Singles 7/13

Often I lose interest in singles after my initial enthusiasm, hence my insistence on downloading singles to my phone. “Girls on the TV” retains its breathy tension: Australian singer Laura Jean shares a story about what sounds like a doomed adolescent crush. Like a shaft of sunlight in February, it casts a warmth in which the week’s competition can bask. I’m generous enough to imagine Luke Bryan turning “Girls on the TV” into somethin’ slow ‘n’ courtly — better anyway than “Sunrise, Sunburn, Sunset.”

Click on links for full reviews.

Laura Jean – Girls on the TV (8)
Blackpink – Ddu-du Ddu-du (7)
Wanna One – Light (7)
serpentwithfeet – cherubim (6)
Troye Sivan ft. Ariana Grande – D (4)ance to This (6)
Ariana Grande ft. Nicki Minaj – The Light is Coming (6)
Kelsea Ballerini – I Hate Love Songs (5)
Cheat Codes & Little Mix – Only You (4)
Aly & AJ – Good Love (4)
A.C.E – Take Me Higher (4)
Maxwell – We Never Saw It Coming (4)
Luke Bryan – Sunrise, Sunburn, Sunset (4)

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On fighting the last liberal battles

I belonged to a Facebook film forum to which I’d often post links to my lists and reviews. On Friday afternoon a couple members and I had what I thought was a polite discussion about gender and sexuality and the casting of Scarlett Johannson as a transgender character in Rub & Tug, specifically about the importance of separating gender from sexuality. A poster alluded to Felicity Huffman in Transamerica. Not a good movie, I said, but at least the casting made sense: Huffman, a cis woman, plays a trans woman. Instead of decrying the “cultural Stalinism” of Hollywood, to quote a poster, let’s focus our anger at the industry’s reluctance to cast trans actors.

Yesterday morning I realized I’d been kicked off the forum; the moderator has also blocked access to him on Facebook. Perhaps other reasons led to my elimination. But if what I suspect is true, then here’s another reminder that liberals disgusted with Donald Trump who support gay marriage and may even have queer pals will turn into the most blinkered #MAGA cap wearers when they must discard a lifetime’s worth of assumptions.

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Worst Songs Ever: Tina Turner’s ‘The Best’

Like a good single, a terrible one reveals itself with airplay and forbearance. I don’t want to hate songs; to do so would shake ever-sensitive follicles, and styling gel is expensive. I promise my readers that my list will when possible eschew obvious selections. Songs beloved by colleagues and songs to which I’m supposed to genuflect will get my full hurricane-force winds, but it doesn’t mean that I won’t take shots at a jukebox hero overplayed when I was at a college bar drinking a cranberry vodka in a plastic thimble-sized cup.

Tina Turner – “The Best”
PEAK CHART POSITION: #15 in November 1989

Fully aware that she had created and promoted the Greatest Comeback of the Modern Rock Era, Tina Turner could be forgiven for recording “The Best,” I suppose.

Continue reading

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Worst Songs Ever: Bob Marley & the Wailers’ ‘One Love’

Like a good single, a terrible one reveals itself with airplay and forbearance. I don’t want to hate songs; to do so would shake ever-sensitive follicles, and styling gel is expensive. I promise my readers that my list will when possible eschew obvious selections. Songs beloved by colleagues and songs to which I’m supposed to genuflect will get my full hurricane-force winds, but it doesn’t mean that I won’t take shots at a jukebox hero overplayed when I was at a college bar drinking a cranberry vodka in a plastic thimble-sized cup.

Bob Marley & the Wailers – “One Love”
PEAK CHART POSITION: #5 on British charts in December 1977

In his last interview, John Lennon mentioned that the Beatles heard Caribbean music in the late sixties. The instrumental bit in “I Call Your Name,” he said, was a conscious attempt, for example, to record ska. Continue reading

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Loss and sexual ambiguity baked into ‘The Cakemaker’

The Jamesian sadness of lingering at the altar of the dead pervades The Cakemaker, an Israeli-German drama of understated power. One afternoon Israeli businessman Oren (Roy Miller) wanders into a Berlin cafe owned by Thomas (Tim Kalkhof). Nothing in their exchange or backgrounds suggests they will hook up because, as Marvin Gaye sang, that’s the way love is. Then on a return trip to reunite and presumably tell his wife and son that he’s leaving them Oren is killed in a car accident. A numb Thomas follows an impulse: he will travel to Israel and meet the wife. Continue reading

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The morning is dead: The best of Jimi Hendrix

As well as Jimi Hendrix played the guitar, he played the mixing board with greater imagination — or so the Electric Ladyland tracks tell me. Continue reading

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‘In class after class, I stood with Rehnquist’

The drip drip drip begins:

Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, gave a revealing speech last fall in which he lauded former Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist for having dissented in Roe vs. Wade and for rejecting the notion of “a wall of separation between church and state.”

He also praised the late chief justice’s unsuccessful effort to throw out the so-called “exclusionary rule,” which forbids police from using illegally obtained evidence.

All three of areas of law — abortion, religion and police searches — are likely to be in flux if Kavanaugh is confirmed and joins the high court this fall.

Kavanaugh’s comments are significant because they were in a speech, not a court opinion in which he was bound by precedent, said David S. Cohen, a law professor at Drexel University in Philadelphia.

But it’ll go back to the States! And what about France!

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Worst Songs Ever: General Public’s ‘I’ll Take You There’

Like a good single, a terrible one reveals itself with airplay and forbearance. I don’t want to hate songs; to do so would shake ever-sensitive follicles, and styling gel is expensive. I promise my readers that my list will when possible eschew obvious selections. Songs beloved by colleagues and songs to which I’m supposed to genuflect will get my full hurricane-force winds, but it doesn’t mean that I won’t take shots at a jukebox hero overplayed when I was at a college bar drinking a cranberry vodka in a plastic thimble-sized cup.

General Public – “I’ll Take You There”
PEAK CHART POSITION: # in May 1994

When The English Beat broke up in the early eighties, no one expected the newly constituted Fine Young Cannibals to score one of 1989’s biggest chart coups, or for General Public to score a 1994 comedy in which Stephen Baldwin is the object of male and female desire. Continue reading

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Dismissing Roe myths

The most common arguments I endure from opponents of Roe v. Wade concern its reputation as a feebly written decision (“Even Ruth Bader Ginsberg said so!”) and as an unwarranted federal protection of a matter best left to the states. Scott Lemieux swats aside these arguments. Few felicities of judicial language have been the subject of as much mockery as FDR appointee William O. Douglas’ phrase in his concurrence in 1967’s landmark Griswold v. Connecticut, in which the Court ruled that bans on contraception violated the right to marital privacy: “The foregoing cases suggest that specific guarantees in the Bill of Rights have penumbras, formed by emanations from those guarantees that help give them life and substance.”

Erratic and downright slipshod, the latter in his last decade, Douglas was one of the last justices to write his own opinions, which like Oliver Wendell Holmes bent toward the brief and aphoristic; he wanted his opinions to be understood by the average person. No one quibbled with his intelligence or ability. Nor his ambition (Roosevelt goosed him into thinking he’d be president one day).

Lemieux:

Opponents of Roe writing for general audiences routinely invoke the “penumbras” phrase, from Justice William O. Douglas’s opinion striking down a ban on the use or distribution of contraception in Griswold v. Connecticut, as if doing so self-evidently renders the opinion absurd. Douglas had used that phrase to defend the idea that the Constitution includes an implicit right to privacy, in at least some matters of marriage and family, and the Roe majority cited it to extend that idea to the realm of abortion.

But Justice Douglas’s observation that “specific guarantees in the Bill of Rights have penumbras, formed by emanations from those guarantees that help give them life and substance” describes a perfectly banal concept: The enumeration of rights, individually or collectively, implies the existence of other rights. As Douglas himself pointed out, in Griswold, the Supreme Court has enforced a “right of association” although that phrase is not found in the Constitution, because guarantees of the right to free speech and to petition the government would mean little without the right to form political associations.

Douglas became the longest serving Supreme Court justice in history. His replacement? John Paul Stevens, who on his 2010 retirement took second place.

As for the federalism question, the stakes are grimmer:

As previously discussed, Congress has passed, and the Supreme Court has upheld, a nationwide ban of what anti-abortion groups have labeled “partial-birth abortions.” To find the last time the House of Representatives passed an abortion regulation, you would have to go all the way back to … this January, when it passed a bill that would require doctors to provide medical care for a fetus born alive during an abortion procedure.

And last year, the House passed a bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks in every state in the union. So far, these bills have died in the Senate. But since the Republican Party is becoming more and more hostile to abortion rights, abortion would remain a national issue. Should the filibuster be eliminated or substantially watered down, a Republican government with slightly larger Senate majorities than it has now would be able to pass national abortion regulations.

The other myths that Lemieux deflates include the purported ease with which American can get abortions as opposed to the French, Roe‘s rescinding of any state regulation, and the strength of public opinion. It’s the kind of article I’d share with friends or print to stick on the refrigerator door.

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If your memory serves you well: The best of The Band

Pedantic critics will claim The Band were “timeless” as if such a boneheaded idea existed. Devotees of a fantastical America in which the smell of rivers and the sound of Chuck Berry’s guitar carved space in their imaginations, The Band never sold millions of albums but appealed to listeners who sought a tradition that didn’t stop at merely contextualizing Bob Dylan and Allen Toussaint. Continue reading

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The nonsense of originalism

I’m no lawyer but have always been interested in the Court as an institution: its history, personalities, decisions. I often get impatient with liberals when they decry “judicial activism” or conservatives when they regard a political document written over two centuries ago as inviolate. Isn’t it funny how originalism produces the most conservative results? Continue reading

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Behold, Justice Brett Kavanaugh

Thanks to VOX’s Dylan Matthews for citing this passage in Ken Gormley’s 2010 The Death of American Virtue: Clinton vs. Starr, whose lurid title masks an otherwise exhausting account of the Hunting of Bill Clinton. I bought the book at the turn of the decade, my first acquaintance with such delicious characters as James Conway, husband of Kellyanne, and a Federalist Society favorite named Brett Kavanaugh, whom Dick Durbin once called the Zelig or Forrest Gump of American judicial politics for showing up at the right place and time for conservative crisis points:

In a memo to “Judge Starr” (with a copy to “All Attorneys”), dated just two days before the grand jury showdown, Kavanaugh disclosed a stark division within [the Office of the Independent Counsel] over how to handle this slippery president. He wrote:

After reflecting this evening, I am strongly opposed to giving the President any “break” … unless before his questioning on Monday, he either i) resigns or ii) confesses perjury and issues a public apology to you. I have tried hard to bend over backwards and to be fair to him. … In the end, I am convinced that there really are [no reasonable defenses]. The idea of going easy on him at the questioning is thus abhorrent to me…

[T]he President has disgraced his Office, the legal system, and the American people by having sex with a 22-year-old intern and turning her life into a shambles — callous and disgusting behavior that has somehow gotten lost in the shuffle. He has committed perjury (at least) in the [Paula] Jones case. … He has tried to disgrace [Ken Starr] and this Office with a sustained propaganda campaign that would make Nixon blush.

Kavanaugh listed ten sample questions, however explicit and unsavory, that he believed Starr and his questioners should ask. They included the following:

…If Monica Lewinsky says that you ejaculated into her mouth on two occasions in the Oval Office area, would she be lying?

If Monica Lewinsky says that on several occasions you had her give [you] oral sex, made her stop, and then ejaculated into the sink in the bathroom off the Oval Office, would she be lying?

If Monica Lewinsky says that you masturbated into a trashcan in your secretary’s office, would she [be] lying?

Although he objected to the prurience of the final version of the Starr Report, few conservatives will find anything that would give them pause. The Federalist Society knows its job. Besides, Zombie Ed Meese sat in the front row tonight when Donald J. Trump introduced Kavanaugh. If he’s good enough for Ronald Reagan’s legal bodyguard/conflict of interest expert, then he’s good enough for Mitch McConnell.

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