Watching Ghost Bird at the Dryden

I was curious (especially after reading Dayna Papaleo's positive review in The City Newspaper) and headed to George Eastman House (900 East Ave.) to see Ghost Bird.

The film lays out a tale of hope and skepticism. The ivory-billed woodpecker was one of the largest woodpeckers in the world, but logging of its natural habitat in the southeastern United States, and (to a lesser extent) hunting resulted in its extinction. Declaring something "extinct" is a fickle thing because something is only extinct until one is seen again. And that's what happened … sort of, anyway. A bird watcher managed to barely catch a few frames of video of a large woodpecker in an Arkansas swamp that was thought to be an ivory-billed. Years of searching yielded no conclusive evidence (nor any tangential evidence like the tell-tale large nesting holes). Further muddying the search was that pileated woodpeckers — common in that area — could be almost as large and (to all but the best-trained eyes) look a lot like the ivory-billed.

As such, it's more a documentary about the complicated interplay between science, money, and hope. True scientific research (that is, research that does not have a specific economic or ideological goal) seeks the truth. But as researchers rely on money and jobs as much as anyone else, this creates pressure to conduct research that gets research dollars rather than what should be done next (in an interview with director Scott Crocker by Ben Radford, Crocker relays (sans formal attribution) that the "process of acquiring funding for research [is] akin to throwing spaghetti at the wall: whatever project sticks gets the green light. This 'stickiness factor' of proposals is often determined by very unscientific agendas having more to do with commercial and public relation interests.") And then there's the hope — against all odds — that humans did not actually wipe out a species.

As a believer in scientific research, I was rather shaken to learn that a pair of scientists had their paper silenced because it called into doubt the video depicted an ivory-billed woodpecker. I firmly believed that science was immutable to outside forces — that reasoned dissent was so integral to science that it could not be bribed away. Finding that I'm wrong breaks a few of the fundamental rules I had about what to believe.

I had relied on peer-reviewed and approved studies as the gold standard. But that assumed the review process was open and any rigorous argument would be published for review. And so (as I did a couple weeks ago) I'll revisit global warming and specifically whether it's significantly caused by humans. I understood that the self-perpetuating nature of research funding meant that (at least today) research projects whose thesis supported human-caused global-warming theory would be more strongly funded through traditional means of government and educational institutions. However, other wealthy interests were equally providing funding to discredit the theory: petroleum companies in particular would derive great benefit if global warming were not caused by man, so I had a high level of confidence in human-caused global-warming because of that balance.

Alas, the publishers of reviews are biased. So given that new information, where do I turn? Unfortunately I'm cornered into the milquetoast "the results are inconclusive." In other words, if I can find a rationale for significant bias, I can only ascertain that I can't confirm or deny the claims made as a result.

So let me formally split global warming. I don't think there is significant bias in the study of global temperatures, so based on research I've seen, the global average surface temperature is increasing. But as for the human influence on that warming trend, because of the bias from political, social, and economic forces, I cannot determine a reliable source. That said, I have yet to see where the addition of car exhaust, tires, garbage, or pollution has improved a natural habitat, so I'll continue to work to reduce my ecological impact.

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Bands at the Bug Jar

After the movie, Ali and I went to The Bug Jar (219 Monroe Ave.) and met up with our friend Stacie to see the bands playing that night.

I got in to see a few songs from Tiger Cried BeefMySpace link and they always impress me. They're like gourmet vanilla: at first, you're like, "oh, I've seen this before," but then you get into the subtleties and think, "oh, yeah, but this can be really good." I also noticed that good ideas sprout from my spot leaning against the right-side speaker [with earplugs, by the way, which happen to serve two purposes: not blowing out my eardrums, and drowning out the distracting chatter.] It's not with every band or every time, but I find that poetry makes me think of stuff — you know, new things to do or work on.

Anyway, next up was The White DevilsMySpace link. This is Frank De Blase's band and for anybody who knows me, I have a mix of feelings about the guy. It usually comes out looking like disdain, but it's really more complicated than that.

See he's one of the main music writers for The City Newspaper so there's a certain amount of empathetic envy (or envious empathy) since I kind of do the same thing sometimes — the dichotomy comes from the fact that he gets paid for it, but I can see myself getting annoyed that it's often a shit job. I mean, sure you get paid to write about bands, but you also have to write fluffy pieces about bands you don't really care about, and you get slammed for being a critic by — in his case — your fellow musicians.

Now I've also met him a few times. A couple years ago, I remember having a nice chat about writing about music at California Rollin' at Village Gate Square (274 N. Goodman St.). He seemed like a nice guy, but either forgot who I was or didn't want to talk to me the next time I saw him. And again, I'm mixed on his response. On the one hand you can't be friends with everyone you meet, and not everybody can do that "such a nice guy front" (and I know I can't do it consistently). On the other, I think if you have a pleasant conversation with someone and you see them again, I kind of expect that there would be an inkling of recognition. But then I also know that it's hard to remember everyone. And then I hear from his friends that he's really a nice guy. And then I hear from his detractors that he's not a nice guy.

Worst of all is that I bother expending all this effort trying to accurately express how I feel about him when I don't really want to be friends with him [no offense, Frank, if you're reading this]. His band does a bluesy rock that I'm not a fan of. If I read him right, he's into pin-up culture and busty women; biker bars and greaser-chic. I'm just not into that stuff — none of it. It's just that we both happen to write about what's going on in town.

I guess the thing is that he's writing for City. And I assume there are lots of readers and most of them agree with Frank's assessment and preferences [logically I know this is a flawed assumption but I can't seem to convince my heart]. But I wish that this quantity of N readers (where N is really fucking large) would actually like the kind of stuff that I connect with. But then I think, "why? who cares?" I get unlimited latitude in what I feel like writing about and what I feel like putting on the events list. I'm not out to win any popularity contest because I'm unwilling to make that devil's deal trading "self" for "popular". I just figure there's got to be a way …

But anyway, his band is good, even if it's not the kind of music I'm into.

Closing things out that night was The Sadies who always put on a great show. It's all about the music although they look good doing it. And I really like them even though they play the country-cousin of bluesy-rock: rockabilly. Well, rockabilly with generous helpings of surf-rock thrown in. I feel bad because I don't have a lot of things to say about bands I like — I guess I figure it doesn't do much to try and explain in words what you hear-that-becomes-feel. Just sound and motion and an emotional connection, I guess. Oh, and fun. Lots of fun.

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