Get your kicks

(This is the first of two posts following the same idea, which is; wow, I can’t believe the guy who wrote this song also wrote that song which is so different from this song. Got it? Okay, here goes)

The guy who wrote this song, “Their Hearts Were Full of Spring,” performed here on the Andy Williams Show by the Beach Boys in 1965,

also wrote this song, which he performs here;

Bobby Troup. And btw, he played a doctor on TV in the 1970s drama Emergency.

Joe EarlyBet you didn’t see that coming; anyway, I didn’t when I started looking into this.

The Beach Boys first recorded “Their Hearts Were Full of Spring” for their 1963 album Little Deuce Coupe, under the title “A Young Man Is Gone” with lyrics by Mike Love. Love ditched the love story in the original lyrics and cranked out an ode to James Dean in keeping with the “concept” of the album, cars and crashes. Love’s lyrics aren’t very good and kudos to Brian Wilson and the boys for reverting to the original a couple of years later for their TV performance.

“Their Hearts Were Full of Spring” was recorded in 1960 by The Four Freshmen, a group often cited by Brian Wilson as a key influence. Here it is;

After listening to this rendition, which is superior to the Beach Boys versions, you might want to learn a little more about The Four Freshmen. You should, because they along with the Mills Brothers were the innovators of vocal harmony for the age. I recommend this 40-odd minute compilation as a starting place. Tip: Brian Wilson modeled his falsetto on Bob Flanigan. He’s the tall skinny guy with the trombone in the video’s first song.

“Quarrels with our past selves”

This past weekend Link Byfield, my former boss at the Alberta Report, passed away. I remembered him in a previous entry here, after his illness was publicly announced. My former colleague Colby Cosh now does the honors:

Jan. 26, 2015, Colby Cosh in Maclean’s: R.I.P., Link Byfield


My impression is that Link had spent his early twenties knocking around Western Canada taking drugs: I don’t know if you could call him a dealer, but I gathered he had not exactly been averse to a quick profit.

Some people might be surprised by this but it wasn’t any big secret. I recall one day walking into Link’s office wearing a tee-shirt with the logo of the Marion Hotel on the front. A friend had bought this for me as a souvenir after a couple of pitchers of beer in said bar during a recent trip to Winnipeg. Link noticed the shirt and broke out laughing. “Where did you get that?” he bellowed. He had a expressive face and with a gigantic smile—when he was telling a story about something he thought was funny, preposterous, or both, he’d lean back on his chair, pull his chin back, show a good amount of teeth and squint his eyes—he explained that in his misguided youth he had served part of a community service sentence for drug possession working in the Marion Hotel bar. I was able to commiserate because in my misguided youth, I told him, at age 21 in fact, I had been busted for drunk driving and served part of my community service working in the bar at a Royal Canadian Legion. (I’m pretty sure I should insert a joke here about the Canadian justice system, but for some reason I’m lost for humor at the moment.)

Here is the quote-worthy end of Colby’s article:

It’s Ted Byfield’s great secret: he’s a hippie, only with the opposite polarity.

Some of his children, including Link, spent time as real hippies. They found that it didn’t add up, that the tethers of order and family and work had value after all. It makes you wonder how much of what we call our ideology arises from circumstance, or even emerges from quarrels with our past selves. I wish I could go back and have a long chat with Link about it over two coffees and a messy desk—his or mine would do equally well.

Did someone (else) say ‘bubble’?

This article provides some confirmation of my bubble speculation below;

Jan. 16, 2015, ABC News: VC Firms Rain Down Cash on Tech Startups, Is Bubble Brewing?
h/t Drudge

Of course it’s not a perfect fit. (btw, do bubbles “brew”; I thought trouble brewed, and you blew bubbles, and trouble and bubble rhyme but… no matter, I’ll have to look that up sometime.) I predicted that advertisers will clue into the overvaluation of clickbait news sites. You know the type; they regurgitate the news by quickly rewriting stories from other sources while also providing links to cute videos; some of them go the extra mile and have an editor contribute one or two columns a week babbling on about “the issues of the day” with a particular slant, “Wow, those Democrats/Republicans really are clueless…”

The article above talks about investors and start-ups, not clickbait. At least it does demonstrate that more and more money is being thrown at the online sector. And then the bubble bursts and everyone retreats to safe investments with hard assets like real estate which creates a bubble and on and on and on we go.

At this point I will borrow a paragraph from Tyler Durden’s latest at Zero Hedge regarding the reset going on in other markets;

We’re getting back to normal, and though normal’s going to hurt – and far more than you realize yet-, it’s hugely preferable to upside down; you hang uprise down long enough, it makes your brain explode. The price of oil was the first thing to go, central banks are the next. And then the whole edifice follows suit.

In my view, part of that edifice is the overvaluing of clickbait news sites and their ability to generate a quality audience, properly quantified, which justifies their ad rates.

(Here I interject my best mock-imitation of a corporate boardroom presenter):
“The good news is our web traffic is up 37% this year. And your brand recognition is up 85%! The only downside is that most of that is from western India… and from what we can tell, in the evening hours, mostly from eleven computers inside an elementary school. But we can repurpose that—and still maintain the hit count—by simply advising our ad department to make a few payments to Facebook and get them to re-jig their algorithm to display our articles with your ad! Perhaps this will bring more exposure in places like Peru and Malaysia. You may not sell any more pizzas, but you can imagine yourselves to be very popular which will, in the fullness of time, be a tremendous boost your corporate self-esteem! And as long as we’re charging you more than we’re paying to Facebook, everyone’s happy.”

More memories

My friend Kevin Grace (aka The Ambler n.b. updates pending), after seeing the picture posted below of Paul W. and Davis S. in the Alberta Report newsroom, asked if I had any other photos from that era. I do. They are pretty random. I’ve just now scanned a bunch and I’ll put them up here as thumbnails without much description for the moment. Who knows if more will turn up?

But before we get to that, let me post a picture of Carmen Wittmeier since she is the one who instigated this trip down memory lane. The picture of her below was taken “back in the day” just after I had the job of photo editor dropped on me; Wittmeier is posing for a photo that was to illustrate some story about the soaring popularity of sushi in the province (more a Calgary thing, if I remember correctly). My model is having trouble maintaining a serious expression and in fact there are quite a few of these blown photos from this “session”—which turned up in a few different boxes—because she kept cracking up. What did she think was so funny? I can’t recall but it might have something to do with the sushi. She loved sushi (she is from Calgary). But she couldn’t cook it. She invited the magazine production guy Dave Stevens and myself over to her apartment to partake of her freshly made sushi once and perhaps she is fondly remembering that attempt at what surely would have been reduced to manslaughter. The best thing about this picture? The Sega Dreamcast controller by Carmen’s side. Oops. Hey, it’s not like we ever goofed around in that Office Space…

Carmen Wittmeier 1 - 72
And here are some thumbs that I will sort out later.

victor olivier 2victor olivier 1 - 72Pat - 72sheremata 1 - 72Paul Bunner 1Barret Pashak 2 - 72Barret Pashak 1 - 72Jan - 72Colby Cosh 1Joan 2 - 72Joan 1 - 72Paul Fraser - 72Lawerence - 72Kevin Steel - 72Brian Mulawka - 72Terry McConnell - 72Diane - 72Paul Wodehouse 2 - 72Will Gibson - 72

Ah, Wittmeier!

My former Alberta Report colleague Carmen Wittmeier recalls some of the lighthearted moments she experienced while we worked side-by-side in that pale-yellow painted cinder block newsroom out in Edmonton’s west end. She’s compiled a list of her Best Report Memories. I had quite forgotten her Number 2, which she titles “The Anti-Virus Campaign.” That was back in the day when I really enjoyed taking the piss out of… well, anyway, good times, good times. Thanks for the memories, Carmeno.

My contribution to this nostalgic feast is a picture I came across the other day while sorting through some old photos. It was taken in the Alberta Report newsroom, circa 1998? This was before Carmen arrived. It’s a pic of Davis S. (journalist) and Paul W. (photo editor) discussing possible graphic options for a news story that Davis was no doubt hard at work finishing up well before deadline; at least I think that’s what they are doing. The desk that Davis (the guy in the blue shirt) inhabits is the one that Carmen would occupy about a year or two later during her all too brief tenure at the magazine. I apologize for the blurry quality of the picture, but I was attempting to capture the gravity of the moment. This was in that historic period just before the ubiquity and convenience of the digital camera. I was in a rush and didn’t focus that old Canon A-1 properly which is why I believe I have never shown anyone this picture before.

Paul and Davis 1


The clickbait bubble and the coming cull

Earlier this evening I was on the phone with a friend of mine and we were discussing the current state of journalism, what with all the shoddy writing, the lack of editing, the lack of oversight—fact checking and proof reading—and the evaporation of editorial judgment and intelligence. And of course, rates of pay for working writers; these are poor, getting worse, and the deficient is being reflected in the work being produced. And so say all of us.

My friend predicted a large cull of sites that rely too heavily on clickbait (which also happen to pay shit wages). He wasn’t too specific about the timeline, but he implied this cull would happen sooner rather than later. On the whole I agree, but I think clickbaiters and news regurgitaters have over a year left. I say the cull starts in early 2016 and intensifies after the 2016 US election.

This is a topic we have discussed before on the phone and in email. Today’s talk reminded me of something I had written to him a few days ago in reply to an observation of his about a web site (which shall remain nameless and unlinked here) that appears to be rely on clickbait items more and more in the last couple of months, stuff about quirky viral videos featuring cute animals or obnoxious children or funny moments from TV game shows, etc. What news there is on this site is simply rehashed from other sources.

Here’s an excerpt of my reply (trigger warning, snark ahead);

Look, we know what’s going on. The only people with job security in journalism now are the editors at the very top. And they really do nothing, or not much, except write the occasional column and keep track of click counts because that’s what their jobs depend on. If you want to write you have to kiss their asses at the time of your hire and then not kick up any dust after that. Just keep the clicks coming and we’ll all get paid. In a way, it’s like a new internet bubble. But it will eventually burst when publication owners, or those with money who seek to influence the society, start to realize that “the stars” of the new journalism are actually bloggers being “paid” by direct donation. I think this will apply to organizations like [delete] as well. Why donate to their foundation when you can send the money directly to your favorite writers? This is a big change that has not been commented on too extensively, I think because its full impact is not yet felt. Back when a lot of these foundations and non-profits started, donating money to them was a way of funneling money to writers who entertain, enlighten, or just support your own thoughts. I think Steyn is an unwitting bellwether in this trend of high profile writers looking to cut out the middle men.

Rereading this a few days later, I’m not so sure I agree with myself. I could add that in my pipe dream these high profile bloggers then morph into editors and we all start again fresh, anew, reborn, in a shining new house on the hill. But maybe this is wishful thinking. Maybe the powers that be and the public in general don’t think they need to invest in writers to influence public opinion because nobody is changing their minds about anything and what the hell most everybody is stoned on legal anti-depressants anyway and I’m not so sure they’re… oh look, a kitten mimicking human gestures! That’s adorable!

Looking back at the year that was

Seriously, I’m not going to do what my title says. I put it up there just to fit in with the crowd. 2014? Forget about it. If you’re actually looking for that kind of thing, then you haven’t been paying attention because news sites have been recapping 2014 since at least mid-November. If you’re looking for the ubiquitous list of celebrities who died this year just scroll down any news page for that thumbnail of Robin Williams RIP, which has been on every news site since he died in August. It’s like New Year’s Eve all year now. Even I got into the act, almost by default. The Facebook bot has created—for me, for you, for each of us—a personal “Year in Review” because we’re all shining stars, fireworks, y’know… kinda special. I haven’t bothered to look at mine because, well, you get out what you put into these things and I didn’t put that much into Facebook. So my Year in Review is quite short on details. These personal Year in Reviews remind of those Time magazine-sized joke mirrors that had “Person of the Year” silkscreened  on them. Person of the Year? That’s you! Har! Now give it to me, give it here. Now I’m Person of the Year! (doubles over laughing). Now put it down on the floor for the dog…

There is one person of the year who does deserve recognition. I will take a moment to salute this article by Robert Tracinski in The Federalist: My Person of the Year–Ben Trovato.

Also, I want to record my favorite quote this year. It’s actually a quote of a quote, so it has doubleplus goodness. It comes from Theodore Dalrymple in Taki’s Magazine, in a Dec. 28, 2014 column: The Allure of Omnipotent Explanations (okay, so this might not be my favorite quote of the whole year, but it’s the only one I remember liking because I read it a few short days ago, which incidentally proves the truth of the quote).

Those of us for whom the written word is of enormous importance, if not all-important, should try always to remember the words of Montherlant: Most people do not read; those who read do not understand; those who understand forget.

And finally I will make one prediction for the year ahead: Most over-used, hated word of 2015 will be “narrative.” I’m already sick of it.

A broken model?

Good video from Jan. 14, 2014, by 2veritasium: “The Problem With Facebook” criticizing the business model. (h/t to that guy who recommended it on a Google chat I was listening to last week; wrote down the title of the vid, didn’t write down the guy’s name).

This reminded me of an article link I’ve wanted to post somewhere since the beginning of the year. I keep quoting from it casually in conversation with people, but don’t have it marked, so… from Jan. 23, 2014 The Independent: Facebook is an ‘infectious disease’ and will lose 80% of users by 2017, according to researchers

The researchers use the rapid rise and fall of MySpace as the archetype, comparing publicly available data from Google with the traditional SIR model of infectious disease. ‘SIR’ stands for Susceptible, Infectious and Recovered – the three groups that individuals are placed in with regards to a public disease…

No apology necessary… this time

My old boss Ezra Levant (former publisher of The Western Standard, where I worked as a senior writer) can be really on-again, off-again with his show The Source. Recently, he went overboard-off-the-deep-end with criticism of Justin Trudeau and his family after Trudeau kissed brides or babies at some wedding. But Ezra hits a home run with this Oct. 13 item; The Media Party’s secret deal. If any of you out there in the wider world want to know why some of us in Canada consider the Canadian mainstream media to be one super-gigantic joke this should answer it nicely. All that “brain power” and highly paid legal advice, and they can’t even get their collective bleating heads around the idea of fair dealing.

I caught the item while catching up with news aggregators and was scrolling through Small Dead Animals. One comment to their post attracted my attention, particularly the last sentence;

I watched this again this morning. This is a huge mistake by the Media Party. They have tried to hide their bias, but now it is out in the open. This collusion should be talked about in legal and political science circles for decades to come.

Actually, I was thinking it should become a component of journalism courses. There is an obvious need for it, demonstrated by the misplaced “outrage” in so many media outlets across the country. Also, I think it would be wise to tip young journalism students to fact that there is a very good chance they will be working for peter-principled fools, promoted way past the point of incompetence blah rant rant blah okay I’m done.

To all the girls I’ve loved before, but didn’t stereotype

This post at Chateau Heartiste is being bookmarked because its subject is a video with Nana Mouskouri in it, who by complete coincidence I mentioned in my previous post. Can’t say exactly why I like small coincidences like this, but I do. Two Nanas in two days. So there’s that.

More importantly, the article contains links to the CH’s invaluable 2008 posts on How To Handle Femmes Fatales, which should be mandatory reading for all males when they turn 16.

The first article in the Femmes Fatales series covers The Gold-digger and The Waif/Neurotic. Then there are separate entries for The Eternal Ingénue and The Amazonian Alpha.

For old guys like me these aren’t very helpful anymore. But they are a fun read because it’s nice to reminisce about all the girls I’ve loved before, and it can be soothing to sort out one’s messy past into neat little categories.