A Moon Shaped Pool

August 27, 2016

A little over a year ago, Radiohead singer Thom Yorke announced that he and the mother of his two children—the woman with whom he’d spent half his life—were parting: “Rachel and I have separated. After 23 highly creative and happy years, for various reasons we have gone our separate ways. It’s perfectly amicable and has been common knowledge for some time.”

Separation also imprinted A Moon Shaped Pool through the influence of Radiohead’s longtime producer, Nigel Godrich:

Auspiciously, this spring, my mother (an illustrator and writer of childrens’ picture books) had completed a series of paintings for the story Through the Park, with Tao and Hong, in which a boy and his dragon come across a rabbit lying abandoned in a “moon puddle” and try to help her find home.

Then, in the months following the release of this album, I lost my own father to cancer.

Since first listening to A Moon Shaped Pool in May, I’ve had some inclination to write a full track-by-track review, drawing out themes, expounding on what it means to me and such. It’s been low on my priority list though and I don’t believe my opinions on Radiohead are particularly high in demand. Nevertheless, this morning I decided I’d review at least one track.

a moon shaped pool cover 1440

(If I do chose to return to this, further material will go here)

The title of the song True Love Waits is, I think, equally an earnest echo of “Love is patient, love is kind…” (1 Corinthians 13:4) and an ironic appropriation of a phrase from abstinence education. The song has been around, though unreleased, since 1995. Radiohead could never find an arrangement of True Love Waits that satisfied them and do justice to what they wanted from it.

The earliest live version is an almost ebullient ballad of acoustic strumming with an arpeggiated synth line gently reminiscent of Debussy’s Arabesque № 1 (familiar to many PBS viewers as the theme from the astronomy show Star Gazer). Presented in this manner, Yorke’s words “And true love waits in haunted attics / And true love lives on lollipops and crisps” always struck me as essentially whimsical: spiritual sustenance on sugar and empty calories, surviving desolation through escape into fantasy and memories of bright color. Certainly a bit Anne Frank. Also a bit Sakuma Drops from Graveyard of the Fireflies.

“I read an article about a child who was between 5-8 yrs old who was left on his/her own for a week in a house when his parents left on holiday and he lived on lollipops and crisps.” —Thom

The album version of True Love Waits is a black hole of grief. You rest your head on the wood body of a piano that breaks apart as it plays. Not a performance onstage at an arena, but a voyeuristic domestic wire-tap more in the vein of the Radiohead b-side “How I Made My Millions”. It becomes clear as I listen that they finally found the right way to say it.

Consider the refrain “Just don’t leave / Don’t leave” as a plea to a dying loved one. It becomes an impossible request—a prayer up against the reality that leaving isn’t always a choice.

Behind the apparent extremity of self-effacing sacrifice and pledged service in the verses “I’ll drown my beliefs / to have your babies / I’ll dress like a niece / And wash your swollen feet” is a vulnerable collapse of mere humility into humiliation—ultimately, a naked admission of need, dependency and desire not to let go of one you love.

don’t fear fear

October 30, 2014

This quote is from “The Gravekeeper”, © 1997 by Patrick Bone.
Here are a couple collections I put together of short scary stories (including The Gravekeeper), originally compiled by Bruce Coville:

No more than 1 song per album, no more than 2 songs per artist.
Download this from Dropbox. 3:49:06
Chronologically ordered in 2000s.m3u

Other People’s Lives    Modest Mouse
I Offered It Up To The Stars & The Night Sky    Dirty Three
The Stars Are Projectors    Modest Mouse
Pink Maggit    Deftones
Alvin Row    Animal Collective
I Might Be Wrong    Radiohead
I Dream A Highway    Gillian Welch
Ashes of American Flags    Wilco
The Curious Sofa    This Busy Monster
One Step Inside Doesn’t Mean You Understand    The Notwist
Stability    Death Cab for Cutie
Hotcha Girls    Ugly Casanova
Spiritual Healing    Dälek
The New    Interpol
Good Woman    Cat Power
Brooklyn Dodgers    Xiu Xiu
Vampiring Again    Califone
The Shame    Blood Brothers
Grey Machine    Pinback
Staring at the Sun    TV on the Radio
Hey Ya!    OutKast
Family Business    Kanye West
Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)    Arcade Fire
The Heart That Felt Its Light    Frog Eyes
Burned Mind    Wolf Eyes
Get A Life (Live)    Built to Spill
L’Via L’Viaquez    The Mars Volta
Aanandam (Joy)    Debashish Bhattacharya
Smiling Off    Black Dice
Loch Raven    Animal Collective
Hold Up    Girl Talk
The Well And The Lighthouse    Arcade Fire
Bros    Panda Bear
Paper Planes    M.I.A.
Reckoner    Radiohead
Tell Me What To Swallow    Crystal Castles

what the fox said

December 26, 2013

I love foxes! But not because I think they’re cute, fluffy and silly. Nor because I think they’re sly, cunning and tricky. I love foxes because if you fail to respect their privacy, they will expect you to commit suicide. This often confuses people.

I decided foxes were my favorite animal at the age of six while watching what would become my favorite movie, Dreams. The film is presented as eight dreams from the life of the director, Akira Kurosawa. The earliest of these vignettes, “Sunshine Through The Rain,” tells the story:

A young boy lingers under the lintel of his family’s gate as rain begins to fall through the sunlight. His mother tells him not to go out, because foxes hold weddings during this weather that they don’t want humans to see. Disregarding her warning, the boy goes into the woods and spies on the foxes’ wedding procession from behind a tree. After some time, he is discovered and runs back home.

At his family’s gate, the boy finds his mother, who tells him that a fox came looking for him and that she can’t allow him back in unless he is forgiven. The mother hands her son a short blade the fox gave her, telling him that they expect him to kill himself and that he must be ready to die, because the foxes do not usually forgive.

The mother begins to close the gate, then her son protests that he doesn’t know how to find them. She tells him that on days like this there are always rainbows and that the foxes live under those. Then she closes the gate. The boy walks off toward the rainbow, his future uncertain.
These foxes don’t honor our distinction between children and adults, seeming rather more prone to treat humans with foxgloves (a toxic flower) than with kid gloves. Their realm borders and overlaps the human world, but it is very much their own domain and they are not kind to trespass.

Watching it for the first time, I didn’t see Kurosawa’s foxes as scary or misanthropic though. I saw them defending their own marginalized existence from human encroachment; affirming that what they hold sacred is meaningful apart from human comprehension or validation. If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, the sound is still heard by the foxes.

Kurosawa’s foxes survive by guarding themselves from the human gaze, their mystery protecting them from being erased by our simulacrum. These are not real foxes, of course, but only Kurosawa’s foxes, another projected archetype—represented in the film by people wearing stylized fox masks. Another image to burn on the iconoclastic pile.

The most respectful way of speaking for the voiceless is by honoring the fact that whatever you say cannot be as true as their silence.

fox mask

Protected: perfect honesty

November 25, 2013

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first-class functions

November 20, 2013

Troubleshooting a dodecahedron

(It begins with the elitist insight—if one considers being one of the 7 billion of us with minor knowledge of basic programming concepts elitist, that is—as follows:)

Equivalence and analogy—”is” and “is like”—are what are known as first-class functions. The content compared and the comparator are of the same type. There is no timeless, unchanging class. If a thing can change others, it too must be subject to change. And to be what it is, Change is subject to itself.

(It follows by wondering whether altered states of mind might have some marginal relevance to AI research)

What is the difference between a placebo effect and an actual effect? Consider psycho-active experience as simply an analogy for itself; there is no “actual” experience, only our simulation of what we imagine that altered experience would be like. The substance of this imagining is the real. The real, only an idea.

There is nothing unreal about placebo effects. To quote Suzanne Bufram (and isn’t misquoted poetry the worst?)

It is possible to die of fright after being bitten by a non-venomous snake. […]

Despair comes from failing to believe new things are possible.

Science: one bold leap after another, suspended by a theory of invisible strings.

Obecalp: what the doctor scrawls on the prescription pad when the pharmacy runs out of science.

There is the (spurious?) legend of the Frenchman who could bring himself to ejaculation by pure thought. No manual stimulation, a waking wet dream. But is there anything essentially chauvinist or masturbatory in the concept of the reality of the placebo? The willing of imagination to real physical effects on the imaginer?

Does it constitute a privileged denial of the pains of the real? Are the trenches, the unionizations, the taxes, the children [a deep redefinition of self as “for” something (someone) besides self: self as “father of()” or “mother of()”] the politics, the daily bread, the concrete details, the struggle (and perhaps even church) and all the responsibilities—all that by which reality subjects itself on its subjects/perceivers/actors, saying, “I am not of you, but am the Other, which, cocooned in your ivory privilege (to intentionally mix metaphors), you must denigrate and deny. There is oppression in your New Age insistence that ‘all is one,’ seeking as it does to obliterate and erase its own crimes.” The Other is more than the dark shadow of monism. It is denied and repressed dualism. The victim of ideological genocide, resurrected, returned. To avenge, or forgive, not at the discretion of the object of vengeance or forgiveness (because, really, isn’t that the point), because the point is that self is made its object. Subject and property to the Real: all that is nonself.

This, however, is merely a reversal, a reprisal, of past violence. A reassertion of a dominance hierarchy. The self dominating the nonself (properly, only Übermensch), replaced—eye for eye—by the nonself dominating the self (everything from what’s been umbrella-lumped in critiques of postmodernism as “victim ideologies”, but is officially denied a name, in an ideological propaganda war to erase it (but which can only push the nameless down, never out. (cf. “Abraham’s Daughter”)).

Beyond this “God is Dead. God is a Ghost haunting us.” fear of a great Other, might lie… equality. (Dare I say, more of a “What if God was One of Us?” sentiment?) The “radical” notion that just because there are different things in a dualism (self and nonself), that this does not and should not entail an opposition. No need for one to be subject, the Other, object (save for past history, as through self and nonself are a divorced couple). Self and nonself need not (cannot) get back together again—as it was in the garden of Eden. But that doesn’t mean that they can’t get along. For the sake of the 3rd (planet/ their child(ren)). …Be friends even? That might be asking too much, or maybe (just maybe) not. Nonself and self. Different enough, just enough, yet not so different. Essentially the same type, a dualism of mere convenience.

The argument against Solipsism (of mental world as fundamental reality) is that physicality is necessary for causality/time to exist.

This talk is all so abstract-theoretical that it invites (and surely shall not hypocritically deny entry to) observations, some indignant even, that it is pretentious, decadent, and privileged in it’s divorce from day to day reality. (Is that actually a privilege, or an impairment? There is a case to be made for evolutionary isolationism of patterns and species of thought (Galapagan). But for that, another day. Because no case is to plead before an unwilling jury of the unsympathetic (and the accusations by the subject of such a trial that they are held in a kangaroo court only worsens the matter… “Did he just call us kangaroos?” they ask, “is that some kind of racial slur? Against US, the un-self-indulgent, the fore-bearing and too-patiently time and resource providing jury of the peered-down-upon?”) Well, so be it. Heavens, don’t expect such a drug-induced monologue as this to be down-to-earth! Demand that it has no right to oppress or subject you, the reader—well and good. But please, treat “lofty” “big” words as no pitiful scavenging, disgraced tyrannosaur. Such an attitude of resent for that which seems to call itself high would be akin to placing a crown of thorns. And he or she who wears a crown of thorns, if placed by others, could not desire to wear that, yet is it not embarrassingly become a fitting crown thanks to the scorn and Ressentiment of those that would choose to set it? Hmm. (side-note insight: “Yeezus” making more sense as a “toast to the douchebags…” now).

Yet, truly, no Christ was ever made by a crowd, for the crowd. And he didn’t die for the sins of those who crucified him. That’s the worst lie ever told. A lie made to erase Jesus, to remake a man who we felt it impossible to truly accept into a pardon for our unwillingness to accept him. Our remorse for killing him created a fantasy of response, in a caricature of him, resurrected. We, the audience, heartbroken, call for his return, want to be worth his forgiveness, so bad, and we convince ourselves that we have been.

It’s how many have learned to cope with his silence.

KjellBot, encore

November 19, 2013



The dog with super powers.                   It took me.

The dog with the end of the calculus.

Behind the stone curtain façade, I assumed I’d be happy


I’m going to live like this,

more than any marketing fiction ever could.   Who will advance

into a place


for collective make-believe

and superfluous key changes?

The thought experiment simply represents

a preference for escapist narratives.                  people are a reasonable design

similar to a refuge from the real.

According to Creature,  the PR company is selling a tourist.

experiences we pay to pass up.

One of my written reciprocity contracts

could have recourse to express a sense of                         entertainment?

Creature, in my own hypothesis, is

trying its best to express a sense of                                                    an abyss.


                                                                              Is going to get us all

                            a little schadenfreude memento on my wall.

I wouldn’t usually recommend lending a hand to a friend.                         some-

times it’s just because I’m jealous of how popular you are.

they’re all kinda smudgey

here, as unrecognizable caricatures without becoming perverted

to their money you’ve never known before. Believe that you have, some-


               When there’s alcohol in your own utilities, you might be as aptly compared to the highway. traffic would be much easier to comprehend.

So long, line of cars. my mind is prebent for such flavors.

                                                                                                                            Hungry Like

                                                                      a brass trumpet forever blaring at him,

And he is.

the idea that our generation’s heroic model is the fish.

                                                                     as a society, the flesh, and I opted not

as beautiful as this.

A beautiful setting for a year younger, so I ended

up relatively old.


That’s what’s up.


KjellBot poems

November 14, 2013


I’m the third half of anyone         who doesn’t know anyone,                                          and

                                            fulfilling explicit gift requests.

The intangible

capital                 we absorb and reflect                      are those who are rendered here as well,

as a patriotic duty.

                                        Every smile made possible        by muscles attached to a sufficiently large network. As beautiful as will be such a powerful impediment to  attention,

                                     so goes the economy of Summer.



Best book review in a machine performing an inane chore.

Travel has only deepened my mystification with the work.

Consider a chair,

                                                                                                              a fork,      or perhaps

geeky little chunks of matter.

                            A bone scaffold.


            I’m enrolled in the air and your life

                                                                                    —to reclaim uniqueness among


First encounter with false profundity.

Even cooler narrated by Herzog though



3 A.M.                                                                                                      The real mayhem

                                                                                                          with the cool

with perverse delight…

The world has changed from the same key.

                                                                                        Microwave ghosts in

The 2010 Survey of Family Dogs

by Modest Mouse.

The world has been cancelled

due to tonight’s Sounds Familiar segment on NPR.

I already have more fun.

highly skeptical of algorithmic

              systems                    that choose content for you,

because of a great birthday.


The world has changed from now!!! go see you there!

                                                                              As beautiful as your status if you do,

you’ll eagerly await your next boredom.

At the tone.



… Beer? … My own lack of meaning. Whether or not we find such apps annoying and spammy.   Still, this



If only. If only this American decadence.

Happy to share some friend had fought deep

into a                                                                         strong

opinion on the real, HE shared Islamic militants’ hostile view of a whimsical aspect.

Once I feel that money

to make pancakes with you.



Quite welltimed with tear gas and

                                                                              bullets—what qualifies as serious?

                                                                    When I say ROFLMAO, I can’t think

                                                                  anyone’s really interesting question

                                                        is why we recoil from Richard Wagner’s

                                                    Tristan und Isolde.
If anything,                     the Seattle Symphony in the trilogy,

                                      loop jamming on their needs and wants

                                would be rocking my Japanese

                              construction worker pants at

                           the sense of desperate activity.

(He said I look like 2001.

Intrinsically painful.

             A perfect program music

        associated with psychic pain because…



—is no longer the Dawn of Man being serious?



He’s curious


the discrete material constituents

that giving makes us more than just

                                                  the wake of

                                                                            the minus world.


         that is repeating a previous harmonic idea

         that our region is a webplatform that lets  YOU hear the ocean, or…


The world is far better for an underlying dread of Puget Sound.

Throwing darts at the ferry.

                                                                                                     Any post from

                                                                                         the above definition

                                                                                         is swimming,

                                                                                       not to feel like

                                                                          I’m describing.


I’m in the center:


I love the world’s smallest grape.

Hope to be a Christmas movie.

Hug, an injured ant


          the ride always ends, and

          huckleberries trailside to me


Snow shoes off to fill your mind.

Let it


I edited these poems together from the output of the http://what-would-i-say.com/ app, a program that crawls Facebook accounts and makes Markov chain chatbots from them.

10 months ago, I heard two half-hour long, live electro-acoustic cello improvisations by Olympia native Derek M. Johnson on KEXP’s Sonarchy radio show. The show started at midnight and I’d just happened to tune in while driving. When I got to my destination, it was certainly one of those things NPR calls a ‘driveway moment.’ Afterwards, I hunted down the recordings, downloaded and trimmed off the non-music bits (intro, radio banter, etc.) and listened to them…and listened and listened. Sometimes on long drives, sometimes just lying down and doing absolutely nothing but listening. They have become two of my favorite pieces of music of the last couple years, at the very least.

The improvisations are both untitled, but to me, almost all music seems like program music, so I came up with titles to reflect the imagery I personally associated and the stories I heard. Both pieces have a sort of rough three-movement dramatic arc to them.

Untitled I (Mt. St. Helens)

I call the first Mt. St. Helens, because its middle section reminds me of going to Seattle’s now-defunct OmniDome as a child and seeing the immersive Mt. St. Helens documentary, with scenes of ash drifting down like snow between the skyscrapers in 1980.

Untitled II (The Emerald City)

I call the second The Emerald City, not as a reference to Seattle, but to The Wizard of Oz. I call it so because the way in which the vertiginous climax is resolved is unusual: as if the music realizes that the peak of tension to which it has ascended is just an illusion—”Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain”—and the melody walks away from the dramatic turmoil as an audience member who had previously suspended disbelief might stand up and exit the theater at the height of a sci-fi film, with a slow fade, emerging from the darkness into daylight and a sense of deep pastoral serenity.

I was fortunate to catch one of Derek’s performances at the Chapel Performance Space at the Good Shepherd Center in Wallingford last February and I enjoyed the set quite a bit. It was great to get a chance to talk to him and I hope he keeps recording amazing stuff like this.


March 19, 2010

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