Okkerville River’s Will Sheff is absolutely in love with an obscure German TV concert tape of Dr Hook & the Medicine Show (conveniently also on YouTube; he embeds bits to illustrate his points) and has written a truly remarkable analysis of it that is absolutely worth your time even if you’re only vaguely aware of who this band was. It is in particular compelling in its insight into the musical and interpersonal dynamics going on in a live performance, which I find fascinating.
When you’re done, check the comments. It turns out two members of the band show up there and weigh in, which is awesome (frontman Dennis Loccorriere, and guitarist Rik Elswit).
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.)
Steve Earle’s video for Telephone Road is a delight all on its own, though. The monkey’s just a bonus.
Their very public tantrums are not having the desired effect. Two NYTimes editorials pull ZERO punches:
12/29/14: Police Respect Squandered in Attacks on [Mayor] de Blasio
When [de Blasio] spoke at a police graduation ceremony at Madison Square Garden on Monday, some in the crowd booed and heckled him. This followed the mass back-turning by scores of officers when the mayor spoke on Saturday at the funeral of Officer Rafael Ramos; the virtual back-turning the day before by an airplane-towed banner (“Our backs have turned to you”), and the original spiteful gesture by officers on the night Mr. de Blasio visited the hospital where Officer Ramos and his partner, Wenjian Liu, lay dead.
Mr. de Blasio isn’t going to say it, but somebody has to: With these acts of passive-aggressive contempt and self-pity, many New York police officers, led by their union, are squandering the department’s credibility, defacing its reputation, shredding its hard-earned respect. They have taken the most grave and solemn of civic moments — a funeral of a fallen colleague — and hijacked it for their own petty look-at-us gesture.
and 12/30/14: When New York City Police Walk Off The Job:
Many members of the New York Police Department are furious at Mayor Bill de Blasio and, by extension, the city that elected him. They have expressed this anger with a solidarity tantrum, repeatedly turning their backs to show their collective contempt. But now they seem to have taken their bitterness to a new and dangerous level — by walking off the job.
The New York Post on Tuesday reported, and city officials confirmed, that officers are essentially abandoning enforcement of low-level offenses. According to data The Post cited for the week starting Dec. 22 — two days after two officers were shot and killed on a Brooklyn street — traffic citations had fallen by 94 percent over the same period last year, summonses for offenses like public drinking and urination were down 94 percent, parking violations were down 92 percent, and drug arrests by the Organized Crime Control Bureau were down 84 percent.
The data cover only a week, and the reasons for the plunge are not entirely clear. But it is so steep and sudden as to suggest a dangerous, deplorable escalation of the police confrontation with the de Blasio administration. Even considering the heightened tensions surrounding the officers’ deaths and pending labor negotiations — the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association has no contract, and its leader, Patrick Lynch, has been the most strident in attacking Mr. de Blasio, calling him a bloody accomplice to the officers’ murder — this action is repugnant and inexcusable. It amounts to a public act of extortion by the police.
And why are they doing this?
Let’s review the actions that Mr. de Blasio’s harshest critics say have driven the police to such extremes.
He campaigned on ending the unconstitutional use of “stop-and-frisk” tactics, which victimized hundreds of thousands of innocent young black and Latino men.
He called for creating an inspector general for the department and ending racial profiling.
After Eric Garner, an unarmed black man, was killed by a swarm of cops on Staten Island, he convened a meeting with the police commissioner, William Bratton, and the Rev. Al Sharpton, giving Mr. Sharpton greater prominence than police defenders thought he should have had because Mr. Sharpton is a firebrand with an unsavory past.
He said after the Garner killing that he had told his biracial son, Dante, to “take special care” in encounters with the police.
He generally condoned the peaceful protests for police reform — while condemning those who incited or committed violence — and cited a tagline of the movement: “Black lives matter.”
The Times ends with some clear advice for Big Apple cops:
[W]hat New Yorkers expect of the Police Department is simple:
Don’t violate the Constitution.
Don’t kill unarmed people.
To that we can add:
- Do your jobs. The police are sworn public servants, and refusing to work violates their oath to serve and protect.
I mean, seriously. The mayor opines that it troubles him that he had to explain to his biracial, presents-as-black son how to survive police encounters, and they go completely nuts. Their union is led by some sort of complete goon. And now they’re assaulting people dancing in the street.
Apparently, the duty of Argentine presidents to serve as legal godfathers to all werewolves is enshrined in the country’s constitution.
No, this is not a joke.
Update ah, but debunked.
Patton Oswalt’s mashup of Rudolph and Apocalypse Now really must be seen to be believed. It’s only about 4.5 minutes long.
There I was … at MADtv, struggling to explain to a network suit what Apocalypse Now was, and how it could be funny if done through the prism of a Rankin Bass special.*
They eventually shot my idea—a year after I left the show. Well, I really didn’t leave. They didn’t have me back. And with good fucking reason. I was a judgmental, sour asshole of a writer. Quick with a criticism and never with a fix. A comedy and film snob who rolled his eyes half the time and turned in typo-filled scripts. But they shot it. And put my name in the credits. Misspelled. Revenge? They were entitled. The sketch was called “A Pack of Gifts Now,” and it was lovingly animated by a stop-motion genius named Corky Quakenbush. An elf [actually a reindeer—Editor] is sent by toy makers to the North Pole to terminate “the Kringle” and his cultlike operation of toy makers “with extreme prejudice.” And, ironically enough, one of the producers I clashed with, Fax Bahr—who codirected the documentary Hearts of Darkness, about the making of … Apocalypse Now—shepherded the sketch through, with all of my visual jokes and references intact, and plenty of his own, which made the sketch even better. Even got a mention in TV Guide. Thanks, Fax. Sorry I was such a dick. Part of being in your twenties is not knowing an ally when you see one.
Seriously, do not miss this. Hard to believe it was on MadTV.
Really, Judge Miller? Christ:
TX SWAT team beats, deafens nude man in his own home, lies about arrest; judge declines to punish cops or DA.
I hope this guys sues the everliving SHIT out of the city, the department, and the DA. It’s cold comfort, since even an enormous settlement won’t affect the cops, the prosecutor, or the judge in the slightest — as all three live in a world free of accountability — but it’s all we can hope for.
That category, wherein I read nearly everything they write? Yeah, Scalzi’s in there. Just read it, for Christ’s sake. It’s a near-future murder mystery. What’s not to like?
Look, even if it’s not as much of a complete and perfect delight as The Gone Away World, how can you NOT love Harkaway’s language?
“If you just go out in the river and stand there long enough, you end up with a fish in your pangs and everyone thinks you’re a genius.”
Indeed. And then, there’s this:
“The last d ays are no less important than the others juyst because they are near to the end. Should we stop living today jsut because death is no longer a stranger?”
Tigerman is more or less straight fiction, and in that is a departure form the more SF/fantasy romp that was GAW, but it’s no less worth your time. The central story here is of a British functionary assigned to be the last official overseeing UK interests on a tiny (fictional) island that is, unfortunately, completely doomed. Things are actively falling apart, and the events of the story take place against a very real backdrop of impending doom, if not for the characters then for the island itself (hence that second quote).
Again, I’m running out of year here, or I’d say more, but the bottom line is that Harkaway is fast becoming the sort of writer I want to read all of.
Remember last year, when I read The Big Sleep? Yeah, more of the same — brilliant work, now seen as cliche, that was being invented at the time.
I’m terribly far behind on these posts, so the next few will be given the short shrift, but trust me when I say sampling the noir classics is worth your time.
Since 1986, David Letterman has celebrated Christmas on his programs by inviting Darlene Love to sing “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” on his last pre-Christmas show. It’s a wonderful thing that’s grown in size and scope and power over these 28 or so years.
Letterman, of course, is retiring next year; tonight will be his final Christmas show. Love will deliver her signature holiday tune, but with Letterman’s retirement she’s announced that she will be retiring the song from television out of respect.
Tune in. It’s sure to be lovely.
(More on the series at Mefi.)
Some folks in New York have figured out how to 3-D print an actual dress. Not “print a bunch of pieces and then assemble them,” mind you, which is what I thought this would be when I first watched the video; I mean they created the design for this dress — comprised of thousands of triangles and other shapes linked together — that could be printed all at once, and worn immediately out of the printer.
This is seriously some William Gibson shit right here. Check it out.
Go read this:
Grand juries were designed to be a check on prosecutors and law enforcement. Instead, they’ve become a corrupt shield to protect those with power and another sword to strike down those without. And it’s now all too obviously past time the system was overhauled to fix that.
Before Wednesday’s shameful decision by a New York grand jury to refuse to indict the police officer who choked to death an unarmed and unresisting Eric Garner, one statistic made clear just how much our justice system has failed:
If you are an ordinary citizen being investigated for a crime by an American grand jury, there is a 99.993% chance you’ll be indicted. Yet if you’re a police officer, that chance falls to effectively nil.
The short answer is because the prosecutors are in bed with, and are part of the same problem as, the cops. It’s not in their interest to prosecute police, so they don’t do it unless there’s absolutely no alternative. This has to change.
More on the subject over at The Nation, which includes this horrifying gem:
First, the big picture. Last year, the FBI tallied 461 “justifiable homicides” committed by law enforcement—justifiable because the Bureau assumes so, and the nation’s courts have not found otherwise. This is the highest number in two decades, even as the nation’s overall homicide rate continues to drop.
Oh, and then there’s this:
Are there any effective civilian oversight systems at any major police department in the US? Nobody I interviewed for this article could name one.
Read this and tell me if you don’t come away with the same conclusion.
Yesterday, some St. Louis Rams players entered the field pre-game making the “hands-up, don’t-shoot” gesture in solidarity with the protesters.
In a shocking display of maturity and level-headedness, a St. Louis-area police organization has gone completely apoplectic over the protest, and is insisting that the players be punished.
SLPA Executive Director Jeff Roorda, a controversial figure in the Ferguson drama, said “it is unthinkable that hometown athletes would so publicly perpetuate a narrative that has been disproven over-and-over again” and called on the team and league to discipline the players.
To call Roorda’s characterization misleading is to understate things by a couple orders of magnitude.
Oh, and it’s worth pointing out that this Roorda asshole is in fact a disgraced former officer, and spends his time today working against accountability measures like bodycams.
UPDATE: The NFL will be taking no action against the players. Suck it, St Louis cops!
What’s more awesome: that a book called Crabs: The Human Sacrifice exist, or that it’s part of a series involving the plots and villainy of sentient crabs?
No, seriously. These are real.
As noted by one of the Tumblr commenters, I really, really want to know what sort of childhood beach trauma lies at the root of the author’s crab fear.
Given how thoroughly Lucas destroyed Star Wars with the absurdly bad prequels PLUS the fact that Abrams is objectively terrible when it comes to continuity, I’m shocked at how many people are excited about the new teaser trailer. There’s basically zero chance this film isn’t garbage.
Glad you asked. Go read this and be enlightened. It includes a minimum of background about how credit cards are processed today, and why Apple Pay is different, but the real money shot is this:
Credit card security falls down because every merchant gets a copy of your credit card number, but virtually none of them really safeguard that information, so you end up with situations like the Target breach. With Apple Pay, the merchant never has your credit card number at all.
Now, some merchants are up in arms about Apple Pay because the card number isn’t the only info they don’t get — in fact, they get just about nothing, because Apple Pay doesn’t have to leak any of that demographic information at point of sale. This is a feature, not a bug, but some merchants (Rite Aid, for example) don’t see it this way because they want to use the demo data to market to you, or to sell to advertisers as an alternate revenue stream, or whatever. That’s not your problem, though.
For a consumer, Apple Pay is a slam dunk good idea. Embrace it if you can, or whenever you get a device that supports it.
At the holidays, it’s nice to see businesses stepping up for the less fortunate — say, having a canned food drive, for example.
What’s less nice is when it turns out that the business in question is organizing a food drive for their own employees because they pay them so little that it’s necessary.
JWZ details his work on a particularly excellent screen saver module; it draws pictures of “gear spheres” like this:
The math involved is, apparently, delightful.
Via BoingBoing, I call your attention to the absolute TREASURE of mid-70s kitsch that is the 1976 Paul Lynde Halloween Special.
With a special appearance by KISS.
No, I am not kidding.
Now that it’s legal and all, some YouTube types recruited three grandmothers to try weed, and filmed the results, and it’s completely adorable.
The gay-hatin’ National Organization for Marriage is drowning in debt after their donations dropped by half from 2012 to 2013.
An between 2012 and 2013, NOM saw a staggering 50 percent drop in donations. The group raised $5.1 million in 2013, and two donors accounted for more than half the money raised by the group, according to HRC.
Emphasis added. That’s some grassroots org you’ve got there, bigots.
Longtime Heathen watchers will recall that Mrs Heathen and I take an annual rejuvenating nerd cruise with Royal Caribbean every winter. Each time has been aboard one of RCI’s Freedom class ships, which are sort of amazing and shocking in their size and scope — 154,000 gross tons and 339 meters long. To put this in context, a Nimitz class supercarrier is “only” about 333 meters long, and has a lower displacement, and they land planes on it. Regularly, apparently. At one point, these boats were the biggest cruise ships afloat, but that’s no longer true.
Because, I guess, they thought bigger was always better, RCI eclipsed this class in 2009 with the Oasis class, at over 225,000 gross tons and 360 meters long. Given the sheer size and scope of the ships we’ve been on, I find that hard to wrap my head around, but there it is.
Perhaps because of issues of gravity or fear of hubris or something, though, RCI’s absolute newest ship is actually smaller. The Quantum of the Seas isn’t bigger than the Oasis boats, but it’s materially more advanced in every other way. Gizmodo writer Adam Estes took a ride on one and wrote about it. If you ignore his utter lack of fact checking re: the boat’s size, it’s a fun read. (He states it’s the third largest ship in the world, but a host of tankers and transport ships dwarf it; it is, however, the third biggest cruise ship in the world, behind the two Oasis boats that preceded it; the Freedom boats are in 5th place.)
Please join us in wishing The Glenbrook Valley Heathen Extension Office a delightful OCHO.
This piece is very, very spot on, and it makes clear something I’ve been trying to articulate for years: People like Mitch McConnell are not Americans. They are Republicans, concerned first and foremost with the good of their party, not the nation, and certainly not those whom they purport to represent.
Edit: Messages like this one from the National Review just make this point even clearer: don’t do things; people will start to expect that. Keep your eyes on 2016.
I mean, seriously. WTF?
Key & Peele do Steampunk.
Almost 30 years ago, my friend Rob had a laptop-like device made by Tandy called a TRS-80 Model 100.
It’s very much a sort of proto-laptop, and was widely used by non-geeks as a portable writing platform when similarly robust and functional laptops were still years away. There’s no hinge; it’s just a flat device with a small LCD screen. You could, if memory served, run programs (i.e., a simple word processor / text editor) or boot the thing to BASIC like every other TRS-80. I remember Rob using it backstage at the all-school production to catch up on a paper for AP English in about 1987.
(A few years later, Radio Shack was selling a descendent product called the WP-2; I bought one to take notes with in college, since (then as now) I can type much more quickly (and legibly) than I can write longhand.)
In the intervening years, laptops have gotten much, much more capable, to the point that for most folks there’s no reason to use a desktop at all. However, if you have a full computer with you, it’s easy to get distracted by other activities — especially if there’s a network connection. What if you just want to write without distractions?
Enter Hemmingwrite. It’s a little precious — the prototype is styled to look like a portable typewriter — but inside it’s reasonably clever:
The Hemingwrite is-a single purpose, distraction-free writing composition device. It combines the simplicity of a 90s era word processor with the modern tech we all require like cloud backups and integration into our favorite document editors like Google docs and Evernote.
They’re planning a 6-week battery life, internal memory for a million pages, and a proper, mechanical-switch keyboard.
I’m not sure I have a need for one, but it sure is neat.
I’m paying a lot less attention to football this year, but I couldn’t help but notice Ole Miss getting upset by LSU yesterday. That’s a weird sentence to type, because for a long time Ole Miss has been pretty miserable, and LSU has been a threat in the conference since Saban coached there, but here it is: Ole Miss was undefeated going into yesterday’s game against a two-loss LSU, and couldn’t get the job done.
In the wake of the loss, though, this stat got my attention, as presented by ESPN on Twitter:
LSU is 24-23 under Les Miles when trailing in the 4th quarter, the only FBS team with a record over .500 in that scenario since 2005.
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 26, 2014
Holy. Fucking. Shit. That’s some serious voodoo right there.
A World of Trouble concludes perhaps the most melancholy detective trilogy ever: as documented previously in the first volume (The Last Policeman, which was also the first book of 2013) and its followup (Countdown City, also last year), the world of Detective Hank Palace is about to come to an end. This is not a metaphor: a world-ending object is on a collision course with the earth, and its impact will probably kill everyone.
Instead of telling a big-hero story, or a big-science story, though, Winters does something completely novel: he focuses on the life of his protagonist and those around him as the world slowly comes apart over the course of the year. This final volume’s ending is no secret, given the setup, but getting there is where the story really lives.
It’s hard to discuss the third book in a trilogy without spoiling anything, so I won’t beyond saying the books are generally worth your time. I think my favorite is still the first one, which establishes Palace’s world, but the followups are rewarding in their own right even as the world gets bleaker and bleaker.
Finished 23 July
I’ll be brief: LeCarre is clearly not pleased with what passes for intelligence work in the post-9/11 world. Here, he paints a picture of barely functional agencies pursuing someone who is almost certainly NOT a terrorist. I won’t bother with the film, but Hoffman is perfect for the character he plays.
They’re trying to prevent Lance Armstrong from riding in a charity noncompetitive Gran Fondo organized by George Hincapie.
Way to go, guys. Clearly, this is all about cycling and not about you guys being vindictive fuckwits.
So, Mrs Heathen and I just decided to take in the Edge of Tomorrow which, surprisingly, isn’t a soap opera but is instead a big Hollywood Tom Cruise movie.
I’ll state at the getgo that it filled our need for “big dumb movie,” but holy FUCK the entire thing is completely devoid of any original content. It’s amazing.
The plot is a straight rip of Source Code replacing “terror attack” with “alien invasion,” which is itself a national-security/action-movie retread of Groundhog Day. At least Groundhog Day was an actually decent film.
Oh, we fight in armor? Imagine that.
Wait, the unit includes a foul-mouthed vaguely-hispanic woman? Well, at least her name wasn’t Vasquez.
It’s a goddamn shame they didn’t have the sergeant say “game over” at any point.
There’s multi-tentacled bad guys attacking aircraft? You mean, like the ones in The Matrix?
We have a lovely blonde character who fights with an anime-scale sword? Seriously?
You put the bad guy, for much of the movie, in a giant concrete well with tentacles going everywhere? Gosh, where have I seen that before?
And because the filmmakers have NO SHAME AT ALL, the end credits are a straight rip-off of the first Iron Man film.
So yeah, now I know what it’s like to watch a movie made entirely of shameless ripoffs. It is, of course, no surprise that it made tons of money. Sigh.