Thursday, September 11, 2014

"Like A Fish Needs A Bicycle . . ."

What is it with Mondays?  Just can't seem to get my posts in on time for my legions of fans to kick their weeks off right.  Seems that social obligations keep cropping up on Sunday nights.  At least, I was doing something useful this past Sunday evening when I should have been blogging.  Biking through downtown to meet a friend I made during my Arizona adventure, I came across this:


Not, exactly, sure why, but this windshield art really threw me for a loop.  Didn't quite know what to make of it -- equal parts amused and appalled.  It was as if my Northeast sensibilities were internally battling with my late acquired So-Cal "whatever"-ness for control of my immortal soul:

Northeast self:  "What kind of knuckle-head shells out good money to adorn their windshield with mindless profanity?"

So-Cal self:  "But, isn't this what California is all about?  Informality combined with a rejection of east coast mores and classist social constraints --

Northeast self:  "There is a line, though, between good-natured informality and pure vulgarity.  Do we really want little kids to see this coming down the street?

So-Cal:  "But, look closer!  This dude (must be a dude) has not one, but two sets of rosaries hanging above the dash along with Cartman!  Brilliant!  The self-contradictions, piety, irreverence, and exhibitionism are pure Cali, dude!  F*ck yeah!"

And so it goes on and on in my brain (and probably will forever as this reformed New Yorker settles deeper and deeper into California culture) . . .

So, there was that.

Then, yesterday, completely out of the blue, U2 (the best band to ever grace God's green earth) went and changed the world as we know it.  Unless you've been hiding under a rock somewhere, you should surely know that, unannounced, Bono, the Edge, Larry, and Adam suddenly decided to make their new album (the first in five years) available to the entire world for free.  No kidding -- the biggest band in the world and one of the greatest commercial successes ever, decided to forego the millions they could make (even with pirating) from selling their music by just giving it away instead.  If you have an iTunes account, the album is waiting there, in your "purchased" items for you to download.  Best of all, the album is awesome!  (Don't just take my word for it, check out this glowing review from the New York Times).  With a direct homage to The Ramones, hints of The Clash, and perfectionistic studio engineering reminiscent of the Beatles at the height of their powers, this FREE album provides an incredible shot in the arm to 21st Century Rock & Roll.   Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Why'd they do it?  Not sure, but my #1 guess would simply be because they can.  They don't need the revenue from music sales, and are sure to make a ton anyway when they tour.  The timing also seems very interesting to me amidst the on-going debates about whether file-sharing/piracy is killing Rock & Roll and song-writing in general.  My two cents is that free music is actually improving the music scene.  As with so many other industries, computers and the internet have torn down the economic barriers that used to keep start-ups from entering markets previously dominated by ginormous corporate entities.  Through YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, blogs, etc., (not to mention professional editing/producing capabilities available on laptops and PC's), bands no longer need a label in order to get discovered and/or develop a following.  Will they get the same benefit of previous generations of getting to live off of the royalties of songs/albums recorded decades ago for their entire lives?  Probably not.  But, like U2, they can get by as working musicians (okay, U2 is doing a little better than just "getting by") -- giving the recorded music away, but making money off of their shows and commercial endorsements.  I have no problem with this.  Why should becoming a recording artists guarantee one a life of unbridled wealth and excess anyway?  If you love making music, just do it.  Maybe you can make a living off of it, maybe not.  I almost got to the point of making a living off baseball, but the fact that I didn't is no tragedy because I simply loved playing -- just as I love riding my bike!  Money or no money, I don't see the incentive to create great music ever going away, especially since the #1 reason most males join a band is to meet girls . . .

Oh, yeah, bikes, that's right, got a little diverted there.  It's U2, though, folks and they transcend all genres and categories.  I, at least, started with a biking theme, and, that is also how I will end:


Oh, and --  ". . . this is 40!"


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