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.")

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Trump impeached for "incitement of insurrection"

Now he's the most impeached president in American history!

Half of all impeachments of an American president have been of Trump.

10 Republicans voted to impeach, and 4 Republicans abstained. 

Last year, not a single Republican voted to impeach Trump. But last year Mitt Romney was the only Senator ever to vote to convict a president of their own party. 

Today, it was reported that Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, is leaning toward convicting.

I wonder if Trump is tired of all this winning…

Saturday, January 2, 2021

"Normalcy bias" and the pandemic

Megan McArdle has an excellent Washington Post column about the different ways our brains try to fit the pandemic (and other disasters) into some idea of "normal." Here's an excerpt, but as always I recommend reading McArdle's whole piece:

From movies, you’d think that when disaster strikes, people trample each other in their panic. But the greater risk is more often the opposite: People can’t quite believe. They ignore the fire alarm, defy the order to evacuate ahead of the hurricane, or pause to grab their luggage when exiting the crashed plane. Too often, they die.

One of 9/11’s most haunting details involves the South Tower, which was struck 17 minutes after the first. It seems likely that if people had started urgently evacuating right after the first plane hit, many of the 600 who died might have lived. But the standard evacuation plans called for emptying affected floors, not the entire 110-story building, and if a plane crashing into the North Tower wasn’t a normal kind of disaster, who could say how different it really was?

So the building’s director did the normal thing, waiting for the fire department or some other authority to order a broader evacuation.…

Calling the quest for normalcy a bias makes it sound bad, but most of the time this tendency is a good thing. The world is full of aberrations, most of them meaningless. If we aimed for maximal reaction to every anomaly we encountered, we’d break down from sheer nervous exhaustion.

But when things go disastrously wrong, our optimal response is at war with the part of our brain that insists things are fine. We try to reoccupy the old normal even if it’s become radioactive and salted with mines. We still resist the new normal — even when it’s staring us in the face.…

Nine months into our current disaster, I now see that our bitter divides over pandemic response were most fundamentally a contest between two ideas of what it meant to get “back to normal.”

One group wanted to feel as safe as they had before a virus invaded our shores; the other wanted to feel as unfettered.
The disputes that followed weren’t just a fight to determine whose idea of normal would prevail. They were a battle against an unthinkable reality, which was that neither kind of normalcy was fully possible anymore.…

After a decent interval, we might have the time and perspective to sort out who was right and who was wrong, so we all can try to do better next time. Though I’m sure we’ll never agree on the whole truth of the pandemic, since no one person will ever know what that was.