Monday, December 29, 2014

There Are 17 Ringo Starr Albums

Is there anyone who actually owns all 17 of Ringo Starr's studio albums? Who is this superfan and how can they be avoided?

Assuming there are at least ten songs on each one of these albums, which probably exist in a mystical ether that lives between nowhere and what the hell, that means there are already 170 songs out there that Ringo recorded. And released. And that means there are record company executives who signed off on such things and paid money for them (allegedly). Did they make money? I would have to guess that, in order to get to album number three or four, some of them had to make money.

And now he's putting out an 18th album? Really? This is how you know you're living in hell. There are only two viable Stone Roses albums and there are now going to be 18 Ringo Starr albums. And I arrived at that using science, of course.

Did Ringo make his fifteenth record and say fuck it and retire? Hell no. He kept going. That's the mark of a dedicated artist.

If you polled the American people, and asked them how many Ringo Starr albums they owned, I think the responses would be underwhelming and embarrassing to report.

The Problem of Piracy

If we round everything off neatly, and call it 90 million downloads, at a low ball figure of $7 a pop, we see that Hollywood lost, on just three different films, about $630 million dollars. That $630 would have produced all three of the films, budget wise, and probably a handful of others.

Hollywood can ignore a little cheating and a little downloading for a while, but when just three films are responsible for over a half a billion dollars in lost revenue, then an unreasonable reaction to piracy is well underway. These people are going to get their money and they're not impressed with the argument that, on the Internet, everything should be free.

I'm Still Annoyed With Sting

And this is entirely my problem, of course. Artists that I really respected when I was younger have annoyed the hell out of me in recent years, Sting being chief among them (and U2, of course).

The "winter" album that Sting put out has fantastic artwork, suggesting meticulous planning and marketing. The thing is, this isn't marketed for me. It's marketed for the easy listening crowd. That's probably the demographic that he's chasing with all of this new music he's been putting out, which ranges from remakes to stage tunes to classical music. Now that the Police reunion is behind him (and it was awful, I have to admit, to hear the Police play slow and to a level of indulgence well beyond anything reasonable), Sting doesn't give a shit about anyone or anything.

Does that make him an actual artist? Yes, it probably does.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

There Will Always be a Troll Out There

No one should feel bad about being mocked or derided by Mark Kozelek. Smile and wish him a speedy recovery from whatever chemical dependency issue he's having and keep on keeping on.

Artists who slam other artists are just insecure or feeling the effects of hubris and chemicals mixed in with the stress and insanity of trying to achieve something artistic. If you truly feel good about who you are and what you're doing, you'll leave all that trolling to someone else.

How Can You Stop Capitalism?

I do not live in fancy digs, nor do I use Uber or Airbnb, but I cannot understand why there is a growing backlash against basic capitalism:
A woman has been “profiteering” from her government-subsidized, rent-controlled Central Park duplex by renting out bedrooms through Airbnb, a Manhattan judge said, ordering her to stop immediately.
Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Carol Edmead issued a temporary injunction against Noelle Penraat, who, as The Post reported in October, was sued by her landlord.
In her ruling made public Tuesday, Edmead said records show Penraat made $61,000 off her rent-controlled Central Park duplex in just nine months. Penraat’s “own records indicate that she has been profiteering from a rent-controlled apartment partially subsidized by another government program,” Edmead wrote.
The apartment is hers, right? And all she is doing is a form of subletting, which used to be legal. And it's not even subletting. It's called renting out a room, which was done extensively during the Depression. The fear-mongering against the "traffic" in and out of the building is absurd and elitist.
The landlord claimed Penraat has had 135 rentals since February 2012, with guests logging three- to 21-night stays.

The landlord estimated that Penraat could make up to $118,300 a year if she rented the apartment on a nightly, year-round basis.
Penraat advertised her “Gorgeous master bed/bath on the park,” a “Lovely small bedroom in a huge apartment” and a “Sunny bedroom, Central Park view” for between $75 and $150 a night until the case was filed.

Honestly, where's the crime here?  If this was Colorado or Georgia, she'd be unable to charge that much and no one would want to stay in her apartment (emphasis on her apartment). She's using the marketplace to make money. She isn't forcing anyone to overpay her. She's charging what people want to pay. Someone has found a way to undercut the profit margins of the people who are really ripping people off. Imagine that.

Making money by giving people something they want to pay for is illegal now?

Another Non-Scandal


WASHINGTON — An 18-month congressional investigation into the Internal Revenue Service’s mistreatment of conservative political groups seeking tax exemptions failed to show coordination between agency officials and political operatives in the White House, according to a report released on Tuesday.

The I.R.S. has admitted that before the 2012 election it inappropriately delayed approval of tax exemption applications by groups affiliated with the Tea Party movement, but the I.R.S. and its parent agency, the Treasury Department, have said that theerrors were not motivated by partisanship.

Republican lawmakers, dismissing the Obama administration’s denials, have suggested that the delays were not only politically motivated but also orchestrated by the White House.

It's a few days before Christmas so, you know. Time to dump the bad news and run for the hills.

Seriously, though. Despite the fact that Benghazi, Solyndra, Obama's birth certificate, and what happened at the IRS didn't pan out, I'm sure there's an abuse of power scandal out there that the Republicans can use to impeach him next year. Because, as we all know, both sides do it and everything is Obama's fault because of his socialist, Kenyan ursurping ways.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Replacements Aren't Done Messing With People

Come on. Who's shocked?

The first piece of new, original music from the recently reunited Replacements may not be what fans expected from the snotty kings of college rock, but "Poke Me In My Cage" is a holiday gift nonetheless: A 24-minute improvised jazz track, which the band uploaded to Soundcloud last week with little fanfare.

Written by Paul Westerberg and bassist Tommy Stinson, "Poke Me In My Cage" was recorded at Wooly Mammoth Sound in Waltham, Massachusetts in October. The track features plenty of out-there guitar noodling, with Westerberg letting loose over relentless, scattershot drumming from Josh Freese, a session vet who's now the band's third drummer.

Nobody who knows the Replacements is looking for an album of songs or anything like that. A tour? Another series of obscure festival dates? If they're putting out jazz tracks on Soundcloud, good for them.

But a new album? Really?

Well, maybe by next Christmas.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Don't Talk About Politics in Music

There is a bit of outrage in the rap world over the lack of an outcry over the subject of the hashtag #blacklivesmatter.

Hip-hop’s inner-circle celebrities, our Jay Zs and Drakes, have endorsed the same outcomes of Reaganomics that rendered their people such a disenfranchised one; a political move that grew tremendously, as did its audience.

While the current epidemic of police brutality and the lack of indictments may be quite reminiscent of a time when powerful black voices were, themselves, marginalized, the widespread merge of hip-hop and pop music that has occurred in the 26 years since Straight Outta Compton has greatly altered the culture framework. Rap music and capitalism, from an outsider’s perspective, are as intermixed as ever; there’s even a subgenre that Spotify recognizes as “pop-rap.”

I don't think it's fair to single out rappers because politics doesn't appear to be an important part of the rock world, either. In England this past month, they have tried desperately to get another Band Aid single off the ground. It's been successful, but there's been a backlash against it and a nasty one, at that.

The same artists who should be protesting what is going on are silent across the board. Country artists don't care and neither do pop acts or hard rock acts or people on the genre fringe of music. People are struggling to find corporate sponsorship deals. Being controversial means that the cross-promotional opportunities are going to dry up fast if a company feels like an artist might turn on their message. Rap acts are doing exactly what rock acts are doing--they're staying out of it and they're trying to be as uncontroversial as possible. Who can blame them?

If music is no longer a medium where protest and politics can appear as a mainstream issue, then don't blame Jay-Z for it. Blame the audience and their lack of tolerance for anyone who carries a message.

Good Luck Selling This Inside Baseball Crap

Honestly, the new editor of The New Republic isn't even trying to escape the magazine's horrible past:

In 1974, Martin Peretz, a 35-year-old social studies lecturer at Harvard College, bought The New Republic. He pledged to leave things as they were and to keep then-editor Gilbert Harrison “for a minimum of three years,” as Harrison told the Times. Sooner than that, however, Peretz installed himself as editor, resignations followed, and much of the staff was replaced by his former students. They would go on to dominate the masthead for the rest of the century.

A decade into Peretz’s tenure, Michael Straight, the owner-editor after World War II and son of the magazine’s first financial backer, wrote a letter to The New York Review of Books announcing “the spirit which Croly created and which Gilbert Harrison maintained in recent years was shattered.” Peretz, who stood accused of endorsing Israel’s 1985 bombing of Beirut, rightly ridiculed this appeal to constancy. “What spirit of The New Republic exactly would they be violating?” he replied to the letters page. “The magazine has had a long and complicated history.” Last year Peretz was the one complaining, writing in aWall Street Journal op-ed that the current owner, Chris Hughes, is “not from the world of Herbert Croly.” A survey of the many deaths and rebirths of The New Republic shows, if anything, that its most important survival skill has been to attract new champions from beyond its inner sanctum.

Note here that Snyder ignores the fact that Marty Peretz was all for the genocide of the Palestinian people and hated African-Americans to virtually the same extent; he was a race baiting crank given to fits of nostalgia for a time when you could actually say monstrous things in public and not be held accountable for them. He brought in Andrew Sullivan and helped mainstream things like The Bell Curve and the woefully inconsiderate contrarianism of Michael Kinsley. Real progressives haven't read TNR in decades, except with scorn and derision.

Peretz all but destroyed the magazine; Franklin Foer was well on his way to restoring it to some measure of respectability, albeit one centered around centrism and a more genteel version of taking the kneecaps out of real Democrats. The Chris Hughes/Gabe Snyder era will be the Buzzfeedification of the magazine along bro-centric lines. Do they have an ideology beyond clickbait?

Good luck making money with these inconvenient stories about how things were. People still aren't going to read it so why bring up the past? There's no getting past the Peretz years and no amount of denying the fact that the magazine was already destroyed is going to buy time for this debacle in the making.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Nostalgia Trips

Billy Corgan was relevant for about three years. He hasn't gotten over it:

In an interview with the Guardian, Corgan noted that bands from the '90s aren't charting anymore and dismissed the idea that new bands are being influenced by artists of that era. "I don't hear that," Corgan said. "The mythology [of the '90s] right now is irrelevant to combat the menace in America right now."

The Smashing Pumpkins frontman added that the amount of money DJs are making is reflective of the state of modern music, which is predominately EDM-focused. "People can get rosy and sentimental about something, but if it can’t compete it doesn’t mean anything," he said. Meanwhile, EDM is kicking everybody's fucking ass. Look at the numbers the DJs are making! They're kicking rock bands' ass. And we're sitting here talking about an era from 20 years ago because it's misty in people's minds. Meanwhile, there's 60,000 people in a field watching a guy with lights behind him."

The only thing that has sold during the last twenty-odd years of delivering music to people has been pop and EDM and not much else. It's really hard to thrive or excel as a simple rock and roll act. A handful of people have done it, but if you subtract that small handful, what do you have? 

If you have guitar, bass and drums with a singer, you have a band but you have no chance of selling anything to anyone unless you can dance or convince everyone you're a nostalgia trip. The major labels aren't going to push that stuff and playing live is rapidly becoming a dead end for bands that can't pull in more than 300 people a night. It's sad and frustrating.

Even then, forget it. There are no more great bands. They've been replaced by video game franchises and people who are trained to dance. 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Cuba is For Lovers

Some day soon, people will be honeymooning in Cuba, soaking up the local flavor and spending their dollars on bargains. The Republican Party is still wedded to the idea that communism is some sort of threat to someone:

The historic plan announced by President Obama on Wednesday to normalize relations with Cuba was met with heavy bipartisan resistance on Capitol Hill, raising questions of whether Congress will even consider easing a more than 50-year trade embargo against the communist state -- let alone end it.

Obama said the United States will cease what he called an “outdated approach” with Cuba, and take steps to normalize diplomatic relations -- including opening an embassy in Havana -- after American Alan Gross was released from the country following five years in prison as part of an agreement that also included the release of three Cubans jailed in the U.S.

Obama also called on Congress to have an "honest and serious debate" about lifting the trade embargo, which has been in place since 1962.

Do you want to talk about markets? Cuba is a massive market for American goods. There are small businesses all over America lined up to sell things to the Cuban people. America should get in on the ground floor of this expansion of capitalist opportunity and sell the hell out of American goods to the Cuban people.

If the Republican Party cared about small business, it would be crafting legislation to do just that. Instead, they are owned by the people who were scratching out a meager existence hating the Castro brothers.

What are you gonna do with dead-enders? Mock them and ignore them. Cuban baseball players will trigger a resurgence in the game in America and Major League Baseball could add two quality teams on the Cuban mainland with no fuss at all. A minor league Cuban system would start producing hundreds of quality players who could play in America. If we went beyond that and started broadcasting games to Cuba and entered into limited cultural exchanges, well.

There's always money to be made when people are desperate for something. The Cuban people have a culture they'd like to share with people. We should embrace it and move beyond the rhetoric of the fools who knew this day was coming.

The American opening to Cuba was what George W. Bush should have sprung on the country in the fall of 2005. It would have gotten Katrina out of the news for a while and it would have created the impetus to get immigration reform done before Obama took over. As they say, you snooze, you lose.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Meet Sandra McElroy

The Smoking Gun has been looking into the aftermath of the decision not to indict Police Officer Darren Wilson, who shot Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

Someone over there figured out who Grand Jury Witness Number 40 was. Her name is Sandra McElroy and she happens to be well, you're not going to believe what this crazy bag of nuts did:

Sandra McElroy did not provide police with a contemporaneous account of the Brown-Wilson confrontation, which she claimed to have watched unfold in front of her as she stood on a nearby sidewalk smoking a cigarette.

Instead, McElroy (seen at left) waited four weeks after the shooting to contact cops. By the time she gave St. Louis police a statement on September 11, a general outline of Wilson’s version of the shooting had already appeared in the press. McElroy’s account of the confrontation dovetailed with Wilson’s reported recollection of the incident.

In the weeks after Brown’s shooting--but before she contacted police--McElroy used her Facebook account to comment on the case. On August 15, she “liked’ a Facebook comment reporting that Johnson had admitted that he and Brown stole cigars before the confrontation with Wilson. On August 17, a Facebook commenter wrote that Johnson and others should be arrested for inciting riots and giving false statements to police in connection with their claims that Brown had his hands up when shot by Wilson. “The report and autopsy are in so YES they were false,” McElroy wrote of the “hands-up” claims. This appears to be an odd comment from someone who claims to have been present during the shooting. In response to the posting of a news report about a rally in support of Wilson, McElroy wrote on August 17, “Prayers, support God Bless Officer Wilson.”
After meeting with St. Louis police, McElroy continued monitoring the case and posting online. Commenting on a September 12 Riverfront Times story reporting that Ferguson city officials had yet to meet with Brown’s family, McElroy wrote, “But haven’t you heard the news, There great great great grandpa may or may not have been owned by one of our great great great grandpas 200 yrs ago. (Sarcasm).” On September 13, McElroy went on a pro-Wilson Facebook page and posted a graphic that included a photo of Brown lying dead in the street. A type overlay read, “Michael Brown already received justice. So please, stop asking for it.” The following week McElroy responded to a Facebook post about the criminal record of Wilson’s late mother. “As a teenager Mike Brown strong armed a store used drugs hit a police officer and received Justis,” she stated.

Here's the thing, though. Sandra McElroy wasn't there. She didn't witness anything.

“Witness 40”--a 45-year-old St. Louis resident named Sandra McElroy--was nowhere near Canfield Drive on the Saturday afternoon Brown was shot to death.

She just made it up.

It turns out that McElroy is the crazy person who shocked everyone with her testimony. She's also the person who started a bogus fundraiser and has what could generously be called absolutely zero credibility. Read the whole thing--it will cause you to question absolutely everything and then nothing about our system of justice because, quite frankly, if the people who wanted Darren Wilson to get away with murder hadn't been blessed with Sandra McElroy, they simply would have gone out and manufactured their own version of her, no question about it.

McElroy is why the Justice Department needs to send fifty lawyers and some seriously skilled detectives to Ferguson, Missouri, pronto.

Definitely Gnomey

These are garden gnomes, done up to resemble four members of Oasis, circa 1995. This is the post-Tony McCarroll version, and Steve White is missing because they only do the four gnomes, not five.

Previous efforts include the Gnome Roses and Ranomes. Check it out.

Of Course She's the Problem

Senator Elizabeth Warren is keeping a lot of Senators from feeling good about being bought and paid for. Senator Lindsey Graham mansplains for us:

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), responding to Sen. Elizabeth's Warren (D-Mass.) criticism of the $1.1 trillion government spending bill's provision that allows banks to take more risk with taxpayer money, on Friday evening went after Warren and other Democrats who sided against the bill.

"If you follow the lead of the senator of Massachusetts and bring this bill down … people are not going to believe you are mature enough to run the place,” Graham said on the Senate floor. “Don’t follow her lead. She’s the problem."

Graham said Democrats not supporting legislation that would fund the government through September 2015 were asking for another government shutdown. "Welcome to democracy," Graham said, arguing that lawmakers shouldn't expect to get everything they want.

"I'm sure on MSNBC you're going to be well thought of, and on the liberal version of talk radio you'll have your moment with that crowd," Graham said, chiding Warren and other Democrats who deplored what has been called a Wall Street giveaway.

On MSNBC, no one is going to see you so, you know. There's that. What liberal version of talk radio? And why does Graham sound like he's about to make a medical diagnosis and talk at length about how important it is to give every woman a transvaginal ultrasound because shut up, that's why?

Graham has mastered the art of mansplaining the need to institutionalize graft and corruption. But what really strikes me about Graham's self-serving nonsense is that he is dangerously close to admitting that he's been bought and paid for and he is upset that Warren knows it and isn't afraid to talk about it.

It's dangerous to point out just how bought and paid for Graham really is because we're not supposed to be informed. We're not supposed to know that, in the words of Warren, the game is rigged.

The Nightly News No Longer Matters

Are you relieved that Brian Williams isn't going anywhere? Or did you, like me, yawn and look for other news:
Brian Williams is staying put as NBC Nightly News anchor, the network announced Monday. Saying that he's "renewed his commitment" to the network's news division, NBC News presidentDeborah Turness said in a staff memo that he will continue to serve as anchor and managing editor of the nightly broadcast "for years to come."
The news comes as Williams recently celebrated his 10th anniversary as NBC Nightly News anchor and ABC News recently replaced longtime World News anchor Diane Sawyer with David Muir.
People no longer wish to be informed. They wish to be entertained. I hope Williams can continue to dance around the fact that the job he holds isn't worth what it used to be. In the 1980s, this kind of an announcement would be huge because the nightly news mattered back then, The revenue generated by those programs floated these huge, bloated news divisions. Now, the only thing keeping them alive are the morning shows.

The evening news is merely a hole for the schedulers to work around.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Nobody Misses R.E.M.

There has to be some bitterness as to how R.E.M. stopped being a band. They overstayed their welcome, put out four or five boring albums in a row, and they are not going to be missed.  Their final album, Collapse Into Now, was ignored by everyone except the reviewers who were shocked to discover that people had moved on.

People do miss the original four members, and in 1989, they were the best American rock and roll band, period. End of story.

The CIA Could Use Some Positive Press Right Now


The CIA needs more stories like this out there so that people will stop talking about torture:

Homeland The TV drama accurately presents the mission, intensity, pace, contradictions and complexity of a CIA station engaged in deadly battle, say two agency veterans.

As the Season 4 finale of Homeland ironically coincides with the United States draw-down of combat troops from Afghanistan at the end of the month, we wanted to use this opportunity to provide some insight and context to our long history with a complicated region. While the two of us can hardly claim impartiality here, we do bring to this commentary more than 60 years of operational experience at CIA. Collectively, we have served as chief of station in seven countries and have had extensive involvement in the problems that Homeland presents to us this season. Chuck Cogan also headed the Middle-Eastern and South Asian operational division and John MacGaffin was head of the Central Eurasian operational division as well as associate deputy director for operations at CIA. Finally, John has been a consultant to Homeland throughout this season.

My reaction is, stop. We don't care because your love fest has been overtaken by events.

I realize that this is supposed to be about entertainment, but here the story seems to conflate a television show about the CIA with the work of the CIA in the real world and I just want to know when we'll get a "rectal feeding" episode out of the way because, um, that's all anybody is really thinking about right now.

The thing about evil is, when something awful looks sleek and smart and like something you might buy because you've been convinced by an article of the possibility that it couldn't be all bad, that's when you're face to face with it. That's when it takes a shot to the bridge of your nose and leaves you wondering why you weren't paying attention to the manipulation in the first place.

Friday, December 12, 2014

All About Eve

This is incredibly unfair, I know, but here's what you need to know about this photo.

First, it's of the band All About Eve.

Second, it's a promotional photo so everyone has been styled, dressed, and made up. Their record label probably spent a large sum of money on this photo.

Third, these are not miserable people, but they are posed in such a way as to appear miserable. When the man said, "no mardy bums," this was what he was talking about. But All About Eve were excellent and talented so it all worked out in the end.

Fourth, whoever took the photo did the band a disservice and should have opted for something else. As in, anything else.

When there actually were record labels and photographers who did this sort of thing, the promotional photos were used to help the A&R people "sell" the band. Not much of that happens anymore. But, if you're in a band and if the person trying to take your picture does this to you, beat them up.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Stupidest Band Ever

The surviving members of Creedence Clearwater Revival are trying to sue each other again, but this time, they mean it.

John Fogerty has been playing his songs live and, in some strange world where that's relevant, Stu Cook and Doug Clifford are upset because this might somehow put a damper on their tribute band version of CCR that plays songs from the good old days.

If your reaction is "what?" then you're not alone. The best CCR songs--the ones that really matter--were all written by John Fogerty. But, through some legal movements years ago, the other members and the widow of Fogerty's brother have some ownership stake in the name of the band for which John Fogerty wrote all of the good songs and therefore have...

I have no idea, either.

Baby boomers--the scum of the Earth when it comes to music and who did what and all that. Jeebus.

The Casual Racism of the Hollywood Elite

You shouldn't be at all shocked by anything anyone working in an elite capacity in Hollywood has to say. You are right to be appalled, but if you're shocked I have a bridge in Brooklyn I would like to sell you.

How is that Amy Pascal and Scott Rudin are still gainfully employed? If we can hound people out of their jobs over racism, Pascal and Rudin are certainly as guilty of the kind of racism found seemingly everywhere now. If Donald Sterling can have his NBA franchise stripped out from under him for trying to get laid, then Pascal and Rubin can be driven from the picture show business as well.

They may be part of the Hollywood elite but they're as out of touch and as unprofessional as any cabal of Republican Party county chairpersons found anywhere in the red state areas of America. Their casual language and their jokes should never have been exposed, you see. It's the hackers who are to blame. It's you and me for reading their private conversations. It's everyone but them, of course. The fact that they're racist egomaniacs who control the choices made about films and their distribution is irrelevant. It's not like they would screw Americans in order to get tax breaks to make movies, right? Whoops.

These are the people making the movies people go see. They're utterly appalling in the way the talk to one another and conduct themselves. They use the kind of language that should be reserved for satires about overbearing crazy people.

Oh well. This is how people talk. Casual racism is as much a part of Hollywood as anywhere else. The well heeled engage in it and then look down their noses at anyone who wonders why their shabby movies are so formulaic and politically correct. Pascal and Rudin will sell you the enlightenment of 12 Years a Slave but they're still sneering at the flesh and blood people who live in the world of today for being black.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Movie Business Never Changes

I have read a few of the documents leaked by hackers from Sony, the erstwhile movie studio that can't seem to make movies anyone wants to see, and I think we need to remember something about how certain industries function.

In the education world, people are enormously petty and difficult over semantics and small things. An entire department can be blown sky high over an insult or a coffee maker message, pleading for better cooperation. It is a largely unreal world that doesn't have anything to do with the lives of most Americans.

In the military, you have to dance with them what brung you. Each and every unit is vastly different from the next and so you are largely dependent on whoever is running your unit and who you are serving with. Don't like it? Your unit will be completely different in two years thanks to attrition, changes of command, and mission. It is a largely unreal world that doesn't have anything to do with normal American society but it gathers all of the problems and amplifies them with alcohol.

In the IT world, you have to deal with smart people who don't know much. It is a largely unreal world where women have to operate as if being female is a curse and not just who they are.

In the film business, you can say anything you want to another human being and not be held accountable. The only thing that matters is if you can survive being fired because you didn't complete a profitable project. You can talk to people in ways that would get you fired in the real world. If someone exited the movie business and acted the way they do around movie people in any other industry in America, they would be beaten and fired, probably within five minutes. It is a largely unreal world in the film business and you have to have an ego to rival that of a sociopath.

For all of these areas, change is nonexistent. People come and go but the way things are never changes. No one wants it to change. Everyone knows there's a decent, ethical way to deal with other human beings that will lead to great accomplishments and happiness for many.

Fuck that shit. The misery of others is a fetish and a drug, and people consume it like air and water while living.

I don't know much else beyond that. Everything else is bullshit.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Kudos to John McCain

[Click for Video]

Finally, Senator John McCain says something that I can agree with. Perhaps he's not crazy; perhaps he just needs better advisors.

Monday, December 8, 2014

The St. Louis Post Dispatch Just Learned There Are Horrible People in the World

That's right--they're turning off the comments.


Well, I randomly chose a story on the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's website about gun violence, and this was what I found:

Horrible people comment on websites. This is not news. This is a feature, not a bug because these horrible comments from racist cranks drive up traffic. Turning the comments off will cause the paper to take a hit on web traffic, in my opinion.

The History of Space Music

Nothing could be more fun that reading about the history of space music...

Speak a Dying Language At Home, Please

There is a bit of nationalism behind this--Germany has long had a difficult time integrating immigrants into society. There's also a bit of absurdity--Germany is a nation of expatriates and immigrants, enjoying the best economy in Europe and plentiful jobs for skilled workers. Speaking German at home reveals the inherent self-confidence crisis in the German character. The language is dying off with the elderly.

In two and a half years of living in Germany, I can tell you that there's almost no need to speak more than "retail" German. You need to be able to command a vocabulary of about a hundred words, if that. Phrases help, and so does courtesy. But there's no need to speak it and live there because everyone already understands a bastardized version of English. You can survive quite nicely there on a limited amount of German and on a reasonable amount of courtesy.

The death of the German language is on the way, however. Europe will figure out how to communicate in some hybrid language. However it sounds, it will be gutteral and abrupt enough to get you to your next destination.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Mark Wahlberg Deserves a Pardon

Do you think this will happen?
On April 8, 1988, when he was 16 and long before he became a model, rapper and actor, Mark Wahlberg -- high on drugs and alcohol -- assaulted a man while trying to steal two cases of alcohol and then punched another man in the face as he attempted to avoid the police.
He was arrested, sentenced and tried as an adult, and he served 45 days in prison.
Today, at 43, Wahlberg is a much different person -- a father of four, a successful movie star, a philanthropist who works with at-risk youth -- but says he's still legally affected by his convictions. In a petition submitted Monday (PDF), he's asking for a pardon.
To me, the idea of remorse is the most important aspect of asking for a pardon. Wahlberg has taken responsibility for his actions and he has expressed remorse. In light of all that, he should be granted a pardon. And this really has nothing to do with who he is or how wealthy he is (although I would imagine a lawyer helped him with the request in exchange for a hefty fee).

The pardon process is woefully mistaken for a partisan political tool. It should be a tool for granting people the possibility of returning to public life. It should work for the poor as well as the wealthy, no matter what.

CeeLo Green Knows a Lot About Raping Women

There can't be anyone "advising" CeeLo Green anymore because, if there were, CeeLo Green would have answered this question by screaming and running away from the TMZ ambush interviewers.

Instead, he reminded everyone exactly why no one should buy his music or let him perform in public again--he put himself back in the news and associated himself with one of the most heinous men in American popular culture right now.

If you, or someone you love, is managing CeeLo Green right now, please do us all a favor and go back to running some other endeavor straight into the ground.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Another Stolen Valor Douchebag

Sean Yetman

Here's an example of stolen valor:

A Philadelphia man apparently likes dressing up in uniforms.

Last week, he was wearing Army fatigues at the Oxford Valley Mall in Middletown when he was confronted by an Army veteran who suspected that the man never served in the military. The veteran of Afghanistan who lives in Northampton posted the video of the confrontation on YouTube and it has since generated more than 2.8 million views and incensed military families nationwide.

Back in 2003, his uniform of choice was a police coat.

The now 30-year-old Sean Yetman was arrested while wearing the coat of a Philadelphia officer who died in the line of duty. He pleaded guilty in Bucks County Court in May of that year to impersonating a public servant, a second-degree misdemeanor. He was sentenced to three months of probation for that crime along with a summary offense of driving with a suspended or revoked license, according to online court records.

Anyone who wears their uniform to the mall is automatically suspect, so I can understand why Mr. Berk (who films the video at the link) questioned Yetman. When I was in the Army, they flat-out told us not to wear the "work" uniform in public places, especially when shopping, and this was in San Antonio, Texas before 9/11.

Yetman stumbles through the questions, trying to pass himself off as "somebody." This is a sad young man who's never done anything and has nothing happening in his life. He has dressed up in a military uniform in order to gain some sort of self respect. He welcomes engagement in a lonely, pathetic manner, hoping he can pass himself off as a Veteran with combat awards on his chest.

There really is no way to separate the stealing of valor from free speech, however. Yetman has the free speech right to wear a uniform so long as he is not breaking the law, which, in this case, would be to show up somewhere and actually try to perform as a member of the military. He is not trying to enter a military facility. He's shopping and he wants to chat with people. There's quite a bit more to it than that, however.

Civilian and military authorities are looking into whether Yetman sought or received military discounts while at the mall on Black Friday or if he violated a state law that forbids the unauthorized wearing of military decorations.

Falsely claiming to be a member of the military is not illegal, but under the Stolen Valor Act of 2013, it’s against federal law for an individual to fraudulently portray him or herself as a recipient of any of several specified military decorations or medals with the intent to obtain money, property or other “tangible” benefit.

Surplus military uniforms, fatigues and other items, including badges, are available for sale in Army Navy stores, and online. But Nurnberg said that if a military service member wants to give away a uniform, he or she must remove the “U.S. Army” identification badge above the left pocket. That identification marker appears on the uniform Yetman is wearing in the YouTube video, he added.

Under Pennsylvania law it is a summary offense to wear a uniform, decoration insignia or other distinctive emblems of any branch of the armed forces of the United States for the purpose of obtaining aid, profit or while soliciting contributions or subscriptions. It is also a summary offense to, without authority, knowingly wear, exhibit, display or use for any purpose any military or veteran insignia.

Also, it is a third-degree misdemeanor in the state if a person, without authority, purchases, sells, offers for sale or accepts as a “pledge or pawn,” any medal, insignia or decoration granted for service in the armed forces.

On Wednesday, Bucks County’s chief of prosecutions, Matt Weintraub, said that in order to pursue the misdemeanor offense involving military decorations, authorities would need to prove that Yetman purchased the CIB badges in Pennsylvania and without authority.

I do think that his wearing of three Combat Infantryman Badges is especially troubling. Yetman would have had to be at least forty-five years old or more in order to qualify. He is also trying to pass himself off as being currently assigned to the 75th Ranger Regiment. I don't know how many 300lb soldiers they have in that unit, so, you know. I doubt very much if Yetman would have even been questioned if he had been wearing no decorations or badges and the unit patch of the 28th Division. That's the hard truth about service in the military.

Yetman is attempting to perform his fraud by presenting himself as a mid-career NCO from a specialized Army unit on active duty. There are elite soldiers in every aspect of the Army and you can tell by how they carry themselves. There is a myth about Special Forces and other such units that says that everyone else in the Army is a widebody slapface who can't do anything right. That's inherently wrong.

Yetman stands out because he pretended to know the narrative of what a soldier would know and was caught red-handed in a phony story about himself right off the bat. In our midst is a failure or a young man who has no idea how to turn his life around and gain some self respect. The culture must be terrifying for such an individual, especially since we disregard people in uniform and treat soldiers so poorly.

News flash, asshole. This country treats Veterans poorly. No one blinks twice when neglected Veterans turn up all over the place. Why did he think pretending to be one would earn him anything beyond being mocked and humiliated in a chance encounter with someone who knew what a soldier is supposed to look like?

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Stealing Music is Not a Free Speech Issue

You couldn't find a straight answer here if you tried:

I don’t regret my time in the “Free Culture” movement, and I still broadly believe in its tenets—that stringent enforcement of intellectual property law does more harm than good, that the freedom to “remix” has created many great works of art and commentary, etc. But, like Jaron Lanier, I’ve come to have a mixed view of the results of treating “Free Culture” as a black-and-white good-vs-evil battle.

Much like how I, like pretty much every other dude on the Internet, once unquestioningly championed “freedom of speech” as the highest of all human values and “censorship” as the ultimate evil, only to eventually find out that “freedom of speech” without limitation has turned much of the Internet into anunredeemable cesspool of lies, abuse, and outright crime.

Same with the idea of truly “free” cultural creativity. Yes, philosophically speaking, ideas shouldn’t belong to anyone, they should belong to everyone who passionately cares about them. Yes, it’s infuriating when someone makes something beautiful, or hilarious, or just plain cool and it gets shut down because of “the lawyers.” Yes, part of me would love it if the world looked like a giant free-for-all forum where anyone could fearlessly remix anything they liked.

Arthur Chu is one of those Napster kids who refuses to learn anything from the last decade and a half of utter chaos in the music industry. You'd think that a gamer would get it, but Chu doesn't even pretend to care about the destruction of the business model that used to support musicians.

I've never heard any of these clowns admit that the free music era killed the music industry and enriched the companies that sold Internet bandwidth, computers, MP3 players and the software that allowed people to rip and "remix" songs. Of course, you had to buy all of that stuff--none of that was free. The only thing that was free was the thing that made everything else so desirable. No one would have bought all of those MP3 players if the songs that went on them had to be paid for. No one would have remixed anything if the licensing fee for doing so was a dollar. Come on.

Apologists like this were wrong then (and Lars Ulrich remains one of the few people in the last half of a century who can rightfully claim that they were right and all of his nasty, bought-and-paid-for critics were wrong) and they're squirming now because the data proves they were wrong.

Here's the kicker, though:

Because yes, as a fan, and as an Internet-addicted device-addicted 21st century digital boy particularly, 1989 not being on Spotify is annoying. It’s annoying to not be able to seamlessly “pull up” any Taylor Swift song I want to listen to at a whim. It’s annoying to hit that speedbump of having to stop and think about whether I want to listen to this particular song right now and realize that if I do, I have to dig into my pocket and give her a whole $1.29.

What a fucking lame ass. Chu wants everything that sucks ass to be free so he can find something else to whine about. What a pathetic loser.

Taylor Swift is what you get when everything turns to shit.

I mean, holy goddamned hell. We used to revere Gods. Do you like the guitar? There are a hundred people who can play that instrument at the level of a grand master. Same for everything else--but that is dying off. There is no need to learn how to play because you can't make a living in music anymore.

We used to have whole genres of music that were incredible. Imagine a world without reggae. We used to have the ability to go to these places called record stores and ask real experts what was new and good and what was old and worthwhile. We used to have to buy Led Zeppelin records on vinyl. There are whole entire Sonic Youth albums no one will ever stop hearing. There was a thing called Nirvana once. You can listen to Iron Maiden and never get bored if that's what you want. There are now 24 albums by The Church and they are all brilliantly executed and full of joy and mastery. There is still a way to buy all of the albums made by the Jam. You can throw in a dozen other great artists and you don't even have to bother arguing that "old" music means anything because music doesn't age because it is art. The Replacements are back together. You can see Ride live if you live in Europe this coming year. You can acquire the entire R.E.M. catalog and enjoy it or ignore it.

Now we have to worship at the altar of a nutbag twenty-something airhead, all so Arthur Chu can wallow in his hard-luck stories about having to pay someone for a product they don't want to give away for free.

I guess I cannot relate to a man in his thirties who complains about having to pay $1.29 to hear a Taylor Swift song. You couldn't give me fifty bucks to willingly sit in a room and listen to a Taylor Swift song. I guess there's something wrong with me and I guess the world prefers shit to everything else.

Obligatory forehead slap.

Monday, December 1, 2014

The Collapse of Bill Cosby

I sure hope Bill Cosby has been good with his money because when one in three people are turning in their tickets to your show for a refund, that's a pretty good indicator that your performing days are coming to a close.

Neil Young's Pono is a Fraud

Really, who's surprised to find out that the reason why Neil Young is selling the Pono player has everything to do with appealing to a need to feel different and special from other human beings and nothing to do with actual science?

CDs, and digital-to-audio converters, reproduce pretty much everything better than vinyl. To say so is to spit on the holy writ of many audiophiles, but there's science behind it. Nyquist-Shannon's theorem is a neat piece of maths that shows how quickly you have to sample an analogue signal to turn it faithfully into a digital one. Every sound is a combination of multiple frequencies at different volumes. To digitise sound, you have to capture all the frequencies. The theorem shows that, to capture a sound at frequency X, you need to take a digital sample double that frequency. Now mix in that the absolute limit of human hearing is 20kHz (and for most people more like 14kHz or less), and you realise the 44.1kHz sampling rate for CDs is fine. It will capture everything, assuming your sampler is any good.

Then there's the question of 16-bit audio. Really, is 16-bit enough to capture a sufficient range of volumes in what began as a smoothly varying analogue signal? This isn't so easily settled; 16-bit gives you 65,636 possible sound levels, while 24-bit increases that to 16.7m. It's conceivable that using more bits to encode the audio (while sticking with the same sampling rate) will improve the sound – if you have wonderful hearing. But most of us don't. Studios tend to record in 24-bit because they don't want to lose any data. But that is then mixed down to 16-bit. It's possible, if you're a mad-keen audiophile, to get 24-bit audio mixes – but they aren't cheap. And it's highly unlikely that in a blind test you would hear the difference.

So given that Pono is going to play music where the sampling rate and bit depth won't improve reproduction, why do people want it? Simple: those extra numbers are a specification, and if there's one thing certain groups of men (it's always men) love above all other things, it's a specification on a list. So Pono offers you a feature – for a premium – that you can't actually perceive. It's like invisible clothes or odourless perfume. Marketing people must be looking at it with envy.

If you can trick people into paying $700 or more for audio equipment that reproduces sound in a way no human being can fully hear or appreciate, then you're pretty smart. Getting them to buy the old vinyl albums everyone threw out for twice the price and then a sound system worth $40 grand? Yeah, you're on your way to being immortal. Convincing them that they need to spend $100K for a forty year old guitar that doesn't play better or sound any different than a $3,000 Paul Reed Smith made last month? Damned fine marketing. Getting them to pay $3 million dollars or more for a Stradivarius? Genius.

In my own travels and experiences, music appreciation is subjective. People will only pay so much and then they will get tired of the bullshit. The iPod existed and the MP3 exists now solely because this delivered a massive amount of free music that people could manage and control. That's all. The best thing I have ever heard is a FLAC file played through the Winamp application on a Microsoft XP machine. Winamp and XP are long gone and so is the idea that music can only be appreciated by white men with lots of money. Your best experience with music is yours and yours alone. Mine is mine. We need not agree for all of this to be true.

I love Neil Young. But we are never going to have nice things until all the Goddamned hippies and their crazy, unverifiable, exclusive ideas are dead and gone. It all comes down to these counterculture-inspired nonsense concepts that were born out of bullshit sessions held long ago. Yeah, there's a magic tone in the timber of that Stratocaster, dude, and it can't be reproduced or copied or improved upon because shut up, that's why.

What other generation relies on resume inflation and tallying the amount of money they spend on bullshit as an indicator of how much "better" they are than everyone else? Sheesh.

The bottom line is, you don't have to buy the same albums you already own in a new format. You don't have to feel bad about using an old iPod. You don't need a $20,000 turntable. You don't need to buy all of the music you want in the FLAC format, although FLAC files do sound pretty good. You don't need to own $300 headphones.

I mean, good God. Is everything just a ripoff now or what?

Nobody Showed Up to Shop

I don't know about you, but this is what I experienced on Black Friday:

Even after doling out discounts on electronics and clothes, retailers struggled to entice shoppers to Black Friday sales events, putting pressure on the industry as it heads into the final weeks of the holiday season.

Spending tumbled an estimated 11 percent over the weekend from a year earlier, the Washington-basedNational Retail Federation saidyesterday. And more than 6 million shoppers who had been expected to hit stores never showed up.

The decision to open stores on Thursday remains the worst idea in the history of American retail. There should be a law that says that if you open on Thanksgiving Day in order to sell anything other than gas and emergency supplies for hobos, you should pay triple the tax on anything you earn. We need to give people a set number of days off in this country--eight per year sounds about right--and we need to back it with a guarantee.

This is called basic common sense and it allows people some human dignity. How is that a bad thing?

I knew it was going to be a bad year, retail-wise, when I was able to park in the first stall right in front of a Pier One store in central Maryland. There weren't any crazy people, running around with shopping bags and battle axes and there were deals a-plenty. Someone somewhere better get ready for a major adjustment as to how the retail industry organizes itself. This time next year, how many book stores do you think will have closed?

Scott Stapp Needs Some Cash

Scott Stapp is now pleading for money, and his Kickstarter-styled campaign to raise the funds to make a solo album has begun.

I don't know what's scarier--the fact that Stapp feels that he can justify asking for this money or that there are at least a million people in this country who would gladly give it to him.

Counting Down to Insanity

I hate to rain on anyone's parade, but what the hell is this nonsense?

Today they may be sketching out their best attacks on the Democrats’ leading potential candidate for 2016, but once Dick Cheney, Paul Ryan, et al. had plenty of nice things to say.
For the better part of a quarter-century, Hillary Clinton has loomed over American politics as a hate figure for many on the right—and she seems poised to re-assert her dominant position in right-wing demonology in 2016. But there was a time, stretching roughly from her concession of the Democratic presidential nomination to Barack Obama in 2008 to the Benghazi attack in 2012, when conservatives changed their tune on Clinton. In fact, plenty of Republicans even said nice things about her.

Ben Jacobs goes on to list some "nice" things that were said about Hillary Clinton. And, rest assured, none of these "nice" things will be repeated next year when the 2016 Presidential Election begins to gain some steam.

The Republican Party does not do nuance and it does not handle history very well. None of these people will remember what they actually said and they'll deny saying it if it costs them money or votes. They cannot be collated or reminded of the things they have actually done--that's for liberals, not conservatives. There is no accountability for past actions. Hypocrisy, for Republicans, is non-existent because no one, and I mean no one, acknowledges anything other than this morning's news cycle or the latest bit of oft-repeated conventional wisdom. They have hated Obama since day one. They will hate on Hillary Clinton like nothing you have ever seen before.

In short, these people are going to lose their mud. 

You see, hating Democrats is our new national pastime. If you thought the last eight years were crazy, get ready for an upside down ride on a red wagon straight to hell. They are going to demonize this woman for breathing air and having a resume. They will hate her like they hate everything in this world that isn't old, confused, Reaganistic and vaguely corporate. 

This country has a big bucket of crazy to eat and no one has any napkins.