Happy Trees with Deadpool?

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Fans of Deadpool have been waiting for teasers and trailers from the upcoming sequel, but they probably weren’t expecting this:

So, millions of people will never think of Bob Ross the same way again!

Does this mean that the sequel is going to be over-the-top? Maybe…

Of course, some people are interested in the words about the upcoming film. (Yes, some people actually are reading the plot synopsis!)

Then there are the rumors, because we must have those – especially about potential character introductions.

And then the talk about how some characters might be changing…

But, let’s be honest. While this teaser is great, it’s still just that – a tease! We want more, right?

Let’s just take a deep breath, commune with those happy trees, and whack off while we wait, shall we?

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Happy Trees with Deadpool?

Media and Participation Trophies

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Over the past few days, there has been a pile of righteously indignant (and ridiculing) posts on social media about the fact that GQ decided to make Colin Kaepernick their “Citizen of the Year.” While the general sentiments of people are probably understandable, one thing doesn’t seem to be coming up often:

What exactly is the GQ Citizen of the Year Award?

A quick search on Google for “GQ Citizen of the Year 2016” yields the following:

No, you’re not missing something, and no Google isn’t simply flooded with this year’s recipient. There wasn’t a “Citizen of the Year” named by GQ last year. It’s a new invention this year, and only time will tell whether or not it will be repeated.

So, for anyone who was thinking that this was some kind of important honor, it’s most likely that the editors of GQ were looking for a way to elevate Kaepernick in the eyes of the public by calling him “Citizen of the Year” – basically, a magazine version of a participation trophy. It’s possible that they will name someone next year, and the year after that, but no matter what it’s going to take years for this “honor” to hold any real value – if it ever does.

Frankly, these things are becoming a marketing tool for print magazines that are trying to occasionally boost their hard copy sales throughout the year. Time magazine has been devaluing the honor of being named “Person of the Year” by repeatedly choosing either groups of people or highly controversial individuals. It is becoming obvious that the only real reasons the magazine editors are giving out awards are about selling magazines. It’s certainly not about any real accomplishments of the winners. In the case of Kaepernick, it’s probably best to say that he’s becoming the political activism version of the Kardashians. If people are brutally honest with themselves, they can’t truthfully point out where the noble cause really is for him, since his activism is swimming neck deep in self-interest. Kaepernick would just be yet another pro-athlete who ceased to be valuable to pro-teams because of under-performing on the field. No one would be talking about him if he hadn’t turned what probably was a session of sulking on the sideline into a political statement. That’s even a stretch, since the “movement” he started still hasn’t clearly stated what it is protesting or more importantly, what concrete changes it wants to see in society. It is an amorphous feeling that attaches itself to various headlines along the way, pushing indignation and disrespect without a substantial purpose that could promote real change.

As for GQ, we have about a year to wait and see if this was just a one-off stunt for sales, or if they’re really going to try to offer a quasi-real award for citizenship each year. No matter what, don’t expect much. These awards still aren’t about anything except the bottom line for media companies that are desperately trying to sell more glossy print.

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Media and Participation Trophies

How Much Do You Love iPhone?

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If you’re not measuring that in hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars, maybe you need to think twice about grabbing that iPhone X.

Several weeks ago when I forced myself to watch the product reveal from Apple, I was pretty impressed as I watched the facial recognition and other improvements – in the iPhone 8.

Then they brought out the iPhone X…

Sure, it was neat to think about such a sleek machine, but the two-sided glass design stopped me from thinking very seriously about ever acquiring this phone. The price tag made more than a few people cringe, but that didn’t bother me very much. Google’s latest Pixel is in the same range, and the financing options are far more limited for it than any iPhone.

No, the initial investment in an iPhone X isn’t a deal-breaker, but the $550 average cost for most repairs definitely is especially when anyone sees this:

While I haven’t personally broken an iPhone screen, I’ve paid for replacing them – I have kids. Now that there’s video evidence of just how fragile this phone actually is, I’m afraid to see what will happen to the device insurance rates. Just guessing, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they end up exceeding the 36-month finance payment rate offered on AT&T’s NEXT program for the phone itself.

Sure, I get it that Apple really needed to do something big, but maybe they went a little too far?

Let’s be brutally honest with ourselves here. That beautiful sleek design and all that glass is going to be a challenge for the design engineers at OtterBox, and the really rare thing will be to actually see that phone anywhere without a protective cocoon of plastic and rubber. I’ll wager that the end result may be people going around with phones that are thicker than an iPhone 4 housed in an OtterBox case, because it’s probably going to take much more than just a thin plastic housing to keep the iPhone X even relatively safe from harm.

Time will tell, of course. However, I suspect that we will see at least a little buyer’s remorse on iPhone X in the coming months. That will be coming from other people, of course. I’m taking a pass on this one. How about you?

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How Much Do You Love iPhone?

Farewell Fats Domino

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Fats Domino is no longer with us, since he died today at age 89 of natural causes. One thing is certain, though. His music will undoubtedly continue to live on, just as it has for all the years since he originally recorded the songs.

Ron Howard used to sing one of Fats Domino’s hits on Happy Days:

Fats himself performed it on The Ed Sullivan Show back in 1956, which in itself was a relatively ground-breaking feat, since at that time, there were still some “issues” with black performers being on stage and TV.

Then there are several Fats Domino songs that have been used in media for years, from commercials to the big screen. Remember this one selling paper towels and cleaning products?

Or how about this one?

Because of the contribution Fats Domino made to the music scene in the Big Easy, you can’t skip this one:

Speaking of New Orleans and Fats Domino’s influence on musicians from the Crescent City, there’s this…

… that was also recorded by New Orleans native Harry Connick, Jr.

Farewell, Fats…. You won’t be forgotten, or at least your music won’t be.

Image: By Hugo van Gelderen / Anefo (Nationaal Archief) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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Farewell Fats Domino

Bruce Springsteen, Bryan Adams and Aging Rock Stars

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Earlier this month, Bryan Adams and Bruce Springsteen took to the stage in Toronto during the Invictus Games. A video of them performing together showed up on YouTube:

Many people would say that this was an unlikely duo, but they did manage to offer performances of Adams’ “Cuts Like a Knife”, and Springsteen’s “Badlands.” I tried to be objective while listening to both songs, but it was very difficult. I really wanted to like Springsteen’s performance on both songs, but that simply wasn’t possible. While it’s impossible to know for sure, I strongly suspected that Adams moved to sing with Springsteen on Springsteen’s mic because it seemed like whoever was manning the sound booth was turning down the Boss. Honestly, if I’d been there, I probably would have done the same.

Like it or not, Adams – particularly his singing voice – aged well in comparison. While his tone has changed some, he’s still capable of hitting the notes accurately. Springsteen is not faring as well. He definitely can still make his way through his own music, but he was definitely not up to the task of singing “Cuts Like a Knife.” Adams was able to shift from lead to background singer easily on “Badlands,” though.

Since I started out in the world of rock and pop music by being a DJ in a family business that specialized in music from the 50’s and 60’s, I’m accustomed to listening for changes in tone and quality of voices over time. I would regularly shift from playing original records by artists, and hearing them perform live up to over thirty years later, like this performance. I would love to say that the Boss still has it, but I can’t. That said, it would be wise to see him soon, because, assuming that people around him are honest, he may seriously consider not performing. It’s worth noting that Adams was the one who shared this video, not Springsteen.

No matter what, Springsteen will remain the Boss. Hopefully he won’t try to go beyond his own repertoire again, though.

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Bruce Springsteen, Bryan Adams and Aging Rock Stars

Sexual Assault, Harassment, and ‘Me Too’

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Alyssa Milano opened the proverbial can of worms by posting on Twitter:

This lead to an avalanche of “Me too” posts on social media in general, not just Twitter. Many women started describing what they have endured in their lives – sexual harassment and assaults – and many people started getting upset about the two being placed together. While it is true that the definitions of both sexual harassment and sexual assault have been more than a little muddied in recent years, the fact remains that both behaviors are rooted in a lack of respect for women.

We probably do need to have discussions about whether or not certain behaviors and situations really are sexual harassment or sexual assault, but we also have to agree on the concept that any behavior that is rooted in patent disrespect for women in general is unacceptable. Note “in general” in that statement. Disrespecting a specific person because that person has behaved badly is not verboten, nor should it be. Disrespecting women simply because they are female is unacceptable.

Most of the complaints out there about the “Me too” posts are centered on politics or annoyance with women who claim to feel that they have been victims of harassment or assault, but when they tell their stories, it doesn’t seem all that terrible. On the political end, there shouldn’t be “left” or “right” on the issue. There is, but for the purposes here, there is no point to wasting time or words on the political arguments.

The women who are calling actions sexual harassment or sexual assault, but have some people who disagree with them? There lies a problem that needs addressing. It is a Frankenstein monster created by helicopter parents, radical feminists, ministers, and many others. It is a symptom of our society, and how we view women and sex. Because it is a societal problem, one would think that it would be wise to consult a sociologist or social psychologist on this matter, but one response I saw that summed up the problem succinctly came from a lawyer on Facebook:

First of all, the number of women I follow Twitter and Facebook who have shared their stories of sexual assault or harassment, in some cases apparently for the first time, has been alarming and eye-opening. Since graduating law school, I’ve worked alongside women who were subordinates, opposing counsel and other fellow attorneys, bosses, Judges, and in a wide variety of other roles. I also have many female friends on social media and in the real world who I’m able to get along with quite well without acting like a jerk who didn’t grow out of being a frat boy in college. I was always aware that behavior like what has been described in many of these posts occurred, but I’ve never witnessed it (as far as I know) nor did I realize how widespread it is. I’m betting many other men didn’t either.

Second, it’s always seemed very simple to me. Sexual assault of any kind is always wrong, and excuses for harassing behavior like “I was drunk,” “She was drunk,” or “No means yes” are never acceptable. As far as sexual harassment goes, no means no, and there is no justification for someone to make those kinds of advances in a professional setting, especially when one is in a position of power over another person such as in the employment situation. There’s also no excuse for such unwanted behavior outside the office.

Finally, I’ve seen several men commenting or posting in response in dismissive tones regarding these disclosures, and that is just as disturbing as the reports themselves. “Boys will be boys” is not an excuse for acting like a boorish jerk, and the fact that a woman isn’t interested in you isn’t a reason to treat her like crap. Additionally, dismissing the reports that are being posted as some kind of social media fad is, well, kind of pathetic, as is the excuse that the campaign is somehow an attack on all men, which it clearly isn’t. Stop acting like jerks, guys. It’s as simple as that.

That was written by Doug Mataconis from Outside the Beltway. He stripped the issue down to its bare bones, and that is the start point for finding a solution. Our biggest problem in dealing with sexual assault and sexual harassment is that we have allowed the “powers that be” to over complicate the matter. The problem really is the fact that we are failing at educating our children about respect, and sex. Creating a web of taboos out of what should be clear and concise lessons about intimate relationships isn’t working. Suggesting that anything is free game when it comes to sex and sexuality isn’t helping either. While all the supposed adults in the room are arguing about what the kids should or shouldn’t learn about all that “icky” sex stuff, the kids aren’t learning the most basic lessons about survival as human beings. They aren’t being taught how to interact with each other in respectful ways, particularly in intimate relationships. That is the real root of the problem.

So, do we continue arguing about what is (or isn’t) sexual assault and sexual harassment based on the reports of the women who used the “Me too” statement on social media, or is it time for us to start teaching kids how to respect themselves and each other? Sure, that won’t help current and past victims, but it definitely will help to reduce the number of victims in the next generations.

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Sexual Assault, Harassment, and ‘Me Too’

In Praise of Cultural Appropriation

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As a girl, I would ask my mother, “Why can’t I have curls?” She’d always frown a little, and remind me that our hair is straight. My grandmother would get permanent waves, and my mother ended up nearly losing her hair to a truly disastrous chemical treatment – all in the pursuit of what we did not have from birth. The irony of this was that more often than not, the girls with the ringlets that I envied would have preferred to have smooth and straight locks like my own. It is that basic envy and admiration of what we don’t have that drives the imitation of styles we see on others – what some now call “cultural appropriation.”

The real problem isn’t the fact that people are “borrowing” from the styles of other cultures, because that has been happening from the time that people started wearing clothing and adornments. Today, we have an intellectual elite class that is teaching the masses that this act of imitation is essentially the same as being photographed was to some cultures that feared it desperately because they believed the images somehow trapped their souls. The problem is that people are being told that imitating style is equal to ripping something essential from their very existence.

These high-minded individuals have failed to recognize a very basic part of being human – as human beings, we engage in mimicry. In modern society, it is a very selective process, which means that we only choose to emulate actions (or in this case, styles) we highly admire.

There was an adage that applied to this phenomenon – “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.”

Elvis Presley imitated music from black artists, because he admired their work not because he wanted to somehow keep those artists from advancing in the music industry.

The current targets of the intellectual elites are being told they can’t make certain fashion choices, like hoop earrings, because those styles are the exclusive property of minority cultures. Those same people are telling members of those cultures that they should feel insulted if people from other cultural backgrounds want to imitate them. The entire premise is based on two fallacies: first that anything in our collective culture is the exclusive “property” of a given ethnicity, and second that anyone who chooses to borrow styles from other ethnic backgrounds is doing so for malicious or racist reasons.

Every culture on the planet at this point has borrowed from other cultures at some point, so there is no such thing as “cultural exclusivity”. Humans have been migrating around the planet for millennia, and have picked up bits and pieces of their culture from the places they have called home over the years. The intellectual elites who are claiming that there is such a thing as “cultural exclusivity” must have skipped History, Anthropology, Sociology, and Social Psychology during their studies.

The claim that there can only be malignant or hateful reasons for people to emulate each other has no basis in reality. In truth, it is in direct contradiction with more than a few theories that these intellectuals should have learned in even the most basis courses on Psychology and Sociology.

So, this entire exercise is an anti-academic and anti-scientific social movement with the simple goal of causing outrage among minority groupings. Generally speaking, such activities have historically been used to control minority factions within a society. If the minority groupings are focused on being angry at a specifically defined “pseudo-enemy” that really isn’t a true threat to them, the ones telling them that they should be angry can then gain their trust on other matters. Those “other matters” are usually laws and policies that are truly a threat to those minority groupings. In America today, that could be the perpetuation of a permanent underclass for minorities, particularly in urban centers. Those intellectuals are also opposed to education reforms that could improve educational opportunities for that permanent underclass the government and intellectuals created.

But, it’s more important to be upset about the “wrong” cultural groups wearing the fashions inspired by minority groupings, right?

Image: Dr. Umesh Behari Mathur (CC)

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In Praise of Cultural Appropriation

Where Has All the Health Insurance Gone?

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I want to start going to a fitness center, and since I broached the subject in front of some family members, they helpfully offered the advice that I should double-check what my health insurance offers. It makes some sense, since their point was to prevent me from paying membership fees if they were already included in my policy. Unfortunately, this has become a normal conversation in America, because we have – as a nation – completely lost the true meaning of the phrase “health insurance.” I can’t blame anyone for that, because the language we use to talk about insurance has changed radically over the years.

In spite of being eligible for AARP (by merit of marriage), I’m not yet 50. But, I’m old enough to remember the evolution of how Americans have paid for medical services since the 1970’s, and the terms we’ve used for that.

Medical Insurance – This one is simple, mostly straightforward, and is what we called policies that would usually just cover hospital visits, and emergent care. Some policies would take a small bite out of the costs of routine doctor visits from the start, but most wouldn’t start paying for those regular visits until we had paid a generally high deductible out-of-pocket. My parents would usually eat right through that, since I was a sickly child. “Finally! The insurance kicked in!” was a common statement from my mother by around May or June of each year, when the receptionist in my doctor’s office would tell her those happy words, “No charge for today!” The bottom line for these policies was that people paid premiums to cover primarily extremely expensive services that they couldn’t afford otherwise, and routine care was paid primarily out-of-pocket. Those expensive services were mostly for grave illnesses or injuries.

Health Management/Maintenance Organization (HMO) – Arriving in the early 1980’s at least in our region, the HMO was a godsend in my mother’s eyes – at first. Sure, the paychecks went down more than with the old insurance, since the premiums were so much higher. But, all doctor visits were blessedly low cost! No more writing checks over $50 for just a routine check-up. Before my mother could absolutely declare it paradise, she ended up seeing a pediatrician to remove an in-grown toenail. You didn’t misread that. This was when my mother learned what the “management” part of that acronym really meant – patients will see whoever is cheapest for the organization, so that means the correct specialists might not fit that description. My mother ended up with blood poisoning, a hospital stay to receive IV antibiotics, and a lot of follow-up visits to other (not necessarily correct specialty) doctors to make sure there was no lasting damage to her foot or leg. Needless to say, this was the beginning of the end of people relying entirely on the advice of physicians. It’s great that people have become advocates for their own health, and learn about their medical problems. But, it would have been much better if it hadn’t started out of necessity, because many people were just like my mother – being given the cheapest care their HMO’s could throw at them. The bottom line for HMO’s is to have customers pre-pay for care through high premiums, out-of-pocket expenses are relatively low, but these organizations are focused on saving as much money as possible. They have fallen out of favor because they got a reputation for pushing questionable care – like my mother received – at the expense of patients’ health.

Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) – This is something that started sometime in the 1990’s in Western Pennsylvania at least, and is essentially still an HMO in how it operates. The primary difference is that instead of telling patients who to see, there is a list of providers to choose from within the region. The companies offering these policies negotiate contracts with hospitals, pharmacies, provider groups, and occasionally with health clubs – which is what I theoretically should be checking. Calling PPO’s “Preferred Provider Organizations” is a misnomer, and if there was truth in advertising, they would be called “Pre Paid Office-visits”. The bottom line for PPO’s is again forcing customers to pre-pay for care, which means that the majority of people do not get anything close to their investments back in these programs. Instead of the problems of questionable care seen in HMO’s there are issues with “in-network” versus “out-of-network” providers. Some regions like my own are ruled by medical monopolies, which means that depending on which insurance company is underwriting a PPO policy, customers could be restricted from using certain hospital and health networks entirely. This has become an issue since insurance companies are increasingly becoming directly involved in providing medical care, and hospital systems are starting their own insurance companies.

Right now, there’s yet another “health care” bill being considered, but because it’s not going to change the status quo of the insurance market that is essentially limited to high-premium pre-paid care policies, it’s no better than its predecessors. I understand, it’s been around 40 years since we had “real” health insurance in America, and that many people don’t remember it clearly at all. But, people really do need to think about this, and reconsider how we’re doing things. We don’t have real choices anymore when it comes to health insurance – the differences are just in costs, not in what they really offer. The primary reasons why traditional health insurance of the 1970’s and before fell out of favor was because of restrictions on Health Savings Accounts (HSA’s), and now that we’re finally easing those, perhaps it’s time to demand that government get out of the insurance business. Let the people demand what they really want from insurance companies. I sincerely doubt that I’m the only person in America who would love to return to a system where I have a policy to cover major medical problems, deductibles on routine care, and real pricing on health care – instead of the imaginary pricing created by government and insurance companies.

For now, it’s time to for me to find out if I can get a health club membership discount thanks to my current insurance – not because I “like” the idea, but because I’ve already paid for it!

Image: ccPixs.com

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Where Has All the Health Insurance Gone?

U2 Still Surprising LA with Live Performances

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Almost thirty years ago, U2 took to a roof in LA, at Seventh and Main. Radio hosts pointed out it wasn’t in a great neighborhood, but people might want to drop by to listen, since the concerts were all sold out. Many people did, which lead to the LAPD shutting down the performance. That was in 1987, when MTV still played music videos, and the band was filming for that and the promotion of their new album, “Joshua Tree.”

That was five years before the LA Riots – the U2 rooftop performance didn’t result in any arrests (or at least there is no mention of them in any accounts of the day on the web now.)

Now, the band is on tour for the first time with just the “Joshua Tree” album on the playlist for their performances. Maybe they thought it would be a good idea to do a smaller scale reprise of the LA live performance that resulted in the music video for “Where the Streets Have No Name.” This time, they just took over Jimmy Kimmel’s stage:

While it might be interesting to see how they would do it, it’s doubtful that U2 is getting as much “help” as they did in that version of “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” on the road.

For those of you who want to do a direct comparison, here’s when the band walked the strip in Las Vegas to do the original music video:

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U2 Still Surprising LA with Live Performances

It’s a Soap Ad – Not the End of the World!

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In case you weren’t aware of it, many women are very particular about the products that they use to take care of their own skin (and the skin of their babies.) The makers of Dove products have made a cozy home for themselves on the market for women with sensitive skin. In case you’re wondering what that means, when you go into a store with entire aisles of soaps and shampoos, the people with sensitive skin can buy maybe a handful of products on the shelves without fear of adverse reactions.

That means burning, stinging, rashes, break outs, and all manner of other nasty things.

There’s another little problem for many women when it comes to products they like. Manufacturers have a horrible habit of taking some off the market entirely, without bothering to even attempt to replace them.

(My aunt used to say, “Never say you love something, because someone in the factory will hear you, and they won’t make it anymore!”)

Dove is guilty of removing some products, but they’re really good about coming up with a “new and improved” option that often really is at least as good as what it’s replacing. Sometimes, it really is much better.

That said, when I came across people talking about boycotting Dove, I rolled my eyes.

Nope. Not happening in my household.

When I heard why, it was all I could do to keep from spewing coffee everywhere.

Seriously? People are upset about an advertisement about mothers that happens to include a transsexual?

I believe the argument was that Dove was somehow endorsing LGBT lifestyles by just having “those people” in the commercial.

Well, not exactly.

If you watched it, great. If not, just take my word for it on this one.

No, they were not “endorsing” anyone in their commercial.

Yes, they were saying that every mother is entitled to being able to make her own decisions about how she raises her own children. (It’s safe to assume that they aren’t suggesting that can include mistreating or abusing any precious children.)

If you really want to push it to the political end, this commercial was promoting the individual liberty of mothers everywhere, period, full stop.

Dove wasn’t telling anyone how to be a parent.

Dove wasn’t saying any parent is better than another.

Dove was saying all parents (especially mothers) are created equal, and are endowed with the right to raise their children how they see fit.

Oh no!

That’s terrible!

Let’s boycott them right now, for making the radical suggestion that everyone (from government down to in-laws) should stay out of the business of mothers!

Needless to say, this is just another case of people looking for a reason to be outraged.

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It’s a Soap Ad – Not the End of the World!