Category Archives: music

Guillaume explains the origins of armpit hair, with bonus items

So, Guillaume has answered his second letter for Guillaume’s Mailbag. As usual, this will be much more readable at the Darwin Eats Cake site:

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Hat-tips go to Alejandro Weinstein for his question, and to Lizzie Foley, for consulting with Guillaume on the answer.

Guillaume also wanted to point out that if armpit hair were not adaptive, then why would Kevin Grennan have included it in this artificial armpit?

The robotic armpit releases “Japanese standard artificial sweat,” which is apparently a thing. Image via CNET.

We leave you now with this music video, which, if Pop Up Video is to be believed, was referred to by its director as a “celebration of the armpit.” Enjoy.

Child pornography and the debt crisis

So, Standard and Poor’s and Moody are both threatening to lower the United States’s AAA bond rating as a result of the refusal by congress to raise the debt ceiling. The result would be that we would have to pay higher interest rates on our national debt, and, if the financial experts are to be believed, a financial shock-wave that could destabilize markets around the world.

Perhaps we should think about how we got here.

The cause of the impasse is that House Republicans are refusing to allow the US to accumulate more debt. Why? Well, the Republicans, or more specifically Eric Cantor, are demanding that we move towards balancing the budget, but refuse to agree to any sort of tax increase, or even to the closing of certain existing tax loopholes.

Of course, the fundamental, deep problem here is that Americans – and by extension their elected representatives – have grown accustomed to having stuff and not having to pay for it.

But in this particular crisis, we have to ask why the hell we have a congress that is filled with obstructionist Republicans who are willing to flush the country down the toilet in order to stick to an ideological principle of NO TAXES, despite the fact that the no-taxes view is decidedly outside the mainstream, and goes against public opinion.

Well, the standard liberal/progressive explanation goes something like this: the Republican party gets its power from a rainbow coalition of billionaires and bigots. The billionaires want laissez-faire policies that will allow them to further enrich themselves at the expense of everyone else, and of the country collectively. In order to get enough votes to do this, they pander to the pantheon of bigots: people who hate black people, people who hate homosexuals, people who hate muslims, people who hate evolution, people who hate immigrants, and so on. These people are so blinded by their hatred of X that they are willing to go along with whatever regressive fiscal policies their demagogues demand.

Now, there’s certainly something to this narrative, but I don’t actually think it explains the majority of Republican voters. I’d say (based on nothing) that it accounts for maybe a fifth of them. They tend to be the most quotable fifth, which leads to their being overrepresented on TV, but this still leaves the question of the millions of intelligent, non-hate-filled Americans out there who put these jackasses in congress.

Which brings us to the actual topic of this post. I think a lot of Republican voters are motivated by stories like this:

Weldon Marc Gilbert was recently arrested for allegedly kidnapping and raping young boys and videotaping the encounters. Gilbert is acting as his own attorney, and, as such, has the legal right to review the evidence against him. This means that, while in jail, Gilbert has access to all of the child pornography that he himself created, which was seized in a raid on his home (ABC News).

Whenever I hear something like this, I think of my Texas relatives, who tend to propose punishments like burying criminals up to their necks and letting the victims and their families kick them in the head.

I’m a long-time ACLU member, and I recognize how critical it is for us as a society that the government play by the rules and protect the rights of even the most despicable among us. But when you hear about something like this, there is no denying the emotional attraction of the certainty, moral absolutism, and take-no-prisoners attitude that the Republicans are so adept with.

Something similar happens for many people every time there is a story about government waste (but, interestingly, not with military waste).

I fear that if we’re going to be able to move the country forward in a good direction, progressives need to figure out a way to tap into that sort of emotion. For reasons that I don’t fully understand, outrage about CEOs who take home billions of dollars while ruining the country don’t seem to cut it.

Here’s something to embody the problem in musical form: Toby Keith is an unmitigated piece of shit, but this song is awesome.

Macho Man Randy Savage stops the rapture

So, the still picture of the Macho Man stopping the rapture has been going viral, but here is a truly hypnotic video. Yes, the background music is Macho Man rapping.

I want to say that he’s putting the rap in rapture. But maybe he’s taking it out of rapture?

In any event, I assume he is somewhere now having a good wrestle with Andy Kaufman, and that Elvis is watching in an only slightly creepy way.

Update: Kicks the “rap” out of “rapture”? Is that the one I’m looking for?

Reflected Glory: Langston Hughes, The Weary Blues

So, according to YouTube, 133,000 people have already seen this.

This post is for the other 6.8 billion of you.

This awesome video features the poem The Weary Blues by Langston Hughes, as read by Allen Dwight Callahan. The visuals are of Cab Calloway. If you’re older than me, or if you’re a big-band buff, you’ll know Calloway as one of the great bandleaders of the 30s and 40s. Otherwise, you’ll recognize him as the Hi-De-Hi-De-Hi-De-Ho dude from The Blues Brothers.

This is part of the Moving Poetry Series by Four Seasons Productions.

Also, apropos of nothing, here’s a little Cab Calloway fun fact. He apparently fired trumpet player Dizzy Gillespie from his band in 1941 following an “incident” between the two. According to Gillespie’s wikipedia page,

Calloway did not approve of Dizzy’s mischievous humor, nor of his adventuresome approach to soloing; according to [band member Jonah] Jones, Calloway referred to it as “Chinese music.” During one performance, Calloway saw a spitball land on the stage, and accused Dizzy of having thrown it. Dizzy denied it, and the ensuing argument led to Calloway striking Dizzy, who then pulled out a switchblade knife and charged Calloway. The two were separated by other band members, during which scuffle Calloway was cut on the hand. 

I wonder what ever happened to Gillespie’s “Chinese music” style.

This week in inappropriate Elvis lyrics

So, maybe someone older than me can help me out here. Did words have a different meaning in 1960? Was this ever okay?

From Elvis Presley’s Stuck on You:

     Hide in the kitchen, hide in the hall,
     Ain’t gonna do you no good at all,
     ‘Cause once I catch you and the kissing starts
     A team of wild horses couldn’t tear us apart.

Now, I know what you’re going to say. That it was a simpler time, and this was just some playful romping involving two consenting adults. That it is just from our jaded and cynical 2011 viewpoint that this looks like a manifesto for sexual violence (or at least for misdemeanor sexual misconduct, if you’re in Elvis’s tax bracket). In fact, it is disgusting to try and tar such a nice, wholesome song with that association.

To which I say, just remember, this is the dude who used to host pajama parties for 13 and 14 year old girls, wrestling with them, groping them, and kissing them.

Update: Here are a couple of on-point quotations from the article in the second link:

“‘He pretty much groped me,’ she recalls, ‘I was overwhelmed. He came on like Godzilla.'”

“Then they’d lie on the beds and roughhouse and have pillow fights, Elvis tickling and kissing them until they couldn’t take it anymore.”

“His friendship with the trio of Memphis teenagers lasted through the early 1960s, about the time he met 14-year-old Priscilla Beaulieu, his future wife.”

Reflected Glory: Picture Songs

So, we all know that you, Cathy, and Garfield all Hate Mondays. But that’s probably just because you haven’t been watching Nice Peter’s Picture Songs. They’re songs. That he writes about pictures. Every monday. I honestly don’t know how he does this every week, especially since he appears to do other things. Here is last week’s:

And links to some previous editions:

Old, Shiny, Awesome

Really Really Bad Day

Nom Nom Nom Nom, Babies!


Reflected Glory: Vi Hart

So, here is the debut of yet another new feature: Reflected Glory. This series will contain my callous and cynical attempts to convince you that this blog is really interesting and valuable because it is interested in and values interesting and valuable things.

To launch this feature, we have the math, music, and awesomeness blog of Vi Hart. You can get instructions on how to slice apples into Platonic Solids. You can listen to original stories set to original music. And you can watch the Doodling in Math Class video series, which covers things like how to draw an infinite line of camels such that they reach exactly to the edge of the page.

If you’re a math geek, this is probably already bookmarked on your browser. If you’re not, don’t let that stop you from checking it out. The site is not about math in the sense of memorization, abstract notation, and jargon. It is about the beauty of patterns and music and fun. You’ll want to spend plenty of time exploring.

The downside is that you will feel totally inadequate after seeing what this talented artist, composer, musician, mathematician, and expositor can do.

Top 10 ABBA songs

So, the year is almost over, which means it’s all top-ten lists all the time. Lost in Transcription is no different. Do we really need a top-ten ABBA song list, you ask? I mean, aren’t they dead – and Swedish?

Do we need an electric spin-the-bottle game? A motorized ice-cream cone? A combination fork and pizza cutter?

Yes, yes, and yes.

Let’s get started.

10. Lovers (Live a Little Longer)
     The premise in this one is that a woman reads in the paper about a scientific study finding that romance increases lifespan. The science writing apparently moves her to burst into song. The high point is the sassy emphasis on she, indicating that the lead scientist on the study was a womyn.

9. Hey, Hey Helen
     Half feminist anthem, half catty anti-feminist anthem. She’s a single mother, making it on her own, but her children are becoming irrevocably twisted by the absence of a male role model, and will probably wind up being serial killers. Was it worth it? Well, was it?

8. Love Isn’t Easy (But it Sure is Hard Enough)
     Um, what?

7. Kisses of Fire
     Kisses of fire, burnin’ burnin’
     I’m at the point of no returnin’

6. When I Kissed the Teacher
     Companion song to Don’t Stand So Close to Me by the Police. That teacher is SO fired!

5. Bang-a-Boomerang
    Bang a boom a boomerang 
    Dum de dum dum de dum de dum dum
    Bang a boom a boomerang
    Love is a tune you hum de hum hum

4. King Kong Song
     A song about a guy writing a song about watching a King Kong movie. It’s just like Inception. My mind is, like, totally blown.

3. I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do
     Awesome in part because this is actually the title, with five “I”s, five “Do”s and four commas, and in part because this was the song that my wife and I went back down the aisle to at our wedding.

2. So Long
     In which the narrator repeatedly asserts that she is NOT a prostitute.

1. Waterloo
     Extended “love is war: metaphor. You see, she is defeated utterly and completely by his romantic advances, just like Napoleon was defeated utterly and completely at Waterloo. Then, just like Napoleon, she contracts syphilis and dies alone on an island in the middle of the ocean.

Where are Chiquitita and Dancing Queen, you ask? Yeah, well, where are your mom and the – um – guy – um – who’s not your dad?