Music Piracy – An Artist’s Opinion

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I woke up this morning and checked my email as I usually do, and read my “Digital Music News”, which is similar to an online newspaper that runs articles about current music happenings for digital musicians. One of today’s articles was about music piracy and the difficulty in removing your music from these sites. Below the article was a very long thread of comments from all possible points of view.
Here is my opinion.
Music piracy is stealing. And it does hurt the musician. Over the past decade, we have gradually shifted from physical distribution to digital distribution with the advancement of mp3 players, specifically the advancements of Apple and it’s “iProducts”. Digital distribution now accounts for more than 52% of the music industry in the US. But there was a time during the shift when people had difficulty placing “value” on a digital product, with tangible products being of more value. This is what led people to believe that they aren’t really “stealing”, because a file can be duplicated an infinite number of times and not “cost” the musician anything. But it does cost us.

I spoke with a fan in early October, just before my first album, “Red” was released. He had told me that he was listening to my song on his iPod every day and loved it! While I was flattered that my song was this fan’s current favorite, I was also perplexed…”How did you get an mp3 of Red?”  He told me that he was able to steal the audio content from my upload on YouTube. Wonderful. Not. When the album released, this fan didn’t come back to purchase it through the 20+ different digital distribution companies that carry it, because he already had what he wanted.

Being able to download or steal practically any song you want without paying is lowering the perceived value of music. Sure, I want to share my music with people – – it’s why I have this site, and why I keep performing. But making music is expensive. I’m not saying that the rest of the world is responsible for financing my purchases of music gear, but professional recording and distribution costs quite a lot of money. And why would anyone pay to download one of MY tracks when they can get famous artists’ like Beyonce, Lady Gaga and BabyFace tracks for free?

Just because you aren’t stealing a physical product, it’s still stealing. I know that during the “shift” from physical to digital goods, it may have taken some time for some us to understand the value of something that we can’t hold and touch. This inability to assign value made it morally “ok” to steal for some.  But now that technology has evolved and people are paying for apps, data services and other digital product with a clear understanding that we are paying for the time that was spent into creating that product, our moral compass should tell us that stealing these things just isn’t right.

Worst of all, the companies that banded to allow music “sharing” have caused the consumer to put a value of $0 on my product. Not a good thing.

Categories: Music Blogs

The Epic Battle with Sleep

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When I’m helping our newborn get to sleep, the routine is pretty much the same each time. After pooping, eating, and bobbling her head around for a bit while people talk and sing words to her that she doesn’t understand, she gets quite sleepy. But she doesn’t want to admit she’s sleepy.

The first stage along her routine for sleeping is denial. She tries to keep her eyes open wide, even though they are obviously looking heavier.

Then comes the stage of “Mommy I am HUNGRY! You will feed me again!” FEED ME!

This stage only results in her sucking on a breast or a bottle for a few moments and then spitting it out to bobble her head about a bit more, looking around as if she has been re-charged with her secret super-fuel.

 

But this super-fuel only lasts for a little while and then begins to wear off…

The next part of her sleep routine involves crying and moving her legs around a lot as if to say, “Mommy, I am in pain! It’s GAS! My diaper is uncomfortable! Bugs are crawling all over my skin! I’m being attacked by the cat and she has eaten one of my feet!”

But none of these things are usually ever happening. So, mommy straps baby into the baby-carrier in hopes of gently coaxing her to sleep with movement and “shhhh”ing. Baby seems to fully believe that being strapped into this contraption will help her stay awake.

It isn’t until she gets inside of it that she realizes that mommy’s seemingly evil “stay awake” device is actually a comfortable “fall asleep” device. Ah, mommy is sneaky, isn’t she little one?

 

It is at this stage in the fall-asleep routine that baby goes through all of the other stages in rapid succession, trying anything she can to make mommy believe that she is NOT sleepy and that some other issue is happening. She cries intensely, kicking her feet and screaming as if she is in pain of at least an 8 on the hospital pain scale. Then, her pain vanishes – and suddenly, she makes signs like she is ravishingly hungry, regardless of how much she has eaten- or spit up.  This stage is a lot like watching the movie “Underworld” during the points in the film where the humans turn into Werewolves.  It looks disturbingly uncomfortable and freakishly scary.

I’m just glad we’ve never had to go through this sleep routine in public. People would think I am starving the poor child.

She holds her head up, trying to keep her eyes open while mommy rocks her. Oh, evil, wicked mommy! Ignoring the cries of her little one! After about 5-10 minutes of baby giving every last effort to stay awake, she falls asleep. Of course, if mommy removes baby from the carrier, she will wake up…so in some way, baby still wins.

For some reason, people that are under a certain age do not like to sleep. When we were children, we would beg our parents to let us stay up later, even if we were exhausted. I remember the glorious day when my parents changed my bedtime from 9 to 10. It was like heaven opened up and showered me with an extra hour in the day. That’s right. Taking an hour of sleep-time and changing it to awake-time makes it seem like the day has more time! Brilliant! If we could only figure out a way to eliminate sleep altogether, we could have 24 full hours of productivity! Or watching TV, which is what I spent that extra hour from 9-10 doing during my entire childhood.

Occasionally, I would get permission to stay up much later than 10 because it was a holiday or a weekend. I remember mustering every bit of strength to stay awake as late as possible to relish in my small victory. But no matter how I tried, sleep always found me. I would try to keep my eyes open while watching the late night shows, but they would eventually become so heavy that I could no longer hold them.

This phenomenon seems to continue into our teenage years, where we want to stay out late and PARTY! Partying to me consisted of going to Wal-mart with my best friend and shopping for sexy underwear, roller skates, twinkies, and other dangerous things that our mothers didn’t want us to have. After all, Wal-mart is open 24 hours, and we needed a place that could stay awake as long as us. And we intended to be awake for a VERY long time. The description of a great night out was dragging ourselves to school the next morning and proudly declaring that we hadn’t slept at all.

We had cars, part time jobs, and the willpower needed to stay up forever. Our parents had to find us in order to make us go to sleep! Yay! Unfortunately, we soon learned that our super-fuel of cheeseburgers and Doritos would only keep us awake for so long. And though we would fight sleep with our late night runs to Wal-mart, K-mart, and any other 24-hour “mart” that wouldn’t throw us out, we always found ourselves in our beds sleeping occasionally. It was a tragedy. Sleep had won, even then, in the prime of our power against it.

It’s possible that college was created in order to make us want to sleep. It’s a huge underground conspiracy between parents. Why do you think parents want their children to go to college so badly? BUT, they make it look like they are helping us in the quest to stay awake.  They remove the obstacle of sleep-enforcing parents. They colonize us with other people that just turned 21 so that we can go out to all of the places that are open really late and are likely to keep us more awake than the flickering fluorescent lights of Wal-mart. They give us LOTS of homework, so that even if we thought about sleeping, we would stay awake to finish all of this WORK. Yay! Finally we win, right? We can stay awake forever!


Unfortunately, this whole situation is only a trick. At first, having a few adult beverages with friends seemed like a power-food that would help us to dance better, have more fun, be more confident, and stay awake all night. But after this initial burst of energy wore off, we soon discovered that we had ingested something similar to Superman’s Kryptonite.

Some students feel so sleepy that they can’t even stay awake long enough to get themselves back home. That’s why so many college students wake up in strange places after having a night out.

The idea that being around people your age all day will keep you awake is only a façade. Because in front of the rows and rows of fun people that might help you in your quest for ultimate sleeplessness is an old person. An old person that wants to teach you things. An old person that wants to teach you boring things.

They stagger these old, boring people with slightly less old, less boring people occasionally so that students don’t catch on to the underlying conspiracy to make them sleep.

example: “No, school isn’t boring! I have this awesome foreign language teacher.”

OK, so there is one teacher that doesn’t bore you to tears….

But most of the teachers are quite boring for a person who hasn’t slept. We were able to stay up for 48+ hours to party, finish our homework in the wee hours before class in the morning, gossip with a friend about another friend, and now, in less than an hour, this teacher is sending us into a state of grogginess that cannot be fought? It seems so unfair! The odd part of all of this is that in class, we are NOT ALLOWED to sleep.

The college classroom…It is the sleepiest place on earth. The opposite of Disneyland, which is the happiest place on earth – I suppose because there is plenty of bright, whirring, spinning stuff to keep us awake. But the college classroom, with it’s plain beige paint and boringly droning professor, is a place where you are NOT allowed to sleep. We try to stay awake by rapidly opening and closing our eyes. We excuse ourselves to go to the bathroom where we can splash water on our faces. Must stay awake! We make interesting doodles all over the sides of our notebooks in an effort to entertain ourselves into wakefulness again.

But in the end, we find ourselves thinking the worst and darkest thoughts…

After all those years of wanting to stay awake, we finally reach a point where we would rather sleep than endure the torture of academic boring-ness. We find ourselves thinking of our crappy little college dorm room cots, and how comfortable they look. I would compare this to how someone must feel when being tortured and death begins to look like a viable means to an end. It is then, in the torturous caverns of the college classroom, where we start making plans to sleep. But most of this sleeping happens during the day.

In our little pre-adulthood brains, we believe that if we are awake at night we will get more accomplished. If we sleep during the day, we won’t sleep for as long, but will be equally refreshed. (We think.) So, we live the life of vampires for a bit, taking naps during the brightest times of the day and going out at night to feast our little fangs on 24 hour drive thru foods.

After 4 years of torture from the academic system, this odd theory of “day-sleeping doesn’t count”, and the growing desire to sleep, we gradually begin to shift over to sleeping at night, and by the time we graduate from college, we are seemingly normal adults who recognize the need for nighttime sleep.

But until my baby has surpassed her own 25-year epic battle with sleep, she will be sleeping in the carrier…strapped to my body.

I Hate WalMart

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I still remember the feelings of excitement when I found out that we, the citizens of Willow Grove, PA, would soon have a WalMart. And not just a regular WalMart, but a SUPER WalMart. That means that 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, we would be able to shop for stuff.

I was like a kid waiting for Christmas to come. I remember calling my mom and telling her the awesome news…

 

If I had known then what kind of a place WalMart would turn out to be, I wouldn’t have been so excited, but blinded by the promise of a dependable and familiar shopping experience, I was naïve to the truths of the mega-retailer and the kind of service that would be offered. At the time, a friend even tried to tell me about the evils of the WalMart corporate super giant, and how they destroy local family businesses and don’t fairly pay the people who make their products. I was too hyped to listen to the voice of reason, citing this as a killjoy opinion, and continuing in my joyous anticipation for the arrival of WalMart.

 

I even changed the lyrics of “Downtown” to “WalMart”, and frequently sang it as an anthem to express my happiness that WalMart was coming.

 

Fast forward to 2010. WalMart has been our faithfully low-priced (though not always fresh, courteous, or high in quality) food and housewares store for about 3 years. By this time, we’ve had our share of excessively rude cashiers (and I add excessivelybecause cashiers in our area are often rude), items that have not rung up as marked, paint mixing staff that made us wait an hour for their arrival and were not well trained, night stockers that make shopping past 9pm a dangerous and unfriendly event, running out of turkeys the day before Thanksgiving, running out of bottled water often, and the ever-declining quality of the clothing brands combined with rapidly increasing prices for such.

 

But,but, but…the low prices. All of the fireworks that I felt for the new WalMart had faded from my memory by 2010, and I was left with feelings of disappointment. However, I was still attached to their low prices. And I knew where everything was in the store. I had become accustomed to shopping there, like in My Fair Lady when Henry Higgins sings “I’ve grown accustomed to her face…” He’s just used to seeing her every day, and for that reason, he is willing to put up with her crap.

 

For me, WalMart had become the good-for-nothing “jerk” boyfriend that I just couldn’t seem to disconnect myself from. I knew the service was crappy. I knew the products weren’t top notch across the board, but they were “good enough”, and the PRICES seemed to make it all worthwhile.

Categories: Random Stuff Blogs

What am I “About”

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2014-03-16 April 1 2015 002

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my path and direction in life. I feel that I’m at a crossroad in life and perhaps have been dawdling in the intersection waving at passerby and trying to ignore the fact that I must make choices about which path(s) to take. Music has, and always will be, my passion. From the moment I wake until I go to sleep at night, my thoughts are on sound, songs, music and how to share and consume that art form. But success in the music business isn’t the same as any other field. It’s not the same as getting a job and working your way up in the company. It isn’t even about selling a product, since the consumer can get music for free on the internet. The very internet that makes it possible to share your music and get your songs into the hands of fans has also enabled the fans to just take the music that you paid countless dollars and hours to record, leaving you with a balance of $0. There aren’t many businesses that can be so fruitless for so much hard work. And yet, songwriting and music will always call to me.

But there is more to life than music, even for me.

I want to make all things beautiful. I am constantly wanting to decorate and adorn my living space with beauty. I love bel canto (literally “beautiful singing”), bright, beautiful colors, metallic French Rococo styled details, and beautiful clothing. Beautiful birds, beautiful photographs, beautiful music and beautiful hearts.  I like to be surrounded in beauty, whether in nature or hand-crafted.

I’m intensely passionate about the fair treatment and well being of animals. I eat primarily vegetarian and believe we should strive to live harmoniously in peaceful cohabitation with the animals of this earth.

I love good food. On a beautiful plate. I have a deep appreciation for natural foods as well as food that has been prepared by someone for me to eat. Preparing a meal for another to eat is somehow sacred and holds more meaning now that I have served my husband 10 years of meals. Food is life-sustaining, and can be beautiful as well.

I’m a mother first, and a musician second. I know some musicians nowadays like to have children and maintain the same public image of openly promiscuous music and dress, but I’m not one of those people. The music I’ve written before and after I had my daughter is different. I have changed. Many times I have had to put my music career on the “back burner” while being a mother. And that’s ok.

I repaint and re-body Barbie dolls. In an effort to let my daughter play with the iconic doll, I have tried to create diversity within her “population” of plastic people. I’ve curled the hair of straight-haired ethnic dolls, and repainted Asian dolls to look more authentically Asian. I’ve found a few larger-sized celebrity dolls, rebodied some Barbie heads onto action figure bodies and repainted Barbie and Ken dolls to look older. I try to use her enjoyment for playing with the dolls to teach her lessons about culture, language social skills, and the acceptance of all different kinds of people.

I am interested in studying other cultures, languages and trying to learn as much as I can about the lives of people from all over the world. There are good and bad things about every culture of people, just as there are good and bad in our own culture. I want to be able to pass on knowledge to Zoey and to understand my husband better, who didn’t grow up in America. I’ve made friends with people from China, Taiwan, India, Iran, Mexico, Brazil and Korea, and these people have taught me so much. The world is such a big place, and I still know so little about its people.

I believe in a more simple life. I often find myself looking at off-the-grid living and wonder if I could ever do that. My fear is setting myself up to be off the grid and then the government powers creating a law that forces me to still pay taxes anyway. I am against our consumerist society, living as slaves to the government as they relieve us of billions of tax dollars so that they can build bombs. I’m trying to raise a healthy little girl and you are using our money to build a bomb? I am generally distrusting of the government, but feel powerless to change it.

Every summer I grow a garden in our yard. I freeze tomatoes and try very hard to gather and save as much produce as possible from our own plot. I don’t know if it saves any money, but I like the idea of being at least a little self-sufficient.

I want to see changes in education. I want to be the best teacher I can, and I try really hard to find new ways of reaching students’ minds. My experiences with students have taught me how to be a better teacher, but mostly how to be a better mother. Finding alternative methods of instilling knowledge is my goal.

At West Chester University I was classically trained in voice, which means I studied Opera and Art Songs. I didn’t love opera before college, but I have a deep appreciation for its complexity and beauty now.

I draw art sketches, and paint in multiple mediums (acrylic, oil, pastels, watercolor) when I have time. It’s a rare treat when I have spare moments to sit down and draw something. I’m often found doodling on napkins and the backs of drink coasters. I usually draw elaborate designs full of detail. My plans for this summer are to create some colorful rock mosaics along a pathway, and possibly paint our concrete sidewalk with a special design. So many projects! So little time! I am happiest when I am creating.

I love children’s books written by Jan Brett. When I was a little girl, I had only one book by her, “The Valentine’s Bears”. It was one of her simpler books, but I loved the way the bears were illustrated. I occasionally find one of her books at the thrift store where I shop, and have acquired a few from the mother’s consignment sales in the area. We now have quite a collection. I read them to my daughter. She loves them as well, but I think that perhaps I love them even more. I would love to write and illustrate few children’s books about ethnicity, culture, animals, society or family norms. Cute stories are very nice, but I’m more interested in a meaningful story that teaches a lesson applicable to our modern world.

I have a deep appreciation and love for Folkmanis puppets. I think I may even be a crazy person when it comes to this. When my sister was visiting we went up to New Hope, PA and found a store for animal lovers in Peddler’s Village. In the corner they had a wall of very high-quality animal puppets. They had the most amazing textiles and materials with very expressive eyes, and I couldn’t choose just one to purchase. I had a very difficult time deciding between about 4 different puppets, which were ALL my “favorite”. I ended up buying a Zebra, then coming back to get the dolphin too. On eBay, I found several second-hand ones that were reasonably priced that I couldn’t pass up. Then I ran into a fat white hen puppet at a used toy store. I once almost paid $60 for a large discontinued beautiful white Unicorn Folkmanis puppet with synthetic hair that I found on eBay, but my husband reminded me that puppets are not a necessity and I let it go. (Though I often think about that unicorn puppet, which further proves my passage into insane obsession with puppets.)  My favorite right now is our hedgehog puppet, because he looks like the character “Hedgie” from some of Jan Brett’s storybooks. We use our puppets with certain books, but I would love to find a way to use them more with small children.

So many things to do and places to go and people to meet. Tomorrow is always a new day.

Woman Finds Insect Larva In Her Food At Iron Abbey in Horsham, PA

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2014-06-12 21.19.36

On June 12th, 2014 a woman met with her friends for a celebratory “Mom’s Night Out” at the Iron Abbey Gastro Pub in Horsham, PA. She ordered the Grilled Veggie wrap with a House Salad on the side. What she got was a surprise. On one of the leaves at the top of the salad was a large insect larvae. When she touched the outside of it’s cocoon, it wiggled within. Iron Abbey offered a new salad, but failed to correct the situation until the woman had been waiting for a manager for over an hour. A manager never did actually come to her table and she left the restaurant hungry after paying for her drink.

 

Who was this woman?

Me. I found an insect larva in my salad at Iron Abbey.

First let me say, I am more disappointed with the way the incident was handled than the finding of the larva itself. I understand that when you are working with fresh ingredients, these things can happen. And although I’m not sure if the salad leaves were washed, I would like to think that they were and this larvae just survived that process. I hope.

Once our waiter was made aware of the problem, he said a sincere, “Oh, I’m very sorry about that. I’ll let the manager know.” And whisked the plate away with the leaf and the living insect larva. I then expected someone to return and perhaps offer me something else to eat or ask what can be done to make the situation right, but that didn’t happen. I sat there feeling embarrassed and uncomfortable while I looked at my veggie wrap and the lettuce within it and contemplated whether it would be rude of me to decline eating it. My friend said it was probably fine, so I forced myself to eat some of the wrap, feeling more disgusted with each bite. The manager never came, and the waiter seemed to be ignoring our table despite the restaurant not being very busy.

30 minutes after the larva was taken from the table, our waiter quietly took the old salad away and slipped a new salad next to my plate and muttered, “Sorry about that,” scampering away quickly before I could decline the salad. I did not want another salad. I would have happily eaten anything but a salad.

Sitting uncomfortably for another 25 or 30 minutes, I made conversation with my friends while not touching the food at all. Much of our conversation was about the larva and what “should” happen next, but none of those things happened. I had hoped that the waiter might come and perhaps offer to bring me something else, and I could ask for the nachos with no lettuce. I would have even paid for it. But he seemed to be avoiding our table.

Another friend at the table finally flagged him down and asked what was up. The other ladies wanted refills on their drinks and the manager still hadn’t been told about the larva issue. My friend was polite, but much more direct about his need to bring this to the attention of the management sooner rather than later. The waiter made an excuse that the manager is upstairs and the waiter was just waiting for him to come down so that he can let him know. I finally jumped in and said, “I’d really just like to leave because I feel very uncomfortable. Can you bring me my bill for whatever I owe you so that I can just go?” Then the waiter said, “Well, we will probably take care of your salad, but I have to get the manager to do that.” By this time, I was really annoyed.

About 10 minutes later, a tall man came to the table and asked, “I understand there was something found in your salad?” I reply, “Yes, did you see it?” He had not seen it, so I offered to show him a picture I took of it with my phone. He tried to decline seeing the picture, saying “I really don’t need to see it,” but said, “We are going to comp your salad.” A friend asked, “Are you the manager?” Then the tall gentleman said, “No, I’m not the manager on duty tonight, and I don’t usually do the floor management.” I was a little baffled by everyone’s inability to figure out how to take care of the situation.

Not long after, the bill arrived and the waiter explained that, “Instead of offering you a dessert or something, he took off 20% from your total bill and comped the salad.” I said “Thank you”. He offered to box up my salad and wrap, and I told him I was not interested in it at all.

Actually, they only took off $7.22 from the $8.50 dish, but I can’t complain about that since they deducted 20% from the entire table.

What I really wanted was something to eat. I went to a restaurant and ate part of a veggie wrap and came home hungry. Next time I will be more direct with the waiter and tell them what I want, even though I am very uncomfortable and embarrassed in these kinds of situations. And next time I will NOT be going to the Iron Abbey.