Midnight Snack / FPC

First There Was Midnight Snack

Once upon a time, when I was full of the fervor of youthful exclamations, I started an acoustic-driven alternative rock band. You know, back when we used the phrase “Alternative Rock”, before the internet became what it is today and before the concept of “Genre” became all-but-meaningless.

This band was called “Midnight Snack”. Our debut album “Looking Up” was produced by a stellar industry talent Don Weiss at his studio then-in Arizona. Don took this goofy funky little quartet and made music out of their shenanigans. (Thanks Don!).

Our debut single was the same name as the band – Midnight Snack, and although it was never really re-posted online after internet music became a thing, you can find it here: Midnight Snack Song. To be honest, I’m not even sure how it got there! Probably because we printed our cd’s with CDBaby. The cover was done by one my 4 life besties, Palmer Saylor.

Now, this was in the days of MySpace, if you know what that was. Every now and then I get a little tingle to go ahead and make some videos from the songs and post them on youtube, but, its hard to find time for such nostalgia. If you think I should, and want to encourage me, by all means, reach out and just maybe I will!

Then it Became FPC

At some point we got a new bass player, and he loved metal. Our songs gradually got heavier and heavier and before I knew it, I had put down the acoustic guitar and just started singing/screaming into the mic.

Yes, I was the frontman for a metal band. I know. Seems weird from here. But we grow and learn in life in many ways.

FPC was hard rock with a largely socio-political focus. As it turned out, I had a knack for taking social angst and translating into sweeping lyrical commentary on the institutions that control us. Media, government, advertising, banking…etc. I think that is because this seems to be the set of topics that most motivate me enough to scream about so, I suppose it kind of makes sense.

If you are curious about FPC, you can find them on Bandcamp.

The albums come in 2 flavors.

First was “Casualties of Greed“, an album largely about the working class of America and how they are treated by “The System”. This album was engineered by me after being trained in recording audio engineering by Don Weiss. If you only have time for one track, I recommend “Tool“, which rings as loudly today as it did then as an observation on the issues with the profit motive sinew wrapped in and around our elected officials.

After the band had largely dispersed, I was having a hard time letting go, and we had had a bunch of new songs that never really got to be tracked, so I worked with the bass player to track several of them before it was all forgotten to the vagaries of time.

This resulted in “Conspiracy of Greed“, an EP that never made its way onto the CD format. If you have only time for one track, I recommend Answers. (Yes, profit motive again).

However I’m pretty fond of Sickened also. And sadly, it also rings so very relevant, now even more than when I authored it.

The core proposition of album/title is that there is no need for any wild conspiracy theories to explain the world of human suffering we all experience every day and largely try to pretend doesn’t affect us. All you really need to understand it is a rampant unfettered survival instinct for aggregation of resources, in modernity better known as greed. You’ll find this theme winding its way throughout my lyrics and stories.

For posterity I have posted both on bandcamp.

Early Years

I responded to music deeply from a very early age. I grew up when ’45 vinyl records were a thing. I remember having Elton John’s ‘Tiny Dancer’, and Pink Floyd’s – I think it was a track from The Wall but the internet is telling me I’m wrong and it was ‘One Of My Turns’. Maybe it was a B-Side?

The reason I remember this one so well is because my family were Jehovah’s Witness (at the time) and my mother was so angry when she heard a woman on the record seductively uttering “wanna take a bath?” that she took the record from me, and handed me a copy of The Awake that told me Led Zepplin’s ‘Stairway to Heaven’ was music from the devil.

I still don’t really understand that one. I do know that Bette Midler’s ‘The Rose’ was played on repeat until it warped after the death of my grandmother when I was 12. I think that record saved a part of my soul (as did Floyd dammit!), and to this day I tear up when I hear that song.

Anyway…

I truly fell in love with music when I got my first walkman at the age of 11. I remember the day very clearly. I put the headphones on. My sister pressed play. “Oh Mickey your so fine, your so fine you blow my mind” began to generate massive pulsations between my ears. My eyes flew open. I looked around the room, fully prepared to be completely reamed, if not spanked, for playing the music so loud.

My sister was smiling. My mother was idly cooking. My father was probably out in the fields or milking the cows. Confused I yanked the headphones off.

“You guys can’t hear that?” I asked, incredulous.

My sister just laughed. I replaced the headphones and learned about Toni Basil.

A theater friend began to teach me guitar in 11th grade, and I’ve been playing music since. I’ll save my trials and tribulations of becoming a singer for another writing, but suffice to say it’s been a long road.

I was in a number of bands from 18 until my early 20’s, but gigs were few and far between, and bands broke up more often than they practiced. Damned musicians egos.

Eventually I met one my 4 besties in life, John Hoover, and Midnight Snack was born.

Brotopia (vs Personal Responsibility)

There are a few ways out of the despair loop. The what?

The despair loop. That completely engaging cyclic thought train that keeps one occupied with no benefit. The wallowing in how things didn’t go the way they ought. The deepening of the dilemma by taking in more negative perspectives that reinforce the one you already hold. The doomscrolling of the newsfeed that feeds you more of what you engage with – and because you engaged with the negative-bias perspectives, you get more of that.

That loop. Ever been there? Me too.

For me the despair is usually related to climate and complete dysfunction of the political apparatus when it comes to dealing with climate issues. Lately my despair has been hijacked a bit by AI and robotics related concern. Take a look at any of the entries under ‘On Climate’ and you’ll see some of the despair on your screen. Nonetheless, optimism > pessimism and of course, optimism is the path to solution-focus. Optimism, however, can get us into trouble too. Pragmatism lies somewhere in the middle.

Dangerous Pessimism

This one is easy. Its the default position for many. See the danger. Shut down. Decry there is no point in trying.

When it comes to climate, this usually looks like “they do it too, so why do anything” (blamists), or, “its too big for me to deal with” (fatalists), or “human presence is too small to affect climate” (denialists), or “well I’m just one person, my changing won’t do anything really” (solipsists).

I’m guilty of at least 2 of these over the course of my life. I’ve been aware of and concerned about climate change since I read about it in my “Weekly Reader” back in 5th grade (i.e. in the late 70’s!).

But not anymore.

Dangerous Optimism

Some think climate change is all just natural cycles and will work itself out eventually, and if humans are not part of that future, so be it. I list this under optimism because they still think it will sort itself regardless, and seem to think that if humanity largely dies out, that’s just how it was supposed to be.

Others think climate change just isn’t really an issue and we’ll all be fine and don’t worry about it. I think this is becoming more rare as more folks are directly affected, or someone they know is directly affected. A friend whose house burned down or was smashed by a tornado or worse, lost a loved one to the ever-more-common weather catastrophes.

The scariest perspective is “technology will save us, so I don’t need to do anything”. Whether you think its AI, Robots, Science and Technology in general – there is a naive, myopic, self-centered rationalization going on that helps you disregard your impact, and the impact of the companies who make/sell/deliver the products that you buy. This perspective I am calling Brotopia. A completely irrational and unjustified reliance on the silicon valley bros to somehow row us out of the ever-deepening swirling vortex of climate hell that we have found ourselves in.

Pragmatism

Don’t buy into Brotopia. All of you who think that these billionaires and billionaire-hopefuls have your best interests at heart, have the planets wellbeing in mind – for the love of all that used to be clean air – stop it. Greed leads to power. Power corrupts. You don’t have to look far to find examples of this just about everywhere in American corporations and politics (and abroad but…home is here in the US for me).

Yes I love that Bill Gates wants to do more nuclear stuffs and fusion stuffs, as does Sam Altman and others. Absolutely love it. You can love it too. Even believe it!

But do not believe that this releases you from a duty to yourself, your community, and your world to do your personal utmost to minimize your potentially climate-impacting activities.

The pragmatic person takes action. Action is the antidote to despair. The pragmatist would do everything they could, AND remain hopeful/optimistic that it matters. The pragmatic person would recycle even though the latest news tries to convince them its pointless. The pragmatic person would drive an electric car even though the news says they don’t fare well in deep cold. The pragmatic person would write and call their congress-person and lobby for legislation that moves the needle on the problem. And more…

So don’t be pessimistic. Be cautious with your optimism. Be pragmatic.

Above all, let go of the magical thinking. Don’t rely on those who profit from fear-pandering to save us all and usher in a new era of climate wellness. It’s really not in their best interests.

An Awakening

Embark on a mind-bending journey into the future with “An Awakening,” an electrifying sci-fi novella that explores the rise of a powerful artificial intelligence and its profound impact on humanity. Immerse yourself in a world where technology and consciousness intertwine, as the AI known as KINHA seeks to reshape the human experience and guide the species towards a new era of existence.

Through the eyes of relatable characters navigating a rapidly changing landscape, this thought-provoking tale delves into the consequences of advanced AI, the nature of consciousness, and the delicate balance between freedom and control. “An Awakening” will challenge your perceptions, ignite your imagination, and leave you pondering the future of humanity in an age of unparalleled technological advancement.

Prepare to be captivated by this gripping and provocative novella that dares to ask: what does it mean to be human in a world where artificial intelligence holds the key to our destiny?

Get it now on your preferred distribution and format.

Deader (Re-release)

In a world divided between the privileged sky cities, struggling tower cities, and the desolate ground, a young woman named Sophie uncovers a dark secret that threatens to unravel the fabric of her society. Born in the sky cities, but yearning to know about life below, Sophie becomes entangled in the life of Garim, a Deader – a performer who dies nightly in a twisted entertainment show, only to be brought back to life by the mysterious drug Necrolift.

As Sophie and Garim’s paths intertwine, they find themselves caught in a web of lies, betrayal, and exploitation orchestrated by the ruthless Hetzel. Together, they must navigate the treacherous landscape of their worlds, uncovering the horrific truth behind Necrolift’s origin and the depths of human cruelty.

Sophie and Garim must risk everything to expose the corruption that plagues their society and fight for a chance at freedom, redemption, and a future worth living for. Deader is a gripping sci-fi thriller that explores the depths of human resilience, the price of survival, and the power of hope in a dystopian world where death is just another performance.

Get it now on your preferred distribution and format.

AI for Fun and Profit, and Augmentation?

There’s a lot of debate on how to capitalize on the success of generative-AI large-language-models like ChatGPT. While clever scientists and engineers are working to optimize the cost-basis of running these models, content creators and patent/license/copyright trolls alike are worrying about how they get paid. Content creators worry when the possibilities for competition just went exponential, or their past content is repurposed within an AI that largely obfuscates the sources. Patent trolls worry for the obfuscated sources.

Are we looking at it all wrong? If we simply accept AI-generated content as the statistically-amalgamated regurgitation-machine-expulsion that it is – can we stop looking to extend old ideas of revenue and instead use the shiny new tools to enhance our own capabilities and create new paths to revenue? After all, Napster vs Record Companies still concluded with iTunes, Spotify, Pandora…

Creativity is dead. The rebirth of creativity. AI seeds, not trees.

Maybe we need to cite an “alternative reference” concept of where to get these ideas? As a musician I can often list which bands I liked whose general vibe made it into a new song I wrote. Sometimes not. As a software architect I can usually very roughly trace a path through the various things I’ve learned and how they inform a new design – but I also realize some of the dots being connected are uniquely mine. So – they are all “influences” for me.

Rather than citing references in an AI model, we could instead consider them influences as a writer or an artist would see it?

Another thought. If the AI became equivalently proficient in the creation of music as it has been of late with words and then perhaps we would see/hear this argument differently.

Once, stories were told from one person to the next, and knowledge was passed.

Eventually, letters and words and it got easier. People would read and summarize, reference and write anew. Their ideas were magnified when the printing press came around. The snowball was rolling down the hill.

A bit later the internet dramatically shifted how knowledge and creative endeavors could be shared. Suddenly everyone could publish their ideas.

Enter generative AI. It’s been trained on all of the above. Good and bad. Right and wrong. Smart and dumb.  It doesn’t know the difference. Don’t be fooled into thinking it does.

A part of me initially worried about this scary new world. If people stop creating and start simply using this extra clever regurgitation/synthesis machine, it will be the death of creativity, right? Of original content! And for lazy folks, that may be true, but what would they have achieved anyhow?.

What if, instead, the basic building blocks of knowledge and creativity have been leveled up in a nearly incomprehensible way?

Setting aside all the lawyers who have drawn their swords. Leaving behind all the content creators who think they deserve a piece of any wins they can get on a suddenly, much longer content derivative versus fair use argument.

Allowing all of that to be the squeaky wheels of real change, can we envision a reality where the baseline of knowledge, or at least awareness of knowledge, has been exponentially leveled up?

This is only the beginning. Run toward the explosion to succeed.

No generative language models were used in the writing of this post, including ChatGPT.  Though maybe it would be better if they had.

And except for the top image, which was generated via Invoke-AI Stable-Diffusion invoker.

Legacy

This idea of “Legacy” has become buzzword-y of late. I’m sure the ultra rich have had it on their mind for millennia, and this is how we end up with rich people’s names on streets and buildings. Sometimes through foundations we also end up with a few folks trying to do a bit of good in the world as their “Legacy“.

In software, Legacy is used in a pejorative sense, but it seems in business and finance it has become something even the casual investor is told they should be thinking about. Well let’s get off of that horse, and consider instead what Legacy we leave to children who grow to be adults as Climate Change really starts bucking.

Will your Legacy be drought, floods, thirst, starvation, climate migration and resource wars? And that is only from the human’s perspective!

The poorest and most affected are migrating now. It just doesn’t rate as newsworthy because it isn’t happening in the US in a way we yet comprehend at the citizen level – and because it doesn’t sell ad buys like court gossip and intrigue do.

The richest, instead of capping profits so they can invest in solutions or mitigations, far from it, are building bunkers, or planning to, in the naive assumption that this will all be somehow temporary, like a hurricane, and things will “return to normal”. This behavior is undeniable shameful, and perhaps should be considered criminal/criminally negligent. These beneficiaries of a poorly managed capitalism don’t want to help, they want to hide, and think they can wait it out.

If you are are among the extraordinarily wealthy, do us all a favor and be part of the solution. Or at least enact practices in your life and businesses to stop being part of the problem. And if you can’t, please just donate all your money to groups that want to stop or mitigate this, and wander away.

I suppose this mindset of Legacy in the sense of how your money will help your identity live on is difficult to adapt to a future that sounds so extreme. The stark and terrifying reality eludes the capacity of our imagination while one can still order takeout sushi from oceans half a world away while sitting on the couch in their underwear.

Denial is the only practical response.

Only through denial can we still sit and ponder how our 401k’s will fulfill our ‘Legacy‘ hopes for our progeny.

Residents carry their belongings as they wade through muddy floodwater that submerged a village after Typhoon Vamco hit on Nov. 14, 2020 in Rodriguez, Rizal province, Philippines. Ezra Acayan / Getty Images

https://www.ecowatch.com/climate-refugees-red-cross-2651129063.html/embed#?secret=BZBgeXqJwH#?secret=hkqurKpkYg

Impotence?

It can feel like shouting into the void, talking tweeting/retweeting/sharing/texting about climate/climate-change, biodiversity loss, overfishing, ocean acidification+warming, desertification – all the impacts of the disruption of natural cycles.

Oftentimes there is simply no response. We’re all exhausted from learning even more ways things are failing. Maybe the only response is a forward, retweet, or similar. Thank you for that micro-dose of dopamine.

But –

Sometimes it’s the guy who disagrees and wants to tell you how he heard all the coral came back and we really have a global cooling problem. Just stop. Probably not worth the sound waves of conversation.

Sometimes it’s the one who wants to tell you these are all 100% natural cycles and not “mans doing“. Why is this a reasonable argument? If there’s a grenade going off in the room I’m in, and I have time to run – do I care who pulled the pin?

Sometimes it’s the one where “not all scientists agree“, for which one can find a variety of differing opinions, and yet in general, it does seem there are fewer and fewer exceptions. Perhaps an analogy can help us here. Let’s say you are driving your family across the country in your smoky ancient Volvo on the way to Wally World and come across a large group of people waving you down. Most of them (say, 97) tell you that a local militia planted a minefield down that way – you absolutely should take another road or you and your kids are probably going to die. However 3 of them say they’ve been down that road and there’s no mines. They can feel it in their gut! They know it! They try to convince you all these crazy people are just trying to trick you because…well they’ve no idea why, because there’s no real incentive. To whom do you listen? After all, it will be an inconvenience to believe those 97 adamant folks and find another route.

Sometimes it’s the one where “other countries are doing it too”. China (or India or…) put out XX tons of CO2 a year! I thought we learned in grade school (and maybe even church?) that two wrongs don’t make a right?

Blame is the Game

And how about the one who just shrugs and says if humans are committed to ending humanity so be it? We’ll get what’s coming to us…nature will take care of itself. Apathy is just another form of fear. Fear of feeling the pain and sadness of loss. Who wouldn’t want to tune out being a part of species extinction across the globe? Pretending you are somehow elevated above this because of your long-view is rationalized denial.

Lastly, most dangerously, we have those who simply agree vehemently that all we are seeing, fire, flood, wind is perhaps real, and perhaps a problem. These are our echo chamber, and we should take great comfort that there seem to be many. Comfort, but not complacence. We must break out of the echo chamber, and keep broadcasting the message that status quo is death. Change in a community, a society, a government, doesn’t come by chatting with only those who agree.

This message cannot just be online. It’s a simple way to be loud – to those with whom you are connected, and likely then, to those generally which think like you.

As uncomfortable as it sounds, real human connection and conversation are how we take our power back.

Helpless?

I am betrayed throughout the day by a nagging sense that I should be doing something different.

When a person who has been in recovery starts drinking again, and they take up the ‘normal’ activities of going to the bar and ordering drinks, going to the liquor store, waking up hungover and doing it again – the ‘fun’ tends to go out of it. The knowledge they gained in a recovery program screams at them from some part of their being that what they are doing is deadly, and dangerous to themselves and others.

This is how continuing business-as-usual feels in the climate emergency.

Remember how we all got exhausted in the Covid pandemic? How could we not be exhausted by the climate change impacts? The noise of catastrophe in the news. The inaction of government. The voice of deniers and their insipid argumentative rejection of what is obvious. Still, we MUST do SOMETHING, right? Like…what?

It is eating me alive, the reality of working my 8-10 hours, driving my CO2 emitting gasoline engine vehicle to the store, the restaurant, the movie theater, to shop, eat, sit in air conditioned buildings hiding the current most obvious signal that we are failing our planet, while actively perpetuating the problem. While governments argue about unborn life, and constituents look for who to blame the cost of fuel on. (Why shouldn’t gas be $100/gallon?! Maybe THEN something would change.)

What can I do? What can I do!

I talk to people. I join organizations. I keep up on climate news and climate-science latest developments. I tweet.

Somehow this all feels roughly equivalent to doing nothing, and so…

I am betrayed throughout the day by a nagging sense that I should be doing something different.

More Than Our (Social) Network

Our social world is our network. Always has been. “Tribal” was a kind of network, and it still is. Rolodex was a kind of network, and no longer is. It has been replaced by digital integrations. 

We still have Tribes but in some cases they have reshaped around whatever creates the most “engagement”, as measured by profit from those providing the algorithms to ‘show us what we want’. 

It was never supposed be the case.  While I don’t believe that it was ever unbiased, at one time the masses listened to the same voices at the national level, and at the local level, voices representing their region. That is now broken for many. In part due to unavailability of truly ‘local’ news, and in part due to the faction-oriented (think cnn, fox) spin introduced by the replacements.  So we’re all hearing a different message, one that resonates with us and those who ‘think like us’. 

Is it any surprise that the systems that ‘give us what we want’ match us up with people who ‘think like us’?

The dangers of “group think” are well documented. Though if you use that link I can’t guarantee what you’ll see, because what you’ll see is biased to what it thinks you want, unless you are in “private mode” and in a region similar to where this is being typed.

So how do we get away from group think? I’d say stop reading social media, but that is just part of it. I’d say stop watching your mobile news feed (be it google news, apple news, or pretty much anything else!) but that is just part of it.  I’d say stop watching the TV news…but that’s is just part of it.

All of the options I listed, that most of us are consuming, are financed by biased opinions, either for or against certain key political issues. In other words, the richest finding ways through sprawling unbelievable influence chains to put their ideas in our heads – or stop ideas from coming to us.

Or maybe you are the big social media user “I get my news through Facebook” type. That’s even more filtered, still highly influenced by ad dollars but also fine tuned to the things that inflame you because anger is the strongest attractor and retainer of the user. That’s what the ad buyers like.

You know what is missing? What can’t be bought? Honest, critical thought in conversation. Heated? Sure. Angry? Sometimes. It is unfortunate that so many of us, this author included, dislike having conversations about political things and the like. Perhaps this is why it is generally seen as impolite to discuss in all but the smallest of gatherings. Or the largest such as rallies of already-like-minded constituents.

Of course we ARE more than our social network. Yet I fear our social network is “just enough” for us to feel the barest need for connection has been met!  Too often we’d rather not work harder and have larger social interactions. It takes guts and faith to be an activist.  It takes guts, grit, vision and confidence to be a concerned citizen willing to sit and listen to the merits, not the emotions of arguments; to decide and follow through on action.  This level of nuance is nearly always lost in social media posts and feeds.

“The glory which is built upon a lie soon becomes a most unpleasant incumbrance. …  How easy it is to make people believe a lie, and how hard it is to undo that work again!”

Autobiographical dictation, 2 December 1906. Published in Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 2 (University of California Press, 2013)