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?
T. Nelson Taylor | Official Site | DusT | Bolita