State Pride Cometh Before the Fall

Although I grew up in Pennsylvania, I have lived in the South, or at least Texas which is a weird Southern/Western hybrid, for 10 years.  I don’t understand the idea of Southern, state, or regional pride.  (And yes certain places in the North have pride as well. NYC is an example.  But although someone might be able to produce a t-shirt or something that proves other, in all my years in PA I have never heard one person actually say Pennsylvania proud or something of that order.  And that is a state in which many people never leave.)  Isn’t the old saying, “Pride cometh before the fall?”  I mean I loved growing up in PA, I love a lot of the people there, etc.  But this is different from having pride.  Pride means you are proud of something without judgment.  I don’t drive around with a Pennsylvania state flag on my car.  If I’m being honest I couldn’t even draw the fucking thing if you put a gun to my head.  If a group of people in that area do something stupid I don’t get defensive.  There are good and bad people in every region.  Because I lived there I happen to know a lot of good that goes on there, but I know the bad too.  Same with my adopted state of Texas.  (There is a lot of Texas pride!  I joke with some of my Texan friends, and I do love living in this state, that they love jerking themselves off with their own flag.)  So I don’t understand why certain people in certain states not only have this seemingly unconditional pride, and also get defensive when someone attacks something what is going on in their region.  Part of growing up is learning not to judge groups, but individuals, for good or ill.

When you wave a flag you are not only standing with all of the great things that that flag represents, but all of the dumbassery inherent as well.  Flags are useful when you are trying to shoot a person across a field and want to make sure you hit the right one, but not for much else.

A Lie Agreed Upon

A Lie Agreed Upon – David Milch’s Deadwood

The other day I mentioned that I was watching the David Milch created Luck.  While reading more interviews with Milch I came upon this fascinating article.  There is a mini-documntary here that you can watch about Milch’s Deadwood, one of the greatest shows of all time.  You can also read the script for the documentary below if you don’t feel like watching it.  It’s truly fascinating not only for the information about the show, but the ideas inherent in the show and therefore the documentary as well dealing with our country.  The title above has to do with the idea that history is a, “lie agreed upon.”  I found the following passage really interesting and a good sample of the kind of ideas inherent in the show and article:

He said, “An agreement that creates a community is an agreement upon an illusion, an agreement upon an intoxicant.  Our founding document jumps off from, ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident,’ which to me means a frank agreement upon illusion – not that these are self-evident truths, but that we agree upon an illusion that these are fucking truths.”

How Do I Find The Music I Listen To?

A family member recently asked me how I find all of the music that I listen to.  As a musician I want to keep up to date with what is going on.  At the same time I there is a lot of older music to look for inspiration in.  I feel like it is not only important what music one listens to, but also the context.  Certain music might open up more after you have heard something else.  It is like reading.  You can often enjoy a book without getting all of the literary references in it, but you might enjoy it more, or at least enjoy it in a different way, if the things a writer is alluding to are at least somewhat understood.  Music you might not like at one point in your life could suddenly open up and appear beautiful at a later date.  So while I think it is somewhat important to remain current with trends, especially with people that are pushing the envelope, going down your own unique path, looking forwards and backwards, is going to lead to a more satisfying place.  Plus in the past, due to technological limitations, people had to be creative in different ways.  When one couldn’t easily fix or edit something, a musician had to be creative in the moment, which often leads to more innovative musicianship, even if there are plenty of fine players and performers now.  At the end of the day all that matters is what you enjoy, but if you keep an open mind and seek new things, you can discover you will find all kinds of things to enjoy that you might not have thought possible.

I almost never listen to any kind of radio.  This is by circumstance and design.  At this point I have amassed a large collection of music, and because of this is makes it easier to find something I am in the mood for at any given time.  Also, aside from satellite radio and streaming, which I have never really gotten into, most mainstream radio is either flat out horrible or limited in scope.  Out of current AM/FM radio stations public radio is often the best.  I’m not saying there aren’t radio stations out there that are good, Austin has several, but I find that very little of the time do I hear something good that I haven’t already heard before.  Satellite radio is good, but I like to have more control over what I’m listening to.  Until streaming can provide artists with a viable economic model, I have no desire to go down that road and become part of the problem, even if I know it is a losing battle.  But more than anything with different forms of radio I, which I have found is typical for an introvert, want to control what I am listening to somewhat.

So how do I find a lot of the music that I listen to?  I read a lot about music.  I read blogs, music magazine websites, reviews, etc.  Even when I was young, before the internet became a major player, I read tons of music magazines and books about music.  I also try to find out what the musicians I like are influenced by.  Even if I will never meet many of my musical heroes, I will try to read about what influenced them.  Most of the time, but definitely not all, if I like an artist, what they like will be of at least marginal interest to me.  Many things I might not have found on my own have opened up to me this way.

I also ask people who share similar interests if they can recommend anything good.  Musicians that I respect have lead me to artists such as Ted Hawkins, Lee “Scratch” Perry, Boozoo Chavis, Doug Sahm, and many more.  Friends that are into music have lead me on to even more artists.  If I like something someone is listening to, I just ask, “Hey what else do you got?”

I also constantly surf different things where I can hear clips, whether that is YouTube, Amazon, iTunes, etc.  If I read about an artist or someone tells me about one, I often seek out clips.  But sometimes I just will randomly listen to clips off of a bunch of new albums, follow links, get lost down the internet rabbit hole.  I often spend hours doing this.  Music is not only my job, but my passion.  I could get home from a show and spend a couple hours just surfing different formats, just waiting to hear something I like.  It’s a form of relaxation for me, though sometimes it depresses me when I listen to a ton of new albums and can’t find even one that I like.  I try to buy at least some of the records I get in a store, as I think it is important to support local music stores, but late night with a credit card on the internet can be dangerous!  Often I will awake thinking, “What the fuck did I do?!!!”  Why God created drinking and online purchasing power I will never know.  It is a cruel joke of existence.

Sometimes I am ahead of the curve and sometimes I am behind it.  Sometimes I will discover a band years before they become popular and sometimes I am really late to the game.  It doesn’t really matter how you find what you like.  It doesn’t matter if you are into something that is popular or are stuck in some musical time warp waring out analog recordings on vinyl.  i don’t expect anyone to be as nuts about this stuff as I am, though some are even more obsessive than me.  However, I think because music is such a big part of our culture and history, one only needs to think of the counterculture movement of the 60’s, that it can be stimulating seeing what is going on, what has gone on, out there.

One final thought:  It doesn’t matter if something is popular or not.  i don’t like elitists that think something is not worthy if it finds a large audience.  Some of the best music ever created is music that in its time was extremely popular.  In recent years I have found that some extremely popular records, like Daft Punk’s R.A.M., were some of the best recordings out there.  However, popularity in no way means something is valid.  So many things die on the vine because they didn’t receive proper promotion, they were ahead of their time and people didn’t get them, or any number of reasons.  Popularity neither means something is bad or good.  In fact the two have absolutely nothing to do with each other, either way.

The Party of Jackson vs. The Party of Obama

The Party of Jackson vs. the Party of Obama – NYMag

The above article is an interesting read about the history of the Democratic party.  It also deals with recent events and the friction between different elements of the party.  The other day I saw this map, which shows which areas of the country have the most racist tweets.  I was surprised, maybe not totally surprised having grown up around that region, but at least slightly surprised that the region that looked the worst on that map was Appalachia.  (I grew up in central Pennsylvania and went to college in West Virginia.)  Now there may be reasons that this map is slightly misleading, though I have no proof of that.  The fact that it is Twitter and not some kind of more scientific poll may change results.  There are also less blacks in that region than in other parts of the country that are more traditionally thought of as racist, so maybe people feel they have less reason to hide what they are saying?  Anyhow, anyway you cut it, it is deeply troubling for that region.  (I should also add that as someone that travels a lot, no one should be stereotyped just because of the region they come from.  There are great people in the South and Appalachia, just as there are terrible people in regions that are not as negatively stereotyped for racial issues.)

One of the things that the right has been so good at doing is dividing and conquering.  Economically minorities and white working class voters would both benefit from a less conservative agenda.  Having better access to good jobs, good education, and having more regulations, especially in areas of pollution, leads to a higher quality of life.  However, these social issues have always been used to divide our country.  United we stand, divided we fall, is now as true as ever.  If we can’t overcome our differences in this age, when jobs can move anywhere in the world and environmental issues require a united front, we are truly doomed.

How Streaming Has Changed the Charts

How Streaming Has Changed the Charts

An interesting article about how the music charts have been altered by streaming.  It makes the case that diversity has been watered down.  I can speak to how accurate this article is, but it is worth thinking about if you want to understand how culture, and especially musical culture, is changing due to technology.  I originally received this article though my ASCAP membership. 

Half Awake In a Fake Empire

Stay out super late tonight
Picking apples, making pies
Put a little something in our lemonade
And take it with us

Were half awake in a fake empire
Were half awake in a fake empire

Tiptoe through our shiny city
With our diamond slippers on
Do our gay ballet on ice
Bluebirds on our shoulders

Were half awake in a fake empire
Were half awake in a fake empire

Turn the light out, say goodnight
No thinking for a little while
Let’s not try to figure out everything at once
Its hard to keep track of you falling through the sky

Were half awake in a fake empire
Were half awake in a fake empire

I’ve been listening to The National’s album Boxer as it was suggested to me by a friend.  Knowing what little I know about The National, being an indie band from New York, you could see the song as a critique of hipster culture, or one of those songs that is about the age when partying starts to lose its luster.  However, I couldn’t help but think of American exceptionalism while listening to it. Although there have been a couple big wins for sanity in the last week, we still are a country that has an absurd divide between rich and poor.  We are still poisoning the only earth we are ever going to have.  Yet we constantly distract ourselves with a mainstream culture that is largely a wasteland, a senseless circle jerk.  Fame without talent or accomplishment, facts without context, people that talk constantly and yet seem to say nothing.  What good is wealth if it is created at the expense of others?  What good is fame if it is not married with any value outside of itself?  What good is knowledge if it is just the accumulation of board game trivia answers, a collection of the useless?  What point is speaking if it is only to spread misinformation?  Who cares how someone looks if their brain is full of spiders?  “We’re half awake in a fake empire…”

My Voting System

There is a meme going around on Facebook right now where Texas Governor Greg Abbot is quoted:

“Marriage is defined by God, no man can redefine it.”

Then it shows the three women Supreme Court Judges and below their picture it says: I Am No Man.

I loved it.  I wrote below it on my Facebook page:

I couldn’t help post this. It made me laugh thinking how certain heads would explode. As a straight white male maybe you think I shouldn’t be laughing. But after centuries of war, environmental destruction, and economic injustice (just for starters!), I figure it’s time to let some other people drive. We have three women on the Supreme Court and a black president and we got affordable healthcare and tolerance that just a few years ago seemed a dream.

I don’t usually like to post those memes on Facebook, but sometimes you have to break your own rules.  But anyway, it made me think of my voting system that I use if I am not sure of who to vote for.  Let’s just be honest, sometimes you go to the polls in those off years and you just don’t know all the races.  So you have to have a system.  So here is mine (I will explain after):

1.  If there are different parties I select the most liberal party.

2.  If there are not different parties I will vote for a woman over a man.

3.  If the candidates are all one sex, then I try to see if one of the candidates has a name that looks like a minority name.  If so I vote for the minority.

4.  If the only name present is a white Republican male, then I write in a candidate.

5.  If there is no one that I can think of that is breathing to hold an office other than a white Republican male, I then write in a fictional character.

Basically, in my opinion, George W. Bush doomed white Republican males until the end of time.  The Republican party, which was the party of my grandfather, and used to feature sensible moderates at times, spent the years between Reagan and W. driving all moderates out of positions of power in the party.  (I know many of you are still out there in the wilderness.  Stay strong!)  Somehow this thinning of the moderate heard reached light speed under George W.  Now that party’s leadership seems to be left without any candidates that aren’t anti-science, religious freak, free market fundamentalists.

It’s not that I think that all liberals, women, and minorities are great.  Not by a long shot.  It’s only that I am willing to bet they will be better than the WRM alternative.

In life the driving forces should be love, tolerance, and peace.  I don’t mean that in the kind of utopian sense than many on the right would call, “hippie bullshit.”  I just mean that we should strive to be tolerant of those individuals who are born differently from us and that as a society we should only use violence as a last resort.  As much as I would like to believe otherwise, if you put Hitler at one end of the human spectrum and Martin Luther King Jr. at the other, I would probably be somewhere in the middle.  But I’m trying.  It’s striving to be loving, tolerant, and peaceful that is important.  Many of us will trip along the way, but we must get up and try harder.

I feel like more often than not, those that have struggled have more empathy for other people that are struggling.  Unfortunately, right now, in our society, on average, women and minorities have more roadblocks in their path than white men do, despite whatever bullshit Fox News tries to sell you.  (You will see all kinds of “traditional values under attack” over at Fox News after the gay marriage vote.  Fox News viewers will be made to feel like victims, again.  Please, gay people are just being allowed to marry someone they love, not being given free mansions.)  There is no promise that any kind of person is going to be loving, tolerant, or kind, but again, I’m playing the odds at the voting booth on occasion.  If you’ve been shit on by the system, the odds are you are going to extend a hand to others that have faced similar problems.  And that’s what this whole life thing is about, making sure that as many of our brothers and sisters get a fair shake as possible.

Now granted, occasionally my system could vote in Clarence Thomas in a whig, but whoever said life was without its risks?