Live and Learn, Uncategorized

My Tip to Wake up Early (and Quickly)

There are all sorts of tips out there to wake up early and, what I think is more important, quickly. My entire family and I chronically get up late and often waste an hour or more pointlessly hitting the snooze button over and over again. Since this type of “rest” or “sleep” is useless and I don’t exactly accomplish anything in this time, I’m basically losing 5% of my life just trying to rouse myself.

I’ve read plenty of tips. Steve Pavlina recommends practicing waking up quickly to ingrain it in your subconscious mind, Mark Sisson recommends weaning yourself off the alarm clock, and some e-book I found on Amazon recommends repeating some odd chant while rubbing various body parts (like the arms and shoulders… jeez). And of course, everyone recommends getting enough sleep.

Well, I think I’ve finally found a way to do it. The key is to wake up to music, but instead of using music as an alternative alarm like most people do, use it as just the starting point. The thing I discovered was that for me at least, the problem with the alarm clock is that 1) it jolts you out of bed and 2) it gives you an either/or option. Either you get up, or you press snooze. When you’re groggy and tired and kinda want to murder your alarm clock, the getting up option will usually fail.

So the music starts and you no longer need to jump out of bed. You’ve taken the pressure off. You don’t have to get up right away! The alarm clock is no longer to be dreaded. And also, make sure, to use a playlist of music you really like that is not too heavy or too soft. That way you can almost sort of enjoy being woken up.

Once the music starts, all you need to do is two things: 1) leave the music on and 2) keep your eyes open. This is aided if you leave the blinds open so natural light gets in. One of the big things that keeps you tired is the fact your eyes are closed when you’re lying in bed. Light helps wake us up naturally, so just keep them open (easier said than done, but much easier than just hopping up right away).

After about five minutes you should be much more awake than before. At this point, turn on a reading lamp and then if you’re ready, sit up. If not, maybe shake your arms or roll your neck a bit to get the blood flowing. Or just stay there lying down for another couple more minutes with your eyes open. If your experience is anything like mine, you’ll be ready to get up soon enough. I should also note there are lights for sale that act as alarm clocks and gradually get brighter. Those  would fit in with this plan perfectly.

Once you’re ready, get up and immediately take a shower. That will finish the trick, especially if you’re willing to make it a cold shower, although that’s not required.

So if I were to formulate this into a step by step plan, it would be this:

1. Get to bed on time and get enough sleep (obviously)

2. Keep the blinds open and for that matter, lay your clothes for the next day out just to make it all the easier on you when you wake up

3. Wake up to a playlist of music you really like that is not too heavy or too soft nor too loud or too quiet

4. Unless you want to, don’t get up right away, just do not turn the music off (put the player far enough from your bed that you would have to get up to turn it off just in case)

5. Keep your eyes open

6. Once you feel a bit more awake, turn on your reading lamp and maybe shake your arms and roll your neck a little bit

7. Then sit up

8. Then get out of bed and take a shower

Each of these steps has come naturally to me. I don’t have to time them, I just start to wake up naturally and after about 5 to 15 minutes, I get out of bed. I set a backup alarm just in case I linger too long, but I have yet to need it. In the past, I have struggled to get out of bed with enough time to take a shower and inhale a quick breakfast before work. Now I have been consistently getting up at 6:00 am and getting my workouts in before work (which is a lot easier than afterwards when I’m tired and just want to relax).

Well that’s it. Let me know if it works for you as well.

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Photo Credit: blogs.villagevoice.com

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Complete Whimsy, Individual v. Collective, Live and Learn

Musicnomics Part II: Decline and Fall

So a while back I wrote an article about the wacky world of music where talent is ignored in favor of prepackaged, overproduced tweenie heart throbs and beauty queens who have little discernible talent other than a voice that would typically rank around 7 to 8 on a scale from 1 to 10. I have a friend who’s in a very good band called The Hoons. Quite a few have commented that they should be famous or that they will soon become famous… You know, when people realize they’re really good. Unfortunately, since being good is not a qualifier for musical fame, I would hesitate to make such predictions.

The problem is this; people really like music and thereby many will dedicate themselves to it even if the odds of financial windfall are small. Who wouldn’t rather be a musician than say, an insurance salesmen? Thus, there are a lot of really talented musicians and bands out there and they get lost in a sea of other music. The market is over saturated. Whereas there is probably plenty of room for improvement regarding the talent of insurance salesmen.  This may have not been the case in the past as much, but it certainly is now. People can only keep so many bands in their heads at any given time. Dunbar’s number dictates human beings can only conceptualize something like 150 people as friends or acquaintances of note. Everyone else is a number. I suspect our tolerance for musicians and bands is substantially smaller.

Record companies know this, so they’re not really selling music, they’re selling a brand. Why do you think every movie that comes out today is a remake/reboot/reimagining/sequel/spinoff/prequel or adaption of a TV show, video game or at least a book (which seems to be becoming more and more rare). The established brand helps guarantee that the $100 million or so the studio dumps into filming our 2 hours of escapism will come to the top of the enormous mound of garbage begging for our attention (and money). And so it goes with music, just make a smaller investment up front and try to sell a charismatic and attractive “musician” who can technically sing and maybe dance a little. Then sell them songs written by someone else (or something else) that have been scientifically tested to be as catchy (and empty) as possible. While the songs are often overproduced, they are also simple, with very few and very predictable chord changes. This makes them easy to dance to, sing along with and get caught in the head. Throw all that together with said “artist” and boom, a famous musician is born… or probably more accurately designed, tested, manufactured and marketed.

This all makes me rather sad. But at least I could console myself that we had so much music at our disposal anyone could dig through and find stuff that is actually of quality. The production side may be an upside down mess, but the consumption side is an oyster or smorgasbord or something like that.

Then I had a recent conversation with my guitar teacher (who is very good musician, and of course, not famous). He mentioned that in Mozart’s day, he was well known for his operas no his symphonies. At the time, operas were the music of the masses. Lawrence Edelson describes it as follows:

The opera house was the first musical institution to open its doors to the general public. The first opera house was opened in Venice in 1637, presenting commercial opera and run for profit!  …It offered new entertainment to anyone who could afford a ticket.  By the end of the seventeenth century, Venice had sixteen opera houses open to the general public. [Bold in original]

Can you imagine Joe Shmoe or some trailer park rednecks going to the opera today? Or maybe some wanksta’s: “Yo Homie, let’s get hella faded and then catch some Pavarotti up in this hizzie!” Sorry, I digress. Sure, it’s great that the masses had a form of entertainment available to them they hadn’t previously had. Indeed, Edelson notes the [positive] change that was starting to take off in the early to mid 1800’s, “During the first half of the nineteenth century, “new forms of popular culture were developing as the industrial revolution generated the two preconditions for mass entertainment: mass production and a mass audience. “

That is great. The problem, is that today opera is considered the music of the snobby elite. It’s classy music meant for a more sophisticated audience. So opera went from being a music for the general public, to a music for the elite. My guitar teacher is convinced this is the trend throughout time, and unfortunately, he’s probably right.

Jazz and blues’s were both considered to be the music of “bars and brothels” during the early 20th century. Now they’re classic. The Beatles made mindless, pop music, now they’re the epitome of classic rock and hugely respected as musicians. And I should note, while I do like the Beatles, the simplicity of their songs and the ease with which they are too play, is rather astounding.

OK fine, I like blues and jazz and the Beatles are OK. And I don’t particularly like opera. In fact, I don’t like it at all. But look where this trend is going! Liberals may worry about leaving a wrecked planet to their children (or maybe I should say child…) and conservatives worry about leaving a massive debt. But we can both agree we shouldn’t be leaving Katy Perry and Justin Bieber to our children… dammit, too late… to our children’s children. They’re popularity should die with us.

Unfortunately, it seems we are intent on justifying our hormonally influenced adolescent musical preferences in adulthood by giving such pop music the “classic” label. And with the way this trend is going, it appears that the likes of Britney Spears and Ludacris will become the “classic” music of the next generation. Hell, today their stuff is already turned into symphony arrangements for college marching bands to make fools of themselves with. It’s just a matter of time. Hence a generation more and Beyonce and T Pain will become the operas of the 21st century. Snotty elites will pontificate about the important matters of the day while embracing the deep themes of how “I kissed a girl and I liked it.”

Or maybe they’ll all just go the way of New Kids on the Block… hopefully.

Or maybe it’s just too much to risk and it would be better if robots just took over.

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Photo Credit: blog.buringman.com

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Live and Learn

Musicnomics

As an amateur guitar player I can say that few things bother me more than the world of professional music. It’s simply all upside down. This was brought home to me when I was invited by some friends to a free concert played at a local bar in Kansas City. Samantha Fish was playing, whom I, like most of you probably, had never heard of. Here’s one of her songs and you can get long previews of her new album here.

While listening to her I couldn’t help but think “why isn’t this girl famous?” She’s got a great voice and is wicked good at the guitar (check out the solo at 3:49) and even the most superficial, Hollywood types have to admit she’s quite pretty. As pretty as this broad at least:

I guess these dime-a-dozen, corporately regurgitated beats can be good to dance to if that’s your sort of thing. But I’d break it down this way: Katy Perry is relatively pretty, a slightly above average singer, perhaps a decent dancer although I’ve never seen it, plays no instrument and I’m almost positive she doesn’t write her songs (not that the trivial drab she sings with three chord progressions would be anything to be proud of).

Yes, art is all subjective and maybe I just got a thing for bluesy rock (and pretty girls who play guitar) but is anyone going to seriously say that Katy Perry is more talented than Samantha Fish? I would laugh in your face. Indeed, the market seems to have failed here. Although in my beloved market’s defense, even while the most talented may not reach the top, there will be plenty available to choose from. The producer end is all messed up, but with no barriers to entry and lots of ways to release music, there will be more than enough of any genre to satisfy the consumer end of things. My favorite musician of all time is Chris Cornell, and now that he’s post-Timbaland craziness, he just completed an acoustic tour of all his old stuff. Here’s “Burden in My Hand” from  his Soundgarden days (which are now, by the way, reunited, OMG indeed):

Pure awesomeness… Still, even Chris Cornell’s fame pales in comparison to Katy Perry, Britney Spears and those assholes who make up Nickelback (yes Nickelback sucks, see here).  Why is this? Is it just our unstoppable cultural decline?

The Cato Institute released an interesting piece arguing against that by saying in part that “The music of Bach, Mozart, Haydn, and Beethoven is more accessible to today’s listeners than it was to the listeners of the 18th and 19th century.” True, but that’s not really the issue at hand. Perhaps, the very accessibility of such music is the reason why the likes of Mozart and Beethoven have been replaced with the likes of Perry and Spears.

Without attempting to sound like an elitist snob, music and other arts have very likely seen a decline because of the mass appeal an advanced society provides. Normal people may just want a song to rock out to or dance to or teeny bop with. Back in the day when most people were starving, only the most affluent got to enjoy music and other arts with any consistency, at least the more polished sorts that were subsidized by patron saints and the like.

With the utter saturation of art in the world today, music being but one example, marketers must try to build a brand around individual singers and bands. Katy Perry is obviously not particularly talented, but she can mix simple, recycled but relatively catchy beats with a very well-refined brand name that provides plenty of material for mindless tabloids and Access Hollywood drivel. And that sells regardless of what sort of crap she puts on her records (of which there is, unfortunately, much evidence to attest to).

Technology has rapidly expanded this divide. As I mentioned previously with regards to income inequality:

Technological changes can bring this about as well. Musicians used to have a fairly safe profession. There were gigs all over the place. Then some asshole invented a way to record music and all of a sudden the celebrity culture was born. On the one hand you have Beyoncé and Justin Timberlake making tens of millions of dollars. On the other, you have some down-and-out garage band trying to sell CDs they burned at home, after a concert they played in some hole-in-the-wall bar on a Friday night to a bunch of disinterested yuppies. Innovation and technology are great, but they can create inequality, and we’ve had plenty of innovation in the last century.

Thus cult of personality became more important than talent. I would argue that intellectual property has also played a part in this. Songs would be much less tied to their writers if IP were reduced or eliminated entirely. I think this would make it harder for the cults of personality and celebrity culture to flourish with regards to music because people would follow the songs more than the artists. Indeed, it would certainly hurt artists on the top of the charts to curtail IP, but it may give a boost to those who are on the lower rungs of popularity.  I recommend Stephan Kinsella’s lecture against intellectual property which discusses this subject in more detail.

Regardless, something is seriously wrong with who makes it and who doesn’t in the world of music.

Photo Credit: Get This Ripped

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