The Law of More

The Elimination of Middlemen

The Elimination of Middlemen

Moore’s law, put simply, states that computing power will double every eighteen months. This was predicted back in 1965 at the dawn of modern computing and has so far held true. What used to be a precious and costly commodity is now being produced at an exponentially faster rate. Some find this humorous, in a sardonic way. To others it is overwhelming.

The Commodore 64 when it was introduced boasted sixty-four kilobytes of RAM, all within that ‘little’ box. There is the famous quote from one of the pioneers in the industry where he can’t ever foresee anyone needing more than 64k. Only a decade earlier such an extravagant amount of memory would require an entire building. Nowadays memory is so cheap you can easily afford to store a well-stocked bookstore on the phone in your pocket.

It’s amazing how far we have come. When Moses came down from Mount Sinai it took two tablets to hold ten short paragraphs. Nowadays even the most basic tablet or ereader can store dozens, even hundreds, of books in their entirety.

Beatles #2

Labrador Dali- Abbey Road medley part 1-Halloween 2010So much of my childhood was instructed by The Beatles. I was in second or third grade when I made a crude parody of Yellow Submarine called ‘Purple Trans Am.’ I showed it to my music teacher, this one was more encouraging than the previous one. She printed out copies and had the whole class sing it.

I sang loud at first, I really thought the other kids would like it. By the end only the teacher was singing wholeheartedly, playing the piano and her back mostly to the class. A few other kids were still singing along in a purely obligatory fashion, the rest had abandoned it and a few were giving me dirty looks.

Afterward, by our lockers, one of the bigger girls in the class came over to scowl at me. She said she could easily write a better song than mine. I told her to prove it. I have been waiting thirty eight years now to hear her effort, although long ago I came to admit that my attempt was no feat to better.

A few years later I read about how The Beatles recorded, I first encountered the idea of multitrack recording. They weren’t playing these songs live at putting them on tape, they were recording a few bits at a time, overlapping all the pieces and putting it together as these grand musical paintings. I knew I had to try this.

My first attempts were probably made when I was 11 or 12. I had collected a few very crappy instruments, but it didn’t matter much because I didn’t know how to play at all. This didn’t seem important. I would record a track, usually at first it was a drum track or rhythm. I would rewind the cassette and put it in another deck where I could play it back loud, and record me playing along on the guitar and singing.

It was very rough at first. Between my inability to sing or play, tape his, and the high loss of quality that occurred when the back tracks were played over our family stereo; most attempts came quickly to the point of diminishing returns.

It was a few years later when I first got an open reel recorder, old fashioned even when I was a kid, half inch reel-to-reel at fifteen inches per second. This deck had separate record button for left and right, so I could easily listen to myself on one channel while recording the other. Soon enough I managed to find a way to bounce these tracks down to one, so I could then add on more parts, almost to infinity, in theory anyway. Again the devil that is tape hiss was always in the mix, although now he was more easily kept at bay. When I was sixteen or seventeen I got my first used cassette four-track. Finally, it felt like the skies were wide open and the training wheels were off.

I had so much fun for so many years just hiding away and making up songs, and attempting to put together little albums. I always enjoyed this so much more than playing live. The first few awkward attempts I made at performing had left a sour taste in my mouth. But I occupied and entertained myself for hours and years decades even, experimenting at home with what sort of weird sounds I could coax out of the darkness.

Years later, in my twenties, I would come to really love playing live. Ha. It helps when you know what you are doing, a little bit at least.

As I grew up I came to see The Beatles differently as well. I’ve admitted at a young age I really did want to grow up to be John Lennon, but as I got older I started to see in many respects he was not a man to emulate. I’m not perfect, no one is, Beatles included. There’s a few times if you know their history one could use words such as ‘asshole’ when speaking of them individually or as a group.

I’m not judging, I’m just saying, I learned pretty early these guys were just another set of goofy humans. There was nothing godlike or even saintly about them. Underneath it all, they were just these four guys, you know? Instead of trying to become anyone else or repeat anyone’s, I was free to do as I please, I was fully able to make my own mistakes.

I still have mad respect for their music, and there impact on me is something that can never be erased. I visited New York early in the century, and made a point of visiting Strawberry Fields and the Dakota, the last place where John Lennon lived. I got choked up as we walked passed the gated entrance, I don’t think I’m the only one, but I couldn’t say for sure as my eyes had become blurry.

And now, looking back, it has been fifty years since I first came to America, and swept us up in a tsunami of guitars and screaming teenagers. The question is often asked, as it has since probably the late 60s, can there ever be a band like this again, this big, this ubiquitous and global? I really don’t think so, but I don’t think it has much to do with music.

Not discounting their immense talents, there is also time and timing involved. Time wise, many things have changed since the Beatles split up forty-four years ago. I can’t see any musician today having the same global, universal impact. Music today feels so divided and compartmentalized. Timing wise, at least here in America, I think we have to remember when the Beatles first came to America, first played on the Ed Sullivan show, 50 years ago tomorrow, that the nation was still mourning.

Only three months prior our president John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. Besides the obvious grief and pain our nation was feeling, this act was also the point where many people lost their sense of innocence, started to look at the systems and constructs around themselves with a more suspicious and skeptical eye. I was born too late to know first hand, but from anyone I have ever read or heard or talked to on the matter describes it as a moment when we collectively felt the wind knocked out of us.

I imagine in many ways it felt much like September 11th, possibly more painful just because of the innocent time that it shattered.

The country mourned, some say the country fell into a depression all together. The months passed and then it seems the country needed something to break its lament, to lift off the melancholy blanket we hid underneath.

I think ultimately there will be more people on level with The Beatles, but they were so much more than mere stars. I believe they are up there with the names of the ages, with Shakespeare and Beethoven and Van Gogh. Those few names our species will remember as long as we go on remembering things.

Another question I have heard asked especially recently, what about fifty years from now, will people still be talking about them when they are one hundred years old? I think so, almost certainly. I will, at least, if I’m still around.

Roadsong

roadsongI took my car today
and drove out for many miles
to where the road opens up
and the traffic disappears,
past seven islands of
fast food salvation,
past the edge of
radio reception,
where I found a song
from when I was younger.
As the darkness fell,
I sang it again…

There are roads branching off,
creeping over the horizon,
tracing paths into the unknown
where distant memories are held,
markers on the land where
I’ve left parts of my life behind,
let go of certain aspects,
abandoned ideas here
to be forgotten and fade away.
And I haven’t seen this
road since I was seventeen,
so sing it again…

Miles pass like the years,
each one faster than the last,
counting out the intersecting highways
like the rings of a tree.
Gravel kicks up memories below me,
the further I can get from where I was,
the closer I become to me,
so sing it again…

©Robert Emmett McWhorter 

The Story of the Goat

I feel like I never told you the story of the goat.

goatgooseOne of the first posts on this blog was ‘Goat Wisdom’, a quick little piece that fell out of me, originally as an exercise for the writing group, one of the daily challenges. The story formed itself and appeared to me quick, maybe more so than usual. I didn’t think much of it originally. I had recently returned to writing after a good few years away; it seemed once I got my fingers typing again the ideas started coming frequent and easy.

The little story popped right out. I was pleased with how it turned out. I submitted it also as my first piece for the website Eat, Sleep, Write. I started this here blog and want to put all my available writings all under one roof.

I’ve been culling works from old websites and blogs, some of them are buried a little deeper on the internet. Some of it took some crawling through the archives, but most of it eventually made itself available and I was able to copy it and refine it and put it up here or save for later.

In the archives, I ran across a forgotten blog. I had created it eleven years ago, one of my first internet forays. I was shocked to see it, at first I didn’t remember ever building it or working on it. It was short-lived, there wasn’t too much there at all.

One piece, though, was a bit of clumsy prose that I called Jalapeño Bridge, named after the song but trying to be something else. It was mostly about a guy wandering in the woods, getting lost in the trees and foliage, crossing a succession of bridges and finally at the end he comes across a goat.

I was shocked to read this. I knew it was essentially the same story as Goat Wisdom.

The details were a little different, and it seemed a little long and forced, but it ended up in the same place.

After I combed the internet I broke out the books. Not the notebooks, don’t be silly, not yet anyway.

These are the hardcover journals, the collections, the printed versions, perfect bound or homemade. In a green faux vinyl covered book, dated as 1993, I came upon some attempts at story telling that reminds me that I had no idea what I was doing at the time.

One of them was about this guy with a strange addiction. He went to strange ends to entertain himself in the hours and days between the moments he lived for. On this occasion when the story was following him, he had gone out trying to start a religion, just because it seemed like it would take a big chunk of his time and an extra dose of effort to get it off the ground. Near the end of the tale the man has collected quite an impressive following, and they demanded he share his wisdom. So he begins to tell a parable after which he can escape. He starts to tell a story about a guy who comes upon a goat.

I nearly split the sofa. I couldn’t believe it, again the same tale had come out and once again I didn’t recall ever telling it before.

Again a slightly different angle, in this one the goat could talk. But essentially came to the same conclusion.

Three times I had told this story, and three times I took slightly different routes, and never recalled telling it before. But it did always end up in the same place, and when it came down to the last line, when it came to the climatic conclusions, all three stories ended with the exact same sentence. Exact.

It bothered me a little that I didn’t remember either of the Goat stories, or the attempts I should say. Eventually it did afford me the opportunity, possibly forced me to refine the details until I got to the best version possible.

I probably won’t share the other versions, the early ones take a while to get into the meat of the story and when they do it comes across as a cartoon. I’ve been gathering and digging and finding all the better writings I have created, everything worthy of playing in public.

I would like to dig one day for the old words; buried, hiding in corner shadow closet darkness.  I would like to crawl again through the spiral notebooks I writ in before ever I learned to type or how to internet, the thirty-something college-ruled  Mead 5-star composition spiral notebooks, 10 x 7.5, three subject.

The thought sends an excited little chill through my spine. I am starting to hope, starting to wonder what may lurk there, abandoned and forgotten. Lost story lines, they have only been waiting for me to return when my skill has become proficient enough to properly tell their tale.

 

© Robert Emmett McWhorter