Copyright

All blog posts, unless otherwise noted, are copyrighted to the Author (that's me) and may not be used without written permission.

Monday, June 28, 2004

Music

While I greatly enjoy alternative rock, Top 40, Heavy metal, and other genres, the music I always come back to is slow.

I like a wide range of slow music. From Tori Amos’ China to Marc Anthony’s You Sang To Me, Madonna’s Crazy For You and George Michael’s Father Figure to Alanis Morissette’s Mary Jane and Garbage’s Milk, and even power ballads like Guns and Roses’ November Rain. Old or new and across most genres, sad music speaks to me. I like slow music from the 50s through the 70s, from the 80s through today. There is something inherent in slow music that I respond to. I like the generally sad, lonesome themes and vulnerabilities that are expressed.

Another reason I enjoy slow music is that it requires better composition and singing than fast music. Slow music tends to show the imperfections in a singer’s voice and vocal range. It accentuates poor writing and musical composition.

People know a bad slow song the instant they hear it. It is very rare that a slow song is considered bad by only one group of people. Bad rhymes, poor vocal choices, a singer singing outside his or her ability or range, and poorly constructed music all conspire to show the faults of the song and highlight a bad singer.

For example, Madonna is not the greatest singer in the world. She does not have a great deal of range and her writing is often suspect. In her faster dance music she can get away with this because these songs are slickly produced and there are many tricks that may be used to hide the flaws. But in a slow song those tricks cannot be used and she is out there for all to see. Early in her career, she did the song Crazy For You for the movie Vision Quest. This is one of the all-time great slow songs. The song was perfect for her voice and the music was a great accompaniment to her vocals. It works.

On the other hand, Mariah Carey—arguably one of the best voices in recent years—has written some poor slow songs. Many of her more recent releases had odd lyrics, inappropriate uses of her seven octave voice (Mariah—just because you can hit seven octaves doesn’t mean you should or have to in every song!), and poor music to accompany her voice. And her last three albums have not done well as the audience can hear that and responds negatively to it.

Some singers and bands have a particular knack for hitting the right tone with slow songs and lose their audience when they move away from this. Boys to Men come to mind. Still others are known only for fast music and it takes a great, totally unexpected and vulnerable slow song to kick them to the next level. In recent years, Radiohead’s Creep and Green Day’s Time of Your Life come to mind.
The other main difference between most slow songs and most fast songs is the story they tell. Slow songs tend to tell a story and lead you somewhere, while fast songs can do this, they do not need to; fast songs are more about getting you moving and grooving and hooking you with a catchy refrain.

Harry Chapin’s Cats and the Cradle tells a moving story of a father and son and the gap in communication that they have and the regrets that form between them. The Goo Goo Dolls Iris sums up the entire plot of the movie City of Angels in one song, telling of the angel’s desire to become mortal for the love of a woman. Tori Amos’ China tells of the emotional distance between two people as their relationship is falling apart. John Lennon’s Imagine is a heartfelt wish for change for the entire planet.

Fast songs can tell a story. But for every Metallica Enter Sandman, Duran Duran Hungry Like the Wolf, and Eminem Lose Yourself, there are dozens and dozens of boy-band music, bad rap, and poor heavy metal.

Slow songs can often be redone for a new audience and hold up extremely well over time. Oasis’ Wonderwall, the song primarily that propelled them to stardom in America, was redone even slower in an acoustic version by Ryan Adams and is just as good. Many hits from the 70s and early 80s have recently been remade and have been hits again. One of the best examples is I Will Always Love You. This song had been a minor hit for many individuals. Then Whitney Houston did it for the movie The Bodyguard and it became an instant wedding classic.

Slow songs are always the music I fall back on. They are the soundtrack of my life, more than any other style or genre of music.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Friends

To paraphrase many much wiser philosophers: You can't pick your family-- that is an accident of birth-- and you can't pick who you love-- that is an accident of biology. The only people you get to choose are your friends.

I've got great friends. I have some friends who are incredibly unique in both thought and action. I have others who are ultra logical. Still others are incredibly emotional and giving people.

I am an egotistical cuss sometimes. I tend to think of myself as the sun in my own personal universe around which all my friends and family rotate. This is not necessarily a bad thing; I think EVERYONE is the sun in their own, personal universe. The key is to get those universes to overlap and get as many planets and moons orbiting in harmony as possible.

I have changed many of my friend's lives forever, for good or ill. I've had an affect on my friends. And boy have they affected me! Each has brought such a different and interesting perspective into my life that has made me a better person. Some have taught me to be more open with my thoughts and feelings. Others have shown me new ways to think or act. Still others have brought new ideologies into my life.

I have gay friends and straight friends. I have religious friends and atheistic friends. I have male friends and female friends. I have young friends and old friends. I have friends with whom I share little in common and friends with whom I share a great deal in common. I have distant friends and close friends. I have hard friends and easy friends. I have Republican friends and Liberal friends. Married friends, single friends, friends with children, and friends without children. I have friends who put up with my quirkiness and I have friends who I put up with their quirks. I have work friends and home friends and friends in-between.

And each and every one of these friends is important to me in a strange and wonderful way. I look forward to seeing them and I make an effort to stay in touch with them. I may not send birthday or Christmas cards or call once a month, but I do contact them when they pop into my head and I find out where they are and what they are doing. My friends ground me and keep me going at the same time.

I've got great friends.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Business and Bonuses

What business needs to remember is that relatively small bonuses, of any sort but I'm going to speak primarily about money, make a big difference to the grunts who work the trenches.

When the company does well, typically the top excecutives give themselves large bonuses, frequently equal to thousands or millions of dollars. Let's say that one of the top execs earns a $1 million bonus for a year. If you take that top excecutive's $1,000,000 bonus and instead give it to the, say, 700 people who made the company go, you could give each of those people an approximately $1400 bonus. For most of these workers, this will be somewhere between half and one full paycheck's amount. To these 700 people, this amount is a significant bonus and worth striving for, whereas for someone who already makes millions of dollars a year and has all the nonmonetary perks of being a top executive (stock options, golden parachutes, company car, etc.), the $1 million bonus is not nearly as significant. The same amount of money spread out among more people will help your company more and have a greater positive impact in the long run.

When I hear stories of Micheal Eisner getting a $20 million bonus in a year that Disney was actually down, I cringe. I think to myself, "I wonder how far that $20 million would have gone if that poor schmoe wearing the Pluto costume got $1000 for HIS hard work?" Of course, if it was truly a down year, then no one should have gotten a bonus, least of all one of $20 million.

Now, I'm not down on top executives by any means. They have generally worked hard and sacrificed much to be in those positions. But those positions come with the large salaries, the company perks, stock options, and the like. They are like the spark plugs of an engine-- without a spark, the engine just sits there. But you only need that spark occasionally; from then on, the pistons and valves do the majority of the work. Without the pistons and valves, that spark does nothing more than cause a fire; the pistons and valves translate that fire into usable energy by turning the driveshaft and making the car (the company) move. To continue my car analogy, getting gold-plated spark plugs is nice, and can improve your car's performance a little, but making sure the pistons are properly lubricated against friction can make the difference between your engine running or not. Think of solid, quality bonuses given to the grunts as the lubricating oil that keeps those pistons running smoothly and consequently makes the car move forward.

It is more true that the schmoe wearing the Pluto outfit does more for the Disney corporation on a day-to-day basis fulfilling the fantasies of the parents and children that show up at their theme parks than Michael Eisner did in his role as CEO of the corporation. Without a product and the people that build and sell that product, no CEO (or other top exec) has a job.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

A different look at spam

I don't know about you, but I'm just not sure of the quality of degree I would get from the online "collages" that offer "acredited" degrees via spam emails.

I'm also not sure I want my "penus" enlarged. I'm not sure what that is, but I'm fairly certain it's the size it should be.

Call me crazy.