condescend to open
Sunday, December 27 2009
This morning warm air rolled in, and as it cooled above the lingering banks of soggy snow, a thick fog formed. Temperatures peaked somewhere in the upper 40s, but that and last night's rain wasn't enough to melt much more than just the snow that had fallen recently. The older snow that had fallen back on December 9th most persisted. But what was melting wasn't being absorbed, and strong rivulets divided the fields and forest.
At some point today I attempted to watch Blade Runner, but it proved almost unwatchable. Surprisingly, Harrison Ford (an actor I normally like) seemed to be the film's biggest problem. Furthermore, I don't like the attitude towards technical knowledge on display in films of this period (the 1980s). In those days, heroes had to be portrayed as somewhat technically-inept and/or suspicious of technology. This was also the time when nerds experienced the nadir of their social status. (I was there, and back then "nerd" really was an insult.) Something about that phase of technological development made it cool to play stupid about how exactly things worked.
I took advantage of the relatively warm weather to install the heat reclaimer into the stack of the woodstove. At this point the woodstove is a wreck, with big chunks of cast iron crumbling from the backside of the combustion chamber, revealing sheets of long-failed catalyst (for its catalytic converter). It's no longer possible to rechannel the exhaust, so flue gasses are always channeled directly up the chimney, even those that are incompletely burnt. The heat reclaimer is just to try to get some of that heat out of that gas before it escapes. While I was doing the installation, I happened to notice that the stack had pulled out of its chimney socket in the ceiling, meaning that the stack could possibly vent against the ceiling instead of out though the chimney. So I used a ladder to climb up there, reposition the stack, and then tightened the cable used to hold the two together. Evidently this cable had stretched somewhat over the years.
Once I had the heat reclaimer in place, I fired up the stove and was satisfied by the heat the device seemed capable of recapturing (through a heat exchange) from the exhaust stream. But I immediately began thinking of improvements, such as a cartridge of copper air tubes that could be periodically swapped out. To clean them of accumulated creosote, the tubes could be placed in the firebox, where it would burn off.
This evening Gretchen and I went with some of our Woodstock vegan friends to see a choral group called Prana performing at Woodstock's Tinker Street theatre. Our friend Kirsty is in Prana, and though we've been friends with her for years, this was the first time we'd seen them perform. All I knew about Prana was that some vocalists in the group make use of Central Asian throat singing techniques.
All of Woodstock's usual hippie and Buddhist suspects crowded into the theatre and then, with some deliberation, Prana began. My expectations weren't especially high, so I was impressed by the music. They were mostly slow ambient pieces working with what sounded like Indian scales. And every so often, dude in the middle would bust out with some throat singing, which, to the uninitiated (such as Gretchen) didn't actually sound human. I'd been dubious about whether this throat singing thing would work, but for the most part it did. Only once did it wander into the realm of self-parody. I found myself wondering if any of this music had been used for movie soundtracks; it seemed to cry out to serve that purpose.
While I enjoyed the music, I didn't especially like the long bits of inter-song banter to which throat-singer dude kept subjecting us. It wasn't just that the talking went on too long or that it fixated on boring details meaningful only to the speaker, it was also that at times the banter wandered off onto the boggy ground of the needlessly spiritual, where mushy expressions such as "everyone is perfect" were made without so much as a supporting argument. Jesus, I was thinking, if these spiritual people really want to change the world, they're never going to do it with such useless thoughts taking up precious cerebral computational resources.
The performance had begun with a group "omm," and that was also how it ended, though that final one felt a little like being held hostage, since even when the group omm puttered out on its own, everyone had to wait for throat singing dude to come out of his beatific state, condescend to open his eyes, and personally break the meditative silence.
After the show, Gretchen and I went out to Cocina with Kirsty and her husband Chris, where we somehow managed to eat four orders of French fries and drinks. Conversation was mostly about food, so I mostly found myself staring off into the middle distance, bored but largely content.
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