Two important issues you’re probably ignoring.

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Wherever you sit politically, I think it is a safe bet that you are not paying attention to the Internet “net neutrality” issue or the looming media merger and acquisition blitzkrieg (Comcast buying Time Warner Cable and Fox buying Time Warner Entertainment…with smaller mergers to follow).

Not that I would blame you because net neutrality is as boring as watching paint dry and you probably don’t care about the mergers and acquisitions as long as you can still update your status on Facebook, post a selfie or watch the last season of “Two and a Half Men” uninterrupted.

But you should care. Here’s why.

Currently, you and I have the same access to the same Internet that Google, Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, etc. have. In more simple terms, it is a level playing field regarding access to the bandwidth of the Internet.

The FCC’s proposed change is to divide that bandwidth into two lanes, one for those companies that use more bandwidth, like Netlfix (which can account for 47% of Internet usage on any given night) to pay more for that, thus creating a “fast lane”. Leaving the rest of that bandwidth for you and me.

Doesn’t sound awful right? Makes a little sense, right?

Wrong.

It stifles entrepreneurship because entrepreneurs simply won’t have the funds to purchase access to the “fast lane” in order to compete with the larger companies. And there are certain political organizations who scream, bitch, piss and moan about how entrepreneurship is the back bone of America and free-market capitalism. Oddly, I agree. But this proposed change completely decimates the possibility of ever experiencing another Jeff Bezos or Mark Zuckerberg.

That aside, here’s the dollars and cents of how that breaks down. Comcast then charges Netflix, etc. more to access and use their bandwidth. Fine, in and of itself, not awful (in fact, this exact scenario has already played out between Comcast and Netflix, say what you want about Netflix CEO Reed Hastings – a little nuts – but he’s very very smart).

BUT according to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s proposal of a divided Internet, here is how that plays out for you and I:

1. Comcast charges Netflix more for Internet bandwidth.
2. Netflix rolls that cost over onto the consumer.
3. Comcast is now receiving two distinct revenue streams from two sources (Netflix and consumer) while DECREASING the speed of access for the consumer.
4. By dividing the current infrastructure in two, it in NO WAY encourages broadband companies, like Comcast, to invest in re-building the infrastructure to make our Internet speeds competitive with other countries.
5. Comcast (and other providers) continue to raise broadband costs (the United States is the only country where Internet service costs keep rising), to the tune of two to three times the rate of inflation (that’s an aggregate increase of 4.6% since 2003). Comcast’s Lord of Lobbying, David Cohen (and his giant balls) has even gone on record saying “We’re certainly not promising that customer bills are going to go down.” W.T.F.?!
6. We’re paying more each year for the same access (which is shit to begin with). If this divided Internet deal passes (as I think it will) we’ll be paying more each year for HALF of the current shitty access we currently have!

For the quality, a 45-magabit-per-second (Mbps) download, the United States ranks 30th out of 33 developed countries. Eastonia, Slovakia and even Moldova have faster speeds!

For the price, Comcast’s fastest download speed, 105 Mbps in San Francisco, costs $114.95. In Hong Kong, 500 Mbps costs $35 per month.

I’m not entirely sure who on earth could argue that a divided Internet benefits ANYONE other than the broadband providers. It motivates them to do nothing other than continue to charge more and more for less and less to you and I.

Thank you FCC.

Now, why are these mergers and acquisitions awful and what makes you think they will actually get approved?

Well, regarding the Comcast acquisition of Time Warner Cable, last year Comcast spent more on lobbying in Washington than any other company besides Northrop Grumman, the defense contractor. Also last year, Comcast gave 17 million dollars to nonprofits…are we still so naive as to think this doesn’t provide political influence? During the last big Comcast merger, with NBCUniversal in 2011, no less than 54 groups that received Comcast cash wrote letters of support to the FCC. I am just guessing there is no correlation between those letters and Comcast dollars.

Cumulatively, in 2013 the media industry (computers, Internet, music, TV, movies) spent $257 million dollars lobbying.

Now, why will Rupert Murdoch eventually purchase Time Warner Entertainment? Because he is Rupert Murdoch. If Satan has an earthly bound mortal counterpart, he may in fact be Rupert Murdoch. The guy always gets what he wants.

“OK, so what? How does that impact me?”

Right now Comcast owns more of the physical infrastructure, high-speed wires, than any other company in America. Comcast is the largest cable company in America. In short, they own not only the content, they own the distribution of the content and the method of distribution.

A combined Comcast and Time Warner Cable would be SEVEN TIMES the size of its nearest cable rival and would be the dominant broadband provider in 19 of the countries 20 top markets…and this is AFTER shedding millions of subscribers voluntarily in order to get the deal through! (psst, content and advertiser influence aside, that kinda might be a monopoly…just sayin).

And Murdoch’s Fox? I shudder to think of him injecting his “fair and balanced” ideology into even more content. I don’t think that benefits anyone, especially those that watch it.

This is a complicated issue with even more complicated long term repercussions and I don’t mean to over simplify the issues, so I will leave you with two questions that sum it up:

When have government agencies, independent like the FCC or otherwise, ever done wrong by the public at the behest of lobbying groups and corporate interests?

When have giant corporate mergers ever destroyed any sense of capitalism and competitiveness and gone on to benefit their employees or consumers?

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* I am a Comcast employee and shareholder, so I could potentially benefit from a TWC and Comcast merger. Biting the hand that feeds? Maybe.

 

For the wife of Augustus Reynolds.

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He looked down at her and she smiled as she saw him.
He had not seen her in months.

The moments of lucidity came less frequently and he thought they had all but disappeared.

Her eyes clear, she smiled, “I know you.”
He nodded “I know you too.”
“You’re still here.”
“I’ll never leave.”

Before he could finish she had slipped away again.
He sighed.

Walking over to the player he queued up Brahms and pressed play.

He walked back and sat down next to her bed.
Grabbing her hand he decided to tell their story one more time.

He told her they met over 65 years ago when they were kids.
He reminded her that it was she who greeted him.
He told her how he was immediately smitten.

He reminded her that they dated as kids but she broke up with him because he was a fool.
He told her how he never stopped loving her, even as he meandered and she married.

He reminded her that through the years they would communicate infrequently, but just frequently enough to keep his feelings for her alive.
He told her that he never said anything because he was a fool.
He told her of the joy he felt when he finally did.
He reminded her she wasn’t buying it.

He let go of her hand as he got up to get some ice to wet her dry lips.
Walking to the ice bucket he looked over his shoulder and reminded her that their timing was awful and asked her why couldn’t they ever seem to get that right.

He walked back with a cup of ice, picked a cube up and lightly began rubbing her lips.
He reminded her that it was those lips when they finally said, “I love you”, were the last lips he touched. The last lips he desired.

He sat back down, grabbed her hand and told her he loved her.
He reminded her that he always had.

He reminded her of the rough start they had.
He told her how she tried to hate him as he pushed her patience.
He reminded her of how angry she would get and that he understood.
He told her he had waited 30 years he could wait more.
He reminded her that for all his impatience, she had all of his patience.

He told her of the life they eventually built together.
He reminded her of the trips they took.
He showed her photos of the dogs they raised.
He told her she once left him for reasons she would never explain.
He reminded her that he understood and forgave her when she returned.

He told her that she was the one who inspired and drove him.
He reminded her that whatever success he had was only because of her.
He told her he needed her more than anyone or anything.

He screamed at her that he didn’t want her to leave.

He stood up and looked down at her.
She smiled as she turned to him.

Her eyes clear, she smiled, “I know you.”
He nodded “I know you too.”
“You’re still here.”
“I’ll never leave.”

The Bridge – Until I’m One With You

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Last night was the season two premiere of FX’s The Bridge. And the show came flying out of the gate, introducing a cacophony of story lines. Which I am sensing is becoming a pattern with FX shows. Kurt Sutter did it last year in the premiere of his Sons of Anarchy and Sutter was able to tie everything together by the end of the season.

I’m fairly certain show runner Elwood Reid will be able to do the same here. It will be hard, but from what I saw last night, its gonna be a helluva ride.

While the storyline will certainly change and evolve over the coming weeks, the cast remains the same…as does the haunting intro by Ryan Bingham. You might recall Ryan Bingham as the guy who seemingly came out of nowhere with the award winnng song “The Weary Kind” from the 2009 movie Crazy Heart.

“Until I’m One With You” is still as haunting and beguiling as it was last year when I first heard it. And it still serves as the perfect theme song to a, just shy of, perfect television show. If you are looking for a punchy intro, a’la Mike Post, for a punchy crime drama, this isn’t the show. But that song…

“Until I’m One With You” completely ignores any sort of traditional song structure or pedantic rhyming scheme. It’s lonely and haunting guitar accompanying Bingham’s raspy voice and plaintive lyrics makes for one of the most affecting songs in recent memory. It’s the beautiful simplicity of the vocals and the lyrics that seemingly wants to tell us what love should be but it’s the tone of the song and a closer listen to the lyrics that reminds us of the complexity that love always is.

As a stand alone song, it’s jaw dropping in its condensed intricacy. As a television show theme song? Unprecedented…almost.

Not since the Jonathan Wolff jazz riffs for Seinfeld has a song worked so well in tandem with a shows theme. Wolff’s bass bits helped frame the tonality of comically punchy Seinfeld while Bingham’s song frames the tragedy and drama of The Bridge.

Both songs worm their way into your head so that you are enraptured from the first note and the first frame and they both converge beautifully so that sound and image become inescapable.

Ryan Bingham seems to be channeling the lyrical prowess of Greg Brown and the restraint of guitarist Bo Ramsy. Which are both really good things.

What is “Until I’m One With You” about ? I dunno. It reveals very little lyrically and you are left to interpret what you can from the songs pacing, Bingham’s singing and a closer reading of the lyrics. My gut tells me it’s not about unrequited love or a break up, as I initially thought. I think it’s about something much more tragic.

I want to believe that the show is smart enough that the song will fit snugly with the arc of this first series. But I will have to wait and see. Even if it doesn’t, it’s still a helluva song.

You’re never going to see anyone twerking to Ryan Bingham’s “Until I’m One With You” because, well, it’s not that type of song. It’s never going to be a hit and it will probably never receive an award. The recording industry doesn’t typically give awards to this type of stuff.

Last year The Bridge deservedly won a Peabody Award for excellence, but Ryan Bingham did not. Which is a shame because this is the type of song that Peabody’s, or even MacArthur Genius Grants, should be given.

Yea, it’s that good.

It Holds Up

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In September of 1994 the wounds were still too fresh.

Sounding like Kurt Cobain was a sore spot for a lot of people. But the legacy of any good artist is their influence and in the case of Kurt Cobain, we saw that influence almost immediately from Australia’s Silverchair.

Made when they were teens, their 1994 debut Frogstomp contained the hit song “Tomorrow“. It was a monster song that defined that autumn of our grunge discontent. And 20 years later it still sounds pretty good, perhaps even better because it’s a little further removed from the shadow of Nirvana.

The cynics will say Silverchair was the record companies attempt to fill the void and capitalize on a trend (I’d like to see what those cynics were doing when they were 16). And maybe they’re right…but good music holds up and good bands build careers. Time ultimately proves who matters, not the cynics

To Silverchair’s credit, and their talent and strength, they’re still a successful and creatively viable band (the band is currently on an “indefinite hiatus”). I guess it’s those things that makes this song, and the band, 20 years on, still ring true.

Good music never lies and it never dies.