Sunday, March 16, 2014

Fred Phelps pickets own funeral

TOPEKA (Reuters): Fred Phelps, founder of the notorious Westboro Baptist Church, has announced plans to picket his own funeral this upcoming weekend, sources say.

"It seems like the right thing to do," mused the aging patriarch from his deathbed Sunday night. "We need to show that no one is immune, not even the supreme fag-hater of them all."

Phelps, who rose to prominence through a campaign of hate speech and colorful signage, was recently excommunicated by his own church. Regardless, relatives say his devotion to the cause is unsurprising.

"I wouldn't put it past him to conquer death just to troll himself," his son Nathan stated in a Reddit AMA this afternoon. "He's a crotchety old bastard."

Westboro parishioners have prepared for Fred's attendance at his funeral with two specially made signs, bearing the legends GOD HATES FRED and FRED DIES GOD LAUGHS.

God could not be reached for comment.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

"Facebook made all the difference," Chief Justice states

WASHINGTON, D.C., Mar 27 (UPI): The Supreme Court's unanimous decision on Tuesday to overturn California's Proposition 8 was met with acclaim from both sides of the aisle, with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid praising the Court's "bold decision to do right by future generations," and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor stating, "Finally, I can hit the bear bars without fear of reprisal."

Despite the impartial nature of the proceedings, the deciding factor seemed to come from a surprising source. "Facebook made all the difference," Chief Justice John Roberts proclaimed during a celebratory post-Court wrap up. "We were really struggling with this, but when I checked my feed during the recess and saw that string of HRC logos, I just knew. The idea that people from all walks of life could band together and change their profile pictures as one made me realize that we're all in this together.

"Scalia cried when I showed him my NOH8 cover photo," the Chief Justice added.

The ruling was seen as a victory for social media, with many attributing the outcome to Star Trek star and noted gay rights activist George Takei.

"No need to thank me," Takei posted on his Facebook page this morning. "It's okay."

While the repeal of Proposition 8 reflects the changing nature of the Court, its opponents remain on guard. Despite a groundswell of support from across the nation, many have expressed concern about today's hearing regarding the Defense of Marriage Act.

"Don't worry," Twitter founder Jack Dorsey said Tuesday afternoon. "We got this."

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Rich Aucoin - We're All Dying to Live

The democratic nature of the Internet is double-edged: The same level playing field that allows every creative type with a modicum of talent and a webcam the chance to become a global phenomenon also results in an exponential escalation in the fight to be heard. The music industry's increasing obsolescence, compounded by ever-splintering genre demarcations, has decreased the chances of a single individual's ever gaining the cross-platform success that the rock stars of yore once enjoyed, effectively surrendering the airwaves to the mercy of the lowest common denominator and leaving the true innovators behind to pick up the scraps.

Halifax native Rich Aucoin emerged from this borderless band scramble in 2007 with his self-recorded-and-released debut solo EP, Personal Publication, a DayGlo glitterbomb that caught the ear of both the Canadian and American music press, due in no small part to its having been composed to synchronize with the animated classic How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Aucoin quickly gained a reputation as an amazing live act, a madcap magician dressed all in white, leading his congregation through a 3-D multimedia wonderland beneath a giant rainbow parachute. From the start, Aucoin sought to erase the boundary between artist and audience, performer and participant; his involvement in the same online A/V synching community that birthed the Wizard of Oz/Dark Side of the Moon phenomenon likely played a role in this, and certainly contributed to his ongoing experimentation with the visual component of his shows. The last three years have seen his career gather momentum at the same pace as his artistic evolution, spurred along by appearances at countless music festivals worldwide, with a magnum opus entitled We're All Dying to Live waiting in the wings.

We're All Dying to Live expands upon the electropop revelation of Aucoin's 2010 Public Publication EP by placing that release's four songs within the context of a classic concept album, painstakingly spliced together to serve as the soundtrack to a video composed of segments from forty different public domain films. The core of the album lies in seven songs spread out over twenty-two tracks, introduced by an overture and held together by interstitial instrumentals that range from breakbeat battles to ambient soundscapes. By Aucoin's measure, roughly 500 musicians from all over Canada assisted in realizing his vision, and We're All Dying to Live boasts a staggering array of sounds culled from studios both professional and makeshift. Combining processed beats with live studio drums, vintage synths and tack pianos propelling Beach Boys harmonies across a minefield of harps, trumpets, and children's choirs, it plays like Wayne Coyne's spiritual heir piloting Arcade Fire's burning carousel to the front door of Daft Punk's beachside bouncy castle to kick off the end-times party of the year.

Sprawling but concise, ambitious but accessible, We're All Dying to Live is a sunburst tapestry of light and color that serves as both an excellent dance record and the perfect salve for a broken heart. The sense of discovery is profound: Melodies both familiar and instantly memorable, drawn from a clear lineage of post-Mangum grandeur, sweep into anthemic choruses consisting of simple but resonant pop mantras: remember what we've been given; we won't leave it all in our heads; we are not dead. The cumulative effect evokes nothing less than the quaking, shuddering majesty of a sunrise seen from orbit, filtered through a lens of half-remembered childhood dreams and multiplied by the sweet agony of your first lost love. Rich Aucoin is precisely the unifying force that this generation needs; at long last, the dance floor messiah we've all been waiting for.

We're All Dying to Live is available now at Rich's website. Help support independent music! Check out the trailer for the album here.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

So, yeah. I sent this to Obama. We'll see what happens.

Dear Mr. President:

I am a lifelong Democrat who has admired and supported you since your appearance at the DNC in 2006. I waited in line for six hours to see you in St. Louis in October of 2008, and have remained an advocate of your policies ever since, even when I didn't agree with them completely. However, I am beyond disgusted with the fact that you encouraged Rep. Weiner to resign, and I feel obliged to tell you why.

Anthony Weiner embodies everything that is sorely lacking from the Democratic Party: power, conviction, integrity, and a refusal to compromise. He was the fiercest and most courageous House Democrat this side of Dennis Kucinich, and his volatile and incendiary nature was a blessed relief from the timid acquiescence exhibited by practically every other Democrat on Capitol Hill. Of course, this is why he was disliked by members of both parties: he was one of the few U.S. legislators who refused to abide the corruption that has poisoned our political system. We need more representatives like Rep. Weiner, not fewer, and the fact that his own party turned on him is an absolute travesty.

Rep. Weiner's sexual misconduct was an entirely personal issue, one which bore no relation to his work performance, and which was by no means grounds for resignation. That he admitted his mistakes of his own accord, without committing perjury (unlike another still-lauded Democrat who shall remain nameless), speaks extremely well to his character. This scandal only served as a distraction from more pressing matters because the House Democrats didn’t have the courage to speak up in Rep. Weiner’s defense. His public humiliation was atonement enough, and had his fellow party members not jumped onto the sanctimonious and hypocritical moralistic bandwagon set forth by the extreme right fringe of the GOP, Mr. Weiner would still be in office. The fact that you assisted in pressuring him to resign is the most crushing blow of all.

I am ashamed of you, Mr. President. In Rep. Weiner's time of need, you betrayed him, and you betrayed the American people who needed his representation the most. To suggest that he will simply "bounce back" from the witch hunt in which you participated is an egregious insult.

There needs to be a serious change in the political agenda of the Democratic Party. Even when said party controlled both the House and the Senate from January 2009 to January 2011, too much emphasis was placed on compromise with and placation of the GOP; e.g., if you had simply pushed through the health care reform bill as it had initially been drafted, instead of trying to find common ground with the corporate spokespersons throughout Congress, we would finally have a public option. Instead, as in so many other instances, you sought a solution that satisfied everyone, and wound up with a solution that satisfied no one.

Rep. Weiner’s resignation is emblematic of everything that is wrong with the Democrats today. Instead of banding together like the Republicans do, you work against one another, and in doing so aid and abet the sinister motives of the GOP. We elected you on a platform of change, but too often we see politics as usual. Please abandon this insistence to compromise with people who have no interest in compromising with you. Make these next nineteen months count. We need you as our champion. I want to be proud of you again.

Thank you very much for your time.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Casting Call: Rosemary's Baby

[Note: This was composed for a recurring Wonderchroma column entitled Casting Call, in which the film adaptations (or remakes) of various classic properties are envisioned.]

Rosemary's Baby is one of the classics of horror, a masterpiece of mounting dread. Adapted from the novel by Ira Levin, the film tells the story of Rosemary and Guy, a pair of young newlyweds who move into Manhattan's stately Bramford building (based upon the notorious Dakota), which happens to be populated by a coven of witches. Without Rosemary's knowledge, Guy cuts a deal with the coven to saddle his wife with the spawn of Satan in exchange for career advancement. By the time Rosemary realizes that something is wrong, it is already too late—everyone she knows has conspired to make sure her unholy child is delivered.

Helmed by the incomparable Roman Polanski, Rosemary's Baby is a textbook exercise in suspense and paranoia, one of the most timeless and seminal works of the genre. As such, it is the perfect fodder for some studio hack (read: Satan) to option (read: violate) as a remake (read: Antichrist). Let us hope that said desecrators at least pack the film with genuine talent, lest their bastard product be a complete abomination.

Director (Roman Polanski): David Cronenberg

Cronenberg is a master at capturing the suffocating effects of our reliance on technology, as well as the paranoia that results from urban living. His entire career has been an extended study of the devastation that modern science has wrought upon the human frame, a theme which dovetails perfectly into Rosemary's Baby, the ultimate reproductive nightmare.

Rosemary Woodhouse (Mia Farrow): Amy Adams

Rosemary is a pure spirit, a classic ingénue with whom the audience can empathize immediately. Her character requires an actress with a wholesome demeanor and a sense of vulnerability. Amy Adams, whose recent turns in Junebug and Doubt have established her as one of the most promising new talents in Hollywood, would be perfect.

Guy Woodhouse (John Cassavetes): Javier Bardem

Guy is the embodiment of the pre-Feminism male, a man who is inured to the subjugation of women for his own benefit. Yet he maintains a presiding love for Rosemary, and although he proves susceptible to the wiles of the Castavets, he remains only a begrudging accomplice to their plans. Javier Bardem has demonstrated his capabilities as both a sensitive leading man in The Sea Inside and a terrifying psychopath in No Country for Old Men; this dramatic range, bolstered by his dark and mysterious good looks, would afford the compassion necessary to temper his character's shady actions.

Minnie Castevet (Ruth Gordon): Pat Crawford Brown

As the headmistress of the coven, Minnie is the prototypical nosy neighbor, investing herself into every decision regarding Rosemary's pregnancy. Pat Crawford Brown has made a career out of playing kindly old ladies, most notably on television series such as General Hospital and Desperate Housewives, and her genteel persona would lend itself beautifully to the sinister duplicity of this role.

Roman Castevet (Sidney Blackmer): Peter O'Toole

A stately old man with a grandfatherly air, Roman is the mannerly yin to Minnie's boisterous yang. Peter O'Toole, with his piercing blue eyes and impeccable class, would be ideal as the cool-headed spokesman for Minnie's schemes.

Edward 'Hutch' Hutchins (Maurice Evans): Bob Newhart

Rosemary's former landlord serves as her father figure and confidant, and is the first person outside of the Bramford to figure out what is going on. The character of Hutch requires an actor with affability and tenacity, someone to whom the audience could understand Rosemary's inclination to turn for guidance. Bob Newhart, with his immense likability and beleaguered disposition, would be a delight.

Dr. Abraham Sapirstein (Ralph Bellamy): Edward Herrmann

Sapirstein may well be the most devious character in the film, as it is he who exploits Rosemary's faith in authority to enable the Castavets to carry out their plot. To deliver the proper aura of paternalism, you would need someone with a commanding presence. Edward Herrmann, who so expertly utilized this capacity in The Lost Boys and The Cat's Meow, would be the best possible choice.

Terry Gionoffrio (Victoria Vetri): Natasha Gregson Wagner

As the daughter of Natalie Wood, the legendary starlet whose death by drowning remains shrouded in mystery, Natasha Gregson Wagner already carries some foreboding baggage. She would be ideal for the role of Terry, the gorgeous and headstrong recovering heroin addict who is considered for the role of Satan's surrogate baby mama before Rosemary comes along. Unfortunately, Gregson Wagner's screen time would be limited due to the early death of her character, but her staggering beauty would more than compensate for her transience.

You know what? After meticulously compiling the perfect cast and director for this project, I'm actually looking forward to seeing it. Anybody wanna pony up $50 million?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Get a Rope.

I am fascinated by those instances in which the thin façade that covers the throbbing, ever-present American mob mentality suffers a temporary breach. Much has been made lately of the growing chorus of outrage regarding the bailouts and the health care reform bill, but that vitriol is largely confined to a small contingent of loutish, inexplicably disaffected rich white men. No, your prime entertainment value ("entertainment" in the public lynching sense) comes from smaller human interest stories, primarily those regarding racial issues or child endangerment. has become notorious among my circle of friends for its comments page, which routinely exposes the unabashed racism and reactionism that typify much of the Post-Dispatch readership (i.e., those who live in the county and the sticks). Alas, throw enough tinder into the national pit, and you can warm yourself on an even bigger pyre, one which burns intensely, if only momentarily. (Give it up for that other classic American trait, zero short term memory.) recently covered a story about a four-year-old boy who was beaten to death for having wet his pants. The alleged perpetrator was the child's new rent-a-father-figure, who had been living with the boy's mother for about six months. Beating and/or killing children fulfills the societal need for emotional absolutes, in the same way that Hitler and 9/11 provide an easy knee-jerk reference to pure evil. People who would otherwise keep a tight lid on their anger feel safe to express themselves under such circumstances, knowing that they can vent their innermost rage without fear of recompense. Factor in total anonymity and a public forum, and you've got a perfect incubator for hysteria.

The comments page on the CNN article jumped off immediately with calls for extreme violence against the defendant, including castration and prison rape. As generally happens, the hostility fed upon itself, increasing at the same rate as the deterioration of grammar and spelling. Sample comment (verbatim):

I wish I was present in this situation I will beat this bastard to a pulp and have my dogs drill is ass , and I will take is teeth’s with an hammer and dose acid over before put a bullet on him
Like (2)

Sensing a raw nerve, I decided to push it.

Articles like this are great because their comments pages consistently expose the mob mentality.
Like (6)

What do you suggest we do? Provide him with some therapy? Kids are OF LIMITS!
Like (3)

Mob mentality? are you nut ? are you from San Francisco? is call People justice You moron!!!

or maybe we should give him a cookie and pat him on the back?
Like (4)

JoyGrenade is right. For days I have read Americans spewing hatred at each other over idiotic and petty political disagreements. Now, everyone has a common enemy to spew their hatred toward, but what is most revealing is the level of aggression that is ever present in people in this country. Everyone is on simmer, ready to boil over. For "the greatest country in the world" people are sure angry and vitriolic.
You liked this (3)

CeNsoriNg, what the hell are you talking about? Have you read the article? What do you expect people to do? Laugh and give high fives? If you don't get upset after reading something like this, you might have a problem.
Like (2)

JoyGrenade and CeNsoriNg you two are complete brainwashed drones, devoid of any emotions. You obviously didn't read this article...
Like (3)

No, I did read the article. I believe he should be tried and convicted and sent to prison. I do not feel the same inclination as you to fantasize about him being gang raped, strung up by his balls, tortured, killed slowly, had things rammed up his ass etc etc....I think the crime was horrible, and truly tragic and sad, and that is what I feel - sad. The world is an ugly place, and people do ugly things, and I don't think doing more ugly things stops ugly things from happening.
Like (1)

then next time you decide to comment you may want to at least acknowledge the brutal heinousness of this crime before you lambaste 99 percent of contributors to this forum with a stupid comment about mob mentality.
Like (2)

This is far too easy.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Why I hate the manga kids.

April 5, 2007

At my Borders store, I am in charge of keeping order in the Genre section, which consists of mystery, horror, science fiction, Western, romance, graphic novels, and manga. Every morning, I arrive at work to begin shelving the inventory we received the day before. Without exception, manga is a complete mess. This is because the store is plagued by what my coworkers and I refer to as:
man · ga kids (mahng-guh kids)

-noun (pl.)

1. Japanese-pop-culture geeks, age 7 to 40. [See also: otaku.]

2. Socially inept individuals who infest the narrow aisles containing manga.

3. Obnoxious emo kids whose headphones make them oblivious to everyone around them as they park themselves in the space where I'm trying to goddamn work.

These unsavory specimens generally appear between 10 and 11 a.m., although the less sleep-reliant among them enter the café between 7 and 9 and wait for the store to open. They then take up residence on the floor between the racks, curling up with their quarry and absorbing it for free. Once they've had their fix, they proceed to stuff the spent manga on top of whichever shelf happens to be closest. This is where I find it in the morning, and that's why I always shelve manga first.

My friends at work and I love to rip on the manga kids. It's one of the few things guaranteed to brighten up an otherwise shitty day. They don't deserve to be treated with respect; they consume product without buying, ignore everyone around them, and view the staff as their own personal cleanup service. I was unwise enough today to begin unloading a new cart in the afternoon, when a twenty-something kid with big glasses filled the entire second row with his bulbous frame. Despite my numerous attempts to shelve around him, he steadfastly refused to budge. This is not atypical—most of his ilk won't move an inch unless forced to. In this way, manga kids are a lot like my cat.

Manga itself is a strange commodity. It is designed to resemble the standard mass-market paperback novel, roughly 7 inches x 5 inches around and usually 200 pages or so. This lends it a slight air of sophistication over its emotionally stunted cousin, the comic book. The artwork of manga can range from the masterful to the banal, depending on the frequency with which a given series is released, but the storylines are almost invariably bizarre. Whereas American graphic novels of the last twenty years have attempted to gain mainstream credibility by mining the same emotionally complex terrain as their text-only brethren, manga seems to have taken the opposite course. At least two titles—Fruits Basket and Man's Best Friend—concern werepeople who change form during moments of physical intimacy. In the latter instance, said wereperson is a stray dog capable of transforming into a strapping young twink when aroused. Absolute Boyfriend details the romantic misadventures of a girl named Riiko and her animatronic lover, Night, who find themselves continuously quagmired in love triangles with other women who want Night to service them as well. It's no wonder so many titles are shrink-wrapped, nor that I usually find shrinkwrap all over the place in the mornings. At least half of the titles feature a parental advisory label, but I wonder about the supposed maturity of these titles' target audiences.

The most annoying aspect of manga is its current stranglehold on American youth culture. This is the reason our manga aisles are congested in the first place: series such as Naruto and Yu-Gi-Oh! are hot shit among the middle-schoolers who hang out at our store in the afternoon. My most memorable encounter with a budding otaku occurred near the end of the holiday season, when a harried young mother approached me with her children in tow and asked me if I knew anything about manga. "My son is always talking about it, but I don't know what it is," she pleaded. I informed her that manga was popular Japanese fiction, and compared it to a novel-sized comic book. At this point, her son, who looked alarmingly similar to me at that age (buzzcut, too-big glasses, grimace), furrowed his brow and sniffed, "They're graphic novels." Thankfully, I was able to suppress the urge to punch him in the face.

Despite the deepest wishes of the staff, our manga kids will not go away. The only option is to learn to deal with them. My friend Christine has posited that we could probably transport them from the section without any resistance; when I suggested that we simply pick them up and move them elsewhere, she said, "They probably wouldn't notice!"

I may just try that tomorrow.