Category Archives: Rants

You’re Not as Insightful as You Think You Are

I can find a lot of problems with the world around me, and those who know me understand that I can easily go on some long-winded rants about them. (Your prayers for those closest to me are appreciated.) But it’s not a one-way street from my perspective; I’m often interested in hearing people discuss catching similar tendencies of people around us, or having humorous-but-truthful complaints about the modern world, or some other related observation, be it serious or funny, in general.

But since “it takes one to know one,” and because I spend way too much time in my own head mulling over these kinds of things, I also get really, really bugged by generic, poorly-thought-out, boring, and often flat-out incorrect observations that are brought up time and time again by people who think they’re being clever or insightful. They’re not. They’re the intellectual equivalent of tourists at the Tower of Pisa.

Fair warning: this is going to get a little mean. But I’ve been called out for being stupid and unoriginal plenty of times in my life and I know it’s for the best in the end . . . and I also know it’s much easier to take such criticism to heart when you can quietly evaluate yourself while doing something private like reading a blog post, instead of having to tuck your tail between your legs in front of people whose opinions of you matter to you. So if you get offended here because I’m nailing you perfectly, consider it a favor and join me on the endless journey of constant self-evaluation. Now, without further ado:

YOU ARE NOWHERE NEAR AS INSIGHTFUL OR CLEVER AS YOU THINK YOU ARE WHEN YOU . . .

. . . go grammar-nazi on people “misusing” the word “literally.” Because I’ve never understood how so many people are so sure about the only proper usage of “literally” but have never learned the word “hyperbole.” Perhaps its hyperbolic use became so prevalent not too long ago that many people, only hearing it in that context, assumed it meant “figuratively,” and were shocked to learn the opposite.  When I was a kid, I recall thinking the word “barely” meant “not quite” instead of “only just.” Somehow I must have misunderstood its use in a sentence I heard and carried that with me for a while. Then I then learned what it really meant through the course of a conversation and haven’t forgotten. It happens. But the thing is, if someone were to somehow use the word “barely” in a hyperbolic or facetious statement, I’d get their meaning. I wouldn’t write them off as an idiot because they didn’t strictly adhere to its definition.

This example is first because it very clearly demonstrates the Lake Wobegon Effect among two-cent intellectuals that grates on my brain like fingernails on a chalkboard. That’s actually a common theme with these: people thinking they’ve taken one step ahead of the crowd and want to show it off, when in fact they’re completely wrong. I’ve spoken before about how hard it is for me to be in a conversation with someone when I know that the information they’re sharing is incorrect; this is that except magnified a few thousand times because so many people do it.

I’d have liked to take the time to further expand on why using “literally” as hyperbole is perfectly acceptable English, but I’d really only end up quoting this video anyway because they’ve done far more research than I have, and are a much more credible source.

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. . . talk about how stupid fat people are when they drink diet soda. Because that tells me that you just don’t know anything about diet soda drinkers. Sure, the word “diet” is in the name and that implies weight loss, but at the end of the day the people that are sticking to diet soda are people that prefer diet soda over regular sodas; their reasoning is not “I need to lose a few pounds,” but instead, “regular soda is just too sweet for me.” I’m serious. Ask around. I’ve known dozens of strict diet soda drinkers (most commonly Diet Coke®) and none of them ever popped open a can saying something akin to “gotta lose five pounds,” nor are they all or even mostly overweight. Is that to say that no one ever drank diet soda with the uninformed intention of dieting? Of course not. But I would suggest that reasoning is so uncommon that it does not warrant discussion unless you’re speaking to a person who has just admitted to thinking that way.

Okay, I admit that’s pretty anecdotal. But I hold that the person rolling their eyes at a heavy woman drinking a diet soda has less real information and far more conjecture to back up their view than I do mine.

While we’re on the topic, let me also call out all the liars who talk about seeing that “fat person,” usually a woman, in line in front of them at McDonald’s who orders half the menu (with everything Super-Sized) and then add on a Diet Coke® and justify it by explaining, “I’m watching my weight.”  That didn’t happen.  It didn’t happen when you were standing in line; it didn’t happen when you were working there; it didn’t happen that one time someone else told you about it.  Some stand-up comedian at some point in time made that up and it got repeated so much that some people began to think they witnessed it.  Sure, fat people at McDonald’s have ordered diet sodas with their meals, but they didn’t throw in the “I’m on a diet” line; refer to my previous paragraphs as their likely reasoning. (There’s also a tangent I’ll only mention in passing about how easily so many people assume that this is true because they believe fat people are stupid enough to think they can lose weight by drinking something labeled “diet” while eating a 1500-calorie meal.)

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. . . rant about how Christopher Columbus was a really bad dude and/or did not actually “discover” the Americas.

“Chris Columbus killed thousands of natives!”

“Chris Columbus was the first serial killer!”

“Chris Columbus didn’t think the world was round when the rest of the world thought it was flat!”

“You can’t discover a place where people already live!”

“And so on!”

We all know already, okay? Most of us under the age of 35 or 40 learned this in high school or earlier; most of those older than that have definitely heard about it at some point in the last 20 years. “And yet we still ‘celebrate’ Columbus Day!” you protest. Except I would argue that if it’s so hard to get people to actually memorialize anything on Memorial Day or thank a veteran on Veteran’s Day, no one is celebrating Chris Columbus on Columbus Day. It’s an excuse to have a day off from work and find some great deals on carpets. If you want to lead the charge to eliminate it or change the reason for the holiday, be my guest, but I’m tired of the internet–especially my inbox and newsfeed–filling up every October with white-guilt-laden lectures about “what you don’t know about Columbus.”

Let’s also not forget how ridiculous it is to judge people who lived hundreds of years ago based on modern morals and attitudes. Calling Columbus a “serial killer,” especially within the context of the era he lived, is an egregious misuse of the term. In another 500 years, many (or likely most) of our mainstream philosophies may likely be viewed as comical or tragically misguided at best, so let’s be rational when we read our history books.

But I get it. At some point, many people figured out how ridiculous it is that we’re “celebrating” an Italian man who sailed under the employ of Spain, landed in some islands that aren’t even part of our country, was directly responsible for the deaths of thousands and indirectly responsible for millions more, and his voyages only distantly (and also only indirectly) lead to the founding of our nation; thus he should be just a footnote in our history books and not an American hero. It’s just that we’d all be better off if we assumed everyone knows all of that (and more) instead of acting like we’re interrupting everyone’s regularly-scheduled programing to bring them some breaking news. (And you know what actually might be interesting? Learning why America turned Columbus into an American folk hero in the first place; far less cynical, wouldn’t you agree?)

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. . . say something intended for kids is terrible for kids.

The past couple decades we have increased the amounts by which we shelter and coddle our children to keep them from anything that would challenge them, (mildly) disturb them, or cause them to mature a little earlier than we’d hoped.  I’m sorry that this will end up sounding like another “kids these days!” rant, but it’s not really debated that phenomena like entitlement and helicopter parenting have been on the rise since the mid-1980’s.  Very few people consider these things to be good, but the problems continue to persist.  Why?  How can we all be speaking against something we see happening all around us, yet it shows no signs of slowing?  I think it starts by paying lip-service to the condemnation of things like helicopter parenting, and then actively condemning a “kid’s movie” for having intense scenes in them that might expect something of the kids (or, alternatively, watching a movie we saw as children and questioning our parents for letting us see it).  You know what? The Neverending Story and The Dark Crystal were really scary when I was a kid, but seeing them did not turn myself nor anyone I know into a disturbed sociopath or paranoid outcast. Yet I have truthfully heard many people question their upbringing because their parents had no problem with them watching Watership Down.

Your arrogance as an adult has caused you to underestimate what kids can handle, as well as made you into a hypocrite. That doesn’t sound insightful to me.

A great example is when someone tries to shock everyone at how terrible nursery rhymes are by explaining that “Ring Around the Rosie” is really about the black plague.  Because, first of all, that’s completely wrong, and secondly: what does it matter anyway?

I feel that anyone who brings this up as fact is not likely bringing it up just to impress their friends with some interesting trivia. No, instead the conversation always involves, “isn’t it terrible that we teach this to kids? Preschoolers sing this!” I guess I’m weird for not being concerned that kids may be singing a song at recess that has a deep, hidden meaning about a centuries-old tragedy that they’d never figure out, especially if they have never heard of the Black Death.

Maybe it’s because I grew up in an era of especially dark children’s entertainment, but when someone objects to themes in a piece of children’s programming being too intense (be it hidden or obvious), I feel that person should immediately be written off as to having anything valuable to say about anything. (Cough)

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. . . when you commit the logical fallacy tu quoque. Because it’s one of the lesser-cited logical fallacies, but one of the most common (if not *the* most common) today–certainly on the internet–and it’s a complete non-statement in response to anything it’s a rebuttal to.

Let’s say that in the course of an argument in a comment section, Person A makes a case for why the Oxford comma is entirely unnecessary by saying, “u dont even needs the coma its juts bad grammer lol.”

In response, Person B, an Oxford comma apologist, retorts, “Why should anyone think you’re right about something like the Oxford comma when you don’t even know how to construct a proper English sentence?”

My tendency is to agree with Person B on his support of the Oxford comma, and I also agree with the sentiment that Person A has no ground to talk about grammar when they obviously don’t understand grammar in the first place.  However, Person B has made no case whatsoever as to why the Oxford comma IS necessary.  They have simply observed the hypocrisy of Person A.  Nothing was added to this debate or topic as a result.

Here’s a recent real-world example.  Not long before writing this, one of the stars of the popular reality show Duck Dynasty, Phil Robertson, was suspended by the network A&E for stating his beliefs about homosexuality in an interview.  Naturally the internet erupted in a firestorm over “freedom of speech” vs. “tolerance.” At least one person in my Facebook newsfeed responded to the outrage by posting an old image of the Dixie Chicks protesting the war in Iraq, with the following text: “The same people who censored and protested the Dixie Chicks right to free speech opposing the war 10 years ago . . . are the SAME people fighting for the Right of FREE SPEECH today. Ironic.” This is an example of tu quoque.

The tricky thing about tu quoque is that any given instance of it almost always sounds like it’s a great point.  “Hmm, you know, it is mostly conservatives upset over the suspension of that Duck guy, and it WAS conservatives who boycotted the Dixie Chicks back in the George W days . . . interesting.”  Except what is the point?  Let’s take the time to break down what this actually says.

So people upset over the controversy surrounding Phil Robertson’s suspension are, according to this assessment (which we will presume true for the sake of argument), guilty of hypocrisy because years ago they spoke out *against* the right to free speech of some once-beloved musical artists. What does this tell us? It tells us exactly that, and only that.  These people are hypocritical.  Fine.  Except the issue at hand is not whether or not these people were consistent with their positions on inalienable rights, but instead the issue is whether or not Phil Robertson had the right to say what he did vs. if A&E was right to suspend him for it.  The person who posted that thing about the Dixie Chicks gets to walk away thinking that they’re bright and profound for calling out the hypocritical conservatives, but they neglected to actually discuss the issue at all.

This was my thought process in reaction to the Dixie Chicks post, and it essentially is my thought process every time I see this logical fallacy: “Do they think that free speech is WRONG?  Well, I doubt it, but that’s certainly the implication. If they believe free speech is a good thing, why are they condemning people for supporting it?  Shouldn’t they be glad that these peole finally came around? Wait . . . are they saying that because conservatives didn’t respect free speech 10 years ago that now no one has the right to stand up for free speech?  This is very confusing.”

And so on.  I could write on this error for days if I let myself, though I would stop covering new ground pretty quickly; so we’ll leave it at that.

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BONUS ENTRY!

Here’s one more that doesn’t exactly fit this theme but is definitely related.

It’s about when someone makes an error or is a “two-cent intellectual” in a mass-distributed form of media and is called out for it. Instead of taking a step back and partaking in my beloved activity of self-evaluation, they justify their clear errors or poor judgment by saying, “It’s just entertainment.

People do this to defend the poor science behind the cited-as-health-gospel documentary Super-Size Me.  “Spurlock set out to make an entertaining documentary and he succeeded.”

People do this when they make a Youtube video filled with generic and/or incorrect “interesting facts” and their commenters hold them accountable for it. “So I’ve seen a bunch of comments on this video from people over-analyzing some of these facts. . . . Stop over-thinking everything and just have fun. . . . It’s meant to be entertainment. Treat it that way.”

People do this when The Onion makes a joke that’s considerably tasteless and people complain.  “It’s The Onion! It’s not meant to be taken seriously!”

However, the logic is as poorly thought out as the content.  You have presented some kind of media to the world–be it a Youtube video or a documentary or a humorous article; be it your original creation or something you’re sharing with others.  Except the information does not pass close scrutiny.  Now you’re in trouble.  You’ve been revealed to be someone who just takes things at face value because they are either easy or support your biases, or to be an outright liar, and it’s kind of embarrassing.  So what’s the response?  “Hey! This is not meant to be some kind of academic journal entry or anything! It’s meant to be fun!”

There are two problems with this, and both demonstrate how you thought out your defense about as much as you thought out the information in question.

First, the entertainment value of something presented in the spirit of, “ZOMG! YOU’RE NOT GOING TO BELIEVE THIS THING I’M GOING TO SHOW YOU!” is heavily influenced by how true it really is. (I wanted to say they “the entertainment value of factual content is directly proportional with how true the facts are,” but I’ve seen too many factually-sound PBS documentaries to try to support that claim). If you give me ten facts about H.G. Wells that are supposed to blow my mind, and it turns out every single one of them are made up, I’m not entertained by what you’ve presented. At best I’m apathetic, but if it’s actually ME we’re talking about, I’m irrationally bugged for weeks. Regardless, I am not entertained, Maximus.

Second, if the content of said media is truly “just entertainment,” then nothing you’ve presented has any bearing on anything and is as worthless as burnt paper. If you lecture me for eating McDonald’s because you saw a movie about a guy who ate nothing but McDonald’s for 30 days and his health fell apart, and then I could easily demonstrate to you how every conclusion he came to in that movie was exaggerated or fabricated, and then you retorted, “None of that matters–it was an entertaining movie!” . . . doesn’t that seem silly to you? The reason that information was provided in the movie was to tell people that eating fast food is far worse for them than they thought–so when people who understand the concept of too many variables can show that the information is wrong, its entire existence is suddenly unjustified.  It has no value anymore except as a reference piece in a class on how to be a snake oil salesman. How does, “well, it entertained me!” justify that?

I’m not sure, and I unfortunately know that this post isn’t going to have any effect on these things re-occuring in the future, to me or otherwise. But I guess as long as they do, I’ll always have something to complain about. And that’s something in and of itself.

On Being an Extrovert in an Introverts-are-Victims World

I’ve recently come across a blog written by a Kentucky-based talk radio host named Matt Walsh.  He’s young, opinionated, Christian, and fairly conservative or libertarian or something.  Whatever it is, reading his stuff is often like reading a much smarter, more articulate version of myself.  (What an interesting mix of surprise and not-surprise-at-all when I learned that he was a fan of Ron Paul).  I was planning on doing a blog post about how so many people, especially people without children, seem to consciously refuse to understand how children are and what parents can do to “control” them.  It was going to be based on some ignorant comments I got in an ill-advised, YouTube-based argument I had a few weeks ago, but I’m not going to write it now because Matt Walsh nailed it better than I could have.  So read that.  Then come back and we’ll proceed.

So he wrote a post that dealt with three different topics.  The first was homeschooling vs. public schools, then there was our society’s faux “diversity,” and lastly there was a discussion on his introversion and how it is to live in what he perceives to be an extroverts’ world.  This, as was the case several times before, was something that I’d meant to get around to writing about.  Except this time I landed on the opposite side of where he was coming from.  I’m a very extroverted person, and over the last year or so I’ve learned more about what “extrovert” really means other than just being a person who feels energized by socialization.  The more I’ve learned, the more irritated I’ve become at the audacity that so many “introverts” seem to have about how poorly treated they are by society, and how “extroverts just don’t get them.”  In a broad sense, I compare this to how Feminists have written the rules for accepted gender interaction in our culture over the last several decades, but will still blame everything on “patriarchy” and don’t stop to consider what kinds of issues men face.  Though please understand that’s an extreme comparison and I get considerably less angry by the introvert/extrovert thing.

Since Walsh so perfectly set up the kinds of points I was intending to react against, I left a lengthy comment discussing and defending extroverts such as myself.  It’s gotten a surprising amount of praise from both self-described introverts and extroverts, and I like it enough that I’m going to share the meat of it here.  What follows is a mildly-expanded version of the numbered points of my comment.

This is addressed to any introverts who think that extroverts don’t understand them, drain them, and/or confuse them:

1. In social situations I have a nearly-uncontrollable desire to be liked.

Not to be the center of attention–that person hogging all the attention is not demonstrating their extroversion but instead their insecurity. No, I just need to not feel like the other people around would prefer I leave. To the point that if, at the end of a given interaction, it seems that I’m not thought of well, it can haunt me for days and in some very real cases, years. As an introvert your reaction to this is likely dismissive, saying, “you shouldn’t care what other people think!” Save it. I’ve heard that since middle school and spent nearly two decades of my life feeling bad because other people’s impressions of me is something that I can’t help caring about. A lot. I can’t let go of that any more than you can just suck it up and learn to love meaningless small talk.

2. Extrovert is not synonymous with party animal.

When it’s said that extroverts need to be around people to feel energized, many introverts imagine someone like me needing to hop into a massive party and dance the night away to techno music while downing Jaegerbombs and filling the gaps with huge, steaming piles of useless, surface interactions. That could not be farther from the truth.  I can’t speak for all extroverts but I can say that large gatherings are worse than being alone to this extrovert. Recently my wife and daughter took a trip away for a week while I stayed home. I got sick right before they left and as a result spent several miserable days at home alone with next to zero interaction with anyone. By the end of it I felt some considerable depression settling in. Thankfully a cookout had been planned by a small group of friends and I was able to attend. I got re-energized in the best way possible by spending quality time with a handful of people I like, and we simply ate and talked. We talked about politics, pop culture, nerd culture, and personal stories and shared memories. If that gathering instead had been a large number of people interacting on only a superficial level, I would have been worse off than if I’d stayed home. I need interaction and socialization to feel energized, but it has to be real and meaningful.

3. Do you get exhausted by your extroverted friends? Guess what. . . .

I wish I had known more about all this introversion/extroversion stuff when I was in college because in those days my closest friends were at least in part introverted, in the proper sense. If I had my way, we’d have spent every possible second hanging out and talking and laughing both in large and small groups. Instead I was regularly made to feel awkward by these friends (and somewhat shameful, though not intentionally on their parts) because they would get “peopled out” and need to spend a weekend in or something. That’s fine for them but I always felt drained and abandoned at the sheer mention of this. We extroverts don’t always have a couple spare sets of extrovert friends waiting in the wings to spend time with us when the introverts need some alone time.  As an adult now I understand that this is just the nature of things when introverts and extroverts are friends and compromises need to be made for everyone. But the point is that if you feel drained by extroverts, understand that it goes both ways. (And which do you think is easier?  To insist on more alone time?  Or to insist that your friends spend more time with you?)

4. Extroversion is not synonymous with confidence.

I’ve been a socially averse and shy person my whole life. Not a great combination with extroversion, let me assure you. I’ve had plenty of people that I’m comfortable around make the incorrect assumption that I can walk into any social situation and own it, because that’s how I am around them. I’ve also been annoyed by people I don’t know who observe how quiet I am around them and assume that I “must be introverted and needs to be left alone.” This is currently a problem area for me because my church is one that is huge on being outward-focused, so a lot of emphasis is placed on meeting new people on Sunday mornings and not just chatting with your friends before and after service. But my shyness (and fear of not being liked or coming across as awkward–see #1) regularly prevents me from doing this. I’m still riling over a handful of terrible examples of such interactions that took place about ten years ago, too (see #1), so that’s another hurdle.

5. Extroverts often need to process externally.

Do you find that, in order to finish your creative or critical ideas, you need some quiet time alone? Well I have found that I can only ever get so far with a story idea, or a song idea, or with mapping out my thoughts on a social, theological, or political issue, by working on it by myself. I have to discuss it with someone else, or tell someone about it, and as I walk through it to them the ideas fall into place, I work out kinks in the logic, and I can begin to find some structure. I have a LOTR-style fantasy story I’ve slowly developed since I was 12, and the times I’ve filled in the biggest gaps and ironed out the biggest plot holes were the times I convinced a friend to let me tell them about it. The bands I had in the past–the best songs I wrote we’re ones that came about by interacting musically with my band mates. I’ve not been in a band for 9 years, now, and I’ve only finally been able to write again in the last two months. It took that long to figure out how to do it 100% alone. I’ve known songwriters who can write whole albums by locking themselves in a room for a weekend–take a guess if they were introverted or extroverted. So maybe that extrovert isn’t wasting your time, but is trying to work and process through something. That said I don’t defend people needlessly talking to strangers. That annoys me. Don’t get me started on strangers at work asking me about my lunch.

In conclusion, before you go off about how the world thinks that all introverts are creepy loners, take time to see if  you’re doing what so many others do and viewing extroverts as inch-deep blabber mouths who can’t get through the day without going energy-vampire on some poor, innocent introvert at the coffee shop.  Half of being understood is understanding those around you better.

The Stupid “Socialism” Experiment

One of the radio shows I listen to at work featured the following video and praised it as smart and clever, if not genius:

The message is, of course, that the things you earn in life are yours and no one should be forced to give those things up against their will to assist people who didn’t work as hard as you did, and ended up with less. As the end of the video states, this is a thinly-veiled commentary on the “immorality” of Socialism.

Except it’s really, really stupid.

I am not a socialist, I am not communist, I am not even liberal; I just cannot stand poorly thought-out analogies by people so cocky about their “message” that they haven’t even stopped to think through what they’re talking about.  Nothing in this video makes sense when you really take the time to lay out why a GPA is absolutely nothing like money and therefore presenting the crazy, unfair idea of redistributing higher GPA’s to failing students is not the same as presenting the idea of redistributing mass wealth to people dying of starvation.

Many students signed the petition because (I think) GPA redistribution sounds logical and compassionate at face value to someone who has left-leaning viewpoints.  But I’m not going to call them out for being gullible–it’s hard to catch all the holes in something like this when you’re on the spot and on camera. Some people tried to point out how idiotic this idea is, but just like trying to catch all the logistical holes in three seconds, it’s hard to really be able to pick it apart in all its ludicrousness in the same amount of time.  So I’ll take the time here.

Please take note and remember: I’m not here to advocate socialism or the redistribution of wealth as good ideas (I really don’t think they are); I’m here to demonstrate that you cannot walk around a campus talking about redistributing GPA scores and think you’re making some irrefutable argument about anything other than your own lack of analytical thinking.

1. No one inherits a GPA.  Yes, I get that not every rich person inherited their wealth, and more than a few people born rich became poor through their own bad choices somehow, but that’s not the point.  MANY people DID inherit wealth, and even those who were born into some money that went on to be successful and gain even more wealth were able to do so because of the wealth they had to begin with.  No one gets a good GPA because their great-great grandfather carried a 4.0 a hundred years ago.  Some can afford to not have to work which gives them more time for study, sure–but I defy you to to find me statistics that show that kids who can’t afford to not work through college get lower GPA’s on average.

2. GPA’s are not a resource or commodity.  It’s simply a numerical system created to easily demonstrate a student’s academic status.  Money, on the other hand, is limited.  And if you’re like some of the commentors on that YouTube video that want to say, “If wealth isn’t infinite, then how come the Fed can keep creating currency?”, come here so I can slap you (it’s stuff like that which has kept me, a notorious flame warrior in comment sections, from ever getting into it on YouTube). The fact that wealth and money are finite is the very reason it’s bad that the Fed keeps printing more money! They’re not creating more wealth–they’re devaluing what we already have! The point here is that the reason some students have GPA’s so low that they can’t graduate is NOT because all the GPA points were taken by those with 4.0’s.  They have low GPA’s because, for one reason or another, they didn’t make good grades.

3. A student with a 4.0 redistributing their points to other students does a lot more damage to that one student, and a lot less good for those other students, than a billionaire giving away a fraction of their wealth.  AGAIN–I’m not advocating the redistribution of wealth, but (discussions about the dangers of coming into sudden wealth aside) if everyone’s favorite go-to rich guy Bill Gates took $762.5 million (12.5% of his net worth) and distributed that evenly to five poor people, Gates would have far less damage, and those five people far more impact, than if a student with a 4.0 took 0.5 points and gave 0.1 points to five different students.  There’s technically no cap on total wealth possible, but obviously GPA has a cap at 4.0 (or maybe 5.0 if you go somewhere weird).  You might want to hit back at me with something like, “But the video isn’t actually about redistributing GPA, but is instead about how ridiculous it is to insist that wealth be taken from those who have and given to those who don’t.”  Except the analogy cannot hold up because, even in just this one regard, GPA and wealth are such different animals that you can’t logically say that doing A, which some people think is good, is essentially the same as B, which is obviously unfair.  A and B are not comparable.

4. Every student earns their own GPA, for themselves.  When I worked for McDonald’s, despite all of the long hours, the late nights, the frustrating customers, and the disgusting food and building, I was not doing much for myself.  Every dollar I put into the til, I got a fraction of a penny of that dollar.  The vast, vast majority of it went to the guy that owned the local franchise and the McDonald’s executives.  And I’m not even saying they shouldn’t have; they put in a lot more time, a lot more effort, and a lot more risk into that business than I did–but the other side of that coin is that they never would have earned a cent without people like me keeping the restaurant running and bringing in income.  Now compare that to grades in college.  There is not now, nor has there ever been, a college student who puts in hours and hours of study time, working on papers, pulling all-nighters, and never missing classes, so that the majority of their GPA points go to make the “top 10% of students” have even better transcripts.  GPA is essentially a lone venture, where as your wealth depends on other people as well as yourself.

5. To expand on all of these–if you’re able to actually be accepted into a college and you put in the work and the hours necessary or even more-so, it is VERY hard to flunk out.  Almost impossible.  But if you go out into the world and work hard for a company or put in a hundred hours a week into your own business, you can still fail, and actually, statistically, failing is pretty likely.  This is, I think, where this whole “Redistributing wealth is like redistributing GPA’s” thing falls apart the most.  It makes that horribly flawed assumption that people who are poor are poor because they didn’t try hard enough.  That could not be farther from the truth.  The makers of this video and the holders of this perspective want to push this idea that financial success is directly correlated to the amount of effort put in (like a GPA), but that leaves out things like the social class, family wealth, education level, geographic location, and even the year one was born (yes, I’ve read Outliers).  All college students who are extremely dedicated and work the hardest get the highest GPA’s.  In the world of money and wealth, the vast majority of workers who are the most dedicated and work the hardest most often maintain a comfortable middle class status.

I’m convinced that when the students behind this video were told by the people who spoke up that the GPA redistribution plan was dumb, they thought they were hitting their point home.  What they didn’t realize is that the part they were saying was stupid wasn’t the idea of redistribution, but the idea of comparing GPA to wealth.  I find it unfortunate that despite the gaping holes in their little “experiment,” they’re going to be patting themselves on the backs for years to come.  I think that’s what upsets me the most–I tend to be a bit more conservative overall, and come from a conservative family and background.  So when I see people that I, by default, consider my “brethren” (regardless of how distant the relation), I get upset because they’re poorly representing a perspective that I otherwise think has merit.  Probably.  I’ll get into what I think the serious difference between the hard-working wealthy people in this world and the actual “1%” is, some other time.

Writing a Superman Story? Here’s Five Things You MUST Include . . .

I’ve heard it said that Superman is a hard character to write for, since he’s so powerful and finding a good foe or challenge for him can be something of a task.  I say, “Bull!”  Writing for Superman is EXTREMELY easy!  You can tell how easy it is if you read some of his graphic novels or watch some of his movies, because they all tend to do at least ONE of the following five things–usually more.

1.  Make a lot of allusions to Superman being like Jesus. Because, you know, Superman and Jesus are totally alike.  Personally, my favorite parts of the Bible are when Jesus busts through the walls of the Hebrew temple, melts the swords of the Romans with his heat vision, and freezes the Sea of Galilee with his ice breath right before walking out on it.  Therefore, be sure to toss in all kinds of allusions to how Kal-El is like the Son of God.  It makes perfect sense.  Last of an extinct alien race raised on Earth by adoptive parents to grow up and become an indestructible man flying around in his pajamas vs. one-third of a triune, creator deity, born of a virgin, sent to die for the salvation of mankind.  To-may-to, to-mah-to.

Perfect!

2.  Give Superman some kind of power, skill, or ability on a deistic level.  It’s a common misconception that Superman is too powerful.  He’s actually not powerful enough.  Being bulletproof, the ability to fly, vision powers, breath powers, super speed, super strength–all child’s play.  When you’re writing your story, feel free to make some new power up.  Anything.  Actually, the bigger the better.  We’ve seen new powers as small as erasing memories with a kiss, to as large as creating alternate universes inside the Fortress of Solitude.  Feel free to go beyond that, even (though it is tough to think about going much bigger than creating LIFE).  The beauty of understanding this about Superman is that he’s a walking deus ex machina.  It’s IMPOSSIBLE to write yourself into any corner with this guy.

. . . and fanboys everywhere will call your schlock "brilliant."

3.  Destroy the Fortress of Solitude.  Oh yeah, it’s got to go.  First, don’t ask yourself if it’s been destroyed before–not important.  Just blow the damn thing up.  Have someone trash it.  Have a meteor smash it.  Have a ball!  What’s a Fortress of Solitude if Superman is alone there all the time and no one knows about it?  Make it common knowledge, and then have them DESTROY IT.  Couldn’t be simpler.  And be sure to get to it quick, too.  Don’t waste your precious story time establishing it as a true place of refuge for the Man of Steel.  Just assume everyone already knows about it, have the bad guy show up, and BOOM goes the fortress.  Observe below:

plus

equals

Now you win!!

4.  Have some Kryptonians show up.  It’s really very logical when  you think about it.  Part of Superman’s character is there’s a deep lonliness in him because his entire race, his entire planet, no longer exists.  He’s the last Kryptonian.  So what better twist than to have some stray Kryptonians show up?  I mean, if General Zod was such a huge hit, then MORE Kryptonians equals Superman story gold!  Yet we can’t have EVERYONE come out of the Phantom Zone.  Just say they were wandering the galaxy somehow or somewhere.  Without a spaceship.  Oh, sure, there’s the fact that Superman gets his power because of the light from our yellow sun, so Kryptonians wandering around in space away from yellow stars doesn’t actually make any sense–but so what?  Just write it. 

Pictured: The Opposite of Extinct

5.  Do not, under any circumstances, bother with the difference between “dark and brooding” and “confident and serious.”  No one likes a hero who has it all together, right?  I mean, since the mid-1970’s, all of our heroes in comic books and action movies have been nothing but good-hearted, charming, stand-up citizens. . . . BORing.  We need heroes that are conflicted and moody and lonely and disturbed and, oh what’s that word the kids are using these days . . . “emo.”  The point of all of this is to help you understand how writing for Superman is easy, so trying to figure out the right balance between smiling altruist and “humanity” is out of the question.  That’s too hard.  That would require paying attention to his motivations to justify non-happy emotions, like anger.  Instead, just make him dark and angry all the time, OR make him really sad and whiny.  Your choice!

This makes Supes in no way like any other superhero!

Now you know  how to write the perfect Superman story!  Mix and match these five tips and you are guaranteed a winner!  Happy writing!

Hey Man, Quit Wasting That Gibson!

Let’s open with a story.

Years ago a friend and I worked in a department store.  My friend was working one day and had to help cover the registers.  It was shortly after Christmas, probably January or December of whatever year it was (1999-2001).  My friend said he was ringing out a mother and her obnoxious 10/11/12-year-old son.  The son was whining about her not buying him something he wanted, and my friend got the impression that this kid often whined his way to getting his way, but the mother was, albeit sheepishly, resisting this time.  “No, I said!  We just had Christmas,” she said to him.  He returned, pouting, “Yeah, but I didn’t get nothing.”  Mom seemed a little annoyed, “A Gibson Les Paul is not ‘nothing.'”

My friend checked with me later, “Hey, are Gibson Les Pauls expensive?”

Yes, friend.  They are.

Pictured: Cha-ching

Wrapped up in that story is the essence of what I want to address here:  I really can’t stand seeing people own very nice (and very expensive) guitars (or any musical instrument, really) but not really USE them.  It is simultaneously irritating and stupid.  And understand that this isn’t just Gibsons (though they’re the most commonly abused as I’ve seen), but any nice,  high-end guitar or equipment.

Why?  Because those guitars were designed and built by people whose PASSION is guitar.  You can’t be wishy-washy about that instrument and make and sell one over which millions of guitarists melt over the sound.  Sticking with Les Pauls for this example–first of all, that’s the guitar designed by Les Paul.  The man was a walking legend by the time he was 30.  He INVENTED the electric guitar.  He played one professionally until he died at the age of NINETY-FOUR.  The guitar he designed has become synonomous with other greats like Jimmy Page or Frank Zappa or Pete Townsend.  You don’t get a job working in the American factory that builds $2000+ Les Paul guitars because you’re a layman needing work and you filled out an application.  You have to be an artisan.  It’s the same idea for any other high-end guitar, whether made by Gibson, Fender, Gretsch, Paul Reed Smith, or anyone.  Well . . . anyone but Jay Turser, but one really shouldn’t bring up Daewoo when talking about muscle cars.

I’ve known people with really nice guitar equipment that barely learned how to play, and really didn’t care too much to advance.  Look–if you don’t want to advance at guitar or any instrument, that’s your choice, but to have nice stuff and let it collect dust is shameful.  It’s like someone buying a professional-grade mixer and just using it once a month to beat eggs.  Imagine being a professional chef, or a even just a very enthusiastic cook and foodie, and visiting their home and seeing an amazing $700 piece of equipment sitting on their counter and learning that they really only know how to cook speghetti and scrambled eggs and don’t care to learn anything more; when  you point it out they chuckle, “Oh, yeah–that.  It’s nice, but I usually just order out, really.”  It’s close to the same thing for me when I see that Gibson ES-335 sitting next to that 2×12 Orange Combo amp in a corner in the room you never go in.  (note: I’ve never actually seen THAT, but you get the point.)  There’s a certain amount of honesty with ourselves that we should all have to be able to understand that we don’t need $2000+ of stuff if we’re going to use it twice a year.  That guitar and amp would be happier in the hands of someone who appreciates it, and you can go drop $200-400 from the sale on a Squier Telecaster and an 8-inch Peavy amp.  Everybody wins!

Now, to clarify . . . if you have that $700 mixer and don’t know how to cook or bake very well, but you got the mixer with intentions of doing and learning more–go get ’em.  So when a beginner picks up something like a $1200 Fender Strat, I still think it’s a bit of overkill for such early stages, but if they’re really going to work at it, I’ll happily keep my mouth shut.  Like the guy that I recently learned about (through sources I will not reveal in my blog) that spent $3500 on a Les Paul and is a total beginner.  Stupid?  Probably.  But if he sticks with it, what can I say against him?

Well that’s all on a personal level.  I have to KNOW someone before I’ll notice wasted guitars in their home, and if thats the furthest this annoyance went it wouldn’t be worth its own blog post.  But it keeps going . . .

😦

Okay, so the Jonas Brothers are very over-bashed in my opinion.  Not because they’re actually talented (from the little I’ve heard, I don’t believe it), but because before Justin Bieber came along, they were the popular flavor for the internet to hate.  So please understand that I’m not jumping on, nor trying to revive, that band wagon.  It’s that I’ve seen dozens of pictures of these kids around the interwebs, and in so many of them they’re “playing” guitars I’ve dreamed of owning for a decade.  Like lil’ scrunchy-face up there.  (And if you didn’t know what a Gibson ES-335 was when I mentioned it earlier–that’s it, in the hands of a child).  They don’t really USE them . . . do you think  he even touches that Bigsby arm, except maybe to move it out of the way?  It’s all for show, and that’s a waste.  But then again . . . the Jonas Brothers are owned by Disney, so they have the money to throw around.  What about bands that AREN’T funded by milti-billion dollar corporations?

A few months ago a friend commented on a video of the Plain White T’s song “Boomerang” (a band whose style reminds me, in the worst way, of that song “I’ll Never Let You Go” by Third Eye Blind; gross).  I had the video imbedded when I wrote this, but the account has since been removed.  He said that it’s ridiculous that three guitarists are all playing the same chord in the same voicings.  He’s right.  I add that it is also ridiculous that bands like this bother to buy such expensive equipment (they were playing a Les Paul, a Gibson SG, and a custom acoustic of a brand I didn’t notice) when they’re going to just play power chords and not try to do much else.

. . . for example . . .

I guess if you’ve earned the money, there’s not that much wrong with it (plus you can write it off your taxes if you make music for a living), and that leaves me with not much to say against it . . . except respect what you’re holding!  After having your band recording and touring for years, wouldn’t you want to improve your skills to improve your sound?  No?  I guess that’s just me.

A while back I saw a show with four bands.  The second of the four was who I went to see (named Moneen), and the opening band actually stole the show in my opinion (named Moving Mountains).  There were two Fender Telecasters and two Gibson ES-335’s between those two groups.  I should point out that the ES-335’s were VERY used.  Whether those guys bought them new or not I don’t know, but calling their appearance “weathered” is putting it lightly.  In both bands, the guitars were put to very good use; they were clearly loved and played often.  None of those guys are necessarily hair-metal-virtuoso-level guitarists, but they’re really good players that do a lot with their instruments.  You can click that link above if you want to look into Moving Mountains, here is Moneen showing skill and comfort with their instruments:

Then the first of the two headliners got on stage.  Eisley.  I have nothing inherently against Eisley.  Actually, after hearing the song in this video I might look into them a little more.  But take note of the guitarist NOT singing . . .

Since I’ve seen this band live, I can assure you that ALL of their equipment is top-of-the-line.  I was actually a little weirded out by how un-weathered their stuff was, but maybe they’d just done a shopping spree before the tour.  But did you watch the second guitarist?  That’s what she did most of the show, too.  I’m not saying she shouldn’t be in the band; I am saying you don’t need to spend thousands of dollars on guitar equipment if you’re going to play bare-bones basics.  In principle, it is a waste and, in some degree, an insult.

Then there was the headlining band:  Say Anything.  I don’t have much good to say about them in general so there’s not much to say about their equipment.

I think the last and primary point that I want to drive home with all of this is that we should remember that a guitar is a musical instrument made to make music.  It’s become such a symbol of so much else that even players like myself lose touch with that reality.  But what would be the result if people would learn to enjoy spending time with something like actually playing that expensive instrument they bought instead of refreshing Facebook or turning on Black Ops?  I can write some other time about the idea of not assuming that being good at an instrument means you have to join a touring rock band, but as I pull everything together that I’ve said in this post, that’s a large part of what I’m saying.  I think, anyway.  Or maybe I’m just jealous.

The Guilt or Innocence of Joseph Brooks

A couple months ago, a guy named Joseph Brooks–known best as the person who wrote the award-winning song (and panned movie of the same name) “You Light Up My Life” in the 1970’s–committed suicide by putting a bag over his head and pumping helium into said bag.  He left a note, but as of me writing this the contents were not made public (I’d like to imagine, due to the use of helium in his death, that the type point in the note is reeeeeeeeeeeally small, or at least all concentrated on the top fourth of the page).

A twist comes in the story when it is revealed that Brooks was awaiting trial on charges of rape and molestation of over a dozen women, whom he allegedly lured to his apartment with an alleged promise of an acting audition and allegedly gave the women he allegedly brought home an alleged drink allegedly laced with an alleged drug so he could allegedly assault them in their alleged compromised state.

I’ve used the term “alleged” liberally because the point of this post is we do not know if he did it or not.  The only people still alive that know beyond any shadow of a doubt are the women behind the charges.  That’s it.  You don’t know.  I don’t know.  You didn’t know him.  I didn’t know him.  You likely didn’t even know or care that he existed at all.  I didn’t.

So what’s my point?  Let’s take a look at some of the reader comments  from the news article in which I learned about Mr. Brooks, his demise, and his alleged crimes:

“Dude was a molester and a rapist, sorry, I don’t feel so bad.”

“At least his victims won’t have to be put through court and dealing with a defense attorney trying to put the blame on them. Peace to the victims…”

“As a victim of rape by a man who also stalked me relentlessly . . . there was a time in my life when I was in constant fear. as it turned out this man later committed suicide as well, and it was most likely as a result of the fact that it was uncovered shortly beforehand that he had molested and raped dozens of others. i must admit, when he died I felt a measure of relief. now, at least these women need not feel fear any longer.”

“I prefer suicide for this guy rather than paying for his stay in prison.”

“Sex with this dude? EEEWWWWW…….pay a hooker already and don’t molest innocent women – that’s why they make $100 an hour! (I’d charge more.) Sorry for his family anyway, but sounds like the apple didn’t fall far from the tree [referencing the unrelated murder charges against his son]- the fewer the rapists in the world, the better. Still a sad thing.”

“Seriously…those charges sound seriously creepy. And the fact that the son is also charged with murder is also disturbing. Makes you wonder about the family lifestyle.”

When I protested in replies to one of the above commenters, “he plead ‘not guilty’ and he was still awaiting trial, which means nothing had been proven yet,” I was told that “the suicide itself is a really big tip-off that he felt he had done something wrong…”

Now let’s compound the fact that the next morning as I drove my wife to work, the radio show I listen to brought this story up and they and every caller jumped all over how horrible of a person he must have been and how disgusting he was and how disturbing it is that he wrote such a well-loved love song to which people have danced at their weddings and proms.

I’m not blind, mind you.  I get where the assumption comes from that he’s shown his guilt by way of his actions, but I’m also smart enough to realize that may not be the case, and civilized enough to not rest on either assumption because I know that I don’t know.

Joseph had another factor working against him, which was alluded to in one of the comments–his appearance.

He fits our mental image of “creepy molester,” doesn’t he?

“Hey, everyone–this guy here?  He committed suicide.  He was also charged with multiple rapes.  Okay, see ya later!”

It’s so easy to draw those lines ourselves.  I DO want to cast another angry glare at the reporter who chose THIS photo to go with the article.  You know how Zsa Zsa Gabor’s been in and out of the news due to health problems and that amputated leg?  They usually run photos like this for those:

Except that this is closer to what she looks like today:

Now I could drone on forever about the dishonesty in the media over a wide variety of topics and methods, but that’s not the ultimate point here.  I just want to point out that they chose the picture you see up there to be the only image that we’re likely to ever see of that guy to accompany a story about his suicide, oh and by the way he was charged with rape.  Except a simple Google search will show you that there were plenty of other options for that photo.  It’s safe I promise.

They could have taken the “Zsa Zsa Approach,” as I will choose to call it:

Or they could have taken something a bit more recent that doesn’t scream “hide your children”:

So we not only have our default humanity that causes us to assume that this guy was as bad as anyone could have said he was, but we have those responsible for telling us about it in the first place trying to create a reaction through their layout of the story.

By the time this publishes, it could have come out (as a bottom-of-the-page, buried article, no doubt) that his suicide note included a full confession to his alleged crimes.  Even if that were the case, that doesn’t excuse anyone for concluding his guilt based on an article combining the story of his death plus his charges plus a creepy photo.

What still upsets me about all this is that there are some people who won’t be able to grasp the logic here–especially if it can be proven, postmortem, that he was guilty.  Americans are fed the whole “innocent until proven guilty” line in our grade school classes as we learn about the “glory” that is the United States, but are never really taught what it means.  Let me explain.

It means that until a trial is over and the accused is shown to be guilty, the state, the authorities, the court, the jury, the media, and–as an extension and display of decency–the public should all assume that said accused is NOT guilty.  Now, if you’re the kind of person who wouldn’t have thought twice to leave a comment like the ones I listed above, this next part might be a little hard to follow:  assuming innocence at that stage does NOT mean that we therefore assume that those who made the accusations are liars, either.  It means no bias.  The only persons that are reasonably allowed to assume either the guilt of the accused or the dishonesty of the accusers are those personally involved.  To have connection to it outside of that, yet assume guilt (or lying) is no different than believing the stories about the awkward girl that sat by herself in the cafeteria in 7th grade.

You can argue with me, as at least one person has, that none of this should really matter because I nor anyone I know is involved with the death or charges of Joseph Brooks.  To that, I say (and conclude with) if anyone you know and love was accused of a horrific crime and a large portion of the public happily believed in their guilt (not to mention the media pulling their little sly tricks to nudge opinions in a certain direction), you would be happy to have someone you didn’t know call those kinds of people out.  I certainly would.

[Note from Braden: I wrote this well before the whole Casey Anthony Verdict fiasco.  Though the trial was going on at the time, I knew nothing about it except faces from tabloids in the line at Safeway.  But my perspective on this topic is the same for both stories.  Sure, by all accounts I’ve seen, Anthony looks guilty as sin.  But I know what the media is saying, which is playing to popular opinion, and the fact is that I wasn’t there and the jury felt that, based on the evidence, Casey must be found innocent.  If we’re going to be civilized about this and not reactionary and emotional, we must accept that Casey was not found guilty–our own opinions are our own opinions, but those more involved said she has to go free.  At this juncture, that’s all we can do.]

The Three Cardinal Sins of the Pop Music Songbook

I like to play music.  I play guitar and, once in a while, piano.  Playing songs I like by some of my favorite bands and elsewhere is one of my favorite things to do.  I have a good ear and can figure out easy-to-moderate things on my own, but that gets stressful and frustrating pretty quickly.  Eleven years ago, in less than an hour, I figured out nine of the twelve songs on Blink 182’s “Enema of the State” by putting the CD in my DVD player and sitting on my coffee table, hovering over the TV speakers, hitting “back” on the remote over and over.  A couple years ago I took a single evening and figured out the primary melody to the Top Man Theme from Mega Man 3.  So I’m capable of doing that, but I much prefer to have it already written out in front of me.  It’s likely going to be stressful enough trying to learn it, I don’t need to add to that by not knowing what I’m supposed to do to start.

So I buy songbooks.  Right off the bat, let me insist to you that publisher Hal Leonard’s series “Recorded Guitar Versions” is SPECTACULAR!!!!  As of Saturday I have five of them.  I have them for Weezer’s first two albums, Coheed & Cambria’s Good Apollo I’m Burning Star IV, the best of Creedence Clearwater Revival, and 18 Singles by U2.  The tab is perfect to every last detail.  So perfect it’s almost as if the artists themselves wrote those things.

But where those books are like manna from heaven, there are some that burn fire in me and make my eye twitch.  I recently bought a songbook sight-unseen (not recommended unless you know the publishing series, like the one mentioned above) and opened it up after a week of anticipation of its arrival to have my heart crushed.  It was committing all of the three major cardinal sins that a a songbook can commit.  And I can’t return it.

Pop music songbook sin #1:  not admitting up front that its notation is simplified or altered from the original.

I demand that someone explain to me why the exact recorded version of the song or songs in question not be the default when it comes to a songbook or published sheet music.  That’s why people buy them in the first place–they heard the song or songs, liked them, want to learn how to play them.  Am I wrong?  So why is finding the actual recorded version’s notation or tablature so difficult?  If you can look at sheet music and have a general idea of what it sounds like, go to your local music store and look through some of the songbooks of artists you know.  Parts are missing, the complexity is turned down . . . it’s frustrating.

I first learned this was the case when I dropped $4 (during my very poor college days) on some sheet music for “Piano Man.”  The jazzy intro was gone, the solo was gone, it was in a different key from the original, and whole verses were altered and shortened.  What fool is going to want to learn THAT version?  If you listen to the actual song, it’s not really all that complex save a couple small places.  Why alter it?  Is it a licensing thing?

Well, let’s say it IS  a licensing thing.  Is it against the rules to make it explicitly clear that it’s not identical to the original?  The very first songbook I ever picked up on my own was Simon & Garfunkel’s Greatest Hits for EASY Guitar.  Emphasis mine.  See–I picked that up knowing full well that these versions are not what Paul Simon was actually playing, but that they’re similar.  Never once did I try to listen to the recorded versions of the songs and read along with the tablature because I knew better.  So these days I’m nervous about what I pick up, and being loyal to only one brand is limiting.  But I’ve recently been reminded that you can’t trust them–you can’t give them an inch, or they’ll take your $12, make you wait a week, and laugh in your face as you flip through the pages hoping for some recognizable structure.

Pop music songbook sin #2: Not grasping what “For Piano and Vocals” implies.

What do you think “For Piano and Vocals” implies?  How about, “This is the vocal line and lyrics, plus the piano accompaniment to go with the lyrics, so that someone can play the music and they or someone else can sing the lyrics–two parts making a whole.”

Well if you thought that you would be wrong.  What “For Piano and Vocals” actually means is that you have the vocal line in notation and lyrics on their own staff, and then you have the grand staff for piano below that and the piano part has been altered to incorporate the vocal line into its own notation.  So if you play what’s written and sing along, you’ll be playing on the piano note-for-note what you’re singing on top of the chords and other parts already present.  This presents two major problems.  The first is that it makes the piano part way harder to play than it should be–the original artist didn’t work that hard to play it, why should you?  The second is that having the vocal melody squeezed into the music for the piano defeats the purpose of having the vocal melody on its own staff (or there at all) in the first place.  That is “For Piano OR Vocals.”  Not “and.”

If I wanted to play the vocal line and the piano part as one, I would search for a piano-only book.  The reason people buy songbooks that are for both is because they intend to, in some version, play and sing together.  My most recent purchase has something like 60 songs in it with this problem.  This means if I intend to continue with my goal of playing some of these songs and singing them as well, I have to write out the notation in my music program and remove that melody line, then listen to that notation next to the recording and add back in the notes they removed to make room for the melody.  I’d say it’s more work than it’s worth . . . but I think being able to play and sing “Saturday in the Park” is worth anything, it’s just a lot more frustrating to get there this way.

pop music songbook sin #3: thinking that including some generic guitar chord grids means you can sell your book to guitarists.

Well, I fell for it, that’s for sure.  This is flat-out false advertising, and I should have been smart enough to catch it.  I feared it when I hit “submit” for my purchase, but I deluded myself into thinking it wouldn’t be true . . . it couldn’t be true.  But it was.  The cover says the book I got is also for guitar.  All it includes is the chord names and generic chord grids for said chords.  If you don’t know, this is an example of a chord grid:

That’s all the “guitar” information they provide.  What’s worse is that it, too, is largely inaccurate.  Sure, the chords themselves are technically correct, but where the actual song would have, say, a C chord played in third position, the book shows only what you see above.  So yeah, technically you’re playing the right chord, but there’s a tonal quality that’s lost when you don’t play the chords in the right places.  The order of the notes are switched around; it feels different.  That’s not even to mention the embellishments and lead riffs and solos that are part of the songs that are completely ignored.

If my recent purchase were the only case of this, I wouldn’t include it.  But I’ve stood in music stores and looked through books and seen this before.  The cover says it’s for guitar, so I look, and all I see is piano and vocal notation plus chord grids.  That’s not what a guitarist wants or needs.  At most it should say, “Plus chord grids for guitar!”  At least then you know you’re not really going to be able to play the actual song.

As you can imagine, not too many people care too much about this issue.  Not many people even notice.  This is something I’m destined to gripe about alone for the rest of my days.  But mark my words–if I ever end up in a place where I can publish songbooks and sheet music, I’ll keep mine accurate!  I’ll keep the vocal lines out of the piano part unless it’s meant for piano only!  I’ll not try to fool guitarists into buying it if I’m not giving them anything of substance!

And it will be a grand day.