Mixed Media

Gwyneth Paltrow Confuses Her Latest Master Cleanse with Attempt to Relate to the Poor

| Sun Apr. 12, 2015 10:21 AM EDT

Who better to speak to the struggles of food stamp recipients than Gwyneth Paltrow? The actress and founder of GOOP, the oft-ridiculed lifestyle blog that peddles everything from $900 throw blankets to $50 sunscreen, was recently summoned by chef Mario Batali in an Ice Bucket-esque challenge to join him in the fight against food stamp cuts.

A worthy cause for sure. But judging by the items she cobbled together to last her an entire week alone, it's difficult to take Paltrow's good intentions seriously:

I am no chef, but it looks to me as if the above snapshot would fail miserably in feeding a whole family for even just one meal, let alone a whole week. It does, however, look like the makings of an excellent detox recipe—if you happen to enjoy that kind of thing.

Out of touch is just how we like you, Gwyneth! Stay golden.

(h/t Jezebel)

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Elizabeth Warren Explains How Washington Corruption Protects the "Tender Fannies" of The Rich

| Fri Apr. 10, 2015 9:54 AM EDT

During a spot on the "Daily Show" Thursday night, Senator Elizabeth Warren broke down the ways in which big banks and large corporations have rigged Washington politicians in order to ensure "the tender fannies of the rich and the powerful are always carefully protected."

"Powerful corporations, rich people, have figured out that if you can bend the government to help you just a little bit, it’s a tremendous payoff," Warren told host Jon Stewart. "And if you can bend it to help you just a little bit more, and a little bit more, the playing field just gets more and more tilted, and the rich and the powerful just do better and better."

The Massachusetts senator, whose appearance was tied to her book A Fighting Chance, went on to explain how both the steady circulation of money and the constant presence of lobbyists in Washington have worked together to create a culture in which such corruption is the norm. Watch below:

Fox News Host Sees No Racial Factor in South Carolina Killing

| Thu Apr. 9, 2015 2:41 PM EDT

Fox News host Greg Gutfeld is not racist. How not racist is Greg Gutfeld? Very not racist! You're a racist. (You're a racist.) But Gutfield doesn't even see race. What's race? A race? Are we running a race? The word "race" for Greg Gutfeld only has one definition: a competition of speed.

White cop guns down unarmed black man in cold blood: a thing that happens unbelievably often in the United States. Almost always the cop gets to walk away scot-free. But this time the cop is actually charged with murder! Not because South Carolina is so evolved (haha), but because a video emerges that puts on display the undeniable reality of the cop's crime.

The Fox News chyron even calls it straight: "Video shows white police officer shooting black man in back." But apparently the Fox News chyron is less evolved than Fox News host Greg Gutfeld. Because Greg Gutfeld saw something else:

"I didn't see a black man killed by a white cop. I saw a man shoot another man in the back."

If Greg Gutfeld were at Wounded Knee, he'd say he didn't see white soldiers massacring Native-Americans.

If he were at Stonewall, he'd say he didn't see straight cops beating gay men.

And if he were in Pleasantville, he'd say he never saw color.

(via TPM)

Brian Williams Was "Obsessed" With Mitt Romney's Underwear

| Wed Apr. 8, 2015 9:09 AM EDT

Vanity Fair is out with a deliciously gossipy long read on the troubles at NBC News by Brian Burrough. The focus is largely on Brian Williams and his recent drama but it also goes into the larger culture clashes that have dominated 30 Rock since Comcast took over NBCUniversal from GE in 2011. There was the Today drama. There was the Meet The Press drama. Now the Nightly News drama.  Drama with a capital D!

This is the type of story Vanity Fair is so good at. (Back in February they had the definitive insider account of the Sony leaks.) If you like this sort of thing, you should read the whole article

Here are some of my takeaways from it:

A lot of people are sniping about NBC News president Deborah Turness.

Turness gets a lot of blame for NBC News' troubles but it's not clear to me that any of the criticisms really mean much. One of the problems with this genre of story is that it's necessarily almost all blind quotes and the criticisms are so predictably broad and meaningless. A la:

"News is a very particular thing, NBC is a very particular beast, and Deborah, well, she really doesn’t have a fucking clue,” says a senior NBC executive involved."

It's not that this is gibberish, it's that it is meaningless. Everything is a particular thing. Every place is a particular beast. All this quote tells you is that an unnamed senior NBC executive doesn't much care for Deborah Turness, not one bit, boy howdy. 

When the criticisms do get a bit more specific they're muddled and contradictory. She is blamed for not being tough enough with talent ( “She’s letting the inmates run the asylum. You have kids? Well, if you let them, they’ll have ice cream every night. Same thing in TV. If you let the people on air do what they want, whenever they want, this is what happens.”) but also dinged for not being nice enough to the talent's agents? ("She didn’t understand that you communicate [with the talent] through their agents. Like if [WME co-C.E.O.] Ari Emanuel calls, you have to phone back the same day.")

Then there is this stuff:

"It was almost unfair to give Deborah this job,” says one NBC observer. “She was basically overmatched. From day one, it was difficult, even just managing the daily job. Because it’s a big job, it’s got a lot of intricate parts to it, and you know she had a rough time with it."

[...]

"Come on!” barks one critic. "Anybody with a triple-digit I.Q. who interviews somebody to come in as president of NBC News you ask, ‘What are you going to do with the 800-pound gorilla? With Today?’ And Deborah’s answer was ‘You hire Jamie Horowitz!’ It was almost like it was Deborah’s cry for help. Like if you’re overwhelmed and you don’t have a lot of confidence or vision, you bring in other people: ‘Help me, I’m drowning."

Overmatched. Overwhelmed. She was given a job then found herself drowning in it. She hired a male producer from ESPN as a cry for help. This is the sort of language people somehow never use when describing male executives.

Maybe the president of NBC News is bad at her job—NBC News definitely has struggled under her watch—but no where in this whole thing does anyone articulate in any meaningful way how she is bad at her job.

Comcast treats talent with the same disregard they treat their cable customers.

"To be honest, you got the sense they couldn’t fathom why NBC worried so much about the talent; you know, ‘Why are these people worrying so much about what Matt Lauer thinks?’”

NBC staffers resent the fact that Brian Williams has nice hair and good cheekbones.

An industry insider adds, “There is also a lot of envy of Williams’s movie-star good looks, his long happy marriage to a wonderful woman, great kids, and he’s paid millions to read a thousand words five times a week from a teleprompter.”

Brian Williams and Tom Brokaw don't like each other very much.

“Tom and Brian,” one longtime friend of both men says with a sigh, “that was never a good relationship. Tom pushed for him to get that job. But Brian never embraced Tom. And I don’t know why…. He knows the rank and file will never love him like they did Tom, so he never tries. That’s the reason there’s not a lot of support for Brian over there.”

Brian Williams resents Tom Brokaw for not saving him.

“Tom didn’t push Brian out, but he didn’t try to save him, either.”

[...]

While he has accepted responsibility for his actions, friends say, Williams is bitter, especially at those who he believes might have saved him.

“I talked to Brian about this,” says one friend, “and I’ll never forget what he said at the end. He said, ‘Chalk one up for Brokaw.’”

Side note: Want to giggle yourself silly? Say, "Chalk one up to Brokaw" out loud like you're playing Brian Williams in an off-Broadway play. Repeat until you see the humor. It's pretty fun.

Brian Williams exaggerated his personal tales of valor and glory because Tom Brokaw is just so great.

“I always felt he needed to jack up his stories because he was trying so hard to overcome his insecurities,” this executive says. “And he had to follow Tom, which brought its own set of insecurities. He likes to sort of tell these grandiose tales. But, can I tell you, in all the years we worked together, it never rose to the point where we said, ‘Oh, there he goes again.’ I just saw it as one of the quirks of his personality.”

Brian Williams thinks in boxes.

"...his wife [Jane] tried to explain. She said he put things in boxes [in his mind]. He would only talk about what was in those boxes on-camera.”

I have no idea what this means.

Very serious NBC News people think Brian Williams is unserious.

“What always bothered Tim was Brian’s lack of interest in things that mattered most, that were front and center, like politics and world events,” says a person who knew both men well. “Brian has very little interest in politics. It’s not in his blood. What Brian cares about is logistics, the weather, and planes and trains and helicopters.”

“You know what interested Brian about politics?” marvels one longtime NBC correspondent, recently departed. “Brian was obsessed with whether Mitt Romney wore the Mormon underwear.”

This is so Broadcast News, right?

Brian Williams wanted to be a late night host.

According to New York, he talked to Steve Burke about succeeding Jay Leno. When Burke refused, Williams reportedly pitched Les Moonves, at CBS, to replace David Letterman, who was soon to retire. Moonves also allegedly declined. Though his appearances on shows such as 30 Rock and Jimmy Fallon successfully repositioned Williams as a good-humored Everyman—and thus expanded not only his own brand but that of Nightly News—they were not popular among many of his colleagues.

[...]

After refusing Williams the Leno spot, Steve Burke offered him a consolation prize: his own magazine show, Rock Center, a bid to anchor what he hoped would be the second coming of 60 Minutes. It wasn’t. Rock Center debuted in 2011 to tepid reviews and worse ratings.

There is a lot more. If you've made it this far, go read the whole article.

Area Doctor Seeks SEO Boost

| Tue Apr. 7, 2015 11:14 AM EDT

Here's one way to drum up some business.

 

The Times' Letters Editor should talk to the Times' sponsored content department. This could be a bold new revenue stream.

Watch John Oliver Travel to Moscow to Ask Edward Snowden About Your Dick Pics and the NSA

| Mon Apr. 6, 2015 9:25 AM EDT

In the latest Last Week Tonight, John Oliver traveled to Moscow for an in-depth interview with Edward Snowden, or as Oliver introduced on his show as "the most famous hero and/or traitor in recent American history."

The segment, which started out measuring how much the NSA whistleblower missed Hot Pockets, quickly delved into surprisingly tough questions aimed at Snowden and the arguable value over his massive surveillance leak. At one point, Oliver even challenged Snowden by asking how many of the leaked NSA documents he actually took the time to read.

"I do understand what I turned over," Snowden responded.

"There's a difference between understanding what's in the documents and reading what's in the documents, because when you're handing over thousands of NSA documents the last thing you want to do is read them," Oliver shot back.

Throughout the rest of the episode, which was pegged to the upcoming June 1st deadline for Congress to reauthorize or end the controversial Patriot Act, Oliver repeatedly reminds Snowden that Americans don't seem to care very much about government surveillance. But when it comes to more intimate matters, that's a different story.

"This is the most visible line in the sand for people: Can they see my dick?" Oliver said.

"Well, the good news is there's no program named the 'Dick Pic' program," Snowden explained. "The bad news is that they are still collecting everybody's information—including your dick pics."

Watch the full exchange below:

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This New Country Blues Compilation Is the Best Kind of History Lesson

| Mon Apr. 6, 2015 6:00 AM EDT

Various Artists
The Rough Guide to Unsung Heroes of Country Blues
Rough Guide

There are any number of ways to approach this fine 24-track compilation of performances from the '20s and '30s. First, it's an intriguing history lesson, showing how ragtime, jazz, folk, and other styles were blended to create the music that would ultimately become the blues. If that seems too much like eating your vegetables, instead consider it an exploration of the roots of more celebrated artists. The Lovin' Spoonful covered Henry Thomas' "Fishing Blues," while Cream updated Blind Willie (Joe) Reynolds' "Married Man Blues" and Muddy Waters turned Hambone Willie Newbern's "Roll and Tumble Blues" into a landmark of the genre.

It's easy to imagine the Stones cribbing from any of these songs. But the best way to appreciate The Rough Guide to Unsung Heroes of Country Blues is on a strictly musical level. There's infinite variety and subtlety to be found in the artful singing and inventive acoustic guitar playing of the men—and a handful of women, including the elusive Geeshie Wiley—represented on this excellent set. Start with Lane Hardin's spooky "California Desert Blues," or practically any other song, and prepare to be hooked.
 

Chris Rock Is Taking a Selfie Every Time He Gets Pulled Over by the Police

| Wed Apr. 1, 2015 4:23 PM EDT

"Stopped by the cops again wish me luck."

That's the message Chris Rock paired with a selfie on Monday, capturing what is apparently the third time in just seven weeks the comedian has been pulled over by police. It's not known why police stopped Rock during these three separate incidents, but the succinct caption alone sums up what's clearly a routine event for him as a black man in America driving what we can assume is a nice car.

Rock has long been a vocal critic of racial profiling. In a December interview with New York magazine, Rock talked candidly about the everyday racism he encounters with his family, despite being one of the most well-known and respected comedians in the country. "I mean, I almost cry every day," he told Frank Rich. "I drop my kids off and watch them in the school with all these mostly white kids, and I got to tell you, I drill them every day: Did anything happen today? Did anybody say anything? They look at me like I am crazy."

WhoSay
WhoSay

In 2013, while filming an episode of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, Rock and Jerry Seinfeld were pulled over by New Jersey police for speeding. "It would be such a better episode if he pulls me to the side and beats the shit out of me," Rock jokingly tells Seinfeld. "If you weren't here, I'd be scared. Yeah, I'm famous—still black."

This Letter From a Gay Veteran's Brother Is the Most Heartbreaking Response to Indiana's Law We've Read Yet

| Wed Apr. 1, 2015 3:57 PM EDT

On Tuesday morning, Indiana's largest newspaper, the Indianapolis Star, published a full front-page editorial calling on Gov. Mike Pence to repeal the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the new bill that has incited national furor because it allows businesses to refuse service to gay people, citing their religious beliefs.

Tuesday's Indianapolis Star. @markalesia/Twitter

By the end of the day, the paper received a heartbreaking letter from Nick Crews of Plainfield. Crews writes about walking his dogs to the local market that morning to pick up two copies of the day's Star, something he never does. He continues:

With the papers under my arm, I walked to Plainfield's Maple Hill Cemetery, and found my brother's grave. My brother, who had been a troubled Vietnam War vet, was gay at a time when being gay was a very difficult thing to be. When he died of AIDS in 1985 in a far-off city, his refuge from his closed-minded native state, some in our family were sufficiently ashamed that his cause of death was not discussed.

At the grave I opened the Star. I said, "Well, Charlie, times have changed, thank God. It turns out you were on the right side of history after all." Then I read aloud as much of the paper's editorial as tears would let me get through.

And today I'm doing what I never thought I'd do. I'm renewing my subscription to the Star. I'm doing this because, if for no other reason, I believe we must all support those who stand against discrimination and for inclusiveness. I do it too as thanks to the Star whose courage and right-mindedness on this issue made this moment of personal closure possible for me.

Read his entire letter here.

This Is the Only Funny April Fools' Prank That Has Ever Been Pulled

| Wed Apr. 1, 2015 12:56 PM EDT

It's April Fools' Day! Or is it? It is. But how could you know? I'm just some schmuck stating a fact. On most days you could believe me—but on this day, April 1, according to tradition, anything stated as fact must be viewed with suspicion. Because it's April Fools', and on April Fools' otherwise normal, sane, decent, jazzy, fun, neat, and cool people lie. For no real reason, really. Rarely are the lies funny. Mostly they're just "haha, I tricked you into believing something that could be true but isn't. GULLIBLE IS WRITTEN IN THE SKY, DIPSHIT."

The internet is so awful on April Fools'. It makes me want to put a knife in my head. The information superhighway is filled with hoaxes and bullshit on a normal day! On April Fools' Day, it's extra unreliable. Sometimes the "pranks" aren't even pranks. Here is the front page of Amazon today:

"Whoa, what happened to Amazon? This new design is crazy! It looks like it's from like olden days or something! Oh, snap! It's an April Fools' Day prank! This corporate web portal just S-E-R-V-E-D me good." Except, not really, because it says in big bright words "Amazon.com has gone retro—April Fools." It's explaining it's own awful prank. It's supposed to be what? Cute? Is that what April Fools' Day is now? An opportunity for #brands to be #cute? It's ironic because in reality April Fools' is about misleading people and #brands spend every day doing that.

To be totally real, April Fools' essentially exists to allow boring unfunny people to let loose one day a year by lying to their friends and colleagues.

Want an April Fools' joke? Here's an April Fools' joke:

Man runs into apartment. A beautiful woman with a very sad way about her is there. He says, "honey, baby doll, light of my life, I love you!" "Leave me alone," she says. "No, honey, you don't understand. I did it." "Did what?" "I left her! I left my wife!" He shows her his left hand. There is no ring on his ring finger. She's overjoyed. She jumps into his arms, wraps her legs around him, kisses him hard and long, and they fall back onto her bed and make passionate love. Then the guy gets out of bed, puts the ring back on his finger and says, "April Fools'!"

Resolved: April Fools' is evil. (And OVER.)

However there was once a funny April Fools' prank. It happened once and only once and it will be told about in stories for generations to come:

Greg Stekelman

In 2012, this image made the rounds on the internet purporting to show how the BBC "won April Fools" with a great prank. (For some reason many news organizations prank their readers on April 1.) But it was not the case. It was actually a joke created by writer Greg Stekelman.

As he put it in a comment on this Gothamist post, "It seems ironic that an article about April Fools you didn't take the time to check whether the article was actually from the BBC. I thought it would be fun to do an April Fools' story that was so implausible that no one would think it was real. Oh well."

So on April 1 let us think of Greg Stekelman, the man who told the only funny April Fools' joke ever.