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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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Donald Trump and the N-Word

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Donald Trump is an asshole. I think that’s clear enough to everyone by now. He’s a raging id monster made of narcissism, spite, and arrogance, held together with an orange angora and spray-tan spackle. The increasingly plausible idea that he might actually win the White House in November is unsettling and his presidency would, at best, be totally ineffectual (because he doesn’t actually know anything about how the government works) and at worst mire the United States in multiple unwinnable long-term military conflicts while bankrupting the Treasury with a combination of regressive Tax Cuts and impractical Mass Deportations.

Trump’s blustering, overweening personal style would almost certainly degrade the dignity of the presidency even further than Congress has worked to degrade it the last eight years. His tendency toward holding personal grudges and airing them in the press and on Twitter would alienate most any other world leader, and his single-minded, zero-sum obsession with “winning” — a very black-and-white concept in an increasingly gray world — and his apparent compulsion to answer any slight, no matter its source or relevance to the bigger picture, would make any kind of diplomacy nearly impossible. It’s hard to imagine how a Trump presidency would be anything but an across-the-board disaster (except for the media, which would regard it as four years of consecutive Christmases) and though every election of my lifetime has been touted as The Most Important In A Generation, there might actually be some truth to it this time.

But can we ease up on the Nazi talk?

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Angry Old Man for President

The primary elections are getting serious now, with Donald Trump on the verge of sewing things up on the Republican side (so maybe “serious” isn’t quite the right word) and Hillary Clinton beginning to open up a lead over her sole rival, Bernie Sanders.

As they have done for this whole primary season, pundits are once again writing Sanders off, believing Clinton’s margin to be too wide and Sanders’ self-described democratic socialist policies too far out for Americans to embrace. While both may indeed prove to be the case, the Editorial Board of this publication endorses Bernie Sanders for president of the United States.

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Trump/West 2016

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It’s becoming clear that Donald Trump is going to be the Republican nominee for president in 2016. Against all conventional wisdom, common sense, good breeding, and natural law, Trump has emerged unscathed from numerous supposed faux-pas, in which his plainly hateful comments would shake his 40-odd percent of right-leaning voters out of the foolish reverie that had them contemplating a reality TV star, known for his numerous petty grudges with other low-level celebrities, as worthy of possessing the nuclear codes.

But now Trump has won three of four primaries, and is leading significantly in all polls heading into Super Tuesday. It says a lot about the field of candidates the GOP put forward this season that we are now down to five and Donald Trump is, terrifyingly enough, the best of them.

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“President Trump” is a chilling thing to imagine, but not as chilling as “President Cruz” or “President Rubio.” As I have written before, Cruz looks and sounds like a child molester — though I am in no way alleging that he actually is one — and appears to be to the right of Martin Sheen’s character in THE DEAD ZONE.

Rubio’s whole case for being president, as I have also written before, is that unlike any of the other candidates, a woman might actually sleep with him if he were the last man on Earth. People didn’t want another Bush in the White House, but Rubio reminds me a lot more of W. than Jeb! did — he is blankly almost-handsome, he does okay with the right script, and a vote for him is a vote for all the old-GOP neocon advisors that will surround him out of nowhere the moment he takes office.

Given the alternatives, I have to say that, of the current Republican field, Trump would make the least awful president, and it’s clear that voters agree.

Trump could very well wrap up the nomination on Tuesday, and if he does speculation will begin to turn to who he will choose as his running mate.

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The 2016 Grammys: A National Disgrace

It was an appalling scene at the Grammy Awards Monday night, when multiplatinum singer/songwriter Lady Gaga desecrated the sacred memory of David Bowie by dressing up like him and performing a medley of his best known songs.

The performance was a disgrace, an insult to the legacy of one of the most prolific and eclectic musicians of the last several generations, and may actually have caused several cases of hysterical deafness, according to the tweets I saw about it later that night.

I’m outraged that someone as talentless as Lady Gaga (from what I’ve heard — I’m not very familiar with her myself, though that “Poker Face” is awfully catchy) would dare to compare herself to an artist of Bowie’s stature. I’m not sure which songs she decided to butcher, I haven’t watched the Grammys since around 1985 — but I won’t be able to listen to them again without wincing at the memory of how bad everyone said this performance was for at least a couple of days.

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And her costumes! Though what I saw from the few 2-second .gifs that came through my Twitter feed didn’t look so bad at first glance, all of Twitter assures me that her clothes were hideous, her makeup an embarrassment, and her bright red wig a direct assault on good taste.

Even Bowie’s son, the Artist Formerly Known as Zowie Bowie, hated the performance:

You kind of have to read between the lines to interpret the dictionary definition of “gaga” as an attack, and ignore the possibility that it was acknowledgement of the tribute or even praise, but if everyone says this tweet means he hated it, he hated it, and I will hate it too — if I ever get around to watching it, which seems very unlikely.

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Steven Adler is Dead

1401x788-GettyImages-86138225You may have heard that Guns N’ Roses is reuniting. Axl Rose, Slash, and Duff McKagan are all on record promising to play a handful of shows, starting on my birthday in Las Vegas, then headlining Coachella, then Mexico City, ramping up to a 46-month tour of South America and points beyond.

Anyone who knows enough about Guns N’ Roses to care about this news also knows that there are a couple of names missing from the reunion call sheet: Izzy Stradlin and Steven Adler.

Izzy is easy to explain but hard to understand. If Slash’s and Duff’s autobiographies are to be believed, Izzy left the band voluntarily because a) he had turned into a junkie and wanted to clean up and b) he was sick of Axl’s bullshit. Everybody knows Axl developed a punctuality problem as the band got bigger, but he also started spending money — the band’s money — like the worst kind of star-tripping asshole: huge opulent themed backstage parties that he didn’t even attend, private jets, adding horn players and backup singers and a fucking white grand piano to the live show, and worst of all incurring countless curfew fines because a show that starts two hours late ends two hours late.

Or as Izzy put it shortly after he bailed: “I had a bus, and they had a plane, and I beat them to the gigs.

Between that basic personality conflict with the giant machine that GNR became and will certainly be again, it’s understandable that Izzy wants to keep his distance. Rumor has it that he will appear on a few of the shows, or a few of the songs at every show, or a few of the songs at a few of the shows. He has supposedly written new material with them, and the played with Axl Rose Presents Axl Rose’s Guns N’ Roses Featuring Axl Rose for a few shows in 2014. He does not appear to have any hard feelings, he just doesn’t like all the to-do, and you have to kind of respect him for that. It will be a bummer if Izzy is not a part of the reunion, but if he isn’t it’s because he doesn’t want to be, not because they’re shutting him out.

Steven Adler is another story.

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Ted Cruz Still Can’t Win

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After roughly 622 months of primary campaigning, including 12,035 stump speeches and 1,271 debates, our distinguished field of presidential hopefuls finally faced the voters of Iowa this week, and the results sadly did little to sharpen the picture of who will be taking the oath of office next January.

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders split the vote — actually a caucus, whatever that means — almost literally 50/50, with Clinton taking 49.8% and Sanders 49.6%. (Former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley had the remaining 0.6% for about half an hour before a seventh grader took it from him, along with his lunch money.)

There was a bit of a surprise on the Republican end of things: billionaire and sentient lump of spray-tanned cotton candy Donald Trump, who has led the field since the moment he descended his gold-plated escalator and became the first presidential hopeful to announce his candidacy while talking out of his ass, came in second place.

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The Manson Family of Oregon

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So the guys up in Oregon — you know, the guys holed up in the government building with all the guns and dildos? After a three week occupation, they finally got what they wanted: a shootout with the cops and the FBI. One of their guys is dead and another is wounded, and Ammon Bundy, the leader of the protest, or occupation, or whatever you want to call it is in custody with five of his comrades. Not comrades, that’s suggests communists, which these dudes emphatically are NOT. Brothers in arms, let’s go with that. Anyway, they’re in jail.

A lot of people are saying that this protest was pointless, that it accomplished nothing, that its stated goal — getting the federal government to surrender all public lands back to “the people,” whatever that means — was wildly unrealistic and never remotely achievable, and certainly not by occupying a building in the middle of nowhere.

They did succeed, of course, in stirring up a lot of weird, unfocused negative sentiment against the government in comments sections around the Internet, but fell short of their real goal: to provoke the government into provoking an anti-government uprising.

For a day or two, only the broadest strokes of the story were known: after a traffic stop of the vehicle Bundy was riding in — you get to take breaks from occupying a building? — brought Bundy and a few of his people into the custody of the FBI, LaVoy Finicum, one of Bundy’s lieutenants driving a second vehicle, was shot and killed. The Twitter account of the Bundy ranch was quick to comment:

Though eyewitnesses, including one of the other people in the Bundy caravan, leaked word to the press that Finicum had tried to evade a roadblock and was shot while charging the cops, those inclined toward Liberty called that another lie and insisted that Finicum was shot with his hands in the air.

Supporters of the Bundy cause still holed up at the refuge seemed to believe that an attack by the government was imminent, and called for ex-military members to come and “fight for your country… if they stop you from getting here, KILL THEM!”

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Bowie, Lemmy, and Frey: The Autobituary

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We are at the beginning of an epidemic.

The rock stars of our youth are dying. We’re getting old, and they’re even older. They’re not going to OD or choke on vomit, they’re going to get prostate cancer and conjunctive colitis. David Bowie and Lemmy and Glenn Frey are only the beginning.

It is morbid, it is unpleasant, but it is true. All these guys are pushing 70 — some of them are pushing 80! Mick Jagger is 72. Neil Young is 70. Patti Smith is 69. Time is not on their side. At some point soon all the rock stars of the ’60s and ’70s and ’80s — the people who made us — are going to start dying off. In much bigger groups than threes. And I’m not sure as a blogger that I will be able to keep up with all of the eulogizing that I am morally, spiritually, and as it turns out legally obligated to do.

So I’ve found a workaround: using sophisticated software that uses complicated algorithms to construct complex written narratives based on a range of responses, I have been able to write all three obituaries for this week’s fallen luminaries at once.

Using a generic story template, the algorithm is able to take the basic known facts of a person’s biography — entered by the user by answering a series of questions — and construct a highly readable narrative. You’d be surprised how much like a human you can make an algorithm write. write. write. write. write. write

So without further preamble, here is my three-in-one “Autobituary” for David Bowie, Lemmy, and Glenn Frey.

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The GOP Doesn’t Want It

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There was an amazing thing on CNN last week: President Obama went into a place full of people hostile to his policies in general and on gun control in particular, and took their questions for two hours. He was not given the questions in advance; CNN proudly stated at the outset that the Town Hall Meeting was a 100% CNN production, with no input from the White House other than what time Obama would be there.

CNN has a bad reputation in the red states as the Communist News Network, hopelessly slanted toward Obama and the Democrats and generally unwatchable. For the most part, I happen to think they’re half right: CNN is unwatchable, but it’s not because of any particular liberal bias. CNN’s bias is toward the splashiest, trashiest clickbait stories, and they don’t care where they come from, just so long as they’re salacious. (It just so happens that Republicans are generally better at providing those.) I watched a few weeks ago as a reporter “covering” the San Bernardino shootings stuck a microphone in a man’s face as he tried to call his missing son’s cell phone, pushing in slowly for a closeup of whatever reaction he might have to whatever came on the line, or didn’t. That was totally nonpartisan, garden-variety ambulance chasing. CNN are a bunch of vultures and they suck at TV is what I’m saying.

For a while, though, Guns in America came off better than just about anything I’ve seen on CNN since the first Gulf War. There were none of the technical miscues that typically mar any CNN broadcast, and host Anderson Cooper, also hated by the right as a socialist elitist communist mouthpiece, did a surprisingly good job of presenting the anti-gun control argument and pressing Obama for details and voicing the widespread skepticism to Obama’s stated positions on the matter.

For his part, Obama was relaxed, focused, passionate, and engaging on the issue. He didn’t shrink from his desire to expand background checks, but he stated firmly, and I thought plausibly, his understanding of and respect for rural gun culture and the Second Amendment. The dialogue was genuine, his answers were often more respectful than the questions, and he didn’t pander to the audience; he acknowledged their suspicion even as he mocked the idea that he’d planned to put Texas under martial law using tunnels under Wal-Marts, and quite sensibly pointed out that if he intended to come for anyone’s guns, surely he would have begun such a project sooner than seven years into an eight-year presidency. In short, he was like a human being, and I came away impressed with how directly he engaged with such a tough issue.

And then it was over, and the Communist News Network tossed coverage to its eleventeen pundits, nearly all of whom declared the whole event a deception, professed disbelief at Obama’s wanton contempt for responsible gun owners, his hatred of the Constitution and America itself. (So much for that liberal bias you hear so much about.) The moves Obama is proposing fall miles short of anything the gun control advocates want to see — they’re little more than a rededication to enforcing existing laws, in accordance with the loudest mantra of the anti-reform crowd — but they were being portrayed like a totalitarian coup and the wholesale revocation of the Second Amendment. The disconnect was striking.

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