Rebecca Black Contracted to Sing New Theme to “Monday Night Football”

The new face of football. You will take it, and you will like it!

Internet singing sensation Rebecca Black has quickly rocketed to the pinnacle of pop culture for her cheerful smash hit, “Friday.”  Yesterday it was announced that ESPN seeks to capitalize on her sudden fame by having contracted Black to sing the new theme for Monday Night Football.

“There’s no downside,” MNF director Chip Dean stated in yesterday’s press conference.  “Hank Williams’ theme for Monday Night Football was a classic, an iconic song that will always be associated with the greatness of the sport.  But it’s time that we start going after the YouTube generation, and Rebecca Black is one of its brightest stars at the moment.  It’s a perfect fit for us.”

Dean was unable to disclose details of the show’s new theme, save that its lyrics would inform the audience that Monday comes after Sunday, which comes after Saturday, which comes after Friday.  Furthermore, the song will mention that Tuesday comes after Monday, Wednesday comes after Tuesday, Thursday comes after Wednesday, and Thursday is followed by Friday.

The director was highly optimistic about the public’s reaction to Rebecca Black’s reimagining.  “People are going to love it.  It’s going to be fun, fun, fun, fun, fun, fun, fun, fun, fun, fun, fun, fun, fun, fun, fun, fun!”

 

(If it’s half as good as this, football’s due for a renaissance!)

Mom Goes to the Protest

 

My mom, Barb Emerson

My mom tends to be a conservative without a party and a Christian without a church.  She has strong opinions on issues that tend to find voice among the right wing, yet she’s also the sort of person who believes that humanity, community, and compassion ought to trump any sort of social dogma.

My mom also voted for Governor Scott Walker.  It’s a decision she now regrets.

As an employee in Wisconsin’s public school system and thus a prospective victim of Governor Walker’s hostile takeover of the state, my mom has been forced to get off the fence and join the protests against the blatant power grab undertaken by state Republicans.  A few weekends ago, she attended a protest at the State Capitol in Madison, and I thought it would be a good idea if she wrote a few words about what she saw that day.

Considering how level-headed she usually is, I honestly didn’t expect the following piece to be this angry.  Then again, she’s had good reason to get angry.

 

 

It’s difficult to have a united front when the very politicians you vote for have as their main agenda, shredding the opposition party’s character, views and supporters in lieu of finding a common ground and then proceed to work together from that base forward.

What they (the politicians) are failing to remember is that they are our representatives, our voices, not our leaders or in some recent events, our dictators. Through all the mudslinging that is taking place they are forgetting their place. No amount of personal assaults will cover up for the brutal, unashamed, dictatorial manner that the budget bill for Wisconsin (and many other states) was handled and presented to the people.

I feel the 14 Democratic Senators who left (not “fled”) in protest to the atrocity of Scott Walker’s (I refuse to address him with the honor of being called Governor) “budget” proposal. In fact, they were indeed representing the needs and voice of the people who elected them to represent and protect the rights of. Scott Walker simply was not listening and as far as I can tell, still isn’t.

 

Taking away our right to protect our work environment such as:

1. Our scheduled work hours (respectively overtime, comp time or flextime)

2. Banked sick days we have already accumulated in case any major catastrophe might befall (Our union gave up pay increases for 6 years for the privilege to finally earn sick days)

3. Rights of seniority (protects current job and offers a chance to bid for posted jobs allowing the only avenue for advancement)

4. Leaves of absence (especially family medical leave)

5. Requirement for certification (protecting students’ right to receive quality assistance by their educators)

 

I ask: what about these things have any impact on lowering the monetary deficit of the “budget”?

The comments I hear most often, not only from a variety of overheard conversations, but from Walker’s crew as well, has been ”Just listening to the tax payers of Wisconsin”…”We’re the taxpayers not them”…”The rights of the taxpayers”… “They are getting everything handed to them”….

Well, guess what… I am a taxpayer too and so are all of my colleagues!!!

I believe if Scott Walker would have investigated a little more into the individual school districts of Wisconsin, he could have seen that, as an example, in my school district we have made approximately 14 million dollars in cuts and concessions over the last two years. But of course, he’d either have had to cover it up or let the general public know his findings. And since it seems he is so against educating the people, he surely wouldn’t want them to be made aware of those sacrifices would he?

We the people are getting ourselves educated Mr. Walker. We are uniting not falling apart. We do see your ulterior motives. We do see the breaks you’re giving industries (5 years worth of tax breaks is it?) while taking aid away from the elderly, help for the underprivileged (such as availability of birth control) and opening the art of educating to people who don’t even have a degree.

I don’t get it. Well actually I do.

If you want to privatize the University of Madison…why are you putting millions into buildings and reconstruction? Why did you put the sale of our power plants in your bill? Why take our collective bargaining away? The more questions I ask the more I come up with….China! Is that it?

Industrialize (privatize, whatever term works) everything (including our government), increase the population by taking away their opportunity for birth control, keep them undereducated so they don’t ask questions (brainwashing),  take away their bargaining rights so you can have them work for your cohorts for $4 an hour (or less) or maybe just food and rent vouchers.

Yep…sounds like China!

 

I went to the rally in Madison on March 13, 2011. I was excited with anticipation of being with the people. Getting to feel the strength and dedication that is still in the hearts of people trying desperately to do the right thing. Agreeing to make dollar concessions but at the same time willing to stand for what we have worked hard to achieve, our bargaining rights, for as long as it takes.

Although I found the strength and dedication, I also found something I was not expecting. I found a profound sadness. When there were cheers of camaraderie, I also heard the moans of distress, of worry for the future generations and mostly of questioning our own belief that we can trust our fellow man. Even though our spirits are dampened and on the surface it looks as though we are defeated, we are not! We will continue to voice our pride of being citizens of Wisconsin and the United States of America, of our humility at being given the amazing gift of teaching and caring for others, of our dedication to not letting go of what is truly humane, honorable and simply, the right thing to do.

If Walker campaigned saying what is happening now was what we could expect, he only divulged half the truth. And half the truth is still equal to a lie!

I was prepared to make sacrifices but I am sure not willing to give you my soul. All we, the people in the unions, are asking for is to let us protect our jobs and conditions so we are able to produce and give the best performance we can. We are not slackers. We love our work. Right now…I don’t love you Scott Walker, but I will continue to keep you in my prayers. God knows you’re going to need them.

I hope you find your heart again and see that the money, power and notoriety are not worth it to you. And you learn the lesson that you could have had so much more given freely from the people if you would have only handled this in an honorable fashion.

If all this is what you aimed for, then…

You are a success Scott Walker.

 

You succeeded in dividing the people of Wisconsin.

You succeeded in being the one who finally broke my spirit and belief that there is good in every person.

In my eyes you personify cold, calculating arrogance beyond measure.

 

Remember, the puppeteer will eventually cut the puppet’s strings when they no longer find you useful and they want a new one.

The Designer’s Drugs: Does It Offend You, Yeah? – Don’t Say We Didn’t Warn You

Medium: Album

Stimulus: Does It Offend You, Yeah? – Don’t Say We Didn’t Warn You

Anno: 2011

 

My initial response to Does It Offend You’s follow-up to its excellent debut, You Have No Idea What You’re Getting Yourself Into, is that the new album is The Empire Strikes Back to its predecessor’s A New Hope. Whereas the band’s first album was a swashbuckling adventure through synthy pop rock, Don’t Say We Didn’t Warn You is a much darker record.  On it, Does It Offend You trades in good cheer for violent outbursts and harsh beats that border on Hulk Smash industrial.

Lest this darkness be mistakenly interpreted as a bad thing, consider that the most arresting tracks on this work tend to be the most furious.  The album’s best track is its opener, the punishing “We Are the Dead.”  While it features a few ravey sound clips, the song owes as much to KMDFM as it does to the KLF.

The manic songs tend to be the pockets of the album which eschew the singing of James Rushent in favor of vocal samples, guest singers, or nearly no words at all.  “Yeah!” is the closest the disc comes to a true instrumental, a robotic rally march fueled by spastic drumbeats and a cheering mob.  The big brassy menace of “Wondering” is complimented by the deft rhymes of guest vocalist Trip, who goes on about Batman and Bill Hicks.  The vocals of the bouncy “Wrestler” come entirely from a speech by pro wrestling cult figure Paul Heyman, brilliantly complimenting the rush of the music.  The strangest track on the album, “The Monkeys Are Coming,” features a YouTube clip in which a clearly disturbed man rants about drugs, monkeys, crap eating, and fellatio (in that counterproductive order).  Despite all expectations, it’s a brilliantly aggressive tune.

None of this is to say that Does It Offend You broke the knob off at smashy and shouty.  Though nothing on Don’t Say We Didn’t Warn You is as bright as its predecessor, there are a few songs which turn down the violent gloom.  “Wrong Time Wrong Planet” is the zenith of the slow, a smooth electro-crooner where the constant basslines occasionally give way to fireworks.  The closing “Broken Arms” is practically a space ballad that, while it feels wholly out of place in the context of the album, is a great song in its own right.  The closest this album comes to the band’s former self is in “Pull out My Insides,” an upbeat, cheerful song which still manages to convey the band’s new wistfulness.

Ultimately, the important question here is not whether Does It Offend You’s new album is as good as its first.  They’re both excellent, though completely different, works.  Instead, its value depends on the listener’s mood.  If you’re up for a snarling bit of electronic dementia, Don’t Say We Didn’t Warn You will prove to be a very, very good choice.

Bizarro Masterpiece Theatre: Con Air

TRIUMPH.

Film: Con Air (1997)

Director: Simon West

Starring: Nicolas Cage, John Cusack, John Malkovich

Written by: Scott Rosenberg

 

I think Jerry Bruckheimer, Michael Bay, and their audiences are the death of cinema’s artistic merit in general and the death of action movies in specific.  But allow me to give Bruckheimer his due for producing this ridiculous masterpiece of explodey fight film.

In addition to having the guts to name itself after a brand of hair dryers, Con Air has the boldness to pretty much recycle the theme of a previous Nic Cage flick, The Rock. In that film, Cage is the straight man sidekick to Sean Connery’s reformed con, both set after the usual gang of ne’er-do-wells.  Con Air sees Cage promoted to the reformed con role and bequeathing his sidekick status to the chronically flustered John Cusack.  Yet there’s an additional bonus in the casting of the film’s villains, a plane full of irredeemable criminals including Dave Chappelle as a cracked-out arsonist, Steve Buscemi as the world’s nicest mass murderer, and thespian John Malkovich giving his take on Stone Cold Steve Austin.

Malkovich is such an awesomely ludicrous contradiction in Con Air. His villain, codenamed Cyrus the Virus, is talked up by being said to have killed more people than cancer, and yet there’s such a nasal condescension to the nasty man that he sometimes comes off as your average Starbucks customer.  Cyrus could have said that he would tear a guy’s face off and wear it as a diaper, and I’d have heard a demand for a triple shot of espresso and non-dairy creamer.

It doesn't help that he does stuff like this.

Just as wonderful is the glowing aura of triumph that wraps around Nicolas Cage in every scene, lingering like a strong deodorant.  His Bastille Day-obsessed hero is so over the top magnificent that one imagines him waving an American flag in one hand while he rains justice down on scum and villainy everywhere with the other.  In this hyperreality, our hero also has a third arm to clutch onto the stuffed bunny that he aims to give to his daughter, whom he is meeting for the first time and who, by God, needs a bunny delivered by the greatest man alive.

Con Air was made long before the advent of the Chuck Norris Fact, but I’d be willing to bet that the creators of that meme took in more than their fair share of Nicolas Cage cinema.  Most action films of the Bruckheimer/Bay School of Shit try a little too hard to be cool.  Con Air gives not the slightest shit about such trivialities.  As such it becomes so ass-kickingly ridiculous that it’s almost surreal.  If any action film has gone to plaid, Con Air is it.

Y Marks the Spot: The Human Shields

 

My best friend is in training to someday take the reins of his family business.  In the course of this education he has had to learn some hard truths of business, and he has been required to do things in the quest for the bottom line which don’t exactly fill him with self-worth.  I’ve had a few conversations with him in which he has freaked out over having to lay off veteran employees, or in which he wonders whether he might be a little too good at being a company man.  While unlike me he has a family and thus the sort of obligations which tend to fade younger principles, we’re on the same page on just about every ideal.  The main difference between who we are today is that he can better pass as normal.

After the recent madness descended upon Wisconsin, my first conversation with my friend naturally involved me asking him whether he was getting flak for being a businessman.  I didn’t get the impression that he was being painted as a greedy villain, and he came out pretty hard against Walker’s power grab.  However, he did note that he is dreading what he may be forced to do as a local businessman as a result of trends set by corporations.

His dismal outlook on the matter, combined with many other such conversations I’ve had with others in the past few weeks, led me to articulate a viewpoint that has been solidifying in my brain during the Wisconsin protests.  Small businesses are the human shields of corporations.

As a term, capitalism is as outdated and indistinct as punk rock, and yet the real genius of its most extreme adherents is that they’ve managed to keep it in the public lexicon.  What this does is create a universal economic banner that has little basis in reality, perpetuating the myth that an attempt to stop the excesses of corporations is an assault on small business.  Captains of industry take the lion’s share of the profits, but when it’s time to talk taxes and regulation it always seems like the world’s Joe the Plumbers get trotted out with sob stories about how the government – never the corporations themselves – are out to destroy their grassroots hard work.  We saw this during the 2008 financial meltdown; we’re seeing this in today’s union-busting fever, and we’ll see it so long as small businesses are allowed to survive.

A parallel argument tends to paint all critics of unfettered capitalism as hardcore Stalinists or Maoists.  I saw this during the current conflict, as Rush Limbaugh went on a typical troll and deemed Madison “Moscow West” – as though Madison’s communities of college students, artists, Packer fans, and hippies would be down for running gulags and engineering mass famines.

Though I’m usually one of these dirty critical commies, I can’t deny that big business serves a great purpose.  For good and ill, big businesses connect consumers and distribute products in a way that small business can’t, which results in greater commercial egalitarianism.  Chain stores have better hours and catalogues than small businesses, and it’s easier to get a job in a big company (I’ve found most small businesses to be rather cliquish in their hiring practices).  Our modern, costly state of high technology is almost wholly beyond the reach of grassroots business.  For all their sins, corporations fill a vital role in our world.  The problem is that they rarely hold themselves to that role.

Let’s not delude ourselves into thinking that small businesses and large corporations are the same creatures with the same interests.  Let’s not act as though the same laws of taxation, the same labor conditions, and the same levels of government regulation can be applied in the same manner to both large and small businesses.  They can’t.

Whereas franchise stores are interchangeable clones worked by faceless staff, backed by enough money and advertising to steamroll over any resistance, the survival of small businesses depends entirely upon the connections they make with their communities.  This isn’t a necessary consideration for Wal-Mart, or Best Buy, or any company who can afford to sell its products for less than it paid for them.  Consumers may flock to dirt low prices, but when corporations use those profits to shut down every small business in town, the customer truly gets what it paid for.

So why don’t we completely divorce the two concepts and acknowledge that small businesses and corporations are completely different, often competing species within the capitalism genus?  Let’s coin new terms for the economic disciplines of each and stick to them in the public discourse, so as to avoid the confusion and blurred lines which screw up all discussions of capitalism.  So far, the best word I’ve thought of to describe the work of small businesses is localism.  I’m not the biggest fan of that term (too bad socialism was already taken), but corporatism works just fine to describe the other side.  Of course, it’s always profitable for the big shots to duck behind the bodies of their less powerful counterparts, so don’t expect to ever see this separation mentioned in the mainstream.  But that’s the fun of living in a post-media world in which the mainstream is fairly irrelevant.

Keep these distinctions in mind the next time the elected monkeys raise a stink about taxes, redistributing the wealth, or any other obstacle which threatens the impending dollar feudalism.  People like my friend aren’t the only human shields at big business’ disposal.  We are all cannon fodder, if we allow ourselves to be.

The Designer’s Drugs: Roslund & Hellstrom: Three Seconds

Medium: Literature

Stimulus: Anders Roslund & Borge Hellstrom – Three Seconds

Anno: 2009 (Translated 2010)

 

The writing team of Roslund & Hellstrom are being touted as the next Stieg Larsson, and I suppose that on a superficial level this holds water.  This comparison most likely spawns from the fact that Roslund & Hellstron, like Larsson, are Swedish.  Beyond that trivial point, both entities have produced high-end mystery novels which hang their plots on corruption in the halls of power.  Yet while Stieg Larsson’s Millenium Trilogy was anchored by larger than life characters dancing on the rooftops of society, plot twists around every corner, and a tendency to overuse sex and detail, Roslund & Hellstrom’s American breakthrough is a more straightforward and gritty affair.  Sure, there’s a convoluted bit of MacGyver-style engineering which results in a twist so obvious that only its intensity prevents the story from being derailed.  Yet on the whole Three Seconds is a street level cop drama even when the top-tier conspiracy sets things awry.

The main characters are Ewert Grens, a typical burned out but brilliant detective, and Piet Hoffmann, a snitch infiltrating the Polish drug trade that threatens Sweden’s shores.  Hoffmann dominates the first half of the story, in which he is ordered to set up a drug trade in the Swedish prison system.  The second half begins as that plan goes to hell, and Grens spends the rest of the story putting the pieces together.  There are few twists to be found.  Instead, the officer’s work involves simple detective work, discovering what the reader already learned from Hoffmann.

The story’s weak point is in this transition.  As Hoffmann arrives in prison, the tale is able to go in many different directions.  Yet instead of letting the plot continue to build tension and explore the prisoner’s new surroundings, Roslund & Hellstrom almost immediately explode the plan and scatter the pieces.  This is in contrast to the authors’ earlier, painstaking focus on Hoffman’s final hours as a free man and his preparations for what was to come.  Afterwards, no mention is made of the crime bosses who served as the first half’s villains, and the purpose behind Hoffmann’s mission is all but ignored, replaced by indignation towards his corrupt handlers.  The villain switch is interestingly confusing, but it’s also irritatingly confusing.

The positive result of this is that the reader must make up one’s own mind as to whether shady actions in the name of a greater good are appropriate.  Both Hoffman’s subterfuge and Grens’s search for truth are presented as noble acts, even as they fluctuate between incompatibility and interaction.  Three Seconds may have flaws, but it’s on the whole a slick thriller whose authors wisely avoid providing a moral.