Category Archives: Music

And now for something completely different. . .


This times is a stunning performance by students from Lake Howell High School in Winter Park, Florida, captured during the school’s 2011 Talent Show.

From fernandiish via the always delightful Metafilter:

THE OFFICIAL Hot Scots drum line – 2011 – Talent Show at LHHS

Program notes:

Nigel, Dylan, Matt , Elias and Jordan (who are NOT Scottish) WIN the Talent Show at Lake Howell High School with this performance they actually put together this week! You can tell they are having fun! 🙂 (BTW – the kilts are props only and are worn as they chose to wear them for the TALENT show AND they are not Scottish but American)

And now for something completely different. . .


Pussy Riot does the Pussygrabber.

Need we say more?:

Pussy Riot — Make America Great Again


Program note:

#PussyGrabsBack #NastyWoman (!) Because YOU decide elections and if we get together, we could blow this shit up, take action and reverse this erosion of rights. Because fuck it.

Quote of the day: Quitting the choir over Trump


The Mormon Tabernacle Choir is perhaps the church’s best-known institution and, in many ways its most effective ambassador.

The 360-member assembly has been featured in the inaugurations of every Republic President since Nixon.

But one member has quit the choir over its participation in the upcoming inauguration of Donald Trump, and Jan Chamberlain has posted an eloquent letter of resignation on her Facebook page.

Here are some excerpts:

Since “the announcement”, I have spent several sleepless nights and days in turmoil and agony. I have reflected carefully on both sides of the issue, prayed a lot, talked with family and friends, and searched my soul.

I’ve tried to tell myself that by not going to the inauguration, that I would be able to stay in Choir for all the other good reasons.

I have highly valued the mission of the Choir to be good-will ambassadors for Christ, to share beautiful music and to give hope, inspiration, and comfort to others.

I’ve tried to tell myself that it will be alright and that I can continue in good conscience before God and man.

But it’s no use. I simply cannot continue with the recent turn of events. I could never look myself in the mirror again with self respect.

I love you all, and I know the goodness of your hearts, and your desire to go out there and show that we are politically neutral and share good will. That is the image Choir wishes to present and the message they desperately want to send.

I also know, looking from the outside in, it will appear that Choir is endorsing tyranny and fascism by singing for this man.

>snip<

I know that I too feel betrayed.

Tyranny is now on our doorstep; it has been sneaking its way into our lives through stealth. Now it will burst into our homes through storm.

>snip<

History is repeating itself; the same tactics are being used by Hitler (identify a problem, finding a scapegoat target to blame, and stirring up people with a combination of fanaticism, false promises, and fear, and gathering the funding). I plead with everyone to go back and read the books we all know on these topics and review the films produced to help us learn from these gargantuan crimes so that we will not allow them to be repeated. Evil people prosper when good people stand by and do nothing.

We must continue our love and support for the refugees and the oppressed by fighting against these great evils.

snip<

I only know I could never “throw roses to Hitler.” And I certainly could never sing for him.

And now for something completely different. . .


There’s a month left before New Year’s, but the past 11 months have already been too much for Canadian comedian/singers Flo & Joan [sisters Nicola and Rosie Dempsey] to compose a [NSFW] maledictory valedictory for 2016, a year that’s already earned its placed in the Gregorian Calendar Hall of Shame.

From Flo & Joan:

The 2016 Song

Program note:

Flo & Joan’s 2016 song

DISCLAIMER: We got our facts wrong and it wasn’t a bombing in Nice. We’re sorry for any offence this may have caused.

H/T to Metafilter.

Mr. Fish: This Party Enables Fascists


From Clowncrack, his blog of incisive iconomania, an image about those who did more than any others to ensure the election of the despicable:

blog-fish
The image is an ironic homage to perhaps the most famous image of America’s preeminent balladeer, Woody Guthrie:

blog-woody-2

Guthrie was the poet laureate of the American worker and farmer, writing songs about the labor movement, the plight of the working class, and need to protest inequities wherever they are found.

No post about Guthrie is complete without his most famous song, a ballad which, in any reasonable world, would replace our bellicose, unsingable  national national anthem:

Woody Guthrie: This Land Is Your Land

People are growing unhappy with the boob tube


In part, because they have to spend a growing amount of their time simply skimming through the onscreen channel guides to find a program that grabs their attention, and at the current rate, they’ll be spending more than a year of their lives doing just that.

From the Hollywood Reporter:

There’s more TV available and consumers are paying more for the privilege, but 44 percent of viewers in the U.S. complain that there is nothing worth watching, according to a massive study released Thursday.

The average person spends 23 minutes per day trying to find something good to watch on broadcast TV and will dedicate 1.3 years of their lives changing channels and studying their on-screen guides, according to Ericsson ConsumerLab’s TV and Media 2016.

Ericsson surveyed 30,000 people in 24 countries and says its study represents the TV habits of more than 1 billion people worldwide.

The 44 percent of Americans who say they have trouble finding worthy shows to watch represents a big uptick over last year, when 36 percent had a similar complaint.

However, more people are watching online streaming services, and they’re watching them on the phone, iPads and other mobile devices, the study reports, with mobile views up 86 percent since 2010, while views on the tube have dropped by 14 percent.

We leave the last word to The Boss, singing about something that’s even truer today than when he recorded the song in 1992:

Bruce Springsteen — 57 Channels [And Nothin’ On]

It’s a red letter day for American pop culture icons


Dy;lsn wins the Big One

Three stories from BBC News, starting with the big one:

US singer Bob Dylan has been awarded the 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature, becoming the first songwriter to win the prestigious award.

The 75-year-old rock legend received the prize “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition”.

The balladeer, artist and actor is the first American to win since novelist Toni Morrison in 1993.

His songs include Blowin’ in the Wind and The Times They are A-Changin’.

Sara Danius, permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, said Dylan had been chosen because he was “a great poet in the English speaking tradition”.

And what’s a Dylan piece without a song?:

Bob Dylan The Times They Are A Changin’ 1964

Wonder Woman lassos a United Nations honor

Yep, this time the nod goes to a comic book character and comes with corporate sponsorship.

From BBC News:

The United Nations (UN) is to name comic book character Wonder Woman as its new Honorary Ambassador for the Empowerment of Woman and Girls.

The UN said the character will be formally sworn in at a ceremony on 21 October at its New York headquarters. DC Entertainment president Diane Nelson will accept the role for her company’s comic book, TV and film character.

The event will also launch the UN’s campaign for gender equality and women’s empowerment.

It is being sponsored by Warner Bros and DC Entertainment who are supporting the UN and Unicef’s year-long campaign.

The United nations honor comes just two weeks after the fictional character came out of her equally fictional closet.

From BBC News again:

DC Comic writer Greg Rucka says Wonder Woman “must be queer” and has had relationships with other women.

In an interview with Comicosity he defined queer as “involving, although not necessarily exclusively, romantic and/or sexual interest toward persons of the same gender”.

In the comic books, Wonder Woman is known as Diana, a warrior princess of the Amazons.

Studies reveal music’s big impacts on growing brain


We’ve always been passionate believers in the value of music and art ecducation starting at the earliest years.

Gowing up in Kansas in the 1950s, we were the beneficiary of musical education that started in elementary school, where we participated in both singing and band programs, acquiring a love of music that has lasted throughout these last seven decades.

Our paternal grandmother was an elementary school teacher in Abilene, Kansas, and music was a critical part of her daily teaching. After her death in 1959, we received a letter from one her colleagues, telling us that one of her students had written that he still found inspiration in songs he had learned in her first and second grade classes.

The pupil was Dwight David Eisenhower, then serving as President of the United States.

Music and fine arts programs slashed as testing rises

But today, in classrooms across the country, education is music and the fine arts has fallen prey to a combination of budget cuts and the relentless imperative of the standardized test, a regime designed to turn out cogs in the machine rather than well-rounded, independent-minded individuals.

As the journal of the National Education Association reported in 2014:

Across the nation, the testing obsession has nudged aside visual arts, music, physical education, social studies, and science, not to mention world languages, financial literacy, and that old standby, penmanship. Our schools, once vigorous and dynamic centers for learning, have been reduced to mere test prep factories, where teachers and students act out a script written by someone who has never visited their classroom and where “achievement” means nothing more than scoring well on a bubble test.

“NCLB [No Child Left Behind] has corrupted what it means to teach and what it means to learn,” explains NEA President Lily Eskelsen García. “Teachers have to teach in secret and hope they don’t get into trouble for teaching to the Whole Child instead of teaching to the test.”

A Google search for the words “music education elementary schools eliminated” turns up more than a million hits, a tragic litany of stories reporting slashed programs across the nation and throughout much of the Western world.

Musical training improves standardized testing scores

Ironically, music education actually improves children’s test scores, as the Children’s Music Workshop notes:

Music education programs increase children’s cognitive development. Also, research shows that “preschoolers who took daily 30 minute group singing lessons and a weekly 10-15 minute private keyboard lesson scored 80 percent higher in object assembly skills than students who did not have the music lessons,” as reported in a 1994 study by Frances Rauscher and Gordon Shaw at the University of California, Irvine (Harvey, 1997). It is clear that music education programs dramatically stimulate a child’s learning capacity, as shown in drastic increases in the scores of children who participated in music programs. Music education programs can begin as early as preschool and should continue for the greatest results.

When music education is sustained throughout the elementary years, children continue to learn better through the clear connections between music and other areas of study. For instance, a 1999 study presented in Neurological Research reveals that when second and third-grade students were taught fractions through basic music rhythm notation, they “scored a full 100% higher on fractions tests than those who learned in the conventional manner.” This study shows that the students who learned about the mathematical concept of fractions related their music knowledge of the relationships between eighth, quarter, half and whole notes in order to fully understand the material.

Students in music programs consistently score better on tests, as also exemplified in the 2001 study compiled by Music Educators National Conference, which exhibits that “SAT takers with coursework/experience in music performance scored 57 points higher on the verbal portion of the test and 41 points higher on the math portion than students with no coursework/experience in the arts.” It is obvious that when students have experience in music education in both the elementary and high school level, they perform considerably better in other important subjects as well. Music education programs in the elementary school level are necessary for the future success of students in all subject areas.

Musical training reshapes the brain

A major study by scientists from Harvard and McGill University and published in the Journal of Neuroscience [open access] used brain imaging to map changes in children’s brains resulting from musical study concluded with this summary:

M]usical training over only 15 months in early childhood leads to structural brain changes that diverge from typical brain development. Regional training-induced structural brain changes were found in musically relevant regions that were driven by musically relevant behavioral tests. The fact there were no structural brain differences found between groups before the onset of musical training indicates that the differential development of these brain regions is induced by instrumental practice rather by than preexisting biological predictors of musicality. These results provide new evidence for training-induced structural brain plasticity in early childhood. These findings of structural plasticity in the young brain suggest that long-term intervention programs can facilitate neuroplasticity in children. Such an intervention could be of particular relevance to children with developmental disorders and to adults with neurological diseases.

And yet another study proves the power of music. . .and dance

And now comes yet another study revealing the direct impact of education in music and dance on the brains of growing children.

From Concordia University in Montreal:

Endless hours at the barre. Long afternoons practising scales. All that time you spent in piano lessons and dance classes as a youngster may have seemed like a pain, but new research now confirms what your parents claimed: it’s good for mind and body.

In fact, a recent study published in NeuroImage ($35.95 to access] by a team* of researchers from the the International Laboratory for Brain, Music and Sound Research, proves that dance and music training have even stronger effects on the brain than previously understood — but in markedly different ways.

The researchers used high-tech imaging techniques to compare the effects of dance and music training on the white matter structure of experts in these two disciplines. They then examined the relationship between training-induced brain changes and dance and music abilities.

Continue reading

Legal marijuana leads in cross-country polling


From the Los Angeles Times:

In California, a post-debate SurveyUSA poll of 751 likely voters found that Proposition 64, which would legalize, tax and regulate the sale of recreational marijuana, is supported by 52 percent of the electorate and opposed by 41 percent, with 6 percent undecided. This is a lower margin than some other recent polls there, which have pegged support at 60 percent or more.

Across the country in Massachusetts, the marijuana legalization measure there enjoys 53 percent support among likely voters, according to a recent WBZ-UMASS Amherst poll of 700 likely voters. Forty percent oppose it, while another 7 percent are unsure. That’s also a turnaround from an earlier poll of 900 registered voters, which found only 41 percent supported the measure.

Up the coast in Maine, a late September poll of 505 likely voters found 53 percent support for the legalization measure, 38 percent opposed to it and 10 percent undecided. This number has been fairly stable since the spring.

A poll fielded last week of 500 likely voters in Nevada found the legalization measure there leading with 57 percent support, compared to 33 percent opposing it. That number is sharply at odds with a Review-Journal survey of 800 likely voters, fielded at the exact same time, which found the legalization measure leading by just 1 percentage point, well within the margin of error.

What more to say?

We’ll leave the last word to the Rainy Daze and their 49-year-old hit:

That Acapulco Gold

Graphic Representation: Politics, with art & music


Today’s graphic offerings look at American politics from the other side of the pond.

Our first offering, from the Guardian, translates an Olympic phenomenon and takes it to the political arena:

Ben Jennings: The cupping of Uncle Sam

BLOG Eurotoon Jennings Trump

And the Independent watches The Donald’s transformation:

Dave Brown: Lighter than air

BLOG Eurotoon Bronw Trump

Finally, from the Guardian once again:

Martin Rowson: Celebrating Syrian airstrikes

BLOG Eurotoon Rowson Syria

We love European cartoonists, in part because their works so often reference great artists of the past.

In this last case, Rowson is playing on a remarkable image created by a German artist in the wake of a succession of continent-wide sieges of bubonic plague the century before which had killed about 80 percent of the population of his country. Smaller outbreaks were still continuing at the time a German artist created one of the most memorable images in the history of art:

Danse macabre by Michael Wolgemut, teacher of Albrecht Dürer, from folio CCLXI recto of Hartman Schedel’s Historia mundi, printed in Nuremberg in 1493.

Danse macabre by Michael Wolgemut, teacher of Albrecht Dürer, from folio CCLXI recto of Hartman Schedel’s Historia mundi, printed in Nuremberg in 1493.

The Danse macabre was a frequent motif in Medieval art, with the earliest known instance appearing in a Paris cemetery in 1424, and it has stopped fascinating artists since.

One artist inspired by the dance of death was French composer Camille Saint-Saëns, and his work is one you’re already familiar with, because you’ve heard it on the soundtrack of countless movies.

Saint-Saëns took his inspiration from the poem by Henri Cazalis [1840-1909], translated thusly by Wikipedia:

Zig, zig, zig, Death in cadence,
Striking with his heel a tomb,
Death at midnight plays a dance-tune,
Zig, zig, zig, on his violin.
The winter wind blows and the night is dark;
Moans are heard in the linden-trees.
Through the gloom, white skeletons pass,
Running and leaping in their shrouds.
Zig, zig, zig, each one is frisking.
The bones of the dancers are heard to crack-
But hist! of a sudden they quit the round,
They push forward, they fly; the cock has crowed.

Forthwith, and from the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra, Euege Ormandy conducting:

Camille Saint-Saëns – Danse Macabre


You can also hear it played by a classical guitar trio, a Finnish accordion maestro, a bass clarinet quartet [and damn, those clarinets are YUGE], and a Korean viola quartet, all all-saxophone orchestra, and a 1930’s Argentine jazz band [grooovy].

Finally, the Danse Macabre itself [not the Saint-Saëns version] also attracted the attention of Walt Disney’s animators way back in 1929.

Enjoy [via Geoffroy Biencourt]:

Silly Symphonies – La Danse Macabre

Steve Benson: It makes political scents


Some bad news for a garrulous Arizona lawman, via the editorial cartoonist of the Arizona Republic:

BLOG Benson

Joe Arpaio, the Arizona sheriff who wants to bring justice back to the 18th Century, may be headed for the slammer, thanks to the ruling of a federal judge who finally had enough of the 84-year-old bigoted blowhard.

Just who is Arpaio?

From a 2009 New Yorker profile by William Finnegan:

The biggest part of the sheriff’s job is running the jails, and Arpaio saw that there was political gold to be spun there. The voters had declined to finance new jail construction, and so, in 1993, Arpaio, vowing that no troublemakers would be released on his watch because of overcrowding, procured a consignment of Army-surplus tents and had them set up, surrounded by barbed wire, in an industrial area in southwest Phoenix. “I put them up next to the dump, the dog pound, the waste-disposal plant,” he told me. Phoenix is an open-air blast furnace for much of the year. Temperatures inside the tents hit a hundred and thirty-five degrees. Still, the tents were a hit with the public, or at least with the conservative majority that voted. Arpaio put up more tents, until Tent City jail held twenty-five hundred inmates, and he stuck a neon “VACANCY” sign on a tall guard tower. It was visible for miles.

His popularity grew. What could he do next? Arpaio ordered small, heavily publicized deprivations. He banned cigarettes from his jails. Skin magazines. Movies. Coffee. Hot lunches. Salt and pepper—Arpaio estimated that he saved taxpayers thirty thousand dollars a year by removing salt and pepper. Meals were cut to two a day, and Arpaio got the cost down, he says, to thirty cents per meal. “It costs more to feed the dogs than it does the inmates,” he told me. Jail, Arpaio likes to say, is not a spa—it’s punishment. He wants inmates whose keenest wish is never to get locked up again. He limits their television, he told me, to the Weather Channel, C-SPAN, and, just to aggravate their hunger, the Food Network. For a while, he showed them Newt Gingrich speeches. “They hated him,” he said cheerfully. Why the Weather Channel, a British reporter once asked. “So these morons will know how hot it’s going to be while they are working on my chain gangs.”

Arpaio wasn’t kidding about chain gangs. Foreign television reporters couldn’t get enough footage of his inmates shuffling through the desert. New ideas for the humiliation of people in custody—whom the Sheriff calls, with persuasive disgust, “criminals,” although most are actually awaiting trial, not convicted of any crime—kept occurring to him. He put his inmates in black-and-white striped uniforms. The shock value of these retro prisoner outfits was powerful and complex. There was comedy, nostalgia, dehumanization, even a whiff of something annihilationist. He created female chain gangs, “the first in the history of the world,” and, eventually, juvenile chain gangs. The chain gangs’ tasks include burying the indigent at the county cemetery, but mainly they serve as spectacles in Arpaio’s theatre of cruelty. “I put them out there on the main streets,” he told me. “So everybody sees them out there cleaning up trash, and parents say to their kids, ‘Look, that’s where you’re going if you’re not good.’ “ The law-and-order public loved it, and the Sheriff’s fame spread. Rush Limbaugh praised him, and blurbed his book. Phil Donahue berated him.

Racial profiling for immigrant leads to citation

What landed Arpaio is legal hot water was his decision to turn his local local enforcement agent into a ruthless machine for tracking down immigrants.

Which is odd, because immigration violations are federal, not state, crimes.

But hunting down brown people played big with his political base, exploiting the same fears and sensation a certain presidential candidate would later pursue — a candidate Arpaio has endorsed, telling Fox News “He’s our only savior right now.”

The latest from the New York Times:

A federal judge on Friday referred Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his second-in-command for criminal prosecution, finding that they ignored and misrepresented to subordinates court orders designed to keep the sheriff’s office from racially profiling Latinos.

In making the referral to the United States attorney’s office for criminal contempt charges, Judge G. Murray Snow of Federal District Court in Phoenix delivered the sharpest rebuke against Mr. Arpaio, who as the long-serving sheriff in Maricopa County made a name for himself as an unrelenting pursuer of undocumented immigrants.

Sheriff Arpaio and Chief Deputy Jerry Sheridan “have a history of obfuscation and subversion of this court’s orders that is as old as this case,” Judge Snow wrote in his order.

Sheriff Arpaio and Mr. Sheridan had also made numerous false statements under oath, Judge Snow wrote, and “there is also probable cause to believe that many if not all of the statements were made in an attempt to obstruct any inquiry into their further wrongdoing or negligence.”

More from the Arizona Republic:

Snow’s decision, announced in a federal court filing, answers the key question that loomed over more than a year of contempt proceedings: Was the sheriff’s disregard of orders a criminal or civil contempt-of-court violation?

But it creates a whole new set of legal questions for the embattled lawman.

  • Will the U.S. Attorney’s Office accept the recommendation?
  • What will the charge be?
  • If Arpaio is found guilty, will a conviction legally force him to resign?
  • Could Arpaio end up behind bars?
  • Will Snow’s decision affect Arpaio’s odds for a seventh term?

Reached for comment Friday evening, Arpaio said he hadn’t yet read the order but that it was being reviewed by his attorneys.

UPDATE: We found the perfect song for Sheriff Joe, sung in California’s Folsom Prison by the one and only Johnny Cash:

Johnny Cash — I Got Stripes

A Taiwanese take on California’s pot referendum


Those playful Taiwanese Animators have turned their attention to the November ballot measure that could turn California into the Acapulco Golden State:

California recreational pot: Can Sean Parker puff puff pass recreational buddha with AUMA!?

Program notes:

Looks like California might get high on its own supply after an initiative that would legalize recreational bud officially took its place on the Nov. 8 ballot. AUMA, the Adult’s Use of Marijuana Act, is backed by Napster co-founder Sean Parker and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom.

AUMA would allow adults over 21 to possess, transport and blaze up to an ounce of buddha for recreational purposes and would allow individuals to grow as many as six plants. Problem is, if you have more than an onion, it’s a $500 fine and up to six months in jail.

The 62-page initiative is filled with dense legalese, but it’s basically about who gets all the green. All chronic revenue, including taxes normally meant for cities and counties, will get dumped in a special trust fund controlled by the Bureau of Marijuana Control.

A licensing regime will also be created for cultivators, distributors and retailers. Anyone licensed to sell booze or cigarettes will not be allowed to participate.

Opposition to AUMA is being led by law enforcement groups who benefit from the war on drugs. The teamsters are also opposed because they won’t be a part of the distribution system.

Supporters hope the presidential cycle will draw more young voters, but will they remember?

Note that Hollyweed sign

Back on 1 January 1976, a few weeks after esnl had moved from Oakland to Los Angeles, we lived in Hollywood, with the famous sign visible just outside our front door.

That morning we looked up at the hills and discovered the handwork of a student and some pals.

We burst out laughing:

BLOG Hollyweed

Dangerous Minds takes a look back in time:

On January 1, 1976, Tinseltown’s iconic sign read “Hollyweed” after art student Danny Finegood and 3 of his college pals used $50 worth of dark fabric to transform the famous Hollywood landmark temporarily. They had practiced it first on a scale model Finegood had crafted.

It was more than a simple practical joke, Finegood considered it a statement on the relaxed California marijuana law that went into effect that day.

He also turned it in as a school assignment which earned him an “A.”

Their stunt even inspired a folk song you can hear here.

And another song, just for the fun of it. . .

And if you’re wondering about that Acapulco Golden State reference in our first paragraph, here’s an explanation in the 1967 Rainy Daze hit, “Acapulco Gold,” with a vision of life in a pot-infused California. Billboard pulled it from the Hot 100 chart after they realized it was, shudder, a song about pot:

Headline of the day II: Time to paddle like hell


From the Associated Press:

Expert to Rio athletes: ‘Don’t put your head under water’

Not only are some 1,400 athletes at risk of getting violently ill in water competitions, but the AP’s tests indicate that tourists also face potentially serious health risks on the golden beaches of Ipanema and Copacabana.

And what better excuse for another classic from the great Tom Lehrer, a 1965 song. Just substitute Brazil for American and it applies just as well, including the parts about crime and air pollution:

Tom Lehrer: Pollution

And now for something completely different. . .


“Waltzing Matilda,” the ballad of a Bush Ranger who’d rather die by his own hand than surrender to authorities, is the unofficial anthem Down Under, a song that celebrates the origins of white Australia in the convicts shipped over the Old Blighty.

You’ve heard the song, no doubt, opening with the immortal words, “Once a jolly swagman [thief] camped beside a billabong [watering hole]. . .”

But one thing we guarantee you’ve never heard is the song sung in the language of those who had lived in Australia for 40,000 years before those first Brits, Irish, and Scottish prisoners arrived. The language she sings is Kriol, a creole evolved from contact between the Gurindji language of the indigenous people of the New Territories and the English of the settlers.

Well, here it is, for aboriginal vocalist Ali Mills, who performs a robust version which draws smiles aplenty from her studio musician accompanists.

From MGM Distribution:

Ali Mills — Waltjim Bat Matilda

And if you’re confused about the meaning of the words in the English-language version, we’re calling in our official interpreter, the Man in Black himself.

Take it away, Johnny Cash:

John Oliver takes on on Trump, music pilferage


He’s back from hiatus, offering his take on the Mistake by the Lake.

From Last Week Tonight with John Oliver:

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Republican National Convention

Program notes:

John Oliver discusses last week’s unsurprisingly surprising Republican convention.

And in another segment, Oliver teamed up with some well-known recording artists concerned about the appropriation of their work by candidates, including The Donald.

Featured artists include Usher, Josh Groban, Michael Bolton, Dan Reynolds, Ann Wilson and Nancy Wilson from Heart, Cyndi Lauper, Sheryl Crow, John Mellencamp, and Imagine Dragons singer Dan Reynold:

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Campaign Songs

Program notes:

John Oliver and some of America’s favorite recording artists remind politicians not to use their songs without permission on the campaign trail.

Political topography: Two different nations


The stark outward differences between the two major party presidential candidates are also reflected in the “likes” of the Facebook followers, as revealed in a new state-by-state analysis reported by the Wall Street Journal.

First up, their favorite actors:

BLOG CW Actors

Next, their favorite musical performers:

BLOG CW Music

And then there’s their favorite books:

BLOG CW Books

Changing cloud cover accelerates global warming


Regions where cloud cover has increased [blue] or decreased [orange] based on observations and models - Image: Joel Norris

Regions where cloud cover has increased [blue] or decreased [orange] based on observations and models – Image: Joel Norris

More bad news for our children and their children comes from a new study that reveals yet another accelerant triggering the fires of global warming.

The greenhouse gases that are the main culprit in raising global temperatures are changing the patterns of the world’s clouds, and the shifts bode ill for the future.

From the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at University of California San Diego:

A Scripps Institution of Oceanography at University of California San Diego-led research team analyzing satellite cloud records has found that the cloudy storm tracks on Earth are moving toward the poles and subtropical dry zones are expanding. Cloud tops are also moving higher in the atmosphere.

The record confirms computer climate models that have predicted these changes to have taken place during the past several decades as a consequence of the accumulation of societally generated greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

“What this paper brings to the table is the first credible demonstration that the cloud changes we expect from climate models and theory are currently happening,” said study lead author Joel Norris, a climate researcher at Scripps.

With the simultaneous roles clouds play in cooling and heating the planet – reflecting solar radiation back to space but also trapping solar energy in their structures – clouds are among the most important variables in climate.

Their complex behavior has been one of the biggest areas of uncertainty for scientists attempting to understand current climate and forecast future trends.

Inconsistent satellite imaging of clouds over the decades has been a hindrance to improving scientists’ understanding. Records of cloudiness from satellites originally designed to monitor weather are prone to spurious trends related to changes in satellite orbit, instrument calibration, degradation of sensors over time, and other factors.

When the researchers removed such artifacts from the record, the data exhibited large-scale patterns of cloud change between the 1980s and 2000s that are consistent with climate model predictions for that time period, including poleward retreat of mid-latitude storm tracks, expansion of subtropical dry zones, and increasing height of the highest cloud tops. These cloud changes enhance absorption of solar radiation by the earth and reduce emission of thermal radiation to space. This exacerbates global warming caused by increasing greenhouse gas concentrations.

The researchers drew from several independent corrected satellite records in their analysis. They concluded that the behavior of clouds they observed is consistent with a human-caused increase in greenhouse gas concentrations and a planet-wide recovery from two major volcanic eruptions, the 1982 El Chichón eruption in Mexico and the 1991 eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in the Philippines. Aerosols ejected from those eruptions had a net cooling effect on the planet for several years after they took place.

Barring another volcanic event of this sort, the scientists expect the cloud trends to continue in the future as the planet continues to warm due to increasing greenhouse gas concentrations.

The study, “Evidence for Climate Change in the Satellite Cloud Record” [$32 to read for non-subscribers to the $199-a-year journal], appears July 11 in the journal Nature. Researchers from University of California Riverside, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and Colorado State University are co-authors. NOAA, the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science, and NASA supported the research.

Somehow a certain song seems in order:

Joni Mitchell — Both Sides Now

Tea Party honcho’s film crew unionizes, strikes


Oh, the irony.

From Deadline Hollywood:

Tea Party activist Norm Novitsky’s In Search of Liberty, a crowdfunded feature film about the U.S. Constitution, has been shut down in Savannah, GA, after 30 members of his crew walked off the job. The group, made up mostly of students and recent graduates from the Savannah College of Art and Design, had been seeking union representation, living wages and reclassification as employees rather than independent contractors.

The film, which stars Food Network host Bobby Deen, son of reality star Paula Deen, bills itself as a “a straight-to-DVD release that tells the story of a captivating statesman from America’s past” who takes a present-day family on a series of wild adventures that “opens their eyes to the origins and importance of the U.S. Constitution, the degree to which it is under attack and what can be done to save it.”

The film’s crew had worked on the shoot for three weeks. Dissatisfied with their wages and working conditions, they approached IATSE for representation. They walked off the job en masse on July 2, and the producers shut down the film Thursday when they couldn’t find a replacement crew.

IATSE has filed unfair labor practices charges with the National Labor Relations Board, claiming union reps were subjected to threats and acts of intimidation during their efforts to organize the workers. A member of the crew is scheduled to present evidence Monday to the wage and hour division of the U.S. Department of Labor that crew members were not paid minimum wages and did not receive overtime pay.

Solidarity forever, brothers and sisters!

Take it away, Pete Seeger:

Trump’s promise: The Great Wall of America


With a border wall serving as a centerpiece of Donald Trump’s xenophobic brand of populism, it’s a good time to look at the one we’ve already got, via an updated version of a 2007 documentary from Al Jazeera.

Plus, we’ve got an anti-wall editorial from a famous Republican at the end. . .

From Al Jazeera English:

Walls of Shame: The US-Mexican Border

Program notes:

A border of more than 3,000 kilometres separates the US from Mexico – but it is defined not only by physical barriers made of concrete and steel but by an immigration policy which is failing to address the issues behind illegal migration.

Despite the US spending billions of dollars on border enforcement, the lure of work sees illegal migrants enter the country at a rate of 850,000 a year.

A series of walls along the Mexican border were designed to stem this flow but based on current estimates it has failed. Instead, the walls have re-routed human traffic into remote desert areas where people risk their lives in deadly conditions attempting to enter the US.

This film shows what US immigration policy looks like on the ground for the people making the perilous journey for a better life, and for the Americans who call this borderland home.

Update: Since this film first aired on Al Jazeera English in 2007, the US continued to increase spending on border security. At no other time in history has there been as many border patrol officers on duty as there are today.

And now the authorities are bracing for a new challenge: children. Since 2014, the number of families and unaccompanied children apprehended at the border keeps skyrocketing.

Young people are filling family detention centres near the border, having fled poverty or extreme violence in Central America.

And today the issue is taking centre stage in this US presidential election, with Donald Trump calling for more walls, leading some migrants to say they will cross the border now before it may be too late.

We’ll leave the last word to a very famous Republican, recorded way back in 1963 for his album Rawhide’s Clint Eastwood Sings Cowboy Favorites:

Clint Eastwood — Don’t Fence Me In


And, yes, he really did cut an album:

BLOG Clint

And now for something completely different. . .


The late Ryan Larkin [and previously] was an enormously talented and deeply troubled Canadian artist and animator who lived his life on the streets.

For today’s ANFSCD we bring you two of his musical animations for the National Film Board of Canada, the boundless font of visual wonders.

First up is a 1971 animation from Greek mythology with a solo flute accompaniment:

Syrinx 

Program notes:

Borrowing from classical mythology, this very short film illustrates the story of Syrinx, the nymph who attempts to escape the goat-god Pan’s amorous advances by fleeing to a nearby river for help, only to be transformed into hollow reeds. Syrinxis the first film by Ryan Larkin, an Oscar®-nominated director who began his animation career in Norman McLaren’s student group. The technique employed is charcoal sketches on paper; the accompanying music is Claude Debussy’s “Syrinx” for solo flute.

Directed by Ryan Larkin – 1965

Our second offering, from 1972, features members of the community he called home, the streets.

STREET MUSIQUE


Program notes:

Visual improvisation on music performed by a popular group presented as sidewalk entertainers. The illustration is by a young film artist and animator who sees life with an amused and imaginative eye. His take-off point is the music, but his own beat is more boisterous than the musicians. He ranges from the most convoluted of abstractions to caricature of familiar rituals, including the bath. A film without words.