It is my sad duty to inform you, GentleHeathen, that Jack Chick is dead.

Jack T. Chick, creator of the one-ubiquitous and astonishingly wingnutty “evangelizing” comics that bear his name, is dead. He was 92.

These things were EVERYWHERE for a time, especially in very Bible-belty parts of the world. Chick’s peculiar and fundamentalist version of Christianity left no room for any other sort, so his tracts denounced the usual ills (alcohol, sex) as well as things like D&D, Freemasonry, versions of the Bible other than the King James, evolution, Harry Potter, etc. He even devoted at least 20 of his tracts to the evils of Roman Catholicism (because, obviously, they’re responsible for communism, Nazism, the aforementioned Freemasonry, and Islam).

Via this thread at MeFi, I found this live-action re-enactment of the Party Girl tract, starring French Stewart and Judy Greer. There’s an issue with the audio sync, but it’s still fanTAStic. Also, in 2014 a group made a short based on the wildly popular anti-D&D Dark Dungeons tract, and I really, really would love to see it, too.

Dept. of Shit I Meant To Post Last Week

Dogs Raise Firework Threat Level to ‘Gray’:

The Department of Canine Security has raised the firework advisory level from “Gray” to “Gray” following credible evidence of human-made explosive devices used to celebrate something called “America.” There is a severe risk of deafening explosions, which have previously resulted in frightened puppies and fingerless masters. Wiener dogs should practice special caution, as the most commonly served food at “America” parties is Dachshund-shaped sandwiches.

So what exactly is this “America”? Masters seem to complain about it all year long and then, for some inexplicable reason, they celebrate it for a day by drinking countless cans of smelly, magical dizzy juice. Dogs have reported their masters guzzling this foul-tasting potion on other occasions such as “Christmas,” “Cinco de Mayo” and “I got fired today.”

The Department of Canine Security urges dogs to remain on high alert and employ the tactic of See Something, Say Something. Remember to bark upon spotting anything suspicious; e.g. firecrackers, sparklers, Roman candles, cats, squirrels, mail carriers, shadows, reflections, other dogs on TV, etc.

HOWTO: Stealthily Market to Gays and Lesbians in the Early 1990s

This fascinating story details how, in the early 90s, Subaru (a) realized that their cars were surprisingly popular among a certain demographic and then (b) began explicitly marketing to that demographic, but without other groups really noticing.

What worked were winks and nudges. One ad campaign showed Subaru cars that had license plates that said “Xena LVR” (a reference to Xena: Warrior Princess, a TV show whose female protagonists seemed to be lovers) or “P-TOWN” (a moniker for Provincetown, Massachusetts, a popular LGBT vacation spot). Many ads had taglines with double meanings. “Get Out. And Stay Out” could refer to exploring the outdoors in a Subaru—or coming out as gay. “It’s Not a Choice. It’s the Way We’re Built” could refer to all Subarus coming with all-wheel-drive—or LGBT identity.

Check out the graphics — some of the stuff you’d noticed today (the rainbow flag sticker, e.g.), but plenty of it is very, very subtle. It’s like the evangelical dog-whistling that Bush and Cruz (& etc) have used, except not awful and evil.

Also, this bit makes me smile:

In response to the ads, Subaru received letters from a grassroots group that accused the carmaker of promoting homosexuality. Everyone who penned a letter said they’d never buy a Subaru again.

But the marketing team quickly discovered that none of the people threatening a boycott had ever bought a Subaru. Some of them had even misspelled “Subaru.”

We are a dumb, dumb, dumb country

America is too dumb for TV news:

Until recently, the narrative of stories like [Trump's fantasy of dancing muslims in New Jersey on 9/11] has been predictable. If a candidate said something nuts, or seemingly not true, an army of humorless journalists quickly dug up all the facts, and the candidate ultimately was either vindicated, apologized, or suffered terrible agonies.

Al Gore for instance never really recovered from saying, “I took the initiative in creating the Internet.” True, he never said he invented the Internet, as is popularly believed, but what he did say was clumsy enough that the line followed him around like an STD for the rest of his (largely unsuccessful) political life.

That dynamic has broken down this election season. Politicians are quickly learning that they can say just about anything and get away with it. Along with vindication, apology and suffering, there now exists a fourth way forward for the politician spewing whoppers: Blame the backlash on media bias and walk away a hero.

[...]

Trump, meanwhile, has been through more of these beefs than one can count, even twice blabbing obvious whoppers in live televised debates. Once he claimed the Trans-Pacific Partnership was designed to help China, moving Rand Paul to point out that China isn’t in the TPP. Another time he denied that he once called Marco Rubio “Mark Zuckerberg’s personal senator.” The line was on Trump’s website as he spoke.

In all of these cases, the candidates doubled or tripled down when pestered by reporters and fact-checkers and insisted they’d been victimized by biased media. A great example of how candidates have handled this stuff involved Fiorina.

The former HP chief keeps using a roundly debunked line originally dug up by the Romney campaign, about how 92 percent of the jobs lost under Obama belonged to women. The Romney campaign itself ditched the line because it was wrong even in 2012. When confronted this year, Fiorina simply said, “If the liberal media doesn’t like the data, maybe the liberal media doesn’t like the facts.”

[...]

This is a horrible thing to have to say about one’s own country, but this story makes it official. America is now too dumb for TV news.

It’s our fault. We in the media have spent decades turning the news into a consumer business that’s basically indistinguishable from selling cheeseburgers or video games. You want bigger margins, you just cram the product full of more fat and sugar and violence and wait for your obese, over-stimulated customer to come waddling forth.

The old Edward R. Murrow, eat-your-broccoli version of the news was banished long ago. Once such whiny purists were driven from editorial posts and the ad people over the last four or five decades got invited in, things changed. Then it was nothing but murders, bombs, and panda births, delivered to thickening couch potatoes in ever briefer blasts of forty, thirty, twenty seconds.

What we call right-wing and liberal media in this country are really just two different strategies of the same kind of nihilistic lizard-brain sensationalism. The ideal CNN story is a baby down a well, while the ideal Fox story is probably a baby thrown down a well by a Muslim terrorist or an ACORN activist. Both companies offer the same service, it’s just that the Fox version is a little kinkier.

We are completely doomed.

Bye, Jon.

Last night, Jon Stewart finished up his astonishing 16 year run at The Daily Show.

I got nothing, really. I’ll miss that show horribly, and Stewart’s take on things in particular. He somehow managed to create an entirely new sort of program, largely because the actual media was too busy making noise and had abdicated their traditional role. I wrote this 13 years ago, on this site:

I just watched a fascinating dialog on the Middle East question that was both nuanced and interesting — and altogether free of bombast. Moreover, said dialog featured substantive contributions from both show host and guest. The show? Comedy Central’s Daily Show, which featured the New Yorker’s David Remnick as its guest this evening. A comedy show is the only place we can see discussion without some talking head going apo-goddamn-plectic over the sound of his own howling. Why is this? Contrast this with the softball handling Jay Leno gave Dick Cheney, and you’ll see what I mean.

What’s especially depressing, though, is that even though it was obvious people WANTED real discussion 13 years ago, the only places offering the kind of depth Stewart’s Daily Show provided today, in 2015, are spinoffs of his own program — Larry Wilmore and John Oliver in particular are doing spectacular work (and Oliver, on HBO and without sponsors to placate, is really flying high).

Much was made of Letterman’s retirement earlier this year, and much should have been, but Stewart’s departure is just as big a deal for many people in comedy. As the traditional talk show format aged, it was The Daily Show that became the must-watch show in the evenings, and in that way Stewart became the new Letterman, or the new Carson, for an entire generation.

“The Mayor’s head is, in fact, a giant and conceivably edible cheeseburger.”

A brilliant TBT from the Onion: McDonald’s Drops ‘Hammurderer’ Character From Advertising:

Responding to widespread public outrage, McDonald’s executives defended the coloring book as “not nearly as violent or socially irresponsible as it has been made out to be, given that the Mayor’s head is, in fact, a giant and conceivably edible cheeseburger.”

Read the whole thing; they finish strong.

Updated: Link fixed. Thanks, Gar!

The Counterpoint to Serial

The title is a takedown in and of itself, so I’ll just use it:

Serial Sucked And Wasted Everyone’s Time

Mrs Heathen and I listened to Koenig’s podcast on our holiday drive — half on the way over, half on the way back — and while I’ll admit that I wasn’t quite as taken with it as most seem to have been, I’m also not as down on it as this writer (Diana Moskovitz) even though she makes absolutely valid points. It meanders. It feels padded, like a Peter Jackson movie. There is no real conclusion, no a-ha, no moment of dramatic Perry Mason-ism wherein the “real” killer is identified and Adnan set free. (Spoiler, I guess.)

There’s value in telling that story, of coures. Real life isn’t neat, and people go to prison on flimsy evidence every day, so that these things are true doesn’t damn the entire enterprise, but it does mean Koenig, et. al., had to do something ELSE with the time to justify it. And I’m not 100% sure they did.

Anyway, if you’re familiar, click through for Moskovitz’s take.

(I am, at this point, willing to stipulate that the holiday-themed parody of Serial mounted by SNL just before Christmas may be sufficient to justify the entire thing, however.)

I love @SavedYouAClick

But apparently some whiney folks addicted to clickbaity headlines are all butthurt about the account “stealing experiences” in the wake of its tweet regarding the supposedly “big” story Vox ran this week supposedly containing David Chase’s final word on whether Tony Soprano lived or died in the finale. (Really? Seven years later?) The tweet?

No. RT @voxdotcom: Did Tony die at the end of The Sopranos? David Chase finally reveals the answer— Saved You A Click (@SavedYouAClick) August 27, 2014

The money quote is at the end of the Observer article is delightful:

“I’m one person with a Twitter account,” [@SavedYouAClick account owner] Mr. Beckman said. “It’s indicative of a much bigger problem. If I can disrupt your content distribution strategy from my iPhone, then maybe something is wrong with your content distribution strategy.”

In the land of no accountability

I’ve long been shocked by how often right wing media pundits manage to be catastrophically wrong, over and over, and yet never get called on it. Bill Kristol is a great example (see link), but he’s absolutely not the only one.

How is it that you can go on TV and be recorded saying things that are, over and over, proved to be completely incorrect? More amazing: they presumably get PAID to do this. I mean, that’s something else again, isn’t it? Media organs other than Fox, even are bringing the idiot architects of the Iraq invasion back on the air to discuss what’s going on there today. It’s amazing.

No less a jackhole than Ari Fleischer has taken to Twitter lately to complain about Obama’s handling of Iraq, which takes balls the size of Yankee Stadium; without Fleischer and his boss cheerleading an all-too-compliant press into invading Iraq, we wouldn’t be facing the prospect of a failed state there.

People other than Media Matters really need to stomp on these fuckers, and demand they answer for their past lies, prevarications, and wrongheaded predictions before giving them a platform for MORE bullshit. Isn’t that the base mission of media in a free society? Why, exactly, should we listen to these fuckers again?

Brilliant Legal Letters, Past and Present

Yesterday, this delightful example of the form crossed my desk; I think my favorite quote is “So like your client, the facts of the claim won’t quite fly,” but you should read the whole thing despite the gross hosting site and admittedly-douchey defendant. Being an asshole doesn’t mean you’re always wrong (thank god).

Sure, it’s not up there with the Cleveland Browns letter, but it’s a solid effort.

When I showed this to Senior Heathen legal correspondent Triple-F, he was greatly amused, but complained that HE never gets to write such letters. How soon he forgets! Just over a decade ago (!), he had occasion to ghost a delightful bit of legal correspondence after the band for his first wedding (summer, 2002) didn’t show, and yours truly called them out on the web site for the affair. The band took exception to this bit of truth (and the fact that Googling their name led directly to it; go me!), and sent me the following bit of ill-advised (and grammatically challenged) saber rattling when they discovered the site a year and a half later (winter, 2004):

Hello,

My name is D___ and I am the contact person for [band name].

The reason we did not show up for the wedding you are referring to is because A___, of _____ Entertainment, did not inform [band] of the engagement.

We did not receive a contract or no from of agreement for the engagement prior to the date.

Further more, what you are doing, and I am aware of others who have done the same, is slander and I am asking you to either print the truth or retract all of your statement concerning this event from your website.

Our attorneys are informed of your actions, along with others, and we are in the process of dealing with these issues on a one-by-one basis.

This is notice to you from [band name].

And now, Triple-F’s brilliant reply:

D____

I’m sorry you’re unhappy with the events documented on the wedding site. Unfortunately, since the site documents the events of July 13, 2002, accurately, we will not be making the changes you have requested.

You seem to be laboring under a number of misconceptions regarding this situation. I’ve spoken with the [wedding site] “legal department” — you may recall that both the groom and the father of the bride are attorneys — and they’ve provided me with a few points you may wish to consider.

First, even if there were a cause of action here — which there is not — it would be libel, not slander.

Second, even if you had a case for libel — which you do not — the statue of limitations for libel as set in the Mississippi Code is one (1) year from the date of publication. The post-wedding changes to the site went up the week after the wedding, i.e. during the summer of 2002. July 2002 was 18 months ago.

Third, even if it were libel and the clock hadn’t run out, truth is an absolute defense to libel action. Absolutely nothing said on the site regarding [booking agent] or [band] is untrue. I was there, as were several hundred other people (many of them also members of the Mississippi Bar). There is therefore no shortage of witnesses willing to testify under oath to the fact that [band] did not show up.

Fourth — perhaps best of all — the contract for the performance at this wedding at the Country Club of Jackson on July 13, 2002, was signed by one D______ [i.e., the author of the above complaint mail]. The groom and father-of-the-bride still have said contract, which sort of makes it hard for you to maintain that you knew nothing of the obligation.

Fifth, as a direct result of that contract, you and [booker] have already been sued in this matter, and the liquidated damages, as provided in the contract written by the band’s management for failure to perform, have been paid (in September, 2002, if my records are accurate). The father of the bride handled this suit, and you corresponded with him during that time frame.

Sixth, if you wish to pursue this matter any further, we will not only request sanctions under Rule 11 of the Mississippi Rules of Civil Procedure but will also request sanctions under Mississippi Code Annotated sec. 11-55-1 et seq. (Litigation Accountability Act), damages for malicious prosecution, abuse of process and defamation.

If any of this is unclear, I’ll be happy to put you in touch with [Triple F] (the groom and, as I mentioned above, an attorney in Jackson). He will reiterate all the points contained herein, I’m sure, since I consulted with him before writing this reply. In the future, we suggest that you remember that the best way to avoid bad publicity is to meet your contractual obligations in the first place.

Fortunately, Triple-F had a much better replacement wedding last year. Everyone showed up. It was awesome. ;)

More on the loss of network neutrality

Seriously, read this.

Without network neutrality, Tumblr could cut a deal with your ISP — let’s say it’s Comcast — and its blogs would load really quickly while that home server blog might take minutes to load pictures. It might not even load at all. You can see why people in the freedom-of-speech obsessed United States might not be happy with chucking network neutrality. It privileges some speech over others, based on financial resources.

And more:

This is the first step toward a world where corporate monopolies on content start affecting not just what you can see and read online — but also how you gain access to it. The signal will be out there, but your ISP just won’t deliver it to you.

An internet without network neutrality will look a lot like television does now. You’ll depend entirely on your cable company to get broadcasts, and they will only deliver their handpicked channels in their cable packages. There will probably be a little room for the web equivalent of public access television, but it will be so underfunded and slow to load that almost nobody will see it.

It used to be that when a show couldn’t make it on broadcast television, we would watch it online. That’s how amazing stuff like Dr. Horrible made it into the world. But without net neutrality, we lose that option too. If a company doesn’t have the money or legal acumen to get its content included in ISP packages, you will never see its programming. You’ll never have those shows; you’ll never have those apps; and you’ll never know what you’re missing.

Call your congresspeople. Make noise. This is a big deal.

“Did you ever call? I waited for your call.”

Late Night with David Letterman, October 6, 1983.

You’ll know the song, but as of this moment it hasn’t get been named “So. Central Rain”.

I’m pretty sure I remember watching this the next day, after school, from a VHS videotape. I was 13 years old. Letterman was 36, or 8 years younger than I am now.

Today, April 3, 2014, David Letterman has announced he’ll be retiring next year; he’ll turn 68 that year, which seems impossible, but there it is. He started with a morning show in 1980, which approximately nobody watched except me — I remember faking sick to go home and do so, so bored was I with the 5th grade.

Late Night came in 1982; the clip above is from a show still finding its feet in a timeslot when most decent folks were asleep, and in a world where recording television was still novel, and yet somehow it became the model for a new kind of late night show.

He left NBC, famously, after he was passed over for the Tonight Show in 1992, and began his current run at CBS the next year. His retirement plan suggests he’ll mark 22 years at CBS before packing it in.

The best lede in the history of journalism, bar none

Seriously, beat this, from the Atlantic’s new feature on fraternities:

Oe warm spring night in 2011, a young man named Travis Hughes stood on the back deck of the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity house at Marshall University, in West Virginia, and was struck by what seemed to him—under the influence of powerful inebriants, not least among them the clear ether of youth itself—to be an excellent idea: he would shove a bottle rocket up his ass and blast it into the sweet night air. And perhaps it was an excellent idea. What was not an excellent idea, however, was to misjudge the relative tightness of a 20-year-old sphincter and the propulsive reliability of a 20-cent bottle rocket. What followed ignition was not the bright report of a successful blastoff, but the muffled thud of fire in the hole.

You’d think that “journalists” would have at least SOME shame about these things

NBC ran a report about how your devices would get OWNED immediately by evil Russian hackers the minute you turn them on in Sochi.

Turns out, not so much. It’s basically the exploding truck all over again. As noted in the TechDirt takedown:

  • The reporter was in Moscow, not Sochi.
  • The problem was sketchy web sites the reporter sought out, not the connection in the Moscow coffee shop, and so are equally dangerous regardless of where you are — Moscow or Minneapolis.
  • The hack required the reporter to CHOOSE TO DOWNLOAD AND INSTALL MALWARE (yes, it said it was an AV tool, but that man in the van won’t really give you candy, either).
  • The malware would only install if the reporter TURNED OFF SAFETY FEATURES that are left on by default.

Nice job. NBC are, of course, doubling down and insisting their story is genuine and correct, because they are generally craven and ignorant.

More at the well-regarded Errata Security.

Dept. of Obsolete Plots, and the People Who Inspired Them

Back when I was a wee Heathen in the 1970s, World War II wasn’t ancient history. Nazis were still pretty reliable go-to villains, even 30 years after their surrender (e.g.).

Rarer but still somewhat common was the trope of the “isolated Japanese soldier, lost on an island or in the wilderness, who still believes the war is on.” I saw this more than a few times — I remember an episode of Gilligan’s Island originally broadcast in 1965, but also one from the Six Million Dollar Man in 1975, and another from the 1979 show Salvage 1.

The reason this trop was so popular is simple: it was grounded in the real. Holdouts were discovered as late as 1974, nearly 30 years after the end of the war.

One of the last of those men, Lt. Hiroo Onoda, famously refused to believe the war was over until his former commander flew there from Japan to issue orders personally.

Onoda died last week at the age of 91.

Why Jon Stewart is a goddamn treasure

Because he does things like this when his colleagues leave for greener pastures.

Jon Oliver — who famously took over the desk this summer — is getting his own show on HBO. Stewart is clearly proud and happy, and wanted to give him a bit of a send-off on-air. He also wanted it to be a surprise, though, so he wrote and rehearsed a completely false bit that required Oliver as the correspondent, and then broke character about a minute into it to shift into a really glorious sendoff compilation.

It seems pretty clear that Stewart’s a swell guy, and that the team at TDS have real affection for one another. It shows through the comedy, and probably fuels their success to no small degree.

I’m not really one for celeb pieces, but…

…this Clooney piece in Esquire is a goddamn delight. A bit:

Being Clooney, he does not only write to Brad Pitt, however. He also writes as Brad Pitt. A few years ago, he even had some stationery made up with Brad Pitt’s letterhead. Then he found a book about acting and accents and sent it to Meryl Streep, with an accompanying note. It said, “Dear Meryl, this book really helped me with my accent for Troy. I hope it helps you too.” He signed it “Brad Pitt.” Then he sent another letter to Don Cheadle on “Pitt’s” stationery. As long as Cheadle has been acting, he has dreamt of playing Miles Davis. So the letter informed Cheadle that Pitt’s production company had acquired the rights to Davis’s life story. The letter said that Pitt wanted him to star in it.

As Charlie Parker.