Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Vanessa Hudgens is Right. Singing Along to Celine Dion can Pay Off!

Vanessa Hudgens recently credited singing along to Celine Dion when she was younger for giving her the great vocal range she has.

Some may say that can't be correct, as many people like to sing along to Celine Dion too, perhaps in the shower.

But the difference is in how you do it. To improve your singing, you need to sing along seriously. Sing like you're performing for a crowd. Do it with passion.

Now, the question is, will somebody one day credit singing along to Vanessa Hudgens for their vocal skills?

Monday, May 29, 2017

Is Miley Cyrus Finally Turning Over a New Leaf? We're Ready to Forgive You, so Come Back!

Miley Cyrus has been seen sporting a new style, as she goes out and about to promote her new album.

There's a different hairstyle, and a different dress sense. It seems the Miley of 2013, with all the bad fashion sense, the bad role-modelling, and the bad influence on our culture is all gone.

Honestly, I was quite upset at what Miley did back in 2013. But it's been four years, and it's long enough for one to be forgiven. Miley Cyrus remains one of the best singers of our generation, and she deserves a second chance.

In other words: we're ready to forgive you, Miley, so please stage a huge comeback!

Saturday, May 27, 2017

The Manchester Attacks Should Cause Major Changes. Anything Less Means No Justice.

Over the past few years, the increasing frequency of terrorist attacks have caused increasing levels of anger and frustration among the good people of the Western world. After each attack, we hope and pray that it would be the last, and that some miracle would happen to save us from having to see any more. But that miracle never comes. The Manchester attacks have caused a particular sadness and anger in many people, because many of the victims were children. Only the most evil and depraved beings (I won't use human here because they are not) would even think of doing something like that. While many people have sadly become sort of numb towards terrorist attacks in recent years, the Manchester attacks have shocked us out of our dangerous complancency, because it begs a fundamental question. If the West cannot even guarantee the safety of its children, what values does it still stand for?

Given the gravity of the situation, many of us demand major changes. Major changes in the way we, as a society, talk about the situation we are in. Major changes in government policies aimed at bringing an end to the terror threats. And yet, those major changes have not happened. The way our leaders seem to go on their business as usual almost makes me miss George W. Bush. At least he appeared serious enough about the need to tackle terrorism (even though he probably wasn't, in reality). Compare that to Donald Trump, who doesn't seem to have done anything much about the biggest issue of our time having already spent more than four months in office. I will not mince my words here: from what I see, Donald Trump is not strong enough on terrorism. The 'Make America Great Again' crowd needs to stop giving him a free pass on this issue.

Our cultural leaders and commentators aren't much better, though. While many have shown great passion for tackling climate change, the same cannot be said about tackling the threat of terrorism. While climate change may cause losses of life decades down the track, terrorism has already caused many deaths to date. If there is an urgent need to address climate change (and I believe there is), why isn't there an even more urgent need to address the terror threat? Can you seriously look into the eye of a mother who has just lost her daughter, and tell her that terrorism is a less important issue than climate change?

Here are three major changes I would like to see. It's the very least we can do at this point in time.

We Need to Talk About the Issue of Racism and Disaffection
Many experts have said that the perception of racism and disaffection among young Muslims living in the West is driving them towards radicalisation.

I agree that we have to address the racism and Islamophobia that is present in our communities. It is not OK to discriminate on the basis of race or religion, ever. In addition, it is not OK to dismiss the religious practices of ethnic minorities. For example, non-Muslims should refrain from commenting on headscarves, let alone calling for restricting their use. Governments and politicians should also follow these rules: don't ever behave like former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

On the other hand, the campaign to increase the perception of racism everywhere needs to be stopped. If the perception of racism is an important driver of radicalisation, causing people to see racism where there is none would potentially lead to more radicalisation. Moreover, promoting divisive theories in a time where we need to be united against an existential threat like terrorism is really inappropriate and irresponsible. We probably need to let go of things like microaggression theory and cultural appropriation theory, if just for the sake of our collective safety.

We Need to Talk About the Causes of Terrorism Frankly
The racism of the far-right and the political correctness of the far-left have both served to muddy the waters, when it comes to talking about the causes of terrorism. The far-right would like to paint all Muslims with the same brush, in order to justify their exclusionary outlook. On the other hand, the far-left would like us to tip-toe around the fact that some people appear to be born with an inclination towards evil. Both approaches are not helpful. We need to be able to frankly discuss the causes of evildoing. There appear to be both causes related to society, and causes related to personal factors.

We Need to Prioritize the Fight Against Terrorism. All of Us Together.
I understand that we all have things that we care about the most. For me, it is the concept of liberty and the twin ideals of liberalism and libertarianism. But still, we need to be able to unite in the fight against terrorism, whatever our creed. I remember that, post-911, the Western world was able to do that for a while. Why can't we bring that back?

No matter where you are in the West, you would have noticed a return of the protest culture of the 1960s and 70s in recent years. 2017 in particular has seen many mass protests, with the Women's March being perhaps the most famous one. Why can't we also have a march in solidarity against terrorism? Right or left; white, black or brown; gay or straight; male or female; Christian, Muslim, Jew, Hindu or Buddhist, everyone should be welcome in such a march.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Taylor Swift has been Unusually Quiet for Some Time. I Hope She's Alright.

Taylor Swift's recent shying away from publicity has been fascinating for quite a few media commentators. I guess when somebody's that much of a celebrity, it would seem unusual to be so low key for so long.

Maybe it's just her personal choice to be low key. Maybe she's just taking a break.

Or, as some commentators suggested, it may all be part of her strategy leading up to her sixth album, likely to be released later this year. Several media commentators have decided that it definitely is a deliberate strategy, seeing that Taylor has been cultivating her image in a very deliberate way in recent years. I wouldn't be so sure, however. Why would it be good to go low key in a year of album release? How does this make sense?

I just hope it isn't because she's not well. You know, many people don't want to publicly share their life difficulties. This would be especially the case for people who think they may have a lot to lose. A career built on an image of being cool also makes it harder to talk about stuff that is, well, less cool. Of course, all of this is unhealthy. So if you're a real fan, you need to tell your beloved celebrities that they can share their less shiny side with the world too. That you won't stop supporting them just because they're not perfect.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Joe Biden should have been the 2016 Candidate all along, to be honest. (And Biden 2020 Beats Zuckerberg 2020 hands down!)

It has been reported that former Vice President Joe Biden has come out and said he did not think that Hillary Clinton was the correct candidate for the Democratic Party for the 2016 elections. The reports also said that Mr Biden thought he would have been a better candidate.

Which, to be honest, I totally agree. I only backed Hillary because she was the best out of the available choices (Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz: there's really nothing Obama-like about this lot, to be honest.) I backed Hillary because she was more supportive of free trade than Bernie Sanders, and free trade is good for some small businesses. But then, recent events almost made me wish I had backed Bernie instead: Bernie's awareness that political correctness was damaging the Democrats vs Hillary's constant playing to identity politics is difficult to ignore. I guess my ideal candidate would be one who supports economic freedom but also doesn't play identity politics; something not on offer last year.

Returning to Biden, I think he could have been the best candidate last year had he been able to come forward. Maybe Biden should actually consider running in 2020. At least it would be a better option than Zuckerberg 2020 (seriously that guy's not that much older than me. Who would trust him?)

Friday, May 19, 2017

Did Katy Perry make Swish Swish to diss Taylor Swift? Or is it something even more sinister?

Katy Perry latest single, Swish Swish (featuring Nicki Minaj), was recently released to controversy. Many have noted that the lyrics seem to be in answer to Taylor Swift's 2015 single Bad Blood, and not in a nice way either. Add in the fact that Taylor's friend Ruby Rose also took to twitter to express her unhappiness with Swish Swish, suddenly now many people are convinced.

But then, as I said just a couple of weeks ago, I don't trust anything Katy Perry does anymore. To my best knowledge, there was nothing in Ruby's tweets about Swish Swish to indicate that she was indeed doing this to stick up for Taylor Swift. Instead, Ruby bluntly told Katy to 'stop trying to make Fetch happen'. Which is what I personally want to tell Katy too, in fact. I'm going to put it bluntly: I see Katy Perry being a try-hard, trying to push sales of her new album, and she is becoming increasingly uncool at that. I can't help but suspect that this latest 'controversy' is somehow just because Katy wants to 'make Fetch happen'.

In fact, my readers would know that I don't in fact believe that the Taylor Swift vs Katy Perry feud even ever happened at all. But that's another story.

Ruby Rose also seemed to be angry about Katy Perry's recent 'rebranding as a political activist only to ditch it', likely referring to her apparently feverent support of the Hillary Clinton campaign last year, contrasting with her much lower level of political passion recently. You know, Katy, if you want to be passionate about politics, that's fine. But if it's all an act, people will get upset. Politics is very personal and very important for many of us.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

I'm Glad Lea Michele is Going Back to Her Roots

Lea Michele has told media that in her second album Places, she is going back to her roots in musical theatre.

I actually quite like what's on the album.

But that's not what I like most about the album. I think the most important thing is that she is going back to doing what she really likes, what she really believes in. In the music industry nowadays, too many people just do whatever the fashion of the day is. Which is why there is an endless number of copycat EDM tracks in the Billboard Hot 100 any given week. Which makes things boring.

So good on you, Lea Michele!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Relax. The Handmaid's Tale is Not Happening in Real Life. We've Actually Been Here Before.

There's been recently a surge in interest in The Handmaid's Tale. Part of the reason is because now you can watch it on the screen besides just reading it. But another important reason is because, well, internet feminists are having a meltdown.

Would people stop saying that something like The Handmaid's Tale is going to happen soon in our real lives? Because, clearly, it won't. It's stupid!

I mean, I know Donald Trump is president, and he isn't exactly the women's rights supporter that Ivanka thinks he is (sorry Ivanka, I like you but I disagree with you there.) But the President of the United States doesn't control everything in our lives and our culture, and four years doesn't change everything either.

I'm old enough to remember the 'religious right taking over the West' scare, in full force about 12 years ago today. In 2004, the Bush administration waved the anti-marriage-equality flag in its bid to seek re-election, and many 'values voters' turned out to 'vote against gay marriage'. Media attention hyped up the power of the religious right in politics, with some outlets even claiming that America was on the verge of a new great religious awakening. This fear also spread to other countries like Canada and Australia. Both US Democrats and their counterparts in several other countries got nervous for real. There was even talk about America becoming a semi-theocracy, where non-believers would be treated as second class citizens.

Think this sounds surreal? Don't remember anything about the religious right taking over the West? It's probably because it was never mentioned again after 2006 or so. It won't be mentioned in any respectable retrospective either, because it was never a real event. People got scared for nothing.

The idea that we were heading down the path of The Handmaid's Tale during the Trump era would be just as stupid if we look back at it in ten years' time. I promise.

Friday, May 12, 2017

MSNBC is Having Difficulty Becoming Diverse because People Don't Want It. How Sad.

The management at MSNBC wants to introduce more diversity in its lineup. Long known for having a strong left lean, the station has attempted to introduce more centrist and conservative voices. But there is one problem: ever since Donald Trump came to power, audiences have been increasing in all the left-leaning shows. Thus MSNBC has been reporting very healthy growth recently, with most of it coming from shows like Rachel Maddow, Chris Hayes and Lawrence O'Donnell.

In other words, the diversity project is now in conflict with maximizing profits.

I do hope that MSNBC continues to pursue the diversity thing because that's important. I mean, I like listening to left-wing talk. But I equally want non-left talk, because all new ideas deserve to be considered. If we live in an echo chamber, we end up getting a distorted view of the wider world, and also end up making maladaptive choices.

p.s. As for losing out some profit in the short term, well, in the long run diversity will improve a station's image and widen the viewer base, so it won't be a bad thing either.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Netflix, 13 Reasons Why, and Trigger Warnings.

Firstly, I have to say that I haven't seen 13 Reasons Why, and don't plan to either. So there are no spoilers in this post.

In response to mental health concerns over 13 Reasons Why, Netflix has recently added additional warnings for viewers. In the media, this has been widely reported as Netflix adding 'trigger warnings' for 13 Reasons Why.

Which is so, so wrong.

Television networks displaying adequate warnings about potentially offensive content is nothing new. Netflix is not a television channel, but it provides a similar service, so it wouldn't be unreasonable that Netflix reacts to feedback and puts in appropriate warnings. It is just what you would expect of a responsible media company.

But why call them 'trigger warnings'? Why confuse a very traditional and uncontroversial practice with a new and controversial one? From what I understand, the new warnings are as well justified as any similar warnings in television history. Calling them trigger warnings only serves to trivialize them. Some people (myself included) don't believe in trigger warnings and will ignore anything that is labelled a trigger warning.

For the sake of people's mental health, please don't call everything a 'trigger warning'. It sounds too optional.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

"Nevertheless, she persisted": Supergirl, perhaps the First Feminist Superhero Series

Supergirl has decided to end its second season with an episode titled 'nevertheless, she persisted', to the applause of feminists. The phrase of course was recently a popular feminist meme, arising from an exchange in Congress between Republican Mitch McConnell and Democrat Elizabeth Warren.

It's probably just the icing on the cake for what has probably become many feminists' favorite superhero series ever. I mean, there was an episode with a female president (filmed before the election, so I would assume that's a political statement), and a diverse range of feminist themes including gender roles and LGBT themes. Plus the fact that Melissa Benoist (who plays Supergirl) marched in the Women's March in January this year.

I think it's actually good to have a show like Supergirl, if only for the sake of balance. I mean, most superhero TV shows and movies have been catered to heterosexual males, and have often reflected a male-dominated worldview. I'm not saying that those shows aren't good. But Supergirl shows us the other side of the coin. Women and feminists can be superheroes too, you know?

p.s. I am still the Princess's Spirit girl. Which means I am still more into Princesses than Superheroes. But then, I'm happy to make an exception for Supergirl.

Download the full song here.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Lena Dunham may think Rhianna is the ultimate Role Model, but Many Would Disagree

Girls may have come to an end, but it appears that Lena Dunham isn't done talking about it, just yet.

Recently, she spoke of how she was surprised that people felt uncomfortable with her revealing performance in Girls, and that "I have always been like Rihanna to myself, like, I just have a great time with my own body."

Reality check, Lena. Many people are uncomfortable with revealing performances, and it's not just because your body is not like Rihanna's. Many people equally don't want to see you or Rihanna (or anyone else) that way. From what I know, Girls actually lost some would have been fans because of this.

And no, not everyone likes Rihanna either. There are probably several reasons that Taylor Swift is more popular than Rihanna. I guess having some modesty may be one of them. And no, I am not being judgemental. I don't care what Lena decides to do. But if she wants success, she needs to accept feedback from audiences.

Perhaps learn a bit from Taylor Swift, and you may get more success. She's your friend after all, right?

Friday, May 5, 2017

I Can't Trust Katy Perry Anymore. She just sounded like a Donald Trump Supporter. I can't be sure she isn't one, in fact.

I don't mind real Trump supporters at all. I just don't like fake people. Fake people have no Princess's Spirit.

Recently, Katy Perry has received a lot of backlash over a 'joke' involving former president Barack Obama. During an Instagram Live Exchange session, a fan said that they missed her old black hair. To which Katy replied, something like "miss Obama as well? Times change."

People are obviously upset. Some have even said that this was an act of microagression towards the former president. Which I don't agree - because I don't believe in microaggressions. I also think that Obama would be too worried about the state his country is in right now to have any time for Katy Perry. But what Katy said was really insensitive: not to the great man himself, but to the millions of people around the world who actually miss him. After all, many of us truly, truly don't like Trump very much, and wish that it was still the Obama era.

Some people have described Katy Perry simply as a celebrity who didn't know what to say. But that's really unconvincing. We're talking about a women in her 30s who has travelled the world and made lots of money.

Which brings me onto my next point: most of my friends are in the miss Obama, wish Hillary had won camp. If I said something like what Katy said, it wouldn't have been interpreted as a joke. They would think I was out of my mind. Anyone who truly understands the pain and fear many have suffered since November last year would know that this would not be an appropriate 'joke' to tell. Not that it sounded like a joke at all either: it sounds like something a die-hard Trump supporter would say to us to rub the salt in. I really cannot help but think that Katy Perry's support of the liberal side of politics was perhaps never sincere at all. How else could she be so thick?

I have long found Katy Perry's sincerity suspicious. After all, she started her career with the offensive anthem Ur So Gay, and followed it up with the equally offensive but dressed up as fun I Kissed A Girl. My gay friends didn't find these songs funny at all. It's hard not to take it personally when the lyrics say 'it's not what good girls do, not how they should behave'. You can't get any more explicitly homophobic than that. But then, Katy supported marriage equality and even challenged former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott on this issue. So I tried to believe in her.

But I can't anymore. She's in my suspicious book again.

p.s. I don't mind real Trump supporters at all. Also, I'm a pro-liberty liberal.

Caitlin Jenner has Changed Her Mind on Marriage Equality: why Conservatives should Pay Attention

In a recent interview, Caitlin Jenner has said that she now supports marriage equality 100 percent. In the past, her position was more equivocal. So this represents a substantial change of heart for the conservative Republican. And remember, she is a conservative Republican!

Some people may say that, well, Caitlin Jenner is trans. Of course she would support marriage equality. But that's so not true. I know that plenty of LGBT people, usually older ones, who are opposed to marriage equality. In fact, in my experience, age (being a millennial) is a much better predictor of support for marriage equality. Even conservatives in our generation are likely to support marriage equality. In Jenner's generation? Not so much.

I think that Caitlin Jenner's recent change of heart could have something to do with her recent experiences, however. In the past two years, she has been frequently in contact with the LGBT community and its voices. In other words, she has had plenty of proper exposure to the arguments in favour of marriage equality, exposure that other conservatives of her generation usually don't get. And from my experience, (no offense to opponents of marriage equality), most people, progressive or conservative, would come to support marriage equality if they are properly introduced to the arguments and encouraged to really think about it. It's the same reason many millennial conservatives also support marriage equality.

It shows that marriage equality sits well with most people's conscience, and there is nothing within conservatism that is inherently incompatible with it.