Here it is. Rather meandering stuff I came out with yesterday, starting on one topic and then veering semi-naturally to the topic I originally intended cover:
Here’s a slightly better recording than my last one…or at least without all the noise. It’s about some random thoughts I had on matters from iterative processes leading to the accumulation of resources, inheritance, the need for frequent revolutions, and a possible alternative.
My housemate is a disabled American who, among other things, has a prosthetic leg and multiple neck and other spinal injuries from a past motor vehicle accident. He is also a highly skilled guitarist and a craftsman of the instrument, assembling top quality replicas of classic electric guitars that match the performance of the best examples of the original products. I’ve purchased one of these guitars from him, and it’s as good, and as beautiful, as any I’ve ever played.
My housemate sells the guitars he makes, often through E-bay, for the cost of materials plus a very modest markup for his time and effort, which are not insignificant matters for him given his physical difficulties. For quite some time now, he has used FedEx to ship these guitars to their purchasers, and in the past, he has apparently had few complaints. However, the quality of FedEx’s shipping and service is, apparently, not what it used to be.
My housemate recently sold a replica Les Paul model electric guitar. He took the guitar, in a case, to the local FedEx office to have it shipped. There he paid for insurance for the full price of the guitar, and he also paid extra to have FedEx pack the item themselves, so there could be no question about the responsibility for any inadequate packing of this expensive and fragile item. Speaking of fragility, he also specifically requested that the item be marked “Fragile,” “Handle with Care,” and so on. This latter request was not fulfilled, as is demonstrated by photos taken by the purchaser of the guitar when it arrived. These photos also showed creases and indentations in the packing materials of the shipping container, including a long crease along the mid-section of the box.
It should come as no surprise to anyone, given what I’ve just stated and the title of this post, that the guitar arrived damaged, with a crack/break at the base of the neck. As someone who was partial witness to the assembly of the instrument, to the work it entailed, and to the wonderful sound of the finished product, I find this damage heartbreaking. The guitar had obviously been subject to incautious packing and shipping that allowed leverage to be applied across the middle of the box. That leverage was not enough to break the case—which is somewhat flexible, and was not designed to protect from such external torques but from minor bumps and bangs while being hand-carried—but enough to strain the weakest point in a long, wooden structure such that it cracked.
The guitar purchaser was quite polite about all this, and my housemate is going to replace the guitar with another one that he has made—and into which he has put his time and his very limited money—but he obviously asked and expected FedEx to live up to their agreement and reimburse him for the price of the guitar.
Unfortunately, despite the fact that my housemate paid for insurance and also paid to have FedEx pack the guitar and to mark it as fragile, and despite having seen photos of the damage to the instrument and the surface of the box (I’ve seen these photos, as well), FedEx claims that their investigation finds that they were not responsible for the damage and they are not going to pay.
Let’s think about that. My housemate paid for insurance and for FedEx to pack the item, and it arrived with damage. It was not damaged when it was sent, I’m personally able to attest to that, since I was there when my housemate took it to FedEx, and I saw (and heard) the finished product, which was exceptional. To have FedEx say that their investigation has cleared them of wrongdoing is rather like having Vladimir Putin say that his investigation has revealed that his government has never carried out any operations to influence the elections of any other countries, or to have Bernie Madoff say that he’s looked into things and found no evidence that he’s ever been involved in any kind of “pyramid scheme”.
Why would FedEx ever want to find themselves responsible for such damage? Only because not to do so would hurt their reputation, which has—in the past—been important to them as leading figures in the world of high-quality, fast shipping.
Now, though, it seems that the formerly mighty have fallen very far indeed. FedEx is perfectly willing to charge a disabled person extra money to pack the instrument he is—as a loyal, long-time customer—shipping with them, and they are also willing to charge him for “insurance” against damage accrued during shipping. But it seems that, when such damage really occurs during shipping, to a fragile, expensive, fine quality musical instrument, which FedEx was paid extra to pack, the company does not live up to their end of the bargain, but instead forces a disabled craftsman and musician to try to satisfy his buyer out of his own, very shallow, pocket.
My housemate is not a man of words, and he is not especially internet/social media savvy, but words are my life blood. In addition, as a musician myself (of sorts), and as a friend, I cannot bear to have the Philistines at FedEx carry out this double-cross cheat of my housemate without at least making public—as loudly as I’m able—the fact that they have done so.
I encourage all of you who might consider using FedEx’s shipping services to engage other providers, such as UPS, or the United States Postal Service, or G.O.D., or some similar organization. There may have been a time when FedEx was the best at what they do, and when they stood by their services, but it seems that time has passed if they willingly cheat a disabled craftsman out of insurance coverage for which he paid to compensate for damage for which FedEx is responsible.
I’m sure that FedEx puts a great deal of money into marketing their services, including their shipping insurance. Apparently, their budget—both financial and ethical—for actually fulfilling the promises they make is simply too small. If that’s the case, maybe it’s time they got out of the shipping business entirely.
ADDENDUM: Here are a few pictures of the damage to the box and the instrument as they were when they arrived. It may not look like much, but musicians will know that it ruins the sound of the instrument, and it certainly is NOT the way it was when shipped.
In this, more or less unplanned audio blog, I muse on questions of why anyone should pay taxes if those who benefit most from societal structures don’t, and on the nature of rules, the lack of natural justice, and the fact that the world only makes sense when you force it to do so.
[The following is a response to a meme shared by a friend. I’m posting it here because he’s a nice guy, and he means well, and I don’t see the need to get in a dust-up with him.]
Is it really more heroic to risk one’s future and expose oneself to possible crippling physical and mental injuries (not to mention death) by going overseas and killing strangers (apparently endangering innocent and trusting dogs – who clearly have no idea what they’re doing or why, but just do what you tell them to do because dogs will do that – in the process), at the behest of corrupt politicians who won’t even take care of you after you’ve done what they brainwashed you to do…
…or over many years of dedication and hard work to hone your skills and ability in a sport that pits you against other highly skilled and disciplined people, all of whom have joined the contest voluntarily, bringing joy and excitement to millions of people on a regular basis, and occasionally to use the public recognition you freely receive to call attention to areas in which our own country is committing injustice and sometimes murder against its own citizens, in hypocritical violation of the principles for which it claims to stand, even though your protest earns the vilification of millions of people who don’t want to admit to and deal with the failures of their government (for which they are ultimately responsible), and may end your career, a career for which you’ve killed NO ONE?*
I’m asking for a friend.
War – and soldiers – are a necessary evil. They are necessary,** and we can admire and be thankful for those soldiers who do fight against legitimately evil forces (this does happen from time to time, though not as often as we’d like to imagine). We should CERTAINLY demand that our elected employees make provisions to take care of those soldiers afterwards. But we can, I think, all imagine and hope for a world in which war and soldiers are no longer necessary, and even become unthinkable.
We already live in a world in which sports are “unnecessary.” We play and watch football, basketball, soccer, baseball, the Olympics, all entirely because they bring us joy.
This, to me, demonstrates that they are a greater good. We do them for their own sake. After all, which would you prefer: a world in which your children play games and sports, and learn about subjects that interest them, and grow strong in ways that don’t require harming anyone else…or a world in which they spend their time fighting to survive, evading and/or being tormented by bullies (or being bullies themselves), scavenging for food, running from predators?
This is the juxtaposition of imagery you should keep in mind when you denigrate athletes, particularly ones who take a knee in protest against injustice committed by those who are supposed to defend justice, while you praise soldiers who, when they do good in the world (and they DO, not infrequently, do good), it’s because they’re “lucky” enough to have been ordered to do so, and it’s usually at the cost of death and destruction, including collateral damage (i.e. innocent people being maimed and killed).
I don’t mean to put down soldiers. I admire and respect their willingness to put their lives in danger to try to do good in the world, and I strongly suspect that almost all of them really, honestly, intend to do good. But their good intentions, and their courage, do not guarantee that they will, in fact, do good. Good intentions are not enough. They are just barely even the starting point. And it is only through the actions of people such as those who stand – or kneel – to bring attention to injustice, that we can hope to do more than merely intend good and actually, in the long run, achieve it.
*and that, by the way, is a compound, complex sentence
**but they are an evil
I’ve always had a problem with the Parable of the Prodigal Son. This is the story Jesus tells in the New Testament about a father with two sons, one of whom is well-behaved and does what he ought to do, whatever that might be. The other is a wild child. He goes out into the world, doing the local equivalent is of drinking, abusing drugs, partying, having lots of unprotected sex with people he barely knows, gambling, spending too much time playing computer games…that sort of stuff. Eventually, so the story goes, the second son hits rock bottom, as one might expect, and loses everything. Then he comes crawling back to his father, contrite, supposedly having learned the error of his ways. The father, in response, throws a gigantic party, and everyone celebrates the return of the prodigal son.
The other son, understandably enough, is miffed by this. He thinks it’s unfair that the return of the ne’er-do-well is greeted with a celebration, while he’s been there all along, doing sensible things, behaving good, being loyal, and there’s no party to celebrate him. The father explains that basically he’s always happy about the good son’s presence, and that everything he has is his, but that the other son, who was as good as dead, is now back and it’s worth celebrating.
I’m really on the side of the good son here, precisely because the parable of the prodigal son is a good description of how we often behave toward our families, friends, and others. Continue reading “I don’t like the prodigal son”
I’ve expressed this general sentiment before, but it’s a problem that continues to muddle and befuddle the progress of humanity, and it seems to have done so for as long as civilization has existed—probably longer. It also seems ever more salient, or at least more prominent in modern American political life, so I think it bears addressing again, and repeating ad nauseum if necessary. Continue reading “I wish humans would stop acting toward each other like monkeys hurling feces.”