In Light Of Recent Financial Events

Many hold that a laissez-faire, free-market economy is by far the best if driven by the self-imposed principal of Enlightened Self-Interest.  Obviously, “enlightened” is a hard word to define, especially when faced with competition from the “unenlightened” that might sink your business and ruin everything you’ve built if you’re not similarly cut-throat and compromising.  But is it too much to ask of the Masters Of The Universe to stop and ponder the real cost of their actions?  Anyway, I’m not one to get into politics or economic theory on my blog (above my pay grade, as it were) but I’d like to break stride and re-post an entry by my dear friend Kingtycoon Mathoslah:

Senator:

I would like to take a moment to register my request that you do not allow the president and the treasury secretary’s plans to come to fruition. Please take a moment to understand why I might adopt a position seemingly in variance with the public good.

Look: Presently the lingo and the catch phrase seems to be wall street versus main street. Perhaps as an educated person, a Senator no less, you can see the foolishness of the dichotomy. Really what is at variance is this – those of us who are the victims of financial malfeasance & who will pay for it – and the perpetrators. For decades there has been no main street- so far as I can see the entire country has been placed at the mercy of the global free-marketers – People without any scruple or an ounce of goodwill for their countrymen. I live in Cuyahoga County where the damage done by those who thought it better to gamble on China or India rather than reinforce the position of the American People is readily observable. We have been taken advantage of by manufacturers led by financiers who have seen the growth of stock value as a greater good than the good of their own country and people. We have seen that Wall Street will tolerate any amount of carnage in the insignificant provinces – that is, any place that is not New York City or Washington DC. We have endured a longstanding attack on our society by the few and unspeakably wealthy. Now they require not just that our region’s economy collapse, not just that we serve at their pleasure in the workplace – but that we support them totally when their reckless mistakes have unpleasant repercussions for them.

Go to the Slavic Village and see what bankers have decided to make of the state of Ohio – go and see how they have taken cruel advantage of desperate people. Go and see what the president is now asking for the taxpayers to subsidize…

The financial services sector has never been anything but a house of cards- a precarious arrangement of gambling balanced by greed – it’s at the very least distasteful to decent people – but currently it’s been made the heart of our entire republic. Currently we are at the mercy of markets that have worked against every part of the American polity in favor of expanding the wealth of the few.

Please don’t make me pay for the destruction of my region, my city and my country’s principles.

Thank you.

Also Not Not Blogging

The silence is deafening!

My impish corner of the blogging empire — a little half-moon of qwerty merriment emanating from the central vineyard — has taken some hits lately.  [Further documentation here and here –ed.]  I suppose that my M.I.A. status, both online and geographically, would place me squarely on the presumed casualty list.

But nothing can be further from the truth!  I’ve just been lost.  Lost in a wilderness of my own making.  Lost in a hazy half-light of murmuring responsibilities and flickering fears.  Anxieties and agitations. Split-minded sputtering.  Stuttering. Wet-fish flopping on the rocks, one gill in the water, one in the air, watching the sun skirt the horizon, unsure if it’s dusk or if it’s dawn. All of which doesn’t lend itself to creative thinking.

And without dipping my tongue into the Well Of Creation, without slaking the urge to see words and sights and sounds rise up ex nihilo before me, I’ve got nothing else to give.  If I cannot create, I can only consume.  If I cannot feed my mind, I revert to feeding my belly.  My belly’s been happy.  [Thankfully, Grant just joined a gym –ed.]

So, now that I’ve broken the silence and tested your unearned patience with my navel-gazed rambling, here’s a little fun:

Grant Wentzel Kate Nash

A bunch of British Lego-heads have been making album covers out of Legos and posting them to a flickr site here. The visual pun on the title of Kate’s album made me smile.  I hope it does the same for you.  More blogging to come!

Specialization

Grant Wentzel's Toughskins

Perhaps I’m going about things all wrong.

In the last GQ there was an article about the necessities and excesses of the hyper-trendy green movement. It was mostly fluff, bouncing between the dire results of every Indian & Chinese owing an internally-combustible car, and the ridiculousness of buying a shiny new hybrid-SUV because somehow you’re going to save the earth by stretching each gallon of gas another mile or two.

Nothing new there, but there was a quote from one Bjorn Lomborg that made me wonder about my approach to life:

“The reason we’ve done so well as a civilization over the past 300 years is specialization — I don’t fix my own computer, I don’t produce my own TV programs. I do very few things, but hopefully I do them well.”

And then there was this quote from my friend John’s blog:

“When I grow up, maybe I’ll learn to say “no” to things that fall outside my talents, skills and giftings. I know for a fact that God has not equipped me to be a travel agent. I shall never again be the one responsible for flight plans, fund collections or any of those kinds of details related to a missions trip. I’m just not good at it.”

I’ve always been one to try to go it alone, fix it myself, make it happen on my own terms. But when I look at both my domestic and professional life, I see mostly loose ends that I could fix if I had the time, but I don’t have the time. I’ve got no time for anything. And then these self-inflicted responsibilities just start stacking up and choking out any space to do what I’m actually kinda good at.

For instance, I’m massively behind in my attempts to get a new e-commerce platform up-and-running. It would/could/should be a good thing to do, and it’s plum necessary in my line of work that I continue to evolve this “solution” to keep up with the times. However, I’ve never felt any desire to hang out with a database, let alone tweak the code to get it to jump through my hoops. Now, I’ll stay up all night tweaking the layout of the user interface. I think that’s fun.

Am I less of a man for hiring some help? Why my lack of faith in the word “team”? Does this all go back to a childhood kick-ball game gone bad? The blacktop broiling under the summer sun. The bounce of the ball, the dodge, the jump the crash, the burn, the Sears Toughskin corduroy jeans not tough enough. Argh!! The iodine!!

Feeling better… I think I’ll go make some calls. Go team!

A Perfect 10!

Grant Wentzel's Happy Scream

I’ve had this Theory bouncing around my head for awhile, and as I haven’t posted jack-squat on this here sweet blog o’ mine in many moons, I’ll let ‘er rip:

From time to time over the last decade or two, I’ve been a part of a Band. You know, a Band: One of those loosely defined collectives of musicians who build up a virtual family of their own making and then proceed to bitch and squabble with one another in more perverse and pervasive ways than any dysfunctional clan of inbred hill-jacks on Jerry Springer.

We’ve fought over women; we’ve feuded over money. We’ve brawled about where to play, how to play, what to wear, and what to say. We’ve clashed when we drank too much and snapped when we didn’t guzzle enough. And for what? For a few positive write-ups here and there. For a chance to be the Cool Kids for a moment in another of a one-in-million short-lived and ever-mutating Scenes. And, yes, we did it for the Music.

There’s nothing quite like those moments when it all comes together. Whether it was funk or punk, whether it was sober or drunk, the promise of the sublime was often so close at hand. Every once in awhile Heaven would touch Earth. That was a good place to be, and it made up for all of the above.

Hexed as I am, and having learned nothing from the past, I’m bound to repeat this accursed cycle of love and loss again before my time is up.

So I must ask: Who among you is worthy to join hand-in-hand with me on this noble quest to Rock ‘n Roll Nirvana? With whom shall I scale the sacred walls of this Electric Valhalla?

(Back to my Theory:)

To make it in a band, you’ve gotta earn 10 Points. There’s 2 ways to score on this game of rock. (So we can all play!) The first 10-point scale is one of musicality (aka, “How much do you rock?”) The better you are at your given instrument, the more points you can earn. If you have other talents, like the ability to produce non-cringe-inducing background vocals, you can earn bonus points. Knowledge of music theory and a studied musical palette round out this category.

The second 10-point scale is one of amiability. If your company is worth keeping, you can tally up your quota here. If you’re a fun guy, you get points. If you can keep your composure and a good attitude at a 2am gig on a Tuesday attended solely by the bartender and her luckless boyfriend, you get points. If you’re hardworking and responsible as well, you can really rack up the bonus points.

Got it? Let’s clarify with a few practical examples:

You really need a keyboardist to propel your punk-rock up and over the next new wave, but alas, none are to be found. You turn to Craig’s list where you find a classically-trained vintage moog-loving (and owning!) eccentric who lives across town. On the 10-point scale of musicality he’s, yes, a perfect 10! However, the guy’s a pain in the arse who’s pretty sure your Duran Duran tribute act is beneath him and does his best to let you know that he’s capable of so much more, thus scoring no points on the second scale. However, he’s already earned his 10 points suggesting chords, fixing harmonies, and re-writing the bridge and introduction of your first big single. He’s in!

You really need a keyboardist to propel your punk-rock up and over the next new wave, but alas, none are to be found. You decide that the bassist’s brother (who’s always hanging around rehearsal anyway, fetching beers, hauling gear and cracking jokes) might do. So you buy an old Roland on e-bay and give him a shot. He sucks, but with practice, can push the keys your tell him to push more or less with the beat. Although he failed to make it on the board musically, his “good-guyness” (and wacky on-stage antics) earned him a 10 in the second round. He’s in!

I like to think I’m about a 5 or 6 on each scale, giving me a blended 10. Sure I can play a bit, but I can also be a bastard. And sure, sometimes I miss a cue I’ve rehearsed a thousand times, but I can usually laugh at myself when I do.

All that being said, I’d rather work with an overall decent guy than a hot-shot musician. No one’s getting famous around here, but you can miss out on having fun pretty fast.

Damn the Torpedoes!

(This blog shall return.)

However, the Love Boat of my life has hit an iceberg of Exciting and New and I must attend to the burst bulwarks before my cup runneth all over my Client’s vintage white-shag rug.

That really pisses ’em off. Every time.

I like to be alone with my thoughts…

… but they don’t like to be alone with me.

Bad Fences, Good Neighbors

Robert Frost

Half our fence fell prostrate before Mother Nature as She decided that 50 degrees was too magnanimous a December fortune for Her children in Ohio. The error was sternly corrected with a high-winded 30 degree drop over the next few hours.

My neighbor and I meet the next day to walk the line, one to a side. “It never was a good fence,” I tell him. He says it doesn’t matter that it’s down for awhile. “I can take Duke out on a leash,” he says. “Don’t worry, he can poop in my yard,” I reply.

A New Year dawns, the temperature stretches for 60 to greet the second week. Remembering my duty, I apply hammer to nail and stake to earth to raise the fence back to a useful, if not perfect, condition. I rejoice in the afternoon spent in the sun. I remember back to earlier existence when I purchased these same boots, this Carhartt jacket. When afternoons and often whole days were lost in the silence of the woods. When I earned my paychecks turning trees to cord wood, wrestling boulders, caring for the saplings of another harvest. Though today I’ve neglected most of my responsibilities, I sleep the deseved sleep of satisfaction in work well-accomplished.

But Mother Nature disagrees. She does not think that a few e-mails should be sufficient to cover my ass. She sends Her winds again. She taunts me with Her warmth and then sends Her storm. Feeling the fear of a five-year-old as the house shakes/shudders/moans, I scramble to the safety of sleep with covers pulled high over head and dread blowing all around me.

I awake to find my fence face-down again, genuflecting to its Mistress. My still-sharp stakes torn up and strewn about. Like shark’s teeth on the beach, they give evidence to a once great creature, now no more. Today, I must mend the wall again. Armed with twice the nails, deeper stakes, but a broken will, I buttress again without complaint.

It never was a good fence. And now there is poop in my yard.  But I am happy.

Bad Day

Maybe it was the pending solstice, which seems to have hit at 6am this morning. I don’t know, but something flipped today for the better.

Yesterday was a bad day for my insides. How do I know?

I felt compelled to listen to Born To Run (both album and song) repeatedly. For some reason, it’s a guaranteed tear-jerker for me. Ask Rocs, she’ll tell you: there’s times I’ve bawled. Oh yes. Yesterday’s listening was shear masochism. Tramps like us… (sniff)

Then it switched to the music of my youth. America. (The song, not the band.) Which has just a darn tootin’ few too many similarities to the aforementioned Springsteen number. I’m getting concerned.

So I’m trying to run away from something. But then I woke up with Love Bites on the brain. At 4am. It’s a breakthrough!

The days are again getting longer. Springtime is in the air. I can hear the birds. Can’t you?

Have you really read the book…

… if you can’t write a cohesive paragraph or three about it once you’re done? I enjoy staring at words and turning pages while on the john, but perhaps I should be a little more engaged.