Taylor Swift. Finally a Young Artist Enters the Fray.

I have had a Taylor Swift week. I watched her Reputation concert the other day, amazing. Tonight I watched documentary about her (Netflix, terrific). I have been a fan of hers forever but in a distant way. She’s not really talking to me but I enjoy her quality, perceptiveness and professionalism. I think she is this era's Madonna, a truly excellent artist.

This documentary told me about her journey. She had a huge turning point when she fought back at that guy who put his hand up her skirt at a photo shoot on Colorado. If you haven’t listened to her song, The Man, hurry up. She explains that she was galvanized by the experience, horrified at the realization that she only got justice because she had "seven witnesses and a photograph" and even then, she had to fight to be believed.

Now she is a modern female Neil Young writing intense, sophisticated political songs for the resistance aimed at young people, her incredibly devoted fans. She has a bunch of songs that are knife sharp but the one that strikes me most is this one, Only the Young, an urgent and, if her explanation in the documentary is to be believed, intentional call to arms. She makes clear that salvation is only going to happen if young people stand up for change with determination and resilience.

Dig the video. Listen to her songs. I think about the hundred thousand kids a week (or however often her current mega show, the Eras Tour, happens) hearing her exhortation. You see the concert footage and those kids recite her lyrics like religion. It gives me a small bit of hope.

Watch her HERE.

In Honor of the UFO Congressional Hearing

There is almost certainly intelligent life elsewhere in the universe. Probably lots of it. Also, UFOs are bunk.

If there are, say, a million species that could build spaceships, that would average out to one every 1.3 x 10^4 light years if the universe was only one dimension. Since it's not, it comes out to, I guess, something like one every 1.44 x 10^8 cubic light years.

Now suppose they developed interstellar travel, and they could afford to send a hundred ships cruising to see what's what, knowing of course that it would be thousands of years before they found out what they learned (say everyone but us lives a really long time). If they sent them out at their equators, every three degrees, by the time they had traveled just one light year, they would be separated from each other by approximately 3.6 x 10^11 miles. That's a very, very large gap in the search pattern.

So, they aren't going to get here by accident and certainly not the several different kinds the conspiracy people envision. How about detecting us somehow and coming here specifically?

The strongest radio station I ever heard of was WGN. It was, I think, fifty thousand watts. Let's pretend that the entire earth is fifty thousand watts going in all directions, all the time.

Radio waves get weaker as they travel by something called the inverse square law (basically, the energy spreads out into a sphere, and the inverse square is the math that describes that).

At one light year distant, the inverse square equation looks like 5.0 x 10^4 / 3.6 x 10^26, ie 10^-22 or .00000000000000000000001 watts. I'm not even sure if that is one whole photon.

Suffice to say that you wouldn't notice it with the most sensitive detector ever made. And, that's only if the aliens happen to be only one light year away and if they happen to have their super-sensitive radio telescope pointed exactly at us.

How likely is that? Space is really big, and we are really small, so the precision of the aim required to see us is insane, and the numbers are too. Riffing off the example of spaceships, if they put one of their super-duper radio telescopes every one degree around their planet, that would take 65 thousand of them, and it would have the same problem as spaceships. 

Suppose the aliens are around Earth's closest neighbor, Proxima Centauri. Around 4 light years from here. That means there would be a gap of 4 x 10^11 miles between each telescope's sight lines (a tenth of a light year, give or take). But, it's worse because this is outer space. For each telescope, there would be a region of 16*10^22 square miles in which we could be missed. And, that is for the closest star.

Bottom line, even if interstellar travel weren't out of the question, it would take an insane stroke of luck on the order of winning the big lottery a thousand times in a row for them to find us.

More Research Showing That Success is Not Under Your Control

Have I mentioned this already? Apologies if I did but it tells of an important data point. It turns out that measuring both successful and unsuccessful cohorts, they find that there is no important difference in the quality of the decisions they make. The canard that poor people should just decide to do the right things and stop doing the wrong things is simply wrong. 

This research shows that making all the right decisions can leave you poor and miserable and that making all the wrong decisions can still get you rich and comfy. 

I've read before that researchers can find no 'virtues' that justify wealth. It largely comes down to luck (meeting the right mentor in college, being in the right place at the right time) and connections. 

The idea that rich people deserve all that money and poor people deserve to have none is wrong.

The First Amendment is as Bad as the Second one

The first amendment has become as dangerous and stupid as the second one. Obviously, the founders never wanted to protect the right of mass shooters to use automatic weapons. It is a gross, willful misinterpretation to say it does.


Nor did those obviously practical people think that free speech meant that people should be encouraged to sabotage public health by messaging millions at a time, hundreds of times a day. Their idea of speech was, convince five people you know who each convince five more, percolating through the filter of individual decisions until it influences society, or not. 

 Like the new 'freedom of religion' meaning that the powerful get to impose their religion on each of us, the first amendment has been distorted into an obviously insane tool that is destroying our society.

The Music of My Youth, 1979-1984

'Total Control' by The Motels showed up in a tv show last night. Today I thought to take a train down memory lane. The album was pretty good. Not quite what I remembered but, what is?

That caused me to think about Top 40 radio and that caused me to make playlists for the top 20 songs for each year from 1979-1984 (I started adult life in January of 1979 and Kaye got pregnant with Emily in early 1985. I consider that five years to be my youth.)

The making of the playlist was fascinating. The process was to search for each song in Apple Music, play it and add to the playlist. Consequently I listened to the first twenty or thirty seconds of all hundred songs. It was like a brilliant tour of an era.

One thing... 1979 was not that great. Also, the music didn't feel as familiar as the later ones. Apparently I started tuning into the culture more in 1980. 1982-3 were prime time for me. I knew all the songs and had emotional feelings hearing many of them.

Also, the music was terrific. I get the idea that people disdain 80's music but not me. "Call Me", Blondie's number one for 1980, was killer as were many others. I know that many think "Do That To Me One More Time" is treacly but it captures the fantasy of the male ego better than anything I've ever heard and does so without diminishing the woman. 

"Bette Davis Eyes", numero uno for 1981, kind of doesn't actually say anything but it is is so evocative. It creates an image. I just think it's fabulous and haven't thought of it in years. Great to hear it. (I am playing the whole song right now. I love it.)

1982 loved Olivia Newton-John's "Physical". I am pretty sure I disdained the song back then but you know what, it's fucking nice. A good progression from disco into a more conventional rock structure. Her voice is good and, you have to be made of stone not to respond to the suggestive lyric. That year also had Soft Cell "Tainted Love" and Steve Miller's "Abracadabra". Many others that would give old people nostalgia. Another really good year.

1983 was "Every Breath You Take". It's got a bad rap now because it's 'stalker-ey'. I say Bullshit. Were it written today, sure. When it was written, it was intended entirely as I care for you and will always be with you. People completely understood the positive intention as evidenced by its popularity. (Debbie agrees with the haters. She detests the song.)

1984 culminated with (overrated imho) Prince and "When Doves Cry" (which I like quite well). But even better was number two "What's Love Got to Do with It" by Tina Turner. 1984 was also the first year that Springsteen appeared in the top 20 with "Dancing in the Dark".

So, all of that made me wonder about the modern age. I captured today's Top 20. Surprisingly good. Number one is "Sure Thing" by Miguel. Of course, I've never heard of him but I will pay attention going forward.

Miley Cyrus has two songs, "Flowers" and "Jaded", both terrific. I'm a huge Miley fan. A woman named Sza, whom I do know, has two songs as well, "Kill Bill" (no relation to the movie) and "Snooze". I plan to become a fan of hers, too.

AI Smith Goes to Washington

I don't know how the AI revolution is going to play out. It was obvious from the start that it was going to make the phrase, "seeing is believing" false and that the flood of bullshit words we already endure will become overwhelming. The speed and efficiency make the ability to be a slick, deceptive political messaging available to everyone.


The knuckleheads want to add a label to AI stuff. Fine, I suppose, but that's just a way to give them permission to use it. Once the label is on, it will stop people from being deceived about as much as putting a label on cigarettes stopped smoking. 

Me?, I recommend taking away free speech rights from AI generated everything and, if you use AI at all, your speech is subject to enhanced legal jeopardy for libel, fraud, etc.

Real Life Billionaire Does Logan Roy Parody

Partway down this page is a video entitled, "Chuck offers his views on the combined firm". In it, Logan Roy, for some reason masquerading as Chuck Schwab, explains this view of the purchase of the gigantic adversary, GoJo. 

Succession made fun of the 'self-made billionaire' and his entitlement and Chuck Schwab brought it to life. This video's shmaltz, urgent violins, and fake earnest 'of the people' tone are all straight out of Succession. You can easily envision Chuck turning to his Tom saying, "Think that bullshit milkshake is smooth enough?" 

Take a look at it, I swear it is truly funny. I don't actually have any opinion about Chuck or either of the companies but the fact that they made this so so so close to being a parody of RoyCo buying GoJo suggests a lack of awareness of the outside world that is not flattering.

I Finally Watched Citizen Kane

[Talking to a friend:] I wrote this as soon as I was done, before I read your note or looked into the rest of the world's opinion on the matter. You will see below that I differ somewhat in my evaluation though not entirely incompatible. You focused very much on the technique and its contribution to subsequent moving pictures, as did I. But, it sounds as though you like it more than I do. I am astonished at the idea of it winning an award for the screenplay. While I understand that the structure was novel for the time, Telling the story from multiple viewpoints is no longer novel. Maybe I would have liked it more if I hadn't see all the crap I've seen that was made after 1941.

Mostly, I was impressed by the technique. I thought the cinematography was fascinating and wonderful. Every shot was art. Sometimes a little heavy handed but, that made it more fun, extravagant. Also, there were a lot of times I noticed the music and sound design and thought it quite adroit.

The thing I kept thinking though is that this archetypal work is so clearly the work of an amateur. At 25, Orsen had no experience doing these things and had little regard for the audience or the experience of watching a movie. Clearly he was shooting for a major thematic point, in the interview with him that started today's exercise, he said it was about acquisitiveness and, I suppose he got it right. 

Structurally, the movie served that point, a person who got the ability to have everything with no contribution becomes frivolous and morally empty in the course of a good handful of acquisitions that he wastes through ego. He wanted Suzy to fight fight fight to win the audience, forced her to do so, but quit the paper, politics and then life itself. I guess I see a point there.

But, I have to say it was dull and, imho, somewhat vapid. Or, better, it was an amazingly good effort for a 25 year old kid making his first movie with no real help from the grownups. In the interview, he talked about how much creative freedom he had. Sure, but the flip side is that he had no editorial help.

The best thing I took away from this, aside from him inventing the visual style that became The Twilight Zone, is that simplistic tropes are just that. All these years I've heard about Rosebud and, though I knew it was the sled, I didn't know that it did not matter to the movie or story or even Charles Foster Kane at all.

In college, I wrote stuff that I thought was clever. Looking back I see how callow I was. I thought so many things I thought were profound but now I see them as simplistic. I realize I was actually me working my way through my cliche period, as young people do on they process the culture through to their own, new insights.

It makes me want to watch his later movies. GPT tells me that The Magnificent Ambersons and Touch of Evil are also considered masterpieces. Hopefully, he had a little bit richer understanding of the world by then.

Less Horrified By The Trump Judge Today

Written by Nick Akerman in an NY Times guess essay, a "prosecutor on the Watergate special prosecution force", this article makes a decent case that we should relax about Trump's judge in Florida. It reminds us that, except from one really dumb decision, there is little evidence that she is biased in his favor. She is, otherwise, a very well qualified, if conservative, judge despite being appointed by President Shithead.

I would add that this is one case in this woman's career. After having been brutally criticized by the appellate court, to have another episode like that would be horrible for her future prospects. She has a good job right now, but she is young and there are many promotions that would be effectively off the table forever if she is seen as biased in this.

From his NY Times guest essay...

"Judge Cannon is a qualified jurist and deserves to be given the benefit of the doubt. She is a magna cum laude graduate of a top-tier law school, the University of Michigan. She clerked for a federal appeals court judge, then worked for a well-respected law firm before serving as an assistant U.S. attorney in Florida."

"There is no known evidence that suggests Judge Cannon had any personal connection with Mr. Trump or worked on any of his campaigns, circumstances that would be reason for a recusal."

"While concerns about her judgment and ability to manage the case are understandable, Judge Cannon is not known to have said or written anything that suggests such a bias toward Republicans or blindness toward justice that would wholly disqualify her from a case involving Mr. Trump."


Meme Panel to Earth: Wanda Sykes is Hysterical (NOT)

I love her, too, but, may I take a moment to complain about words? I am always irritated that people, for some reason, refuse to use the word 'hilarious' in favor of the totally incorrect 'hysterical' (no offense meant, each of us is a product of your culture). 

Hysterical means 'affected by uncontrolled emotion'. One's hysteria can be over the death of a child. Or, schizophrenia. Though, the main use leading up to modern times, and this is true, was as a so-called medical term used about women who showed emotion. If one's wife was angry or dissatisfied with her life, a doctor would diagnose hysteria and offer, say, laudanum to make her more tractable.

(Though an upside is that this was also treated, apparently fairly often, with orgasms. A doctor would finger bang a women. This made her tractable in a much better way. In my experience, this is a truly effective treatment. ALSO, the electric vibrator, and this is also true, was invented by a doctor to facilitate such treatments.)

The reason I am annoyed is that there is a word that exactly, accurately conveys the meaning intended here, hilarious. It means extremely amusing. Never has any other meaning. And Wanda Sykes is, in fact, hilarious but she is never, at least onstage, hysterical.

It literally makes me crazy.