Songwriting in Your Sleep

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

Little House On the Prairie Versus Contemporary Society

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

Buying Selling and Trading Your Digital Media

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

Aaron Sorkin Hits Another Grandslam with New Newsroom

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

On the Wretched State of the Music Business

A film producer was waxing nostalgic earlier today about how good the music of the 70s was and wondering why the music of today is so horrendous. I have already shared here in past posts that while I wholeheartedly agree with this notion I also recognize that there is some incredible music and musical innovation happening at the moment. It’s an exciting time creatively for music. But with a few caveats:
— It’s just not mainstream.
— It’s no longer about music in the traditional sense as in playing an instrument; the computer has turned into a musical instrument.
— It’s no longer about songs and songwriting as much as about SOUND i.e. What does it “sound like” forget the song or lack thereof underneath.
— It’s no longer limited to a field of a few savants but rather it’s become a very wide open playing field where every and anyone can throw in with their momentary contribution.
— Having “talent”, i.e. being able to sing or play an instrument or perform live is no longer a necessary requirement.

I was ruminating about the same exact thing yesterday. Here’s the thing: the 90s was so filled with kack (garbage) that it DID jade us to what followed, even though some of it was still very good.
Bare in mind the PEAK of the $$$ revenue generation in the history of the music biz was ’98, when the formula was “release ten diff copies/replicas of whatever happens to be hot at the moment” and avoid originality because it’s “dangerous” (may lose money) — (this started in the 80s w the “first wave of consolidation” (of the labels); the revenue has fallen precipitously since, to where we now have an industry that can no longer sustain itself due to no customer demand for the product (more than just one factor, for sure, but yes one can easily blame part of it on the industry’s “churn and burn” practice of releasing crap over artistry jading and turning off the consumer).

Certainly the trend to entice the audience with manufactured pseudo-music ala “DJs” churning out generic computer generated tones over hypnotic dance beats in lieu of real musicians because it was much more profitable also contributed to the wretched state we are in as well. We addressed this menacing trend in Ed Hale and the Transcendence on our NOTHING IS COHESIVE album with the song “Somebody kill the DJ” — whose lyrics if one listens carefully are literally both a lamenting of the loss of traditional music making AND a rallying cry to kill DJs if one has the chance just to save music. Perhaps it was tongue in cheek hyperbole to a certain degree. Perhaps it wasn’t. But regardless it’s way past that now.

BUT, though it was easy to miss, the 2000s DID actually produce some of the best artists albums and songs of all time still (think Rufus Wainwright, Aimee Mann, Phoenix, Strokes, Coldplay, Muse, Jet, Travis, Aqualung, Radiohead, Sigur Ross, etc etc there are hundreds more…). Problem is: “career artistry” is no longer a practice we can afford, i.e. paying for an artist to have a career both with hits and/or no hits. Combine that — the inability to afford career artists financially — w the “anyone can claim to be an artist due to technological advances” trend and we land right where we are today.

Now we are in unchartered waters… all of us, fans and artists alike, adrift in a wicked system where there are no gatekeepers, tastemakers, mentors or arbiters; the trend is “anyone and everyone gets a shot, about 10% of all who try will get 1 hit, 1% may get 2, and 1/10th of 1% may be able to eek a living from it”. But just how one does that is completely different than in times past because all of the traditional revenue streams have dried up. The business still chugs along but broken bankrupt and rudderless because the old rules no longer apply and new rules are constantly forming and re-morphing as Silicon Valley and Wall Street continue to take more and more control over the business side of things. Geniuses they may be — but with no heart and having been bred on coding hacking and the quick creation and abandonment of disposal commodities for profit and fame (websites, apps, software, devices, hardware, etc.) they have reduced music to a perceptually valueless commodity. Now an entire generation — several in fact — have been indoctrinated to fall for that preposterous notion, e.g. music has no value, just like last week’s “app of the week”.

What used to be intangible and transcendent, art heart passion balls love the mind God survival AND entertainment–with $$$ as a side benefit– is now a barely breathing industry that breeds one hit wonders galore through this “replicate what is happening NOW and for Gods sake do NOT innovate for fear of striking out on your ONE chance at bat”, but no “career artists”. Career artists is a term coined in the early 70s that referred to “artists who might not make us very much money NOW but are still very important artistically and therefore might make us money LATER, once the people catch up with them”. We used the money generated from one hit wonders to pay for the careers of career artists. Hence we’d allow Dylan to do a country album or Hendrix to do a 20 minute instrumental jam song or Pink Floyd to record a whole album as one 60 minute song about pigs and dogs or Lennon to release an album of him screaming at the top of his lungs for an hour or Joni to explore jazz fusion etc etc etc. We allowed it because we could afford it AND because it “might” hold artistic merit. Neil Young Lou Reed David Byrne Warren Zevon Led Zeppelin even Van Halen and a million others were born from this ideal…let’s support them a while and see if the public eventually catches up.

The industry can no longer afford this in today’s age because there is no money to be had. And there are a million reasons for this — not just one or two. But making music still costs money as it always has. So WHO is making music now? In this environment? The best and brightest? The really talented? Or “anyone who can afford to”? Sadly the latter. The hardest aspect of the new music business to fathom is that the best and brightest may BE making music somewhere, MAYBE, IF they can even afford to…(big if), but we may never hear it or even hear about it because there’s no money being generated from it, not even enough to launch it out of the artists small local zone.

Very suckass, both for us as artists and for us as music lovers.

Will this change? Can it? Yes. The companies behind the artists simply need to 1, look for the cream NOT the hits, and 2, support those artists through their career in every manner, financially emotionally physically, with mental support and mentoring and lessons etc just as they used to. At least for a few years to see if anything will come out of it. The 70s was the PEAK of that methodology in our industry. Many people consider the 70s to be the BEST decade for music of all time. For a brief period, artists were allowed to record an album that yielded NO hit IF it had artistic merit or the potential to — JUST because it was “art” and that’s what art does. If it yielded a “hit” and made money, even better.

At some point in our future we the people, all of us, will become tired of the current trend of music as a commodity and nothing more and speak up demanding art from our music once again. And through that desire we will create a way to pay for it so that the best and brightest are able to be heard AND make a decent living. It’s only a matter of time.

We are already observing artists and their respective labels devise ingenious ways to generate money through music outside of the traditional means (consumers buying it or paying for it) whether it be U2 giving their album away for free via Apple (Apple paid for it) or Jay Z selling advertising and product placement embedded in his lyrics AND giving it away for free via AT&T or Coldplay having Target pay them or Taylor Swift having Diet Coke pay her etc etc. Of course we can’t all afford giant corporate sponsors and wouldn’t want to if we could. (Personally I could never get away with endorsing something as overtly poisonous as a diet soda — my fans wouldn’t permit me to). But the trend is definitely shifting towards “getting large companies to pay for our music making so the fans don’t have to, or better put don’t want to.” The future possibilities are seemingly endless.

In the meantime we all must realize that even today there really is some incredible music being made out there right this very minute by artists who are busy living and Dying Van Gogh. We just need to look harder for it. And more importantly PAY for it when we do on occasion find it. C

– Posted by The Ambassador using BlogPress on an iPhone 8s Custom

U2 Proves Rock is Dead. And So Is the Album

The below is the latest blog entry from music-culture blogger and general curmudgeon, Bob Lefsetz. In it he plainly and clearly argues that the release of the latest U2 album — through giving it away for free via Apple’s iTunes platform — was yet another red flag that rock music AND the album as a viable art-form is utterly entirely and completely dead. He argues a lot of things in the article below. Much of it makes sense and rings true. One of things he emphatically states is that no one has time to dig through 11 songs on a rock music album (or any album for that matter) and therefore U2 wasted years creating their newest magnum opus. They should have just released a 4 song EP instead. You can read it below for yourself. Frankly I don’t have the time to respond to Bob’s ideas — and THIS gives testimony to just how accurate he is in his latest treatise on the rapidly changing cultural world around us.

For my part, I CAN say this. Everyone knows that I am an avid U2 fan. I own all their albums and buy them as soon as they come out or soon afterwards. I have seen them live in concert more times than I can count. But have I heard this new one yet? Nope. Do I even own it? Nope. And they’re giving it away for FREE!!! Yet I still don’t own it. Yep. This fact proves Bob’s point more than I’d like it to. To further prove the validity of his statements below, he is right in these assertions as well: I didn’t want to go to iTunes to download the album — while at the gym I obviously wasn’t able to do this. What I wanted to do was LISTEN TO the album. As in STREAM IT via Spotify. But U2 made the irreversible error of making the album NOT available on Spotify for at least a month or two. By that time no one will be talking about or interested in the new U2 album. We’ll all be discussing something else entirely. So they lost that shot. The next place I went to try to hear the new album? YouTube. Just like Bob predicted we all would. And as can probably be guessed, the new U2 album is not yet available on YouTube. So they dropped that ball too.

This is why, three days later I still don’t own the new U2 album. And I’m an actual FAN. Forget about the ex-fans or never-have-been-fans or the flat-out haters. They’re all having a field day making fun of and insulting Bono and company. They’ve become the punchline of the hour, the battering ram of the week — right after Ray Rice, ISIS and Ferguson, Missouri.

It’s a damn sad day when one of the greatest musical acts of all time can become so lambasted, negatively perceived and devoured by mainstream society for such a small and simple mistake. It’s even more disturbing that Lefsetz appears to be right not only in his assertion that rock music has lost all credibility and influence in modern Western society AND so too has the album as a viable art-form SIMPLY BECAUSE no one has the time for either of them. Especially for yours truly, who still bathes in the illusion that I make my living from recording and releasing albums of primarily “rock” music. Oh well. Oh well. Oh well. Better luck next time.

What follows below is the article by Bob Lefsetz. Happy reading. Feel free to share your thoughts.

Ambassador

 

NEWS FOR A DAY

No different from a rape or a murder, but with even less legs. In today’s world it’s not about making an impact, but sustaining. Could it be that Bono’s been living too long in the echo chamber, hanging with forty and fiftysomethings who think they rule the world but truly don’t? Yes, older people build the tools, but it’s young people who utilize them. The older bloke will lament the loss of the record shop, the younger person has never been. If you want to make it in today’s marketing culture you must be online 24/7, picking up the nuances. Because it is about cred and it is about cool but if you think the old rules apply, you probably can’t name a YouTube star.

EVANESCENCE

This is an analog of the above. Here today, gone tomorrow. How could the band be so stupid as to believe anybody would actually play their music, especially the 500 million it was pushed to. Where’s the afterplan? Nonexistent.

PUSH

We live in a pull economy. Nothing pisses off the audience more than pushing something they don’t want and didn’t ask for to their devices. Even if you don’t download the album, it’s sitting there in your purchases, pissing you off.

HOW TO

Did you have iCloud turned on in iTunes? Even those who wanted the album weren’t quite sure how to get it.

ALBUM

How many tracks did PSY have? One!

OVERLOAD

No one’s got time to listen to a complete album, especially when it’s pushed upon them, that’s just too much material. Yes, a nascent artist on his way up might have people check out more tracks on his album out of curiosity, but no one’s curious about U2, they already know everything about them. One must factor in that we’re all overloaded with stimuli and you must point us to the paramount item and make it digestible in a matter of moments. If we love it, we’ll want more. If we don’t, we’re never going to get to the rest of your opus that you spent years creating.

ALBUM TWO

Make it an EP. Four tracks. People haven’t finished Piketty’s tome. It would have been better off as a magazine article. People bought it, they just didn’t read it, who’s got the time?

ENGAGEMENT

Now what. Where’s the game, where’s the jaw-dropping viral video? Where’s the element we can all point to and talk about. If anything, we’re talking about the stunt, not the music.

WRONG SERVICE

They’d have been better off releasing it on YouTube, that’s where the digital generation goes for music. iTunes is a backwater. It may be the number one sales outlet, but it’s not the number one music platform, not even close.

UNHIP

Put it on Spotify. Try to look cutting edge. Meanwhile, having the quality of your music trumpeted by Tim Cook is like having Ed Sullivan say your tunes are good.

CLOSED DOORS

This is the problem vexing filmed entertainment/video, there’s not one platform with everything. But in music we’ve solved this problem, Spotify and YouTube have all the tracks and you can access them for free, but putting hype over practicality, U2 failed to see they were playing in a walled garden, to their detriment.

This was a stunt, poorly executed. Everybody forgets that despite all the hoopla about naming your own price, “In Rainbows” was a disaster, with only hard core fans familiar with the material. Yup, Radiohead may be independent, but they’ve done a good job of marginalizing themselves.

And at least Beyonce had the videos, somewhere to click to.

And Weird Al had videos too, but after a week, few cared.

Because at the end of the day we only care about the music. And U2 didn’t cut that one indelible track that stops us in our tracks, that we want to listen to again and again and pass on. Sure, the song they played at the Apple soiree was good, but good is no longer good enough.

Furthermore, when Bono talked he lost all charisma.

This looked like nothing so much as what it was, old farts using their connections to shove material down the throats of those who don’t want it. It’s what we hate so much about today’s environment, rich people who think they know better and our entitled to their behavior.

Don’t listen to the press. Rock writers are antiques who are underpaid who are in it for access and free tickets.

And the business press doesn’t care about the music.

And the old fart fortysomethings who talk about this music should be ignored. It’s no different from a Jason Isbell fan testifying about his tracks. No offense, but it’s a tiny world. Sure, U2’s is bigger, but until U2 cuts a track that makes the rest of us care, we don’t.

Meanwhile, Jason Isbell had a hit today, he tweeted: “U2 PHONES IT IN.”

Yup, that’s Internet culture, where someone who raises their head above is fodder for criticism.

But it gets worse.

Cultofmac said:

“But trotting out aging Irish rockers after you’ve wowed the world with the first glimpse of the glorious Apple Watch? That’s not thinking different. That’s a pity-f__k for a band that’s lost its edge, and an unfortunate bum note for a company that’s rarely perceived as tone-deaf.”

http://www.cultofmac.com/295084/u2-apple-event/

Whew!

All over the web people are criticizing U2. And that’s where music now lives, online.

So, so long Bono and crew. You’ll continue to sell tickets, but you’re no longer au courant.

So long rock that does not break through on Top Forty. U2 would have been better off cutting a country track, that would have been a better fit with a fighting chance of airplay.

So long albums. If you’ve got an hour to listen to once that which must be listened to ten times to get you’ve got no life, but everyone does, and they’re the center of it, glued to their devices, and to distract them you’ve got to be pretty damn good and the talk of the town for an extended period of time, U2’s new music is not.

So long stunts with no aftermath. If you’re not in the news every damn day, you’re getting it wrong. The biggest pop stars are the Kardashians. Ever notice not a day goes by without them in the news? Bono, et al, would be better off hanging with the sisters than heads of state, at least if they want to have a hit.

And so long the fiction that Guy Oseary would do a better job than Paul McGuinness. There might be a patina of new school, but this album release is positively old school.

Here’s how it goes:

Make everyone aware.

Put tickets on sale.

Make it an event, a la the Stones, i.e. if you don’t come now, you may never be able to experience it again.

Trump up traditional press so wankers believe there’s something happening.

But there’s not.

Because “I Will Follow” was inspired. It sounded like nothing else. It had urgency. It had attitude. You needed to hear it again. It was so good you wanted to hear what else the band was up to.

The new album is paint-by-numbers disposable.

Today we have to pull you into our world. And we only hold you in our bosom if we believe your music is repeatable and deserves our time.

Bono’s on top of the world, he’ll reject everything I say.

Rapino and Oseary will keep shoveling, hoping to keep this alive.

And you and me?

WE’RE ALREADY OVER IT!

Suicide Solution

The living may not “like” it, but suicide is not necessarily “bad or “wrong”…

I

Hold on to your bootstraps because we’re going to rapid-fire this one, due to the fact that my wife has issued a personal challenge to me to finish at least one of the 22 different books I’ve started in the course of my short adventurous life. I’ve always maintained that “writing” — proper writing or authoring of proper books and such, is “something I will do when I am older”. To me it was enough to take plenty of notes on each and every book that came to me, a discipline that I’ve stuck with diligently for more than twenty years now. I do everything necessary to eventually write the book at some point. Except actually write it. I just always figured that writing was something I would fall back on once I got too old to make music for a living. But for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that making music for a living has fast become an oxymoron due to ever increasing faltering sales and revenue growth in general in the music business; it would appear that “when I’m older” time period I envisioned for the last twenty years or so may have finally arrived to the here-now.

I must admit, I mean it’s only fair, that it does seem a bit odd that some of these 22 odd books that I have completed in various stages and have up to 400 or more pages typed within them — (thousands in the case of The Adventures of Fishy series…) and I have still yet to complete or release one of them. THIS is what so confounds my wife. And I can totally understand her frustration. Especially since I still find time to write in these here Transcendence Diaries on a regular basis. Ahhhh, I’d be a very rich man indeed if I had a nickel for every time over the last year or two Princess Little Tree has said to me “if you would just write the exact same number of pages in one or more of your books as you write in your Diaries every week, then you’d be finished with half the books already! Maybe all of them! So just get to it boy!” And i fully admit that I see the logic in that.

Though you’ve heard me say this before… I don’t just enjoy writing the Transcendence Diaries. I need to write them. There’s something very therapeutic about the process for me. Yes it’s occurred to me more than once that there is probably a lot more money in finishing small to medium sized books than there are in these Diaries… (the fact is there is very little to no money to be made in a blog — especially the kind of non-commercial, not-sponsored one that I demand to run). It’s also occurred to me that there may be something of an “instant gratification fix” to these Diaries that I wouldn’t necessarily be able to obtain from finishing a book. After all, I am able to write these entries in ONE sitting, anywhere from 500 to 5,000 words, and release it all in one go of it. From thought to expression in a matter of minutes to hours. One fulfilling mental and emotional release. No need to ever go back and review or edit or amend. And certainly no concern for readability or demographics or target audience or the potential for publication or other mass consumption worries. It’s a very selfish endeavor, I admit. But again… it’s MY endeavor. And in years or decades from now, when they look back and say “you know there wasn’t one damned thing he DIDN’T write about in all those years in those damn Diaries?!” my ghost, wherever it shall be, will surely be smiling. Maintaining these Transcendence Diaries over the last 13 years has been a thoroughly satisfying process.

But alas it is true. I have promised to complete at least one or more of the books this summer. So I am trying my best to refrain from coming here to whittle away the hours in self obsession. But sometimes I just have to. Right this very minute is one of those moments. And I’ll tell you why.

II

Over the last few days the world of social media has lit up in a way that we have NEVER seen before. It could be because of the subject matter — namely the death of Robin Williams, OR it could just be that we are presently peaking in the social media aspect of the Personal Expression Age. My guess is that it’s a little bit of both. But for whatever reason, social media is abuzz with posts and articles related in one way or another to Robin Williams and his alleged “suicide”. Today I was studying a graph that showed that there were over 5,000 articles a day being released online in the United States related to Robin Williams on Tuesday and Wednesday. That figure has calmed down over the last 48 hours. To a mere 2,000 or so. Still an amazing quantity of information and opinion being created over one subject.

For me personally the most heinous aspect — and there have been many — of this phenomenon has been the number of people who have felt compelled to come on one platform or another and bitch about how “selfish or cowardly Robin Williams is for committing suicide”. I know I know… People don’t have anything better to do, and God bless them for having a platform to express their emotions. Lord only knows how these impassioned feelings would be expressed if it weren’t for social media. Things could be a lot worse. People are FEELING a lot right now and need to get it out. People just want to have a voice.

After all, THIS is exactly what the Personal Expression Age is all about — giving people a voice who never have had one historically and would normally never have one. Lord knows I appreciate that aspect of the Age. I think it’s more than healthy. For ALL of us. Especially for those who would otherwise be victims of those who can’t find any other vehicle for their emotional need to vent. But this one meme, the idea of Williams somehow being wrong or bad or irresponsible or at fault because he decided to choose suicide is really rubbing me the wrong way. For several different reasons, not just one.

Before we go there though, let us first just collectively vent how annoying this new fad of coming onto social media and giving speeches about depression and addiction has become. My God. What an obnoxious craze this is. As if all of a sudden, literally overnight, everybody and their brother is an expert in mental health. I think we can all agree that engaging in an intelligent discourse about depression is healthy for the country and for our species in general. God knows we’ve hit some bumps in the road with it in the past. Remember that whole Tom Cruise and Brooke Shields fiasco a few years ago? But this has gotten way out of hand. All of a sudden everyone is an expert on depression. Shooting out hotline numbers and even their own cell phone numbers, saying things like “I promise I’ll take your call and get you through the night to the next day.” I’m not making this up. I’ve read this more than once. If you’re alive and breathing, surely you too have been reading the same type of posts or similar ones.

Besides just being generally annoying, can we step back for a moment and acknowledge that we don’t even know the real story yet regarding how Williams died? Sure his wife and publicist ran for the throttle in order to control how the story was going to be told. Whose family wouldn’t? Especially when dealing with a franchise as large and profitable as Williams’ is. So they’ve got the whole world discussing “depression” before we even have ample evidence of HOW he died. Yes they claim it was “suicide”… But considering the other options, as non-preferable as suicide is, it surely seems the better option. Better than “he was really high and just screwing around” or “accidental asphyxiation” or “accidental death due to drug overdose”. All of which are perfectly legitimate options still. The truth is we just won’t know until the whole story comes out. And that’s IF and WHEN the whole story comes out, IF it ever does.

Another question that comes to mind is this one: Where the hell was Williams’ wife during those 14 hours that he was allegedly alone in the house? She immediately posted that she lost her “husband and best friend” after his death was announced, and we know that he was in rehab at the time for possibly regressing back to “using”; so what kind of wife or “best friend” goes to bed at 10 PM, wakes up in the morning and leaves the house to “run errands” without first checking in on her husband who’s STILL IN rehab for substance abuse? Especially if they’re “best friends”? And especially if he “was suffering from severe depression” as she is so wanting to make sure the public is aware of?

I must admit that I personally have had a tough time with just the story that she “went to bed in another room and left Williams by himself in his office at 10 PM”. Even that seems strange for a married couple. Especially when one of them is so apparently “sick”. And especially if they are “best friends”. I know my wife and I have never encountered that scenario in all our years of marriage. If I ever regressed in my staying off of drugs you better believe that there isn’t a chance in hell that Princess Little Tree would ever leave me alone in my office at 10 o’clock at night and go to bed without making sure that I came to bed with her. And let’s say that they had some sort of altercation or argument in that moment, as some have suggested — she was mad and went to bed by herself alone and hurt, one would think that she would still come straight to his room in the morning just to see what he was doing or how he was doing, considering that he was officially checked into a rehab facility at the time. ESPECIALLY if he was “severely depressed” as she claims.

Frankly the whole story just doesn’t vibe. Now that we have had some time to recover from the shock of it all, the pieces of the puzzle just aren’t adding up. But eventually I am sure we will learn what really happened. Like many, I personally am not expecting a clean toxicology report. In fact, I admit that I believe that part of me is maybe even HOPING for some substances to be in his body just to make sense of the whole thing… I assume this is just denial on my part. A hidden desire to not believe that Williams was THAT depressed and THAT discouraged… to have gone THAT far. Suicide seems so drastic major and final.

The whole affair seems a bit like Williams’ wife and publicist got together very quickly over the phone to strategically plan HOW they would spin the discussion around his death. And to be fair, they’ve done’ a fantastic job of it so far. The whole country is busy talking about “depression” instead of any of the other details regarding the case like where SHE was, or more importantly where she wasn’t; and why the hell was Williams found in such a strange position? Seated but with a belt around his neck for God’s sake? And we’re supposed to believe this was a suicide? But he was seated?

One would think that if he really intended suicide that he would have implemented a more elegant way to do it, especially someone of his wealth. He could have easily obtained — most likely already had in his possession — plenty of pharmaceuticals to do the trick in a much cleaner manner. IF this was deliberate. So why the belt around the neck? Seated in a chair? Seriously? Suicide? I don’t know… Just seems a bit sketchy. Suicides for people in Williams’ position are usually of the cleaner more elegant pharmaceutical kind. A belt around the neck sounds more like what you me and everyone else doesn’t care to admit: that he was high, got a little screwed up in the head, was just fucking around and next thing you know he stopped breathing and didn’t know it.

But even if it WAS that, how and why would we love the man any less? That’s what gets me about all these self righteous know it alls popping up all of a sudden making all these claims that they suddenly dislike Williams because of how he died. Fucking a talk about fair weather friends. If you WERE a fan, then why not be a FAN now? What’s the difference? Whether he did it on purpose or he was just fucking around and killed himself by accident, either way it’s sad if you’re a fan or even just a compassionate human being.

Let us say that we believe the current narrative. Just out of respect for the deceased if for no other reason. What the hell is wrong with these people coming on social media saying that they “don’t respect Robin Williams anymore” or “will never look at him the same way now” or “his legacy will always be tainted now in my book”. These are all direct quotes of things I’ve read online over the last 48 hours from various people. Some more than others are writing lengthy rants about how deathly tragic the situation is AND at the same time demonizing Williams for choosing to commit suicide. They’ve fallen for the story hook line and sinker AND have now taken to being judge and jury about the ethical and criminal nature of suicide, some calling it “cowardly”, others calling it “the most selfish act someone can take”, and still others claiming that “murder is a crime, so isn’t it just as criminal to kill one’s self?” I am not making this up. Human beings continue to amaze with their short-sightedness, ignorance and arrogance.

Before we go demonizing Robin Williams for “choosing” suicide, we need to first be sure that that’s what happened. But let’s say that we just assume it is, out of respect for him and his family… IF that’s truly what transpired, shouldn’t we examine the finer points of the matter of suicide first? Before we go casting judgment?

Number one, since when did we collectively decide that LIFE, or being alive here in this form on planet earth, was the end-all be-all BEST option for everyone? You may have to step back for this one, but think about it: WE the living only know life, so we choose to believe that “life” is the best of all possible worlds for ourselves and everyone else. But do we really KNOW this for sure? That “life” in this form is the best of all possible options?

If we can all admit that we have no idea what else may possibly lay on the other side of death…. then perhaps everyone would quiet down and contemplate more how Williams and plenty of others were feeling at the time of their “suicide”…. Perhaps they were thinking that life on the other side might be better than it is here. We really don’t know without a suicide note of some kind. We can only guess. And at best we can give the person at least a wee bit of the benefit of the doubt.

Let’s be honest, almost everyone claims to believe in some kind of an “afterlife”. Most people choose to believe in a GOOD afterlife of some kind in fact, something akin to “heaven” or nirvana or “union with God or The Divine” usually. So the question is, what would be so bad about that? What would be so bad about a person choosing to go to heaven a few years early if that’s what they so decide?

Even if someone doesn’t believe in heaven but instead believes in an afterlife comprised of some kind of a spirit world, or an afterlife as a waiting station for reincarnation… all of these different options still present a relatively healthy alternative to suffering here on earth. IF we’re to assume that Williams really committed suicide, then we are to assume he did it for a good reason.

(Unless he was just really fucked up and not thinking straight. Now I know… Plenty of people have been writing long blog posts and articles and status updates about how “irrational people get when they are plagued with the disease of depression” And that may be so. Lord knows I’ve had my share of severe battles with depression through the years. It’s a horrible monster. As if our own mind is our enemy — because no matter what we are doing or what we take, we just always feel “sad” or worthless or devastated or discouraged…. as if life is unbearable and we’d be happier dead than alive. Yep. Been there. More than once. I get it. But let’s give the guy some credit. He was working. He was functional. He was just at an art gallery exhibit the day before hobnobbing with the locals. If he made the decision to commit suicide — which again, is a big IF, who are we to say that he’s irresponsible, selfish, or even “wrong” in his decision? We just can’t. Because we aren’t HIM.)

The truth is we have NO idea what lay on the other side of “death”. So all we’re really doing is lamenting the fact that the person is “not here for us” any longer. THAT’S what’s really going on. We aren’t sad for those we lost to suicide. We’re sad for ourselves. We believe that what they did is “wrong”, one, because we are going to miss them — they cut their own life short and therefore cut the time WE will have with them short, and two, because of the stigma attached to suicide. People still judge suicide to be bad or wrong or sinful in some way. So they often judge people who commit suicide in a negative light. And so too the loved ones who are left behind. As if they have to live in a nasty world for the rest of their lives where everyone is talking about them behind their backs. But truth be told this is ONLY because we are pretending that because we are ALIVE that being alive is the best of all possible worlds, totally forgetting to consider that death may be not only a viable option for some — someone who is terminally ill or in pain for example, but might even be a better place than being HERE NOW. WE just don’t know. Someone who commits suicide –depending on their belief system or religious faith tradition — may hold a belief that life after death may be a groovier place than life here on earth. They may believe that their soul disconnects from their body and floats off to “be with God” for an eternity. And being that beliefs create experience, who are WE to deny them that reality? Just because WE may not believe that? I call bullshit.

In terms of suicide being cowardly, says who? For some it may seem cowardly… IF they are coming from the viewpoint that “life is hard yeah sometimes it really sucks but you just HAVE TO endure it no matter what and if you don’t then you’re a pussy” I suppose. But really…. says who? That may be one person’s viewpoint, but it certainly isn’t everyone else’s. And to assume so is just yet another example of the short-sighted arrogance of many human beings currently walking the planet making life unbearable for the rest of us because they are constantly assuming THEIR viewpoint is the only one and should apply to every one else. Someone else may consider suicide to be the bravest thing one can ever fathom doing. Frankly I have always tended to lean in this direction, personally feeling that suicide would be a terribly frightening thing to do; I would be way too scared myself to commit suicide. It sounds extremely frightening to me. And therefore I do not see how a person would be cowardly to do it. I am unsure as to how someone else could possibly label another person a coward for doing it. It is obviously a major life decision, and like most major life decisions there doesn’t seem to be anything cowardly about it.

 

Now I know that many of the people who are labeling suicide “cowardly” are doing so because they are self-described atheists. It isn’t the absence of a God or creator that is operating here as much as an absence of belief in any kind of afterlife. To them, suicide literally means “the end of it all”, as in nothing left, it’s over, the person is gone forever. They hold a view that after life there is literally “nothingness” or “just ashes” once one passes from these mortal coils. And yes we must acknowledge that there are plenty of people who now who hold this belief to be true. They ONLY believe in THIS life and that’s it. Which is perfectly acceptable if that’s what serves THEM. It just doesn’t mean that it applies to others. Human consciousness is large enough to encompass ALL possible beliefs that human beings can come up with. And even more. ALL of them have the potential to be “true” and possible. The truth is that we just don’t know yet WHAT lies beyond human consciousness once the body ceases to exist. But to those who choose to wholeheartedly subscribe to this idea that they definitely KNOW that NOTHING exists beyond human consciousness in a body, yes, one can see that to take one’s life through suicide may seem cowardly — as it’s a final act that literally leads to “nothingness”. It’s as if it’s “an easy way out” because once you make that final decision and have breathed your last breath, that’s it, the whole kit and caboodle is over. No more pain, no more responsibility, no more struggle or heartache or depression.

But here’s the deal: SO WHAT? So what if that’s what a person decides is best for them? Who are we to declare that they’ve made the wrong decision? After all it’s THEIR life, is it not? Again, I get the feeling that the primary motivating force for those holding this viewpoint is that THEY want the person to stay alive for THEM — regardless of how much struggle or pain or heartache this person may be going through or enduring. They don’t care. They just feel that this other person — the one in pain — owes it to them to stay alive and endure anything and everything just so they can be there for THEM. So in reality it is really the person wanting the person to hang on that is being selfish; NOT the person wanting to commit suicide. They’re thrusting their own views about life onto others because they desire certain people to “stay alive” for THEIR sakes and for THEIR pleasure or happiness, and they’ll do and say anything to try to do this. They’ll tell the person “life is a precious gift” or “you owe it to the ones you love to stay alive as long as you can” etc etc. But these are all just stories, myths, fabrications all in the name of attempting to keep another person alive so YOU can get out of them whatever it is that you believe you’re getting out of them. You’re not really thinking about the other person or what is best for THEM. You’re making their life all about YOU.

So much for the argument that “suicide is the most selfish act a person can make”. Hey maybe it is. It’s certainly major and final. That’s for sure. But if there’s one thing we learn along the path of life out of all the myriad lessons obtained it is that only WE are ultimately responsible for ourselves. No one else is going to be there for us the way that we are. No one else is going to help us as much as we are going to need and have to. No one is going to be there for us as loyally as we are. And NO ONE is going to feel our pain or our struggle as much as we are. It is true, we DON’T have a choice in being born or not. It’s something that is thrown at us indiscriminately without our say in the matter. Then as we’re growing up everyone around us is constantly saying things like “life is such a blessing”, “we should feel so blessed to have the gift of life”…. When in reality, for some, for many millions and millions of people being born all over the world every minute of every day, life is pure hell from the moment they are born till the moment they breathe their last breath of relief.

We have no choice in being born into this life; we try our best to make it enjoyable, or for many just “bearable”. That doesn’t sound like a gift or a blessing to me. It sounds like what it really is. Random obligation of necessity. A spin of the wheel and out we pop and we are expected to not only do well at it, but to enjoy it and even consider it “a blessing”. It’s funny when you start to look at life more realistically. It ain’t as black and white as everyone would like.

With the fact that we had no choice in being born in the first place, no choice in who our family is, or where we grow up or who we grow up with, the one thing we SHOULD have a choice in is when and how we die. And one thing we DO know is that we have fought very hard over the centuries to secure for ourselves a certain level of freedom and liberty. At the very least each of us should be permitted the freedom and liberty to decide what WE want to do with OUR life, or our death to be more exact. That should be one of the most basic freedoms of any “free” society. And in many countries it is. This whole idea that “taking someone else’s life is murder and illegal, so why shouldn’t taking one’s own life be considered murder and be illegal” is a ridiculous non-sequitor. It’s completely illogical. So that shouldn’t even be something being discussed. And it is true that only the greatest of fools are saying it. Suicide is frowned upon in society because it seems to go against our most basic primordial survival instincts. But we aren’t animals struggling in the jungle to keep the species alive anymore. We’ve evolved. We’ve transcended mere survival. In fact one could easily argue that we have evolved to a state at this point that transcends “survival” being priority number one. Perhaps self determinism is priority number one now at this stage in our evolution as a species. And rule numero uno of self determinism surely is the freedom to decide is we want to be alive or not and for how long.

 

Granted, it IS terribly sad for those left behind. That’s a given. It’s downright tragic for them. But see, our presence here is a GIFT to those around us — IF we’re so blessed to have people around us who care for us that much, but it’s NOT a guarantee. Our presence here is not guaranteed and it certainly isn’t meant to be forever. The truth is there’s just no guarantee about anything regarding our lives here, nor the lives of others. So any amount of time we have to spend with those we love is a gift and a blessing. And if one day one of us decides that we are thoroughly finished with being alive here in this form and on this planet, so be it. That’s a decision that only we can decide for ourselves, each of us on our own, in our own way and in our own time.

The idea of Living Wills as an example address this issue squarely and directly. The basic idea of them is that while we’re alive and healthy and fully cognizant we create a Living Will that states what our loved ones should do with us in case we should ever become physically or mentally incapacitated; whether or not we should be placed on life support and for how long etc. These are decisions that are regularly suggested by medical doctors for everyone of sound mind and body to make AND to put it in writing. So if a person does get into an accident and tragically gets put into a vegetative state mentally or is unable to move or function physically, it is THEY who make the decision whether or not they are left for years on a hospital bed hooked up to a bunch of wires and machines, OR if the plugs are pulled and they are left to pass away quickly and quietly in a more natural manner. Everyone in civilized societies across the globe agrees that this is the “right thing to do”. (Whether or not it is, I cant say for sure. I can see arguments for both sides equally. But that isn’t the point.) The fact of the matter is that we have already reached this state of civilized self realization and self determinism. Good.

So why shouldn’t that same person, being of sound mind and body, be able to make that decision in cases where they are NOT in a coma or a vegetative state? Let us say that in the case of Robin Williams that he was just overtly depressed — and again we have no proof of this yet… or, as his wife now implies, that he “recently learned that he had Parkinsons Disease” and THAT was the reason that he decided to end his life early… again we just don’t know for sure — but let us say that he just decided that he didn’t want to live like that anymore… Should that decision of whether or not he lives be up to us? Or up to his family? Or up to him? I’d submit that every time no matter how many times the question is posed that that decision should solely and wholly be HIS decision and no one else’s to make. And the same for every and any one else in the world we live in.

I’m as shocked and saddened by Robin Williams’ death and the WAY in which he went as anyone else. In fact I have been surprised by how hard the news was for me, and the after shock. But I am certainly not feeling any negative feelings towards the man. Not labeling him irresponsible or selfish or cowardly or weak or anything else of that nature. If anything I remain intrigued by the details surrounding the event and especially concerning his decision IF it turns out that that’s what really happened. I am curious as to what he’s presently experiencing, if anything. Did he get to meet the Big Man or the Divine Mother? Did he turn into an angel and is currently floating around the earthly realm caring for those in need and making other angels laugh in hysterics with his latest impersonation of the Archangel Gabriel? If he burning in hell as punishment for taking his own life as the Catholics propose? Is he laying in wait in some strange state of limbo or Purgatory? Or has he already reincarnated and is celebrating his one month old birthday in Korea or Paraguay or Zimbabwe? If so, is he funny? Is he even human? Or is he a cow or a dog or a fruit fly? We don’t know. Truth is, we have no freaking clue. For all we know he could just be dead, done, finished, over, mission complete. Regardless of what happened to the man or where he is or isn’t, that isn’t our business, but only his. And that is what we call a truly free democratic point of view. People need to step off their soap boxes and back away from their homemade pulpits and just allow the man and his work to breathe a little. He gave us so much for so long. That’s the least that we can do in return.

Yours truly, sincerely and very much still alive,

Fishy,
AKA The Ambassador,
AKA Ed Hale
xoxoxoxo

Celebrating Robin Williams

By now the world is just waking up to the reality that comedian, actor and humanitarian Robin Williams has passed away. This one is going to be a sad one. This feels almost unspeakable. Continued shock… and more sadness. A real mind blower. Smack dab in the middle of all this mess, he decides to leave us? Now? We Americans are going to take it the worst. He was one of us, one of our own, one of our finest exports to the world. He started out as a rough and tumble comedian, trash talking a mile a minute, a big mass of hair and sweat. He was by all accounts a mess. But we loved him for it. Yes indeed he was raunchy in his early days, as some people have pointed out; in fact, truth be told, when we were kids we weren’t “allowed” to watch Robin Williams when he came on TV by our parents. So unlike many of my peers I don’t have a recollection of Mork and Mindy, and certainly not Happy Days…. Our puritanical Christian upbringing and all. But on the occasion when our parents were out, we would sneak a peak at him up there on the stage, doing stand up, acting all wild and crazy, cracking himself up, going a million miles an hour, a real coke hound obviously; even as kids we could tell that this guy was on something, that there was something just not right there, but he was sooooo freaking funny.

He’d get going and not be able to stop himself, even when he was supposed to, even when he wanted to; he couldn’t help it. Something else would pop into his brain and pop out of his mouth. Again and again and again. Those late 70s, early 80s stand up routines of his… nothing like them. He invented that style. That manic hyper coked up genius routine was his. He invented it. Yeah sure a ton of other characters soon came on the New York comedy scene doing a similar schtick, but everyone knew who started it. Robin Williams. He went to the outermost edges, had you pissing yourself, and then he went beyond, and then beyond again, creating a routine and a style that was so singular and extreme that he enabled cats like Richard Belzer and Stephen Wright to invent a completely different style just by leaning to the opposite side. That was just one of the hallmarks of his genius. But that put a lot of pressure on Robin. You could see it in his eyes when he would be up there, especially with Billy and Whoopy. The pressure to be that good, to be HIM. Sure, they were his peers, supposed stars in their own right…. But everyone knew, everyone just accepted that Robin was special; he wasn’t just a star; he was a constellation, he was fireworks. He was a magician, a spitfire, a sherman tank, a civil war.

And then something miraculous happened. Somebody got the craziest idea: cast Robin Williams in a Hollywood movie. But not a comedy. Throw him in a drama. Something sad and tragic and heartbreaking. Because we all know that comedians, real comedians at least, are just manic depressives playing out their manic side. So they know tragedy better than anyone. That’s what makes them so damn funny. They’re not just cracking jokes. They’re on some kind of an unnatural neurological bender in the moment, ready to crack at any second; but for God’s sake get it on camera man! They’re attempting to do battle with the dragon of despair that haunts us all, but they’re doing it in real time, in the public eye, unabashedly brazenly brave and stupid at the same time. They’re fighting for their very sanity in those moments, for their survival. If you can control them long enough to get them to act in a movie of some kind, a good movie… forget about it. They’re going to blow you away. Because no one understands sadness and loss better than a comic. And blow us away Robin Williams did. From his first to his last, Moscow on the Hudson to The Angriest Man in Brooklyn, Robin Williams epitomized the everyday man fighting against the tragedy of truth and humanity. Dead Poets Society, Good Will Hunting, Good Morning Vietnam. This is all off the top of my head mind you. No googling necessary. Because THAT’s how good the man was. If Robin Williams was in a movie, you knew it was going to be not just good, but that it had the potential to be fucking great. He was one of the few actors of his generation who could give you a guarantee like that.

But why? How? Because Robin Williams wasn’t acting. Anyone who worked with him will tell you that; it’s the same thing over and over. He wasn’t reading lines. He could get underneath the skin of and inside the bones of just about any human (or not so human) character and embody them. Because he truly understood the bare naked truth of it all: that at our essence we are all the same inside. That was another aspect of his gift. He was madness and mayhem personified, sure; but he was also one hell of a perceptive philosopher and observer of humanity who just happened to be able to disguise it well beneath all those jokes.

He understood that madness and mayhem of the human condition, because let’s face it: life on earth is a terribly complex and perplexing ball of dichotomy and confusion; it’s a fucked up scene on the verge of exploding into total chaos at any minute where everyone is on their best behavior pretending to be cool about that. It’s one giant anomalous contradiction where everyone pretends to believe they know what’s going on even though deep inside they’re just as panicked as the next guy when they allow themselves for a moment to realize that they have no freaking clue what’s really going on. But see… only certain people see and know this. A lot of people don’t even recognize this about life; they do their best to just get along and that’s that. But other people, they see through all the pretense and bullshit. They’ve faced the devil of uncertainty that comes from knowing too much and ends at “we have no idea what’s really going on do we?” and they’ve survived. And to a certain degree, that’s their curse. Hell, we openly call it “the curse”. It’s an inside joke. It’s also a deep source of unbearable pain to many, because the joke is on us: for whatever reason, no matter how far we push it, no matter how far off the deep end we travel, tempt fate or tease God, we stay alive for some reason. God in his mysterious and humorous style keeps us alive. At least for a while. Long enough to go bonkers and bananas a few dozen times. In the process some of us produce some incredible works, as Robin did. So when his wife exclaims “I hope we take this time to just reflect on his amazing life and talent…” that’s really the thing, his life and work. The how and why of his death is going to be history long before we are finished discussing his amazing body of work.

But yeah we knew, we saw this coming for years, decades; we knew it cost him a lot, to reach that kind of a manic place, day after day and night after night… God knows it both does come easy and doesn’t necessarily come naturally “all the time”… that kind of manic hyperspeeding style of thought and expression that he brought. So the news is not surprising…. It’s sad. As with Philip Seymour Hoffman before, we are deeply saddened by the news, but not surprised. We knew he was battling, for years, had been battling for a long time… part of me really felt like he had kicked it this time, found some kind of inner peace, with his returning to TV and everything… He could be closer to home more often… Or so we told ourselves. We heard about the rehabs and the clinics… Lord knows we’ve all been there ourselves, time and time again…. Sanctuaries for the “insane who are too sane”.

That kind of knowing is hard; that kind of unity with the human spirit. I have a friend right now who’s all over social media posting all this stuff about “addicts” — in reference to Robin’s death. That’s amazingly sad and pathetic. You can tell he really wants to summarize the whole kit and caboodle of this man’s life through that tiny lens. But what he doesn’t realize — or perhaps does realize and just refuses to accept — is that this kind of thing has nothing to do with a person being “an addict” or not. It’s the other way around. The addiction is the symptom of the problem, ONE of the symptoms, but it’s not the problem. People “use” because there’s something messed up in there; something not quite right. Hell, it’s the spark that makes people laugh and cry and be so moved by their work in the first place. Who else acts like that? Except the insane? What most don’t realize is that it’s also a source of great suffering for the person doing the entertaining. WE know it; WE talk about it amongst ourselves; WE confide and cry in the confines of the loving arms of our spouses or the offices of our rabbis and pastors and psychiatrists; and we even try to tell other people about it. About “how hard it is in there”. And drugs do seem to make it better. They really do. Trust me when I say that it’s no coincidence, this drug thing. It’s not like we were all born the same year and grew up in the same small town…. If you get my meaning…. We have absolutely NOTHING in common…. and yet, there’s this something else that we do seem to have in common there that has nothing to do with where we were born or who raised us or anything like that. It’s something deeper, much closer and more primal. It’s a life or death thing. It’s a secretly putting on your underwear backwards when no one’s looking thing.

The depression, the knowing, the drama and trauma of it all, the unenviable burden of being more connected than usual, more than one should be, more than is healthy, is the source of the whole drug thing for 99% of us. Every now and then you’ll find someone who “just likes to have a good time” and that’s why they got into drugs. But they’re not the norm. They’re the exception. Most of the time, for most of those who are doing battle with that particular demon, drugs were a very early add-on in life, a survival tool, a natural inclination to reach for something, a coping mechanism, a means to an end, the cure that no one believes you deserve. And living without drugs can sometimes feel like hell on earth. Never quite normal. And no, there’s no way one can convince another of what it’s like if they don’t have that experience themselves. They just don’t get it. Though some do try and God bless them for that. For whatever reason — and we don’t know yet — Robin either gave up on or lost the battle. Drugs or no drugs. Only time and more data will tell. But he left us too soon. 63 is far too young for a star that bright to burn out.

Yes? And yet maybe not yes. Hell, he probably gave us twice as much as he thought he was ever going to. And that brings a smile to my face. Thinking of him making it for that long…. People like that NEVER expect to live that long. And only those of us who know this can really know this. I never say these words out loud now anymore, because I said it once and the thought was so shocking and sad to my wife that she burst into tears in disbelief, and yet she knew…. she could tell… but she didn’t want to know…. she didn’t want it to be true…. but there are those moments when a look gets by on your face…. and you can see that she sees…. I could just tell that it was better for me not to ever utter it again. Instead we just pretend that all is normal. And I suspect that Robin and his family were doing the same.

The one solace we can take in this passing away of Robin Williams so suddenly, on a fucking Monday no less — talk about a prankster! — is that at least his battle is thru, the ups and downs, the back and forths, the pretending to be happy when you’re clean but you’re really aching inside… trying yet again to “take it one day at a time”. I don’t think anyone can say “oh well he’s in a better place now”, but what we can say is at least he’s not suffering anymore. That part is over. And we…. we were lucky enough to get 35 years out of the man and his amazing talent. That’s something. It was a gift to the entire world that was lucky enough to experience him in one way or another.

Here’s to hoping that his soul really is now resting in peace. Or better yet, perhaps he’s right this very minute making the Creator crack up and bend over howling with laughter. We of course have no way of knowing. But we do know that he was one hell of a talent. Way more talented than a mere comic and ten times more talented than 99% of the people who call themselves “actors”. He was the real thing. He had it all. And we loved him for it. This one is going to be a sad one.

THE PROBLEM WITH MUSIC STREAMING FROM A BUSINESS STANDPOINT

Regarding Spotify and Pandora and the like, we have been spending a LOT of time discussing and debating this issue. Just not here. I apologize for that. Unlike the “old days” where everything I did was memorialized here for the ages, social media has now taken over and the majority of my communications, thoughts, feelings ideas are now floating out there somewhere, be it Facebook or Twitter or Tumblr or even Pinterest. I encourage you, friend fan or foe, to search for me on those above cited platforms and connect so as to be more readily informed of what’s going on. With that said, I started a simple non-profit to inform and promote a fairer living wage compensation for the musical artist called FAIR PAY FOR FAIR PLAY. Feel free to connect with it on Facebook if it’s a cause you believe in. There you will be able to read more about this subject than you’re even aware exists at this time. but that’s a good thing. We need YOU to. We need everyone to.

Needless to say, pardon that you’ll be joining the conversation mid-stream. But as of today, here is the latest thought about this subject:

Granted we are in the initial phase of this new trend… (streaming taking over purchases…) BUT i do believe that as with all “new things” that it’s important for us to set the rules up fairly and equitably from the start, or else it’s much harder for us to change them later. Be it anything. The problem is that the whole thing is a sham. This idea that tech companies are perpetrating on regular people, that “music can be free”… the business model itself is severely flawed… THEY happen to exist in an industry where everything is “free”. Free apps, free games, etc, because it is funded by venture capitalists. So they are now trying to pass that on to an entirely different industry — the music business — and with other people’s products, i.e. other people’s intellectual property. And therein lay the problem.

It’s FINE if tech companies want to and can afford to give away their product for free for a year or more or forever because they see a bigger picture down the road (advertising revenue, an IPO); but it’s NOT fine to demand that of other people who they don’t even know, i.e. musical artists. The ONLY way they can offer “free music” to people — their prospective clientele — is by either offsetting their expenses — what they should be paying for their inventory, in this case the music — through other revenue sources like advertising OR by funding their business through venture capitalists. Which is fine. IF they are paying for their inventory. Which in this case, they are not. They’re just stealing it.

And by doing so they are programming an entire generation to believe that “music is free”, when in fact it’s not. Music actually costs a LOT to create. Financially. Besides all the other things that go into it. Like talent. What they’re going to end up with is a world where only really crappy music is popular because really good music will not be available for streaming if these practices continue for much longer. Just something to think about..

If you want to find out more about this issue and the problems we all face as music lovers if it continues in this direction, read this excellent article about Radiohead’s Thom Yorke and why he pulled his music off of Spotify: http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2013/jul/15/thom-yorke-spotify-twitter

New Cosmos Big On Visuals But Something Missing


We’re three episodes into the global premier of the eagerly anticipated remake of Carl Sagan’s scientific documentary masterpiece, Cosmos. Word of it spread quickly through the various worlds of the literati and public alike. Over thirty years have passed. So…. Not only have scientific discoveries evolved, almost exponentially, leaving much new to cover, but so too has the technology used to create such a bold broad and far reaching work.

To aficionados and purists of course the original was perfect, without flaw and incapable of inspiring nothing but praise; certainly no complaints. But still… Curiosity is easily drummed up when contemplating a project of this size, with the big budget FOX would surely allot to it, not to mention having animation funny man Seth McFarland on board (?!?!) and the new narrator and guide for this remake would be celebrity physicist Neil degrass Tyson.

Being only three episodes in one could easily forgive the slightly humdrum pace at which the show is traveling thus far. Perhaps they’re saving the good stuff for later? Breaking out the big guns once the series catches on with a few more million viewers? But it’s not just the slow pace at which the show’s storyline is moving. With a seemingly infinite treasure trove of cash at their disposal the producers of the series have certainly spared no expense on breathtaking visuals and computer generated graphics and animation; but that seems to be, so far at least, the best aspect of the show.

Where Sagan’s Cosmos seemed primitive and quaint in the visual effects department at times — downright cheesy even, especially now, every episode left the viewer feeling inspired enthralled and captivated. More than anything though one walked away feeling educated, over-educated usually — with a ton of new knowledge to digest. So much so that it is common to find that anyone who has seen Cosmos has seen it numerous times. Usually more times than they can count. That was half the fun of the show. Trying to keep up with Sagan’s brain and his insatiable appetite to soak in every fact and ounce of important science data that had ever been discovered or postulated in the history of humanity. His enthusiasm for science and learning inspired us all to feel that same thirst. This is one of the many reasons why the man –a scientist mind you — became such a celebrity in his time, and a legend today.

The new Cosmos is not only slow but it also seems geared towards a less intelligent and curious audience. The science behind the science, the details, the math and equations, even the practical applications for said discoveries are all but gone in this new version. The script wiped clean of anything remotely mentally challenging or even intriguing. It’s as if the purpose is more to wow the audience into believing that science is “cool” without explaining any of the actual science itself. Names are dropped here and there, completely out of order and context — which is maddening for those who are familiar with the timeline of science’s greatest discoveries, and probably frustratingly confusing for those who don’t, but the exuberant raw passion and admiration Sagan seemed to have for these masters of human potential seems lost on Tyson. As if it’s all old hat to him.

There’s nothing particularly offensive or annoying about Tyson, but there’s also nothing particularly appealing either. Whereas Sagan could coax a drunken sailor to get excited about some of the most complicated scientific theories and equations ever invented with nothing but the sparkle in his eye and his soothing voice at once sonorous and excited, Tyson seems relatively tame if not downright bored half the time talking about the same matters. As if he’s either been there done that too many times already or he simply just isn’t as interested in the subject matter as Sagan was when discussing the same things.

So far the viewer finishes each episode feeling not much more than “meh… It was okay…”, but certainly not enraptured or on fire or ready to pop another one in immediately afterwards. The original Cosmos to many is a downright spiritual experience. No matter how times they watch it. Something very special and magical was created there that stands all by itself and alone in the annals of filmmaking. A concise but hefty 13 volume collection of boundless knowledge expressed and presented with excitement and reverence. The new Cosmos so far at least is an adequate passers by explanation of only the very basic ideas science has offered us through the years. Lukewarm tea without much flavor, sweetener or spice.

Whether this was done on purpose or not is more of an industry question. Perhaps the producers and the network felt that for audiences used to The Simpsons and American Idol, this was the best way to serve it. Almost hypnotically slow and filled with animation. We really don’t know. Choosing Seth McFarland — God love him for the hysterics of Ted — as an executive producer may have also played a role in why the show seems relatively bland to connoisseurs of the original series.
The man is after all a jokes writer, not a scientist nor even a science documentary producer.

Another factor that one finds a bit disturbing is the none too subtle atheistic view the show so far seemingly means to promote. It was no secret that Sagan was an agnostic at best. He stated as much quite early towards the end of the original series, though delicately respectfully. In this new age when certain cretinous minds are hellbent on forcing everyone to unnecessarily but unequivocally choose between believing in a God or not, the new Cosmos seems to be upping the ante on trying to prove that science displaces God somehow, when in reality we may just be discovering the intricacies of how the Divine Force has things worked out and coming up with our own names for these very natural systems in His/Her/It’s master plan. Either way, it’s an entirely unnecessary point to be making regardless; the exploration of spiritual, cosmological and theological ideas doesn’t really belong in a show extolling the virtues of scientific achievement. The sharpest minds understand that science and religion are not in competition with one another any more. Together though they are in fact creating some marvelous discoveries. And one day I believe will make THE most marvelous one of them all. In time.

Don’t get me wrong regarding the new Cosmos though. This show is still better than most anything else on TV but for PBS or HBO. It just isn’t the original. Nor an adequate update to it. I’ll still look forward to each new episode for the next few weeks at least. You can’t really get a subject matter closer to my heart than what this one explores. And who knows, it may just be gearing up and get really good once it gets going. I hope so. We need more television like this in America right now.

One very positive aspect of the show, (McFarland be damned for he’s one of the worst offenders in this arena), is that it isn’t filled with rampant gratuitous sex, violence and vulgarity like nearly everything else on modern American television. One cannot get through a half hour of TV during prime time today without more fucks cocks cunts balls bloody corpses axes through the head and naked bimbos riding alleged tough guys than one would normally encounter in an entire lifetime just ten years ago. Our grandparents — thank God they’re dead– wouldn’t recognize this nasty wicked and violent world we live in today. Why on earth today’s writers and producers think that adding the word fuck cock or dick to every sentence somehow makes a show funnier is beyond me. Frankly I believe the opposite is true. The shock and offensiveness of this new trend takes away from the viewers ability to be amused. This is one thing at least viewers of the new Cosmos don’t have to worry about. At least not yet anyway.

Television an Impetus and Sign of the Decay of Society’s Morals & Values

Prologue: The start of the new year marks the beginning of year three of my exploration of American television. As many long time readers have noted lately, The Transcendence Diaries never talked about television in all the years it’s been running. Thousands of pages and a full decade into this experiment, not one television show was ever mentioned until recently. That’s because for the longest time I didn’t subscribe to nor watch television. I spent most of my life that way. As a child we were completely cut off from that aspect of popular culture simply because our parents didn’t allow us to watch TV. They deemed it mentally and emotionally harmful. We of course being children disagreed with them vehemently. We just wanted to belong.

As I transitioned to adulthood I watched the occasional TV show when visiting friends houses, but in the music business, you really never have the kind of lifestyle where you can afford the time it takes to watch TV. You’re always traveling, and on those rare occasions when you’re not on the road, you live more of a vampire existence — out all night and asleep most of the day, one that does not lend itself to keeping up with the latest hit TV show. Besides all that, truth be told, I always found television to be the last thing in the world that interested me. I was a snob, I humbly admit it, and found television of almost any kind to be predictable, inane, boring and pedestrian. To be brutally honest, I found it insulting that people took the time or money to create such putrid dreck and expected other people to consume it. So no, TV was just not my thing.

Movies on the other hand were. An avid film buff, I gained access to movies through a seriously expensive Netflix and Amazon.com habit. Eventually two things transpired though that led to this more recent foray into the sodden world of American television, and since I’ve received more than a fair share of communications from readers about this strange twist lately, I thought I’d take a moment to address the reasons for this switch so people don’t think I’ve lost my edge or gone off the deep end.

Number one, it is possible — if one is determined and persistent enough in the pursuit — to watch literally every good to great film ever released in a variety of different languages; it just takes time and discipline. You reach a point where there is simply nothing left to buy or rent that you haven’t already seen a few times. I reached that point several years ago. Not only had I purchased all the great films worth owning — both fictional movies and documentaries, concerts and bios, old and new, color and black and white — in order to build a most enviable library to share with my children as they grow if I should be so lucky as to have some one day, but I discovered that eventually you can also reach a point where every film you ever clicked to place in your Netflix queue has been shipped to you and returned already. Granted we are speaking strictly of only movies that interested “me”. I am sure there are plenty of horror movies, vampire thrillers, zombie apocalypse tales and buddy-cop flicks that never made their way into my viewing room and hopefully never will.

Number two, as many know, I began working on a rather large project to write a non-fiction sociology book entitled We Are the Revolution — Life in the Personal Expression Age a few years back and felt that I needed to explore TV to it’s fullest in order to fairly and fully explore this new age we’ve found ourselves in. After all, one of the Signatures of the age that I predicted was on its way was “The Great American Television Renaissance”. I foresaw that with the Indie Revolution and technology boom colliding and working together, American television was about to begin a new golden age where it would become so good that it would be nearly indistinguishable from Hollywood movies, even good ones. I was right. To a degree at least. Mainstream media is now calling it “the new or third golden age of TV”… something to that effect.

More importantly I have been able to witness it firsthand, taking notes and cataloguing it along the way. At first I tried to accomplish this feat by simply renting DVDs of all the television shows that I thought were important through Netflix. True story. I must have watched hundreds of hours of television that way. Eventually I caved in and realized that if I was really going to take the leap and explore this aspect of our society completely that I would need to subscribe to TV full on, as in get cable. And so I did. We’ve now got the full gamut. All 1000 channels or more. It’s entirely overwhelming. And yet frustratingly underwhelming as well. All depending on the filter you have on when watching.

I must say that it hasn’t been easy. Television is both a gift and a curse, wicked and wonderful all at the same time. On the one hand I heartily appreciate the comfort and companionship it provides to those who aren’t as fortunate as some of us are financially or socially or even in regards to having good health. Many a good person falls asleep every night with the TV on for no other reason than they are ill and bed-ridden or simply lonely. I get that. I respect it. I also understand that in a country as large as the United States is, television has a tremendous bonding capacity. It makes it possible for just about anyone, no matter how isolated or remote they may live from a metropolitan area to feel connected with and stay in touch with the rest of the country; with the rest of the world really. This is an important contribution to be sure. Though one might add that the internet can now just as readily fulfill that purpose, and do so without an endless stream of advertisements or that most unfortunate circumstance where one is trapped in front of the box filled with hundreds of channels and still find absolutely nothing to watch that interests them.

(I myself have a tough time with advertisements on television and so I almost exclusively only watch shows that have been DVR’d. I don’t think this project would have been possible had the DVR not yet been invented.) Because my venturing into the world of television was not for entertainment but for research I never found myself in the aforementioned predicament of “not being able to find anything to watch”. I’ve felt it countless times of course, but every time I find myself thinking that, I remind myself that this is research after all. If it’s occasionally enjoyable, all the better. But if it’s not, so what: the important thing is to soak it all in and to learn. So that’s what I’ve been doing.

I started this exploration approximately two years ago. So no, I do not remember the shows Desperate Housewives or Friends or 24, nor am I am able to recall the early formative years of American Idol that everyone refers to so lovingly. These were all before my time. But I have been able to catch up on certain things deemed important enough through Netflix such as Lost for instance. And as I’ve already mentioned in prior posts I enjoyed that show in particular immensely. Now I find myself in a rather strange place. Half in, half out. Television as it turns out can be extremely addictive. One can find oneself watching when one doesn’t even necessarily want to. It is easy to become quasi-addicted to TV. To keeping up with things. To having that extra energy in the room. It’s an illusion of course. Those people are real, but they aren’t there in the room with you. They aren’t even doing what they’re doing live, there in the moment, as you’re watching. They only pretend they are. And we in turn pretend along with them. It’s a drug like any other that as a society en masse we’ve allowed ourselves to become slowly but entirely addicted to and dependent on.

I would be lying if I claimed that I haven’t enjoyed this part of the book writing process. Because I have. Almost too much I believe. Much of it has been very enjoyable. On the other hand much of it has been thoroughly dreadful and painful, as many would guess. Most television, as I remembered from the few times I attempted to watch it in the past, is indeed inane, pedestrian, boring, predictable and insulting to anyone with half a brain. Though on occasion you can find some things that transcend the format and are just flat out better than good. Downton Abbey comes to mind; as do many shows that PBS tends to air. So too does Homeland. Though the latter’s third season suffered so badly from poor writing that it became unbearable to get through for me personally. And that, in a nutshell, is the problem with television. Unlike good film, where they limit the length of the work to the exact time needed to tell the story and no more or less, television works in the exact opposite way: the story is dictated by how long the series stays on the air — as in how many dollars can they squeeze out of it as a commodity. This invariably always suffers the quality of the work itself. After a season or two, when the story is long overdue for a proper ending, the writers are still desperately trying to suck more blood out of the lifeless carcass that’s still left behind. The audience hangs on because they’ve become accustomed to it, fond of it, seduced by the original thrill once had but long forgotten, much like other drugs, and slowly — like a marriage gone sour — both writer and audience writhe in agony as each new season drags on until eventually both show and audience whither away and shrivel up and die.

tv-money

Think Pretty Little Liars. Those supposed high school girls are old enough to be grandmothers at this point and no one in their right mind gives two shits who “A” is anymore. The same can be said for Revolution — they’re going to drag that poor wretched beast out so long that most viewers will be dead by the time the producers of the show suck all the cash out of it that they can and end the story; which is too bad, because that show had at one point at least a degree of merit and potential. But again, money is taking precedence over quality still in this medium, so the storyline just drags on indefinitely rather than ending when it naturally should. The same goes for the aforementioned Homeland starting with season 3. It’s alarming, and I’d say disturbing even, to ponder that the creators and writers of this show are contemplating bringing “Brody” back from the dead in season 4. And yet everyone knows that’s precisely what they intend to do. It’s a truly shameless craft, to work for American television. All because of this wretched time-dictate phenomenon.

Of course, there is an easy fix. Just as filmmakers do, the creators and writers of TV could, if they really wanted to go the way of art rather than commerce, just change the storyline as often as needed — adding and/or deleting characters as needed — and frame the whole television show around a good story, RATHER than around how much time they need to fill up with a full season, and then another, and then another, and another, etc. In other words, once the story has run its course, they could END it, regardless of how many more episodes they have left. They could always keep the same cast of characters but just create a different story for them to be involved in. This would make television much more intelligent and much less inane and insulting.

Now that I’ve made mention of this fix, we can only hope that it turns into the new trend at some point in the near future. That’s how it usually works. I’ll mention it here; a few weeks to months later we see it transpire. [Remember, it was less than a year ago that I suggested creators and networks shoot and air whole seasons of shows at once so audiences could watch them all in one or two sittings IF they so choose to. See the post entitled Observations Re Modern Television – Fixes (1) from March 13, 2013. Within a few months, Netflix did just that with Arrested Development and then House of Cards and “binge watching” became the new buzz word of the season. So before we go writing in that yours truly is pipe-dreaming, let’s give this new idea some time, eh? I bet it’s only a matter of time now that it’s been mentioned here.

[This brings up an interesting side-thought — a truly fascinating paradigm that’s a bit off-topic but one that I’d say is very intriguing, if not way more intriguing than what this post was originally about. Check it. What exactly happened there? In the above scenario? I suggested something new, never been done before; and a few months later we see it transpire. Deductively, from what I can tell after thinking about this strange phenomenon for decades now, we’ve got three or four primary choices from which to conclude. #1, I created the idea and someone read about it, liked the idea and put it into action. i.e. I was the inventor of said event. #2, I predicted the advent of the idea before it transpired. i.e. I am psychic, or more accurately put, am more tuned into my “Intuitive Mode of Consciousness” than the average person. (more on that later). #3, I am simply highly tuned in to the subject and/or the culture it exists in and could feel or induce the coming of said event through either logical induction or intuition or a combination of both. This falls into the “hundredth monkey” paradigm to a certain degree. A little something I call “If you’re thinking it, so too are a thousand other people”. i.e. knowing a subject very well and all of the data associated with a subject allows us to be able to accurately predict coming events and trends more readily than the average person simply because we are so tuned into that particular data collection. We aren’t necessarily “predicting” something psychicly (though this could just be semantics) as much as being able to induce coming trends…. #4, none of the above. It was pure coincidence. #5, a combination of all of the above.

Without making too much of this post about this phenomenon — I believe it deserves one for sure — what I personally believe is that each time this phenomenon occurs, one has to analyze the events surrounding it in order to be able to ascertain which one of the five conclusions above were at play. There’s not just ONE singular reason for this seemingly miraculous turn of events. #1, Are television executives frantically scouring the Transcendence Diaries to look for ideas from yours truly and as soon as I suggested they air full seasons of shows so viewers could watch them all at once, they decided to do just that because I have just that much influence? I doubt it. In fact I doubt that they or anyone else except for loyal readers for that matter even knew I had suggested this new format for airing television shows. So no, I don’t believe I invented the idea and someone stole it.

#2, While it is true that for the last twenty or so years those closest to me have noticed an uncanny ability to be able to see things that are going to happen in the future — so much so that friends and family call me to ask “Hey, what are you seeing happen if I should do this_____?” — 99% of the time I am NOT in control of this ability. I “feel” and “see” the visions of said coming events randomly. Or I might just be writing or thinking about a subject or person and make note of something that IS going to happen or SHOULD happen, and then it does. This is certainly not psychicism in the classic scientific sense. Because I can’t turn it on or off at will. It’s completely random. Most of the time, when I do try to do it deliberately I do so with devastatingly erroneous results. So I tend to dismiss the “psychic” conclusion.

To me the most logical conclusion is #3. When we tap into a subject deeply and study it, all the data in and around it, we are more capable of being able to induce various different events that may potentially transpire in what we label “the future” in this particular field — simply because we are so tuned into this topic of study, or field of thought. It’s really just a matter of inductive reasoning. And feel. And intuition. The hundredth monkey effect at play. Chances are there were probably a thousand other people around the same time thinking and proposing the same thing. Why? Because it was the next logical step or transition in the field of television broadcasting. I just happened to make note of it before it happened because I was so deeply entrenched in studying it.

To be clear, I do not believe that this negates the potential for “psychic” or telekinetic abilities in others, nor even in myself. I’m only speaking about this one particular event, and a few others like it. I believe that the more we study and dig into something, the more “tuned into it” we become, i.e. the more tapped in our Intuitive Mode of Consciousness gets into this subject and the easier it is for us to access it with our regular day to day consciousness. *[The idea of the Intuitive Mode of Consciousness, at least the label itself as I am using it here, comes from the work of Harry Palmer and his work in the Avatar materials.]  This to me does not preclude our ability to be psychic or telekinetic. Some people are highly gifted in this capacity. But there is I believe a more logical conclusion to this phenomenon and a lot of it has to do with how much we know about a subject. The more we learn about a subject, the more we soak into it, the easier it becomes to see what’s coming next.

We can become quite good at this ability by simply knowing this fact. If we want to know what happens next, simply study the subject at hand as much as possible. A combination of logic and intuition will increase our ability to see what happens next immensely. There is more to this, a lot more. This is definitely a subject we should explore more in future posts.]

The full exploration and conclusions of our little experiment in the world of television are in the book mentioned above. That wasn’t the original intent of this post. I apologize. I got carried away. Evidently even I am not immune to getting sucked into the crazy seductive world of television. So be it. It’s a good point made though.

Last week I decided to tune into a fairly new show called The Following to see what all the fuss was about. One of the aspects of the Signature of “The Great American Television Renaissance” is that better than good film actors, writers and producers would eventually succumb to working for television — unlike even five to ten years ago where television was considered the land where talentless hacks go to die. But this trend was easy to see coming due to a variety of factors. The full reasons and ramifications are discussed in the book. It’s easy work, TV, compared to movie making. Nearly a nine to five job if you force their hand. And one that you can do from the comfort of your own hometown so you can stay close to family — without the itinerate traveling and being on location as is often required when making a movie. And if they only made the money being offered tantalizing enough, so the theory went, they could easily start seducing B movie stars into doing it first, and eventually A-listers would soon follow. We’ve seen this start to play out over the last few years. I first intuitively perceived this coming trend, began taking notes on it and named it in 2005. It took a while to transpire. But in full swing now.

The ubiquitous Kevin Bacon, who’s been in literally every movie that’s ever come out of Hollywood since the early nineteen-eighties eventually succumbed in The Following. So I decided to check it out, see what the big pull was. FOX is known for pulling many a rabbit out of its hat. Most extremely lame, deformed, mutated beyond recognition. Some nearly decent, edible, if rabbit’s your thing. And a select few occasionally quite tasty.

Uh… Okay… Wow… Not sure WHAT kind of response the creators of this show were looking for, but that about sums it up. If there ever was just one, The Following could potentially hold the honor of being the perfect illustration of just how numb depraved and insane modern American society has become through the years. It’s plot and storyline are completely over the top, repetitive, irrelevant and unbelievable of course; that was expected; but gratuitous violence and gore and shock scenes abound, a technique usually reserved for cheap Hollywood D grade horror movies. It’s a twisted little world that’s created in this shock and schlock fest, filled with blood, gore, stabbing scenes, dismembered body parts… all the while the characters act as if it’s just another day in paradise. There are absolutely no redeeming qualities to this show except perhaps as a study of how depraved a society can become: on the one hand the society publicly questions why mass murders and killing sprees transpire on a regular basis in real life and on the other hand it simultaneously creates these kinds of television shows as entertainment. What the society claims to dread, resist and fear the most, it simultaneously gorges on as entertainment. It’s a fascinating dichotomy. But also a bit sickening and frightening.

For the last ten to fifteen years American television broadcasters have been in a competition with one another to see who can create and air the most shocking, taboo and controversial material and get away with it. It wasn’t always this way. A thorough study of the history of American television since the 1950s will reveal that there has always been a healthy competition between networks. Which is a good thing for everyone to be sure. But somewhere down the road an invisible line was crossed. In the 1970s there began a now-seemingly tame competition between the big three American television networks fighting for the top spot in shocking the American public with controversial subjects that were considered too taboo for such a public medium like television. Single motherhood, divorce, black and Hispanic comedies, racism and racial slurs, mixed marriages, all were on the table to be offered up for free to see just how much reality the viewing public was willing to digest.

For the most part the intentions seemed noble. Television producers were trying to push the envelope of how much reality could be accepted in society’s entertainment. All they were attempting to do was replicate current events on TV — to more honestly mirror real life in order to more honestly explore it. Before that era, American television was pure fantasy. A utopian dream of what life “could be like if everything were perfect”. To many, this may have been a pleasurable panacea in the moment, but it also served as a constant reminder of just how imperfect our real lives were. In the nineteen-seventies all that changed. Throughout the next twenty years, television continued to push these boundaries, attempting to reveal more and more reality on TV. Many credit the popular comedy Will and Grace with helping to make being “gay” more acceptable in real life society. It would be more difficult to thoroughly “hate” gay people if you were tuning in to laugh at and with a gay person once a week. Perhaps they weren’t as scary as people made them out to be. Or so the argument goes. For all intents and purposes it seemed to work.

Needless to say the advent of what we call cable television — or anything other than the Big Four networks, CBS, NBC, ABC and FOX — was and still is the main impetus for the ongoing trend towards a new style of television: starting with real life, then leaving it behind and stretching it out beyond peoples’ wildest fantasies. The show that comes to mind more than any other is The Sopranos, though which show started it all is not the point here. Let TV executives and savants argue that one out. But HBO’s The Sopranos took violence and vulgarity on television to a whole new level never seen before. Sex too. Pretty soon people were tuning in to watch the show not because it was “good” but more to see just “how far out” the writers would go in their quest to push past society’s boundaries of acceptability. By the time the show had reached it’s final season, tens of other shows started cropping up on HBO and other networks to compete with it in this category of pure shock value. Drug addicted doctors, mobsters, serial killers, murdering vampires and zombies, weed selling single moms, meth peddling dads just trying to earn a living to support their family, pregnant teens, womanizing drunkards… this is what the new American television protagonist started looking like.

And thus began the new phase of American television: not to mirror real life, but to stretch it beyond recognition as fantasy.

In my quest to fully absorb and explore modern American television, I succumbed to just about every show that any half-assed idiot raised enough money to get on the air just to be able to get the whole picture. I attempted to watch the show Girls once two years back, and found myself so disgusted and disturbed by the thought that this could potentially represent what modern American girls in their early twenties are like that I actually found myself crying. Just sitting there on the couch tearing up and sobbing. It’s one thing to push the envelope. It’s another thing to indoctrinate young people into believing that drug and booze binging, casual sex, loose or no morals, and trailer-park vulgarity were all perfectly acceptable as long as you could afford the latest fashion trends and you got on TV. Which is exactly what this and countless other shows seemed to be doing. My reaction was beyond shock. It was downright disgust and then sadness.

The word “fuck” — not only as an expletive but also as a verb, as in “to copulate or to have sex” — is used so regularly and casually by characters (who we are supposed to identify with in some way) that an outsider would justifiably assume that that’s how regular everyday people in our society speak. “Oh first you fuck me and then you go and fuck her Tony?!?!” As if that’s how the average American female speaks on a regular basis, which for the most part, thank God, they don’t. We don’t. When’s the last time you heard someone use the word “fuck” when speaking about making love or having sex in real life? Certainly more common now than ever before; but certainly not something that has been considered the norm in our day to day lives.

There was a time, in the not too distant past, when that kind of language would be found utterly shocking in the real world except perhaps for the most lowly types of individuals. And to be sure that still applies to most of us. But for how long? Television has always served as both a reflection of our reality and an influencer and harbinger of it, of things to come. “Fuck” has always been a fun word to use on occasion. A colorful way to decorate an otherwise lackluster sentence or sentiment. But we’ve always known — we’re even taught this in writing courses at university — that it’s the easy way out, a device of the amateur.breaking enough, the characters not badass or tough enough. Now it’s every other word, de rigeur for every character on TV. No longer shocking, but boring and predictable. Have a seat and try to watch a whole episode of Veep or House of Lies. You’ll hear more “fucks” in 30 minutes than you’d hear in a year of Tourette’s Syndrome Anonymous meetings.

But all the while, people are watching… How much are they being influenced? That’s the question that arises again and again.

But it doesn’t stop there. The word “fuck” is the least of our problems at this point. Sex blood guts gore vulgarity abortion adultery murder stabbings gunshots to the heads eye-gouging rape the mafia and criminals as heroes… you name it and you can find it on a television near you. A friend on Facebook once commented a year or so back, “I don’t mind being forced to watch Girls if it makes my wife happy for an hour. But I refuse to stare at Lena Dunham’s fat naked ass while she’s being banged from behind for ten minutes.” And that pretty much sums it up. Who in their not-right mind decided it was a good idea to start showing doggy-style sex on TV? And worse, who in their right mind watches it or enjoys watching it? But let’s not blame it on poor Lena Dunham. Innovative she’s not. She’s just a child of the generation that came before. I can distinctly remember being equally horrified when binge-studying the just as vile Sex and the City I had to sit through a ten minute conversation where all four actresses pretended that talking about “anal sex and giving blowjobs” over lunch was the normal conversation of choice for middle class Manhattan females. When we all know it’s NOT. But again, the show’s creators are just trying to bang extra dollars out of the piggy banks of hapless American consumers through shocking them. What is it about being shocked that makes American consumers feel special? That’s another valid question.

What many don’t seem to understand is that a good story doesn’t need to be shocking, nor controversial. Nor does shock or controversy equal a good story. What’s to explain the popularity of and adulation around Downton Abbey over the last three years? But this point seems lost on most television executives.

In a few decades we have created a world where absolutely nothing is off limits or taboo for television. The Real Housewives, Honey Boo Boo or any other number of shows proves this. Rape murder animal cruelty take your pick. Sure the clean-cut, smiling faces will be on the TV first thing in the morning on their best behavior, dyed-white teeth sparkling into the camera, acting as if everything is just fine and dandy in Pleasantville. But tune into the same channel 12 hours later and you can gleefully watch a man poke a woman’s eyes out while she screams bloody murder or a group of young teens having a threesome. And if you want to they’ll even look directly into the camera and talk to you while doing it, which is the current “cool technique” of today’s television factory.

If we are to believe that television is the least bit reflective of real life, some of the most cherished and sought after ideals of our society have been slowly shoved under the bed over time and replaced with a new kind of identity. Nobility, once highly sought after and admired, is now clouded by darker themes such as vengeance ruthlessness power for power’s sake and greed. “The end never justify the means” is an archaic novelty, cute and nostalgic, reserved for coffee mugs and keychains; now replaced by older more primitive notions such as “do whatever it takes to succeed” or “only the strong survive”. It is becoming increasingly more difficult to ascertain precisely what nobility or respectability mean in today’s “modern” times as represented by television. Our hard fought evolution to a more graceful and elegant, kinder and gentler people appears to be eroding if we are to believe that our favorite television shows reflect who we are as a society.

To say we’ve lost touch with our core values would be understating the obvious. Fundamental deception and blatant manipulation is an accepted norm. So too are hidden agendas. So too has rampant vacuous sexuality, gratuitous violence and gore, using sex as a tool or a weapon either to garner attention (in the absence of something valuable) or to bribe manipulate or blackmail. Our very basic nobility has been eviscerated; in its place has arisen new ideals: ambition fame attention power greed winning. Remember the Charlie Sheen fiasco? Talk about an ironic dichotomy. Thousands of hapless masses cheering on a jacked up drug addict and womanizer as he incoherently rambles on and on about “winning” some irrelevant battle he’s having with his “greedy Jew bosses at the network” over how much money he makes for a TV show that no one actually watched anymore. What exactly is “winning” now in American society? How can we even organize the data to craft a definition given the blatant contradictions between what we see pretended as winning versus what we know it really to be, at least in a traditional sense? If one were young enough to NOT remember the traditional definitions of concepts such as winning, nobility, respectability, decency, it would be easy to see how they could be completely confused as to what these ideals really mean if all they see representing them are people like The Kardashians, Paris Hiton, Kanye West, Miley Cirus or Ray Donovan. I don’t envy the younger generation coming of age in today’s world.

On the one hand we have shows like 60 Minutes and Frontline or even Anderson Cooper revealing the latest scandals and corruptions of the day by the lowliest criminals in society who then get in trouble for their actions, and an hour later we have shows like Scandal, The Good Wives, and Ray Donovan glorifying these same types of individuals and their corruptions as if it’s an honorable thing to be a part of. That’s one confusing bag of mixed messages. The fear is that we are on the brink of becoming immune to what we euphemistically label “white collar crime”: lying, cheating, embezzlement, blackmail, bribery, grand larceny…  and a political system that is run and controlled by these very things. We deceptively refer to it as “lobbying” or “political campaign financing”. Since we are old enough to speak we are taught that our elected officials make laws based on trading votes for favors and vice versa, again cleverly disguised by the moniker “pork barrel spending” so no one really understands what’s being discussed. We see it parodied or theatrically played out on television in shows like Veep or House of Cards or House of Lies. And we don’t even blink at the thought that this may in fact be our reality.

Nope. In fact we choose instead to allow others among us to use these shameful weaknesses in our character as entertainment, akin to allowing someone to murder your family right before your eyes and then broadcast it as a reality TV show. (We can be sure that’s not too far away at this point. I’d say give it a year…) Unfortunately we see far too similar events as those in fictional TV dramas play out in real life on CNN and CSPAN on a near daily basis, which only further blurs the line between what is real and what is creative writing. So it could all be satire, or dramatization, or not. At this point we don’t know. Turning our considerable problems with our government in what is known as the greatest democratic republic on earth into entertainment not only minimizes the importance of the real problems that we face as a society, but it satirizes us, as a people, and our very core values, as we ignore the problems and continue to pretend that everything is fine; the irony of it screams in our faces “DO SOMETHING YOU IDIOTS” while we sit back and binge-watch it play out right before our eyes pretending it means nothing, that in the end it’s only a story…

Last night while taking notes for this post, the thought occurred to me that it’s time to not only stop with this experiment of exploring American television but that I should even go one step further and unsubscribe from all television in both our homes and start a movement to encourage others to do the same thing, just get rid of all TV completely except as a vehicle to watch movies on. Precisely because I wholeheartedly believe in the main message of this post, television IS in my opinion a major reason for the decay of the moral fabric of our society and the only way it’ll ever stop is if people en masse start boycotting it to send a message to executives and broadcasters.

The next two thoughts that occurred to me were this: one, there are certain aspects of television that I really get a lot out of. News and especially financial news networks, CNBC, CSPAN, PBS and certain guilty pleasures on the so-called premium channels. Two, there’s no way that anyone will be able to talk even a small minority of Americans into doing away with their TV, so it’s an effort that would prove fruitless; not worth the time or energy I would expend. I’d basically being chasing rainbows. No one’s going to do it.

This morning upon awakening, I was surfing Facebook over my first macchiato and lo and behold what do I see? A post by a colleague in the music business who lives in Utah — she works in radio promotion — saying that she just got rid of their whole house’s cable subscription entirely because she “doesn’t approve of the content of TV today, it’s too vulgar and violent, and she doesn’t want her or her spouse or her children digesting that kind of garbage on a regular basis.” I must admit I was quite surprised. Talk about synchronicity or being psychic or tapping into intuition… I hadn’t even posted this yet. So it wasn’t about me. More a sign that I was onto something. She’s onto something. Perhaps I’m not the only person thinking about doing this. Not just doing it ourselves for the betterment of our mental and emotional health, but taking it on as a cause. After all, this may have been a random coincidence, but I just bet that if we two are thinking about it, so are plenty of others.

Sure enough, our good friend Zeke Zaskin — yes the audio engineer who’s mixed and mastered the last nine Transcendence albums, said that they just did the SAME thing in their home, for the same reasons, and that there’s a simple solution to being able to access only the content that one desires and still not have to subscribe to cable: He states the solution is getting a digital antenna, a Roku box and the PlayOn app. In fact he even posted a link that explains how to do it. You can get rid of cable completely AND still access the big four networks and any other networks you want to IF you want to. Here’s the link: http://removeandreplace.com/…/cancel-your-cable-and…/

So it turns out it IS possible to get rid of cable completely and still have access to only the shows and networks that we desire. This would afford us all a good opportunity to be able to send a message to the television networks and the executives that control them. One giant boycott is all we’d need by even a small minority would gather a lot of attention. I for one am ready to do something.

 

New Girl is Getting Old


Cult hit Fox TV show NEW GIRL used to be a blast. It’s first season especially. Wild carefree random unexpected quirkiness with that who cares attitude that only Generation Y can provide. Zoe was cute in a sort of dorky kindergarten teacher sort of way. And her three man crew made great sidemen each offering their own special bran of funny. Especially whacky Schmidt. You looked forward to it all week. You even watched the reruns when a new one wasn’t playing for some reason. You missed it over the summer.
 
 Them came season 2. Not as funny. But still funny. Good to see the old gang back together for sure. And fun to virtually play along with their crazy antics as they tried almost nill to get their lives straightened out. More than anything though we began to care. The shows creators had accomplished the undeniably difficult holy grail of TV — they developed characters over a relatively short period of time that we could not only laugh at but relate to and care about. Were Jess and nick really going to eventually hook up? Was Schmidt really going to be dumped permanently by Cece for that nice bumbling indian fellow without a name? Would Winston ever get a life or at least get laid again?
 
 Season 2’s cliffhanger finale was just okay. Some ball had been dropped a few weeks or months prior. Except for a badger scene that stole an episode for a few minutes it just started to lose its engage appeal.
 
 But still… We’d surely tune in to see if they could bring back the magic for season 3. Well one thin they did bring back was Coach, a character played by Damon Wayans who was fresh off the foolishly just cancelled because it was one of the funniest shows on TV show HAPPY ENDINGS. Unfortunately not only doesn’t Coach add anything to this cast he also takes away even more time from the rest of the cast that the audience has already a vested interest in. Besides that nothing much else came in the delivery of season 3. More hapless accidents and slapstick, more freshmanic humor only the cast and crew could like and more trying to capitalize on the Jess is really cool because we’re deliberately trying to make her clumsy and freakishly naive and nerdy.
 
 Unfortunately none of it’s working. Half way into the season and even the most ardent fans (moi por example) have yet to remember even one memorable scene let alone a whole show worth bothering to ruminate on or watch again. No laugh out louds. And no caring what happens. Sure it’s great to see the old gang together. But more than anything the feeling at this point is more about watching the clock to see how much longer we must endure this contrived inanity before THE MINDY PROJECT comes on.
 
 That’s surely not what NEW GIRL staff and crew want as their epitaph on their headstone, “Moderately amusing show at times that aired before Mindy Project”. But it looks like that’s precisely what’s in store for the show because 1, the best thing that could happen to it (if it doesn’t replace it’s writing staff ASAP) is it dies i.e. gets cancelled after this season in order to preserve at least a little bit of its once in spades “cherish quality” and street credibility, and 2 it’s looking more and more like an easily replaceable bookend for The Mindy Project and not much more than that.
 
 New blood in the writers room THATS what NEW GIRL needs. Before she starts looking like an old lady way before her prime.
 
 
 – Posted by The Ambassador using BlogPress on a custom iPhone8S

Celebrating Lennon


Nelson Mandela wasn’t the only public figure to pass away into the great unknown this week. Legendary singer songwriter activist and artiste extraordinaire John Lennon also made the journey just yesterday in fact when a crazy schizophrenic shot him down right outside his apt on the Upper West Side in Manhattan. Only it was 33 years ago. But that doesn’t make it hurt any less.
 
 
 All weekend I thought about it. It kept bubbling up in the back of my mind. John died this weekend didn’t he… so the thoughts went. I sure do miss him. I’ll never forget that day. We were just kids that day. Little kids. Too young to even really get it. We had already been into the Beatles. That’s how we all came together actually. Me and Toad and StuGuru an Juliet and the rest of the crew. We were all in the so-called “gifted” program at school, which meant that we never for to see the rest of the student body at except at PE and during lunch. We were basically what would be considered the nerds of the school. Major geeks who enjoyed things like Academic Games, Debate Club and Chorus. (Our chorus went to all state that year. My very first television appearance. Was standing on the top row of the bleachers and in the middle of “the sun will come our tomorrow” my foot started to itch. I went to scratch it with my other foot and my shoe fell off and made a huge thud when it dropped to the floor. On live TV. The first of many awkward moments).
 
 
 One of the things we all seemed to have in common was our love of the Beatles. They were an old band. Classic rock. Totally not hip or cool when we were growing up. Which only added to the allure of our obsession with being so different than everyone around us. Outliers. We had this quasi-Beatles fan club which consisted of no more than the lot of us spending all of our free time doing nothing but talking about or listening to the Beatles. That and stamp collecting. Like I said, we were nerds. I didn’t actually become “cool” till high school. And frankly the jury is still out on that. But the Beatles and our love for their music and culture and history bonded us in a special way. To the point where we are still friends today.
 
 
 Of course back then we were just into the early and middle stuff. Hadn’t progressed into the later years. Sounds funny now, but back then, at our age, the music of the later Beatles era felt and sounded “scary” to us. Especially the White Album. On especially courageous evenings during sleepovers we’d turn off all the lights and turn the white album on — only vinyl back then. Cassettes existed but you knew better to not go there. We’d sit in the dark with flashlights and listen to all these epic dark and languishing songs with their stream of consciousness drug-inspired lyrics. It seemed a frightening world to us at such young ages. But an equally appealing one as well.
 
 
 Less than ten years later three of us would be acting the parts out in real life when me and Toad and The Grey Wolf started the band Shattered (Broken Spectacles) and StuGuru started Lobsters and Walruses. As in all bands we subconsciously sparred for who was Paul and who was John. Both of us wanted to be John. Though I was the more obvious candidate, being slightly more of bad boy than Toad ever could be, coming from a broken home, being in constant trouble at school and with the law, and just never having the beautiful voice that Toad had, just like Paul. It’s funny now. Because Id give anything now to be Paul. Now that I’m older. But the Lennon comparisons still are heard now and then from fans and critics. Have never heard or read a McCartney comparison. And for whatever reason the older I became the more obsessed and in love I became with Paul and his music.
 
 
 With that said though, it is still John who tends to influence me more as an artist and as a man in the world. As I’m sure he does to lots of other artists around the world. This is an aspect of being an artist that draws a very clear line in the sand between the real and the pretenders. Entertainers have hits. They have gold records. They may even win Grammys. Hell they do every year. Artists may never reach any of those achievements. But they influence. Like Lou Reed. His is an influence which has spanned five decades and spread to every country in the world. For other artists. But most people only know one of his songs — “walk on the wild side” — out of a forty year career. That’s classic. That’s an artist.
 
 
 John Lennon was the same way. He never did things by the book — at least once he finished with the whole mop top selling out phase of his career. Which no one can blame him for because without that phase he may never have “made it” and we’d never have known his music. He wasn’t around during the indie revolution when everyone and their brother could record an album and pretend they were a receding artist no matter how bad they were, as things are today. You had to sell out if you wanted to actually reach the point of making a record and getting radio airplay.
 
 
 But after that phase — by Rubber Soul I’d say — john was just off on a tangent doing whatever the hell he wanted to. Not only as an artist but as a person. For a lot of us john’s personal life and his non-musical antics inspired us as much as his music did. The activism, the drug busts, the candid truth telling to a fault, the living in a glass house allowing all of his faults foibles and idiosyncrasies hang out for all the world to see. It would be hard for me to ever try to pretend that John didn’t have a huge influence on me. Deeper more profits and more transparent than even Bowie or Lou or Bolan because I got into him at such a young age that the influence was never conscious. It just became a part of who I was and evolved into. I’m saying this now as it’s occurring to me. Have never thought about it before. But it seems true. I never tried to be like or do anything like John Lennon. It was and perhaps still is more like he was a father figure who just rubbed off on me the same way a father does to a son. Never having a father of my own John and Paul played that role vicariously, simultaneously trading places at warp speed depending on what mood I happened to be in at any given moment. Then BAM! 20 years later and I’m a man myself. People say “you remind me of John Lennon” and it never even occurs to me that it could be true because I never deliberately copped John the way I did admittedly with say Bowie or Lou or Marc.
 
 
 Now that I’m older it really hits home how much we have missed by John not being around all these years. We can only guess what his musical output would be like now. Or what it would have been like over the last 33 years past. He was just getting started again when he was killed. That first new album in over five years (Double Fantasy) was an amazing in regards to the John songs in it. Even the Yoko songs were good.
 
 
 As well I often wonder what his social and political ideals would be like. I’m sure he’d be proud of what society has turned into in terms of how popular social and political activism have become. Even with more mainstream types. I wonder if he’d ever turn toward less peaceful more violent means of activism if he knew what we know now about how wicked the powers that be have become. But then again they were pretty bad already In the 60s and 70s. And he resisted those urges back then. Which is one of the reasons why I and probably many people like me still do. No matter how angry or embittered or resentful we feel sometimes. That’s just one of the many many gifts he offered the world simply by being born and being himself and doing his thing. If we’re going to take anything from John and his legacy, it should be that: to remember how utterly profound it can be if we do absolutely nothing other than be ourselves.
 
 
 It’ll never not be “sad” today. Because we will never not miss him and never not mourn his early passing. But there is plenty there to celebrate as well.
 
 
 – Posted by The Ambassador using BlogPress on an iPhone

Superman Explains the Transcendence Diaries

Tonight Princess Little Tree had the opportunity to watch Superman I and II. We had never seen them before but had heard about them for years. we were curious. I more than she of course. Both movies are considered American classics. They made Christopher Reeve an instant celebrity and household name and swept up at the box office. As you read this bare in mind it’s being written while another American classic, a James Bond film by the name of Goldfinger I believe, is playing in the background. This is another classic Hollywood flick that neither the Princess, who’s long ago fallen asleep by now lucky her, or I ever felt even a slight desire to entertain. The 20 to 30 percent of attention I can afford the movie while simultaneously composing this Diary entry on an iPhone is more than enough to be able to already see that these so called James Bond classics are no better than the aforementioned Superman movies.

Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing more unbearable in ones disposition than to discover that what thrills entertains titillates excites and moves the majority of others in his species does absolutely nothing for him but bores and more often than not simultaneously annoys. It isn’t a pleasant way to live amongst ones peers, nor an easy way to feel that sense of belonging that scientists claim is one of the seven basic human needs. Luckily once we escape the socially emotionally and intellectually stifling and suffocating confines of what they call K through 12, we do tend to discover with pleasure that we aren’t as alone in the world as we once believed we were in our first 16 years of existence. It’s a more than welcome surprise. To learn that there are others who share our love for mental stimulation and our inherent disdain for most things pedantic and mainstream.

But that doesn’t mean that adulthood is all pies smiles and magic carpet rides. One does have to interact with the masses regardless of what profession one chooses. Even rock ‘n’ roll. There’s a loneliness, a palpable sense of isolation that can be quite stifling if we allow ourselves to give into the temptation of deliberate hermitage due to not having enough in common with everyday people. I experienced it firsthand just out of the college years. I learned that I had to deliberately choose to mingle with the masses if I was to maintain what semblance of sanity I may have had. I would love to report that it was brutally challenging and nearly unbearable but truth be told it wasn’t half bad. Unlike many of my ilk I found it rather easy to bullshit with the working classes. Water cooler talk and all. The Tree God bless him used to plead with me how I managed to do it. He couldn’t bare to to do it himself and thus was often thrust into a world with himself as his only companion. I almost always replied “I either stay high or I have a few drinks old chap. It makes it more bearable. Try it. It’s not bad once you get used to it.”

Of course I didn’t always need to be high or drink in order to wine and dine with the mainstream crowd. The first coupla years, sure. How else are we meant to endure the banal conversations about nothing and worse yet the barrage of mistaken propaganda for facts and statistics that are thrust into the air so casually and confidently. It’s no wonder the United States has gotten away with being labeled the land of the free and home of the brave when in reality it’s the most brutal killing machine of an empire the world has seen since Nazi Germany. No wonder at all. Flip on any network or cable news show for a few minutes if you can stomach it and you’ll see just how easy it’s been for this sham to be pulled off.

But that doesn’t have much to do with Superman does it? Tsk tsk. So what does Superman have to do with the Transcendendce Diaries? Simply put, absolutely nothing. Superman can best explain the Diaries by the understanding that the author of said tome found Superman to be one of the worst movies I’ve ever had the displeasure to sit through.

Okay I will confess here in the spirit of freedom beauty truth and love that I didn’t actually make it all the way through any of them. Almost made it through the first one. The second and fifth I merely skimmed at best. The third and fourth… I dare say are unnecessary for the purpose for which we first decided to watch them.

(Seeing the look of disgust and utter boredom on the Princess’s face during the first half hour of Superman I, I attempted to give her a pep talk by standing up and dramatically waving my arms around the room to extol the virtues of viewing these films as a means to better understand the common man so we could relate with them better in the future. It was all I had. How else do you justify spending two and half hours of what under normal circumstances is a thrilling and precious life watching something so bereft of anything remotely interesting and at the same time so mentally insulting and mundane? Well it worked. She made it through the first one. As did i. The feeling in the room was more akin to if we had just finished a lengthy visit at a nursing home with an elderly lady with Alzheimer’s that neither of us knew out of the kindness of our heart and in the spirit of selfless service to others. But still, we did make it through.)

Truth be told I cannot for the life of me now understand even a little why or how these films even get made let alone get viewed by anyone over the age of 6 or 7. I know for me personally these kinds of films, anything that was called action/adventure or comic book oriented, was my worst nightmare. I was far too gone into studying the worlds of earth sciences, electricity, chemistry, art and music.

I got so bored with action adventure portions of films that I would either get up and leave which drive my parents crazy or I would bury myself in the little notebook I carried everywhere with me. Taking notes. Asking questions mainly. Or proposing myriad theories about the mechanics of the universe or the human mind or the prospect of God. This didn’t make me the most popular kid in school thats for sure. But for your average 6 or 7 year old which I learned early on I was not, I can clearly see that with the limited capacity for understanding the need to suspend disbelief or knowledge of the art and science of filmmaking that Superman movies or James Bond movies for that matter may be just their thing.

What I can’t get is how anyone past that age can actually take them seriously. Christopher Reeve.. Okay, he was a struggling actor, he wanted to make a name or himself, he wanted to make money… Makes sense. The same can be said for any of the other actors on set or the crew behind the cameras. But for an audience member… How the hell does one even discuss movies like this without cracking up? The way we might when the words Sarah Palin pop up in the occasional conversation. This is the feeling we were left with. I still attempted to sit through Superman II, because it was in and because I had heard so much about the films all my life. Why not see what they’re all about? After all Christopher Reeve seemed like a nice enough chap.

The same can be said about Sean Connery. He’s handsome enough. And one certainly can’t deny what a an enviable badass machine that Aston Martin is. But other than that, we don’t need to sit through an entire movie to marvel over the noble attributes of these basic earthly trappings regardless of their aesthetic appeal. Nope. Someone has to tell it like it is. Most box office Hollywood smashes are utter shite. Tripe if you will. The James Bond myth is as empty and hollow as the Superman one. This is children’s stories dressed up with a few adult clothes and some kissing scenes at best. And yet they’re national icons. International icons. Treasures. Cultural touchstones for entire generations.

But there’s nothing transcendent about them. And therein lies the explanation of what the Transcendence Diaries is all about in a nutshell. They are NOT about things of that nature. Lucky for us all there IS plenty of valuable art and entertainment and noble goals and missions being created on planet earth on a near daily basis at this time in our history to discover and explore. And lest we forget still plenty of propositions about the mechanics of the universe consciousness human psychology and God even to keep us busy for a very long time to come.

Not All Hurricanes Are Bad

When I see films like THE HURRICANE which remind us of stories about the likes of people like the boxer Rubin “The Hurricane” Carter, I feel uplifted and inspired. My belief in justice and moral integrity are renewed. This is no easy task. Not in this day and age. Not in any prior. One could say in fact that as a whole we human beings are living in an age where there is more justice, more integrity, more liberty and more reasons to believe in the possibility of these ideals than any other time in our recorded history.

Perched high above the history of humanity peering down with a bird’s eye view of its last last ten thousand years, it appears that it’s never been easy for humankind to be honest just truthful or fair-minded. Darker temptations in some have always managed to challenge and displace the higher ideals that others are able to so easily envision.

And such was the nearly unbelievable case of Hurricane Carter, a man wrongfully and fraudulently convicted of not one but three murders he didn’t commit, had no opportunity even to commit, nor a motive. He was set up; and he served 22 years in a state prison for doing nothing but being black. His wasn’t a case of faulty DNA tests or being in the wrong place at the wrong time or mistakes made at the crime scene. It was a flat out deliberate mission of lies deceit and fraud to bring one man down by the State of New Jersey, police officers, state prosecutors and judges; all because of racial bigotry and hatred (and some would say envy) against one man because of the color of his skin and the level of success he achieved in his life.

Yes, ours is a history of such stories. Millions of them. Most untold. Will never be told. But occasionally justice does prevail. In Carter’s case it did; after having to serve 22 years in prison. How he managed we can only imagine. In today’s world we hear of more and more cases such as this, moments of transcendence and enlightenment, bad turning good. There is do-gooding going on all around us. We just have to keep our eyes open for it. And in times of doubt, we can look to stories like this one to remind us that anything is possible when and if you set your mind to it.

Perhaps the greatest lesson of this true story which captivated the hearts and minds of America so vividly, the most touching for sure, is the aspect of the three white Canadians and the young black Brooklyn boy who lived in Toronto being so moved by Carter’s unfair predicament MOVNG to the same town where Carter was being imprisoned to dedicate their every waking days to helping reopen and research his case which is what inevitably got his conviction overturned and led to his regaining his freedom.

They were strangers. They weren’t his family nor his friends. And yet they committed 110% of themselves and their resources to help him. For no other reason it appears than the kindness of their hearts. This is humanity at its best. In each of us this potential exists. To take these noble actions of selfless service and dedication to help another for no reward except the good feeling that comes from it. Evolutionarily speaking I believe we are only seeing the very beginning of this trend in ourselves. We are at the cusp of it. Spinning towards the center of becoming a truly noble honest just and fair species. I believe this.