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2019: The Year in Lists

 No matter which way you look at it–the good, the bad, or the ugly–2019 was one of the most wildest, least predictable, over/under-hyped, culturally significant/insignificant years on record. The bad guys won more than their share of major events and the good guys somehow managed to stay in the game.  It was a year of outrageous personalities, incredible statements, ethics-bending, line-crossing, tweet-storming weirdness. Here’s hoping we don’t have a repeat of all that worldwide nonsense in 2020, but who knows.

But…and we’ve said this before, in this same space ….you never really know a year until you see it in a series of lists. And so, here again, is one of our favorite posts of all time, updated to fit the mood and the times: The Year In Lists. You shall know us by what we track and recognize–sobering to be sure. And check back frequently, the list is updated continuously. 

 

Biggest Newstories of 2019 (MSN)

Top 10 Global News Stories You Missed in 2019 (Foreign Policy )

Top 100 Videos of the Year (This is Happening/YouTube)

NPR’s Top Political Stories of 2019

Important Deaths of 2019 (UPI)

Notable Deaths of the Year (New York Times) 

Billboard Hot 100 Songs of 2019

Most Expensive Medical Procedures (investopedia)

Fashion Trends of the Year (pop.inquirer.com)

Worst Films of 2019 (Variety)

The Rise of the VSCO Girl

Biggest Sports Controversies of 2019

Lie of the Year (Politifact)

Top Music Videos of 2019 (YouTube)

Top 10 Medical Innovations for 2019

15 Best Investments for 2019 (Bankrate)

Best Box Office: Top Movies of the Year (Vanity Fair)

12 Best New Cars for 2019 (AutoTrader)

30 Best Toys for Boys and Girls (Goodhousekeeping)

Top Instagram Moments of the Year (TopNine) 
Vulture (New York Magazine) Best of the Year (Vulture)

Top 40 Pop Songs of the Year (One for All) 

Best of 2019 (Foreign Affairs) 

Highest Paid Athletes in 2019 

50 Best Podcasts of 2019

Fodor’s Top Places to Travel (Fodor’s) 

Best Website for English Language World Newspapers 2019 (NightshiftNews.com)

Best Video Games of 2019 (Vulture)

Scholarly Articles on Advances in biotech 2019

Top US Companies Granted Patents in 2019 (Forbes)

Top Personal Injury and Medical Malpractice Awards in 2019 (Law360)

Most Expensive Wedding Dresses of 2019 (Trendrr)

Best Celebrity Photos of 2019 (Wonderwall)

Top 10 Artworks sold in December 2019 (Artnet)
20 Top Hairstyle Trends for Winter 2019 (Cosmopolitan)

Most Instagram Followers in 2019 (MarieClaire)

Top 5 Professional Bull Riders Rides of 2019 (YouTube)

President Trumps Biggest Falsehoods of 2019 (NBC

 

 

The Fine Print: Photography courtesy of our friends at Getty Images, who have the photographic history of the 20th and 21st century on file. This photo has not been altered in any way. All rights belong to Getty and/or their designate. Text, and “The Year in Lists”  copyright (c) 2020 Donald Pierce and Southchester Group LLC, all rights reserved. Produced by the Media Bunker and Perception Engineering. Comments are welcomed. Wind down 2019 in a responsible way and have a safe, healthy, and productive 2020. Thanks for reading. 

Featured

The Interview: Martin Scorsese

There are motion picture directors, CGI movie directors, action directors, special effects directors, RomCom directors, and then there is Martin Scorsese, who is a film director in the purest sense of the world–a revealer of character, an embracer of subtle but empowering technology that advances the film but is not the reason for the film, a director of shots, sequencing, lighting, sets, dialogue and most importantly a director in the classical sense of what film can be/do, who understands, honors, and advances the art every time he makes a new film. He is a historian, a groundbreaker, a stylist, a scholar of cinema, an intensely honest professional at the top of his game. He is not just a writer/director/producer of narrative fictional films, but a writer/director/producer of landmark documentary films, and switches between the two genres with the consummate ease of a gifted professional and without drama. Below, there is a link to an interview that was published this past week in The New York Times, but to put Scorsese into perspective, take a look at the list of Scorsese films on his Wikipedia bio link (above). Mean Streets, Raging Bull, Kundun, New York, New York, Goodfellas, Casino, Taxi Driver, Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, The Last Waltz(the rock documentary considered the best of the genre), Shine a Light , Gangs of New York, The Wolfe of Wall Street, King of Comedy, The Aviator, The Departed, The Last Temptation of Christ and on and on and on. Although known for his blunt portraits of mob life and lifestyles, Scorsese’s range is astonishing. Get a perspective with this link to Esquire magazine’s list of his 25 best films. 

There is a good chance that Scorsese directed three or four or your five favorite films. He’s that good and has that kind of range. But you know that.

What you don’t know, and what is below, is the current state of thinking of one of our very best artistic talents in any medium. So grab a glass of wine or pour a scotch on the rocks, and settle in for a revealing interview with Martin Scorsese, brought to you via the magic of linkage with the Times. 

The Fine Print: Photos of Martin Scorsese provided courtesy of our friends at GettyImages.com, who have the photographic history of the 20th and 21st centure on file. These photos have not been altered in any way and all rights belong to Getty Images and/or their designate. We thank them for sharing. Text and Post produced by the Media Bunker and Perception Engineering. We thank the researchers and site programmers for working (a little) over the holidays to get this post up for you. Unless otherwise noted, all rights (c)donald pierce and Southchester Group LLC. Got comments? Got you covered. Drop us a note via the comment feedback. Thanks for reading and have a terrific 2020. One more thing: we all have standards to live up to; putting up a Scorsese interview is an indication of the level we want everyone to be at in 2020. Hope to it. 

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Re-Set: 2020

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The Latest Word:
New Year’s Day is the most important day of the year.
Unlike religious holidays, it is universally celebrated and universally enjoyed.
New Year’s Day requires no special decorations (confetti is nice, but not necessary); has no special set of colors (unlike the red and green of Christmas), is non-denominational and completely international. It wraps the globe like a warm wave of positive energy, moving from culture to culture as the grey line of propagation makes its daily revolution around the planet.
For Americans, the New Year—in this case 2019– starts on one side of the world and in a vastly different time zone (Asia), and then works its’ way around to us, arriving—conveniently for network television—at prime time in America.
Midnight is the demarcation line and seldom has midnight had more importance. Within the space of one minute, one year will go and another one will arrive. One door shuts and another one opens; it’s concrete and finite and everyone on earth knows it.
Unlike much in modern life, it is unequivocal; there is no room for debate or no grey area: 2019, Out. 2020, In. Carry on.
The New Year comes in; the old one goes out and you get a re-set.
Whether or not you are the type that likes to stay up until midnight partying and socializing or prefer to bring in the New Year more privately, the time-space effect is going to be the same: you will say goodbye to 2019(really, not a terrific year) and hello to 2020 in just a matter of hours and you will join billions on the planet in doing so.
The New Year’s celebration (New Year’s Eve/New Year’s Day)is best understood as a two day event, not a single day one, although a bit of partying can easily make them run together and seem like one never-ending holiday. I’ve had those moments myself, although not as much lately as in the past.
New Year’s Eve is the big celebratory party day, starting, depending upon your schedule, at about 4PM and continuing past (or well past) midnight. It is time for partying, eating, dancing, loud music, and new found enthusiasm for kissing people you do not know particularly well as well as kissing people you know extremely well.
“You must remember this, a kiss is a just a kiss, the fundamental things apply as time goes by”, was how Dooley Wilson summed it up in “Casablanca” and you’ll do well to take his advice. 

New Year’s Eve is the last day of the old year. Congratulations: You made it. You have the right to get silly and celebrate. (Safety note: just don’t drive if you drink; crash in place and tell everyone you didn’t want to miss anything when you wake up the next day).
New Year’s Day itself –the daylight portion—is of course, the first day of the New Year and is for recovery, family, football and begging for forgiveness if your enthusiasm for kissing people you do not know particularly well got out of hand, as it often does on such a night. If that turns out to be the case—well, best of luck to you. You may find out the hard way that the old saying that it’s “better to ask for forgiveness than to seek permission” does not apply to random groping and hot twerking in a tuxedo. Just hope that no one from the press or a particularly well-circulated internet site was snapping photos in hopes of making one reputation (theirs) while crushing another one (yours).
In addition to post-celebration recovery and football, and a full day of grazing at the New Year’s Day buffet table, New Year’s Day is also famous for New Year’s Resolutions. As a matter of fact, that (and begging for forgiveness) might be the very best option for New Year’s Day.
Although one can make a resolution at any time of the year, New Year’s Day is always the very best time to do so. Making them in June or July seems a bit pointless and lonesome.
You’re expected to re-start and re-set on New Year’s Day. This is the day of forgiveness for habits past(see above). Have at it. You’ll be in good company. Literally millions of resolutions will be made by sundown of New Year’s Day (and no doubt another million broken by dawn of the next day) but it’s a tradition and a form of personal positivism that should be encouraged. New Year’s resolutions speak to your best intentions, so indulge and encourage yourself. If you want to re-set some part of your life, career, health program, or diet New Year’s is the very best day to do it. The timing is in your favor.
Take society up on the open book for reconciliation and change it’s given you and understand the dynamics.
New Year’s Eve is the end; New Year’s Day is the beginning.
So do with yourself what you so often have done to your computer. Hit the re-set button. Enjoy shutting down the old days, the old ways, the memories past (both good and bad), flash  your personal RAM and relish the re-start, the new energy, the revised perspective, the bigger dreams. Simultaneously enjoy the freedom of letting go and the exhilaration of unbounded possibilities. Dream a little.
One day is for reflection; the other for projection. One set of stories and days and events are now complete; another set of adventures and trials and days and nights are to come.
More than any other holiday, New Year’s celebrates the possible, the unknown, the future, the passage of time and the new journey.
Once a year, mankind is all on the same page. And while the moment of synchronicity will disappear in just hours, we are all united by the hope (and promise) of a new year, a new start, a new beginning. New Year’s Day 2020 remains what all New Year’s Days have been through time: one more chance to really, really get it right.
It’s the New Year. Celebrate tonight. Recalibrate tomorrow.
Re-Set.
This post was originally published on New Year’s, 2014 and has been re-published every year since then. It has been modified to reflect re-posting for 2020. Photo courtesy of our friends at GettyImages.com, who have the photographic history of the 20th and 21st century on file. The photo has not been altered in any way. All rights belong to Getty Images and/or their designate. Text(c) 2014 Donald Pierce, all rights reserved; post produced by the Media Bunker and Perception Engineering. Have a Happy New Year, don’t overindulge, and drive safely. See you..next year. 

Featured

Transitions: Junior Johnson(1931-2019)

A legend in word and deed has passed: Robert Glen Johnson, Junior, better known as Junior Johnson, one of the greatest drivers in the history of NASCAR–and one of the men who helped make that form of automobile racing the most popular in the world–died on December 20th of this year.

To honor Junior Johnson, who was not only a formidable race car driver but an even more formidable race car owner, we direct you to two pieces on his life. The first is his obituary as published by the New York Times today:

The second tribute is by the late and legendary writer Tom Wolfe, as published in Esquire Magazine, in March of 1965. Titled “The Last American Hero is Junior Johnson. Yes!”, Wolfe’s profile is an iconic piece of journalism, introducing “The New Journalism” style of writing (Wolfe was one of the early evangelists) to a vast, national audience at the same time it brought NASCAR, stock car racing, and the New South to the front of the 1960s cultural conversation. It’s a revolutionary piece of writing that is very worthy of your attention.

Together with the facts from the Times and the scene as described by Tom Wolfe, you will get a true and accurate perspective of one of the most influential men in any sport.

Enjoy, and reflect on a life well-lived at very high speed.

The Fine Print: Image courtesy of Getty Images, who have the photographic history of the 20th and the 21st century on file. This image has not been altered in any way; we thank them for sharing. Special thanks to our friends at Esquire who made Tom Wolfe’s spectacular profile of Junior Johnson available via link. We than them for sharing. donaldpierce.com is a production of The Media Bunker and Perception Engineering. The team wishes you a wonderful holiday season and Happy New Year.

Featured

Baby, It’s Sweater Weather Outside (Re-setting Christmas Classics for the Modern Era)

Editor’ Note: Originally published in December of 2018, when the PC police went one song too far and came after “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”….republished this year because traditions are important and it’s also important to realize the false pretense and logic of trying to apply one generation’s cultural perceptions vs. an earlier generation’s ideals….we side with Mel Brooks on the PC movement: not a good idea and very bad for comedy.

Paying Attention:
Embed from Getty Images
A radio station in Cleveland,Ohio has completely lost both their nerve and the holiday spirit.
WDOK (FM 102.1) has pulled all versions of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” from their holiday playlist because of a complaint from a single listener–although the station said, in a namby-pamby press release–that the move was the result of a “decision by our listeners”. The station cited a poll as the basis for the decision but–in a namby-pamby move–didn’t give the results of the poll.
On Facebook, another source said the station’s site noted that “92% of the listeners favored the song” and only “8% were for removing it from the playlist. ” The station’s program director pulled it anyway, showing true namby-pamby spirit.
The usual suspects also chipped in with over-reaction to the song, saying “it’s not something I want to promote” in commenting on the lyrics of a song first published in the 1940s and played during every Christmas season since.  We have seen this problem before, when someone applies standards (not necessarily advanced) of one century to cultural icons and practices of the past.
It’s always a disaster. Different time periods. Different standards.
Wait until they start going after all those early suggestive paintings, like Botticelli’s “The Birth of Venus” or Goya’s “The Nude Maja”. Oh boy…….
Here are the lyrics:

“I really can’t stay (Baby it’s cold outside)
I gotta go away (Baby it’s cold outside)
This evening has been (Been hoping that you’d dropped in)
So very nice (I’ll hold your hands they’re just like ice)
My mother will start to worry (Beautiful what’s your hurry?)
My father will be pacing the floor (Listen to the fireplace roar)
So really I’d better scurry (Beautiful please don’t hurry)
Well maybe just a half a drink more (I’ll put some records on while I pour)
The neighbors might think (Baby it’s bad out there)
Say what’s in this drink? (No cabs to be had out there)
I wish I knew how (Your eyes are like starlight now)
To break this spell (I’ll take your hat, your hair looks swell) (Why thank you)
I ought to say no, no, no sir (Mind if move in closer?)
At least I’m gonna say that I tried (What’s the sense of hurtin’ my pride?)
I really can’t stay (Baby don’t hold out)
Baby it’s cold outside
Ah, you’re very pushy you know?
I like to think of it as opportunistic
I simply must go (Baby it’s cold outside)
The answer is no (But baby it’s cold outside)
The welcome has been (How lucky that you dropped in)
So nice and warm (Look out the window at that storm)
My sister will be suspicious (Gosh your lips look delicious!)
My brother will be there at the door (Waves upon a tropical shore)
My maiden aunt’s mind is vicious (Gosh your lips are delicious!)
Well maybe just a cigarette more (Never such a blizzard before) (And I don’t even smoke)
I’ve got to get home (Baby you’ll freeze out there)
Say lend me a coat? (It’s up to your knees out there!)
You’ve really been grand, (I feel when I touch your hand)
But don’t you see? (How can you do this thing to me?)
There’s bound to be talk tomorrow (Think of my life long sorrow!)
At least there will be plenty implied (If you caught pneumonia and died!)
I really can’t stay (Get over that old out)
Baby it’s cold
Baby it’s cold outside
Okay fine, just another drink then
That took a lot of convincing!” 
–Songwriter, Frank Loesser, Lyrics (C) Kobalt Music Publishing Company

The people who thought “Baby It’s Cold Outside” is not proper ought to take a few minutes to listen to some rap lyrics if they’re looking for verbal targets. Good luck with that crusade……those are guys are going to tell the too-easily-offended to beat it–although in much more colorful language.
There will not be a poll.
The solution to this particular type of my-taste-is-better-than-your taste/ my-perception-sees-sexual connotations-where-there-are none situation is dead simple: if you don’t like the song or it’s lyrics, turn it off or change the channel and don’t listen.
Freedom of speech covers the right to play the song and also the right to not have to listen to it. Just because some see evil in every lyric or photo doesn’t mean that others do.
No one needs a press release or a quote from the self-appointed PC police. Just turn the song off on your radio and keep it to yourself.
As for the rest of us?
Baby it’s cold outside.
We’re turning it up.

The Fine Print: Photo embed courtesy of our friends at GettyImages.com, who have the photographic history of the 20th and 21st century on file. This image has not been altered in any way. All rights belong to GettyImages.com or their designee. We thank them for sharing. Have a Happy Holiday season. 

 

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Christmas One More Time V

The fifth in a series of our carefully curated Christmas Playlists.

You can enjoy the entire playlist through the courtesy of Spotify’s excellent web player. Special note: when you click the link, you will be taken to Spotify’s web player. There, you’ll have a couple of choices: sign in if you currently have a Spotify account; or signup for a free Spotify account (you’ll be glad you did). Here’s that link Either way, you should check it out if you like holiday music. Image courtesy of our friends at Getty Images, who have the photographic history of the 20th and 21st century on file. This image has not been altered in any way. We thank Getty Images for sharing. Enjoy…and Happy Holidays. Special thanks to DJ Tschugge for compiling the list, along with the team at the Media Bunker and Perception Engineering.

Featured

Why We Love Christmas Music

The Inside Track 
Why does Christmas and Holiday music always seem so magical?
The easy answer is….it’s traditional. It’s something we look forward to, something we expect, a tradition with which we are all totally familiar. And now, of course, there are more channels for Christmas music than ever before–from CDs, radio, satellite radio, streaming internet sites, TV music channels, even the music beds for commercials (Coke does a great job of breaking new Christmas songs via TV commercial).
If you want to hear some Christmas music, you have a lot of options, starting in early November and running through New Year’s.
Christmas music comes out of the box once a year and when it does, one resonates with the sounds of holiday seasons past, stirring warm memories, and it’s all good. And Christmas itself is tied to your past memories. During the Christmas season, the events of the past year pile up like leaves on a just raked fall lawn, just in time for holiday retrospection and New Year’s resolutions. And, of course, Christmas itself is something of a depository of your entire life history and that of your  family. It’s where great memories from the past are remembered and retold again and new memories for the future are created. And it all needs a sound track.
Music is very good at that—bringing back memories. Five bars into “My Girl” by the Temptations and suddenly you’re back in the fraternity house at a post-game party, squeezing someone tight with one hand and holding a drink in the other.
But the resonance of music with memories may not really be the impetus behind our affection for holiday music.
Perhaps the real reason is that Christmas/holiday music is a known commodity—my goodness, we’ve been listening to the stuff since we were old enough to recognize sounds—and each year we hear a huge group of new interpretations of Christmas music (every hot recording artist puts out a Christmas album, shamelessly promoted by artist and record company alike) which serves to both enlighten us about the potential of individual expression and to make old songs new. “New water over old rocks” a mountaineering friend of mine calls it and I think that sums up the situation pretty well.
The tradition builds on itself every year, as new favorites emerge, new interpretations shake up the Christmas music landscape, time passes and the meaning and affection for the season evolves and changes.  And, Christmas music cuts across a lot of demographic lines: young, old, rich, poor, white, black, urban, suburban, country. It’s a unifying soundtrack for a unifying season and even when you know the song, you may still be surprised at the rendition, interpretation, or production.
The re-casting of traditional songs combined with the influx of new soon-to-be favorites produces a warm and memory-filled soundscape for the season.
So turn it on, play it loud, enjoy the memories and build some new ones.
It’s Christmas music–one of our very best traditions.

Featured

Beazely Design Awards 2019

We have a long-standing love affair with all forms of design here in the Media Bunker, and in particular with architecture, graphic, and industrial design. So, it was with great joy when we noticed that the overall Winner of the Beazely Design Awards for 2019 was a map that explored the dimensions of Amazon’s rather amazing Alexa device, a machine that combines Artificial Intelligence, speech recognition, the internet, music, and several other capabilities into an easy-to-use device that can fill many of your daily needs, including a few you didn’t know you had.

As media pioneer, America’s Cup winner, and entrepreneur (and Media Bunker/Perception Engineering fav) Ted Turner once said, “it ain’t as easy as it looks”.

So, here it is: a map that explains the anatomy of an AI system.

Give it some time. We can almost certainly guarantee that the next time one of your friends wants to talk about AI or Alexa or any of Amazon’s “Echo ” devices, you will be the most prepared intellectually. Enjoy.

The Fine Print: Link courtesy of DesignMuseum.org, from the 2019 winners of the Beazley Designs of the Year. Photo courtesy of Getty News, who have the photographic history of the 20th and 21st century on file. This photo has not been altered in any manner. We thank them for sharing. Post produced by the Media Bunker and Perception Engineering, with copyright (c)2019 held by Southchester Group LLC.

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Can Colin Kaepernick Still Play In The NFL

Kap’s back. Or is He. Read FiveThiryEight.com’s reasoned, fact-based analysis of the activist/former QB

Last weekend, ex-NFL Quarterback Colin Kaepernick participated in a workout that was originally designed to showcase his talents for NFL teams that might need a quarterback, more or less immediately. Kaepernick, or “Kap” as he called by announcers and team mates, was staging the workout in conjunction with the NFL; he has not played in the league in three years and in the past has made a case against the league for “blackballing” him because of his political activism (i.e. he kneeled during the playing of the national anthem at football games to protest police brutality). Pretty heady stuff for a player who once took a team to the Super Bowl. Kap eventually filed a suit against the league for various grievances and it was settled in his favor (he got lots of money) and contends that he now wants to play in the NFL again, but is not being allowed to because of his beliefs and potential activism. His position on playing and the league’s reasons for him not playing are a subject of much debate and will not be taken up here, but it’s important to know that at the time he quit playing for the San Francisco 49’ers he had a contract offer on the table (he didn’t think it was good enough and so decided to see what free agency would bring). Which was nothing, partially because he could be considered “disruptive” to a team’s discipline but more likely because he was 1-10 won/lost in his last season as a starter for the 49’ers and so not exactly a sure thing winner.

There are lots of disputing viewpoints on how Kaepernick’s “tryout” went but the simple fact of the matter is it did not go well, did not take place at the schedule venue, involved a last minute dispute on participation waivers, and lost a lot of the scouts who had traveled to see it because of the location switch. So, on a lot of fronts and all sides–the NFL and Kap and his advisors–share some responsibility for an event that botched (amazing to me that his reps didn’t clear ALL the paperwork before scheduling the “workout”…something anyone involved with sports and events should do as a matter of professional guidance).

But no need to rehash the present with emotional viewpoints, but instead to get a totally unbiased, unemotional take on whether or not the guy can still play. For that, we turn to this video, produced by the gang at FiveThirtyEight.com (you need to follow them) which details how the former pro quarterback would rank with today’s QBs. Click the link above and enjoy an unsentimental look at a player whose time has probably passed.

The Fine Print: Video produced and courtesy of FiveThirtyEight.com via YouTube..this video has not been altered in any way; all rights belong to their respective holders. We thank FiveThirtyEight.com and YouTube for sharing. You should follow them–they have the numbers for the life we lead now and are masters of the art of statistics. Their take on Kap and his potential today is realistic and unemotional and intelligent. Well done. Post produced by the Media Bunker and Perception Engineering. donaldpierce.com is (c)2019, donald pierce.

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Enough

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Really–enough is enough. Here are some (but certainly not all) people, places, and things that have worn out their media/cultural/societal welcome. You may be familiar with some or all of them, but–even if not–take it from us, we’ve heard and/or seen way too much of them recently and they should bug off.

The current list:

Lavar Ball, Lonzo Ball, LaMelo Ball, LiAngelo Ball and the failed Big Baller Brand 

Rudolph Giuliani

CBS Morning News Staff Shuffles

Boeing 737 Max management team

“Breaking News” lead-ins

$250 basketball shoes

Any Kardashian 

Instagram “Influencers”

College Admissions Scandals

“Stable Genius” self-pronouncements (from those who can’t spell)

NFL Players Behaving Badly

Think how much better your life would be if you never hear of any of these people, places, or things again. Cut them out of your attention span. 

Enough.

Featured

Guess who’s coming to dinner?

Thanksgiving is the favorite holiday for many Americans. While the common assumption is that the favorite holiday is Christmas, that’s not necessarily true. Although most of us love the Christmas season, the holiday itself –Christmas, The Big Day–is full of stress, expensive, all-too-often -demanding (on both diet and finances and travel) , something to be survived vs. enjoyed. The expectations are just too high.

Thanksgiving, however, is a totally different deal. You can enjoy a great meal with friends and family (just remember: no politics at the dining table), listen to the seasonal music and watch the seasonal TV shows, catch a great holiday sporting event, and emerge relatively unscathed from the event (except for a few extra pounds).

And so, in the spirit of brotherhood and fine food and wine, we have decided to promote a little Thanksgiving thought-piece: if you could have your choice of anyone in the world to share that once-a-year Thanksgiving meal with, who would it be. The idea is to gather a group of your own best and brightest and fill out the table. The format is simple: a dining room table with room for 8 guests. That’s a manageable number of guests. That means eight chairs to be filled. No relatives, please..you can see them another time and that’s too easy a choice for this project. Instead, make a wish list of the people you’d like spend a few hours with: entertainers, writers, leaders, businessmen, sportsmen, athletes, commentators, artists, comedians. It’s your table, you make out the list. Have at it and send your Ultimate Thanksgiving Guest List to us at the Media Bunker. (admin@donaldpierce.com).

The top 5 lists get published–judging is based on the thoughts and preferences and, dare we say it, intellectual bias, of the staff in the Media Bunker and at Perception Engineering. But–and this is important–every list will be read and pondered. A few ground rules: everyone you would invite has to be alive at the time the list is prepared, highly charged political figures are to be excluded (we get enough of that in daily life), and the invitees have to actually exist (i.e. you cannot invite a Chewbacca or some other tv/movie character). Your list should contain eight names, spelled correctly, with a note to the side about who they are–college professor, novelist, film director, writer, religious leader. All entrants receive a free, one year subscription to donaldpierce.com (which is, as you’ve noticed, already free but it does sound nifty. The form is below. Hop to it. To get you going, we’ve made up a few guest lists just as inspiration

A Sample Thanksgiving Guest List

Seth Meyers Late night TV Host

Warren Buffett Investor

Jose Altuve Professional Baseball Player

Roger Penske Entrepreneur, race team owner

Gloria Steinem Author, feminist

Reese Witherspoon Actress, Southerner

George Lucas Film maker (Star Wars, Indiana Jones )

Retired Admiral Bill McRaven Former top SEAL Commander, planned Bin Laden raid

Another Thanksgiving Guest List

Thomas Keller One of the top chefs in America

Paul Simon Songwriter, entertainer

Anna Wintour Editor of Vogue Magazine

Daniel Weiss Head of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC

Bill Gates Entrepreneur, Philanthropist

Dr. Peter Mansell Immunologist, former head of Louis Pasteur Institute

Phil Mickelson Professional Golfer, 5x Majors Winner

Jeff Bezos Entrepreneur, CEO of Amazon

You get the idea…..the best and the brightest from a wide variety of fields and professions, to provide a once in a lifetime conversation that expands the boundaries of thought for everyone attending Got it? Hop to it. Look forward to seeing your thoughts.

The Fine Print: Send an an email with your eight choices, and the reasons why you selected them, for Thanksgiving dinner attendees to admin@donaldpierce.com . We will read all of them and, if past is prologue, will publish all of them on the site. Obviously rude, derogatory, or poorly mannered communications will be deleted. Image courtesy of Getty Images (www.gettyimages.com) , who have the photographic history of the 20th and 21st century on file. This photo has not been altered in any way. We thank them for sharing; donaldpierce.com is produced by the Media Bunker and Perception Engineering. Contents (c) 2019 donaldpierce.

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The Performances: Camila Cabello on SNL

Great music performances, pulled from the archives of SNL, the Grammies, late night TV, and special concerts. Some of these performances are very new and some are very old. They are all very good.

Camila Cabello on Saturday Night Live, 12 October 2019.

The Fine Print: Video provided courtesy of YouTube and Camila Cabello. This video has not been altered in any way. All rights belong to the respective artists and rights holders. We thank them for sharing. Great performances posts are produced by The Media Bunker and Perception Engineering.

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The Act You’ve Known For All These Years

The Hunt For New Music:

“It was twenty years ago today, when Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play”….
Sg. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Lennon-McCartney)
Editor’s Note: Actually, it was more than 50 years ago that “Sgt. Pepper’s” was introduced in America. In celebration of that event, there are several posts and interesting links to checkout and enjoy about the most celebrated album of our time. 
There is an exact moment when The Beatles started the transition that would move them from their position as the world’s biggest rock band into the dominant cultural and musical influence that they became after “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” was released.
That moment was 29 August 1966, when The Beatles played their last live rock concert, in San Francisco’s Candlestick Park. The stadium was jammed and security for The Beatles was so tight that they had to be taken to the stage in an armored truck. One of The Beatles–looking out at the crowds and chaos that surrounded them–said simply “we can’t do this anymore”.
And after San Francisco, 1966, they didn’t.
As the band grew in popularity all over the world, the music was getting left behind. The screaming at the concerts was so loud that band members couldn’t hear each other, couldn’t hear their own instruments and, individually, they were getting restless–creatively, intellectually, musically. It was time for a change.
Ten months later that change materialized, in the form of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”. It was the first rock concept album, a total break with The Beatles tight and carefully Brian-Epstein- groomed image, a reach in terms of music and technology and instrumentation, a musical composition so complex it could not be performed live and stressed the limits of the then-available recording technology, a very complete break from the past. Those paying attention to the musical evolution of The Beatles knew that their music was changing, becoming more adventurous and complex. It started with “Rubber Soul” and gathered momentum on “Revolver”, an album that provided an early test of some of the concepts and musical ideas (“Eleanor Rigby”, “Tomorrow Never Knows”) that would reach full definition in “Sgt. Pepper”.
To produce “Sgt. Pepper”  took 400 hours of studio time and 129 days–an immense amount of time for that period in popular music, but nothing compared to the amount of time it can take a 21st century band to record an album today. Working for The Beatles was their drive to change, to create, to push the boundaries, along with a team that included their legendary producer George Martin (later and deservedly, Sir George Martin) and recording engineer Geoff Emerick. Working against them was the technology of the day: all analog, a modest four track Studer tape recorder, analog audio tape, the limits of electronic recording technology and techniques of the time.
It mattered not. Through diligence and drive and experimentation–and listening to what each other had to say–The Beatles pushed through, expanded the very limits of what was possible in the studio, turning the studio itself into a musical and creative instrument, not merely a recording device, and produced the album, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band”,  that Rolling Stone magazine has called the greatest rock album of all time.
At the core of the album’s concept was a step away from all The Beatles had been before and a step into what they would be going forward. Everything changed, from image and dress to composition complexity and musical density. The Beatles, in essence, created a band that could free them from the success and popularity of their past and give them again control over their musical destiny.
It was a risk. A massive, huge, intellectual, financial, business risk. If it went wrong, if their audience didn’t “get it”, if the album failed commercially, The Beatles could easily have been “over”.
But they did not play it safe, and that is the very greatest thing about “Sgt. Pepper’s”. They were fearless and opened a door into the future for themselves and for other bands by expanding the vocabulary of rock music. They elected to toss out the known for the unknown. Brian Epstein–their manager at the time” Sgt. Pepper’s ” was written, produced, and released–proved again to have perfect pitch for what to do and when to do it. Unlike other managers who  might discourage such an adventurous leap, Epstein–admittedly a little bewildered but totally committed to the group–backed the venture.
On June 2nd, 1967, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” was released in the United States. It was released in the “summer of love” and became the background music for a huge cultural change in the United States and the rest of the world. The album was loved, hated, revered, despised, analyzed, deconstructed, misunderstood, applauded.
But–it worked. “Sgt. Pepper’s” changed music and the possibility of rock; it also became the soundtrack the world needed at a time of volcanic change and international unrest.
There is a cost to change–there is always a cost to change. By August of 1967, Brian Epstein had died, the victim of “incautious self-overdosage” according to the English coroner. Friends of Epstein noted that he was worried if his management contract would be renewed, that he had been contemplating suicide for some time, that he knew his value as someone expert in staging large concerts and drawing huge crowds might be less valuable going forward when all the creative work would be done within the confines of the Abbey Road studio; that the band he had nurtured and grown into a worldwide phenomenon had, finally, and with his own urging, outgrown him.
By 1970,  after the release of  “Let It Be”,  it was over, as The Beatles, rich and famous and influential beyond comprehension,  lacking a centering influence (Epstein),  displayed signs of transitional difficulty from being merely the biggest rock band in the world to the dominant creative influence of an era, as infighting and self-absorbed musical and personal directions and personality conflicts mixed in with confused business activities and management, took it all apart.
What was left was the music, and in particular, this one rather spectacular piece of music, that changed everything.
The Fine Print: Image embed courtesy of our friends at Getty Images, who have the photographic history of the 20th and 21st century on file. This image has not been altered in any way. We thank them for sharing.

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Missing It: What Happened to The Tonight Show Opening

Paying Attention

This post was originally put up in early September (maybe you’ve noticed a trend..as we work through some of the greatest hits from the past). Last night, 8 October 2019, the Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon opening returned to its’ classic opening format…the one used since the first telecasts of the show. Why? Who knows. We’re digging for those answers now. 

On 20 March 2019, the opening to The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon changed. You’d have to be a creature of habit to notice or a television producer to care about it, but on that date, the iconic opening that had served (we thought) Fallon and the Tonight Show so very well for all of it’s existence was replaced by a non-dynamic opening graphic–just a few seconds of visual really– followed by Steve Higgins WWE inspired introduction of Fallon, who comes out from behind the curtains and goes right to his mark, starting the evening off by thanking the audience (or, alternatively..”You made it, you’re here, the Tonight Show”) and then dropping into his five to seven minute monologue (after thanking the Roots, his very, very good house band).

The original Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon video opening was a short, sharp, piece of art, directed by New York film maker Spike Lee with crisp editing and music by The Roots. It had movement and attitude and it rocked into the show.   It looked like it had SNL title opening ancestry and it did, because the show is produced by Lorne Michaels, who created Saturday Night Live (among other NBC shows).  It set the tone, like the one from Jimmy’s predecessor show, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon (above)

And, yes, we really wanted to have it embedded in this piece but could not find a copy of it. Perhaps NBC removed it from public visibility or maybe we didn’t look in the all right places but….it was not findable.(thanks to YouTube for the video at the head of this post).

However, we were able to source something that will provide the type of deep drill down we favor here at the Media Bunker: a shot by shot analysis of the opening produced by our friends at Popspots NYC.com …..

You are encouraged to click the link and go through the opening sequence, shot by shot. That’s all it will take to give you an appreciation of what a great little opening the show (once) had and we like it so much.

So why the change and why now? No clues yet, despite more research than I want to talk about. It could be that the change was mandated by a new “showrunner” (the term previously used to denote the executive producer). One of Fallon’s key team, Mike DiCenzo, who has been with Fallon since Jimmy’s first late night show (Late Night With Jimmy Fallon) left; as DiCenzo says, “After 10 years of late night television, it’s time to decompress”. The name DiCenzo may not ring an immediate bell, but you would recognize his repeating character on the show–Bucket Hat Guy, who often engaged in complex back-and-forth word association oneupmanship with host Fallon. Who knew he was the head writer?

At the end of his term with The Tonight Show, DiCenzo was operating as “show runner” so he had extra duties layered on him in addition to the writing he produced for the show (one of his bits was “Slow Jamming the News with President Obama”…a legend). DiCenzo left the show on 22 October 2018.

DiCenzo was replaced by Jim Bell, who is a news and sports producer for NBC and worked previously as President of  NBC’s Olympics Coverage. Bell has experience with the Today Show and was brought in to punch up Fallon’s show, which has been sliding in the ratings. It was just announced that Stephen Colbert’s show (The Late Show with Stephen Colbert) had done something the Late Show had not done in 50 years…finish ahead of the Tonight Show in the ratings (specifically the key under 50 demographic that advertisers and networks all want). It was also announced that Katie Hokenmeyer, another top producer for Fallon who worked hand-in-hand with DiCenzo and another staff member that has been with Jimmy since his Late Night show days, has also recently left.

There is some concern with Fallon losing to Colbert in the ratings race for the first time; Fallon is notoriously soft on current politics and Colbert is constantly blistering Trump and his team, nightly, and has built a following because of his scathing takes on the present administration. And..it can only get better for Colbert as the 2020 elections are on the horizon and that only means more interest in politics and political commentary and content that plays right into Colbert’s humor sweet spot.

NBC had obviously thought that the strategy of bringing in an ex-Today Show producer would bring a more current and controversial focus to Fallon’s show (Colbert’s show started to take off when CBS moved their Morning Show producer to Late Night). But so far, the results aren’t too good–the cohesive team that took Fallon from very late night to late night has been broken up by the departures of DiCenzo and Hockenmeyer and from a distance, it seems that Fallon is most comfortable working with the team that helped him build his career. In the new management shuffle, Jimmy is now the “talent”, and subject to executive pressure to change his style to meet a perceived new audience demand. Bell’s first turn at managing the show hasn’t done much for Bell’s reputation–he lost the time slot–and so his position as head of the show may be in jeopardy, especially since rumors are floating around that Bell doesn’t get along with Lorne Michaels, who developed Fallon’s show, Seth Meyer’s Show, SNL, and is the reigning king of comedy at NBC–i.e. Michaels is irreplaceable and Bell is not.

Why so much interest in these two late night shows and their hosts?

Money.

The two most lucrative shows at NBC have long been  the Today Show and the Tonight Show. These shows generate vast amounts of advertising revenue and are comparatively inexpensive to produce vs. series television shows or sitcoms. If you’re the head of a major network, the time slots you want to control are early morning and late night. When those cash cow time slots start to drift away, it’s time for a change.

So is that the reason the opening for The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon was changed? Certainly hope not because the change wiped out four years worth of brand/graphic/film equity and replaced it with an opening that–currently–is not worthy of a major network television show. No doubt Jimmy can get back in the ratings game, but he need to get the band back together.again…bringing back the original opening would be a very good start.

The Fine Print. Photo embed courtesy of our friends at Getty Images, who have the photographic history of the 20th and 21st Century on file. This photo has not been altered in any way. Copyright Getty Images, 2019,and or their designee all rights reserved. We thank them for sharing. Late Night With Jimmy Fallon via and courtesy of our friends at YouTube; all rights belong to the respective rights holders. We also thank PhotospotNYC.com and in particular Bob Egan for developing and posting their shot-by-shot analysis of The Tonight Show opening. (if only we could post it!)/ Spotify music playlist courtesy of DJ Tschugge and Spotify. Turn it up.  DonaldPiece.com is an evolving experiment in digital communications with a surprisingly broad bandwidth and is produced by Perception Engineering and the Media Bunker. Entire contents copyright (c) 2019, Donald Pierce unless otherwise noted. Thanks for reading. Come back soon. 

 

 

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Summer Weekend Concert Series: Dr. John at the Newport Jazz Festival, 2016

A video of Dr. John performing at the Newport Jazz Festival in 2006. The video is very good throughout but there is a bit of an audio issue in the beginning of the set. Stay with it. Thanks to the  Newport Jazz Festival and Funk and Reggae for sharing.

The Fine Print: Special thanks to our friends at YouTube and the Newport Jazz Festival for sharing this video of Dr. John performing. All rights belong to respective artist. Special thanks to Funk & Regagge on MV for posting it. You are advised to run the sound through your stereo system and the video through your flat screen. You are also advised to turn it up. Summer Weekend Concerts are curated and edited by Perception Engineering and the Media Bunker. Turn Dr. John’s concert on and get to the Big Easy without even leaving town..except in spirit. Enjoy. 

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The Christmas Channel: How Hallmark Rules the Season

Paying Attention:
Embed from Getty Images

Continuing with our look back at how we’ve covered the Holiday Season, here’s a post that went live in December 2017–before everyone in the world was watching–and has proven to be absolutely dead on in terms of predicting how the Hallmark Channel has become one of the icons of an American Tradition. We were paying attention then and we pay even more attention today. Here’s the background behind America’s favorite Christmas Channel…

The most watched channel during the holiday season is not ESPN, Netflix, MSNBC or Disney. It’s The Hallmark Channel. Why? It’s the programming: Hallmark values, as expressed in the movies shown on the two (soon to be three) Hallmark Channels closely match the values that most Americans associate with the Holidays: love, sincerity, generosity, kindness, goodwill toward men, and finding/understanding the true meaning of Christmas. In an America which has just completed one of the darkest of sociological/cultural/electoral years, the programming of the Hallmark Channels brings us back to a world that’s kinder, nicer, easier to understand and live in, and which represents core American values that we don’t want to lose. A couple of hour’s worth of Hallmark Channel programming is all that’s required to re-center even the most frazzled of holiday shoppers and party goers. The production values are consistently good, the scripts solid if predictable, the acting professional and believable. More good news–not only does Hallmark get it, the company is making it easier to see its programming, by expanding the number of channels and technologies on which you can see its programming. For a closer look at why so many people like the Hallmark Channel, read this piece from the Christian Science Monitor…
Although lots of my friends and contemporaries (including a surprising number of TV producers and editors) have developed the Hallmark Channel habit this holiday season, The Nightshift and Media Bunker team were early in, highlighting the rise of this very American media outlet, with this post published over a year ago. 
If you’re not (yet) a Hallmark Channel fan, there is no better time to dig into the alternate vision of America that the Hallmark presents than right now, because seeing is believing.
Set the Holiday mood, check out the Christmas One More Time XV playlist at Spotify…just type http://sptfy.com/12dC into your browser and you’ve got music to get you through all your projects.

Fine Print: Photo courtesy of our friends at GettyImages.com, who have the photographic history of the 20th and 21st century on file. This photo has not been altered in anyway. We thank them for sharing. Text Copyright (c) Donald Pierce, all rights reserved. Enjoy the holidays.

Christmas Time for the Jews

Paying Attention (Special Holiday Edition):
Another in our special series of Saturday Night Live Holiday videos. This one is another classic, “Christmas Time for the Jews”,  a stop-motion video that details all the things that Jews can do while the Christians are home celebrating Christmas. It’s a very funny way of looking at the biggest holiday in the modern western world and it carries a subtle message about diversity and appreciation as well. The animation is classic and so is the soundtrack, which is very heavily Phil Spector influenced. A great piece of once-a-year-insight.
 
 
The Fine Print: Embed courtesy of SNL (SNL Vintage) and our friends at YouTube. It has not been altered in any way. We thank them both for sharing. All rights reserved by their respective rights holders. Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas. 

The NORAD Santa Tracker

 


 
Another (high tech) Christmas tradition: the NORAD Santa Tracker, which has been tracking Santa’s voyage around the world since 1951. Just click this link.

The Fine Print: Special thanks to our friends at NORAD who created, maintain, and make the NORAD Santa Tracker available to all. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.

Schweddy Balls

Paying Attention (Special Holiday Edition) 
Number two in great SNL Christmas videos is one of the most famous (perhaps THE most famous) SNL holiday sketches,  the NPR parody featuring Alec Baldwin, Anna Gasteyer and Molly Shannon as hosts and guest on a mid-west Christmas time cooking show. First broadcast in 1998, it was classic the instant it aired, and no doubt played a large part in bringing Alec Baldwin into the SNL comedy team on a regular basis. Loaded with double entendres, it’s absolutely hilarious. Whether or not it’s safe for work, depends totally on where you work.

 
The Fine Print: Embed courtesy of SNL (SNL Vintage) and our friends at YouTube. It has not been altered in any way. We thank them both for sharing. All rights reserved by their respective rights holders. Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas. 

Sump’n Claus

Paying Attention (Special Holiday Edition):
One of the great things about holidays is the ability to see movies and listen to music that we have traditionally enjoyed. One great and continuing source of Holiday Cheer: Saturday Night Live. And one of SNL’s very best holiday video pieces is this classic starring the very great (and underutilized) Kenan Thompson and Cecily Strong. The video was first broadcast in 2014 and remains a Holiday must-see. Ever wonder who takes care of those who are naughty during the holidays? It’s Sump’n Claus. Terrific video–one of four classics selected from the many great ones from SNL.
 

 
The Fine Print: Embed courtesy of SNL (SNL Vintage) and our friends at YouTube. It has not been altered in any way. We thank them both for sharing. All rights reserved by their respective rights holders. Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas. 

The Best of SNL Christmas

One in a series of reposts of the best Christmas bits from Saturday Night Live.

The Holidaze:
Saturday Night Live has been on television for over four decades now. The show is an American cultural icon, and it’s introduced us to actors and writers who have dominated and influenced film, TV, music, and comedy: Seth Meyers, John Belushi, Will Farrell, Eddie Murphy, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Dan Ackroyd, Chevy Chase, Gilda Radner, Chris Farley, Steven Colbert. The show lives in the moment, and so each weekly show contains bits that can be seen as a snapshot of our current social/ideological/ pulse. Among the very best–and most long lasting–of the bits produced for Saturday Night Live are the Christmas show sketches and short films. Continuing our tradition, each year we showcase the best of SNL’s Christmas material in our “Holidaze” series; this year, we start with a sketch produced for the 15 December 2018 show (with Matt Damon as host), featuring Matt Damon and Cecily Strong. It’s an instant classic, and no doubt it will resonate with just about everyone.

The Fine Print: Video embed via YouTube and courtesy of SNL/Broadway Video. All rights belong to SNL/Broadway Video. This video has not been altered in any way. We thank our friends at SNL and Broadway Video for sharing and YouTube for providing the publishing channel. Have a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidaze, from your friends at Perception Engineering and the Media Bunker. 

The SNL Christmas Classics: Santa’s My Boyfriend

Another in our continuing series of the best Christmas sketches from Saturday Night Live…this one, a legendary opening with three of the show’s top female stars.

Paying Attention:
Amy Poehler, Kristin Wiig, and Maya Rudolph produce another Holiday Winner with “Santa’s My Boyfriend”, a racy musical number that was used to open a Christmas time telecast of Saturday Night Live.  Another classic from an era that produced a lot of the show’s very best work.
The Fine Print: Embed via YouTube (thanks guys), made available by SNL. All rights belong to their respective rights holders (Broadway Video and others). Thanks for sharing.