Rubio

One of the weirdest things I’ve ever seen: Chris Christie calling Rubio on mindlessly repeating a memorized little speech, only for Marco to do it again! And again! It was beyond bizarre and truly shows what a numbskull the guy is, running his mouth without thinking. Unbelievable….

Campaign finance

Too many times to remember have I had discussions with people about money in politics. The most popular rhetoric these days is that nothing is needed more than “campaign finance reform”. Many are convinced that without removing the unfair advantage that huge sums of money can provide, we will never have fair elections. I’ve countered time and time again that the money is not the problem, it’s the voters who are ‘for sale’; the problem is folks voting for whom they see the most, instead of the candidate that would be in their best interest. I’ve always maintained that we, the people have the power, or at least could take it back. Even on relatively smart media like NPR the same line keeps being put forth as truth: we need to take big money out….

So how do we explain Trump? How about Sanders? Neither has spent very much at all! At the same time, all those millions and millions that have been used by Jeb to make sure we vote for him have achieved almost nothing! If this isn’t prove that the situation isn’t nearly as impossible as so often presented, I don’t know what we need! The people of the USA have a chance right now, a chance to take back their government. It won’t be an easy road, even if Bernie gets elected, but nothing good is ever easy. But let’s NOT say that votes don’t count anymore; it simply isn’t true.

Buyout!

One more post to quell my obsession with advertisement. In looking up those numbers for the last one, I came upon a breakdown of the spending: $70 Billion of it went to advertising on TV in 2015. The US currently has 115.9 Million households watching TV. I know it’s not that simple but what if we could collectively short-circuit the system! Youtube is doing it with its “Red” service: pay $10 a month, NO ads. I put my money where my mouth is and subscribed. But back to our beloved television. The $70 Billion is what the companies doing the advertising are spending; as far as I can figure out, that means it includes paying for the creation of the ads themselves, so the broadcasters get only a part of it. From what I can deduct CBS for instance made about half its money in 2015 from ad sales, in my estimate somewhere around $7 Billion.

So let’s do the math. If we assume that the income received by the collective broadcasters is $35 Billion, and let’s assume that instead we pay for it ourselves (115.9 Million households) it comes to $300. That’s right, for $300 per year, $25 per month per household, we could have an entire TV ecosystem without commercials! Of course I realize that it would put an entire industry out of work and that’s not desirable or smart. What actually really could happen is for the rest of the content creators to follow the lead of YouTube and HBO. My whole point is that the ‘savings’ we get for allowing ourselves to be bombarded, for allowing our favorite(!) content to be interrupted to a point of obscenity, are relatively insignificant.

Just to be complete: I fully understand that the $25 (or $50 if we take the full amount) would be in addition to whatever we all pay now for access to signal, which could be $0 for broadcast to God knows how much some folks pay for their cable. So COME ONE Comedy Central, TBS, FOX……. get with it!

Rabbits

Speaking of reality, let’s talk about rabbits! I’m always surprised by the different levels of edibility we have used to classify animals. To some extent they’re based on cuteness and status as pet, but there are some exceptions and none more than the rabbit. Even the lamb, cute as all get out and certainly eaten quite regularly, awakens a sense of injustice in many, but the rabbit is digested comfortably, quietly, in spite of his fairly widespread implementation as human companion. Interesting…..

Consumer Protection

When reading back my ramblings a few posts back on the subject of lies and the US, the seemingly never-ending barrage of negativity startled me. A very stark indictment of a culture indeed, a serious matter. But then, a couple of days ago I watched “Kassa”, a Dutch sort of ‘consumer advocacy’ show on public TV, and the subject was truth in advertising. A large electronics store turned out to jack up many, many prices of various items, just before starting their heavily advertised “we pay the sales tax” sale event. Blah blah blah, they tried to spin, representatives who don’t know/make up shit, blah blah blah…. in the end there wasn’t even someone on the show who didn’t get any discount on the regular price, it was always just less than expected. They felt SO betrayed!!!!

Amazingly, not a single time of the 3 or 4 that the host asked a ‘victim’ whether a return visit to the offender would happen in the future, was the answer “no”! What the hell am I watching? After close examination, the practice is completely legal in the Netherlands. You see, in all honesty, this retail game is getting completely out of hand; even with all its valid origins (end of season sale to clear out inventory for the next), times have changed. Unlimited information flow has enabled us to know the exact price before going to a store. The only thing that matters is the exact price at the time I’m ready to buy.

I guess what I’m trying to get at is the danger of getting away from reality and living in a world of lies, where the ‘list price’ is twice the truly expected price at sale. The US now spends north of two hundred BILLION dollars a year on advertisement. That’s more than $600 per person per year! A family of 4 pays $2400 a year for the privilege of being told, over and over and over, what to buy, what to want.  Is that really necessary? Is it turning us in to whiners with expectations completely disconnected from reality? Can a person for sale complain about the corruption of his leaders?

Donald Troef

Today is a big day in these here lands. Caucus is the word……. the wild cards are those many who normally probably participate at this point, but feel a true independent is needed……unfortunately many of those would be better off with Bernie as president…..voting against their own best interests.

You know, often in Holland folks will deride the “two party” system that the US has. But, if we look at how different Sanders and Clinton are, we must conclude that that one party encompasses two very distinct visions of the future. Within the GOP we find the same wide range. If we just take privacy and government surveillance as a point of focus, both Rand Paul and Bernie are much more to my liking, where both Hillary and most GOP candidates represent a potentially very unpleasant and dangerous outcome.

In the end, Trump is not a Republican. He’s a business man, arguably a good one; certainly one who can manage to hold on to a LOT of money and put it to use. He’s not religious, he’s pro choice, he’s for smart health care for everyone. At the same time, he’s a bully, he’s not smooth, can be very very rude and childish. POTUS? After watching Idiocracy, I do believe anything is possible in this here future of ours.

I want to finish with something positive as results come in. After years and years of hearing disillusioned people complain about how their votes make no difference, here we have a situation in which a large enough group of “first time” voters could shake up the establishment. It looks like the winners might just be Bernie and the Donald!

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#15

This is it! Season 15 of American Idol is now officially in full swing. Featuring: 18-year-olds who have been watching since age 4, born to do this, “this is my last chance”. It’s weird….feels kinda inappropriate….maybe it’s that in previous years there was always hope…..no matter how bad, you could always improve and come back the next year!……..now it’s all or nothing….. So far some pretty decent talent actually. A couple of real clowns thrown in there for good measure of course. We will see…..

Of lies and culture

As the US presidential election circus intensifies, there’s one thing that I have to say about it and it’s about lying. You see, many wise folks have said in the past that most lands get the leader they deserve and obfuscating the truth is an American specialty, that’s for sure! So it surprises me time and time again how many folks, regular folks, don’t seem to get the connection between their own behavior and the politicians that keep showing up in important places. Let me explain what I mean…

There are many levels of lying, from the little white kind that most find benign to the most devious kind that aims to provide the giver with a clearly predetermined advantage. The latter is of course unacceptable to almost everyone, but the former is more of what I’m talking about. Perhaps the hardest thing for a Dutchman like me trying to integrate in this culture is the lack of appreciation for the truth. From the mostly completely meaningless “You sound GREAT!” that musicians throw at each other non-stop, to the endless insincere ass-kissing compliments about each other’s looks on Facebook, it’s gotten to the point where most Americans don’t even feel they’re lying anymore. When a checker at Trader Joe’s asks a 43 year old man to show his ID to prove he’s old enough to buy beer, something is terribly wrong. When I explain that I find it insulting and are then told it’s a ‘compliment’, I realize we have a REAL problem. Probably half the ‘diplomas’ from ‘schools’ in this country (including Musician’s Institute I attended) are not worth the paper they’re printed on because everybody passes every ‘test’!

This is the land of fake tits, so much makeup you can’t really even tell what a woman truly looks like most of the time, “christians” who are for the death penalty and bombing poor peasants in the Middle East; this is a place where perhaps most have grown accustomed to, and are completely OK with I might add, basing their decisions on what the TV tells them, and advertisements in particular! It’s also a place where so many have now decided that there is a solution to everything, squarely against what the universe has taught us. Many of the better-off inhabitants of this land of plenty seem to believe that one could actually create a real life Disneyland of sorts, where everybody is awesome, smiling and happy. Shit, they believe in fairy tales so much, Apple has becoming the most valuable company in the world, selling basically one product made of pixie dust and magic, with endless lines of lemmings repeating the same nonsense spouted in the commercials!

The bottom line is this: Amercans want to be lied to in so many ways (you don’t look any different from 20 years ago!) they have no right to complain about lying politicians, or at least no right to be upset by it, as the solution lies with themselves.

One more thing: in this light Trump makes a lot more sense. Undoubtedly, some of his not too bright supporters, might actually believe that the things he says are possible. But I bet you, most know damn well you can’t deport 11 million Mexicans, taking illegal parents and leave their children who were born citizens. It’s rhetoric, populist propaganda and it works! As a matter of fact, I believe he would probably make a better president than any of the other Repubs or perhaps even Hillary, simply because he’s actually independent and a shake-up of US politics is certainly necessary. Also, he’s definitely a deal-maker and that’s a skill that very valuable for a leader! At the same time, we CANNOT reward the kind of BS he’s spouting with a presidency; it’s just not appropriate and sets a dangerous precedent, no matter how refreshing his shoot-from-the-hip unfiltered speaking appeals to those poor folks living in their self created fake world may be.

2015

What a year it’s been! I started it by waking up in the Bahamas, visited Ukraine and Moldova for the first time with Keiko Matsui, did more than 20 shows with the Rippingtons for the first time in three years, got to play Jamie Kime’s music with the amazing Mike Keneally and Joe Travers, did a couple of shows with my old buddy Scott Grimes and Band From TV and the list goes on.

Financially it was solid too. Expenses are going up, my rent will be $1175 per month starting January 1st, but I got slightly cheaper health insurance. I grossed $42,000 this year which is my second best year ever; did 151 live gigs, quite a few recording sessions and finished production on Natasha Wood’s CD which should be out soon! Now it’s time to finish my third, but I digress…..

After all was said and done though, perhaps the greatest gift of this year was being asked by the incomparable Brandon Fields to play with his band at the Potato. Especially the second time, last Saturday, was a real milestone for me. You see, I had only played there on a weekend night (not counting gigs with owner Don Randi’s band) once before, with Jamie Kime. Friday and Saturday are reserved for only the best of the best there and there are some big shoes to fill, if you know what I mean! Brandon only uses the best: Jimmy Johnson, Jerry Watts…. to be even considered is an honor, and to be asked back every thing I dreamed of when I moved to L.A.

It happened to be Mr. Fields’ yearly Birthday Bash gig with Walt Fowler on trumper, Albert Wing on Tenor and Lenny Castro on percussion! Dave Karasony played drums and none other than Dave Garfield came by and sat in with us. The house was packed and we kicked major ass. Words cannot describe how happy it made me, but even my friend Peter saw it and told me in the break how much he loved seeing me smile that big!

Thinking back of my career and development as a musician it’s interesting to see where I ended up. When I first move to L.A. I immediately gravitated towards the Potato; I came here not looking for fame and fortune per se, but for playing music with the best, at the highest level, and that’s where the best guys played. I started doing my own band there, drawing almost no one, getting my songs butchered over and over by underprepared bandmates and got pretty disillusioned with Jazz as a career path. If I were to make a living I realized I had to learn songs, different styles etc. I was always interested in being a session musicians anyway and loved all kinds of music, but there was definitely room for expanded horizons. It was time to learn more about Rock & Roll, songwriting etc. etc. I was never particularly stylish or good-looking so big Pop gigs were not an option for me, but slowly but surely I got better and more versatile and worked on my tone and groove, instead of trying to play Jaco licks faster and faster!

Fast forward to 2015 and after a couple of years of hard practicing on my piano playing, I find myself where I wanted to be as a young whippersnapper anyway! I might not have the chops of guys like Hadrien Feraud, but I have enough and I’m actually looking forward to expanding mine. You see, groove is king, the meat if you will, chops are the sauce, only really necessary if the meat isn’t tasty by itself 😉

So there it is! Thanks everyone for all your love, friendship and support, and here’s to a wonderful 2016!

What a difference a company makes (Enterprise Rent A Car versus Hertz)

On these pages I’ve talked a lot about my experiences with Enterprise Rent-A-Car and their, in my opinion, bizarre ways. That said, I strongly dislike ‘difficult’ customers, and really try my best to be as reasonable and cooperative as I can be. The level of disrespect coming from so many of us these days towards people in the service industry is awful, truly awful. Beside human decency and mutual respect (one day that might be YOU making soy lattes!), don’t you want to be greeted by someone happy to see you? Other than at Best Buy and Guitar Center, two of the worst run stores I know, I always tried to foster a good relationship with every place I frequent.

Unfortunately, at Enterprise it hadn’t worked! Even though I never complained about the many times waiting for 45 minutes, even though I showed up on time for a reservation every single time, I always took whatever car they offered me, dealt with nothing but employees answering the phone while they were talking to me, renting there for what must be twenty years by now, at least 20 times a year, whenever I show up the look at me like I’m a pain in the ass! All because of one thing really: my refusal to answer the pathetic question (that the employees feel visibly stupid about asking, mind you!) of whether I was “100% completely satisfied with their customer service”!

When they first started asking me, I tried to engage in constructive dialog; I explained that Hertz did it better in my opinion, that a reservation there meant a car was set aside for me and things like that. That they didn’t ask me every single time if I wanted to get insurance, who my carrier is, how much my deductible. You know, stupid, time wasting BS, because they should know after hundreds of rentals that I carry my own! Here’s the kicker: I always explained to them that I don’t care about the customer service, I came because they’re adequate and cheap! I would ask: “Have I ever complained? I keep coming back don’t I?” My only request was to stop asking a question you don’t want to hear the answer to, especially to a regular like me. Every few months they change the whole crew at every Enterprise location and the whole dance starts again, because the little information that the old manager might have collected, was lost again in the transition. As I write it down I get a little nauseous inside….

The newest manager stepped in a few months ago when he overheard one of the new employees going there with me, and again I explained how I thought Hertz just does it better, but that I’m not complaining because I don’t care. He started arguing with me, trying to tell me that his other customers told him Hertz is terrible etc. etc. etc.  So now he’s giving me major attitude and telling me I’m wrong, but deep down, I can tell he IS listening. When I ask him if it is good customer service to ask the same question that you don’t want to hear the answer too every single time it might have made sense! From then on, when I walk into the branch, I see the faces of the employees change: it’s fucking hilarious, like I’m a pain in the ass! But, the manager if he’s there steps in, or whispers something to the person who’s helping me: “Don’t ask him THE question! Don’t try to sell him insurance!” Hallelujah, it worked!

Stil, I take great care to treat regular folks with respect and there’s a part of me wondering if I’m being unreasonable. Compared to literally half the others I see renting it Enterprise, I’m a saint. From rudeness, inability to even come up with $100 deposit, no credit card carrying, ultra-picky assholes, to complete idiots making pickup drivers wait for 20 minutes the range of BS they have to deal with is crazy. I don’t want to be difficult…

So how about Hertz? Last Friday I went to pick up a car for the weekend. I’ve been giving them more and more of my business, sometimes at higher cost than Enterprise, simply because when I show up they have assumed I’m gonna be on time and have a car ready! What a concept! They tried to sell me insurance one time, I told them I will never need it, they put it in the computer and never asked me again, not even when I rent at an airport somewhere else! I’ve rented from them enough to get “President’s Circle” status (20 rentals per year) so I asked Josh over there how many other regulars are in that category. He told me about 20, but that I’m by far the easiest! How about that? They are happy to see me come in! I’m on time, not picky about exactly which car (and they always offer me almost whatever I want, even when I pay the lowest economy rate) etc. etc. Damn it, I’m not crazy after all!