Friday, March 29, 2019

It's Either People or Records, Guns, and Planes

Birthday celebration’s over. Fantastic week with my dear parents, who bravely navigated the angry interstate yet again to spend their precious moments with us. Thanks to Maria and all my fabulous friends and family who posted. Love abounds…

It has been quite some time since the last post, but some frequently reverberating thoughts continue to plague me.

The easy one first…

Remember these?


Social Bandwagoning

I’ve often wondered if any of my musically-inclined, socially-conscious friends mentally zoom out to assess the current state of our beloved art. What’s been bugging me is this business of social bandwagoning. You’ll have to look past the unintended pun; what I mean or attempt to define by that label is the way popularity and sales are currently achieved or conversely shunned unless a socially-desirable goal is gained. A privileged handful excepted, music-sharing has all but destroyed recording sales while consumers are drowning in overexposed mediocrity, and any aspiring artist has their own social Olympus Mons to climb before ever having a shot at success. It really doesn’t matter about the level of talent either, referencing the nature of today’s derivative, formulaic compositions. Unless you’re truly original (this is highly subjective) with some sort of intrinsic interest, your chances of success without serious external help are pretty much nil. Great music is everywhere, but who are the gatekeepers of popularity?

Your Value…

I’m not sure of anyone’s value any longer, frankly. Case in point: Because of the free media flood, there is no value attached to new recorded art. Zip. (Don’t bring me the vinyl resurgence fad. That’s cute and fabulous for a very small set of analog enthusiasts but by no means a commanding market segment. Not at this time). Anyway, if you want to make a viable living, you’ll be touring. This is true for long-established professionals as well. The recordings are largely loss-leading write-offs for their eventual tours. On a personal anecdote, it’s like this…

Countless times a colleague will offer their new album for sale, often at a greatly reduced price undercutting traditionally-distributed media. Why? Because it simply doesn’t cost as much to produce and distribute a quality professional recording. Let’s say their price is typically $5 …five…bucks… Now, I couldn’t begin to count how many times I walked into a casino and witnessed a slots player pressing a $5 spin button. Three seconds. Gone. Repeat. Repeated twenty times. $100 gone. They reach for the wallet and slip another Franklin into the bill acceptor. Press, press, press. Done… and on to another machine. Many would say it’s about hope. Hope for a win and financial rewards. Sure, but there’s another side: It impresses those gawkers who gasp at such a gaudy display. Wealth flaunted, social goal achieved. This is where social bandwagoning comes into frame. Players perceive the attention and up their bets. People notice, an onlooking group gathers, social goal achieved. It doesn’t matter if they lose, either; it’s the heroic attempt.

So how does this translate to the art sales world? Simple. Where’s the social gain in secretly buying a $5 CD if nobody else is buying it? There first must be a popular mandate—the catch-22. Someone must tell you it’s great before it’s great. Some “authority” who creates the perception of popularity. The Engine.  
Sad, isn’t it? What happened to the MUSIC?
You tell me.


Before the next mass shooting occurs…

“If only the same attention were focused on A) Root causation and B) Other vastly more catastrophic causes.”

For some, emotions and calls for action have been raging for months if not years concerning malicious firearm deaths, particularly those occurring on school campuses. With all debate angles considered, why is it that only a few folks manage to take a small step back and ask “What made that asshole pick up a gun in the first place? What about the other causes of death?”

Let’s be more specific. Innocent kids are dying. That’s the problem, right? Does the death of a child anger you more if it comes from another senseless kid with a gun, or at the hands of a drunk adult driver? It’s horrible either way, isn’t it? Somebody’s child is gone no matter the reason, but apparently, those killed by deranged adolescent miscreants…

Okay, this might appear off-topic to you, but not to me. Kids die every day in our country. In the hundreds, actually, and firearms are a minuscule reason compared to medical malpractice, car crashes (drunken and/or distracted), drugs, disease and suicide. Where’s the outrage for those?

That’s the real problem. Critical thinking has surrendered to a media-fueled political agenda which contains righteousness only in part. Half-baked, sensationalist, and at worst, “popular”. Even so, I applaud our esteemed public officials, bandwagoning celebrities, and well-meaning citizens who not only understand the PR value, but truly have taken the high road by demanding change. Yes, some of us middle-standing people get it, but we also believe that if you truly wish to save the most lives, your energy is better spent on the other causes.

Now for those of you who insist on some sort of crystallized position out of me on the gun debate, it’s like this: Absolutely, we can agree on some common sense measures to keep firearms – any – out of the hands of a loon. On psychological meds? No guns. Diagnosed psych condition? Banned for three years after cleared. Violent rap sheet? NO ever! Non-citizen? (seriously?) And yes, no full-auto mods, no background loopholes or other workarounds. 3-day wait on all firearms? Why not.

I can think of several others, but it’ll never be good enough for some folks, and there are the phantoms the gun control crowd refuses to acknowledge—lawbreakers. For those of you who insist that nobody should own a firearm period (yes, these people exist), I’m pretty sure history is sticking a Luger in your back. ..or a musket, if that’s your preferred frame of reference. Please—take a good long look at how our country was founded and understand exactly why the Second Amendment was drafted. While you’re at it, research a bit on how certain European citizens were so easily subjugated in wartime. Ask a Cuban refugee. If that doesn’t help, I know of a perfect vacation cabin for you just outside Juneau Alaska. Front door optional.

Will it work? Dope it out. Watch the news, and pay close attention to those cases outside the gun control narrative.

photo credit: wikipedia

Who’s Flyin’ Now?

As a former private pilot, I gotta wonder…

Certainly, today’s airliners are vastly complex vehicles utilizing incredibly sophisticated automations in assisting modern pilots with their task—moving hundreds of travelers as rapidly and efficiently from A to B as possible. Trouble is, I’ve noticed for several years that some of these pilots are catastrophically failing core competencies by relying on the tech instead of looking out the window, feeling the seat of their pants, or referencing their primary flight instruments. Instead, it’s almost as if some captain is pointing to an iPad, screaming, “BUT IT SAYS WE ARE FL370, LEVEL AT 420 KNOTS!” when in fact the nose is slightly up and the airspeed is creeping below stall.

“Airplanes are becoming far too complex to fly.” ~Trump

Our President often has the gift of the simplistic; making judgements in areas for which he possesses no competence. Does that make this statement wrong? I don’t know.

What I am aware of, is that modern commercial aircraft have indeed become quite complex, offering automated systems to maximize fuel savings. Unfortunately, these systems sometimes betray us, and the cost is more death than the average mass shooting (sorry). I would prefer to pay just a little more to save myself, to have the pilot completely in command of their aircraft, to trust their instincts and experience, and not debate a monitor reading when the obvious is obvious. Sure, make the jetliners better. Make them safer, more reliable, more comfortable, more features, and a joy to fly, but let’s also make sure the two bright folks at the front are actually FLYING it.

Parting Shot…

To the fine folks of Britain: Are you still a free democracy?

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Say What You Mean!

Conflate. There’s a word in popular use lately, although I’m not exactly sure its utterers are aware of its ambiguity.

“I think you’re conflating the issues.”

Wait, did you mean confuse, combine, or commingle? What about blend, mix, or merge? It seems that by using conflate as some sort of derision, the user attempts to avoid their exact thought because it might hurt someone’s feelings. It doesn’t quite sound as bad as confuse or mix(up). Worse, they won’t use more exacting verbiage because it potentially demeans themselves.

“I am confused.”

Yes, we all are.

Before conflate became popular, I was quite all right with confused. And what happened to combine or commingle?

“I think you’re blending the issues.”

Why yes, I did. I take it this is a problem?


Then say so!

“Well, you don’t like the word conflate so…”

Exactly, but I was not confused when I combined the issues.

“But… “

This is the state of our expressionism: We can’t say what we mean without suffering some sort of consequence. In other words, we’ve collectively and voluntarily become a neutered society of miscommunicators.
C’est la mort. 

Now, after some inevitable ad hominem heckling, on to a more depressing rant sure to make you close this window…

The Death of Objective Journalism

Well, it isn’t quite dead, is it. Almost dead, maybe. Or perhaps one could parse what I mean by “dead” or death in the first place. Let’s call it the death of respectable journalism. No, wait. There’s still some of that out there, it’s just that it’s died off to the point of being rarer than a quality mullet haircut. When you do see it, you look the other way. No point in rambling on about the state of that; let’s get to the meat.

Social Media. Many of us knew long ago that the dawn of the Information Age also brought with it the Misinformation Age. Fake news has been around forever, and it that’s because it works. No, I’m not going into the footworn canyons of atheists’ arguments—that’s not me—but society has in fact been the victim of untruths, half-truths, cons, ruses, conspiracies and other grand-scale nonsense since the first monolith landed and the apes stood up. Wait… never mind that last bit.

My point is, we’ve been played and continue to be played like David Oikstrakh’s violin. Don’t know him? Okay, maybe I should have used a recent celebrity. Itzhak Perlman? No? How about Joe Bonamassa’s guitar? Surely you’ve heard of him! Alright, I give, but you might notice how a lack of information goes a long way to foment false perceptions.

Behind the Curtain

Take a look at this debatable video a reputable friend recently posted to their Facepage.


Its purpose appears to codify our reasoning to blame our dear old adversary for not just the 2016 election, but also the current state of extreme polarization in the U.S. Um, no. Russia does not deserve as much credit as it’s receiving. The lion’s share of division emanates from our own media outlets. Not just news organizations, but many of the top TV shows, and the reason for this is quite simple. Yep—money. Well, that’s the endgame but not quite the modus in play here.

You’ve heard the maxim, “If it bleeds, it leads.” It was as true then as it is now. More to the point, the major media outlets are, and have been since the mid-‘90s, in a state of panicked flux. No broadcaster can survive without revenue. That’s a fact. Now allow that fact to guide your logic.

Mark Zuckerberg recently defended Facebook against a rigorous Senate panel grilling. When asked about the primary goal of his business, he posited a curt response. “We sell ads.”
He sells ads, ABC sells ads, FOX, CNN, NBC, CBS, you name it. If it’s on television, it’s paid for by advertiser money. That also goes for government-backed outlets such as the BBC. Facebook would shutter in a moment’s notice without ad revenue. They all would. It’s just that simple. Given this, there are only two things you need to remember: (1) Ad revenue comes from individuals, companies, lobbying groups and other organizations seeking an audience. (2) It is up to that media outlet to generate the largest audience possible for greatest ad revenue. Now think about those intended audiences for a moment. Why do you believe there are so many drug ads during the evening news, or beer and trucks during football games, or feminine hygiene products during daytime TV? The outlets know who’s watching (via Neilsen), and they know what ticks their boxes. So do the news outlets.

Not too long ago, a news organization could only be slightly politically biased if it hoped to gain the largest audience. Sure, they were still biased long ago, but it wasn’t as extroverted and obviated as it is today. You can thank FOX News for that. They pranced through the pearly right-wing gates back in the early 1990s and never looked back. Just like that (and you can use Gump’s voice here) most folks in 40 or so states stopped watching CNN. Ad revenue plummeted. Heads rolled.

“Do something!”

The gloves came off, and for the most part, it was FOX against the left-leaning urban America. The liberal outlets were market savvy as well. More so, in fact. They have the wealth of Hollywood’s production engine on their side. Sides? We’re on sides now if you didn’t know it. At least, that’s what the outlets want you to believe until something occurs wherein no political capital can be gained. Then it’s “we’re all Americans after all.” Sure we are. That never changed.

Perishable Newsprint

And so with the internet, most (not all!) traditional print newspapers are gasping; fighting over the last chunks of interested subscribers by the production of monkey-edited click-bait tabloid, intentionally targeted at easily-riled and gullible dullards. Wait..sorry. Too harsh. Pontificating a bit and demeaning what might otherwise be groups of nice, well-meaning Americans. You knowthe kind of folks Heddey (Hedley!) Lamarr endeared. Education is a choice. Comprehension, however…

Ultimately, the internet outlets also, in fact, require the means in which to operate. For an effective professional and profitable organization, it takes mountains of cash. That means they have carefully researched their target audiences with every given headline, painstakingly crafted the verbiage, and measured the effects of it all after publication. More clicks. Must have more clicks!  Yet, those clicks are dwindling and the belts have tightened. You can see it in the increased grammatical errors (yes, I look in the mirror), lack of research, vetting, verification, and missed facts. Now it’s devolved to such a point that the outlets are trashing each other over a laughable entitlement to moral superiority.

Talk about misdirection…

No ghosts in the BBC's closet. Nooo...

I envision we’ll all be tuning out soon. It’s either that or some miracle occurs by way of a truly-objective news outlet coming to prominence. Never happen. Too boring.

On Tour

In case you missed it…

My favorite editor and I have been extensively traveling out west for the past few years. Some of it retracing steps not taken since DUST’s prepublication research days. (We’re talkin’ before 2009 here). Reno, Tahoe, San Francisco and the heart of Silicon Valley were breached, along with the communities that inspired Sonno Dolce and Amerimem. We also tumbled into Crow Agency, MT and some national monuments in the Wyoming/South Dakota border region. They presented themselves as I remembered, just more traffic and a bit more weed wafting about. Quite a bit. Suffice to say, we might have enjoyed the visit more than we anticipated.

More Soon,

T. Nelson Taylor | Official Site | DusT | Bolita