Music Review: Berkley II by Zeke Berkley

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Album art for Berkley II.
Zeke still looks exactly like this.
Zeke Berkley's second full length album, Berkley II, is a challenging, multi-influenced jaunt around what it means to create a pop album these days. Clearly the word "pop" has lots of meanings; I use it here to refer to a particular structure of songwriting, recognizable arrangement of verses and choruses, a bridge and instrumental, familiar harmonies and chord progressions that even the most outlandish of bands find themselves returning to time and again. This sort of pop rarely hits the top of the charts these days, but the structure, with a lineage tracing back to the humble balladeer singing heartfelt songs about unrequited love, transitioned into mainstream through big band crooners, set in concrete by four part harmonies and given rock and roll credentials by the Beatles, has spawned endless iterations with each aspiring artist trying their hand at writing a pop song in the same way aspiring poets write sonnets.

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UP3 #7 I attempt to mix a live band for the Podcast

So Google Hangout does this nifty thing where it slows down the video stream and then speeds it up in order to maintain continuity while buffering. Mostly great for talking but really bad for music. Keep that in mind as you watch Sin Chonies, a hard working cover band from Ventura, perform live, a podcast first for us. Obviously we suffer from some technical difficulties, but the idea is so cool, and the band was great, we're definitely gonna do it again. We chat to Alfred, Willie and Chris about the live music scene in Ventura County and what it takes to be a working musician these days. We also discuss the Trump campaign, Islamophobia, the definition of racism, and the impact of laws on culture.
 
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Thought Experiment: Imagine Donald Trump is a Smart Person.

trumpHere's a thought experiment for you: Try to imagine that Donald Trump isn't the crazed, bigoted blowhard you see on TV but is instead a smart and savvy businessman who has, all his life, calculatingly managed his image and exposure for personal gain. All other facts of the 2016 Republican primary being the same, reinterpret the rise of Trump assuming he's a smart person.
 
It has to be granted that Trump is an impulsive egomaniac. He runs for president mostly because, financially, it's a drop in the bucket and it feeds his need to be seen and heard, which, historically has always lead Trump to more success and notoriety. Pulling the same trick in 2012 certainly panned out well for him. Being a presidential candidate forever secures your credentials as a media personality that can always be monetized ala Pat Buchanan. (Certainly that is a prime motivator for most lesser presidential candidates with no chance of winning.) There was no reason to expect that this year would be any different. Trump spends almost no money on traditional campaign advertising because his status as a celebrity means that he can call into any news show on any channel and will be put on the air immediately; He has spent exactly $0 in TV advertising.

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It's Time for Responsible Media Guidelines for Covering Mass Shootings

media-complicity-in-mass-shootings-b-rAfter watching a shameful display of media "lookie-looism" last Friday, December 4, 2015, as dozens of cameramen and reporters pushed their way into the home of the San Bernardino shooters for a bit of unrestrained ogling and literal pilfering, the very worst offender of the major networks being MSNBC, I started wondering why there wasn't a published set of media guidelines for covering mass shootings that define the limits of what networks will consider resposible coverage. There are standards of journalistic integrity for all sorts of things and since mass shootings are a regular occurrence these days with a seemingly familiar pathology, and in their own right a fully-formed cultural institution, there should be an agreed upon way of covering them to prevent the media from irresposnsible journalism, like the live-broadcast rummage sale and becoming complicit in inspiring the next mass shooting.
 
I certainly am not a journalist or a communications expert nor am I a psychologist or sociologist of any kind. I have a degree in English and that education has taught me a lot about extracting the meaning, subtext, and recurring themes from literature, and those same methods work for art, media and history. It's clear to me these mass shootings are mostly the same, they strike the same notes, even though the motivation is varied. These shooters are not the same type of criminal as serial murders or people motivated by gain, like muggers and burglars; rather, mass shooters seem to be of the same lineage as vandals, tire slashers, and random window breakers: detached from society in such as way as to feel unconstrained by empathy or the understood societal contract which makes unrestrained aggresion in the public square a rarity. Obviously, many other things effect the eventual deadly outcome of their pathology: religion, political leanings, access to weapons, familial influence, mental health, but at the core, like the vandal, tire slasher, and the random window breaker, the aftermath, the news story is a huge part of the aim of a mass shooter: to leave something behind, to effect the world in some small way. That drive is deeper and more ingrained in ourselves than our drive to do and be good. 

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UP3 #6-Close To Home

In the wake of today's shootings in San Bernardino, UP3 takes a look at the facts as they stand. We take another look at gun control, mental health care, political spin, religious motives and the reason why America is the only place where this seems to always happen. We talk about feeding snakes with live rats and new words added to the American Heritage Dictionary. Please like and subscribe.   
 
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What are you NOT thankful for?

UP3 Episode 5, We welcome our first female guest, Megan! We cover the things we are NOT thankful for, overstaying guests, shortened curse words, human maladies, micro-aggressions, racial assumptions of strangers, and the specter of Nazi Germany in American Politics. We talk turkey and admit to terrible TV shows we cant stop watching. Subscribe here.
 
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Untitled Personal Podcast Project #3

I sit in on Greg Daniel's Untitled Personal Podcast Project #3 and once again am sadly without the benefit of Google's Toolbox of zany visual props, so I put on my own real beard and hat. We chat about that goddamned Starbucks cup, too early Christmas, Veteran's day, The Kardashians, Thanksgiving dinner, Matt runs a trivia game and I give my Too Late Review on the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge. Greg forces me pick a favorite Republican Canidate.  Watch below and subscribe to the channel here
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Too Late Review: Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge

20151109 234210The Phone That Gave Up Being a Phone
 
Let me start by saying I am one of those guys that dreads upgrading my phones. I've never been impressed with gadgetry, but rather have found that what impresses me about a device is the ergonomic design and logic of menu flow and the positioning of tools and buttons to conduct the following critical concerns: make the calls I need, browse the interwebs, play my games, take and post pictures of my kids, check my e-mail, text my wife. Higher numbers on things like processors and camera resolution vaguely imply something to me about speed and quality, but really, I feel we are fast approaching the level of diminishing returns on supercharging our pocket devices.
 
The Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge comes with a fine pedigree as far as phones go; I've owned the Galaxy S4 and S5 and have been impressed with them both. I didn't have any reservations about the next step, until I used the Galaxy S6 Edge for about five minutes. The Edge functionality, an extension of the touch screen surface that curves over the longitudinal sides of the phone, is a gimmick that ruins the phone. The commercial we've all seen is of a caterpillar traveling from screen to screen, metamorphosing into a butterfly as the image crawls from one device screen to the next. It's impressive that the screen can "see" what's on the next and react, because of the curved sides, or at least that's what the commercial implies; but, given all the back and forth between Samsung and Apple with accusations of design theft, that's an incriminating choice to feature on your flagship phone's debut to the world, since co-operative screenplay is a rabbit Apple pulled out of the hat in 2012, and they did it without curved screens. Either way, please take note that an image-traveling-from-screen-to-screen-across-the-multiple-devices-I'd-need-to-buy-to-pull-of-that-parlour-trick is NOT on the above list of things I need my phone to do. (Incidentally, the slogan, "It's not a phone, it's a Galaxy" is that sort of warning in plain sight you miss the first time you watch a horror movie.)

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I sit in on Untitled Personal Podcast Project Episode #2

I sit in on Greg Daniels' Untitled Personal Podcast Project again as we talk about my recent jaunt to Europe, Storage Wars IRL, Left and Far Right politics, evolution, climate change, police brutality, halloween and the son-of-a-bitch who owns brianparra.com.  I drink a Cucuy. Watch me struggle with technology.
 
Subscribe to this podcast here.
 
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I sit in on the Untitled Personal Podcast Project

My friend Greg Daniels is launching a new podcast, Untitled Personal Podcast Project, (or yet unnamed) where he moderates a discussion of trending Facebook topics covering entertainment, politics, memes, whatever happens to on the mind of the collective Facebook psyche. He invited me to sit in on the first episode.
 
Check it below and subscribe to the channel here.
 
 
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Gary and Danielle's Wedding Ceremony

Photo by Karla Van HornOn May 9, 2015, I performed this ceremony to wed Gary Zapparelli and Danielle Martinez at Camp Bartlett in Santa Paula, CA.  I am a Humanist Officiant who is ordained to perform wedding ceremonies by the Universal Life Church. I am generally not for hire and only perform ceremonies for friends.  I have performed four weddings and always write and assemble the ceremonies myself. 
 
I'd like to welcome you all here today to celebrate the marriage of these two beautiful people Gary Zapparelli and Danielle Martinez.
 
It's my honor and privilege to marry these two today, in this beautiful place, Camp Bartlett. Thank you to the Zapparellis for hosting us here. Danielle is stunning in her beautiful dress and Gary even shaved his neck beard for this. You know it is an important day.
 
I met Gary right before he turned 21, at a place, I'll be honest, he probably shouldn't have been when he was not yet 21, but he's always seemed a little older than his age. What I mean by that is he's always known who he is, what he likes, what he's into. He likes those things without apology or remark. Most guy in their 20s usually take a few years to figure that stuff out and their motivation usually influenced by who they are trying to emulate or impress.Gary has always been self-possessed. It's a good quality for a guy, particular a young guy in this day and age. He's always knew when girls weren't right for him, always focused on his work. Didn't need to party to prove anything. He's already got the word "Senior" right in his job title and has his priorities straight. I gotta admit sometimes I don't get to see Gary as much as I like but I realize that's because he's got important stuff going on, or he's watching Adventure Time, either way, he's doing what he wants to be doing and I respect that.

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To My Friends Who Call for Peace

As riots took hold of Baltimore on last week, my initial reaction, I assume like most people, was to first be shocked by the apparent senselessness of violence, to be appalled by images of students throwing rocks, police car windows being smashed, of burning buildings, and of riotous crowds with black faces walled off by police in riot gear. It is sad that this has become a common response to a tragically predictable cause, however it is no less upsetting to see. My knee-jerk reaction is to question the motives of such violence and to wish, as one does, for peaceful demonstrations. I think most people come to this conclusion: violence is not the solution, it solves nothing and destroys the rioters own community, hurts people and businesses who have nothing to do with the problem at hand and is perpetrated by opportunistic people who have no stake in the greater issue at hand. I certainly appreciate that perspective but I think it is what I called it: knee-jerk. It lacks critical understanding about the issues at play and ignores a bigger problem created by just calling for peace: peace serves the side of the issue most vested in the status quo.

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What I Wish Managers Knew About Being A Jack-Of-All-Trades

Photo Credit: Matthew Stumphy at gurustump.com
Being a Jack-of-All-Trades can be tough when most jobs have very narrowly defined descriptions. Here's a list of things to consider when considering a versatile employee.
 
Last night, I watched the young adult sci-fi flick Divergent, set in a future where citizens in a post-apocalyptic society are separated into five factions depending on their nature and talents. These factions are charged with fulfilling a specific need of that society, such as food production, public service, defense, or science, etc. Divergents were those who don't fit neatly into these factions because they display the talents and abilities of several factions and are thus hunted because they mess with the program. Like much young adult post-apocalyptic fare, it's a grossly oversimplified allegory for growing up and finding a calling while preserving some amount of one's youthful spirit in the process. I watched this at 1 a.m. on a Monday morning because I am unemployed and have nothing to do on Monday proper except laundry and mining LinkedIn for job postings. I have been job hunting in earnest for six months and yet nothing with any sort of potential has panned out. To be fair, there are lots of factors at play: it's a tough economy, granted; and year-end is hardly the best time to ask someone to take me on, surely; and, familial obligations require I find a job with a certain level of compensation or else I am worth more to my family uncommitted, and yet there is one more thing complicating this already difficult situation.

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Holiday Sing-A-Long at the Ventura Theater

Holiday Sing-A-Long Flyer

On Sunday, December 14, I will be performing as the narrator of the Holiday Sing-A-Long at the Ventura Theater. This show will feature performances of holiday classics and Disney favorites featuring familiar faces from Ventura's local music scene including Aaron Orbit, Robin Ryder, Shane Mack, Marcella Tambouris, Shane Nautu, Nicole Jackson, and many others, all curated and produced by Loanne Wullaert, who owns the Ventura Theater.  Loanne, a classically trained opera singer, who will also be performing, has been producing these events the last two years as a way to feature local talent and to support local charities. This event will support Toys-4-Tots and admission is free with the donation of an unwrapped toy. It's a matinee show that starts at 3pm. For the record, I'm singing a New Orleans Jazz version of Frosty the Snowman. AND its my birthday, so be there!

 
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