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The Sandwich Shop

These are my thoughts. They are based on what I see going on around me.

Location: Cincinnati, Ohio, United States

I know very little about myself. If I did know myself better, I probably wouldn't be doing this.

Friday, September 30, 2005

No Business in Show Business ?
How old were you the first time you heard the phrase, "the music business" ? Let me go out on a limb and say that no matter how old you were, you had already been listening to music for a long time before you heard that phrase for the first time.
It's too bad that each of us doesn't have a permanent record ( no pun intended ) of the very first time we heard those three fatal words, "the music business" . "Why ?" you ask. Because before we knew that there was a business attached to music we had a totally different view of what music was and how it fit into our lives. Somewhere in the span of time between the very first time we hear the phrase, "the music business" , and the time it takes for us to figure out what it means, we lose just about all the original feelings we had for music; plus we lose the place it had in our lives as well.
Truth be told, there is no such thing as a music business. Oh, there are plenty of businesses that sell music, but they are not where music comes from. The best analogy I can think of is a mega-supermarket and the wholesale warehouse that sells products to it.
When you walk into a mega-supermarket, you are bombarded with these impressions:
1. Anything you could possibly want to eat is somewhere in that store.
2. All of the food in that store is somehow better than food in other
smaller stores.
3. The package the food comes in and the food itself are one and the
package is just as important as the food in it.
4. None of the vegetables or meat you see ever existed in any other form
other than the one you see in the mega-market.
While the mega-market creates these images, it is the wholesale warehouse that supplies it with the food products they stock their shelves with. In theory, you could go right to the wholesale warehouse and buy the exact same thing you see on the shelves of the mega-market, probably even cheaper than at the mega-market itself. The only thing missing would be the glitter, bright lights, fancy displays, and other things that make shopping at the mega-mart seem like a fantasy come alive.
In the wholesale warehouse everybody knows where food comes from . Vegetables are grown in dirt ( sometimes water ) harvested by machinery and hourly workers, loaded on trucks, trains, boats, and sometimes planes, and hauled unceremoniously in bulk to locations where they are repackaged. Meat is harvested from living stock that must be transported to slaughter, transported to processing, and finally transported to the wholesale warehouse where it is stockpiled until it is time for it to go to the mega-market.
The above description of the relationship between a mega-market and the wholesale warehouse that supplies it is not intended to judge the ethics of either operation, but simply to explain their relationship.
If you think of the music business as the mega-supermarket, and musicians as the wholesale warehouse, and music as the food they both make a living from, you can begin to see why we lose so much of what it is we get from music once we become aware that we are getting our music from a business.
Real music, like real food, occurs naturally in this world. For most of us, our first musical experiences are songs we make up ourselves using our own imagination. From that music we get joy and nourishment, not unlike growing your own food or raising your own live stock.
Around the time our taste for music begins growing beyond what we can make up ourselves, we become aware of the fact that we can go out and buy more sophisticated music. Not unlike someone who grew up eating homegrown food might discover they can buy more sophisticated food at a market.
Businesses that sell food or music didn't invent these things and they don't have a monopoly on them; something they are more than a little aware of. So they begin marketing their products in ways that make them more attractive than they might be on their own.
Remember the four examples of the impressions a mega-supermarket might give you when you walked in the front door ? Let's shift those same four examples over to a mega-music store and see what we get.
1. Any music you could possibly want is somwehere in that store.
2. All the recorded music in that store is somehow better than the
recorded music in other smaller stores.
3. The package the music comes in and the music are one, and the
package is just as important as the music is.
4. None of the music in the mega-music store ever existed in any other
form other than what they carry.
Just like neither the mega-supermarket or the wholesale warehouse is where food really comes from, neither the record company, the music store, or for that matter any particular musical group is where music really comes from.
To look at a mega-supermarket as a source of healthy, good tasting food or a mega-music store as a source of fresh, soul satisfying music, sad to say, is a waste of time.
There's a reason that there has always been a corner market somewhere in town and a guy with an acoustic guitar playing in the middle of nowhere. No matter who or what is the latest, the greatest, or the highest paid, real farmers sell real food the way they grew it or raised it; they know it doesn't need frilly packaging. Real musicans play their music the way it comes out of their heads; they also know it doesn't need any frilly packaging.
Somebody has been buying enough product from both of them to keep them going, and going, and going, even as mega-everythings crumble or are merged into oblivion.
Don't like the food at the mega-supermarket ? Stop going there.
Don't like the music at the mega-music store ? Stop going there.
It really is a free market system if you have the luck to know exactly what it is you're hungry for.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Watchin' Bob Dylan:
Over the last two nights, PBS stations across America broadcast the Martin Scorsese documentary, "No Direction Home". It covered the life and times of Bob Dylan up until 1966. I watched both nights and was affected deeply.
I came away with the impression that not only did Dylan's art speak for itself, but more than likely Dylan had no choice in the matter. Maybe when Dylan wrote those songs from his "glory days", those songs weren't talking about what he had inside; maybe they actually were what he had inside. In other words, how can you explain a work of art if none of its meaning is left in you once you create it, it's all ( 100% ) in the work of art itself.
One of the recurring themes of the documentary was the relentless pursuit by the press and his fans for the "real meaning" behind his songs.
They always seemed to be asking , " Now that you've given us the truth, what's the truth behind the truth ?".
What complex creatures we humans are. We want simplicity, but only in a complicated format. We want truth, as long as it doesn't deprive us of our ability to disect that truth and start looking for it all over again. We want the answer, but not at the cost of losing the question.
Bob Dylan, today, looks and sounds like he's either smoked a lot of pot or drunk a lot of booze over the last forty years. I must say, if over the last forty years every single question put to him has been,
"What do you mean by that ?" and when he answers he is then asked,
"What do you mean by that?" and so on, and so on, and so on, it's no wonder he might need something to numb his brain.
If I could give Bob Dylan a word of advice it would be, " Stop letting it annoy you; it ain't ever gonna be any different. Don't worry if you can't explain why or how you do what you do. As much as people act like they're pissed-off that you won't give them the " inside scoop " on the
" real meaning " of your songs, they'd probably be even more pissed-off if you could give them the "final answer". You're dealing with people for God's sake, the same creatures that can't pass a mirror without sneeking a peek at themselves so they can prove to themselves that they still exist.

PS: This from November 2003:
Pickin Parts Of Dylan:
" Use the right tool for the right job." Right ? Way back on January 13, 1964 Bob Dylan released, possibly, his best known song, " Times They Are A Changin' ".
At the time of its release it was considered an anthem for a generation that was fed up with the shenanigans of " The Establishment ". It was considered the perfect vehicle to let those in power know that things were going to change, and there was nothing " The Man " could do about it,so they might as well, " get with the program ".
Funny how none of us seemed to realize, back then, that the record company that released " our message " to " The Establishment " and the big chain stores that sold it were part of the same establishment we were sending a message to.
I guess we all figured it out though, since within a decade of the release of " Times They Are A Changin' " most of us were trying to become part of " The Establishment " as fast and as deeply as possible.
Don't feel too bad about it, seems every generation has gone through the same situation in one form or another. Each and every time the different generations have used the same " tool " to deal with the aftereffects of the idealistic views they had in their teens, but quickly abandoned by their mid twenties. The name of that often used, yet often unappreciated tool is " nostalgia " ( such a yearning for anything far removed in space or time ). The beauty of a tool such as nostalgia is the fact that it can be customized to fit the job that needs to be done, more than any other tool.
With nostalgia you can't relive the past, but you can escape the present.
S-0-0-0-0-0-0-0, why not perfect the use of this tool ? Instead of using a song like Dylan's " Times They Are A Changin'" as simply a way to look back and pretend the past was more than it was, why not use it to make the present seem like less than it is ?
Let's face it, the only reason we want to revisit the past is because the present isn't going the way we would like it to go.
So, why not take Dylan's " Times They Are A Changin' " and fast-forward to verse four ?
" Come mothers and fathers throughout the land, and don't criticize what you can't understand ".
BINGO ! , a successful union of the past and the present. We can feel like we never left our roots, while not feeling threatened by the present. Let's face it, the thing that most of us worry about these days is the number of things we don't understand.
Here's Bob Dylan, himself, telling us not to criticize the things we don't understand. As you know, you cannot worry about something without criticizing it. No criticizing = no worrying. I like it !
If we're lucky in the near future politicians will be using verse four of
" Times They Are A Changin' " in their campaign ads. Then we'll really be using our "tool" to the max.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Golden Oldie:
It is appropriate to call this post golden because of its subject matter and an oldie because it was originally written in 2003.
" At Least Put My Shoes On "
I just pulled the last piece off my dearly departed 1987 Volvo 240DL station wagon ( it was the turn signal flasher ). The wagon finally went down after the fourth time someone decided to smash into it. I haven't spent this much time under a car in twenty years.
All hail "The Golden Bomb"! Trips to Pennsylvania, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida passing through a bunch of states along the way.
The odometer died at 224,963 miles; the gas gauge had died about five hundred miles before that.
"The Bomb" ran for about another 1200 miles post odometer, and run it did. It always seemed like it was chomping at the bit. With a trailer hitch,
800 pound trailer, all the belongings a first year college student needed ( a full trailer's worth ), and three passengers, The Bomb cruised throught the Smoky Mountains without even yawning.
When our motorhome ( The Box ) broke a coil wire on the far side of our subdivision, The Golden Bomb, with my wife at the wheel, towed it and me back home.
I doubt the 1987 Volvo 240DL wagon I bought to replace The Bomb will have a name. The "new" wagon is in very nice shape. The few things it did need I was able to salvage from The Bomb. After I did that, I decided to pull off as many spare parts as I could from The Bomb. The more parts I took off, the less The Bomb seemed like the "person" it was when it was running " Against The Wind ".
The operation took on a very methodical aire. Brake pads, calipers, alternator, ac compressor, power steering pump, ac relay, distributor cap, rotor, plugs, plug wires, air mass meter, tail lights, tires
( I swapped them with the tires from the "new" 240 ), bulbs, oxygen sensor, trailer hitch, radiator, fan, fan clutch, and more.
By the time I was done, I was tired and not feeling very sentimental about The Bomb, mostly because The Bomb did not give up its parts willingly ( one laceration per part on average ).
Finally, I "made the call" to the salvage yard, and they said they would be out " in a day or two" to tow the Bomb away.
As I stood looking at The Bomb, knowing it would soon be history, I began to remember what a friend it had been and the adventures we had shared. I opened the tailgate of the Bomb and pulled out a cardboard box. In the box was the original set of hubcaps that came with the Bomb, way back when. I carefully put each hubcap back on The Bomb. There was no way I could send The Golden Bomb off without its shoes on.
Nah, I don't think the "new" car will ever have a name. Not until a lot miles and a lot of adventures have been racked up anyway.

Friday, September 23, 2005

One New Law Would Say It All:
If I could enact one new law, I would make it mandatory for every elected official or their spokesperson to respond to any question asked of them that began with any of the following:
* Did you
* Didn't you
* Do you
* Don't you
* Can you
* Can't you
* Could you
* Couldn't you
* If you
* Should you
* Shouldn't you
* Were you
* Will you
* Won't you
* Would you
* Wouldn't you
with an initial "yes" or "no" . The "yes" or "no" would have to be, by law, the first words in the elected official's or their spokesperson's response to the question, whether that response was verbal, written, or recorded. All rhetoric would have to follow, by law, the initial "yes" or "no" response.
The law would also make it illegal for any form of reporting to the public to edit-out, delete, or move the "yes" or "no" in the response given by the elected official or their spokesperson. They ( the reporting media ) could choose to not report the response, but they could not edit the response
( this would apply only to responses that require an initial "yes" or "no" in them ).
I would accomplish getting this before Congress by holding a special election on the adoption of this law that the public would vote "yes" or "no" on. No other subject of any kind would be on the ballot of this vote.
I believe this law would be constitutional because it would not prevent an elected official or their spokesperson from elaborating on the nuances of their responses. For example, an elected official or their spokesperson could respond:
" Yes, and here's why we can't ( or can ) " or "No, and here's why we can't
( or can ) ".
I would include in this law an annual update of the list of words that start questions that must be responded to with a " yes " or " no " initially. This list would be updated by choices voted on by the public only. Once words were added to the list, they could not be removed ( aka voted off ). The penalty for not responding to a question that began with words from the approved list with an initial "yes" or "no" would be the suspension of the activities the question was directed at until such a time as an initial "yes" or "no" response could be provided.
I believe this legislation could be written on a single sheet of paper, probably double-spaced.

* It is important not to confuse the word response with the word answer in writing this law, as all politicans or their spokespersons respond to questions, but they never answer them.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Not So Happy Meal:
It takes an awful lot of disipline to pass up a fast food joint when you're hungry and busy and take the time to cook a home-cooked meal. But, you know what ? If you don't, eventually the quality of your life will go downhill.
Politics has become fast food to our nation. The excuse is that we are too busy to deal with it any other way. Just like we can't fool our bodies into thinking fast food is good for them, we can't fool our culture into thinking that a drive-through approach to politics serves it well.
The laws of human nature say ( among other things ) that solving political problems requires participation and that finger pointing only looks like participation. Who are we fooling ?
If a politican were to come on the scene with actual, concrete suggestions, that were understandable, and were based on common- sense, on how to handle our nation's problems, would we welcome them with open arms or get rid of them before they started something we couldn't finish ?

Monday, September 19, 2005

There is not one example of a "super power" standing the test of time on the planet Earth.After thousands of years of humans trying to get the "super power" thing right and failing, you would think we would at least consider the possibility that creating a successful "super power" may be as elusive as building a perpetual motion machine.
Am I un-American for saying this ? Not in my book; I would like to see America last 'til the end of time.But, my dream is for all nations to be partners in the world ( I'm self-employed; I hate bosses ).
There is a very popular notion these days that no other nation on Earth can be trusted other than ours. To those who believe this I would ask the question:
Is it the governments of these countries we can't trust or the people who live in them ?
Governments come and go with the wind, but the basic, hard-working, everyday people of all countries will always be there and will always be basically honest and trustworthy. If you don't believe me, crack a history book and look it up.
On Thursday, September 15, 2005 Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez address the United Nations. Among other things he called for moving the United Nations from the United States to Jerusalem. What a great question to ask ourselves. Would we like to see the U.N. moved to another country ? I personally have heard voices in this country calling for us either to quit the U.N. or shut it down for decades.
Following the beginning of the war in Iraq, there was daily talk about how useless the U.N.was becoming from every media outlet you could think of. But, the talk always was centered around the fate of the U.N. being in America's hands to decide.
Now that someone from outside the United States is calling for basically the same thing, I would suggest holding all those inside this country who have been calling for the elimination of the U.N. accountable if they now are indignant that another country would have the gall to make such a suggestion.
As an American, I am proud of the fact that the United Nations is in my country. But, the health and well-being of the United Nations is what matters, not where it is located. If it had to move to function better, I would be sad on one hand, but relieved on the other.
I grew up in a house where my father was from Norway, my mother was born in America, and my grandmother was from Poland. I lived in a mini-United Nations.
As a kid I was affected by the assembly's ability to live and work together every day of my life. Every single day was filled with debates, culture clashes, declarations of war, and peace negotiations. Moving the entire family to another house was not an option. I had to learn to deal with it the best I could, and along the way figure out how to add my own voice to the mix. It was harder than Hell, and I wouldn't trade it for any amount of money, power, or fame.
It taught me that everybody is right; they're just not right all the time.

Friday, September 16, 2005

I consider myself a political independent.To me this means I vote for or endorse what I feel is the best candidate for the job, no matter what party they come from. Frankly, I don't see why anyone would have a problem with this. Vote for who you feel would do the best job. What's the downside to that ?
But, I get an unusual amount of static from both liberals and conservatives. Liberals insist my views are conservative, and conservatives insist my views are liberal. What's really interesting is that the more examples I give that illustrate my stance, the more both sides insist I oppose everything they stand for.
Not being one who gives up easily, I'll take one more shot at explaining my position. ( It's important that the reader notice words like "might" in my explanation in order to get my point ).
Let's say you walked into a very busy sandwich shop to buy a sandwich. If the people who worked there had short hair, were very well dressed, polite, courteous, the place was clean, the food was top notch, and all the employees made you feel like you were the most important person in the room, you "might" be in a conservative sandwich shop.
Let's say you walked into a very busy sandwich shop to buy a sandwich. If the people who worked there had long hair, dressed any way they felt like,were rude, not courteous, the place was dirty, the food was so-so, and all the employees ignored you while they talked among themselves or on the phone, and they couldn't care less whether you stayed or left, you
"might" be in a liberal sandwich shop.
Let's say you walked into a very busy sandwuch shop to buy a sandwich. If the people who worked there had short and long hair, were dressed in everything from button-down collars to sleeveless t-shirts, were very polite and courteous, the place was clean enough to meet your expectations, the food , the service, and over-all experience impressed you, the employees in the shop paid attention to all the customers equally, you probably " are " in a sandwich shop with an independent view of how a sandwich shop should be run.
I suppose that if your sandwich is just something you're buying because you are bored and are just looking at your sandwich as something to do, it doesn't matter which shop you patronize. But, if your sandwich is an actual meal to you, and you are going to be eating there day after day
( which means the sandwich shop is now part of your life ) which shop would you choose ?