Today’s America

You’ve got to watch this video.

That’s right, scroll down this page and click on the Rolls-Royce.

A $35-million tear-down: L.A.’s unreal estate has plenty of buyers

What kind of crazy fucked up world do we live in where a real estate AGENT flaunts his wealth, not understanding it makes him a target?

One in which the populace believes if it just works hard, it too can make it. And one in which the rich operate behind gates and fly private and most people have no idea what their lifestyle, never mind their wealth, is like.

Is this how far we’ve come? Where we’re all aspirational assholes? Droning on in our deadbeat jobs, watching “Shark Tank,” thinking we too can invent a product and get rich? Or have we given up and are drinking and drugging because it’s all useless.

And today Ted Cruz says he wants to be President. Have you watched “House of Cards”? Frank Underwood can’t run for re-election because he can’t find the money! You just don’t decide you want the highest political office, you’ve got to purchase a ticket. And you get one by being beholden to the same people who are buying the houses in this video. And their interests do not align with those of the underclass. And believe me, you’re a member of the underclass.

Do we blame the education system? One that has been underfunded to the point where art is not a part of the curriculum? When I went to public school, back in the sixties, a decade today’s rich pooh-pooh and want to eliminate from memory, every student had art and music classes every week. And I’m not saying everybody became an artist, but some were inspired and everybody was exposed.

In these same sixties the motto was “Question Authority.”

Now everybody bends to authority. And I’m not talking the police, I’m talking the money game. You go to work for the bank, for the institution. And sure, individuals come up with tech inventions, but those don’t stimulate your mind, they’re inert without human input.

Humanity. If Steve Jobs can get sick and die, so can you. No one lives forever and we all live in a society where if we don’t help our brother, we’re screwed. Want to get rich? Someone’s going to have to buy your product. And if people don’t have money, they won’t be able to.

But the poor have been demonized. They don’t pay taxes!

OF COURSE THEY DO! Maybe not income taxes, but sales taxes all day long. On food and gasoline, assuming they’ve got a car.

But no one wants to be a member of a loser group. And no one wants to hear from a loser group.

And you want to know a loser group?

ARTISTS!

Jeff Koons ain’t changing the world, he’s preying on rich people. That’s what Art Basel is all about. Art fairs for the rich.

And it’s not only rappers writing about lifestyle, it’s also teens, marionettes controlled by old men, who will do anything to get rich. I’d blame them for not addressing the real issues, but they’re too young and uneducated to know what they are, never mind analyze them.

And what’s the main bitch in the music business?

MONEY!

That’s right, this is an industry that sued its own customers.

The power of music? To change not only lives and society? I never see that mentioned. I just hear again and again about some act getting a sponsorship deal. And the handlers won’t put the kibosh on this, they get a commission!

So we don’t have a world in which artists will stand up for truth.

And believe me, an artist can, especially a musician, because it doesn’t take a village to make a record, one person can do it by their lonesome.

Then again, HBO brings down a criminal and in music we mint criminals!

Music rode shotgun in the revolution of the sixties. Because middle class musicians were educated and had not only morals, but values. And sure, some got rich along the way, but that wasn’t the only goal.

Neil Young wrote about the Kent State shootings and everybody questioned the actions of the National Guard.

Today no one questions anything. They just stare somnambulantly at their smartphone.

So we end up with a video like this. Where the lackey of the rich is too stupid to realize he’s part of the problem. That he’s wearing no clothes. That his Rolls-Royce was purchased on the backs of people who often barely inhabit the estates he sells. He should give up and become a social worker, he should give back.

But people stopped giving back when you could no longer make it as a teacher or social worker, when the bills were too high and you became a laughingstock. Remember Obama being criticized for being a community organizer? What kind of lame job is that? What does that prepare you for?

A red-blooded American inherits his wealth. Or starts a company like Walmart that double-dips in the safety net. Its employees require government aid because the company doesn’t pay them enough and then they turn around and spend this cash at the store! And “House of Cards” made that point. I don’t see that point in a hit record.

And I’m not going to tell you things are gonna change.

But I am gonna tell you we’re living in a fucked up country.

Where we’re all trying to climb a greased pole, assuming you can find it, assuming the richies haven’t cut it down to build a new mansion.

Please Don’t Go

Babe, I love you so
I want you to know

Did I tell you I went to Vail for the World Championships?

That’s right, you think you know everything about my life, but that would be untrue. With a laptop and phone you can be anywhere, and the second week of February found me in Colorado where it was unseasonably warm yet sunny, where the world’s best ski racers were screaming down the hill for fame and fortune and at the end of each day there was a medal ceremony and a show. By name brand talent. The Barenaked Ladies were astoundingly good, they realize that playing the songs is not enough, telling stories, putting on a show, is key to longevity.

And KC and the Sunshine Band put on a show!

That’s right, the seventies disco kings.

I have no idea how much Vail paid them to perform. Had to be six figures, because there were sixteen people on stage and they stayed at one of the best hotels in town, at least Howie Casey (KC!) did, he talked about the singer at the Sonnenalp, and the assembled multitude barely fit on the tiny stage, but…

It was my favorite show of the year.

They don’t do this anymore. Have the band come out and vamp, set the mood.

And then the dancers… Big ones tall ones short ones small ones, covering all the bases and eventually…

Howie hits the stage.

AND HE’S OLD AND FAT!

You wince. Your memories are shot to hell. And then he takes the mic and says he knows he’s put on weight, and they’re gonna change the name of the act to KFC AND THE SUNSHINE BAND! Cracked us up, put us immediately at ease. And that he was the ‘N Sync of his era and Justin Timberlake was gonna look like this in forty years, HA!

And you forget how many hits he had.

Actually, KC was responsible for arguably the first disco hit, George McCrae’s “Rock Your Baby,” which we didn’t even know was disco when it topped the chart back in 1974.

And then there was “Get Down Tonight.”

Life used to be different. You’d drive across this great country of ours pushing the buttons on your AM radio looking for music.

Actually, in 1976, my car had FM too. But driving from Utah to Colorado for a competition there was nothing on that band. But there was…”Get Down Tonight.”

And it stuck in my head. I coursed through the bumps with that song in my brain.

And there began a string of hits. KC was a fixture on the charts.

And then he disappeared. “Behind The Music” said it was a breakup with his songwriting partner, who knows, but his chart run was done. Not that KC is finished making music, he told us he had a new album in the pipeline, he played one of its tracks, which was actually quite good, but come on, who’s gonna buy it?

And you forget how many hits he’s got. We’re all shake, shake, shakin’ our bootys to that ubiquitous song from way back when. And the groove of “That’s the Way (I Like It)” had us dancing too. Even the youngsters. That’s what’s funny about the hits of yore, everybody knows them, even if they weren’t alive back then. They hear them at bar mitzvah parties, family functions, they’re in their DNA.

And the boogie twins, “Boogie Shoes” and “I’m Your Boogie Man.”

And the funniest thing is KC is dancing too. Twirling like he’s twenty five, in a line with the girls. It’s funny, it puts a smile on your face.

And then he stops the show and says he’s going to sing his last hit.

Actually, he’s going on. And I’m thinking I’ll never know it. Because I too know disco by osmosis, I was never a fan.

And then…

I love you

It’s an unmistakable melody. Drifting down from the heavens like a bygone body, coming back to haunt our memories, make us remember when…

The world was simpler. We could still be bored. We were addicted to the radio. We talked on the phone. And music was our only companion as we journeyed from one destination to another.

I need your love
I’m down on my knees
Beggin’ please, please, please
Don’t go

How do I know this song? I’m waiting for it to kick into high gear. But that’s the COVER, from years later! I learned that when I did some research, it was a big hit for KWS in the nineties, actually it’s a soundalike version of Double You’s reworking. And I couldn’t pull the name of either of these acts out of my ass, but somehow they got inside me, and…all I could say at 8,000 feet, under the stars, listening to the man who made it a hit initially, back in 1980, actually it was the first number one of the eighties, he told us so, is…I LOVE THIS SONG!

And now I can’t get it out of my head.

I’m walking down the street, sitting in front of the computer, I woke up this morning and I heard in my head…

PLEASE DON’T GO!

Now that’s a hit record, that’s what we’re all looking for. It’s more important than the money, it’s not exactly fame, it’s about AFFECTING people, changing the culture.

If you leave, at least in my lifetime
I’ve had one dream come true
I was blessed to be loved
By someone as wonderful as you

I’m realizing the song is gonna end. You know that moment, during the show, when they play your favorite and you’re smiling and seizing the moment and you realize it’s going to end but you’re hoping and praying it doesn’t? IT WAS JUST LIKE THAT!

And just like that, KC and his merry band of musicians and backup singers left the stage, left Colorado, vanished into thin air.

But the memory remains.

Babe, I love you so
I want you to know
That I’m gonna miss your love
The minute you walk out that door

KC, COME BACK!

You played your songs I didn’t even know I loved and my life flashed before my eyes. You made me feel happy and in the groove when the truth is the world has never been more challenged, we’ve all got more questions than answers.

But that’s the power of music.

PLEASE DON’T GO!

YouTube – KC & The Sunshine Band – Please don’t go

Spotify – KC & The Sunshine Band – Please don’t go

Girls

I really like this show.

The problem with Lena Dunham is she’s overhyped.

Once upon a time you labored in obscurity, you gained traction slowly and then were universally applauded.

Now it’s the reverse. You haven’t got your shit together, you emerge with tons of publicity, the press says you’re great and we say you’re undeserving of the attention and after checking you out we ignore you.

I watched “Tiny Furniture.”

That’s right, Lena’s feature that got a testimonial in the “New Yorker.” It was barely one step better than watching paint dry.

I’m gonna tell you something, we live in the land of publicity. And if you’re smart, you won’t be thrilled when you see your name in the paper, when Howard Stern mentions you, rather you’ll have a whole campaign, a picture of the destination you want to arrive at and then you’ll manipulate the press to land get you there.

That’s right, the press is not a mirror, but a tool. Something you use to achieve your goal. That’s what Steve Jobs did best, other than create astounding products, he got the press to tell his story. And at first few were watching, but Steve was so good we now even watch the execrable Tim Cook tell us stories. Tim was born to gain efficiencies, not speak in front of audiences, he should not do the Apple presentations, but we watch because of the glow of Jobs’s greatness. The same way we go to see the classic rock acts again and again even though they haven’t recorded anything worth listening to in eons. Then again, Tim Cook introduces new products and I’ve just about had it with  my old favorites, I’m done seeing them in concert.

And I’m done with the movies. Oh, I know there are great ones, I know that Hollywood dominates the conversation but is not the only option. It’s just that… The tsunami of hype offends me. I love not going, I love not giving them my money. I’m a one man protest against the bullshit. I’m mad as hell and I’m not gonna take it anymore, their lowest common denominator high concept dreck that is windowed to the point where when I’m excited about seeing it I can’t. There are so many small pics I’d watch on demand if only I could. After the review titillates me. The small stories, about people.

Like “Girls.”

I tried once before, with the premiere. And for all I know it might have gotten better, but when the show launched, four seasons ago, the hype on Lena Dunham was so overwhelming, all the “Voice of a Generation” ridiculousness, that my expectations were so high that nothing could fulfill them.

Lena Dunham is a minor talent.

And there’s nothing wrong with that.

Why does everybody have to be Jay Z, why does everybody have to dominate?

But what Lena Dunham attempts to do is chronicle the world she sees.

That’s what musicians do, that’s what Taylor Swift got famous on, before she went on react and defaulted to Max Martin and became all about the glitter and the fame as opposed to the honesty and the heartbreak. Come on, I’m supposed to have sympathy for you because you’ve got haters? And you bake cookies and deliver presents so people will like you? Have you no dignity?

No, Taylor Swift does not.

Write another song about me Tay-Tay, go for it.

Or be a mensch and ignore all this, because most people won’t even see it.

And most people have never seen “Girls.” And I’m not sure most people would even like “Girls.” Because they can’t handle the truth.

And the truth is we are all not winners. We’re all lost, looking for a location to reside. And just when we think we’ve got it together, we find out we do not.

Like Hannah/Lena going to graduate school in Iowa. With the cream of the crop. Although most of these people never make it, if they publish at all it’s to a tiny audience. They’re all about resumes, like the losers who win undercard Grammys… Feel good about yourself, even though you affect almost no one.

That’s the American game, you’ve got to see yourself reflected, you can’t have any self-esteem, despite your parents saying you’re great…that’s right, you’ve got to hear it from others again and again and again.

But the truth is even those who went to Ivy League schools will falter. We all falter, some sooner than others. You might get a gig at the prestigious law firm but then you don’t make partner. The love of your life cheats on you, leaving you with your heart broken and nothing but a title.

Our parents are crazy.

And today’s generation has a relationship with their parents unlike the one the baby boomers had with theirs. All this best friend/advice stuff. We were on our own. Hannah leans on her mother and father, ain’t that a laugh, and it is.

And Hannah is not beautiful, but that does not hold her back. She flies on her personality, which opens doors at the same time it makes people squirm.

And then you’ve got Shoshanna/Zosia Mamet, who thinks she’s entitled to a career after graduation and she can’t even get a job.

And Marnie/Allison Williams may be beautiful but she’s strong in all the wrong ways and picks bad men.

And the men themselves… Don’t know whether to be sensitive or macho or friendly or obstinate… Society has made them blink. For every fraternity brother raping a drunk partygoer, there are scores of nerds who’ve digested the politically correct behavior manual and are afraid to make a move. But they don’t do stories on them.

Except in “Girls.”

Judd Apatow is not the only person doing good work in comedy.

Lena Dunham isn’t in the league of Woody Allen, but she’s trying.

And HBO is giving them a runway.

Meanwhile, the somnambulant press eats it all up and regurgitates such a fawning report that the truth embodied in the series is eviscerated.

I’m watching “Girls” on HBO Go. On my iPad. It’s more intimate than the big screen.

And “Girls” is an intimate story. About growing up. The old envy the young but I wouldn’t want to be in my twenties again, with all those questions and almost no answers. Forget that these people are actors, in real life they’d be struggling losers, whose parents would be debating whether to pay their bills or cut them off, tearing their hair out all the while.

I sometimes feel I’m not made for this world. One where everybody is starting a business that will change the world and rain down millions. Used to be everybody had a screenplay, now everybody’s got a business plan.

I never wrote a screenplay and I never went to business school and I’m thinking if I can just lay down my truth I’ve got a chance.

Lena Dunham has.

And she’s winning.

Life Happens While You’re Not Paying Attention

Kind of like the Supreme Court.

You vote for some guy who says he’ll lower your taxes, but the truth is this President gets to appoint a Supreme Court justice who serves for life and when a case comes up long after the exec is gone, you find out that the court is tilted in opposition to your desires but it’s just too late.

Kind of like this “managed services” article in today’s “Wall Street Journal,” wherein it’s stated HBO, Showtime and Sony don’t want to be on the regular internet, but in a separate channel with faster service, like the one that provides your phone connection.

Huh. Wasn’t net neutrality supposed to solve this problem?

But we all get frustrated when our Netflix drops out. Happened to me watching “House of Cards” last weekend. Of course, I bitch about Time Warner, if we only had more speed and capacity. Then again, metropolises gave monopolies to cable providers decades ago and we’ve got no choice to switch to.

Wanna know how to get rich?

Predict the future.

I’m reading this book “Becoming Steve Jobs.” It’s gonna be released on Tuesday. And in it both Jobs and Bill Gates see where the future is going and capitalize on it. Gates most famously by putting his energies behind software. Bill wrote a screed saying software should be paid for, not be a free add-on, and this was back in the seventies! IBM was so uninformed that it gave away the store, allowing Microsoft to license DOS to other manufacturers. Hell, IBM thought it was all about hardware. Isn’t it interesting it’s a services company now.

And that’s where Dell is going. And the pivot is so important.

That’s another point made in the book. That Jobs rarely ended up where he thought he was going. Pixar was a hardware and software company and the thought of making movies was an afterthought, a hobby at best. But when Steve saw the opportunity to change direction, he did. Too many people are married to the past, who they are. You went to school for one thing so that’s what you must do. So you’re chained to your desk as the world changes and then your desk is taken away, and you with it.

But, despite being able to change, Jobs always looked beyond. For the new new thing. Where we were going as opposed to where we’ve been. Hell, the Homebrew Computer Club was not excited by the Apple computer. They didn’t want to make money, they were hobbyists! Making it easy was a detriment.

So where is music going?

One thing we know is the complainers are lost.

If you keep complaining about the loss of recorded music revenue, you didn’t read today’s “Wall Street Journal” article wherein it is stated that roadies can earn $200,000. And that they don’t do drugs as much as gourmet food. The landscape changes, can you change with it?

What we know is distribution has been solidified. Streaming has won, it’s eclipsed the sale of CDs, it’s eviscerated piracy. These are all good things. Think about how you’re going to get your music heard, not how the financial odds are stacked against you.

And live has been organized and streamlined. You can rail about consolidation, but no one bitches that Live Nation stiffed them. Furthermore, Live Nation has the deep pockets to pay huge guarantees. And if you can’t get into a Live Nation building, if you can’t get your act booked, welcome to the real world, where losers abound and winners are rare.

But winners profit in the music sphere.

But what does the future hold?

The future is about music and mindshare.

Let’s start with the second first.

Sure, music is everywhere, but the landscape is chaotic, only dedicated fans know what’s going on.

Oh, don’t talk to me about radio. That’s like defending the steamship when you can travel by air. 18-24 year olds watch so much less TV, youngsters have never known good radio, stop being myopic and know that music discovery is a land of endless rabbit holes that most people are afraid of.

Music discovery will be fixed. We will know what to listen to. Someone will tell us. This person may not end up as rich as Bill Gates, but he or she will be very powerful and will use their position to exact a toll.

So far this problem has been addressed by techies, who believe in algorithms and endless choice. But music discovery is a human endeavor, that knows about limits. Power users bitch all day long that they can’t customize their Macs and iPhones, but most people love the devices’ simplicity. Where’s the simplicity in music discovery? Give me very few choices of very good stuff.

As for the music itself… We’re waiting for the next big breakthrough.

We had classic rock.

We had rap.

Electronic music is not it.

What is the sound that will enrapture the populace, get everybody listening like the Beatles?

Don’t laugh, it’s gonna happen, spontaneously. You won’t be prepared.

It will be done by people who have paid their dues, who have facility with the sound they are making. This is what Gladwell had right in “Outliers,” with the Beatles playing thousands of hours before most had ever heard of them. This is why Max Martin is so successful, because of the time he’s put in.

Right now we’ve got old men making new music with young people fronting it.

But these old men are cynical, they don’t speak from the heart, and therefore their reach is limited.

As for the retreads… Rock is dead. Hip-hop too.

But melody, changes and good voices are not.

So where are we going?

That’s the question you should ask.

When Napster appeared you should have known the CD was dead.

When Tunecore allowed everybody to place their music on iTunes, when SoundCloud burgeoned, you should have known there would be a race to quality, that people would migrate to the winners.

When it was revealed that the success of Baauer’s “Harlem Shake” was manipulated, you should have known that the viral video was dead. Has there been one since? No.

When Apple announces the Watch you should know that convenience is key. That we want instant access to all our information and just like we don’t want to be in front of our desktop computer to access our e-mail, we don’t want to pull out our handset to see our texts.

Evolution happens.

But what’s even more interesting is revolution.

The seeds of revolution are being planted as I write this.

There will be economic revolution. The rich can’t rig the game and pull away from the poor and get away with it, not for long.

But artistic revolution is even more exciting. Movies went into a backwater and TV filled the vacuum. Did you see the TV revolution happening? When HBO aired “Dream On” and “Larry Sanders” did you know the “Sopranos” and “Game of Thrones” were coming?

They did.

Kinda.

HBO realized licensing films was a death march. Too much money and too much competition. They had to go another way.

Don’t listen to the complainers. They’re so mired in the past they can’t see the future. They’re advocating getting back together with your old girlfriend, and how often does that work?

Stop imitating success. The Apple II’s reign ended. The Mac survives on a totally different operating system.

Believe in yourself and your mission.

But know that every day bricks are falling and doors are closing that are going to impede your progress and your style. And it’s your job to stay ahead of the game, to navigate these waters, to use change to your advantage.

That’s what Tim Westergren did. Pandora wasn’t launched in a day.

That’s what Daniel Ek did. He was a hotshot programmer who’d already made his millions.

But then they triumph and you don’t like how it all turned out and you try to turn back the hands of time.

That’s a worthless endeavor. Enter the world while it’s still malleable.

One bold pioneer’s gonna blow music wide open, just you watch.

But it could be years.

“Streaming TV Services Seek to Sidestep Web Congestion: HBO, Sony and Showtime want separate lanes, spurring net neutrality concerns”

“Becoming Steve Jobs: The Evolution of a Reckless Upstart into a Visionary Leader”

“Roadies: Unlikely Survivors in the Music Business”

“Sales of Streaming Music Top CDs in Flat Year for Industry”

“People 18 to 24 trailed the weekly averages for all adults in most media usage categories…”