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Where I write all things Justin. Call me a Daydream Belieber!
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Why Is Everyone Mad At Dave Grohl?

screen-shot-2014-08-10-at-10-11-31-pmI am not what you’d call a fan of the Foo Fighters. (Are they THE Foo Fighters or just Foo Fighters? Are they fighting against Foo or under its banner? What is this Foo, anyway? If I was a fan I guess I wouldn’t have to ask these kind of questions.) I don’t actively dislike them, I don’t find them annoying, I’ve just never been compelled by the sound of their music to seek out more of their music. I like that one song about if everything could ever be this good forever, but that’s about as deep as my knowledge of their almost 20-year career goes.

Even so, I have really been enjoying their show, FOO FIGHTERS: SONIC HIGHWAYS, which has been airing Friday nights on HBO, and which (judging by my social media feeds) is inspiring a rather acidic backlash against its creator, Foo Fighters majordomo Dave Grohl.

Grohl’s filmmaking career began a couple years ago when he directed the documentary SOUND CITY, about the Los Angeles recording studio where his old band, Nirvana, recorded the “Nevermind” album, Fleetwood Mac recorded its first album after absorbing Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham (the one with “Rhiannon” and “Landslide”), and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers recorded “Damn The Torpedoes.” The movie culminates in Grohl buying the iconic, one-of-a-kind Neve mixing desk from the studio as it permanently closes its doors, installing it in his house, and recording some new tracks with the Foo Fighters and some of the people featured in the film — Stevie Nicks, John Fogerty, Rick Springfield. The movie was very well received, particularly by music nerds like me.

Thus emboldened, Grohl created SONIC HIGHWAYS on the premise that (I’m paraphrasing) all music is influenced by the place where it’s recorded. One way or another, Grohl argues in voiceover, the history and the vibes of a place seep into the music that’s created there. So we watch each week as Grohl and the Foo Fighters set out to record each song for a new album (the just-released “Sonic Highways”) in a different city, and give a little music history lesson about that city along the way, complete with interviews with each city’s rock luminaries, with each episode ending with the Foo Fighters performing the song they recorded there.

Why is everyone so pissed off about that? Read More

Stevie Wonder Isn’t Charging Enough


This thing has been going on for the last several years, where a band does a concert performing one of their albums in its entirety. It’s a great idea and I am fully in favor of it; I saw Sonic Youth play all of “Daydream Nation” a few years back, and I saw the Melvins do “Houdini,” and they were both great shows.

But it was only a matter of time until someone took this idea and delivered something truly transcendent, and that’s what happened last week at Madison Square Garden when Stevie Wonder kicked off his “Songs In The Key Of Life” tour.

Even logging onto Ticketmaster at the exact moment tickets went on sale, the literal top row of the arena was the best I could do, for $99.50 a seat — $117 with service fees. This felt a little crazy. I had to confirm with the wife that we really wanted to spend this kind of money to just barely even be in the building, but that was a pretty easy decision. We saw him from the top row at MSG in 2007 and it was terrific — Stevie was in great voice, he had two great guest stars (Tony Bennett for a torch-song version of “For Once In My Life,” Prince on “Superstition”), the sound in the arena was surprisingly good, and he didn’t play anything he recorded after 1980. It was a great show all around, more than good enough to justify the price of these new tickets.

Not everyone saw it that way, though: a friend on the West Coast posted the tour announcement on his Facebook page and, noting the ticket price ($175 for floor seats), declared it a “Pass,” and a thread soon began poo-poohing the whole enterprise:

“I heard he has three keyboard players on stage with him (meaning he’s not the musician he used to be).”
“Good call. I saw Jordan when he was on the Wizards and felt dirty after.”
“Maybe if it was in a smaller place.”
“I’ve seen him and once was enough.”

I just want to take the opportunity to tell those skeptics that YOU COULDN’T POSSIBLY BE MORE WRONG.

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The United States of Obstruction


Election Day came and went this week, but you don’t need me to tell you that. Your Facebook feed was probably full of reminders and admonishments to get out and vote, as well as forwarded articles about the dire consequences of allowing the Republicans to take control of the Senate (or, if you’re a member of my family not typing this piece, the dire consquences of allowing the Democrats to retain control of the Senate). My Twitter feed was also full of predictions that polling suggested the GOP would soon have full command of the Congress unless Democrats showed up and voted in higher-than-usual numbers.

I had no reason to doubt these predictions; advance polling is usually correct about these things, at least in the broad strokes. And I certainly don’t share the Republicans’ vision of what constitutes a good government.

I still didn’t vote, though.

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It’s Just Not Gonna Happen Like That

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I don’t think anything has ever appeared in my Facebook feed as many times in such a short period as the video of the woman walking the streets of Manhattan, stonefaced and in plain clothes, while a hidden camera records all the dudes she passes who call out to her.

What’s been particularly odd to me, as with so many other Internet controversies, is what has unfolded in the various comment sections where this video is being discussed: so many guys seem to feel a need to defend their Constitutional right to start unprompted conversations with female passersby on the street, to insist that their intentions are noble and their hearts are pure, that all they want is to “brighten someone’s day” and that they are “just men being men” and that the “feminazis” spreading this “deceptively edited” video apparently want to make “being friendly illegal” because most of the interactions “aren’t even that bad” and “not all men do this.”

Not only was this video eye-opening in terms of the extent to which women have to deal with this — I knew it happened but had never considered how frequently — I had no idea how many guys out there felt so strongly about preserving their right to continue doing it. Maybe I’m just a coward, but when I was single way back in the 20th century, I never once, not ever, approached a female on the street, much less yelled something out at someone walking by, because it seems so face-slappingly obvious that it would never, ever get me anywhere. Does it ever work for anyone, ever?

I am not trying to pretend that I am above such base impulses. I live in New York City, the world capital of beautiful women walking around on the street. It’s one of the greatest things about living here. I’ve been happily and faithfully married for 14 years, but I still have eyes, and I can hardly walk two blocks without noticing someone whom I’d enjoy the opportunity to notice longer. I am a neanderthal scumbag between my ears just like everyone else.

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Zell To Pay


As the worldwide scandal of an actress appearing in public with a slightly different appearance than what the public remembered moved into its third electrifying day, the Internet was ablaze with speculation. What, specifically, had the actress done to herself to change her look so noticeably? How are we, as a society, responsible and complicit for moving her to commit such an atrocity?

The actress, Renee Zellweger, hasn’t been in any movies for a few years, or any good ones for even longer, and she does indeed look a little different than most of us remember: Her squinty little eyes are not so squinty anymore, her round, baby-fat cheeks are not so round, and her skin tone is not so flushed. Since the world demanded answers to this most baffling and important of mysteries, a host of plastic surgeons weighed in on various websites to opine about exactly what procedures she’d had done. Brow lift? Chemical Peel? Botox? Cheek injections? All of the above?

No one seemed to believe Zellweger’s own explanation, given to People Magazine in response to the outcry:

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The Techbros Are Our Future


This week a curious piece of video went viral: a real time dispute, shot on a cell phone, over the use of a soccer field in San Francisco. It seems that some dudes from Dropbox wanted to play some dudes from Airbnb so they went online and paid $34 to reserve a field. When they got there they were told by the local teenagers using the field that their permit was meaningless; The field had its own longstanding system, where if you want to play you challenge the team on the field, and if you win you get the field and take on the next challenger.

I clicked on this video because of the headline: “Dropbox Dudes Tried To Kick Kids Off A Soccer Field.” Those Dropbox Dudes sound like assholes, I thought to myself. I lived in San Francisco for six years, I still have a lot of friends there, and I left at least part of my heart there back in 2001. I care about the city and I’m interested in what happens to it. So I clicked and read on:

Tech bros will stop at nothing to get what they perceive to be theirs. In the latest example of unchecked hubris, we witness as a squad of adults in Dropbox jerseys argue with and cuss at children over a San Francisco soccer field.

The post concludes, “You couldn’t cast a more symbolic display of tech-fueled gentrification in San Francisco.”

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Sad news in the rock and roll world last week: Australian powerhouse AC/DC announced that rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young, older brother to band mascot Angus Young, is suffering from dementia and has left the band, and will be replaced by his nephew.

Word is that the band plans to continue its 40-year career with a big anniversary tour to support its new album, “Rock Or Bust.” I am sure that this tour will be very lucrative — AC/DC’s last tour was the most successful of their career, raking in $441 million, the fourth highest-grossing rock tour of all time.

They should quit while they’re ahead.

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Lena Dunham Doesn’t Have To Pay


It’s hard to think of a public figure more inexplicably reviled than Lena Dunham, the young actress/filmmaker/author whose every thought, word, and deed seems to stir up digital vitriol on par with that enjoyed by Kim-Jong Un, Saddam Hussein or Gwyneth Paltrow.

It seems that Ms. Dunham is doing an 11-city tour to promote her new book, and rather than just read a chapter and then sign copies, as is the norm for book tours, she decided to make it more of an event, and through her website solicited audition videos from performers to join the bill and perform, presumably as opening acts.

But as Gawker was quick to point out, the performers chosen were not going to be paid for their performances, thus setting off the biggest wave of online finger-pointing since the last time Lena Dunham did something in public.

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Neat Freak

Neat Freak from Alex Castle on Vimeo.

Alex Castle performs “Neat Freak” at the Brit Pack Theater, NYC, 9/12/14.

Ello, I Must Be Going

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I’ve noticed over the past couple of years that people’s disdain for Facebook seems to be in direct proportion to how much they use it. It’s the people that post upwards of ten times a day that complain the most about how much they hate it. I can’t think of anything else that people use so much while simultaneuously professing that they hate it, other than cocaine.

Those same people are the ones most excited about Ello, the new social networking site that promises all the functionality of Facebook without any ads or data-mining or games or videos or events or other people to clutter up or otherwise ruin the experience.

My Facebook feed has been full of people ostentatiously bidding Facebook adieu as they jump to Ello. “This is the last you’ll ever see of me. So long, Suckerberg!” Something tells me they’ll be back.

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