Protesters, MLK, and Partisan Urges

Young protesters urgently need to go watch “Selma” and in general pause and think, “what would MLK do?” The Selma marchers gracefully expressed their humanity and decency with their faces visible, and created a clear contrast from the opposition’s hate and savagery. The scene and imagery created were more powerful than any weapon, and turned 800 marchers into 25,000 at the end. It was masterful leadership.

Protesters should quickly expel destructive/violent individuals and the idea of using masks or carrying weapons. Masking invites deindividuation and ugly mob behavior. Pulling down a statue by force may get some “attaboys” from their team, but expresses to others that their organization doesn’t respect the law, can’t be trusted to obey it, and doesn’t deserve its protection. All of this turns people away from a cause—even when it’s undisputably just—and creates virulent propaganda to be used against the cause.

Protesters very wrongly assume that the public is willing to forgive bad means to meet just ends, and 2017 America’s hyper-partisanship makes it extremely difficult to build wide coalitions—even against no-brainer causes like white supremacists are bad. It’s a sad state, but many conservatives’ stomachs churn at the idea of working with liberals. That blame is squarely on social media propagandists and on the GOP leadership—for supporting such rhetoric from their media cheerleaders, and while it’s wrong it cannot be ignored. Today, organizations can only build strong coalitions by carefully suppressing partisan urges, and there’s nothing wrong with doing so. It would be a tragedy if charities and organizations like Alcoholics Anonymous reduced their abilities to help by gaining political associations.

About those “partisan urges”. They feel good to indulge! Almost nothing feels better than really giving it to the other team, and Trump more than any politician employs this almost as a guiding principle, but it leads to some awful places. The PR folks working for white supremacists will no doubt point out their opponent’s faults, and note there were good people walking beside them at an event they lawfully planned with permits and everything. When cornered, President Trump said all of those on their behalf, to get in some what-about-ist jabs at liberals. When someone with a few beers in them does this at a BBQ it’s unseemly. For a sitting President of a country with our history, it was, as some conservatives rightly call it, “a moral disgrace.”

Questions about the President’s own feelings about race and past denouncements of racists don’t really matter when he gives hate groups fresh talking points. As of Sunday they can say “if you march beside us, Trump will take political risks to point out your goodness” and “his Monday denunciation of us was a hostage tape.” While I don’t think he’s racist, his statements will lead some to pause on that, and I can’t blame them.

Trump could absolutely have expressed almost all of what he did in a graceful way that did not go neutral on Nazis vs. People Against Nazis. Preparing your words isn’t just dumb politician stuff; it gives you time to sharpen your ideas and avoid stepping on them (“…on many sides”). He has to control his fiery hatred of liberals. First, because he’s leading a nation with a ton of them and it’s the right thing to do. Secondly, he needs them in Congress to really solve problems like healthcare. But lastly, because hatred is blinding, and at a moment the country was looking to him for guidance, it led him to treat the liberals’ enemies as his allies.

Monuments to a Government’s Failure

The Civil War is a strange case where the oppressors and terrorists, upon losing, were basically let alone to continue countless awful misdeeds, and the biggest slave owners retained all the power of government. The “freedom” blacks gained was purely notional until many decades later.

Imagine an alternate history where, instead, former slaves had been given real, meaningful citizenship: The right to vote unobstructed, to hold office, to receive the full protection of the law, and the opportunity to really be known and understood by the white population as fellow Americans. In this more just outcome, do we really think the citizens of the South, almost half black, would’ve chosen to publicly celebrate—with monuments and names of counties, towns, and streets—the cause to continue enslaving their children and neighbors?

We can’t know the answer, but I think it’s “absolutely not.”

These monuments exist because of the dismal failure of the government to protect its citizens from abuse; by fellow citizens, police, the courts, and the law.

If a community or its elected representatives desire it, they should come down in an orderly fashion, with the goal of preserving them. Communities deserve the freedom to decide what they will celebrate for the next few centuries.

The Civil War is better documented than it’s ever been, and if American schools and parents fail to teach history, a statue isn’t going to do it. What we’ve definitely failed to teach are the stories of the generations of Americans that lived under terror and de facto slavery after the war’s end, and through Jim Crow.

The Google Memo

I had a great conversation with Kathleen about the “Google memo”. We talked about her experiences and the greater context of several previous generations of women from the trailblazers to those who later entered workplaces in mass to find they were boy’s clubs.

We already had decades of the golden age of “free debate” workplaces where the topic was often whether women–or minorities–were “cut out for this line of work.” See the first few Mad Men eps, or ask a woman who went to work before the mid 80s. The fully “free debate” workplaces were found wanting and we rightly took some topics off the table. Absolutely some censorship in workplaces is critical! Over the years I’ve heard plenty “ideas” at work that created hostile environments, or would have in a more diverse group. It’s a shame the memo writer didn’t run this by a few women, ideally coworkers, before dumping to Google’s whole workforce. It may have sharpened his arguments and led him to a better approach to reaching his goals.

Naturally our culture around work formed under the assumption of women at home rearing children. Over decades millions of decisions were made without the idea of working women and raising families with both parents working. This isn’t a value judgment, but it means that firms who value diversity still have really big levers they can pull that make the consideration of miniscule biological differences just not that important. Firms will of course forever have to balance their diversity desires with the law’s prohibition of discrimination; the memo’s author basically accused Google of discrimination against men, and that’s for the courts to figure out.

I’ll give him this, he’s right that political viewpoint diversity is probably very lacking at Google, as it is nearly everywhere in America due to our acidic hyper-partisanship and geographical self-sorting. He referenced the Heterodox Academy and I’m a fan. In general diversity is so hard because humans don’t want to have uncomfortable conversations or get pushback on their ideas, even if weeds out the weak ideas and yields better solutions.

To some extent each firm has to consider whether actively fighting against a nationwide polarization trend is worth the hassle, but the more politically homogenous businesses will probably be the first to majorly mess up in public and “out” themselves as saying nasty things about half their customers.

Louis Cole “You’ll Believe Me” chords

Modulations are noted with ().


    A           E7/A |             A   :||


    A                | E7sus         E7
        I saw the world   but didn't like it.

    A      B7/A      | G#m7          C#m7
        Without you there I couldn't fight for

                       (A)                                          (D)
    F#m7             | E7sus/B   E7    | Amaj9     A6/9     | Amaj9 A7 A7sus
       our survival.   If you   need me  you'll believe me.

    D                | A7sus            A7sus/G
      Throw out your doubt that time is over.

    D/F#    Bm7      | C6/9        E7   /F#  | (repeat intro)
       Just cry your fears into my shoulder.


    A                | E7sus     E7
        Grow tired as     as the days burn.

    A      B7/A      | G#m7           C#m7
       Sit down with me and watch the world turn.

    F#m7                    | E7sus/C   E13  /F# | Amaj9     A6/9    | A (bass G)
      I think you will learn  if    you need me    you'll believe me.


    F     /C   /F /G | /A /C            | C7sus     /G /A  | /Bb /G   C7

    Db   /Ab /Db /Eb | /F /Ab           | Ab7sus   /Eb /F  | /Gb /Eb  Ab7

    (A)         (Bb)             (B)                  (C)                (C#)
    A   /E  /F  F+/A | Bb /F /F# F#+/A# | B  /F#  /G  G+/B | C  /G  /G#  G#+/B#

    (C#m)    (B)                (Bbm)
    C#m      Em      | Bsus     D#m     | Bbm/F     F+ F/C | Bbm(9)   Bbm
    D+/F Gm/F# Gm    | Dsus/G   D/F#    | Bm      Bm7/A    | Em7/B    A7sus A7


    D                | A7sus           A7sus/G
      Don't start to cry it's far from over.

    D/F#       Bm7   | C6/9           E7  /F# | (repeat intro)
       Look at who I am    I'm coming closer.

    A                | E7sus       E7
      Look on your face    doesn't ...

    A      B7/A      | G#m7           C#m7
       The big disguise        joy is painful.

    F#m7             | E7sus/C   E13  /F# | Amaj9     A6/9
        I just hope    if you    need me    you'll believe me.


    A     Amaj7      | Am9               :||


This is a well done Pet Sounds tribute in harmony and arrangement. 3rd inversion dom7 chords; using them to modulate to nearby keys; bass solos centered around the 5th; lush V7sus chords.

There are several instances of what sounds like C6/9 or E7sus/C. My guess is these were originally E7sus/B as in the first verse, but the C bass (muted just before the vocal hits C#) made a nice trick for the ears, making the modulations back to A a little less cliche.

The bridge section at 1:30 has a clever modulation from C# minor to Bb minor: After C#m, the Em suggests the iv of B and indeed we follow with I – iii in B. However D#m is used to pivot again to Bb minor as Ebm is the iv. He uses a cadential 6/4 to really settle us in Bb minor. The following a capella part comes in sounding like Bbmaj with a flat 6 due to the low voice’s start on F (maybe an accident), but these two bars I think are really a fancy plagal cadence in D major: V+/iv – iv – Isus – I.

The E13s are voiced as E7 with the 13 only in the vocal. The Amaj9 to A6/9: I’m including the vocal in the maj7 – 6th harmonies.

Pitch Memory Survey


I posted a short survey of how people remember pitches without a reference note. This came about when a Redditor asked what key people sing “Happy Birthday” in (the correct answer being the key that the first/loudest singer chooses).

I, like most people, don’t have perfect pitch, and if someone sits at a piano and plays a popular song, I can’t tell what key they’re playing unless I see their hands. My “movable do” adapts immediately. Problem one for this survey is that, for me (and I’m assuming most others), tonality is “sticky.” Play C – G7 and ask me to sing a song, and it’s likely to come out in C or A minor. After a little longer maybe a closely related key like G or F.

I try to fight that in the survey by asking participants to listen to this “music” between questions. This is one track of Cm – Bdim7 slowly pitch shifted up two whole tones and another of Em – D#dim7 slowly pitch shifted down two whole tones, just trying to disorient the listener.

Anyway, the “answers” are below, but remember there’s no harm in being “wrong”. Perfect pitch memory/recognition is helpful at some tasks in music transcription, but relative pitch is the crucial one that allows you to enjoy and create the vast majority of Western music, recognize when notes are sharp/flat, etc.

Continue reading  

Deerhoof “Cast Off Crown” Chords


  This guitar part is loosely in E major, with a borrowed II chord, and a brief
  modulation to D major.

      ii    V    IV   II     iv of D   I of D
    F#m/C#  B    A   F#/C#   Gm/D      D

  This section is roughly E mixolydian. I believe the guitar is playing power chords
  but it may just be octaves sometimes. The bass and guitars here sound a bit
  improvised, moving independently but transforming these simple power chords into
  more complex harmonies (right):
    E      D5/G  E5/A  A5/B  => (Gadd9  Aadd9  B7sus)

    E      D5/B  E5/C  F5/D  => (Bm7    CM7    Dm7)

    C/G    Bb5/C C/F   F5/Eb => (C7sus  F      F7)

    C      Bb5/G C5/F  D5    => (Gm7    FM7    D)

    E      D5/G  E5/A  A5/B  => (Gadd9  Aadd9  B7sus)


  At 0:22 a blast of bluesy 7th chords in E, with a temporary dissonant C7#9 chord
  (distortion makes this chord hard to identify). These bar lengths are ad-libbed
  (31 beats total) and sometimes the chord changes on an eight note:

    8          6      7       10
    E7         A7     C7#9    F#m7

  The guitar falls out and some simple melodies outline E and A chords.


  This section is in D dorian, but playfully borrows A and D from mixolydian. The
  Cm7 is a bit like a Neapolitan Eb chord (there's a real one later). These "add13"
  and "add11" are just B notes. Probably played as 5th fret of the G string and
  open B string.

    Dm7add13              Cm7         A7     D7add13     Dm7add13  G7add11
    Hey mister hey mister out of this picture.       I'm only the  sister.

  Now a long string of secondary dominant resolutions. This section lacks a strong
  tonal center, but roughly starts out in E dorian:

    V/V    V            i
    F#11   B11          Em7
    Royal- ty I learned I will become

  Now shifts to G major, though it doesn't fully resolve:

    V/V                     v/V              V7
    A7                      Am7              D13
    queen of the cast-offs. I will thrice refuse.

  This D13 is a real 13th [D F# A C E G B] (across multiple guitars), not just a D7
  with added 13th. I think the F# is only in the vocal.

V2) (same progression)

  At 1:27 the bass plays out of sync with the guitars in a wonderful way. Following
  a bar of Dm, the guitars play Cm7 and A7 over a full bar, but the bass seems to
  hold the Dm and cram the last two chords into the last 2 beats:

  guitars:    Dm7                  Cm7           A7
  bass:       D           D        D        Eb E C     A
           Oh lover oh lover,      where is the  thun- der?
  So the bass ends up playing D and E natural under Cm7, and C natural under A7.
  Maybe a mistake (?), but sounds amazing, as if those last 3 bass notes are 3
  different chords.

B) (1:56)

    F#m/C#  B  A  F#/C#  Gm/D  D

  Here the verse progression transposed up a whole step with some small
  variations. Before the B chord we have a real F Neapolitan.

    Em7        FM7  B  E7        Em7   A7

    G#11  C#11         F#m       B7  Bm7  E7


  To end we get the intro guitar, not tuned up, but rather *down* a whole step.
  I think this is done for two reasons: So the bridge's E7 can lead into the Em
  (this major to minor change is almost thematic to the song), and so that we're
  spit out in the key of the verses.:

    Em/B   A   G  E/B   Fm/C  C    Dm

Deerhoof “Criminals of the Dream” Chords


  See B2 section below. Starts in Eb major, ends in E major.

  A vocal melody is interrupted by a A-G-G bassline, making it sound like
  A7 harmony, but this is a trick. As the bass continues alone we start to
  hear this as what it is: 2-1-1 in G major. The guitars come in with G
  chords to confirm.


  The verses starts in G mixolydian, with bass as a pedal. You can see the
  pattern they're building in the progression:

    G  C/G
    G  F/G  C/G
    G  C/G  F/G  C/G
    G       C/G  F/G  C/G

  A bit of the pattern is then repeated in Eb mixolydian:

    Eb           Db   Ab

V2) (with vocals)

  A lot happens in these 4 chords. The Bb is the V of Eb (shifting from
  mixolydian to ionian). The Db teases that we're back in Eb mixo, but
  instead of leading to Ab, we get harmonic planing down to a C major. The
  melody still has Eb, giving it a jazzy sharp 9 sound, and makes the
  following F chord sound like it functions as the V of Bb. So really the
  C is the V/V of Bb.

    V           VIIb    V/V (of Bb) V
    Bb          Db/Ab   C           F

  A full resolution to Bb is skipped in favor of 2 thrilling modulations:

    I      I
    Db     Eb  (We get a couple nice pentatonic lines here)


  We start in Eb major, slipping in a borrowed iv chord:

    I      iv          I
    Eb     Abm/Cb /Ab  Eb/Bb 

  The borrowed Abm is used to modulate to Gb major:

    ii   V        IV         V         V7      I
    Abm7 Dbadd9   Cbadd9/Eb  Db        Db7/Cb  Gb/Bb

  A i (Gbm) is used to modulate to E major:

    ii        I        ii   I  V7          I  iv       I
    Gbm/A     E/G#     E/F# E  B7sus/E     E  Am6/E    E


  The G#m chords are dotted with brief A chords then we resolve to E:

    iii            V  I
    G#m7   A  x4   B  E

    v/II    II
    C#m7    F#7add11

Revisiting the outcomes of the 21th century Chinese import boom

The conventional wisdom among economists is that the post-2000 Chinese import boom—which we know rapidly devastated the American manufacturing base—was overall good for the U.S.; that (as I argue) artificial barriers to trade generally make both parties poorer, and over the long run trade ends up lifting all boats. While I think it will always be true that trade barriers increase the price of products, a lot of the other assumptions may not be true.

If it’s good to reduce trade barriers with a country, is it wise to do it overnight? We now realize that a small policy shift in 2000 boosted the confidence of companies to move manufacturing jobs to China and of the Chinese government to invest in infrastructure to meet that demand. Many American towns were built slowly on the backbone of manufacturing and rapid closing have made economic recovery in those areas almost unimaginable. The advice to “move to where the jobs are” is almost always given by people employed, who can afford moving costs, and who don’t have local family members to support.

Can Americans get by without manufacturing jobs? Economists generally say this will free up workers to do more high-level jobs, but we’ve clearly failed at efforts to raise the education level and prospects of the bottom third of wage earners. It’s looking like the people who left monotonous, but stable, decent-paying factory jobs of yesteryear do not end up in better service industry jobs. Instead, those jobs were replaced by 1) part-time jobs of lower wages and constantly-shifting scheduling—hurting workers’ abilities to form and maintain families, and 2) destructive periods of unemployment.

Aren’t the “losers” of trade liberalization a small number of factory workers? Putting a few thousand people out of work impacts their families and all the businesses they and their families frequent, and it also destroys a large social network that was probably valuable to families.

Is the under- and unemployment of a large population of Americans worth cheaper products? It seems to me that Americans would’ve been just fine had the prices of products stayed at the level they were in the late 90s or lowered more slowly. At a certain level of wealth, more products and bigger homes don’t increase real prosperity, and particularly if those come with the awareness of increased suffering of your fellow citizens.

Wasn’t this worth lifting the Chinese out of poverty? The rise of China’s middle class is certainly a win for billions of people, but rapid export to the U.S. did not do that. China left poverty not because the West invaded it with factories, but because its leaders embraced capitalism and it had a ton of untapped potential. Had the U.S. not outsourced so rapidly, China still certainly would have industrialized, and maybe without such problems of pollution and inequality.

The timing of rapid globalization also sadly coincided with the big-boxification of retail. By the 90s, Wal-Mart was such a retail behemoth that it could dictate the prices of goods it was willing to pay suppliers and essentially make or break a supplier. Under this this intense pressure, suppliers had little choice than to sacrifice American factory jobs; Wal-Mart built their company on “Made in the U.S.A.” yet knowingly forced suppliers to outsource American jobs to save pennies per product. Consumers of course had no idea that trade-off was being made. There’s still not a satisfying answer to the question of is a community better off as a whole with one Wal-Mart than dozens of smaller retailers, but I’d wager that the transition and its speed—the closing of a large number of competing stores along with U.S. factories—was not good for communities.

We, of course, can’t say for certain what would’ve happened had trade with China not progressed or had it progressed more slowly. It’s also not clear we can “turn back the clock,” but when we negotiate trade deals we should definitely think more of the millions who may be displaced, maybe permanently, and of the bigger effect that can have on America as a whole. Economists were massively naive to think this would all wash out, but then economists weren’t driving this; U.S. big box shareholders decided this was necessary.

Sleep Walk analysis

Sleep Walk” is pretty famous for its I – vi – iv – V verses, but there’s more interesting stuff going on, especially for 1959 top 40 radio.

  • The end of the bridge is a G7#9 (AKA the “Purple Haze” chord). The slide emphasizes this by sliding [D, G] up to [F, Bb] and back, and you can really hear the [B, F, Bb] in the rhythm guitar. I can’t think of any other top 40 song that used it so prominently; even “Purple Haze” mostly omits the major 3rd so it’s not as dissonant.
  • The ending is a G chord with the slide using a falling sixth interval: [G, E] – [Gb, Eb] – [F, D]. This is a common blues trick that turns a 6th chord (6 on top) into a 7th (7 on bottom).
  • The final cadence is pure jazz:
    • C6 [8-x-7-9-8-x]
    • G7b9+ [x-8-9-8-9-x] (root played only by bass)
    • C6add9 [x-10-10-9-10-10]

Take the medicine

I saw an image floating around Facebook that said the human body is “programmed” to be a “self-healing machine” and “pills only mask the symptoms” of illnesses. This kind of thinking leads to kids dying and suffering needlessly.

Symptoms are what kill you. You don’t get a gold star for “roughing out” a fever or a painful injury, and the stress endured doesn’t make your body stronger. Stress is bad for you and damages relationships.

Bodies aren’t programmed. Evolution is a sloppy mechanism that produces systems just barely sufficient to survive threats from the immediate environment. Unfortunately, our “immediate environment” is now global, so with respect to the evolutionary time scale our potential sources of illness has exploded. Our systems are not prepared, and even young, talented musicians can succumb to viruses like H1N1.