Jennifer Lawrence Is Going Political

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Jennifer Lawrence is taking a year off from acting, so she can get political. Before anyone starts rolling their eyes, it’s important to recognize that unlike many of her colleagues in Hollywood, she’s not talking about paying lip service to pet causes or using the spotlight to push a national political agenda. Lawrence apparently isn’t taking this step to run her mouth on politics, like some people have complained about with other celebrities.

Lawrence is choosing to involve herself with a grassroots non-partisan organization dedicated to fighting political corruption. Her chosen organization is Represent.Us, and appears to be a slightly idealistic group that is determined to remove money from the political influence game. We’re talking about campaign finance reform, on a rather severe level. Otherwise, the organization also appears to be interested in using technology to fix our ballot boxes, since they want to remove bureaucracy between voters and the act of voting. While it’s not a totally hopeless cause, it is fairly limited, and definitely will be most effective from the bottom up – local first.

And that is why Lawrence should be commended. She is leading by example, showing her fans that it is important to know about our political process, and how they can get involved, too. We can only hope that in addition to promoting her own work at Represent.Us, Lawrence decides to learn about similar organizations focused on other issues – offer suggestions to young people who may not be interested in her personal cause. We can also hope that more celebrities take a cue from her, and choose to promote political organizations on the grassroots level instead of using their status to fire up divisive politicking and rhetoric. Young people particularly need to learn that political change doesn’t happen in large leaps at the top. It happens with incremental steps and hard work from the bottom up.

Image: By Jennifer_Lawrence_at_the_83rd_Academy_Awards.jpg: Mingle MediaTV derivative work: Tabercil (Jennifer_Lawrence_at_the_83rd_Academy_Awards.jpg) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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Jennifer Lawrence Is Going Political

Fergie Fouls on Anthem?

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Some people were a little upset with how Fergie sang the National Anthem at the NBA All-Star game. While it’s true that her version wasn’t exactly “straight”, perhaps the outrage is a bit… well, misplaced? In case you haven’t seen or heard it yet, here it is:

Yes, she did put a little “heat” into her rendition, but that’s Fergie. She made her hits and her reputation in the music industry on her ability to make just about anything at least a little sexy. If anyone should be catching fire today from the public, it should be the event organizers for hiring her in the first place. And that is assuming that you really think it’s utterly disrespectful to croon the anthem that way. Remember, Fergie just played around with the style – making it her own. Even though she made it a little sexy, Fergie didn’t overtly show disrespect while singing it, like someone else did:

While it’s true that Fergie definitely did the anthem in a way that no one else would – or could – she definitely didn’t push the envelope to the point that some people might think. At least now we know how she’ll sing the song, and it’s a fair guess that Fergie isn’t on anyone’s list of “artists to book for the singing of the National Anthem.” Well, maybe Jimmy Kimmel might ask her to do it on his show, but what else should we expect?

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Fergie Fouls on Anthem?

Art Gallery Twitter-style with #VisibleWomen

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If you’re into art – illustrations particularly – it might not hurt to take a moment and look up #VisibleWomen on Twitter. A significant number of female artists have taken to social media to show their work:

Yes, these women are out there doing their work in places you actually know about.

Here’s some from Disney:

And Cartoon Network:

And the world of comic books:

And fantasy/video games:

All I can say is drop by Twitter, check out #VisibleWomen, and keep scrolling to see the work from these remarkable women.

Image: Twitter/Maria Nguyen/@DTNart

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Art Gallery Twitter-style with #VisibleWomen

Misspent Outrage about ‘Peter Rabbit’

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Yes, Sony did put a scene in Peter Rabbit about severe food allergies. Yes, it is a serious subject. No, it probably wasn’t necessary for anyone to start calling for boycotts.

It’s been a long time since our society responded to situations like this in a more adult manner, so bear with me here. While I’m tempted to just relegate this to the “faux outrage” pile, I can’t, but that’s only because Sony chose to depict a potentially fatal allergy on the big screen.

But, instead of the extreme response we’ve seen from parents and groups on social media, perhaps the better route would have been to turn this into a teaching moment – for everyone. Saying that Sony was insensitive and calling for a boycott of the film forced the corporation to apologize publicly. Simply pointing out that the film showed a behavior that everyone needs to know is wrong would have left the door open for a deeper conversation about potentially deadly allergies in general.

Now, it’s not likely that many health teachers will think about pulling that scene from the film for class as an object lesson about what not to do. They will be rightfully concerned about reigniting the current outrage.

The fact remains that this film is pure fiction, and showing it as a dramatization of what not to do offers more than one lesson for kids. It also offers the opportunity to reinforce the ongoing lessons about the difference between fantasy and reality. No matter what, because of this outrage, Peter Rabbit has probably been lost as a teaching tool in general, and not just for learning about food allergies.

Maybe the outrage itself can be a teaching tool. When people are upset about something they see in media or entertainment, perhaps they need to think twice before crying for boycotts or other extreme actions. While many people might seem supportive of the outraged people, sharing that feeling doesn’t educate anyone on anything except the fine art of getting upset. Righteous indignation might feel good for a moment, but in the end it doesn’t promote discussion on what caused it in the first place. That discussion falls too far below the headlines, and isn’t tweetable. In the case of Peter Rabbit, even asking why Sony decided to put a poorly done Jackass stunt in the film would have brought more attention to real issue – food allergies. At least then, people might have asked why Sony got it so wrong.

Image: YouTube Capture

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Misspent Outrage about ‘Peter Rabbit’

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’