In my series on Crappy Album Covers, Bob Dylan has appeared at least twice. I had also written about his singing skills or lack thereof at least once before. Needless to say, I have established my not-very-high opinion of Dylan’s singing and album covers on this blog.
However, I had always complimented him on his songwriting and poetry skill. His skill was good enough to win him the Nobel Prize for literature in 2017. However, the songs Dylan wrote were always best sung by other people.
Among the most frequent cover artists were Joan Baez; Judy Collins; The Band; The Byrds; Glen Campbell; Johnny Cash; Cher; Eric Clapton; Joe Cocker; Fairport Convention; Bryan Ferry; Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs; The Grateful Dead; George Harrisson; Jimi Hendrix; The Hollies; Peter, Paul and Mary; Tom Petty (with and without The Heartbreakers); Elvis Presley; Pete Seeger; Yes; Steve Howe; and Neil Young.
More modern artists cover him less frequently. They include: XTC; The White Stripes; The Red Hot Chili Peppers; Sinead O’Connor; My Morning Jacket; Jason Mraz; Ministry; Maroon 5; Dave Matthews Band; Diana Krall; Alicia Keys; Kesha; Norah Jones; Indigo Girls; Robyn Hitchcock (with and without The Egyptians); Green Day; Dream Syndicate; Miley Cyrus; Nick Cave and The Badseeds; and The Black Crowes.
And what I didn’t know until earlier today, is that at age 79, Dylan’s hit song, “Murder Most Foul”, has reached #1 on the Billboard chart for “US Digital Song Sales”, which is the first time he had a #1 hit singing in his own voice on any of the Billboard charts. This song will be part of his up-coming album “Rough and Rowdy Ways”, to be released at the end of next week.
The 17-minute hit beats Don Maclean’s “American Pie” by 7 minutes, and The Beatles’ “Hey Jude” by 10 minutes.
“Murder Most Foul” is a montage of artist titles, singer names, and cultural references that keep going back to the Kennedy assassination. At first listen, it is difficult to understand why all of the name-dropping and song title mentions are there. It feels kind of chaotic, and you feel like there is no structure. It requires another listen. And when you listen again, try not to make sense of anything. Then the song works perfectly, in that it begins to make its own sense. It objectively refers to Kennedy, and a multitude of artists and songs contemporary to the early sixties, with the odd mention of artists from later and earlier decades. Like a painting, you can’t examine the painting by examining each brushstroke. You need to listen to this song by allowing your mind to “step back” so to speak, and admire the song as a whole piece as you would a painting.
To say it is a sad song is an understatement. It seems more like a funeral march. It is a eulogy to a dying culture, and the end of an era. It reveals to us all what we already know: it’s not the sixties anymore. American culture is wounded, and the prospects appear grim.
I have tried to hold off on writing about the latest kerfuffle regarding Donald Trump being cut out of the CBC televised version of the 1992 film Home Alone 2 during the time that Trump was still a private citizen, and not at all in politics. It is predictable, and right out of the Daily Stormer playbook that the Trump family would exaggerate this entirely out of proportion as a political slight against Trump.
This has now migrated from the CBC News desks to the New York Times, and what is newsworthy to me is that these big-money media organs found it newsworthy. This is man-baby syndrome at its worst. And the major media reports on the man-baby every time the man-baby coos, belches, spits up, bawls, throws a tantrum or tweets.
The thing is, we already know that Trump has a screw loose, so can we just get past that and have more journalistic efforts concentrated on normal tragedies like wars, homelessness and global warming?
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.
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?).
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
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.
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.”
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.
Was “Much Music”, but is now minus most of its music videos.
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
Back on 26 April, what I understand should have been the last of the JFK documents released to the general public and made available for download. Apparently, the deadline to release the last of them has been now moved to 2021.
With all the distractions surrounding Donald Trump, including those distractions Trump made for himself, you could be excused for not hearing about these rather ground-breaking developments, moving toward trying to end over 50 years of speculation and conspiracy theories.
The irony is, you can thank Trump for allowing the release of these documents. You wouldn’t know it from his preoccupation with making angry tweets about the news of the day. This would have actually made him look good, had one of his tweets mentioned it.
Since 24 July 2017, over 54,000 documents were released relating to the JFK assassination, made available largely as PDF scanned copies. A good deal of the early releases are listed as “NBR” or “Not believed relevant” on the Excel spreadsheet I downloaded, which lists the files and their links. There are hundreds of documents that are just plain illegible. I noticed a lot of newspaper clipping among the interviews and transcriptions of what must have been handwritten notes. There are also official correspondences on government letterhead., memos, and so on.
Humans are a curious species. We like to ask the questions about why things exist/happen/not happen, and so on.
When I built my search engine questions, I began with the word “WHY”, then gradually built on that, one word at a time. Now, I pass on the list of questions to you.
If the list of Google autocomplete suggestions which is to follow is taken to be the true distillation of human thought, we seem to be very preoccupied with aches and pains, bodily functions, and weather events, and not a whole lot outside of that.
⦁ is the sky blue
⦁ don’t we
⦁ him cast (sic)
⦁ do whales beach
⦁ am i so tired
⦁ are you running
⦁ do cats purr
⦁ am I always tired
⦁ do we yawn
⦁ my cat lick me
⦁ my dog lick me
⦁ it hurt when i pee
⦁ salt melt ice
⦁ ice float
⦁ my stomach hurt
⦁ my head hurt
⦁ my jaw hurt
WHY DOES IT
⦁ snow in Canada
⦁ always rain on me
⦁ hurt to swallow
⦁ hurt to poop
⦁ hurt to have sex
⦁ hurt to breathe
⦁ hurt when I cough
WHY DOES IT SEEM
⦁ like everyone is rich
⦁ impossible to lose weight
⦁ impossible to get a girlfriend
⦁ hard to breathe
⦁ hard to swallow
WHY DOES IT NEVER
⦁ work out with guys
⦁ snow in London/Manchester/Swansea/England/Florida
⦁ snow on Christmas
⦁ rain in California
⦁ get dark in Alaska
WHY DOES IT ALWAYS SEEM
⦁ to be (Phil Collins lyric)
⦁ to rain at night
⦁ to rain on the weekend
⦁ to rain on Good Friday
⦁ to be my fault
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.
As a response for participating in the survey, I finally know who I am, because the government told me so. Apparently I am a pragmatist. In an earlier one of these online surveys, I was someone on the loony left. These labels are, on some level, amusing. It’s kind of like reading a Horoscope characterization of yourself, with about the same level of scientific accuracy. Most things on this list as so broadly-defined that they can apply to just about anyone. I will just show this characterization below without comment:
YOUR VIEWS MOST ALIGN WITH
My democracy is balancedand straight-forward
Pragmatists generally want governments to strike a balance between decisive action and compromise. They tend to prefer a clear line of accountability to voters, but not at the expense of collaboration between parties.
Pragmatists are split about whether special measures are needed to help increase the diversity of representation in Parliament.
Pragmatists typically prefer that election ballots are easy to use and to understand.
Pragmatists generally view voting as a democratic duty rather than a personal choice and are slightly more inclined to support mandatory voting. They are among the least likely archetypes to support online voting.
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 – 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 – 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 – Author of the much read and much studied ’70s social commentary “Future Shock“
Arnold Palmer – Recognized as one of the greatest golfers in sports history.
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 – 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 – Early 1960s pop singer, with over 10 hits in reaching the top 20.
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 – Played the eldest von Trapp sister Liesel in the movie The Sound of Music.
David Bowie – Singer/songwriter/gender bender/fashion plate. More here and here.
Edgar Mitchell – the 6th man to walk on the moon during Apollo 14.
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 – Played mother Carol in The Brady Bunch.
Frank Sinatra, Jr. – Son of Frank Sinatra.
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.
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 – Lead singer of Wham! and later soloist. Died of heart failure.
Sir George Martin – Producer for The Beatles.
Glenn Frey – Solo musician, and former lead singer of The Eagles.
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, OC — Played in the NHL for just over a quarter century, and another six years in the WHA. Known as “Mr. Hockey”.
Harper Lee – Author of To Kill a Mockingbird.
Henry Heimlich – American physician and inventor of the Heimlich Maneuver.
Henry McCullough – Played lead guitar for Joe Cocker and for Wings. He was also a solo performer at the original Woodstock festival in 1969.
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 – Played Lt. Becker on The Rockford Files; also played in Magnum P. I., and The Sopranos.
John Glenn – First man to circle the globe in a space capsule, aviator, astronaut, and Ohio state senator.
Kenny Baker – The man inside R2-D2.
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 – Folk/Pop singer, poet, painter.
Marvin Minsky – Father of artificial intelligence.
Maurice White – Founding member of the 70s dance band Earth, Wind and Fire.
Merle Haggard – Country and Western singer.
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.
Pat Harrington – Played Duane Schneider on the sitcom One Day at a Time.
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 – One of the founding members of Jefferson Airplane.
Peter Shaffer – British Playwright best known for Amadeus and Equus.
Prince (Prince Rogers Nelson) – Prolific pop musician, talent scout, and record producer. More here.
Richard Adams — Author of the children’s novel Watership Down.
Robert Vaughn – Starred in Man from U. N. C. L. E. He also had a number of movie roles throughout the 1970s.
Ron Glass – Played Detective Harris on the sitcom Barney Miller.
Scotty Moore – Elvis Presley’s first guitarist.
Steve Young – Wrote Seven Bridges Road, which became a hit for The Eagles.
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 – Professor of semiotics, University of Boston
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 — Played Father Mulcahy in the hit TV series M*A*S*H.
William Patrick (W. P.) Kinsella — Canadian novelist known for Shoeless Joe, which was adapted to film.
Zsa Zsa Gabor — Hungarian-American Beauty queen, socialite and actress.
Ted Nugent or “The Nuge” is a hard rock/psychedelic guitarist whose musical career dates back to 1963. He has made his stance against drug and alcohol abuse part of his right-wing activism. He is an ardent Republican supporter, and is strongly in favour of gun rights. It is said that his stance against substance abuse had an influence on a part of the Punk Rock movement known as the “Straight Edge” movement.
Bill O’Reilly, a host on Fox-TV, also won’t ever be accused of accusing the Republicans of anything wrong, unless it involves Donald Trump. And he is also teetotal. His show The O’Reilly Factor, was the highest-rated news show on the Fox network, and brought in the style of news commentary where afflicting the afflicted and comforting the comforted becomes the norm. But he would tell you that his roots are working class. This, like much of what he says, is disputed. However, he there is no disputing that he studied at Harvard; that he has had much experience in journalism before becoming part of the punditry machine that is Fox News.
Winning the lottery is how many people believe they will become financially secure in their lives. In fact, about one person in 4 believe this.
The chances of winning a lottery like the Massachusetts Megabucks lotto or the Ontario Lotto 6-49 are based in the idea that, out of 49 numbers available, you choose 6 numbers once each. Chosen that way, there are 13,983,816 ways of winning, or close to 14 million ways. If you have only one lotto ticket, then your chances are 1/13,983,816 = 0.000000715, give or take a billionth or two.
It would be fun to summarize what those chances are actually like in relation to other things. Here we go, from my research:
You are 500 times more likely to die by murder or execution
You are 248 times more likely to be struck by lightning
You are 140 times more likely to die from a bee sting or a snake bite
You are 21.5 times more likely to be killed by terrorists
You are 20 times more likely to be killed in a traffic accident on you way to buying a lotto ticket
You are 14 times more likely to correctly guess someone’s PIN number
You are 14 times more likely to be consumed by a rare strain of flesh-eating bacteria
If you buy 50 tickets a week you could win once every 5000 years
You are 6.992 times more likely to die when our Earth collides with an asteroid, ending all life on Earth as we know it
But any non-participants out there don’t need my lecture. They have something better: What if you spent $10.00 on lotto tickets for 35 years? Multiplied out for thirty-five 52-week periods, becomes $18,200.00 If you had instead invested that same money in, say, a mutual fund over the same number of years at $10.00 per week, you would have $100,314.56, which is about $80,000 in profit.
Apart from it being a sure thing, it is a significant gain in wealth over what would have happened if the money was squandered on lotto tickets.
It has come to my attention in recent years that we are the stupid ones. Homo sapiens, as we so arrogantly call ourselves, might be the least intelligent of the surviving genii of hominids. Our species won out over Homo neanderthalensis because we were more competitive and selfish than they. Neandethals have larger brains than us, and of course it is a matter of debate as to whether that necessarily makes them smarter. And since we value smarts, we would look on suspicion when calling a species smarter than us, especially if they’re all dead.
But look around you, folks. We may value intelligence, but is it really a distinguishing survival skill? You might need it, but your survival arsenal must also include aggression, competitiveness, and selfishness if you are to claw and kick your way to the top. While I am not a Republican supporter (indeed, I am a socialist), I still must admit that Republican candidate Ron Paul has cornered the market on depth of thought, and committment to traditional conservative values (which includes staying out of foreign conflicts — a position, incidentally, which places him solidly to the left of Obama). When I listen to him, I can’t help but think that he has given his positions on the issues lots of thought. Even if you don’t agree with everything he says, such as eliminating the US Department of Education, eliminating the Federal Reserve, or abolishing income tax, or his other Libertarian views, you have to at least give his views a once-over to see what he is about.
But the press seemed to treat him as if he was invisible, ignoring that he came in second in a straw poll. The ones getting the attention are not quite as smart, but are more aggressive and attention-seeking. It mirrors the evolution of Homo sapiens quite nicely. But the Democrats have been equally burned by this media-generated survival of the fittest: anyone remember Larry Agran? In the Democratic convetion of 1992, he was frozen out by the media, though he had early leads in the polls. That convention got us Bill Clinton instead.
The tragic flaw may be that both Agran and Paul were anti-war; but of course to be anti-war, at least in the traditional sense of the U.S. staying out of foreign conflicts, that takes thought that is at least deep enough to see past the media-generated rhetoric. If you are a brainless and agressive opportunist, you don’t need to trouble yourself with thoughts of peace. Ron Paul dies that the Sarah Palins of the world may live.
My writing about politics here is more than just a digression. I am trying to point out here that on a grand scale, our culture, and maybe all cultures and our species generally, seems to shun altruism. Politicians, for example, who hold policies on the far right (such as Ron Paul), yet who have policies that are lock-step in line with the most leftists (Paul’s anti-war stance) are seen as altruistic and unelectable. People who stay within the party platform and adhere unthinkingly to a formula for “what is conservative” make themselves more electable and get themselves less media flak. This is a kind of selecting out of “less selfish” people in favour of the “more selfish” people of the kind we seem to be attracted to as a species. It is possible that Neanderthal Man is … us.
The Max Planck Institute sequenced the neanderthal genome in 2010 or so, and found differences on the order of only a few thousand base pairs per chromosome. and only 200 or so in mitochondrial DNA. One begins to think that perhaps Neanderthals are not even a separate species, but reflect a genetic diversity between humans, and that the genetic lineages that made Neanderthan Man different from the rest of us are simply lost. The stereotype that Neanderthals are lesser beings than us, somehow have now come under question.
It is rather amazing that through all I have experienced, that these truths were the deepest and most enduring. They are also the most comforting. Simply keeping a balanced life, and looking on the positive side of things. What could possibly be wrong with that?
Perhaps happiness and satisfaction with one’s life, however humble is a form of denial.
Maybe someone someday might point out that all forms of happiness are mental illnesses. After all, happiness is statistically rare, and thus it is not normal. Due to its relative rarity, it may well be characterized by an abnormal functioning of the central nervous system, requiring repeated “positive thinking”. In turn, “positive thinking” requires that we only focus on the bright side of life. Clearly, anyone who thinks positive is only looking at part of the picture, and is thus out of touch with reality. Bentall (1992) had this as an abstract for his article in the Journal of Medical Ethics (widely quoted):
“It is proposed that happiness be classified as a psychiatric disorder and be included in future editions of the major diagnostic manuals under the new name: major affective disorder, pleasant type. In a review of the relevant literature it is shown that happiness is statistically abnormal, consists of a discrete cluster of symptoms, is associated with a range of cognitive abnormalities, and probably reflects the abnormal functioning of the central nervous system. One possible objection to this proposal remains–that happiness is not negatively valued. However, this objection is dismissed as scientifically irrelevant.”
According to Bentall, happy people are off their chumps. Lost their marbles. One clown short of a circus. I would suppose, however, that making happiness an illness will rob most shrinks of a treatment goal.
So for now, while psychiatrists are working away at their objections to happiness, and until it is proven to me that I am better off heeding these objections, I shall forever commit my life to these seemingly shallow, but more enduring truths, that focusing on the bright side of life is the better way, and it should be something that is taught to every child and adult, for their own good, and for the good of society.
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:
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.
The 1980s also had some great stuff, but I admit what I liked mostly was the obscure college radio stuff. Having been a former college radio DJ, I had the chance to sample through literally hundreds of songs in search for that “diamond in the rough”. In its day, finding The Jesus and Mary Chain’s 1985 LP Psychocandy didn’t take much digging. Nobody knew what to call it, but it recently got tagged as “Noise pop” by some guy writing for Wikipedia. I really have no idea what to call it to this day, although I admit, some of their tunes bordered on noise, due to their insistence on screeching guitar feedback, especially in their earlier work.
Here is “Just Like Honey”, which appeared on several commercials, including a recent car commercial:
You Should Be Dancing was the first serious disco hit for the Bee Gees in 1976, a year before Saturday Night Fever. The song later made it on the soundtrack as well, although it was not played on the film. Neither was Jive Talking. It used the signature falsetto that was found in many of their subsequent hits throughout the 70s and 80s.
I like the rock drums and guitar on this tune, since it makes it rise above the plasticity and superficiality of all disco that came later (by nearly everyone including the Bee Gees). This song was culled from their mid-seventies comeback period, where many of my favourite Bee Gees tunes reside. I am not all that fond of their music before or after, but Jive Talkin’, Nights on Broadway, Fanny, and You Should be Dancing are my all-time Bee Gees favourites. All of these hits occured in a short period between 1975 and 1976.
Bee Gees – You Should be Dancing: [audio:http://stridersjournal.net/other/[Bee_Gees]_-_You_Should_Be_Dancing.mp3]
The blog that has inspired this series said that the late Minnie Riperton (1947-1979) screamed the lyrics to “Loving You”. We need to distinguish between screaming (something the lead singer of a group like Journey would do), and seriously hitting the high notes. God blessed Riperton with divine vocal cords, with a range of five and a half octaves, rare in most humans. Her natural voice could range above a falsetto into what is called the “whistle register”. Yes, she could sing higher than the Bee Gees or Frankie Valli. Higher than John Denver’s yodeling on the song Calypso, in fact. Unlike the Bee Gees and Denver, Minnie Riperton used full voice in hitting those notes, which is why feats like these are so rare.
They may have needed guards at Riperton’s concerts to make sure no-one brought their dog.
“Loving You” topped the charts in the United States and 24 other countries.
Mariah Carey has been compared with her, and she would appear to be slightly less melodic (still pretty good though).
Before you click on the recording below, you might want to send your dog outside if you have one.
It was 1972, and while commercialism of the music industry was on the rise, there was still enough genuine and original songs to call 1972 a high water mark in popular music. Things got even better in ’73, but then a long, slow decline happened that persists to this day. In my opinion, 1972 was also the high water mark of Kenny Loggins’ music. After this, he started over-commercialising himself, especially with the soundtracks: Danger Zone (Top Gun), Footloose (Footloose), and I’m Alright (Caddyshack) are three over-played songs on radio that immediately come to mind.
“Danny’s Song” is a tune penned by Kenny Loggins during his time with Loggins and Messina that fits in with a number of songs of that period that you can imagine a kindergarten or grade 2 teacher teaching their kids to sing. It is wholesome, with just the right amount of sentimentality that, I think, hits everyone at a basic level. Kind of like “Yellow Submarine”, or “This Land is Your Land”. When Anne Murray sung this tune a year later, she was nominated at the 1974 Grammies for best female vocalist. She was up against Roberta Flack (“Killing Me Softly”), and won the Grammy in 1974. It is one case where, while the cover was a bigger hit than the original, the original still stands on its own.
The period had a raft of similar tunes, but some of them were trying to hit you over the head with this Kindergarten teacher idea to such an extreme so as to bring actual children in as backup singers. Two over-the-top examples that immediately come to mind are: “Candy Man” by Sammy Davis Jr., or “Sing” by the Carpenters.
I have heard comments that hearing Dylan’s voice is “worse than cancer”. I believe such comments are un-necessarily harsh. Remember “Lay Lady Lay”? Didn’t that border on melodic? OK, I rest my case. He was terrible most of the time, not all of the time.
On the other hand, Willliam Shatner has no business deviating his acting day job. If God hands us only one great talent in our lives, be it singing, song writing, playing an instrument, acting, writing, and so on, we ought to make the most of it and count our blessings, since it is these limited talents alone that place us already above the crowd. It is rare that people are successful in more than one talent, and when it is usually attempted, the result is often, uh, humbling for the performer. And unintentionally amusing for the audience.
To illustrate the over-reaching kind of talent, here is William Shatner talking over “Hey Mr. Tambourine Man”.
You know, I was minding my own business in this classy Chinese restaurant, engorging myself on their copious buffet, had my fill, and was handed the bill with an accompanying fortune cookie.
This fortune cookie (the one to the left) really existed, and I never saw the like. I am used to fortune cookies containing old sayings, universal aphorisms, little smippets of wisdom, and sometimes a blandly optimistic prognostication of what the future holds.
I would never have expected one to wield a statement on human rights. But there it was, printed in blue and white, plain as day. The other side of the fortune cookie says “Learn Chinese”, and teaches the phrase “Excuse me”, followed by a list of six lucky numbers. Four of those numbers are too big to use in Lotto 6-49.
Here in the United States and Canada, our culture seems to take human rights for granted. The rights of stray dogs seem to get more attention than the free speech rights of protestors, worker’s rights and so on. We seem to feel more for an abandoned puppy than for an abandoned child these days. I am not sure how animal rights seem to have more cachet in a culture where I have heard about human rights offices and Public Interest Research Groups around North America being defunded or closing altogether, while animal shelters appear to have the status of five-star hotels. How do we get to a point where we have seemed to forgotten about all the struggles that gave rights to minorities, women, and aboriginals, just treating them as though they have always magically existed?
No-one in this world has rights without a struggle, nor lost them without taking their short-lived nature and fragility for granted. The fact that we now have to look outside of our culture to places like the Middle East for examples of human rights advocacy tells us of how far we’ve fallen, and of how dysfunctional our own culture has become.
A much more human-rights-friendly coverage of the Middle East protests appeared, ironically, in Pravda. They seem to quote Al Jazeera more openly, and more often. I know this is far from a human rights advocacy newspaper, and they have their own line of propaganda, but you have to look elsewhere in Pravda for more obvious examples.