Monday, January 30, 2006

In which Plants Look Weird

Sunday Leslie and I took the very strange twisted spiral cactus (that has been sitting on our front porch for years) to the California Cactus Center for repotting. While Leslie shopped I wandered around with my pocket camera. Here's some of what I saw until the battery ran out. (Click on any picture for The Big Picture.)

Copyright © January 29, 2006 by David Ocker

Pictures of Plants

Saturday, January 28, 2006

The Docker Awards for Mozartean Commentary

The Docker Award for the Most Intelligent Comment About Mozart (MICAM) goes to Alex Ross - Celebrate Mozart by Ignoring Mozart He said: "If you really want to celebrate Mozart's world, Mozart's culture, Mozart's life, you would ignore the man himself and listen to music by a living composer."

However, the Docker Award for the Dumbest Comments About Mozart (DCAM) goes to physicist Mario Livio for his NPR interview. He said (at zero min. 37 sec.) "It goes up and then down and then up again in the same way and down again in the same way and then the same thing repeats itself twice. So this is the same type of symmetry you'd see in maybe wall paper design." Wallpaper Music, indeed.

And at 3'49" - "And this is what happened with Mozart or it happened with a number of mathematicians like the French Evariste Galois, who, you know, Mozart died at 35, Evariste died at 20. You know, they both did all their best work, you know, when they were teenagers essentially." Mario - you should ask, you know, a clarinetist (or any musician) when Mozart did his best work before, you know, going on mike.

Music Reviews

Friday, January 27, 2006

In which David Remembers Mozart

Yeah, today is Mozart's Quarter-Millennium. It's a really big media deal. So here's my big reverent obeisance to the master. Can't someone be honest about it and just start a Mozart Religion? Call it Mozartism.

Or maybe someone could be REALLY honest about it. An LA Times editorial today said "More nonsense has been written about Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart than almost any historical figure except Jesus Christ."

When I was a college student I was part of a group who made Mozart's birthday a private holiday. Usually it was celebrated by smoking something we should not have possessed in a location where we should not have been. Like in a concert hall.

After college I decorated my first apartment with a large lithograph of Mozart that I had rescued from a scrap heap. It had a heavy wooden frame in very bad condition. Later my mother spent a lot of money on fixing the frame - refinishing the wood and adding new glass and matting. She hung it in her home proudly. Now Mozart hangs in my office, watching my every move from beyond.

Years ago I attended an LA Philharmonic concert which included a Mozart piano concerto. I sat through it, the critical professional musician cataloging problems: too fast, too slow, out of tune - whatever. I was not happy. When it finished, a woman sitting next to me, a complete stranger, turned and said: "Isn't that the most beautiful thing you've ever heard?" I learned an awful lot about music from her, mostly about not thinking too much about music.


Thursday, January 26, 2006

30 Second Spots - Crashing Into Each Other

click here to hear Crashing Into Each Other - in the Elegant Buoyant Metal style which is typically very quiet.

Copyright © January 19, 2006 by David Ocker - Exactly 30 seconds!!

click here for an Explanation of 30 second spots

30 Second Spots

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

In which Business Is Strange

The corporate-owned media does okay reporting on corporate executives accused of crimes. Here's a list of few boardroom big bilkers.

More unusual is reporting about the stupid but still legal maneuvers that businesses pull. Here's a list of 101 business stunts - just from 2005.

You can read about farting shoes, eyewear for funerals and Jessica Simpson's plus-size clothing line. And many more.

(My first link to CNN, for which I apologize.)


Tuesday, January 24, 2006

In which Musical Dots Get Double-Clicked

Here's a bit of fun. It's an interactive musical mixer at the San Francisco Exploritorium web site.. You move colored dots around on a musical field. Once you grasp concepts like "left/right" or "up/down" you can click on the dots, changing their color and their musical style. Clever. Combining and changing the styles fascinates me. (Thanks to Janet Davis for the link.)

Music Reviews

Monday, January 23, 2006

In which David Links Back

Art Jarvinen (the "west coast totalist") added a link back to Mixed Meters in my own bio at Leisure Planet Music. He also made some nice comments - and singled out my cat pictures for particular praise. Leslie and I have had lots of child-substitute felines and I take many pictures of them. Here is my favorite cat picture of all. (This is the late mackerel tabby Big Boy, the cross-eyed cat.)

Scott Fessler also created a link to Mixed Meters in his blog Notation Software Survey. Don't be fooled - it isn't a real blog, just a clever online vehicle for distributing results from his survey on music notation software used in higher education. Boils down to the question "Finale or Sibelius?". He wore out a lot of shoe leather knocking on doors collecting data displayed in cool colored graphs, perfect for compulsive comparison.

Cat Pictures

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Four 30 Second Spots in the form of a Horoscope

I'm writing new 30 Second Spots faster than I'm posting them. Probably that's not important since the demand is underwhelming.

I've created a Horoscope to help you decide which new spot is appropriate for you.. The traditional horoscope has 12 settings, kind of a celestial tone-row. I've combined the 12 into 4 groups; select the one with your sign. Or you can use the day of the week on which you were born. Or just pick the ice cream which looks most appetizing.

If you are a Cancer, Leo or Virgo (or were born on a Friday or Tuesday) click here to hear Alright Baby - you like things to proceed logically from the start but are never satisfied with the result. The ice cream is Martian Topography. The music is in the Angular Hocketed Contrapuntalist style (Yes, in proper English the title should be "All right Baby")

Copyright © January 14, 2006 by David Ocker - 35 seconds

If you are a Libra, Scorpio or Sagittarius (or were born on a Saturday or Wednesday) click here to hear Dayold - you are a student of occult musical practices and must work hard to avoid your natural bad attitudes. The ice cream is Crunchy Cherry Scab. The music is Systemic Alternative Tonicism.

Copyright © January 11, 2006 by David Ocker - 36 seconds

If you are a Capricorn, Aquarius or Pisces (or were born on a Sunday) click here to hear So Have You Kicked It - you have achieved an inner peace that is ruined by bad intonation. The ice cream is Butter Mud Twirl. The music is Perforated Parodistic Pointalism.

Copyright © January 18, 2006 by David Ocker - 34 seconds

If you are an Aries, Taurus or Gemini (or were born on Thursday or Monday) click here to hear Professional Potatoes - you are a workaholic without good ideas so things tend to go bad in the end. The ice cream is Banana Eyeliner. The music is Unprincipled Faux Minimalisticism.

Copyright © January 17, 2006 by David Ocker - 35 seconds

click here for an Explanation of 30 second spots

30 Second Spots

Friday, January 20, 2006


Near the end of the nineties I heard about a band from Brazil on NPR. The reviewer compared them to Frank Zappa. Based on just that I ordered the album. Of course, once it came, I didn't hear ANY relationship to Frank's music - but I fell in love with the album.

The band's name: Karnak. The album's name: Karnak. I couldn't stop listening to it - it is still one of my (very few) favorite albums. It actually makes ME dance around (people who know me will confirm that one of my life mottos is "Musicians Don't Dance.") This music makes me happy.

The music is both very Rock & Roll and very Brazilian, neither genre is a particular favorite of mine. There are lots of catchy pop-style melodies. Luckily I don't understand a word of Portuguese, but I suspect some songs have a political attitude. The music is exceptionally eclectic with all sorts of ethnic and pop styles, classical quotes and lots of found sounds. And it's an extraordinarily well performed and produced studio recording. Okay, that is a bit like Zappa.

Years went by. Thanks to a colleague of Leslie's from Brazil I acquired two more Karnak albums. Well, I gave those only an A-minus, but they were still wonderful. I've been known to put all three discs in the player and listen continuously.

More years went by. About a week ago I found a new Karnak double live album on Amazon - it came yesterday. It's called Os Piratas Do Karnak (I think that means the Pirates of Karnak). I've only listened to it three times. Of course live recordings can be "tweaked" to sound better but this is one extremely tight live band.

They were once booked to play at the Santa Monica pier - I would have been there, but the concert got canceled. I wonder if the Karnak song "3 Aliens in LA" is about that. Now I've learned that Karnak has disbanded - and they only get together once a year in Brazil. But apparently their following in Brazil is still strong.

I wasn't sure what to expect from live recordings after listening to all the studio tracks so often. But some things are really better live. Plus the helicopter at the beginning sounds amazing. And they seem to be doing some humorous stage business. Okay, the NPR guy was right - it is like Zappa. Only the sounds and music are completely different.

I've been intending to create a little list in the sidebar of my favorite albums. This is going to be the first entry. It may be a while before I add another entry.

Estamos Adorando Tokio is a Karnak album - you can apparently hear the whole thing on this Brazilian website.

Music Reviews

In which David Needs Help With a Feed

Yesterday I tried to create an RSS feed for this blog. There are a couple of new links in the sidebar.

If you don't have the foggiest notion what "an RSS feed" might be, click here.

On the other hand, if you do know and you actually use it, please let me know if it works. Or not.

I unsuccessfully tried to validate the feed. I have no clue how to fix the errors. The whole process became a time consuming hassle - reminding me why I named my imaginary computer support company "Computer Headaches"

Computer Headaches
Cat Pictures

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

30 Second Spots - Girls Kick Ass

click here to hear Girls Kick Ass - The title was suggested by a license-plate frame I saw on a car while waiting for a red light. The music was written in Starbucks and, as always, has nothing to do with the title, except maybe it does subconsciously. The music is a good example of Plectral Spastic Contradance, which, as always, means nothing much really.

Here's a link to a new blog called Twelve Minutes, where the author, who lives in Hong Kong, goes to Starbucks every day, observes the current environment for 12 minutes and then writes creatively about it. I can relate. Starbucks in Hong Kong sounds frighteningly similar to the ones in Pasadena.

Copyright © January 4, 2006 by David Ocker - 44 seconds (very long!)

Explanation of 30 second spots

30 Second Spots

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The Docker Award for Corrupt Republicanism

The Golden Globs reminded me that I've been neglecting the Docker Awards, my own blog feature for honoring whomever I want for whatever they did. So far I've only given Dockers to imaginary characters.

But now, here are the candidates for the Most Corrupt Republican Award. The Nominees are . .

(Here's a link to a website which lists the "13 most corrupt members of Congress" - a whopping 15% of them are Democrats)

And the winner of the Docker for most corrupt Republican is ....

Ooh, it's a Tie - the Docker goes to both Jack Abramoff and Randy Cunningham. (The fact that each is now a confessed criminal must have given them an edge in the voting.) The picture is Adolph Hitler in prison for trying to overthrow the government. It does not make me feel much better about sending politicians to jail.


Monday, January 16, 2006

In which David Seeks a New National Ritual

Today is a holiday, it's Martin Luther King Day. It ought to be a very positive national holiday. There are no pagan or religiously inspired ideas. No commemoration of armed conflict or adulation of violent death. And it wasn't created to keep peace between labor and management.

But how to celebrate it? Other holidays all have standard, traditional, regimented things to do in the house, the backyard or the neighborhood. Things like Thanksgiving dinner, trick or treating, or barbecuing meat. King Day needs a family-oriented home-based behavior that all Americans will look forward to. One that allows for major merchandising. And over-consumption.

Part of the problem, of course, is that the third biggest holiday in the US (the Super Bowl) is only a few weeks away. Could anything we do on the King holiday possibly compete with watching armored men doing ritual combat while eating junk food. And don't forget the commercials.

Pictures of Plants

Sunday, January 15, 2006

30 Second Spots - The Enemy Gets a Vote

Abramoff Iraq Iranclick here to hear The Enemy Gets a Vote . The title is a phrase heard in the news lately. It doesn't have anything to do with democracy. What is being said is "if the enemy plays nice, we can bring our troops home." The implication is that the enemy is too stupid to know we will leave if they just give up.

Copyright © January 3, 2006 by David Ocker - 31 seconds. This piece is an excellent example of the Motoric Bi-Rhythmic Perspectivist movement in contemporary music.

Explanation of 30 second spots

30 Second Spots

Saturday, January 14, 2006

In which David is in the Presence of Royalty

Dowd JT LeroySo, I'm walking down the street in Pasadena when I see three identical strangely colored buses in a kind of caravan. On the side they each say "The next Miss America is on this bus."

Maybe, since there are 3 buses, there will be 3 Miss Americas this year. A kind of cute, female triumvirate. (Is there a word for that?)

Click on picture and it should enlarge.


Wednesday, January 11, 2006

In which David says Good Riddance to Bad Acoustics

I traveled to the Leo S. Bing Theater of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art Monday to attend a Monday Evening Concert. It was a performance by the chamber ensemble Xtet - which I helped create 20 years ago.

It will be the last time I'll ever make the drive to that concert hall. The Museum is kicking the Monday Evening Concerts out.

It's a good thing, because the Bing Theater is a dismal place to hear chamber music. Over the last thirty years I've often been a performer or a listener there. It has dreary acoustics. It has a dark and dreary atmosphere. Plus there is a dark, dreary and cheerless proscenium arch security fence between performers and audience. No college auditorium could be any worse a venue.

lost macbook

When you hear someone at the MONDAY EVENING CONCERTS say "Good crowd tonight." they mean about one third of the seats are filled. What the MEC lacks in excitement it makes up for in sad venerability earned years ago from the presence of some internationally famous composers (the ones who fled European politics seeking warm weather.) Even today the best argument given by MEC apologists is the number of world premieres of gnarly late-period compositions by Igor Stravinsky. (Hey, wasn't that was like 40 years ago?)

Moving the Monday Evening to some college campus, however, would just reinforce its academic dullness. That would be wrong.

Monday Evening Concerts needs some fresh young blood, a new direction and a kick in the pants, if I may mix my metaphors. I think a lot of people are hoping the concerts move to Zipper Hall downtown. That would brighten things up. Maybe other aspects of the series can brighten up as well.

alito james frey =-=-=-

Although our local media has been quaintly linking the fate of XTET with that of the Monday Evening series (and there's no reason the relationship shouldn't continue), I do hope my friends in XTET will use this moment to try something new of its own.

XTET plays difficult music superbly well and they deserve far greater recognition than has come their way. It has been more than 10 years since I dropped out, so my opinion may have lost weight (at least as much as I've gained during that time.)

Listening to their concert Monday reminded me why I dropped out. Also of why the top of this blog says "Life's too short to listen to ugly music."

XTET should have a bigger audience. It deserves supportive concert producers to work with. And it needs an affluent active board of directors willing to pull strings and open doors. These things would allow a lot more passion and zeal and sheer virtuosity to spill out. There are other independent groups in LA who seem to have managed this trick.

But it's difficult to create much excitement and enthusiasm when you hang an entire program around two highly technical, long, difficult, dissonant, pedantic period pieces (one from the 70s and one from the 80s, both filled with a catalog of 2006 musical cliches). These works were essays in all the things I've come to hate about contemporary music. They overwhelmed the most easily accessible piece on the program - making it seem like a stowaway from a faraway planet.

The program would have had better balance and accessibility if one of the large pieces had been replaced with music from a different time or place, something to provide variety of style and attitude. An underplayed historical 20th century work perhaps? Some aggressive challenging Post-Minimal assault-piece?


In my imagination, had the Museum not terminated its relationship with the Monday Evening Concerts, the series would continue virtually unchanged far into the otherwise unforeseeable future. Xtet would play gnarly music there every season. Some people do really seem to have enjoyed this particular combination of location, programming and attitude. Just not very many people. Those people probably think adding more spirit to the proceedings would ruin them.

And I don't have suggestions for how to kick start this situation. I tried for a long time to do something similar and I eventually gave up. To repeat a phrase I heard once "This is not the field on which I wish to fight the battles of my life." But I do continue to have a fondness for new and meaningful chamber music and I wish the genre and my friends who still participate in it well.

Music Reviews

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

In which David is a Low-Scoring Ocker

Remember the Religious Founder You Most Resemble test? The same site also has the How Ocker Are You? test.

I scored 26%. For an Ocker I'm pretty bad at being an ocker. I doubt my Mother or Father would have done any better. This is us in 1969.

Click here for more explanation - you must scroll two thirds of the way down the page to find out why polite Australians smile when they hear my last name.

Monday, January 09, 2006

30 Second Spots - Bipolar Planet

CES JT Leroy Macworldclick here to hear Bipolar Planet

Not sure why, but I've been reading Kyle Gann's evangelical new music blog PostClassic - where the current hot topic is defining the names given to current musical styles.

This made me want to indicate the style of each 30 Second Spot. From now on (until I decide to stop) each spot will have its own unique musical style indicated.

This means there are three descriptive levels - the actual music, the title (required by the software) and now the style. As always, you must provide your own meaning.

The style of music represented by Bipolar Planet is "Ethereal Ethnic Distillatism".

Copyright © December 13, 2005 by David Ocker - 39 seconds

Explanation of 30 second spots

30 Second Spots

Sunday, January 08, 2006

In which Music Moves Slowwwly

This just in: some music takes a long time. But in a world of 2 minute pop songs (and 30 second music spots), you would think there are limits to the length of one piece, right?

I guess not. A performance in Germany of a John Cage organ piece is taking an absurdly long time - this story will tell you about all the latest (chord) changes.

When I checked the ASLSP home site I discovered that the article was slightly misleading. Yes, the F-sharp diminished chord will last until 2012, but other tones will come and go during that time. One or two.

The whole project has just under TWENTY BILLION SECONDS remaining. Still it will come to an end -- eventually - in 2639. The choice of 639 years commemorates the building of an organ in 1361.

How different will life be in 2639? A good clue might be to consider how different now is from 1361. If the Cage actually finishes to the end - it will only be because it will have transformed into a religion.

But 639 years is real, actual clock time. Perceived Time is different. Beethoven's Ninth Symphony never ends when I listen to it. Click here to prolong that experience.

Music Reviews

Saturday, January 07, 2006

In which David Tunes In Around the Globe

Here are two very different Internet Radio stations I've rediscovered lately - and neither has commercials or announcers.

I have a soft spot in my heart for Bollywood movie music. Best for people who don't mind mixing pop styles with Indian rhythms. Good thing I can't understand the words. Bollywood Music Radio

Radio Darvish plays traditional Persian Music. Geographically I guess that's not so far from India - a few time zones. Musically this is quite a distance.

Dark Wing cover design
While we're on the subject of Persian music, might I suggest The Hidden Sacred, an album by the group Dark Wing (which includes my friend, percussionist and composer David Johnson). Hearing this album performed live was a highpoint of my Christmas-season music. David's site is here, Lian Records sells them.

Music Reviews

Friday, January 06, 2006

30 Second Spots - Just Give Me the Stink Eye

click here to hear Just Give Me the Stink Eye The opening rhythm is one I practice on the steering wheel - playing along with the radio. The title quotes an employee of Starbucks who talks loudly.

Copyright © December 17, 2005 by David Ocker - 34 seconds

Explanation of 30 second spots

30 Second Spots

Thursday, January 05, 2006

In which David Gets On with Lao Tzu

Care for a little comparative theology? Click here for the Religious Founder You Most Resemble Test Twenty Questions.

My personal results: I most resemble Lao Tzu, founder of Taoism. It said "You two would probably get along."

In dwelling, live close to the ground.
In thinking, keep to the simple.
In conflict, be fair and generous.
In governing, don't try to control.
In work, do what you enjoy.
In family life, be completely present.

Furthermore it ranked me on four scales:
I scored:
higher than 50% on Intuitive
higher than 0% on Structured
higher than 66% on Mildness
higher than 50% on Traditional

So I'm completely unstructured (just like this blog?), I'm moderately intuitive and traditional plus I'm milder than most. Well, duh.


Wednesday, January 04, 2006

In which David Is Not a Team Player

When my neighbor hailed me from across the street Wednesday afternoon to ask "Why aren't you at the game?" I had to pause a moment to figure what she was talking about. (There was a big football game at the Rose Bowl. I could see the blimp in the distance.)

I'm always at a loss to explain the cavernous depth of my disinterest in team sports. For some reason people assume that I'm a big fan.

One late January when a sales clerk mentioned the Super Bowl I told him my favorite thing about Super Bowl Sunday. (It's the best time to take a road trip because the highways are empty.) He looked at me like I had leprosy.


Tuesday, January 03, 2006

30 Second Spots - Memories of a Rose Thorn

click here to hear Memories of a Rose Thorn . The beginning of the music was suggested to me by a mockingbird while I was taking a walk. The title was suggested by the time I cleaned up a pile of rose clippings while wearing too-thin gloves.

Copyright © December 30, 2005 by David Ocker - 32 seconds

Explanation of 30 second spots

30 Second Spots

Monday, January 02, 2006

In which Self Help Doesnt

Bell Shaped Curve?The list of books I intend to read grows faster than that of those I finish. An editorial in the Los Angeles Times on Sunday (their editorial section is called, oddly, "Current") has added one to my IN-list.

The piece is titled Self-help's big lie by Steve Salerno. It expresses the opinion that the United States has been hurt by our penchant for self-help gurus.

I was surprised and amused to read contrarian comments such as "society has embraced such concepts as self-esteem and confidence despite scant evidence that they facilitate positive outcomes." and "The most dangerous person in corporate America is the highly enthusiastic incompetent." (In government too, I might add.)

When someone attacks widely cherished assumptions I'm usually interested. Salerno's book is called "SHAM: How the Self-Help Movement Made America Helpless." I just ordered a copy with that hope that it will be worth the effort. Judging by reviews on Amazon, people either love it or hate it.

Firewalking, anyone?


Sunday, January 01, 2006

In which David Proposes A New Boomer Tradition

You've all heard how Baby Boomers start turning age 60 today. Here's the press release from the Census Bureau if you somehow missed it.

There are zillions of us boomers - we're sure to make this rite of passage a big event - if only for the number of dollars spent and the amount of angst spewed. Is it possible for an entire generation to age gracefully?

About a month ago Leslie and I were invited to a QuinceaƱera - an elaborate Latina's fifteenth birthday party. (The picture is a table decoration from the event.)

Leslie remembered her Sweet 16 party for me and it made me think that boomer women should start having - - SWEET SIXTY PARTIES. Judging by a Google search (just one hit) this is not an idea whose time has come.

Men could do it too - but we'd have to think of a different name.

Being a Boomer