Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Par for the Course

True story, supposedly. A friend of mine was questioned by his wife about a cable TV bill, rather an item on the bill.

"What's this charge to the Spice Channel for 6 minutes? I'm not mad or anything(yeah right), just curious as to why it's just 6 minutes."

"That's all I needed".

Now I don't know about you, but I'd consider that a pretty efficient service. Get those urges quelled, at least momentarily, all in the time it'd take you to smoke a cigarette or fry an egg. Or call in your unemployment. And all in time for the commercial.

You see music downloaded by the tune, pizza ordered by the slice, why not porn by the stroke? And not unlike golf, the fewer strokes the better. Thus, a particularly hot porn video would be one you've never seen the end of. Hey, six minutes was all I needed..

The fact that you can charge your Six Minutes of Lust to your VISA card kinda takes this whole thing in some different directions, gives it kind of a fast-food tinge since it's Fast Sex: your own little "Happy Meal" as it were...I could see the two combined, food and sex in this way as far as packaging, but hopefully the cuisine side would be a bit higher on the (forgive me for this)food chain:

"Yes, I'd like the ribeye steak, medium-rare, Caesar salad and a blowjob(or muffdive- let's not forget the ladies here!)" The total dining experience. Definitely a full-service operation. You go home happy, having not only filled your belly but shot your wad.

And people who've just gotten laid, or just got their nut off in any event, are much less likely to commit any kind of violent crimes. They're pretty chilled usually, and would just as soon go home. So it seems that society as a whole would benefit from this unique hybrid service.

Yeah, right.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Smells like Competitive Spirit

A commercial for megavitamins. The character is getting ready for his morning run, clad in jogging suit w/ designer sneakers. Monitors pulse & blood pressure, while getting coffee ready, then heads out the door. The announcer's voice comes in here: "You've always been competitive..." "I've never been competitive", I reply, and reach for the remote to find a channel more compatible with my non-type-A "lifestyle"...

Just like there are certain foods and beverages that go down smoothly and others that upset your system, some ideas/ideologies are in their way nourishing and others toxic- or perhaps dyspeptic. The whole competitive mentality, of having to "win" all the time, is one which feels foreign to me, kinda gives me a psychic tummy-ache. If it were a sandwich, it'd soon be expelled from my body, through one orifice or another..

Don't get me wrong. Striving to be as good as you can at whatever it is you do, that is a most healthy thing. And of course you learn from those who've gone before you, hopefully build on what they've done, Exceed what they've done. But do it for love of the game, not just the self-aggrandizement of "being #1"- whether that game is golf or baseball or music or whatever. Feeling like you have to be #1 is so full of #2....

Anyway. Last night I watched part of an interview with Tiger Woods on 60 Minutes, and though he did talk about striving for excellence as well(he's about as excellent as it gets in his sport) he was telling Ed Bradley about his- competitive spirit: "If we were playing cards, I'd have to whip your butt!" Okay, this begs the question, which is really the heart of what I'm getting at here:

Why do you have to win ?

Again, it's GREAT to want to be good at something and to work toward that end. That's healthy. You may or may not reach your goals, but at least you'll get better at it than you were. But when getting good becomes a measure of your self-worth, it starts losing nutrients fast- and becomes downright unhealthy, something your refrigerator should rid itself of. That's when that 'I must win at all costs' psychosis emerges.

The problem is that we attach way too much to the results. Win or lose. Do or die. An appropriate cheer here would be the one used in "Meatballs", the summer-camp Bill Murray comedy where he plays a counselor getting his 'team' ready to compete agains another camp's counselors: It just doesn't matter! It just doesn't matter!

And it doesn't. Not really. Besides, there's always somebody out there who can kick your butt no matter how good you are. There's nothing wrong with competition as long as it's just in the spirit of the game. It's just when the ego gets in there, when it's a matter of Proving Oneself(and all that entails) , that it starts to stink.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

What's in a Name?

It really is an awesome responsibility naming someone(or should be at any rate!). They have to answer to it (live it, love it)their whole life- or at least until they're old enough to have it legally changed.(By the same token, they can get a perfectly acceptable name- like Bill or Fred or Sam , and upon reaching legal age, change it to something completely moronic like Trout Fishing in America or dotcomguy--sorta like giving your identity a tattoo, and a stoopid one at that!). Personally I've never had to name any creature with less than four legs, and even there usually gone with conservative 'Christian' names: my dog Lester, my cat Maxine, former cats Bob, Helen, George, Roberta, etc..

The various times during marriage when I thought Daddyhood was imminent we bandyed about some names. My choices were, so I thought, nice euphonious ones, as names go: Ethan for a boy, Lauren for a girl. They could live with those names, the kids who'd have to bear them. I mean, life is tough enough without some stoopid appellation you've gotta drag around. And no 'junior' either, at least not for me. Let him/her have their own name. If you don't, they're bound to either go by their middle name, or come up with a real doozy of their own anyway(something to make you want to have a different last name than theirs), so...

Actually your name is just a calling card to get you started in this world. It's given to you at birth, and then often taken away and replaced by what people end up calling you- which is usually some version of your actual name(their 'version' of you):thus, Robert can become Bob or Bobby or Rob or Robbie, or, in one case, "Bob-job"(though personally I'm not so sure he actually did what he was accused of having done to earn this dubious sobriquet..). Or even just stay Robert.

Or your "given" name(that is, given to you by others)may just be some handle-like Scrub, Bub, or Grub. Or another entirely different name. Like Bill. Well, that is, if your name isn't Bill of course. One of my Uncles, now 88 years old, has been called by a different name( as it turns out, Bill) for practically his entire life, only recently to be "re-claiming" his original monicker. Roland. That's cool. And way belated(well, my opinion).

In that sense, your name is the one thing of yours that decidedly isn't yours. It's someone else's interpretation, based on their particular misguided beliefs and prejudices. I mean, you can just acquiesce, as my Uncle did, just go along with the program-their program-or you can try and reclaim what's yours. It all depends on just how all fired important it all is to you.

Personally, I think if your name is something you can live with being called, it's one less damn thing to have to think about in life. Sorta like having your socks and underwear laid out in the morning. A calling card to be left at the door. As Frank Zappa said about his kids' unusual names(Dweezil, Moon Unit, Ahmet, Diva), and their probable effect on their lives: it's the last name that's going to get them in trouble!

If I am ever faced with the responsibility of naming a creature with less than 4 legs, I'll probably take a middle-of-the-road approach with fairly traditional names that also sound good. Names that won't embarrass either of us later. Again, one less thing to think about.

I suppose that's the middle-class solution, a correspondingly middle-o-de-road name. The more lax(and some downright unconscionable)decisions in naming seem to come from either the rich or the poor. Preppy or ghetto names. Maybe it's from having either so much or so little money it just doesn't matter. Who knows?

On the preppy side, naming a boy Smithton or Hillhouse would ensure that your son will become either very rich or very tough. And hopefully very sure of his masculinity. Then again, he'll probably go to prep school with other kids named Smithton and Hillhouse, so hopefully they'll all work that out amongst themselves.

Ghetto names often contain the same potential for embarrassment(and thus may also necessitate some boxing/martial arts proficiency on the part of the name's owner), but I find them infinitely more interesting, since they come from an ever-widening array of sources: household/Layaway items, Roman-sounding, Japanese and Japanese-sounding, Hispanic and different permutations thereof, to name a few. From which you get Clorox Miller(and her brother Quasar), Octavius Johnson, Toshiko Washington Carver, and Carlos Murphy.

Hmm, not unlike Zappa's kids, it's the last name that gets you in trouble...

Not real people here, at least not intentionally. No, those are more composite names. And besides the quasi-Spanish names from there: deCarlos, deMarcus(though I've never seen deJorge or dePepe)you've got the purely made-up stuff, pure ghetto etymology, often multiple kids from the same basic root: Shydecious, Shydasia, Shydocious..

Actually many of the made-up names work okay, sound just fine in themselves--the exception being the lady who brought her son into the Emergency Room at a local hospital, his name being pronounced "man-yuh-ray" and spelled m-a-n-u-r-e. (This is supposedly a true story). Other than that, they usually work. It's the mixed names, like Carlos Murphy, that don't really ring true to my ears. Diversity is a wonderful thing but you still wouldn't serve corned beef & cabbage in a taco shell.

Well okay, there's Carlos O'Kelly's. I dunno, never been there. Do they serve corned beef sandwiches in taco shells? The ghetto names may be fictional characters, but Scrub Bub & Grub(see earlier paragraph) are actually real individuals, all living in the same small town in the midwest. For all I know, they probably even all drink in the same--can't say it...

What's in a name, then? As much or as little as you'd like there to be. The whole world, or absolutely nothing!

Sunday, March 05, 2006

(talkin' 'bout)My Generation

"Today's kids: they dress like bums, they have no respect for their elders, and their music--it's just noise!!"

At least that's how it seems, every 20 years or so, when a new generation enters the scene. And it really should at that. Every generation should have something about them that pisses off or at least confuses the one before it, or they're not doing their jobs. That is to say, they should have something to say that's in some way a departure from what went on before them.

Getting older is really an insidious process. Just sneaks up on you and before you know it, you're 20 years older. Your hair, whatever's left of it, is at least one different color, and you(usually)have at least 20 more pounds around the middle. Then you meet a cute girl at work or wherever, and within 5 minutes of talking to her, find out you went to High School with her parents . And of course the conversation ends with her saying, "nice to meet you Mr Roundly".Yeesh...

Ah, the seasons of life! Middle age, which is where I'm at, is maybe the toughest phase. If you have kids, they're probably in their early 20's, which means you're probably still taking care of them to some extent; and if your parents are still alive, you're probably taking care of them too, via a Nursing Home or Retirement Center. It's when you have the most responsibility, getting it from both sides of the 'generation gap'. And you've probably been at your job long enough to be at least somewhat tired of it but not long enough to retire yet. So the only thing you can do is just hang in there..

But, as far as being a middle-aged musician, there are two plusses as I see it. The first is that whatever it is you do, you've done a hell of a lot of it in all this time. If you play, you've done a million gigs. If you teach, you've taught a cast of thousands. Been there, done both. As for me as well, as a composer, I've written an insane amount of music in the 40-some-odd years I've been a musician. That's a positive thing, having a large body of work, much of which actually works(save for a few turkeys in there..). Lots to work with as far as promoting and maybe getting played/recorded/like that. I've written more music than I'll probably get to hear.

The other is that it's cool to see a whole new crop of players coming up, some of whom turn out to be the offspring of folks you played gigs with back 20-some-odd years ago(though it's a little crazy, at least at first, when they're the spitting image of the parent you played gigs with 20 years ago-- the 'creepy' music starts playing in your head and you sense Rod Serling's presence just around the corner), or indeed your own offspring.

I remember being 15 years old and playing some of my first gigs, and having some of the older cats come by and offer their encouragement and how cool that was. And so, being on the other end of that fence now, I try and be as encouraging as I can toward those coming up. I'm glad to do it, and maybe just as glad I made it this far to be one of the 'old cats'..

Middle age sucks in some ways(well, actually all ages suck in their own way)but it is a unique perspective. If you choose to see it like that anyway. Still, where the hell did those last 20 years go?