Feb 8 2018


I just read a Facebook post that had a childless woman berating parents for allowing their children to misbehave on planes and in restaurants. She was aided by another mean girl in this and, from what I read, had alienated and hurt a bunch of moms who probably didn’t need to feel any worse about themselves. In subsequent comments, the childless woman reinforced her opinion that there was a way to raise children so that they would act like short adults and not ruin her good time. Which is to say, she believed she knew what she was talking about when she clearly didn’t. Anyone who isn’t a parent who has advice for people who are parents about parenting just shouldn’t.

These days, this, (not knowing what you are talking about) stops no one. In fact, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find someone who has a clue. But it doesn’t stop there. In 2018, people are creating, making things and starting companies doing things they may not know how to do. Or do very well. But they think they know how or more accurately want to think they know. That is enough for almost everyone.

The craft beer fad is a good example of this arrogance. 20 years ago, much of this beer would be called ‘hooch’. Something a guy brewed in his garage. His buddies would come over and drink some with him and tell him that it was good even though it assaulted their palate. It got them drunk which, for many beer drinkers, is 100% the point of beer. These days, this glorified moonshine is on the shelves of your liquor store, there to make you feel like a rube if you buy a beer made by a brewery that has been making beverages for generations instead of one by a couple of guys in beards with access to yeast and a clean bathtub.

Mrs. Berg and I have travelled to the southern US pretty much yearly for the past decade and a half. I had acquired a taste for southern barbecue while touring and recording in the US with TPOH. My wife and I regularly eat at BBQ places in Georgia, Alabama and Louisiana. I remember wishing, ‘I would love for a place like this to open in Toronto.’ A few years ago, a bunch of places did open up. People, probably like me, fell in love with wood smoked meat and figured they’d try their hand at it and open up a restaurant that serves it. After checking out many of these places, I revised my wish to, ‘I wish someone whose family had been smoking meat for generations would open up a BBQ restaurant in Toronto.’ Because it was clear that merely buying a smoker and some wood chips doesn’t make you a BBQ chef. But in 2018, buying a smoker and some wood chips IS all you have to do to be a BBQ chef.

It’s like when you talk to a kid who tells you, ‘I’ve been a music producer since I was 13.’ Which roughly translates into, ‘I’ve been dragging samples into a timeline in a program I downloaded for free from the internet since I was 13.’ 20 years ago, none of these guys would ever be producers at anytime in their life, let alone when they were 13. But their access to technology has given them an unearned title and they feel completely justified using it.

Can I state here, unequivocally, that this is not a shot at people who create electronic music. EDM, in all it’s subgenres, and hip hop are the present and future of music and anyone who thinks otherwise is thinking wishfully.

At this point, it’s a cliche to state that social media and 24 hour news stations are largely to blame for this. At a time when democracy is in peril in so many other ways, the media is completely democratic, socialist even, where everyone’s opinion carries pretty much the exact same weight. I never get tired of watching that scene from The Newsroom where the actor from Dumb and Dumber who isn’t Jim Carrey talks about ‘giants who were revered.’ when talking about newsmen. Yes, people who spent their life in pursuit of the truth without regard for political gain.

My fear is that people are ignoring how hard it is and how much work it takes to be good at something. About musicians working at their instrument their entire childhood, teenage years and well into their adulthood to finally have some success. And that many who pursued this path still didn’t achieve anything because there was someone else who tried and practiced and sacrificed a bit more than they did. Also, people who took recipes handed down from their parents who got them from their grandparents and great grandparents and still worked for years to perfect them before attempting to serve them to the public.

(This is maybe a right turn or maybe on course, I don’t know). A few months back, my Italian food loving sister was in town. Mrs. Berg, myself and my sister went to a restaurant in one of Toronto’s Little Italy’s. We arrived and noticed that the entire staff was Asian. So much for authentic Italian food, we chortled. Then the chef, an older Japanese fellow, came to take our order. As we got to talking, he told us about the years he had spent in Italy learning to cook. Then taking his skills to Japan and opening an Italian restaurant there and perfecting his recipes for a decade. Then bringing all of this knowledge and experience to Toronto to cook in a tiny little place that, I’m assuming, barely makes enough money to keep the lights on. He complained to us about culinary programs in Canada that had people who didn’t know the first thing about Italian cooking teaching students in our colleges. I thought, joke’s on us, here is a guy who has devoted his life to learning to do something he loves. He didn’t appear to have become rich doing it. I thought the meal was great but honestly, I know crap about authentic Italian cooking.

It seems like the only true meritocracy left is sports and Thank God for sports because it’s one of the only things left on earth that you can only do if you are frigging great at it. That last pursuit where you have to work your ass off for your entire life to maybe have a slim chance of making it at. I don’t see that changing with the rest of the world, although with NFL boycotts based on political beliefs, maybe there will be a RFL starting up that will have players with the right politics playing a substandard version of the game for fans of the right politics. Nothing would surprise me at this point.

As I read this back, I feel a bit old. Am I just cranky? There is another way of looking at this. These nouveau pit masters and brew masters are starting companies and employing people and injecting life into the economy. So that’s great, right? And bedroom producers, if they stick with it, could end up making interesting music. And that’s also good? Is the learning curve getting easier to manage, is world knowledge making it easier to perfect things that used to take much longer? I guess the proof will be in the results. Hopefully, there will always be people who care. Who will want to be great at something and not just good enough to satisfy people with diminished expectations. You have to start somewhere? Maybe my kids will be able to enjoy the beer and bbq made by the children of todays brewmasters/pit masters and it will be awesome. Maybe those children will have the humility to understand how hard it is to be really good at something. Or else people will have moved onto a new fad. In the meantime, I’ll pop the top on a Heineken and start saving for my next trip to the Deep South.