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Tom Pile - Running Dog Music

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Filtering by Category: politics

Spitting Into the Wind

She's an inspiration to all, and she's right. Every person every day makes choices that affect the future health of our small planet and all the species who share it with humans. Today, as part of my town's annual Earth Day cleanup, I picked up three giant trash bags full of litter (mostly plastic) from a short stretch of a major roadway - and just one side of that road. It was exhausting and eye-opening, and I feel like it didn't even make a dent. How to extend my efforts into the whole year? Not sure I can be out there every weekend picking up trash - my back would be very unhappy about that - but I CAN choose food that does not come from factory farms, choose packaging that is minimal and recyclable, choose to respect and honor all living beings, choose to vote whenever I have a chance to support representatives and regulations that will protect our resilient but fragile ecosystem for unborn generations to come. It's not just spitting into the wind. 

Let's Get Small

I'm all for austerity.

Spend less, reduce clutter, get rid of stuff that holds you down, take only what you can use, relinquish attachments—all are worthy objectives. These are guiding principles for my personal life, and also for my political views, since the personal is political. Like they say: think globally, but act locally. I vote for smaller government, less waste and excess, more responsible conservation of resources, and more caution when considering the rights of individuals to make up their own minds. Less is more. 

I'm serious. Let's get small. Really small. Let's take up less space. Let's let go of the idea that bigger is better. Let's give up on that old American dream of wealth and prosperity for all. It is not sustainable. It only works when there's a third world -- an "under" world -- to supply us with our gadgets and material wants. Guess what? The third world watches Dallas and Real Housewives and American Idol on TV, too, and they want what we have. Who's going to supply them? 

Yes, they've been watching. They want their MTV and their Starbucks and their KFC. They want their burgers and fries. They want their big houses and stylish clothes. Trouble is, there's no room at the table any more. If all 9 billion citizens of the world lived like the typical American family, we'd all be drowning in pig shit and choking on fumes.

We can't pretend that we can turn the clock back to a time of innocence when the future was all bright and rosy, and everything seemed possible. Those who look to reinstate the Glory Days are in for disappointment and disillusionment. The American Century is over. Anyone who has looked closely knows that it wasn't all that glorious anyway. 

We're in a new century now. Let's promote some different American values, some values for the future and for the world.

Let's start small: 


Try to be kind.

Say thank you more often.

Play more.

Talk to dogs and small children. You will learn something every time.

Honor your elders, but question authority every time.

Work hard. Eat well.

While we're on the subject, less meat is not such a bad idea.

Plan for the future, remember the past.

Live in the present.

It was a different world

Just finished Herman Wouk's Winds of War and War and Remembrance. A monumental effort, but well worth the investment of time and attention. 

You think you learned the history in school, but if your education was like mine, you only skimmed the surface. I read these books to gain a deeper grasp of my father's generation, of the sacrifices they made, and of the events that shaped their world view. I came away with so much more than that. My faith in humanity was restored.

Class Warfare?

There's nothing wrong with making money. I believe in capitalism, because we don't have a viable alternative, and because markets usually balance out opposing forces. One of the underlying assumptions of capitalism is that every member of society gets compensated in some fair way based on the value of their contribution to that society, as judged by the market. 

What's the value of making money off of money? What's the value of protecting investments - of creating a hedge against the uncertainties of the future? Of speculating on which way markets will turn tomorrow or next year or next decade? Yes, we all benefit from the free flow of capital. Yes, there is value in creating security. Yes, we all have to think about and plan for the future. But imbalances in the distribution of wealth in our world today have led us to an unbalanced view of what activities have real value.

How does the value of a risk manager stack up against the value of a pre-school teacher? Is the profit margin of the commodities speculator balanced fairly against the salary of the sanitation engineer? Is a good poem worth as much a a share of AAPL?  A hundred shares?

All of us, inflamed by our constant media diet rich in consumption, are driven by desire. We want the stuff that's flaunted in our faces daily, and our wanting makes us misplace value. Money takes on value on its own, without any connection to real activity that benefits society.

We're out of whack, and we know it. The barons of Wall Street know it somewhere deep down, that their positions are morally indefensible, and that their hearts are bankrupt.

OWS is just trying to put the brakes on -- to get more of us thinking about the inequities that currently fuel the markets. It's working.

engineers and musicians

Talking with Robert about the state of the world we're handing over to the next generation, I expressed some relief that there seems to be some recognition on the part of young people today that the challenges they face will only be met through hard work, serious study, and tremendous ingenuity.

"Kind of makes me feel guilty about the choice to study music," he said.


We need music now more than ever. Music calms the beast, ignites the soul, and unites everyone through a common language that is pre-verbal. What are all those engineers going to listen to on their brainpods or genephones or whatever it will be that they will use to connect to everything everywhere?

I sent him this drawing courtesy Hugh Macleod along with some banana bread and told him to get back to the woodshed.

He has much work to do. 

Olympic Heros

I need a hero as much as the next guy. Someone to look up to as a model of discipline and achievement. Someone who takes the raw talent and brains they are born with and really makes something out of it. I love the Olympics because every four years, we get a chance to see what we all are capable of.

if we could only enjoy the Olympics without the filter of television. These incredible athletes are now groomed to be media stars as part of their training and are expected to do the TV dog and pony show to satisfy the great hunger for celebrity. Who can blame them for wanting the endorsement $ and the spotlight - they have certainly earned it - but TV reduces their stature, in my estimation. The more they talk, the less interested I become. The more often they appear in commercials and fluff pieces, the less I see their individuality and their inspiration.

I've been watching some of the practice runs and other raw material that hasn't made it into the production machine. NBC is graciously posting a lot of this stuff online. No commentary, no filter, no fluff. I am such a bore, but that's the way I like it.


It's the best of America. It's the worst of America. All that creativity, ingenuity, greed, and waste side by side. The lurid carnality and the heartbreaking beauty all in your face all at once. Lots of yin, lots of yang. Nothing in moderation, everything to excess. Four days is about all I can take.

CES was again a monumental hodgepodge, dominated, as everyone knows, by 3D TV, Ford Sync, and eReaders galore. My favorite spots, though, are those back rows full of hopeless dreamers, deep geeks, and just plain weirdness. While there was nothing this year to top last year's Cell Mate [a cell phone accessory that converted your normal cell phone to hands free operation by velcroing it to a bent coat hanger], there was the USB cigarette - a delightful device that plugs into your free USB port and smokes away "just like the real thing." Pointless, but amusing. A balance of attributes that's prized in Vegas.

By the way, I need new glasses, and I'm thinking of going straight to 3D. Good move?


What's happening to me? I'm starting to think about food all the time. Not obsessively yet, but you have my permission to verbally slap me up anytime I begin to go over the line.

Many like to go to the movies on Saturday night, or go out for dinner or drinks. What did I do with the last Saturday night of my vacation? Sat up reading a report from the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization. Dork.

However, here are my conclusions:

1. Flipping burgers is a perfectably respectable way to make a living.
2. Almost one billion poor people around the world earn a living from livestock.
3. Ray Kroc was a marketing genius, without a doubt.
4. While it seems cheap, we really can't afford beef any longer.

Here's the UN report - it's worth the trouble.


Merce Cunningham opened the world for those who worked with him and for countless people around the world who experienced that work. The influence he wielded with Cage and Rauschenberg and other major artists is well-documented, but I do not think he was much moved by his own reputation. Merce was really all about the day-to-day dedication to excellence and the attention to the details of the moment. Today’s work always trumped yesterday’s. Over the years his company and his studio provided incredibly rich opportunities to thousands of dancers, musicians, artists, teachers, administrators, designers, and technicians. I had the good fortune to make music in class at Merce’s studio for more than 16 years. It was a daily opportunity to dig deep into my own wellspring; to turn over the rocks in my soul and make something useful out of whatever I found underneath. Horrible failure and mysterious beauty happening all at the same time, and often I couldn’t tell which was which. Merce’s work was like that: profound and baffling, immediate and cool, irritating and sublime, enigmatic and pedestrian. Often all at once. He made us think different, see different, hear different, and feel different. We will not forget.

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