Sunday assorted links

1. What ever happened to automobile insurance as an economic issue?

2. Why are guitar sales declining?

3. What is Mitch Daniels doing with Purdue?

4. Are Mormon beauty queens taking over your Instagram feed?

5. “For all the deserved attention the opioid crisis gets, alcohol overuse remains a persistent public health problem and is responsible for more deaths, as many as 88,000 per year.” NYT link here.

6. The Black Mirror, season four episode “USS Callister” is worth watching, reviews here, among other things it is a retelling of The Tempest albeit with updated plot twists.  And profile of actress Hong Chau from Downsizing (NYT).  The movie is also relatively sophisticated on “disability issues.”

7. One of the more interesting, informationally dense, acousto-electric best music of 2017 lists.

8. Six volcanoes to watch in 2018.


"Purdue", not "Perdue".

It's very funny he did not know that.

"I went to Bizarre Guitar in Sparks to talk to an old-timer, Greg Golden. He is the original owner for more than 40 years." Yeah, guitars are for old farts' music.

You'd be better off mastering the cornet /trumpet, and playing classical stuff of one genre or another: Armstrong and Bix, or - what the hell - Mozart, Haydn and company.

Agreed. The article sucked so I take it Tyler was really asking the question rather than pointing to an answer.

Guitar sales are in decline primarily because guitar-driven music is in decline.

Also, kids these days. We’ve been reading that they don’t go outside, they don’t smoke pot, they don’t binge drink or have sex or do much of anything other than sit on their beds texting while they develop antisocial personality disorders. So the old fart’s suggestion that they just don’t have the gumption is probably true to some extent. With YouTube you should be able to learn guitar 5x faster than in my day as a 90s kid. But with all the other internet distractions and with pop music that isn’t built around the guitar, why bother. Being good at guitar doesn’t get you sex drugs and rock n roll anymore, and kids don’t appear even to want sex drugs and rock n roll.

Plus the old farts lost their retirement savings in ‘09 and they already own 4 Les Pauls a piece so they’re not singlehandedly keeping guitar center in business anymore.

The guitar had its day, and that day came and went.

Agreed. Plus the cool thing now is to be a gamer, or skateboarder. In music it would be rapping, which doesn't need a guitar.

A couple of serious young gamers and programmers I know are also venturing into electronic music in parallel. The software to do so is cheaper and better than ever (Abelton, GarageBand, etc,). I'd guess software generally pulls from instrument sales over time.

I'm 44. It was cool to be a skater 20 years ago. I think today its cool to play Tony Hawk on xbox.

" You’d be better off mastering the cornet /trumpet, and playing classical stuff of one genre or another.." [SNIP]

Here's a guy who did precisely the opposite. Note that he locked himself in a room for 9hr/d for an entire year to learn it:

Towner [infamous 12 string guitar intro]:

+ 1

Good advice .... this was the Platonic ideal of a Dearieme post...
Armstrong and Bix!
It really doesn't get better than that.

Why pick on the Mormon babes? There's a number of popular African-American instagram sites devoted to hair care and beauty as well, like this one: Isn't it normal for all women to want to look good, except for maybe female politicians?

Guitars are too phallic for kids these days.

Or perhaps it's that there's no point in playing guitar anymore. Used to be you could be a teenager who joined a garage band, you'd hang out all night, maybe play some parties when parents are out of town. But how many teenagers these days have the freedom to join a garage band? They don't even drive cars. How would they get to practice? Mom is going to drive you to your garage band practice?

Guitar is just less prominent in music these days, and nobody plays solos anymore. Also, the world is pretty well saturated with old, proficient guitar players who are willing to work as hired guns for crap wages. Kids see them, realize that it will take them years to get that good, and just don't want to try. Compared to now, girls used to respond better to good guitar players a generation ago. And even if you get really good, it's not something that will impress a college admissions committee, even if it should. The incentives are just not there for guitar.

It's because the role models are 50, 60, 70 years old. Younger guitar players just don't have the appeal of Hendrix or Clapton or Stephen Stills. John Mayer is pretty good but Joe Bonamassa plays bad music skillfully.

Bonamassa is one of those "Lord knows I've tried" artists for me. I appreciate the guy's enthusiasm, I appreciate his chops, I appreciate that he's making the blues more visible out there, he's a guitar nerd deluxe and knowledgeable student of guitar music history...but I just can't find it in me to like his stuff well enough to sit through a song or stream it or buy a concert ticket. Gary Clark Jr. is more of my go-to up-and-coming blues guitarist.

Joe Bonamassa and John Mayer* play bad music skilllfully.

The thing is, even when he was popular, John Mayer was never cool.

I guess I've never been cool, but I appreciate alot of the stuff Mayer has put out. People will probably gag when I say this, but I like several of his Hendrix covers - I like that he's introducing that style of play to new audiences.

I don't know that it is a well defined genre, but I always thought of his music as good "dad rock".

Much guitar-heavy music is too masculine for today's tastes anyway. Give me Sigur Ros post-rock or (as Jenny Hval would say) "soft-dick rock" over the testosterone-dripping onanism of a hard-rock guitar solo any day. Synths are popular again, and if we're lucky, violin will continue to make in-roads into popular music. Swedish and Canadian pop is very good these days as well.

Agreed on Black Mirror episode 1.

A reflection too on the rapid shift of socio-economic power from charismatic, high EQ personalities in the boardroom to the analytical introverts behind the screen. From Jack Welch to Larry Page.

Politics seems to be going in the opposite direction.

"From Jack Welch to Larry Page."

From Orville Redenbacher to Steve Jobs.

Dj equipment as a substitute for guitars? Kids these days would rather be famous dj’s than guitar heros (at least that’s the trend)

Certainly the guitar is no longer at the centre of popular music, and popular music is no longer at the centre of popular culture, but I would think that the market for second hand guitars online would also be a contributing factor.

Who knew that Betteridge's law of headlines was so controversial? -'s_law_of_headlines

2. Learning to play almost any musical instrument well enough to sound semi-respectable is an endeavor; for guitar, assuming that you want to play pop/rock/blues/country type music somewhat better than just strumming a few cowboy chords, figure on a minimum of six months practicing five hours per week (if you can practice more, great, but realistically five hours per week is a substantial time investment for most beginners). And that assumes an instructor; multiply by at least 1.5 if you're doing all of your learning with apps and/or websites. It's not a casual thing. And the music that playing guitar enables is not particularly popular right now except for Ed Sheeran (yes, I know that Taylor Swift's popularity caused an uptick in teen and preteen girls playing acoustic guitar, but her most recent music is not guitar driven and I've heard no evidence that the girl guitar boom had any staying power). So, given the difficulty, the time investment, and the lack of social payoff for today's youth market ("lol, so you can play your DAD'S music?"), I think we haven't seen the bottom of the guitar market yet, and stalwarts like Gibson, Guitar Center, and to a lesser extent Fender should be prepared for a rough ride. Fender seems to recognize that the marketplace is challenging and is focusing a lot of attention on its midpriced models from its Ensenada factory, and has also stepped into the learn-at-home-over-the-Internet market in an attempt to grow the customer base, but I'm skeptical it will do much (although I applaud them for trying).

That said, it is currently the golden age if you want to learn guitar in the rock/blues/country vein. High quality new electric guitars can be had for $400-500; good used ones for $200-300, sometimes less (but be careful; trying to learn on a crappy guitar is a guaranteed way to get someone to give up learning to play). You can get decent sounding practice amps for $100, and really good sounding ones that include multiple high quality digital models of classic amps and effects for $250-400 (for electric guitar, the amp is easily half the sound quality, so a good amp is a good investment). Or you can buy a $100 guitar interface for your iPhone or iPad, then spend anywhere from $5 to $50 on amp modeling apps, put on headphones, and go that way; the apps often have built in percussion and accompanying instruments, loopers, and recording tools that are good for students (note that this is pretty much an iOS-only route unless you go to a Mac or PC; Android lacks the required built-in low-latency audio processing capabilities of iOS HW and SW). I still recommend a flesh-and-blood in-person teacher unless you're willing to take Robert Johnson's alleged route to excellence :-) , but whether you engage a teacher or not, there are great online resources for learning, whether you're wanting help on a specific song or more general techniques.

I don't know if the stats include selling used instruments on places like ebay, but to me there's a big incentive to not buy "new" instruments, but in the past I've purchased many "used."

At one point I probably had 15-20 guitars before selling all but a couple on ebay. Most players take pretty good care of their guitars, and an instrument can last for a long time so there's probably alot of perfectly good instruments from years ago. I owned several made in the 60s and 70s (Japanese built) just because I liked them, could do my own repairs/setups, and couldn't see a reason to buy what I felt were overpriced newer guitars that often didn't play or sound very good. New Fender Strats or Gibson Les Pauls got to be pretty pricey and might've caused sticker shock for new players. I think Harley Davidson had a similar problem with their bikes - going upscale in price, and they lost a younger generation of riders.

Guitar sales are declining because the instrument is utterly exhausted. To the extent it's still used in popular music, it tends to just be to evoke a past era.

Addendum: I mean, we went through a whole period in the 80s and 90s when folks like Thurston Moore and Kevin Shields really pushed the edges of the instrument -- sort of the equivalent of the "free jazz" era in jazz. And once you go through that sort of era, there's no going back. Then you had folks like the Strokes and the White Stripes, who played the part of a Wynton Marsalis trying to revive the earlier approach, and doing a decent job, but ultimately failing -- BECAUSE YOU CAN'T GO BACK. To the extent you have interesting newer guitar players these days -- Annie Clark (St. Vincent), Archy Marshall (King Krule), Adam Granduciel (War on Drugs) come to mind -- they're generally taking the Moore/Shields approach and doing everything they possibly can to avoid having it sound like a guitar. Even Granduciel, who's self-consciously trying to do a sort of 80s rock revivalism, ends up making his guitar sound like a sort of broken synthesizer.

My wife recently met a classical cellist who said that most of his income came not from orchestral work but from playing pop guitar in recording studios. "Just four chords", he said. Oh well, said she, that's one more than in the old days.

Well, you're British, so it's understandable that neither of you graduated beyond the Beatles crap.

I found the Hot Club of San Fransisco recently and it is fun. I made a strange jump from Mr. Bungle to Tin Hat Trio to the Hot Club of San Fransisco. This was all Pandora-assisted.

#1 Automobile Insurance

So California state insurance regulation is a total disaster -- hard to believe since the rest of California government functions so well and everybody wants to move to California

What would America look like without strict insurance regulation by the superior human cohort of government bureaucrats

Did that whole thing say "how bad it is" without saying how bad it is?

I skimmed, but I didn't see a stab at exactly what overcharge we bear, in dollars per year.

I mean sure, I would like lower rates, but something seems missing here. Like say a risk adjusted policy cost vs another state.

(Also Figure 1 is a terrible chart. Purposely so? Surely a cost per capita versus population scatter graph would tell you more about who was an outlier.)

According to this page, the national average premium is $1,318.

I don't think that is auto value or risk adjusted.

California is 75th highest in absolute cost, $1,673. Or 27% higher.

What does that mean, absent risk or value?

"What does that mean, absent risk or value?"

Assume ceteris paribus. Just like the "educated" Proggers tell us that women make 80 cents for every dollr a man makes for DOING THE EXACT SAME WORK!

That was 7th highest, by the way.

And sure, same value and risk is a simplifying assumption.

The link was rejected by MR, but if you are interested, Google "Car insurance rates by state, 2017 edition" By Penny Gusner - just testing

so not a domain name based filter, like the New Yorker was in the past - but definitely page specific

Yep, California is a disaster and Mississippi and Kansas and Texas are where every new technology that takes over the world come from....

If only every State were just like Oklahoma, the US would be taking over the world by growing at 20%, or at least 10%.

There are a lot more distractions and other forms of entertainment around hence fewer people are interested in learning to play instruments.

5. I felt my life and work starting to slide in an unfavorable direction about 12 years ago. I wasn't sure what was going on, but the first thing I did was quit drinking - purely so I could get a clear read on the situation. I soon saw where I stood and got back on the level. I'm surprised more people don't do this at the first hint of trouble in their lives.

Here's another thing that surprises me. I have a close relative with a mishmash of physical-anxiety issues. I asked him once if his doctor ever recommended that he stop drinking. He said that doctor never brought it up. I'm amazed.

Drinking in moderation is good for you

It is definitely possible to drink too much,but drinking isn't a problem for everyone.

"1. What ever happened to automobile insurance as an economic issue?"

"In 1988, California voters approved Proposition 103 ...Both Prop 103’s authors and its latter-day defenders claim the law and its regulatory progeny have been effective in controlling rising insurance rates, saving Californians billions of dollars in the process. ...Yet, per dollar of premium,
California’s auto insurance rates remain among the highest in the nation."

Human's have a phenomenal ability at self deception.

1. What ever happened to automobile insurance as an economic issue?

California is a lot closer to Venezuela than we imagine, its insurance regulators are the prime example. California ha never had any real body of law, it inherited the spanish system of arbitrary legal grants by the crown. Remember California, about 200 years of Franciscan rule.

The 7th to 10th highest rates in the land are: California ($1,673), Wyoming ($1,538), Delaware ($1,526), Texas ($1,506).

Presumably California at $1673 is Venezuela, and Texas at $1506 is Utopia?

A lot to hang on $167 bucks a year.

For those of you who want the full version of the Mitch Daniels article, and don't want to deal with Scribd, here's the Bloomberg link:

Thank you. Very interesting piece. Will be interesting to see if "degree in three" catches on.

Thank you very much!

4. "Molly Mormon" (MoMo for short) is the local slang here in the Mormon belt for such a overly cultivated look. Covers all aspects of lifestyle: family, home, grooming, etc. Sort of like Stepford Wives of the high desert.

I was annoyed at the USS Callister episode. A little better execution and it would have been truly great.

I expected the ending to be that this was actually Annette's fantasy game (and not Daly's).

Now, that would be *real* satire of present day cultural mores...

Just wanted to say that Black Mirror's USS Calister episode reminded me of "I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream" by Harlan Ellison.

4. My take here is that there are two types of "power users" of Instagram. The 20 something women fantasize about being moms, and the moms fantasize about being 20 something. LDS reliably produces women who are both.

Re: guitar sales
1Total guitar sales from domestic retail outlets could be
declining because the number of retail outlets
has declined but there are excellent
affordable asian instruments being sold online.
Are these counted?
2 many metric tonnes of guitars are sold directly
picker to picker.
3 there are also metric tonnes of masterful guitar players on youtube.
4 guitars that are kept out of the hands
Of g. brooks are durable goods that are passed around between owners and generations.
5. Total new guitar sales from domestic
retailers may not be a great metric for
Guitar proficiency

3. “We’ve got to pass the ‘pajama test,’ ” he says. “There are a lot of people who think residential higher education is on borrowed time. There are a lot of smart people, backed by a lot of big money, using dazzling technologies, who are saying to prospective students, ‘Why would you pick up and move somewhere and pay rent for four years when I can bring the best education available to you while you sit in your pajamas?’ ”

That assumes there are a lot of young people looking for an education. There aren't. There are millions looking for a a certification, something they can show to potential employers that says, “I did what is expected of ambitious people in this society. I will be a good team member that will help your organization achieve its goals.” At least right now, course credit from Kaplan just doesn't do that.

TC writes: "Anonymity also increases with size, as does (I think) sexual promiscuity." I've lived in large and mid-sized cities, and I currently live in small city (pop. 25,000). From what I've observed, people are equally promiscuous in all three types of centers. I'm not sure whether sociological studies back up my observations, but I guess they would. I think, however, the reasons for promiscuity may vary from place to place. Certain types of people are attracted to big city life in order to engage in unconventional or otherwise interesting lifestyles. By contrast, a category of small-town people are trapped in miserable circumstances and engage in all kinds of destructive behaviors, including risky sexual activities.

No, dipshit, "Callister" is NOT a retelling of The Tempest. We're all very impressed that you can see a faint resemblance, but Jesus man, get a hold of yourself.

Guitar sales are down 500,000. Ukulele sales are up 500,000.

Comments for this post are closed