Tuesday, June 15, 2021

My favorite movie of each year from 1920 to 2020

Today I'm starting a blog that's going to turn into an extended love letter to movies. 

The site will be centered on a list of my favorite movie(s) from each year of the past 101 years, but it'll be much more than just a list: there'll be videos, quotes, and thoughts on the movies from me and others.

So far I've done only the first two years, but keep checking back for more movies.

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Has news been canceled?

The articles I’m seeing in my Facebook feed are all about the Queen, the Duchess of Sussex, Dr. Seuss, Pepe Le Pew, Mr. Potato Head...
It’s like after a year of the pandemic, we’re done with talking about important stuff. Let’s revert to childhood and talk about characters who are either royalty or cartoons.

Monday, February 15, 2021

Encouraging signs on covid-19 and vaccinations

The Washington Post reports:

In recent weeks, U.S. coronavirus case data — long a closely-watched barometer of the pandemic’s severity — has sent some encouraging signals: The rate of newly recorded infections is plummeting from coast to coast and the worst surge yet is finally relenting.

But scientists are split on why, exactly, it is happening. Some point to the quickening pace of coronavirus vaccine administration, some say it’s because of the natural seasonal ebb of respiratory viruses and others chalk it up to social distancing measures.

And every explanation is appended with two significant caveats: The country is still in a bad place … and recent progress could still be imperiled, either by new fast-spreading virus variants or by relaxed social distancing measures.

The rolling daily average of new infections in the United States hit its all-time high of 248,200 on Jan. 12…. Since then, the number has dropped every day, hitting 91,000 on Sunday, its lowest level since November.…

“Two [factors] are driving down transmission,” [a February 12 briefing by the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation] says. “1) the continued scale-up of vaccination helped by the fraction of adults willing to accept the vaccine reaching 71 percent, and 2) declining seasonality, which will contribute to declining transmission potential from now until August.”

The model predicts 152,000 more covid-19 deaths by June 1, but projects that the vaccine rollout will save 114,000 lives.

In the past week, the country collectively administered 1.62 million vaccine doses per day…. It was the best week yet for the shots, topping even President Biden’s lofty goal of 1.5 million vaccinations per day.

Nearly 40 million people have received at least their first dose of a coronavirus vaccine
, about 12 percent of the U.S. population. Experts have said that 70 percent to 90 percent of people need to have immunity, either through vaccination or prior infection, to quash the pandemic.


Get vaccinated as soon as possible!

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Mary Wilson of the Supremes has died at 76

The New York Times reports:

Mary Wilson, a founding member of the Supremes, the trailblazing group from the 1960s that spun up a dozen No. 1 singles on the musical charts and was key to Motown’s legendary sound, died on Monday…. She was 76.… No cause of death was given.…

Although the Supremes faced difficulties in reaching success early stages in their careers, [sic] their song “When the Lovelight Starts Shining Through His Eyes” peaked at No. 23 on the Billboard pop chart in 1963. Then came five consecutive No. 1 singles: “Where Did Our Love Go,” “Baby Love,” “Come See About Me,” “Stop! In the Name of Love” and “Back in My Arms Again.” …

The Supremes “transcend adolescence without repudiating it,” an article in The New York Times read in 1967, adding, “Their audience spans ages and taste barriers.”

By that year, the group had undergone another change. Ms. Ballard was replaced by Cindy Birdsong and the group was renamed “Diana Ross and the Supremes.” Ms. Ross left the group in 1970, and was replaced by Jean Terrell, leaving Ms. Wilson as the last remaining original member.

"Baby Love":

"My World Is Empty Without You":

"You Can't Hurry Love":

More from the obit:

The influence the Supremes had on Black girls and women across America in the 1960s was undeniable. “You never saw anything like it in the 1960s — three women of color who were totally empowered, creative, imaginative,” Oprah Winfrey was quoted as saying in “Diana Ross: A Biography,” by J. Randy Taraborrelli. As a 10-year-old Black girl, she said, “to see the Supremes and know that it was possible to be like them, that Black people could do THAT … ”

And the Supremes have influenced countless musical acts and girl groups like Destiny’s Child, En Vogue and SWV, many of them borrowing from their playbook and producing pop stars in their own right.

“We, the Supremes, can’t take all the credit,” Ms. Wilson told The Guardian in 2019. “The writers and producers at Motown gave us the music and sound that people loved. And then there was the glamour. My whole life is like a dream. I tell you — if I were not a Supreme, I would want to be a Supreme.”


Goodbye to Mary Wilson of the Supremes — one of the most important pop groups of all time.

(Left to right: Mary Wilson, Diana Ross, and Cindy Birdsong. Photo from Wikimedia Commons, credited to GAC-General Artists Corporation-IMTI-International Talent Management Inc.)

Saturday, January 30, 2021

The Animals' guitarist, Hilton Valentine, has died

The Animals' guitarist, Hilton Valentine, who played the instantly recognizable arpeggios at the beginning of the band's signature song, "The House of the Rising Sun," has died at age 77. (The cause of death has not been reported.)

The Animals' singer, Eric Burden, said: "It really was Hilton who made the early Animals a rock band because I don’t think the element of rock was in the band until we found him."

I've previously blogged other versions of that traditional folk song, from Leadbelly's acoustic blues, to Frijid Pink's hard rock, to a bunch of old computers! But the Animals' 1964 version is definitive.


According to John Steel, Bob Dylan told him that when he first heard the Animals' version on his car radio, he stopped to listen, "jumped out of his car" and "banged on the bonnet" (the hood of the car), inspiring him to go electric.…

Dave Marsh described the Animals' take on "The House of the Rising Sun" as "the first folk-rock hit," sounding "as if they'd connected the ancient tune to a live wire." Writer Ralph McLean of the BBC agreed that it was "arguably the first folk rock tune," calling it "a revolutionary single," after which "the face of modern music was changed forever."

Wikipedia also points out that it was the first "British Invasion" #1 single "unconnected with the Beatles."

"Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" (originally performed by Nina Simone the year before, in 1964):

Friday, January 29, 2021

Why do people fall for unfounded conspiracy theories?

"Why do so many people believe Covid-19 conspiracy theories?" From that article:

belief in conspiracy theories is negatively associated with education and positively associated with religiosity. In a recent study on determinants of conspiracy beliefs relating to Covid-19, it was found that younger rather than older individuals, those with a lower level of education, … and less literate individuals were more likely to believe in conspiracy theory explanations. Those living in poverty are also more likely to believe conspiracy theories. The experience of social change and social conditions such as unemployment can also drive feelings of fear and insecurity, resulting in higher levels of belief in conspiracy theories.…

A belief in conspiracy theories is created by epistemic motives (the desire to understand our environment), existential motives (feeling safe and in control of our environment), and social motives (upholding a positive perception of ourselves and of our in-group). Conspiracy theories can provide apparently simple explanations for complex phenomena such as a pandemic or global warming.…

Making sense of our own individual role in a complex world is difficult for everyone. This may be even more the case if you feel marginalised, unappreciated or insignificant. A sense that you know what is 'really going on', that you are one of a few who truly sees things for what they are, and that you can ‘fight against the machine’ or simply share your insights with others, may help to restore a sense of significance, meaning, and value in your life. Linking up with others with the same insight can also be affirming and reinforcing. You may also feel the benefit of not becoming a hapless victim of the machinations of a powerful elite; standing your own ground, asserting your own worth, and being someone that attracts the (even sceptical) interest of others.…

That's consistent with this 2017 article on 2 studies:
more education was associated with less belief in conspiracy theories, and this seemed to be explained in part by more educated participants feeling more in control, having less belief in simple solutions, and having stronger analytical skills.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Me looking forward to a new administration:

"No question about it, I am ready to get hurt again!"

(That's from the Office episode called "Chair Model.")