13 September, 2016

OUR FLAG AND NATIONAL ANTHEM

     A trend seems to have blossomed among professional athletes who have chosen to ‘act out’  their perception that they are not represented by our national anthem. Some choose to remain seated or kneel when the anthem plays instead of standing, as do other teammates, to acknowledge fondness and support.
     That’s one of the great things about America isn’t it? Everyone is free to indicate their beliefs. To have an opinion.
     I would much rather these athletes come to perceive the intangible greatness of a nation that struggles to improve itself. Such is the full measure of our Flag and our National Anthem.
     America has matured from the unwieldy nation it was when the flag first appeared. The Flag, like our National Anthem, is colored with principle. The blue field of stars represents a new constellation. The red stripe indicates valor and the white stripe purity. If you can disagree with these virtues then I’m glad I don’t know you!
     It's been more than 200 hundred years since Francis Scott Key viewed our embattled Flag during the War of 1812 and was inspired to compose our National Anthem in all it’s majesty.
     We have come a long way from 'Wounded Knee' and 'Rosy the Riveter' or 'Four Dead in Ohio'. The Viet Nam War is behind us just as 'Watergate' and 'Rodney King'. And yet those historic events are now woven into the very tapestry of American history. These issues now have a place in the ‘Stars and Stripes’; each in their own subtle corners. There for each to uncover.
     Are we perfect yet? I'm going to go with 'NO'! Are we better now? For the most part... Do we constantly toil to improve? No other option. Is government easy? Nope. Just ask Barack. Do some feel invisible, neglected or unrepresented? Hell yes! You don't have to be gay or a person of color for that. Just talk to a Musician, we don't even show up in the employment stats!
     Sometimes it all seems like a load of ‘nothing good’ to me as well, but you have to admit; Our  Flag is still here. And the community of Nations is better for it. Maybe America should get a new domain name: ‘Foreign Aid’.
     If you hold America up to ideal standards you’ll likely be disappointed. Compare America to the conduct of so many other nations and you will be awakened.
     Why would so many thousands who yearn for a better reality want to crash our borders? Stay here illegally? Fly under the 'social' radar? Risk their lives and their families in flimsy rafts just for the hope of reaching a shore filled with tangible promise and a workable future? Go figure. Are they crazed?
     These iconic symbols of America have been revered for nearly ten generations. When you reject the 'Star Spangled Banner' or 'Old Glory'... you are revealed. You are like Donald Trump blithely accepting the donation of a Purple Heart. You did nothing to earn it and so it lacks meaning in your life.
     You affirm ( by way of action ) that you do not expect to be included in the way forward. You declare that American inspiration and potential is not present in your life even as thousands clamor at the gate.
     Be reminded that you are also role models. You may be enabling the impressionable young to behave in the self same way. What would Tupac say?
     The National Anthem is patriotism… period. We embrace the Flag, not only for all it has been through, but for all the possibilities that lay ahead and beyond.
     One of the great things about America is that we have no prisoners here. We are all free to move along.



16 August, 2016

OPEN REMARKS TO DONALD TRUMP

OPEN REMARKS TO DONALD TRUMP

Perhaps we may at last put to rest the ongoing Republican denial of climate change. At this hour the East Coast is baking, the West Coast is burning and the Southern States are Flooding. Additionally, there are 4 weather disturbances in the Tropics and two more forming in the Pacific not to mention a deadly earthquake in Italy. I understand that Republicans often selectively deny climate issues. If an issue does not exist then certainly there is no need for recognition or funding. As has been said: 'Ignorance is bliss'.

Dear Mr. Trump,
American Presidents are not permitted to employ sarcasm. Sarcasm is a concept that may not be widely recognized by the international community.
You ( as President ) are not permitted to exaggerate, mis-interpret, re-imagine, mis-quote or mis-remember. Those are the rules. A President can seldom ‘ walk it back ‘.
Every President is tasked to ‘ call out ‘ on behalf of all Americans; to every voter [ indeed to every global citizen ] and to establish a path forward for our nation. That’s the job. There is nothing more relevant to the office.
Your behavior / role as a real estate mogul would cease. You would then become a servant of our nation. I'm curious, does public service appear anywhere on your resume?
May I also remark that Americans are weary of witnessing their legislators to be attired in expensive clothing like French Sleeves and Cuff Links. And all for a day at the office? It’s rather elitist. But then again you have always been reluctant to conceal your opulent wealth.


Congress! Roll up your sleeves and get to work for America. This is not a fashion show!
Being ' very Presidential ' is not a suit to be worn on only a special occasion.
Election winning candidates such as Bill Clinton and President Obama and to a certain extent George W. Bush seem to possess a quality that you lack. I cannot know what your term might be for this quality but I label it ' refined '.
These esteemed public servants are not the product of reality TV. They were previously elected as Governor or Senator ( okay, one was a cheerleader ). Kindly familiarize yourself with the scope of their work. They are not billionaires and so may not be among the 1%.
However, each in turn has rather fumbled the fragile jewel of global perception upon which our national securities depend. Let’s put an end to that.
My impression of POTUS is that even our greatest leaders must continually perfect their diplomatic skills. Diplomacy is difficult. It is the domain of masterful communicators ( not masterful salesman ).
I was resigned in belief that this obstructionist Republican Congress could go no further in diminishing the Presidency. But then, the party selected you as their nominee.
Mr. Trump. You are a volatile candidate to be certain. Volatility has been the cornerstone of your entire campaign.
I’ve managed to cobble together a few realities that we, the American people, must be prepared to accept should you actually become elected:
1.) The stock market will tank. The market deplores volatility.
2.) You would be the only President to bring multiple divorces into the office. You would also be the only President whose First Lady was featured in a nude pictorial. I truly am not qualified to wax cogently about the influence this might have on younger women who have traditionally found the role of FLOTUS to be inspirational. 
3.) At this writing you would be the first candidate who has refused to release their Tax return. I suppose it is difficult to seek paltry campaign donations when you are purported to have billions at your disposal.
4.) You are the first Candidate to accept a nomination while persisting to issue broad based condemnations of women, war heroes, Muslims and Hispanics. And most recently, the media.
You were gifted with a ‘ Purple Heart ’ remarking that you’ve always wanted one and that ‘ this way was so much easier’.
FYI: No one seeks to obtain a ‘ Purple Heart ’. One receives the award to honor life threatening acts of heroism. Of course, since you were able to avoid military service, you may not be aware of the true relevance.
5.) You would also be the first candidate to infer that a woman who is beleaguered by unwanted sexual advances in the workplace should simply extract themselves and to go in search of another place of employment. What does that even mean?
Your remark is ludicrous. However, this would seem to be in line with previous Republican remarks whose lack of reproductive awareness has astonished every graduate of eighth grade biology.
6.) You would be the only nominee to assure coal miners that you would personally rejuvenate the coal industry; an industry whose product has lost relevance in the 21st Century. Sadly, that noble and now struggling workforce has placed their trust in you. “ Trump Digs Coal “.
7.) One for the records; you would be the first and only candidate ever to be simultaneously endorsed by Sarah Palin, Larry the Cable Guy, Dennis Rodman, Duck Dynasty, Mike Tyson, Ann Coulter and the KKK ( albeit disavowed ). Moreover, previous Republican Presidents have chosen to boycott your nominating convention.
Let’s face it. The Republican party has nominated the proverbial ‘ Smelly Cat ‘ portrayed in song by Phoebe Buffay on the 90’s American TV sit-com ‘ Friends ’. You sir are that ‘ Smelly Cat ‘.
High ranking members of the RNC have sought to distance themselves from you in prior months. And now, astonishingly, these same individuals are reversing themselves as if to say that the smell could have been worse. They have chosen ‘ party over country ‘.
All of America is watching and all are well informed.















06 June, 2014

ABOUT ELECTRIC MOTORING

CONSIDER ELECTRIC MOTORING

Sturdy, silent, safe and emission free. This variety of transportation lingers above my generation in the 'spectral promise' of future greatness such as the 'flying car' or the 'hover craft' or even the 'jet pack'. Seemingly attainable yet just beyond reach.

But what has become of electric motoring? Decades have passed and still no electric ride. Sure we have golf carts and 'segways' and 'scooters' but nothing so rigorous as to venture onto the highways of America.

We know that GM fabricated some 100 vehicles ( the EV1 ) back in the 90's. Those vehicles were test driven and marketed in California and then abruptly recalled and
destroyed ( read: crushed ) despite good reviews. The EV1 was a very handsome vehicle and in many ways more attractive than some current offerings. Only one or two survived demolition but they were disabled and are now on display in museums.



Apparently the EV1 answered a mandate to meet State of California zero emissions standards. That legislation was reversed when the Bush administration joined the fray in 2006. Petroleum companies and parts manufacturers were put off by the low maintenance requirements of an electric vehicle and feared an industry wide decline. The final determination was that there was no market for an electric vehicle.

So what is the case for an electric vehicle today?

To my knowledge not one among us can pump fuel into their gasoline tank at home. We must visit a filling station that is licensed and taxed and inspected and approved for the safe handling of hazardous materials.

The same cannot be said for an electric car. We can connect our vehicle to an outlet at home and proceed to lounge on the sofa ( or over night ) as the batteries are recharged.

But how do fueling stations engage in price competition for the sale of a commodity that is widely available at home? Electricity prices per kilowatt hour are regulated by the regional public service commission.

That brings us to time requirements. My cell phone battery is only about 2 inches square and perhaps one quarter inch thick. None the less it takes every bit of 3 hours to do a complete charge. How much time is required to charge the contingent of batteries necessary to power a vehicle? A car weighs more than a ton ( more than 2 ton to have a smooth ride ). Then you have to add bodies and all the personal gear and that makes a weightier ride. It will likely be a very long while before electric vehicles can accommodate commercial trucking.

Nearly everything on a vehicle is electric... windows, door locks, fans, audio / video, wipers, headlights, fuel and of course power steering pumps. All of that creates a great demand on battery capacity.

A fully charged vehicle has a range of 60 to 80 miles. I guess there won't be any lengthy road trips! Can you imagine pulling into a filling station only to be told that the next charging facility will be available in 2 hours knowing that it takes 3 hours to charge your vehicle? That would really knock the fun out of your day! Although it does give rise to a variety of cottage industries and a great deal more opportunity to use our other battery powered devices. At present some 'Whole Foods' locations do indeed offer recharging facilities in the parking area for electric vehicles to shoppers.

And that brings us to batteries. Certainly there is great room for improvement in every form of battery in current use. Perhaps it is little known that even the vaunted Toyota Prius ( a hybrid ) sports a hefty compliment of short lived batteries. The batteries are warranted for 3 to 5 years and then need to be replaced ( about $10,000 ). Chances are we won't be seeing a proliferation of used Prius' in the marketplace.

 Tesla Motors has conceived and is now marketing an electric roadster that is very impressive. They purport that recharge time is a mere 66 mins, and also that you can achieve a distance of some 300 miles depending upon your driving habits. The faster you drive the faster your battery life is depleted. The Tesla Model S ( starting at $53000 ) is so quiet that the vehicle is equipped with external speakers to broadcast engine sounds.


There are many challenges to continued electric motoring success. A year after I wrote this content I received an email from my friend in Australia that purports an engine has been invented that could achieve 300 miles per gallon. I sent the link to some friends who replied with the following observations:

"Snopes.com called the information 'bunk'."

"By the time that technology reaches us we will be paying $10 per gallon anyway."

and finally - "Don't forget that mines have been using electric vehicles for many years. Internal combustion engines would spell doom for the miners. Instead electric vehicles that can carry tons for many hours on end are utilized but the technology has never been shared."

20 September, 2013

THE STATUS OF LIVE MUSIC

I feel uniquely qualified to author this blog entry given that I've invested the better part of 40 years trying to eke out a livelihood in this business.

The music biz wasn't always difficult. When I began my career there were not that many artists in the marketplace and fewer musical styles as well. It was easier to find a commonality with the listener; easier to learn and perform songs that everyone seemed to enjoy. Many of those 'new' artists are still with us today like Santana and James Taylor and Elton John.

I suppose the first blow to live music arose from the popularity of Disco. Most disco songs were not musically interesting apart from a few breakout tunes. The true star of disco was the dancer / listener. It was their style, their moves and their need to be expressive that brought disco to the pop charts. The actual music was largely repetitive but that mattered little.

Then MIDI came along. MIDI is a technology that allows a musician to create mutli-track, digital recordings. It can be an expensive pursuit in that you need a large array of gear ( sequencers, drum computers, synthesizers, sample players etc ). Using MIDI a musician can generate drum, piano, string tracks and much more using only their own skill set. In this way a musician can literally become the only person in the band. Once you assemble enough tracks to fill up a night you're on your way. That is if you can hold your own as a personality.

MIDI reduced music to math; note 32 is a kick drum, note 33 is a rim shot, note 44 is a ride symbol etc. The music produced became ( as my friend Joe would say ) 'stiff'. We can thank disco for this looped repetition. MIDI is actually responsible for two blows to the performance of live music. The first is that we now see generally non-traditional instruments ( brass, woodwinds, percussion ) performing as solo acts. They no longer need a band as long as they have tracks performing the body of a song. And then came Karaoke...

Minus tracks. The entire body of the song is present in a karaoke recording apart from the vocals ( melody ). Again the premise is to feature the dancer / listener as the star. The end singer can sound really professional without even the discipline to learn the words! Lyrics magically appear on the video screen. A talented and prolific studio musician can turn out ( sequence ) two or three karaoke tracks a day at $100 each.

Today the sounds of music have become very complicated indeed. Countless musical genres exist in the marketplace. That's way too many popular tunes for one group or one person to embrace in a repertoise. Prolific artistic diversity. That leads us to yet another impact on live music... the DJ. A DJ requires no musical training and very little expertise. A DJ delivers the recordings of actual musicians rather like a popular event from the fifties... the 'sock hop'. A DJ was once required to haul a great, bulky, crated library of recordings so they could fulfill any request. With the advent of MP3 files all they really need now is a capacious hard drive on their laptop and a big sound system ( even the iconic 'scatching' sound is digitally sampled ). Any required musicianship is present only on the featured  recordings.

Now we have prime time 'talent' shows like 'the Voice' and 'American Idol'. Again the musicians playing live are unseen while the contestant ( read 'singer' ) struggles to impress the judges and to wow the viewer. If the reader believes these shows are popular with working musicians they would be mistaken. It's fair to say that if Bach, Beethoven and Mozart were to appear before Simon Cowell he would help you choose a winner!

And lastly we have to include the recent economic down turn. Live music has always been dependent upon patronage. It was true in the 17th century and it is no less true in the 21st century. Sometimes patrons are local pub / venue owners. Sometimes a patron is a private party or an appreciative listener who tips. Without patronage the performance of live music is extinguished. Most small venues struggle to survive. You might encounter a ( 9 pc ) orchestra these days on a ship at sea or perhaps in a gambling mecca like Vegas or Atlantic City. Symphonic orchestral music lurks sporadically on the cultural fringe.

Even iconic producer Quincy Jones has voiced his misgivings about the future of the music business. You may have noticed that plenty of newly released tunes are built around digital samples of timelessly popular hit songs. This is not an homage, this is theft.

I think we can all agree that there are few things in life better than live music. It is the rhythm of our day. A snapshot in time, a captured moment or sentiment. It gives voice to our feelings and generates an emotion uniquely individual. It's real. It's happening now... and it's very cool!

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