Who’s Number One?

I lost track of popular culture sometime in the 80s, and now I’m permanently stuck with big hair and thin ties.  It’s not that I don’t like contemporary stuff; I do (pick and choose) but I have no idea who does what or even when.  For example, I was shocked to hear Destiny’s Child on my Classic (read — Old Man) Rock Radio station — so I looked it up.  My God! That was 20 years ago!  Anyway, I said all that to say I’m no expert on anything in the 21st century, but that’s not going to stop me from having an opinion.

So…  Last week, YouTube announced that it has a new “Most Watched” music video.  More people have clicked, looked and listened to this 2 minute track than any other song in human history.  It’s “Baby Shark!”  Just when I thought it was safe to finally come out of the closet and admit I actually like “Let it Go,” the mega-annoying tweenie hit from Frozen, apparently, two-year-olds have taken over the world.  (What next?  Womb music?)  Okay, okay, okay!  It’s a phenom: over 7 billion hits is nothing to sneeze at, but there’s a bigger question going on here.  Why is “Baby Shark” even in the conversation?  It’s not real!  It’s a novelty babysitter song for stressed-out parents who need a minute to sneak away and eat a candy bar or have a pee – in peace.  Here’s the deal.  Millions of chubby little fingers tapped this redundant little ditty to Numero Uno in the universe — even though most of those little fingers haven’t even mastered a knife and fork yet.  Unfortunately, that pushed all the good stuff out of the way.  “Despacito” (one of the best videos I’ve seen in years) got knocked off the top spot, and Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You” was moved to third.  (BTW, how did that guy become a heartthrob?  Yeah, he can sing, but if he’s sexy, I should have girls lined up around the block — and I’m old.)  Meanwhile, “Uptown Funk” in its original incarnation is 6th and the mighty “Gangnam Style,” the video that started it all (first to one billion!) is now 7th!  My point is, these are all recognizable songs, musical renditions of something — even if it’s only an aging K-Popper leaping around as if he has an unfortunate itch.  Putting “Baby Shark” in that mix is like including Velvet Elvis in the National Portrait Gallery because it’s on so many trailer park walls.  Face it, folks!  Sheer numbers are not always the best way to rank things.

Way back in the day (1958, to be exact) when Perry Como got the world’s first Gold Record for a million sales of “Catch a Falling Star,” that number actually meant something.  It meant people were willing to take the time and trouble to leave the house and go to a record store; and, more importantly, it meant they were willing to shell out some hard coin to take Mr. Como home with them.  That’s a lot different from showing your kid how to click “play” cuz you need time to fold the laundry.  These two should be treated differently.

I understand that a million isn’t what it used to be, and even a billion won’t get you into the top 20 on YouTube.  However, I do think if YouTube wants to be taken seriously, they shouldn’t be rolling out those numbers quite so promiscuously.  Quite frankly, more isn’t preordained to be better.  If you’re using that flawed logic, sheep should be running the show in Australia.  After all, there are 3 times as many of them down there as there are people. 

Clickbait History!

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One of the latest trending convulsions of our troubled times is the girls and boys down at the “cancel culture” collective.  They’ve spent the last few months in an orgy of indignation, replacing place names and knocking down statues.  Their idea is – uh – I’m not really sure what their idea is, aside from the childish notion that if you don’t say it or see it, it will magically go away.  (Nobody’s ever going to accuse the 21st century of being sophisticated!)  However, in the short term, revisionist history is a pain in the ass, so responsible people need to find a way to safeguard the facts from these zealots.  Simple solution?  Clickbait!  If we turn history into clickbait (the heroin of social media) not only will people get exposed to history without them even knowing it, but it will also preserve the truth until this modern day “Reign of Terror” burns itself out.  Here are just a few examples to get the ball rolling.  (And thanks so much to AJ for being the inspiration behind this post.)

1 — Disabled man brutally shot in front of his friends and co-workers.

Admiral Horatio Nelson dies at the Battle of Trafalgar — 1805

2 — Privileged British healthcare worker shuns traditional healing and medicine.

Dr. Alexander Fleming discovers penicillin — 1928

3 — Over 250 illegal immigrants killed by angry local militia.

The Battle of the Little Big Horn — 1876

4 — After years of frustration, displaced migrants lash out, topple statues and burn public buildings.

Barbarians destroy Rome – 410 A.D.

5 — Tyrannical leader announces a controversial wall to keep out illegal immigrants.

Emperor Qin Shi Huang builds The Great Wall of China – 221 B.C.

6 — After years of struggle, ridicule and even imprisonment, a man with mental health issues is finally accepted by society.

Adolf Hitler elected Chancellor of Germany — 1933

7 – Teenage girl who gained fame and a huge following when her activist message changed government policy, convicted of terrible crimes.  Guilty or not?  You decide!

Joan of Arc burned at the stake — 1431

8 — 95 reasons your parents’ religion sucks.

Martin Luther nails his Ninety-five Theses on the door of Wittenberg church – 1517

9 – Jaw-dropping evidence that an unemployed Italian sailor scammed millions out of a Spanish royal.

Queen Isabella finances Christopher Columbus’ voyage to America – 1492

10 – Charismatic leader caught in sex romp with steamy Middle Eastern beauty.  Senate takes decisive action to remove him from office.  Read the startling details.

Julius Caesar assassinated – 44 B.C.

11 — Photographic evidence of a strange “craft” in the skies over North Carolina.  You won’t believe your eyes!

Wright brothers fly the first airplane at Kitty Hawk – 1903

12 – 56 wealthy landowners, businessmen and lawyers who used their influence to manipulate the government and get massive tax breaks.  You’ll never guess who’s on the list?

American delegates sign the Declaration of Independence — 1776

13 — US military man ruins pristine wilderness.  Experts say damage could last 1,000 years!

Neil Armstrong steps on the Moon – 1969

14 — Disturbing play glorifies teen suicide.  You won’t be able to hold back the tears.

Shakespeare writes Romeo and Juliet — 1595

15 — Sex worker dies in prison.  You won’t believe her shocking ordeal.

French execute Mata Hari for spying – 1917

16 — New technology destroys ancient storytelling industry.  Folklore threatened!  Thousands of jobs lost.

Johannes Gutenberg invents moveable type – 1450

17 — In a tirade of hate, an elderly man threatens violence against home invaders.

Churchill’s “We will fight on the beaches” speech – 1940

18 — Corrupt leader admits he used public funds to buy an extravagant gift for his wife.  Refuses to apologize!

Shah Jahan builds the Taj Mahal – 1643

19 — Radical religious cult denounces modern society, defying local authorities to open a well-armed wilderness “colony” on private property.

The Pilgrims land at Plymouth Rock – 1620

But I think my favourite is:

20 – College students across the country take action to remove offensive material from their campuses.

Nazi youth groups burn thousands of books at several German universities – 1933

 

Young People Are Grim

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For years, I’ve been trying to figure out why young people are so relentlessly grim.  And, I’m not just talking about millennials — the You-Can’t-Have-Any-Ice cream generation.  It’s their children as well, now called Generation Z, as if this is the end of the line for the human species.  These folks — pretty much anyone born after 1980 — spend their days acting like corporate accountants who’ve just had a root canal.  They could give lessons to Puritans, for God’s sake!  And (have you ever noticed?) they always laugh with their teeth clenched – kinda like a Terminator trying to smile.

And there’s no reason for it.  We live at the apex of human achievement.  There’s more good stuff now — and less bad stuff — than at any other time in history.  There should be dancing in the streets.  So, what’s the deal?  Simple: cell phones.  Most young people wander around with a stick up their ass because they know if they step out of line, somebody’s going to video record it, and 20 seconds later they’re going to look like total morons – across the entire planet!  Plus, the Internet never forgets.  Whatever they say or do today, may come back and haunt them, 10 years from now, when social standards change.  This is peer pressure to the Nth degree, and the only way to escape it is keep your head down.  Don’t give the cybermob an excuse to come after you.  In other words, bland is best.

When I was a kid, I did some stupid things. In my generation, we all did. It was part of growing up.  You learned, sometimes painfully, not to be a jackass.  However, there was no permanent record in those days.  My transgressions were shared, laughed at and admonished by a very small group – who (mostly) had my best interests at heart.  Now, time on, they’ve been forgotten, except on rare occasions when old friends get together and play Remember When.  I carry no brand for strangers to judge.

These days, young people don’t live with that luxury.  They’re all sitting under a cyber Sword of Damocles, one upload away from, at best, humiliation and at worst, disgrace and total ruin.  They not only have to fly right, right now; they have to see into the future and measure up, and that has got to be a full time job.  It’s no wonder they’re all trudging along as if somebody just shot their puppy.