Sunday, March 31, 2013

A tale of two songs

I could probably find something to bitch about in the news, but frankly, it's been a rough couple of weeks at work, and with the coming of Spring (and unlike some parts of the country, we've been getting springlike weather here for a while), my allergies have just gone insane. Essentially, I'm exhaustipated (too tired to give a shit).

So, instead, let's talk about pop music.

I've complained about the music of Bruno Mars before. He has this habit of creating phrases that no ordinary person would ever say: "throw my hand on a blade" being a fine example. But despite him taking some license with the English language, I really like this song.

And he does take a few. He decides to use "shoulda gave you all my hours," which is not only clumsy phrasing, but not even remotely correct grammatically. The same line, phrased as "should have talked to you for hours" would have fit the rhythm, and wouldn't make English teacher wince.

He also has a habit of adding random syllables: he opens each chorus with "It all just sounds like 'ooo-oo-oo-oo-ooo'," which, if you think about it, is completely useless. What use is "it all just sounds like" in that sentence? He could drop it completely, and no portion of the message would be lost.

But those are just minor quibbles, overall. He manages to use very evocative language, and even has a nice lyrical structure: first verse establishes the loss of his relationship, second verse says that it's all his fault, the bridge says that he knows he can't apologize, and then he repeats the chorus, but saying that these are the things that her new man should do.

Technically, "bridge" is a misnomer here, since he doesn't have a third verse waiting for you on the other side, but he gets around that by reworking the chorus. (Admittedly, he also bludgeons the lyrical structure a little here: "'cause all you wanted to do was dance" becomes "'cause I remember how much you loved to dance" - dropping the word "much" would have fit a little better. But, again, quibbles.)

Even the arrangement is perfect: a complete lack of orchestration, no percussion, nothing but the piano and his voice, which captures the sense of loss and emptiness more than adding strings or a horn line could have managed.

Overall, it's a really nice little song. But there's a similar song that's come out in recent months that takes many of the same musical efforts, but somehow fails to get anything right.

Let me start off by saying that a song about a woman who can't stand to lose her man, coming from Rihanna (who got back together with Chris Brown after he almost put her in the hospital) is somewhat ironic. If by "ironic," you mean "evidence of mental incapacity." Particularly in light of the lyric "Funny you're the broken one but I'm the only one who needed saving."

You should probably thank the paramedics for that rescue, Rihanna.

But let's put real life aside for a moment. Consider the lyrics.
Not really sure how to feel about it.
Something in the way you move
Makes me feel like I can't live without you.
It takes me all the way.
I want you to stay
I suspect that the speed of George Harrison's rotation is increasing with each replay of this song.

Listen to the piano part for a while. It's almost a percussion part: repetitive and boring. Listen to it. Now, try to listen to the rest of the song without noticing the piano.

I'm going to ignore the second person in this duet. I don't know what Mikky Ekko has done before this, and I don't care enough to find out. I'll just say that he sings better than she does. But that's a pretty low bar.

So, two remarkably similar songs, but one was done right. The other... let's just say that it was a good effort.

Misguided, maybe. But at least she made the effort.

Monday, March 18, 2013

A quick thought on Steubenville, Ohio

CPAC ended yesterday with the traditional burning of the Reichstag. That has nothing to do with anything else I'm typing; I just wanted to put it out there.

Full disclosure: my father was born in Steubenville, Ohio. Despite that, there have been no suggestions that he ever raped anyone.

However, some high school football players in Ohio filmed themselves raping a woman, and, surprisingly, were convicted (as juveniles, but hey, that's more justice than we usually get); the Right Wing, continuing their outreach to women, explained that it was her fault, because she wasn't wearing a burka and staying locked in the house like a dutiful girl should. Oh, and slut slut SLUT!!!

And across the country yesterday, thousands of men celebrated Irish stereotypes, drank heavily in public, and weren't raped. And the GOP failed to see the irony in that.

Saturday, March 02, 2013

Droning on and on

I usually describe myself, when it comes up, as a born-again liberal: I was one of Rush Limbaugh's original audience, back when he started out on KFBK out of Sacramento.

The Trophy Wife spent the first years of our marriage dragging me out of Neanderthal status and up to a level where I wasn't flinging poo and grunting, and I was probably almost there, when George Bush sent me to Iraq. I got back, and started noting the discrepancies: the "weapons of mass destruction," the central argument in favor of invading Iraq, not only didn't exist, but the evidence that they did was openly fabricated.

Yes, to be honest, Iraq had once had chemical weapons which they'd used on their own people. We knew that, because we sold it to them.

Saddam and his government were cooperating with the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, when Bush finally pulled out the inspectors and invaded anyway.

As I learned more and more, I reached a point in 2004 when my wife came home to find me in tears. It had finally come home to me that George Bush had made us a rogue nation, and we'd invaded another country just because we wanted something from them. Exactly as Saddam had in the first Gulf War. (Admittedly, the tears might have been helped along by the lingering remains of the weakest case of PTSD on record, but there it is.)

But overall, I'll admit publicly to being what Stephanie Miller calls a "happy-clappy liberal." I think Obama has done great things, despite a Congress full of Republicans who would rather watch the country burn than let our first black president succeed.

I like that he dismantled "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." I had a number of good friends in the military who happened to be gay, and their life was not a happy one.

I like that he managed to get health-care reform started, so that poor people don't have to die in pain. Despite what Fox "News" wants you to believe, Obama has managed to do a lot of very important things in the face of uninterrupted Republican obstruction.

I've got to say, though, that of all the policies Obama's put in place, the one I disagree with the most is the badly-targeted killing of civilians using unmanned drones. It reeks of Orwellian CIA assassinations: the actions of a corrupt dictator, killing his enemies with impunity.

I'm also a realist. I understand why it's being done. We do have enemies around the world (moreso since we burned down big chunks of the Middle East), and they would like nothing more than to score a symbolic victory by killing a good-sized group of Americans. But I also believe in these weird foreign concepts like habeas corpus, and "innocent until proven guilty."

I think that murder is a bad thing. So the whole subject leaves me a little torn.

In the end, though, I see nothing good about drone strikes. Are you aware that only one out of every fifty people killed by drones have been terrorists? Instead, we're killing wedding guests, innocent schoolchildren, people attending funerals, or even rescue workers:
Based on interviews with witnesses, victims and experts, the report accuses the CIA of "double-striking" a target, moments after the initial hit, thereby killing first responders.
I understand the popularity of the program: no US forces are in any danger of being harmed. But somewhere along the line, we seem to have lost sight of the bigger picture: we're murdering innocent people.

But Democrats don't want to say bad things about Obama, and this program is the only thing Obama does that the GOP actually supports. So nothing gets done.

Weirdly enough, American bigotry is suddenly showing itself to have a stronger moral base than the American government. As long as the deaths were just foreigners and Muslims, nobody cared. But when word got out that the US government was also killing Americans, the possible backlash might just cause the government to rethink their policy.

(The idiot end of the political spectrum, of course, feels an obligation to overreact to this, as it does to everything that the Kenyan usurper does: they're already shrieking about "Drone strikes on American soil!!"

To be honest, if it makes the US rethink its drone program, I don't mind the overreaction this time.