I am not quite ready to start another long series about music just yet, but probably will begin next week. Due to popular request, Jethro Tull will be the focus when we do get started on that. I promised something lighter than last week, so here are a few random thoughts about my likes and dislikes in popular culture, past and present.
First of all, today is Friday the 13th. I am not superstitious, but many folks are. Not as many as in the past, but still many are. Interestingly, friggatriskaidekaphobia is of quite recent origin, not being much noticed until late in the 19th century. Reasons to be afraid of this combination of date and day are quite nonscientific.
Friday has been considered an unlucky day for a long time. The reasons for this are unclear, but Chaucer mentioned it in the 14th century. Twelve has always been considered a "good" number (we still use dozens, have twelve hours for each half of the day, and many other examples) and 13 is thus imperfect, and a prime number as well. One popular idea is that because of Judas, 13 (including Christ) at a table is bad luck. A similar idea also appears in Norse mythology. Actually, the numbers 2 and 8 have a more scientific basis for being "good", since they describe the number of electrons required to acquire the noble gas configuration in the elements. In any event, I consider any Friday the 13th just another day.
Yesterday, The Rolling Stones celebrated their 50th birthday of playing under that name (actually, they were billed as The Rollin' Stones that evening at the Marquee Club in London, but there is no use to pick at nits here). Congratulations to them for having such longevity. Many condolences to the families of Brian Jones, Ian Stewart, and Tony Chapman. Whilst not my favorite musical group, they did have their moments. Here is a very short sampler.
Here is "Sympathy for the Devil". I strongly suspect this is mimed, but it shows them at their peak, at least as images.
I also like this one very much:
Finally, one that The Who also covered:
All in all, I like the early Stones very much but am far from an expert. I saw them live in March 2006 at the Altell Arena in North Little Rock, Arkansas.
Now for a part of popular culture that I dislike very much, the Fox "News" Channel. I realize that I am preaching to the choir here, but these folks just make things up from whole cloth. Most of their on air personalities are obnoxious as well. I can kind of sort of take Shep Smith, but the rest are just awful. In particular I dislike Megyn Kelly. She just exudes a hateful demeanor.
Not only the programming on this channel is misleading. Many of their adverts are also deceptive, especially the seemingly endless ones about how you just have to have gold because the dollar is worthless. Are people too senseless to realize that the folks selling the gold are way happy to exchange it for dollars?
On a positive side, I really like the TeeVee show NCIS. The character development is outstanding, the writing crisp, and the actors likable (except for the Leon Vance character who you are not supposed to like). They also do inside jokes and I find this very attractive. One time Catlain Todd asked Gibbs who Dr. Mallard (played by David McCallum) looked like when he was young, and Gibbs said, "He looked like Illya Kuryakin." I about rolled with laughter! Another time both Tim Russ (from Star Trek: Voyager) and Conner Trinneer (from Star Trek: Enterprise) were guest starring and the writers worked in a reference to Ziva using the Vulcan death grip.
I detest the 21st Century automobile insurance adverts on TeeVee. The premises for them are ridiculous and the actor who is in all of them is creepy.
I like the internet. Although there are a lot of things out there that are useless or worse, on the whole it is a remarkable thing. Doing business online, being able to obtain a wealth of information almost instantly, email, and being to participate in communities like this are all big factors that are positive.
I am more hesitant to say that I am a big Facebook fan. I use it a little, primarily for keeping up with old friends out of state. I also announce my blogs there, but I do not use it for any but very casual conversation. Serious matters are better addressed over the telephone or by email.
Speaking of the telephone, I absolutely love my wireless telephone and service plan. I did not want a long term contract, so I bought my own telephone and signed up for a $45/month plan with no commitment. My friend next door has the same plan, but had trouble with getting signal so I was a bit hesitant but went ahead. I had 15 days to return the telephone if I were not satisfied, so the only at risk money I had was the $45 for the unlimited voice, text, and data. Everything worked fine, I have never not had signal, and I am saving lots of money compared to the major land line carrier that I previously had. I do not have a smart phone, but was more interested in voice and text than applications.
I dislike the marketing that targets kids. My friend has a three year old, and she has to have everything with Dora the Explorer on it, and most of the stuff is cheaply made and, frankly, junk. But because of marketing she just has to have it. I refuse to play that game, and when she has a birthday or some such occasion I give her a Little Golden Book. These classics have been around for many decades, do not make noise or have flashing lights, and are still charming. Who does not remember The Color Kittens or The Pokey Little Puppy?
I like satellite TeeVee. Mostly I watch news programs or NCIS, but there are some excellent science, nature, and technology pieces that air, and I also am a sucker for Dr. Who and any iteration of Star Trek (except the last motion picture and Deep Space 9). Since my neighbor to the south removed a couple of really big trees in his back yard, the only time that I am without service is when there is a lot of electrical activity in the clouds, and that is very rare.
I dislike when vulgarity is used as a substitute for good writing and direction. Please do not get me wrong, I am no prude. I just find that shock value is often used to get people to watch or read something when good craftsmanship is always much better. One of the reasons that The Andy Griffith Show was so popular, even now, was that the writing was well done, the stories interesting, and the acting and direction superb. Yet the strongest words used in the entire series, to my recollection, was "doggone it".
I like the Monty Python troupe very much. They pushed the envelope at times, but their use of off color language an imagery did not detract from, but rather added to their work. They did not use it as a substitute for being clever, they used it as an integral part of their work. Many of the scenes simply would not have been as funny if they had left out the language or the nudity.
I could go on, but I think that you get the point. The nice thing about popular culture is that, for the most part, you can take the parts that you like and skip the parts that you do not. We are fortunate to live in a nation that cherishes free speech rights and we must guard those rights carefully.
Please feel free to add your likes and dislikes about popular culture in the comments. I always enjoy getting perspective from others.
Doc, aka Dr. David W. Smith