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15 Apr 14:04


15 Apr 10:59

Monologue: An Accountant Helps a Manic Pixie Dream Girl With Her Taxes by Maura Quint

It says “Twinkles Pony Star” on the sign-in sheet. Is that your legal name?

Miss, this is a pretty small office, but I was able to fit two chairs in here, so if you wouldn’t mind sitting in one and not dangling from the window ledge. The breeze is really nice, but, it’s just, we’re on the fourth floor and the wind keeps blowing the papers off my desk, so… thank you.

Do you have ID? I’ll just copy your name down from there. OK… Jennifer, ha, right, I figured “Twinkles” was a joke, but you don’t want to assume things. Yesterday I had a woman in here named Candance and I figured the second “n” was a typo but it WASN’T! A lot of this is pretty self-explanatory, we’ll get you out of here lickety-split.

Are you filing as married or single?… I’m not hitting on you, no, the government makes us ask that, it’s a big deal on these forms. So… single? No, I don’t think they care if it’s just “single” or “always single and completely available.” I’m just checking off the box here.

Let’s take a look at your finances. I see you have a folder there, do you have any W-2s? Thanks. You’re handing me The Joshua Tree and Zooropa? Oh… ha… DOUBLE U2, yeah, ha. I don’t think the IRS is going to accept this.

What I’m asking is, were you employed this year? I just need some documentation regarding how much income you may have earned.

I’m sorry, what? You sold cupcakes to kittens? That’s a pretty specific niche. Did the owners pay you? OK, so, instead of money, one of the kittens let you live in the family’s tree house out back? I’m going to list that as an “in-kind” donation. Is that it? Did you do any other work this year? That flowing skirt looks kind of expensive. I’ve never noticed a cashmere crop top sweater at Walmart. Do you want to declare any major gifts, or maybe gambling winnings?… So the clothes are hand me downs from your grandmother who raised you because your own parents were too busy and this interfered with your ability to trust and form normal attachments?

Yeah, I don’t think the government needs to know any of this. I’m just going to mark you down here as “self-employed.” The good news is, since you own your own business, we can take out some deductions for any expenses you might have encountered. Oh, are those receipts in your pocket—HEY WHAT THE HELL?! STOP THROWING ALL THAT GLITTER! MY OFFICE LOOKS LIKE A STRIP CLUB TERRORIST ACT!

I’m sorry, no, you’re right, I shouldn’t yell, you just surprised me. Don’t cry. I’m not angry. Do you need a tissue? Plese don’t hide under my sport coat.

Hey, look at me, you’re right, glitter DOES make this whole experience more magical. I’m just responsible for any non-standard cleaning in here. This whole job is just contract work through mid-April, you know? They’re really particular about the floors in this building, I just don’t know how this will vacuum. I mean, it’s GREAT—really, I love it. I hope it’s always there, it’ll be like I’m walking on tiny bits of gold that stick to everything and do NOT make me look like I molested an elementary school art class.

I’m going to go ahead and assume you didn’t bring any receipts.

OK, we’re almost done. I know you’re still upset, I really am sorry, please don’t leave. Oh, sure, dancing makes you feel better, that makes sense. Can I just ask you—wow that’s a lot of twirling!

I just have a few more questions. This is probably a dumb one, but do you have any major investments or own a home or—right, right, ownership is a silly idea, of course, “we all just have love.” I guess I can write that on here, but, you know, what number would I place as the relative value? Pretty deep, right?

See, I can be interesting too. One time I told my boss I had to pick up some antihistamines at the pharmacy but instead I snuck out to go get a latte on Starbucks “free coffee” day—I don’t even have allergies!

I think we’re all done here. Actually, I think I’m done here as well. Being a part-time contract accountant was never my dream. You helped me see that, Jennifer.

This might sound crazy, but with you beside me, eating food off strangers’ plates, wearing inappropriate outfits, and running away from responsibility, I feel like I could finally, truly be ME. I want to become a conceptual yodel artist, I always have. It’s been my secret dream. Help me make it come true! Let’s run away together, or at least for a few months until I realize that I like being on time for things and being an emotionally responsible person. Oh I’m just teasing, I’ll never realize that! Not before you leave me at least! Grab your Hello Kitty backpack, we’ll climb out the window, you can teach me how!

Oh, but yes, you do need to sign here first. The IRS is pretty strict about that sort of thing.

14 Apr 19:20

Sigur Rós, "The Rains of Castamere"

by Alex Balk
by Alex Balk

I missed last night's "Game of Thrones" so don't spoil it for me! But whatever happened, this Sigur Rós song sounds amazing. Elf incest could never have a more appropriately ominous soundtrack. [Via]


The post Sigur Rós, "The Rains of Castamere" appeared first on The Awl.

14 Apr 15:00

The 50 Greatest Tweets About Last Night's Game Of Thrones

by Rob Bricken

The 50 Greatest Tweets About Last Night's Game Of Thrones

Well, another Game of Thrones episode set the internet on fire. "The Lion and the Rose" featured a very different wedding and a very different shocker from last time , but the reactions were no less passionate, as these amazing tweets prove. SPOILERS AHEAD, obviously.


12 Apr 16:00

SMAC Your Lips: Civilization Beyond Earth Announced

by Graham Smith

Firaxis are laying the SMAC down, etc.

This is news worth working on a weekend for. Firaxis have announced Civilization: Beyond Earth, a spiritual successor to Alpha Centauri. There’s an announcement trailer below, which doesn’t show any of the game but does set the scene. (The scene is of me, rubbing my thighs at all the spaceships). Also, it’s due out this “Fall/Autumn” which i) is not far away at all and ii) it’s nice that they wrote both Fall and Autumn because it makes me feel included as a non-American.

… [visit site to read more]

11 Apr 18:40

Eels, "Mistakes Of My Youth"

by Alex Balk
by Alex Balk

When I am in one of my more positive frames of mind I like to tell myself to focus on how remarkable it is that Eels have actually been able to be as big as they are rather than wondering what it says about the world that they aren't bigger. Either way, I am glad they're still at it. Sometimes just sticking around is a victory. Enjoy. [Via]


The post Eels, "Mistakes Of My Youth" appeared first on The Awl.

11 Apr 16:00

Orphan No More - Reflections on the tail end of Season 1. [Orphan Black]

by Jeff Alexander
[Marathon Diary]
Screen: BBC America

Screen: BBC America

Okay, so maybe this ended up being less of a Marathon Diary than a 5K Diary, but we all have to start somewhere. And even if Orphan Black's ten episodes weren't exactly a test of endurance, you know that bends-like feeling when your binge-watch catches up with real time? I'm soaking in it just as hard.

On the other hand, I'm also congratulating myself for having paused at what was clearly the season's turning point, where Sarah's MO began to shift from conning and fooling people to beginning to let them in. Her come-to-Jesus confrontation with Paul obviously didn't go the way she planned, but it worked out for the best. After Paul forced Sarah to confess that she isn't really Beth, and Sarah in turn got Paul to confess that he wasn't really Beth's boyfriend, Sarah found herself with a valuable ally. And then confidante. And then real boyfriend of her own.

After that worked out so well in her favor, it's not entirely surprising that she started sharing more with others. Mrs. S. was soon brought into the inner circle, and Sarah was clearly about to spill everything to Detective Art in that interrogation room until the lawyer showed up. I was suspecting during the first half of the season that this might end up being Sarah's coming-of-age story, but I didn't expect it to happen so quickly. Sarah's multiple crises are beginning to bring out the best in her, and not just her best hustling skills like we saw early on. Our little guttersnipe/fuck-up is growing up, and fast.

Also growing quickly? The cast. It's nice to see Sarah's fellow clones developing compelling arcs of their own, complete with supporting characters. I was getting frustrated with Cosima being confined to a Skype window and relegated to the thankless role of Science Officer, and clearly so was she. Good thing, too. Her relationship with Delphine may have been ill-advised (and literally advised-against, by Sarah), but it led to what may well be the head of the whole conspiracy, which we'll come back to in a minute. Also, there's an interesting conversation to be had about the fact that the clones have different sexual orientations. Something tells me "Born This Way" isn't on many of Cosima's playlists.

And whoa, check out Alison. Obviously she was wound way too tight for way too long, and girlfriend is coming uncoiled. She's taken over from Sarah in the field of impulsive, rash, and mostly irreversible decisions. First she decided husband Donnie was her watcher and started playing Jack Bauer with him when she was supposed to be playing Martha Stewart for the neighborhood potluck (not that it wasn't a lot of fun to see Sarah try return a favor by impersonating Alison). Then Alison decided it was her best friend Aynsley, whose husband she soon revenge-screwed in public before later standing by and watching Aynsley perish in a freak garbage-disposal accident. Not that Aynsley wasn't a dick, but Alison's face is going to be pretty red when she learns, like we already have, that Donnie is her monitor after all. Between her recent unpredictability, her increasingly frequent stress-benders, and her burgeoning friendship with Felix, Alison may be the most entertaining clone to watch. Loose cannons generally are.

But Alison is the Maginot Line compared to Helena. We've learned a lot more about the Angry Angel's backstory, including that despite being so far outside the clone-spiracy that she's been working against it, she is actually Sarah's twin. There was an uneasy truce between the two for a while, but given Helena's penchant for moves like taking Kira for walks that end in the latter getting flattened by a car, and later kidnapping and killing the woman purported to be their surrogate birth mother, that truce was obviously doomed. But is Helena? Sure, Sarah shot her and left her for dead after that last stunt, and I haven't seen Helena in the promos for next season, but I won't be convinced she's out of the picture until I see a body and a sequenced genome. I kind of hope I'm wrong, though; the dentist's drill that features prominently in the musical score every time Helena writhes onto the screen is something I could live without indefinitely.

One frequent problem with conspiracy-based shows (yes, I'm looking at you, The X-Files, and all of your goddamn clones) is the glacial pace at which we generally learn who and what is behind it all. Not so here. It's entirely possible we've already met the big bad, who was probably birthing clone babies at around the time his portrayer was playing Max Headroom. Matt Frewer's Dr. Aldous Leekie is an evil genius whom one might almost forget is evil. Cadaverous but charismatic, he talks charmingly about wanting to work with Sarah and her "sisters" now that they're "self-aware," and even offers them a generous contract to join the fold. But then you remember that he had one of his own employees killed (not that Olivier would have necessarily wanted to go on after Helena cropped his tail), and you find out that he coded copyright language into the clones' DNA, and he hasn't even withdrawn the monitors like he said he would. Contract or no, it's not clear what leverage he holds given that his whole experiment is illegal, but he's got at least two of clones in his back pocket already: Rachel Duncan, his right-hand clone apparently bred for the purpose; and Alison, who got one last impulsive, rash, and probably irreversible decision in under the wire when she signed that damn contract.

Oh, and it looks like he's maybe got one other thing. All season, Sarah's primary motivation has been her daughter Kira. Alas, most of her efforts to keep Kira out of all this have proved futile. At the same time, we've gotten some clues about Kira's possible significance to the project, like how she's the only natural offspring of any of the clones, and her Slayer-like ability to survive a shoving match with a moving automobile. As desperate as Sarah is to protect her, Leekie would be almost equally desperate to nab Kira if he knew of her existence. So of course the season ends with Sarah showing up at the house to find Kira missing. Worst-case scenario, essentially.

And now, after being able to blithely burn through one episode after another, I'm stuck waiting more than a week to find out what happens next. Not just with Sarah and Kira, but with Alison, with Cosima and Delphine, with Art and his investigation now that he's figured out who Sarah is, with Dr. Leekie and his Dyad Institute, with Felix and whoever his favorite clone is any given week, even with Rachel and her businessbitch haircut that I don't buy for one second. Those of you who've made it almost a year, I salute you. If you all can wait that long, I suppose I can wait this long, yeah?

It's going to be the week between each episode from now on that's going to be the real killer.

Episodes watched: 10
Episodes Remaining: 0
Days Remaining: 8

Orphan No More appeared first on Previously.TV

09 Apr 20:24

Cloud To Butt, A Google Chrome Web Browser Extension That Replaces ‘The Cloud’ With ‘My Butt’

by Rollin Bishop

Cloud to Butt Extension

Cloud To Butt is a Google Chrome web browser extension originally created by technology enthusiast Steven Frank that replaces instances of the phrase “the cloud” with “my butt” for comedic value. Cloud To Butt Plus, which is a fork of the original GitHub project, replaces “cloud” with “butt” in certain appropriate contexts in addition to the regular “the cloud” and “my butt” swaps.

image via Alex Pretzlav

via Ross Doran

01 Apr 17:15

This Game of Thrones Parody Album Is So Beautiful It Would Make a Dragon Cry [VIDEO]

by Rebecca Pahle

Remember that time HBO put out an official Game of Thrones rap album, only it wasn’t as good as it could have been because there weren’t enough nerdy book references?

Duo The Sons of Mim put out a parody album that puts HBO’s efforts to shame. Coincidentally, it’s called Shame of Tones, and I swear to you, it is not an April Fools’ joke. “Total Eclipse Of House Stark” is actually a song you can listen to in real life. Above is the music video for the Tyrion-themed “Lannista’s Paradise,” which, fair warning, does feature some offensive language. Behind the cut I’ve included the track list for the entire album, which can be downloaded on The Sons of Mims’ Tumblr.

Red Wedding
Lannista’s Paradise
Arya Gonna Make Them Pay
Even Flowdor
Another Dick on the Wall
Dr****s in Essos
Total Eclipse of House Stark

It’s impossible for me to pick a favorite. The Dany-themed “Dr****s in Essos,” a parody of “N****s in Paris,” is splendid, but the lyrics of Pearl Jam parody “Even Flowdor” are inspired. And “Red Wedding.” “Red Wedding.”

Again: Not an April Fools’ joke. You will not download these songs and find that they are all “Never Gonna Give You Up,” I swear to R’hllor. Listen to them now.

(via Geekosystem)

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30 Mar 16:40

Most first world thing ever said? Like the site? You’ll love the...

Most first world thing ever said?

Like the site? You’ll love the book (probably).

30 Mar 04:00

March 30, 2014

Starpocalypse will be at the Big Easy film festival! If you're in New Orleans and wanna see our dirty jokes on a big screen late at night, this is the place.
25 Mar 20:00

How Swedepop Happened

by Alex Balk
by Alex Balk

"Three-quarters of a century ago, Swedish authorities tried to put a stop to the pernicious encroachment of international pop music, and instead they accidentally built a hothouse where it flourished."


The post How Swedepop Happened appeared first on The Awl.

26 Mar 17:00

25 Things You Should Know About Life With A Toddler

by Miss Cellania

From the time they take their first steps to the time you send them off on the preschool bus, your life with a toddler is a trip through the looking glass. And just like Alice, you will be confused and confounded by something new every day. If you’ve never been totally in charge of a 2-year-old demon spawn from the pits of hell, you might find this amusing, if a bit incredible. If you’ve actually raised a child through the toddler phase, you will laugh uncontrollably at how spot-on this list really is.


Watching a toddler is like watching an alien creature build some kind of extraterrestrial machine. It’s like watching ritually-peculiar Druid magic, or the interpretive dance of a sentient spam-bot. Our boy-human will put on an Indiana Jones hat and start calling himself “Nemo.” He’ll hand you things and then demand you hold them and if you try to give them back you’ve broken some ancient changeling contract. He’ll require a very particular truck and if you hand him one that is 95% the same truck, he’ll actually hate you — like, maybe literally hate you — for at least two minutes. (Then he’ll forget.) He’ll place things around the room or perform a sequence of events that, for all you know, is meant to unlock some kind of apocalypse. It’s methodical and maddening, like a bird building a nest out of watch parts. Other times? He’s not like that at all.


Take a bunch of wolverines. Throw them into a roaring F5 tornado. That’s a toddler. It’ll tear through your home, shrieking and whirling about, scooping things up and depositing them elsewhere. It’ll lose things. It’ll destroy other things. It’ll change direction in the hair’s breadth of a moment — “I’m doing this no now I’m doing this other thing wait what’s that over there.”

Chuck Wendig’s observations as a father include a part about toddlers being “proto-teenagers.” As the parent of several teenagers, I look forward to his analogies when his child reaches that stage of life. And I will laugh then, too. -via Metafilter

(Image credit: Flickr user Janet McKnight)

22 Mar 13:05

Creationists Demand Equal Airtime With 'Cosmos'

by timothy
Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "Travis Gettys reports that creationist Danny Falkner appeared Thursday on "The Janet Mefford Show" to complain that the Fox television series and its host, Neil deGrasse Tyson, had marginalized those with dissenting views on accepted scientific truths. "I don't recall seeing any interviews with people – that may yet come – but it's based upon the narration from the host and then various types of little video clips of various things, cartoons and things like that," said Falkner of Answers In Genesis who also complained that Tyson showed life arose from simple organic compounds without mentioning that some believe that's not possible. "I was struck in the first episode where he talked about science and how, you know, all ideas are discussed, you know, everything is up for discussion – it's all on the table – and I thought to myself, 'No, consideration of special creation is definitely not open for discussion, it would seem." To be fair, there aren't a ton of shows on TV specifically about creationism says William Hamby. "However, there are entire networks devoted to Christianity, and legions of preachers with all the airtime they need to denounce evolution. Oh, and there was that major movie from a few years back. And there's a giant tax-payer subsidized theme park in Kentucky. And the movie about Noah. And entire catalogs of creationist movies and textbooks you can own for the low low price of $13.92.""

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21 Mar 04:00


Stanford sleep researcher William Dement said that after 50 years of studying sleep, the only really solid explanation he knows for why we do it is 'because we get sleepy'.
19 Mar 15:25

Martin Freeman Unleashes His Inner Minnesotan In the First Trailer for FX’s Fargo [VIDEO]

by Rebecca Pahle

Martin Freeman. In FX’s Fargo miniseries. Minnesota accent. Golly gee, I have been waiting for this trailer for months.

(via: Pajiba)

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18 Mar 16:00

5 Dance Moves We Learned At SXSW 2014 In GIFs

5 Dance Moves We Learned At SXSW 2014 In GIFs

Remember when you were little and you relied on friends or music videos to learn the latest dance moves? You couldn't rewind MTV to break down the steps, and you might look a fool for sashaying left instead of right, or whatnot. This is the beauty of the GIF, a motion suspended in looped animation that allows you all the time in the world to get that shimmy down. SXSW was full of crazy dance moves and we had Adam Kissick capture five worth emulating. See a gallery of his beautiful photos here and follow us on Flickr for much, much more.

Future Islands' Samuel Herring demonstrates the Buck-Up Bronco.

Future Islands.

Credit: Adam Kissick for NPR

One of Big Freedia's dancers gives us a Haters to the Left (or right, depending on your viewpoint).

Haters to the left.

Credit: Adam Kissick for NPR

In which St. Vincent's Annie Clark does the Minimalist Marionette.

In which Annie Clark does the robot.

Credit: Adam Kissick for NPR

Lee Spielman's Dead Weight is not so much a dance move but rather a mosh pit tactic when he's not terrorizing the Trash Talk crowd.

Trash Talk

Credit: Adam Kissick for NPR

We don't really know what Kristina Hanses (of Swedish performance art duo Kristal and Jonny Boy) is doing is here, but let's call it the Flower Flashdance.

Kristal and Jonny Boy

Credit: Adam Kissick for NPR

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit
18 Mar 15:28

Body mutilation can be rewarding.

Body mutilation can be rewarding.

17 Mar 18:50

The Hold Steady, "The Ambassador"

by Alex Balk
by Alex Balk

This was not what I was expecting, but I like it. A lot. [Via]


The post The Hold Steady, "The Ambassador" appeared first on The Awl.

13 Mar 22:51

Totally Revolting Birthday Cake Shaped Like "Split-Face" from The Thing

by Charlie Jane Anders

Totally Revolting Birthday Cake Shaped Like "Split-Face" from The Thing

We've seen birthday cakes shaped like all sorts of science fiction icons, including star destroyers . But it takes a special kind of geek to want a birthday cake fashioned after the "Split-Face" from John Carpenter's The Thing.



12 Mar 08:17

Street Fighter: The Movie: The 20-year Postmortem

by Rob Beschizza

It's so easy to find things wrong with 1994's Street Fighter movie, I thought that Chris Plante's epic feature about the flick wouldn't have any surprises. But it's wonderfully well-written, and packed with all sorts of morbid detail. Moroever, I feel like I understand something important about the mad thinking behind that whole early wave of Hollywood game-films, right down to the overpolished "blue steel" aesthetic they had.

Van Damme is shooting guns, causing all sorts of mayhem, and he shouts to Chun-Li and Balrog: "Go, go, I'll catch you later." Here's what Van Damme said the first time: "Go, go, I'll catch you later — cut, cut, cut!"

It's unusual for an actor to call cut; that's the director's role, but Van Damme was sure he'd said "ladder" instead of "later" and he demanded they do it over. [Director Steven E.] De Souza, stunned, noted the crew would need to rematch the bullet holes, rerig the actors who fell from catwalks back on their wires, clean off the costume and replace the blood packs. But Van Damme ordered another take. While the crew reset everything, Van Damme listened to the audio and realized he'd had it right. De Souza — vindicated, albeit after losing time and resources — decided to shoot the scene again for backup. Van Damme got in position. De Souza called action.

"Go, go," shouted Van Damme, "I'll catch you ladder!"

So much went wrong that it's a credit to De Souza that he managed to make it to the end. Even so, the palpable disinterest in the source material starts at the very beginning. Days into filming, the director and his stars stand around and realize that no-one on set, least of all themselves, know how to pronounce the name "Ryu."


07 Mar 15:57

Everybody's Rocking

by Tim O'Neil

Nine Inch Nails - "The Hand That Feeds" (With Teeth, 2005)

The 2000s were an awful time to be alive. Sure, things started out so promising, but a funny thing happened on the way to the millennium - America was attacked and we were sucked into a maelstrom of paranoia, repression, and warfare that has yet to abate thirteen years on, and which only exacerbated already negative economic trends that eventually blossomed into the ongoing rolling economic crises experienced across the globe since 2008.

As someone who experienced all this bullshit firsthand, I can attest to the fact that the decade's musicians did a surpassingly piss-poor job of responding to said bullshit. Protest music has always had an iffy reputation. Looking back at the great era of sixties protest songs, how many of them hold up as anything other than didactic bromides designed to advertise the ethical superiority of the singer? With the best of intentions musicians who try to make some kind of political "statement" often find themselves sinking into a deep quicksand of self-righteous, condescending superiority, or worse, simply replacing vague platitudes for meaningful engagement. (See: Exhibit One.) The best political music is usually angry, less focused on establishing the artist's perspicacity than in communicating the strident urgency of the moment - think punk in the late 1970s, hip-hop in the late 1980s, or, hell, even Rage Against the Machine on occasion in the 1990s. I'm sure anyone reading this can remember any number of political songs from the last decade, but how many of them were actually any good? Think hard before you answer.

No one expected that the decade's best protest anthem would come from Trent Reznor. I say "best" with no fear of contradiction, not simply because the competition is so piss-poor, but because it's a damn fine song. And what's more, after 1999's The Fragile it would have been impossible to predict that Reznor could have come back as strong and as assured as he did in 2005. To be more precise: it would not have surprised most people at all if Reznor had died in the aftermath of The Fragile, and the odds of his rebounding from that album and tour not simply alive, but healthy, fit, and focused were downright troubling.

Don't misunderstand me: The Fragile is still my favorite Nine Inch Nails album, hands down. The Downward Spiral has never been my favorite, and while Pretty Hate Machine is preternaturally strong, I was late to the party and my memories of that album are mostly second-hand. But The Fragile - I bought that album the day it was released and listened to the whole thing - both discs - probably a dozen times the first week I had it. I even remember making a special detour on a road trip just to buy the advance single for "The Day The World Went Away" the day of its release - only to be, er, a bit confused. (The song was a terrible first single, it didn't make a lick of sense until the album dropped, and the B-side "Starfuckers, Inc." is one of the most embarassing songs in the Nine Inch Nails catalog - and this from the guy who once wrote, "The devil wants to fuck me in the back of his car.") But as much as I still love The Fragile, I also recognize that its greatest strength is also its greatest weakness: it is one of the most solipsistic, ego-driven, navel-gazing documents ever recorded. It makes The Wall look like the Polyphonic Spree. If you can't buy into the fact . . . enjoy the fact that the record is a supreme monument to destructive self-absorption, you're going to find it insufferable. But if you can dig it, it's in a class by itself in terms of its full-throated commitment to the sensations of (arrested) adolescent egotism and self-loathing - and deep down isn't that what rock is all about, really?

It's easier to imagine Reznor being found dead in a hotel with six different kinds of narcotics in his system sometime around 2002 than it is to envision what actually happened, which is that he had a really rough patch after The Fragile but cleaned up, became a gym rat, got some serious focus and decided to go on a prolific streak that culminated in his winning a fucking Academy Award and marrying (!!!) his girlfriend and starting a new band with her. He has two children. What the fuck.

So it's not just that Reznor's mid-decade comeback was improbable - the success of "The Hand That Feeds" flew in the face of a much of the band's history. It's not as if Reznor had never been political before. I've always thought "Head Like A Hole" made a nice bookend with "The Hand That Feeds," and the surface similarities between the two tracks certainly create a nice symmetry underscoring the idea that With Teeth represented a rebirth for Reznor in many respects. But previous to this track his politics had been largely inchoate, vaguely defined, unfocused. There are political allusions in "Marsh of the Pigs" and a few other tracks, but Reznor as a political being was mostly a force of pure id, lashing out at faceless figures whose only purpose appears to be that of limiting the expression of free will - that is, a teenager lashing out against the omnipotent authority of "The Man." The interesting thing about "The Hand That Feeds," at least for me, is the way it immediately alerts the listener to the fact that Reznor is no longer interested in just talking about himself ad nauseam, but is genuinely trying to engage with a larger world outside the confines of his own head.

This is quite a clever track. Whereas many Bush-era political songs focused on either the man himself or vague homilies about the wages of war, Reznor did something a lot more difficult: he addressed not simply the politicians who lied their way into office and into two wars, but the political system that put them there and kept them there without levying any consequences for their malevolence. The lyrics in the first verse could be addressing Bush himself, or they could just as easily be aimed at the rank & file Republican voters who (sort of) swept him into office twice, or it could even be aimed more broadly at the larger plurality of Americans of any party who were fooled into following lockstep behind the military-patriotic-national-security complex that enacted a silent coup in the months following September 11th:
You're keeping in step
In the line.
Got your chin held high and you feel just fine
Cause you do
What you're told
But inside your heart it is black and it's hollow and it's cold.
Just who is Reznor talking two? He's not laying the blame at the feet of any one actor, any single person or group who deserves the credit for the debacle of the Bush years. In the chorus, he asks the listener,
Just how deep do you believe?
Will you bite the hand that feeds?
Will you chew until it bleeds?
Can you get up off your knees?
Are you brave enough to see?
Do you want to change it?
He's talking here about the ways in which faith can be used as a tool by unscrupulous operators to manipulate the masses (an easy enough theme of the period), but also the ways in which faith becomes a most convenient pretext for self-delusion. It's common knowledge that Bush's most fervent base was the evangelical right, a highly motivated interest group who the Bush team was happy to placate with nine years' worth of subtle and not-so-subtle dog whistles in the direction of exceedingly conservative social policy. But it's also true that any examination of the record will show that for all the bluster of the right during the Bush years, Bush himself really was not the fire-breathing culture-warrior his most rabid followers believed him to be. Sure, he surrounded himself with people who could talk the talk, but when push came to shove Bush himself really was hesitant put his weight behind intervening in too many divisive social policy issues. (Do you remember his comical Solomonian pre-9/11 compromise on stem cell research regulations?) Sure, he put two conservative (although not as conservative as he probably believed at the time) judges on the Supreme Court and stacked the federal bench, but even there it's easy to overestimate the effect of his appointments in the context of a historical moment that was on the verge of a hard leftward shift, at least in terms of social (if sadly not foreign, economic, or military) policy.

This is very similar, incidentally, to the ways in which Obama's most fervent supporters believe, deeply and truly, that he is a fire-breathing crusader for social justice, just beneath the milquetoast trappings of a compromise-hungry adherent to Clinton's disastrous "Third Way" DLC-approved conservative Democratic ideology. The one truly revolutionary facet of his presidency - the color of his skin - has proven capable of obscuring every other obvious sign that he is not and has never been the true-blue leftie agitator in whom his fans desperately wanted to believe. How deep do you believe? Are you brave enough to see just how badly our guy failed to live up to our make-believe expectations?

The next verse draws the song more tightly into focus as an Iraq and Afghanistan-era protest song:
What if this whole crusade's
A charade?
And behind it all there's a price to be paid
For the blood
On which we dine
Justified in the name of the holy and the divine.
Two disastrous wars in two far-off Muslim countries - often referred too either accusingly or triumphantly as "a crusade" - were conceptualized by their detractors as wars of blood for oil (oil which has, of course, failed to ever arrive). But instead of simply casting blame on the usual suspects, Reznor is careful to lay the blame precisely where it belongs: "we," those of us (all of us) who profit either enthusiastically or tacitly from the flexing of American military might and coercive foreign policy across the planet. We're all culpable here.

Complicity is key. It's not enough simply to be opposed to bad policy and unjust wars, how money of us actually manage to get up off our knees and do something about it? It's a simple observation but no less powerful for its familiarity. It's not just the Republican functionaries or "values voters" or Reagan Democrats with "black and hollow" hearts, or the moneyed interests who keep the whole machine running smoothly for their own benefit and no-one else's, and it's certainly not just the specter of Mr. George W. Bush himself - it's the whole damned system that allows the situation to fester indefinitely: "The best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are full of passionate intensity."

Musically, "The Hand That Feeds" is a textbook example of how a comeback single needs to sound. It's muscular and confident, every bit the attention-grabbing earworm that "The Day The World Went Away" was not. The album from which the song was plucked was similarly strong (and strangely slept-on in the years since), positively concise by Reznor's self-indulgent standards, filled with punchy hits and uncharacteristic straightforward hard-rock riffs. In scope and accessibility, With Teeth is the anti-Fragile, all killer no filler. It also marks a slight return to Reznor's dance-y origins, after having spent years distancing his subsequent material from the industrial dance sound of Pretty Hate Machine. "The Hand That Feeds" rumbles and it crunches, but most importantly it runs with sufficient momentum to knock down a tree. It's just a great song.

06 Mar 14:05

David Cameron Calls, And The Internet Answers

David Cameron Calls, And The Internet Answers

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit
01 Mar 02:00

My head just exploded.

by Cory Doctorow

Just look at it. (Sugary sweet J-pop goes death metal) (via Mefi)


27 Feb 16:00

Funny Children’s Book Satirizes Modern Art

by John Farrier

The Ladybird Book line still exists, but in the traditional sense, the name refers to a line of British children’s books that were published from the 1940s through 1970s. The had a standardized format including a listing of key vocabulary words on each page.

Miriam Elia, a writer and artist, has released the book We Go to the Gallery. It's a satire on modern art that in the form of a fake Ladybird book:

“I thought it would be humorous to see Mummy, Peter and Jane going to a really nihilistic modern art exhibition”, she says. Among the works confronted by the trio on their cultural outing are pastiches of Emin, Creed and Koons, through which they learn about sex, death, nothingness “and all of the debilitating, middle-class self-hatred contained in the artworks.”

You can see more a few more pages at The Independent.

-via American Digest

25 Feb 05:00

22 Feb 03:00

Gotham Needs You

by Miss Cellania

Alex told us about how useful it would be to name a child "Gotham" so that dad will get up and attend to him when he hears "Gotham needs you." I can’t say with any certainty whether that was the inspiration for today’s comic from Lunarbaboon, but his take on the idea is quite clever.

21 Feb 16:59

Who Killed The New 'RoboCop'?

Who Killed The New 'RoboCop'?

by Chris Klimek

Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) is a Detroit cop brought back from the brink of death — as a cyborg supercop built for reducing crime and increasing profit.

Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) is a Detroit cop brought back from the brink of death — as a cyborg supercop built for reducing crime and increasing profit.

Kerry Hayes/Sony Pictures

The Retouchables is a column examining the recycling of pop-cultural properties. Future installments will discuss remakes in development, or that should be, or that were made but should not have been, or for which I have written several script treatments. Did you not get them? Call me.

Our inaugural dispatch deconstructs a long-in-development remake that has finally come to semi-sweet fruition.

The Past Of The Future Of Law Enforcement

"It takes money to make money," one sadistic but enterprising outlaw tells another early in Paul Verhoeven's answer to Alexis de Tocqueville's Democracy in America, the pungent 1987 sci-fi satire RoboCop.

That's certainly the rationale behind the long-threatened, oft-delayed remake, which finally opened last week. Adjusting for inflation, RoboCop Redux cost between four and five times what Verhoeven's scrappy American debut did, and lavish visual effects and geek-baiting A-list cast aside, it's between one-fourth and one-fifth as inspired.

Even though the original got more out of its premise than anyone could've reasonably expected — even the studio, Orion Pictures, thought themselves generally above this sort of thing, at least until James Cameron's The Terminator became the picture that kept them solvent — a RoboCop remake was probably as inevitable as Judgment Day.

Briefly: RoboCop 2 (written by the hottest guy in comics at the time, Frank Miller, and directed by Irvin Kershner, who'd made a little sci-fi movie called The Empire Strikes Back that did okay) reprised the original's gruesome bloodletting and sardonic humor but underperformed, mostly because it was terrible. Next, a foundering Orion Pictures decreed that RoboCop 3 would be a kid-friendly picture, thereby insuring no kid would ever want to see it. It sat in the can for two years, was dumped in theatres in 1993, and tanked.

The rusted-out RoboCop brand sputtered on in a bizarre series of cartoons and made-for-TV — Canadian TV! — miniseries. The parent-approved tone of the early spinoffs was such an affront to my tween dignity that I swore off any and all non-theatrical RoboCop exports. However, noted critic and "filmatist" Outlaw Vern — author of the best and only critical study of the Steven Seagal ouvré — has been doing a very deep, very funny dive into the more outré corners of the Robo-verse with his RoboCop History Week posts.

José Padilha, the Brazilian director of the documentary Bus 174 and the pair of Elite Squad action pictures, was a sound choice to revive RoboCop on paper: He's made a string of arresting, controversial pictures outside of the U.S., and now he wants to crack the English-language market. That's precisely where the Dutch provocateur Verhoeven was a generation ago.

But now there's just too much money at stake for RoboCop '14 to be permitted an R rating or an actual point of view — two key assets Verhoeven had in abundance. (Depending on which report you believe, Verhoeven had to submit between six and 11 edits of RoboCop to the MPAA before the watchdog group would let it off with an R rating. That's what I mean when I say its R was "abundant." Verhoeven's preferred, unrated cut is the one the Criterion Collection issued on DVD, splattery ultraviolence intact.)

Part Man. Part Machine. All Cop.

The new movie isn't a insult to those of us who like this stuff, like the 2012 PG-13 remake of Verhoeven's follow-up R-rated sci-fi, Total Recall, was. It's just inert. It feels like what happens when someone with a conventionally melodic singing voice covers a song by Leonard Cohen or Bob Dylan – it's sensually nicer than the original, but less expressive.

Padilha's movie does time-strapped viewers a favor, I guess, by putting its best scene right at the top. The cold open is a televised op-ed from right-wing demagogue "Pat Novak" (Samuel L. Jackson) about the infallibility of the robots that've made possible the glorious U.S. occupation of Tehran, without a single American casualty! Shouldn't we deploy them at home, too?

We see civilians forcibly subjected to airport-style body scans in the street by towering Transformers, while an Army General — I forget his name, but it's probably Ripper or Kilgore or something like that — proffers the Cheneyesque opinion that "the honest ones" are grateful for this violation.

Then the suicide bombers, whom we're told in hedge-betting subtitles want to kill no one but themselves, show up and blow up, and a little boy "threatens" a truck-sized Armybot with a knife. It's all tense and chaotic and committed, and it primes us to expect an argumentative movie that never arrives.

There're a pair of other early scenes that manage to one-up the operatic quality of Verhoeven's original. When Murphy, the cop who gets robo-ed — in this telling, he remembers his human past the moment he wakes up in the lab — has a panic attack and runs out of the plant where they've built him, which turns out to be in the middle of a rice field in China. We see everything that remains of his organic body: His head, his right hand (the same one Clarence Boddicker shot off of him way back when, trainspotters!) and a pulsing, dewy, pink pair of lungs. That's the last inventive or surprising thing that happens, and there are still 75 minutes of movie left to go.

There are a handful of nods to the original that the diehards will laugh at, rather too loudly and knowingly, and no one else will notice.

This movie relates to the original RoboCop in the same way the Christopher Nolan Batman pictures relate to the Tim Burton Batman pictures (though it's not nearly as weird or personal a vision as either iteration of Batman): There's a sincere, honorable attempt by screenwriter Joshua Zetumer to make everything at least sort of plausible, which takes away the fever-dream quality that made the original so memorable.

For example: The RoboCop looking ahead from 1987 cannily avoided telling us what year it was taking place, though we can infer it was probably supposed to be earlier than 2014. The scenes of Murphy's transformation — resurrection, to use Verhoeven's word — are all shown from his POV, a sort of primitive version of Google Glass, as the development team tinkers with him. He's in and out consciousness, and he doesn't know how much time is passing, so we don't get to know.

But unless your name is Christopher Nolan, a nine-figure budget permits no such ambiguity. Test audiences do not like to be confused! Not for one minute! Even though confusing the audience for a brief spell is a fair and useful storytelling tool! So it's 2028 in this movie. The distance between one scene and the next is exactly THREE MONTHS LATER, the title cards reassure us. A shot of the U.S. Capitol is accompanied by the onscreen legend, WASHINGTON, DC. Thanks, movie.

The same goes for the performances: Yes, they're more naturalistic than the stylized, quotable, all-exclamation-points line readings the original gave us. There is crying in this one, and it's very believable crying. That's an improvement? Says you.

OmniConsumer products' hostile takeover of the Detroit Police Department has been dropped. OCP is now a robotics company, instead of an outfit that seems to dabble in everything (it's in the name, people!) that develops a cyborg marshal seemingly on a lark. Although they lie about to what extent he is or isn't a slave to his programming, they never deny that their new device is Alex Murphy, the policeman critically injured in the line of duty and whom they've outfitted with an advanced prosthetic body, instead of simply not addressing whose face they've just grafted onto their new machine. It all more or less makes sense, which blunts its effect as satire.

It's unclear if the filmmakers even wanted this film have a sardonic edge. It seems like an element they were forced to incorporate because it's part of the RoboCop brand.

RoboCop was far ahead of its time, but the times caught up and kept right on going. The sour subversion that seemed so unpredictable and dangerous in 1987 is ubiquitous now.

And save only for cyborg lawmen, everything it foretold has come to pass. Private contractors and unmanned drones fight our wars for us. We never go anywhere without our smartphones within reach. A generation of war veterans relies on advanced prosthetics made of strong, lightweight metals. People are on waiting lists to test Google glass. The physical transformation from man to machine that RoboCop '87 regarded with operatic horror now seems almost desirable.

Robo-dy's Perfect

The new RoboCop also succumbs to contemporary action-picture fashion by ending, and then ending some more, and then ending again. (When James Cameron's pre-Titanic movies did this, it was like a calling card, and each ending really was progressively more thrilling. But then James Cameron won an Oscar and went diving for 10 years, and everyone else in Hollywood tried to become his replacement.)

The original RoboCop has one of the punchiest, pithiest kickers ever: The Old Man fires evil schemer Dick Jones, Robo shoots Jones two or three or twelve times, exeunt Jones pursued by glass shards of what was the 80th-story window. The Old Man congratulates Robo on his marksmanship and asks his name.

"Murphy," says our guy, cracking a faint smile. Love that guy. Blackout. Credits.

It always reminded me of the ending of Billy Wilder's Some Like It Hot, when Jack Lemmon-in-drag finally confesses to his admirer that he's a man. "Nobody's perfect," the guy shrugs. Well, not always. But once I saw Some Like It Hot, some years after my 25th or 30th VHS viewing of RoboCop, it reminded me.

SPOILER: The end titles of feature The Clash's cover of "I Fought the Law." It seems subversive and cheeky because, hey, it's that band that wrote that M.I.A. song! Then you remember that cover was already a decade old when the original film came out. It was written when President Eisenhower was in office, the very guy who warned us in his farewell address that we should never, ever hand over control of of our public institutions to companies that build armed robots.

There is a punk-rock RoboCop out there, though, a film that speaks to the trepidation the prospect of tinkering with a classic has inspired in enterprising geeks everywhere. It's called Our RoboCop Remake, it's a fan-made scene-by-scene retelling by about 50 teams of filmmakers connected via the Channel 101 network, it runs just a hair longer than the original movie, it probably counts as Fair Use, and it's streaming right here.

Even the tagline is perfect: If anyone's going to ruin RoboCop, it's going to be us.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit
20 Feb 10:17

romanvs: love it

firehose shared this story from Garrett Guillotte.


love it

20 Feb 20:50

This is the best opening paragraph in any news story ever

by Xeni Jardin

Phil Toledano for The Atlantic magazine.

This has got to be the best lede of all time. And a great article, too. Caitlin Flanagan, writing about fraternities, law, liabilities, and corruption in the Atlantic magazine:

One warm spring night in 2011, a young man named Travis Hughes stood on the back deck of the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity house at Marshall University, in West Virginia, and was struck by what seemed to him—under the influence of powerful inebriants, not least among them the clear ether of youth itself—to be an excellent idea: he would shove a bottle rocket up his ass and blast it into the sweet night air. And perhaps it was an excellent idea. What was not an excellent idea, however, was to misjudge the relative tightness of a 20-year-old sphincter and the propulsive reliability of a 20-cent bottle rocket. What followed ignition was not the bright report of a successful blastoff, but the muffled thud of fire in the hole.

"The Dark Power of Fraternities" [The Atlantic]