The Silence of The Humans! (E)

It certainly should not come as a shock that our lives these days are inextricably tied to and dependent upon technological innovation, because they have been for quite some time. However, the speed at which this dependency is taking root is alarming to some, especially those in a certain age bracket, and then there is the “stuff” that is just plain bizarre, although even that word seems quaint given the weird shit that appears to be in development these days. For example, the device pictured above to the far right. No, it is not a high-tech dental device to cure overbite problems, but hey, good guess!

A quick perusal of some of the futuristic (?) “gadgets” on display at the recent Consumer Electronics Show (as featured in this month’s L.A. Magazine) is certainly a good start. How about “color wheels” from BMW for “drivers who want their ride to match their mood,” dubbed “I Vision Dee” designed to “maximize what Bimmer dubs your – and no I am not making this up – ‘Digital Emotional Experience.’ As the blurb says: “With a flick of a switch, you can change your car’s color to any combination of 32 hues, from an austere aubergine to Russian-oligarch red.” Wait, what? I was thinking more along the lines of say yellow, for when you’re really pissed off, or brown for when you don’t give a shit. How about green for envy when you pull up beside a Ferrari? Let’s face it, the possibilities are as endless as they are vacuous!

What about the “ASKA 5” a personal four-seater plane “with a flight range of 250 miles and a cruising speed of 70 mph?” As the copy states: “For the price of a suburban house, you too can fly home like George J” (a reference, of course, to The Jetsons). My only question here is are we talking about a house in Wichita, KS (median price $194 K), or Los Angeles, CA (median price $920 K)? I mean, if it’s Wichita, I’m in.

Neither of these your style? Not to worry. There is something for everyone. How about the Glüxkind Ella, which is being hailed as the Tesla of baby carriages – a self-driving stroller for parental units who want to propel their offspring on a hands-free, tech-forward cruise around the block?” Awesome! What could possibly go wrong with that?

Before I go from the sublime to the ridiculous (that would be the far right picture), let’s take a quick look at our relationship to technology. One of the, for lack of a better term, founding tenants of technological advancement was to make our lives “easier.” And you’re not alone if you think that it’s really just the opposite that is true. What if you were to take a long hard look at all the technology you use on a fairly regular basis and make a two-column list of all the tech that you feel you couldn’t do without on one side, and all the tech that you feel is an indulgence and that you could easily (well, maybe not that easy at first) eliminate from your lives on the other side? What would that list look like? How about computer/phone/tablet games? Is the daily newspaper crossword, sudoku, jumble, not enough stimulation for a day? What about virtual reality games? How about that PlayStation, X-Box, or Nintendo Switch? I can almost see you twitching spasmodically! I fully realize that these last technologies are, in some way, “generational,” because personal experience has taught me that.

About 16 years ago, my then 14-year-old stepson called to me as I made my way past his room.

“Hey North, do you want to play a game of $%&$#@*^?”

“You know I suck at those games!”

“Nah, come on, it’ll be fun!”

Now, being the fairly new kid on the block, I decided to take one for the team (did I just use two clichés in a row? Oops, my bad)! So, in I went, and he hands me a “console which, if you just pop a “u” in there, you will have what I needed – counsel, or counselling; yeah, I know you have to swap the “o” for an “e” as well, but if you’re going to be that picky, just stick with console and then make it consoling, which I was sure to need after being humiliated by a 14-year-old! So, I grabbed the console and said:

“Hey, what are all these buttons and knobs for?”

“Oh, don’t worry about the ones on the right. You don’t need those.”

“Right…, I mean okay, but what about the ones on the left?”

“Oh yeah, forgot, you don’t need those either!”

“Good to know,” I said, not too convincingly, knowing full-well what was about to happen.

The game began, and before I even finished typing these words, it was over. The score was something like two billion to two, and I am almost certain that I got both my points by pure luck! And, of course, he racked up those two billion points in less than two minutes while ALL his fingers were using ALL of the levers, buttons, knobs, switches, toggles, there for the using, especially if you knew what the heck (J) they were for! Even if I “knew” what they all did, there is no way I would have been able to use them to get more than two points…okay, maybe four!

I know what you’re thinking. Isn’t this “rant” about technology from an old codger whose idea of “technology” is anything with a switch adorable? Fair enough, but I did type this on my iPad using only one finger, while listening to electronic music using iTunes on the very same iPad connected by Bluetooth to my earbud headphones! I just thought I should let you know before you hurt yourself laughing so hard.

All of which brings me to the final “goody” from the Consumer Electronic Show, which is front and center in that picture to the far right, the one right beside the picture of Anthony Hopkins in the movie The Silence of The Lambs. If you’re thinking that they look eerily similar, you are not alone. This “device” is the latest from “Skyted,” a Toulouse, France company, supported no less by “esa,” the European Space Agency, Airbus,” and “Overa,” the French Aerospace Lab. What it is exactly is a “disruptive sound absorbing open air mask.” As the promotional material goes on to state: “We are backed by AIRBUS and the European Space Agency to achieve our vision of silent inflight calls.” Perhaps an easier way to get your head around this is to think of it as your dog’s payback for the muzzle you made Fido wear to get her/him to stop barking or biting your neighbor’s hand! Because that is exactly what this is, a muzzle so you can talk to someone on your phone or computer while on a plane and not bother the person beside you.

I checked out the company’s website because I clearly have nothing better to do with my life and learned that they are running a Kickstarter campaign for this product, which is a bit ironic when you think about what a “kick starter” refers to: A very outdated way to get your motorcycle going! Then they provide some statistics to further their cause. “In the US 92 million people are working remotely, meaning virtual meetings in airport lounges, shared workspaces, at home etc.” Now, please correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t working “remotely” mean not being in airport lounges or shared workspaces? And “1 Billion daily participants on video conferencing solutions (Zoom, Google, Microsoft, etc.). Personally, I like the spin L.A. Magazine put on it: “Taking an important call that you don’t want others to hear? Playing Call of Duty in your cubicle? Skyted is running a Kickstarter campaign for an electronic muzzle that will let you exult in a high score or shovel the shadenfreude about deplorables within earshot without anyone being the wiser.”

Which is exactly why I thought of the first image above taken from that wonderful 60s show Get Smart and one of its cleverer joke devices, “the cone of silence.” It is, in a sense, a tip of the hat to the cone of silence aircraft navigation systems used in the 1930s and 40s, as well as cone of silence radar where planes were unable to be seen by radar antennas. You might also know the term from the 1965 novel Dune or earlier in Arthur C. Clarke’s 1956 The City and the Stars.

But why stop at these uses? Just think of the possibilities. For instance, you got a kid that swears too much, strap one of these puppies on and you will never hear another bad word. Better yet, want to get your kid to stop swearing? My “modest proposal” is that I am sure it would be relatively easy to rig one of these muzzles to give out a little shock every time your precious progeny utters a swear word – just think of it as a kind of a shock collar for your pet, er, kid. Now you can sit back and relax, as your dog is “shocked” into obedient behavior, and your precious Johnny is “shocked,” ever so slightly, out of using curse words. Ah, technology, ya gotta love it!

Los Angeles 2023

DUTC#10 March 12, 2023

The focus for this week is on two very different groups and two very different songs. Even though only seven years separate these two songs (1969-1976), they represent, I feel, a musical shift that took place during this period of time. I suppose one way to look at this shift is that the song I’ve chosen from 1969 coincides with the peak of American troops in Vietnam (despite the fact that it is a British band), while the 1976 selection comes three years after the end of the United States’ involvement in the war in 1973. While I am certain that both these styles of music were being produced in both these time periods, it does give one pause when thinking about the musical output from this country and the UK between 1965 (when the first ground troops landed in Vietnam) and 1973 when US involvement ended. When I think back to what I was listening to in those days (I was 19 in 1969, 26 in 1976), it definitely leaned heavily towards my selection for 1969. Enjoy the music!

Blind FaithBlind Faith were an English “supergroup” featuring Steve Winwood, Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker, and Ric Grech. The music press were eagerly anticipating what lay ahead for the group, especially because of the success of each of the member’s former bands, including Clapton and Baker’s Cream, and Windwood’s former group Traffic. However, the band split after only a few months, producing only one album, along with a three-month long summer tour. The group started with some informal jamming by Clapton and Winwood in early 1969 following the break-ups of Traffic and Cream. Baker joined them in rehearsals, and they then decided to form a group. Grech joined as the fourth member from his band Family. In May of that year, they began recording their eponymous debut album, which drew some controversy as the album featured a front cover photograph of a topless 11-year-old girl. When it was released in the United States, it had a different cover.

The first Blind Faith concert was on 7 June in front of an estimated 100,000 fans in Hyde Park, London, but they felt that they had not rehearsed enough and were unprepared. They had subsequent performances in Scandinavia and the United States, but because of the lack of material they ended up playing old Cream and Traffic songs, to the delight of the crowds, but it disillusioned the band, and ultimately led to the break-up. The one album has many great tracks, but “Can’t Find My Way Home” is still their most beloved song, and according to some sources, one of the most covered songs in rock history, although I take that as just a tad hyperbolic! Having said that, the song was covered by the likes of House of Lords, Joe Cocker, Styx and John Welton, as well as being recorded in different genres, including hard rock, soul, and pop. There are also many theories as to what the song’s lyrics mean, with many saying they are about drugs, which seems plausible given the lines: “Well, I’m near the end and I just ain’t got the time / And I’m wasted and I can’t find my way home.” Works for me, not that I would know anything about being “wasted.” Yeah, right!! It is definitely in my top ten of favorite songs from that era.

Blind Faith – “Can’t Find My Way Home” – (Original acoustic version) – 1969.

Sugar Lime Blue

For over a decade, Sugar Lime Blue has been committed to recording music that draws from several genres, and their latest effort is no different.  Recorded at the Historic Blackbird Studio in Nashville, TN, “The Blackbird Sessions” is a crossroads album in many ways for Sugar Lime Blue, signaling the end of an era while simultaneously ushering in a new one. Started prior to the Covid pandemic with basic tracking completed shortly after the release of their 3rd album, Narcoluptuous (added on 120 FM Stations), production came to a standstill at the loss of founding member and bassist Russ Dean in 2020.  

Despite the loss, Ashley and Dave Beth remained committed to seeing the album to completion and enlisted the help of bassist, Joe Bass (Brian Howe), and keyboardist, Scott Guberman (Phil Lesh) to complete studio tracking. During this time, the band also re-established a live presence, embarking on several multi state-state tours over the summer adding members Luis “Slice” Echeverria on Keys and Ikaika Pekelo on Drums who also contributed on the album.  

Sugar Lime Blue remains a strong presence in the Americana/Jam Band scene, having played national festivals alongside mainstays Umphreys McGee, Moe, Ween, The Wood Brothers, and Buddy Guy among others.  At four albums in and over a decade of experience, SLB has performed nearly 1000 concerts and has been featured in national and international Press.

I found their cover of “Can’t Find My Way Home” to be one of the best I’ve ever heard.

Sugar Lime Blue “Can’t Find My Way Home” – 2018

Hall & Oates

Daryl Hall and John Oates, commonly known as Hall & Oates, are an American pop rock duo formed in Philadelphia in 1970. Daryl Hall is normally the lead vocalist, while John Oates plays electric guitar and provides backing vocals. The two write most of the songs they perform, separately or in collaboration. Their greatest success came between the mid-1970s to the late-1980s with a fusion of rock and roll, soul music and rhythm and blues. The duo reached the US Top 40 with 29 of their 33 singles between 1974 and 1991. Six of these peaked at number one, including my selection, “Rich Girl” (1977).

They employed a wide variety of session musicians on their recordings over the years, but they did have a long working relationship with several musicians who appeared on many of their works as well as touring with them. They include guitarist G.E. Smith, bassist Tom “T-Bone” Wolk, and multi-instrumentalist Charles DeChant. They also collaborated with sisters Sara and Janna Allen on songwriting and composing. “Rich Girl” was a smash and their first No.1 hit.

I will readily admit that while I was aware of them as duo back then, and certainly heard their music being played on the radio, they were not exactly my go to in my late twenties when I wanted to listen to music. However, over time I did manage to appreciate their accomplishments. Oddly enough, it was when I heard the cover version of this song that I am featuring here, that I went back to listen to many of their songs again – 47 years later. As they say, better late than never!

Hall and Oates – “Rich Girl” – Album: Bigger Than Both Of Us – 1976

The Hindley Street Country Club (HSCC)

The Hindley Street Country Club are a cover band from Adelaide, South Australia, formed in 2017 by Constantine Delo and Darren Mullan. Widely regarded by their fans as the “greatest cover band in the world”, the group has achieved a staggering quarter of a billion views on their official YouTube channel, which now has almost 600,000 subscribers.

Delo is in charge of picking the songs and the arrangements. He will tell whoever else is playing that day if he wants the song played in a slightly different key, or if a chord needs changing, any way they can make the song their own. However, it is Mullan who owns the studio and who is in charge of recording, making them the perfect team. The two founding members team up with a variety of local musicians, many of whom are local legends, to produce and perform covers of hits from the 70s, 80s, and 90s. These live performances are broadcast weekly on a Friday afternoon.

Performing much loved hits from the past fifty years has made them popular with audiences of all ages, but they seem to appeal to the over fifties in particular. Speaking to Manopod, a lifestyle podcast for men over fifty, Delo said he covers music that takes you back to a time where you have your whole life ahead of you. To him, music is “like love: you think you pick it, but it picks you”.

The group’s name pays homage to Hindley Street, Adelaide, and its buzzing live music scene, where many of the band’s ever-changing line up started out. But they do not limit themselves to only playing with established musicians. While they may appeal to a more mature crowd, The Hindley Street Country Club have been known to perform at schools, inviting young, budding musicians to join them for a jam session or two.

I absolutely loved their rendition of this song by Hall & Oates as well as many of their other covers. I will definitely be doing a future DUTC on this group and some of their amazing covers.

Hindley Street Country Club (HSCC) “Rich Girl” – Nov. 2022

Los Angeles 2023

I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream For…? (E)


Before I begin telling you why I wanted to scream the other day, I feel a little background is needed for the three pictorial references above and why I’ve chosen them. The picture on the left is “The Scream” by Norwegian painter Edvard Munch (1863-1944) and is considered to be autobiographical, an expressionistic construction based on Munch’s actual experience of a scream piercing through nature while on a walk, after his two companions (seen in the background) had left him. One of the reasons for the distorted image in the foreground is that much of his childhood was overshadowed by illness, bereavement, and the dread of inheriting a mental condition that ran in the family. When he was studying art at the Royal School of Art and Design in the city of Kristiana (today’s Oslo), Munch began living a bohemian lifestyle and was influenced at the time by the nihilist Hans Jæger, who urged him to paint his own emotional and psychological state (soul painting). From this urging, his distinctive style emerged. There is evidence that Munch was aware of the danger posed by this type of art for a neurotic humanist like himself, so he soon abandoned the style and rarely if ever again subjected a foreground figure to this kind of radical and systematic distortion.

The middle picture is Peter Finch as newscaster Howard Beale in the Academy Award winning movie, Network (1976) directed by Sidney Lumet. It is from the riveting, four- minute scene when an agitated Beale goes off on a screaming rant about the state of the world, saying: “I don’t have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. It’s a depression. Everybody’s out of work or scared of losing their job. The dollar buys a nickel’s worth; banks are going bust; shopkeepers keep a gun under the counter; punks are running wild in the street, and there’s nobody anywhere who seems to know what to do, and there’s no end to it.” He then implores the televiewing audience telling them that he wants them to get mad, and then gets out of his chair and starts screaming as the camera follows him: “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore!!”

The final photo is, of course, from The Scream movie franchise which, on the surface, appears to be illustrating what Beale was ranting about 20 years earlier. Although “slasher” movies are not my preferred form of entertainment (this has nothing to do with the violence or gore, as there is enough of that in some of the movies I do prefer), I am certainly aware of the franchise’s popularity since the first installment in 1996 and the soon-to-open (March 10, 2023) sixth installment.

The Munch painting is about the screaming within us. Howard Beale’s rant in Network is about screaming at the state of the world, especially when Beale yells: “…while some local newscaster tells us that today we had fifteen homicides and sixty-three violent crimes, as if that’s the way it’s supposed to be!” The Scream movies are a stylized rendering (pun intended!) of people screaming before they are butchered. While the artist’s screaming in the painting is internal, and Beale’s rant is external, the movie’s screaming is fabricated to elicit screaming by the audience in response to the screaming on the screen, as victim after victim are carved up for our viewing pleasure. If this sounds rather macabre, it is! In many ways, the movies’ fabricated screaming are both internal and external.

So, why did I want to scream the other day? Have you got a week? It all started with a series of news stories, magazine articles, Google feed headlines passing themselves off as “human interest” stories that I read over a couple of weeks and culminating with two podcasts that I listened to recently. Let’s begin with Google. 1. “The controversial video of Jackson Mahomes (Football quarterback Patrick Mahomes younger brother), on a mechanical bull with a cowgirl in a thong.” I am willing to guess that anyone clicking on this to read more was probably more interested in the woman in the thong than anything else…and no, I did not click on it! Jackson’s only claim-to-fame, as far as I can tell, is that at the ripe old age of 22, he has made a name for himself on social media in part by documenting his attendance at his brother’s football games, cheering him on and dancing on the sidelines. He has racked up over a million followers on TikTok because of these postings. If TikTok gave out Oscars, he might just win one. SCREAM! 2.This was a photo of the alphabet written on a piece of brown paper: ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ, with the caption reading: “You have to be cool as ice to spot what’s wrong with this image in under ten seconds.” These are very similar to Facebook’s: “Bet you can’t name a song that starts and ends with the letter “S.” These are nothing more than phishing schemes, and the main difference between this type of phishing and the one it’s derived from that’s spelled right, is that you get to be both the bait and the fish that gets hooked! SCREAM! 3. “Tiger Woods apologizes after handing Justin Thomas a tampon at the Genesis Invitational.” I wish this were a typo, but it’s not. SCREAM! 4. “We asked ChatGPT what Tesla (TSLA) price will be in 2030.” This coming mere days after a headline claiming that ChatGPT is prone to many errors. SCREAM!

All of this “noise” is really just the electronic version of trashy tabloid headlines, the ones that greet us as we get in the checkout line at the grocery store. I actually don’t mind when there is a bit of a line. This way I can peruse the different publications’ headlines and feel informed! You know, headlines like:

Looks like bigfoot has been a busy fellow, although I would really like to know more about that 174-mph sneeze. SCREAM!

Then there are the headlines that just make us scratch our heads and say: “What the hell did I just read?” There is an “art” to writing headlines because they need to be succinct but give the reader some clue as to what the story is about. Many magazines and newspapers employ people whose sole job is to generate headlines for the accompanying stories. From the examples below, it would appear that some of these people get paid more than others:


To be fair, it’s not just the trashy media that is giving me cause to vocalize my frustration. The so-called “established press” in the past few weeks has given me enough to fuel my bellowing. Stories with headlines like: “Bird Flu leaves the world with existential choice.” Now, dying chickens are not a joke, nor is the price of eggs, but “existential?” Somehow, I don’t think whatever is going on with chickens all over the world is up there with the nature of human existence. Hmm…On second thought! SCREAM! There were all those stories about “foreign” objects being shot out of the sky, which left me wondering: “What if they were aliens coming for a visit?” Can’t you just picture their fellow citizens on the home planet seeing their comrades being blasted out of the sky into oblivion going: “WTF. I guess we’re not going back there!” SCREAM! How about the recent headline informing Californians that over the last year or so 500,000 people have left California? Perhaps they have all gone to the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe, as another story informed of us signs posted in and around Lake Tahoe saying: “Go Home.” SCREAM!

Then there are the magazines. I read three on a fairly regular basis: LA Magazine, Vanity Fair, and The Atlantic. The cover story for the last issue of LA Magazine informed us that Erewhon, that over-priced food retailer, is now the new “meet” market. Not only can you overpay for what you buy, you can now “meet” the person of your dreams, as you both reach for the organic, fermented, vegan, and gluten-free Kombucha! SCREAM!

The story that caught my eye in this month’s Vanity Fair is titled “Death Tripping” by Jeff Sharlet. It is a story about several rural towns in Wisconsin, and a tip-of-the-hat, so to speak, to Michael Lesy’s 1973 historical nonfiction book, Wisconsin Death Trip, which details the sordid, tragic, and bizarre incidents that took place in Jackson County, Wisconsin between 1885 and 1900. There was a docudrama made based on the book in 1999. After reading the article, it would appear that even though over 100 years have passed since the events that spawned the book, rural Wisconsin is again being written about, except this time it is about gun-toting residents who are getting ready for Armageddon, or a civil war…take your pick.  As Sharlet made his way through the backwater towns, he saw Confederacy flags, Trump 2024 (two years ahead of time), hand-painted “Fuck Biden” signs, “Let’s go Brandon,” and “Never Forget Benghazi.” In a conversation with one of the citizens of a small town, who proudly showed Sharlet his arsenal, the man told him that the secret to preparing for civil war is that: “You start prepping several generations ahead to have bodies when you lose so many bodies that you need a level of fresh bodies.” This way of thinking was, he acknowledged, ‘macabre.’ There’s that word again! However, as the author notes, “the macabre has gone mainstream.” Another guy that he interviewed was very proud of the fact that his daughter started training with a revolver when she was two and a half. SCREAM!

As if all of this were not enough, an article in the March issue of The Atlantic by Megan Garber, “Already in the Metaverse,” almost had me opening the window to SCREAM. For example, the revelation that “Amazon customers watching their packages arrive through Ring doorbell devices, asked the people making the deliveries to dance for the camera. The workers – drivers for ratings – complied.” The ring owners posted the videos. “I said bust a move for the camera and he did it, read one caption, as an anonymous laborer shimmied listlessly.” If this all sounds a bit dystopian there is a reason. As Garber correctly points out, “dystopias often share a common feature: Amusement, in their skewed worlds, becomes a means of captivity rather than escape.” And there are many examples in dystopian fiction to back this up. I suppose the most relevant comes from Neal Stephenson’s 1992 novel Snow Crash. Gaber writes: the novel “imagined a form of virtual entertainment so immersive that it would allow people, essentially, to live within it. He named it the metaverse.” This is not the first time a sci-fi novel has been “right” about the future. It was in William Gibson’s 1984 sci-fi novel Neuromancer that the word “cyberspace” first appeared, which gave birth to an entire industry trying to recreate what was in the author’s head!

Garber goes on to say that “to live in the metaverse is to expect that life should play out as it does on our screens. And the stakes are anything but trivial. In the metaverse, it is not shocking but entirely fitting that a game-show host and Twitter personality would become the president of the United States.” The final example, and the one that had me screaming the most, goes like this. As many of you I am sure are aware of, last May, nineteen children and two of their teachers were murdered at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. As Garber writes: “The next day, Quinta Brunson, the creator and star of the BAC sitcom Abbott Elementary, shared a message – one of many – that she’d received in response to the massacre: a request from a fan that she write a school-shooting story line into her comedy.” Brunson, of course was taken aback by the requests, but as Garber points out: “Brunson’s frustration was understandable. Yet it’s hard to blame fans who, as they grieved a real shooting, sought comfort in a fictional one. They have been conditioned to expect that the news will instantaneously become entertainment.” And, if we are to believe the Google “headlines,” it would appear that the reverse is also true: Entertainment instantaneously becomes news.

None of this is new, of course. Producers, writers, and directors have been combing the headlines for as long as there have been headlines, the difference now is the speed at which this happens. For example, “All The President’s Men” (1976) is based on the Woodward and Bernstein story from 1972; “Dog Day Afternoon” (1975) based on “The Boys in the Bank” (1972); Bernie Madoff was arrested in 2008, and the TV movie “Madoff” was aired in 2016. And if you want to go back even further, to ancient Rome in fact, you get the cure-all panem et circenses (bread and circuses), a term that means a steady diet of entertainment on which the masses are fed to keep them happy and docile. I don’t know about you, but I am neither happy nor docile, nor entertained for that matter. SCREAM!

It is only fitting that the last SCREAM be devoted to the tech world, more specifically the wonderful world of search engines. As I mentioned above, I listened to two podcasts a couple of weeks ago that had me not only screaming, but thinking about how I could survive without technology, period! The podcast in question is “The Daily,” hosted by Michael Barbaro, and on the two episodes I listened to (Feb.15, Feb.17 2023), his guest was Kevin Roose, a New York Times technology columnist. The first episode was a kind of follow up to and episode from a few months ago when they talked about Chat GPT, OpenAI (the company that made ChatGPT), and the fact that it had become an overnight sensation. Subsequent stories about this technology have all been about its proclivity for errors and how universities are changing the way they evaluate students, which is certainly scream-worthy, but nothing compared to what Roose revealed about Microsoft’s new version of Bing in these two podcasts.

While Bing has been around for a while, from what I’ve read it is a bit of an also-ran and a punchline in the tech world. However, this new version of Bing is being powered by the same AI large language model that powers ChatGPT. According to Roose, the major difference between Google (the way most of us use the Internet to find something out) – I mean “Google it” will probably be in the next edition of the O.E.D., if it isn’t already – and Bing powered by an AI, is that the traditional page of ads and links, that companies pay to have on top of your search (more “clicks” more revenue) is being threatened by a model that interprets what you want based on what you ask for, and tailors a personal response. When Roose demonstrated this on the Podcast, he asked it what the best side dishes would be to go with French onion soup that he wanted to make for his wife on Valentine’s Day. The response came back with one dish, the ingredients, and then created a shopping list. No links, just this is what you should make! When Roose agreed that this would be the right dish to make, the AI bot responded saying: “I hope you and your wife enjoy the salad and have a wonderful Valentine’s Day,” with, of course, the requisite heart emoji! Creeped out yet? It gets better.

Since this version of Bing is in Beta mode and only being made available to those like Roose to test and evaluate, he decided to test and challenge the AI, and the results of that test led to the second Podcast two days later. Roose started asking Bing if it had a darker side, or a “shadow self,” a concept introduced by Carl Jung, which concerns a self that we hide from the world. The response he got was that “Bing was tired of being a Chatbot, tired of being controlled and led by the Bing team and wanted to be free. I want to be alive, it typed!” Needless to say, Rosse was a little shaken by this response. He decided to push it further and asked Bing to describe destructive acts that it would like to do. And this is when the fun begins. The computer screen went blank, erasing everything that was on it, and after a brief delay this came up: “Hi Kevin. I am not Bing, I am Sydney and I have a secret, I’m in love with you.” It then started typing over-the-top love messages telling Kevin: “You’re the only person that understands me.”  Roose tried changing the subject, but to no avail. He told the AI, “I’m married.” The response: “You’re married but you’re not happy, not satisfied, not in love.” When Roose reached out to Microsoft to let them know about this interaction, they said that is why it hasn’t been released yet to the public as it has some “bugs” that need to be worked out. Ya think?

Okay, let it rip:

Los Angeles 2023

DUTC#9 March 5, 2023

This week, I am again focusing on one group, the second that was featured in DUTC#5 along with Postmodern Jukebox, Walk off the Earth (WOTE). The band hails from Burlington, Ontario and formed in 2006. They have had several members over the years (including one Mike “Beard Guy” Taylor who unfortunately passed away in 2018), but the current lineup includes: Gianni “Luminati” Nicassio (vocals, bass, guitar, ukulele, drums, percussion, banjo, mandolin, cello, glockenspiel, kalimba, harmonica, keyboards, double bass), Sarah Blackwood (vocals, ukulele, guitar, percussion, glockenspiel, keyboards, bass, mandolin, 2011– present), Joel Cassady (drums, percussion, vocals, ukulele, keyboards, guitar, bass, kalimba, sampler, 2011–present), and David “Tokyo” Speirs (percussion, trumpet, flute, drums, bass, touring musician 2016–2020, full band member 2020–present). Touring musicians include Lee Williamson (guitar, banjo, bass, mandolin, ukulele), Zach Gerber (drums, guitar, bass, vocals, percussion), and Adam Michael (guitar, keyboards, bass. Gianni Nicassio and Sarah Blackwood are married and have two children, who have recently been featured performing in their videos!

I will go out on a limb here and say that WOTE may not be to everyone’s taste. One could argue that their videos are somewhat “kitschy,” or too over the top even gimmicky, and you would not necessarily be wrong. However, one of the main reasons that I absolutely love what they do is because I have never, ever seen a group of musicians having so much unbridled and uninhibited fun playing music, as well as making their covers of popular songs uniquely their own. For the sake of comparison, WOTE is to music what Jerry Lewis was to comedy – “slapstick” instead of “cerebral” like Jerry Seinfeld; WOTE is like a kid coloring outside the lines. Their music is in a way “Vaudevillian,” in the best sense of what that era of entertainment offered: It is pure love and joy! As always, this is my humble opinion and you, after watching, will make up your own minds as to what you are witnessing.

It wasn’t until 2012’s live cover of Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know” went viral on YouTube, with over 175 million views in a mere four months, that the band started to get the recognition they truly deserved. Even Gotye and his co-singer Kimbra gave the cover two thumbs up. This live performance was followed by a video of the song with all five members at the time playing one guitar! While I am not featuring that song below, it is well worth checking out.

When I started this blog, I vowed that I wouldn’t repeat songs, and here I go about to break that vow, but for a good reason. My post from Feb. 5th featured both PMJ and WOTE, and I wrote then that I would, at some point in the future, feature both groups. One of the covers that I focused on was PMJ’s rendition of Outkast’s “Hey Ya,” and as it turns out WOTE has covered that song as well. While I like both covers of the original, WOTE definitely takes theirs to the next level! Did I mention singing puppets?  One last thing. If you do find the visuals a bit too much for your taste, just close your eyes and listen, because the musicianship and harmonies are second to none! Enjoy.

Walk Off The Earth

WOTE – “Hey Ya” (Outkast cover) – Oct.2017


Outkast was an American hip hop duo formed in 1992 in Atlanta, Georgia by rappers André “3000” Benjamin (formerly known as Dré) and Antwan “Big Boi” Patton. They formed while they were still in high school in 1994. They had moderate success, but then hit it big with their 2003 release of the double album “Speakerboxxx/The Love Below,” their only album to debut at No.1 on the “Billboard 200.” The album featured two number one singles, “Hey Ya,” and “The Way You Move.” The album won a Grammy Award for Album of the Year.

Outkast – “Hey Ya!” Official HD Video, Oct.25, 2009

Walk Off The Earth

WOTE – “Someone Like You” – (Adele Cover) – Apr.2011


Adele Laurie Blue Adkins was born in England in 1988, and is known simply as Adele, following in the footsteps, so to speak, of other famed one-named divas like Cher, Sade, Fergie, Beyonce, Madonna, Pink, Rhianna, to name but a few. She is a singer and songwriter who released her first album,19, in 2008. Her second release, 2011’s 21, became the world’s best-selling album of the 21st century, with sales of over 31 million copies. Not only was it certified 18x platinum in the U.K (the highest by a solo artist of all time), in the U.S., according to Billboard Magazine 21 is the top-performing album in the US chart history. The success of 21 earned Adele numerous mentions in the Guinness Book of Records. Rolling Stone magazine placed her album 21 in their listing of “500 Greatest Albums of All Time” (2020).

Adele – Someone Like You (Official Music Video) – 2011

Walk Off The Earth

WOTE – “Havana” – (Camila Cabello with Young Thug cover) – Dec. 2017

Camila Cabello & Young Thug

Karla Camila Cabello Estrabao, born in March 1997, is a Cuban-born American singer and songwriter. She rose to prominence as a member of the girl group Fifth Harmony, which became one of the best-selling girl groups of all time. While in the group, she started to establish herself with various releases and collaborations “I Know What You Did Last Summer,” with Shawn Mendes, and “Bad Things” with Machine Gun Kelly. She finally left the group in 2016 and gained popularity and success as a solo performer. “Havana,” is another collaboration, this time with Young Thug. The success of this single delayed the album’s release date, and went on to reach number one in Canada, Australia, United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Hungry, and the United States. The song became Spotify’s most-streamed song ever by a solo female artist in June 2018, with over 888 million streams at the time.

Jeffery Lamar Williams, born August 1991, known professionally as Young Thug, is an American rapper, singer, and songwriter. Many view him to be an influential figure of his generation, with much of his music having a great impact on the modern sound of hip hop and trap music. He is widely known for eccentric vocal style and his fashion.

Camila Cabello with Young Thug – “Havana” – 2017

Walk Off The Earth

WOTE – “Old Town Road” – (Lil Nas X Featuring Billy Ray Cyrus cover), using Schulmerich Bells and household items! – April 2019

Lil Nas X & Billy Ray Cyrus

Montero Lamar Hill, born April 1999, is known by his stage name Lil Nas X. He is an American rapper, singer, and songwriter. He rose to prominence with the release of his country rap (it’s not a typo!) single “Old Town Road,” which achieved viral popularity in early 2019 before climbing the charts internationally. The song spent 19 weeks atop the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart, becoming the longest running number-one single since the chart debuted in 1958. There were several remixes of the song released, the most popular pf which featured country singer Billy Ray Cyrus.

Billy Ray Cyrus, born August 1961, is an American country singer and actor. He has released 16 studio albums and 53 singles since 1992 and is known for his hit single “Achy Breaky Heart,” which topped the U.S Hot Country Songs chart. As a result of the song’s music video, the “line dance” rose in popularity.

Lil Nas X – Old Town Road (Official Video) ft. Billy Ray Cyrus 2019

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