Archived entries for people

You’ve heard the name in passing, friends or coworkers talking about the curious new artist with the disastrous performance on Saturday Night Live, so you look her up on YouTube.

This is what you find.

A beautiful young girl with a sultry voice that evokes the best moments of Tori Amos from the 90s.

But, there’s something wrong.

The beauty is artificial. Sculpted with a surgeon’s knife and approaching the alienating expanse of the uncanny valley.

The music is crafted so she won’t have to push out of her vocal range, organized into easily editable phrases that can be cut together from multiple takes and written by song writers that know just what strings to tug in their audience.

The video is just like a few others she put out, a mix of public domain footage and moments of her mouthing the words at the camera, head askew in an awkward attempt at demure sexuality.

If everything about Lana Del Ray smacks of artificial, untenable perfection because that’s just what it is.

Her real name is Elizabeth Grant, and she’s a millionaire’s daughter. Her father made his money by jumping on thousands of domains in the early days of the internet and charging people to lease them from him. Which meant that he had the capital to indulge his daughter when she wanted to become a star. He’s hired managers, producers, song writers, stylists and god knows what else to turn his daughter into this impossible thing.

Elizabeth’s been at this for years, trying to find the right combination of things to fit her unique style of might-be talent. It took them five years and who knows how many marketing reps to settle on the Lana Del Rey name

She released her first EP in 2008, then a full album in 2011 – neither of which are publicly available any more because a decision was made by her “team” to pull them so they’d have a clean field for the newest iteration of the Lana Del Rey construct.

Which about catches us up to the slow motion car wreck that was her on SNL.

Normally, I’d be at head of the pack, racing into savage a pop star for their hubris and lack of talent. But, there’s something different here. To me the story isn’t about how she can’t perform live, the story is about how she was made.

With digital recording technology we can already create singing computer programs to power virtual pop idols. With Lana Del Rey, though, we’re now coming at it from the infinite-number-of-monkeys-with-type-writers direction. Provided a person hits every note in a song just once while be recorded, the song can be sutured together with ones and zeroes into something that sounds like it was done in a single take.

And when a creation like Lana Del Rey steps out onto a live stage, how can you expect such a meticulously crafted illusion to hold up? It would be akin to asking Peter Jackson to do The Lord of the Rings live…in one take.

Lana Del Rey does give me a bit of hope, though. Hope that the same technology that was used to build her will be used by more interesting people to do more interesting things, and they’ll be the ones that push the horizon out just a bit more.

(I will admit I’ve found myself humming the hook to Video Games without realizing it.)

This weekend was the first 48 hour Memphis Music Launch, presented by the Memphis Music Foundation, EmergeMemphis and the Launchpad – basically a whole bunch of nonprofits dedicated to improving Memphis.

The concept was that people could pitch any kind of music or business music idea to the other participants. Then, 8 pitches would be picked to have groups work on that idea for 48 hours, presenting at the end of the weekend. From there only four groups would move forward to a showcase show at the New Daisy in July, with the winner getting a record deal and other awesome prizes.

Laurel did a lot of the collateral design work for the project at Archer, and thought that it might be something fun for us to do. You know, do some design work, maybe build a website for a band that needed work.

Like all of our Bad Ideas, this ballooned into something much bigger than we expected.

We ended up working with a group of 8 musicians who were strangers on Friday, and by Sunday were making music that I really feel represents the modern diversity of Memphis and America as a whole. We named them The Delta Collective, and ended up taking over all of their marketing/legal/business research while they got to the business of writing and recording.

And my God did they knock that part of it out of the park.

At then end of the weekend, we presented the band, their music and all of the planning we’d done. I took over the business end of the presentation, and from the audience feedback, we were the best of the bunch.

I’ll never forget when the judges came back after their deliberations.

“Now, here are the winners in no particular order…
The Delta Collective…”

So, they’re moving on to the showcase in July, with L and I acting as publicists/shepherds/managers/enablers.

You can check out the final product at the website we built:
http://thedeltacollective.com/

That’ll also lead you all of our social media stuff, too.

We’ve got 90 days to do as much as we can with these guys, who were, just 48 hours ago, total strangers.

No idea what’ll happen in that or beyond that, but at least for the weekend, those six people and the two of us had our lives changed for the better.

I just wish I could have a weekend after that weekend. Our yard needs to be cut badly, ha.

EDIT: Damn, I’m bad at the Internet today. It’s a Photoshop. He did it, but he wasn’t wearing the bikini top.

Jess Nevins is amazing. Absolutely amazing. They guy is the High Priest of Low Fiction.

And he’s starting up a series of posts about the history of science fiction pulps on io9.

I started working on these almost a full year ago. Took me along time to research and then organize and figure out how to write. But I think the end results will be worth it.

This is the first in a series. First column is the history of sf pulps, 1896-1936. Second is 1937-1953. Third and fourth are a history of European sf pulps. Fifth is a history of German pulp sf (“sf pulps under totalitarianism, pt 1″). Sixth is a history of Russian and Soviet pulp sf. Seventh will be Japanese pulp sf. (Thus covering the big three of totalitarian regimes).

I’m not a huge io9 fan. I think they do some really good blogging, and some really bad blogging. But, I think Jess Nevins is absolutely brilliant and should be checked out regardless of where his stuff is.

First one is here.

I dislike Halloween. For numerous reasons.

Amateur drinkers think they can keep up with the professionals, and then the sidewalks are awash with puke the next morning.

Girls with self worth problems decided that being slutty is suddenly a costume. (Darlin, it would be if you didn’t already put out after two Bacardi Silvers.)

Asshole teenagers constantly ringing my doorbell – even though my light is off – for candy I don’t have.

And then there’s the children. The hordes and hordes of children. God, I hate them.

But, what I do like is the origin of Halloween.

It all started with the ancient Gaels. They noted that toward the end of October and the start of November, nights overtook days. Daylight became scarce, plants and animals started to die, and winter followed close behind.

They divided their calendar year into two halves around the dominance of light or dark. The dark half that started about now, and the light half that kicked off some time in April/May. But when they transitioned from light to the dark? That’s when magic things happened.

The Gaels believed that at the point of transition from the light half of the year to the dark half of the year, the edges between this mortal world and the spiritual “otherworld” became blurred. Spirits were able to pass through the veil and return to this world on this day.

They called it Samhain.

Literally translated it means “Summer’s End.” It is the point of origin for our modern day Halloween. Gaels celebrated it by building bonfires, wearing masks to hide from spirits, and carving faces into turnips to confuse them. Any of that sound familiar?

But, you didn’t have to avoid spirits. You could seek them out. Passed on family members, dead friends, tragic lovers. For one night you could talk to them again. You could be together again. Death didn’t have to be good bye forever.

And that always appealed to me more than a child on a sugar high banging on my front door.

It also brings up an interesting question. If there was one person you could talk to again, for just one night, what would you ask them? What do you hope they would say?

Happy Samhain, everyone.

If you’re looking for me, I’ll be staring into a fire, trying to talk to my grandfathers.

This picture came up over the weekend, and I thought I’d share it with everyone who doesn’t know the story.

Lady on the left, giving the “what the fuck do you think you’re wearing?” glare? That’s the legendary Italian actress, Sophia Loren.

The boundless expanse of cleavage and blonde to the right? That’s Jayne Mansfield, one of the quintessential late 50s, early 60s bombshells.

This photograph was taken in 1957 at Romanoff’s in Los Angeles. The occasion was a dinner honoring Italians in the motion picture industry. Jayne Mansfield, while obviously not Italian, was too big of a star in 1957 to not get invited to something like this. Having her at an event like this would ensure that the reporters would be there to cover it.

There’s a subtext to this picture, as well. See, Loren and Mansfield were on opposite ends of the sexuality dynamic in Hollywood.

Sophia Loren was all about selling sex, yes. But she was of the smile and wink school. Her allure was all about temptation without any payoff. She may have been the sort of lady that your wife wouldn’t let you near, but most importantly, she was still a lady. There were certain things that she would never do.

The same wasn’t true of Jayne Mansfield. Two years before this picture was taken she was a Playboy Playmate (a pictorial which nearly got Heff arrested on an indecency charge). She was the first big name Hollywood actress to appear nude in a film since the demise of the Hays Code, in Promises! Promises!. She wore outfits like the one above as publicity stunts, hoping and often encouraging her breasts to fall out. Her sex was overt, in your face, and with a payoff that was given to anyone who’d look for more than a second.

Sophia Loren was the epitome of the classic siren, and Jayne Mansfield was a vision of the future. Two legendary beauties, both selling sex, but both going it at it in different ways, colliding in a single moment, made timeless in an unforgettable photograph.

Satoshi Kon passed away yesterday at the age of 46. He directed and created high concept animated feature films and television series.

His directorial debut was the beautifully twisted Hitchcockian thriller Perfect Blue in 1997. I saw it my sophomore year of college, and it’s stuck with me, like broken glass jabbed into my brain, since then. The way he dealt with the concepts in that movie, especially the creation and destruction of celebrity, are incredible.

He followed up his debut with award winning films like Millennium Actress and Tokyo Godfathers. They’re less scarring, but still just as intriguing as his first film.

After those two, he took a break from the big screen to bring the bizarre Paranoia Agent to the small screen.

His last release was Paprika, which won him the most exposure for his mind bending works.

Kon was a visionary and an advocate of his medium. There were decades of work ahead of him, and the world is diminished by his passing.

I have groped for years trying to find some solution of the most pressing problem of humanity that of insuring peace and, little by little, I have been led to the ideal means to this end. For they will afford perfect protection to every country without providing a new implement for attack. The International Peace Conference will insist on its immediate and universal adoption, for as long as the countries are imperfectly protected invasions are sure to occur.

Taken from a letter where he explains to an investor why he won’t be building his particle beam “death ray”.

Full text of the letter can be found at Gizmodo via Letters of Note.

The revolution will not be televised.

There will be no pictures of pigs shooting down
brothers in the instant replay.
There will be no pictures of pigs shooting down
brothers in the instant replay.

-Gil Scott Heron, 1971

One of the most repeated phrases in modern counter-culture wasn’t entirely true event when it was first written.

The Democratic Convention of 1968 in Chicago, when the police took to beating anyone they could swing a club at while people chanted “The whole world is watching.” was broadcast live. And that happened three years before the poem.

Since then, technology has stripped away any truth from that idea.

When I was younger, I watched the Berlin Wall come down, I watched tanks shelling the Russian Parliament building. Both on CNN. And maybe you can say I wasn’t seeing the whole of those respective revolutions. Instead, I was seeing the nice parts, the photo-op bits, cleaned up for mass market consumption. You could rightly make a case that the dirt and grit and people dead in the street was kept quietly out of view.

But that’s not true any more.

Thanks to the ubiquity of video capture devices on mobile phones, and the ubiquity of mobile phones, and the ubiquity of the Internet, anyone anywhere is an eyepiece for the world.

Last summer the world watched Iran shudder as civil unrest took hold in their major urban centers. I watched police storm into buildings, drag people out and beat them, seemingly without purpose. But the image I’ll never forget are two dead eyes, black and round, staring up at nothing, one socket filling with blood. That was Neda Agha-Soltan. A beautiful young woman that would become the face, name and martyr for the Iranian Green Movement.

And now events are repeating a year later, but in another part of the world. Thailand is moments away from complete civil war as the landed power elite are challenged by a populist uprising. And just like last summer in Iran, they now have their own martyr. Another young girl shot in the head by a sniper’s bullet, her blood spilling out into the street. We don’t know her name yet, but I won’t imagine it will be long until we do.

I won’t be linking you to those videos, because I think that seeing a person’s real, violent death is something that you should have to choose to see, not inadvertently click on.

But the Revolution is in fact being televised. And while there aren’t pictures of pigs shooting down brothers.

There are videos of governments shooting young girls.

Frank Frazetta

1928 – 2010

That’s Larry North. An pink butterball of a man from East Texas who planted dozens of pipe bombs in mailboxes. Because “he was disenchanted with the federal government” and “he was disenchanted with an individual who he perceived that had wronged him”

That’s David Stone, leader of the Hutaree Militia.

These are his people:

This is a panel from Garth Ennis’s comic Preacher.

In which the preacher Jesse Custer, whom the book is named for, confronts a group of Klu Klux Klan members.

An Irishman’s graphic novel ode to the American cowboy mythos says this better than I ever could.

That’s Newtons formula for acceleration, the converse of his formula for force, F=ma.

The variables are a for acceleration, F for the force applied to the object, and m for the mass of that object.

Of course, there are a lot more equations that can explain acceleration in more detail, and account for its varied forms (dynamic, constant, centripetal, etc), but this is the one I’m going to use for today’s random thought.

The speed of events in the world is increasing. That’s an irrefutable facts. Things are happening faster, everything, anything, what ever you can think of, it happens faster than it did a century ago, a half-century ago, a decade ago, maybe even a year ago. This is the acceleration of modern life.

We’ll refer to it as aml.

That leaves two parts to the equation, the force and the mass.

The force, is, at the root, the advancement of our knowledge. Both in the breadth of what we know, and the depth of what we know about what we know. The rule of thumb for knowledge is that what we know is doubling every ten years. So, linear growth. That’s not to say that we’re going to make twice as many brilliant discoveries as we did in the last last decade, because a lot of what we’re learning is pointless mundane shit. We’re learning tons about how people interact with digital devices right now, but that’s not going to solve the world’s problems or give us limitless clean energy. It will just make the next generation of iPhone more attractive than last year’s model. But, there are some real advancements, and they compound on existing knowledge.

Discovering lighter alloy metals makes airplanes faster and more fuel efficient, so they can travel farther for less money. Discovering new ways to increase the density of batteries increases the usefulness of everything from electric vehicles to laptop computers to vibrators. And I don’t even know where to begin with the Internet. Things are moving so much faster every year that it is only a matter of time before the entire industrialized world is blanketed under a sheet of high-speed wifi. Right now, from my $99 iPhone, I can download an app that lets me call Korea, for FREE, over the Internet. For less than the price of a nice pair of sneakers, I can talk to some one literally on the other side of the planet.

We’ll call our force the force of knowledge.

Fk

That leaves mass.

The average weight of a human being is around 160lbs. That’s taking both men and women into account. All of the force of knowledge built up by the summation of human existence, and it only has to move less than 200lbs.

I’m not meaning that as a piss answer, either. The reason that Gutenberg printing press was such a big deal was because it enabled more people to have copies of a book, in most cases a Bible. Give a missionary a Gutenberg Bible, a direction and send him off to spread the Word. He’s dead? Eaten by cannibalistic Slavs? Oh well! Print another Bible and get another acolyte!

It only takes one person with an idea to tell another person about that idea. From there, you’ve got the magnifying effect of word of mouth. Bloggers are the modern day Gutenberg presses. They are the individual advocates of ideas that spread them to the masses, who in turn spread word about that blog. Professional news sources are turning more and more to individual bloggers for editorial and news content. Just like a missionary wandering into a town, a single blogger, at the right moment in time, with the right thing to say, can change the world for everyone.

So, for our mass, let’s go with the mass of a human.

mh

Making our final formula aml=Fk/mh

The acceleration of modern life is equal to the force of knowledge divided by the mass of a human.

And the point and impetus to all of this?

The Massachusetts senatorial election last night. Where a Republican swept the Democrats out of a seat that had been under their control since World War II. There is potential for this to be the harbinger of a Democratic slaughter come the 2010 midterm elections. I’m not going to go down the political rabbit hole right now, but I do wonder what is going to happen as the political pendulum speeds up. Just this time last year we were all screaming our undying love for Obama (ok, those of us not decrying him as a demon Muslim socialist), and now we’re already predicting his ideology’s imminent doom. If changes in the political wind can happen this fast now, what happens as they get faster and faster? What if the country can go from Red to Blue to Red in a single week? Or day? Or hour?

Think about this economically, too. The economic collapse of the last three years is more or less over, and we’re digging out from under it right now. Three years it lasted, on the outside. The Great Depression? Oh, about a decade. It might have lasted even longer if the war hadn’t happened. This is entirely due to the speed at which financial transactions can happen now. No more waiting for wires from across the Atlantic. You can have real-time satellite connections to any bank in the world from any place in the world. Give me a satellite phone on the top of Mount Everest and I can apply for a Visa card. There’s an entire business model that revolves around banks of supercomputers making billions of stock transactions a day, buying and selling on marginal increases and decreases in the value of the stock, slowly but surely inflating the market with machine trading instead of human trading. Which is only possible because of the speed at which information moves these days.

What makes me wonder what’s going to happen as things keep speeding up, but our biology doesn’t. Eventually things happening so fast are going to have a detrimental affect on us. We’ll be overloaded with information and be completely unable to function because we’re drowning in data. You can’t decide if the choice keeps changing, you know?

Just something to muse about. The math of change. The formula for progression.

aml=Fk/mh

Accelerate.

I was looking for a single pull-out quote from this Baltimore Sun article, but the crazy just kept coming:

WASHINGTON – Conservative televangelist Rev. Pat Robertson on Wednesday blamed the earthquake in Haiti on a “pact with the devil” purportedly entered into by the Haitian people in a bid to defeat French colonizers in the early 19th century.

“Something happened a long time ago in Haiti, and people might not want to talk about it,” Robertson said on his Christian Broadcasting Network show. “They were under the heel of the French … and they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, ‘We will serve you if you’ll get us free from the French.’

“True story. And the devil said, ‘OK, it’s a deal,’ ” Robertson said. “Ever since, they have been cursed by one thing after another.”

Hours after his comments ignited a firestorm in the news media and online, Robertson’s 700 Club TV show issued a statement elaborating on his remarks.

Robertson’s comments were based “on the widely-discussed 1791 slave rebellion …where the slaves allegedly made a famous pact with the devil in exchange for victory over the French. This history, combined with the horrible state of the country, has led countless scholars and religious figures over the centuries to believe the country is cursed,” the statement said.

“Dr. Robertson never stated that the earthquake was God’s wrath,” the statement went on. It added that “Dr. Robertson’s compassion for the people of Haiti is clear. He called for prayer for them.”

The Haitian uprising is regarded as one of history’s few successful slave revolts.

Robertson, the founder of the Christian Coalition and a 1988 Republican presidential candidate, has a history of making provocative comments, often in the wake of calamity.

You know, in parts of Europe, talking like this is considered prosecutable hate speech.

Just sayin’…

Just sayin’ I wouldn’t mind seeing this mean, crazy old bastard in jail.

Just sayin’ I wouldn’t mind seeing this mean, crazy old bastard in jail being used as a hand puppet.

ER has some amazing stuff up today. Clumping it all together into one post rather than several separate ones.

Collection of images from Russian carny life.

These circus people live in their own environment of their trailers. That’s not a surprise why they marry each other but not people “from outside”. They are the only ones who can understand this life. And no one else can reach its depth and gamma. That’s why they are always sincere when saying “Circus is our life”.

Images from Russian astronomy.

4

And finally, a series profiling a church painter in Crimea. (I think I’ll use him as reference to re-work Caduceus in MAGICTOWN.)

1_009

Brilliant, but slanted, little bit on Ayn Rand today on Slate. Here are a few choice bits:

Alisa Rosenbaum (her original name) was born in the icy winter of czarism, not long after the failed 1905 revolution ripped through her home city of St. Petersburg. Her father was a self-made Jewish pharmacist, while her mother was an aristocratic dilettante who loathed her three daughters. She would tell them she never wanted children, and she kept them only out of duty. Alisa became a surly, friendless child. In elementary school, her class was asked to write an essay about why being a child was a joyous thing. She instead wrote “a scathing denunciation of childhood,” headed with a quote from Pascal: “I would prefer an intelligent hell to a stupid paradise.”

…..

She announced that the world was divided between a small minority of Supermen who are productive and “the naked, twisted, mindless figure of the human Incompetent” who, like the Leninists, try to feed off them. He is “mud to be ground underfoot, fuel to be burned.” It is evil to show kindness to these “lice”: The “only virtue” is “selfishness.”

…..

Her secretary, Barbara Weiss, said: “I came to look on her as a killer of people.” The workings of her cult exposed the hollowness of Rand’s claims to venerate free thinking and individualism. Her message was, think freely, as long as it leads you into total agreement with me.

…..

And this last, classic, zing.

The figure Ayn Rand most resembles in American life is L. Ron Hubbard, another crazed, pitiable charlatan who used trashy potboilers to whip up a cult. Unfortunately, Rand’s cult isn’t confined to Tom Cruise and a rash of Hollywood dimwits. No, its ideas and its impulses have, by drilling into the basest human instincts, captured one of America’s major political parties.

Found via William Gibson’s Twitter.

Me: A 20-something at the Lucero show last night with his girlfriend and roommate on a blanket.

You: A horde of douchebags with no respect for the Shell or its rules.

Last night was a perfect sort of early fall night in Memphis. A little muggy, but warm enough to make you forget that it is already October. Lucero was set to kick off their biggest tour yet with a free show at the Levitt Shell. The opening bands were two beloved Memphis acts. I had a perfect spot in the middle, a soft quilt and a cooler full of samosas. It was going to be a good night.

Then, you show up. With your twelve packs of Bud Light and Marlboro Light cigarettes. You set up around me and mine, and I eye you warily, but not with any overt malice. Maybe you’re just going to bend the rules a little bit. Sure, the Shell bans all alcohol and smoking because it wants to stay a family-friendly venue, but this is a Lucero bar crowd. (Except for those dozen or so small children running around the stage for the first two acts. Oops.) Turn one of those aluminum cans from your beer into an ashtray, and I’m fine. Put your shitty beer into a bag or trashcan after your done, and I’m fine. Don’t do any of these things, and you’ll piss me the fuck off.

Remember what the Shell used to be like? Before the Mortimer Levitt Foundation spent millions of dollars to rebuild and update the dilapidated structure that was there? Remember all of those broken, jagged, splintering benches that were more often than not occupied by a derelict or drug addict? Remember how all of that lush, green grass was nothing more than caked dirt or mud? Remember how the speakers were blown out and the lighting was non-existent? Well, you may not, but I sure as fuck do. The Levitt Shell is a musical wonder in Memphis. A free musical wonder at that. And assholes like you that come in and destroy something like that don’t deserve to use it.

It isn’t like the Mortimer Levitt Foundation set out to block your fun. There are ashtray/trashcan things all over the outer edge of the Shell space. Get off your lazy ass and walk the twenty yards to one of them. It isn’t hard. I watched my girlfriend do it a few times, she didn’t seem put out at all. And the booze? I don’t really give a damn about it as booze, I’m more concerned about walking past a group of frat boys with their crushed empties spread around them like  territorial markings. This isn’t your front porch, broheim. You’re taking money out the Shell’s pocket when they have to clean up after your lazy, cheap beer swilling ass. If you want to drink at the Shell, and God knows last night I did, mix up a cocktail and put it in a water bottle or something. There is no need for idiocy like that.

The bottom line is that the Levitt Shell is a public space, and public spaces should be left as good as you found them, if not better. I walked out last night with a bag full of trash that wasn’t my own because of you douchebags. The Shell is one of the best things going in Memphis, and it’ll never cost you a dime for a show. But, if you mistreat it, it will go away. And if that happens and they start thinking about turning it into a parking lot again, you’ll have no one to blame but yourself.

Check out the real Missed Connection on Craigslist.org

Also, check out the girlfriend’s reaction to Lucero’s addition of horns to their old songs.

From AirAmerica:

Human rights campaigner Natalia Estemirova was kidnapped and murdered this week in Chechnya, and a human rights group blames Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov for her death. Estemirova was seized from her home in Grozny, and her body was found Wednesday in the neighboring region of Ingushetia.

Oleg Orlov, director of the human rights organization Memorial, says that Kadyrov threatened Estemirova just months before her death, and believes that he is responsible for her death: “I know who is guilty of Natalia’s murder. His name is Ramzan Kadyro,” Orlov says in a video on the Memorial website, “Ramzan already threatened Natalia, insulted her, considered her a personal enemy. He has made it impossible for rights activists to work in Chechnya. We do not know if he gave the order himself or his close associates did so to please their boss.

Estemirova was seized by four men, and according to neighbors, shouted “I’m being kidnapped,”; her body was found shot in the head and chest and left on a main road.

Ahhh, what a world, what a world. Reminds me of a quote from one of my favorite plays…

I am in this earthly world, where to do harm
Is often laudable, to do good sometime
Accounted dangerous folly.”

-Lady Macduff, MACBETH  Act IV scene ii

trixiebedlam_memphis

In a waking dream in Memphis, TN. It’s a good town but something’s not right. Maybe it’s me.
-From the Tennessee section of the 50 State Project.

First off, I bet you are probably asking “What the fuck is a Trixie Bedlam”. And that’s a good question.

Trixie Bedlam is the pseudonym of Sarah Sharp, a writer/photographer formerly of NYC. She made the jump to Detroit recently to be at the frontlines of America’s death from rust wind and economic bowel-rot cancer. She claims to be the greatest girl detective in the world.

Right now her current project is something she’s calling 50 States. The idea is simple. Hit all 50 States inside of a year, take photos and notes, then put all of that into a book when she’s done. Last time I checked, she’d hit 36 states, and was planning on knocking out the rest with a few long-arc road trips across the bit empty spaces in America. The catch to her plan? Alaska and Hawaii are a bit difficult to get to, and gas prices aren’t going down.

So, she’s asking for your help thought Kickstarter.com. Kickstarter is a project funding program that will pay for an artist’s project, if they can meet a funding goal inside of a certain period of time. If they can’t meet their funding goal, then no money is collected from the people who pledged. This way, artists don’t end up with not enough money and people expecting results. In Trixie’s case, she’s shooting for $5k by September 10th at 1:14pm. She’s at  $2,137 now.

But, you’re not just giving her money. You’re buying art. Each step of contribution comes with gifts. Photography collections, art books, limited prints, etc. So, if you’ve got money to spare, help an artist out. You’ll get something in return.

Also, Trixie, if you stumble across this by chance and are ever back in Memphis, shout out. There’s even more weird stuff in this silt roughened town, and we’d love to show you some of it. Plus, we have whiskey.

You can find more of Trixie Bedlam’s work here.

I’ve worked in television, and there are a hundred people between you and the audience. I’ve worked in film, and there are a thousand people between you and the audience. In comics, there’s me and an artist, presenting our stories to you without filters or significant hurdles, in a cheap, simple, portable form. Comics are a mature technology. Their control of time — provided you’re not intent on reversing universes (or even if you are) — makes them the best educational tool in the world. Hell, intelligence agencies have used comics to teach people how to dissent and perform sabotage.

When done right, comics are a cognitive whetstone, providing two or three or more different but entangled streams of information in a single panel. Processing what you’re being shown, along with what’s being said, along with what you’re being told, in conjunction with the shifting multiple velocities of imaginary time, and the action of the space between panels that Scott McCloud defines as closure… Comics require a little more of your brain than other visual media. They should just hand them out to being to stave off Alzheimer’s.

-Warren Ellis from his talk at Dundee University

Before we get into this, let’s set out a few points about me.

I’m a liberal. About as liberal as they come. If they suddenly nationalized health care, the banking system, the auto industry, re-instituted large scale public works and started mandating everyone be equally fluent in English and Spanish, I’d shrug my shoulders and go pick up an Idiot’s Guide to Spanish.

I hated Bush more than I’ve hated just about any other public figure in my life, and I hated his administration more than I’ve hated anything.

I vote and I work for and with causes that I believe in. I don’t think that sitting around and talking or yelling about things will change anything but the timbre of your voice.

Finally, just because I don’t agree with what you’re saying doesn’t mean that I believe you’re wrong.

So.

Keith Olbermann. Keith Fucking Olbermann. The guy who made MSNBC. Well, at least gave MSNBC it’s reason for existing in the free-for-all of 24 hour news stations.

MSNBC had always been the “slow” child of the 24 hour news networks. For years it languished with shitty hosts and no real bite. Headline News and CNN held the sway over the middle ground, with Fox News taking more and more of a right-leaning stance as they realized there was gold in them thar hills. MSNBC decided to take a page from Fox’s playbook, and in 2001 they consciously made the move toward “a brand, with a large dose of opinion and personality.”

(Yes, because that’s exactly what I want in my news. Opinion and personality. Because those two things are exactly what makes good, bias-free reporting.

Anyway.)

For a while MSNBC played both sides of the political fence, trying to coax an audience out of the right or the left. They found their biting angle in 2003 when they hired Keith Olbermann to take over a show that was titled Countdown: Iraq. Originally Countdown dealt with Bush’s deadline to for Saddam Hussein to leave Iraq. But, in thinking they’d established a brand with a show of that name in a prime time slot, they rolled the name over and gave it to Olbermann as a magazine show.

The show didn’t do a whole lot at first. Olbermann was smart, he knew enough to make the show funny and slip the editorial in with the humor. His only real press in the first few years came from his sparring with Bill O’Reilly. O’Reilly shared the same time slot as Olbermann, but on Fox News. He was also an ignorant, opinionated blow-hard, which made him easy pickings for Olbermann. Their feud is still going on to this day.

The real ratings break-through came with his Special Comments. These are directed editorial asides written by Olbermann and they are something to behold. They are eloquent, brilliant pieces of oration, and they are anything but news. His first was in August of 2006, but the break through one was on the fifth anniversary of 9/11, one month later. He railed against Bush for wasting the time since 2001 and not really doing anything with the national good faith he was given.

Exploding online, the 9/11 video was a game changer for Olbermann and Countdown. The Special Comments became the go-to segment when the show wanted to make an impact. Olbermann’s made forty of them in the three years since his first, with at least one a month, and spiking as high as three a month during key political events. Between the Special Comments and the strong showing of liberal candidates in the 2008 primary season, MSNBC’s audience started to grow dramatically. No longer was it the anemic also-ran of the 24 hour news cycle, Olbermann and the Special Comment had given the network an editorial voice, and that voice was as hardline liberal as Fox News was conservative.

And this is about the point where a red flag goes off in my brain and I start watching MSNBC with an uneasy gaze.

As Olbermann’s status as the liberal resurrection of Edward R, Murrow grew, the rest of the network started to pick up his bad habits. Chris Matthews over at Hardball gave up whatever pretensions he had of journalist integrity and started slamming his massive forehead into anyone who disagreed with him. MSNBC effectively extended Olbermann’s show by giving his guest-host, Rachel Maddow, her own hour-long magazine show immediately after his. This was as close as they could come to cloning Olbermann, since he and Maddow share everything from political views to presentation style to love of internal genitals.

(By the way, can I mention how fucked it is that Maddow was the first openly gay person to win a Rhodes Scholarship yet MSNBC goes mum whenever the question of her sexuality comes up? It’s like they only want her sexual orientation to be known if you’ll agree with it, but they don’t want to chase you off if you don’t.

Anyway.)

Today, Olbermann has firmly entrenched himself and his network as the ideological counter-point to Fox News. The farther left the network went, the higher their ratings, and thus their ad dollars, went. They’d fallen down the same slippery money slope that took Fox News, and they aren’t about to claw their way out of it. On the whole, MSNBC is no longer news. It is editorial and commentary wrapped under a gossamer thin news disguise. The problem with this is that people gravitate toward things that are they like. People don’t listen to music they don’t like, or watch TV they hate or pay for movies they don’t enjoy. And when you start masking entertainment as news, you polarize people.

“What that person said makes me feel bad, so that can’t be right because what this person said makes me happy” is a terrible, terrible, TERRIBLE way for people to decide what source to get their news from, because it flat out isn’t news. It is polarizing editorial entertainment that strokes the parts of your brain you want stroked without challenging any of your conceptions about the way things are.

To some one who watches only Fox News, liberals must seem like drug-crazed sex fiends who want to take all of your shit and use your children for medical experiments.

To some one who watches only MSNBC, conservatives must seem like uneducated rednecks who want nothing more than to kill brown people and make everyone pray to the same God at a mega-church in Texas.

And if you come close to either one of those opinions, please, for the love of God, hit your head against a brick wall until your already soft brain completely liquifies and is no longer in danger of doing harm to anyone else.

Networks like MSNBC and Fox News do nothing but widen a gulf between the two halves of America, a gulf they imagined, created and widened in their attempts to find an audience and MAKE A FUCKING BUCK. Some of my dearest friends are creationist Christians. They believe that the world is only six thousand years old and evolution is a lie. They also drink really good beer, believe the war in Iraq was morally and legally wrong, and that the financial fallout was the product of a corrupt system. Not all of us are going to agree on everything, but those things that we disagree on are not the be-all, end-all things.

So, I implore you, if you are one of those people out there who parrot the things that Olbermann and Maddow say, or repost their segments to your blogs or Facebook pages, please stop. You are hurting the American discourse. You are no longer making it about facts and debate, but instead turning it into a shouting match between stuffed shirts who are paid very, very well to have a certain opinion.

I do want to point out that there is one key difference between the political windbags on MSNBC and the political windbags on Fox News. The ones on MSNBC aren’t afraid to bite the hand that feeds them Olbermann, Maddow and Matthews have all been openly critical of their side of the aisle. But, really, what else did you expect? The only thing that can stop a Democrat with a mission is another Democrat with a mission. Self destruction is in our nature.

One final note. If you think I’m being too hard on Olbermann and that he’s right about everything he’s saying, keep this in mind – he doesn’t vote. He says he does it to stay “objective”, but I’ve never trusted anyone who doesn’t vote, no matter the reasons. Not voting means he doesn’t have his ass in the flames that he’s stoking, so he doesn’t care when it gets too hot. Nor does it show that he cares enough to hit a few buttons to make our country a better place.

Edward R Murrow voted.

Keith Olbermann doesn’t.

One man was probably the greatest newsman that’s ever lived.

One isn’t.



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