Posts categorized "Books"

Recent interviews

Government shutdown during tax season?  The US government is asking us to obediently pay our taxes while that same government is threatening a shutdown?  They take our money and feel no need to provide services in return?  This is unacceptable.

I am in the process of booking several radio interviews for next week on this topic.  In the meantime, I thought I'd share a few recent radio interviews.

Interview with WCIT in Ohio

Due to my crazy schedule this next week, I'll probably just present the following interview into the podcast:

Interview with KKNT in Phoenix

Posted by Mark Manney.

Audiobook and Kindle edition now available!

I'm excited to announce that Love It or Leave It: The End of Government as the Problem, is now available at iTunes and other digital music outlets.  Given the format and subject-matter of the book, my opinion is that the audiobook version is the preferred experience. 

The book is also now available on Kindle.

Visit the book site to learn more.  Print and additional ebook editions are coming very soon.

Cover

 

Posted by Mark Manney.

Government is the problem (podcast episode)

This week we introduce the idea behind my upcoming book.  Inspired by the recent Republican victories in Congress, Mark unveils the idea that ends government as the problem.  This podcast is for you only if you care about American politics.

Click on the gray box below to listen.

Abscondo Podcast - 26 - Government is the Problem

Tea Party tax day protest 2010

 

Posted by Mark Manney.

The Quest to Communicate Ideas Through Art and Logic; poetry vs. prose, indie vs. commercial, authentic vs. kitsch

Now that I've begun expressing myself not just through writing and music, but also by means of audio and video, I've begun to question what it is I'm actually attempting to do through these multiple mediums and why.

Regardless of medium, the goal is always to communicate an idea to the audience...to communicate something I feel is worthy of attention, something interesting or important.  But to do this I use two basic and fundamentally different approaches.  While everything on this blog can be considered a "creative work", not all of it is intended as "art".  So what exactly is the difference between something that can be classified as art and something that is not art?

Depending upon the nature of the subject-matter being communicated to the audience, one approach or the other must be used. This is where I will compare the differences between the nature of logic and reason vs. the that of beauty, passion, or inspiration.  Other than the poetry podcast, the Abscondo Podcast makes no attempt at art.  What Sofia and I attempt to achieve here is to appeal to your sense of logic.  We attempt to present a compelling argument.  We try to communicate an idea through reason.  The podcast format is an effective way of communicating certain kinds of ideas...simple observations, theories, opinions...anything having to do with that which is observable or has a cause and effect.  The same is true with respect to much of my writing.  But there is a limit to this type of expression.  The limit is found when an idea cannot be rationalized, argued, measured, and observed.

This is where art steps in.  Perhaps the most fundamental purpose of art is to communicate about things which fall outside the limits of logic and reason.  I firmly believe, for example, that what is between two people cannot be understood by a third.  This is most clearly visible in the case of love.  It is only possible to successfully explain our feelings of love to the object of our affection him or herself.  But when we try to make a friend, a family member, or an audience understand that love, understand that relationship through mere words (through "prose"), we fail.  We are left with a frustrated sense that nobody understands or, worse yet, our words are misunderstood and twisted into something unrecognizable.  So if we wish to express love to any third party, we must look to art if we have any chance at all of success!

Love, pleasure, beauty, despair, inspiration, hope, these are feelings.  The best way to communicate about feelings is in the language of art.  Imagine the attempt to comfort a brokenhearted friend by saying, "Everyone gets their heart broken now and then, you'll get over it."  It might actually be more helpful for her to listen to a favorite song which was written and performed by a complete stranger.  We watch films, read fiction, look at paintings, and listen to music so that we might understand a feeling a little differently.  We might see someone else' perspective on a feeling or emotion.  In doing so, we might understand our own feelings differently.  We might even change how we feel.  We might at least find comfort in that we are not alone. 

It is also interesting to note that not every film, composition of music, painting, or sculpture is, indeed, art.  A rap song about bitches and bling, a cardboard cut-out at the movie theater, the vast majority of Hollywood films, most best-sellers at the airport book store -- this content is not art in the truest sense.  These are examples of Commercial communication.  The focus on "communicating something about feeling" is not primary.  The "art of the mainstream" is, instead, designed to sell, influences us to shop, and actually prevents us from feeling and thinking in the truest, deepest sense.  This is content, not art. 

Similarly, Commercial news and talk show content is not truly designed to communicate ideas which appeal to logic and reason.  Art is dying.  Logic is dying.  That's because nearly all mainstream, commercial, corporate-sponsored content is nothing more than an advertisement, a sales pitch, and a form of propaganda sponsored by and created by the powerful elite.  It is designed neither to bring us truth, enlightenment, logic, critical thinking, nor is it designed to bring us any closer to beauty, bliss, pleasure, emotional balance, or contentment.  Rather, its purpose is always to merely justify the status quo by convincing all of us to conform to it and to not think or feel outside of it.  Oh, and if we don't like the void we are left in, we are allowed to look to religion (the only other acceptable option).  Bullshit.

What I'm doing, with the help of Sofia, might only be one lonely voice that at times seems a bit strange.  It may not always make sense and I may not always even succeed.  But my audience can at least know that the focus is purely on the idea, always on the feeling, and always aimed at a general quest for purity, freedom, and truth.

Posted by Mark Manney.

Absconding Authority

The topic of this Friday's podcast is fundamental to the idea of seeking an authentic life.  In fact, it isn't possible to achieve a lifestyle that is more authentic unless we are willing to always question and resist authority.

Authoritative power is creeping into our lives in so many obvious forms (government, schools, church), and oftentimes in more disguised forms (corporate media, corporate influence over government).  We explain the belief system known as Anarchy, which is not a desire for chaos and lawlessness; rather, a constant questioning of the legitimacy of authority.

Part of today's show also deals with alternative forms of media (non-commercial media).  For those who are interested, I promised to share a few examples of anti-establishment media:

News:

Democracy Now!

The Real News Network

Music:

KEXP is a good example of commercial-free radio that plays music far more interesting than what you'll hear in the commercial radio.

Film:

Go for independent films, or if you're more interested in documentaries that explain some of these ideas, try: Manufacturing Consent (Noam Chomsky) or any film by Michael Moore.

Books:

As far as non-fiction, try:

"When Corporations Rule the World" by David C. Korten

"Shock Doctrine" or "No Logo" by Naomi Klein

If I were to provide one recommendation for a work of fiction, it would be "The Joke" by Milan Kundera.

Limitless options...where to begin?

Posted by Mark Manney.

The coming Great Depression

On my long flight back from the US, I picked up a new book by Harry S. Dent called "The Great Depression Ahead."  After reading for just a few hours, on the flight from Minneapolis to New York, the book had significantly changed my perspective about this new decade.  I was so influenced by this book that the next morning, while I was stuck in some airport hotel near JFK waiting for my evening flight to Prague, I had completely changed my stock / investment positions in preparation for the very long, cold winter ahead.

Anybody who is generally aware of today's political and economic trends likely has a general sense that the economy is unsustainable in its present form.  Consumer spending over the past few decades has been funded, to a significant extent, on credit -- second mortgages on homes and out-of-control credit card spending.  So what happens when this leads to a housing bubble that has already begun to burst?  What happens when banks stop extending credit because of a rational fear that the debt may not be paid back?  What happens, if, at the same time unemployment is rising and income is stagnant or even declining?  The obvious answer is: people will spend far less on everything.

OK, I get that (and have for some time).  I also get that the US government debt is so enormous that nobody quite understands how it could possibly be repaid.  For some time, I have believed this to be the most pressing issue, but the author of this book points out that there are even more significant, more alarming trends which will take us into a 10-year global Great Depression.  In short, he analyzes economic trends in relation to population demographics.  Some generations have more children than others, and the spending of these generations over their life-span (when they buy homes, cars, have children, retire, etc.) also has a great affect on overall economic trends.

Harry S. Dent concludes, based on looking at a number of trends (the bursting real estate bubble, an over-extended credit market, a commodity bubble that is about to burst, and a critical stage in terms of demographic trends in key economies around the world)...he concludes that we are months away from the beginning of the worst Great Depression in history...that sometime in 2010 it will start and we will not really begin to see the end of it until the 2020's.

One of the reasons I find his work credible is that he has written similar books on each of the past two decades and was able to forecast things correctly.  He has been bullish for decades, and long ago has actually been correctly forecasting much of what we are seeing today (what we say in the economic meltdown of 2008, for example).  He gets things right because he looks at factors nobody else is seeing -- highly predictable and significant factors (such as demographics).

I post this only to do my part in warning people.  I recommend that any of my readers with significant savings / investments go read this book.  Get your money out of stocks (or, better yet, get into shorting the DOW and other indexes through many of the bear ETF's on the market), keep your money in savings in a stable bank, sell real estate that isn't essential or sustainable in your life long-term.  Ultimately, if these predictions are true, this decade will not be easy for any of us.  But we have to find ways to protect ourselves or even make money in this environment...for the mere purpose of survival.

If these predictions come true, I think most of us will also become quite creative and frugal...maybe living with family or friends, gardening, walking / biking, etc.  I think we will find that what matters in life are the people around us, the relationships, our individual journeys of self-discovery, our art...all that is non-commercial. 

It is also important to understand that this long winter is necessary and essential for the long-term good of the planet, the economy, and our children.  This is sort of nature's way of clearing out all that is not working, is wrong-headed, corrupt, and destructive.  It is evolution's way of cleaning things up...punishing behaviors that are not working or not sustainable.

I know this post is strange for a music blog, but I am more than just a musician.  I felt it was right for me to warn my friends and audience about what I think to be true (while I certainly hope it isn't). 

Posted by Mark Manney.

How money and success destroy art

Eddie Vetter of Pearl Jam has said that his music was originally fueled by anger, and that it was challenging for him when that anger went away and was replace by happiness and contentedness.  Even the style of his music, itself, was originally a product of the angst and frustrations of a common life.  What meaning could it possibly have within the context of overwhelming success and riches? 

Did Eddie's success choke his ability to create the kind of meaningful music we knew and loved?  Consider his early song Jeremy in relation to the following lyrics from a recent song, Big Wave:

I scream in affirmation
Of connecting dislocations
And exceeding limitation
By achieving levitation

Got me a big wave, ride me a big wave, got me a big wave.
Got me a big wave, ride me a big wave, got me a big wave

OK that's just embarrassing.  You have to hear the song, set to the angst-ridden sounds of grunge music (a sound, by the way, that he hasn't bothered to evolve so that it might more accurately reflect his daily reality) in order to get the full picture of how badly this song misses the mark.

We see the same thing happen in Rap music all the time.   The art form itself is a reflection of the brutal realities of inner-city life.  Throw some money at it and what starts out as meaningful, anger-fueled and angst-ridden lyrics so quickly turn to boasting of cars and brands. 

Meaningful art has to arise from the life and experience of the artist.  One might expect the successful rocker or rapper to experiment with new, happier or more blissful sounds.  But in the case of both the rapper and the grunge-rocker, their style of music cannot be allowed to change so that it might more accurately reflect their new lives.  To do so would be to risk losing the very foundation of that success...the support of fans who originally loved them for who they once were.

And so it is, with overwhelming success and subsequent riches, art itself becomes inauthentic crap as the artist becomes a salesmen just trying to continue fueling an excessive lifestyle. 

Posted by Mark Manney.

Unrelated, yet related reading and listening

When I entered grad school, I started to notice the interconnected nature of the subject-matter before me.  True understanding means seeing how things are connected (and, as a side note, also being able to identify the limits / flaws of any theory or model).

My vacation reading has included the audio book version of Erich Fromm's The Art of Being, as well as Simon Reynolds' Rip It Up and Start Again.  Fromm is a Psychologist and Humanist Philosopher, and his work The Art of Being is a collection of semi-related works from the mid-1970s.  Rip It Up and Start Again is a Non-Fiction work about the era of music known as Post-Punk (1978-1984).  So aside from the vague 1970s references, what commonality do these works share?

Maybe the commonality has do with with certain truths.  Maybe, on the other hand, my analysis is only a shallow reflection of my preconceptions.  But what I see as the overlapping theme threaded throughout is the idea of evolution.  Fromm is a realist who is well-aware that his philosophies are grounded in the laws of evolution.  Reynold's, whether aware of what he is doing or not, dissects the evolution of music through a specific timeframe.  What is most interesting about this era is that it was defined by an attempt to reject the inevitability of evolution itself!  It was an era in which musicians actually tried to shed the influences of everything which came before in an attempt to create something completely new.  They even went to such ridiculous extremes as to legitimize non-musicians as brilliant musicians (the No-Wave trend).  Others espoused a "belief-system" called de-evolution (the band Devo).  But of course it was entirely impossible to eliminate the inevitable force of evolution.  The struggle for survival and thrival amidst a demanding reality of scarcity applied even to No-Wave music, for example.  At the same time, it should be said that such a radical approach to things actually did accelerate the evolution of music and compromised an interesting era of creativity.

Any philosophy not aware of the forces of evolution is a flawed and ineffective one.  An awareness of how evolution affects everything we are and everything we do leads to a very sober, yet correct analysis of things.  Fromm, for example, ponders the "meaning of life question".  His conclusion is that this is a meaningless question.  He says it is more interesting to consider the need humans have to ask this question in the first place.  Whatever answers we come up with are really just personal justifications for the desire nature has implanted within us: the desire to live.

What of "awareness"?  The more successful musician is aware of the fact that her work exists in a "landscape" which brings with it certain conventions.  She is well-educated on her instrument and has listened to a wide variety of music.  She is able to synthesize all of this into a work of art that is  both interesting and accepted by the audience...the life-blood of any artist.  Similarly, the more "correct-living" person is also aware that his life is restricted by the landscape he lives in.  Rather than filling his mind with that which is mystical and made-up, he learns to observe reality as it is.  He is well-educated.  He knows where he fits within the economic landscape that actually exists.  He is aware of the forces at work.

True creativity and success starts with a coming-to-terms with the idea of evolution.  Like a musician has to first learn his instrument before effectively expressing himself creatively, we all need to first learn about the reality we exist within before we can master the art of living...creative, meaningful, successful living.

Posted by Mark Manney.

Capitalism as Cancer

I’m reading “The Post-Corporate World: Life After Capitalism” by David C. Korten. His most well-known work, “When Corporations Rule the World,” probably had more influence on my worldview than any single book. I’m not sure why I’m only now getting around to his follow-up effort several years later.

Speaking of impact, I’ve heard that “When Corporations Rule the World” was one of the catalyzing forces behind the 1999 WTO Protests in Seattle. What makes his message so powerful is nothing other than his deep understanding of the material…theoretically, personally, and even spiritually.

Korten often uses the metaphor of “Capitalism as cancer.” He explains how, in a Corporation, the unquestioning quest to increase shareholder value is an alternate “morality” completely detached from life-based morality that would sustain us. Much like the out-of-control and destructive growth of cancer in a biological organism, we have otherwise good people acting immorally as scientists, engineers, and business people, and unknowingly working to destroy civilization and the planet itself. While his previous work describes the problem, “The Post-Corporate World” promises solutions.

I highly recommend anyone visit the library or Amazon.com for a little re-education…the kind you don’t get in economics courses.

Posted by Mark Manney.