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Social Media Posts (May 1 to May 30)

See also: Index of all Social Media Posts

Probably the most interesting question about the Trumpification of USA is how many TV entertainment outlets will refuse to invite TRUMP THE INSULT DOG on their show — damn the ratings and ad dollars. Lorne Michaels, Stephen Colbert, the Today Show, The View, Jimmy Kimmel and Jimmy Fallon all snicker at Trump’s ugliness as they continue to invite him on their shows for the ratings and ad money; for this, they bear responsibility and deserve criticism. Perhaps now is a good time as any  to read (or re-read) some Adorno.

2 Afterthoughts: First Conan never had Trump as a guest during election season. Second, I have no problem with news programs interviewing Trump as a guest. But entertainment shows have no obligation to feature unhinged politicians on their show (although perhaps you can make the argument that current law requires that other candidates be entitled to “equal opportunity” for free time on the network.   )

Here’s a petition started by a Houston 4th grade girl to decrease the use of single-use plastic bag. I signed it — will you?

 

 In 1999 the music group Rage Against the Machine hired documentary film director Michael Moore to produce a subversive video whose target was Wall Street (and much much more!). (It resulted in Moore being arrested for causing a brief shutdown of the NY Stock Exchange). Strangely, Moore asked one of the extras who was wearing a business suit to hold up a sign saying “Trump for President” (at the 1:03 minute mark). I have a feeling that we’re going to be hearing a LOT more of this strange and angry song.  RELATED: here’s a humorous clip from Moore’s movie, “Where to Invade Next” about the secret reason for Finland’s successful education system: no homework!
 As entertaining as it is to read this 1996 piece, unfortunately the nature of teacher evaluations have been trivialized by the proliferation of online student ratings. You can now find online ratings for high school and middle school. What is next: kindergarten students down-marking a teacher for making him stand in a corner? (RELATED: A roundup of best Onion pieces about Education).
Fascinating discussion of the reasons why children on both continents act differently in public spaces. It also has been noted that American children play outside less often — because of street traffic and fear of strangers. American children are used to interacting in carefully controlled environments (like commercial space), and are less likely to face social situations where they must interact with strangers (in Houston, for example, it is uncommon for children and even teenagers to ride public buses).
Flatland is a fascinating public domain novel that explores not only the nature of mathematics, but also the political struggle against orthodoxy. This weekend I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Project Gutenberg (finally!) has a free downloadable ebook edition with illustrations, but also that there are two animation movies about the story. The better of the two (“FLATLAND — THE FILM” which is not to be confused with “FLATLAND: The Movie”) is a 90 minute fairy tale adventure about life in the 2nd and 3rd dimensions. It’s creatively done and reasonably faithful to the original book. Highly recommended! Project Gutenberg earlier had an edition available without illustrations, but the latest edition  includes the necessary illustrations.
This terrible decision to pre-empt Houston laws ensures that dangerous violations of pollution laws will continue to go unpunished in Texas. It also validates the industry’s strategy of gutting laws by supporting state politicians who underfund enforcement. It also continues the Texas hypocritical tradition of railing against the feds for denying local control to Texas and at the same time undermining the right of home rule by cities within Texas (It is also why Denton and other cities are forbidden from banning fracking within their boundaries). It also ensures the continued release of poisonous beneze emissions and mandate that Houstonians learn to love the increased cancer risks.
Here’s why you can’t google the candidates you want to vote for: TEXAS ELECTION LAW: a) A person may not use a wireless communication device within 100 feet of a voting station. (b) A person may not use any mechanical or electronic means of recording images or sound within 100 feet of a voting station. (c) The presiding judge may require a person who violates this section to turn off the device or to leave the polling place.

SEMI-SCANDALOUS POP SONGS (PART 1). Russian pop sensation Sergey Lazarev is expected to win this year’s Eurovision. This is NOT the song for the competition, but a catchy 2 year old semi-NSFW dance song about stripping (!). All Lazarev music vids are amazing (though conventional) eye candy with explosive graphics and great dance energy. Lazarev has been around for a while (he was performing ballads with the group Smash a decade ago). Songs like this and (the much more tasteful) Eurovison “You are the Only One” make it only a matter of time before a Russian singer will hit the American music scene in a major way.

(I admit, that I absolutely adore Jamala’s 1944 song — the official Ukraine entry which is an elegy to the forced deportations of Crimean Tatars by the Soviet Union).

SEMI-SCANDALOUS POP SONGS (PART 2): I heard this silly, groovy dance song  Open Relationship and wondered how you could possibly make a music video out of it. This Australian pop duo has done it: they have made a cheesy low-budget thing consisting of a goofy series of static tableaux. Why is the couple in the bathtub aiming the gun? Why is the man sweeping up? Why is the woman feeding the goat a carrot? Why is the baby holding the globe? Who cares?! It’s just like groovy, man…

RELATED: Another music vid using a similar technique of creating static tableaux is one of my faves, Moby’s We are All Made of Stars.  Besides having several layers of meaning (Stars = galaxies, celebrities, etc), this video creates a hundred or so “living tableaux” of people just sitting or standing around. (The videographer said he took his inspiration from the washed out contemplative photography of Philip-Lorca diCorcia (The google search is very interesting! )

 

SEMI-SCANDALOUS POP SONGS PART 3: In the 90s, a strange Swiss/German group called E-ROTIC created these incredibly kitschy and catchy Eurodance pop songs whose lyrics had crass double-entendres. This song  ” Help Me Doctor Dick”  combines the wholesome fun of Abba with the crazy themes of Village People. Other song titles: Max Don’t Have Sex With Your Ex, Fred Come To Bed, Oh Nick Please Not So Quick, Billy Jive (With Willy’s Wife) and Don’t Make Me Wet. I’ve listened to them all, and they are all kitschy masterpieces (even though the accompanying cartoons are probably too explicit to appear on any music video channel! The lead singer Lyane Leigh is actually a good singer and she’s been singing double-entendre songs for OVER 20 years! RELATED: my essay on double-entendre pop as a musical genre.

SEMI-SCANDALOUS POP SONGS PART 4: I don’t know much about this early 90s lesbian-techno band, but sometime in 1993 my college friend Michael Barrett and I were driving somewhere and we heard this song on the radio. We cranked up the volume and enjoyed the lurid lyrics and techno poppings. We only heard that song once, and I think it was enough to imprint on our brains for decades. It definitely feels like it belongs to a different era, when club/techo music was the fresh new thing (apparently we didn’t realize that disco did essentially the same thing 20 years before). For a great contrast from the same style and era, check out this track:  (which has the same gay/Village People thing with more of an industrial style).

SEMI-SCANDALOUS POP SONGS PART 5 (THE LAST!). Lords of Acid was a fast and furious raunchy rave band led by Belgian super-DJ Praga Khan. Early stuff oozed all sorts of racy lyrics against a fierce industrial beat; this track comes from the middle period where they tone down the racy lyrics and focus on the techno explosions. This song feels almost like punk-rock; the raw lyrics are fired at us in staccato machine-gun style, while the bass just lifts us up and away.

I really feel that Praga Khan has transcended the Lords of Acid (and its earlier incarnation as Digital Orgasm). His albums only keep getting better. He’s a fave power pop track from 2004:

Mothers Day: I have many reasons to appreciate my mother, and I have often spoke about them (though not in social media). Let me mention only two things about my mother which are both unique and interesting. First, I am pleasantly surprised at how she stays in touch with her Irish heritage. White Americans typically didn’t think of themselves of “ethnic” and certainly my dad cared little about it, but for my mother, being Irish-American was a vital part of her identity, an identity I embrace more with every passing decade (I even have an Irish passport). Second, my mother has always provided a home which was amply supplied with books. When I was young she made sure I could buy kid’s books from the book clubs, and she regularly dropped me off at the city library when I was 8 or 9. As it happens, this led to my lifelong love of books and a love of learning and imaginary worlds. (Interestingly, Mom remembers that she dropped me off at the library mainly so she could go shopping at the mall next door!) This probably should be a lesson to all that sometimes the smallest of parental acts of generosity can sometimes bring unexpected rewards. Thanks, Mom, for these two things that make me who I am …. and everything else as well.

On a totally unrelated and fun note, let me mention some of Mom’s record collection from the 70s which I initially despised as a kid but later learned to appreciate.(I actually stole some of her CDs about 5-7 years ago, ripped everything). Neil Diamond (definitely grown up music, but he has some good songs), Sonny and Cher (I went crazy about their songs a few years ago), Barbra Streisand (definitely chick/mom music, but she definitely deserves to be rediscovered by today’s generations), various Irish CDs, Ironically nowadays Mom stays more in touch with contemporary music than I seem to do.

Green energy expert Joe Romm talks about the potential of recycling electric car batteries to be used later as a backup storage mechanism for businesses and power plants during times of high energy use. This could eventually accelerate the decline of electric battery prices.

In this 6 minute comedy sketch, Jordan Schlansky, a serious-minded individual with strange obsessions goes into excruciating detail about Darth Vader masks. He does not smile once.

When the 5 Star Trek captains were brought together for a sci fi conference in London, an audience member asked: what additional feature or add on would you like to see on the captain’s chair, William Shatner replied, “A Twitter Account.” Patrick Stewart replied, “A toilet.”

STEPHEN COLBERT: “Big news out about Facebook… aka the Friendster that lived… It came out yesterday that FB’s Trending News section isn’t actually determined by a computer algorithm but by FB workers who routinely suppress conservative news. It’s shocking. Before this, the most popular way to suppress conservative news was to change the channel in the hospital waiting room. Apparently, FB censored popular stories on conservative topics from appearing in the “Trending News” section. Folks, I think this is wrong. If FB is going to censor anything, why not get rid of the stuff people don’t want to see — like your Ex’s tropical honeymoon. Or invitations to your coworker’s improv shows. “Mike, I’m glad you’re getting out after your divorce, but I am not getting out on midnight on Tuesday night to see your to see your improvised episode of Dawson’s Creek.” The only thing I want to see on Facebook is people who were mean to me in high school who are now fat and bald.”

Here’s a remarkable reworking of the classic jazz tune “This Masquerade” by pianist Gene Harris. It’s hard to top George Benson, but this piece comes pretty close.

This morning at the supermarket I heard this song on the loudspeaker. Tonight, I went there again  — and heard the exact same song! Dear HEB Supermarket: You really need to play more songs! (Don’t get me wrong; I love this song;  I think it belongs not only in supermarkets! FUN FACT: The first time I heard this song I remember being in the back seat of a car at the airport. During that same trip, I also remember hearing “Lion Sleeps Tonight” for the first time also — although I just thought of it as the Whimaway song.

Well, I called it two months ago. My prediction that Jamala (Ukraine’s entry) would win Eurovision has turned out to be correct. The prize-winning song is not only a great melody, great and resonating lyrics, and even very danceable., Bravo, Jamala, you are awesome. It’s worth pointing out that the 1944 is about SOMETHING. It isn’t kitschy fun; it isn’t a fairy tale or bland kumbayas. Yes, there was a political edge to the song — and that is good, but it also worked on different levels like any good poet should. (One commentator predicted that as a result of Ukraine’s victory, half of next year’s songs will be about the singer’s grandparents).

(But I must admit, as of last night, I was growing to love Australia’s Dami Im’s “Sound of Silence”  song as well). What an incredible song!  Last night I learned that Dami Im had released a “Classic Carpenters” album consisting of cover versions of Carpenters songs. They are very good (though not that interesting). Her cover version of Karen Carpenter’s cover version of George Benson’s cover version of Leon Russell’s “This Masquerade” was outstanding — and indeed, I was going to post it last night, until I stumbled upon an even more remarkable cover version — which if you read my wallpost from yesterday, you’d see it was by pianist Gene Harris. No dissing on Dami Im; her renditions of Karen Carpenter songs are great, but it’s hard to shake my belief that anyone can top Karen Carpenter for anything.

This morning at 5:00 AM, my phone buzzed with “Breaking News” from the New York Times. “Man receives first penile transplant in the United States.” At that point I realized that I really don’t need to receive “breaking news” from phone apps anymore.

After spending more than 24 hours searching for my TV remote control, I have finally deduced where it must be — and I was right! It was wrapped inside my bedsheets after I had already put them in both the washer and dryer (Astonishingly, it survived both). I don’t know why some TVs don’t have buttons for channels and power on the TV itself; after all, I am not the only one to misplace a remote control. Also, why isn’t it possible to telephone your remote control so you can pinpoint its location?

 Here’s an extended 7 minute song (performed live) by a bluesy Austin rock band that is rambunctious, jazzy, loungey, with hints of Tom Waits, Squirrel Nut Zippers and Red Elvises. Reviewers have described the sound of Mr. Lewis and the Funeral 5  as “macabre burlesque,” “‘stripper Jazz-y’ dirges” and “like a story of a rowdy evening full of sex drugs and then… regret.” This song has lots of great moments but I particularly liked the a capella near the end. Wow, and double wow!
NETFLIX RECOMMENDATIONS: Here are 2 great workplace sitcoms worth watching especially because they were not produced in USA: “Fried” is a British comedy about a bunch of misfits who work at a fast food chicken place. “Dreamland” is like “The Office + Parks and Recreation + Australia”. I have a rule that I like ALL sitcoms (it’s true, I don’t think I’ve found any sitcom which I don’t like), but it’s always great to see what talents from other countries have been doing with the genre…
(I guess my only exception to the rule are the series that are always about clever and gorgeous 20somethings with glamorous careers who pine away about lots of things and then end up bedding with everybody in the cast. I loathed 2 1/2 Men,  dislike “New Girl” and quickly grew tired of the “How I Met Your Mother” shtick).
Here’s a stunningly beautiful 23 minute live performance by Haelos, a “dark euphoria” UK band that plays slow/moody/shimmering stuff with lots of focus and intensity. These songs feel almost spiritual, and I’m amazed at how it still moves along with a steady reassuring rhythm. (NOTE: you have to listen in the embedded player on this page, YUCK!). Definitely my favorite band and album of the year!
RELATED: Here’s another live performance (in a radio studio) which includes basically the same set with extended interviews. (It reveals a sophisticated sensibility and attention to detail; these are just consummate artists). “Our songwriting process can be uncomfortable and sometimes painful,” say the band, “but we want to write evocative music that captures the spirit of what it means to be alive and human.” (By the way, they are returning to Austin to perform at ACL 2016). Here’s their Soundcloud page.
Here’s a great and clever rap/song protest song against …. cell phones!? (Apropos music video too). More or Les is a Toronto-based rap star who reminds me of MC Frontalot or Weird Al Yankovic. This song is a must for geeks! Here’s the singer’s bandcamp page. (His own web page is a mess!)
Bloomberg News: “The number of U.S. jobs in solar energy overtook those in oil and natural gas extraction for the first time last year, helping drive a global surge in employment in the clean-energy business as fossil-fuel companies faltered. Employment in the U.S. solar business grew 12 times faster than overall job creation.” My guess (unfortunately) is that of the energy jobs in Houston, the overwhelming majority (95% or more) are in oil and gas. That is a sad aspect of Houston’s economy.
I have always wondered about the stock photos used in the Onion’s “America’s Voices” pieces. Somebody should write a profile of these profile to find out what it must be like to be featured on a major website every day saying all kinds of inane things. Must be a fun kind of infamy.
One late night a week ago on PBS I saw a Globe Trekker episode titled, “Top 10 Sights of South America.” (This show is like my crack cocaine — I can’t get enough of it!) Number 1 on the list was the “world’s tallest” waterfall, Angel Falls in Venezuela. Here’s a video of that sight; the fun starts at the 30 second mark! 
(ABOUT THE PROHIBITION OF HANGING CLOTHES OUTSIDE TO DRY IN TEXAS): “Why on Earth should people in the City of Austin — and in the State of Texas — be prevented from doing something that’s beneficial to the planet, harms no one, and provides a tiny dollop of exercise and fresh air? This is especially problematic in the summer. During those months, even some people who might like to do otherwise are forced to dry their clothing by putting it in a heated metal box. In turn, this heated metal box is often located inside of the larger box that you are trying to cool: your house.”
Several states have signed “right to dry” laws. California signed a law last year. (source).
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