The Singularity

18 July 2011




On 15 February 1965, a few months before Peter Albin and I started Big Brother and the Holding Company, Raymond Kurzweil played an instrument on the television game show called I’ve Got A Secret. What was the instrument? That was what the panelists had to discover but they could not.


Raymond, a high school student, had developed a sophisticated pattern-recognition software program that analyzed the works of classical composers, and then synthesized its own songs in similar styles. Everyone was more impressed by Raymond Kurzweil’s age than anything else. The person most impressed by what Kurzweil had done was Kurzweil himself, because he understood its implications.


Only humans can play music. A machine cannot create a work of art. Yet a machine had done just that. A computer built by a 17 year old had just taken the first step across the boundary between organic intelligence and artificial, created intelligence. Talk about a secret. No one could have guessed that one. Not even Steve Allen, the moderator of the show.


That was 46 years ago. Today, Ray Kurzweil thinks that computers will become more intelligent than humans in about 35 years. This will be a major evolutionary change for computers and for human beings.


Computer technology is evolving more right now in an hour than it did in its first entire 90 years from when Charles Babbage constructed his first “analytical engine” for the solving of computational and logical problems around 1900.


Computers are becoming faster faster. That is, their development rate is exponential instead of arithmetical. In two years, they develop four times as fast, and in four years they develop sixteen times as fast.


Yes, now computers can win at Jeopardy and chess and they can compose piano music and they have begun to drive our cars and tell us where to go, but this is the inception. This is the infancy of the computer.


When Ramond Kurzweil went on I’ve Got A Secret, the computer Univac was 25 feet by 50 feet in length, contained 5,600 tubes, 18,000 crytal diodes, and 300 relays.  It utilized serial circuitry, 2.25 MHz bit rate, and had an internal storage capacity of 1,000 words, or 12,000 characters.


Now your iPhone is more sophisticated than Univac and you can hold it in your hand. That’s an impressive rate of evolution and the computer is only getting started.


Computers design other computers and it won’t be long before a computer designs a computer that can not only perform analytical tasks but can evolve into an intuitive, emotional being capable of creating real art and solving philosophical and behavioral problems, or at least wrestling with them,  as well as we do.


Then what will happen? Copmputers will still compute and evolve faster faster and go somewhere we haven’t been and can’t even conceive, and will still build the next generation of computers. There seems to be no logical reason why this won’t happen, and also there seems to be no reason why we should fear such an eventuality.


Most of you probably don’t remember that in the 1950s people were afraid of computers. There was an apprehension that computers would take over, that they would dehumanize us. Has this happened? Everyone must answer this question for herself, but what I see in airports mainly is that EVERYONE has a computer, be it a laptop, an iPhone or some other device and no one is going to want to surrender that machine. People don’t fear computers now; they live inside them.


Computers will live inside of us. Computers are us. I can see the computer becoming smaller than a bacterium and then disappearing altogether from the physical realm and yet being far more powerful than that Univac or your present Mac. Or your present thousand Macs.


At this point the partition between organic and inorganic being will dissolve and a new species will appear. Do you find this unlikely or farfetched? What do you think the creeators of Univac would have made of Facebook with its algorhythms for facial recognition? A Facebook that we can receive with a device in the palm of our hand. Could they have predicted such an event?


This new species, this combination of computer and human is something that we cannot conceive, literally, as we are now. This is going to be the first major step in evolution since humanity evolved from the other primates and it is coming soon.


There is a word for this new break, this new step into the unknown, seemingly fantastical and yet quite logical. This word is the Singularity.


Raymond Kurzweil thinks about the Singularity. He has had quite a life in the last 46 years since Peter and I founded Big Brother. Probably his most mundane activity has been the invention and refinement of the synthesizers that bear his name. He  had a meeting in 1982 with Stevie Wonder and he asked Stevie what was the biggest problem with music synthesizers.


The musician replied that synthesizers sounded artificial and not like real instruments, so Kurzweil created a new generation of music synthesizers capable of imitating a number of instruments, and in tests musicians were unable to discern the difference between the Kurzweil K250 on piano mode from a normal grand piano.


Kurzweil created and sold a software company while he was still in college and he built a print to speech reading machine for people like Stevie Wonder who bought the first one. And he also developed a speech to print device for doctors.


Remember John Tuturro in The Quiz Show? He was the preternaturally intelligent fellow who was a slob from Queens and he not only bested Mark Van Doren, the smooth college professor, but he exposed the whole payola behind the television show.


Raymond Kurzweil is a bit like the Tuturro character, unassuming and sharply intelligent. There is a DVD about him, The Singularity Is Near, that also features Tony Robbins and Alan Dershowitz


Technological progress happens exponentially, not arithmetically. Moore’s Law (the number of transistors you can put on a microchip doubles every two years) is quite reliable and steady.


Kurzweil created his own measure for such progress. The amount of computing power that you can buy for $ 1,000 also doubles every two years, both over the past time since 1900, vacuum tubes, radio, television, and into the future.


It is, of course, the future rolling out of this formula that is most startling. The take off is a slow curve and then there is a vertical climb into regions completely unknown and yet completely understandable, if you accept past performance as any kind of guide.


The power of computers is increasing and the cost of that increase is decreasing… exponentially in both cases.


Kurzweil believes, and it seems to be only common sense given what is happening now, that in thirty or forty years, and that’s taking a conservative view of the matter, that computers will have human intelligence, intuition emotions, brilliance, all of it. And more than all of it. Maybe there are other aspects here that we only dimly perceive now, but that computers will reach in their evolution.


Around 2045, thinks Raymond Kurzweil, with the exponential increase in computer power and the exponential decrease in the cost of that power, computers will possess something like a billion times the thinking power of all humans.


There is a Singularity Institute For Artificial Intelligence in, where else?, San Francisco. One of the ideas that float around in such an environment is immortality. After all, if the computer can be in you, and it can, then you can be in the computer. All that you think, feel, experience will be in that “machine,” and there is no reason for all of that thinking and feeling to cease merely because your actual body does.


There are several Singularitists who are working on the physical causes of aging too, and that is a whole fascinating area in itself. People like Aubrey De Grey see aging as a damage that can be repaired.


This biological concern with aging is, to me, nowhere near as interesting as the possiblity of entering all of your whole self into the computer, or if you will, being recorded, and thus becoming immortal.


Kurzweil means “short while” in Yiddish and German. it’s a good name for someone who posits that the merging of humans and computers will happen sooner than we all think.


Is this merging something to be afraid of? Remember that people were afraid of the computers when i was a teenager. Now we all love them, most of us anyway. The same will be true of future developments. I am sure of this. People were afraid of the horseless carriage in 1890. Now they’re probably more afraid of the horse.


There are many, many religious, philosophical, ethical questions that arise here and they will need to be confronted rather soon. (And it’s quite possible that computers will be doing the confronting.)


There is a kind of quality check called The Turing Test, where a computer should be able to pass as a human to someone who could not see the machine or the person. Let’s say a computer passes this test.


Is that machine then a person? Or a parrot?


If you scan your whole being, your conscious self, into a computer, then do you have, say, an afterlife as some think we do now? What country are you from? Who is your lover? What about life insurance?


Is anyone in charge? Who, for example, deserves to be immortal? is there a guest list, a gatekeeper, or is everyone invited?


One exciting aspect of this is that other beings on other planets may have reached this point already and may be visiting us. Tales of ghosts and apparitions over the centuries may be stories of scanned souls from elsewhere. “God” may have entered a machine somewhere in the ether, and, being particularly “good,” she may have helped us at certain intervals in our own history.


And then the sulphuric Beelzebub may be such a cyborg also. We cannot discount the possibility of a cybernetic malevolence, given the Manichean good and evil that exists elsewhere in our experience.


Raymond Kurzweil sees no fundamental difference between soul and silicon. Colleagues who declare that he is underestimating the complexity of the human brain are, in his view, underestimating the exponentiality of computer evolution.


People who deny, say, the theory of evolution are very often unable to imagine how much time has passed since the earth began to cool.


Almost countless revolvings of the earth around the sun have occurred during our journey to be who we are.


Unbelievably numerous “experiments” have been made to decide which way all life has developed. Many failures, many successes, many wrong and right turns have been made and accepted or discarded along the way. Unthinkably long periods of time have allowed for rest and creation, success and elimination of bad choices along the way.


Inability to imagine how long past periods have lasted goes with inability to imagine how far into the future we are going to travel.


Big Brother and the Holding Company travel a lot. Five years ago, five years ago, we had no Geographical Positioning Systems, no cell phones, no texting. Other people had these things, but we didn’t have them. Now we use all of these when we are traveling to a degree impossible to imagine when Peter and I founded the band in 1965.


Peter used to bring big, bulky maps on the road and we would pore over them trying to decide which was the best route. This was fun and we also had an overview of the country that we do not have now when we hold an iPhone with a GPS app in our hand, but it is so much easier to get around now.


Google is experimenting with computers that can drive cars. It’s only a matter of time.


The cell phone is now a computer, unimaginable a very short time ago.


Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. Change is the only unchangeable thing that we experience. Change is unchangeable. You can count on it.


The iPhone you have in your hand is one millionth the size of and one millionth the cost of and a thousand times more powerful than the computer that Raymond Kurzweil used at MIT when we were beginning to play as Big Brother and the Holding Company.

So, what if in forty years, the computer is one millionth the size, one millionth the cost and a thousand times more powerful than the iPhone today. Seems like a logical progression, right?


Use your imagination. Weld a new world.


This is an exciting time to be alive.


We are, as the cliché has ALWAYS gone, at the dawn of a completely new era, but this era seems to be more completely new than any other so far.


Well, something to think about anyway.


We are off to Tulsa, Bosnia and Italy. Of course I will be writing to you about that. See you soon.

Sam Andrew

Big Brother and the Holding Company


Midsummer Night’s Dream

17 July 2011



When James Gurley and i would “go guitaring” this is the first place we went. Don Wehr’s Music City.


Some answers in a multiple choice test will be about popular misconceptions. if you can identify the misconception, you can eliminate that answer.


Ramos, Jim Westbrook, Michael Narada Walden, Michael Carabello.


Don Aters took this photo of Janis Joplin.


Elise Piliwale and I put two sheds on our property. This one holds all of my paintings. I am Sam “Two Sheds” Andrew.


People who had bad adolescent acne:

Victoria Beckham, Dustin Hoffman, Jim Henson, Jack Nicholson, Janis Joplin, Mike Myers.


Minnesota Andrew people:

Anika Forland, Edie Andrew, Hakan Hall, Jason Andrew, Asher Borle, Alyssa Amundson, Harley Amundson, Bryan Anker. Are you getting a kind of Viking vibe with these names here?


Hartley Peavey, Don Wehr and Steve Miller.


Elise Piliwale, Sam Andrew, Tony Seldin.


Stanley (the Mouse) Miller signing a Big Brother poster.


Where my maternal great grandmother Myrtle Burgess started school.


The Circus Maximus in Rome could hold 250,000 people.


Janis snapping her fingers. (Photo: Don Aters)


A centimeter is about as long as the nail on your little finger is wide.


Art and Erin Homs, my brother Stephen’s daughter.


On a farm or ranch, always leave a gate the way you found it.


Bacteria, the tiniest free living cells, are so small that a single drop of liquid contains as many as fifty million of them.


Neal Schon, Jim Westbrook, Narada Michael Walden.


Richie Kirch, raconteur excellent.


Owls are the only birds that can see the color blue.


Janis Joplin, Sam Andrew, Winterland, 1968.


Karate means “empty hand” just as karaoke means “empty orchestra.”


Jennifer Espinoza, Maryville, Tennessee.


Bill Andrew, Sam Andrew, 1950.


Nusi Dekker, singer/songwriter, Marin County, California, 2011.


Sly Stone and friend at Don Wehr Music City, San Francisco.


John Lennon’s first girlfriend was Thelma Pickles.


A criminal is a predatory person who is too poor to form a corporation.


You should have one litter box per cat plus one.


The modern monarch is a vermiform appendix. S/he has to be quiet and not call much attention to herself, or otherwise s/he will be removed.


One day there will only be four kings left: diamonds, clubs, hearts and spades.


They’re serious. it must be about money. Carlos even has his glasses on. And Don Wehr is doing the talking.


I didn’t know he was dead. I thought he was a Republican.


My mother’s family.



I always eat healthy food, but I really shouldn’t. Old people need all the preservatives they can get.


Jim Westbrook and Steve Smith.


Guns in school? Piece of cake. Now, guns in church. That’ll take some doing, but, if anyone can do it, we can. (We probably already are doing it.)


When I was young, the Dead were still alive.


Early explorers in the far north thought that the natives called themselves Huskemaws. The English who visited the region applied the abbreviated word “husky” to many things they found there, including the Husky dog. Eventually the people came to be known as Esquimaux, and later as Eskimos, but the older title, husky, clung to the native canine and came to denote sturdiness in general.


To travel is to discover an unsuspected pride in your own country.


Don Wehr and David Garibaldi. I like that handwriting.


Leon Russell and Jeff Westbrook.


I can play these two tunes:

I’m So Miserable Without You, It’s Almost Like Having You Here, and,

How Can I Miss You When You Won’t Go Away.


I love that political advert she did in response to the McCain campaign’s trying to trivialize her. “Wrinkly old white guy.” She probably sunk him with that one line alone.


Every time she wags her tail, she knocks everything off the coffee table.


The great thing about narcissists is you never hear them talking about other people.


The Englishmen detest a siesta.   (Noël Coward)

Sam Andrew

Big Brother and the Holding Company


Maryville and Dunlap, Tennessee

12 July 2011


We played in Maryville which is a little southwest of Knoxville in eastern Tennessee.This is Appalachia, the Smoky Mountains. Jennifer Espinoza and her mother Mary came from San Anonio, Texas, and it was a pleasure getting to know them.


The venue was The Shed where more than a few musicians have performed. Groups like The Marshall Tucker Band and Leon Russell. July. Hot. I was soaking after the set.


Jennifer Espinoza was our singer this last weekend, and after a somewhat shaky start, she did just fine. Singing our set is not easy no matter who the singer is, and then we don’t rehearse, so the new vocalist has to learn the whole songlist from a CD. We show up and do a sound check and away we go. Can you imagine how nerve wracking this would be? OK, now imagine that you’re eighteen years old. Would you be terrified? I salute this woman’s courage and talent.


Ben Nieves and I try to add a little arranging detail every time we play. it adds up.


We didn’t do Women Is Losers, but we did every other song on this list.


I went to Kubasaki High School in Okinawa, Japan, and we called ourselves The Dragons. The “dragon” here in Maryville has a different meaning. This is a stylized rendering of Thunder Road, the moonshiner highway of legend.


This skull was on a table in the green room at The Shed. It looks like an old friend that i have painted and drawn many times. We have a slightly larger version of this in our living room.


My friend Frank has an SSR, so to see this red one in Maryville was a treat. This is GMC’s version of a hot rod. They mixed and matched, putting one model’s body on another model’s chassis. Frank says the real drawback, though, is that they don’t make parts for these hybrids, so if you have an accident and need a new fender, you have to light a fire and fashion one for yourself.


The next day after playing at the Shed on Saturday, Ben drove us West and South to Dunlap in middle Tennessee near Chattanooga to an interesting place called The Mill, owned and operated by A.J. Jones, a polymath, who has been a composer, bass viol player, archaeologist, historian. A.J.’s place, The Mill, was a Confederate AND Union hospital in the Civil War and Ulysses S. Grant was here with some of his men.


A.J. showed me a few treasures that he had found in the walls of The Mill. This is from a book that had been wedged in there.


This is a Cherokee spearpoint that A.J. found near the house.


He also found the remains of a soldier and this ribbon was on the body.


Projectile points from around The Mill. I found one of these once at my grandfather’s place in Devine, Texas. A “Commanche arrowhead.”


A.J. found these too. This is what marbles looked like when Samuel Clemens was a boy.


It was perhaps even hotter in Dunlap than in Maryville, temperature around 95 in both places. Jennifer and I took this shot with Heather after our set. Jennifer learned to drive in Devine, Texas, a little town south of San Antonio. My mother learned to drive in the same little town, maybe 70, 80 years before Jennifer did.


Kylie the photographer, conscientious, amiable and helpful.


Goodbye and I’ll see you soon.

Sam Andrew

Big Brother and the Holding Company


We’re going to Tennessee with Jennifer Espinoza.

8 July 2011



Big Brother and the Holding Company are going to Maryville and Dunlap, Tennessee, this weekend with Jennifer Espinoza. Jennifer is from San Antonio, Texas, and she has a big voice. Four years ago when she was 14, she sang Piece of My Heart with us and she was a sensation. Now she’s all grown up and i hope we will do a lot of gigs together.



This is a portrait I did of Megan McCauley who recorded a song that I wrote, Shining Glory, and she did such a great version of it.


In an earlier writing, I mentioned that Louis Jordan and Chuck Berry were musicians who transcended their genre and time because of their humor, their narrative ability and their just plain great musicianship. Little did I know then that Chuck took the unforgettable, immortal guitar intro to Johnny B. Goode directly from Louis Jordan’s “Ain’t That Just Like A Woman.” In Louis Jordan’s band, the whole horn section played the riff, but it’s definitely recognizable. Chuck took it and made it so beautiful on the guitar. Listen to Louis Jordan. He’s as much fun as Chuck Berry is. These are two people who make life worth living.


People at Intel say that microprocessor speed will douible every eighteen months for at least ten years, but i think they are being conservative. The computer will evolve faster than that and one day not too far off either, it will surpass us. Do you know the word “singularity?” Let’s just say for now that computers are evolving faster than we are. It’s only a matter of time, and probably not much time, before computers surpass humans in intelligence and even intuition. At some point, computers and humans will probably became one species.


Cage Okada’s contemporary Hokusai photograph.


Everyday People. Don Wehr and Sly Stone.


Erin Homs and Emily Bullis Rollins. They call me Uncle Sam.


Many people who keep a gun at home for safety are the same ones who refuse to wear a seat belt.


Women know less than men but they understand more.


Sam Andrew and Alex Call.


The lines at the bottom of The Statue of Liberty, composed in 1883 by New York City poet Emma Lazarus, a Sephardic Jew, whose work was praised by Russian novelist Ivan Turgenev, were almost completely ignored by critics and public of the day. She wrote the lines for a literary auction and they expressed her belief in America as a refuge for the downtrodden. Sixteen years after her death from cancer in 1887, the sonnet’s final five lines were cast in bronze, and they cast a spell over us.


The distance between your fingertips when your arms are outstretched at shoulder level is equal to your height. The drawing called Vitruvian Man, attributed to Leonardo, but much older, dramatically illustrates many such proportions.



The Mission District meets Long Island. Don Wehr and Carmine Appice.


My mother’s parents.


Michael J. Fox. is a friend of mine. He’s a public defender in San Francisco. Good man.


Poison Ivy: Leaflets three, Let it be.


In Puritan times, to be born on a Sunday was interpreted as a sign of great sin.  Of course, everything was interpreted as a sign of great sin, so it really seemed like nothing was a sign of great sin, even a great sin. You know how that works?


Sam Andrew was on one side in the Civil War. Joseph Mann was on the other. What if they shot each other and both died? Think of all the worthy people who have died in wars, never to reach their potential, not to mention all of their issue who would otherwise never have existed. What a loss. We hear in each biography of a great person who barely escapes death at several junctures. Life is so tenuous, accidental, coincidental, arbitrary.


Don Wehr using his middle finger to tell Bill Graham something. Bill’s mouth is open, but it looks as if Don is holding his own here. No mean feat. And eating a popsicle at the same time? My hero. Go, Don, go.


Give in to temptation. Any old person will tell you that it’s things you didn’t do that you will regret.


Among the numerous examples of gloves discovered in norhtern parts of ancient Europe are “bag gloves,” sheaths of animal skin that reach to the elbow, and isn’t this a good idea that should be brought back?


The Happy Stone.


Churches welcome all denominations, but greatly prefer tens and twentys.


(We’re Gonna) Rock Around The Clock (1954) Bill Haley and His Comets. Danny Cedrone was the guitarist on this and he played a solo on the tune that is still amazing. For this, he received $ 21. (It must be said that Danny had already played that solo on another tune, Rock This Joint, recorded in 1952, so, come on, did he really deserve that fat $ 21 paycheck? He was recycling. He was years ahead of his time. In every way.


Doh Wehr and Greg Errico.


Carlos Santana and Reese Marin at Don Wehr’s Music City, Columbus Avenue, San Francisco.


Whatever you believe in, I hope it makes you a better person to everyone in your life… including your cat and dog.


Aynsley Dunbar’s historic kit



Not patriotic, matriotic. Love your whole mother earth, not just one country on her surface.


Kate Russo playing a D chord. She could be, but probably is not, playing Down On Me.


Chad Quist with Sophia Ramos and another beautiful woman in red.


If a picture is worth a thousand words, then 1 1/100th of this canvas should be worth ten words, so what would they be?


Janis Joplin doing her famed snow angel ritual.


Elise Piliwale with The Theatre of Light.


Kathi McDonald looking pretty darned cute.


Chuck Jones and James Gurley, 1966.


Walk, Don’t Run was written by Johnny Smith, the jazz guitarist.


Albert Einstein couldn’t speak fluently when he was nine. His parents thought he was mentally retarded. Probably what was happening was that he had so many thoughts crowding in all the time, that he couldn’t choose one path for speech. This must happen to all of us at one time or another. David Peel and Lenny Kaye.


Elise Piliwale who was born in the same hospital as Barack Obama.


Greg Errico, Camen and Don Wehr.


In Germany in the XVIth century, the first pharmacopoeia was published and it listed hundreds of drugs and medicinal chemicals with explicit directions for preparing them. Drugs that had previously varied widely  in concentrations, and even in constituents, were now stringently defined by the text, which spawned versions in Switzerland, Italy and England. This was the beginning of the modern era in pharmacology.


High in Greece.

Sam Andrew

Big Brother and the Holding Company


Part Two: South Bend, Indiana, and Naperville, Illinois

5 July 2011

South Bend, Indiana. and Naperville, Illinois.

I only realize now that South Bend, Indiana, reminded me of Booth Tarkington, a writer from the late 19th, early 20th century, who wrote stories and novels about his Indiana. Many of the homes and buildings that I saw there this last week dated from Tarkington’s time, solid, old structures seemingly impervious to the passing of time.



South Bend is the home of the University of Notre Dame and on our day off, I walked the six miles to and back from the school. This is the Main Building on campus. That dome is covered with paper thin gold leaf.



The building has five floors and the inside dome has this painting.



How much of a coincidence is this? in Warren, Ohio, last week Peter, Dave and I visited a museum of two brothers, the Packards, who built their motorcars in the late 19th century. In South Bend, Indiana, right down the street from our hotel, i walked by the home of Clement Studebaker, who with his brother Henry made  automobiles. Clement and Henry were blacksmiths and they made good carriages before they turned to car manufacture. So, two brothers in two separate towns. I visit them a week apart. They later become partners in the Studebaker/Packard enterprise. I mean, isn’t that a little Twilight Zonish? This is Clement’s house.



And this is a Studebaker. When this car came out in the 1950s, the styling was so different from other cars in the USA. The Studebaker looked Italian because an Italian designed it.



Tim Murphy, our agent, gave me this pass. This image is quickly becoming iconic.



Teressa Wilcox, a very creative woman, good singer and songwriter, lover of Ben Nieves, our guitar player.



Peter Albin with his Danelectro, Naperville, Illinois.



Dave Getz in the rent a car on the way to the hotel.



Too cool for school. Ben Nieves, whose name means “snows,” but sweats would have been more like it. Our hottest gig so far this year.



Jude Gold, Cathy Richardson, Sam Andrew. Cathy always does a good set. She and Ben are our Scream Team. Jude Gold is a fine guitar player and an editor for Guitar Player Magazine. He recently wrote a most interesting article on Guthrie Govan. Jude, who reminds me of Joel Hoekstra, says that he has been playing guitar “since the Carter Administration.” I told him that I have been playing since, er, well, the Truman Administration, and have had a band since the Eisenhower Administration, so there. Am I proud of that? No. All it takes is living awhile. Anyone can do it, although a great many have not done it.



All my life I have studied Japanese, and i know less of it now than ever before. I take a little children’s book on the road and read it in the car. Those six large characters across the top are called kanji (Chinese letters). The Japanese, with their highly inflected language, chose to write it with Chinese script, the letters of a completely different language (far more different than English and, say, Romanian). it would be like writing Latin (quite similar in structure, by the way, to Japanese) with pictographs. And now generations of Japanese children have to memorize these “letters,” really words. When a Japanese graduates from high school, s/he is expected to know 1,000 of these. To read a newspaper, you have to know, perhaps 1,500 – 3,000. A PhD in Japanese, now I’m guessing, would need to know 15,000 kanji. This is a feat of memory unparalleled in our culture. Why wonder about Japanese graphic skills? My study of this language led to my becoming a painter. The six big kanji, by the way, mean (left to right) pillar,  concentrate, wear, talk, short and coal. The kanji are like Latin or Greek roots in English. They are used in combination with other kanji to form completely different concepts. “Hydrography” is a word you can break down into “hydro-” water and “graphos” write. The same is true with these kanji. On the highway in Japan, you very often see the directive “chuu i” (Caution). The second kanji from the left. I have circled the combination on the very left under this character. Japanese is, BY FAR, the world’s most complicated major language, both as to grammar and to writing. As I say, I know less of it now than when I began to study it at age 15.



On the beginning of my walk to the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, I came across this signpost. The main arteries, north and south, crossed here, a block from my hotel. Today the main north and south arteries, I am just guessing, are probably Interstates 35 and 80. I know that 35 runs through Austin, Texas, and goes on up into Minnesota, and 80, which must be a child of the Lincoln Highway, seems to run East West from New York to San Francisco.



This is one good guy, Donnie Baldwin. He plays drums with the Starship, but mainly he’s a decent human being. Always good to see Donnie.



Fito de la Parra from Canned Heat adjusting his drum set at a sound check. Fito, like Frida Kahlo, is Mexican/Austrian or Austrian/Mexican, so he’s having a whole war right inside himself. Both Fito and Frida are good human beings and I am encantado de conocer los dos. Very lucky and happy to know them both.



Ben Nieves, the fierce one, nailing it on Ball and Chain.



Harvey Mandel. checking his effects at the sound check. Harvey, the master of tone, always comes on with Big Brother and does his sound check while we do ours. Canned Heat are cannibals when it comes to sound checks. They all descend on the stage, serious and full of purpose, to make sure their sound is right.



Mariela, puertoriqueña, charming, amiga de Patrick Murphy.



We played this set in Naperville. Is it hard to read? One of these days, I am going to reduce it to letters. D  C  N  C  B  S  H  W  P  B. I bet we can read these. Or, semaphore flags, remember those? We did all right on these tunes. Ben and I played Summertime in C minor, you’re welcome, Cathy, and we did it almost as well. I have said before that these singers never realize that C minor is very different from G minor or A minor where Janis did these tunes. It’s an entirely different idea, and, god forbid, that we should depart from playing it perfectly in this imperfect universe. “Oh, so that’s what it is.” You bet, Cathy. That’s what it is.



Noah Murphy, probably trying to relax after a day of July 4th fireworks. For Noah, this is slowing down. It’s like visiting your grandparents, remember?



Patrick Murphy.



Sam Andrew, Ben Nieves, Tim Murphy.



Slick Aguilar plays guitar like a star. He’s hip, he’s flip, he’s aboard the Starship.


Such a strong face. This is Snorky, Michael Eisenberg. Competent, efficient, in proportion, matter of fact, he’s all right, Jack.



Tim Murphy, our exclusive agent.



Someone handed this to me in Ohio. I assume that it is real and redeemable. After all, this is the Midwaste, right? Everyone’s honest and clean. No hidden agenda here.



Ben told me to put this in my blog, so voilà.



How I learn Italian. Reading is the quickest way for me. I read what I can, and underline words I don’t know, then later look them up in the dictionary. This is how I learned to read English, so I figure it will work for other idioms. This is a rather amusing passage by the way.



Ahhh, if only ‘t were true. All access to a life of happiness and contentment?



Hey, where’d you go? I didn’t mean to go all psychedelic on you. C U soon.

Sam Andrew

Big Brother and the Holding Company