All-time great performances: Fishbone on SNL

March 23, 1991. I was sitting in the commons room at Brown House, my happy home for the past three years. I was terrified of the world outside Duke. We had watched most of the Gulf War on the same TV. The recession limited our job prospects. I had concluded I wasn’t going to find the woman of my dreams in college (in retrospect, a good thing — I still had some growing up to do).

Saturday Night Live was a nice respite for us. The musical act that night was Fishbone, which existed on our plane as one of those bands whose name we had heard but little else.

By the time Angelo Moore got three-quarters of the way through a front flip to kick off Kendall Jones’ blazing guitar solo, my jaw was hanging open. I couldn’t believe guys could run around and create such chaos on stage while playing such a powerful rock song called Sunless Saturday.

I was vaguely aware that my dormmates were less impressed. Angelo’s antics aren’t for everyone. “Dirty Walt,” the dude with the Mohawk doing backup vocals and not playing trumpet even though he was supposedly the band’s trumpet player, freaked out a few people.

But after it ended, all I could do was say, “That … was awesome!”

Not sure my dormmates ever looked at me the same way again. I didn’t mind — I went out and bought The Reality of My Surroundings and listened to it nonstop that summer. It’s still in my top 10 or 20 albums of all time.

It’s No. 57 here: StompBeast: THE 100 BEST SNL PERFORMANCES (3 of 5).

(Unfortunately, my quest to find video of The Time’s marvelously choreographed performance of Jerk Out is still unfulfilled.)

We R not smrt

Canadian magazine Maclean’s looks southward and shudders.

A few painful excerpts from a thorough beatdown that starts with a bunch of frightening statistics on America’s willful scientific ignorance:

If the rise in uninformed opinion was limited to impenetrable subjects that would be one thing, but the scourge seems to be spreading. Everywhere you look these days, America is in a rush to embrace the stupid. Hell-bent on a path that’s not just irrational, but often self-destructive. Common-sense solutions to pressing problems are eschewed in favour of bumper-sticker simplicities and blind faith. …

Then gun laws, where the column assumes the point rather than proving it. Then Patriot Act stuff and book-banning.

If ignorance is contagious, it’s high time to put the United States in quarantine.

Before we can complain, the column follows up with our math test scores.

They don’t appear to be getting much smarter as they age. A 2013 survey of 166,000 adults across 20 countries that tested math, reading and technological problem-solving found Americans to be below the international average in every category.

Then it gets debateable. Is it such a bad thing that we’re not watching TV news? Do we have to be so serious that we read The Washington Post?

But it returns to solid ground with a look at “elitism.”

Both ends of the political spectrum have come to reject the conspicuously clever, she says, if for very different reasons; the left because of worries about inclusiveness, the right because they equate objections with obstruction. As a result, the very mission of universities has changed, argues Liu. “We don’t educate people anymore. We train them to get jobs.”

So does all this ignorance lead us to this conclusion?

There’s a long and not-so-proud history of American electors lashing out irrationally, or voting against their own interests. Political scientists have been tracking, since the early 1950s, just how poorly those who cast ballots seem to comprehend the policies of the parties and people they are endorsing. A wealth of research now suggests that at the most optimistic, only 70 per cent actually select the party that accurately represents their views—and there are only two choices.

Or is that a function of the two-party system and our “us vs. them” approach to politics, which we treat as a spectator sport?

Either way, it’s depressing. So we’ll finish with a comment from Groundskeeper Willie.

How to edit, old-school

Among the pearls (pardon the pun) from this Jeff Pearlman interview with longtime Sports Illustrated editor Peter Carry are these handy four rules of editing (I’ve put the most frequently violated rule in bold):

Rule 1: The best ideas come from the guys in the field (and Lord knows whatever other sources outside your office), so listen. Refine. Combine. Bad ideas result in bad stories, no matter who’s doing the writing. Rule 2: Listen and talk to the writer. Don’t nag, don’t hang over her shoulder. But do have a discourse. Challenge. Help the writer refine the idea. Rule 3: Read the damn story all the way through before you lay a pencil or a cursor on it. This seems like a simple matter, like medical personnel always washing their hands before they touch a patient, but you’d be surprised how often patients and stories get prematurely handled. Rule 4: Be gentle but be firm.

He also has some interesting tales of the old days, comparing the SI office to Mad Men.

via Peter Carry | Jeff Pearlman.