Donald Trump Is Not Entertainment

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Jimmy Fallon is not a journalist. He doesn’t pretend to be. He refuses to compete in the same hybrid entertainment/journalism space as John Oliver, Trevor Noah, or Stephen Colbert. Fallon admitted as much last year in an in-depth Esquire profile: “That’s the way Colbert will succeed—by being him,” Fallon said. “He’s him, I’m me. Don’t even compare us—to anybody.”

Nevertheless, Jimmy Fallon is a taxpaying American citizen with the largest audience in late-night—his show averages 3.6 million viewers. Furthermore, Fallon has 42 million Twitter followers.The Tonight Show’s Facebook page has over 10 million Facebook fans, his own personal page has over a million, and he’s closing in on 12 million YouTube subscribers.

Even allowing for overlap, that means that Jimmy Fallon’s work reaches a little less than 20 percent of the United States population.

Jimmy Fallon is not a journalist, but Jimmy Fallon is a taxpaying American citizen with a minimal obligation to help keep a tyrant from reaching the most powerful position in the world. He failed that obligation last night. When you go to The Tonight Show‘s YouTube channel this morning, you’ll find five truncated clips of Donald Trump in a red power tie sitting across from a giggling, jovial Fallon.

“Have you ever played the board game Sorry?” Fallon asked.

“I sort of like Monopoly better than Sorry,” Trump said.

That exchange is indicative of the entire interview. Instead of challenging Trump, Fallon humanized him, whipping out photos of Trump’s relatively modest childhood home in Queens and noting that Trump was becoming “wistful.” They talked about Trump’s love of fast food, and why he avoids frequenting non-chain restaurants: “I don’t know what they’re going to do to that hamburger, if they like me, I’m happy if they don’t like me…”

Big laughs.

They discussed the upcoming presidential debates. Trump continued perpetuating his “rigged election” propaganda, dismissing the journalistic integrity of NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt. “I think Lester is going to be very hard on me,” Trump said. Fallon did not stand up for his NBC colleague; he stared nervously into the middle distance. Trump also doubled down on his praise of another NBC star, Matt Lauer, whose performance at the recent presidential forum was roundly criticized for—like Fallon last night—letting Trump get away with bullshit.

“I thought Matt Lauer did a fantastic job,” Trump said. “We love Matt Lauer,” Fallon interjected. “We’re a fan of Matt Lauer here, too.”

Then, before it was all over, Jimmy Fallon messed up Trump’s hair.

This was a cheap ratings ploy, nothing more, and no one is expecting Fallon to suddenly transform into a journalist after years of harmless impressions and carnival games. But it is patently wrong of NBC producers to humanize a racist demagogue weeks before the election. It was wrong to book him on this show at this point in time. If and when Trump loses the first debate, he’ll be able to point back to this Tonight Show appearance and say, “I knew Lester was going to be unfair to me, and his NBC colleague, Jimmy Fallon, didn’t even disagree!” NBC has screwed itself.

No, Jimmy Fallon is not a journalist, but, given his massive audience and influence, he has a responsibility as an American during a pivotal time in his country’s history. Would he tussle the hair of David Duke or any other of Trump’s white supremacist supporters?

And if you need any further evidence that at least some of Fallon’s Tonight Show/NBC colleagues are ashamed of what happened last night, look no further than Questlove’s Twitter feed: Radio silence on the issue.

Deray McKesson on the Advice He Gave Hillary, and What She Needs to Do to Win

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PHILADELPHIA—Everybody wants a piece of Deray. Strangers want selfies. Fist bumps. Handshakes. Hugs. They want to share their Twitter handles and hope he somehow remembers them. Most people just want to be in his presence, or to tell him thank you.

“People often ask what’s next,” McKesson told me Thursday afternoon.

Maybe you’re among the half-million-plus who follow McKesson (@deray) on Twitter. Maybe you saw him speak about race relations on Colbert. Maybe you heard about his highly publicized campaign for mayor in his native Baltimore. Maybe you saw the video of his arrest two weeks ago down in Baton Rouge. That night in Louisiana, McKesson was wearing a gray and black #StayWoke shirt, the same one Twitter founder Jack Dorsey wore in a recent public appearancewith McKesson. Dorsey immediately set off a minor firestorm of mockery on his own social network for trying way too hard to be “woke.” But that exact shirt looks different on McKesson. The hashtag was borne out of the black community, and Deray is a household name because he helped make Black Lives Matter a household phrase.

When you look back at that photo from the night of his arrest in Baton Rouge, you see McKesson on his knees. He’s sweating. A black backpack tugs on his shoulders. His shirt is pulled back against his stomach, the neckline starting to strain. Two cops grasp his upper body. He stares directly into the camera lens. McKesson was in jail for 16 hours that night because he was out protesting yet another death of yet another black American by the hands of yet another cop from yet another police department. That particular death was Alton Sterling, who was shot while pinned to the ground outside of a convenience store. Sterling joins Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Oscar Grant, and countless others on a list that refuses to stop growing. The mothers of those three men were among those who appeared onstage at the DNC Wednesday night as part of the Mothers of the Movement segment. McKesson was in the crowd.

“I think it was important that they were given time to speak, that they spoke candidly about the issues,” he said. “And I’m hopeful that if Hillary is the next president, that these issues remain a center in the administration.”

Four years ago, Black Lives Matter was not yet an American refrain, let alone a movement that would stage marches at both conventions. Now it’s even spawned counter-movements like “Blue Lives Matter” and the more resentful “All Lives Matter.” We heard the latter two phrases everywhere at the RNC last week, and Obama had the difficult task of bridging all three groups this week.

McKesson has met with the President twice in private, but Wednesday night was the first time he had ever watched Obama speak before a live audience. “It was a reminder of the hope that people felt in ’08,” McKesson said. “Inside that arena, you felt that energy again. I think the message was strong. It was interesting to see him choose to end so soft, to try and de-center himself so that there would not be this thunderous applause for Obama, but so he could use his celebrity for Hillary.”

Obama, McKesson said, is finally transitioning into one of Hillary’s many surrogates. The First Lady is another, and she nearly walked away with the whole damn Convention after her speech on Monday night. Vice President Joe Biden is another, and he was on the verge of stealing Wednesday’s show, until Obama came on for what was likely one of his last major public speeches while in office.

“He did that thing,” McKesson said, “He talked about how our best days are ahead, hammering in the understanding that we’ve made progress. We’ve not made all the progress, but we’ve made progress. He says it a little different, whether you’re in a meeting or it’s in public, but the message is the same. The two meetings I’ve been in, we were meeting because of tragedy. Because police have killed people, so people walk in listening for very specific things from him. In the arena, we know the message is going to end with ‘I support Hillary.’ How he gets there is the interesting part.”

Obama got there.

He told the story of the past eight years and he alluded to the 80 years before that. He rejected the fear-mongering rhetoric that dominated the RNC a week earlier in Cleveland, where Tamir Rice was killed and where no officers were indicted. He made a case for his own legacy by making a case for America. But in the end, he stepped out of the way and made a case for Hillary. And then they shared a long embrace, and, as Charles P. Pierce noted, less than 80 years ago, in certain parts of the country, that sort of thing is what left black men dead. Black men are still dying for senseless reasons, but thanks to McKesson and his work with Black Lives Matter, millions of Americans now see it and hear it and feel it, even if they don’t quite understand it.

So now Hillary Clinton has 101 days left to fight, then likely four to eight years to continue Obama’s fight. She’ll have to fight Trump’s vitriol and misogyny and daily mudslinging. But more than anything, she’ll have to fight weariness. Exhaustion. Apathy.

McKesson told her as much.

“What I said to Hillary when I met with her was, ‘I hope the campaign doesn’t take for granted that some people are choosing not to vote,'” McKesson said. “The campaign will explicitly need to talk to those people. And I’m hopeful that will happen over the next hundred days. I’m hopeful there’s a strategy to do that.”

Why This Guy I Went to High School with Is Voting for Trump

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PHILADELPHIA—This guy I went to high school with lives several blocks from our old school. He saw my post on Facebook that I was in town and he shot me a text Tuesday morning. Our parents used to live a few miles from each other in the Philly suburbs, but I hadn’t seen him or even really spoken to him in many years. I asked him if he was free to meet for a beer.

So we sat across from each other at a table at a corner bar not far from our old high school and talked about what we’ve been up to, and who in the class is now married, and who has kids, and who served in the Middle East, and who moved away for a few years then came home. Then I pulled out my tape recorder and asked if it was ok to hit record, and he said yes, and we started talking about the election. What follows is that conversation, edited for clarity.

So are you a registered Republican?

Yes.

Since when?

Probably since I got my license. Since I turned 18, I guess. Only voted once. It was the reelection of Barack Obama, last go-round.

2012?

Yes.

Who’d you vote for?

I did not vote for Barack Obama. I voted for Mitt Romney. I had to go to a car dealership. I voted. I walked out of the booth. Someone asked me if I was voting to support the president, and I told them, “You have a better chance of me buying a new car today.” Just wasn’t a fan. I’m Irish. I realize the world’s gonna break apart, so, I was hoping for McCain four years earlier, was hoping for Romney, and Barack got elected. Do I hate the guy? No, I don’t hate the guy. It’s the president. I respect the president. I respect the office. Love the country.

Do you plan to vote for Trump?

Yeah. As of today, I think that where I’m gonna end up casting my vote is Donald Trump. Gary Williams looks pretty interesting.

Gary Johnson?

Yeah, whatever. I played a lot of lacrosse in college, took a lot of hits to the head. Gary Johnson, yeah. Bill Weld. I think their marketing platform is really interesting. Especially on social media. I think they really are doing a good job at capturing those people that are like, “I have to vote for one of two idiots, who am I gonna vote for? Oh wait, these guys actually have good resumes.” But yeah, I think I’m leaning more towards the Donald. Do I think he’s gonna build a wall? No. Did building a bunch of roads and bridges take this country out of a tough time decades ago? Yeah. Building a wall, will that take us out? I doubt it. Do I think it’s gonna happen? No. Is Mexico gonna pay for it? Doubtful. Does it sound kinda funny? Yes.

What is it about Trump that appeals to you?

His brutal honesty. I feel just very hesitant with Hillary with regards to her honesty. John, if you and I click on an advertisement on the wrong side of a web page, we’re gonna get a year’s supply of Viagra. Are you telling me she didn’t see the word “CLASSIFIED” at the top of a piece of paper and decided to send it out to people from her Gmail or Yahoo account? Come on. I’m not the brightest bulb in the box, but even I know that’s stupid.

So is it a matter of supporting Trump, or is it a matter of disliking Hillary?

I would say 60/40. Distrusting Hillary, not disliking. I have a lot of respect for where she comes from. I’m thrilled at the opportunity for our country to nominate the first female candidate for the presidency of the United States. Do I think we need a woman president? We don’t need one. Would it be great if we had one? Absolutely. How many other countries have a supreme leader of the female variety? We’re about due. Do we need the right one to be the first one? Preferably. But nominating and electing for the sake of sex, that’s naiveté, in my opinion. We could have a robot for all I care. As long as they do right by the country and do right by the people, I’m ok with it. But yeah, 60 is distrusting, not disliking, Hillary. Forty is siding with Trump.

When you talk about these things at a bar with your friends, what do most of them say?

Well a lot of our, my friends come from our background. You know, upper middle class, white, educated parents that live out in the suburbs, where they sent their children to private school, where taxes continue to rise. For instance, my parents live in one of the highest-taxed school districts in Pennsylvania as well as in the U.S., and our high school in that school district is a dump. Taxes continue to rise in that area. So a lot of people in our age group are voting with their parents, to be absolutely honest with you. Especially the ones that just aren’t politically educated. I went to school in D.C., but I didn’t take note of politics. Only time I took note of politics was when the inauguration was going on and I had off from school. (Laughs.)

Are your parents, and your brothers, and your extended family, are they going to vote for Trump?

I don’t know. I think it’s like, it’s a firecracker. We don’t trust her. We don’t want her. Do we have to go with him? That’s a sad state of affairs for the election, in my opinion.

Do you feel obligated to vote at all?

Yeah, I think I do. I really had some Irish guilt about that first election I didn’t vote in. Whether it be the people with the clipboards out in the park asking, “Are you registered? Did you vote?” And I didn’t even take the time to fill out the absentee ballot because I was down at school at the time. So, you know, I definitely feel obligated to vote this go-round.

Pennsylvania is historically blue. Do you think your vote will matter?

I think every vote matters. There’s no reason why any vote shouldn’t matter. Whether it be the trust fund wealthy or the poorly educated. Everyone has stake in the game.

What do you make of Philly and the DNC? As a lifelong person who’s been here, do you feel proud of Philly to be hosting Democrats? Do you feel annoyed by the people you see around the city?

I’m a Republican capitalist, John, to be absolutely honest with you. I think that alumni from our high school are in the mayor’s office and they made sure that, hey we had the Pope come to visit and we had the DNC. I think it’s awesome for business. All of our hotels are filled this week. All of our restaurants are packed this week. I have friends who work in event planning, and they hit their quotas. They’re doing extremely well. The city has a lot to offer from a tourism standpoint. It just puts us again on the map. It’s awesome. Yeah it’s a nightmare for traffic, but at the same time, the tax dollars that were brought in, and the police force, they get, you know, they get to work. Our police force is fully utilized. I could care less if it’s the Democratic Convention or the Republican Convention. Am I going to welcome something that’s hateful or non-welcoming to any and all observers? Am I gonna welcome a KKK rally? No, I’m not gonna welcome one of those.

Did you watch the RNC last week?

Yeah, I watched a little bit of it. I watched a little when Donald spoke.

What did you think of it?

I was interested to see how his son painted him. I was definitely interested to see how his daughter painted him. Definitely got a good chuckle out of his wife’s speech, you know, Michelle Obama’s. I don’t know if that was an inside joke or what. You know, certain Republicans think that Donald’s been planted by the Democrats to get Hillary elected. And Hillary’s claiming the Russians leaked those emails to get Donald elected. It’s a pretty good game of Clue. I’m waiting for Colonel Mustard with the candlestick to show up.

One of the principle themes of his speech was law and order. In terms of both the local level, where he talked about the attacks on police in Dallas and Baton Rouge, but also on the national/international level, in terms of terrorism, in terms of immigration, Syrian refugees. Of course, he’s said he wants to bar Muslims from entering the country.

Yeah, that goes up there with the wall. Do I really think he’s gonna put a wall up? No. Do I really think he’s gonna stop everyone who practices the Muslim faith from entering this country? No. Do I think we need extreme reform? Yeah, I really think we need to stop putting one hand towards the finish line and waving everyone in. I applied for Global Entry. I have to go to the airport and submit myself to an interview. I think at the very least an interview needs to be conducted. I think at the very least some background needs to be done on where these people have visited and where they come from.

What people?

People that are coming from these war-torn countries. Do I think that we need to help? Absolutely. But at the same time, you’re subjecting certain countries, for instance, Germany had their second attack this past week. It was from an individual who had mental illness, who wasn’t able to be deported because he had mental illness, but was listed for deportation at least once, and it’s like, that’s a powder keg that was put into the corner. Because of that, individuals died.

The beginning of your sentence there, you said, “Do I think he’s actually gonna check everyone? No. Do I think he’s gonna build a wall? No.” Why would you vote for somebody who says they’re going to do things that you don’t think they’re going to do?

(Long pause.) Bernie Sanders and certain individuals told me that I was gonna go to college for free. Do I really think I’m gonna go to college for free? No. There’s just those empty promises. We all thought we were gonna get free healthcare, too. People aren’t going to the same doctors that they grew up going to. I think that’s just a matter of the political game.

What do you think is the defining issue of this election? Or the biggest issue facing the United States right now?

Government spending. Government debt. It’s one of the main things that, sadly, I lean towards Donald. It’s weird like, I’m ashamed to say I’m voting for him, but I’m probably gonna vote for him. He looks at that number of our nation’s debt and is like, “Whoa, that’s not good.” She looks at it like, “It’s there, I can’t cut it, if I cut it it’s going to hurt us.” No, there are ways to cut it. There’s excessive spending going on. I remember driving on various highways here in the mid-Atlantic and seeing like the “road rejuvenation project funded by Barack Obama.” We spent 13 million dollars on those signs alone. I’m throwing that number out there. It was in the tens of millions of dollars. In the teens. Shit, we spent that much money just to promote the fact that we did it? Why did we do that? Just do it. Do I really think we spent 4 billion dollars on a website for Obamacare? No. Do I think Donald Trump spent 3 dollars on his website? No. Do I think there was probably a smarter way to do it? Yes.

What causes you shame to say you’re going to vote for Trump?

Guy had a show called The Apprentice where he used to fire people. It’s not shame, it’s just like, it makes me giggle. I would say shame’s not the right word. I hope you don’t quote me on that. It just makes me giggle to say “I’m throwing my hat towards that guy.” You see those videos of him on WWE Raw, body-slamming Vince McMahon. Buzz-cutting Vince McMahon. But at the same time, you know, Hillary’s had those funny things. Bill playing the saxaphone in a pair of Ray-Bans always makes me giggle, too.

You mentioned the spending of the Reinvestment and Recovery Act, on the signs…

It sounds a lot more smarter when you say it than when I do.

And on the money for the Obamacare website. There are a lot of different numbers that float around. It’s hard to tell what’s what. Where do you get most of your news?

Two people that I trust most with regards to political conversation are my dad and my older brother. I’ll always remember my older brother saying, “I get more news from Jon Stewart than Fox News or MSNBC.” I think John Oliver is a great alternative. Jon Stewart’s replacement is pretty good. I get a lot from those shows. You know, I do watch CNN, I do watch Fox News. You know, we always joke, we’re a Republican household. Do we only watch Fox News? No. But we jokingly refer to it as “Channel 1.”

Those guys, though, Jon Stewart…

They HATE Trump.

They destroy Trump. So if you’re getting news from them, is that causing any concern?

Not really.

What do most people on your Facebook feed seem like and sound like? If you see political views floating by, where are they?

Bernie. Yeah. A lot of Bernie. A lot of Bernie and a lot of Trump. Not many Hillary. It’s ridiculous. This is the first time I’ve actually ever thought of it. It’s a healthy mix of strong Republican, Democrats, straight, gay, religious, non-religious, and to be absolutely honest with you, it’s stick to the Republican line, or Bernie Sanders was cheated.

It’s that binary?

Yeah.

Things are so far apart.

And little-to-no mention of Hillary unless it’s like the funny meme.

So you’re 28?

Twenty-eight years old.

Are you where you thought you would be at 28? In terms of career, money, quality of life?

That’s an interesting question. Where I am with my career, we always joke about it, we always want more. That’s the Prep mentality. It always wanted us to want more. Am I doing well compared to my counterparts? I think so. You know, I bought a modest condo a year ago. I’m pursuing a masters in business right now. I work for a Fortune 100 company. I’m able to provide for myself. Now, I’m beginning to think about marriage, providing for myself and my girlfriend. Do I wish I could have more? Yeah. Do I hate the fact that I have student loans with interest rates between seven-and-a-half and 10 percent? Yeah I hate that. Do I always remember the moniker like, stop treating students like cash cows? And giving banks zero percent interest loans? It sucks. Do I make my loan payments on time? Yeah. Are they in deferment right now? Yeah, but I still pay ’em. I paid loans off for my high school education, too, that were in my parents’ name. I paid my parents back for high school loans because my dad didn’t go to college. He worked manufacturing jobs. My mom worked two nursing jobs and sent three boys to private school and sent all of us to private Catholic school for undergraduate. Did I pick my college based on the number of scholarship dollars? Absolutely.

Do you think that electing Trump is going to improve your life? Or the lives of people that are not you?

It’s a team sport for me. I think it’s best for the country. A lot of the statistics and figures he throws out there sound dopey, but I agree with the fact that he says the unemployment rate doesn’t include people who stop looking for jobs. It’s not as low as it is. It’s a lot worse. I think companies that have left this country and seek tax shields in other countries deserve a slap on the wrist. But at the same time, as a country, we haven’t welcomed business. We haven’t welcomed manufacturing companies in this country. We have individuals that have, with high school education or lower, that could make a living for themselves or a life for themselves, and instead are seeking other avenues, both legal or potentially even illegal, that harm this country. I think a strong America is a working America. A strong, working, low unemployment country is the best bet. I think additional government spending and programs that don’t produce jobs are not the right direction for this country. But if Hillary gets elected this week, and she gets everyone back to work, I’m all for it. It’s just hard to trust any word she says nowawadays.

What would you say to her if she walked in this bar right now?

Hello Secretary Clinton, can I buy you a beer?

What would you say to to Trump?

Hello Mr. Trump, how’s your golf game?

He doesn’t drink.

Does he?

He doesn’t drink alcohol or coffee. And he says he’s never smoked or done a drug. Do you believe that?

It’s one of the things I liked about Obama. He admitted to smoking and he admitted to inhaling. At least he was honest about it.

There Was a Dark Energy on the Convention Center Floor Last Night

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CLEVELAND, OHIO—You know when you see a dog’s hair stand up on its back? When its kind eyes turn predatory? It’s an involuntary reaction, a mix of defense and aggression. The dog radiates a certain energy and you instinctively take a half-step back. Something is about to happen, and it’s going to go one way or another.

That was the vibe on the floor of the Republican National Convention last night. The energy inside Quicken Loans Arena was different than every other night of the week. It was angry. Seething. Dark.

The celebratory “U-S-A!” chants were whispers compared to the roaring “LOCK-HER-UP!” chants directed at Hillary Clinton. Did you see the copious amounts of “HILLARY FOR PRISON” shirts, signs, and pins? Or the delegate milling about the red-carpeted floor in the orange jumpsuit and mask? Or the members of the coal lobby holding clenched fists in the air above their hard hats?

G.E. Smith and the house band did their best to keep the wedding reception jams grooving all night, but even the closing couplet of “All Right Now” > “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” felt tense, the bass heavy and crunchy, the drums more pronounced than usual. The balloons floated down from the rafters, confetti followed, and yet this coronation didn’t feel like a celebration.

“I am your voice,” Trump promised during his 75-minute rambling speech about law and order and terrorism and “Americanism.” Country first. No more bad deals. Nobody’s coming in who doesn’t respect our values. Us. The whites who always had the power and temporarily lost it but now it’s time to get it back. Make America X Adjective Again.

It was different on the floor. People kicked balloons and popped balloons and let out deep-belly “WOOOO!”s. Not much hugging or crying. No real sentiment. There were battle lines drawn and battle cries heard—namely a fundamental repudiation of Black Lives Matter in the form of “All Lives Matter.” It felt like a high school football game. But instead of “HOLD THAT LINE!” it was “BUILD THE WALL!” (Which pretty much means the same thing, just at a different scale.)

I saw at least one kid propped up on his dad’s shoulder like Tiny Tim hitching a ride on Bob Cratchet. He waved a tiny American flag at the appropriate moments of applause, but he didn’t really smile. He couldn’t have been older than five or six. He’ll remember this moment, this night, no doubt, even if he won’t grasp what it means for another 10 or 15 years.

Will anybody?

He Lives in One of Cleveland’s Poorest Neighborhoods. He’s Voting for Trump.

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CLEVELAND, OHIO—There are Secret Service agents in bulletproof vests peppered throughout Public Square. There are Cleveland police officers in riot gear, state troopers pressing index fingers to earpieces, undercover cops in black sunglasses trying not to look like undercover cops in black sunglasses. This is the same place where, earlier in the week, Alex Jones was “attacked by communists” (his words). This is where members of the Westboro Baptist Church have been pleasantly reminding us that “God hates fags,” and where human troll Vermin Supreme is galloping about with a boot on his head telling the God-fearers that they’re the ones going to Hell.

On Wednesday afternoon, a small group of middle-aged men identifying themselves as “Bikers for Trump” stand near the edge of the square as open-carry advocates in paramilitary vests lumber by. (Some strap handguns to their hips; others sling full-on AR-15s over their shoulders.) To be clear, none of the bikers have visible weapons on them.

“The gay group is over there,” Bikers for Trump organizer Bill Daher says in a heavy Midwestern accent. “This is the Jesus group.” He gestures to the left and crosses his arms. Daher, a 66-year-old retiree, can’t even ride on account of his open-heart and brain surgeries (he tugs his t-shirt down and brushes his stringy white hair aside to reveal both scars).

Depending on whom you ask, Public Square just underwent a $50 million, $60 million, or $70 million renovation. No one seems to agree, and everyone laughs at the fact that they finished it right under the wire before the RNC kicked off. Still, it’s a beautiful and functional space free of graffiti and bird shit and dried gum and all the other debris you’d expect to find in an urban park—particularly in Cleveland. The hyper-developed E. 4th street is just a few blocks away, the Quicken Loans Arena—ground zero for the main event—a few blocks beyond that. But even a short walk down Euclid will take you past wholly abandoned office buildings. Daher lives down in the city’s Slavic Village, “probably the most rundown neighborhood in the city,” he says. “A lot of people in my neighborhood are on drugs. White people rob each other, black people shoot each other.”

According to The Cleveland Plain Dealer, more than 3,000 of the 12,000 homes in Slavic Village are vacant, and as many as 400 are unsalvageable. The median home price in Cleveland is a mere $51,200, which, as Bloomberg notes is the second lowest among the largest 150 cities in the United States. These are the conditions that usually lure people to vote Democratic. So why is Daher so set on Trump?

“He’s not Hillary.”

Daher’s a lifelong Republican—save for that brief hippie stint out in San Francisco. “California’s crazy. People are nuts. No, I can’t really criticize it. San Francisco’s nuts. I was in San Francisco and it was driving me nuts. I said, ‘I gotta get out of here.’ I couldn’t find a job and I came to Cleveland, oh I could find five jobs.” Granted, that was back in 1971.

His mom sent him off to kindergarten with an “I Like Ike” button pinned to his shirt. “When I was 14 I listened to Barry Goldwater speak; he was one of the biggest losers the Republican party has ever seen.

But Trump?

“No one democracy has lasted 300 years. When democracy becomes corrupt, it becomes anarchy. That’s what our country is reverting to—anarchy. I don’t know whether [Trump] would slow it down or push it. He’s not as politically adept as other candidates.”

Back in March, during the Ohio primary, Daher voted for Ohio Gov. John Kasich.”He’s a poor kid who was orphaned and he picked himself up from being an orphan to become governor,” Daher says. “He’s the kind of person who typifies Republicans; a man who’s a self-made person.”

Trump is not.

Kasich won Ohio with nearly 47 percent of the vote back then. But this week, he’s among the high-profile GOP’ers boycotting the convention solely on account of Trumpism and all the gold-plated baggage that comes with it. Whether Kasich continues to withhold his support in the general is another story. Daher believes that we’d be better off if the two final candidates were more moderate.”If John Kasich endorses Trump, Trump will carry Ohio,” Daher says. “If he carries Ohio, he wins. This has been a bellwether state. How Ohio went, that’s how the presidency went. We’re the middle of the country. I think people always vote their pocket book. Who would we want if we go to war? I think people would rather see a man. Look at England. Look at World War II.”

Daher’s eyes wander around the square. The California Highway patrol—one of several out of state groups here for supplemental support—marches through in full riot gear. In a couple of hours, a small group will sort of burn an American flag a few blocks away. Trump will circle the city by helicopter. Laura Ingraham will intentionally or not, throw out a Nazi salute. Ted Cruz will refuse to endorse Trump, then be booed off the stage. A kid will walk through Public Square with a sign that reads “Make America Vape Again.”

Then everyone will do it all over again for one more day, and everyone will pack up and leave Cleveland, and the the square will once again be empty.

“Our country is in a downward spiral,” Daher says. “I don’t know if any candidates can stop that. I don’t know if anyone besides Jesus Christ himself could save us. And if he did come back, he probably wouldn’t come back here. He’ll come back to Israel.”

How Exactly Does One Make America America Again?

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CLEVELAND, OHIO—You see the slogan everywhere. Inside the Quicken Loans Arena, an official Make America Great Again™ hat will set you back $25, or, like with any arena spectacle, you can snag bootlegs outside the venue for much less. But the font is always off, the stitching subpar, the capitalization inconsistent.

If there’s one key to Trump’s success over the past year and change, it’s consistency. He repeats his message, no matter how bigoted or racist that message may be on a given week. So it was more than a little jarring when RNC opening night speaker and former Happy Days star Scott Baio iterated The Slogan up on the arena stage: “Let’s make America America again.”

Baio was the second speaker of the night, following a tame opening by Duck Dynasty star Willie Robertson, who sauntered out under the lights in a blazer, American flag bandana, and salmon-colored Going Out Shirt. “It’s been a rough year for media experts,” Robertson said. “It must be so hard to be so wrong about so much for so long.” He extended an olive branch to the “average American” who believes that the deck has been stacked against him, who feels like he just can’t win. “Donald Trump will have your back,” Robertson assured the gaggle of mostly white faces before him, and, more important, to the millions of mostly white faces watching him on TV, the same mostly white faces who watch his reality show about “real” life in the American south—white life.

But, yeah, Baio.

From day one, liberal pundits have taken the slogan to really mean that Trump wants to “Make America White Again.” In the eyes of more than a few Trump supporters, greatness equals whiteness, and vice versa. But after even more black men have been killed by law enforcement across the country, and retaliatory attacks on police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge, the Republican ideal of Respect is nearing the top of the GOP’s long list of endangered values. It’s not enough for America to be great again vis-a-vis white power; America needs to be America again via some en masse return to white norms, white culture, white tradition.

What does a hypothetical reversion to white dominance even look like in 2016? When the most compelling piece of pop culture is Beyonce’s Lemonade? When Trump’s blueish-green-smokescreen-silhouette surprise entrance makes everyone think of the video for Drake’s “Hotline Bling”? When tens of millions of Americans are running around holding out their phones playing a Japanese video game?

“America, the greatest country God ever created,” Scott Baio said.

“America is an easy place to get to,” Scott Baio also said.

What does it mean to be an American, Scott Baio?

“It doesn’t mean getting free stuff,” Scott Baio said.

Before his America-America line, Baio threw out the other slogan of the night: “Make America Safe Again.” On the surface, “safety” includes everything from Benghazi to bathrooms. But beyond that, safety is consistency. Safety is familiarity. Safety is comfort; safety is what you’ve come to expect from decades of the same.

Safety is interns shuttling trays of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee from the snack bar inside the arena. Safety is $4 bottles of icy Coors Light out in the official party plaza between the arena and Progressive Field, where the not-very-sensitively-named Cleveland Indians play. Safety is a country band cruising through covers as you and people who look like you eat mac n’ cheese and pulled pork at picnic tables in the swampy July heat. Safety is embroidered RNC koozies and Christmas ornaments. Safety is the name TRUMP in all caps on your shirt, on oversized banners, on vintage campaign buttons. Safety is TRUMP because TRUMP is familiar; TRUMP is familiar because TRUMP is white and TRUMP is loud.

Last night, an elderly woman stood in line for barbecue wearing a white sun hat with a Make America Great Again™ ribbon around the rim. She wore a red bandana around her neck and a sheer stars-and-stripes blue blouse. When it was finally her turn to order, she leaned in close and squinted at the young black woman working the register. There were five black women and one white woman slinging dinner at this particular stand. A black man hurriedly stocked hamburger buns. The burgers had temporarily run out, and the white people in line were increasingly pissed off. Their faces were growing impatient. This was their party, and they paid for this food, and what the hell was the damn hold up?

“[America] doesn’t mean getting free stuff,” Scott Baio said inside the venue. “It means sacrificing, winning, losing, failing, succeeding.”

The elderly woman in the white sun hat and red bandana was eventually handed her order. I did not hear this woman speak a word; I have no idea if she is racist. All I know is she is a self-identifying supporter of Trump’s movement. She walked away clutching her clamshell container, smiling, nudging her way past scores of white people who looked just like her. She felt safe. Everyone did.

Should You Feel Guilty for Using Airbnb?

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I don’t really know what to make of Airbnb anymore. I literally stayed in an Airbnb over the weekend. I was browsing Airbnb options for a friend’s wedding just this morning. Airbnb makes sense.

It makes sense, at least, to a portion of the population: Instagram obsessed, adventurous BUT NOT TOO ADVENTUROUS, expendable-income-having white folk. Airbnb is turn-key cool. “We went upstate,” you tell your friends. “But we stayed in a cabin on a pond with no indoor plumbing, and there were guinea hens wandering the grounds, Oh, and there was an outhouse with a scoop and a bucket of mulch. It was like a litter box!”

All of that is true, and it was all allegedly charming. Let me just skip the part about that large spider with visible brown hair that I killed early Saturday morning. I didn’t mention that to the host, either, because I wanted her to give me a good guest rating. You know, so I’d have an easier time booking future Airbnbs.

Airbnb is the $25 billion middle man that markets itself as removing the middle man. Why stay at a Best Western when you can live like a local? One good reason is that Best Western can’t deny you a bed and free HBO based on the color of your skin.

Today The New York Times notes that Airbnb’s 34-year-old CEO Brian Chesky has made a vow “to root out bigotry from his business.” Of course, those who rent out their lofts and lakeside Airstreams on Airbnb are not actually Chesky’s employees. And those of us who rent said properties aren’t really Chesky’s customers, either. If we were, we’d be able to participate in class action lawsuits, the mere threat of which, according to the Times, Airbnb has successfully stonewalled as part of its updated terms of service. You can sue Starbucks for not filling your latte, or McCormick for skimping on the pepper. Right this very minute, you can score free tickets to Darius Rucker (lol) from Ticketmaster as part of a class action settlement.

But Airbnb is different, because Airbnb (and Uber, etc.) is the Silicon Valley dream realized—the dream that eschews rules and regulations and industry standards in the name of disruption. London cabbies have to train for four years before they’re allowed on the road; I had a speeding Uber X driver last week who was maybe 24? The system works!

Zak Stone’s father died in an Airbnb. Nearly two years ago, Jessica Pressler wrote about New Yorkers’ woes with this hot newish rental service, summed up in a saucy-quote-turned-headline:“The Dumbest Person In Your Building Is Passing Out Keys to Your Front Door!” Any day now Airbnb is about to become more illegal in the state of New York than it was last week,pending a signature from Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Keep in mind that it’s already illegal to rent out your property for less than 29 days at a time, because of basic laws about what constitutes a hotel. But also because when you’re paying money to stay somewhere, you deserve a working smoke detector, or some semblance of security. As do your neighbors, who signed their leases without the intention of being an accomplice to your illegal hotel scheme.

That’s where the guilt comes in.

I am happy and grateful to be able to afford to take vacation this summer, even just a 48-hour weekend trip to somewhere that will let me “live like a local.” The thing is, you almost always get more for your money in an Airbnb than a hotel. More is good! But what about those neighbors and townsfolk who never agreed to this, and to whom Airbnb owes literally nothing?

The basement apartment in my old walk-up was a permanent Airbnb. The greasy surrogate of my all-but-invisible landlord even outright called that unit “the Airbnb.” He had nothing to hide because it’s become such a hard thing to enforce. Even these new rules—increasing fines of $1,000 to $7,500—are a total joke compared to the amount of money you can turn on strategically renting out a property you probably don’t even own.

That roadside Best Western is not a tree house, and the bath soap is not artisanal, and the coffee is closer to motor oil than freshly ground fair trade. But when something shitty happens, someone will take responsibility for it. You won’t think twice about calling the front desk to report a large hairy spider. It is an old, antiquated, non-disrupted idea—but at least it’s a fair one.

You Won’t Truly Understand Gun Violence Until You See the Newtown Documentary

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AUSTIN,TEXAS—It’s a surreal experience to watch a movie about a mass shooting less than one mile from the scene of what many consider to be the first American mass shooting, on the University of Texas’ campus in 1966. It’s surreal to hear strangers weep and gasp within the first 20 minutes of a movie. It’s surreal to lock yourself into this visceral story about the brutal murder of 26 people, the majority of them children, and surreal to walk away with even less of an understanding as to why it happened in the first place.

The new documentary Newtown, which screened to a packed house at the Paramount Theatre during South by Southwest on Sunday afternoon, is not about Adam Lanza or his motivations. Nor is it a statistics-heavy look at American gun violence as a whole. Instead, the movie concerns everything that came after December 14, 2012, the day Lanza shot his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School, killing 20 children and six educators, and created a crime scene so awful that the relatively small number of people who saw it do not want the public to know the details.

We do not see the blood but we hear the 911 calls and the police dispatch tapes. We see dash-cam footage and aerial shots from hovering helicopters. It’s a familiar scene, one that looks like Columbine—cop cars racing toward a school, officers with automatic weapons drawn, looming satellite vans, weeping parents, terrified kids. “Please, Jesus. Please, Jesus. Please Jesus.”Darkness and deadness in the eyes of first-hand witnesses as they soberly recall the day’s events. “I don’t think there’s an hour, or couple hours, where I don’t think about it,” Rick Thorne, a Sandy Hook custodian tells us. But the day, itself, which they all call “12/14″ now, takes up barely 10 percent of the film. The remaining 90 percent is about Newtown from 12/15 through present day. All of the families’ stories are singular and yet they all blend together. It’s not about an event, it’s about how one event literally changed the course of everyone’s life. 

Except ours.

Newtown, in all of its unfathomable ugliness, was supposed to be the last straw, the one that changed everything. The rallying cry. If not re-upping the full assault weapons ban, then at least expanding criminal background checks. Some sort of progress. Anything. But none of that happened. Instead, we got Elliot Rodger and Charleston and Planned Parenthood. This December will mark four years since the shooting, and we just finished a period with 23 mass shootings in 20 days. The violence continues, unabated.

Then there are the practical matters. How do you bring yourself to empty your dead child’s chest of drawers? What do you say at a funeral mass for 6-and-7 year olds? Are friends and neighbors supposed to stop by or leave you alone? How do you put people at ease with your overwhelming grief? How do young surviving siblings live anything close to a normal life? How do you find closure when a real part of you doesn’t even want closure? Some parents still have their lost children’s heights marked in pencil on the doorways of their homes. One father saved his son’s bicycle helmet because it still contains a few strands of his long, blonde hair. He hides it in the garage; he plans to keep it forever. Another expresses that, given his son’s young age, he knew almost everything he had ever experienced in his short life. But he didn’t know what it felt like, or what was going through his son’s head, during the final hours, those minutes before he was pumped full of bullets for no reason other than being present for school that day. It is hard to listen to a father reminisce about the good times he had with his deceased boy. It is another thing to listen to a father tell you he wants to know exactly how it felt for his son to be murdered.

The film succeeds in its juxtaposition of Newtown as a then-and-now place. New-Town. Like Amir Bar-Lev’s Penn State documentary Happy Valley, it’s a story about a community, a “that could never happen here” town that meets its reckoning and never goes back to the way things were. In some shots, the lawns look particularly green and the suburban homes look particularly big and safe, while the archival footage of the day’s events is grainy and washed out. There is barely a score or soundtrack; the background silence is intentionally heavy. The takes are long and the camera focuses on faces, on eyes, on dragging a scene a few extra beats just to let a thought or statement hang in the air. It is not the type of film that beckons repeat viewings, but everyone should see it at least once. 

***

Two hours after the film let out, I went to a markedly different event on the other side of town (an outdoor barbecue). I stood in line for a burger behind a white-haired woman in a bulletproof vest over her orange blouse. She had affixed strips of electrical tape to the back that read “BULLETPROOF IS THE NEW BLACK.” Her name is Mary Kuse and she’s a UT alum; she graduated in ’86, some 43 years after her father. Her mother, aunts, uncles, and cousins are all Longhorns, too. Turns out, she had just come from the screening as well. The vest was a Christmas present; she’s outfitted it with the tape as a protest against Texas’ infamous open-carry laws. 

“I’m pretty much just sick of all the bullshit,” Kuse told me. “I don’t know how else to explain it. I haven’t lost anybody personally to gun violence, in my immediate family or immediate friends. But it’s the bigger picture of how rage and anger can so quickly lead to death if you have a gun in your possession, or if you’re so lackadaisical and allow your four-year-old to access a loaded gun in your truck, it’s just ridiculous. It’s the over-arching fear of everything in this world. And to add guns to the mix? Is just horrifying to me.”

The vest is hot, and it weighs quite a bit, she said. 

“I have two daughters who are college-age. I have one who goes to Texas State and I have one that’s going to be attending UT-Dallas in the fall, when campus-carry starts,” Kuse said.

“So I have concerns for their safety, their well being, their peace of mind, knowing that their fellow students could have guns on them when they’re trying to study and just get by in the world.”

Is Asperger’s Funny?

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AUSTIN, TEXAS—How do you laugh at disability? Mark Duplass, whose name or face you likely know from The League, Togetherness, or countless other projects with his older brother Jay, is ready to answer this question. Well, yes and no. The Duplass Brothers-produced Asperger’s Are Us had its world premiere Saturday at South by Southwest, and it’s already among the buzziest films of the festival. It’s a documentary about a comedy troupe of the same name, a story about four men who fall at various points on the spectrum and turn that fact into comedy. Shortly after the film’s premiere, Netflix announced that it has scooped up the distribution rights, so you’re sure to see it in your queue very soon. We had a beer with Duplass to talk about the project, about the nature of streaming, and about what it feels like to laugh at something that, on the surface, just seems painful.

This film was a pet project of a cameraman you worked with on other projects.

Alex [Lehmann] I worked together on The League. And I knew he was making this doc. And I joke about it, but it’s true: I’m now in a position in my career where, all false modesty aside, I am seen as a person who can take your independent film and blow that shit up. So people want to be a part of what I’m doing. And they want “a piece of me,” as it were. And I like Alex personally, so I didn’t feel gross about it. But there was a part of me that was like, Ah fuck, I gotta watch this movie, and if I don’t like it, how am I gonna deal with it since he’s my friend and I see him every day?

But I had a feeling it was going to be good. And the reason I had a feeling about it is because of the nature of who he is as a human being. And I wanted to invite a wider audience into this movie. So my main job on this movie, which was, admittedly, pretty small—the movie was good when I saw it—was to widen the opening and provide a framework for which anyone who stumbled into this movie could start to watch it and enjoy it in the first 20 minutes, and then slowly but surely make their way down to the specific message that is the movie. I thought the movie could be bigger than it was. When I pitched that to Alex he was into it.

Do you consider it to be a movie about Asperger’s, or do you see it as a movie about comedy?

I see it as a coming-of-age story about four friends, first and foremost. I have things I want to do in this life, and I have insecurities about my ability to pull them off. And I get nervous and scared when it’s time to execute those things, and I become not my best self. And I lash out because I’m not as self-aware as I could be. And when I watched these guys, I was like, This is a slightly hyperbolized version of exactly how I operate in this world. And I connected to it deeply, in that they’re trying to be a successful comedy troupe, and anyone who’s going to come to see them is thinking, I feel sorry for these guys who have Asperger’s, let me go see their thing and maybe give them some fake laughs. But they want to be considered as a legitimate comedy troupe, and they don’t want your pity.

As an artist, when you start out, it’s your parents and your parents’ friends that are coming to see your shit, giving you that exact same thing. I struggled as an artist for 10 years before I made anything watchable. And everyone who would come to see my stuff was giving me the exact same energy that these guys got and are afraid of getting. Don’t give me your pity. If I’m good, I’m good. If not, fine. When I saw that, I was like, oh, this is a bigger movie than something just people on the Autism spectrum, or about comedy. It’s a massive human connection point about your dreams, about being who you want to be, and worrying the whole time that you might not be good enough.

Is Asperger’s funny?

Great question. I’m the last person in the world to answer it. I’m a producer of a documentary who doesn’t actually understand this world fully. What I can personally relate to in the movie and what allowed me to feel comfortable to say, I know I can help this movie, was that there’s a specific thing called the comedy of discomfort. And it happens in a lot of ways. When Christopher Guest does it, I honestly love it, but at times it’s a little mean. And it pokes fun at the subjects. It doesn’t take you into them and let you understand them, be right next to them. It separates you and says, This fuckin’ guy is so not like me, and it’s crazy, and I love laughing at him. What I know how to do well is find extremely vulnerable, quirky subjects. I’m known as someone who takes a quote-un-quote lovable loser in my own heart and make a character you can understand and feel for, as opposed to laugh at. To me, what was so funny about this movie was two-fold. One, when they get on stage, I find their comedy successful. It’s really dry and they’re really confident in what they do. And 80 percent of people don’t get it,  and they’re fine with that.

But then there’s another level of comedy to this thing. It’s fascinating how self-aware they are. Because they’re in a generation where Asperger’s is known. They know who they are. They’re aware of who they are. They play with that, and they own that. And there’s a confidence in that that makes me able to laugh freely without thinking that I’m making fun of them or joking, because they’re owning that in that self-aware way that all the great comedians own. Like Louis C.K.—when he gets up there and he’s like, I’m fat, I’m bald, I’m divorced, I’m owning it, and you don’t have to feel sorry for me. It’s the same exact thing with the guys in the Aspys. It’s like, We have this crazy-wired chemistry, this is what’s going on with me, I own this and I understand it, come with me on this ride. And that to me was so inspiring.

So do you think of this film as cringe-humor, dark comedy, the comedy of discomfort, or do you think of it as uplifting?

I’m kind of a cheeseball at heart. I love an underdog story, and the way I saw this movie was a story of four friends who have a huge dream, and the odds are stacked against them. When I saw this movie, it reminded me of Hoosiers. And I fell in love with them and I wanted to be with them and root for them, you know? Alex, our director, when I talk to him, over and over the message that keeps coming from him is, I wanted to tell an honest story, and I wanted to tell a story that parents of kids who have Asperger’s and don’t quite understand how to deal with them, can walk away from this and feel like, ‘I don’t feel so alone in this and I kind of understand it a little bit more.’ That is really his angle on this, and it’s been kind of great to watch.

I have never made a piece of art where I have curated specifically what I want my audience to feel. When I make Togetherness, when I make my movies, my goal is to show you something truthful. Sometimes you watch it in a theater of 500 people, and people start to laugh, and that gives you permission to laugh too. Sometimes you watch it at home by yourself, and it’s real sad. Same scene. It plays different contextually. I think this movie is going to have a wide variance of how people perceive it. I think it will be, depending on your personal connection to the spectrum, or your personal connection to the comedy of discomfort. I saw it in the theater today and we had a lot more laughs than I thought we would get. But when I watched it first at home on a link, I saw it as an underdog story that had a big beating heart that I wanted to root for.

So how does Netflix play into that? Because lot of people are going to watch this movie at home.

The reason I was really excited is that Netflix is very proprietary about how they do shit. I don’t understand it. They don’t tell me. But sometimes they turn a dial inside of their system, and your movie gets 10 million views. I don’t know how the fuck they do it, but, they did it with Creep, and they’ve done it with some of my other movies. And when I showed them this movie, they said, “We believe in this movie,” and they looked me in the eyes, and I knew they were going to turn the dial. And that, to me, and to Alex, was the most important part of distribution. It was not money, it was getting the most amount of eyeballs on this movie as possible. That being said, there will be a theatrical component to this movie, there will be a VOD component to this movie, there will be a DVD to this movie, there will be everything. There are countless societies of people with Asperger’s and people on the spectrum who are ready to support this movie, ready to promote this movie, they love it. We’ve shown them rough cuts. They’re ready to get on board.

So, we feel like this movie is going to have two lives. One for the people who know this world, who are going to come out in droves to see it in the theater, and then there will be other people, like me, who cruise around Netflix at night, looking for something interesting to click on, and they’re going to see this title and this picture, and they’re going to check it out. And that’s themost important audience for this movie. It’s the new audience who doesn’t know that much, and has a late night, slightly interested click, and then they click on something new. That’s the big win. And Netflix, in their worldwide release model, turning that dial for me, it can’t be beat for a movie like this.

That description—”late night, slightly-interested click”—I feel like that could describe your body of work.

It does.

Bros, who are sitting home, scrolling through HBO GO, they’re like, “What’s Togetherness? That’s a dumb title.”

My movies are gateway drugs. I try to make posters and things that make it interesting enough to click on. I have a huge fan base—bigger than I ever thought I would have. That come out in theaters, VOD, DVD, that’s wonderful. They come see my stuff, that’s great. The best and most exciting part of what I do is finding places like HBO GO, Netflix, Amazon, that have these widespread existing core audiences, who might take a chance on you. The Puffy Chair, my first movie, made $200,000 dollars in theaters, which equates to roughly 25,000 people seeing it. And then it went on Netflix, and within a year of being on it, 5 million people had seen the movie. And I owe my career to that. To this day, Netflix, and other services, HBO Go, Amazon, they’re a place of discovery. I feel like I’m gushing a little bit, but I just feel so blessed that independent film has an outlet like that now. Where we’re not just relegated to the niche art house theaters in New York and L.A. and the 10 major markets, and then we just go and die on video. People surf around. And I’m grateful to The League that it made my face something that people will click on. And this sounds cheesy and I don’t want it to be taken in the wrong light, but, we have a movie on Netflix, which has the word Asperger’s in the title, and the poster will look fun. And because of that, those two elements, I’m gonna get millions of people to learn something they never knew before, and that’s huge.

Richard Linklater’s New Movie Is His Funniest Since Dazed and Confused

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AUSTIN, TEXAS—Everything about Richard Linklater’s work is cyclical. Linklater—perhaps the only person who could pose a challenge to Willie Nelson as The Unofficial Mayor of Austin—premiered his new film Everybody Wants Some!! at the city’s historic Paramount Theatre to kick off the 30th South by Southwest Festival last night.

First things first: The movie is funny as hell.

It’s a sex-drinking-stoner comedy about an unspecified Texas college baseball team during the few days before fall semester. It’s an ensemble cast of unknowns, and it sufficiently lives up to its auspicious packaging as a “spiritual sequel” to Linklater’s 1993 cult classic Dazed and Confused. And while the two films are both set in Linklater’s home state and take place four years apart (1976 for Dazed, 1980 for Everybody), there are no overlapping characters or plotlines. Save for drinking all night, blazing, dragging main, trying to get laid, trying to figure out why you are so desperate to get laid, drinking all day, having existential conversations in the cool morning light, then going to class drunk. Plus: stoner conspiracy theories!

Linklater has always been a master of natural dialogue, but, as he’s done before, he lets his period-appropriate soundtrack do a lot of the work here. Linklater’s musical choices drove Dazedforward (think “Slow Ride,” “Low Rider,” and “Tuesday’s Gone”) and they are the backbone of this film (it’s 1980, so we have disco collars and “Heart of Glass,” “Ladies’ Night,” and “Shake Your Groove Thing.”) Early in the film, a five-man riff on “Rapper’s Delight” spirals into perhaps the most memorable car-singing scene of any film since Wayne and Garth belted out “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

And while you probably won’t recognize a single face as the film breezes by, just take comfort knowing that those who saw Dazed in theaters back in ’93 probably had the exact same experience. Back then, Ben Affleck had but a few minor credits to his name, Parker Posey hadn’t yet reached her indie darling status, and it was literally Matthew McConaughey’s second movie. But the anonymity of the cast works here, and Linklater knows it. Instead of cringing as, say, Miles Teller rides a mattress down a flight of stairs like a bobsled, or Shailene Woodley strips down for a mud wrestling match, we just sit back and watch a bunch of regular kids act like kids. The actors (almost all young men) are but one element of Linklater’s larger nostalgic snapshot, where every fridge opens to a six pack of chilled Lone Star or Schlitz. There are crates of vinyl and hot pants and humming neon bar signs. There’s ping-pong and foosball and mechanical bull riding. There are dick-taps and jock-strap moonings and bloody knuckles. So much of the dialogue is eye-rollingly immature (“Cock gobbler!” “Cock jockey!”) and yet it’s still so very authentic. Even the actual baseball in the film moves at a refreshingly slow and natural pace, with foul balls and extra beats between pitches.

Shortly before the film’s opening night premiere, Linklater was summoned to the Paramount stage by Austin Chronicle co-founder Louis Black, who made a documentary about Linklater and his influence on Austin culture that is screening throughout the festival this weekend. He touted Linklater’s decision to remain in Austin after his early-’90s success, when de-camping for New York or L.A. would have made a lot of sense. “The consequences of that decision are reverberating today,” Black said, bragging that a mere five years after the festival expanded from music to film, you had auteurs like Quentin Tarantino and Steven Soderbergh hanging around because of “Rick,” as he’s known locally. Linklater was meek in his pearl-snap Western shirt, jeans, and black cowboy boots last night. He held the mic with one hand and stuffed the other in his pocket. He brought out his ensemble cast one-by-one like a proud dad. Most of them already seemed buzzed. At least one shimmied to the back of the theater double-fisting icy cans of Lone Star.

There’s a particular humanity that Linklater finds and brings out in the people he works with, a particular eye for talent and strangeness. He found it and nurtured it in Ethan Hawke, who only gets better during each of their collaborations. He found it in McConaughey, who, for his second-ever movie role, took the character of Wooderson and ran away with it. McConaughey’s still-quotable one-liners are part of what gives Dazed its staying power, its success, its ability to inspire a “spiritual sequel” like Everybody. Back then, McConaughey was just a handsome blonde with a Texas drawl; not quite jumping out of the frame as a future Oscar winner or star of a critically acclaimed, cerebral HBO drama. But there he was, more than two decades later, with a ponytail and mustache, sipping beer like Wooderson and carving empty cans of Lone Star into mini sculptures. Linklater knows how to tell a good story, even if that story is about pretty much nothing and takes place within a very short period of time. He knows music, he knows comedy, he knows talent. One of the wet-behind-the-ears kids in this movie may one day be an Oscar winner (maybe even the kid who left the stage double-fisting Lone Stars), because everything about Linklater’s work is cyclical, and because time is a flat circle.

Behind the Scenes with Jon Batiste, Stephen Colbert’s Off-the-Wall Bandleader

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Monday. 1:52 p.m. Jon Batiste is backstage at the Ed Sullivan Theater, behind a drum kit in his shoebox of a rehearsal room, with four hours to go before tonight’s taping of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. He smiles and nods hello to a visiting stranger but never stops banging out his shuffle beat—a second-line beat. Various members of Batiste’s band, Stay Human, trickle in and grab tambourines, and now it sounds like a full drumline, albeit one built on the clink of a dozen Salvation Army Santas. Batiste leaps up on the kick drum. Then he’s over at the upright piano. A vein in his neck bulges as he solos on his melodica, the thing that looks more like a kid’s toy than a serious instrument. His saxophonist blows a little flourish. “Yeah! Whoa! What was that?” Batiste yells. “Eyyyyooo-bahhhhh!” he screams back at the sax. He squints and scats a wheezy, high-pitched whine. Now he’s up off the bench, shaking his hips, pounding the keys, his deltoids flexing. In some other part of the building, Colbert’s writers are furiously finishing tonight’s script. But there’s no visible sheet music in this room. Batiste is calling out what he hears in his head and, moments later, it exists as sound. “It’s goin’ off!” he yells.

Batiste calls his style of jazz “social music,” and from his earlier days as a New Orleans jazz prodigy and Juilliard student to his first three months as Late Show bandleader, he’s been known for blowing up the line between performer and audience. “I wanted to figure out how to fill the studio with music in a way that reminds me of a street parade in New Orleans,” Batiste says. (More than thirty members of Batiste’s extended family play jazz in and around New Orleans.)

Unlike Shaffer and Letterman, Batiste and his boss don’t really banter; unlike the Roots across town at The Tonight Show, Stay Human doesn’t really play covers. Batiste is not there for set dressing—he’s there to do his thing: improvise. “When I first spoke with Stephen, his vibe was joy and love and uplifting feelings, and not necessarily about the type of music that you play,” Batiste says. For Batiste, that type of music is jazz—unequivocally American and notoriously inaccessible, yet it’s improv that binds him and Colbert together. “Stephen comes from a comedic art form of improvisational theater, and I’m coming from the musical art form of jazz.”

Batiste is a year shy of thirty. Miles Davis was thirty-three when he recorded Kind of Blue.Coltrane was thirty-eight when he cut A Love Supreme. Does Batiste feel young or old? “I feel like I’m just on time.” Back in the rehearsal room, the jam reaches its apex as one band member smashes his tambourine on the floor. Its wood frame splinters and silver fasteners explode all over the carpet. The room hollers. Batiste smiles. Then everyone picks up and starts playing again.

At Last, Waylon Smithers Will Come Out as Gay on ‘The Simpsons’

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Nearly every detail of The Simpsons universe has evolved during the show’s 26-year run. The clunky rabbit-ears TV is now a flat screen. Homer texts with Marge (“Big Blue”) on a smartphone. Even the Easter-egg site gags have changed—like when Patton Oswalt’s one-off character was seen reading the fictional New York Review of Apps during the brilliant 2012 episode mocking creator Matt Groening’s hometown (and show inspiration) of Portland, Oregon. And yet, some elements of Springfield seem stuck in the past. There’s a still-sort-of-running joke that Homer has to remember which one of his drinking buddies is white (Lenny) and which one is black (Carl). Then there’s Waylon Smithers. (more…)

David Byrne and Friends Are Putting on a Show That Might Make Your Head Explode

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From his SoHo loft, David Byrne has an unobstructed view of a Foot Locker across the street. The elevator rumbles violently as it climbs three flights up before opening directly into the airy space with blond hardwood floors and oversize windows. Byrne, 63 in blue shoes, peers through the panes as Broadway traffic hums below. There’s an American Apparel down the street; a Duane Reade drug store at the end of the block; Bank of America to the south; Opening Ceremony around the corner. CB2’s just a few doors down, and Volcom is across the street from that, just north of the mass-market shoe store that currently occupies Byrne’s field of vision. “I see them occasionally taking their breaks in that kind of narrow space there,” he says of the store’s employees, for no reason in particular. The statement hangs for an extra beat. Was that a metaphor? Is David Byrne hinting at something? Did David Byrne, New York icon, decades-old scenester, House-Burner-Downer, Psycho Killer…er, just summarize his beloved city’s dire gentrification problem in but a passing phrase? (more…)

Witnessing History at the Belmont Stakes

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ELMONT, NEW YORK—In the minutes before the Belmont Park starting gates clamored open Saturday, thousands of general admission ticket-holders craned their necks away from the track toward the stately grandstands. There, in an eloquent gray sport coat and powder blue tie, was former president Bill Clinton, waving and grinning ear-to-ear like Teddy Roosevelt on the back of a train car. The air at Belmont surged with electricity Saturday. All day and all week, we kept hearing that it could be a historic day, though we had also become so accustomed to saying “Maybe next year.” Like in 2014, when Belmont’s mile-and-a-half loop got the best of California Chrome. But something about Saturday afternoon felt different. (more…)

5 Things We Learned From the New SNL Documentary ‘Live From New York!’

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Saturday Night Live has always seemed insecure about its place in the world. The eternal party line is that the golden era has passed, or that things were different when so-and-so was there, or that you haven’t even watched it in years. And for a show that lives and dies on the live moment, SNL and its hangers-on are obsessed with looking back at what was. In recent years, NBC has churned out clips and cast member-specific specials to satisfy niche audiences or themes (Christmas! Sports!). Some of these have cut through the noise—for many, especially millennials, The Best of Will Ferrell is a staple. But the SNL nostalgia train shows no signs of slowing. February’s mondo SNL 40 special might have tanked without the return of Wayne and Garth or “Celebrity Jeopardy.” Revisiting these old sketches highlighted just how unfunny a newer bit like “The Californians” really is, how it will never compete with other dialect-based franchises like “Coffee Talk” or “Da Bears.” And yet, within 10 years, we’ll probably be watching a clip show of Fred Armisen and Bill Hader in dude-mode, and we’ll probably smirk and whine about how the show isn’t as funny as it was back then. SNL is cyclical in that way. (more…)

Should We Be Afraid of Facebook’s Expanding Artificial Intelligence Lab?

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It’s increasingly hard to tell where Facebook ends and where “real life” begins, or if there’s such a thing as being “on” or “off” the service anymore. Blame the stream, the infinite scroll. Blame the rotating list of trending topics that bloggers read, then instinctively cover in daily (hourly) attempts to placate the formless royal blue Venus Fly Trap. That ever-growing “Feed me!” attitude—that’s how you get stories about Chad Michael Murray in your feed, despite never having seen a single Chad Michael Murray movie, nor even really knowing who Chad Michael Murray is. (more…)

25 Ways to Know If You’re an Asshole on the Subway

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So it appears that it’s now possible to get arrested for manspreading on the New York City subway. Manspreading, for those whose daily interests and concerns exist outside the navel-gazing bubble of Manhattan, emerged late last year as a catch-all term for taking up too much space on a subway bench. The action is used to describe the way a person, usually a man, slouches or spreads his legs wider than necessary so as to occupy more physical space than everyone else on the train, namely women. That is, everyone except his fellow manspreaders. Of which there are many. Some in the media would like you to believe that there is currently a manspreading epidemic sweeping the nation; that manners and basic human decency have faded into obscurity. (more…)

Can This Man and His Massive Robot Network Save America?

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Zoltan Istvan speaks in complete sentences, sometimes complete paragraphs, usually without stopping to breathe. He’s automatic. It takes him but a moment to process a question, then he’s off—spinning a web of complex information. He then starts building off that information. When he’s done, you have vastly more answers than you were originally searching for. (more…)

‘Iverson’ Is a Brilliant Portrait of a Tragic Hero

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There’s a moment in Iverson, a new documentary that airs 9 p.m. Saturday night on Showtime, where the former NBA star sits down for an interview with Chris Rock. It’s 1999. Iverson, nearing the peak of his success, is wearing all black, with multiple pieces of bling around his neck and a do-rag on his head. He slouches back in his studio chair. “Magic had a bad TV show,” Rock begins. “Shaq did the genie movie. How are you gonna embarrass yourself?” (more…)

50 Cent Explains Why Floyd Mayweather Will Beat Manny Pacquiao

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When 50 Cent is explaining something, like really getting into it, when he’s squinting and smiling at the negative space in a large open room, 50 Cent knocks his knuckles on your knee. You know how strongly 50 feels about a particular topic—food, women, working out, his own success—based on how many knocks. Or how long he lets his knuckles rest there. It’s not weird. It’s familial. Within minutes of shaking hands, 50 Cent is a friend you haven’t seen since college. You are the only person in the room. Timbaland is here. His investment partners are here. There are fake trees and blinding white lights and bottles of 50 Cent vodka (Effen) and 50 Cent songs playing at the 50 Cent photo shoot. But 50 Cent radiates tranquility. Positivity. He wants to sit closer to you on the couch. He’s in no rush to move on to the next thing. He loves to talk about all that he’s learned. And when 50 Cent knows something, really knows it, he leans forward and kind of stares at the wall. (more…)

Why Doesn’t the $1 Billion NFL Concussion Settlement Cover CTE?

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Junior Seau shot himself in the chest with a .357 Magnum in Oceanside, California on May 2, 2012. Eight months later, a team of brain specialists concluded that Seau suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, better known as CTE. Those three letters have taunted the NFL ever since on-field concussions became a national talking point several years ago. Yesterday, a federal judge in Philadelphia approved a landmark settlement between the NFL and more than 5,000 of its former players—$1 billion over 65 years. The deal is effectively an insurance policy for retirees who are at risk of developing Alzheimer’s, Lou Gehrig’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, or dementia. (more…)

Would You Trust Your Own Google Search History?

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There was a fantastic segment on 60 Minutes last night about people with highly superior autobiographical memory, or HSAM. Only 56 people in the world are known to have this condition, one of whom is the actress Marilu Henner. In short, people with HSAM remember every single day of their lives in acute detail. Throw out a random date from a random year, and, without a moment’s hesitation, they can tell you what day of the week it was. It’s not a party trick. Many people with HSAM are obsessive, but they lead “normal” lives. The main subject of the 60 Minutes piece, Bob Petrella, is a fully-functioning adult living and working in Los Angeles, but embedded within his super-memory is a never-ending story about a fictional college basketball team. He can name every fake player on the non-existent team going back decades. He can recall the score of specific games or jump into announcer mode and give you the play-by-play of situations that never occurred. It’s not that Petrella has memorized an arsenal of disparate details so much as he’s created an entire universe inside his mind. But Petrella knows that it’s all fake, and nobody seems to think it’s a particularly harmful hobby. In other words, the imaginary power forward is not telling Bob to go commit mass murder. Bob even laughs at the absurdity of it all now and again. He’s using his memory to tell himself a story, which is something that we all do every day. (more…)

The Future Is Now and Your Pizza Is Chasing You

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The most depressing 29 words you’ll read today are about the purchase and delivery of a Domino’s pizza. Specifically, what Domino’s, the international chain, once was, and what it will soon be. Moreover, what we will soon be as Domino’s and companies like it infiltrate the various aspects of our daily lives under the guise of “convenience.” (more…)

What You Learn in an Afternoon With a Brewmaster

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Before it was the Wild West of Weed, Colorado was a beer mecca. It still is. Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper opened Denver’s Wynkoop Brewing Company in 1988 after abandoning his first field, geology. Hickenlooper started Wynkoop in what was then Denver’s seedy downtown, but its success and the 1995 arrival of Coors Field helped turn the area into both a foodie and brewery destination. The first batch of Blue Moon was brewed at Coors Field, and, 14 years later, it was among the beers served at the White House Beer Summit. (more…)

Will Butler Does Not Wake Up on a Tour Bus

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Two weeks ago, Will Butler was onstage at the Ed Sullivan Theater in a black tuxedo, receiving an “Oh my! How ’bout that!” and a hearty handshake from David Letterman. On Thursday morning at South by Southwest, he’s wearing a sweatshirt with his name on it, wandering the Austin Convention Center trying to get to the second floor mezzanine, lost. He snaps a photo from an industrial storage area with air ducts and stacks of 3M boxes. “I assume it’s not back here where I am currently,” he texts. (more…)

The Worst Part About ‘The Jinx’ Is Also Why the Series Worked

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Had Robert Durst been arrested 24 hours later, he may have watched the surprising final episode of The Jinx inside his J.W. Marriott hotel room. Series director Andrew Jarecki claims that he knew Durst had been upset about episode five, which aired one week ago. Fans of the show also know that Durst is keenly aware of how his various transgressions have played out in the public space. Durst’s 2003 acquittal in Galveston, Texas, was grounded in his defense’s narrative that former Westchester District Attorney Jeanine Pirro had tarnished Durst’s image and effectively run him out of New York. Durst cared enough about his high profile to disguise himself as a woman; to lie about his trip to Spain; to check into the J.W. Marriott in New Orleans under a fake name. (more…)

Ric Flair Has Two Minutes of Fashion Advice for You

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Ric Flair moseys down a short red carpet behind a nondescript midtown Manhattan doorway, fashionably late on a Tuesday night. He’s one of several marquee names at the VIP kickoff party for the Delta Passport to Madison Square Garden, a two-day initiative to showcase the history of the famous New York arena. There’s Evander Holyfield and Earl Monroe. Here comes John McEnroe, who instantly makes eye contact with Ric Flair. (more…)

Why Did Everyone Stop Taking Real Lunch Breaks?

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Depending on the day’s temporary lunch invasion, I either slide my keyboard a few inches forward or a few to the right—far enough to make room for food, but close enough to still answer emails. On sushi days, I slip a brown napkin under the plastic tub of soy sauce in case of splashback, but most afternoons I just stick to the hot buffet. It’s faster. Various cuisines from various parts of the world (same cafeteria) in a disposable clamshell container; food I did not necessarily envision myself eating when I woke up that morning. Beef Stroganoff over egg noodles, jambalaya, make-your-own-tacos. The bottom of the box usually leaves a lukewarm layer of dew on that particular corner of my desk (front left, nearest to the trash can, faster clean-up) the same place where I eat my lunch five days a week. (more…)

How Leonard Nimoy Made Two of the Funniest ‘Simpsons’ Episodes Even Funnier

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Leonard Nimoy helped shape not one, but two, of the strongest Simpsons episodes in the show’s 26-year history. We first saw Nimoy’s lanky frame and long, yellow face in episode 12 of season 4, “Marge vs. The Monorail.” Written by Conan O’Brien during his two-year stint on the staff, the episode is a send-up of The Music Man in which a traveling salesman, Lyle Lanley (voiced by Phil Hartman), convinces Springfield to build a monorail with its sudden influx of extra cash. Playing himself, Nimoy attends the opening ceremony as Grand Marshal and is among the passengers on the monorail’s maiden loop around town. Mayor Quimby doesn’t quite know who Nimoy is, “May the force be with you!” and Nimoy can’t find anyone to listen to his stories. When things go catastrophically wrong minutes into that first trip, Homer haphazardly saves the day, though Nimoy takes all the credit. He then disappears through a Star Trek-ian transporter. (more…)

I Paid for an Invisible Girlfriend. Things Took a Weird Turn.

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“Are you sure she’s fake?” my girlfriend asked. We had just walked in the door. It was late; we hadn’t eaten.

“Yes, she’s fake. She’s a robot.”

“Well, how do you know?”

I had created Zoe earlier that afternoon on Invisiblegirlfriend.com, a new website with the depressing motto: Finally. A girlfriend your family can believe in. The plan was to date her for one week. The site automatically generated her name, but I picked her hometown, interests, and photo. (more…)

We Tracked Down the Guy with the Super Bowl Shark Tattoo

 

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The most famous ankle on the Internet, at least this week, belongs to Matty Clark, a 36-year-old male from Denver, Colorado. Less than 24 hours after Katy Perry’s backup-dancing shark stole the Super Bowl halftime show, Clark had the shark’s likeness tattooed on his leg. We caught up with Clark over GChat this afternoon while he was in the basement of the Hi-Dive, a small bar and music venue that he co-owns in Denver. He also plays guitar in Zebroids, a garage-rock band that typically performs with at least one member wearing a zebra head on stage. (more…)

How ‘The Simpsons’ Showed Us the Meaning of Christmas From Day One

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At the start of this year’s Every Simpsons Ever marathon, showrunner Al Jean revealed that he wanted to wrap the series exactly where it began: with the Simpsons arriving at Springfield Elementary for Bart and Lisa’s Christmas pageant. “Careful Homer!” Marge nags as Homer speeds to the school through a snow storm. “I have no time to be careful, we’re late!” He instantly slams into a small snow bluff. The show’s first full-length episode, “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire,” commonly referred to as “The Simpsons Christmas Special,” debuted 25 years ago today. Until this night in 1989, The Simpsonsexisted solely in animated shorts on The Tracy Ullman Show. This Christmas special was initially intended to be the eighth episode of the series, but technical problems led to a last-minute reordering of the season. (The original first episode, “Some Enchanted Evening,” aired as the season-one finale.) Early Simpsons critics like George H.W. Bushderided the show for its presumed depravity. But this very first, still-funny episode shows that family values were always an intrinsic part of the show’s DNA. (more…)

‘Happy Valley’ and the Painful Ambiguity of Penn State Now

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Sue Paterno, in pearls and a red dress, a widow. Jerry Sandusky, first in handcuffs, then an ill-fitting sport coat, then a red jumpsuit. His face long and cracking, his dark eyes sagging like a beaten dog—more scared than shamed, more bewildered old man than cunning sexual predator. At least, that’s what it looks like on the surface of Amir Bar-Lev’sHappy Valley, a new documentary about the Penn State scandal that moves and feels like a drama. The film opens on the pastoral hills surrounding the 106,572-seat Beaver Stadium, the nucleus of State College, Pennsylvania. “It’s a tough life,” says the nasally Joe Paterno, sounding more like a grandma than a titan of American football. “We had Camelot,” his wife says later on, as if reading the line from a script. (more…)

How Parquet Courts Captured the Zeitgeist of Exhaustion

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The vast majority of us suffer from some form of content nausea, either minor or debilitating. Blame slow news days and trending topics that don’t deserve to be trending. In many cases, they don’t deserve to be topics. Content nausea creeps in the first day you realize the line between being “on” and “off” the Internet has vanished from your life—gone at the speed of an upswipe. It’s real and it’s awful. (more…)

How Your Office Became a Middle School Chatroom

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Most white collar workplaces are quieter than they’ve ever been. And yet, workers have never been more susceptible to getting fired because of loose lips. The Great Silencing—from email to instant messaging to text messages—has only grown stronger in recent years with the introduction of internal corporate messaging. Yes, offices have used memos and sticky notes for decades, and humans have been writing letters for centuries. But the idea of “chatting” with coworkers all day via direct messages as a means of both business and pleasure is a new, potentially risky way of life. (more…)

‘On The Road’ and the Lasting Impact of Beat Style

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Drive all night, stopping only for gas or bottomless black drip. Hear the cruck of a cream cup against a cracked saucer, a greasy spoon clinking on cold formica, the shhhhh of granulated sugar pouring out of a Domino packet like an overturned hourglass. The murmur of conversation two tables over from people you’ll never know talking about things you’ll never know. A soft pack of Camels poking out of the left breast pocket of your jean jacket, a triple-thick plaid underneath. A pair of 501’s cuffed above suede chukka boots under the table, probably rubbing against a pair of heels on the other side of the booth. (more…)

‘The Simpsons’ and the American Man: Troy McClure, Lionel Hutz and the Magic of Phil Hartman

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Lionel_Hutz2Lionel Hutz’s legal services always came with a hook: a free smoking toy monkey; a business card that doubled as a sponge; the illustrious promise of “Cases won in 30 minutes or your pizza’s free!” His office was in the Springfield Mall. His surprise courtroom witnesses included Ralph Wiggum, the McGuire Twins on motorcycles, and a Santa Claus with an inexplicably broken leg. During his brief dabble in real estate, Hutz, with but a simple facial expression, forever defined the difference between “the truth” and the truth.

Voiced by Phil Hartman, Hutz was indelibly linked to Hartman’s cultish SNL character “Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer.” The inept, shyster lawyer is a stock character in 20thCentury American culture, but Hartman’s timing and cadences gave Hutz a loveable humanity. It was the same sort of humanity that Bob Odenkirk would bring to Saul Goodman on Breaking Bad many years later. Even the phrase “Better Call Saul!” feels like an ode to Hutz’s office, “I Can’t Believe It’s A Law Firm!” or Hutz’s typo-ridden business card, “Works On Contingency? No, Money Down!” Hutz had a losing record, an abysmal understanding of the law—he admitted to thinking “I rest my case” was but a figure of speech—and yet, now and then, he found a way to pull off a win for the Simpson family. There was, deep inside his white cartoon eyes, a perpetual bimbo vacancy, but there was also delightful, misguided optimism. (more…)

A List Of Everything That Sucks

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We’re there, the first half of August, and the last gasp of true summer. That period where we can still go to work without socks. Where we can look forward to a fair amount of blue sky and the sun being out after dinner. Where, on a breezy night with the windows open, we just lay on the couch and drink and watch whatever’s on TV without changing the channel…

…At least, that’s where we’re supposed to be. But nobody’s doing that anymore.

Why aren’t we there? Why are we still lovingly pissed off at our neighbors? Forty-three percent of Americans talk to their neighbors and only 1/3rd “trust” them. Why are we trudging around like it’s February? This summer, more than any summer in recent memory, has been particularly grueling. Things are ugly out there, away from the glowing screens and the content stream. (more…)

Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Final Disappearing Act

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We’re used to seeing Philip Seymour Hoffman disappear. He disappeared behind dark-rimmed glasses and a whimper, way down in the soul of Truman Capote. He disappeared under scraggly hair and a moustache as a wisdom-spouting Lester Bangs. He disappeared in a polyester Oakland A’s jersey, arms crossed, pouting in the direction of Billy Beane. He disappeared with a bob haircut and a tank top, holding a boom on a porno set, lusting after Dirk Diggler.

And then he disappeared on February 2, 2014, inside a standard issue black body bag, horizontal, strapped to a gurney, rolling out of his New York City apartment under camera flashes.

What’s most troubling about watching Hoffman in the new film A Most Wanted Man—one of his final roles—is that, for the first time in his two-decades-and-change career, Philip Seymour Hoffman looks like himself. When we watch him huff and wobble through the streets of Hamburg, we’re watching a fictional performance from a real-life man who was rapidly deteriorating, and would soon be dead. (more…)

Embracing A Differently Abled Child

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Three months before his third birthday, Ron Suskind’s son Owen stopped speaking. He wouldn’t make eye contact, couldn’t sleep well—he retreated into himself. It was autism. Second opinions, special schools, and speech therapy soon followed. But then, unexpectedly, Suskind and his wife, Cornelia, and their older son, Walter, found a way to reach Owen through Disney movies. The Lion KingThe Jungle BookHerculesAladdin—the pantheon of cartoon protagonists whom Owen had watched before he began to recede helped him find his voice again. He would mimic the scripts; his family members would eagerly join the cast.

Suskind, a Pulitzer Prize–winning reporter and former Esquire contributor, recently published a book about his family’s experience, titled Life, Animated. We called him recently to talk about raising a son who came to embody every prospective parent’s worst fear—and whether that fear is warranted at all.

(more…)