Thursday, March 13, 2014

MA-27 - A Cosmic Chorus

Here's another of my scrapings off the ceiling of popular music.  All the songs are about space, aliens, our space programs, and other topics beyond our Earthly horizons.

1 -    Bluegrass on the Moon         Poteet Brothers    1953
2 -    I Talked to the Man in the Moon      Rocky Porter   1953
3 -    Captain Santa Claus and His Reindeer Space Patrol   Bobby Helms  1957
4 -   That Crazy Place in Outer Space       Annette Funicello       1958
5 -    Sputnik Rock and Roll         Rock-Krister and His Cristals      1958
6 -   Right Here On Earth     Gene Vincent 1959
7 -    God Is on the Moon     Norm Burns   1959
8 - The Face from Outer Space Jeff Barry 1960
9 - Kibble-Kibble (The Flying Saucer Song) Nervous Norvus 1960
10 - Jukebox on the Moon (acoustic version) Ginny Millay 1960
11 - Maid of the Moon  Dick Hyman & Mary Mayo     1963
12 - Love Goddess of Venus The Ventures 1964
13 - Space Walk The Spotnicks 1965
14 - U.F.O. Dudley & The Doo-Rytes 1966
15 - Moon Daddy Ole   Moon Daddy 1967
16 - Spaceship Lover Paul St John  1972
17 - Space Invaders The Piranhas 1979
 18 - Slime Creatures from Outer Space Weird Al Yankovic 1985
19 - Space Brothers JFA 1986
20 - Flying Saucer Over Mongolia Dogbowl 1990
21 - The First Girl on the Moon Roxette 1994
22 - 50,000 Spaceships (Watching Over Me) Groovie Ghoulies 1996
23 - Rocketman Red Elvises 2003
24 - Flying Saucer Baby The Slingshots 2008
25 - Two Planets Bat For Lashes 2009
26 - The Thrills That Come Along With the Landing of a Flying Saucer DeWolff 2009

Track 3 was the B-side of some of the releases of Helms' OTHER Christmas song, a little ditty called "Jingle Bell Rock."  I think it's more fun than the A-side!

I hope you have fun rocking and cringing alternately.

Zing! into orbit!

See you Monday.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Book Review -- The Copycat Effect by Loren Coleman, MSW

            This book is really interesting but disturbing.

            And the subtitle pretty much explains it:  “How the Media and Popular Culture Trigger the Mayhem in Tomorrow’s Headlines.”

            Although the premise of the book is all about sensationalism, the book’s presentation and writing are anything but:  measured, relatively clinical.  But in the sections where he departs from the recounting of crime to discuss the emotional aspects of these crimes, Coleman allows his human compassion for victims (and perpetrators) to show.

            The book begins with a look at the imitative suicides that followed the popularity of Goethe’s  The Sorrows of Young Werther (originally published in 1774).

            He next examines “waves” or “clusters” of crimes, mostly murders and/or suicides, that can be directly traced back to an earlier popularized crime.  These categories include:
  • ·         snipers from high places
  • ·         planes into buildings
  • ·         school shootings
  • ·         arson crimes
  • ·         cult followers
  • ·         “Cobain copycats”
  • ·         celebrity deaths and inspiration from movies such as The Deer Hunter
  • ·         “going postal”
… and such.  It’s really stunning to see how many imitative suicides or other crimes can follow a publicized “original.”

            In the chapter on snipers and popular media’s reaction to the Charles Whitman murders of 1966, Coleman leaves one (to me) important thing out.  I am surprised that in his list of fictional depictions of similar violence, he doesn’t appear to know that the 1968 film Targets was also sparked by the Whitman shootings.  Although this Peter Bogdanovich movie isn’t a celebrated classic of cinema, it’s still important in the hearts of horror fans in its tale of the conflict of modern, real-life horror (the sniper) with “classic,” fictional horror (Boris Karloff as Byron Orlock, a horror star who’s been out-horribled by modern history).

            But putting that monster-kid memory aside, on with the book review …

            In each chapter, Coleman describes a “seed” or original crime, which, given high publicity and media discussion, seems to spark an imitating reaction in others.  Who are these others?  Often they are people in transition -- adults with no job or friends; adolescents whose self-worth is often tied to what they think their peers think of them; folks who have lost a loved one to death, or lost a job.

            It’s sad and depressing to realize that many people have such tenuous ties to the rest of us that they are so easily swayed to throw their lives away.  They value themselves (and others, when they do more than commit suicide) as so much metaphorical “dust in the wind.”  Without “the human connection,” then any behavior is unrestricted.  Why not go out in a blaze of glory, if you feel stirred by some recent movie, or sensationalized crime you saw on the TV news?  After all, the reasoning goes, what’s better than attention?  It’s not as if those other people are anything but puppets like you.  Why not cut some strings?

            If you are well grounded in the love of a family or group of friends or church, then it’s very saddening to read page after page (more than four pages in some spots) of Coleman’s brief, one sentence summaries of the ending of one or more lives.  If you’re an emotionally secure, compassionate reader like me, you wish you could say to each troubled person, “Life can be worthwhile!  You as a person are worthwhile!  Your existence is something to treasure, not discard!”

            Most of these crimes could have been averted had the imitator, the “copycat,” felt stronger emotional or human ties to others.  The problem is, most of us humans are too preoccupied with our own (probably VERY SMALL) difficulties to reach out and connect with people who need it.

            In fact, he describes several instances where suicides have been averted at a certain location that has seemed “popular.”  Sometimes the erecting of a fence or barrier has greatly reduced what seem to be impulsive suicides.  In at least one study, a follow-up on attempted suicides found that ninety-five percent of them were still alive ten years later.  They had been prevented from jumping off a certain bridge, and when the impulse passed, evidently so did the impetus to “end it all.”

            In his closing chapters Coleman looks at the roots of these crimes and sums up what the reader has noticed all long:  Most of these acts are some strange kind of “Monkey see, monkey do” behaviors.  They likely wouldn’t have happen without the press coverage and sensationalized accounts that describe “the original” action.

            As he says at the opening of Chapter 17:
     The validity of the copycat effect is undeniable.  This human phenomenon, which is hundreds if not thousands of years old, is being accelerated by our brave new world of in-your-face, wall-to-wall news coverage.  The media’s graphic coverage of rampage shootings, celebrity suicides, bridge jumpers, school shootings, and the like is triggering vulnerable and angry people to take their own lives and lives of others. … Denying the clear evidence, as presented in these pages, that the copycat effect exists, is foolhardy.

            The book closes with a set of recommendations toward a scaling-back of this irresponsible omnipresent coverage or violent acts.  For example, “the media should never publish a report on suicide or murder-suicide without adding the protective factors, such as the contact information for hotlines, help lines, soft lines, and other community resources ….” (page 260).

            Although he acknowledges that members of today’s mass media will be eager to shrug off their responsibilities for the spread of copycat crimes, that doesn’t make their blame go away:  “The time has come for someone to say, Stop it.  Stop sensationalizing the violence.  Stop triggering violent behaviors now” (page 261).

            Reading this book is an experience that makes you feel not only sorrowful at all of these wasted lives, but hopeful that you and I can make a meaningful, helpful difference in another person’s life if we are willing to.

ENDING NOTE TO READERS OF THIS REVIEW:  Loren Coleman is listed as “MSW,” which stands for “Master of Social Work.”  This book, and a a series of other titles listed at the front of the book, are about topics in mainstream sociology.

            Mentioned nowhere in this book is author Loren Coleman’s “other” area of expertise, that of the study of Cryptozoology and witnesses’ perceptions and interactions with the oddities they encounter.  However, his his website makes no bones about his interests on strange happenings.

            I certainly hope that Coleman’s audiences can criss-cross, because you don’t have to be a connoisseur of oddities to appreciate this book, nor should Coleman’s academic colleagues turn up their noses at the very real phenomena that are reported by people who see something weird.

            This here’s a sobering but very absorbing book that makes you resolve to try and treat people a little nicer.

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© by Mark Alfred