Over the next few days or weeks, or as long as it seems necessary or relevant I will use the above headline in regards to what we are witnessing transpire in Iran at the moment, hopefully in order to simply and concisely help elucidate a better understanding of the who what when where why and how that’s led our brothers and sisters of the great ancient nation of Persia, now Iran, to this current state of affairs, and where it might be headed.
For it very difficult for anyone in the so called “West” to gain even a modicum of any real knowledge about the true facts, figures, statistics, history and context related to Iran, for the simple reason that over the last few hundred years Western Powers such as the United States, Great Britain, Israel and to a lesser degree France have done nothing but dispel dis and misinformation about the country and it’s history — in order to cover up their heinous mistreatment and opportunistic bullying of the Iranian state and it’s people.
Talk about fake news. American media coverage of Iran is, as it always has been, almost entirely false and deliberately misleading propaganda or just innocently and ignorantly wrong. I was just as shocked to learn that 15 years ago as anyone else would be.
Eventually that shock turned to shame as I learned of the details of the American government’s dealings with Iran, and then to awe as I continued to go deeper into the study of the great country’s 6,000 year old history.
This fascination eventually led me to participate in a fast paced, hair raising, jaw dropping, eye popping two week diplomatic mission trip to all four corners of Iran at a time when Americans were only being allowed in the country for these kinds of events, and only once in a blue moon. As it is today still, it has been nearly impossible for Americans to get into Iran legally for decades. The reasons are obvious. Pre-approved cultural exchange trips, media tours or diplomatic missions are the only possible means of entry. And they are few and far between, depending on who the president is of both Iran and the United States.
At this time Iran refuses to have any official diplomatic relations with the United States, the American Embassy there is a beat up old empty shell of a building, graffiti’d with random anti-American imperialism slogans. So any diplomatic communications between the two countries either go through mutual allies in Switzerland or Pakistan, or through civilian diplomatic efforts such as the one I participated in in 2009.
For today, or at least in this moment — and indeed what compelled me to take the time to write this post this while nursing one hell of a 2×4 whack to the back of the head champagne hangover from last night’s festivities, the most important points to get across are the following:
– Iran spent many millennia controlled by one monarchy or another going all the way back to 4,000 BCE. Some people supported this. Some endured it. Some hated it. Like many other countries all over planet earth in the 20th century the citizens of Iran became a democracy in the early 1950s.
– This Democratic Iran only lasted for 3 years, as Great Britain and the United States were not happpy with the idea of the Iranian people being responsible for the price of their own oil, so they orchestrated a coup of Iran, ousted its democratically elected president, and reinstated another king (or Shah as the word is translated into Farsi) so they could go back to controlling Iran as they always had.
– Together with France they formed a new Western controlled oil company to handle the drilling, refining and embezzling of Iran’s oil. That company was to eventually be shortened to being called British Petroleum, or BP.
– There is more to the story. Much more. And it’s a fascinating story. But this is enough context to understand the causes of Iranian Revolution of the late 70s. Or what the United States calls “the Iranian hostage crisis”. That is cultural relativism at its finest. Bear in mind that historically in the late 70s the Iranian people had a full on people’s revolution, ousted the Americans from their country, demanded autonomy of self determinism and self governance and also demanded that the Shah be returned to Iran to stand trial for treasonous acts against the Constitution and the people.
– Unfortunately what ended up transpiring from this powerful revolutionary moment is that the Ayatollah Khomenei returned from exile as a hero, promising democracy but instead declared himself “supreme leader” and turned the country into a Theocracy, a semi-democratic nation state controlled by the laws and dictates of the religion of Islam. Not exactly what the people were expecting.
– In the 1980s the United States and Great Britain decided to once again attempt to take over Iran, this time by installing a CIA trained dictator by the name of Saddam Hussein, in the neighboring country of Iraq, armed him with billions of dollars and weapons of mass destruction and ordered him to invade Iran and promised him that if he were victorious they would all split the booty later.
– Alas Iraq was not victorious. Like the American colonialists before them against the imperialist powers of Great Britain, the Iranian people fought hard to defend their country and heritage. So the Ronald Reagan administration decided that the best strategy would be to start secretly backing both sides of the so called Iran Iraq War so they could control both countries regardless of who won after all the bloodshed and lost lives. Reagan got caught. This is what is known as The Iran Contra Affair. Eventually both countries called a truce, realizing that the real enemy was the United States.
– For the last 37 years the people of Iran have lived as comfortably as they can under Theocratic rule. They are a remarkably resilient and optimistic people. Extremely intelligent. And more educated than almost any country I‘ve ever visited.
– There are MANY competing factions in the country of Iran. Some like the idea of being aligned with and governed by the tenets of Islam, similar to how many in the United States believe that “America is and Always should be a christian nation”.
– Others would like to see a return of the Shah’s son to power, remembering the good old days when Iran was a freer, more Western styled country.
– Still Others would like to see a full on Green Revolution, as witnessed in other middle eastern countries circa 2011 to 2012 and see Iran once again become a true democracy.
– Now add a few dozen other variants of the above and more, and like Syria, one begins to understand why it is literally impossible for anyone other than the Iranian people themselves to steer their country in the direction it will eventually go.
– This is why it is an extremely misguided strategic action to publicly or privately pledge support or allegiance to any of the many battling factions currently warring in the streets and boardrooms of the country at this time. It may seem like a good idea to go all ra ra sis boom ba for “the people”… and indeed any intelligent compassionate person certainly would love to see Iran finally become a democracy once again (especially if Great Britain and The United States stay the hell out of their business this time), until one realizes that no one as of yet has any idea WHO the people may choose as their elected leader or what kind of government they may choose to be governed by.
– THIS is by far the most important point that needs to be understood at this time. For now we trust that eventually the people will come around to the discovery that though not perfect democracy isn’t such a bad place to end up. But this is their revelation to have. Just as this is their revolution.
[Yes, there is much more to the story. Israel-Palestine, long standing alliances with Russia and China, the bitter fued between Iran and Saudi controlled Arabia, the Sunni-Shiite battle for control over Islam, et al. But we’ll get to all of that and more at a later date.
Right now let us hope that all sides in this historic real time drama err on the side of caution and compassion and non-violence as much as is humanly possible so that something akin to a truly peaceful progress is made for the sake of us all.]
– Posted by The Ambassador using BlogPress on an iPhone
I recently watched a brief speech given by Elon Musk on a social media platform where he was speaking about climate change in regards to carbon emissions and our need for sustained energy. But healthy sustained energy. Everyone knows by now that big oil and coal are the enemies of a healthy planetary environment. At least that’s the meme subscribed to by the majority of the human population. Solar power, hydro, nuclear and wind are the most popular solutions being offered. Musk has the most to profit if solar becomes the energy provider du jour. But I personally wouldn’t permit my mind to believe that this plays too much of a role in his business ventures nor in the ideals he proposes. He’s made his money.
In his speech he speaks of all the doom and gloom we can look forward to if we stay on our present course of burning fossil fuels and producing such high levels of carbon emissions. How at least 5% of the world’s coastal cities will soon be swallowed up and wiped away by the oceans.
There’s a moment where it becomes quite moving…. As moving as a speech by Musk can be at least. What will we say when our children and grandchildren ask us “if we knew what we were doing? We will have to tell them that yes we knew what we were doing…”
I’ll share something here that I’ve hinted at before, touched on… It’s taken a while to really get it under my skin in a way where I could speak cogently about it.
As most people know, I spent the better part of the first 40 years of my life on the outer OUTER fringes of society… Never watched TV or played sports or went camping or any of the other things that most Americans spend their time doing. All my free time was spent deeply immersed in a world of music, art, learning and spirituality. Consciousness exploration. Searching for God and truth. Learning studying praying meditating traveling marching protesting & activisting mainly. I was hopeful. Idealistic. Rise and shine.
A few years ago when I hit this age and income bracket that compels some of us to become active investors it was a real wake up call to me. Still is almost on a daily basis… Many of these men and women are my friends now. Powerhouse names in the investing community, but names that most everyday people have never heard of.
And the truth of it is that you just wouldn’t believe how utterly entirely uninterested and uncaring the majority of the people in this particular world are in these matters that people like me spent their entire lives battling. The causes and issues we march and fight and petition and protest for. Big oil is to be prized. We’re talking 7% dividends on some of these bad boys! Drill baby drill! They think the whole global warming issue is a foolish hoax.
Big Pharma may be the people’s enemy. But it’s the investor’s best friend. We need to get government out of our way and raise those drug prices even higher to get that share price moving. Monsanto may be public enemy #1… But forget all that silly talk about them being “bad or evil”; they’re just ONE of the many in that sector and frankly they’re a damn good profit making machine who also pay a great dividend. They’re not going anywhere.
See… “progress” is a relative term. What one group sees as progress, i.e. generating bigger profits and creating more wealth, another group may see as absolutely devastating. To the public good or to the environment for example. And in turn, what this group may consider “progress”, i.e. more regulations, labor laws, higher wage obligations, another group may see as absolutely devastating. To the financial bottom line in this case.
Of course I’m used to this now. This strange dichotomy between these different groups of people…. both of whom I sincerely like and respect. But the much larger group in influence — in terms of access control resources friends in the mainstream political and media influence — is this investor class; and they literally have absolutely no clue about any of the things that this other activist group fight for on a daily basis. It’s mind boggling how clueless they are about the harm or dangers inflicted on the earth or its people by major industries.
In order to save you a lot of time and energy of your own, I will reveal some of the revelations I had while exploring this world and explain the reason why we haven’t and won’t make any progress in these “big arenas” of our lives until it’s way too late –something I myself wondered for years as an idealistic activist.
It is actually very simple to understand if you do what I did and jump full bodied into the business/trading/investing world to soak it all in and learn. THAT little world, though small, literally controls the entire world. It’s the “great wheel” that moves every other little wheel of every industry and aspect of human life on earth. (And in space).
From currencies to commodities (stop now and look up wherever you are…everything you are seeing is a commodity), from every business and industry to every government and political leader or civil servant…they are all controlled and governed by, hell it would be better put to say they are all literally created and put in place BY, this small group — the investor/business class….
People still think that “they’re in the way of our progress as enlightened citizens and activists…..” What they don’t realize is that THEY are literally the car we’re all driving in. They’re not just driving the car. As some might interject. They create the car, decide on whether the car should continue to exist or not, decide on what color it should be –capitalist or communist…the entire system we live and breathe in is created and sustained by this small group.
Headed up and controlled from the top down by Central Banks at the very top, investment banks and the wealthiest individuals who own and control them just below that, and on down….the “people” are way way way down at the bottom of this pyramidic structure. I’m sure you’ve seen this pictorial before.
Money….because of the (perhaps sad and) simple fact that we human beings have created it as THE MOST ESSENTIAL IMPORTANT & NECESSARY OBJECT TO HUMAN SURVIVAL… is the prime mechanism that drives this industry, and this industry in turn controls all that money, which translates to them literally controlling every action and reaction we’ve ever heard of or read about, every invention or intervention, every government and politician, every monarch product service law rule political party idea you name it…the gate of whether “it” is allowed to exist or not AND how “it” is perceived lies squarely in the center of this tiny little world. Controlled by such a small percentage of the human population.
It’s actually quite fascinating. Objectively. If you can find a way to leave your emotions at the door for a while. Really gets the cerebral blood flowing and the heart pounding. Because we are speaking about nothing less than how an entire race of people, an entire species of beings, is governed. What they think, how they think, what they do and how they do it. All of it.
Because “long term survival of others” is not an idea that pops up on anybody’s radar in this group, the ideas and actions that are motivated by that idea are completely ignored. Ignored is the wrong word. They’d have to be thought of or heard to be ignored. And they’re not even thought of, so they’re not even considered. Because it’s simply not a motivating idea in that world.
Short term and even long term profit IS. But survival of “all of us as a group” is not. In case you reach that point in your contemplation of “well what do they plan on doing once 5% of the earth is swallowed up by the ocean?” The answer is they know THEY won’t be THERE being swallowed up by the ocean is what they’re planning. It’s really that simple.
“But what about their children and grandchildren?” you ask… “Don’t they care about them?” Yes, of course they do. But they will be completely shielded and protected from any of the tragic fallout from present day actions just as these people are today. Because they too will have the same money and hence access resources power control and connections that their parents and grandparents have today.
I too am bothered by leaving you here…in such a sullen place… surely there’s more to it, more that can be done… Yes I believe that too. In fact I believe that the more of us from this “other group” who deliberately jump into the world of investing and business the better. Our “strange ideas” of health wealth liberty happiness and prosperity for all will slowly rub off and catch on. For there is great joy–and benefit– in groups. In being part of a group. And in helping others. We just need to keep sharing and vibrating that.
As always, more later.
– Posted by The Ambassador using BlogPress on an iPhone
Over the last thirty odd years, since as early as I can remember even in childhood, I have noticed that a peculiar phenomenon exists within the consciousness of most people we share the world with, no matter their age, nationality, religion, class or financial situation. Even those considered “intelligent” doesn’t seem to prevent them from operating from this perspective most of the time, despite how limiting and potentially impeding it can be.
Simply put, what we find is that most people are either natural born skeptics regarding anything they believe “does not exist” or “isn’t real”, OR through the years they begin to develop this viewpoint… that one shouldn’t believe in ANYtning, no matter how plausible or enticing, that doesn’t already exist and have the recognition and agreement of “most people”. And when hey refer to “most people”, they’re referring to people like them, in their neck of the woods, in their country, who speak their language. (How many times have we traveled half way around the world to a “foreign” country and discovered something — be it an idea or a philosophy or a physical thing like a new food or a new style of music) — that we had absolutely no idea even existed? It happens, right? But we do find many people who simply don’t believe in things unless it’s what they consider “common knowledge”. Personally I’ve always found it strange. Even as a boy.
For the millions of people who have lived and died since the dawn of man all the way up until the 1500s it was common knowledge and accepted fact that the earth we lived on was flat; AND that the giant fiery sun in our solar system revolved around this flat earth. … That’s what made a year obviously and everyone knew it. No one even questioned it. But a few… And they weren’t treated too well for their questioning. So it’s no wonder that most people tend to stick with knowledge that’s been “approved” by the powers that be and society in general.
The only problem with the flat earth at the center of the universe ideas was that these heavily studied, long established facts simply weren’t true. It took thousands of years for the powers that be to acknowledge this. A knowledge of history reminds us that even after the controlling powers at the time began realizing that these ideas were utterly and completely wrong, they continued to proclaim that they were scientific fact and imprisoned anyone who dared to challenge them.
Humans are funny creatures. As mean, dimwitted and stubborn as they are fascinating and innovative. Of course “power” — maintaining it in the name of a giant all-seeing deity in the sky — was the primary motivating factor behind the above example. Though the world’s major religions will claim today that maintaining power had nothing to do with it and instead they were just trying to defend “the holy word of God” and his “Church”. Underneath it all was a major problem though. The so-called “Church” claimed that it got it’s information from the Big Man upstairs, that the so-called Pope had a direct connection with God Himself. And they’d been promoting these ideas for over a thousand years already. To admit that a mere human being could discover the true mechanisms of the solar system AND that it completely contradicted what the Church and God had been promoting had profound implications. It was no easy pill to swallow I’m sure.
That covers why the major powers of the world refused to accept reality; but what about the common everyday person on the street? What prevents them from dismissing potential realities that seem obvious but have just not been fully proven yet? It’s an interesting thing to ponder. Fear perhaps…
But let’s move on and let those sleeping dogs continue their slumber. For our point is not so much about the large institutions and controlling elite, but rather it’s more to do with everyday people and their unwillingness to believe in anything outside the ordinary unless its existence is formally announced to them as “official doctrine” by some alleged self professed authority, AND they feel a relative confidence that “everyone believes it now,” that they’re “not the only one”.
Therein may lie the root of the limitation: the need to fit in, to feel a part of something larger than oneself, to not feel different or, God forbid, “abnormal”. Which is too bad, because we can only imagine how much faster our evolution would move if as a whole we weren’t always being held back by this group of individuals who refuse to accept the reality of anything that hasn’t already collected dust in an old textbook or two for a few decades. It could also be fear of the unknown. Fear of the potential implications of one new reality or another not being as good for us as things are now. We can all relate to that feeling.. But do we let it cut us off from exploring or entertaining the possibility of new cutting edge ideas that at first glance seem radical if not crazy…?
Don’t get me wrong. I understand the temptation to be skeptical of claims that sound outlandish. Healthy skepticism is a powerful tool for self survival. But we aren’t speaking of healthy skepticism here. We’re speaking of those guilty of gross negligence in regards to branching out beyond their own indoctrination to study research explore and educate themselves on subjects that have popped up on their radar multiple times yet they still refuse to look into it, let alone consider the possibility of it being true.
Consider ideas such as dark matter. THIS is actually what led to this Diaries post. Dark Matter holds much more for some future potential major paradigm shifts in how we view and operate in the world than we are now giving it credit for. (Which if we have time, we can dig into a little deeper down below.) But when Vera Rubin first proposed the idea that empty space was NOT in fact empty at all, but rather could actually be filled with particles (matter) that we simply didn’t have the ability to see, it was almost immediately dismissed, scoffed at and poo-poo’d for decades by the world’s leading scientists as nothing more than science fiction. Until we discovered it that is.
Or consider the idea of multiple parallel (or not parallel perhaps…) universes, what some are now calling “the multi-verse”. It’s not easy to guess that most people when asked about the possibility of such a thing would laugh at first and then claim that they find it hard to believe. There is also the idea, first proposed as a viable possibility by Super String theorists, that there may be many more dimensions in the known universe (at least 10 to 12 according to Super String Theory) besides the three that we all so casually accept as truth without a second thought because it’s what they teach us in school from the moment we sit down at those desks. Hell, even string theory — the idea that at the very core of all matter is actually vibrating energy — (for me personally a much more realistic possibility than what is currently believed) is having a tough time being accepted by the majority of the scientific community; and regular everyday non-scientists, most of them anyway, seem oblivious that the idea even exists.
Further out, there are phenomenon like ESP, the ability to feel or read the thoughts and feelings of others, telekinesis, being able to see into the future or past — what some of us call “finely honed intuition”, astral travel, time travel with consciousness in order to overcome the limitations presently being created by our having physical bodies that could never withstand actual physical time travel…the list goes on and on. How often in our day to day life have we encountered someone or a group of someones who when bringing up any of these ideas immediately turn to sarcasm or making jokes or poking fun without even for a moment contemplating the ideas or studying themselves? It’s as if they’re waiting for it to be broadcast on the nightly news or CNN in order to even ponder the possibilities.
Just Because We Don’t Know it Exists Does Not Mean It Doesn’t Exist
This is what I found myself thinking about while studying some of the latest science on dark matter last night. I still remember learning about it decades ago, and frankly to me, based on the reasons for it being hypothesized, the problems it was meant to solve, and some of the readings future scientists were getting while studying the theory themselves, it seemed a rather sane logical elegant and brilliant solution. But as many know, we were in the minority if we felt this way. Now of course it’s quickly becoming a “thing”. Accepted.
Last night I asked myself, “Why is it that I am so naturally inclined to step out, explore and even entertain the possibility of these more esoteric, unproven ideas? Compared to others who lean more logical, science-based and pragmatic. Then it hit me. I’d been doing it all my life.
The method is simple. In order to break free from this commonly held limiting belief that “it doesn’t exist unless I can see it” is to simply spend a few minutes reflecting on history, either the BIG history of the universe, or even just the shorter history of humankind, focusing your attention especially on major transformative events (the advent of the first wheel as a tool, or the mastering of creating controlled fires rather than just always being victims of them). Then spend some time reflecting on the myriad profound moments of discovery and innovation — such as the invention of flying machines, or the immensely powerful energy of fossil fuels such oil, or the discovery of how to harness and use electricity…). All things that until their discovery or invention had always been dismissed as fantasy, pipe dreams or the ramblings of mad men. These past events offer proof that just about anything is possible if we set our hearts and minds to it, no matter how outlandish it may seem in “the present”, for there’s one thing we know for sure, we aren’t going to stay in the present for very long. The implications created by contemplating things from this angle can be quite profound if one allows their imagination to run free. Given enough time, theoretically speaking, one could posit that nothing in the world is “impossible”.
Now take a moment and consider the world of today and all the many things that we in the modern world accept as realities to the point of taking them for granted. Consider jumbo jets in the thousands flying above our heads no strings attached transporting tens of thousands of people from one point on the map to another. You can guarantee that if you showed this reality to someone, anyone, living 200 years ago they would surely think that either you or they were insane and you’d be lucky if they didn’t immediately think you were “practicing witchcraft or the work of the devil”.
And let’s face it, jumbo jets and being able to fly is just one of countless examples of the new realities we’ve created or discovered throughout our evolution. The point — and the real power — is that even a few minutes of contemplation on where we’ve been and where we are now reveals thousands of “things” that were once considered not to exist or impossible, and yet now are as common as a box of tissue. So to me it’s always seemed quite odd when I encounter someone who just flat out refuses to even accept the possibility of something that is not as yet considered thoroughly proven to be true.
A question arises… So just when DO most people start believing things exist that they once thought impossible? Is it when they see it with their own eyes? Or when they hear other people casually talking about it or announcing it on the nightly news? Most of the time, by the stage that a new reality reaches this point of broad impact and acceptance in the mainstream it has already been in existence or been known for a few years. At least. One would think this is an experience most people would want to avoid, always being the last to know about the latest and greatest; operating from archaic knowledge and thus making important life decisions from there, or even worse, always being that person who insists on arguing that something is not real true or possible when others already have experienced it and know it to be true. These are those “I’m not saying I don’t believe that YOU BELIEVE you had that experience….” You’ve heard the rest of that sentence before I’m sure. No need to repeat it.
Besides the awkward social ramifications of walking around with that kind of “I’ll believe it when I see it” mindset, there’re even more important considerations. Specifically in regards to service to our fellow man. I’ve always referred to it through this quote, “If you’re not on the way, then you’re in the way.” Simply put, for every person who is unable or unwilling to believe in things as of yet considered unproven impossible supernatural paranormal or pure fantasy, that’s one less person helping others on our journey to make “that” (whatever that happens to be) a reality. And all that does is limit manpower, potential resources and perhaps most importantly the creative force of mass consciousness when united behind one goal or mission. For every person who remains stubbornly persistent that some incredible sounding potential reality doesn’t exist or will never exist, general progress slows down and is limited. And that affects everyone.
One Final Note
For other purposes I often practice a similar exercise as the one above, but it’s inverse. Put as simply as possible, I take a specific moment in time when I know I have free time avail and for anywhere from ten minutes to a few days, I attempt to envision and ponder the discoveries, innovations and inventions of the future. Going out at least twenty-five to fifty years I believe is the minimum needed. Going out further just requires more imagination and vision. Of course this requires more imagination than memory or thought, (though remembering and thinking both help the eneavor as conscoiusness weaves in and out of all three spontaneously depending on what it’s going after in each moment). One cool thing you may notice once in a while is that you will jump from imagination right up into intuition. It’s subtle at first. But you’ll get this visceral feeling of excitement and/or perhaps a mental “ah hah!” as you recognize that you are no longer imagining something from the future, but you’re most likely either seeing it (intuition) OR perhaps even inventing it (but in that future time period). I take notes whenever I chance upon something we could use here-now. But in general It’s a beneficial and fascinating way to stay connected with a much larger section of the timeline itself AND has the potential to yield some brilliant discoveries.
– Posted by The Ambassador using BlogPress on an iPhone
It’s interesting to me that both of these — being gay AND being Christian — are identities. And then I wonder – What is the value (or the agenda, perhaps?) in a public *display* of an identity? I’m thinking of the Avatar Masters’ Integrity Course materials….
Yeas, totally. Why bother spreading identities all over the place when it would be better for the enlightenment of the world to let loose with a whole lot of them so we can all become more idendentityless pure awareness so as to achieve less strife, drama and pain and instead increase peace and civility in the world… I’m with you. I get what you’re saying. Other than one being pure Source or staying in “Observe Mode”, it’s ALL identities.
For me, well thought-out (and/or FELT-out…), deliberate identities are how we navigate the day to day world as creative beings. (I’d personally LOVE to just float around in Observe all the time. Probably wouldn’t get much done (see LD book). But it would be fun. So we strap some on that we believe might help us shift the world in an aligned helpful direction… there… that feels good. And off we go to do our best to make the world, and ourselves and our friends and families lives better…The best that we can do.
Specifically about a few identities, I don’t believe that being gay (or most likely a few or all of the LGBTQ labels) is an identity as much as a genetic thing. In a broad sense, sure. I was born “male” and have exhibited a lot of male identity traits through the years (as well as a ton of female identity traits, much to the confusion of my family and friends through the years). And yes, when they’re not deliberate they can be impeding. But overall, I’ve got “maleness” down. And I’m comfortable with how I express that identity. I am after all “male”. So presenting various different aspects of “maleness” (identities) is pretty natural. (Again, especially when examined lovingly and objectively and worn deliberately.).
I feel the same way about people who are born “gay or straight”. If we look at being born “straight” for a second, PLENTY of people are born that way but have a TOUGH time dealing with all the identities that come with it. You know, sexuality and gender identification in general… It’s hard for all of us at first as we breathe forth from young adulthood into becoming full fledged lifers. So it’s not like “gay” people are THAT different really… We all struggle with these things. Identities. I guess more in which identities we choose to wear or which ones just seem to wear US, and how we present that to the world…..BUT…there does seem to be an exception for people who are currently and have been waving the PRIDE flag high. (I too gave this a lot of thought through the years — especially every time I attend a Pride parade…) Because they were being labeled so maliciously and with such prejudice, I believe that turning the potential “shame” that can come from those experiences into PRIDE, being proud to be gay, not shying away from it privately or publicly, gave them a newly born sense of, well, pride, happiness, self respect, dignity. And voila it HAS worked! Gay is not so “bad” as it once was 20 to 30 years ago, or hell, even 10 years ago. They just let that flag fly and they changed consciousness. And in that respect, those public displays helped. The agenda was clean, the mission clear, And they’re damn close to accomplishing it. Everyone who has participated should feel proud.
What about the “being a christian” identity? Lord I know… for me personally that’s a tough one. Because I’m more the type who keeps that kind of thing on the DL. BUT every now and then I deliberately pull it out with a clean clear mission, an agenda if you will. Sometimes it’s to show a different side to the identity of “being Christian”. Hell, if I can’t show people that “all Christians aren’t the same, don’t think the same way”, then no one can. So as a gift to my community AND the larger community of all religious people, AND to the world at large (because let’s face it, a lot of pain and struggle stems from religion in our world still….) I put on the brave face and wear my religion/spirituality publicly and deliberately just as a way of showing that sometimes it can be a really groovy and beautiful scene being religious and being a part of that community. It’s a service.
I received a message this weekend from someone with a few questions regarding the potential of a “conspiracy” around the upcoming US presidential election. I don’t get a chance to respond to all messages I receive. I would say that the process is almost “random” at this point. Some just catch my eye. Many i simply never get a chance to read. But I try. I really do. In any case, here is one that I felt particularly intrigued to respond to for some reason.
“Ed… I trust yr opinion on politics….what do you think of this theory which keeps being tossed around. this was posted on the new Reddit Sub.. “Political Revolution” by a anonymous poster (don’t know if you go on Reddit but it is all anon) interesting times as Harry Palmer would say. hope you see this .. would love yr input….–]YourPoliticalParty [score hidden] 14 minutes ago
“Sigh Here we go again: Donald Trump is false-flagging as a Republican (thanks to the right-wing popularity he got from pushing the Obama “birther” nonsense in 2008) to discredit the Republican Party, to distract from Hillary Clinton’s scandals/investigation, and to force voters to vote for Hillary Clinton in the general election as the “lesser-of-two-evils.” Trump and the Clintons have been close-friends for years. Hillary sat front-row at Trump’s 2005 wedding, while Trump endorsed her and donated to her 2000 Senate and 2008 Presidential campaigns. Bill Clinton and Donald Trump are golfing buddies, and have regular phone conversations where they discuss golf, politics, and the Clinton Foundation. Even Chelsea and Ivanka are friends. Now, after locking in the GOP nomination, Trump ramps up his divisive rhetoric and self-sabotage to situate himself as more unfavorable than record-breaking Hillary. That’s why every single thing that comes out of the Clinton campaign ultimately goes back to Donald Trump, because his role-playing as the right-wing menace is supposed to be her guarantee to the White House. They are putting on a show for the American people, where Donald Trump plays the ignorant bigoted businessman trying to run away with the country, and Hillary Clinton pretends to be the upstanding progressive hero who will stop him.””
Re this post, this is pretty typical/classic conspiracy thought. Nothing wrong with that. I first learned about, started studying and hooked up with the patriot movement (which is a term i prefer over “conspiracy theories…) back in ’94 when i was just a youngin’. So i’ve heard it all over the last twenty years.
What i find personally is that posts like this are way too simplified compared to reality. Reality is just a very complex system. And sure there are PLENTY of real live conspiracies at play right in front of our eyes. No denying that. (9/11, the EU, this insane increase in “mass killings” in the States is certainly suspect…since it’s such a new phenom.)
But regarding this particular issue you bring up, let’s just look at the “facts” (as best we can) and not necessarily try to make any conclusions, but rather just check them out…
Trump was a long time Dem, always has been. And then mysteriously switched to the GOP. This might seem suspect… BUT this was for rather obvious reasons. No way he was going to win a primary in the modern Dem party. Just not a chance. And he knew it.
[to me personally that seems an intelligent though crafty slimy move by someone with not much left in life to achieve except “becoming president”. You know, some people desire to serve. Other’s desire to achieve. Becoming president could be viewed as a “great achievement” by some, and if one listens to Trump, it sounds like he sees it as just another great thing to achieve. By all accounts he’ll probably spend most of his time on the golf course and trying to stay a TV star. Being president of the U.S. will grow old and tiresome and too much work for him quickly. And soon it will be just another buck head on the wall. Sooooo, no real surprise there.]
Trump does happen to be good friends with the Clintons and has been for 30 years. So isn’t it weird that he’s attacking Hilary so badly?
[From a small suburban mindset, sure; no one would want their longtime next door neighbor to treat them that way… It would be shocking. BUT…these are the games that modern american politics have turned into. It’s a blood sport now. It’s reality TV at it’s absolute worst and absurd. No love will be lost between these two. They get it. It’s a show. Trump will LOVE becoming president despite his friendship with and (maybe even) love for Bill and Hilary. And he will expect Hilary and Bill to take it gracefully. We are after all talking about “the highest office in the land” — at least to many folks. And as some say, “all’s fair in love and war”. I never liked or felt aligned with that sentiment. But many less evolved believe it’s smart to abide by it.]
Trump swept the Rep nomination in a record landslide manner that we haven’t seen in the 21st or 20th centuries.
[Conspiracy? Nah. Trump just recognized how the game has completely transformed and what it’s transformed into in the last 4-8 years. Does one really believe that Cruz or Rubio or BUSH for God’s sake didn’t REALLY WANT and work hard for that nomination? Seriously? It would be a really silly short-sighted and ignorant (simply meaning not possessing much knowledge about the subject) thing to believe. Trump won it fair and square. Sad? sure. Scary. Hell yeah. Disturbing because of what it implies about at least 50% of our fellow Americans and where their heads are at? My God yes. But a conspiracy? No. He won it. The people wanted it.]
What about the whole thing on a bigger level being one big false flag in terms of “them” KNOWING Trump doesn’t stand a chance of being elected in the General, and thus being able to secure the agreement they made with Hilary back in ’08 (remember that not so secret coming out party that the Bilderberg Group had when they handed the presidency to Obama and gave Hilary Sec of State and most likely promised her POTUS in 2016?)..?
[Okay, yes, from an informed widened back perspective, this seems highly likely and some would say downright obvious. And unfortunately, that just seems to be where Americans are today. It’s all image and soundbites and not many seem to care about research or facts. So… SOMEONE has to be in charge besides “the people”. “The people” are just too damn busy doing other things now to care about how they’re governed. So these wealthy small multi/super-national elitist groups control things and keep the peace from behind closed doors. And as long as everything seems to remain relatively calm peaceful and healthy financially, the people seem to be fine with it.
(Admittedly this proposition does suck. It’s a sad idea to ponder.) BUT I will say this, after more than 25 years of studying these issues and ideas, from the whackiest to the most fact-based and obvious realities, ultimately “the people” (here at least) still get to VOTE. SO even IF the powers that be promised Hilary the presidency, if the people don’t appear to be taking the bait, she will be out. Period. Place crash, sudden illness, a drop out “to be closer to her new grandbaby…” You’ll see. These small elitist cabals that control the goings-on of global finance and politics do NOT care who appears to be in charge. Just as long as they play along with the myths. They no more “like” Hilary than anyone else they could put in her place. WHOEVER is “selected” gets briefed on how things work, who’s in charge and what’s expected of them. It’s not like they just jump in and do whatever they want. By the time one gets to where Hilary is, they’ve known who’s in charge and what the rules are for a long time.
BUT that doesn’t mean in any way that they get a free pass. I mean, just look at how HARD Hilary has had to work over the last year and a half!!!! I despise Hilary’s actions as an alleged so-called civil servant over the last 25 years. (I don’t know her personally, so I have no opinion of her person..) But i have been in awe of how hard she has worked to achieve this goal of her’s. I mean sheesh! She is on turbo. I don’t know how she does it. It just looks like she REALLY WANTS IT.
But don’t be fooled. She’s still going to have to win it. The powers that be are very aware that the American people LOVE and cherish the potus election aspect of their beloved republic and are NOT ready to give up the myths of this process. They know full well that the people need to “feel as though” THEY are electing their president. And in some ways, they still are. Just not “completely”. They’re electing the choices handed to them from a small group of people who are willing to play ball who are selected and offered up to them by others. BUT this is how it’s been in the US for a very long time.
Well isn’t that a conspiracy? Yeah, sure it is. But it’s not a new one. We’ve already known this for decades. At least since they did away with JFK MLK and Bobby for not playing ball. Is it a conspiracy if everyone knows it’s happening? Conspiracy implies secrecy. And these matters are not very secret at this point. We already know and have known that bigger figures — much bigger than any president — “control things from the shadows” (as some people like to say. I prefer “from behind closed doors” because it is more realistic). Our world has ALWAYS worked this way. For centuries. Hell, for millennia.
Until the people can take no more and they revolt. It’s cyclic. At which time, the powers that be then regroup and form a new structure closer in look and feel to what the people think they want at that time. But they still stay in control. Just under slightly different guises. AND YES the people DO get a slightly altered world that perhaps looks and feels and acts a bit more like they want it to…(civil rights legislation, women’s rights, gay rights, labor rights, the abolishment of slavery and even capital punishment in many states now, etc etc…) So as dark and depressing as this system is, it does offer hope, at least a ray of it in my humble opinion.]
Okay, so to just wrap up your original question regarding the possibility of a conspiracy surrounding the upcoming election of POTUS, i guess the best way to view it is “well yeah, sure, in the bigger picture, of course. Just as it’s always been. Nothing’s changed. Bigger powers plan and implement these things decades before we’re even thinking about them. (just look at how long they worked on creating the EU! (Its founding was in 1941 in Berlin, Nazi Germany, then a little more work in ’44…. Slow, steady, constant…. Fucking amazing patience planning and perseverance to achieve that egregious goal. (28 European countries no longer have the right to national sovereignty nor the ability to vote for their own laws as a people in their own country because it’s all being done for them by selected officials in Brussels — for 28 countries!!!! = WOW! AMAZING what people are willing to give up when they don’t care.)
BUT, here in the States the people are getting a voice still. No one’s going to occupy that House that the people don’t like or want. In today’s America, the powers that be are very aware that that mentality still stands. So we’ll end up with exactly who the majority says we will. And for better or worse, it will probably be Hilary. The better of two evils. And haven’t we been playing that game for a long time….I hope we eventually transcend it. But in the meantime, a good way to sum it up is “It’s not a conspiracy if everyone knows about it.” And at this point we do.
One more thing, since we’re on it. And since you might ask or reflect on it… “But Ed, how are we going to eradicate these selfish greedy wicked controlling forces that operate beneath the surface of things?” you might be thinking…. I know i am.
Well, real quick, just look at them. They’re freaking HUGE.
– The Rothschild banking cartel is GIGANTIC and has its hands in everything in every country and has for over a hundred years.
– Vatican City. HUGE. It’s a freaking multi-national corporation AND a COUNTRY, besides being the world’s most feared and admired religion, and yet most people don’t even know that.
– Central Banks. (one could argue that this is just an extension of The Rothschild empire, and to a certain degree, for at least the purpose of simplicity, they could be said to be right). Private Central Banks like the not-even-a-little-bit-Federal Reserve and the BOJ, BOE, PBOC and ECB control the whole bloody civilized world. The World Bank and the IMF control the rest. So…. yeah, good luck doing away with them.
– The no-such-thing-as-Royal Families. They’re everywhere. Ubiquitous leeches with enormous wealth, the largest land holdings on earth STILL and protections in place that ensure their existence for generations to come. England’s royal family lives in their own PRIVATE COUNTRY withIN England in order to protect their money and sovereignty. (in other words so that they can always be able to do what they want when they want to, just in case the rabble get out of hand again…) It’s called “London” but a different London than the UK city that everyone knows. And this is a fact that even most Brits aren’t aware of. And that’s just England.
– The Bilderberg Group. So called. This is more of just a very small arm of these larger groups mentioned above. BUT research into THEM always eventually leads one to what’s really going on.
The point being is that IMHO we aren’t going to ever eradicate these giant institutions. At least not in our lifetimes. They’re just way too big and way too cemented into human society and our cultural paradigms. Religion, government, banking, the control of money, cultural identification…. These are HUGE archetypes for most people to abandon or discreate.
Best bet is that we keep on working from the outside, one person at a time and eventually we fold these larger powers into the mix like ingredients into cake batter — the same way they did to us — and through our positive influence and vibrations they will slowly evolve into more helpful and aligned institutions and individuals.
Of course there is also the possibility that we might also be able to speed up this process through doing work in consciousness from behind the scenes. Avatar Wizards and many others are already consciously doing that. That should give us an exponential increase in velocity and creational yield I believe.
Alas I wish I had “better” news for you. But remember, this is just one idea. Nothing is set in stone. If I’ve learned one thing, it’s that. And to bring these high concepts down to earth for a moment, as an example, just look at what the Brits did last week! Sure they temporarily destroyed trillions of dollars in the world’s capital markets, BUT they demanded to take back their right to vote for their own laws and governance. That’s pretty big and impressive.
There is hope in such things.
Listening to Jesus Christ Superstar this morning. The Broadway Show album, versus the movie version that I’m more familiar with. Must say it was cool to hear Ian Gillian singing Jesus. Though for the most part I still enjoy the movie version the best.
There’s this one section when Judas is singing, after Jesus is captured and he calls out to God “you knew all along/ why’d you let me do it?” And in that moment I stopped and had this thought that stuck with me…
For all of our intellectual acrobatics about the existence (or not) or God or the nature of God etc…, in the end, when it counts, our “mind” (for lack of a better/easier word) just goes there. To this “something bigger exists”. Call it what you will. Everyone has a slightly different name for it.
But near our perceived death, or when in perceived danger, our thoughts go to this big idea of some larger than life divine consciousness. Or perhaps for some it’s more of a larger than life mass consciousness or super-consciousness. I’m sure the feeling of the idea is different for everyone.
But the point being, in that moment, the simple conclusion was “well there it is… After all our planning and claiming and asserting or denying, after all our pondering and contemplating, postulating and proposing, I bet a lot of people still end up right back at the same place they were in their youth, with this idea being foremost in their mind of the existence of this divine super power.
Then… you know, if that’s the case, then why bother with all the wondering doubting or denying? Why not just accept that that implant/engram/idea/program is there? It’s RIGHT there. Look for it. See it? It’s undeniably present at the very least in (what some might call) most people’s subconscious if not right in their present consciousness. (Some might say for them personally it’s “just below consciousness”…). Still there. Just not present all the time. But still there.
For me personally it just provided a freedom to stop playing with the idea of ITS existence so much and just ease into acceptance more often. Like easing into a hot but soothing healing bath.
Now yes, I admit that the next immediate thought was “okay sure that’s THERE for most of us, but that does NOT imply nor equate to the existence of THAT thing in any way. It just means we were programmed or indoctrinated to believe that from a very early age. Hard indoctrination. Not easy to overcome.”
(We could discuss this aspect of the subject a lot more of course. It’s deep. Like have you ever met anyone who was simply just not raised that way? Like they just were not raised to believe in any type of divinity or super-divine sentience at all in their childhood…? It’s really almost a supernatural kind of an experience right? Because it has the ability to create a sincere lack of shared reference points… Which of course can lead to a lack of understanding of viewpoints that another totally takes for granted as being undeniably “true”. But let’s keep moving…)
Then i watched “the mind” go to “you know, I bet very soon we will discover the neurological causes of this…. the mind (of almost everyone…) automatically going to the Divine in certain situations, like death or near death or close to death or in times or real struggle or intense elation. We probably just experience endorphins and/or neurotransmitters releasing more which trigger access to unchartered regions of the brain. High probability of being the case.
So…. What does that mean? Or at least imply?
Well for one thing, for me, after a few seconds it led to this: One of the biggest mistakes we can make is to believe that once we discover how something works “scientifically” –that once we discover that a once-past “something” considered so astounding or impossible seeming that it’s called “supernatural” now has a potential scientific explanation, that it somehow negates it’s potentiality as being something true or “real”.
Not enough time now to dig deeper. And I don’t want to leave you hanging. But you get it. If we ever discover the neurological correlations or causes of what we now label “prayer” or “talking to god” or “hearing the voice of God” or feeling “taken care of” or protected or “saved by God”, or even near death experiences…, this won’t negate the reality that it’s still happening. It’s real. We just now know some of the neurological mechanisms of the phenomenon. See?
Real quick, another great example is how for centuries we believed light to be composed of waves, as in “not material”. Then after tens of thousands of laboratory experiments later, scientists began seeing light “miraculously” turn into particles all of a sudden — as in “light” as we know it was no longer limited to JUST being composed of waves, and furthermore, “light” could then be said to be “matter”. Minds blown. Though no one knew how this was happening nor why. To make the matter even more stupifying (and one might say seemingly-supernatural) light seemed to be able to transform itself from waves into particles any time it wanted to, and then back again, with no necessary rhyme or reason. Scientists were and still are stymied by several aspects of this phenomenon. Through the years we have gathered more and more data about this strange anomaly in our understanding of the laws of physics. But we’re still 100% clear about how it works or what the larger implications might be to the world of modern physics. Though we have collected a lot of data and understand much more about the mechanism of this strange unexpected oddity. Even with all the data collected, even if we one day discover everything there is to know about it — how it works or why it does it at all, these scientific explanations will never dull the phenomenally crazy and exciting feelings we have about it. It is one of the most mind-blowing anomalies of modern physics, has broad, far-reaching implications in regards to how the universe might work, and is just generally uber cool. The science behind it, if anything, just helps us understand it a bit better. But the process itself, as impossible and contradictory as it is, still happens.
In the bigger picture, the larger point being, just because WE eventually discover (or some might say “create”) our own scientific explanation for some phenomenon does not make it any less astounding, NOR any less real.
More later of course. Bye for now.
– Posted by The Ambassador using BlogPress on an iPhone
A caveat: for those more accustomed to, and more interested in, the usually more philosophical, theological or sociological nature of The Diaries, you may want to skip this post. It’s about finance and economics and more technical than usual. Just a heads up. If you do decide to venture in, I will clarify a bit more than usual regarding the economy and investing world to give context — so another caveat, this one for those who are already well versed in all things finance and investing: you may find the first few paragraphs a bit elementary… feel free to skip ahead, but hang on and stay in. This one’s for you and there are worthy takeaways to be had.
The investing world is abuzz with Silicon Valley again and it has been for a number of years now. It feels like 1999 all over again. Both the American and European stock markets have been on a tear — in what is commonly called a “secular bull market” — for almost six straight years. People who are active or even passive investors in “the markets” have been making money hand over fist from doing absolutely nothing but just staying invested. It’s an odd paradoxical dichotomy — and it truly is — that as the American economy continues to drag and sputter, making financial abundance, or even stability, seem increasingly unreachable for the majority of Americans still, the top 1% have been doing incredibly well in “the markets”. This paradox is well known amongst the wealthiest in the country. It’s not a mystery or an unknown. It’s very well known, sad as it is, amongst the people who are making all the money. It’s a given. And there are very specific reasons for it.
One might remember investment guru Warren Buffet commenting a few year ago how ridiculous he thought it was that he pays less tax annually than his secretary does. This surprising statistic is simply due to the fact that the common bread earner in the United States pays a much higher tax on their “income” i.e. the money they earn from their job, than an investor does on the profits he or she makes in any kind of investment. That tax — known as the Capital Gains Tax — is capped at 15%. What this means is that whether you made $100 from your stock market investments last year or $1,000,000, you’re still only required to pay 15% tax on it. With the right kind of finagling — owning a few corporations that make big money — enough to fund even the most lavish lifestyles — but somehow mange to “not make a profit” but instead make a loss (and this is more common than the average person realizes…) and you can even reduce that measly 15% capital gains tax further down and come out paying Uncle Sam next to nothing, as in ZERO. You just have to know the game and how it’s played.
But this post isn’t about that. Perhaps one day we’ll go into further details about this sad but true paradox, because I must admit I do receive a fair share of requests from folks begging me to explain to them how on earth one is capable of making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year and paying next to no tax on it. It’s not as hard as most people think. In fact it’s quite easy. Again, you just have to understand how the system works. So yes… perhaps we will get into it one day… But today is not that day.
Another reason for this strange upside down economy is due to Federal Reserve policy. “The Fed” as it is commonly referred to is a large private cabal of banking cartels who control the monetary policy and the money supply of the United States. The funny thing is that the Federal reserve is NOT “federal”; they are not a branch of the U.S. government. They don’t work for the U.S. government. They answer to no one. But they make all the rules. (This is truly a whole book unto itself, let alone too much for even a series of posts — so one is encouraged to take some time to research this incredibly vexing scam…) In a nutshell this organization that controls all things monetary — think the economy — is the primary entity that loans the United States the money it needs to continue to operate. When you hear terms like the national debt or national deficit, this debt is owed to this company known as The Federal Reserve; they being a private bank who exist solely to make money charges the U.S. interest on the money it lends the country, just as any bank does; thus in a way one could say that the Fed has a vested interest in seeing the United States economy do well — at the moment the U.S. owes a staggering amount of money to this organization, something to the tune of 17 TRILLION dollars.
In exchange for all the money The Fed loans the United States to stay “in business” so to speak, the United States government allows the Fed to do just about anything it wants to — including for example keeping it’s books private and sealed. One might have a recollection of a few years ago when then-presidential candidate Ron Paul (remember him?) tried to pass a Bill in Congress to force The Fed to allow the U.S. government to see it’s books — as in take a look at its accounting records. This would seem to be rather a no-brainer, right? All public companies are obligated to make their accounting records open and available to the public — how much money they have, how much debt they have, how much money they are making in gross revenues and net profits, etc. etc. But The Fed is no regular “public company”. It’s ironic if not downright terrifying that 99% of Americans do not even realize that The Federal Reserve is not only NOT part of the federal government, but they are so private that no one in the United States government is even allowed to look at it’s books. The word shocking comes to mind. But terrifying fits the bill even more appropriately considering how much power this private group of banks has over the health and wealth of the whole country.
So how much power DOES this private group of banks have over the United States? Put it this way: The Fed has the ability to say yes or no to the United States government regarding how much money it loans them or doesn’t — as in any day they can collapse the American economy or continue to allow it to wrack up more debt. It’s all in THEIR hands and truly no one else’s. They also of course have the power to set monetary policy in general — this is why it is a fool-hearty idea to ever blame a good or bad economy on any American president, for they simply don’t have much power in regards to the economy, but that doesn’t stop most people from still doing this. The primary thing the Fed does in regards to “setting monetary policy” is they decide what the lending rate is at any given time in the American economy. At the moment it is set roughly around -0-. This is the rate of interest that banks can charge each other to borrow money from one another. This “prime lending rate” has a great influence on all the other interest rates in a healthy first-world society such as mortgage rates or car loan financing interest rates or the interest one receives from investing bonds or savings accounts or bank CDs.
You might have heard the term QE bandied about over the last few years. QE stands for Quantitative Easing, which was the Fed’s fancy term for lowering the prime lending rate down to a record low AND at the same time temporarily loaning the U.S. billions of dollars by buying various bonds from the United States and various other banks — they did this in order to “stimulate the economy”, as a means to get people spending again and to get banks loaning money to people again. So far it hasn’t worked out as well as many hoped it would. BUT to be fair it did at least according to general agreement amongst most experts save the country from sinking into another Great Depression from our recent Great Recession (the recent economic crisis we experienced in 2007 and 2008).
What this policy did do though was stimulate the hell out of the American stock markets. By lowering interest rates down to near -0-, people with money had no other choice but to invest their money in the stock markets — simply because they couldn’t make any money with their money from investing in anything else. Savings accounts, bonds and CDs offered zero to almost zero return, i.e. interest. If you add in even a small amount of inflation — the price of goods increasing compared to the value of the Dollar, and one would actually LOSE money if they had invested their money in a savings account, bond or bank CD due to how low the interest received was. So people with money jumped into the stock market.
This is what has created one of the strongest and longest running bull markets in American history. More and more money has poured into the markets and as long as this mysterious organization called The Fed continues to keep interest rates LOW, then people assume that the stock market will continue to go up. From the outside, from the view of the average American who doesn’t bother to pay attention to monthly and quarterly economic data, things still seem rather bleak to be sure. Unemployment has supposedly declined, though many doubt this claim. Jobs still seem few and far between and raise and promotions seem a fantasy of days long gone by for most.
Except in the world of finance that is. You see, every time we have economic data — the investing world holds its breath: if the data is GOOD, the markets tank, as an improving economy would compel the Fed to start raising rates again which could signal the end of the bull market. So instead people who are heavily invested hope that the data is BAD. In the world of investing this is known as the “bad news is good news” paradigm and without fail every time any economic data comes in that is “bad” for the average American, you can hear and see high fives flying around Wall Street like wild fire. It’s an upside down situation to be sure. Instead of the stock markets flying high due to a healthy economy, it continues to fly high due to hopes that the economy stays bad. This will keep rates low and insure that more and more money will continue to flow into the markets. Again this may sound shocking to the average person, but it’s not exactly “news” to those who invest their money for a living rather than work a regular salaried job. Frankly yes it’s easy to see why anyone first learning of this closely guarded bit of data would claim that it’s fucked up. It is.
In a nutshell there’s your lesson in finance and econ for the day. Now on to the main point of this post.
Today we are going to focus our attention on the Social Media sector of the investment world. [Again just for those who may not know this: the investment world is divided into sectors FYI. There are many of them and savvy investors are familiar with them all. For example there’s the Semi-Conductor sector (what we refer to as “the Semis”), the Consumer Discretionary sector (Tiffany, Coach, Whirlpool — basically anything that is not essential to the consumer but is purchased when the consumer has discretionary money laying around…), there’s the Oil sector — which is further split between the Refiners and the Oil Services companies, and on and on it goes. Believe it or not, once you enter this world — as with any — it becomes very easy to memorize all the various data points, statistics and acronyms.]
Two sectors that have been red-hot over the last few years have been the Technology sector (usually referred to as “Tech”) and the Social Media sector (often just referred to as simply “Social”). Companies like Facebook (FB), Google (GOOG), Twitter (TWTR) and Yelp (YELP) are all part of the Social Media sector and even the most distanced individuals have surely heard the stories over the years about the ridiculous amount of cash people have been making from investing in these “hot companies”. Silicon Valley is on fire at the moment, with venture capital spending reaching all time highs once more pouring money into the latest start-ups hoping that they can eventually turn them into the next Facebook or YouTube.
The word on the street for these companies is Unicorn. You may have even heard the word bouncing around lately as it is one of the many newest trending in the social media world. A Unicorn is any super hot start up company that is raising a ton of investment capital — usually to the tune of one billion or more — in the Valley with the intention of eventually going “public” — all long before the company starts actually making money. The companies just have to show growth in their user base and their “potential” to make money and people will throw millions upon millions of dollars at them. A few of the hottest Unicorns at the moment are Uber, AirBNB, and Pinterest. Yes from the inside it all appears just as blatantly stupid as it does from the outside. But this is just how the markets work. They are completely irrational, as they always have been.
At this very moment analysts and traders on CNBC’s midday show Halftime Report are all discussing the Social Media sector. Primarily because during this latest earnings season social media companies have been getting clobbered. After running up to more than $85 a share Facebook is now trading below $79. Twitter dropped from $55 a share to $38 in one day — you have to imagine having say a million dollars of your clients’ money invested TWTR and having that figure lose almost half of it in less than 24 hours to really understand the ramifications of such a dramatic drop. YELP not to be left behind performed the worst out of all of them so far, dropping from a high of $85 earlier this year to a measly $39 as of today’s trading session — losing 22% of it’s value in just one day and more than 50% from its highs of the year. When you contemplate the insane amount of money invested in these companies by hedge funds, money managers and investment banks — in the case of YELP, a smaller player, we’re talking billions of dollars invested, you begin to fathom just how much money that is to lose in such a short period of time. LinkedIn was the latest social player to kick the bucket: In one day their stock fell from $250 to $203, a 20% loss in less than an hour.
But why? WHY are social media companies taking such a beating? All the talking puppets on CNBC, Bloomberg and FOX Business News continue to talk about these companies with big smiles on their faces as if they are viable investment vehicles — no one ever saying what would be clearly obvious to even the least educated in business and finance: the American consumer is sick and tired of being advertised to, and social media companies make their money, or at least they’re supposed to, from collecting advertising revenue. You see, once upon a time Facebook made mention that it might start charging for it’s services — charging the everyday user to have a Facebook profile and communicate with their friends and family on a regular basis. The backlash could be heard in places as remote as the Himalayas! The week they made this announcement, as ironic as it may seem, the FB newsfeed was filled with posts advertising that the BAN FACEBOOK DAY was soon upon us as everyone and their brother announced that they would not stand to pay a single penny to use Facebook and they would immediately jump ship if such a fee was ever initiated. And that was the end of that idea. Facebook learned a valuable lesson from that stunt — people may love you if you’re free, but that doesn’t mean they have any intention of giving you any of their hard earned money. They don’t love you like THAT.
It turned out that Facebook was not as essential as it thought it might have been and thus they had to go back to the drawing board to figure out just how they were going to actually generate MONEY. See, Facebook WAS hugely successful in terms of it’s popularity amongst users. At one point it reached one BILLION users globally. That’s a phenomenal figure when you consider it for a moment: it translates to almost 20% of every single person on planet earth having a Facebook account of some kind. But the company didn’t make any money. The average person on the street, struggling to just pay their monthly bills always has a tough time understanding concepts like this: how can a company be as big as Facebook (or Amazon or Yelp or Twitter for that matter…) but not actually make any money?!? It seems illogical. And in reality it is. The truth is that these companies BORROW the money they have from what you commonly hear referred to as “angel investors” or venture capitalists. They then use that money to grow their business with the hope that one day they WILL make money… Some do. Many never make it. Amazon — one of the largest companies in the free world still operates at a loss every year. Yep. It’s true. They bring in billions of dollars a year in revenue. But every year they report not a profit but a LOSS, meaning that they spent more than they made. How is this even possible? Simple. They borrow more money and go further into debt based on the idea that one day they actually will make a profit. It’s a funny business. One that just about any average American would love to be able to take advantage of in their own personal finances to be sure. Problem is, banks and venture capitalists aren’t interested in you or me and our ability to pay our bills or even have enough money to eat for that matter. Instead they are interested in future profit potential. That’s life in a nutshell. As unfair as it is, that’s just how it is. You’d have a better chance at borrowing money from a bank — millions even — if you presented them with some dumb idea that showed that you could have half a million “users” by year end 2016 than you would just asking them for money to put food on the table or pay your mortgage. It’s capitalism.
So where were we? Ah yes, Facebook. So here’s Facebook, a simple idea, a dumb idea, at best a rip off of MySpace (remember them?) who was a rip off of Friendster (remember THEM?) showing tremendous growth in “users” but no way to make money from these users. So how to monetize all these users? That was the question…. This was back in the days when Facebook had swept Wall Street by storm by going public and seeing it’s stock price go from $16 to $45 in one day and then having it quickly fall back to $17 where it stayed for a few years, leaving many investors sorry they ever heard of the name. Imagine that kind of a loss in your retirement portfolio. Eventually Facebook got smart and created a very simple advertising vehicle for any and every one to use — a way for users to advertise to each other. “Here’s my Page. Like it!” It didn’t cost that much, you could set the amount you wanted to spend each day, and you could actually see your little ads pop up on the side bar of your Facebook screen now and then. It felt good. And it seemed to generate actual results. It was similar to buying an ad from Google to get more traffic to your website. And we all know how well Google had done… Facebook is presently worth about $178 BILLION dollars. Google is worth roughly TWICE that.
So began the great social media company frenzy. It was 1999 all over again. All a company had to do was show that it could grow its user base, forget about making money or generating a profit, and the investment dollars poured in. Twitter soon leaped onto the scene and ran up to $55 on it’s first day going public from a starting price of around $16. This valued Twitter at about 35 billion dollars overnight. For a company that wasn’t even making a billion dollars a year, nor anything close to it. But it was all about the user growth. Twitter still operates at a loss — meaning that it loses money every year rather than makes it. How would you like that kind of job? TO get paid for losing money? But the pundits had valid points: Twitter WAS popular. People did seem to have a valid interest in and excitement about it. The problem was and still is that that excitement is fleeting. Today’s Twitter is tomorrow’s Snapchat or Tumblr. Remember them? Yahoo purchased Tumblr — and what exactly was Tumblr in the first place? a blog for kids? — for some FIVE BILLION dollars. There’s money they’ll never get back. And Tomorrow’s Snapchat or Tumblr is next week’s Meercat or Periscope. The landscape is constantly changing in the hands of the ever-fickle American consumer. The truth is that they really just don’t CARE.
And that’s the big disconnect between Wall Street and Main Street. The average person on Main Street has a life. Family problems, car problems, job worries, relationship woes… They could care less about Facebook or Twitter or Snapchat or Tumblr in the grand scheme of things. When’s the last time you heard anyone even mention Tumblr? But the folks on Wall Street don’t recognize this simple fact of life. These are minor trivialities in the hearts and minds of the average consumer, these “fancy websites” they call social media. They don’t put food on the table. They don’t even offer anything relatively substantial or of value that cannot be had elsewhere. NEW is much more exciting to the consumer than been there done that. It doesn’t mean that mom still won’t keep trying to Message you on Facebook this year. She probably will. But are you really even paying attention anymore?
Environments like Facebook and Twitter have continued to remain semi-entertaining and even useful at times when one has nothing better to do or when there’s big news we want instant access to… But when we’re in the mood for big news, we are NOT interested in ads clogging up our newsfeed. Nor are we interested in ads when we have nothing better to do than scroll through old friends’ attempts at wit or their latest selfie or cat photograph. Let’s face it, social media is fraught with meaningless drivel. Hence the shift back towards more meaningful content platforms like blogs or even texting.
Every social media company is reporting user growth increasing but revenues and profits shrinking. And the simple reason for it is because nobody likes being advertised to. The television world and Wall Street already recognizes this fact as more and more people shift away from traditional TV towards digital alternatives like Netflix or Hulu or flat out stealing online. This is the time of the great peregrination of the consumer away from advertising — why? Because we can. And in an environment like this, you better not have advertising revenue as your main means of generating cashflow or you’re going to be screwed. YELP is the perfect example. Yelp is actually a great tool. Nearly everyone has it loaded on their phone and loves it. The problem is that no one is willing to pay for it. (The music industry is going through a similar shift…) Yelp wants to generate revenue from selling advertising. But the users who use Yelp the most absolutely REFUSE to use Yelp if they believe that any of the data they are reading such as reviews are being influenced in any way by advertising dollars — in other words, people want to believe what they read on Yelp. They want to read ALL the reviews, not just the ones that some company has paid to place there, and they certainly don’t want to find out that companies are able to pay to have negative reviews removed from Yelp. What’s the point of the app then? See the problem? Yelp is basically fucked. A valuable tool with no viable way to make money.
Twitter god love it is in a similar position. I personally use Twitter all day as a means to receive notifications about subjects I am interested in ON MY PHONE. In other words, I set up notifications to come directly to my phone from Twitter about various different subjects or different individuals or even tweets that may mention me — the president of Iran will shoot out an interesting tweet now and then, and where else can one access such data but Twitter? But that doesn’t mean I ever scroll through the Twitter newsfeed or what they call their “Timeline”. The truth is I never do. The notifications come to my phone. I scroll through them. Get the basic gist of what was said. And I move on. All on Twitter’s dime. Or better put on the billions of dollars invested in Twitter by their investors. All without ever paying for Twitter and all without ever seeing an ad. Hell, like most people I’m downright annoyed and pissed off when I see an ad on Twitter. How dare they?!? And yet THIS is precisely how they intend on making their money! From advertising. It’s farcical when you really start thinking about it.
We have to begin to realize and acknowledge that we’ve reached a crossroads in the global economy. We’ve raised a whole generation on free usage based on the idea that we’d make our money from advertising — while at the same time weening them off of advertising on every other platform. There are hundreds of apps now on the market that REMOVE ads from Twitter and Facebook. And one would be right to believe that very soon there will be apps to somehow remove the ads from Pandora and Spotify as well — which is how those companies make the majority of their money as well since they’ve programmed whole generations to believe that music should be free — just about the dumbest thing one could think to do if MUSIC was the one and only product that you wanted to sell in your business. Again, we’re at this major crossroads where at some point soon, something has to give. Investors are going to learn sooner than later — just as they did in the dot com crash of 2000 — that they can’t keep pouring money into businesses who don’t actually make money. And businesses are going to eventually learn that you can’t run a business offering the main product you sell for zero dollars. It’s an illogical business model. And all it’s done is destroy more than one industry, the music business just being one of them. TV is next. Social media never really was in reality. And people are just starting to see that now as these once high flying stocks crash and burn.
As a sidenote with a potential solution, look at the companies who actually DO have a chance at making money. Out of the three Unicorns mentioned above, Pinterest is another Yelp waiting to happen. They’ll garner billions of dollars in investment capital and blow through it all in the hopes of turning all those bored moms and housewives into advertising clicking robots, only to realize that those bored moms and housewives aren’t any more interested in clicking on ads as the rest of us, and they’ll go belly up a year or two after going public IF Wall Street is dumb enough to take them there. But Uber and AIRBnB are different. Both of them actually SELL something besides advertising. Sure there’s a social aspect to both companies. That’s just the new normal — there has to be a social aspect to EVERYthing now. Eventually we’ll have apps where people post their latest and greatest bowel movements for others to see and rate. (If those already don’t exist, which I can’t with certainty…).
But the key is that the social aspect to both Uber and Air BnB is NOT the product itself. It’s a byproduct of the actual product. And that really is the key to this new environment. Social is key. But it can’t be THE key. There has to be an underlying product to be sold. And “to be sold” means to CHARGE MONEY FOR IT. Just as PayPal charges a few pennies on the dollar for every transaction, they’re offering a very valuable product — the ability to exchange money with freinds, family and business associates without ever leaving your home or office, or even your couch for that matter. All from the comfort and ease of your smart phone. That’s smart. Uber and Air BnB are doing the same thing. Small fees. Nothing fancy. But they’re actually making money. And isn’t that the reason to start and run a business in the first place? What companies like Yelp and Twitter are going to do is a mystery. They’ve screwed themselves from the outset with a faulty business model. As have companies like Spotify. The next few months and years are going to be ugly as this grand experiment fails and falls to pieces in rubble all around the feet of Wall Street and Main Street investors. People are already asking “are we in a bubble” everyday now… and truth be told, in the bigger picture of the investing world, no, not quite yet. But in the social media sector we’re beyond bubble territory. We’re in the sloppy frothy messy slime and sludge of a bubble already burst. Most just don’t see it yet. If you’re into shorting, now would be the time…
A funny thing has been transpiring lately. Something completely unexpected and almost supernatural in a way. If there is any “one thing” that I do well, out of the thousands and thousands of things we do or learn to do or are forced to do while we’re journeying here in the earthly realm — for surely every person possesses such a trait — for me personally, if there is one thing that I do better than every and anything else it is having a natural proclivity to prolifically writing songs and music composition. This is no secret, I know. It is common knowledge. So much so that I don’t even believe the main point of this entry should be to even remotely explore this strange character trait or why it comes so easy to me compared to so many other things. I am sure we have discussed it before here in these pages over the years.
Instead I simply wish to make note of this rather incredible new event that has begun transpiring lately on a near nightly basis. A little backstory…. We just finished recording and finishing over 45 new songs for the “new album”, which we now know will turn into three new albums that will be released over the course of this year. Choosing the songs is always one of the most challenging aspects of entering the recording studio with the guys. For I come in with alphabetized binders filled with thousands upon thousands of songs. Each in my humble estimation as good and worthy as the next to be included on our latest new album. So begins the process of me sitting there singing and playing the guys and the producers and engineers the songs that I have tabbed for whatever new album we happen to be working on and together as a group we semi-democratically choose which songs are yeses, which songs are maybes and which ones are flat-out nos.
Sometimes the decisions make sense to me — often times we go in with a set idea of concept in mind and thus only certain kinds of songs would be appropriate. While other times the group’s decisions about which songs are definite nos disturbs and confuses me. Everyone hears music differently. It is so subjective that it is impossible for one person to even be able to comprehend how another person hears a song let alone why they may or may not like it. And I must admit that at times I even find myself getting hurt a little at how quick they are to dismiss a song that I absolutely believe is “an incredible song!!!” But that feeling is usually fleeting for as soon as the discussion ends I start up another and the process begins all over again — every song carries with it such a special collection of feelings and memories and emotions that it is easy to get carried up and away with it as it was with the last. We will easily listen to a hundred or so songs before we eventually narrow it down to fifty or so. And from there we are all keenly aware that the hard part is yet to come as we have to keep narrowing it down to the ten or so that will eventually be known to be on that new album historically.
With this latest project — lord knows we were very aware that time was of the essence and that we needed to record and release the follow-up to Ballad On Third Avenue as quickly as possible. Ed Hale the artist had never garnered such overt commercial success before and never at such a level as what we were experiencing in that moment. But instead of being disciplined and finishing quickly the project soon turned into yet another large epic battle to not only record a mammoth batch of 45 new songs, but also to create three completely new and totally different sounding albums, AND to incorporate several new innovative techniques into the recording process — using musicians from all over the world to record their parts virtually at their own studios and send them in to our engineers to import the songs into our system — a process that would at the very least create an extremely confusing and disharmonious sound but at best could just possibly create something completely fresh and unique sounding. (Since I am writing THIS post-recording now and we are in the mixing stage, I can relay that it did indeed create an incredibly massive oftentimes muddied even noisy fusion of sound and cacophony at times, this is true…but some of the songs are sounding fantastically unique and innovative in their “sound”, a sound no one has ever heard us create before with more instruments and a wider variety of instruments and sounds than we’ve ever incorporated into our music. Not that it doesn’t still sound like “us”. It does. It has the Transcendence sound all over it… Still basically Brit Pop with a classic rock bent… But the new technique we attempted worked. It is very exciting to listen to. Goosebumps inducing at times even. The mad experiment worked. It’s just taking longer to mix and finish. But the wait will be worth it I believe. )
Needless to say that since all of our attention and focus at the moment and for the next few months if not the entire year will be dedicated to finishing these new albums and then to marketing and touring , the last thing in the world I want to spend any time doing is writing new songs. But what to do when you are able to write new songs as easy as breathing, when it comes that easy to you? You see a guitar, pick it up and bam out comes a song. You sit down at a piano and within minutes I am deeply inside of the inexpressible comfort and pleasure of “new song composition”, completely adrift in it and oblivious to everything else going on around me. Not the most productive way to be when your attention needs to be on marketing and mixing and planning and implementing a new album release.
So when we moved back to New York full-time late last year I decided to store ALL of my musical equipment including all guitars and keyboards in our storage warehouse with our other house items so that way I wouldn’t and couldn’t even be tempted to pick up an instrument and write any songs. For we already have far too many to believe we will ever really be able to get them all recorded. That’s just the hard painful truth of the matter. One that is still hard for me to bare the thought of. Thousands of songs literally equates to hundreds of albums at an average rate of ten songs per album. We’ve done the math. It’s a no-brainer. We will never even come close to recording all the songs that I’ve already written… let alone all the ones that I am destined to still write. In a word, it sucks.
And in that, this strange character trait, this gift as some call it, is (and has always been) both a blessing and a curse. For with each new song that I have composed for years going back and from this day forward I am immediately made aware that one of two not-preferable things will happen: either I am pouring my heart and soul into bringing this song down from the ethers into the earthly realm only for it to sit on paper forever never to be recorded, OR for it to be recorded which instantly mandates that another ten that came before it will suffer the same fate. It is very much like being forced to choose which of your children gets to eat and live a long and prosperous life and which you must starve, knowing that they will surely die never to live a full life or be known by anyone but yourself and never to be known by history.
I’ve played this game with the Divine Force many times before. Refusing to accept the gift and refusing to write any new songs for a while, despite the fact that it is my very nature to do just that more and better than anything else that I do in this life. Sometimes I fear that He/She/It will punish me for my impudence and take away the ease at which I can write a song. But that hasn’t happened yet. Truly I don’t believe that it ever will. For I believe that God knows and understands that I know and understand that my ability to pull these songs out of thin air and bring them to life is as pure an expression of Him/Her/It and their glory more than anything else that I can possibly do or say in this life. They serve through their very existence and how they are brought to being in this world as a glorious reminder of the mystical magical supernatural nature of the Divine Force Itself. My guess is that God gifts every person on earth a special and unique ability such as this as a means to express His/Her/It’s Divinity on earth. Our task is to find what that special gift is and become great at it and share it with the world as a reminder of this powerful connection we share with this mysterious Divine Force that comprises and creates and flows through everything in the known and unknown universe.
But I cannot help but feel impulsively rebellious at times. It is a large task. A time-suck like no other. If I did nothing but sat in a room for 24 hours with a guitar and a piano I would easily be tasked with what I guess would be at least writing fifteen to twenty-five songs in those 24 hours. That’s the easy part…the writing of them… The subtle nature of hearing them come to life in your ears, in your mind’s eye… They already exist… Somewhere else, in some other dimension, and all I am doing is hearing them as they already exist and bringing them down to this earthly dimension so others can hear them. BUT from there there IS still work to do. Flushing out the lyrics. Discovering what THEY wish to be… For they too already exist. Arranging and producing the sound of it. So it is a time consuming burden as much as it is a gift or blessing. But I believe God knows this and accepts that at times I may feel prone to rebel from the obligation.
And such was the case this year as I decided to not bring any instruments with me. And here I have lived now for more than four months without having access to any guitars laying around the house.
But something changed. A few months ago I started having dreams where I would hear these incredible songs — usually it was some random character in my dream performing the song on stage or just sitting there in a room with me and couple of friends or I even hear them on the radio or playing in the air…and then this voice in my head says “Ed you are dreaming. It is you who is writing this song. Wake up and record it NOW. Do not let this song go. Do it now.” So I do just that.
This isn’t the first time this has happened to me. And many other songwriters tell stories of having similar experiences. So I have became accustomed to keeping some type of recorder on my nightstand for just such these occasions. Now I can just use the voice recorder on my iPhone to do this. And so I do. What strikes me most though about this most recent string of new songs is the sheer quantity at which they are coming. Near nightly now. As if God had a leg up on me the whole time and decided “okay then son, if you refuse to pick up an instrument to pick out the songs from the ethers then I will just deliver them to you fully formed in the dreams of your sleep. For that is what is happening now. I hear them fully formed in my head while I am sleeping and I just wake up enough to turn the recorder on and sing them into it. I always listen back to them the next day to see if they are total shite and I was just kidding myself as we are prone to do in our sleep and yet they never are. They are always totally original and beautiful glorious new songs. And yet I have to do absolutely nothing to make them this way. I certainly am not “writing them” or creating them myself. I am simply singing into the voice recorder exactly as I hear it in my dream. It is very close to being almost supernatural. Like channeling. And it leaves me impressed with God’s persistence and ingenuity. And of course with his generosity. I thought I was in control and perhaps had one up on Him, but it turns out that the joke was on me. Truth be told, I am more than fine with this.
– Posted by The Ambassador using the BlogPress app on an iPhone
In the days before the time of Jesus, when Israel was under roman rule and occupation, killing people was a common practice. One could be executed or “put to death” for any number of countless reasons. (One might observe the similarities to some modern day Middle Eastern countries in today’s world, sadly.) There were used a variety of different methods to torture punish and execute those who broke the law or even just stirred up trouble. One could be stoned to death (yes this practice is still in use today in some parts of the world as shocking as that may seem to those of us in more compassionate and evolved countries…) — as barbaric as that sounds they indeed would literally throw large heavy stones at a person for hours until that person eventually died from the abuse or at least passed out. Beheading was anther popular method. Hanging was another. One of the most common methods used during the time of Roman occupied Israel was what they called crucifixion, whereby a man would have his hands and feet nailed to two planks of wood fashioned together in the form of a cross and be set upright to slowly die from thirst hunger exhaustion bleeding out and/or the grueling effects of gravity’s exertion on the body’s organs, especially the lungs — they would literally die an excruciatingly painful death from being suffocated to death or worse having their organs cave in on themselves. For more details on the practice of crucifixion, google it. It’s quite a feat of human ingenuity and imagination and takes a truly sick mind to come up with.
Crucifixion was so common during the time of Jesus’s day that on any given day up to fifty to (some historians claim) one hundred men would be crucified. Crucifixion simply put was not a special form of execution. It was common practice.
Over the last two-thousand plus years since the death of this man we know as Jesus of Nazareth a slow moving (at first) but heavy handed cult of propaganda has been thrust upon humankind, much of it involuntarily mandatory and by force, which has turned much of the modern population of planet earth into self-professed “Christians” I.e. followers of Jesus. Granted some come to it by choice, while most are simply born into the belief system and never give it a second thought.
One of the many ideas and belief systems that automatically tag along with Christianity is this symbol of the cross, or “crucifix” as it is called by some; in fact many people both christian and non-christian alike would claim that the cross just might be the single most important and enduring symbol representative of the christian faith. Anyone who sees a cross automatically associates it with Christianity. But is this even a desirable reality? That’s the question Christians and the larger governing body should be asking themselves.
We all know why this is. Jesus the man died by execution for blasphemy and heresy at the hands of his own people by being nailed to a cross and crucified. So the cross quickly turned into a symbol of Jesus and his ministry. It was a simple and easy to recognize symbol.
But as explained above this was no singularly important event, this crucifixion of Jesus. Thousands before him died this way. Tens of thousands after him. Hell, Jesus wasn’t even the only man who was crucified that DAY, the one that is now known (ironically) as “Good Friday”. As everyone knows there were three men in total who were beaten tortured and executed by crucifixion that very day, Jesus being just one of them.
There was nothing special about the way Jesus died. On the contrary, it was a rather ordinary and commonplace event. When one studies the life of Jesus one is not impressed by or taken with how he died, but rather with how he lived. There are countless more intriguing stories regarding Jesus than his being one of three “criminals” put to death that day. This is why the event itself is barely allotted even one full sentence in any of the history books we have of that time [See the works of Pliny the Elder or Josephus], and most likely why the event is so casually dismissed and NOT paid attention to by Jews. Jesus was after all a fellow Jew. But to them, from their historic perspective, Jesus from Nazareth was just one of thousands of criminals who was executed during the reign of King Herod. So there isn’t much to pay attention to.
The real meat in the life of Jesus, in the stories and legends that have cropped up over the centuries about this legendary man is to be found in the countless miracles he purportedly performed — healing the sick, giving sight to the blind, walking on water, ESP, telepathy and even bringing the dead back to life. The man was a veritable David Copperfield of his day.
His life, though we know so little of it, is filled with magical stories of truly mythic proportions. And this is where and when one begins to become impressed by him. Get to know him well enough and one can easily be led to swoon, for not only was he a quick wit and a charismatic character, but there is much “magic” surrounding those few years we know of his short ministry. He was both infinitely loving tolerant and compassionate towards others AND vehemently disciplined and dictatorial in his rigorous commitment to what he believed to be his mission and calling by none other than God Him/Her/Itself.
This is no small claim, to assert that one believes they are not only in touch with but being guided by the highest most evolved and primal force in the entire universe who created everything. On several occasions Jesus even claims he was the the “son” of this infinitely powerful, all knowing force. Quite a claim indeed.
Perhaps greatest of all the wondrous miracle stories about Jesus though is this idea that less than 48 hours after he died and was confirmed dead he miraculously came back to life, albeit in a more ethereal and less earthly form. THIS is the event that is celebrated around the world on the day known as Easter Sunday. Jesus’s alleged Reserection from the dead. Depending on whose account you read or believe he “rose from the dead” and appeared before many of his disciples over a period of days — some say 40 and others say up to 300; he even still purportedly had the holes in his hands from where they hammered the nails through them some stories claim. Others say he appeared more like a ghostly apparition. But most accounts claim he stayed here on earth after he arose from the dead to preach a bit more and hand out certain orders from God and then he disappeared — as it was retold by witnesses and then embellished over centuries by the Roman Empire, a group not exactly immune to gross exaggeration and fairytale-like hyperbole, he reportedly ascended (as in magically floated up in the air) into “heaven” to sit at the right hand of his father (that would be God… Just where God keeps these chairs and what keeps them afloat is still a mystery…) — never to be seen or heard from again.
Before doing this he promised to return one day and save us all (believers that is…) from a hell on earth that would be flat out apocalyptic. (Are we there yet? It sure feels as though we are. But then again it probably felt that way during the Great Plague or the Dark Ages or The Inquisition or during any number of World Wars we’ve had the pleasure of enduring due to a few overly ambitious selfish and greedy assholes). Hence the whole “Jesus is going to come back (“the second coming” as its called — perhaps because fundamentalist Christians don’t stress the importance of secular education very much — subjects like math and science — it would actually be his third coming if we are going to be literal) –once the great temple in Israel is rebuilt… Bumper stickers referring to “The Rapture” or “End Times” are also related to this idea.
If all that isn’t enough to render the actual crucifixion a rather mundane event, Jesus is also credited for completely reforming humanity’s conception of God and Divinity. A simple examination comparing the God of the Torah and Old Testament with the NEW God Jesus speaks of in the New Testament shows a completely evolved, nearly transcendent idea of divinity itself — more akin to the Godhead of Eastern religions of the day or even the Buddha — compassionate, infinitely loving and tolerant, intelligent, no more playing favorites or being wrathful or vengeful, as compared with the overtly human God of the Old Testament, savage and barbaric and filled with human attributes and weaknesses. Jesus was killed precisely for these reasons. He was if anything a revolutionary and a visionary — in addition to his more mysteriously magical abilities.
It is for these reasons that the cross should not only NOT be the most important and significant symbol of the christian faith as it is today, but it should not even be a symbol of Christendom at all. The cross that Jesus was hung on, just like all the other alleged criminals of his day, is a small detail of the bigger picture, just as an image of a hangman’s noose would be had Jesus been hung rather than crucified. Not only is the focus inherently turned toward something mundane for the time and the larger scope of things, but it is also a rather violent, gory and negative aspect of the Jesus story when considering how overtly positive the story really is. In reality isn’t the whole idea of the christian Faith tradition a celebration of the miracles, the message and the Reserection of Jesus? And not his unfortunate death or how he died? Those are mere sidebars when compared to what impresses the most about the man, his message or his myriad works of miracles.
The cross may be simple and easy to recognize, but that doesn’t and shouldn’t automatically qualify it to be the grand and perfect symbol that it’s become of Christianity.
Some modern day pastors, especially the more “Fundamentalist” oriented, and even some theologians may argue that the most important aspect of Jesus’s life was and still is the crucifixion because of this concept put forth by Calvin and Luther called Substitution — the idea that “humanity is inherently so sinful so as to not be good or righteous enough to have a direct relationship with God, and thus needed Jesus to act as a substitute for us, to die on the cross as a sacrifice to atone for the “sins of man”, and as much as I get this idea and appreciate the beauty of it — Jesus became in essence “a new sacrificial lamb” rendering the regular sacrificing of animals to God unnecessary, thereby creating a new covenant between God and humankind — I do not believe that it is inherently necessary as a Christian (or any other religion for that matter) to believe the idea that humankind is born eternally sinful so as to not be able to experience a direct relationship with God or The Divine on their own.
Of course I make this claim AFTER the fact. I am well aware of this potential irony. Jesus has already performed this action some two-thousand years ago and therefore I am speaking from my own personal experiences of my relationship with The Divine now, after he did this; therefore I cannot possibly relate to what humankind’s relationship with God was like before Jesus’s death. But I would submit that God, if there is one — and because I have had so many personal tangible experiences with this Divine Force we call God, I can easily and confidently claim to know there is — is much bigger than most people give Him/Her/It credit.
While it is true that some people stay focused on and nearly obsessed with their own inherent sinfulness and therefore the Substitution, sacrifice and Atonement aspect of Jesus, this is strictly their trip and as much as they’re entitled to it, it certainly doesn’t have to apply to all of us. Jesus himself when speaking of God drew from such a deeper more evolved enlightened and intelligent viewpoint that he essentially retired this old fashioned idea of a God who is “too good for us lowly humans” from mass consciousness.
This is not to say that there is no credence or relevance to the sacrifice that Jesus the man made when choosing to be executed when he obviously could have so easily escaped or fought back successfully — he was after all the most God-like being in human form that history has ever known, quite possibly he may have literally been “THE God” in human form as he occasionally hinted he might have been. So his execution via crucifixion was clearly his deliberate plan and doing, and not the doing of others — regardless of how much those who did the deed believe they were actually responsible for it. (They’re kidding themselves). He was well versed in the prophecies of the Torah and the Prophets and he planned and executed a very direct path of actions and events that literally fulfilled those prophecies of the coming Messiah of the Jewish people to a tee. [If this is a subject that interests you there are several books — or probably now even websites — that delve into the life of Jesus directly as each event in his life specifically correlates to a prophecy that was predicted and written about hundreds of years before bis birth. Right down to his execution and even HOW he was executed AND his subsequent Reserection.]
So clearly Jesus, after much time attempting to change the hearts and minds of his fellow Judeans through his message and the example of his actions turned out unsuccessful, decided at some point that he would venture down this alternative path of mass atonement of humankind’s sins through his own sacrifice — even though he was flat out telling people for years the good news that God did indeed forgive them automatically because He loved them so much, all they had to do was ask for it and it would be granted; but they just didn’t get it… And then of course to really hammer the idea home he went further and resurrected from the dead.
After all (one is sure he probably thought at the time) who would not be shifted changed mesmerized convinced or transformed through witnessing a man transcend death itself? If it happened in modern times it would be hard to imagine anyone not being completely transformed by witnessing or even hearing about such an event. And yet as we know from history itself the political powers that be in the Jewish religion in Jesus’s time were either too frightened of the repercussions of admitting to owning such a miraculous event OR too pissed off at Jesus for his version of Messiahness being so different than theirs: they were looking for a very primitively temporal and human freedom from bondage and enslavement and instead he offered a much larger version of this idea of freedom.
The truth is we will never know exactly why they decided to kill a man as innocent and harmless as Jesus and save a man as sinister and wicked as Barabas, because we weren’t there. And there exists no known notes from those times, at least none that the Jewish religion has ever released publicly, that explain the reasons for their actions or even their feelings about the incident. Mum has always been the word from the Jewish people regarding Jesus. As stated above already, as far as they are concerned he was “just another criminal who deserved to be executed.”
But even if every single thing that happened to Jesus throughout his short life on earth was preordained by a higher power and even he himself was aware of what was to come and planned it all out — including the crucifixion and Reserection, one still finds that the method of execution was by and large nothing more than a mere sidebar compared to the bigger picture of his message and actions and therefore the cross is simply too simple and too irrelevant a symbol to represent the immense proportions and importance of what Christianity means today. Im not saying it will be easy to create another symbol that better represents the life and message of Jesus. I’m simply saying that it’s well past time for all of us to transcend the symbolism of this simple image and create something else that is a better more relevant fit.
– Posted by The Ambassador using BlogPress on an iPhone
So there it is. Another Sunday waving goodbye. I’ve come to enjoy this ritual of ending the day w/ an episode or 2 of Little House On the Prairie. Purchased the entire Season 1, as I’ve never seen it. What comes to mind most often while watching it, along with hundreds of other thoughts, is just how much society, hence collective consciousness, has changed over the last 40 years.
The show depicts sincere straight forward simple stories about living and being alive. No irony satire sarcasm or cynicism, all so rampant in today’s model of entertainment — i.e. no fear of being judged or criticized for being real or kind or honest or good — the fundamental thoughts and feelings beneath aforementioned irony cynicism satire and sarcasm, fear. Instead the benefits of virtues are emphasized; ideas long lost at some point along the way in modern times such as kindness, hard work, honesty, fidelity, connection w/ the divine, family values and the like are not only explored but downright encouraged. Straight faced, without a nod or a wink or a tongue in cheek. One couldn’t find anything even remotely similar to it today.
Of course Little House portrayed life in the 19th century, understood, when life was simpler and civilization had not yet reached a state of excess — thus greed and self-centered pleasure-experience seeking had not yet boroughed it’s way into mass consciousness as a main priority. Those things would come later, when surviving became all but guaranteed — this is after all the natural flow of the evolution of all sentient being civilizations. And yet lest we forget, Little House aired during the 1970s, long after the industrial revolution, when survival was indeed by all accounts all but guaranteed. Yet it somehow managed to still find an audience that could not only relate to it, but sincerely welcome it.
The question begged now is what changed in the last 40 years?
No blood gore violence crime murder CSI vampires zombies gratuitous sex adultery lying and deceit taken for granted billionaire playboys shallow busty airheads like Snooki or KK, no drug kingpins villains disguised as heroes vulgarity or nudity. Just simple stories extolling the virtues of being a good person and doing your best for yourself, your family and your neighbor. As far away from what passes for entertainment in today’s world as can be imagined. One would be hard pressed to believe that anything remotely similar could find an audience in modern times.
But why? Again…what has changed? What went missing? Or what got added in consciousness to create such a stark drastic change in such a short period of time?
It’s worth pondering…
– Posted by The Ambassador using BlogPress on an iPhone
The sun is out white hot and bright today; the sky near perfectly flawlessly clear and brilliant blue. It’s a sharp contrast to the freezing temperatures, gray overcast skies and constant onslaught of snow we’ve been experiencing for almost a week in the Northeast. But one would do well not to be fooled by this recent change in the weather, for though the skies are clear and blue and the sun is shining bright, the temperature today is a biting 21° and according to weather forecasters will not rise above 25. It’s the kind of cold that hurts your skin if you’re exposed to it for any longer than a few minutes. At first it’s pin pricks. Then a numbing swelling-like pain. And if there is ever a pickup in the wind, forget about it — t’s a physically brutal and near unbearable condition to spend any considerable amount of time in.
But unlike most, who seem to get as much of a kick out of complaining about cold weather as they do sunbathing on a sunny day in June, I have loved every minute of this Winter’s snow and freezing temperatures. For me there is something very appealing about this cold weather, considering that it’s perfectly normal for winter — I don’t see how we have a right to complain about it, let alone dislike it — as if we were somehow entitled to warmer temperatures just because we are used to getting everything we want. I find the cold and snow quite enjoyable, desirable even; comforting in a paradoxically warm and cozy way.
Clearly this attitude does not apply to everyone; some people blatantly profess out loud to dislike the cold and snowy weather of winter. (It makes one wonder why then do they choose to live in a seasonally volatile locale like New York City if they’re going to complain about it every year…) Plenty of people for generations have moved from the Midwest and the Northeast down south to warmer climates specifically for this reason. My family in fact were diehard self professed “yankees” from New York and Pennsylvania and yet because, as all people do once retired, my grandparents moved to South Florida, I was obligated to grow up there.
From the day I was born I can always remember disliking Florida; feeling like a fish out of water, an outlier. There was nothing about it except the beach that I liked or felt connected to in the least. Some people feel right at home where they grow up. It is after all for all intents and purposes “home”. But I never felt at home growing up. Rather I felt like an alien who was forced to make a pit stop in a strange and foreign and hostile land. Like an outsider. As if I were the only one, all alone in seeing how terribly wrong and ass backwards it was there. From the climate to the people it just didn’t feel right down there. I didn’t fit and everyone knew it. There are few things as upsetting to the psyche of a young mind than never feeling like you fit in somewhere when everyone around you is acting as if everything is perfectly fine.
In elementary school during what we were told was “winter” we were instructed to draw snowflakes or snowmen, as all kids are in the States. But we’d never even seen snow let alone built a snowman. During the Fall we were always asked to draw all these different colored leaves of orange and yellow and red to decorate the room — yet we’d never experienced the changing colors of Autumn. Our teachers attempted to explain to us what autumn was…or why they called it “Fall”. But the explanations fell on deaf ears. All around us were green trees 365 days out of the year. There is no Autumn in Florida. Just as there is no winter and no spring. So these were ideas that only became real to us through the movies or TV. Talk about feeling like you’re missing out…. Gloves mittens scarves winter coats galoshes hats long-johns snowmen snowball fights skiing hot cocoa warm cozy fireplaces…these were all things that seemed entirely foreign to us as children growing up in a temperate climate that never had seasons. It felt as if a very large part of growing up, of being a human on planet earth, was being withheld from us, a large piece of the collective pie of civilization was totally off limits to our experience. These were things we couldn’t even relate to, let alone know anything about. It set up a real “us and them” paradigm in our young minds to be sure. We never had White Christmases. In fact we didn’t even understand most Of the lyrics of those classic Christmas songs. Sleigh bells in the snow? What? The idea that people would deliberately ever desire to move down to Florida or the South for that matter seemed a ridiculous notion. Why on earth would anyone want to do that and give up all that fun stuff associated with the seasons that we saw on TV and in the movies?
The first time I ever felt “at home” in the world was my first visit to New York. It was a palpable change in feeling, change of state inside of me. A brand new sense of calm, ease and letting go. A great big physical and psychological sigh of relief. The first time I ever felt relaxed and not on guard in my entire life. As soon as I got into my first taxi I just immediately felt different, transformed, happy, grounded — as if some invisible force was whispering into my ear “you are home…” I experienced the same thing in Vermont, Chicago, Wisconsin (and of course later in Italy, but that’s another story…). Anywhere that had seasons really. I began to understand that home had very little to do with where we are born or raised or where our family resides, but instead it goes much deeper than that. It’s more of a feel thing, up to each individual and how the environment affects their mind and body.
I don’t pretend to believe that this sudden transformation was due entirely to the weather. I am sure that culture and people also contribute to it as well. But for now, here, I am specifically focusing on the weather, especially as it relates to the changing of the seasons.
For me, someone who was raised primarily in the south, I find the cold weather of winter extremely comforting and grounding. It’s as if the cold winter weather is somehow attached to our very souls from some primordial source the dates back hundreds of thousands of years. A biological connection to the changing seasons perhaps through thousands of lifetimes of different incarnations on earth; or perhaps an even deeper more primitive genetic predisposition to the seasons based on the fact that nearly every atom in our body is comprised of the same stuff as planet earth is. We share the same molecular heritage and thus anything the earth is accustomed to so too are we.
I have concluded over many years living in the north now as compared to living in the south that there has to be some sort of biological reason for this almost supernatural attachment human beings have to the changing of the seasons. It is as if by our very nature, being biological organisms, that we are as attached and attracted to the cold of winter and the blossoming of spring and the luxurious warmth and heat of the summer as the earth is.
Now of course this might not be the case at all; it might be more of a purely subjective preferential cause-and-effect matter. Some people like cold-weather, and some people don’t. But I cannot speak for others. I can only speak for myself. And for me I have always found the cold weather and snow of winter as appealing as I do the warm weather and hot son of a day at the beach during summertime. Truth be told I cannot readily relate to those who desire to live in climates that do not regularly change seasons. Such was the case in Florida where if it dips below 70 people go crazy and throw on three or four layers of winter clothing because they’re so unaccustomed to cold weather. Not only are they not accustomed to it, they are overtly against it and claim to dislike it. This attitude against what can only be considered one of the most natural aspects of earthly living possible has always struck me as being very odd. But again it is after all a seemingly subjective thing.
Why is it that some of us prefer our winters to be cold and our Summers to be hot? Why do some of us prefer the changing of the seasons so much more than others? Some people don’t seem to have a preference at all whether the season changes in their environment, not even a little bit. This mentality I do not understand. I believe there is a divine purpose to the elegant and subtle changing of earth’s seasons. Something that not only greatly benefits the earth and all of its various species and inhabitants but also a profound yet subtle benefit to the heart and soul of humankind.
Seasons are landmarks, rights of passage, outposts in the desert of existence that help map our journey through life, each as important as the other. Just as one ends, always perfectly at the right time, and another begins, so too does our state of mind. There is something very unnatural about living in an environment that never changes seasons. The human heart and body are deprived of something powerful, perhaps even essential, which is why you’ll never hear me complain about the cold and snow, nor the heat and sun. They all have their rightful place. Just as we do. Many people are aware of Florida’s reputation for extreme corruption. Law enforcement calls it the “fraud capital of the United States”. Perhaps the unnatural never changing constantly hot weather plays a role in this strange anomaly that gives Florida it’s duplicitous reputation… I don’t know. But I do know that it doesn’t FEEL right. One only need spend one year in a locale that has four distinct seasons and they will feel forever changed for the better, recharged and refreshed equally from each though in a different way.
Right now we are enjoying Winter, in all of its glory, from temperatures below 0 to piles and piles of snow decorating the city in a luxurious soft white, to the slower pace brought about by the limitations of such frigid temperatures. And yet at the same time there also seems to be a cheery spark in everyone’s eyes as well. I couldn’t imagine spending January February or March in 80 degree weather as they do in California or Florida. It just wouldn’t be natural. In time Spring will arrive. The big coats and floppy hats will come off. Sun dresses and flip flops will start popping up everywhere and eventually be as ubiquitous as the bursting colors of fresh cherry blossoms and other floral delights. How else would we know this spring if not for this Winter? We wouldn’t. And that’s the point of it all.
– Posted by The Ambassador using BlogPress on an iPhone 8s Custom
– Posted by The Ambassador using BlogPress on an iPhone
A few years back I posted an article here suggesting that the television industry needed to institute a radical change in programming and release full seasons of shows all at once instead of sticking to the old model of one episode per week and that they could even charge a premium for it because consumers were changing how they wanted to view TV. Less than six months later the advent of “binge watching” and studios releasing full seasons all at once began when Netflix released an entire new season of Arrested Development. Soon after came House of Cards, Orange is the New Black and once Amazon jumped on board the rest as they say is history.
Well here’s another one for you and I’m going to give it to you free of charge. At some point in the near future we will all hear about an exciting new company — whose title will invariably be one word and be a pun or spin off of another more common word — that gives consumers an opportunity to buy and/or sell to each other their pre-owned digital media such as movies, ebooks, albums, TV episodes or whole seasons.
At one point or another we’ve all sprung for a movie we really wanted to see on Amazon, went ahead and bought it because it wasn’t yet available to rent — and now it sits in our “Video Library” — digitally speaking — even though we may never feel a desire to ever watch that film again. The same is fast becoming true with TV episodes. As more and more of us travel more or ditch cable completely, we still want to keep up with our favorite shows; so we end up “purchasing” different episodes, usually at about $1.99 per OR $39.99 per season.
But let’s say we’ve already binge watched seasons 1 through 4 of Walking Dead a few times and we’re over it. As of now all those episodes just sit in our possession forever. Stored on Amazon’s servers and held in our name — what they call our “Video Library”. After a while we may want to sell all those episodes to someone else, say at half the price we paid, and buy season 1 of True Detective. Again we won’t buy True Detective new, nor will we even rent it via On Demand — we may no longer subscribe to cable. Instead we will have the opportunity to purchase or better put “repurchase” it from someone else who already bought it a year or two earlier.
The biggest challenge to this business — and it’s guaranteed that this WILL BE an exciting new business everyone will be raving about at some point in the next 6 to 12 months — is making the calls to set up all the partnerships that would be needed to make it work. For one thing deals will have to be made with all the distributors, the Amazons and HBOGOs and ShowTimes and the like. Best solution would be to offer them a simple transaction fee for every time they change the name of one of the titles they have in their library from say Mr. John Smith to Mrs. Annabella Washington. The digital media will never move. It will still stay in the same place on their servers. The only thing that will change will be the owners name. Think of it like a virtual eBay for virtual media (since the media is no longer in physical form). No shipping required.
Deals will also have to be struck with all the content providers and the licensing agencies, the people who originally created and licensed the product who usually receive a fee every time that particular title, whether it be an ebook or a movie or an or a TV episode, is purchased; whether it’s a television studio or a production company or a record company etc etc. Yes it will be a challenge. But it’s no more challenging than what YouTube or Sootify or Pandora have had to do. It’s just going to take time, a good law firm, a little effort, a smattering of charm and a gift for gab. In a few months time all of these deals can easily be put into place and the business can be up and running on a simple web and mobile platform for consumers to start using.
Will it happen? Yes, without a doubt. Within a year this is a no brainer for an acquisition or take over by one of the larger media companies. The question is WHO is going to do it? It could be you. Like I said, this is a freebie. Take it. I’ve already got too much in the pipeline. But regardless of who creates it, I personally cannot wait to use this service. I own way too many episodes of The Good Wife and would gladly trade them all in for half of what I paid for them.
The advent of a consumer market for used digital media is right around the corner. The demand is already there. We just need someone to build it.
– Posted by The Ambassador using BlogPress on an iPhone 6
Tonight I was gently coerced by a younger friend into watching something called WHAT? by Bo Burnham, a young twenty-something Millennial doing his idea of a fresh take on a standup comedy routine.
At first I did my best to stay busy enough doing other things to pay only as much attention as was necessary to quickly get how immature the routines were and still manage to appear to not be totally ignoring the show, just so as not to be rude. It was exactly what you’d expect if you took yours or anyone else’s teenage son nephew or cousin and allowed them to jump up on a stage in front of a bunch of other twenty-somethings and told him to goof off for an hour. Stupid, inane, foolish, sophomoric, goofy, dorky, insulting, immature, extremely boring and chock filled with a heavy dose of childishly gratuitous dick jokes, sexual innuendo and locker room humor. In other words, it was unbearable for anyone with a brain older than 12 to 16 years of age unless said brain was perhaps extremely high or sadly disabled.
But then something strange happened. The show kept going and continued to slink sloppily downhill minute by grueling minute. The half hour of mostly gay bashing, sexist and misogynistic girl bashing and masturbation jokes continued — and in between he attempted to throw in the usual “I’m so smart I compare myself to God but not really” meets “God does not exist” meets “God doesn’t care about us” sophomoric philosophical banter typical of young Americans raised on too much money and material possessions and not enough of things meaningful or important. He then threw in plenty of college-age psycho-babble about that favorite subject of lack of self awareness and the obsessive need for self analysis exactly as one would expect from a 16 to 22 year old.
But despite his best attempts to create a jovial atmosphere and an ah fuck it entertaining comedic routine, the primary message being put forth over and over again, out into consciousness, minute after grueling minute, was just how shallow empty hollow and meaningless this strange generation processes and feels about life — as if the gift of life, given so casually and idly, easily and randomly — is not only taken for granted and not appreciated but completely overlooked, and perhaps even resented. Life isn’t something to appreciate or feel blessed by or even to philosophically or intellectually explore, but rather it’s more of a lame nuisance to be made fun of and denigrated, desecrated and profaned.
I am too tired to do the subject justice this evening as it is well past midnight. But as the show –that was no more than an hour long — dragged on, I as an audience member and as a viewer into this frightening sad and ugly world, became more and more disheartened and discouraged about this strange group we casually label “the Millennials”. What went so terribly wrong with them that was so different than the rest of us that created such a disconnected disheartened unconcerned shallow and heartless generation of human beings? So seemingly lost AND so blatantly and casually unaffected by filth violence and vulgarity that literally nothing seems to affect them? And not only are they entirely unaffected by these normally traditionally perceived atrocities, but they also now bare the unique badge of honor of being the main purveyors of these things in our shared culture, whether through their music, their inane tween fiction, their alleged viral videos, blogs and vines or in this case their strange brand of one man shows meet comedic standup routines.
Plenty of reasons come to mind as to what could have caused this….how a whole generation of young people could be so tossed aside by a society that no one bothered to notice that they have literally nothing to believe in, so in place of shouting their noblest ideals and dreams from the rooftops as their predecessors once did so valiantly yet just as naively, they are instead making a living, or choosing not to, from denigrating being alive in the first place.
Forget for a moment that they hold one of the rarest distinctions of any American generation in our history, that they are growing up in not only one of the most peaceful times in history, not only one of the most financially prosperous — where economic opportunity is afforded to anyone with a good idea and the fortitude to turn it into a business or commodity and can strike it rich faster than ever before in human history, but also one of the most free and liberal, open minded and tolerant societies in the history of the human race — where everything from equal rights for women and minorities are shared right along side the LGBT community — and let’s be honest: 20 years ago there was and could never even exist an open community with such a name; euthanasia is becoming a legal right just as abortion has been for nearly four decades, right along with the religious freedom to freely be an atheist or a Muslim or a Tibetan Buddhist or a Rastafarian and still work side by side each other and yes even the right to smoke pot for no other reason than recreational purposes is now becoming commonplace. This newest generation seems completely immune to what an incredibly free healthy and easy time it is to be alive. A time to celebrate and cherish and create, not destroy and devalue. How have these achievements been lost on this sad lot? (One clearly sees that we can no more over generalize about every single member of the Millennial Generation than we can any other; for there are certainly some heroes among them as there are in all. It’s more about the overall vibration of the group itself and their attitude and message, which at this point in their evolution seems to be “fuck it” more than anything else…)
Was it the seemingly countless endless and meaningless wars they’ve grown up with over the last 14 years? Is it the constant corruption they observe in all areas and at all levels and positions of service and leadership in government? Has the haunting horrendous and obvious fact that our King has no clothes finally become so immersed in our collective consciousness that nothing of our once noble ideals of self and enlightenment exists at all in this newest group of young Americans? Do they truly hold nothing sacred? Do they truly not care in the least?
My heart sank as each minute wore on. I was more grieving than annoyed. And believe me, annoyed was the main feeling I was left with. And yet….there is clearly a problem here that is bigger than just some annoying brat playing the fool. I walked away deeply saddened. More needs to be said. More needs to be explored. In time.
– Posted by The Ambassador using BlogPress
HBO’s original series NEWSROOM is far and away the most intelligent program on television. Anywhere. Perhaps of all time. Several thoughts come to mind.
Number one: Granted, this used to be a rather easy thing to say of course — if one ever had the opportunity (rare) to encounter an intelligent program on TV in days past, because TV used to be infamous for its sole role as the premier purveyor of the worst the world had to dump on itself. But all that changed over the last ten years exactly as I predicted when explaining one of the primary Signatures of the Age of Personal Expression (which we are at least waist deep in by now, at least), i.e. “We are about to enter a new golden age of American television, a renaissance of great television the likes of which we have never experienced before, where it may as a medium even surpass film, most likely never literature or journalism one would assume, in it’s brilliance to captivate engage move inspire educate and entertain.” “The Great American Television Renaissance” is what the Signature is still referred to as when we work on the project. And we, like anyone else paying attention as of late, are in awe of it.
Not only have B and occasional A list Hollywood celebs hopped on the TV train, but more importantly (much more importantly) so have big name Hollywood film writers and directors. Though we haven’t peaked quite yet in the Personal Expression Age itself, in terms of what it has the potential to do — what it has the directive and mandate and obligation to do — this particular Signature, of TV, is flying high; it’s hit it’s zenith. Television today is as good as any other form of entertainment in the world today. If you know where to look that is.
A second thought: think about what you just said old boy…. NEWSROOM IS good…but the MOST intelligent program on television?!? The Transcendence Diaries by their very nature are prone to hyperbolic claims and exclamations. No one would read them if they weren’t. So is this nothing but a quick fix, a one off jolt of hyperbolic frenzy instigated by the emotions this particular show so elegantly elicits in all of its viewers, one that you may regret come morning once you come down off this high and have the opportunity to think more clearly about the substance of such a statement?
Surely there are other shows on American television that are good. Great even. But we aren’t talking about good or great TV. We are talking about intelligent. In the not too distant past one could point to Sunday Morning News shows as being intelligent television; but besides the aging yet ever youthful McLaughlin Group and GPS with Fareed Zakaria, our beloved once reliable traditional staples known as Sunday morning news shows as a whole have gone the way of all TV news (and the general direction of the American political system, just as an aside, albeit a heartbreaking one) — hype pomp shock schlock rumors gossip gotchas and gimmes, with very little in the way of trustworthy news reporting, let alone anything remotely resembling intelligence.
One could of course fall back on any number of the programming still being aired by the PBS network regularly, and to be fair as a whole PBS still stands tallest when it comes to “most intelligent television programming” overall. They hit it out of the park with their rabbit out of the hat resuscitation of Masterpiece Theatre by way of Downton Abbey — not only reviving a long thought barely breathing franchise, but were so successful in it that they’ve now managed to spin it off into three separate programs: the classic Masterpiece, then Masterpiece Mystery and now their latest Masterpiece Contemporary — all pretty decent programming IF that’s your thing. Not bad for a long running show that no one even knew still existed ten years ago.
And PBS still delivers the most reliable respectful trustworthy intelligent and hype-free nightly news show on TV. They don’t pander nor patronize their projected audience. They aren’t too busy trying to “make news” to report on actual real news events transpiring in today’s world. Something the other four networks seem to have completely forgotten how to do. In fact let’s face it: the other four networks, ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX, have been so busy chasing the slutty foul smelling tail of cable news — quite possibly the most wretched invention of the latter half of the 20th century, right up there with the atomic bomb, Al Qaeda and The Kardashians — that it fully appears that network news divisions have even forgotten that THAT’S precisely what they were supposed to be doing, reporting the news, not trying to make it on their own, nor make it up as they go along.
Honorable Mention goes to The Charlie Rose Show — for if it weren’t for NEWSROOM, then surely Most Intelligent Show on Television would still be all his, as it has been for a decade at least. The Charlie Rose Show is still the one safe harbor any educated person of intellect can pull into for an hour and not only not be insulted but be seriously and sincerely intrigued and stimulated intellectually. Charlie Rose too is a PBS property.
So yes PBS certainly deserves First Place for Most Intelligent Television Network. But this isn’t about networks. It’s about single programs. And as anyone alive or awake in the last three years has noticed, nothing comes even close to the jaw dropping death defying dialog audiences are afforded each week when NEWSROOM airs on HBO. The scripts, or as he likes to call them the Teleplays, are penned by the inimitable Aaron Sorkin, (A Few Good Men, The Social Network). For many many years Sorkin has been infamous for many things: a hard leaning liberal who throws too much of his own personal politics into his art, a maddening person to work with, a drug fiend, an obsessive compulsive who admittedly showers five to six times a day, but more than anything else, a brilliant writer.
And indeed IF his style is something you enjoy or can bare then there isn’t much in this world that feels better than bathing in a sea of his words and sentences. Rapid fire dialogues between intensely interesting characters about actual matters of substance. Rare stuff indeed for television. And yet he pulls it off. One might tag that last line with “only on HBO…” And that may have been true at one point. Game of Thrones, Veep, Silicon Valley, True Detective… All HBO commodities. (Lest we forget they’re also responsible for bringing us the truly wretched GIRLS, nuff said…) But plenty of other brilliant shows now float about on other equally noteworthy and deserving networks such as AMC. So that mantle holds more than just one trophy with more than just one network name on it. And I predict that it is only going to continue to get more and more crowded up there as more creatives and audiences alike begin to discover the merits and potential of television as the new and exciting medium it has become.
In the meantime we still have — unfortunately — at least four more mind tingling, heart stopping episodes of NEWSROOM to view this season. Come Emmy time — if one subscribes to the idea of picking “favorites” or “number ones” (which I personally don’t, as everyone knows — (I believe there is and can be no such thing) then no one in that room will deserve that statue more than Aaron Sorkin for what he manages to do with NEWSROOM. That mind of his is a rare breed and a national treasure. For all the attention our society focuses on soulless technology and empty celebrity, it is people like Aaron Sorkin who illuminate just how powerful the simple written word can be still. If you haven’t yet had the pleasure of watching NEWSROOM, I envy you. Do so as soon as possible.
Honorable Mentions need to be handed out to Real Time with Bill Maher, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and occasionally The Good Wife. (Though their story is another one entirely — one we simply don’t have the time nor desire to get into at this moment, though not one not worth telling, for it is consistently a better than most television show with occasionally brilliant writing and a stellar often times all-star cast. But it far too often succumbs to the limitations of network TV. Again, another post we’ll address that subject).
– Posted by The Ambassador using BlogPress on an iPhone 8s Custom
“The music industry is dwindling, but only for the artists. Something’s not right here. Artists can’t make a living anymore. They’re having to go get second jobs to pay the bills. But look at the profits of music companies like YouTube, iTunes, Spotify and the evil publicly-traded Pandora (who recently sued artists and record labels to be allowed to pay even less per stream — they won btw and are now only obligated to pay a royalty rate of .0007 per stream. Yes, as incomprehensible as that is to fathom, that’s 7/1000th of one penny –that’s all we as artists get paid every time someone listens to a song of ours on Pandora. They’re revenue is in the billions. It’s hard to believe, I get it. It is just as hard for us, the content creators/product suppliers, to believe as well. The problem is the labels. I know and like these guys. And I’ve told them this to their face. They’ll sell their own mother for $25. They’ve got to change and start helping the artists more.” — Garth Brooks to CNN November 17, 2014
Hearing Garth say the words above in an interview today sparked me. It’s easy to feel like you’re being an ungrateful whiner when you’ve lived a life like mine — one that many could easily claim has been privileged, and yet you’re going around complaining about “artist royalty compensation” and other such seemingly elitist issues when regular folks are having a tough time making ends meet or even finding a job in the first place. It’s a subject Princess Little Tree and I discuss often: do I stir the flames of protest publicly about what’s happening in the music business to us the artists and tell people how bad it is? Or do I just play it cool? Is it bad for business? Or is it the right thing to do? Will people think I’m being ungrateful? Or greedy? Will I lose my street cred by bringing up the subject of money — which to certain circles of people shouldn’t even hold a place in the same conversation as music or art…?
Earlier this year I started the Fair Pay for Fair Play campaign to address just these issues. Accessing the Facebook page is the easiest way to get informed and involved in this cause and if you care about music and the artists who create it I encourage you to do just that. Visit the page. Like it. Share it with your friends. Because the truth is we are struggling in a way that we have never seen before in modern times. Artists are quite literally starving. Because we are being squeezed out of the very industry that we create the product for.
There are many many reasons for this sad state of affairs and over the last few months I have used these usually more literary Transcendence Diaries to discuss some of the root causes of this issue. No one diary entry is going to address the entire issue in its entirety. That would be impossible. It would take a volume of books to do the cause any real justice. But at the very least we are getting ball rolling in terms of alerting the public not just to the problem itself but to just how serious it is becoming. The easiest way to sum it up is to remind people that over the last ten years we have moved away from consuming music via purchasing it, through CDs or vinyl or through digital downloads ala iTunes, and shifted instead towards consuming music via “streaming it” online using services like Pandora or Spotify or YouTube.
For you and me as music lovers this has been an exciting trend, a revolutionary transition to a world where any and every thing that has ever been recorded by anyone we’ve ever heard of (or not) can be accessed immediately from anywhere in the world. Even on the go right from our phones. In fact most of us now listen to music via our phones more often than home stereos (remember those?) Besides the most obvious abhorrent problem with this shift — the fact that we use extremely expensive state of the art equipment worth millions of dollars to create the most pristine sounding music we possibly can for the audience and it is now being degraded to sound like shit through phone speakers, there’s another problem: as technology companies quickly take control of the distribution of the music — through the aforementioned streaming services, deals have been and are being struck that leave less than pennies for the artist, or worse yet leave them out of the equation entirely. And the sad part is that is most people have no idea that this is what’s going down. They just assume that because it’s all being done above board and publicly that “surely the artists are being paid as they always have.” But the answer is “No. They are not.”
It’s only been a few weeks since U2 shocked (and to some annoyed) the world by giving away their new album for free via Apple due to the realization that it probably wouldn’t sell many copies and thus like Jay Z, Kanye, Coldplay and Thom Yorke before, they’d be better off just giving it away rather than risking low sales figures.
Even more recently Taylor Swift rocked the music world by pulling her albums, including her very successful new one, off of Spotify completely — due to the fact that Spotify only pays us approximately 7/1000th of a penny per play. Consider that for a moment: Spotify doesn’t even pay us one cent per spin. That’s the cold hard truth. No matter how they try to spin it. And trust me, as a music lover I personally LOVE Spotify and it’s potential as a listening device. But as an artist there isn’t anything I can think of off the top of my head that I loath more than Spotify. Piracy, e.g. people who don’t pay for music at all and just go online to download it for free via bit torrent type piracy sites ranks just a bit higher on my hate list. But Spotify Pandora and YouTube come in a close second. Why? Because at least piracy sites are upfront and honest about what they are doing. They’re criminals and often times proud of it. They see “free music” as some sort of cause of rebellion, as if by stealing music they’re somehow sticking it to The Man. But companies like YouTube and Spotify pretend to be “working with the record labels and artists to create a fair playing field for everyone”. But that claim is total bollocks. It’s just completely untrue.
Today it was announced that platinum country rocker Garth Brooks decided to sell his new album via his own website, something called Ghost Tunes, instead of via iTunes. Why? For pretty much the same reasons. He’ll make a much larger profit that way without having to sell even a fifth of the copies he would have to via iTunes.
Caveat: I and my boys in Transcendence are on an independent label, Dying Van Gogh Records, one which we have a large stake of ownership in. And so we make a larger percentage of sales than artists like Brooks and Swift. We make at least 50% of sales. Whereas artists on larger labels like Garth Brooks and Taylor Swift only make 10% of total sales if they’re lucky.
So do the math. If Spotify is only paying out 7/1000th of one penny per spin of any one song and 90% of THAT goes to the label, leaving only 10% to the artist…well how is that artist supposed to make a living? Sales and downloads?
Well therein lies the problem: because streaming has become so popular, people are buying and downloading less and less music. In a nutshell sales and downloads of music — personal ownership of music has nearly come crashing to a halt. It’s a failed business model. (Unfortunately that also means that album artwork and photography is a dying art form as well. A sad often overlooked side effect of this trend.)
But okay let’s look at downloads still because there are some artists who can still sell some serious numbers. Taylor Swift being one of them. iTunes only takes about 28%, leaving the label and artist a full 72% of gross sales. Not bad right? But again if the label is taking 90% of THAT, leaving the artist only 10% of it…there we are again, asking how can the artist make any real money?
It’s no wonder that both Swift and Brooks have tried to create work-arounds to try to make more money from their new music. It’s only natural.
Speaking about this situation personally, this past weekend it was brought to my attention that the lead singles from my last solo album had huge spikes in their views on YouTube. Granted, they’re nothing close to big platinum selling artists like U2, Taylor Swift or Garth Brooks. But they’re significant. “Scene in San Francisco” somehow managed to hit 225,000 views; “New Orleans Dreams” close to that and “Hello My Dove” still hovers around 20,000. And yes I’m sure if we sat down and did more research we would find that plenty of the other songs we have on YouTube have even higher view counts than these three, because they are older classics and have the advantage of having been around longer, but I am referring to these songs specifically because they are the NEWEST songs from our catalogue. Just those three songs alone have pulled in a healthy half a million views on YouTube since their release. Not bad.
Any normal rational thinking music lover is going to assume that we the artist MUST BE earning something from all this action. After all we are forced to sit through a ten to thirty second commercial before every single song we listen to on YouTube. It only makes sense that if YouTube is profiting from all these commercial spins that at least some of that has to get passed on to the artist and their record label.
Now here’s the deal: we do NOT get paid directly from YouTube. That would be too easy. Too fair. The music business has never been fair or easy. Nope. We the artists get paid by YouTube paying out “public performance royalties” to the PROs (Performing Rights Organizations) like ASCAP, SESAC and BMI on a quarterly basis who are supposed to turn around and pass on ALL that money to us, the artists. Remember, these PROs portend that they are NON-PROFIT, that they are ONLY in business to “serve the needs of the artists”. And yet when we have called our PRO, ASCAP, they have repeatedly told us “hey wow Ed Hale that’s great man. Congratulations! You’re really making good traction with the new songs! But see, with our proprietary system we really don’t even pay out on YouTube views until a song gets at least half a million to a million views. And even then you would have to accumulate those views at a rate of half a million views per month in order for us to calculate them and pay you any for them. So as unfair as it seems we can’t really pay you for any of those views for your new songs sorry to say.”
Needless to say every time I have this conversation with them I hang up that phone angry and discouraged. See, there’s no shortage of new fans for the music what with all these new ways to experience our music… But we the artists are just getting screwed out of the process. And yet it is WE WHO ARE CREATING THE PRODUCT!!! Without us there would be NO product for YouTube to play. Nor Spotify or Pandora or iTunes.
I ran the numbers in my head this morning as I was watching Garth complain about the same thing… Even if YouTube only paid us ONE CENT per spin I would make at least $5,000 just for those three songs alone this year. If they paid us just TWO CENTS per spin or view those songs would generate $10,000. No that’s not enough to support a family. But it’s certainly better than ZERO! And zero is what we are currently being paid from YouTube views.
See, the problem is that just a few short years ago we would make that kind of money in just a few weeks from putting out a new album and selling it. Either via a CD or via iTunes downloads. But with every song we release becoming instantly available online there is really no incentive for a fan to make that purchase. They can just go to YouTube or Spotify. And as a music lover myself I totally get how awesome that is. I do it myself. At least I used to. But if these streaming services are not going to compensate the artists for the streaming because of some “proprietary system” ala YouTube or only pay the artist 7/1000th of a penny per spin…the fans and music lovers are getting just as duped as we the artists are — believing their favorite artists are being compensated for the listening pleasure that their music is providing when in reality no such thing is happening.
If you’ve been wondering lately where your favorite artist is or where they have been and why you haven’t heard from them in a while, and who hasn’t… This is the reason why. They’re still alive. They just cannot afford to make music any longer. And this is by no means an exaggeration. As an artist myself I promise you that it is much worse than I have made it out to be simply because it is just too embarrassing to fully admit publicly — especially regarding other people who may or may not want the world to know how tough things are for them. That decision has to be up to each artist and their respective family. But suffice it to say I personally know many who are big names and plenty of smaller names who simply cannot afford to make music at the present time. And that is a very sad thing for all of us.
Of course there is much more to all of this. But this is a start. We will continue to explore this in future updates. In the meantime YOU can do something by simply publicly letting the above mentioned companies know that you believe they need to start compensating artists fairly. Something needs to change. And as always that change begins and ends with us — we the people can turn this tragic episode around and create for ourselves the miraculous happy ending that we all hope and wish for just as we always do in all world affairs.
– Posted by The Ambassador aka Ed Hale using BlogPress on an iPhone