Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Fixing the Machine

Okay, after this I pretend to promise to get my next idea from somewhere other than MTV or Fuse... It's all I'm watching nowadays because I'd rather listen to music than watch network programming...

So they play a Rage Against the Machine video. Very interesting. I have a love/hate thing for these guys. Love 'em because they're banging about what they believe in and, I think, trying to make a difference rather than whining about their girlfriends and the next party and getting some boot-ay, etc. On the other hand, they have made themselves a mouthpiece for knee-jerk hyper-leftism, often propagandizing with half-truths and out-of-context statistics (In this particular video they crow about shutting down the NYSE at 2:32pm "In the middle of the trading day," Perhaps they were counting on the fact that most of their toked-up, semi-literate fans wouldn't realize that trading closes at 3:00, not 5:00 pm. Middle? Bwah. On the other hand, their protest did shut it down early, if only 28 minutes, and I suppose that's something.)

Anyhow, critiquing the disingenuosness of their video really isn't the point. During the video, RAtM relate a statistic that is often bandied about, and it got me to thinking. The statistic was: 10% of the US population controls 80% of the nation's wealth. An accompanying statistic was that 35 million Americans live below the poverty line.

Now, I'm an individualist and in many ways a conservative. For the most part I believe in property rights. I don't think it's anyone's right to take away the property of another just because they have more or "excess." However, I find that general statistic regarding economic disparity a tad unsettling. It would seem there's enough wealth that if it were redistributed would have a significant impact on the poorest citizens. But that's a simplistic viewpoint.

The problems come when you try to legislate the thresholds of what's enough for one person or family. Who is to define it? By what standards? If the rights of the individual are the building blocks of the free society, then how are we to make fair, collective decisions without completely violating those rights. America was built on the notion of the empowered individual. What right does one person have to take away the power and property of another? We know that you will never get a collective, unanimous decision, and we know that most parties will join in the discussion through the filter of their own selfish agendas. Even those with altruistic motives will be viewing the situation through the filter of their own experience and priorities, which often conflict with the priorities of other people just as well meaning and sincere.

A second issue is that the concentration of wealth, to some extent anyway, is necessary for the operation of an open market society. You know what they say, money makes the world go 'round. Wealth is a powerful motivator and spurs innovation. Also the processes of innovation, growth, and competition often require significant financial resources, often coming from a few investors with the ability to take the risk because even losing wouldn't deprive them of a comfortable lifestyle. If wealth was equally redistributed, then many people (not necessarily all) would do only what was necessary to reach the prescribed level and no more. There's no reason to risk what wealth you could have to get more of what you cannot have. Nor is it reasonable to expect that a startup could gather money from 100 individuals with little to gain rather than a group of 10 angels with significant resources and much to gain.

I don't know how you address a problem this large with legislation, yet I feel in my heart some shift could be made to improve the quality of life for many of the poor. We can discuss the shiftless poor another time

Food for thought, I guess.

Any ideas out there?

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Crap Music Follow Up

A brief note of interest (to me, anyway):

I was watching Fuse and caught a recent 1/2 hour special featuring Outkast where they showed snippets of their videos and interviewed the fellas.

One thing stood out. They were both adamant that Hip-Hop is "stagnant." I wish I'd thought of that word. Beautiful. And true.

The boys say they try and mix it up, push the envelope, make it new rather than do the same ol' stuff.

Sounds good to me...

Saturday, March 20, 2004

Crap Music

Twista's on Fuse right now. Gawd, somebody shoot me. Fortunately a good dose of Incubus' Megalomaniac is still keeping me through this video and the previous one, Chingy. Now that there is a missssserable piece of musical crap if there ever was one.

Now, let me clarify something. I don't hate good, innovative rap. Missy Elliot does some interesting stuff, Black-Eyed Peas are pretty good, ol' Marshall Mathers. I think the standout group of the genre these days is Outkast. Their stuff is inherently musical, the rap is interesting, catchy and their songs actually have structure and an arc.

Take those few innovators out of the scene, though, and what you have is a tired formula that is just churning out by the truckload and the proles are buying it.

It reminds me of the hair band scene of the late 80's. Band after band would copy the formula and the proles who couldn't wait a year for their fave's next album would just buy up the next copycat to come along. Can anyone say Whitesnake? Winger?

Ah, looky, Usher's "Yeah" is on the tube now. There's a case in point. What a piece of crap. One simple instrumental riff and a repetitive schlockfest that any schmuck and his posse could put together in an afternoon in the studio. And to make it even more beautiful, it "features" Little Joe and Ludacris... Hang on, gotta change the channel...

Okay, phew...

In the late 80's, all you had to do is grow your hair, find a couple dime-a-dozen guitar shredders, whatever drummer you could get to stick around for longer than an afternoon, and a bassist who wasn't already strung out, and bam, grab that record deal. If your singer could wail in falsetto, so much the better, you were in. Everyone thought they were rock stars and everyone thought they could go on forever, spending, screwing, boozing, snorting, shooting, and that's what it became about.

Then one screwed up kid with a week's growth on his chin, striped t-shirt, worn out cheapo sneakers, and a Fender Jag strapped on his shoulder blew it all up.

Now almost all those hair guys only get exposure when VH1 shows up for a retrospective.

There's a surreal little phenomenon that sometimes happens late at night. I can watch, say, Letterman on the nights he has the Crap Group du Jour on. There's usually four or five of 'em, with Lakers jerseys over t-shirts and bandanas under too large hats cocked sideways to one side or other. Here's the cool part: If I switch over to Leno and they have a Crap Group on, I can switch back and forth a couple of times and within a couple clicks I won't be able to remember which show or group I'm watching, cause they're all the same.

My take? I think something big is coming in the Rap/R&B segment, a coming-to-Jesus, if you will. There's too much of the same s*** out there for people even on the inside not to be shaking their heads and thinking, "There's got to be something better than this out there..." There's too much talent out there to let these stupid hacks continue to take up airtime...

The alternative set has Emo, which has yet to prove itself as a true phenomenon as opposed to simply a flash-in-the-pan sub-genre...

Is there something out there? Oh, man, I hope so... If not, I may have to commit suicide the next time Chingy comes on playing video games and whining "and you are my beh-beeeee..."

Urk! Almost puked...

Friday, March 19, 2004

Another Friday Five

Well, it only looks like it's been a week. My current rant is longer and still in process... check back, wouldja. In the meantime, here's the Friday Five for 3/19

1.) If you owned a restaurant, what kind of food would you serve? Oh, Irish food, definitely. Shepherd's Pie and Corned Beef a specialty, and Uilliean pipes every Friday and Saturday night :-)

2.) If you owned a small store, what kind of merchandise would you sell? Guitars and other Music Gear.

3.) If you wrote a book, what genre would it be? Hmmm, either literary or fantasy. WIP's include both.

4.) If you ran a school, what would you teach? Ooh, I'd love to run a chess school or a music school.

5.) If you recorded an album, what kind of music would be on it? Well, I'm working on one :-) Contemporary Christian, pop and rock styles.

So there...

Friday Five

Saturday, March 13, 2004

Fr-Fr-Friday Five

Okay, okay, don't nag...

1.) What was the last song you heard? 100 Years - Five for Fighting.

2.) What were the last two movies you saw? The Passion of the Christ and The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. Yeah, I don't get to the movies very often :-p

3.) What were the last three things you purchased? Lessee... A new Yamaha 5-string Active bass (woohoo!) The new Finger Eleven album, and some new workout outfits for my wife.

4.) What four things do you need to do this weekend? Drive to Santa Cruz to get together with the families for my wife's birthday, finish programming the Emu for Sunday's church service, pick up our boat from my father's-in-law house, and shampoo the living room carpet. Frankly, I'd rather be at work :-)

5.) Who are the last 5 people you talked to? My wife, my daughter, my youngest son, my older son, and the cashier at Safeway.

Lordy, lordy

Friday Five

Friday, March 05, 2004

Hanging it Out There

It amazes me how many decisions are made and courses of action taken on the basis of fear.

Now I betcha you think I'm talking about terrorism and the Patriot Act and all that garbagio. Nope.

Talkin' 'bout mmm-Pop music. Talk about --

Okay, so it's not exactly pop music. It's my music. Exactly two blogtries ago I waxed on about my new studio, for use in my songwriting endeavors. I'm nearly done with my demo now, almost ready to send it to my insider at Word Music Publishing.

It's all thick with Christian content, so certainly not to everyone's taste. I went and posted the music on my Soundclick account to make it available to a few friends for critique. Got some feedback, made some changes.

So here's the question --

Do I have the guts to openly plug my song link in my email, my posts on usenet, just hang it out there?

I don't know. I find myself plagued with doubts and fears regarding the perception others have of me, not the least of which are the peeps I hang with on usenet, misc.writing, the underground, and the cloven-shield.

It feels so personal, and I've always kept my heart a fairly safe distance from everyone with whom I have discourse. Could I handle the occasional barb and ribbing? Will it be goodnatured or plain mean? And most of all, why should I believe that anyone would care enough to even validate this particular conversation...

Well, philosophically speaking, I am who I am, and I don't care what others think of me.

But unless I take the occasional opportunities to display that concept in practice, then it's just hot air, so...

Here 'tis:


Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Two Gibsons - Two Passions

My wifely unit and I went with a couple of friends and viewed the Passion of the Christ last Saturday.

I went into it with a couple of expectations:

1.) I'm an emotional sap, and Christ's finished work on the Cross is very meaningful to me as a core event of this universe and the key to my spiritual redemption, so I would be an emotional wreck during and after the movie.

2.) I would pick out all the little Catholic-specific traditions and find myself transported in and out of the immersion I always hope overtakes me during a movie.

I also went into it with one main concern/fear. I can't stand blood n' gore. Icky. Didn't see Saving Private Ryan or Braveheart for that reason. Sad, I know, but... well, Ick. I was afraid the bloody brutality would distract me from experiencing the deeper meaning of the Passion play.

I had to fight off other expectations that my errant and willful mind tried to foist upon my psyche with the hopes of going in with a clean slate and allowing the movie to just be a movie about something I consider very important.

Well, shoot, I couldn't help #1. Not at all. Sob-sob-sob. Sorry for all you manly fellas, but I'm a slob even for shallow sentiment sometimes, so when the meaning was deeper, well, no hope. And I forgot Kleenex.

Don't do that. Really. Very unpleasant.


On item #2, I found the traditions placed in such a way that not only did they flow seamlessly, and not only did they honor the Catholic tradition to which Mel adheres, but they were presented so skillfully that I found myself understanding how, being traditions, they may have their roots in truth. They could have happened. How do I know Veronica didn't offer her veil to Jesus? Sure, it's not gospel, and sure, it's not necessary to a redemptive belief in Jesus Christ, but it was beautiful and moving, a little vignette of kindness on an otherwise brutal day.

Also, I found the whole thing to be more, erm, Hollywood than I expected. Less like a boring History Channel doc and more like a dramatic blockbuster. At very first, I thought it might hamper the message by concentrating on the style, but the effect was quite they opposite. I was sucked in. I wasn't watching a movie about Jesus' crucifixion, I was there, sucked in, experiencing with Mary and with His disciples. Mel and his crew used cinematic effect to enhance the personal, human suffering Christ endured for the sins of the world. The little directorial license taken in depicting a couple of events prior to Jesus' earthly ministry, though completely speculative, were powerful reminders that, from a Christian perspective, Jesus was not only God, but He was in every way a man, a man who bled and suffered untold pain.

About the blood. Oy vey, it is a bloody movie. It is also the very first depiction I have ever seen to even come close to the picture I have always had in my own head of what His suffering was really like, in light of my own reading of the scriptures. Perhaps the most terrifying scene is his scourging. After beating him with reeds for a little while, hard enough to watch in its own way, the Roman soldiers pull out the scourge, a cat o' nine-tails type device with bone and metal spurs set in the thongs. The first swipe of those across his back, the way the flesh tears open, made me and everyone I could see jump clear out of their seats. Yet, I believe it was close to the truth, according to scripture as well as contemporary non-biblical accounts. By His stripes we are healed, the prophet said.

Anyone who went away from this movie feeling it was anti-semitic forgot to open their eyes and see what Mel was trying to say. I put Him on the cross. I subjected Him to His scourging. By His stripes I am healed. And He went willingly, out of love for me, to save me from that kind of punishment in eternity.

That's what I came away with. I came away sad, introspective, but hopeful, that glimpse of Him exiting the tomb to put a seal on His time on earth and prepare His believers for the Holy Spirit and the age to come...

Well, sorry if that's all a little too, erm, dogmatic for you, but it's the truth as I see it, and at least I'm being honest with you :-)

So, that said, what did I mean about two Gibson's?

Well, I've given my friendly musical instrument rep a list of my desired specs on, yep, a custom Les Paul.

Now, I'm an okay guitarist at best. I have a good workhorse of an ax, an Ibanez Talman with good tone, good intonation, rock solid bridge and tuning, good action, etc. Cost me around $550 when I bought the thing.

But I've always had a jones for a really, really, really good guitar. A Les Paul, to be exact.

If I'm to tell the truth, I fell in love with Les Pauls watching (mostly listening, actually) Ace Frehley flail his into submission in Love Gun, Deuce, Cold Gin, etc... It's the quintessential Rock n' Roll guitar. Forget what all those strat-heads tell you... well, okay, I have to give a nod to Eddie Van Halen and Yngwie Malmsteen, but don't push it.

So now I'm in love with a guitar, a Les Paul, with ebony fretboard and washed white figured top. Custom only, can't get it off the line.

Does it make sense for a guy whose chops are middling at best to blow $4000 on a guitar? Probably not, but I'm blowing $8000 on my wife's horse, so I gotta get mine, right?

And I don't have to shovel it's pooples, either.

Human that I am, I've quickly sunk from the heights of religious fervor to base materialism. I know I'm supposed to store up my treasures in heaven, but I keep thinking that, hey, I can use this guitar to make music that will hopefully encourage peeps to get in touch with God. But that's just rationalization. Best to just admit that, hey, I really want a really nice guitar, and if I can afford, I'll do it, and I'll do my best to just enjoy it and not let it own me. When I finally get it, I'll post a pic.

If you want a pic from the Passion of the Christ, go see the movie. Don't have room for it all here.


It's about me, dummy!!!


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