Got a match?

I’m reviving the blog with another in a continuing series: linked items that have appeared on my radar screen. First up are Ofelia Esparza, Daniel Hernandez and Dio de los Muertos.

“We all suffer three deaths.” Ofelia Esparza, the East L.A. altarista, or altar maker, was remembering her mother’s words. “The first death is the day that we give our last breath, the day that we die,” said Esparza one recent evening in Boyle Heights as she and her daughters prepared for Day of the Dead. They were making orange paper flowers, the blooms crinkling loudly, taking shape in their hands. “Our second death is the day that we’re buried, never to be seen on the face of the earth again, which sounds very final.

“But the most final, the most dreaded, terrible death of all,” she said, “is to be forgotten.” *

The idea of the third death hit me hard this year. Though I’ve been really fortunate – the pandemic hasn’t taken anyone close to me – the daily knowledge of loss has been at my elbow since March of  2020, when I bolted from the west coast to hunker down in New England. I don’t believe in an afterlife, but it’s clear we live on in the memories of others.

Mr. Hernandez notes the commodification of Dio de los Muertos; inevitable, given the logic of late capitalism. I’m heartened by seeing the way it’s celebrated by folks I respect: focusing on remembrance rather than branded tequila 😉 . I vote in favor of Anglos screwing up Cinco de Mayo (afaik, not an important day in Mexico anyhoo) and keeping the first days of November for our ancestors.

A day after reading the L.A. Times piece, I was driving around listening to the latest Aria Code. I like opera (blame Bugs – seriously), but in the most naive way possible. I rarely have any idea what’s going on and almost never know what the lyrics mean. Aria Code is a great listen for someone in my shoes. I don’t retain everything, but for the duration of the podcast the hidden depths are revealed and I love it. The ep I was listening to was “Potion, Emotion, Devotion: Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde“. It’s an exploration and explication of Isolde’s final aria: the Liebestod (literally lovedeath).

But what is actually going on at the end of the opera – Isolde is not talking about death at all. she never says the word ‘death’. It’s this hallucination of Tristan being still alive. … It’s not about death, it’s about life. it’s about the memory of a person whom Isolde is bringing to life in her own mind.  – Alex Ross, New Yorker music critic

So there you have it! Living on in the memory of others – the only reliable afterlife.


Better late than never, I call your attention (yes, I know you’re aware of it already. pipe down.) to the newsletter phenomenon. Joanne McNeil Wrote an excellent overview and analysis last summer: Tiny Letters to the Web We Miss.

I knew what a blog was in 2002, I knew what it was in 2008, which was slightly different but still definitely a “blog.” Now, I have no idea what the word means any more. It isn’t something that runs on WordPress, because that is now the CMS for almost 20% of the web. It isn’t a place for short links, because that is Twitter. Tumblr and Instagram took over for photoblogs. And those long personal essay/personal rant posts that people would write every once in a while?—?those are happening here on Medium instead of our own websites. Specific products are driving the content.

TinyLetter isn’t driving the content as much as it is driving the newsletter trend. The format can be used for multiple purposes just like blogs used to be. *

If you want to dip your toes, let me recommend Charlie LLoyd‘s 6 and Debbie Chachra‘s Metafoundry. 6, 37: Blur‘s metasequoia section is one of the best things I’ve read in a while. And if you were paying attention while you read Metafoundry 15: Scribbled Leatherjackets you got a glimpse of Dr. Chachra’s thinking on Making (capitalization intended) that ended up, eventually, as Why I Am Not a Maker on the Atlantic’s web site.

A couple other newsletters I enjoy: Sarah Jeong and Parker Higgins‘ 5 Useful Articles (dispatches from the IP/copyright wars) and @(s)laughtercrystal‘s #PortsmouthLOVE Letter (local fun and coolness).

Some thought has been given to a #dailycoolcreature newsletter – no promises, but watch this space for any announcements.

A photo posted by John P (@drhypercube) on

Asian Horse-back Falconry

Via DongSeuk Woo on the Facebook, comes a link to “Ethnoarchaeology of Horse-riding Falconry” (PDF), Takuya Soma’s paper published in the 2012 Asian Conference on the Social Sciences Official Conference Proceedings. Well worth a look for those of us who are interested in the origin of things. Some pictographs (I was already familiar w/ the top left via Steve Bodio):


And a rhyton from the Met, referred to in the paper:


A frieze depicting a religious ceremony decorates the rim of the cup, illustrating the type of libation ritual for which the cup may have been intended. A prominent figure, probably a deity, sits on a cross-legged stool, holding a bird of prey in the left hand and a small cup in the right. The deity wears a conical crown and has large ears, typical of Hittite art. It is unclear whether the deity is meant to be male or female. A mushroom-shaped incense burner separates him or her from another, distinctly male deity who stands on the back of a stag. He, too, holds a raptor in his left hand, while with his right he grasps a small curved staff. *

Drone attacked by X

Via peacay, a MeFi thread with a bunch of critters attacking drones. My favorites:

The one that I’ve seen a lot of recently – an immature Redtail – first brought to my attention by Jessamyn.

Canada Goose

“Goose attacks x” is a “dog bites man” story.

Oh, come on. I’ve seen Canadian geese attack nuns. Canadian geese will attack any damn thing in their general vicinity, they are vicious and stupid and definitely got the memo that they were a legally protected species and tht THERE’S NOTHING YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT if they repeatedly try to murder you. Geese attacking things definitely do not count for attack video compilations; it is not unusual behavior because they ALWAYS approach the world like a coked-up, steroid-addled teenaged athlete who hates his parents and has something to prove. It’s their default state. – Eyebrows McGee


That’s some serious dislike there Mr McGee.
Did a Canadian goose beat you up in High School? – ambivalentic

And the weirdest – bees attack drone. My current hypothesis is that the sound of the drone motors angers the bees – I can’t come up w/ any other reason for them to behave this way.

Soylent, alienation and what’s the point anyway?

This rantlet flows out of Nicola Twilley’s excellent post on Aeon, Freedom from food. Go ahead and read it – I’ll wait. <hums tunelessly> Ok, then. I’ll assume that you’re familiar with Soylent (vc) (as opposed to Soyent (hh) or Soylent (it’s peeeopleeee)). Also please take as given that though I’m going to come across as a bit of a purist and perhaps holier than thou, I am neither of those things (I hope). I don’t cook everything I eat from scratch with ingredients I’ve grown or gathered myself – far from it. If nothing else, that’d keep me away from Kittery and a couple of my favorite restaurants. I may even eat too many burritos and falafel wraps – being pressed for time and not wanting to cook is a situation I am completely familiar with.

That being said, I find Soylent(vc) repulsive. It seems to me to embody a lot of what is wrong with our (developed West) trajectory both externally, in our relations with each other and the greater world, and internally, as we try to find some personal meaning as we hang out in this vale of tears.

It’s tough to imagine a more industrialized foodstuff than Soylent. Nicola touches on the length of the supply chain – Australian wool -> factory in Sichuan -> vitamin D2 -> Soylent – and there’s the reductive nutritional fetishism, too. The idea that food is no more than a list of chemicals in the proper quantities and proportions is one that Michael Pollan has argued against, effectively as far as I’m concerned. But there it is – standardization – where it’s at if you are going to manufacture fully industrialized food. Soylent is also having a go at being a fully alienated food. It tries to render invisible its origin in and connection to the world of non-human life (<thinks about the movie and laughs>).

This is perhaps Soylent’s most significant failing: food is the primary means by which we embody and enact our shifting, species-shaping relationship with natural world. Soylent represents an impossible wish to terminate that relationship entirely, to the impoverishment of both sides. *

In spite of the extent to which Western agriculture can be characterized as a way of turning fossil hydrocarbons, in the form of fertilizer, fuel and pesticides, into food, at base it still depends, it ALL depends, on photosynthesis. Knowledge of the way energy flows from the sun to plants to, perhaps, chickens or mushrooms or bees should help us situate ourselves in the web of things; Soylent attempts to efface that understanding. Industrialization has given us many good things, but not everything can or should be industrialized. Yes, I’m familiar with big farms. And yes, I’m familiar with inexpensive (and cheap) food. There’s a continuum here and Soylent is so far out on one of the tails of the distribution it’s not funny.

Soylent also alienates us from ourselves – from our senses and our physical being. It’s fuel. Pour it down fast and free up some time! But “I” am not separate from my body; fatigue, exertion, hot peppers – they all affect my ‘mind’. My senses, though they lie to me, are how I know the world – they are my ways in and out. Are my senses of taste and smell and touch so unimportant that I can toss them over the side when it come to an activity – eating – that keeps me alive? And the recent understanding of each of us as colonial beings – human plus gut biome (plus other communities) – the notion that ‘we’ll fix the bacterial ecosystem disaster in rev 2’ leaves me cold. This personal alienation is one of the many ways I think Soylent has gotten it pretty much perfectly backwards. The point is to enjoy your time to the best of your ability, not to eschew pleasure in favor of time on task. Because that’s the other thing that’s going on here – one frees up time by subsisting on Soylent to do what, exactly? You’ll forgive me if I assume ‘to work more hours’ is one of the choices. Again, don’t get me wrong – the points made about women’s (uncompensated/unvalued) time spent preparing food are well taken. I want more time. More free time. For everyone. More time to cook, if that’s what one wants to do, or to gather or garden, or to walk or to whistle or to hang around a cafe drinking coffee. And I want more ‘present’ time – time when I’m aware and appreciative of the taste of the hot coffee or the smell of the dry goldenrod underfoot or the sound of the catbird in the brush. Soylent seems to me to be the antithesis of being present.

I’m going to end with a quote from another good piece: David Graeber’s What’s the Point If We Can’t Have Fun?

Why do animals play? Well, why shouldn’t they? The real question is: Why does the existence of action carried out for the sheer pleasure of acting, the exertion of powers for the sheer pleasure of exerting them, strike us as mysterious? What does it tell us about ourselves that we instinctively assume that it is? *

Life is for living.

(vc) is my little joke. I see Soylent as flowing out of startup/VC ‘culture’ (such as it is).

No No: A Dockumentary

A couple weeks ago, prompted by this boingboing post, I pointed the car in the direction of Brookline, Mass and headed out for Short Notice Movie Night.

I am not a huge baseball fan, but I am a BIG fan of baseball misfits and weirdos: Bill Lee, Sidd Finch and of course Dock Ellis. Mr. Ellis is most famous for pitching a no-hitter with a head full of LSD – I knew there was more to him than that, but I did not know how much more.

No No: A Documentary is one of the most interesting biographies I’ve seen in a very long time. Ellis, as one of the generation of ballplayers that came up after the majors were integrated, had a lot to say about civil rights and racism; he was wild on and off the field and in the end was someone who circled back to help addicts after he got sober.



The Seventies vibe was palpable and I loved it. I read that No No is now available via the internet streams – HIGHLY recommended. Why post now? As I was heading in to the local big city this AM I listened to a segment on Only a Game: a conversation with Jeffery Radice, who made No No, and Tom Reich, Dock’s agent. On a personal note, the names of some of the Pirates my dad and I saw play at Forbes Field: Roberto Clemente, Willy Stargell, Manny Sanguillen – brought tears to my eyes. Green Weenie 4 evah.

Rock on (in beisbol valhalla), Mr. Ellis.

P.S. Thanks to Lauren for the restaurant recco – tacos and elote, yay!

Up north

It’s the time of year when I load the dogs up and head north of the notches (that part of NH on the north side of the White Mountains). Some photos, with commentary:


A pano of one of my favorite views. Not a good cover, but we just left one and this is much easier walking – a chance for Dinah and me to relax a bit.

White Baneberry

Berries! A not-good-to-eat one, White Baneberry


and a quite tasty (if sour) one, the Cranberry.

And of course, humans leave their mark.


A pile of rock with toys and a worn-out whirligig on top – I’m guessing a grave. Pet? I hope so.

crab trash

And I’m used to finding piles of trash at the end of tote roads (aka jeep trails) at the point they become impassable, but the debris is usually demolition waste, old teevees, that sort of thing. First time I’ve ever seen a pile of crabs. Thankfully, they’d been there quite a while – Dinah was neither interested in rolling in nor eating them.