Thursday, June 14, 2012

Minores Deos in Pantheon Saecularium Religio Statism

It's not exactly news that New York's mayor Bloomberg now wants to ban sugary drinks larger than 16 oz. I just read a post at Economic Policy Journal that explains some of the reasons why this is such a dumb idea. Something stood out to me as I read the blog:
Last time I looked in the Bible, I found no mention of  Bloomberg. I didn't find his name mentioned in the Koran either. So I am pretty sure he is no ones [sic] god.
It reminded me of a show I watched on PBS. I know, it's my own damn fault for watching PBS, but former congressman and vice chair of the 9/11 commission was discussing the commission's published report. The discussion itself was so boring that I honestly don't remember much from it. The one part that did catch my attention was when Lee Hamilton said: "Democracy is a civil religion in America... And this is good."

I was quite surprised he would admit the existence of this secular religion. I was not surprised, however, that he approves of it. In affirming the statist religion he makes himself a minor deity in the secular pantheon.

Monday, March 12, 2012

No Better Way to Say It

I spent a good part of last week making a video for Slacker Ambition. Here is the result:

Sketchboo Pro is working really well for me. That is how I made the drawings. I imported the drawings into Anime Studio to do the animation. It's a pretty simple program and works fairly well. Or at least I'm satisfied enough with the results.

I also uploaded some older Slacker Ambition songs to Band Camp. You can download the songs for free. The downloads are all "name your price". I think of it not so much as a price as more of a donation, and yes, donations are always welcome. Of course it isn't really about the money. I'm trying to follow my own personal philosophy to always be producing, but it's not easy being a broke artist.

And of course, all of the songs were released on a non-commercial creative commons attribution license so feel free to share them and where you found them.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Kickstart the NEA Shutdown

Talking Points Memo has an interesting post about Kickstarter. If you haven't heard of Kickstarter before, here's a summary from Wikipedia:
One of a new set of fundraising platforms dubbed "crowdfunding", Kickstarter facilitates gathering monetary resources from the general public, a model which circumvents many traditional avenues of investment. People must apply to Kickstarter in order to have a project posted on the site, and Kickstarter provides guidelines on what types of projects will be accepted. Project owners choose a deadline and a target minimum of funds to raise. If the chosen target is not gathered by the deadline, no funds are collected...

Unlike many forums for fundraising or investment, Kickstarter claims no ownership over the projects and the work they produce. However, projects launched on the site are permanently archived and accessible to the public. After funding is completed, projects and uploaded media cannot be edited or removed from the site.

“Kickstarter can be used to fund projects from the creative fields of Art, Comics, Dance, Design, Fashion, Film, Food, Games, Music, Photography, Publishing, Technology, and Theater. We currently only support projects from these categories.” It seems that there could be opportunities to bring crowdfunding into other business fields as well.

I think the crowdfunding innovation is a benefit to society as a whole, and Kickstarter seems to be quite a success at it. Recently Kickstarter has had 3 projects raise over a million dollars, but the main point of the TPM post was that Kickstarter is on track to raise about $150 million this year which makes its funding total greater than the NEA.

That is fantastic on many levels!

First, that these projects get to be made enriches society. Second people chose which projects they wanted to donate to. Therefore, all these projects are just that... wanted. This is much more effecient than a panel of "experts" deciding who and what gets funded because it taps in to the Hayekian distributed knowledge. Third, it proves that the argument that important projects won't get fund without government assistance argument is wrong. Of course, some projects won't get funded. "54 percent of all projects launched on the website fail to reach their funding goals, according to Strickler, but the projects that are wanted and needed still would. Fourth, should a project that needs funding be morally objectionable to someone, they don't have to fund it. Every year people argue about some of the things the NEA funds because something or another upset their delicate sensibilities. In a voluntary system people can't complain about being forced to fund something they don't like.

For all of these reasons I was surprised to this article on TPM which usually leans to the left politcally. Then I saw this disappointing quote from the founder of Kickstarter about raising more money than the NEA: “But maybe it shouldn’t be that way,” Strickler said, “Maybe there’s a reason for the state to strongly support the arts.”

He might as well have said: "Maybe Kickstarter shouldn't be so successful. Maybe people should get the projects they want. Maybe people should be forced to fund things they don't like." Actually, I can think of two reasons "for the state to strongly support the arts". One is to create propaganda, and the other is to promote a particular agenda favorable to the state. Personally, I don't like either one.

Apolitical Episode 2

Actually, the charges against Megaupload claim that the removal of the search function was evidence of a conspiracy. So the DOJ is actually making this argument, but it seems that Chris Dodd CEO and chief lobbyist for the MPAA has become the DOJ's unofficial spokesperson on piracy related matters.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

My First Apolitical Comic

I got a pen tablet the other day for my laptop. It was fairly cheap so I figured if it saves me some time great. If not, I'm not out much, and I'll have a toy for my daughter to play with. I tried it out, and as it turns out. It works pretty well. I made my first apolitical comic. (Apolitical in the sense that I can't stand politics.)

(Just in case you hadn't heard, Chris Dodd CEO and cheif lobbyist of the MPAA blamed SOPA's failure on Google instead of the mass uprising that was against. So in other words, anyone who is against it, in his opinion, just duped by Google and Wikipedia.)

I'm not the best artist around, but this drawing only took me about 10 minutes. In fact it took me longer to get the text layed out properly. I was using Paint, you know, the free program that comes with windows. I really need to get a better drawing program. I'm thinking about getting Autodesk Sketchbook Pro. It's reasonably priced also.

The pen tablet is made by Monoprice, which I've never heard of before, but then again, it's not really my field of specialty. It seems to be a decent quality tool. As long as it doesn't fall apart any time soon, I think I've made a good purchase.

I have some loosely layed out guidance that I'm trying. I've decided I'm going to started buying better tools and software instead of using free stuff e.g. a pen tablet and Sketchbook instead of a mouse and Paint. Hopefully my purchases will save me time. I'll just have to make sure that I don't waste all this extra time playing with my new toys.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Music Demographic

I came across a post on the DIY Musician blog. They've posted an open letter to venue owners by jazz musician Dave Goldberg. The letter is about the current state of business models in the music venue business.

Let me clarify before I begin. I'm talking about businesses that offer live music as a compliment to their core business, e.g. a rock band at a bar, a one piece acoustic show at a coffee house, or a jazz band at a winery. More than just a stage in a building that sells tickets. The current practice is for venues to pay little and require musicians to provide customers. Here's what Goldberg had to say about it:
If you asked a club owner, "who is your target demographic?" I doubt they would answer "the band’s friends and family." But yet clubs operate like it is. Another example, I answered a craigslist ad for a nice looking place in Beverly Hills. The ad read…"looking for a high energy jazz band, if you can bring the band and have a following, I will put you on stage." That logic seams to say that they think musicians in a jazz band know lots of people living in Beverly Hills. And the people those musicians know, have lots of money to spend. Those are two pretty big assumptions. Good luck finding that combination. Even if you find that combination, are you going to find it every night? Because friends and family of a professional musician won’t come out that often. They can’t. This is what we do every night. Would you expect the chef’s friends and family to eat at your restaurant every night? How about the dishwasher, the waitresses, the hostess? Or how about the club owners friends and family? You see, when you start turning this argument around, it becomes silly.
So every night venue has live music, the owners want a different crowd of people who won't come back until the band comes back. It doesn't look like a very good business model. For a business to thrive they would want to have a customer base that is loyal to the venue. The entertainment should help build that loyalty with the businesses customer base in a complimentary way. Instead it's looked at as a temporary boost, only lasting the one night when the musician is there.

Goldberg also retells an argument he had with a venue owner:
At the end of the night, I go to get paid, and hope to book another gig. The club owner was angry."Where are your people?" he asked. "All these people, I brought in. We had a speed dating event and they are all left over from that." I pointed out they all stayed and listened to the music for 2 hours after their event ended. That was 2 more hours of bar sales, because without us, you have an empty room with nothing going on. He just couldn’t get over the fact that we didn’t walk in with our own entourage of fans. Wasn’t happy that we kept a full room spending money. Right when we were talking, a group of people interrupted us and said "you guys sound  great, when is the next time you’re playing here again?" The club owner, said "they aren’t, they didn’t  bring anyone."
As a thought experiment, imagine a situation like this. A club has a few regulars, and the owner only brings in bands that have a bunch of friends that come to see them. Keeping in mind that having a bunch of friends who come to a club to hang out with you does not equate to being good musicians, let's say this hypothetical band isn't very good. The band and their friends come, but all the clubs regulars leave. The club makes money for the night so the owner's happy, and asks them to come back. How many times does the band have to show up and make the regulars go home before the regulars stop coming back. This is a flimsy and temporary business model.

A much better model would be for the venue to act as a filter so that loyal customers would always know that there is going to be great music there. This is similar to an article I read on Techdirt about how a "music affinity group" would be an improvement over the record label business model.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Rip Me Off (Part 2)

To summarize part 1. Google ContentID flagged me, which I guess I should take as a compliment because Google claims that one of the criteria for getting matched is audio quality so apparently I meet their quality standards. My complaint was that I don't think the claimant actually owns the copyright, as explained in the previous post, because there are two types of copyrights: one for the composition and one for the sound recording.

This post I'd like to review what I've learned about Intellectual Property. IP was created in the 18th century for less than noble reasons:

The first signs of IP appeared after the invention of the printing press. Governments used it to suppress political dissent (I suspect that the religion wars had something to do with this). It was a royal mercantilist privilege confer on printers, same as it was conferred on tea, tin, cotton, banking, or any other good. In the day, it seemed reasonable. The ruler wanted to control goods and producers want guarantees. Everyone wins, right? Except that there is no competition, no market process, and hence there is stasis. Mercantilism was refuted by economists and free market emerged and history was changed.

What happened to IP in the age when mercantilism was being repealed? It was not abolished but transferred from kings to producers: the exclusive right to produce was granted to private owners who became responsible for enforcement under the cover of law. This was a huge mistake in the liberal revolution of the 18th century, an inconsistency that continues to haunt us.
Not only is the history of IP somewhat nefarious, the system actually works against the realities of modernity. Its only purpose is to make non scarce goods scarce. The barriers to entry have been lowered. Recording equipment is cheaper than ever and competition is rising. When producers compete, some producers win and some lose. That's just the way it works, but the consumer always wins in this situation. Those that provide better products and services, or in other words those that consumers prefer, survive. Amazon won. Tower Records lost. TVT lost, but Dischord is still making it.

So again I'm saying: "Rip me off." Anything I post, copy it, remix it, parody it... this blog, my music, my book when it's finished. Use it any way you see fit. I would only ask two things if you use it, let people know where you got it, and two if you make money off of it, share a little. Please? You'll be doing me a favor because content is advertising so I'm releasing any of my content on a non commercial creative commons license.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.
New business models are not about selling the content. Techdirt has a formula for new business models: CwF + RtB = $$$$ or in other words, Connect with Fans and Give them a Reason to Buy is the new business model. Nine Inch Nails and Radiohead are two good examples, and there are many more at Techdirt.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Rip Me Off (Part 1)

Some things are just ridiculous. I uploaded 5 videos for Brother Down today. Here's one:

Obviously we didn't right the song. The title says it's a cover. I've already received an email from YouTube stating that the video "may have content or video that is owned or licensed by Warner Chappell." (Actually I received the same information about another video also, but for explanation purposes I stick to one video, even though both situations are identical.)

Here's the explanation about why this irritates me. There are two copyrights when discussing music. The first is the song copyright, and the second is the sound recording copyright. From CDBaby's FAQ on recording cover songs:

Keep in mind that the owner of these rights is typically a publisher, and that the owner of the rights in the song is not the same as the owner of the rights to any particular recording of the song. In other words, Record Labels are almost never the owners of the copyright to the musical composition - they typically own only sound recordings. You should be looking for the name of a publisher (or in some cases an individual).
Further from BMI's FAQ:

What is the difference between a songwriter and a publisher?

A songwriter or composer is the creator of a work, which is a song, score or other musical composition. A publisher, on the other hand, is an individual or company that owns or administers the copyright of a work. The writer or creator of the work must assign the copyright to a publisher in order for that publisher to claim ownership.
So if we do a search of BMI's Repertoire database we find:

BMI Work #5595418
Songwriter/Composer          Current Affiliation          CAE/IPI #
CUOMO RIVERS              BMI                              180165192

E O SMITH MUSIC           BMI                              180282972
So plainly, the song copyright is owned by Rivers Cuomo, he is using E. O. Smith Music to administer the copyright. Warner Chappell then, being the record label, would own the sound recording copyright. The thing is, I didn't use Warner's recording. I recorded it myself in the Anarchoroom, so Anarchronistic owns the sound recording rights. Warner has no claim on this video. Brother Down performed it. They own the performance rights, so collectively, Weezer has no claim on it either.

Rivers Cuomo, personally, does have a claim on it. He owns the song copyright. If I were going to sell the song, I could get a pay the mechanical royalties and get a compulsory license to use the work. As long as the rules are followed properly, the license is automatic. Rivers Cuomo would not legally be able to object to it's use. However the compulsory license only covers selling the work. It does not cover free streaming over the internet. The compulsory license law was created for the benefit of the record labels. They used it to have "respectable musicians" record "black music" so they could sell it to kids over the objections of their parents. Now the same companies that had these laws written to their advantage (and continue to have laws written to their advantage) use their laws to my disadvantage.

What is a person supposed to do? The only choice would be to post it and hope for the best. Though, if Rivers Cuomo, or his publisher E. O. Smith Music, asked to have the video taken down, I would have to comply because currently there is no legal way to cover a song and post it to YouTube. Admittedly I'm a little frustrated. YouTube is a great advertising vehicle. I don't want to lose access to it.

I don't think this situation is right. I create content so I understand the desire to be compensated for your work, but this system is broken. For this reason, I am saying: "Rip me off." Anything I post, copy it, remix it, parody it... this blog, my music, my book when it's finished. Use it any way you see fit. I would only ask two things if you use it, let people know where you got it, and two if you make money off of it, share a little. Please? I have more thoughts on this for another post soon.

Update: Here is part 2.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Noble Savage, Specialization, and the Freedom of Simplicity

LRC posted an interesting article on the myth of the noble savage. The myth itself is ancient and persistent. In the Judeo-Christian culture it is called the Garden of Eden. In ancient Greece it was the Golden Age. In the Hindu-Vedic tradition it was the Satya Yuga. The modern version was crafted by Rousseau in his Discourse On Inequality, and regained popularity more recently through Rachel Carson's Silent Spring.

The article itself provides evidence that the myth is just that: a work of fiction. He cites the fact that chimpanzees make war and commit rape, that rape is also common among orangutans, and that gorillas commit infanticide. He quotes Harvard archaeologist Steven Le Blanc and Katherine E. Register's book Constant Battles that "warfare in the past was pervasive and deadly" and also that cannibalism and infanticide were common among early humans. From the article:
Le Blanc concluded "the common notion of humankind's blissful past, populated with noble savages living in a pristine and peaceful world, is held by those who do not understand our past and who have failed to see the course of human history for what it is."
The article has a quote that I had never read before, but I very much enjoyed. Apparently, Rousseau sent a copy of his Discourse On Inequality to Voltaire. Having received the book Voltaire sent Rousseau a letter to acknowledge that he had.
"I have received, monsieur, your new book against the human race. I thank you for one has ever employed so much intellect in the attempt to prove us beasts. A desire seizes us to walk on four paws when we read your work. Nevertheless, as it is more than sixty years since I lost the habit, I feel, unfortunately, that it is impossible for me to resume it."
The reason I find this quote so amusing is how it cuts through Rousseau's circular logic. In other words, if humanity followed Rousseau's recommendation to not come down out of the trees then Rousseau would never have had "so much intellect" to make the recommendation.

Besides Voltaire's purely entertaining quote, the article has me thinking. One of my goals in life is simplicity. I want everything in my life to be as uncomplicated as possible. I want to cut out all the crap. The article does a good job of exposing that the noble savage was not the simple blissful idiot that he is romanticized to be because he was never at peace, but what about the other side of the argument that modern life is all hustle and bustle, too complicated to enjoy.

Thinking about it logically, the "noble" savage had to work every minute to survive. He had to hunt and gather food, ward of predators, make shelter and clothing, he couldn't adequately clean and so he was prone to diseases, and suffering an injury like a broken leg almost certainly meant death. Is this what people mean by the simple life?

The "noble" savage had to not only know how these things were done, but had to be proficient at them just to survive. How many people can tell an edible plant from countless poisonous look alikes? In the modern world we can buy food from experts who know the difference between the edible and the poisonous plants. This is called specialization, the division of labor. The system itself is complex, but it allows each individual to focus on their own niche. It gives the individual the freedom of simplicity.

Maybe "the simple life" isn't possible without the complex system of specialization we have in the modern world. Since at least the time of Malthus, possibly even earlier, the fallacy has claimed that a calamity was imminent due to humans' selfish overuse of resources, yet living standards continue to rise. Still as the wealth and comfort of the average person continuously increases, the specter of a Malthusian disaster waiting just around the corner is never questioned.

What will it take to destroy Malthus's prediction? His Essay on the Principle of Population was first published in 1798. If it didn't come true in the 214 years that have passed since then why does the average person believe that it is still imminent? Is it the power of myths? They continue to hold our imaginations even after they are shown to be demonstrably false. What will it take to make a new myth, A truer myth, in which specialization improves our lives by increasing our standard of living. It makes life more comfortable and simpler.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


The Big Lebowski is an odd movie. Not that I don't like it, I do very much, it's just unusual. It seems that the plot of the movie doesn't really matter that much. What makes the movie enjoyable is its mood and humor. These are accomplished by it off beat dialog and it's soundtrack. (That's something I should probably try to remember as I think about ideas for promotional music videos for our current projects.) Whenever I hear Bob Dylan's The Man in Me, I now associate it with the movie. (The same could be said about the Stuck in the Middle scene in Reservoir Dogs.) The association of the song with the movie and vice versa is a testament to how well they compliment each other.

I was thinking about the Dude tonight because I stumbled on to the fact that there is now a religion called Dudeism, otherwise known as The Church of the Latter Day Dude. As a Lay-Dude, my understanding of Dudeism is that it's a take on Taoism as espoused through the words of the Dude. So, you know, you can take'r easy, or what have you. On the website you can read about the Dude-liness of Great Dudes or even become a Dudeist Priest.

This also reminds me that not too long ago I was reading Heinlein, and found that there is a Church of All Worlds based on Stranger in a Strange Land. However, the Church of All Worlds' site isn't nearly as entertaining, and it appears that it has also been in the process of "being updated" for a long time so it is somewhat out of date.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Mental Plasticity

Yeah... So... The Grammy's, eh? It seems that almost everything I've read is about Adele. Undoubtedly Adele has an incredible voice, but honestly, what competition did have last year. I also noticed that Amy Winehouse and Tony Bennet won for their duet. It just really seems like some people like to give awards away for dying. The problem with that would be that it's a publicity stunt you can only pull once... usually. And I really have to ask, when did they start giving away Grammy's for liner notes? Obviously there are times when you'll find some interesting information in liner notes. I think I'm going to try an experiment: I'm going to try to start a conversation with, "Hey, did you hear that some compilation album of 60's jazz that you've probably never heard of won a Grammy for best liner notes?" I'm just curious to see what kind of reactions I'll get.

The second big winner of the night was the Foo Fighters. I admire Dave Grohl. He's a talented, he's a multi-instrumentalist, he knows how to write and connect with people, and he's dedicated. He has to be one of the hardest working people in entertainment at the moment. Besides Nirvana and the Foo Fighters, he's had two smaller projects called Pocketwatch and Probot. He's played drums for:
Buzz Osbourne
Mike Watt
Killing Joke
Tony Iommi
Tenacious D
Cat Power
Queens of the Stone Age
Nine Inch Nails
Pete Yorn
Neil Young
David Bowie
Them Crooked Vultures
I'm certain there's more. It's an impressive list, not just for it's size, but also the quality and variety of the collaborations.

Somewhat related to hard work, WSJ has a review of Guitar Zero by Gary Marcus. Marcus is a neuroscientist and sets out to correct some misguided notions on brain plasticity, specifically the idea that:
"the brain's circuitry was only alterable in certain 'critical periods,' or brief windows of extreme plasticity; these were thought to occur in childhood, when experience helped to form the brain's circuitry. The conventional wisdom was that certain skills must be learned early on; it was generally 'too late' for adults to pick up a new language or musical skill. Plasticity was for kids."
He does this while documenting his experience learning guitar in his book, and conducting interviews from musicians.
"Guitarist Tom Morello (Rage Against the Machine), we learn, didn't start playing until he was 17, but he practiced six hours a day for four years while a doing an undergraduate degree at Harvard... 'Guitar Zero' makes some delightful counterintuitive fine points. Kids are not quicker learners; but they are more persistent. Kids will practice riffs over and over, just as they will play a new videogame ad nauseam."
So not only is creativity good for the soul, but anyone can get there through hard work.

Friday, February 10, 2012

I Am Furious (Yellow)

I've been angry more than usual lately. I somewhat feel guilty about it. I know I shouldn't feel guilty about it because that only makes me feel worse. I've said before that it's easier to just feel angry than it is to be confused. It's a form of escapism, in a way.

I feel almost like Homer Simpson, or at least Bart's version of Homer in the Angry Dad comic he made. I'm Homer and I have Clayton Bigsby sitting on my right shoulder saying, "Don't let the liberal media tell you how to think and feel. If you have hate in your heart let it out!" On my left shoulder sits Darth Vader: "Feel the power of the dark side."

Not that anger is necessarily bad. It can at times be useful. I can actually be a pretty good motivator as long as you don't get so steamed up that you can't do anything. I really think that all of our emotions can be good in moderation. The "in moderation" part is important. Being angry all the time is tiresome like holding a shield to deflect a dragon's flame. Sooner or later your arms are going to give out, and then you get burned.

So why am I angry? It's mostly my fault. I never learned how to set boundaries for myself properly. Partially it's because I'm so easy going. For many things in life, I just couldn't care less about them. Some people might think I don't care about anything, but when one of the things that I really do care about gets crossed. I take it personally. I try to be nice about it, but then I stew it over.

I try to tell myself to stop. If a thought is not useful I try to tell myself just that: "Stop. This is not a useful line of thinking. Lock it in a box and forget it." Sometimes it's just not that easy to do. Distraction can help. I can watch a comedy, make a dumb photoshop of Homer, Clayton, and Vader, write in this blog, or listen to the most relaxing song ever. A friend of mine just called and told me her problems. It seems that listening may be a way to distract yourself from anger because I feel better now.

I think what I feel guilty about the most is that I've let my anger slow down my progress in some of my projects, but I shouldn't even feel guilty about that. I should just be more dedicated. I should get to work. I'm only 7,500 words into my novel, and creativity is good for the soul.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Musical Drum Stools

Musicians are inherently unstable. I can say this because I am one. It seems that, many times, the better the musician the more unstable. Many stories are public knowledge, like Hendrix or Cobain, but stories like those are tied into the fame they gained. Some might think that fame was the root cause. While there is a bit of truth to that, fame is not the only cause. I've run across plenty of drama from musicians who were never famous.

One of the first times I played in front of an audience, I met a tall, long haired guy who slightly resembled Kurt Cobain. He played too loud on a crappy guitar, but he had a pretty decent punk rock scream. (Think Tourette's by Nirvana.) A couple of years later I joined a band that he played drums for. Before that time I didn't even know that he did play drums. It turns out that he was phenomenal, an absolute monster behind the set. We played a few shows. I thought we sounded great. We practiced three days a week. Then we didn't hear from this drummer for over a week. After two weeks we found another drummer to fill in for our last show. I never did hear why he quit showing up. I heard he had a heart attack a few years back, less than a year after he cleaned himself up and quit using.

Another time, I was in a cover bar band with an older drummer. He was dating this skinny old hag. She was constantly blitzed out of her mind. One night while we were playing, she was doing her usual routine of humping tables, support beams, chairs, and anything else that was handy. This particular bar had a mentally challenged guy that was somewhat of a regular, and she was so trashed that she didn't notice this guys hand up in her crotch as she was grinding. Or maybe she did, but liked it. I don't know. I didn't ask.

A short time later she was dancing with a fairly nicely dressed guy and kissing him. Our drummer started to argue with the guy over the PA, and when that didn't settle the matter to his liking he started throwing drum sticks at him during Sweet Child O' Mine. I think he hit about four people throwing things in a tiny crowded bar, and soon the two were in each other's faces while we were still playing. (You know it's a very, very long song.*) Our drummer didn't have a great meter even when he tried to concentrate (burn out) much less when he another guy are about to come to blows. I quit playing entirely since I could no longer tell where the beat was, and the rest of the band followed shortly after. Needless to say we fired that drummer. What he does on stage reflects on all of us. I was embarrassed. Besides, I haven't been in a fight since seventh grade, and I don't plan on getting in to one for his dumb ass.

We found a replacement for that drummer so we could get back to slumming it up in the bars. Our new drummer was another one of those monster drummers like the Kurt Cobain look alike, and he had a good meter, whenever he wasn't on something. We played for a couple of years, and then he too disappeared, for about six weeks. When we finally found out that overdosed on heroin, and was forced into rehab.

So why are musicians so unstable? I think it has to do with expressiveness. The best music takes you on a journey, (Pink Floyd and Tool are incredible at that) and real musicians are able to express that. Every instrument is different, has it own personality, wants to be held a certain way. A good musician can feel that and adapt to it. It's not necessarily a bad thing, but it can be a roller coaster at times. I have somewhat of a theory that everyone should date musicians. Musicians are fun, responsive, and intimate. The same instinct that lets a musician feel the personality of an instrument can make a the musician responsive to an intimate person too. (It's hard to explain just try it and find out.)

But if you don't like a musician's flaws... No, if you don't LOVE a musician's flaws then don't marry them or plan on having a long term relationship. (Loving someones flaws is a large subject and I plan to write an entire post on it some time.) If you don't love their flaws then have fun while you can. Enjoy the moment, but know that it's temporary because they will get worse and better on the roller coaster of life and musician's swings high and low tend to be more exaggerated than most.

*The quote comes from Days of Graduation by the Drive by Truckers, and yes I know the quote was actually about Freebird.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Simplicity: Design and Life

I know exactly what time today that I'm going to get pissed off. It's pathetic really. First, I've had a fairly decent day. I finished 2 designs for different projects. One was for Brother Down:

Brother Down always jokes that if one of them gets too drunk and falls off the stage then everyone should yell, "Brother Down!" The other logo they use is a chalk outline of a body, like a crime scene, so that's where the caution tape fits in. The caution tape also supplies the color scheme. Black and yellow, it's high contrast, simple and effective. It will also translate easily to a t-shirt. They manufacturer will only need to print one color, yellow, on to a black shirt, and will also save money with only one color ink in it can be printed in one pass and you won't have to worry about any alignment issues.

I was asked to make the chalk outline logo out of caution tape also, for the back of the shirt:

Here is a big difference. Even with only two colors, it's messy, cluttered, and it's difficult to even distinguish what the image is supposed to be. The logo may not be clear, but message couldn't be any clearer: Keep it simple stupid. It's the only way to go.

I also finished a logo for Slacker Ambition:

The same principles apply to this logo. Slacker Ambition's music is eclectic, at least as eclectic as a mix tape, if not more so. Since Slacker Ambition doesn't play live often a logo of a recording is effective in a second context as well. Also, since Slacker Ambition is usually not quite as aggressive as Brother Down so a nice shade of blue is more appropriate than Brother Down's grab your attention yellow on black. Once again, simple is in.

Well, that was the good part, back to the bad. I've been trying to follow James Altucher's advice on how to deal with crappy people. The first rule is to cut out the crap, quite literally, by disassociating yourself from the crappy people. Once more simplicity is the answer. Make your life simpler by eliminating the drama. The only problem is this is damn near impossible to do. Why? Because they're everywhere.

Dumb, fake, vain, shallow, insipid, hateful, and manipulative people, the world is full of them. I've lowered my standards about as far as I care to, and yet somehow, I'm still usually disappointed. I'm tempted to think that it's just me: that I expect to much or that I'm being irrational. But I have to ask myself, why shouldn't I expect people to be honest, genuine, and caring? I'm not asking anyone to be a saint, (God knows I'm not.) and I don't expect everyone to start telling me their darkest secrets. I just want people to be themselves. If they don't want someone to know something they don't have to lie. Just don't talk about it. Care enough about other people to not hurt them by lying and being manipulative. If this makes me irrational then I don't want to be rational.
"The rational man adapts himself to the world. The irrational man tries to adapt the world to suit himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the irrational man."
-George Bernard Shaw
I don't agree with much of what Shaw wrote, but I agree with him pretty closely here.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Slacker Ambition

I've been playing and recording music since 1997 under one particular name. A friend of mine and I used to pass time at work by doing rune readings. It seemed that nearly every time he drew the first rune, the rune that describes the self or your current situation, he drew the warrior. I had a tendency to draw one particular rune also, not the warrior, a different rune. We would sometimes jokingly call each other by those names.

In 1997, I found myself for the first time without a band so as I sat down with my four track tape recorder to write some songs I used my rune name. Actually, every time that I've done a project on my own I've used that name for it. Now that you can google anything I've found that there was a regional band that used that name from 1995 to 1999. I think that I first heard about the band sometime around 2001.

Since they were no longer using the name and I had already been using it for four years I decided not to worry about it. I didn't really give it any thought, which was a mistake on my part, until I tried to sell my music on line.

That was when I ran in to a little trouble with the other band. Actually I think they were getting the profit, if there was any, from my work on one particular site. (If you haven't figured it out yet, I'm not saying the band name because I don't think I owe them the publicity.) So for the last three years I've let my solo work sit on the back burner while I've worked on other projects, another mistake on my part.

For the last couple of weeks, I've been searching for a name to restart the project. I googled every name I thought of and every name was taken, sometimes by multiple bands. I've finally found a name that's suitable for me, and after googling it, it appears to not be already taken so I'm claiming it now.

On February 3rd, 2012 my project is officially known as Slacker Ambition.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Torture Never Stops

Flies all green and buzzin' in this dungeon of despair.
An evil prince eats a steamin' pig in the chambers right near there.
He eats the snouts an trotters first!
The loins and the groins are soon dispersed.
His carvin' style is well rehearsed.
He stands and shouts "All men be cursed!"
And disagrees, well no one darest.

-Frank Zappa

I was in a relationship with someone I cared for dearly. When the relationship ended I learned some things. About me, her, love, loss, and life in general. I guess I shouldn't say I "learned" anything because I keep learning those same lessons. I couldn't believe the things I learned about her. I compartmentalized her in my mind. This couldn't be the person I loved. She was gone. All that was left behind was this monster.
It's cliched because it's true: time does soften the pain a wound. Eventually, the monster fades and starts to resemble the woman you loved. Sometimes too much so. Sometimes that's a heavy load to bear too. Sometimes it's easier to just be angry than to deal with confusion.

Sometimes you take things too far. Not that you pushed them to the limit, but that you let yourself become too entwined in it. Between the fond reminiscing, the touching embraces, the sweaty lust, and the plans for the future you loose a part of yourself. Then suddenly you're the asshole when the rules change on you, and you "learn" all those lessons again.

Sometimes someone who has no clue, can say something so out of context and vile that it makes you want to spit bile. Sometimes you want to loose yourself in a bottle or tear through five women in seven months. It's part revenge because you know she hates it, and part escapism because you do too. Just don't pretend you didn't care about them at all because if you didn't you would feel guilty.
Flies all green and buzzin' in this dungeon of despair.
Who are all those prisoners that's shut away down there?
Are they crazy? Are they sainted?
Are they heroes someone painted?
It had never been explained since first it was created.
See a dungeon like a sin
Requires naught but lockin' in
Of any anything that's ever been.
That's what's the deal we're dealin' in.

-Frank Zappa 
In the middle of all this one of the five wants to talk. I try to talk, but she only wants to talk about you subject. I can't talk about what she wants. I have no answers for her. I have no answers for myself. I need to talk, but she doesn't want to talk about my problems. She thinks she does, but she doesn't have any answers for me. If she did then she wouldn't be asking me what she always does. She's afraid of pushing me away so she says so, which of course, pushes me away. That's what's the deal we're dealin' in.

All men be cursed!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Dave Grohl: This is a Call

The first "Buzz Cut" I remember seeing on MTV was Smells Like Teen Spirit. At the time I was at loss. I couldn't decide if it was the dumbest thing I'd ever seen or pure genius. I decided to reserve my judgment until I listened to it more. I didn't have to wait long. The new "Buzz Cut" slot was a heavy rotation promotional position. I think I saw the video about 30 times that weekend. I decided that the music had a raw visceral power and a catchy melody despite its sometimes inscrutable lyrics, and by the time Nirvana's next video, In Bloom, came out there was no disputing the band's tongue in cheek sense of humor.

Someone recently gave me a copy of This is a Call: The life and times of Dave Grohl. The book itself tends to meander a bit (I could almost see talking about Metallica a little as a demonstration of the potential for cross over hits, but Warrior Soul? Really!?), but it seems pretty thorough. There are tons of interviews with a lot of different people.

I've learned a few things though. I hadn't realized before that Dave grew up near DC. He actually played music in the same circle of people as the Dischord Records crew. I knew that he played drums for a band called Scream, but I hadn't heard of Scream anywhere else before and didn't know they were affiliated with Dischord. In fact, he even turned down an offer from Ian MacKaye to play drums for what was to become Fugazi!

Also, after Dave's first tour with Nirvana he lived with Kurt next door to Martin apartments. Martin apartments was somewhat of the hub of the Olympia music/art scene where "[e]veryone was in a bad, everyone crafted, everyone had a fanzine, everyone was everyone else's biggest fans... even when they were not." Among the residents of the sixteen to twenty apartments next door, were Calvin Johnson of K Records and Slim Moon of Kill Rock Stars. Slim Moon on the Olympia scene at the time:
"To people from other parts of the country, people in Olympia might have seemed a little naive. But they were Peter Pans who were pushing each other to do shit. People pushed each other to excel, to make art, to be in bands, to put on shows, whatever, to do their own thing and not just be consumers."
This ties in nicely with my theory of consumerism: that creativity is the antithesis to consumption. Consumption like an addiction takes a bigger and bigger dose to get the same effect and leaves you less satisfied. Conversely, practicing creative endeavours makes you more competent and helps you feel more satisfied.

Is there more to say about the book? There's always more to say, but I haven't finished reading it yet. Hopefully, there won't be any more horrible detours like Warrior Soul.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Will the Fight Against Censorship Ever End?

It been less than a week since the internet went on strike against SOPA and congress decided to back down for the time being. Within days there was already a new scheme to attack free speech. The author offers two plans as alternatives to Cass Sunstein's cognitive infiltration strategy to stop the spread of "fringe beliefs". Sustein's scheme is reminiscent of COINTELPRO, the illegal program that was denounced by the Church Commttee.

Sunstein is Obama's head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, (which might as well be called the ministry of truth) and a co-author of the hideous Nudge: Improving decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness. Here's how a "nudge" works. When the TSA wanted to implement body scanners they gave passengers the false choice of the scanner or an even more invasive pat down. Sunstein is one of Obama's trusted confidants and his proposals should not be disregarded.

The alternatives given in the Slate article are: 1) Stop search engines from indexing such information. 2) Red flag the sites instead of removing them and link to the "proper" information as decided by "consensus". The first provision was actually part of SOPA which, demonstrably, millions of people found egregious. The second is even more pernicious. Sunstein admits that some conspiracy theories turn out to be true. Again from Slate:
He acknowledges that some “conspiracy theories” previously dismissed as insane and fringe have turned out to be entirely true (his examples:  the CIA really did secretly administer LSD in “mind control” experiments; the DOD really did plot the commission of terrorist acts inside the U.S. with the intent to blame Castro; the Nixon White House really did bug the DNC headquarters). 
So in fact what he is really advocating is the Noble Lie for the greater good, a favorite tactic of the neocons, but the author of the Slate article is much more cunning in his framing of the argument by focusing on "fringe beliefs" and "consensus" science, including such topics as global warming, Darwinian evolution, HIV and AIDS, and 9/11. He also discusses the possibility of a link between vaccines and autism at length. From Slate:
As scientists debunked the link between autism and mercury (once present in some childhood inoculations but now found mainly in certain flu vaccines), most activists dropped their mercury theory and point instead to aluminum or said that kids received “too many too soon.”
He cites this as evidence that the "deniers" are too indoctrinated to ever be "discredited" because they just "move the goal post" so their ideas must be censored to keep them from spreading. I personally believe that vaccines have done some wonderful things. Polio has been virtually eradicated, but I can attest to the fact that my daughter gets many more vaccinations than I did. Why is this not a proper subject for discussion?

Science depends on open discussion. Einstein challenged the "consensus" that light traveled through a luminiferous ether so now we study relativity. Copernicus and Newton also challenged the consensus. This is a necessary part of the process.

Regarding Darwin and evolution, Charles Forte wrote:

"Darwinism of course was never proved: The fittest survive. What is meant by the fittest? Not the strongest; not the cleverest – Weakness and stupidity everywhere survive. There is no way of determining fitness except in that a thing does survive. "Fitness," then, is only another name for "survival." Darwinism: That survivors survive." (The Book of the Damned, pp. 23-24)
This clearly shows the circular logic inherent at the core of Darwinism. Circular logic is usually tolerated in religion, but it has no place in science. Yet since Forte published this book in 1919 there has been no change in Darwinism significant enough to repair the fatal flaw that he pointed out 93 years ago. Maybe if supporters of Darwinism spent less time trying to crush dissent and more time in discussion of such flaws their theory would have been improved by now.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Anything that is Worth Learning can be Learned from Twain

I looked up a couple of Mark Twain quotes for my last blog. It's amazing how timeless his wisdom truly was. Besides his two quotes that I used in that post, here are several other quotes that relate to things I have read or thought about in the last couple of weeks:
  • A person with a new idea is a crank until the idea succeeds.
  • I have never let schooling interfere with my education.
  • It is by the goodness of God that in our country we have those three unspeakably precious things: freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and the prudence never to practice either of them.
  • It is easier to stay out than get out.
  • Nothing so needs reforming as other people's habits.
  • Only one thing is impossible for God: To find any sense in any copyright law on the planet.
  • The very ink with which history is written is merely fluid prejudice.
  • There are three types of lies: Lies, damned lies, and statistics.
  • There is no distinctly American criminal class - except Congress.
  • We have the best government that money can buy.
  • Against the assault of laughter nothing can stand.
The last quote may well some up Twain's philosophy on life. (Not to mention Rothbard's and Mencken's) This one is a major reason that I've started writing this blog:
And last, I found one that pretty well matches my own philosophy:
  • Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.

Tim Thomas Declines Invitation to the White House

Mark Twain once said: "To refuse awards is another way of accepting them with more noise than is normal." Indeed, it appears that the news that Tim Thomas declined an invitation to the White House is overshodowing the news that the rest of the team did attend.

When Bruins president Cam Neely was asked about the situation he stated that Thomas made a personal decision not to attend based on his "own opinions and political beliefs." Thomas's official Facebook page had the following statement:
"I believe the Federal government has grown out of control, threatening the Rights, Liberties, and Property of the People.
"This is being done at the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial level. This is in direct opposition to the Constitution and the Founding Fathers vision for the Federal government.
"Because I believe this, today I exercised my right as a Free Citizen, and did not visit the White House. This was not about politics or party, as in my opinion both parties are responsible for the situation we are in as a country. This was about a choice I had to make as an INDIVIDUAL.
"This is the only public statement I will be making on this topic. TT"
"It is curious that physical courage should be so common in the world and moral courage so rare," is another truism from Mark Twain. It's good to hear that there are still some who will say what they believe in our current environment in which everyone might be offended by everything. Case in point, Kelly Clarkson was villainized for her choice in politicians. No dissent is allowed. You're either with us or against us. So what do you do if like Tim Thomas you don't agree with either side?

Monday, January 23, 2012

New in PC: Cougars are Offensive

It's been said that the best defense is a good offense, but a new school in Utah is afraid of being offensive. Students of the school voted that their mascot should be the Cougars, but the school bored rejected the selection because it may be offensive to middle aged women. In case you didn't know an alternate definition of this term is "a middle-aged woman seeking a romantic relationship with a younger man."

Is this offensive? Not having been appointed to the PC thought police I guess I can't answer, but it would seems to me that the above definition has to parts to it. The first part is being a middle aged woman. Of course a person's sex and age are accidents of birth, but the second part is different. "Seeking a romantic relationship with a younger man" is an action, a desire, a choice. It requires volition on part of the subject. If a woman chooses something for herself, will she be offended by it? I would guess that not to be the case unless she had some sort of self loathing psychosis. Either way, I don't see it as any of my business. (Maybe that's why I was never appointed to the PC thought police.)

Offensive? It certainly is as suggestive as the Gamecocks or the Trojans, and somehow Santorum is mentioned all the time without being censored.

The author of the blog linked to above also offered some commentary that I found curious:
More significantly, why would the board even offer "Cougars" as a potential mascot choice if it wasn't prepared to accept it? That lack of logic is positively baffling. Surely everyone could have saved themselves a lot of face if they simply had not allowed prospective students to choose to be the Cougars in the first place.
In essence, the author claims that it's quite acceptable that the plurality of students didn't their desired choice. (In fact, the majority would not get their choice. "The Cougars" won with only 23 percent.) The author seems comfortable with those who are in control manipulating the choices so they get the result that they desire. My first reaction was that this was another example that the average person doesn't know what in his own best interest, but this reminds me more of electoral politics where you get two choices with only trivial differences between them. No one likes either choice so you vote for the lesser of two evils. Then the average person is told: "You had a choice. You made a difference. You're special!"

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Mom Arrested for Son's Tattoo

This family lost a son and brother, Malik, in a car accident. Malik's 10 year old, younger brother told his mom, "I want to get a tattoo with Malik on it, rest in peace." The mom agrees. (I'm not saying I would let my child get a tattoo, but I'm not judging.)

In 2010 a law was passed that states: "it shall be unlawful for any person to tattoo the body of any person under the age of 18, except for a physician or osteopath." I didn't realize that there was such an epidemic of underage tattoos that a group of politicians needed to get together and decide that it was important enough to pass a law prohibiting it. (I also didn't realize that underage tattooing was a subject that falls under the purview of a political body.)

There is no mention that the mother is being accused of neglect, abuse, that they are are taking the son away from her, or even that social services is investigating her. The police only charged her for allowing her son to get a tattoo. The mother said, "He’s my child, and I have the right to say what I want for my child. I can’t go tell anybody else what I want for their child.” This law is another example that fits into the category of the average person doesn't know what is best for himself.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Krugman, Asimov and Hayek

While writing my last post, about Heinlein, I came across an interesting tidbit of information that I had never heard before. Paul Krugman cites Asimov's Foundation Series as his inspiration to become an economist.

The series is a classic. It won the Hugo Award for best series ever. (The only winner ever by definition) The plot really was revolutionary. There was nothing like this before its release. Speaking of plot, from Wikipedia:

The premise of the series is that mathematician Hari Seldon spent his life developing a branch of mathematics known as psychohistory, a concept of mathematical sociology (analogous to mathematical physics). Using the laws of mass action, it can predict the future, but only on a large scale; it is error-prone on a small scale. It works on the principle that the behavior of a mass of people is predictable if the quantity of this mass is very large (equal to the population of the galaxy, which has a population of quadrillions of humans, inhabiting millions of star systems). The larger the number, the more predictable is the future.
So basically any large system's future can be predicted with accuracy and the larger the system the greater the accuracy. This is not just simple statistics that psycho history encompasses. It involves specific sequences of events, and their timing.

This is of course impossible. It is science fiction, by the way. This was the subject of Hayek's The Counter Revolution of Science. Hayek makes the case that the social sciences are not concrete like the hard sciences, and the methods used in the hard sciences cannot be transferred to the softer science. In physics there are constants so a person can use the constants of physics to solve for the variables that are needed. Economics, on the other hand, deals with human action which has no constants. Only an omniscient being could know the state of all the factors in a large system of human actors. Not being omniscient, we mortals must use a different method to understand such a system.

In the fictional world of Foundation, Hari Seldon creates his Foundations (two of them actually) and saves the galaxy. A nearly omniscient being controls the galaxy to save it from its own destructive tendencies because as all liberals know most humans are not intelligent enough to know what is best for themselves. Hari Seldon's psychohistory predicted that the empire would fall, and the galaxy would have a dark age. The best Hari could do was to shorten the dark age to 1,000 years.

Rethinking the novel just now, most empires here on present day Earth have been fairly nasty. Maybe the galaxy would be better off without it. I don't know. I'm not omniscient, but Hari Seldon was near enough omniscient to make no difference. Maybe that is what really inspires Krugman.

Heinlein on Children in Warfare

I'm almost ashamed to admit that, until recently, I had never read Heinlein. I've read Clarke (creative on the engineering side of science fiction but too utopian) and Asimov (obviously great at science but understood little about human nature). Of course it's Asimov, Clarke, and Heinlein who make up the Big Three in science fiction, and I've also read that Heinlein had some interesting libertarian themed stories. I just haven't had the time to get to read much fiction, but now I'm correcting my error in skipping Heinlein. I've just finished The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.
It's a pretty good book, and most of it holds up well even given the ever changing world of technology that we live in today. Heinlein was quite a prognosticator. His stories extrapolated several innovations. He also had an interview in a magazine during which he made some speculations about the near future. Nothing he wrote was accurate enough to make you think that he had a crystal ball, but following trends and making predictions is a difficult task. If it was easy we could all make fortunes on stocks.
Here is a list of items, in no particular order, which he either predicted for the immediate future or incorporated into his novels that have since come to pass: 
  • First manned rocket to the Moon by 1978 
  • Synthetic foods 
  • Commercial rocket travel 
  • Development of elements greater than 98
  • Robotic exoskeletons for soldiers
  • Mobile phones
  • Answering machines
  • Video phones
  • The internet
  • Urban sprawl
  • The cold war
  • The collapse of the Soviet Union
  • The sexual revolution
It's not exactly scientific, but anecdotally, it's a pretty impressive list, no? Getting back to The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, there is also a reference to Japan having been goaded into attacking at Pearl Harbor. This is an area where Heinein was ahead of his time also because it is an idea which is sadly still not widely accepted.
There are a couple of items I would like to point out where Heinlein was wrong. In the 1949 predictions interview Heinlein stated that Americans would never fight a preventative war. If Americans had to fight they would, but they wouldn't go looking for one. Unfortunately he was proven wrong the very next year starting with Korea and the long list that has followed through Vietnam to today in Iraq, Libya, and now Uganda.
One other area where he overestimated human compassion was during the planning phase of the revolution in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. The revolutionary party was using children for small jobs, and the protagonist tells how even the warden's goons would think twice before arresting a child. This book was released in 1959, so the greatly foresighted Heinlein, who had such wonderful insights about such diverse topics as those listed above, failed to see how terribly children would be treated in a war less than 50 years way. This was the one part of the novel that made me stop and think to myself how much time has changed.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Going Galt on SOPA

The internet went on strike yesterday. The list includes AOL, Craigslist, EBay, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Mozilla, Twitter, Wikipedia, Yahoo and Zynga. No big whoop. Even Kim Kardashian tweeted about it: There are petitions too. There are already provisions dealing with piracy, and they are already being abused. If anything these laws need to be weakened not strengthened. Even as bad as SOPA is it will not stop piracy as deSopa has already shown, and it will turn people who have done nothing wrong into criminals, Like this guy.

Not to mention the serial hypocrisy of the people pushing these bills. The RIAA pirated episodes of Dexter, the MPAA pirates its own movies, and the bills' sponsors are copyright violators too.

I think a thought experiment would be fun.Just off the top of my head... If SOPA was passed today what websites would be shut down tomorrow and why?

Google: Links to copyrighted material and information about how to bypass SOPA.
Facebook: Links again.
Myspace: Same as facebook.
Youtube: Contains copyrighted material.
Ebay: Pirated DVDs.
Amazon: I'm sure the Amazon Market has a few pirated DVDs if you look hard enough.
Reddit: Links again.
Blogger: Even if blogger could effectively police its own users, how will all of those users police their comments?

So the day after SOPA passed every website you visited would only contain this:

I may be exagerating, but only a little. I'm sure that any site that ends in .gov or .mil will still be available.

Also if an artist posts there own music somewhere without the labels permission is this a copyright violation? The recording industry needs to face the fact that it is dying. By refusing to adapt it has given itself a death sentence. Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails both showed that there are viable ways to adapt. Edward Burns showed how it could be done with movies. Good riddence to failed business models. Savvy entrepenuers and artists will give the public something better. If the internet isn't completely shut down first.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Everyone Is Sick of Hearing About Greece

Actually, everyone was sick of hearing about it last year, but it's getting worse. The British Daily Mail has a piece out about how bad it is now. Medical supplies, even aspirin, are low. Kids whose parents can't afford them are being left on the street. This is how they roll at the IMF. If Greece would have defaulted instead of being bailed out then they might have avoided this.

Zen and the Art of Lyric Comprehension

I met a friend of a friend at a bar this weekend and inevitably conversation turned to music. In my world everything gravitates toward music. It's not a secret that I'm a fan of the band Tool. I've been to 5 of their live shows. They're presentation is mesmerizing, and they musicianship is even more evident live than it is on recordings. It's not uncommon for me to be seen in a T-shirt that bears their logo.

(I'm particularly fond of my T-shirt with the eye design that's on the left side of this pic. It amazing that a simple pattern, gray on black, can be both subtle and slightly unsettling simultaneously. In fact, that may be my definition of art.)

So given my respect for Tool, when he mentioned this band I began to express how much they have impressed me. He stops me in the middle of my praise to tell me, "Yeah, but I was disappointed to find out that their singer was gay." Yes, some one's sexual orientation is should have no influence on whether or not you enjoy their music, but this was a hole in the wall bar in Hicksville, IN so I had to let that slide. At no point should meaningless chatter over drinks evolve into a sermon.

The piece I couldn't help but overlook was that it's not true. (Scroll down to question C13) I explained that Maynard has a son that was featured on an A Perfect Circle record, and that I was curious as to why he thought so. His response: "My buddy made me listen to the lyrics of Stinkfist. He's talking about being elbow deep in some dude." Genius reply, no?

The lyric is: "Elbow deep inside the borderline. This may hurt a little, but it's something you'll get used to." First male or female is never mentioned for either the speaker or the person being addressed so obviously he was reading into this what he wanted to read into it. Second, why would anyone think that the song is actually so literal? The "deep inside the borderline" section is repeated 4 times. Each time getting progressively worse: from finger, to knuckle, to elbow, to shoulder. At the end it's not even believable. So again, why would anyone take this literally?

The lyrics of the chorus: "Not enough. I need more. Nothing seems to satisfy. I don't want it. I just need it, to breathe, to feel, to know I'm alive." This reinforces the metaphor. The presentation is more or less just for shock value.

Everyone wants more. More money, more toys, more power, more sex. Did I mention money so you can buy more toys, power, and sex? Like an adiction, it takes more and more to get that dopamine high. This is the real problem with consumer society. Say you buy a fast car. You like it for a while, but then you get bored with it so now you have to spend even more money to buy a faster car that you'll eventually get bored with. Until you can't afford to buy a faster car. Consumption requires more and more resources, and leaves you less and less satisfied.

The antidote to this cycle is creativity. The more you create the more difficult it will be, but the more satisfied you become. When I play music, the more I practice the more difficult material I can play. The more difficult material I can play the better musician I will become, and the more satisfied I will be. It's a self reinforcing loop.

This works with any craft. Art, carpentry, archery, cooking, anything you like to do. The more you practice, the better you will become, and you will feel more satisfied. So why don't you create something? It seems to work for the guys in Tool.