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.