Thursday, October 24, 2013

good leadership != push

I don't normally blog about my work, because it can be a dangerous thing to say specifics about people or organizations to which one belongs.  I'm not really going to do that here, but there is something on my mind.

I am a leader at my work, and I have a number of people who work for me.  They are all- without exception - fantastically good people.  I don't have a single, solitary person on my team that can't more than pull their own weight.  They take their jobs seriously, and they do an absolutely great job at what they do.  I love them all dearly, and my success as a leader is directly attributable to this immutable fact.  They make me look good, and every chance I get, I tell them that and demonstrate it in a real and tangible way.  I'm blessed by these folks- I really am.

When I took over this team, there were a lot of problems with a lot of different things, but the main problem was this: for whatever reason, at my job, there was a sense of a good leader is a "cranky" person.  We've all experienced this in our careers, but this was different.  The people who were above me (and most of them are gone now) really saw value in chest beating and berating, because that was "action".  They had no issue with dressing people down in public (subordinates or peers) and it truly bred a fairly hostile environment.  And, like anything that's constantly on fire, the fuel was bound to run out, and it did for them.  90% of that "faction" is gone now.

I never saw the value in this, and I still don't.  I was and am very vocal about it.  In fact, when I see this same spectre come to the forefront, I have a tendency to get quite angry with those who feel that leadership = pushing.  There is a component of that, but by and large, most people want to do a good job at what they are tasked with doing.  Our job as leaders is not to beat that into others, but rather to foster and encourage that.

I have several really good friends at my work who are my peers, and I respect and value them very, very much.  Some of these friends were here during the darker days, and they are so wounded by it, it just breaks my heart.  I try, each day, to include them in my team's activities, and together we have made fantastic strides forward, but every now and then the old behavior returns.  

And, that is where the real damage has occurred.  And, it was given to us by people who thought that leadership = pushing and nothing more.  This is their legacy to the ones who were left to pick up the pieces, and I'd like to say that the frequency of this behavior has diminished over time, but it really hasn't.  I could write a ton of articles about that, but I have no path forward on it, so there's no point.

So what am I trying to say?

It's this: leadership does equal push, but the "push" isn't and should be upon others.  It starts with yourself.  Until you have your own house in order, you have no right to push others no matter what your title is.  Now, it's easy to hide your own faults while pointing out others faults, but in the end, the damage you cause will be far greater than the fruit you will bear.  Be honest and transparent about it, and don't go after others until you have handled your own stuff.  If you do this, you'll find that the collaborative environment you've created can bear a whole lot more fruit in a shorter amount of time, and the people that work for you will respect you for it.

My team is doing very well now.  We still have issues, but what job doesn't, right?  Are our problems worse than others?  I don't know the answer to that, but I do know that it's not germaine; it's ours to win or lose here, and all anyone wants is to be able to do their job to the best level they can, and have people around them that they can depend on.  I think I've fostered that in my own team, and I continue to try.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013


I always wake up to the radio.  But, this morning, the radio sounds strange.  I'm not awake yet, and all I can tell is that the voices that are on (and it should be music) are fervent.  They sound scared.  I roll over to my sleeping wife, and shake her, gently.  "Something is wrong," I say and get up and go out to the living room and turn on the TV as I wipe the vestiges of last night's sleep from my eyes.

Our TV is old.  It takes awhile before the picture comes on.  While the picture tube cracks to life, I can hear the voices on it.  "We're not sure what we're looking at," they say, and they are genuinely confused.

The picture comes into focus.  It's a very tall building with smoke billowing out of it.  No- there's two tall buildings, and they are both on fire.  Then I recognize them, and I feel a catch in my throat.  My wife comes into the room, belting her robe around her.

Holy Lord God, I think.  I realize that life is changing; that the gears of history are grinding louder today, and I'm on the teeth.  I'm 37 years old, with a 36 year old wife, a 13 year old son and an 8 year old daughter, and suddenly I realize just how great a thing that is.  To be together.  I call my parents and can't get through.  I call my work and I can't get through.  I'm not going anywhere right now, and there's no way to let anyone in my life know that- but it's ok.  I have my family.  The kids are up and they know that something is terribly, terribly wrong, and my resolve to stay in my little suburban house gets a whole lot stronger. This is the day of days, and my family and I watch in horror as we learn more and more.  Somehow, I manage to keep it together, emotionally, but just barely.  My wife and kids not so much, but I have to be resolute in being there and protecting them, no matter what happens.  No matter what the cost.

By 9AM our time, things are starting to settle down, but the news reports are still coming in.  I dash downstairs and grab our little TV/VCR combo, give my wife a kiss and a very long hug- the same for my kids- and I dash out the door to get to work.  There is data on work servers that needs to be backed up in case this gets worse, and that's my duty.

"I'll be back in 2 hours," I tell them.  

"I don't think the kids should go to school today," my wife says with a serious look on her face.  I agree, dumbly, without words.

I start driving, and I'm taking the route I always take, albeit some 3 hours later than usual.  Traffic is unusually heavy.  And, that's when I notice it.

All the drivers are obviously listening their radios.  Their hands are all at 10 and 2 on the wheels, and they are all holding the wheels like it's a life preserver- it's keeping them afloat in a sea of emotion that is set to swallow each and every one of them at any moment.  They stare, bleakly but focused ahead of them, vainly trying to find a meaning to what is happening.  The entire freeway is moving at the same pace under this constant forward motion, driven by cars driven by people that all have the exact same look on their face.

I go to change lanes, and check my mirrors, and that is when I see it.

I have the same face as everyone else.

In that tiny moment of clarity, that's when it dawned on me- that we are all in this together.  All of the political trappings of the day; personal opinions; small, esoteric minutae that makes up our own individual experiences- all of that had been swept away by a shared experience of three separate airliners that had gone down.  No one on that road was different from anyone in that moment- skin color, political leanings, sexual orientation, occupations, social classes perceived or real- none of that mattered.  We were all the same, and more than that- we were the same as the people who had been aboard those airplanes.  And, everyone on that road knew that, too.  In a way, that was somehow comforting, but it was at the same time extremely humbling.

Work took a little longer than two hours, but the phones were working again.  I called home.  "The kids are outside, playing, but I can't stop crying," says my wife.  I understand that, although I haven't had my cry yet.  It's coming, though.  

"I'll be home just as soon as I wrap up here.  We're closing the office for at least the next couple of days," I tell her.

"Good.  No one needs to be working right now." she replies.

I surface street it home at about noon.  Now, there's no one on the streets.  The air overhead, usually full of airliners on final approach to Seattle-Tacoma Airport is empty.  I take every corner and sidestreet at no more than the speed limit, even though my travel is completely unopposed.  I want to take in the view and the scenery because, at this point 12 years ago today, I don't know if this is the last time I'll be able to see it or not.  We just don't all I can think.

Home is still relatively quiet, except for my wife who is watching our old TV with the volume down.  It's on every, single channel, including the Home Shopping Network.  It's all you can see, hear, taste and smell.  More reports coming in- and the first set of death tolls.  It's too staggering to contemplate.  The kids are playing on the street right outside, but in my living room, there is nothing but the constant blur of reported chaos and death, conjecture and rumor, talking heads and reporters who have clearly been affected by this day.  

And, every single one of the people on TV have the same look as I had seen on the freeway.

That look- the overly focused eyes and squared jawline of the people that I encountered all day that day - and, my own countenance being the same - because we were all the same - that is what I remember from 12 years ago.  In the days to come, we would be tested again and again and in different ways, and I would see that look in the people's eyes and those same jawlines.  12 years later, that look is gone, and it seems as though many in this country have forgotten what a watershed moment that was- not because we were attacked and almost 3,000 innocent men, women and children were killed - but because for a moment, we were all the same, and that meant something.  

On a bright, sunny September morning in 2001, all of us as Americans were changed.  We shared an experience that impacted every single one of us, and it has shaped this country.  We still bear the scars of that today.  I sometimes wonder what it would take to get this country to get back to at least that sentiment- that we all have to pull completely together and resolve to make a difference in our lives and our world, but to do it without the need for such tumult.  Without the need for partisanship.  Without the need to throw others under the bus.  Without the need for a history and life changing event to spur us on to doing the right thing, and instead just do the right thing.  But, sadly, I don't think we have it in us to do that.  Unfortunately, I fear it will take a fearful loss of life and liberty for people to throw off stupid Right vs. Left arguments and other silly arguments that mean nothing when 3,000 people fall 1,000 feet or are crushed by monuments we make to ourselves in our own arrogance.  

I fear that I will have to see that jawline in a mirror before that will happen again.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

clubbing - and not like a seal.......


Yep- that's right- I can write about other things.  Doesn't mean I'm not gonna stir things up, tho.

A few days ago, several musician friends of mine posted "An open letter to venues that exploit musicians" from Grassrootsy onto Facebook.  In case you're gonna TL:DR - It was a semi-interesting rant from musicians to club owners about non-promotion, non-pay, poor treatment...yadda yadda yadda.  And, hey- I'd be lying if I said I didn't feel some of those same things.  But, let's get one thing out of the way right now- I agree, pretty much 100% - with everything that's written there, and it's all happened to me, too.

But, here's the deal, kids- that letter isn't gonna do a damned thing about the problem.  You see, we as musicians are an unusually myopic lot.  We think that since we're impassioned about "the craft", that anyone who isn't is a scum bag, and isn't serious.  A lot of times, that actually is true.  But, let's get the expectations out of the way in a cold, clear, calculated manner.

Club Owners Are:Club Owners Are NOT:
  1. Interested in making a profit.  What you as a musician don't know is the minute-by-minute industrial grade BS that club owners go through- from food and services vendors, to surprise inspections by the local constabulary.  There's payroll, taxes, rent, equipment costs, etc.  All of this stuff takes money for them, and the only way to make a buck is to keep a buck.  You'd be very surprised to know how much profit they actually make.  (Yes, it is more than you make.)
  2. Interested in not having to make a lot of effort.  They want to work as little as possible- and, btw, that is right and proper, because you do, too.  You don't want to have to lug in a PA, do the promotions, etc.  The difference is that the club is providing a venue for you, and honestly- that's really all they should do.  If they do promotions, it's rarely because they like you- it's because they want to make a profit.
  3. Generally not dishonest.  Yeah- there's a few that are, but I've found that in 35+ years of playing professionally that "time wounds all heels", and the ones that are dishonest generally get found out, and natural attrition takes over.
  1. Musically knowledgable.  They don't care about gear (or lack thereof), nor do they know about the latest and greatest anything.
  2. Interested in whether or not you make an artistic statement.  Unless of course, you sell drinks because of it.
  3. Interested AT ALL in your crap.  That means if you're at all high-maintanance, you won't get called back.

Now, there are many exceptions to the rules cited above here, but what I've said here covers somewhere north of 85% of the clubs you will ever play in.  And, for the record, I've played at some very high capacity venues (in front of 30,000+ people) and the folks that run those venues are, by and large, no different than club owners (actually, that stated percentage falls to about 60%) - so, if you're thinking that if your band can just play the EnormoDome you can leave all the crap behind- think again.  It doesn't work that way.

What I really HATE about that open letter is that it almost sounds like musicians have no culpability in this- and we really, really do.  Let's face it- most of us are "not exactly normal" - we don't act like normal people, and we certainly don't spend money like normal people do (says the guy with 31 basses in his house right now) - we show up late; we bitch and moan; we're loud and generate complaints; we're out late and up late- I mean, really.  Have you ever taken a good look in the mirror?  I know I have, and I don't always like what I see.

But, there is something we can do about it.

One of the things we need to do is stop allowing this to happen.  For instance, I play in a pretty well known band here in Seattle that is largely original material only.  That means that there are some clubs that don't want us.  So, what we do is NOT PLAY THEM.  Some clubs are kinda small for the crowd we bring- WE DON'T PLAY THEM EITHER.  Some clubs are really openly hostile to bands- WE DON'T PLAY THERE.  But, more than all of this is the fact that we have a "bottom dollar" that we won't go below- and, you know what?  We play A LOT.  The real corker here is the fact that for every band like mine there are 10 other bands who think they are "lesser" (and they are not) and will take less money, or play venues that aren't suited well- and that makes it harder for the rest of us.  In the mid-80's, in the Los Angeles area music scene, the single most heinous thing to ever come up came out there- "pay to play"- that is, clubs that had the band pay to play, or disguised it as "selling tickets" - and bands did it.  That single thing almost killed the live scene there, and some say it actually did.  The fact that bands were desparate enough is all that it took for this to happen- and, the fact that bands are desparate enough now to allow themselves to be mistreated is why it happens now.  Stop doing that.

The other thing is this- and this one really hurts- musicianship these days is just terrible.  I mean it's BAD.  Club owners who aren't musically inclined (and that is the vast majority) can't tell that what they are getting is substandard, and the ones that are can't find anything worthwhile - so they get whatever they can.  I can't tell you how many times I've heard players say, "I just need to know enough to play in a band" - like that's easy.  They don't practice.  They don't create.  They spend their time listening to shit music, and since they don't practice or create, they create even shittier music.  The simple fact is that if we offer a venue a superior product of our making, the discerning ear will eventually win out- and so will the audiences- and the crowds will grow and clubs will start paying better.  Simple economics and good customer service, which, btw, is what we as musicians need to keep in mind.  These venues that you are bitching about are your customers.  Treat them as such- and, remember- it's totally ok to educate your customers.

So, all I'm really saying is that writing an "open letter" to venues to bitch them out about all the things they are not doing is basically playing right into their hands.  Don't do it.  Take it upon yourself to raise your game- both musically and business-wise - and let the chips fall where they may.

And, for God's sake- go practice your instrument.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013


Ok- so this post is gonna tick folks off.  I expect quite a bit of backlash on this from Christians and non-Christians, so.....buckle up.

I have two very close relatives - whom I love very, very much - who are gay.  And, when I say I love them very, very much, I very, very much mean it, and without reservation.  And, yes, I support them.  And, to an extent, I support their lifestyle- by saying nothing about it to them, or to anyone else, and just loving them unconditionally.  My wife is also close to these two relatives, and she knows that they are gay- and, no, it doesn't bother her, and, yes, my wife and I have talked about it.  Both of these relatives are in monogamous, long term relationships.  I have met one of my relatives partners on numerous occasions, and she is absolutely, without question, my family- in every single sense of the term.  I love her madly.  The other relative of mine who's partner I have not met (yet) I am also fond of, but as of now from afar.  (I hope to recitfy that soon.)  The relative of mine who has the partner I have not met yet- they have a son- who I also have not met( (yet) and I am not "weirded out" by that, nor am I concerned for this child.  All of the people that I'm talking about here are some of the smartest, kindest, hardest working people I know, and anyone reading this would do well to emulate 1/47,912th of these people.

I'll throw a third wrinkle in here- there is another person in my life, who is, in every way except biologically, one of my children.  And, they are gay, too.  And, that person is in a monogamous relationship.  I love this kid, totally.  

Why am I telling you this?

As a Christian, this puts me in a bit of a dilemma.  See, like it or not, the Bible is pretty darned clear about homosexuality.  I don't want to ruin it for you, but suffice it to say that Scripture is clear here- this is something that is to be avoided, and it's mentioned as a sin.  (I told you I was gonna piss ya off- keep reading......)

I might also add that cheating on your spouse, your taxes, coveting your neighbors things, lying, gossip and murder are also to be avoided and are mentioned as "sin".  (Ouch.  Didn't see that coming, did ya?)

But now, the topic of gay marriage is at hand, and apparently, no matter my best intentions to avoid this topic, it appears that I must choose a side.  So, I will.  But, I have to make a couple of contextual statements first:

The idea of marriage - from a Western Societal Viewpoint (which is where I'm coming from.  Duh.) is not exactly what Scripture says- or, to put it another way- nowhere in the Bible when talking about marriage does it say "thou shalt have community property" or "thou shalt go through a painful court proceeding to get out of thy marriage" (in fact, the Bible calls divorce a sin.....whoops!) or "thou shalt have access to thy spouse's healthcare" - those things are items that our government has put upon the mantle of "marriage".  And, while I can't really presume to know what is going on in anyone else's mind but my own (and that is sometimes a chore) I think what most gay couples want is equality in equity - equal under the law - as far as those governmental items are concerned.  Access to a loved one's health care, insurance benefits, bank accounts, etc.  I think what they want is to be treated like heterosexual couples are under the law.

BUT: We have inescapable Scripture.  (And, sorry to you non-believers here- you just can't get around it.  It's there.  I promise.)

I do not believe that God recognizes a man's marriage to another man, or a woman to another woman.  I just don't.  But, I also believe that God doesn't recognize marriage as it exists today, either- 70% of marriages end in divorce.  People can and do get married all the time in civil ceremonies that have nothing to do with God- the officiates of weddings can get their licenses on the internet for a fee of $35 US, and no one does any pre-marital counseling or anything like it.  It's commonplace for people to live together without matrimony - clearly outside the bonds of Scripture - and be married by pastors in the church.  It happens every, single day.

THEREFORE: Since the idea of "marriage" in Western Society today is really more about the entitlement of a partner to the other partners assets, that makes it more of a civil thing.  If that's what homosexual couples want to have legalized, then I'm all for it.  If, however, a homosexual couple wants to think that their "marriage" is recognized by God as valid, that is a completely different thing.

So, here's where everyone - Christian and Non-Christian gets pissed off.  I'm taking the side that I am pro gay marriage for the civil side of it.  If a gay couple have been living monogamously and faithful to each other just as any other civilly minded married couples have, they should have all the rights and benefits afforded all parties.  As for the "God Part" of this- guess what?  I'm not God.  I don't get to make that call - and, neither do you.  That's above all of our pay grades.

Here's what does bother me about the gay marriage thing- the control of speech.  For instance, there will be those who take umbridge over the fact that I said (and, if I wasn't clear before, let me be now) that God does not recognize gay marriage according to how I read Scripture.  Some of those people will take that to mean that I don't support gay marriage, or worse- that I am some kind of "ist".  (As in "racist", but being gay is not a race, so......segregationalist?)  If you are one of these people, and you're intent is to keep people like me quiet, then we have a problem, Houston.  I'm not gonna be quiet about it.  I have a right to my opinion, and you do, too, and if you're stance is that I'm not "tolerant" on the matter, you better check yourself on that one, bub.  The same thing applies to Christians who want to silence what I have to say on the matter- I'll stand before God just like you, and I'll answer just like you for things I've said and done in my life- and it's He that I owe an answer to.  

In the meantime, I plan to love my fellow man, just as I am commanded to do.

So, there you have it.  Clear as mud, right?  Got a gripe with what I said?   Love to hear it. 

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

it's simple. not.

Over the past few weeks, you have, no doubt, seen stories like this:

  • US Government threatens to court-martial service members who talk about Christianity.
  • US Government removes hot meal services for service members in combat areas.
  • US Government removes Fourth Of July celebrations from military bases.

And all of these have been FALSE- at least from a gross oversimplification standpoint.

Why is this a big deal?  

I think we can all agree that the US Government is a mess.  There are people in power right now who are more interested in maintaining their position of power than actually doing the job they were sent there to do; there's a guy in the White House who clearly doesn't know what he's doing; "whistle blowers" are showing us that the NSA is "spying" on our phone calls at the behest of the government; there is wasteful spending and hypocrisy on a Biblical scale......blah, blah, blah.  Yeah, yeah, yeah- I get it.  The world is all screwed up.

Here's the deal, tho- THIS IS NOT NEW.  No amount of screaming from the Right or the Left will change that immutable fact.  Not even the all-powerful (I wish) Middle can claim that it is.  I'll even go as far as to say that it is NOT worse than it's ever been- we just keep hearing about it.

So, here's why it's a big deal- what is different now is that this entire country has lost their collective ability to think critically and examine reality.  We get these over-hyped, over-simplified news stories in our inbox, Facebook and Twitter feeds and on TV, and we believe them without checking.  We hear things like "some big corporation wants to do something to kill off all humanity" and we believe it.  We see things on the news like a Los Angeles police officer shooting a dog during a drug bust and we jump to the conclusion that all police officers want to kill dogs.

Think about this for a minute- and try to do it without grossly over-simplifying it based on news or a political idiom.  I dare ya.  I'll bet you can't.

It's a big deal because we have lost our ability to think.  It's a big deal because the more we buy into this, the more we believe the lie.  It's a big deal because the more lies we believe, the less of our humanity can prevail.  It's a big deal because we are all setting ourselves up for someone to come along and tell us just the right combination of half-truths and non-truths that strike just the right chord in us and we're all gonna jump on that bandwagon and believe that this person/people are some kind of savior of humanity, and we will be powerless to see that person/people for what they truly are.

The Bible refers to this person or people as The Anti-Christ.

Now, before you go thinking that I'm equating the things you're hearing with some ambiguous, amorphous (look it up) religious based idea- that's NOT what I'm saying.  What I am saying is that by losing our collective cognitive abilities to discern falsehood from reality, we are setting ourselves up to worship The Leviathan (again, look it up, and if it helps, look up Sir Thomas Hobbs when you do) that will prove to be our undoing.  This isn't a nutty idea- honest- the greatest minds the world has ever seen in Sir Thomas Hobbs, Sir Francis Bacon, Leonardo di Vinci, Socrates, both Pliny's (Younger and Elder) and even going back as far as ancient Babylonian mythology like Gilgamesh talk about these things- and, if you think that because of technological advances like the internet we are somehow immune to this, you only serve to prove my point.  Authors like George Orwell and Aldous Huxley wrote about this, almost prophetically.  George Santyana said, "The more we forget the past, the more we are doomed to repeat it" and that is a 100% true statement. Think for yourselves.  Don't believe - automatically - what you read and see.  Check it out.

As far as the US Government making these calls on the military and taking things away- I have a Facebook friend (I've never met him personally, and I hope to rectify that soon) who is a US service member, and is in a forward area and sees this stuff first-hand.  I've read quite a number of things that he has written regarding how things are going where he is.  He is of a political mindset that I don't really share in all cases, but I recognize that my friend knows his stuff, and knows it in a detail and a context that I can't begin to understand.  In every case, when corresponding with him or reading his posts on these matters, the stories that I mention above have a way more plausible explanation when given by someone who is "boots on the ground" (literally) than by the media outlets.  He is equal and measured in his disdain of the way either Fox or CNN portrays these stories, and in every, single case, he has proven these stories false.  I say "false" even when a lot of the time the stories have a basis in fact, but are fabricated upon a one-sided, out-of-context viewpoint or statement that becomes a foundational item- and therefore, by virtue of critical thinking, I determine the story "false" because it is so, foundationally.  Unfortunately, a lot of my friends insist on passing these kinds of statements forward in the aforementioned feeds without thought or cause, and all that does is serve to lessen everyone else's congitive abilities along the way.

So, what to do?  

I think it's easy, actually.  Don't believe the stories.  Don't forward them along.  Ignore them.  Delete them.  When you see them on your collective feeds, correct the people who post them, and do so without mercy and do it consistently.  Eventually, if more people do this, the media just might take the hint and we can go back to being informed instead of swayed to a particular viewpoint.  We can actually make a difference this way.

Just freaking engage your brain, people.  

Saturday, April 20, 2013

doesn't line up

Yesterday, in the wake of the capture of the asshole that performed the Boston Marathon bombings, I posted this on Facebook:

This image caused quite a stir for me in a very short amount of time.  A couple of "friends" on Facebook took great exception to this.  One in particular quoted the statement I hear from the hard-right (usually) that because the Muslim leadership (if there is such a thing) never says anything about this "with clarity" that he didn't believe it.  I attempted to start a dialog about this by saying that I have day-to-day contact with a number of Muslims who have said this to me (not quoting this meme, mind you) so I believed it to be true- but before I could even start the dialog, another "friend" took the first "friend" to task about how Christians were not tolerant, and thus it began.  A holy war on Facebook.  (Geez- that never happens, right?)  By the way- I'd like to point out that the operative words in the meme above are "most".  And, before anyone says this- I am not equating the actions of Westboro Baptist Church and Islamic Jihadists. Putting up a sign with an offensive saying is not the same thing as setting off a bomb that kills children or maims innocent people.  Don't think for a hot second that I am saying that- if you do think that I'm stupid enough to make a statement like that, just move along.......there's nothing to see here......

I'll make the snarky statement right now that I never see the Pope ever make a statement about Westboro Baptist, either.  Why is that?  There's an easy answer to that- why should he?  They're idiots.  No one needs to call that out- it's patently obvious.  The same can be said of the militant Muslims who do these sorts of things like 9/11 and the Boston Marathon- whether or not the Muslim leadership says they're idiots, I'd like to think that obvious points are obvious.  I guess that's too much for some people to grasp- but, that's not why I'm writing this blog entry.

Even though I have "Conservative-like" opinions on many things, I'm not a Right-Winger.  I'm not a Republican.  That doesn't mean I'm a "Liberal", either, nor am I a Democrat.  I'm what you call- now, get this:


Yep.  That's right.  I'm neither left nor right; republican nor democrat.  And, what's more- I think that there are far, far more of me than there are of the polarized views that seem so prevalent these days.

The reason that I am this way is very simple- but to say this is almost anethema to some- BOTH sides have good things to say.  BOTH sides have bad things to say.  I will not say that one is more correct than the other.  I honestly believe it is 50/50.  What I try to do is listen to both sides of the argument and then- oh, shocker- I critically think my way to a conclusion that I can live with.  And, if I can't think my way there, I seek to do a little more digging.  Sometimes, I find that I have no opinion either way, neither for nor against.  Gay marriage is one of those items, for instance.

There is an old German saying- "Versuchen zu verstehen, nicht zu verstehen", which, when translated to English means, "Seek understanding, not to be understood".  The very first thing anyone must do in the process of critical thinking is to attempt to understand the opposing viewpoint.  Note that I did not say understand the opposing argument.  I want to understand where the other person is coming from, for that is going to be the foundation of their argument.  Once I think I understand that, I'll ask again to be sure.  At that point, discussion can begin.  Throughout the discussion, I will ask to make sure I understand where the person is coming from- not to point out weakness of their arguments (but that does happen sometimes) but to check my own perspective on the points they are making.  Above all, I keep LISTENING.

Honestly, a full 90% of the time I do this, I end up learning something- and that's good.  I don't have all the answers to life's questions, and no one else does, either.  I'm fallible, and so are you- and, that's kind of what makes life interesting.  If all the answers to things were known, this world would be boring.

Now, I am a Christian.  I do believe that the only way to Heaven is through Jesus Christ.  I do not ascribe to the viewpoints or the theology of Islam.  That is my right to do- but, and this is where things get out of control with "friends" who just can't do this- I also believe it is NOT my job to bash people with other viewpoints.  If I truly believe that Christianity is so great, then it is incumbent upon me to show that to others through my actions with them FIRST, and, if necessary, use words.  (I'm paraphrasing a quote attributed to St. Francis of Assisi - but it isn't really known who actually said it, but I like that idea- but, I am digressing...)

Honestly, the violation of the old German adage above is one of the foundational problems with the world today.  If we could at least try to understand where people are coming from, the world would be a better place.  I am NOT suggesting that every argument is valid (there is rarely two valid sides to a story) and there absolutely are persons who are not worth the time to take to understand them- that is 100% true- but they are the exception and not the rule.  The liberal agenda of revised healthcare coverage in this country, for instance - as an example - the idea of it has merit.  Our healthcare system is completely jacked up and something does need to be done, for instance.  Obamacare is not the answer, however- but, then again, I don't hear a solid idea coming from the other side, either.  Likewise, the conservative agenda for limiting spending in order to heal our economy makes sense- but, then the Republican party during W.'s Presidency was a spending machine........and, the Democrats, now in power, are taking that to a whole new level- so their arguments are invalid.  

Like I said- good points and an equal number of bad points on both sides.  And, a heaping helping of hypocrisy, too.

So, I guess my viewpoints don't line up comfortably for a lot of people.  Too bad.  God gave me a brain and I intend to use it, and if that means that we can't be "friends", I really don't know what I can do about that.  If you are offended to the point of cutting contact over something as dumb as a misunderstood meme, I am not sure that you were ever my "friend" in the first place.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Affect vs. Effect

Affect: A noun meaning “mental state”: “In his report, the psychiatrist, noting his lack of expression or other signs of emotion, described his affect as flat.”

Effect:  A noun meaning “the result of a cause”: “The effect of the lopsided vote was a loss of confidence in the chairman.”

Every now and then, in our travels as human beings, we meet someone who can and does both. 

Back in about 1996 -1997, I went to the Musician’s Friend store in Kirkland, Washington, to buy a new board for my recording studio.  The salesperson I talked to seemed congenial enough- but, even though his actions were really relaxed, he had an air about him that I just trusted.  I purchased the board and immediately ran into a problem (no external power supply in the manufacturer’s box) and this sales guy gave me the hookup on where to find one, and took care of getting one squared away for me.  That simple handling of my issue and the way it was fixed was something I had experienced many, many times before- and, honestly, the guy helping me was no more gracious than anyone would have expected under the circumstances, but his demeanor was intoxicating.  He took time to find out what I was doing and how I was doing it, and gauged my knowledge accordingly, and once he figured out that I *kind of* knew what I was after, he further engaged me.

And thus – with a single purchase, began my travels with Steve Dooley.

Pretty much right away, Steve became my go-to guy for all things sound-related.  But, much more than that, he became a trusted friend.  Musician’s Friend (and later, Guitar Center) in Kirkland had something known as the “Dooley Deal” – Steve would make these ridiculous deals on pretty much anything you wanted or needed, but the truth of the matter is that I would have gladly paid full boat when buying from Steve.  He was just that good.

Over time, as I got to know Steve, it became apparent that Steve had some “issues” – as do we all – but Steve’s were a little more invasive than most.  He drank.  A lot.  He got into trouble.  A lot.  He wasn’t a flake by any means, but he straddled that line between quality of life and quantity of life that makes one have a life devoid of the ability to make good choices.  His lifestyle – and, I’m not judging here – was the one of someone who really didn’t like themselves very much- pretty darned self-destructive.  I’m not going into details here, for they are unimportant as to where we left off.  What I can say is, that, as a fellow addict, I could relate very well to Steve and what was going on.

After literally hundreds of gigs together with Steve, I managed to convince him to start running sound with a startup church that I was affiliated with, Cascade Hills Church.  Getting Steve involved was a team effort between myself and the Sr. Pastor, Darrell Waddell.  Steve was still rough around the edges.

Somewhere along our tenure together, Steve started making changes in his life.  One could very easily say that as he got older, he got more sense- and, I know differently.  Steve embraced God and the redemption of Jesus Christ, and the more he was involved in that, the changes he made, he made more completely and quickly, and some of these changes were very, very difficult for him to make.  Honestly, I figured he would fail over time, but he never did.  He just kept going.  He changed his drinking (read: stopped); he changed his living situation (moved away from rooming with a fellow addict and moved in with his new business partners, Guy and Sharon Wilson); he took care of some very painfully made poor choices he had previously made in his life in an effort to “grow up.  (Those were his exact words.)

Now, this isn’t different from a lot of people.  Lots of people get their heads on straight later in life (it took me until about age 30) but here’s what IS different- not one, single time- at any point- did he complain about his lot.  Not ONCE.  He endured so much over such a short amount of time with constant forward movement, that anyone else (including me) would have cut and run away.  And, he did it with grace and humor and a steadfast resolve.  Yeah, there were some bumps along the way, but they were minor and fleeting.  And, all the while Steve was changing, he and I worked more and more together and we got closer and closer.  In every sense of the term, Steve became the older brother I never had. 

In about 2002, Steve began working at another church in Everett, Washington, along with another good friend of mine (and staff member from Cascade Hills) and his life really took off.  His reputation in the Seattle area music scene was unparalleled; he had garnered the respect of every single solitary musician in the area (so much so that I used to decide on whether or not I would play for people based on whether or not they knew Steve….) and he met and married Beth- and truly great woman.  His life was finally on track, and the dark days of yesteryear were gone.  He had arrived.

And then, in 2007, disaster struck.  Steve was diagnosed with colon cancer and given 18 months to live. 

I submit to you that anyone I or you know would have been absolutely devastated by this.  They would have asked the question, “GOD!!!  WHAT THE #$(%*&???  WHY IS THIS HAPPENING” and then would have folded up their tent and gone home, and no one would have blamed them.  I certainly would have. 

Not Steve. 

That diagnosis, while scary, did not deter him one, single bit.  He got stronger.  He resolved not to quit and to carry on.  Surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, therapy, more surgery- all that followed- and it didn’t even slow him down.  They were small bumps in his road and nothing more. His demeanor just got better and better, and it was difficult to tell that anything was wrong to anyone who interacted with him.  The Steve of old was completely gone and replaced with an absolute stalwart, steadfast individual who never wavered, never quit and never had anything but hope.  It was amazing to behold.  It was at this point that Steve’s effect started to have affects.  All who knew what he was going through were completely amazed at not only his tenacity, but his energy.  He just kept going, and the Energizer Bunny would have been winded trying to keep up with him.

The last gig I did with Steve was at Christmas in 2012, a full 3.5 years after he was supposed to be gone.  There was something different- he told me his back was killing him, and that he must of have lifted something wrong.  That wasn’t the case- the cancer was back, and this time, he wasn’t going to win.

This past Thursday, February 7, 2013 at 10:45AM, my dear, dear friend, Steve Dooley lost his battle with cancer.  His wife, Beth, was at his side.  He fought valiantly (understatement of the century) but in the end, he went quickly and quietly- exactly as he fought his demons in life- quickly and quietly.  Resolutely and without fanfare.  The loss I and his friends and family feel is PROFOUND, but we all know without any semblance of doubt that Steve is in a better place.  It has only been a few days, and the pain and loss to my life is unbelievably deep- I spent all evening at Highway 99 Blues Club last night at his benefit show (my band, Bump Kitchen, played it) wondering if I’d see him walk in the door.  It was so strange that he wasn’t there. 

The Dooley Effect has become the Dooley Affect, and I, for one, will never be the same as a result of having this remarkable human being in my life.  I’ll leave you all with my absolute favorite Steve Dooley story, and this will give you a bare idea of the man that we all just lost:

Back in 2001, I was the music director and producer for a local blues artist here in Seattle (name in unimportant) and her CD release party was happening at F.X. McRory’s in downtown Seattle.  I had hired Steve to run sound- and Steve never did anything small when it came to a system.  We showed up at the restaurant at about 1PM and began loading gear – and, I mean a TON of gear – into this small venue.  Steve at this time had hair down to about his butt, and always wore a black, leather jacket (I think it was a JBL jacket) and black jeans, and had the look of a homicidal biker.  We had finished loading in all but one last power amp rack and were outside, having a smoke before going in and hooking all the gear up when the manager of the restaurant came out- this smallish little blonde, about 30 years old, and she’s white as a sheet-

“Uh….er……..gee- that is a lot of equipment you guys are bringing in there.  Is this gonna be really loud?  It’s a small room ya know”, she asked with fear flickering in her eye.

Steve takes a big drag on his cigarette and blows a cloud of smoke the size of a Honda Accord out, straight over his own head, looks down at her with a menacing grin.

“Now…… I look like the kind of guy that would make things too loud?”

Her reaction was priceless.  Her jaw went slack, as did her shoulders.  She said nothing, and turned sheepishly away and walked back into the club, while this bass player about wet himself.

She had just experienced the Dooley Effect.

I love ya, Steve.