In Memoriam: Gene Wilder, at 83

wilder_no_meme
The much-memed image of Gene Wilder in his role as Willy Wonka in the 1971 film.

Today, it was reported that actor and meme victim Gene Wilder died of complications from Alzheimer’s disease at age 83.

I’ve looked up some things about the meme from “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”. Turns out that the image is from a scene where he reveals a little bit of his chocolate manufactouring process to some enthusiastic children. A few years ago, social media made a meme of this image, attaching condescending statements on all possible topics, in what became known as the “Creepy no fax payday loan buy tramadol Wonka” or “Condescending Wonka” meme. A “Condescending Wonka” twitter account garnered half a million followers, even though the account had little else going for it but its name.

Don’t forget however, that Wilder had appeared in some of the biggest comedy movies in the 1970s, many produced by Mel Brooks, such as Blazing Saddles, and Young Frankenstein; and he also appeared in the Woody Allen comedy Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex, but Were Afriad to Ask.

Mel Brooks, Jim Carrey, Ricky Gervais, and Russell Crowe, among others, each sent their regards within minutes of the sad news, via Twitter.

What I liked about Robin Williams

Robin Williams, 1951-2014
Robin Williams, 1951-2014

Robin Williams was a great comedian, whose greatest strengths lay in ad-libbing. It is said that the writers for Mork and Mindy left intentional gaps in the script so that Robin could fill it in with his lightning-fast ad-libbing.

He played very funny characters on stage and TV, but he also played very warm, but serious characters on film. One serious character was his role as counselor Sean Maguire in the 1997 movie Good Will Hunting, a film loosely based on the life of Will Sidis, a real-life savant, rumored to have an IQ of 250 to 300, but his IQ could not have been as high as that. Indeed, the scale does not go above 200.

Whatever he played, there was an undeniably human quality about every character he played, as far as I could tell. Even the zaniest or improbable characters had a human quality you could connect with emotionally.

He was an actor with an amazing amount of energy, and he will surely be missed.

Robin Williams died today at age 63.

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.

Rob Ford and His Continued Support

A likeness of His Worship, albeit looking a tad younger and slimmer in this photo.

Etobicoke. People in hard times. Yeah, there are good parts of this Toronto borough, but huge parts of it are run-down and filling up with down-and-outers looking to make a buck any way they can. People in hard times, closed shops and factories, low rates of literacy, and not much money to spend.

After decades of seeing their jobs moving to Mexico and the Asia-Pacific region, or having their job security thrown into torpor with the prospect of having them competing with jobs in these places, the members of Ford Nation are weary, and have lost hope in any prospect of a secure job. It is not like in times past anymore, where we lived in a work environment where the employer would take care of them. The differences in wealth have never been greater since the 1920s. The new employment strategy among the employers in Etobicoke seems to be to blame the unemployed for their unemployment.

There was, once upon a time, a way around this: Organize. Share thoughts and concerns, make demands. The ability to organize takes a certain level of self-efficacy, and not many seem to feel that they have it. It is a feeling, after all, since if illiterate workers in Argentina can do it, I am sure workers in Etobicoke can do it too. But there is a certain element of this that is emotional. if you don’t feel that you can do something successfully, you probably aren’t going to be successful.

One of many “splinter denomination” churches, this one has a national reach, with other locations in Hamilton, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Washington DC, and other places with lots of poverty. This one is located on Rexdale Boulevard in the heart of Ford Nation.

But that’s another thing. Today’s employee is probably just glad they have a job at all, let alone one that would grant any job security. Unstable incomes lead to unstable families, marriages, and lives. Who do you turn to?

God. And possibly Oprah.

I believe in God. But I think that the number of churches where the answer to poverty is that “if you pray to God with love in your heart, you will get what you need” is on a worrisone rise, and the one-of-a-kind churches seem to specialize in this. While apparently everyone has seemed to given up on organizing, and working as a group of concerned people in a community, I sense that some denominations tend to mimic the effects of the major media, in exacerbating feelings of aloneness and atomization, the opposite of community.

But in comes Rob Ford. Like “us”, he drinks, says anything that is on his mind, and tells off-color jokes. People in Etobicoke identify with him, almost forgetting that his father was a factory owner (he was born into money), and he too is also rich, owns a bungalow and drives an Escalade. Also, unlike most of the working class, he can afford to smoke crack. But instead, the self-appointed denizens of Ford Nation choose to see that “he has his problems” like “us”. He admits his imperfection so that it may help heal his wounds. Even Jesus had wounds, and suffered greatly, so that he may heal others.

Does anyone remember the billboard that was up for one day long the Gardiner Expressway/Highway 427 basket weave (you can’t call it a cloverleaf) that mentioned Rob Ford and ended with a quote from John 8:7? The “cast the first stone” verse is a bad choice of quote, since, well, what is the context? If I recall my Bible correctly, a woman who committed adultery faced a public death by stoning. Jesus intervened and made his famous order that any man who was there (they were all men doing the stoning) who was “without sin” cast the first stone. I take this, and I believe not altogether incorrectly, that any man present who had also not been adulterous cast the first stone. “Sin” in this context usually always means having sex when you are not supposed to. They had, by how I interpret that parable, all been sinful, and likely sinful in the same way. I can say how this is a commentary on how we as humans tend to be the most passionate accusers of other people’s sins which we have ourselves committed, but you’ll be spared. Instead, I draw your attention to the fact that the “sins” are equivalent. All people Jesus faces are guilty of the same or similar sins.

We are given the impression through this sign that I, a sinner have no right to call out a mayor who smokes crack or acts in a highly unprofessional manner in many ways. This only works if my “sins” are equivalent to Ford’s (in this case, vices of many descriptions including drugs and sex). Not all of us smoke crack or consort with prostitutes and drug dealers. I think that makes the majority of our population free of such “sins”.

Rob Ford is not Jesus. Jesus did not smoke crack, nor did Jesus find himself in the company of crack dealers. If it were, it would only to be to get them to repent their crack-dealing ways forever. Jesus was never in “a drunken stupor”. Also, unlike Jesus, most of Ford’s wounds are self-inflicted, if we are to carry the “wound” analogy. Ford has a bigger problem that can’t just be confessed away, and it goes beyond any problems “us common folk” have. These are problems involving criminals, and the police. This is a larger set of personal problems that would dwarf most of ours by orders of magnitude. And they are all problems that Rob Ford made for himself.

Rob Ford is not like us. Not like us at all.

Worst Lyrics: A review of a review

There was an article that appeared on Friday on MSN.COM, which tried to poke fun at some of “the worst lyrics of all time” by artists who presumably should have known better. I had a problem with the article, just like the lyrics, the smart-aleck comments from the author of the MSN article were not well-thought-out and thus almost as poorly written as the song lyrics the author criticizes.

Whether I do a better job with my smart-aleck comments is anyone’s opinion, but then I’m not working for MSN.

“Swingin’ in there
Cause she wanted me to feed her,
So I mixed up the batter
And she licked the beater”
–Warrant, “Cherry Pie”
I agree that this is a food metaphor gone wrong. It works better if you see the video. But I think the lyrics were never meant for adult minds who naturally would be bothered by the overdone food metaphors, but for adolescents with raging hormones who probably don’t care if this is from an overrated 90s metal band as long as the video has lots of jiggle.
“It’s a black fly in your Chardonnay,
It’s a death row pardon two minutes late;

And isn’t it ironic… don’t you think?”
–Alanis Morrisette, “Ironic”
It is obvious that Alanis Morrisette never bothered to look up ‘Ironic’ in a dictionary, and as much has been said since the song came out in 1996. It wasn’t just the quoted lyrics that were bad, the whole song suffered from the same problem. Most abuses of the word seemed to suggest that she really meant  ‘bad luck’ or something similar. Proof that famous musicians never lost a dollar by being inarticulate.
“I drew a line,
I drew a line for you.
Oh, what a thing to do.
And it was all yellow.”
–Coldplay, “Yellow”
This was picked out as being the worst lyric snippet from Coldplay’s first American hit, ‘Yellow’, released in 2000. It’s the kind of thing that means more to the writer than the listener. The song went gold for some other reason than the lyrics. The song seems to end up being about not much at all, but purportedly is about devotion.
“If the light is off
Then it isn’t on.”
–Hilary Duff, “So Yesterday”
I can’t argue with these lyrics. Reminds me of Me and Bobby McGee. Remember? “Nothin’ ain’t worth nothin’, but it’s free”. Nobody can say the obvious better than Kris Kristofferson. But Duff, even with all of her overly-marketed million-selling albums, can’t come close to this. She just comes off like an under-aged bimbo with nothing useful to say. (Yeah, I know she’s not underage anymore).
“These other guys, they wanna take me for a ride,
But when I walk their talk is suicide”
–Paris Hilton, “Stars Are Blind”
Lots of 60s musicians sang the obvious. But it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it. Kristofferson said it in a way that it became a rallying cry for those who rejected materialism, and embraced simplicity. You were convinced that Kristofferson had “been there”, and knew your pain. You would easily forget that he was a Rhodes Scholar at Merton in Oxford, with a Bachelor’s in English Lit. Being able to achieve that is not the mark of phoniness, it is the mark of a true artist, deserving of our respect and admiration.

Sorry, I can’t find any information on Paris Hilton except for a bunch of videos of what appears to be her performing fellatio on a record company exec in a fleabag hotel with the curtains drawn. Maybe next time.

“You know you love me, I know you care,
Just shout whenever, And I’ll be there.
You are my love, You are my heart,
And we will never ever-ever be apart.”
–Justin Bieber, “Baby”
News flash!!!!! 16 year-old Stratford, Ontario native Justin Bieber has the writing talent of a 16 year-old.

The only reason this kind of drek sells is that there is nothing better for the buying public, that they are aware of. The market is flooded with under-aged, under-talented kids, surrounded by marketers who want to bring back the days of The Jackson 5, and Donny Osmond. The video stations and other media organs are flooded with this stuff, while really good music is out there, waiting to be listened to.

“Lucky that my breasts
Are small and humble
So you don’t confuse
Them with mountains”
–Shakira, ‘Whenever, Wherever’
It’s like saying we’ll get along fine as long as you don’t stare at my boobs. It NEVER works, ladies. It just makes the problem worse.
“I ain’t never seen
An a**like that
The way you move it
You make my pee-pee go
‘Doing-doing-doing'”
–Eminem, “A** Like That”
News Flash!!!!! 38 year-old Marshall Bruce Mathers III, known by his stage name Eminem, has the writing talents of an 8 year-old. Sometimes his mother helps him.
“I’m as serious as cancer
When I say rhythm is a dancer”
–Snap, “Rhythm is a Dancer”
Besides a German-to-English dictionary, the German dance group Snap! should have also used a rhyming dictionary to see what else might rhyme with “dancer” that might work better than “cancer”.
“You’re beautiful
You’re beautiful
You’re beautiful
It’s true”
–James Blunt, “You’re Beautiful”
I have always seen this song as “just another love song”. One that is not very inspired with tired lyrics and a new musical sound behind it to make it palatable.
“We built this city on rock and roll.”

–Starship, “We Built This City”

I have to go beyond what the MSN author has said and further state that these are also the most phony lyrics in rock history. The particular lineup of Starship which sang that hit had none of the founding members of Jefferson Airplane in it. Grace Slick doesn’t count, since she was not a founding member. So, no, they don’t earn the bragging rights they seem to claim.
“Against the grain should be a way of life
What’s worth the price is always worth the fight
Every second counts ’cause there’s no second try
So live like you’re never living twice
Don’t take the free ride in your own life”
— Nickelback, “If Today Was Your Last Day”
Another winner for the most cliches per square inch. A close contender could be Harlan Howard’s 1958 song “Pick Me Up On Your Way Down” (played by every imaginible country musician — the one I heard was from Buck Owens). At least Harlan was just trying to be clever, but Nickleback just looks like they’ve been reading too many motivational posters.
“I would do anything for love
But I won’t do that.”
–Meat Loaf, “I’d Do Anything for Love”
Mr. Loaf has been with us for three decades or more, bringing us lyrics ranging from mundane to just plain sucking out loud. I would call this one mundane. At least it’s vague, and that means he left something up to my imagination for once.

There were more in the article, but I have had little more time to explore them. Just thought I would cover the worst cases.

An editorial about Tiger Woods

(this is a low-brow paraphrasing of the article in this month’s Notebook article in Harper’s magazine)

In this age of illegal invasions of Iraq, and the looting of the treasury and of customers by the banks, why does the press focus so much interest in the penis of a pro golfer? Did Tiger Woods steal your life savings? Did he reposess your house after convicing you that you were elegible for obscene amounts of credit? Can the deaths of thousands of Iraqis be laid at the feet of Tiger Woods? Did Tiger poison our air and our water, did he spew the greenhouse gas that will desertify America? Tiger hangs his head in shame for something that befalls all rich and famous people — the temptation of women who throw themselves at his feet. But compared with these other things, who really must be shamed?

We have made into a “problem” something that usually is common thr0ughout history for the rich and famous. Adultery is now worthy of the psychiatrist’s couch, treatment centers, and talk shows. It is OK to feel sexually aroused in a BMW showroom, but in this day and age you are not allowed to feel that way with your partner in the back seat of one. In the church of capitalism, sexual arousal is now for the purpose of closing the sale, not for procreation or pleasure.

My guess is that Tiger Woods’s real crime was that he didn’t get it.

I Can’t Get Behind “I Can’t Get Behind That”

I Can’t Get Behind That — William Shatner and Henry Rollins
Never charted anywhere

From the album “Has Been” (2004)

See/Hear it here, if you dare. You hear it, but you only can view muppets lip-syncing to the song. You can also get the mp3 and the rest of the album from EMusic. My understanding is that no muppets were hurt in the making of the video or the song. I don’t believe it, though.

What do you get when you place the former Captain of the Starship Enterprise in the same studio with a former frontman for the punk rock group Black Flag?

I don’t know, but whatever it is, I can’t get behind that!

We expect an embarrassing level of tackiness from the likes of Bill Shatner (anyone remember “Transformed Man”?), but no matter how much Henry Rollins and producer Ben Folds try to make this sound cool with manic music arrangements, the result is, well, a tax write-off for them both, because I am not sure of any other uses for it. Adrian Belew is on Guitar, Henry Rollins says in an interview. If anyone recalls, Belew made his name touring with Frank Zappa, then David Bowie, and afterward became a band member in the 1980s re-formation of King Crimson with Robert Fripp at the helm. But mostly you hear the manic percussion instruments, not much guitar. The percussion is something along the style of the Hawaii 5-0 theme.

I heartily agree with certain observations. For example, I believe also that there truly is no modern invention more futile than a leaf blower. And “futile” is an excellent word to describe leaf blowers.

As for some kind of overall rating, Shatner’s work must be rated with stars of a different galaxy, for I have none to offer.

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