Editor’s Note: This article was first published in February of 2013. It is being reprinted as part of a new weekend series at PJ Lifestyle collecting and organizing the top 50 best lists. Where will this great piece end up on the list? Reader feedback will be factored in when the PJ Lifestyle Top 50 List Collection is completed in a few months…
I may be a blogging pioneer, but I’m not otherwise technically savvy.
I’ve never played a video game or “texted.”
I don’t even own a cell phone.
But along with blogging, one “techy” thing I know a little about is SEO, or search engine optimization.
At least, I did until Google ran their Panda and Penguin algorithm updates , and changed lots of their rules (mostly for the better) to punish folks who’d been trying to game the search-engine system.
And when you think of what’s at stake, it’s easy to understand why some “black hat” SEO “gurus” are always seeking the elusive formula for algorithmic alchemy, to turn search engine results placement into literal gold.
After all, an estimated 90% of Google searchers never visit page two of their results; getting your company’s site into those precious ten “page one” results for a popular and lucrative search phrase like “San Diego real estate” can mean increased business.
As well, dominating that first page when potential employers, spouses, or malicious trolls google your first and last name is a vital part of online reputation management.
I’m not an expert, but I’ve learned a few things about how to own (or at least, easily “rent”) your name on Google’s first-page results.
There’s not much you can do about nasty sites or pages devoted to dissing you unless they are literally slanderous and you can get a lawyer to send the site owner a “take down” notice.
However, you can try to push down embarrassing or nasty stuff by “owning” your page-one Google results.
These tips aren’t “tricks” — everything I’m about to tell you are all “white hat,” non-controversial things you can do to start taking control of your online presence.
TIP: Before you google yourself, ALWAYS sign out of your Google account, clear your browser cache and, if possible, use a program like HideMyIP to choose a different IP address.
Doing all this will more closely replicate what a total stranger will see when they search for you.
Hitchcock’s 1948 film Rope is regarded by some as one of his lesser works, a mere gimmicky curio:
A movie made in what is supposed to be one long take, the better to recreate the experience of watching a stage play (which Rope originally was).
Because that would have been technically unachievable at the time — a Technicolor camera’s film cartridges had to be replaced every ten minutes — Hitchcock challenged himself to employ the fewest cuts he possibly could.
It fell into semi-obscurity until a 1984 rerelease prompted critical reevaluations and introduced the movie to a new generation.
I’ve never understood why Hitchcock was disappointed with the movie.
Then again, I’ve always been very fond of Rope.
Its themes intrigue me.
Editor’s Note: This article was first published in three parts in April and May of 2013. It is being reprinted as part of a new weekend series at PJ Lifestyle collecting and organizing the top 50 best lists. Where will this great piece end up on the count-down? Reader feedback will be factored in when the PJ Lifestyle Top 50 List Collection is completed in a few months…
The “Academy of the Overrated” scene in Woody Allen’s Manhattan (1978) is meant to get us to hate Diane Keaton just before Woody Allen changes his mind and falls into bed with her.
Yes, as Mariel Hemingway’s character puts it, Keaton and her beau are “creeps” — but mostly because their “academy” inductees are so gauche, as is their decision to inflict their pretentious pillow talk onto hapless acquaintances on a public sidewalk.
Let’s face it:
Some artists really are overrated, especially today when words like “genius” and “classic” (and the current go-to empty-calorie adjective “iconic”) have been neutered by lazy, know-nothing writers.
First, we prick the inflated reputations of 5 rock and pop stars with XY chromosomes and little else to recommend them.
#5: Pink Floyd
Let’s tackle Roger Waters’ reputed antisemitism first, since it lets me put off having to actually talk about his dreadful “music” for a bit.
Waters made news most recently when New York City’s famous 92Y, under pressure by Jewish groups, cancelled his scheduled lecture.
I’m not a fan of anybody trying to get someone else’s public appearances cancelled, and not just because it’s happened to me.
What’s unusual about this particular instance, however, is that critics’ “accusations” against Waters are true.
Some will object that “anti-Zionism isn’t necessarily anti-Semitism” and if we existed on a pure and sterile plane of Platonic forms, they’d be right.
But here on planet Earth, anyone who’s engaged a rabid “anti-Zionist” in “conversation” knows that within moments, their opponent will slip up and spit out some slur upon “the Joooozzzz!!!”
I save myself time and simply assume that long-time anti-Zionists are Jew-haters, because life is too short and I have laundry and stuff to do.
Those who grew up with Pink Floyd’s 1979 double album “The Wall” will remember it as the perfect antidote to the crueller aspects of teenage life. Chronicling the mental breakdown of a pop star, the rock opera rages against suffocating parents, tyrannical teachers and social conformism. The story concludes with the hero hauled before a nightmarish court, where everyone in his life testifies as an adversarial witness. Before the defendant can say a word in his own defense, the judge bellows a guilty verdict: “The evidence before the court is incontrovertible. There is no need for the jury to retire!”
I was reminded of this scene Saturday while attending a session in New York of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine, a self-appointed people’s court that has met periodically since 2009 to sit in judgment of Israel. (…)
Another reason to be reminded of “The Wall”: Roger Waters, Pink Floyd’s chief lyricist, was a member of the jury.
It was ubiquitous in my steel mill home town — a whining drone blaring from every paneled suburban basement and tricked-out Chevy van.
But those of us who’d discovered punk wanted nothing to do with the overproduced bellows of millionaire dinosaurs like Pink Floyd.
That doesn’t make Pink Floyd’s music any more palatable, however.
Had their efforts been presented matter of factly, I’d give them a pass.
But every Floyd album was held up by under-read, musically unsophisticated teenage boys as a deep, profound commentary on society (man!!!) as well as an example of superior performance and production.
They’d show off their stereo system using Dark Side of the Moon, sounding like Joe Pesci in Goodfellas:
“Check it out! One instrument comes out one speaker, and another instrument comes out the OTHER speaker!!”
Have you, now a sober adult, actually listened to Dark Side of the Moon lately?
Can you scrape off enough encrusted nostalgia to acknowledge that album’s sheer awfulness?
And while those Wizard of Oz weirdies aren’t Floyd’s fault, they’re not helping matters, either.
When I scream “The Who are better than that stupid band you like,” I’m thinking about Pink Floyd first and foremost.
Canadians are supposedly really good at making apologies, so here’s one from me:
You know all those shouty “we’re all strong beautiful women” songs your daughter makes you listen to in the SUV?
Those anthemic musical training bras for budding bimbos, “sung” by Katy Perry, K$sha, Miley Cyrus and other balls-out, in-your-face ladies who don’t need no man for nothin’?
Yeah, well, those songs were probably co-written by this Canadian guy.
You see, Ottawa’s Henry Walter works for another fellow you’ve probably never heard of, one “Dr. Luke”:
[M]ost of the iconic hits of the last 10 years were written by the same person.
If you have attended a photogenic pool party in the last five years, or even watched a video of a pool party while sitting alone in your house, chances are you were dancing (or crying) mostly to music written by a guy called Dr. Luke. “TiK ToK”? “Dynamite”? “Till the World Ends”? “Wrecking Ball”? Pretty much any song by Katy Perry? They’re all the work of this single relatively unfamous songwriter, who has written or co-written 40 hit singles since 2004.
Add in Dr. Luke’s frequent co-writer Max Martin, and these two guys have pretty much written everything you have ever heard if you were born in 1999.
The first SCTV bit I ever remember seeing was also the first one I thought of when I learned of Harold Ramis’s death.
For a split second, I hesitated referencing his fake PSA “So You’re Dead, Now What?” on my blog, which isn’t like me.
My instinct to run with it proved sound:
Ed Driscoll thought of it too, and then I saw it cited elsewhere, without a single “too soon!” complaint in the comments.
That’s rather startling, given our hypersensitive, easily offended, concern-trolling society.
Then again, maybe it isn’t.
To his credit, Harold Ramis’s daunting creative output contributed not a jot nor a tittle to the spread of the toxic, politically correct culture that metastasized during his lifetime.
For that alone, he deserves all the praise he’s been receiving this week.
In the summer of 2012, millions of non-football fans first learned of the existence of one Jerry Sandusky, the once revered (and then disgraced) Penn State football coach.
So on July 15 of that year, Steyn repeated blogger Rand Simberg’s recent observations that Penn State’s roster of employees also included Michael Mann:
In the wake of Louis Freeh’s report on Penn State’s complicity in serial rape, Rand Simberg writes of Unhappy Valley’s other scandal:
“I’m referring to another cover up and whitewash that occurred there two years ago, before we learned how rotten and corrupt the culture at the university was. But now that we know how bad it was, perhaps it’s time that we revisit the Michael Mann affair, particularly given how much we’ve also learned about his and others’ hockey-stick deceptions since. Mann could be said to be the Jerry Sandusky of climate science, except that instead of molesting children, he has molested and tortured data in the service of politicized science that could have dire economic consequences for the nation and planet.”
Not sure I’d have extended that metaphor all the way into the locker-room showers with quite the zeal Mr Simberg does, but he has a point. Michael Mann was the man behind the fraudulent climate-change “hockey-stick” graph, the very ringmaster of the tree-ring circus. And, when the East Anglia emails came out, Penn State felt obliged to “investigate” Professor Mann. Graham Spanier, the Penn State president forced to resign over Sandusky, was the same cove who investigated Mann. And, as with Sandusky and Paterno, the college declined to find one of its star names guilty of any wrongdoing.
If an institution is prepared to cover up systemic statutory rape of minors, what won’t it cover up? Whether or not he’s “the Jerry Sandusky of climate change”, he remains the Michael Mann of climate change, in part because his “investigation” by a deeply corrupt administration was a joke.
Speaking of jokes, Mann duly sued over Steyn’s and Simberg’s quips.
One of the lawyers for Michael Jackson’s family should really explain to them the definition of “chutzpah.”
There’s no point asking their accountants, since they’re likely the ones responsible for this:
The IRS has served notice that the estate of Michael Jackson severely understated worth and income and is demanding $700 million in back taxes and penalties.
Documents have been filed with the U.S. Tax Court that alleges that the executor’s for Jackson said his net worth at the time of his death was $7 million while the IRS has assessed the worth at $1.125 billion. (…)
A good portion of the difference was attributed to the value of Jackson’s likeness which the estate valued at $2,105 and the IRS says was worth $434.264 million. In addition, the estate said that Jackson’s portion of the ownership of both his songs and those of the Beatles was worth nothing.
Yes, you read that right. They said the Beatles songs (and his) were worth $0.
The IRS said it was more like $469 million.
In a separate, in-depth article examining the Beatles’ fortunes fifty years on, David Fiorenza, a Villanova University economics professor who specializes in art and entertainment, said that the Fab Four’s “financial impact today is bigger than any other artist, living or deceased.”
So those Jackson family shenanigans are funny in a “can’t you believe it?” way, but the fact is, celebrity estates are serious business.
(God, I hate that word…)
This week back in 1972, the stunt was described in less lofty terms:
It’s hard to come up with a contemporary parallel, since nowadays, the permanent daytime hosts are already “John and Yoko”:
Rosie O’Donnell, Whoopie Goldberg, Ellen DeGeneres and their colleagues reflexively dole out that week’s trendy received liberal wisdom, normalizing formerly taboo topics and opinions.
You see, that week in 1972 is usually remembered as “historic” and brave and radical — a laudable if inevitably awkward attempt on everyone’s part to bridge the “generation gap.”
That the voting age had just been slashed from 21 to 18 energized millions of young people, and no doubt frightened some of their elders.
(Who had nothing to worry about: That year, with the Democrats running radical anti-war candidate George McGovern, and the hippie movement supposedly ascendant and crushing everything in its cultural path, Nixon won anyhow. That didn’t turn out so well, of course, but it proves once again that the eventuality you’re most worried about is usually nothing compared to whatever actually occurs…)
We’re also informed that John and Yoko’s chosen guests were rarely seen on American television, and that Mike Douglas was a good-natured if bewildered old fuddyduddy throughout.
You know what’s coming next…
Editor’s Note: This article was first published in two parts in May and June of 2013. It is being reprinted as part of a new weekend series at PJ Lifestyle collecting and organizing the top 50 best lists of 2013. Where will this great piece end up on the list? Reader feedback will be factored in when the PJ Lifestyle Top 50 List Collection is completed in a few months…
Then the rest of the week to come up with the rest.
For someone who is as cohort-sensitive as I am, who rages constantly about “kids these days,” and who feels most comfortable socializing almost exclusively with other X-ers, I found this assignment surprisingly daunting.
I used a HighLowBrow post about Gen-Xers to try to kickstart my brain.
That site calls us “Recons” and counts those born between 1964-1973 as members of that generation.
The article features a labor-of-love list of famous Recons/X-ers that was invaluable in helping me put together this column.
Predictably, I take issue with their chosen start date, however.
It’s a weird definition of “Generation X” that excludes the guy who popularized the phrase (Douglas Coupland, 1961) or the fellow who wrote our “national anthem” (Gordon Gano, 1963):
On February 9, 1964, the Beatles performed on The Ed Sullivan Show, reaching an audience of over 70 million.
Overnight, America emerged from post-Dallas national mourning, thanks to the upbeat musical ministrations of those four loveable strangers from Liverpool.
One minute, no one had even heard of the Beatles; the next, thousands of hysterical girls spontaneously descended upon New York’s newly rechristened JFK International Airport to welcome the quartet.
“Beatlemania,” we called it.
The U.S. had never seen anything like it — and neither had the English, who promptly press-ganged more guitar groups to mount a “British invasion.”
The fiftieth anniversary of this epochal night in pop culture has prompted a flurry of books, think pieces and TV specials, all repeating the above received wisdom by rote.
The truth, as always, isn’t quite so pat.
In fact, some of this potted history is just plain wrong.
Next week I’ll be writing about the 50th anniversary of the so-called British Invasion and the Beatles’ epochal debut on The Ed Sullivan Show.
(I’ll also be debunking some of the myths that quickly grew up around that event…)
Meanwhile, this week marks the 35th anniversary of the Clash’s first American tour, to support their Give ‘Em Enough Rope LP.
Sure, their debut U.S. single — a thundering cover of the Bobby Fuller Four’s “I Fought The Law” — was climbing up the American charts.
Fans and detractors alike wondered if Big Bad America would also crush the Pistols’ only still-standing rivals, especially since the Clash had dubbed their first visit the “Pearl Harbor Tour,” and launched almost every U.S. gig with the bitchy anthem “I’m So Bored With the U.S.A” — to determine “if the crowd had a sense of humor.”
Appropriately enough considering the tune had started out as a song about love — not a love song, per se, as those were frowned upon — that gesture rather resembled a little boy’s expression of affection for his female crush: pulling her pigtails.
Because for all their faddish political bombast, the Clash’s frontmen had loved America from afar for years.
I haven’t seen the new documentary MITT and I’m not sure I can bring myself to do so.
Living in the real-life aftermath of Romney’s failed presidential campaign is depressing enough without sitting through a cinematic autopsy, too.
Some say that if this documentary or something like it had been screened before election day, Romney’s chances would’ve improved.
Obviously we can’t know that for certain.
I feel more confident declaring that had an infamous but little seen Barry Goldwater campaign film called Choice aired in 1964, he still wouldn’t have won.
Americans weren’t going to dishonor their recently assassinated Democratic president by failing to vote for his successor. Period.
It didn’t help that the elites had successfully painted Goldwater as a racist, warmongering loony.
(Here’s an exhaustive history of the Democrats’ legendary “Daisy” commercial that made such a libelous liberal case against the Republican opponent — for one thing, it was Democrat JFK who brought America closest to nuclear war.)
That aside, the fact is:
Millions of Americans who educated themselves about Goldwater still found his real views too radical.
So had he allowed the wide release of Choice, the election would’ve turned out the same way.
The real question is:
If this long-form commercial had aired more than twice, how would it have colored public perceptions of the Republican Party into the future?
Splitsider — a website by and for stand-up comics — called it “one of the most obvious findings ever”:
…a study in the British Journal of Psychiatry has confirmed that comedians possess more psychotic characteristics compared to their non-comedian peers. The researchers asked 523 comedians from Australia, Britain, and the U.S. to complete an online questionnaire designed to measure levels of four psychotic traits — “unusual experiences,” “cognitive disorganization,” “introvertive anhedonia,” and “impulsive non-conformity.” Unsurprisingly, the comedians ranked high in their levels of all four psychotic behavior indicators.
“The creative elements needed to produce humor are strikingly similar to those characterizing the cognitive style of people with psychosis – both schizophrenia and bipolar disorder,” said Gordon Claridge of the University of Oxford’s department of experimental psychology, who led the study.
Although the traits in question are known as “psychotic”, Claridge said, they can also represent healthy equivalents of features such as moodiness, social introversion and the tendency to lateral thinking.
“Although schizophrenic psychosis itself can be detrimental to humor, in its lesser form it can increase people’s ability to associate odd or unusual things or to think ‘outside the box’,” he said.
“Equally, manic thinking – which is common in people with bipolar disorder – may help people combine ideas to form new, original and humorous connections.”
Say, did you know the working title for Woody Allen’s Annie Hall was Anhedonia?
So there’s that.
And there’s an entire — highly recommended — podcast devoted solely to mental illness and stand-up comedians.
(And I’m not talking about Marc Maron’s WTF. Although I could be, because man, oh man, have you ever listened to that thing?)
No, it isn’t “Bash Old Rockers” week at PJMedia.
But we need to talk about “Uncle Ted.”
This isn’t even about his headline-making rant at the Vegas Shot Show, in which he called President Obama a “subhuman mongrel.”
Ted Nugent doesn’t need puny little Canadian me to “defend” his legal right to use that expression, even though I believe we should keep the adjective “subhuman” chambered until someone more like Dr. Mengele is in our sights.
Rather, I’ve been thinking about Nugent all week after reading a searing takedown of Woody Allen and his Hollywood sycophants by Gavin McInnes. (EXTREME language warning.)
McInnes has children; I do not — hence the “EXTREME language warning,” probably. That is: This difference likely colors my feelings about Allen, which remain frustratingly ambiguous and were better reflect by this piece in, yes, The Onion.
That’s because Woody Allen, like the Monty Python gang, were a gargantuan part of my often otherwise unpleasant childhood.
Allen’s impact was deeper, though, because his movies gave me a glimpse into another possible world, in which intelligent, creative people enjoyed deep yet witty conversations in gorgeous urban environs.
The scene in Annie Hall, in which Allen’s character travels back in time to his public school, surveys his unpromising looking classmates and declares, “Even then, I knew they were just jerks” literally changed my life.
I don’t remember my first kiss, but can easily recall that moment in the darkened downtown movie theater around my 13th birthday. I finally felt… understood.
An orphaned duckling imprints on the first creature it sees, however ridiculous its cloying affection for that indifferent St. Bernard looks to us.
And as far as I know, that imprinting can’t be reversed.
I could probably rewire my brain to hate Woody Allen, or any of the other dubious individuals who “imprinted” themselves on my impressionable young mind.
The thing is: I’m not sure I feel like bothering.
Last September, I wrote about rocker Neil Young’s bizarre, factually challenged — and slanderous — criticisms of Canada’s oil sands.
For instance, Young compared resource town Fort McMurray to Hiroshima. This is kind of unfair to Fort McMurray, which, while verdant and pleasant, has nowhere near as many skyscrapers and neon signs as that Japanese city.
Young made those and other foolish remarks while traveling across Canada in his $1-million Volt/Lincoln Continental hybrid.
He caught a lot of well-deserved flak at the time, which makes it all the more incredible that he was just at it again.
This time, he used a Canadian concert tour as his vehicle for his misinformation campaign.
Young’s “Honor the Treaties” tour features performances by the singer-songwriter, interspersed with buzz-killing on-stage conversations with “First Nations leaders” who claim “Turtle Island” — their name for Canada — is stealing oil and gas from their lands.
Predictably, Young’s gallivanting got millions of dollars’ worth of free publicity from the country’s liberal media, especially from state broadcaster CBC.
That’s why new group called NeilYoungLies.ca has launched, dedicated to setting the record straight.
[Disclosure: I know some of the people working for the organization -- Canada's "right wing conspiracy" isn't so vast.]
Not long ago, I expressed incredulity when Chicago released a nakedly patriotic single that sounded like a South Park parody of a patriotic single by Chicago.
The veteran band’s latest single, however, seems to mark a change of heart. I guess. You can listen to “Naked In The Garden of Allah” here.
The impetus for this track, available for purchase next week via iTunes, goes back to the immediate aftermath of Desert Storm in the early 1990s — something telegraphed by the title but also the Middle Eastern-imbued flourishes at the beginning and ending of “Naked in the Garden of Allah.” Lamm later added lyrics in the wake of the Afghanistan troop surge in 2011. He began putting down tracks for the tune the following year, which has been bolstered here by a blast of Chicago’s signature brass.
Following as it does the fiery earlier advance track “America,” “Allah” seems to signal a return to more politicized songcraft for Chicago — which, primarily through the songwriting pen of Lamm, often dotted its early albums with topical asides like “Dialogue (Part I & II)” and “Harry Truman.”
Lamm, for his part, has previously described “Naked in the Garden of Allah” as a “very edgy commentary about this past 10 years we’ve spent in the Middle East, screwing everything up. So I may get some blowback from that one, I don’t know.”
Well, Chicago might “get some blowback “for this song but that presumes people outside their core fandom even know they’re still around.
Foreigners think of Canada as a nation untouched by terrorism, and it’s true that we’ve been (mostly) spared the sorts of atrocities experienced in New York City, London and Bali, to name three relatively recent targets.
Yet even many Canadians don’t give much thought to the domestic terrorism we’ve been subjected to in the not so distant past:
The FLQ’s campaign of mayhem occurred in a previous generation; millions of us probably haven’t even heard of the Wimmin’s Fire Brigade, or just barely recall the Squamish Five.
We also assure ourselves that “terrorism never accomplishes anything anyway,” ignoring the obvious:
Quebec now gets trillions of dollars in glorified protection money from the ROC (the “rest of Canada”) lest those violent separatists get restless again.
The Brigade’s fire-bombing of “XXX” video stores ushered in tighter Canadian laws against porn, while the Litton Systems bombing cost them their contract to produce cruise missile guidance systems for the U.S. military.
Interestingly, all these events were undertaken by crazy white lefties; the plans of belligerent Muslims to behead the prime minister or sabotage a commuter train were headed off by the authorities.
Meanwhile, a new generation of crazy white lefties (and their aboriginal allies) are candidly declaring their plans to use eco-terrorism to get their way, most recently in a cover story in the Canadian equivalent of The Village Voice.
Since that was the year I was born, I watched PBS’s newest American Experience production, 1964, last night. (You can watch it online free here.)
I braced myself for two hours of received liberal wisdom and stale faux history.
So I was pleasantly surprised at how much respectable attention was paid to, say, Barry Goldwater’s doomed-from-the-start presidential campaign.
Kudos to the creative team for selecting plenty of rarely seen footage, such as young Goldwater volunteers at work and play, and lengthy film of the Berkeley free speech protests.
Some of this film was startling: those thousands of New Year’s Eve celebrants in Times Square looked awfully cheerful for people whose president had just been assassinated.
And how odd to see only two or three obese people, at most.
A few quibbles:
No mention that Betty Friedan was a communist whose book The Feminine Mystique was a tissue of junk social science and autobiographical blarney.
LBJ is portrayed as a noble, even saintly figure, if a bit of a bully — but hey, that was for a good cause, right? Hell, not even many liberals and leftists at the time thought about him this way. (Language/content warnings.)
The program’s biggest error, however, is egregious and obviously intentional.
Again and again, opponents to the Civil Rights Act are described as “Southerners.” They are not, however, referred to as Democrats, which they most certainly were as well.
The dubious “Southern strategy” chestnut also gets an airing, unquestioned.
I received much of my early education about world history from programs like this. We should praise them when they’re worthwhile, no matter who makes them.
However, bad-faith bias in such documentaries, especially those produced in part with taxpayer funding and later used in the classroom, always needs to be called out, quickly and repeatedly.
My high school dropout mother taught me to read when I was three.
I soon acquired what I presumed would be a lifelong habit/talent: the ability to read with almost complete attention and retention for hours at a stretch.
Then I sidled up to middle age, and noticed to my horror how long it took me to get to the bottom of a book’s first page.
And when I did make it, realizing I didn’t remember what I’d just (supposedly) read.
That was when I wasn’t dozing off or daydreaming after three sentences.
I’ll confess something else: I still barely know the difference between Shia and Sunni, or the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists.
Sometimes I think Paul Krugman and Thomas Friedman are the same guy.
This year I’m turning fifty.
And I’ve decided I just don’t care.
So what to buy with my Christmas Amazon gift card?
Although never an all-in Bowie fan, I’ve always admired his shrewdness, humor and style.
Unlike so many of his imitators, Bowie more often than not managed to write “bravery” checks that didn’t bounce due to insufficient talent.
That is: his self-described musical descendants too often get the easy, “outrageous” part semi-right, but can’t or won’t pen decent tunes to match (or, ideally, surpass) all that superficial shock.
Even when he was starting out, however garish he looked, Bowie also seemed — incongruously — mature, not a bratty teenager spouting embarrassing drivel.
Paradoxically, that self-contained maturity enhanced his “cool” rather than undermined it.
Bowie was, and is, more Dean Martin than James Dean.
In honor of his birthday, NME lists “Dame David’s” “10 Greatest Achievements.”
The corny pastiche Velvet Goldmine was too self-conscious to win me over entirely — “heavy handed camp” is a contradiction in terms, and the film lacked Hedwig‘s aching, open heart — but the “Bowie” character was well-observed:
When my best friend and I finished high school, we made good on our long time plan to move to the big city.
We rented an east end house with a few other people, and the two of us shared the extra big upstairs bedroom.
I’d always known my friend was a heavy sleeper; she was almost always late for school, for instance.
But I didn’t know how heavy until we moved in together.
She slept through fire, car and smoke alarms, power drills, break-ins and raging roommate fights.
The morning I moved out — remember, we shared a bedroom — she slept through that, too.
But that was one of the only differences between her and me.
We loved the same music: punk and “2-tone” ska revival. When you’re a teenager or just beyond, shared musical tastes “covereth a multitude of sins.”
One day she came back from Kensington Market with the Desmond Dekker single, “Israelites.”
Years before Bob Marley made reggae world famous (and ruined it with all that brain dead Rastafarian nonsense), Desmond Dekker’s peppy, infectious, out-of-nowhere ska song had been the first Jamaican record to make the international Top 10, selling millions of copies in 1969, and again when it was reissued in 1975.
“Israelites” quickly became our house anthem.
In those pre-iPhone and iPod days, my friend often said that if someone would just invent an alarm clock that played “Israelites” full blast, she’d never sleep in again.
Almost a year ago, I wrote about my, well, complicated relationship with Monty Python.
The English comedy troupe, which first rose to fame at the dawn of the 1970s, greatly influenced my writing and, more importantly, my outlook on life.
The Python’s anti-authoritarian sensibility primed me for punk. I followed the troupe’s many legal and censorship battles, which helped me build up the temperamental foundation I’d rely upon when I was immersed in such fights of my own, decades later.
And the Pythons made my somewhat crappy childhood and early adolescence a little more pleasant.
However, I’ve been painfully aware for some time that my brave, iconoclastic heroes hadn’t really been so courageous after all.
As (actual, on-the-ground Englishman) Peter Hitchens explained in his insightful and infuriating book The Abolition of Britain, the idols that the Pythons and their fellow “Satire Boom” cohorts targeted had mostly been broken to bits before these comedians came along:
There may still have been an “establishment” of snobbery, church, monarchy, clubland and old-school-tie links in 1961. There were no such things ten years later, but it suited the comics and all the reformers to pretend that there was and to continue to attack this mythical thing. After all, if there were no snobbery, no crusty old aristocrats and cobwebbed judges, what was the moral justification for all this change, change with benefited the reformers personally by making them rich, famous and influential? (…)
Will the flag he championed fly at half-mast?
Given his keen amateur interest in heraldry, Matheson was the perfect choice to lead Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson’s quest to create a new Canadian flag, one that would symbolically separate the former colony from Great Britain.
Canada’s unofficial flag had long been the “Red Ensign,” a combination of the British Union Jack and the Canadian coat of arms.
It’s true: almost a hundred years after Confederation, we still had no official national flag.
As the big centenary neared, the Liberal government figured we’d better finally get our act together.
Not everyone was enthusiastic about getting rid of the Red Ensign, of course.
As tends to happen up here, whatever the ostensible topic, the resulting parliamentary debate turned into a sometimes heated national conversation about “Canadian identity.”
A committee was struck and informed that they had six weeks to come up with a design. (Nope, not “months” or “years.”)
The committee asked Canadians to send in suggestions, with predictable results.
I like the one with one of The Beatles in each corner — it was 1964, after all.
And to this day, not everyone loves the final design. I doubt I’m the first person to opine that a dead leaf — basically tree dandruff — isn’t the noblest national symbol.
However, I can’t deny that purely from a design (and therefore, a marketing) perspective, Canada’s new flag has been a great success.
Just ask the countless Americans who supposedly sew them onto their knapsacks before their treks through Europe, hoping for warmer welcomes.
During his tenure, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has achieved what many would’ve called impossible: He’s made it “cool” for Canadians to show their patriotism through flag waving, long scorned as an “American” gesture.
Yet I doubt that before today, many younger Canadians could name “the father of the flag.”
This widely aired, corny old “Heritage Minute” commercial celebrates John Matheson’s efforts. I expect it will be getting quite a few hits this week.
Look, I tried, remember?
But while the good news is that KISS finally got inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the bad news is that Cat Stevens (a.k.a. Yusuf Islam) will also be a member of the “class of 2014.”
KISS led the popular vote, while Stevens brought up the rear.
However, the Hall has a sort of “electoral college” that gets to override the people’s choices.
This leads to a frankly bizarre situation, in which bands like Yes (10.88% of the popular vote) and Deep Purple (11.93%) beat out Stevens (5.37%) but don’t get inducted.
Look, I don’t even like Yes or Deep Purple, but I also don’t understand what exactly Cat Stevens ever did to warrant induction.
Who can measure the courage it took him in the late ’70s, after seven years of multi-platinum success in the U.S. (and over a decade in the UK) to convert to Islam, amidst the wave of turmoil and confusion that was engulfing the world?
I think “turmoil and confusion” is a polite liberal euphemism for “Muslim terrorists were hijacking planes, ruining the Olympics and killing tons of people back in the day,” but what do I know?
There isn’t a lot I can say about musicians wearing swastikas, however, since it was also a very short-lived early punk fad, one adopted even by some Jews in the “movement” as an easy, naive shock tactic.
Or maybe, just maybe, Stevens will use his acceptance speech to conduct a little proselytizing, and some brave individual will boo, or stand up and turn his or her back to the stage?
Now THAT would be show of real courage — and honor the rebel spirit of rock and roll.