I’m Offended #3

Rampant Half-ass

Okay, I’m used to it in Indie author/publishing. But in essence all of the rampant half-assed-ness comes down to the old joke about the person who showed up at the stage door and said they could play the violin. Yeah? How long have you been you playing? Well, I haven’t, but it looks easy, right? And I wasn’t doing anything else tonight.

Cross that over to writing. I’ve read a few books. I’ll kick out a novel. No one is watching over my shoulder. It looks like writing. I got an ISBN number. I’m a writer!

But – YouTube? That’s presentation time. Particularly live streaming. I have mentioned being in many facets of the music biz. If I were six times better than most of what I see on YouTube I’d never have made it to the parking lot, much less in the front door. Do none of these people know what they’re going to so or say or demonstrate next?

There’s an Englishman, (TheSoundTestRoom, 54.7k subscribers) I’m sure he’s the nicest guy, and he runs a popular iOS music demo/review site. He doesn’t even spend the first five minutes begging you to like and subscribe. But he wastes far more time than that bumblefucking around. “Well, here’s this, no, there it is, no…” and he bounces from screen to screen, often the same screen that’s not the right one 5, 6, 10 times before he gets to where he’s going. I can do that and get it figured. I’m looking for the quickie how to/here it is. The same with sound demos. Play something identifiable or useful and move on. Hint – don’t play piano licks on a pedal steel guitar. I’m sure Doug is doing a service for a lot of people, but he drives me fucking crazy. Have a plan. Don’t drag us around while you figure it out. And like the “writer” pages, people fawn all over that half-assed stuff. Example – I mean he couldn’t answer a direct question in the comments about iPhone 10/MIDI/audio with the appropriate answer(s) when, hey, he could’ve fucking Googled before he said something stupid. And expensive. But no. You need a $100 plus audio interface and… It’ an epidemic. I had a plumber tell me I needed to pay $1,200 for a $30 valve that was “mandatory” until the city inspector said “Bullshit”. There’s more than enough bullshit out there. If you can’t answer from the bottom up, don’t.

Even Jakob Haq, (Haq attaQ, 38.6k subscribers) whose videos I generally appreciate, and it’s obvious he knows his iOS stuff, still ends up staying in the shallow end of the pool sometimes and being a “personality”. Both he and the SoundTestRoom do what they do and if it gets tricky or is outside their domain with (usually) MIDI (which has been around for almost 40 years) they duck. They try to be clever. “Ah, ya don’t need it. It sounds wonderful by itself” and just like everybody else. Plus, there’s a plethora of chubby guys with beards, and chicks with tattoos or Pre-Raphaelite hair or both, and erudite pontificators doing the same wanking hither and yon and begging for likes and subscribers.

The only one who seems to know his stuff deeper than the superficial and can edit out his clams is Nutrix the Synth Guy (15.9k subscribers). And he’s difficult to understand. But when no one could make sense of the SE02 Sequencer, he nailed it. It was slow, and glitch edited, but he got it. Which was appreciated because Roland’s manual sucked, even after the firmware/documentation update. It should be said Nutrix is a teacher at a brick-and-mortar music school.

Aside. I was one of the three people responsible for sales (and etc) at Sequential Circuits. It was one of the synths of the late 70s and 80s. And is now a reborn high-end specialty. Here’s a fact. Over 98% of the Prophets we got back for any kind of service still had the factory patches in them. What does that tell you about “creativity”?

Why is this half-assed-ness acceptable? If I’d shown up at a trade show or clinic and couldn’t make the stuff kiss my ass, didn’t have a program, couldn’t stop, change hats and switch gears in an instant based on the crowd and answer the questions from a piano teacher in Monroe, Louisiana to Herbie Hancock to the pocket protector people (that had nothing to do with music) I’d been fired. Actually, I’d never have gotten hired. But some of these cats, who are at best hacks (no offense, Jakob) have coffee mugs and t-shirts and keep time with their hands like DJs, or if they’re cute and do full on personality videos they wiggle dance or groove some. They don’t explain or teach shit, but there they are. Talking heads. Marketing spokespersons. “Hit the like button and subscribe and I’ll get some more free shit to not explain very well.”

Not half-assed – The other day I landed on a music theory site. The guy has 1.56 Million followers.

WHOA. 1.56 Million

He’s knowledgeable. And clever. And makes sense. I made a comment on one of his posts. That comment got 145,000 likes/thumbs up. One comment. One post. But what I like most about the guy is his “Oh, for fuck’s sake” attitude about elitism or “Stump. The Band”. Example – Someone sent in a question about how to voice an idiotic chord. It was stupid on its face, Gbmin7 with added #13 and b9. “You wouldn’t normally want to do this,” (demo) “because it just sounds bad. Unless that’s what you’re after.” Plus, it violated the syntax of chord notation. (Kinda like writing, huh? Syntax is voice.) After this, the host took the time to point out that regardless of what the circle of fifths we memorized tells us, Gbm7, and all its associated flats, is really F#m7 and suddenly we’re back in the land of the sane. I don’t know many people who think in Cb when B will do. And the most amazing thing he said, and shows his attitude and probably why 1.56 Million musicians have found his site, was this (after being asked for advice by someone starting music school) –

“…(do) not let the information you’re given dictate the way you feel music should be made. You’re going to learn (chords, scales blah blah blah) but there is a danger of losing track of what it is you want to do with music. Don’t lose sight of what keeps you excited.”

Now, this entire rant makes sense if you think cross curriculum. That riff above reads like Elmore Leonard on writing. “I can’t allow what we learned in English composition to disrupt the sound and rhythm of the narrative. It’s my attempt to remain invisible, not distract the reader from the story with obvious writing.” Duh. Write a melody, don’t run scales. I relate writing to music. Others relate it to accounting or programming or Friday night drinking in a bar. An understanding of music (nor the others) is necessary. Understanding how to use and abuse the rules of craft is mandatory. (At least I think so).

Point – there are way too many of those “tonight’s the night” violinists out there. Everywhere from writing to music to dryer repair.

If only I were young and scrawny. I’d have coffee mugs and T-shirts. The question would be, would anybody give a shit if it’s better than half-assed? From what I can tell? Maybe. Because unfortunately Kurt Vonnegut nailed it with this gem –

“If you can do a half-assed job of anything, you are a one-eyed man in a kingdom of the blind.”

How fucking sad a commentary is that?

Published by

Phil Huston


20 thoughts on “I’m Offended #3”

  1. Hi. I’m trying to catch up on your work. You’ve been mighty prolific. I hope someday you share the scenes in order. As you know, I can’t remember things I read, and usually I have to flip back and forth incessantly and draw family trees and such. I wish I could be more specific in my comments but my main mode of reading is going along for the ride and enjoying in the moment. So I will say that I like how you show characterization and movement through dialogue. Lord knows I hate when all characters sound like the narrator. I think the spare style suits you well, although sometimes a little description is good for taking a breather. Otherwise, am happy to see you busy with it.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I can barely keep up with the characters. I think the fill in stuff is valid, and widens the story, but unfortunately that doesn’t come along with the people except for some leading “tells” like Jim, thinking this guy with his red, rubber soled Beatle boots, street bullshit and big chrome gun needed to end up face down in La Brea with broom handle up his ass. And character traits to make some of them stand out.
      I also dislike beige syntax. Lots of authors cover that up writing a ton of description around everyone sounds the same dialogue.
      And thanks!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Music? Don’t listen to music much anymore. Do people still make that stuff? Is that like the resurgence of vinyl and the cliketyclackity cassette tap? Nazareth 8-track tape on foreverloop.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Neuroscience suggests that music is most important between the ages 12 to 22. Music that is absorbed during those years is wired into your brain. Science behind the “why can I remember the words to a fifty year old song but don’t know why I’m standing in the kitchen.” For me it’s weirder because I programmed and promoted the machines that made that wall of sound 80s and 90s music but have no idea what those songs made by mostly androgynous euros were. I understand how modern “music” is made but it’s rare for something to get my attention.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Writing, as with the music industry, is a possible get-rich-quick pastime. Millions jumped on the writing bandwagon as soon as KDP came out. Equally, millions of teens will join bands with the hope of becoming famous. It’s the half-open door to fame and fortune which brings out the half-assed in search of it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I only go for information. Which is almost impossible. Not that I’m a cheapskate but I can handle most appliance repairs without spending what it would cost to replace the whole thing. It used to be you could go to the parts store, give them your model number, and get a part. Now they send you to Amazon or YouTube! Or before I spend $x on software I want to see it work, or in some cases hear it. Software isn’t nearly as expensive as hardware, but in musical terms, even in a major market it’s unlikely for any retailer to have full representation of stuff that sells in the $3,500+ range. So it’s YouTube. Then you ferret out who can demo it properly. Since 2006 when most of us who did that at the corporate level got kicked to the curb, the demo/clinician field is spare. Roland still has a few guys. Some of the niche people send out kids that are the same kids who design the stuff and it’s one of those “kids these days” things. There is no breadth to the demo. Here’s some Berlin glitch, the demo person’s shtick. I’d be embarrassed to list all the gear I’ve tried and sold because nobody could answer my questions, so I had to put my hands on it to figure out “Oh. It doesn’t do that? For $xxx?” You know that’s sad. And those manufacturers wonder why they can’t hit acceptable numbers. And I am neither young, have half my head shaved or wear nail polish. That’s not a criticism because it would make me a hypocrite of the greatest magnitude. Kids just don’t want to buy stuff or listen to their grandfather explain something. They want someone they can relate to, even if their depth of field is shallow. I was one once. But, unlike even my peers at the time I made a nuisance of myself and hung out with repair geezers and old musicians and called the factories and read books. Like Eddie Van Halen said in an interview We didn’t have the internet to show us how to wire a guitar so we had to go Frankenstein.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Yes. People who can actually fix stuff are rare, Frightening, but I own tools I know how to use. I met the plumber at my daughter’s house, there on the annual “free” inspection that’s part of her Heat/AC plan. He quoted $400 to replace a shower valve. I said “not today.” I can replace that valve for $12 and a trip to Home Depot.Sheesh.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. You make an excellent point, my friend. It seems the personality is all that matters to most accounts. They don’t have to be an authority on a subject, but they have to be likable.

    When it comes to your references to learning music in school, not losing sight of what you love — that’s exactly how I felt about my writing classes. I had to adjust my style to suit whatever the professor wanted from me — even if it wasn’t my thing. I did lose sight of what words meant to me for a time, but I’m glad I found them again in my way.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Learning to write to an audience like that (I fully understand) is good for learning technique and lousy for your heart. Once you find your own voice all that drudgery work makes it much easier to get it out, though.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Or just post enough bunk about (music, poetry, reviews) and talk a lot about nothing out loud. Nobody pays much attention to the written word, good bad or indifferent. The old marketing analogy was you can sell 400 of anything, even if it was subterranean niche. When I did clinics and they’d introduce me as an “expert” I’d ask the room if they knew what an expert was. Nobody knew. I told them that it was anybody at least 50 miles from home. Which explains YouTube experts!

      Liked by 1 person

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