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Ed Driscoll

All You Need Is Ears

Hypocrisy Never Sleeps

October 14th, 2014 - 7:23 pm

“Neil Young: Forget ISIS, Fight Climate Change Instead,” as spotted by  Joel Pollak at Big Hollywood:

YOUNG: The things that we don’t know, you know, we can do little things to fight climate change. And yet our army and our armed forces are the biggest CO2 providers into the world, they just…it’s amazing. And yet we are fighting what? ISIS…

HOWARD STERN: What do you think about that?

YOUNG: …al-Qaeda. And we are fighting these wars against these organizations and their carbon footprint has got to be like 1% of our huge army and our navy and all of this stuff that have with all our big machines. We’re doing more damage to the earth with our wars.

If “we can do little things to fight climate change,” here’s a great place to start:

Neil has his own private P.A and a Yamaha mixer. He has a separate microphone that’s not connected to the house for each amp, and he can mix these to any level he wants. He mainly hears Deluxe, a lot of Baldwin, and very little Magnatone. Out front and on record, you can hear mostly Deluxe and Magnatone. Inside the big speaker cabinet to the audience’s right are 2 two-way Maryland Sound P.A. cabinets with 2 15s and a horn apiece. These cabinets have 2000 watts of biamped power, and gets turned excruciatingly loud. It just kills me to go out there-I just about get knocked over. And that’s what Neils hearing. This produces the feedback, and if we didn’t have that on, the sound wouldn’t be the same.

If the situation is so dire that it’s necessary to fight the weather rather than Islamofascist headchoppers, doesn’t Neil need to set the pace, retire from touring and shrink his own carbon footprint down to the smallest number possible? Perhaps order his record company to voluntarily stop printing his CDs, and withdrawing his mp3s from Amazon.com and iTunes? I would be more inclined to believe global warming is a crisis when the people who tell me it’s a crisis start to act like it’s a crisis themselves, to coin an Insta-phrase.

Besides, didn’t we all see this movie before, a decade ago? “It’s a peculiar thing that as the threat of global terrorism reaches a crescendo, so apparently does the threat of global warming — at least that’s what some would have us believe…”

The Jurassic Streisand Effect

October 10th, 2014 - 5:48 am

Nowadays, the term “The Streisand Effect” is a popular Internet meme to describe the blowback that occurs when a person with an enormous – and often self-destructive – ego uses his or her power vindictively. (You can read about in Wikipedia, and then read how they’ve suffered from their own Streisand Effect.) In a 1976 New Yorker article, Academy Award Winning writer/director Frank Pierson described the nightmare of working with Streisand and her boyfriend Jon Peters, whose improbable career arc took him from being Streisand’s hairdresser to producing the original Michael Keaton Batman movie for Warner Brothers, to running Columbia Pictures:

“What about the cameraman? Who is he? What has he done?” [Streisand] asks.

“Bob Surtees? He won three Oscars, thirteen nominations.” I say.

“He’s old. We should have someone young on this picture. What does he know about backlight? Did he sign his contract’?” asks Barbra. Yes, I say. She lets it go.

* * * * * * * *

A movie set, as Orson Welles was the first to say, is the most wonderful electric train a boy was ever given to play with. What he failed to add was that most of the time it doesn’t work. You tinker, wheedle, stick in bent pins, tape it up with Band-Aids and spit, and it runs in fits and starts when it damn well pleases. Actors can’t, won’t, never will be able to say crucial lines; lights fail, time runs out, cameras break, tempers flare. I approach it with detachment, watching carefully the direction in which the flow of errors and accidents, improvisations and corrections is taking us. Barbra resents it terribly: It is a limitation of power, beyond the reach of her desperate need for control.

There is a moment for writers when their characters seem to assume a life of their own, beyond the will of the writer: we have reached the equivalent moment for a director, when the actors become one with their roles. It is a moment, in Bertolucci’s words, to “throw away the script and set sail on a sea of improvisation.” I would not go so far, being a writer myself, and because this script is unusually carefully crafted. And because Barbra in many ways is more loyal to the script and the words than I. She feels I am too permissive, “too nice” to actors. “You have to be hard on them,” she says. “They’ll walk all over you!”

* * * * * * * *

In dailies, Barbra’s mood swoops and plunges with every nuance of light on her cheekbone or unexpected camera move. “There! My God, look at her she’s beautiful!” we shout. Or a bit of staging she doesn’t like plunges her into a despair and rage that is vomited back in a savage attack: “This is shit! God what are we going to do! I told you not to do that, why did you do it? It’s wrong!” Everything is seen in terms of right or wrong: there is no personal preference, nuance or shading. The crew and staff drop out of screenings as the critical battles escalate, and even Surtees no longer comes.

* * * * * * *

Kris, uptight about press, worried over his music, is tense, angry over her interference. His new record has just come out and been panned by Rolling Stone and most everyone else. He’s drinking tequila washed down with cold beer.

Barbra rehearses with the band on her numbers and uses up Kris’s time, so he has no rehearsal. Coldly furious, he refuses to come out of his trailer. “Goddamnit!” he says. “I’ve got to go out and play it in front of 60.000 people, but she doesn’t give a damn.”

Barbra and I are trying to explain a minor change; we agree for once, but Kris has had all he can handle. He doesn’t want to be told what to do with his music. He explodes. Barbra explodes. The mikes are open: they are screaming at each other over a sound system that draws complaints from five miles away. The press is delighted. This is what they came for. Sulks in trailers. Jon Peters threatening Kris. Kris talking tougher. The director knocking on trailer doors, playing Kissinger. Notable quotes. Quotable notables. You read about it in Time.

Read about it here, and read the whole schadenfreude-laced thing.

H/T:

Making Sense of #GamerGate

October 2nd, 2014 - 1:00 pm

“I’m a political writer and I don’t pretend to be more than a casual gamer,” Ashten Whited writes at Pocket Full of Liberty, which puts her one up on me. As I’ve said before, I largely retired from videogames when I unplugged my ColecoVision — there are only so many hours in the day. (Though I do have a product review up at the PJ Lifestyle blog this week that hints at the hobby that I also use my computer for.)

“However, I find GamerGate remarkable. I know people express antipathy to bringing politics into GamerGate, and I don’t seek to hijack it, but hear me out: GamerGate is already about politics,” Whited notes. Which is true — the left views everything through a political lens; after all, it’s been their stated opinion for decades that “the personal is political” (is personal, to complete the Mobius loop):

’Gamers’ are over,” social justice charioteer Leigh Alexander pronounced smugly.

Mainstream videogames do not cater to feminists’ tastes. That does not mean that women are being “marginalized,” it means they are not the target consumer demographic, as they freely admit when they declare male-oriented games unappealing. Despite this, gamers placate feminists like Anita Sarkeesian who hold gaming culture in disdain and view escapism that is male in nature, such as Call of Duty or rescuing Princess Peach, as a problem that must be eliminated under their magnanimous direction. Feminists especially hold male sexuality in contempt, and are fussily ruffled by voluptuous, pixelated vixens that titillate the “male gaze.”

Radical (read: contemporary) feminists define the problem as men. Thus fantasies of male heroism are slated to be wiped from public consumption. Male chivalry is dead; women are the new white knights. Today’s third wave feminists (or “Third Wave Frustrationists,” as cleverly coined by Milo Yiannopoulos) kvetch the tired refrain, “Feminism is about equality!” It is a transparent Trojan Horse. These feminists are intolerant of masculinity, and their movement is about having power over men. They do not recognize healthy interdependence between the sexes, instead seeing a power struggle. They seek to feminize men and in doing so, masculinize themselves— and they are succeeding, through targeting boys. In public schools, boys are falling increasingly behind in performance, according to scholar Christina Hoff Sommers. In psychiatrists’ offices, young boys are overdiagnosed with ADHD and autism and are “medicated” for being “rambunctious” (i.e. behaviorally modified to fit the prevailing PC norm for how little boys should behave). This ideology is about subjugation, through wheedling, subtle manipulation and emotionally blackmailing rhetoric like “if you’re not a feminist, you’re a misogynist.”

In short, feminism in the West has assumed the features of an authoritarian movement.

But then authoritarianism was in the bloodstream of feminism long before Nolan Bushnell ever set paddle to Pong.

However, according to Jasyn Jones, who blogs at the tastefully named Website “Daddy Warpig’s House of Geekery” (I love it), the “’Gamers’ are over” manifesto has had some very interesting pushback:

You can read a bit of it there on the image, and the rest of it here, but it said (in essence) “Gamers are dead, and good riddance!” After all, gamers are “obtuse shitslingers” whose “only main [sic] cultural signposts” are “Have money. Have women. Get a gun and then a bigger gun.” In short, abuse. And pretty vitriolic and one-sided abuse.

And that same day, in a coincidence so outrageous it staggers the imagination, this happened:

Click over to Jones’ post to see a fascinating example of what appears to be Journolist-style collusion behind the scenes to advance the “gamers are over” narrative, which dovetails into Milo Yiannopoulos’ series of posts at Breitbart London on the videogame journalism industry’s own Journolist scandal. Followed by the aforementioned Leigh Alexander personally insulting her readers on Twitter. As Jones writes, “This isn’t just insulting your customers wholesale, it’s insulting them retail. Personally. One by one. In alphabetical order, for all I know:”

The odd thing is, most gaming media figures have joined her. But there’s a problem, and it’s one I can’t solve: what’s their end game? What do they think they’re accomplishing by insulting the people who provide them with paychecks?

As I see it:

Attack customers -> they leave. No customers, no clicks. No clicks, no ads. No ads, no money. No money, no site.

Is it really all that complicated? You don’t punch your customers in the face repeatedly, and expect them to remain your customers. Doing so anyway is a recipe for bankruptcy. (And is sheer lunacy.)

See also: implosion of MSM organizations that go full-on into social justice warrior mode and insult their customers. By the time the Washington Post was sold to Jeff Bezos last year, as John Nolte noted at Big Journalism, it had lost 87 percent of its value from the prior decade. (Along similar lines, Mark Steyn compared Bezos $250 million acquisition fee last year of one of the most legendary newspapers in the world to the much less influential Worcester Telegram & Gazette in Massachusetts being sold in 1999 for $295 million.) Prior to Bezos’ acquisition, the Post famously unloaded Newsweek for a dollar after its foray into hard left politics caused it to shed most of its readership.

Similarly, the New York Times has been hemorrhaging money since the Howell Raines era; arguably, only Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim’s financial backing has allowed the Sulzberger family to maintain ownership, but only at the cost of cutting 7.5 percent of its staff (on top of other employee cuts in recent years). And as we noted last night, MSNBC is getting their clocks cleaned in the ratings department; “MSNBC: Best Demo Night In Two Weeks Is ‘Lockup’ Marathon,” Big Journalism reported on Monday.

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And Now a Word From Our Sponsor

September 26th, 2014 - 5:56 pm

Believe it or not, I watched this commercial while wearing a pair of Sennheiser earphones – the HD 280 Pro model which I’ve owned for years and use for recording, not the swinging Teutonic reprobate “Urbanite” pictured above.

Even so, I think I need a shower.

(Via AoS.)

Tin Soldiers and Urban Outfitters’ Coming

September 15th, 2014 - 8:00 pm

Shot:

 

Chaser:

altamont_small

Not surprisingly, when it comes to epatering les bourgeois — and not issuing a mealy-mouthed apology afterwards — Kathy Shaidle did it better and first, five years ago.

But then, the collective pop culture history of both events is very, very wrong:

“Of Kent State’s Brick-Throwing Pacifists.”

“Altamont: When the Hippies Were Expelled From the Garden”

Exit tweet:

Exit question: Still think the early 1970s were fun, kids?

Update (9/16/14): “Alas, I can’t take credit for that brilliant ‘ALTAMONT’ t-shirt,” Kathy writes today; noting that it was created by the artists at the Hollywood Loser T-shirt Website. I think she certainly helped to popularize it, though.

De-civilization and its Discontents

September 3rd, 2014 - 3:36 pm

In “ISIS’ Theater of Evil and the Thirst for Blood,” Jean Kaufman, aka Neo-Neocon, resuscitates a great decade-old quote from author Lee Harris, which deserves much wider distribution:

For example, Foley’s alleged executioner, Abdel-Majed Abdel Bary, was raised in England in a West London home worth nearly two million dollars. In this respect he fits the profile of many if not most of the al Qaeda terrorist leaders, who were brought up in milieus that were hardly primitive. From what we know about ISIS (and al Qaeda and other terrorist groups), a significant portion of their jihadis are quite familiar with the modern world but have purposely cast off their background and its refinements in a process referred to by Lee Harris in his 2004 book Civilization and Its Enemies as “de-civilization” as distinguished from barbarism:

…I propose the word de-civilization, defined as…: “the effort, conscious or unconscious, to become less civilized than you are, either in general or in some special way, and, so far as in you lies, to promote a similar change in others.”

In terms of fantasy ideology, the function of de-civilization is not merely to promote ideas opposed to civilization, but to make men and women into human beings with a totally different set of visceral and emotional responses to atrociousness.

…[W]hile savagery and de-civilization can both produce atrocities, they do so in entirely different ways.

De-civilization is therefore a deliberate process undertaken to serve the purpose of ISIS’s Islamic supremacist ideology. Those who engage in it have systematically and purposefully cast off any reservations about mayhem. They do so in part as a bow to what they see as their glorious, sterner history and laws, and for the purpose of engaging in exactly that behavior which they believe will be most frightening to the west.

But de-civilization needn’t always end in the mass-bloodshed of jihad, of course. Sometimes its impact appears in much more “subtle” forms:

I remember the first time I heard Green’s 2010 song “F*** You” (on Electra Records, until recently another fine quality division of Time-Warner-CNN-HBO) and thought, musically, this is the best Motown song I’ve heard in three decades. But lyrically, it’s a reminder of everything that went wrong with pop culture in the last three decades. It reminded me of something I wrote about in 2007 about — stick with me here — the George Clooney / Steven Soderbergh film The Good German:

The funny thing is, I would bet serious money that the average Hollywood mogul probably has TCM tuned into his rear-projection HDTV screen pretty often. But when he does, he’ll focus on the tiny details, and lose sight of the big picture. He’ll get hooked on Orson Welles’ deep-focus photography, and not his character studies. Or Hitchcock’s rhythmic editing, and not how deftly he handles a story.

From its poster to its cinematography, what was Steven Soderbergh’s The Good German if not an attempt to mate the brilliant craftsmanship of old Hollywood with the dark cynicism of its current form? As The Good German’s trivia page on the IMDB states, “The film was shot as if it had been made in 1945…The only allowance was the inclusion of nudity, violence and cursing which would have been forbidden by the Production Code”. And yet it’s that Production Code that virtually created classic Hollywood, by giving it rules to operate under–and yes, push against. But pushing against isn’t quite the same as breaking; that would come much later, much to the box office’s chagrin.

Green’s recent admission — or as he attempted to backpedal from it yesterday, “the comments attributed to me on Twitter” — places “F*** You” into sharp perspective.

In his recent review of the James Brown biopic Get On Up, Steve Sailer wrote, “When rehearsing 1967’s repetitious ‘Cold Sweat,’ he tells his crack band to forget all they’ve learned about music: ‘Every instrument a drum.’” Sailer goes on to note, “In the long run, Brown’s narrowing the parameters of black American music has been a cultural disaster: every instrument is not really a drum…By 2014, ‘Happy’ by Pharrell Williams, which would have made a worthy Curtis Mayfield B-side, seems like a monumental accomplishment.”

Yes, it was quite a shock to hear a song on the radio in 2014 with an actual catchy, singable melody, and one whose chorus wasn’t built around the F-word.

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‘The Secret Torment of Joni Mitchell’

September 1st, 2014 - 2:31 pm

Other than the self-hating misanthropy of “Big Yellow Taxi” (“They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.” Yes, and over the last 150 years, “they” also put up electric lights, air conditioning, the polio vaccine, and err, the musical instruments, concert halls, record players, radio and TV networks, and the commercial aviation that made your career possible), I’ve enjoyed a number of Joni Mitchell’s songs, and her adventurous musical spirit. But this article in today’s London Daily Mail paints a picture of a very tormented 70-year old soul:

Reflecting on her childhood, Mitchell reveals she was terribly affected by Bambi, particularly the scene where the deer’s mother was trapped in the fire. It was an unlikely spark for her artistry. The traumatic scene made her obsessively draw pictures of fire and deer running, in an attempt to exorcise it from her mind.

‘I think maybe that’s the beginning of my contempt for my species and what it does. How ignorant it is of sharing this planet with other creatures. Its lack of native intelligence, common sense, or spirituality addressed to the earth…’, she told the author.

* * * * * * * *

While living luxuriously between two homes, she’s adamantly negative on America and the industry that made her so successful.

‘America is like really into Velveeta (the processed cheese). Everything has to be homogenized. Their music should be homogenized, their beer is watered down, their beauties are all the same. The music is the same track’.

But it’s in America that her music is playing in department stores and in elevators. Joni Mitchell has become the soundtrack to millions of lives, and the royalties from those songs have made her very wealthy.

* * * * * * * *

But it’s not a recurrence of polio.

‘Morgellons is constantly morphing. There are times when it’s directly attacking the nervous system, as if you’re being bitten by fleas and lice. It’s all in the tissue and it’s not a hallucination. It was eating me alive, sucking the juices out. I’ve been sick all my life’.

Mitchell broke off friendships feeling she was wasting her time with some people she calls ‘deadwood’.

She lost her drive and doesn’t follow projects through to conclusion. She’s forgetful and can’t remember what she just said, Marom writes.

If she’s out walking and has a thought she wants to remember but no notebook, she won’t remember when she gets home.

‘There’s a lot of lethargy with my illness. I’m fatigued’, she laments. And the medicines she was taking gave her brain fog, adding: ‘My creative energy went into survival and into furnishing the interior of the house [in British Columbia]‘.

If you hate mankind so much that you admit “contempt for my species and what it does,” then you must on some level hate yourself, your own existence, as well. Honest question: how much stress does that put on a body and impact a person’s health?

Related: While Mitchell’s hatred for humanity seems to be largely self-destructive, here’s a reminder that it could be far worse. In 2003, Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders “opined that she hopes the United States loses if it goes to war with Iraq,” infamously shouting on stage at a San Francisco concert hall, “Bring it on! Give us what we deserve!”, as the San Francisco Chronicle reported in March of 2003. Here’s one distaff rocker who seems to have taken Hynde’s advice one better, according to a new post at Breitbart.com: “Rocker Girl, Mother of Two, ISIS Recruit Wants to Behead Christians with ‘a Blunt Knife.’”

Update (9/2/14): Linking to our post, Ace of Spades has some thoughts on “Morgellons syndrome,” which Mitchell is quoted above as stating that she’s suffering from, and adds:

I’m not a doctor and I can’t say if “Morgellons syndrome” is a real thing or not, but people who are doctors seem pretty convinced that it’s not.

Enough people have frantically gone into their doctor’s office complaining of tiny fibre-parasites that if these parasites actually existed, we would know about it by now.

And what does this have to do with Joni Mitchell?

Well, people often say a leftist outlook makes people miserable. That may be true, but I think that the more important thing in this relationship is that tormented, miserable people frequently seek out a politics — a philosophy, a religion — that gives meaning to, and thereby redeems, their own pain.

And that politics is leftism.

Read the whole thing.

News You Can Use

August 27th, 2014 - 7:17 pm

And/or your Quote of the Day:

Instead of propagandizing young people with the fear-mongering lie how a homeless person is just the same as anyone else but for a few bad breaks, Miley would have done our culture a greater service by having her prop (let’s be real, he wasn’t really her date) admit to all of the awful life choices he made that led him to living on the streets.

How about this for a speech:

I’m homeless and I’m living on the streets and I don’t want this to happen to you. So don’t do what I did. Don’t break into an apartment, don’t smoke pot, don’t break parole. Get an education and have a solid and dependable plan for a job. Don’t move to LA (one of the most expensive cities in the country) and don’t try to be a model (one of the most unreliable professions in the world.)  

Live right. Get an education. Get a real job.  

It may not be a formula for fame and fortune, but it’s a formula for not being homeless.

“Miley’s Date Deserves To Be Homeless,” Larry O’Connor, the Washington Free Beacon, today.

Music as the healing universal language that unites us all, you’re doing it wrong:

(This seems to happen on a regular basis to the “gangsta” rap impresario.) And again:

When pre-Carson Tonight Show host Jack Paar died in 2004, Mark Steyn wrote that in sharp — and depressing — contrast to Paar’s sophisticated early 1960s middlebrow show, “Today’s pop culture is not Marshall McLuhan’s global village but a global housing project of warring ghettos. On the 21st century ‘Tonight Show’ the musical guests are relegated to twenty-seven minutes past midnight, because the country fans hate the hip-hop, and the hip-hoppers hate the Lite FM stuff, and if you put ’em on any earlier, the audience tunes out.”

Very early in the career of The Who, Kit Lambert, the band’s exceedingly bourgeois early manager, hyped the group by declaring, tongue firmly in cheek, “The Who are really a new form of crime. They are anti-social, armed against the bourgeoisie.” Similarly, it’s certainly a legitimate argument that the musicians who played Woodstock did much to cause the fall of South Vietnam to the totalitarian communist North — as Orwell said, the quickest way to end a war is to lose it. But again, at least they did so metaphorically, with guitars and amplifiers. When did pop culture decide to take the metaphor of “a global housing project of warring ghettos” far too literally?

Greatest. Headline. Ever. Courtesy of Reuters and Yahoo:

The singer Chubby Checker has settled a lawsuit in which he accused Hewlett-Packard Co of using his trademarked name without permission on a software app that purported to measure the size of a man’s penis.

HP denied liability in agreeing to settle with Checker, whose given name is Ernest Evans, but agreed not to make future use of his stage name, likeness or related trademarks.

The settlement was disclosed in a Tuesday filing with the San Francisco federal court. Other terms remain confidential. It is unclear whether money changed hands.

He said hands. [Insert Beavis and Butthead chuckle here.]

But what exactly was the once staid and respectable firm of Hewlett-Packard thinking, when they created or began marketing what Reuters describes as an app “which purported to let women estimate the size of a man’s genitals based on his shoe size” in the first place?

Oh how the mighty have fallen.

“Notwithstanding two years of headlines re Jimmy Savile, Stuart Hall and others, not everyone at the Beeb in my day was a paedophile — or at least I don’t think so,” Mark Steyn wrote last week, in a profile of Rolf Harris, who at the end of last month was “found guilty of 12 counts of indecent assault on young girls in the Sixties, Seventies and Eighties,” Mark writes:

Just about the only part of my career I truly regret was the time I spent at the BBC, who very kindly fired me back in the Nineties. Otherwise, I’d have a lot more time to regret. Notwithstanding two years of headlines re Jimmy Savile, Stuart Hall and others, not everyone at the Beeb in my day was a paedophile — or at least I don’t think so. Nonetheless, it was something of a shock to hear that Rolf Harris has been found guilty of 12 counts of indecent assault on young girls in the Sixties, Seventies and Eighties. As I said when he was charged nine months ago, it almost certainly marks the demise of his small but enduring catalogue of novelty songs. “Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport” and “Jake The Peg (With The Extra Leg)” delighted generations of children in both Britain and Australia, but it’s hard to see them getting much airplay now, or any other singer reviving them given the name of the author.

I knew none of that when I selected Rolf Harris’ biggest hit as Steyn’s Song of the Week to mark his 80th birthday in 2010. We reprint it here as an elegy for a number we’re unlikely to be hearing much of after yesterday’s verdict:

Naturally, England’s left are taking the news about as well as you’d expect. “Some university academics make the case for paedophiles at summer conferences,” Andrew Gilligan of the London Telegraph wrote on Saturday:

Last week, after the conviction of Rolf Harris, the report into Jimmy Savile and claims of an establishment cover-up to protect a sex-offending minister in Margaret Thatcher’s Cabinet, Britain went into a convulsion of anxiety about child abuse in the Eighties. But unnoticed amid the furore is a much more current threat: attempts, right now, in parts of the academic establishment to push the boundaries on the acceptability of child sex.

A key factor in what happened all those decades ago in the dressing rooms of the BBC, the wards of the NHS and, allegedly, the corridors of power was not just institutional failings or establishment “conspiracies”, but a climate of far greater intellectual tolerance of practices that horrify today.

With the Pill, the legalisation of homosexuality and shrinking taboos against premarital sex, the Seventies was an era of quite sudden sexual emancipation. Many liberals, of course, saw through PIE’s cynical rhetoric of “child lib”. But to others on the Left, sex by or with children was just another repressive boundary to be swept away – and some of the most important backing came from academia.

As one of Glenn Reynolds’ commenters quips, “the day is coming when the Catholic Church will be excoriated not for covering up pedophilia, but for opposing it.”

Meanwhile, at the newspaper of choice for those who practice the religion of socialism in England, “Guardian blogger Jonathan Jones feels vindicated. He alone once had the courage to call the inexplicably famous Rolf Harris a shitty painter to his face, and now Harris is a convicted child molester, so there. Or something,” Kathy Shaidle writes, noting that Jones wrote “a particularly sweeping statement of smug class-conscious snobbery, even by Guardian standards.”

Jones sneered, “Perhaps it all goes to show that the middlebrow is inherently corrupt.” As Kathy responds:

Jones didn’t even bother name checking the usual convicts—disgraced American daubist Thomas Kinkade; serial killer-cum-clown painter John Wayne Gacy; the freeze-dried personification of evil Amerikkka, Walt Disney—to bolster his theory. Why bother?

Pointing to frustrated artist Hitler’s taste for baroque spectacle and corny symbolism, leftists have equated lower- and middlebrow kitsch with fascism for generations, and “fascism” with “anything they don’t approve of” rather more recently. (When I still “worked” with flaky progressives, my complaints about their inefficiency were always met with a somber, “Mussolini made the trains run on time, you know…”)

If earnest, unironic kitsch is Nazi Germany, then its first cousin—gay, “edgy,” winking camp (which the left adores)—is Weimar. And we all know who won that scuffle. But leftists love nothing so much as a lost cause. Camp is the Spanish Civil War of aesthetics.

The Nazis may have won the scuffle, but Weimar really won the war, as its intellectuals fled Nazi Germany, resulting in Weimar culture and its worldview being spread far and wide, as Allan Bloom perceptively noted in 1987′s The Closing of the American Mind. I suspect a Weimar-era boulevardier of 1920s-era Berlin put into a time machine and fast-forwarded into today’s London, New York, Hollywood, or San Francisco would find much to approve of those cities’ culture and nightlife, and the values their media pumps out to the rest of the world.

Today’s middlebrow may well be “inherently corrupt,” but I wonder if anybody at the Guardian will explore how it got that way — and explain why, from their perspective, they consider that corruption to be a bad thing?

You Can’t Always Get What You Want

June 16th, 2014 - 7:14 pm

An Alternet author has a sad because her local supermarket plays the Rolling Stones’ “Under My Thumb” in the background. Or as Matt Welch writes at Reason, “Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones, But the Rolling Stones Should Be Banned From Trader Joe’s!”

Today’s not-The-Onion headline comes from AlterNet:

Trader Joe’s NYC Store Defends ‘Racist, Sexist, and Misogynistic’ Songs on Playlist

Even after Elliot Rodger’s killing spree, Trader Joe’s manager says the store will keep playing a famous song that demeans women.

Even after Elliot Rodger’s killing spree! The nerve of these supermarket managers, not policing their Muzak to weed out songs that no one besides an AlterNet contributor could dream of linking to the Isla Vista massacre! Author Lynn Stuart Parramore goes on to describe her confrontation with store management over the misogynistic classic “Under My Thumb“:

Why should I have to hear about a guy comparing his girlfriend to a dog while I’m buying vegetables?

I decided to ask Trader Joe’s this question. Just so they would know I wasn’t making things up, I printed out the lyrics to “Under My Thumb” and brought them into the store with me. I was directed to a young man named Kyle Morrison at the manager’s station, to whom I explained in friendly terms that I was a frequent shopper and that I had heard a song playing over the sound system which, in the wake of the Elliot Rodger killing spree, made me feel uncomfortable. I told him the name of the song, and offered him the paper with the lyrics. [...]

Without looking at the page, Morrison’s first response was to tell me rather smugly that art was a matter of interpretation. I asked him to read the lyrics, and let me know how he interpreted them. He said he didn’t have time, so I read off a few for him.

“Do you think those lyrics are offensive to women?” I asked.

He looked uncomfortable. “It’s just like the radio in your car,” he argued. “There are all kinds of songs playing on different stations.” [...]

I did manage to reach Trader Joe’s customer service department and spoke to someone named “Nicki” (she refused to give her last name), who told me robotically that the music lists were set and Trader Joe’s would not change them.

“Even if they are offensive to women shopping in your stores?” I asked. “No one ever complains,” she said curtly. “I’m complaining,” I replied.

Why yes, Lynn, you are!

Misogyny being a regrettable part of life; romantic struggle being the single biggest subject of pop/rock music, and art being art, we will always have songs that fail the Parramore Test.

It’s nice to know that even as he’s a month away from turning 71 years old, Mick Jagger can still offend someone. But to understand how this moment came to be, return with us now to the not-so-thrilling days of 36 years ago, when supermarkets and retail stores still universally played easy listening instrumental Muzak in the background. When my father built his retail store in South Jersey in 1977 and installed an AM/FM receiver and overhead speakers in the customer portion of the store, one of my first questions about it went something like this:

ED JR.: Dad, can we put the radio in the store on WYSP or WMMR [then the two biggest rock stations in neighboring Philadelphia]?

ED SR.: No.

ED JR.: Aww, how come?

ED SR.: We’re going to play [whoever was the easy listening instrumental station in Philadelphia.] Because the music isn’t for us. It’s for the customers.

Presumably, boomers with dads who owned businesses had conversations like that throughout the post-Beatles-era America, until one day, Dads got fed up enough to collectively give in, and said in unison, “Fine. Leave us alone — put whatever the hell you want on in the background if it’ll make you happy,” and the boomers won the argument.

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Look on the bright side — the New York Times has finally found a business it can defend, pushing back against the dangers of the left insanely promoting income inequality as a meme in the process:

The acquisition also included the expensive Beats headphones — $300 and up in a variety of colors so they also serve as fashion accessory. People will still pay large money for devices, and this weekend, thousands of people will spend at least $250 for three-day access to the Governor’s Ball Music Festival in New York. It’s a curious disconnect: Fans will pay top dollar for a music accessory or a music event. They just won’t pay for, oh yeah, music.

Writing in The Daily Beast last week, the musician Van Dyke Parks said that in the good old days, a song he recently wrote with Ringo Starr would have provided him “with a house and a pool.” But at current royalty rates, he estimated that he and the former Beatle would make less than $80, which means he will have to choose between a dollhouse and a kiddie pool and then share it with Mr. Starr.

Superstars like Beyoncé can drop an unannounced bomb on iTunes and sell a million copies in under two weeks, but most artists are having trouble treading water in the stream. Streaming services argue that as their subscriber base grows, musicians will be able to survive on many small slices of a very big pie.

On the bus ride home from dinner last week, I streamed most of the wonderful new album from Parquet Courts, courtesy of the Something for Nothing paradox. The $6 grapes were delicious, by the way, but I consumed them slowly and consciously, each one carrying not only lusciousness, but the knowledge that I had paid for them.

As someone who has watched the music industry go from a vibrant hit-making machine to near irrelevancy in the course of a couple of decades, I’m sympathetic to archliberal David Carr’s article, but the Times is arguably the worst place for it to be running. This is the newspaper that regularly rails against excessive consumerism by publishing profiles feigning praise for New Yorkers who have lived without toilet paper for a year, or articles on why the Third World should forgo the same air conditioning that cools the Times’ Eighth Avenue office building and Thomas Friedman’s mansion. (Even as the Times defends aerosol-powered graffiti vandals over the owners of private property they’ve defaced.) The paper that began the 1990s by running Al Gore’s manifesto comparing global warming to Kristallnacht, and concluded 2012 by calling for an end to the Constitution. If the environment is in such perilous condition that we must forgo air conditioning and toilet paper, CDs and iPods are the ultimate non-essential luxury.

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‘Disco Doesn’t Suck. Here’s Why.’

June 3rd, 2014 - 11:32 pm

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At Reason this month, Jesse Walker is tackling the important topics, reviewing “Jamie Kastner’s The Secret Disco Revolution, a documentary/mockumentary hybrid from 2012:”

The movie is happy to mock the musicians as well as the academics. In the film’s funniest sequence, the current members of the Village People brazenly assert that there was nothing gay about their material, claiming that “there was not one double entendre in any of the music” and that “In the Navy” was written as an earnest celebration of sea life. This is intercut with an interview with Henri Belolo, who wasn’t a member of the band but produced their records, co-wrote many of their songs, and played a major role in inventing their image. As the singers issue their denials, Belolo talks about “how we created a gay-positive message” and discusses the barely hidden gay-cruising subtext of “YMCA.” At that moment, the Village People become a different type of revisionists, rewriting their history with the self-confidence of a Soviet censor snipping Trotsky out of a photo. Or maybe they’re being poker-faced jokers, too. But I don’t think so: At the end of the movie, right before the credits roll, we see some post-interview footage of a Village Person pretending to throttle Kastner as he warns the filmmaker that he reads too many books.

Naturally the film mentions “the infamous Disco Demolition Night of 1979, when disco-hating rockers blew up a bunch of dance records in a baseball stadium,” dubbing it and other anti-disco rhetoric from the period an attack on disco’s “mass liberation of gays, blacks, and women from the clutches of a conservative, rock-dominated world.”

Because, racism. And homophobia. And fear of white polyester suits as well, I guess.

But in reality, 1979 was a unique quiet highpoint for rock. MTV was two years away, and dinosaurs still thundered the earth: all four Beatles were still alive and recording, Led Zeppelin was still around and released their underrated last album as an intact band, In Through the Out Door, Pink Floyd released The Wall, and Bill Wyman was the only member of the Rolling Stones over 40. While Keith Moon had recently gone off to The Great Practice Hall In The Sky, The Who were more visible than ever, with multiple albums, movies, tours, and the debut of Pete Townshend’s solo career. And while Punk Rock had been something of a bust in America, a group of New Wave artists with the same DIY ethos of punk, but with much better chops: Elvis Costello, The Pretenders, The Police, The Cars, Blondie – and even Tom Petty was shoved into the New Wave slot for his early albums (QED). On Saturday nights in South Jersey, I used to tune to the car radio to 91.3 FM WTSR, the College of New Jersey radio station, which when atmospheric conditions were right, could be heard pumping out these and more obscure artists, little knowing it would be my future alma mater.

So no wonder disco, with its constant four-on-the-floor drumming, limited dynamics, and ultra-slick production seemed like “plastic soul,” to coin a phrase, considering how vibrant rock was, before it eventually garnered a plastic sheen all its own:

However, as I said last year when I wrote a lengthy review titled, “Turn the Beat Around: A Reformed Disco Hater Looks Back at Whit Stillman’s The Last Days of Disco,” had I known what was coming for black music – the non-melodic dead-end of rap music – I would never been as dismissive about disco.

But then arguably, rock would exhaust itself by the end of the 1980s. You could probably make a case that both genres ended on similar notes: Disco was the last gasp of the pop-oriented R&B professionalism of Motown; the hair metal of the following decade was the last gasp of the genre of hard rock invented by Cream, Jimi Hendrix, the Yardbirds, and Led Zeppelin. Rap would replace disco, death metal would replace its more melodic predecessor, and both would quickly hit brick walls.

Today, as Mark Steyn recently noted, “A performance of the Village People’s disco classic “YMCA” by the Bennett Elementary School First Grade class has been canceled because …oh, go on, guess.”

“Wrong, it’s racist,” Mark added. A class of Fargo first graders can’t perform the song, not because of its camp gay single entendres, but because one of the kids’ mothers “said asking her daughter and her classmates to dress up like an Indian is offensive.”

However weird the 1970s were – and believe me, they were plenty weird – at least political correctness wasn’t yet an issue. These days, in sharp contrast, as the headline on Mark’s post notes, “Young Man, There’s Any Number of Needs to Feel Down.”  (And don’t let anybody hear you sing another disco-era hit, “Kung Fu Fighting,” whilst hitting the bars on the Isle of Wight, either.)

In other words, come back Deny Terrio – all is forgiven!

Get David Gregory on the Case!

May 30th, 2014 - 2:18 pm

“BREAKING: Obama Administration Kids Broke D.C. Law in Music Video,” reports the Washington Free Beacon — and fair is fair; since there’s no aspect of life the administration doesn’t want to politicize, Alinsky’s Rule Four demands that they — and their offspring — obey those same rules themselves.

I don’t want to steal the Beacon’s photos, so here’s the backstory: the preteen sons of Obama’s advisors, including Jay Carney, last seen kissing Obama’s suit jacket on the way out, formed a rock group, and recorded a paint-by-numbers song and equally formulaic accompanying video. As Sonny Bunch noted in a post titled “Awful Children Release Awful Song,” “And here, ladies and gentlemen, is everything wrong with the Beltway set: It’s all about who you know, not what you can do:”

You’re a kid who can kinda hold a guitar or prance around the stage while whinily singing nonsense? Let’s professionally produce a song and a video and get you some attention in the press! These little twerps will probably have a keynote gig at the Democratic convention lined up by the end of next week. You can watch their caterwauling here:

In the follow-up post at the Beacon, Andrew Stiles writes, “Some awful Democrats are outraged and calling for Sonny’s head:”

What they should REALLY be outraged about is the complete disregard for basic child safety measures, not to mention the blatant flouting of D.C. bike laws, on display in the “Heart Thief” video, which features the “band” skateboarding and riding around on bikes in our nation’s capital WITHOUT HELMETS. According to a Free Beacon analysis, that’s awful.

* * * * * * *

It is unclear if the children (who are all under the age of 16) were apprehended and fined during the course of shooting the video, or if they are first time offenders. The good news is that their parents can probably afford the fines. But on the other hand: WHERE IS THE OUTRAGE?

The revelations come just one day after President Obama hosted a conference at the White House to highlight the dangers of head injuries among young athletes.

Perhaps the Twenty20 kids should take after their Sidwell Friends classmate Malia Obama, and her helmet-wearing biker dad.

I’m sure David Gregory will be breaking this story wide open on Sunday’s Meet the Press.

“MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry: NBA Is About ‘Profit From the Sale of Black Bodies,’” as spotted by Tom Blumer of NewsBusters:

Melissa Harris-Perry seems to have a problem with some African-Americans making a lot of money in professional sports, apparently because some other people also make money in the process. Specifically, she seems to believe that the relationship between players in the National Basketball Association and their teams’ owners is a form of slavery.

It’s hard to conclude otherwise based on statements made by the MSNBC host this past Saturday. Perry introduced her segment about the Mark Cuban “controversy,” wherein the owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks expressed self-preservation-related desires — which he inexplicably attributed to being personally “prejudiced” and “bigoted” — to move to the other side of the street upon seeing a “black kid in a hoodie” or “a white guy with a shaved head and lot of tattoos,” by saying: “You can’t really talk about (slavery) reparations and ignore the modern day wealthy Americans who own teams made up predominantly of black men and profit from their bodies and labor.”

Blumer goes on to quote Tom Tillison of BizPac Review, who notes that “For the record, NBA players are the highest paid professional athletes in America, easily surpassing all other major team sports:”

According to Forbes, the average salary in the NBA in 2012 was $5.15 million a year. With the average career lasting 4.8 years, that equates to $24.7 million in total compensation — this is the “average.” The NBA’s top player, Kobe Bryant, yes a black man, earned $30.4 million for the 2013-14 season, USA Today reported.

The chief reason professional athletes arrive in the One Percent (to borrow from the left’s lingo) is because of the amount of television revenue professional sports such as the NBA bring in. To end this system, Perry is de facto calling for the end of televised sports. As an on-air personality of MSNBC, she’s also a spokeswoman for Comcast, the giant cable company which co-owns the network. It shouldn’t be difficult at all for her to arrange a meeting with the top brass there, during which she can call for the end of televised sports.* I’m sure the Comcast board will heed her advice, right?

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Can You See The Real Me?

May 2nd, 2014 - 1:43 pm
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Quadrophenia celebrated the 35th anniversary of its debut at the movies today, according to Kathy Shaidle, who links to the film’s trailer, and an hour-long “Making Of” video.

I became a huge fan of The Who in response to The Kids Are Alright, both the 1979 movie and the soundtrack double album (an actual album, long before there were tiny silver CDs), and its accompanying booklet filled with beautifully written hagiography by British rock critic Roy Carr. (I just checked the author’s name; it’s one of the few actual LPs I still own, complete with price tag indicating it was purchased One Million Years Before CD at the Turntable record store in Willingboro, NJ.)

I loved the sturm und drang of the roaring original Quadrophenia album from 1973, and played it endlessly (and still do from time to time). So when the movie version of Quadrophenia followed the Kids Are Alright movie out of the gate, I eagerly anticipated it. When I saw it, though, I had a very difficult time reconciling that the music, sung by Roger Daltrey in all his hard rocking macho glory, was built around Jimmy the Mod, a scrawny little 16-year old shrimp of a kid puttering around on his Vespa scooter. For a guy who grew up among classmates in suburban New Jersey who owned Camaros, Mustangs and Mopars, it was cognitive dissonance in the extreme.

But then, most of the iconography of the early 1960s British Mods initially seemed impenetrable, except for two things: rationing and information ricochet. The mods were a rebellion against the last stages of the postwar rationing maintained by its socialist government, which hadn’t ended until the late 1950s, a rebellion built around what we would now call conspicuous consumption, of American Brooks Brothers Ivy League clothes, Italian scooters and the La Dolce Vita lifestyle depicted in Italian cinema, and American Motown music.

As opposed to their arch rivals, the Rockers, who worshiped American 1950s rock and roll, and the image that Marlon Brando cultivated in The Wild One.

And with their rival obsessions over American culture, both the British mods and rockers were enmeshed in what Tom Wolfe used to describe in the late 1970s and early 1980s as “Information Ricochet,” such as in this 1983 interview (with Ron Reagan, of all people):

The history of punk seems to go as follows: It was picked up by young English people and used in somewhat the same way that Los Angeles teenagers used the word rotten to mean good. Punk had a certain genuine quality at the outset in England as a kind of version of the great gob of spit in the face of the class system. So there was this elaborate glorification of things rotten, as in the name Johnny Rotten. Then it was brought to this country in magazines. It had no roots in this country whatsoever. Young people read about it, and the shops existed before the phenomenon. It just caught on as a fashion. This is what I think of as information ricochet. The Hell’s Angels, for example, didn’t exist until the movie The Wild One. They looked at The Wild One and said, “Oh, that’s the way it’s done. ” So they took their own name and insignia and stuff, and Roger Corman came by and said, “Oh, that’s the way it’s done,” and made a movie called The Wild Angels. And the Hell’s Angels came by and said, “That’s a nice idea; we’ll do that.” That’s information ricochet. Punk was developed the same way, and the only genuine thing about it is a general impulse among people in their late teens to thumb their nose at the ongoing attempts to make them act like adults, which begin to seem like an imposition and rather boring. So you glorify wanton, impudent violence.

Of course, the information ricochet surrounding the mods and their story was endless. As Franc Roddam, the director of the film version, notes in the making of documentary that Kathy links to, he originally wanted to cast punk rockers, to help make the film more accessible to young audiences in the late 1970s. Roddam claims that Johnny Rotten had an excellent screen test, but he was unable to get insurance on the musician, based on the Sex Pistols’ destructive reputation. The film makers settled for Sting as supporting character, in one of his first movie roles.

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The Passing Parade Grows Larger

April 23rd, 2014 - 2:20 pm

Ezra Levant of Canada’s Sun News calls it “a riveting collection of stories chronicling the lives of the men and women who helped shape the 20th century,” and he’s right. For a perfect snapshot of what life was like among the overculture – in the media, in pop culture, and in politics in the last and first decade of the new and old millennium, simply read the profiles Steyn has crafted for his Passing Parade. The book is an anthology of his obits, written for National Review, the Spectator (both its UK and American incarnations), the London Telegraph, and until 2007, a monthly staple of the Atlantic. That the Atlantic traded Steyn for a multi-year dalliance with leftwing former Brit Andrew Sullivan is a classic example of ideologically-driven managerial incompetence. The following year, Excitable Andrew assumed the role of America’s Foremost Uterine Detective, and the Atlantic, even after Sullivan left in 2011 for first the Daily Beast and then (at the moment at least) a solo career last year, seemed doomed to live out the epic 86-year old curse of the Boston Red Sox after they discarded Babe Ruth in 1919.

And at the moment, not even Xenu can save them.

For everyone else, check out Mark Steyn’s Passing Parade, finally on Kindle, and updated with numerous obits added since its initial publication in 2006 on dead tree, ranging from Ronald Reagan, Pope John Paul II and Eugene McCarthy, to Bob Hope and Alistair Cooke, to Evel Knievel and Tupac Shakur. (The last pair are joined by the leitmotif of Mark quoting the lyrics of Wayne Newton’s “Danke Schoen.” Coincidence? You be the judge!)

The other night, after staying up too late watching an episode of Rumbole of the Bailey on the Acorn channel on my Roku set-top box, I clicked over to the Vemo channel. Acorn is devoted to classic British TV series, such as the Poirot murder mysteries, Brideshead Revisited, Edward & Mrs. Simpson, and the aforementioned Rumbole, starring veteran British actor (and occasionally scenery devouring over-actor) Leo McKern in the eponymous role. Vevo is an entirely different channel, one that also has a large YouTube presence, as a repository for rock videos old and new. At the start of the week, while listening to Sirius-XM on headphones while working, I heard Aerosmith’s “Jaded” song from 2001 for the first time in ages, and Joe Perry’s riff, which sounds inspired by Jimmy Page’s sharp-suspended fourth riff on Led Zeppelin’s “Dancin’ Days” rapidly became an earwig, playing over and over in my head.

So I thought I’d check out the video for the song, since Vevo generally does a very good job with running the videos in HD with full-range audio. And really – who doesn’t conclude a segment from a 1978 Thames Television show about an aging British barrister by saying, “Well, now that I’ve seen Rumpole of the Bailey, it’s time for some classic Aerosmith!” But I’m me, and that’s how my brain works, after years of having been badly mutated through massive Chernobyl-level  overdoses of pop culture.

While Vevo’s clips are free to watch, they’re often preceded by commercials for various products that sponsors believe would be appropriate for a rock video audience. However, in this case, the video was not preceded by a commercial, but by a public service announcement (PSA) designed to encourage young people to stop smoking.

Through the use of the most disgusting imagery possible.

The PSA began with a young man entering a convenience store and asking for a pack of cigarettes. Plunking a five dollar bill and his ID on the counter, he asks the clerk, “This enough?” Whereupon the clerk says, “Nope, there’s one more thing I need” – and proceeds to rip the customer’s front teeth out with a pair of pliers.

As James Lileks would say, pure 100 proof nightmare fuel.

Once the pliers came out, I averted my eyes until Steve and Joe and the boys began playing. I understand that not everyone realizes that excessive smoking can have injurious effects on a person’s dentition — and that Seinfeld is no longer on the air to remind them of this fact. At which point the juxtaposition was grimly hilarious, considering that Steve Tyler and Joe Perry used wear T-shirts in their rock videos describing themselves as “the Toxic Twins” – by the late 1970s and early ‘80s, before they went through maximum-strength rehab, puffs from a Marlboro 100 were by far the healthiest thing they were putting into their bodies.

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My Back Pages

April 9th, 2014 - 1:47 pm

Now is the time when we juxtapose, Small Dead Animals-style:

The individuals in the Tea Party may come from very different walks of life, but most of them have a few things in common…Each and every one of them is the only person in America who has ever read the Constitution or watched Schoolhouse Rock. (Here they have guidance from Armey, who explains that the problem with “people who do not cherish America the way we do” is that “they did not read the Federalist Papers.”)

Rolling Stone, “The Truth About the Tea Party,” September 28, 2010.

Flash-forward to today:

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“Rolling Stone Mistakenly Plants John Hancock on Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s Back,” Josh Encinias, at the NRO Corner today. As Justin Green of the Washington Examiner tweets, “Pro tip: John Hancock didn’t sign the Constitution.”

But it’s a nice bit of karmic blowback against a magazine, which in addition to despising anyone to the right of Pete Seeger, last year thought Boston bomber Dzohkar Tsarnaev was so totally cool and early Jim Morrison dreamy that he was worth featuring on their cover. In his terrific new book Not Cool, Greg Gutfeld describes that gesture as the end product of a sclerotic leftwing magazine on life support, asking, “If the Rolling Stone offices had been the target of bombing, would they have put such an adoring photo on their cover?”

Actually, maybe they would. Think back to Robert Fisk, the leftwing British journalist and namesake of the popular Blogosphere technique of fisking, who famously wrote after being attacked while covering the war in Afghanistan in late 2001, “My Beating is a Symbol of this Filthy War.” Fisk added, “In fact, if I were the Afghan refugees of Kila Abdullah, close to the Afghan-Pakistan border, I would have done just the same to Robert Fisk. Or any other Westerner I could find.” In other words, In other words, ‘I totally had it coming.’

Or as Gutfeld himself quips, “If only bin Laden had been younger and hotter. If only he’d had abs. Then Jann Wenner, publisher of Rolling Stone, who put the Boston Bomber on the cover of his rag, might have done him first.”