Masterminding Our Own Business


My colleague and "accountabili-buddy," Wendy Lynn of local band SUNSPOT, and I find ourselves at the EVP Coffee Shoppe for Phase II of our weekly Wednesday Mastermind workshop. Phase I took place at Laredo's Mexican restaurant, fueled by huevos rancheros and Margaritas, and generating this motivational Quote of the Day: "The difference between self employment and unemployment is the degree of day drinking..."

Thus, to remain firmly in the self employed camp, we implemented Phase II in the Margarita free safe zone of EVP. Now powered by dark roasted coffee, we are hammering out that which we loosely call "product." In my case it's a crowd funding campaign to underwrite the all-you-can-eat pizza at my band GUPPY EFFECT's St. Patrick's Day Party on Friday March 18th, at the Bos Meadery. This requires a bit of communication with one Colleen Bos, owner and proprietor of said mead house, to iron out the details on the all-you-can-drink side of the equation.

EVP is playing the most excellent 70s funk music to push our motivation levels over the cliff. But look at me yammering on...back to it!

Ciao.

If Cheap Gas Prices Are Any Indicator, Obama Does Not Suck

I saw that gas was down to $1.69/gallon (an eight year low) as I drove to work yesterday in my Prius, which belched a cloud of "smug" as I did NOT stop to buy any.

Nonetheless, I still thought to myself: FUCK YEAH!

It wasn't because I like low gas prices, especially much. I (and most intelligent people) know cheap gasoline is a terrible thing for the environment, since cheap gas means more people burning fossil fuels in their cars and faster climate change. I don’t put a lot of miles on my Prius driving the 1.5 miles to work (when I don't walk or bike, producing even more "smug"), so the price of gas is neither here nor there to me. But I started thinking about this dip in fuel prices in bigger picture terms…always a bad idea, as far as my opponents are concerned.

My FUCK YEAH! was actually an exclamation of praise for President Obama. If lower gas prices have anything to do with who is the President,* maybe Obama isn’t as bad as some hateful people say (after all, Republicans loved blaming Obama for gas prices when they were high...). I see a lot of rants on the anti-social media from angry white people saying “President Obama sucks and he is destroying America.” Really? I’m not seeing it. Those kinds of claims sound like ideological right wing regurgitate to me, not based on any empirical observation using one's senses. I look around and I don’t see any signs of mass destruction beyond the usual levels of urban decay and infrastructure collapse that have been happening for 30+ years. When I think of a destroyed America, I think of roving bands of unemployed hoodlums (like the right wing nutbar ranchers out in Oregon), a complete breakdown of law and order, buildings and bridges collapsing (OK, you got me there...), flights grounded, banks closing their doors, empty ransacked grocery stores, zombies, and that sort of thing. That's destruction. I don’t see anything like that happening, and Obama has been at it for almost 8 years now.

What gives?

Lower gas prices are said (by economists, not me) to boost the economy by infusing it with more money (as people spend the dollars on other products instead). That means more jobs as companies hire people to meet consumer demand. When I look around, I see the stock market rocking pretty hard compared with the post-housing bubble crash of 2008. It’s down a bit in the first couple weeks of 2016, but it rocked for most of 2015. I know because I bought stocks during the aforementioned crash (buy low!) and they have doubled in value (100% yield) in the past 5 years, notwithstanding the recent dip. That's just a factual observation. Can I blame Obama for that? I can’t really say if lower gas prices help the economy, because I am not an economist, but I see that gas prices are low and the economy (for which my investment portfolio is a proxy) is doing well, so that’s all I can truthfully say. Is it cause and effect? No idea. Just observable reality. I have a decent job and the flexibility to leave it and be self employed if I want (which I will do in 2016). You probably have a job too, statistically speaking. And if you don’t, I’ll bet you get some decent social welfare benefits (thanks Obama for stopping the Republicans from ending those!). And if you don’t get welfare benefits then you probably didn’t try very hard (it’s so easy that I even agree with people who want to have more oversight on who gets benefits).


I didn’t vote for Obama in 2012 and I’m not especially fond of him as a President (extrajudicial drone strikes = not cool). But to the extent that America’s well being, as reflected in gas prices, is correlated with who is the President,* he seems to be an alright sort of fellow.

Now you can argue (as many do) that all these things have “nothing to do with who is the President,” and I’ll totally back you up on that if it is really what you want to say.* But be careful, because if you believe that to be true, then it really shouldn’t matter who you vote for to be President, because they will have little impact on the healthiness of the American economy and gas prices. You can’t have it both ways. Either who is President matters, in which case Obama is doing a pretty good job, or it doesn’t matter at all and you can vote for a giraffe in the next election if you want to.

Just sayin’.

* In fact, the President has very little to do with gas prices. See sources below.

SOURCES

1. Bobby Scott: Low gas prices are the result of Obama policies: http://www.politifact.com/virginia/statements/2015/jan/18/bobby-scott/bobby-scott-low-gas-prices-are-result-obama-polici/

2. Who Deserves Credit for Lower Prices at the Pump?: http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/01/doesnt-anyone-want-to-take-credit-for-low-gas-prices/384792/

3. Private Sector, Not Obama, Created Lower Gas Prices: http://dailysignal.com/2015/01/20/private-sector-not-obama-created-lower-gas-prices/

4. Obama on Low Gas Prices: "You're Welcome": http://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2015/02/06/obama_on_low_gas_prices_youre_welcome.html

Khloe Kardashian's Book on Fitness

My girlfriend Deborah is pretty awesome and super intelligent. That's why I have never been able to wrap my head around her more than passing interest in the Kardashian Dynasty of Dumb. I hear her words - that it's an interesting family history with a compelling backstory - but it doesn't hold water when I see Kardashians in the mainstream media parading their sexploits and anti-intellectualism all over the place. What a waste of all that supposedly interesting and compelling backstory! They could do so much more for society. Take the Kennedy family history, for instance. Now that's compelling stuff - all the drugs and sex and drama, without the dumb.

This morning Deborah was watching TV passively as she got ready for work, replaying a recent episode of the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon,* in which Khloe Kardashian was promoting a book she had just put out, purportedly on fitness and health. It's called, and I sh!t you not, "Strong Looks Better Naked," and apparently it's just as vapid and devoid of intellect or useful content as the name suggests. On principle, I can't read and review a screed like this myself. If someone gave me a complimentary copy, I might read a couple of pages, but I am quite certain that reading more than that would actually begin to decrease my IQ significantly.

Instead, I looked at the reader reviews on Amazon.** They pretty much confirmed my assessment. With the exception of some rave reviews, no doubt posted by Khloe's publicity team and an obsessed fan or two, it got severely panned, receiving only one or two stars from most reviewers. Some even commented that if Amazon allowed zero star ratings, that is what they would have given, though it begs the question, why did they buy the book in the first place?

Apparently, it's basically a book about how much Khloe loves herself (there is a fine line between self worth and narcissism) and the gym. She tells readers what a few of her favorite exercises are with a few titillating pictures thrown in for good measure. There is no collaboration or consultation with fitness experts of any kind. Apparently, being a Kardashian qualifies you as an expert in several fields of study. In summary, the thesis of the book appears to be that if you do what Khloe Kardashian does at the gym, you'll basically be Khloe Kardashian. Did they need a whole book for this? Weak sauce.

This is the kind of book you find 12 of at the thrift store a few weeks after publication.

I want to assure everyone, I am not just a hater on the Kardashians. I am truly concerned for America's future when a family of prostitutes (in the general Salinger-esque sense of selling out to commercialism, not the occupational sense of trading sex acts for money, although it is another fine line...) can garner so much popularity in American culture. But that isn't the Kardashians' fault...it is America's. I actually kind of admire the Kardashian Klan for taking sexploitation and the dumbing down of America to a whole new profitable height (I'm even willing to insert a thumbnail of Kim Kardashian showing off her cleavage to show that I am hip to the sexploits too). The Kardashians have cornered the market on sexualized anti-intellectualism in America and more power to 'em. There is clearly a market for it. To be perfectly honest with you, I'd actually probably buy (at a discount) and read a book about the Kardashian family and its "compelling" history, as long as it were written by an objective and independent third party. I don't think such a book can be written though (it hasn't yet), because the Kardashians keep a tight lid on things and controlling the mainstream media coverage of themselves plays a large role in their success. Plus any writer brave enough to enter their sphere would be risking significant loss of brain power and critical thinking ability. That being said, I would totally volunteer to author this book, if I were granted full access and autonomy. I'm guessing that's an invitation I shan't be receiving, but the challenge has been put forth.

I suppose someone had to fill the American anti-intellectualism market niche with something, since the square peg of cultural values would not fit into that round hole of Kardashian Kulture (Kartrashian is a meme I saw and thought appropos). Better it should be the Kardashians filling it with boobs and brothels and bad boys. It's just depressing to watch America's collective intelligence slowly spiral into that shallow sinkhole of dumb.

*Jimmy Fallon is another person I highly respect for his intellect and talent, especially his musical abilities and his rock star impersonations. It's demoralizing when I see him having to entertain ridiculousness, such as any Kardashian, on his show. I know it's part of the job and he has to "follow the money," but it is hard to watch nonetheless. When he had Khloe Kardashian on, they did a spot where they played charades. Kardashian's utter failure at this was cringe worthy, albeit entertaining.

**Yes, dear readers, I am fully aware of the irony that I actually devoted some time and effort to a Kardashian meme. They win!

Open

The jam that happens every week on Sunday at Funks Pub in Fitchburg WI is an "open" jam. What that means is that it is basically open to anything that is musical and somewhat jammy. The definition of "jammy" is very flexible and in the case of this jam, it is pretty much synonymous with musical. It is open to solo acoustic musicians or full bands of just about any size or guest musicians performing with the house band MUDROOM. It's very OPEN to interpretation. I would say a classical chamber music quartet would be just as welcome as a traditional blues band. More so, in my personal opinion, since I hate the blues. Lately I have also started really disliking folk music, which is ironic, because that is what is oft on public radio on Sunday nights as I am driving over to Funks Pub for the jam. It used to be tolerable, but now it's unacceptable.