Friday, May 18, 2018

Ode to HIV

HIV virus: a subtle and beautiful enemy

If you seek peace
Prepare for war.
        -- Vegetius

HIV by itself isn't fatal
It merely opens the gate
To opportunistic diseases
Put here like you to replicate.

Who want to swarm over your borders
Uncivilized, unkempt and unfed
Viral barbarians, bacterial Vikings
Make you crippled, wounded and dead.

HIV is a fervent pacifist
A world without war is the slogan it chants
By disarming your violent immunity system
Compelling your body to give peace a chance.

Friday, May 4, 2018


Megellanic Clouds above Laguna Lejia, Chile

(for Ezra Pound)

Saturday night in the Santa Cruz Mountains
Power knocked out by two days of storm
Lull in the rain, clouds clearing
Awakened by bright moonlight filling my bedroom
I walk barefoot out onto the debris-strewn deck
See winter stars: 

Orion, Pleiades, Cepheus, Cassiopeia
Sparkling through the scudding clouds
Raw moonlight illuminating the glistening forest
Like a Spielberg alien contact set
I watch lightning sparking, thunder grumbling
Inside mammoth clouds retreating to the East.

The Greek word for "beauty"
(Cognate to "cosmetic")

That's what our predecessors called this world
Cosmos was their word for Everything
Cosmos: one name for All Phenomena

Inside and out
One name for this uncanny experience
Spread open for all conscious beings
For you, for me, for the fish in the sea.
This one equation:

Cosmos equals Beauty.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

The New Flute

Nick playing a (Guinness aluminum) Irish whistle

A dozen years ago I fell in love with Irish music and begin to practice the Irish whistle -- in private, in small groups, in various Irish sessions in Santa Cruz and as part of a band named Blarney.

Last month my friend and bodhran virtuoso, August O'Connor and I played for a party in a cliff-side hacienda called "the SkyPad" with gypsy fiddler Elijah Ray -- we really rocked, one of the most memorable moments of my musical career. A couple of weeks later, August and I were eating supper with Baron, the proprietor of the SkyPad, when he offered me a concert flute that he had just acquired.

"Sure, Baron, compared to the whistle, it takes a thousand years to learn to play a flute."

"Well, bring it back if it doesn't work out for you"

Armstrong 201 Student Flute

So, for better or worse, I now possess a concert flute to experiment with.

The difference between an Irish whistle (also called a "fipple flute") and a concert flute is immense. Like going from riding a tricycle to riding a bicycle. Or, with my moderate musical skill, like going from a tricycle to a unicycle.

Besides a larger number of holes and more complicated ways of opening them (the whistle has only six holes covered by bare fingers), the root sound of the flute is accomplished through a tricky interaction between the player's lips and the flute's tone hole -- a procedure called "embouchure" which is French for something that you do with your mouth to coax music out of a tube's aperture by blowing across it.

To play the whistle, on the other hand, you produce the root sound by simply blowing into its "fipple" which is a fixed, mechanical embouchure made of plastic, wood or metal. Since its embouchure is fixed, there is not much that you can do with your lips to change the sound of the Irish whistle. Most of the whistle's subtlety is achieved by fingering rather than breathing.

The concert flute consists of three parts, the head joint, the foot joint and the body. The head joint is where the root sound is produced and the rest of the flute acts to modulate this root sound in various ways.

The first exercise in taking up the flute consists of practicing with the head joint alone. And exploring how to produce the perfect embouchure that brings out a loud, clear and consistent root tone. Most of the ways that you can blow into the head joint produce no tone at all, only the sound of rushing air. Like so many other things in life, the perfect flute embouchure is surrounded by lots and lots of wrong ways to blow into that tone hole. The path to mastery is bordered by a million mistakes.

Before the Internet, a music student would seek out a tutor to guide him or her over the rough spots, to show first hand how one can learn from mistakes, and to serve as a living example of what you might be able to accomplish some day. I will certainly seek a few personal lessons, but for starts I'm going to the web where there are dozens of people who want to teach me how to play the flute.

For instance, this nice lady with glasses gives you a first lesson in embouchure. If one picture is worth a thousand words, one video is worth a thousand pictures. I've watched this video a dozen times and still can't easily produce a root tone. But each day I am getting better.

Learning to play the head joint (closed position)
The Internet has the ability to put the student in contact not only with talented amateurs and teachers but with instrumental super stars, such as Sir James Galway (who, among other honors, played flute and Irish whistle for the film version of Lord of the Rings). Galway has produced a series of short YouTube videos called "first flute" that includes this wonderful little lesson on playing the head joint.

Galway playing the head joint (open position)
Taking up a new musical instrument is like traveling to an invisible new country, populated by people with a wide range of experience, stories and accomplishments on that instrument. The process of learning to play the flute consists of letting the instrument itself teach you a new way of kissing (embouchure) that opens up the secret door to making music in this peculiar way. Suggestions for exploring the flute country abound. My friend, Kim Fulton-Bennett, member of Blarney and flute player since his teens, suggested that after practicing with the head joint, I mindfully consume a bottle of Guinness stout and play with my embouchure by blowing across the top of the empty bottle.


Bring attention back to breath
Hours of mindful focus on lips
Is the flautist a species of musical Buddhist?
Do flute players give unforgettable kiss?

Now breathe from your belly
Set thinking on "Less"
Proceed with compassion
Pay heed to the beat.

Lip kiss the Emptiness.



Lord Krishna playing his flute

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

St. Patrick's Day 2018

Matt, August and Kim at the Kelly house party
Nick at the Kelly house party
This St Patrick's Day the Kelly family of Boulder Creek invited our Blarney band to entertain at a gathering of some of our uncommon rural community's elite movers and shakers. Generous servings of corned beef, cabbage and potatoes plus glasses of the traditional harp-labeled beer fortified the laddies, lasses and leprechauns, one of whom was wearing a derby crowned by flashing green lights. And during the break we were made a offer we could hardly refuse: "Would the band be wanting a beverage?" Thank you, Kellys and crew for a memorable celebration.

Also to commemorate this holy Irish saint's day, Trader Joe's Market featured "Blarney Scones" on their bread shelf, Ancestry DNA offered to verify your Celtic ancestry for a reduced price (according to Ancestry DNA, mainly Slovak Nick is 2% Irish) and drunken poets everywhere were reciting the fine verses of William Butler Yeats.
William Butler Yeats (1865 - 1939)

Wine comes in at the mouth
And love comes in at the eye;
That's all we shall know for truth
Before we grow old and die.
I lift the glass to my mouth
I look at you, and I sigh. 

The following evening, fair colleen Sun McNamee Lundell (also known as "Mrs Future") celebrated her birthday with dozens of friends at a beach house in Aptos. In one small segment of the multi-talented festivities, August and Nick took up their instruments and played jigs and reels while Corinna danced her heart out. For the time it took to perform a few lively tunes, the three of us seemed to merge for a while into one joyous organism -- being one part of that unplanned musical threesome was one of the high points for me of this year 2018 St. Paddy's Day weekend.

Nick, August and Corinna channel the high spirit of Irish music.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Saint Valentine's Day 2018

Mom's wedding day: Mary Agnus Herbert (1914 - 1989)
Four for Fourteenth of February:

Stonehenge, Hill of Tara
New Grange, Glastonbury Tor.
My sacred sites are her eyes,
Her nipples, the whorls on her fingertips --
Are the origins and insertions of her muscles
Are the places where her bones meet
Are the follicles of her hair
Are the pads of her feet, her buttocks, the slots
Between her toes.

Admiring the play
Of morning light on your body
I imagine what brought us to this place
At this time, in our several eye-catching forms.
I am thinking of that primordial alphabet soup
from which we both emerged
Of our speechless common ancestors
copulating in warm moonlit marshes
Exchanging flesh-to-flesh life's salty broth:
the sacrament of sex
Our lusty lineage:
snake-like, cat-like, ape-like fathers and mothers
Do this in remembrance of them:
Eat my body; drink my blood;
accept my genes; bear my children.
I am thinking of the early macroplasm,
of the hot sticky honey of creation
I am thinking of Original Mind's 

world-creating yearning
(I was a Hidden Treasure 

and desired to be known)
Imagining how that Deep Maternal Urge 

must have felt as she squeezed each of us
out into this bright world
fresh, wide-eyed, laughing, sticky, nude.

Each human language embodies
A new way of grasping with chatter
Ourselves, this world, its creatures
From microphage to Mad Hatter:
Nick's scratching his head for a language
To send valentine greetings to matter.

I wanna wham Mama Nature
in a warm wet dream
Wanna strum Her pond, palpitate Her stream
Wanna feel Her quiver like a tambourine
Wanna hear Her E equals MC scream!

Industrial-strength Quantum Tantra:


Thursday, February 1, 2018

Quantum Touch

Lavabo inter innocentes et circumdabo altare tuum.

(For Shasta)

As with amber and the lodestone
She hides Her hints in plain sight.
The Hindus called it shaktipat:
A body blessing with a bite.

Franz Anton Mesmer's animal magnetism.
William Blake's "energy is eternal delight".
If Mind be the New Physics wild card
Could mindful massage flood Nick with light?

As the Sacred Secret leaks in
Thru your skillful hands on my skin
Can I truly feel Her Deep Emptiness
Improvising this illusion mid flight?
Birthing the Universe just once was not enough:
Now each moment feeds Her Boundless Appetite.

HAMSA: Hand of Fatima, daughter of the Prophet Mohammed

Monday, January 22, 2018

Four on the Floor

Nick Herbert at Perihelion Party 2018

Our most dangerous patients
are experts
at keeping their sicknesses hid.
If Jack Sarfatti's the New Physics Ego
does that make Nick Herbert
the Id?

(For Jeffrey Kripal and Dale Pendell)

I want to become a second Heisenberg
the Walter White of tantric history
by devising a clever new path
for exploring the body/mind mystery.

A tantra path inspired by quanta
as open and easy as breath
convincingly beautiful
breathtakingly erotic
as addictive as crystalline meth.

The addictive religion of materialism

constipates our strong and deep imaginings.
Will this brash new way of flirting with Nature
help us feel and touch the dear reality of things?


Herr Professor
You are now world famous
for discovering
the Black Cosmic Crack.

Now please tell us your secret:
Which Alma Mater
best taught you
how to put Frau Natur
to the rack?


Like the Dalai Lama.
I too am a student
of tantric Buddhism.

Empty the mind of thought
Empty the mind of words
That's plenty for tonight, pilgrim,
Let these teachings stick.
Next session we'll be tackling
Empty the mind of "Nick".

Deer Dalai Lama: Camp Climax, Boulder Creek

Monday, January 15, 2018

Love (Planet-Earth Style)

Dragon's Heart Nebula in Ara, the Altar

For the love of my extended tribe
My nation ruthlessly smothers all others.
For the love of our own kind
With corn, wheat, rice, roads and cities
My species carelessly drives
Numerous non-human beings
From their homes.

For the love of this lucky embodiment
Predator Nick feasts on tasty prey.
For the love of me (their sovereign)
Nick's personal antibody assassins wage
Hundreds of necessary genocides.

Someday I too will die
From a greater love than me
Wondering whether other worlds require
A love based on biology.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Quantum Tantra: Five Opening Moves

Nick Herbert, Boulder Creek Bistroscene, 1997


Over the past thirty years my friend Allan Lundell (known today as "Doctor Future") has been videoing the goings-on at the fringes of contemporary culture, from Luc Sala's visionary video station in Amsterdam to Alison Kennedy's Mondo 2000 salon in Berkeley, to Ken Kesey, Terence McKenna and Tim Leary productions in San Francisco, California and other altered states here and abroad. Allan is currently archiving and standardizing his videos (which were captured in many formats and media over the years) and occasionally sharing a few clips from these "Future Peak Video Archives" with his friends. Thanks, Al.

For instance, Allan recorded many performances of the long-running legendary Bistroscene in Boulder Creek, CA and environs, during which a large number of locals released their pent-up creative energies into an wide-open and enthusiastic audience, many of whom were themselves waiting to mount the stage. Yesterday at the gym, Allan handed me a thumb drive of a few of these video clips, including one of my own Bistroscene performances two decades ago, which I now call Quantum Tantra: Five Opening Moves. 

For fans of quantum tantra and for posterity's sake, I now post the text of that reading plus Doctor Future's valuable video of that splendidly memorable event:


The purpose of yin-style Ki Gung
a practice I've barely begun
is to open up holes
whose delicate roles
will surpass the tact of the tongue.

To the novice the biggest surprise
is to see without using his eyes
the numerous threads
connecting our heads
and the ribbons entangling our thighs.

With new orifices, apertures, holes
new meanings, new purposes, goals
we've opened our hearts
and our new private parts
to an invisible Network of Souls.

Thru our tantric antenna array
we find new things to hear and to say
to our lovers in bed
to the recently dead
to our friends from the Deep Milky Way.

We fornicate photons in chemical trances
we welcome fresh alien sexual advances
we're big girls and boyses
who've outgrown our toyses
we've extraterrestrially opened our pantses.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Delight in Disorder

Robert Herrick, Cavalier poet (1591 - 1674)


A sweet disorder in the dress
Kindles in clothes a wantonness :
A lawn about the shoulders thrown
Into a fine distraction :
An erring lace which here and there
Enthralls the crimson stomacher :
A cuff neglectful, and thereby
Ribbons to flow confusedly :
A winning wave (deserving note)
In the tempestuous petticoat :
A careless shoe-string, in whose tie
I see a wild civility :
Do more bewitch me than when art
Is too precise in every part.

Sweet Disorder by Diana Warnok