I mean it, though. Cassandra Peterson was born in 1951. Granted, that video is a professional production with pro-grade lighting, makeup, and whatnot, and yet still: 69. Dang.
(Yes, yes, yes: Also, nice. There, I said it.)
“Only” 158 people have ever been in the cast at SNL. 16% of those have had their ENTIRE CAREER happen while he’s been on the show.
All in, Kenan has shared the bill with 52 cast members — those 25, plus anyone who was already on the cast when he was hired (Armisen, Dratch, Fallon, Fey, Forte, Hammond, Meyers, Parnell, Richards, Rudolph, and Sanz) plus all those still ON the cast (16 people at the end of last season, plus himself).
IOW, he’s been cast with just over 33% of all cast members of SNL ever.
My love for the comedy troupe The State is well documented, but somehow I never saw this piece in Details back in 1996 about their ill-fated and almost-never-seen network debut, a Halloween special on CBS on a random Friday night that year.
Nothing went well, obviously, or the group would’ve gotten bigger instead of staying a cult favorite. Lots of the alums went on to bigger success — several in Reno 911!, Wet Hot American Summer, and obviously Joe Lo Truglio in Brooklyn Nine-Nine — but this mostly marked the end of The State as a going concern, which is sad.
Anyway, this article — written by a comedy writer who worked with them for the special — is a great time capsule, and it includes a laugh-out-loud treat for modern readers. Hint: watch out for the name of a particular day player, then essentially unknown with a single credit, now hugely famous & festooned with awards.
Rebecca Solnit has long been one of the most important voices writing in the 21st century. The first two paragraphs of her piece on the Weinstein verdict give you an inkling why I say that.
There was a man who was in charge of stories. He decided that some stories would be born, expensive, glamorous stories that cost more than a hundred minimum-wage earners might make in a hundred years, filmy stories with the skill of more hundreds expended so that they would slip in like dreams to the minds of millions and make money, and he made money and the money gave him more power over more stories.
There were other stories he decided must die. Those were the stories women might tell about what he had done to them, and he determined that no one must hear them, or if they heard them they must not believe them or if they believed them it must not matter.
It is by no means surprising, in retrospect, that the advent of cheap and easy DNA testing services and online databases had lead to a situation that Jeffrey Young over at HuffPo calls The Death of the Family Secret.
It’s a fascinating read. Make time.
Bill O’Reilly, almost getting it:
Yeah, Bill, it’s a LOT like that.
In case the graphic gets lost:
Slavery reparations is a far-left favorite because it does a number of things. It reinforces the radical belief that the United States was founded by racist white men who installed a system whereby white guys would run everything and blacks, women and others would be exploited.
It also suggests that personal responsibility does not count when the legacy of slavery dropped a curtain of oppression on the black race and there is no recovering from that. The radical left says our society remains unjust to this day, forget personal responsibility.
(Widely linked; screenshot from BoingBoing.)
William Langewiesche has written no end of wonderful pieces about flight. This makes sense; his father Wolfgang wrote the definitive text on the subject back in 1944, so young William grew up with flight, and indeed worked as a pilot himself for years before taking up writing.
Eventually working with both Vanity Fair and The Atlantic, Langewiesche has won two National Magazine Awards, and been nominated for many others — and not always about flight. He’s written about the Sahara, the unbuilding of the World Trade Center, and nuclear proliferation in the third world, international shipping, and the Chilean mining disaster.
But it’s in flight that he seems to be the most compelling to me. Over the years he’s covered the so-called Miracle on the Hudson, the Columbia disaster, the now-nearly-forgotten collision of planes over the Amazon in 2006, and, most compellingly, about the 1999 crash of EgyptAir 990
This month, in the Atlantic, he has a new piece, on the loss of flight MH370; it appears that we now have as close to a rock solid explanation as we’re likely to get, given Malaysian corruption and the realities of ocean searches. Sadly, this situation has a lot in common with EgyptAir 990.
The piece is long, but it’s very good, and well worth your time.
So Facebook has apparently been asking people for their email passwords, which is just amazingly wrongheaded and evil. I’m sure plenty of folks gave them up, too. But here’s the thing:
There is never a good reason to give your password to anyone. Note I didn’t say “email password;” I mean literally ANY password. Maybe we get a little flexible about this where spouses come into play, or that shared Hulu account, but for things like email: NOPE.
It’s ABSOLUTELY a red flag if anyone online ever asks you for a password to some other site, as Facebook does here. There’s no reason for Facebook to need this information. There’s no reason for you to give it to them. Seriously. NO GOOD CAN COME FROM THIS.
So, Tom Hiddleston did a funny little vitamin commercial for the Chinese market, and it’s notable for lots of reasons if you’re interested in that sort of thing. For one thing, it was released on Hiddleston’s own Weibo channel, so it’s not just advertising native to social media, it’s advertising tailor-made for a Chinese social media platform — and is meant to be consumed on phones (hence the vertical video).
Anyway, it’s apparently hugely successful in China, but lots of it seems super weird to Western consumers — not the least of it being the weird “immersive” style, and obviously the food choice.
This would all be fuel for discussion on its own, but then Phil Wang made something amazing with it, and that’s why I’m posting it here. Enjoy.
Make time for this, seriously. It’s brilliant and amazing.
This is one insanely depressing story. Perhaps the money quote is paragraph from late in the story:
I want to go home, but feel reluctant to leave. One of the most famous actors in the world is now smoking dope with a writer and his lawyer while his cook makes dinner and his bodyguards watch television. There is no one around him who isn’t getting paid.
14 years ago, promoting Anchorman, Will Ferrell visited Conan back when Conan was on Late Night, and really kind of before DVRs took over. Few watched or recorded; it was weird and chaotic and almost devoid of rules.
So they did this. It’s long. Stay with it. Make time, but if you absolutely cannot wait, skip ahead to 9:40, and realize that this joke only comes after Ferrell has been playing it straight on the couch for nearly ten minutes.
Good lord, absolutely MAKE TIME TO WATCH THIS, because it’s awesome.
The story — about an SR-71 crew being the fasted guys on the comms channel one afternoon — has been widely shared before, but this is the first time I’ve heard it “performed” by the author. It’s pretty great. Enjoy.
It is difficult to adequately explain what a treasure The Gong Show was in its heyday. It was weird and subversive and downright bizarre in a media landscape that, in some markets, had Hee Haw on every other damn channel at 6:30 in the evening. Witness bits like the debut of Oingo Boingo, or the whole IDEA of Gene Gene the Dancing Machine, or inspired stunts like this — a show in which every contestant sang “Feelings.”
Over at the Times, there’s a great feature of photographs of the studies and workspaces of recently departed prominent folks. Check it out.
Today in oddly melancholy Sesame Street nostalgia…
(Offer not valid for millenials, I suspect.)
I defy you to read this and come away with any other conclusion.
You know, sometimes, censoring completely acceptable words in vintage PBS shows can lead to absurd and possibly childhood-ruining hilarity.
Go on. Click it. You know you want to. I’m Counting on you.
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.
Serena Williams is Fed Up With Your Sexist Questions (at Glamour, of all places).
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.
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.”
This feature at Vulture is really great. Absolutely make time.
If nothing else, it may refresh your appreciation for a number of these giants, especially Jonathan Winters, whose improvised, rapid-fire routine with a stick on the Jack Paar show (in 1964!) makes clear what a defining influence he was on Robin Williams.
Seriously, don’t miss this.
Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee visits an interesting, amateur comedian in DC, and it’s awesome.
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.
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.
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 NYT has a nice interview piece up about Dave’s impending retirement (on May 20).
He sounds remarkably unguarded and open, vs. all prior interviews with him I’ve read. I rarely watch anymore, but I’ll definitely miss him.
In-flight wifi provider Gogo has been caught doing a man-in-the-middle attack, basically by issuing fraudulent certificates to its users.
This allows Gogo to eavesdrop even on SSL connections, which would normally be secure. It’s an enormous breach of trust.
Your only real defense here is to use a VPN, but it turns out there are several to choose from.
The title is a takedown in and of itself, so I’ll just use it:
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.)
W. Kamau Bell in Vanity Fair: “On Being a Black Male, Six Feet Four Inches Tall, in America in 2014“
This may be the best whisky commercial in the history of the world.
Herein, he absolutely destroys the craven, bullshit claims the Miss American organization makes about its “scholarship program.”
It’s a thing of beauty. Seriously, watch the whole thing.
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.”