Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Stake Dinner


My Teen Is Into Witchcraft And Tarot Cards — Should I Be Worried?


I'm not sure who's to blame, the person who wrote the article or the CBC for publishing it.  This is proof that no matter how unqualified you are to write about a topic, the CBC will publish it.  Then again, the CBC's articles are no better than the drivel you'll find in an issue of Salon

This doozy of an article was written (or speech to text) by Paula Schuck, and I was just going to comment on it.  If you’re thinking about writing about a topic that goes back for centuries, make sure you go back more than the current century for your research.

 Witches are having a moment. From the "baby witches" on TikTok, who captured headlines in Rolling Stone for hexing the moon, to the resurgence of love for all things wizardly or the surging interest in tarot card readings — witches have been trending.

First problem: she’s using TikTok.  Sure it's a free country, and you can do what you want but I wouldn’t trust anything that started out as facial recognition software.  After reading the article, I know that research isn't the "author"'s strong suit.  Harry Potter's been around since 2001 and no one with half a brain would read Rolling Stone.  But there's no recent surge; it's always been there. 

 Right around the start of the pandemic, my older daughter started making spell jars, collecting crystals and watching lunar phases with extreme fascination. I watched from afar for a bit. I thought it was simply the natural progression of us watching the Harry Potter movies one million times from start to finish to keep busy and somewhat connected as a family since the lockdown started in March.

 She crafted elaborate wands, and gathered natural materials and sealed them into small bottles. She ordered fake vines and hung them throughout her bedroom, and started talking more about the moon each time we walked. She gave me crystals, often ordered online, and told me about their properties.

 I started to realize there was a bit more to this than I originally thought. Some of my teen daughter’s closest female friends were also completely enthralled. And some of my youngest daughter’s friends started calling themselves witches. At first, I was a bit confused by the appeal and I chalked it up to a developmental phase or interest — but this one hasn’t passed yet. So, I bought my eldest a book about witchcraft and I read a bit of it myself.

Witchcraft and an interest in New Age are two completely different things even though they'll probably lumped together in the same section at the bookstore to save on shelf space.  And the rest of the article has this dumb, naive tone to it, so get ready.

 Recently, I overheard my daughter telling a friend of hers on the phone that someone online had told her she was going to hell for practising witchcraft, and I was a bit alarmed. (Can we all just agree that DMing people on social media to tell them they are going to hell for their beliefs, practices, religion, gender or sexuality is DONE. Both of my teens tell me they receive these comments at least once a week.) But I trust my daughter at her age and stage to handle social media trolls with a report and block kind of strategy, and she did.

Can we all just agree, as long as you're going to accept all DMs while you put up dumb shit on the Internet, strangers will bother you?  Anyways, if she was practicing real witchcraft, she's hoping to go to hell.  Witches do the Devil's handiwork.  Wait until her kids get into Satanism.

 As her interest grew and spell jars multiplied, I started looking into witchcraft a bit closer, to unravel a bit of the mystery surrounding the topic, at least for my own knowledge and satisfaction.

Oh, good.  Paula's on the case of solving the riddle of witchcraft.  We should be in safe hands now.

Was being a witch in some way offensive? Was it inviting something negative into our home? Was it synonymous with devil worship? Should I be worried? What I found out is quite the opposite, actually. Here’s what I have gathered and why I'm not concerned if my kids use tarot cards or talk about spells.

 In fact, modern witchcraft started to gain steam in England as a new spiritual and nature-focused religion in the 1950s. It was soon deemed "wicca," and its followers "wiccans." Someone who is wiccan follows nature-oriented worship and rituals, and sees it as a religion. And in wicca, they prioritize priestesses and celebrate the Goddess.

OK, Paula, get your time machine out and go back to Salem in the 1600s.  If your knowledge of history can't even go back 100 years, then you don't get to sit at the adult table on holidays.  "Was being a witch in some way offense?"  Why, yes, so much that women were burned at the stake for being accused of being a witch.  How empowering.  If you want to just go back to the 50s, make sure you mention there's more than just white witches, even though the number varies from website to website.  Wiccans are entirely different than someone who practices Black Magick and Traditional Witches don't consider Wiccan Witches to be real witches.  More like a Witch-lite.  Paula would probably faint if she ever got a hold of a copy of Man, Myth and Magic.  Or watched a Hammer movie.

Good thing I have these things called books that don't get updated with strangers' opinions.

 A nature-oriented religion that’s also female-centric? When I think about it like that, there's no wonder why young women gravitate towards this experience in 2021.

It's not female-centric, it's about the feminine.  Also, it's about balance in nature, meaning you'll need the masculine aspects of it too.  I'm not even a witch and I knew that.  Paula probably thinks the yin-yang symbol is a pre-60s paisley design.

 I don’t think I need a PhD in adolescent psychology to recognize that making spell jars and watching the lunar phases with fascination at this particular time in history is, at least in part, a reaction to the lack of control that teens are feeling. With a health threat at the door, political divisiveness and a president south of the border who nurtured hatred for four years inciting violence amongst his followers, plus the Black Lives Matter and #MeToo movements — there's a lot to worry about daily, and I think teens need something hopeful that also provides a sense of community.

What the hell is she talking about?  Her not having a PhD is pretty clear, but people like esoteric things because they're cool.  But you can attach any meaning you like to a crystal but how they refract light is just cool looking.  I'm not sure why activism got dragged in to this shit article.  Is there something on the other side?  I'd say yes.  As far as moon phases, I don't think anyone watches them with fascination, unless you're really bored and have a 4 weeks to spare.  People have been using moon phases as a guide for centuries, from best times to farm to the best times to fish.  Buy an Almanac for crying out loud.  There's "a lot to worry about daily" if you get your news from Facebook.

 Growing up during a pandemic is chaotic at best and isolating, anxiety-inducing and depressing often. School basically doesn’t exist in any format that makes sense. It’s no longer an option to see friends in person and remote learning can be flat.

"Growing up during the pandemic"?  At the time this was published in January, it hasn't even been a full year of emergency measures yet.  Last year at this time everybody was making Corona beer memes.  People will look back in ten years and say, "Oh yeah; I almost forgot about that except that I got debt from my relief cheques that I still got taxed on it."

 So, who does it harm if the teens study witchcraft or call themselves witches?

 The other night while we were making dinner, my daughter blurted out: “Magic would be so useful right now!” We were chopping a particularly hard batch of sweet potatoes. After a day spent grumbling at all of us, snapping every few hours and a return to remote learning, that comment struck me as exactly why witches and potions and tarot cards are growing in popularity. The belief in something that is a higher spiritual concept can be comforting. Don’t we all wish we could magically blast COVID-19 off the planet?

Her kid was trying to have some fun saying cutting potatoes sucks balls and wished she didn't have to do it.  Her kid wasn't thinking of "a higher spiritual concept", her kid didn't want to cut potatoes.  I wish we could magically blast poor articles like this off the planet.

 A friend of mine who lives in B.C. chimed in last week when I asked if anyone else had a teen who was making spell jars and learning to read tarot cards. She had a unique take. “When we were young, it was Dungeons and Dragons. People could spend hours getting lost in that elaborate fantasy game. I don’t see it as much different than that really,” she told me.

It's not a unique take, it was uninformed opinion.  I need someone to explain to me how a Role Playing game is the same as Witchcraft.  Please, leave a comment and let me know what a Traditional Witch's armor class is.

 Some have speculated that the rise of witchcraft has evolved from feminism. The word "witchcraft" conjures up a divine female power. A young witch on a news segment I watched referred to the word itself as an acronym: Woman in Total Control of Herself. What a powerful idea!

"Some have speculated that the rise of witchcraft has evolved from feminism".  Who, Paula's friend from BC?  Witchcraft is much more interesting and profound than anything feminism has to offer.  Also, it's been around hundreds of years before feminism was a thought.  After reading this article, I wonder if anyone who writes for the CBC has an IQ above 80.  D&D is the same as witchcraft; witchcraft evolved from feminism: two of the stupidest things I read all year.

 So, if being a witch is something that is in some way empowering to young women right now, then I say embrace being part of a coven.

I'd say knowledge is power to anyone, and Paula is lacking knowledge on a lot of fronts or she’s being willfully ignorant.  The problem with articles like this is that someone might read a garbage article like "My Teen Is Into Witchcraft And Tarot Cards — Should I Be Worried?" and think it's contents are based on at least a few facts.

My advice: if you're interested in a topic that started before the 1990s, then buy books on it to get the real story.

Monday, October 26, 2020

2020 Gibson SG Standard Review

In 2014, I bought a Les Paul Traditional that had some issues and after that, I swore I would never buy another Gibson.  Last year, I heard about the management overhaul and most reviews said QC was up so I tried my luck with an SG Jr.  That was a good day because I was, and still am, very happy with it.

So to push my luck again, I thought I'd buy an SG Standard.  I almost went with the 61 series but then I'd have 3 red ones.  And I couldn't justify paying over $2600 Cdn for an SG.  So I went with the Standard in black.

Out of the Box

Out of the box, I'll say it's a 7.  Then again, I got black so that'll hide a lot of blemishes but the gloss is nice.  Like the Junior, the fretboard was really dry.  The action was a little high and the frets, all of them, needed a polish.  Maybe Gibson's not doing the PLEK thing anymore.  After lemon oiling the fretboard, putting the stop bar flush to the body (I wrap the strings over the bar), polishing the frets and a change of strings, things were better.

The neck is rounded, in case someone was looking at getting one of these.  I like it.  The bevels are getting better, more sculpted than they used to be since the 60s and the guitar is very light, lighter than my buddy's Squire Thinline Telecaster.  The Grovers are a nice thing to have.  Unfortunately, the pickups are those God-awful 490s.  Why does Gibson still make these pickups?  They've been shit for years and nobody likes them.  Even before I bought it, I knew I was going to have to replace the pickups.  

It comes with the better gig bag but it's still a gig bag.

Everything's good, until I got under the hood

This is when everything glowing comes to a halt.  I must have got a Friday Afternoon Special.  I went to switch out the pickups (with Phat Cats) and I got the pickguard off and, well, look at the pictures.  For one thing, the body wasn't completely finished.  Also, that's not reflection from the lamp, that's a weird white/gray spray around the pickup routes.  And look at the spot under the fretboard: why am I seeing bare wood?  If you're going to stock these things with 490s, why would you not paint the inside?  I could see if there were good pickups that came with it then you'd never have to pop the top off but they aren't.  Final inspection would never notice this shit job so I understand why it slipped by.  

I flipped it over and unscrewed the control cover plate.  Two screws were drilled in on an angle.  Took the plate off and my enthusiasm went out the window.  It comes with a Quick Connect system.  That wasn't mentioned on the website, or anywhere else online.  Quick Connects are to make swapping out pickups easier without soldering.  That would be great except they don't make any after-market pickups to replace them with.  Gibson doesn't sell any and hop on Reverb and look up Quick Connect.  Not a lot of replacement pickups, just the guts from an SG like mine with the dreadful pickups.  Why is the Quick Connect still being installed in a new guitar?  

Then I got more confused at the fact that, this guitar was made to have its pickups changed, meaning the pickguard will eventually come off, so why would you have a hack paint and route job?  You'd think you'd want to clean that up so you don't have people like me going back to saying that Gibson's stuff is still kind of crap.

Final Thoughts

So would I recommend one?  Well... not at that price ($1999 Cdn) but if money's no object and you want to dump another $500 into it to make it decent, then sure, why not?  It won't be the best thing you've ever played but it won't be the worst either.  I can salvage this turkey but, unfortunately, Gibson lost another customer.  I probably won't be back in 6 years to try my luck again.  Now I'm just waiting for my replacement pots.

Pros: light weight, Grovers, better bevels, gloss finish, looks nice
Cons: awful pickups, obsolete Quick Connect system, shoddy workmanship under the pickguard

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Skid Row Row Your Boat Gently Down A Stream


Someone let Grandpa out of the garage
Here's what happens when old rockers don't read the Terms of Service.  And it backs up what I've been saying for years now: if you're looking for money from music, focus on sales and not streams.

I'm going to comment on this one line by line and maybe by the end, we can figure out why some of these Drama Queens, like Sebastian Bach, are so out of touch these days.

TWISTED SISTER singer Dee Snider, former SKID ROW frontman Sebastian Bach and ex-DREAM THEATER drummer Mike Portnoy are among the musicians who have taken issue with Spotify CEO Daniel Ek's suggestion that artists need to be more prolific in the streaming age.

Remember all those times I suggested if you wanted to make music for the rest of your life, you should have a day job too?  It's good advice.

For years, Spotify has been criticized for offering paltry payouts to musicians and songwriters, with some claiming that the service gives major-label artists an unfair advantage via playlist placement and other promotional avenues.

In an interview published Thursday, Ek told Music Ally: "Even today on our marketplace, there's literally millions and millions of artists. What tends to be reported are the people that are unhappy, but we very rarely see anyone who's talking about… In the entire existence [of Spotify], I don't think I've ever seen a single artist saying, 'I'm happy with all the money I'm getting from streaming,' stating that publicly. In private, they have done that many times, but in public, they have no incentive to do it. But unequivocally, from the data, there are more and more artists that are able to live off streaming income in itself.

"There is a narrative fallacy here, combined with the fact that, obviously, some artists that used to do well in the past may not do well in this future landscape, where you can't record music once every three to four years and think that's going to be enough," he continued.

That's important, actually.  People's attention spans (myself included) have gotten shorter.  Even at home any more, I'm usually recording something.  I might put it out, I might not but that's because I always like new stuff, and the more the better.  You can't put out 30/40 minutes of music every two years and just sit back and coast, especially if the style of music you're doing hasn't been in fashion for 30 years.

"The artists today that are making it realize that it's about creating a continuous engagement with their fans. It is about putting the work in, about the storytelling around the album, and about keeping a continuous dialogue with your fans.

Makes sense.  What these babies should do is film the recording session and put mini-docs out up until the release.  Create an interest instead of just hiring an Ad/PR agency to promote the release and then not do anything after it's out.  I always wondered why people spend more time promoting something that's not available instead of something that is.

"I feel, really, that the ones that aren't doing well in streaming are predominantly people who want to release music the way it used to be released," he added.

He is mostly right.  The thing I don't believe is "there are more and more artists that are able to live off streaming income in itself."  Maybe if the artist is still living in their parents' basement and have no expenses, then someone could live off streaming income but I doubt they would be living comfortably just from that.

A number of notable artists have since fired back at Ek over his suggestion that artists need to churn out more content if they want to the same money they used to, with many in the music community saying that's just not how the creative process works.

"While you (the listener) benefit & enjoy Spotify, it's part of what's killing a major income stream for artist/creators," Snider tweeted. "The amount of artists 'rich enough' to withstand this loss are about .0001%. Daniel Ek's solution is for us to write & record more on our dime?! Fuck him!"

You'd better get to work since this is the way things are currently and will be for the foreseeable future.  Also, sales haven't been the major income stream for a long time.  Performance royalties would probably be the major income stream for a band that had a hit in the 80s and doesn't tour anymore, unless you had a stroke of luck and that song wound up in a movie or a video game.  Dee's "Daniel Ek's solution is for us to write & record more on our dime" is a little off.  It's not the solution but it doesn't look good for someone like Mr Bach since more of his solo songs isn't what anyone wants or needs.  There's millions of songs on Spotify, why would I waste my time listening to 80s "metal" when it wasn't even good at the time?

Bach also chimed in, writing: "When this guy puts out an album himself I will listen to him tell me about my albums."

It could be the lack of punctuation or lack of smarts but he should have said, "...I will listen to him tell me about my albums and how they tank out of the gate."  I think his last CD was certified Paper by the RIAA.

Portnoy was equally critical of Ek's comments, tweeting: "What a greedy little bitch...it's bad enough that he's worth BILLIONS based on stealing and giving away other musician's music...but now he's suggesting we need to make MORE music for HIM to make more money!!! F-@Spotify and F-@eldsjal

You know why he's rich?  Because he obviously did something right.  You know that Spotify isn't a payday, unless you didn't read the TOS.  Opt out if it bothers you so much.  I used to opt out of having my stuff on Tidal, since I didn't like the owners (they were celebrities calling themselves artists).  It's easy to opt out.  And how exactly is Ek "stealing and giving away other musician's music"?  We may never know the answer.

"I have 8 full album releases in 2020 & will make PEANUTS on them (if anything at all...) So his theory of artists needing to make MORE music to succeed is shit! F-@eldsjal & F-@Spotify! Support THE ARTISTS DIRECTLY if you want them to be able to continue to make music..."

He should have put his songs on BandCamp so people could buy them.  If you want more money from streams, talk to your label or manager to see if they can get you a better deal.  As good as Mr Portnoy is, what he plays on is for a pretty niche market; not a lot of Prog Metal in the charts.  They may be the best fans in the world but it's not a huge number.  He'd be better off playing sessions, at least he can do that whereas Dee and Mr Bach are out of luck on that one. 

Here's why all of these belly-achers are so dumb.  They're so hung up on streaming yet they want to make money.  As I mentioned at the top: focus on sales.  Treat your streams as promotion for the sale, then you'd get the money for the sale AND the stream.  I have zero sympathy for these three Extra Chromosomers.  They've known forever that money is in the touring, and wait for it, merchandise.  But people don't stream merchandise, they sell it.  It's income.  But someone like Bach would still want $0.02 for every time you wore the T-shirt that you bought at his show.

Since I hiked my stuff over to DistroKid, I have 5 or 6 things up on Spotify.  You know how much I expect to make from streams?  $0.  I expect the same out of sales too so anything to me, is a bonus.  And thankfully over the years, I have seen minor payouts and I'm still thrilled that happened.  I'm not here for the money, I'm here because I thoroughly enjoy making music whether it's playing guitar, making the songs, being my own engineer, mixing, making the cover.  I enjoy the whole process, especially since it's all from home and I'm not wasting a gross amount of money going into a recording studio.  Thank God I'm not on a label either.  Also, I don't have to cater to an audience.  The only one that has to like what I do is me since I'm the guy that's going to be listening to it the most.  If someone else does and likes it, then great, if not, no big deal.  At the end of the day, I'm happy. 

And I still haven't figured out why Drama Queens, like Sebastian Bach, are so out of touch these days.