Why I am glad I don’t have cable TV

In the early nineties, Bruce Springsteen had a hit with the song “57 Channels and Nothing On”. It was the precursor to the same feeling we felt over the “500 channel universe” we experience today.

I have no cable by choice. I can afford to put it in, but apart from educational channels and the news station, I really have little to no interest in what passes for entertainment, and, frankly, no time to sit down and watch what appears to be mostly pointless programming spread out over hundreds of television stations. Here is a small list of programming explaining why I feel this way.

  • My 600-lb life (and related TV shows)
    • A century and a half ago, we locked up anyone who was a freak in a cage and charged admission for patrons to pass by, point, and either express shock, or laugh at them. I see this programming is kind of like that.
    • Ah, the life and escapades of the morbidly obese. I am doubtful that any show that depicts the private hell of individuals (whatever the problem is), when it is presented as “reality TV”, is helpful to the individual whose problem is being flaunted for TV ratings, nor is it helpful to anyone watching the show who shares the same problem, as that is not effectively the reason this show is being broadcast. Shows like this are effectively human suffering, served up as lighthearted entertainment.
  • Faux News
    • From pie charts that add up to more than 100 per cent, to unapologetic right-wing bias, the secret to Faux News high ratings is sensationalism and incendiary reporting.
    • And when it isn’t racist, it is merely cheerleading for Republicans and very nearly their every wrong move. It is a more socially-acceptable version of InfoWars (or is it In-Faux-Wars?).
  • The Bachelor/Bachelorette
  • Real Housewives
    • Real housewives? What does that mean? Purportedly married but dressed as if they are single and hot to trot, this is now a franchise of blondes, brunettes and redheads who more or less look and dress alike, and are nowadays from all parts of the United States, ready to make you feel like you don’t belong. Face it, you don’t look like them, you can’t afford to dress like them, you also probably can’t afford the houses they live in. They are not real in any sense that matters to most viewers.
    • The franchise consists of “Real Housewives of ” <fill in the name of an American city>. Every time I think I have a complete list of cities, I always find one more not in my list. The last one I found was “Atlanta”. Atlanta was notable because most of the ladies were black. I doubt that you are going to hear about racial inequality in a way that broadens or enhances the discussion. They dressed and appeared to live more lavishly than any woman of colour I know.
    • These are the stories of domesticated dramas. Whether it is about unmarried people on the make, or married women (who cares about married men?), don’t expect too many challenges to traditional stereotypes, or to the norms of sexual roles we have all come to accept. Wake me up if there are any surprises, since I don’t expect any. You might expect surprises that are there for shock value, such as the guy finding out that she was a he, or whatever.
  • Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo
    • Time to clear the room
  • 'American Pickers' Season 2 premiere on History Channel ...History Channel
    • There is not much actual history on this channel
  • Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire/Multi-Millionaire/etc.
    • And this is because, indeed, the only thing on a woman’s mind is marrying for money.
    • Notice how I am writing as if it is understood that the millionaire is a man, and that the ones chasing him are women; not the other way around.
    • There is some scientific basis supporting the fact that, in nearly all cultures, women tend to choose a man who is financially secure for their husband, and this is even independent of culture worldwide. In addition, the reverse is true far less often.
  • Dr. Pimple Popper
    • About the only doctor Americans can afford without the Affordable Healthcare programme.
    • Again, it’s the kind of programme which makes you question what you are doing with your spare time. And the depressing reality is that the 500 channel universe is filled with such vapidity and emptiness, that there is probably nothing else on.
  • Project Blue Book
    • This is one of the reasons that anyone who likes history has found to their disappointment that the History Channel no longer discusses anything about history. Project Blue Book is about UFOs.
  • Pawn Stars. You Could Learn A Thing Or Two.Pawn Stars
  • Rust Valley Restorers
  • The Antique Road Show
    • Pawn Stars and Rust Valley Restorers are both on the History Channel, and The Antique Road Show is on PBS. The Antique Road Show gives a better history education.
    • One line you will never hear on the Antique Road Show, regarding something like a curious object bought at a garage sale for $100: “Why does this say ‘Made in Taiwan?'”. Or, regarding an heirloom passed down for several generations: “I don’t know what it is. Well, at least it has sentimental value. Have a nice day.”
  • Lego City
    • It’s pretty bad when we mistrust the imaginations of children with toys so much that toy companies feel the need to sponsor cartoons which depict a universe made of toys from one manufacturer.
    • I suppose that nowadays the idea of children playing with toys from different manufacturers is now regarded as an anti-competitive practice.
  • The “W” Channel
    • used to be “women’s network”
    • of 58 titles listed in their annual lineup of shows and movies, 42 cover the themes of marriage and romance
    • Feminist? One show if you count “Ms. Matched” — still a marriage theme, because that’s all women think about, apparently, especially in this small-screen movie. I think only the “Ms.” in the title makes it appear feminist.
  • Much
    • Was “Much Music”, but is now minus most of its music videos.

The indices of Harper’s Magazine

I have been a fan of Harper’s Magazine since the 1980s. In particular, I loved the Readings section, as well as the factoids list (with citations) known as Harper’s Index, near the front of each issue. Here are 100 factoids I’ve researched from over the years, dates not important, but they have been taken from issues since 2000. I have favoured factoids that are not dated, but that was difficult as many good ones with dates crept in. The URL for Harper’s magazine is http://harpers.org, and is available on some newsstands, but not as many these days as in days previous.

  • Cost to produce Safeguard, the only U.S. ground-based long-range missile shield ever deployed: $23,500,000,000
  • Number of days in the 1970s that the system was operational before it was abandoned as inadequate: 135
  • Pounds of fuel required to maintain this year’s 11,500 Olympic torches: 2,029
  • Ratio of the amount of energy generated by 1 gallon of ethanol to the amount of energy required to produce it : 1:0.9
  • Number of times Colin Powell said, “I don’t recall” or, “I can’t recall” during his 1987 Iran-Contra testimony: 56
  • Percentage of global economic activity accounted for by the world’s 200 largest corporations: 27.5
  • Percentage of the world’s population that these corporations employ: 0.8
  • Minimum number of mentally retarded Americans who have been executed by the justice system since 1976 : 35
  • Estimated chance that a U.S. prisoner is mentally retarded: 1 in 14
  • Days after Time named George W. Bush 2000’s man of the year that Russians named Vladimir Lenin man of the century: 4
  • Places by which Russia’s ranking in the U.N.’s Human Development Index of living standards has fallen since 1990 : 31
  • Rank of the United States and Britain among nations whose residents are most likely to be obese: 1,2
  • Rank of Hungary: 3
  • Ratio of the number of pardons George W. Bush has issued turkeys to those he has issued human beings: 2:1
  • Ratio of the average life span of a commercially bred turkey to that of a wild one: 1:7
  • Year in which Disney’s Mickey Mouse copyright will expire if the Supreme Court reverses a 1998 extension this winter (2002): 2003
  • Minutes that a Massachusetts surgeon left a patient with an open incision while he went to deposit a check: 35
  • Percentage change since 1990 (to 2003) in the number of U.S. schoolchildren labeled “disabled” : +37
  • Chances that a U.S. adult does not want to live to be 120 under any circumstances: 2 in 3
  • Chance that an American adult believes that “politics and government are too complicated to understand” : 1 in 3
  • Chance that an American who was home-schooled feels this way: 1 in 25
  • Acreage of a Christian nudist colony under development in Florida (in 2004): 240
  • Percentage of the 13,129 varieties of dirt in the United States that are endangered: 4
  • Years in prison to which two ex-Pentagon officials were sentenced last year for taking bribes of money and prostitutes: 24
  • Number of years a North Carolina man has been in prison for stealing a television: 33
  • Rank, on the Turkish bestseller list in March (2005), of a thriller depicting a U.S. invasion of Turkey: 1
  • Rank of Mein Kampf: 2
  • Average percentage by which the power of the male heart declines between the ages of 18 and 75 : 20
  • Average percentage by which the female heart does: 0
  • Amount a Chinese online gamer made last year (in 2004) by selling a virtual sword he had borrowed from a friend: $850
  • Months later that the friend retaliated by stabbing him to death with a real knife: 6
  • Number of beetles that right-wing entomologists have named after Bush Administration officials: 3
  • Number of times that Mary, Jesus’ mother, is referenced by name in the Bible and the Koran, respectively: 19,34
  • Number of “Wal-ocaust” T-shirts sold by a Georgia man before Wal-Mart ordered him to cease and desist: 1
  • Ratio, in the United States, of the number of Wal-Mart employees to the number of high school teachers: 1:1
  • Portion of states where the projected climate in 2100 will not be able to sustain their official tree or flower: 3/5
  • Number of words spoken by Clarence Thomas during Supreme Court oral arguments since February 2006 (until Aug 2007): 132
  • Number by Samuel Alito, the Justice who spoke the second-fewest words: 14,404
  • Percentage of single U.S. women in their twenties who are “very” or “extremely” willing to marry for money: 61
  • Percentage of women in their thirties who are : 74
  • Percentage change since 1985 (to 2009) in the number of U.S. newspapers with reporters covering Congress : –72
  • Percentage of six- to nine-year-old American girls (in 2009) who wear lipstick or lip gloss : 46
  • Number of poppyseed bagels that could be made with Afghanistan’s annual poppy harvest : 357,000,00
  • Percentage of British elementary-school students who think Isaac Newton discovered fire : 60
  • Number of U.S. states that have more pigs than people : 3
  • Minimum number of birds that die from crashing into New York City windows each year : 100,000
  • Number of Bentleys purchased in Russia in 2000 and in 2010, respectively : 0, 113
  • Estimated portion of registered voters in Zimbabwe who are dead : 1/4
  • Average minutes more exercise per week that a heavy drinker gets than a non-drinker : 21
  • Portion of the total U.S. corn crop that goes to make ethanol : 2/5
  • Projected worldwide surplus of low-skill workers by 2020 : 93,000,000
  • Projected worldwide deficit of high- and medium-skill workers by that time : 85,000,000
  • Rank of China among global beer producers by volume : 1
  • Rank of the United States : 2
  • Percentage change since 1988 (to 2012) in U.S. teen-pregnancy rates : –36
  • In abstinence rates among white teens : +31
  • Among black teens : +56
  • Portion of Americans who don’t walk for at least ten continuous minutes at any point in an average week : 2/5
  • Percentage of American cats that are overweight : 58
  • Percentage of men in dual-income marriages who said they struggled with work-family conflict in 1977 : 35
  • Who say they do today (2013): 60.
  • Average annual cost of detaining an inmate at the military prison at Guantánamo Bay : $900,000
  • At a supermax prison in the United States : $65,000
  • Portion of all online advertising that is never seen by a human being : 1/2
  • Percentage of U.S. children in 1960 who lived in households headed by heterosexuals in their first marriage : 73
  • Who do today (2015) : 46
  • Estimated minimum gallons of water used annually to produce Coca-Cola products : 8,000,000,000,000
  • Ratio of money spent by Britons on prostitution to that spent on hairdressing : 1:1
  • Years in prison to which a New Mexico man was sentenced last year (in 2015) for shooting children with a semen-filled squirt gun : 18
  • Estimated number of people who will be driven into extreme poverty by 2030 because of climate change : 100,000,000
  • Percentage of the world’s civilian-owned firearms that are owned by Americans : 48
  • Number of Americans aged 60 and older who have outstanding student loans : 2,800,000
  • Portion of those borrowers who have taken on debt to pay for a child or grandchild’s education : 3/4
  • Percentage of children’s toys available in Sweden that contain banned chemicals : 15
  • Of sex toys available in Sweden : 2
  • Average number of people who die in avalanches in the United States each year : 27
  • Number of FBI confidential informants (in 2017) who worked for Best Buy’s Geek Squad between 2008 and 2012 : 8
  • Rank of Nebraska among states with the least liked state flags : 1
  • Number of days in January that the flag at the state capitol flew upside down before anyone noticed : 7
  • Number of US states in which fluorescent pink is a legal color for hunting apparel : 6
  • Chance an American has taken an “active shooter” preparedness class : 1 in 10
  • Percentage of US “active shooters” from 2000 to 2016 who were killed by police : 21
  • Who were killed by armed civilians : 1
  • Number of universities in which half of all the US tenured and tenure-track history professors are trained : 8
  • Number of the twenty largest German companies that are headquartered in the former East Germany : 0
  • Rank of Germany in consumption of nonalcoholic beer : 2
  • Of Iran : 1
  • Portion of Hawaii’s drinking water that comes from underground wells : 9/10
  • Gallons of raw sewage that leak into the ground from Hawaii cesspools each day : 53,000,000
  • Percentage change since 2009 in reports of human waste on San Francisco streets (in 2018): +391
  • Chance that a given day is a public holiday in Cambodia : 1 in 13
  • Rank of Disneyland among the happiest places on earth, according to Disneyland : 1
  • Percentage of Disneyland employees who worry about being evicted from their homes : 56
  • Number of dead people Americans have elected to Congress : 6
  • Factor by which a millennial is more likely than a baby boomer to claim they have a food allergy : 2
  • Number of states that allow roadkill to be salvaged for food : 31
  • Rank of Arabic among France’s most spoken languages : 2
  • Factor by which graduate students are more likely to experience depression or anxiety than the general population : 6
  • Percentage of Americans aged 18 to 34 who say they’d like to live forever : 24
  • Of Americans over 55 : 13

Political Correctness

Today, I am going to possibly offend both sides of a sensitive discussion about political correctness, and that’s because my opinion here is neither on the “left” nor “right”. I think that means I will piss just about everyone off with this article. If discussions on political correctness make you angry, then feel free to skip this article.

To me, PC has a good and a bad side. We like to put an end to prejudice and stereotypes, and doing so, means to address people with labels that show respect. It would seem a good thing, and would have a civilizing effect on how we treat each other in discourse. In fact, is it wrong to give added opportunity to marginalized groups? Once again, giving eveyone equal opportunity can’t be wrong.

The problem is, as I have always maintained, when any “good idea” becomes a totality (as in totalitarianism), the idea is ruined, no matter how good it is. So, some dude with a high-level degree, who spent way too long researching marginalized groups, was given a job where he or she gets a little power to decide who gets to participate in programming at, say the British Broadcasting Corporation, decides to place racially-mixed people into his/her comedy programming, and cancels programming from the former members of Monty Python. That’s right, if you click on that link, former Python member Terry Gilliam is now telling the world he is a “black lesbian in transition” in order to get back into the BBC’s good graces.

You may have your own take on this discussion. Maybe Gilliam is an aging crank who should come off it and go retire some place. It is as if, the zeal of showing a lack of discrimination has created a new form of discrimination. Can anyone dispute that Monty Python has a place, then and now, in the annals of British comedy? The effort to be non-prejudicial has created another kind of prejudice. And this is the bad side of being too PC. It’s all well and good so long as you have contributed to a civil and egalitarian society. It fails when your actions and words amount to a new kind of hostility, a new kind of discrimination. Then, society is less civil, and the worse for it. In fact, the PC movement will, in the effort to be egalitarian, completely fail to meet its own object, at a time of increased racism, tribalism and prejudice. It is a sad crisis of their own making.

We need political correctness more than ever. But we need the civilizing kind. PC people will always offend racists. Racists will always be offended, and I am not concerned for them. PC’s have the power to put an end to tribalism, but are actually making it worse, by trying to define new marginalized groups at every turn. There is now such a complex maze of marginalized groups that it is hard to keep track, making it nearly impossible to have a casual conversation about people without fearing that you have offended this-or-that group by referring to them with the wrong name.

I don’t need a scorecard for certiain folks. African-American people probably shouldn’t be labelled with the N-word, since that has a very obvious history. Calling aboriginal peole “Indian” is wrong (people from India already have that label). In Canada, we call them “indigenous”,  as a catch-all to refer to Metis, Inuit and First Nations peoples. But this is after several changes. In fact, I just found out I may have offended someone by using the word “aboriginal” earlier in this paragraph, and had to look up “indigenous”. It is thus a bit discomforting to write such articles as these, since any reference to racialized and marginalized groups in a blog will require a mini-research project, which I am OK with, but I think that an open-minded discussion on these topics requires that we not be too casual in using what we know to discuss things about people we don’t know. We live in a big world, and it wouldn’t hurt us to challenge our own stereotypes.

There are groups calling themselves trans-gendered; and I have some rather touchy questions: why do we need to refer to the rest of us as “cis-gendered”? Will anyone listen to me if I say I am offended by that label? Where are the PC police now? I am sure most of us did not agree to that label, not that I can say I am terribly offended. It just sounds like the “cis” labelling is a rhetorical device to make trans people feel better. I am not denying I am “cis”, I just don’t see  the point in using that label at all. And to trans people, please feel free to strip yourselves of labels also.

“Trans people” are, I am sure not a unified group. Each consists of a collection of individuals with their own lives, concerns, interests, hangups, like most of us. I think the ultimate goal of the PC police should be, not to refer to “trans people” or “indigenous people” as a group, but to rid ourselves of all labels one day for all groups. Because to label is to stereotype, and we ultimately should be concerned with the lives of individuals rather than of people we envision as belonging to “groups”. To label people is to tribalize and separate. To not label is to re-engineer a society based on individual concerns and needs, in a way that is doomed to be non-judgemental. I don’t think there is anything wrong with that.

Young Trump staffers and their dating troubles

I think we can agree that Business Insider is not exactly a Leftist online publication. The news item has been echoed on MSNBC, GQ, The Cut, Vice – and possibly many other media (Politico apparently broke the story), and it lays bare a rather painful on-the-job hazard of a Trump Employee or supporter working in the DC area.

They can’t get laid.

Being a Trump staffer or supporter takes a toll on their private lives, apparently. Young staffers going on online dating find that the lifespan of the relationship is cut short soon after they have “the talk” with their partner. “The talk” is when the date comes out of the closet and admits to being a Trump staffer or supporter. It appears you would have better luck admitting that you’re bisexual or that you howl at the moon.

So, you don’t even need to work for him. This is also happening to people who came out of the closet during “the talk” saying they voted for Trump. One of the reasons reported for the impending break-up in this case is that they voted against birth control by voting for Trump. If this “talk” is happening over a text messaging, then it could devolve into the partner screaming in all caps calling the Trump supporter a “RACIST” and a “BIGOT”. One staffer was asked: “Did you rip babies from their mothers and send their parents to Mexico?”

DC. Whether you want to call it the District of Columbia or the District of Calamity, it is one of the most Democratic districts in America. Where coming out the building from work at your Trump-appointed government job at the end of the day means you have to endure getting yelled at, or having people flipping the bird at you.

The coping mechanism for dates has become either evasive, vague answers, or simply lying about their job or support. Looks like dating people who work for a racist, corrupt demagogue is falling out of style these days. Staffers will now be well advised to steer clear of bars where people might heckle them; or in restaruants where protestors might suddenly gather and loudly play recordings of crying babies and toddlers held in detention centres while they are quietly eating Mexican food.

In the end, they may be forced to look at each other for companionship. In fact, they do tend to gather with friends at home rather than go out into the town. But every niche needs to be filled. There are now Trump-friendly dating apps. And rumor has it that there are local bars in the DC area which cater to Trump supporters.

In most of these articles, including Business Insider, the article usually ends up with some kind of equivocal statement about the great career prospects and connections of the Trump staffers more than compensating for a decreased level of popularity.

But there is a deeper question here that is not getting looked at. The divisiveness of Trump’s style of governing is being felt to not too small a degree by his employees. Divisiveness, sustained as it is, is a sign of society devolving.

The most annoying sound on radio

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This picture was shot at Square One … no, in Vaughan, no, in Scarborough, … Edmonton?, … oh, well… they all look alike.

Why do jewellery commercials have to be so tasteless and annoying? I single out jewellery commericals, since they are more annoying even then furniture commercials, their main competitor for the gold standard of tastelessness.

But no. We have sharpers like Russell Oliver, and others who will go on TV and radio and in the most garish manner known to man, tell you how you can trade in your jewellery for cash, in a way that seems to rob your most prized possessions of all the dignity and memory they once had. But I don’t believe he is the worst.

On the radio station I listen to, which doesn’t play a lot of ads, I admit, there is that infernal commercial from Spence Diamonds. Oh, that Scream! I didn’t know that it has been dubbed the “Spence Scream”, and even hashtagged #SpenceScream since at least 2014. It has even attracted some imitators, and an attempt had been made to vote it out of existence (Spence didn’t listen and it still persists to this afternoon). Since it was Spence that initiated the vote, I believe that maybe they thought it was too memorable, and couldn’t come up with a less annoying idea.

I am annoyed because I am already married, been there, done that. Having been through it, it is a tad degrading to hear it. The marriage (mine, at least), was about love. Clearly, Spence is agaisnt this idea. They want it to be about their diamonds.

Curiously, the comment sections of the YouTube videos of Spence promos have curiously well-worded and lucid critiques of Spence’s advertising practices. These are not your normal trolls. These apparently well-educated and erudite people seemed to have a lot of time on their hands, and are gravely preoccupied with dignity and class.

I think: look, the couple sounds very much in-character on the radio, just get rid of the scream.

In Memoriam, 2016

What a year. A lot of really well-liked musicians and entertainers have shuffled off this mortal coil. Indeed, it was a depressing year for celebrity deaths, and increased global warming and Trump winning the election didn’t help things. We witness the cosmically interconnected deaths of multiple people within the same sitcom; both Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia in Star Wars) and mother Debbie Reynolds (Co-starred with Gene Kelly in Singin’ in the Rain) die within a day of each other. And the actor behind R2-D2 in the same year. This is to say nothing about ’70s and ’80s music icons. This list of more than 45 people who died this year are just the ones that most easily come to mind. It still seems like a long list. Of course, if you are an “in memoriam” junkie, there is always the much, much longer list at http://www.nndb.com

Abe Vigoda (1921-2016)

Abe Vigoda – One of two former members who passed away this year, from the now-syndicated TV comedy series Barney Miller. Abe played detective “Fish”.

Alan Thicke (1947-2016)

Alan Thicke – Sitcom actor mostly known for his role as a father in Growing Pains. He was also host of the talk show The Alan Thicke Show

Alvin Toffler (1928-2016)

Alvin Toffler – Author of the much read and much studied ’70s social commentary “Future Shock

Arnold Palmer (1929-2016)

Arnold Palmer – Recognized as one of the greatest golfers in sports history.

Billy Paul (1934-2016)

Billy Paul – Writer and singer of the soul hit Me and Mrs. Jones, and possibly the originator of the word “jonesin'” whenever someone has a romantic obsession with someone else, or with an idea.

Bob Elliott (1923-2016) with comedy partner Ray Goulding (1922-1990)

Bob Elliott – one half of the duo “Bob and Ray“. Bob and Ray was a radio comedy program which was popular during the 1940s and 1950s. And many of their skits have stood the test of time. Ray Goulding died in 1990.

Bobby Vee (1943-2016)

Bobby Vee – Early 1960s pop singer, with over 10 hits in reaching the top 20.

Brock Yates (1933-2016)

Brock Yates – Contributor to Car and Driver magazine, and invented the concept of the Cannonball Run, which inspired many 70s car-oriented movies such as Smoky and the Bandit, and the actual movie named Cannonball Run.

Charmaine Carr (1942-2016)

Charmaine Carr – Played the eldest von Trapp sister Liesel in the movie The Sound of Music.

David Bowie (1947-2016)

David Bowie – Singer/songwriter/gender bender/fashion plate. More here and here.

Edgar Mitchell (1930-2016)

Edgar Mitchell – the 6th man to walk on the moon during Apollo 14.

Fidel Castro (1926-2016)

Fidel Castro –  President of Cuba for around 55 years. He turned American holdings into public holdings while thumbing his nose at the American government. Along the way, he killed off a lot of his opponents, restricted free speech, but also had free education, and free healthcare, which was the envy of Central America, causing average life expectancy to extend beyond those of Americans. So, while reviews are mixed, he is, on balance, revered as one the great leaders of the 20th century.

Florence Henderson (1934-2016)

Florence Henderson – Played mother Carol in The Brady Bunch.

Frank Sinatra Jr., (1944-2016)

Frank Sinatra, Jr. – Son of Frank Sinatra.

Garry Shandling (1949-2016)

Garry Shandling – Played host on the quasi-reality-sitcom The Gary Shandling Show.

Gene Wilder – I prefer to remember him for his roles in the Mel Brooks movies Young Frankenstein and Blazing Saddles. More here.

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Gene Wilder (1933-2016)
George Kennedy (1925-2016)

George Kennedy – Most famous for his starring roles in Naked Gun, and all four sequels of the Airport films, based on an Arthur Haley novel.

George Michael (1963-2016)

George Michael – Lead singer of Wham! and later soloist. Died of heart failure.

George Martin (1926-2016)

 Sir George Martin – Producer for The Beatles.

Glenn Frey (1948-2016)

Glenn Frey – Solo musician, and former lead singer of The Eagles.

Greg Lake (1947-2016)

Greg Lake – The “L” in ELP (Emerson, Lake, and Palmer). Before that, he was the drummer for King Crimson.  Died on 7 December.

Gordie Howe (1928-2016)

Gordie Howe, OC — Played in the NHL for just over a quarter century, and another six years in the WHA. Known as “Mr. Hockey”.

Harper Lee (1926-2016)

Harper Lee – Author of To Kill a Mockingbird.

Henry Heimlich (1920-2016)

Henry Heimlich – American physician and inventor of the Heimlich Maneuver.

Henry McCullough (1943-2016)

Henry McCullough – Played lead guitar for Joe Cocker and for Wings. He was also a solo performer at the original Woodstock festival in 1969.

Bob Newhart (left) and Jack Riley (right) (1935-2016)

Jack Riley – Played the neurotic patient Elliott Carlin in The Bob Newhart Show. He also has a movie career that dates back to playing a doctor in the original version of the movie Catch-22.

Joe Santos (1931-2016)

Joe Santos – Played Lt. Becker on The Rockford Files; also played in Magnum P. I., and The Sopranos.

John Glenn (1921-2016)

John Glenn – First man to circle the globe in a space capsule, aviator, astronaut, and Ohio state senator.

Kenny Baker (1934-2016) next to R2-D2.

Kenny Baker – The man inside R2-D2.

Leon Russell (1942-2016)

Leon Russell (Claude Russell Bridges) – Soloist and session musician to some of the best names in ’60s and ’70s music: The Rolling Stones, The Beach Boys, John Lennon, Eric Clapton, The Carpenters, Jan and Dean, Dave Mason, B. B. King, and Rita Coolidge, to begin to scratch the surface.

Leonard Cohen (1934-2016)

Leonard Cohen – Folk/Pop singer, poet, painter.

Marvin Minsky (1927-2016)

Marvin Minsky – Father of artificial intelligence.

Maurice White (1941-2016)

Maurice White – Founding member of the 70s dance band Earth, Wind and Fire.

Merle Haggard (1937-2016)

Merle Haggard – Country and Western singer.

Morley Safer (1931-2016)

Morley Safer – News anchor for CBS’s 60 Minutes. He was in television journalism for 61 years.

Muhammad Ali – Three-time world heavyweight champion in boxing. More here.

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Muhammad Ali (1942-2016)

Pat Harrington – Played Duane Schneider on the sitcom One Day at a Time.

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Pat Harrington (1929-2016)
Patty Duke (1946-2016)

Patty Duke – Played both Helen Keller and Ann Sullivan in both best-known film adaptations of the movie The Miracle Worker. She won an Oscar for the first one in 1963. She has been either on film or TV fairly steadily between 1958 and 2012.

Paul Kantner (1941-2016)

Paul Kantner – One of the founding members of Jefferson Airplane.

Sir Peter Shaffer (1926-2016)

Peter Shaffer – British Playwright best known for Amadeus and Equus.

Prince (Prince Rogers Nelson) – Prolific pop musician, talent scout, and record producer. More here.

prince_nodrugs
Prince (1958-2016)
Richard Adams (1920-2016)

Richard Adams — Author of the children’s novel Watership Down.

Robert Vaughn (1932-2016)

Robert Vaughn – Starred in Man from U. N. C. L. E. He also had a number of movie roles throughout the 1970s.

Ron Glass (1945-2016)

Ron Glass – Played Detective Harris on the sitcom Barney Miller.

Scotty Moore (1931-2016)

Scotty Moore – Elvis Presley’s first guitarist.

Steve Young (1942-2016)

Steve Young – Wrote Seven Bridges Road, which became a hit for The Eagles.

Susannah Mushatt Jones (1899-2016)

Susannah Mushatt Jones – World’s oldest living person at time of death, born in Alabama in 1899 to sharecroppers, and was the granddaughter of slaves. Since high school, she spent most of her life in Brooklyn, New York City, and had retired since 1965. She attributes her longevity to never having smoked or consumed alcohol.

Umberto Eco (1932-2016)

Umberto Eco – Professor of semiotics, University of Boston

Denise Matthews (1959-2016) (post-Vanity)

Vanity (Denise Katrina Matthews) – Singer, Songwriter. Boy-pal Prince was about to introduce her and her lingerie-clad all-girl band to the world as “Vaginia and the Hookers”. Late into the night, she persuaded Prince that her stage name was to be called “Vanity”, and her lingerie-clad all-girl band was to be called “Vanity 6”. Prince said: “Wha’? Why ‘6’? There’s only three of you”. The group lasted for one album and one tour. Two years later, she would land several movie and TV roles. Among her other boyfriends during her life of glamour were Adam Ant and Nikki Sixx. By 1996 she had renounced her drug use (oh yeah, she was also battling drug addiction) and all ties to the entertainment industry by finding God and creating her own ministry.

William Christopher (1932-2016)

William Christopher  — Played Father Mulcahy in the hit TV series M*A*S*H.

W. P. Kinsella (1935-2016)

William Patrick (W. P.) Kinsella — Canadian novelist known for Shoeless Joe, which was adapted to film.

Zsa Zsa Gabor (1917-2016)

Zsa Zsa Gabor — Hungarian-American Beauty queen, socialite and actress.

 

Famous teetotalers 011: Muhammad Ali

StangoAli
Pop art impression of Ali by artist John Stango.

Muhammad Ali, formerly Cassius Clay, was a lot of things to people living in the 1960s and 1970s. Apart from being thrice awarded the world championship in boxing as a heavyweight (1964, 1974, and 1978), he would be a draft dodger and peace activist, a devotee of Islam, and pop culture icon. Like most elite athletes, he never drank or smoked. It is likely that being a devotee of Islam also helped.

 

OOC Receipients 07: Entertainers

ConnieKaldor
Connie Kaldor

While Connie Kaldor won Juno awards on three occasions (1989, 2004, and 2005) for her work on Children’s albums, she is better known for her amazing talent in folk music and live performances. She has made 14 albums to date, not including her children’s albums. She became a member of the Order of Canada in 2006.

Mary Walsh

Mary Walsh is the uproariously funny comedienne from St. John’s who was trained in theatre in Toronto. She was itching to do the real how to buy tramadol thing, though. She joined CODCO, which became a TV series alongside Andy and Cathy Jones, Tommy Sexton, and Greg Malone. This spurred a series on CBC Television from 1987 to 1992. She was most recently known for her stunt where she did a This-Hour-Has-Seven-Days-style ambush of former mayor Rob Ford in late 2011. Walsh became a member of The Order of Canada in 2001.

Famous Teetotalers 04: Politicians staying on the wagon

Scarfing down some OJ: about as alcoholic as it gets with Trump these days ...
About as alcoholic as it gets with Trump these days …

There was never any indication that Donald Trump over-indulged in alcohol, but any indulging he ever did came to a halt in 1981 when his brother died of complications from alcholism. From then on, the billionaire politician eventually put an end to all bad habits: no alcohol, cigarettes, or recreational drugs. In all the brouhaha he creates in politics these days, it is easy to forget that when he says all those outrageous things, he does it sober, and in his best sense of mental acuity. Scary.

whothef-k
Most people don’t, but they like the T-shirt anyway.

Ernesto (“Che”) Guevara (1928-1967) is a tad to the political left of Trump, I would suppose, but they have a lot in common. Both Che and Trump are loved or reviled, depending on who you talk to. Both were political outsiders that want to upset the political establishment apple cart for the sake of their own passionately-held beliefs. Che’s likeness, similar to the image you see to the right, was once used to sell strong drink (30% alcohol) that many people find hard to classify. Not a great homage to someone who not only was a non-drinker, but even tried to get alcohol banned in Cuba. The estate of the photographer of the image, one Korda Gutierrez, sued Smirnoff, the maker of the beverage, in 2000, for breach of copyright in using the photo on their bottles.

Recognizable OOC Recipients 002: Anita Best

Anita Best

Newfoundland is known for, among other things, its own brand of music. Anita Best was music in a space of her own. People not hep to Newfoundland culture would very likely take to her music, since most of it is free of button accordions, harmonicas, bagpipes and the like (sometimes she’s a capella). In my opinion, some of her best music was done alongside Pamela Morgan, and I am not sure if I am the only one who wore out their cassette of The Color of Amber.  She was born on an island in Placentia Bay, and currently is active in preserving Newfoundland folk culture though her office at Norris Point, near Corner Brook.

She received her appointment to the Order of Canada in 2011.

 

Recognizable OOC Recipients 01: Richard Gwyn

gwynThis is the first article in a series on Order of Canada (OOC) recipients that carry some cachet in Canadian popular culture.

I first heard of Richard Gwyn a few decades ago when I was in high school, and I bought a book by him called The Northern Magus, a bio of Pierre Elliot Trudeau. I loved the book, and I loved his way of writing.

Now at age 81, he has lived to having to refer to a second “Prime Minister Trudeau”. He is also a famous biographer of Joey Smallwood and Sir John A. MacDonald. He continues to contribute to The Toronto Star.

He was declared Officer of the Order of Canada in 2002. Officers of the Order of Canada would have demonstrated a high level of talent and/or service to Canadians. Gwyn had seen such service, being an executive assistant to the Minister of Communications in the early 1970s.

In Memoriam 2015

January

1: Donna Douglas: Played daughter Elly May Clampett in The Beverly Hillbillies. (Age 82).
1: Mario Cuomo: Governor of New York (1983 to 1994) (Age 82).
2: James Cecil Dickens: Known as Little Jimmy Dickens, best known for his song May the Bird of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose. A longtime member of the Grand Ole Opry, also made appearances on Johnny Carson (Age 94).
2: Tihomir Novakov: Atmospheric scientist known for his research into a class of airborne particulates known as “black carbon”, contributing greatly to the theory of global warming (Age 85).
3: Bernice Madigan: At the time the oldest resident of Massachusetts, and the world’s 5th oldest living person before her death, died at age 115 in Cheshire, Massachusetts.
4: Bernard Williams: Producer of such movies as A Clockwork Orange and Flash Gordon. (Age 72).
5: Al Bendich: Civil rights attorney who defended poet Allen Ginsburg and comedian Lenny Bruce against obscenity charges. (Age 85).
6: Francesca Hilton: Daughter of Zsa Zsa Gabor and Conrad Hilton, lived in poverty toward the end of her life. Died of a stroke (Age 67).
7: The Editors and writers from Charlie Hebdo magazine: Jean Cabut (“Cabu”) (76), Elsa Cayat (54), Stephanne Charbonnier (“Charb”) (47), Philippe Honore (73), Bernard Maris (68), Mustpha Ourrad (60), Bernard Velhac (“Tignous”) (57), Georges Wolinski (80).
8: William Boeing, Jr.: son of the founder of Boeing Airlines (Age 92).
9: Samuel Goldwyn: Producer of many films since the mid-20th century, up to and including The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, produced two years ago (Age 88).
10: Robert Berner: Yale professor known for his modelling of The Carbon Cycle (Age 79).
10: Francis Simard: FLQ member, assassinated Quebec cabinet minister Pierre LaPorte in 1971, and sentenced to life imprisonmnent for murder (Age 67).
10: Taylor Negron: Stand-up comedian who played a key scene in Fast Times at Ridgemont High (Age 57).
10: Robert Stone: Author nominated twice for the Pulizer Prize, and once for the Faulkner Award. (Age 77).
11: Darrell Winfield: Was the Marlborough Man (Age 85).
12: Stephen Gold: Hacker and author. Known for hacking into the private information for Prince Philip. Acquitted on charges, since he did not get any material gain, nor was any sought (Age 58).
13: Mike Marqusee: Left-leaning humanitarian writer (Age 61).
13: Frank Mazzola: Editor of many blockbuster films, such as Rebel Without a Cause, Casablanca, and The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Age 79).
13: H. Wesley Kenney: Director for the sitcom All in the Family; Produced and directed many soap operas such as General Hospital, and The Young and the Restless (Age 89).
17: Don Harron: Canadian comedian, actor and author, best known for his “Charlie Farquarson” persona, as well as his role in the TV variety show Hee Haw as the news anchor for station KORN (Age 90).
18: Tony Verna: Inventor of the “instant replay” (Age 81).
20: Edgar Froese: Founder of the electronic music group Tangerine Dream (Age 70).
24: Toller Cranston: Canadian figure skater, Bronze medalist (1976 Olympics) (Age 65).
24: Joe Franklin: Longest running TV talk show host (10 years longer than Johnny Carson) (Age 88).
29: Bernice Gordon: Crossword puzzle writer for The New York Times. (Age 101).
29: Will McBride: Photographer and author of the controversial 1975 book Show Me! (Age 84).
29: Colleen McCulloch: Author best known for The Thorn Birds. (Age 77).
30: Rose Frisch: Discoverer of leptin. (Age 96).

February

5: Val Logsdon Fitch: Winner of the 1980 Nobel Prize in Physics. (Age 91).
8: Thom Wilson: Producer for Burton Cummings, Seals and Crofts, as well as punk acts such as The Dead Kennedys, Social Distortion, and The Adolescents. (Age 55). Note: Wilson’s age was hard to track down. IMDB.com provided his birth date, and calculator.net was used in obtaining his age (exact age at death is thus likely to be 55 years, 9 months and 24 days).
11: Bob Simon: Senior foreign correspondent for 60 Minutes and earlier 60 Minutes II. (Age 73).
12: Sam Houston Andrew II: Founding member and lead guitarist of the rock group Big Brother and the Holding Company. (Age 73).
12: Gary Owens: Radio and TV announcer. Best known for playing the radio announcer on Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-in. (Age 80).
14: Helen Glass: Saskatchewan nurse. Taught in Regina and Prince Albert. Contributed to the creation of the Canadian Health Act in 1984. (Age 97).
16: Leslie Gore: Singer of such hits as You Don’t Own Me, and It’s My Party. (Age 68).
20: Patricia Norris: Costume designer for movies such as The Elephant Man, and Scarface. (Age 83).
24: Maurice Hurley: Producer of Miami ViceBaywatch and Star Trek: The Next Generation. (Age 75).
25: Harve Bennett: Writer/Producer for Star Trek, The Mod Squad, and The Six Million Dollar Man. (Age 84).
27: Leonard Nimoy: Best known for his role of Spock in Star Trek. He also was one of the lead characters in the series Mission: Impossible. (Age 83).

March

1: Daniel von Bargen: Appeared in sitcoms such as Seinfeld and Malcolm in the Middle. (Age 64).
3: Lynn Borden: Acted in movies in the 70s such as Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, and Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry. (Age 77).
5: Albert Maysles: Documentarian best known for his documentaries Gimme Shelter and Grey Gardens (Age 88).
8: Lew Soloff: Played trumpet for the 70s rock group Blood, Sweat and Tears. (Age 71).
9: Lou Silverstone: Comedy writer. Listed as one of the “Usual Gang of Idiots” in Mad Magazine between 1962 and 1990. (Age 90).
11: Jimmy Greenspoon: Played in the rock group Three Dog Night. (Age 67).
12: Sir Terry Pratchett: Author of comic fantasy novels. (Age 66).
15: Mike Porcaro: Played bass for the rock group Toto. (Age 59).
16: William Ewald Jr.: Speechwriter for Dwight Eisenhower and historian. (Age 89).
19: Michael Brown: Singer (The Left Banke) and songwriter (Walk Away Renee). (Age 65).
21: Alberta Watson: Canadian actress (The Sweet Hereafter). (Age 60).
26: Tomas Transtromer: Winner of the 2011 Nobel Prize in Literature. (Age 83).
28: Richard Bare: Producer of the sitcom Green Acres. (Age 101).
28: Gene Saks: Directed the original Broadway play The Odd Couple. (Age 93).
28: Tuti Yusupova: World’s oldest person (unverified at this writing). Claimed to have been born on 1 July 1880 in Imperial Russia. (Age 134).

April

1: Misao Okawa: World’s oldest confirmed person, Japan. (Age 117).
13:
Gunter Grass: Nobel Prize-Winning author of The Tin Drum and other books. (Age 87).

May

2: Ruth Rendell: Known for the Inspector Wexford series. (Age 85).
4: Michael Blake: Author of Dances With Wolves. (Age 69).

June

9: Vincent Bugliosi: Prosecuting attorney in the Charles Manson case, and author of Helter Skelter. (Age 80).

July

21: E. L. Doctorow: Author of Ragtime. (Age 84).
28: Ann Rule: True crime author. (Age 83).

August

30: Oliver Sacks: Nerologist and author (Age 82).
30: Wayne Dyer: American motivational speaker and self-help writer. (Age 75).

September

10: Basil Johnston: Author and Historian for the Chippewas of Nawash First Nation on the Bruce Penninsula in Ontario. (Age 86).
19: Jackie Collins: American best-selling author (Age 77).

October

3: Barbara Meek: Played Ellen Canby in the early 80’s sitcom Archie Bunker’s Place. (Age 81).
5: Larry Brezner: Producer of such comedy films as Good Morning Vietnam, and Throw Momma From The Train. (Age 73).
5: Andrew Rubin: Acted in comedic movies such as Police Academy, and comedic sitcoms such as Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman. (Age 69).
5: Henning Mankell: Author who contributed to the “Nordic Noir” genre of crime novels. (Age 67).
6: Billy Joe Royal: Pop singer (Cherry Hill Park, among others). (Age 73).
6: Otto Tucker: Newfoundland heritage activist and educator. (Age 92).
10: Richard Heck: American chemist who shared the 2010 Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Japanese chemists Ei-ichi Negishi and Akira Suzuki. (Age 84).
10: Wesley Funk: Saskatchewan novelist and teacher. (Age 46).
14: Eric Wright: Canadian Crime Novelist. (Age 86).
20: Cory Wells: Original lead singer of the 70s band Three Dog Night. (Age 74).
25: Lee Shaw: Known as “The First Lady of Jazz”. (Age 89).
29: Kenneth Gilbert: Actor who performed in the series Doctor Who. (Age 84).
30: Al Molinaro: Played a police officer in The Odd Couple. Appeared in other 70s sitcoms such as Happy Days, and Joanie Loves Chachi. (Age 96).
31: David Shugar: From his arrest in Canada in 1946 for trading state secrets with the Russians to his becoming professor of biophysics and being inducted to the Royal Society of Canada in 1999. For the record, he was found innocent of all charges in 1946. (Age 100).

November

5: George Barris: Designer of the original Batmobile in 1966. (Age 89).
7: Eddie Hoh: Drummer for The Mamas and the Papas, and a studio drummer for Stephen Stills, The Monkees, Donovan, and others. Led a secluded life after 1970. Died in Westmont, Illinois, a half hour’s drive west of Chicago. (Age 71).
9: Andy White: Susbstitute drummer for Ringo Starr for The Beatles’ first single Love Me Do. Affectionately called the Fifth Beatle. Had no further performances with them since. (Age 85).
10: Allen Toussaint: Arranger, producer, songwriter (Working in a Coalmine, Southern Nights). (Age 77).
15: P. F. Sloan: Songwriter for Barry MacGuire, Jan and Dean, Herman’s Hermits, The Mamas and the Papas. (Age 70).
19: Ron Hynes: Newfoundland singer/songwriter. Wrote Sonny’s Dream, covered by many artists worldwide (Age 64).
21: Gil Cardinal: Canadian filmmaker and documentarian. (Age 65).
22: Albert Pick: German banknote collector. Wrote the first reference book for world bank notes, and it remains the standard. (Age 90).
23: Douglass North: Winner of the 1993 Nobel Prize in Economics, alongside Robert Fogel (1927-2013). (Age 95).
25: Elmo Williams:  Editor and producer in American cinema. Won an Oscar in 1953 for his editing work in the movie High Noon.

December

2: Sandy Berger: Clinton advisor in the early 90s (Age 70).
4: Scott Weiland: Front man for Stone Temple Pilots (Age 48).
5: Chuck Williams: Founder of Willliams-Sonoma, an upscale kitchen shop known for its innovation (Age 100).
6: Marque Lynche: Former Mousketeer; played in The Lion King in Broadway, and American Idol finalist (Age 34).
6: Holly Woodlawn: Transgender actress and Warhol contemporary. Written about in Lou Reed’s hit song Take a Walk On the Wild Side. (Age 69).
7: Martin E. Brooks: Played in many television drama serials in the ’70s and ’80s: McMillan and Wife, General Hospital, Knots Landing, and Dallas. (Age 90).
15: Harry Zvi Tabor: Israeli physicist, brought solar power to the Middle East. (Age 98).
16: Snuff Garrett: Record producer. Produced hits for Sonny and Cher, Vicki Lawrence, Bobby Vee, Del Shannon, Buddy Knox, and many others. (Age 76).
22: Billy Glaze: Accused and convicted serial murderer; died in prison before DNA evidence would have exonerated him. (Age 72).
22: Carson van Osten: Creator of many Disney Comics. (Age 70).
23: Michael Earl: Puppeteer who brought Snuffalupagus to life on Sesame Street. (Age 56).
24: William Guest: Cousin of Gladys Knight, R&B/Soul singer who performed with Gladys Knight and the Pips. The group were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996. (Age 74).
25: Robert Spitzer: Psychiatrist known for being a major force in the creation of the DSM. Has been called one of the most influential psychiatrists of the 20th century. (Age 83).
25: George Clayton Johnston: Writer of modern sci-fi/futuristic classics such as Logan’s Run, Oceans 11, and The Twilight Zone. (Age 86).
27: Haskell Wexler: Influential cinematographer, known for the production of movies like: Who’s Afraid of Virginai Woolf?, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and Bound for Glory. (Age 93).
28: Ian Frazier Kilmister: Known as “Lemmy”, founded and led the heavy metal group Motorhead. (Age 70).

In memoriam 2009 (what the heck)

I had something else in mind when I compiled this list of people who passed away back in 2009. For the heck of it, I am posting some “interesting” people who died that year (not in any particular order):

Les Paul, inventor of the electric guitar.
Les Paul, inventor of the electric guitar.

Les Paul – Guitarist and maker of guitars. Inventor of the electric guitar. Rock wouldn’t have existed without him.

Ed McMahon – Former night show sidekick and infomercial huckster
Farrah Fawcett – It was rather remarkable that lots of celebrities passed on in 2009. When I went through them at the IMDB website, I stopped counting at 600. In my “in memoriam” blogs, it’s not my style to emphasize celebrity deaths, but it can’t be helped here.
Micheal Jackson – Needs no introduction.
Sen. Ted Kennedy – While I don’t follow the Kennedys all that much, would he be the last surviving sibling of the “JFK” generation?
Gidget

The Taco Bell Dog (Gidget) – Rest in peace, little guy.

David Carradine – The Kung Fu star
Dom DeLuise – The comedian only known to play a narrow range of characters, but appeared in plenty of movies
Walter Cronkite – News anchor for CBS, first to announce the death of JFK
Beatrice Arthur – Star of Maude and later, Golden Girls
Susan Atkins
Susan Atkins

Susan Atkins (“Sexy Sadie”) – Neither a celebrity nor politician, nor particularly “sexy”, was one of the murderers of the Charles Manson cult.

Billy Mays (ad huckster, “Tool Guys”) – Even infomercial hucksters are in greater than usual numbers here.
Ricardo Montalban – First, Nescafe, then Fantasy Island, then Star Trek, and now “the Undiscovered Country, from whose bourn no traveller returns” – Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act III, Scene I.
Soupy Sales – Comedian most known during the 60s and 70s.
Sydney Chaplin – Famous for being the son of Charlie.
Roy Disney – Famous for being the brother of Walt.
John Travolta – First a sweathog, then a singer, then Saturday Night Fever, then Scientology.
Lux Interior

Lux Interior (The Cramps) – Punk rocker famous for incorporating the tackiest elements of ’50s chic into his music, art, and personal style. His songs appear on several recent movie soundtracks, including The Social Network, and The Matador.

Regretsy is into their second year.

I am a lover of satire, and I came across a great site called “Regretsy“, a parody site of “etsy“, which is a site for people who want to sell their arts and crafts. There are a lot of bad crafts out there sold by people who are often full of themselves (you have to visit the site to get the full effect), which regretsy features and pokes fun of, as well as a lot of goods on Etsy that look manufactured, and possibly done in a sweatshop, and are often sold more cheaply at other websites.

Regretsy, a site led by a media personality well-known in the southwest of United States (April Winchell), has something of a cult following, and has a sharp wit and a gift for writing to be sure. There are now over the past two years a whole host of in-jokes as well as the motto “Club Fuckery For Life” (often abbreviated as “CF4L”) which has now become part of a new subdomain of the Regretsy website.  The CF4L site is password protected, but you must look through the Regretsy site to find the password, which changes from week to week. People who couldn’t figure out the password are given a random insult (such as “fat jealous loser”, poking fun at some of the invective hurled at Regretsy by some Etsy members), along with the incorrect password you entered. My first two guesses were wrong, and I noticed when I logged in I was variously called a Douche Canoe and a Craftard by their random insult bot. Charmed!

Here is April Winchell acting like a craftard on Martha Stewart:

[Media Monday] The Difficult Listening Moment in Two Words

MacArthur Park.

I didn’t need to say anything else, didn’t I? MacArthur Park is that unlistenable 1968 hit whose only strength lay in the instrumental piece. How often does Jimmy Webb need to remind us that someone left his bloody cake out in the rain, then strech the metaphor until it loses all focus and meaning? But, ah! it’s that 90-second instrumental near the end that rescues it. That 90-second piece often impinges on younger ears as cliche beyond belief. But that is only because this original recording has appeared so often in advertisements, theme songs, and the like in the decades since, that it in fact has become cliche. Stuff like that only happens to really good music (unfortunately). And that 90-second part is so different from the rest of the 7-minute tune that it doesn’t seem to belong. And it’s the orchestration, not the words or the vocalist, that won the Grammy in 1969. For your edification as well as for a bit of nostalgia, here is the 90-second passage in question:

[mp3t track=”Richard_Harris_-_Part_of_MacArthur_Park.mp3″]

But of course, this is the difficult listening moment, and I’m afraid that wasn’t difficult enough to listen to.  And no, I won’t subject you to Richard Harris’s singing, or even Donna Summer. What I will do is to play for you the Cockney version by The Burtons. The whole thing reeks of Morgan Fisher.

Facts About Canada

I have some things to say in response to Mark Rayner’s article, as personal reflections. BTW, Rayner did the usual good write-up job with these kinds of articles. But you know, I can’t read these kinds of “What is a Canadian” article without making a lot of mental responses. Here are my responses to a selection of his articles.

Gordon LightfootInternational Stars. The Canadian vocalists who obtained international fame which Rayner focuses on are the later stars of the past 20 or so years. One exception is his mention of Joni Mitchell. Contrasting the music of Joni Mitchell or The Band with anything in the past 20 years is interesting. For one thing, raw talent is passed up for what becomes instead a compromise between good looks and talent. Today’s talent are more the product of focus groups than anything. In the past 2 or 3 decades, I doubt that anything will have the same staying power as a song like “Big Yellow Taxi” or “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”. The only really compelling conclusion is that our music has become more American. I only thank God he didn’t mention Justin Bieber.
Toronto Maple LeafsHockey. My connection with hockey is that my dad drove the Zamboni in Maple Leaf Gardens back in the late 60s/early 70s when rooting for the Leafs actually meant something. Strangely, I was never that much into hockey, and only vaguely know the rules. I also find it obscene that, as of late, the season now goes into mid-June. I don’t know what impression that gives the rest of the world, but trust us you guys, we do have other things to do with our spare time aside from watching or playing hockey. Frankly, since the Leafs are probably now one of the worst teams in the NHL, and have been for decades, I wouldn’t mind if the team got sold to, say, a franchise in Florida or something. Hey, it isn’t that far to go if you want to see them that bad … want to see them lose that bad.
Tim Horton’s. Nope. Not a fan. Coffee’s too weak; and I can taste the lard in the doughnuts. Oatmeal raisin cookies are OK, but sometimes they seem to be half-cooked. Starbuck’s has me spoiled for coffee. I am not fond of most of their pastries either, but the quality is more even from store to store. I’m fussy about my pastries. And thank God, since it keeps me from over-eating even more than I already do. There are few to no 24-hour Starbucks franchises, and thank God for that too, since that keeps my caffeine addiction levels at bay. If they put addictive rocket-fuel derivatives in Timmy’s coffee as Rayner quipped, it didn’t work on me.
The CBC. The CBC may be needed to keep the zombies at bay, but I think that it serves as a foil to media to the south of us. I think this is important, since I wish to be informed of the talent arising in our country (in all fields, not just entertainment), and of news. This kind of thing does not fare so well when it is done commercially, but it is necessary to keep us from being alienated from happenings inside our own borders. What Rayner doesn’t mention is that they also have CBC Radio 3. What Radio 3 is, is an internet feed of streaming music from Canadian talent. I think this is an incredible service, and if you are looking for music that is really different from what your local radio station is playing, then I highly recommend tuning into it. And what’s best, there are no ads, and very little to no chatting from announcers. It’s like listening to college radio non-stop (to me, that’s a good thing).
William Shatner. I don’t think readers of my blog will believe me if I come out in agreement with whatever fawning remarks Rayner has about Shatner. Not after all those crappy album covers I’ve had of him prior to 2010. OK, I admit his “I AM CANADIAN” rant parody was pretty good.

Click on any image to get to the originating blog or website where the image originated.

Happy Canada Day, everyone!

Why it doesn’t Suck: Music from the seventies VI

Today, I’m featuring The Carpenters, and will do it without any sense of irony — not even a wisecrack, promise! The Carpenters was the bane of 70s FM album-oriented radio (meaning that AM radio was their domain). The Carpenters was as commercial as it got. This was far away from Pink Floyd, Blue Cheer, King Crimson, Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, all of whom tried to expand the boundaries of music, often creating music that was, uh, rather challenging to listen to; but when the “experiment” worked, it produced many of the masterpeices of rock music for which the seventies have become identified.

The Carpenters would have none of that. No experimentalism here. They were going for what sold. The sure thing. We all know that. But The Carpenters did the “Sure thing” very well. The sure thing was their thing, and it suited their style, their image, and their talents. What I respect is the fact that they came upon their commercialism honestly, without the slightest hint of awkwardness. They sung the songs they were meant to sing, inviting you into their perfect world, for a short time.

Burt Bacharach and Hal David wrote “Close To You” in 1963, which, as was the case for all Bacharach/David songs, was first recorded by Dionne Warwick but not seeing the light of day until buy tramadol from india arrangements were added to the demo in 1964. Richard Chamberlain released it first in 1963, as the title “They Long To Be Close To You” (no parenthesis), the flip side to his hit “Blue Guitar”. This was later picked up by Dusty Springfield in 1964. It was sitting around in the vaults until 1967 when it finally appeared in her album “Where Am I Going?”. It was also covered by Herb Alpert during that time also. Even Burt Bacharach himself tried to make it a hit in 1968, but it flopped. The song remained in obscurity until Karen and Richard Carpenter recorded it in 1970. The song, whose title was slightly modified to “(They Long To Be) Close To You”, became a huge hit, staying at #1 for four weeks on Billboard’s Hot 100. No one I’m aware of was ever able to make it a hit before or since. Not even Frank Sinatra, who sung it a year later. It became the song that was immediately identified with The Carpenters, winning them a Grammy Award in 1971. This song seems to make cameo appearances on The Simpsons from time to time also.

This is a great video in that we get to see Karen both sing and play drums.

Documentary on Deep Throat: Inside Deep Throat

If you ever watched the 2005 doc “Inside Deep Throat”, you may get a feel for what it was like to live in the ’70s. There are a lot of interviews with people involved in the film, distributed by Universal Studios, and shown on Home Box Office. They recall the controversy the film caused, as well as the “path it paved” for future porn. Everyone saluted Linda Lovelace (Linda Boreman, 1949-2002) posthumously, saying that without her there wouldn’t be an adult film industry. Too much is made of the film, which is at heart a typical chintzy porn film with bad writing and bad acting, until the actors shut up and have sex, which is what the audience is really there to see, anyway. There were cute lines and dialog at times, but that is the way with most porn, especially when the writer has more than a few neurons firing from above his brain stem to come up with them.

Much was made of the fact that it was the highest-grossing porn movie of all time, turning Boreman buy viagra online without pres into a popular, but not very well-paid, culture icon. I didn’t give it a detailed look, I must admit, and will probably not watch it again in any detail (it is a long video), but I didn’t see or hear much mention of her later becoming a feminist and an anti-pornography spokesperson. Nor was anything said about her life in prostitution, her drug addiction, or of her abusive and exploitive marriage to Chuck Traynor who also acted as Linda’s pimp, although they had to mention the Mafia’s involvement in the making of the film. No word about her testimony in 1986 to the Meese Commission about her famously-stated description of the porn industry being a form of legalized rape, or of her own career as a feminist on the lecture circuit. No mention, either of the illegal silicone implants she received, a surgery which hadn’t been safely practised until much later.  This resulted in complications leading to radical mastectomy in 1986.

Boreman died in a car crash in 2002, survived by her parents and her two grown children.

Food for thought during the Canadian Federal Election Campaign

I have been a big fan of Jello Biafra’s spoken word stuff. This time, he does his spoken word thing around some mannequins, and he’s discussing the Alberta Tar Sands, and how dirty the fuel is to refine, and how dependent the United States is on our oil.

To those who haven’t heard him before, he has strong views. But in the typical punk rock/anarchist tradition, you are encouraged not to take his word for it — why not search out the truth for yourself? Get it from the source, or as close to the source as you can. Jello is a Green Party member in the U. S., and is likely to be quite well-read on environmental issues.

One problem, although it is a minor point: While I distrust Stephen Harper as much as anyone, his religion is evangelical, but not fundamentalist as Jello suggested in his piece below. He may try to convert you 🙂 but he probably doesn’t believe that the Earth is 5000 years old or that the Bible is literally true. Nor would they agree with the idea of speaking in tongues. In fact, his church, The Christian and Missionary Alliance, has been a participant in a lot of human relief efforts worldwide. Just the same, who knows? Maybe Harper really does believe that Jesus will make a rainforest grow from the tailings of the refinery, and make the cancerous tumors of the Miskew Cree disappear. Check out this article for more info on the effects of the refinery tailings on the Athabasca River, downstream from the tar sands mine.

So overall, Jello’s speech kind of makes me want to go out and become a card-carrying Green Party member.

This is from an ongoing series on Jello’s blog, called “What would Jello do?“. You should check out the others.

Meanwhile, there is an election on May 2nd, and while cynics say that voting doesn’t change things much, the only thing worse than voting is not voting. Clicking on the graphic below the video leads you to Elections Canada, where you can get to know a few things about your local candidates. If you are a Canadian citizen of legal age, be sure you are registered to vote.

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