The Idiot

“The Idiot”

Do you ever feel like you don’t fit in, that you didn’t get the memo, didn’t realize there was a manual, that everybody else is comfortable in their own skin and knows how to get along?

I do. I always feel this way. Maybe that’s why I’m addicted to art.

I like people. I like to hang, exchange ideas, but I’m always self-conscious, unsure whether to talk or not. Then there are the boring sots who won’t shut up, I don’t know how to make them stop, I endure their prattle, they believe I’m their best friend. And then, now and again, I’m inspired, feeling my oats, telling a tale that could go on forever, with tangents, believing my audience is entranced before I ultimately become doubtful and shut up. I used to talk quite a lot, but I don’t think it worked for me. Somehow I alienated people, going on about what I was excited about, having opinions. So now I’m quiet. But I’m not happy about it.

Now when I was growing up we were all apart. There was no internet, long distance phone calls were expensive. You lived in a community where everybody had your number and this drove me crazy, because they formulated an opinion about you and it stuck, forever, until you moved to a new place. Somehow they were all on a path. Maybe not to anywhere exciting, the law firm, or their daddy’s business, but they were resigned to it, didn’t complain about it at all, me, I wanted to get out, I felt there was something bigger out there, more exciting. And there is. But too often I still feel uncomfortable, like I don’t belong, I don’t know how to behave, what to do.

And I know, I know, you tell me everybody feels this way, but I’m not so sure. My father was not a member of the group, although my mother was the straw that stirred the drink, to this day, she’s the center of activity, maybe there’s just not room for me, or I’m playing the role of my father, that’s what’s scary, the older you get you realize you’re just like your parents, no matter how hard you try not to be.

I used to love to go to the movies alone, back when that was a thing. Sit there in the darkness and bond with what was on screen.

And the records… Especially when we hit the FM era and it was no longer about ditties, but opuses. Have you ever listened to a Moody Blues album? The band is denigrated, they belong in the R&RHOF ages ago, but when you listen to their albums you get taken away. Start with “Days Of Future Passed,” yup, the one with “Tuesday Afternoon” and “Nights In White Satin,” but however great those cuts are, and they truly are, it’s what surrounds them that makes the album such a great listening experience. Like a classical village where the players understand you.

Kinda like a Yes LP. Sure, they had a hit with “Roundabout” but when you were listening you felt like you were in a cave, or in one of the cover paintings, alone with the sound, it was so magical. Which is why I liked going to the concerts, to bond with the acts, sure I wanted to hear the hits, but even more the album cuts. And my concertgoing is not littered with hangout experiences, going in a group, meeting new people, it was mostly a solo endeavor, where I connected with the acts.

And I could quote legions more acts.

But one thing’s for sure, that’s not what artists are selling anymore, that’s not how our society works. Now it’s all about the team, your network of friends, helping each other out, the rugged individual, the outsider marching to his own drumbeat, is nowhere to be found. So when I glom on to something that rings my bell, speaks to me, I can’t put it down.

Kinda like “The Sopranos” the very first year, when there was no hype and no general acceptance. It was the nuances that put the show over the top. How Meadow had her parents twisted around her little finger, suggested they take away her gasoline credit card as punishment, and then bragging to her friend on the phone how her ‘rents were clueless.

Every Sunday I comb the “New York Times” Book Review section looking for things to buy. And I always do it electronically, I don’t want to go to the store, where the help wants to be your best friend, I’m looking for a more private experience. And I read the “Wall Street Journal” book section too, but it’s mostly non-fiction, I don’t care about that, I don’t want to know about what once was, I want to be taken away to a new land, where it’s only me and the author.

And I don’t know why I downloaded the sample chapter of “The Idiot,” but when I opened it up and read the first few pages, I knew this was for me, I bought it.

Selin goes to Harvard, her lineage is Turkish, she falls for Ivan, a Hungarian, but she just can’t get it right, she doesn’t know how to act with a man. She’s got the urge, but none of the chops. She’s obsessed with him despite his having a girlfriend, she believes they share something special, when she doesn’t.

And she can’t stop pursuing him, but mostly in her mind.

Do you know what it’s like to be obsessed but unable to call? Because you don’t know what to say, because you’re fearful they’re gonna laugh in your face?

This is not the story of a dropout who conquers Silicon Valley.

This is not the story of someone who graduates at the top of his class and dominates Wall Street.

This is the story of a smart person who worked hard to get into a good college and realizes other than book learning, they know nothing.

That’s the weird thing about elite institutions, the grinds who get in are often compromised, they’re looking to spread their wings, some do, some fall flat on their face.

So I’m not gonna tell you any more plot. I don’t want to ruin it.

And I will say the book has so many literary references you feel inadequate unless you have a Ph.D., and what bugs me about books is they’re all sponsored by foundations, what I like about music and movies, TV too, is they live and die on their appeal. Either you dedicate your life trying to make it happen or you get out. You succeed or you don’t. Your movie hits or your record climbs the chart or you find another path. Not that overnight success is rampant, it’s just that you get signals, that you’re on the right course.

Maybe you call that capitalism. And I don’t want to get into a political discussion of economics, but when something rings my bell I want everybody to know, so it can be given a chance, so these artists can give up their day jobs and focus on their work, because being an artist is a full-time job.

Most people hate their jobs, they live for the moment when they can turn on the TV or play some music and now…

Now this is getting too complicated, too dense, when really I wanted to capture the concept of alienation, how I feel it and when I see it expressed in art I resonate.

I resonated with “The Idiot.”

“In high school I had been full of opinions, but high school had been like prison, with constant opposition and obstacles. Once the obstacles were gone, meaning seemed to vanish.”

“Human beings, all of us, hate to take risks. We all want to hide.”

Yup, all the wankers telling us to just jump off the cliff like them, quit our jobs, go our own way, they don’t understand we’re not like them, WE CAN’T!”

“I’m hearing a lot of contradictory emotions from you. It seems to me that your sense of other people’s awfulness might be compensating for your own sense of inferiority and fear of rejection.”

This stopped me in my tracks. Why do we behave the way we do? Who’s gonna explain it? Certainly not the winners who say to put your head down and keep marching, what ever happened to the life of contemplation?

“At a table near the door, two students were slumped over their books, either asleep or murdered.”

There’s a sense of humor, a turn of the phrase, the protagonist is her own best audience, that’s what happens when you grow up alone, in your head, you create a whole way of seeing the world that no one else comprehends, even though you’re eager to share it.

“Did anyone ever get as much of anything as they wanted?”

“I was troubled by the Beatles, by the contradiction between their jaunty, harmoniously innocent warbling, and the calculating worldview that seemed to underlie it.”

Bingo, it’s the darkness that made the Beatles superstars.

“Beautiful people lived in a different world, had different relations with people. From the beginning they were raised for love.”

If you know any beautiful people you know this. And looks matter. But being yourself leads to its own rewards.

“But, to me, nineteen still felt old and somehow alien to who I was. It occurred to me that it might take more than a year – maybe as many as seven years – to learn to feel nineteen.”

I’ve never felt my age, have you?

“Almost everything that was interesting or meaningful in my story was, in her story (her mother’s), a pointless hazard or annoyance. This was even more true with my aunts. They didn’t take anything I did seriously; it was all some trivial, mildly annoying side activity that I insisted on for some reason, having nothing to do with real life.”

Did your parents understand your need to follow the music, to throw away everything else in pursuit of the sound?

I rest my case.

Bill O’Reilly Gets Canned

No one is bigger than the system.

You may think you rise above, that you’re better than the rest of us, know more, are entitled to more, but that’s not true. Furthermore, the nature of human beings is they want to tear you down to their level if they think you’ve gotten too big for your britches.

Bill O’Reilly lost contact with the working man, the same person he said he was speaking to in his show. And what a show that was, one in which he said he slung it straight, but if you disagreed with him you couldn’t get a word in edgewise and were labeled a nitwit. Do we blame O’Reilly for our present national condition, one in which facts don’t matter and rational discourse in search of truth is out the window? Yes, along with the rest of the right wing blowhards who should realize if you live in a glass house, you shouldn’t throw stones.

Like Rush Limbaugh, who lost his hearing from overusing opiates after denigrating drug addicts. Turns out right wingers O.D. just like Democrats, but for a long time the Republicans did not agree, not until their kids started dying and they became compassionate. And expect them to come around re global warming and gay rights and so much more. That’s right, Democratic/left wing principles win in the end, because they’re people-oriented as opposed to money-oriented, they’re more about love than hate. Did you see the WaPo story saying Trump voters pulled the lever because of racism? I believe that, hell it even exists in the institutions of higher learning, wherein Asians are excluded. You work hard to get ahead and then those in power don’t like it, they want to keep you down. And Bill O’Reilly, despite constantly saying he was defending the little man, was doing anything but.

What do these people want?

To exorcise the government from their lives, to eliminate taxes so the corporations can rape and pillage with no restrictions, not worrying about safety whatsoever, so you can sit on your porch self-satisfiedly believing you’re free, come on.

Yup, that’s the truth. Send me all the hate mail you want.

Of course the issues are complicated. The left wingers agitating for bringing manufacturing back to the U.S. are delusional, no one wants to pay 3k for a flat screen and the truth is most of the jobs go to robots anyway. And isn’t it funny how Trump has picked up this call, all this America First garbage, not knowing there’s no such thing as an American car company, that we live in a global economy no matter what you think.

But all over the world the downtrodden, the losers, are up in arms. The uneducated want to return to what once was. And I ask you how good that era was, when African-Americans were second-class citizens and automobiles had no safety features and the government was not making sure drugs were safe. Yup, that’s where I want to go back to, the fifties, when whites ruled, smokers died and tobacco companies denied the harm of their product with impunity. Who turned things around? The denigrated tort lawyers and the government.

So we do have a problem, with automation putting people out of work, that needs to be addressed, but not by giving paeans to coal while retail workers are losing their jobs in droves.

Fox News was the anti. A home for all those left out along with the corporatists trying to shore up their fortunes. For years the left wing was decrying bias, despite the head-turning slogan that the outlet was fair and balanced.

Blame Rupert Murdoch. Who has done so much to ruin this world. He bought the “Wall Street Journal,” the business newspaper of record, and turned it into the editorial page 24/7, eliminating the business coverage and injecting biased news coverage, albeit brief. He created the right wing alternative, but since he’s rich he’s untouchable. Actually, one of the reasons they fired O’Reilly was because Murdoch wants to own all of Sky and he’s worried the British won’t let him.

Sky? You don’t know what that is?

I’m not gonna tell you. Other than to inform you it’s your duty as a citizen to be informed, all the information is at your fingertips. And you’ve got to read left and right. And the “New York Times” prints the best of both every day, just go to their app, but the “Times” has been neutralized by the right wing naysayers and you’re not gonna hear a contrary voice on Fox News, ain’t gonna happen, unless it’s some apologist wimp like the recently departed Alan Colmes.

Society is shifting. Used to be you had two drinks at lunch, when was the last time there was alcohol at a business meal, I haven’t seen it before six o’clock. And gays can get married. And sexual harassment is a no-no. Not only amongst left wing women, but all women.

And what’s worse, like Cosby, O’Reilly was a serial offender, in a workplace where if you spoke up you got fired or your path to the top evaporated. But then Gretchen Carlson spoke up, it’s the rugged individuals we depend upon to right the ship, and after being labeled a no-goodnik gold digger opportunist other women came out of the woodwork, it turned out what she was saying was true.

And then Fox lost Megyn Kelly, who was afraid her future would be affected by the boys club atmosphere and that’s what we’ve been fighting since the sixties, the boys club. One wherein where you went to school who your parents are what teams you played on and who you know trumps every other attribute. No wonder women couldn’t triumph, they weren’t born with a penis, they couldn’t snap towels with the guys in the locker room.

And this atmosphere still exists, we’ve got oh-so-far to go. To the point where men need to learn to self-check, to say no, to escape the groupthink and do the right thing. Al Campanis was sacrificed at the altar of racial equality and now Bill O’Reilly is being sacrificed at the altar of sexual equality. Sorry, it doesn’t matter that everybody else is doing it, NOBODY SHOULD BE DOING IT!

Credit the younger Murdoch generation, who are going to inherit the monolith, they saw that O’Reilly was tainting the brand, and today the brand is everything.

The brand supersedes truth, you believe in the corporation because the individuals have become shills for it. Whether it be musicians selling out to the highest bidder or workers afraid to unionize for fear they’ll lose their jobs.

Everybody in America is afraid, except for blowhards like O’Reilly, who believe if they just yell loud enough they can win.

Just because you raise your voice that does not mean you are right.

Just because Mercer and the Kochs fund right wing causes that does not mean Soros is just as bad. No, that’s false equivalency. Is the left wing flawed? OF COURSE! But it’s absent the sex and financial scandals, at least to the degree of the right, because if you act this way on the left you’re excommunicated, if you act this way on the right you’re embraced.

But maybe no longer.

O’Reilly is a footnote. He’s already in the rearview mirror. No one’s gonna give him a platform. Because it’s one thing to spew hate, it’s another to live the hate, to be a sexual harasser, speech is cheap, actions have costs.

So, so long Bill O’Reilly. You outlived your era, the internet and the media revealed your heinous behavior, you can’t hide the facts in today’s world.

You’re the poster boy for everything that’s wrong with this country. And now you’ve been sidelined.

Will you admit your fault? America loves a repenter, embraces him or her with open arms.

But that would require you to take a long hard look in the mirror, see that you’re part of the problem as opposed to the solution.

We’re all in it together folks. The sooner we can all agree on the same facts and come to conclusions that truly benefit us all, or at least the majority, the better.

But no, we live in a world of chaos, where those who do the work every day are eliminated from the equation and having brains and being fair are faults, not attributes.

The “New York Times” has the most boots on the ground. It bends over backward to be fair, even if it occasionally fails, hell, it even has a public editor looking out for the reader, but in a world where ignorance is king, where those with power want to keep it, the uninformed are kept that way, through subterfuge and bread and circuses.

But not today. Today the “Times” brought O’Reilly down.

Chalk one up for the good guys.

Grushecky/Springsteen Protest Song

You’ve got to buy it to hear it.

The buzz started last night, I was getting e-mail, how Joe Grushecky and Bruce Springsteen had collaborated on a new protest song, entitled “That’s What Makes Us Great.” There were even lyrics!

So I woke up this morning ready to click to hear…

And I found news stories all over the web, directing you to Grushecky’s site, in order to purchase a download.

A download? What, is Grushecky living in 2003? The iTunes Store is dying, streaming is rescuing the music business, just check the RIAA statistics all you on demand haters out there, and Grushecky is keeping his music behind a paywall?

For the uninitiated, Joe Grushecky is a Pittsburgh lifer who put out a highly-hyped album with his band the Iron City Houserockers entitled “Have A Good Time but Get Out Alive!” back in 1980. I bought it. Joe’s voice could have been better, as could have the songs, but there was an undeniable energy contained, I’ve paid attention to Joe ever since, who continued to play music while teaching school, collaborating with blue collar rocker Springsteen now and again.

And now this…

Publicity only lasts a moment in today’s world. What happened this morning is old news by tonight. If the light shines upon you, you must be ready to deliver, your product must be available.

And the enemy is not piracy, but obscurity. It’s hard for household names to get traction, to get heard. No one’s got any time. So you hope that the stars align and people will check out your tune.

Yes, one tune, that’s all we can handle. If we like that, we’ll dig deeper, for more. Which is why you must have a plethora of material on streaming services, on YouTube, so those interested can learn more, but don’t squander your opportunity in the marketplace by putting out an album, which comes out once with publicity in a short window which then evaporates unless your sole goal is to get it up on streaming services so people can check it out sometime in the future.

As for YouTube, you must put all new songs there immediately. You want to cover all bases. Forget those talking about the “value gap.” First and foremost, listens on music-only streaming services are now eclipsing those on YouTube, if you’re fighting YouTube you’re probably still fighting Napster and KaZaA. Furthermore, some people will never pay, at least not at first, give them a chance to sample your wares.

And monitor your social media feeds. I tweeted Grushecky all of the above and what did I hear…

NOTHING!

When you’re in sell/promotion mode, you, or someone on your team if you’re a big shot, should be reading and responding to all comers. People expect this today, everybody’s important, we’re all on the same level, ENGAGE!

I’ve got no idea whether “That’s What Makes Us Great” is bad or good. But one thing’s for sure, today I wanted to hear it. Tomorrow?

Almost definitely not, unless the buzz is deafening, which is doubtful, since most people will not pay and the media will be on to something else.

Feel lucky if someone wants to check out your art. There are many avenues of exploitation/income if people listen and care. Don’t be stuck in the last century, expecting people to pay before they listen, worried about piracy, yelling at the new distribution models like Grandpa Simpson. Harness the tools, don’t decry them!

The Institution Is Bigger Than The Individual

Disney cut ties with PewDiePie. Fox News is about to dismiss Bill O’Reilly. Weren’t they supposed to be able to harness the power of the internet to supersede their corporate overlords?

Wrong.

The internet is controlled by a small cabal of companies. You can utilize their tools to get ahead, but only if you play by their rules, which they might change at any time. But without the corporate behemoths on your side, you’re positively moribund.

Of course there are exceptions, like Chance the Rapper, then again, he got 500k for a two week exclusive at Apple.

So let’s drill down. We’ve been hearing for six months that fake news is rampant and the press is impotent. Yet the “Wall Street Journal” took down PewDiePie and the “New York Times” tackled Bill 0’Reilly. Just because Hillary lost that does not mean the mainstream media always gets it wrong. Furthermore, the recently published book “Shattered” delineates how Hillary herself decimated her campaign, maybe it wasn’t just that the takedowns in the media were ignored.

So Bill O’Reilly is making beaucoup bucks for Fox. Only problem is he’s a serial harasser. Sexual harassment, anti-Semitism, these are third rail behaviors that cannot be outrun in corporate America. Advertisers flee. No Fortune 500 company wants to be the new United Airlines. Customers start agitating and companies pull sponsorship and the purveyor pulls the plug. Money only goes so far when you’re a public company. They love their profits, but they can be shamed into doing the right thing. Kinda like that company that raised the price of EpiPens…

You see if the light is shined upon bad behavior, if you’re in the media crosshairs, you’re doomed, just ask Theranos. And Theranos was brought down by the WSJ, it’s not only the NYT that can decimate your career. And sure, a news item can get started on a blog, most of which are now monetized, the boy in his basement pontificating and having impact is passe, but it’s only when the big boys glom on that there are consequences.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. The internet was supposed to level the playing field, give us all a chance.

But you can’t get on Top Forty radio if you’re not signed to a major label, or aligned with one, that’s right, gain any traction and the major will come up with an offer. You can’t go it alone. Everybody online keeps telling you you can, but that’s an empty echo chamber.

So the internet is run by four companies, Apple, Google, Amazon and Facebook. Go into competition with them and they’ll imitate you, are you seeing what Instagram is doing with Snapchat? And Instagram is an interesting story, it was sold to Facebook. Now the goal is to sell out to one of the big four, and they’ll threaten you if you won’t. Amazon went to war with Diapers.com, which they bought and recently shut down, and Amazon gave an ultimatum to Zappos, saying it would go into competition with the shoe company, and Zappos made a deal with the retail behemoth too.

So Glenn Beck gets canned and goes independent and has almost no impact, he’s no longer part of the national discussion.

Bill O’Reilly loses his perch and…

No one else will hire him. Hell, even Dan Rather couldn’t get another big gig with a much less heinous faux pas. Will Bill’s books continue to top the best seller list? Will he lecture to his minions and be heard?

On a fraction of the level he is now, because he’s losing his microphone.

The rich are getting richer and the poor are irrelevant and there is no middle class. Meanwhile, you keep thinking you have a chance when you don’t, the game is rigged.

You’re sitting at home making music on Pro Tools. Putting it out on Spotify via CD Baby, spamming everyone you know via social media and ending up nowhere. You just can’t get heard, you need to be aligned with one of the big boys to do that.

And if you’re building your own business via YouTube advertising you might get killed when the video giant changes its algorithm. David Pakman used to survive on YouTube ad payments, now he’s on Patreon begging for donorship. As for Patreon, it’s where niche players go to survive. Not bad if you can make a living, but you’ve got no social impact, no footprint, you’re a footnote.

For the past fifteen years we’ve seen internet phenomena which give the sole proprietor/artist hope. There was Radiohead with “In Rainbows,” Amanda Palmer on Kickstarter, PSY on YouTube, but none of them were replicable, they ended up stunts, footnotes in internet history.

So what we’ve learned here is you live and die by the sword of the big boys. And you can even vote for the renegade, but he’ll turn his back on you when he gets in office.

And nobody is bigger than the institution.

And the institution can fathom no hits to its reputation. Roger Ailes had to go. When star Megyn Kelly leaves because of sexual harassment, Fox wakes up and realizes it must protect itself, comes to the conclusion that Bloviating Bill is expendable.

And without the imprimatur of the major, O’Reilly is toast. Just like Trent Reznor and Nine Inch Nails, which left oppressor Interscope to ultimately sign with Sony after testing the independent waters.

Everything we were told was wrong. That the internet would topple the old, slow, ignorant players.

No, they just became more powerful.