The Electric Guitar and the Shortness of Human Life

I started taking guitar lessons this week for the first time in years.  I took lessons when I was younger, but a great deal of the stuff I know is self-taught.  I always approached the guitar like a songwriter, from a compositional standpoint, and I really want my playing to equal the best of what I can write.  Although I was always good at coming up with guitar parts, I have never been a great soloist.  For years I have tried to learn how to be the best songwriter possible.  I listened to an infinite number of albums and read as much as I could.  (I am still under the impression and possible fallacy that a good songwriter should read a lot, so as to not just spout cliches.)  Most of the time when I would pick up a guitar, although there have been plenty of times I practiced the art of playing, I usually was trying to write songs.  I’ve played bass professionally for the last few years, even though I grew up switching back and forth between that and guitar.  When I needed to pick the guitar up again, as I have started performing solo shows, I knew I needed to up my game.  I also figured with guitar lessons I would learn new things for bass, whereas you one could learn a lot about bass and not have it necessarily transfer to guitar.

In one lesson I learned as much as I have in five years of playing in my house.  It’s amazing how many nights you can hold an instrument and for there to still be a seemingly infinite amount of knowledge that you don’t possess.  For everything I can do on an instrument, and I can do a lot, there are probably ten things I can’t do.

I find the electric guitar really fascinating because it seems an instrument of endless possibility.  It is the one instrument that relies so equally on a combination of technology and humanity.  The way everyone holds and touches one is unique to that person in the way that all stringed instruments are.  However, with electric guitar you must also find the right combination of amps and effects to achieve the desired sound.

That’s one thing that always comes back to me in life and taking lessons again has only enforced it:  How much we don’t know.  You can work at something for years and still have so much to learn.   I don’t understand those that aren’t curious, that are too comfortable being comfortable.  I especially don’t understand those that are arrogant enough to believe that they know everything.  When this is in the arts it might just be a charming character flaw.  When it is mingled with religion or politics it can become fatal.  Human life is so short and there is so much we don’t know…

Secrets and Puzzles

In Fort Worth, headed to Lubbock today.   Spent the few days between shows canvassing in Austin.  When you walk a city’s streets it takes on forms and shapes that one does not encounter by car.  Garden gnomes,  concrete monkey statues, and abstract art mine the yards and porches.  Some houses are as clean as a hospital and some look like the Star Wars trash compactor.   Cats of all stripes and colors silently watch your every move.  Dogs that you can’t see bark at your presence.  A man that looks like he time traveled from the 50’s is grinding metal with sparks in the shadows.  A young woman tends a Japanese rock graden.  Each block, and sometimes home, is its own universe, governed by a different diety. 

What goes on in all those homes day and night? There are so many secret worlds that we don’t know about.  I was thinking of human beings as puzzle pieces.  In order to understand the truth of creation you would need the experience of every being that has ever lived.  Books and communication can give us some of the pieces we lack, but we will never have them all.  We remain fumbling in the darkness, with imperfect knowledge of the world as it really is.  Even when those rare treasured souls light a candle for us, giving us the ability to see slightly farther than normal, the light remains brief and dim. 

End of the Weekend Trivia

How many of you know the name of this character?


Answer here:

Information on above character

And now how many of you, off the top of your head, can remember what the Fourth Amendment pertains to?

Answer here:

The Fourth Amendment

I am willing to bet there are a lot more people that know the answer to the first question than the second.

And I’d be lying if I said for sure I would have gotten the second one right from memory!  Just a little test to make you think about where we’re at.  

The Hot Air Balloon of Reading

Sometimes I view reading like going up in a hot air baloon.  It allows you to see farther than you did before you read something.  You also get a more complete picture of what is going on.  However, sometimes that same change in view allows you to miss what is right beneath you.  I have read a good deal, more than many, less than some, but I don’t feel that it makes me superior in anyway.  It is just a different set of knowledge and tools than some other people have.  I envy someone that can, let’s say, change the breaks on a car or start a fire in the woods with no modern tools.  The two kinds of knowledge are not necessarily exclusive.  However, we need and should value people with different skill sets.  Other than people who purposely spread ignorance, refuse to learn anything, or use what they have learned only for their own enrichment, we all need each other in this world. 

Angry Monkeys

The modern GOP are a bunch of angry monkeys sliging shit at the zoo.  Their power bace is getting older and dying off.  The younger generation is seeing the absurdity in their contradictory, selfish, and absurd positions.   People like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert have taught people how to see through the veil of nonsense.  Time is on the side of justice.  The question is will these monkeys destroy this nation before their time runs out?  A greedy sensless King Kong is running amuck in the city.  We need to shoot these apes down with truth and knowledge.

Fire From the Mountaintop and Platinum Tanks

Some years ago the rapper Master P had a video in which he and his crew were astride a platinum tank.  I thought at that point the human race had reached the furthest limits in a culture of worshipping wealth and consumerism.  Once you have a platinum tank, how much further as a species can you go in that direction?  It seems we sailed on past that point.  We went over the waterfall and somehow just kept on going downstream.

There is nothing wrong with making money.  I am in two rock n roll bands.  Bands, if you are trying to run them so that you can survive, are businesses.   If you have a product in any field that you believe in, and try to sell it at a fair price and run your business with some integrity, you are doing society a good service.  You are creating jobs and providing people with services and goods that they desire.

What I’m talking about is the kind of hero worship of the wealthy that we see in this country.  As if those people, just by the fact that they are rich, are deserving of some kind of acclaim.  Reality TV is filled with people that certain people fawn over just because they have money and act outrageously.  Keeping Up With the Kardashians and Donald Trump’s The Apprentice are two such vile places one can spend time.  Those are easy targets.

We also seem to have hero worship for financial advisors like Suze Orman and Jim Cramer.  These are people that sell us the empty dream of becoming rich without standing for anything.

I’ve seen several studies that show how wealth relates to happiness.  The numbers vary slightly, but one such study claims that after $75,000 a year money ceases to affect your day to day happiness.  You need to have enough money to pay your bills, have freedom from fear of want, and have a little extra money for fun.  After that, money doesn’t necessarily make you any happier.

When people become wealthy, if they are not getting an inheritance, it is because of a combination of hard work and luck.  The hard work shouldn’t be discounted, but neither should the luck.  Luck is not something to worship.  If you were born in the USA, instead of Somalia, you probably have a better chance of getting rich.  That’s just one example.

Instead we should look up to those that have brought new ideas into the world, that have tried to make the world a better place, or that have made others happier.  A great teacher, that has brought the light of knowledge to many students, is more deserving of our applause than some kind of rich mutant like Donald Trump.

Hopefully, some day there will be a new age of heroes.  I’m looking for an age where we look up to people that have brought fire down from the mountaintop to us; a fire of peace, tolerance, and knowledge.  I’m not counting on it, but I’m dreaming.