vendredi, septembre 18, 2009

Little Armageddon on the Prairie.

Officially, freedom in representative government ended when the Federal Reserve was formed by unconstitutional executive fiat early in the last century. But let us put aside that depressing little fact (and the attendant story, which is too long to tell here) and break down the death of democracy the only way a modern mind can conceive: Let us make a list.

Having watched for the signs, I believe I can with confidence elucidate the
4 horsemen of Democracy's Apocalypse.

1) THE CHILD. When educated, stable, caring, responsible people are having 1.5 kids per household, and abusive, classless, ignorant, drug addled, publicly dependent households are DOUBLING that (by the most conservative estimates), there is simply no hope. When those who depend on the government are simply outbreeding those who contribute to it, Doom is automatic. There is no politically correct polish you can put on this. And no label you slap on the prophet pointing it out will alter the outcome. Every individual has an inherent nobility and an infinite potential blah blah blah. When this imbalance occurs, it's over.

2) THE PRESS. When the fourth estate is beholden to the government it was set aside by the framers to monitor, all is lost. When those ostensibly charged with dispensing information to an informed electorate are motivated by ideology, by partisanship and profit, only a fool hopes that the system can survive. Where you just caught thinking of Keith Olberman? of Sean Hannity? They are simply the extremes that reinforce each other, and they are only a symptom, hemorrhoids, if you will, resulting from a deeper imbalance of pressures from a constipated core.
3) THE FAT ONE. With sincere apologies to the beautiful overweight people all over America who get up everyday and contribute to society in dynamic ways, it must be observed that no government has ever existed that can govern a sedentary citizenry. Greece, Rome, and everyone before, between and since has crumbled when Prosperity became Opulence. In that sense, fat and sassy spells the end. Blame television. Blame the fast food industry. Blame the video games. The why doesn't matter.

4) THE CONTROL FREAK. Not me. The other control freak. A.K.A. THE LAWYER, THE NANNY STATE, or the Suer. (Hey, rhymes with sewer!). It appears in many forms: the government that wants to take care of you and the people who think that's OK; the litigious bastavich who thinks an arm broken on a neighbor's trampoline, or a lung full of cancer, or a blistered belly from coffee that was hot is a ticket to easy street; the ambulance chaser and the system that supports the fleecing of good people for honest mistakes, setting up money as the arbiter of justice. Beware of this one. It is the most subtle of all the horsemen. It admits to being evil, but rightfully calls itself necessary in a nation of laws. Once it has enough avatars and acolytes in society, the people might (for a time) be very well protected and provided for, but NO ONE IS TRULY FREE.

Luckily, these harbingers of impending doom remain far off, in a nightmare future.

vendredi, septembre 04, 2009

Don't Mess

I teach guitar.

It's a humble job. But it pays fairly well; and there is certainly no shortage of young people in Northern California who think they want to learn to play. All in all, I'd rather be playing than teaching. That said, I have had the privilege of associating with some truly wonderful, and wonderfully talented kids.

Even so, motivation constitutes a problem for the majority. Most kids have very little desire to put in the work it takes to become a real musician. Sadly, the blessing/curse of the guitar is that if you are willing to goof around long enough you can get pretty dang good at it, and yet somehow utterly avoid being able to read music or really know anything about it. There are quite a few students willing to enter this category. We all have a most excellent time. But some days I wonder if I'm doing enough to cajole my students. The least I could do is shame and scare away the slackers before they waste more of their parents' money, right?

Many years ago now, in an attempt to help them understand the consequences of their choices, and to distinguish mere players from real musicians, we invented a word:


Anyone who exhibits great skill, who can shred like a bastard and yet knows very little about music, who can play, perhaps, every AC/DC song in the catalogue but can't read Yankee Doodle from the beginner's manual, is a guitard. By extension, anyone who wants to shred, but who lacks the desire to study music, becomes, at least nominally, a guitard.

The term was effective from the get go. Even as it set the studious future musicians apart, it seemed to pay a certain respect to the shredders (in fact, the exact kind of counter cultural respect they desire); and kids with no desire to read music embraced their categorization. More importantly, it always got a respectful snicker or two from both sides of the musical fence, as most kids have a healthy sense of safety around any adult willing to use any word that remotely resembles "retard." By now, the term is practically part of the lesson plan.

As is another educational necessity: CHOCOLATE. I make a big deal of rewarding students who magnify their efforts towards musicianship. I've found that rich, classy, dark, dark chocolate is one of the better tools. Mostly because any good teacher must take it upon himself to sample the reward before dishing it to a student. A guitard will be rewarded more immediately with attention from the opposite sex, applause in the battle of the bands, etc. A musician's slower progress merits fine chocolate from teacher.

One day I stopped in a local supermarket for the express purpose of purchasing chocolate to reward my future musicians. I needed something new, something classy. Something a talented guitard might covet just enough to learn a little musical terminology or theory.
A new display caught my eye, and to my astonishment a fine chocolate from San Francisco rose like a glorious chocolate sun before me.

I don't know what invisible forces knew of my neologism and brought about this serene harmonic convergence, and I don't care. Suffice it to say, my teaching rose to a different level when we all learned together the all important lesson:
Don't mess with me. The very universe itself is on my side.