music, politics, x marks the pod

X Pod Episode 9: Fishbone and the reality-based community

The myth of the reasonable, reality-based Republican died Jan. 15, 2022, in Richmond, Va. 

That’s when Glenn Youngkin took office as Virginia’s governor. The Republican businessman won in a tremendous upset in a state that has been comfortably blue in recent elections. Biden won by 10 points, and even in this election, exit polls showed more people identifying as Democrat than Republican. Youngkin, who trailed in the polls until the last few days, won in part due to the usual failure of young people to show up and in part by keeping Donald Trump at arm’s length. He was the reasonable Republican, running alongside a Black woman for lieutenant governor and a Latino for attorney general. 

And they’re off to a flying start.

Jason Miyares, the incoming attorney general, made some staff changes, which is typical. Less typical is to give virtually no notice before dismissing people who are holding the line on civil rights like the dudes on the Night’s Watch in Game of Thrones. (Is that the right analogy? I didn’t watch much of that show.)

The Richmond Times-Dispatch especially noted that he fired someone with 20 pending court cases on housing discrimination. Lest you think Miyares is just interested in trampling on civil rights, he also terminated someone who has focused on scams targeting older people — someone who voted for Miyares

(We’re going to get to Fishbone, I promise.)

(Also available on Apple, Google and Spreaker.)
Continue reading
music, x marks the pod

X Pod Episode 8: The terrific Thompson Twins

Hello, Gen Xers and Gen X sympathizers! Quick note on show notes today — I’m going to start doing these episodes as both a podcast AND a blog post, so you can check them out on the medium of your choice. Here on the site, you can scan through the transcript and see more links and videos, but I recommend listening to the podcast. Especially if you’re driving.

Here we go …

One mistake a lot of people make in looking at 80s music is dismissing pop musicians because they have nice hair or funny videos or whatever. Critics wrote off Duran Duran as pretty boys, only later realizing that John Taylor is a fantastic funk bass player and Nick Rhodes is a keyboard pioneer. 

And when you think of the Thompson Twins, the first thing you think of is probably hair. 

That’s not fair. 

You might also think they were a band that had a superfluous member or two — the classic “What did Andrew Ridgeley contribute to Wham?” question. After all, bands of that era sometimes recruited people specifically for their looks. That was taken to an extreme when the band ABC added a blonde bombshell (who happened to be an irreverent music journalist) and a very short, bald Japanese man, neither of whom played any instruments. 

In Thompson Twins, Tom Bailey was the lead singer, the guitarist, the keyboardist, the bassist and the co-producer. Alannah Currie, in addition to having the most eye-catching hair this side of A Flock of Seagulls, sang backup and played percussion. Joe Leeway was pictured with a bass on occasion and played a bit of keyboards live, but he was hired as a conga player and backup singer who came to the band as a roadie after a brief career in theater. 

Thompson Twins were a trio (yes, we know, they’re neither Thompsons nor twins — it’s apparently a literary allusion of some kind) after they got rid of all the members of a traditional rock band — two guitarists, a bassist and a drummer.

But just as you can’t write off image-conscious bands, you can’t write off image-conscious members. Watch Thompson Twins videos and live clips, and you’ll see that Currie can play. And if you track their career, you’ll see that they tailed off after Leeway left, which may or may not be coincidental.

Before that happened, they had one of those careers in which they were only big for 3-4 years, but they packed a lot into those years. A LOT.

Let’s take a look. This is X Marks the Pod.

Continue reading
politics, x marks the pod

X Pod Episode 7: No, seriously, let’s dismantle the two-party system

Gridlock. Attack ads. Constant fundraising solicitation. Maybe a civil war. Yes, the two major political parties are doing just what our Founding Fathers said they’d do. They’re ruining this country. 

Yes, it’s intentionally timed to coincide with Jan. 6, where partisan politics boiled over into violence.

Also in this week’s episode, a funny story about attending a John Birch Society meeting and the debut of Gen X News. 

Next week: More music, less politics.

Links: 

Today’s intro music: Gloria Gaynor – Anybody Wanna Party? (Polydor Records 1978)

Featured photo is from Pexels.com

A slightly abridged version (no Spotify music) of this episode is also on its way to Apple, Google and Spreaker/iHeart as soon as a technical issue can be worked out.

politics

Jan. 6: Forget polarization. Remember heroes and villains. Enablers and cowards.

Much of this is repurposed from a Twitter thread, but I wanted to post it here for posterity. It’s also easier to read.

I’m also going to lead with people who deserve our applause: the police. One year ago, roughly 140 were assaulted, some brutally. Five officers succumbed to the physical and mental trauma of that day.

Here’s the Twitter thread, with some editing …

One year ago today, right-wing extremists attacked the very foundation of the USA.

Some (though less than the media think – we’ll get to that) believe otherwise. This thread isn’t for you. If Rove and Cheney can’t convince you, neither can I.

This thread is for everyone else.

Continue reading
personal, politics

The “OK, fine, 2021 wasn’t a complete dumpster fire” roundup

In the podcast rounding up 10 good songs from 2021, I pondered the difficult question: “Was 2021 even worse than 2020?”

On a strictly personal note, some good things happened. I found a calling of sorts in substitute teaching. I’ve got a kid enjoying college. I was able to play music and go curling again, at least for a little while. For better or worse, I worked my ass off, writing 100-ish stories during the Olympics, pulling together a book on Coach K, and self-publishing yet another book, this one intended to set up a business that I wound up abandoning. The worst news personally: Some unfathomable tragedies were inflicted upon people close to me.

A couple of weeks ago, I figured 2021 was indeed worse. In 2020, we could laugh about it, and at the end of 2020, things looked hopeful. We were getting rid of a president who actively hated about 60% of the country and used another 35% or so as pawns in a twisted game. We were turning the corner on COVID-19. Today, we know we’re not really rid of that guy, or at least the forces that brought him to power, we still have shocking celebrity deaths (we’re down to one Monkee, and as I’m writing this, news has come across that Betty White left us just shy of 100), thinly veiled racists are taking aim at our schools, and COVID-19 keeps coming up with new ways to make us miserable. I wonder when we’ll be asked to walk around with pillows on our faces and having indoor dining that consists solely of milkshakes and anything else that can be consumed through a straw. (Hmmm … an all-milkshake restaurant might be a good investment idea …)

But as you’re preparing to comfort your dog while fireworks go off, read on and dare to be optimistic. As Alexandra Petri points out, we were not hit by meteors this year.

Science: Joe Manchin can obstruct all he wants, but the clean-energy revolution is well and truly underway. Also, we’re getting a lot better at medicine. A lot. Good timing — imagine COVID if we hadn’t revved up so quickly on vaccines (Noah Smith).

Prosecution: Yeah, I know — we’ve been told since about 2016 that Trump won’t be able to survive the next revelation, and that next revelation either lands with a whimper or not at all. But this might be the year (Salon). Meanwhile, the GOP is wasting money paying for his legal bills (PBS).

COVID vaccines vs. Omicron: One vaccine dose reduces hospitalization risks by 52%, two doses reduce them by 72%, and a booster takes that number down by 88% (BBC). Also, children are tolerating vaccines pretty well (NYT).

Evolution vs. Omicron: The risk of hospitalization with Omicron is roughly one-third that of hospitalization with Delta (BBC). Before you dismiss that news as simply a function of Omicron hitting mostly young people in South Africa, where the peak has likely passed (WaPo), consider lab research showing Omicron’s limited effects on the lungs (NYT). Even though case numbers in the USA have gone through the roof (in part because we’re testing as much as capacity will allow), hospitalizations are still far lower than they were in September and barely half of what they were at COVID’s peak (NYT).

Progress in China: Wind and solar projects, tons of forest, wild animals protected. Even pandas. (Mashable)

Good insects up, bad insects down: Drones are fighting mosquitoes in Rwanda (Freethink), while bees are back (Guardian).

Workers’ rights: The flip side of the Great Resignation is that a lot of people have simply decided not to be pushed around any more (Wired).

Biden’s doing better than you think: The roundups …

And if it gets any worse, we’ll just move to Ireland. Happy New Year.