Mixed Media

Piers Morgan Tells Reporter Accusing Corey Lewandowski of Battery to "Toughen Up"

| Tue Mar. 29, 2016 3:21 PM EDT

It looks as if Piers Morgan is looking to surpass Donald Trump for the very worst response to news that the front-runner's campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, was charged with simple battery of a female reporter. The former CNN host has emerged from irrelevance to tweet the following:

Morgan's response follows the release of a security video that appears to verify former Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields' claim that Lewandowski forcibly grabbed her arm on March 8 as she approached the real estate magnate for a question earlier this month—an incident Lewandowski and Trump's campaign have vehemently denied ever happened. After being formally charged with simple battery today, Trump's campaign remains in denial.

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Roots Singer Terri Binion's "Long Way Back to Feeling Good"

| Tue Mar. 29, 2016 1:51 PM EDT

Terri Binion
The Day After the Night Before
Self-Released

Roots-music purism can sometimes engender the dreariest kind of snobbery, but there's still something wonderful about the right combination of a passionate voice and simple acoustic guitar. Exhibit A: The Day After the Night Before, the first album in nearly 15 years from Orlando, Fla.-based Terri Binion. Don't be fooled by her gentle delivery. This deceptively devastating work hums with raw emotion, recounting Binion's "long way back to feeling good" following the death of her wife and subsequent legal travails in a state that refuses to recognize same-sex marriage. Tasteful dashes of fiddle, steel guitar and the like add subtle color, but her eloquent simplicity is richly rewarding, with or without embellishment.

Dori Freeman
Dori Freeman
Free Dirt

Hailing from rural Galax, Va., Dori Freeman spins forlorn tales of love never won and love lost on her graceful self-titled debut. With a big assist from singer-songwriter Teddy Thompson (Richard's son), who produces and contributes mournful harmonies, she could pass for an old-school folkie ("You Say"), a honky-tonk country queen ("Go on Lovin'") or even an aspiring pop princess ("Tell Me"), so supple and engaging is her easy, confident voice. Keep an eye on Freeman, and you can claim you were an early adapter when she makes it big.

Grant-Lee Phillips' "The Narrows" Skillfully Mines Americana Turf

| Sun Mar. 27, 2016 6:00 AM EDT

Grant-Lee Phillips
The Narrows
Yep Roc

Yep Roc Records


Criminally underappreciated, Grant-Lee Phillips is one of the more versatile singers around. As frontman of the band Grant Lee Buffalo in the '90s, he could conjure a T. Rex glam-rock vibe without breaking a sweat. Today, on The Narrows, Phillips skillfully mines Americana turf, mixing muscular country rockers and sparse folk that echoes Woody Guthrie. While his weary, weathered intensity can evoke Bruce Springsteen's acoustic works, there's none of the Boss' self-conscious striving for mythic significance. Thoughtful, precisely detailed stories of struggle and occasional triumph such as "Yellow Weeds" and "Taking on Weight in Hot Springs" linger in the mind like a great short story. The Narrows should have a long shelf life.

Iggy Pop's Menacing "Post Pop Depression"

| Sat Mar. 26, 2016 6:00 AM EDT

Iggy Pop
Post Pop Depression
Rekords Rekords/Loma Vista/Caroline International

Nasty Little Man


Rightly credited as one of punk's founding fathers, the force of nature known as Iggy Pop is also a superior crooner, capable of channeling Frank Sinatra or Jim Morrison with un-ironic verve. That gift is on full display in Post Pop Depression, a collaboration with Queens of the Stone Age leader Josh Homme that proves to be a perfect fit. Iggy's knack for brooding balladry meshes surprisingly well with the Queens' style of epic melodies on such gems as the ominous "Break Into Your Heart," a love song doused in menace, and the jumpy "Gardenia," which echoes his classic late-'70s albums with David Bowie. As usual, Iggy muses on the meaning of life and his looming mortality muttering, "Death is a pill that's hard to swallow," in "American Valhalla," a blunt reflection given extra poignancy by his friend's recent passing. Now in his late 60s, Iggy periodically insists that he's going to quit rock'n'roll, but if Post Pop Depression proves to be his parting shot, he's leaving on a high note.

Donald Trump Supporter Accuses CNN Contributor of Having an Affair with Ted Cruz

| Fri Mar. 25, 2016 2:10 PM EDT

The latest bout of misogyny in the 2016 election is brought to you by Donald Trump supporter Adriana Cohen, who on Friday hijacked a CNN segment to accuse Amanda Carpenter, a former Ted Cruz spokeswoman and CNN contributor, of having an affair with the Texas senator. 

The accusation comes as the most recent salvo in the ongoing war between the two leading Republican presidential candidates over each others' wives. Today the National Enquirer story alleged Cruz has had extramarital relationships with five different women.

"Absolutely, I think we should move on," Cohen responded when CNN host Kate Bolduan asked her if Trump would be better moving on from such low-level attacks. "Where we should move to is the National Enquirer story that has reported that Ted Cruz has allegedly had affairs with at least five—including, you've been named, Amanda."

"I don't think that's moving on at all, Adriana," a stunned Bolduan retorted. 

Ignoring Bolduan's obvious disapproval, Cohen continued to press Carpenter to comment on the allegation.

"What's out there is tabloid trash," Carpenter shot back. "If someone wants to comment on it, they can talk to my lawyer. It is categorically false, and you should be ashamed of spreading this kind of smut."

"I will not be intimidated."

Bolduan stepped in to reclaim control over the interview. "I'm going to be much more comfortable talking about a National Enquirer report when CNN has done some reporting on that topic. Let's do this—let's move on."

"Batman v Superman" Is a Failure on Every Single Level

| Fri Mar. 25, 2016 12:20 PM EDT

Oh dear, honey baby. Oh no, baby doll.

This is a bad film.

Very bad. Profoundly bad. This movie is exhaustingly, catastrophically bad. It is a failure on every single level. The story is bad. The direction is bad. The music somehow manages to be bad. The acting is at best serviceable and at worst, in one egregious case, unwatchable. The sensation of watching this film is pain. The amount of pain may vary depending on your particular tastes, but some measure of pain is the promise of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

In the end of Man of Steel, Superman and Michael Shannon's Zod have a big battle that leaves most of downtown Metropolis in ruin. One of those ruins is a building owned by Bruce Wayne. Bruce Wayne is very mad that his building was destroyed, and Batman v Superman begins with Ben Affleck's aged Wayne being very upset at Superman. Superman, too, is no fan of Batman because Batman likes to brand his collars with a bat iron so that they get killed in prison (this is a real plot point) and Superman thinks this is unbecoming of a gentleman. Or a gentlesuperhero.  Or something. Also Superman knows Batman's identity. Also no one calls him Batman. They call him the Bat of Gotham (nonetheless, the movie is called Batman v Superman, not the Bat of Gotham v Superman), which suggests the movie title takes place in a universe that is separate from the movie itself.

Also, Metropolis and Gotham are literally across the river from each other. You can see one from the other. On numerous occasions people in one city look across the river and say, "let's go to Metropolis/Gotham," but the effect is not that these are distinct domains, but that in a comic book census, they'd both be in the same metropolitan area. In this film, Gotham and Metropolis are comparable to Minneapolis and St. Paul. Earth's greatest heroes live in Minneapolis and St. Paul and spend all their time going back and forth between the two.

Affleck's Batman is less a remarkable physical specimen who can do karate and kill 1,000 ninjas with his bare hands (a la Christian Bale) as he is a well-armed sociopath. His main superpower in this film is owning a number of firearms. Imagine a more serious and elaborately costumed version of Nicolas Cage's character in Kick-Ass. Along for the ride is Jeremy Irons as Alfred, making tea and saying things like, "Hey kid, why don't you go out and get a girlfriend and stop stewing about your parents' death 40 years ago?"

Meanwhile, across the river, Lex Luthor, played by Jesse Eisenberg, is very mad at Superman because…well, it's not clear except he has always hated the Man of Steel. Eisenberg gives roughly 1,000 speeches in which he describes his motives, but nothing he says makes any sense or hints to any actual motive. He's really mad at God—he talks about God a lot—but it's not clear if he's being critical of actual religion or if he's just using it as a metaphor, God being the ultimate Superman. After about two hours he mutters some throwaway line about how his father beat him, so maybe that's why? Parents just don't understand! Lex Luthor also knows that Batman is Bruce Wayne and he decides he wants Batman and Superman to fight. So there is an hour and a half of utterly incomprehensible nonsense in which Luthor Iagos them into battling.

Let's talk about Jesse Eisenberg's Lex Luther for a second. Eisenberg is a fine actor but his performance in this movie is grating. And it's not just a bad performance. It's a bad performance clearly egged on by misguided direction, combined with thoroughly inane lines. Eisenberg's Luthor is one of those rare characters in the history of cinema you just don't want to see on screen. Whenever he comes on you're gritting your teeth and hoping the frenetic editing will cut to another scene.

Somehow this doesn't happen! Maybe five scenes in this whole movie are longer than 90 seconds and it feels like all of them feature Luthor. It's as if  Zack Snyder has crippling ADD and when he takes Ritalin he helplessly focuses on the most annoying thing possible. The Luthor of Batman v Superman makes people with two legs want to run out the door. It makes people with one leg want to hop out the door. It makes people with no legs want to crawl out the door.

Then there is the existential question: "How could Batman possibly defeat Superman?" What's that? You know how he could defeat Superman because it is the only way anyone can defeat Superman? With kryptonite, of course. Right? Yes, you are correct. Batman steals some kryptonite from Lex Luthor who bribed a US senator with Jolly Ranchers (this actually happens) into giving him Michael Shannon's kryptonite ship from the last movie. But Lex Luthor sort of wanted Batman to steal it so it wasn't really stealing stealing. Or something. Are you still with me?

Batman makes some kryptonite grenades and a kryptnoite spear and blah blah blah 90 minutes into this assault on the senses they finally fight and it is really great and makes up for the rest of the—hahahahah just kidding.

It is incomprehensible! Nothing makes any sense! We all understand that plots in these movies don't make sense. Of course they don't. That's standard. But in this movie nothing makes sense on a scene level. In a lot of movies that make no sense on a plot level, the person will say, "I am going to rob this fruit store," and you can quibble about why a person would rob a fruit store, but the characters in the movie accept it and go about robbing the fruit store and we go along with it. They have conviction and authenticity and they really try to rob that fruit store good, even if we in the audience think they are being ridiculous for robbing a fruit store, because when it really works, it doesn't matter. In Batman v Superman the characters say, "I am going to rob this fruit store," and then go into the fruit store, throw fruit in the air, paint the walls with fruit, pay for the fruit, use the fruit as puppets in improv comedy, have a dance party with the fruit, build a home in the fruit store, burn the fruit store down, exit the smoldering husk of the fruit store and announce, "I robbed the vegetable store."

I don't want to spoil this awful train wreck for you so I won't go into details but the end of the Batman/Superman fight is the most ridiculous thing in the entire world. It makes not a lick of sense and is impossible to sit through without giggling. Importantly, these are laughs of discomfort not delight.

Oh! Wonder Woman is also in this movie. If you're wondering why my mentioning her seems like an afterthought, it's because that's how she's treated in the movie. I don't know what else to tell you. She seems nice? Nothing is explained about her at all.

The best thing about this film is the ending. And not the substance of the ending, which makes no sense; it's the existence of the ending because it means I am no longer stuck in that theater watching this awful movie. And yet even this is a letdown! The ending carries the explicit threat that this saga will never be over. Warner Brothers has gone all in on this version of the DC characters for their own comic universe. Next will be Suicide Squad and then Wonder Woman and then Justice League. These movies will apparently all be terrible, but we'll see them anyway because that's life.

The most infuriating part of this for me was that it didn't have to be this way. With the exception of Eisenberg, the actors are all fine in their roles. None of them have much to do, but they do it serviceably—and Affleck, for his thankless part, is actually pretty good! Easily the best thing about the movie. I would love to see a thoughtful film about Ben Affleck's winsome old Batman, but I can't summon the optimism to believe the people who made this movie will ever make that movie.

I wish they would take the series away from Zack Snyder et al. Give it to someone else. Give it to the third grip from the Marvel movies. Hell, give it back to Bryan Singer! Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice heralds justice not for Clark Kent or Bruce Wayne, but for the underappreciated Superman Returns, which is worth a second look. It may have been not ideal but it wasn't painful to watch. Batman v Superman is a movie that can only be endured, never enjoyed.

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Lindsey Graham Just Went Off on Donald Trump and the GOP: "My Party Is Completely Screwed Up"

| Thu Mar. 24, 2016 12:48 PM EDT

Shortly after Sen. Lindsey Graham issued a series of spectacular insults aimed at his former Republican presidential challengers—one of which included the line, "If you killed Ted Cruz on the floor of the Senate, and the trial was in the Senate, no one would convict you"—Graham endorsed the Texas senator for president. On the Daily Show on Wednesday, he tried his best to explain why.

"I'm on the Ted train, absolutely," Graham told host Trevor Noah, grinning and seemingly aware of his own bullshit. "What's not to like?"

Noah then ran the clip of his memorable Cruz diss, and asked why things have changed. Smiling ruefully, Graham said, "It tells you everything you need to know about Donald Trump." He later laughed, "I'm gettin' better at this."

Graham proceeded to basically call out the entire Republican Party, which he called "absolutely screwed up," even warning Noah to prepare accordingly if Trump were to make it to the White House.

"If Trump wins, your days are numbered, pal," he said. "Young, black, liberal guy from Africa is not going to work with him."

Here's What Happens When John Oliver Tries to Take Donald Trump's Biggest Campaign Promise Seriously

| Mon Mar. 21, 2016 8:23 AM EDT

John Oliver continued his campaign to #MakeDonaldDrumpfAgain this week with a takedown of the Republican front-runner's repeated calls to build a massive wall at the US-Mexico border—a plan Trump first introduced last June with the inflammatory statement that Mexicans were crime-peddling "rapists."

"The border wall is one of the few policy proposals Trump has talked about in details, so instead of mocking or dismissing it out of hand, let's take a serious proposal by a serious presidential candidate seriously," Oliver said.

The Last Week Tonight host went on to expose the major problems with the real estate magnate's signature immigration policy (other than the sheer xenophobia embedded in the plan), explaining to viewers that such a wall would likely cost $26 billion—far more than the $4 billion Trump tells his supporters it would take.

"It's a big dumb thing that only gets more expensive over time," Oliver said. "It's like getting a pet walrus: You think it's stupid now—wait until you learn what a bucket of sea cucumbers costs. You're not prepared for that."

Trump Joins the Long List of Targets Anonymous Has "Declared War On"

| Wed Mar. 16, 2016 6:00 AM EDT

Yesterday, a video posted by Anonymous announced that the hacktivist entity has declared "total war" on Donald Trump, the possibly computer-semiliterate Republican front runner. This is the shadowy cyberactivists' latest vow to annihilate a formidable enemy—an expanding list of foes that includes terrorist groups, multinational corporations, several countries, and an Australian bowhunter who was killing cats.

So far, the vast majority of Anonymous' targets have survived the much-hyped digital onslaught. As The Hill notes, the newest opening of hostilities with Trump follows a similar declaration last year that "never made much of an impact." 

Here are more than 40 targets that Anonymous members—and eager headline writers—have claimed it has "declared war on":

The Ku Klux Klan

ISIS

Syrian government websites

Terrorist websites

Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood

Jihad

The US government

The UK government

Police

Cincinnati police

Hong Kong police

Thai police

The Thai junta

Turkey

North Korea

Saudi Arabia

Singapore

Japan

Israel

The Cambodian government

Corruption and poverty in Nigeria

Orlando

Congress

Capitalism

Religion

Scientology

The Westboro Baptist Church

The family court of Australia

Wikileaks

Gov. Rick Snyder

Facebook

Sony

The Recording Industry Association of America

Marijuana prohibition

Pedophilia

A "rape town"

A "revenge porn" site founder

A "cat killer"

The Lizard Squad Hacker Team

Louis Vuitton

Kanye West

John Oliver Explains Why It's So Crucial Apple Is Refusing the FBI's Encryption Demands

| Mon Mar. 14, 2016 8:15 AM EDT

On Sunday, John Oliver took on the FBI's continuing demands for Apple to unlock a cellphone used by one of the San Bernardino shooters. Speaking largely on Apple's side of the debate, the Last Week Tonight host explained the importance of encryption and broke down what's at stake in the high-profile battle:

"There is no easy side to be on in this debate," Oliver said. "Strong encryption has its costs, from protecting terrorists to drug dealers to child pornographers. But I happen to feel that the risks of weakening encryption, even a little bit, even just for the government, are potentially much worse."

Even Sen. Lindsey Graham, who first came out strongly against Apple for refusing to comply with the FBI's orders, recently admitted that upon further research, he's realized the government's orders could pose an enormous risk to Americans' security.

"It's just not so simple," Graham told Attorney General Loretta Lynch during a hearing on the subject last week. "I thought it was that simple—I was all with you until I actually started getting briefed by people in the intel community and I will say that I'm a person who's been moved by the arguments that the precedent we set and the damage we may be doing to our own national security."

As Oliver notes, it's a "miracle" Graham has finally grasped the concept of nuance.