Monday, December 31, 2012

My Ten Favorite Things About 2012

You see them a lot this time of year.  End of Year Lists.  Best Of Lists.  Worst Of Lists.  All Kinds of Yearly Lists.

I've always supposed that journalists, needing an easy column during the holidays, keep notebooks during the year, jotting down candidates for best or worst as they happen.  Then in mid-December they review the list, make a few editorial decisions, add some literary polish, check their spelling and get on with more important things, like drinking.

At least that's what I imagined journalists did.  I tried to come up with a personal Best Of List during recent Decembers but couldn't think of anything worthwhile.  My memory isn't what it used to be, as you well know.

This year I tried to keep a running list during the year.  Whenever something that generated a bit of my enthusiasm came up during 2012 I added it to a special file.  Then, last week, thinking it was time to polish off my own Best Of List for 2012 so I could get on with my drinking, I looked at the list.

Imagine my horror to discover that there were only five items on it.  And three of them were food products.  I guarantee you do not want to read about mini peppers or high fiber bread any more than I want to write about them.  You might have been somewhat interested to learn that Starbucks occasionally serves a decent cup of coffee.  Or read something funny.  Or discover some progressive political articles.

I probably would have added my new iPad as item number six. That's still four enthusiasms short of a minyan.  People who know me know that enthusiasm is not one of my strong personality traits.

That's when I came up with Plan B.   I'll tell you what Plan B is in a moment.

Plan B was this: write a 30 Second Spot entitled My Ten Favorite Things About 2012.  In other words, compose music with a misleading title.  That way I could avoid the problem entirely without having to even feign enthusiasm.

That's what I did.  Once I'd finished writing the music I slapped on a bit of random video.  Any correlation between this music or image and my actual ten favorite things from 2012 (assuming I even had ten favorite things, or even six) is totally in the mind of the beholder.  The beholder is you, Mr. or Ms. Beholder.

So behold.

My Ten Favorite Things About 2012 - © 2012 by David Ocker 39 Seconds

Back in the early years of Mixed Meters there was a B.O.L. tradition.  Try 2006 or 2007 or 2008.  I'm happy to discover that all but a few of those items still merit quantums of my enthusiasm.

Watch more of my music videos.

Listen to more of my 30 Second Spots.

"I wish you'd just tell me rather than try to engage my enthusiasm, because I haven't got one."  Marvin the Paranoid Android

B.O.L. Tags: . . . . . .

Monday, December 24, 2012

Autumn 2012 from The Seasons

(Listen while you read.)

Did you survive December 21, 2012?

That date was predicted by some to be the end of the world.  It had something to do with the Mayan calendar.

Today, three days later, it's safe to say that their predictions were off.  But off by how much?  As long as my personal life span is shorter than the earth's remaining time as a planet I don't much care when the world ends.  I hope to stay around quite a while longer.  Eventually, once I'm gone, you people are free to do whatever you want with the place.

This wasn't the first prediction of universal fire and brimstone.  It won't be the last.  As eminent a scientist as Sir Isaac Newton predicted that the world will end in the year 2060.  Some contemporary scientists have suggested that time will eventually just stop . . . billions of years from now.  Probably, in a few hundred years, their ideas will seem as kooky as Sir Isaac's ideas seem right now.

Meanwhile, the cycles of existence are still spinning.  Days, months and years just keep on coming, one after another.  We call these phenomena "time" and we are all forced to lived through them at exactly the same rate.  (Although I've discovered, quite subjectively, that listening to opera can slow time down quite a bit. And watching a televised presidential debate can stop it completely.)

One particular cycle of time which has become important to those of us here at Mixed Meters is the Season.   There are four seasons in an Earth year.  In most places on our planet seasons are marked by shifts in the patterns of daylight and weather.  This is a result, I'm told, of the globe's precarious tilt to one side.  Humans make big deals out of seasons.  They vary their sports, their clothing and their religious celebrations to accommodate them.

Here at Mixed Meters we've been celebrating seasonal change with my ongoing musical composition The Seasons.  Every day I compose a short bit of music - usually a few seconds, very rarely a whole minute.  These bits are played sequentially separated by silences of approximately 45 seconds, more or less.

At the end of every climatic season I post the recently completed musical season here.  Today's post marks number four in the series.  It's called Autumn 2012.  I started it the day after the last Equinox and completed in on this Winter Solstice, December 21, the day the world was supposed to end.  The world didn't end but Autumn 2012 did.

Click here to hear Autumn 2012 - © 2012 by David Ocker, 4091 seconds

Musically Autumn 2012 focuses on tonal harmony.  There are lots of simple chords.  Like some of its predecessors, there's also a new Garbage Day Periodicity (i.e. a weekly cycle).  Each Monday, which is the day I take the garbage out, I chose a new pitch center at random from the twelve possibilities.  I used that for one week of harmony.  As a result, at the end of Autumn 2012 you'll hear a twelve-tone row, the musical distillation of the entire season.

Here's news.  I've begun my fifth season.  I've called it Winter 2012 and it begins with the tone row from Autumn 2012.   I doubt Winter 2012 will be similar to the previous winter, Winter 2011.  If you check back in about three months you can find out what it's like for yourself.

Regular MM readers (all three of you) will remember that my seasons are intended to be played simultaneously.  They can also be combined with other music.  Any music is fine.  It's completely your decision how you use The Seasons.

However, because four seems to be a magic number of sorts for seasonal thinking and because seasons are cyclical (they repeat over and over and over again) one rather uninventive way of listening would be to start the four pieces of The Seasons simultaneously and let them each repeat over and over and over again.

Using a calculator and a list of prime numbers I calculated how long the four files would need before they completed one meta-cycle and returned to the identical synchronization with which they began.  The answer I came up with is 4,693,633.7 years.   Far less than that scientifically projected "end of time".

If you could travel 4,693,633.7 years into the past you'd be in the Zanclean geologic era, which began, I'm told, when water rushed from the Atlantic into the Mediterranean "basin" forming what we now know as the Mediterranean "sea".

What about 4,693,633.7 years from now?  Supposedly Africa and Europe will have merged so the Mediterranean will have disappeared, although Egypt's application to join the EU won't have been approved yet.   New species will have evolved.   I have serious doubts that human culture can last that long.  I have no doubt that I won't be around to find out if it does.

Do you have an interest in extended works of music?  In January the infuriatingly mis-spelled, pro-business Weird magazine published a list of long musical "songs", the longest of which lasts only 1.6 million years.  Here, with frightening disregard for their corporate copyright, is the chart which accompanied that article.

Cage's ASLSP has appeared in Mixed Meters previously.
You might enjoy a six-hour recording of Satie's Vexations.

Seasonal Tags: . . . . . .

Friday, December 21, 2012


As my contribution to home front morale in the continuing War Against Christmas this is the first of two musical offerings - the annual Mixed Meters composition based on the familiar pagan hymn Jingle Bells.

This 2012 opus is entitled Jinglemonics (a made-up word with no previous Google search results).  The title alludes to the prominent use of the band-pass filter which gives a general feeling of cheap electronica music.  Enjoy.

Click here to hear Jinglemonics - © 2012 by David Ocker, 247 seconds

And while I'm on the subject of Mixed Meters' Christmas Memes (starting in 2006), it does seem that the notion of Christmas Penguins is slowly starting to disappear.  Sure, I still notice them but they're not nearly so common as in previous years.

I found this set of used Christmas Penguin Salt and Pepper Shakers in a second hand store in San Juan Bautista California.  Just where you'd expect to find them.

Are you wondering what, 'xactly, a "Christmas Penguin" is?  Basically it is any depiction of a penguin in a scarf or winter hat especially if it's intended as a cute allusion to seasonal cold weather.  Extra points if the penguin is shown near a polar bear, igloo, moose, Santa Claus or other icon peculiar to the Northern Hemisphere.  It's a geography thing.

See bunches of previous Mixed Meters' Christmas Penguin pictures.

Harmonic Tags: . . . . . .

Monday, December 10, 2012

Bubala Please explains Hanukkah

The Hanukkah holiday is here. Hooray. I guess. Although this is one celebration which leaves me with some doubts:
  • Without any children to mollify who needs a substitute Christmas?
  • Is it really a good idea to celebrate religious wars?  Even ancient ones?
  • When it comes to the solstice lights, shouldn't the first thing we honor be the invention of electric lights? 
Did you say Hanukkah Grinch?  Yes, that would be me.

Here's a picture of some special pasta sold to help celebrate Hanukkah by (who else?) Bed Bath and Beyond.

At least they weren't selling matzoh.

I did enjoy reading a very even-handed appraisal of Hanukkah by Hilary Leila Krieger in the New York Times.  Here are her last few paragraphs:
While elevating Hanukkah does a lot of good for children’s morale, ignoring or sanitizing its historical basis does a great disservice to the Jewish past and present.

The original miracle of Hanukkah was that a committed band of people led a successful uprising against a much larger force, paving the way for Jewish independence and perhaps keeping Judaism itself from disappearing. It’s an amazing story, resonant with America’s own founding, that offers powerful lessons about standing up for one’s convictions and challenging those in power.

Many believe the rabbis in the Talmud recounted the miracle of the light alongside the military victory because they did not want to glorify war. That in itself is an important teaching, as are the holiday’s related messages of renewal, hope and turning away from darkness.

But it’s a story with dark chapters as well, including the Maccabean leaders’ religious zealotry, forced conversions and deadly attacks on their neighbors. These transgressions need to be grappled with. And that is precisely what the most important Jewish holidays do: Jews on Passover spill out wine from their glasses to acknowledge Egyptian suffering caused by the 10 plagues, and congregations at Rosh Hashana read and struggle with God’s order to Abraham to bind his son Isaac as a sacrifice.

If we’re going to magnify Hanukkah, we should do so because it offers the deeper meaning and opportunity for introspection that the major Jewish holidays provide.
Sadly, thinking like that just doesn't stand a chance against "eight nights of presents"!

This Hanukkah will be most memorable for me because of these two YouTube videos from Bubbala Please.

Our guides to celebrating the Festival of Lights are two gangsters, one Black, the other Latino (their names are Jaquann and Luis, played by Marcus Wayne and Rick Mancia).  In the first video they explain how to make latkes and then they show the proper way of decorating a Hanukkah bush.

Enjoy!  This is the sort of cross-cultural mash-up which makes America great!

But Be Warned - these videos are NSFW.  They contain many words that are definitely not derived from Hebrew or Yiddish.  Words like Motherfucker and Puto.  If you can handle those you're about to have a good laugh.  Even if you're another Hanukkah Grinch.

"Happy Hanukkah, Bitches"

Here's a previous Mixed Meters post with Hanukkah pictures taken at Bed Bath and Beyond.  (That year it was Hanukkah bears.)

A previous Mixed Meters post with a picture of Hanukkah matzoh.

Here's a previous Mixed Meters post about the word Fuck.

Menorah Tags: . . . . . . . . .