Wednesday, May 28, 2008


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Things We Lost with the Death of the Record Industry

I spend a lot of time bidding good riddance to the record industry here. That's only because, for whatever reason, I only consider the last 20 years when I talk about the record industry in the context of copyright management. But the generation of producers before the ones that drove the industry into the ground are a real loss to American culture.

Jobs: Goes without saying, but a lot of jobs got flushed. Oh sure, you can technically still get a job arranging strings or horns, but it's even less likely now than it has ever been. And in the present climate, you no longer get to just be an arranger. You've got to be an arranger and a producer and most importantly, an entrepreneur. At least the record industry had management to think about this stuff for us. But listen to a recording like Harold Melvin and the Blue Note's Don't Leave Me This Way. You've probably got to employ 2-3 people just to place all the microphones and maintain the equipment. Then there's a string arranger, 3-4 string players at least, and the list goes on. I seriously doubt that those string players were also trying to hold down a full time boring job and use social networking sites to promote themselves. Because there was a larger organization to be part of, they were able to specialize.

Quality: I'm not saying I don't know a lot of brilliant independent engineers and producers. I'm saying that I don't know many of them who get to work on a Neve board the size of Minnesota with a plate verb and a 2" tape setup. Without the institutions that were record labels, it's nearly impossible to afford the quality facilities that existed in the past. These resources were completely squandered by the 1980s, however. Take a listen to a Duran Duran record if you want to hear the miserable, flat, blurry sound that I'm talking about. I blame cassettes, the only medium I reserve more hatred for than CDs. The era of digital instruments brought about a lot of real opportunity to expand the options for the musician. Instead, they were used to do crappy approximations of what we were doing really well for the preceding 30 years. They put a lot of people out of a job, and they reduced the quality of recordings dramatically.

Freedom From Choice: The options available to the average listener now are so enormous. Most mp3 player users spend the entire time fiddling with them. I wonder if a song even gets finished anymore. Fact is, the way the human attention span is, having 300 songs just means that what you're listening to isn't quite the exact song or mood you'd like to be listening to. The average schmuck had fewer choices in the 1970s than he does today, and those choices were higher quality. When I listen to Tears of a Clown and I imagine that it used to be popular, I imagine a society with a lot more dignity, and a lot higher standards than the society that made "Soulja Boy" a number 1 hit.

People choose music that they think is a vice, that they feel is bad for them. It sold metal, it sold rap. If you want your kid not to listen to this stuff, tell them it's good for them. That it will make them smarter. Given the option of choices they perceive as negative, the public typically takes them. The record industry acted as a tastemaker, and for some time they did a pretty good job. Once their work in this department became so awful though, public contempt toward them started building. But thats like hating a baker who made something so delicious and bad for you. On the other hand, that might not be as absurd as it sounded before cities started banning trans fats. Anyways, their obviously miserable taste turned the entire peripheral industry against them.
Ultimately, I think that the real killer of the record industry was this decline in quality. But I don't want to throw the baby out with the bathwater here. Most of our society's greatest recordings were made with the help of a system that was dying a slow painful death when my generation put it out of its misery. I still won't miss them, because I can't forgive them for the 1980s and 90s.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

I'm Just Going to DO IT!

After much deliberating and wimping around worrying about things, we've decided not to be cowards, and just to move out West. Kitsap County Washington, to be exact. For less than the price of a house in the Nashville area, we can rent one with a bay or lake view in Bremerton or Port Orchard. Jobs pay better, the food is better, the politics are better, the schools are better, and hopefully from there we can make a better decision about whether to move to Seattle or Portland.
Map of Our Trip
Our trip will lead us through: Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, Iowa, South Dakota, Wyoming, Idaho, and Washington. I'm allowing 4 days for the trip by car, 5-6 if by van. I'm budgeting about $1100 for gas alone. By my estimate, to stay entertained the entire time I will need to burn about 36-40 CDs, haha.
So, in about 30-40 days, I need to:
paint 2 rooms back to boring, flat white.
Get a binding quote on moving 1100 sq ft of junk.
notify my old job- I'll actually miss those people the most.
notify Los Cuates that this will be my last order or Tacos de Asada.
do some phone work on getting a new rental property
fill out every public school system in the area's application(which are all crappy, and all different)
complete my application for a WA teacher's license
throw away the junk I don't want
collect tons and tons of boxes and packing material
buy long range walkie-talkies
buy a second GPS
get a credit card(groan)
fill out the paperwork and begin fighting with my landlords about what I owe them.
clean our townhome from top to bottom
find some way to effectively store and move about 400-500 LPs and 100 45s.
Consider whether to sell my truck or drive it all the way across the country. (gas mileage calculations and the gas cost weighed against the value of the vehicle)
Turn off the cable, power, water, YMCA, and hopefully get out of a couple of lousy cell phone contracts.


Wednesday, May 07, 2008

It Starts.

Well, turns out that the lady who came by a department meeting to talk about our records was wrong. Or the person on the phone was wrong at Records.
They say that there is "no way I can learn whether or not I graduated on the phone or on the web. I need to come by window 12 in the A building. "
If the lady at the meeting was right, then I did not successfully graduate. If she was wrong, I might still get my degree in the mail sometime around the middle of May.

The Worst Feeling in the World

Ok. I just finished my federal Stafford Loan Exit Interview. Their budget calculator estimates my annual discretionary income will be $-14,000.
I'll be paying either $178/mo for 30 years or $308/mo for 10 years. For a job that pays $30,000.
I also found out that those programs that help teachers repay student loans only apply to Perkins loans, and not Stafford Loans.
So, all that whining about feeing bad about not getting to make music. Forget that happened.
This is the worst feeling in the whole world.
I've got to leave teaching, because I can't afford to do it.

Today is the Day

Today is the day I find out whether the patched together, hacked up transcript I have at MTSU was effectively processed by the office of Records at MTSU. My experience at MTSU has been demoralizing and negative.
MTSU manages a Soviet-style bureaucracy of an unbelievable scale. For instance, today on PipelineMT (MTSU's online student access to transcripts and registration) there's a message that transcripts will be unavailable until May 7th(which you'll notice is today's date). MTSU's real talent has always been telling students a plan, how things are going to happen, and then changing them without notifying them. In my time at the University, maybe 3 years, my "sheet" (classes I have to take) has changed upwards of 3 times. On not one of those occasions was I notified within a semester. Each time I went to my adviser with what was apparently now an old sheet.
Urban legends float around Universities in situations like these. My department, Elementary and Special Education, did such a poor job disseminating correct information that these myths took hold on a huge scale. Most people think that an upper division form/list of classes to take, is a contract. Wrong. MTSU reserves the right to change that sheet right out from underneath you at any time. They all come with an expiration date, and woe unto those who sign onto the sheet near the time when they are changed. Now thats not to say that they can't change it in between listed change times. And it's not to say that you should even expect to find a sheet available. In my 3 years at MTSU there has been either no upper division form, or a "draft form" for three semesters.
So I'm sitting here, with a knot in my guts. I know that I have done every single thing I can do to get a degree. I know that all the t's are crossed and there should be no problem. I also know that I've done that three times before and arrived at records to find nothing of any kind on file for me. Apparently those three times were "bad times to submit files to records." They were changing computer systems, so, I kid you not, "almost everything submitted in that time was completely lost." I know that in the end, there's every real possibility that MTSU will pull one last stunt. I completely expect it. I'm already planning the tirade will deliver, finally, after all this butt kissing. After all the times MTSU has asked me to go and pretend to be a really sweet guy who just happened to have his sub forms screwed up or lost for the 3rd time. This time, I will not be so sweet. Yeah right. I know with that fat, lazy bunch of desk chair Bolsheviks in- cubicles covered with Garfield and Cathy cartoons- the only way I am going to get anything done is to act like they're really doing me a big favor.

MTSU has been like an abusive relationship for years now. Anxiety about this experience has dominated my life for nigh on six and a half years. I've spent the whole time saying "what did I do wrong? who should I have talked to about this? how could I have know that this changed? how can I take control of this problem and monitor it so this doesn't happen again?"
I'm done. MTSU: I can't wait until our divorce papers are official and I never have to think about you again. Nothing will make me feel more free than to never have to think about you again.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

My Wife Has a Blog

Just thought I'd mention that my wife has a blog as of this afternoon. I think she's totally hooked on the concept.
You can find it here:

Monday, May 05, 2008

First Song in a While

After about 5 months of 70 hour weeks, I am done with student teaching! It's going to take me years to fully understand what just happened to me... but, I'm alive now and I've got a little time to decompress.
Dark Desert
Wrote this dumb song today, just because I hadn't recorded anything or picked up an instrument in months. I forgot how much I missed the challenge and creativity of recording.