Monday, September 10, 2012

Moral Musings

My life has been significantly changed by watching this series: The Fuel Project-Know Your Enemy
I have often heard as a Christian that Lucifer is the ultimate adversary, and a force behind all evil, but I never really realized how true that is. It's like one of those things you understand and believe, but you don't really know why you believe it other than a reliable person told you it's true. When you watch this series, you will realize just how true this is. Once you realize how true it is, it changes your outlook on life a little bit. I highly recommend that everyone watch this, especially if you are a Christian. The time to fulfill the great comission is not tomorrow, it is today.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Musing on Maturity

I have noticed a trend in the culture of my generation that I suspect a lot of people in older generations aren't aware of. Nobody talks about religion or politics.

It seems to me that our culture of "offensensitivity" (a term coined by Berkely Breathed meaning offense at another person's being offended) has trained a generation of people who refuse to face the world around them honestly.

I honestly can't say I really blame them, after so many classes like public speaking or persuasive writing with "banned topics" I'm starting to become afraid to write or speak about polarizing issues. And so we've put yet another nail in the coffin of my generation's maturity. It isn't enough to condition us to random warrantless searches with drug dogs while being locked in classrooms. It isn't enough to condition us to interrogation by school officials who lie to us while acting on the authority of the state in loco parentis without miranda rights or providing us the knowledge or means to contact parents or legal counsel. (Those of you who know me well know why this is part of my rant)
I remember so many orientation sessions and rallies and so on in high school and college where we were all told we were getting older, and now we were expected to start taking on more responsibility, and act like mature adults. But the school administrators who are telling us this turn around and treat us like children and prisoners.

In my high school we weren't allowed to use plastic knives in the cafeteria because they were too dangerous. That's right, high school.
At my college, there was one time somebody pooped in a dryer in the laundry room of a dormitory. Now I wouldn't say that this sounds like mature behavior, and whoever did it was probably drunk, and it was very irresponsible. But what the campus security force did in response to it was equally reprehensible. All the students in every room of the dormitory (including the ones who don't use that room) were either rounded up or woken up at 3 a.m. and forced to stand at attention in the hallways while security interrogated all the students.

I have seen countless ways in which the members of my generation have been treated like prisoners while being told to act like responsible adult citizens. Then I've seen administrators, teachers and parents wondering why our kids are getting worse.

Now they're coming for our speech. My generation is being taught to be so afraid of offending people that they have no courage left to speak about controversial things, and as any student of history, philosophy or theology knows, those are the most important things to talk about!!

You really want kids to grow up and act mature? Tell them to talk about offensive things. Tell them to argue. Tell them to have honest, respectful discussions with each other and their elders. Respect is being willing to say to someone's face: "I think you're wrong, and here's why." Respect is not just letting other people believe whatever they want because it doesn't matter. It does matter, beliefs effect action, and actions effect everyone. If you love someone, you wouldn't let them believe whatever they want to, you would want them to know the truth.

If you are a young person like me, consider this my sign of respect to you:
Suck it up. You can't please everyone, you can't avoid offending someone in this life, it's going to happen. There are millions of people all over the world right now who hate you just because of who you are. They don't even know you, but they want you to die. These people are not allowed to engage in discourse the same way we are in our country today. We have been given the greatest freedom ever enjoyed in the history of mankind: speech, and there are those who want to take that freedom away from us. He who controls our information controls us completely, because they control what we know, and consequently what we think, and consequently what we believe. And as I pointed out earlier, what we believe effects how we behave. Our freedom of speech is also our greatest asset in defending our freedom of speech. You've got to use it, or we're going to lose it.

Now here's my challenge to you:
Next time you see a "speech code" at your college or university, violate it. Blatantly. "If there's one thing a totalitarian government can't tolerate, it's ambiguity."-Penn Jillette
If you get in trouble and they tell you to stop it, violate it louder. Post it online, send it to newspapers and to the press and tell them your freedom of speech is being violated.
Talk to your friends about controversial things. You'll find out really quickly who's really a jerk and who's not, and not because everyone who disagrees with you will stop being your friend. Civilized mature people can have discussions, even arguments (shock and horror) without getting really nasty, without hating each other, and without breaking up friendships. I'm friends with people I disagree with about things, and they know, but that doesn't mean we can't be friends. If anything it makes our friendship stronger because we know that we respect each other in spite of our differences.
Conversely, I've had people who I thought were friends, but as soon as I start talking about things we disagree on they've decided they don't want to be my friend anymore, or even become very hostile and nasty. I affectionately referred to those people as "jerks" a few sentences ago.
Next time you have to give a speech or write a paper for a class and you're told to avoid certain topics because they're too controversial and you might offend someone, consider it a gift. Now you know exactly what to write a paper about. It'll save you a lot of time brainstorming. Maybe you'll get a bad grade, that's true. But personally I would give up every "A" I've ever gotten if I knew that I gave it up in defense of my freedom, and if I knew that I symbolically gave the finger to all the socialists (I consider most teachers to be socialists whether they know it or not) who want to take my freedom away, that's just icing on the cake.

I can hear it now: "But what will my friends think of me? What if my point of view isn't accepted? What if I change my mind because someone offers a better argument? What if I get a bad grade? What if I fail the class? What if I'm expelled? What if my friends turn out to be jerks?"

If you're expelled simply for speaking your mind about something controversial in a respectful way, you should consider it a badge of honor in the fight for freedom. That's the kind of thing I would brag about. If you're worried that your point of view won't be accepted by everyone, maybe it's about time you realized you can't please everyone. If you change your mind because someone else offers a better argument, that's a win! You've learned something and become a better person, and your peers will feel good about themselves for having convinced you of something. And if they don't convince you, you'll become better at defending and reinforcing your point of view, and it may open your mind to other truths you weren't previously aware of. If you get a bad grade, again: badge of honor. If you fail the class: badge of honor.
Finally, if your friends turn out to be jerks and stop being friends with you because they disagree with you, that's a win! You don't really want to be friends with them do you? If anything, I would argue that standing up for your point of view in an intelligent and respectful way is more likely to make you incredibly popular. People are often impressed by and enamored of those who have the courage to challenge authority and stand up for what they believe in, especially when everyone else didn't. It will make you look like a big fish in a small pond.

We can't afford any more conditioning from the socialists, be they schoolteachers, administrators, professors, campus security, parents, friends, family, or the government itself. I often hear public figures and famous orators being remembered as courageous people for speaking about unpopular things or saying things people didn't want to hear or think about at the time. I do not believe this is ultimately true, I think they were driven to speak about those things by their fear. If you believe that speaking the truth is risky, you have not yet realized the far greater risk in remaining silent.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Two posts in one day!?!?!?

I know. It's unprecedented. But I've been hearing forever this argument back and forth about greed. Liberals are always against greed, yet I hear conservatives constantly saying greed is good, because it inspires progress and success. Let me clear this up for everyone.

Proveerbs 15:27 says: "He that is greedy of gain troubleth his own house; but he that hateth gifts shall live."

This seems pretty clear. Greed is bad. But what is greed? says: "excessive or rapacious desire, especially for wealth or possessions."

Some of you have probably heard debates by pundits or talking heads about greed. I've heard Rush Limbaugh talk about greed actually being good, I've heard liberals cite it over and over again as the source of evil. How can we make sense of it all?

I was surfing the internet recently reading an article, and I read the comments on an article where somebody said this: "It is good when greed makes one to create, produce, improve. when greed is taking from others what is unearned - thats wrong kind of greed."

I thought to myself: "yes, that sounds good. There are two different kinds of greed, or different levels of greed, and one is bad, that makes sense." But a fundamental disagreement at the heart of the debate between liberals and conservatives is that conservatives believe that wealth can be created, whereas liberals (herein referred to as "commies") believe that there is a limited amount of wealth to go around in the world. That is why we hear so much about wealth redistribution. It might make sense at some level to redistribute wealth if there were a limited amount of it in the world, because having it means someone else doesn't have it. Unfortunately, that is not the way the world works. Wealth is a relative term, because different people place value on different things, and different people have different talents and abilities. Through trade, wealth can be created and the comfort in our standard of living raises, because people value different things. For more food for thought on this topic, I recommend rabbi Daniel Lapin's book: "Thou Shall Prosper."

Then I started thinking: "Is it greed that drives humans to create, produce and improve?"

The dictionary definition of greed said that it is "excessive or rapacious desire," which would seem to indicate that it is a desire without control.

For example, my neighbor might have a better tv than I have, and I might want it. But if I was consumed by rapacious desire (greed), I might take it for myself. But fortunately I believe I have the self control to recognize that it doesn't belong to me no matter how badly I want it, and therefore I must control my desire to take it.
But on the other hand, if I controlled my desire to take it (remember self control would be the cessation of greed) and instead used my desire for a better tv to give me the motivation to invent a better one than my neighbor's, I might then have the potential to improve society by creating better tvs and selling them. Or as is more likely the case for most people (since most people wouldn't know where to start building a tv, much less a superior one than their neighbor's) my desire  would at least give me the incentive to work harder at whatever it is I do to add value to society, so I can make more money and simply buy a tv that is identical to or superior to my neighbor's.

Didn't I just say the same thing twice? Isn't the second example just a way of saying that there is a good kind of greed? I don't think so. In the second example, my desire was controlled and chanelled to be used as motivation to give me energy. It was not a "rapacious desire," nor was it necessarily "excessive." I don't think that a non-rapacious or non excessive desire really fits the definition, do you?

As with most intellectual debates, this can easily be resolved into clear language that everyone can understand, if our society only had a better vocabulary, or at least bothered to use a dictionary to discover the proper definitions of their terms before they go on hour long rants about them.

My conservative friends, it is time to make a distinction between greed and desire. The commies are right, greed is bad. But the commies are also wrong, desire is good, when it lies within the boundaries of self control. I think that is an easier idea to understand and accept.

Money Musings

I was in class listening to a lecture recently being given by a featured speaker at my college. This guy was the CEO of a pharmaceutical company, and he had spoken to a large audience at a convocation in the theatre earlier that day, but now he was in my economics class. He told us many inspiring stories about his journey through life and how he built his career, and he said something which struck me, and it was this: "Entrepreneurs are different, they see the world differently. I'm not an entrepreneur, I want a job. Whenever I look at entrepreneurs, I see risk, but for some reason they either don't see it or it's just not that big a factor to them. They're a totally different kind of person."

I was reflecting on this while I was putting gasoline in my car the next day, and I realized that he's right and wrong. He's right that we (entrepreneurs) see the world differently, and it wasn't until I heard that lecture that I realized just how different I am from my classmates. But he's wrong that entrepreneurs can't see the risk in starting their own business, and he's wrong that it doesn't bother them. Of course we see it, and of course it bothers us. I think he was missing the following three ideas:
1. Entrepreneurs engage in risk management. It's not that the risk doesn't bother us, we just realize the life is a risk. You don't get anywhere without trying and failing. Failing at something is generally how you learn how to do it. You have to fail and learn what not to do before you really get good at it or start succeeding. Entrepreneurs have a way of looking at the world that says: "I know it's risky, but it's a risk I'm willing/not willing to take" instead of, "that's risky, I'm staying away from it."
2. Entrepreneurs choose freedom over safety. It's at the very foundation of American society. As a famous quote from a founding father goes (I believe it was Benjamin Franklin): "Those who choose safety over freedom will recieve neither," or something along those lines. The only way you can really make your own decisions and take control of your finances and your life as an entrepreneur is to take on the responsibility, take the risks. Entrepreneurs also realize that the more risks you take, the better you get at deciding which ones are good ones, and which ones aren't.
3. Most entrepreneurs think the word "job" is an acronym for "just over broke." Most entrepreneurs realize that having a job is actually much riskier than owning your own business. Everyone is in the business of selling themselves, or more acurately, their time, knowledge and resources, it's just  a question of who your going to sell yourself to. You can get a job, and sell yourself to one client. That client will have a lot of power over you, because they know you're their only client, and you consider yourself lucky to serve them. Or you can own your own business, and have many clients. For example, if I become a band director for a school I have one client: the school, and they can influence the amount of money a make through a single paycheck. But as a private teacher, I have many bosses. All the student's parents (or sometimes students themselves) are the ones collectively in charge of my paycheck, and if one decides to stop contributing to my salary, I can easily find another person to take their place without doing a lot of job interviews, and without having to uproot my family to move to a different town, and without worrying about how my bills are getting paid, because one client isn't going to make that much of an impact on how much I am earning.

I wish they taught us this stuff in school.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Major Psyches

This is my psyche week! I am getting psyched for the return to school, and hectic life. I am really glad I had a summer off, it's allowed me to regain control of my life. I have come to the realization this summer that what I put in my brain becomes what I think, and I've started to realize just how much brainwashing garbage gets pumped into my head when I'm in school. So I've started a new program.
The first thing I'm doing is reading for an hour every morning, first thing in the morning. Right away. I read the bible for 10 minutes which gives me just enough time to finish one chapter, then the remaining 50 are spent on some other book. Time management experts call this "the golden hour." The first waking hour of your day is when your mind is most awake, and most aware. Studies show that if you spend that first hour reading, it's like a mental warm up, and it will keep your mind running at maximum efficiency for the rest of the day. Then I eat breakfast.
The next thing I'm doing is budgeting 3% of my annual income to be spent on educational materials, mostly audio books and programs, so that I can attend my own university. I call my university "mobile U" and it comes out of my car stereo. If you spend and hour a day reading, and you listen to programs in your car, it will take 4 years to complete the amount of study equivalent to a doctoral dissertation, and I would argue degree, the only thing missing is hands-on experience. The good news however, is that everything you choose for yourself is totally relevant, and something your interested in. You'll probably enjoy studying it more, retain the information better, and you won't be forced to study a whole bunch of topics that are totally unapplicable to your life. If you really want an education, just read and hour or more everyday. It will most likely be way more relevant than what you get in school, depending on the field of study, and degree you are pursuing.
The next thing I'm doing is keeping a well-organized to-do list and planning out each day ahead of time. This helps me stay focused on my goals during the day, and it allows my subconcious mind to work out solutions to my problems and goals during the night.

I'm going to focus like I'm in the military, keep everything organized, and provide more information to myself than I get through school to counteract the brainwashing. Too many years, I have felt like a David facing the Goliath of school, with a rock and no sling. Now I feel like I built a working model of Optimus Prime, and Goliath (school) is going down! I am so psyched for the new school year!

Most of these ideas are based on information I got from Brian Tracy. He is a motivational speaker and expert on success. My management system is also based on Stephen Covey's "Seven Habits of Effective People." Although, I did think of the planning my day out ahead of time thing before I heard it from Brian Tracy. I highly recommend you look for youtube videos or look up these people's materials if you want to be successful.

Advice on becoming a great musician: See above. Also, practice.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Minute (Mine-Oot, My-Newt) Musings

Musing 1: I really can't stand ZZ Top. Just being honest.
Musing 2: It's funny how quickly you address important concepts with piano students who are going to stop taking lessons soon.

Musing 3: Living in the modern world (depending on grocery stores, cars/vehicles, computers, electricity, cell phones, municipal water) seems like one of the most potentially dangerous lifestyles one can live considering the dependency it creates. I think it would be a good idea for me to develop more skills than just piano playing.........

Advice on being a musician: It's ok to have a dream. If you have a dream, you have to protect it. Don't look for approval from everyone, even people close to you might not be able to understand your dream, and they don't have to. It's not their dream. People who tell you you can't do something often tell you that because they think they can't do it themselves, so they don't want you to do it. If you want something, go get it.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Christian Notes

Today's musing is about the Christian notes.
       I recently played piano during a church service at my home church. I was asked to play during the offering. My church often uses the time that the offering is being taken as a time to show off the talents of the younger generation in the church. Kids who can sing, play the piano, do a sketch, play the flute, etc. Will often get opportunities to perform in this slot. I am not a child, but it's not children-exclusive, it's just a time for those with musical talents to show them off and it keeps the congregation entertained while the offering plate is going around. I guess adults don't usually do anything because adults give up on their talents after they turn 18 or something, so all that's left is kids, and they're usually cute, so it doesn't matter how well they perform.
       I was asked to play (they approached me) and I asked what kind of piano solo they wanted. The lady who coordinates the music said just something interesting that showcases my talent was fine, and they wanted a piano solo. She said "just do what you do," which I would assume means, "I (or we) don't have that much of a preference, as long as it's something you enjoy and you think the congregation would enjoy."
       The piece I played is called "The Central Avenue Drag" by Pete Johnson. It's got a strong blues riff continuously moving in the left hand with right hand improvisations over it, and it's a really great piece. It's a piece I had worked on perfecting for the last 5 months or so, and I had performed it recently at the Steinway Piano Gallery in Milwaukee.
      The response of the congregation when I finished playing was wonderful, people were very impressed, and I got lots of positive feedback after the service was concluded.
       About 2 or 3 weeks later my pastor pulled me aside to talk to me after a church service, and in as gentle a way as he could, he told me that my choice of music wasn't appropriate. He said that jazz music isn't something that's "appreciated" at our church, and in the future I should pick something with more of a "churchy" feel.
       Up to this point, I think that he probably was just saying this because one uptight old person must have been superstitious about jazz music, and must have complained, so he was trying to keep everybody happy. And frankly, it's his church, if he doesn't want music that's not explicitly related to the church or to God, that's his preference. It would have been nice if someone had told me beforehand, but I would be happy to comply with his demands.
       Then he said something that really bugged me, he said: "Or, since the offering is a time when we can stray a little bit from the strict churchy vibe, even a classical piece from like Beethoven or Mozart or something like that would be great, it doesn't have to be a hymn."

.........That makes it personal, and I will tell you why.

       Now the problem is genre, and not content. Instrumental music is an oddity, because there is no explicit message that is plainly obvious to the listener in the music. There may be certain musical ideas and tidbits that can suggest certain themes, I will grant that. But, that piece I played did not portray any particularly explicit theme as far as I can tell. It's a fairly generic blues riff with the title (which no one ever knew until they asked me, by the way) of "Central Avenue Drag." It could be about anything. It could be about walking down an avenue looking for skanky whores a protagonist could hire for the purpose of prostitution, or it could be a song about strolling down the main road in a heavenly city, just feeling cool about basking in the glory of God. It depends completely on the imagination and interpretation of the listener.
       Because my pastor said that a secular piece by Beethoven or Mozart would be fine, says to me that he's not overly concerned with the content of the music or the message it might convey, he's concerned with the genre. Obviously it doesn't matter that Mozart's requiem before his death was about his great fear of the Almighty and what might await him in the afterlife because he wasn't a man of faith. It doesn't matter that Beethoven was very crude and risque, and was excommunicated from the Catholic church.
       All that matters is the centuries-old superstition of one of the members of the congragation that certain notes, intervals and chords are unholy.
       Honestly, when I use the skills of analysis I've gained through my knowledge of music theory to carefully inspect the differences between a Beethoven sonata and my Pete Johnson drag (something 99% of the congregation would have a very elementary understanding of at best), that's the difference. They use different notes, different rhythms, different intervals, and different chords and chords progressions.
       I am a person of faith, but I'm not superstitious. I don't believe that certain intervals or notes or chords are evil. One of my good friends has a saying he shared with me when he discusses this topic with people which I love: "If you can show me which notes on this guitar are the Christian ones, I'll be happy to oblige in playing only those notes."
       I believe that the Christian church today is plagued with overwhelming irrational superstition, in music and many other areas. I refuse to cater to or endorse that superstition, it's unhelpful, narrow-minded, and unbiblical.
       I'm not upset with my pastor, he has the right to run his church however he wants. But the next time they ask me to pick out a piece that reflects my tastes and abilities to play in church, I'm not going to play, because they clearly don't want me too. My love of music, and yes JAZZ music of all genres (does anyone still remember when that was a curse word?) is not unbiblical, and I refuse to compromise my integrity by performing music that supposedly reflects my musicianship but is essentially a lie, because I don't want to offend or upset anyone.
       There is a great superstition about musical genre, and MANY many other things in the church, and I think it's time we moved past superstition, and start living in the truth of God's word.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

More Magnificent Musings

Musing 1: I wouldn't think that piano players (of which I am one) and synthesizers would go together well. Generally when you learn how to play piano, it's very different than learning guitar, because there are no tone or volume controls (other than yourself) and no effects pedals or anything like that. All your options for timbre and intensity come from what you personally can do to the instrument to make it do what you want. There's not a lot of options.       When you learn guitar however, you're presented right from the start with tons of options. Effects pedals, distortion levels, volume knobs, different guitars with different pickups to choose from, different kinds of amplifiers, tone knobs etc.
       I would think that anyone who is trained to play the piano would quickly tire of all the options and opportunities to fidget as a general rule, because we would tend to be more preoccupied with actually playing the instrument, than fiddling with the settings. I would think that synthesizers just wouldn't seem that appealing to piano players in general. Organists on the other hand............

Musing 2: A church I'm playing at recently listed me in their bulletin as a "keyboard player." I was tickled by that. I started as a "church pianist," then became an "organist & pianist," and now I'm a "keyboardist."

Advice on becoming a musician: Increase your financial IQ.
       Own your own business(es). There's two things they don't teach you about in American socialist schools according to Gore Vidal. I don't like Gore Vidal, but I happen to agree with him on this point: they don't teach you about your body, and they don't teach you about finances. I would add to that: they don't teach you how to start your own business.
       If you want to be a successful performance artist and you attended public school in the last 50 years, you are going to be able to reject the model that's been pounded into your head for 12 years or more: go to school, get a degree, get a safe, secure job with good benefits and a good retirement plan.
       I'm not saying school is all bad, or degrees aren't valuable (but there's an argument for that), or't........
Ok, well, if you went to public school you're probably brainwashed, degrees are about as valuable as our currency and losing value faster, and in most career fields they don't matter that much to employers (especially music), and jobs are the most insecure place you can invest your time.
       The point is: it's probably a good idea to re-evaluate this advice no matter what career path you're on, but my advice is don't rely on it for a successful career in music.
       You want to be a musician who doesn't starve? Study. Increase your financial IQ. Learn how to make your money work for you, instead of you working for your money. Don't rely on the government to take care of you when you're old, rely on yourself.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

More Musings

Minor Musing:
       I really don't like Judas Priest very much. It isn't any one thing. I just listened to "Breaking the Law." It's so repetitive and bland. It sounds like something a good musician should be able to play in his sleep, it doesn't really have much meaning or emotional content, it's extremely repetitive........I just don't understand the artistic appeal. I don't like it.

Major Musing:
       I've never had a student in six years of teaching who I felt was disrespectful or exhibited poor behavior in my studio. I was pondering this the other day, and I was thinking about observations I made while growing up. I used to wonder at why kids in other homes behaved differently than I did. It wasn't that all my friends were brats (or had siblings who were), or that my peers seemed to get away with more mischief than I did, I just noticed while I was growing up that other kids my age seldom related to their parents the same way I would relate to mine. There was something different about it, and I think I've figured it out: respect.
       My parents always treated me like an adult no matter what age I was. I don't mean that I was expected to perform adult tasks, or given adult responsibilities, or that they didn't discipline me as parents when I misbehaved. I mean that they always talked to me with an attitude that I should be brought up to their level, an attitude that assumed I was capable of understanding everything they said even if I didn't, and attitude that I was an intelligent human being. They didn't assume that I was stupid just becaue I was young. I think that was the difference.
      When I looked at a lot of my friend's homes, and saw the way their parents talked to them or to their siblings, most of time the conversation had a different tone to it. One that implied that the children were like smart animals, whereas when my parents talked to me, it had more of a tone that they were talking to a dumb human. It's hard to really put into concrete terms what I'm talking about, but it has to do with respect.
       I'm not saying I never will have a student who gives me trouble or behaves poorly, I'm sure eventually it will happen. But while I haven't seen it yet, I have seen students who are well behaved in a lesson, and as they walk out the door with their parents, before the door is even shut, they turn into totally different people. And I have gotten comments from parents who say that I'm incredibly "patient" with students. My response to this is: "What am I supposed to do, yell at them? How is that going to help?" Then they'll just get more frustrated, and probably resent me for not trying harder to work with them. If anything it will hinder our progress.
     The point is: I think I've figured out why students behave the way they do around me, and why they sometimes turn into different people when they leave. They know I expect them to behave reasonably, and I don't even have to say it to them, because I treat them with respect.

Advice on becoming a musician:
      As long as we're talking about respect, today's advice is a continuation of the last post about getting along with your band mates with a word about respect.
       I recently saw an interview of the magic duo Penn&Teller (I'm secretly a big fan). They were asked what kind of personal relationship they have outside of their work together, and Penn explained something that I think is a very important concept to apply to many areas of life, including choosing your band members. Penn said that while they have been working together for several decades, and they have spent a lot of time together, living together, traveling together, rehearsing and performing together, they never really had a relationship outside of their business relationship, at least not until recently, and he thinks that's important.
       He used the example of John Lennon and Paul McCartney. They became friends, and had a lot of shared tastes and interests. Eventually they ended up starting a band together, and becoming one of the most well known songwriting teams in history. The problem with what they did is that after The Beatles "made it," the members all started to remember that they had their own ideas, tastes, and agendas. After their manager died and they started having differences, they took it personally, and they lost respect for each other. When things started to go wrong, they stopped feeling the love. The business crumbled because it was built on the emotional friendship between the members of the band.
       Penn and Teller used a different model.
       They started when Penn was 18 and Teller was 25 (or maybe he said 26, quite an age difference to people so young!) They didn't have any emotional relationship with each other, or any desire to be friends, but they shared common interests and ideas, so they decided to go into business together. After living together as room mates, traveling together, working and performing together for many years, they did develop a friendship, because it's hard not to become friends with someone you spend that much time with, but it was a friendship that was built on respect.
       The thing that made them different from The Beatles is that they don't care if they like each other or not. They understand that they have a working relationship that comes before their personal relationship, and that's what held them together. There were times when they may not have been getting along during their career as a magic duo, but it didn't matter, because they were accountable to each other to do their job before they were accountable to be each other's friend.
       Penn likened it to working at a convenience store, and disliking the guy who cleans the slurpee machine. You might not like the guy who cleans the slurpee machine, but so what? He does his job, and you do yours. You still treat him with respect because he does his job and that's all he needs to do.

What is my point?
       The point is, it's great if you can be in business with your friends (or be friends with the people you are in business with). But you need to understand (and they do too) that if you want to be successful in bussiness or in a band together, your relationship needs to be built on respect first and foremost, and not on some likeability possessed by the other party. Emotions change with the wind, it's foolish to build your business (band) on them.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Muddled Musings

Musing 1: The album "A Quick One" by The Who is amazing! Especially from a song writing standpoint. I'm not sure how many of those songs are covers, but I *wish* I could write songs that catchy. I love it.
Musing 2: The phrase "played the church organ like a boss" just tickles my phunny bone for some reason (misspelling intentional). I don't know why.
Musing 3: A friend of mine once said: "I don't care how I get along with someone on a personal level, if they're really talented, I'll work with them." I recently realized that my friend doesn't know what he's talking about. It's rare for musicians to dislike each other and still work well together. Sam and Dave are an incredibly rare exception to the rule. At the end of the day, I have to ask myself: "If I work with this person, will I look back on that time and be able to honestly say that I got some enjoyment out of it?" If the answer is no, I don't want to be in that group. That's not to say that you need to get along perfectly with everyone all the time, and you certainly should be flexible and willing to compromise. But in the situation described above, it doesn't matter if we're the biggest band in history, it's more important to me that I can have some fun with what I'm doing.
Advice on being a musician: "The music business is the worst business on the planet."-Kevin O'Leary, on ABC's "Shark Tank."
The fact of the matter is that yes, the music business is risky. Get over it. Everything is risky. Everything is hard. If you want to be the best at what you do, it will take effort. If you want to make a lot of money you have to take risks. Get smart, work hard, and don't be afraid of the risk. If you love what you do, you're in a good business.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Music as a career

So here's the deal:
        I've realized recently that I have a lot of thoughts about life, music, business, and the music business that flow through my head everyday, and I'm not recording them or sharing them with anyone. Recently I was asked to put several presentations together about writing and recording music, and making a career in the music business, that I will be giving over the next few days to a group of music students. In the process of putting these presentations together, I realized that I have outlined a lot of these thoughts that I never wrote down.

But here's a problem: I hate blogging.

        It's just so much work, so time consuming to write so much down, and I hardly ever remember everything I thought of during the day. So I'm hoping to start posting to this space more often, and hopefully I won't say very much in each post. I want to share just enough information that it's more useful than just a proverb or saying, but not so lengthy that we both lose interest by the end. Sound like fun?

I will start with pursuing music as a career.
First post:
        So you want to be a musician, huh? Play in a band and make it big? Maybe not, maybe you just want to be an accompanist, a songwriter, or a director for a large ensemble. Maybe you want to be a music teacher. Maybe you don't want to be in the music business at all. Whether you're in the music business or not, the following advice is for you: Figure out your priorities.
        One of my favorite lyrics that's ever made an impact on me is from the song "Freewill" by the band Rush. It says: "you can choose a ready guide in some celestial voice, if you choose not to decide you still have made a choice." I think that's brilliant! There's far too many people today who don't even know that they've made a choice.
        If you don't know already, you should figure out what you believe....about everything. Religion, politics, philosophy, values, everything. Even if you're not sure what to believe, you should be aware of that! A lot of people have made the choice of not knowing what to believe, and they don't even know it, because they've never questioned themselves. Even if you have no clue about anything, recognizing you have no clue is extremely valuable. It's like breaking an addiction, admitting you have a problem is the first step.
        I think a lot of people are addicted to just getting through one more day, and trying not to think about the big picture, because they're scared, or lazy, or because they never have before. Stop it! Take the first step.
        Even if you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.

Friday, February 10, 2012

How did I bounce my car you ask?

How can I explain in as much excrutiatingly boring detail as possible?.......hmmmm........
Well, it all started this day in history, February 10th, 2012. I was driving from Lakeland back home, as I do frequently as a commuter. There is a big hill on one of the frequently traveled highways between my house and lakeland. Well.....technically speaking it is a highway on a hill, not a hill on a highway. If the hill were on the highway, how would you drive on it? But I digress.......
It's more like a hill with a highway slightly cut into it. Whoever built the highway decided they would make the hill level in one spot and cut straight through the edge of a forest I guess. To make a long explanation shorter for your simple-minded impatient convenience, this is the worst part of my commute to and from Lakeland everyday. I always thought if I was ever going to have a car accident on that hill, it would be because I hit a deer or a turkey, because I have seen them cross the road there on multiple occassions. It seems the wildlife has still eluded me to this day.
On one side of the road, the north side, the side on the left going to school and on the right coming from school, there is the rest of the hill side slanting upward, and there's a private driveway to a fancy house in the woods you can't see from the road, and there a driveway to a less fancy house that you can see from the road that is situated on the edge of the woods.
On the other side of the road, there are small wooden posts sticking out of the ground that seem perfectly useless. I gues they could be useful if you were drifting off the road and you needed to suddenly completely lose control by crashing into something small and sturdy.....but they are spaced far enough apart that they would only be useful if you are traveling at least like 30mph while driving parallel to the road. There's also a mailbox for the fancy house (I think there might be one for the less fancy house), and most importantly, the rest of the woods, which is absolutely most importantly suddenly falling when you look at it. On this side, the south side, the side that is on the right going to school, and the left coming from school, there is a very narrow ditch (I found out today, thank God), and there is also a sharp drop into a small valley, which at the point where I had my accident is about....I would say......maybe 50 feet from the road to the bottom of the valley.
That's the setting. Oh, and it's the first time in a month that it's been Wisconsin.....and it's been a real blizzard all day, and it's only starting to get sunny and clear (and really freaking cold) now at about 3:30 in the afternoon.

So I'm driving from school to home as I said before (I did say excrutiating, didn't I?), and I am approach the hill, driving West. The side of the hill the slopes up is on my right, the side the becomes a valley of horrible instant car wreckage and death is on my left. The driver behind me is tailgating me. (this detail doesn't exactly contribute to my car accident, but it didn't help either, and I can't stand tailgaters). The roads are a mess, and very slippery. I'm not driving very fast, but I know that especially in slippery weather, you need momentum not to stall when driving up the death hill. In trips past, this had occured. I had tried to go up the hill so slowly (about 30mph or less) that the tires stopped gripping the road, my momentum failed, and the car started moving backward while I was driving forwards. I didn't want this to happen today, so I was trying to go as fast and slow as possible at the same time. Fast enough I didn't lose momentum on the slippery road, yet slow enough that I could stop if I got into real trouble.
Suddenly as I was driving up the death hill, the nice hill on my right, the death canyon on my left, the tires lost their grip.

I have to stop for a moment to explain that I started driving when I had just turned 17, and I have recently turned 20, so I have a cumulative driving career of three years. Not that impressive you might say, but my earliest driving experiences were in bad weather (my mom did that on purpose), and I pretty much learned how to drive on wintery wisconsin roads. Also, I have looked at the miles accumulated on my parent's cars, and used my planners from high school and college to calculate that in those three years, I have driven somewhere between 30,000-40,000 miles or so. And so far, no accidents, no tickets (except one parking ticket I got in front of my house, and one parking ticket that doesn't count that I can blame on a good friend), and experience driving multiple times on many-laned roads and highways, in downtown Milwaukee, on highways through Milwaukee, and in downtown Madison, sometimes unaccompanied. I also drive less on average every day as a commuter student in college holding down multiple jobs than I did in high school. So for someone my age, I think I can claim a fair amount of experience thank you very much. :P

Continuing with the story, this was not the first time today this happened, nor was it like, the 12th or 15th time this winter that this had happened. Tires slipping and vehicles sliding are just a fact of life in Wisconsin. If you live here, you better learn how to turn into a skid. As the tires lose their grip, my natural winter driving instincts took over, and I turned into the skid. The back end of the car was sliding to the left into the oncoming lane of traffic while I turned the wheels slightly to the right. To correct this, I turned the wheels left into the oncoming lane of traffic and gave it a little gas so that the tires can once again grip the road. The tires then momentarily gripped the road after one second or so of sliding, and the back end of the car started sliding out of my control to the right, this is called fishtailing, and it is bad, because it means you are not in control of the skid you thought you just corrected. The car started drifting towards the right hand side of the road, and I turned the wheels quickly the opposite direction and hesitantly gave it a little gas to help the tires grip the road. It works! Unfortunately the back end of the car at this point in the story then fishtails the other way, and we are drifting left towards the oncoming lane of traffic again. I was very fortunate that no oncoming traffic decided to exist at this time, because my car was hogging all of the road.
So I turn into the skid once again, I had been traveling about 40 mph or so when I got to the hill, so my speed is considerable, and I have almost made it up to that point where if I go off the road to the left and fall into the ravine, my car will tumble about 50 feet or so (it's about the height of three two story houses stacked on top of each other from the edge of the cliff into the ravine to the corner at the bottom of the cliff), and I am gaining altitude as I move up the hill. Unfortunately my attempts to give it more gas are met only with tires failing to grip the road, and about the time I am totally in the oncoming lane of traffic proabably traveling about 30 mph, I decide it is time to apply brakes and hope for the best because I have lost all control, and the car is not moving in a straight line.

We are now about 5 seconds or so into my skidding adventure.

The car I am driving has anti lock brakes and power steering, so I slam on the brakes as hard as I can, and not surprisingly, this does very little, but it does slow me down a little. The tailgaters behind me are lucky they slowed down. Then the car slid completely across the oncoming lane of traffic, and it was at this moment that I noticed profanities almost started to issue themselves from my mouth. I am vehemently exclaiming a word in innumerable repetitions (although I think it was like five times if I counted right) that is both a noun and a verb, and a verb that describes an action that, despite its likelihood given my situation, I am very glad to say I did not engage in.
My car then of course continued to move off the road toward the chasm of certain death. I have found that it is precisely for the eventuality of situations like this that I am glad I drive around in an ex-state patrol car. I am told that there is a thin roll cage built in underneath the plastic and upholstery and such inside the car.
There was a moment where the car "got air." A first in my driving career, I'll admit. There was a moment when the car found the ground again, but it was the ground beyond the side of the road, and it slope downward, and the front end of the car went down. Then an amazing thing happened, the car kind of bounced, and suddenly it caught a split second more air, and then I was in the ditch. You may think to yourself, well that's that, but I left the road traveling at what was probably a good 10-20 mph, and the space between the edge of the road and the edge of the cliff in which this thing called "ditch" exists, is about just wide enough for the car to fit in the long way. My car hit the ditch, and was moving nearly in perpendicular motion to the road by this time. Elapsed time in skidding adventure: about 6 or 7 seconds.
Then there was the most dramatic moment, when the car was sliding in the ditch, and it only slid until my bumper was about to hit the trees growing out of the cliff side. I had a split second moment of clarity that felt more like 3 seconds where I wondered whether I would prefer that the trees be thick enough that they stop me from falling over the cliff, or thin enough they don't really damage the front end of the vehicle.

So the car stopped. There I am. In the ditch. "This is just great," I think to myself, "I am probably going to miss my piano students." I look around, and the objects that had been sitting next to me in the passenger seat had become airborne, and were now on the floor of the vehicle. I look out the window and notice that the people behind me who watched the whole thing, have pulled over to the side of the road, and a slowing down as if they're getting ready to help me like heros or good samaritans.
I notice the car is still running, so in a stroke of genius, I think, "why not try to get out of the ditch?" I put the car in reverse, check for traffic, and attempt to back up on to the road. The car budges an encouraging few inches back towards the road, but it is not enough. But before I lose my progress back towards normalacy, I step on the brake and reckon if I can't just back up on to the road, maybe I can turn around and drive forwards. I turn the wheels hard left, put it in drive, and the car turns, but only far enough to be parallel with what used to be the oncoming lane of traffic. I am scared half to death at the moment, because the car is situated almost next to the highway, and it is on a slope that is so steep it feels like the car could just roll over. My attempts to turn up the embankment aren't working.
I look back quickly at the good samaritans who stopped to see if I was alright, sort of. They are driving away.
So, in my last manuvering effort, I threw it in reverse, turned the wheels sharp to the right, and prayed I didn't drive straight backwards of the cliff when I gun the engine. The car slips, the grips, and I move backwards, turn, and drive once again right up to the edge of the cliff before stopping quickly. Now I am facing the road. "Alright!" I think, "this seems workable." I attempt to drive up the good. It's to slippery, and the car is only slowly sliding sideways down the hill. I figure that sliding sideways is better than not moving at all, and keep going until I get stuck. Eventually a very helpful young man showed up with a large pickup truck and a tow cable (Actually it was only about 4 minutes before that happened), and he offers to tow me out of the ditch. After nearly freezing to death, and after he slips and nearly falls down a couple times, we get the cable attached.
I have never moved a car that is being towed by a cable before. We wait until the coast is clear, and attempt to pull my car out of the ditch. I hear engines, his and mine, and I see the exhaust pouring out of his tail pipes. Nothing happens. I am unhappy. Many things are running through my mind. How I have very little money. How cold I am. How I really don't want to call a tow truck. How upset I am that I lost control of the car. How he said "I'm only gonna try this once." That was once.
Then I see him back up, and then I see him suddenly lurch forward! I cautiously floor it, and with a great crunching noise, the car is pulled out of the ditch! And sliding across the road! And it's really just as much of an adrenaline rush as it was the first time, because now I'm attached to another car.
But he got out to unattach the cable and recommend I "stay between the ditches this time." I gave him my business card and told him I was at his service if he ever needed a musician.
After I got home, I discovered that there is virtually no apparent damage to the car after I bounced it, other than the fact that I have managed to ram about at least 2 inches of frozen ground (dirt and grass) up one of the tailpipes. Go figure.
I realize I am lucky that there seems to be no damage. I also realize how lucky I am just to be alive. Praise God!
You know what the best part of the story is?
It was my mom's car.
She's happy I'm alive too.
I'm think that's also very lucky.