Another Claim to Fame

I used to subscribe to the King Crimson newsletter. They would often have contests in which readers would be challenged to come up with the fewest number of steps to connect some musician or other to guitarist Robert Fripp. Thanks to my “The Trees: Rush Tribute” bandmate Ryan Nutter‘s recent performance with Bernie Worrell (below), I now have a Fripp number of my own and it is: FOUR. Even though I can’t imagine being worthy, this makes me very happy!  Worrell, a founder of Parliament-Funkadelic, played with Talking Heads, who recorded with Fripp and Adrian Belew, who have direct connections to many of my favorite artists (Bowie!) and indirect connections to dozens more (Eno, Gabriel, The Police, Devo, Pink Floyd . . .)

https://www.facebook.com/UpLateNW/videos/969348389815960/

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Unsung hero of the internet

Well, it finally happened. After years of sharing the jewels of wisdom that I have acquired through my meditations on Important Things, something I wrote has demonstrably struck a chord with the collective consciousness. The stir that it has caused has taken me completely by surprise, and it had been going on for years before I realized it. This, my friends, is my legacy to the world. “What?” I hear you asking. “Was it your brilliant visualization of general relativity? The way in which you suggested a deep connection between relativity and quantum theory?” Nope. It was a Facebook meme.

I awoke the morning of September 21st to see something strangely familiar in my Facebook feed. A friend had posted one of those Facebook statuses that are copied and pasted endlessly from friend to friend. Except this one was different. It was making fun of all those other statuses in a sarcastic way. What struck me as rather odd was that I was the one who originally wrote it. I had even included it in part of a sound recording I had made at the end of 2014, but hadn’t even thought about it in the months between.

bacon

What struck me as even more odd, perhaps due to the fact that I was not yet fully awake, was that I had awoken thinking about this friend after having a very naughty dream. Or had I? Confusing. I decided that she couldn’t possibly have stalked my Facebook profile three years back and reposted this item, so this mystery demanded research. I put my status’ final, distinctive phrase into the Facebook search bar and saw results something like you will see at this link.

At that time, I was seeing new, publicly-visible statuses with that phrase appear at the rate of about 100 per hour. Who knows how many more were visible to “friends only.”I was delighted to see how many people were commenting on them and otherwise showing their amusement.

I tried to figure out when the phenomenon had really taken off, and saw that people I was friends with had reposted it before I had even connected with them. The very popular “Flying Spaghetti Monster” page had posted a version of it in August 2013, which no doubt helped the propagation of this meme. And there are indeed different mutations of it “out there,” starting from no later than the second day after I posted it. Some have become produced offspring, and some have died out.

If I could have figured out how to make a penny from each repost, I could have accumulated a considerable amount of money . . . and if I could have gotten a fraction of that public enthusiasm for anything I posted on this blog, my head might have exploded from swelling. As things are, I can take satisfaction in having made a few hundred thousand people smile. Even if they’ll never know my name.

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Hymn to a Desolate Landscape (video)

From the EP “Hymns to a Desolate Landscape.”
Audio recorded December 2012 at Soggy Studios, Marysville WA.
Video recorded March 2014 at Anza-Borrego Desert State Park CA.

All sounds and footage by yours truly.

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Laying Old Ghosts to Rest

I have mentioned a disquiet over a particular subject in several of my previous posts here. Having settled these matters for myself now, I offer you my new perspective on the Pitzer case and Lt. Col. Marvin. Click here for the article.

 

 

Posted in Book Publications, memresearch.org, Without Smoking Gun | Leave a comment

The return of memresearch.org; McAdams placed on leave; the nature of belief

I have been very energized by the straightupphysics.org project; I enjoy designing web sites. I have finally undertaken to update my very outdated skills, and I find tremendous enjoyment in learning these new tricks. So, I have dug up the old content from a site that was offline for ten years. I noticed that the memresearch.org domain name was once again available, and I bought it a few months ago. Today I have finished putting it back in order and giving it proper hosting.

I was a much different man when this site was last active. I believed many things which today seem almost embarrassing. I have chosen to own my past and to make the site more about the process of learning and about the nature of belief.  This coincides with my discovery – thanks to a friend – of the slatestarcodex.com blog. So much learning to be done! I think that 2015 be another year of significant transformation for me (I lost 30 pounds in 2014, thank you very much!).

During the process of rebuilding and evaluating memresearch.org, one thing led to another and I found myself on John McAdams’ page on the Kennedy assassination. He and I have seen things quite differently, but as I looked through his material again through fresh eyes, I see a lot of value in it and am grateful for the “debunking” of many of the items upon which I have built my viewpoint. I also learned that late last month, McAdams was placed on leave from his academic post amid some controversy. Given that circumstance and also that he is at an age when many people retire, I quickly grew concerned that the vast respository of files he maintains at his university web address might not be available for much longer. After downloading the two or three dozen links from the main index page by hand, I wanted to use an automated tool to make sure I had gotten it all.

I went looking for some free software that would scan McAdams’ web address and quickly download the content for future reference. I was very surprised at the difficulty of finding something suitable. Great free software exists for so many uses; how hard could this be? Luckily, I remembered Microsoft Front Page ’98, which does just what I needed, and I still have the disk. So I dusted that off and got to work. After quite a long time downloading, Front Page is still busy; I knew McAdams was somewhat prolific as well as prominent, but I had no idea what a vast repository I would be helping myself to. It’s humbling, because I like to imagine making a big splash with my site, and it doesn’t seem that big a deal by comparison.

I look forward to digging through it all. I have a lot to think about. In the years since I stopped studying the assassination two major works have come out, one on either side of the controversy, that I feel deserve my attention again (they came to my notice because my own work is cited in both of them). I also feel that I gained new insight into the process of evaluating fact and fiction when I visited Dallas in 2012. Who knows what the result will be?

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The Trees: Rush Tribute at The Shakedown (video)

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Click poster above for larger image. This was the band’s final show. The video below is cued to play “Subdivisions,” the song that made it irresistable for me to join the band. Here’s one of my better performances.

Set 1:
Limelight
Red Barchetta
Subdivisions
Closer to the Heart
Natural Science
Twilight Zone
Tom Sawyer
Anthem
Distant Early Warning
Driven
Stick It Out
Freewill

Set 2:
Circumstances
A Passage to Bangkok
Fly By Night
2112
La Villa Strangiato/YYZ/Leave That Thing Alone
The Trees
Here Again
Between the Wheels
Clockwork Angels
New World Man
The Spirit of Radio

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In Memory of Mike Ruppert

Today I was saddened to learn of Mike Ruppert’s suicide in April of this year. It is hard for me to overstate Mike’s influence on my philosophy of politics and crime. I was a subscriber to Mike’s From the Wilderness newsletter and once took my wife to hear him lecture in Portland. With his permission, I included two of his articles in my 2002 anthology, It’s the Economy, Stupid: The Impact of the Illicit Drug Trade on the American Political Process. A central question of that e-book was whether the black market in illegal drugs was large enough to trump all other issues in the making and unmaking of American presidents.

I could call those my “sophomore” years; I was wise enough to have lost my Boy Scout naivete regarding the essential rightness of all things American, yet still foolish enough not to understand that an unverifiable story told with meticulous detail and passionate sincerity does not necessarily deserve credibility, even though it may otherwise agree with understood fact. This is a lesson I would begin to learn only a couple of years later, as I have written elsewhere in this blog.

I am deeply sorry for the pain of Mike’s life which has become yet clearer in his death. Mike may have given us little in the way of exclusive information, and may have misled us with falsehood resulting from delusion, but his efforts made me see a greater significance in what I had learned from other sources, and for that, I honor his memory.

http://www.theverge.com/2014/7/22/5881501/the-unbelievable-life-and-death-of-michael-c-ruppert

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On Determinism

I read some books last fall that were very interesting. I have already shared some of my thoughts regarding Lee Smolin’s Time Reborn. One of the other books I looked through at the same time (having been led there by a reference to “cellular automata” in my reading of Smolin) was Stephen Wolfram’s A New Kind of Science. These two readings led me to some interesting thoughts, which I hope to develop further in the process of attempting to articulate them here. I also wish to mention at this point (holding it out as a carrot to keep you reading through some of the drier parts) that it all ties in to a key concept in one of my all-time favorite stories, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

Most people with even a casual interest in science know that the classical theories of physics (which we call Newtonian after Isaac Newton) combine to create a paradigm in which one should be able to predict the future state of a system with perfect accuracy, provided that one is able to measure its present state with perfect accuracy. Modern physics tells us that there is not only a theoretical limit to the accuracy of our measurements (known as the Heisenberg uncertainty principle) but that there is also (according to Einstein’s theory of relativity) no well-defined “present.”

The Newtonian paradigm was one of such “determinacy” – that is, the idea that the past determines the present, which in turn determines the future – that the very existence of free will was brought into question. Modern physics should have undermined this paradigm more thoroughly than it did. Vestiges of it still remain, and I see them in Time Reborn. Though this paradigm is in fact lamented greatly in Smolin’s book, he struggles to find its alternative. Einstein’s legacy, he argues, was not to dispel the notion of determinism, but instead to give the whole of history a sense of eternal stasis by making time a dimension in addition to space: the sense that the future is already determined, but that due to our mortality, we experience time serially rather than being able to see it all at once. Modern physics, he says, leaves “no role for our awareness” in the determination of history. I share Smolin’s dissatisfaction with this paradigm, but I do believe that an alternative is readily available.

I have already written at great length regarding my objections to the treatment of time as a dimension which is in any way comparable to space, and I will not repeat those particular thoughts here. I have also written about the great difficulty in determining what one might call the “initial conditions” of a system once one abandons the classical ideas of a universally-applicable time and of forces acting instantaneously across any distance; those thoughts do bear on what I have to say next, and so I refer the reader to my earlier post, “Relativistic Indeterminacy and the Holographic Universe:  Thoughts on the Limits of Information.”

You may be at least a little familiar with the concept of “cellular automata” mentioned earlier, though you know it only through a particular example called “Conway’s game of life,” a computer program which displays “cells” which reproduce, survive, or perish based on the number of neighboring cells. It is an interesting amusement, but Wolfram made it much more interesting by reducing the number of dimensions in play (just one, rather than two) and using the second dimension to chart what might happen over time, given various initial conditions and various rules. I don’t have a copy of his book handy at the moment, but one of the lessons I took from it was that it was very difficult to predict what such a system would do merely by examining the initial conditions. Once the rules were applied over time, (once the “computations” were done, if you will) the results were often surprising. Furthermore, it was my impression that a change of state of any single cell could, over time, affect an arbitrarily large portion of the system.

Think about what this implies for us as agents in our own system: the future is unwritten. Our actions have consequences. The future may be pre-destined, due to pre-existing conditions, but it is not pre-determined in the sense that it can be predicted; and far more significantly, we are an integral part of the “computation.” It can be argued that we can make no other choices but the ones we make, given who we are (whether chemically or spritually), but it is us making the choices. The program has to be run before the results can be seen and we are the computer.

It all reminds me of Douglas Adams’ imagining of Earth as a giant and subtle supercomputer designed to crack open the meaning of “Life, the Universe and Everything.” Human beings were a part of its operation, and any one of them supposedly held the key to the mystery once the program completed. Incidentally, I have long regarded Adams’ story as a deep metaphor of some sort. Does God, if such a person exists, have no better idea than we do what the meaning of it all is, and were we created to figure it out for Him/Her? Do we as parents place that burden on our children, not for them to figure out the meaning of their lives but to give meaning to ours? Is life thus like a holiday fruitcake which some of us can find no better purpose for than to re-gift it?

Well, again it grows late, and I think I got what I came here for. Good night.

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From the Marvin files

I don’t know why I feel compelled to write this blog entry. But after ten years, several related questions keep nagging at me, badly enough to dig up a box of old files by flashlight and comb through at least six inches of ice-cold pages for clarification. I am looking at an 8-by-10 black-and-white photo of a very young-looking Dan Marvin and Master Sergeant Joe Hill at the Army’s Natick, Massachusetts labs,  modeling what appear to be parachutes and other packs.  The photo is dated January 1965.

I have already written here and elsewhere about Lt. Col. Dan Marvin, a decorated Army Special Forces veteran with whom I became fairly well acquainted (and whose appearance on the History Channel documentary The Men Who Killed Kennedy led to the writing of my book, Without Smoking Gun), and who I found to have a very complicated relationship with “the truth.”  His ghost haunts me from time to time, metaphorically speaking. What basis in reality did his tales of intrigue have? Were there any secrets which he took to his grave? Sometimes it seems easy to dismiss any of his claims which are not supported by documentary proof, but there is one matter on which he seemed to exercise an uncharacteristic reticence, pertaining to his former acquaintance with a mafia don and his son in the Boston area and having been offered work as a contract killer to eliminate their competition. This story was mentioned in Marvin’s article on the Kennedy assassination, published in the May, 1995  issue of The Fourth Decade. I don’t think that it is mentioned in my book’s review of Marvin’s career.

Marvin would not identify the don, saying that he, Hill, and the two mafiosi had each sworn to protect the others’ identities. A skeptical person would readily conclude that no such person did in fact exist, and that this was simply one of Marvin’s tall tales. But this story nags at me. Maybe I want it to be true, because I think I have puzzled out the identity of Marvin’s secret contacts and deep down I need to show off, even though it could incur the displeasure of the megacorporation which the family now runs. These are the kind of unhealthy thoughts that must motivate many proponents of conspiracy theories. I thought I had put the paranoia behind me, but there it is. It could be a long night. You can see my need to show off in my other writings, can’t you? Or is it something other than that: a need to matter, a need to make sense of the world?

Dan opened all his files to me and I have copies of most of them. I have stored them chronologically along with my own work. I am leafing through the earliest correspondence Dan had been able to preserve from his years of “crusading for truth.” I notice and recall a very judgmental missive written to his earliest collaborator who was living in sin. I see dim patterns emerging, leading up to his 1995 public revelation that he was asked by the CIA to eliminate a key witness to the cover-up of the Kennedy assassination. I see former allies referred to as enemies. This is a man who saw in black and white. Once again, I am unable to find the letter I am looking for, even by doing a keyword search in my electronic copies of Dan’s files. It’s frustrating because I know I saw it at one time, probably in 2003 when I visited Dan in New York. Every couple of years, I go looking for it, hoping that maybe this time I will be successful. The only remaining evidence I have in hand of actually having seen such a letter and not having fabricated the memory over the years is some internet search results I subsequently saved in October 2004.

What was in this all-important letter, you must be wondering. Dan was not the kind of man who used the word “Google” as a verb. When there was something he wanted to find out on the internet, he would ask for help. It was one of the first things he asked of me when I made his acquaintance. In the letter I am once again searching for, Dan (to the best of my recollection) asked one of his confidantes to see what he can find out about the last name Perini in the Boston area. He doesn’t make a big deal of it; he is just asking a casual favor in a private letter, some time in the late 1990s. Of course, when I saw this letter I was certain that Dan was making a discreet inquiry regarding the current status of his former mafia contacts. So of course I did a search on “Perini Boston.”

What I found was very unsettling. Result number one, from BusinessWire.com, May 2004: “Boston Globe Ranks Perini as Massachusetts’ #2 Company.” Result number two, from Boston Business Journal, July 2004: “Perini wins $52M Afghanistan project.” Result number three, from casinovendors.com: “Perini Building Company provides general contracting, construction management and design/build services to private clients and public agencies nationwide. Areas of specialty include gaming and lodging, entertainment, sport and public assembly, correctional, health care, warehousing and manufacturing, office, retail and parking structures.” Even now, I feel a knot in my stomach reviewing these results. Perini’s Massachusetts headquarters are in Framingham, the town neighboring Natick.

From time to time, I am reminded of all this, for example when a New England relative mentions to me some enormous Boston public works project which is being defrauded my the mob, fifty years after Dan first went to the Natick labs to test out gear. When I dare to stop and think about it, I am troubled at the prospect that Dan was right and that I didn’t give him enough credit. Horrified that I was right in my thesis that dirty money rules this country as the illegitimate child of high finance and thuggery. Good night and sleep tight.

P.S.: Couldn’t sleep after posting this, and did more internet browsing instead. Found this: http://www.nationalbcc.org/news/beyond-the-rhetoric/1283-when-the-federal-government-embraces-a-gangster-corporation 

And this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lou_Perini

Posted in memresearch.org, Without Smoking Gun | Leave a comment

On Prayer

Last month I finally recorded a song I have struggled to finish for five years. (Listen to it here). I call it my break-up letter to God, and I wrote the first draft of it at the end of my transition from true-believing Mormon to existential nihilist. I was raised to believe that God hears and answers prayers and that if one prays with real intent, He may answer your questions, perhaps even accompanying that answer (“the whispering of the Holy Ghost”) with some physical sensation. I never experienced that. The one time I did feel any such sensation when praying was when I finally told God that I had concluded that much of what I was raised to believe was untrue. I felt an intense rush through my body, which I now attribute to the resolution of years of cognitive dissonance. Whether it came from within myself or from God, the “answer” met all the standards of proof I knew.

At that point, I felt like Adam, having tasted the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil and having lost his innocence. I had tasted the fruit of the tree of knowledge of fact and fiction, and like Adam, I knew that I was then bound to lose my Eden of naive existence. My marriage did not survive my disillusionment, and though I gained more than I can say in the process, I still feel the bitterness of that loss from time to time. I wonder how my life might have been have I not been raised in a tradition of superstition. What would I tell my younger self if I could? It might go something like this:

There is nothing mystical about the thoughts and feelings produced by prayer. Even though no one is arrested for doing it in public – hell, they can even do it circled up as a group – prayer is an act of mental masturbation. If it works for you, go ahead, but don’t be fooled into thinking that you’re in an intimate relationship with some god. It’s just you exploring your self.

 

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