It’s that time again. This month’s missive is some thoughts in the form of a short story prompted by but not necessarily directly related to the Neil Young v Joe Rogan Squabble. And since it is the Miss-information Mogul Vs the guy that wrote “Southern Man.” I thought I would set this little tale there. Where I was born, in the Deep South. (Which is BTW my favorite Oxymoron, up there with “Marijuana Initiative.”)
I will spare you the crass commercialism announcements until the end.
Here is your
Muse and Whirled Retort
Feb 01, 2022
The Karat and the Stick
Click here for a reading of the most recent “Poem of the Week”
By Chris Chandler
"Eli Whitney was an ass-hole!"
It's not true, not even close, he wasn’t an ass hole. He was brilliant, but none the less, I heard it all my life...
Well over two centuries after he started his little business in a friend's garage... People are still disparaging his name saying, "Eli Whitney was an ass-hole."
...as if everybody still owed him money or something... or maybe they do.... Sorta like Spotify owing me money.
Ever since Daniel Ek and Martin Lorentzon first tinkered with Spotify in garage in Sweden in 2006, it grew from a garage business to more than 172 million premium subscribers worth billions of dollars.
That said, when I first decided I wanted to write about this topic I wanted that to be the opening line... "Eli Whitney was an ass-hole.... "
So I kept it...
It doesn't make me a good writer - just loyal to bad ideas... such as the very bad idea of making a living as some weird performance artist with an on line weekly show...
None the less, I was so excited when I got my first royalty check from Spotify. A song called (yes) "Eli whitney was an Ass-Hole"
I got 100,000 plays - and I got a check for 21 cents. How could that be?
Hell, they don't even put the 'cents' character on the keyboard anymore.
Ya gotta type "Option Alt 4" just to get the 'cents' character. It takes more effort than leaning over and picking up a penny. and who does that anymore? I don't - and I'm broke.... I do this for a living.
The thing is when I tried to deposit my 21 cent royalty check... I only had 17 cents in the account to begin with...so when the bank charged me a 50 cent check deposit fee... I wound up over drawn. Then got a $25 dollar bounced check charge on top of it.... I have less money than if i had never gotten played by spotify at all.
But with on line media - a penny has a different meaning...
It's like Richard Prior as the villain in Superman three - or Superman I, I, I for the very self absorbed......
See, I grew up in Georgia - and Whitney's name has always been synonymous with my state....
To refresh your memory ... He's the guy that is most famous for inventing the Cotton ‘Gin... No, that is not a method of distilling cotton plants to make bathtub Gin. But I digress…
See back then - we're talking late 1700s... the later part of the second Washington administration... which was in New York City, because there was no Washington DC
Back then, cotton was little more than a weed. It grew anywhere and everywhere... thing is nobody knew what to do with it. Sure - if you could get that seed out you could spin it in to yarn - sorta like I'm spinnin' a yarn right now... but even with... ummm... how do you say it?... free labor - it was so hard to remove the seed that you couldn't turn a profit from it.
But Eli Whitney, a drunk, unemployed yankee crashing on the couch of his school mate near Savannah, had an idea.
With just a few things lying around the house - Whitney created a very simple machine that could remove the seeds in a cotton boll. Figured it out in a week...
With one turn of the crank - one man - made a steadfast weed the most profitable plant in the country. In the world.
Cotton Plantations sprang up over night. Southern cotton farmers were the richest people on earth.
Black Sweat and Tears.
That's not at all what he had in mind... Before the cotton ‘gin, the institution of slavery was on the decline and about to die out. He actually thought the cotton ‘gin would end slavery all together...
Once these plantations started making money SURELY they would start paying the help? Right? Right?
However, the opposite happened. In a few short years the number of slaves in the United States went from five hundred thousand to four million by 1810.
Plantations were were now worth billions...
No, No, No. I am NOT equating poorly paid musicians with slavery. So just stop it. I am talking about the cotton 'gin and how that led to slavery.
Ya see, in a few short years Spotify has gone public and is worth billions while paying its artists dozens. Even with a copyright - you can't get paid. And the local, state or federal government will not help artists collect royalties.
Just like, the people of the south would not pay Eli Whitney royalties for his invention. Nor would state local or Federal governments help him collect royalties, even as others were making millions off his artistry.
Keep in mind here, Sean Parker, the guy who started Napster, (the first file sharing site that ripped off millions of artists for untold amounts of money) now sits on the board of Spotify and was a consultant for Pandora and Groove Shark. He has a personal net worth of 2.7 billion.
The problem Whitney had was that he had made the first cotton ‘gin with things lying around the house, which meant anybody could make one... and before he could even get it registered with the country's brand new patent office - people had already started pirating their own cotton ‘gins.
Even with his patent he couldn't get anybody to pay him for it - and he tried. Lawsuits... payment plans... licensing... he tried everything...and even though poor hard scrabble farms turned into plantations over night -- no one wanted to pay him and he went broke trying to fight for his copyrights...
Until the good people of the south ran him out of town.
Too bad... because he was happy in the south.
He would have stayed.
Instead he went back North and started on a new project. The good people of the south were happy to see him go.
Be careful what you wish for.
Because, Eli Whitney went back to Massachusetts where he had another idea...
He developed the concept of interchangeable parts - for riffles - the Springfield rifle - Yes, he invented the assembly line - and the country amassed its first arsenal.
If he had stayed in the south, where he was perfectly happy... that arsenal would have been in the south.
We would not have the Springfield Riffle... we would have the Savanah Riffle - and the odds are that Civil War thing would have certainly gone the other way. Or hell, if you had gotten in the habit of paying the help, it may not have happened at all.
Don’t get me wrong here… I know artists have been getting ripped off ever since Zog first painted a picture Og throwing a spear at a wooly mammoth. Showing everyone how to do it.
We are at a new cross road in the world of ideas .. because it was not video that killed the radio star - it was the internet.
But to tell you the truth, I didn't really like the radio stars anyway.
So, what we have before us is a whole new platform of opportunity....
What if... you made the musicians happy?
Collectively we are a powerful force. What if instead of everyday you had some stars like Taylor Swift and Jay Z and now Neil Young and Joni Mitchell singing songs AGAINST your service - you had them singing, "Join us!"
Don’t pay miss-information moguls Like Joe Rogon disproportionately. I know this Neil Young squabble is more about miss-information than royalties, but it clearly shines a light on the subject.
What if you let us help you... by paying us.
So we can stop singing “I ain’t gonna work on Maggies farm no more.”
It's the carrot and the stick...
You show me a carrot - and I'll put down my stick.
Oh by the way... I spell Karat with a K.
THIS HAS BEEN YOUR
M.O.N.T.H.LY. .M.U.S.E. .A.N.D. .W.H.I.R.L.E.D. .R.E.T.O.R.T.
Broadcasting from the front seat of snake oil wagon on the soft shoulder of the information superhighway since the dawn of email.
I hope to have the new store up and running soon. Soon as my stuff gets down here from NJ
I find it ironic that the symbol doe commerce and the symbol for homelessness are the same thing
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I have no in person “live” shows on the books for the near present, but I have launched the 2nd season of the “Poem of the Week” Sundays at 1 PM Me, 2 PM East, 11 AM West, 9 PM Kiev
Paul Benoit has a new Album “Beautiful Mind” I have been working on a new video for it, it will be launched at the end of this month. Keep an eye for “Cactus met the Sky.”
We are moving into the mixing part of the new album but the lingering pandemic has left us crossing our fingers about plans to tour.
We are looking at Mid May for some shows in California. Sonora to Mendisino. If you would like to present us in that time please let me know.
I have just returned back to Austin from Highland Park, NJ
Good bye, Highland Park.
All of my meager possessions removed from the cinderblock storage bin in Piscataway. Boxed and packed and labeled into a small U-Haul pod to meander The thin highway of fat America, destination: Austin, Texas.
In two years they have traveled from Oakland to Highland Park and now, to Austin.
Computer containing my life’s work safely backed up and shipped separately. Hard drives removed and flying with me on the plane. Computer shipped separately.
A few things would not fit in the pod: The ice cream Chair that i used to stand upon and wax the manifesto electric. It was rescued by Anne Feeney from my old home in Silver Spring Maryland, and made the trip from Pittsburgh to Highland Park. Sad to see it go but it seems symbolic somehow to lose a another treasured item along with so much else lost. It was safely delivered to a thrift store in East Brunswick, where it may find a new home where it will be equally loved.
Good bye Highland Park. I will miss you. I had dreamed of making you my home. I have always wanted a home like you. Everything within walking distance. A diner, a restaurant, a music venue, a thrift store, a vintage store, a used bookstore. Everything.
Goodbye cute little diner. I am having one last breakfast with you as I write this. I love you.
Goodbye, cute little music venue two blocks from my old house. I’m sorry I only knew you during the pandemic. Maybe one day we will meet again, properly. I love you.
Goodbye, tall surly Russian postal clerk. Goodbye post office, you were so good to me. Thank you.
Goodbye, auto mechanic, I will never forget that you gave me your business card as I drove to Texas saying if anything happens on the road call me and maybe I can talk you through the fix. Who does that? Thank you. I love you. I will miss you.
Goodbye Liquor store. I will not miss you as much as you once thought I would. You know me by name, and what I drink. You made sure it was always in stock.
So long little deli. Remember when I tied Drifter up to a big metal table with an umbrella? And Drifter drug it out the middle of the street stopping traffic on Raritan Avenue? I love you.
Goodbye little “graffiti“ walk. You really are something. I am sorry I didn’t visit you more often, but please know I was always glad that you were there!
Goodbye musty old used bookstore and the eccentric that ran it. I’m sorry I didn’t get to know you better. There was a pandemic. I’m glad your doors are still open. I love you.
Goodbye garage and basement, living room, and kitchen. I will miss you. It makes me happy to know that you are better off because I came to visit. I have left you in better shape than you were in when I arrived. What more could anyone want out of this life than that?
Goodbye backyard. With your new fence and walkways, stone benches and gardens. It makes me happy to know that you are in much better shape than you were when I arrived. Goodbye front yard with your new garden boxes and your little goofy fish fountain and lighted flamingos and your wicker Wiccan reindeer. I am happy that you are better off now than you were when I arrived. I love you old house.
Good bye Drifter. I will miss you more than all the others. I am so glad I got to see you one last time. I know that your unconditional love is genuine. That look of excitement on your face when I walked in the door yesterday, for the last time. You gave me your legendary “crazy eyes” and you let me scratch your belly where your missing leg could not reach. You kissed my forehead. I was crying.
Dog, you have the goofiest bark human ears have ever heard! I love you, Drifter.
You were a rescue brought in a van ironically from Texas which is where I am bound to your homeland. I love you Drifter. You are the best dog a human could ask for.
You will never read this. My heart is broken, and even if it heals sometime somehow someway, The scar tissue is never going to go away. It hurts too much to write how much I loved you. There are no words.
I know, your heart is broken too. It is my fault. I am sorry. I hope more than anything, for your heart to heal, that someone will find it and recognize how big and beautiful your heart is and then you can know the happiness that you deserve.
It’s like trying to take a photograph with auto focus on, and this tiny insect keeps landing on the lens, and no matter how many times you shew it away it lands back in the same place. It’s all you can focus on no matter how much you don’t want to keep looking at the underbelly of a magnified insect.