John Heard

People have got to stop dying.

I know, I know, it’s the way of the world. But when you age, when the people you came up with start to die, it leaves you lost in a way that is not depicted in the news, it reinforces that everything is temporary, that most of the games in life are an illusion, and that all the touchstones you’ve been depending upon are nonexistent.

John Heard starred in “Chilly Scenes Of Winter,” subsequently retitled and rereleased as “Head Over Heels.” It was the film depiction of an Ann Beattie book, back when she was a cult hero, before everybody became a cult hero, when books still mattered, especially if they captured the zeitgeist, which in this case is the ennui of twentysomethings.

Which doesn’t exist anymore.

Used to be the twenties were not go-go. Most didn’t go to graduate school. They were not working their way up the ladder of the corporation. They were not worried about falling behind.

They were just trying to find themselves.

I know, I know, it became a cultural joke, but who are you, really? Are you the job or the title or..? And are you on the right path in life? Today everybody’s so desperately worried that they’re falling behind that they cannot get ahead, at least personally, they’re stunted, they’re wearing blinders.

And the truth is I’ve neither read nor seen “Chilly Scenes Of Winter” since the seventies. My memory may be screwed up. But I remember one of the two being set in Salt Lake City and the tenseness of connection and on again and off again relationships and my girlfriend turned me on to the book and I hold the memory dear and have followed John Heard ever since.

This was back when movies were still a passion. The essence of American culture. “Jaws” and “Star Wars” were seen as anomalies, not the way forward. Flicks would play for months. They opened in New York and L.A. and you’d line up on Friday night and come out after like you’d been to a rock concert, having had an experience. And the actors were rock stars. You followed their careers. You looked out after them. There was a clear dividing line between movies and television and there were not twenty new flicks every weekend and you could be a student, a connoisseur, you could get a handle on what was going on, know the players, and invest in their careers.

And it’s weird that the players are getting older.

But it’s even weirder that there are new players, whose names we do not know and ultimately do not care about.

So Heard was in “Cutter’s Way,” a troubled production that finally hit the screen. And the thing about Heard is you could see inside him. He too was troubled, he had a past, he wasn’t light and two-dimensional, you knew people like him.

And then he became a joke in “Home Alone” and his arc seemed to flatten, he was not on the way up anymore, and you read about his troubled personal life and he seemed to be someone you used to know, who showed up now and again, like on “The Sopranos,” old and fat, everybody ages, or dies, when we want them fixed in our mind. Kinda like an old girl or boyfriend. You expect them to look just like they did when you were involved with them. And then you run into them and you can see the years in their face, the time in their body, they’re experienced, beaten-down, they’re no longer in their twenties with hopes and dreams, they’re just trying to get along. They’re still the same person, it’s just that…

You cannot go home anymore.

And then you find out home doesn’t even exist. Not only did your mother sell it, the new owners repainted and added an addition and left toys in the front yard and they changed the name of your school and all you can rely on is that celluloid, when you come across the old movie on TV, or in your mind, and you’re reminded of what once was. With the road of life empty and long in front of you. When you were just coasting instead of hurtling down the highway. When you thought it would go on forever.

But it doesn’t.


This show went from five stars to two and a half while we were watching it.

But I can’t turn it off.

I don’t know what’s going on anymore. I’m sitting on the crapper reading my phone and freaking out. The ruling party in Poland is taking over the Supreme Court and the Palestinians want to break off relations with the Israelis and America’s a second-class citizen sans leadership. We went from the ruler of the free world to an also-ran in six months. All in the name of selfishness. That’s what it’s all about. Those damn foreigners and ethnic people are ruining our country and our economy. Manufacturing our TV sets, coming here and taking our jobs. If we could just return to what once was everything would be great.

But there’s no turning back.

That’s what they don’t tell you about life, it’s all forward all the time. And it’s very fucking weird. Especially now, when the whole paradigm of life has been shot to hell and those in power tell us they know what they’re doing when they don’t. Not only the buffoons in D.C., but the entertainment titans in Los Angeles and the bankers in New York. Greed doesn’t seem to be very good. There’s no long term planning. It’s all now, now now, and you wonder why the underclass is desperate. And we’re all hanging on by a thread. Statistics tell us we’ve got no savings, we’re leveraged up the wazoo and we’re unprepared for retirement. But then that comes, watcha gonna do? It’s kinda like health care. The ACA sucked until suddenly you got insurance and I don’t want to go left and right here because that’s another thing I’ve learned this year, it’s positively useless, you can’t convince someone to switch sides, facts are no help, you can’t fight decades worth of indoctrination. It’s kind of like when you go away to college and find out your parents are not perfect. Then again, maybe the “best friend” millennials still think theirs are, and their parents certainly think they are, so what we’ve got is an endless circle jerk.

Nobody goes to the movies. Of course there’s a business, of comic book superheroes, one wherein the prices are raised so grosses look good but the problem is the paradigm no longer works. I think about going to the flicks now and again, “Baby Driver” and “The Big Sick,” but they don’t start when I show up, never mind the fact that I have to drive over to see them. I would have paid twenty bucks to see them day and date at home. Even more if it was more than me. Instead, when I’m not reading, when I need a jolt of humanity, which is what TV, when done right, delivers, I turn on Netflix and binge.

Now notice it’s not HBO. HBO’s destined for the crapper. There’s this fiction that content is king. But what do I always tell you, distribution is king! And the problem with HBO is they dribble out the product, I have to wait a whole damn week to see a new episode, and by time a couple have already played I’m too far behind and give up anyway. What was that Reese Witherspoon show, “Big Little Lies” or something like that? Got a lot of press, actually watched one episode, but I was too far behind and I already know the ending but when I start a show on Netflix I feel like I’m going down my own personal rabbit hole, with the stars on the show, and if I like it I can go deeper and deeper and it makes me feel coddled in a world where Sting can get tons of publicity and his album can stiff and a derided rapper can become ubiquitous. And I don’t need to shit on Lil Yachty, hell, I’m not even that familiar with his material, but when his elders and contemporaries are both complaining where does this leave me? Do I dive in or..?

And I’m not saying Sting’s new music is any good either, that it’s worth listening to, everything just drops on your doorstep and disappears. Just that fast. And no one knows everything and no one knows what’s going on and so much of what’s offered on the streaming services is crap, but when you find something to dig your teeth into, that titillates you, it’s so satisfying.

So this is another drug show. As in crime. As in cartels. That’s the drama. And it’s been overdone, it’s just that Laura Linney is such a good actress. And it turns out Jason Bateman is pretty good with drama and how old is he now anyway? His wife may be too old to have kids. That’s how you know time has passed, when the youngsters become oldsters, where does that leave you, in this case, me?

And in this show Bateman is smart. He’s got good quips but even better analysis. And for so long the men on TV have been dumb. And don’t beat me up for that, it was a story in one of the papers, and women rule the world anyway, it’s just that she cheated and he did not and I don’t want to give away the plot but why is everybody so moral on the outside but different on the inside?

Someone recommended a new book, I skimmed the sample chapter, I’m not even gonna look up the title, I’m done with most non-fiction, it’s a way for people to get rich, they all have an agenda, even vaunted Malcolm Gladwell, have you listened to his podcast, L.A. is famous for its private golf courses? Nobody has EVER said that to me in my lifetime, but he’s got a point to make, everybody’s got a point to make, when they’re not making money, which is why art is so satisfying, it lives outside that system.

So Bateman and family move to Lake of the Ozarks to try and launder money.

I’ve got a fascination with resort areas. Having lived in so many. Either you’re a local or a tourist and you want to be a local but you can’t make ends meet. Did I tell you that when I was a ski bum, a starving freestyle skier, there was a coterie of twentysomething in Bogner one-pieces, which is like driving a Lamborghini, or at least it was, with no visible means of support? They were DOPE DEALERS! COCAINE! As my father always told me, there are no mysteries, your goal is to pry beneath the surface and uncover the truth, don’t be satisfied with the surface story.

So they’re fish out of water and desperate and except for the overdone rednecks, the show kind of resonates. Takes me away from this fast-paced world which is simultaneously humdrum that I can no longer figure out and makes me happy and what truly makes me happy is the lack of frustration, I can watch to my heart’s content, finish the whole damn show in one day if I want to, I’ve done that, but tonight we watched three, and it was a great antidote to a week of b.s. and if you’re looking for lessons you’ve got to know that TV rules, because it’s on demand and in the home and Netflix rules because it’s all available at once and it’s not quite the theatre but the soundtrack was blowing up the Sonos subwoofer and it reminded me of nothing so much as the seventies, when I went to the movies almost every night, taken away into a visceral world that made me feel rooted and alive.

I went back there tonight.

The Room Where It Happens

Those people you hate, you’d like in real life.

David Brooks is a right-leaning columnist for the “New York Times.” But recently his columns have focused on social more than political science. He digs down deep into the archives of history to make points about today. That’s a result of his education at the University of Chicago, a rigorous institution focused on the classics. Sure, you have to be smart to understand the concepts, but you also have to apply yourself, do the hard work, and although you can spend hours on social media and even coding it might get you ahead temporarily, but it won’t make you a better person, won’t make you more worldly, it won’t expand your horizons like a traditional education will.

That was my shock upon entering Middlebury. The prep school students were so well read! I went to a melting pot public high school in a middle class suburb and I still haven’t recovered. These are the advantages you read about today. The rich send their children to institutions that teach them how to think and the poor don’t even go to college, or when they do they study business, preparing them for a role but not to lead.

Leaders have vision. They’re born to it. It’s a nature and nurture thing, both family and experience, and the gap between those who are advantaged and disadvantaged grows ever wider and those left out have no idea how the game is played, because they’re never in the corridors of power, and if they get close, they become anxious and don’t know how to behave. That’s what I learned most at Middlebury, how to hang with rich people. Non-Jews whose names were world-famous, who had money for generations, who knew not to be ostentatious, not to boast, not to stick out at all unless you truly deserved to, and then you were humble.

I know this is different from the image of entertainment, especially with Jews, who triumphed in vaudeville and then the Catskills before inhabiting TV. And there are even executives behind the camera with out of control, larger than life images, like Ari Emanuel, who they made a whole TV series about, but most of them are not that way at all. Well, maybe in entertainment, but not in the rest of the world. Actually, that’s when you get in trouble in entertainment, when you think you’re bigger than the act. That’s devastated the record business ever since the era of Clive Davis and Tommy Mottola. The exec does not know best, the act does. Most of what “Mr. Davis” put out is forgettable tripe. Whereas his quieter colleague, Mo Ostin, released some of the best music of all time, by letting artists be themselves and not crowing about it.

So I’m reading Brooks’s column the other day, ostensibly about income inequality, and I come to this passage:

“People at the top, he observed, tend to adopt a reserved and understated personal style that shows they are far above the ‘assertive, attention-seeking strategies which expose the pretensions of the young pretenders.’ People at the bottom of any field, on the other hand, don’t have a lot of accomplishment to wave about, but they can use snark and sarcasm to demonstrate the superior sensibilities.”

Brooks is referencing the work of a legendary French sociologist, but I found it hard not to apply this lens to the world I inhabit.

The guys who run the record companies are nice. That’s right, the ones you deplore, hate on principle, get yourself in a room with them and you’ll be charmed, you’ll be caught off guard. I’m not saying they’re princes (or princesses!) I’m just saying you hate them on principle, but they’ve been through the wars and triumphed and now they can afford to be nice and amenable.

Want to connect with a majordomo?

Don’t talk business. It doesn’t impress them. Actually, it turns them off, they get accosted, pitched all day long. And as far as making a deal with you…they’re much more worried about who you are than the music you make. No one wants to work with an asshole. They pass all the time on talented jerks. They want to know that you’re reasonable and have opinions and are somewhat worldly.

But you’re busy attacking them on Twitter.

Now this flips the ruling class out. Because before the internet revolution, no one had access to them, they couldn’t hear the naysayers. Oh, acts got reviews, but execs? They were faceless behind doors counting their money. So now when they go online, they’re busy barking back, blocking people, not knowing it has nothing to do with them at all, it has to do with the position and mind-set of the commentator, they’re down and out and they don’t like it. What they want most is YOUR job! That’s right, research anybody complaining about you online and you’ll find they’re struggling in your field. My greatest haters are writers. Somehow I seem to have their job, they’re better, they know more people, they’re more connected, I’m a doofus, and if the world worked properly they’d have the gig and not me. And it doesn’t matter who I really am and how I got here, I’m a two-dimensional character in their minds, someone to vent their venom at.

So you flip the script and you look at the people in power…

Rob Light is a gentleman.

Michael Rapino is sincere and is just as down to earth as you are.

Irving Azoff is charming.

Lucian Grainge is personable with a sense of humor.

It makes your head spin if you contemplate it.

Then again, when they were up and coming, and scrapping, they were more like you. But not too much like you, because then you can’t get ahead. Because the truth is once you’re in the club, you’ve got to get along, you see the same people constantly. So hate them for their lifestyles, the golfing trips, the cruises, their spending of that money that should go to you, but the truth is they’re exercising business mores that have existed for millennia.

Now I’m not saying more people shouldn’t be in the club.

And I’m not saying that the internet and social media have not placed a spanner in the works.

But some of this is basic humanity, people.

So Brooks’s point, which I agree with, is we should give more people a leg up. Which is certainly better than tearing others down, it doesn’t get you anywhere.

And I agree with this.

But what resonated most was that life is a learning process, and the more you learn the better off you are. It begins early and it’s all about being curious and applying yourself and hanging with the right people and knowing how to behave.

But this has nothing to do with the message sent to you by the media. Talking about instant successes utilizing new tools to ramp up their income and dominate.

No, generally speaking the same people dominate over and over. Most of the “talent” is evanescent.

Meanwhile, meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

Mark Zuckerberg goes to Sun Valley. As do Sheryl Sandberg and Daniel Ek. And if you think Herb Allen’s conference is summer camp, a pleasure retreat akin to a rave, but for older people, you know nothing. Allen’s an investment banker. Sun Valley is all about deals. And you make deals via relationships. And they’re in the club and you’re not.

How do you get in the club?

Start at the top again.

P.S. You don’t want to be a court jester, the entertainer who’s singing and dancing for rich people, no, you want to be an equal, or to quote Aaron Burr from “Hamilton,” you want to be in the room where it happens!

David Brooks: “Getting Radical About Inequality”

TheFatRat Responds

From: Christian Buettner
Subject: TheFatRat – more info

Hi Bob,

Thank you so much for your write up and for showing interest in my project! So here is more information about what I’ve done and how it happened. I wish I could say it was all a clever, perfectly laid out plan from start to end, but it was more a step by step development with a lot of surprises.

It all started when I moved back from Los Angeles to a small village near Göttingen in Germany. I had decided to spend more time with my family instead of grinding 14 hours in the studio, seven days a week. At that time I was 34 years old and had been in the music industry as a producer for over fourteen years. I’ve had some success, but overall I found the business quite frustrating because a lot of great songs never got released while some of my worst songs got on big record labels just because they were done with the right people. On some songs I had to make a thousand changes to make everybody happy until the song completely lost it’s soul. After doing this for years, I decided to stop compromising and instead fully dedicate myself to the music that I love. I got rid of everybody around me, including all labels, managers and publishers. The only person I kept working with was my wife Svea who I make all important decisions with and who also works as my A&R.

Working alone and without any deadlines I was now free to work on a track for as long as I wanted. Sometimes I spent months on a single song. And when it was finished I could release it to my fans immediately. I put out all my songs for free, simply because I wanted to share them with people who loved it. I would also let everybody use them in their videos, their live streams and in their web based games and apps. I even gave away the project files and stems so people could make remixes and covers.

The only problem was, that I had no clue how to make a business of it. At that point I didn’t even have my music on iTunes, Spotify etc. because I believed you couldn’t make money from sales and streams. Everybody around me said so. Boy was I wrong.

I have always loved video games. Starting in the 80s with Bubble Bobble on the Commodore 64 ranging to current games like The Witcher 3, they have always been my favourite hobby. So when I started making my very own music it came only natural that it was heavily influenced by video games. Little did I think about that the fast growing video game community on YouTube was a REALLY GOOD PLACE TO BE. So while everybody else was fighting for limited slots on music blogs or the even more limited slots on radio, I came across YouTube gaming channels with millions of subscribers that were desperately looking for music that they could use without getting copyright claims. Long story short: within little more than two years I found my own channel growing from 6.000 subscribers to over 1.5 millions with over 250 million play just on my channel and over a billion adjusted streams all over YouTube.

Even though my songs were available for free download, fans kept complaining that they couldn’t find them on iTunes. So I finally uploaded them to all stores but didn’t expect to make more than a few bucks from it. It quickly turned out that Spotify can be a money printing machine. Especially for independent artists without labels, featured artists and co-producers all taking their share, but instead a 100% controlled master and copyright.

After two years of independence, I got my old friend Alex Harrow from Milk & Honey as a manager on board because the project had gotten too big to handle for just Svea and me. And of course I started getting offers from record companies. But due to my history I had very little interest in that. Until Universal Music Sweden came along. They showed that they really understood what I was doing. Not only by what they said, but also by the deal that they offered.

Having a partner like Universal Music opens a lot of new opportunities.
I’m writing this email on a flight from San Francisco to Cologne to perform on the ESL Counter Strike finals, one of the largest E Sports events in the world. In 2016 they had over 14.000 people in the arena, over 60 million streams and over 30 million households watching on TV. Video Games have been the biggest media business for quite a while, but these days they’re finally breaking into mainstream. They are not considered as some sort of toy anymore but as full-fledged art. And being one of the very few musicians who is part of the gaming community is certainly a great situation.

Together with Universal Music we are also in the process of starting a new label called The Arcadium. The purpose of which is to identify other artists in the YouTube, gaming and electronic space that would work with our model and our long term goal being to establish the worlds leading catalog of electronic video game music. The Creative Labs division of UMG Sweden has helped us to create a digital store front for all online UGC (User Generated Content) creators to source my music for their videos. This catalog will be expanded upon by future releases from me as well as the records we sign to The Arcadium from other artists. The beta version of this site is announced and active online as of two weeks ago.

Thanks again for your interest, if you got any questions, feel free to contact me.