Goodbye To Merle

I arrived home tonight to learn that Merle Haggard had died.  It’s a huge loss to American music, because Merle Haggard was one of the giants of country music, roots music, and the kind of music you just want to listen to when you are sitting on a bar stool.  Coupled with the lost of George Jones three years ago, Haggard’s death means that two of the most genuine voices on the American music scene are no longer with us.

The live performance of one of his greatest songs, Tonight The Bottle Let Me Down, that I’ve posted above, is vintage Merle Haggard.  The lyrics are classic, and the Hag’s performance is fun and relaxed.  If you’ve ever been dumped, you know what Merle Haggard is singing about in this song.  (And, because I think the song is great, it’s the only song to have a video performance posted twice on the Webner House blog.)

I’d always liked old, traditional country — not the glorified pop crap that cowboy hat-wearing posers churn out these days — and Merle Haggard and George Jones, among others, really epitomized it.  They were giants, and if you’ve never gotten into their music you’re missing something.  Tonight, on the day of Merle Haggard’s passing, you could find a worse way to spend you time than listening to some of his greatest songs.

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Cleveland’s Got Some Work To Do

IMG_0785I was in Cleveland today for meetings, and the downtown area has some work to do to get ready for the Republican Convention this summer.  I was right next to Public Square, which is undergoing a major renovation, and was able to get a high-altitude photo of the ongoing work.  It’s still got a ways to go, and traffic downtown was a mess, with lots of street lanes closed and snarls everywhere.

But look on the bright side — maybe the pro-Trump, anti-Trump, and anybody-but-Trump protesters will get frustrated by the crappy traffic flow and give up before they cause too much mischief.

Rockin’ The Gig Economy

Recently I’ve read several articles, like this one, about the “gig economy.”

The first question for me was:  “What the hell is the gig economy?”  I didn’t know if it was short for gigabyte, or some new tech industry term.  I learned, though, that the “gig economy” refers to workers who use internet applications like Uber to sell their labor on a one at a time basis.  That probably means that “gig” is borrowed from the music world, where rockers and jazz artists have been playing individual “gigs” since time immemorial.  In the internet age, I guess we’re all rock stars.

f9413b4f8ddd6478039e747f71f3fe15For all of the hype, the “gig economy” isn’t very big — at least not yet.  As the article linked above indicates, at this point it’s mostly Uber.  That match driver with rider app has exploded in popularity, and had some hiccups along the way, but its website has a simple message:  drive with Uber and earn money on your schedule.  And the Uber model has been so successful it has spurred the development of other gig app options, not only in the driving world but in other areas, too.  TaskRabbit, for example, promises to find a “skilled Tasker” who will help you do chores and errands, while Mechanical Turk seeks to match up workers and businesses to complete thousands of different “Human Intelligence Tasks.”

Recent studies, though, indicate that only about 0.4 percent of people were earning labor income from “gig” jobs, and Uber alone might represent as much as two-thirds of that figure.  The studies also show that most people who have tried the gig labor approach end up dropping it.  For all of the hoo-ha, it’s not clear that the gig economy is ever going to be a significant part of the U.S. employment picture.

Speaking as an old fart who’s always had a full-time, 9 to 5 type job, I’m not surprised.  I can see doing Uber or holding yourself out as a “skilled Tasker” as a supplement to your existing job; lots of people have taken a second, part-time job to try to build up their savings or accumulate the down payment on a house.  But I can’t see doing the “gig” work on an ongoing basis as your primary source of employment.  It’s too unpredictable and too intermittent.  Most people would rather have a full-time job, with benefits, that they can build on.  Boring, no doubt, and certainly not as cutting-edge as “gig” work, but boy the security of a regular paycheck sure comes in handy when you’ve got a hungry family.

We’ll see how the whole experiment works out, but don’t be shocked if the U.S. economy ultimately decides that, Uber aside, we’d just as soon leave the “gigs” to the musicians.