In the discographies of all long-standing artists, there is usually one ugly duckling, a release that makes no sense and is either the result of the record company’s greed, or a testament to a time when the artist lost his or her way.
Cut The Crap (1985), which turned out to be The Clash’s final album, belongs to that last category. Amazingly, the band was fresh off its commercial peak with Combat Rock (1982), and its members were being courted by admirers like Martin Scorsese. But instead of marking time by, say, making a soundtrack, the leader decided to break the toy: Joe Strummer ditched his right-hand man, Mick Jones, and fired drummer Topper Headon, who was affected by his addiction to heroin (although he had just written one of The Clash’s biggest hits, Rock The Casbah).
Strummer kept the bassist, Paul Simonon, a cool guy but with few musical contributions to make. He completed the band with little-known musicians and they all ran to a recording studio in Germany, possibly to tune out the public outburst of criticism.
In theory, it could have worked: The Clash was going back to its origins, reinventing itself with the zeal of young disciples. But it didn’t work out. In the middle of it all was their manager, Bernie Rhodes, an egomaniac who decided that the future of music lay in punk anthems sung in choral style and embellished with elements of techno pop and dance music. It was simply horrible, and what’s more, Strummer’s voice was drowned out by the jumbled sound. To make matters worse, Rhodes concealed his ghastly production work behind a Hispanic pseudonym, José Unidos, which suggested that the real person in charge of this abomination was Strummer.
At some point, Strummer understood the true dimensions of the screw-up. He sought out Mick Jones to put The Clash back together, but his old partner was already busy with his next project, Big Audio Dynamite. An attempt to give the new Clash members some added experience through a clandestine tour of unplugged concerts inside bars and on the streets evidenced that the new project made no sense. Joe ended up fleeing to his beloved Granada in southern Spain, where he spent his time trying to locate the remains of the poet and playwright Federico García Lorca, killed and buried in a mass grave in 1936 at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War.
This is how The Clash died. There was no comeback tour, no millionaire gigs at Coachella or other upscale festivals. The temptation surely was there: a few weeks before Strummer’s untimely death in 2002, he and Mick Jones played three Clash songs at a charity event.
Cut The Crap sank into disgrace. It is not usually included in complete editions or in the numerous compilations of songs by The Clash. The album is even ignored in documentaries.
Or so it was until recently. A few months ago, remixed versions of Cut The Crap songs began to leak through social networks, circulating under the heading Mohawk Revenge. The songs are the initiative of an admirer, Gerald Manns, who discovered software programs that allowed him to extract Joe Strummer’s vocals from the musical morass created by Rhodes. With infinite patience, he added bass, drums and guitars, basing himself on the live versions of those songs as they appeared on bootleg recordings. Mohawk Revenge could pass for the demo of Cut The Crap. It is a rarity, a whim, a posthumous sigh by one of the greatest blunders of 80s rock.
Music: Madonna has been scandalizing people for 40 years, and nobody’s going to stop her | Culture
Madonna’s Instagram account has a reputation as a playground for digital voyeurs. It doesn’t disappoint, featuring Madonna crying; Madonna drunk; Madonna twerking with Maluma; Madonna filming her family performing a dance while cooking; Madonna kissing Britney Spears at Spears’s wedding; Madonna flashing a boob; Madonna posing spread-eagle with the caption, “I have something for you.”
The singer has relatively few followers (18.4 million) compared to stars from later generations like Beyoncé (273 million), but she offers better stimuli: the chance to see a pop star who has done everything – going above and beyond both morally and artistically – struggle not to become just another sympathetic character. Madonna has been part of the music world for 40 years and still no other pop star has proven to be more subversive and provocative than she is. Now, she’s releasing a remix album summarizing her career, Finally Enough Love: 50 Number Ones (on sale August 19), turning 64 (August 16) and moving up the production of a film that tells her life story, the real one.
The singer’s frenzied use of her Instagram perfectly symbolizes her career, which has been scrutinized around the world since she started in the music industry in 1982, at the age of 25. Surely, Madonna has suffered every type of harassment that a pop star can endure: sexual harassment, body criticism, machismo, classism; accusations of cultural appropriation and of being anti-religious, sacrilegious, unpatriotic, youth-obsessed; and claims that she’s a heretic, an imposter for using playback in concerts, the financier of an alleged sect (Kabbalah)… Yes, she’s always gone too far in everything; as a woman from the suburbs of Detroit, that has not been tolerated. In the 1980s, she burned crucifixes in her music video for Like a Prayer; in the 1990s, she published a book, Sex, that had the most explicit images of homosexuality and fetishism that a star had ever shown; in the 2000s, she passionately kissed Britney Spears at an awards gala with millions of people watching on television; and just recently on June 23, at a New York Pride celebration, she made out with her new friend, Tokisha, the 26-year-old Dominican woman we know from the songs she performs with Rosalía like “Linda” and “La Combi de Versace.”
For a person who is so continually obsessed with attention, it must be frustrating for Madonna that she doesn’t resonate with today’s young people. Hence, her display with Tokisha and her desire to work with Kendrick Lamar, hip hop’s biggest talent today, as she confessed a week ago on Jimmy Fallon’s show. Madonna has one consolation: many teenagers today will also ignore the Beatles’ significance entirely, although Paul McCartney probably doesn’t care much about that anymore.
For 40 years, Madonna has been a thoughtful provocateur. Between provocations, she has recorded good albums with a limited voice. She herself has confessed that the biggest challenge of her career was preparing for the musical film Evita (1996); she had to work hard with the best singing coaches to bring her vocal abilities up to snuff. In four decades, she has released 14 albums, and at least five of them are essential listening. The first two (Madonna, 1983, and Like A Virgin, 1984) are full of gems that define 1980s dance pop. Songs like Holiday, Everybody, Lucky Star, Material Girl, Like a Virgin and Dress You Up are still exciting today, and they hold up equally well at the gym and in the club. Of course, Like a Prayer (1989), surely Madonna’s best work, transcends the context of the 1980s to retain its appeal in
subsequent decades. In terms of lyrics, Ray of Light (1998) was one of her career’s best. Her great avant-garde electronica work with producer William Orbit is both relaxed and festive. Finally, her reinvention with Confessions on a Dance Floor (2005) – done in collaboration with Stuart Price – gave 1970s/early 1980s disco music a facelift by updating it and making it more sophisticated. Through the present day, Madonna has been enormously influential; her imprint on Dua Lipa is the clearest example. She always knew that fame comes through a musical pastiche: taking a bit from here and a bit from there without being too obvious and then embellishing it with her own contributions.
Madonna has sold 250 million records and is the best-selling female artist in history, not bad for a girl who was born in a Detroit suburb, and whose world was shattered when she lost her mother at 6 years old. At the age of 20, she left for New York to do the opposite of what her strict father told her: she
became a model and was soon performing nude at punk joints like CBGB’s. When she began to break through in music, she found herself in the spotlight and surrounded by male achievers, including Prince, Michael Jackson, Bruce Springsteen, Phil Collins, George Michael and U2. Of the 25 best-selling albums in the 1980s, when she began her career, only two women’s work made the cut : Madonna (with Like a Virgin and True Blue) and Whitney Houston.
In this male-dominated context, Madonna used her own sexualization to craft her image and exert control. She was not a sexual amusement for the male audience; she was a powerful and defiant woman. Madonna grew up listening to Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross and other Motown artists, learned to play the drums with Elvis Costello’s New Wave records, saw David Bowie as the first concert she attended, and had her first drink at the age of 30, following her divorce from actor Sean Penn. Restless and curious, she always sought the company of daring artists like Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat.
Soon, Madonna realized that she was living in a hostile environment that was not ready to tolerate an emancipated woman’s success. In 1985, Playboy and Penthouse magazines published nude photographs that had been taken of her in 1979, when the singer was not yet famous and made her living posing naked for photographers. The publications took advantage of the singer’s fame in the mid-1980s and sold the old images. Madonna took the incident as a warning. “That was the first time I was aware of saying ‘Fuck you’ with my attitude. You’re trying to put me down because of this? I’m not going to let public opinion dictate my own feelings about myself. I’m not going to apologize for anything I’ve done,” she told Rolling Stone magazine. In 2016, when Billboard magazine named her Woman of the Year, Madonna delivered a legendary speech against sexism, machismo, and misogyny: “If you’re a girl, you have to play the game. You’re allowed to be pretty and cute and sexy. But don’t act too smart. Don’t have an opinion that’s out of line with the status quo. You are allowed to be objectified by men and dress like a slut, but don’t own your sluttiness.” She defiantly added that those who diminished her had made her tougher: “To the doubters
and naysayers and everyone who gave me hell and said I could not, that I would not or I must not — your resistance made me stronger, made me push harder, made me the fighter that I am today. It made me the woman that I am today. So thank you.”
More than a pop star, Madonna is a concept. She stands for rebelliousness, indiscipline and fighting against the odds. That’s why she is an LGTBI muse and a point of reference for those who came after her: Britney Spears, Katy Perry, Christina Aguilera, Rihanna, Miley Cyrus, Taylor Swift, Pink… and the current pop goddess, Beyoncé, who recently released a version of her single “Break My Soul” fused with Madonna’s 1990 hit “Vogue.” Beyonce thanked Madonna for her example in a note that the latter shared on social media: “I’m so grateful for you. You have opened so many doors for so many women. You are a masterpiece genius.”
Emerging Spanish-language urban musicians also express their appreciation for Madonna. As the Argentine Ms Nina, who lives in Spain, put it: “She’s an inspirational empowered woman. Now, our lyrics scandalize people, but she was much more radical in the 1980s. People criticize her now because she has surgery, because she is old…. Let’s see how her critics are doing when they’re 60 years old. They’re never happy. But they’re not going to intimidate her. I love her.”
Indeed, no matter how many haters visit her Instagram, Madonna is not going to give up. In 2019, she released an album that passed muster with harsh critics. Madame X did not thrill people but she did convince them. “Oh, you’re not allowed to make youthful, fun, sexy music if you’re a certain age? That’s a load of bollocks, to speak your language,” she said in a 2019 interview with The Guardian about her recently released album. True to her commitment to the queer community, a few days ago she released Material Gworrllllllllllllll!, a collaboration with gay rapper Saucy Santana in which they remix her 1980s hit Material Girl.
Three weeks ago, the singer gave an interview to Variety, announcing that she will direct a movie about her life (Julia Garner will play her). She explained it this way: “It was also a preemptive strike because a lot of people were trying to make movies about me. Mostly misogynistic men. So I put my foot in the door and said, ‘No one’s going to tell my story, but me.’” As always, that’s just Madonna being Madonna.
Perijasaurus lapaz: The incredible story of how a new dinosaur species was discovered in Colombia | Culture
About 175 million years ago, a herbivorous dinosaur with four thick legs, a tiny head and a very long neck and tail roamed the Serranía del Perijá mountain range in northern Colombia. This recently discovered species is the second dinosaur known to be of Colombian origin, and provides another clue to the evolutionary history of these prehistoric giants in South America.
“Can we say that we have a new Colombian dinosaur?” we ask. “Yes, definitely. This species does not seem to be related to dinosaurs that inhabited the tropics during the Early Jurassic Epoch,” replies Aldo Rincón, a professor at the Universidad del Norte in Barranquilla (northern Colombia) and lead author of the recent study published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. “The main differences between this dinosaur and others can be seen in the preserved morphology of the vertebra.” The team that studied the dinosaur and authored the article with Rincón includes paleontologist Jeffrey Wilson (University of Michigan, USA); museum curator Martín Ezcurra (Argentine Museum of Natural Sciences); geologist Harold Jiménez (Universidad EAFIT, Medellín, Colombia); and geologist Daniel Raad (Universidad del Norte, Baranquilla, Colombia).
The new dinosaur species is called Perijasaurus lapaz. “Perijá for the mountain range where the fossil was found and lapaz [the peace] to honor the 2016 peace agreement between the Colombian government and the FARC guerrillas,” said Raad. The peace agreement allowed scientists to access the remote area long controlled by the guerrillas.
Rincón recalls how the research team stayed at a special training and reintegration zone for ex-guerrillas who now work in ecotourism. “I liked having the opportunity to visit the Serranía del Perijá after the peace accords. Unfortunately, scientists couldn’t go there for many years,” said Rincón.
Giant fossils instead of oil
The story of the discovery of Perijasaurus lapaz begins on March 27, 1943. A geologist with the Tropical Oil Company found a heavy and strange-looking bone that did not seem to belong to any native fauna. The fossil was unearthed near a road between the Cesar and Ranchería river basins in the Serranía de Perijá mountain range. Instead of oil, the geologist had found a spinal vertebra from a dinosaur, but didn’t know it. He took the sediment-encrusted fossil to the United States and handed it over to the University of California, Berkeley. Twelve years later, a preliminary research study was published with the title “A sauropod dinosaur from Colombia” (Journal of Paleontology, 1955). The study did not identify the species, only that the fossil belonged to a sauropod – a long-necked herbivore – and gave no indication of the fossil’s scientific significance. The fossil was then forgotten for decades.
In 2018, 75 years after the fossil was discovered, paleontologist Jeffrey Wilson obtained a Fulbright grant to study the fossil with Aldo Rincón and the other scientists. They cleaned the bone, removed the decades-old plaster and glue, and discovered parts of the vertebra that didn’t seem to belong to a known species. “We were able to better visualize the delicate bony laminae that connected the spine, the intervertebral joints and the rib joints,” said Wilson in a press release issued by the Universidad del Norte.
The scientists then made 3D prints of the fossil and created the three-dimensional model that can be viewed on the University of Michigan’s Online Fossil Repository. But when the scientists discovered that the fossil had unique morphological features not seen in other species, they decided to try to pinpoint the location where the geologist had found the bone.
The old map
Back in 1943, the Tropical Oil Company geologists created a hand-drawn map showing the location and depth at which they found the fossil. “We created an overlay of a current map with the old map to identify the exact place where the vertebra was found,” said Daniel Raad. “Then we erected a stratigraphic column at the site to identify the [geological] layer where the vertebra came from.” The sediment that remained on the fossil helped them identify the right geological layer. “At the site, we found fragments of fossilized leaves and tree trunks, which indicates an environment with high preservation potential – in other words, where many fossils are likely to be found.”
According to Raad, the fossilized vegetation found near the vertebra revealed that Perijasaurus lapaz “lived in a riparian [adjacent to a body of water] wooded area with low slopes.” Raad and Rincón both highlighted the scientific importance of the finding – it’s not every day that a new dinosaur species is discovered, especially in Colombia. The region’s high heat and constant rain are difficult conditions for fossil preservation. In fact, when the large vertebra was discovered in 1943, it was the northernmost evidence of a sauropod in the Americas, the only one outside Patagonia, Argentina. Now, almost 80 years later, it still is.
“The importance of discovering a new genus and species in the tropics,” said Rincón, “is that it allows us to better understand the origins of sauropods and their ancestors, traces of which have been found in Cretaceous period rocks in Argentina.” Raad concurs, “The scientific relevance [of this discovery] is that that it helps us understand how these large dinosaurs evolved in the little explored tropics.”
Summer fashion: The Bedouin lesson: a scientific study proves robes are the best garment to wear in the desert heat | Culture
This summer has brought a record-breaking heat wave worldwide. The high temperatures have remained for weeks at a time. Ongoing droughts have exacerbated the issue, as dry soil cannot contribute to temperature regulation through evaporation.
Changes in the flows of atmospheric currents, due to climate change, have sent the air of the African deserts up to the Iberian peninsula, turning half of Europe into an unbearable oven.
And some believe that this will be the coolest summer of our lives. So while governments, companies, NGOs and other social agents agree on how to remedy the effects of climate change, long-suffering citizens have to continue to carry out our usual activities. But how should we dress to maintain our dignity while doing so? Perhaps the key is to turn our attention to other cultures more accustomed to extreme heat.
Since this summer’s exceptional heat comes partly from the African deserts, it seems like a good idea to look at the clothes of the inhabitants of those regions. Most striking about the traditional dress of desert peoples, such as the Bedouins and the Tuaregs, is that their clothes cover them almost completely, even resorting to dark colors. Their wardrobe may be counterintuitive, but it has a solid scientific basis.
As recounted in an article published in Nature, researchers Richard Taylor and Virginia Finch of Harvard University, and Amiram Shkolnik and Arieh Borut of the University of Tel Aviv, set out back in the 1980s to empirically test what type of clothing was best suited to the extreme heat of the desert.
To do this, they asked a volunteer to stand in the sun in the desert around noon wearing four different outfits: a black Bedouin robe, a white Bedouin robe, a brown military uniform, and finally, nothing but shorts. The researchers hypothesized that the Bedouin garments, which have been perfected over the centuries, would be more suitable for the heat, despite how counter-intuitive it may seem to Western eyes.
The volunteer carried out four 30-minute sessions, one with each outfit, in the Negev desert, in southern Israel. These were the results.
Uniform or suit
Western formal dress is completely impractical when it comes to dealing with the heat. Our body defends itself from high temperatures through sweat: its evaporation frees us of excess heat. But for this to occur quickly, we need as much air as possible to flow around our body. It goes without saying that a suit or a uniform almost completely prevents that airflow.
If, in addition, the suit or uniform is dark in color, its fabric absorbs the sun’s heat, transmitting it directly to our body: the worst option on a hot day.
Wearing very little or nothing at all is a better option. Our skin is in full contact with the outside air, allowing our sweat to evaporate and cooling us down. However, according to what environmental physiology and ergonomics professor George Havenith told NPR, this option also has serious problems.
Apart from the fact that going naked in public spaces is not allowed in many places, we do need to protect our skin from the sun to avoid burning. It is necessary to wear some protective clothing. Sunblock also as it influences the production of sweat and makes it difficult for it to evaporate. This option, therefore, should be ruled out.
White or black tunic
The results of the study by Taylor, Finch, Shkolnik and Borut were decisive: the wide tunics cooled the air around the volunteer’s body, due to the tunics’ movement with the wind and their wearer’s movement. Its shape also produces a chimney effect, which makes the air rise, circulating between the fabric and the skin. The robes would even be cooler than going naked on a windless day, as they artificially produce airflow.
The authors also concluded that the typical Bedouin costume has the same effects whether it is black or white. The black color does absorb more heat, but it does not reach the skin, so the color of the fabric is not important. The thickness of the fabric of these garments also favors better absorption of temperature, preventing it from reaching the skin.
We may not need to immediately adopt Bedouin garments, but loose outfits will ease us on the hot days ahead of us.
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