The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion

The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and ReligionThe Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a fascinating book. Right away, I feel like this book had as much influence on the way I see the world and the people in it as Guns, Germs, and Steel. My first impulse is to say that this should be required readings for all Americans (at least).

This is a psychology book about Moral Psychology. Not only is the subject fascinating, but the book is very well written and very easy to understand. Haidt summarizes each chapter at the end and it doesn’t feel patronizing and it helped me retain a lot of points he was trying to make.

Here’s a very short summary of what this book talks about: He begins by discussing human morality and how it’s driven very much “from the gut” with the brain (reason) following closely behind and making post-hoc explanations of a person’s moral “instincts.” He explains why reason doesn’t really drive a person’s moral outlook. He also explains that we are 90% chimp (self-serving) and 10% bee (cooperative, hive-minded, group-serving) and that (evolutionary) group selection is real and works along with natural selection on an individual basis to make us who we are.

He also explains there there is more to morality than worrying about whether your actions harm someone else or not. There, actually, are 6 aspects to the moral foundation: care/harm, liberty/oppression, fairness/cheating, loyalty/betrayal, authority/subversion, and sanctity/degradation. Interestingly, he’s found that (in the USA) politically left-leaning people mainly operate on the care/harm and liberty/oppression scales, while right-leaning people operate on all 6, showing one of the main differences between liberals and conservatives.

He’s politically liberal, but really does want to understand both sides and feels that it’s important for everyone to make this effort if we are to bring this country back to a place where we can all work together to solve our collective problems. Everyone has valuable things to bring to the table (even Libertarians and Republicans!) and we need to be aware of this. It’s like yin and yang.

There is so much more, but I recommend this book to EVERYONE. If we were all to understand each other better we could have a civil discourse. (see

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File Cabinet Archives IV: Brownies Floor Plan

Technically, I didn’t find this in my file cabinet, because it’s gone forever onto the streets of Brooklyn, but I found this in my electronic file cabinet called the “Documents” folder of my Mac. I still miss Brownies. I think of it as the first “real” show I played in New York. Acme Underground doesn’t count, even though that was my very first venue to play in in NYC.

Brownies Floor Plan

What’s not indicated is that room behind the “Pay Phone.”

File Cabinet Archives III: Five Second Flat opened for Shipping News

In my biggest coup in booking my own bands, I managed to get my band in 2003, Five Second Flat, an opening slot for Shipping News, one of my favorite bands of the time. I saw their tour dates and called up the venue, Little Brothers, in Columbus, OH and asked if we could get on the show and they guy said, “sure.” It was too easy. It was a great show, too, and the guys in Shipping News were super nice to us and very supportive. During their set they thanked us for playing and told the crowd to buy our CD. It was more than we could have asked for. Lyndon, Jeff, and I were ecstatic.

Coincidentally, that was 11 years ago, today.

“File Cabinet Archives” is stuff I am finding in my file cabinet as I go through it and throw away a lot of old stuff, scan some of it, and save even less of it. I’m posting some of what I find interesting here.

File Cabinet Archives* I: Glenn Branca

Back in 2006, I signed up to be in the “100 guitars thing” by Glenn Branca. That thing turned out to be “Symphony No. 13 (Hallucination City)” and we performed it at Montclair State University in New Jersey on February 4. We received the music, learned it at home, then practiced a few times as a group before the performance.

Also known as “the time I played with Ty Braxton, Wharton Tiers, Sarah Lipstate, Reg Bloor, Mike Banfield, Jessica Pavone, Brad Bennett, Doug Keith, Bryan Bruchman and 91 other people.”

Glenn Branca Symphony No. 13 Performance 1

Glenn Branca Symphony No. 13 Performance f

Glenn Branca Symphony No. 13 Performance 2

Here’s what some of the music for my part, Bass 3, looked like.



* “File Cabinet Archives” is stuff I am finding in my file cabinet as I go through it and throw away a lot of old stuff, scan some of it, and save even less of it. I’m posting some of what I find interesting here.

Keith Jarrett Solo, Carnegie Hall, 5 February 2014

I was joined at the Keith Jarrett concert last night by Tony and I thought it was very, very good. I hoped, irrationally, that the first piece would extend into a long-form piece from the old days, but it was not to be. However, that was one of my most favorite pieces from the evening. I thought that it was more “song-oriented,” by which I mean it sounded like Keith was composing songs in many of the pieces. They could have been standards/ballads or bluesy songs at times. There were few “out” pieces and few, if any completely unstructured pieces.

Here are my own, albeit silly, notes on the evening’s pieces:

Set I:

Dark Intervals (reminded me of 1st track)
Song (the most song-like, imo)
Ballad (could have been a standard-type ballad)
Rio (pointillist, abstract, short; stopped it short and told a story about a review of “Rio”)
Cure (reminded me of “The Cure”)
Ballad (another that could have been a standard-type ballad)
Pretty Clouds (very beautiful, evoking flight)
Military Waltz (not a very accurate description but I’m sticking with it)

Set II:

Rainbowlike (sounded in similar vein of Somewhere Over The Rainbow)
Romp Song (Keith’s signature left-hand-type-romp)
Dramatic Beauty (very beautiful)
More Dramatic Beauty (very beautiful)
Break Bluesy (a bluesy KJ signature with a break in the middle to tell story about playing one note vamps with Charles Lloyd)
One Note Beauty (keeping the theme of the story, a beautiful, ballad-like tune that focused on one note throughout, probably an “E”)


Song (was this a standard?)
There is Power in Dark Beauty (not a real title)
Somewhere Over The Rainbow



Dazed And Confused

Interesting music history tidbit here. Led Zeppelin’s “Dazed And Confused,” as one might imagine, is somewhat of a ripoff. Just like other Led Zeppelin songs, Jimmy Page “borrowed heavily” from one Jake Holmes.

Jake Holmes opened for The Yardbirds in the late 60’s and played his song “Dazed And Confused,” which Jimmy liked and wanted to do an arrangement of. It appeared on a live Yardbirds album called “Live Yardbirds featuring Jimmy Page” as “I’m Confused” and also uncredited.

And, as we all know, Led Zeppelin did their own version on Led Zeppelin I after that. Jimmy wrote new lyrics and credited the whole song to himself. Jake Holmes didn’t go after him till the 2000’s, when in 2012 there seems to have been a settlement.

Jake Holmes’s version:

The Yardbirds’s version:

Led Zeppelin’s version:

More info on Wikipedia.

But Beautiful: A Book About Jazz

But Beautiful: A Book About JazzBut Beautiful: A Book About Jazz by Geoff Dyer

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a remarkable book. It’s one of the best pieces of writing that I have ever read, and it’s not just because I love Jazz. The approach of the writing is what I’d call unconventional because it claims to be neither fiction or non-fiction, which is a safe tack for the author to take. Even though, the book is not diminished by the author telling the reader all of this out in the preface; he says, point-blank, that it’s what he’s doing. He is attempting to tell the stories of a handful of jazzmen. These are intimate looks into the lives and feelings of these men, rendered in poetic and impressionistic prose, that would be impossible to represent as purely factual. However, the stories are meant to faithfully represent these men in factual and probable ways, but, again the story is told as if it were fictional. Meaning, some parts are written in the first person, others in the third, delving deep into the inner thoughts and desires of the person. Knowing what I was getting into I was not troubled by this tightrope walk between fact and fiction (as I feel I may have been had it been presented as non-fiction, or vice-versa, perhaps). It stayed far clear of anything like the “A Million Little Pieces” ‘scandal.’ As Dyer puts it in the preface, “As a rule, assume that what’s here has been invented or altered rather than quoted. Throughout, my purpose was to present the musicians not as they were but as they appear to me.”

The stories were moving and the writing poetic. It brought me into these people’s lives. I learned, at least, how Dyer imagines these men’s lives to be. And from what I knew about some of their personal lives, he attempted to render them (mostly) accurately.

Not only is the body of the book exceptional, the afterword is also some of the best critical music writing I’ve ever read.

I will most definitely read what else Dyer has written, no matter the subject. A most excellent book.

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Anthony Braxton at Roulette

Last night I attended night two of four nights of performances at the newly reopened Roulette performance space. Roulette has a long history dating back to a Soho loft in the 80’s and beyond and has recently relocated to Brooklyn. It’s a great space with a nice, big stage and a wrap-around balcony. I’ll definitely be going back there from time to time.

I leapt at the chance to see Anthony Braxton perform. I’d never seen him perform before and, from what I know, he performs fairly rarely within my reach. I’ve been listening to his music for many years now, and admittedly, it took me a while to get into it. It’s firmly in the avant-garde of jazz and can take a bit of getting used to. I still don’t even come close to understanding how it always works but I do like what I hear.

I chose to attend night two because of the format of the evening. He’s done some music for dance as well as some choral music, both of which are being presented on other nights of the run, but I am primarily interested in the instrumental type, which really makes up the bulk of his oeuvre. The program for the night was in two parts. The first set was a performance by the Diamond Curtain Wall Trio and the second set was a performance by the Tri-Centric Orchestra.

Diamond Curtain Wall Trio
Diamond Curtain Wall Trio (by nadia_patrian)

The Diamond Curtain Wall Trio is comprised of Anthony Braxton playing reeds of all sorts (last night he played five saxes: alto, soprano, sopranino, baritone, and bass), Taylor Ho Bynum playing brass of all sorts (I couldn’t identify everything but included were cornet, flugelhorn, trombone, and other sizes of trumpet-type things, one of which was gigantic), and Mary Halvorson on guitar (she played only one guitar).

The performance was basically an extended improvisation over the course of 45-50 minutes, timed by an hourglass which was ritually overturned at the start of the performance. They were, in fact, most likely playing a composition entitled “Composition 323c.”  A similar composition is pictured here:

Composition 327 by Anthony Braxton

Composition 323c is described by Taylor as such:

In the DCW Music, Braxton combines intuitive improvisation with interactive electronics. The musicians in the ensemble respond both to the evocative graphic notation of his Falling River Music, and the unique and responsive electronic patches the composer designed using the SuperCollider programming software. Both the rich graphics of the Falling River Music and the complex algorithms of DCW Music’s SuperCollider patches are extraordinary examples of how Braxton has continued evolving into his fifth decade of music-making.

What this meant in practice, as I saw it last night, was a long and interesting improvisation. At times all three performers were playing and each subset of two played together at times, and each person had his or her own solo time. This wasn’t set up and planned, but flowed more or less organically as the performance unfolded. Anthony would, at times, decide to change the electronic music’s program and turn it up or off entirely. Some highlights for me were: Anthony on bass sax engaging in a one-sided argument, simultaneously screaming through and playing the beast of a saxophone; Taylor blowing water into his flugelhorn; Anthony on his soprano sax in a fit of circular breathing, emitting waves of rising notes over Mary’s support; Mary’s solo sections were also quite great. It’s hard to describe it past this. You can download a recent performance by the trio here. I enjoyed it thoroughly.

The second set saw the Tri-Centric Orchestra, which consisted of Jason Hwang, Sarah Bernstein (violins), Renee Baker (viola), Tomas Ulrich (cello); Nate Wooley, Chris DiMeglio (trumpets), Mark Taylor (French horn), Dan Blacksburg, Chris McIntyre (trombones), Anthony Braxton, Daniel Blake, Dan Voss, Matt Bauder, Salim Washington, Josh Sinton (reeds), Angelica Sanchez (piano), Mary Halvorson (guitar), Ken Filiano (bass), Tyshawn Sorey (percussion), Taylor Ho Bynum, Jessica Pavone, Aaron Siegel (conductors).

It was a large ensemble capable of creating some great noise.

You may notice that there are three conductors in the group. This is where it gets interesting. The orchestra was separated into sections: the strings and piano were the territory of Jessica Pavone; Aaron Siegel mostly manned half of the woodwinds and some brass as well as the drummer and guitar. Taylor was the “main” conductor who had control of the whole orchestra.

The program consisted of a few compositions (including 100, 134, and 92) along with “GTM” and “language music improvisations” (GTM stands for Ghost Trance Music). This is how it worked: Taylor started the set by the ritual overturning of the hourglass and started with what I think was language music improvisations. He made an “O” shape with his two hands together, showed it to the ensemble, then in a series of instructions, showed a number of fingers to the ensemble to indicate what I’m guessing was a type of language improvisation, like 1, 4, 7, etc. After showing the number, say 1, he’d then count off and conduct the group to play. 1, for example, was a staccato note that was to be played on his cue. 4 was a legato note, also to be played on cue. It seemed as if the note could be any note the player chose. He also would section off the ensemble and instruct just a section in a certain way. He could, say, section off the strings, have them do something, then have the woodwinds do something else. He could also set sections off on their own, for example, he had the trumpets playing staccato notes the motioned to continue that as he moved to instruct another section. So, after a few language improvisation instructions, he then would take up a small dry-erase board, write a composition and section, say “100 G1,” show it to the group (or subset of the group) and count of for that section of that composition to be played. Again, he could conduct subsections in different ways, having the brass play one section and the strings another.

After some of this, the other conductors took charge of their own destinies. Jessica Pavone, put down her violin, rose, and turned to face her string section and proceeded to conduct them in an entirely different composition. Aaron Siegel would also do the same. In this way, there were multiple compositions and improvisations occurring at the same time. The conductors would work in such a way to not make it too messy, and it somehow would make sense. There were some parts that also seemed a bit like John Zorn’s “Cobra” game piece, where players could be instructed to follow the cues of another player, basically imitating them. To further the confusion, some sections could sometime autonomously break off and play some composition or improvisation, as often did happen. Taylor had the power to call an end to any of this activity, as his instructions seemed to take precedence over anything that was happening at the time. If this sounds like a giant mess, you could be right. I know a lot of people would not really tolerate the sounds that were emanating from the stage, but I was enthralled. It was beautiful, challenging, grating, inspiring, soothing, exciting, and happy all at different times or at the same time.


Anthony Braxton is an amazing musician and composer. I’m glad I was there last night.

Kanye at MoMA

Two nights ago I went to MoMA with Hillary, Dan, and Nicole to see Kanye West perform at the annual Garden Party after party. It was pretty epic.

The beginning didn’t start of so great though. The line to get in stretched down 53rd street, up 5th avenue and back around and up 54th street. We arrived at 9:00, when the event was supposed to begin, and, fortunately, Dan and Nicole were already there in line somewhere on 53rd street. The line took forever because it seemed that MoMA had never planned an event before. But, as you can tell by the adjective, “annual,” above, they have done this before. More on this, below.*

Kanye West pre-showWe finally got into the garden and made a bee-line for the bar. I got two bourbons and two glasses of wine as Dan simultaneously got four bourbons. We consolidated our drinks into three bourbons and a wine and made our way to the stage.

At exactly 11:01, Kanye took the stage.

I have to make a disclaimer. I don’t own any Kanye records or even that many hip hop records beyond Beastie Boys, The Roots, Run D.M.C., or . I’ve also never been to a hip hop show, so this was all new to me, besides the fact that have heard some of Kanye’s songs. How could I not have. Hillary and Nicole are way into it and Nicole, in particular, loves My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. I’d heard “Monster,” “All Of The Lights,” “Lost In The World,” “H.A.M.,” and more that I can’t name. So I knew some of what I was hearing, bit definitely not all of it.

Kanye had a “band” of one DJ and two nerdy white guys who played keyboards and a guitar. (They spent most of the last song videoing the action on their iPhones.)

Kanye played a bunch of songs from Fantasy and probably some others too. It was great and I really loved it. For an introduction to hip hop shows, this probably was a good one.He had a lot of energy at times and was more melancholy at other times. Between songs he shouted out to some in the crowd who must have been in the museum upper levels and then shouted out to the homes across 54th street and their “free show.” He definitely put a lot into the show. Towards the end he did an ad-libbed sing/talk coda in “Lost In The World” about how hard his life is and how he’s persecuted for being an asshole. He mentioned accusations of racism talked about his mom. It prompted me to send a twitter photo entitled “He’s sorry if he was an asshole ever to you.” Poor guy.


After the rant/cry a very special guest joined Kanye on stage: Jay-Z!

They did “H.A.M.” and then “Empire State Of Mind.”

Jay-Z was young-looking, had longer hair, and smiled the whole time. The crowd was really amped up and it was great. Jay-Z is a much better rapper than Kanye (imho) and really took the show to a whole new level. What a way to end!

I give the whole thing an 8 of 10. I’d do it again.

* Apparently, last year they mailed the wristbands to the people who bought tickets and they were able to just show up and walk in. No, not this time, that seemed to have worked too well. This time they decided to create 5-6 lines in the lobby ordered by a section of the alphabet. You had to find your line (which really wasn’t easy since they were formed at a slant to the counter) then a volunteer would flip through a box of envelopes until they found the one with your name on it. There was no indication whether all the wristbands bought together would be in the same envelope or in different envelopes. There also was no indication whether the wristbands would be in an envelope with your name on it or with the name of the person who bought the tickets. Nobody told us because those who knew, didn’t know we didn’t know. This is why the process–once you got into the building–took so long. And that was why the line moved so slowly. I just wonder whether the people at the end of the line got in before Kanye started. It sounds like I am a complainer now, but it was really infuriating at the time–not least because it could have been organized so much better.