Don’t put your faith in science.

People at shows have said this to me: “Don’t put your faith in science” or “Science is just your religion” or similar such nonsense. The idea that science is it’s own field or subject is actually a little false. Science is simply the pursuit of knowledge. Science is the process of finding (good) explanations for our world.  A good explanation can’t be varied very much (I first heard this idea from physicist David Deutsch). Even though religion finds explanations for the world, they can be varied immensely and have the same explanatory power. Johannes Kepler, who discovered that planets have elliptical orbits, discovered mathematical laws governing those ellipses. If you wanted to predict the location of Mars, and you varied an equation by the smallest fraction, your prediction would quickly become inaccurate. Kepler created a good explanation.

The Japanese Shinto creation myth says that Izanagi-no-Mikoto (male) and Izanami-no-Mikoto (female) were given a spear with which they stirred the water, and when removed water dripped from the end, Japan was created in the great nothingness. Although the myth is beautiful, if taken as fact (as it surely was), it’s a bad explanation.  If you varied this explanation, even a lot, it would have the same explanatory power. What if they had used a giant pair of chopsticks to stir the water instead? What if they had used humongous straws to lower the water level and expose Japan? What if, instead of people, it was monkeys who had done the stirring? None of these changes would hurt the explanatory power of the myth. It still teaches us nothing about how islands form, why they disappear, how long they have been there, when the first people got there, etc. Science – and only science – can do, and has done, those things.

Science (or, the human creative understanding of reality) has done the following:

Allowed us to fly through the sky like a bird.  Given us the power of near-instant communication with anyone on earth.  Shown us how to boil water to kill pathogens.  Allowed us to understand genes and evolution.  Cured the near-blind with contact lenses and laser surgery.  Shown us close-up footage of the ravaging storms of Jupiter.  Given us literally every object made with metal.  Cured and destroyed uncountable deadly diseases.  Given us control of warm fire.  Let us understand and even touch the moon.  Allowed us to make and transport food to sustain literally billions of people.  Given us electricity, and artificial light.  Given us music recordings.  Cartoons.  Cars.  Roller Coasters.  Skyscrapers.  Boats.  Aquariums.  Advil.  Video Games.  Maps.  Refrigerators.  Hot tubs.  Ice machines.

So that’s why I put my “faith” in science.  It’s responsible for literally every inch of progress our species has ever made.  And I’m not even exaggerating.

Flipped Book

Marvelous Flipping Toy! Moves it like cartoon, but it is satirical in nature. Japanese child cartoon is made into a fun joke to share.

Empiricism Criticism

I think it’s important to remember your ideas are fallible.  In fact, they will always be fallible and imperfect, but you can improve them, and only through critical thought, debate, and creativity.

I’m not really a tattoo person.  I never knew why.  Not that they aren’t aesthetically pleasing or bad-ass or anything, but what idea could I possible have that I would believe true for my whole life?  Our society loves the concept of life-long, unchanging beliefs.  We find deeply held beliefs and emotions to be somehow honorable; ideas that never change or improve are considered deep and meaningful.  In realty, these stubborn ideas are destructive and inflexible, not to mention obnoxious to the rational thinker.  We want the world to have never-changing truths.  And, in fact, we find ourselves in a world that does have objective truths, but we can only hone in on them and sharpen our picture of them; we are far from seeing them perfectly clearly.

Newton, the greatest scientist of all time, discovered the Read More …

Long lost demo

Years ago, an artist named Tal from Israel commissioned me to write a song to his lyrics….I found it the other day and thought it was way cool!  I hope he doesn’t mind me posting it…..

The song is called…..I’m not sure, but it’s about the late great Elliot Smith.

Jammin’ Java show – March 1st

NO SHOWS BOOKED AT THE MOMENT

We’re playing with Company Of Thieves.  7:30, early, on THURSDAY, March 1st.  Come join us at Jammin’ Java in Vienna!

Enlightenment is sexy. (part 1)

Here’s the bad news: the world’s economy is getting worse, you’re a little chimp destined for sickness and death (or a tragic bungee diving accident), there is no god to care about your struggles, no karma to enact redemption, people will forget you, and you’ll probably get less cute over the next forty years of eating and breathing.

Here’s the good news! Someone is finally making the Hoverboard!

No!  Kidding!  Here’s the REAL good news:  in a cruel and confusing world, you happen to be the animal on the planet with the coolest superpower.  We’re all X-Men.  But even better.  We trump the powers of flight, super speed, space travel, telekinesis, super-healing, super strength……in fact, we already have some of those, and the ones we don’t (invisibility?) we someday will.

Because we have the power of explanation.  Anything that can be imagined can be turned into reality given that it obeys the extremely generous laws of physics.  Cure for cancer?  Why the hell not?  No more poverty or hunger?  Who’s stopping us?  Artificial intelligence?  Immortality?  Colonizing other planets?

Yes, I’m serious. And stop calling me a nerd.

As humans, we have the unique ability to be creative and find underlying explanations for the causal structure of the physical world (the ONLY world, by the way).  We solve problems.  Mother Nature is a bitch, and human beings are the first creatures (in our vicinity of space) to turn intelligence into a physical force, to actually know, and to care, about genes, evolution, stars, planets, the way viruses work, fossils, ethics, morality…

I am writing this in a bit of desperation.  In all honesty, talking and writing about human progress, enlightenment, and reason, and what I believe to be the truth puts me at odds, almost always, with family and dear friends (and fans).  People nearly always disagree with me on some deeply personal level and find my views as emotionally repulsive.  What is going on? Is this the kind of stubborn society we want to live in?  I’ve even lost friendships over these issues.  But I keep going, only because truly believe that enlightened thought is the only hope for us as a species, and the sooner we understand it, the less suffering we will have to endure.  And the better TV we’ll have, by the way.  Bonus.

Literally.  Less suffering.  More goodness.

That’s what I think, and I think I’m right.  I’ve had more than my fair share of the evidence from the other side.  I’ve heard the other side of the debate literally hundreds of times.  I’m not talking god debate, or religion debate strictly….there is a more subtle and insidious line of thinking burrowing its way into American culture as of late.  People idealize and encourage deeply held belief systems (a horrible condition for progress), whether political, or religious, or pseudo-scientific.  We are good with sound bytes.  We are not good with subtlety, we are not open to persuasion.

Through all the hundreds and hundreds of people that have tried to tell me I’m wrong, that god exists, that I’m horrible for thinking otherwise, that charms work, that the world will end in 2012, that aliens have visited earth, that science never solves anything, that every opinion is valid, that ethics are subjective, that quantum mechanics is magic, that reality is only perception, that “we can’t ever know anything”, I still end up at the same logical answer, that all of that is bogus.  I used to believe those things myself.  Through a bit of reading and logic, I found out I was wrong.  The truth is more fun, exciting, and interesting, and has led me here.

Oh, and the new music is going great.

Image Credit & Copyright: Stephen Leshin

Coney Intro Pulled From My

laying down drum tracks, piano tracks, bass tracks, getting ready for mixing, experimenting with GameBoy ©Nintendo 1984

Kickstarter Fundraiser soon!

Hi!  We’re starting a Kickstarter campaign for the new record.  We could really use your help, so we’ll be offering some fun toys.  The plan so far is to finish a few of the tracks so you guys can hear them and get super motivated, and then try to get a few thousand buckaroos to really make a fantastic album happen.

So far, incentive ideas include: an EP of cover songs, piano sheet music, custom kick-drum heads, Paperface CDs, etc.  And much more….

We’re going for $10,000.  It’s really what we need to finish a masterpiece….we need monitors, new equipment, horn players, string players, mastering, these things get expensive.  I’m also thinking of releasing this as a phone app that has to be developed…

I also want to do an 8-bit version of the entire record and release it on GameBoy cartridge…..

Lo-Fi-Fo-Fum

Experimenting with some cutting-edge HD recording technology.  Putting 8-bit sauce all over the next album.

BFF Forever

After twelve years, Ben Folds Five is making another record….or, at least that’s what my mom told me.

It was weird. Only hours earlier, my bass-playing friend Jake Thro and I were having our age-old discussion: why doesn’t Ben Folds Five get back together? We’ve re-imagined this music-nerd fantasy almost every time we hang out, so I guess it wasn’t that much of a coincidence that I got the news mere hours later. With a phone call to mom to let her know we were driving semi-close for the Northern Virginia show, I got the coolest news I’ve heard in a while (my mom is my finger on the pulse of music news and good bands…..).

Jake and I usually hit on the same points: “There was just this….magic with that band.” “The harmonies are just so good….the production is so raw….” “Rheinhold Messner was the album that really got me….and it’s still my favorite.” “Really? I love that album, but Whatever And Ever Amen is just so….perfect…..” “The first one though…Jackson Cannery….Underground…” “Jesus, I know. How did they write that stuff? I just can’t write like that.” “Ben Folds has gotten so diatonic….he used to be so chromatic.” “Look at the chords in Battle Of Who Could Care Less..” “WHAT? It’s like the whole-tone scale!  That’s so insane….but it sounds so natural.” “Eddie Walker is the best…..there’s this rawness that Robert Sledge brings to the bass….” “Darren Jesse…he was the perfect drummer for that band….those fills….”

I remember the first time I heard Ben Folds Five.  I was a kid.  I was a weird kid.  Since five or six, I was obsessed with jazz and blues on the piano.  All I did was play the piano.  All I wanted to hear was jazz.  It annoyed me that people even listened to anything else.  But then when I was 13 or 14, this red-haired rich girl my brother knew burned me a CD (they had one of the first CD burners ever made…we couldn’t believe it…it took hours…weird right?) of Ben Folds Five.  My brother was into all these great “alternative” bands, but Ben Folds was my gateway drug.  The CD was a mix of their first and second album, mostly in order.  I remember putting headphones on and listening to the whole thing.  I can see the couch I was on, the window, the shadows moving across the carpet as I listened to the whole CD once, and then twice, and then again.  I couldn’t believe how good this music was. I can remember every detail, the smell, the texture of the living room table, the moment that probably changed my life’s path forever.

I went downstairs and for the first time, I tried to sing while playing piano.  My mom came downstairs and said, “what are you doing?”  It was embarrassing.  I don’t think I tried it again for a few months.

Since then, I’ve written almost two thousand songs, by my rough count.  I’ve opened for Ben Folds to a few thousand people, talked to him in all his kindness and intelligence a couple times (no help to my career, thanks), and I’ve also opened for Robert Sledge’s brief side project, International Orange.  Snuzz (Britt Harper Uzzell – check out his incredible music here….and you can tell who inspired Mr. Folds, can’t you?) was playing guitar and singing.  After the show, he said that he saw great potential in me, and since he was Ben Folds’ teacher and mentor, that meant a lot to me.  He said he saw the same thing in me that he saw in Ben Folds.  I swear I’m not making this up.  It was like hearing Yoda telling me the Force is strong with me, in some kind of lame piano-rock Star Wars.

Here it is:  my ultimate Ben Folds Five playlist: Cigarette / Underground / Redneck Past / Jackson Cannery / Eddie Walker / The Last Polka / Narcolepsy / Air / Selfless, Cold And Composed / Fair /Lullaby /

And I know this doesn’t count, but this is one of my favorite songs of all time.  In Love.  Is it a song?  What is it?  It’s incredible.