Hate In America

Do we blame the internet or income inequality, the inability to rise above and get ahead?

Every damn day people tell me I’m an asshole online. And let me tell you, if I say something negative about you or your project, it’s open season, it doesn’t surprise me when you reach out and castigate me. But when there’s no nexus, I don’t know you and you don’t know me, why such vitriol?

Used to be society was divided into those who ruled and those who were ruled. And we kind of liked this, because we had economic mobility, we thought if we just put our nose to the grindstone we could get ahead. But then mothers were working alongside fathers and bills went up and income stayed stagnant and everybody started to scratch their head and say, “Wait a minute here…”

Now the paradigm’s been blown apart. The elites think they rule but they don’t. That  was the story of the Presidential election, those who knew better left behind those who supposedly didn’t and those on the losing end decided to give the middle finger to the winners of society, the educated, the advantaged, even if it was against their best interests, because as the bard from Minnesota once told us, when you’ve got nothing, you’ve got nothing to lose.

And the artists are a black hole. Chasing a buck too. Anybody with power refuses to go on record in any meaningful way for fear of alienating a potential customer and the nobodies keep clamoring for attention, when they’re not hating online.

But now they’re tipping over headstones.

I want to know why this is the Jews’ problem, please tell me what my tribe did to become the most hated. Seems we’re decried even more than immigrants. But that bozo shot those Indians in Kansas and what’s even scarier is the nincompoops have guns, it’s like the wild west, if you feel safe…

You aren’t.

But what’s funny is those who feel most at risk aren’t. Those red state denizens where the terrorists don’t go, because there aren’t enough people there. Believe me, they’re going to Oklahoma and Idaho last. But we must beef up the military for a perceived threat that doesn’t exist, when we can blow up the world many times over and we cozy up to the real enemy, Russia.

Makes your head spin, doesn’t it?

But no one wants to accept any blame. Trump wants more facts before he weighs in on Kansas, even though he heard rumors of election fraud and cheering Muslims in New Jersey and had no problem rushing to judgment and pontificating on those subjects. Because golfer Bernhard Langer, not even a citizen, is a more trustworthy authority than the media.

If you’re educated, if you’re doing your job, you’re scorned.

How can this be?

I get it, people have been left behind. But does this mean we give up on facts, we give up on truth, we no longer respect those who are educated and informed? What next, rogue doctors performing surgeries after learning their craft on YouTube?

So the elites won’t acknowledge that globalism results in losers who must be helped and the losers keep telling us we need less government and more guns but we had better not cut their Obamacare.

This is the county we’re living in. One where no one seems to be in control.

We as a society should be excoriating hate. We should be shaking our fists and rallying for truth and understanding.

But everybody’s watching their own news and so much of it is biased and everybody feels powerless so they just yell at each other, over and over again, all the damn time.

But words hurt less than actions.

Once you start shooting people in the name of hatred, once you start vandalizing Jewish cemeteries, calling in bomb threats to Jewish Community Centers, you’ve got a major societal problem. One that we must be led out of.

But who is leading, who do we respect anymore?

I can’t respect a President who believes everything he sees on Fox is right.

And I can’t respect a Democratic elite that left the working man behind.

But I do know we’re only human, flesh and blood.

They teach us to be good citizens…

But now Betsy DeVos wants to eviscerate public schools, even though the latest research shows vouchers result in lower test scores. We want to segregate ourselves more. By race, by religion, by income.

And endgame is?

They’re coming for you next. Don’t think you’re immune. You can pray to your God all you want but that won’t make you safe. Your only choice is to love and understand your brothers and sisters, but this is hard to do when you have trouble making ends meet.

The media has been neutralized. Trump is fanning the flames of discord.

And I’m very scared. Because I’ve been on this planet quite a while and have never seen it this bad. Where anti-Semitism is legitimized. Where immigrants are the root of all problems. Where truth is for pussies and we make up alternative facts that befit our desired scenarios.

Come on, what kind of coarse society do we live in where every immigrant has to be afraid of being rounded up and kicked out while the poor aliens are picking out fruit and the rich aliens are aiding breakthroughs in Silicon Valley. I’m not saying people should be able to cross borders willy-nilly, but if you think the major issue in this country is immigration, you’re not looking at the real problem.

You and me. Who’ve been here from day one. We’re standing by as our society fails, feeling hopeless as we yell at each other online, pointing fingers at everyone but ourselves.

A change has got to come.

And it’s got to start with us.

We are America. We make policy. We have power.

And I don’t care who is in office, who won any election, this hatred has got to stop.

John Mayer

Was in the process of destroying his career.

First there was that “Playboy” interview.

Then the “relationship” with Taylor Swift and the resulting bite-back song.

Then the firing of his long term manager for a newer au courant one responsible for hits, which Mayer so desperately desired, wanting to emulate the success of his younger girlfriend Katy Perry, and when no hits ensued he fired the new manager too.

Now John Mayer is 39. “Room For Squares” came out over 15 years ago. In today’s here today gone today culture almost no one sustains. So how come he’s suddenly so successful with a boffo arena tour?

It certainly had nothing to do with hits. There’s a subtle shift in the music business, it’s all going live. The chart is inane, not sure whether it’s about sales or streams, and only a small subset of the population pays attention to the hits on both streaming services and Top Forty radio, and the rest…

Is a vast morass indecipherable unless you’re deep into it.

Now it’s about your fan base. You can employ publicity to try and make them aware, but if your goal is to convert new fans, you can’t do it, only your fans can do it, by spreading the word online. Of course, hits make a difference, but unless you make beat-infused music you can’t have one.

Concerts are burgeoning. It’s a new golden age. In a digitized era people are looking for some honest truth. Which is probably why you should can the dancing and the hard drives and deliver humanity. That paradigm, of reproducing the video, evolved from a now passe era, that of MTV, when clips could cost a million bucks and become cultural touchstones. Today people watch videos on their phones in postage stamp-sized windows, it’s about the music, not the image, and that’s a good thing. And anybody with a smash video has seemed to lose traction thereafter. Can you say PSY, can you say Baauer? So when people go to the show they want to feel the buzz, the electricity, of a one of a kind event, not the exact same circus that’s gonna play the next day in Pittsburgh.

Of course there are exceptions, successful touring spectacles.

But that brings us back to Mr. Mayer. His career was at a nadir and what did he do, play with the Grateful Dead!

Now there was a predecessor. One Bruce Hornsby. Who too had gigantic soft rock radio hits and then threw them over in a 180, venturing to where it was conventionally thought his audience did not tread. But this turned out to be untrue. Some fans remained and Bruce made a whole coterie of new ones, much more loyal than the old ones, the fans of Jerry, et al. Because, as established above, it’s your fans who keep you alive, not the press, and no one is more loyal than a Deadhead.

And Mayer could always wail. So he goes on the road with Weir and crew and kills it. He single-handedly brings back the magic that once was, the shows even eclipsed those at Fare Thee Well, because it was about music and not nostalgia and it was akin to Derek Trucks reinvigorating the Allman Brothers but in this case Mayer was already a star. And refused to take a victory lap. The old Mayer would have hyped up his appearance, taken credit, in this case he was mostly silent, he let his axe do the talking, and boy did it.

So he could play with the Dead, his old career was moribund, right?

Wrong. Like a musician instead of a star Mayer decided to walk into the wilderness. Make music satisfying himself instead of searching for hits, go on an aural journey instead of playing the game. Instead of dropping an entire album and carpet-bombing the universe with publicity, he put out an EP, four songs, back in January, and another four tracks just yesterday. And there’s nothing a fan wants more than new music, and in the modern world four at a time is just about right, easy to check out and digest.

And there was a winner on “The Search For Everything – Wave One,” “Love On The Weekend,” with that smooth sound that made John Mayer the darling of women everywhere.

But the revelation was the opening cut, “Moving On And Getting Over,” where he was suddenly on the losing end. Having loved ’em and left ’em, prolonging his adolescence, it ended with Katy Perry and Mayer can’t seem to get over it, he’s depressed and vulnerable and ultimately RELATABLE!

“I’m one text away from being back again”

But he’s not. It’s over. He’s alone and struggling.

It’s personal. Which is what we’re looking for.

And “Still Feel Like Your Man,” the opening cut on “The Search For Everything – Wave Two,” released yesterday, is more R&B than conventional Mayer. Reminds me of no one so much as Todd Rundgren, who embraced his Philly roots on an irregular basis, it was so refreshing, you could not put him in a box, and suddenly you can’t put Mayer in a box either, he’s EXPERIMENTING!

Wow, it isn’t only Mayer’s career that’s been moribund, but music too. We’ve had the same pop sound with the fake drums for nearly two decades and the classic acts don’t even bother to make new music and when they do it’s substandard iterations of what they did before and suddenly the standard bearer for testing limits is John Mayer?

Now “Love On The Weekend” has 27 million plays on Spotify. Significant, but not stratospheric. Then again, only the pop hits can go nuclear on the service, hit triple digits, and there was some radio success, but the track was not a smash. It made it to number 5 on Hot Rock Songs, a dead format if there ever was one, and number 19 on Adult Top 40, a natural format for Mayer, but not a breakthrough, and on the Hot 100 it climbed all the way to number 53, which is kind of like not being on the chart at all.

Without this airplay the three other tracks on “Wave One” don’t have as much traction, but one has nearly ten million streams and one just over five million, which is quite healthy. In other words, Mayer is getting support.

But he’s detached from the game. Sure, he was on “Ellen” the other day, but in reality he’s now in the John Mayer business, being a musician not a star, and it’s working for him!

It’s possible he’ll have another hit, but it doesn’t seem to matter. He’s gone from being two-dimensional to three, from pretty boy to musician. He’s continuing, testing limits and making new music when most of his contemporaries are oldies acts playing to dwindling audiences on double and triple bills.

It wasn’t headed this way. John Mayer’s career was headed for the dumper, down, down, down. But he took risks, refused to play it the way everybody told him to, and it worked!

And it can work for you too. If you play to your fans instead of the media. The system needs fodder, to chew up and spit out. It’s a thrill to have a hit, but the focus is less on music than it is on the penumbra. But if you can garner an audience that loves you first and foremost for your tunes instead of your celebrity, they’ll follow you anywhere. Arguably, your celebrity works against you. Mayer’s vulnerability on these new tracks illustrates he’s just like you and me, he still hurts, we all still hurt.

And we all still want to feel good.

So we go to the show to hear the songs we know and the ones we don’t and dance in the aisle and smile and if you can deliver this experience you can sell every ticket in the building.

Like John Mayer.

The Gold Doubloons

I’m the kind of guy who doesn’t want to stay in the hotel room. If I’m in a foreign country I want to be out and about, eating up the scenery, drinking up the difference, because it won’t be long before I’m back home.

So after Stuart took me on the Van Morrison tour, I had him drop me at the Ulster Museum.

Like I said, I could live in a museum. I love to learn. I love to be taken away. I love to marinate in what once was.

Even though it was quarter to four and the museum closed at five.

But it turned out there was no admission fee and I was there to see the exhibit on the Troubles and I could probably cover that so I dove in.

But I was overloaded. That’s the problem with travel, especially overseas, you’re tired and your heart says carry on but your brain says no go and all the words run together and you’re chalking up miles, but the experience is nearly worthless.

Furthermore, the Troubles exhibit wasn’t linear. I want to start at the beginning and move forward. The only problem being sometimes you don’t get to the end or you have to rush but you never really know what’s important, or most important.

And after finishing the Troubles I climbed the stairs to discover…

An exhibit on the industrial revolution that had been so much better done at the Titanic Museum. More in depth with better commentary. Not all museums are created equal, and not all have descriptions that are decipherable.

So I wandered out into the atrium and ended up in a room about 1916, World War 1.

Have you been to the Imperial War Museum in London? Put it on your list, but after the Churchill War Rooms. Neither of them rate number one in the guidebooks, but both are at the toppermost in my world. The War Rooms were underground just barely and you learn so much about Churchill, a complicated gent who saved democracy, the gravitas is palpable. You wonder what the inhabitants did after the war. When their lives were no longer on the line. That’s the conundrum, when you can die you never feel more alive. And it’s not only adrenaline junkies who thrive on this.

As for the Imperial War Museum… They’ve got a V-2 rocket in the main hall, when you enter. You know, the kind that the Germans dropped on London.

And there’s an incredible concentration camp exhibit, but in the bowels of the building there’s a facsimile of trench warfare. We forget how combat has progressed yet stayed the same. As in there’s so much new technology, airplanes became a factor in World War I, but the essence of warfare stays identical, senseless dying as generals try to obtain land.

And in the 1916 exhibit they had a machine gun. Which was used to mow down the enemy. I got scared just looking at it.

And when I exited the exhibit I entered the 1500s.

Now that seems a long time ago, five hundred years, half a millennium. But as I started to read I stopped, because it all seemed so modern.

You see we think everybody before us lived in the Dark Ages. But this is not true. They were positively up to date, the people after us are gonna laugh at our lifestyle. I remember marveling that my mother grew up without television (my father never watched the box), but I grew up without internet. And the concept of having a computer in one’s palm seems so revolutionary. A hundred years from now? Not so much.

So I’m breezing along, thinking the museum’s gonna close soon anyway, and I can get released after paying my dues, when I encounter a whole exhibit on the Spanish Armada.

Didn’t we study that in the fifth grade?

To say I don’t remember much…the truth is I don’t remember anything at all. And when I got to the end and read why the British succeeded and the Spanish failed I was suddenly intrigued and went back to the beginning.

Spain had a veritable navy, 130 ships. How’d they pay for that, who manned them?

As for England… Their fleet wasn’t as big and their ships were smaller and therefore more nimble, which turned out to be a huge advantage.

Now the reason they had this exhibit at the Ulster was because…

After being beaten, licking their wounds, what was left of the Armada decided to return to Spain with its tail between its legs via the North Atlantic, they sailed around Ireland and…

Disaster. The maps were bad…don’t take Google and Waze for granted. Scurvy was rampant, they didn’t know they needed vitamin C. And the boats were battered and the weather was horrible and…

Ships were blown ashore and 5,000 men died and…

History was coming alive.

But this was all maps and words, and after finishing them I went to the display cases.

Turns out they found a ship, in the last century. Kinda like the Titanic but with a lot less publicity. And what they excavated…

It wasn’t like today, where only the poor and lower classes go into the military. The rich went too. And they brought their jewelry with them. If you were wealthy, you wore a gold chain around your neck.

They had two of them. Worn by the sailors nearly half a millennium ago. How cool is that?

But then I saw these quasi-round gold and silver disks. And the description told me…

These were gold and silver doubloons. That the rich took their money with them.

Which had my head spinning. They’re on these barely maneuverable (manoeuvrable?) ships far from home dressed up like dandies and they’re carrying their cash, which anybody could steal, status was everything, even on this ship long ago. And there was social stratification, he with the cash lived better.

And I’m thinking it’s so long ago and so different.

But then I saw the outfit of someone from the same era, a peasant, the clothes were found in a bog that preserved them, and they were leather and looked like something out of “Robin Hood,” although riven with patched holes and I realized…

They were just like you and me.

And then the voice came over the intercom telling me it was time to go, but…

I still can’t get the image of the gold doubloons out of my head. Cash money, just sitting there.

The gold and silver doubloons

The Warren Buffett Documentary

Becoming Warren Buffett

They broke the mold.

You watch these documentaries so you can be like them, pick up little tips that will help you on the path to success. But watching this film you realize Buffett is the other, a sui generis businessman who in many ways is unique yet ultimately is no different from you and me.

As in we’re people on the planet in America.

Oh, it could be much worse. We could live in a third world country. A war-torn nation. But we were lucky enough to be born in the U.S.A. with a modicum of opportunity and…

This is not about getting ahead, this is about living.

Used to be almost no one was rich and famous. It was kind of like being an astronaut, everybody knew their name but there were very few of them. But the internet has flipped the game and reality TV gives us the impression if we just want it bad enough, we can be known too. And if we cut corners, screw a few people over, we can become rich too. But most of us never do. Most of us are honest and forthright and would never cross anybody. We’re offended that others do. We are like Warren Buffett.

So he grew up in Omaha. I’ve been there, a long time ago, on my way back from Philmont, in a bus, with 39 other Boy Scouts. And one thing was for sure, it was far away. You can get there by plane these days, something we could not afford, but really Omaha is now like everywhere else, except maybe New York and L.A. As in it’s a backwater. Not as much as it used to be, cable TV and the aforementioned internet go everywhere, but the truth is most of us are cornpone outsiders doing our best to get along. There’s a cadre of hipsters telling us they’re better than we are, and a bunch of hucksters promoting themselves, while we sit on the sidelines and wonder where we’re going.

Where are you going?

Warren imparts a number of lessons in this movie. And they’re good ones. But the truth is you’ve got to make your own map, decide where you want to go. And in an ever more difficult world where money is everything, that’s hard to do, especially since so many walks of life barely pay the bills. It’s one thing to be poor and uneducated, it’s quite another to be a college graduate and walk into the wilderness on a journey that no one is paying attention to that has no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Used to be that was a worthwhile excursion, but now it’s seen as a waste.

But Buffett doesn’t care about the rules. That’s another thing about America, everybody’s so worried about what others think of them. They’re afraid to be unique. Berkshire Hathaway has no general counsel, doesn’t speak to analysts and all we hear from public companies is what a pain in the ass it is to comply and report.

Maybe not, if you’re in it for the long haul.

And speaking of the long haul, Warren’s wife abandoned him. She just couldn’t take it anymore. He was too removed. So you think money will solve all your problems but…

So you’re watching this flick and finding it incredibly enjoyable. Because it’s not what it appears. You know that without being so rich no one would care, and that they’re gonna put Buffett on a pedestal and make you feel inadequate. But making money is just his work, and he’s a nice loner with as many issues as you and me, maybe more.

So we’ve got the titans of industry, who flaunt their wealth, telling us they’re better than we are. That’s one thing that’s irritating, all the rich people who act like they got tablets from God and know better when the truth is they don’t.

And Warren was lucky he had an inspiring father, not all of us possess one.

But his first wife changed not only his politics, but his outlook on life in so many ways.

But you couldn’t really change him. A guy who skipped a grade but then got C’s when the family moved to D.C. and the teachers were terrible.

We’re all looking for stimulation, we’re all looking for excitement, it’s just that Warren Buffett found his in money.

Find yours. And know that no one cares what you do and nobody will be remembered. We’re all just regular Janes and Joes, nobody is that special, there are 24 hours in a day, how are you gonna kill them?