Thoughts on Anti-vaxxing and Stupidity as we Know It

Bright lights at the end the hospital corridor. The concept of l

Lately in the news, as I’m sure most if not all of you have heard either on social media debates or on television, there has been a serious outbreak of the measles in this country with the number of cases having climbed to over 140 in 17 states. The outbreak itself has been traced to DisneyLand theme parks in Southern California this past December and as you can imagine, has many if not all parents with small children scared shitless. Why are they so scared of a virus that seen 2000 has long considered to be largely eradicated in the US? Well I’ll tell you: it’s because shit-head parents are either too selfish or rather too thick skulled to either have a serious talk with their pediatricians about the safety of the MMR vaccine or they’ve simply been indoctrinated by the crackpot pseudo “scientists” of the world like Jenny McCarthy, who feel it is their duty to educate housewives who don’t have enough to do with nonsensical or illogical falsehoods on a virus they know nothing about. Fortunately for those of us who don’t have small children like myself, the threat of being infected is impossible due to the fact that we had the vaccine as kids like in NY, where having your shots is mandatory. Sadly this year the number of cases rose from little to none to a record 644 in 2014 alone. Which if you didn’t know is a ridiculous and unheard of number.

So for parents whose children were infected in this latest outbreak, you can imagine the thought of having a measles stricken child is a bit of a shock seeing as how we live in a country where a thing such as the measles is considered to be as common as getting the plague. For those of you who don’t know the statistics on the measles, kids who are either too young to receive the MMR vaccination or by lack of brains on their parents part, have about a 90 percent chance of contracting the virus over those who do have it. There is also another category of children who are susceptible to the disease (and this is really fucking important); those kids who are what’s called ‘immunocompromised’, have cancer or would have a serious allergic reaction to such vaccines. You see, kids who fall into these categories can’t get the vaccine and thus rely on the rest of us clear headed adults to be vaccinated to ensure the virus doesn’t infect them. Ultimately it’s like protecting the herd by ensuring that those who are able to get the vaccine do so and don’t end up spreading such a potentially grave virus.

When I was growing up and someone mentioned the measles, usually the adults in the room who were old enough to remember a time before the MMR vaccine would kind of give this look of relief and say something like ‘oh thank god we live in a time of vaccines, you don’t want the measles’, and us kids would kind of look puzzled and go about our business. Unfortunately due in large part to the massive amounts of misinformation floating around the internet and talk radio stations, parents somehow got it in their heads that vaccines were the source of autism in children; an idea that was and continues to  be proven untrue time and time again by experts in the field of medicine. This and statements by various celebrities who for some reason are taken more seriously than those notoriously “corrupt” physicians running about, have allowed for there to be a resurgence in pop-science and ‘natural remedies’ which have been largely demonstrated to be bunk. So for those who question the validity and trustworthy-ness of the vaccine let me quote directly from the Q&A section of the CDC’s section on the measles:

Very few people—about three out of 100—who get two doses of measles vaccine will still get measles if exposed to the virus. Experts aren’t sure why; it could be that their immune systems didn’t respond as well as they should have to the vaccine. But the good news is, fully vaccinated people who get measles are much more likely to have a milder illness, and they are also less likely to spread the disease to other people, including people who can’t get vaccinated because they are too young or have weakened immune systems. – Centers for Disease Control 

So as you can see, yes there is a slight risk of contracting the virus even if you are vaccinated but that risk is only about a minuscule 3% anyway and the effects you’d see would be significantly milder than those you’d see from someone who decided to play Russian roulette with a potentially fatal disease and opt out of getting the vaccine.

It’s easy for parents who have young children now who haven’t had the disadvantage of being around during a time without vaccines to say that ‘the risks outweigh the benefits’ and essentially scoff in the face of decades of scientific research, something which they are neither intellectually or physically capable of comprehending in the slightest. I find all this to be rather interesting in light of the fact that only a few months ago when Ebola was an issue in the states that people left and right were shouting the ‘sky is falling’ and demanding to deport people who are “stupid enough to contract” the disease, yet claim some sort of philosophical or religious high ground when it comes to choosing not to protect others against another potentially fatal outbreak. All I’m saying is to use your fucking head and if you can’t think for yourself and chose to follow the sort of reptilian/illuminati/bigfoot/etc. fear mongering websites out there on the internet, at least think of those around you who do wish to keep their kids safe.

Ultimately, I hope that more states decide to implement a mandatory vaccination code of conduct because this is a serious issue, maybe not for the majority of American’s but for many of the children who do live here and have to endure the stupidity of what should be the judgment of mature and well learned adults. I’m sure you’d expect the same courtesy from your neighbors and community members just the same as you would expect the line cook at your local Jack in the Box not to come to work when he’s sick. So yeah, I know my words are probably going to be read by few and heeded by even fewer who are already of the mindset that vaccines are ‘evil’ and internet voodoo is ‘good’ but hey, doesn’t hurt to help.

Note: Spellcheck says ‘Bigfoot’ should be capitalized but since I’m too lazy to go back and fix it here it is in all it’s glory, uppercase ‘B’ and all.

SNL 40: An Ultimately Bizarre and Forced Tribute to Better Times

snl_at_40

So last night was the much talked about and heavily promoted ‘SNL 40th Anniversary Show’ which played less like a show and more like a bloated decathlon of self-congratulatory back patting. The usual suspects were all there as was immediately evident by the drawn out intro dance number featuring Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon and partner in crime, Justin Timberlake. What followed were various highlight reels from classic bits; that I’m surprised haven’t been completely worn out considering how frequently NBC airs them, appearances by legendary cast members of yore;  most notably but least interesting of all being Eddie Murphy, and a plethora of musical acts which ranged from the pleasantly nostalgic to the downright awful.

Among the many ‘tweeted’ about moments of the evening included the rather heartfelt tribute to the still recovering Tracy Morgan presented by fellow ’30-Rock’ cast members Alec Baldwin and Tiny Fey, witty revivals of ‘Wayne’s World’ and Weekend Update featuring past cast members Dana Carvey, Mike Myers and Jane Curtin respectively, and various cameos by celebrities who made their mark on the show over the past four decades.

Many critics and fans alike expressed their extreme disappointment that eighties darling Eddie Murphy in particular did not opt to revive the myriad of characters he made famous during his four years on the show but instead seemed to accept the thunderous applause after Chris Rock’s rousing tribute as worthy of his presence and go no further.

Other disappointments were the ridiculously overlong revived skits of the past 5 years like the head scratching ‘Californians’, which seemed to be little more than an extended set up for Bradley Cooper to comically make out with Betty White. It was also painful to see stars like Emma Stone attempt to pull of a dim impression of a Gilda Radner skit, which admittedly is an impossible task to begin with but ultimately was swiftly outshined by an appearance by Edward Norton doing his ‘Stefon’.

While it was certainly nice to see fan favorites like Kevin Nealon, Norm McDonald, Joe Piscopo, Steve Martin, Billy Crystal and a rather tired looking Chevy Chase keeping up appearances, those moments were so short lived that one can’t help but think that the current pool of writers for the show simply couldn’t be bothered to write new updated dialogue for such classic skits. Aside from the fact that the program lasted for what seemed like an eternity made ever longer by the nonstop chain of commercials, we were also “treated” to live performances by musical acts from both Miley Cyrus and Kanye West (doing his best Yoko Ono impression) who reminded nostalgic viewers everywhere just how low the pool of available talent has been whittled down to. On the more positive side of the show’s history of musical guests, Paul McCartney and Paul Simon made appearances with the former performing, ‘Maybe I’m Amazed’ and the latter doing, ‘Still Crazy After all These Years’.

Speaking of ‘crazy’; whose decision was it to let Miley Cyrus sing ’50 Ways to Leave your Lover’, and yet miss out on a golden opportunity to have Chevy Chase and Paul Simon do ‘You Can call me Al’ ? I suppose the answer lies in the mind of Lorne Michaels and NBC execs, who seemed to be more focused on trying to plug ‘more recent talent’ in exchange for the countless comic icons who brought the show initial fame and were ultimately just scenery for the camera to linger on for a few seconds.

Perhaps my personal ‘wow’ moment of the evening besides the chance to see audition tapes from past stars like Jan Hooks and Will Ferrell, was seeing Jack Nicholson show up and present a montage, although maybe this is just the ‘Chinatown’ fan in me talking.

In the end, I suppose the night could’ve been worse and for those long-time fans of the show who were lucky enough to watch it live during its better seasons, the chance to see old favorites was certainly a tasty treat among the many bits of tripe thrown in between. More importantly however, let’s remember those cast members who left too soon and even from beyond still manage to coax a smile out of the most cynical of us critics.

On Brian Williams & National News Reporting

Photo Credit: NBC News

Photo Credit: NBC News

This past week it was announced that Brian Williams, the recently disgraced NBC Nightly News anchor would be placed on ‘extended leave’ for six months as a consequence for lying about his experiences as a correspondent during the Iraq War, most notably the story about his having been aboard a helicopter that was fired upon. Many in the media world seemed to agree that the sentence dished out was fair albeit rather ‘too little, too late’ in the grand scheme of things. However, in retrospect as we reflect on the departure of Brian Williams and more importantly the loss of real journalists like Bob Simon, who tragically lost his life at the hands of a car accident this week, it’s interesting to note where the current media culture stands. I can’t help but notice that people like Brian Williams aren’t really journalists so much as they are poster boys who the network can slap on the header that play at the beginning of the news broadcast. These are people who get to sit idly by, present less than 10 minutes of real hard news going on in the world and then proceed to fill up the last 20 minutes not filled up by commercials with dime-a-dozen public interest stories and viral videos. This was a point highlighted by Bill Maher this past Friday, where he pointed out the trend among media agencies to lift viral videos and images off the internet and call it a ‘news story’ as a substitute for real reporting. And in large part he’s absolutely right. However, the larger point that he makes, which I agree with wholeheartedly, is the standard that the news networks seem to accept that the demographic watching has a tiny attention span and can’t be bothered with ‘hard hitting news’, hence the reliance on ‘feel good stories’ to pad out the remaining time left on the clock. There is an obligation and sense of responsibility that comes with being a newsman and that is: you have the duty to use the time allotted to you for the purpose of reporting important stories not just the one’s which get the most buzz on yahoo or twitter. And for the love of God, please ask questions that provoke a discussion. Stop interviewing ‘easy guests’ who are just going to sit there and either blatantly spread mis-truths (looking at you ‘Meet the Press’) or simply get soft ball questions that do nothing but amount to self-congratulatory back-patting. It’s amazing to see the difference in quality between American news agencies and coverage provided by BBC America where someone like Katty Kay can interview a guest and ask some really thought-provoking questions on a topic that maybe most people missed that week. So luckily, those of us who aren’t satisfied with the saturated nature of news reporting have some sort of outlet for superior news coverage, thanks PBS! I’d like to hope that more people than just myself and Bill Maher share this opinion but it would seem that in this world of ‘instant everything’ most would rather be only relatively informed than spend their time searching the internet for the whole truth. And in that being the case, News agencies should feel even more obligated to spend serious time discussing news worthy stories instead of coping out to the hysteria that plagues the internet all to often and running ‘trend’ stories for easy ratings. It’s far too easy to run a piece about the ‘boy who raised money for his dying paraplegic grandpa using box tops’ than a piece about climate change, the effect of Ebola on primates or an extended discussion about the war in Ukraine. People don’t like depressing stories like that, they like stories about the ‘miracle _____ that did _____” and that sort of sensationalist reporting does nothing but reinforce the idea in far too many American’s minds that the only place where things ‘happen’ is in America. Unfortunately it seems, this trend is only going to get worse and the minimally informed will continue to vote and make decisions for those of us who do chose to stay informed, and the world just keeps on spinning. Note: I strongly encourage those of you to watch the previously mentioned Bill Maher segment on American News media because it elaborates on points briefly touched upon here.

What the **** happened to the music industry?

Photo Credit: FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images

Photo Credit: FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images

Although this article comes a bit late after the fact, I wanted to at least mention it since it’s a topic that people seem to get rather passionate about for better or worse. As most of you trend following kiddies know, the Grammy’s aired this past week on NBC and brought out the usual controversy we’ve come to expect from the assortment of pre-madonnas and self entitled brats that populate the ‘music industry’ these days. However, no issue seemed to ignite the twitter sphere to such a point as the moment when 30-year music veteran Beck defied the odds and took home the award for ‘Best Album of the Year’, all the while angering countless teenage fans of Beyonce everywhere. Now if you’re like me and possess a music IQ (or any IQ for that matter) that ranges in the above average category, you’ll think to yourself ‘who the fuck cares about the Grammy’s? Real talent doesn’t get noticed on the national stage anymore!’ Admittedly, I stuck to my yearly tradition of not staying up to watch the Grammy’s but found myself pulled into the debate nonetheless. While I concede the argument that the Grammy’s have become more saturated than a college degree, I will admit that the nineties kid inside me did a jig when I saw that Beck had usurped the pop music dominated throne and received his long overdue award. Sadly, my faith in humanity was trumped by the fact that the hashtag ‘#whoisbeck’ managed to trend  much higher up than it should but then again I’ve come to realize overtime that the majority of people who actually take the Grammy’s seriously aren’t exactly re-inventing the wheel.  This leads in to my larger point and that is ‘What the fuck happened to the music industry?’

You could argue that the question I ought to be asking is ‘What the fuck is wrong with people?’ and you’d be right but that’s something I just don’t have the energy for at this moment. Another time perhaps.

If you’re going to go by the billboard ratings and what you see on television you would almost certainly come to the conclusion that modern music is populated solely by either: Hip-hop or pop music, and you wouldn’t be wrong. Yes, there are plenty of alternative bands or hipster groups that your one friend will rave about but you’ll never listen to that manage to pop up but those just don’t make it big enough to merit any sort of airplay and for better or worse get pushed down into the mire before anyone hears of them. A few exceptions can obviously be made in the non-pop genre i.e. Imagine Dragons, Ed Sheeran, Fall Out Boy etc. but more often than not that doesn’t speak to the level of their talent as much as much as it concedes the fact that people still get a kick out of seeing cute boys play the guitar. A good example of this standard is the country music genre which has a massive following of pre-dominately white teenagers and young adults who get a kick out of wearing flannel shirts and ripped jeans while listening to a man-child with a 5 o’ clock shadow and a comically big hat sing about how a well-cared for truck is an analogy for his woman. Something tells me the popularity of such a thing is directly correlated to the amount of alcohol one consumes but I suppose that can be said for most things in today’s music world that become ‘cool’.

So why do these artists become so popular, are they really that ‘good’ ? Or does it all fall into the category of ‘all hype’? In case you’re wondering the answer is most certainly the latter. American’s, more specifically young adults and teenagers make up the biggest demographic that contemporary music appeals to and moreover markets to. How do I know this? Well I can tell you that my parents generation certainly didn’t listen to The Beatles and Paul Simon because of how good their asses looked covered in Crisco, and most certainly didn’t label them ‘great musicians’ because of their ability to generate buzz or “YouTube Gold”. No, they listened to them and regard them with such high esteem because of what their music said and how it made it touched upon the culture that they lived in. Keep in mind this was an age plagued by uncertainty in a nuclear age, my parents were born in the fifties and lived through Vietnam, The Cold War, Cuban Missile Crisis, and the Reagan years. Kids these days assume that ‘culturally significant’ means how many videos someone has that went viral or how many awards they won. Being culturally significant transcends more than just fame, it means having material that is defined by the time period that produced it. John Lennon and the ‘Give Peace a Chance’ crowd helped define a generation who saw music as a means to bring issues larger than themselves into a bigger discussion. Music took on a sound that is clearly distinguishable from any other period and became a staple of the ‘flower power’ and hippie movements which protested the War in Vietnam and usage of nuclear weapons. Today’s generation has no identifiable genre with which to tie itself to like my parent’s generation did. My parents experienced a clear evolution of music from the days of: Bobby Vinton and Buddy Holly, the phenomenon of American Bandstand and Ed Sullivan, Elvis and the British Invasion, the 70’s music scene which produced glam and hard rock, funk and punk music and early synth pop. They were a generation of young adults who lived through easily one of the most exciting periods of music and got to experience a myriad of new and innovative musicians who sought to evolve their art to a place where they could influence countless talents for years to come.

Yet, somewhere around the turn of the century that sort of evolution stopped and the music industry became what the hipsters at Starbucks who sip their caramel macchiatos refer to as ‘mainstream’. People started being indoctrinated with the 24 hour non-stop media circus which would pummel you with images of what is ‘hot’ and more importantly what’s not. The reality show became the next big phenomenon, where for hours at a time you could watch the lives of the rich and famous be put on stage for all to see, ‘warts and all’. We became a society infatuated by the most pedestrian and boorish ideas and entered a world where watching people allegedly ‘just like us’, bickered, drank, fought and got arrested all in the matter of an hour. “Wow,” we’d say, “this is so crazy that I just have to show my friends.” Pretty soon this sort of “did you see that” culture reared its ugly head and moved onto the music industry where people with little to no musical skill realized that you didn’t need actual talent to produce a record, you just needed to tap into the pulsing vein of society which valued these sorts of things. Not only could you produce a ton of D-quality music like this but you could market cheap sound-alikes and copycats for little to no effort and sure enough you’d be an overnight billionaire in no time. Actual musicians and instrumentalists were largely pushed aside in favor of those who had an image that could be slapped on everything from a cellphone wallpaper to a billboard in Times Square. Sure, such things might get stale after awhile but when they did you could even market their collapse too, as a cable reality show where a camera crew followed that person on their disgusting and pathetic journey of redemption, where gluttonous housewives could smirk on their self-righteous thrones of pizza stained  La-Z-Boy furniture and watch the musicians that used to play on the ‘teevee’ scrounge around in the mire of rehab facilities and glumly look at the camera almost begging for their collective approval. Real music has died out in large part because people allowed the most reprehensible and base aspects of human nature to dominate their interests. People don’t like to stretch their minds anymore, it’s easier to look up answers on wikipedia for the inner meanings of a song or film or book these days than actually ponder and interpret. Young adults aren’t being forced in large part to think for themselves and are being encouraged to just ‘know’ the right answer instead of seeking it out for themselves. Music has stopped being about artistry and is purely sex, violence and hashtag worthy ‘moments’. It’s gotten to the point where ‘controversial music’ is someone making a video or a statement which people don’t unanimously agree on or can’t wrap their brains around. Opening up a discussion shouldn’t be synonymous for ‘controversy’ and moreover ‘controversy’ shouldn’t be looked at as a dirty word.

Music has the power to do many things but what it shouldn’t be is a soapbox for bad behavior or disrespect for others. People like watching award shows these days like the Grammy’s not in the hopes of seeing good music but waiting to see if something ‘crazy’ or ‘controversial’ happens. We’ve become a society of bystanders who instead of trying to better the world around us just stand there and videotape bad acts in the hopes of becoming ‘famous’. Kanye West’s ‘rant’ after the Grammy’s easily overshadowed any sort of talent or art went on act the actual ceremony and honestly that’s really sad that we are so easily taken in by stupidity as to put it on this pedestal where it proceeds to make millions of dollars. Writing songs about going out drinking, fighting with your girlfriend, doing drugs and gyrating asses isn’t art, it’s trash. It’s the sort of thing which should be isolated and mocked rather than viewed as ‘deep art’ which defines an entire generation. This past week Drake released a new “mixtape” of the usual sort of tripe that he usually produces or should I say, he and 5-6 other people produced, that was being hailed on twitter as something akin to The ‘White’ Album by The Beatles or Tommy by The Who. That’s like your teacher in school taking the half-assed report from that one slacker in your class about how “Football is the best sport Ever” and putting it on the bulletin board over your piece about “How Head Injuries effect the Sports World”. The music industry has become a joke and not a particularly good one because most bad jokes people tell you to get lost after telling it, not throw you billions of dollars in revenue in the hopes that you’ll create more just like it. Sure you could argue that the music scene is starting to open up the discussion to civil liberties like in Ferguson but aside from Common and John Legend who wrote the song for the film ‘Selma’, who else is really leading the charge in the industry against police brutality and the shooting of innocents? People will also cite the stunt pulled last year by having over 50 gay couples marry on stage as a ‘culturally significant’ music moment but let’s be honest it’s not like gay marriage is really a taboo subject in this country for the most part other than in shit states like Alabama, so it really wasn’t taking much of a risk by doing so. If you want to take a risk, have 50 transgender individuals come on stage with you and really make a statement with your support. But no, that doesn’t sell records, that’s too ‘controversial’, better wait til enough people make it popular before you start doing stuff like that. So in the meantime we’re stuck with the boring mass produced pop acts that dominate the industry who are essentially poster boys for the endless line of talent shows and award shows until they become too old or unpopular and are quickly shoved aside in favor of someone much younger and hotter to take hold of the limelight.

I guess in closing, if you’re looking for an answer to the question I posed earlier: “What the fuck is wrong with music?” the answer is: we are. We are what’s wrong with music these days.