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Archive for November, 2017

Want to know a way you can help the world right now? Something you can do with very little effort? (I did it while folding my laundry.) You can call 202-224-3121 and speak with your senators and representative in Washington and tell them to oppose the “Concealed Carry Reciprocity” bills floating through Congress. These bills, if enacted, would force states with strong and effective gun laws to recognize permits from states whose laws are much weaker. It sounds like an innocuous, clinical name, “concealed carry reciprocity,” but it’s very dangerous. It allows the NRA to override and nullify local laws and rob people of the ability to make their own local safety decisions. It is the exact opposite of states’ rights. At the same time, it gives the gun lobby a way to pursue its real agenda, which is to put guns everywhere, when every study with any rigor and reproducibility says more guns equal more violent crime.
 
That’s more risk your family takes on for going to the movies, going to a concert, going to church and going to school. Soon, it could mean extra risk for New Yorkers going to Times Square, where they will have to confront less vetted or unvetted gun carriers.
 
The congressmen who introduced this measure are well funded by the NRA and know that it’s the organization’s top priority. The bills languished temporarily after the recent Las Vegas and Texas mass shootings, but they are moving forward now–this week.
 
Spokespeople in the offices of both my senator and House representative told me the same thing:
 
The best thing to do is call them! 202-224-3121. It takes very little time.
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The Widowhood of Bunny Album Cover 2This week, I’m releasing my 14th album and my second symphonic/classical work. It’s called The Widowhood of Bunny, and it’s a sequel of sorts to my 2016 album Gravitas: A Life. Like the other album, it has a lot of jaunty classical piano and string arrangements (they remind my wife of movie soundtracks) but also some jazz elements inspired at least in part by 20th century masters such as George Gershwin and Aaron Copland. Like Gravitas, it’s an instrumental suite that follows the exploits of widow Bunny now that hubby Gravitas has dropped dead.

Like its predecessor, The Widowhood of Bunny was made on an iPhone 6S. Gravitas came together because I was stress-testing my phone and wanted to see how rich a sound I could get out of it — the project resulted, to my amusement, in my first 50-minute symphony. Bunny was a fluke, too, in a way. Earlier this year, I shoved a string section into one of my rock songs as a funny interruption (a satirical trick I learned from Frank Zappa that amuses me no end) and found the string part growing to almost five minutes long. I realized I would have to stop and either throw the incongruous thing in the trash as another dunce’s experiment, or save it by writing a new extended work. Then I wondered if my imagination could handle another long-form piece, and of course, idiot male posturing pride set in (“Why the hell not?”) and a determination to grow within this genre. My audience, after all, is small enough to not really give a shit.

Indeed, lately, I’ve been thinking … “Hmmmm … Son of Gravitas?”

I understand that the sing-songy, jaunty arrangements in these two albums could really turn off people who prefer my pop and rock tunes, annoy serious classical fans by thinking I’ve wandered into muzak or invite the deserved scorn heaped upon pretentious assholes everywhere. But I ask for patience: Bunny and stuff like it feeds my rock music (and vice versa), and allows me to search and discover. I don’t know many good artists who can repeat themselves, even if they want to. I certainly can’t. It usually doesn’t work out for me to repeat concepts and stay within song genres, even if I’ve found a comfort zone within them. The minute I found my sweet spot in my singing voice, for example, I realized that relying on it made my songwriting weak.

But if you’re not a fan of this stuff, there’s good news: I’ve made four other albums this year, and through the luminous mysteries of music distributors, one of them is only days away. That one’s a neo-folk album of nothing but acoustic guitar songs, and I’ll be sharing that too, hopefully by the end of this week. The release of these two albums hopefully demonstrates to you my proud musical, schizophrenia and dedication to keeping it fresh.

I composed and produced the album during the summer of 2017. The work was created in Apple GarageBand for iPhone. Apple’s string arrangements are largely programed through manipulation and furious button pushing. However, Bunny‘s piano, electric piano, bassoon, flute, clarinet, oboe, glockenspiel, and bass violin parts were all performed by me on the program’s piano keyboard.

I’m including here the proper opening track off The Widowhood of Bunny (it follows a prologue). The album is now available on iTunes, Amazon, Spotify and other sites where music is (still) sold.

 

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Imagine …

Imagine the evil of a man who demands blind loyalty from his followers; who preys upon their low self-esteem and insecurity, promising them pride they haven’t earned by offering them membership in a special tribal identity; who robs them of their individuality by offering them love and esteem in exchange for total deference; who deflects any questions about his competence or leadership by inventing bugaboos, weaving conspiracies and projecting his worst behavior onto his enemies and thus normalizing his behavior by claiming that it’s universal. Imagine his thorough success at this strategy is such that his followers eventually accept non-facts as fact, create their own argot that further alienates them from non-group members, turn violently on those who question the group dogma and otherwise allow their higher-brain qualities of doubt and inquiry to become neutered and destroyed.

And in other news, Charles Manson died.

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Gun rights advocates say there are 2.5 million defensive gun uses a year. That’s 6,849 times a day. That’s how they justify ignoring the mass shootings of children.

To give their numbers context, let’s look at crime statistics:

In 2016, the FBI recorded 95,730 rapes. That’s 262 rapes a day.

The bureau recorded 17,250 murders. That’s about 47 murders per day.

There were 332,198 robberies nationwide in 2016. That’s 910 per day.

There were 803,007 aggravated assaults in 2016. That’s 2,200 per day.

If you add all these up, gun owners claimed to have stopped almost twice as many of the biggest crimes the FBI recorded actually happening in 2016. And if you consider that only about a third of American households have guns, you must come to the conclusion that the overwhelming amount of U.S. crime is actually being perpetuated against gun owners–in such vast amounts that if I were them, I would be afraid to leave the house.

There’s an easy way to avoid that paradox: They can admit their numbers are fraudulent. They are, in fact, 20 years old and based on a phone survey of Floridians whose stories were not externally validated by the study’s author. The reason gun owners tout these figures is a miscible concoction of fear, folk wisdom, peer approval and inherent trust in family members. In other words, the same qualities Bernie Madoff preyed upon.

If this were an insurance scam, it would work the same way: The unethical salesperson exaggerates the risk of failure, sells you a product that is actually riskier, then tells you to share that risk with others by telling them to buy it too. The problem with gun rights advocates, even if their hearts are in the right place, is that they have asked non-gun-owning two thirds of Americans to share risk that the unethical salesperson has laden them with (the heightened risk of getting shot), and help them participate in a demonstrable fraud.

Incidentally, there is a real number of defensive gun uses, and there’s little reason to believe it’s much higher than toddlers shooting themselves. It is easily canceled out by murders many times over. There are common sense physics reasons that guns are very limited as defensive weapons, but if you can’t understand that, I doubt you read this far. And if that’s the case, you’ll never know that the monster at the end of this story was you.

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