While I’d like to take the entirety of my post and talk about having connections, that would really diservice what I’m trying to get across here. I’ll take a brief moment to recognize the Press Secretary from an unnamed Congressman who was so gracious in getting me the hook up this morning. Fortunately, I also had the pleasure of spending the morning with her so it was a major win for this gloomy Monday.
If you haven’t been to the nation’s capital on or around Christmas/the holiday season (stretching from Thanksgiving to NYE) you would be smart to book your flights, train tickets, or bus tickets now! Your best bet would have been to enjoy the Christmas tree lighting last weekend but I found a much more worthy Christmas-mood-making endeavor – the White House Tour, Christmas style.
If you’ve never been to the White House, there is no better time than the holidays. Today was my first time and from stepping on the property to leaving past the armed-badass secret service guys, I was truly in the midst of power and grandeur. We went through the East wing of the White House seeing notable rooms such as the Blue, Green and Red rooms as well as the East room which houses official state dinners. I’ve gotta say, seeing these during the summer would have been cool but during the holidays they are spruced up (no pun intended) with trees, lights, ornaments, garlands… the list goes on. A few highlights had to be the giant white-chocolate-gingerbread White House replica, 5 Bo-the-dog replicas in various rooms, and some sweet string and piano music as you walked out the door to the driveway of the White House. On another note, seeing secret service agents all over and going through the three security checkpoints and seeing just how thick the glass in the White House is, makes you fully understand the power housed within that iconic structure. Next time I go back, hopefully I can get an in with someone who is working in the White House and see the West wing, as that is where the real stuff goes down, if you had no clue.
Until then, I’ll go back to watching reruns of the West Wing and hoping for the day I’ll get to see the real White House…as an employee, a friend of a future President…or spouse? If you can’t make it to the tour during Christmas which is, unfortunately for you pretty unlikely, take a stroll around town to see Christmas lights or get out there to a holiday party. Don’t be a Grinch, get in the Christmas spirit. Sip some hot toddy around the fire and go caroling around the neighborhood. Don’t wait too long, Christmas is a mere 20 days away. I guess the only question is, what are you getting me?
I have been told for as long as I can remember all about the American Dream. You can be anything you want when you grow up if you set your mind to it. With hard work, responsibility and dedication, you can accomplish anything. Couple that with quality education and you have a recipe for success.I have grown up as part of a generation that largely is apathetic towards, cynical of, or worse yet, all but given up on this dream. And it is difficult for me to blame those who have. Some might argue that it is called the American Dream because you must be asleep to believe in it.
The truth is that most children in this country cannot grow up to become anything they want. As many in my generation are finding out, they may be lucky to become anything at all. And while I am repeatedly told that this must mean such people are lazy, irresponsible and looking for handouts, this rhetoric disgusts me because it is labeling millions of people based on stereotypes and characterizations that often are completely inaccurate. The truth is that there are many, many working class people out there who have had harder lives than you could imagine; that is, if you’ve been one of the lucky ones like me.
Occupy Wall Street has my attention. It appears to be a loosely organized and constantly evolving proceeding. I’m not about to tell you that you’re not on my side if you disagree with it. Everyone who is doing what they are doing, regardless of your thoughts about them, is doing it because they are sick of the crony capitalism and fraud that has characterized our government and country for quite some time now (and repeatedly throughout the country’s history, as you go farther and farther back). The movement is about citizens peacefully empowering themselves to reclaim a democracy that at this point is probably better described as a plutocracy, when one considers the high cost of running an even marginally successful state or national campaign or the seemingly endless funds changing hands between Congress and special interests. While it would be naive to think that big money has only recently become a part of our political system, its power and influence has perhaps never been quite as blatant or limitless as it is today.
I believe this country has reached a tipping point as it approaches a giant crossroads. We have somehow siphoned the vigor of the middle class while simultaneously replacing capital with credit and printing money that doesn’t exist. What we’re left with is a stagnant economy, alarming projected deficits, deteriorating infrastructure, health care and education that lags far behind most of the developed world, and angry citizens all over the political spectrum for an array of differing reasons. This is why Occupy Wall Street ought to have your attention, too. I think there are plenty of reasons to believe this anger isn’t going to take care of itself and go away. Agree or not, I think many major media outlets as well as individuals themselves are making a mistake by being wholly dismissive of it.
I have heard many times in the past two weeks that this is about nothing but a bunch of hippies who have no idea what they are even protesting. I’m not sure if this idea is based on intentional dismissiveness of what is at stake or simple misinformation. This raises two questions that have not been answered to my satisfaction: (1) When the Tea Party protests and rallies became popularized, did they receive more or less media coverage than the Wall Street protests? (2) Would you characterize a typical Tea Party protestor as informed about what they were protesting against (and if so, why do you feel this way?) I ask because there seems to be quite a double standard here.
Oh, and if you really want to know the specific reasons that convinced individuals to support this movement, you will have no trouble finding a big pile of them here. A few of these in all honesty don’t resonate with me much. But I find most of them to be incredibly sad, as people who have done everything asked of them to barely scrape by have entered a justifiable hopelessness. I’ve typed out a few below:
I’d never been unemployed until the company I worked for tanked a month ago. Up until then I was living paycheck to paycheck, sharing a small apartment with my elderly, unemployed mother, making just enough to pay rent, grocery bills and medical insurance. Now we have no jobs, no savings, no health care and no furniture in our apartment. We sold almost everything we had to pay for food and rent. We both have extensive medical problems and are wondering how we’re going to pay for the medications we need to keep functioning. I don’t want sympathy or handouts. I want a job, affordable rent and the restoration of the “American Dream.”
I work 7 days a week, 12 to 14 hours a day with no holidays and no sick days. I’ve been working approximately 90 hours a week, 52 weeks a year since 2006. I’m grateful to have a job at all. If business is good, I can make up to $20 a day (roughly $1.50 an hour). If business is bad, I don’t get paid. Since I can’t afford an apartment, I live illegally at work. Friends are kind enough to help out with leftover food when they can. I will likely never be able to afford marriage, children, or a house, but maybe a used car someday! I’m neither irresponsible, nor lazy, nor foolish. I’m just the 99%.
My aunt has resigned herself to die at the hands of lung cancer because she knows that her family would not be able to pay her medical bills. I won’t be able to see her again before she dies because I will be fired if I ask for time off. I live on a couch at my friend’s because she is a SAINT. I made $100 last week. 24% of people in my town are unemployed, so I am lucky. I’m lucky I didn’t go to college because I have no student loan debt. I think I may be dying, but I’m not going to the doctor either. I can’t afford treatment for what I believe I have. I am dying for the 1%. We all are, in one way or another. I am the 99%.
I work for a company that pays its CEO the average annual salary of its employees every hour.
I am 20 years old and have over $275,000 in medical bills for a condition I was born with. I can’t get insurance because of this “pre-existing condition.” I will die before America wakes up.
My uninsured mother passed away at age 46 due to inadequate health care. I am afraid to have children of my own because I am terrified I won’t be around to raise them.
I cannot afford to send my 4.0 GPA daughter to college. The banks artificially inflated my home’s value. I’ve lost all the equity that I have worked so hard for over the past 20 years. I’m worth more dead.
I realize that my beliefs will frequently alienate me from former coworkers and friends and that I will continue to be branded as a socialist or a bleeding heart or any other derogatory term intended to discredit the message itself. It is completely irrelevant to me at this point. I can’t bite my tongue anymore. I think these people have every right to feel angry and betrayed, and political ideology is besides the point. You can certainly make the case that those protesting could stand a little more economic education, or perhaps that their sentiments would be better directed towards the Federal Reserve. But that doesn’t mean they know nothing or that their anger is unfounded. A country that has simultaneously wrecked the middle class and bloated government beyond recognition is enraging citizens all across the spectrum. We can either figure out how to move forward together towards solutions and reclaiming our voice in a government where money purchases influence, or we can settle for mutually-assured destruction. We can figure out how to reconcile an archaic tax code with 50,000,000 uninsured Americans. We can deal with the fact that every individual in the country is responsible for over $46,000 in national debt while over half (!) of Americans ages 18-24 are unemployed.
The most important point is that solutions are going to have to draw on familiar ideas as well as those from across the aisle, and even perhaps some that haven’t been considered at all. And solutions most certainly are not going to come from the system itself. Anyone paying a modicum of attention to the past decade should understand this by now, as we’ve had administrations of both flavors to show exactly how the system is incapable of self-correcting. All I know is that while it may not be there yet, this movement will find the legitimization and leadership it needs long before it dissipates. Everyone should have a shared stake in reclaiming a voice in a government that has failed its citizens in too many ways to count. I support this movement because I love my country and the ideals I was raised to believe it stood for.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.
It’s hard not to respect Daniel Tosh. His stand-up routine is one of the funniest acts I’ve seen in a while and Tosh.0 is pure genius.
Think of how much time we kill surfing the Web for videos of people embarrassing or accidentally hurting the shit out of themselves. It’s why YouTube cost Google billions and new blogs pop up on a daily basis. We want easy access to the most ridiculous content out there. It’s free and quick entertainment that’s uncommonly funny because most of the time, it happens in real life to real people.
Tosh’s team of writers and the producers at Comedy Central deserve credit for seeing our lust for internet humor as an incredible opportunity.
The show’s great not only because the clips are almost always funny or gross (which is better to some people), but there’s the same give and take between the audience and Tosh that you can find in message boards and comment sections online.
He reads emails from viewers, displays their Tweets, and also broadcasts new and original videos created by his Tosh.0 fans. Regardless of how the show is made available to us, the Tosh team has created one of the best, if not the greatest, blogs out there.
Here’s the beginning of a feature I’ve been kicking around as an idea for a while now that you’re sure to see on a semi-regular basis going forward (provided you guys don’t give this thing five views or a bunch of two-star ratings or anything).
I know we have some other musicians as both readers and writers here, so let me just go ahead and say that (as with all my writing) I don’t consider myself an authority and my intent isn’t to get up on an awfully high soapbox or talk down to anyone.
I’ve played guitar for close to ten years now (yikes, am I that old?) and bass guitar for a little more than that. I also dabble in drums, keyboard, mandolin, singing, and even trombone (way back in the day). I never took lessons and have a still limited knowledge of and comfort with music theory. This isn’t about me, but it’s just to say that I don’t think studying or playing or writing music is a one-size-fits-all concept. There’s no wrong way to eat a Reese’s… er, I mean to write a song. Damnit.
With that in mind, though I don’t consider myself important to the process of making music, I’m at least good enough at my part in it to have been asked for advice more than once recently. The things that have helped me improve over time (and I was very bad for a very long time) won’t work for everyone, but if they speak to you then maybe they unlock the instrument for you in a way you hadn’t really considered previously.
In addition, if this series continues and I don’t get an annoyed IM from dangermike tonight, then I would also like to use this to look at a band/artist’s artistic relevance and note things about them or in the music itself worth studying. Under both scenarios, I’d encourage any other TBSErs to contribute if they feel compelled to. Something like ginger jack handy’s recent piece on Tupac with an emphasis on the second half is exactly the kind of thing I have in mind.
Well, without further ado… I’d just like to write about this silly idea that probably all of us playing an instrument have or have had at one point. I know I certainly did when I first picked up the guitar and was listening to my friends cover Zeppelin while I struggled to play barre chords. It’s easy to watch someone with more experience and a trained ear tear up the fretboard and think you can’t play or write good music until you can shred at that speed, with that kind of tone, etc.
Sure, speed and technique give a musician more tools to use with their instrument, but a lot of times less is more. My friend Dave told me at a band practice long, long ago about Police drummer Stewart Copeland playing a “solo” for a drum clinic. He basically played a very simple beat for three minutes and said that the biggest problem with music today was that people (specifically drummers in this case) didn’t know how to take a backseat to make a song work.
Learning an instrument can definitely be a slow and frustrating experience, but getting expectations and what others sound like out of your head can make it more enjoyable. Free of those restrictions, you can begin finding your voice on the instrument – which is honestly the most important ingredient. And there is inspiration for a “less is more” music ethos on guitar all over, but new wave is a great place to look (bands like Joy Division and The Cure). You’re about to hear a lot about John Frusciante’s hard funk rock on Blood Sugar Sex Magik with the album’s 20th anniversary coming up later this year, but the CD he says he is most proud of is Californication, which features very sparse playing inspired by the same era. I mean hell, the good version of Green Day was just a bunch of power chords (and songs about beating off).
Music wants you to find it; it will come so long as you open your mind up and let go of the expectations of impressing people or fear of embarrassment or whatever frames how you think about what you are supposed to do with your instrument. Everything else falls into place once you are willing to accept that those judgments aren’t relevant at all to your ability to play music and to enjoy that creative process. As with most other things, joy will come from viewing the process as of equal or greater importance to the results. Music is a discipline all about enveloping oneself in the process and letting it dictate what the results will be. I truly believe we ‘channel’ music and none of us are actually writing it. The individual is an unimportant part of the process (i.e. music would still exist had – god forbid – Jimi Hendrix never been born. It would have continued to evolve and move forward.). In this way, music is one of those beautiful contradictions – it’s an example of where the ego can be your best friend and worst enemy all at once. You need to be confident in your ability to play your role in making music; i.e. you are always good enough. But the moment you think that you’re good enough because you’re special or some kind of prodigy, the attitude inevitably shifts towards impressing others, making money or otherwise working to promote that ego. All of those things are going to interfere with letting music come unrestricted, and it is typically not difficult to tell the difference between an honest song and a marketing toy.
On November 9, 1989, Socialist Unity Party of Germany official Guenter Schabowski announced a new law enacting free travel between East and West Germany at a press conference, effectively putting a thaw on the frosty yet potentially explosive relations amongst the United States and the Soviet Union. A four decade chasm between east and west called the Cold War continued to dissolve from that date forward, introducing an era of communication, cooperation and relative peace throughout the globe that was unprecedented. As we were all reminded this past week, that era promptly ended the morning of September 11, 2001.
The 1990’s occupied a significant portion of the time between the two dates. Fittingly, the 90’s were a unique period for arts, sports and culture that I’m inclined to call the best decade ever. Somewhere between my final evening in footy pajamas and getting my driver’s license, here’s what happened that made it humanity’s finest decade:
Calvin and Hobbes dominated the funny pages.
Pulp Fiction, Forrest Gump, and The Shawshank Redemption battled it out for 1994’s best motion picture. If you’re telling me those movies still don’t suck you in when they run on TNT 17 years later, you’re lying.
Washington, D.C. erupts its first bout of male bipartisan slut-shaming when it’s discovered that Bill Clinton’s been getting blown by White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Newt Gingrich leads the charge against infidelity by demanding Clinton’s resignation while he bangs out Callista Bissek, another twenty something staffer who isn’t his wife. Regardless of your politics, this type of bickering beats the hell out of politicians arguing over the necessity of thousands of American soldiers coming home in body bags. It was a simpler time.
In related news, all my friends’ parents had copies of The Starr Report lying around the house, which was essentially state-sanctioned, presidential soft-core porn that my friends and I enthusiastically devoured. “The President unbuttoned her dress and fondled her breasts, first with her bra on and then directly. He touched her genitalia through her clothes, but not directly, on this occasion. Ms. Lewinsky performed oral sex on him. On this day, Ms. Lewinsky was wearing a blue dress that forensic tests have conclusively shown was stained with the President’s semen.”Adolescent gold right there.
Adam Sandler was still funny.
Can Hardly Wait gets released during the summer after eighth grade and provides a strikingly accurate depiction of what to expect from high school.
My best friend John Hometchko and I sneak out of the house a jaw-dropping 23 times during eighth and ninth grade only to get stranded on first base.
MTV still shows videos, casts people for The Real World that seem genuinely concerned with things other than their next drink, and airs culturally relevant programming like Sex in the 90’s that manages to be edgy and didactic. 15 years later they’ve decided to follow eight of these assholes around and call it groundbreaking television, which is a lot like Shaq trying to convince us that he’s still a dominant center.
Legitimate female musicians like Natalie Merchant, Melissa Etheridge, and Liz Phair actually wrote their own songs, played their own instruments and had something to say other than “check out my ass.” I realize most of the blog will disagree with me because they probably caught their first beat to “…Baby One More Time,” but I’d like to point out that in the 90’s we just called girls with hot bodies who could dance “Fly Girls” and nobody pretended to care what they have to say.
The O.J. Simpson Trial may have been the most captivating in event in America for more than a year. My 6th grade art teacher Mr. Maza actually played the reading of the verdict over the radio in class. When hundreds of prepubescent kids poured into the halls chanting “The juice is loose!” a few minutes later, I learned that every other teacher in school had done the same.
Premium seating at sporting events had yet to become a corporate pissing contest/status symbol, meaning that all those empty seats behind home plate were actually filled. And because they were somewhat affordable, the people sitting in them were diehard fans who cared about the game more than saying that they were there the next day.
Zack Morris was busy showing boys across America how it’s done as he shoots and scores for the affections of Kelly Kapowski.
Ben Stiller in Heavy Weights vs. Ben Stiller in Little Fockers.
Pre-9/11 airport security allowed everyone to get on a plane without being groped or gawked at by TSA.
Seinfeld, a show about nothing, comes to its own as a sitcom masterpiece, coins the phrase “water cooler show” and pushes the envelope on how subtly one can allude to something that’s not fit for network television.
Before Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake’s wardrobe malfunction at Super Bowl XXXVIII, games weren’t shown on a several second delay, meaning that you could listen to the radio broadcast instead of suffering through Joe Buck’s catatonic calls every freaking Sunday.
Speaking of Justin Timberlake, in the 90’s nobody was expected to take him seriously.
The average face-to-face conversation wasn’t routinely interrupted by calling, texting or browsing on one’s cell phone.
Jesse and the Rippers release “Forever,” a #1 single in Japan and in hearts of Full House fans all over the globe.
Mullets had gone out of fashion, but not to the point that you had to go to a NASCAR race to see them in person.
4-H Camp (even if there are only a dozen people alive who get that reference).
Michael Jordan rattles off half a dozen NBA titles in his prime instead of deferring to Scottie Pippen and putting up stinkers in the fourth quarter.
It’s difficult to remember this now, but when Ken Griffey Jr. was roaming centerfield for Seattle (for the first time) during the 90’s, he was a freaking comet. He won the Gold Glove every year, hit 382 home runs, batted .302, had an OPS of .965, knocked in 1,091 runs, was hands down the coolest guy in the league and did it all without steroids. (If the last part is ever proven wrong my entire childhood will have been a sham.)
Macaulay Culkin kicks the ever loving shit out of Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern in Home Alone and Home Alone 2 and millions of kids wish that someone would break into their homes. The only downside for Mac: he spent an inordinate amount of time at Neverland Ranch.
Solid albums by new bands that still hold up: “August and Everything After” by Counting Crows, “Dookie” by Green Day, “What’s the Story, Morning Glory?” by Oasis, “In Utero” by Nirvana, “Sublime” by Sublime and the list goes on.
Savages teach us all about growing up… Fred on The Wonder Years and Ben on Boy Meets World.
The internet was just coming into its own and we were amazed by where our home computer could take us on a daily basis. Now we take its magic for granted and expect everything to be on the internet, leading to thousands of people misdiagnosing themselves on WebMD and millions more citing Wikipedia as a credible source.
Hats, jerseys and other paraphernalia of your favorite sports team weren’t available in pink.
The Dream Team proves America supremacy in the 1992 Summer Olympics.
Tom Cruise was relatively normal and putting out movies like A Few Good Men and Jerry Maguire instead of jumping on Oprah’s couch and stealing Katie Holmes from those of us who are actually straight.
People only had to deal with Skip Bayless in print.
Chris Farley was alive.
Movies like The Big Lebowski and Office Space throw up dual middle fingers to the spirit of greed that defined the 80′s.
The Mets may have sucked, but at least they didn’t wait until the last month of the season to implode.
Alexi Lalas’s hair.
Snap bracelets whack their way onto the scene and onto the wrists of elementary school kids everywhere.
Keith Olberman and Dan Patrick anchoring SportsCenter.
Cargo shorts burst onto the scene and immediately revolutionize my life. Al Gore’s internet, cable TV, the moon landing and atom bomb can kick rocks, cargo shorts were the single greatest invention of the 20th century as they allowed modern man to become today’s bro and tote around their favorite goodies without the shame of rocking a European carry all.
Sean Fanning and Napster 1.0 gave everyone all the music they could download on the house as the decade came to a close, the perfect parting gift for a decade long American throw down.
If you were to take away the LA Riots and throw in gay marriage, I’d have no reservations whatsoever about saying we’ve overshot heaven. On behalf of the ’90s: You’re welcome, America.