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New York City, September 21, 2017

Fri, 2017-09-22 18:30

★★★ The forecast was more promising than the gray out the windows was. Soon enough, though, the sun burned into view. The humidity had not budged. By noon the clouds were down to a thin filter, but then the light weakened again. Workers were out on the roof deck across the way, restoring the cushions to the outdoor furniture now that the high-wind warnings were over. A wholesome light returned, and with it a swelling breeze. A spaniel on a leash bounded around a corner.

Jared Kushner's Daughter Records An Oral History of "Rocket Man"

Fri, 2017-09-22 14:26

Image: spondooley via Flickr

KUSHNER DAUGHTER is recording an oral history of how her grandfather, TRUMP, decided to call Kim Jong-un “Rocket Man.” Because GENERAL KELLY admires her steadfast commitment to record keeping, he has assembled a row of chairs in the middle of the West Wing for the oral history participants. JARED is sitting in one of them. So are GENERAL MATTIS, KELLYANNE CONWAY, CHUCK SCHUMER, and STEPHEN MILLER. JARED is wearing a New York Mets cap.

KELLYANNE CONWAY [into KUSHNER DAUGHTER’s recording device]: You’re a little young for this, but do you remember how in the movie Almost Famous

[KUSHNER DAUGHTER shakes her head “no.”]

KELLYANNE CONWAY: When they’re all on the bus, and one by one they all start singing “Tiny Dancer.”  [KELLYANNE CONWAY sings “Blue jean baby. LA lady.”]

CHUCK SCHUMER [nodding agreeably]: I love that scene.

GENERAL MATTIS [happily]: Top five movie, easy.

GENERAL KELLY [nostalgically]: I’ve seen maybe four movies tops. But that movie. When the guy is up on the roof and jumps into the pool. It just—[GENERAL KELLY smiles to himself.] I’ve always wanted to be able to jump off of roof into a pool.

KELLYANNE CONWAY [lying]: So, we were just sitting around, and the President starts singing “Rocket Man,” and we were, a bunch of us, Hope was there, and Mike Pence and Mark Burnett and Chuckles. And we just, in unison, nodded and started singing. Jared and Ivanka were there too, but they were fighting.

STEPHEN MILLER [eyes dead]: I was against the idea from the start. I didn’t sing along either.

JARED [quietly]: I don’t remember anybody singing. [to himself] I can’t remember the last time I heard music.

KELLYANNE CONWAY [fake outraged]: You were just singing “Lightning Crashes.”

[Attorneys enter and stuff documents into boxes. No one reacts, except for STEPHEN MILLER who exits clumsily.]

KUSHNER DAUGHTER [to JARED]: What do you remember from that day?

JARED [staring at the ceiling, not unlike a bored grade school student counting the dots in the tiles]: I was asking if the date printed on a package of almonds I wanted to eat was the sell by one or the use by one.

CHUCK SCHUMER [stirring shit]: And then Ivanka, your mother, shouted that it was a pack of almonds.

KELLYANNE CONWAY [provocatively]: That’s all she shouted?

JARED [looking down]: Well, she used an expletive but I don’t feel comfortable repeating exactly what she said. To my daughter or to a recording device.


JARED [defeated]: I’m not saying that in front of my daughter.

KUSHNER DAUGHTER [truthfully, to her knowledge]: It’s for posterity purposes only. I won’t repeat it.

JARED [still defeated]: She said, “It’s a fucking pack of almonds or can you not read like your brilliant mentor Gary?”

KUSHNER DAUGHTER [nervously]: Gary can’t read?

[GENERAL KELLY hands KUSHNER DAUGHTER a copy of Malcolm Gladwell’s David and Goliath which contains a chapter about how GARY COHN succeeded in spite of his learning disability.]

GENERAL MATTIS [phone buzzing]: It’s amazing what other skills we hone when we’re correcting our own—Hold on, dear. [GENERAL MATTIS barks “Mattis” in the phone.] Those are not our values. Those are not our values either. Neither are those.

[GENERAL MATTIS gestures to KUSHNER DAUGHTER that he must exit to the Pentagon immediately. Meanwhile, KUSHNER SON is sticking one of STEVE BANNON’s leftover NicoDerm patches to the wall.]

CHUCK SCHUMER [nosily]: Who’s trying to quit smoking?

KELLYANNE CONWAY [selling out an old friend]: No. Steve Bannon was trying to start. He wanted to prove to the Surgeon General that nicotine wasn’t habit forming.

[CHUCK SCHUMER texts that information to NANCY PELOSI.]

GENERAL KELLY [pleadingly, as usual]: Guys, can we focus our attention on the girl’s questions. She is trying to write the first draft of history.

[GARY COHN strides in. He’s just returned with his wife from a Hillary Clinton book signing in (New York’s) Union Square.]

GARY COHN [eyeing the row of chairs, curiously]: You guys look like a spelling bee. [to KUSHNER DAUGHTER] Are you moderating this thing? The win doesn’t count if you don’t let any Indian kids play.

KUSHNER DAUGHTER [powerfully]: I’m recording an oral history of why the President called Kim Jong-un “Rocket Man.”

GARY COHN [exasperated]: Jesus fucking Christ. Haven’t you clowns recorded yourselves enough? [GARY COHN leans into KUSHNER DAUGHTER’s recording device, smirking.] I want to know something. Why did you let Paul Manafort meet with Russian oligarchs on the roof of your building?


GENERAL KELLY [screaming]: Don’t answer that question.

GARY COHN [glibly]: I was kidding, Jim. [to JARED] Why the hell are you wearing a Mets hat?

JARED [lying]: It’s a kippa.

GENERAL KELLY [navigating personnel issues]: It’s fine. I said he could. The dress code accommodates religious practices.

[KELLYANNE CONWAY, furrowing her brow, mouths “kippa” to KUSHNER DAUGHTER.]

KUSHNER DAUGHTER [whispering]: It’s the Hebrew word for “yarmulke.”

GARY COHN: That’s not a kippa. He doesn’t wear a kippa. Are you covering up your haircut? I was teasing. You have great hair. [Into the recording device] He’s upset because I joked that he got a bad haircut, at some place that accepts walk-ins.

JARED [to himself]: Walkens. [JARED sulks.]

GARY COHN [declaratively]: Leave it on. He thought of “Rocket Man” himself. He’s a fucking baby boomer. It’s his music, as hard as it is to imagine him listening to music. We all would’ve told him not to say it, but he does whatever the fuck he wants. Again, baby boomer. [GARY COHN removes the NicoDerm patch from the wall and affixes it to his wrist. He turns to CHUCK SCHUMER.] Chuckles, what the fuck are you doing here?

[Before CHUCK SCHUMER can answer IVANKA enters cradling her baby nephew, LUKE TRUMP.]

KELLYANNE CONWAY [obsequiously, to the newborn]: And named after my second favorite Gospel. [KELLYANNE CONWAY whispers to GENERAL KELLY, winking.] Otherwise my favorite is John.

[There’s crosstalk as IVANKA explains that the child is named after Dr. Luke, the music producer. Then she takes the recording device away from her daughter and stashes it in her purse. The attorneys, still stuffing documents into their boxes, make eye contact with CHUCK SCHUMER who is already texting NANCY PELOSI.]

Doing Good All Night Long

Fri, 2017-09-22 12:56

Towards the tail end of the wicked nor’easter that laid on massive snowdrifts this March, a fleet of about two dozen snowplows mobilized in Boston and parts of New Jersey and New York. They were hardly the only plows on the streets, but they drew an inordinate amount of attention. They’d been provided gratis by a private firm. They responded to underserved areas based on emails and Tweets sent to said company. And they were emblazoned with the company’s logo: the deep orange, black, and white sigil of Pornhub, the largest porn site on the net and for years one of the most heavily trafficked overall websites in the world.

While it crawled out of the shadows in the 1970s, porn remained so taboo and insular the industry didn’t, and couldn’t, do much outreach beyond its niche underworld. If porn garnered attention in the mainstream, it was either for some political kerfuffle, a porn star’s appearance on a salacious show, or an over-the-top stunt leaning into the scandal of the industry. “Think things like… offers to do porn,” said Chauntelle Tibbals, a sociologist who studies the porn industry, “directed at sensationalized mainstream media personalities.” Porn stars and adult producers who have tried to branch out, engaging in philanthropic ventures and speaking about them openly, have often run into significant barriers. By casually sending out a fleet of plows and engaging with the public openly as a mundane benefactor, Pornhub staged a real coup.

But this wasn’t a one-off. That same month, the site drew attention when it celebrated National Panda Day by encouraging viewers to dress up as pandas and make and post amateur sex videos (ostensibly to help the less-than-libidinous critters learn how to breed). The company further promised to donate $100 per video uploaded and $0.01 per view of said videos over the month to panda conservation non-profits. It was one of many charitable ventures launched by the Pornhub Cares initiative. The site also does sex ed through its Sexual Health Center and issues analyses of anonymous user data via its Insights and social media teams, which some mainstream writers hail as unprecedented, demystifying, and destigmatizing windows onto humanity’s collective id. Heavily promoted across the mainstream media by a savvy advertising team, these ventures reposition Pornhub as an agent of social good and proactive engagement rather than a vendor of smut and shame.

“Not only do these stories give the site free publicity,” wrote Slate’s Will Oremus in 2014, referring to Pornhub Insight’s data-driven consumer habits reports, “I’d imagine they go some way toward legitimizing it in the minds of readers by making them feel less perverted for all the time they spend there.”

Pornhub is not the only adult outfit looking to normalize and reframe porn through effective messaging built on outwardly progressive initiatives. People like the problematic pornstar James Deen and companies like adult content bundler Hump the Bundle have tried to put charity, public outreach, and education at the forefront of their activities. But Pornhub is the master of this engagement art, and the juggernaut of the industry. Its engagement has, analysts argue, been key to building the site into the widely recognizable behemoth it is now, not just a particularly profitable force within its niche industry as it has been since its earliest days.

Pornhub blundered in its first efforts at script-flipping engagement. In 2012, the site launched a campaign to raise money for Susan G. Komen for the Cure, a major breast cancer charity, but their $75,000 donation was rejected and eventually given to three smaller, anonymous organizations. In 2013, CBS blocked their effort to run a safe-for-work ad, a bid at normalizing their product, during the Super Bowl. And in 2014, Spike TV blocked another ad, while a Pornhub billboard legally placed in New York’s Times Square was taken down within 48 hours after a nearby hotel complained about it.

Pornhub’s ads and campaigns still take flack, as when Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese makers in Italy threatened a defamation suit after Pornhub mentioned their product in a commercial. But broadly, Pornhub experimented and consulted outside marketing experts until they hit on an effective formula for initiatives with reliable, solid PR returns: Find a cause with practical or punny relation to porn and screen potential charity partners for cooperation beforehand. Hype projects with quirky yet socially aware and honest PR campaigns rather than solely salacious, tone-deaf sex appeal. Engage users via social media to talk about these campaigns to stress the firm’s continual engagement and humanity. Reporters slobbered up the resultant press releases. Think the Huffington Post’s “Pornhub Wants to ‘Give America Wood,’ Literally” coverage of the company’s first successful charity campaign, in which they planted one tree for every 100 videos watched in their “big dick” video category in the weeks leading up to Arbor Day 2014.

But none of this explains why Pornhub wanted to pursue these campaigns in the first place.Pornhub’s parent company, MindGeek, plays things close to the vest with respect to its internal operations. Pornhub never replied to my requests to speak about the motives behind its social good initiatives.

“There might be some element of actually doing good,” said Shira Tarrant, who published a comprehensive analysis on the back end of the adult industry last year. “If there’s someone behind the scenes…a gender studies major who’s like, ‘I’m going deep under cover to change the culture [of porn] from the inside,’ I wouldn’t know. But that would be interesting.” It would also be the simplest explanation: Pornhub actually does care about the charitable causes and education initiatives it gets behind. Those at the company see real value in opening up dialogue on sex and sexuality by normalizing their industry and dissecting our porn habits.

But, Tarrant said, it’s more likely that Pornhub’s just reacting to a very crowded porn market by testing a little of everything, including social good initiatives. In 2015 they launched a limited-run fashion line, featuring hats, sweaters, and t-shirts with graphics designed by graffiti artists, and launched a crowdfunding campaign to shoot a porno in space. They also developed a twerking butt sex toy, a FitBit equivalent for monitoring masturbation habits, and a short-lived music label, Pornhub Records, that put out Waka Flocka Flame’s single, “Bust,” and made a video for it. Marketing gurus praised these campaigns for catching people off guard with diverse projects that would draw brief spikes of general media attention, but also sustained attention from niche communities, like fashionistas, who may not regularly explore the porn world.

Pornhub’s charitable giving campaigns are a particularly cost-effective way to draw such larger but niche audiences. “Give America Wood” drew widespread attention, but in the end Pornhub only had to plant 1.5 million trees at a likely cost of just around $15,000, a lower expense for a higher return than their 2012 breast cancer campaign. “Getting worldwide publicity for your website on a budget of $15,000?” wrote digital business expert Gordon Fletcher in The Conversation that year. “That is the sort of achievement any marketing department would be wildly celebrating.”

Spinning the company as a conscientious force of social good helps wider advertising campaigns to make porn seem more mainstream—less seedy, more acceptable. This not only potentially draws in new viewers who wouldn’t engage with advertising unmoored from social consciousness, but also makes it viable for mainstream industries to advertise on the site without fear of hurting their own brands. Although as of last year Pornhub still had to offer steep discounts to attract advertisers, it’s been able to score deals with mainstream brands like food service Eat 24 (in 2013) and Italian fashion giant Diesel (in 2014). Pornhub also got itself featured in that year’s porn-focused film, Don Jon.But Pornhub doesn’t need to fight tooth and nail for attention in the market. Since its launch in 2007, the site has always had the power of market disruption on its side, bringing a new wave of free porn to consumers and generating high traffic to survive on ads (mostly for intra-industry porn and sex toys). After 2010, its parent company merged with another company, becoming a borderline monopoly. This business, which eventually became MindGeek, bought up most of the major tube sites and porn studios on the market. By 2016, it controlled eight of the ten largest such entities. MindGeek would likely have seen nothing but sustained growth and profit from Pornhub and its wider tube network alone, without these campaigns and their hit-or-miss risks.

MindGeek is not the brainchild of the porn industry. Its precursor firm was first registered in 2007 by a German-born tech wiz named Fabian Thylmann, who cut his teeth in the 1990s developing web traffic monitoring software to help sites procure advertiser payouts. He reportedly fell into porn incidentally, while looking for applications for that tech. Thylmann always struck a more subdued pose than traditionally flamboyant porn lords, and reportedly brought a methodical, tech-world approach to his firm. Even though he had to leave MindGeek in 2013 after he was stung in Brussels for possible tax evasion, he left the company to the senior management he’d built up around him. MindGeek continues to sell mainstream and innocuous digital resources, like web hosting and data analytic services. Unsurprisingly, it also seemingly continues to operate more like a mainstream company than an old fashioned porn site, with a staff of about 1,200, many of whom come from outside the porn world, bringing ho-hum tech and comms tactics to the once idiosyncratic adult industry.

A number of adult companies are now likewise owned or heavily staffed by people with experience or backgrounds outside the industry, and increasingly run like mainstream corporations. And with that mainstream cultural influence likely comes the impulse to exercise “corporate social responsibility.” Snappy charitable campaigns don’t just put eyes on the company; they rewire the industry’s insular history. Sexual education campaigns and sex positive data-heavy conversations peel back and acknowledge the fantasy and market-driven aspects of porn, signaling introspection and an alliance with the forces of progressivism. Scholarships, like one Pornhub debuted last year, for women to study science, tech, engineering, and math ostensibly show that the company cares about the population usually painted as porn’s key victim. “This is corporate social responsibility for a jaded digital age,” Fletcher wrote in The Conversation after the 2014 Arbor Day campaign.One could argue that, no matter their motives, Pornhub and the adult industry’s attempts to rebrand as normalized agents of social good are, well, good. The more it draws itself into the light, the more society can pick the adult industry over, creating visible dialogue about its shortcomings and pushing for more ethicality in an often fraught production system. The more it tells us about our sexual desires as a culture, the more we can have productive and easy conversations with each other about our wants, needs, and intimate identities.

But normalizing Pornhub also means normalizing what are seen as dubious practices in the adult industry. For years, Pornhub and MindGeek have been the boogeymen of porn. Producers say that in the past they didn’t just license content and offer it for free, but turned a blind eye to, and so accelerated, piracy, driving down studio profits so much that many had to work with the conglomerate, fail, or find some small, stable market or gimmick to survive. The collapse of traditional porn and lower profits of remaining studios has tanked performers’ incomes and job security, pushing them to supplement porn with other forms of sex work like stripping or escorting. (MindGeek has disputed these charges over the years, absolving itself of responsibility for problematic industry dynamic shifts.)

“It’s a classic rebranding effort,” said the sociologist Chauntelle Tibbals, another way in which Pornhub acts like a traditional, mainstream corporation, building an image of acceptability and ubiquity so strong that it can gloss over its allegedly problematic foundations. Pornhub and other porn sites’ social good campaigns and the PR built around them aren’t goofy news stories. They’re corporate posturing—the same as any other campaign we would be wary of in the wider world of business, like Big Soda’s pro-exercise and -health campaigns that seem good and self-conscious, but really point away from their role in obesity and put all responsibility on consumers. They are worthy of a chuckle, sure, but they need to be probed like any other corporate messaging. Which is to say that they do need to be normalized, just not in the uncomplicated way Pornhub may desire.

We’re a long ways off from normalization, though. Today, “these sites are media and consumer darlings,” said Tibbals. And “we fall for it, over and over again.”

Most Popular Old Person Names

Fri, 2017-09-22 12:09

Hector Plimmer, "Sleep Easy"

Fri, 2017-09-22 09:24

It’s the last hours of summer and the first day of fall. Feel any different? Of course not: Everything’s terrible year-round now. Here’s music. Enjoy.

New York City, September 20, 2017

Thu, 2017-09-21 18:38

★★ The warmth came on faster even than the brightness. Loitering clouds and a breeze set the change back only briefly, and midday belonged to the sun. The donuts from the Greenmarket were warm in the greenhouse of their plastic bag. The afternoon clouds over Fifth Avenue had organized into a more or less solid mass, though the light and dark shading of it was still confused. Off to the east, a bit of blue endured. The setting sun would find open space in the west, too. In its light, different grains emerged at different heights—low, gauzy streaks of clouds ran west to southeast; higher silvery ridges went north and south. The air indoors stayed hot.

Oktoberfest Isn't Really A Thing

Thu, 2017-09-21 13:44

Photo: Bayreuth2009/Wikimedia Commons

Germans head to the polls in TWO DAYS, you guys, which means the Fatherland’s quadrennial “vote fight” is finally, mercifully drawing to a close. However, what everyone is talking about right now isn’t the near-certainty of a fourth term under the world’s best tunic-haver, but instead the probable ascendance of the far-right Alternative for Germany party, whose Islamophobic piglet posters scared little kids (and me).

Anyway, this also means that like many Germans, I’m too freaked out to function properly, and since one can only stress-eat Tim Horton’s breakfast sandwiches for so much of the day, it’s a good time to remember that there is something else Germans are doing to occupy themselves for the final weeks of September: OKTOBERFEST!!! I mean, everybody loves Oktoberfest! Right now, every German everywhere is packed into Lederhosen and Dirndls, hoisting around one-liter Steins of extra-strong brewski and rocking out to Schlager until the wee hours!

Munich Oktoberfest, 2009. Photo: public domain

Except, they’re not.

I hate to break it to every German-American Club in our own Republic, most of whose members are at present deep in the throes of Knockwurst catatonia, but outside of Bavaria, Oktoberfest—originally a public feast honoring the marriage of the Crown Prince Ludwig to Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen in 1810—isn’t a thing.

Oktoberfest 1823. Image: public domain

Remember, friends, until pretty damn recently, “Germany” as we know it was a tangled network of Electorates and rando city-states (that’s the technical term). Even today, every region has its own dialect, its own wackadoodle seasonal festivals, and its own culture, by which, as Dave Barry would say, I mean “beer.”

In the United States, however—a country, lest I remind you, that is about 50 times the size of Germany and has its own share of regional cultural differences—German always seems synonymous with Bavarian. Germany is giant steins of Bier. Germany is pretzels. Germany is Tracht, or traditional dress which, thanks to the Führer’s fondness for all things “traditional,” always carries the tinge of Nazism wherever it’s to be found (either unintentionally or intentionally, if you’re the AfD).

To most Germans, the American Vorbild (FORE-bild, archetype but literally “before-picture”) of Bavaria qua Germany ranges from perplexing to offensive; to me, because I have only lived in Berlin (and briefly Münster, on the direct other side of the country from Bavaria), my immediate associations with Germany aren’t Bavarian at all: they’re the Alexanderplatz TV tower, the New National Gallery, the Dussmann bookstore and every random street in Kreuzberg. And yet, when my publisher showed me the first mockups of the cover art for the book I wrote about Germany, these included: a ginormous greasy sausage (Oktoberfest!); the butt of a guy in Lederhose (OKTOBERFEST! GET IT?); and, finally, a classic Bavarian cuckoo clock that had been broken into splinters. Everybody else loved the cuckoo clock, but I am so disconnected from Bavarian culture that I was like, Wait, what the fuck is that thing? I had to Google “cuckoo clock Germany.”

Of course, I am aware that the regional truth of actual Oktoberfest will never dampen the gusto with which German-Americans (broadly conceived) celebrate it, or their alleged cultural heritage, or Herkunft (HAIR-koonft), writ large. In fact, there are entire “German” traditions celebrated Stateside that aren’t German at all. Take, for example, the mythical Weihnachtsgurke, or “Christmas pickle,” a tradition where parents hide a pickle ornament on the Christmas tree for kids to find. Germans do not do this. Germans have never done this. Germans love Christmas, and they love pickles, but never the twain shall meet. (Indeed, a true authentic German Tannenbaum contains only one thing: FIRE.)

And then there’s my personal favorite, “Schnitzelbank” (SHNIT-sul-BONK).

A few weeks ago, I was celebrating my daughter’s first day of preschool by giving her a paper cone full of enough candy to diabeticize her entire class (in the German tradition), and I got into the best Awl-related Twitter conversation that has ever come to pass. The sibling-writers Eve and Jesse Andrews were reminiscing about their Ausbildung at a German school in Pittsburgh, and while they had only hazy recollections of what may or may not have been a Schultüte (i.e. candy cone), both had vivid memories of something called “Schnitzelbank.”

it’s a combo children’s song & drinking song that teaches you opposites (here/there, crooked/straight). also it’s about furniture

— jesse andrews (@_jesse_andrews_) August 31, 2017

it's a combo children's song & drinking song that teaches you opposites (here/there, crooked/straight). also it's about furniture

— jesse andrews (@_jesse_andrews_) August 31, 2017

the chorus goes "oh you beautiful wood cutting bench"

— eve andrews (@eefandrews) August 31, 2017

our entire public elementary school class would sing it at annual recitals which in retrospect was kinda weird

— eve andrews (@eefandrews) August 31, 2017

I’d never heard of this before. I was like, What the fuck is that? Is this like the cuckoo clock? Am I truly the worst Germanist in the world? I may just be (I can’t tell the difference between Goethe and Schiller’s skulls, for one), but it turns out that I did have my own memory of “Schnitzelbank,” namely, thus:

So off I went, down the inevitable Schnitzelbank rabbit hole (as you do), and what I discovered was…YouTube after YouTube of middle-aged American guys in Lederhosen (LAY-dur-hoe-sun, and that’s the plural, as in “pantses”; here I am talking about multiple guys in multiple pairs; the singular is Lederhose, and that’s what one person wears). And here these guys are, schooling us all on the “correct” pronunciation of the word schön. (To be fair, the ö is pretty hard to approximate in English phonetics, but I’d go with SCHOOOOOOOEN before SHANE, pace Wayne Newton).

I mean, every line begins with the phrase Ist das nicht ein (ISST doss NISHT ayn), which technically means “is this not a,” but uses a construction, nicht ein (or “not a”) that is not correct in Standard German; German has its own word for that, kein (rhymes with “brine”), and as such every first-year German classroom in the world contains at least one poster with a circle-slash nicht ein on it. (I mean, maybe that shit flies in Bavarian, I don’t know.) Also, the word Schnitzelbank is feminine, so any article preceding it would be inflected with a feminine -e ending, so technically it would be Ist das keine Schnitzelbank, etc etc etc etc ekshully zat’s not right to the billionth. Something wasn’t richtig.

So I fact-checked, by which I mean I asked my friend Kersten, who serves as this column’s official cultural arbiter, subject-inspirer and spell-check. He said he’d never heard of “Schnitzelbank” until he attended one of Missouri’s innumerable German-American festivals (at which he, of course, felt profoundly out of place). Indeed, the song is thought to originate in early 20th-Century North America, for the purposes of passing on the (incorrect) language of the forbears to one’s Kinder.

Luckily, German’s don’t seem at all mad about this American “German” stuff—I mean, if they’re going to start something, I humbly re-submit this Heinz ketchup ad set in “an American diner” from 1993:

But it’s still worth remembering, for oh, I don’t know, no reason whatsoever, that when it comes to “authentic” German culture in America—whether that be the cleavage of Oktoberfest or something else entirely—more often than not, das ist nicht ein authentic representation. Prost!

We'll Have The Fried Rice

Thu, 2017-09-21 13:04

Image: I grew up in Paterson, NJ via Facebook

I grew up kosher till my father died. Religious I wouldn’t call him. Faithful, I would say. Faithful as in filled with faith, as sailing ships are sped forth by the swell of force those on the shore can’t see. Faithful in the sense of true, as an arrow that dips and pitches in its course is true, or true enough, within the wind-channel that slams it to its target.

Lumpen immigrants—Carpathian farmers, rough-edged, more or less unlettered—my father’s people liked God, liked God a lot, if in a casual way. To Him (God was a him then) they attributed all good things. Lapses, they looked the other way. They got tired, and so why not God? Who hasn’t felt her head nod on the job and, hoping no one noticed, jolted back to duty?

Buckwheat blight, goose-pen fence-rot: bad. Worse: stillbirth, typhus, dropsy. Worse still: Cossack raids. Beyond thought: that which was beyond thought. Cousins showed up in Red Cross transports at the docks, sink-eyed, with numbered arms. In terms of God—that, well, nobody could explain.

Still, otherwise they cut Him slack. And felt it their due to receive kickback in kind.

Kashrut—no pig products or shellfish, no dairy with the meat, that five-millennia-plus diet trend—they took as of deific device, wise and right.

But God had never tried the spareribs at Port Arthur Chinese Restaurant. Did God have a mouth? On this point my father was unclear. “God spoke to Abraham, to Moses. But maybe not quite like we’re talking here.”

My mother went to school at night. We ate most dinners by ourselves. He could cook just one dish: spaghetti with Ragu sauce from a jar and substantial scoop of sour cream: then and now, a holy Eucharist to me. Tuesdays and Thursdays we went out. The Port Arthur was up a flight of stairs with chipped maroon and yellow paint.The teacups had a pleasing heft.  They played the Top 40 station he tolerated only there.

At any rate, God had ears. Or, evidently. Hence, I guess, the system—not stated aloud, per se, but well-modeled to me—by which it was kosher to order “the Fried Rice” as long as you refrained from pronouncing in full its menu name.

If the waiter supplied the missing term—“One order, Pork Fried Rice”—you had to take it back.

“Oh no no no. Oh no no. My mistake.”

Not for the waiter’s sake but God’s, obviously.

Same with “the Toast”: Shrimp Toast. Or: “This appetizer here, the Number 17.” Above all, the Port Arthur’s mockup, stateside, of “The Cantonese”: burlesque peeks of scarlet crustacean bobbing in a moody garlic-egg white-scallion sea—even for my father, raised so poor each dollar made him shake, a justifiably bank-breaking spree.

You could try “The Coldcuts” at an Italian wedding if you kept chatting about other things—gaze hazy, vague—while you forked soppressata, coppacola, mortadella, head-cheese into heaping piles on your plate.

As a guest in gentile homes you ate what had been served you. “The Applesauce and Chops” sizzled to succulence. It was common decency. “The Spinach Salad,” trawling the bottom for the smoky “Bits.” It was just polite. Anything billed as “Hawaiian.” Underneath the pineapple—well, let some things be mysteries. My dad could remember when it wasn’t yet a state.

Did you know that baloney, fried, curls on its perimeter, then puffs in the middle, forming the shape of what was then called a “Mexican hat”? Rainy afternoons at Joanne’s down the street, we tore through Oscar Meyer, packs and packs. My father, told later? Hummed the first lines of “La Cucaracha” and went back to grading papers or calling his best friend Sam up on the phone to joke.

We had two sets of dishes, to separate foodstuffs forbidden to meet. Different cupboards. A double sink. If a milchig knife touched fleisch you had to run outside and plunge it hard into the yard to be cleansed by the earth, then leave it for a week. You’d never let something traif pass your doorposts. Thus: awkward dawdling on the step—eyeing the outdoor trash cans—till the kindly neighbor, waving, turned the corner, leaving the “Casserole” of God-knows-what in your hand. God did, too—know, that is—if only in your kitchen and those of your fellow Jews.

At the latter, offered a YooHoo and hotdog in the selfsame meal, you were required to make an ostentatious deal of it: “Um, Mrs. Migdahl? I can’t—my parents—.”  Or: “Ralph, medium-rare—but you can leave that cheese off of mine.” Not to be hypocritical—everyone knew that at the Old Barn Milk Bar we got Chicken in a Basket with big Rootbeer Floats. Rather, it was simply to have said so before God, tactfully removed from the Port Arthur, St. Mary’s basement event hall, and tract-houses near-identical to ours apart from sweet framed First Communion snapshots and crosses above the beds—yet omnipresent at the Migdahls’ barbecues, hearkening for hints of sin between radio-squawked Mets scores.

My father’s people were hardly Talmudic scholars. They spoke what they called “Jewish,” which is all “Yiddish” means: the idiom of kitchen, shop, the tragicomic ethno-secular divine. You died in Hebrew, but you lived in Yiddish. If my father knew much more of the sublime archaic tongue than the rote shapes of prayers—there’s no one left alive to ask—I’d be surprised.

Still, there was something classically Judaic in this loophole logic. And it’s been argued that the Yahweh of Judaic law is not, as thought, a God of Vengeance but of mercy. My father wasn’t unaware of the bases of kashrut—respect for animals, health, restraint in a wilderness otherwise without bounds—and, if asked, would have agreed. But his God was okay with a little bending of the rules as long as He was not explicitly involved. He’d let it slide.

The sacramental “Soup”: wonton. The low-rent rapture of plunging the Pu-Pu stick into Burning-Bush sterno fire. My father died at not-quite-38, a family disease. But his life, brief as it was, abounded with such blessings. Thank goodness.

Thank God?

Depends on whose.


Shelley Salamensky is a scholar and writer with work, in print and online, in The Wall Street JournalThe Paris Review, and The New York Review of Books.

NFL Haiku Picks, Week Three

Thu, 2017-09-21 12:33

9/21 8:25 ET LA Rams -2.5 At San Francisco

Thursday Night Football!
Watch bad teams that suck! Or ‘T.
J. Hooker’ re-runs!



9/24 9:30 ET Baltimore -4 At Jacksonville  (London)

This game is on at
9 A.M. Sunday morning.
But sleep late instead.



9/24 1:00 ET Cleveland -1 At Indianapolis

The Browns are favored!
This may be because the Colts’
QB is a squirrel.



9/24 1:00 ET Pittsburgh -7.5 At Chicago

Bears fans may yearn for
The grim days of Jay Cutler
Sulking on sidelines



9/24 1:00 ET Miami -6 At NY Jets

QB Jay Cutler
Kind of sleepwalks through games with
The grace of a slug



9/24 1:00 ET Denver -3 At Buffalo

The Broncos looked good
Against the Cowboys but might
Fill up on hot wings



9/24 1:00 ET At New England -13 Houston

The Patriots should dump
This game and donate game checks
To Harvey relief



9/24 1:00 ET At Carolina -6 New Orleans

Never figured out
Why that streetcar in the play
was named Desire



9/24 1:00 ET At Minnesota Off Tampa Bay

I like the Vikings
But their mirrored stadium
Kills a ton of birds



9/24 1:00 ET Atlanta -3 At Detroit

Lions will be down
Most of the game but win like
8 Mile B-Rabbit



9/24 1:00 ET At Philadelphia -6 NY Giants

Giants O-Line is
Porous like a colander
Filled with sweet ziti



9/24 4:05 ET At Tennessee -2.5 Seattle

I also never
Figured out what that jar in
Tennessee stood for



9/24 4:25 ET Kansas City -3 At LA Chargers

The Chargers play their
Home games inside the men’s room
Of a Carl’s Junior



9/24 4:25 ET At Green Bay -9 Cincinnati

The Bengals have played
Drearily but the frozen
tundra’s not frozen



9/24 8:30 ET Oakland -3 At Washington

The Raiders are good
The Redskins’ name is racist
I really hate both



9/25 8:30 ET Dallas -3 At Arizona

It’s a good thing I
Don’t actually bet on these
Games cuz I’d be broke



The first two weeks Haiku Picks went 12-20. Sad!


Jim Behrle lives in Jersey City, NJ and works at a bookstore.

A Poem by Meghan O'Rourke

Thu, 2017-09-21 11:32

Poem for My Son

You were of the earth, like a lentil.
The taste of quince, a revulsion at meat.
The others were like a dream that scores
the body long after waking—
But you were sour spit, a pinched pain in the right hip.
There was nothing luminous about you,
oh you made the smells of the city repellant.
On the doctor’s screen,
a black dot with a line through it, a blot,
you grew slowly grey and white,
then boned and legged and oblong and minded.
I made you out of grapefruit and Rice Chex.
—The others were made of longing.—
Each time I saw you in the soundwaves
was preparatory, not romantic; not like the wind
but more like a river pushing against my legs,
insisting on its presence. In thick socks
I ate potato chips and congee, built
you without trying, splaying my ribcage.
Lugging my freight down the street,
I thought about what I wanted for you—
(love love and more love)
but you were already you, not
an outgrowth of my mind,
just your own strange, remote, hardening body,
moving toward arrival under surgical lights
in sudden, open parenthesis—


Meghan O’Rourke is a poet and nonfiction writer whose poems and essays have appeared in The New Yorker, Poetry, The Best American Poetry and more. She’s the author of the best-selling memoir The Long Goodbye and her most recent poetry collection is Sun in Days, just out from W.W. Norton.

The Poetry Section is edited by Mark Bibbins.

Underground Sex Party Attended

Thu, 2017-09-21 10:47

While the internet facilitates the demand, success, and ultimate proliferation of sex parties (the vast majority of the invites are sent through Facebook or private email lists), cruising IRL is seen by some sex-party attendees as a direct alternative to the annoyances of geolocation hook-up apps like Grindr, which can suck up hours of your time without ever providing a fuck. The result is a sort of app fatigue you’ll hear guys complaining about as they come to realize that what was once promised as an antidote to the annoyances of traditional cruising comes with its own set of annoyances.

“I find apps to be fundamentally dehumanizing,” said “Mark,” who’s 32 and had an experience he called “liberating” when attending the party Luke throws, where he sucked some dick, fucked a guy, and got fucked by another. “On an app it’s much easier to tune someone out because they’re not a person, they’re a square. They’re several pixels.”

Also “piss play is so mainstream now.” Don’t miss Rich Juzwiak reporting on the resurgence of underground sex parties in New York over at Jezebel.

Coupler, "INVENTION 2: Pattern Recognition"

Thu, 2017-09-21 09:56

When nothing makes sense suddenly everything seems to make even more sense. Enjoy.

New York City, September 19, 2017

Wed, 2017-09-20 17:53

★★ The humid breeze was a huge improvement over the humid and crowded elevator, but it didn’t offer much to appreciate on its own merits. Strangely filtered sun came glimmering in and as quickly faded back out. The breeze grew wild and rattly, jumping around up under the shirttails, a reminder that this was the remains of what had been a hurricane somewhere else. A thin, fine diagonal rain suddenly appeared and persisted, occasionally changing its angle or intensity, thwarting every possible opportunity to have gotten up and gone out for fresh air. It left things wet and unrefreshed. After dark, more rain came. Putting up a hood against it, in the stuffy night air, was exactly as uncomfortable as leaving the hood down and getting rained on.

Some Études

Wed, 2017-09-20 14:09

Image: Piano Piano! via Flickr

Crazy when you think about it that “Brevity is the soul of wit,” is a phrase I hear all the time and hate very much, is from Hamlet, which takes a long time to watch (or read). There’s not been a lot of brevity in this column when you think about it, has there? One time, back when this column used to be called “Classical Music Hour,” someone emailed me and asked me if they were meant to take a full hour to read the pieces. Officially: no. Please take six minutes and move on with your life, I beg you.

But listening to classical music often takes patience and what if you’re having one of those days where there’s literally none on reserve? You’re tapped, you’re dry, you need the jolt of energy that only a pop song or an étude can provide so hey, how about some études? What’s an étude, you might be asking, especially when presumably you already know what a pop song is? Well, an étude is a short composition for a single instrument that’s reasonably light in tone and impossible in terms of difficulty.

In the 1830s, Polish composer Frédéric Chopin composed three sets of 12 études, and I would love to share with you Op. 10, my personal favorite set of twelve recorded in 2002 by John Bingham. Chopin composed these when he was only 23 years old, which is astounding, honestly, and dedicated the set to Liszt, who was one of his mentors. What is there to say about Chopin in a column I’m hoping reads as quick and skillful as his études? He was mainly known to play in parlors, not particularly sociable, kind of hot, and died young.

It’s a little difficult to talk about twelve different pieces of music, especially ones so short. They’re like the Slavonic Dances in that sense; you’ll key into some more than others. Here’s my personal favorite, and I know it is a “basic” and “obvious” choice but I am both of those things so “chill out”: Étude No. 5 in G Flat Major “Black Keys”. Black Keys, its nickname because G Flat major uses predominantly black keys on a piano, is a ringtone of a piece. I mean that as a compliment, for what it’s worth. I heard it as a ringtone once and yelled “Black Keys!!!” and the person said, “I just like the melody.” No shit. It’s hard not to! You can immediately understand how difficult and charming it is all at once. I would advise you to listen to all twelve of these études straight through but if you have to go back and listen to Black Keys a few times over for the sake of your soul, then go wild, my friends.

Hm, what else is good here? Étude No. 1 in C Major is almost like a companion piece to Black Keys: C Major, of course, being all white keys. But it shares a sense of humor about itself and a cheerfulness I find unparalleled when my mood has soured. Études! What a nice time they can be. You can see why Chopin would go around and play these in parlors for people who like sitting. Very often, when you’re sitting, you want something short to enjoy, like a piece of video content from your favorite formerly text-driven publication. The transition from Étude No. 1 into Étude No. 2 in A Minor “Chromatique” (the minor key of C Major… this is just music stuff so if you’re like, okay???? then please don’t worry, it really doesn’t matter, I’m just bragging about knowing keys at this point). Chromatique has an air of mischief that makes it sound as if Chopin was just having a classic time, you know? It’s devious and playful in the way a 23-year-old ought to be.

And then I suppose we must talk about the final piece in this series, Étude No. 12 in C Minor “Revolutionary. Revolutionary! It’s titled as such not because the piece itself was revolutionary—though it is fantastic and ground-breaking in its own right—but because it was written in a tumultuous time, during the November Uprising AKA the Polish-Russian War. It wrecked Chopin at the time and made him endlessly worried for his home country. The conflict is present in this piece, and it has somehow eclipsed several of the more fun pieces as the most notable and memorable from this series (see “In Pop Culture” down below here). I’m not particularly partial to it, but I respect that Chopin took a form largely used for just showing off in front of your friends and instead wrote about something troubling him. Good job, buddy!!

I hope these get you through 3p.m, the worst time of day, the way a piece of dark chocolate or and iced coffee or a walk around the block get me through my day. If études are brags—and they are, I’m right—you deserve to indulge in someone else’s good skill to help you build your own. And hey, maybe you get a new ringtone out of it.

Watching 'The Blues Brothers' In Wrigleyville

Wed, 2017-09-20 12:55

“I got an A on my English paper!” the world’s biggest Blues Brothers fan exclaimed. Bruce Pelletier, a local TV producer, leaned forward in his picnic chair. His black t-shirt featured the characters’ monochromatic faces and Elwood’s third act “106 miles to Chicago” monologue, like a bald eagle paired with a quote from the Constitution. Though it seemed like an absentminded non sequitur brought on by too many beers, he tightened his grip on his plastic cup and clarified. During his time at Wright College, he wrote a paper whose thesis was a rebuttal to criticism of The Blues Brothers. “It’s probably my favorite film of all time. It’s such a Chicago movie,” he said.

He’s right. The Blues Brothers is good, actually. On a warm weeknight in late August, a crowd of Chicagoans gathered at the new Park At Wrigley plaza for a free screening of the 1980 Dan Aykroyd/John Belushi classic. The plaza is part of an ongoing $600 million renovation of the neighborhood surrounding Wrigley Field, with a jumbotron perfect for screening films or showing ads.

When the property owners reached out to Ryan Oestriech, “they wanted three themes: Chicago, baseball, and nostalgia.” Oestreich is the general manager of the Music Box Theatre, the Wrigleyville independent cinema that curated the summer’s series of screenings. “Blues Brothers is timeless because it’s an adventure with great ideas, like helping the greater good through music. And Chicago drives the whole plot!” Asked about the changes to the neighborhood, he demurred. “People are against change. If the renovations mean there’s no longer a McDonald’s or a Taco Bell or a parking lot, great. Each neighborhood is unique, that’s the best thing about Chicago. This gives the neighbors something free to come see.”

The attendees had a more mixed response. Pelletier, who works in Wrigleyville, liked the architecture of the new additions, but not the presence of corporations. “It’s pure capitalism. They just wanna make money, but ‘Greed is good’ is not good,” he said. His companion, Gina Pfeiffer, chimed in that they might lure in families who would not normally come to the area.

Her prediction rang true through a survey of the 300-plus people present. There were twentysomethings clustered around pizzas and packs of teens clutching skateboards, but the majority of the crowd were families, eager for a cheap night out. The plaza offered picnic chair rental for $5 or premium seating for $10, which included personal waitstaff and a charcuterie tray. Most had set up their own chairs or spread out blankets, marking territory before visiting the bar or food truck.

A local blues group composed of four middle-aged white dudes slipped nods to Buddies Guy and Holly into their performance while the crowd waited for the sun to set. Perhaps not wanting to steal thunder from the main event, they abstained from covering any song also covered by the Blues Brothers, sticking to standards like “Not Fade Away” and “Dizzy Miss Lizzy.” Only two people turned their chairs to face the band rather than the screen, but the kids in attendance went all-out to show their appreciation. They hopped and spun around eagerly on the pavement in a kindergarten mosh pit while their parents watched a few feet away.

The Blues Brothers simultaneously invented and perfected cliches with its story of getting the band back together to save an orphanage; it is a refreshingly anti-authority underdog story. Jake and Elwood Blues face the wrath of bar owners, country musicians, Nazis, and the police in their attempt to book a show that can earn them the $5,000 necessary to pay the orphanage’s property tax. The film’s heroes are musicians, ex-convicts, restaurant employees, and volunteers; its anarchic spirit was contagious from the very first car chase. When the Bluesmobile burst through the glass walls of the abandoned Dixie Square mall, Pelletier let out a joyous whoop.

The audience also applauded at the conclusion of every song by legends like Aretha Franklin and Ray Charles. The numerous sight gags, like Carrie Fisher’s character painting her nails while reading a flamethrower instruction manual, garnered excited laughter. The movie’s peak “snobs vs. slobs” moment comes early on, when Jake and Elwood wreak havoc in an upscale French restaurant in order to lure the maitre d back to playing trumpet in their band. The two ignore all norms of fine dining and harass customers at neighboring tables. A six-year-old girl, draped across her mom’s lap, noted the brothers’ “very loud slurping” and mimicked it, as if she too were drinking champagne on a friend’s dime.

The only time tension settled over the audience was during the next scene. The film cuts from the restaurant to an angry crowd held back by a line of cops. They jeer and spit at an assembly of Nazis, flying the swastika flag while their leader recites a pledge of allegiance to Adolf Hitler. A cop informs the protagonists that “those bums won their court case, so they’re marching today.” Such a public display of hate was straight from the headlines in 1980, allowed in a court case started 10 miles northwest of Wrigley Field. Four decades later, it was chillingly authentic.

Before the screening began, a charmingly terrible Elwood impersonator held court. His costume consisted of being tall, thin, and white in a black suit, hat, and sunglasses. He was not dedicated enough to have shaved off his mustache. When asked if “his” film had aged well, he agreed and initially defaulted to reciting the line, “I hate Illinois Nazis.” He soon realized the significance, expanding to say “And Virginia Nazis. Nazis on all sides.” Like the rest of the crowd, he erupted into applause when the onscreen Blues Brothers drove straight through the crowd of Nazis, sending them tumbling humiliated into the river below.

The biggest crowd responses came in reaction to the mere appearance of Wrigley Field, whether visual or spoken. Like an inverse of the need to boo Nazis, applause was instinctual; the hometown crowd ate it up. The stadium’s residents, once notoriously terrible at their job, are now curse-breaking world champions, owned by billionaire Trump supporters. The Blues Brothers, celluloid underdogs, are now ubiquitous via cover bands and music venues, avatars for the city of Chicago. Or at least a certain vision of it.

When the lights came up and the credits rolled, people packed up their things in the shadow of two different luxury construction projects. The orphanage had been saved, and two women headed home marveling that the same family owned all these buildings.

Things I Let Go Of

Wed, 2017-09-20 11:59

Let's Talk About 'The Art of Fielding' Lawsuit

Wed, 2017-09-20 11:47

If you remember the year 2011 when The Big Book of the Year was The Art of Fielding and you don’t want to die after reading that clause, take a moment to read over the allegations of one Charles Green against the one Chad Harbach in the matter of wrongfully appropriating elements of the former’s manuscript, Bucky’s 9th, and interpolating them into the latter’s long-languishing first novel (which then sold for $665,000 and debuted to All The Acclaim):

Whether or not you liked the book is basically irrelevant to this conversation, because the thing about The Art of Fielding is that all these years later, it continues to be A Case Study in Book Publishing. You may recall that Keith Gessen wrote a whole THESIS on the matter in Vanity Fair, as well as a 20,000-word e-book titled How A Book is Born, from his perspective as Chad’s Harvard College roommate, n+1 cofounder, and close friend. (The book should have been titled How A Unicorn is Born, but whatever.) The book was and is a darling of the publishing and literary world, and even garnered a few profiles of Chris Parris-Lamb, the hot young literary agent who negotiated the nearly unheard-of deal for a first novel.

What’s fascinating to me about this lawsuit is that, essentially the accusation boils down to “he did it better* than me.” Which I realize is unfair and reductive, because there are real and legal definitions of intellectual property that I am not personally educated in, and it’s hard to say at what level a plot point is more “baseball novel cliché” than “stolen baseball novel cliché.” Plot points don’t usually make the book! Except when they do, of course. And reading the list of accusations feels fairly damning. When you read this lawsuit, you might think, as I did, “yeah, that sounds pretty bad!” But who in their right mind would lift elements from an unsuccessful manuscript in order to magically (yes, the claim uses the phrase “magic wand”) make a successful one? Generally speaking, spurious “you ripped me off” lawsuits based not on direct plagiarism but on plot are very bad, precedent-wise. This sort of thing happening to a Major book is not a great sign and I wouldn’t be surprised if we see (or hear through the grapevine) about others.

But the main thing about The Story Of This Book (of which this lawsuit is just one chapter) is exactly that: essentially, whenever we’re talking about The Art of Fielding, we’re always going to be talking about how it came to be. The lawsuit also illuminates (again: spuriously?) the specific conversations around it having been unfinished for so long, with commentary from Gessen on the seemingly radical improvement around 2009 (around or just after Green alleges this thievery would have taken place). Doesn’t everything look suspicious? And what about the 2004 MFA thesis version of The Art of Fielding, roughly speaking the first half of what is now the book, wherein, no apparent Green-isms factor (according to Green)? Harbach’s agent disputes this firmly:

He has dozens of time-stamped files of the novel from the years he worked on it, which will show that the ‘uncanny parallelisms’ Mr. Green cites were in place as early as 2004, many from its very conception in 2000, and numerous classmates, professors and writing group peers can attest to this fact.

Ultimately the case strikes me as impossible to prove, and also Green didn’t register his copyright until 2012, so it does not look good. Probably they will settle and we will all be able to argue about this at cocktail parties in perpetuity or until the nukes, whichever comes first! But maybe Gessen should keep writing—this already looks to me like a good screenplay for an Adaptation-style metamovie; you wouldn’t even have to change the names of the books: The Art of Fielding (refined, literary, double entendre) vs. Bucky’s 9th (scrappy, prosaic). It won’t change the fact that the book wasn’t even very good.


*more successfully

Cut Copy, "Black Rainbows"

Wed, 2017-09-20 09:20

Because every day is an excruciating accumulation of moments that last lifetimes now it is even more impossible to recall recent events than it used to be back when time flowed at a normal pace and the greatest difficulty we had was with the massive amount of product by which we were constantly under barrage. So you’ve probably forgotten all about Cut Copy’s January Tape, which was such a delight back when all we wished was that the election end, because we were dumb enough to think it might make things stop being bad. Unlike everything else from back then, Cut Copy’s January Tape is still excellent, and if you haven’t listened to it in a while it is worth returning to. In any event, Cut Copy has a new one coming out soon, and here’s another track from it. Enjoy.

New York City, September 18, 2017

Tue, 2017-09-19 18:30

★★ A few nearly unnoticeable drops of drizzle became a soaking mist in the course of the brief wait in the schoolyard for the teachers to arrive. Then came plain gray and damp. The very top of the Freedom Tower’s spike was lost in the sky. Even after the ground had dried out, it was uncertain whether the clouds might start leaking again. The air in the office progressed from too hot to much too cold. Faint colors emerged in the sky on its way to darkening.

Dicks Drawn

Tue, 2017-09-19 17:03

One joke in particular highlights the strength and weakness of this mockumentary. To check one witness’s reliability, Peter and Sam must establish whether or not this witness got a handjob at summer camp. As they review the details surrounding the alleged handjob, the documentary cuts to a CGI reenactment of one nondescript figure giving another a handjob, including a nondescript cylinder standing in for the teenager’s penis. The visual gag is very funny each time they return to it, but it also is considerably advanced work for a documentary allegedly produced by teenagers. It hearkens back a bit to The Office’s ninth-season presentation of Threat Level Midnight. While funny and satisfying, it was hard to shake the question: When did Michael Scott get so good at cinematography?

This isn’t spoiling anything really except one of the better dick jokes on television since the “Mean Jerk Time” calculation on “Silicon Valley.” Hurry up and finish your work so you can go home and watch it, because it is a fun little satire of all the true crime shows we love to argue about, and what better plans do you have? Then tell me tomorrow who did the dicks!!