Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Amanda Lear – "Wild Thing" (1986)

Wild thing
You make my heart sing
You make everything . . . groovy

You’ve probably never heard of Amanda Lear.  Don’t feel bad – neither had I before today.

Amanda Lear was a “Swinging London”-era fashion model who worked for Yves Saint Laurent and Coco Chanel and hung out with Twiggy, Anita Pallenberg, and Pattie Boyd.  She met surrealist artist Salvador Dalí in 1965 and became Dalí’s muse and soulmate, posing for a number of his drawings and paintings.

Salvador Dalí and Amanda Lear
Later, Lear was once engaged to Bryan Ferry of Roxy Music, and appeared on the cover of that band’s For Your Pleasure album: 

In 1973, she hooked up with David Bowie, who paid for her to take singing and dancing lessons and helped launch her musical career.  

Lear cranked out a number of kitschy disco hits in the next few years.  In 1979, she married bisexual French aristocrat Alain-Philippe Malagnac d'Argens de Villèle, the former lover and then adopted son of a diplomat and gay novelist Roger Peyrefitte.  Dalí didn’t approve of the marriage, and he and Lear began to drift apart after over a decade of very close friendship.

Amanda Lear posing for Dalí
For years, it was rumored that Lear was a pre-operative transsexual male or a hermaphrodite.  Lear put those rumors to rest for once and for all by posing nude for Playboy.  (If you’re a doubting Thomas, you can click here to satisfy yourself that our little Amanda is all woman.)

Lear’s version of “Wild Thing” was released in 1986 on her seventh studio album, Secret Passion.  The music video featuring that song is one of the damnedest things you’ve ever seen.

The video was shot in Salvador Dalí’s favorite suite in the Hôtel Meurice in Paris.  It shows Lear– who was 38 years old at the time – in bed with Jean-Luc Lahaye, a French actor and singer who was 13 years younger than she was.  (Not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course.)  

Despite his youth, Lahaye seems to be a couple of quarts low in the testosterone department – he seemingly couldn’t care less that he is in bed with a total hottie who is singing ‘Wild Thing” to him. 

Lear takes her bathrobe off and dances around the room in a red bustier as two sexy housemaids watch.  Eventually Lahaye gets the message, and he and Lear dive under the covers to do a little horizontal mamboing.  (About time!) 

*     *     *     *     *

Songwriter Chip Taylor (who is the brother of Jon Voight and the uncle of Angelina Jolie) wrote not only “Wild Thing” but also “Angel of the Morning,” “I Can’t Let Go,” and many other songs.  

Brothers Jon Voight and Chip Taylor
“Wild Thing” was commissioned by the producer of the Wild Ones, who were once the house band at the famed Peppermint Lounge in New York City.  Their recording of the song – which was released in November 1965 – failed to chart.  

But a cover of “Wild Thing” recorded by the Troggs, a British band, made it to the #1 spot on the Billboard “Hot 100” in July 1966.  

Since then, the song has been covered by everyone from Jimi Hendrix to the Runaways to Cheap Trick to Hank Williams, Jr. to Bruce Springsteen to Prince to X, whose version was featured in the movie Major League whenever Charlie Sheen’s character – Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughn – entered a game:

The late comedian Sam Kinison did a bizarre music video of “Wild Thing” with Jessica Hahn.  Jon Bon Jovi, Rodney Dangerfield, Stephen Tyler, Billy Idol, and Tommy Lee also appeared in the video.  You can click here to view that video.)

Here’s Amanda Lear’s very odd “Wild Thing” music video:


Sunday, December 4, 2016

Richard Thompson – "From Galway to Graceland"

To be with her sweetheart, 
She left everything
From Galway to Graceland
To be with the King

When we meet the unnamed Irish heroine of Richard Thompson’s “From Galway to Graceland,” she is getting dressed in the middle of the night.

Her husband of twenty years is sound asleep, so he doesn’t hear her sneak out of their County Galway home.

Where is she going?  To the nearest airport, where she will board a flight for the United States.  Her ultimate destination is Memphis – the home of Elvis Presley.

When our heroine – who has “Elvis, I Love You” tattooed on her breast – lands in Memphis, she heads straight for Graceland and Presley’s final resting place:

She was down by his graveside 
Day after day
Come closing time they 
Would pull her away

Elvis Presley's final resting place
Ignoring the throngs of tourists who pass through Graceland every day, our heroine spends the day conversing to Elvis:

[B]lindly she knelt there 
And she told him her dreams
And she thought that he answered 
Or that's how it seemed

If you think that anyone who flies from Ireland to Memphis and then spends every waking moment kneeling at the grave of Elvis Presley and talking to the dead man is mentally ill, you’re right – as the song’s final lines demonstrate:

[T]hey dragged her away 
It was handcuffs this time
She said, “My good man,
Are you out of your mind?
Don't you know that we're married? 
See, I'm wearing his ring.”

I’m guessing that ring was given to her by her husband, who’s sitting in their home back in Ireland, wondering where the hell his Elvis-obsessed nut job of a wife is.

I’m also guessing that the husband is not altogether sorry that she's disappeared.  Seeing an “Elvis, I love you” tattoo on your wife's body every time she gets undressed isn’t exactly a turn on.

*     *     *     *     *

Speaking of Elvis, the 23rd annual “Night of 100 Elvises” took place in Baltimore last night.

Most of the people who attended that event aren't really Elvis fans.  (A group of real Elvis fans would break 3-to-1 or 4-to-1 for Trump over Clinton.  The folks at the “Night of 100 Elvises” last night would probably break 3-to-1 or 4-to1 the opposite way.)

The woman from Galway in the Richard Thompson song wouldn't enjoy "Night of 100 Elvises."  For her, Elvis was no joke.  (Of course, she was stark raving bonkers.)

I don’t know how you feel about Elvis.  I’m not a fan – I find his music (like most music from the fifties) hopelessly dated.

Elvis Presley was only 42 when he died on August 16, 1977.  I would have guessed he was much older.

The day he died I was in Kansas City, which was the last stop of a three-week, 5000-mile driving trip through 13 Western states.  I saw the Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam, Las Vegas, the Great Salt Lake, Yellowstone, Grand Teton National Park, Mt. Rushmore, and much, much more – all for the first time – on that trip.

Did Elvis impersonators exist before Presley’s death?  I don’t remember there being any, but maybe there were.

There weren’t literally a hundred Elvis impersonators at the “Night of 100 Elvises”  this year – more like two dozen (including one ten-year-old).

What made those guys decide to be Elvis impersonators?  For some of them, maybe it's because they really love his music.  But I'm guessing that most of them were hoping that being an Elvis impersonator would help them get women.  (That's the explanation for most of the things guys do, after all.)

*     *     *     *     *

I can't say that “From Galway to Graceland” does much for me.  The Irish Elvis fan is too grotesque for me to take seriously.  I don't feel much empathy for her because I don't really believe in her.

But Thompson's performance indicates to me that he buys into his character and her situation 110%.

Here’s “From Galway to Graceland”:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Friday, December 2, 2016

Kylie Minogue – "Can't Get You Out of My Head" (2001)

La, la, la . . . la, la, la, la, la
La, la, la . . . la, la, la, la, la
I just can't get you out of my head

A group of scientists recently studied what makes a song an “earworm” – that is, a “musically sticky” song that gets stuck in your head despite the fact that if you had your druthers, you’d druther be able to forget it.

In order to figure out the characteristics of earworm songs, those scientists asked several thousand people to list the songs that they found to be the earwormiest.  They they generated a list of non-earworm songs that were similar in terms of how old they were and how popular they were.  Finally, the scientists compared the two groups of songs with regard to 83 different criteria, which allowed them to identify the factors that were most strongly correlated to earworminess.  

According to an article summarizing that research that recenty appeared in an American Psychological Association journal, earworms are characterized by a fast tempo and a melody that is simple and somewhat generic but has unusual intervals that are repeated over and over and over.  (You can click here to read the entire article.)

Think about Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water.”  The first fifty seconds of that song consist of a very distinctive four-measure guitar riff that is repeated six times before the lead singer jumps in.  That riff is in a minor key, which doesn’t hurt when it comes to making a song an earworm.

Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” – which was one of the earworm songs most frequently mentioned by the subjects of the study – is also in a minor key.  Its signature melody jumps up a fifth repeatedly.

The main riff of the Knack’s “My Sharona” features an even wider interval – it goes up an octave and back down an octave over and over.

"Her name was Lola . . ."
One of the scientists who conducted the study offered a few suggestions for people who are trying to get an earworm out of their heads:

1.  Don’t resist the song – engage with it instead.  Many people report that listening to the earworm song from beginning to end can help to eliminate having a distinctive musical phrase from the song getting stuck in your head.  (When it comes to an earworm like Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” of course, this cure is worse than the disease.) 

2.  Distract yourself by thinking of or listening to a different song.  (I once knew someone who got rid of earworms by whistling the theme song from The Andy Griffith Show to herself – which is cutting off your nose to spite your own face.)

3.  Try not to think about it and let it fade away naturally on its own.  (Like that ever works.  Thanks for nothing. Mr. or Ms. Scientist.)

*     *     *     *     *

Kylie Minogue’s 2001 single, “Can’t Get You Out of My Head,” was a #1 hit in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. 

Kylie Minogue
But it peaked the #5 spot in Finland, and only made it to #7 on the Billboard “Hot 100” in the U.S. 

The participants in the study that was discussed above cited “Can’t Get You Out of My Head” as one of the biggest earworm songs ever.  But I don’t find it that hard to get the song out of my head.  It just doesn’t seem to be all that earwormy – am I wrong?

Here’s “Can’t Get You Out of My Head”:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Waitresses – "It's My Car" (1982)

Driven maybe fifty feet
And we're fighting like dogs and cats

My family didn’t have a dog or a cat when I was growing up, so I didn’t know much about how dogs and cats behaved.

One thing I did know was that dogs and cats fought.  I learned that by watching cartoons, which often featured dogs and cats fighting like . . . well, fighting like dogs and cats.  

Other things I learned from watching cartoons as a kid: pepper causes you to sneeze uncontrollably, you can run off a cliff without falling to the ground as long as you don’t look down, you need to be on the outlook for an anvil falling from a great height and landing on your noggin, and a banana peel is the slipperiest thing on earth:

Cartoon dogs were usually large, loutish creatures who instinctively attacked any cat they saw.  But cartoon cats were always much smarter than cartoon dogs, so they rarely had any trouble evading canine aggression.

Dogs instinctively chase small prey that flee, which likely explains the origin of the fighting-like-cats-and-dogs thing.  But dogs and cats who are raised together usually get along perfectly well.

When you’re talking about cats and mice, of course, it’s a whole different story.  

The most famous cats-and-mice cartoon was Tom and Jerry.  Unlike cats in cats-and-dogs cartoons, cats in cats-and-mice cartoon are stupid – they act more like dogs in cats-and-dogs cartoons.

Tom and Jerry put Hanna-Barbera Productions on the map.  The company produced 114 Tom and Jerry shorts for MGM between 1940 and 1958.  The shorts were originally shown in movie theaters prior to the main attraction.

Hanna-Barbera moved into television cartoons in a big way in the 1950s with Huckleberry Hound, Quick Draw McGraw, Top Cat, Yogi Bear, The Jetsons, and The Flintstones (which was the longest-running animated TV series ever until The Simpsons surpassed it).  

The company converted its Tom and Jerry cartoons into a television series in 1965.  But the cartoons had to be heavily edited to get rid of certain elements that weren’t a problem in 1940 but were most definitely a problem in 1965.

For example, one of the recurring characters in Tom and Jerry was a fat African-American maid who spoke with a stereotypical accent and was named Mammy Two Shoes.

Mammy Two Shoes was mostly seen from the neck down.  “Saturday Evening Puss” is the one Tom and Jerry short that showed Mammy's face:

When Tom and Jerry made it on to the small screen in 1965, animators inserted new footage replacing Mammy Two Shoes with a fat Irish-American maid.  (Isn't that just as bad?)

By the way, the new character was voiced by June Foray, who is best known as the voice of Rocket J. Squirrel, Natasha Fatale, and virtually every other female character on The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show.)

June Foray
Another thing about Tom and Jerry that bothered some people was the amount of violence it contained:

The cartoons are known for some of the most violent cartoon gags ever devised in theatrical animation such as Tom using everything from axes, hammers, firearms, firecrackers, explosives, traps and poison to kill Jerry.  On the other hand, Jerry's methods of retaliation are far more violent due to their frequent success, including slicing Tom in half, decapitating him, shutting his head or fingers in a window or a door, stuffing Tom's tail in a waffle iron or a mangle, kicking him into a refrigerator, getting him electrocuted, pounding him with a mace, club or mallet, causing trees or electric poles to drive him into the ground, sticking matches into his feet and lighting them, tying him to a firework and setting it off, and so on.  Because of this, Tom and Jerry has often been criticized as excessively violent.  Despite the frequent violence, there is no blood or gore in any scene.

That last sentence certainly isn’t true of the Tom and Jerry-inspired The Itchy & Scratchy Show, which Bart and Lisa enjoy on The Simpsons.  Itchy & Scratchy features copious amounts of blood and gore:

*     *     *     *     *

The Waitresses, who were formed in Akron, Ohio, in 1977, are remembered today for “Christmas Wrapping,” a song that tells the story of a young woman who seems destined to spend a lonely Christmas until she runs into a guy she’s been trying to connect with for months at a convenience store on Christmas Eve.  The two decide to have Christmas dinner together and presumably live happily ever after.  

You’ll hear “Christmas Wrapping” on the radio any day now, and if you’re like me, you’ll immediately change the station.  It is the worst pop Christmas song of all time by a wide margin.

The Waitresses’ other big hit was “I Know What Boys Like.”  The less said about it, the better.

“It’s My Car” was released on the group’s first album, Wasn’t Tomorrow Wonderful, in 1982 – long before GPS was invented, which brought an end to drivers getting lost on car trips: 

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Bob Dylan – "It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)" (1965)

But even the President of the United States
Sometimes must have to stand naked

The Swedish Academy, which was created by King Gustav III in 1786, consists of 18 members.  Its raison d’être is to further the “purity, strength, and sublimity” of the Swedish language.  

Most of what the Academy does is of no interest to anyone outside of Sweden.  There’s one exception to that rule: every year, it awards the Nobel Prize for Literature.  

Last month, the Swedish Academy awarded the 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature to Bob Dylan.

I have to admit that I didn’t see that one coming.  Neither did Alex Shephard of the New Republic, who handicapped the 2016 Nobel Prize field a week or so before the winner was announced.

Shepard characterized this year’s Nobel competition as “wide open,” and admitted that he had no idea who was going to win.  

But he listed a number of authors who he believed were certain not to win – including Philip Roth, Richard Ford, Cormac McCarthy, Thomas Pynchon, Don DeLillo, Joyce Carol Oates . . . and Bob Dylan.

“Bob Dylan 100 percent is not going to win,” Shephard opined.  “Stop saying Bob Dylan should win the Nobel Prize.”


Shepard shouldn’t feel bad – he wasn’t the only one surprised by the Academy’s decision.  According to Reuters:

The announcement was met with gasps in Stockholm's stately Royal Academy hall, followed – unusually – by some laughter.

A number of highly-regarded (and envious?) authors questioned the Academy’s decision to give the Nobel to Dylan.

Anglo-Indian novelist Hari Kunzru: “This feels like the lamest Nobel win since they gave it to Obama for not being Bush.”

Russian-American novelist Gary Shteyngart: “I totally get the Nobel committee.  Reading books is hard.”

The very envious Gary Shteyngart
Scottish novelist Irvine Welsh: “I’m a Dylan fan, but this is an ill-conceived nostalgia award wrenched from the rancid prostates of senile, gibbering hippies.”

(That “rancid prostates” line isn’t entirely fair.  After all, one third of the Academy’s members are women – including one with the truly remarkable name of Lotta Lotass.) 

A lot of people have offered their two cents’ worth on whether Dylan should or should not have been given the prize.  One of them was critic Stephen Metcalf, who wrote an article in Slate that was titled “Bob Dylan Is a Genius of Almost Unparalleled Genius, but He Shouldn’t Have Gotten the Nobel.”

Metcalf’s point is that while you can experience a Bob Dylan song in the same way that you can experience a poem – by reading words printed on paper – you aren’t experiencing the whole Bob Dylan song if you just read the lyrics and don’t listen to the music.

Christopher Ricks, who has been called “the world’s leading Dylanologist,” made a similar point when he compared reading Dylan’s song lyrics to reading the screenplay for Citizen Kane:

The words in the movie are terrifically good, but they only constitute part of the art that it is.

It’s not really fair to give even the world’s best screenwriter the Nobel Prize for Literature because it is impossible to judge the quality of his writing without being influenced by your experience of the finished movie.  

The same is true of Dylan’s song lyrics – you can read the lyrics in a book, but you’ll hear the music in your head as you do.  If you pit Dylan against a poet in a competition, Dylan has an unfair advantage because he can use both words and music while the poet has only words – the poet is fighting with one hand tied behind his back.  

Dylan was awarded the Presidential
Medal of Freedom in 2012
But if you had never heard a Bob Dylan record, it would be unfair to Dylan to judge him as an artist  solely on the basis of his song lyrics.  He didn’t write those lyrics to be read silently by a reader – he wrote them to be sung to his music.  

Bottom line?  Comparing a poem and a song is something like comparing apples and oranges . . . but I would argue that apples and oranges are a lot more alike than poetry and songs.

It’s true that when you print a song’s lyrics on a page, they look just like a poem.  But a song’s lyrics are not a song any more than a screenplay is a movie.

I agree with all the literary types who say Dylan shouldn’t have gotten the Nobel Prize for Literature.  

That’s not because I think his work is of less artistic worth than a great poet’s work.  To the contrary – I would much prefer to listen to songs than read poetry.  (Truth be told, poetry kinda sucks.)

But I wouldn’t give Dylan the Nobel Prize for Literature for the same reason I wouldn’t give him the Nobel Prize for Chemistry or Economics.  

But while I have my doubts about the wisdom of the Academy’s choice, I’m not going to complain too loudly: after all, they could have given the prize to Bruce Springsteen.

*    *     *     *     *

Of course, the Swedish Academy couldn’t care less about what I think – they’ve given the award to Dylan, and that’s not about to change.

I have to wonder if the Academy’s decision can be explained by the fact that they were desperate for attention, and knew that giving the prize to a celebrity like Dylan would get them plenty of notice – notwitstanding the fact that Dylan’s heyday was fifty years ago, and he is as unfamiliar to most millennials as Zez Confrey is to baby boomers.

The Swedish Academy building in Stockholm
That’s hyperbole, of course.  Most millennials have probably heard all about Dylan from their annoying boomer parents.  If not, they likely know from all the TV commercials he’s done in recent years – for Apple, Cadillac, Chrysler, Pepsi, and Victoria’s Secret.

If generating more publicity was was what the Academy was trying to do, it worked.  I can guarantee you that awarding the Nobel to Dylan generated about a thousand times as much press coverage as the Academy got when they gave the prize to Belarusian nonfiction writer Svetlana Alexievich in 2015, or Swedish poet Tomas Tranströmer in 2011, or French-Mauritian novelist and essayist J. M. G. Le Clézio in 2008.

*     *     *     *     *

This 2 or 3 lines post will appear before we know who the next President of the United States will be.  Regardless of who wins, I’m hoping that the lyric from “It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)” that’s quoted at the beginning of the post doesn’t come true.  (Hasn’t the American electorate suffered enough?)

“It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)” was released in 1965 on Dylan’s fifth studio album, Bringing It All Back Home.  It’s one of Dylan’s favorite songs – he had performed it live some 772 times as of March 2015 – and most critics agree that it is one of his very best.  

But while the song is full of quotable lyrics, I think it makes a much better song than poem. 

Here’s a video of Dylan performing “It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)” live.  I’m featuring this particular version of the song because Dylan reads his lyrics more than sings them – it’s more like a poetry reading than a musical performance:

Click below to buy the original recording of the song from Amazon:

Friday, November 25, 2016

Red Hot Chili Peppers – "Bicycle Song" (2006)

How could I forget to mention
The bicycle is a good invention

Instead of waking up in the middle of the night so I can get to the mall early for Black Friday, I sleep in on the day after Thanksgiving and then ride my bike to my office.

This year’s ride didn’t get off to a good start.  My almost-new bike computer – it’s really just a glorified speedometer/odometer – has had intermittent issues since I bought it.  When I saddled up and started pedaling this morning, the computer was dead.

Fortunately, I had parked at a Metro station that’s very close to the store where I bought my bike, so I took it there for a quick look-see.  It was only the THIRD time I had taken the bike in so they could fix the computer. 

The technician looked it over, did his thing, and told me everything was working.  And everything was working – for a couple of hours.  The computer functioned perfectly all the way to the McDonald’s where I traditionally stop for a mid-ride repast.  

This meal was certainly a big moment for me
But after finished I chowing down and got back on my bike, the computer was dead once more.  I called the bike store and gave them what for.  

I would tell you which bike store it was, but the reach and influence of 2 or 3 lines is yuge, and a negative review from me would result in the store’s losing most its business and being forced into  bankruptcy.  

I don’t want to be responsible for the store’s employees losing their jobs – especially not at this time of year – even though they are a bunch of clueless louts who can’t get my effing computer to work!

Speaking of McDonald’s, I saw something very odd there while I was filling the tank with a double cheeseburger.

At a nearby table, a well-dressed, normal-looking femme d’un certain age was assembling a very special lunch.  It appeared that she had bought a McChicken sandwich, a small side salad, and a couple of orders of Chicken McNuggets.  I think the Chicken McNuggets ended up on the sandwich’s whole-wheat bun, as did several lettuce leaves from the salad.  (She placed those lettuce leaves on the sandwich with infinite care – it took her forever to get her customized sandwich shipshape.)  

Plus she had a small bag of Utz potato chips, which I assume she brought from home.  (McDonald’s doesn’t sell potato chips.)

I figure she spent about $15 for that chicken sandwich.  Hey . . . it don’t make no never mind to me, right?

Here’s a picture of the lady:

I hope she enjoyed her lunch
I wanted to get a closer look at her lunch, but I thought would have been pushing it:

If you think that woman was crazy, you ain’t heard nothin’ yet.

My last rest stop on my post-Thanksgiving ride is always in a park in Georgetown that fronts the Potomac River.  There’s a nice view of the river and Key Bridge, and it’s good place for hitting the water bottle one final time.

A view of the Potomac and Key Bridge
As I coasted to a stop, I noticed a thirty-something woman bent over at the edge of some shrubbery. She was holding a little girl in a very odd way: she had her hands under the thighs of the child, who was sitting up with her feet dangling above the ground.  It looked almost like the child was sitting on the seat of a playground swing, except that her mother’s arms were functioning as the swing’s seat.

I thought that maybe they were playing a game, or that the mother and child were doing some kind of odd exercise or gymnastic move.  Did you ever sit on the floor back-to-back with a friend and stand up by pushing hard against the friend’s back while the friend pushed back?  This mother and child didn’t look like they were doing that, but they could have been doing some other kind of trick.

After a second or two, I realized why the mother was holding her daughter in that fashion:

The mystery is solved
I don’t know what in the hell this mother was thinking.  We were in an exposed area of the park, with plenty of foot and bicycle traffic, and she and her little girl couldn’t have been more exposed – it wasn’t like they were crouching behind some greenery so that you couldn’t really see them.

I immediately averted my gaze, and found myself peering at an of scientific machinery, which turned out to be a “bubbler system” gauge used to monitor the height of the Potomac River.

Here’s the U.S. Geological Survey’s (USGS) explanation of how a bubbler gauge works:

In a bubbler system, an orifice is attached securely below the water surface and connected to a pressure-sensing device by a length of plastic tubing.  Pressurized gas (usually nitrogen or air) is forced through the tubing and out the orifice.  Because the pressure in the tubing is a function of the depth of water above the orifice, a change in the water level of a stream or lake produces a corresponding change in the pressure in the tubing.  Pressure sensors, such as mechanical manometers or electronic pressure transducers, convert the pressure in the tubing into height of water above a set datum level referred to as gage height.  Graphic recorders, digital punch-tape recorders, or electronic data loggers record the gage height either continuously or at preset time intervals, usually 15 minutes.  Solar-recharged batteries power the electrical equipment. . . .

Gaging-station operation changed significantly in 1982 with the introduction of data-collection platforms (DCP's).  The DCP collects gage-height data and transmits it to the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) that relays the data to a ground station and then to USGS offices for dissemination. 

A schematic diagram of a bubbler gauge
(Does the USGS really think that “gauge” is spelled g-a-g-e?)

It all seemed like an awfully complicated way of doing something very simple.  

A sign on the kiosk had instructions for anyone who wanted to know just how high the Potomac was.  Having some kind of digital readout that made that information instantly available to passers-by would have been too simple.  Instead, you were instructed to send a text to a government e-mail address along with an eight-digit code that identified your particular location.

I sent a text – don’t ask me why – and never got a response.  Why am I not surprised?

And why couldn’t the government have saved a lot of your money by installing something like this instead:

If it ain't broke, etc.
A simple stick with some numbers painted on it would work just fine, although it doesn’t come equipped with a satellite transmitter.

*     *     *     *     *

“Bicycle Song” was a previously unreleased track that was added to the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ 2002 By the Way album when that album was made available for download from iTunes and other online retailers in 2006. 

Here’s “Bicycle Song”:

Click below to order the song from Amazon: 

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Lee Brice – "Drinking Class" (2014)

I’m a member of a blue-collar crowd
They can never, no, they can’t keep us down

Suddenly, tout le monde is talking about how white working-class voters elected Donald Trump.  

Law professor Joan C. Williams recently published an article in the Harvard Business Review that does a good job explaining the appeal of Donald Trump – a flamboyant, New York City billionaire – to working-class folks in places like Ohio, Wisconsin, and Iowa.  

Williams attributes Trump’s success with less affluent white voters to what she calls the “class culture gap.”  

Feminist law scholar Joan C. Williams
“One little-known element of that gap is that the white working class resents professionals but admires the rich,” Williams writes.  She says that “class migrants” – by which she means  white-collar professionals born to blue-collar families – report that their parents were suspicious of more-educated professionals and middle management (who were described by one blue-collar worker as people “who don’t know sh*t about how to do anything but are full of ideas about how I have to do my job”).

I fit the definition of “class migrant” to a T.  My father worked for a dairy, delivering milk to local grocery stores and restaurants.  My mother worked at a country club, so she had plenty of contact with the local elite – doctors, lawyers, bankers and the like – many of whom rubbed her the wrong way.  

(I’ll never forget a crusty old teacher of mine describing the country-club set as people who frittered away their days “punching golf balls, shuffling dice, sucking on cigarettes, and sipping beer through a straw.”  He would definitely have voted for Trump over Clinton.)

According to Williams, Hillary Clinton “epitomizes the dorky arrogance and smugness of the professional elite.”

The dorkiness: the pantsuits.  The arrogance: the email server.  The smugness: the basket of deplorables. . . . Look at how she condescends to Trump as unfit to hold the office of the presidency and dismisses his supporters as racist, sexist, homophobic, or xenophobic.

Some of Clinton's "dorky" pantsuits
Trump said a lot of stuff that more-educated and affluent voters found offensive.  But blue-collar workers liked his straight talk – especially given his opponent’s penchant for being evasive and secretive.:

Clinton’s clunky admission that she talks one way in public and another in private?  Further proof she’s a two-faced phony.

Williams doesn’t doubt that sexism had something to do Hillary Clinton’s defeat.  But she points out that white working-class women voted for Trump over Clinton by a huge margin — 62% to 34%.  “Class trumps gender,” she concludes.

Williams states correctly that anyone attempting to understand Trump’s appeal to blue-collar workers must avoid the temptation to characterize them as racists:

Economic resentment has fueled racial anxiety that, in some Trump supporters (and Trump himself), bleeds into open racism.  But to write off [white working-class] anger as nothing more than racism is intellectual comfort food, and it is dangerous.

If you’re skeptical of her argument, let me point out that many of the working-class whites who supported Trump had voted for Obama in 2012 – surely you don’t believe they all turned into racists four years later?

Williams also is correct to point out that “working class” doesn’t mean “poor” – and that policies aimed at helping the poor aren’t going to win over working-class voters:

When progressives talk about the working class, typically they mean the poor.  But the poor, in the bottom 30% of American families, are very different from Americans who are literally in the middle: the middle 50% of families whose median income was $64,000 in 2008. . . .

Working-class Trump voters
“The thing that really gets me is that Democrats try to offer policies (paid sick leave! minimum wage!) that would help the working class,” a friend just wrote me.  A few days’ paid leave ain’t gonna support a family.  Neither is minimum wage. [White working-class] men aren’t interested in working at McDonald’s for $15 per hour instead of $9.50.  What they want is . . . steady, stable, full-time jobs that deliver a solid middle-class life to the 75% of Americans who don’t have a college degree.  Trump promises that.  I doubt he’ll deliver, but at least he understands what they need.

Finally, Williams explains why the working class resents the poor and politicians who focus on their needs:

Remember when President Obama sold Obamacare by pointing out that it delivered health care to 20 million people?  Just another program that taxed the middle class to help the poor, said the [white working class], and in some cases that’s proved true: the poor got [government-subsidized] health insurance while some Americans just a notch richer saw their premiums rise.

Progressives have lavished attention on the poor for over a century. That (combined with other factors) led to social programs targeting them. . . . Example: 28.3% of poor families receive child-care subsidies, which are largely nonexistent for the middle class.  

Kevin Drum made the same point in 2014 in Mother Jones:

So who does the [white working class] take out its anger on?  Largely, the answer is the poor.  In particular, the undeserving poor.  Liberals may hate this distinction, but it doesn't matter if we hate it. . . . For [the white working class], the poor aren't merely a set of statistics or a cause to be championed.  They're the folks next door who don't do a lick of work but somehow keep getting government checks paid for by their tax dollars. . . .

And who is it that's responsible for this infuriating flow of government money to the shiftless?  Democrats.  We fight to save food stamps.  We fight for WIC.  We fight for Medicaid expansion.  We fight for Obamacare.  We fight to move poor families into nearby housing.

This is a big problem because these are all things that benefit the poor but barely touch the working class.  Does it matter that the working class barely pays for most of these programs in the first place, since their federal income taxes tend to be pretty low?  Nope.  They're still paying taxes, and it seems like they never get anything for it.  It's always someone else.

You can click here to read Drum's article in its entirety.

Williams offers a very telling anecdote about working-class resentment of the non-working poor:

[M]y sister-in-law worked full-time for Head Start, providing free child care for poor women while earning so little that she almost couldn’t pay for her own.  She resented this, especially the fact that some of the kids’ moms did not work.  One arrived late one day to pick up her child, carrying shopping bags from Macy’s.  My sister-in-law was livid.

That’s it in a nutshell.  People like Williams’s sister-in-law believe that the government takes care of the poor (including those whose poverty is really their own fault) but couldn’t care less about the working class (who aren’t that much better off, but who get much less help from the government).  

Williams credits Trump with keeping his eye on the prize when it comes to the working class’s primary concern, which is jobs.  What about the Democrats?  “They remain obsessed with cultural issues,” Williams writes.  “I fully understand why transgender bathrooms are important, but I also understand why progressives’ obsession with prioritizing cultural issues infuriates many Americans whose chief concerns are economic.”

*     *     *     *     *

Lee Brice played football at Clemson University but his athletic career ended when he suffered a freak elbow injury.  So he moved to Nashville and became a country musician.

Brice struck it rich in 2007 when a song he co-wrote, “More Than a Memory,” was recorded by Garth Brooks.  That record became the first to ever debut at the #1 spot on the Billboard “Hot Country Songs” chart.

Brice signed a recording contract shortly after that.  He’s released three successful albums and a half-dozen or so hit singles – including “Love Like Crazy,” which remained on the “Hot Country Songs” chart for a record 56 consecutive weeks.

“Drinking Class” was a #3 hit single for Brice in 2014.

Here’s “Drinking Class”:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon: