What I Hate About America

NO ONE CAN SACRIFICE

Everybody’s for change, just as long as it doesn’t negatively impact them. They can’t lose their job, they can’t make less money, you’ve got to leave that to the march of capitalism, and then these same citizens cry to the government to protect them. Ugh.

Unless we’re all willing to work together on solutions that benefit us all, we’re screwed. How come in families we know compromise is king, but when it comes to politics, it’s taboo.

MONEY IS KING

If someone is rich, they’re admirable. Making money is the highest form of personal achievement, unless you’re poor, then you hate those with the cash.

Which way do you want to have it? Whatever you’ve got, that rules?

But the truth is money has ruined art. It doesn’t matter how good or bad something is, it’s all about how much money it makes. No, let me restate that, if it makes a ton of money, it’s good!

MISINFORMATION

We’re living in the information age people! Don’t trust the hearsay of your friends when all you have to do is Google to get the information.

And this is where it becomes complicated, the rich and powerful are all about information and truth. Sure, they try to bend it, but they know it and understand it. Which is why anybody with a brain wants to hang with the rich and powerful, they’re the only ones who know what’s going on!

CONFORMITY

Being a member of the group is paramount to the millennial. You don’t want to stick out, if you’re a social pariah you can’t participate on social media!

In the sixties, it was all about letting your freak flag fly. Now it’s about being just like everybody else.

Even in art. The millennials don’t want to do hard time honing their craft and converting skeptics one by one, they just want to imitate those who are successful, which is why so much art is me-too!

Yup, watch my YouTube cover, because I haven’t got a single original thing to say in my music.

THE FICTION THAT THE YOUNG RULE THE WORLD

Check the age of the people running Apple, or Amazon. And even the meisters at Google are now middle-aged. And kids aren’t always on to the new trend, especially if it’s about more than mugging. Oldsters embraced Twitter first.

PEOPLE WHO ONLY READ ONE NEWS SOURCE

It builds bias. Because most outlets have a viewpoint. Yours can only be informed if you get information from multiple sources.

GOVERNMENT’S REFUSAL TO INVEST IN AMERICA

Infrastructure is flagging, we could have put America to work repairing roads and bridges and sewers when interest rates were negligible and no one had a job. Instead, we’re gonna wait until the economy revives and we have to pay more for money and workers. This is a country? Why is it no one wants to believe we’re gonna get to the future?

MISPERCEPTION

Despite data being rampant, publicity rules. With so much information at our fingertips he who yells loudest usually convinces America he matters, even though in truth he might not, no one may be buying his product.

SKINNINESS

Sure, we have an obesity problem in America, but how about those oldsters shrinking by the minute? Especially women, who seem to believe if they don’t eat they’re better than the rest of us, even though they lack brainpower and the ability to move. Despite living in a foodie culture, the older and richer you are, the more food is taboo.

THE HORSE RACE

I had to hear about the 2016 election from the moment Obama was elected in 2012. It’s like our whole news media has been overrun by the sports page, who’s winning, who’s up, who’s down. It’s like debating how good the Yankees or the Packers will be three seasons from now, how much time do you want to waste on that?

PHONINESS

Kim Kardashian lies about having plastic surgery and her only goal is to extract dollars from our wallets. American commerce is too often built on lies. If you buy this it will make you beautiful and successful. From religion to cosmetics, everybody wants your money under the pretense that giving it to them will somehow make you better. But if you want to get better, read a book.

ARTISTS HAVE NO BACKBONE

Show up in Ferguson, write a song about it, take a stand. But you’re afraid to, afraid it’s going to turn off some theoretical segment of the public. When did artists become such wimps?

ENTITLEMENT

I’m all about entitlement programs, a safety net for Americans…health, homes and welfare. But don’t confuse this with the right to be a success. Just because you made it, that does not mean people have to buy it. Just because you put it on Spotify, that does not mean people have to stream it.

PRUDISHNESS

Everybody wants to do it, but you can’t talk about it, unless you’re in private with your friends or significant other. Sex has to be fiction, the same way truth has to be in cartoons. Because people just can’t handle naked bodies and desire.

THE CLICK ECONOMY

It’s like we’re all being tricked every day, and the profitable websites which are responsible for this cannot be criticized.

CORPORATIONS AS PEOPLE

People die. People have a social conscience. People don’t make every decision based on money (although with the veneration of companies, people have moved further in this direction.) Why is the number one goal of artists to get money from corporations? If they really think the money is free, they’ve never heard of the chilling effect, and they know nothing about economics…it’s hard to get money from companies, they want something in return, and they always get it.

Shake It Off

Taylor Swift – Shake It Off

Is this progress?

Once upon a time Taylor Swift became the biggest star in the world by testifying from the depths of her soul.

And now she’s soulless.

Shake it off? Isn’t this one step away from the rappers boasting how much better they are than us? I’d say this is tone deaf, but then the Swifties would bring up that song she wrote about me, how I excoriated Ms. Swift for her duet with Stevie Nicks on the Grammys.

But the truth is Taylor Swift was our best and our brightest, our cutting edge star. You don’t become the biggest star in the world by being  phony, but honest.

You remember honesty, don’t you? It comes right after despair and right before laughter.

When Taylor Swift sang about being a geek, about having crushes, about being mistreated, we could all relate, because that’s the human condition. We’re all terrorized by intimacy, but there’s nothing we want more.

Now the video is excellent. Ms. Swift has put in her 10,000 hours, or at least 6k, she’s no longer geeky, she seems comfortable in front of the camera, she radiates charisma.

But what is her message here? That she’s untouchable?

Every day people e-mail me that I’m a shithead, believe me it gets to you, but that’s the price for playing. And if you play to the haters, you’re never gonna be embraced by the lovers. Because the lovers know life is hard and it’s easier to stay in the shadows and judge as opposed to play.

And Taylor Swift was most famous for playing. Not only music, but life.

That’s right, she became a national punch line for dating and writing about it, but isn’t the truth that she was living out the rock star fantasy? How come it’s all right for guys to become famous and utilize this to screw their fantasies but for some reason it was not cool for Taylor Swift?

She earned it. As for writing about it, she was young, and inexperienced in life, but that’s what her fans loved about her, her honesty.

And now she blinked.

She was working in that bastion of truth known as country music, now she’s just another faceless pop singer, boosted by Max Martin and Shellback. There’s no difference between her and Katy Perry and the rest of those young women backed up by the old men. They bought insurance. It’s as if your parents hired someone to take your SATs for you, so you could get into an Ivy. Sure, you achieved your goal, but don’t you feel crummy inside, isn’t there a telltale heart?

Then again, Taylor Swift never went to college, she never got to grow up outside the spotlight. She’s been stunted by her fame. Despite our Facebook/social media economy, the truth is most people are anonymous.

But the biggest stars are bigger than ever, like Taylor Swift.

Sure, she’s allowed to make her pop album. But if you consider 1989 to be a good year, you had to be born in it.

I’d prefer Taylor had gone into the studio with the late Gus Dudgeon, someone who could produce a sound to match her lyrics.

But those were the old days, when we bought an album to hear what the artist had to say, when the artists were clueless and didn’t even know if they had a hit, and the label couldn’t force them to record one.

It doesn’t matter. She’s got her deal with Keds, she’s winning at the only game America cares about, money.

But the truth is America is about its underbelly, the loneliness and heartbreak of being a number in this overwhelming world. Taylor Swift used to write about this. She was our best exponent. She was a hero.

Now she’s just a usual suspect.

And that’s sad.

We need hope.

Myopia

There’s a fiction that if I know about it, if I’m aware of it, everybody is. Furthermore, if for some reason you’re not, you’re an out of it nerd who’s got no knowledge of popular culture.

But it don’t really happen that way at all.

I keep receiving e-mail that Ferguson was featured in the mailer’s Twitter feed or on their Facebook page. The assumption is therefore everybody knows about it. But nothing could be further from the truth, which is we all see different stuff on our feeds, if we’re paying attention at all.

Yes, despite all the Wall Street hype, most people don’t pay attention to Twitter. Oh, they might have an account, they might have signed up when it was the rage, a few years back, but they never check it out. So not only are they unaware of what’s going on there, everybody on Twitter follows different people, so they’re subjected to different information. I was right on it with the Tony Stewart accident, I saw Nathan Hubbard’s tweet about it. But the only tweets about Ferguson in my feed came from Michael Moore.

Yup, we all get different information from different people. We live in a Tower of Babel society, has been that way since the twenty first century, when the Internet took hold, but no one wants to admit it, because that would mean their reach is tiny and that they don’t have their finger on the pulse.

But there is no pulse. That’s the point. When there were three networks everybody knew about “Laugh-In,” if you didn’t watch, you were a social pariah.

Ditto with MTV. If you were unaware of Culture Club you had no eyes. That’s what built the channel, everybody imploring their cable provider to add it so they wouldn’t be left out.

And today we don’t want to be left out on a grand scale, we want a broadband connection and a smartphone, but what appears on these devices…is usually completely different from what appears on someone else’s.

This is a huge problem in music. Where people who follow the hits believe everybody does. Most of America is unaware of Jay Z’s hits, never mind Iggy Azalea’s. The world they live in is an echo chamber, which one can easily avoid.

As are the niches known as Americana and Active Rock… You think your favorite acts are impacting the general culture, that they  matter, that most people give a damn, but they don’t.

And tastemaker publications are operating on an old paradigm, that they’re gatekeepers, and they anoint the hits. But if your album is reviewed in the “New York Times” be sure to show your mother, because almost no one else gives a damn. Same deal with a late night television appearance. Hell, check the ratings, and the statistics, that’s DVR hour, most people with the set on are watching recordings, we save Fallon and Kimmel, et al, for highlights the next day online, if we bother to follow them all.

Sure, there are phenomena, like “Gangnam Style,” but now more than any time in our lifetimes, we live in a society where we consume different culture, hell, we oftentimes even eat different food! That’s been a recent story, the upper classes consume stuff the lower have never heard of.

So come down off your throne, and realize what is important to you is probably not to someone else. If you think you’re better than someone else because you know something they don’t, are aware of a record they aren’t, then you’re living in a twentieth century world, it’s you who are out of it

But what is end game? A complete Balkanization of America? To the point where we all speak different languages?

That’s possible. Hell, it’s hard to go to dinner and find points of communication…

But the truth is we’re all yearning for central repositories of information where we can find out what is not only important, but what is the consensus.

This is Twitter’s number one problem…WHO DO I FOLLOW?

And they’re not doing a good job of telling us, because Twitter is populated by techies, not liberal arts majors, they understand numbers, but not concepts.

And if Facebook showed everybody the same thing, they’d squeeze out the small advertisers. Meanwhile, isn’t that the bitch, that you can’t reach as many people on Facebook as you used to, without spending zillions of dollars?

And dollars are more important than information in today’s society, that’s what we all cotton to. Jay Z got five million dollars from Samsung, it doesn’t matter whether anybody listened to the music he was promoting, never mind remember it.

It’s like business is our national sport. Forget baseball, so antiquated and so slow that only oldsters truly care. But now the diamond fanatics will be e-mailing I’m wrong, that their ten year old is a diehard fan!

And there you’ve got the problem in a nutshell. Your anecdotal evidence cannot be spread to the masses, it just doesn’t fly. Check baseball ratings, they’re anemic.

As are most music sales.

Because most people are just not paying attention. And this is bad for society at large.

Yes, it’s great we’re disconnected from the old intermediaries, the old filters that decided what was a hit. And it’s great that the only news that happens is not in the newspaper and on TV. But having destroyed the old model, what is the new, chaos?

If the music industry had a clue, which it doesn’t, it’d post a weekly list of what America needs to check out, crossing all genres. Just like the old “Give The Gift Of Music” campaign. The key would be to build hits which benefited all of us. But no one in the industry can see this, that there’s mayhem in the marketplace.

And the old news outlets are operating on old models, if they’re operating at all.

And the Internet news outlets believe in clicks, because after all it’s about money.

And I’m stuck here in the middle with you. With tons of information and little time, wondering where to start.

Ferguson

Do you know what it is?

Ferguson is the first post-television news story. Used to be we turned on the box and were exposed to the world. Now the news is turning into the music business.

You know the music business… A former juggernaut where everybody screamed for a decade and now there are few dominant artists. Used to be you couldn’t escape number one, now you’ve got no idea what number one is.

When they rioted in Detroit in the sixties, everybody was transfixed, because America lived on television, and that’s all you saw on the three networks.

Today, if you don’t turn on one of the TV news programs, there’s a good chance Ferguson bounced right off of you.

Meanwhile, the news industry does not know this, so busy following developments in the story, they don’t know most people are clueless.

Credit Ezra Klein, he understands the hole at the center of the traditional news organizations’ vision, he now gives digestible background on Vox. Want to know what’s happening in Ferguson, go here:

The Ferguson, MO, protests for Michael Brown, explained

But the truth is most people don’t want to know.

Oh, they want to listen to the work of Jay Z and Beyonce, they want to be faux gangsters, but as for the plight of the black man in America, too many just don’t care. We used to make them care, now what?

And there are a ton of issues for everybody to care about. The arming of local governments with war surplus. Individual rights.

But there’s no center.

Yup, BuzzFeed has not done a list, so it’s like Ferguson doesn’t exist.

Actually, if you scan BuzzFeed’s homepage you see that there is finally a list, “How 28 Local Newspaper Front Pages Across America Covered, Ferguson, Missouri,” but it’s only got one comment, it’s got no virality.

Is that what we’ve come to? Is the only thing that matters train-wreck value? If it’s got no viral elements does it land at the bottom of the heap?

And believe me, the online “news” outlets are all about virality. “Reporters” are paid by the click. As if everything was a pop song and if it didn’t fly up the charts, it was worthless.

But news is not pop music. News is what happens. And what is happening is our government is out of control and despite the Supreme Court saying racism is over, that no voting rights supervision is necessary, it’s the same as it ever was, if you’re black, beware.

Yup, we might have a black President, but we do not live in a post-racial society.

And just like music, news is now something people follow, their obsession. Check the ratings for Fox, never mind MSNBC or CNN, they’re positively anemic, almost nobody’s watching.

And the “Wall Street Journal” and “New York Times” have readers, but local papers have been eviscerated to the point of unreadability and local news likes a good murder, but not as much as it likes a cat rescue.

So there’s no focus in culture anymore. Everything’s grist for the mill. Almost nothing lasts. And those in charge don’t blink, but double down, believing if they just yell louder, they’ll get more traction, not realizing most people aren’t paying attention and never will.

What kind of miserable world do we live in where a comedian sadly takes his own life and everybody knows about it but a young man is gunned down in Missouri and most people are clueless?

We need a rethink.

Today it was announced cable companies have more Internet than TV subscribers. The younger generation lives online, and the older generation loses touch.

Where are the young techies who are going to solve this problem? Who are going to build the go-to site for not only news, but music, somewhere someone time-challenged can go to find out what’s going on?

Ezra Klein is starting. But the best and the brightest, like Mark Zuckerberg, are so beholden to their advertisers and Wall Street that they completely evade social responsibility.

Then again, it’s our culture. Wherein the Ivy graduates all go into finance, where it’s about lining your pocketbook as opposed to doing good for society.

Ferguson shows it can happen here. That our biggest threat might not be terrorists, but us.

And those who will inherit this country know little about it, because they’re posting food photos on Instagram and building monuments to themselves on Facebook.

Pay attention.

Then again, where?

Life has become so overwhelming that we all just hop from phenomenon to phenomenon. What was the number one movie two weeks ago? What was the number one record? Who is your Congressperson? What does the military industrial complex do with its leftovers? These are the questions you should be concerned with.

But all you care about is the new iPhone.

Because Apple markets better than the “Times” and CBS.

And unless it instantly gets eyeballs and revenue, it’s worthless in today’s society.

And that’s just sad.

Yup, while you’re fighting to get ahead, to establish your brand, to win in society, you don’t realize you’re losing all the while.

Really.