Saturday, July 16, 2016

Yellow Moon on the Rise

Neil Young
1972, Reprise
Neil Young - guitars, vocals
The Stray Gators:
  Jack Nitszche - piano
  Ben Keith - pedal steel
  Tim Drummond - bass
  Kenny Buttrey - drums

  • Heart of Gold/Sugar Mountain
  • Old Man/Needle and the Damage Done
This is one of the first records I ever bought. I got it in middle school, mostly because Neil Young got a lot of radio play, but my father, who was a big classic 60s/70s rock guy didn't like him, but he had Crosby Still and Nash records. I had Old Man stuck in my head for an entire summer in high school.

Many consider this record to be one of his best. It's essentially a country album, back when country, bluegrass, and folk often blended boundaries, and Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, and Hank Williams were kings. There is an overall melancholy that permeates throughout the record, even the uplifting love songs are tinged with a sweet sadness. The record became a pillar of Young's career, and he released a sequel record Harvest Moon in 1992 which also featured the Stray Gators.

Alabama is on this record too. It is Young's rebuttal to Lynyrd Skynyrd's Sweet Home Alabama, and reminds me of Warren Zevon's song Play it all Night Long. Actually all four of these songs (including Young's Southern Man) should all be played together and called the Fuck the South Suite.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Nerds Cannot be Satisfied: Ghostbusters Edition

-Tell him about the twinkie.
-What about the twinkie?

The Ghostbusters is one of the most beloved science fiction franchises in all of Nerddom. It's not really much of a franchise. Two movies were made in the 80s. The first film is a masterpiece of science fiction comedy, it basically wrote the book on comedy science fiction. The follow up was not as good, and although there were plenty of plans for a 3rd installment, Bill Murray could never be convinced to join up and the movie franchise fizzled. There was a really great, pretty successful animated television show though, from 1986 to 1991. I loved that show.

Finally, the new Ghostbusters remake opens today. Paul Feig had been working on this since 2014. An all new cast would take the mantle of Ghostbusters from the original cast members. Finally, fans can rejoice, this beloved franchise will get a new life!

Except they didn't rejoice. They vehemently rejected the entire project after it was revealed the cast would be all female. That's right, nerds are actually terrible people. There is an obvious reaction to being labeled a misogynist, and plenty of people attempted to hide their obvious distaste for this film yet to be made by declaring the cast didn't bother them, but remakes are the worst.

This argument does have traction, given the responses to other nerdy franchise remakes, like the Ninja Turtles, and Superman. I'm sure some of the nerd rage was from regular critics aware of the long history of Hollywood screwing with science fiction, comics, and fantasy properties. But the response to this particular film goes far beyond normal critic skepticism. The level of vitriol and disgusting rhetoric I've seen posted about this film is far higher than films like Straw Dogs, The Thing, Conan the Barbarian, Star Trek, or True Grit. Here is some evidence... beware, the following screen captures may be nauseating:

These are just the comments I could find through a Google search. The film's Facebook page has each and every post trolled with similar mean spirited, misogynist, hateful comments. I have never seen the kind of bile spewed at a film that hadn't even been released yet. Alicia Malone from Fandango hasn't "seen this level of hatred by an extremely vocal group before a movie came out or before anyone even saw it. It’s unprecedented”.

I was perplexed at first why people feel the need to share their feelings about the directions this film decided to take. After all, a new Ghostbusters film is better than no Ghostbusters film. Since the original cast are all super old (or in Harold Ramis's case, dead), a direct sequel didn't look like a good idea.

But then I realized this makes perfect sense. The backlash isn't about remaking Ghostbusters, it's about the women cast as the heroes. I completely forgot that nerds are extremely sexist. These are the same dudes who hate female cosplayers, and Gamergate after all. This reaction to the movie is so bad, IMBD suspects that after the release in the UK, American fans were giving the film poor reviews before they even saw the film (the US release happens after IMBD opens the film for review). Anyone who hates an idea so much they have to try to sabotage it; ruin it for everyone else, not only smells of crazy desperation, but is also indefensibly mean.

USA Today ran a story about the backlash, and included Paul Feig and Dan Aykroyd's reactions. Aykroyd stated, "If they are hardcore misogynists and against the women’s participation, they’ll stay home. It won’t affect us".

I agree Dan, fuck those guys.

I saw the film. It is an exceptional science fiction comedy. Women can be funny and play interesting multidimensional characters. Ghostbusters may be an unabashed reboot full of cameos and easter eggs. But it's a fun, well written comedy with upgraded special effects, and quality acting from quality actors.

The best part, I thought, was the characters. Most of the time in rebooted franchises, the characters stay the same. But these characters are not gender swapped Venkman, Stantz, Zedmore and Spengler, they are entirely new individuals with their own personalities, quirks, and ways they interact.

See this film. It's good. It's funny. It defies all the negativity and hate poured on it by lame, sexist fanboys. 

Friday, July 8, 2016

That's No Barren Wasteland

Recently I read a first-hand account of property maintenance in the suburbs. A couple moved from the city into a more rural Ohio suburb and decided to let the property “go natural”. The town zoning commission, though, forced them to mow. The home owner described the experience as “a massacre. I ran over a snake and killed it. I killed a toad. I cut down all of these beautiful native plants and wildflowers”.
Fighting against routine residential property maintenance is probably a losing battle, especially when involving community health and safety, aesthetic, and property values. However, this idea of empty space having value beyond aesthetics deserves attention. Residential property is only one example. Other open spaces in our communities not tied to residential property values do exist and can be better managed.

Like what our family from Ohio realized, these manmade grassland areas do create their own unique ecosystems. Land cleared for several different reasons requires routine maintenance to remain open space. These areas include airports, capped landfills, croplands, abandoned lots, and hayfields. If not maintained, open areas grow back into forest. Cultivating small biodiverse habitats within our highly managed and sterile residential environments has its benefits.

Empty lots allowed to “go natural” can seem from the street as desolate, unkempt property. But from the inside, they can be bustling with activity. Plants and wildflowers grow here, attracting bees and other pollinators. Birds nest here, raising their young. Predators stalk prey seen as vermin that use the tall vegetation to hide. Safely maintaining these systems can potentially boost bee activity, encourage bird populations, and manage pest problems. In short, an area kept clear for a pragmatic reason still lives.

The important term is safe maintenance. Mowing, as our Ohio couple discovered, can be extremely devastating to a grassland system. Developing a maintenance plan coinciding with flowering seasons and nesting times, as well as deciding on best practices for maintenance methods helps protect and develop these exciting backyard ecological systems in harmony with our need for aesthetically pleasing suburban communities.

The University of New Hampshire recommends regularly mowing areas like this every three years at six inches or higher, and physically removing shrubs or young saplings. Mowing ought to be done in autumn, after the nesting and flowering seasons, and during the day, as birds roost in the grass at night. In addition, controlled burns may be used as well. Not only does mimicking this natural process enrich soils and spread native grasses, but also provides valuable practice for local fire departments.

Cleared sites don’t have to just sit idle and foster biodiversity either. In addition, grassland areas can work for their communities. These areas can host the space needed for renewable energy sources, such as wind farms, and provide biofuels.

Regularly scheduled mowing does provide waste. Biomass fuel from haying and grass silage provides a cheap energy alternative while dramatically dropping greenhouse emissions and protecting soil and groundwater. The surrounding community benefits from an otherwise wasted space that could potentially keep land values down, and seem unsightly. The funding saved can then be reinvested into the grassland habitat, strengthening the ecosystem.

Invasive plant species thrive in these environments, the one drawback to open spaces. The best way to manage this issue combines targeting these destructive species for removal and fostering a healthy turf stand capable of defending itself. The money saved with biofuels will pay for all of this.

In conclusion, the importance of open space turf areas goes far beyond residential aesthetics. Communities have an opportunity to create their own system within areas like these. A system that can benefit local ecology, fulfill its role as a necessary open space, and also benefit the community’s energy needs is most certainly worth exploring.