Thursday, July 26, 2012

Everything I needed to know about capitalism, I learned playing Monopoly

Unless you had a sadly deprived childhood, you have probably played Monopoly. In Australia in the 1980's, everyone had a set that looked like the one above with street names from London, but with prices listed in $ instead of £. So strange. Even the McDonald's Monopoly promotion in Australia used the UK version's property names. I thought the game was actually from the UK and that those names were original until I moved to America and was laughed at by my husband.

Monopoly is phenomenally successful for good reason. It demonstrates to players how fun capitalism can be, and how much power money wields. It's especially gratifying for children, who have zero financial autonomy, because for a little while they can feel like they imagine their parents do, collecting money and refusing to give it out unless required.

But wait. Funny thing: even though the game is called Monopoly and the simplest objective for players is to obtain a monopoly, the original point of the game is to teach us the negative effects of monopolization.

I have to assume that a lot of Americans (to pick on one group) didn't have the patience to play the game through to the end, otherwise they would probably understand that point. Not so in my family. We didn't play Monopoly all that often, because my mother and I were so stubborn, it would take hours to complete. How does a Monopoly game end? First, there have to be only two players left, because everyone else has gone bankrupt and had to retire. At this point, the game becomes an extremely boring and joyless death match. Everyone who bowed out has left the room to do something else. The two remaining players pay money to each other, back and forth, until eventually one of them, through dumb luck, ends up owing more to the other player than they own.

The last player, having achieved a true monopoly, is the winner, and the game ends.

The game ends. Nobody can play anymore. The bank closes, and the properties go to waste because nobody can pay rent. The winner is left with a pile of fake money, and because everyone else has already gone home, they have to pack up the board and wallow in their own miserable loneliness.

If you don't have the attention span to play the game through to the end, capitalism is about getting as much money as you can and fucking over as many other people as possible, because this is rather fun.

If you do play the game through to the end, you realize that once you've won, the entire system falls to pieces because nobody else can play, and having a monopoly and too much money is ridiculous and sad, because once you win, everything you've won is worthless.

At some point, if you play Monopoly enough, you discover that the only way to keep the game fun is to make sure other players stay in the game by trying not to exploit them too much. Sometimes we would bend the rules in my family. We would make alliances and loan or give money to each other to keep each other from going bankrupt. We would forgive rent, or pay more than a property was worth to help players that were struggling. This also usually prevents other players from all hating the winner, should the game be played through to the end.

That is the lesson of Monopoly. And apparently a lot of people in this country didn't have the mental discipline to learn it.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Up Your Cherry - we made a song

Finally, when someone asks me what Up Your Cherry sounds like, and whether we have any recordings, I can point them toward something. We just finished mixing and uploading our first song, "This One."

Yes, it's in 7/4 mostly. Of course.

We have at least one more song to record this week, and we're also hoping to revamp the website. I've also been tossing around video ideas with a friend of ours Chris Braak, who will hopefully also be joining us live at some point in the not-too-distant future on bass.

In the meantime, this coming Saturday July 21, we have a gig to play, the first we've had time to book in ages. We're the house band for a puppet slam at Walking Fish Theater for the second time. It's hella fun, and you should go. Here's a flyer:

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

NATS 52nd National Conference -- a weekend in Orlando -- also, SeaWorld and DINOSAURS

As previously reported, this past weekend, Matt and I went to Orlando for the NATS National Conference, where Tesla's Pigeon, which won the Art Song Award Competition, was performed on Saturday. We had a terrific time, and I hope I manage to stay in touch with the many wonderful people we met. I couldn't possibly list all of them, but of special note are Carol Mikkelson, the NATS Art Song Coordinator, who is quite possibly one of the sweetest people I think I've ever met, with one of those gentle southern accents I could listen to all day, and Colleen Gray (soprano) and Nanette Kaplan Solomon (pianist), who together performed Tesla's Pigeon. In addition to being lots of fun, they are both quite extraordinary and dramatic musicians who learned the work in record time despite being busy with so many other things. They sold the hell out of my songs in the concert!

Carol feeds me a cookie.

Introducing Tesla's Pigeon at the NATS Convention

On Saturday morning, I was browsing the booths in the exhibit hall, when I spotted an Australian flag out of the corner of my eye. What's that about? As I drew in closer, I saw a table was stacked with all manner of tourism information for Brisbane. Brisbane!? The city in which I was born and bred? Eh? I was so absorbed in trying to figure out why my hometown had its own booth at NATS, I completely missed the basket of lollies to one side. "Mel," asked Matt, "is this Australian candy--?"


MINTIES!!! I got very excited about these at the ICVT table #nats52

I'm not sure I've ever been so excited about Minties in my life. I hadn't even thought about them in nearly a decade. For confused Americans: Minties are functionally equivalent to Tootsie Rolls, but white and mint-flavored (and Australian, obviously).

It turns out that beloved BrizVegas is the host city for the 2013 International Congress of Voice Teachers next July, and in attendance at NATS were representatives from the Australian Voice Association. I didn't get to properly sit down with them all, but I met the president Jane Mott and had the chance to speak with VP Adele Nisbet, and caught a good case of homesickness talking about mutual friends and haunts. They left me with a bunch of Minties (eating the last one now) and a packet of Aussie flag cocktail toothpicks (expect those to show up at future house parties).

The conference was held at the Renaissance Hotel at SeaWorld, so it seemed natural Matt and I should hang out at SeaWorld on Sunday, especially with discounted tickets. I enjoyed myself more than anticipated, and didn't even mind the Florida heat (Philadelphia was simultaneously in the grips of a heatwave that brought worse temperatures anyway). I sort of forgot that SeaWorld is more circus than zoo or amusement park -- and the animals actually do seem to enjoy performing, although I'm sure PETA would disagree or something. They even have one of those troupes of rescued pets that seem to be all the rage at the moment, which of course turned Matt and I into insufferable cat idiots squeeing at all the performing kitties.

The biggest squee of Sunday, however, was reserved for a blog comment notification that buzzed my phone in the middle of the seal and sea otter pirate show. One of the highlights of our recent roadtrop was a dinosaur dig we did in Wyoming, and our guide dropped into the roadtrop blog to give us some exciting news about a bone I found at the dig -- see the latest roadtrop entry for details!

Now we're back in Philly. I have parts to create for a new arrangement of Jack and the Beanstalk for the Kennett Symphony, and a crapload of laundry to fold. Sigh.