We either create with what we have or we create nothing at all. Only the fool waits until he has better instruments.

On memory and understanding

There is a difference between formulating a thought in your mind and capturing it. I suppose it’s the same thing as memory, though I’m thinking of it more in terms of why it is we stop to take note of certain ideas over others–in the sense of taking action to capture them, whether in writing or some other way.


Interestingly, I left this document open in my text editor since last night, and was moved today to write down a thought about what I was doing. Is it fortuitous that this very document is open, ready to be edited, to be added to?


I’m reading Computer Networks by Peterson and Davie, and took time to really think through the paragraph on the basic requirements of establishing a connection between a web browser and a page on the web via a URL: up to six messages are used to translate the domain name into its Internet Protocol address; three messages establish a Transmission Control Protocol connection between them: four messages for the get and send with receipts on both ends; four more messages to tear down the TCP connection.

The fact that that is almost gibberish is precisely the point. Much more so that it is something we simply take for granted every time we click on a link. However, on a more interesting level, I wrote that paragraph from memory. I checked it against the text, and verified the details were correct. I remember similarly taking my time with it the first time I started this chapter and was struck by my sense of looking forward to it. In effect, I had remembered it was important to me, even though I had forgotten many of the details. I wonder to what degree this is the essence of memory (in sharp contrast to how we fancy it)–i.e., memory is the feeling that this, here is important, and the degree to which I can reproduce the specifics less so.

Which is another way of saying Joan Didion was right.


I just realized something about the labor of writing: it helps us to discover. Upon rereading this I feel like I finally understand what TCP/IP Internet means. I have no idea to what degree each step along the way played, only that in reading this, now I understand something I had only partially understood before. Writing is a critical way of capturing.

And upon re-rereading this I may be finally understanding what Didion meant.

It just dawned on me that the people who want a band to do only one thing are the same people who like cover bands.

Sometimes all you can do is show someone the next step, even though you know they can’t accomplish it yet.

I just realized my bookshelf is filled with vestiges of things I used to know. I look at them adoringly, as if they were cryptic trophies that few others could appreciate.


I’ve been listening to Deafheaven’s first two albums and am very impressed. In one sense, as a heavy, fast, technical band, they could not be more different than Pallbearer. In another, they have the fundamentals in common: gifted songwriting; a heavy sound with a sensitive ear; neither band is in a hurry.

After a few weeks I have moved on to, and now also love, their third, New Bermuda. I now also see the genius that is Sunbather: had they not written it we would not know Deafheaven as such. Their first, Roads to Judah, is a very strong take on modern black metal. But had they not moved beyond it, they would have merely been another talented instance of it.

I’ve been prepared to see their fourth as more difficult to like. However, as I listen to the opening track I realize that the fans who do not like it would have been content had they only written the first. And as I just experienced Honeycomb into Canary Yellow I am blown away.

With three minutes to go in the last track I am still entranced. I do not want it to end, and yet I could not have imagined it ending in a better way.


They are a little like Katatonia in the sense that you are constantly tempted to try to pick one song that captures their sound perfectly, only to realize the folly of this task.


I am also realizing that I do not oppose speed as such, rather, that I like it done in a certain way: it must be precise yet behind the beat, in other words, it must swing.


I still can’t beleive I’m going to see them in less than a week, and realized they could literally play any song off these albums and I will be delighted. In the same sense, they could simply play one album and I would feel the same: I would both be satisfied and still want more. As I read what I wrote above I know to resist the folly of hoping they play Baby Blue, or Sunbather, or Honeycomb into Canary Yellow. I also realize this is true of any band I love. This helps to explain my constant temptation to rank things, one over the other. Perhaps a better way to think about it is I love this in particular because of each thing that surrounds it. These great songs would not exists without the others, which, in turn, makes them great as well.


Part of the joy in their music is that they know how to play metal in a major key.

As I listen to the title track of Sunbather I recall a friend at work saying that, among metal fans, Deafheaven was divisive.

All gods are divisive.


New Bermuda is Roads to Judah combined with Sunbather. There is something beautiful about this. Could this be a kind of Hegelian synthesis?


I got to see them last night in Worcester (7 April 2019). They were amazing. The combination of musicianship, technical ability and stage presence was second to no band I’ve ever seen. When you combine that with their songwriting and song selection for the evening it was easily among the best shows I’ve experienced. From where I sat I could see the other bands (Zeal and Ardor, Baroness) in the wing, watching from start to finish.

Baroness felt like you were watching a very good band, and was enjoyable. Deafheaven felt like you were watching a phenomenon, and all you could do was submit.