Saturday, November 29, 2014

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Nominees for 2015

It has been a while since I’ve checked in on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I used to get excited to see the yearly inductees. But it is a mighty bit gender- and English- biased. Way, way back in 2009 I said there were a few major oversights: The Stooges (subsequently inducted), Kraftwerk (nominated this year), Roxy Music (no love), Gram Parsons (no love), and Whitney Houston (no love).

So besides the sad fact that this year Parsons, Houston, and Roxy Music are once again maligned (five years in a row, now) that still leaves a gender bias, as I wrote up back in the day. Obviously, I want Kraftwerk to win, so we’ll put them in the first spot, since they are on the nominee list again this year:

1. Kraftwerk

Now, it is likely there’ll be five inductees total, so let’s look at the nominees for the four other spots:

The Paul Butterfield Blues Band
Green Day
Joan Jett & the Blackhearts
The Marvelettes
Nine Inch Nails
Lou Reed
The Smiths
The Spinners
Stevie Ray Vaughn and Double Trouble
Bill Withers

Right off the bat: holy shit. They actually came up with a really good list this year. I’m going to knock out a couple losers immediately, though. First: Sting. The Police are already in there. Sting’s solo career is just not that impressive. He’s no George Harrison. Second: The Marvelettes. As I said, we need more recognition of women in rock, and the academy has recently been more interested in those early 60s groups. But beyond ‘Please Mr. Postman’ what are they known for? I guess if they won I'd be okay with it, but they aren't really deserving.

Okay, so focusing on the female quotient, so underrepresented, let’s make the next two Joan Jett and Chic:

1. Kraftwerk
2. Joan Jett & the Blackhearts
3. Chic

leaving two positions open. I’m going to say Bill Withers, who is now 76, should be on there before he dies. Just seems like a nice thing to do. Most of the other living artists are all relatively young by comparison.

For the last position let’s look at the real innovators, the indisputably critical artists: NWA, Nine Inch Nails, The Smiths, The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, and Lou Reed. Heck these five would be a great year on their own, and I won’t be disappointed if any of them wins. That said, I’m going to go with age again, and the oldest group, clearly, is The Paul Butterfield Blues Band – seminal in the blues-rock movement of the 60s. Their inaugural 1965 album kicked open the door to the whole movement, and is widely considered a classic. Paul Butterfield died back in the 80s, but some of the other band members are alive and kickin’.

Final roundup, then, looks like this:

1. Kraftwerk
2. Joan Jett & the Blackhearts
3. Chic
4. Bill Withers
5. The Paul Butterfield Blues Band

According to the fan vote the top five, as of today, are:

1. Stevie Ray Vaughn and Double Trouble (I’m cool with that)
2. Nine Inch Nails (Again, cool with that)
3. Joan Jett & the Blackhearts (yay!)
4. The Paul Butterfield Blues Band (yay!)
5. Bill Withers (yay!)

Hopefully Kraftwerk will be on there too…

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Late Night Thoughts on Global Warming

The possibilities of global warming’s devastation are becoming more pronounced and striking. While models aren’t going to be 100% accurate, and unknown factors may slightly shift the picture, the overall takeaway is obvious:

Water shortages

Global outcomes, milder scenario still showing the US' big problem

This one shows number of days a year with over 100 degree temperatures

This is the most important/frightening

As someone who is working (in my spare time, at least) to fixing America’s broken political system, I can’t help but wonder why I should bother, or any of us should care, when the continental United States is going to be unrecognizable in a century.

If someone made me dictator for life tomorrow, what would I do to counteract the chaos of global warming? These are the thoughts that keep me awake at night. Here follows a non-ordered list of things I thought about Monday (up until 3 am) that would help solve the problem.

1.      Move the Capital. Missoula, it is your time to shine. Look at those maps above and note how Western Montana is relatively unscathed. Keeping the capital in the South is going to be impossible, and possibly dangerous. Congress already takes the summer off due to the heat – who wants them to take the year? (Not that you’d notice a difference…) The current District of Columbia would be folded into Maryland, and a bit into Virginia (using the Potomac as demarcation). Ship the Smithsonian out to Missoula as well. Disband the National Zoo (send the critters to other zoos that can take them) and abandon the gardens and such. Turn the buildings into museums (White House, Capitol) and sell off the uninteresting ones to Maryland and Virginia. The biggest issue would be the Pentagon.

2.      Solar roadways. I think this technology needs to be rolled out on a massive scale. Making sure they can take extreme temperatures (say 250 degrees) these little hexagons could transform nearly all paved surfaces, from the obvious highways to the basketball courts. Solar power in general – put the strongest ones out in the soon-to-be inhospitable areas. This allows us to have power as the fossil fuels disappear. Flight would still be an issue, of course, but solar planes are doable (on the smallest scale). Back to hot air balloons.

3.      Close National Parks. Global warming will portend an era of isolationism as America deals with its greatest concern: survival. Consolidation will be required on many fronts, and an obvious one is closing National Parks. Rangers will simply die if assigned to places like Death Valley and Joshua Tree. They’ll remain federal land, but unstaffed. Other obvious choices due to weather or conserving finances: Everglades, Dry Tortugas, Biscayne, Virgin Islands, Samoa, Haleakala, Great Basin, Guadalupe Mountains, Big Bend, Congaree, Hot Springs, Zion, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Arches, Capitol Reef, Saguaro, Petrified Forest and Cuyahoga. Import billions of the hardiest, drought-resistant trees possible, and cultivate our own (looking to you, Africa and Australia).

4.      Relocations. Much of the American population would need to move north, and out of danger. Goodbye, Phoenix. Goodbye El Paso. Goodbye Miami, and New Orleans. Luckily places like North Dakota are pretty empty (looking at you too, Wyoming. The Upper Peninsula of Michigan will also be a lot friendlier. At first give incentives, then help with the relocations as needed. For the American families and also for the Capital we can repurpose what manufacturing we have left (Boeing comes to mind) to create the sort of massive trucks and transports to facilitate this in an orderly fashion, starting in the worst-hit and moving north. Thousands of new towns and cities will be created, as people are re-settled. We've done this before, though.

5.      Labor. Lots of labor needed, and shrinking territory. Many Americans busy moving north to set up new lives leaves a problem, like who is going to pave our solar roadways? The best answer is to take in refugees and use prisoners. Countries that exist today simply will not in the future, especially in the Pacific. By accepting refugees to take on the worst of the labor, we will grant them citizenship as a reward, provided they follow the law and pay taxes. Prisons in the south will need to be closed, as well, and rather than rebuild them all up north we can consolidate – prisoners who committed non-violent misdemeanors can reduce their sentences to two years of labor, or the remainder of time needed to serve. Reintegrates them into society, and solves a decades-old problem.

6.      Buy Greenland. We’re going to need space, and we’re going to need to redraw the map. Some states are going to be effectively lost. I’d recommend essentially grouping the Southwest into one large state, New Calizonia, or whatever. Hardly anyone will live there (except to maintain our enormous solar panel project). Basically LA to the Grand Canyon to El Paso, and all points South. Split Texas in two. Let Puerto Rico either join us or cut them loose. And buy Greenland. In a century that’s going to be prime real estate, and Denmark sure as hell doesn’t need it. Buy it from them legitimately, and quickly. Before the Russians come knocking in Copenhagen. Talk it over with Canada and the UN first, so all goes through smoothly. This also is an opportunity to resettle the refugees we take on, which ought to please the UN, and solve the shortage of space. (Alaska will also be heavily settled.) When Greenland and Alaska fill up we’ll make new states of them, maybe getting back a full 50 someday. Let the (few) current residents choose to remain Danes, become  Americans, or have dual citizenship. While we’re at it, relocate the U.N. to Iceland, or some such other obvious choice.

7.      The Economy – shrink it. Stop unnecessary foreign imports. Kill the overly-massive finance sector. No more pears year-round. Decrease meat availability to conserve water and land. Ban monoculture and genetic patenting for crops. Wall Street should, literally, be under water anyway. Highly tax land for unneeded things – with millions of families on the move we don’t need a Burger King across the street from a Starbucks, across from a Subway. Tax the ever-loving hell out them, and get rid of them. Encourage micro-scale farming, so households own chickens, grow herbs and vegetables, etc. An ungodly sum of money will be needed, after all, to move to Missoula, grab Greenland, relocate half the country, and deal with all the other inevitable crises (wild fires, crime control, disease control, etc.) Land used for unnecessary crops (tobacco, marijuana) will also be taxed at crushing rates.

8.      Youth. First, give incredible benefits to studying relevant topics – focus the brainpower. Engineering, tropical disease prevention, social workers, electricians. Actually penalize those that aren’t as useful – more tuition for the English majors (for ten years or so, not forever). Upon graduation give four options, with a GI Bill sort of reward. Option one:  join the Forces (which will need to be converted to sustainable power, etc.). With such a radical shift in borders and general global chaos we will need to be extra alert, and ready to respond. This would be a four-year commitment. Could also be served in the National Guard / new settlement police force. Option two: Peace Corps. We need to keep America’s name in good standing abroad, and things will get back to normal the sooner everyone else is back to normal. We can build solar roadways in Europe, Asia, Latin America, and Africa. This would be a four-year commitment. Option three: Resettling pioneers. Send the teachers, doctors, lawyers, construction overseers, etc. Turn the prairie into towns again – land is yours (10 acres max, mule optional). Send the talent to the areas that need to be settled, and the others will be more eager to follow. Five year commitment, doing habitat for humanity-style work based on specialty.

9.      Kill Hollywood and the 1%. Finish up whatever’s in production, and then close the majority of studios. (Keep some, for morale, obviously.) Likewise the TV stations and networks. And the professional sports (waaaaay decreased. Salary caps of $100,000 for players, $500,000 for owners. See who still really loves the game.) In other words, minimize the unsustainable culture that treats entertainers like gods.  As for those who have 80 bazillion gallons of gold in their coffers from non-entertainment sources, they will be taxed out the wazoo – 90%, as back in the Eisenhower era. Freezing all assets when attempted to be siphoned out of the country. They can leave – but like emigrants land and wealth will be confiscated upon renunciation of citizenship, automatic upon leaving the US for a period of two years. During those two years assets will be monitored. Taxes must be paid on all earnings – and this applies to everyone. Tax evasion will be brought to 1% or less, with labor detail or prison for those who do not pay their share in a time of gravest crisis.

10. Space. Houston and Cape Canaveral are both going to be pretty much kaput. Places like White Sands are also going to be unfeasible. Military bases will, as much as possible, need to be reconsolidated in safer zones. The space program will be temporarily disbanded. Observation will continue on a limited scale, and some NASA types will be repurposed to the other obvious threat we face, of rogue asteroids.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Dating and Applying for a New Job

I've found there are many similarities between looking for a job and dating. Some of the similarities are obvious: you're usually trying to balance candidates that you have differing levels of interest in.

The sacrifices you're willing to make depend on your expectations.

You try and find out as much about them as possible before you commit.

You get told by the ones who don't stick with you that you're great, but you're just not right for them right now. Really, it's not you, it's them...

Both experiences are not good for your telomeres.

Both are costly - trips, phone calls...

The ones that are mainly online are usually not a good way to go.

Where you live changes your options drastically. If there aren't interesting jobs, you're not likely to find interesting people.

It's all about reciprocation - you wonder what they can/will do for you. And vice versa.

The older you get the more the priorities change.

You aren't attracted to the same things anymore. Sure, when you were younger a big open "work and play" "innovation space" was so free and refreshing compared to a cubicle. Now you don't care if it's small and boxy - you're looking at the 401k.

As time goes on you stay in more.

After a certain amount of time together you learn some hard truths and unexpected information comes to light. More than anything, how you deal with that will likely determine if you stick around.

If you stick with one for your whole life people are kinda impressed, but also kinda depressed. Anniversaries get more bittersweet as the number rises. I mean, you aren't going to remain together forever...One of you has to go first. Which do you think it will be? And how can you go on without them, if they are all you've ever known? You start suspecting they'll get on with you easier than you without them...

When you leave you're briefly freaked out by being on your own. And also liberated.

The idea of looking (again) is more dreary the older you get. Why are you still looking? Aren't you good enough for anyone? Are you lacking some unknown qualifications?

Of course you are! That's why they let you go. You weren't enough for them anymore.

Oh, sure, they said it was them, they said they had to do it to you - not lead you on, They weren't in the right place for you to be a part of their life. The weren't able to commit. That's what they said.

If you've been with them a while and leave them, they will likely be bitter and hold a grudge. With luck they won't badmouth you to others. Worse, though, by far: if they're glad to see you go.

But you know what? You don't need them! Think of all the free time you'll have now they're out of your life. You're going to finally do what you wanted to all those nights you wasted with them... You're going to experiment with ideas you've wanted to put into practice. Look around, make a careful choice this time - someone who'll appreciate you for who you are, and not what they can just get from you.

A lot of your options look sleek and too-good-to-be-true. They are. Bastards.

You're going to talk about what you've been interested in doing - in public - and not worry about what they would think. You actively check out new options and feel no guilt doing so, like you did when you were with them.

But for all the bravado and celebration... they did provided some needed security. And, if you're honest, comfort. There's so many of them out there. How do other people even choose? And why does everyone else seem to be settled while you're not?

And the advice - the inane, babbling advice - is the same in both. "Reach out to those you admire." "Sell yourself." "Stay positive." "It's all about who you know." "The first date/interview is not to show off you are ready to get married/become a partner." And so on...

Sometimes the people giving you the advice make you want to do exactly the opposite of what they tell you.

And why are so many of the happliy paired people around you so god damned cheerful all the time and can't seem to wait to spend more time...

Forget it. Deep breaths. You'll find 'the right fit'. 'The one'. The one and only that will make you happy for the rest of your days.

Unless you don't.

And that - terrifying - reality is what makes both so damned stressful. And the longer you are without, the greater the pressures are to find one, and fast (which everyone tells you what you shouldn't do is jump right in with the first one that seems interested). You simply can't go on without one, though. Not for too long, at least...

So, you know. Good luck out there and all that. And if you don't find what you're looking for now, don't fret. Give it time.

After all, eventually you'll be too old for anyone to want you.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Best World Literature?

Apparently some Norwegians (Norwegians!) came up with the best world literature. Like, ever. More specifically: 

"The editors of the Norwegian Book Clubs, with the Norwegian Nobel Institute, polled a panel of 100 authors from 54 countries on what they considered the “best and most central works in world literature.” Among the authors polled were Milan Kundera, Doris Lessing, Seamus Heaney, Salman Rushdie, Wole Soyinka, John Irving, Nadine Gordimer, and Carlos Fuentes. The list of 100 works appears alphabetically by author. Although the books were not ranked, the editors revealed that Don Quixote received 50% more votes than any other book."
Of interest, perhaps, is how the majority were int he past 100 years. Interesting to think which of these from the 20th century will still be on the list in 200 years time. Also of note there are three living authors on the list: Toni Morrison, Gunter Grass, and Salman Rushdie. Both Grass and Morrison have won the Nobel prize, along with 12 other authors (Beckett, Camus, Faulkner, Garcia Marquez, Hamsun, Hemingway, Kawabata, Laxness, Lessing, Mahfouz, Mann, Saramago).

I've gone ahead and bolded the ones I've read:

Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart; Nigeria (1930-2013)
Hans Christian Andersen, Fairy Tales and Stories; Denmark (1805-1875)
Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice; England (1775-1817)
Honoré de Balzac, Old Goriot; France (1799-1850)
Samuel Beckett, Trilogy: Molloy, Malone Dies, The Unnamable; Ireland (1906-1989)
Giovanni Boccaccio, Decameron; Italy (1313-1375)
Gorge Luis Borges, Collected Fictions; Argentina (1899-1986)
Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights; England (1818-1848)
Albert Camus, The Stranger; France (1913-1960)
Paul Celan, Gedichte; Romania/France (1920-1970)
Louis-Ferdinand Céline, Journey to the End of the Night; France (1894-1961)
Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote; Spain (1547-1616)
Geoffrey Chaucer, Canterbury Tales; England (1340-1400)
Joseph Conrad, Nostromo; Italy (1857-1924)
Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy; Italy (1265-1321)
Charles Dickens, Great Expectations; England (1812-1870)
Denis Diderot, Jacques the Fatalist and His Master; France (1713-1784)
Alfred Döblin, Berlin Alexanderplatz; Germany (1878-1957)
Fyodor M. Dostoyevsky, Crime and Punishment, The Idiot, The Possessed, The Brothers Karamazov; Russian (1821-1881)
George Eliot, Middlemarch; England (1819-1880)
Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man; USA (1914-1994)
Euripides, Medea; Greece (ca. 480-406 BC)
William Faulkner, Absalom, Absalom, The Sound and the Fury; USA (1897-1962)
Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary, A Sentimental Education; France (1821-1880)
Federico García Lorca, Gypsy Ballads; Spain (1898-1936)
Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude, Love in the Time of Cholera; Colombia (1928-2014)
Gilgamesh; Mesopotamia (ca. 1800 BC)
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Faust; Germany(1749-1832)
Nikolai Gogol,   Dead Souls; Russia (1809-1852)
Günter Grass, The Tin Drum; Germany (b. 1927)
João Guimarães Rosa, The Devil to Pay in the Backlands; Brazil (1880-1967)
Knut Hamsun, Hunger; Norway (1859-1952)
Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea; USA (1899-1961)
Homer, The Iliad, The Odyssey; Greece (ca. 700 BC)
Henrik Ibsen, A Doll’s House; Norway (1828-1906)
The Book of Job; Israel (600-400 BC)
James Joyce, Ulysses; Ireland (1882-1941)
Franz Kafka, The Complete Stories, The Trial, The Castle; Bohemia (1883-1924)
Kalidasa, The Recognition of Sakuntala; India (ca. 400)
Yasunari Kawabata, The Sound of the Mountain; Japan (1899-1972)
Nikos Kazantzakis, Zorba the Greek; Greece (1883-1957)
D.H. Lawrence, Sons and Lovers; England (1885-1930)
Halldór K. Laxness, Independent People; Iceland (1902-1998)
Giacomo Leopardi, Complete Poems; Italy (1798-1837)
Doris Lessing, The Golden Notebook; England (1919-2013)
Astrid Lindgren, Pippi Longstocking; Sweden (1907-2002)
Lu Xun, Diary of a Madman and Other Stories; China (1881-1936)
Mahabharata; India (ca. 500 BC)
Naguib Mahfouz, Children of Gebelawi; Egypt (1911-2006)
Thomas Mann, Buddenbrooks, The Magic Mountain; Germany (1875-1955)
Herman Melville, Moby Dick; USA (1819-1891)
Michel de Montaigne, Essays; France (1533-1592)
Elsa Morante, History; Italy (1918-1985)
Toni Morrison, Beloved; USA (b.1931)
Shikibu Murasaki, The Tale of Genji; Japan
Robert Musil, The Man without Qualities; Austria (1880-1942)
Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita; Russia/USA (1899-1977)
Njals saga, Iceland (ca. 1300)
George Orwell, 1984; England (1903-1950)
Ovid, Metamorphoses; Italy (43 BC-17 e.Kr.)
Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet; Portugal (1888-1935)
Edgar Allan Poe, The Complete Tales; USA (1809-1849)
Marcel Proust, Remembrance of Things Past; France (1871-1922)
François Rabelais, Gargantua and Pantagruel; France (1495-1553)
Juan Rulfo, Pedro Páramo; Mexico (1918-1986)
Jalal ad-din Rumi, Mathnawi; Iran (1207-1273)
Salman Rushdie, Midnight’s Children; India/England (b. 1947)
Sheikh Musharrif ud-din Sadi, The Orchard; Iran (ca. 1200-1292)
Tayeb Salih, Season of Migration to the North; Sudan (1929-2009)
José Saramago, Blindness; Portugal (1922-2010)
William Shakespeare, Hamlet, King Lear, Othello; England (1564-1616)
Sophocles, Oedipus the King; Greece (496-406 BC)
Stendhal, The Red and the Black; France (1783-1842)
Laurence Sterne, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy; Ireland (1713-1768)
Italo Svevo, Confessions of Zeno; Italy (1861-1928)
Jonathan Swift, Gulliver’s Travels; Ireland (1667-1745)
Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace, Anna Karenina, The Death of Ivan Ilyich and Other Stories; Russia (1828-1910)
Anton P. Chekhov, Selected Stories; Russia (1828-1910)
Thousand and One Nights; India/Iran/Iraq/Egypt (700-1500)
Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn; USA (1835-1910)
Valmiki, Ramayana; India (ca. 300 BC)
Vergil, The Aeneid; Italy (70-19 BC)
Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass; USA (1819-1892)
Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway, To the Lighthouse; England (1882-1941)
Marguerite Yourcenar, Memoirs of Hadrian; France (1903-1987)

50/100 - not bad. Some are on my shelf waiting (The Golden Notebook, A Season of Migration to the North, Beloved). Some I had never heard of before (Memoirs of Hadrian, The Man Without Qualities). But I'm not one to shun lists - these too will be devoured.