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Practical Things to Consider Before You Rent an Office

Friday, 23 May 2014

Regardless of whether you are a new business trying to find a space that fits your growing needs, or perhaps an established one in search of a better space, there are a few key factors you will need to consider when making your choice for a rented office space. Here are few of the practical things to consider before you rent an office:

Contract Length
The contract length may well be a significant element when deciding whether to rent an office or not. If you are a new business with an uncertain future, then it’s not advisable to tie yourself financially with something you might not be able to afford 12 months down the line.

What amount of space do you need initially, and do you feel like needing more space in near future? When it comes to space, you will likely never have enough for a business that is constantly expanding. When seeing offices available in the market, make sure there is extra space available on the premises for your business to expand.

You will need to figure out the amount you will pay in utility bills, if the deal you are getting is not all-inclusive. Figure out the money you will need to pay for the utilities and factor in this cost when considering moving to offices that have all- inclusive deals. For businesses that need to use a lot of gadgets and computers, power bills might go atrociously. Therefore, it might be a much better option to choose a property that is offering an all-inclusive deal.

The location certainly affects the image your business projects to the market and the clients you would like to sell your products or services to. If you manage to find an inexpensive office in a posh locality, then this will make your clients think that you are a recognized business that is doing well. This is something that is necessary for startups that are yet to get in touch with good clients.

Is there a parking space available? This will not be a huge problem if the majority of your staff uses public transport, but if you are planning to expand your business and anticipate having clients visiting your office, too little parking space can certainly be a problem.

A functional reception certainly gives you an edge, especially if you wish to impress clients visiting your office. When you have someone to meet and greet people visiting your office and re-directing inbound calls, then meetings can run a lot more smoothly and people working in the office do not need to be bothered about letting people in and out of the office building.

Meeting Room
A meeting room might be needed if you would like conduct meetings at a place that is away from the reach of your employees. This allows you to focus on the work at hand and communicate easily, without any distractions. A conference room can also be useful for conducting in-house meetings with employees or conducting interviews. So consider having some extra space for meeting room when evaluating office spaces available for rent.

Read the terms of the contract carefully and find out what applies and what doesn’t. If the lease agreement mentions certain things that you possibly will not need, never hesitate asking the property owner to reduce the rent.

Office Space in Myanmar - Helping Businesses Reach Their Maximum Potential

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Renting an office space in Myanmar allows you to enter the emerging market in the country. Surveys show that the demand for office space in this particular nation has significantly increased. With this, you can find business towers in various cities in Myanmar and there were residential properties which have been turned into offices for rent.

Office Space in Myanmar - The Costs and Other Important Facts

There are various office towers in the country, including the FMI Center, Centrepoint, and Sakura Tower. On the other hand, the York Center in Yangon is another sole-purposed office space for rent in the country. It is a premium office space known for setting standards and meeting the needs of small businesses and multi-national companies. The cost of rent depends on the size of the office space. You can rent an office space in Myanmar at $100 per square meter. Keep in mind that the average rental fees for office space in the country have increased for about 50 percent in 2012 due to the increasing demand of serviced offices. In Myanmar, there are sole-purposed commercial office space buildings and world-class business towers which allow you to choose an office space based on your budget and specific needs. For instance, you can choose an office location or address which is convenient for everyone. There are offices for rent located in Bahan, Mayangone, or near the Yangon River. On the other hand, you can also find fully-furnished offices in Nay Pyi Taw and Mandalay.

You can find a well-located office space in the business districts of Myanmar for $15,000 per month. On the other hand, if you want a cheaper serviced office, you can opt for $800 or $1,000 every month. The cost of office space also depends on the business address and location. When renting a serviced office, in most cases, you will be required to pay at least one extra month security deposit. The property agent is also given an additional month commission.

 Renting an Office Space in Myanmar

There are various reasons why businesses choose to rent a Myanmar office space. When you choose a sophisticated office for rent in the country, you will have an office which is equipped with modern facilities and amenities in order to help your business, specifically when it comes to its daily operation. In most cases, office space buildings have covered parking spaces, a staffed reception area, a highly reliable internet connection, 24-hour security services, and many more. Despite of the increasing rates of Myanmar serviced offices, small business owners and large companies still choose to rent an office space in the country.

Indeed, the increasing number of serviced offices in the country has resulted in a competitive real estate industry in both commercial and residential sectors. If you are looking for an office for rent in Myanmar, you can select a specific address, location, a set of facilities and amenities, and a monthly rate. You might be surprised to find expensive office spaces, however, there are office space service providers who offer an office for rent at an affordable price. If you want, you can go online and search for a Myanmar office space which suits your needs. Regardless of the size of your company, renting an office space in this particular country can help your business reach its maximum potential.

History of Bohemian and Waterford Crystal

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Since its inception centuries ago, crystal giftware has been the epitome in gift giving and showing appreciation to a friend or loved one. The combination of a beautiful crystal set along with a bottle of wine or champagne is a practical and easy gift solution that has withstood the test of time. The brilliance in simplicity has allowed crystal gifts to stand the test of time and remain as popular as ever. Bohemian Crystal and Waterford Crystal have become synonymous with crystal giftware and have established themselves as the two leaders of this time honoured tradition.
The production Crystal
Bohemian Crystal

The production of Bohemian Crystal began as a result of the abundance of natural resources found in the countryside in Czechoslovakia (formerly known as Bohemia). Bohemian glass cutters discovered potash combined with chalk created a clear colourless glass that was more stable than glass from Italy. It was at that time when the term Bohemian crystal emerged for the first time in history to distinguish its qualities from the glass coming from other places. This unique Czech glass could be cut with a wheel.

Bohemia became the breeding ground of expert craftsmen who artfully worked with crystal. Bohemian crystal became famous for its excellent cut and engraving. They became skilled teachers of glass-making in neighbouring and distant countries. By the middle of the 19th century, a technical glass-making school system was created that encouraged traditional and innovative techniques as well as technical preparation.

In the second half of the 19th century, Bohemia looked to the export trade and mass-produced coloured glass for shipment all over the world. Pairs of vases were produced either in a single colour of opaque glass or in two-colour cased glass. These were decorated in thickly enamelled flower subjects that were painted with great speed. Others were decorated with coloured lithographic prints copying famous paintings. These glass objects were made in huge quantities in large factories and were available by mail order throughout Europe and America. They were not considered fine art but provided inexpensive decorative objects to brighten up ordinary homes reverse glass painting was also a specialty of the Czechs. The image is carefully painted by hand on the back of a pane of glass, using a variety of techniques and materials, after which the painting is mounted in a bevelled wooden frame. Glass artisanship remained at a high level even under the Communists because it was not considered as ideological threat to communism.

This continued standard of excellence has allowed the products to maintain is reputation as a premium in gift ideas for centuries. With the unique characteristics of Bohemian glassware along with generations of experience in glass cutting, each piece has a reputation for creating a lasting impression. The true value of a present is how highly regarded the recipient holds their gift after time. There is no greater example of that then when not in use, Bohemian Crystal almost always finds its way to the centerpiece of any display cabinet and creates a lasting impression.

Czechoslovakia produced many fine glass cutting experts. Few would be as influential to this craft as Charles Bacik. Charles would grow up in the midst of this tradition and learn the secrets to fantastic glass cutting and crystal ware to open numerous factories specializing in this field. However, as his factories were being taken over by the Communists following WW2, he immigrated to Ireland. In 1947, in partnership with a Dublin gift-shop owner, Bernard Fitzpatrick, he started Waterford Glass. In 1950, the company was in financial difficulties and he ceded ownership to the Irish Glass Bottle Company. He continued to work for the company as a manager until 1974 and as a board member until 1984. Under his leadership and direction, Waterford crystal would become one of the undisputed leaders in crystal gift making.

Waterford Crystal designs, manufactures and markets an extensive range of crystal stemware, barware and giftware for distribution throughout the world. In recent years, Waterford has built upon its reputation as a leading source of prestigious tabletop and gift products by expanding into several new businesses. Significant expansions into tabletop and gifts have occurred with the launch of the Marquis by Waterford. This initiative reflects the company's commitment to creating prestigious products whose classic designs transcend time.

Waterford Crystal today has very strong links with its illustrious predecessor. There is the same dedication to the purity of color, to the same design inspiration and to the same pursuit of highest quality levels possible. The traditional cutting patterns made famous by the artisans of Waterford became the design basis for the growing product range of the new company.

Waterford Crystal, today, is one of the leaders of premium crystal and create superb handcrafted crystal stemware, giftware and lighting and are designed and manufactured to the highest standards. People who are lucky enough to have experienced Waterford Crystal simply regard it as the best for self and gift purchase.

The question of deciding between Bohemia or Waterford crystal is irrelevant. Both companies have built a reputation based on products that are the results of centuries of craftsmanship and adaptation to new technology and methods to ensure the customer is receiving the very best glassware available, and the consumer simply can't go wrong when picking either.

The Dangerous Illusion of Danger

Monday, 13 January 2014

We are raising a generation of children afraid of the mall.

Last week I found myself in an odd dilemma, the kind faced chronically by busy working parents of multiple children. I had a drama rehearsal after work until almost 6 p.m., needed to meet some coworkers for an after-work meal to show support for an ailing friend, and had to get my daughter to her year-end soccer banquet at 7 p.m. She was expected to bring a “white elephant” gift that she had not yet purchased to this banquet. (My wife was left to manage the other two kids’ schedules.)

To kill so many birds with so few stones, I needed to drop my daughter off at the mall across from the restaurant where I was meeting my coworkers.

“You’re gonna drop me off? You’re gonna leave me at the mall... by myself?!?” she asked with near-panic in her eyes. Yes honey. You’ll be fine.

“But… it’s dangerous! Something bad could happen!” she said. “Why can’t you go in with me?” Because I’ll only have a short while to visit with everyone, sweetie. If I’m in here 15 minutes with you, I might as well not even stop by over there.

“But… I could be kidnapped!” Much laughter from an insensitive father.

I spent a significant portion of my childhood alone in a mall. I walked or rode my bike (one mall was more than 15 miles away) almost every weekend and sometimes during the week. Never once did I find myself in any kind of trouble. When I was six, my mother would hand me two dollars and send me to the arcade -- they had these places in the mall where it was just a collection of video games, and the games only cost a quarter -- and tell me to meet her back at a certain spot at a certain time. No cell phones, just a wristwatch and a set time.

A few times, I had to ask someone at the information booth to page my mom. I remember one time being very scared because she was late… but I never got abducted to the best of my knowledge.

Stories from my past were not a comfort to my daughter. I shrugged, I gave her some money and told her it would be a therapeutic and healthy experience to learn that the mall was not a monster that devours solitary children, nor were kidnappers lurking around every store corner.

When we arrived at the soccer banquet, I relayed this conversation and experience to the other parents. They were horrified at I would drop my child off -- ("strand her!") -- at the mall for an hour. I honestly thought some of them might call DFACS on me. “Different times!” ... “More dangerous now!” ...
"What if something awful happened???"

If you get annoyed when people use facts to counter irrational fears, then stop reading.

An estimated 100-130 kids are kidnapped by strangers every year. Less than 7 percent of those are abducted in stores or malls. That’s nine mall(ish) kidnappings a year. In the whole country. Nine kids taken from roughly 48,000 shopping and strip malls every 365 days.

Your child is many times more likely to be stolen from her own bedroom. (By someone you already know.) Kids die from pool drains at three times the rate they are kidnapped. And don’t get me started on handing a 16-year-old keys to the car. Our normal lives are much more dangerous than we want to believe, so we focus our fears into places we pretend we can control. The mall. The ocean. The amusement park.

We allow our fears to be dictated completely by peer pressure.

When exactly did every minute of a child’s life become a ripe opportunity for the scene from “Pet Semetary” or “Silence of the Lambs”? When did we begin defining good parenting by how many utterly irrational fears we can instill in our children, “for their own good” or “for their safety”?

I have a dark theory. I believe we teach our children to fear other people to make ourselves more important. I believe we want to believe we are surrounded by dangerous people to feel better about the kind and decent people we are.

"Trust is bad, my child. You can't trust people. Just trust me on this."

We wonder why so many modern parents hover. It’s because we’ve as a culture convinced ourselves that, beyond our eyes or earshot, our children must be regularly knocking on death’s door. All that talk about the value of grit, resilience, overcoming failure, learning self-reliance... none of that is worth a dead child!!

If you are a parent fighting these fears, worried that you can control the fate of your child by merely stopping them from swimming in oceans or shopping in malls, make an appointment with a therapist and, in the meantime, read this article about growing up unsupervised. Then watch this great TED video about “Five Dangerous Things You Should Let Your Kid Do.”

And remember what William Wallace (and Walt Whitman) said: "Every man dies, but not every man truly lives!" What kind of life are we going to allow our children to live?

Epiphany #5

Sunday, 12 January 2014

I have bad news for all of us.  Our dreams and nightmares are not interesting to other people.  It hurts to discover that, I know, but I know that it is true because other people's dreams and nightmares are not interesting to me.  So I'm saying what others won't, even as they commit to the tedium of hearing your rebelling of your sleep's highlight.

Sad, isn't it?  Because what is more meaningful to us than our dreams, especially soon after we dredge ourselves awake, still half-drunk on those dreams?  But they were so real, we say.  But only to us.

Told to someone on the outside, who cannot generate the palpable emotions of having lived the dream in one's unconsciousness, dreams are tedious and improbable.

How does that differ from any other fiction, you ask?  Well, imagine this.  In dreams that we are told by others, we know the characters involved, and we know that those people can't possibly do what the dream says that they did.  In fiction, we are in the writer's world, and when he or she holds the reins, we are far less skeptical about where the story goes.

But what about prophetic dreams, you ask?  Prophetic dreams, like all dreams, have lost their urgency, once Carl Jung and other dream-masters who put so much stock in dreams were replaced by the current understanding of dreams as common sense physiological reactions to the brain's attempts to process the stimuli of the day's events and information.

Though I would add to that, when is the last time that someone told you a prophetic dream ahead of time?  I don't mean to suggest by that that I don't trust prophecy after the fact.  But anytime some tells me that he or she had a dream about something that then happened, it is always after the event. I wonder if a more general dream becomes more specific in the rebelling when it is connected to an actual event that took place.

There are two exceptions to my "disinterest in other's dreams" theory.  The first is if your dream is funny/outrageous/sexual.  I mean, sure, if it makes for a good anecdote over a beer or if it is just so crazy that it needs to be told, then, sure, I'm all in, unless you start trying to make it mean something.

The second, of course, is if I am in your dream, then I very much want to hear about it.  I always want to know what I am doing, wherever I might be, and I doubt that you are much different.  That I have surfaced in your underground thoughts only makes me richer, and as long as there is the slightest chance that I will come up in your dream again, then I will hear the whole damn thing.

The only dream that ever meant much to me was, I think, one that the comedian Henny Youngman had.  He said, "I keep having this same dream.  It's about hot dogs chasing doughnuts in the Lincoln Tunnel."  Now, that's my kind of dream!

Geese And Ganders

Thursday, 9 January 2014

For the last year or so, I've read enough articles at Harvard Business Review that I finally splurged and ordered a comprehensive online subscription. The articles are most certainly focused around more traditional notions of business rather than education. Having read plenty of thought leaders in both fields, however, I'm astonished at how similar the two have become, and not in a bad way.

Many HBR articles are about leadership and management, and while these might not always have clear relevance to your average middle or high school teacher, the advice would (and probably, for some, does) most certainly benefit people in the middle and upper ranks of administration.

But the similarities don't stop at leadership and management. It goes deeper. Here are just a few examples from the current HBR "front page" of my iPad app:

From HBR: "Reward Efforts, Not Just Outcomes"
From NYTimes' Education Issue: "What if the Secret to Success is Failure?"

From HBR: "Build a 'Quick and Nimble' Culture"
From The Chronicle of Higher Education: "Adapt or Die"

From HBR: "The Link Between Anxiety and Performance"
From Huffington Post Education: "Anxiety: The Hidden Disability..."
and "6 Healthy Habits to Teach Kids Who Worry Too Much"

Businesses are trying to adapt to a new generation of college graduates just as schools constantly discuss adjusting to new generations of students. Businesses are intensely interested in innovation, teaching old dogs new tricks, filling in knowledge gaps to make workers more adaptable. Nothing about these concepts and catch phrases are new to those of us who read Education Week or follow education news outlets on Twitter.

But here's what I find funny.

In 2014, at the highest levels of public education, leaders are fighting and pushing and legislating for schools and education to follow the very kinds of business models that Harvard Business Review and business thought-leaders are decrying as outmoded and dangerous to long-term sustainability.

Businesses are banking left and re-calibrating to a changing world, and education is getting caught in the jet wash of outmoded ideas. Politicians and big-time education attention-grabbers are talking about parachute pants and grunge as the next big thing while the real thought-leaders in both fields are trying to figure out how to engineer a Delorean to go back in time and drag these people into the 21st Century.

Nothing is ever simple, so of course you couldn't reform a failing school based on a 1-year subscription of HBR overnight, or possibly ever. Further, I can understand why educational institutions might lag a bit behind businesses in matters of innovation and adaptation. The fight for money is far more vicious and motivational in the for-profit world, whereas schools must be ever mindful that too many risks and failures will lose ever more of the already-tenuous faith the general public has in them.

But I can't help but wonder why so many of us are currently so comfortable with matters of assessment as some magic elixir in school systems when most successful business leaders have regularly decried so many forms of assessment as superficial and counterproductive.

Not all schools should jump aggressively to the newest, biggest and flashiest fads, but some schools in lots of places should be making lots of jumps in lots of different directions. Already we're seeing substantial blowback on things that were championed as educational game-changers just a year or two ago: "iPad schools," "MOOCs that would render the schoolhouse obsolete," "homework-free schools" and "schools without grades."

None of these can universally succeed in all settings, because what's true in schools is true in the business world described by Adam Bryant in the HBR article about business culture:
Managers focus on results, but I think culture drives results.
And, regarding the biggest problem in how companies build culture:
It’s the creation of silos. As one CEO put it to me, “Silos are what topple great companies.” As human beings, we like to operate in small tribes. If there’s not someone creating and communicating an overarching, simple plan for the larger organization and getting everyone to pitch in, people start breaking down into small tribes and pursuing their own goals and agendas.
Business and Education are not identical, nor are they night and day. They are inextricably tied and closely related and capable of learning from one another. What the biggest thinkers in both fields look to when they want meaningful and lasting change isn't a new gadget or a new schedule, but rather changes in personnel structure, adjustments to culture, improvements to interpersonal relationships.

The important changes must always happen in and between people. Improve that, and the assessment problem practically solves itself. In any field.

Epiphany #4

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

I'm stealing one from my daughter.  It isn't the first time.

So we're walking out of Ender's Game, the film version of Orson Scott Card's sci-fi classic about our civilization, having been nearly destroyed by an alien invasion, turning to brilliant children as the ones who can best strategize the ways to beat the aliens next time around (see current commercials with the tag line, "So Easy An Adult Can Do It" for verification of this thinking in relation to technology), and my daughter says, "Ok, Dad, but what's the basic flaw in this movie, like so many other science fiction movies?"

I think about it and come up with nothing.  "I don't know.  What?"

"Think about it.  The aliens want to leave their planet and inhabit ours.  Why would anybody want to do that?  This idea that our planet in the condition it's in is so desirable is ridiculous."

Well, okay, there are a number of ways to think about that.  First, her comment about this theme in science fiction is certainly true.  From The War Of The Worlds to The Man Who Fell To Earth, the alien desire to invade Earth for conquest, destruction, or, particularly, natural resources is a prevalent one, so much so that, at least in the back of our minds, we as a species carry a fear that someone or something out there may want what we have, or want us.

At the same time, our speculative writers offer the exact opposite idea: that our planet will become so crowded or polluted or just plain used up that we need to find other places to continue our existence.  In works as diverse as Wall-e and Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?, not only is mankind on the move, but also, it is only the unfortunate, leftovers from the technological Rapture who are still stuck here.

So which is it?  Is our world a prize or fool's gold?  And why does a bright young adult lean towards the latter--our planet as a place of future desolation?  When did the "unthinkable" become not an alien invasion, but instead the idea that any advanced species would waste their time on such a spent sphere?

I suspect that our children, who are likely seen as the most consuming, immediate gratification-demanding generation to come along, understand full well that their world of new toys and pretty things cannot last much longer.  Certainly global issues like population, poverty, disease, pollution, genocide, warming, extremism, and scarcity of resources are too ubiquitous to feign ignorance.  

Their reaction to those circumstances (fault them, if you must), seems to be to enjoy what they have while they can.  I hear our leaders sometimes telling them that it will be their responsibility to try to fix the things that we screwed up.  Has it been human nature to this point for them to say, oh, okay, we'll forego the pleasures you had so that we can serve the greater good?  Not in a capitalistic society anyway.

The key to Ender's Game is that the desperate adult world, to get compliance, taps into what children enjoy most--group play toward a goal with a chance to win prizes and admiration.  When it comes to this tired planet, our young people, on the other hand, may not initially see a game that they can win, or even worse, may believe that the game is already over.

Grit Must Be Overrated

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

“How much more black could this be? And the answer is none. None more black.” -- Nigel Tufnel

The debate surrounding schools today focuses on how little we expect or demand from the students, from the teachers, from the parents. Everything is about accountability, if you buy into the debate.

The problems with education go well beyond such simplistic notions, of course. But more troubling how wimpified, risk-averse, and overprotective our culture has become and what it says about us.

On Sunday, January 5, in Green Bay, Wis., two NFL football teams took Lambeau Field in temperatures that dipped to -15 degrees with the wind chill. The game was sold out. Prior to the game, film crews were walking around to show all the crazy Cheese Heads out tailgating prior to kickoff.

On Monday, January 6, in southeast Tennessee., every educational establishment was closed or delayed due to the threat of possible coldness and wetness. Closings were determined as early as noon on Sunday -- before the 49ers had even taken the field for warm-ups in Green Bay -- based on dire predictions at a time when the weather around town was a nigh-comfortable 45 degrees.

My school had originally scheduled an in-service day for faculty but canceled it. Not only were the risks of snow and ice too treacherous for children, but it was too dangerous for adults, and certainly not worth the risks for something as petty and silly as an in-service day.

As is standard operating procedure in the urban southeast, the weather conditions underwhelmed the hype and hysteria. Temps dipped into the teens, but nary a road in the tri-county area iced over.

The message is clear: a playoff football game is worth hypothermia and frostbite, but a day of education isn’t even worth mild discomfort.

To be fair, at least part of this can be attributed to a culture where Fear of Lawsuits handcuffs common sense and blindfolds reason. Requiring attendance in poor conditions is different than attendance being voluntary… especially because it makes those in charge liable for anything unfortunate that might happen. Further, for schools where busing large numbers of children from low-income households is a factor, temps in the teens is a legitimate concern. Many poor Southern kids do not have the proper clothing to wait out in the cold for a bus for too long.

But private schools where 90-percent of students drive or are dropped off by parents? Teachers and employees who surely must be better drivers than Mister Magoo and able to dress themselves accordingly for cold weather? C’mon, people. Our bar cannot get much lower.

I took my kids bowling on their day off from school. It was too dangerous to learn, too cold for school, but not too dangerous to bowl, not too cold to host a small party for the BCS Championship, not too dangerous to go to the grocery store or grab a morning coffee.

You can’t turn a page in parenting or educational journals without reading about the importance of grit and toughness on raising healthy children, yet we can’t even stomach the threat of cold without calling the whole thing off, lest the experience be uncomfortable.

Two generations from now, when we look back and wonder why America fell from its perch atop the world, it won’t be difficult to pinpoint one of the key reasons: it got too cold, so we stayed inside under the illusory comfort of our blankets while the rest of the world went to work, completely unharmed, getting tougher while we got softer.

On the web Signature loans Way to obtain Lower Fee Effortless Fund

Monday, 6 January 2014

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Don't Knock the Rock Mortician

Jeff Lynne has to be one of the most under-appreciated guys in the rock history books.

The founder and creative soul of Electric Light Orchestra, the reviver producer of both Roy Orbison and George Harrison’s ‘80s comebacks, the driving force behind The Traveling Wilburys, and the co-writer and producer of one of the best pop rock albums (Petty’s “Full Moon Fever”) since the birth of Cliff Huxtable, Lynne and his music landscape are frequently the subjects of dismissal.

The knock on Lynne, from many music critics, is that his production style is hyper-clean, all of the character is polished right off. One friend referred to Jeff Lynne as The Rock Mortician, because he drained musicians of their blood and replaced it with embalming fluids and thought his sonic corpses were prettier than living beings. Ouch, right?

I wrote about my love of ELO back in 2008, but in the past month I’ve rekindled my love of the band and, in particular, the man behind the band. I stumbled across “Xanadu” on TV and remembered just how comically awful the movie is. But even in its worst moments, I still love ELO's contributions to that soundtrack. That encounter began a sort of internal debate on Lynne’s value.

So with my eMusic account full and the end of my monthly account fast approaching, I bought two Lynne-centric albums. The first was "Full Moon Fever," an album I never owned and actively tried not liking back when it soared into pop culture history. There I was in 1989 trying to be an angsty teen on the verge of manhood, and "Full Moon Fever" felt like the opposite side of the Replacements river I was sailing at the time.

I also bought “Zoom,” the ELO comeback album from 2001 so obscure that I’d never even heard of it when I originally wrote about them five years ago. (Side note: If you have a comeback album that someone who genuinely likes your music never even heard of, that's a colossal marketing failure. Hell, I knew about Devo's comeback album and didn't like that band a fraction of how much I adore ELO.)

While I’ve been repeatedly disappointed with comeback albums by bands that should have long ago accepted their fate, “Zoom” is the kind that keeps you from totally giving up on the idea. It’s almost everything an ELO fan would want from a comeback, an album that rediscovers some of the ‘70s focus on Beatle-inspired hooks, continues to infuse some of the classic ELO space-agey sounds, and holds onto some of what made Lynne’s production work in that stretch of the ‘80s so commercially potent.

“Zoom” is not the least bit interested in breaking new ground, because that’s not really what most fans want in a comeback album. What most fans want is for the band to remember why people fell in love with them in the first place.

Only one song on the 14-song collection passes the four-minute mark, and most hover between 3-3:30. Likewise, half the songs on “Full Moon Fever” fail to hit three minutes. For the most part, the best pop music is the kind that goes away before you’ve had a chance to get sick of it.

While Lynne might be a bit OCD on cleanliness, at least he prefers to live in a one-bedroom loft rather than a sprawling ranch house mansion, musically speaking. Neat freak in an itty-bitty living space. It's a nice place to visit.

Epiphany #3

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Lost among the end-of-year lists, photo montages, and Google commercials about famous people who died and their impact on humanity or Hollywood is the death of Linda Ronstadt's voice.  Because of Parkinson's Disease affecting her throat muscles, that voice left us forever in 2013.  When I am reminded of that, as I am tonight, I am disconsolate.

It might be easy to dismiss or to forget about Ronstadt.  You haven't heard from her in years, and neither have I.  You may know some of her hits, may hum or sing along when they come on the radio--"Different Drum," "Silver Threads and Golden Needles," "You're No Good," and a wealth of others, but I'll wager you don't own a single one of her CDs (and neither do I), unless you were into those torch songs of her later prominence.  She wasn't a songwriter, relying instead on remaking hits or catching-on songwriters like Karla Bonoff or Warren Zevon before they became better known.

She got plenty of FM airplay in the 70s and 80s; she rocked the arenas.  I saw her once in 1974, sandwiched in a triple bill between America and James Taylor.  She kicked out a good set of country-inflected hits.  Because of the way she worked, redoing other people's hits or cherry picking from songwriters, I liked her or dismissed her, based on the song she was singing.

But I really liked her because of her other career--adding her voice to other recordings.  She sings on Neil Young classics like "Heart Of Gold" and "Old Man," on all of Harvest Moon and the raunch-country side of American Stars And Bars.  She is the voice harmonizing with Paul Simon on "Under African Skies" and with Emmylou Harris on "Western Wall."

It is rare for me to love and to celebrate a voice, partial as I am to songwriters over singers.  But Linda Ronstadt was different.  Like Emmylou Harris, whom I have previously celebrated on these pages, she made other people sound better.  And she took risks with her voice.  One of my favorite moments in her canon is "How Do I Make You?" from Mad Love in 1980, when she took on the New Wave that was ushering in the decade ahead.  On that song (which rocks), her voice reaches for notes and cracks, a direct contrast to the careful instrument it is on her slick records.

I am realizing all of this tonight because I heard 29 seconds of Linda Ronstadt singing, and it made me want to cry that her voice is gone.  The record is Bad Luck Streak In Dancing School by Warren Zevon.  The song is "Empty-Handed Heart."  Down in the basement, I put the iPod on "shuffle" for all of Zevon's songs, and, about five songs in came "Empty-Hearted Heart."  Zevon writes ballads of lost love well, and this is one of his best.  About two-thirds of the way through, he starts repeating "And I've thrown down diamonds in the sand" over and over.

Over top of that, Ronstadt sings the descant, a counter melody:

Remember when we used to watch the sun set in the sea
You said you'd always be in love with me
All through the night we danced and sang
Made love in the mornings while the church bells rang

In all of my listening to music for over fifty years, it is one of the most beautiful and beautifully-sung melodies I've heard.  Every time I hear it, I play it again.

Yes, people die, and we justly mourn and celebrate them.  Zevon himself is, of course, gone. But sometimes an essential part of a person's being dies with equal tragedy.  The loss of Ms. Ronstadt's voice invites a reconsideration of that voice and of all of the beauty it contained.

Save the Rock Ta-Tas!

Saturday, 4 January 2014

I tend to fraternize with a fairly homogenous species of music fan. Male. College educated. White. At or above the economic Mendoza line. Their musical preferences lean towards the classic rock era but with tolerance and sometimes appreciation for modern folk or alternative acts.

The more ardent and confidently opinionated their musical tastes, the more likely they consider themselves liberals. For reasons I can't easily explain, conservative types aren't usually as musically snotty.

After almost six years of writing this blog, often about music, often requiring intense listening and occasional researching, and after countless hours of debates and discussions about music, I’ve come to one certainty about the species of music fan with whom I tend to fraternize: they are rock sexists.

Not all of them, mind you, and not always aggressively, but most certainly in the aggregate.

If you were to take a good hard look this particular Dude Collective's favorites and best ofs, what you see is the musical equivalent of stodgy university professors and their Important Books. It’s the Dead White Guys of Rock and Roll list. (Except in rock and roll it’s more like Not-Quite-Dead White Guys.)

In general, their tastes are not far off from the statistics seen at Coachella, where female acts and women-fronted bands are lucky to get 10% of the lineup. Women might be making advances in most of our society, but we’re still holding them at bay in rock music.

Ask them why their picture of rock is the equivalent of the graffiti in Superbad*, and this Dude Collective will offer explanations. Some of them are even valid. They’ll name-drop a few women in their list the same way white people say “Some of my best friends are black.” But mostly amongst this set, they are comfortable liking -- and only liking -- their male-dominated musical scene. Besides, the more classic the rock, the better it must be, and the more classic it is, the more testicles are involved, statistically speaking.

They -- this subset of white male music lovers -- are rarely apologetic about their views. When it comes to every other part of life, they’re more than willing to acknowledge our culture should do a better job of welcoming and accepting a diversity of perspectives and backgrounds, but when it comes to “art” -- most particularly what is considered “good modern (rock) music” -- the mind closes off. The ears clamp shut. The minute they hear a female voice, their interest is shot.

It’s a comfortable kind of sexism because no one seems to eager to judge, because our tastes are our tastes, right? And who’s to judge, as the Pope might say. Well, except them. They are to judge. And usually quite harshly.

When I came out with my “Favorites” music list for the year, one friend’s reaction was, “When did Billy turn into a girl?” This isn’t even the 12th time a male friend has said I’m “a bit girly” with my musical tastes. That’s a music snob’s way of saying my tastes aren’t very hip. Or masculine, I guess, although I’m frankly still trying to figure out what makes for Quality Masculine Music. I've never had a female friend or acquaintance make that kind of comment.

Looking at my list of favorites, it’s difficult to see how their jibes could be anything but a reaction to the fact that roughly half of my favorite songs and albums are by women or include women in key roles (Note: The Pixies hardly counts). Far more than half of my favorites list showed up on critics lists like A.V. Club, Paste and PopMatters, among others, so it’s not like I'm a trailblazer or a radical.

These guys, for the most part, seem comfortable with their prejudice. They like men making their music. Simple as that. In rock, it seems, women are best seen and not heard. Or maybe it’s OK for them to be the appetizer or dessert, but not the main course.

Their objections and prejudices aren’t unlike the many guys I know who openly and aggressively mock women’s sports as an inferior product. Many of these guys are or were athletes themselves, and some are coaches, and they regularly cite the quality of play and the superior physical ability of the highest-level men in a given sport.

Ironically, while more often this sort of sports chauvinist is perceived as sexist, there is far more justification for acknowledging the physical differences between genders than can justify prejudice along creative lines in writing, the arts, music. It's easier to argue why women can't play football or play a less impressive game of basketball than it is to explain why you just don't like the sound of a woman singing rock and roll or playing a group of instruments.

How white and male is your musical collection? How OK are you with that?

on my mind

Friday, 3 January 2014

Things on my mind...

Lonely Hearts printed tees

This Antipodium jacket from ASOS

Learning how to make my own tea blends with help from 101 Cookbooks

The printed vintage dress I bought at Camberwell market, that reminded me it is the best place to shop ever

Loving the spot-on prints and shapes of the AW14 preview from Dress Up (and the yoga references!)

More Lonely Hearts - this time a brilliant printed set via their Instagram account

Beautiful nail art and rings via Yui M on Pinterest

Epiphany #2

Two days ago:  Among the guests at our house, there is a young, teenage girl whom I am teasing about her jeans.  "You know," I tell her, "my wife has denim patches.  She could fix all of those holes in your jeans."  The girl has on stylish, probably new for Christmas jeans with carefully-chosen threadbare spots all over the pant legs.

Yesterday:  As we head out to lunch, I am reaching for a coat in the closet and hear a slight tear from behind.  I reach back to my butt and remember that these are the jeans with the tear in the ass.  They are old, worn out, very light blue in color.  

"Is that tear in the back noticeable?" I ask my daughter.  
"Yes, Dad.  You're not wearing those.  Go change."  
I ask, "What if I pull my shirt down lower?"  
I've shortened the back and forth of the conversation.  I change.

Yesterday, I was wearing blue boxers with a sailboat on them.  Quite friendly, actually.  Not obscene at all.  Some jean tears are fashionable; some are unacceptable.  Age? gender? Tear placement?  Sailboat boxers?  Such a confusing world!

My family makes fun of me for wearing jeans that are "almost white."  They bought me a pair of very dark ones, which I suppose I will wear only until they are not dark enough.

Back in the 70's, I came by my jeans honestly.  My friend Adam and I would walk down to Kaufman's department store to buy our brand new bell bottom jeans.  They were Levi's.  When brand new, they were blue as night and stiff as a plaster cast.  They wouldn't be worth anything for weeks.  We had to wear them and wear them and wear them, and have our mothers wash them and wash them, and sometimes we'd put them on wet out of the washer so that they would dry to our skin.  

It would be months or more before we had them the way we wanted them--faded, comfortable and soft, worn on the bottom cuffs from dragging on the ground.  The "sweet spot" for jeans came when they were well-worn, but not yet beginning to split at the knee or fray on the thigh.  But jeans also lived an entire life, and we loved them throughout that life--from the new store smell to the begging our suburban mothers not to toss them in the trash when they were all but falling apart.

I can't shake that mentality.  And the older I get, the more it seems to apply to everything--my 13 and 1/2 year old car, an iron skillet that I dropped and the handle broke off of, a favorite pullover fleece I wear most every day of every fall or winter weekend or holiday, all the stuff I live with.  If I get something new, I want to be able to use it for a long, long time, which is why I'm nursing an "old" phone and an older iPod.

Seems to me that if you don't live the full life of things alongside your own life, you lose the reminders of what they once were when new, what they went through, how they survived to get here now.  I am not interested in getting a pair of jeans or anything else in their most desirable state, which they will quickly pass out of and then be cast aside.  I want to live with them, age with them.

What Would Lloyd Dobbler Do?

Thursday, 2 January 2014

For the last few years, I’ve mulled over an idea I've titled “The Four Acts of Humanity." The name totally sucks, and the idea is the stuff of bad self-help motivational novels, but I can't shake it. The four acts all start with the same letter, which is crucial for best-sellers: Connect, Create, Construct and Consume.

(I thought of calling it "The Four Ways of C'ing," but that's even worse.)

I wanted to claim that all of modern human existence breaks down into those four categories. Each category was a little bit more permissive than the word might suggest. Maintenance like mowing the lawn and doing laundry would be part of Constructing. Anything that might help improve an ability or a level of competence would count as Creating, even tennis lessons. A single event or activity could easily count under more than one category.

Last week, as I sat playing Skylanders with my young son, my mind wandered back to this Four Acts idea. Throughout the day and week, I began to assess my Christmas vacation by measuring my time spent engaged in The Four Acts of Humanity.

I connected. With family, with friends, in a variety of settings, mostly with vigor, engagement and joy. Grade: B+

I constructed. Did laundry and ironed a lot of shirts, installed a new lock on our door, cleared gutters, repaired a side view mirror on the car, and so forth. It was a productive holiday for constructing even if my abilities in this area are generally unimpressive. Grade: B

I did not create much. I made a mix CD for a few friends as part of their Christmas presents. I performed in a goofy dance at work. I spent a smidgen of time preparing for my drama performance later this month. I put together a “Year In Review” photo book for the family. I wrote a few blog posts. But it often seemed like these were done in stolen moments and late nights, and it was regularly difficult to give this work my full attention or much effort. Grade: C

I consumed like a mofo. I ate many multiples of what I needed to sustain life. I drank an unhealthy amount of sodas and alcoholic beverages. I played Candy Crush into the high 90s. I watched House of Cards and another TV series and six or seven movies alone, and another 10 or so hours of shows and movies with my daughters. I watched a nauseating amount of sporting events. I read two books, and I had music playing almost every minute the TV wasn’t getting my attention. Grade: A+

Consuming is, to be sure, an essential part of our lives. More importantly, at reasonable levels, it’s perfectly healthy and adds to the enjoyment of life. But most of us frequently sacrifice an unhealthy level of our opportunities to connect, create or construct in order to consume, and we tend to consume well past the point of reasonable satiation.

One of the saddest moments in Presidential proclamations in my adult life was when George W. Bush, as we reeled in shock from the events of September 11, reminded us that our true purpose in society was to consume. Our gluttony, he suggests, is what makes America great. Perhaps that's true. Which makes his words twice as depressing.

I’m a consumer. I consume. That’s what I do. That’s what I’m good at. When authors and artists suggest that humans are a large-scale virus, they are not entirely wrong.

While I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions, my goal for the coming year is a simple and modest one: to consume a little less and create a little more. It's not about reducing footprints or creating legacies. It's about being more judicious in how I invest my most valued commodity of time.

When my consumption helps with the other Three Acts -- connecting, constructing, creating -- then all the better. When it is mere consumption for consumption’s sake, the feeding of the lazy eye or bored ear or not-yet-growling stomach, the more I can actively seek to redirect that urge to devour into more positive actions, the better off my 2014 will be.


Wednesday, 1 January 2014

I'm now finally settled after a whirlwind trip to India in which I lived next to the beach in a hut and spent my days doing yoga, learning meditation and anatomy, and qualifying as a yoga teacher at the end of it all! I met some great people and, as corny as this sounds, felt very close to nature with monkeys, cows, buffalo, flamingos, pigs, dogs, butterflies, crows and so many bugs as my neighbours. 

It was a pretty epic trip, with many highs and lows and breakthroughs along the way. It was a great way to transition from the UK to Australia, a space to process the change and get ready for the next phase.

Out the other side I am so thankful to have been, but also very grateful to be back home. I have spent the last few weeks catching up with friends and family, visiting the beach and the bush, and getting to know Melbourne again. 

This is going to be one crazy year, there is so much to look forward to, but also so much unknown! I am excited and energised, especially about a few projects I have in the works that I can't wait to share soon.

Happy 2014!

Epiphany #1

If you are expecting big things here, you will be disappointed.  If you see life in the small details, welcome aboard.

I'm in an upscale hamburger place, a concept that, ten years ago, didn't exist.  But now it does, and its burgers come from locally-sourced beef or else they are turkey burgers or else they are veggie burgers or else they are vegan burgers.  You get the idea.

I'm splurging; I'm having the beef.  Of the times I've been here, this may be the first time I've actually had the hamburger as beef.  Turkey, yes.  Appetizers only, yes.  But this time, I'm having the beef, so I skip the egg, the guacamole, the roasted New Mexico chile, the pastrami, the mushrooms, the BBQ, and all of the other things I could have on one of their specialty burgers.  I'm just having the cheeseburger.

ME:  I'll have the All-American Burger (or whatever the basic cheeseburger is called).

WAITRESS:  How would you like that cooked?

ME:  Medium.

WAITRESS:  What kind of cheese would you like?

ME:  Cheddar.

I have to interject here.  I know from the menu that there are four kinds of cheese I can pick from--Swiss (I think), white cheddar, yellow cheddar, and pimento cheese.  

WAITRESS:  Which kind--white or yellow?

ME:  I don't care.

I have to interject here.  I really don't care.

WAITRESS:  silence.

ME:  You decide.  It doesn't matter to me.

WAITRESS:  silence.

ME:  Okay, then yellow.

WAITRESS:  So, an All-American Burger cooked medium with yellow cheddar.

I nod; she leaves.  And I realize that our society is one where it has become necessary to offer two different colors of cheddar cheese that taste exactly the same.  Not everywhere, of course, but here.  Whether that is because customers demand the choice or a because a restaurant can gain credibility for such a distinction, I don't know.  

And not only in cheeses.  Our opportunities to distinguish who we are based on colors and shades expand everyday.  Everything is an accessory to the fashionable us.

Do you know how yellow cheddar gets yellow or orange?  Seeds from the Achiote tree are used to make a dye called Achiote or annato (I know this because I once made a Peruvian fish stew that called for the coloring, available in Latin American groceries).  It is natural.  I assume it is harmless, unless you are allergic to Achiote.  But I'm sure you know that white and yellow cheddar taste the same.  It is a cosmetic coloring, for uniformity.

I am careless.  I know that.  I often choose the easiest path.  Please do not make me agonize over which color of cheese is the right color.  I don't want to be the person who feels that preference is important, or the person who develops a preferential prejudice.


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