Monday, November 23, 2009

Taxation, and Social Contracts.

I have stated in the past that taxes are inherently a form of theft, and social contracts are a bunch of bullshit. After thinking on it further, I was wrong.

Let's start with taxes. If you are an anarchist, you believe all government is bad, and all taxation is theft (you cannot run a government without some form of taxation). Many people believe libertarians are anarchists. Some are. Most aren't. I am not; I believe government has a legitimate function; to protect your rights from others, and protect others' rights from you.

The place where taxation becomes theft is when it involves taking your money for the purpose of giving to others. What's the difference, you ask?

Well, first you have to understand what I mean by rights. We have come to associate "rights" with "needs" or even "desires" as in "I have a right to food, shelter, basic medical care, TV, affordable transportation, etc." These are needs, or desires. I do not believe on any respect that they are rights. All rights are freedoms *from* something, not something being given to you for free.

You have a right not to have your things stolen.
You have a right not to be forced into slavery.
You have a right not to be cheated or lied to in business.

I could go on, but these are rights to *not* have things done to you. And that is what government should be there to do. Defense of the borders? Good role. Policing the streets? Good role. A system of courts to administer justice, and jails to house the lawbreakers? Good role. These are all legitimate. And they require taxes.

So no, I don't think taxation is inherently theft. But when it comes to government providing goods and services, then yes. I think it is always theft. Every time. And any government program which involves providing goods and services is funded by theft.

Are all government programs bad things? By no means. I love the space program. I drive on our highways. That doesn't change the fact that I believe they are illegitimate, funded by theft, and should never have been administered by the government. I also believe that the free market (were we to have one) would provide much, much better.

Even the government programs that you love, that I love, if they provide goods or services - even these the most statist among us would admit are hopelessly inefficient, bloated, and poorly run. Government by its very nature is wasteful, since it spends money not its own, generally on people not its own. There is no and can be no incentive to provide efficiently.

So what percentage of our taxes is theft? I don't know; I'd have to
A) analyze our budget exceedingly closely, and
B) trust that the numbers provided are accurate
and neither of those seems like a winning use of my time. But on a guess, I'd say probably 95% of our tax dollars are theft, taking money from one person, then giving it to somebody else, after taking a cut.

When the mob does that, it's despicable. When the government does that, it's somehow supposed to be better. Not in my opinion.

But just because taxes are generally theft, or usually theft, or almost always theft, doesn't mean it's ALWAYS theft, or even inherently so. Where the money is used makes a difference in legitimacy.

So, that takes us to social contracts.

Now, here it's a matter of terminology. Most people use "social contract" to mean something that is accepted by society, and is considered okay because of majority rule. I reject that. The majority is usually wrong. And when I find myself in the majority of almost anything, it makes me immediately question whether I know enough to have a valid opinion.

People will use the term "social contract" to signify a vague thing that allows them to get whatever they want, or feel is just. Nowhere do they have a copy of this social contract. Nowhere can they define this social contract. But they'll use it to push for Universal Health Care, Gun Control, Prayer in Schools, banning Gay Marriage, or any other pet cause they believe either has a majority behind it, or that they believe is a moral imperative.

Again, I reject this. If you cannot show me a contract that I have agreed to live by, it does not exist. If there is nothing spelled out in black and white that I have agreed to, it does not exist.

So what social contract do I believe in? For there is one. I have agreed to it. I have sworn to uphold it. I have studied it extensively. I think it is one of the finest contracts ever devised. It is called the Constitution of the United States of America. By living in this country, I agree to live by its constitution. It is not vague. It does not permit the fickle wind of public opinion to change its fundamental principles.

If this country were to return to the social contract signed on September 17, 1787, we would once again take our place as the champions of freedom that we once were. We could return to the prosperity that freedom brings. And we would be freed of most of the theft that our government currently engages in.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Updated Classical Music List

So I've been away a bit longer than I intended. The reasons are

A) My computer crashed. Again. But I think I've solved the problem this time (though I'm now in the process of re-installing all the programs I use, plus trying to recover all the files... AAAAARRRRGGHHHH!!!!)

B) I'm buying a house. And that takes a good bit of time.

Anyway, I've been given some great suggestions, and I'm adding a lot of them here. Not all, though. The purpose behind this list is not to collect the best classical music, the most beautiful, the most moving, etc. It's to compile a list of the most famous works (famous by music, not by title). Works that people have probably heard at least once, if they have any exposure to classical music.

For that reason, I'm leaving out one of my favorite composers, and this might lead to a fist-fight with my brother-in-law Ed (I hope not; he'd kick my ass). But I can't think of any Mahler pieces that non-music snobs would recognize. Which is a shame. I don't know - feel free to weigh in on this one, maybe I just need some more voices. Other than the ones in my head. Shut up, Lews Therin!

Anyway, the idea is that if somebody wanted to kinda get a feel for the most mainstream of classical works, this would be the list to go to. We have lists like this for popular music in the dueling pianos world - Brown Eyed Girl, Hotel California, etc.

So here goes round number two.

Bach:
Prelude in C, Well-Tempered Clavier book one
Air on a G String
Six Suites for Unaccompanied Cello
Toccata and Fugue in Dm

Beethoven:
Fur Elise
Piano Sonata No. 8 in Cm, Op. 13, (the Pathétique Sonata)
Piano Sonata No. 14 in C#m, Op. 27, No. 2, (the "Moonlight" Sonata) - first movement
Piano Concerto No. 5 in Eb, Op. 73 (the "Emperor Concerto")
Symphony No. 5 in Cm, Op. 67
Symphony No. 9 in Dm, Op. 125

Bernstein:
Candide
West Side Story

Chopin:
Nocturne in Eb, Op. 9, No. 2
Waltz Op. 64, No. 2 in C#m
Scherzo No. 2 in Bbm, Op. 31
Fantaisie-Impromptu in C#m

Debussy:
Clair de Lune
Reverie

Dvorak
Slavonic Dances, Op. 46 and Op. 72
Symphony No. 9 in E, "From the New World" (Op. 95, B. 178), (New World Symphony)
Cello Concerto in B minor, Op. 104, B. 191

Faure:
Requiem in Dm, Op. 48

Gounod:
Ave Maria

Grieg:
Suite from Peer Gynt
Piano Concerto in Am, Op. 16

Handel:
Messiah
Water Music

Liszt:
Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2
Liebestraum (No. 3)

MacDowell:
"To a Wild Rose" Op. 51, No. 1

Mozart:
Piano Sonata No. 11 in A major, K 331, last movement (Rondo alla Turca)
Sonata in C, K 545, first movement
Piano Concerto No. 21 in C major, K. 467
Le nozze di Figaro
Die Zauberflöte
Serenade No. 13 for strings in G, K. 525, (Eine kleine Nachtmusik)
Requiem Mass in D minor K. 626
Don Giovanni
Ave Verum Corpus

Mendelssohn:
Violin Concerto in E minor, Op. 64

Rachmaninoff:
Prelude in C#m
Vocalise
Piano Concerto No. 2 in Cm, Op. 18
Piano Concerto No. 3 in Dm, Op. 30
Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini in Am, opus 43

Rossini:
William Tell Overture
The Barber of Seville

Saint-Saens:
Symphony No. 3 in C minor, Op. 78

Satie:
Gymnopedie No. 1

Schubert:
Erlkonig
Six Moments musicaux, D. 780 Op. 94

Tchaikovsky
The Nutcracker
The Year 1812, Festival overture in Eb, Op. 49 (1812 Overture)
The Piano Concerto No. 1 in Bbm, Op. 23

Wagner:
Ride of the Valkyries

I swear I thought of a dozen more over the last two weeks, but I didn't write them down.

Anyway, I'm having fun with this, and it's making me listen to some great music again, which I should do more often.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Ultimate Classical Music List

I've been gone for awhile. And as usual, it was because of computer problems. Someday I'll be rich enough to have a computer that always works. But until then, well, every time I start to get my readers back, I go AWOL.

So, I've been thinking for awhile now. There are pieces of music that I consider vital to being a well-educated individual. But I never have sat down and made a comprehensive list. Now is the time to rectify that. But I'm not going to be able to make a complete list, so every Sunday for awhile I'm going to repost this, and hopefully each week either I'll think of more, or people will suggest more works in the comments (although people tend to email me more than comment).

Here are the ground rules; it's not about how "good" the work is. It's more like the greatest hits. It should be a song that most people will recognize, even if they don't know where it's from. An example of a piece that shouldn't cut it is the Beethoven Third Concerto. It's actually my favorite of the five, but it's not highly influential. It's not well-known. And if you're not familiar with it, it won't make me think any less of your classical knowledge. The Fifth Concerto, though - that's another matter. Also, if it's popular because of weddings, don't put it on there. We already know those. Pachelbel. Damn you.

Almost all the ones I can think of are either orchestral or piano works. This may be due to my background - so if you're a vocalist or instrumentalist, I especially hope you'll chime in on the vital literature that I'm just not thinking of.

So, for the first week, here's my list.

Bach:
Prelude in C, Well-Tempered Clavier book one
Air on a G String
Six Suites for Unaccompanied Cello

Beethoven:
Fur Elise
Piano Sonata No. 8 in Cm, Op. 13, (the Pathétique Sonata)
Piano Sonata No. 14 in C#m, Op. 27, No. 2, (the "Moonlight" Sonata) - first movement
Piano Concerto No. 5 in Eb, Op. 73 (the "Emperor Concerto")
Symphony No. 5 in Cm, Op. 67
Symphony No. 9 in Dm, Op. 125

Chopin:
Nocturne in Eb, Op. 9, No. 2
Waltz Op. 64, No. 2 in C#m
Scherzo No. 2 in Bbm, Op. 31
Fantaisie-Impromptu in C#m

Debussy:
Clair de Lune
Reverie

Grieg:
Suite from Peer Gynt
Piano Concerto in Am, Op. 16

Liszt:
Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2
Liebestraum (No. 3)

MacDowell
"To a Wild Rose" Op. 51, No. 1

Mozart:
Piano Sonata No. 11 in A major, K 331, last movement (Rondo alla Turca)
Sonata in C, K 545, first movement
Piano Concerto No. 21 in C major, K. 467
Le nozze di Figaro
Die Zauberflöte
Serenade No. 13 for strings in G, K. 525, (Eine kleine Nachtmusik)
Requiem Mass in D minor K. 626

Mendelssohn:
Violin Concerto in E minor, Op. 64

Rachmaninoff:
Prelude in C#m
Vocalise
Piano Concerto No. 2 in Cm, Op. 18
Piano Concerto No. 3 in Dm, Op. 30
Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini in Am, opus 43

Saint-Saens:
Symphony No. 3 in C minor, Op. 78

Satie:
Gymnopedie No. 1

Schubert:
Erlkonig
Six Moments musicaux, D. 780 Op. 94

Wagner:
Ride of the Valkyries

Okay, what am I forgetting? Fill me in! (I know I especially need more operatic works)

Friday, September 11, 2009

The United States? Really?

Eight years ago today, we faced an unprecedented assault. And as a nation, we came together in a way that I had never witnessed in my lifetime. Even through the horror and loss, it seemed like the birth of something new, a patriotic fervor and pride that could wipe away the tarnish of our increasingly corrupt and bankrupt country.

On that day, who was not proud to be an American as we watched the firefighters giving their lives to try to save others? Who was not proud to be an American when they heard the story of flight 93, sacrificing themselves to prevent more deaths? Who was not proud to be an American when the Red Cross said they didn't need any more donors, because so many had stepped up?

On that day, I was sad at the loss. I was furious at the attackers. And I was proud of my country.

I don't think I've been proud of my country since then.

I know, I know - I have heard that if I don't love this country, I should just leave it. And that brings me to my post title. Are we really the United States? If so, what are we united about?

Pre Civil War, the States were considered sovereign, and signatories to a constitution resembling an alliance more than anything else (an oversimplification, of course). The literature consistently referred to these United States. Afterwards, with the solidification of centralized federal government, we were referred to as the United States. A subtle, but important difference.

But both Pre and Post Civil War, there were common things that united us as a nation. A love of liberty. A distrust of government power. A respect for individual accomplishment. A tradition of self-reliance. Stories of Johnny Appleseed, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin. A musical heritage that came later to include not just patriotic songs, but cowboy music, folk songs, dixieland, ragtime, and jazz. Easter. Christmas. Thanksgiving.

Now, what unites us? A quarter of this country celebrates Cinco De Mayo. The rest don't even know what that is. Thanksgiving and Christmas have become co-opted as commercial entities with no real meaning (if they're even mentioned. Easter has gone into hiding, except as a time to eat chocolate. Mmm... Cadburry eggs.

I can't think of a single thing that we agree on as a country. And just as telling, there's something that I think is more prevalent now than ever before; hate. It's not enough to disagree anymore. Now you have to have hatred for the opposition. You have to call them names. You have to imply that they are idiots for daring to disagree with you.

And you have to lump people into easy political categories whether they fit there or not. And if they're in the same category as you, you have to support them, whether or not you agree. If they're in a different category, you hate them. And everything they stand for.

Politically, I can't think of anything that unites California with Texas. Massachusetts with Alabama. New York with Montana.

So I ask you, in all honesty - what unites these states now? What do we have that we should be proud of right now that we all share? This isn't rhetorical - I'm searching for an answer here.

Now, to go back to something that I wrote earlier... If I don't love what this country has become, why don't I leave it? Because pride in my country is not the most important thing to me. My family lives in this country, and nothing tops that. I have a career in this country that I love, and the only thing that tops that is my family. And I have hope; hope that when the house of cards comes crashing down, we can rebuild something better. Something built on say, the Constitution of the United States.

But for now, are we united anymore?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A Worthy Cause

I can think of no more noble cause than this.



The goal of Project Pterosaur is to mount an expedition to locate and bring back to the United States living specimens of pterosaurs or their fertile eggs, which will be displayed in a Pterosaur Rookery that will be the center piece of the planned Fellowship Creation Science Museum and Research Institute (FCSMRI). Furthermore, the rookery facility will establish a breeding colony of pterosaurs in order to produce specimens that could then be put on display by other regional institutions or church groups.


Enough said.

Friday, August 14, 2009

NASSA - the untold story

Some people are going to be offended if they watch this. So feel free to turn it off - this is one of the best parodies I think I've ever seen.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Limits of Power

I've been trying to mostly avoid the political issues, as they can get somewhat tiresome. But I just read an excellent essay by Anthony Gregory titled "Obama, Bush, and the limits of Power," and thought it worth passing along.

Two key paragraphs:

Constitutions alone cannot limit government. The overwhelming bulk of what the federal government is engaged in, from imperial wars to drug prohibition, from Social Security to Medicare, is unauthorized by the Constitution, and yet they persist. What matters ultimately is the Constitution in the hearts and minds of the people. So long as the American public supports unconstitutional actions, such actions will commence. Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty, as Jefferson noted. The Constitution spells out great limits on the government, but without the support of the people, the document loses its teeth.


and

...given the stark similarities between both political parties, at least in their leadership, as well as the nature of government itself, it will not do for folks to condemn Obama as Big Brother and a would-be dictator while simultaneously defending torture, more war, and the Bush administration; nor does it make sense to oppose Bush and all he stood for while virulently backing Obama, who's brandishing Bush's executive power grabs, continuing his foreign policy, bailing out the same financial interests and seeking to control more areas of our lives. Can a reorientation of the American public, along more coherent ideological lines, be achieved? If ever there was a time for us to make our case, now is it.


It is not a Republican vs. Democrat problem. It is not a Right vs. Left problem. It is a freedom vs. government power issue. It seems like more and more are waking up to this reality... But it is too early to see whether enough are coming to terms with this to make a difference.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Thought for the day...

I am not a conservative.

I am not a liberal.

I am not a moderate.

Why is it that these are my only societally approved choices? Why are all others considered ridiculous, fringe, kooky, or irrelevant?

Like, you know?

I stole this from Ed Gonzales who put up this clip from Steve Farber's blog:



Actually, I do believe there are other uses for these terms. For instance, when I say "you know" or "you know what I'm saying," I'm searching the face of the person I'm conversing with, seeking to see whether they understand and/or agree. If not, I'll rephrase the statement. And I use "like" more than I should, but it is often instead of "for instance," "nearly," "almost," "resembling somewhat" or "approximately." It's like, kinda the same thing. You know? No. Okay, let me put it another way...

I also use it instead of "uh" as a time filler in my sentences. As I'm searching for the words to say exactly what I mean, I say "like." It is no better, possibly worse than "uh." But I do it. When I haven't started speaking yet, I say "How shall I phrase this?" This drives some people crazy. But then, if I say nothing as I'm thinking of exactly how to phrase it, they generally assume that I'm going to say something bad or negative.

My father uses "and" repeatedly as a time filler. I do wonder if he does it for the same reasons as me. Then again, I've never asked. Maybe I should.

I don't speak at the same rate at which I think. I do read at that speed, which tends to make people assume I'm lying, speed-reading, or skimming. I usually think very, very fast, and on multiple topics at once. This makes it somewhat difficult to converse, as I'm probably finished with one thought and on another entirely by the time I finish a sentence. I have to keep circling back to the sentence in my head.

This sometimes. Leads to strange. Almost... Shatner-like rhythms. Inmyspeechpatterns.

I've never really done a great deal of public speaking. I wonder sometimes if I'd be any good at it, or terrible! I don't get stage fright at all, and I don't get nervous. Those are usually the main liabilities for public speakers. But I come with (probably unique) liabilities of my own!

Speech is a very, very fascinating thing. On the one hand, it must evolve. On the other, some branches of evolution should not be protected as endangered, but merely allowed to die. Like the dinosaurs, or the woolly mammoth, or "Ebonics." You know?

Friday, August 07, 2009

If "Twilight" was about Dragons

(and contained more fisting)

Courtesy of Cracked.com

Enjoy

In Defense of Sonia Sotomayor...

Words I thought I'd never say.

Yeah, I am opposed to pretty much everything Sonia Sotomayor stands for. But she's caught some flack from conservative circles for her lack of defense of the 2nd amendment, specifically saying that she doesn't think it keeps individual states from creating their own laws that restrict the rights of gun owners.

She's right.

The constitution was always intended to be a restriction on the role of federal government, NOT state. The idea of the founding fathers was that the states would be sovereign, and members of a voluntary union. This was considered clear until the Civil War, when Lincoln decided to eliminate the voluntary nature of that union. And yes, if you disagree, be prepared to have some documentation, because I can provide plenty on my side. No? Okay, just scoff. Ignorance is bliss like that.

After Lincoln, there started to appear more and more amendments to the constitution asserting the role of the now sovereign federal government over the subjugated and subordinate state.

But this doesn't relate to the 2nd amendment. It was specifically aimed at the federal government. You can read the words of the people who wrote it - it was clear as day in its purpose to them, and should be to us. And strangely, it seems like it was clear as day to Justice Sotomayor.

Now if only she'd get around to reading the 10th amendment... *sigh*

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Second. Best. Video. EVER!!!!!

The best video ever is of course the literal version of "Total Eclipse of the Heart."

It's no secret that Muse is one of my favorite two bands (the Eagles being the other). But then I saw the video to "Knights of Cydonia," and it made my Muselove that much more intense.

The only problem? Now I wanna watch the movie!

Friday, July 31, 2009

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Bob Basso as Thomas Paine

Texas Job Interview

A man seeking to join a Texas Sheriff's Department is being interviewed.

The Deputy doing the interview says: "Your qualifications all look good, but there is an attitude suitability test that you must take before you can be accepted."

Then, sliding a service pistol across the desk, he says: "Take this pistol and go out and shoot six illegal aliens, six ACLU lawyers, six meth dealers, six Muslim extremists, and a rabbit."

"Why the rabbit?"

"So much for the attitude test," says the Sergeant. "When can you start?"

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Woman. Woah, man! Woah - oh - oh - oh - man!

This is such a confluence of awesomeness that I am doing a happy dance. On the inside.

Sarah Palin. Poetry Reading. William Shatner.

Enjoy.

It's getting closer...

Some do it for the women.



Some do it for the love of sport. For the thrill of athleticism - of pushing your physique into the greatest shape of your life.



Some do it out of the sense of bonding that a team provides.



But it doesn't matter why they do it. They're getting ready to do it. And this year, it's gonna be the Cowboy's year. They got their shit straight. They got rid of the troublemakers. They brought in youth where needed, kept experience where wanted. And Wade Phillips is bringing D to the Big D like never before - which is his greatest strength.

It's getting closer to football season!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Boys and girls might write differently!

I don't remember if I've written about this here, or just conversed with friends about it. I'd made the observation that literature by men tends to be about doing, while literature by women tends to be about simply being. For instance, a fantasy fiction book by a man tends to delve into wish fulfillment about the main character going and doing great things to prove his/her worth, and rising through society as a result of his/her accomplishments. Fantasy fiction books by women are more likely to focus on the main character being recognized for how wonderful/brilliant/beautiful he/she is, without actually doing anything to deserve said praise, other than existing.

Think "Harry Potter" vs. "The Hobbit."

Anyway, I came across this, and had to include it. It's real - been vetted by Snopes as much as anything on the 'net can be. And I know it's made its way around, but I'm just now coming across it!

English 44A, SMU, Creative Writing, Prof. Miller.

In-class Assignment for Wednesday:"Today we will experiment with a new form called the tandem story. The process is simple. Each person will pair off with the person sitting to his or her immediate right. One of you will then write the first paragraph of a short story. The partner will read the first paragraph and then add another paragraph to the story. The first person will then add a third paragraph, and so on back and forth. Remember to re-read what has been written each time in order to keep the story coherent. The story is over when both agree a conclusion has been reached."

"The following was actually turned in by two of my English students: Rebecca - last name deleted, and Gary - last name deleted."

_____ STORY: (first paragraph by Rebecca) ________

At first, Laurie couldn't decide which kind of tea she wanted. The chamomile, which used to be her favorite for lazy evenings at home, now reminded her too much of Carl, who once said, in happier times, that he liked chamomile. But she felt she must now, at all costs, keep her mind off Carl. His possessiveness was suffocating, and if she thought about him too much her asthma started acting up again. So chamomile was out of the question.

Meanwhile, Advance Sergeant Carl Harris, leader of the attack squadron now in orbit over Skylon 4, had more important things to think about than the neuroses of an air-headed asthmatic bimbo named Laurie with whom he had spent one sweaty night over a year ago. "A.S. Harris to Geostation 17," he said into his transgalactic communicator. "Polar orbit established. No sign of resistance so far..." But before he could sign off a bluish particle beam flashed out of nowhere and blasted a hole through his ship's cargo bay. The jolt from the direct hit sent him flying out of his seat and acros sthe cockpit.

He bumped his head and died almost immediately, but not before he felt one last pang of regret for psychically brutalizing the one woman who had ever had feelings for him. Soon afterwards, Earth stopped its pointless hostilities towards the peaceful farmers of Skylon 4."Congress Passes Law Permanently Abolishing War and Space Travel," Laurie read in her newspaper one morning. The news simultaneously excited her and bored her. She stared out the window, dreaming of her youth -- when the days had passed unhurriedly and carefree, with no newspapers to read, no television to distract her from her sense of innocent wonder at all the beautiful things around her. "Why must one lose one's innocence to become a woman?" she pondered wistfully.


Little did she know, but she had less than 10 seconds to live. Thousands of miles above the city, the Anu'udrian mothership launched the first of its lithium fusion missiles. The dim-witted wimpy peaceniks who pushed the Unilateral Aerospace Disarmament Treaty through Congress had left Earth a defenseless target for the hostile alien empires who were determined to destroy the human race.Within two hours after the passage of the treaty the Anu'udrian ships were on course for Earth, carrying enough firepower to pulverize the entire planet. With no one to stop them, they swiftly initiated their diabolical plan. The lithium fusion missile entered the atmosphere unimpeded. The President, in his top-secret mobile submarine headquarters on the ocean floor off the coast of Guam, felt the inconceivably massive explosion which vaporized Laurie and 85 million other Americans. The President slammed his fist on the conference table. "We can't allow this! I'm going to veto that treaty! Let's blow 'em out of the sky!"


This is absurd. I refuse to continue this mockery of literature. My writing partner is a violent,chauvinistic, semi-literate adolescent.


Yeah? Well, you're a self-centered tedious neurotic whose attempts at writing are the literary equivalent of Valium.



Asshole.



Bitch.


Honestly, I think this would've gone on to make a great story. But maybe I'm a little warped!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Best. Superstition. EVER.

As you know, I'm from Texas. A place that seems to be in drought more often than not.

Well, it turns out the Indians (not the feather wearing ones, but the dot-in-the-forehead ones) have figured out the answer:

Naked girls.

Texas, it's time we adopted this. I'm sure you'll find no shortage of willing girls, as long as you go to 6th in Austin and offer them alcohol. Crops will get watered, one way or the other.

Why haven't we been doing this all along?

Monday, July 06, 2009

A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste...

Yeah, I was on a roll, then I left for my vacation. Got back, and haven't had my computer working consistently long enough to write anything.

Yeah, I know. Computer problems. Blah, blah, blah.

I should write something about the Fourth of July. I really, really should. But I'm feeling a little heartbroken for my country right now, and I just can't stand it.

I read an interesting article over at The Friday Challenge - it reinforced my conviction that, should I ever have kids, the TV will be locked away except at such times as we can all watch it together as a family. I know, there are those who scoff at such things, as it makes such a wonderful babysitter. But consider this viewpoint (which I have observed myself, just not in cartoons):

While I won't bore you all by listing every cartoon my kids have watched, I cannot think of a single one which portrays fathers as anything other than fools with much to learn from the brilliant children and spouse.

Apparently it wasn't enough for fathers to be morons. These days, most of the boys are idiots, too. I am hard pressed to name a single cartoon that doesn't have at least one boy who complete and utter moron. Conversely, I can't name a single cartoon which has even one girl who isn't clever and forever having to pull the moron boy's fat out of the fire.

I have to wonder exactly what all of these "males are stupid, females are brilliant" messages are doing to our boys. I know there are some who will say, "You're making a big deal over a bunch of silly cartoons and sitcoms!" Those same people will then protest that video games are turning our children into killers or that exposure to NRA gun safety training will get kids interested in guns and shooting. (Interestingly, these same people will tell you that detailed sex education will not get kids more interested in having sex.)


The most important thing any person can do is raise their children as best they can. The television is not an evil tool, any more than a gun, or a car, or medicine is. But used irresponsibly, each can cause great devastation. The only problem is, with a TV you might not notice for many years.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Total Eclipse of Awesomeness

This goes beyond all previous concepts of awesome. This is a new level of awesomeness.

Thanks to Rachel Lucas for providing me with a reason to go on living. I just... I just... I just want to share the joy I have found.



And if you're ready for the TRUE horror of Mary Poppins:

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Welcome back, huh?

I go away for a week or two on vacation (incredible - more on that soon!). And when I return, what do I find?

Obama has announced his choice for Supreme Court Justice; Sonia Sotomayor. A fair, unbiased choice it is, too *cough, cough* (both female AND hispanic - double score, Political Correctness!). And I quote from the lady herself:

"I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life."


For those of you who have no issue with that statement, let me rephrase it and see how you feel about this:

"I would hope that a wise white male with the richness of his experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a Latina woman who hasn't lived that life."

Would that strike you as a good candidate for the Supreme Court?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The trouble with Health Care...

Okay, everyone is jumping on board the new Health Care for Every American train. Somehow, if we just put the government in charge, they'll fix everything (that they broke), and we'll end up with free health care for everybody, and we'll be happy healthy people singing kumbayah beside unicorns farting rainbows.

First off, show me one thing the government has taken over from private business that has shown improvement. One.

Second of all, repeat after me: "there ain't no thing as a free lunch!"

Okay, so you say I don't know what I'm talking about. Europeans and Canadians have Universal Health Care, and it's better than Viagra and a set of blonde twins! Well, I'll save the facts about that for another post (hint; it ain't as good as you think it is), and refer you to someone who indisputable knows what he's talking about: Dr. David McKalip.

He has posted a transcript of his testimony before the Pennsylvania House Health Care Policy Task Force.

Here are a couple of excerpts:

While in my first practice at San Francisco General Hospital, I saw the many shortcomings of a government run hospital. Even with dedicated professional health care staff, the constant budget shortfalls, debt and politically motivated regulatory burdens drained the hospital there. Patients waited weeks to go to rehabilitation units while patients in private systems went in days. Repeat patients never took responsibility for their own health — always assuming that the public system would be there for them. I went to San Francisco a young liberal and left two years later a disillusioned doctor.

and
Many utopian dreamers are motivated by the best of intentions and envision that the best way to achieve high quality health care is to create a system by which the government will control all health care spending and ensure that it is equitable, efficient and proper. They are basing their approach on an economic philosophy that has failed many times in history — one of collectivism and central economic planning. Many of those advocating such a system believe that if an elite group of all knowing and benevolent planners control spending, that nothing but good will result. Unfortunately this had never been the case as evidenced by the fall of the Berlin Wall, the lack of property and individual rights in societies under dictators, and recent examples of failing government-run school systems in America with a never-ending supply of money.

Those advocating single payer systems don't understand that what made America great was not centrally planned economies.


He goes on to destroy pretty much every myth concerning the beauty of single payer systems (there really aren't any, if you look closely), and the horrors of free enterprise managing health care (there are many horrors, but every one is lesser than the result of centrally planned efforts).

For every one of you that thinks Universal Health Care is good, but don't want to argue with me cause I'm just an ignorant musician, read this article. Then see how you feel.

Monday, May 11, 2009

To Boldly Go where 10 previous movies never dared...

Okay, I hate to say it, but...

Best. Trek. Ever.

Go see it. Go see it now. Then, go see it again.

Was it flawless? No. Did it have plot loopholes and convenient encounters? Yes.

So did Wrath of Khan.

I never thought that Star Trek II would ever be surpassed. I didn't expect this one to; as long as it was better than Star Treks Five through Ten, I was going to be ecstatic.

Casting? Brilliant. Writing? Superb. Acting? Top notch. Special Effects? Perfect.

And several times - silence in space.

The whole movie, I kept thinking that I couldn't wait to get it on Blu-Ray and watch it over and over again.

What are you doing reading this? Go. Go see it. Go see it now.

Live Long and Prosper, J.J. Abrams.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

While we're smoking out here...

There are very few actors/directors I admire more than Leonard Nimoy. And there are very few authors I admire more than J.R.R. Tolkien.

With that said, whenever I see this, it just freaks me out. I mean, just totally weirds me out. I feel like I'm on a bad acid trip. What the hell was he thinking? What was with the dancers? WHAT THE HELL IS THIS WHOLE THING ABOUT???? AAAAAAARRRGGGGHHHHH!!!!!

And I think it's going to be a long, long time...

And so it starts...

Actually, it didn't start here. But it's starting to become apparent. The government is beginning to become more blatant in its excesses - civil, not just fiscal. If you can watch this and still believe that we live in a free country... If you can watch this and believe we do not live in a police state... I do not know what to say to you.



As Anthony Gregory at the Campaign for Liberty put it,

The Act's defenders denied it was ever abused (although the first man imprisoned under it was an innocent man punished despite his judge not thinking he deserved the sentence). Now the Act is being turned against ordinary Americans, and even teenage homeschoolers:

This latest outrage just demonstrates why government can never be trusted with any powers that compromise its constitutional limits. Even if you somehow trust the administration currently in power, that can change every four or eight years.

Monday, May 04, 2009

A Thing of Sheer Beauty, it is...

For those of you who, like me, think nothing of regularly cruising websites like "Den of Geek," you are probably familiar with Mightygodking.com. If, however, you actually have a life... If you did not spend your formative years with comic books (I didn't, actually), TV shows (again, I really didn't) and SciFi/Fantasy books (I... um... um... moving on!)... If you did things in your youth like - have friends, and a social life, well... You might not know about Mightygodking.

Well, I'm not going to tell you about all his mighty and wondrous posts. Because you probably wouldn't get them, having no geeky background to place them against. But he just wrote a column which purports to be a conversation between himself and his friend (referred to as "Flapjacks").

It's about the new GI Joe movie, and it is hilarious and brilliant and rather cringe-inducing that I knew a great deal of what he was talking about.

That trailer made the old cartoon look downright realistic. And the cartoon had, among other things: a talking parrot, approximately forty billion laser beams color-coded by side, a tribe of shapechangers, an alien race living beneath the earth, an army of robots that would make Cylons jealous, a vampire youth machine, Atlanteans, a giant blob which the Joes killed by throwing apples at it, a trip to a parallel universe where some of the team found their own bodies, sea serpents, Cobra trying to steal Alaska because of some technicality regarding a seal, giant energy-sucking cubes of dark matter, a bio-dome in the Antarctic, a device that vaporized all of the world’s money, ghost warriors, a magic conch shell that hypnotized men but not women, time-traveling to ancient Greece, the Baroness disguising herself as a chunky fat guy not once but four separate times, Destro attempting to take over the world with giant vegetables, Cobra shrinking its entire army to miniscule size and hiding in toys given away to needy children, the Egyptian god Set, Cobra setting up its own television channel and trying to take over the world with propaganda, dinosaur stampedes, an evil clone of the talking parrot, subliminal messages in rock songs, a crime telethon, and Sgt. Slaughter.


Here it is: There are no ideas, just marketing plans of your childhood

You ain't my bitch...

Have you ever wanted to hear the President of the United States saying "You ain't my bitch, nigga - buy yo own damn fries!"?

I never knew I wanted to until I heard it. It's from an audiobook version of his "Dreams from My Father" narrated by Da Man himself.

Check it out here, or here.

*sigh* My day is complete. Blam!

Political Correctness defined

This is attributed to a Texas A&M student, but I was unable to verify that without actual work and research beyond Google. However, it's an outstanding quote, whoever wrote it.

Political correctness is a doctrine, fostered by a delusional, illogical minority, and rabidly promoted by an unscrupulous mainstream media, which holds forth the proposition that it is entirely possible to pick up a turd by the clean end.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Jon Stewart, you are officially...

Bill Whittle's Bitch.

In an on air debate with Cliff Mays, Jon Stewart made the assertion that Harry Truman was a war criminal for dropping the bomb on Japan. This is something I've been hearing more and more in the last two years or so.

Now, in all fairness, Jon Stewart made an apology a few days later:

And I may have mentioned during the discussion we were having that Harry Truman was a war criminal. And right after saying it, I thought to myself that was dumb. And it was dumb. Stupid in fact. So I shouldn’t have said that, and I did. So I say right now, no, I don’t believe that to be the case. The atomic bomb, a very complicated decision in the context of a horrific war, and I walk that back because it was in my estimation a stupid thing to say.


Still, maybe he should watch this video, just in case he decides to say something stupid again.

I'm actually considering subscribing to Pajamas TV just to support the dissemination of excellent videos like this.

Now, I don't agree with everything Bill Whittle says; his unwavering support for John McCain is hard for me to grasp. He also seems to think that the Republican party stands for freedom and limited government (equally hard for me to fathom). Still, he produces thought provoking material like this other video about media bias, and this blog entry about America's growing attitude of entitlement.

Definitely worth checking out.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Addicting. Just too addicting.

Okay, this is waayyyyyy too much fun.

Write your own music, and rest assured - it's gonna sound great!

Friday, May 01, 2009

So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, good night!

So, Justice Souter is resigning.

It's hard to pinpoint the saddest/most amusing aspect of this whole circus. For one, there's Obama's list of qualifications:

"I will seek somebody with a sharp and independent mind and a record of excellence and integrity. I will seek someone who understands that justice isn't just about some abstract legal theory or footnote in a casebook,"


Hmmm... Anything about the Constitution in there? No? What a surprise. Oh, it goes without saying, you object? So there was a question about needing a sharp mind? And a record of excellence and integrity? Yeah, Obama didn't mention the Constitution for one very good reason - he doesn't give a shit. And if he did, he'd be using the Constitution to wipe himself off afterwards.

Anyway, then it comes to the gender and ethnicity of the next justice. Will it be the most qualified person? Well, possibly, but that's completely secondary to the most important qualification - that it be a woman or a minority (double score if it's both!)

It turns out racism and sexism is okay. But only if you're using it against white men. What a shocker. I may go cry now.

Michael Bay Directs... BREAKFAST!!!

Props to Cracked.com for this send-up of Michael Bay's directing style.


Breakfast As Directed by Michael Bay -- powered by Cracked.com

Thursday, April 30, 2009

While we're making lists of 10 things:

10 Things Movies Teach Us About Virus Outbreaks

Hot girls, psychos and heroes: all immune to the impending swine flu viral apocalypse...

And yes, I got it from Den of Geek.

*hangs his geeky head in shame*

Ten Politically Incorrect Truths

Came across this awhile back on "Psychology Today."

Why most suicide bombers are Muslim, beautiful people have more daughters, humans are naturally polygamous, sexual harassment isn't sexist, and blonds are more attractive.

By: Alan S. Miller Ph.D., Satoshi Kanazawa Ph.D.

An interesting read, though most of it seems pretty damn obvious to anyone who is willing to look at reality vs. politically correct utopian ideals.

A Century of Bipartisan Tyranny

Over at Campaign for Liberty, Tom Mullen has written an incredible essay on the destructive nature of "bipartisanship." It is worth a careful read, no matter your stance on politics.

Here are a couple of excerpts:

"Americans are tired of partisan bickering. They are looking for their representatives in Washington to put partisanship aside and get to the work of the American people."

Statements like this have become a mantra over the past few decades. Like Democracy, "Bipartisanship" is now held up as an ideal and an end in and of itself. It would seem that no matter how ludicrous or destructive a policy might be, it must be just and beneficial if both major political parties agree that it should be law.


And a personal favorite:

The seminal moment was, of course, the bloodless coup of 1913. During the first year of the Wilson administration, the federal government established the income tax, the Federal Reserve System, and passed the 17th Amendment. All of these changes were indicative of the change of philosophy in Washington about the role of government. No longer was the government's purpose to secure individual rights, as the Declaration of Independence said it was. Instead, the role of government was now to achieve societal goals of social and economic equality and a world safe for democracy -- all at the expense of individual rights.

[emphasis added]

Of course, the author believes that Americans will rise up and kick out those who perpetuate this debacle. I am not so optimistic - it seems to me that most Americans happily welcome their new overlords, as long as they are promised free stuff (Health Care! Higher Wages! Less Work! Better Retirement! All for free!). It doesn't matter that the government has never, will never, and can never fulfill these promises. People don't want equal rights - they want equal results. And whoever promises those - those will be who gets elected.

However, I love being proven wrong in my pessimism, and maybe this will turn out to be one of those times! But I'm not holding my breath.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Spock, you traitor!

Ran into this at Den of Geek - for you trekkies out there, this is hysterical. For everybody else... Um...

Hate Crime?

I have always been opposed to the concept of "hate crimes" - either an action is a crime, or it is not. If it is, the intent does not make the action worse or better. If I assault you, the damage is the same whether I do it because you're pretty, ugly, white, black, too thin, too fat, too gay, too straight - it's still assault! (unless you like it, in which case it's cause you're too masochistic!)

Needless to say, this lack of political correctness on my part finds itself in the minority these days. In an unsurprising turn of events, Obama asked for a federal hate crimes bill to be sent to him. The House approved one, sent it to the Senate today.

Hope. Change. Special Rights and privileges for everybody but the white man. Cause we've been oppressing you too damn long. It's payback time.

Lamar Smith had this to say in opposition:

"All violent crimes must be vigorously prosecuted," Smith said. "Unfortunately, this bill undermines one of the most basic principles of our criminal justice system -- 'equal justice for all.'"

"Justice will now depend on the race, gender, sexual orientation, disability or other protected status of the victim," Smith said. "It will allow different penalties to be imposed for the same crime."


I find myself agreeing with a Republican. This very well might be a sign of the apocalypse. Well, all I can say is, can there be special protection for scrawny crackers? If we *have* to dole out special rights and privileges, I want some!

Wednesday Motivational Posters!





Monday, April 27, 2009

Nobody is above the Rule of Law in THIS country!

Unless of course, they work for the government. Case in point: Henry Paulson and Ben Bernanke.

This from the Wall Street Journal:

Bank of America Chairman and CEO Kenneth Lewis testified under oath in New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo's investigation in February. During the testimony, Mr. Lewis told prosecutors that then-Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke instructed him to keep silent about deepening financial difficulties at Merrill Lynch.


In case you didn't know it, this is called coercion to commit securities fraud. It is quite illegal. For a more in depth look at this, here is what Mike Shedlock had to say about it:

I suspect Lewis he will be forced out as CEO whether he is indicted or not. Certainly he deserves to go. The more serious issue is the appearance of coercion by Paulson and Bernanke.

Please note that Cuomo's letter states "In an interview with this Office, Secretary Paulson largely corroborated Lewis's account. "

As far as I am concerned, Paulson just pleaded guilty.


An Opinion article (also from the Wall Street Journal) had this to add:

The political class has spent the last few months blaming bankers for everything that has gone wrong in the financial system, and no doubt many banks have earned public scorn. But Washington has been complicit every step of the way, from the Fed's easy money to the nurturing of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and since last autumn with regulatory and Congressional panic that is making financial repair that much harder. The men who nearly ruined Bank of America have some explaining to do.


The name of that article says it all - "Busting Bank of America: A case study in how to spread systemic financial risk"

Trust the gov. They're here to help you. And they'd never break their own laws, right? Right?

Bueller? Bueller?

That's okay. We can rest assured that Obama, being the Man who will Change Washington, will not sleep until these men are brought to Justice and pay for their crimes! It's gonna happen. Really.

Papers, please...

To those who don't believe we are living in an increasingly police state, read the following story about TSA agents harassing a Campaign for Liberty official. Be sure to listen to the audio - it is astounding (and infuriating).

On the tape, Mr. Bierfeldt is asked repeatedly where he works, where he obtained the money and why he was in St. Louis.

In each instance, Mr. Bierfeldt asked whether he was required by law to answer the questions.

"You want to play smartass, and I'm not going to play your f--ing game," the TSA official said.

Mr. Bierfeldt continued to refuse to answer, asking whether he was compelled by law to do so. The officers accused him of "doublespeak" and "acting like a child."

"Are you from this planet?" one officer asked.

The officers threatened to handcuff him and turn him over to the FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration for questioning.


Now, the big question many have is whether he was retained for the amount of money he was carrying, or for his obvious support of Ron Paul. It doesn't really matter: neither one is illegal. At least, theoretically. Neither one is supposed to be cause for harassment. At least, theoretically.

TSA agents are largely untrained, generally incompetent, and given too much authority. As a result, many of them behave as thugs. And most people go along with it.

I highly encourage everyone out there - record every encounter with the law. If it comes to your word against theirs, you will lose. If you have proof, there is a small chance that your rights will be upheld in the long run.

In the short run? Cross your fingers, read about American history, and dream about the time when we were a free country.

A Public Service Announcement

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Saturday Motivational Posters!

Just in time for weekend partying!



Music as a Communicator

Now, in my last posting on music, I stated that the main roles of music have always been to inspire dancing or singing. This was incomplete.

I originally intended to write one essay, but about a third of the way through, I realized just how verbose I was becoming, so I chopped it off, and edited it down.

What I was referring to was events where music is the focal point. There has always been mood music, and always will be. For one example, movies are full of music. There would be no horror films without the creepy music in the background. But the background is where it generally stays. Quick, think of some creepy music from horror films! Bet you could only think of two: the violin shrieks of "Psycho" (which are supposed to symbolize an unearthly scream), and Nightmare on Elm St.'s "one, two, Freddy's coming for you..." which - wait for it - is sung.

The others? Not so memorable, huh? Perfect for the scene. But the only memorable film scores are generally the ones with singable melodies. I could name several scenes from "Star Wars" that contain singable melodies, and you'd probably remember them instantly. But the themes that aren't so singable? Quick, think of Anakin's Theme from "Star Wars: the Phantom Menace." (good luck with that!)

There is other mood music, of course - someone pointed out to me that Spas and Massage clinics usually play mood music. But I bet you can't remember any of it.

So, for music to be remembered, it has to become something you focus on. And if there is no rhythm to dance to, no melody to sing... There is very little to focus on. A trained musician might be able to. But I speak of music for the masses. Which brings me to my next point - the role of music.

Now, in my studies in college, I was told there are two types of music:

1) Program Music - where the music tells a story, and
2) Absolute Music - which is music with no story.

An example of Program Music might be "O mio babbino caro," which tells (in words) a story of longing for love. It might be something like Debussy's "Jardins sous la pluie" (Gardens in the Rain) which attempts to portray (through solo piano) the sounds and mood of ... um... gardens in the rain. An example of Absolute Music might be Beethoven's Sonata in C Minor, Op. 10, No. 1. It is music with no story, just sheer sound.

Or so I was taught. Upon reflection, I think that is either woefully incomplete, or complete bullshit.

I think all music has a story. Some it is told to you (program music). Other times you write the story yourself (absolute music). My favorite piece of all time is Rachmaninoff's Second Piano Concerto. To me, there is not a second of it that I don't know the exact story I created for it. If I compared notes with someone else, I doubt they'd match at all. But regardless, the story was there.

So why do I go on about this? Music uses melody and rhythm to captivate you, enchant you, entice you. But for you to truly love a piece of music, it has to tell a story. More importantly, it has to tell your story, or at least one you identify with.

It is no secret that the majority of music sales has always been and will always be to teenagers. That is for the simple reason that teenagers are figuring out both who they are, and how to express who they are. Music gives them something to relate to, to say "yeah, that's my life right there in that song." As you get older, most people have either figured themselves out, or quit trying. They've also generally found other ways to express themselves, or given up on that as well.

This is where Classical Music once again fails, or more precisely classical musicians have failed their audiences. Rather than writing or performing music that anybody else can say "that music is exactly how I feel!", composers are simply saying "look at me! I write stuff that you can't understand, 'cause you're not as smart as me!"

Um. Dude. Good luck selling that. Next up; tell jokes that nobody laughs at. And spend the rest of your time telling everyone why the government should fund you, because your jokes are necessary to a civilized culture.

Beethoven didn't write to say he was better than his audience. He thought he was. He might've been right, too. But his music was intended to reach inside everybody who heard it, to touch on a common experience, on emotions that are common to every listener. And he did it with melodies that you want to sing, and rhythms that could be danced to. Melody wasn't his strong suit (form and harmony were), but he used it as a focal point to captivate you. And his music touched more people than can be counted.

In Showbiz terms, he knew his audience. And he wrote their music, as much as his. All successful composers have done this. Anyone can write how they themselves feel. Only a few can write in such a way as to make others feel. This is as true with words as with music.

This is where I left the classical, academic world of music far behind. Performing wasn't for me; it was for my audience. When I sing, when I play, I play for their enjoyment, not my own. When I write songs, it is for them to listen to, not myself. This is why I make a living at the field of music, when so many others can't. It's not because I'm better. It's not because I'm smarter. It's not because I'm more talented. It's because I know it's not about me.

I use music to communicate. And communication is a two way street, never, ever one way.

So when did classical music die? When people no longer danced to it, and no longer sang its melodies. When did people stop doing that? When classical musicians quit writing and performing for their audiences, but focused on themselves. As a result, they themselves are their only audience left.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Wow. Dude. Like, Wow.




Found this via Rachel Lucas' blog, and I had to put it on here.

Sadly, I actually do miss Hammer pants. Z. Cavaricci, to be more precise. And I still wear the beater shirts. At least, when I'm heading to the gym. So to all you people who think I'm fashion-challenged (which is only those who have ever met me), here's conclusive proof you're right!

Anyway, check it out: the Top 10 Fashion Fads that Need to Come Back

Friday Motivational Posters!

Okay, if you can make sense of these, you're a smarter person than I am!




The Death of Music... And the Life.

Classical Music is not dying. It is dead. This is pretty widely acknowledged. There are books written on the subject. What killed it?

There are pretty much three schools of thought:

1) People got stupider about music
2) Classical Music got too complex
3) Classical Music became obsolete

Believe it or not, I think all three are correct. And none of them is the root reason, in my opinion.

Let me start with the second point - Classical Music got too complex. This is undoubtedly true. In fact, in college I observed that every period of music started out as a return to simplicity, before growing ever more complex. When complexity reached a certain point, only musicians remained interested, and then a new style would be born as a return to simplicity. Baroque to Classical, Classical to Romantic, Romantic to Impressionist, Impressionist to Jazz (I choose to ignore "Modern" Classical such as Schoenberg and Hindemith - their output was never important to anyone outside of academia).

Still, what did that return to simplicity consist of? Why was it necessary? Yes, it got complex, but why is that always fatal to a musical style?

How about the first point, that people got stupider about music? Well, for one thing, it used to be standard that everybody played at least one instrument. There were no mp3 players - if you wanted music, you made it. Buying music didn't involve downloading, it involved buying the sheet music so you could play it.

Also, I'm kinda of the opinion that people have gotten a lot dumber in general. But actually, I consider that irrelevant to the discussion of the death of classical music.

The third point is obvious - classical music IS obsolete. But is that what killed it? I think not.

You see, my six years as a dueling pianist led me to a revelation recently - music should make you want to sing along, dance or both!

Let me say that again, because it is the root of all music, and what brings it to life: Music should make you want to sing along, dance, or both. This is what music has done since the dawn of time. It has served these functions. And that is almost entirely the only functions it has ever served.

Are there pieces you can't sing along with? Of course. But they are of little interest to most of those outside of players of the instrument in question. Flute pieces with a million notes a second are not well known to non-flautists.

Musicians spend their lives thinking about "catchy" tunes, and "catchy" beats. Basically, these are tunes that you want to sing along with, or dance to.

Okay, if you're not in complete agreement, think back to every piece of music you like. Does it not fall into one of these categories? And if you are an instrumentalist, discard any music written for your instrument - you may have bias towards tones, effects, and techniques simply for their own sake.

If you can't sing a melodic line, you will forget it. And if it does not make you WANT to sing along, you will forget it. The same with rhythms - if they do not make you want to dance, they will be forgotten.

So what killed classical music? Well, yes, it became obsolete due to technology. Yes, it got too complex, becoming written more for the sheer sake of technical challenge than anything else. Yes, people became a lot less educated about it.

But Classical Music died when people no longer danced to it, and no longer sang its melodies.

To any musicians out there, especially academics - this seems overly simplistic. But if you take this lesson to heart, it will change everything you play, everything you write, and everything you hear.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Thursday Motivational Posters!



No, I haven't quit blogging. Went and visited my brother in Ohio! Anyway, I'm back; enjoy!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Yeah, that's what I said!

Except not so eloquently...

I had an argument a few months ago with a very close person who I respect greatly, and in this argument I said that extreme taxation was a type of slavery, albeit a gentle one. He blew his top and started shouting "Do you feel like a slave? Do you HONESTLY think you're a slave? What bullshit!"

Actually, when I pay my taxes, I really do. To quote Thomas Jefferson, "To compel a man to furnish funds for the propagation of ideas he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical." I agree with virtually none of the things my tax dollars go to. So yeah, for whatever portion of my time is dedicated to making the money to pay for the things I oppose, I feel like a slave.

Jonah Goldberg wrote an excellent column titled Taxes and Tyranny. A couple of great lines from it:

If you had to work 365 days a year to pay your taxes, that would be a kind of slavery or indentured servitude, because all of your productive labor would be going to the government. You would have no resources of your own to provide for the life you wanted. Instead the government would provide you not with what you want, but what the government decides you need.

That sounds like a kind of tyranny to me.

And, I think if we had to work 364 days a year it would still be a kind of serfdom (after all, serfs were allowed a little plot of their own). Ditto 363 days, 362 days, 361 days etc. Now, at some point the difference of degree becomes a difference in kind; working one day a year to pay for the government doesn't sound oppressive to me. But it seems to me that it's hardly absurd to think that 103 days a year is too much, or to believe that if that number goes even higher, we're losing something important.


Another great one:

I find it sort of amazing that when groups like ANSWER, a Mos Eisley cantina of America-hating nut cases, take to the streets it's a full-flowering of democracy in action. When ACORN pays their ragamuffins to protest, or when Rainbow/PUSH shakes down businesses through racial extortion, it's the sort of direct democratic action Thomas Paine dreamed of. And when labor unions pay people to protest, it's populist. But when a bunch of independent Americans, talk-show hosts, and email campaigners organize hundreds of protests around the country, it's astroturfing.


And my personal favorite:

How do I say this so people will understand? Fascism isn't a libertarian doctrine! It just isn't, never will be, and it can't be cast as one. Anarchism, secessionism, extreme localism, or rampant individualism may be bad, evil, wrong, stupid, selfish, and all sorts of other things (though not by my lights). But they have nothing to do with a totalitarian vision of the state where individuals and institutions alike must march in step and take orders from the government.


And no, I'm still not a Republican. Just in case you're thinking I'm only hating on the Democrats because I'm such an elephant lover.

Government Economics

Via the Pan-Galactic Blogger Blaster:


Friday Motivational Posters!




"First they ignore you..."

"...then they mock you, then they fight you, then you win." M. Gandhi

Well, the MSM should start fighting the conservative movement soon. (note: I did NOT say the Republican movement!)

First they ignored Ron Paul all last year. Then they've successfully ignored his organization, the Campaign for Liberty. Now, when the movement spawned the "Tea Party" protests, they first ignored where it was started, then lied about it, and now?

The only reporting they did on the rather massive protests were spent talking about "teabagging" and Republican stagecraft.

I knew most of the MSM have no concept of fair reporting and/or professional ethics. But this was a new low.

Second, most republicans were persona non grata at these protests. These were not protests against Obama or the Democratic Party. These were protests against the reckless government spending that imperils the very future of the republic. And yes, it is obvious to all that the republicans are as much to blame as the democrats. That's why most republican politicians who tried to speak were denied.

Now, I personally don't think the protests will have the slightest bit of effect. But maybe I'm wrong - why else would they be trying so hard to discredit them?

The newspapers are dying. So are many of the news organizations. I say good riddance. Too many decades of pushing a liberal agenda and pretending it's fair and unbiased. We all know the score, and now that there are alternatives, there's no need to support such arrogant, hypocritical lowlifes.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Ah, so THAT'S the problem!

Yeah, even as The Onion mocks the Media's continuing obsession with portraying Obama in nothing but the most glowing beautiful light, CNBC is reportedly worried about being too hard on the poor, downtrodden president:

THE top suits and some of the on-air talent at CNBC were recently ordered to a top-secret meeting with General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt and NBC Universal President Jeff Zucker to discuss whether they've turned into the President Obama-bashing network, Page Six has learned.

"It was an intensive, three-hour dinner at 30 Rock which Zucker himself was behind," a source familiar with the powwow told us. "There was a long discussion about whether CNBC has become too conservative and is beating up on Obama too much. There's great concern that CNBC is now the anti-Obama network. The whole meeting was really kind of creepy."


You know, GE - that warm, cozy comfortable feeling enveloping your head doesn't change the smell of ass. I'm just saying.

Uncomfortable Plot Summaries

Came across this site today. Some highlights:

BATMAN: Wealthy man assaults the mentally ill.

DEBBIE DOES DALLAS: Cheerleaders develop valuable entrepreneurial skills.

DOCTOR WHO: Elderly man serially abducts young women.

SERENITY: Men fight for possession of scantily clad mentally ill teenage girl.

LORD OF THE RINGS: Midget destroys stolen property.

TWILIGHT: Girl gives up college for stalker.

Anyway, check it out for more - Uncomfortable Plot Summaries

Thursday Motivational Posters!




Wednesday, April 15, 2009

In Time for Tax Day

I know it's been making the rounds today, but here's a nice clip of Milton Friedman in an interview with Phil Donahue years ago.

Phil, like most economic liberals, was well-meaning, but naive and arrogant in his assumptions about capitalism and the role of government in the economy. Whether that means he's a nice guy, or just a douche is up to you to decide.



Here's another clip explaining just why government can never, has never, and will never spend taxes efficiently and meaningfully. Not that this is really a surprise to anyone who actually pays attention... But since I have had this exact discussion numerous times, it's apparently worth a repeat!

Wednesday's Motivational Posters!





Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Why I Blog

Sometimes people ask why I blog.

It's not like I've got a million readers. Usually I keep blogging for a few weeks or months, and then I start to attract fifteen, twenty readers. Maybe a few more at times. Definitely a few less at others. Then the blog goes dormant awhile, and they quit looking.

It's not because I ever expect to make any money at it. I won't.

So why?

When I was in college, studying to be a classical pianist, I had an obsession with dark, angst-filled music. I had no interest in playing happy pieces. Either depressingly sad or bitterly angry were the only pieces that were worth practicing to me. Anything else I did out of sheer necessity.

At the time I thought it was 'cause I was more angst-filled than most people. Heh. Yeah, just like every single other 18 to 21 year old male who has ever lived. A decade or so later, it makes more sense. It wasn't because I had an excess amount of darkness in my soul - I just had no outlet to express it! I could easily tell people when I was feeling good. Everybody loves to talk about good times. But there's only so much whining and bitterness that anybody wants to hear. So I took all of that, and expressed it in my piano playing. I poured forth my anger through Beethoven, my loneliness in Rachmaninoff.

Mozart? Please. His happy, fluffy music served no purpose for me.

Now I'm a professional musician. Not a particularly lonely or angry one, at that. I still love the dark, passionate classical music, but I don't need it to express myself. The role of music itself has taken a different form in my life; I no longer need it to express myself - I use it to help others express themselves. More on that in a later post.

Now I have a different problem. In college, I had friends to talk to. Not about important stuff like relationships, jobs, and events. No, we talked about philosophy, politics, life, death, all the esoteric and abstract babble that has always and will always fascinate me. We pondered, and argued, and debated. Nothing was solved, but a great time was had.

Most people quit pondering a year or two into their careers. If not then, then kids definitely kill it. Not everybody, of course. But at this point in my life, I no longer have anybody to talk about abstract theories and observations of life with. It's not that I don't know *anybody* who can engage me intellectually; my friend Danielle, my friend Kat, my sister's new man Ed - they are all a blast to bullshit with about these things. Unfortunately, every one of them lives in another state.

For awhile, I tried debating with people online to get the same sense of intellectual engagement. It didn't work. The typical online argument goes something like:

Me: X is false, because _______
Them: Oh yeah, that's just stupid.
Me: Um... What's stupid about it?
Them: Nobody agrees with you.
Me: So?
Them: You think you're smarter than most people, huh? You're just a complete moron with an arrogant attitude. I bet you liked Hitler.
Me: *sigh*

That's an exaggeration, of course. It generally takes twelve to fifteen posts to bring up Hitler.

Regardless, I still ponder things. Some of them I talk about with people in everyday conversations. There are three areas that I can't, though; Politics, Education, and Gender Issues. These are off limits to conversation.

It never ceases to amaze me how close minded the majority of people are about Politics. I have carried on many an enlightening conversation with Trotskyists, hardcore Environmentalists, Secessionists... Many a "fringe" group member will be glad to debate the merits of their position on logical grounds. But a Democrat or Republican? Not so much. If you're not part of the "mainstream," then your thoughts are automatically wrong, and not worth even considering.

And gender issues? Woe be to he who dares to believe that men and women are different! Sexist! Disgusting! Pig! (Unless he believes women are superior, of course)

And talking about Education is a lost cause. The only solution 99% of people are willing to hear is give more money to the schools. The thought that there could be something fundamentally wrong with the very concept of our public educational system is anathema.

So this blog has become my sounding board for discussions of politics, education and gender issues, observations about which I've made that I am simply not allowed by society to express in public, and since have no friends nearby interested in such discussions, I write them here.

Sometimes life gets in the way, and I don't have time. And the blog lies fallow. But probably not in the next few months. There is too much going on. We are seeing events of such monumental import, and nobody seems to be taking notice, because we are too fascinated by who Bret Michaels is going to choose as his Rock of Love, who is going to get kicked off of American Idol next, and when the Obamas get their new dog.

So I'm going to be busy on here for a little while. There will be posts about music, as I've been doing a lot of pondering about that. There will be updates on my life, as the occasion arises.

What I would love is for people to leave their thoughts, whether in approval, or even better - in logical opposition! I don't pretend for a second to hold the monopoly on correct thought, and there are few things I love better than finding myself to be wrong about something!

Of course, first I have to get my readers back. And that might take awhile.

Also, future posts will have more humor; I promise! This is just a lengthy way of saying I'm back... And telling you why.