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Where I write all things Justin. Call me a Daydream Belieber!
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Guns N’ Roses Reunion: Audience Rider



Dear Axl and Slash,

I hear you two have finally buried the hatchet. That’s nice. It’s not good to hold grudges against old friends, particularly friends that have accomplished so much together. So congratulations on letting bygones be bygones and reconnecting. Did you hug it out? I bet that smelled weird.

I also hear that now that you’re pals again, you’ve decided to get Guns N’ Roses back together for a world tour that will presumably make all the money (adjusted for inflation). That sounds interesting at first blush, but it also raises a lot of questions. As declining attendance and brutal reviews for recent “Guns N’ Roses” shows suggests, even the hugest GNR fans — of whom I was certainly one back in the day — don’t want to go to just anything labeled “Guns N’ Roses.”

If the legendary excess of the 1991 Use Your Illusion tour (which I saw in both D.C. and Philadelphia) is any indication, I assume that the rider for this tour will be roughly the size of a phone book, and given that you’ll be earning the GDP of a midsize industrialized nation, that is to be expected. But there are a few things we will need in order to fulfill our side of the contract, so before you announce the tour you’ll want to take a look at our rider:

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The Media’s Ben Carson Bias


Presidential candidate, retired brain surgeon, and champion squinter Ben Carson has had a big couple of weeks. Now the frontrunner for the Republican nomination, he’s facing a level of scrutiny he had apparently not previously imagined, which suggests that this isn’t just the first presidential campaign he’s ever run, it’s the first one he has ever seen.

The coordinated media conspiracy to discredit Carson began when they fact-checked his autobiography, a totally unprecedented, shockingly underhanded attack. CNN found that Carson’s tales of a violent youth spent trying to murder his immediate family — presumably played up to set his the triumph of his religious conversion into sharper relief — were not entirely true, and Politico found his tale of being offered a scholarship to West Point by General William Westmoreland in Ronald Reagan’s living room while Barry Goldwater played the piano while Ayn Rand sang “Silent Night” did not strictly actually literally happen.

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Clinton Needs A Kubrick


Congressional Republicans’ three-year inquiry into the deaths of four Americans during a violent 2012 incident at the U.S. Embassy in Libya entered its eighth (waxing gibbous) phase last week when the newly empaneled House Select Subcommittee on Benghazi followed in the footsteps of seven previous Congressional committees, convening for their first and only hearing with their one and only witness: former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Coming off a relatively shart-free performance in the first Democratic debate, Clinton’s stock was rising: every media outlet insisted that she won the debate, even though public polling and that one annoying guy in your News Feed told a different story.

In any case, Republicans reasoned, whatever bounce Clinton might have seen in the days after the debate would certainly crumble when the valiant Trey Gowdy, armed with two stacks of printed emails and an overmatched antiperspirant would rip off her mask and reveal the malevolent puppet master that engineered the attack. Or ignored it? Mislabeled it! She definitely did something wrong, and it probably had to do with her email, and the Republicans were all set to keep her in that hearing room until she confessed to something.

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Live at Brit Pack NYC, 10/9/2015

Alex Castle at Brit Pack Theatre NYC, 10/9/15 from Alex Castle on Vimeo.

Parting Ways with Bernie


As much as it pains me to say it, I’m afraid Hillary Clinton wrapped up the Democratic Presidential nomination this week, roughly nine months ahead of schedule, at the CNN-Facebook debate in Las Vegas. Not because she had a particularly strong performance, because she didn’t. Not because she ritually sacrificed a donkey wearing a tousled white wig and drank its blood backstage, though she probably did. But because Bernie Sanders, the rival she never saw coming, whose fundraising and poll numbers improbably grew to challenge her own without the 15-year head start, name recognition, war chest, or flexible moral compass inexplicably handed it to her for no apparent reason.

Asked by moderator Anderson Cooper about her use of a private e-mail server, Clinton gave a long, rambling answer about how it was allowed by the State Department, but it was still a mistake, and anyway it’s nothing but a political witch hunt, and anyway she’s cooperating and wouldn’t we all rather be talking about something else, like what a great president she’s going to be?!

It wasn’t a great answer, and it did little to convince anyone that their misgivings about the secret email server were overblown, but in the middle of it Sanders raised his hand to indicate he wanted to respond. When Clinton finished, Cooper called on Sanders, who bafflingly didn’t just throw her a life preserver, he pulled up alongside her in a 50-foot yacht, helped her aboard, and handed her a chilled prosecco.

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Guns N’ Assholes


So another one of these assholes armed himself like the Terminator and indiscriminately shot a bunch of strangers, this time at a community college in Oregon, killing nine people and wounding 10 more. It seems that This Asshole, like so many Assholes before him, purchased his weapons legally. It also appears that he blogged on a bit-torrent site about previous assholes, specifically the Last Asshole, the one who shot the newscasters:

I have noticed that so many people like [the Last Asshole] are alone and unknown, yet when they spill a little blood, the whole world knows who they are. A man who was known by no one, is now known by everyone. His face splashed across every screen, his name across the lips of every person on the planet, all in the course of one day. Seems like the more people you kill, the more you’re in the limelight.

It’s unclear whether This Asshole was in it strictly for the limelight, or if there were other factors. It seems he had some religious hangups, and he closed his eyes knowing he’d be famous forever.

But the joke’s on him, because we hardly even notice these things anymore. It’s a big thing on social media for a day or two and then pffft. And this was pretty garden variety stuff. Just marching around shooting everyone in sight? That’s been done. The next asshole is going to really have to do something special if he wants to be remembered for more than a couple of news cycles. Like put on a RoboCop outfit, or commit the massacre from the seat of a unicycle. He could broadcast the whole thing on Periscope and get all super theatrical about it, like a 21st-century Zodiac! In today’s super-competitive asshole marketplace, you’ve really got to go the extra mile.

Does anyone remember the Last Asshole’s name? What about the Charleston Asshole? Anyone? Anyone even remember which Asshole came before Charleston? Was it the “Trainwreck” Asshole, or the Santa Barbara Asshole? I feel like the Fort Hood Asshole was in there somewhere. No, not the first Fort Hood Asshole that killed 17 people, that was 2009. There’s been like a dozen more assholes since then. I’m talking about the second Fort Hood Asshole, he only got like three. You don’t remember the second Fort Hood Asshole?

Since the 1999 Columbine Assholes, when (half) the nation first sat up straight and resolved to Do Something About This, when Michael Moore made BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE and became the Right wing’s favorite piñata, there have been 31 Flavors of these Assholes, so many that I had forgotten most of them.

I certainly seem to have grown some thick emotional calluses. These things used to bring me to tears, and now they rate little more than a solemn head shake, a deep sigh, and then back to business. My Facebook is full of all the same arguments as the last time, and the time before that, with both sides saying all the same things as last time, and nobody’s minds changing, myself included.

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Could Pope Francis Save Volkswagen?


I’m no historian, but when I was in school there are two facts I learned about the 1960 presidential election that always stayed with me:

  1. John F. Kennedy won the election largely on the strength of his performance in the televised debate. Although people who listened to the debate on the radio thought his opponent, Richard Nixon, got the better of him, TV watchers were hypnotized by Kennedy’s steady, handsome gaze and repulsed by Nixon’s nervous, sweaty, shifty, beady, slightly creepy, overcaffeinated, underrested, shockingly visible difficulty hiding an unslakeable thirst for power and lust to punish his enemies, and, uh… what was I talking about again?
  2. Oh yeah: Despite his youth, vigor, good looks, war record, and clearly articulated vision for the country, there was one thing about Kennedy that made people uneasy: he was Catholic. Critics worried that Kennedy would take his orders from the Vatican, rather than from the Constitution, that the Pope would have his own Batphone in the Oval Office, which he would use to order Kennedy to… what? I don’t know what kind of treason people thought Kennedy might commit in the service of the pontiff, but it was a big deal at the time.

What a difference a half century makes. Judging by Pope Francis’ rapturous reception in the U.S. over the last couple of days, we aren’t just okay with the pope having an influence in Washington; we’re holding a televised competition to see who can get down on their bellies and lick his boots the cleanest.

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Bugs, Drunks, and Undocumented Workers

Illegal immigration is the biggest problem facing the United States right now you guys. I have never seen any firsthand evidence of that, but the fact that it seems to be the only thing any of the candidates on the stage at the second Republican Presidential debate wanted to talk about must mean that it’s super important, right? The only subjects that came close, in terms of time spent on them during the debate, were Who Hates Planned Parenthood The Most and Who Will Be Quickest To Bomb Iran. The Republican frontrunner has made illegal immigration the centerpiece of his campaign and it’s lifted him to a wide lead over the rest of the field, so that means this is what Americans (or at least Republicans) are worried about, right?

People are coming from other countries and stealing American jobs! Even worse, they’re sponging off of the infrastructure and services that American tax dollars pay for without making any contribution themselves!

It’s a very serious problem, and the Republican candidates have a lot of Big Ideas about how best to handle it. Should we build a big giant gold-plated wall along the Mexican border? Should we spend $400 to $600 billion dollars to deport the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently in the country? Should we dig a really big hole in the middle of the desert and point an arrow-shaped sign reading “DRUGS AND FISH TACOS” at it and push them all in? Should we just nuke San Francisco?

I know what you’re saying: That’s not why we should nuke San Francisco!

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Shut Up About Kim Davis


Can we stop with this Kim Davis thing? Please?

On the merits, I agree: the Rowan County, KY clerk who was recently jailed for her refusal to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples is a bigot, and a hypocrite (she’s been married three times), and her fashion sense is appalling. She is clearly unfit to do her job and should be fired. I don’t see how anyone who doesn’t take the Bible literally could dispute any of that.

I have not followed the story closely, and by that I mean that I have not clicked on anything with her name or face on it. But this story has been inescapable enough that I have inferred the broad strokes, because this dullard has been coming through my social feeds roughly 7,000 times a day for the last two weeks, as all us Enlightened Liberals look down our noses at her and belittle her religious beliefs and her sister-wife outfit and chortle as Survivor sues her for using “Eye of the Tiger” without permission.

And that is exactly what she, and more precisely, all her supporters want: they want us to expose ourselves as Liberal Elitists who are persecuting Christians and hate religious freedom, in hopes of winning more moderate Christians over to their side. Read More

We’re All On The Ashley Madison List

A dating website that helps married people cheat has been hit by hackers who threatened to release information about millions of customers.

I should make this very clear up front: I don’t want to cheat on my wife.

I want to stay married, and I don’t want to hurt her. If I ever start to wonder if she’d really mind if I stepped out on her, I need only imagine the shoe on the other foot. Call me old-fashioned, but the thought of her cheating on me is painful, and that’s not something I would ever want to inflict on her, the best friend I’ve ever had. I’m a man, and I have eyes, and I have thoughts, and I have had an opportunity or two over the years (and I have no doubt that all those things are true for her as well), but I don’t want to hurt her, and I want to stay married. I don’t cheat, I won’t cheat, I can’t cheat.

Even if I wanted to, and found a woman who agreed to my conditions (I’m never leaving my wife, she must never know of this, you cannot have my phone number or any other contact information for me, if I ever see you in public I will pretend we’ve never met), it just doesn’t stand up to a cost-benefit analysis.

First of all, I’ve been with my wife, and only with my wife, since 1998. Maybe I should be more confident, but I feel like an encounter with a new person at this point would be so vanishingly brief that both parties would regret it immediately.

It seems likely that male vanity would then come into play: “I can’t have this person wandering around out in the world thinking I’m a two-pump chump,” I’d think to myself, which would compel me to try and see this person again so I could get another crack at breaking the five-second barrier. Now it’s not just one night, it’s an affair, and affairs threaten marriages.

We are not slavering beasts of the field, subject to imperatives we can’t control. We have developed a frontal lobe, and it can think a couple of moves ahead, past the immediate pleasures of the now. It can contemplate consequences and change course. What happens when I put my pants back on? How do I get out of here? Do I need to burn these clothes? She knows I’m not available, right? She’s not going to call, right? She’s not going to hit me up on Facebook, right? She’s not going to tag me on Instagram, right?

Cost-benefit analysis: Twenty Ten Three seconds of pleasure for weeks, maybe months, of sneaking around and diving for my phone and fake email addresses and general anxiety? The Board votes no.

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