Give It Away [on Very Flawed Wednesday]

BMI music moves our world copy

There’s a yearly ritual in our home that I have come to dread. The arrival of the BMI statement. Broadcast Music, Inc., one of the performing rights organizations (royalty collectors) that track and collect royalties for the worldwide play of Kerri’s music. If I could hide the envelope and feel good about myself I would do it.

The BMI envelope evokes a dark cloud. Kerri clutches it and disappears into a corner of the house where she meticulously adds the numbers. With each number, her inner emotional rubber band winds tighter and tighter and tighter until it approaches the snapping point. I hear mutters and curses, “Listen to this,” she shouts to no one, “27,000 plays and I made a whopping 6 cents! 50,000 plays and get this! I made 6 bucks! Six whole bucks!!!”

I stand by, phone in hand, ready to dial the medical rescue squad. If her exclamation is ever followed by hysterical laughter, I’m dialing. I swear it.  “Are you alright?” I call out as part of the ritual. There is never a reply, just more clicking sounds from her phone calculator. Click, click, click…More mutters. More frustration. More anger. She is no longer adding numbers, she is adding abuses. Stacking her fury. She is consciously stoking her discontent.

I lose her for days in the black BMI cloud. Ritual anger. Hot fire.

In the old world, these numbers would add up to a very healthy living, a very successful career. In the new world, the numbers mean Apple Music and Spotify and Rhapsody and SoundCloud and YouTube…are making a healthy living on her music and the work of other independent artists. The artists are circumvented from realizing the profits of their work.

“You know it’s coming,” I tell her, “so why put yourself through this every time? You aren’t going to change it.” My ritual appeal.

She doesn’t acknowledge my question. She doesn’t acknowledge my presence. Click, click, click…”Oh Great!” she exclaims! “I’ve had a decrease! Last time it was .00079 and now it’s .00074! OF A CENT!”

I go to the far side of the house where DogDog is hiding from the dark and angry storm. We sit together, DogDog and me, phone at the ready.

The thing is, I agree with her. It is not fair. It is not right. It is a sign of the times that the organizations intended to protect her rights are active participants in selling her out. They make more money by ensuring that the artists makes less. Far less. “It costs them more per penny to send me the check than I’m getting per performance play!” she writhes. “Ten Times As Much!” She’s done the calculation; her indignation is numerically exact.

It is also not healthy to obsess on it. They’ve literally taken her livelihood. For several weeks each year she freely gives them her sanity. She drop-kicks her peace out the door. Her health suffers. Her heart breaks. And, for some reason, she waits with anticipation for the next letter to come so she can descend into darkness and rail again at the injustice. It’s as if the BMI letter is the only real, last remaining validation to her artistry. Over a million people enjoy her music each year.  The red hot anger is her only remaining thread to that deep rich pool of creativity.

In the meantime, she refuses to go into her studio and compose.”Why Bother!” she shouts to no one listening. Click, click, click…

She has, of course, given them far more than they have taken. During one of these rituals, the rubber band will snap as happens to all artists who turn against their artistry. After the snap, after I dial the phone and the good people come to take the pieces away, I will play her albums – all of them – and listen to the life-giving beauty that came from that deep creative pool before she could no longer see beyond the BMI betrayal, before she allowed the clicking numbers to parch her wild abundant artistry.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about BMI

 

black box copy

 

Lose The Argument [on KS Friday]

in a split second copy

I’m losing the argument and it just became nearly impossible for me to make my case. My loss goes like this:

In the school of great ironies comes this latest and greatest entry: recently when Kerri posts her music to Facebook, the platform often pulls it down with a copyright claim.

Don’t yet see the irony? Let me unpack it. She composed the music. Recorded it. She formed a holding company to protect the rights of her music. No matter how you spin the legal rubik’s cube, she owns the rights to her artistry (as it should be). A social media platform is blocking her from using her music for copyright infringement on music that she holds the copyright. There is no customer service person to pick up the phone. All appeals go into the black hole of “email us and we’ll get back to you.” There is a bot with nary a mind in its matter or care in the world.

Wait. There’s more. We have, since we met, spent entire evenings surfing the web to find the millions of people who use her music (royalty free) to play beneath their home movies, their nature videos, their wedding collages, their graduation montages, the news stories, the documentary previews, moving baby albums. It seems anyone has been able to pull down and use her music without nod or consideration to copyright or royalty.

Over the course of her career, entities like Napster and Spotify and Pandora and Apple Music sprang fully grown from Zeus’ head. They play her music – paying her – dare I call it a royalty – of .000079 of penny for every play (that’s documented). She has well over a million listeners each year (that are documented). Had she any form of royalty and copyright protection -any at all – she’d be a very wealthy artist, indeed.

The argument that I lost? I’ve been nagging her incessantly to record the pieces that now grow yellow in her composition book. Some of her best work. Her generic answer is, “Why bother.” In the past year, my campaign was gaining ground! She was considering it. And then, in a split second, the last avenue where she could exercise a modicum of control over her artistry – locked her out from sharing her own music.

Irony. In a split second.

 

IN A SPLIT SECOND on the album AS SURE AS THE SUN  is available on iTunes or you can, like so many, get it almost anywhere you look (that’s facetious).

 

read Kerri’s blog post on IN A SPLIT SECOND

 

? website box copy

 

in a split second/as sure as the sun ©️ (though you’d never know it) 2002 kerri sherwood

Find The First Principle [on Merely A Thought Monday]

anger copy

I don’t know about you but the moments in my life that I am the least proud are the moments that I was steeped in anger. In anger, I have said things that I didn’t mean and done things that I now regret. There is no real strength to be found in anger. There is only blindness and weakness.

We live in the great age of the misnomer. In anger we slap a label of virtue on the mad face of vice.

Step outside and you’re likely to be trampled by a stampeding herd of verbal misdirection. If your brain is not pulped by rage and you are curious enough to question, you just might survive the stampede. But do not think you are safe! That roaring that you hear is nothing less than an avalanche of obfuscation.

Occam would have a field day using his razor on phrases like “alternative truth.” What are the odds that a lie is a lie and not an alternative at all? He would roll his eyes at us. “What entices you, ” he would ask, after slicing the alternative from the truth, “to willingly swallow so much word-gumbo?”

The answer is easy and readily apparent: anger. We are an angry nation getting angrier. Angry people rarely ask questions. Anger and Reason are never seen sitting at the same table. Angry people are especially gullible, easily whipped into an frenzy, and led by the nose into concocted fights. People are made angry in order to focus their blood shot eyes on made-up-divides. There is nothing that bonds an Us like the perception of an invading Them.

If you survive the avalanche of obfuscation, duck, cover, and roll as the squadron of conspiracy theories are certainly swooping in to drop their fantastic story-bombs. Misdirection. Obfuscation. Cries of “Hoax!” and “Witch hunt!”

Anger, so we’re told, is a secondary emotion. It is a cover-up emotion, a protection against feeling the primary thing, like fear or loss. Anger is what happens when the metaphoric dog is backed into the corner. It’s better to bark and snap than to feel shame or sadness or otherwise vulnerable, especially in public. It’s easier to punch, to blame, to rage than it is to deal with the first principle.

What we-the-people have in common, our first principle, is suffocating under all of this anger.

Sharpening his razor, Occam might ask, “What would happen if you dealt with what you were really feeling instead of covering it up with so much fury? What’s beneath the anger? Deal with that.”

History teaches that when a leader fans anger into a red hot flame, the purpose is to forge the gullible into a thoughtless mob. These are the necessary bellows: obfuscation, misdirection, conspiracy theories a-go-go. Blame. Blame. Blame.

Mobs are not really strong. They are flashes in a vapid leader’s pan. They return to their strength when the fire burns itself out, when their eyes clear, and they once again become capable of asking, “What’s going on?”

Anger and strength – despite what the stampeding herd would like you to believe – are not the same thing. One requires the presence of mind and clear sight – and the other is defined by blindness and the absence of thought.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about ANGER AS PROXY

 

frozen lake website box copy

Get Serious [on Merely A Thought Monday]

er or uc copy

Looking back on the experience, I see a map of choices.

Kerri fell. Both wrists were painful. We knew it was bad. In the ski patrol hut, the medic’s advice was to go get x-rays. Choice #1: To get x-rays or to not get x-rays? We had a conversation in all seriousness with the medics, that, given the nature of healthcare in America, it might be a valid option to skip it. To go home. To ignore it and let it heal as it will. The problem with ignoring it: the loss of motion that comes with ignoring what might be broken or torn in her wrists.

So the choice was not actually to get x-rays or to not get x-rays. The choice, the real choice, was financial ruin or loss of motion. Kerri is a pianist. It is her livelihood and her life. So, choice made: financial ruin.

We pulled into the medical center and saw a sign. To the right was the emergency room. To the left was the urgent care center. We sat in the truck and debated the option. While Kerri writhed in pain, in all seriousness, we sat in an idling truck and discussed the merits [or lack thereof] of our insurance policy. If we chose the right hand path, we would meet the vast, gaping deductible. Like Evel Knieval attempting to jump his motorcycle over the Grand Canyon, we’d have to gun our engine and run at the edge. No parachute. So, we chose the left hand path. We went to the desk of the urgent care and asked if they did x-rays.

Choice #2 was not, in truth, the emergency room versus the urgent care. The choice was which canyon did we have the best chance of surviving?

A few days later. An appointment with a great orthopedic doctor. She, in all seriousness, told us that she ignores the part of the patient file that speaks to their health insurance. She explained that there is dilemma that doctors face: do I advise my patient to do what is best for their health or do I advise them to do the thing that might keep them out of bankruptcy? She ignores the file because she wants her patients to hear what is best for them. She told us that she needs to keep herself blind to the financial reality that her best advice might necessitate. “Yet another untenable choice,” I thought.

Our choices reminded me of an experience we had a few years ago. We were shopping for a new washing machine. The salesman, an older man, was embarrassed by the products he was selling. He, in all seriousness, took us down the aisle of appliances and told us what was wrong with each machine. He was convincing us NOT to buy his appliances. Mostly, he told us, they were designed to fail. He said, “We used to know how to make things in this country. Now we make crap on purpose.”

The healthcare in the richest country on earth is just like the appliances sold in the richest country on earth: Designed to fail. Making crap on purpose. The way I am certain that I see clearly? Sit with your wife, a world-class pianist, who has just broken both wrists, and listen to the choices you are considering. Clarity, in all seriousness, comes when the crisis hits.

As we shake our increasingly obese and unhealthy bellies, wave our angry signs and shout about making America great again, it seems we are falling further and further behind. We saw it this week in our senate, did we not? At least our capacity for denial of the truth [in our post-fact, low-information frenzy] is running in front of the rest of the world. I can only hope, as a nation, we break our collective wrists sooner rather than later. In our pain, perhaps we will look at the sign and have a real conversation, in all seriousness, about our choices, about what we can and cannot survive.

 

Read Kerri’s blog post [written with a cast and a splint!] on CHOICES

 

 

snowsteps website box copy

Know The Matter [on Flawed Wednesday]

healthcare.gov copy

I’ve had this conversation twice in my life. The first time I was working in The Netherlands. The second time I was working in Canada. The conversation, both times, started with exactly the same question:  What’s the matter with you Americans?

It is an irrefutable fact: we (Americans) pay more than 7 times what any other nation on earth pays for healthcare and we provide poorer coverage for less people. Our life expectancy is shorter. We are an obese nation. Our infant and maternal mortality rate is higher than any other developed nation.

What’s the matter with (us) Americans?

Here’s another irrefutable fact: the top 1% of households owns more wealth than the bottom 90% combined. The gap is, in fact, growing.

We are being force-fed the fear of socialism* but, if you dare, take off the blinders, plug your ears to the noise of heated misdirection, and look at the data. It’s clear that our fear should be of the oligarchy.

What’s the matter with (us) Americans? We are too easily led, susceptible to diversion by division, and extraordinarily fact-averse. We are too lazy to question, research or otherwise investigate the easy tribal narratives of red or blue. We are (to borrow a great book title) a confederacy of dunces.

The stresses of “healthcare” are making most of us sick while making a very, very few of us as rich as Croesus. That is another irrefutable fact and is the crux of what is the matter with (us) Americans.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about HEALTHCARE.GOV

 

*try this experiment (I have and it is eye opening): To everyone who screams in fear the word “socialism,” ask them to define the word “socialism.” You will find, as I do, the screamers can’t define it. They don’t really know what they are screaming about. They (we) also are inordinately incapable of defining “oligarchy.” That is (sadly) why I’ve provided links. It is also an alternate answer to the question, “What is the matter with you Americans?” I decided in the final moment to exclude a link to the words “representative democracy.” Given the irrefutable but too often denied facts, it begs a whole other set of questions.

 

footprints in sunlit snow website box copy

 

 

Chase Your Tail [on Merely A Thought Monday]

phooey copy

Sometimes I think I am living in an Antonin Artaud play. Surreal. Surreal. Surreal. And very funny.

I came into the bedroom last night and Kerri said, “Dog drove doughnuts in a car for half an hour.” I fell on the floor laughing. She was reading a news headline but that did not make it less absurd.

Speaking of headlines, if this was kindergarten, the entire Republican Party would be sent to the principal’s office for advanced liar-liar-pants-on-fire. An entire cadre of seeming adults claiming that the dog ate their homework. I’ll bet that dog conspired to eat their homework, too!

Suddenly, this surrealist post has a dog theme.

“God struggles.” P-Tom said in all seriousness. I looked at Kerri and said, “I have a real problem with the idea that a god, any god, struggles.” She rolled her eyes.

An eye roll inspires an explanation. “Gods are not supposed to be separate,” I said, leaning in. “Things that struggle are separate.” She scooched away from me, a signal to stop my pontificating. “I struggle with the notion that god struggles,” I said proudly in an attempt at thought-condensation. Kerri narrowed her eyes, saying, “You ARE a struggle.”

Theme’s must be honored, especially dog themes so please note that ‘god’ spelled backward is ‘dog.’ In my philosophy, dogs struggle. Gods do not. As Anton Chekhov wrote in his play, The Cherry Orchard, “My dog eats nuts, too.” Try and write that about a god!

Jen and her “little” made pretzel-monster-cookies for Halloween [Jen is one of my heroes. She and Brad are ‘bigs’ in the organization Big Brothers, Big Sisters]. Kerri chose a cookie to eat but couldn’t do it because it was too adorable. She thrust it at me, saying, “You do it.” Suddenly, I was cast in the role of cookie executioner. I made cookie screaming noises. The cookie pleaded for a pardon but I was heartless. It was over quickly. It was a very, very good cookie.

If I were a dog watching me eat the cookie [my apologies to Chester and Henry], I’d go to the garage, jump in the car, start it up, and chase my tail, doing doughnuts until either the car ran out of gas or the police showed up to take me to the principal’s office. Either way, making sense of people must be hell for a dog. It’s hard for us, too.

 

when sled dogs dream jpeg copy

 

read Kerri’s blog post about PHOOEY

 

snapchat website box copy

note: did I mention that BabyCat snores like a champion – especially when I am writing. This post was dangerously close to being cat-themed. ‘Cat’ spelled backwards is “Tac.’ Go figure!

 

 

 

Deny It [on Flawed Wednesday]

picnic anyone copy

Were I to give this image a title it would be called ‘Denial.’ It smacks of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation: a holiday obsessed Chevy Chase pretends he is having the perfect family Christmas even as the house comes down around him. Of course, in Hollywood, denial has a happy ending for everyone but the snotty neighbors. Their suffering makes us laugh.

These days I think almost daily of the phrase Roger tossed out a few decades ago: denial is the most powerful of human capacities. He is a director of plays, a great student of human motivation. People are great at denying what they don’t like. People are great at having one too many drinks and getting behind the wheel, or texting while driving because, after all, bad things happen to other people. People are masters at pretending that they are not involved, above it all, or what they see is not happening. Ask the NRA.

The important detail that Roger understood is that denial is never passive. It abdicates responsibility. It assigns blame other places. Chinese hoax. It minimizes the impact. It paints pretty pictures of ugly situations. It throbs with intention.

Denial: the action of declaring something untrue.

Here’s the question that Roger’s observation invokes in me: at what point do we wake up and realize that we are all the snotty neighbors?

[now, don’t you wish that I’d just written about Hieronymous Bosch like I intended?]

 

read Kerri’s less pessimistic blog post on the PICNIC TABLE

 

 

picnic table website box copy

 

the picnic ©️ 2019 kerri sherwood

 

 

Look For Erle [on KS Friday]

erle cover copy

When you pull up Kerri’s page on iTunes you’ll notice that they have a hard time placing her music in a category. New Age? Easy listening? Classical? Country? One does not easily fit into the filing system until one can be clearly labeled. How can you be effortlessly labeled?

It’s a challenge all of us face. What’s the label? How do you fit? And (here’s the rub), it’s bad enough that the greater-world-filing-system needs a label to locate you, the real confusion comes in the labels we impose on ourselves. Are you a dentist? A liberal? A conservative? A mother? A foodie? Self-made, dependent, injured, Christian (which branch?), Muslim, agnostic, vegetarian, cowboy, rich, poor, retired, globalist, nationalist, capitalist, socialist? Do you “know?” Are you the righteous? Professor? How do you place yourself in the greater-world-filing system? Never mind how the “the system” attempts to squeeze you into a role, what’s the little box that you try to squeeze yourself into?

Is that who you are? Is that little box where you belong? Is it the totality of your being?

Sometimes I think we spend most of our lives dividing ourselves so that we might fit into a very small box. And, what we do to ourselves we most certainly do to others. They. Them. Not us.

Divide. Label. Locate.

Reduce. Contain. Shelve.

Although there is a certain amount of safety-feeling when living in a very small box, there is also very little vitality. Little things look big from the vantage point of a tiny box.  Little things look threatening from the confines of a too-tight label. Little boxes are petri dishes for big fear.

We bandy these words about and paste them on the walls of our too-little-boxes: mindfulness, wholeness, vitality. “This life is not a dress rehearsal.” “You are infinite potential.” “Today is day one.” Maya Angelou, Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Teresa. Peace.

These ideals, all of them, wonder, magic, love, artistry, unity, harmony,…truth…crackle beyond the label. They are there – outside the box – and they are never found in the direction of division. They are always present if you care to put down the label-maker.

Get out of your box and turn around. Maybe spin around and around and lose your balance like you did when you were young and less needy of location. Look at the mystery that chases you and chase it. Play tag with this life. Remember how you laughed just because? Reach.

Kerri stood on the edge of a canyon and, although afraid of heights, she threw open her arms. Kirsten called me to tell me. “Mom’s on the edge,” she whispered into the phone. “I’m really proud of her.”

note: this composition has nothing to do with what I just ranted about except for maybe this: the only locators that really matter are the people who love you and show up for you. Your friends along the way. This is the label I am most attached to: Kerri and I are very rich in friends.

OLD FRIENDS REVISITED on the album RELEASED FROM THE HEART is available on iTunes & CDBaby

 

read Kerri’s blog post about ERLE

 

muddy boots blue website box copy

 

old friends revisited/released from the heart ©️ 1995 kerri sherwood

erle ©️ 2019 (and beyond) kerri sherwood

Huck It Up [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

THIS husby's dollar bill ceiling copy

Look closely. It’s not a flock of butterflies or a strange strain of ceiling-sitting-grasshopper. It’s money, greenbacks, tacked to the tiles. It’s how the community of Sister Bay collects money for local causes. Go to Husby’s, chuck money into the air and hope it sticks.

Kerri was on a rant. She was reading about the obscene amounts of money being raised for political campaigns. Power is big business! As she was ranting about the better use of so much money, I scrolled passed an article, 12 States Spend Less On Schools Now Than Before The Recession.  For all of our grand rhetoric and dedication to the showmanship of testing-for-excellence, we have a very hard time putting our money where our mouth is. These days, teachers everywhere are on strike because they have chosen what once was the most noble of careers, but now it takes two or three jobs to make ends meet. Her rant met my eye-roll. It’s upside down.

It was the middle 1990’s when I was a teacher, sitting at my desk reading the paper before my day was to begin. I was browsing an article about the starting salaries for city workers. I should have gasped but I was not really surprised. A starting garbage collector salary was vastly more than a tenured teacher. I like my garbage to be collected so don’t mistake my comparison. We express value through the exchange of money. It was impossible for me not to get the message. It’s upside down.

I understand that we are in a booming economy.  It’s a pervasive story. It’s trumpeted everyday. And yet, there is this headline ripped from the news: Almost 80% of US Workers Live Paycheck to Paycheck. I shake my head in disbelief every time I hear the fearmongering tale about the raging perils of socialism knocking on our door. Even a quick peak at the reality will reveal that social equity is not the monster that threatens us. Upside down.

Imagine my surprise when I entered Husby’s! In this small bar nested in this tiny town on the beautiful peninsula known as Door County, I found a community that recognizes the topsy-turvy nature of our economics! Good causes in an upside down world require an unusual strategy. Put a tack through your dollar bill. Fold the bill and tack around a quarter. Huck it up and hope it sticks. The kids and good causes will receive a bit of money-love from their community when the ceiling gets full. The money, the spare change collected from community love and caring, will come down. I suspect the money will matter but the community-that-cares will matter more. The empty ceiling will inspire new bills to fly up. The cycle will start anew.

ceiling money donations copy

 

read Kerri’s blog post about MONEY ON THE CEILING

 

not our best morning minturn website box copy

Sit In The Megaphone [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

comingtoyoufrommegaphone copy

 

Rounding the bend on the green trail at Bristol woods, we sometimes stop and climb into the megaphone. The first time we saw the nature megaphone, we had no idea what it was. It looked like a giant wooden dunce cap. It was big enough to crawl into so we did. Sitting in the dunce cap, we speculated about what it could be (other than a shaming-hat for a giant). Later, the naturalist confirmed our speculation: a large funnel-shaped device for amplifying and directing nature’s voice.

Screen Shot 2019-02-20 at 9.16.19 AM

Amplifying nature’s voice. Last week, on my birthday, we walked the snowy trail and climbed into the megaphone for a rest and some snacks. We laughed a lot and made a few very silly Snapchat messages. We also sat quietly and listened.

We live in a time, it seems to me, that nature is talking loud and clear. This morning we read in the news that an Australian mammal, the Bramble Cay Melomys, is the first species to be declared extinct due to climate change. “Ocean inundation from rising sea levels…which led to dramatic habitat loss.”

Dramatic habitat loss. An antiseptic phrase. Many species, from polar bears, to frogs, to coral reefs (yes, a brilliant life form) are stepping toward the same abyss and will be eulogized, by us, using the same scrupulously clean phrase. Scruple is another good word: a twinge of conscience. ‘Dramatic habitat loss’ is a phrase remarkably clean of scruple.

I can’t help it. I listen to words and usage. I ponder intention, the story beneath the story. Words like ‘tame’ and ‘wild’ are human-made distinctions. So are concepts like ‘property lines’ and ‘natural resources’ and ‘land management.’ Language meant to make it seem that we are somehow removed from or in control of the forces of nature. ‘Hubris’ – another surgical word – masks a nasty bit of delusion: the notion that we are somehow above it all.

After reading the news this morning Kerri said, “They won’t really notice the enormity of the loss until it is people.” With her fingers, she put the word “they” in quotation marks. They. Us. We. And, I wondered silently, will we, even then? Or, will we, as we are now doing, turn it against each other?

Swimming in data AND experience (extinction and climate change are, after all, experiences), we are still vehement in our denial and roaring debate. Sitting  in nature’s megaphone I am almost certain that we story-telling-animals are more-than-capable of arguing ourselves into extinction over the degree of ‘human causation’ in the ‘dramatic loss of habitation.’ ‘Human impact on the environment’ – another very sterile phrase, is, after all, not a new phenomena.  The current iteration does, however, speak volumes about how capable we are of hearing and incapable we are of listening.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about THE NATURE MEGAPHONE

 

megaphones website box copy