Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Worst Song on the Radio Now: Volume 1

I've always loved music.  I can still remember lying in bed in 1965 -- a ten year old with a small black transistor radio -- listening to WABC's Top 100 Songs of 1965.   But there have been two times in my life when I just couldn't listen to the music being played on popular radio: in the mid-to-late 70's during the disco craze, and in the mid 80's when bands like Boston, Styx, Rush, and Queen ruled the airwaves.
I'm not saying that either of these music genres were bad;  they just didn't interest me and pushed other music off the air.  Well, it's happened again.  A genre of music that I call "Teen Girl Pop" is now dominating commercial radio.  Songs in this genre contain at least one (but usually several) of the following characteristics:
  • Driving Drum Beat:  This music is meant to be played and listened to at clubs while dancing;
  • Banal Lyrics:  Partying, flirting, binge-drinking, breaking up, making up, living for the moment ... I think you get the picture.
  • Distorted Vocals:  A technique that makes the singer sound as though he or she is singing through a megaphone or a bullhorn. Think of The Strokes, only more so. 
  • Repeated Syllabic Lyrics:  Sure, this has been around since "talkin' 'bout my g-g-generation", but it's exploded since Lady GaGa's "p-p-p-poker face" .  A few wildly popular examples:  "Where have you been all my li-i-i-i-ife?", "the o-o-o-one, the o-o-o-one, the o-o-o-one, the one that got away", "kiss me, ki-ki-kiss me", and "as long as you la-la-la-la-love me, love me".
  • Dubstep Break:  Thankfully, these breaks are never long enough to cause nose bleeds, but just long enough to try and make the song sound hip.
  • Rap Interlude:  Nothing sounds as genuine as a rich 20-something white woman breaking into rap in mid-song. 
With that as background, here's a list of consecutive songs that were played on a popular New Jersey radio station last week while I was working out at my gym for one hour.  I've highlighted what, for me, is "The Worst Song On The Radio Now". 

If, somehow, you have yet to hear this song, click here.

So, besides being a song in a genre that I don't particularly like, what caused me to lose all objectivity and call this song -- not just a bad song -- but the worst song?

Style:  As with many of the songs listed above, it slavishly adheres to the "Teen Girl Pop" formula.  It has a driving guitar beat, the usual lyrics about drinking, dancing and partying, and a rap interlude.

Music:  Some songs in the "Teen Girl Pop" song actually contain interesting music which requires a real band with actual musical skills.  Not so here.  The music in this song can be easily replicated by a high school kid with a drum machine and a synthesizer.  

Lyrics:  This is where this song truly distinguishes itself.  Delivered with a poppy, catchy beat that you can't get out of your head, it contains lines like the following:
"It's pretty obvious that you've got a crush, that magic in your pants is making me blush."
"Oh what a shame that you came here with someone."
"Let's make the most of the night like we're going to die young."
And in case you're not getting the message, the refrain pounds it into you by repeating, "We're gonna die young."  In other words, live for today, have fun tonight with whomever you happen to be with because you might die tomorrow.  A wonderful philosophy for the "Teen Girl Pop" generation!  The amazing thing is that since this abysmal song is delivered without a single expletive, its lyrics are deemed safe for all ages.  Believe me, kids need to be protected from a song like this much more so than from a song like "Lose Yourself" by Eminem!

One more thing.  Ke$ha spells her name with a dollar sign.  That says all you need to know about the driving force behind this song and this artist.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Thank You Donald Trump!

"Constitution:  You're fired!"
The 2012 Presidential election was brutal.  The agony began with the Republican primary, which seemed to go on forever.  In case you've purged it from your brain, there were twenty debates, involving such eminent statesmen as Michele Bachman, Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich.  This was followed up by three Presidential debates and one Vice-Presidential debate that were almost totally devoid of substance.  Flowing through all of this was a deluge of campaign ads fueled by the most amount of money ever spent on a Presidential election.  According to some sources, when combined with Super PAC money, the Obama and Romney campaigns spent approximately two billion dollars. 

It was also an incredibly divisive campaign that left the US electorate split right down the middle.  Up until the day of the election, the race was too close to call.   But finally, on the evening of November 6, it all came to an end.  Barack Obama was re-elected by a comfortable margin in the Electoral College but by a fairly narrow margin in the popular vote.  Democrats cheered while Republicans wept.  About an hour after the election had been decided, Mitt Romney gave a gracious, if short, concession speech saying in part:
"This is a time of great challenges for America, and I pray that the president will be successful in guiding our nation ... At a time like this, we can’t risk partisan bickering and political posturing.  Our leaders have to reach across the aisle to do the people’s work.  And we citizens also have to rise to the occasion" 
While these were excellent words, it was hardly enough to heal the wounds of a nation and unify two parties that had been at each others throats for four year.  The country was still polarized.  It needed something else, something stupendous, that everyone could rally around.  To paraphrase Otter from the movie Animal House: "This situation absolutely required a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody's part".  But who would be a stupid enough guy to do it?  Enter The Donald! 

Speaking via Twitter to his followers on Election night, Trump starts out under control -- diplomatic, and rational:

Well said Mr. Trump, well said.  Almost Churchillian.  As the early results favoring Mitt Romney rolled in, Trump continued to wax philosophic:

Suddenly, though, somewhere around 11pm when Ohio fell to Obama and it was clear that Romney had lost, The Donald delivered a terse announcement:

But if you thought that The Donald was going to stop right there and call it a night, well, you don't know Donald Trump.  In rapid succession, he fired off the following tweets to his faithful:

He also posted the following tweets, which he deleted once they were discovered by Brian Williams, anchor for NBC Nightly News, and read over the air:
"He lost the popular vote by a lot and won the election. We should have a revolution in this country!"
"The phoney electoral college made a laughing stock out of our nation. The loser one!"
"More votes equals a loss…revolution! "
At this point, one can only assume that The Donald had been liberally sipping on an especially potent vintage of Viognier from the world renowned Trump Winery ever since the polls had closed on the east coast.  In the space of a few minutes he did everything he could to invite the federal government to prosecute him and his followers under Section 2384 of the US Code which states:
"If two or more persons in any State or Territory, or in any place subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, conspire to overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States, or to levy war against them, or to oppose by force the authority thereof, or by force to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States, or by force to seize,take, or possess any property of the United States contrary to the authority thereof, they shall each be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both."
So far, the federal government has wisely avoided prosecuting Trump.  Why?  Because he is performing an incalculable service to the nation!  Democrats and Republicans who had been fighting each other tooth and nail finally have something they can agree upon:  Donald Trump is a blithering idiot!!  True, it's an extremely small and insignificant place to start, but it's a start.  Thanks, Don.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Say "Hello" to Logan Matthew Mullen!

Logan Matthew Mullen

Congratulations to Bridget Mullen on the birth of her son, Logan Matthew, on September 24, 2012.  Logan weighed in at 7 pounds, 4 ounces and  was 19.5 inches at birth.  Bridget wasted no time getting Logan into the swing of things, bringing him to a Family party at my house in Cranbury, NJ, on October 20th. 

Generation 9 of the Family Tree is starting to fill out nicely!  Welcome, Logan!

The Electoral College

As a result of Hurricane Sandy, the entire state of New Jersey postponed the celebration of Halloween until Monday, November 5th.  Once Halloween is safely behind us, though, we'll head to the polling booths for a truly scary event -- the election of the next President of the United States, the "leader of the free world"!   Why is it so scary?  For your consideration:  The Electoral College.

The Electoral College was created by Article 2, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution and was refined in 1804 by the 12th Amendment.  Together, they describe the following method used in the United States to select our President and Vice President:
  • Each state is allowed to appoint a number of Electors that equals the number of its Senators (two per state) plus the number of its Representatives (depends upon the state's population).  As such, New Jersey has 14 Electors (2 + 12) while Wyoming only has 3 (2 + 1). 
  • Each candidate running for President has his or her own group of Electors in each state.  In most cases, these Electors are chosen by the candidate’s political party, but the exact selection process and responsibilities of Electors could vary from state to state.
  • For each state, the Electors representing the candidate that won the popular vote in their state meet on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December after the presidential election to cast their votes for President and Vice President.  Technically, the next President of the United States won't officially be elected until the Electoral College cast their ballots on December 17, 2012. 
That's all there is to it.  Pretty simple, huh?  Not really.

To begin with, there are no Constitutional provisions or Federal laws describing how Electors are to be appointed or whether or not they must vote according to the results of their statewide popular vote.  While most states expect Electors to vote for the candidate that wins the statewide popular vote, only about half of the states actually require it.  Also, most states have a "winner take all" philosophy, whereby all Electoral votes go to the candidate that wins their statewide popular vote.  But two states (Maine and Nebraska) allow their Electoral votes to be divided among the candidates.  Other states are considering similar options.

Also, it is easily possible for a candidate to gain a majority of Electoral votes (and thus be elected President) while losing the popular vote.  That's exactly what happened in the 2000 election when Al Gore won the popular vote by 543,895 votes but George W. Bush won the Electoral College by a count of 271-266.  Indeed, as shown in the table below, it is theoretically possible for the winner of the 2012 Presidential election to garner less than 28% of the popular vote!   

A highly unlikely scenario, I admit, but a statistical possibility.

One last Electoral College quirk. As stipulated in the Constitution, in the event of an exact tie in the Electoral College (i.e.:  each candidate receiving 269 votes), the House of Representatives elects the President while the Senate elects the Vice President.  Should this happen in 2012, the House (controlled by the Republicans) would almost certainly elect Mitt Romney as President while the Senate could very well elect Joe Biden as his Vice President!   Who says the Founding Fathers didn't have a sense of humor?