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:

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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.

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“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.

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“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.”

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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:

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Bevis Frond – "I've Got Eyes in the Back of My Head" (1987)

I’ve got eyes
In the back of my head

Were you surprised that Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential election?

2 or 3 lines saw it coming – after the votes had been counted, that is.  (With the aid of 20/20 hindsight, the outcome was pretty obvious.)

The New York Times didn't see it coming
But why did Trump win?  What explains what may be the biggest election upset in American history?

There are a lot of bogus explanations out there.  For example, some pundits have said he won because his supporters were racists.  

But the data simply don’t support such statements.  A lot of Trump supporters – especially those in key swing states like Wisconsin and Iowa – not only voted for Obama in 2012, but said in exit polls that they thought Obama was doing a pretty good job.  It’s hard for me to believe that someone who voted for Obama four years ago and generally approves of his job performance can fairly be called a racist.

Here's a map showing the counties in the upper Midwest that voted for Obama and flipped to Trump.  The darker-colored counties voted twice for Obama, but flipped to Trump.

A good starting point for those who seek to understand Trump’s victory is a study showing that the mortality rate for non-college-educated whites between the ages of 45 and 54 increased dramatically between 1999 and 2013.  

By contrast, death rates generally – including those for African-Americans and Hispanics – have been declining over that time period.

Back in March, the Washington Post’s “Wonkblog” analyzed voting data from the Iowa caucuses and nine of the “Super Tuesday” primary states.  It turns out that Trump did best in the counties where the death rate for whites between the ages of 40 and 64 was the highest.

Click here if you'd like to read that Post story.

What explains the higher mortality rate for these white middle-aged Americans?  Deaths from drug and alcohol overdoses (as well as liver diseases associated with too much drinking) and suicides.

What causes people to drink too much, abuse opioids and other legal and illegal drugs, and commit suicide?  They’re obviously depressed and anxious.

Economic factors are responsible in part for that depression and anxiety – less-educated Americans in middle America have suffered as manufacturing companies have shifted production overseas.  President-elect Trump promised to turn things around by renegotiating international trade agreements that he believes give an unfair advantage to foreign-manufactured goods, which costs Americans manufacturing jobs.   

Surprisingly, it turns out that Trump voters as a whole aren’t suffering more than others.  An analysis of 87,000 interviews of likely voters conducted over the summer found that Trump’s supporters do not have lower incomes and are no more likely to be unemployed than other Americans.  

Click here if you'd like to read a summary of that study's findings.

But those people are more worried than others about the future of the American economy.  In other words, while they may not be suffering from unemployment or lower incomes, they fear for the futures of their neighbors . . . and fear especially for the futures of their children.  

From the Washington Post:  

Trump has found success playing up economic grievances, stoking anxieties about immigrants, and complaining about Chinese competition.  How is it then, that so many of his supporters seem to be economically secure?  It could be that Trump supporters aren't worried for themselves, but for their children. . . .

Trump voters tend to be older, blue-collar workers, and recent generations have had more difficulty getting well-paying jobs that didn’t require much education.  Those opportunities have largely dried up.  And now, Trump supporters tend to live in places where the world has gotten visibly tougher for the kids on the block.  It's easier to agree with Trump's narrative about American decline when you have seen your own child fall down the economic ladder.

There’s another reason that I believe explains why a number of voters who believed Trump didn’t have the judgment or temperament required to be an effective President held their nose and voted for him anyway.  You can read all about it in the next 2 or 3 lines.

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The Bevis Frond is essentially Nick Saloman, a British tour de force who has released more than two dozen albums since 1987.  Salmon’s albums are usually categorized as psychedelic, and he is often compared to Jimi Hendrix as a guitarist – but you really need to listen to his music to have any idea what it is like.

“I’ve Got Eyes in the Back of My Head” is from the second Bevis Frond album, Inner Marshland.  

Here’s “I’ve Got Eyes in the Back of My Head”:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Friday, November 18, 2016

Simon & Garfunkel – "Cecilia" (1970)

I'm down on my knees
I'm begging you please

It hit me today that I’m Facebooking more these days, but enjoying it less.

I know what you’re thinking: “If going on Facebook upsets you so much, why the hell don’t you just turn it off?”  I wish I had an answer to that question, boys and girls. 

One reason that I so looked forward to November 8 getting here was that Facebook would finally be free of all the election-related flotsam and jetsam.  

I couldn’t have been wronger.  In the first few days after November 8, Facebook got even worse than it had been in the months leading up to the election.  Much worse, in fact.

To paraphrase Julius Caesar, all Facebook was divided into three parts in the first few days after the election:

1. Whiny posts by Clinton supporters

2. Gloating posts by Trump supporters

3. Holier-than-thou posts urging Trump and Clinton supporters alike to acknowledge that those who voted for the other candidate aren’t necessarily evil, and urging everyone to come together and work for the common good.

Which of those three categories of Facebook posts was the most annoying?

There were many, many fewer posts of the third category than there were whiny posts by Clinton supporters and gloating posts by Trump supporters.

I found the whiny posts the most annoying.  The fact that they were by Clinton supporters has nothing to do with that.  I’m well aware that we would have seen just as many whiny posts from Trump supporters if Clinton had won, and that those posts would have been just as obnoxious.

Don’t get me wrong.  Gloating posts by winners are plenty annoying.  But I think whiny posts by LOSERS are worse.

I’m down on my knees . . . I’m begging you, please.  Enough of the political crap!  Can’t we go back to filling up Facebook with pictures of lovable grandchildren and wacky animals?

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According to New York magazine, 44% of adult Americans say they get news from Facebook.  But a lot of the “news” you see on Facebook is fake, and some have claimed that fake news influenced the outcome of the recent election.  

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO, has brushed off that criticism.  In a recent post to his own Facebook page, Zuckerberg said that 99% of what people see on Facebook is authentic.  But based on what I see on my Facebook page, I’d say the split between legitimate news and fake news is closer to 50-50.

Morpheus agrees:  

Zuckerberg has promised that Facebook will develop algorithms that will enable it  to identify and eliminate fake news posts.  I wonder if Facebook is really willing to take the hit to its bottom line that cleaning up the network will cause.  Media companies usually want to have their cake and eat it, too — they rarely can resist keeping every advertising dollar they can get their hands on, even if the advertising is deceptive or otherwise unsavory. 

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg
Maybe you should stop getting your news from Facebook and start getting it from 2 or 3 lines instead . . . starting with our next post, which includes some illuminating facts about the 2016 election.  

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What was Paul Simon down on his knees and begging Cecilia for?  For musical inspiration, that’s what.  (Cecilia is the patron saint of musicians, after all.) 

“Cecilia” was released in April 1970 – just a month before I graduated from high school.  

It was the third single released from the Bridge Over Troubled Water album.  “Bridge Over Troubled Waters” and “The Boxer” – which clearly belong on the short list of Simon and Garfunkel’s best songs – were the first two.  

Here’s “Cecilia”:

Click below to buy “Cecilia” from Amazon:

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – "Helpless" (1970)

There is a town in north Ontario . . .
And in my mind, I still need a place to go

In the last 2 or 3 lines, I explained that a last-minute business trip to Columbus, Ohio prevented me from voting in the recent presidential election.

Of course, that didn’t prevent me from following the election results on CNN and Fox that night.  

Forget the Super Bowl, forget game 7 of the World Series . . . the election news last Tuesday night was compelling stuff.  We had a close race when something close to a landslide had been predicted, and we had an underdog winner – you couldn’t have scripted it any better than that.  

Did you watch the election night coverage?  If so, WERE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?  

I was so entertained that I stayed up until the wee hours, when the outcome finally became clear.

The 1980 election of Ronald Reagan was the most significant election of my lifetime.  But the 2016 election resulted in the biggest upset by far.  Tell the truth: how many of you saw Trump’s victory coming?

I’m a Republican, and I am most definitely not a fan of Hillary Clinton.  But that doesn't make me a Donald Trump fan.  I would have preferred almost any of the other GOP candidates to him, although I never threatened to move to Canada if Trump won.

Lena Dunham did so threaten at the Matrix Awards in April.  But she soon changed her tune, which was a real shame:

And for those demanding I move to Canada based on something I said when this man seemed like a steak salesman with a long shot at the presidency: stay busy reveling in your new regime.  I will go many places during my lifetime, surrounded by kindreds on a mission to spread justice and light.  

"A mission to spread justice and light"?  Really?  (And people accuse me of narcissism.)   

There were plenty of other celebrities who threatened to leave the U. S. of A. if Trump was victorious on November 8 — including Madonna (who promised to perform oral sex on anyone who voted for Hillary), Lady Gaga (who was seen weeping in her Rolls Royce after Trump’s win), Amy Schumer, Whoopi Goldberg, Barbra Streisand, Jon Stewart, Miley Cyrus, and Chelsea Handler.  

I wouldn't shed any tears if any or all of them did pack up and skedaddle to the Great White North, but I’ll bet you dollars to donuts that none of them will – even though Canada has a lower top income tax bracket than the United States, which would come in mighty handy if you were as rich as those folks are.

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“Helpless” was released on Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s 1970 album, Déjà Vu.   It was written by  Neil Young, who was born in Toronto and went to high school in Winnipeg.

Here’s “Helpless”:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon: