music, tv

Is that an iPhone in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?

I think the Pixies are one of the world’s most overrated bands, so I didn’t know the song in this iPhone ad I’ve seen in heavy rotation. Twitter buddy hoover_dam recognized it. Here’s how Slate put it:

Apple’s new iPhone ad features a song about a giant penis

Yeah, that’s pretty much it. And the singer in this case looks like she’s about 16. I’m not naive about teenagers, but it’s a little disturbing anyway.

I was also told on Twitter that one of the apps in the ad is basically AutoTune for the iPhone. AutoTune. On a Pixies song. On Twitter, I said that’s like using a filter to normalize a face in a Picasso.


The Supertramp-Sept. 11 conspiracy

Supertramp’s Goodbye Stranger is not a subtle song. The guy isn’t ready to settle down. He’s an early morning lover, and he must be moving on.

But if you go to Songfacts and SongMeanings, you’ll find a few alternate theories, many of them reading too much into the names “Mary” and “Jane.” A couple even find religious meaning.

This one is either utterly insane or brilliant parody:

I agree that the song was written to be about a one-night stand, but in retrospect, it seems to foretell 9/11.

“It was an early morning yesterday
I was up before the dawn
And I really have enjoyed my stay
But I must be moving on”

The planes used in the attack were hijacked early in the morning on Sept. 11. The attackers believed they were moving on to an afterlife.

It goes on. The “sweet ladies” are the 72 virgins waiting in paradise, and so on.

journalism, politics

Three sides on climate change? Can’t have that!

Andrew Sullivan rounds up a bit of legitimate right-wing concern about climate change.

The problem is that having conversatives bringing forth their climate-change ideas will confound the media, which can’t handle more than two “sides.” The two “sides” on climate change are currently defined as “please do something about this before the planet goes phhhht” and “this is all just a liberal tax-raising conspiracy.”


The news story of our time: Partisanship for sake of partisanship

This Slate story starts with Common Core, but it’s not really about Common Core (which has a lot of “left-wing” critics as well, mostly because the math in it is some of the dumbest tripe ever cooked up in academia). It goes on to show how many policies were once embraced by the Republicans but then derided when Obama liked them, too.

From Obamacare to basic gun regulations, I’m not sure how many Obama policies you can find that didn’t once have widespread Republican support but are now “OMG! SOCIALISM!”

And the media frankly can’t do enough to point this out. Then they can go into other issues that have limited Obama’s ability to be an effective president — including Obama himself.

Conservative tribalism: Conservatives hate anything Barack Obama and liberals like..

personal, politics

Lovely London and what it says about us

I could be accused of having an overly romantic view of London, England and Britain. Perhaps it’s because I grew up watching Monty Python and Doctor Who, then read all of Bill Bryson’s celebrations of British humility, humor, manners and culture. And my favorite media organizations are the BBC and The Economist, both clear-minded takes on the world as a whole.

It’s not that I fail to see Britain’s faults. It’s a country that respects and even reveres intellectualism, but immigration discussion and even football can bring out some less enlightened points of view. It’s not cheap, though basic supply-and-demand would insist that it couldn’t be. Some newspapers are sensationalist tabloids, and soccer fans have long known to dismiss any rumors that pop up in the media as pure conjecture, if not outright fantasy.

And I have to remind myself that the superb mass transit and pedestrian-friendly streets I love in London are also present in New York and Boston. (National rail, on the other hand, is light years ahead in the UK, and a Londoner who visits Washington must be baffled by the infrequent Metro services.)

Historically, Britain has been ruled by a succession of bloodthirsty monarchs and condescending imperialists. But somehow, it has progressed as a bastion of progress — in science, in literature, in industry and nearly every creative pursuit.

And today, it has a sense of humor about its place in the world. Can you imagine Americans embracing something like the Horrible Histories book series, which goes into gory details about all manner of wrongdoing? The author(s) would have to go into hiding by the time Fox News got a hold of it.

That sense of humor pops up in strange places. The orange juice we Americans would call “pulp free” is presented in the UK as “no bits.” A frequent Underground ad for a cancer-fighting race starts out “Oi, cancer!” and then berates the disease as “less popular than the people whose headphones go bmmt-phhht bmmt-phhht and the muppet who won’t give up his seat to a pregnant lady.” The U.S. equivalent would undoubtedly be something melodramatic or outright depressing.

Sure, political disagreements are there — Scotland has a big vote this year on whether to split from the UK. But I don’t sense the outright hatred of “liberals” through the country. I also didn’t see any bumper stickers of any kind in London — perhaps because many cars were corporate, perhaps because British folks don’t feel the need to express their individualism, perhaps because screaming anti-Conservative or anti-Labour messages at those stuck behind you in traffic just doesn’t seem proper.

And so the overriding feeling I get from a trip to London is that there are people in this world who truly believe in a greater good. People can be free to be individuals, but they’re cognizant of the social contract that binds us together. Perhaps that’s the lesson of going through a couple of devastating wars, or perhaps it’s a greater appreciation of public services from transportation to sanitation. Whatever the case, it gives me a much-needed dose of optimism that I hope will carry me through … sigh … another U.S. election cycle.

Some of the photos below carry through the themes I’ve talked about above. Some don’t. Enjoy.