Mag Earwhig, Distorted Mirror Broken: Part 2

So, 1997 was the year Mag Earwhig was released. It was a different time…clearly. I was unhappily working a stable-yet-uninspiring-corporate-job in an ill-fated attempt to survive capitalism (I was doing my Kafka thing). If I had been deployed and fighting in World War III (which, fortunately for me, did not happen at that time), I would have been staring at a well-worn Laetitia Casta pinup just prior to being irradiated to dust. Instead, I was looking at a lot of the “early” internet via what I assume at the time must have been dial-up services like AOL and Prodigy.

Honestly, I don’t remember a lot about my life at that time. It’s kind of blocked out. I know that was a period when I self-identified as an “artist”, spending much of my free time producing esoteric art for myself (Somewhere, there is a very large box overfilled with audio tapes of God knows what. I shutter to think). Yet everyday I grew less and less interested in sharing that art with the outside world. Less interested in seeking acknowledgment, recognition, “glory”.  Because, as a survivor of childhood bullshit turned cynic, I just couldn’t see the point. Human interaction was going to disappoint. Either they were going to let me down, or I was going to let them down. My ego was misaligned. I was down on life, down on love. Just down. And there were no answers, just more unanswerable questions to dig up. To this day, I struggle to keep that guy out of my head. He wasn’t wrong, but you can’t think like that and be happy…or content…whatever that is. I guess the hard learned lesson (for assholes like me) is to stop fighting the ocean and choose to be happy with the absurdity of life…but I wasn’t there yet.

ANNNNYYWAY, as we established in the prolog, I was a big Guided by Voices fan for a couple of years at this point. Their art inspired me in so many ways. There is so much fighting spirit in that catalog, and it’s catching. They stand out, along with my Beach Boys record collection, MST3K on TV and Austin Powers at the movies (?), as lifesavers. The memories I have of those things remind me of laughter, joy, and belonging. A bulwark against “The Many Moods…of Ken Powers”. These things inspired me, helped me tune in to some more uplifting thought patterns that brought better situations and people into my life.

Those people, where are they now? I don’t know.

Raymond Carver wrote a poem, ‘My Boat’, about a boat he was having made. He starts listing all the friends he wants to take out on this boat. “People are going to have fun, and do what they want to do, on my boat.” The boat in the poem has “plenty of room” for all his friends (even though the actual fishing boat he’s describing, 1978 Olympic Hardtop, would comfortably hold maybe six). The boat, to me, represents a sort of heaven of the imagination, where you are reunited with all the people that you remember fondly and would like to have around you, but can’t because…life.

So to the people of 1997 who made a difference, thanks. You matter. You saved my life. You did. Congratulations.

Click here to read ‘My Boat’ at books.google.com

End of Part 2

…to be continued

Mag Earwhig Buys a Beer: Part 1

Guided by Voices’s “transitional” album Mag Earwhig was released twenty-one years ago. A “line-up change” record which intermixed recordings from both versions of the band, it represented the end of GBV’s formative or “classic” period. At the time, it was a breaking point for many in the early fan base, who didn’t like the evolution. Those people were WRONG, period, and can all “get fucked”. I loved that album when it came out and love it even more today. For true believers, it represents the start of Robert Pollard’s musical collaboration with guitarist Doug Gillard, which is one of the most criminally under appreciated and fruitful rock-genius-partnerships of all time. A partnership that (minus one long break) lives on and can be enjoyed to this day. In honor of Mag’s first legal beer I have decided to write some GVB-centric posts about those times.

Prologue

A long time ago, in a suburb far, far away…Nineteen-something-and-five, younger Ken Powers was listening to R.E.M., Syd Barrett, Robyn Hitchcock, Pavement, SST, indie-rock, post-punk, pop-rock, punk-rock, prog-rock and psychedelic-rock on a loop…Usually, while reading comic books.

He was reading SPIN magazine, too. And in certain issues of SPIN, he was reading about this underground band from Ohio…Dayton, Ohio (?). They were described as a sort of song-guild of misfit freaks who followed this beer chugging, pot smoking, middle-aged ex-jock elementary school teacher who also just happened to be a rock n roll savant.

This man was purported to be able to compose awesome, catchy, “MANLY”-yet-sensitive indie-rock nuggets on command, all day long…every day (Ken Powers, on the other hand, was struggling at the time to write just one song that wasn’t “gay”).

This band was called Guided by Voices, GBV for short. Their front man was Robert Pollard. GBV recorded on TASCAM 4-Track in a genre of music dubbed “Lo-Fi” (younger Ken Powers was also home recording on a TASCAM 4-Track! What a coincidence!). The SPIN reporter explained that in this “Lo-Fi”  style, if done correctly, a performer could capture the most authentic performance possible, the trade-off was tape hiss and poor engineering…Well younger Ken Powers (I was in my twenties after all) was ALL about authenticity. Plus the SPIN journalist was sure to have dropped in some Barrett, Soft Boys, Devo, Cheap Trick, the Who and Wire references and I’m sure Peter Buck was probably quoted as saying GBV was “acceptable”. Buck had spoken.

I (Ken Powers that is) knew RIGHT THEN AND THERE that I was going to make a purchase. I was going to buy my first Guided by Voices record!

At the time, I was working at a record store chain, Warehouse Records. I put in a special order for the two most recent GBV releases, the just released Alien Lanes and its predecessor, Bee Thousand, with my trusty assistant manager. They soon came in, were purchased (at an employee discount), went straight into my CD player and (bingo-bango-bongo) the rest is history.

A lifelong obsession began.

Pollard’s coded lyrics fell like Tetris pieces right into the folds of my brain. The melodies and hooks echoed endlessly in my mind, but they never chafed, they were a welcome addition to the din of my subconscious. Soon, my songs started to sound more like GBV songs, my voice sounded more like Pollards. I was turning Japanese (Spin Cycle).

When all was said and done, in my mind, Robert Pollard was right there with Brian Wilson as “the man”. An estimation that has not waivered to this day.

I bought it all, every record, every EP, and every single I could order from their back catalog. It was a treasure trove, a master class in rock n roll history, composition and performance. As important as the Beatles, the Who, the Kinks in the Pantheon of Rock. And it was all mine…’cause nobody else could give a shit.

I don’t think there were more that three people in my home town capable of understanding and accepting the greatness that is GBV. I mean, It wasn’t that hard to understand…you just had to listen to the records and have good taste. Sadly, good taste was a scant resource in Thousand Oaks, California…where the people are kind of lame-ish (I don’t want to be mean).

I turned my best friend and Jam-mate at the time, Tony, on to the band. He got it…sold on “Over the Neptune/Mesh Gear Fox” and we became a little “fan club” of sorts.

I knew they were the best fucking band in the world. I tried to help others understand. In my mind GVB should have been huge. It’s not my goddamn fault if everyone else was listening to bullshit. I mean fuck, I had to watch people buy shitty records all day long at the Warehouse…it was very painful for me…Hootie and the Blowfish?! FUUUUUCKKK!!

Anyway, they put out another great record the following year and toured LA. I finally got to see them LIVE and IN CONCERT. It was a revelation. A beer fueled sing-along sausage party where everyone in the crowd felt like Roger Daltrey at Woodstock. Pollard would get drunker and drunker, slinging perfect nugget after perfect nugget. The band sounded great, an unstoppable rock n roll machine. And then there were Pollard’s scissor kicks… You haven’t lived until you’ve witnessed a Robert Pollard scissor kick live. It can’t be topped. It can’t be explained. Watching it on tape doesn’t do it justice. It’s just fucking great. It’s etched on the Mount Rushmore of rock! The crowd fucking eats it up, man. It’s beautiful! You go home, put on the record and, if you’re as inflexible as I am, you pull your groin trying to recreate it (One day I’ll get my flexibility back. I’m doing my stretching exercises EVERYDAY! YOU’LL SEE!!).

End of Prologue

…to be continued

Unicorn Steaks

Yesterday, I witnessed two things that I will never forget. One was harrowing and terrifying – the other inspirational beyond anything I have ever had the honor to have witnessed.

Bad news first

If you know me, then you’ll undoubtedly know the first event (the harrowing one) was watching #PresidentShithead’s joint press conference with Putin in Helsinki. After a week of setting fire to the NATO alliance and the Special Relationship, yesterday, #PS [aka Trump], with the whole world watching, willfully spread misinformation denying Russia’s very real cyber attack on the United States.

In doing so he went against, and publicly betrayed, our institutions of national defense and US law enforcement. He instead sided with the murderous, lying despot standing next to him. A dictator who is actively leading an attack on America, via cyber warfare, to undermine and corrode our DEMOCRACY and world influence.

We now add this offense to the list of impeachable offenses #PS has committed. Offenses the Republican congress won’t act on…but instead will allow to be forgiven and “normalized”.

I just want to take this moment to send a heartfelt message to my Republican brothers out there…Sorry. I don’t think we can give him a “mulligan” on this one, boys. This really is the end of the road and the end of this Presidency. Accept it, it’s over. As you like to say, “There are winners and losers”. Well, you picked a big fucking loser. Time to flush the bowl before you get any more shit on your hands. Kapeesh?

Nuff said about that for today.

Now the good news

SO YEAH it was the “worst of times”. But then something else happened yesterday that was maybe the most inspirational thing I have ever seen, in person, in my entire life. The most inspirational thing I have probably ever been a part of (even if only in a peripheral way). And I’m not fucking exaggerating! It was real life drama played out with real stakes and, when it was all done, it made be believe in America. It made me believe not that we are the best, but that we can be the best if we do our best. If we do our best for each other, especially when we need each other. If we can change our hearts through empathy, when it counts, we can achieve anything. I saw it happen right before my eyes and it was radiant, and I will, for one, never be the same.

[So I’m going to write my story about what happened…and it’s going to be long. With an exceedingly long tangential lead in . It will hopefully be goodish…but, fur sure, it’s going to be looong. If you just want to just skip ahead to the actual event, scroll down to “The Event”…but you’re missing out if you do…just sayin’. – Ed.]

I officially moved to Visalia, California to be with my wife, then my girlfriend, back in 2010. She, having secured a good job as an elementary school teacher, was able to buy a house in her lifetime hometown at a good price (it was bottom market, mid-Great Recession) and invited me to move in (Even though we were not married. A SCANDAL!). This was the beginning of the rest of my life. My life is with Jenny. And so I have adopted this new hometown, Visalia.

I grew up in Thousand Oaks, California, where my parents and siblings still live. When my parents bought their house in Thousand Oaks in the mid 70s it was a different place than it is today. My father had brought the family across the country from Farmingdale, Long Island, New York for a new job and a change. As an electrical engineer, his work and work opportunities were closer to Los Angeles, but he wanted to live in a suburb, like Farmingdale was a suburb to NYC.

He looked at buying in the San Fernando Valley, but thought the lots and houses seemed small, the communities dingy and packed together. He looked a little further out and found Thousand Oaks, sure it was a longer commute, but the houses and lots were bigger and, EVEN BETTER, CHEAPER. We ended up in a beautiful, idyllic home in the Wildwood development next to the Jewel of Thousand Oaks, Wildwood Regional Park.

I wish I could say my family story was altogether idyllic, but it wasn’t. That’s a story for another day.

I loved my hometown. But, over the years, it became strange to me. It grew in ways I didn’t want to see it grow. Between the influence of Hollywood Royalty overflow and the assent of pharmaceutical giant Amgen’s campus (along with many other factors) the cost of living in Thousand Oaks exploded. It became more congested. Also, the superficiality of the Hollywood-esque culture there, always a problem, became more and more pronounced, to the point that I felt no desire to kill myself trying to find the money for the high buy-in and the cost of living.

The Thousand Oaks I knew was gone anyway. Wildwood Fort gone. Geppetto’s gone. When I hiked in Wildwood Park, all I could see on the horizon was the encroaching housing developments metastasizing off of the Amgen campus. I remember developers wanted to parcel off the beautiful entrance to Wildwood Park, an open field under a majestic skyline of bluffs (made famous in many Westerns) to turn it into a golf course. And it almost happened. Thank God the residents rose up and put a stop to it…And that little slice of history kind of dovetails into yesterday’s events. Which, I swear, I’ll get back to.

Anyway when Jenny introduced me to Visalia it was kind of like someone turned back the clock on Thousand Oaks. It had that isolated and small, but well managed and bustling air about it that felt like home to me, much more than modern day Thousand Oaks. And there is no Amgen here, and our Hollywood overflow was miles away in Three Rivers (that’s a joke BTW). It just felt right.

Are there issues? Yes! We are in Central Valley ag-land so politics run red here. This area is a strong enclave for the racist tea party movement. We have a high percentage of Fox-News-watching, Limbaughtomized, water-rights-obsessed, gun-loving growers (their partners, advocates and allies) out here. Sure they don’t mind the free water, marketing agreements and subsidies that made it all happen for them, but they hate the “big government” that provides it.

And then you have our US congressional rep, Devin Nunes, who works full time debasing himself in a campaign to protect the aforementioned treasonous President. If you think #PS’s behavior gives anyone in Central Cali pause know this, in our recent jungle primary Nunes defeated his democratic opponent Andrew Janz by over 26%. So yeah…there’s that. And that’s a problem…for me.

And, honestly, that aspect of the local culture has been getting me down about my new hometown a lot. Especially in light of the political and cultural divisiveness we are all coping with and hoping will end and not worsen.

The Event

So with a little bit of dread and in this mix, earlier this year, I became aware of the threat to our local children’s non-profit theatre company, the Enchanted Playhouse. They do a hell of a lot of good for the children of this community with very little. They are on the verge of getting kicked out of their home, the Main Street Theatre, which they leased from the city of Visalia, who seem determined to sell it out from underneath them. Without a dedicated theater, the Enchanted Playhouse company will not survive and without the central downtown location they will lose their prominent placement in the identity of the community.

Last night, the Visalia City Council meeting had on its agenda the vote that would determine the immediate fate of the Main Street Theater Redevelopment and, in so, the fate of its tenants, the Enchanted Playhouse Company.

On paper, it was not looking good for the Enchanted Playhouse. Basically, months ago a bid was accepted by the city from a developer to convert the centrally located downtown theatre landmark (somewhat rundown) into some restaurants. It was all “by the books” but it was also a bit underhanded in the way it was carried out (because the city was not reaching out to Enchanted Playhouse). Any way you looked at it, this was a situation where the city council, by law, had the right to move ahead with the redevelopment, and the theatre company would be hard pressed to do anything about it, without having to get into a big legal battle it could not afford. These are volunteers; no one is making any big time money off this deal. And it’s the money that seems to be the thing causing the confusion.

To keep the background short, there was a time about 14 years ago when the city and the city council went to bat for the company, big time, getting them set up in the location and fighting for it legally. The city spent a lot of money. In return, Enchanted Playhouse, did their part and produced, in a hardscrabble time (they got through the Great Recession) as unpaid volunteers, quality children’s theatre that incorporated local children into the productions. They did this and paid rent to the city. Did I mention that children’s theater non-profits don’t make crazy money? I did, okay.

They presented their productions to the public and schools from all around would bus their students in to see them. It spread culture and joy. It created a farm-team for local live performance talent. But most importantly, it was a haven for artistic children, an extended loving family for these creative, emotional, sensitive kids.

Take my wife [, please! – Ed.], she saw the plays as a child and started performing in them at 18. Knowing my wife as you never will, you can not measure the importance and influence this company had on her life, even as a young adult. How it built her confidence up and inspired her to do other things. How it connected her to new friends who shared her interest in the dramatic arts and who encouraged her to act more and “follow her bliss” (I stopped all that). And you can add her to the thousands of children, young adults and parents changed for the better by this local institution. It’s impossible for me to put into words what it means to so many. What the value of this institution is.

The Enchanted Playhouse at the Main Street Theatre is a unicorn. It should not exist. It can not exist on a purely capitalist playfield, and yet it does exist. It exists because it spouted from the dreams of a merry band of dreamers, of gypsies that found their home. This unicorn creates magic, it inspires the weary, it heals the broken, it saves children’s lives. Literally. Period.

Somehow, in the years that followed the initial support, this connection between the city and the theatre company became disconnected. Council members change, mayors change. Emotionally stunted “businessmen” on the council start to think,

“Do we really need a unicorn? Unicorn food is too expensive. Let’s slaughter the unicorn and sell unicorn steaks! We’ll hang up some flat screens and watch freakishly large men give each other concussions…What?! Some fragile kids can’t play make-believe anymore. Too bad! Have some unicorn steak. It’s delicious. It’s seasoned with salt made from the dehydrated tears of the children.”

It’s fucked up. The city fucked up. They forgot heart and soul makes this city’s downtown what it is. Visalia has a god damn unicorn there. PROTECT IT. Its value can not be quantified in dollars and cents on a spreadsheet. Sorry, mister businessman (aka Mr. Potter), you’re just gonna have to believe me on this one.

It is a family-friendly community hub. And in so, it is priceless and worthy of preservation.

So the people who know what’s at stake (unicorn steak) heard the call of the gypsies and determined to push back on the city. This city council meeting was last night and, under a lot of pressure from the community, the city council wisely made special rules allowing for extra time and moved the meeting to the convention center to allow for extra seating so the theatre company and the community could make a final appeal to ask the city to pause the redevelopment plan to give the Enchanted Playhouse non-profit a second chance to make a bid to keep their home.

Supporters meet at the Main Street Theatre. When we got there, I was disheartened to see it not exactly overflowing with people. Could this rag tag band pull it off? We were looking like the Rebel Alliance. It put fear into me. But somehow, when we marched to the convention center, it started to feel like an unstoppable army.

Then the discussion period opened on the subject. The passion of the people who appealed to the city, over the course of an hour and half, was truly inspirational. The testimony of the children, changed and healed by their experiences with Enchanted Playhouse, moved me to tears multiple times. A father and actor told the story of the memories he had performing with his daughter on that stage, a daughter he lost soon after to a tragic and sudden illness. His testimony and the testimony of so many others declared that stage sacred ground.

And then it went to the five man (old white man) council to make their decision.

The Vote

Well that vote was high drama, too. The council was pretty hard in their opening remarks on Enchanted Playhouse board of directors for not behaving like businessmen (but as we’ve established they’re not businessmen. If they were businessmen they would have opened a sports bar. They are dreamers and unicorn wranglers).

It seemed like all was lost.

The first councilman said he was inclined to vote for redevelopment because the theatre company failed to make their bid in time which he felt showed a lack of responsibility. He asked, “Where were you?” to which many in the crowd answered “We’re here now!” (I think I might have been one of those people) But he deferred his final decision at that point.

We then heard from the second council member, who said he heard the children’s pleas and he would allow for a pause on the redevelopment. I loved this guy.

My heart soared!

Then it got to the third member, he was a hard-assed, old jarhead or jarhead wannabe. A Limbaughtomized douche…I will call him Mr. Potter. Mr. Potter said there are “winners and losers” and the market has decided to kill the unicorn (to paraphrase). He also added that 14 years ago he voted against the initial deal to set up the company at the theatre, as it went against his free market ideals, and he still felt good about that decision today (He probably thinks the NEA is a homosexual, socialist propaganda machine, too). It took a lot of self control for me to not wing my water bottle at his fat head…but I knew it wasn’t about me.

Let’s just say my soaring heart lost an engine and was tilting into a nosedive.

Then we got to the vice mayor who was also not moved by the children. He voted KILL THE UNICORN! I immediately regretted ever spending one cent in this “sweetheart’s” store before it closed (locals will understand). So I was doing the math.

1 undecided (but highly critical of the Enchanted Playhouse)
1 for giving the theatre company a second chance
2 unicorn steaks, rare

My heart was plummeting toward the earth, both engines on fire. The hydraulics were out. I was pulling on the flight stick to no avail.

So now it goes to the mayor. He tears up as he says he acted with his kids and he understands the unicorn. He hears the children. He wants to give the unicorn a shot.

I see a flashing light on the heart control panel. I hit it. One of the propellers starts to spin up again. But the altimeter is still spinning counter-clockwise out of control.

So it goes back to the undecided councilman to break the tie.

The suspense was a 10. He’d already said he was inclined to vote against the theatre. The tension was thick enough to cut with a unicorn steak knife. If he said “Kill the unicorn!”, it was gonna be real sad at the least, real ugly at the worst. He said he was still concerned about the viability of the non-profit to make an offer and that giving them a chance might be a waste of time, but ultimately that the pleas of the children moved him to give the Enchanted Playhouse a second chance.

The unicorn’s execution was stayed!

My heart stopped just before it crashed to the ground. Turns out it ran out of gas, Looney Toons style.

There was great applause and a feeling of sober jubilation. The Enchanted Playhouse was given 90 days by the city council to submit their plan to buy the Main Street Theatre.

Now the hard work and reality of fundraising the money and finding deep pocket backers to make it happen is real. But knowing it is real, knowing they have a chance to save themselves, gives me hope that things everywhere can get better. Knowing I live in a city that listens to dreamers and cares about giving creative children a home made me a believer in the system…for now.

I really hope it works out and I’ll be there if they ever need me to show up for them again.

Long live the Enchanted Playhouse at the Main Street Theatre!

Support your local theatre companies

Support your local theatre companies and children’s theatre non-profits. They need it!

See a local play, See a local musical. If you find a theatre company you like, go again, and again. They need you. Most likely, they killed themselves for months as volunteers with no pay to deliver a once-in-a-lifetime experience to you. They need you there. Movies and TV are great, but believe me, your community can entertain you just as well, if not better…and they want to. In supporting them, you become part of something. You are supporting creativity, expression, culture.  It’s not a fad, it goes back to the beginning of civilization. Civilization is not social media, it is “being there”. Plus, the more you support your local theatre, the better it will get. Experience, support, confidence, as in any endeavor, these things are the fuel of greatness. You don’t have to go to Broadway or the big city. You can witness greatness, right in your hometown, just by showing up. And you will feel the performances unfiltered and direct, a true connection between performers and audience sharing a space. Something that can never be recreated by watching recorded media. If you don’t show up, they can’t do what they do and everybody loses. Support your local unicorn…erm,  I mean theatre community.

What can we do for the Enchanted Playhouse?

I am hoping that a social media fundraising campaign will be launched to drive donations for the purchase of the Main Street Theatre from the city by the Enchanted Playhouse non-profit.

To light a fire under that campaign, I suggest they seek celebrity support, starting with approaching Ellen Degeneres, who has a great track record with these kinds of things. If not her, I have to believe someone with a platform will understand this story, the dire odds Enchanted Playhouse faces, the consequences of inaction, and will get behind making a happy ending for this situation.

Time is of the essence. LET’S MAKE IT HAPPEN!

[Jenny informed me that Ellen’s show came to Visalia  earlier this year to help Washington Elementary’s free dance class program. SHIT!… I mean, good for them… but SHIT! – Ed.]

Save The Enchanted Playhouse

Dear readers, in a change of tone, the following piece is an unabashed heart-on-my-sleeve plea to my city – Visalia, California. We are watching something truly magical and irreplaceable being destroyed, our children’s theatre, the Enchanted Playhouse. A unique non-profit program that invites local children to participate in its productions at their theatre, which is located in the heart of downtown Visalia.

And why is it ending? Money. In a short sighted money grab, the City of Visalia is selling the theatre property from right underneath the theatre company. Selling the location to developers who want to build restaurants in its place. Restaurants. It breaks my heart.

The Enchanted Playhouse is a part of my family’s life, a part of our story. It’s a part of so many people’s lives and stories in this city. It seems a cruel joke to see it so heartlessly discarded by people who don’t understand its importance, its priceless value, its contribution to the heart and soul of downtown.

Can you put a price on magic?

Where do you get your magic?

Is it from a corporation?

Do you buy your magic exclusively from Disney?

You almost have to these days. They’ve bought almost everything.

Disney aside…

Where is real magic found?

It’s not easy to find. It’s delicate and fragile.

I think it comes from love, a gift to the children…to all children.

A place where all children are welcome to come and be enchanted.

A place where all children are welcome to learn the magic of theatrical performance and culture in a loving, safe and inspirational environment. Live a shared experience they will fondly remember for the rest of their lives. A place like none other in the world. A jewel.

Where do you find that magic, when you’ve paved over the wishing well?

When you’ve closed the enchanted story book to the hearts of the children…

for a handful of silver…

How can you take that gift away? The gift of children’s hearts in flight. (I guess you can’t remember why that’s important anymore. Huh?)

Well, was it worth it, what you bought? What you got for that silver.

 

Was it worth it, City of Visalia?

What did you get? Tell me?

Whatever it is, it isn’t enough, and now you’ll lose something much more valuable.

Can’t you see this is “It’s a Wonderful Life”?… Be Jimmy Stewart, be Donna Reed. Don’t be Mr. Potter. Be George Bailey!

The Enchanted Playhouse needs to be protected and supported, City of Visalia. Save this institution and save your soul. Save it if you still can, before it’s too late and you lose something you can never get back.

Something magic.

On Monday 7/16 there will be a meeting at City Hall regarding Enchanted Playhouse Children’s Theater. Please come and give your support.
Facebook Event Link:
https://www.facebook.com/events/267998763936633/.

To learn more about the theatre company and its program, watch this piece about it produced by our local PBS affiliate. https://www.pbs.org/video/enchanted-playhouse-theater-company-charlottes-web-pwbspx/

To learn about the fight to save the Enchanted Playhouse:

http://kingsriverlife.com/07/14/save-the-enchanted-playhouse/

https://www.visaliatimesdelta.com/story/news/2018/07/12/enchanted-playhouse-wants-bid-main-street-theatre/741823002/

 

Algorithmically Incorrect

So Google, we love Google. They give us everything that isn’t covered by Apple, Facebook and Amazon (am I missing anyone…Netflix?!…close enough…SOOO many options!). They gave us Gmail. That was sooo sweet of them, sooo generous. They told us, back in the day, that their motto was, “Don’t be evil”…very cute. I mean, that motto sets an extremely low bar. But we bought it, and, back then, it was all fun and games (Adobe Flash games!). A halcyon summer.

So, yeah, they loved all the data they mined out of your “free” Gmail account over all these years (and, in so, our love was reciprocated). Even to the point where if you were, let’s say, a web designer and you sent a confidential, hidden, non-indexable URL to a client to review work prior to publication…and that email just happened to travel over a Gmail server, you would inexplicably find that link (the one you did not want published) indexed in Google Search (Surprise!). Yup, they mine your Gmail message data and will load it right into Google Search whenever they want to. FUN! I mean, they don’t do it personally…their algorithm bots do it, impersonally…the non-evil way.

And that is the least of what they’ll do with your data. Your Google/Gmail profile, experiences, communications (inexorably linked to your Google Search and YouTube watch history) are crawled, tracked and pimped out.

They ran that game on you and the rest of the world, they “parlayed”, and (bingo-bango-bongo) now they own a MONOPOLY on online search and search advertising.

So now this relationship becomes a little lopsided. We start to feel a little like a “sex worker”. But our pimp loves us, he has “Don’t be evil” tattooed on his knuckles. He only hits me when I’m bad! You don’t understand him!

Googlebourg or Googlenstien

And now Google (along with their big-tech cousins) are turning the greater San Jose area into Googlebourg or Googlenstien, a gated county…a country. This kingdom takes our American advertising dollars, but avoids paying its American corporate taxes (preferring to use tax shelter loopholes to rest their tax obligations with other countries, ya know, the ones that don’t collect taxes), even though Google seems to enjoy having its “campuses” located on American soil, I mean Googlebourg soil. And that isn’t at all fucked up. Not at all! “Catch me outside” if you wanna talk smack about my pimp. Bitch, I’ll pull your weave!

And here I am, I know all this shit, but I still use Google Search. I’m their bitch. No doubt.

But here’s where the plot turns for me, because I was personally affected. And unless I am personally affected, I don’t give a fuck (like any good American citizen).

Google Suppresses My Blog!

NO, this is not the story of a man who has a paranoid delusion that Google has any idea who he is. My blog is a micro-flea, on a flea, on the dog’s ass that is Google Search. Google doesn’t know me, and I’m fine with that. If the Google powers-that-be knew me, they would probably think I was innocuous and silly. And they would be right. But like I said, I am not on their radar. I am random “Kid Kilobyte” 10538 data set. My mortal remains cast into the “Almighty Algorithm”.

So how can I say “Google Suppresses my Blog!”? Well their current super-tuned-up-to-fight-#FAKENEWS search algorithm is not loving my blog. It’s hiding my blog. Why? Because my blog is “Algorithmically Incorrect”.

Algorithmically Incorrect

What is “Algorithmically Incorrect”? Why it’s the digital world’s new “Politically Incorrect”. Now, instead of the next generation telling you your ideas are outdated and backwards right to your face (the way God intended), bots and spiders will predetermine, by algorithm, if what you have to say is too “troublesome” to share and/or not advertiser friendly/related enough to be worth sharing. To quote an ancient Zen kōan,

“If your Google Search  doesn’t result in a click through to an advertiser’s site, does it really exist?”

Ya see, my site has too many controversial keywords mixed with too many curse words. Plus, I am not a media giant that pays for “clicks” or “impressions”. As such, my site has no business being found on the pure-as-snow Google Search site where you find porn.

Somewhere down the road, a switch flipped at Google to push advertiser friendliness over organic search, even in the non-paid, “organic” areas of the search results.

As the internet became the predominant commercial media of our time, it has also became entrapped in the traditional major media practice of “whitewashing” its content (i.e., hiding “unpleasant” things…unless it’s porn).

YouTube Adpocalypse

We saw Google’s move toward whitewashing go into overdrive in response to the (Google owned) YouTube Adpocalypse controversy of 2017. A huge block of major corporate sponsors walked away from YouTube (taking hundreds of millions of dollars with them, adding up to countless billions in lost future revenues) because corporate ads were running before videos that included controversial or hateful content. This hateful content was causing boycott/PR complications for the corporate advertisers. Likewise, the controversial and/or hateful content creators were receiving money from YouTube for their views/watch time. This occurred because, bottom line, there is just too much YouTube content to realistically police. This got into a very sticky situation for YouTube’s bottom line. YouTube, of course, overreacted and, today, any videos that have a whiff of controversy about them, as determined by bots and algorithms, are by default “demonetized” and adversely affected in organic search (i.e., dinged) .  The ultimate effect, YouTube’s creator community is now beleaguered, “censored” and compromised.

Adpocalypse’s Fallout Irradiating Google Search

So is it so hard to see the writing on the wall? Google obviously has witnessed and paid a price for the kind of backlash and bad press that controversial content juxtaposed with corporate logos and ads creates. To protect their bottom line going forward, they grabbed that roller and a bucket of whitewash. They just had to add a couple of lines of code to the algorithm and “wham-o” the problem disappears.

Ken Powers disappears.

Yahoo!, Bing, Duck Duck Go (Who the fuck is “Duck Duck Go”?)…any of these search engines, search “ken powers”, I am page one, number one. Now search “ken powers” on Google, I’m not in the first hundred…

Ken Powers disappears.

So why care?

I don’t know. I’m just putting this info and commentary out there like I do. Internet search has evolved. It has had to evolve, because of the “Keyword Spammers of the Wild West”. Search can’t be totally pure because it gets abused. I accept that.

But we have a monopoly situation going on here, where 95% of mobile internet search goes through Google’s filter. Search visibility affects reality, creates reality. Google is playing with the paddles of 21st Century free speech with no overseers, no oversight. If we look at this situation closely we may discover we’ve traded too much away for a free email account and some cloud space. We may see that Google is just a little too cozy with our, often corruptible, Federal Government on many, let’s call them, Orwellian levels. Because let’s face it, the government should have grabbed it’s trust-breaking-hatchet on this whole deal a looong time ago and no one is talking about it today, no one.

Google, through automation, is turning down the volume on free speech (filtering speech) that its algorithms determine does not match up with their beloved advertisers’ agendas.

Remember this equation (it’s in the algorithm):

Advertisers > Free Speech

It’s fucked up and if they push it too far (which they might have already done) they may just find themselves in a position they can not predict, even with all their monopolistic power and algorithms.

People might just turn their backs on Google when they get “woke” to what’s going on. The walls of Googlebourg just might come tumblin’ down.

Then again, if Google just adds a few lines of code…the problem disappears.