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The Not a Pussy Party

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After a primary season that included approximately 247 debates, 63 candidates, more than 388,000 tweets (over 382,000 from @realdonaldtrump), and 44 “campaign-killing” gaffes (also all by Trump), and two party conventions, we’ve finally made it to the General Election. Break out the champagne, and the mood stabilizers!

The Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton, somehow still standing after 25 years of (unproven) scandals while serving as First Lady, Senator from New York, and Secretary of State, would be the most unpopular major-party nominee of all time, if the Republicans hadn’t nominated Celebrity Apprentice host and sentient Internet comment Donald J. Trump. Poor Hillary — always, it seems, a bridesmaid.

Having two such disliked candidates in the race suggests to some that this election will have a historically low turnout, because so few people are engaged and enthusiastic about the person representing their respective party. But then again, only on the rarest of occasions are we engaged and enthusiastic about our candidates in this country. We don’t really vote for our party here so much as we vote against the other one.

And if there were one person on this Earth who could inspire an ambivalent Republican voter to get over their issues with Donald Trump (including but not limited to: total inexperience and laughable grasp of foreign policy, domestic policy, tax policy, or public policy of any kind, complete absence of any impulse control, near perfect ignorance of world history or events, catastrophic lack of empathy, transparently thin skin, long history of shady business practices, short fingers, weird hair, baffling tan, and Mob connections) just to vote against the other party, that person is Hillary Clinton.

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NRA Poster Boys Killed By Cops

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A consistent feature of our nation’s long debate over whether and how to combat the ongoing problem of people who shouldn’t be getting shot getting shot has been the argument that our society would be safer if more of us were carrying firearms. While another faction has responded to the growing number of mass shootings in America by working to strengthen laws restricting access to guns, there has been a countermovement toward more permissive concealed-carry and open-carry laws, based on the principles that a) we are all granted the right to bear arms in self-defense in the Constitution and b) more theoretically, that more armed citizens means would-be shooters will think twice before drawing down, as their target very well may be equipped to shoot back. Also, c) what are you, a pussy?

Last week’s matched pair of police shootings, in Louisiana and Minnesota, have once again drawn attention to the apparent tendency of some officers to shoot black people for negligible offenses. It would be very hard to argue that there isn’t at least some racism at the root of these killings, and I don’t intend to. But as a thought experiment, removing race from the equation does help to put the lie to the notion that a more widely armed citizenry would be a safer one.

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The Best Part of The Godfather is Bullshit

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I found myself watching Francis Ford Coppola’s undisputed all-time heavyweight champion of Serious Cinema, The Godfather, on HBO not long ago. Actually, it was the newfangled five-hour monstrosity The Godfather Saga, which combines The Godfather and The Godfather Part II, rearranges them into chronological order, so the De Niro-as-Young Don Corleone scenes are first, then the original movie, then all the Lake Tahoe and Havana material from Part II. This new cut also restored some scenes that were cut from the original movies, because five hours isn’t long enough.

This was not appointment viewing, I just happened upon it while flipping channels, so I came in partway through, toward the end of the De Niro scenes. Soon enough, I was just watching The Godfather with extra scenes, most of them between Al Pacino’s Michael Corleone and Diane Keaton’s Kay. The first thing I noticed was that Coppola’s editor made the right move cutting all these extra Michael-Kay scenes, because the chemistry between Pacino and Keaton is about as hot as a half-hour old piece of toast. Then again, Al Pacino has never really been able to generate convincing chemistry with any of his leading ladies, which is probably why he so seldom has them.

Anyway, I was only half paying attention to the movie until we came to the wedding scene — specifically, the part where Michael, who has been overseas fighting in World War II and has stayed out of the Family Business, explains to Kay, his new girlfriend (not wife — girlfriend) how Don Corleone helped Sinatraesque singer Johnny Fontaine get out of his contract with the Harry Jamesesque bandleader:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UhnsHvz7UL8

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Donald Trump’s Greatest Failure

What would you guess sentient Internet comment and presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump would say is the most valuable piece of real estate in the world?

Real Estate is, of course, Trump’s primary business. It is the keystone of his fortune and his greatest claim to fame (which is, of course, his secondary business). His 1987 book The Art of the Deal, an apocryphon of his prowess in negotiating multimillion-dollar deals like the one to build the garishly appointed Trump Tower, climbed to the top of the New York Times bestseller list, knocking the formidable Dave Barry Is Still Definitely Not Making This Up and Garfield Gets Feline Diabetes down to #2 and #3 and stayed there for 14 weeks until it was knocked out by Losing Weight the Oprah Way. He is a self-professed expert in his field.

After squirming his way into the New York tabloids through his big Real Estate deals in the ’80s and his affinity for bejeweled bottle blondes, Trump was able to parlay that small bit of fame into bigger fame, and that bigger fame into a bigger brand. It’s often said that for all his triumphs in Real Estate, Trump’s true genius lies in Brand Marketing, having slapped his name on everything from steaks to bottled water to an online university.

So what is Trump’s dearest real estate asset? Is it Trump Tower? The Trump Taj Mahal? His Mar-A-Lago Florida estate? His winery? One of his many golf courses? The high-tech underground lair where his hairpiece is constructed anew each morning?

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Berning Out

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This blog has not been reticent in its support for Bernie Sanders. The conscientious reader may recall our hearty endorsement a few months back.

TL;DR: Bernie Sanders has been on the right side of pretty much every issue where everyone else was wrong (and wrong at tremendous cost). His ideas about free college and fully socialized medicine, much as I may like them, do not seem likely to pass any Congress at all similar to the one we have now, but his judgment has been proven right time and again, and that’s good enough for me.

Likewise, this blog has not been effusive in its praise for Hillary Clinton. We do not have anything particularly against Mrs. Clinton personally, but she has failed to inspire in the way that Barack Obama did, the way Bernie Sanders has, the way even Donald Trump has. It is unclear to us what exactly Hillary Clinton wants to do as president, other than Be President.

This blog is not a fan of Mrs. Clinton’s email scandal, or her campaigning style, or her susceptibility to donoritis. She is not our first choice. But now that Donald Trump has sealed the Republican nomination and begun to train his attacks on her, it’s time for Bernie Sanders to drop out and let her have it.

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Live at Tuft Theater Denver, 4/15/2016

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FpCfVOkhI68

0:00 — Neat Freak
2:10 — Your Little Finger
4:54 — Life’s Too Long
8:33 — Rid Of Her
13:00 — The Extra Verse

The Lemons in Beyoncé’s Lemonade

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Even with my advanced age and near-total lack of exposure to pop music in the year of our Lord 2016 — a year in which my most recent live-music experience was with the world’s premier classic Van Halen tribute band — I couldn’t help being taken in by the exciting release of Beyoncé’s new album, Lemonade.

It was exciting because of how she did it: announcing a program called Lemonade with no other details on HBO two days before it aired, goosing people’s anticipation about what it might be. Most people correctly guessed that it was another previously unannounced album, like her last one, Beyoncé. Even more interesting, once people heard it, was the album’s content: an apparently extremely confessional (or very persuasively performed) musical psychodrama about a female protagonist — let’s just call her Schmeyoncé — working through her feelings about being cheated on by an unnamed hound dog — Schmay-Z, we’ll call him. It’s raw, it’s emotional, her voice is terrific, the production sounds great, it has already sold a trillion copies, and it’s dominated the pop-culture conversation for a week now.

Speculation is wild about who exactly Schmay-Z may have cheated with, and whether his marriage to Schmeyoncé is still operative, and above all WHO IS BECKY WITH THE GOOD HAIR? Other people speculated that it was all just a big marketing stunt. There was a lot to talk about in all this, and any way you looked at it, there was a lot to give Beyoncé credit for: for her emotional honesty in writing about such painful subject matter, for pushing the lyrical content of pop music into such bold new places, for her promotional savvy.

To clarify, I am no particular fan of Beyoncé, by which I mean I have not actively followed her career, never bought any of her music, don’t have her picture in my locker. I like her just fine, but I am aware of her strictly on a pop-culture level. Anytime I have happened to see her performing on television, I am invariably wowed by her. (Try singing and dancing in perfect sync with an army of backup dancers at the same time. Now try BELTING and dancing at the same time.) She obviously works hard, she is possessed of a phenomenal instrument, she looks amazing on stage — what’s not to like?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ViwtNLUqkMY

But I have not seen anyone giving her any credit for something that to me is more significant than any of those other things: that Beyoncé is inventing a totally new kind of pop music.

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Don’t Go Kobe Good Riddance

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Kobe Bryant, one of the greatest basketball players ever and bar none the easiest to root against, played his final NBA game this week, a come-from-behind win over Memphis that served as an exciting end to a 20-year career distinguished by five NBA titles, an MVP award, 18 All-Star games, and a rape trial settled out of court. The 38-year-old star turned in a vintage performance emblematic of his career as a whole: he took 50 shots to score 60 points, cementing his lifelong reputation as a ball hog, shameless chucker and awful teammate.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BdGeXcJ-hfo

Admittedly, I am not a huge sports fan. I don’t really have favorite teams. I root for Drama. I root for whoever’s behind to hit a buzzerbeater to send it into overtime and force a seventh game. Since that kind of drama is not readily available in the regular season, no matter what sport you like, I don’t really watch much sports until the later rounds of the playoffs — but I pretty much always watch the later rounds of the playoffs.

But Kobe Bryant spent the majority of his career reaching the later rounds of the playoffs, so I have watched a lot of Kobe Bryant, and though he should obviously have retiredthis three seasons ago, after he had sustained his first Achilles injury — the kind no one comes back from — but before he signed a three-year extension with the Lakers for max salary, I will be genuinely sorry to see him go.

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Bernie and Hillary at Twenty Paces

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The race for the Democratic nomination for president is starting to get nasty, or what passes for nasty in the Democratic race: Hillary Clinton’s demurral when asked whether Bernie Sanders is qualified to be president was reported as her stating that he is not, and Sanders retorted that Clinton’s votes and past positions on the War in Iraq, gay civil rights, banking reform, and shoulder pads disqualified her from being president.

That’s not enough nasty to move the nasty needle among the Republican candidates, whose discourse has most recently centered on hand/lap size, direct insults, and open blackmail, but different strokes, I guess.

Clearly, neither Bernie nor Hillary ever expected the race to be this close; Hillary neglected to take Bernie seriously for far longer than she should have, and Bernie stuck to his promise not to attack Hillary Clinton personally even longer. But now Bernie’s on a roll: he’s won seven of the last eight states, and he’s within striking distance of Hillary on pledged delegates — the April 19 New York primary is suddenly hugely consequential, as it could not only close that pledged-delegate gap, but could conceivably swing some of Hillary’s superdelegates to him: winning Wyoming this weekend, as he’s expected to, and then New York would bring him to nine in a row, and would seriously undercut the superdelegate assumption that Hillary is the stronger candidate.

So the gloves are off, on both sides: Bernie’s banging the drum hard on Hillary’s big-money special-interest fundraising, and her support for the trade deals recently exposed as totally crooked in the Panama Papers leak, and Hillary is once again pointing to the only issue where she’s truly to the left of Bernie: guns.

In the same interview with the New York Daily News where Sanders’ vague answers about the specific tactics he’d use to pursue the policies at the center of his campaign, prompting the line of questioning that led to Clinton’s refusal to say whether he’s qualified to hold the office, Sanders was asked about a lawsuit brought by the parents of the Sandy Hook victims against the manufacturers of the weapons used in the massacre, and Sanders felt the manufacturers should not be held liable.

“That he would place gun manufacturers’ rights and immunity from liability against the parents of the children killed at Sandy Hook is just unimaginable to me,” Clinton said on Morning Joe.

It’s quite a leap to call not prosecuting these gunmakers putting their rights “against the parents” — it makes no sense whatsoever, and it’s a huge, blatant pander to the gun control crowd. I’m part of the gun control crowd, to an extent, but the idea of holding Browning responsible for a murder-suicide makes as much sense as holding Chrysler responsible for a hit-and-run or Louisville Slugger responsible for what happened to Glenn (spoiler alert).

Because here’s the thing: Like it or not, guns are legal. It is legal to make them, it is legal to buy them, it is legal to own them. And as long as that’s true, making manufacturers liable would both misguided and ineffective in stopping gun violence. A gun manufacturer is a nice deep pocket to go after, but they’re not breaking any laws so there’s no kind of justice being served.

Rush Limbaugh and assholes like that like to go on and on about dumb liberal fixes to problems that sound nice and make people feel good but don’t actually make things any better, and this is one of the few examples they could point to where I’d be hard-pressed to disagree. If a person is killed by a gun I am all for the killer being held liable for all he’s worth, but the manufacturer is not the killer, the killer is the killer.

Holding a manufacturer liable wouldn’t just be misguided, it wouldn’t work. The pile of money these companies make selling weapons could be seen from space; a few lawsuits aren’t going to put them out of business. If anything they’re just going to try to sell more guns to make up the losses.

But liability could be a good tool to certainly not end, but somewhat curb gun violence, and Sandy Hook provides a good example of how it could have worked.

Opponents of gun control point out that background checks would not have prevented Adam Lanza, the Sandy Hook killer, from getting his weapons, and they are correct about that. He didn’t pass a background check because he didn’t have to: his mother was a gun collector and had a whole bunch of them in her house, so when Adam decided it might be a good day to mow down a kindergarten class, he needed only to go into her guest room closet to arm himself to the teeth and do exactly that.

Sandy Hook is an extreme example, but there’s an alarmingly high rate of gun deaths that are the result of people keeping their weapons in insecure locations, like under the bed or the top shelf of the closet, where an intruder or a curious young child or a disturbed older one might find them. But let’s say it had been patiently explained to Mrs. Lanza when she purchased and registered her weapons that she would be held legally responsible and personally liable for any crime those weapons were used in, accidental or voluntary, with or without her knowledge, until or unless she legally transferred that registration to another person. Let’s say that her background check required her to prove that those guns would be kept in a safe place, and that everyone else in her household had also passed the background check. Maybe young Adam would have gotten a little extra attention during the mental health portion of his background check. Maybe Mrs. Lanza would have kept those guns in a safe, like the one my dad has, 6’x4’x4′, and that kindergarten class would have been above ground on Christmas.

It’s a lot of maybes, but any fairminded person would have to admit that this kind of approach would prevent at least a few murders committed with stolen weapons, a few accidental killings where toddlers pulled the trigger, and more than a few straw purchases.

This approach would obviously not end all gun violence. But that’s my biggest frustration with the no-reforms-ever crowd: unless something can be proven to be an airtight, foolproof silver bullet to solve the problem 100%, it’s dismissed as ineffective, which is a completely childish way to evaluate almost anything.

Almost as childish as prosecuting gun manufacturers.

AC/DC’s New Lead Singer

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AC/DC lead screecher Brian Johnson has had a lot of bad news lately. First his doctors told him that the massive hearing loss he’d sustained over the course of his 35-year career emceeing a show that, in addition to a literal wall of Marshall stacks, included actual cannon fire at the end of every performance, was permanent and likely to get worse. They strongly recommended that he quit performing immediately, or risk losing what little hearing he has left.

AC/DC announced Johnson’s retirement soon after, promising to soldier on and honor their ten scheduled summer 2016 dates with a replacement singer to be named later.

And that was news to Johnson, who says that he told the band about the doctor’s advice, but also offered to do the last ten shows as a kind of farewell tour. The next day, all of Johnson’s tour belongings and other personal effects in the possession of the AC/DC organization were dropped off in his driveway, and he has not spoken to Angus Young or anyone else with the band since.

I can only speculate, but I assume that Brian Johnson can be dropped from AC/DC like an old piece of luggage because he is not an original member of the band; when he replaced far superior but deceased frontman Bon Scott in 1980, they must have put him on the payroll rather than cutting him in as a full voting partner in AC/DC Enterprises.

It’s a rotten thing to do to Johnson, but let’s be honest: the guy is not exactly easy on the ears. He never was, but he was better in the ‘80s. Now he’s just a screech with just the slightest hint of a key. His voice is not really a voice. Bon Scott’s voice was really his voice — it was weirdly high, but that’s what made it interesting. Brian Johnson’s voice is more of a trick, a way of leaning into your throat to screech an octave or two higher than your normal range, sort of like a falsetto on steroids. It’s an easy way to imitate a voice higher than your own — it was a great way to keep the band’s sound consistent, by staying right in Bon Scott’s range — but it’s hell on your throat and vocal cords. Do it for two hours on Friday night and you probably won’t be able to speak more than a croak on Saturday. Multiply that by 200 shows a year for 35 years and you’re left with the sound Johnson makes now, which is like the noise a giant ostrich would make if it was trapped under something heavy.

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