08 January, 2017

The Best of the Best-Ofs: David Bowie

Preface:
This post has been a long time in the making with a lot of research to get it just right. The project started around the release of The Next Day. Time and life got away from me, and my next chance for an appropriate time was when Nothing Has Changed came out. Again, life got in the way of me completing the project and I had hoped Blackstar would provide the spur to get it finished. After what happened two days later, there was no way I was going to look like I was capitalising on that news.

It did give me more time to listen to and compare all the collections though so now, more than three years after the idea, on his 70th birthday, here is my guide to one of the most compiled artists ever…

CHANGESONEBOWIE  - 1976
http://amzn.to/2j1morz
This could seriously rank as one of the best Best-of albums ever. Although by now it features only a brief period of his career, it still stands as an excellent introduction to Bowie and great standalone album in its own right. It features the first album release of John, I’m Only Dancing.

The 40th Anniversary remaster shows a fair but not unreasonable amount of volume maximisation. Still one of the greatest album covers ever.

For: The original*, iconic cover, first album release of John, I’m Only Dancing
Against: Short, covers only a fraction of Bowie’s career.

Changes from CHANGESONEBOWIE, initial CD release
Changes from CHANGESONEBOWIE 40th anniversary edition

CHANGESTWOBOWIE - 1981
http://amzn.to/2iOuUue
Bowie had delivered his final album to RCA the year before and was waiting for his contract with his ex-manager to expire when they released this sequel. Aesthetically, it matches ChangesOne in a tasteful way. The track selection is altogether more curious.

Although there had been plenty of changes to document since 1976, six out of the ten tracks date from before ChangesOne was released. They’re all worthy selections but these days it beggars belief that there could be a Bowie compilation that covers the 70s and doesn’t include ‘Heroes.’ The biggest attraction was that this was the first album release of John, I’m Only Dancing (Again). The versions of DJ, Fashion, and Ashes to Ashes are the single edits.

This album has never been included in any of the subsequent reissue campaigns. As such, it has never been remastered, so if you’re interested in the original 1970s masters, this collection is worth tracking down.

For: First album release of John, I’m Only Dancing (Again), unremastered
Against: Hard to find, virtually ignores the Berlin period.

Sidebar 1
REMASTERING: What even is it?
Mastering is the process of preparing the final mix of a recording for release by adjusting equalisation and volume for the best possible playback. Of course, best possible playback is an extremely subjective description because mastering is an extremely subjective process.

When it comes to remastering, it ain’t what you do but the way that you do it.

If an album has been remastered, it doesn’t mean they did a substandard job the first time around (although sometimes it does). As the decades drag on, there will always be technology that can make a recording that was mastered as best as they could at the time sound even better. Whether it does or doesn’t will always be a matter of taste but there are a few things to be aware of.

Firstly, don’t be fooled when you hear a record has been digitally remastered. If it’s being released in any kind of digital format including CD, then by definition, it’s been digitally mastered.

Other variables include the source used for remastering. Is it the original multitracks, the original stereo mix, or something further down the chain? If the original source is digital, what resolution is it? Who is doing the remastering – someone connected with or sympathetic to the artist, or record company staff engineers?

The most controversial aspect of remastering is what has become known as the loudness war, best illustrated by this video:

Digital formats allow artificial evening out of the volume of a song which would be physically impossible on a format like vinyl, which is ultimately an acoustic form of reproduction. This is why some people insist that LPs have a more natural sound than digital formats. It’s not that CDs can’t sound the same as LPs, it’s just that they are often mastered differently.

Another name for this volume maximisation is ‘brickwalling’ for the way it makes the waveform look. Making every part of a sound as loud as every other part might make it cut through on the radio or in a crowded bar, but it can also contribute to listener fatigue and possibly hearing damage with prolonged exposure at excessive volume. Still, some people prefer it that way, and that’s okay if you’re into that kind of thing.

The upshot is that saying an album has been remastered doesn’t necessary mean it’s going to sound better, or worse, or noticeably different at all. If in doubt, believe your ears.

CHANGESBOWIE - 1990
http://amzn.to/2iSSiJz
Ten years, and at least three different Bowie images on, and the time was right for CHANGESTHREEBOWIE. But that would have been obvious, wouldn’t it?

ChangesBowie essentially an update patch for the original to include the early 80s hits (although nothing post-1984) and ‘Heroes’, plus a new remix of Fame. The track-listing is loosely chronological.

To illustrate the changes over the years, they took the original cover and randomly slapped details of other album covers over it so it ends up looking like your year 9 school folder.

Fame 90 is a rather forgettable remix and very n-n-n-nineties. Some reissues have replaced it with the original version. The double vinyl version of the album also includes Starman, Life on Mars? and Sound and Vision.

For: Only album release of Fame 90.
Against: Terrible cover.
Changes from CHANGESBOWIE

The Singles Collection - 1993
http://amzn.to/2j1nd3G
Being true to its title means The Singles Collection gets to avoid any disagreements over whether any of the selections count as either hits or Bowie’s best. Therefore, tracks such as Sorrow, Drive-In Saturday, TVC15 and Beauty and the Beast make their compilation debuts here.

It’s not a complete collection. The single version of The Prettiest Star is not included and several 80s and early 90s singles are ignored. However, it is the first album to include Alabama Song and Dancing in the Street, as well as being the first Bowie album to include Under Pressure, This is Not America, and Absolute Beginners.

The track sequencing is mostly chronological according to single release, which is why Life on Mars? pops up between Drive-In Saturday and Sorrow, while Wild Is the Wind comes after Under Pressure due to it being released as a single to support CHANGESTWOBOWIE. Of all the collections, this one features the full version of Ashes to Ashes rather than the single edit.

The US version of the album has a slightly different tracklisting to reflect the US singles. Notable additions include Oh! You Pretty Things, Be My Wife, Cat People (Putting Out Fire), Loving the Alien and the underrated Jump They Say.

For: Includes several non-album singles.
Against: Doesn’t include all non-album singles.
Changes from The Singles Collection

The Best of David Bowie 1969/1974 - 1997
http://amzn.to/2j1yuRm
It makes sense to divide Bowie’s career into certain phases for compiling and this first volume in a series does a pretty good job of showcasing what could arguably be called the Mick Ronson/Spiders from Mars years.

Having a full CD for the early 70s period allows them to add less obvious but high quality selections such as Aladdin Sane and The Man Who Sold the World, the latter having been introduced to the 90s generation by Nirvana’s cover.

For long-term fans who already have the obvious selections, there’s the rare saxophone version of John, I’m Only Dancing, the original single version of The Prettiest Star featuring Marc Bolan on guitar, the rare B-side Velvet Goldmine (which had recently become the title song of a movie), and Bowie’s own, unreleased version of All the Young Dudes.

The tracks are sequenced in the interests of album flow, and it’s the only compilation to include Suffragette City but not have it following Ziggy Stardust. The album seems very loosely divided between a rock half and a more mellow half.

For: Several non-album and rare tracks.
Against: Only covers part of Bowie’s career, obvs.
Changes from The Platinum Collection/The Best of David Bowie 1969/1974

The Best of David Bowie 1974/1979 - 1998
http://amzn.to/2iSOeZX
The second volume follows Bowie from Philly to Berlin yet despite this being one of his most creative periods, there’s something vaguely unsatisfying about this representation of it.

John, I’m Only Dancing (Again) is included, making it the easiest way to get the song today, plus a cover of Springsteen’s It’s Hard to Be a Saint in the City, previously only available on Sound + Vision.

It does feel like there’s a bit of padding on this collection to fill out the CD. Knock On Wood, already included on The Singles Collection, could easily have been traded out for something from the Stage album, and it would have been nice to have one of the more accessible Berlin instrumentals like V2 Schneider or A New Career in a New Town.

For: Easiest way to get John, I’m Only Dancing (Again)
Against: Seems a bit padded.


The Best of David Bowie 1980/1987 - 2007
http://amzn.to/2j1o98c
There are those, including many hardcore Bowie fans, who will argue that he didn’t do anything decent after Scary Monsters. This is of course a load of twaddle and those people need to get the batteries in their hearing aids replaced. Having said that, is it fair to say that Bowie had quality control issues during the 80s.

The best thing about this collection is that it includes all of Bowie’s film songs from the 80s including Cat People (Putting Out Fire), This is Not America, When the Wind Blows, Absolute Beginners and Underground.  It also includes Alabama Song and The Drowned Girl, the latter previously only available on the Baal EP.

Thematically, the album hangs together remarkably well with Loving the Alien following on from This Is Not America for example.

The initial release of 1980/1987 included a DVD of video clips of the songs.

For: Good rehabilitation of Bowie’s 80s work, features all the film songs.
Against: Has no follow-up


The Platinum Collection - 2005
http://amzn.to/2iOCDZk
Well-priced 3-disc collection of the above. Possibly the best introduction to Bowie. 











Sidebar 2
The missing piece
Until Nothing Has Changed, every Bowie compilation sold his career short in one way or another, but mostly by giving the impression that it ended in 1987. Even Best of Bowie makes only a token reference to his 90s output.

The Platinum Collection would be made complete if it added a fourth disc with a tracklist that went something like this:

Image by Harry W
1 – Under the God;  2 – Fame 90;  3 – Goodbye Mr. Ed;  4 – Real Cool World;  5 – Jump They Say (Rock Mix);  6 – Black Tie White Noise;  7 – The Buddha of Suburbia;  8 – The Heart’s Filthy Lesson;  9 – Hallo Spaceboy (PSB version);  10 – Little Wonder;  11 – Dead Man Walking;  12 – I’m Afraid of Americans;  13 – Thursday’s Child;  14 – Seven;  15 – Survive;  16 – Slow Burn;  17 – Everyone Says ‘Hi’;  18 – New Killer Star;  19 – Rebel Never Gets Old
(The Next Day and deserve to stand alone)

Best of Bowie - 2002
http://amzn.to/2jmmJbR
Released between 1974/1979 and 1980/1987, this 2-disc collection is notable for being the first to not ignore everything Bowie had done in the previous 15 years.

For reasons unknown the track listing is slightly different in every region it was released in. In general though, it’s a good, career-spanning collection that includes the best-known non-album singles, including the Pet Shop Boys version of Hallo Spaceboy.

While decent in its day, better compilations have been released since.

There was also a single-disc version released that contains only the radio songs and only acknowledges any post-1985 work in the form of Slow Burn, the most recent single at the time

The double DVD of the same title is the best Bowie video collection ever released.

For: Career-spanning in its day
Against: Made somewhat redundant by what came after
Changes from Best of Bowie

Sound+Vision - 1989/2003
http://amzn.to/2j1qLCV
Originally released as a luxury box set at the beginning of a reissues campaign when Bowie regained control of his back-catalogue, this collection was reissued in an expanded but more compact and affordable form in 2003, which is the version this review looks at.

It’s a great set for collectors since it includes many rarities (some of which have become less rare with subsequent releases) including the demo of Space Oddity, the cover of Chuck Berry’s Round and Round, London Bye Ta-Ta, the US single mix of Rebel Rebel, Helden (German version of ‘Heroes’) and the full version of Cat People (Putting Out Fire) among many others.

However, these treats are interspersed with the regular album or single versions of tracks that any collector would already have. As such, it’s a bit of a mish-mash, but well worth the current purchase price.

For: Many rarities, only compilation to include Tin Machine
Against: Padded out with tracks easily available elsewhere
Changes from Sound+Vision

iSelect - 2008
http://amzn.to/2iMUaDk
Originally compiled for a giveaway with a British Sunday newspaper, a combination of popular demand and Bowie’s fondness for the set led to a commercial release.

Chosen by Bowie himself, it’s a collection of personal favourites selected without regard for popularity. It’s currently the easiest way to get the Low era outtake Some Are, and was the first release of the MM remix of Time Will Crawl.

For: Bowie’s own personal best
Against: Light on hits and singles.


Nothing Has Changed. 3-disc edition - 2014
http://amzn.to/2i07SDu
The 3-disc version deserves a separate review because it’s effectively a completely different album to the shorter options.

Firstly, regardless anything you read (including the remainder of this post), this is the only truly career-spanning Bowie compilation ever released. Anything that doesn’t go back any further than Space Oddity is ignoring the first five years of his career.

This one goes all the way back to Liza Jane, released in 1964 as Davie Jones and the King Bees. What’s more, it does it Benjamin Button style in reverse chronological order.

There’s plenty here to attract long-term fans. In addition to the original version of Sue (or In a Season of Crime), it includes the first official release of three tracks from the shelved Toy album, the MM remix of Time Will Crawl, subtle remixes of Wild is the Wind and Young Americans, and the aforementioned early tracks. While it’s often cheeky and presumptuous to include previously unreleased material on a best-of album, they all fit and flow perfectly.

With its mysterious title and (spoiler alert) answer in the inner artwork that ‘Everything has changed,’ this is easily the most complete, most artful, most BOWIE collection of them all. The only slight shortcoming is that the reverse track order could prove a bit challenging for the Bowie novice.

For: Truly career-spanning, plenty of rare tracks.
Against: Slightly eccentric track order (mind you, if slightly eccentric isn’t your thing, why are you even interested in David Bowie?)
Changes from Nothing Has Changed.

Nothing Has Changed. 1 & 2 disc editions - 2014
http://amzn.to/2iSN28D
The 2-disc version of Nothing Has Changed follows a much more conventional path. The first disc is extremely similar to Best Of Bowie, dropping Suffragette City in favour of Moonage Daydream and also adding the previously unreleased stereo version of All the Young Dudes.

Disc 2 brings in Thursday’s Child, Everyone Says ‘Hi,’ and New Killer Star as well as the ‘Hello Steve Reich’ mix of Love is Lost (previously only available on the bonus disc reissue of The Next Day) and Where Are We Now? In keeping with the (forwards) chronological order, Sue (or In a Season of Crime) concludes the album.

The single disc edition mixes things up again. Rather than just being a culled version of the 2-disc set, this one follows no chronological order and in fact starts off with some 80s hits before going back to the 70s and then mixing the eras at will.

This is the only album release of the radio edit of Sue (or In a Season of Crime). This is not the shorter, re-recorded version released on .

For: Career-spanning, stereo version of All the Young Dudes, original version of Sue (or In a Season of Crime)
Against: Not much, really.

Legacy - 2016
http://amzn.to/2jmpAkS
Really? Who decided this was necessary?

It may be fully career-spanning, but there has only been one album released since the previous career-spanning collection, so this really smacks of cashing in. Some of the promotional material talked up the fact that it includes the single versions of the tracks where they exist. As if every other compilation hasn’t included the single edits? Queen Bitch please! And the single edit of ‘Heroes’ has always been a travesty which ruins the drama of the song.

Also, the cover recalls some of the cheap and nasty compilations of the late 70s and early 80s (see below). In fairness though, the images inside the booklet are far better and more appropriate than the front cover.

As far as the track selections go, this is almost a carbon copy of the 2-disc version of Nothing Has Changed. Love is Lost and Sue (or In a Season of Crime) are dropped in favour of Slow Burn, the single edit of Lazarus and I Can’t Give Everything Away. While the latter two are both worthy inclusions, there isn’t a serious Bowie fan on Earth who doesn’t already have them on and it does mean the collection ends on a bit of downer.

The tracks on disc 1 are identical to those on the first disc of the double version of Nothing Has Changed, except for the inclusion of a remix of Life on Mars? It is a beautiful mix, stripping out the drums and guitar leaving only the piano and orchestra, but again it seems like a cynical addition to make fans buy this largely redundant collection.

The single-disc version, like the single disc version of Nothing Has Changed, has a non-chronological track order but still includes the remix of Life on Mars? and the single edit of Lazarus, making it the choice for completists on a budget.

For: Career-spanning, lovely remix of Life on Mars?
Against: Basically a re-tread of Nothing Has Changed, rubbish cover.


If you had to choose one, choose…
Look, this is really hard. The 3-disc version of Nothing Has Changed is far and away the most complete collection but the reverse track order and inclusion of rarities may be off-putting to some newcomers. The Platinum Collection is an excellent, economical introduction but misses all the good work he did in the 90s and 00s.

If these mini box-sets seem a little too daunting, start with the 2-disc version of Nothing Has Changed. Or Legacy if you want. It’s much of a muchness really.

See also,

The World of David Bowie - 1970
http://amzn.to/2iOx8Kk
* Well alright, this is arguably the ‘original’ Bowie compilation. As Bowie’s star continued to rise, Decca did their best to squeeze as much value as possible out of the relatively small amount of material he recorded for their Deram label. (see below)

If the oldest Bowie song you know is the widely released version of Space Oddity, then you’re in for a shock. Although most of these tracks were recorded in swinging London during the summer of love, the style they owe the most to is music hall.

While incomplete, this volume of Decca’s perennial ‘World of…’ series is notable because Bowie did choose the tracks. However, this shouldn’t be considered an endorsement since the album was going to be released with or without the artist’s input.

Images 1966–1967 - 1973
http://amzn.to/2iOPn26
Double album collection or Deram recordings, including whole of his debut album, plus singles and B-sides. Reissued in 1976 with a Young Americans era cover photo.






Chameleon - 1979
http://amzn.to/2j1y8u1
Budget label collection which is interesting for its major focus on the Berlin period, including Breaking Glass, V2 Schneider and – praise be! – the full version of ‘Heroes.’






The Best of Bowie - 1980
http://amzn.to/2iOHdH4
Another budget label release. First collection brave enough to include Rock ’n’ Roll Suicide, as well as the live version of Breaking Glass and an edited version of Diamond Dogs.






Another Face - 1981
http://amzn.to/2iMH6Od
Decca recouping their investment in a slightly updated form. For a time, this was the best place to get The Laughing Gnome.






A Second Face - 1983
http://amzn.to/2j1lFqa
Follow-up to the above. More from the Deram years.

 






Golden Years - 1983
http://amzn.to/2i1iHjQ
Curious exploitation collection focussing mainly on the mid-to-late 70s and for some reason, includes I Can’t Explain from Pinups rather than Sorrow.






Fame and Fashion - 1984
http://amzn.to/2iMRmWN
Yes, there are a lot of really obvious potential titles for Bowie compilations, aren’t there?
Yet another cheap exploitation collection, but gives a pretty decent overview of the 1969 to 1980 era.





The Deram Anthology - 1997
http://amzn.to/2iOKgic
Currently the best place to get all the Deram tracks, including the whole of the debut album, singles and B-sides. Features the original version of Space Oddity, which is not the famous version everyone has heard.





Bowie at the Beeb - 2000
http://amzn.to/2imXulh
Collection of live-in-studio tracks recorded exclusively for the BBC. While clearly aimed at collectors and completists, it’s interesting for the fact that the recordings are owned by none of Bowie’s previous record companies. 

This means it’s the first compilation that includes early songs like In the Heat of the Morning, Karma Man, and a rocked-up version of Let Me Sleep Beside You alongside Spiders-era songs such as Queen Bitch, Moonage Daydream and Ziggy Stardust.

All Saints - 2001
http://amzn.to/2iOJCkU
What started out as a mix-tape for friends in 1993 was rearranged as a collection of instrumental works for commercial release in 2001. 

It draws mainly from Low and “Heroes” but also includes selections from The Buddha of Suburbia and a piece from Phillip Glass’s Low Symphony. The most accessible tracks are at the front of the record with the rest becoming an ambient chillout mix. 

While it’s a good idea to collect Bowie’s instrumental work, stripped of the context of their native albums, it risks becoming too much of a reasonably interesting thing. Good, but approach with caution.

Club Bowie - 2003
http://amzn.to/2i029Oe
Collection of rare and (previously) unreleased club mixes. China Girl and the Club Bolly version of Let’s Dance are half decent. The rest are fairly generic if not unrecognisable. Inessential unless you’re the most passionate completist or a DJ (and are what you play).




The Collection - 2005
http://amzn.to/2iOJYZ3
Curious budget collection that includes one non-single track from every Bowie album between 1969 and 1980 with the exception of Pinups

Worthwhile for anyone looking to explore beyond the hits but unsure where to start.



1966 - 2015
http://amzn.to/2iOS0ku
Decca wasn’t the only company Bowie was briefly signed to in the 60s that continued to wring the association dry. 

1966 is just the latest iteration of the half-dozen tracks recorded for Pye. They have been released multiple times under various titles, covers and labels. No one version is any better than the other.

See also: I Dig Everything - the Pye singles; Don’t Be Fooled by the Name; Early Bowie, et al.

Lazarus - 2016
http://amzn.to/2iSPgFl
It’s perhaps a bit of a ring-in to include this in a list of Bowie compilations, but it is a collection of some of his best loved songs, old and new, re-recorded and arranged with Bowie’s imprimatur.

This original cast recording of Bowie’s musical is given extra poignancy because it was made on 11 January, 2016 – the day after Bowie died.

Some of the arrangements are faithful to the originals while others, including The Man Who Sold the World, Changes, and Absolute Beginners are quite different. There are only brief moments when the performances become a little bit too Broadway.

A second disc contains Bowie’s own versions of the previously unreleased tracks featured in the musical.


I’m happy, hope you’re happy too.

13 November, 2016

In reply to Jonathan Pie

There's a video going viral on Facebook where Jonathan Pie explains the Trump win and why the left are responsible for it. He makes a lot of excellent points. In case you haven't seen it until now, a warning that it's NSFW. My reply is below.



"Engage and tell me where you think I'm wrong."
Good advice, so here goes...

What the left is getting wrong is they are using the tactics the right successfully used 15 years ago.

I have been respectfully engaging with those I disagree with for years, going all the way back to Bush v Gore. I have given time of day to people who are demonstrably racist, who described Palestinians as human filth who deserve to be wiped out. And all along I never made it personal or resorted to labels, even when the labels fit.

What I got in return was being called anti-American, a terrorist, a Stalinist, a libtard and even once, a paedophile. This is how the right defended themselves in the noughties and a large chunk of the time it worked.

Now the right are getting a taste of what it was like. I'm not saying that's a good thing because it isn't, but it was the right that set the standards of debate and they're getting what they gave. The abused become the abusers. The bullied become the bullies.

And this also explains how Clinton got the nomination even though she's Republican-lite. The left has become bullied into thinking that if they just behave like the bullies and give the bullies what they want, maybe the bullies will finally like them.

Yes, the left has got to get its shit together, but I treat people the way they treat me and I can't blame others for doing the same.

There is such a thing as objective reality. The Earth is round. Evolution is real. Smoking causes cancer. We should not have to patiently and politely explain these facts from scratch to every nitwit who says, 'Dah, I don't think so.'

Life is too short and your opinion is only as valid as the information you base it on.

And if all this sounds a little bit "elitist," then you're damn right it does! Elite means the best. If you don't want to be part of the elite, then you're the one acting all entitled and wants a prize just for showing up.

  

12 November, 2016

Not all Trump voters

The world has rarely seen such instant backlashes and counter backlashes as it has seen since the result of the US presidential election became clear.

There are many reasons and angles to these backlashes but the one I want to focus on here is Trump voters who are hurt and offended at the suggestion they are racists.

The hurt and offence are perfectly understandable. Although my feelings on the election have already been made clear, it’s obvious that millions of Americans decided that of all the depressing options that were presented to them, Trump was the least worst. I don’t doubt for a moment that nearly all of them had completely genuine and heartfelt reasons for making that decision, and that these reasons don’t even begin to resemble any kind of racism.

Just in case you need me to say it in as many words, I am happy to:
Not all Trump voters are racists.

But all racists are Trump voters.

Now if you find that statement simplistic, misleading and insulting (because it is!), then I suggest you reflect on that.

Remember this is the candidate who calls for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.” Now sure, maybe that’s not why you voted for him, but the last time I looked, you don’t get a line-item veto when you vote for a candidate.


Trump’s proposal was blatantly aimed at a notion that has pervaded right wing politics since 2001: not all Muslims are terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims. It’s patently untrue and unhelpful. And now you know how it feels.

Donald Trump was supported by the Ku Klux Klan. Of course, I’m not saying klansmen can’t be right about some things – what day of the week it is, whether it’s raining or not – but I don’t think those are the issues they endorsed Trump on. And for sure, Trump neither sought nor accepted the endorsement, but that almost makes it worse. When the world’s oldest white supremacist group completely independently decides they’re with you, does that not give you pause for just a moment?

Although I profoundly disagree with their choice, I sympathise with all the Trump voters who now feel they are expected to denounce racism before their views can be considered legitimate. It’s like being expected to denounce terrorism just because you’re a member of a faith that includes one seventh of the world’s population. No-one deserves to be considered guilty, or at least complicit, until proven innocent. No-one deserves to be automatically defined by the absolute worst examples of their group – not Muslims, not Christians, not conservatives, and not Trump supporters.

I hope we can all learn from this. I hope Trump voters who feel slandered perhaps have a little more empathy for their Muslim sisters and brothers than they, and their candidate, might have had before. And I hope the people who rightly objected to the idiotic smearing of all Muslims can refuse to make the same mistake just because they feel right is on their side this time. If you’re a Trump supporter, I’ll still ride with you. You can sit beside my friend in the hijab. We might all find something to talk about.
  
 

04 November, 2016

Dear America,

Alright, sit down. It’s cards-on-the-table time. We find your election just as comical as you do but I’m here to tell you, it’s not funny any more. This is serious and you need to take it seriously.

But who am I, an Australian, to lecture America on their democratic process? Well let me ask you this: If I were to use the expression, “the leader of the free world,” who do you instinctively think of? Right! I speak to you as a citizen of the free world. You mind your business and I’ll mind mine.

The conventional wisdom is that you’ve got a bit of a dismal choice before you – each is as bad as the other. That’s utter rubbish. But any reasonable assessment, the choice is clear.

Now I don’t like Hillary Clinton any more than you do. And no, that doesn’t mean I’m a Bernie Bro. I wish there were someone in between but, to adapt a line from Donald Rumsfeld, you go into an election with the candidates you have, not the candidates you want.

Many Republican former office-holders are publically supporting Hillary Clinton, and not just because there isn’t a nose-plug strong enough to block out the stench of Trump. The truth is Hillary Clinton is the best Republican candidate there has been all century.

Just think about it: She’s from a southern state, she conducts her campaign with an air of manifest destiny, she’s a hawk on defence, she’s secretive, she takes money from dodgy sources, she’s not good at relating to ordinary people, she gives secret speeches to donors, she’s crap with technology and she gives insultingly lame excuses for her mistakes. What’s not to love? It would be like the third term of the Bush administration. If it weren’t for her surname and her lack of a Y-chromosome, she would be the perfect Republican candidate.

For reasons which they can never satisfactorily explain though, Republicans hate her. Many seem to think she is going to bring about a socialist, sharia, communist, Islamo-fascist dictatorship with compulsory abortions in every school. This is not going to happen. How do I know this isn’t going to happen? Because I remember when Obama was going to do all that, and he has precious little time to make a start on it. Since we know Clinton is to the right of Obama on just about every issue, it’s not going to happen. If you really think it might, then not only should you not be allowed to vote, you probably shouldn’t be allowed outside unescorted.

Ever since the Republican convention, I have used a quote from Ted Cruz in all my comments on the US election: Vote your conscience.

Now, I’m going to borrow a line from John McCain. It’s his 2008 election slogan: Country First.

Okay, we get it – you don’t like Hillary. I don’t like her very much either. And Trump is a Washington outsider? Big deal! So is Kanye West. Would you vote for him? They are more similar than you think. If you want to hand the country over to a reality TV businessperson, vote for Paris Hilton. In terms of building on an inheritance, she leaves Trump in the shade.

I speak to you from a country that, a little over three years ago, decided to eat a shit sandwich just to show how much we hate spinach. We lived to regret it but at least we have a system where his party could fire him two years in when they realised that election-winning slogans didn’t automatically translate into competent government. Vote for Trump and you’re stuck with him for four years. And you have to admit, you have no idea what he’s going to do. By his own admission, on many issues, he hasn’t either.

Anyone who loves their country, regardless of their politics, would surely want a cool clear head in charge over a dangerous unknown quantity. I’ve been called a conservative and I’ve been called a leftist but at heart, I’m a pragmatist. This election is not a choice between two equally awful options. On one side there is a candidate who, if nothing else, has proven experience and competence in public office. On the other side, there is a demonstrably unstable sociopath. To anyone who would put country first, this is not a difficult decision.

If your hatred of Hillary Clinton outweighs your love of your country, then by all means vote for Donald Trump. Otherwise, put country first and vote your conscience.
  
 

19 October, 2016

Rigging in the frigging

The latest from the Trump campaign… no, wait. There is only Trump. The rest of his campaign have given up all hope of professionalism and are just wondering how they’re ever going to explain this on their résumés.

So the latest from Donald Trump is that the system is rigged and that’s why he’s losing. Those of you with memories longer than that of a pot-smoking goldfish might remember that he’s tried this act once before when it looked like he might not get the nomination. Once Ted Cruz had pulled out of the race, allowing Trump to again win on pig-headedness alone, suddenly the Republican National Committee wasn’t corrupt any more.

Now, as more and more Republicans decide they can’t hold their noses any longer and desert him, again he assures us the system is rigged. It’s tempting to see this as a pre-emptive excuse for his failure but for once, I think I understand where Donald Trump is coming from.

To understand, you have to look at the world Donald Trump lives in. Even flattering profiles describe him as a reality TV star, but first we need to unpack what is meant by “reality TV.”

Cops is reality TV. A television crew travels with the officers and film what happens. That’s reality. However, most programs that are described as reality TV, including Mr Trump’s iteration, are nothing of the sort. They take naïve volunteers, put them into highly contrived situations, foment conflict and then edit it all together.

Unscripted? Yes. Reality? Forget about it!

And of course, Trump is the star of the show. His abilities are not in question and never tested. He just gets to judge those who are.

Trump’s other major media enterprises have been the Miss Universe pageant – and don’t tell me that’s democratic – and professional wrestling, which everyone knows is fake. In fact, it’s so fake that they don’t even bother pretending it isn’t fake – it’s just a kind of violent beefcake ballet. The point is, the winner is predetermined.

But let’s not forget that these are all sidelines in Trump’s business interests. He also owns casinos.

For those who don’t know what a casino is, I’ll explain: A casino is a place where people who don’t understand statistics go to give all their spare money to people who do.

The first and only thing you need to know about casinos is that the house always wins. (Which makes it all the more curious that Trump managed to bankrupt a few, but that’s another story.) Trump is the house.

When you look at his history, you can see how running for president is actually the most level playing field Trump has been on for decades. Having secured the nomination, he’s now up to the one part of the election he can’t buy or bully his way through – the part where all the people get to decide. And he’s losing – badly.

Having spent so long having the odds literally stacked in his favour, you can understand why he feels the system is rigged when it’s finally a true test of merits. He’s like the dog in the movie Bolt who, because of his training and grooming by producers, doesn’t understand that he’s not actually a superhero.

While Trump supporters have been tying themselves in knots trying to rationalise the “grab them by the pussy” comment (remember the Republicans are supposed to be the party of family values), the most honest explanation is that he’s like the notorious affluenza teen. He’s so privileged and detached from reality that he can’t properly distinguish right from wrong. And he also can’t understand what life is like when it isn’t actually rigged. Of course the election must be rigged if he isn’t winning.

I could almost feel sorry for him if he weren’t such a creep.

Vote your conscience, America.
 
  

08 October, 2016

What did we learn today?

Well, we learnt something pretty amazing about Donald Trump. No, really.

We learnt that Donald Trump really does have a skerrick of shame. Not only that, but he'll take responsibility and apologise for at least something, even if he does flip it to his opponent.

However, what we learnt raises more questions.

What we learnt was that somewhere between:
They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists,
Ban all Muslims,”
She had blood coming out of her where-ever,” and
Grab ’em by the pussy,
is a line that Donald Trump and his people have decided should not be crossed.


I would be interested to know exactly where that line is. It’s important, because as disgusting as the recently released comments were, I’m not sure they’re any more offensive than anything Trump has said on a daily basis on the campaign, any one of which would be a career-killer for anybody with a (D) after their name - and rightly so.

In an age when Trump and his running mate shamelessly deny he said things that anyone with an internet connection can prove he did, you have to wonder what is different about this latest incident. Is it that Trump’s sense of decency is on an 11-year delay and that Megyn Kelly can expect an apology some time in 2026?

Obviously, the campaign feels this can damage them more than any of the previous comments, but that only raise the question of whether they have only just realised he’s a pathological sleazebag and that it might be a problem.

Vote your conscience.

Update: A possible answer,

13 August, 2016

A thought experiment

Two sentences:

1: He's rude, arrogant and doesn't know when to shut up.
2: He says what he thinks and he's not politically correct. 

Question:
Which one of these is a compliment and which is a criticism?

Before you answer, remember that both sentences mean exactly the same thing.