Siri, no, not the first. Computers have been speaking for a while now, maybe even longer than you thought. This recording is from 1963, and originated from an important technology company of the time, Bell Labs:
The computer sings the song “Daisy.” Remember this from somewhere?
Just like the headline says, Happy 2018. It’s now been nearly a year since Donald Trump entered the White House. By Trump’s own design, each day, then each week, of his administration has featured mind-blowing, (and too numerous to list), antics, lies, and plain old bullshit. Trump believes — just like anyone with good reality show TV experience — that these antics are absolutely necessary to try and “get over” with 30-something percent of the American People. It’s all made worse by the fact that Donald J. Trump knows he absolutely guilty of everything.
Of course he denies it, but he knows he’s guilty of Russian collusion and almost every other charge directed his way, and it’s eating away at him. Trump is a haunted man, but unlike on the old Perry Mason TV show, he’s not going to just suddenly confess everything in court. (Notice how the trombones sometimes enter when whoever-it-is confesses?)
Some mental health care experts have offered that maybe President Donald J. Trump is losing it. Of course he is. He’s in one of the most uniquely ridiculous situations a citizen of the United States could possibly find themselves in: Unintentional Presidency of the United States. Trump is completely out of his depth. Daily, he tries to deal with subjects beyond his grasp while simultaneously possessing an ego which self-labels “stable genius.” This, dear friends, is where bluff and bluster meet their limits. Or is it?
Sure, you could write this plot into a movie and some people would believe it. Some people would, which is how he got elected in the first place.
Yeah, I know. This space hasn’t been updated in a long time. I may have been distracted by something.
Sharper Image? Should have gone with Skymall? Trump steaks!
Some time ago, I wrote this article about the Republican party’s seemingly irrational communiques to those people we affectionally know as the American People.
You don’t have to read it again. Here’s the gist: a (non-healthy) amount of what Republicans rely on to maintain political viability and power is actually play-acting, designed to mislead, frighten, outrage, and/or “lather-up” an electorate already made vulnerable by their own unwillingness to pay attention. Acting is behaving truthfully under imaginary circumstances, and in the case of the Republicans, the circumstances are often pretty imaginary. In the preceding years, President Obama has taken the brunt of many of these fanciful scenarios, designed to “prove” that anything he’s associated with is a disaster. The facts tend to tell a different story.
From a short distance, Donald J. Trump looked on all the Republican vaudeville enviously. He’s a guy who has always truly loved to get in on the act, and soon did as one of the original “birthers.” As a young man, he inherited a lot of money. Like the fictional but likable Elmer J. Fudd, the real but obnoxious Donald J. Trump had more than enough money for a mansion and a yacht. Consequently, he got bored easily and needed something to do, so he built up an image of himself as a master businessman/deal maker. True? Nope, but if Donald J. Trump has proven anything in the course of his career, it’s that — provided you start with enough money — you can fail sideways by “leveraging” a ridiculous, gold-leafed, classy-with-a-k, brand. Trump did the book. Trump did the board game. Trump did the vodka and steaks. Trump did the Reality TV. Trump did the completely unaccredited university. Trump even did the fictional comedy chicken joint:
Last summer, a Trump run for the presidency seemed jokey. Trump came down an escalator. He hired supporters. Trump was a windy bozo, and was compared to every other windy bozo — your uncle being loud and embarrassing at the family reunion, your uncle being loud and embarrassing at Walmart, your uncle, loud and embarrassing on the back stoop drinking beer while complaining about all the foreigners ruining everything.
Now, as we head into the summer of 2016, Donald J. Trump is the (presumptive) nominee of the GOP. In the beginning, there were 16 other Republican contenders. 16! One by one, Trump dispatched them all with a witch’s brew of braggadocio, nonsensical school-yard taunts, xenophobia, and misogyny. He did it without really being a politician, and without really being a Republican. Trump crashed a party that, while managing to stay pretty old, quit being grand around 1865. It’s morning in America now — there’s a weird smell no one can identify, and red solo cups are strewn everywhere.*
*Don’t worry, though, Donald J. Trump has more than enough money to cover the cost of those red solo cups, I will tell you that.
Trombonist and proprietor of Hip Bone Music Michael Davis has been running his excellent Bone-to-Pick interview series for a while now. A little over a year ago, Davis featured the incomparable trombonist Bill Watrous. Watrous, who is full of stories, observations, and the occasional joke*, is a natural for this sort of thing, and that makes the interview fun to watch.
How Long Has This Been Going On?
*The Carl Fontana Joke
Watch the entire interview if you haven’t already, but for the joke as told by Carl Fontana to Watrous, check out 32 minutes 13 seconds.
When recalling his earliest — and fairly obscure — LP solo recordings, Bill mentions one whose title seems to be a 60s zeitgeist send-up: Love Themes For The Underground, The Establishment & Other Sub Cultures Not Yet Known. Watrous remembers the arranger Walter Raim talked him into the project when he was in New York City doing other recording work. Love Themes For The Underground, The Establishment & Other Sub Cultures Not Yet Known had interesting instrumentation in addition to Watrous’s trombone, consisting of string quartet, vibes, guitar, bass, and drums, plus voices. “I still have a copy of this. You can’t get these anywhere,” says Watrous.
Well, over at my favorite used record store, Hymies, I did find a copy of, you know, Love Themes For The Underground, The Establishment & Other Sub Cultures Not Yet Known. It was recorded in 1969 for MTA Records in New York (not to be confused with the current label of that name). Despite the high concept title, the recording is a standards outing with Aquarius (from the 1967 musical Hair) added in. (Also, did Aquarius ever really become a standard?) To be sure, it’s easy listening, but as the liner notes mention, using a string quartet — as opposed to a huge string section — changes up the usual “easy listening” texture. The arrangements are interesting — the tracks on this LP could have easily been used for Mad Men music cues.