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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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Apple, U2, and Losing Your Cool

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Late last week the growing bubble of excitement that customarily accompanies the introduction of a new Apple gadget — in this case, the latest iPhones and the Apple Watch — quickly popped when Apple CEO Tim Cook welcomed aging messiah rockers U2 to the stage, and announced that their new album, Songs of Innocence, was being released exclusively on iTunes as a free gift to all iTunes users.

As people began to notice that this U2 album, that they had not bought or asked for, was already present on their iTunes libraries, the collective howl of Internet outrage grew until it was somewhere between the NSA data mining revelations and Kanye stopping his show until everyone stood up.

I find 21st-century U2 as pompous, overrated, and boring as the next guy, but I have to say the reaction to this is a little overblown.

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The Six Million Dollar Phone


This week Apple Computer unveiled the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus, the long awaited new models of the little handheld computers that changed the way people all over the world sit on the toilet.

The new phones have bigger screens than previous models, have nicer cameras, longer battery life, etcetera etcetera etcetera. But the new feature I’m most interested in is the “sapphire glass” that the new screens will be made of, as opposed to the old “gorilla glass” on my phone, which despite its tough-sounding name should have just been called “don’t drop this phone farther than 18 inches or it shatters” glass.

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Jerry Lewis Had Joan Rivers Killed


The comedy world has spent the last week holding its collective breath and saying its prayers for Joan Rivers, who went into cardiac arrest during a procedure at an outpatient facility, was rushed to a proper hospital, placed in a medically induced coma, put on life support, and has most recently been moved out of intensive care and into a private room, where she remained on life support while her daughter, Melissa, reportedly had Joan’s hair and makeup done (presumably in case the pearly gates have a Fashion Police checkpoint). Sadly, Joan Rivers, one of the most driven and fearless entertainers of all time, died on Thursday at the age of 81.

Rivers’ cardiac arrest happens to have occurred just before Labor Day weekend, when in years past Melissa and anyone else in a hospital waiting room could while away the holiday by watching Jerry Lewis’ telethon to benefit the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Lewis had been the face of the charity for 45 years before an ignominious parting of ways with the organization three years ago under mysterious circumstances.

Suspicious timing, if you ask me.

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Striking Burning Man


In years past, I would have felt a certain twinge of regret during this, the last week of August, because I am once again not at Burning Man, the annual desert arts festival that for half a decade became more or less the organizing principle of my life. I met some of my best friends there, had some of the greatest times I can remember, as well as a few that I can’t.

But that was a long time ago — the late ’90s and early ’00s, to be precise — and parenthood and geography and the rising costs of the objectively ridiculous particulars of surviving in an unambiguously hostile climate have combined to keep me away.

Whatever lingering desire I may have had to go out there again was strangled last year, when one of my best friends, with whom I attended all six of my burns back in the day, came back and reported that he’d waited in line in his car for eight hours to get into the event. That was pretty much a wrap on Burning Man for me, at least until I can afford to parachute in. (The soaking rain that closed the gate for a day earlier this week, and exacerbated the already ridiculous wait for Will Call tickets, was just the icing on the No Thank You cake.)

This week was also the week that we finally got our contractor to show up and do the job that we agreed on in the spring: removing our old backyard fence and replacing it with a nicer, taller one, fixing a piece of rusted-out crown molding at the edge of the roof, and taking away the four barrels full of dirt in the center of the yard. (The boy and I are playing a lot of catch these days and those barrels are in the way.)

Disposal of all this stuff required that we rent a dumpster and have it parked out front for a couple of days, which I saw as an opportunity to get rid of some of the considerable amount of clutter our basement and back yard have accumulated. The old AC unit, the scrap wood, the old paint cans… I asked my wife what else we should toss.

“The windows?” She said this tentatively, knowing I didn’t want to hear it, but also knowing that this was not the first time she had made this suggestion.

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Confronting Ferguson


Like everyone else, I’ve been sucked into the Internet rabbit hole that is Ferguson, Missouri over the last two weeks, watching with horror as a town just a couple of miles from the house my parents first brought me home to erupted in a series of clashes between protesters and police that would not seem out of place in 1960s Mississippi or even 2004 Iraq.

The inciting incident, the fatal shooting of an unarmed 18-year-old by a police officer, is tragic no matter how you look at it, but the fact that the officer was white, the kid was black, and this happened right after the NYPD strangled a guy on the street for no apparent reason, and while the Trayvon Martin debacle is so fresh in all our minds, charged the whole thing with a racial tension that quickly spiraled out of control, into a full fortnight of rioting and looting and arrests and tear gas.

As with so many hot-button issues these days, some clear battle lines have been drawn here, and everyone seems to be firmly on one side or the other: A racist cop killed an innocent, college-bound 18-year-old kid for no reason, or an upright police officer with a spotless record killed a thug who assaulted the cop and got what he asked for.

Why is everyone so certain it’s not a little bit of both?

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Forgetting Robin Williams

Robin Williams

I wasn’t going to write about Robin Williams in this space. When I heard the news about his death I didn’t really feel shock or sadness or anything. He’s a celebrity, not my uncle. With very few exceptions, celebrity deaths have never much moved me for reasons that are as unclear as they are uninteresting.

I was even kind of glib about it for a minute. Probably 15 minutes after I saw the news and digested the few but painfully ample details, I tweeted:

I chuckled to myself, I thought it was a good joke. Because instead of thinking about the man, I was thinking about this huge ridiculous Bullshit Machine that we’re all living in, and how it was going to take this sad news and use it to blot out the sun for at least a couple of cycles, help us forget the taste of Iraqi quicksand and domestic police rioting by wallowing in this man’s consummated pain. (I happened to be at a lake house with my folks when we heard the news. My dad’s reaction: “The good news is, the TV here is broken.”)

I was thinking about this insane Bullshit Machine that will poke and prod at every detail about how this man died, and pretend that they made it easy on him. I imagined all the same pop-culture bloggers (who I eagerly read on a daily basis) who have been shitting all over everything this man has done for the last 15 years lining up to lionize him and mourn the loss of an artistic voice they’d all long since quit paying attention to.

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