Thursday, August 29, 2013

Dead Weather recording together this week

According to the caption on a photo in the Third Man's Vault, the Dead Weather - Jack White, Jack Lawrence, Alison Mosshart and Dean Fertita - are back in the studio recording new music this week.

There is a full-size uncropped picture at the Vault. (I'm never sure, when Third Man say things like, "We put up pictures so you don't have to take them," they mean they aren't asserting copyright. So I've ensmallened this one for fair use. But you can just go to the Vault and right click a full size copy if you like.)

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Second Day in the sun for the tongue

Well, I've read a lot more about's a slow day...and I apologize for suggesting it wasn't appropriation of black culture.

I hadn't seen the whole video (who could face it? I mean it has Robin "planks constant" Thicke in it) so I missed this part:

A number of African-Americans have weighed in on the implications of this objectification when added to the (I thought) harmless appropriation of a traditional dance.

This is Africa's Cosmic Yoruba, on TWERK: Booty-dancing, gender politics and white privilege:

Twerking has continuously been dismissed as low class, or “ghetto” while being associated with a lack of morals and intellect”, and when African-American girls and women upload videos of themselves twerking they are usually subject to internet trolling.
(via boing boing)

 Yoruba discusses in some detail twerking's African roots and non-sexualized uses.

  And here's Batty Mamzelle on the subject of Miley.
So I'll include it here. What Miley did last night was easily one of the most racist displays I've ever seen. From her insistence on twerking, to her use of all black women as literal props (they were teddy bears) to her smacking of her dancer's ass and the simulation of rimming, it is very clear to me, that Miley thinks that black women's bodies are to be enjoyed, devalued and put on display for entertainment purposes.
She has a lot more to say, too.

And here's Tim Maughan (white SF author in this case) speculating rather plausibly on who's behind the manufactured outrage. --Spoiler alert -- this is the culmination of his argument, not his evidence:
On August 25th Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke appeared together on stage at the Video Music Awards to perform “Blurred Lines.” It seemed to be an unusual pairing, as the only real connection between the two seems to be the sponsorship by Beats Electronics. Seen by over 10 million TV and internet viewers, the performance created considerable commentary and outrage due to Cyrus’ highly sexual and provocative performance. For nearly 48 hours after the performance it dominated discussion on social networks such as Twitter and Facebook, placing higher in trending topics charts than the suspected use of chemical weapons in Syria and the continuing controversy over US government monitoring of Internet communication.
Agh. Syria, again. But he's right. So back to that Tumblr of Miley Twerking On Things We Should Be Talking About. Current top picture: Dr. Martin Luther King, oddly enough.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Have you found a parrot?

San Juan Capistrano folks: please help find this parrot and return it to the owner. It learned to talk in her late husband's voice, and she's upset to lose contact.

Video of distraught owner here.

Miley Cyrus' tongue gets its day in the sun

I feel I ought to write something about the stupidity of drawing a "red line" in the Middle East and then having to back up your boasts with military power when it's promptly crossed - by whom I don't pretend to know, but I don't see why Assad would have done it. He was winning - why now?

(I didn't make this brilliant shoop and I don't know who did.)

But I shan't. I've been roaming the innertubes and keep coming across, so to speak, Miley freaking Cyrus and her horrible plaque-covered tongue.

She reminds me of the Swedish Lion, just less well preserved.

I've no idea why she was sticking it out anyway - sticking your tongue out so far makes you grimace, and the overall effect is about as sexy as finding a shopping cart in a creek covered in the invasive alga known as Rock Snot (Didymosphenia geminata) which may be what that blue-white stuff on her tongue is, though I'm going with Candidiasis.

What she was doing between sticking her tongue out is "twerking" which I had actually heard of as Madonna twerked, I believe, a couple of weeks ago. She may have jerked, or booty-popped, though, which is similar. Miley was twerking, i.e. shoving her arse into the crotch of, Robin "Aptly Named" Thicke, the one who is suing Marvin Gaye's family for some reason I can't follow. (The kids of today, eh?) The occasion was the VMAs, the video awards show for the channel that doesn't play music videos anymore.

In the stalwart British tabloid, The Daily Mirror, their breathless write-up was commented on by reader G. Moran, who said:
I didn't think it was particularly shocking myself. She's just a teenage girl experimenting with her identity. Leave her to it. She's not hurting anybody. If you're offended, don't look 
Look, she's not, Mr. Moran, she's a great beast of the entertainment business attempting with much success to separate your children from your money. Teenage girls going to find themselves go backpacking to Holland on gap year, not sexually harass popstars on international awards shows.

On the other hand, some have pointed out that Robin "Short Plank" Thicke's song, Blurred Lines, is about not taking no for an answer when requesting sex, and Cyrus could have been humiliating Thicke intentionally for singing a stupid song.

Apart from the general outcry - that this was beyond the agreed-on age level appropriateness for the viewership - there was the general outcry that she's really not very good at this, and a third general outcry that she's "appropriating black culture".

Maurice McCloud in the Grauniad kindly forgives her for it.
I've got no problem with white artists taking the best of black pop culture but Cyrus's hyper-sexual act doesn't cut it
I'm not sure when he was voted the spokestypist of black culture, but I accept. I have after all benefitted from appropriating black culture myself - my professional qualification is in blood banking, and I believe that's one we chalk up to the African-Americans.  I'm not sure that twerking is something I'd advertise as the best of my culture, though. Or that it belongs to any culture, really, any more than say, pole dancing or lap dancing.

Meanwhile, CNN put Her Twerkness as their top story for a while, prompting The Onion to lash out with the nastiest bit of satire I've seen from them in quite some time.
In fact, putting that story front and center was actually doing, if anything, a disservice to the public. And come to think of it, probably a disservice to the hundreds of thousands of people dying in Syria, those suffering from the current unrest in Egypt, or, hell, even people who just wanted to read about the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech. 
But boy oh boy did it get us some web traffic. Which is why I, Meredith Artley, managing editor of, put the story in our top spot. Those of us watching on Google Analytics saw the number of homepage visits skyrocket the second we put up that salacious image of Miley Cyrus dancing half nude on the VMA stage.
The performance spawned a Tumblr themed with Miley Twerking On Things We Should Be Talking About, like Syria.  Song-a-day guy Jonathan Mann wrote a song about her tongue and Syria. And now so have I - it's like a thing.

And not to be left out, British Bobbies for some reason dancing at the Notting Hill Carnival in London twerked up, or jerked up (opinions differ) a storm. London Time Out has some glorious gifs of them. You have to love the bobby.

Then, for no good reason, my current fave musician, Jack White tweeted:

This turns out to be Busta Rhymes and Nicki Minaj rapping in deepest patois - oops wrote patios again there first time - and twerking.

Et tu, Jackie Boy?

 Update: More info on cultural appropriation.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Heart: Stairway to Heaven

Heart playing Stairway to Heaven at the Kennedy Center Honors in 2012.

Not only are they note perfect (with Jason Bonham on drums) but in the audience they had Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, and John Paul Jones. No pressure though.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Tuvan singer Kongar Ol Ondar, RIP

I missed this news when it came out but Ондар Коңгар-оол, Kongar-Ol Ondar died in July. He was 51.

I'd heard of Tuvan throat singers from geek friends who knew that Richard Feynman, the eccentric bongo-playing physics professor and godfather of the atomic bomb, had always wanted to go to the (then) forbidden land of Tuva in Outer, or at least to the north of, Mongolia to see for himself the singers who could make such otherwordly tones as they sang. (In fact, there's a book about this.) Feynman sadly died just before receiving permission to travel to the Soviet region, but Caltech and associated friends continued the connection and eventually brought singer Kongar-Ol Ondar over to the US to ride a horse in the Rose Parade in LA in 1993. He followed that up with a concert at Caltech, which I attended - and so apparently did Matt Groening, who brought Ondar to Frank Zappa's attention and apparently spawned a tremendous friendship. 

When I was at the concert I assumed I was watching a little old wizened folk singer from a dead or dying tradition, the last man on his feet in a tradition wilting in a post-Soviet depression. I was wrong - he was only thirty, just a bit sunburned and aged from the elements. In fact I believe I spied a number of young ladies competing for his attention, and over the next few years, with the release of  the movie featuring Paul PenaGenghis Blues, I saw that the tradition was far from dying and Tuvans have a lot more going on than triangular stamps

The music is oddly listenable to a westerner. It sometimes seems that all nomads play the blues. Robert Plant may have pinpointed the Tuaregs or some similar North African people as the source of the blues, but there's no doubt that Tuvan music has similarities.


RIP Mr. Ondar. 

Ham Lion thinks on

Fo' shizzle.  Deep introspection run through the Gizoogle Textilizer.

To be, or not ta be: dat is tha question:
Whether 'tis nobla up in tha mind ta suffer
Da slings n' arrowz of outrageous fortune,
Or ta take arms against a sea of shits,
And by opposin end them, biatch? To die: ta chill;
No more; n' by a chill ta say we end
Da heart-ache n' tha thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, 'tis a cold-ass lil consummation
Devoutly ta be wish'd. Y'all KNOW dat shit, muthafucka! To die, ta chill;
To chill: perchizzle ta dream: ay, there be a tha rub;
For up in dat chill of dirtnap what tha fuck trips may come
When our crazy asses have shuffled off dis mortal coil,
Must give our asses pause: there be a tha respect
That make calamitizzle of so long game;
For whoz ass would bear tha whips n' scornz of time,
Da oppressorz wrong, tha proud as a muthafucka manz contumely,
Da pangz of despised love, tha lawz delay,
Da insolence of crib n' tha spurns
That patient merit of tha unworthy takes,
When dat schmoooove muthafucka his dirty ass might his on tha fuckin' down-low make
With a funky-ass bare bodkin, biatch? whoz ass would fardels bear,
To grunt n' sweat under a weary game,
But dat tha dread of suttin' afta dirtnap,
Da undiscover'd ghetto from whose bourn
No travella returns, puzzlez tha will
And make our asses rather bear dem ills our crazy asses have
Than fly ta others dat we know not of?
Thus conscience do make cowardz of our asses all;
And thus tha natizzle hue of resolution
Is sicklied o'er wit tha pale cast of thought,
And enterprisez of pimped out pith n' moment
With dis regard they currents turn awry,
And lose tha name of action. I ain't talkin' bout chicken n' gravy biatch. - Soft you now!
Da fair Ophelia! Nymph, up in thy orisons
Be all mah sins remember'd.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Writing for tv and movies - a Comic-Con perspective

When I was at Comic-Con I went to a thing on writing for TV. It had the most insufferably entitled panel I've ever seen. The message was, barely paraphrased, "If you go to the right bars and buy us drinks and pitch your scripts (more than one to show you're versatile, not too many in case we think that you're a jack of all trades and master of none) and generally seem affable and able to complete things, after a lot of encounters we still won't buy your script, because we've seen it all before and we know better than you, but we might hand you some work-for-hire type deal based on something we know we can make, just because you seem nice."

I can't stress enough how much they said they'd seen it all before, and you couldn't possibly have a new idea, but if you were nice, and you were willing to abandon your ideas, you might have a chance to write for TV.

As long as work for hire on someone else's ideas was your idea of writing for TV.

So there's that, and then there was this article in Slate on why all current movies look alike -  they're literally all from the same playbook (and I have wandered into screenwriters sites and seen them frantically attempting to perfect their understanding of this formula like some plot-alchemist unholy order).

And then there's that article's confession from Joss Whedon that only franchises that already sell are being attempted.
Guests at Comic-Con learned about upcoming studio productions including Pirates of the Caribbean 5, Thor 2, Fantastic Four 3 and a reboot of Godzilla. The director Joss Whedon came to the event to lament that "pop culture is eating itself" and called for "new universes, new messages and new icons". He then revealed the title of his next film to be Avengers: Age of Ultron.
Listening to this panel was, I'm sure, like listening to Marie Antoinette explain why those without bread should just eat the fucking cake already. The producers of those shows don't quite get that their day is over, and there'll be tears before bedtime when all their programming moves over to YouTube. Couldn't happen to a nicer bunch.

In which we climb the hill of calabazilla and see our house

For years from our yard we've been able to see this peak with a scar on it. The scar is getting bigger each year. You can just make out a bush of some sort almost at the top on the left of the scar.

I became determined to go and see it. But where is it? Eventually, using the tens of millions of dollars worth of information and software in Google Maps and Google Earth, we identified it as a dog-walking trail in Laguna Niguel called Colinas Ridge Trail.

You can drive to the back of it, which is more inside civilization than it looks, and park around 300 feet above sea level. Even though the top of the hill is only 704 feet above sea level, it was quite a climb.

You can see the bush (near top left) - in fact it's an Elderberry.

So, in there is our house from the scar.  Can't see my house?

Here, inside the red circle near the center.

The scar itself is either a small path or a misguided fire break that took off the vegetation near the top of the hill. Erosion is wearing wider and deeper gullies into the silty ground. Lower down there's quite a lot of desperate sandbagging going on, a bit of rip-rap and (unrelatedly) what appears to be the world's biggest Scotch Thistle killing operation - acres upon acres of dead thistles. Warning to whoever is doing the invasive species clear out - about one in a couple of hundred had a new green center!

I was wearing Warp Factor 30 sunscreen (of the organic, non-chemical containing titanium oxide kind) but it was still a bit daft to do the climb at 1pm in August. Still nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Edit: the paddy melon type gourds carpeting the hillside are calabazilla - Cucurbita foetidissima


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