TBT: Gig Day II

Tomorrow—Friday, 1 May 2020—Bandcamp is waiving the commission it takes on sales of musicians’ work.  That means every purchase made on the site from midnight to midnight Pacific Standard Time tomorrow goes completely to the musicians (other than PayPal processing fees)—another 15% in our pockets.

The Age of the Virus has really taken its toll on musicians.  As I wrote last Thursday, a substantial portion of my income in 2019 came from music lessons and gigs—nearly 17% of my gross income for the year.

With The Virus holding full sway over us, shutting everything down, there are far fewer opportunities for musicians to earn a living—except by way of online album sales.

As such, Bandcamp sacrificing that 15% commission is a huge act of charity for its users.  It also means that it’s the best time to support musicians you lovelike me!

Bandcamp gives musicians the opportunity to sell their music in high-quality digital formats directly to fans.  One nifty feature is that artists can offer their entire discography in one go, often at a discount.

To that end, my discography—seven albums, EPs, and retrospectives, spanning fourteen years of artistic development—is on sale for $15.75.  All of it.  That includes my tour de forceContest Winner EP and its hit single, “Hipster Girl Next Door.”

Another fun feature is that Bandcamp allows fans to pay more if they so choose.  Indeed, when I announced on my Facebook artist page that the full discography was up for grabs, two fans paid $20 for it.  Some artists have reported fans paying as much as $100 for a single album.  I don’t expect that kind of generosity, but, hey—dig deep.

Regardless, there’s never been a better—or more necessary–time to support indie musicians.  We can’t play gigs.  We can barely teach lessons (some folks are doing so online, but it’s just not the same).

So, any support you can offer is always welcome.  To purchase the full discography, you can view any of my albums (like Electrock EP: The Four Unicorns of the Apocalypse) and find a button/link that reads “Buy Digital Discography” (unfortunately, there’s no way to supply that link directly).

Of course, you don’t have to buy all seven albums—it’s just a good deal.  You can also buy individual releases, like 2006’s Electrock Music (ludicrously cheap at $1 for twelve tracks!) or 2007’s Electrock II: Space Rock (just $5!).

But enough soliciting for now—there will be more of that tomorrow.  Let’s get to the ostensible purpose of today’s post—TBT.

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Counting Blessings

After writing yesterday’s blog post about our diminished prosperity, I was quite upset.  I am an emotional sort, given my brooding artistic temperament, and I should know by now that complaining about money and the state of the world will only work me up—or, perhaps, down—into a blue funk (or, occasionally, a purple rage).

So today’s post is meant to be a yellow counterpoint.  It’s easy for me to fixate on negatives.  That’s pretty much the nature of blogging and commentating about politics and culture.  And while I am optimistic for the future, I am a declinist:  I can’t help but notice that much of culture is, at best, a stagnant swamp (hiding away the occasional orchid); at worst, it’s swamp draining into a desert.

But enough that.  Today’s post is about counting blessings.

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Cass on Our Diminished Income

Way back in The Before Times, in the Long, Long Ago, before The Age of The Virus, Oren Cass presented a series of sixteen tweets, asking this question:  “How is that our economic statistics suggest workers have been making slow but steady progress in recent decades, while popular perception is that their family finances are coming under increasingly untenable pressure?”

Cass also wrote about the issue in greater detail in American Affairs and in a lengthy paper for the Manhattan Institute.  That question—why does it feel like it’s harder to make ends meet now, even though inflation is low and we’re wealthier?—is one of the gnawing concerns of modern-day America.

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The Spectator Turns 10,000

The British libertarian magazine The Spectator reached its 10,000th issue.  It is the only magazine ever to reach this milestone.  It began life as a newspaper in July 1828, becoming a magazine “more than 100 years” later, although it was apparently always a weekly.

Throughout its history, The Spectator took radical positions for the times.  They supported the expansion of the franchise in Britain in 1832, and supported the Union in the American Civil War at a time when many Britons were concerned about the impact of cotton shortages on the British textile industry than they were about slavery (correctly or not, The Spectator cast the American Civil War in moral terms).

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Lazy Sunday LIX: The God Pill Series

Two weeks ago, in “Lazy Sunday LVII – Christianity, Part II,” I wrote that my three “God Pill” posts “would make a really good Lazy Sunday… and out of increasing desperation to cobble together compilations, I’ll likely do it one week, with greater detail about each individual post.”  Well, here we are:  the desperation (and my lack of originality) has brought me to this point.

For those unfamiliar with the terminology, the concept of “pilling” someone, or of being “pilled” in some way, ultimately goes back to The Matrix.  Orpheus offered Neo the blue pill, which would allow him to continue living in the simulacrum of our world, a world that was an entirely false but somewhat comforting illusion, or to take the red pill, would which would allow him to peek behind the veil and see Reality for what it truly is.

The edgier corners of the Internet began using the term “red-pilled” some years ago—I don’t know exactly when, but I saw the term used increasingly in during the long and exciting 2015-2016 election season—to refer to those who embraced the hard Truths that the mainstream media and our elites refuse to tell.  They’re those comforting little lies (“Diversity is Our Strength!”) that are hammered into us from an early age at school, in the news, in pop culture, etc.

For some, red-pilling turned to the dreaded Black Pill:  embracing nihilism.  Black Pillers argued that the hard Truths of the Red Pill revealed to them another hard truth:  that Red Pill reform is impossible at this point, as it would require an impossibly massive paradigm shift.  As such, the only option was to acknowledge the Truth—and that no one would ever believe it.  The Black Pillers are nihilistic Cassandras that, knowing they can’t warn the Blue Pill masses about the doom they face, instead decide to go along for the ride, seeing no other options.

But despair is a sin.  Ultimately, some Red and Black Pillers, in their relentless searches for Truth, came upon THE Truth:  Jesus Christ.  Thus, the God Pill.  They came to realize there is more to life than being good with chicks (much of the Red Pill community was centered in the manosphere) and wallowing in hopelessness.

Such was the case of Roosh V, the notorious proprietor of the now-defunct Return of Kings, and a former pick-up artist.  Roosh converted to Christianity after moving through all of the phases above:  Blue Pill chumpitude, Red Pill immorality, and Black Pill despair.  Ultimately, he embraced Christ, and it’s been a remarkable conversion experience.

These posts detail that transformation:

  • The God Pill” (and “TBT: The God Pill“) – This original post in what I’m now dubbing The God Pill series dives into some of the history I detailed above, focusing more on the manosphere itself, and Roosh’s role in it as one of the neo-masculine trinity (alongside the other “R” names:  Rollo and Roissy).  It also talks about Roosh’s conversion, and the concrete changes he made at the time to live a more godly life.
  • The God Pill, Part II” – About a year after his conversion, Roosh decided to unpublish the remainder of his “game” books—books with advice for men about how to meet women.  He’d already unpublished most of his more explicit works, but left his tour de forceGame, available, as he viewed it as an “agnostic tool” that could be used for good or evil—to find a good Christian wife for marriage, or to bed random floozies.
  • The God Pill, Part III” – This post delves a bit more into how Roosh began to see how debased modern society is, and what brought about his ultimate conversion to Christianity.  It also ends with a reminder that “God loves you.  That’s why He sent His Son to die for us.”

The Internet is a frightening place, but there are a lot of folks turning to it to find meaning.  Many of them, sadly, get lost down some dark byways.  But God is working even there.  Roosh’s conversion is just one example of how a thoughtful, flawed individual was brought to a loving knowledge of Christ, and I hope his story will inspire others.

That’s it for this Sunday.  Stay safe!

—TPP

Other Lazy Sunday Installments:

SubscribeStar Saturday: Reflections on Distance Learning: First Month Review

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Well, The Virus saw its shadow, so it’s four more weeks of distance learning, at least here in South Carolina.  It was Sunday, 15 March 2020 when South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster closed all schools throughout the State effective the next day, Monday, 16 March 2020.  That day I wrote about “Transitioning to Distance Learning,” which was an unprecedented move.

I’m fortunate in that I’ve been adjunct teaching online since 2015, and am comfortable maneuvering a “VLE”—a “virtual learning environment,” as the cool kids call it.  My school has been delivering assignments and other content via Google Classroom for years, too, so the infrastructure was already in place.

Now we’re five weeks (four if you deduct a week-and-change of Spring Break) into this unplanned, partially ad-libbed experiment in distance learning, which was initially only supposed to last two weeks.  With another four weeks to go (although two of those weeks are, essentially, exam-oriented, so actual instructional time is closer to two weeks remaining), we’re halfway through this process.

It’s the perfect moment to evaluate how digital learning is going.  Looking back at my first day and first week reflections, it’s interesting to see what is still true, and what has changed.  A colleague of mine remarked yesterday that it’s like learning to fly a plane while it’s already in the air; naturally, some tweaks and adjustments have occurred along the way.

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Progressivism and Playing God

God Bless the weirdos at Quora for asking the questions the rest of us are too afraid to ask.  Regular readers know that I relish Quora fodder, as questions range from the ridiculous to the thought-provoking, but usually fall into some kind of bizarre no-man’s land.

Such is the case with this question:  “Do humanzees (half-human, half-chimpanzee hybrids) exist, or have ones been recorded in the past?”  It’s the kind of question that’s both fascinating and lurid, like reading about a baby raised by wild animals.  Like allowing a human baby to be raised in the wild (what was once called “the forbidden experiment“), such a horrific, cross-species hybrid would be a disgusting mockery of Creation—so, like the terrible car wreck, we want to see more.

The top answer to the humanzee question is from Belinda Huntington, who explains how various species within the same genus can crossbreed, such as a horse and a zebra, or a lion and a tiger.  The more mundane example is the humble mule, the result of a male donkey and a female horse.

Huntington then goes on to detail the many differences between humans and chimpanzees physiologically, and how such differences would make any offspring, if possible, extremely vulnerable and fragile—differences in spinal structure, arm and leg length, cranial capacity, etc.

She doesn’t get into the more interesting metaphysical questions, much less the moral ones—should we interbreed humans and chimps (answer:  no)—but she does link to a piece about Soviet experiments to interbreed humans and chimps.

Leave it to a dangerously progressive, atheistic ideology to play God.

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TBT: End the Income Tax

Last week I went through the annual ritual of paying my income taxes.  For the second year in a row, it’s been a painful experience.  I’m finally at the point in my life where I end up owing money to the federal government, which has only made me more conservative, if that was possible.

Part of the problem is that I slam so much money into my retirement (the legal annual maximum each year into my HSA, my 403(b), and my traditional IRA) that even with increases to my federal withholding, I still fall short.  It’s because a good chunk of my income in 2019 came from private music lessons, gig guarantees, tips, and merch sales at gigs.  I brought in around $9099 from those combined (with the lion’s share of that revenue coming from private music lessons).  My brother tells me I’m probably going to have to start filing quarterly, although The Virus has pretty much killed that side business for the time being.

My taxes took hours to complete, too, as I painstakingly recreated all the mileage I drove for lessons and gigs (now chastened, I am going to maintain a mileage log in my vehicle).  Combined, I drove around 6011.4 miles last year just for lessons and gigs.  WHOA!

Of course, the IRS is now privy to all of that information.  I keep a very detailed budget, and carefully track every transaction, cash or otherwise.  And, naturally, no good deed goes unpunished.

Wouldn’t a national sales tax be easier, and less invasive?  Or maybe a restoration of the old-school tariff regimes of the nineteenth century?  Sure, the congressional battles over tariffs nearly brought South Carolina’s secession in 1832-33, but I’d rather importers pay more (yes, yes—I know the costs will passed on to me, the consumer) than have to divulge my every move to the feds.  Plus, I’d gladly pay another couple of hundred bucks for my washing machine if it means an American worker gets a job and can have some pride in working.

Anyway, the tax man has gotten his share, and I’ve received a decent refund from the great State of South Carolina, so that eases the pain.  Of course, I’m still patiently awaiting my inflationary TrumpBux.  I suppose beggars can’t be choosy about their government’s preferred form of institutional shakedown.

With that, here is 15 April 2019’s “End the Income Tax“:

Today is tax day.  Despite President Trump’s signature tax reform, I ended up owing money to the feds for the first time in my adult life (although I’ll be getting a bit back from the State of South Carolina).

The income tax used to be unconstitutional in our Republic.  Indeed, the primary way that federal government gained revenue was from tariffs on imported goods and excise taxes on certain products, like whiskey.  Alexander Hamilton advocated for high protective tariffs to protect young domestic industries from British manufacturers, who were “dumping” cheap British goods into the infant nation (a practice China has taken up today).  Only during times of war, such as the American Civil War, did Americans have to endure a tax on incomes.

Like most odious, liberty-killing measures, the income tax was a Progressive Era project, ratified in the 16th Amendment (followed shortly thereafter by the 17th Amendment, which made US Senators directed elected, and the 18th Amendment, which prohibited the manufacture, sale, and distribution of alcohol).  Progressive reformers assured Americans that only a very small proportion of Americans would ever pay the income tax, which was graduated from the beginning.

That claim was true… for the first year.  Immediately, Congress began ratcheting up tax rates and requiring more Americans to pay it.  Governments are hard-pressed not to exploit a newfangled method of raising revenue.

The income tax is not all bad:  it’s a more stable source of revenue that tariffs, which depend upon foreign imports.  No imports, no taxation.  Advocates for the graduated income tax, like Tennessee Congressman and future Secretary of State Cordell Hull, argued that, in the event of a major war in Europe (which broke out a year after the 16th Amendment was ratified), international trade would fall, bringing collected duties down with it.  That was a prescient observation, and a strong argument in favor of some kind of domestic tax.

That said, the income tax is incredibly invasive.  Every year, I lament that the federal government has to collect so much information about me:  where I worked during the fiscal year, how I saved my money, etc.

According to Scott Rasmussen, 52% of Americans favor repealing the 16th Amendment.  Count me among them.  The income tax gives the government far too much influence over our lives, and the federal tax code is so byzantine and full of carve-outs and exemptions, it’s become the purview of the well-connected.  It’s become a corporatist monstrosity.

What would replace the income tax?  Given that it’s likely never to be repealed—governments don’t typically diminish their power (or access to other people’s money)—the question is largely academic.  Still, it’s worth considering.

While I think tariffs can serve a useful purpose (see also: bringing China to heel), and that there’s an argument for some mild protectionism, high protective tariffs like Republicans championed after the Civil War would be ruinous to trade.  The deadweight loss (destroyed economic activity) associated with tariffs—especially from the inevitable retaliatory tariffs other nations would pass in response—would do more harm than good, and could result in a Smoot-Hawley Tariff of 1930 situation (i.e., the Great Depression).

The only realistic alternative that I see currently (from my admittedly myopic position) is a national sales tax.  There are some serious drawbacks to this approach, to be sure, but it would be the cleanest, most efficient way to generate revenue.

A national sales tax would encourage saving and work, both of which are currently disincentivized under our current tax regime.  Instead, purchases would be disincentivized, which would hurt sales, but encourage people to hold onto more of their money.  Further, it would not require the government to keep elaborate tabs on every worker; the Internal Revenue Service could be greatly reduced, or even eliminated.

Of course, any tax is a necessary evil, and a national sales tax would make it more difficult for high sales tax States to raise revenue (as it would limit those States’ ability to increase their taxes if necessary).  It would also slow purchasing, and necessarily raise prices (by definition, especially if you’re tacking 15-25% on top of a good).  There’s also the question of whether a sales tax should just apply to consumer goods, or if it should be an uber-expensive value-added tax, with each economic transaction along the chain of production getting taxed.

Those are sticky questions for wonkier types than I to sort out.  But wouldn’t it be nice to build an economy on the production of real value—of stuff—rather than one built on ever-expanding sales, purchasing on credit, and debt financing?

Regardless, the federal income tax is a major imposition, an invasive intruder that enters our lives every April, borrowing from us (without interest!) throughout the year, and intimidating us with the looming threat of disruptive audits.  It seems everyone would be happier—even, in a way, the feds!—if it were eliminated.

Orangutan Keeps Swinging

Apes, monkeys, gorillas, chimps:  they’re fascinating creatures.  Part of their allure is their similarity to humans.  Indeed, I think part of what we like about higher-order animals is when they do anthropomorphic things.  Everyone loved Koko because she had a pet kitten and talked with a Speak-&-Spell.  Even more alien creatures with human abilities draw our attention.  I love octopuses because they’re beautiful, odd creatures, but also because they can open jars and possess memory.

There’s also the connection to primal energy:  a silver-back gorilla is as fat and hairy as I am, but it could rip my head off.  King Kong holds such a powerful presence in our cinematic minds because it’s the story of Beauty and the Beast—the love of the soft and feminine subduing an unbridled, masculine force.

So this story from The Epoch Times about a recovered orangutan really caught my attention.  A female orangutan was shot and separated from her baby in Indonesia.  A team from International Animal Rescue managed to save the poor creature, who was starving on the jungle floor, and release her a few weeks later into a primate sanctuary.

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