Monday, October 25, 2010

Video: Oy Lei!

Tonight I saw the below song from Phineas and Ferb - the only really good kids show I've seen in decades. I actually look forward to watching it with my kids. They have at least one song every show and the following is an expansion of the character Vivian Garcia-Shapiro, a Jewish Mexican. My mom will love this.

The lyrics are from the dude who put the clip up:

It's a Mexican-Jewish cultural festival!
Mexican-Jewish cultural festival!
There is kreplach on tostada,
'Cept for picking a piñata.
We kibitz when we lambada.
How are things in Ensenada?
We put bottles on cabezas
We do mitzvahs up on mesas
And we're coming to your places
With big smiles upon our faces.

(Both parts repeat at the same time.)

Robert Reich about the 2010 Midterms

This is a great essay from from Robert Reich (at Salon) about how to understand the upcoming midterm election. The key points he makes, under the rubric of advising Obama not to move to the "center":
1. There is no "center" to American politics. The "center" is merely what most people tell pollsters they think or want at any given time. Trying to move to the center by following polls means giving up on leadership because you can’t lead people to where they already are.

2. By the first midterm the public is almost always grouchy because the president wasn’t a messiah and didn’t change the world. No single president has that kind of power. The higher the expectations for change at the start of an administration, the greater the disillusionment.

3. Presidents’ parties always lose the first midterm elections because the president isn’t on the ticket, and the opposing party has had time to regroup and refuel. It’s always easier for the party on the outs to attack -- and to mass troops for the assault -- than for the party inside to defend.

4. The economy trumps everything else, even though presidents aren’t really responsible for it. So when it’s bad -- as it was during the first midterms of Carter, Reagan and Clinton -- voters penalize the president’s party even more than usual. When it’s very bad, the electoral penalty is likely to be that much larger.
But read the whole thing.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Don't Pay the Ferryman, Part 2

As I posted earlier today, I enjoy the song "Don't Pay the Ferryman" and as part of the celebration for this song, I played it for my middle child. He likes the song and was boogying around to it in our living room. When we put him in for a nap, he was still grooving to it and was singing the lyrics (which he made up) at the top of his lungs. Below is a small clip, recorded off the child-monitor audio, of his 20+ minute rendition of "Don't Pay the Ferryman" (lyrics by Chris de Burgh and Jota Minuscula Styx)

Song of the Day: Don't Pay the Ferryman (1982)

The current song of the day is "Don't Pay the Ferryman" (1982) by Chris de Burgh. This song is great because it's part of a good 1970s rock tradition of gothic storytelling, along the lines of Hotel California.

The song is cheesy, but it does what good rock should do: get caught in your head, tell a good story, and allow you to scream out the lyrics in a culturally significant way.

Lyrics (from here):

It was late at night on the open road,
Speeding like a man on the run,
A lifetime spent preparing for the journey;

He is closer now and the search is on,
Reading from a map in the mind,
Yes there's the ragged hill,
And there's the boat on the river. And when the rain came down,
He heard a wild dog howl,
There were voices in the night - "Don't do it!"
Voices out of sight - "Don't do it!
Too many men have failed before,
Whatever you do,

Don't pay the ferryman,
Don't even fix a price,
Don't pay the ferryman,
Until he gets you to the other side;

In the rolling mist, then he gets on board,
Now there'll be no turning back,
Beware that hooded old man at the rudder,
And then the lightning flashed, and the thunder roared,
And people calling out his name,
And dancing bones that jabbered and a-moaned
On the water. And then the ferryman said,
"There is trouble ahead,
So you must pay me now," - "Don't do it!"
"You must pay me now," - "Don't do it!"
And still that voice came from beyond,
"Whatever you do,

Don't pay the ferryman,
Don't even fix a price,
Don't pay the ferryman,
Until he gets you to the other side;

Don't pay - the ferryman!
While I know the song from listening to 'greatest hits of the 80s' albums, others know it because of a priceless scene from MST3K:

One My Favorite Comics

Short Post: the attached comic is one that cracks me up every time. It's gross, but funny.

Long Post: It's a too-cool-for-school trait for people to bash Garfield. There's a now infamous product of the 21st Century, Garfield Minus Garfield, which capitalizes on the hatred, attempting to show the strip is funnier without the title character. Yet I, he who takes comic strips way too seriously, find Garfield a reliable read. Why the dissonance from the screaming masses (a.k.a. why am I right and they wrong)?

I believe there's two main reasons for the cultural opprobrium: (1) it's an old strip and people who feel they are out of comic-page reading can attack it as a symbol of the youth they've left behind, and/or to attack the child they used to be and hate.

(2) More likely, it's because of the crass commercialism of Jim Davis, head of Garfield Inc. He's unabashed in his desire to create Garfield for mercenary purposes, and the comic is exploited in nearly every possible way. Note, this exploitation was also performed by Charles Schultz of Peanuts, but he was given a pass because his strip is so deep (it was rarely *funny* but it was solid - almost literary in its resonance and application; Dickens was commercial too, but he's still assigned in English class - Schultz is the Dickens of comics, and you can quote me).

Garfield is very rarely deep, it's commercialism runs through its core. And while Schultz was drawing the strip until days before his death, Davis (early on) outsourced the strip to others (as far as I know Davis just picks up checks). So the main opprobrium comes from cultural doyens, like me to be honest, who resent a guy being so successful in art by intentionally abusing the form.

Two caveats: (1) Some people may actually not find Garfield funny at all - hey, there's no accounting for taste. You may be excused. I'm dealing with people who attack it while not actually reading it (see below). (2) However, the Garfield-bashers, the subconsciously honest ones, don't attack it for being without merit, mainly because they know they can't. It's sorta like attacking Dane Cook - whose success is resented and hated, but whose act can only be considered mean/evil/crass/mercenary and not just straight out inexplicable.

This example, Garfield as Dane Cook, is to distinguish these artists from those who achieve opprobrium for being straight out insults to existence - i.e. they are so unfunny/untalented that it's insane they are still being published/paid. So, in comics, the go to example is often Marmaduke. Which I'm fine with, but it's not so exclusive - the comics page is clogged with strips who have the equivalent of tenure: creative thinkers who may have been productive once, but who have been ossified into obsolescence by the passage of time: Hagar, B.C., Broom Hilda, Hi and Lois, Beetle Bailey, etc.

Who's the stand-up comic equivalent of Marmaduke? Maybe Jay Leno? It's harder to find a comparison, because standup is the most brutal art form there is and has no tolerance for coasters. Maybe Robin Williams has become Marmaduke - except that when Robin was young (and, sad to say, coked out the wazoo) he was the funniest on stage. Wow was he good. I can't imagine Marmaduke was ever good.

This brings up another fascinating point, alluded to above: most of those who attack Garfield don't read the current strip. People just *know* that it's an acceptable bashing-body. How do we know this type of thing. I'm sure, as a half-sociologist, I should know the phrases/reasons, oops.

But it's sort of how I just know that I, as a late-30s male, am supposed to (a) be preparing for the Zombie Apocalypse, (b) hate clowns, and (c) mock Twitter and Facebook. So too, people know that you're supposed to mock Garfield. I probably would too, if I didn't actually read comics.

The Mandelbrot dies, 85

The Benoît B. Mandelbrot has passed away, at age 85, from cancer. From the Times: "[he] was born on Nov. 20, 1924, to a Lithuanian Jewish family in Warsaw. In 1936 his family fled the Nazis, first to Paris and then to the south of France, where he tended horses and fixed tools." Pretty tough dude, Litvak Shoah survivor, mathematical genius. Sigh, I'm now imagining the 6 million of people like him who were murdered (a terrible after-effect of my being a teaching assistant for a class on the Holocaust).

My brother knows his son. And, no, I don't think Benoit invented the paisley tie, let's not sully his name.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Oren: "An End to Israel's Invisibility"

I guess one of the only reasons to read the Times is for Michael Oren's occasional op-ed. Thank God for Oren - he's really the only competent member of the current Israeli government. Op-Ed Contributor - An End to Israel’s Invisibility -

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Friendly Note of Bile

A piece of cynicism I created a bunch of years ago came up in conversation this morning so I felt I should put it out on the tubes. There was a hippie slogan from the 60s: "What if they gave a war, and nobody came." This is in line with John Lennon's doofus song "Imagine" (great song, moronic context).

The bile is: Well if nobody came, then the hippies win. If only one side comes, then that's called conquest.

Pic from here.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

It's 10-10-10

It's an arbitrarily significant day!

Monday, October 04, 2010

10-4: Talk Like a Trucker Day

It took these guys (which had a picture of the greatest trucker who ever lived, Jack Burton) to inform me that today is Talk Like a Trucker Day (get it, 10-4?).

Here's a set of phrases to help ya'll out. Go here for my nostalgia for "Convoy" to get yo'self in the mood.

Back out from Bean-Town. Bah-bah.