalton: Why buy an album when you can download the song. Cora: Right. Because there’s only three songs off of this particular album that you like so why take all the other crap? Chas: That’s why I’m happy we’re up on iTunes, because… Dalton: How do you penetrate? If you consider noise to be the wide spectrum of energy available how do you pick out a particular frequency, what attracts your attention to it? Consider music to be the same way. 150,000 artists at CD Baby. How do you as a music lover intersect with Bentley & Thomas? How do you find them and discover that you do like them? Chas: That’s right—what’s the parameters that you type in to find Bentley & Thomas. Dalton: That’s why we need the psychological analysis---and we’re edging up to it. Cora: So, when you put your site up on CD Baby… Chas: It’s not how we put our site up. It’s how people find our site. Dalton: Yeah, they get to it externally. At CD Baby it’s characterized only by the genre, we’re in right now contemporary rock… Chas: Adult classic rock. Dalton: And lyrical—meaning it’s got lyrics and it’s rock. Chas: If you didn’t know us and you were looking, what would you look for…let’s say you were on iTunes… Cora: Eagle-like. Chas: OK. Dalton: Well that is another thing that CD Baby uses. They have you name three bands well-known that if people liked them they might like you. Cora: Right. Dalton: And I modified one of them per somebody who listened to our music and said “you sound like Dire Straits, you sound very much like them.” So I added that and went with two others. Yeah, but that’s the marketing problem. Out of all that noise, how do get people, and I don’t think you do it strictly through CD Baby---through an external campaign, which we can do because I have the ability to put up whatever I want, wherever I want, on the Internet. Cora: I have talked to several people… Dalton: Since we’ve been live, if you type in Dalton Bentley & Chas Thomas in Google search you come up with a whole page of links. Chas: Well, I haven’t looked at that lately. Cora: But the thing is, is that, um, I know I’ve given out cards and things like that and have been told, “Cora, can I just get the CD?” Chas: Yes, they can. They may be in Monday or Tuesday. Cora: Oh. Dalton: Remember now that people will say this---smiling faces… Cora: Yeah, but I mean right now we need to get the numbers up to make it look like… Dalton: …All the time they want to skip your CD. Chas: How many CD’s do you need? Dalton: We want to get them to key people also to do the viral thing. Cora: How about that radio guy you know? Chas: Oh yeah. I should get him a copy. Oh, he’s bound by Clear Channel and couldn’t play it. Dalton: They’re music Nazis. Chas: They are. And there’s no Radio Free El Paso anymore. And that’s sad. Dalton: Yeah, Lenny Fagelman used to come hear us play all the time. All that’s passé anyway. We’re going to be on Rhapsody and other streaming Internet. That’s where it’s at. Who wants to hear the disc jockey’s choice anyway? You pick what you want to hear and they stream it to you. Cora: Yeah, but that is the problem---getting people to say this is what I want to hear. Dalton: Well, Chas likes Pandora. He says, “I like this kind of music” and they pull a bunch of similar stuff. Chas: That’s right. Dalton: This band sound is related to that one and they put that in on you. And the other thing is, we could actually force pay for spin, there’s an outfit called Jango, where we can cause our stuff to be played each day. Where people are buying access to commercial music we can cause one of our songs to be interjected into their stream and a popup asks them afterwards if they like it or not. And it’s reasonable. Then you find out, ok, these people have been listening to Yes all day and they picked up on, you know what I mean, you get a profile and then you can determine, you can target that market from another route. And they can also choose to buy your music from there. It’s a stream so we don’t make any money off it really, but if they like it, then like Chas, they might say, “Who is that” and click “buy now” and you get the mp3 album. There is another way also, which is to license. All the movies that are coming out, the television shows, they need music themes, music in the background. There’s a site we can put our stuff on where it is all automated where they select by genre the producers listen to your music and right on the site click “I want to use it for this purpose for this long” and it calculates and gives them the license rights for that usage and you can obtain money for those rights.