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:

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

Publishers
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 it...no 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

Duderonomy

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
Garbage
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!