Friday, July 26, 2013

Behind the Times

Early morning I listened to this sociological philosopher commenting on internet culture--- our habits, our lifestyle.  It used to be, via any Industrial Revolution, that the usefulness of technology was to relieve humans of the burden of constant work, to free us so that we could have the time to create, self-educate, invent-- and enhance our connection with the world around us.  Currently, people are ‘working’ more hours than ever—technology and web activity literally eat leisure time and blur boundaries between work and play.  It used to be considered rude not to look into the face of someone with whom you have a serious conversation: it was part of the process of face-to-face communication which had a place in the hierarchy of exchange.  Now, nearly everyone has their face perpetually in their mobile device—emailing, texting, image-capturing and posting, facebooking, comparing, researching... connecting, disconnecting...and it is not just socially but on-the-job acceptable behaviour.

I watched people on Sunday browsing an art auction--- they data-search each painting and judge its quality based on comparable values.  They pass on, they do not look; like a carefully built resume, there is so much competition, and so little time--- everything and everyone is now a kind of advertisement, a 'deal'.  It used to be, we received a telephone call--- it was a rather obvious event for anyone present--- they even left the room, to give the speaker privacy.  Your husband could call from anywhere and lie—no caller ID… just an opaque mysterious plastic that sat in its own corner, attached to a wall, and had the power to change your life with one ring. 

Last night a guitarist friend emailed me a plea from some fan who had apparently been to 60 of his shows, now has his own band, has played for 25 years, is even receiving some kind of award--- and wants to come ‘sit in’ with the guitarist's band.  It would be ‘meaningful’.  Does it matter that the guy is an absolute clueless internet-educated musician who feels entitled to play with Cream because he memorized the tab versions of all their songs?  But wasn’t it the current Metallica bassist who came from a tribute band and had played note for note each of their albums for years?  Does anyone know the difference?  Does anyone decipher ‘I read it on the internet’ from actual truth, actual history as it was lived by some old World War II vet whose version has undoubtedly been diluted or distorted as well?  How many versions--real or photoshopped-- of ‘me and Elvis’ or ‘me and the Beatles’ do we see now on the internet?  How many combinations of romantically involved people, celebrity bikini romps,  public displays of violence, black eyes, smashed cars, emergency room entrances and exits… whatever?

You can literally have the world in your phone now…you can get the accurate population to the minute of Auckland, or see if your make-up is smeared on facetime, without anyone knowing what you are doing. You can, as one of our mayoral candidates has shown, be sending photos of your penis and obscene messages while you are in meetings, running for office, or having dinner with your lovely wife who for the life of me I cannot fathom why persists in humiliating her lovely self by appearing with this creep of a version of husband.  Is that the message?  She is smart and dignified and lives with a mistake so we all should follow suit?  I don’t get it.

I’ve always, on the other hand, been a Spitzer-ite.  So what if he’s narcissistic and obnoxious?  He’s smart enough to know that any woman you consort with is going to cause a scandal in your life, so why not keep it purely business—no pregnancies, no blackmail, no policy leaks, no expensive dinners without happy bedtime endings, no trips to Harry Winston or whining--- just in and out.  Why was it all so newsworthy… because every heterosexual middle aged man was salivating?  And because Wall Street was trembling?  Steve Cohen is an innocent baby compared to the crimes being perpetrated by JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs and our own fed.  Like disqualifying an athlete for an allergy pill—making it front page news when half the MLB is PED’d out of their minds and original bodies. 

100,000 now dead in the Syrian violence--- catastrophes all over the world… I can understand the fairytale appeal of the Royal baby--- but all this Drake vs. Chris Brown, Kanye and Kim (not easy to find a baby-Daddy with the right initial and a huge penis),  and goddamn Anthony Weiner all over it like rancid icing.  He needs to be—the ultimate punishment in this culture—‘ignored’. 

Back to music.  I’m not a huge Clapton fan, but admittedly Eric has paid some dues.  Still… I watched an amazing video of a Count Basie performance…man, these guys could play.  Every single one of them—with technique and style and precision and swing—and originality.  Do more than 800 people know all of their names? Did the guitarist get 600,000 for just one instrument at auction while he still has 400 at home and unlimited freebies?  These guys scarcely paid the basic bills.   Then the 60’s came, and there was for a brief moment some correlation between quality and success—even in jazz.  Now that concept is nearly extinct. 

But at least Eric Clapton doesn’t have to call up some asshole on craigslist and explain to him that his $300 guitar is not worth $800 because it has a badass bridge and heavy strings. In fact, because he is an asshole, it is worth maybe $270, but because yours needs a fret job that costs more than replacement, you need this and you need it now, and you may have to pay $350 which means no groceries, and he is comparing it on his iphone to all 30 which have come up on ebay in just the past 9 hours and none of them have actually sold except maybe one which was vintage—a prototype in beautiful wood, and untouched by human hands for 40 years… but he is an asshole—a Weiner, and you are without a mobile device and without the will to even speak to this guy who now says---‘okay. $400 if I can sit in with your band’ and you are absolutely going to walk out that door no matter how much you need this guitar for tomorrow.  

In the end it’s not about politics it’s about music and where does that leave the undead, impoverished, IT-deficient, IQ-endowed minority-even-in-my-own-home?  Without a working guitar while at any given moment about 766,000 are listed on ebay.  Another million or so on craigslist.  Another cool million in vaults and storage of billionaires (the good ones), another million smashed and burned on and offstage (the real ‘Guitar Heros’), another billion being misused and misplayed by assholes, and a few thousand singing in the hands of real players who do not look at a mobile device and really play at the same time.  Or write worthwhile music, and not the cut and paste kind we mostly hear these days.

I wish I could rest my case, but tonight I’m a trainwreck—yes, a terrible and inappropriate analogy today for which I apologize, but sometimes you crash and burn by failing to reach even the minimum speed limit.  

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