Storms, Plagues, and Werewolves at the Office

Storms never come when you want them to.  We had a horrible storm here in Austin, that lead to the worst flooding I have ever seen here.  I was desperately hoping that the rain would go away, not only for my sake, but for those whom lost their property or had it damaged.  (I live on the side of a hill and was in no way even close to getting flooded.)  However, I remember a time when I would have prayed for a flood, even one of Noah’s Ark proportions.

I used to work in sales for a moving company that was run by a couple.  (That no longer exists.)  It was the stupidest place that I ever worked.  Often I would show up for work and the boss would be passed out drunk on the back couch.  The movers would be running around out front of the building in what looked like the USO scene from Apocalypse Now.  The owner got hit with a DUI and got a breathalyzer put on his car, so at night he started driving the moving truck to the bar.  When he finally went to jail, which was inevitable, the bar he frequented called the office and told us that he owed them a thousand dollars!  In all my years of drinking I have spent an untold amount at bars, but I never owed a bar money, nor even knew it was possible to owe a bar that much!  Onetime the female boss disappeared for days on a drug binge.  When she returned, I actually saw a coworker fire his own boss, only to have the male boss get soft and allow her to return.  None of these stories even tell the half of it.  Insanity went along with daily defeats.  All they seemed to talk about around the office was American Idol, except when they were occasionally mentioning the Bible.  Anyway, as you can imagine it was not the greatest of work environments.  One should never be in the position of trying to meet sales numbers for drug addicts that believe in angels.

One day I showed up for work and the business next store had burned to the ground.  All of the workers stood in the field next door and looked at what was left, and what was left was cinders.  I remember looking out the window wistfully, hoping that I too would some day be blessed with such an event.  Floods, plagues, and fires became the stuff of Tuesday morning daydreams.  Sometimes I would let my thoughts go into the realm of fantasy.  I remember one day thinking how great it would be if a werewolf came through the front door and just started dismembering people.  I was willing to go down too, with whatever horror came through that door, as long my imaginary werewolf friend took out my bosses first.  Hey, what else is there to think about when one is facing skull crushing boredom and mind numbing stupidity?

So whenever you here a politician talk about the nobility of the small business owner, I call bullshit.  I’ve seen things.  Small business owners, like everyone else, are a mixed bag.  Some dream big and treat their workers well, and some DUI moving trucks in endless circles around town.

Anyway, I hope my fellow Austinites are able to recover from the flood.  My parents home in Pennsylvania have faced minor flooding before.  I know even a little water can be an absolute nightmare to deal with.  I wish that upon no one.  But there was once a day when I did wish it upon myself…

“I wanna dream lover so I don’t have to dream alone” – Bobby Darin

Obamacare is Barely Denting Corporate Profits

Obamacare is Barely Denting Corporate Profits

Bloomberg Business News is reporting that Obamacare is not causing any harm to business the way its opponents stated.  The article is worth reading in full to get all the details.  This article basically means that some of the main talking points Obamacare opponents tried to use to make people fearful of the law, have had a giant shit taken on them.

The Depressing State of the Music Business

As someone that makes his living playing music, I am extremely troubled by the future of the music business right now.  This year Apple canceled the production of their iPod Classic.  This was the only device that they made that I can fit my entire music library on.  The device with the most storage now can only hold about half the songs.  This was the best device for true music fans and collectors like myself.

It seems to me that these companies are trying to push people towards clouds and streaming.  However, streaming is not a viable economic model yet for artists.  Also, as someone that travels all of the time, internet connection is not always an option.  So as a musician I feel pushed towards an economic model that doesn’t support my profession and as a consumer I feel pushed towards a model that doesn’t support my needs.

I can see how when I’m reading I am often distracted from my books because of my phone.  There is so many times when I sit down with a book and I suddenly am checking my phone without it even being conscious.  At least I haven’t been reading on a device that allows me to check things while I’m reading.  I liked that the iPod allowed focus to be on the music and not on anything else, like the experience will be if all of your music is on your phone.

I read somewhere that a CIA operative said that he didn’t watch television because it.”turned your brain into cotton candy.”  However, even TV, what has often been the most shallow of art forms, seemed to have taken a turn in recent years and provided viewers with many thought provoking shows.  Viewers have been educated to watch complicated shows that require watching multiple episodes that don’t necessarily pay off until you have watched an entire series.  Somehow the music business has not been able to make the general public understand that albums are the best form for expressing a complete thought.  The music business seems to be going back towards the singles market.  I love great singles, but often listening to one song is like watching one scene of a movie.  It may be a great looking scene with a tremendous set-design and outstanding performances, but in order to truly get it you must see it in context.  Often when I listen to songs on shuffle on my iPod, which i don’t do that often, songs that I love in context don’t appeal to me as much.

In years past, especially the 60’s, music played a vital role in this country in changing the culture and in engaging people to think about the world in new ways.  Really great recording artists are still doing that.  Morrissey’s World Peace is None of Your Business is just the latest album to expand the musical subject matter of songs and to provide the listener with new insight into the world.  Jackson Browne’s new album also does the same.  However, these kind of albums seem to be an increasing rarity.

I guess I just feel like an art form that is so important to me, and has been so important to many in this country over the years, is slowly being destroyed by economic forces.  And no one in economic power in the music industry seems to be doing anything to try and reverse the trend.  In the film industry you still have people like the Weinstein’s that still believe important stories need to be told.  You get a sense that at least certain executives in film and television, if not the majority, still believe in the power of their art forms.  Meanwhile, while heavyweight music artists might cry out about what is being done to the industry, there doesn’t seem to be anyone on the business side that I can think of that is really trying to champion the what the form can and should be.

The last thing I want to add is that if you are a fan of music, if you are one of those people that says why aren’t there as many great albums as there once was, you need to economically support artists in some form.  Paying a small fee to Spotify or whatever isn’t going to support the kind of art that you want to see, at least not yet.  We live in a capitalist system and you vote with your dollar.  Great music takes money to make.  If you are not supporting artists finically you are going to see less of the kind of art that you want.  Artists are pretty scrappy.  If they really want to make something they will find a way eventually.  However, the finical straights of the music industry will cut down on the amount of great records that artists will produce as a percentage.

You will also see more and more artists, and we are seeing this already, taking part in commercials and things to finance their work.  It’s a lot harder to critique the system when by necessity you are forced to be a part of it.  I can’t blame anyone that takes a commercial now that is just starting out in the music industry.  Even famous antiestablishment artists are forced into positions they might not otherwise want to be in by hard economic times in the industry.  Johnny Rotten (John Lydon) famously did a string of butter commercials so that he could finance the return of Public Image Ltd.  If I am being honest one of the reasons I started this blog is that I hope to be able to make some secondary income through ads eventually so that I can afford to create the music that I want to.

I feel kind of like someone that is trying to bale out an ocean liner that just hit an iceberg with a bucket.  But I believe in this stuff.  If you truly love music like I do you need to support it.  It doesn’t look like there will be any help from the business side of things anytime soon.  All of us that are fans must do what we can.  Even if we fail we can at least say we tried…

Care Downwards

I apologize to those of you that subscribe for getting this twice.  I accidentally deleted and wanted to repost it.  

I was recently talking to someone that worked for a large company that was laying people off.  They told me those who had been with the company the longest were getting laid off first, because they made the most money.  You know, the people that had been loyal to the company?  Unfortunately, stories like this are all too common.

Today I am staying at a hotel where the woman at the front desk is kind as could be.  She is very helpful, and I realized how rare it is that someone takes pride in their job and leaves an impression through great customer service.

These large companies often do not give a fuck about you.  However, usually if you are in a business, you are dealing with people who have problems and needs that depend on you.

I worked in sales and customer service for years.  I think people should follow a policy of “caring downwards”.  People that are dealing with the general public are often dealing with working stiffs just like them.  One should try to be kind and help these people, because often these people are frustrated, they sometimes have little money, and quite frankly could use the help of someone that cares.

However, while you are doing that you should stick the company in anyway that you can, without getting fired of course. (Although sometimes getting fired is a blessing.)  These companies, again, do not care about you, and will get rid of you as soon as they see fit, especially now that so many unions have been neutered.

When I worked in those professions I would always side with the customer when possible.  When you work with the general public in a sales or customer service context you usually have a certain leeway in how you treat problems.  Management does not want you asking a manager every time a customer has a complaint.  Not only are managers often lazy, but this is a money saving practice.  Every time you call a company it costs them money, this is why most companies try to shake you with long automated prompts.  The longer the call and the more people you talk to, the more expensive the call is to the company.  When I worked at a wireless company I had a certain amount of money I could credit a customer before going to a manager.  When possible I would always credit the customer as I knew not only did the company not give a shit about me, but they were trying to nickel and dime good honest working people as much as possible.  And trust me when I say this is a fact and not an opinion.

I want to make it clear that I am mostly talking about large corporations and not small businesses where personal interaction with top management is a much more personalized affair.

So I would like to spread that thought, like fairy dust, throughout the land:  Care downwards and stick upwards…

Yahoo Dumps ALEC

Yahoo Becomes the Latest Tech Company to Drop ALEC

The above link is a bit of good news in the political world.  Yahoo has joined Google, Facebook, and Microsoft in dumbing their ALEC membership.  ALEC stands for the American Legislative Exchange Council.  They are an organization that has long stood in the way of their being any meaningful progress on climate change legislation among other things.  Google Chairman Eric Schmidt said:

“The facts of climate change are not in question anymore, everyone understands that climate change is occurring, and the people who oppose it are really hurting our children and our grandchildren and making the world a much worse place, and we should not be aligned with such people. They are just literally lying.”

To learn more about ALEC go here:

ALEC Exposed

Advertising and Children

The above is an interesting article on how advertising influences kids.  It was written by Derek Thompson for The Atlantic.  I think with Netflix, DVD’s, and video games, that now is a better time than ever to keep TV advertising out of the home.  Plus as George Carlin has pointed out, they can always just go out in the yard and dig a hole with a stick!

The Failure to Adapt

I saw the movie Glengarry Glen Ross last night for the first time.  It was a portrayal of the sales world that, although highly exaggerated in its language, rang too true in many cases.  I worked in sales and customer service for about six years.  My brother, who commented on the film’s depressing outlook, was also laughing at some of the darkly comic dialogue.  Meanwhile I felt my blood pressure going up as I relived certain situations that I have seen.

The movie tells the story of people in a real estate sales office.  In the beginning of the film Alec Baldwin, who plays a character that represents upper management, comes into the sales office and gives them an epic dressing down for their poor sales performances.  This sets the train of events that takes place in the movie and includes arguments, lying, and thievery.

The David Mamet play that this movie was based on was first performed in 1983 and the movie came out in 1992.  I don’t know how offices were in those years, but knowing how they are now, I knew that the dialogue was an exaggeration.  This movie has so many fucks in it that it became known to the cast as “Death of a fucking salesman.” In the neutered politically correct corporate world of today this kind of outwardly expression of vulgarity would never take place.  Sure, it might take place at moments or in some companies, but over all people would not be allowed to talk to each other like that.  However, this does not mean that the dialogue is untrue.  In its absurd exaggeration it exposes the feelings that I have seen in many coworkers and bosses.  It takes what often is going on inside in reality and moves it outside.

Earlier today I read an article about Hirdoo Onoda.  Onada was a Japanese soldier on a remote island in the Philippines that fought World War II for 29 years after the Japanese surrendered.  He believed that the war was still being fought so many years after it was over.  During this time he killed around 30 islanders who he believed to be enemy combatants.

Watching the movie, and watching these alpha males fight over such pathetic rewards, I couldn’t help but think that in our society we often behave in ways that are historically obsolete.  The men in this movie, and so many people in the business world, have some kind of delusion that they are part of some kind of lost warrior clan.  They are fighting and competing in ways that have no basis for what is needed in the modern world.  They are debasing their own and others dignity for nothing more than Willy Loman’s gold watch.  They behave with the ruthlessness of some kind of ancient guerilla general all for a couple extra bucks and a bigger desk.

In a global world with such global problems as climate change we must seek to see each other’s basic humanity.  The competition of tribes and clans, which the unfettered market still fosters in us, is out of date and will lead to our destruction.  Trouble always arises in the world when times change, but people fail to adapt.