Mixed Media

This Is the Predictably Awful Way Fox News Reacted to the CIA Torture Report

| Tue Dec. 9, 2014 6:26 PM EST

On Tuesday the Senate released a long-awaited, scathing report condemning CIA torture methods during the George W. Bush administration. The report outlines horrible abuses including "rectal feeding" and "ice-water baths," but only the geniuses over at Fox News could see what it was truly about: Obamacare.

The hosts of Fox News' Outnumbered were convinced the report was made public in order to distract from Jonathan Gruber's testimony on Obamacare this morning. Jesse Watters, who says he would have rather remained in the dark, because after all people do "nasty things in the dark" all the time, said he found the timing of the report's release "ironic," which it is not.

Watters then went on to compare the torture report to Rolling Stone's botched sexual assault reporting at the University of Virginia, because why the hell not?

"They didn't even interview any of the CIA interrogators who do the report," Watters explained. "It's kind of like how Rolling Stone does their stories—they only get one side. And to say this is about transparency at the CIA, the Democrats didn't care about transparency when they were destroying hard drives at the IRS."

(h/t Media Matters)

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Watch "Emperor" Obama Take Over Hosting Duties for Colbert

| Tue Dec. 9, 2014 9:10 AM EST

"You've taken plenty of shots at my job. I'm going to take a shot at yours."

And with that, President Obama seized control of a special D.C. edition of "The Colbert Report" last night, leading off by taking over hosting duties for the latest installment of "The Word," or as the president promptly renamed, "The Decree."

Later on, the two sat down and discussed everything from the midterm elections to the nuclear launch codes. Regarding immigration reform, Colbert asked his guest, "You realize you're an emperor now...Why did you burn the Constitution and become an emperor?"

Colbert, who will be replacing David Letterman over at the "Late Show" soon, concluded the special appearance with a suggestion that melded both immigration legislation and Keystone into one bizarre policy proposal. The president declined: "Stephen, that sounds like a ridiculous idea. But that's why you're where you are, and I'm where I am."

She & Him & M. Ward

| Mon Dec. 8, 2014 6:00 AM EST

She & Him
Classics
Columbia

M. Ward
Transistor Radio
Merge

 

Behold the two sides of M. Ward (Matt to his friends), the gifted troubadour who makes nice pop records with actress Zooey Deschanel as She & Him and crafts darker folk-rock fare on his own. Classics finds She & Him covering 13 chestnuts in engaging fashion, with Deschanel taking most of the lead vocals, as usual.

Though she lacks the booming voice of a Dusty Springfield, whose "Stay Awhile" gets a welcome reboot here, Deschanel is a charming singer who sells a lyric with understated grace. See the downcast soul standard "Oh No, Not My Baby" or the enthralling and dreamy "Unchained Melody" for proof. If their sleepy reading of "Stars Fell on Alabama" won't make anybody forget the timeless Ella Fitzgerald-Louis Armstrong duet, it's still lovely.

Ward's stellar 2005 album Transistor Radio, just reissued on vinyl with a CD containing four bonus tracks, has aged extremely well. Without straining for effect, his whispery rasp brilliantly conveys all the simmering desperation and mordant humor of haunting songs such as "Four Hours in Washington" ("It's 4:00 in the morning and I'm turning in my bed/I wish I had a dream or a nightmare in my head") and "One Life Away," recounting a visit to a sweetheart's grave. Ward can spook a person like few others when he's in the mood.

Watch This Dog React to Its Favorite Song Coming On

| Sun Dec. 7, 2014 4:15 PM EST

Here is a video of a dog sleeping in the back of a car while the driver plays Charli XCX's wonderful "Boom Clap." Then the driver switches to Frozen's "Let It Go" and the dog wakes up and starts singing along. Then Charlie XCX comes back on and it goes back to sleep.

This dog has terrible taste in music. Charli XCX is objectively better than Frozen. If this dog were a music critic, I'd fire it. But it's not a music critic. It's a dog. And all things considered, this is a spirited performance for a dog.

(via BuzzFeed)

Film Review: "We Are the Giant"

| Sat Dec. 6, 2014 6:30 AM EST

We Are the Giant

MOTTO PICTURES

Bahraini sisters and activists Maryam and Zainab al-Khawaja are the heart of this devastating look at the lives behind three Arab Spring uprisings. The film's interviews are interspersed with grainy, often violent footage—one heart-wrenching clip of a little girl singing at a peaceful protest is cut short by a nearby explosion; another expresses the profound remorse of a Syrian protest leader whose peaceful rallies were met by fatal attacks on his people. By the end, some of the film's main characters are questioning their faith in nonviolent resistance, but their resilience in the face of injustice is this excellent film's common thread.

President Obama to Appear on "The Colbert Report"

| Fri Dec. 5, 2014 9:29 AM EST

President Obama will have the distinct honor of appearing on one of the handful of episodes that remain before the nation must bid a sorrowful adieu to the institution that is "The Colbert Report."

Host Stephen Colbert, who is replacing David Letterman over at the "Late Show," announced the booking last night, summing it up as a great privilege to "be sitting down with the man who sat down with Bill O'Reilly."

The interview will take place Monday, December 8th and be broadcasted from George Washington University for a special D.C. edition. So pumped, we are.

 

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Jon Stewart Explains What Is "So Utterly Depressing" About the Eric Garner Grand Jury

| Thu Dec. 4, 2014 2:38 PM EST

Last night, Jon Stewart began the Daily Show by dropping the comedy and expressing in very human terms the frustration and disbelief everyone (or (well, not everyone) is feeling after a Staten Island grand jury's failure to indict the NYPD officer who put Eric Garner in a lethal chokehold on film."If comedy is tragedy plus time I need more fucking time—but I would settle for less fucking tragedy, to be honest with you. What is so utterly depressing is that none of the ambiguities that existed in the Ferguson case exist in the Staten Island case. And yet the outcome is exactly the same." Stewart says. "We are definitely not living in a post-racial society and I can imagine there are a lot of people out there wondering how much of a society we're living in at all." Pretty much.

 

5 Times the Supreme Court Tried to Understand Pop Culture

| Wed Dec. 3, 2014 5:20 PM EST

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's fans might refer to her as The Notorious RBG, but when it comes to understanding rap culture, the Supreme Court has some catching up to do. That was clear on Monday, when the justices heard arguments in Elonis v. United States, a case about whether gory, rap-style rhymes posted on Facebook by a Pennsylvania man constituted a real threat to his estranged wife.

Lawyers for Anthony Elonis asserted that his posts should be read as creative self-expression. (Some sample lyrics: "There's one way to love you but a thousand ways to kill you. I'm not going to rest until your body is a mess, soaked in blood and dying from all the little cuts.") Justice Samuel Alito didn't seem convinced that these lines weren't menacing. "This sounds like a road map for threatening a spouse and getting away with it," he said. "So you put it in a rhyme…and you say, 'I'm an aspiring rap artist,' and so then you are free from prosecution." Those comments are consistent with how judges and jurors tend to think about rap lyrics—they're likely to see them as autobiographical and literally true, even though many rappers assume fictional personas.

The Elonis case isn't the first time the Supreme Court has grappled with what constitutes legitimate artistic expression. From declaring that movies can be broadly censored because they could be "used for evil" to deciding that G-strings don't limit nude dancers' freedom of expression, the past results have been decidedly mixed. Here's are the justices' most offbeat efforts to play art critic:

 

1. Mutual Film Corporation v. Industrial Commission of Ohio, 1915

The facts: An Ohio law required anyone who wanted to show a film to get permission from a board of censors, who charged for approval. Mutual Film Corporation, a motion picture company best known for producing Charlie Chaplin comedies, didn't want to pay. It argued that its movies were protected by the First Amendment because of their power to enlighten and entertain.

It took until 1952 for the court to decide that film had proved itself "a significant medium for the communication of ideas."

The outcome: The justices unanimously sided with the state on the grounds that movies were a business, not an art form—and that they could corrupt the hearts and minds of innocent children. "They, indeed, may be mediums of thought, but so are many things," wrote Justice Joseph McKenna. "They may be used for evil, and against that possibility the statute was enacted. Their power[s] of amusement…make them the more insidious." It took until 1952 for the court to decide that film had proved itself "a significant medium for the communication of ideas."

 

2. United States v. Thirty-seven Photographs, 1971

The facts: Customs agents at the Los Angeles airport stopped Milton Luros on his way home from Europe and confiscated 37 photos of couples having sex, based on a 1930 law banning the importation of obscene material. Luros claimed that the photos, which he'd planned to use to illustrate a copy of the Kama Sutra, shouldn't have been confiscated because they were for private use.

The outcome: The court concluded that Luros' right to privately possess obscene material didn't extend to the airport. "A port of entry is not a traveler's home," Justice Byron White wrote. But Justice Hugo Black, a First Amendment absolutist, penned a scathing dissent. "I can imagine no more distasteful, useless, and time-consuming task for the members of this Court than perusing this material to determine whether it has 'redeeming social value,'" he seethed.

(What's with the weird name: Cases in which a federal court seizes property are traditionally named after the item seized, not the item's owner—hence the epic-sounding 2011 case U.S. v. One White Crystal-Covered ‘Bad Tour' Glove and other Michael Jackson Memorabilia.)

 

3. Barnes v. Glen Theatre, Inc., 1991

The facts: Two exotic dance clubs in South Bend, Indiana, wanted to add completely naked dancers to their lineup. State law required that the dancers wear at least pasties and a G-string. The clubs sued, arguing that the law infringed on the dancers' freedom of expression.

Medal of Honor and Resident Evil 4 were delivered to the court so justices could see what playing a video game was like.

The outcome: No redress for the would-be strippers. The fact that the nakedness would have been consensual didn't matter to Justice Antonin Scalia, who wrote, "The purpose of Indiana's nudity law would be violated, I think, if 60,000 fully consenting adults crowded into the Hoosierdome to display their genitals to one another, even if there were not an offended innocent in the crowd."

 

4. National Endowment for the Arts v. Finley, 1998

The facts: After a scandal over artists receiving federal funding—including Andres Serrano, whose 1987 photo Piss Christ depicted a crucifix submerged in a jar of urine—Congress added "taking into consideration general standards of decency" to the NEA's grant requirements. Performance artist Karen Finley, whose work involved covering her naked body with chocolate, sued the government after her grant application was denied. She argued that the new grant requirements suppressed unorthodox ideas.

The outcome: Congress wasn't regulating speech, just setting funding priorities, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wrote for the majority. She noted that the amendment didn't preclude "indecent" art from receiving grants; it "simply adds 'considerations' to the grant-making process."

 

5. Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association, 2011

The facts: EMA, a trade association for the home entertainment industry, challenged California's ban on the sale of violent video games to minors. Before the justices heard the case, they had copies of Medal of Honor and Resident Evil 4 delivered to the court so they could figure out what playing a video game was like.

The outcome: The gaming experience must have won the justices over. They ruled that video games deserved First Amendment protection, overturning California's law. "Like the protected books, plays and movies that preceded them, video games communicate ideas—and even social messages—through many familiar literary devices... and through features distinctive to the medium," Scalia wrote in his pro-gamer majority opinion.

After 45 Years, "The Velvet Underground" Stands the Test of Time

| Wed Dec. 3, 2014 6:00 AM EST

The Velvet Underground
The Velvet Underground—45th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition
Polydor/Universal Music Enterprises

Following the radical and overpowering White Light/White Heat, the Velvet Underground's third, self-titled, album initially seemed like a lesser effort, but it has more than stood the test of time. With cofounder and main creative foil (or foe) John Cale out of the band, leader Lou Reed assumed complete control, crafting a set of relatively understated songs that range from rockin' ("What Goes On") to surprisingly gentle ("After Hours").

At six discs, 65 tracks, and five hours of music, this behemoth collection offers plenty to savor (although casual fans might prefer the two-disc distillation). If three different mixes of the original album suggests overkill, the mono version does reveal different textures to the music, while a fourth disc of sessions for an abandoned fourth album contains a slew of genuine gems, including the raucous "I'm Gonna Move Right In," a touching "She's My Best Friend," and an early look at the Reed standard "Rock & Roll."

The final two discs, featuring live performances from November 1969, are simply terrific, highlighted by the exuberant "We're Gonna Have a Real Good Time Together," a 30-minute-plus take on "Sister Ray" and the anthemic "Sweet Jane." Nearly a half-century later, the raw heart and tender soul of the Velvet Underground are wondrous indeed.

Jon Stewart Blasts Fox News' Ferguson Coverage as "Race Plagiarism"

| Tue Dec. 2, 2014 2:28 PM EST

After a week-long hiatus, Jon Stewart returned to The Daily Show last night to call out Fox News for insisting that the outrage over the events in Ferguson had little to do with civil rights and was instead instigated by "racial arsonists."

Who might these arsonists be? According to Fox host Sean Hannity, they're the "terribly irresponsible" likes of Rev. Al Sharpton, Attorney General Eric Holder, and President Barack Obama—all of whom Hannity suggested were fueling national tensions. Of course, Hannity isn't alone. Fox staples Rudy Giuliani, Donald Trump, have all placed the blame on everyone but Darren Wilson.

"It almost makes you think that the crime that they're really upset about over there isn't race pimping or race arson," Stewart said. "It's race plagiarism."

Watch below:

 

(via Digg)