Call for special counsel Robert S. Mueller III to resign or be fired

 WASHINGTON — Last month in Shanghai, Chinese venture capitalist Eric X. Li made a provocative suggestion.
The United States, he said, was going through its own “Cultural Revolution.”
For those unfamiliar, Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) was a traumatic period of political upheaval, ostensibly intended to cleanse the People’s Republic of impure and bourgeois elements.
Universities were shuttered. Public officials were purged. Youth paramilitary groups, known as Red Guards, terrorized civilians. Citizens denounced teachers, spouses and parents they suspected of harboring capitalist sympathies.
Millions were uprooted and sent to the countryside for re-education and hard labor. Millions more were persecuted, publicly humiliated, tortured, executed.
All of which is why, when Li first made this comparison — at a lunch with American journalists sponsored by the Asia Society — I laughed. Li is known as a sort of rhetorical bomb-thrower, an expert defender of the Communist regime, and this seemed like just another one of his explosive remarks.
And yet I haven’t been able to get the comment out of my head. In the weeks since I’ve returned stateside, Li’s seemingly far-fetched analogy has begun to feel … a little too near-fetched.
Li said he saw several parallels between the violence and chaos in China decades ago and the animosity coursing through the United States today. In both cases, the countries turned inward, focusing more on defining the soul of their nations than on issues beyond their borders.
He said that both countries were also “torn apart by ideological struggles,” with kinships, friendships and business relationships being severed by political differences.
“Virtually all types of institutions, be it political, educational, or business, are exhausting their internal energy in dealing with contentious, and seemingly irreconcilable, differences in basic identities and values — what it means to be American,” he said in a subsequent email exchange. “In such an environment, identity trumps reason, ideology overwhelms politics, and moral convictions replace intellectual discourse.”
Li also pointed to the “big-character posters” — large, hand-painted propaganda slogans and calls to action — used during the Cultural Revolution to denounce purported enemies of the state and call for class struggle against them.
These find a contemporary counterpart in the hashtags and public pilings-on in social media, which also frequently leverages paranoia and mob rule. Today’s big (280) character posters — whether crafted by public figures, trolls, political groups or us laobaixing (commoners) — often take the form of calls for resignations or collective harassment, threats of violence and attacks on adversaries as “the enemy of the American People.”
Li didn’t mention these other similarities, but in both periods: Higher education is demonized. National symbols and cultural artifacts once seen as unifying, such as the Statue of Liberty and the American flag, become politicized. Specific words and ideas are stricken or banned from government communiques.
Both Mao’s decade-long tumult and today’s Cultural Revolution with American characteristics also feature cults of personality for the national leader, who thrives in the surrounding chaos. Each also gives his blessing, sometimes explicitly, for vigilantes to attack ideological opponents on his behalf.
But the most troubling parallel is the call for purges.
Then, Mao and his allies led purges of political and military ranks, allegedly for seditious or just insufficiently loyal behavior. Today, White House officials, right-wing media hosts and federal lawmakers have called for a “cleansing” of the nation’s top law-enforcement and intelligence agencies, because the “deep state” is conspiring against the president.
“We are at risk of a coup d’etat in this country if we allow an unaccountable person with no oversight to undermine the duly elected president of the United States,” Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., said on the House floor in November, as he called for special counsel Robert S. Mueller III to resign or be fired. He repeated this demand on TV last week.
Also last week, Rep. Francis Rooney, R-Fla., called for a “purge” of both the Justice Department and FBI to remove the influence of the “deep state.”
The more you look around, the more parallels appear. It’s almost like — stick with me here! — authoritarian, anti-intellectual, expulsionist tendencies are not confined to halfway around the world, half a century ago. Political tribalism can be fed and exploited for personal gain in any society, even our shining city on a hill.
What differentiates the (fully cataclysmic) China then from the (only relatively chaotic) United States now is, among other things, our political institutions. Our system of checks and balances. And perhaps a few statesmen willing to keep those institutions, checks and balances in place — occasionally turning their backs on their own political tribe.

 

As we brave 2018, may their spines stay strong.

Time to End Birthright Citizenship

Donald Trump took a lot of heat when he announced his candidacy for President, stating that he would build a border fence from San Diego to Brownsville and make Mexico pay for it, all to keep Mexico’s “unwanted” and “undesirables” from flooding the United States. In August 2015, on the campaign trail, he shed light on a flawed interpretation of the U.S. Constitution that has caused much of the problem of illegal immigration.
That misinterpretation of the 14th Amendment, written to guarantee the citizenship rights of freed slaves after the Civil War, has morphed the amendment into a guarantee of birthright citizenship. Merely being born on American soil is said to make you a U.S. citizen. Sneak past the U.S. Border Patrol, have your baby, and you not only have a U.S. citizen but what is called an “anchor baby” allowing you to stay and bring others in under the banner of family reunification.
During the campaign, Trump correctly called the flawed concept of birthright citizenship the “biggest magnet” for illegal immigration. He would end it, and as for family reunification, Trump is all for it, just saying it should happen on the other side of the U.S.-Mexico border. As the New York Post reported:

Trump described his expanded vision of how to secure American borders during a wide-ranging interview Sunday on NBC’s “Meet The Press,” and in a position paper he later released, saying that he would push to end the constitutionally protected citizenship rights of children of any family living illegally inside the US.
“They have to go,” Trump said. “What they’re doing, they’re having a baby. And then all of a sudden, nobody knows… the baby’s here.”

Birthright citizenship is the exception and not the rule worldwide. Even our European brethren, as fond as they are of refugees and open borders, do not embrace it. As Liz Peek writes on FoxNews.com, birthright citizenship is indeed a big magnet for illegal immigration:

The United States is one of only two developed countries in the world that still bestows citizenship on every person born on our nation’s soil. Having a child become a U.S. citizen is the greatest reward possible for someone who enters the country illegally. Such status is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars in free education and benefits, not to mention the incalculable value of our country’s security and freedoms. Historically, there was bipartisan enthusiasm for dumping this program; even Democrat Harry Reid had proposed its termination.

The costs of birthright citizenship are staggering, especially when you consider the costs of what is called “chain migration. Once of age, the baby born here can sponsor others. It has even given rise to what is called “birth tourism” where pregnant women are brought to the United States, ostensibly as tourists, to give birth here and have their child dubbed an American citizen by birth As Ian Tuttle writes in National Review:

Peter and Ellie Yang,” the subjects of Benjamin Carlson’s fascinating new Rolling Stone essay, “Welcome to Maternity Hotel California,” paid $35,000 to have their second child in the United States. In 2012 Chinese state media reported 10,000 “tourist births” by Chinese couples in the United States; other estimates skew as high as 60,000
The cost of this is not negligible. Inflation-adjusted figures from the U.S. Department of Agriculture projected that a child born in 2013 would cost his parents $304,480 from birth to his eighteenth birthday. Given that illegal-alien households are normally low-income households (three out of five illegal aliens and their U.S.-born children live at or near the poverty line), one would expect that a significant portion of that cost will fall on the government…
There are long-term costs, too. U.S.-born children of illegal aliens can sponsor the immigration of family members once they come of age. At 18, an “anchor baby” can sponsor an overseas spouse and unmarried children of his own; at 21, he can sponsor parents and siblings…

Trump said he would end birthright citizenship and critics have said that the task, even if justified, is well nigh impossible, requiring amending the U.S. Constitution. In reality, it may not require altering the 14th Amendment — only correctly interpreting it — perhaps through clarifying legislation.
The Fourteenth Amendment, passed, on July 3, 1866, reads, “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.” This was done, again, to guarantee the citizenship rights of freed slaves, not illegal aliens. The 1857 Dred Scott decision held that no black, not even a freed black, could be considered a citizen.
In testimony before the House Judiciary Committee in October, 2008, John C. Eastman, a law professor at Chapman University and a fellow at the Claremont Institute, argued that illegal aliens are still foreign nationals and are not subject to U.S. jurisdiction, except for purposes of deportation, and therefore their children born on American soil should not be automatically considered U.S. citizens.
During debate on the Fourteenth Amendment, Sen. Jacob Merritt Howard of Michigan added jurisdiction language specifically to avoid accident of birth being the sole criteria for citizenship. And if citizenship was determined just by place of birth, why did it take an act of Congress in 1922 to give American Indians birthright citizenship, if they already had citizenship by birthright under the14th Amendment?
Rep. John Bingham of Ohio, who is regarded as the father of the 14th Amendment, said it meant that “every human being born within the jurisdiction of the United States of parents not owing allegiance to any foreign sovereignty is, in the language of your constitution itself. A natural born citizen…”
Rep. Nathan Deal of Georgia sought to clarify the situation through HR. 698 the Citizenship Reform Act of 2005, which would have amended the Immigration and Nationality Act to deny automatic citizenship to children born of the United States of parents who are not U.S. citizens or are not permanent resident aliens.
HR. 698 declared: “It is the purpose of this Act to deny automatic citizenship at birth to children born in the United States to parents who are not citizens or permanent resident aliens.” The bill undertook to clarify “subject to the jurisdiction of the United States” to the meaning originally intended by Congress in the14th Amendment.
The current interpretation of birthright citizenship may in fact have been a huge mistake and given the burden illegal aliens have imposed on our welfare, educational, and health care systems as well as through increased crime on our legal system, a very costly one.

There may be hope of correctly interpreting the 14th Amendment through a court case as President Trump reshapes the courts, particularly the Supreme Court, with justices of a more “originalist” bent. As noted, the misinterpretation could be corrected through clarifying legislation. We can correct it judicially or legislatively and we should. Donald Trump was right — becoming a U.S. citizen should require more than your mother successfully sneaking past the U.S. Border Patrol.

Time to End Birthright Citizenship

Donald Trump took a lot of heat when he announced his candidacy for President, stating that he would build a border fence from San Diego to Brownsville and make Mexico pay for it, all to keep Mexico’s “unwanted” and “undesirables” from flooding the United States. In August 2015, on the campaign trail, he shed light on a flawed interpretation of the U.S. Constitution that has caused much of the problem of illegal immigration.
That misinterpretation of the 14th Amendment, written to guarantee the citizenship rights of freed slaves after the Civil War, has morphed the amendment into a guarantee of birthright citizenship. Merely being born on American soil is said to make you a U.S. citizen. Sneak past the U.S. Border Patrol, have your baby, and you not only have a U.S. citizen but what is called an “anchor baby” allowing you to stay and bring others in under the banner of family reunification.
During the campaign, Trump correctly called the flawed concept of birthright citizenship the “biggest magnet” for illegal immigration. He would end it, and as for family reunification, Trump is all for it, just saying it should happen on the other side of the U.S.-Mexico border. As the New York Post reported:

Trump described his expanded vision of how to secure American borders during a wide-ranging interview Sunday on NBC’s “Meet The Press,” and in a position paper he later released, saying that he would push to end the constitutionally protected citizenship rights of children of any family living illegally inside the US.
“They have to go,” Trump said. “What they’re doing, they’re having a baby. And then all of a sudden, nobody knows… the baby’s here.”

Birthright citizenship is the exception and not the rule worldwide. Even our European brethren, as fond as they are of refugees and open borders, do not embrace it. As Liz Peek writes on FoxNews.com, birthright citizenship is indeed a big magnet for illegal immigration:

The United States is one of only two developed countries in the world that still bestows citizenship on every person born on our nation’s soil. Having a child become a U.S. citizen is the greatest reward possible for someone who enters the country illegally. Such status is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars in free education and benefits, not to mention the incalculable value of our country’s security and freedoms. Historically, there was bipartisan enthusiasm for dumping this program; even Democrat Harry Reid had proposed its termination.

The costs of birthright citizenship are staggering, especially when you consider the costs of what is called “chain migration. Once of age, the baby born here can sponsor others. It has even given rise to what is called “birth tourism” where pregnant women are brought to the United States, ostensibly as tourists, to give birth here and have their child dubbed an American citizen by birth As Ian Tuttle writes in National Review:

Peter and Ellie Yang,” the subjects of Benjamin Carlson’s fascinating new Rolling Stone essay, “Welcome to Maternity Hotel California,” paid $35,000 to have their second child in the United States. In 2012 Chinese state media reported 10,000 “tourist births” by Chinese couples in the United States; other estimates skew as high as 60,000
The cost of this is not negligible. Inflation-adjusted figures from the U.S. Department of Agriculture projected that a child born in 2013 would cost his parents $304,480 from birth to his eighteenth birthday. Given that illegal-alien households are normally low-income households (three out of five illegal aliens and their U.S.-born children live at or near the poverty line), one would expect that a significant portion of that cost will fall on the government…
There are long-term costs, too. U.S.-born children of illegal aliens can sponsor the immigration of family members once they come of age. At 18, an “anchor baby” can sponsor an overseas spouse and unmarried children of his own; at 21, he can sponsor parents and siblings…

Trump said he would end birthright citizenship and critics have said that the task, even if justified, is well nigh impossible, requiring amending the U.S. Constitution. In reality, it may not require altering the 14th Amendment — only correctly interpreting it — perhaps through clarifying legislation.
The Fourteenth Amendment, passed, on July 3, 1866, reads, “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.” This was done, again, to guarantee the citizenship rights of freed slaves, not illegal aliens. The 1857 Dred Scott decision held that no black, not even a freed black, could be considered a citizen.
In testimony before the House Judiciary Committee in October, 2008, John C. Eastman, a law professor at Chapman University and a fellow at the Claremont Institute, argued that illegal aliens are still foreign nationals and are not subject to U.S. jurisdiction, except for purposes of deportation, and therefore their children born on American soil should not be automatically considered U.S. citizens.
During debate on the Fourteenth Amendment, Sen. Jacob Merritt Howard of Michigan added jurisdiction language specifically to avoid accident of birth being the sole criteria for citizenship. And if citizenship was determined just by place of birth, why did it take an act of Congress in 1922 to give American Indians birthright citizenship, if they already had citizenship by birthright under the14th Amendment?
Rep. John Bingham of Ohio, who is regarded as the father of the 14th Amendment, said it meant that “every human being born within the jurisdiction of the United States of parents not owing allegiance to any foreign sovereignty is, in the language of your constitution itself. A natural born citizen…”
Rep. Nathan Deal of Georgia sought to clarify the situation through HR. 698 the Citizenship Reform Act of 2005, which would have amended the Immigration and Nationality Act to deny automatic citizenship to children born of the United States of parents who are not U.S. citizens or are not permanent resident aliens.
HR. 698 declared: “It is the purpose of this Act to deny automatic citizenship at birth to children born in the United States to parents who are not citizens or permanent resident aliens.” The bill undertook to clarify “subject to the jurisdiction of the United States” to the meaning originally intended by Congress in the14th Amendment.
The current interpretation of birthright citizenship may in fact have been a huge mistake and given the burden illegal aliens have imposed on our welfare, educational, and health care systems as well as through increased crime on our legal system, a very costly one.

There may be hope of correctly interpreting the 14th Amendment through a court case as President Trump reshapes the courts, particularly the Supreme Court, with justices of a more “originalist” bent. As noted, the misinterpretation could be corrected through clarifying legislation. We can correct it judicially or legislatively and we should. Donald Trump was right — becoming a U.S. citizen should require more than your mother successfully sneaking past the U.S. Border Patrol.

Stable Genius? Sorry Democrats, But This Is How China Views Trump’s Foreign Policy

To Democrats, Donald Trump is reckless. He’s a moron. He’s threatening to blow up the U.S. economy through trade wars and renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement. He’s says other nations have stripped us of our wealth. He’s goes off half-cocked on Twitter. In short, the man is unstable and will lead us into nuclear World War III. Sadly, that’s not how the East views the president. In fact, they’re view him as a “master tactician” that’s trying to buck the old order and reassert American primacy in the process. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, NAFTA, and the World Trade Organization get in the way of that.  By casting them aside, with the U.S. still the top dog in the world, Trump can reassert American power on the international scene, according to Mark Leonard, director of the European Council on Foreign Relations.
Leonard spoke with numerous officials and members of the Chinese elite, some of them high-level, who are more wary of what they see as Trump’s “creative destruction.” He also said the people he spoke noted that Trump is the first president to attack China economically, military, and on the basis of ideology. They also viewed his Helsinki presser with Russian President Vladimir Putin, which many viewed as a low point in the administration, with the hysterical view being that it was treasonous, as Kissinger-esque in the sense that Trump is using Russia to isolate China. In 1972, Nixon opening the door was a brilliant geopolitical move that boxed in the Soviet Union. One billion people then viewed the USSR as an enemy. Yet, China is also making moves to counter this trend (via Financial Times):

In Chinese eyes, Mr Trump’s response is a form of “creative destruction”. He is systematically destroying the existing institutions — from the World Trade Organization and the North American Free Trade Agreement to Nato and the Iran nuclear deal — as a first step towards renegotiating the world order on terms more favourable to Washington.
[…]
My interlocutors say that Mr Trump is the US first president for more than 40 years to bash China on three fronts simultaneously: trade, military and ideology. They describe him as a master tactician, focusing on one issue at a time, and extracting as many concessions as he can. They speak of the skilful way Mr Trump has treated President Xi Jinping. “Look at how he handled North Korea,” one says. “He got Xi Jinping to agree to UN sanctions [half a dozen] times, creating an economic stranglehold on the country. China almost turned North Korea into a sworn enemy of the country.” But they also see him as a strategist, willing to declare a truce in each area when there are no more concessions to be had, and then start again with a new front.
For the Chinese, even Mr Trump’s sycophantic press conference with Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, in Helsinki had a strategic purpose. They see it as Henry Kissinger in reverse. In 1972, the US nudged China off the Soviet axis in order to put pressure on its real rival, the Soviet Union. Today Mr Trump is reaching out to Russia in order to isolate China.
In the short term, China is talking tough in response to Mr Trump’s trade assault. At the same time they are trying to develop a multiplayer front against him by reaching out to the EU, Japan and South Korea. But many Chinese experts are quietly calling for a rethink of the longer-term strategy. They want to prepare the ground for a new grand bargain with the US based on Chinese retrenchment. Many feel that Mr Xi has over-reached and worry that it was a mistake simultaneously to antagonise the US economically and militarily in the South China Sea.

China is one of our biggest geopolitical rivals. Is this a bad course of action? No, but Trump will never be given the credit. Instead, we’ll focus on how he hurt some European leader’s feelings and go into hysterics over that, among 10,000 other tiny, irrelevant things he does because that’s how our anti-Trump news media is as of late. But across the vast gulf of the Pacific, our enemies, rivals, competitors, or whatever you want to call them, have a much higher opinion of Trump’s intelligence and capability as a leader. They view him as an effective tactician. They view him as a threat, not based on his tweets, but in what he’s reportedly trying to do. How Trump can accomplish this long-term goal would require swamp draining for sure, but it also shows that Democrats, so blinded by hate, are missing one helluva show that could be in production in East Asia.

Why Funko Pop is a stupid collectable

On the weekend we went to a collector’s fair. My primary goal was to buy Lego characters, but we put aside a couple of hours to browse through all the stalls, checking out the retro action figures, the collectable merchandise, the indie games and art stalls, looking for anything that fits one of my collections or had enough nostalgic value to put on display in my theatre. I got an old Usagi Yojimbo action figure for $5, that was cool. One thing we absolutely did not do, however, was stop at the Funko Pop Vinyl figure stalls.

usagi yojimbo tmnt figure

It wasn’t a huge market, it took up the space of two indoor basketball courts. That’s pretty good for a city this size. There were, at a rough estimate, about 50 stalls set up. And at least five or six of those were completely dedicated to Pop Vinyls. So they accounted for at least 10% of stalls at the fair, and those are just the ones dedicated to the product – not the ones that included them with their other stock.

I love collecting things. I always have a number of different collections going at one time. Right now it’s Arkham villain actions figures, Lego collectible Mini-Figs, Harley Quinn statues, autographs, expansion packs for the Marvel Legendary board game and Discworld books. It’s almost irrelevant what the collection it is, I just enjoy the ‘game’ of collecting. Sometimes I’ll get bored with a collection and sell it, putting the money towards a new collection. You’d think something like Funko Pop Vinyl figures would be my jam. But I won’t touch them.

Why not?

If It’s Marketed as a Collectable, It Isn’t

What makes something worth collecting? There’s a range of reasons. It’s of personal interest to you, it’s part of a set, you’re a completist, it’s an investment…but I don’t consider something to be a collectable because it has ‘collectable’ written on the box. To take an example, let’s look at Marvel comics in the early 1990s. Every time they launched a new title, series or spin-off they’d put in it a polybag or put some shiny ink on the front cover. It did nothing to enhance the product content, but the market research had shown that such packaging attracted attention on the newsstand leading to more sales. So they’d pump out extra copies, jack up the price and market them as ‘collectable special editions’, the implication being that they’d carry more resale value and be harder to get. The opposite was true – the market was saturated and everyone had a copy. With only a small number of collectors available there was no market for reselling them. Their initial forays into this scheme was Spider-Man #1 and X-Force #1, which were the biggest selling comics at the time. It was reported that copies were still on the shelves months after the release because they’d been overstocked. Marvel, being more interested in the bottom line, turned this trick time and time again over the next decade or two with ‘collector’ cards, hologram covers, extra covers and whatever else being slapped on every second issue.

spidermanvariants-jpg

Pop Vinyl does the same thing, claiming that every product is a ‘collectable’ and citing limited copies and special editions. Aside from the conventions exclusives, the implication is again that they ship in limited numbers. The reality is that they get shipped to retailers in lots of 36, so that each of the thousands and thousands of stores stocking these damned things are going to have a decent number of each available. Why do you think there are always a whole wall of them?

Ah, but there’s the ‘chase’ copy. In every lot of 36 is one slightly different one, possibly with a different paint on them. How can you identify them? Easy. There’s a big sticker on the front telling you it’s the ‘chase’ version. Well, that makes for an exciting game doesn’t it? You can all rush down to the store and be the first to find the ‘chase’ version! Except you won’t, because most retailers buy it themselves for their own collection or chuck it on ebay at a huge mark up. As one online guide put it, “seeing them in the wild is very rare”.

240914083835image

These items are only considered collectable because they get marketed that way, and some are harder to find by design. To most collectors the rare items are rare because of an accident in production or an external factor. The hardest to find Star Wars figures, a popular collectable, are rare because of changes to the design early in production such as the Jawa with a vinyl cloak rather than cloth, or it was produced for a small market such as the 1988 figure ‘Vlix’ that was only released in Brazil. These are more interesting rarities than something that the producer has limited numbers of simply to artificially inflate the value.

vlixX3

In short, Funko takes the fun out of collecting by creating a fake collectors market for profit. They’re not making these out of passion for the medium or for the artistry of creation, it’s only about the bank balance.

There’s No End to the Set

I like to complete a set. It’s the most satisfying part of collecting. You get the last, rare item, add it to the display and look for the next challenge. But you will never be able to complete a set of Pop Vinyls because they are endless. They release more and more every month. So maybe you don’t want every single one, maybe just the one type like DC characters. That’s a smaller amount but you’re still looking at a lot of variations of the same characters. There are, at the time of writing, 17 different versions of Stan Lee.

stan lee pop vinyl

There’s No Resell Value

Sure, you can find expensive, ‘rare’ Pop Vinyls on ebay. And maybe you’ve got one that might fetch you $30 if you sold it. But don’t believe the myth that buying them is going to be an investment. They’re not going to increase in value as time goes on and the number of buyers is going to go down. That’s because they are going to keep making more and more sets every year and everyone is going to get bored.

We know this is going to happen because it happened 20 years ago with Beanie Babies. People, some smart people with a history of making good investments, bought them up as they were marketed as ‘collectables’. Suddenly the bubble burst, interest dried up and nobody would buy them. Some could argue that they’re still rare and worth something for that, but you’d be pressed to find a buyer. At best you’ll end up an online joke like the divorcing couple who had to be supervised by a judge while they sat on the courtroom floor and divided up their Beanie Baby collection.

beanie-baby-divorce

When you grow bored with your collectable misshapen figures you’re going to have two options: pack them up in a box and let them gather dust dreaming of the day they’re worth selling again, or chucking them into the bin where they will add to the ever-increasing landfills of the world.

They Have No Secondary Use

Call me crazy, but I prefer collectables that do something. I have a huge collection of cards for Marvel Legendary but they make up a really awesome deck-building board game I play with friends. Lego bought for a collection of Lego Dimension figurines can be passed on the younger generation to add to their Lego cities. Even those ‘collectable’ Marvel comics we mentioned earlier can be read, or carries some artistic merit (not X-Force #1, obviously – it’s drawn by Rob Liefeld). Pop Vinyls do less than nothing. They take up shelf space and gather dust. I’m not going to argue that my Arkham action figures do much more, but at least they’re posable or could be played with. Pop Vinyls aren’t in any way articulate. I also have a couple of statuettes of Harley Quinn, my favourite villain, that just sit on the shelf and gather dust, but there’s something that separates them from Pop Vinyls…

They Don’t Look Good

Now this is going to be subject to personal opinion – but they are damned ugly. They’re squat, misshapen, expressionless dead-eyed lumps of plastic. The assumption is that the giant head and big eyes make them cute, but they’re not. The limited appeal might be seeing certain characters like Walter White or Superman reduced to this state, but the novelty wears off after a billion iterations of the same thing. Comparing the Harley Quinn version of the series, which features the same interchangeable faceless design of the entirety of the series…

Harley_Quinn_POP_GLAM_1024x1024

…to one of the aforementioned and poorly photographed Harley Quinn statues, which is an artistically designed figure made in porcelain that captures the personality of the character.

Harley statue

It may cost more, but it stands out because there aren’t tens of thousands of copies in homes and shops across the world. And it looks good. If I’m going to have something that sits next to my comic collection and does nothing, I’d much rather this. It’s been on display in this house for years, and will continue to be here whilst Pop Vinyls all end up like this:

landfill

Nerds: Why are otherwise extremely intelligent people so lacking in social skills?

“Normal” people have “tact filters” over their mouths, so anything that comes out of their mouth would be non-offensive to another human being. Thus “normal” people can converse with anyone and not get offended.

Nerds have tact filters over their ears. Thus, no matter what is being said or how offensive it is, it gets filtered prior to them hearing it, and thus they don’t find anything being said to be offensive. Two nerds can be in a room saying anything they want to each other, and neither one will be offended.

The problem arises when a nerd is talking to a “normal” person. The words coming out of the “normal” person’s mouth are filtered, and filtered again by the nerd’s ears, so the nerd does not get offended by what the “normal” person says. However, since the words coming out of the nerd’s mouth are unfiltered (and offensive), and the words going into the “normal” person’s ears are unfiltered, the “normal” person gets offended. That’s where the problem arises.

EDM (Trance, house, dubstep, techno, Hi-NRG) replacing Rock music What’s next?

It’s hard for people around this county to comprehend that rock is going away. Country music and hiphop could be next. I was listening to EDM since 2002 like ATB, John Digweed, Sasha, Paul Oakenfold, Tiesto, Ferry Corsten, Armin Van Buuren. Long time  before the ‘rock is dead’ articles appeared.

9. For all of the attention paid to the ever-elusive 18-to-34 demographic, there just hasn’t been enough reason over the last decade for major labels to continue chasing them, particularly those outside the standard pop market. In the 50s and 60s, this demographic was the biggest get for rock and roll, as noted by the pandemonium caused by Elvis and the Beatles. And sure, this age group is still considered the biggest overall seeker of new music, but that doesn’t always translate to a consistent cash flow. And thus, simply getting the young demo to hear the new music isn’t enough. So the rock industry has shifted its targets to the entrenched middle grounds, aiming to satisfy those who very rarely seek out new music, because those are the people who will really latch onto a particular band and buy the crap out of their merchandise.

8. The internet has given us many wonderful things, including more variety of entertainment than a child growing up in the 70s could have ever dreamed possible. Games, movies, and yes, music, have all had a ballooning of availability thanks to the World Wide Web. But with a seemingly endless pile of music shoved onto our laps, we’re now living the curse of “the man who suddenly got everything he wanted.” Except, unlike the assumption posited by Willy Wonka (er…Roald Dahl), not everyone is living happily ever after. This overwhelming abundance has made it almost impossible to sustain a decent attention span. It’s become more and more difficult to really immerse yourself in any particular band, because there’s always another similar-sounding band just around the digital corner, and maybe they’re even a little better, and boy you’d really be remiss if you didn’t at least give them a listen to compare. And it’s also killed the idea of the giant, rock star world tour, because unless you’re the Rolling Stones, most fans seem content to look up a clip of the concert on YouTube and call it a day.

7. Supply and demand is the basic tenant of all commerce, whether that product happens to have any artistic merit or not. And since we’ve already established that there is far too much new music being generated for any one band to really corner the market, that means that most of these up-and-coming bands now have to settle for a pittance. It was recently assumed (and even more recently disproved) that the best way for a new artist to get their music heard, and thus, get more money in their pockets, is by using the many facets of the digital age to their advantage. Online radio stations like Pandora, for instance, could help bands introduce themselves via similar-sounding artists. Other streaming music services such as Spotify act in a similar fashion, almost like a dating service for musicians and their possible fans. The problem is that Pandora has become increasingly influenced by the record companies, and are now filling up the bulk of their “suggestions” with already established artists. The little guys, ironically, are now finding it harder to get into the mix, which seemed to be the initial point of the service. And forget about making any real money off it even if you’re lucky enough to squirm your way into their catalogues. Pandora only pays artists $0.001 per stream. (Spotify’s price points are only slightly better.)

6. Touring costs have been driven up significantly over the last decade, to the point where it’s becoming damn near impossible for up-and-coming bands to get their live music heard to enough people to pay for their food during the tour. That coupled with the aforementioned notion that too many younger listeners are choosing to stay in their homes and watch a bootlegged concert that someone filmed using their iPhone (who probably wasn’t even paying attention to the show), on their laptop instead of going out to a show. Even if there’s a small cover charge to get into the venue that’s hosting a bunch of live music, much of the younger crowd scoffs at it. So now lower tier bands are finding it harder to fill the seats. Even established rock artists are finding it hard to sell out club gigs, while the perennial megastars (U2, Stones, Chili Peppers) might still be selling out arenas, they’re playing shows much less frequently to raise the demand.

5. If the central argument for why it’s so difficult for new rock bands to get noticed today is because there’s no longer any money in it, then that’s short-shrifting the idea that rock and roll was supposed to be more about art than commerce. Obviously, no one should be living in poverty for the sake of their art, which may be what they’re getting at with that argument, but shouldn’t the lack of big time money help weed out those who are only in it for the money? In theory, that’s exactly what’s happening. It just happens most of these legitimate “artists” aren’t receiving any kind of notable exposure. Because there’s your Catch-22: Stay true to your artistic integrity or “sell out” for more recognition. But even the lines of what constitutes a sell-out have been completely revamped in this new age. After all, what musician hasn’t authorized at least a song to be used in an advertisement or a movie. It’s one of the most efficient ways to earn income nowadays. But that’s not to say “selling” your song to pop culture will get you noticed…

4. Unless you make music that can fit neatly into the mold of pop radio’s ever-narrowing standards, you’re unlikely to experience the kind of mainstream success that would make you a true star. And that’s why you see fewer and fewer “rock stars” coming to the forefront–or even the middle–of the music crowd. That’s not to say that some rock bands don’t do very well for themselves (largely because of rigorous touring), but you’d be hard-pressed to name a true rock star that’s emerged in the last couple of decades. Maybe Jack White? Truthfully, in terms of sheer popularity, the closest thing we have to a figurehead is Chris Martin. Or, possibly even worse, Adam Levine. But those guys are, at best, pop icons who occasionally dabble in rock sub-genres. They don’t make traditional rock and roll.

3. The full quote from Gene Simmons about the sorry state of rock music is as long-winded as it is churlish, but here’s a snippet:

“The death of rock was not a natural death. Rock did not die of old age. It was murdered…You’re better off not even learning how to play guitar or write songs, and just singing in the shower and auditioning for The X Factor… Where’s the next Bob Dylan? Where’s the next Beatles? Where are the songwriters?”

Well, if we’re using Dylan and the Beatles as the definition of rock and roll, there’s certainly no shortage of them out there. Singer-songwriter types pop up constantly, it’s just rare for them to get the kind of radio play those other two examples quite frankly lucked into back in their day. But herein lies the main problem: What the hell constitutes rock and roll?

2.op rock, punk rock, soft rock, hard rock, indie rock, acid rock, garage rock, alt rock, art rock, surf rock, space rock, rap rock, skate rock, glam rock, goth rock, folk rock…there’s even Viking rock. So just what the hell do people even mean when they’re talking about rock and roll? It seems to be more about an attitude than any clear genre boundaries, but it’s still worth exploring what types of bands usually fall into the category. We give bands like Guns N Roses and AC/DC a lifelong pass onto the hollowed grounds of rock and roll, even though their styles are closer to blues and heavy metal than the sound of Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis. The fact is, there hasn’t been a “pure” rock and roll band in mainstream music for a very long time. Really, ever since the first major pop-rock groups came onto the scene in the 60s (The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, etc…), rock and roll was already becoming a thing of the past.

1. Most of the time when you hear someone talking about “rock and roll,” they’re using it as an interchangeable term for “classic rock.” That’s to say, the music chosen from the album-oriented rock format from the 60s, 70s, and 80s that radio stations have decided to grant the tag of “real” rock music. But that’s not even the most popular time span for rock and roll. Honest-to-goodness rock and roll exploded in the late 40s and lasted for another decade or so before getting diluted and splitting into dozens of sub-genres. Most music historians agree that the purist form the of the genre pretty much fizzled out in the waning years of the 50s. Once The Big Bopper, Richie Valens, and Buddy Holly went down in that plane crash, that was pretty much the final nail in the coffin of “traditional” rock and roll. (“The Day the Music Died” should really be called “The Day Rock and Roll Lost Its Way.) But it doesn’t matter. The spirit of rock and roll has lived on in various forms ever since, even if it’s not exactly the same as it used to be. So…maybe we should all stop trying to recapture something that was already lost more than 50 years ago?