Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Hype is Dead

Scroll down below this post just to have a look at the email that was forwarded to me so you have a rough idea of what I am referring to in this post. What you'll see is a very typical "2000s"-type ad that promises the moon and stars to prospective entrepreneurs looking for leads. What they're selling is not important. In this case it is "new customers and leads", primarily information and hype, in the form of a plugin for Wordpress. It was forwarded to me by Infinito, who tends to keep up with these things. I rely on him and G2 and The Ex Norwegian along with a few other friends to keep me up to date with the latest and greatest in tech.

This is NOT the Diary entry I intended to post today. But it does act as an excellent illustration of yet another Signature of the Personal Expression Age, i.e. "You have to be ready (and willing) to change course on a dime, at a moment's notice, in the Age of Personal Expression. So in that light, let us do just that. I can always post today's originally intended Diary entry later this evening.

Infinito wanted to simply show me an example of what the new face of information marketing ads looks like. He wasn't endorsing this style of adverts per se. I took a look at the ad below and did my best to attempt to get through it. About two-thirds of the way through I had had enough. A strange creeping yucky feeling came upon me as I tried to read it. And thus I replied to Infinito.

Wow. Yes I see these all the time. Used to anyway. I'm actually surprised that people are still trying to use them. I guess there is always that very last group of "Laggards" who we can always count on to bring in that last barrel full of revenue, despite how small it may be. [The term Laggards is based on that infamous "Roger's Bell Curve" that shows a visual representation of a population divided by how quickly they tend to adopt new ideas and technologies or purchase and begin to use new things. At the front of the curve are the Innovators. It's a very small percentage of the overall population. Next in line are the Early Adopters. Slightly bigger than the Innovators but still relatively small. Behind them are the average folk who jump on board once things have been proven and the prices go down. These percentage of people are called the Early Majority and is a much larger group. There is one more group after them who would represent the Mainstream or the Masses, The Late Majority. They only jump in once everyone around them believes it or owns it and they can pick it up for half price at Walmart. And then there are the Laggards. These are the people who wait, and wait, and then wait some more, for whatever reason, to accept new ideas to be true, or to make a purchase or begin using anything that is considered "new". You can Google it. It's a fascinating study if you're into sociology science.]

Frankly I don't like this type of advertising Infinito. It reeks of internet marketing circa-2001. I didn't like it then and I still don't. It may manage to eek out a few bucks from the pajama set, those home-bound individuals in boxer shorts sitting behind their computers trying to figure out how to get rich quick from not actually doing anything. But for our purposes I don't see this type of ad as being effective in the least bit. In fact I would say it's a downright turnoff. .

For one thing, these types of adverts are too hypey, damn near anxiety-inducing. I'm sure there are probably some people who like this kind of thing... Or else why would they still be creating and pitching them? Except only to each other perhaps? They litter the internet, like empty potato chip bags tossed out of a car on the highway. Wordy, bulky, clunky, chock full of meaningless tech jargon, giant blue hyperlinks and exclamation points everywhere, with big promises impossible to qualify. My Personal Expression Age (PEA) prediction is that we will be seeing less and less of these kinds of ads and that they're going to continue to sink FAST in the coming year. I foresee a new way of gaining new customers, leads and additional sales is being heralded. Not quite a return to old-school, but close to it.

So far nearly every prediction we've made about the Personal Expression Age has come true over the last nine years. (It's a source of both infinite pride and great sadness for me actually. We've yet to publish the actual book in full due to how busy we remain, hence the sadness; but pride in that so far we've been dead-on in predicting the path society as a whole would venture down in almost every industry). It's downright uncanny how accurate we've been so far. Right down to the iReporters and hacktivists --as a means of Personal Expression -- or the overthrow of nations right before our eyes -- through and due to the increased need and acceptance for more Personal Expression.

In 2007 when we first started actively working on the book eight to ten hours a day, my partners and assistants in the project thought I was CRAZY when I said that we would start seeing peoples' revolutions of entire countries in the next few years. After Tunisia, Libya and Egypt, now they think I'm some kind of prophet. When I said it would extend even to the United States and more stable European nations they looked at me as if I were some kind of mad anarchist speaking treason; warned me against writing it. Weather Girl flat out REFUSED to type what I was dictating to her, half out of fear and half out of patriotism I believe. The whole idea seems rather quaint now. But of course that's because it's a common rallying cry for both the far left and right. Though it still seems highly unlikely to most, I stick to my guns on this one. We've already seen it happen in Iceland. Nearly in Greece. In the coming few years it will only continue to grow to include larger more seemingly strong and stable countries like the U.S., the UK, France, Germany, and eventually yes, even China, Iran and Russia.

But that's not what we are discussing here. Back to the point. Hear me now, believe me later: These kinds of ads as we see below are dead. Hype is dead. People just don't have the time nor the temperament anymore to endure them. Hype is becoming nauseating. We can call this a new Signature of the Age. But I believe it is more of a sub-Signature of several of them. It's an Outcome if anything, comprised of several different converging Signatures. There is The Backlash Against Hype Signature at play here. A longing and return to more authenticity. The It's ALL Bullshit Signature. There is also the No Time to Read Signature playing a role as well.

The real point at the very bottom of the well is that hype in general is quickly dying. Society's willingness to endure it. Across the board. I know what you're thinking. "What? How can you say that? What about George Zimmerman and the so called royal baby? Or America's Got Talent for God's sake? You can't get much more hype than all that." Well this is true. But these are actually three very different subjects. One of them quite substantive. But closer to the point, how many people do we actually know who give a rat's ass about America's Got Talent or the so called royal baby? Sure it's plastered all over the mainstream news, but WHO actually cares about it in our reality? Remember, mainstream news is PAID FOR. It's not based on what's important, nor newsworthy. Why is mainstream news dying? Well it's not JUST because internet news is free as some people suggest. Nor is it simply because people can access ONLY the news they want to read about online, though that IS one of the major contributors to the slow crawling death of mainstream news.

More than anything though, it's because people no longer trust that what they see and hear in the mainstream news is newsworthy. There have been too many revelations in the last five years, hell, in the last fifty years, that mainstream news is way too beholden to the governments and corporations of the world in what they report on and NOT to the people, nor the newsworthy. People long for REAL news. Not what the respective government in office at the time claims is news, nor what the corporation that owns the news outlet nor its subsidiaries WANT people to hear, but actual real news. Hype be damned. Regardless of how much fuss the mainstream news outlets make about this so called royal baby, how many people do WE know who actually care about it?

Hell, most people I know stopped falling for the whole claim of royalty over a century ago. And for good reason. There is NO such thing as royalty in the first place. They made it up. Called themselves "royal" one day and (yeah it's sad fact that) a large majority of the common people around town fell for the scheme in the first place, but that was thousands of years ago. Not many thinking people in today's age even believe in the myth of royalty or take it seriously. At least none that I know of. (just lucky?) So as far as this random British chick having a baby... Sure it's hype, but it's a non-issue to most. A novelty. And it's quickly become ingratiating to many.

Don't get me wrong. Hype may still be good for an entertainment click by the Masses, (Huff Post anyone?) that middle group in Rogers' bell curve, but a click is all you'll get. There's not enough time for much more than that, unless something has true substance and/or is truly moving. Even those ideals are being greatly challenged in the Personal Expression Age; for a variety of reasons -- which are expounded upon in much more detail in the book. That's an unfortunate Signature of the age. But we're working on it. Many around us are producing content that is just as if not more substantive and moving than ever before.

There is also the Return to Authenticity factor. All of us, but especially the younger generations, are accustomed to wearing strong bullshit and hype repelling armor now. No one believes YOU. No one believes ME. We no longer believe each other. We want to. We long to. But there is just way too much hype surrounding us. We're drowning in it. Irony and cynicism are normal day to day outerwear. They have to be. In an age of America's Got no Talent, we've trained ourselves to be this way. Everyone and their brother claims to be the next Michael Jackson or Madonna, or to have a son, sister, or cousin that is. Same with TV, film, books, music, literature, technology, apps... It's a sea of endless hype. How we tread in it and sift through it all to find content of substance and import, products with true quality and functionality... that's the Holy Grail.

So no. Ads like the below will not work. What we will see rise up in the place of these kinds of ads is more personalized one on one and localized service -- even if you're three-thousand miles away from your prospective customer -- IF you want to gain new customers for a product or generate additional revenue from existing customers. What it will look like exactly... I'm not sure yet...  I am just beginning to download and formulate the theory. But I can tell you one thing, ads like the below are history. Only the Laggards will click. And only the desperate among them will continue past that first click and pull out their virtual wallet.

As always more later.

On Mon, Jul 22, 2013 at 8:17 AM, Infinito <infinito@xxxxx.us> wrote:
Hi Ambassador, See the below ad as an example of the latest in information marketing advertising...

Begin forwarded message:
From: "awdevine" <xxxxx@gmail.com>
Subject: [Online/Offline: Just Launched] Here's The ONE Thing EVERY Marketer Wants AND NEEDS... Must-See NOW (fast-action bonus)
Date: July 22, 2013 11:05:16 AM EDT
To: "Fellow Marketer" <infinito@xxxxx.us>
Reply-To: xxxxxxxx@gmail.com

Hey Fellow Marketer,

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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Uncle Sam Wants YOU! Or Just Your Spare Change

Just saw an ad on TV that was soliciting for donations to the American red cross to help them "help military men and women get home to their families when they need them most"; showed images of a child birth, a funeral and a military officer visiting what looked to be his parent in the hospital. The caption beneath that particular heart tugging image said "made possible by The Milken's family".
So let's get this straight. The hundreds of thousands of men and women in uniform in the United States armed services cannot afford to come home in times of family emergencies to see their loved ones because they can't AFFORD to? They need donations? Charity? From the Red Cross? Just to fly home to see a loved one who might be sick or dying?
I've been a certified Red Cross volunteer for twenty years. I've heard of the Red Cross doing a lot of things. Floods hurricanes fires. Sure. Donations to US military families? What? They don't get paid enough? The toughest scariest dirtiest most brutal job on earth and they're low paid?
Well that's certainly not something we ever hear about in the media, or from the government. We hear a lot from the media. We hear a lot more from the government. US congressmen and senators these days have become the new Real Housewives of Washington DC in the media they're featured so much. And yet we never hear about these gaping holes in the military budget that must be so low that the people doing the most honorable, and dangerous, and self sacrificing work available can't afford flights to see family in times of emergency. Or that they are now in need... are charity cases... like a homeless family after a tornado or something.
And yet day after day the American people are bombarded by reminders of how important it is that we continue to give 2 billion dollars a year to Egypt or the umpteen billions we've been giving to Israel for the last sixty years.
This is a shameful time to be an American citizen. No matter how many parades or special White House dinners or black tie ceremonies and 21 gun salutes they put on. No matter how many times President Obama appears on Jon Stewart or Oprah in his feeble attempt to maintain his mr cool "I've got it all under control" image, it doesn't do a thing to help shake the gnawing nagging feeling that this is a very regrettable and shameful time to be an American. In just so many ways.
To think that the wealthiest country on earth with a 14 trillion dollar a year GDP can't pay for some family emergency time for their most valuable employees. I can't believe it because I refuse to. I just can't feel that guilt. What I feel is sad for the military families. And disgusted by the government they signed up to serve.
What they need to do is quit. Act like any other working force. Unite and strike and demand to receive what they deserve. It's not like anyone would blame them. There's not a damn soul left in the United States who gives a shit if we have a military presence in Iraq or Afghanistan or Yemen or Pakistan or anywhere else those nutjobs in Washington fly these poor kids off to. No one does. Times are too tough here at home for us to care about who they're off killing in some far away country. Poor bastards.
If they had any idea the level of apathy the majority of The American people have about these god for saken illegal wars they got tricked into fighting....
They could strike tomorrow to demand everything they want and more and the majority of the American people would back them. Sure as hell is more honorable than taking charity or handouts because they're so gullible as to believe the richest country in the history of human civilization can't afford to pay them what they're worth.
Getting very tired of games. Ambassador signing off for the evening.

Monday, July 15, 2013

A Fascinating Consideration - What ARE Musical Notes? WHY?

        In one of those "Human beings are amazing. You never know what they're going to discover and/or explore" moments, someone randomly posted a YouTube video to my Facebook wall. Normally this is not something I enjoy or encourage. Not even a little bit truth be told. But in this instance I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was not one of their songs or videos or essays or lectures as is usually the case, nor was it some political article skewed one way or the other. Rather it was a strange video explaining why the note we know as "middle A" in Western music is tuned specifically to the frequency of 440 Hertz. I knew this to be true, just as any musician does, amateur or professional, because this is what we are taught in school. The real question is WHY do we never question why that particular frequency was chosen to represent this particular note?
        Back in music school when I was a kid just out of high school, all the other students were a few years older than I was -- to say the least. I was 17 at the time. I think the youngest person in any of my classes was probably in their early 20s. So there was a lot of learning for me then, both in the classroom and out. I actually believe that I could confidently state that I can recall more of what other students taught me or attempted to teach me during those two years than anything I learned in any particular class. There were many lessons... About romance, the art of music, literature, and life.
        One night in particular I remember this guy named Tim who was probably about 25 at the time (though to me he might as well have been 40 -- everyone seemed old and very adult to me there) explaining to me how the notes and scales we use in Western music are random when you consider them from a bigger more global viewpoint, especially contrasted with music and scales from other countries. I had honestly never thought of that before. Didn't even know about it.
        How we just assume that there are 12 notes in between C and C, when in fact there are many more, infinitely more in fact. This blew my mind. How our guitars and pianos are actually crafted to ONLY play those 12 notes. We can't play all those other notes in between those dictated 12 notes even if we wanted to due to the construction of the instruments we play here in the States and in other so-called Western countries. Imagine that...
        How we consider C to be the start of our scales. Why? How we usually have 8 notes in a scale. Why? Other countries don't necessarily limit scales to that. Some have less. Some have more. That all of our music, including what we call Middle C, is based on a random tuning of the note A to the frequency of 440 hertz. I had never thought about musical notes in terms of what frequency they are tuned to... Never got that deep with it. I was 17. Just beginning to peek my head out of the clouds. I did remember learning that electronic tuners, the ones we use to plug our guitars into, were calibrated based on A being set to 440. But I didn't really know what it meant. I just remembered it as one of those unimportant random facts we pick up along with the way.
        Ever since that evening I have gone back to that conversation again and again in my mind... Especially when listening to music from other countries that do not use or rely on the traditional Western 12 notes for their music... wondering about those secret hidden notes between the 12 notes we use. Simply put we go from C to C for example and in between those two Cs there are 10 notes and that's it. Bear in mind that we have no actual scales that use all 12 notes because it wouldn't sound like a scale per se. It would just sound like a bunch of notes all run together. Unless someone just plays what we call a "chromatic scale" which literally translates to "play all the notes in between one note and it's octave (the C higher than Middle C, the C higher than that one, etc...)" What you end up with is the sound of "no discernible scale" because you're playing ALL the notes available to us. But "available to us" is the key to seeing the magic and mystery in that sentence.
      . Most of our most common scales have only 8 notes in them actually, 7 really if you don't count the octave (the C higher than the C you started on). Think Do Re Mi Fa So La Ti Do. That Do represents C. So really there are only 7 notes. Sometimes we'll veer off of that and add an extra note or 2 in there, such as a 7th, a 2nd or 9th, a 6th. These are all pretty common additions. Depending on how you play it you might be still playing just 8 notes or you might play 9 instead. Sometimes we'll use more than one of those, let's say for example the chord Cmin7(9), meaning that we're adding the 7th and the 9th to the chord in addition to the usual 1st, 3rd, and 5th. On and on. It's an endless contemplation. And not really pertinent to this post. The main point is that we have for whatever reason limited our music in the West to the above explanations. For better or worse. That's just how it is.
        But deeper than that. We've also limited it in terms of WHAT each individual notes ARE exactly. That's something that most of us don't think of. Hum something right now to yourself. Just one note. Out loud. Any note. See, here's the deal. You MAY have hummed a real note (in Western music) OR you may not have. You might have been off a little. Perhaps you were "real close" to humming an A let's say. That's what is known as a tone or a frequency in reality, in the study of sound. You hummed a tone really. We don't know if you hummed an actual "note". It's a tonal frequency, but not necessarily a "note" in a strict sense. We'd have no way to know IF we hadn't chosen specific frequencies to represent the individual notes we use. How would any of us know what an A was unless we specifically decided as a society that the note A was to be represented exactly by the frequency of 440 hertz? We wouldn't. We'd all be playing slightly different tones or frequencies and calling them "A". SO at some point 440 was chosen to be "A".
         So... What's all this lead to? Well the video below says it way better than I could at this point. The main thing to consider is this: What if A isn't really 440? Hah! In reality it's NOT. That's the thing. It's an illusion that we have all just agreed to agree on. Like almost everything we think we know or believe as humans. That seems to be the pervading theme of the Transcendence Diaries isn't it? All these illusions that we have agreed to agree on in order to make life more acceptable and sensible to us, to create order out of the chaos. Of course that's where we get Chaos Theory and Quantum Mechanics, this realization that the actual universe is NOT ordered or sensible, that there is no way to really nail things down as much as we'd like to... not even things that seem relatively stable and solid such as atoms or time or gravity... Ever heard of leap year? It's mind boggling really.
        It's certainly NOT the year 2013. We know that. My name isn't really Fishy. We know that too. truth is I have no name. My parents were asked to and one assumes felt compelled to at some point "name their first born son". So they did. But it isn't really my name. This isn't really the United States of America that we live in. Consider the origin of this country, even just it's name... and you really start to bend over backwards trying to take in all the inconsistencies and hypocrisies. Primarily because it's all randomly man-made. They say Christopher Colombus "discovered America". But we know in reality that his name was Cristóbal Colón; that the land he "discovered" had already been discovered 10,000 years before and was inhabited by millions of other people; that the name "America" came from the Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci who supposedly had "discovered" the land before Colon had. And on and on it goes. That's just the tip of the iceberg really. So many illusions, just in regards to the name of one country. 
        Forget about all the other illusions that we agree to agree on. "God" anyone? In the history of humanity we've believed in and had over one-thousand "gods" so far. And we're really just beginning in our evolution. Hell we don't even know when we started out in our "evolution" or if we even evolved so to speak. I cannot help but entertain the theory that we may just have been created by another species of sentient beings entirely and that we never really "evolved" from fish as some people agree to believe. I mean, that's the thing isn't it? It's all just man-made. 
        Which beings us back to music. More and more people are beginning to explore this idea of WHY we use the specific frequencies we do for the musical notes that we use to create music in. The video below goes into this. How some frequencies are "healing" and how some may be "harmful". I'm not sure I could fully get behind believing in this belief system 100%. After all, it is just a belief system. Being true for a person to the degree they believe it to be true and thus dictating their experience. But it is a fascinating thing to explore. What if we did decide to change our entire musical architecture and make the note A 432 hertz instead of 440 hertz? We could easily make that decision. No problem in that decision. The problem would be all the music instruments all over the world would have to be re-tuned and re-calibrated. In other words, we're so far gone in this belief system, it's such a rigid system, that there's no way in hell that collectively enough people will ever allow this decision to be made. 
        And therein illustrates a damn good example of why so-called conspiracies exist and may just not always be "theories". One might say that certain conspiracies exist simply due to the fact that the majority of people involved in the decision making process of whatever paradigm or system we are discussing decide that things are fine the way they are and that it would be too much trouble to make things different. 
        This isn't to say that WE can't choose to decide that the note A will from now on be represented by 432 hertz instead of 440 hertz. We can. We can even re-tune all our instruments that way and continue to write all our music like that from now on. Of course no one else would be able to play with us unless they did the same thing. Frankly it's something I'd like to hear. Changing A would necessitate changing ALL of the frequencies of all the notes in any musical scale we would use from that point on. So every note we play in any given piece of music would have an entirely different sound to it.... Fascinating... I'd love to hear it. So much more. But good for now.

I highly recommend these videos. Check out this one.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

A Dream Deferred

        We recorded for another 10 hours today. Best day so far. We had been wrestling with this one song, "So For Real" for five straight days. (Realization -- if the basic rhythm track of a song isn't perfect, if it isn't nailed tight and grooving, you've got no song. It all comes down to that one thing, the drum/rhythm track; that's the foundation. The bass can be fixed, redone; so too can the rhythm guitars or primary keyboard part or the primary hook(s) of the song. But if that drum track isn't solid, it's never going to sound great no matter what you do to it.) We finally decided on redoing the drums entirely. Keeping the bass and rhythm guitars. Built it up from there. Satisfied.
        After that we added percussion and then 4 tracks of 12-string acoustic guitar. The addition of the SSL mic preamp, the Apogee A to D converter and the Empirical Labs Distressor compressor has made a huge difference. The sounds we are getting now are like nothing I've ever heard. Pristine polished professional and damn near perfect. We tracked the 12-string till 1am last night. Until I could no longer hold my fingers tight enough to the fretboard to make a decent sound without excruciating pain. Added a few more this morning and then start tracking vocals.
         Recorded five vocals today before we stopped for the day. Two leads and three falsetto harmonies. That moment when you first start tracking vocals, especially through such incredible sounding pro-grade equipment, is the best feeling in the world except perhaps for making love to your soul mate or communing with The Divine. I am always transfixed by the experience of hearing the song come to life as each new vocal is added. It's a hypnotizing process. Extremely pleasurable.
        Eventually stopped for the day. The engineer hadn't had a break in five days. Neither had I. It was time. We have a long way to go. Even if i was to only focus on say 10 or 11 of the 34 songs we've laid down, this will still be a long road. Many insights and re-realizations. I notice that compared to most artists, contemporary and older, historical, I never seem to feel like a song is finished, always want or feel a need to add just a few more things... I build huge sound beds rather than being satisfied with just the usual drums bass guitars keyboards vocals. This song already has five guitar tracks, just of mine. About 10 tracks of drums and percussion. And five vocal tracks. And that's just what I've added so far, not counting the foreseen numerous other tracks the rest of the guys will add and not counting the other keyboards and vocals I feel I could still add.
        I don't know why I feel inclined toward this manner of recording. But I always have. I have always longed to create songs that are huge, deep, rich, complex, in their arrangement and production. We referred to All Things Must Pass several times while tracking this tune. It has that type of sound to it; it could. It actually reminds me of a Tyrannosaurus Rex song in it's style, the songwriting, like early Marc Bolan. It's a laid back hippie free love vibe. Sexy and romantic. Listening to the song take shape was a euphoric experience. Each and every time it feels like a dream come true. I am a very lucky and blessed person. I know this.

        Once we finished I couldn't help but tune in to see if anything happened in the Trayvon Martin trial. The fact that a 17 year old boy who had was guilty of nothing and had been murdered was on trial has been an astonishing facet of modern day America. The idea that his killer could be set free and receive no punishment nor bear any responsibility was beyond belief to me, and many others obviously as the country's growing obsession with the case has shown. The verdict came without incident. It was almost a letdown in terms of how anti-climactic it was compared to what a build up the media gave it over the last two weeks. It is hours later. The killer, George Zimmerman, was found not guilty. It is true that he murdered the boy; no one disputes that. It is true that he chased him down, followed and stalked him after profiling him to be a suspected criminal. And that minutes later he shot him in the heart and killed him. But somehow he was found not guilty and set free to leave the court.
        We have only begun to see the rage and uproar that this verdict will cause across the nation. Like many I am more in shock than anything else. A deep sadness is within me. I can't shake it. I am keenly aware that convicting Zimmerman and his going to prison would not bring young Martin back to life, nor do anything to assuage the grief and sorrow of his family. But somehow as humans, weak as we are, we still cling to an emotional fix or solution for these kinds of injustices, one that only a conviction can bring about. Unfortunately in this particular case we will not receive such a fix or solution, no sense of justice or relief.
         Speaking for those of who feel this way at least. There are others, though seemingly the minority among us, who are happy that Zimmerman was found not guilty for killing the boy. I still do not understand their reasoning. Though i am curious and often ask people through social media or in social situations to explain their reasoning. Unfortunately they are usually not the type of people who are intelligent enough to offer an explanation that is reasonable or comprehensible.
        There are some who claim that the Trayvon Martin murder case has nothing to do with race. I vacillate, back and forth, when pondering this idea. When the defense attorney was asked if he thought the case was about race he responded "No. But if Zimmerman were black there would have been no trial for murder." As smart as this man is and appeared to be during the trial, I wonder if he realizes now how much truth his answer gave to the argument that this case has everything to do with race in America.
         It would appear by his response that Americans are perfectly content if black people kill each other. There is something deeply disturbing and unnerving about the idea that millions of black Americans, especially men, rot away in prisons for lesser crimes such as possession of marijuana or burglary but that a non-black person can get away with murdering someone and not face one day of prison. Of course the same could be said about the O.J. Simpson case, which could lead one to believe that this whole thing has more to do with a broken justice system than it does with race. Then again, Simpson at the time was a supremely popular celebrity in the United States. He could have gotten away with anything, including murder, and indeed he did. So there is most likely an exception there that cannot be considered in the case of George Zimmerman.
        This week, there was another trial that so far has received almost no media attention -- although I believe that will change as the days proceed and people begin to put the pieces of our very broken justice system together. A young black woman, also in Florida, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for firing a gun into the air to stop her physically abusive husband from attacking her. No one was hurt. No one was killed. Contrasted with the George Zimmerman verdict this case makes it astonishingly clear just how biased the American justice system is still against our black brothers and sisters. 
        I am tired. It is hard to integrate the feelings. I know from a deep seated sense of higher self that peace and tolerance and understanding is what we need more than anything now. But I am so saddened and angered by today's events that I find that the more lowly instincts within me long for blood rage and chaos. A part of me would like nothing more than to see hundreds of people run out this week and voluntarily murder random strangers in the streets of Florida in order to overwhelm their police stations and courts with investigations and trials all the name of their misguided and ridiculously asinine "stand your ground" law. Perhaps if they are overwhelmed with enough "justifiable homicides", hundreds of murders that all portend to be rationally excusable self defense and protected by this law, they will rethink the merits of maintaining it. Perhaps that is the only thing that will change their minds.  As wicked an idea as this is... Though I pray to be relieved of such thoughts and know that it is only the initial shock and anger that compels me to entertain this base reaction.
        Martin Luther King Jr's daughter tweeted today that the verdict in the Zimmerman trial would be a testament to how much progress her father's Dream had or hadn't made in America since he first gave that speech. (I am paraphrasing). That dream was deferred today, at least temporarily. As I experienced pure bliss in the recording studio making music, creating art, realizing dreams coming true, one family lost hope and faith and surely felt grief return to their doorstep once more; another family breathed a sigh of relief and perhaps gained hope and faith in a system that they began to question for turning on them. All part of the grand mystifying fascinating human experience.  
        I'll tell you this, like many I know, I am smiling-glad and relieved that I followed my intuition, that voice screaming in my head since I can remember having grown up in Florida, and got out of there as soon as I could. There is something wretched and diseased and inhuman about that state. Soulless is what I used to call it when I lived there. It appears that way even more once you leave and view it from the outside. Why it's this way I don't know... But it does seem to be haunted by an inordinate amount of horrendous atrocities that consistently capture national attention. Almost like a hellish circus that serves as gruesome free entertainment for the sick and voyeuristic in American pop culture. HLN wouldn't be in existence without the state of Florida.
        I have plenty of friends in Florida still. They are all as good as any others I am lucky to have who live anywhere else in the world. Why they stay in such a compromised location, when there are so many incredible states in America to live in, I can never quite understand. New York is the city of dreams of course, but you have to desire to live in that kind of an electrifying place -- one could always live outside the city and experience one of the most tranquil and beautifully scenic locales in the U.S. but most people don't realize that about New England. Washington state is one of the best from a legal and political angle -- it might just have the best balance of rational, reasonable and intelligent laws out of all 50 states in the Union... Of course living in Florida doesn't make them bad people. Just caught in a moment that they can't get out of. Work, family, a house, people always say the same thing... they don't like snow, etc...
        But hell, at this point any one of them or their children could be stalked and shot to death by another and have it be perfectly legal. Surely this is a gross exception and aberration in America and not the rule. If so, why would anyone choose deliberately to live there? Especially when compounded with the ghastly heat and humidity and the total lack of seasons. (Any place that lacks four seasons I have always considered to be suspiciously symptomatic of having no soul, no heart, a strange wanton lack of humanity and connection to the rest of the world ...But hey that's just me. I love the seasons and believe them to be an integral part of the full human on earth experience.)
        I am still overwrought over this. Keep waiting for it to end as if it is only a bad dream... THAT is what creates the feeling of shock... not being able to integrate or accept something that is true. Tomorrow we will all feel better and will be thinking more rationally. I will stop before I go too far here; will meditate on increasing love and peace and understanding and do my best to help rather than cause more harm. God knows that's what we need now more than anything. I know that is the right path to take rather than any further actions or comments expression rage or grief. 
        One more thing. I do have a sneaking feeling that this case may just be the thing that forces Florida to change this "stand your ground" law once and for all. Just a feeling. Perhaps Martin will be the martyr that all great causes seem to need at this early stage in our evolution. The Dream of Martin Luther King Jr. and his progeny may have been deferred today, but it may be vindicated in a much bigger more meaningful way very soon. Something to consider.

Current Read: GOING CLEAR by Lawrence Wright -- about the so called church of Scientology. A fascinating read. People will believe anything if you offer them enough incentive. ANYTHING.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

So For For Real

        We're on day four straight of resuming recording the new albums. For the record, I say "albums" because though we started with just one, we quickly ended up with more than enough songs for three, so we figure if we whittle down what we have to two different albums we'll end up with two really awesome works of art. One will end up being pretty acoustic and organic, more ballads, and the other will end up being a bit more pop and modern sounding.
        Started with the song "So For Real" which was suffering from some server rhythm problems... Took days and days to rectify and I still don't know if we've totally fixed it.. But last night it finally started to sound like it was coming along. It's a gorgeous song, beautiful strolling melody that goes in a lot of different directions and yet still has "hooks". I loved the song the minute I first started fleshing it out. Reminds me of All Things Must Pass. We've just been adding whatever seems cool or fun or creative and running with it. Mic'd floor toms, 12-string guitar, organ, Rhodes, etc... Pretty cool so far. Hard, challenging, super frustrating, but we're making progress. I can't believe -- nor can I imagine that most non-musicians could -- how long it takes to record ONE song from beginning to end. We're talking hundreds of hours... It's insane. The only reason a person would do this is out of a super passionate love of making music.
        More later. Everyone is waiting for me.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

On Songwriting..... Hit Songs Versus Great Songs

        In the recording studio all week this week. Working on the new album(s). We were aiming for one when we started last year, the follow up to Ballad On Third Avenue. But we ended up with 34 songs, with two very different styles... so it's really two different albums we are creating at the same time. One is more acoustic and organic sounding. The other is still ballad based but more on the pop side. We had a temporary freak out a few weeks back when going to cut the vocals for the song "Oh Sophia" (yeah the one I demoed on YouTube a few years ago in the Song Log series). Couldn't find a HUGE batch of songs. I was going CRAzy. As always Princess Little Tree stayed calm, kept me from having a nervous breakdown, and eventually we found them. Had them in a big stack next of papers next to a laptop I barely ever use in an office I barely ever use in order to make some edits to them or type them in.
        [There is a process. A strict one. Like most artists I've slowly huddled into a very strict and detailed highly OCD and routine method for songwriting and tracking songs. Because after the first few years you start to realize you're going to be dealing with something really big. A giant project with a mass of paperwork and tapes etc. Regardless of how they start -- a tune pops up in your head, or in a dream, or while you're strumming a guitar or tripping out on the piano -- that song gets into a recording device (now most of the time my iPhone) as quickly as possible.
        [From there I start putting it to paper. One of many legal pads kept in one of many leather binders with one of many thin silver Cross pens sitting in an inner connected loop. The song may stay that way for a few weeks to a few years or decades. When I feel like it I go back to it and work a little more on it. I never force a song to flesh out. I'm always working on so many that I don't have to. More importantly I don't think forced songs ever come out well. If I'm not feeling it, that song will just sit there. And I keep plenty of legal pads in leather binders around filled with plenty of songs. So there's never any rush. Usually I can just pound through them though. A good song writes itself. Once it comes, all I have to do is just ride it like a wave. It's all in my head already. I hear it. I hear it's potential is more like it. So all i have to do is just keep playing it over and over again, massaging it along the way each run through, listening for different things, subtle changes and additions...
        [I take breaks, a few hours, a few days or weeks, and I listen to the song play in my head over and over again. It's like a repeating record. It never stops. Usually a few of them at a time. And as I listen to them up there, they start to take shape and form themselves, as if they already exist -- (which if one subscribes to the whole "time isn't linear but circular" paradigm, then they do already exist... just in the future which is really in the here-now only we don't usually recognize that) -- so by the time I pick up an instrument to work on it more I have a much better idea of what it's meant to sound like as a finished product.
        [Once I am done with writing it all out on pages in the legal pad, I make a copy of that original stack of pages in the legal pad. When a legal pad is finished and all the pages are filled I send it off to my mom who has been saving them for all these years since I was 17. She has boxes of them. Tons of them. Now we're in the process of moving them to a bank vault. Can't take the risk anymore. I keep the copies of those pages in boxes and take them with me wherever I live. Just to have access to the original (copy of the original) handwritten notes. I then sit down and type the song up and save it on my laptop in a giant database of all the songs... a folder filled with thousands of songs. There are two sub-folders: songs that have been recorded and songs that haven't yet been recorded. Obviously the latter folder is still much larger than the former. The goal is the exact opposite of that.
        [Once I save the song as a file, I print it out and it goes into a clear protector sheet and into one of many black binders where all the printed out songs are alphabetized. The black song binders are also grouped into two different groups, one for songs that have already been recorded -- for when we are planning set lists for live shows, and one group of binders for songs that have not yet been recorded -- so we can flip through all the songs when choosing songs to record a new album. Pretty anal huh? It works though. Smooth. No guess work. I can do it all in my sleep. All the kinks have been worked out. That's the process in a nutshell. Why I'm telling you this I have no idea. But hey, at least we finally have this down for posterity. This is how I do it.]
        I fell behind. Once Princee Little Tree and I fell head over heels in love for the millionth time back in '08 I pretty much fell behind in everything... And taking care of the songs was definitely one of those areas. So there are songs and song notebooks in various stages of processing all over the freaking place. We travel so much that I'm lucky if I remember to bring at least just one binder with me for songwriting. Always one at least. Problem is that there are tens of other binders at home with songs in various stages of being half-written that I always seem to want when I don't have them.
        But it's never a huge deal. I can always record ideas into my phone and scribble them down on a new notebook. That's the thing. They're going to eventually get typed into the main database, I know this. So it gives me a real sense of security.
        So that's what I did for the last few months. Typed up a truck load of songs that needed to be typed and put into the database and then printed out. Now I am organizing and alphabetizing them. There are hundreds. Way too many. But I need access to at least the 34 for these new albums and the 25 that are on the other new album(s), what we've been affectionately referring to as "the Girls Album" for the last few years. Hopefully we will finish that one this year along with these other two.
        So yeah. I've been sitting here while the engineers are in the studio working on stuff, I've been organizing and alphabetizing all the song lyric-sheets from the last 25 years. (I ran out of space in this master binder I was using and decided I need to break some of the binders into broader sets.. Maybe something like Songs A to B, C to D, etc. Like that. Because the binders get so big and heavy and then songs start falling out. I'm just doing it to the typed-up ones that haven't already been classified so far. Gotta be 1000 songs here. Big project.
        Every time I come across one from our college years, the Broken Spectacles years when we were smoking out and tripping on acid everyday, there's something very special about THOSE songs... A really deep vibey heaviosity to them. They weren't necessarily "hit songs" -- in fact they're downright un-hit songs -- long and wild and free-form and complex, with infinitely long chord progressions that go on forever -- similar to "Bored" or "Rise and Shine" but even more so; but you know, that's not what we were about back then, that's not what we were going for.
        I cannot help but feel as we are working on recording these new albums now that something has gotten lost along the way. Songs just seem to be way better when you write them when you're tripping on something. I know that is so NOT the thing to ever say, especially if you're a public figure... But sometimes I cannot help but think that... Some of these songs I am revisiting and seeing for the first time in years... Wow... They are just soo sooo good. So groovy and vibey....
         There is so much pressure now. As a professional singer/songwriter, to make a living from it, to make enough money to live and support a family from it, especially now after we've had a few hits under our belt... It's not like it was back then when we were in our late teens and early twenties. When we just did whatever we wanted. When we were going for a heavy serious vibe. I mean, now, it's just so different...
        I have to go. Have to finish this project because the guys are waiting for me. Just need to remember from looking at all these songs what it was like back then.. what THOSE songs were like... how much emotion and passion and EVERYTHING we put into them. I honestly don't feel that commercial radio, that the commercial music market has a place for that kind of music. Really, that's the thing. When we were young and only had dreams, we didn't think about these things. We thought we could force the industry and the people to listen to and like whatever it is that we did. We learned the hard way. I mean I struggled for years as a starving artist. Decades. So I learned... But I loved every day of it. Homeless? More than once. No problem. I actually enjoyed the experience. It was an adventure.
        Our biggest hits have come from sincerely sitting down and crafting hit songs. Being very careful in every step of the process to do things in a way that structures the song and the sound and the feel of the song to resonate with the commercial music market. And it's paid off. Big time. You aren't going to hear me complaining. Because lets' face it, as these Diaries and everyone who knows me can testify, I spent YEARS doing it my way, doing whatever I wanted to do for ME. So I got a lot of that out of my system.
        It was only later that I started thinking it would be fun just to "try" creating "commercially viable" music. And luckily it actually worked. I mean it's really not rocket science. Writing hit songs is just doing the exact opposite of what you would normally do as an authentic and sincere artist who loves to innovate. Funny but true. You just write the song the way that all the other songs that people listen to sound like. Rather than try to get creative and innovate. It's like yes you innovate during the production and sound creation process. But not during the songwriting process. People don't want to hear innovation. At least not in the commercial world. They just want to hear what they're used to hearing plus something a little special and different. But they don't want to hear a twenty minute song that traverses thirty different chords and changes keys ten times... Sucks, for us, the artists. But that's how it is now. Didn't used to be that way. Inventiveness in music used to be highly valued. But not right now. Not in this climate. The top three songs of the last three years have been "The Harlem Shake", "Gangam Style" and "Thrift Shop". Fuck me. Fuck us all. We're screwed, as artists, we're screwed.
         But frankly I like those songs too. I dig the commercial ones that we do, and that other people do. I like the "sound" of them. Not the songwriting... But the sound of them. But honestly not even one-tenth as much as i like the crazy wild non-commercial ones. THOSE are the ones that I really love. That really get me off. But then what? Get a day job. I mean that's really the quandary. People don't realize it. But those are our choices.
        Maybe one day that will change. My hope is that one day I will be able to have enough money from this that I can "stop working" for a living, i.e. stop creating music to make money and have enough money saved up that I don't need to generate revenue anymore and then I can just make the kind of music that I want to. And then if people like, great. If they don't and we only sell a few hundred copies, that's great too. Either way, I'll be following the inner muse. (Is it inner?? Not sure about that... save it for another blog post.) Gotta run. Peace.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Taming the Beast -- Recording Resumes

        Today we resume recording for the new album(s). 34 songs in total were laid down last summer by me on rhythm guitar and vocals, The Poet on drums and The Ex Norwegian on bass and production. All in New York. For the record (pardon the pun) those songs are: American Cinematheque, Another Day in the Apocalypse, Baby Blue Doll, Give Me Blue Skies, Born to Lose, Closer to You, Crazy Heart, Don't Be Sad My Love, Gimme Some Rock 'n' Roll, The Stranger (Hello Hello Hello), Hold On My Love to Keep You Strong, When the Battle is Through, Honestly, I felt Freedom When You Said No, I'm Looking For, It Will Be Me, It's Alright It's Okay, Junk, Knee Deep in the Apocalypse, Marsha's Sleeping, Jack Johnson (working title...), My Black Brother, Never Too Far Apart, Oh Sophia, Our Love Still Turns Me On, Silence Kills, So For Real, Summer Flowers, The Ambassador in Paris, The Prince of New York, Welcome to the Rest of the World, White House Jihad, and Without You.
        We're in Seattle presently. We're primarily working on my parts, adding rhythm guitars and some minor leads -- mostly acoustic and some electric, lead and background vocals, and various different keyboards and percussion instruments. From here, once I'm done with all my parts, the songs will be sent out to Vancouver in LA to add his special Transcendence magic (which "literally" translates to lead guitars, various keyboards, percussion and background vocals), The Ex Norwegian -- who may clean up or redo some of his bass parts and add various other guitars and keyboards, DJ Johnny Rose who will add piano and keyboard parts, Infinito who will add percussion, and Zeke Zaskin, who, besides being the one who will ultimately  mix and master the albums to completion, is usually encouraged to add additional guitars, keyboard and background vocals. Various other musicians will come in to add things like cello and strings and horns.
        For all of our albums over the last 11 years we have used Trophy Wife as our main female background vocalist along with Vancouver and me and Zeke. But on All Your Heroes Become Villains and Ballad On Third Avenue we used The Toad for background vocals as well (this momentous occasion detailed in Diaries entries back in '04 '05 and '06). He really knows how to match and augment my vocals and is a freaking stellar harmony vocals writer. So I'm hoping that all the tracks can be packaged up and sent to him down in Florida so he can add whatever he wants to. This is going to be the strangest album we've ever recorded due to the fact that we're all in so many different states and all the recording will be run solo and sent back and forth over the internet or via giant external hard drives. A lot of albums are recorded like that these days. It's surprisingly less infrequent than most people would think.
        It's not been easy getting back into it. It's going to take a while to get back in the vibe of these songs and the respective albums that they will eventually become a part of. Besides the fact that the band is experiencing some of that seven year itch meltdown drama that is customary with bands who have been together for a long time. Vancouver is vehement about not wanting any "fake drums" on the record, meaning drum machines, samplers, keyboards, sequencers, MIDI drums -- anything but "real drums, i.e. acoustic drums played on a regular old fashioned drum set. Most popular music that we hear today on radio or TV is created using machine made drums or samples and NOT "real drums" or at best a combination of both, which is what The Ex Norwegian and I recommend doing this time out. An artist has a much better chance of the music sounding modern , current or contemporary AND has a lot more control technically of those sounds, compared to "just" "real drums". He actually sent us an email saying "sorry guys, it's me or fake drums".  On the other hand The Ex Norwegian is so freaking mad at all the drama that he doesn't want to have anything to do with Vancouver anymore because of all this. Me and the other guys are stuck smack dab in the middle.We love Vancouver, especially his ability to make beautiful music. We put up with a lot of shit because of his unique talents and believe it's totally worth it. He is after all a HUGE component of our sound.
        Of course, it's all subjective. What one person calls "real drums" can be totally different than what another person calls real drums. Gotye released a series of documentariy styled short videos detailing how he created his last album -- the one that everyone is familiar with now due to that hit he had last year and when he's discussing this one song he shows how he set up two floor toms and a snare and remarks "this song is special because it's the first we ever used any real drums on any of my music..." So what we're doing is normal for the industry at this point in time and in fact will sound a lot more like the music that everyone is now accustomed to. That's what we want. We really want these albums to "sound" modern and current and professional, pristine, polished, commercial, regardless of what is expected for your typical rock band.
        I spent all day yesterday listening to the two rock radio stations here in Seattle (both are awesome stations -- I wish all the other cities in the States had stations as good as we have here) and just about 95% of the songs that were played all had computerized drum sounds on them as opposed to acoustic drums. It's just the sound that people are used to now. We don't see anything wrong with going in that direction for an album or two, especially considering the fact that The Poet is still "playing a drum kit." He's just "triggering" drum samples that are inside of the computer or drum machines etc. It's really freaking cool. Working with the technology that we available to us now to make the best sounding album we can using all the tools we can find. It's fun and creative.
        I hope Vancouver catches up. Not only do I worry about us as a band but also about him. I personally don't want to just fall behind because of any purism or principle of any kind. He deserves to be well known and popular for his skills and musical gifts. But you've got to keep up; no one is going to hold your hand and drag you to what's happening. But he's always taken a long time to catch up in these matters. Back in 2001 when I first started getting into what was then being called "indie rock", he hated it. It wasn't until this year that he started to "like" indie rock. Of course now indie rock is old and stale and the cool thing to do would be to steer clear from it and head into a totally new direction -- which is exactly what The Ex Norwegian suggested we do on these two albums. Try to mix our rock band sensibility with a more modern and popular music approach in order to capitalize on the thrilling success we had with my last solo album. I dig the idea. Just hope we can pull it off.
        More later. Gotta run.

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Left Right or Neither? In the Coming Revolution It Isn't Going to Matter

         I've been seeing and saying it for a while now. First time I was ever fired at by a throng of armed stormtroopers with tear gas and rubber bullets was at the big anti-Iraq Invasion protest march in DC in early 2003.I still feel a little regret about that date. Truth be told I feel like I got into the global activism movement late compared to other people I knew who had started at the paradigm shifting Seattle WTO protest in '99 -- that event is now known as "the coming out party for the activist movement of our generation". But at least I finally got a clue and got hooked in. The next time was at the FTAA protests down in Miami, FL, also in 2003. I've seen and felt what it's like to be marching, unarmed and vulnerable, in a giant crowd of your fellow citizens speaking up for something that you know is right but facing down an army of uniformed police armed to the hilt, a different group of your fellow citizens... that fear of not knowing what's going to happen next. Seeing people get taken down right in front of you. Not knowing if you should run and hide or stand your ground. Your life is on the line. But so is freedom truth and justice.
        When I first heard about activism in general it was through the footage of the activism that went on the 1960s in the United States. One assumes the majority of these people were so called left-wingers. Later in life I started hearing about a different kind of activists. The Patriot Movement is what it was called; might still be. Constitutionalists. People who wanted the United States to go back to being more of a free society, with more liberty and less laws and regulations. The Jon Birch Society was one such organization. Interestingly the people in these groups were all more like right-wingers. Hard righties.
And then I started getting involved in whatever seemed most important at the time. A lot of people in the know were traveling the country participating in protests against the WTO, the World Bank, Free Trade, the G6 then G8, and especially against the United States march towards war just after 9/11. These groups seemed more left-wing again.
        Then a funny thing happened. The Tea Party. Now I know what a lot of people are thinking right about now. That bunch of whackamoles?!? Yeah, that bunch. Take the Sarah Palins and Michelle Bachmans out of it and what we have is a small group within this larger group that have at their heart the same unifying principles and desires as any other freedom, justice, liberty and law loving Americans. More importantly they were willing to head out into the streets to march and protest and demand to get what they felt as American citizens they deserved.
        Then what? The Occupy movement. Same idea. Different group for sure. One group seems to be complaining about the government taking too much money away from people and giving it away to poor people (while the majority of them at the same time claim that they will NOT give up their Social Security or Medicare or Farm Subsidy checks) and then there's this other group equally passionate complaining about the government NOT giving away more money to "the people" instead of the "big banks and corporations". Somewhere in between are the activists who are less concerned about either of those activities and more concerned about our rampant loss of basic freedoms over the last ten to twenty years and a seemingly blatant corruption that has seeped into the government.
        These days when you're out in the street, protesting the White House's banning GMO labeling or wiretapping it's citizens or committing torture or drone strikes, there's a pretty healthy mixture of all sides of the economic and political fence. Truth is, these left and right groups have a lot more in common than any of us realize. People have been saying it for years: the government(s) use the left and right political parties as a tool to divide and conquer the citizenry of a country so they are unable to unify against the ruling elite. This is not a new idea. But to many people who are still staunchly leaning one way or the other, it's about time they caught up and jumped in line.
        Sure we aren't going to ever find ourselves with a broad based consensus among the majority of the American people regarding abortion rights or same sex marriage rights or even social service like welfare. But the bigger issues, the ones we should really be concerning ourselves with, such as loss of privacy and basic freedoms and liberties, or government corruption, campaign finance corruption, lobbying, and anything else Constitutional... these are ideals that are being lost on many people as they fight against which president they think is the "least desirable", when in fact both candidates (at least of the two major controlling parties (see "controlling parties")) work for the same side -- that is, any side that will PAY their bills. THIS corporatocracy and how we wrestle control back out of their hands and into our own... this is something that any concerned citizen from either side of the political divide can agree on.
        For years I've been noticing, observing, commenting on, how similar both groups are becoming... Precisely because in reality there aren't really TWO groups. There are MANY. In reality there is just a country made up of 300 million people who don't want to lose it. Think Egypt. Think Tunisia. Think Syria. It's not because we've woken up one day and realized that we all of a sudden all agree on same sex marriage... or even gun rights. Yes, many on the right are flat out ass backwards in their stated defense of the Constitution AND at the same time their refusal to allow others the same Constitutional rights as they enjoy. And YES there are some on the left who are flat out crazy for wanting to do away with State's rights in order to pass broad sweeping laws that they believe are "for the betterment of everyone" when that idea is the exact opposite of what "The United States" is all about -- the sovereignty of the individual states and the people who live in them. Hell, the only thing that the Federal government should be legislating is our military defense. Righties get that. Lefties don't. Both sides have some catching up to do.
        And that catching up may happen sooner than later. This weekend yet another Obama White House faux paz slipped out of their duplicitous grip when it was revealed that the president signed over control of all wired communications to the Dept of Homeland Security in times of emergency, including control of the internet. Read the article here. The measure has sparked a fire of controversy already and the White House is already on the defense over it. It is these little things that anyone on any side can come together on. And truth be told probably a whole lot more in between.
        Right around the same time that I saw this article -- posted by someone on the left? The right? Hard to tell these days. And that's the point... I also saw this post below by a retired United States military veteran. I think it speaks volumes more than I can so I've pasted it in it's entirety:
"I've had many people ask me over the past few years will I give my militia orders to fire on American troops? As a veteran myself I know the difference between a lawful and unlawful order, and if American troops follow unlawful and unconstitutional orders to oppress the American people in anyway they will be treated no differently than the enemy because in doing so they have become the enemy. Let me make this clear to every service member, LEO and federal agent out there. It's not only your right to question unlawful and unconstitutional orders from those appointed above you but it's your responsibility and duty to question them. If you follow those unlawful, unconstitutional orders your are just as guilty as the person giving them it makes no difference if you didn't know or not you're still guilty of the crime. In fact, under Article 90 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), during times of war, a military member who willfully disobeys a superior commissioned officer can be sentenced to death. Seems like pretty good motivation to obey any order you're given, right? Nope. These articles require the obedience of "LAWFUL" orders. An order which is unlawful not only does not need to be obeyed, but obeying such an order can result in criminal prosecution of the one who obeys it. Military courts have long held that military members are accountable for their actions even while following orders. I'll bet a lot of you out there are wishing you would have stayed awake in basic training when they taught us about the UCMJ, huh? Just honor your oath, if I along with millions of veterans still honor our oaths we damn well expect all those still serving to honor theirs....remember, there's no expiration date on our oath and you will be held accountable for your actions!!!
Michael Graham III
Founder of The Three Percenters Club
Si Vis Pacem Para Bellum"

        Perhaps we've finally reached that tipping point where the men in uniform started defending & backing up the activists in the streets instead of firing tear gas & rubber bullets at us. ‎It is only a matter of time before we realize that we are all more alike than we realize. The worst thing we can do as a people is fall prey to the left versus right game of charades that the government so desperately seems to want us to. One would say that divided yes indeed it does seem like an impossible dream for us to even imagine that we the people could start turning things around in the United States. The government is too powerful. They're too sold out to the big banks and corporations. There's nothing we can do on our own. We don't want to get in any trouble. We have kids; we have to think of them... I get it. We all get it. But how soon before we are forced to start paying attention? Before we are forced to believe that we CAN do something? That we HAVE to do something? How soon before we are forced to start recognizing that our neighbor who may have voted for the "wrong candidate for president" is actually our friend and not our enemy? How soon before the left starts looking an awfully lot like the right and vice versa? In a revolution both sides fight not each other but the controlling powers whose sole mission is to destroy the heart and spirit of both sides in order to maintain control rather than give it to the people. #WalkLikeAnEgyptian

Pimping On Social Media

Can't sleep. Princess Little Tree has been gone for three days now. I find it surprising that though it's only been 8 months that we have been living together full time (I do not presently travel back and forth to NYC on a regular basis as was usual), there are so many things that seem different and difficult without her constant presence. Including sleep. The days are longer. Much longer. The evenings even more so. The nights even worse. I've always been a night owl since I can remember, but due to the three hour time difference here on the west coast and the need to be on east coast time for better business and communication AND the fact that it just feels better to be aligned with the rhythm of the home and the people in it, I began keeping more regular hours since living here full time. In the last six to eight months I've been getting to bed between 12 and 1 am most nights and waking up around 7 or 8. (It may not sound like much, but for anyone in the arts it's damn near supernatural.) For the first time in my life. That could be a whole entry unto itself, this fascinating contrast between the pros and cons of night owls versus early birds. But I must say I haven't minded it as much as one thinks they would, and in fact I have been pleasantly surprised by the advantages that can be had from awaking so early in the day. Definite benefits to it.
With that said, being here alone, better put, not having Princee Little Tree here with me as a time keeper, more precisely, as the stable reference point that I've quickly become aware that she is, the mechanism of getting to sleep at a decent time seems to have eluded me once more. Staying asleep once down just as challenging. It's nearly 3 am now and I've been up for a little less than an hour, which means that I was only able to stay asleep for slightly more than an hour. And here I am wide awake, sitting up and writing. As if I never went to bed.
If that were the only challenge posed from her absence this setting could be bearable. Unfortunately it's one of the least bothersome out of a seemingly endless sea of many. How on earth a man is supposed to eat properly without his beloved escapes me entirely, save the occasional waffle, bagel, bowl of cereal or slice of pizza. Don't get me wrong, I've seen worse. Vancouver, who has yet to hook up with any permanent better half, eats as if he were a homeless person (no offense towards homeless people. But I've honestly never seen anything like it...) Of course I jest. Understanding how sexist an idea like this must seem to the more progressive among us. But unfortunately as with most things truly funny there is more truth to this than fiction or poetic license.
Most of all what I find the most disturbing is the unquenchable longing for her presence, her beingness. To see her smile. That smile of hers that only she can pull off. As if it were born to illuminate and radiate and lighten. She's a miracle in her smile alone. To feel her essence in my space. That is something that nothing else can replace. It is a heavy aching longing of a feeling, one that I am grateful to be feeling After all, what is worse? To long for someone or anyone to miss? Or to miss someone that we are longing for? Having experienced both now, I choose the latter. It is for all intents and purposes what I had always guessed true love feels like. Severe pleasure when you're together. Severe pain when you're apart.

[Editorial note: typing on an iPhone -- any smartphone for that matter one supposes -- seems to compel us to subconsciously refrain from choosing large words or attempt to compose sentences even one-tenth as erudite as we would under normal circumstances. Especially given the iPhone's inept auto-correct feature's maddening penchant for distorting our intended words so blasphemously. (Even more so if you're doing it with only one eye open and the other closed due to being so sleepy that you can't see straight with both eyes open, as I'm apt to do late at night like this.) People are always shocked when they hear that many of the Transcendence Diaries entries are composed in the pitch black of the dead of night on an iPhone. I find it a gratifying sign that, although I've certainly grown up a tad and taken on at least an air of having more responsibility since getting married, that the general manly laziness that I've carried with me most of my adult life hasn't entirely been left or been remade.
[In any case, this drag on our willingness to write as well on our handheld devices is subtle and tricky; it's a slippery one to catch. But it's there and must be subverted. You've got to remain vigilant and committed to writing as eloquently and completely as you would under any other circumstances. I assert that although an entirely new nomenclature is fast being created in society -- more shortcuts, contractions, acronyms and slang, less allegiance to proper spelling and grammar, etc. -- due to the advent of so much of what we do now being on smart phones, that it is still just as important to keep the torch lit for the art of good writing. One of the last vestiges of etiquette and civility left for us in this fast paced data-overloaded culture of diversity and recklessness. This trend is one of the Signatures of the Personal Expression Age we identified and predicted early on. Frankly i believe we are only seeing the beginning of it now and that the primary language of modern casual communication is going to become much more truncated and nuanced as younger generations grow up within the age not ever even being aware of what proper writing once looked and sounded like. Even punctuation is quickly disappearing from our day to day communication like frost on a windshield when you first start your car; it was there and now it's not... the proper use of requisite capitalization has already left the building. Descriptive words will soon wither away and fade as well, seeming unnecessary, (or they will replace, stand in place of, the intended object). All as more and more people try to say more in less time and with less effort. But alas there are a few who are still attempting to uphold the old time-honored tradition of writing as an art form.]

So where were we.... Yes. The actual purpose for this late night intrusion into my solid eight was to make mention of how utterly unbeneficial (sic) and possibly even counter-productive it is to be constantly pimping one's wares on the great social networks of the world. Facebook Twitter Tumblr StumbleUpon... they're all becoming giant public billboards rather than meeting and greeting places. Sales conventions. That word "social" is what gives it away. Most of this is already in the aforementioned book and I dare say that if I don't get to the releasing of it soon then I am bound to give most of it away in these pages so much so as to render it unnecessary.
But let us at least observe that when browsing a social network it is becoming increasingly more prevalent to see these so called "sponsored posts" or "recommended pages", and if we didn't call them up ourselves, i.e. desire to pull them towards us, into our awareness, all the pushing them down our throat in the world is not going to lure anyone into clicking or consuming any more than if you came pounding on our door in the middle of dinner like a Jehovah's Witness. In fact that's what it's starting to feel like. One big "buy my religion" sales convention. Luckily, or not, depending on what your goals are, the advent of that blessed invention called the HIDE button on Facebook, is making it increasingly easier for us as consumers to escape the onslaught of social network sales people, and hence increasingly difficult for any of us as entrepreneurs to show our wares. A conundrum indeed. Of course if you aren't pitching anything, if your profession is outside the realm of necessity of social, then this is entirely worthless information. This does beg the question though, "What professions in the modern world don't at all need to rely at least a little on having a presence in the social networking world?"
I assume there is a plethora of data and opinion already in existence out there that reflect on these ideas. I read recently that "every idea ever invented since the dawn of man is now being re-invented and disseminated online every 48 hours." It's enough to lead one to believe that to say anything at all is a worthless endeavor. But I'd still suggest that the subtle style of suggestion goes a lot further in terms of long term growth and sustainability, and certainly in regards to respect and admiration, than hardcore pimping and selling in the modern age. There are people who use social media for nothing but sales, to the point that they will even take natural disasters or the worst human tragedies and turn them into a self centered sales vehicle. It is as if they aren't aware that society has caught up with and is more than tired of them. Then there's the user who will post the same music video ten times in a day; that's where the Hide button really comes in handy.
True engagement from the heart, sincere conversation and dialogue goes a lot further than mere selling in today's world, even if the goal is to ultimately sell. (That isn't the goal for many of us. But for some it is. And it's important to learn this lesson. The days of old fashioned selling are over. Especially if it makes one appear as if there is nothing more to them than meeting some quota or stroking their insecure ego. Social media may go a long way to serve in that at first, for most of us are generally kind and generous with our attention as long as it doesn't hurt; the problem is that it quickly starts to hurt if it feels like it's a one way street. "Watch my new video!!!!" or "Hey guys check out my new song!!!" seems a very 20th century way to promote oneself today.

I have been reluctant to mention this, for it's been brewing for some time, but interestingly there is another phenomenon that opposes the above viewpoint and that is this: if you display and talk long enough about something, the product, if you just absolutely refuse to go away, people begin to soften to it, which has the effect of increasing that product's sell-through potential. What may be completely uninteresting, not-preferred, undesirable, even objectionable or offensive one day has a good chance, if given enough of a push for a long enough period of time, of still being eventually consumed, even paid for. This applies to products, services, people as products, and equally to ideas.
Think of so-called hit songs. Hit songs are products that have been promoted to a small panel of radio stations, the distributors, across a particular country to play repeatedly in exchange for large sums of money and other forms of compensation; the key to it is the "play repeatedly" aspect, oftentimes more than any measurable quality of the product itself. We all know of thousands of songs that we now consider hit songs that when we first heard them we thought they were utter crap, only to slowly and inevitably change our mind about the same song a few weeks, months or years later. These songs achieve hit song status if enough listeners appear to "like" the song based on various data and feedback provided by said listeners. But what's fascinating about this particular example is that the consumers in this case, the listeners, have a very slim chance of being the ones who decide whether or not they really "like" the product or not. Why? Because they hear the song so many times that they just start softening up to it, regardless of how they felt about it to begin with.
This isn't the case for all hit songs. Obviously some appear on the scene and from the moment most people hear them they just fall madly in love with it, the true measure of a hit song, and a winning product. But in a large majority of cases, listeners have almost no say in what they consider a hit song; it's played so many times in such a short period of time, giving the appearance of being a hit, that even those who despise it eventually begin to find something they believe they like about it. There are a variety of reasons why this happens -- the human need to belong, not feel like an outsider, feel part of something bigger, and perhaps more than anything just the phenomenon of infinite repetition seems to break down resistance.
People as products, celebrities in some cases, work much the same way. Resist the Whoopi Goldbergs and Rosie O'Donnels and Mel Brooks and Kathy Grffins of the world all you want -- but if they just find a way to keep themselves in front of people long enough they eventually become part of the accepted consciousness stream. We might spend the first twenty years of their first appearance on the scene wondering what the hell this person even does or offers -- especially if their claim to fame is "being funny" but they don't happen to be funny for example -- but inevitably their desire to be an accepted and consumed product often overrides anyone's doubts about their qualifications to be such.
Ideas offer an even more substantiated example of this phenomenon. Most are aware that the idea that the earth was round and revolved around the sun had been proposed more than a thousand years before it eventually became accepted, which means that the idea that "the earth is flat and is at the center of the solar system" was an accepted idea for a thousand years even though there was no proof of it and in fact more proof of the exact opposite theory. The idea was just pounded into mass consciousness and for lack of _________ (fill in the blank... resolve? strength? courage? knowledge? resources? access?) people just accepted the idea to be fact; walked around their whole lives assuming and teaching their children and children's children that the earth was flat and that the sun revolved around it. I am sure we could think of hundreds of ideas that could serve as equally substantive examples of this same phenomenon. (What's most intriguing is to pose the question "What current ideas in human society do we assume and take for granted NOW that will one day fit into this same group and seem outlandish and ludicrous?")
Same sex marriage is an excellent example of this. An idea as a product, at first unaccepted and undesirable, offensive and objectionable to many, but slowly gaining traction in society as a whole right before our eyes, in our own lifetimes; we are witnessing the blowback in real time from the various groups around the world who still refuse to accept the idea, or, still refuse to consume the product. Many say it is an inevitability. It appears that way. And yet there are plenty of people who still resist it. Just as I'm sure there were who resisted the idea that the earth was in fact round and revolved around the sun.
What changed? Well for one thing the idea, the product, didn't go away. Like a Whoopi Goldberg or a Kathy Griffin or a fill in the blank_______________. And that seems to be the key. Keeping the product, no matter what it is -- tangible object, service, idea, person -- in range, in line of sight, in earshot, for as long as it takes for people to soften up to it no matter how much they might resist it at first. Softening up leads to acceptance, reluctant or not, which seems to eventually lead to increased potential for consumption. (How many times have we bought an album years later, just "because", by a musical artist that we once swore we "didn't like" at first...?)
So how does this relate to not pimping your wares ad nauseum on social media? The ideas seem to be antithetical. Don't pimp your wares to people who aren't interested in buying if you want to earn respect and admiration. But if you could care less about respect or admiration, and instead your mission is mass consumption, think Donald Trump and his various enterprises -- Celebrity Apprentice for example -- then you strap in for the long haul and just go hog-wild pimping your product regardless of how it is initially received.
The funny thing about all this is that one notices that eventually the resistance dissipates, the resistors and naysayers seem to drift away, room is made, and eventually even respect and admiration can be had by even the least admirable and respectable products or persons a society has to offer. It seems to be only a matter of time, AND a product's, or its promoter's, degree of willingness to endure rejection, ridicule and criticism. Snake Oil anyone?

- Posted by The Ambassador using BlogPress on an iPhone

Friday, July 05, 2013

Collateral Murder on the Fourth of July

A lot today. A lot everyday. So perhaps not much different than any other. But there's always something about the Fourth of July... Not when we were young... God bless the ignorance of youth. When is it exactly that it strikes us? That initial spark that all is not exactly as we were told when we were children. A long loopy endless trail of realizations research thoughts feelings and discovery. First, anger. Shock. Dismay. Disgust. Sadness. Confusion. But not hopelessness. Never hopelessness. Egypt quells any room rhyme or rational one can possibly muster to dare feel hopeless.  If THEY can do it, so can we. And I would assert, along with many other people at this point probably that we need nothing less in today's America than a full on revolution. If we got rid of every person serving in the White House and the U.S. Congress I dare say we would be no less safer nor a better country for it.
        See, that's the thing isn't it? As incredibly wicked and corrupt things seem in the United States today, one can always point to a nation somewhere that has it worse. People often do. And unfortunately at times that's the ONLY thing some persons point to when someone else brings up some of the myriad problems that the country is facing at the moment. "If you don't like it then why don't you move somewhere else?!?!" they shout belligerently, as if they haven't a clue about the very foundational reasons why the United States was so theoretically great to begin with and could be once again. There is a blind jingoistic patriotism that has swept through America and won't leave. It is maddening to those who truly love the country and because of it want to see it improve, to live up to its highest values and the near impossible standards we set all those years ago.
        Ever since what everyone refers to as 9/11 one gets the sense that there is still a semi-majority in the United States who have eaten the whole elephant tail tusks and all. Still the elephant remains in the room. And it doesn't appear to be going anywhere. Perhaps it's always been there. One considers the 1960s... everything the country went through and yet the people, united, did not win. For all intents and purposes it could be said that we lost more in the 1960s than perhaps during any other period in American history. Eisenhower warned us of the coming storm. Frankly I don't think anyone except the few controlling elite, the exact group he was speaking of and warning us about, understood what he was really saying. Of course in hindsight it's easy now to clearly see what he was trying to say, so delicately and yet admirably so boldly at the same time. Point being, fight as we did (and by we I am speaking figuratively), the controlling powers that be -- this Military-Industrial-Political Complex that Eisenhower warned of -- pounded one and only one message home until the people finally sputtered out of energy, quit and scattered: "YOU will lose this; we will win. It is inevitable." And they did.
        Perhaps if MORE people understood what was going on at the time and joined the cause as opposed to staying home and cowardly watching it all on their televisions; perhaps they weren't cowards but just ignorant as to what was really happening. You would have thought the untimely assassination of JFK and the ridiculously unbelievable circumstances offered by the government about his murder would have compelled every man woman and child to rise up out of their recliners and take to the streets. Or Vietnam. Or MLK. Or the riots in the streets over civil rights. Time and time again the people of America were maced jailed beaten literally, and tortured teased mocked and ridiculed metaphorically by their government in broad daylight, by this same government, played with like little mice, and still the majority of the people did not come together to defend the nation. It never ceases to amaze me when I reflect back on it or study that time.
        We are seeing a similar situation in the United States now. The protest-march against the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 was one of the largest in the history of the United States (the largest in world history also happened to take place on the same day in cities all over the earth, massive records were broken that day and in the days that followed) yet no one could stop the government of the United States from their devious plan to invade Iraq. And from near and afar it appears that things have only gotten worse. Much worse. One gets the sense that there now is absolutely NOTHING that the U.S. government can do no matter how illegal heinous criminal or deadly that would shock the American people for longer than a day or two. And yes, luckily we still have a free media and hence that's part of how we are aware of just how bad things have gotten. Unfortunately we have not been successful in doing much to stop this ghostly walk into the deathly hallows of shame and infamy. How are we to feel like celebrating the Fourth of July, Independence Day as it is called, when we have no independence left to speak of? When no matter how bad things get and how much we protest it, nothing changes...?    
         If you've already watched the video that's posted above then you probably feel the same way that many do. How is this possible? How is it so blatantly out there? Something so horrible... How are they so overtly callous and murderous? Without shame or guilt or remorse, without compassion or concern or even a general human awareness of the value of life? How can the government lie so openly proudly and confidently? We already know the answer. Because we let them. One recalls that famous attributed to Adolf Hitler, "Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually the people will believe it." We've seen it manifest over and over again in human history. One wishes that it were somehow not possible in the United States of America, that we were somehow immune to this faulty human tendency. Especially on days like today, the Fourth of July.
       I think it's important for us to note one thing though here: for those of us who notice what is happening and speak out against it, it is not the United States that we are in opposition to or criticizing; on the contrary. It is the government of the United States. And really not even the government, but rather the politicians, the employees if you will -- our employees -- of this government. Most of us are patriots. I think there's a lot of confusion about this out there in the mainstream. Luckily more and more information is leaking out to common everyday folks that helps shed light on what all the fuss is about. It isn't the United States that's the problem, even though that's how the rest of the world now sees it; it's the United States government. Ultimately one supposes that means it comes back to us though... We are after all the people responsible for who is working in and running this government.
        In general I still believe that most Americans are operating under the misconception that those who speak out against the United States government are in some way unpatriotic or radical extremists or "conspiracy theorists", when most of the time the exact opposite is true. Most of the time these are the people who love the Unites States of America and what it allegedly stands for the most. I know that applies to me. And I am sure it applies to everyone I know in the various movements around the country of different people who are trying to enact real change in how we do things here. My hope is that this time, as the country veers closer and closer to another 1960s, or worse, another 1860s, that enough of the populace is educated and aware of what we are fighting for and that for the first time since the Revolutionary War that we together can form a majority so we can win once more instead of fighting each other as in times past.
        I for one would love to once again enjoy my Fourth of July as I once did as a child, wide eyed and proud, happy and grateful for who we are as a country and what we've accomplished and what we stand for around the world. And I can see it. I can see that one day being a reality again. But today is not that day. We have traveled too much. We have learned too much. The world is too flat. We are in communication with too many people from other countries all over the world to believe these myths, to NOT know how the rest of the world feels, to NOT know how we should feel if of rational mind, stable body and compassionate heart. We cannot swallow the whole elephant some of us. But it doesn't mean we aren't hopeful. And it doesn't mean that we won't keep trying.  

        I would be remiss if I didn't make mention of the fact that Princess Little Tree and The Squid left today to head down to Florida for the International Avatar Course. They left early this morning. While I was sleeping. I had just enough awareness to say goodbye. So beautiful. So precious. So perfect she remains to me after all these years. I cannot believe how much I already miss her. They will be gone for twelve days. Today has already felt like a week. I now for the first time I believe finally understand what it's like to "feel" really married, to love and miss someone that much, to not want to travel without them, to not want to leave their side, to long to die the moment they do. I love Princess Little Tree that much now. As opposed to marriage making us feel less in love with one another, it has done the exact opposite. I love and miss her even more.
        We will be recording most of this entire time over the next few weeks. So that will provide me with ample distraction. But regardless, the days feel long and slow without her and the nights even more so. As always, more later.