16 December, 2012

MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR - The Beatles (1967/2012)

Before The Beatles Anthology, the definitive Beatles video documentary was The Compleat Beatles.  On Magical Mystery Tour, the narration states, “The idea was to travel the English countryside in a bus filled with friends, actors and circus freaks, and to film whatever happened.  Unfortunately, nothing did.”  That pretty much sums it up. 

Magical Mystery Tour is not as bad as you may have heard, but it comes close.  It combines vignettes directed by the Beatles individually, with scenes of everyone on the bus having a day out.  As such, it’s half film school project and half gonzo Carry-On film.  It may have sparked a young Spielberg’s interest, but that doesn’t make it any more entertaining or understandable.

To say it doesn’t make any sense is to miss the point, which is that there is no point and it’s not supposed to make sense.  The main problem is that it just doesn’t flow.  And what is so frustrating about the film is that it’s so easy to see how they could have made it work.  The idea of the four (or five) magicians keeping an eye on everything could easily have been used to explain everything that was going on, but as with most of the scenes, it ends up going nowhere. 

The music is the redeeming feature.  Paul is right to say that it’s the only time you can see John Lennon performing I Am the Walrus and that alone makes it worth watching, and the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band performing Death Cab for Cutie is pretty good too. 

Although this is the first officially sanctioned release, there have been many bargain-bin editions of Magical Mystery Tour over the years and an old copy shows what an excellent job they have done of the restoration.   The film looks beautiful. The new surround mix is effective but not intrusive.

On the extras side, there’s a commentary from Paul which has flashes of insight among a lot of things we’ve heard before.  There’s the obligatory making-of documentary and a new interview with Ringo as he watches some outtakes.  Two unused scenes are included – Nat’s Dream, which would have worked very well in the film, and Ivor Cutler’s ‘I’m Going in a Field’ which is just baffling.  There’s also a previously unreleased clip for Hello Goodbye, some songs from the film re-cut from outtakes and Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush by Traffic.

Highlight:  I Am the Walrus
Feature:  * * 
Extras: * * * * *
Audio:  Dolby Stereo, Dolby 5.1, DTS

Generic el-cheapo copy

2012 Restoration

15 December, 2012

HELP! - The Beatles (1965/2007)

So this is the famous Help! eh?

The Beatles’ second film was never going to be able to follow the same formula as the first.  This time, a story (of sorts) was needed and was actually confected around all the places the Beatles wanted to visit for locations.  So what we have is Clang, the leader of an eastern death cult about to perform a human sacrifice when it is pointed out to him that the victim is not wearing the sacrificial ring.  The ring – wouldn’t you know it – is on Ringo’s right hand.  Somehow, the cult knows this and tracks him down to find that the ring isn’t coming off.  The Beatles’ own efforts to remove the ring lead them to a mad scientist who decides, for no reason other than that he’s mad, that the ring will allow him to rule the world.  His own attempts to obtain the ring clash with Clang’s and mayhem, as was the fashion, ensues.  Meanwhile, Clang’s offsider Ahme turns good and tries to help the Beatles escape both sets of pursuers. 

The big problem is that underpinning this whole premise is a big dollop of casual racism and it would be drawing a pretty long bow to suggest that the film is satirising such attitudes.  The best you can say is that things were different back then, but it’s not saying much.

Then again, it was as a result of filming Help! that George was introduced to Indian music, which became a lifelong passion. His work to promote it led to international recognition and greater understanding so the film probably did far more good than harm.  It’s a paradox of cultural sensitivity. 

The musical numbers have even less relevance to the film than they did in A Hard Day’s Night, but it scarcely matters.  In fact, they all make great video clips.  Richard Lester directs again and as with A Hard Day’s Night, the film is peppered with clever camera angles and slightly subversive humour.  The wonderful Leo McKern is wasted on the one-dimensional character of Clang, but he plays it with such gusto that it raises the part above its cartoon nature.  Indeed, it’s the great performances from the supporting cast, which also includes Eleanor Bron, Victor Spinetti and Roy Kinnear, that saves the film from just being unutterably silly.  The natural humour of the Beatles themselves is a given but on the whole, Help! the film is inessential. 

The DVD looks and sounds great.  You will need a DTS decoder if you want the surround mix because they haven’t included a Dolby stream.  The second disc has an hour of short documentaries and interviews about the making of the film and the painstaking restoration, as well as some trailers.  There are radio ads hidden in the menus of both discs. 

Highlight:  You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away
Feature:  * * *
Extras:  * * *
Audio:  LPCM Stereo, DTS 5.1

14 December, 2012

The Rules: Merry Christmas

If you ever say “Merry Christmas” as an act of belligerence, and not a message of good cheer, then you don’t get Christmas.

13 December, 2012

An open letter to Paul McCartney

Dear Paul,

You have been a hero to me since I was 13 and I love you like an uncle.  I've defended your honour and your importance on numerous occasions, but dear God, man!

There is a time and a place to express the kind of sentiments contained (however ironically or not) in your song Live and Let Die, and a concert to benefit survivors of a disaster and the families of those who didn't survive IS. NOT. IT!!!

You've beaten the Rolling Stones for the tin-ear award after they sang about crossfire hurricanes.  If you absolutely have to let off fireworks (not the most sensitive thing you can do in such a show either, but still not the most insensitive), then the climax of Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five would have done nicely.

Yeah, I know.  Everyone's a critic, but do you have to make it so bloody easy for them and so hard for us?


A HARD DAY'S NIGHT – The Beatles (1964/2002)

The first really good thing about A Hard Day's Night is there mere fact that it isn't horrendously bad. The Beatles may have been streets ahead of their contemporaries musically, but there was no guarantee that it would translate into film where they would have far less control over how they were presented. And from Summer Holiday to Fun in Acapulco, from Spiceworld to Glitter, pop-star exploitation movies are generally pretty awful. And it would have been so easy for the studio to dull the Beatles' sharp wit so A Hard Day's Night scores highly just for not being that awful.

The Beatles were smart enough to get people who understood and shared their sense of humour. Director Richard Lester was chosen mainly because of his work with the Goons. It's easy to forget that Milligan,Sellers and Secombe were just as important in influencing the Beatles as Presley, Berry or Holly were. Alun Owen's screenplay is also very sympathetic to the Beatles' own style, and even includes a sequence where they reprise some of their best interview moments, like John's “Turn left at Greenland,” quip. For the most part, they just let the Beatles be the Beatles, which is the best thing they could have done.

The plot is a simple day-in-the-life scenario which allows for plenty of adventures and bursts into song without ever appearing too contrived. The running joke of Paul's grandfather (Wilfred Brambell) being a very “clean” old man is probably a reference to his most famous character, Albert Steptoe, who is regularly chided by son Harold for being a “dirty, dirty man.” It could also be to try and distract from the fact he's playing roughly the same character – someone trying to spoil it all for everyone else.

A Hard Day's Night takes what has always been a banal form and raises it to what it really ought to be – a great bit of afternoon entertainment, even for non-Beatles fans, and throws in some quite creative camera work too.

The audio is listed as stereo but when you put it in your player, it will read as 5.1. They have placed all the film dialogue in the centre channel, as per the original mono, but all the songs are in stereo. I can see the sense in that, but the transition from one to the other can be annoying at times.

As far as extras go, too much of a good thing. There is the standard documentary/retrospective on disc one, but disc two gives us interviews with almost every living person involved with the film and it's far more than necessary, especially when we already heard the most important parts in the doco.

Highlight: If I Fell
Feature: * * * * *
Extras: * * ½
Audio: Dolby 5.1 (sort of)

12 December, 2012

LIVE KISSES - Paul McCartney (2012)

Let’s get a couple of things out of the way first:  If you’re the kind of music fan who would prefer Paul McCartney to just keep belting out Get Back and Band on the Run for the rest of his life, then keep walking - there’s nothing for you here.  Likewise, if you don’t think it ever got better than Bing Crosby or Frank Sinatra, then you’re going to find little to love in this show.  If your tastes allow for some exploration, then read on.

Doing and album and/or show of old standards has become almost as much a rock cliché as stint in rehab.  Over the years, the quality of such albums has ranged from the sublime (Harry Nilsson’s A Little Touch of Schmilsson in the Night) to the ridiculous (Robbie Williams’ Swing When You’re Winning).  The fact is that any idiot can buy a hat, hire a decent arranger and sing into a microphone once used by Sinatra.  So why should we follow Macca down this well-worn path?

Well, there are a few good reasons.  Firstly, McCartney is old enough to remember some of these songs when they were current, and to have sung them around the family Joanna so his interest in these tunes has not been confected from a lot of received wisdom.  He has also revealed an ongoing fondness for the style since the early days of the Beatles, from covers of ’Til There Was You and A Taste of Honey, through When I’m Sixty Four and Honey Pie to Warm and Beautiful and Baby’s Request with Wings, he’s already done plenty of dabbling in the genre.  Thirdly, as one of the people who made Abbey Road “da place,” he has no need for the reflected glory of working at Capitol Studios in Hollywood.

He’s also well aware of how many artists have done this before and has taken pains to set this collection apart from them by choosing lesser known songs and going for quiet, subtle versions of the songs where many before him - including some of the originals – preferred to go for bombast.  It’s this approach that makes Kisses on the Bottom and this companion DVD more than just the obligatory standards album. 

The film intersperses the songs with interviews discussing the making of the album and the show.  On a regular concert film this would be a pain but on this one it works fine.  This is mainly because Live Kisses isn’t so much a concert as a live run through of some songs.  As always with a McCartney show, he shares a great camaraderie with the band, led by Diana Krall and featuring Joe Walsh sitting in on Eric Clapton’s parts.  This is another departure from similar albums, where there could be a bit of a master/servant relationship between singer and players.

What really makes this a unique McCartney performance is that for once, it’s entirely about Paul the singer.  Although everyone knows he has one of the greatest voices of the last half-century, that fact has always been parallel to his talents as songwriter, composer, multi-instrumentalist and producer.  And with every song, you can tell he’s chosen it because part of it speaks to him.  This is not a case of the singer putting on an act.  He does present his own interpretations of the songs but never do they deviate from the song’s original meaning.  It’s been said that Paul’s voice is not what it used to be.  Two points on that topic: Firstly, duh!  The man is 70 years old.  You should sound as good at that age.  Secondly, while his voice is considerably weaker than it was in 1967, it does lend itself very well to his intention of bringing out the vulnerability in the songs.  This is not an album he could have made when he was 30.  

The arrangements occasionally veer a little too close to hotel lobby music but for the most part, they are tasteful and understated, neither being too reverential to the originals, nor interpreting them within an inch of their lives.  The one place it doesn’t quite work is on Bye Bye Blackbird which almost becomes a dirge.  They do, however, almost manage to redeem The Glory of Love for me after Beaches pretty well ruined it. 

Most of the film is presented in black and white with a slightly harsh contrast that is less 1940s film and more like early 1960s television.  It suits the music very well though.  One rather annoying aspect is lots of jump cuts early in the piece.  In a show like this, a shot should last for at least one bar of music. 

There’s no denying this DVD has a pretty limited market.  You couldn’t even call it a fans-only release because there will be thousands of fans who will hate him for not making a proper rock album, whatever that means.  There will be others who laud it purely for being McCartney with no other reason.  This show can only be judged for what it is and McCartney, Diana Krall and producer Tommy LiPuma have managed to create a set that strikes the right balance of familiarity and originality, authenticity and playfulness.  If you don’t like it, then you don’t like it, but it’s better than you think.

Highlight: More I Cannot Wish You
Feature:  * * * *

05 December, 2012

For anyone who is confused…

The so-called ‘fiscal cliff’ is all about self-awareness and motivation.

Simply put, some people who cannot work together responsibly have recognised the fact that they can’t work together responsibly and have therefore agreed to do something quite irresponsible if they haven’t managed to work together responsibly by a certain arbitrary date.

Shut up!  It makes perfect sense!

15 November, 2012

And in the end…

Yes, I know this is late. I could have written most of this quite a few weeks ago.  I didn’t because, to be honest, I was worried.  I was fairly confident Obama would scrape through, but I did think it would be more of a scrape than it eventually was.

I’ve taken an interest in US politics and the political system for over twenty years now and have been arguing about it on the internet for just on twelve.  In that time, things have pretty well come full circle.

It’s easy to say now, but I always saw the 2012 election as a rerun of the 2004 election.  There were many – myself included – who felt that anyone would have been better than Bush in 2004.  John Kerry was anyone and as far as people who aren’t George W Bush go, John Kerry was certainly one of them.  But, as I said on message boards in 2004, it was going to take more than simply not being Bush to make people vote for you.  I saw the same thing happening this year.

After four years of whipping up hatred for Obama, the Republican party thought they could win simply by not being Obama.  They were so confident of this, that they figured that their base would even vote for a rich, boring, French-speaking, flip-flopping Massachusetts moderate who created the model for universal public health cover before he was against it, just because he wasn’t Obama, and that those who voted for Obama in 2008 and were disappointed would come out for Romney too.  It’s not that Romney was the wrong choice for the Republicans.  Of all those who ran in the primary, Romney was clearly the least crazy choice.  The problem was that he changed his policies by the day and sometimes by the hour.

As I wrote during the primaries, anyone can change, anyone can adapt, and changing your mind according to new information or prevailing conditions should be seen as a strength, not a weakness.  It’s just that Romney changed positions according to who he was talking to at the time.  He might as well have just quoted Groucho Marx and said, “These are my principles and if you don’t like them, I have others.”  That’s going to lead even those who want to support you to view you with mistrust.  I consider myself reasonably adept at reading between the lines of political rhetoric and spotting coded messages.  But in all honesty, I have absolutely no idea what Romney would have done had he won.  No matter what he might have done in office, his supporters would be able to point to a time when he said he would and his opponents would be able to point to a time when he said he wouldn’t.  He became a policy Kama Sutra.

As with 2004, the losing side is pointing out that the popular vote was tighter than the electoral college result might indicate.  These are the same people who say that the popular vote is irrelevant when the college goes their way.  The right wing’s abandonment of all they hold dear so long as it works for them was neatly summarised in a tweet from Donald Trump:

For once, he’s right.  The electoral college is a gross distortion of the actual vote.  And there’s no need to lecture me on why the electoral college is the way it is.  That made sense in its day but not any more.  It’s not for me to say, but what the founders originally designed does not need to be set in stone.  The founders were very modern thinking people.  It’s not unreasonable to theorise that Thomas Jefferson would be horrified that in the age of cable television, 24-hour news cycles and high speed internet that fits in your pocket, America still clings to an electoral system that was designed for a time when information travelled at the speed of a healthy horse.

And as with 2004, this election is seen as a vindication for the incumbent.  I remember the hubris of Republicans following Bush’s re-election and in the spirit that they set eight years ago, I struggle to find a good reason why people shouldn’t say to the teabaggers, the birthers, the conspiracy theorists, the super-PACs and naturally Fox News, “SUCK IT, LOSERS!”
The only reason I can think of is that we are supposed to be raising the tone, but when setting a good example doesn’t work – and it clearly hasn’t – I find a nice big dose of their own medicine is at least cathartic and might even teach them something.

It’s really hard not to laugh, especially at the party of personal responsibility looking for someone to blame.  Most people on all sides agree that Hurricane Sandy was a turning point in the campaign, although they differ on why it was so, and my theory is different to most of them.

Just as an aside before we go on: I don’t like to seem like I’m trivialising something that affected millions of people, but a “superstorm” is not a thing, okay?  We already have words to describe the magnitude and impact of storms.  It’s not something different just because it happened to New York.

People say that Sandy stole the momentum of the Romney campaign as the news turned to aftermath of the storm and that he never had a chance to get it back.  I disagree.  I think the storm gave people pause to consider what Republican doctrine would really mean in such an event.  The Obama campaign quickly highlighted Romney’s comment that disaster relief should be left to the states and ideally, handled by the private sector.  As Mugsy wrote at Crooks and Liars, Hurricane Sandy was a golden opportunity for Republicans and their backers to show how well the private sector could take care of things.  But did you see Halliburton or Bain Capital swinging into action to help survivors and restore order?  Did you fuck!  Instead, we saw a Romney campaign event collecting canned food.  And even that may have been faked depending on who you believe.  But fake or not, it again showed what a tin ear Romney and his campaign had for the way real people live.  They decided they had to do something and so they picked something and did it without any regard for whether it might have been any use to people.  Every disaster is different.  Sometimes people need food.  Sometimes they need toothbrushes and clean underwear.  Sometimes they need reading glasses.  Sometimes they need to be able to do their laundry and Tide Loads of Hope is an excellent example of private philanthropy doing something useful and needed in areas affected by disasters.  If the Romney campaign were smart, they could have used this as an example, but they’re not and they didn’t.  As it turned out, in New York, what people really needed was somewhere to recharge their smart-phones.  This may well be the epitome of first world problems, but it was what people needed at the time.

It’s folly to say that every state should have its own separate disaster management system when it would be such a wasteful duplication of processes.  FEMA has its flaws, but they have seen it all.  As I alluded to earlier, the storm that hit the north-east US may have been a freak occurrence in that particular area but it’s something that people between Florida and Texas go through every year.  It makes sense to use their experience and expertise.

When I was watching news about the approach of Tropical Storm Isaac with my dearest in August, veteran New Orleans weathercaster Bob Breck had this to say about evacuation (and I am quoting from memory): “My wife has evacuated because we’re both getting on a bit and she doesn’t like to be without air conditioning.  But if you’re young and fit and you don’t mind being without power for a few days, then just stock up on supplies and enjoy the adventure.”
That’s the kind of cool headed experience New York could have used and that everyone needs when they’re scared and unsure of what to do.  Likewise, in the unlikely event that an earthquake hit the gulf coast, they could deal with it all locally, or they could get on the ’phone to California and say, “You know about this kind of stuff, what do you recommend?”

Do we really think anyone on the Jersey shore gave a toss about states’ rights or federal overreach in the aftermath of the storm?  I suspect their thoughts were more along the lines of “screw Reagan, what we really need is someone to come and say, ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’”  I think a lot of other people across the US had similar thoughts about what the stated positions of Republicans would really mean in such an event and mercifully, those thoughts were still fresh in their minds when they voted.  Those who choose to see storms as messages from God should ponder this.

24 October, 2012

Mass debating 2

I was at work when the third debate was on, but if I had live ’blogged it, this it roughly how it would have looked.  The debate was nominally about foreign policy, and being a foreigner, I guess that means I’m qualified to comment as two Americans try to decide what’s going to happen in a dozen or so other countries.  That’s a weird definition of democracy, but what can you do?

Romney:  “Terrorists of some kind.”  Nice specifics there, Mitt.

Romney:  “We can't just kill our way out of this mess.”  Good point.  When are you going to tell the Republican party about this?

Obama:  “Al Qaeda's core leadership has been decimated.”  Decimation isn’t enough Barack, and I don’t think that’s what you meant.  Decimation literally means reducing by ten percent (deci – get it?) and originates from a particularly brutal way that the Romans dealt with underperforming centuries.  The word should not be used to mean devastated.

Romney:  “Go after the bad guys.” It's not a movie, Mitt.

It really is about time someone cracked down on those pesky Russians.  ROMNEY ’84!

Romney:  “Attacking me is not an agenda.”  Another very good point, rendered utterly hypocritical coming from the man who has used attacking Obama as a substitute for an agenda for his entire campaign.

How can we help the Muslim world?  Excellent question!
How about treating them like adults who don't need Uncle Sam's help for everything? You’re not going to get cooperation from people by taking away their self-respect.  Then there's the whole freedom thing.

Obama:  “Syrians are going to have to decide their own future.”  That’s the attitude Republicans want to paint as weakness.  Because they love freedom, don’tcha know!

And, to the awkward moment when Mitt Romney seems to think that Iran is a landlocked nation.
There have already been dozens of memes based on this ridiculous gaffe from Romney, which is probably the worst ignorance of geography since Sarah Palin decided that Vladimir Putin must fly over Alaska while travelling from Moscow to New York.  However, it might be worth having a look at a real map.
Google Maps
Russia has always wanted a “warm water port,” and pretty clear that Iran is their best option for that.  This could explain Russia’s friendliness towards Iran and actually goes some way to backing up Romney’s assertion that Russia is not to be trusted.  That’s why it’s called geo-politics.  If Romney had half a clue about what he was talking about, he might have been able to make a point of this.  Instead he said they need to get to the seas via Syria even though they don’t even share a border.
Fox news are reporting that geography has a liberal bias.

Romney:  “When Ahmadinejad says our debt means we're not a great country, that's a frightening thing.”  Really?  Why?  Are you going to have a cry because the crazy man said something mean about you?  Grow up!
Right America, you’re going to have to reduce your debt because Ahmadinejad says so.  Because he’s important.

Romney:  “Our military is second to none.”  Fine.  What’s your problem then?

Shieffer:  “What is America’s role in the world?”  To fill the gap between Canada and Mexico?

Romney:  “When there are elections, people tend to vote for peace.”  Um, Mitt... check your history. The real stuff.

Obama:  “He (Romney)’s praised George Bush as a good economic steward and Dick Cheney as somebody who's -- who shows great wisdom and judgment.”  That’s gotta hurt.

Romney: “He (Obama) promised unemployment would be at 5.4%.”  Yes, and Donald Rumsfeld said the war in Iraq would take less than six months.  No-one seemed too bothered about that.  Republicans suddenly have a taste for arbitrary end dates.  I wonder what changed.

Romney: “On day one…” DRINK! I'm less bothered about the first day as the possibility of the next 1460.

Romney takes credit for balancing the Olympics budget. Fails to mention they got a government bailout.
Takes credit for balancing the state budget. Fails to mention state budgets are legally required to be balanced.

Romney wants to be able to fight a war on two fronts.  Because that always works.

Obama:  “Israel is our greatest ally in the region.”  Hardly a high bar.

Expanding sanctions?  No problem.  With you on that one.
Words amount to genocide?  No.  Just...  NO!  What were you thinking?  For a start, it cheapens the charge of actual genocide and I kind of suspect the Hague has better things to deal with than behaviour that’s comparable with that of most talk radio blowhards.

Look, nuclear weapons exist. If you have them, others are going to want them, especially if you threaten them. You can't just say “We can have them but you can't.”

“Apology tour.” Just pathetic.  Yes, talking to people shows weakness.  Because not talking to people always makes them do what you want.  Is that all you’ve got?

So, the middle east in tumult. Well you know, there was a fair bit of “tumult” in America a couple of hundred years ago but they came out of it as the United States.  Sometimes freedom isn't easily won.  Nobody held America's hand as they fought for independence.  See earlier comment about self-respect.

Holy crap! Shieffer stopped Romney from talking over him. How the hell did that happen?
Waaah!  Mom!  He’s biassssed!

Romney is right that "divorcing" Pakistan would be disastrous. Classic US mistake is cutting allies loose when they're no longer useful. See Afghanistan, Iraq, bin Laden...

Romney:  “If I'm president, America will be very strong.”  Um... because why?

Romney seems to think that manipulating markets is bad.  Where was he in 2008 when Wall Street’s house of cards came tumbling down?  Better still, where was he before it happened?

Romney:  “I like American cars.”  DRINK!  Mitt, stop telling us everything you like.  You're running for president, not speed dating.

Finally, where are these 12 million jobs coming from?  Republicans like to quote Reagan saying that there are no works that spark more fear than, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”  Well, I’m not much more enthused by, “I’m not saying how but trust me, I know how to do that.”
I’m a teacher.  Saying, “I know how to do that,” isn’t enough.  You have to show that you do.

22 October, 2012

Things that confuse me

I’m probably a fairly simple person really.  When Republicans say something, I like to figure they’re sincere about it and if it doesn’t gel with other things they say, that means there must be something I am missing.

For example,
I have been seeing Republicans blaming the president for high prices.  But I thought that according to Republican doctrine, prices are set by the free market according to the laws of supply and demand and that this is sacrosanct and must not be interfered with.  It would seem that some Republicans want Big Government to make the prices lower for them.  I can’t say I blame them, but I thought that was socialism and that that’s a bad thing.
It’s very confusing.

Here’s another thing that confuses me:
According to Republicans, when four Americans are killed in Libya by Libyans, that’s all the president’s fault.  Yet, when there are several mass shooting per year and dozens of individual shootings every week of Americans by Americans in America, there’s nothing the government can or should do about that because freedom.
What am I missing here?

Tomorrow, the two top candidates for president of the United States will argue over what each of them would do about Libya, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, China, Russia and Europe.  Yet, if I say anything about it, I’ll be told I don’t count because I’m not American and what’s it to me anyway?

The alternative reality of US politics is very, very confusing.

12 October, 2012

The Rules: Lying

If Side A accuses Side B of lying – especially when the accusations are specified, the best thing that Side B can do is show that they’re not lying.

I know that this isn’t usually how the onus of proof works.  It’s not incumbent upon the accused to prove their innocence, but if the truth is on your side, why not use it?  What better way to make the accuser look utterly foolish?

If Side B won’t do that, then they look like liars.  If they can’t do it, then they are liars.  If all they can do is complain about how unsporting it is that someone said they lied, it really doesn’t look good.

05 October, 2012

Mass Debating

I am starting to think that presidential debates are second only to the state of the union address when it comes to pointless political theatre.  To quote my brother in law, the president could fulfil that particular constitutional mandate by buying Congress a recurring subscription to the Washington Post and be done with it.  Similarly, with these debates, it’s become all about the theatre.  While it’s good to have the candidates face each other directly like this, it seems more people today are interested in where each candidate was looking when the other was speaking.  Fifty-two years after Kennedy/Nixon, it seems we’ve learnt nothing.

The thing I hate most about these debates is the fact that everyone wants to declare a winner.  The primary purpose of a debate should be to explore ideas, not to beat the other guy.  Mitt Romney certainly went into it with nothing to lose.  If he could get through the night without insulting half the population or accidentally bragging about how fabulously wealthy he is, then it was always going to be chalked up as a win for him.  Did Obama look tired?  Of course he looked tired.  He’s had a country to run for the last four years.  Show me any president who didn’t age a decade in his first term.  That’s the kind of job it is.  What has Romney done in that time other than run for president?  Having said that, Obama clearly let multiple opportunities for rebuttal go begging and it’s hard to imagine why.

The conventional wisdom certainly has it right on the standard of moderation.  I’ve never seen Jim Lehrer so weak and ineffectual.  The questions were high school stuff.  “What would you say the difference is between the two of you on _____?”  That means each candidate has to characterise his opponent’s policies, which is just asking for derp.  I had to chuckle when Romney said Obama was misrepresenting his tax policy.  Aside from whether he was or wasn’t, that’s a bit rich coming from someone whose own campaign has said they won’t be dictated to by fact checkers.  Without making any comment on Obama’s description of the policy, if you’re going to go post-factual, you have to go all the way.

If you knew nothing else about Mitt Romney you would say he presented well in the debate.  The problem is, we do know other things about Mitt Romney.  We know he changes his story according to who he’s speaking to.  He goes to Michigan and says he likes cars.  He goes to Mississippi and says he likes “cheesy grits.”  I’m not saying the two are mutually exclusive but I’ll lay odds that even I’ve had cheese grits more often than Mitt Romney has.  So the question is not so much what Mitt Romney said last night, but how it squares with what he has said previously, what he may say tomorrow and which one we ought to believe.

I think the most telling moment in the debate came from one of the segments they replayed on the news a lot, but not for the same reason they replayed it.
Mitt Romney said:
I just don't know how the president could have come into office, facing 23 million people out of work, rising unemployment, an economic crisis at the -- at the kitchen table, and spend his energy and passion for two years fighting for Obamacare instead of fighting for jobs for the American people. 
A couple of things first:  I think we all know how he came to office facing 23 million people out of work, rising unemployment and an economic crisis.  They all came from the policies of the administration that Republicans dare not name, yet whose economic policies they want to return to.  Secondly, since millions of Americans are dependent on their employers to provide their health insurance, high unemployment is actually a pretty important reason to prioritise health care.  But neither of those things really highlights how disturbing this comment from Romney really was.

For those with short memories, a major plank of Obama’s platform in the 2008 campaign was to reform the health system and bring coverage to millions who didn’t have it.  The policy may have been watered down, no thanks to obstructionist Republicans and gutless Democrats (by the way, can someone please explain to Republicans that “bipartisan” does not mean Democrats shut up and do whatever Republicans want?), but regardless of whether you agree with the policy or not, Obama spent his energy and passion fighting for health policy reform because he said he would!  Perhaps Obama is old fashioned enough to think that when you take a policy to an election, win that election and receive a mandate, then you should enact the policy.

By his own words, Mitt Romney doesn’t seem to understand that.  He doesn’t seem to make the connection between election promises and what you do in office.  This should ring alarm bells for anyone considering voting for Romney.

And yes, Obama should have said that too.

29 September, 2012

It's over.  The shark has been jumped.  Move on.

The more intellectual reason is at Things I Want to Punch in the Face.

23 September, 2012


Microsoft to sue Apple for trademark infringements

Lawyers for the Redmond company claim that creating their own version of a perfectly good program, forcing people to switch to it and releasing it before it's ready are universally recognised as part of the Microsoft brand and that Apple has clearly breached those trademarks with the inclusion of Apple maps in its iOS6 release.

More information as it comes to hand...


07 September, 2012

Your call may be recorded…

I had yet another one of those spam ’phone calls this afternoon saying, “We have found a problem with your Windows computer.”  Since I had some time on my hands, I decided to have some fun with him.

It’s not the first time I’ve strung one of them along like this, but it’s the first time I’ve recorded it, inspired by Danie and Mark’s experience HERE.

My reasons for doing this are a little deeper than just trying to troll a scammer for fun.  Being an IT tutor, I’m asked about these scams regularly so I was interested to know the specific nature of the scam.  So I started off playing innocent and going along with all his instructions.  The number he quotes at about 8:12 will appear on just about any Windows Vista computer.  I switched gears about half way through and tried my best to make it clear to him that I knew it was a complete con, but he didn’t take the hint.

Most of these callers are very insistent that they are giving you good advice, and “Charlie’s” exasperation with me at 25:38 suggests that these callers may be trained to believe what they are saying.  At that point, I completely drop the act and make it clear to him that under no circumstances will I install the remote access software he wants me to install.  I don’t know what their intentions would have been if I had installed it, but if a stranger wants remote access to your computer, you know they’re up to no good.

I don’t expect anyone to suffer through the whole 35 minutes of this, but if you’ve ever wondered what their act is, this will give you an idea.

I would also like to make it clear that I was not doing this just for the sake of tormenting the person on the other end of the ’phone.  As I say to him at the end of the call, I understand that everyone needs to make a living and that I don’t take or intend any of this personally.  In fact, I am planning a future post on how to make help-desk calls easier for both sides.  Mind you, when someone has called you out on the scam, attack is not the best form of defence.

I had to go out after that, but they actually called back an hour later.  This time, my dearest took the call and she has a different, and completely true, method of dealing with them.

 - We have detected a problem with your Windows computer.
“Really?  I use a Mac.”
 - Are you not using a Windows computer?
“What part of ‘I use a Mac,’ did you not understand?”
 - beep… beep... beep...

05 September, 2012

The Best of the Best-ofs: Mike Oldfield

There are some who would unkindly argue that the best of Mike Oldfield is his first album. They are completely wrong of course, but with the release of yet another Oldfield compilation, is it bringing anything that the others haven’t?  Actually, yes.

The Complete Mike Oldfield - 1985
The first serious Mike Oldfield retrospective quite sensibly divided the double album into four sections (they might even have been called ‘sides’ in those days): The Instrumental Section, The Vocal Section, The Complex Section and The Live Section.  The first part collects most of Oldfield’s best known shorts pieces, many of which had not been available on album until this release, such as Blue Peter and Portsmouth.  The vocal section includes most of the conventional songs released as singles up until that point.  The third section contains excerpts from Oldfield’s early albums and sensibly, these excerpts are from the “finale” sections of Tubular Bells part one, Hergest Ridge part one, Ommadawn part one and Incantations part four.  The Live section includes a complete performance of Platinum and none of tracks on this side are available elsewhere.

For:  Excellent selections, well sequenced, four live tracks unavailable elsewhere.
Against:  Not exactly complete any more.

Elements: The Best of Mike Oldfield - 1993
This single-disc collection focuses mainly on Oldfield’s short pieces, with eight conventional pop songs and only four excerpts from complex pieces. The excerpt from Tubular Bells is the opening theme and fades out after four minutes before jumping ahead to Family Man.  It’s the same situation with Ommadawn, but the excerpt from Incantations is the same as on The Complete Mike Oldfield.  In fact, the excerpt from Incantations is the same on every Oldfield compilation.  This collection also scores points for including the 12” version of Shadow on the Wall.

Tracks deemed worthy of inclusion since the last collection are Heaven’s Open, Islands and an excerpt from Amarok – the section that has become known as ‘Africa one.’  The single restructure version of Sentinel is also included, licenced from Warner presumably, since this collection released on Virgin after Oldfield’s departure.  

There seems to be no logic to the sequencing of the tracks.  There are moments of consistency in the first half, but elsewhere it jumps around all over the place.
A four-disc box set (see below) of Elements was also released at the same time.

For:  Extended version of Shadow on the Wall.
Against:  There are far better options.

XXV: The Essential Mike Oldfield - 1997
The Essential goes in the opposite direction to Elements, focussing mainly on Oldfield’s more complex work.  The only conventional song on this collection is Moonlight Shadow.  As such, the collection stays mostly true to its title.  Oldfield’s flirtations with 4-minute pop/rock songs in the 80s were perfectly competent and as good as any of his contemporaries, but they lacked the uniqueness of his long instrumental work and are therefore, slightly inessential.

The collection opens the same way as Elements with the same excerpt from the opening theme of Tubular Bells.  I regard this as a shortcoming since the finale section is far more important but really, who cares?  Tubular Bells is always the first Mike Oldfield album anyone buys so any excerpt is probably surplus to requirements anyway.  The excerpt from Hergest Ridge is a curious selection from the middle of Part one. Ommadawn is represented by the final section of Part one.  

The Warner years are well represented with the single edits of Sentinel and The Bell.  The latter features the dear departed Viv Stanshall reprising his role as MC (it was Alan Rickman, uncredited, on the album).  There are two pieces each from the underrated The Songs of Distant Earth and what was then Oldfield’s current (and rather dull) album Voyager.  

The album concludes with an excerpt from Tubular Bells III, which would be released the following year.  The track went on to become The Source of Secrets, but The Essential remains the only release to include this early version. 

For:  Good selections, rare versions of The Bell and The Source of Secrets.
Against:  Not the best excerpts from Tubular Bells and Hergest Ridge, mostly ignores the 80s.

The Platinum Collection - 2006
This 3-disc set really is a great collection.  It runs in roughly chronological order and has enough space to fairly represent Oldfield’s career.  There are two excerpts each from Tubular Bells and Ommadawn (the opening and finale sections of both) and for once, the excerpt from Hergest Ridge is the achingly beautiful opening section.  The first disc also finds space for an excerpt from the under-appreciated Platinum (appropriately enough), the curious selection of Woodhenge, also from the Platinum album, and the utterly ridiculous but hard to find Don Alfonso.

Discs 2 and 3 concern themselves mainly with singles, but a good number of them are extended versions and remixes that have never been available on CD before.  This makes The Platinum Collection the ideal compilation for fans who already have all the albums.

The downside is that, despite being a relatively recent release, this compilation has now been deleted and the only copies I’ve found online are going for ridiculous prices.  This was probably Virgin’s last hurrah with the Oldfield catalogue before the rights to the recordings reverted to the artist.  If you can find some old stock though, this is a great collection for newcomers and long-time fans alike.

For:  Great selections, lots of rare tracks.
Against: Out of print, hideously expensive.

The Collection - 2009
This is the smart way to do a Mike Oldfield collection – put Tubular Bells on the first disc and the rest on a second disc.  However, what’s included here on the second disc seems hastily slapped together and, for no apparent reason, stops at 1984.

Most of the usual suspects are here.  The excerpt from Ommadawn in the introduction section as appeared on Elements and the excerpt from Incantations is the same as on every other collection.  On the plus side, it includes the long version of Guilty and a lengthy excerpt from Taurus II, although it would have made more sense to place it before Five Miles Out since the latter reprises riffs that were first introduced in Taurus II.  

Other than that, The Complete Mike Oldfield is far better collection of the 1973-1984 period.  

For:  Available as a single disc or packaged with the remastered version of Tubular Bells, long version of Guilty.
Against:  Includes nothing after 1984.

Two Sides, The Very Best Of - 2012 
Despite all the above and below this is the first collection to be personally compiled by Mike Oldfield without any outside suggestions, and much is made of that in the promotion.  It’s also made very clear that Two Sides is a collection of what Oldfield considers to be his personal best work, without regard for commercial success or critical acclaim. This explains the inclusion of four tracks from The Millennium Bell, which Oldfield considers to be under-appreciated on both levels.  The two sides refer to Oldfield’s complex instrumental work and his songs.  They get a disc each on this double album.  

Naturally, Tubular Bells, Moonlight Shadow and Family Man are all here but beyond that, it is a very different collection to all the others.  The excerpt from Tubular Bells is the longest ever, starting at the beginning and eventually fading out at the 14-minute mark, during the blues guitar section.  There is the finale of Ommadawn and then we get a long excerpt from Crises and The Lake from Discovery.  There are two excerpts from Amarok, the opening five minutes, and then all three Africa sections which made up the final quarter of that album.  We get the complete version of Sentinel, not the ‘single restructure’ that appears on all the others, two pieces from The Songs of Distant Earth and the first disc concludes with The Tempest from Music of the Spheres.

The second disc begins predictably enough with the early 80s hits but the second half of disc 2 reveals the most about what Oldfield considers to be his best work of the late 90s and early 00s.  While no excerpt can do justice to Tubular Bells and Ommadawn, pieces like The Song of the Sun, Summit Day and Angelique end up sounding better when removed from the context of the relatively unremarkable albums they came from.  Quite surprisingly, there is nothing included from Tubular Bells III.

Both discs run in chronological order so as to reveal Oldfield’s musical evolution, rather than jumping around like many previous compilations.  The CD also contains a digital key to access additional content at www.mikeoldfieldofficial.com. The bonus content is a 15 minute interview with Oldfield discussion the compiling of the album.  It would have been better if they had made it freely available as promotion for the album.

For:  Newly remastered, career spanning, personally compiled by Mike Oldfield.
Against:  Leaves out some well known pieces.

If you had to choose one, choose…
Firstly, if you don’t own any Mike Oldfield music at all, then proceed immediately to your nearest purveyor of recorded music (or downloads, at a pinch) and buy Tubular Bells.  Right now!  GO!
If you’ve got that out of the way, this is actually a really hard one.  While a best-of is probably a sufficient representation of his more commercial phase in the 80s, in most ways, Mike Oldfield’s music defies anthology.  There is not a single bar from first sides of Tubular Bells, Hergest Ridge, Ommadawn or Tubular Bells II that could be considered expendable and the mad genius of Amarok can only be properly appreciated in its full sixty minute and one second insanity. 
If not for the fact that it’s ridiculously expensive, I would choose The Platinum Collection in a shot.  The Complete Mike Oldfield is still a great collection, albeit dated.  Between them, Elements and The Essential make a decent career overview, although the track listing is all over the place.  Two Sides is Oldfield’s personal best, but misses out on well-loved tracks like Portsmouth and Blue Peter.  Given the availability of the others, Two Sides might be the best place to start, with the qualification that it’s only a start and you really should consider following it up with the Classic Album Selection (see below)

Moonlight Shadow from The Complete Mike Oldfield
Moonlight Shadow from Elements
Moonlight Shadow from The Essential
Moonlight Shadow from The Platinum Collection
Note that this is a different mix. The unshaded area in the middle is the same as the album mix.
Moonlight Shadow from The Collection
Moonlight Shadow from Two Sides

See also,

Boxed - 1976
Box set of Tubular Bells, Hergest Ridge and Ommadawn, padded out with non-album tracks.  The original vinyl box had a fourth disc called Collaborations – the CD reissue padded the additional tracks across the other three discs. 
The most interesting aspect of this particular collection is that it uses the quadraphonic mixes of all the albums and the CD versions still feature the quad encoding.  This means that if you have a quad amplifier or digital quad decoder, you can hear the music in the original version of surround sound.

Music Wonderland - 1980
A rather cheap looking collection.  On tracklist alone, it’s a pretty good collection to end the 70s with.  Most of the well known non-album tracks are here, and it scores points for being the only non-boxed compilation to include the Sailor’s Hornpipe.  The extract from Tubular Bells is the finale section and it quite clearly a different mix to the album version.  Unfortunately, the sound across the whole album is thin and lacking in bass.  Still, an interesting collection if you can find it going cheap.

Elements, 4CD box - 1993
The first good thing about this collection is that it contains the complete, original Tubular Bells parts one and two.  The second good thing is that it is peppered with rare tracks Vivaldi Concerto in C, Argiers, First Excursion, Afghan, the single remix of (One Glance is) Holy, several otherwise unreleased live tracks and for no apparent reason, an instrumental version of Trick of the Light.  The third good thing about it is its recognition of underrated pieces like On Horseback, the Sailor’s Hornpipe (both as part of Tubular Bells, and as a standalone track), Taurus One and Crises.
Unfortunately, most of this was negated by its high price at the time and unavailability today.  If you can find a reasonably priced second hand copy, it’s great but not worth some of the prices being asked.

The Best of Tubular Bells - 2001
Mike Oldfield has occasionally expressed exasperation that some people think Tubular Bells is a group, but it’s hard to blame them when there are titles like this around.  By the late 90s, Oldfield and Virgin seemed to be competing with each other to trash the brand. 

It is an interesting and worthy idea to try and splice Tubular Bells part 1 together from the most interesting parts of the various released versions.  Sadly however, most bedroom DJs could have done a better job.  The edits and segues are jarring and the decision to leave out the section of part one between the blues guitars and the finale makes no sense.  The only place it really works is in the transition from the Caveman song to the live conclusion of part two.

The remainder of the collection contains most of the highlights from subsequent albums released under the Tubular Bells banner: Sentinel and The Bell from TBII, Far Above the Clouds from TBIII (I can’t understand why they didn’t include Secrets as well) and The Millennium Bell from the album of the same name.  While they may be the best sections from each, hearing all these finales in rapid succession is like watching the last 30 minutes of all three Godfather films one after the other. 
Skip this and get the real albums.

Collection - 2002
2-disc collection split into songs and instrumental pieces. Contains all the usual selections from the Virgin years.  The most interesting aspect is the inclusion of the complete Hergest Ridge part 1.

The Complete Tubular Bells - 2003
Represented as the complete trilogy, this is nothing like complete.  Tubular Bells 1 is represented by the 2003 re-recording.  There’s nothing wrong with that, but you can’t call it complete if it doesn’t include the original.  Then there’s the Orchestral Tubular Bells and several commercially released live versions, but since these were all owned by Virgin at the time, they’re not included.  Really, it’s the complete Warner collection of Tubular Bells, which is fine if you’re looking for all three of those particular albums.
Also includes a DVD which features the video clip for the single remix of Introduction and a teaser of the 5.1 mix of Tubular Bells 2003.

Classic Album Selection - 2012 
Box set of the single-disc editions of the first six albums, very reasonably priced.  If you’re looking to explore Mike Oldfield’s work beyond the records with the bent tube on the cover, this is an excellent place to start.


Disclosure: I do not own all of these albums, but I do own nearly all of Mike Oldfield’s music in one form or another which means I know what each album will be like without owning every one of them.

02 September, 2012

Cute bird picture of the month

Some visitors to next door's antenna.

31 August, 2012

Remember when...?

At the beginning of the year, I pondered which of their stated values the Republican party would throw away, or at least try to rationalise their way out of.  With Romney as the nominee, we are now hearing all those who would have opposed him in the primaries saying, “I had deep concerns about ____’s position on _____ and his history of ____ but now that I know more about him and heard that he believes _____, I know that he’s the right candidate.”
The script was already written, you just have to fill in the blanks and get the right people from central casting to say it.

Here’s my only question:

Sorry folks, but you can’t have it both ways.

25 August, 2012

Dear Randians,

If you really believe in social Darwinism and absolute individualism, then isn’t it time you admitted that if you’re not happy with your lot, then it’s nobody’s fault but your own?

By your own logic, blaming the government for your situation, or hoping another government will make it all better for you, is a complete cop-out.

21 August, 2012

The Rules: Respect

I know we should be well past being shocked or even surprised by the amount of self-absorbed stupidity that passes for analysis on Q and A, but sometimes some derp comes along that still has the power to make you think, “Wow, did they really just say that?”

From this week's Q and A transcript.  Highlighting is mine.

A tip:
When the attitude of the commentariat is,
“How dare Julia Gillard speak to a senior journalist like that?”
and not,
“How dare Paul Kelly put such sleazy gossip to the prime minister of Australia?” 
then it’s a sign that we have our reverence for institutions arse-about.

09 August, 2012

Naming Rights

It’s almost become a bit of a cliché to say that federal Labor’s biggest problem is not so much their policies but the fact that they couldn’t sell an ice cream on Bondi beach in January — or whatever other metaphor you choose to apply. One of their problems is in naming or, dare I say, branding their policies...

And if you'd like to read the rest of this piece, you can find it at The King's Tribune here:

If you're a subscriber, you can read it immediately.  If you're not a subscriber, well, you might have to look into that. 

05 August, 2012

Sportsmanship 2: An open letter to Drew Ginn

“It is disappointing we feel like we have let Australia and the rowing fraternity and our families down”
 - Drew Ginn tears up over Aussie rowing loss at London Olympics
You’re only letting people down when you talk like that.  Not all Australians live vicariously through sportsmen and those who do, really shouldn’t.  We’re not going to be waiting for you at the airport with pitchforks.  I don’t know your families and wouldn’t ever presume to speak for them, but if any of them think any less of you for this, then… just… wow!

I know next to nothing about any kind of sport so I can only go by what I heard on Channel 9’s coverage.  As far as I can work out from them, you were the only one in the boat while there were four in the British boat.  That’s a lot of pressure.  I would imagine it’s pressure you really don’t need.  I would imagine the hope and support of a nation could become a distraction.  Either way, if anyone thinks you, or any other competitor, did any less than your best, then they can get stuffed.  Furthermore, if you regard coming second in your fourth Olympics as a terrible failure, that’s what lets us down – not the silver medal.  

As one of my favourite correspondents wrote, you didn’t LOSE gold, you WON silver.  And you did it at your fourth Olympics.  Who else can say that?  So cheer the fuck up and to hell with anyone who feels let down by the result. 

04 August, 2012

An Infographic

Before anyone points it out, yes, of course the examples are cherry-picked.  I know you could just as easily put the Teletubbies and Oh Doctor Beeching! in the top half and Star Trek and The West Wing in the second half.
But as to the notion that private enterprise will always deliver better value?  Nuh, uh!

02 August, 2012

The Rules: Sportsmanship

I wouldn’t mind being
second best in the world
at anything.

If you can’t be proud that you did your best and happy for a fellow competitor who was fractionally faster on the day, then give the silver medal to someone who wants it and go home.

Alternatively, if this is how we are training our athletes, then it’s time to sack the coaches and put the funding into something useful.

26 July, 2012

Dixie Chick-fil-A

There’s a big stink in the US at the moment about a fast food chain. The president of the Chick-fil-A chain, Dan Cathy (a man I had never heard of a week ago, and I suspect relatively few of his customers had either) has expressed opposition to same-sex marriage. This has resulted, rather predictably, in calls for a boycott of Chick-fil-A from supporters of same-sex marriage. This in turn had led, even more predictably, to cries from the right that the left are trying to crush free speech and ban all forms of thought that don’t comply with their own.

So here we go again. Yet another example of people mistaking the right to free speech for the right to protection from the consequences of expressing that right.

In fairness, and to his credit, Mr Cathy has said that his own views are not the views of the Chick-fil-A chain, which has no position. That’s fair enough and he is right to say that there is no such thing as a Christian business. Equally, when you hear a point of view expressed by Bill Gates, do you take it as a comment from Bill Gates, private citizen whose view is no more or less important than anyone else’s, or do you take it as a comment from Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft and global philanthropist? Right. So while I am perfectly happy to accept that Dan Cathy was speaking only for himself and not his company, it’s his position as head of that company that gives him a greater platform from which to express his personal, not-representative-of-the-company, opinion. It is an opinion he has every right to hold and express by all means available to him. It’s also an opinion that others are free to disagree with and express that disagreement by all means available to them.

Some have asked why, so long as the food is good (we’ll assume, for the sake of argument, that it is), anyone should care what the president of the company thinks about anything. And why punish the people behind the counters for the utterances of the owner of the chain? From that, it’s been claimed that any Chick-fil-A boycott is really about the big, bad lefties trying to suppress any point of view that doesn't conform to theirs because they really hate freedom. This is to completely miss the point of freedom.

If you believe in freedom, then it follows that people have the right to withhold their patronage from any business for whatever reason they see fit. If you disagree with their reasons, then you are free to disagree but they are under no more obligation to care about your disagreement than Dan Cathy should be to change his opinion. No-one's freedom of expression trumps anyone else's freedom of choice.

It all reminds me of a situation nearly ten years ago now when a popular country vocal group expressed their embarrassment at coming from the same state as the then president. These comments caused something of a ruckus. Indeed, I seem to remember people calling for boycotts of their records and concerts and the group being banned from radio playlists. What I don’t remember is any cries from the right wing about what a terrible attack on free speech this was. I also don’t remember anyone pointing out that the group were only expressing a personal point of view and that they were not claiming to speak for their record company, management or road crew who, I think we would all agree, deserve to make an honest living without being blamed for the personal opinions of their bosses, right? Or is that different? If so, how? I mean, so long as they still sing nice tunes, who cares what they said about other stuff?

The fact is that while the singers had the right to express their views in whatever way they saw fit, others had the right to react in any way they saw fit. We all have our freedoms.

My only question for Chick-fil-A is this: How does it feel to be The Dixie Chicks?