This is more time than anyone our age should have spent on Dr Hook, and yet it’s brilliant

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).

(Widely linked.)

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.)

Oh, wow, it just gets worse for the NYPD

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.

  1. He campaigned on ending the unconstitutional use of “stop-and-frisk” tactics, which victimized hundreds of thousands of innocent young black and Latino men.

  2. He called for creating an inspector general for the department and ending racial profiling.

  3. 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.

  4. He said after the Garner killing that he had told his biracial son, Dante, to “take special care” in encounters with the police.

  5. 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:

  1. Don’t violate the Constitution.

  2. Don’t kill unarmed people.

To that we can add:

  1. Do your jobs. The police are sworn public servants, and refusing to work violates their oath to serve and protect.

The Ho Ho Horror

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.

via MeFi.

The most alarming part: “There is no freestanding constitutional right to be free from malicious prosecution.”

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.

Books of 2014, #19: Tigerman, by Nick Harkaway

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.

The End of an Era

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.)

This is almost certainly the coolest thing you’ll see this month

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.

Why don’t cops get indicted?

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.

Dept. of Astoundingly Tone-Deaf, Petulant, Whiney Jackoffs

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!