A cookie of your own dough

Here we go again: yet another musicians needs money, had a stroke, crowdfunding started. But wait, didn’t he just buy a brand new Samsung Galaxy S8? More importantly, he has not been shy about supporting Trump, and that means every man for himself right? Safety net? NO: personal responsibility is the Republican mantra, right? On top of that, this guy was always bragging he didn’t pay taxes, never paid taxes. He couldn’t sign up for the evil Obamacare because he didn’t pay taxes. So, he chose to give a big fuck you to all around him, from my perspective, chose to think only about himself and now he’s fucked. Should there not be a consequence for that?

It’s a very very hard situation; at what point does that kind of mentality and condition become an illness? We can’t hold a crazy person responsible for not fitting in to society, can we? Collectively we’ve created the system, but nobody signed up to live in it. This is exactly why modern humans have designed and created a social safety net. The guy in question  does have some family, but what if you don’t? A compassionate person believe in not letting people become homeless, in my opinion. Even someone like the guy in question, who’s so fat he can barely stand anymore, has not taken care of himself, and has proven to be quite selfish in his view of the world; even though he probably didn’t vote, he’s responsible for helping spread the nonsense about Hillary, in order to promote the Donald he likes, directly resulting in breaking down the relatively small safety net this country has. In a literal translation from on old Dutch saying: he got a cookie of his own dough.

Surface meet Sonar

With the latest update, it’s quite amazing how well Sonar Platinum runs on my 2GB/64GB Microsoft Surface 3…really, after properly calibrating the pen (duh!), it’s just so cool to be able to draw in the “piano roll”. Fingers to move the canvas, pinch to zoom, pen draws notes, moves notes, eraser button works, even pressure sensitivity to determine velocity!

Listen, I bought this machine for $250, with a dock with ethernet, HDMI and extra USB ports, with the pen and the type cover. Used, but in excellent condition. After monkeying with some drivers I decided to do a fresh reinstall from a Windows 10 USB stick. It certainly made a difference, although there are still areas in which the system is noticeably slower than my i3 based XPS 13. Firefox is weirdly sluggish, sometimes in unexpected things like typing this blog. Pleasantly surprised!

Southern California

The following is a true story; one that I have a hard time believing could happen in most places on this big planet of ours, as common as the situation in which it took place is.

Just like I do most days when I’m not working, I came to the same Starbucks here in my hometown of Sherman Oaks, the one where all the baristas know my name! There are three types of seating here: low tables with seats, high tables with stools, and a big ‘community’ table with seating for 8. During busy times, like today, I have no problems sitting at the latter. Today, right across from me is an older gentleman with a computer making phone calls in an appropriately subdued tone, right next to me a little girl with her mom, who are joined a little later by a little boy with who I assume is the dad. The girl is playing with a phone with the sound off for a little while, then turns it on, a cartoon screaming through the tiny speaker. I let it go for 5 minutes, try to give the mom a look like “hey, will you please….?” but she’s completely uninterested in anyone around her. These are obviously pretty well off people, iPhones, nice clothes from the mall; you know, typical Southern California upper middle class. I give it another 5 minutes, trying to tune it out, but the kid starts yelling “I can’t hear it! I can’t hear it!”, to which the dad says “it’s loud in here!”. At this point I turn to him and ask if he can please turn the sound off, or give the kid some headphones. Immediately the war is ON.

I kid you not, the guy gives me a look like he’s gonna kill me. At this point I don’t even realize the girl is about to start screaming and crying! Mind you, I did NOT talk to the child, didn’t even look at her, I’m smart enough to address the parent, but the dad isn’t having it. He ask why I’m complaining when there are already so many sounds going on. I try to reason with him, explaining that it’s exactly because there are already so many different sources of sound, but before I can get to the point that others talking is one thing, Muzak in the background another, but a tiny cellphone speaker screaming kids’ cartoons something else, the girl erupts. “You’re an asshole” the guy says to me, “Winning!” the mom says like a fucking Kardashian as she picks up her out-of-control spawn. “See what you did?”….. you’ve got to be kidding me!

At this point, the family is getting up, and the dude is still talking to me. He says we can go outside to discuss this further, I kid you not. He’s tall, but a giant pussy, apparently used to bullying others around, but he’s lucky I’m a pacifist. And here it comes, again this is 100% a TRUE story: he calls me a CHILD MOLESTER! Again, I never talked to the child, didn’t look at it, I addressed only its parents! He said it so loudly that after they split, other customers asked me if he really said that!

Newport Beach

“You’re gonna love playing with us!” the drummer I just met says. He assures me he’s studied all styles, starts doing the Indian rhythmic solfege thing: “Taka taka da taka da du di”…. he keeps going and going, I just stand there. “You know, when I play I really make it sound like a full band” he explains; my buddy Freddy, whose gig it is, plays mostly by himself with loopers and tracks, but here at La Vida Cantina in Newport Beach, CA, he added this guy.  I had already sat in at this place and didn’t care for it very much. Nobody gives a flying hoot about the music, every single chick has the exact same hairstyle and the word “like” is used at a frequency that makes the space-time continuum bend. When I explain to the drummer I came to listen and have some food, he doesn’t want to believe me; “Trust me, you’re gonna love it!”

He introduces me to his buddy sitting at a table next to where they’re setting up: “He’s the mayor!” The dude is obviously an alcoholic, prolly in his late fifties, with a lot of miles on him. Born and raised in Newport Beach it turns out; never lived anywhere else! Blah blah blah, “money is not my God” he says, only to proceed to talk of nothing but material possessions and fine things. “I cut my monthly nut by $10,000!” he brags; it’s nice to live cheaply I respond. “Oh no! It’s not cheap he says!”,  renting this place in San Juan Capistrano that costs $850,000, but would cost 5 million in Newport! There’s a picture of him with a Lamborghini, shots with supposedly important folks I’ve never heard of. It goes on and on and on. In the beginning I ask some questions, like a civilized person does, but he never asks any back, just keeps going.

In the meantime I’m trying to get a server’s attention, without success. The girl who Freddy had in mind to take my order had no room in her section on this busy Taco Tuesday. I ask two different employees whizzing by to get someone to take my order. Nobody comes. All the while the dude keeps bragging….blah blah blah…..and then there it is: he has a question for me! “So….are you married?” I tell him no, and that’s it! He waits about 2 minutes, probably for me to ask him if he is, so he can proceed to talk for another 20 about his ex(es), but I’m not going to! And there he goes, he’s gone. At this point the table next to me has has finished, and the people left; a bus boy is cleaning up the table. I ask him if he could get a server, and he literally laughs out loud in my face, doesn’t say a word. I’m not sure if he even speaks English, but it was one of the most bizarre experiences of my life. Time to leave Newport Beach……

Dosey Doe in the Woodlands, TX

Today I just want to give props to one of the very best places to play in these United States! When you travel with a band like the Rippingtons, you have what’s called a “rider”, a list of things you need/want ready at the venue. It usually contains stuff like batteries, food and drinks, catering during sound check, all kinds of amenities. Whether all of them are provided is certainly not a given, and the size of the place is not necessarily indicative of compliance. Some spots will even charge us half or full price just to have a beer or two, some stock the dressing room with a nice selection of beverages and food.

And then there is The Big Barn – Dosey Doe in The Woodlands, TX. Not only is it a wonderful venue acoustically and aesthetically (the took a 165 year old tobacco barn from Kentucky and rebuilt it outside of Houston!!) but it might just be the place that takes the best care of us. I mean, from the moment we get there every single person working is not only courteous and  happy to be there, but also goes way beyond what we need or deserve. The boss wants to order three dinners, two to go? No problem. Beer, top shelf whiskey, vodka, deserts….anything we want. They place is filled with genuinely great people, on a level that is beyond rare here in the city of Angels. And guess what: it results in a band that wants to do a great show! Dosey Doe started as a coffee roaster years ago and they still do it. At the end of the night they send us on our way with a pound of beans of our choice, each! Here’s a place that deserves to thrive and I’m glad to see they’re doing well.

So thank you Paul, Kevin, Barry and everyone at Dosey Doe for creating such an amazing place to keep live music alive and kicking! Hope to see you again soon!

Saxomofone

As I approach the 25th anniversary of my move to the United States of America, and I look back at what it has brought me, I can’t help but feel blessed and grateful. It’s been a hell of a ride, that’s for sure, many years as an illegal alien, seemingly endless doubt of whether I made the right decision, gigs gained and lost, great honors and even 15 minutes in the back of a cop car! After all though, I have now worked with some folks for more than 20 years, not only some of the finest musicians I know, but also some of my dearest friends. Through all the flakiness of this here big city, those friendships have carried me in a land so so far away from home, providing strength and inspiration. At my advanced age, I get to tour the world with two world-class acts, make wonderful records every year with artist of all kinds of plumage.

Let’s get one thing straight: the two albums I have made, would not have been the same had I stayed in Holland. Not only because I wouldn’t have half the musician I am now, but simply because a huge part of the music is who’s playing, isn’t it? And now, I find myself making a third album, and being able to call perhaps the three finest Sax players in L.A., and find them not just willing, but excited to play my tunes! So there it is, this little Dutch boy is about to put out an album with Eric Marienthal, Doug Webb and Brandon Fields on it! Coming soon!

Dell Inspiron 13 7000

Helped a good friend and his wife find a laptop today at Best Buy! He’s only really accustomed to Mac and she’s really used to Windows, which is what she uses at work. The time had come to get a laptop for the house and there were no preconceived notions, but budget was of course an issue. A Macbook starts at $1000, has a crappy screen with an i5, 8GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD; MacBook Pro 13 with 256GB, 16GB and a beautiful screen is $1500, and only USB-C ports BTW! The store had a giant sale going on, almost every Windows laptop on sale.

First item of interest was a Samsung ultra-thin. Everything is soldered on the motherboard thus can’t be replaced or upgraded, the keyboard had uncomfortably little travel, gorgeous display and under 3 pounds, for $1100 with 256GB SSD, 16GB of RAM for $1100. I talked them out of it, not in the least because such an irreparable machine should only be bought from a company with good warranty service; Samsung is not such a company! Besides, for a machine that’s gonna live in the house all the time, not be lugged from airport to airport, saving a pound is inconsequential. There was the Dell Inspiron 13 7000 2-in-1. Screen quality in between the Mac Air and Pro, 1920×1080, full 10 point touch(!), 360 degree hinges, pretty damn great keyboard, not as nice as the XPS 13 but way better than that $1100 Sammy. One with i5 12GB of Ram and 256GB SSD is $749, with an i3, 8GB, 128GB $649! We’re talking USB-C port AND two regular USB3 ports! It has SD card reader, HDMI out, metal body. I tell them “Let’s see if there’s an open box one….” and there it is! The i5 model, Geek Squad recertified, with full manufacturer warrant, for $550.

Let me tell you, this thing is GREAT! It’s under 4 pounds, well built, touch screen works great and all the different modes are awesome; Tent mode is just perfect for on the kitchen counter, where a wet finger won’t drip onto the guts of the machine, or for watching Netflix in bed. It might not have everything an XPS has, like a PCIe SSD, but guess what: this little computer FLIES, just a joy to use. In a couple of years when the 256GB is full, you pop in a 1TB! An extra 8GB costs $65 right now! The final bonus is a Windows Hello compatible camera; no really, it has an infrared camera, which means a face-unlock feature that’s actually secure, can’t be fooled by a picture. I had never seen it in action and it is mighty freaky to look at the damn thing and it acknowledging you by name……

As I sip on a nice French Roast on the Clover and write this post, I’m reading some reviews online, scratching my head. How in the world are you going to put a $750 machine up against something costing double and then complaining about the screen? The rating of 3.5 stars out of 5 is completely wrong in my opinion. This is as close to a five star machine as possible for that price. At $550 it’s a gift from the Gods!

Politics and friendship

What carnage has taken place on FB! Just about every person in the US has ‘unfriended’ several, pruning the unacceptable from the ranks, mostly acquaintances if we’re honest, right? Somehow, it’s not considered ‘right’ to break off relations with someone over his or her political views. To some extent, that’s probably a good custom; only befriending others who completely agree with you on everything is not smart, and likely boring as hell too. Dismissing a close friend over opinions about governmental monetary policy, or legalization of pot, is not useful. At the same time, there has to be a limit, doesn’t there? I mean, if a buddy would vote for Adolf Hitler I would immediately choose to not associate with him anymore, and few would find that problematic.

That brings us to the Orange One; first off, let me say I don’t think he’s as bad as Hitler, but I do find him a real problem. Not only for the world and the country I live in, but also directly for me personally. His election over Hillary will most likely mean that my health insurance rates will go WAY up. You see, I was one of those much helped by Obamacare, now paying a fifth of what I was before. So to me, the election of Trump, and in its process the ridiculous putting down of Hillary, is a big “Fuck You”, and I generally don’t hang out with people who talk to me that way. Before the election I told my stupid neighbor who was talking shit about Clinton that he’s partially responsible if Donald wins. The fact that because we’re in Cali his vote ‘doesn’t matter anyway’, is nonsense. You see, the shit-talking about Hillary was a national bandwagon, and every single person participating has a responsibility.

So….NO, I don’t want to hang out with you right now if you didn’t vote for Hillary…..sorry………I guess time will tell who was right, but right now I choose to surround myself with people who believe in togetherness, in helping the weak and the poor, who realize the LAST thing we need is tax cuts for the rich, people who are done with the US bullying the world, bombing the world. I don’t mean you any harm, wish you all the best, hope I’m wrong about Trump……

Google Assistant

Boy, it’s getting better and better, isn’t it? As Siri gets ridiculed for her incompetence more and more (by iPhone users by the way!), Google Assistant is improving by leaps and bounds. Its speech recognition error rate is now below 5% and its conversational abilities are ever more impressive. You can now ask follow-up questions about your last query and it just knows what you’re talking about. As predicted AI is accelerating in its development and pretty soon we will not have to touch our devices very often anymore; instead we will just talk to them, as if they are intelligent beings. Microsoft is probably second in this regard but Apple is starting to look like it’s being left behind, and now the big G has released Assistant for the iPhone to give its users a taste of the future… how long can the Kool Aid induced smokescreen cloud the truth?

Flat

Honestly, I thought it wasn’t possible, that a person of normal intelligence, in a normal job, could truly believe the earth is flat. How wrong I was….. unfortunately, this post is not a joke in any way. Here’s a pretty smart dude, smart enough to buy CPUs and build gaming systems for high FPS. Nice guy, always trying to lift the mood. Knew he has a knack for conspiracy theories, but I just found out he’s gone all in. “Bet you believe in evolution right? OK, so you’re on that side of the spectrum!”….. “How come NASA only ever shows the exact same side of the earth from space?”…that one seemed easy enough to disprove, but the myriad of photos on Nasa.GOV where no match for the Kool-Aid: “check out Nasabait…….”…..WOW……..he actually believes the earth is flat….as a pancake….I ask him if he’s ever flown..”Don’t you see it?”…nope, it’s flat…..”millions of dollars”……”How come the earth fits exactly in an eclipse?”………….I ….am…….speechless……