Archive for March, 2010

the beauty of good enough

ze strokes circa 2001

Isn’t it kinda of  odd the best music comes from dark ages of a recession, after the bubble bursts? That’s what happened after the dot.com bubble of 2000. Nu-Metal, boy bands out, new garage rock bands in! THANK GOD.

The White Stripes and The Strokes came out with albums in 2001 and  became the new poster boys of cool.  To a generation of mp3 freeloaders, rock music is supposed to sound lo-fi. Lo Fi, distorted, rough, the imperfections made it perfect. What matters is if the message is important. Then people will listen regardless.  There wasn’t HD quality video of the demonstrations in Iran, but the video cameras on the phones will do! What about the fuzzy twitter pic of the plane landing in the Hudson river?  How did Paranormal Activity made on a shoe string 30,000 budget become the most profitable movie of all time?

Everyone has a voice now due to low cost, easy use, always available technology. The world is better for it.

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capitalism film review

“When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men, They create for themselves, in the course of time, a legal system that authorizes it, and a moral code that glorifies it.”
F. Bastiat, political economist, 1850

After watching Capitalism: A Love Story by Michael Moore, I thought about what i had learned in economics while in university. I haven’t really gotten into economic theory since graduation to be honest, but something that was firmly drilled in my mind was – reduction of government regulation, reducing tax  –  will stimulate the economy through increased consumer spending. Over time, the increased economic growth will generate a larger tax base, which will recoup the revenue lost from the tax cut.

Anybody can see what a sham this theory is. Reducing taxes on the rich and businesses creates spending? That would assume they put the tax savings back into the businesses. That doesn’t happen. Today’s masters of the universe got filthy rich by using the Reagan tax breaks and investing in THEMSELVES – not the businesses or workers. Hence, no increased consumer spending, no increase in the tax base. EPIC FAIL.

I have to say I agree with the overall premise of the movie : Wall Street screwed us. They need to be regulated, instead we give them more money. Also there needs to be moral consciousness brought back into business. Business should not be just about maximizing profit. It has to take account of the workers, the environment, the long term consequences.  This insatiable greed as taken over US – which is why capitalism is defined as evil in this movie. Its become corporatism and it needs to stop before it spirals out of control again. I am surprised it wasn’t nominated for an Oscar. Moore does have a bad habit of painting good guys vs bad guys, instead of just sticking to the facts, but thats also what makes the movie very entertaining at times.

what oasis taught me

Before I got into the habit of reading loads of books for fun (yeah I am a big nerd) I had this huge appetite for music. The one band that got me into music properly was Oasis.

To me, the Gallagher brothers are the most comically entertaining musicians in the world. Not only did they make the most melodic music to my ears, their antics made them seem like they were from a different planet. It was also the classic rag-riches story, from nothing – growing up in working class Manchester to icons of the 90’s – that made them so fascinating. I always find the environment successful people come from to be telling. Noel Gallagher, is actually left-handed. He just learned to play a right handed due to them being poor, and that was the only guitar in the house, which was owned by his children abusing father.  Below is one of the most candid interviews I have ever seen of Noel,  asked how this upbringing affected him. Note the 6 min 30 sec mark especially.

Now Noel to me is a hero, unlike Kurt Cobain who sang about how terrible life is. He wrote life affirming tunes that shook the music industry off its depression and made something out of the very little he had.  This kind of attitude  appealed to me when growing up. Not gangtsa rap music, not the my life is so hard – grunge/emo music scene.  It was about living forever, feeling supersonic, a champagne supernova in the sky.

The constraints of being poor, nothing to lose mentality, hard focus on music, resulted in the classic Definitely Maybe.  The second album was also recorded with constraints – in 15 days, one song every 24 hours. Wonderwall and Don’t Look Back In Anger came from this album!  Oasis were then given keys to the Bank of England, after the huge international success, and what happened? They came out with the bloated 70 minute diabolical  Be Here Now. The creativity was reduced when they were given too much. You don’t have to work as hard, when you can throw money at a problem. To be fair as well,  it was all fitting in accordance to what the public had built them up to be. They were a monstrously-hyped band at that point and they responded with a monstrous defying songs to capture all of the essence and hype which had been created around them. Noel bragged at the time of having 30 guitars overdubbed onto the song My Big Mouth! Now as much as I still love that tune, the excess made the music not as appealing as those first two killer albums. Too much fat, not enough muscle.

Same lessons can be applied to business as well. You don’t need as much as you think. These limitations force you to focus on the essentials, instead of using that extra time to get distracted by the latest email. It just makes you more creative. This also all leads to why I can’t wait to pick up the debut book released today by the founders of 37 Signals, Rework, that talks about, amongst other counter intuitive topics,  the  advantage of having constraints.