Saturday, May 5, 2007

Go-Cart Mozart

That Manfred Mann sure was a psycho.

I can never decide though if I think that song Blinded by the Light is really annoying or really cool. Definitely some goofy lyrics. Also the Bruce cover makes me like it more.

Another mystery is what the lyrics even are. Here is one take on it, lifted from Wikipedia (which lifted it form somewhere or other, possibly Tarantino, who lifted it from Scorsese)

(Also from the article, you may find it interesting to check out the article on Mondegreen, the mishearing of a phrase which gives the phrase a new meaning)

"Deuce" versus "douche"

The chorus of the song features the commonly misunderstood lyric, "Blinded by the light, cut loose like a deuce, another runner in the night." ("Deuce" refers to a '32 Ford Deuce Coupe.) Many listeners hear the word "douche" in place of "deuce." Manfred Mann's Earth Band changed this line slightly to "revved up like a deuce" (often misquoted as "wrapped up like a douche") and repeated it much more frequently in their version than Springsteen did in the original; they also omitted parts of the verses and rearranged the order of the remaining lyrics.

Springsteen, in his 2005 VH1 Storytellers appearance, lightheartedly made the assertion that the sole reason that Manfred Mann's version of the song went to number one is that the altered lyric is actually "revved up like a douche". Bruce said, "The original lyric is 'cut loose like a deuce' referring to a two seat hot-rod, a little deuce coupe. Manfred Mann changed the lyric to 'revved up like a douche', which is a feminine hygienic procedure." It should be noted, however, that Manfred Mann's website lists the lyric as "deuce" rather than "douche". It was once rumored that Chris Thompson's New Zealand accent may be responsible for swapping deuce for douche.

  • A reference to the song was made in an episode of Saturday Night Live, where David Spade plays a character who cannot make sense of the lyrics to the refrain of the song. The short-lived sketch comedy show The Vacant Lot featured a group of friends, all with their own different interpretations.
  • The mondegreen was further referenced in an episode of VH1's animated show ILL-ustrated, where P. Diddy opts to sample Manfred Mann's version for his new song, and dresses up as a douche in the video as the sky rains boxes of feminine hygiene products. Upon being informed of the correct line, he no longer wishes to use the song.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Sean Hannity Molests Collies

I'm not the first one to say this, but I think it's good for people to say it as much as possible: Right wing radio is really really evil.

Generally, I treat Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, and their various derivatives like I do Newark Airport- if I never go there, then they doesn't even exist. However, a recent trip to God's Country, the state of Oregon, brought both of these previously strategically avoided phenomenon squarely to my attention. Let me say I will never bother with Newark airport again. I fear I will not be afforded that luxury when it comes to right wing radio.

It's not that I'm about to start listening to this drivel. But having had some prolonged contact with this stuff, I can now see that no matter how much I ignore these guys, they are not going away; and they do- in their own haughty, arrogant, aggrandized and tragically deluded way- exist.

But, first, what the hell was I doing listening to these schmucks? Well, that's a funny story. Last week I flew to Oregon to spend a week fly fishing with a friend. We had originally planned to go backpacking, but an emergency appendectomy had my friend on restricted orders from his doctor, so we opted for car camping instead of the backpacking trip. It had it's perks- like cold beer and pillows for the tent- but it meant we would spend a lot of time in the car, driving around Southeast Oregon.

What would we listen to? We played a little music, but we both like news radio. However, we were in some very remote country, and the only radio we could get was local color. Now, if you've never been, God's Country is a bit conservative. Slightly right of Attila The Hun. My friend and I found ourselves listening to the local right wing radio, first with novel amusement, then with growing rage, and finally with mixed bewilderment and awe: like watching a cock fight, or a midget toss- you know it is wrong, and it boils your blood, but you are too stunned to look away.

We listened as the recycled feeds of Limbaugh and the rest murdered news stories, inflicted their tortured worldviews on their poor hapless listeners, spewed mindless rhetorical garbage, and basically grabbed humanity by the throat and dragged it down for a death roll, like Paul Hogan wrestling an alligator. To quote Capetown's favorite movie, what I wouldn't give for a giant sock full of manure.

The guys are so obviously the worst type of political hacks that it would be quite easy to dismiss them as lower life forms if people didn't actually listen to them. That's why I know that I can't escape these guys. People actually called in to agree with these idiots! I couldn't believe it. That anyone would agree with the utter nonsense of these characters is a scary comment on this country.

So let me say it loud and clear, and invite you do to the same: Right wing radio is pure evil. Please remember that.

I don't like Newark airport either.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

They're Always After Me Lucky Charms

It's a television commercial! And there are these cartoon leprechauns...

I'll be honest, I think that almost all commercials on TV are boring and annoying. However, every once in a while, a good one comes along, and when it does it's such a pleasant surprise that you should find beauty in this part of the world that you normally expect such dismal things from, and it kind of momentarily renews your hope for the world and your faith in humanity. That's why I'd like to share two commercials I have enjoyed recently.

The first is for some car:

And the second is for some "internet" thing:

If you like this commercial with the turtles, there is a better one, but I couldn't figure out how to post the video here. If you go to this link though, you will be able to choose from three different videos. The one in the middle, about "powerboost," is an instant classic.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Kickin Impossible

My entire week/month/year was made yesterday by the result of this penalty shoot-out in the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League. The video is pretty cool, it is two teams from England - Liverpool in red versus Chelsea in Blue. I thought it would be interesting to some besides me. Oh, and, for some reason, the beginning of the clip repeats itself after it's finished, so don't let that confuse you. As a special bonus for the Will Arnett fans, I think that the first player to kick for Chelsea (Robben) resembles the hilarious comedian.

For an extended version that gives the back story of all of the tension right before the penalty shoot-out and features the Champions League theme song in all its glory, check out this version of the video.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Further Thoughts on the Immigration and Language Debates

To add to my post earlier today about immigration, here is as good an example as any I am aware of that demonstrates why Spanish-speakers should learn English (or at least a minimal level as exemplified in this clip), and also why English-speakers should learn Spanish.

Well, this and the fact that knowing both languages doubles your Shakira selection.

What We Don't Know Can Hurt Us

In 1933, H.G. Wells published his prophetic novel and coined the title phrase, The Shape of Things to Come. In it, with uncanny accuracy, Wells predicted that Germany would begin the next great war by invading Poland in 1940. So, fine, the guy was a year off, but this remains only one of a multitude of his nearly exact predictions. Wells understood the mechanisms that drove mankind, that motivated leaders and that spawned technological innovations. And yet at the close of a lifetime of sagacious predictions and commentary, Wells was overwhelmed by the futility of his predictions, for WWII and nuclear weaponry and devastating air assaults (all of which he predicted) came to be; the future was and is inevitable and prosaic and damn demoralizing.

Today, with a bill passed by Congress headed towards a certain Bush veto, the debate on our current war continues, and it's beginning to feel as though despite the veil that has been lifted since the early years of our occupation nothing much has changed -- the administration still mired in the dialectic of prowar/American/support troops vs. stopwar/un-America/get the troops out. It feels as though we the people are ready for change, yet those other institutions, our government and press, remain in a slo-mo stupor.

For those of you who haven't watched Bill Moyers' "Buying the War", then please just take the time. It is a fascinating retrospective on the role the media played in beating the drums to war. If the invasion of Iraq were prosecuted as a war crime then the media would be willing accomplices. My viewing of this documentary happen to coincide with my too-late discovery of Noam Chomsky, who, in this context, could easily be equated with H. G. Wells as a prophetic sage. Like Wells, Chomsky understands with staggering clarity the mechanisms that influence the unfurling of world events and those that are used to cover some of them up. One of his main theses is that in a democratic society, one that cannot openly be controled with force (such as with a dictotorship), the powers that be must, instead, control the minds and opinions of the public. And their greatest tool is the media. The word itself, "media", denotes their role as intermediaries between power and the people. The press provides a lens, however warped or opaque, and only through it can we see turn the gears of power. The effect of this mediated information, for us, appears in the form of general inattention or complancency. As Chomsky said in 1969:

"A terrifying aspect of our society and other societies is the equanimity oand the detachment with which sane, reasonable, sensible people can observe such events, as in Veitnam. I think that's more terrifying than the occasional Hitler, LeMay, or other that crops up. These people would not be able to operate were it not for this apathy and equanimity."

In this regard, we, too, are compliant in this war, but we are relieved of some guilt for it remains the media's duty to provide us with the fruits of their investigative labor. When they cease to offer such insight, we are, in effect, the unwitting dupes of governmental propoganda. The Moyers' study, like Farenheit 9/11 did more subjectively, candidly investigates the perverse relationship that our government and our media share. (side note: What, for me, was the most revelatory aspect of our media's compliance with the government was how wide-spread this phenomenon was -- not just Fox News, but CBS, NBC, and in arguably the most chilling moment, Oprah helped to convince us into war.) The Moyers' documentary is a seminal piece of our current journalistic lamentation for their own shortcomings. Along with this comes the passing of an icon of honest and admirable journalism, David Halberstam, whose legacy has been invoked in many recent Op-Ed piece in further confession by the media for a job not well done.

If there's anything more than the press love than "making news out of nothing at all", it's turning their cobwebbed critical gaze back on themselves. If you look around you'll notice that newspapers are inundated with either self-flaggelation or self-defense for the press's handling of the past 6 years. Personally, I'm thankful for journalists like Bill Moyers, David Halberstam, and if you'll forgive the loose definition of "journalist" Jon Stewart (watch his recent interview with Bill Moyers). Their honesty and watchful eye, however, should not be the pinnacle of skeptical inquiry and reporting, but the standard. The fourth estate is for many our only means to discover who is pulling what levers.

This is not the time, however, for such self-assessment. We need you, media -- reporters, journalists, talking heads -- to cease with the lamentation and intra-office nonsense and get out there and let us know what's going on. Stop licking your wounds and start to poke holes in the talking points from both sides. Do it for Halberstam; do it for the memory of H.G. Wells whose predictions were never heeded; and do it for the legacy of Noam Chomsky whose deserves more than a little attention during his lifetime.

Qué What Now?

Today is scheduled to be a day of protest for those calling for Congressional action on the issue of immigration. As this article explains, protesters are upset with the slow pace of immigration reform and with what many see as the current, and future proposed, harsh treatment of illegal immigrants.

I agree with what much/all of the article presents as the protesters' views, especially that there needs to be a realistic and viable path to citizenship for the many illegal immigrants working in the US, and any guest-worker program can't include fines so large that few will participate. Above all we need to increase the amount of people that we allow to become legal immigrants.

My only criticism of the protests is that I have seen that many fliers annoucing the protests, and many of the signs and things said in the protests are in Spanish. Now I love speaking and hearing Spanish just as much as the next guy, but something tells me that if you are trying to protest and convince a bunch of people about something, you should probably do it in the language of those people that you are trying to convince. Anyone who can understand a sign or a slogan that's in Spanish probably already has their mind up on the issue. Immigrant supporters should present an image of immigrants that want to live in this country and take part in the American experience and part of that should mean learning English, even though you don't have to speak it all the time. But they should use English other than Spanish in the protests, because that sends a more friendly and less hostile message. The Spanish on the other hand is probably counterproductive and probably frightens a lot of Americans who are either uncomfortable about or not sure how they feel about immigration. Maybe through more use of English during their protests they will have a better chance of convincing more Americans and thus have a better chance of convincing more politicians

That said, one interesting piece that I read on the immigration issue in general was by Richard Posner, who comes at the issue from an economist's perspective. According to Posner, the only solution to the immigration problem "is for Mexico and the other poor countries from which illegal immigrants come to become rich... The more one worries about illegal immigrants, the more one should favor policies designed to bring about greater global income equality."

Now if that doesn't convince you that raids, incarceration, fines and deportation are not going to fix things, maybe Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts can convince you with their delightful romantic comedy set in the great country of Mexico.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Making News Out of Nothing At All

The media never ceases to amaze me, and it also never ceases to manufacture news items out of thin air.

Now I am glad that the focus is off Rosie O'Donnell and on the Democratic Presidential Primary debates, but honestly, the media has totally missed the big story, and since it had no story, it invented the one that, to my flabbergastery, everyone is now talking about.

Anyone who watched the Presidential debates knows that the only noteworthy thing that happened was that former Alaska Senator Mike Gravel became the only politician in recent memory to say what he actually thought, and to tell it like it is, bringing to light political realities that have been swept under the rug by all of our politicians for fear of saying anything too negative about the country and losing voters. The media either didn't want to lose viewers/readers, or is either too brainwashed or too complicit in the conspiracy of peddling the same-old same-old, that they didn't talk about Gravel (except for some, that ignorantly dismissed him as "comic relief"), and thus they had no story.

In the absence of a story they somehow manufactured policy differences among the Democratic frontrunners from their 60 second cookie cutter responses to questions. If they didn't manufacture policy differences, they read in character differences, which is equally arbitrary and disingenuous.

If you don't know what I'm referring to then I am sorry to be telling you about it for the first time because it is sad that our media, capable of so much, is wasting their time with this silliness.

So during the debates last friday, Brian Williams asked what each candidate would do if there was a terrorist attack. According to the media, the correct answer, which pretty much everyone but Obama gave, was to immediately say retaliate, and the incorrect answer, was to say anything aside from immediately saying retaliate.

Not to mention the fact that all of these candidates would probably do the exact same thing in the situation (IE figure out what happened and then consider their options based on that), why are we judging the candidates based on their impulse to have missiles in the air as soon as possible?

What's worse is that in a way Obama gave the best answer of all, since he lead off with mentioning emergency response. According to the media, though, any thought given to minimizing casualties from the theoretical attacks would be time wasted in firing up some rockets aimed at...well, it's not important where they're aimed it, just get 'em in the sky.

I mean, let's think about things for just a second. Operation Enduring Freedom, where the US and NATO went into Afghanistan, began on October 7, 2001. So if the Bush Administration, you know, the same people who will pull the trigger and shoot at a bird before checking to realize that their gun is aimed squarely at their friend's face, get to wait a month, I think Obama can spend some of his presidency getting an emergency response plan ready, and he can spend the first five seconds into any attacks saying "send in the emergency response," instead of continuing with the book about the goat.

But because Obama didn't immediately say retaliate, now he is being critisized. Well, I guess, politically, maybe the fact that all of the other, more experienced, candidates knew to lead off with retaliate suggests that that was the best political move -- IE, what the public wants to hear. In other words, the American public is more concerned with firing back a return missle then it's concerned with minimizing the casualties from the attacks that already took place. Maybe all of the candidates believed that emergency response was obviously the first option but you can't say that on TV because the people want vengance. This makes me think of a kind of a chicken-egg problem because maybe "the voters" think that because that is the attitude of the Bush Administration and many in the media, or maybe it is their attitude because it is "the voters'" attitude. Now I have no problem with art imitating life or life imitating art but regardless of why killing foreigners became a higher priority than saving imperiled Americans from death and injury became the prevailing political viewpoint, I award no points for other politicians' echoing it in an attempt to gain votes, and may God have mercy on their souls.

Whether or not the other candidates secretly agree with Obama, Obama should not be critisized by the media for his politically risky answer. In fact, maybe the only reason why his answer was politically risky is because the media are critisizing it.

For a newspaper article by some reporter whose web page is pretty much an anti-Obama blog, see Lynn Sweet's coverage for the Chicago Sun-Times. Her piece is a perfect example of the judging and media exaggeration over nothing - and, by the way, can be found expediently on imaginary controversey stirrer Matt Drudge's website as well. Leave it to the Drudge Report to play into the mainstream media's fun and games at the expense of an American public that deserves better. For a more thoughtful and balanced coverage, although still unnecessarily slanted toward critisizing Obama, see the Washington Post's coverage. For a blog post that, I guess more or less, agrees with what I have just written, see the Daily Kos' response.

All in all, this whole episode sums up (1) what I hate about the media and (2) what I like about Obama. Rather than providing original insight and thoughtful, intelligent opinions about the substantive issues, the media once again looks to blow up some insignificant happening into a sensational controversey, all the while judging things from the same-old, mainstream viewpoint of what it thinks the people want to hear. Thanks for nothing, media.

Obama on the other hand was not afraid -- at least initially -- to give a somewhat unconventional, or unexpected, or un-scripted (from the vote pandering script) response. He gave the most thoughtful answer, and it has already hurt him politically, because it might not be what everyone immediately wants to hear. But politics must be more than regurgitating what everyone immediately wants to hear. It must be more than sticking to a script of the safest, most widely-accepted responses to all questions. It must be about people who lead rather than follow. It must be about leaders who inspire us to think of the best ideas, not just the most widely-shouted ones. And it must be about leaders who have the courage to bring those ideas to the public forum for debate even if such ideas happen to be less common or newer than other ideas, and are therefore politically risky, because, as the (old common) saying goes: no risk, no reward. Thus far Obama seems like he has the courage to take the national dialogue to its full potential, I don't know yet if I can say the same about the other frontrunners.

So let's not be too quick to congratulate the more seasoned candidates for taking the easier, safer path of what people want to hear, and let's not be too critical of a candidate who offers something (very very very slightly) different to the debate. And let's also not allow ourselves to get taken in, manipulated, and fooled by the media into believeing thta there is a big story where there isn't one, for, as the we all know, the greatest trick a media news story ever pulled was convincing the world that it existed.

Kinda Hot in These Rhinos

Man this picture makes me laugh, as does that scene in Ace Ventura II: When Nature Calls.

Too bad Jim Carey made "The Number 23" instead of Ace Ventura 3.

But this got me to thinking, since this rhino scene is probably the culmination (culmination) of the great comedy moments of my formative years, it really got me thinking that we've gone down-rhino ever since then.

Are you happy with the current comedy options being offered to us? On TV it is okay, The Office and 30 Rock make me laugh on a consistent basis (beer me that disk). But even TV might be slipping. Saturday Night Live is defunct (although it's spawn child 30 Rock is hilarious, even though it did take me like 6 months to figure out it wasn't a spin-off of 3rd Rock). SNL's replacement in training new comedians, The Daily Show has had mixed results. It launched the careers of Carrell, Colbert, Corddry, Helms and Hodgman, although I am getting kind of tired of seeing those John Hodgeman Mac commercials (is anything more synonymous with pompous than a mac computer?). The Daily Show was on a roll for a while until I saw the first episode of Rob Corddry's "The Winner," which also taints the Family Guy writers's already American Dadded reputation. Family Guy has also been slipping in recent years. Maybe it's because people are trying to do too much with too few jokes/humor/ideas.

Movies have been even more lackluster lately (don't know what lackluster means but sounds like something from SpaceBalls). In the past year or so the two big comedies were Borat and Blades of Glory if I remember right. I don't know, I definitely laughed at both of them, but Borat seemed like the same jokes over and over again (basically Borat was a glorified Jackass/Tom Green Show but this time with funny accents, more awkward interactions, and adorable English language misconstructions, over and over again) and Blades of Glory was kind of a recycling of all of the last Will Ferrell movies, complete with doing for Will Arnett what Anchorman did for Paul Rudd (put an incredibly funny person in a position where, because of the role or the movie or whatever, they just weren't funny).

So correct me if I'm wrong on the comedy thing, but I just feel like they're not making them like they used to.