Ervin Somogyi

Hi again. I want to repeat that you dont have to read

this stuff. Or, if you do, try to pace yourself. And if you find this material interesting its perfectly all right with me if you share it, or part of it, with your friends. Or not.

Ive been rambling on about maleness and femaleness. I think that ideas of maleness and femaleness are as deeply hardwired into our language as they are hardwired into our minds. As I suggested, it seems that the very word environment reeks of maleness. At least, thats how it seems to have started out; these days theres a bit of an ecological spin to it.

Ditto patriotism, which word is much on the political forefront these days, if only in the negative. The thing about both patriotism and environment is that they are such fundamental ideas that it never occurs to anyone to question them or see how they fit into the scheme of things. Instead, people consider that the scheme of things fits into them: they are that basic. Yet both are man-created concepts, and both of them seemingly trace back to maleness. Patriotism comes from the root-word pater, meaning father. Patriotism = loyalty to the

land. That root also gives us a whole slew of other words that begin with pater or patr. Many of them are pretty arcane, but we still use patriot, patrician, patrimony, patriarchal, and paternity test in everyday discourse. We also patronize people.

In view of that root, whats the deal with naming a woman Patricia? Also, Athena was the

of the Arts. Read up on Athena; those words are used. But arent these all examples of those . . . uh . . .

Given the discouragement that people feel with both the world and with government in general, Id offer a gentler alternative to the forced, self-serving, ugly, and debauched version of Patriotism that people are rabidly claiming for themselves and/or hysterically accusing others of lacking or betraying. Become a Matriot. Believe in the gentler, healthier, and more nourishing principles. Matriot, of course, comes from the word mater, or mother.

Which brings me to Hillary Clinton, the most hated female of our generation. Its true. People HATE her. I was listening to an interview with author Amy Chozick, who has just released a book about Ms. Clinton. Ms. Chozick has put a lot of research and work into her book and ran plentifully into peoples attitude that, well, a woman might be a good president . . . but not

A lot of people, women included, have a visceral hatred of Hillary Clinton. Perhaps you are one such person.

Interestingly, and disturbingly, many people can give no reason for their hatred when asked; they just are adamant in their kneejerk revulsion of her. Pointing out that such irrationally held opinions are not based in anything real, or documented, or even dispassionately looked at does not seem to help. Fact-checking is lost on them. Hillary is literally the most investigated and accused-of-malfeasance person of our generation and

no one has ever found anything to charge her with nor found her to be culpable of except being stiff and unspontaneous.

Well, Trump did once comment (on national television) that Hillary urinates, and he labeled her as being disgusting for doing so. So theres that. The fact that Trump has such feelings about bathroom breaks is the surest proof that neither Melania nor Ivanka ever urinate. He couldnt stand it if they did. But its very odd that he didnt comment on those Russian prostitutes . . . . . . well, you know . . . when in Moscow . . . arrgkh . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . uh . . . . . . . . . sorry. I lose a bunch of brain cells every time I think of that sort of thing. But no one censured Mr. Frump for his narrow-minded stupidity nor his lack of grace. And people do HATE Hillary. There is something seriously wrong here.

Ive had some conversations of my own with people about these matters, and while I havent come away with any greater clarity I do sense that these are still hot topics a year after the election. People are very frustrated with both Hillary and the Democratic establishment. Interestingly, to me, almost all the conversations Ive had were ones in which I was told whom to blame for the mishandlings of Hillarys presidential campaign. Or commenting on Hillarys various failings as Secretary of State. As though the whole thing was a massive tactical error on someones part . . . and without commenting on the incredible peccadillos of the opposition, the big picture, context, political history, Trumps political track record of minus zero, etc.

Notice that Im not saying this or that party is right or wrong; to even try to go there will inflame the situation further. Im commenting on how polarized the matter is.

You might ask from where do the Republicans get their ideas that Hillary is crooked, traitorous, dishonest, untrustworthy, repellent, and/or criminal? In my next newsletter, a doctor with a flashlight will show us exactly where those ideas come from.

I learned a new word the other day: androcracy (pronounced an-DROK-ruh-see). It means a system ruled by men.

Androcracy indeed; were all familiar with that. Andro is the Greek root for male or maleness; the Latin root is vir, as in virile. Im under the impression that the Greeks also used vir, however, so Im a bit confused on this point: Socrates wife Xantippe was famously a sharp-tongued scold and nag, and she was referred to as a virago.

Well, I suspect she had reason to be. Her hubby seems to have been gone all the time, talking philosophy all day long with other men, and in general building up his resum as a great thinker. But not being a hubby. From everything Ive ever read, he ignored his wife; he basically fled from her. He didnt work as far as I know, and I dont know what he could have brought home money-wise to make his wife happy (my guess is that he owned land and lived off his rents). As far as I know theres never been any mention of whether he had children, although he probably did. Somehow, I doubt that Xantippe started out as a

ago. Well, to the best of my knowledge domesticity was not a priority of any sort in Greek society; what was a priority was the

, or community. At least, it was so among the citizens.

Well, certainly the male citizens; slaves and foreigners (called exenos in Greek, from which we get the word xenophobia) didnt count. On top of that, in those days, women werent only not part of the social or political picture, but once they married they werent part of any picture at all — except maybe in mythology. They became invisible. At least, thats what historians have concluded from the remaining writings, folklore, statuary, stories, etc. about Greek daily culture. Greek daily culture, as far as any extant literature or records show, was very male-centered. As a matter of fact men loved and adored each other in ways that would be viewed as very suspicious by some moderns.

There may have been heterosexual domestic life aplenty, but thats the kind of thing that is so ordinary that no one ever puts any of it down on paper. At some future time archaeologists may be trying to decipher the American sense of normal domesticity by referring to surviving historical documents like our Tabloids reports on Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitts marriage, novels by the likes of Ayn Rand and Norman Mailer, media fare such as Divorce Court and Judge Judy, and things that Donald Trump and Woody Allen said.

ility is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as: the period in life during which a person of the male sex is in his prime; mature or fully developed manhood or male vigor; power of procreation; male sexual potency; strength and vigor of action or thought. Hmmmmm. I guess women must not have any of those attributes, urges, or capacities. Not if the Oxford English Dictionary doesnt say so, and it doesnt mention women at all as far as this kind of thing goes. So I guess theres no doubt about it: virility is entirely a guy thing. Interestingly, I havent run across any female version of this word. Theres chastity, which is a behavior solely attached to women who arent fully developed in their womanhood nor frisky in the procreative department. Its male counterpart is celibacy, which is sort of an anti-virility stance. But theres no female counterpart to virility that doesnt border on sluttiness, at least that I know of. Women arent supposed to want to fuck. Surely Stormy Daniels is an aberration. Of course, perhaps she doesnt want to be a sex object but merely does it because it pays the bills. You know, like most peoples jobs.

gin — which of course means a woman who has not yet had sexual relations — connects in some way to the vir = maleness trope. I mean, they seem to have the same root. The Latin root for virgin is supposedly virgo or virge, but Virgo is also the name of a constellation; and that word is really not all that different from the Latin root for male. Hmmmm. Virgo/vir might be something like the similarity between the words

How come they couldnt come up with different words for genders that everybody since the beginning of time has agreed are not the same thing at all and perhaps not even from the same planet?

Maybe virgin was originally something like

, indicating that the male essence, when added to the primordial female essence, would start a process to bring some other essence into life and being. Gen is, after all, the root word for beginnings, growth, creating things, procreation, starting things, giving life, and of course

On another level (in medicine) we have muta

, things that start mutations. Andro

are chemicals that stimulate maleness. Organisms in which

der is not easily identified as being either male or female are

(i.e., male/female). And, more recently, there is the

ome . . . the blueprint that everything starts from or begins with.

tue doesnt exactly mean manliness, but it does mean something like it. VIRTue, VIRTual, VIRTuous and other words in which there is a T after the VIR come from a different root:

. The Oxford English Dictionary devotes almost an entire column to the many meanings and attributes of virtue, so it can mean lots of things. Two of them, however, are chastity or purity on the part of a woman and the display of manly qualities. So I think were still in the same polarized male/female ballpark here.

ate means the rule by/of three men. Ergo,

ology must be the study of men and maleness, no?

Well, actually, no. That word, and also

ulent, seem to descend from the root virulentus, which means poison or poisonous. Its very suspicious to me that the roots of man and poison are so similar. Once again, couldnt they find some other word that actually sounded different???

Weve never had a triumgynate. Weve never even had a gynate of any sort. Weve only had

ually (theres that pesky T again) allbeen men. Go figure. It does help to explain why the Greek Myths dont mention the story of Gynocles and the Lion, or Androcles and the Lioness. Still, everything comes from Mothers, so my mind wants to play with the word

Well, mothers indeed: everything does come from them and out of them. The root word for mother is

. . . as in maternal, maternity, alma mater, matricide, matrimony, matrilineal, matrix, etc. I dont think the word mattress comes from that root, though. Mater gives us the word

. Material is that out of which everything comes. Everything is made out of, or comes out of, material. Everything does really come out of the mother. Likewise, the

also has mother-like characteristics. It is that which holds and contains everything, and within which everything exists, and out from which things come.

onment secretly refers to . . . all the men around us? Or all the maleness around us? How arrogant is that? Yet, there must be something to it. In ancient Greece once a woman was married the world hardly ever saw her again. Men did see prostitutes (the Greek word for which was

) out in the open although certainly not in public places where The Men congregated to see and be seen, to be men of affairs, to discuss the matters of the world, do business, participate in the affairs of the community, vote, hang out and network, gossip and socialize, talk of poetry and war, hear the latest news, etc. Im pretty sure that the agora (the open public space in the community) was an all-maleen

onment as was, as I mentioned, most of the remaining literature and whatever historical record that has survived from those times and that culture. (I suspect that Greek women were agoraphobic in the contemporary feminist meaning of the word.)

I mentioned that the focus of Greek socio-political thought was the

, the community. It was the adult Greek males responsibility to participate in community events (for a fuller account of this, read some Edith Hamilton or H.D.F. Kitto).

gives us the words political, policy, and metropolis, and maybe even polite and police. Those citizens who kept to themselves and did not participate in the affairs of the community were called

. Thats where the word comes from. Idiot comes from the root

, which means by itself or from itself. An idiot was someone who kept to themselves and didnt participate in the communitys social, political, military, and economic affairs and culture. Its the same root as in the words

syncratic which describe a condition or phenomenon that is its own, that arises out of itself, and is not connected to a prior cause.

, too; an idiom is some figure of speech or phrase that came about by itself by way of grammatical accident or convenience, but without being beholden or connected to, or deriving from, other words, roots, or common speech. Idiotic, likewise, bespeaks of:

man, youre on your own on that one; no one else is on board with it or is even going anywhere near it. Thats all yours.

Finally, does it not seem to you that, in a way,

onment is? They both refer to the . . . uh . . . vessel, membrane, or context that contains and holds everything — both literally and metaphorically. Except that it is a female/feminine counterpart to en

onment. The fact is that we exist in the Matrix of the world just as much as we exist in an Environment. Well, I think there must be some very good reason why the word

ix does not exist. Anybody out there agree with me? Do I see any raised hands? Hello? Anybody there?

I hope this letter finds you all well. Im doing o.k. in spite of (and along with) my various medical adventures. I sort of think that Im in better shape than a lot of the rest of this country, actually. But lets not get into that.

Things in my life are progressing… slowly. My life is becoming interestingly complicated. For starters, have too much work to do; I simply dont have time to do it all — unless people are willing to wait longer to get guitars from me. Im getting more commissions now that Im old and famous and decrepit; I guess people are thinking to order their guitars before its too late. As I have more projects than I can cope with, Ive hired (for the first time ever) a personal assistant to help me organize my priorities and my use of time.

With my new assistants help, Ive organized my building efforts into building four guitars at a time. Each set of four takes me about five to six months to make.

Why does it take so long? Well, for one thing, its not at all the same as putting four sets of woods through the same paces and procedures and more or less cookie-cuttering four guitars to completion. Im a custom maker, so each guitar will be different in some ways: different woods; individual treatment and thicknessing of woods; different rosettes; different models; different neck and fretboard measurements; different scale lengths; individually made and sized bridges; individual voicing for different target sound (the voicing on each guitar that I make takes me two days) ; different peghead veneers; individual intonation work; different ornamental touches and inlays; sometimes different finishes; different neck measurements; some guitars are cutaways or not; some guitars have fanned frets; some guitars have twelve strings; etc. Also, we make our bindings, head blocks, bracing, necks, etc. rather than to farm them out or subcontract them. Finally, some guitars are special projects and take forever. Four such sets of specs is the most that I can juggle around at any time. Anything more than that and I lose my focus.

Besides that, Ive always worked slowly. I do an awful lot of the work by hand, with hand tools. I dont cut corners. If I did, Im sure Id dilute the quality of my guitars. Worst of all, Im artistic; that always takes time. I also teach, do repairs, and do administrative work (paperwork, endless emails and correspondence, record-keeping, finances, bookkeeping, and keeping track of the work flow) alongside of my building. I cannot separate or eliminate any of these activities. Plus, you probably know that Ive written two books; well, Im writing another two-volume set now. And I still go to guitar shows, which soak up a lot of time and energy.

And I receive visitors. This is increasing, for some interesting reasons, and it eats into my time; Ill get back to this point later.

Finally, I have varying amounts of help at work, depending on how many apprentices I have at a given time. A year ago I had three; now I have one, and hes on maternity leave as he just became a dad. I expect another apprentice to begin his studies with me this coming Summer. All in all, I have less help than usual these days.

My last health/mental-health report was of the aftermath of my hearts having stopped pumping blood, and the installation of a pacemaker to keep a somewhat wonky muscle functioning regularly. (Well, it

took any time off, so I sort of understand that it might want a break.)

I got sick the month after I got my pacemaker, with a horrible bronchial infection that lasted three months. Its been flu season (and a very bad one at that) so that may have been implicated. Also, the Santa Rosa fires occurred; they made the air foul as far as 90 miles away. That blaze was a clusterf**k of PG&E equipment breakdown, bad communication, lack of communication, and the states Emergency Warning Systems being asleep at the wheel; as a result several thousand homes burned to the ground. In any event, the air in Berkeley and Oakland was hazy and we could smell the soot. That didnt help at all. For me, I think that was the straw that broke the camels back, as they say.

I got well just in time for the NAMM (National Association of Music Merchandisers) show. Its the worlds largest trade show for the music business; its where manufacturers introduce all their new products and lines to the market. NAMM takes place in Anaheim every January. Theres nothing in Anaheim, really, except for this event and Disneyland and the NAMM event is as loud and colorful as a Disneyland for musicians and musical merchants could get. If youre in the music biz at any level (retailing, import-export, sheet music, guitars, kazoos, music magazine publishing, strings and accessories, violins, ukuleles, accordions, drums, recording equipment, wood supplies, specialty supplies, woodwinds, horns, microphones and amps and special effects electronics, tuners, stands and displays, straps, tambourines, music machines, harmonicas, pianos, basses, cellos, musical computer programs, musical gizmos of all kinds, etc. etc. etc. etc.) you will go, or send someone to, the NAMM show. People come from all over the U.S. and Europe, of course… and from as far away as Tokyo, Singapore, and Guangzhou… to see whats new and to place wholesale orders for the following year. The convention facility itself is as large as an airport, and its for music biz people, retailers, and media only; the public is not allowed.

And why am I telling you this? Well, it has to do with the sheer size of the event, combined with the state of the music biz market… and my position in it. Im visible and interviewable.

So, every January and into February, visitors visit me before and after NAMM. This year I had visitors from Germany, China, Japan, Korea, Alaska, and mainland U.S. They come to visit, refresh the relationship, talk business… and to interview me. I gotta tellya, youd be surprised at how many music magazines there are out there, and theyre all looking for things to feature and write about. There are even for the first time music magazines in China. Their music biz is opening up to non-Chinese rhythms, instruments, and merchandise at a rapid speed.

I am beginning to be courted by guitar dealers and stores in Korea and China. I remember that thirty or so years ago my work was being discovered in Japan; it was an important period of interest, excitement, growth, expansion, recognition, etc. Of course, the Japanese market has grown, developed, and changed remarkably in that time, and contemporary guitar makers are now known and their work is accepted easily in the marketplace. Stores carry inventories of known luthiers work at prices that are commonly accepted. There are talented young Japanese luthiers now, whereas there were hardly any when this all started. There are also guitar shows and exhibitions and supporting media (books, music, magazines, YouTube and the internet, recorded music, etc.) which didnt exist previously. There are also loads of guitar performers and music; and so on. An entire industry has grown around this.

In this time period the Japanese economy has shrunk, though. It had its huge spurt of postwar growth, but the bubble burst in the 1990s and its been struggling to maintain itself since.

Growth is just beginning in China and Korea, however. Their markets are like a giant that is beginning to wake up. There is excitement, confusion, ferment, activity, and opportunism. They have a class of recently-become-very-rich entrepreneurs who have benefited from their population growth and the migration of rural people to the cities where industry and tech will give them jobs… and the people who have been in the real estate biz have become very, very wealthy. The new middle class has disposable income and is looking to buy expensive and exotic American goods, starting with cars. American guitars, too, are so exotic that they sell for huge prices.

Some Chinese believe that these imported instruments are very, very, very, very special and good. Well, some of them really are. But in China there is no prior experience against which to form reliable opinions; I heard that a Santa Cruz guitar was recently sold there for $43,000. Thats ridiculous by our standards, because they normally sell for a fraction of that amount. With all due respect to Santa Cruz guitars.

In this regard, it is a bit like the Dutch tulip-mania of the 17the century. Tulips were introduced to Europe in the 1550s from Turkey and blossomed into popularity in the 1590s as botanists noticed how well that flower thrived in those climates.

Interestingly, somehow, tulips got sucked into the worlds first recorded speculative bubble. In late 1636, at the height of tulipmania, prices rose to extraordinarily high levels and a single bulb could sell for more than ten times the annual income of a skilled craftsworker! [Rich] people were going crazy for these things. The bubble burst in February of 1637, investors were ruined, and tulips became affordable to the common man. [For more information, see Wikipedia.]

The first was that the Dutch developed many of the techniques of modern finance. They created a market for tulip bulbs by making them into durable goods; one element of this was that the practice developed of buyers (in this case florists) signing contracts before a notary to buy goods (in this case tulips) at the end of the season, at a known and agreed-upon price. They thus were effectively creating and making

. Then, as tulips became popular in France and other countries, and there began to be real money to be made in this flower, speculators began to enter the market.

The second thing was the context for the first: the Dutch economy. Holland was a colonialist power (as well as a trading and exploring one), and its Dutch East India Company was at that time the most powerful economic entity in the world. It was creating a powerful national economy, as well as an economic aristocracy, by (among other things) draining the Indies of its resources. It did so in well-documented Robber Baron style. The Dutch East India Company actually became the

government of some of the countries and provinces it did business with. No, Im not making that up.

I was describing the rumbling growth of the guitar market in Korea and China. You cant have growth and economic bubbles without rich peoples gambling speculatively on the chance of getting even richer. Its beginning to happen in China now; I dont know what they want to call themselves politically, but their economy is Capitalism on steroids.

China has already had one real estate bubble burst, and no doubt more things like that will happen because no one is doing anything to keep any of them from happening. Its like what happened in our own bubble of 2008 in which several million people lost their homes because of the criminal depradations of our own Banking, Lending, and Home Mortgage institutions… and no one has ever been held accountable for it… and has been continuing since. We all know that those wily Orientals (shades of Earl Derr Biggers, Charlie Chan, and Fu Manchu!) are great at copying things. Well, theyre copying Capitalism with a vengeance.

Anyway, I am beginning to be invited into this new and growing market… which I think Im managing to make sound quite distasteful. Dealers (who are attending the NAMM show I described earlier) are eagerly and hopefully approaching me and other luthiers like me… like… uh… like moths to a sock. In my case this is because I am prominent in the world of guitar making; they want to have my guitars because to carry merchandise from a prominent Western luthier will get them an edge with publicity and sales. I think theyd promote my guitars as being the best, exotic, expensive, superb, and almost magical… and will probably help cure baldness and impotence.

As part of this thrust, Im being interviewed and filmed a lot these days. Part of this interest is coming from new Chinese guitar magazines (theres even a Chinese edition of

magazine!). But also, as Im part of the rapidly aging American lutherie community (and that includes makers of guitars, banjos, mandolins, violins, etc. etc.), I am being interviewed and filmed and recorded and being sent questionnaires by American institutions, museums, archives, etc. that want to preserve pertinent historical record.

I mean, once were dead we are no longer available to be interviewed and allowed to tell our stories. (Where were these people when I was younger and needed the attention???). Anyway, Im spending more time than ever before receiving visitors who have these projects to carry out.

The Chinese market is very competitive. There are hundreds of guitar factories in Guangzhou, in Southern China. Its a huge city that is made up entirely of factories and dormitories. They make EVERYTHING, including guitars.

Ive been approached by two of their factories to this point, as well as two distributors. One of the factories has paid me for a consultation. This is a pretty impressive outfit; they are young, smart, eager, motivated, well funded, and focused. They showed me pictures of their facility: its impressively large. The factory floor is meticulously clean, and dotted with state-of-the-art computer-operated machinery that cranks out (they told me) 125,000 guitars a month. Wow. These are mostly $100 and $200 guitars, but (did I mention?) the market is huge and growing. And they are eager to start production of a limited number of handmade guitars that were better. Thats what they wanted to consult about.

A number of my colleagues already do business and/or consult with companies in China. They have contributed guitar and inlay designs, and have helped teach the Chinese workers how to make and assemble guitar parts.

Speaking of a huge and growing market, I was listening to an interview on the radio recently, with an American developer of golf courses; he was selling golf courses to the Chi