Friday, October 21, 2016

A Tool for Artists Everywhere

Ticketmaster is angry that bots and brokers are getting a cut of ticket sales. Ticketmaster wants their monopoly on gouging every band at every venue kept intact.
"The odds are absolutely stacked against the fan," said Joe Berchtold, chief operating officer of Live Nation, the world's largest tour promoter and owner of Ticketmaster, which sold tickets for the Hip's final tour.
Here's a bit of a rebuttal to Ticketmaster's business model, and although it is six years old, I think it still applies.…/ticketmaster-a-new-era-of…
But to me it just seemed like a bunch of guys (and somehow I suspect they were all guys) got together one day and said, "Lots of people go to concerts. How can we get a piece of that?" and then found a way to attach themselves to the ticket buying process. They did it so well, that now they are completely embedded into the process, they are simply a living part of it. But just because you're really good at gouging people, does that mean you should be rewarded?
For instance, say I was a good friend of Joe Berchtold, and I told him that I was a pretty good drawer, and showed him some of my work, and then said, "Hey Joe, what if we include with every ticket a print of a drawing of the performer? We could charge $12 for the mandatory print fee; $5 for the rights to use the image fee; $1 for the sore fingers fee (you don't think artists have it tough?); $2.50 resale fee (in case some chump who actually went to a show and got a print decided he'd try to make some money and resell his print); $20 facility fee (my gold drawing table is NOT going to pay for itself); $5 process-at-home option fee, in case the customer would like to print the print on their home printer; $10 Bad Printer Fee, just in case a customer decides they want to use their very bad printer to print the print at home, in which case my reputation would be tarnished when people see the bad print; $25 delivery fee (we only use high-quality shipping tubes); $6 handling fee (how do you think the prints get into the tubes and down to the post office, you idiot?); 5% GST; 8% PST (I don't care where you live, that's what we pay in Manitoba so suck it!); and finally, 13% HST just for the hell of it.
I'm thinking this is a good idea. I suppose we could revisit the fee structure at a later date, but for the time being, who wouldn't want an awesome drawing of Nikki Sixx (and if I can find it, you will see it here later) on their walls?
So, the next time the Rolling Stones wheel their way into town, you can bet that Joe and I will skim a cool $3,520,000 off the top of all ticket sales (assuming 40,000 tickets sold - shoot, forgot to add the Investor's Group facility fee (the other facility fee was to pay for MY facility, remember - oh well, I'll eat that one).
Now of course, that is a bit over the top. But think of this. Ticketmaster does this for just about every show that happens at every large-ish venue (outside of house concerts and private clubs) in North America, and probably loads of other countries too. I don't think it's too big of a stretch to say that Ticketmaster is making billions of dollars a year.
To skim.

Friday, October 7, 2016

An Important Announcement

In an effort to gain more notoriety, I too, like many others, am taking the low road: by denouncing stupidity. That's right folks, I said it. If you do something stupid, you're an idiot. Got that? It's particularly egregious (a word I know well from Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure (the original, stupid)) if you are smart and choose to act stupid, or even worse, are smart and act stupid as an act to garner more attention from stupid people who get to vote, which only muddies the waters because usually, even stupid people know to put smart people in charge of important things, but when smart people acting stupid say things that sound good to truly stupid people, that kind of confuses the stupid person into acting against their own best interests.
For example, when smart-person-acting-stupid (SPAS or spaz, just for the sake of stupefication and simplicity) says, "Muslims don't have Canadian values!!!" genuinely stupid person thinks, "Yeah, that's right!" without recognizing that being a racist dick (or dickette (and now look at me, being a chauvinist prick because I don't know the term for a female that acts like dick (or don't want to use it, maybe))) is already going against Canadian values, and doesn't make you look very good in the eyes of other Canadians, unless they are stupid, too; then you probably feel just great, which, when all your stupid friends are looking up to you as the great bastion of Canadian values, should be a dire omen, because you know THEY are stupid, just look at the shit they post on Facebook. And if they're looking up to you now, what happens if you make a habit of it, and then they start seeing you as some sort of elitist fool who is trying to put one over on them because they recognize that at some point, you'll be too smart for them, and when they can't understand you anymore, the pitchforks are coming out? Oh, the irony of stupidity is forever lost on the stupids and the spazzes.
As part of my ongoing series in in-depth analyses of my stream of consciousness, let's take apart Kellie Leitch. Actually, no, let's not bother, her handlers appear to be in charge of that. Let's just say, that in Canada, denouncing elites (and this is where I think Neil Macdonald has it a bit wrong by misdefining 'elitism' in the way that Leitch and her dazzle of zebras (get it? because they see everything as being black and white?) mean it; Macdonald is thinking she is belittling education and the lifestyle that comes with it, despite the fact that she is highly educated and enjoying the lifestyle that comes with it, whereas Leitch is trying to frame elitism as something that turns you into a pansy who understands the long-term impact of doing traditionally manly things like burnin' oil, fracking, or punching fellas in the head when they don't act like fellas (the fact that this is often a result of education is simply an added bonus). I'm fairly certain Leitch isn't one to go out and start punching fellas, but I suspect that she is well aware that there are still many people who would, and if she can gain a single vote by linking elitism to fella-punchin (because honestly, who wouldn't like to punch some smug smart person who speaks thoughtfully about feelings and climate change?). I'm also fairly certain Leitch actually knows a few Muslims, and knows them to be thoughtful, intelligent people, but actually hangin with them would not go over well with the stupids because it would take more than one sentence to explain why you're hangin with Muslims, and in today's world of constant entertainment, you've often lost your target audience after more than seven words. So it's just easier to say, "Anti-Canadian Values (one word and one hyphenated word < three words)" or "Barbaric Cultural Practices (three full words, that's pushing it)" even if the speaker doesn't have a definition for the phrase, because the speaker knows that the stupid person will fill in the blanks.
Wait, I started a sentence up there somewhere…right. In Canada, denouncing elites became more popular than ever under Stephen Haper, as part of his attempt to Stupefy! the population into believing that we don't need no stinkin scientists (it's remarkable how much staying power some expressions have) because they speak in long sentences that require you to put down your iPhone for a second and listen to the sound of the planet dying around you. Denouncing elites has become an art form under Donald Trump, which is super funny, because he embodies the essence of just about everything except common sense - common sense being the goal of everyone who is trying to get rid of elitist thinking and replace it with good ol' fashioned gut feelings. Gut feelings have their place, but they are usually the result of hours and hours and hours and hours and hours of contemplation and study (just ask Malcolm Gladwell).
Which now makes me realize that this post, much like my yesterday rant, also has a connection to our travels. In Cambodia, we learned about the Khmer Rouge and their 1970s campaign to revert their country to a form of hyper self-sufficiency, wherein everyone would grow their own food, use traditional medicine (solely), and basically not do everything they had been doing up until that point - depending on one another to make their country better. Anyone who even looked smart (a potential threat to the smart people in charge) was murdered. Books were burned. Religion was banned. Families were disconnected. People were marched from their homes in the cities out into the countryside and told to make it work. It didn't work, and millions of people died, because Pol Pot wanted everyone to think like him. Donald Trump is a little more creative in this regard. He isn't doing anything because he has some Utopian dream for America's future. He just wants attention, and thrives off of it. It's sort of like his superpower. He says ridiculous thing, thinking people go, "What the f…?" and stupid people go, "F…kin' A!!" and he gets all kinds of attention from every demographic possible, and his strength increases at a level proportionate to the amount of attention received. So how about we stop throwing grease on the kitchen fire that is Donald Trump? Stop lighting matches in the Space Station-sized head that is Donald Trump, and start talking about the things we do want? Agreed? Okay, now back to Canada.
I think it's safe to talk about Leitch's policies without creating a monster. Unlike He Who Shall Forevermore Not Be Named, we can debate the issues here without it blowing up into a reality show competition for numbskulls. Leitch's problems stem from her thinking and her ideology and her resulting policy, and we can see right through it. A policy based on xenophobia and exclusion and unthinking gut feelings is simply not going to fly in Canada, not if I have anything to say about it. And that is why right here, right now, I am announcing my candidacy for Prime Minister.
Now just to be clear, I have been known to do, say, and/or think stupid things on occasion. I mean for God's sake, I like listening to Manowar!
What I haven't done however, is try to build public policy around my stupidity. That's just stupid. Why on God's green earth would I insist that everyone listen to Manowar (Brothers everywhere, raise your hands into the air, we're warriors, warriors of the world…do do dee dooooo…guitar!)?
What I will do, is listen to smart people (the ones who are even smarter than me) who actually know about stuff, and use my immense amount of gut feeling (developed over years and years of thinking and study) and all facts and figures available to develop any necessary policy.
If that doesn't work, and some spaz beats me to the Prime Minister's chair, I'll grow my hair long, hit the weights, and command my army of metal marauders to take over the world. Don't make me use the heavy metal card, Mrs. Leitch, it won't be pretty.
NB: this is the picture that accompanied Neil Macdonald's CBC article. I am thinking that this was not an accident. Tell me, and be honest, what is the first thing you think of when you look at that photo?

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Woodworking and Politics

Pretty much every day I think of something like what you will read below, and pretty much every day I file those thoughts into the "Forever to be Forgotten Folder." Today is somehow different.
One of the irritating things about travel, especially to places that see a lot of tourists, is the number of scams set up to try and set you free from your money in less than legitimate ways. There was the "oops I dropped my shoe shine brush" in Istanbul, the "let me take you to my shop" in Syria, well, all over the Middle East…and India as well, actually. And in Egypt, our favourite was this.
Walking to the Egyptian Museum, you know, the big one with all of Egypt's past (well, most of Egypt's past, that hadn't been looted by other museums around the world) locked inside. The museum that was open every day of the week, and for many hours at a time. A museum that could be open 24 hours a day, and still have hundreds of people inside at all times. As we approached along the other side of busy Meret Basha, a little north of Tahrir Square, a man rushed past us. Then he turned, looked concerned, and ran back. "Are you going to the museum?" Yes we are. "Oh, please be very careful crossing the street." And off he goes. Then stops, then turns back to us. "I forget, the museum is closed to tourists today, until 1:00. But if you like, I can take you to a government shop." Idiot me started to follow him (apprehensively, I might add), but Jonas and Laura started laughing out loud. They showed me the guide book section on Cairo scams, and it was as though this guy was using this section as his teaching tool. Word for word. He was not impressed with our level of preparedness (well, Laura and Jonas's, at any rate), so he walked off in a huff.
We chatted a bit about the nerve of some people as we carried on, looking for a safe place to cross the street, when another fellow sidled up and said, "Not all Egyptians are trying to cheat tourists, you know." Of course not, we said. He was well dressed and well fed, with a comfortable paunch that settled in assuredly under (and a little bit over) the strength of his thick belt, his unbuttoned blazer completing his air of casual authority. He proceeded to chat us up about a couple things before asking us where we were going. "Oh, but the museum is closed for siesta right now. If you like, I can take you to a government bazaar with fixed prices."
I wasn't sure if I should admire his tenacity, or punch him in the nose. We stood there, the four of us, with our mouths wide open for a good two seconds, then we all broke down laughing. Blazer man was not impressed, so he too walked off in a bit of a huff.
Today I am reminded of this story after seeing a web ad on a site I visit regularly. The ad was for shed plans, and since I would like to build a shed but I'm not sure exactly what I want to do, I thought this might be interesting. I click, and am taken to a site advertising Ryan's Shed Plans, 14,000 shed plans for one low price. Now, no one in their right mind needs 14,000 shed plans, especially if they actually want to build a shed. Who has time to look at even 1000 different plans?
Since the site had a certain infomercial flair to it, I thought it best to do what I often do now, check to see reviews or scam alerts. And sure enough, there are many for Ryan's Shed Plans, not least of which says, "Who on earth needs 14,000 shed plans?" After reading google's synopsis of several review sites, I click on one, that seems to do a fairly lengthy take down of Mr. Ryan Shed. They give the product a "very low rating," but offer a link to buy if you're still interested.
What caught my attention though, was the next line: "Instead, I recommend you buy Ted's Woodworking Plans [a link you can click], which includes some decent shed plans (plus much more)."
They show some lovely photos, and then follow them up with this:
"I'll skip to the chase. Ryan's shed plans isn't a very good product. It's not totally useless, because there are some decent plans, but overall it's not great.
In fact, you're MUCH better off buying Ted's Woodworking Plans [a link you can again click] which includes a good number of decent plans."
And guess how many plans you get with Ted?
This is beautiful, I thought to myself. It's like the internet's version of the Egyptian museum scam played out right on my computer screen.
After five more minutes of investigation, I found all kinds of youtube videos from all kinds of different people claiming that Ted's Woodworking Plans was a great deal for them, and they all liked it very much. And everyone's video was different in that they all looked and sounded different. Some were kind of polished, looking a bit like a poor man's Bob Vila, while others looked and sounded like nervous telemarketers trying to scam their very first victim, with their instructor (probably Ted himself) looking on. But most remarkable is that everyone's video is also very much alike. A guy sitting at his computer telling you how good something is without actually saying anything at all, like he was reading from a Kazakhstani phrasebook, and hoping he'd be understood, because he really doesn't have any idea what he's saying himself.
Now I'm thinking, this is amazing. It's as if there is this whole industry out there based on the selling of thousands and thousands of shed plans. What's fascinating (to me, at least) in amongst all this other weirdness and trickery, is that what appears to be a real review ( shows Ted to be full of shit. Most plans are just ripped off from the internet, freely available elsewhere. Apparently, in their package, they also offer "150 premium woodworking videos" that are links to videos on youtube and vimeo, all publicly available, and some of the links are broken.
This all makes me think that there is some kind of seminar people go to, to learn how you can make $10,000 a day from the comfort of your own home. They fork over money to the seminar people, find out they just got shafted, then go out and try and shaft anybody else so that they can make their money back. This is exactly what these videos look like.
And finally it hits me. Donald Trump is Ted. Every part of Trump oozes this kind of nonsense. There is a phoniness to everything he says, even when he is talking about something that people are interested in. Of course I want to be safe. Absolutely I'd like politicians to tell the truth for a change. And sure, if I were completely heartless, I'd love to capitalize on people's needs and make money selling worthless degrees from a phoney university.
And that's what is going on here. Even in the remotest of remote chances that Donald Trump isn't Ted, he is still Ted. He's a guy selling someone else's ideas as his own, but doesn't even bother to check and see if they are actually good ideas. And like any group of 16,000 anything, there is bound to be one or two good whatevers in there. So people who are desperate cling to the two in 16000, and ignore the rest. They ignore the racism, the hatred, the ignorance, the stupidity, and cling to the one thing. "I want to feel safe." Yes, the thing that some people cling to is absurd, as most thinking people know, like, "We will build a wall and keep them out," or, "We won't let anyone from Religion X into our country."
But it doesn't matter. For millions of people, one in 16,000 is good enough. As long as he's on "my team." And if you follow sports at all, we've sort of been conditioned to think this way. Every team has a guy that you hate. Until he gets traded to your team. Then you tolerate his back-stabbing, his cheap shots, his mealy-mouthed excuses, his biting of opponents, his racial taunts, the showboating, the domestic violence, the assault charges, the endless DUIs. It's all part of the society that has been growing up around us. Growing up with us.
It's our team, or their team, and you are either with us or against us. Polarity ensues.
And if that's the way they want it, that's what they will get.
So my fellow living organisms, the choice is clear. Do you want to develop distinctly anterior traits, or distinctly posterior traits? Do we want to look forward, or do we wish to look backward to the glory days of Robber Barons and slavery? Do we want to be inclusive, and share the world and all of our great ideas with everyone, or do we want water wars and chaos, border conflicts and corporate profiteering at the expense of everyone's health? Do we want our lives to be based on love, honesty, and truth (including those pesky facts), or do we want to be ruled by someone else's ideology that commands hatred, fabrication, and rage? An ideology that considers a search for truth to be a liability?
There's a great Cherokee legend that goes like this:
An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.
“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”
The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”
Simply put, you cannot fight the posterior with more posterior.That is what is going on today. It's been going on for years, and will continue for many years to come. But we can start to change all that with love, honesty, truth, and reason. And every time we choose those things, we make a change right now. Be the change you want to see in the world, as they say.
The fight between good and evil begins within, not without.
So tell Ted you don't want his plans, no matter how many he has up his sleeve.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Breathless at Termessos, Turkey

Has anything ever left you breathless?
Well…the only problem with Twitter chats is that they are chats on Twitter, and extended chatter requires multiple tweets. Reliving this moment that left me breathless could not be completely covered on Twitter alone (nor could Q1 or Q2, but never mind), so bear with me.

Termessos lies about 35 kilometres north of Antalya, so getting there required that we rent a car from our pansiyon

in Antalya and make it a day trip, combining it with the Karian Cave and Chimaera. Once we got into the hills, things started to get interesting (I mean, we were in Turkey, so it was already interesting, but now we were stepping it up a bit). Here's how I wrote about it.

The drive north of Antalya is simple and beautiful. We’re driving in Turkey. And I’m not sure what we’ve done to deserve yet another sky that is so blue it seems to sparkle. Not far out of town, we begin to make the upward climb into those remarkable hills, where the drive becomes very dramatic, and not just because the road crumbles away from the edge and spills down the hillside. Not the ground beside the road, but the concrete that was once a part of the road. A never-ending stream of mostly-intact hairpin turns takes us in a continuously vertical direction, into Gulluk Dagi National Park, and past the set of outer walls belonging to the ancient city of Termessos.
This is the reason we have come to Antalya. When researching Turkey, I happened upon a photo of the Termessos theatre, and I told Max, We have got to go here. “That is quite a bit off your path,” he said. Then we will need to make changes to the path, I replied. We are not missing this.
I’ve spent more than a few nights lying awake in bed, imagining the four of us exploring this place, and I am thrilled to pull into the parking lot (you do not need to remind me that it is actually Laura that is doing the driving; I’m well aware of that by now) and find that ours is the only car here.
There is not very much information available about Termessos, either online or in the guide books, but what I do know is that this magnificent city existed around the time of Alexander, in the 300’s BC. There is some uncertainty as to whether or not Alexander tried to take control of the city, having recognized its extraordinary defensive power and position. Maybe he received some kind of concessions from those within, or perhaps, as has been told, the Pisidian people living here were so fiercely independent that they repelled any and all attempts to be ruled by an outsider. After a visit to this place, the latter does not seem unlikely.

The air is fresh and clear, and the trees have begun to cloak themselves in their autumn attire. We walk for a good twenty minutes, more or less straight uphill past yet another set of defensive walls, with still another visible further up the hill. This place is Large. Capital L Large.

We come across the remains of an impressive gymnasium along the main street. The boys climb over stones the size of cars, and through doorways made for giants. As I take this all in, I have a tangible feeling of time, centuries of time, walking with us through these ruins, and I swear I can hear the sounds of battle, and a city breathing. Like a cool, icy wind on a warm sunny day. I get goose bumps, my skin a little electric, and when I try to explain the sensation to Jonas, he looks at me like I’ve just bumped my head very hard.

We climb higher still, sarcophogi literally littering the hillside, as we search for the elusive theatre. 

We climb over a wall, through a short tunnel, over a pile of enormous blocks,  and into a clearing - the theatre stage. We walk up the steps into the seating, and turn around.
It takes my breath away.

We have lunch sitting in the seats, and then watch the boys climb the blocks and steps over and over again. There are no chains or ropes, and since we’re 3500 feet up, we remind them regularly to be aware of their surroundings. 

We explore the remains of temples and homes, cisterns, streets, arches, doorways, walls, and gates. 
Termessos disappeared from history after an earthquake, its walls abandoned by the people in search of something better. I can imagine the sense of despair that would make rebuilding a several hundred-year-old city after a such a devastating event an impossibility. We see only a handful of people while we are here, and after almost four hours, we disappear from Termessos as well. 

How does something like this ever get left behind, forgotten but for a few passages here and there in the history books? What will remain of me after I am gone, of the home I have built, the life I have lived? We are all just sentences in books, I suppose, eventually. If that.
After spending some time in the very damp Karain Cave and its less damp museum at the bottom of the hill, we drive along the shores south of Antalya, in and around and through these glorious hills on our way to Chimaera. At the entrance, the gruff gentleman takes our ten lira fee, then points directly at the moon. “Eight hundred metres,” he says. “You have flashlight?” Yes. “Good.” He then goes right back to ignoring his surroundings.

In Greek mythology, a Chimaera is a fire-breathing monster with a lion’s head, a goat’s body, and a serpent’s tail. This is what awaits us at the end of our moon expedition. We take a snack break at the four hundred metre mark, then at the top celebrate our victory. And while there isn’t an actual Chimaera here, there is something equally fascinating. Fire that comes out of the ground from about twenty-five or thirty small holes. A strange gas that somehow escapes from the bowels of the Earth and combusts when it comes into contact with the air. You read that right. Fire comes out of the ground.

Anyway, I carry on a little bit more about the rest of our day, but those were my exact words on the blog that night. "It takes my breath away."

Stepping Out, and Into Rome

Rome was the starting point of our family's travels, and as such, it holds a special place in my heart.
Following an overnight flight to Gatwick, we flew to Rome, and took the train from the airport to the main station downtown.
As we stepped out onto the street, the sky was a magnificent and deep shade of blue. As the warmth enveloped our bodies, the whole of what we were about to do settled upon me. Nine months of travel with our ten- and twelve-year-old boys. We paused just outside the doors of the station, and I thought to myself, "We are doing this." The wonder of the world was opening up to us, and the thrill of that sensation left us in awe. What an opportunity. What a time.

The Wonder of India

There really is something about India that gets inside you. It may take a while, as it did for me, but there will be this allure, this pull, that keeps you thinking, keeps you wanting more.
I had to leave India before that feeling took hold. By the end of our three months travelling all over, from Alleppey in the south, Jaisalmer in the west, to Kolkata in the east, I was done. I needed out.
When we descended into Bangkok, I couldn't believe how shiny the airport seemed from the sky. The airport was clean inside and out, the money we got out of the ATM felt like it was right off the press, super crisp and still a bit warm. Our taxi was clean, the roads were clean, and the taxi drivers somehow managed to stay in the proper lane, on their allotted side of the road. No meandering, no drifting.
But after a few days, I began to look back a bit, and think quite fondly of our time in India. The touts and annoying shopkeepers were settling to the back of my mind, and the friendliness of the vast majority of people who wanted nothing more than a photo with us, and a bit of conversation, that is what began to rise to the surface. Two months later, at the end of our trip, both my wife and I thought that if we were to return to any of the eleven countries we visited on our nine-month trip, India would top the list.
The travel posters all say, "Incredible India." The posters speak the truth.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

And how about Florence? It is beautiful, the skies are blue, and the town accommodating. They also have lots of cool door knockers.