Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Listening Post

Don't say I don't ever do you any favors.

Here's Nine Inch Nails' entire set from the Fuji Rocks Festival over the weekend in Japan.

And it is fucking awesome.

Any band that can start with a brand new song almost no one has heard yet -- Copy Of A -- and basically have you clamoring for every single note and word is truly at the top of their game.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Listening Post

The debut album from the Naked and Famous was one of my favorites a couple of years ago.

Now they're back with the follow-up, and this is the first single from it.

Here's Hearts Like Ours.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Listening Post: Happy Birthday Edition

Five-years-old today, and with me for the very first time for her birthday.

Happy Birthday, Inara.

Here's Ash -- Shining Light.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Quote of the Day

"First of all, the kid's going to grow up in Gracie Mansion. So I'm going to say, 'Kid, don't complain.'"

-- Anthony Weiner on what he's going to tell his young son about the sexting scandals that have made his father into a national laughingstock and embarrassed his entire family

And there you have it.

If the all-consuming narcissism and mind-boggling lack of any sense of shame weren't enough to make you not only refuse to ever vote for Anthony Weiner but to openly, hostilely detest him as a human being, this should seal the deal. Nothing Weiner has ever done has been about anyone but him, about his naked ambition and his invariably self-serving goals.

I'll give Weiner this: He's one of the most transparent politicians America has ever seen. He's made it perfectly clear that the end will always justify the means -- or excuse the mistakes -- and that as long as he gets what he wants, who cares how he did it or what needed to be overlooked to make it happen? What's worse, for those wondering about Huma Abedin and the ways she seems to be enabling this asshole, now you know exactly how he's pitching the whole thing to her: It doesn't matter how many dumb little fangirls I send pictures of my dong to because unlike them and everyone openly mocking you right now, you're going to be the first lady of New York City, living in Gracie Mansion, when all of this is over. So what if I had to break a bunch of eggs to make you a gilded omelet?

Except that she's not going to end up living in Gracie. None of them are. If he continues his delusional campaign, come election day Weiner's going to be exactly what he is right now. He's going to be a national punchline, only with the added humiliation of watching himself and the family he's shamed go down in flames.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Listening Post

Word is this video took well over a year to make, mostly because director Paul Thomas Anderson had to stop halfway through it to go shoot The Master.

Admittedly, Fiona Apple has never looked better, but I'm going to violate critical conventional wisdom and say that as Apple's gotten more and more adventurous as an artist, I've enjoyed her music less and less. This isn't to say that some of it isn't very good, only that I still remember my reaction to hearing the languid loveliness of Tidal for the first time -- I put the headphones on at the former Virgin Megastore on Sunset here in L.A. and honestly felt my knees go weak -- and I miss that from Fiona.

Here's Hot Knife.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Bubble Genius Bob & Chez Show, 7.24.13

“Ernesto Badass”: The Sequel to the Anthony Weiner Sexting Scandal; Weiner Believes He’s the Teflon Dong; The Slate Sexting Name Generator; Weiner and John Edwards; Our Generation Has Destroyed Privacy; Snowden’s Lawyer Connected to Intel Agency; The Snowden Effect; The Heinous Reactions to Obama’s Trayvon Remarks; More Babies with Guns for Steve Stockman; and much more. Brought to you by Bubble Genius, the Amazon Link and the Bowen Law Group.

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Listening Post

The last Our Lady Peace record, Curve, was a major departure for the band no matter how much they might have wanted fans to believe that it was actually a return to form of some kind. The music was quite a bit less "direct" and quite a bit more introspective than their previous stuff, which may or may not be a good thing.

This track has a Doves-ish sound to it and after a couple of listens it really does pull you in.

Here's Rabbits.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Tweet of the Day

Uh-huh. A baby, a dick, and then both -- tonight on CNN.

Comment of the Week

In response to last week's Salon Headline of the Day, which trumpeted a piece by Andrew O'Hehir ludicrously claiming that The Conjuring is anti-women and right-wing.

"'It features Vera Farmiga, an actress too strange and too powerful for mainstream Hollywood stardom.' What the fuck does that even mean? No, really. WHAT THE FUCK DOES THAT MEAN? Is she a sorceress, feared and loathed by the Hollywood Illuminati?

-- TK"

Exactly. Thanks, TK. As usual, you've won a brand new Chrysler Cordoba and you can pick it up at Morty's office.

Salon Headline of the Day

Ah, where to even begin.

Maybe with the utter lack of an appreciation for the irony of calling something "hacky" literally just before writing the word "brogramming."

Or with the fact that the article somehow manages to crowbar George Zimmerman into a "review" of two TV shows.

Or with its completely predictable game of Salon Buzzword Mad Libs, which includes "white privilege," "racial and gender identity," "homophobia," "ethnic and age diversity" and a new one for the ages: "Brogramming fail."

Or with its ability to perform logical gymnastics to completely discount a factor which disproves its central thesis -- namely that Suits features Gina Torres, a strong black woman if ever there was one, in a position of incredible power -- simply because it disproves its central thesis.

Or with the inexplicable notion that watching Suits and Major Crimes is somehow a zero-sum game.

Or with the fact that, as usual, it's just a horribly written, pissy little polemic masquerading as a legitimate piece of journalism.

Quote of the Day, Jr.

"The main event of course is the money shot that all these cameras around me are waiting for, when William, Kate and the baby make that appearance."

-- NBC's Jim Maceda reporting live outside the hospital where the royal baby was born

Money shot, eh? You know, it's never a good idea to say out loud on the air what the media people are calling something behind the scenes. If you were to take that to its logical conclusion, you'd eventually be saying something like, "Let's roll the package with the money shot in it on those people none of us could give less of a shit about."

Quote of the Day

"By this point the baby wasn’t breathing and the queen’s royal physician didn’t know what to do without their socialist government telling him how to do his job. His tears became heavier as he looked out the window and regretted his country ever messing with America’s forefathers, the pain of that ass-whooping passed from generation to generation.

From a chair in the corner, George Zimmerman calmly stood up and unholstered his piece.

'Princess Kate Middleton,' he said. 'I’m going to need you to trust me. But know that it will be a cold day in hell before George Zimmerman lets a baby die on his watch.'

From there, George Zimmerman placed his gun next to the royal child’s ear as a heavenly light illuminated his every action. With an unwavering hand of justice that’s not afraid to fell those who dare prey on the innocent, George Zimmerman pulled the trigger and almost immediately the startled child woke and began breathing.

Later, George would only hold the baby for a few moments, so as not to deprive the boy the comfort of his mother. But he could be heard whispering two words and two words only into the babe’s ear: 'End apartheid. End apartheid.'"

-- The Superficial's description of the role newly minted "hero" George Zimmerman played in the birth of the royal baby

In discussing Zimmerman's rescue of a family from an overturned SUV, his lawyer, human dog turd Mark O'Mara, called the act "quintessential George."

Get ready for reality TV's newest hit, folks. That's So George -- coming soon to TLC.

Listening Post

I continue to be a big fan of Jimmy Eat World simply because they're consistent in their earnestness. I admit that I've been hoping they'd go a little darker and make the kind of excellent album that 2004's Futures was at some point again in their career -- that hasn't happened yet -- but their pop sensibilities are tough to deny.

To wit and submitted for your approval or disgust, here they are doing a cover of Taylor Swift's insufferable ode to the latest guy she feels wronged by. So can they change even a worthless song like this into something decent? I'll let you be the judge.

Here's We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Newsroom Service

I thought about doing this last year but to be honest my Mondays are usually busy as hell and my Sunday nights post-11pm are for, well, sleeping. Yes, I'm old. What I'd like to do if at all possible, though, is throw together a couple of quick notes every Monday on the previous night's episode of The Newsroom just from a news production perspective, that is what I think the episode got right, what I found interesting, what I liked, didn't like, and so on. I'm not going to recap the whole show, so if you haven't seen it then you may as well not even bother reading this; it won't make much sense to you.

Last night's episode was called "The Genoa Tip," so here we go.

1. While the show's format of looking back on recent events and injecting the cast -- not to mention Sorkin's pious hindsight -- into it is still really annoying, I liked the dogged pursuit of the Troy Davis story by Don Keefer. I think the Keefer character has been neutered a bit since the show's pilot, but he's still the closest thing on the "News Night" production team to resemble a real TV news producer. His desperation in wanting to save Troy Davis is a nice little admission of two very sincere characteristics in a veteran TV journalist. The first is that as a TV news producer you cover so much crap that after a while you long to be able to do even one thing that you know for a fact is truly important and that has a direct positive effect on someone's life; in other words, kind of like Clarice in The Silence of the Lambs, you feel like if you can save just one, it will have been worth it. Second, you latch onto a personal story that you have unshakable faith in because you want to truly believe that what you do matters, that you can make a difference, and to fight off the demons constantly sitting on your shoulder telling you that you're nothing more than a vulture picking at the remains of people whose lives have been torn apart in one way or another. Stories where it's you identifying with one person who's the victim of some kind of injustice is often where you find your idealism and humanity again.

2. You know, a hell of a lot's been said about how terribly Sorkin writes women, particularly on this show -- how he turns what should be strong, professional female journalists into simpering teenage girls obsessed with boys and shoes and who's dating whom. I always thought that while the show has certainly had its very sexist moments, it's also created some of the strongest, no-nonsense female characters -- dear God, Leona Lansing -- on television. But, yeah, last night's painful pilgrimage by Sloane and Maggie to a laundry room in Queens to basically battle an idiot who writes Sex and the City fan fiction was unforgivable. I get that it's a reality that some of the smartest women in one of the most intellectual cities on earth can still be reduced to debating whether they're Carrie or Samantha if you get enough of them together over drinks, but -- come on.

3. Something needs to be made clear about how journalists think and the way they go about their jobs. I've said it before but it bears repeating over and over: Aside from the shops where the political slant is clearly dictated and well-known -- Fox, segments of MSNBC, etc. -- there really is no liberal or conservative bias in mainstream media. While journalists can be a cynical bunch and it's expected that they'll often not consider a big story a big story until there's actual proof there's something there -- see last night's scene in which the news meeting made fun of Neal's obsession with Occupy Wall Street -- there's really only one thing they're biased toward: conflict. If you're a decent journalist, you'll instinctively and entirely check your politics and personal feelings at the door the second you get a tip on a great story that contradicts them completely. To wit: I'm someone who would at the very least trust my government not to use Sarin gas on civilians and, like Mac last night, I'd never buy such a story until I got 100% confirmation. That said, the second they took that phone call at the end of the show, I found myself immediately willing to throw whatever benefit of the doubt I might be willing to give our country completely under the bus in an effort to pursue the tip. That's how it works. And that's one of the reasons I'm often preaching that as a journalist you need to constantly be testing your theories -- it's to prevent that sudden ferocious instinct that says you've got something huge and want to use it to tear down everything from getting the best of you. It's to prevent the kind of disaster that's obviously going to happen to the "News Night" team.

4. Oh, and while the laundromat scene was stupid, man, Lisa just quietly eviscerating Maggie was pretty excellent.

Time Out

Just a quick heads-up from Malcontent Central: Things will be picking up in a bit. I've got a bunch of work to do as well as preparations for Inara's arrival on Friday, so, yeah, it's a little slow right now.

Look for something new later today or tonight plus a new post over at the Banter tomorrow.


Listening Post

Hot, cool, and talented as hell, it's Skylar Grey -- Wear Me Out.

Happy Monday, gerbils. Back to the wheel with you.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Listening Post

I swear, in a vast sea of alt-rock crap these days, there's the indescribably magical glory of Ritzy Bryan and the Joy Formidable.

Here's Silent Treatment.

By the way, as a bonus, below its the band doing a mind-blowing bear-bones cover of what's still the best, most enduring song of the early alternative genre and the 80s in general: Echo's The Killing Moon.

And you know what? I'm giving you one more just because I'm sitting here hopping from video to video from these guys and I sincerely can't get over how refreshingly awesome they are. Here's The Ever Changing Spectrum of a Lie.

There, now your day is better.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Salon Headline of the Day

The simultaneously funniest and saddest thing about Patton Oswalt's #SalonArticles trending topic game over the weekend, which sought to create the most ridiculous liberal outrage porn headline in the name of skewering Salon, is that in the end Salon will always show up everybody. That's the joke: Nobody can parody Salon better than Salon can parody itself.

Salon, I salute you.

Listening Post

There's something very strange about the new Fall Out Boy album and it might be the way that it perfectly embodies, sometimes in a disconcerting manner, how quickly styles and fads roll over in our culture these days. The band went away for only about five years and within that time all kinds of new sounds and acts rose to prominence -- and now that they're back, they actually kind of sound like the bands they helped to inspire in the alt-pop world. So who's ripping off whom? Or is it simply that everything in alt-pop and rock sounds alike right now?

I'm not sure how much I love this song because to me it really does sound like it could be any one of the legion of other bands KROQ plays so deeply into the ground that they've likely come out the other side of the world. But I do appreciate Fall Out Boy having the ambition to create an ongoing serial out of the record, with every song getting its own video that reveals a new segment of the "story."

Anyway, here's Young Volcanoes.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Bubble Genius Bob & Chez Show, 7.17.13

The Racism Show: The Zimmerman Verdict; Salon’s David Sirota Compares Obama to Zimmerman; Smart Accountability; The Bad Optics of the Greenwald Faction; White Privilege; Ted Nugent’s Racist Remarks About Trayvon; The "Other" Trayvon Shooting; Greenwald Calls Bob a Drooling Idiot; Rush Limbaugh Says He Can Say Nigga (Most Black People Would Say Otherwise); and much more. Brought to you by Bubble Genius, the Amazon Link and the Bowen Law Group.

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Talking Points

I had the chance to appear on HuffPost Live a couple of hours ago as part of a segment they did on The Newsroom.

For those of you who missed it because you have real things to do with your day, here it is.

Listening Post

In late September, Mazzy Star will release their first album in 17 years.

Here's their new single.

This is California.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

"Send Pizza"

If you're looking for the singular thing on this planet that convinces me beyond a shadow of a doubt that there simply cannot be a loving and benevolent god in the heavens, it's this: the knowledge that right now at Children's Hospital in Los Angeles there exist literally dozens of little kids who've never known anything in their lives but pain. There's nothing more heartbreaking than a child battling cancer or some other essentially incurable disease that's been allowed to ravage their young lives, potentially cutting them far too short. It's just unfathomable that there's some sort of mysterious plan that we're not meant to understand underlying and mitigating the suffering of a kid. It's wrong -- it's just wrong.

Well, personal soapbox aside, sometimes some real goodness can come from the human beings of this world in an effort to make the lives of suffering children just a little brighter. And sometimes it can come in the form of pizza.

If you haven't seen this yet, it's the best story of the week -- hands down. I'd write it up here, but honestly you need to see it unfold through the series of images the Huffington Post has put together.

And it will surprise no one to learn that the first picture of Hazel, before her head was shaved, stopped me cold and instantly brought tears to my eyes.

The Huffington Post: Hazel Hammersley, 2-Year-Old Cancer Patient, Gets The Sweetest Pizza Party Of All Time/7.15.13

This. This gives me hope for us.

No Country for Old Men

The Washington Post's Richard Cohen is the personification of the pompous windbag cliché. He always has been. And has he's gotten old, it's only gotten worse.

There was once a time when puffed-up jackasses like him strode across the media landscape like kings of the jungle, and to be honest it's difficult to describe to anyone below a certain age just how tedious this era was in journalism. But changing times and cultural shifts have taken a toll on the Richard Cohens of the world and now all you really hear from them is the forlorn cries off in the distance as they face down inevitable extinction. Sure, guys like Cohen, and Friedman, and Brooks still have jobs, but they're not the exalted voices from on-high they once were. The smart ones don't complain about it; they simply keep on keeping on, perfectly content in their gargantuan sense of self-importance and their continued big paychecks.

But Cohen can't do that. He needs the adulation of the masses. He needs things to be the way they were in the good old days, before independent women and a cultural distaste for people who believe that all black men should immediately be viewed as suspicious made things so confusing. That was the time when people actually cared what kind of wisdom an Interesting Man like Richard Cohen had to impart to the world. It's almost enough to make you cry.

Except that it shouldn't. Not ever. Because it's important to keep in mind that Richard Cohen is an asshole. A monumental asshole.

Only a monumental asshole could write an entire column on how it's not racism but "reality" to profile young black men immediately following the acquittal of the guy who profiled and ultimately killed Trayvon Martin. Only a monumental asshole would actually try to argue that it makes perfect sense that Zimmerman automatically assumed Martin was a threat just by the color of his skin and the clothes he wore.

Only a monumental asshole can write something like this:

"Where is the politician who will own up to the painful complexity of the problem and acknowledge the widespread fear of crime committed by young black males? This does not mean that raw racism has disappeared, and some judgments are not the product of invidious stereotyping. It does mean, though, that the public knows young black males commit a disproportionate amount of crime. In New York City, blacks make up a quarter of the population, yet they represent 78 percent of all shooting suspects — almost all of them young men. We know them from the nightly news...

There’s no doubt in my mind that Zimmerman profiled Martin and, braced by a gun, set off in quest of heroism. The result was a quintessentially American tragedy — the death of a young man understandably suspected because he was black and tragically dead for the same reason."

Richard Cohen is indeed a monumental asshole.

The Washington Post: "Racism vs. Reality" by Richard Cohen/7.16.13

In November of last year, I wrote a piece for Banter pegged off of something else shockingly ridiculous that Richard Cohen had written.

"The White Guy of a Certain Age's Lament" (Originally Published at the Daily Banter, 11.28.12)

I'm sure you probably already know this, but it's a really tough time to be a white guy of a certain age right now. Everything's just so upside-down and nothing's how it used to be, with white guys of a certain age lumbering across the face of the earth like mighty dinosaurs, perfectly, languorously content in their dominion over all creatures. There was the re-election of the weirdly named multi-cultural black man Barack Obama -- along with the denial of the whitest, most of-a-certain-age man alive, Mitt Romney -- and its heralding of the demographic shift that's wresting power from their hands and giving to welfare queens and leaf-blowers. At the same time, there was the backlash against the attempt by a popular and official collective of über-white men -- the GOP -- to restrict the reproductive freedom of women on the grounds that not having proper babies from white guys of a certain age constitutes indefensible promiscuity anyway.

But that's politics. The real battlefield for white guys of a certain age these days seems to be pop culture, which is telling them that they can't just "show up" and still be the subject of adoration, as they once were, while simultaneously reminding them at every turn that the various peoples of the globe have other interests besides their lengthy, fascinating tales of their own heroic exploits that involve the experience of just being white guys of a certain age.

Over the past 48-hours, we've been treated to two comically embarrassing screeds lamenting the changing face of American and world culture into one that devalues the traditional merits and interests of the white guy of a certain age. One is self-pitying and personally revelatory in ways I'm not sure the author fully intended; the other is bitter, pissy and amusingly detached from the times in a way that only a man who shouts at kids to get off his lawn can find civil.

The latter, of course, involves Bill O'Reilly, the recently self-knighted harbinger of doom for white-guys-of-a-certain-age culture and the official miserable, racist uncle to all of America. Last night, on his regular prime-time complaint box on Fox News, O'Reilly and hack shrink Keith Ablow attempted to dissect the immense popularity of Psy's Gangnam Style, which recently surpassed Baby, from the harmless and infinitely less confusing Justin Bieber, as YouTube's most-watched video ever and is on track to having over a billion hits. O'Reilly, as you might imagine, can't fathom the popularity of Gangnam Style, which he describes as "a little fat guy from Pyongyang or someplace... doing the pony."

His and Ablow's debate over the clip and desperate attempt to understand the viral phenomenon that's sprung from it -- which lasted more than five minutes -- truly has to be seen to be fully appreciated. Ablow decides to go all Kierkegaardian nihilism, saying that the song literally means and affirms nothing, which is why it's the perfect mirror for our current culture; he even argues that Psy is uttering gibberish instead of "intelligible words," which he believes confirms his theory. That the lyrics of the song are in Korean never even comes close to popping the provincial bubble Ablow, O'Reilly and Fox News's audience exist inside of; I guess they figure that if something is huge internationally it has to have come from America. Haven't those Asians heard how exceptional we are? Don't they watch The O'Reilly Factor? For his part, O'Reilly simply dismisses the whole thing as madness.

For the record, I couldn't care less about Psy or Gangnam Style -- like most internet fads, it's annoying as hell -- but I can appreciate that it was written by someone whose experience isn't mine and who was attempting to satirize a place I didn't even know existed and a lifestyle I've never seen for myself. K-Pop isn't my thing and neither is the often peculiar Asian appropriation of hip-hop, but I'd never argue that the song is about nothing just because I don't understand it. I'm also not an asshole to the nearly unsurpassable extent that O'Reilly and Ablow are.

But if you thought those two could turn a pop culture phenomenon into a full-on existential crisis, you haven't read Richard Cohen's recent and instantly legendary elegy to his fading place as an object of feminine desire. I wouldn't be surprised if Cohen really believed he was simply examining the changing face of masculinity during his write-up of the new James Bond movie in Monday's Washington Post, but let's be honest: He was lamenting the fact that he, 71-year-old Richard Cohen, can't score 20-something pussy anymore. In the column, Cohen mourns the death of what he calls the "sexual meritocracy" of years past, when guys like Cary Grant and Humphrey Bogart could nail women much younger than themselves by virtue of little more than their "experience and savoir-faire" and their ability to, preposterously, "send out a suit for swift hotel cleaning." He compares these qualities, ones you can easily imagine him ascribing to himself, to those Daniel Craig displays in Skyfall. The result is a piece of intellectual resentment almost impossible to truly describe without hearing the voice of Family Guy's "Buzz Killington" in your head.

"Nothing about him looks natural, relaxed -- a man in the prime of his life and enjoying it. Instead, I see a man chasing youth on a treadmill, performing sets and reps, a clean and press, a weighted knee raise, an incline pushup and, finally, something called an incline pec fly (don't ask) ... Every rippling muscle is a book not read, a movie not seen or a conversation not held."

While I'm sure you can sympathize with the ways in which Daniel Craig is crushing Richard Cohen's self-esteem and taking all the women who would otherwise be gushing over his droll tales of hours spent painstakingly crafting didactic, faux-erudite columns for The Washington Post, it's ludicrous to make the assumption that because someone is physically fit, that person must be neglecting other parts of him or herself -- as if bettering your mind and body is a zero-sum game. It's basically Cohen bemoaning his loss of entitlement and being petty, jealous and essentially the real-life equivalent of William H. Macy's Quiz Kid Donnie character in Magnolia, sitting at the end of the bar pondering aloud why nobody wants to be with him anymore. On the plus side, he couldn't have written a column that's stronger catnip for the girls over at Jezebel if he'd tried.

Years ago, the late William F. Buckley wrote a series of novels about a character with the hilariously improbable name Blackford Oakes. Oakes is a rakish CIA agent and man of mystery who travels the globe foiling cold war-era plots and sleeping with beautiful women, despite having a pretty little liberal-arts lady back home in the land of the free who cares for him dearly but whom he must constantly condescend to lovingly and lecture about the true nature of the world. He's sexy, lethal, Ivy League-educated, and always a gentleman. In other words, he's exactly how a pompous bore like William F. Buckley imagined himself; he's Buckley's alter-egomaniac. Buckley's bombastically high opinion of himself didn't manifest in self-pitying public requiems, as Cohen's did -- it was turned into really crappy dime-store spy novels. Cohen should take up fiction. It would be less humiliating to him.

It's worth mentioning that both O'Reilly and Cohen have been accused in the past of inappropriate sexual conduct with women much younger than them. O'Reilly's target, infamously, was producer Andrea Mackris, whom he offered to "falafel" in the shower because she supposedly had "nice boobs"; Cohen's was a 23-year-old editorial aide named Devon Spurgeon (he also had an affair with Peter Jennings's wife back in the late 80s). See, there was a time when white guys of a certain age like them, as lords of the sexual meritocracy, could expect to exert their privilege and not only get away with it but have women fall willingly and effortlessly into their powerful, interesting arms. All they had to do was show up. They were the kings of all they surveyed and everything went their way and made complete sense to them at all times.

Those days, though, may be coming to an end.

We now live in a changing world, one where a pudgy Korean guy can be an American and global phenomenon and James Bond isn't just the coolest man in the world, he's also one of the hottest.

Yes, it's a tough time for white guys of a certain age. The good news is that they'll grow out of it. And besides, white guys still have it pretty great all the way around. Just ask anyone else.

Tweet of the Day

Quote of the Day

Patton Oswalt: A Salon I Used To Know/7.15.13

Sorkin State of Affairs

Sure, I watch HBO's The Newsroom. I do this because, as someone who's spent a good portion of his life in the news business, I'm a vain and shallow creature who desperately seeks the validation of strangers, loves talking and hearing about himself and especially enjoys anything that paints the profession he chose years ago in any light other than thoroughly, hostilely negative.

While the new season of the show does seem to prove that Sorkin at least took a little of the relentless criticism he received last year to heart, The Newsroom is still The Newsroom.

And maybe that's why I enjoy this so much.

The Onion: Nation Hoping 'The Newsroom' Ends Before Trayvon Martin Storyline/7.15.13

Pilot Error

Today's piece over at the Daily Banter takes a look at KTVU's massive screw-up and the station's reaction to it. Bottom line: It's not doing enough to make amends to the audience.

Here's the opening shot:

"As much as I want to let this story go, I can't. I just can't. I still find myself shaking my head on occasion at the sheer impossible absurdity of it, suddenly stopping whatever it is I'm doing to say out loud to nobody, "How in the hell could they have let that happen?" I sometimes wonder if I'm actually more incensed than KTVU News Director Lee Rosenthal is that his news department somehow -- for reasons no one with a brain let alone a working knowledge of a broadcast newsroom will ever fully comprehend -- allowed four obviously phony, racially insulting Asian pun names to go out over the air last Friday. Word has it Rosenthal's a good guy, but dear God, this mistake is so painfully embarrassing -- it's so far beyond anything in recent memory in terms of the systemic breakdown it exposed -- that I'm not sure he shouldn't do the honorable thing and throw himself on a nearby sword just as a matter of principle. I'm the most cynical guy in the world when it comes to an opinion of local news. With a few notable exceptions, I think it's crap, an often ineptly executed long con run by media company hustlers desperate for ratings dollars and shilled by shitty consultants who get paid a fortune to make every station in America look exactly alike. I long ago gave up expecting local news to be smart or to create anything resembling journalism. But this -- this gargantuan fuck-up confounds even my lowly expectations."

Read the Rest Here

It should be noted that someone made a really good point after the column, in the comment section, that my opinion doesn't seem to take into account cutbacks that have basically stripped most local newsrooms clean of personnel. In other words, yes, it's entirely possible that rather than going through a lot of hands and being subjected to the kinds of checks and balances an item would've been just a few short years ago, a story truly can be put on air without any real oversight these days. I've worked in a local newsroom since the 2008 crash, what led media companies to cut back on staffing for practical purposes and eventually gave them an excuse to keep cutting just to be bottom-line-hungry assholes. I know it's rough out there; it's a far cry from they way things were when I started my own local news career 22 years ago. But KTVU is still almost a top-five market station owned by Cox Media, so I have to imagine it's got at least a modicum of staffing. If it turns out, however, that the Asiana pilots' names screw-up really is due to personnel having been stripped to the bone -- with whoever's left now doing the jobs of the people eliminated and focused mainly on just getting the damn show on the air -- then I hope this is a lesson to those media companies pursuing profits above all else. It won't be a lesson, because most really don't give a crap, but a man can dream.

Listening Post

The new Editors album gets a little tiresome after a while given that it all sounds pretty much the same. But as a lead-off track, the dark drone of this song is pretty mesmerizing.

Here's The Weight.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Davey Crock

At some point today I'm going to have to sit down and begin writing tomorrow's piece for the Daily Banter. I generally fret over this and when I come across a subject that I know I can turn into something column-length, I save it for Banter because that's one less 6,000-pound Jenga piece making up the giant tower of pressure that rests on my shoulders 24/7 these days.

I could save myself some trouble. I could easily just crank out a full-length piece on David Sirota's latest desperate, pre-adolescent act of lashing out in the name of trying to get the attention of the adults. But I can't. I just can't. I can't because Sirota really is a sniveling little shit who in no way deserves the effort or the copy.

Fresh off Salon's damn-near epic decimation at the hands of Patton Oswalt over the weekend, the site that's become little more than the internet's proud home for liberal outrage porn decided to prove its mettle once again by running a Sirota column that somehow managed to conflate the killing of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman -- and Zimmerman's subsequent acquittal -- with the U.S. government's killing of American-born al Qaeda terrorist mastermind Anwar al-Awlaki and the 16-year-old son he'd educated in the ways of jihad.

No, I'm not linking to the fucking thing. Here's the salient quote:

"Zimmerman’s presumption of guilt and his subsequent actions mimic those of his own government, and therefore reflect a larger attitudinal shift in the nation at large

Remember, in the same year that saw Zimmerman kill Martin, Zimmerman’s president, Barack Obama, extrajudicially executed Anwar al-Awlaki and then his 16-year-old son, without charging either of the two U.S. citizens with a single crime...

Explaining the Zimmerman-like aggression against the Awlakis and thousands of others who find themselves targeted by U.S. drone strikes missiles, the federal government later offered up the Zimmerman Principle, repeating the same sentiment that Zimmerman expressed during his cellphone call to non-emergency responders."

Yeah. Now if you're sane, chances are you want to throttle Sirota right about now, but to paraphrase Tangina Barrons in Poltergeist, clear your mind, he knows what angers you. Sirota wants you to react the way you, me, anyone with a functional brain and a generous sense of shame would react to drivel like this. He wants you to fire off indignant tweets with his name on them. He's the guy who wrote an entire book blaming our current political climate on Die Hard and Ghostbusters and seemed to do it with a straight face; tawdrily dismissing the realities black Americans face in this country and have for centuries, and opportunistically using the Zimmerman verdict to once again scold the Obama administration for not showing deference to his pet issue -- ironically, scolding the first black President of the United States -- is child's play for someone who can troll that hard.

It should be noted that while it may sound like I'm beating up on Sirota, I'm actually giving him a lot of credit here. I'm assuming that he knows what he's doing and is purposely being inflammatory in the name of keeping himself relevant so that he can continue writing for Salon and can continue arguing that the critics loved his book and it was a bestseller every time anyone calls it out for having the most ridiculous premise in the history of non-fiction literature. (Seriously, do that sometime. Tweet at him how silly the central thesis of that book is and watch him whip out his press clippings like he's the Orphans trying to prove to the Warriors that they're bad-asses.) That's gotta be better than the alternative, which is to basically just come right out and accuse him of being monumentally fucking stupid. Although, I suppose he can be a combination of both.

Incidentally, the original headline for the piece issued the declaration, in predictably bombastic Salon fashion, "We Are All Threats Now."

No, Sirota. You're not a threat to anybody. You're just a douche.

Morning Sickness

For the next couple of days I'm going to be knee-deep in finishing up a production project I'm working on so I'll be somewhat scarce around here. With that in mind, I've taken at least a few things I was going to likely write about today and put them into the Morning Banter segment over at the Daily Banter.

I might have a little something up later, depending on how far along I am with the work I need to do.

Have a good day, kids.

The Daily Banter: The Monday Morning Banter/7.15.13

Listening Post

Maya Jane Coles has been creating and remixing some of the best downtempo and trip-hop on the planet for the last few years and the reason for her meteoric rise within the genre is evident on her new full-length album, Comfort. The production is stellar and the grooves are the kind of things you can truly feel.

Here's the first single from the record, featuring Karin Park on vocals and a mildly disturbing little video.

This is Everything.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Auto Reply: Out of Office

There's this great little place out in Palm Springs where my girlfriend and I go whenever we want to get away from everything. In addition to the desert, the spring water, the clean air, and all the other qualities that make our escapes to this place so wonderful, it doesn't hurt that the last time we went the whole thing was on them, thanks to the fact that my name was drawn in a Facebook contest they have each month, the prize being a free weekend. Well, maybe they just like us or something, because while we were there for our completely on-the-house getaway recently, one of the managers of the place gave us passes for another free weekend -- and we're taking it beginning today.

It's pretty rare for somebody to step up and do something nice for you so I guess you have to always remember to appreciate the hell out of it when it happens. And I do.

Speaking of which, I want to say a truly wholehearted thank-you to everyone who was kind enough to reach out and contribute during this week's Summer Pledge Drive. The support, especially after all this time, humbles me like you wouldn't believe. So thanks.

Now I can give Beggy the Beaver a hot meal and let him hibernate until Fall.

See you all on Monday.

Listening Post

New band and a new song that I seem to find myself listening to over and over these days.

This is London Grammar -- Hey Now.

Below, incidentally, is the studio version.

The Bob & Chez Show After Party

Join the After Party

Here’s What You’re Missing This Week: Wonder Showzen; Pie Fieri, Guy Fieri and Food Network Star; Nikki Dinki; Oliver Stone’s Anti-NSA Video; Deep Dark Secret; Serwer vs Greenwald; Blocking People on Twitter; Bob’s Emo Goth Dog; The Hawthorne Dog Shooting; The Wrongness of Gitmo Force-Feeding; Mos Def; Obama Attempting to Close Gitmo Again; Sarah Palin Running for Senate; and much more.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Reading Is Fund-amental: Day 4

You are falling under the sad, forlorn spell of our new money mascot, Beggy the Beaver. And that can only mean that our Summer Pledge Drive is going on here at DXM -- in fact, it's almost over.

You know how this works: If you like what you find here, on The Bubble Genius Bob & Chez Show podcast and at the Daily Banter, then please be a mensch and throw a little of your hard-earned cash toward keeping it all humming along.

There are a few ways you show some devotion to the DXM Media Empire(!) The first is the simplest: Just click the Paypal electronic tip link in the right-hand sidebar of this screen and donate away. You can also use the Paypal tip jar to pay-what-you-want for a digital copy of my book, Dead Star Twilight, for iPad or Kindle. Go here to begin your instant download. Remember, it's a full length book and it can be yours for whatever you feel like putting toward it. The last way you can give is by buying a physical copy of Dead Star Twilight from Amazon. To purchase the paperback, just click here. (It should be said that buying the book outright sends the least amount of money in my direction since there are costs and percentages to contend with; I want to sell books but I know there are some people out there who would want to be made aware of that.)

Big thanks today to Troy Segel, Lizzy B., the always wonderfully generous Gordon Jennings, and the awesome Maureen O'Neill, who should actually be demanding money from me to make up for my atrocious behavior during my mercifully brief time as an executive board-member at WVUM 20-something years ago (before I decided it was better to stop trying to run the place and just be a massive thorn in the side of those who did).

To everyone else who's given -- as well as those who continue to read, comment, share and so on -- you guys rule.

One final update over the weekend.

Point 'Tard

And here it is, the best/worst thing you'll see this week.

If you didn't believe Brian Kilmeade was the world's biggest douche before, hearing him shout, "Do it for America!" to encourage a toddler to shoot baskets followed by seeing him hit that same toddler in the face with the ball and make him cry on live television should do the trick nicely. By the way, if you're looking for the moment that leads this kid to eventually grow up to join al Qaeda and engage in Jihad against the United States, here it is.

Tomorrow Wendy

Today's column over at the Daily Banter takes a look at Wendy Davis's somewhat stunning but truly ballsy admission: Texas's women are going to lose the battle over a draconian abortion bill tomorrow.

Here's the opening shot:

"It may not have seemed possible, but in some strange way I respect Wendy Davis even more right now that I did the night she stood up and stood down a draconian anti-abortion bill two weeks ago on the floor of the Texas senate. Davis’s 13-hour filibuster was instantly the stuff of political and cultural legend, but in some ways it takes even more guts to admit to ugly reality than it does to rally the hopeful to action. Or maybe it’s like this: It takes guts to both rally the hopeful and admit that despite that you’re still going to lose the battle at hand."

Read the Rest Here

Listening Post

I've mentioned this before but anyone who's read this site long enough knows how I get when I find a band that I think truly deserves to be huge -- I'll beat that crap into the ground. If you take nothing else away from these silly Listening Posts this year, it should be this: Immediately go to iTunes and download the entire debut album from the Epilogues.

With a powerful, passionate sound that's somewhere between Manchester Orchestra and Silversun Pickups, they are absolutely one of my favorite up-and-coming bands making music right now. And this is without a doubt the best song I've heard from them so far.

This is the kind of song that would have the power to change the way the world around me appeared, were I to be listening to it on my iPod while walking through New York City. The massive, expansive chorus is what I can imagine throwing myself off the top of a building to in slow motion.

Yes, it's that good.

Please, support these guys.

This is Saboteur.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Bubble Genius Bob & Chez Show, 7.10.13

Recap of Recent NSA News; Snowden Video Weirdly Edited; FISC Reform; Snowden to Venezuela; Cenk Uygur Attacks Bob; Greenwald versus Serwer; Losing Perspective and Rationality on NSA; Rand Paul’s On-going Racism Problem; The New Wisconsin Abortion Law; Ultrasounds; A Repeat of the Texas Filibuster; and much more. Brought to you by Bubble Genius, the Amazon Link and the Bowen Law Group.

Listen and subscribe for free on iTunes

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Bob & Chez Show Archive

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Reading Is Fund-amental: Day 3

How can you resist the sad, soulful eyes of our new money mascot, Beggy the Beaver? (That's the most alliteration I've ever put into one sentence.) I'm hoping you can't, seeing as how we're right in the middle of our big Summer Pledge Drive here at DXM.

You know how this works: If you like what you find here, on The Bubble Genius Bob & Chez Show podcast and at the Daily Banter, then please step up and kick a little of your hard-earned cash toward keeping it all going.

There are a few ways you show some love. The first is the simplest: Just click the Paypal electronic tip link in the right-hand sidebar of this screen and donate away. You can also use the Paypal tip jar to pay-what-you-want for a digital copy of my book, Dead Star Twilight, for iPad or Kindle. Go here to begin your instant download. Remember, it's a full length book and it can be yours for whatever you feel like putting toward it. The last way you can give is by buying a physical copy of Dead Star Twilight from Amazon. To purchase the paperback, just click here. (It should be said that buying the book outright sends the least amount of money in my direction since there are costs and percentages to contend with; I want to sell books but I know there are some people out there who would want to be made aware of that.)

Big thanks today to Nicole, Teddy C., and the always generous Mr. Gwaltney.

To everyone else who's given -- as well as those who continue to read, comment, share and so on -- it really means a lot to me.

Another update tomorrow.

Quote of the Day

"“‘Bleeds when shot' ... been there already, no thanks assholes."

-- Colin Goddard

I'm reluctant to even bother mentioning this item because really it's what the people behind it want. They team who put together the product I'm about to bring up flawlessly blends the cynical marketing ethos which dictates that negative publicity is actually good publicity with the cackling playground bully defiance we've come to expect from the modern political right. And the result is, predictably, fucking unconscionable.

You probably already know about Zombie Industries, the company that made some headlines and drew a lot of impotent indignation a few months back when it began selling zombie mannequin targets for gun enthusiasts that actually "bleed" when you shoot them. The targets came in all kinds of shapes, sizes, and likenesses, including one specifically made to look like President Obama and one called "The Ex" that was basically a woman in a bra with a bellybutton ring (tellingly, the mannequin didn't look at all like a "zombie" beyond a little red paint splashed across it). While the NRA, in what I guess passes for a rare show of decency, asked that Zombie Industries remove the bleeding Obama target from the company's booth at its latest convention, it's not like it stopped selling the thing. It actually did discontinue production on "The Ex," what I guess also passes for a show of decency, but by that time the news had been made and the company had reaped the benefit of everyone suddenly knowing about its existence.

Now, Zombie Industries has a new target it's marketing. It's called "The Gun Control Lobbyist," what it bills as "The Most Dangerous Zombie in the USA Today." As usual, it bleeds when you shoot it, allowing tough-guy gun fetishists the purest form of wish-fulfillment anyone could legally grant them in a country that has yet to turn the Lower Ninth Ward into a game preserve. The ads for "The Gun Control Lobbyist" feature, of course, an image of the actual target in the foreground -- but in the background is a darkened photograph of actual gun control activists speaking in Washington. Among them is Colin Goddard, who works at the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. What brought Colin Goddard to the Brady Campaign and made him an outspoken critic of America's unyielding lust for firepower and the damage it's caused to so many lives? What made him a vocal proponent of gun safety?

Colin Goddard was a student at Virginia Tech back in 2007. He was shot four times during the rampage there that left 32 people dead.

See, Goddard knows what it's like to be shot by a guy with a gun. Someone who was ostensibly a good guy with a gun -- in that he acquired his arsenal entirely according to the letter of the law -- right up until he became a bad guy with a gun. With more than one gun, in fact.

Goddard has of course asked that Zombie Industries remove his picture from their ad -- hence his brilliant quote above -- but why would they possible do something like that? And even if they do decide to comply with his request, again, the damage is already done. By calling them out for being the sociopaths they are, Goddard just brought them the attention they were aiming for in the first place. The company gets asshole cred from the right for pissing-off those pussy liberals and now everyone who may not have known about the "Gun Control Lobbyist" target certainly does. It's a win-win for them.

But it still leaves us with the problem of what can be done about a group of people who positively revel in seeing their enemies helplessly plead for a measure of humanity from them; who love knowing that they get under liberals' skin as a kind of sport and who see this as its own reward; who have no shame, decency, or remorse and who therefore can't be reasoned with or intimidated. A group of people who can look at a guy who was shot four times and basically make fun of him.

At this point I think that decent people are left with only one option, that there's only one thing that will make gun worshipers and their NRA overlords understand what they're advocating for and whom they're standing against.

Shoot them.

No, really.

Do you honestly think Wayne LaPierre, or Ted Nugent, or the CEO of Zombie Industries, would really continue to laugh in the faces of victims of gun violence if somebody put him down on the ground, pissing his pants, and pumped four rounds into him?

Everyone knows that there's only one way to truly deal with a bully: you fight back. Beat the living shit out of him once -- send him crying and bleeding to the hospital -- and he will never touch you again.

Well, consider my suggestion the same thing, writ large.

It's an idea who's time has come, America.

Time to go big or go home.

Time to speak to them in the only language they understand.

It goes without saying that thinking about the horrors Colin Goddard went through and somehow survived immediately brings me back to this piece from April of 2007. The story of Max Turner. What still may be the best thing that's ever been posted at this site.

"And All That Could Have Been" (Originally Published, 4.19.07)

There were maybe five of us, gathered around a television, watching a woman die.

I had only been in television news for a few months and hadn't yet developed the rough and thickened callus on my soul; that unavoidable consequence of a life lived knee-deep in day-to-day tragedy; the natural armor required to sustain such an existence. I was still learning to crawl among those who had long since evolved into wearied and indifferent creatures for whom another dead body was another dead body was another dead body. They already knew something which I would eventually have to learn -- that sometimes, you have to suppress your gag reflex, bury your humanity and willingly allow the more mechanized aspects of your personality to roll over your emotions like a tank. You needed to do this to get the job done -- and to keep yourself from going insane.

I didn't yet have the luxury of such peaceful detachment though, and so as I stood there -- watching the live feed from Jackson Memorial Hospital in Downtown Miami -- I found that I could barely keep at bay the myriad unnerving thoughts clawing at the inside of my skull.

The pictures we were watching, live and in brutally vivid color, showed the Miami-Dade Fire-Rescue chopper setting down on the hospital's rooftop helipad and the subsequent whirlwind of controlled chaos as the young woman on board was quickly transferred onto a stretcher and whisked inside. In plain view the entire time -- the desperate and seemingly hopeless fight to save her life. I simply stared as one of the doctors jumped onto the stretcher and straddled the woman's naked upper-body, pumping away at her failing heart, his palms flat against her skin. I closed my eyes for an instant to avoid the sight of the bag breathing air into her faltering lungs. I opened them just before the stretcher slammed through the double-doors leading into the hospital -- just in time to catch a glimpse of the massive head wound she'd received less than a half-hour earlier, when someone had fired a 9mm round through her driver's-side window while trying to carjack her in broad daylight, in the middle of tony Coral Gables.

And while those around me cracked jokes, or discussed lunch, or waited to rush the tape of what we were watching into editing -- I silently demanded answers of myself. I wanted to know what gave me the right to watch this woman's final moments of life. I wanted to know who I thought I was that I should be privy to such tragic vulnerability -- to witness the dying breath of a complete stranger. I was a twenty-one-year-old who knew nothing of this person -- nothing of her life, her loves, her hopes and dreams -- yet through nothing more noble than the technology which made such macabre voyeurism possible, I was allowed to be there for her death.

I remember finally turning my head. "I'm so sorry," was all I could whisper as I cast my eyes downward in shame and walked quickly away.

Since that moment, my skin has grown considerably thicker and more bristly. What used to be soft has calcified under the fifteen-year steady drip of daily disaster; what was once overly sincere naivete has given way to the kind of gallows humor that can turn even the most heartbreaking tragedy into a ghastly joke -- one which always ends with a smirk and the cynical admission that only hell can await such crass insensitivity.

This is the necessary defense mechanism -- and this is what was instinctively exploited in the hours that followed the worst shooting rampage in American history.

As the details of what had unfolded on the Virginia Tech campus poured in, I found myself at first engaging in verbal gymnastics.

T.S. Eliot once said something about April being the cruelest month; that was in a poem known fittingly as "The Burial of the Dead," which was the first part of "The Waste Land;" The Who once sang about a "Teenage Wasteland," which is what Virginia Tech has now become.

Then, as the hours and hours passed and the body count skyrocketed -- the sheer enormity of the violence finally becoming clear -- I moved on to logical analysis, followed by a kind of rational righteous indignation. I shook my head at what I knew would surely be the knee-jerk reaction to come: the hand-wringing and political posturing over what might have been done to prevent what was, in reality, a devastating human anomaly -- one that may have been anticipated, but likely couldn't have been stopped by anything short of locking up a troubled and dangerous kid who, until Monday morning, hadn't technically broken the law. I swallowed outrage at the vile opportunism of Scientologists, who were quick to claim that psychiatry was behind the gunman's brutal impulses, and Jack Thompson, who wasn't even aware of the killer's identity and yet was already pointing the finger of blame at the time-honored boogeymen of video games and pop culture. I clenched my fists, closed my eyes and exhaled my fury at one television news anchor agreeing with a local pastor's unforgivably trite nostrum that God sometimes works in mysterious ways. I worried about the possibility that a substantial portion of creative, dark, shy or otherwise unusual kids might now find themselves eyed with suspicion and apprehension -- simply because of one twisted bastard with delusions of martyrdom and the weaponry to bring his furious fantasies to life. I wondered if someone might demand to know why it's as easy to buy a Glock 19 in this country as it is to buy a Happy Meal -- and finally do something about it.

By yesterday morning, I had shut out the ridiculous calls by some for sirens on all American college campuses, and moved on to the curious spectacle of the collegiate mourning process and the round-the-clock coverage of it. I stared quizzically at my monitor as students gathered to loudly proclaim their "Hokie Spirit" -- admitting quietly to myself that truer words were never spoken. I wondered, were I a male Virginia Tech student, if I would pull an Otter-esque line about not wanting to be alone during such a traumatic time in an effort to get CNN's Brianna Keilar to come back to my dorm room. I even sang Team America's I'm So Ronery to myself everytime the image of the gunman -- finally identified as South Korean-born Cho Seung-Hui -- flashed across the screen.

Mostly though, I concerned myself with the question of why every news correspondent in the country had descended on the tiny town of Blacksburg, Virginia -- like locusts desperate to devour the bumper crop of suffering until there was simply nothing left. All the more disconcerting, the millions of television viewers eager to have that pain regurgitated back into their own hungry mouths.

There was, and still is, something grotesquely orgiastic about the whole thing.

Over the past twenty-four hours, the names and faces of the victims have surfaced, a few at a time. As has become ritual, the various news organizations are parrotting every possible detail they can gather as to who these young people were in an admittedly genuine effort to both humanize and memorialize them. The ages of the victims always come first -- simply because there's no other single characteristic about each person that can better convey the overwhelming nature of what was lost in this senseless act. The ages are usually followed by majors, extracurricular activities, then one or two prosaic platitudes about their smiles or infectious personalities or optimistic outlook on life -- this final trait taking on a sad irony given the situation which led to the need for disclosure of such information in the first place. Unfortunately however, no matter how noble the intentions or how powerful the tribute, it's impossible not to feel that so much is missing.

The reason is because each person's unique life is still being filtered through an intermediary -- told second-hand via the one relaying it.

For the first time though, there's another way to learn about the victims of this kind of atrocity -- a way which excises the middle-man, and lets them tell their own life stories in their own words.

As incomprehensible as it would have seemed in life, MySpace has provided each victim his or her own epitaph in death.

Even a cursory scan of their pages reveals the true heartbreaking depths of this loss.

I'm not sure what led me to search MySpace for profiles of some of the dead; I'd like to believe that it was an honest desire to find out who these kids really were -- what they loved and hated, what they wanted for themselves and their futures before it was all ripped away from them by someone who had a plan for their lives they weren't even aware of, nor could they stop.

For some reason, the first name I searched was the victim whom the least was known about at the time.

Her name was Maxine Turner.

She was a twenty-two-year-old chemical engineering student.

Her MySpace address contains the words "Super Sneaky Ninja," which -- despite not knowing the meaning behind it -- brought a sad smile to my face when I first saw it.

Maxine, as expected, went by the nickname Max.

Her site, although rather unremarkable, lists her as single, from Vienna, Virginia, 5'1" and slim -- no doubt the result of Tae Kwon Do classes, which she took regularly. She didn't smoke, but she did drink.

She hoped to have children someday.

The song posted on her profile, which plays automatically, is, strangely, one of my favorites from my own youth -- Men At Work's Overkill, sung by the band's lead singer Colin Hay. I listened to it as I moved beyond the basic information into the tiny singularities of Max's life. There's a blue box which sits directly under the "About Me" headline; it reads "Your Superhero Profile." Apparently, her superhero name was "The Hour Dog"; her special power was biotechnology; her only weakness was -- ironically, devastatingly -- blood; her mode of transportation was a pogo stick.

She wanted to meet Shakespeare, Christian Bale and John Cusack.

Her final blog entry is entitled "For the Ladies," and has her mood listed as "Mischievous." It's an extended and oddly sweet dissertation on the right and wrong way to measure yourself to ensure that a bra is the correct size for your body.

Of all the little details on her main MySpace page though, none proves so haunting as the timeline of comments -- concerned friends at first begging over and over again for a simple phone call, then on Tuesday morning, those same friends' comments abruptly changing to messages of sorrow and loss.

But those are just words.

It's what's inside Max Turner's "pics" page, that leaves you utterly heartbroken.

One photo shows her seated on a stone wall, facing away from the camera -- staring out over a vast valley covered in deep green.

Another shows her sitting on an empty beach, under a wide sky filled with high, white clouds. The caption simply reads "Sand Castle!"

There's a slightly blurry image of a little gray nose and large black eyes, just inches from the lense of the camera that captured it. The caption: "Say hi to Jujubee, my pretty hamster."

In one she's holding a snake, in another she's practicing Tae Kwon Do.

Beneath each picture are dozens and dozens of comments from friends and strangers alike, commemorating her life and expressing regret for her untimely death.

I never met Max Turner, and I never will; I have no doubt that this is my own loss to mourn. I know only as much about her as she herself was willing to disclose, and yet what I've seen leads me to believe that the world is an infinitely lesser place without her in it. The same can surely be said for Ross Almeddine, and Reema Samaha, and Emily Hilscher, and Ryan Clark, and Daniel Perez Cueva, and Mary Read and the more than two dozen other victims of this incomprehensible tragedy.

I'll go to my own grave grappling with the question of how someone, anyone, can be so consumed by rage that he can look at the face of Max Turner and decide that she has to die.

Like fifteen years ago, I have nothing to offer except an apology -- this time not out of shame, but out of genuine sorrow and an overwhelming sense of helplessness.

I'm sorry that humanity failed you, Max.

I'm so sorry.

Project Office Mayhem

Been a while since I've done one of these but hopefully you remember the drill. Quietly put the link below up on every available computer screen in your office, then crank all the speakers to full volume.

Mischief points: 65,012

Captain Picard Has No Patience for Porn

The Fox Leaves the Hen House

Today's piece over at the Banter takes a look at Elisabeth Hasselbeck's entirely predictable decision to head to Fox News, The View's entirely predictable decision to potentially pick up Jenny McCarthy, and the problems that arise when TV is entirely predicable.

Here's the opening shot:

"This is going to be fun to write about. On the one hand, it involves an almost flawless confluence of media trends that I’ve brought up and predictions that I’ve made throughout the years; on the other hand it also involves a series of media properties and personalities so offensive that I couldn’t make myself give a crap about any of them if you promised that there was a lap-dance from Mila Kunis in it for me.

By now you’ve probably heard that Elisabeth Hasselbeck is leaving The View to head on over to Fox News where she’ll be the next XX-chromo unit in the unenviable position of fielding stupid sexist comments from Brian Kilmeade and just plain old regular stupid comments from Steve Doocy on Fox & Friends. (Gretchen Carlson is leaving for greener daytime pastures at Fox News, likely taking an hour vacated by Megyn Kelly.) This is one of those moves that should surprise absolutely no one anywhere..."

Read the Rest Here

Listening Post

There was a time when these guys were one of my favorite bands on the planet. The fact that I've lately found myself returning to their first two brilliant records probably means that in some ways they still are.

Here's two from Concrete Blonde.

Above it's God Is a Bullet and below it's their stellar cover of Leonard Cohen's Everybody Knows.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Reading Is Fund-amental: Day 2

The onscreen presence of our new money mascot, Beggy the Beaver, can mean only one thing, kids: We're right in the middle of our big Summer Pledge Drive around here.

While things were certainly dry for a bit, they've picked up lately and I'm trying to keep it going that way -- balancing lengthy, cumbersome writing projects for the Daily Banter with good content around here, all of it balanced with the rest of the piles and piles of work I have on my desk so that I can avoid literally panhandling.

Anyway, you know the drill: If you like what you find at DXM, on The Bubble Genius Bob & Chez Show podcast and at the Daily Banter, then by all means feel free to kick a little money toward keeping these proceedings humming along.

There are a few ways you can contribute. The first is the simplest: Just click the Paypal electronic tip link in the right-hand sidebar of this screen and donate away. You can also use the Paypal tip jar to pay-what-you-want for a digital copy of my book, Dead Star Twilight, for iPad or Kindle. Go here to begin your instant download. Remember, it's a full length book and it can be yours for whatever you feel like putting toward it. The last way you can give is by buying a physical copy of Dead Star Twilight from Amazon. To purchase the paperback, just click here. (It should be said that buying the book outright sends the least amount of money in my direction since there are costs and percentages to contend with; I want to sell books but I know there are some people out there who would want to be made aware of that.)

a big thank-you to Riles, Comedy Fred and Brett Skean for the generosity. And as always, thanks very much to everyone else for continuing to read, share, comment, and not get too pissed at me when my dipshit trolls decide to bleed over and infect your own sites with their crap.

Another update tomorrow.

Bill of No Rights

This Texas abortion bill take on a Schoolhouse Rock classic is the best thing you'll see all day.

Pimp Biscuit

I realize that we're right in the middle of our massive Summer Pledge Drive around here so the last thing I want to do is defer whatever loose change you have in your pocket toward some worthy cause other than my own need to eat, but I really want to do a favor for a friend here while turning you all on to something awesome. If you've ever dined out in New York, you know that the city has just about any kind of food you could possibly want. What it doesn't have, though -- and what it needs -- is biscuits. We're talking excellent, Southern-style biscuits, jams and jellies, biscuit sandwiches and, from what I hear, freaking unbelievable biscuits and gravy.

Well, good friend, great guy, and up-and-coming restaurateur Yonadav Tsuna and his business partners aim to rectify that unfortunate situation by opening Empire Biscuit on Avenue A in the East Village in the very near future. They've got a terrific chef, a great space that they're currently in the process of clearing out, and the kind of business model that can only come from a kid who worked on Wall Street before quickly deciding that he needed to get the hell out of there and go do something worthwhile and passionate with his life. (I've known about his plan to open a restaurant since we first met out and about in NYC a couple of years ago.)

Bottom line: Yonadav and his partners at Empire Biscuit have launched a Kickstarter campaign and it's really the kind of reason that Kickstarter was created -- to give people with dreams a little start-up cash to be put toward making them come true.

Watch the video. When the place is open, visit the restaurant and buy the biscuits. And if you can afford to, throw some money toward this worthwhile venture. If you pledge enough, maybe Yonadav will agree to shave that silly moustache.

Kickstarter: Empire Biscuit

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My. God.

Beginning on September 17th, don't even bother trying to reach me for about six months.

The Dog of War

Yesterday, I promised that I was going to be following up last week's quick post on the police arrest and shooting in Hawthorne, California that ended with a dog being killed with something a little more thoughtful. Well, that piece is now up over at the Daily Banter. This whole thing has been a great debate to have and I can certainly understand where everyone's passions are coming from with regard to a case of a dog being shot by the cops. But do me a favor and try to keep an open mind when reading this piece and my take on the shooting. Suffice it to say, I've been mulling the objections and the points made against my arguments over in my head throughout the past week and while I still think the police were justified, I've definitely softened my language and a few of my more absolutist statements a little.

Anyway, here's the opening:

"The coolest job I ever had I got at the very young age of 14. It was the coolest job any 14-year-old should be allowed to have, the coolest job anybody should be allowed to have, period. When I was 14, a friend of my family’s got me part-time summer work at the Broward County police academy, as an actor in its live-action police training exercises. Basically, it went like this: the instructors would set up a scenario aimed at recreating a real-life situation a cop might encounter in his or her daily routine, from something as simple as a suspicious or stolen vehicle stop to something as complex as a hostage standoff; they’d hand me a modified gun loaded with blanks which I’d slip into my waistband; then they’d basically give me one instruction — if the recruit didn’t bother to check me out, taking it for granted that I was just a kid, draw and kill that recruit the first chance I got."

Read the Rest Here

Listening Post

Washed Out returns with a glorious new ride along the chillwave.

Here's his brand new single, It All Feels Right.

Monday, July 08, 2013

Reading Is Fund-amental: Day 1

I admit that there was a time there when very little was going up on this site and it can still occasionally be hit or miss. With that in mind, I'm not going to belabor the point or draw this out any longer than necessary, but the fact is that if I want to keep doing pledge drives, the best way to do them is seasonal -- hence, it's time for one. And so here we are -- with Beggy the Beaver and his sad, soulful eyes marking the start of our Summer Pledge Drive here at Deus Ex Malcontent.

You know how it works: If you like what you find at DXM and, more recently, on The Bubble Genius Bob & Chez Show podcast and at the Daily Banter -- if you find my rapier wit, not-at-all-penetrating insight, pathetic attempts at comedy, public fights with trolls, musical picks, and general juvenile behavior entertaining -- then by all means feel free to throw some money toward keeping these proceedings humming along.

There are a few ways you can put your hard-earned cash toward the DXM empire and me, its humble proprietor. The first is the simplest: Just click the Paypal electronic tip link in the right-hand sidebar of this screen and donate away. You can also use the Paypal tip jar to pay-what-you-want for a digital copy of my book, Dead Star Twilight, for iPad or Kindle. Go here to begin your instant download. Remember, it's a full length book -- 300-some-odd pages that I promise will whiz right by -- and it can be yours for whatever you feel like putting toward it. The last way you can give is by buying a physical copy of Dead Star Twilight from Amazon. To purchase the paperback, just click here. (It should be said that buying the book outright sends the least amount of money in my direction since there are costs and percentages to contend with; I want to sell books but I know there are some people out there who would want to be made aware of that.)

As always, I want to take a minute to thank everyone who continues, after more than seven years of effort and output, to read, share, comment on and otherwise indulge in this ongoing little experiment of mine. As I've admitted lately, I miss writing here full-time but unfortunately I'm no longer in a position to make a lot of money on a specific, regular shift, thereby leaving me space to write in my off-time. In fact, I actually have very little off-time these days. But I still write here. This is still my home. Believe it or not, I've had offers over the past year or so to either "sell-off" DXM or allow somebody else to partially take it over for me and, despite monthly money on the table, I've turned them down flat. This thing is just too important to me and even when I'm not here the way I'd like to be, just the knowledge that no matter where I go or what happens I always have this to return to is enough to make it worth it to keep it mine and only mine. DXM has always been independent and it will hopefully stay that way.

As for simply writing, I do that on a near-daily basis, whether it's specifically for here or for here, Banter and the Huffington Post, and I sure as hell don't do it because it makes me rich -- I do it because I love it and because you guys still inexplicably keep wanting to read it. So, again, thank you from the bottom of the dank pit where my heart is supposed to be.

An update tomorrow.

Now back to your regularly scheduled nonsense.