Tag Archives: politics

I Must Respectfully Rant

Can we collectively take a knee for women everywhere? I don’t mean as a gesture of marriage proposal, but as a symbolic gesture of support akin to the National Anthem kneeling that has so many people riled up. There have been a few times that I have aimed to discuss that very topic and the debate over it, but while it is simple in premise and execution, in the current United States’ politically-polarized climate, I feel it is a contentious issue with some valid arguments to be made from both sides. Perhaps I will tackle it (teehee) in a future post – and I will say that legally it is not breaking any laws and is protected under the first amendment, and personally, I don’t have a problem with it, and were I skilled enough to be a professional football player, then I would be kneeling with Colin Kaepernick and the rest – but I will hold off on getting further in depth on that debate once more because evidently there is some misunderstanding that needs clarification first. To all my fellow males, both in positions of political and professional authority and out in the rest of the world: it is not okay to make undesired, non-consented advances toward women, nor is it all right to touch women anywhere unless they allow it. Got it? Are you sure? Because lately it seems that far too many of us really don’t comprehend this. And that is a serious problem.

They are different issues to be sure, but similar to the problem with police over-aggressiveness toward minorities, this is not simply a problem with “a few bad apples”. The worst offenders are a small percent of the total population, but there is a greater systematic fault in the manner of the population’s thinking. Too many of us do not understand the boundaries of what is appropriate and what is unacceptable. How can you know when you are about to cross the line if you do not know where the line is?

We can recognize that this problem exists and spans across our society, but how do we repair it? As with all problems, we start to solve it by taking what we know and using it to instruct us in learning more. In this case, we understand now (for the most part) how to properly treat each other, especially in regards to men interacting with women, so we apply that knowledge to the next generation. As Crosby, Stills, & Nash sang, teach your children well. If we can properly educate our children, the future will be better (that applies to soooo much more than this too). However, while this helps things get better down the line, how do we manage to make things better now?

Our current culture evidently has not made it explicitly clear to all as to what proper behavior is, so how do we correct the conduct that is improper within this era? I confess, I don’t really know how to do this. This is not my field of expertise to be sure, yet even I can see that there is no clear cut answer to rectify the wrongdoings of so many men from so many walks of life. Lately, the news has highlighted the exploits of a few notable politicians and celebrities who have made unwelcome advances toward women, but these are not the only men who have committed such heinous acts. It is also true that it is not limited to men, and while I do not wish to gloss over the number of women who sexually pressure men, like the issue of National Anthem kneeling, I do not want to distract from the main issue at hand. Furthermore, any shout of “women do it too; don’t forget that!” is not an argument as much of a diversion. Women have endured mistreatment from men throughout human history, and despite things being much better in the modern world compared to the past, there are still many inherent disadvantages presented to them that prevents equal treatment from their male peers. I fear that we as a society will not truly accept women as equal to men until we make changes that mark women as equal to men, like equal pay. Such an established level of official equality would force old-fashioned, wrongful thinking regarding females in the United States to update or fucking deal with it.

At least that’s the hope. Because whether you like it or not, the United States holds these truths to be self-evident, that all men and women are created equal. Women should have the same opportunities to succeed in life as men do, and they should not have to be humiliated or endure inappropriate behavior to achieve this. That part, at least, is just that simple.

Thanks for reading. Hit me up with any questions, comments, or suggestions at monotrememadness@gmail.com, and be sure to swing back here next week, and treat your fellow man and woman with the utmost of respect.

Yours most respectfully,

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

Astronauts Without Borders

Once upon a time not so long ago, the United States and Russia had a high-profile meeting that was a top news story. Unlike today though, this was not a shady circumstance that cast doubt on the inner dealings of each respective government, but rather helped to improve the relationship between two nations that had been engaged in a constant and bitter show of one-upmanship with nuclear proliferation. I’m talking about the Cold War. Nevertheless, 42 years ago on this date, July 17, 1975, the United States and Russia, then called the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, set aside their differences, at least as far as the scientific community was concerned. As the preeminent superpowers of the world and the leaders in space exploration, the US and USSR arranged for an historic high five within the vacuum of space.

Contrary to what silly stories of moon crab monsters would tell you, there actually was an Apollo 18 mission. NASA had launched seven manned lunar landing missions with its Apollo program, successfully landing six of them (Apollo 13 had a bit of a snafu).  However, the final moon mission, Apollo 17, was not the last time a Saturn V rocket shot an Apollo craft into orbit. Apollo 18 was launched in conjunction with the Soviet spacecraft Soyuz 19.

After there establishment in orbit, the two craft were lined up and then linked up, marking the first time that two craft from different countries and space agencies docked. The mission was orchestrated to serve as practice for potential rescues in the future.

The ABC coverage is pretty good at explaining the mission, but here’s the link if you want to watch the docking without the newscaster speaking.

Leave it to the men and women who work in science and especially the students of space to show us how meaningless political squabbles can be. We are all one species on the same Earth, and it is missions like this one that help us to realize that no matter whether we are on opposite sides of the world, or floating above it, we are at our best when we work together to advance our mutual pursuit of greater understanding of our place in space.

Thanks for reading and watching. If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, launch them into my inbox at monotrememadness@gmail.com. Be sure to orbit back here next week for more out of this world fun.

I’m sure I’ve written that before and I don’t care,

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