Dom Alhambra

some ideas, some music, some gardening

Now, after reading two hundred pages mostly regarding suffering, I realize how little I think about it. But I realize that suffering is central to those utopian thinkers, with whom I don’t relate. Suffering is a part of life, but in such a way that I don’t have much to say about it. I am too busy trying to succeed in the small aspects of life that I admire deeply. And the parts of life that I do not admire: I don’t ignore it, but I don’t really consider it all that much.

My philosophies were taught by a leader in suffering-obsession: Nietzsche. But his repetitions on the use of suffering as a method to grow and learn became internalized. Again, internalized to the point that my failures and stumblings are something to consider from a high level, as a way to make my tomorrow even better. Sure, suffering exists but that’s because we live in a life of give and take.

I can only theorize that it’s only the utopian thinkers, who have considered the unreal just as much as the real, who have equated the imaginary to be just as important as the real. I personally have little need to consider the imaginary; it appears to cause unnecessary anger, resentment, and guilt, which are appropriate modes of thought during reflections on real action, not reflections on the unreal.

When one falls short on one’s hopes of the real, there tend to be very rational explanations for such failures. When one falls short on one’s aspirations of the imaginary, there tends to be a mythical adversary that is holding them down. Perhaps this is why narratives of victimization and “underdog”-ness areso prevalent in contemporary culture. Instead of accepting our deficits, we would rather blame something else for keeping us from our best selves.

In the end, I do not think much about utopia and even less about suffering. Am I missing something essential to my future by being too busy looking for good, real things in life?

When I find a philosopher that I truly connect with, it is an immediate, visceral reaction. Even when I cannot remember the details of a philosophy, I can vividly recall its feeling and intention. The feeling of immediate and fundamental connection are so self-apparent that when I read those who do not ignite a fire within me, despite so many agreeable sentiments and ideas, I must sadly admit that there is something missing in what they are saying. Of course, I’m not implying that those who cannot connect with me are lacking quality. They are just lacking me.

I am an uncreative philosophical person. I live in the high levels of ideas without the language to speak them, so I read, read, and read so that more clever and creative people than I can already have said what I was thinking. Thus, I admit that my mind doesn’t contain innovative ideas, but simply niche ideas that need a coaxing out by professionals and those much smarter and cognizant than I.

So I am an emotional person who connects with philosophies. I do not try to weave my own, because I know that I would be effectively selling used goods. But I try to highlight and re-word my visceral connections to philosophers and ideas, in such ways that people may be able to finally understand me. In the end, a thirst for knowledge is inherently a selfish act; and to be understood by the words of others is a tight rope walk that I must take because I am so hopelessly inexpressible otherwise.

To be a true creator of new ideas, even if built from the old, is a dream that I’ve had since my teenage years. But I distract myself with demanding jobs and demanding circumstances, perhaps purposefully, so that I don’t have to confront the truth that maybe I’m not capable of such.

In the introduction to the book, the critic Elaine Showalter writes that Oates used Monroe as “an emblem of twentieth-century America.” A woman, Showalter later adds without much conviction, “who was much more than a victim.”

The writer-director of “Blonde,” Andrew Dominik, doesn’t seem to have read that part about Monroe. His Norma Jeane — and her glamorous, vexed creation, Marilyn Monroe — is almost nothing more than a victim: As the years passed and even as her fame grows, she is mistreated again and again, even by those who claim to love her. Prey for leering men and a curiosity for smirking women (unlike Monroe, this Marilyn has no women friends), she is aware of her effect on others but also helpless to do, well, anything. With her tremulous smile, she drifts and stumbles through a life that never feels like her own. (Manohla Dargis, The New York Times)

Funny, replace Marilyn Monroe with Elvis Presley and you got the same movie. The only difference I can see is that “reducing to one’s image”—as Dargis says critically of “Blonde”—appears to be used satirically or cynically by director Andrew Dominik, while this reduction for Presley is meant to maintain a legendary cultural status for the victim. Whereas Baz Luhrmann can only make a legend out of one’s supposed cleanliness, can one turn dirtiness and grit into something larger than life?

A lot of “dance” music I listen to is on the edge of dance. It doesn’t drive hard enough, doesn’t micromanage one’s experience; it sometimes doesn’t ask for attention. The best way to describe a lot of dance music I listen to: Imagine watching a spy movie where the protagonist enters the club to find his target. The club is modern, with stark blue lighting and matte gray walls. In the movies, the club is never as packed as it really is: The spy can brush through dancers without a fuss. But the whole time that you’re engaged with the spy’s adventure, dance music plays in the background. Loud and engaging enough to remind the audience that they are indeed in a club, but unassuming enough that we are not caught up in the music, but in the experiences of the protagonist.

I listen to some types of commanding music, but really shy away from it when it comes between the sound and me dancing the way I want. Commanding pop music, which keeps the vocalist in center stage and instrumentalists kept far behind, is tiresome because it wants to take over my life rather than add to it. For me, dance music should be the same: The song and the dance complement each other rather than fight for attention. I couldn’t dance without the right music, but I wouldn’t listen to “dance” music if I didn’t want to at least imagine movement. At times, the poppiest dance music tells me to “sit down, and we’ll do the work.” I don’t want to sit, I want to participate!

Jesper Ryom’s house music doesn’t command attention, except from those who are looking to give it. Rather, tracks of his are hypnotic: “Apolune” uses a side-chain effect to accentuate kicks and let open hats grow with each beat. These tracks are not afraid to repeat themselves: The magic of repetition is that it allows the dancer to figure out the tune and synchronize movements. Repetition is a building of trust between artist and dancer. Every 16, 32, or 32 beats, an instrument or vocal or taken away from the repetitions so that the dancer can adjust accordingly: The song is establishing a scene, the dancer decides whether they want to take part of that scene, and they try to move toward the physicality of the given scene.

For many house DJs, vocal-heavy tracks help break up the “filler” tracks which usually maintain a certain energy that the DJ wants to keep for five to ten minutes, before switching to another banger that sets a new mood. The filler tracks are typically made up of the tracks I described above. I, like many other lovers of dance music, enjoy the give and take of bangers and filler, but I wanted to make an ode to the music that fills up 80% of DJ sets: The mood-setters, the energy-maintainers, the music that isn’t desperate for attention but gets it anyway.

Starting in 1942, Rodale Press magazines and books repeatedly asserted, suggested, inferred and implied both subtly and overtly, both straight out and between the lines, that organically grown food is far more nutrition than chemically grown food— a half-truth. J.I. Rodale was an ideologue at heart. Absolutely certain about the rightness of his own opinions. If J.I. didn’t agree with you, your name was never mentioned in Rodale publications, and the gardening public never discovered you. That is why most gardeners these days have never heard of William Albrecht.

The art of remineralizing soil to increase nutrient-density was developed by independent biological farm advisors working in the tradition of William Albrecht, a pioneering researcher in the relationship between soil fertility and human health.

Albrecht’s experiments revealed precisely how patterns of soil fertility determine animal (and human) health. He taught methods for managing farm (and garden) soils so they would produce the best nutrition… He was vilified by a self-serving fertilizer industry; his publications were rejected by most university agronomists. In my opinion, the reason academics opposed Albrecht was becomes professors who wanted to advance their own careers had to please the interest groups and foundations that provided grant money. When you follow the serious money, you arrive at the major agricultural chemical and fertilizer businesses.

Albrecht’s work supports the belief that disease and insect problems are rarely seen if due attention is paid to soil fertility. This did not endear him to the makers of disease and insect remedies…. the chiefliest chiefs around the American Medical Association and/or the University of Chicago Medical School knew they had a lucrative business going and did not wish other doctors or the general public to learn that patterns of soil fertility actually create human health or disease; that sickness is rarely caused by “bad” bacteria or “bad” genes; or that the fundamental treatment for human (and animal) disease is not medicine, but better farming.

Albrecht’s one actual book (most of his publications were journals) Soil Fertility and Animal Health, is available online for free download. I hope you’ll read it. Nah… I hope you’ll buy it in hardcover and shelve it next to Weston Price’s Nutrition and Physical Degeneration. (Steve Solomon, “The Intelligent Gardener”)

There are many garden writers who are good workers: They report on what gardening or farming techniques work for them, clearly and concisely. But these good workers rarely ask why it worked for them, or the ontological history of how modern farming and gardening practices came to be. I’ve been lucky to find Steve Solomon’s pointed book The Intelligent Gardener, which takes its time in the first three chapters to give an overview of where we’ve ended up as organic gardeners, who brought us here, and why we shouldn’t continue to mindlessly follow this direction as we have over the past sixty plus years.

This is the closest I’ve found in gardening literature to a book of philosophy, and a critical one at that, akin to Nietzsche’s Genealogy of Morals. To have a ripe philosophy, one must have a moral standing, and an explanation of that moral standing besides the usual “that’s just the way it is.” This moral standing, put down in writing, is the writer’s attempt at aligning their personal virtues with a greater purpose in life. Solomon, virtuous in light scientism and self-questioning, appears to be an advocate for remineralization for the purpose of righting the wrongs he did to himself in his younger age, which is a type of learning and growth that can transcend those, like the mythical J.I. Rodale, who push their methodologies and ignore or censor any competing or alternative ones.

Any fans of Wendell Berry will know that philosophy and moralism can be most compatible with farming and gardening. The connection between the body and the earth is not just in the form in the form of the mystical, but the scientific, which somehow modern science both exemplifies and de-emphasizes in all the wrong ways, making the average person believe that we can fly by the seat of our pants with regards to our health deriving itself from the health of the soil. Somehow we know food nutrition is important, but we have no idea what the actual nutrition of our food is. We know the earth is important, but have little understanding of the ramifications of compromised earth growing our food. We live the consequences every day, attempting to race ahead of inevitability with increasing complexities of technology and medicine to maintain a semblance of health while badly grown food corrodes us from the inside out.

An attainable goal is at hand: To grow our own food. We can start with a plant, move to a garden, or even move to a small farm. When we grow our own food, with health soil, we’ll have even more tools at mitigating physical decline than we ever had. Food is truly an answer for good health. But it’s not just eating broccoli and kale: It’s eating food grown on good soil, a complication and challenge that we don’t consider when we rely on people thousands of miles away to produce food for us, who are typically too indebted and desperate to produce such good food, on good soil.

No amount of climate change, financial, or human rights policy changes will change the fact that we must grow our own food. From one plant to one thousand. Start with one plant.

After watching the movie, I searched for any videos comparing Austin Butler’s performances with Presley’s real ones. I should have realized that there was a lot riding on the idiosyncrasies of Presley’s movements during each of his milestone events—Elvis was known for his movement, after all. It was fun enough to see Baz Luhrmann and Austin Butler’s recreations of iconic moments. The odd gesticulations of Elvis’s arms during “If I Can Dream” were the easiest to enjoy comparing and contrasting with Butler’s imitations.

But what was most haunting was Butler’s performance of “Unchained Melody”, where during key lyrical points (“… I need your love”), Butler’s Elvis looks up to the camera, clearly recognizing a large-but-criminally-unexplored theme presented by the film’s Colonel Parker: That Elvis was entranced by his love of the audience, which overpowered his love of others. This type of pseudo-psychology works well for a grandiose film like this, and in a simple couple of looks from Butler’s Elvis during the last performance, it proved its own point.


From bad scheduling to a four day flu, I had little opportunity to run, and I’m happy for it. I wanted to think about the past week’s events, because they appear to me tied to variables much greater than me, which is kind of cool to see.

The energy-eroding nature of wildland firefighting

My job is lightly entitled to one hour of physical training each day. Wildland firefighting is a physically demanding job, whether on a hand crew or an engine. Co-workers with little physical training have fallen out of drills where we carry a dozen packs of hose to the fire, dig fireline, and remove chainsaw-cut brush to prevent fire spread. While each crew is different, PT is usually in the form of running, hiking, and weight training. My crew is pretty laissez-faire about it, so I spend almost every day using the hour to run.

The prime season for wildfires in Northern California lies between July and September. A lot of anxiousness and preparation resides within crew members during this period of time. Keeping physically, mentally, and organizationally prepared, many conflicts between crew members during this period occur due to personal and professional mismanagement, which may or may not ever affect others, but just seeing it on a day to day basis can drive one crazy. Then the fires happen, and some of the bottled up anger crews might have might reveal itself in the least opportune moments.


When I first took a look at the garden in our newly rented house, I expected the plants to be affected by too much shade and a ground aspect that pointed away from the most sun exposure. I also assumed that a few heavy amendments to the dirt would be enough to make living soil. I was wrong on both accounts.

The dryness of Susanville’s high desert climate more than made up for the tall pines that shaded the garden after 6 or 7 pm. After two times a day of watering, I could put my finger a couple inches into the soil and feel only dry sand. And speaking of dry sand: Over a dozen bags of Harvest Supreme soil amendments couldn’t turn my dirt into anything other than. We mixed the bags into the first six inches of topsoil. After a few days of watering, the material packed down, and it looked as if I just had a browner color of caked sand. Water wasn’t absorbed, and was instead wicked off into the walkway.

Because of these factors, the carrots and more than 70 percent of all the seeds did not germinate. It took weeks for the spinach to become visible. Only one eggplant seedling came to fruition.

It’s funny that I read gardening books, and right when I start gardening, I completely ignore them and try to do improvise what would appear to work for garden, but might not really. After these dismal results in July, I started reading up on what plants like carrots and spinach might need to succeed in these beds. One thing emphasized for the carrots was a lot of water. This is when I started sticking my finger into the soil and realizing we weren’t nearly watering enough to make up for the the 95+ degree heat the past month, and the terrible water absorption capabilities of our amended soils.

In light of the lack of water, I wanted to mitigate the absorption issues by purchasing peat moss, so that the soil would have more spongey, organic material to absorb water further into the top soil. I also purchased more of the compost amendments with wood chips, so that the soil would be more aerated and less of a sand cake.

Lastly, I asked my girlfriend and landlord, who both water the garden while I’m away, to be much more aggressive with watering the plants. I let them know that the water wasn’t actually penetrating beneath the first quarter inch of sand, and that the carrots will have a hard time if they don’t get enough.

Within a week of these changes, my next round of seeded carrots succeeded in germinating, along with a few more eggplants and beets. I’ve also planted basil and onions, which have shown themselves recently as well. While not a full success story—I’d like to eat these veggies sooner or later, and it’ll be a bit before that—I am glad that a few basic changes, or adaptations, to the garden allowed it to at least start seeds much more effectively than a month ago. As a beginner gardener armed with only books and the hearsay of locals, every week of seeding and gardening has been a fundamental lesson in the caring of plants.

Thank the Spotify algorithmic gods, I have rekindled my love for Jungle and DnB, especially the 90s style where it seems like anything is still possible for the form. Since the 2000s, Jungle and DnB ossified into genre constraints rather than platforms for experimentation, with the strong exception of artists like Detboi or Burial, where mood and soundscape using “traditional” electronic instruments take precedence over familiarity and dance club optimizations.

D’Cruze’s Lonely (Spotify link), a 1994 Jungle classic, epitomizes what the genre can be. Spacey, warped vocals over a transcending synth. Punctuated by cut up and variated breaks, occasionally mangled in ways that our modern step sequencers tend to discourage, with sudden left and right stereo movements and glitchy skips and repeats.

Great Jungle/DnB tricks the listener into thinking that these tracks were not made on a computer, but a mysterious and beautifully crafted electronic music device that has an analog philosophy: The same sound shouldn’t really be the exact same sound.

Other recommendations:

Johnny Jungle – Johnny ‘94 (Dillinga Remix)

Detboi – Secret Venom

I met up with a couple in a Cancun hostel to head down to Tulum and find a free beach to camp on for a week or two. They were a huge asset: They knew a good amount of Spanish after bumming around South America for a few months. This was the last few weeks of their travels before going back to New Jersey.

We got into Tulum after dark and called up a taxi cab. The cab driver recommended we go to a local beach north of Tulum by a few miles. There are a lot of beaches taken up by resorts and private residences, but this was one of a few that was open to all. We arrived and it was a little windy, but the weather was still in the 70s, so even though we struggled to set up our tents, we were comfortable in our efforts (maybe I only think of this as I write during the winter, during which the Mojave Desert is cold and windy).

We stayed on the public beach for about 10 days. Every few days we would walk to a nearby grocery store a few miles down the street for food and wine. During these walks were when I am reminded that people like this couple are not just conduits for adventure, but their own people struggling with their own personal issues. After 6 months of traveling, they are wary to see it go; the stresses of coming back to “real life” were compounded by their tendency to take out their stresses on the other. The fights were not loud or extended, but quiet and short. I appreciated being an afterthought to their entire experience; they led me here on convenience coincidence, and I enjoy living life in serendipity rather than full intention.

On the 10th day, the local police guided us out of the public beach (kicked us out, but they were nice about it) to a paid tent camping spot not far at all. It was only 5 dollars a night, and had some fire-making amenities. So for a couple more days, we celebrated the new location and spoke with the owner, who had owned the land for decades and was finally getting some use out of it by charging tent campers.

The couple left, but I stayed. I moved on to a hostel in Tulum after a few days of aloneness on the beach. I don’t know how to make friends on a beach in a foreign country, especially one that is only populated by locals.

Overall, my trip to Cancun and Tulum was instigated by sadness but floated on the quiet beauties of nature and good-natured people. It was a pleasant experience to meet up with these New Jersey-ans and see a part of Tulum that I wouldn’t have if I stuck to my English-rooted rails of tourism. I wish I remembered your names!

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