Rhapsody in G Minor 3/21

I missed this last weekend as the godfather of my soon-to-be son came up to stay with us for a week so I’ve been playing the role of host. I’m almost certainly going to miss this coming weekend too, so the best I can do is throw up a post in the middle of the week to try and tide anyone following this over. Everything I do content wise has been slowing to a crawl with the third trimester of this pregnancy and it probably won’t let up. There are other things precluding me from creating however, things that have wrapped up and things that soon will be done too. Things change, but not as much as one might think.

With Kassad (pseudonym) here a lot practical things that we put off are finally getting done. We’ve figured out how to create an outdoor gym and it’s been fantastic. Getting to an actual gym has been a a hassle and it became something I simply didn’t want to do because of the demographics, rules, and sterile environment, and despite having the equipment I needed I had no space in my home to do it. We’ve slapped together a solution that seems to work however. It’s amazing being outside, feeling the grass beneath your feet, and lifting the heavy weights in the sun and wind. It feels right and natural. Gyms are already a simulation of natural exercises, but the environment makes it feel so antiseptic. The option I have pursued will not be open to most people but if you have the means in the way I do highly encourage it.

In addition to the gym, and another reason this post didn’t get out sooner, is that I have been working on a new book. It’s a novel this time, the same one that I’ve started and restarted, with actual progress being made now. I had put it on hold to work on Cultured Grugs, partly to prove to myself I could complete the process of writing a book. Cultured Grugs I will always have fondness for as my first published work, but it’s online essay nature in some ways doesn’t really feel like my first book to me. I hope that will belong to The Credit Bureau. We desperately need good fiction, and I feel ready to do it.

I was amused when someone tried to use–irrelevantly–use my status as a “self-published” author as a knock against me. Leaving aside that Antelope Hill is an independent publisher, regardless of their young age as a start-up, thinking about it it just simply becomes absurd that being self-published has any kind of negative connotation when many books have quite clearly outsold books published by established conglomerates. The negative connotation, of course, comes from the glut of vanity publications. This person wasn’t acting in good faith though, so trying to explain it is moot. It’s funny though.

Rhapsody in G Minor by Brahms

This week’s music courtesy of the wife is Brahms’ Rhapsody in G Minor. Even before I really knew I had been interested in Brahms’ biography. I told her this and one of the first gifts she ever sent me was an actual biography of Brahms. I had been drawn to his gruff but sensitive personality; not without reason my wife might say. Without going into all of that, he was also known for his love of going on long nature walks and being a friend to children, often carrying candy to give them when he came across them on his walks. Sadly writing something like that gives off a more frightening connotation now. Such are the times. There’s no more country for kindly, conservative and traditional men like Brahms. There’s no society for anyone, really.

The rhapsody in its Greek word is rooted in epic poetry. It also has the sense of being effusive in emotion, perhaps even with an epic quality. Hence why the word lends itself to pop songs like “Bohemian Rhapsody”. The musical rhapsody became very popular in the 19th and early 20th century. As a musical form they sought to break out of more rigid and traditional musical structures, highlighting a more dynamic range of emotional and tonal expressions by being more freeform. Brahms wrote his rhapsodies at the peak of his career, once his fame had started to grow in its own right, after he had escaped the shadow of his mentor and dear friend Robert Schumann. It had been three years since his first symphony. He grew his famous beard and became known for his practical jokes.

My wife sees music in colors on account of her synesthesia. I don’t. I don’t even hear much when I hear music. I might get glimpses of an image, or a notion of a feeling. I work in lyrics, but write to instrumentals. Sometimes what I hear bleeds into the text. Most times it just sets the rhythm. When I hear this rhapsody however, I hear a man filled with overwhelming emotion who is keeping it under control. He doesn’t know how to express it except in controlled bursts, like a madman in a fit of inspiration. Maybe I’m talking about myself again. I sometimes do that too much.


The origin of a lot of these weekly posts come from morning conversations with my wife when she gets home from work. I rarely ever know what’s going on in the world, I’m not someone who checks their news feed when they first wake up, so around the breakfast table we mostly reflect on yesterday or other goings-on within our small sphere of concern. We have some neighbors who have been fighting awful lately and we wondered what it was people say about us when we aren’t listening.

My wife could tell it was bothering me and we ended up talking about some awful memories from our own pasts. For me the end and beginning of my life was college. My negative view of college was shaped by it, from the politicized brainwashing classes to the awful students and the stifling atmosphere. The predatory culture did much to shape how I viewed the world as a very ugly place for a very long time. It took too many lost years to rebuild a cohesive and healthy worldview from it. I received a lot of snide commentary from my infamous humiliation essay, but since I’ve been constantly vindicated I have no issue admitting that I poured a lot of what I saw for four years at a university and what I experienced into it. The essay was an exorcism if anything, finally closing that chapter of my life for me.

If my writing could be accused of anything I’d agree when people call it sentimental or emotional, maybe a bit wrought in trying to write to the heart. The line of people who influenced my writing from early Dostoevsky to Haruki Murakami and now to D.H. Lawrence is clear, to me at least.

Dissident activity

I love sperging out about organizational theory, especially as it pertains to online communities, so I’m going to talk a bit about Eternal September and the 1% Rule. In my opinion, these two phenomena should be the foundational principles to anyone interested in organizing an online community, whether that has a political or hobbyist bent.

The Eternal September refers to when the internet was the realm of tech geek hobbyists and people at universities, when everyone was on Usenet. Every September at schools new people would need to be acclimated and assimilated into the Usenet culture. That changed when AOL got everyone on internet with access to Usenet. The flood of new users changed Usenet and there was nothing that could be done about it. It also signified a change in the culture of the internet. It became known as the September that never ended. I would argue that Facebook and the iPhone did the same thing to the culture that sprung out of the original Eternal September, giving access to even more people it would be impossible to assimilate into that culture.

The second to know is the 1% rule. Basically, 1% of the users create the content and 99% lurk or consume it. The variation, which I agree with more is “90% of the participants of a community only consume content, 9% of the participants change or update content, and 1% of the participants add content”. Broadly this appears to just be explaining participation inequality, but the 9% of that is key to understanding the problem that occurs. We’ve seen this play out a lot in hobby circles. If the 1% is the original content and associated creators, then the 9% are often the ones that come in and end up destroying the product and its community. That’s how few it takes to do it through the participation inequality problem. You arguably don’t even need 9% of the users to destroy it, the number can actually be smaller than that due to institutional support or clout.

These are important phenomena to understand because in real life communities are typically built on physical presence, shared space, and ties that are established through blood and/or religion. Online however, especially when it’s tied to any kind of “movement”, communities are actually fragile entities that are extremely easy to upend through. It requires a dedicated and forceful 1%, a vanguard as it were, to maintain not just the rules but the culture of a place. A model that allows anyone in will either overwhelm the vanguard and change the place to its new common denominator, or a clique will attempt to enter the 9% and force a coup from within.

Nocturne No. 1 in E Flat Major, H.24 (3/14)

This week is St. Patrick’s Day. I’ve always had a weird relationship with this holy day due to the circumstances of my family lineage. St. Patrick’s Day in my family has always been a simple family holiday with corned beef and cabbage and wearing green to the neighborhood pub to see my grandfather. He was adopted, something that my family only learned by the time the grandchildren were born, and so for most of her life my mother believed she was Russian, Irish, and Italian. I have second and third cousins on that side of the family who are proud of that Irish heritage, but for me it’s always just been green, corned beef, and family and not much more than that. It’s a strange cultural memory that I’m neither genetically attached to or invested in, but I’ve always enjoyed that the experience was part of our family.

I married a true Celt though so I suppose in the end life just comes back full circle. My wife’s grandfather used to sprinkle holy water on my mother-in-law before bed and ask her “who do we hate?” The answer was, of course, the English. That’s Irish immigrants for you, I suppose. I suppose I could relate if my French-Canadien family members embraced the easy Anglo hate instead of always look for a hustle or a rumble.

I’ve always had an affinity however for the Irish. I wouldn’t be able to tell you why. Shared Catholic backgrounds? Partial cultural heritage? I don’t really know. It remains one of the few countries I’ve visited however and the oldness of the land that I felt there makes me sad to see what it’s becoming. It’s like watching the beating heart ripped out of a human being.

One of my favorite Irish tales is Mad King Sweeney, Buile Shuibhne. It is a work in verse that recounts the madness of a cursed king wandering Ireland until he receives Christian repentance and rest. Something about great men cursed to wander resonates, I suppose. Flann O’Brien had a reverent sense of this, incorporating Sweeney into his boozy metafictional novel At Swim-Two-Birds, where the original work is not subjected to the same level of satire many of the other Irish tales are, though not completely without some cheek. The conclusion though is given over to Sweeney, unconsecrated and still insane in the trees, as O’Brien briefly meditates on the nature of madness within the Irish.

“Evil is even, truth is an odd number, and death is a full stop. When a dog barks late at night and then retires again to bed, he punctuates and gives majesty to the serial enigma of the dark, laying it more evenly and heavily upon the fabric of the mind. Sweeny in the trees hears the sad baying as he sits listening on the branch, a huddle between the earth and heaven; and he hears also the answering mastiff that is counting the watches in the next parish. Bark answers bark till the call spreads like fire through all Erin.”

Seamus Heaney did a translation of the original verse that I’m quite fond of called Sweeney Astray. My brief time in Ireland I was fortunate enough to be in the same city at the same time and see one of his public poetry readings. It’s been well over ten years but I can still vividly remember him reading the poem he wrote for his wife, “The Underground”.

Bared and tensed as I am, all attention
For your step following and damned if I look back.

Likewise when I think of Sweeney Astray, the verses I always remember are the ones of Sweeney’s wife Eorann when her now mad husband returns after the curse of St. Ronan left him a wanderer. Sweeney has deserted his kingship while Eorann has gone on to live with another man, Guaire, who is also a pretender to Sweeney’s throne. When Sweeney finally finds her he asks her, “Do you remember, lady, the great love we shared when we were together? Life is still a pleasure to you but not to me.” An exchange ensues where he tells her “you have broken trust, unmade it like a bed“. Eorann responds with words I haven’t forgotten since I first saw them in Galway:

Welcome here, my crazy dote,
my first and last and favourite!

I’m not sure why I remember all this after all these years. My wife thinks me a stoic, flat affected man with sudden sentimentality. I suppose that is so, I suppose that’s so.

The story of Sweeney ends with him finding harbor at the house of St. Moling, who takes pity on the mad king and hears his story. This will be his final resting place as after a terrible misunderstanding Sweeney is speared by the parish cook’s jealous husband. He receives sacrament and these are his final words:

Of all the innocent lairs I made
the length and breadth of Ireland
I remember an open bed
above the lough in Mourne

Of all the innocent lairs I made
the length and breadth of Ireland
I remember bedding down
above the wood in Glen Bolcain

To you, Christ, I give thanks
for your Body in communion
Whatever evil I have done
in this world, I repent.

I’m just an outsider to Ireland and the Irish, I can’t tell them what they are. But I remember Ireland, and I hope they do too.


Nocturne No. 1 in E Flat Major by John Field

On the topic of Ireland I asked the wife to give me an Irish composer and piece for this week. She needed to think about it so I did my own research into Irish classical composers meanwhile and my choices seemed rather limited. My wife, being a classically trained piano player herself, has a great love for Chopin and nocturnes. I was intrigued to discover the Irish composer John Field apparently invented the Romantic era solo piano nocturne that Chopin would master and draw out its true potential. I asked my wife about him and she had never even heard of him. Once she saw that he had studied with Muzio Clementi, it clicked into place. Clementi is the bridge from Haydn and Mozart to many more well-known composers, his sonatas having a tremendous impact on 19th century piano work. Beethoven and Chopin both consider his work essential.

The nocturne, as the name implies, is music reflective of the night. Chances are if you’re listening to pretty piano music with a slower tempo, you’re probably hearing a nocturne. And you’re probably hearing one of Chopin’s. The association I assume many would have with a nocturne’s mood is probably more tranquil or melancholic and it is true that many of them are like that. I am not good with music but when I hear John Field’s work I hear something like a breezy, airy night. Like the end of some kind of magical evening or a night walk beneath the full moon.

Chopin can’t be beat, but it’s nice to visit Field’s.

Dad Stuff

Fatherhood is on my mind constantly, unsurprisingly. Women’s bodies go through so many changes during pregnancy, especially in their hormones, and I’m convinced a parallel phenomenon occurs in expecting fathers. Beyond just emotions, I’m certain there’s some kind of latent dad DNA (DadNA?) that doesn’t get activated until you feel your unborn child kick in the womb for the first time. Some kind of change must be occurring, I’m certain of it.

There is, of course, research that bears this out. I have a study and source for it, but I’m not going to post it. The content of these factoids don’t do a very good job of communicating any real meaning. An infinite number of monkeys banging away test results will eventually produce the results you want to see within your narrative. It has to be more substantive than that. It has to mean more than that. It should be holistic. Frankly, it should be spiritual and natural, one incarnated into the other.

I carry myself differently while my wife watches closely for every sign of being a good father. I’ve noticed when you’re on the way to being a father that elder family members treat you differently too, like you’re a real person now and not just some kid who has become a bit overgrown. I’ve read some books dealing with the nature of masculinity, one that springs to mind is No More Mr. Nice Guy by Robert Glover which I think does an exemplary job of helping out men who have suffered from the problem of weak or absent fathers. I understand the political problem, but at the same time I remain convinced that it’s not enough to understand being political but that one must also have a politics of being.

What I mean by all of this is that much is made about the fallen state of things, that is the type of people who are in power, the type of culture that is promoted, and the way that women are. None of these arguments are wrong. None of these concerns are unmerited. The simple fact is that for a man you are thrown into a world full of lies and hidden violence and if you ask it to be fair then you’re asking for that violence to become manifest.

Heartiste, whatever what some might think of him, had the fundamental premise down:

In sober moments free of maudlin introspection, you will understand there is no other game to play save this one. This is why to live as a man is to TAKE what you want. Not to wait for it to be given to you. Because it will never be given. Not to anticipate the empathy of the overseers. Because they will never empathize. Not to expect the coddling of the crowd. Because they will never coddle. Not to assume the wagon circling of kindreds. Because they will never circle for you. You got the short stick, now what? Do you contemplate it and hope for a longer one? No.

You sharpen it and jab it into the heart of every obstacle that sets itself in your way.

To be a father of a little son is to know you have brought a helpless child into that world, to fight for him, and to teach him a better way. I accept that, and I am ready.

Brandenburg Concerto No 1 in F (3/7)

Writing is a difficult habit, even more so that there fewer people reading. We do not live in a literate society. Yes, people can read, but reading is not the same thing as literacy despite what the CIA World Fact Book might say about a nation’s illiteracy rate. This is the problem when liberalism does as it does–quantify everything into numbers and digitize it. Digitization leads to illiteracy, I’d argue. People can certainly sound out the letters and attach rudimentary ideas to them, but when arguments boil down to pointing at headlines and asking the supposed smart set “what’s the last non-fiction book you read” can utterly devastate them, it doesn’t really signal any meaningful literacy.

There are Burkean conservative types like John Michael Greer or quasi-libertarian types like John Taylor Gatto who bemoan the loss of the kind of democracy that was once prevalent in America, the type that Alexis de Tocqueville marveled at when he looked at the American project as an outsider. Writing on what literacy meant two centuries ago, John Taylor Gatto reports in The Underground History of American Education:

“Looking back, abundant data exist from states like Connecticut and Massachusetts to show that by 1840 the incidence of complex literacy in the United States was between 93 and 100 percent wherever such a thing mattered. According to the Connecticut census of 1840, only one citizen out of every 579 was illiterate and you probably don’t want to know, not really, what people in those days considered literate; it’s too embarrassing. Popular novels of the period give a clue: Last of the Mohicans, published in 1826, sold so well that a contemporary equivalent would have to move 10 million copies to match it. If you pick up an uncut version you find yourself in a dense thicket of philosophy, history, culture, manners, politics, geography, analysis of human motives and actions, all conveyed in data-rich periodic sentences so formidable only a determined and well-educated reader can handle it nowadays. Yet in 1818 we were a small-farm nation without colleges or universities to speak of. Could those simple folk have had more complex minds than our own?”

On the topic of democracy, as literacy and democracy in its highest ideal are linked, John Michael Greer expounds on this at same length in his book Decline and Fall.

“It’s common enough to hear claims that American voters of previous generations must have been as poorly equipped in the skills of thinking as their equivalents today. I would encourage any of my readers who want to make such a claim, or who like to think that the inhabitants of our self-styled information society must inevitably be better at thinking than people of an earlier age, to take the time to read the Lincoln-Douglas debates in their entirety, and then compare them to the 2012 presidential debates. Lincoln and Douglas were not speaking to a roomful of PhDs. They were in a hotly contested congressional election, in front of audiences of farmers, millworkers, shopkeepers, and craftsmen, the ordinary voters of 1858 Illinois, few of whom had more than an eighth grade education and many of whom had much less. It does not speak well for the pretensions of today’s America that its presidential candidates in 2012 pursued their debates on a level that a crowd of Chicago feedlot workers in 1858 would have found embarrassingly simplistic. Nor was this unique to 2012; it has been true of almost every American presidential debate since the 1960s.”

I have a gentle sadness for what America once was even though I knew there were some rotten roots from the start. That democracy in America was because America was a Protestant, Anglo-Saxon construct and it carried with it that Protestant work ethic and value in self-education. My Muskrat ancestors must have admired something in that at least since they were willing to stick around instead of going back to Quebec.

Brandenburg Concerto No 1 in F

Speaking of what was great in Protestantism, this week’s music is Brandenburg Concerto No 1 in F by the great master Johann Sebastian Bach. I won’t have as much to say about this one as I simply don’t understand music and don’t have a great ear for it. I can transmit how it makes me feel, but the technical qualities are quantum physics to me. I like to embarrass my wife by describing the music she recommends with the intellect of a caveman. Chopin’s Nocturnes are “pretty piano music”, Baroque Bach’s concertos are “fancy music”.

There’s a lot to love though. I’ve been lost in them while writing this post and I’m already up to No 4 in G Major. My enemies like to mock my people for supposedly fetishizing a made up concept of Western Civilization without even understanding anything about it besides marble statues and Renaissance paintings. While I will not give the devil his due on this, there’s still a lot of work to be done in improving cultural literacy. If I’m encountering skinheads though well-versed in the works of Brahms and Schumann, then my hope still springs eternal.


Thinking about how quickly I got married, I’ve had to learn how to live with someone else on the fly. It makes me understand the complaints about “adulting” a little better. Suffice to say I loathe the term and so should anyone else, the twee tendencies of my generation being among the most abominable things about us, but the root of the complaint I do understand. I heard some song from some band that sounded emblematic of the “failure to launch” Millennial generation that bemoaned the feeling of being left behind and being at fault for it. For as much as people like to accuse of finding blame in others, I think there’s more self-loathing that we couldn’t seem to figure it out than people are willing to admit.

Relationships aren’t real unless there’s real skin in the game. I was in relationships before my wife, but they were obviously never serious things. I’ve known people who were together for ten years–ten years!–before they got married. I don’t understand it. If you’re in it for the long haul then why not just do the ritual and complete the puzzle? I suppose I’m old-fashioned like that. Old-fashioned enough to marry someone after barely knowing them a few months. By my grandparents’ standards though it was a longer engagement–ours married after only knowing each other a month. They all stayed together, but that’s the power of cultural coherency and institutional inertia.

There seems to be this fear though that if you don’t have it all figured out before the pop question, then you’re just hurtling toward potential failure. Here’s the thing about relationships though; they all end. Either you call it quits or one of you dies. Every relationship has a timer on it, and no amount of trying to remain vague so that you can have some kind of plausible deniability to yourself is really going to change that. I’d rather just figure it out as I go along instead of waiting to say yes to life and death.

I’m posting a day early on this one as why not, no sense in waiting. I’m sure some people would love to have something to read Sunday morning at breakfast. My book is still available, as always, from Antelope Hill Publishing and the reviews are rolling in. People seem to like it. That’s all I can really ask.