50 Protests in 2020

One of my New Years Resolutions is to be more politically active. I’m a citizen and things are, you know, bad, so I thought I’d get out more.

Election Protest

I started on this early by turning out the night after the general election. This was march of mostly young people. I felt like I was the oldest person in it. There were a few different groups in separate demonstrations who joined up by the time I found them.

Police Line

The police tried to keep these allied groups apart. They failed, but it was the first of many apparently legally unjustified acts I saw the police carry out that night. People have a right to protest and right to march and there is no justification for separating people.

The march moved very quickly. The police angrily raced through and around us, trying to prevent us from going down larger streets and pen us into a narrow secluded spot. The way they were running and shouting, seemed as if they were responding to some great emergency. I thought there’d been a stabbing, but no, it was us peacefully marching as is our constitutional right.

Marching towards Nelson's Column

I saw a line of police with batons raised, ready to rain them down on one single kid who was just trying to walk past them while the march went in a different direction. I talked to people who told me they’d been hit by police.

Eventually they did kettle us. On the way out of the kettle they photographed every participant, except for about 5 of us. Anyone wearing a scarf or mask was asked to remove it. Almost everyone complied. They did not have the right to ask for this, but they made those of us who refused wait until everyone else had gone before we could go.


At the end, instead of telling us we could go, they were rude and taunting. The best I can say is that they were significantly less violent than they were at the student protests, however, their actions seem unjustifiable and it’s hard to see how they’re fit for purpose.

1/ 50: Anti-war demonstration

Stop the War Coalition called an emergency rally by Downing Street in response to the tensions in Iran. A few hundred people turned up with very little notice, which was encouraging. There were several speakers, one of whom said that while the peace movements of 2003 failed to prevent the war in Iraq, they did prevent it from spreading into Iran.

Stop the war protest

It was nice to hear that we’d been successful in 2003 in anything.

After the speeches, it felt like there should have been a march but none was scheduled, so people gradually wandered off.

2/50: Australian Solidarity Protest

On Friday, Extinction Rebellion held a protest at the Australian High Commission in solidarity with demonstrations across Australia. This protest was showed great organisation and intense creativity. There were several striking art aspects of it, including the largest flag I’ve ever seen.

Enormous flag

And a group of performance artists, who did slow processions and posing like medieval French Catholics on a holy day.

Women in red

There was also a samba band that was one of the best I’ve heard in the UK. This combination of sight and sound and well-designed banners made the protest energetic and photogenic. There were also well-planned actions, including blocking traffic intermittently. There weren’t enough people to do an arrestable civil disobedience, so they just stood in the road until the police told them they had to move, so they did, waited several minutes and start again. The cops went along with this compromise.

Stopped bus

There was good gender parity of the speakers, many of whom were Australian, but all of whom seemed to be white. Most of the speakers were excellent. The formula they seemed to use was explaining the situation, personalising it, sharing their distress and then turning to an impassioned set of demands, sometimes engaging in call and response or getting the crowd to chant.

After the speeches ended, the samba band struck up again and many people had some of the free vegan food provided. This was served on paper plates with bamboo sporks. Many people used sidewalk chalk to writer their demands on the pavement.

It seemed like the protest probably numbered more than a thousand at it’s peak, which is a lot for a friday afternoon. I think many may have been people on their lunch breaks.

Protestors at the Australian High Commission

Policing Differences Between the Anarchist Kids and XR

The police treated the XR protest and the amarchist protest extremely differently and I’m going to make some guesses as to why.

The XR protest also had a lot of young people, but had far greater diversity of age, including a few pensioners and certain number of small children. The police seem to have contempt for teenagers and twenty somethings, but don’t want middle class, middle age people to witness this.

Both protests were pretty white, so I don’t know to what extent that played a role. The samba band seemed to be the only diverse section of the protest, although there were a few people of colour scattered in the crowd. It would look bad for the police to hassle a stationary samba band.

The anarchist march was extremely dynamic and unpredictable and openly adversarial to the police’s attempts to prevent them from protesting. XR’s protest was static. Not in terms fo the experience of being there, but the location and actions of the people involved were predictable. Note that the right to protest includes a right to be dynamic and unpredictable. What makes police officers slightly less angry is their problem.

And, indeed, a several of the police did seem incredibly angry and were unable to fully hide their contempt for democracy. It came out yesterday that the police consider XR to be an extremist organisation. The language in the report suggests that any group seeking more than the most cosmetic of reforms is extremist, so this should not be a surprise. The police representative contacted by the Guardian said the listing was a mistake and would be withdrawn.

How will XR react to this? The student protests and the battering of Climate Camp should make it clear that the police can’t be trusted, however, the student protests were mostly attended by students who mostly would have been in their 20s at the time. Those people remember the police actions, but older people don’t. Indeed, people who didn’t go to the climate camp won’t have reacted the same way to footage of police batons (or the actuality of police batons) the same as people who went to the camp. I had been there and I remember. Other people may have forgotten. Also, the police said they would change and they did somewhat.

I’ve just been inducted to XR – I cannot speak for anyone but myself, but I’m also not a complete outsider. In 2003, when I was at the war protests in San Francisco, we used to chant “out of the office and into the streets”. It seems like that is finally happening with XR. People have finally decided to act, which is great. However, the people coming out of the offices don’t have much experience with being over-policed at protests. I think some will accept the police’s explanations for now. This is a new and growing movement. Anything that mobilises people for their first time will have some naivety, which will, as a matter of course, be disabused. I feel hopeful about XR or I wouldn’t have joined.

Resolution Interview: Temporary Vegan

A resolution is basically an attempt to change one’s own behaviour. Often these are made for reasons of self-improvement (ie, “I will go to the gym at least 3 times a week from now on.”) but sometimes they are made with a more communal goals. The impact of these is greater if more people participate. I sent out some questions to people I’ve known that have tried to do world-improving resolutions. First up is Sarah, who went vegan for a month over the summer.
I got email from her then, explaining what she was doing and asking if people wanted to go along and do it too. I wondered what had become of the project. This is what she told me.

I originally started the Vegan-for-a-month project to try and get my close friends and family members to eat less beef. Beef consumption is a major cause of global warming and of rainforest destruction and if we want to do anything about either of these problems we actually all have to decide to stop eating beef entirely. I also wanted to see what kind of response I would get just based on peer pressure.

The response was overwhelming! I sent the original request out to several hundred people and I got about 50 responses back indicating that my friends and family were in support of my decision. One person wrote that he and his girlfriend ordered the organic veggie box from a local CSA, one person agreed to give up cheese, and another didn’t eat beef the whole month! Best of all, my boss brought me a vegan chocolate bar.

All in all, I think about 50 people participated, but I never did a follow up to find out what they did.

It started to fail near the end of the month for several reasons. I went to a formal dinner and was served items containing dairy. Additionally, I gained a ton of weight. Some people have naturally high metabolisms, but I metabolize protein differently and in order to get enough protein I had to ingest a quantity of beans and rice that also provided me with too many carbs. I am familiar with vegan cooking, and I eat vegan most of the time, but I cannot figure out how not to become protein deficient without ingesting small amounts of non-fat dairy from time to time. I love tofu, ate a whole bunch of it, but it also causes me to gain weight. Additional exercise only makes the problem worse because then I need more protein.

I consulted several vegans before I started and most were very unhelpful and told me things that I already knew. I think people’s bodies react differently to changes in diet.

I learned that being vegan is really hard to maintain in social situations. You are very limited to what you can eat if you go out which means cooking all the time and if you go out to someone’s house you can’t eat most of what they serve. They become offended easily. I hated going to a birthday party and telling the host that I didn’t want any of their birthday cake. It made me feel bad. I think veganism can work very well for people who are not as social or don’t have as eclectic of a group of friends as I do. I also travel too much to be vegetarian let alone vegan.

I also missed cheese a lot. I have now mostly cut cheese out of my diet, but every once in a while I really like to have some. I also just can’t get used to coffee without a tiny splash of real milk in it.

I don’t think I would try it again based on the way that my body reacted. I’m still trying to loose some of the weight I gained. I try to eat mostly vegan, and when I cook for myself I almost always eat vegan, but when friends come over or I go out, vegetarian is just fine and please pass the birthday cake thank you very much.

I think I accomplished my goals. My main goal was to get other people to think about their beef consumption. I’m going to continue to do this via other means such as publishing pictures I took in Peru of cattle eating rainforests.

I have asked her to send a picture of a cow in a rainforest! And I’ll post it when it comes up.
Incidentally, Sarah is the second person I’ve spoken to recently who had health problems with doing a vegetarian or vegan diet. It works for me, but everybody is different. Multivitamins seem to help. If you’re vegan, also, you need to take B vitamins, or else eat loads of marmite. But if you can’t manage to be a vegetarian, you can still get local, organic, free range meat and eat it in moderation.

It’s that time of year

At the very end of December people’s minds turn to two things. Submissions for ICMC and New Years Resolutions!


Every year I resolve to do the same things. Play more gigs, write more music, work harder, etc. But I know a few people who have made much more extreme, massively life-style altering resolutions. I’ve contacted them recently to see how those went and will be reporting on it, citizen-journalist interview style, in the next few days. If you made a major resolution and want to tell people about it via my blog, please contact me.


When I was working on my MA, I actually had a much better method of workflow. When I was writing a piece, I would blog drafts of it and solicit feedback and I would make presentations of it as a work in progress at public venues. I need to start doing this again. Now, I mostly work alone, only demo-ing my stuff for my supervisor and then submit it to things that want a premiere. And I don’t write about my ideas as often. This results in me having weaker pieces that take longer to write.
Unfortunately, these kind of CV boosting events, like ICMC do want premieres. I’m submitting to the piece plus paper category and I haven’t quite work out what to write about what I’ve written. Heck, the piece doesn’t even have a name yet.
Like most of the pieces I’ve written since my MA, it actually started out as several unrelated ideas that coalesced together. For a long time, I’d been thinking that I should record the sounds of trains, so when I was home for my uncle’s funeral, I recorded CalTrains and Amtrak to go with my collections of UK and EU train sounds. Also, I had been listening to a lot of drone music, especially the music of composer David Seidel. I noticed that though his music was drony, it was not at all static, but had a lot of variation. It was also calming when I was having anxiety issues. It seemed to involve FM tones and I had just coded up some libraries to deal with Dissonance Curves and FM tones, so I wanted to do something that could tune drones on-the-fly based on randomly generated FM parameters. Finally, I analyzed some of the bell sounds I recorded with trains and used those also for tuning.
So basically, I just took a bunch of sounds that I like and put them together. I don’t know if it’s interesting to talk about why I like train sounds. My flat in Berkeley is a block from the tracks and I could hear train whistles blowing through the night. Some of my neighbors object tot his, but I found the whistles kind of mournful and haunting. They are a bit siren-like to me. Sometimes, when I hear the train whistle blow, I get an incredible longing, that I wish I was on the train as a passenger or a hobo, going someplace – anywhere the train is going.
One day late in 2001, or early 2002, I was sitting at a café near the tracks and a freight train started to go by, loaded with hundreds of army tanks. They were clearly going to be deployed to Afghanistan. The café fell silent as well started uneasily at the military cargo.
I focused on my California train sounds instead of European ones just because American train sounds are just much more train-y. My mom used to complain that the “new” diesels sounded dull in comparison to the old steam engines, but the diesels are more interesting than the electric ones. Also, the signals and many of the trains have bells on them. CalTrains, in particular is loud and full of very characteristic old-fashioned train noises. There’s something kind of ironic about such old-timey-sounding trains serving Silicon Valley.
But there’s also something kind of not-ironic. Infrastructure and transit in America has been neglected for decades. Like, trains are the future, I think. But the glass-topped observation decks of the Pacific Starlight Express, while being a good way to get to Oregon or Washington, is more of an antique than the future. The romance of train sounds comes from it’s sort of time capsule quality.
I took my train recordings and put them through feedback and comb filters and plate reverb and other things to make them slightly less obviously field recordings. I used the drone tunings for tuning these effects also, which has hopefully created a bit of glue between the train sounds and the drone sounds.
Perhaps, I should also talk about Dissonance Curves. Tones are considered consonant if they are close enough together in pitch to have slow beating or if they are far enough apart to be outside of each other’s critical band. (http://jjensen.org/DissonanceCurve.html) Any sound is made up 1 or more tones, so if you want to know if two sounds are consonant, you can compare all of the tones of sound A with all of the tones of sound B. In order to create a Dissonance Curve, you compare a sound with itself at a shifted tuning, and then graph how relatively dissonant all of the possible tunings are. The minima on the curve are places where consonance is high, and thus make good tunings. (http://eceserv0.ece.wisc.edu/~sethares/consemi.html)
I wrote and published some code for computing Dissonance Curves in SuperCollider, which I used in this piece. I like open source code and I like sharing, which, incidentally, I think it related to why I like trains, because they both involve collectivized solutions and building useful infrastructure.
So the underlying drone sounds are FM tones which are tuned according to their dissonance curve. On top, there are train recordings, run though filtering processes using the same tuning. Then, closer to the end, the tuning and timbre both shift to one based on some of the bell sounds. Some of the tuning is kind of fudged, though, because I detuned the left and right by 10Hz. I did this because of dubious claims that such a detuning effects brain waves and makes people feel more relaxed. I wanted ot write music that would do good things for my general anxiety levels. This makes the tuning not work in one channel, but it’s only slightly off and this isn’t rocket science.
I need 4 or 8 pages in proceedings. How many words go on a proceeding page?


Virtual Disco It’s that time again, where I make resolutions. Last year, my results were a mixed bag.

I did not develop any sort of calm, see any heads of St. John the Baptist, go to any Armagnac tasting or take any bike trips. I did, however, get much better at French, play a couple gigs in France, write a bit of music and get better about keeping track of dates.
In 2007, I will:

  • Accept myself
  • Get serenity
  • write more music
  • play more gigs
  • Bring the sexy back (see accompanying picture)
  • floss my teeth every day

Looking Forward/Looking Backwards

Party Report

At the party were: Esperanto Ed & Sandy (who left before midnight), Sarah Dotie + cousin Kareem and Brother Bob (who had to leave before too late so Sarah could go relocate mating Salamnders to a new pool as part of an abatement program or something), and Polly and Paul. And Ellen and I, of course. It was a small group. I made a mountain of gaucamole. I told Ellen that Californians eat tons of gaucamole and that you couldn’t make too much of it for a party. So last night, I ate a bunch of leftover gauc. Anyway, we chatted and ate food and totally missed the countdown. I looked at my watch at 12:02 and ordered Sarah to call popcorn to see it was after midnight. It was. So we toasted the New Year a bit late. One of my resolutions was better time management, alas. I started the New Year late, but at least it was under five minutes late.

We had several six packs of beer for the party. Of which four beers were consumed. Two by Ellen and two by me. Then I switched and had a glass of Compari + OJ, thus making me the heavist drinker at the party. It makes me nervous when I notice that I’m drinking more than everyone else, but fully half of the people there were non-drinkers and some folks who might normally drink were obstaining so they could go do things like interrupt salamander mating.
I thought it was oodles of fun. So did Ellen. She was impressed by the complete nerdiness of my social circle. Yes, I am a nerd. Most of my friends are nerds. I think she was worried that a bunch of really hip people were going to come over. Maybe I seem hip? That would be exciting. Do nerds suspect me of hipness?
I was very releived when Polly started talking about the decline of Santa Cruz. I had been concerned that it had always been uncool and for some reason I hadn’t noticed before. But no, Polly verifies that Herland did used to be an extremely hip hangout and the Saturn was awesome, etc. She said that less than five years ago, scruz was colonized by valley yuppies. alas. woe for the world. The homoginization of amerika is spreading even to liberal enclaves.
after the party, I played Ellen some MP3s of Polly’s flute playing. Ellen said it was the best, most interresting flute playing that she’d heard in her life. Earlier, she had been talking about how the flute was completely boring and I had argued that cool extended techniques existed. and indeed they do and Polly knows them.

A New Day, A New Year

Woke up early yesterday and full of energy and optimism. Had two cups of coffee and then felt even more energetic and optomistic. Thanks to the hard work of Ellen, I am now addicted to coffee. I woke up yesterday thinking, “If I get up now, I could have coffee!” I’m up to two cups in the morning. I think I will try to stay at that level. coffee makes me so awake and so smart and la la la. anyway.
We went to Half Moon Bay to try beachiness again. the sand there is a lovely yellow color. But it was cold, cold, cold, so I did not walk barefoot in the waves and ran up the beach a few times to keep my feet from getting wet. Ellen, however, got wet feet as she failed to successfully dodge the waves a few times. But she was laughing so much afterwards, I suspect it may have been somewhat on purpose.
the rains caused the streams that run to the ocean to swell. Torrents of muddy freshwater were rushing out to the sea. We walked down a sandy penninsula as deep, fast freshwater raced on our right and the ocean crashed to our left. I feel some sort of mystical connection to the earth and the sea when I’m surrounded by so much water. The ocean makes me feel like I’m part of something bigger than myself. I feel the presence of a mother earth when I feel the salt and hear the crashing waves. It was quite lovely
As we drove further up highway 1, I was reminded of a trip I took there in 2002 with my parents and Christi. Sometime after brain surgery, when my mother could communicate, she indicated that she wanted to go to a restaurant in Moss Landing called the Distillery. She liked fish and the restaurant is purported to be haunted. She loved ghost stories and haunting and so the Distillery was one of her favorite restaurants as far as I know. My dad and her ordered crab cakes. I remember being impressed about the discretion of the waiter. I was worried about things like that then. On the way there, we drove through the farms of Half Moon Bay. We passed the Christmas tree farms, the pumpkin farms and the horses. My mom used to ride and show horses. I had the idea that she might like to do horseback riding and was looking to get her into a program for adults with disabilities. I asked her if she was interesting in having a horse. She said, “oh yeah. Maybe someday. Not now.” Her memory wasn’t good. We told her she didn’t have time left, but she couldn’t remember or didn’t want to. The word “someday” broke my heart. There was no someday. there is no someday.
Yesterday, Ellen and I drove past the distillery and stopped at a second beach a bit north of there. We looked at the sandy cliffs and more water rushing to finally again meet the ocean. I thought of the future. There is no someday. There is no control of fate. Take things as they come. Look for opportunities. Do my best. I might die tomorrow as my life rushes back towards the sea and the earth, but I cannot know. this is a kind of optimism. I will do my best. I will accept things as they happen. I will change what I can. I will accept what I cannot change. I am a part of the universe and I belong to the world.

Jean’s ritual

We came back to the East Bay and went to Jean’s New Year Ritual. there I discovered that my attempts at serentiy and new age hippy-dippy spirituality do not extend to political discussions. I cannot change some people’s minds, but damnit, I’ll try anyway. someone there thought that Kucinich was a Nader-like spoiler who must be stopped. For the record, Nader did not lose Gore’s election. Gore lost it. Because he’s as uncompelling as Gray Davis and because of massive voting fraud in Florida and probably other states with electronic ballotting systems, the same systems that are now all over the country. Made by Diebold, the completely partison republican voting machine company who does not release their source code and runs our elections for profit.
Simply, I would not have voted for Gore. I will not vote for anyone that wants to throw queer or poor folks or people of color or the third world to the wolves to protect corporate profits. The excuse cited is that a progressive would be unacceptable to middle america. but let’s pause for a minute and think of the massive role that corporate money plays in campaigns. Are candidates that think the country ought to be run for the benfit of the people rather than profits really unacceptable to middle america or are they unacceptable to the plutocrats that pay for campaigns? Kucinich has major labor support. the majority of americans agree with his platform. If you think that that you can’t vote you’re conscience because it will lose, then you’ve already lost. there’s no hope. You might was well go to work for Haliburton.
Jean’s ritual consists of list making. this year it was three lists. This ritual is a prayer more than it is making resolutions. the first list is things you want to leave behind in the passing year. I listed angst, procrastination and war. The second list is things you want to draw to yourself in the new year. I listed self-reliance, confidence, widsom, knowledge and skills. The third list is new this year and it is things that you are grateful for. Jean says that if she focusses on what she’s grateful for, she feels better about the world.
Jean passed out envelopes, which we self addressed and then sealed in our lists of things to draw in and things we’re grateful for. In the middle of next December, she will stamp the envelopes and mail them to us. For the list of things to leave behind, we went out to a small fire pit in the back yard and burned the lists. In years past, there’s been singing at this point, but this year there was only a little singing by a few people. I am guilty of non-participation. Jean asked me to hum the MIDI thingee I posted to my blog in mid-December, but I couldn’t remember it. I had forgotten about the pice, thinking it wasn’t worth working on.
For the last few months, I’ve been noticing a dearth of music. My stereo was mostly silent in Middletown and I noticed most other people’s were as well. I was thinking this was because I was at music school. We spend all day studying music and listening to pieces to analyze them and write papers or whatever and so don’t put on background music. But now I’m wondering if this is everywhere. Have people stopped wanting to sing? If we don’t have music in our lives, if we don’t listen, if we don’t sing, how can we live? How can we resist evil? How can we fight for good? How can we remember what is beautiful? How can we call for justice if we cannot sing?
So I’m adding a resolution to sing more. My voice is out of practice. Some Californians may recall my willingness to start singing at the drop of a hat, but lately, I’ve been more restrained. This restaint is not a good thing. (well, moderation is a good thing.)
One of the things that I like Ellen is that she sings. she sings to the cats. She sings to me. We should all sing to each other.
I saw Danica at the ritual. I asked what pronoun to use and the reply was “they.” It makes me feel silly to use it, but silliness is a good thing. they seemed very together and happy. I hope to see them again while I’m in town.
We came home from the ritual and I played the MIDI file that Jean liked for Ellen. Ellen liked it too. So I’ll work on it when I get back to my desktop computer where my notation software lives.
comments appear to be working again.

Improv Music

Not long ago, I comment to a friend, “I don’t like improv music.” That’s not actually true. I love Deep Listening Band and I enjoy the Circle Trio, both headed up by Pauline Oliveros. And heck, I play in an improv rock band. And I like jazz solos. I like non-competitive improv music. For a while, I thought I could make a claim about female-dominated improv, versus male dominated improv, but it doesn’t work. Pauline Oliveros may well be the best improv artist ever, but Anthony Braxton is also very good and he’s definitely not female. I think it just must be very difficult to play improv music and many bands, for whatever reason, become competitive and play thoughtlessly. Certainly competitive, thoughtless music is not limitted to improv, but I think that it’s harder to get to the next level while improving. So, I’d like to clarify my comment. “I don’t like improv music unless it’s good.”
I think I also need to make a resolution to be less negative. What I mean is, to be more positive. Yeah. I love making resolutions for the same reason I like predictability. I can keep making the same resolutions year after year after year. I just need to change the date. I resolve to be more positive, to quit picking on Christi and to play more gigs, put out a new CD and generally improve my music career. yeah. this year will be different. this year will be great. I know it’s April and not January, but it takes me a few months to get the hang of new years.

You’ll be happy to learn, loyal readers (yes, apparently I have readers. Don’t you have anything better to do with your time?), that so far I am keeping to my resolution of flossing my teeth. You haven’t lost your five pounds yet or written your statement of purpose for grad school yet or prepared for the GREs or made an appointment to take them or put together a portfolio or even compiled a list of schools yet even though deadlines are looming on the 15th for most schools and that’s less than two weeks away. No, but last night, my teeth were flossed, despite me feeling like crap.
I feel better today, but pretty tired actually.
ack i’m not going to get into gradschool cuz i’m too far behind and all i want to do is take a nap.
Stop reading my blog. It’s boring and it will just piss you off.

Happy new year.
I think I have the flu. Bleah. Yesturday, I just thought I was hungover, despite the rarity of being hung over after one beer and one glass of champagne, but you never know. I really doubt two days of hangover could be pinned on that. Luoi told me that there’s a flu going around.
I skipped on resolution mkaing pretty much completely this year. I still remember all my resolutions from last year. I had a plan, I was on track, then things went suddenly awry. I think John Lennon said that life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans. So anyway, I decided “no resolutions.” But that in itself is kind of a resolution and thus self-contradictory, so here’s my list of 2003 resolutions.

2003 Resolutions

  1. Floss my teeth

Hopefully I can keep to it this time. For some reason, when I get stressed, I just stop flossing my teeth. So I’ve decided to start flossing again and not just quit when the going gets rough. Otherwise, I’ll get cavities!
I’ll make more resolutions vis a vis my five year plan after I recover from last year. Anyway, I finally submitted something to the Jack Straw call for scores, so I’m not 100% off track. I called it No No Nonette.
Ok, now I’m going to go back to sleep.