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 boasting that 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 believes 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.

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……

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……

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……

Against your own best interest

“I have to talk to you” he said; according to the others, he was an established musician, seasoned keyboardist for many artist over the span of his career. He was in the middle of integrating a computer into his live rig to have access to the incredible sonic world of virtual synths and plugins.  I was on break from playing in the house band for a Jam session, while others where sitting in, so it was loud. I quickly explained my setup: Dell XPS 18, Zoom UAC-2, Korg Kronos. No laptop stand necessary (as a matter of fact, because the Dell is basically a big tablet, I can wedge it right on my ultimate stand or use the sheet music stand I always bring anyway to put it on. He’s duly impressed.

Because I know most guys around here swear by Apple, in order to not waste any time, I explain to the guy that I don’t deal with Mac, that it’s unnecessarily limiting in so many ways. His face turns: “What do you mean? Everyone uses Mac!” Here we go again, I’m not in the mood, I’m working, I tell him unfortunately I can’t help him. He won’t let it go! “What do you mean it’s limiting, the guy from so-and-so and the guy from so-and-so……” I tell him it’s too loud to explaing right now, but if we go to the back I’ll tell him what I mean. He takes me up on it…

So, I explain to him that first of all, Apple doesn’t make a Tablet even close to the size of the XPS18, which has literally twice the screen surface of the iPad Pro. It means you can see TWO pages instead of one, which makes more difference than you can imagine and all those Apple freaks know it. Now imagine that that wonderful tablet not only takes the place of the iPad you already bring to the gig, but also of the Macbook you bring that runs the sounds and Ableton. Now realize that you don’t need a special table or laptop stand, you just put it on a music stand! If you have a Kronos, all you do is run 1 USB cable and Windows uses it as a sound card. That means Ableton’s output comes out of the Kronos mains! Now realize that the XPS18 costs less than an iPad pro and the picture is pretty clear…..

At this point, his head is spinning, but his mouth keeps saying no! “I’ve already gone the Mac route….”, “the guys from so-and-so’s band……”. I tell him, if you’re touring you don’t want to mess with any of this, you build a rack mountable, dual computer, system, fixable with parts from any computer store. “We’re talking about a rig you bring yourself to local gigs, right?” I ask him. He doesn’t even quite answer. One last time I tell him, of course the Mac thing works, but you’re limiting yourself, making it more complicated, not too mention, making it WAY more expensive. All he can say anymore is: “I disagree”. It would be hilarious if it weren’t so sad, and all I can think about are all those poor folks who voted for Trump who, even though it’s now becoming more and more obvious how much they will be disadvantaged by the Orange one, still support him and believe he’s best for them……

Another thing: Microsoft is incredible good a laying frameworks for the future and because of that older software continues to run. When my old friend Rodney Lee, possibly the best B3 player I’ve ever worked with saw that I can still use the Native Instruments B4, which he agrees with me on is the BEST B3 emu ever made, he realized how his Mac habit is costing him. You see, on the MacOS side of things, it hasn’t worked in many years, thanks to the Fruit’s habit of breaking compatibility with every new release. So Apple users are now stuck using NI’s new organ plug, which isn’t nearly as good, or some of the other options out there, none of which have the soul and grit of the B4.

Obamacare 1 – Trumpcare 0

And just like that, it disappears! That’s right, after dozens of symbolic votes to repeal Obamacare and 7 years to come up with a worthy replacement, Republicans’ first version of a law to do so has failed spectacularly. As a a matter of fact, support was so low that it didn’t even come to a vote. Paul Ryan lost some credibility, but the most amazing thing is that Trump has expressed intent to just move on to the next thing. Wait… what? It kinda makes sense: he might just turn this whole administration the most dysfunctional attempt at government we’ve seen in modern times.

You can say what you want about the ignorance of the people, and there were some stupid votes for the Orange one, from folks who hated Obamacare but loved the ACA for instance, but everything is out there for everyone to see. Along with all the alternative facts and fake news, are all the real facts and news. What’s important is to make sure we keep all of it so we can examine it at a later date.

For instance: Bannon has vowed to keep up a daily fight for the “deconstruction of the administrative state”. Make no mistake, he means that and in my opinion will use and sacrifice Trump whenever necessary. Donald is WAY out of his league on this one, and it’s starting to show on his face. I just hope the citizens of this country stay calm and let the institutions and other protections built in to the system do their jobs. In the meantime, unfortunately we’re about to experience some chaotic times I’m afraid….

Protein Powder

Here’s a typical La La land birthday present: a 600W juicer!” I start with some kale!”…..add seeds……Kiwi!…….it already sounds kinda ridiculous to me, but there it is: “protein powder!” My brain goes full tilt…..here’s a healthy enough woman, kind, well-adjusted if you will, somehow talked into eating PROTEIN POWDER; well, drinking it technically. And the kicker is, she thinks it’s not only normal, but actually really healthy. Her declaration that is is delicious doesn’t fool me…. her face reveals the truth: it’s not satisfying.

How did we get here? We have access to the most diverse and high quality food supply I’ve ever seen; sure there’s cheap crap too, but even a regular supermarket in the burbs here has multiple cheeses from Holland alone, to give an example. We get any fruit or vegetable year round, not only when in season like it was not that long ago. Food safety is quite high, contrary to popular belief, although not quite at the level of places like Holland.

Enjoying one’s food supply has to be part of developing a healthy relationship with eating, doesn’t it? So please: Protein Powder is not food! Perhaps appropriate in a medical setting, or for bodybuilders, it needs to stay OUT of our food supply.

Feelings 2016

What is going on here? Here’s the leader of the 50+ party in Holland talking about poverty among seniors; when the interviewer states that the numbers show that only about 2% of old folks there have that problem, Henk Krol says that it doesn’t “feel” that way! Same thing with so many in the rust belt: forget that the US GDP is higher than ever, that companies are making more money than ever, it doesn’t feel right. Feelings over facts, that’s the world we live in.

I guess it’s a first world problem, isn’t it? We spend a good part of the last 100 years in the Western world building our paradise. Part of it was getting to a place in which there is no need for worrying so much about plain survival, but instead examining our humanity, listening to our feelings. From Oprah to Dr. Phil, from self-help books to endless counseling, we’ve put ourselves in the luxurious position to be able to spend more and more time on exploring our emotions. In the US it could reasonably be argued that it’s mainly a thing of Liberal origins, but now everybody has jumped on this bandwagon. It’s brought a lot of good, no doubt, although it doesn’t seem it has brought us more happiness per se. Perhaps that’s something further out in the future, because it does seem like we’ve swung too far.

It’s certainly led to eating disorders, people ‘feeling’ effects on their bodies from foods that are clearly psychological, and now to a general dismissal of just about any truth. The election of Trump was almost entirely caused by an overtaking of pragmatism by a guidance through emotion. It just reminds me of the much reviled Dr. Laura Schlessinger; on her radio show, she would always force people to cut through their feelings in a relationship and get to the practical parts. Don’t get me wrong, there’s great value in how someone else makes you feel, but in the long term actual concrete analysis and careful consideration of patterns and such is far more useful. There certainly is no shortage of people making the same relationship choices over and over and over to the same detrimental result.

Perhaps it’s a result from all of the wealth we have accumulated over the last couple of centuries; we’ve achieved a point in our culture where we can live like children really. We are safer than ever, everything made as idiot-proof as humanly possible, we throw away as much food as we consume, are SO far from basic survival that we can afford to almost live carelessly. We’ve categorized everything in to good and evil, just like a children’s story! For most, the path has been quite defined for quite a while now: just do as you’re told and you’ll be fine, follow the endless instructions (don’t put a pan in the microwave!) and you’ll be safe. It’s resulted in an ever larger part of the population that has no savings! I’m not talking about poor folks, I’m talking about bartender making good money, who  spend every last dime on iPhones, video games and big screen TVs. It’s great for economic growth, but it leads to a lack of foundation for long term stability, which we should be enjoying right now. We are collectively living like people in the Garden of Eden, and we all know how that ended!

Sock Puppet

Read an interesting article in De Volkrant today about Trump, who live-tweeted in response to Anderson Cooper’s show. He’s always bragged about only sleeping 4 hours a day, and his middle-of-the-night tweetathons are proof. Most would agree that that’s not a sufficient amount for a person holding a high office, but more importantly, it is not supportive of a solid attention span. The Washington Post recently reported that he has been “turning away intelligence briefers since election win”. He makes plenty of time to scrutinize what reporters say about him on many a show, but not for becoming informed about matters important to his upcoming job; you know, the one he’s less qualified to do than perhaps any of his predecessors. It does make perfect sense in light of the cabinet he’s surrounding himself with: these are folks who know how the country is run. Would it be premature to assume that by and large, the US will be run exactly by the playbook of the Republican party? Is it really that simple?

As I got in my rental car this afternoon, and drove through literally the first street west to the one I live on, I saw a house plastered with Trump/Pence signs. This is on a road where multiple people live who do not want my kind to park on their street, putting notes on cars etc. When I had it out with one once, I tried to explain that it is a public street, that anyone can park a car there for up to 72 hours, that I lived in the neighborhood! I was told: “You don’t live here! You’re a RENTER!”  As we say in Holland: there comes the monkey out of the sleeve! I’ve lived in this neighborhood for 13 years, always paid my rent on time, helped out the neighbors, spend my money, some of it from far away brought to this place; but the ones who own these parts, do not consider me a part of their community.

But I digress…..to me it looks more and more like Trump will be just like Bush, jr: a figurehead, albeit one who has a lot more opinions. He’s already rolled back many of his big promises; in the end it’ll be the people in the background running the show, just like Cheney and Rumsfeld did. That does mean that there will be no huge chances, although we will see an increase in the surveillance apparatus and law and order most likely. At the same time, I think even Republicans now see that we can’t keep putting more people in jail; at some point it becomes fiscally impossible. Donald’s administration will inherit a stable, growing economy, perhaps about to really take off if we look at the latest number. If we get enough growth it’ll mask the increasing income inequality gap. Maybe Trump will latch onto at least one good thing like a living wage for all, and like the pitbull that he is, not let go. We can dream, can’t we?