The Over-Rated George Martin

I’ve always been puzzled by the legend of George Martin’s contribution to the Beatles’ success.

I had never doubted it….  until he produced the soundtrack for “Sgt Pepper Lonely Hearts Club Band”, the movie.  The soundtrack was not merely awful.  It was pure and unadulterated dreck.  It was so bad that I could not help but begin to wonder if his contribution to the Beatles had been exaggerated in some way.  It is very, very hard to imagine that the same mind that produced the segments with Peter Frampton and the Bee Gees and Aerosmith on the soundtrack also helped shape “Eleanor Rigby” or “Girl” or “Penny Lane”.

Was it all a misunderstanding?  Maybe people underestimated Lennon and McCartney’s shares of the credit.

After the Sgt. Peppers’ debacle, he also produced Neil Sedaka, Cheap Trick, Little River Band, and even Celine Dion, all with notably unremarkable results.  If George Martin was the musical genius everyone says he is, surely he would have had some great results with some other bands.  He really did not.

So tell me again, who was responsible for the Beatles’ success?  How about the Beatles.

And was it because they practiced for 10,000 hours, as Malcolm Gladwell would have it?  No, it was because they were talented.  And they practiced.


Posted in General | Comments Off

Terror Terror Terror!

The CBC loves the word “terror”.  If a squirrel gets run over by a car, the CBC correctly points out that it was not a terror attack.  However, the police are still investigating.  The squirrel may have been wearing a turban.

Today, a man– who appears, at first glance, to be mentally disturbed– attacked some soldiers at a recruiting center.  Almost all of the media outlets incorporate the word “terror” into their news coverage even though there is no evidence, as of yet, of any links to any terrorist organizations.

A man attacks military personnel with a knife and is arrested and no one dies.  Such a Canadian crime story.  In my opinion, the attempts to link or unlink the incident to “terrorism”– a word the all of the media loves– is confusing to me.  What is the point?  Is it less awful if it’s not “terror-related”?  Is it more awful because he is Islamic?  Do the people who feel the urge to label it as terrorism feel that other people don’t understand how awful the attack was if they don’t?  Is it all just politics?  How many similar incidents involving people being attacked and harmed by someone disturbed or not receive similar coverage?

Well, we know why.  If you are scanning radio stations looking for something to listen to you don’t stop at the thoughtful explanation of how the financial crisis unfolded and why millions of people lost their retirement savings.  No, you stop at the word “terror”.

Even if the CBC and CTV correctly report that the man has no links to any terrorist organizations, the trumpeting of the word itself serves to inflame and provoke, to keep the public mindful of this terrible threat roaming our world just waiting to strike out us!

Yes, let the government into my iPhone!

No– that’s not what those people want.  They want the government to be let into YOUR iPhone.

You’re welcome.


Posted in General | Comments Off

CBC Wants us all to Grow Up

And stop appreciating real talent.

Here’s the argument: Beyonce can sing really, really good.  So when she performs at Obama’s second inauguration, she decides to not take a chance on not sounding good and goes with the lip-synched version of the national anthem.

Wow, she thinks.  I nailed it.  Woohoo, look at me!  Look at the lavish praise pour in for my inspirational performance!

Here’s the key part, the crux of the matter: she didn’t tell you that she was not really singing.  She didn’t keep her mouth closed.  She didn’t hold up a little sign saying “I’m actually just moving my lips to a recording”.  No, she put all of her energy into this monumental effort to give all of her “authentic”, fantastic self into this performance of a digital recording.

And you are an immature little wuss if you don’t like it.  Do you hear me?  Stop not liking it.  Stop thinking there is something phony about it because… well, not because it’s not phony, because it incontestably is phony, but because we are all grown-ups now and don’t care if it was fake or not because, after all, Beyonce can really sing, so you can just think about that as you are stirred, nay, inspired, nay revolted by this bullshit.

So if Dave Shumka, the writer of the CBC post, wants to go out and hear some “live” music and doesn’t mind if it’s pre-recorded, bully for him.  Go to it!  Pay your $150 and sit down and watch the stage and enjoy get your thrill from watching some super-model stand there and move her lips in synchronization to a recorded performance.

Just don’t post some bullshit sign at the venue advertising live music: it is not.   Post a very large, clear sign saying “Lip-syncing Tonight” and watch the audiences role in.  If you are worried that not very many people will show up to watch fake live music, then you are the one who should grow up, suck it up, and stop lying to people.

Incidentally, I can’t think of a single song by Beyonce I care about anyway: she’s just another diva, like Whitney Houston, Janet Jackson, and a host of others who sing, pretty well, songs that have no significance whatsoever.  The songs are all merely carriers for the noise of her voice.

Posted in General | Comments Off

Zombie Defense

Individuals are technically dead, but because of their mental mindset, their goal-oriented mindset, they are able to carry on, he said. [An "expert" on "suicide by cop" at the James Forcillo trial.]

The judge– shockingly– wouldn’t allow this testimony.

The expert was trying to explain why it was necessary for police officer, James Forcillo, to fire six additional rounds into Sammy Yatim after he was already incapacitated–and probably dead– after the first three.

Was it ever more clear when a certain line of argument has reached bankruptcy?  I put this in the category of the drug users who had “superhuman” strength, and the man who tried to kill a police officer with a stapler.

The problem with the police is that I don’t think they really care what people like me think anymore.  They are always justified in killing any civilian, no matter what.  Any attempt– absolutely any attempt– to hold them accountable is nothing more than an attack on the most saintly and courageous and honorable public servants in existence.

I often want to ask them, if I could be a lawyer for a moment in one of these court cases, please describe for me a scenario in which a police officer was wrong to shoot a civilian, in the line of duty.  Make one up.  Imagine it.  There must be some circumstance out there in which a police officer would be accountable.

I’ll bet they can’t do it.  A police officer walks down the street in some random part of the city and pulls out his gun and shoots a random shopper:  clearly the shopper was moving towards the officer in a threatening manner (the video shows him running away from the psychotic man with a gun).  The shopper had a knife (turns out to be a cell phone).  The shopper reached for the knife (the police officer had asked him to show him her id).  There were other shoppers around: did you want to take a chance, risking the lives of innocent women and children?  Do you know what happens when you are stabbed with a cell phone?

I am really, really curious to hear it.  I am curious to know if they can even imagine a situation in which a police shooting someone is not justified by the simple fact of being a police officer and the victim was not.

Perhaps the most despicable part of the this case been the instances of people saying they were “on the side of the police”.  What are you talking about?  Do you honestly see the shooting of a drugged out teenager as an issue of the police vs. the public and you’re on the side of the police?  If anything, it should be an issue of good, competent, honest police against bad, incompetent, overly-aggressive police.

But the other officers on the scene agree with the “sides” argument: they all lied in defense of James Forcillo.    So, yes, if you are on the side of the police then we don’t have police.  We have an organized gang with uniforms.  Instead of robbing banks, they collect from the public purse.  And they can kill anyone they want, with impunity, because the only people who can arrest a bad cop are cops and they have proven, over and over and over again, that their first loyalty is to themselves, not the law, and not the government, and certainly not you.

Posted in Justice | Comments Off

How Would You Know

Abuse is much more common than people who haven’t experienced it realize.

You’ve said more than you realize.  You’ve acknowledged that personal experience of an event creates a distorted idea of how common the event is.

Posted in General | Comments Off

Chicken Bones

You’ve heard it before, but it bears repeating: You are much more likely to
be struck dead by lightning, choke on a chicken bone or drown in the bathtub
than be killed by a terrorist. Any number of well-known diseases — cancer, diabetes,
the flu — take the lives of far, far more people. Yet, by one estimate, the
United States spends $500 million per victim of terrorism, and a
piddling $10,000 per cancer death.
Why Doesn't Everybody Know this?
And another: “I’m almost shocked,” she recalled thinking during her first years in medical school as she learned, for example, that it is easier to burp lying on your left side than your right because of the position at which the esophagus connects to the stomach. “Why doesn’t everybody know this?”

Posted in Justice, Politics | Comments Off

Random Disgust

“Speaking to 1,500 students at Wellesley College in 1921, Mrs. Augustus Trowbridge — the wife of a Princeton professor — railed against “the vulgarity and revolting badness of petting parties.” She said that the loose-moraled gatherings – along with jazz music, unchaperoned dancing and lipstick — were symptomatic of a decadent society, the Coshocton, Ohio Tribune reported on Jan. 13.”

Posted in Sexual Politics | Comments Off

How it Works

Ah.  So this is how the historical record is shaped:  "The Smithsonian Institution
has repeatedly dismissed claims that Whitehead made powered flights before the Wrights.
Whitehead supporters assert that the Smithsonian lost its objectivity on the issue when
it signed a 1948 agreement with the estate of Orville Wright requiring the Institution
to recognize the 1903 Wright Flyer as the first aircraft to make a manned, powered,
controlled flight."  Need I add that it was a secret agreement.
Posted in General | Comments Off

The Ethics of the Unethical

When Martin Shkreli raised the price of Retrophin, a pharmaceutical used to treat AIDS, from $13.50 to $750.00 per dose, there was outrage.  Shkreli, who has since been arrested for fraud unrelated to the price increase, insisted that this was free enterprise.  There was no moral issue.  If anything, it was morally right for him to maximize the profits of his company.

I thought, what if I broke into Shkreli’s home in the middle of the night and stole his laptop computer, watches, and cameras.

Shkreli would probably think I had robbed him.  He would probably– I can’t quote him on it– call the police, if he could, and have me arrested for trespassing and burglary.  And I would look him in the eye, in court, and say, “What’s your problem?  What’s wrong with taking your stuff?  You don’t even really own it.”   Even better, if I could say that from afar, some other country, which did not have any kind of extradition treaty with the U.S.   And I would say, “what is your definition of moral”?

He might say, “it’s wrong to steal”.  And I would ask, “how do you know?”  Maybe he believes in the bible.  Maybe he believes that one should always treat others the way one would want to be treated.  Maybe he believes something like “always treat others the way you yourself would like to be treated”.  Or maybe he believes it’s a dog-eat-dog world and you just take whatever you can whenever you can because that’s what everybody else would do if they could.

No, that’s not possible, is it?

He might believe that such miracles as Retrophin are only possible thanks to our wonderful capitalist system which holds that the owner of a particular item has absolute control over its use and distribution and price.  Of course, the makers and sellers of Retrophin were already doing quite well before he jacked up the price, and it had been developed under a system with the built-in expectation of a certain cost to the drug, and that had worked, and it has been shown that most pharmaceutical companies spend more money on advertising and marketing than they do on developing drugs, so they can’t be serious about argument that the high price is the cost of developing advanced drugs.

More likely a tax-payer funded university research lab developed the basics of the drug and then a drug company bought in somewhat later.

But if we were all in a wagon training headed west in 1871 and we were crossing a desert and Mr.  Shkreli happened to own the only bottle of water left and everyone else was about to die, would it be his “right” to sell it for the exclusive use of the highest bidder, and let everyone else die?

I dislike these allegories.  What Mr. Shkreli is doing is already essentially the same thing: AIDS patients need Retrophin to survive: Mr. Shkreli is extorting a wonderful price.  It is extortion.  Extortion is wrong.


Posted in General, Justice, science | Comments Off

Anthony Weiner

I was and am a huge admirer of Jon Stewart.   His most remarkable and indispensable achievement was the way he called out political absurdities, corruption, and idiocies exactly as he saw them, without the traditional hedging and restraint required by serious newscasts or columnists.  I don’t need to go on: he was great.  He was probably at his best during the Republican presidential primaries of 2012, when America was offered a revolving door of unqualified, bombastic, self-promoting wannabes, along with Mitt Romney, as their next leader.

There was however– you knew it was coming– a few exceptions.  One sequence of episodes I found disquieting and annoying: his relentless attacks on the unfortunately named Democratic U.S. Representative Anthony Weiner.

Representative Anthony Weiner did not have any remarkable accomplishments to his record: he advocated granting “O-visas” to foreign fashion models and he liked to point out that many U.S. diplomats didn’t pay their parking tickets.

But he also advocated vigorously for an amendment offering a Medicare-like government plan as an option to Obamacare, which endangered the deal with the devil Obama had made with the insurance industry.  He also– like Stewart– was an enthusiastic supporter of legislation providing funds for health care for first-responders to the 9/11 attacks.  He  opposed the lavish military and financial aid the U.S. has provided to Saudi Arabia, home of 15 of the 19 9/11 hijackers.

According to some of his staff, he was also given to tantrums and was known to scream and employees and toss furniture.

In May, 2011, it was discovered that Weiner had sent sexually explicit photos of himself — on Twitter(!)– to a female supporter.   He at first denied it, but as the evidence mounted he had to resign his seat in Congress in disgrace.

In May, 2013, he announced that he was running for mayor of New York, and would be asking voters to give him a second chance.  It looked, at first, like they might, but in July of that year, it emerged that he had continued sexting other women after he had resigned from Congress.  He had lied again.  He showed judgement that was so bad it would be overly generous to label it as stupid.

Stewart, for reasons that escape me, chose to ridicule Weiner on The Daily Show night after night after night.  And yes, to me, it reached a point where it was no longer political: it was personal, and it was cruel.  The jerk made a serious mistake.  He repeated the mistake.  He lied about it.  He probably destroyed his marriage.  He definitely destroyed his political career (which was quite promising at the time).

But he was also a classic example of how America’s hysterical attitude towards sex distorts the politics and culture of our society.  Not one of the hedge fund managers or bankers responsible for the financial crisis that drained America’s pocketbooks and catastrophically devalued their mortgages resigned in disgrace.  None of the politicians responsible for the lax regulations that allowed this catastrophe to unfold had to resign from office in disgrace.  None of the government officials responsible for the disaster in Iraq had to resign in disgrace.

But America rose up in righteous fury and decreed that it could countenance a man of importunate sexual inclinations in office.  He must go.  And he did.

In fairness, Stewart also took on the bankers and government officials and hedge fund managers, and that made sense.  And Weiner deserved the initial round or two of ridicule.

But Stewart became relentless, night after night, essentially repeating the same joke over and over again beyond all reason.

The only possible explanation is that Stewart wanted to make a great big point about going after someone who was politically congenial to himself, to prove that he could be “objective”, and an equal-opportunity satirist.  I suspect he was worried that the folks at Fox News would be able to label him as an ideologue.  Here was a chance to prove he wasn’t by savagely skewering a liberal New York Democrat.

It was a rare example of Stewart misjudging an issue.  He should have made his point once, maybe twice, and then left it alone: it was not all that consequential.  It was humiliating and embarrassing, but it was not all that consequential to anyone other than his wife (and infant son).

There’s a second aspect to the Weiner story that I’ve thought about.  Donald Trump is currently stomping over every moderate Republican’s presidential ambitious like a t-rex, even though he has said and done things in the past that might, under the right circumstances, be considered scandalous.  He cheated on his wife, he cheated business partners, and he went bankrupt several times, leaving guileless creditors in his dust.  Why is he getting away with it?  Because he doesn’t care.  His “screw you” attitude makes it all rather uninteresting.  “Did you cheat on your first wife?”   What are you a moron?

It’s a magical ability.  You wanna go after to me?  Go ahead– I don’t care.

Weiner looked defeated and deflated.  He reacted as if he himself really believed that his behavior had been abominable.  You can’t survive that kind of scandal if you look like you really, really care if people know about it, and it brings the sharks circling.  Bill Clinton made the same mistake.  We do know now that he had weighed what I would now call “the Trump Option”: screw you, it’s none of your business.  They (Clinton and his lawyers and wife) decided against it because they believed the courts would rule against them.  And that the courts would matter.

Didn’t they know that justice is not what comes from the courts: it’s what comes from force.  Didn’t Bill Clinton know that in a few short years, the  President of the United States would direct American officials to torture people, bomb the shit out of a country that had nothing to do with anything about 9/11, and initiate extensive illegal surveillance of American citizens.

He was not arrested.


Posted in General | Comments Off