Becoming a Musician

How hard is that?

We were talking the other day about what it takes to be a professional musician. I remarked that being a professional just means that you have had at least one paid gig in your lifetime – it may not be paying the rent. A friend responded that many of the finest players make very little money compared to engineers and computer geeks. He thought this was unfair and I tend to agree. Life is unfair in many respects. Let me count the ways.

If you spend time at any competitive sport you will always find the same small group in the winners circle. When I used to run the Robert Hamilton ten mile event in Calgary I always met the same four or five runners at mile four. They were already at mile six on the return lap. This would happen around thirty minutes into the race. I ran a seven minute pace; they ran a mile in five minutes.

Now a pace of five minutes a mile is world class running so only a very few people out of the thousand or so who enter these events will ever run that fast. What can we say about the folks who were still a minute faster than I was. Well, they were mostly professional athletes, people who could make a living on the the playing field.

The moral of the story is that you have to be very very good to get paid for doing some fun gig like running ten miles, or playing professional soccer or ice hockey. My only claim to being a professional athelete is that I taught skiing at Paskapoo ski hill in Calgary for a few years. I became a Level II instructor. I was not a ski racer or a manual groomer. Those are the real pros on the hill. Level II ski instructors are often paid minimum wage, but they have one of the best jobs in the world.

In my case the difference between my efforts at seven minutes a mile and the pros who were a minute faster was likely wind sprints. To become a Level III instructor, a real pro, would have taken at least a year running race courses and becoming a Level II coach. I thought that was just too much work and besides I had a day job. I was content with my pace; it was about a minute better than average and I was there to have a good time.

Rick Beato says all you have to know to be a real pro, a session musician, is the three hundred or so tunes in the “Real Book” — in every key. These are all Jazz standards so you don’t get to use a capo. I don’t expect to ever be that good but that is the way I’m going.

Ukraine May 1, 2022

This war is going into its third month and to some it is a conflict rather larger than just a “Special Operation” in the Ukraine. Our friend John Wade has created a marvelous rant about Poppa Putin that we enhanced with images that reflect his thoughts. This has already become the second most viewed video on the website.

I am not convinced. There are a number of American citizens and green card holders who see good reasons for Putin’s recent actions.

Russia and America are at war.   So far just a proxy war but this could change.  I believe the Americans have been told that they will be ultimately responsible for any escalation outside of the boundaries of the Ukraine.   By that I mean they will not be protected by the moat of the Atlantic Ocean as they have been in past wars.   This is making some people in the US military cautious.   The economic war started with sanctions and has developed some nasty blowback.   We already have higher prices.  Keep some food supplies on hand.   Europe is going to pay for critical Russian exports in rubles or starve in the winter.  The Americans have given everyone with a stake in their economy sufficient reason to, at a minimum, diversify.  Gold?  Bitcoin?  Yuan? Roubles?

So far the Americans are winning the Information war, in the west, but only about half of the world’s population has bought in to attacking the Russian economy.  According to sources familiar with Russian military strategy the invasion is going very much according to plan.   Scott Ritter has an excellent, widely quoted, summary of progress to date.  

The main concern that I have, as a Canadian, is that we live too close to the US border and we rely too much on food supplies from California.  Should things get nasty down south we might start wishing we had a wall.

So if you think we might already be in the midst of WWIII here is short list of current sources:

  • Larry C Johnson is a veteran of the CIA and the State Department’s Office of Counter Terrorism. He is the founder and managing partner of BERG Associates, which was established in 1998. Larry provided training to the US Military’s Special Operations community for 24 years. He has been vilified by the right and the left, which means he must be doing something right.
  • James G. Rickards is an American lawyer, economist, investment banker, speaker, media commentator, and author on matters of finance and precious metals. He is the author of Currency Wars: The Making of the Next Global Crisis and six other books. He lives in New Hampshire. His thoughts are here.
  • Douglas Macgregor, Colonel U.S. Army (Retired), Ph.D. Douglas Macgregor is a decorated combat veteran, the author of five books, a PhD, and a defense and foreign policy consultant. He was commissioned in the Regular Army in 1976 after 1 year at VMI and 4 years at West Point. In 2004, Macgregor retired with the rank of Colonel.  He holds an MA in comparative politics and a PhD in international relations from the University of Virginia. Here is his blog.
  • Dr. Fredrick Kagin — for the sake of a complete picture have a look at the Institute for the Study of War. This is a think tank that is often cited as authoritative by the MSM. Compare their projections with those of the folks above and see who is right so far. HIs interview with Dr. Jordan Peterson just as the war began is here.

I continue to follow Russian media in the full knowledge that they may be no more reliable than Fox News and CBC. From what I can see of video that has been published the Ukraine side is not doing well and the Russians appear to have shrugged off sanctions that amount to total economic war. We can only hope that the warfare remains economic and conventional.

Three Chords – Now what?

Beginners are always welcome at a circle. Simple songs are a place to start. So what can you do with three chords? First, you can play hundreds of songs. Much of the Folk, Rock and Country repertoire can be played with only three chords. You can always learn another song. So what else is there? Here are some things to explore in no particular order.

How about rhythm . Many folk songs are in 2/4 or 4/4 time. We count them 1 2, 1 2 or 1 2 3 4 to keep a steady beat. Waltz time is 3/4 counted 1 2 3, 1 2 3. We still only need three chords but there are many dance rhythms we could explore. Even more important is the idea that a steady constant rhythm is the basis of everything we play.

Maybe try finger style? Most beginners use a simple strum. Almost all lessons recommend using a pick and guitar is often only a rhythm instrument. Playing melody notes finger style seems to me to be easier than cross picking. Simple finger style patterns are all in the right hand. Any chords will sound good.

Jerry Silverman wrote, “If a blues guitarist you would be — learn to play the melody”. That is really excellent advice. Barney Kessel said you should learn to play simple songs a note a a time by ear then learn to play them all over the guitar in every key. By the time you can do that you will be playing jazz, but not like Barney.

Realize that everything on the guitar is a movable shape. Every lick, every melody, can be moved down a fret or over a string. At that does is change the key. Every chord shape is moveable if you don’t play open strings. Learn it once move it around. Use a capo if necessary.

You can explore scales. A major scale is only seven notes. Do – Re – Mi – Fa – So – La – Ti and Do. I learned the melody of many tunes, starting with Freight Train, long before I learned to play a scale. To play by ear you need to know the scale of the key that you hear so that you can know which notes to play or sing. You don’t need to play scales from sheet music. Starting with Do the next note is always two frets higher except for Mi – Fa and Ti – Do which are only one fret apart. It is very helpful to be able to play the scale of the key you are going to sing or the scale of the song you are trying to learn.

Learn to use a capo. Music theory is not just for piano students. Guitar players should know a I – IV – V from a ii – V – I. These are just the scale notes Do Re Mi expressed as numbers. Theory tells you what happens when you move a note up or down a fret, or to an adjacent string. You start by learning a chord scale, which is how to play Do Re Mi all in chords. This is easy in the key of C, needs bar chords in other keys, but is useful to understand even if you can’t play bar chords. Theory is what allows you to know what happens when you move a capo up a fret. It is always useful to understand things that you are learning to perform on the instrument.

You can do any or all of the above before you learn another chord. The chords to learn for beginners are C Dm Em F G Am Bm. That will give you thousands more songs which brings us around to the start. Sometimes you want to learn a song and to learn it you need something from this list.

Ukraine – Some expert Analysis

This is a widely quoted thread by Scott Ritter. It is consistent with the viewpoint of Russian sources.

1/ Big Arrow War—a primer. For all those scratching their heads in confusion, or dusting off their dress uniforms for the Ukrainian victory parade in Kiev, over the news about Russia’s “strategic shift”, you might want to re-familiarize yourself with basic military concepts.

2/ Maneuver warfare is a good place to start. Understand Russia started its “special military operation” with a severe manpower deficit—200,000 attackers to some 600,000 defenders (or more). Classic attritional conflict was never an option. Russian victory required maneuver.

3/ Maneuver war is more psychological than physical and focuses more on the operational than on the tactical level. Maneuver is relational movement—how you deploy and move your forces in relation to your opponent. Russian maneuver in the first phase of its operation support this.

4/ The Russians needed to shape the battlefield to their advantage. In order to do this, they needed to control how Ukraine employed it’s numerically superior forces, while distributing their own smaller combat power to best accomplish this objective.

5/ Strategically, to facilitate the ability to maneuver between the southern, central, and northern fronts, Russia needed to secure a land bridge between Crimea and Russia. The seizure of the coastal city of Mariupol was critical to this effort. Russia has accomplished this task.

6/ While this complex operation unfolded, Russia needed to keep Ukraine from maneuvering its numerically superior forces in a manner that disrupted the Mariupol operation. This entailed the use of several strategic supporting operations—feints, fixing operations, and deep attack.

7/ The concept of a feint is simple—a military force either is seen as preparing to attack a given location, or actually conducts an attack, for the purpose of deceiving an opponent into committing resources in response to the perceived or actual actions.

8/ The use of the feint played a major role in Desert Storm, where Marine Amphibious forces threatened the Kuwaiti coast, forcing Iraq to defend against an attack that never came, and where the 1st Cavalry Division actually attacked Wadi Al Batin to pin down the Republican Guard.

9/ The Russians made extensive use of the feint in Ukraine, with Amphibious forces off Odessa freezing Ukrainian forces there, and a major feint attack toward Kiev compelling Ukraine to reinforce their forces there. Ukraine was never able to reinforce their forces in the east.

10/ Fixing operations were also critical. Ukraine had assembled some 60,000-100,000 troops in the east, opposite Donbas. Russia carried out a broad fixing attack designed to keep these forces fully engaged and unable to maneuver in respect to other Russian operations.

11/ During Desert Storm, two Marine Divisions were ordered to carry out similar fixing attacks against Iraqi forces deployed along the Kuwaiti-Saudi border, tying down significant numbers of men and material that could not be used to counter the main US attack out west.

12/ The Russian fixing attack pinned the main Ukrainian concentration of forces in the east, and drove them away from Mariupol, which was invested and reduced. Supporting operations out of Crimea against Kherson expanded the Russian land bridge. This phase is now complete.

13/ Russia also engaged in a campaign of strategic deep attack designed to disrupt and destroy Ukrainian logistics, command & control, and air power and long-range fire support. Ukraine is running out of fuel and ammo, cannot coordinate maneuver, and has no meaningful Air Force.

14/ Russia is redeploying some of its premier units from where they had been engaged in feint operations in northern Kiev to where they can support the next phase of the operation, namely the liberation of the Donbas and the destruction of the main Ukrainian force in the east.

15/ This is classic maneuver warfare. Russia will now hold Ukraine in the north and south while its main forces, reinforced by the northern units, Marines, and forces freed up by the capture of Mariupol, seek to envelope and destroy 60,000 Ukrainian forces in the east.

16/ This is Big Arrow War at its finest, something Americans used to know but forgot in the deserts and mountains of Afghanistan and Iraq. It also explains how 200,000 Russians have been able to defeat 600,000 Ukrainians. Thus ends the primer on maneuver warfare, Russian style.

Scott Ritter – Twitter thread

The war is not over. The economic warfare will continue. Putin has announced that he will deliver commodities only in exchange for rubles.

Great job Joe.

In a note published earlier, Zoltan Pozsar, Global Head of Short-Term Interest Rate Strategy at Credit Suisse, wrote this crisis is not like anything we have seen since President Nixon took the U.S. dollar off gold in 1971 – the end of the era of commodity-based money. When this crisis is over, the U.S. dollar should be much weaker. He believes the global monetary system will never be the same post the crisis. Here are his thoughts on the economic implications of the war.

And here to wrap up the prospects for victory is Colonel Douglas Macgregor. According to Macgregor, “Russia is not Iraq“.

What before why.

Only people with a decent understanding of what is going on have any credibility when it comes to explaining why it happened. This is why I pay very little attention to journalists. Often wrong; never in doubt. It is possible to find people with experience in a field who have spent a lot of time explaining and predicting events in their domain. This is the place to start. Start reading people who have been right once or twice. Then read their detractors.

I still find it difficult to ascertain what is going on with the Ukraine. Experts on both sides of the issue tell very different stories. Several readers have offered their own analysis. I ask people to just tell me what is going to be the resolution of this affair? To be right about the future requires an understanding of the present.

The conventional wisdom has it that Russia has made a terrible mistake which has already failed and so Putin is headed for the dustbin of history. Hardly anyone is interested in what the Russian’s claim were the causes of the affair. Several bloggers with relevant expertise such as John Mearsheimer, Scott Ritter, Colonel Douglas Macgregor and Andrei Martyanov tell us that the Russians are grinding the Ukrainians into the dust. They claim that both Ukraine and the US dollar are in serious trouble. Russia is demanding payment for energy in rubles.

When experts disagree the intelligent layman will withhold judgement.

Bertrand Russell

Putin has been nominated for a very select club. Recent members include, Saddam Hussain, Muammar Gadhafi and Bashar al-Assad. None of these are nice people; the majority are dead. The western media consensus is that Putin will be dead and gone, the sooner the better. Andrei Martyanov, who has written several books on military affairs says Putin is doing what he said he would do and he will become the honored leader of a great power.

Both sides can’t be right so I’m with Russell. I shall wait and see what happens.

Here for your amusement is an update on the Black-faced Weasel.

An Update on the Conflict

Two events in the recent past tell me that institutions in the west are less than trustworthy. First, the action by the Canadian Government taken to freeze bank accounts of its citizens with no claim that any law was broken. Second, the action of the US government to freeze the accounts of a Central Bank. Serious investors wonder where their money is safe.

Most readers of this blog will be fully aware of the American position which is well represented by Dr. Kagan and the ISW so what follows is the story from the far side. Be warned, this will be harder to read than Fox News.

An alternative history of the conflict in Ukraine. Root Causes of the War and some remarks by President Zelensky quoted from a CNN transcript.

I requested them personally to say directly that we are going to accept you into NATO in a year or two or five. Just say it directly and clearly or just say no, and

the response was very clear, you are not going to be a NATO or E.U. member, but publicly the doors will remain open.

I asked them about preemptive sanctions, I talked about Nord Stream 2, we were discussing all of it, and simultaneously we were strengthening our army because with neighbors like this, like we have, this is the only way out.

And here is an essay on the Chinese viewpoint that will not be much comfort to anyone who get most of his news on foreign affairs’ from the Economist.

John Mearsheimer Ukraine-Russia 2022 Analysis

John Joseph Mearsheimer (/ˈmɪərʃaɪmər/; born December 14, 1947) is an American political scientist and international relations scholar, who belongs to the realist school of thought. He is the R. Wendell Harrison Distinguished Service Professor at the University of Chicago. He has been described as the most influential realist of his generation.

This video has been viewed 20 Million times

I Ain’t Marchin Anymore

Phil Ochs
        G            C         D
Oh, I marched to the battle of New Orleans, 
       G          C             D
at the end of the early British wars 
    G                    C
The young land started growing, 
       Am                Em
the young blood started flowing, 
       Am       C    D
but I ain't marchin' anymore 
 
         G                  C
For I've killed my share of Indians,
       D
in a thousand different fights, 
      G            C          D
I was there at the Little Big Horn 
    G             C           Am        Em
I heard many men lying, I saw many more dying, 
    Am        C         D
but I ain't marchin' anymore 
 
          Am     C          G              Em
     It's always the old to lead us to the wars, 
     Am         Em       Am
     it's always the young to fall 
         Am                              Em
     Now look at all we've won, with the saber 
                                          and the gun, 
     C             Am       D
     tell me is it worth it all?

For I stole California from the Mexican land
Fought in the bloody Civil War
Yes, I even killed my brothers
And so many others
But I ain’t marching anymore

For I marched to the battles of the German trench
In a war that was bound to end all wars
Oh, I must have killed a million men
And now they want me back again
But I ain’t marching anymore

Chorus

For I flew the final mission in the Japanese skies
Set off the mighty mushroom roar
When I saw the cities burning
I knew that I was learning
That I ain’t marching anymore

Now the labor leader’s screamin’
When they close the missile plants
United Fruit screams at the Cuban shore
Call it peace or call it treason
Call it love or call it reason
But I ain’t marching anymore
No, I ain’t marching anymore

War in Ukraine

I think I remember a CIA sponsored coup in 21014 so you may want to quit reading here if the other side of the story is going to offend you. We’ll start with a discussion by Dr. Jordan Peterson and Dr. Frederick W. Kagan. This episode was recorded on February 27, 2022. Dr. Frederick W. Kagan is a former professor of history with a PhD in Russian and Soviet military history from Yale.

So what do I think? Well, “I ain’t marching anymore.” – Phil Ochs, pretty much sums it up. The Ukraine is a long way from Canada and very close to Russia. “The first casualty of war is truth.” If you carefully read both sides you may figure it out. If you really want to know what is going on read both updates every day.

I think Dr. Kagan has perhaps the most detailed view of the conflict from the MSM Western perspective and you have unlimited sources of American information so I’ll concentrate on the other side of the story.

Here is Scott Ritter’s view of the conflict. William Scott Ritter Jr.  is a former US Marine and was a United Nations weapons inspector in Iraq from 1991 to 1998. He later became a critic of United States foreign policy in the Middle East.

John Joseph Mearsheimer  is an American political scientist and international relations scholar. He is the R. Wendell Harrison Distinguished Service Professor at the University of Chicago. 

An Introduction to Video Editing

  1. Use your phone or camera to create a 5 min video.
  2. Down load and install ShotCut — free open source editing software
  3. Learn to use the Playlist and the Player to make clips which are short portions of your input video. Arrange the clips in the Playlist.
  4. Learn to export one or more clips. This allows you to pick and choose what is in your final product.
  5. Learn how to make a Title clip and if desired a credits clip.
  6. Learn to EXPORT your final product. Start by just exporting the whole Playlist.
  7. The TIMELINE is for detailed edits, one frame at a time and for fancy effects. Ignore it for now.

Most video editors work on the principle of a story board or a playlist which is used to accumulate short clips which will be assembled on a Timeline into the final product. With Shotcut you can ignore the Timeline until you are comfortable with the process of selecting and trimming clips.

Editing large files, say 30 minutes, or very large files, over 2 hours, is an interesting challenge that can be solved with Shotcut by cutting the original large file into clips in the playlist and editing each clip as a separate project. For pickers circle edits I make each round a separate file then combine them into a final exported video once the edits are done. This keeps memory and CPU resources to a manageable size.