Monday, March 30, 2009

Mosaic... Technological Wonderment

My friend Lilia tagged me in her version of this on Facebook tonight. I rarely do the things like this that people tag me on, but this one was so interesting I had to do it... It makes me want to do another one.

But it also got me thinking about the chain of people all doing different jobs that it would take to even make something as "simple" as this 9-image mosaic representing my life possible.

Lilia to show it to me, people to show it to her, people to create & maintain Flickr, people to create & maintain "Big Huge Labs", people who host it, people on flickr to post images, people to pass along the images to the posters, people to take the pictures, people to make cameras & computers... Even without going back any farther than the beginning of R&D for the mosaic creation software, we're talking 1000s upon 1000s of people. Possibly hundreds of thousands.


Technology is just damn cool... This is phenomenal...

* * * * *

a. Type your answer to each of the questions below into Flickr Search (
b. Using ONLY the first page, pick an image.
c. Copy and paste each of the URLs for the images into Mosaic Maker. Change rows to 3 and columns to 3 (
d. Save the image and post it on this note!
e. If you're tagged, pass it on. And tag me. :)

The Questions:
1. What is your first name?
2. What is your favorite food?
3. What is your favorite color?
4. Favorite drink?
5. Dream vacation?
6. Favorite hobby?
7. What you want to be when you grow up?
8. What do you love most in life?
9. One word to describe you?

Sunday, March 29, 2009

S-S-S-Something from the Comments & The State of Music Biz!

The other day on Reason Magazine's "Hit & Run" Blog, a quick commentary blurb was run about an "article" by John Mellencamp (new addition to the Huffington Post's growing list of "reporters" apparently) on what he felt was the state of the music industry, and the rebuttal to it Bob Lefsetz.

I sometimes involve myself in discussions on the comments section at Reason, no surprise there, but this one - about the music industry was special since in a rare instance I am using the expertise I was actually formally trained to have in my discussions!

Mellencamp basically takes the position that the music industry is in decline and that the fault is to a large extent, the "corporatization" of music - but more than that, he inexplicably seems to blame various technological advancements on data collection such as employed by SoundScan. Mellencamp also blames Ronald Reagan... but... umm... ok.

Lebsetz calls this "hogwash" and commits an article to the silliness of Mellencamp's position on improved statistics (noting that the alternative was pay-to-play and the number of "spins" any record was recorded as getting was highly biased and unreliable and not actually indicative of popularity at all!) and sort of takes him to task for sounding much like a crotchety old man pining for the "old days" when he was in a business where the music audiences can listen to was dominated by monolithic major labels.

Most people who participated in the discussion over at seem to agree fully with Lebsetz that Mellencamp is just being a whiny crank who is upset because the internet has meant that his lavish rock'n'roll lifestyle is giving way to a more democratized music industry and that the stranglehold major labels have had on consumers in terms of content is crumbling. But the discussion really turned towards the role of technology and the present/future state of the music industry.

One guy (claimed to be a musician) was feeling overwhelmed by the changes wrought by the internet and technological revolutions... I won't go into all the things he said - he's mostly a good guy worried about the industry and what he perceives of as a decline in quality.

But I did want to share my response to him and get the reactions of all of my various musician friends on the topic at large:

My response:

"Dude... are you kidding?

(Quote from other poster)"The major labels may be hurting due to digital downloads, but at the same time they still have more or less a monopoly over radio and MTV and are still automatically granted access to almost every publication, either print or on the internet While the internet has wounded the major labels financially, I don't think it has actually diminished their monopoly power significantly. In many ways it has strengthened it. Ringtones and blanket internet promotions have just been new ways to market their shitty products. Now gentrified, crappy indie rock is in every commercial and played in every clothing store. Is this a good thing? For the bands commercially maybe, but for the state of underground art...?"


"Today, unless you sell out, you are largely seen as unworthy of the attention of either the mainstream or the indie tastemakers."

(me again...)

Man, I think it's possible you simply aren't using the internet properly. It's also possible that your consideration of the "music industry" is narrowly focused to only those looking to break into the national scene in the genre you define as "indie rock".

You're missing the forest for the blades of grass at the root of the trees my friend.

MySpace has been a wasteland for 5 years. I haven't updated my own myspace page in at least 3... And I've not suffered a whit for it. Who gives a shit about MySpace anymore? If you do, you're behind the times dude!

At any rate, I haven't encountered all that many people I've ever felt were "selling out". Perhaps this is because I have a graduate degree in music composition from a fancy ivy league school and half of my composer friends are in Film & Pop music and the other half are doing esoteric tributes to Karlheinz Stockhausen - very few, possibly none, of them seem to be doing what they're doing for any other reason than that it's what they want to do. If selling out is trying to create art with an audience's appreciation as a central concern - and wanting to make a living out of it (as opposed to working at McDonald's and toiling away with your free-jam reggae rock collective on weekends), then I'm the biggest sell-out there is.

But here's the mystery... I like what I do, and I thought the point of selling out was that you were doing things you *didn't* want to do for money? :P

Anyway - here's some suggestions on better internet usage:


Oh, and quit reading Rolling Stone, quit watching MTV, and immediately feel better about the state of music in the world."

I honestly see the current state of music around the world as one of the most robust and best times for art that has ever existed in history. The downside of course, is that with sooo many people creating art in their basements, there is way more out there than ever before, and most of it isn't very good. And of the music that is good, I (as always) don't like all that much of it.

But that's really no different than it's ever been! The only difference as I see it, is that whereas 20 years ago, you and I would have never encountered the worst of it because it would have never made it out of William Hung's basement, but today, it's plastered all over YouTube.

It's also meant, that sometimes it really does suck having to "compete" with the billions of people on myspace and craigslist and all the other places looking for professional work. This is a problem I face all the time, as I'm sure most of my friends do as well. It's a problem on both ends too - as a producer or recently when I've tried to start bands, you get inundated with horrible performers masquerading as musicians, and as a composer looking for paid work, you wind up being just one more website in a sea of crap sometimes.

But that doesn't change the fact that on the whole, more people are able to share their art with the entire world than ever before, and that more people can develop specific tastes and find exactly what they most enjoy. Nor does it change the fact that in the high levels of the music industry - nepotism and payola can still get you a record deal.

Perhaps the problem most people have in recognizing this is that they still believe the economic fallacy that technology is harmful to a society and that economics is a zero-sum game. When more choices become available, that doesn't take away from what was there before, but merely adds to the richness of culture.

But hey, enough about me - What do you all think? Comment away!!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Deliberately Misplacing Blame

Let’s play a game. I have a not-so-famous quotation to share with you, then you guess who said it…
“We might have done nothing. That would have been utter ruin. Instead we met the situation with proposals to private business and to Congress of the most gigantic program of economic defense and counterattack ever evolved in the history of the Republic.”
I’ll give you a hint; it was spoken by a sitting US president. Not quite enough? How about multiple-choice… Was the speaker;
  • A. Current president, Barack Obama
  • B. Overseer of the 1st round, $700 Billion bailout, George W. Bush
  • C. New Deal designer, Franklin Delano Roosevelt
  • D. "Hands-off", Free-market supporter Herbert Hoover
Ponder that for a minute or two, and we’ll come back to the answer later on…

Geesh! Free-market, laissez-faire, Capitalism sure has been taking a beating in the press lately. The official story seems to be that everyone knows the financial crisis represents a failure of the capitalist system, and now only a “gigantic program of economic defense” will save us.

I suppose that would make plenty of sense, if only the niggling little details we’re being told day-in and day-out were actually true…

It’s rather amazing the lengths to which many of the people chronicling the economic crisis are willing to stretch reality in order to ascribe blame to those they wish to be responsible, all-the-while ignoring those who actually were. One depressingly common tactic, seemingly en vogue at the moment, is to falsely claim that a person held certain beliefs in order to denigrate the person by association. Examples abound, but the case du jour is Thom Hartmann’s traducement of laissez-faire’s “intellectual roots” in the Huffington Post:
"The intellectual forefathers and mothers of the insane conservative economic policies that have brought us to where we are include Ludwig Von Mises, Friedrich Von Hayeck [sic], Milton Friedman, Alan Greenspan, Tom Freidman [sic], Robert Rubin, Larry Summers, and Ayn Rand."
Hartmann will likely get away with this slap-dash conflation of (misspelled) names, simply because the people he impugns are mostly dead and relatively unknown to the average reader. Hartmann isn’t alone either; it seems almost daily we read another set of distortions, myths & outright lies trotted out by similarly minded writers.

The reality, quite unfortunately for Mr. Hartmann and friends, is that his claim is built on a wobbly foundation of misinformation. Why?

Well for starters because Mises, Hayek, Milton Friedman and Ayn Rand have not a whit to do with Robert Rubin, Tom Friedman, or Larry Summers and next to nothing to do with Alan Greenspan.

Without delving too heavily into the differences between the Austrian (Mises, Hayek, Rand) and the Chicago (Friedman) schools of economics, these names can at least be mentioned together as prominnt supporters of economic liberty… But to even mention them in conjunction with the other four names is simply bizarre!

Of course, without attaching the former set to the latter, Hartmann’s attempt at besmirching the free-market fails spectacularly, as London School economists Rubin and Summers, journalist Tom Friedman and ex-Federal Reserve Chairman Greenspan aren’t free-marketers at all, yet were the only ones who were in anyway responsible for policy decisions over the last 30 years.

Mises and Hayek in particular, Friedman to a large degree, and Ayn Rand (with characteristically vitriolic passion) opposed the Federal Reserve and central banking system on which the US economy is now based. They also all opposed subsidies, tariffs, protectionist legislation, and would have been positively mortified by the bailouts. Each advocated strong penalties and policing against fraud (in fact, all four argued that the only legitimate purpose of government was defense against the initiation of force –protection of natural rights, including life, liberty & property). So yes, it’s no secret they advocated a laissez-faire system, but to suggest that laissez-faire has anything at all to do with the economic policies of the last 30 years – or the past 100 – is asinine.

So exactly how Thom Hartmann and the dozens of others currently attempting a posthumous defamation of the supporters of economic liberty manage to view them as proponents of the corporatist status quo is simply mind-boggling.

Another attempt at deriving guilt-by-association involves pointing to Alan Greenspan as a “disciple” of Ayn Rand and concluding that therefore her free-market ideology drove all of his decisions as Federal Reserve Chairman… Ergo, Ayn Rand’s Objectivism is responsible for the financial meltdown! Right?

Well… No. Aside from the fact that that’s a breathtakingly far-reaching proposition to begin with, it’s also pretty idiotic if you take into account the second half of the story...

Greenspan, you see, was a close friend of Ayn Rand – until he did the very thing she most despised. That is to say, until he became a central economic planner… Something antithetical to the very core of Rand’s views on economics. When Greenspan had become an agent of government intervention into the economy, Rand initially thought he would be her "man in Washington", but over time it certainly became apparent to her and her intellectual heirs that whatever influence Rand had on Greenspan as a younger man, he rejected her views on economics over 40 years ago.

Fallacy after fallacy and ignorance upon ignorance seems to pervade the chattering classes at the moment. Few of them seem even to manage to check Wikipedia… the laziest form of research. Perhaps they’re busy?

The truly astounding part is that people like Hartmann and the scores of others currently trying so desperately to blame the “free-market” for this crisis talk out of both sides of their mouths. They know we don’t have a free market! How could they not, when they’re also trying to blame Summers, Rubin and especially Greenspan – the very planners of the current economy!?

Central economic planning and laissez-faire Capitalism are completely incompatible concepts... By definition!

 Part of the problem, I think, lies in people’s one-sided misunderstanding of the nature of free-markets and wrongly assuming that it is the equivalent to corporatism (what some in the media unfortunately like to call “crony capitalism”), where government colludes with businesses and provides special benefits, tax provisions, and looks the other way on accounting fraud and other crimes. From there, the further assumption is that people like Milton Friedman were just shilling for large corporations, idolizing businessmen and glorifying “greed”, and thus would have approved of the bailouts and special handouts for the fat-cat bankers. But corporatism is no more free-market oriented than communism is – and all four of the supposed villains knew it!

While I suppose I can understand the confusion to an extent, this misunderstanding has resulted in the common narrative being so wildly inaccurate it’s getting hard to stomach.

Sadly, it’s all indicative of a bigger problem. The narrative itself is being shaped before our very eyes. Over time, it will come to be generally accepted as historical “fact”. Our children will learn the stories of the financial collapse of 2008, and everything they will be told about its causes, the philosophical roots, the main players, it’s prolonging, and even the reasons for the next 20 years of (inevitable) inflation will be lies. The fact that it was the Austrians – the heirs of Mises & Hayek – like Peter Schiff who publicly predicted the collapse (and were ridiculed for it) will largely get swept under the rug. That is, unless those of us who are actually interested in truth and liberty stand up right now and come together to defend it.

Oh, and the answer was D – President Herbert Hoover, during his acceptance speech for the Republican Party nomination in 1932.

So how could the man who created “the most gigantic program of economic defense and counterattack ever evolved in the history of the Republic” during the first few years of the Great Depression also have been a hands-off laissez-faire advocate?

Easy. He wasn’t.

Monday, March 9, 2009

I really wish politicians would just be honest about who they are...

(not me...)

Obama: I Am Not a Socialist, Because Bush Expanded Medicare!

Posted on March 9, 2009, 2:46pm | Matt Welch (Reason, Hit & Run blog)

President Obama was asked by New York Times reporters last week, "Are you a socialist as some people have suggested?" His first answer:
"You know, let's take a look at the budget – the answer would be no."
The Times followed up, hilariously:
"Is there anything wrong with saying, 'Yes'?"
According to the Washington Times, Obama responded like so:
"Let's just take a look at what we've done," Obama said, ticking off efforts his administration has made to stabilize the economy. But he acknowledged that, as he told Joe the Plumber, he plans to try to spread the wealth around.

"If you look on the revenue side what we're proposing, what we're looking at is essentially to go back to the tax rates that existed during the 1990s when, as I recall, rich people were doing very well. In fact everybody was doing very well.... We said that we'd give a tax cut to 95 percent of working Americans. That's exactly what we have done."
Unhappy with this garbled response, the president later called back reporters to clarify. What he said, I think, is telling:
"I did think it might be useful to point out that it wasn't under me that we started buying a bunch of shares of banks. It wasn't on my watch. And it wasn't on my watch that we passed a massive new entitlement -– the prescription drug plan -- without a source of funding. And so I think it's important just to note when you start hearing folks throw these words around that we've actually been operating in a way that has been entirely consistent with free-market principles and that some of the same folks who are throwing the word 'socialist' around can't say the same." [...]

Well, I just think it's clear by the time we got here, there already had been an enormous infusion of taxpayer money into the financial system. And the thing I constantly try to emphasize to people if that coming in, the market was doing fine, nobody would be happier than me to stay out of it. I have more than enough to do without having to worry the financial system. The fact that we've had to take these extraordinary measures and intervene is not an indication of my ideological preference, but an indication of the degree to which lax regulation and extravagant risk taking has precipitated a crisis.
Obama will get no argument from me when it comes to Bush's disaster socialism. But this new he-did-it-too argument does run counter to another, Hendrik Hertzberg-applauded narrative that Obama has been running with since before inauguration: That his administration's economic policies represents a sharp break from the policies of his predecessor. As people like Washington Post columnist Robert J. Samuelson have begun to point out, Obama is running high on the contradiction-meter.

* * * * *

(me again)

Just to clarify here... Obama first blames Bush for *expanding* the government and deficit spending - a perfectly valid, and rather important criticism. Then he says that because of those policies, he has essentially no choice but to do the same thing.

Of course he also throws in the "lax regulation" bogeyman.

The truth on that is already sort of coming out to a degree though - At least Wiki has already figured it out and been established with credible sources (not that it's hard to find since at least the US government publishes that kind of data publicly and is easily accessible...)

I think a lot of people I know would have a really hard time squaring this:

Economic regulation expanded rapidly during the Bush administration. President Bush is quoted as the biggest regulator since President Nixon.[6] Bush administration increased the number of new pages in the Federal Registry, a proxy for economic regulation, from 64,438 new pages in 2001 to 78,090 in new pages in 2007, a record amount of regulation.[6] Economically significant regulations, defined as regulations which cost more than $100 million a year, increased by 70%.[6]

Spending on regulation increased by 62% from $26.4 billion to $42.7 billion.[6] Whereas President Clinton cut the federal government's regulatory staff, President Bush expanded it by 91,196 workers between 2001 and 2007.[6]"
...with their endless regurgitating of "deregulation" as the primary cause for the financial melt down.

Of course... the easy rationalization is to say "well, sure maybe Bush did expand regulation, but he did it the wrong way! Obama will regulate correctly!"

To which I say: WAKE UP!