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A photo I took is used in the package of Mary Koth Lutton's new CD, To Vermont with Love

With permission, Mary Koth Lutton used a photo of mine as part of the interior package of To Vermont with Love. Here's the cover:

Mary Koth Lutton: To Vermont with Love

. . . and here's the interior:

Mary Koth Lutton: To Vermont with Love interior

. . . and here's my original photo:

sunrise over the lake

I gather it will soon be for sale via Amazon and at CDBaby, the independent music distributor.

Also, some of my other Lake Champlain work is coming out from a book on the art of Lake Champlain from a publisher in Vermont. I'm not sure what the pub date is.

Continue reading "A photo I took is used in the package of Mary Koth Lutton's new CD, To Vermont with Love" »

Elizabeth's review of the inauguration

Elizabeth, who saw the inauguration with her 1st grade class, loved Aretha Franklin's rendition of "My County 'Tis of Thee." She said it was a whole lot longer than the one she she sang at school, and a lot better, too. She remarked that Franklin was old and then after thinking for a moment said she thought that people learned how to sing really a lot better as they got older. 

Where to see the Geoff Hartwell Experience this weekend

IMG_0239.JPGFriday, April 27th, 2007
Kittle House 8pm
11 Kittle Rd, Chappaqua NY
Price: FREE!
Geoff and Rich Acoustic Duo!

Saturday, April 28th, 2007
*GEOFF HARTWELL BAND* @ Katonah Grill 10pm
128 Bedford Road Katonah NY
Price: $5
The Geoff Hartwell Band's first gig at this local hot spot. Come on out and have a ball with us!

Last weekend they played our house for my birthday! It was great.

Geoff in the Journal News

My stepson, Geoff Hartwell was written up in The Journal News yesterday: Geoff Hartwell: A familiar ‘Stranger’

"It was very important to me that this album be a songwriter album rather than a shredded guitar album," says the musician. "I wanted this group of songs to really be groups of ideas and groups of emotional things that you, as a listener, can relate to."

Relating to music, as Hartwell phrases it, is exactly what he was raised to do.

Growing up in Pleasantville, music was a constant in his early years. Though his father worked in publishing, he was constantly bringing the sounds of such musicians as Chuck Berry into the home and often playing in local folk groups.

Because of his father's influence, Hartwell became not simply a student of music, but a devoted disciple before the age of 10.

"When he bought me my first electric, I was just gone," he says. "There was no turning back; there was no choice of what I could possibly do with my life."

Shortly after, by 11, Hartwell began playing locally with his father's folk ensemble. It was also around this time that he began to solidify his friendship with his lifelong friends and bandmates, J.J. Clark and Rich Kelly.

By his teenage years, Hartwell was playing every battle of the bands or open-mic night he could find. While still in high school, he gigged in renowned Manhattan clubs such as Kenny's Castaways, the Lion's Den and CBGB's.

"They didn't know how young I was, so we would get a gig at one of these places and they would be like, 'What the hell?' They would make me stand outside until it was time to play," he says.

Geoff Hartwell's scheduled gigs for this week


From my stepson, Geoff Hartwell:

Howdy folks!

We got some great music coming up this week, with a SPECIAL ELECTRIC performance in New York City on Friday February 9th! (And some good news about Radio Play!)

Friday Feb 2nd 8pm
Geoff and Rich Acoustic at the Kittle House
This is an awesome place!!! Really great food and atmosphere. CRAZY extensive wine list and reasonable drinks.

Sat Feb 3rd 9pm
Geoff Hartwell with Richie Castellano (from Blue Oyster Cult)
Opus 465 465 Main St Armonk, NY 10504
465 Main Street, Armonk, NY 10504
Phone (914) 273-4676

The Tuesday Blues Jam at Jackson & Wheeler, of course!


317 E. Houston St. btw Ave B & C
Price: $5
Never seen the Band in New York City? HERE'S YOUR CHANCE!
This is our FAVORITE place to play in NYC. We'll be doing an EXTRA-LONG EXPLOSIVE ELECTRIC performance of new and old! A Funky east side hang that starts at 8 SHARP (get there early and have a drink!) and we're done by 10 and out on the town!



Be there or be square!

My kids meet WolframTones 9/28/05

I did this YouTube video, My Kids Meet WolframTones, about a year ago and it never occurred to me to blog it. But now that everyone is covering their blogs with YouTube videos, perhaps it's time.


Here's what I said about it last fall:

After dinner this evening, I sat my son Peter, who has just started 3rd grade, down at my computer and let him play with Wolfram Tones for the first time.  The first interesting thing that happened was that my daughter Elizabeth, who turns 3 in October, started jamming to the WolframTones soundtrack on the toy piano in the living room. (I had gotten the video camera out to film Peter, and she started while I was getting set up.)

After about 10 minutes of fiddling, Peter came up with something he really liked.

A Note from Geoff Hartwell: Big Distribution on CD Sampler!

Geoff asked me to pass along the following:

Howdy folks!

I'm puttin the call out to anyone who hasn't bought my cd yet- if I can sell JUST A FEW more copies through CD Baby by the end of August, they'll put one of my songs on a sampler that goes out to EVERY Cd Baby customer. That would obviously be an amazing help for getting my music out and helping the indie underdog...

So please go to Cd Baby and buy my cd! THEY MAKE GREAT GIFTS!

Buy the CD
album cover
click to order

Geoff Hartwell's CD is Now Available for Sale!

Be the first on your block!

Buy the CD
album cover
click to order

Geoff Hartwell, my very talented stepson, sent me this before flying off to Autin to teach slide guitar (aka "Southern Fried Slide") at the National Guitar Workshop next week—later in the summer he is teaching at the NGW in Connecticut.

He and his band perform every Tuesday night at the Blues Jam in Pleasantville, if you are in the area. They recently had the 200th jam.

Geoff Hartwell finishes Perfect Stranger

My amazingly talented step-son, Geoff Hartwell has finished his CD, to be entitled Perfect Stranger, and now has 4 songs available to hear on his Myspace Music site.


Goblin ReservationFor you science fiction folk, the song "Godfather" was written after the funeral of science fiction cover artist Richard Powers. Richard was Geoff's godfather.

Bio from Geoff's site:

The Geoff Hartwell Band is a tasty mix of soulful roots and driving rock with a knack for fearless improvisation. Led by the soaring guitar and vocals of Geoff Hartwell the band blazes through emotional originals and fresh takes on well-loved standards. Geoff Hartwell is a Westchester NY native who has lived and breathed music. Growing up, he studied guitar fiercely and was playing NYC venues like CBGB's, Kennys Castaways and the Lion's Den by the time he was in his teens. In addition to studying music full-time at Hartwick College, he was also a Samuel J. Nelson scholarship recipient in recognition of his academic aptitude. After music school, Hartwell toured internationally with a rock musical production of "The Birds". Then he returned to Westchester to give back to the community he grew up in. He became a faculty member in the music department at the Northern Westchester Center for the Arts. He has also taught at the National Guitar Workshop, which included guest faculty such as John Scofield and Pat Metheny. Summer 2006 he'll be teaching a week-long Slide guitar seminar called "Southern Fried Slide" at their Austin, TX campus in addition to their main campus in CT. Hartwell is also a featured instructor on an innovative new internet-based teaching site called WorkshopLive . Geoff Hartwell has a Keyman endorsement with Hamer Guitars, is sponsored by Sam Ash Music and is preparing for the release of a new original cd. "There is something incredibly satisfying about a guitar lick that gallops up the strings and tags every sweet note in its path...Saucy!" -Guitar Player Magazine, December 2003

Geoff HartwellHe can be found in person most Tuesday nights running the Blues Jam at Jackson & Wheeler in Pleasantville, New York.

David took this picture at the Kittle House in Mt. Kisco, NY on March 31st.

Department of Justice Investigating Price Fixing in the Online Music Market: "The antitrust division is looking at the possibility of anti-competitive practices in the music download industry."

Recently I have been writing about legislation involving proposals for "Digital Rights Management" designed to protect Hollywood and the music industry. Well, while these corporations have been busy weeping about the violations of their digital "rights" and trying to overhaul the Internet and the consumer electronics industries to make the whole world take care of them and their revenue streams -- and they're only just getting started -- they are already being investigated for price fixing.  (Again, I think I know who the real pirates are.)

From the Independent: US launches price-fixing probe into online music market

Music companies including EMI, the company behind Coldplay, are under investigation for alleged price fixing in the surging online market.

In the latest blow to the troubled music industry, officials from the US Justice Department are poised to issue subpoenas to leading players as they open an inquiry into the issue.

Although the investigators were tight-lipped yesterday, it is understood that the UK's EMI, along with Germany's Bertelsmann, Warner Music of the US and Japan's Sony are central to the inquiry.

The US Justice Department, which usually works in conjunction with the FBI, said yesterday: "The antitrust division is looking at the possibility of anti-competitive practices in the music download industry."

At the heart of the investigation is the suggestion that the four major labels have been placing pressure on Apple, the computer company that has taken a strong hold of the download market, to increase prices.

Let's all shed a few crocodile tears for the poor beleaguered music industry!

VEIL Technology: Four Patents & an Application

Cory Doctorow GoH speechAfter hearing Cory Doctorow's terrific guest of honor speech at Boskone, an updated version of his Microsoft DRM speech, I have become interested in finding out about this VEIL technology which is in proposed legislation (Digital Transition Content Security Act, HR 4569) intended to "plug the analog hole" aka the "a-hole." (This rhetoric reminds me of the joke about why the asshole is the body's most important organ. Someone in this process forgot to hire a writer.)

What made my little ears prick up at the discussion of VEIL is the unreasonable secrecy surrounding the technology. It is summarized nicely at Freedom to Tinker:

VeilagreementI emailed the company that sells VEIL and asked for a copy of the specification. I figured I would be able to get it. After all, the bill would make compliance with the VEIL spec mandatory — the spec would in effect be part of the law. Surely, I thought, they’re not proposing passing a secret law. Surely they’re not going to say that the citizenry isn’t allowed to know what’s in the law that Congress is considering. We’re talking about television here, not national security.

After some discussion, the company helpfully explained that I could get the spec, if I first signed their license agreement. The agreement requires me (a) to pay them $10,000, and (b) to promise not to talk to anybody about what is in the spec. In other words, I can know the contents of the bill Congress is debating, but only if I pay $10k to a private party, and only if I promise not to tell anybody what is in the bill or engage in public debate about it.

Worse yet, this license covers only half of the technology: the VEIL decoder, which detects VEIL signals. There is no way you or I can find out about the encoder technology that puts VEIL signals into video.

DevicesThis secrecy screams SCAM to me, and regular readers of this space know that I have been finding certain kinds of secrecy and scams entertaining of late. So I'm taking a look. Koplar Communications International, home of VEIL technology, seems to be a real company with a real address and real execs and all that (unlike certain companies I've lately looked into). But the response Freedom to Tinker got to their inquiry is just wrong wrong wrong. And in my experience, when you find something like that and start picking at the threads, things get interesting pretty quickly.

So lets pick at threads. I mean, it's not like a technology to be used this widely for consumer applications ought to be classified, is it? This sort of thing is supposed to be open for public debate, i.e. debate by the public.

Here's the opening of the VEIL Wikipedia entry:

Video Encoded Invisible Light (VEIL) is a technology for encoding low-bandwidth digital data bitstream in video signal, developed by VEIL Interactive Technologies. VEIL is compatible with multiple formats of video signals, including PAL, SECAM, and NTSC. The technology is based on a steganographically encoded data stream in the luminance of the videosignal.

The Veil Rights Assertion Mark (VRAM or V-RAM) is a DRM technology combining VEIL with a broadcast flag. It is also known as "CGMS-A plus Veil" and "broadcast flag on steroids."

This morning, I added some listings of the patents plus an application probably associated with this to the Wikipedia entry. (There was one there; I added a few more.)

(There also seem to be some Australian patents I haven't looked into yet.) What do we make of this? As Alex points out in correspondence, t certainly seems possible that the key to this isn't in the patents at all; rather it is in the proposed legislation making it mandatory. Techies, help me out here!

I think I understand the implications of this last one. If we were all chipped like dogs, then the screens could regulate their content based one whomever is standing nearby. Imagine that!

TedtvI cast around a bit looking into the company and its CEO. He strikes me as the very Ghost of Television Past, echoing the ideas about how the digital revolution experience could become ever-so-much more like your television. My favorite piece on Koplar is in Business Week and discusses the toy applications of the technology. I LOVE the last line:

Toys and TVs threaten to become intertwined as never before.

Pariseurodis5The implications of all this remind me of my one and only visit to Disney. I went on the "It's a Small World After All" ride full of dancing dolls in international costumes. When we came out of the tunnel, there was a little sign that said, You're never far from a Bank of America!

Who knew that the ride was more Futuristic than Epcot?

And meanwhile, Freedom to Tinker has another really fine post up on the subject: Analog Hole Bill Requires “Open and Public” Discussion of Secret Technology.

Pick at those threads! This is gonna be fun.

RfidA FURTHER THOUGHT ON THE PATENT APPLICATION: If you assume that the user is chipped and not just the devices, the implications of a mandatory VEIL standard combined with embedding device positional data in video signals are absolutely Phildickian. What appears on the screen of your computer is a video signal, so control of that signal should be understood as control of the reality coming in through the computer, tailored to a specific user or set of users in proximity to the device.

Why assume that the user is chipped? Because, first of all, human RFID is already on the table. The graphic to the right is swiped from the Wikipedia RFID entry. The section of the entry on Human RFID ends:

Cincinnati video surveillance company now requires employees to use VeriChip human implantable RFID microchips to enter a secure data center.

Is it a plausible scenario that this might become widespread? Extrapolate a mandatory system for controlling video signals which can tell how close you are to a device and can read your RFID chip. Great system for keeping kids out of online smut, yes?

Now, what other pieces of consumer electronics might also read this chip as, say, part of the consumer-level watermarking process? Can we extrapolate as part of an extended VEIL system the possibility of video cameras watermarking your video and photos with the IDs of everyone nearby when something was recorded ? I don't see why not.

Am I being unfair to a technology evolved to make your favorite cartoon character toys interact with the television? If this were just about toys, yes. But it's not. It's about mandating a potentially repressive standard in the US for which the entertainment industry will provide munificent R&D money. Then, using its international leverage, the US can force these  technologies down the throats of every repressive government in the world where, to paraphrase William Gibson, the street will find its own uses.

But with all the surrounding secrecy of the VEIL technology, there is also no particular reason to believe that it would really function at the most basic level advertised, securing "content" for "content providers" and defending it against "piracy." So again, we need to take a close look at what those patents actually describe.

Also, I think we need to interrogate the notion of the "piracy" of "intellectual property": it seems too me that what may potentially happen to the Internet bears a much closer resemblance to "hijacking on the high seas or in similar contexts; taking a ship or plane away from the control of those who are legally entitled to it" than a bunch of kids sharing music with their friends. If this all goes through and the Internet is transformed, who are the REAL pirates?

MEANWHILE, a reader provides a defense-related link: Koplar registered with the Defense Contracting Command as an "interested party" in bidding on the Iraq Media Network.

TOP DONORS TO THE CAMPAIGNS OF HR 4569's SPONSORS: This info comes from, which explains how to read these charts:

This chart lists the top donors to this member of Congress during the election cycle. The organizations themselves did not donate, rather the money came from the organization's PAC, its individual members or employees or owners, and those individuals' immediate families. Organization totals include subsidiaries and affiliates.

The strong presence of entrenched media and entertainment industries is present in both charts below.




I wonder if either of the sponsors or ANY of the big donors are actually familiar with the super-secret technical specs of VEIL. (Bet they aren't! How 'bout it guys? Does anyone who does not actually work for Koplar know the specs? Let's see some hands.) There is something unpleasantly consistent about a proposal to use a secret technology to suppress the release of information. I have the suspicion that those supporting this have bought into the idea that they personally don't need to know the details.

At present, the status of HR4569 is listed as "Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary."

Meanwhile, the EETimes reports that someone named David Birch has had a very entertaining outburst at a 3GSM World Congress panel. (I'm going to ignore the gender rhetoric because of the general validity of the point.)

In a rant that awoke all the participants in this end-of-the-day session, Birch of Consult Hyperion, a U.K.-based independent IT consultancy, reminded the panel of mobile operators, device-makers and standards developers that the telecommunications industry is at least 15 times larger than the Hollywood "content" industry. Yet, Hollywood is prevailing in its demands for embedded technologies designed to prevent illegal sharing of music and video by mobile phone users.

"Why are you such a bunch of big girls?" asked Birch. "Why don’t you tell the content owners to just get stuffed?"
. . .

The panelists, nonplussed by Birch's outburst, left it to Willms Buhse, vice chair of the Open Mobile Alliance to attempt a response. He said that the imbalance between Hollywood’s size and its power was a matter of glamour, and its effect on public policymakers.

Citing the comments of an unnamed professor, Buhse said, "With any politicians who make laws, you’re going to do much better with Christina Aguilera than you are with a handset."

IMG_0239.JPGI say for the record that, speaking as a thin blonde content provider (and a girl), I heartily support the idea that politicians and the tech industry should tell megacorporate entertainment to get stuffed.

(Via arstechnica.)


I've been looking at the site trying to find statements from the bill's sponsors on what the heck they think they're doing. Here is Sensenbrenner's press release from December 16, 2005:

House Judiciary Committee Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr. (R-Wis.) today introduced legislation strengthening intellectual property protections by securing analog content from theft. The use of devices to convert analog content into digital versions which can easily be uploaded onto the Internet is a significant technical weakness in content protection. H.R. 4569, "The Digital Transition Content Security Act of 2005," is cosponsored by Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.).

Chairman Sensenbrenner stated,"This legislation is designed to secure analog content from theft that has been made easier as a result of the transition to digital technologies. Although many of those who convert analog content into digital form are not engaging in any illegal conduct, there are a good number of criminals who take advantage of existing weaknesses in legislation and technology to obtain copyrighted content and then redistribute for profit at the copyright owner's expense. This practice is nothing short of theft."

"There is no doubt that pirating intellectual property can be a profitable criminal activity. Just this week, a software pirate pled guilty in Alexandria, Virginia to making $20 million in sales of counterfeit intellectual property. New technologies have made the widespread redistribution of copyrighted content significantly easier," added Chairman Sensenbrenner. Ranking Members Conyers said, "As one of our most successful industries, it is important that we protect the content community from unfettered piracy. One aspect of that fight is making sure that digital media do not lose their content protection simply because of lapses in technology. This bill will help ensure that technology keeps pace with content delivery."

H.R. 4569 mandates the use of two technologies to limit and frustrate redistribution of video content. This legislation builds upon existing law by mandating the detection and response to two separate technologies that work together to defeat pirates. The two technologies are the Content Generation Management System - Analog (CGMS-A) and Video Encoded Invisible Light (VEIL).

The legislation would require that devices that convert analog content pass through the CGMS-A and VEIL content protection signals contained in the original version. To ensure that the technology used does not become outdated, the Patent and Trademark Office is authorized to conduct ongoing rulemakings to update the technology.

"I urge all interested parties to continue to negotiate to see if a private sector solution can be fully developed to secure analog content from theft. This issue is simply too important for parties to avoid negotiations. Nonetheless, I look forward to working on this legislation next year," Chairman Sensenbrenner concluded.

I also found something from Conyers from April 2005:

Content owners and the high-tech industry should be commended for responding to consumer demand for digital music. For years, consumers have been clamoring for access to digital content. Because content protection technology and content owners had not caught up with the Internet, music lovers turned to illegal download sites like Napster and Kazaa for digital content.

We had heard that, if the content industry would just create a legal avenue for obtaining digital music, consumers would embrace it. The premonition was largely true. The record industry and high-tech worked together to develop digital content protection, to clear the rights needed to get music online, and to get music on the Internet. According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, the response to legitimate digital content has been overwhelming: in 2004, only twenty-four percent of music downloaders had tried legitimate download sites; in 2005 to date, the number jumped to forty-three percent.

It is probably safe to say that the reason for this overwhelming response is the late 2003 launch of Apple iTunes. In business for a little over a year, iTunes has sold a record-breaking 300 million songs through its online store. Other download sites, like Napster and Rhapsody, are gaining speed by offering alternatives such as monthly subscription services instead of just downloads and allowing transfers to numerous digital music players. No matter how you view it, the marketplace is working.

Digital piracy existed long before legitimate services like iTunes came onto the market and, unfortunately, it likely will continue no matter how much easier the songwriters, recording artists, and record labels make it to obtain music digitally.

Here's the thing: There is really a whole lot more at stake here than whether record labels or film studios live or die. The Internet offers utopian possibilities borne of a kind of transparency that the world has never before experienced, transparency that can save lives and make for better governments worldwide. And through DRM initiatives we are being asked to part with those possibilities for the sake of record companies and film studios. I don't think so. No. Here in the 21st century, things are going to be different and better.

Here is the membership list for the House Committee on the Judiciary, where HR 4569 sits currently. Let's kill it:


Coverage of the hearing Thursday 11/03/2005 - 2:45 PM on Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet, and Intellectual Property Oversight Hearing on "Content Protection in the Digital Age: The Broadcast Flag, High-Definition Radio, and the Analog Hole" is available HERE. Included is a link to a webcast of the hearing and pdfs of the testimony.  The witnesses at the hearing were:

  • Honorable Dan Glickman, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA)
  • Mitch Bainwol, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA)
  • Gigi B. Sohn, President, Public Knowledge
  • Michael D. Petricone, Vice President, Government Affairs, Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) on behalf of CEA and the Home Recording Rights Coalition.

I have been letting the sound of the hearing wash over me while I do other things. Ten years ago, publishers started demanding of authors electronic rights in contract negotiations for no additional compensation. The authors had very little leverage with which to resist. My personal reaction, listening to the entertainment executives complaining in the Anelog Hole hearing about the potential for uncompensated "creators" (by which they mean corporations) is Cry me a river! I don't know how the details of this were worked out in film and music, but in print publishing, the very digital rights that it is claimed need protection were demanded of authors by over-powerful corporations over the author's collective objections, in large part without additional compensation. Was that piracy?

But -- regardless of whether pushing authors into the position of involuntarily surrendering their digital rights a decade ago was piracy -- the whole issue of exactly how corporations will be compensated for administering the creative properties under their control pales into insignificance when considered in the context of the loss of worldwide transparency the industry proposals would entail.

Cindy Lee Berryhill: "When Did Jesus Become a Republican?"

CindyleeFurther to the subject of women taken out of circulation because of taking care of children, singer/songwriter and anti-folk heroine Cindy Lee Berryhill is emerging from semi-retirement. (I was not able to make much in the way of helpful sugestions to questions like How do you go on tour with a toddler?)

Her son Alexander, is now about 4. She appeared on Air America on October 21st. She is currently working on a CD, and on her webite, you can now listen to her new song, "When Did Jesus Become a Republican?" (click on the link in the upper righthand corner).

My husband David was in California and visited Cindy and her husband, famous rock critic and former executor of the Philip K. Dick Estate, Paul Williams. David took a lot of pictures.

Here's a nice shot of the Berryhill Williams family:


WolframTones: The Ziporps Gets a Soundtrack

WolframTonesHere's a game for a rainy afternoon: Have your child choose a drawing that the child feels could use a sound track. In this case, my son Peter and I decided he would use a picture he draw a few days ago, a Feel Better Creature he'd drawn for a boy named Ashar in Muzaffarabad:


Peter decided that the creature was called a Ziporps. (If you like Peter's creature, there are many more at

Then go to WolframTones and open up one variety of controls or another an let the child play with it until he or she has a satisfactory soundtrack to go with the drawing. Here is what Peter came up with (and here is a longer version). This is a screen shot of what Peter did to create his composition:


About the soundtrack for his creature, Peter said,

The soundtrack would be perfect for it because the Ziporps goes like the sound of it's tail clenching onto something. The cymbal drum things sound like that. Also he's scuttle-running. His ecosystem is usually either a pond or a river. He's swimming really fast after a bunch of pond fish and ducks. he's trying to figure out where they're going. Because he knows wherever ducks are going, there's food for them and there' s food for him. He eats duck weed and tiny fishes. He's mostly an omnivore. He's a happy creature and he makes people feel better by doing clown stuff and he jumps up on rock ledges and slides down like it was just sand and it looks as if it is moving. That would really amaze someone.

Peter is 8 years old and lives in Pleasantville, NY. He is in the third grade.

Also, if your child would like to draw a picture to make a child in the area affected by the earthquake feel better, upload the picture to Flickr with the tag "earthquakefeelbettercards," and email me and I'll see that the  picture gets where where going. Ashar's dad has agreed to make sure pictures get printed out and given to children they would help.

Quake Benefit Tonight in NYC!


Via South Asia Quake Help:

SAWCC Earthquake Relief Fundraiser
Performances & Silent Art Auction
Friday, October 21, 7pm

Asian American Writers Workshop
16 West 32nd Street, 10th floor
(btw. 5th & 6th aves, NYC)

Please join the South Asian Women's Creative Collective (SAWCC) to help raise funds for earthquake victims in South Asia. 100% of proceeds will be donated to the Edhi Foundation and to community members giving direct aid at the grassroots level. Please bring in-kind donations of painkillers, blankets, and warm clothing. Home-made food will be served.

For more information on in-kind donations:


  • Musical Guest: Falu - "Hidden Gem" hot pick in Pop Montreal Festival, September 2005
  • Performances by: Alka Bhargava, Edward Garcia, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, Tahani Salah, Suneet Sethi, Saba Waheed, Kron Vollmer
  • Visual Art for auction donated by: Jaishri Abichandani, Amanda Cartagena, Chitra Ganesh, Swati Khurana, Maxwell Fine Arts, Saeed Rahman, Chamindika Wanduragala

Directions to Asian American Writers' Workshop
N, R, Q, W, F, B, D, V, 1, 2, 3, 9 to 34th Street; 4, 5, 6 trains to 33rd Street

Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown Dies in Texas; His Slidell, LA Home was Destroyed by Katrina

BrownFrom the AP:

BATON ROUGE, La. - Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, the singer and guitarist who built a 50-year career playing blues, country, jazz and Cajun music, died Saturday in his hometown of Orange, Texas, where he had gone to escape Hurricane Katrina. He was 81.

Brown, who had been battling lung cancer and heart disease, was in ill health for the past year, said Rick Cady, his booking agent.

Cady said the musician was with his family at his brother's house when he died. Brown's home in Slidell, La., a bedroom community of New Orleans, was destroyed by Katrina, Cady said.

"He was completely devastated," Cady said. "I'm sure he was heartbroken, both literally and figuratively. He evacuated successfully before the hurricane hit, but I'm sure it weighed heavily on his soul.

(Photo from the Texas Music Project.)

It is worth noting that a strong emotional attachment to one's home and community is not something unique to musicians. Many people are feeling the way he felt all at once.

His website, not yet updated to reflect his death, has the following message:

Dear family, friends, and fans,

Gatemouth Brown and his family evacuated the New Orleans / Slidell area shortly before Hurricane Katrina made landfall and made it safely to his hometown of Orange, Texas. However, due to hurricane damage, Gatemouth lost his home and all of his belongings. In an effort to raise money to help pay for his relocation to Austin, Texas, and to help pay for his medical expenses, living expenses, and the replacement of his instruments, Gatemouth Brown's Disaster Relief Fund has been established. To donate to the cause, you may send assistance in one of two ways:

Donations by credit card or debit card may be made via PayPal.

Donations by check or money order may be mailed to:

Gatemouth Brown's Disaster Relief Fund
(c/o Celeste Biles)
3529 Cannon Road, Suite #2B, #611
Oceanside, CA 92056

(Make checks or money orders payable to "Gatemouth Brown's Disaster Relief Fund". All proceeds will be forwarded to MusiCares in Austin, Texas and will be distributed to Gatemouth for his medical and living expenses.)

Thank you for any help you can offer. Check back regularly for updates on Gatemouth's situation and to find out about benefit concerts in the Austin area.


Family and Friends of Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown

Pokémon Cards & Folk-Mathematics

Through most of my career as a mother, I have made it a point of aligning my interests with my children's interests. This has taken me to many interesting places, taught me many interesting things, and even gotten me published in the science magazine Nature (reprint on Fantastic Metropolis).

I have made an exception for annoying fads, especially the Pokémon thing. (See my May 18th, 2003 post, "Pokémon Infestations and Other Matters.")

I realized in the middle of the night, night before last, that there was something big I had been missing about the whole phenomenon. Here is an out-take from what I wrote about it:

One puzzling phenomenon I've observed watching 2nd graders is how kids, who are only just getting basic addition and subtraction of multidigit numbers by the tail, can spend literally hours trading Pokemon cards (by which I mean 2 or 3 hours at a time). The decisions of whether or not to trade are based on multiple factors, some of which are linear functions like how many hit points does a given card have (or is the sum of the hit points of the two cards you are offering me equal to or greater than the hit points of the card of mine you want), and some of which are binary (is it a "shiny", i.e. a holographic card).
. . .
I spot-checked Peter's sense of the relative value of cards back in February. I had him show me what he thought of as his three best cards. I priced them on The cheapest of them came in at $47.00. I then had him show me three of his cards that he thought of as "not-so-good." priced those between 75 cents and $3.00.

Given what I know of the scholastically measurable of the math skills of the kids in question, there has to be some kind of pre-verbal calculation going on. They seem to me to be carrying out complex calculations involving multiple variables of different types, and arriving at basically correct conclusions via some kind of folk-math.
. . .
One other implication of this phenomenon, it seems to me, is that the equals sign, as a piece of mathematical notation, is highly socially embedded. I remember something about a second grade playground bead market at Ravenna during recess that spontaneously emerged and then spread until teachers banned it after a few weeks. It may be that there is a developmental phase around 7 or 8 in which the social embedding of trade is explored.

I would be interested in your anecdotes about young kids and card trading. I've decided to investigate further.

I should also say that this realization was inspired partly by Munir Fasheh's essay "Can We Eradicate Illiteracy Without Eradicating Illiterates?", an expansion on a paper given at a UNESCO meeting in Paris, on 9-10 September, 2002, to celebrate the International Literacy Day. The meeting was entitled "Literacy as Freedom."

In it, he dscribes his realization of his illiterate mother's mathematical sophistication:

My 'discovery' of my illiterate mother's mathematics, and how my mathematics and knowledge could neither detect nor comprehend her mathematics and knowledge, mark the biggest turning point in my life, and have had the greatest impact on my perception of knowledge, language, and their relationship to reality. Later, I realized that the invisibility of my mother's mathematics was not an isolated matter but a reflection of a wide phenomenon related to the dominant Western worldview. In this sense, the challenge facing communities everywhere, is to reclaim and revalue the diverse ways of learning, teaching, knowing, relating, doing, and expressing. This reclaiming has been the pivotal theme of my thinking and work for the last two decades.

My concern is not about statistical measures - for example, how many learn the alphabet - but about our perception of the learner and what happens to her/him in the process of learning the alphabet. My concern is to make sure that the learner does not lose what s/he already has; that literacy does not replace other forms of learning, knowing, and expressing; that literacy is not considered superior to other forms; and that the learner uses the alphabet rather than be used by it. My concern is to make sure that in the process of eradicating illiteracy, we do not crush illiterates.

In the 1970s, while I was working in schools and universities in the West Bank region in Palestine and trying to make sense out of mathematics, science and knowledge, I discovered that what I was looking for has been next to me, in my own home: my mother's mathematics and knowledge. She was a seamstress. Women would bring to her rectangular pieces of cloth in the morning; she would take few measures with colored chalk; by noon each rectangular piece is cut into 30 small pieces; and by the evening these scattered pieces are connected to form a new and beautiful whole. If this is not mathematics, I do not know what mathematics is. The fact that I could not see it for 35 years made me realize the power of language in what we see and what we do not see.

Her knowledge was embedded in life, like salt in food, in a way that made it invisible to me as an educated and literate person. I was trained to see things through official language and professional categories. In a very true sense, I discovered that my mother was illiterate in relation to my type of knowledge, but I was illiterate in terms of her type of understanding and knowledge. Thus, to describe her as illiterate and me as literate, in some absolute sense, reflects a narrow and distorted view of the real world and of reality. A division, which I find more significant than literate and illiterate, would be between people whose words are rooted in the cultural-social soil in which they live - like real flowers - and people who use words that may look bright and shiny but without roots - just like plastic flowers.

(It's a neat essay. Read the whole thing.)

Dawn at the Bird Cathedral

OK: It's 5:28AM and I'm bright-eyed awake. Now I know why my kids woke up at this time yesterday. It's when the birds start chirping and it begins to get light. Because of a nearby rock wall, sound has interesting properties in our back yard, and we have some very tall trees. At dawn at this time of year -- between now and late July -- our back yard becomes a bird cathedral; there is a choir of birds and the patches of bright orange sky through the trees are like stained glass windows.

SO here I am. I've made coffee and switched on one of the ambient space stations available over the cable modem which plays music I won't even notice while concentrating on what I'm doing.

I jot down stuff that was kicking around in my head during the night:

ENQUIRING MINDS WANT TO KNOW: (1) Is anyone actually running against GWB for the Republican nomination? ANSWER: It's not allowed; forwards into Man and party are indistinguishable. (2) Does Santorum have a dog? What kind? Are there any pictures of man and dog on the web? ANSWER: Though Santorum wants his constituents to know that he is deeply concerned about dog breeding, I have found no information available on the web about whether he has a dog.

NEXT, I go to Breaking News at to see what other people (mostly to the East of me, given the time) think is important in this morning's news cycle. Technorati is quite handy at this time of day. Topics haven't yet been beaten to death. Also, there are a lot of smart bloggers who have an eye for important stories, but who aren't writers (lowercase 'w'). They either make links without comment, or their comments read like this: Disgraceful and disgusting acts of atrocities are ignored. So provides first readers for the slush pile of the morning's news. I'm a morning person.

Speaking of morning people, baby's awake. David brings her to me and goes back to bed. I nurse her and type with one hand.

The moment's top story is from the Independent: The allies' broken promises:

Tony Blair: 'We don't touch it, and the US doesn't touch it'  MTV, 7 March
The reality: Yesterday's draft UN resolution gives total control of Iraq's oil revenues to the US and UK until an Iraqi government is established

etc. Glad someone's keeping track. I've been exploring this general theme of shifting political realities, but have nothing immediate to say -- brief mental flash of the cover of Philip K. Dick's MARTIAN TIMESLIP. I'm not sure what to do with it yet. So I put this shiny infopebble in the bucket and move on down the beach.

The #2 technorati item is a fairly hard-hitting editorial in the Guardian, also on the proposed UN resolution: The new caliphs; US and Britain seek a free hand in Iraq

The new joint draft resolution is in other respects a deeply unsatisfactory document. Common sense again suggests that the UN should be afforded a leading role, as in Afghanistan, in facilitating the creation of a post-Saddam system of governance. Impartial UN mediators would be far better positioned to instil confidence, among Iraqis and in the wider region, in a process that will at best be complex and arduous. The contrary US-British intention to direct political reform via a new legal entity, the "Authority", controlled by them, and with only an advisory, non-executive role for a UN "special coordinator" is ill-conceived and potentially divisive. 

The resolution envisages a similarly tight US-British grip, also for at least one year, on exploitation of and revenue from Iraq's oil once UN controls, specifically the oil-for-food programme, are phased out. The proposed international oversight by a board of absentee luminaries drawn from the UN, IMF and World Bank is no real safeguard against the sort of abuse EU commissioner Poul Nielson warned about yesterday. Nor is it responsible to assume that the 60% of Iraqis who rely on UN-administered food aid will soon be able to do without it. While the US and Britain now - finally - accept their obligations under international law, what this resolution boils down to is legitimisation of an illegal war and of an open-ended occupation. It gives them a free hand in Iraq. What it will give Iraqis is much less clear.

Story #3 is Bush unveils Mid-East trade plan. I check it out. After reading it, I'm still not sure what Bush's plan is, but I have a few sacrcastic thoughts: What does he want to trade it for? To which US corporations does he want to trade it? I click on some of the blog links to see if anyone else understands it, but I find something better at a site called Nurse Ratched's Notebook, which she saw via atriosPresident Bush's Movements and Actions on 9/11 by Allan Wood and Paul Thompson. I skim it. This is real historical reseach, important stuff, a must read. It's full of things I didn't know.  I'll read more later.

Baby Elizabeth gets tired of playing with the toys on the floor by my feet and trying to learn how to crawl and starts to fuss. I turn on the TV and put on an infant stim video: Newton in a bottle: Physics for kids! For children 3 months and up.  I turn off the space music because it competes with the music-only soundtrack of the TV. (The bird have piped down by now, and the sky is between the trees is pale yellow. It's quarter of 7.)
Skimming down technorati, I see various stories I've read already from different sources . . . . Now here's a lurid one! Doctors 'stole brains for research': The brains of thousands of mentally ill people were illegally removed after their deaths. But this is really just a variant on a story I've read before about body parts illegally removed in UK hospitals, yes? Nonetheless, it's going to confirm the worst suspicions of some poor paranoid schizophrenic out there: His doctor really is trying to steal his brain! Whoopee!

Now here's someone who needs his brain removed for examination:

But John Warner, R-Va., chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said, "Without committing to deployment, research on low-yield nuclear weapons is a prudent step to safeguard America from emerging threats and enemies."

Newton in a Bottle ends just as I find out that army ants are a truly ancient species originating over 100 million years ago on the ancient supercontinent of Gondwana. Sunbeams are coming in the window now. I put on Baby Einstein and get a refill on my coffee.

Checking out CNN, I don't find much new . . . except, here's something:    fly fossils in Antarctica. I was wondering about the fossils of Anarctica just the other day, wondering what they might find if all that ice weren't in the way:

The tiny fossil of a fly discovered 300 miles from the South Pole could help scientists figure out what life was like millions of years ago in Antarctica.

Peter just woke up and brought me two books he wants me to read, one about aliens, and the other about jellyfish. So I'll stop here.    

8:43AM: Here's a few things I missed:

Washington Post: Med Students Performing Unauthorized Pelvic Exams on Unconscious Women

When Zahara Heckscher went to George Washington University Hospital last month to have an ovarian cyst removed, she asked her surgeon if medical students would be practicing pelvic exams on her while she was unconscious. She was shocked that the answer was yes.

Medical students, interns and residents at teaching hospitals across the nation routinely learn how to perform such examinations by practicing on patients under anesthesia, medical educators say, and GWU Hospital officials say their program is no exception.

Also from the WP, Seven Nuclear Sites Looted. I took this for an old story, but there are more sites than previously reported.

MEANWHILE, Arthur Hlavaty directs our attention to this marvelous graphic by Edward Tufte: Thinking With Bullets.