Tag Archives: John Oliver

“We Don’t Actually Want Less Guns in Schools; We Want Fewer Guns in Schools”

After yet another school shooting, young and older citizens in the United States are hoping for an end to the senseless cycle of violence that is becoming more frequent. I have heard many articulate pleas for greater gun control from many people, chiefly the actual students who endured this most recent tragedy.  Their urge to those in political power to use their authority to instill real and productive change is inspiring.

One group who has been listening to these impassioned teenagers is the team at my favorite late night show, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. Over the past two weeks since the show returned from hiatus, Oliver and his crew have made a few observations on the response to the latest school shooting.

However, this topic and its obvious solution is nothing new to Oliver, who was at the center of one of the greatest recurring pieces The Daily Show with Jon Stewart ever put together when he was a correspondent on that show. Take a gander yourself to see how the same stupid argument to “protect gun rights” perpetuates the lack of protection for people:

If hearing a British man explain how Australia did it right and America is doing nothing despite that proof that things worked for Australia is exhausting, then take a quick listen to an Australian who recognizes the same flaws:

Thanks for reading and watching. Please come back next week when I can hopefully talk about Black Panther, or something.

Alex

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We Got Him!

Media is tricky these days. It’s difficult to work out what is going on through the surge of sensationalism that dominates the news outlets we rely on for information. Even our most trusted sources can get swept up in screaming out something that they know will get heads turned towards them, even if that is not necessarily the something they should be shouting about, or if what they are shouting about it misses the mark of what they should be shouting about. Too vague? Certainly, but let’s look at a specific subject that he media has been obsessed with for the past few years: Donald Trump. Trump has always been in a good position of prominence and authority thanks to his family’s business prospering before he got into it. However, in the last two years, he has skyrocketed into the global public eye, which is understandable for a President of the United States, but he manages to capture headlines with everything he does  and everywhere he goes at every minute of the day. His mastery of the bullshit arts and utilization of the social media vehicle that is Twitter allowed him to dominate the coverage leading up to the last presidential election, and definitely played a part in helping him to get elected to that position. Now with a bigger soapbox than he’s ever had to shout from, the media struggle to keep up with all that old Donnie can blather out. Few have managed to consistently cover his crap and actually express how it is legitimately crap, and they have something in common: they’re comedic journalists who have all worked on The Daily Show. From current host, Trevor Noah, to former host Jon Stewart, to former correspondents and current hosts of therir own shows, Samantha Bee, Stephen Colbert, and most of all, John Oliver, the Daily Show gang has nailed nailing down Trump’s insanity where traditional news outlets have failed. Those with a show of their own routinely rail into the toupee-touting toddler (prove me wrong Donald, I dare you!), as do other comedy hosts, such as Jimmy Kimmel and Conan O’Brien. However, nobody dishes out the “DAMN!”s like John Oliver and his crew on HBO’s Last Week Tonight. Certainly, having what Oliver once referred to as “dragon money” on his former constituent Stephen Colbert’s Late Show helps, but beyond the blatant overspending that Last Week Tonight  likes to show off (in line with the “if you’ve got it, flaunt it” philosophy) their entire staff has excelled at delivering quality current and investigative newspieces over their four seasons, and tackling Trump has been their forte, and nabbed them another Emmy in the same category Jon Stewart’s Daily Show used to dominate.

It’s a shame that last night was Last Week Tonight‘s last show until next season starts in February, Thankfully, Oliver and Co. went out with a bang, breaking down the dynamics of what makes Trump strangely successful, and why it is bad, as well as leaving us with one hell of a post credits callback clip. Enjoy it for yourself:

We may be stuck with a dipshit of an executive leader, but at least we have John Oliver to carry us through the remaining 3-7 years of it. If you need to catch up or get your dose of Oliver while you wait for next season, then visit the show’s YouTube page here for the featured clips of most of their episodes.

Thanks for reading and watching! Swing back next week for more something or other!

XOXO,

Alex

Pizza and Diana Ross Are the Only Supremes I Know

I am glad that my parents and peers who have helped to influence my life have for the most part been tolerant people from many walks of life. I am thankful that my education has been from verified sources taught by good teachers who have not used the subject they were teaching me to push their own agenda, and none of their agendas were hate-based anyway. I am appreciative that I have been able to travel and experience other parts of my country and the world to observe firsthand the differences and similarities that set apart and unite others from myself. I have not lived what I would call the most cultured life, and I have certainly been guilty of some prejudicial thinking (Pollocks are incredibly loud, crass people sometimes), yet I have always had the sufficient sense and guidance to know better than to despise someone with such fervent hatred that I would act violently toward them in both words and actions. I always attempt to understand the views of others when they are different from my own, but I can see no justification for the horrendous stance of white supremacists and neo-Nazis. We must all work together peacefully to change the culture of anger and hate that such groups have, and we here on the ground level of America need to be the change we wish to see in this world because we cannot count upon our heads of state to do more than exacerbate the situation.

Fortunately, unlike the President, Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe did have a strong response that condemned the white supremacists and applauded those who helped the victims of their disturbing acts.

Similarly, the true leader of the Free World, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, denounced Nazi violence in the US and called it “disgusting”.

In the wake of any tragedy I often seek out comedy as a means of healing, and frequently there is a poignancy within what could have easily been humorous fodder that helps to assuage my uncertainty and renew my hope. When it comes to nailing the inherent flaws of racist ideology, few comedians – hell, few people do it better than Dave Chappelle. And with the opening episode of his magnificent Chappelle’s Show, Dave Chappelle gave us one of the best skits in television history with a skewering of racism as he played Clayton Bigsby, a blind black man who was the leader of a major white supremacy movement. The irony is overwhelming… and hilarious! Check out Part 1 and Part 2.

In addition to looking for laughs where I can find them, I watch movies that help me contemplate what is on my mind. Right now nothing seems more fitting than American History X which shows the hypocrisy of hate and the cultural frustrations that drive men and women to it in the vicious cycle of racism that people like the white supremacists in Virginia purvey.

Thanks for reading and watching. Please respect your fellow men and women no matter how different they may be from you.

Alex

State of the Season 12 – Rock and Roll, Reading, and Remembering

Hello and welcome to any and all who find themselves here! As is customary for my every 13th post I look back at the last 12 for a retrospective of the previous “season” of this blog. Let’s hop to it!

Back on May 8th, I tossed the second of my four-part inspection of the T-shirt worn by Jeff Ament of Pearl Jam at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. This was followed by the final two parts over the next couple of weeks. Ament’s shirt contained a list of names of bands and artists he and his bandmates feel deserve inclusion into the Rock Hall. Some I know and agree with, others I was less familiar with. In an effort to educate myself further on all these acts, I listened to a cut of each act’s discography and sought the best (or my favorite) of the bunch to feature.

“Waiting in the Wings of Rock and Roll – Vol. 2”

“Waiting in the Wings of Rock and Roll – On Being the Third Part of Jeff Ament’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Shirt”

“Waiting in the Wings of Rock and Roll – The Final Chapter”


“Never Forget Our Heroes” is my Memorial Day post that attempts not to remember fallen soldiers and service members, but those translators who have been forgotten by the US government in the mire of political bureaucracy. This came from a featured segment on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver that I include.


“With a Little Help from My Friends” – I was committed to sticking to my original plan to release a celebration of The Beatles for the anniversary of their most famous album. I did so even in the wake of Trump pulling the US out of the Paris Agreement, and I am pleased that so many cities, businesses, and communities have all stated that they will continue to honor the international agreement on climate change mitigation. With a little help from my friends indeed.


“Da na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na That Man!” is a eulogy of actor Adam West. Fox Animation recently churned out a video compilation of his best moments as Mayor Adam West on Family Guy:

“Paul! That’s a person’s name!”


Indeed it is, Mayor West, and it is Sir Paul McCartney who is the focus of “Happy Birthday Walrus Man!” where I listed some of the best songs written and performed by McCartney over his career with The Beatles and Wings and on his own. He’s referred to as Walrus Man because he was the walrus! Don’t believe me? Well check, check it:


“Rowling Along the Reading Rainbow” is my thanks to J.K. Rowling for writing the book (series) that got me jazzed about reading. I’ll send another shout out to her for today right here and now: Happy Birthday to you and Harry!


“The Magical Mystery Tour is Waiting to Take You Away” – There’s that Walrus again. Expanding upon my fantasy book series fandom like a literary Bran the Builder, I next turned my attention to the A Song of Ice and Fire series. The featured picture is artwork of my favorite sequence from the books, the wildling attack on the Wall. Fantastic fantasy.


While the show, Game of Thrones, does not always nail some scenes like that battle, it has put together some excellent moments, including some that did not occur in the books. You may even call these moments “Epic! Badass” as I did. Enjoy these 10 scenes that may have fallen off your radar from the first six seasons of the show.


“Astronauts Without Borders” is a celebration of the docking between Apollo 18 and Soyuz 19 that took place in 1975. It was the first time two countries planned and enacted a mission to connect spacecraft in flight and kicked off a grand partnership between the scientific communities within the USA and the USSR/Russia that continues today as it always has – separate from politics.


“Nobody Exists on Purpose. Nobody Belongs Anywhere. Everybody’s Going to Die. Come Watch TV.” – Game of Thrones isn’t the only anticipated show that’s back. Rick and Morty made their long awaited return last night on Adult Swim, and Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon and company keep finding humor in the existential dread that surrounds us all. Props especially to Chris Parnell who manages to make us pity and laugh hysterically at the plight of pathetic Jerry whose name is dragged through the mud by even the wind.

Since next Sunday is six long days away, check out the Non-Canonical Adventures of Rick and Morty to help hold you over.


In addition to this recap, I’d like to wish the best to the family of Sam Shepard, who died from ALS on July 27. An actor on the stage and screen best known for his roles in movies like The Right Stuff and Black Hawk Down, but his true passion was as a playwright. Shepard penned 44 plays and won a Pulitzer Prize for Drama with his work Buried Child. He also co-wrote some film screenplays, was nominated for an Oscar for The Right Stuff, and even played banjo on Patti Smith’s unique cover of “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. R.I.P.

Thanks for reading, watching, listening, and enduring some bad jokes in all along the way. I hope that I provide quality entertainment and ideally some education along with it; if I do, I hope that continues, but if I don’t, I hope it begins. Most of all, I hope you’ll check back in here next week for more fun.

Until next week,

Alex

With a Little Help from My Friends

The recent shameful departure of my country on the Paris Agreement on global climate change is the dominant story in the news and the most pressing issue on my mind, but I just don’t have the energy (and that is not a pun) to restate the same facts about how we humans, and especially me and mine in America, are responsible for rapidly heating up this one habitable planet we have always known, and until the ignorance of greed consumed too many of us, has been a world we loved as well. I love it still, and the billions of humans and wildlife that live upon it, which is why I worry so much. In the interests of not wishing to belabor a point that needs to be repeated, but not so much to my audience who already understands its severity, and for the sake of not wishing to deviate from my original plan for this post, I will not personally cover (at least for this week) the Paris Agreement tackbacksies that my poorly-led nation idiotically enacted, however, my favorite late night host and his team have put together another fantastic segment this time covering just that:

Thank you, John. You make it easier to endure this madness, and though I’ve never met you, I feel like you could be a friend, which is precisely what we all need through hardships and celebrations, and as it happens, it was 50 years ago last week The Beatles taught the world to cherish friends, as well as to embrace the nature of change for the better and the mixing of culture and art in one of the grandest musical contributions of all time.

On May 26,1967 in England, and June 2 in America, the greatest band to ever play music released one the greatest records ever cut. The Beatles were already at the top of the musical world as they had been for a few years thanks to their tremendous popularity with young pop rock and roll fans. Yet the group felt tired of playing music for screaming girls and wanted to make some “serious music”. They stopped touring concerts to ease their exhaustion and focus on their music. Some people were pissed about this, but regardless of those frustrations from fans and the members of the band itself, all were rewarded with a masterpiece set into motion with about 11 seconds of orchestral warm-up and ambient crowd chatter eagerly awaiting a show that strikes out of the theater noise with drums and guitar that instantly grab our attention so that we are all ears when Paul McCartney starts singing in the fabulously fictitious Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Sgt. Pepper’s remains one of the most influential and unique albums of all time for a variety of reasons. It was pioneering, not just for rock and roll and pop music, but for all music, containing an assortment of instruments and musical styles that culminate in one of the most masterfully varied records, but one with a terrific flow, thanks in large part to the first time omission of the few seconds of silent space between songs. On Sgt. Pepper, Beatles producer George Martin was once again the man behind most of the technical effects that lend a certain feel to the album as a whole. The band had been experimenting with new sounds for their last few records, like Rubber Soul and Revolver, records that really allowed The Beatles to rise above the pure pop that many desired them to be. Sgt. Pepper’s was not the first instance of The Beatles breaking away from the mainstream – honestly, I’m not sure they ever were in the mainstream as much as they were paving the way for it – yet the discography of the band truly took off into an unforeseen level of the musical and cultural atmosphere with Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The Beatles were essentially the first band to walk on the musical Moon. They had been approaching their desired destination with their previous work, but Sgt. Pepper’s was their Apollo program, and led them and many, many others to a new world of musical production.

One fascinating example of this is in the lively album cover that depicts a wealth of celebrities from many walks of life and eras. The Nerdwriter declares it to the “Holy Grail of album covers”, and he is not wrong as the artwork is multi-layered with meaning and references to the essence of the band and its members. He explains this in one of his excellent video essays:

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is revolutionary in many respects, but chief among its merits is the quality of its songs and their arrangement. Rolling Stone considers it to be the best album ever made, and while its influence is undeniable and a major reason for their favoring of it, the great music and lyrics that defined The Beatles better than anything else ever could are exceptional throughout the record.

Starting off with the opening I mentioned earlier, the titular “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” provides a terrific introduction both as a song and the theme of the journey we are about to take. It also provides a bookended finish with a short reprisal of “Sgt. Pepper’s” as the penultimate song of the record. It was Paul McCartney’s idea to make the album’s premise be a concert sang by a fictional band. This fit his and the band’s characteristic whimsy, but also allowed them to push the envelope a little further with the safety of being able to let any controversy fall back upon the fictitious group in place of the real one. Oh that wasn’t us; that was Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club.

The title track segues perfectly into what is probably the most popular song on the album, and is certainly one of the band’s best songs. I mean, I did name this post after it. After his alter ego Billy Shears’ introduction at the end of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”, Ringo Starr begins to sing the classic “With a Little Help from My Friends”. This is one of my favorite songs for its joyful melody, harmonious vocals, and encouraging message that friendship is the key to enjoying life through the good and bad. Despite their differences and the trials each of them were going through at the time, it is clear that The Beatles worked so well, not just on this record, but throughout the years because they were friends. This song is the epitome of that love for one another. It’s all you need after all – wait, that’s the next record.

From the epitome of friendship we roll on to the epitome of psychedelia with “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”. There are many references to drug use on featured within the album, including an overt one in the previous song, but John Lennon always maintained that this song was based on a drawing his son made of a girl in his class named Lucy. As one radio host on the newly launched Sirius Beatles Channel said, Lennon never shied away from discussing drugs and did write “Cold Turkey” in his post-Beatles career, so even though the nouns in the title begin with the letters LSD, drugs did not inspire this song. However, that does not mean they did not influence this song, which they almost certainly did, although not just in the trippy description of Lucy’s land as the song (an album entire) serves as an allusion to the flower power movement that saw the cultures of East and West blending together like a tie-dye T-shirt. This is certainly apparent on the one song on the album John Lennon and Paul McCartney did not write, George Harrison’s “Within You Without You” which is driven by Harrison’s sitar and other Indian instruments.

The highlight of the album for many is the closing orchestration that is “A Day in the Life”. I say orchestration because Martin and The Beatles brought in an actual orchestral arrangement to play the unnerving transitions between the two wildly distinctive tones of the song. The reason for these drastically different pieces from Lennon and McCartney is simple as they began as two different songs. Lennon needed something to connect his song that was inspired by stories in a newspaper, and McCartney offered a separate song he had been working on and they sandwiched it in and spread the orchestra to make it more cohesive. The final piano note was actual multiple pianos played simultaneously and then stretched out by Martin in the sound mixing booth. The end result is a slightly disturbing note of finality to a slightly disturbing song that perfectly punctuates the album.

The album has a perfect transition from song to song which is all the more impressive given its great variation of styles. This could have been a magnificent failure for a lesser group, but as I’ve said before and will say again, The Beatles are the greatest band of all time and they managed to make a clash of genres and technical trials (Paul McCartney is credited with playing a “comb and tissue paper”) into their defining work… until next year’s release of their best album, but we can talk about that next year. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was a massive success from the start and continued to establish The Beatles as the master musicians they were and deserve to be recognized as. I encourage you to listen to this and all their other albums. It’s easy to call The Beatles great, and not hard to recommend such a well loved band, but these guys are in another league. Remember when I said Sgt. Pepper’s was like The Beatles landing on the Moon? Well, their continued career took them across the universe to places other musicians can only dream of. That pun was absolutely intended, but also absolutely true. The Beatles are not my favorite band – anyone who’s read my previous posts knows that honor belongs to another British rock band – but I will defend until my dying breath that they are the best band because they are. No one is more varied, talented, and has such an extensive body of work that is as high quality as The Beatles’ discography. Also, they are my second favorite band, so it’s not like it’s hard for me to admire them, but it helps that they’re really, really good.

Thanks for reading, watching, and listening! Be sure to check out anything you can from The Beatles even if you’ve heard it all before. They certainly are worth listening to more than once. If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, please send them to monotrememadness@gmail.com. Be sure to revolve back here next week for more hopefully good news or fun topics. Whatever I write about, I promise I’ll throw in a joke or two.

I hope you have enjoyed the show,

Alex

Never Forget Our Heroes

Happy Memorial Day, everyone. This holiday may be the unofficial start of summertime in America that allows us an opportunity to get together with friends and family for burgers and beer, as well as the harsh realization that no, it’s not warm enough to go swimming yet, but while it is good that we can observe this lighthearted enjoyment in the company of loved ones, Memorial Day has a somber reason for its existence. Memorial Day was created to recognize those who lost their lives in America’s military.

While the exact date that Memorial Day was first observed is not easy to pin down, it is apparent that it became nationally prominent in the late 1860s following the American Civil War. Since then, Americans of all ages have paid their respects to their fallen military men and women in a number of ways. Typically parades, visits to cemeteries, and the aforementioned cookout with friends are common occurrences, yet today I am turning my focus to a specific group of aides to the American armed forces who deserve our thanks and are still living, although their lives are in serious danger and we need to help them to survive as they helped our service members to survive.

Since the United States’ involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq began, there have been translators who have served as the necessary communicative link between soldiers and engineers working for the military and the native people. These translators have helped to save countless lives and now deserve to be returned the favor, however, this is far from the case as you can learn from this segment from Last Week Tonight with John Oliver:

Translators, even if they were not born or even set foot in the United States, are American heroes and deserve the easy opportunity to become U.S. citizens. We should be fast-tracking these guys and their families on that course of action if they desire it, especially considering the imminent danger most of them are in. It is inexcusable, criminal really, to force them to jump through bureaucratic hoops to realistically attain the goal of citizenship. They deserve to be recognized for their service to America by being welcomed into America. We should be raising a toast of honor to these men and women on Veteran’s Day, not a toast of remembrance on Memorial Day because the United States government did not act as valiantly to serve and save them as they did to serve and save our soldiers and engineers.

The truly frustrating thing is that this episode aired in October of 2014 but things have not vastly improved in the application process. In fact, they have only become harder. Perhaps this is something your local representative should hear about.

Thanks for reading. If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions please send them to monotremadness@gmail. com.

Alex

If You Give a Bigot a Cookie…

Last week, I reveled in the championship that LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers delivered to their glory-starved hometown and smiled at the masses who came together to welcome their athletic heroes home to celebrate the historic occasion. This week, I am looking at another historic occasion, but one that is decidedly less unanimously revered by the residents it directly affects, as well as globally despised by everyone else. I am referring to the “In/Out Referendum” better known as the Brexit that citizens in the United Kingdom voted on last Thursday. The decision to leave the European Union was made in a close vote that saw a large turnout, yet few seem happy with the decision especially outside of Britain.

If you have not heard what the story behind the separation of the UK from the EU is all about, then consult this segment from Last Week Tonight with John Oliver:

That aired prior to the vote that divided the citizens of the UK not just by area -Scotland and Northern Ireland were firmly in favor of staying – but by age and educational level as well. Most younger voters opted to stay while older generations chose to leave. Additionally, the number of people with at least a bachelor’s degree were more inclined to remain in the EU than those without one. And as you can probably guess from Oliver’s piece, folks who were born outside of the UK were much bigger fans of sticking with the Union than those who were locals. Thus, it seems that the pre-vote assumption that a growing nationalist movement was the primary group in favor of a British exit was correct. This was further explored by Oliver and his team in the latest episode of his show:

I’ve stayed fairly quiet about my political views in the past for a few simple reasons. Primarily, whom I cast my vote for is between myself and Uncle Sam, and no one else needs to be included in the process. Furthermore, I do not swing strongly one way or the other, and have voted for Democrat, Independent, and Republican candidates for a variety of political positions over the years. Party affiliation has little bearing upon my vote. Instead I base my decisions on the individual candidate and whether or not I think he or she is the best for the job. Sometimes that does boil down to picking the least of all evils, but that is the way it goes to ensure you cast your vote as wisely as possible. If I do not feel informed enough about a certain race or issue, then I simply so not cast a vote because I do not want to make an uneducated vote and mistakenly vote for someone or something that does not align with my views.

All that being said, today I am joining the chorus condemning Donald Trump as a world leader in any capacity. For years I have assumed that he would not survive the political process long enough to make it to the position he is in this year, much like this:

As the cartoon shows, operating with the assumption that something will weed Donald Trump out of the race for president (or any undesirable candidate for any position) is not the way to prevent him from winning that position. He is not going to go away, and a major reason why is the same as why the UK voted for the Brexit: the growing support for nationalism, a bigotry fearful of foreign affairs and immigration and generally what is different from the whitebread way of life. John Oliver attempted to ignore Trump as long as possible also, but a while back his show put together an excellent selection of pieces to point out why he is unfit for command of anything but store that sells bad hairpieces.

Regardless of your political views, be sure that you consider more than one issue or party loyalty before casting your vote for a candidate in any election. Even if you are a Trump supporter, choose based on how the candidate aligns with all of your views and not the views of your friends and family, or a specific party.

Thanks for reading/watching. Return here next week for more informative and entertaining somethings or others.

Don’t be the glass of milk,

Alex