Make “Ghostbusters” great again? Reboot culture, male rage and the pathology of nostalgia

Ghostbusters

In the 17th century, Swiss mercenaries who’d spend too much time wandering the world became depressed, lost weight, even took their own lives. A doctor came up with a name for the malady – nostalgia. Sufferers were treated with leeches and in some cases, buried alive. As an Atlantic story recounts:

Swiss physician Johannes Hofer coined the term in his 1688 medical dissertation, from the Greek nostos, or homecoming, and algos, or pain. The disease was similar to paranoia, except the sufferer was manic with longing, not perceived persecution, and similar to melancholy, except specific to an object or place.

Though Hofer is credited with naming nostalgia, it existed prior to that. During the Thirty Years War, at least six soldiers were discharged from the Spanish Army of Flanders with el mal de corazón. The disease came to be associated with soldiers, particularly Swiss soldiers, who were reportedly so susceptible to nostalgia when they heard a particular Swiss milking song, Khue-Reyen, that its playing was punishable by death.

For hundreds of years, then, nostalgia was treated like a disease or malady of some kind.

By Marcel Proust’s “In Search of Lost Time” novels, the longing is not for another country, but for the past, as a madeleine dipped in tea summons memories of childhood in a summer house in Combray. Melancholy is tinged with the pleasure of remembering.

And then somehow, in the late 20th century, nostalgia became a marketing strategy – a way to sell T-shirts and oldies reissues and movies and TV that riffed on the past in comfortable, uplifting ways. “Happy Days” gave people a taste of the ‘50s without The Red Scare or significant racism. Baby Boomers could buy the soundtrack to “The Big Chill”; Gen Xers could go to a Replacements reunion concert decades after the band broke up. Nostalgia merchants sold people old movies or Norman Rockwellish postcards. (The music critic Simon Reynolds, in his book “Retromania,” gets into the process in fascinating detail.)

Instead of being about pain, or at least, longing, nostalgia meant a way to sell things.

It’s all worth remembering as we get closer to one of the most divisive pop culture events of the year, which makes even the rancorous presidential election look mild: The reboot of “Ghostbusters.”

The all-female reboot, of course, may be great or may be awful; the few minutes of trailers that have been released haven’t given us a terribly complete sense. It may be more mainstream than the sly/ironic original, and more based on action movie convention. Dan Aykroyd’s recent rave after a test-screening (“Apart from brilliant, genuine performances from the cast both female and male, it has more laughs and more scares than the first 2 films plus Bill Murray is in it!”) is kind of hard to believe.

So I’m prepared for it to be anywhere from bad to quite good. (And I find Melissa McCarthy a bit blustery for my taste. And yeah, I know that’s the point.) But the intense, heat-of-a-thousand-suns anger over the very notion of a “Ghostbusters” with four women in the lead has baffled me a bit. This was a comedy, so remaking it with women is at least a funny, slightly campy idea. And it’s not like the studio is pulling the original out of circulation: If you want to watch it again, you can. If the new one doesn’t interest you, you can just skip it.

But the phrase that keeps coming up is that this reboot is somehow destroying its audience’s childhood. Melissa McCarthy summed it up this way: “’You’re ruining my childhood!’ I mean, really. Four women doing any movie on earth will destroy your childhood?’”

Some of it is simple sexism. (Somehow the outrage over a Channing Tatum-led spinoff, which could have been truly bad, did not reach anywhere near this level.)

But some of it is a little more complicated: It’s a nostalgia that has converted from that drifty, those-were-the-days fondness to anger and pain. It has, in other words, gone from our contemporary, consumer society meaning of nostalgia — something fun that “takes us back” — to the kind of psychological wound that it meant in centuries past. If narcissism can turn into what Heinz Kohut called “narcissistic rage,” when the subject’s self-esteem is punctured, this is nostalgic rage – what happens when the past seems to be destroyed and the sufferer lashes out at the supposed destroyer.

Nostalgia probably has evolutionary roots: It may’ve evolved because it allowed people to feel better, mentally and physically, and thus become more likely to survive and reproduce. Some research suggests that nostalgia’s warm feelings may literally warm people up. “If you can recruit a memory to maintain physiological comfort, at least subjectively, that could be an amazing and complex adaptation,” the English psychologist Tim Wildschut told the New York Times. “It could contribute to survival by making you look for food and shelter that much longer.”

But like any evolutionary adaptation, nostalgia can go too far, and it’s in the rage around what seems like a harmless movie that we see how fierce it can become.

One thing that’s hard to avoid wondering, though: How did anyone’s “childhood” become so deeply dependent on a single movie? An acute sense of nostalgia might make sense if one’s youthful home, one’s parents, or one’s childhood friends were all suddenly evaporated. But for a rebooted “Ghostbusters” to send Twitter into a frenzy of horror – it may be that for a lot of these enraged fanboys, their childhood was not so much innocent as threadbare.

And when a loss is so acute, when it causes so much pain, it means that these childhoods were based on the sense that they would be at the center of the world forever. If the people complaining about the reboot were struggling financially, if they were newly divorced or widowed, if they were deeply lonely for the first time in their lives, then clinging to a childhood totem would be perfectly reasonable. But it’s hard to get around the idea that this is just the chauvinism of insecure straight white men upset they will have to share pop culture with women. No one has suggested destroying all art or pop culture by men, but “Ghostbusters” seems to have become symbolic of something similar.

If your identity is based on pop culture — which is so deeply dependent on money and a changing world — grown-up life is going to be a constant struggle. As we get closer to the film’s July launch, this will not be a pretty picture.

Source: New feed

Fact, fiction and tangled “Roots”: How a family history that wasn’t entirely true broke through America’s biggest lies

Roots

Malachi Kirby, Forest Whitaker and Emayatzy Corinealdi in “Roots” (Credit: The History Channel)

“Roots,” in its various forms, is largely a work of imagination rather than history. It wasn’t presented that way at first, which has led to no end of grief and confusion over the years, but at this point that’s hardly an indictment. Four decades after the publication of Alex Haley’s Pulitzer-winning book and the production of an NBC miniseries that reshaped America’s consciousness, it’s definitely not a secret. The important questions, I would say, are about what kind of imaginative work “Roots” is and was, and what image we see reflected when we gaze into it. What did we learn from “Roots” in the 1970s, and what can we learn from it now, as a buffed-up action-adventure remake whose final chapter airs Thursday on the History Channel?

On the principle that historical fiction always tells us more about the present than about the past, we can conclude that Haley’s 1976 book pursuing his ancestry all the way back through the age of slavery and into Africa, and then the 1977 miniseries that was seen by more than half the United States population, described a moment when many Americans were ready to begin reckoning with the darkest areas of our national story. THC’s new “Roots” features many admirable performances, and has more thematic complexity and much higher production values than the stodgy, stagey LeVar Burton original. But it cannot possibly have the cultural impact of the first series. Among other things, it’s curious for someone of my generation to encounter “Roots” as a work obviously shaped by Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained” and Steve McQueen’s “12 Years a Slave,” when the true cultural flow is the other way around.

Setting aside the question of whether Haley’s account of tracing his family history back to a single African ancestor was factually accurate (which it almost certainly wasn’t), “Roots” did what fiction can often do more effectively than history: It dug for deeper levels of truth by other means. If Haley’s book was an unstable blend of myth, history and invention, two revolutionary truths lay at its core that forever changed Americans’ perceptions of the slavery era. Whether or not the intrepid Mandinka warrior Kunta Kinte ever existed, his story made the point that every African abducted into slavery had been an individual person with a home, a family and a subjective life experience, not just a unit within an undifferentiated mass of black suffering. After that came one of the most obvious and most deliberately ignored facts of American life: African-Americans and European-Americans were genetically intertwined, and in many cases closely related, largely because of the widespread rape of black women by the white men who owned them.

Those things were already well understood by historians and other scholars by 1977, and perhaps by anyone who’d ever struggled through a William Faulkner novel. It was no mystery, within the black community, why many African-Americans have lighter complexions than are typically found in West Africa. But for mainstream American society, in a decade when the population was about 80 percent white, these specific truths about the immense historical crime of slavery remained explosive. Even if you understood, as a white person, that the portrayals of slavery in “Gone With the Wind” and “Birth of a Nation” and other, less overtly offensive works were racist hogwash, it was possible to perceive slavery as an unfortunate historical anomaly that existed long ago and involved people long dead. Mistakes were made! But then Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address and it was all better, right?

What “Roots” introduced into popular culture was the unavoidable fact that slavery is not some distant abstraction but a current that runs all the way through American history, whose effects are literally visible to this day. It was not just a misguided social institution or an outmoded economic practice but a crime of violence perpetrated over many decades on the bodies and lives of real people, not categorically distinct from the people who sat mesmerized on their couches in 1977. Most of the viewing audience for the first “Roots” was white (simply going by the numbers), and I think it’s fair to say that the reaction to the miniseries exposed a gulf in racial perception within the white population that already existed, and has since become a permanent factor in America’s political and cultural divisions.

Educated white liberals in metropolitan areas embraced Haley’s book and the subsequent NBC miniseries in large numbers, and perhaps with too much sentimentality and not enough critical distance. Haley was definitely not blameless for the way “Roots” was packaged and presented, and for the ensuing controversy. He knew perfectly well that some elements of his story were not accurate or at least not supported by evidence. There may have been an African named Kunta Kinte who was taken from Gambia, for instance, and there definitely was an American slave called Toby owned by the Waller family of Virginia. But they are almost certainly not the same person. Haley’s account of Kunta’s idyllic life on the Gambia River is largely inconsistent with the known history of that place and time; his account of Kunta and his descendants between the American Revolution and the Civil War was guesswork at best, and much of it has subsequently been proven false.

In fairness, Haley originally intended to present his book as “faction,” a blend of historical research, oral tradition and invention. But his publisher classified it as nonfiction and so did the New York Times, where “Roots” sat atop the best-seller list for many weeks. So Haley found himself in a categorical trap and then continued to defend the indefensible, even as his problems multiplied. He ultimately had to admit that numerous passages in “Roots” had been plagiarized (inadvertently, he insisted) from a 1967 novel called “The African,” by anthropologist Harold Courlander. When two professional genealogists dug through his story, they not only debunked much of the material in “Roots” but identified other enslaved people who fit the anecdotes handed down within Haley’s family better than the characters in his book did.

Another cadre of white folks, meanwhile, rebelled against “Roots” and seized upon its inaccuracies as a way of rejecting its message entirely. Ronald Reagan, who had run for president in 1976 and was preparing to do so again in 1980, called the TV series “anti-white” propaganda meant to stir up unrest in the inner cities. That was an early iteration, although surely not the first one, of a right-wing cultural mantra you could hear today in any given hour on Fox News, applied to Beyoncé or Black Lives Matter or Barack Obama or whatever else. (Or to the new “Roots,” surely.) Needless to say, there is no conceivable logic to arguing that if Haley invented certain details about the lives of his ancestors, that invalidates his portrayal of the lived reality of slavery, or proves that he was out to defame white people and make them look like vicious historical villains. But almost nothing about the dynamic of race and culture in American society is dictated by logic.

I have issues with the History Channel “Roots,” which has entirely different flaws from the original. Those are almost entirely about storytelling, not about history. As Adam Serwer puts it in a useful Buzzfeed article, the new “Roots” suffers from the “Django problem,” meaning the desire to frame the endurance and survival of enslaved African-Americans largely in terms of violent resistance. That’s understandable on many levels, since too much of American history and pop culture depicted slaves as noble but docile, suffering in silence and singing hymns. Slave rebellions and other overt acts of resistance were not infrequent, and a great deal of the inhuman brutality practiced by slave-owners was driven by terror and shame. But the frenetic rhythm of this new “Roots” feels overly calculated, especially in the opening two chapters; contemporary viewers will lose interest in Kunta Kinte (played by the charismatic young British actor Malachi Kirby), apparently, unless he’s presented as an indomitable action hero, a Mandinka Jason Bourne who never shows weakness and never gives in.

Many people caught up in the original “Roots” moment, black or white or otherwise, yearned to believe that Alex Haley had done something that no African-American (at the time) had apparently ever done: He had confirmed the validity of his family’s cherished oral history, handed down across seven generations, with objective evidence, and he had identified a specific individual ancestor who was born in Africa and abducted into slavery. It was an immensely alluring and even romantic notion — the prospect that the past can still be recovered, even by a people who have suffered a traumatic dislocation unlike anything else in modern history. In fact, Haley had only recovered that past in mythic or poetic form, and then obfuscated that for too long. It was important to be clear about that, but I’m not sure it even matters anymore.

“Roots” sparked a new understanding of slavery and, paradoxically enough, a new conflict over slavery. The current “Roots” has more to do that that contemporary ideological conflict, I would say, than with Haley’s book. “Roots” sparked a new interest in genealogy that extended well beyond black people, and that has only accelerated in the age of the internet. In the decades since, many African-Americans have traced their ancestry back into the age of slavery, and even to Africa, with a much higher degree of confidence than Haley could. If the new “Roots” is an ambivalent morality tale, pitched to a new era of black activism and identity politics, the original “Roots” was less artfully wrought but much bigger. It was a work of fiction disguised as fact, and that fiction contained shattering truths that blew open some of America’s biggest lies.

Source: New feed

Tegan and Sara’s call to arms: “The worst thing that could happen right now in the LGBT community is that we become apathetic”

Tegan and Sara

Tegan and Sara (Credit: Lindsey Byrnes)

On “Love You to Death,” Tegan and Sara continue to offer up hook-rich songs exploring the complexities of relationships. This time, though, they’ve ditched guitars for a pure synthpop sound. And the relationship they scrutinize the most is their own. After literally coming to blows during an earlier tour, the Quin sisters realized that their music couldn’t survive their anger at one another much longer. Therapy and a lot of hard conversations led them to feeling stronger than ever, strong enough to write about the intricacies of twin-hood in new songs like “100X” and “U-Turn.”

Though their sound may have evolved considerably from their more folksy roots, the Quins still carry a full arsenal of creative control, queer pride, and intimate relationships with their fans. Tegan Quin spoke to Salon about performing in states with anti-LGBT legislation, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and why their swag is so cool.

As you’re on this very ambitious tour, how do you feel about performing in states where there is currently anti-LGBT legislation under consideration?

Unfortunately, if we didn’t go everywhere where there was anti-LGBT legislation, we would not be going very many places. Around the world there’s still so much work, to be done, and we still see it. There’re different things that different artists and corporations and people can do. For instance, the movement towards taking businesses and business out of North Carolina, like when you’re a big movie company or a big brand like Coca Cola or Bruce Springsteen, that’s awesome. That can make profound change and can affect change and can reach a lot of people. I think for an artist our size, where we’re still quite modestly sized, to pull out of playing a show in North Carolina would just be punishing a very small part of the population and probably a very queer-friendly part of the population, so I don’t know if there’s as much of a benefit.

We see going to countries and specifically states with anti-LGBT legislation in progress or on the books already as a celebration. Like we go there and we bring hope and we hopefully bring inspiration and rally the troops and keep everybody really focused. It’s actually insane—like you wouldn’t even believe it—in the last few months how much we hear in the press, like people saying, “Now that gay marriage is legal in America, what are you guys going to focus on?” First of all, people are trying to repeal gay marriage in America and obviously trans rights are up constantly right now. It’s so interesting how people just decide, “Oh, everything’s fine now. Gay stuff is totally normal and everybody’s fine.” It’s one of those things where Sara and I feel we’ll spend the rest of our career talking about.

We had a big talk at the beginning of this record cycle; we want to go to all those countries, we want to go to all those states, we want to make sure we’re bringing hope and we’re keeping everybody motivated. The worst thing that could happen right now in the LGBT community is that we become apathetic.

Do you think as openly gay artists you’re expected to automatically be more political about everything?

Absolutely. I think it’s a personal choice, you don’t have to. I think that if we said, “Oh we don’t really want to talk about politics” or “Why do we always have to talk about being gay?” then it would come off as if we were ashamed of who we are or what we are. And that’s fine with us. I actually like talking about it.

We were raised very politically, and my mom was a feminist. I think we learned very early on that we should absolutely speak out about things that matter to us, and obviously LGBT stuff has always been our focus, but women are our focus, youth are our focus.

For me, being outspoken is a part of the band we are. Being onstage from night to night, our job is to put on a great musical show, and I think we’re very careful not to get up onstage and preach. I think we walk a very respectful line. I don’t assume that every single person in the audience has the same beliefs as me. I’m sure we’re probably fairly aligned. I don’t think that there’re probably many people that would be in complete disagreement with us. Our job onstage is to make music, but we certainly try to use our power in the world and in our industry to help as much as we can and raise awareness. I think if we just all of a sudden out of the blue were like, “We don’t want to talk about sexism or misogyny or homophobia anymore. We’re done! We’re done talking about that stuff. Let’s just talk about the music!” people would be outraged.

I’m not going to lie; when I see artists who I know are queer going, “I don’t want to talk about my personal life,” it makes me feel weird. I think that inner homophobia kicks in and I’m like, “Why aren’t they proud of being gay? Should we not be proud of being gay? Is it hurting our career? Would we be more successful if we didn’t talk about being gay?” I slide into a dark place sometimes when people are experiencing their own inner homophobia in the public. I’m like, “Uhh, don’t make it weird.”

As Canadians who do a lot of traveling, what’s your response when you see the way that Justin Trudeau is getting this whole Internet mythology?

Right now, in 2016, certainly in North America but, you know, Western culture, we love celebrity. Our world is transforming very quickly where we are able to follow people 24/7 and obsess over them. Obviously, when you compare our last prime minister of 11 years, Stephen Harper, to Justin Trudeau, it makes sense that people are really obsessed. He’s like our version of the Kennedys. He comes from a political family, he’s very attractive, he’s very articulate, he’s very educated, he’s very progressive. His politics—obviously I’m a liberal so I love his politics—but I think what he’s done with his cabinet and what he’s done with his time in office is incredible. I can see why it’s inspired so many people in Canada and outside of Canada. I also think we’re a culture obsessed with celebrity, so there’s a lot of focus on “He’s so handsome! He’s so this and he’s so that.” It’s like following the royals or following the Kennedys. I get it. The truth is if it raises awareness around the world about Canada and about some of the awesome stuff that’s happening there, you can find the positive in that.

I think with increased celebrity comes increased scrutiny, and I think that’s always the fine line. On a very very very small scale, Sarah and I have found that the more popular we become, the more scrutiny we’re under, the more criticism, the more quickly people are to judge you and to rip you apart, and that sucks. You’re often doing the exact same thing you were doing when you were unknown and people loved it, and somehow when more people are watching, it’s all of a sudden like, “Meh!” I feel for him, you know.

It’s a very interesting situation, but I did see him speaking recently with Barack Obama. Watching the two of them speak made me very happy and very proud. I’m very proud of the political system in Canada, and that our leader is such an articulate and thoughtful person. Watching Barack Obama talk with him, I was reminded how incredibly intelligent and articulate your president is and how sad I feel that that might change. 

Moving onto the music, do you feel some of the songs you and Sara write end up being sequels to songs you’ve written before or continuing the same storyline?

To some degree, for sure. I will say that neither of us suffered fresh defeat or rejection or anything when we were writing “Love You to Death.” We both felt a desire to go back and reflect on the past with new perspective. I think for both of us (we decided without really talking about it), we both made an effort to write more about our own relationship to relationships rather than writing about a specific moment. I know for myself, personally, I didn’t write about one person or a breakup. I wrote about how I behaved in relationships and how I feel like I treated people in the past and how I feel it’s affected relationships. I’m always looking backwards, I’m always having moments of like, “Wow, I can’t believe I did that!” And having ten years of perspective to re-see it and relearn some of the situations, I think it’s important. I use writing as a cathartic process to learn.

A lot of your songs are about different aspects of relationships. Do you think you might write about other things later, or are you already doing that on songs that don’t make the records?

I’ll be honest, every once in a while we get that question, and inside I’m always like “I can’t think of a song off the top of my head right now that isn’t about relationships that’s popular.” I guess there are certainly political songs that people have written. The other day I was listening to Lucas Graham talk about “7 Years” and he’s talking about his dad, but he’s talking about life and his relationship to his family and having kids. I was like, “I guess that’s not about love, but it’s sort of about love. Kinda.” I definitely find it intriguing to imagine writing a song that’s not about myself or about a relationship. I guess it hasn’t really piqued my interest.

I’ve done a bit of songwriting for other people and even that doesn’t really keep my attention, because I really do feel that music for me is about Tegan and Sara, and I think that my main priority is to write from my perspective and what I’ve learned. I think I’m invested in my music so much because it’s mine. I think if I were writing about someone else or something else I wouldn’t be interested. Sara scored a film last year, and I was excited for her to do something on her own. I was asked to be involved, and I just thought it’d be really cool for Sara to work on her own, but I thought if it’s not about me, I don’t know if I wanna. Maybe this makes me sound insanely self-absorbed, but I was like, maybe I don’t want to spend a bunch of time writing about something that’s not about me. We don’t write a ton of things about things other than ourselves, our experiences, our emotions related to the industry. I guess on the last record, we wrote “I’m Not Your Hero” about how we feel that the LGBT community views us and some of the struggles we’ve had with representing them. We have written political stuff, but it’s still always sort of set in the tone of love and relationships. I think we’re always trying to write songs that most people will relate to.

I like also on the new record how the songs you’ve said are about each other could be interpreted to be about many kinds of relationships. You leave a lot of the songs open to interpretation.

I totally understand that there’s a desire to know what we write about, or what our lives are like. That personal nature to our music is important. I think it helps people connect and get to know us. It’s been a big part of our career and what Tegan and Sara is. I think ultimately what people are really doing when they listen to our music is thinking about themselves and thinking about their own relationships and situations. I’m always a bit reluctant to be too specific when I’m writing, because I worry it will inevitably remove certain listeners because they’ll be like “I can’t relate!” and that’s the worst.

Watching your videos, they’re awesome and fun, but the songs they go with, they’re about more serious things than dog grooming, the focus of “100X.” I was wondering if that was by design, if you wanted to have videos that were more eye-catching and funny than the songs were?

Our idea with making video content to accompany each song on the record was from feedback that’d been given from our audience, which was that often it’s not the singles that are everyone’s favorites, it’s the deeper cuts on the record. It’s only singles that ever get videos, so we were like, Well, what if we asked our record company to take the budget for two singles we’ll have and actually spread the video budget over ten songs? Because we’re never going to put out a Taylor Swift $2 million video, we’re not going to get that kind of money ever. Our budget for all of the videos is probably the catering budget on one of those videos.

So we started to get creative and we looked at all ten songs and we were like, What’s ten interesting ideas? Who are ten artists that we’d love to collaborate with? We wanted to collaborate with women, with queer artists. We went down the list of ideas and things and started reaching out to people. We thought less about specifically what each song was about. Like instead of having a literal video, we thought it might be just cool to do something visually interesting. We think it’s really funny how popular dogs and cats are on the internet. We thought it’d be funny to do something with dogs since we’re known as cat people. I think Jes Rona is an incredible writer and an incredible comedian and an incredible woman who is working in three different industries, and she’s created this really hilarious Instagram page. But there’s something very sad about the dogs and we thought it would be an interesting juxtaposition with the music.

Music videos are also so tough because you’re competing with Rihanna, Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, the ones who get millions of dollars for videos. We’re never going to have a video that looks like that or feels like that, so we’re always trying to come up with ideas that will be memorable, but can be done for $7,000.

Another thing you guys are known for is you put a lot of thought into your merchandise. Where does that spirit come from, or why you make that such a big part of your effort?

Straight up, we were such big music fans growing up and sometimes when I would go to concerts I was outraged at how large the sizes were, how cheap the shirts themselves felt, and how basic the designs were. When we started the early part of our career, I realized that’s because it’s expensive to make merchandise and it’s expensive to hire someone to design your merchandise. As soon as we started to do well—sort of in the 2003-2004 range—we hired Sara’s partner, who had just gotten out of design school. We were like, “You are our creative director, and you are going to come up with everything to do with our band.”

We started to build what we felt was a merchandise company that would earn the respect of our audience. We’d always print on quality things, we would always have new designs, the designs would be hand crafted by our team, everything would be personalized and everything would be approved by us so they knew they weren’t just being sold a concert t-shirt. They were being sold a shirt that we would wear, too. Especially in the early part of our career, I mean fuck, man, we were out at the merch table selling those shirts. That was how we got from city to city. We were literally using merch money to fill the van full of gas and pay for hotels. It was such a personal part of our business. Plus, I just loved it.

We were trapped in a van alone with each other all day long. It was like nighttime came and I couldn’t wait to talk to strangers. I was like ‘I don’t care, I’ll talk to anyone.’ I just wanted to interact, and we started to hear these incredible stories. There was this amazing thing where buying a t-shirt from us became a point of pride from the fans because they knew they were supporting us. They literally knew it was a way to put $20 in our pocket. It became this incredible exchange between us and our audience. It was very personal. We try to retain that, even though we sell a lot more t-shirts than we did before, and even though we’re not out there selling them personally. We have the exact same process in place that we did when we were just starting out.

In reading other interviews you’ve done, something that kept coming up was you saying things like “I want to play the venues that Arcade Fire and Vampire Weekend are playing.” It’s very rare that you hear a woman being comfortable expressing ambition to grow and develop, and I wondered if you hear women in the music industry talking about wanting to grow and develop, or if you think it’s kind of taboo for a woman to admit she wants that?

There are obviously women with incredible ambition. I mean look at who’s selling records and who are the top concerts artists, like Rihanna, Beyoncé, Katy Perry, Taylor Swift. I mean, hugely ambitious artists who run their empires. Obviously, I don’t think we’re alone in our ambition. I do think women speak less openly, I think you’re right. I don’t know if I would go so far as to call it taboo. I think women tend to be less bombastic and direct about their ambition, and it’s rare that you see women talking about money.

I think, for Sara and I, it’s been since the beginning of our career. Obviously, our second record was called “This Business of Ours.” We came from a single parent household; my mom went back and got a bachelor’s degree when we were kids and got a master’s degree when we were teenagers. She’s a social worker, but she flipped real estate our entire life, and did incredibly well for a social worker and is suddenly retired at 58 years old, and instilled in us an incredible desire to create our own path and to be in charge of our own enterprise. She didn’t let us sign a record deal until we were 18, even though we were approached before we were 18 because she said she would not sign for us. She wanted it to be our decision.

From the first contract we signed, from the first day of being 18 years old and being in this business, we were business owners. We took this business very seriously. For us, it’s been a point of pride to talk about our ambition. For us, it’s not about money either, right? It’s about agency. For me, I want to be in charge of the venues I’m playing, the audience that I’m cultivating, how I’m marketed to that audience. I want to write every song, I want to be in the studio for every single note that’s made. It’s always been about control and agency and I think in the last few years, it’s been about admitting out loud: Hey, we want to go everywhere, we want to reach as many people as we can. We want to effect change. In order to do that, we have to compete on a commercial level.

I think that there is a double standard. There’s a lot of acts that we’ve seen that put out a record and everyone is like, “Oh they’re so cool, that’s so amazing, and that’s so great they’re playing such huge venues. That’s so great.” But the more successful we get, the more people push back and say things like, “Well, how come you can’t just be happy with what you have?” I think back to our mom loading us into the minivan in minus-20 [degrees] Calgary, Alberta weather while she went to drop us off at the daycare because she had to get to school early to get her master’s and I think, what if someone had stopped my mom and said, “Why aren’t you just happy making $30,000 a year, barely being able to feed your kids?” No one would have done that. People are proud of my mom for stepping up and giving us the life that we have.

Sara and I feel like we have an obligation to be successful. I want to reach more people because there’s no other queer artist like us. There’s no gay women in the mainstream, there’s no gay women on pop radio. We have an opportunity. It would be ridiculous to pass up the chance to make the mainstream diversified.

Source: New feed

New super PAC to help Trump, this time organized by a friend

WASHINGTON (AP) — A close friend of Donald Trump has helped start a super PAC to support him, potentially giving the presumptive Republican presidential nominee his first big-donor help for the general election.

Tom Barrack, a Los Angeles real estate investor, said in an interview with CNN on Thursday that the group has already received $32 million in financial commitments. The group is called Rebuilding America Now, according to documents filed Thursday with federal regulators.

Like other super PACs, the new group will be able to accept unlimited amounts of money from wealthy donors, but won’t be permitted to take directions from the candidate or his campaign.

There already are several super PACs backing Trump, but none is seen as having the blessing of his campaign. That potentially could cause confusion for donors who want to be convinced that they’re giving to a group that Trump himself sees as helpful to his cause.

Another complication: Trump has repeatedly condemned all super PACs as “corrupt.”

There is no such confusion on the Democratic side. There’s no dispute that Priorities USA, which is stocked with friends and allies of likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, is the major money vehicle aiding her. It has plans to spend at least $136 million in advertising before the November election.

One existing pro-Trump group, Great America PAC, had raised $1 million, but was in debt at the end of April. So far, it has raised most of its money from people giving $200 or less. Another entity, Committee for American Sovereignty, formed only recently and is run by a former aide to one of Trump’s former rivals, Ben Carson.

Barrack’s group may prove to be the natural choice for wealthy Trump donors, thanks to his long friendship and business relationship with the candidate.

The executive chairman of Colony Capital, Barrack met Trump in 1988 when he negotiated the sale of The Plaza hotel in New York to Trump. Barrack’s publicist described the men as having since “solidified a lifelong friendship between themselves and their families.”

Barrack, whose company owns Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch, among many other real estate assets, also has been “close personal friends” with Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign chairman and chief strategist, for almost four decades, according to a bio provided by the publicist, Kristin Celauro.

Barrack held a large fundraiser for Trump last month, a dinner that cost at least $25,000 to attend. The money raised there will be divided among the Trump campaign, Republican National Committee and 11 state GOP parties, per a fundraising agreement struck in May.

That event followed an increasingly public role for Barrack as a Trump promoter. Barrack spoke glowingly of Trump Feb. 1 in an interview on CNBC.

“He’s one of the kindest, and actually most humble, friends that I’ve had,” Barrack said. “I have so much respect for him because at this point in his career, wandering into the milieu was not easy, and he’s changed the dialogue of the debate.”

A full endorsement of Trump followed a few weeks after Barrack’s CNBC appearance. The Trump campaign celebrated it in a Feb. 29 press release.

“Mr. Barrack and Mr. Trump have worked together and opposite each other on past deals,” it said. “They have had a great relationship and share a mutual admiration for their respective accomplishments.”

___

Associated Press writer Jill Colvin contributed to this report.

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Follow Julie Bykowicz on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/bykowicz

Source: New feed

Marlins LHP Wei-Yin Chen has no-hitter through 6 innings

Wei-Yin Chen

Miami Marlins’ Wei-Yin Chen, of Taiwan, delivers a pitch during the first inning of a baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, Thursday, June 2, 2016, in Miami. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee) (Credit: AP)

MIAMI (AP) — Marlins pitcher Wei-Yin Chen is working on a no-hitter through six innings against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Chen hit a batter with a pitch and walked two in the second inning Thursday night, but has since retired his last 13 hitters. The left-hander from Taiwan has five strikeouts and has thrown 61 of his 90 pitches for strikes.

Miami center fielder Ichiro Suzuki has turned in two impressive defensive plays to prevent hits. Suzuki made a diving catch on pitcher Juan Nicasio’s fly ball in the second and a leaping catch against the wall on Jung Ho Kang’s drive in the fourth.

The Marlins lead 3-0.

Source: New feed

Welcome to Trump’s “Groundhog Day” America: A circular celebration of national stupidity

Donald Trump; Groundhog Day

(Credit: Reuters/Jim Young/Sony Pictures/Salon)

So here I am, writing another article about the unbelievable ignorance and stupidity of Donald Trump, and the unbelievable ignorance and stupidity of a country that can’t get enough of him, barely a week after writing another article blaming the relentless media coverage for inflating Trump to his current solar-eclipse dimensions. It can’t be helped. Our entire country, and its media caste in particular, is like the alcoholic who winks at the bartender and swears on his mother’s grave that he’ll quit drinking tomorrow. Or possibly the day after that.

We know we’re only feeding Trump by talking about him; as I observed last week, in that respect (and others) he is like Candyman, or Cthulhu. But we can’t stop. I mean, look: I wrote this, and now you’re reading it. Trump is news, and Trump is the monster that ate the news. The fact that Trump never stops being news, and that he ate the news, is itself news. Except he ate that too. It’s a world-encircling Ouroboros of futile discourse, a “Groundhog Day” of national stupidity where we keep doing the same things over and over, knowing full well that nothing will change. I guess the endless cycle will actually come to an end in November, either in the zombie apocalypse of a Trump triumph — which will be such a dismal experience for his supporters, in the end, that I almost want it to happen — or in the sagging, sad parade balloon of President Hillary Clinton. (I challenge anyone, literally anyone, to tell me they look forward to that with eagerness and hope.)

This week in Trumpian pointlessness has already brought us two unctuous media heavyweights marinating in the ooze, with predictably ambiguous results. The Hollywood Reporter, which at least officially is a publication focused on show business rather than politics (I will not bother explaining that there is no longer any difference), features a big interview with Trump by Michael Wolff, conducted at the candidate’s house in Beverly Hills. You didn’t know Trump had a house in L.A.? Neither did I, and it’s not clear Trump could find the fridge in the middle of the night if he needed to; he told Wolff he’s only there about once a year. He also has cribs in Manhattan and Westchester and Florida and God only knows where else. If I endorse you, Donald, can I live in one of the houses you’ve forgotten about?

In the same issue of the Reporter, former MSNBC and ESPN talking head Keith Olbermann wrote a guest column excoriating the media for going too soft on Trump because he drives TV ratings and internet clicks and advertising dollars. Well, shiver me timbers! I like Olbermann, pretty much: He was an enormous breath of fresh air in Jockland back in his “Sports Center” days, and if a loudmouth white guy with glasses can make a decent living off his outrageous opinions, there may be hope for me. But Keith got snagged on his own flypaper here, as indeed have we all. Of course he’s right that Trump coverage has been constricted by “the most effective form of self-censorship” imaginable, that being the love of money, which I think someone once described as the root of all evil. But everything Olbermann says is canceled out, and more, by Wolff’s masterwork of lickspittle smarm.

Before I go any further with this, let me acknowledge the peculiar potential conflicts involving both Wolff and Olbermann, even though I’ve never met either of them. Keith Olbermann was a columnist for Salon in the mid-2000s and had, shall we say, a contentious relationship with Joan Walsh, who was then our editor. Somewhat more recently, Michael Wolff was reportedly involved in an attempt to purchase Salon from its majority shareholders. Whether that outcome would have been good or bad for me personally I have no idea; after what I just wrote, I certainly hope Wolff doesn’t buy us now.

Wolff’s interview with Trump is a smooth piece of work, or so its author evidently believes. It’s full of name-dropping, veiled hints and insider-ish references; no doubt Wolff would argue that his dispassionate reportorial cool and focus on quotidian detail serve the reader’s interests by offering Trump more than enough rope to hang himself (or to throttle us). It begins thus: “The long day is ending for Donald Trump with a pint of vanilla Häagen-Dazs ice cream.” Would I write that sentence too, if I had the kind of access that involved “settling in for a late-night chat” with the prospective Republican nominee? (That’s in the second sentence.) Is it fair to judge Wolff for being the kind of journalist who gets cozy with the movers and shakers?

Oh, you bet it is. Sure, I’d have a late-night chat with Trump too, at the time and place of his choosing. It’s the “settling in” that gets me. It’s Wolff’s constant need to assure us that he is well connected among the wealthy and powerful, and now bestows upon us some of their reflected glory. In private Trump comes off as uniformly “upbeat and positive,” Wolff writes, whereas for “most public people I know, it is the opposite.” (We are left to imagine the long and impressive list of “public people” Wolff knows.) Maybe that “settling in” is meant to have a sardonic edge, but mostly it’s just smug. Or smug-donic. As Wolff writes later, describing Trump’s cheerful back-and-forth with ABC late-night host Jimmy Kimmel, “everybody here is honest about being a phony.”

There might be a certain moral or ethical legitimacy, in the context of a showbiz publication, for judging Trump primarily in terms of semiotics and performance, as an avatar or persona whose ideology is irrelevant or nonexistent. It’s not the Hollywood Reporter’s job to save the republic, right? Or anyway, there might be a defense for that if it weren’t the only thing we’ve been doing for the last 10 months or so, marveling at the magnificent success of a package whose contents are unknown. As Olbermann tries to point out, in his typical overworked prose (I know, I know — I should talk!), the media has thrown away its moral legitimacy when it came to covering Trump, out of sheer gratitude for his bigness, his outrageousness, his success and his unparalleled ability to move the needle.

Those morally neutral qualities of bigness and outrageousness and immense success are precisely what Wolff celebrates in his Reporter interview, and despite the occasional smug-donic aside meant to demonstrate his pseudo-independence, he doesn’t even pretend not to be in love. Discussing the fact that the only conversational topic that actually interests Donald Trump is his own greatness, Wolff writes, “You can try, but it’s hard to resist this admiration for himself.” As a friend’s dad used to say, Jesus jumping Christmas crap. If it’s really that difficult to resist a hateful, horrible, avaricious and ignorant person’s capacity for self-regard, you are not a writer or a journalist in any meaningful sense. You are a Gollum-like parasite trapped in the lower digestive tract of our narcissistic culture, hoping not to get flushed out by the colonic purge that may one day come.

When Wolff finally works his way around to his actual conversation with Trump — did they use one or two spoons for that pint of Hägen-Dazs? — he observes, almost in passing, that the man who will soon be the Republican nominee for president doesn’t know anything about anything “outside himself, his campaign and the media.” Trump doesn’t know what the word “Brexit” means (the upcoming vote on whether Britain should leave the European Union), although he says he’s for it once it’s explained to him. He does not appear to have heard of Peter Thiel, the Silicon Valley billionaire who funded Hulk Hogan’s sex-tape lawsuit against Gawker. (Once better informed, he’s in favor of that too.)

Trump denies having met with Italian right-wing politician Matteo Salvini, although their meeting in Philadelphia, and Trump’s endorsement of Salvini’s anti-immigrant party, has been widely reported. He sees no similarity between his own rise and that of Marine Le Pen, the firebrand leader of France’s anti-Muslim National Front party, but even Wolff perceives the real problem, which is that Trump simply “isn’t interested” in such comparisons and sees no profit in them.

“It is hard not to feel that Trump understands himself,” Wolff writes in a late moment of chin-pulling, “and that we’re all in on this kind of spectacular joke. His shamelessness is just so … shameless.” (Ellipsis in original.) Is that the kettle describing the pot, or what? That’s not analysis; it’s craven toadying from a media-blinkered pseudo-intellectual trying to put a favorable gloss on a small-minded and vainglorious would-be despot who has channeled our country’s worst and stupidest instincts and turned the 2016 election into an atrocity exhibition. I mean, we richly deserve it. We deserve the whole damn thing, and if that’s the point Wolff is making then I agree with him. He sounds suspiciously delighted about it, though.

Some degree of smug-donic self-incrimination may be involved when Wolff admits that he asked Trump to tweet about his book, and admits that he urged the candidate not to use a teleprompter for his acceptance speech at the Republican convention. “Who would want to miss that?” Wolff muses. I don’t know, let me think about that: any person with a few lingering shreds of decency, perhaps? Wolff’s conclusion is that Trump’s incoherent policy proposals and eruptions of hate speech “are not him,” but “are just a means to an end — to the phenomenon. To the center of attention. The biggest thing that has ever happened in politics.”

I have no idea what that means, and after reading several thousand words, I also have no idea whether Wolff thinks that Trump is a good thing or a bad thing. I know that Trump has been good for Wolff’s livelihood, as for mine. I know that our collective efforts to derail Trump or make him look ridiculous have backfired, so far, and that the shame of that will stick to our profession for some time. Wolff’s greatest moment of smug-donic self-congratulation comes when Trump expounds on what a long day he’s had, giving speeches and holding rallies and doing the Kimmel show and then having a late-night Häagen-Dazs liaison with Wolff. “You’re not a two-minute interview guy,” Trump says. No, he’s not. He’s a shameless suck-up who has thrown away his moral compass in order to grovel before your throne. And he’s not alone.

Source: New feed

Amber Heard’s “bisexual past”: Lurid coverage of Johnny Depp abuse allegations shows how deep bisexual backlash can go

Amber Heard, Johnny Depp

Amber Heard, Johnny Depp (Credit: Reuters/Suzanne Plunkett)

The armchair sleuths of the tabloid entertainment industry believe they have gotten to the bottom of why Johnny Depp allegedly abused Amber Heard: He had a problem with her being bisexual.

On Friday, news broke that Heard, who has appeared in films like “The Danish Girl” and “Pineapple Express,” was granted a restraining order from Depp, who she claims turned physically and emotionally abusive in the course of their 16-month long marriage. The two originally met on the set of “The Rum Diary” and were wed last February. Following the allegations, an image of Heard with a bruised and battered face went viral. Heard claims that the 52-year-old actor threw a cell phone at her and threw her to the ground.

The gossip website Hollywood Life alleges that jealousy over her former romantic attachments was the cause: The A-list actor was uncomfortable with his estranged wife’s “lesbian friends.” The site claims, “Amber’s bisexual past was reportedly a big problem.” If you didn’t catch the sneaky suggestion of infidelity, the National Enquirer is happy to clear it up any confusion: “Johnny was surrounded by women who kept him fretting about his bisexual bride’s lesbian past!” According to the mag, the “other women” in question included photographer Tasya Van Ree, to whom Heard was formerly engaged, and model/actress Cara Delevingne.

If websites are using Amber Heard’s “bisexual/lesbian past” as clickbait, this overt victim-blaming only reinforces the very real intimate partner abuse that bisexual women often face. Bisexual and queer women are disproportionately likely to be the victim of domestic violence, and stories like these—which suggest that Heard’s sexuality was somehow to blame for her abuse—will only encourage survivors to stay silent.

Numerous studies have shown that bisexual women are among the most vulnerable populations in the country when it comes to physical, emotional, and sexual violence from partners. According to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control, 61.1 percent of bisexual women had been followed, stalked, or sexually assaulted by a partner in their lifetime—as compared to 43.8 percent of lesbians and 35 percent of heterosexual women. The “2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey” further found that 89 percent of bisexual women had experienced the reported abuse at the hands of a male partner.

In addition, bisexual women were nearly four times as likely to be raped as their straight or lesbian counterparts and nearly twice as likely to experience negative life outcomes in the aftermath, including experiencing PTSD or being forced to take time off of work to recover from the abuse.

Thus, it shouldn’t be surprising that women who don’t identify as either straight or as a lesbian experience an increased risk of mental health issues. According to a 2016 survey from Drexel University, bisexual women report “significantly higher scores on the depression, anxiety, and traumatic distress subscales than did heterosexual females.” Meanwhile, those rates were more or less equal for lesbians as they were for heterosexual women. The researchers note that these results are due to “unique stressors, such as stereotypes that bisexuals are promiscuous or that bisexuality is ‘just a phase.’”

The cult of misinformation bisexual women face is epitomized by the “lesbian until graduation” meme, which Autostraddle memorably describes as “the cultural archetype of a [usually white, privileged, overeducated] girl who ‘experiments’ with same-sex relationships in college either as part of a rebellion against her parents/hometown/former life as a high schooler with a curfew or as the result of a newfound feminist political consciousness that can only truly be manifested by touching another girl’s vagina.”

There are lots of ways, however, that bisexuals have their orientation invalidated and are explicitly told they don’t exist. During a memorable scene in HBO’s “Sex and the City,” Carrie Bradshaw describes male bisexuality as “just a layover on the way to gay town.” This suggests that if a man comes out as bisexual, he’s merely testing the waters before coming out as a full-blown Kinsey Six later.

If you’re wondering where bisexual people get these messages, it’s not just from TV shows. It’s everywhere. It’s in the New York Times. It’s even from other queer people, who are just as likely to perpetuate biphobia as straight people. Biphobia has often been called the LGBT community’s “dirty little secret.”

Let’s face facts: The myths cited above may be true for some people. Sometimes people toy around with labels and decide those labels are not right for them and they choose a different one. When Tom Daley originally announced that he was family in 2013, he maintained that he still “fancied” women—suggesting that he was bisexual. After falling in love with “Milk” screenwriter Dustin Lance Black (to whom he is now engaged), the Olympic swimmer clarified that he identifies as gay.

If he had a change of heart in that time, it’s an act of not deception. These things happen. The heart is a mysterious, unknowable organ, and we humans are often strangers to our own feelings.

The focus on these isolated cases, however, projects outlier phenomena onto the behavior of an entire community—who are then branded as fraudulent or liars. In a way, Amber Heard was then already set up to fail. By labeling herself as something that vast populations of Americans don’t believe is real, everything she does is seen as somehow suspect. Note that publications like Hollywood Life treat her “bisexual past” as something almost criminal, as if she were an ex-felon or something.

Peter Ford touched on this idea in an episode of The Morning Show, which airs on Channel 7 in Australia. “I probably shouldn’t say this, I’ll probably get in trouble, but it’s not wise to marry a bisexual,” Ford said. “This is what Johnny Depp has done here, with Amber Heard, and she was in a very legally committed relationship, a marriage, a legal marriage, to another woman when Johnny came along, and she decided to travel across to the other side.” (He since apologized.)

The branding of Amber Heard as a nefarious “fence-sitter” also neglects the fact that as AfterEllen’s Trish Bendix pointed out, Heard is still bisexual: Who a person is attached to doesn’t necessarily define their sexuality. In a 2014 interview with Larry King, former “True Blood” actress Anna Paquin (who is married to her one-time co-star Stephen Moyer) was asked if she’s a “non-practicing bisexual.” Paquin responded that she can be both bisexual and married to a man: “If you were to break up with them or if they were to die, it doesn’t prevent your sexuality from existing. It doesn’t really work like that.”

The barrage of victim-blaming and shaming Heard has been subjected to unfortunately shouldn’t be surprising, as Joanna Pepin told ThinkProgress. Pepin found that the media’s attempt to legitimize Depp’s actions by pointing the finger as Heard’s sexuality fits a larger pattern of excusing the behavior of alleged abusers.

According to Pepin, news reports that deal with allegations involving white male celebrities abusing their partners are 2.5 times more likely to include “victim-blaming statements.” These stories also routinely “[fail] to contextualize domestic violence as larger social problem and commonly portrayed domestic violence as a couple’s problem.” Media coverage also, as ThinkProgress’ Casey Quinlan notes, is more likely to suggest the presence of “mutual violence or [point] to drug addition and inebriation as mitigating circumstances.”

Blaming like women like Amber Heard for their own abuse will only keep others who have been subjected to similar violence from speaking up. Will they be believed? Will they dismissed because of who friends or ex-partners happen to be?

But in the case of the bisexual community, perpetuating dangerous stigma may serve to keep some folks from coming out at all. A 2015 poll from Pew Research found that just 28 percent of bisexuals are out to the “important people in their life,” as opposed to the 71 percent of lesbians and 77 percent of gay men who report the same. This is despite the fact that bisexual folks account for the largest population of individuals in the LGBT community.

Bisexuals are here. We’re queer. When will everyone else get used to it?

Source: New feed

Emojis, video, driverless cars: Mary Meeker’s internet trends report unveils next big areas for tech growth

Mary Meeker

Mary Meeker

Today saw an annual tech-industry ritual taking place – the unveiling of the internet trends report by Mary Meeker of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. Presented at Code Conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, where much of Silicon Valley’s elite gathered, the report included more than 200 slides about the online economy and its future. While much of it focuses on the United States, it also looks at the global scene.

It’s easy to drown in the data, which considered everything from the retail price of a smart phone in Vietnam to changes in Belgian debt to the decade CVS was founded.

What does it all add up to? Salon spoke to Andrea Castillo, the Technology Policy Program Manager at George Mason University’s Mercatus Center. We reached her at the university’s campus in Northern Virginia; the interview has been lightly edited for clarity.

These reports come out every year. Was there something that surprised you, or that seemed like a big change from 2015 or 2014?

For most of the people who watch the tech scene, it wasn’t particularly shocking. I think the most headline-grabbing factoid is the projection that global Internet growth may soon slow. There’s a lot of data on developing markets that shows that most of the low-hanging fruit has already been penetrated. People have Internet access, they are already buying smart phones, they’re buying things online with their devices. The people left are the really hard-to-reach people who may not have the income to purchase these devices; in developed countries they might be older people who don’t want to purchase these things, they don’t want to be a part of it.

That’s kind of a cause for concern. You also have concerns about a global economic recession.

The report said that economic growth was slowing worldwide, right?

Right – there was talk about economic growth slowing, debt to GDP obligations, interest rate movements. And if there’s a downturn in the general global economy, obviously, that could affect the tech sector specifically, especially since so much capital has been directed to the technology sector since the previous downturn.

So that’s definitely kind of alarming.

And again, as far as Internet growth goes, the reason it seems to be slowing is that there’s been so much expansion in previous years – so many people have mobile phones, so many people are online already… There’s just not that much room to grow.

For the remaining people, you can get them, but at what cost? It doesn’t make sense to do that.

How important is this report? Mary Meeker seems to be somewhere between Alan Greenspan when he was running the Federal Reserve and an ancient Greek oracle.

Well, Kleiner Perkins is one of the most influential, well-funded venture capital companies in Silicon Valley; they invested in some of the biggest technology companies. And this is presented at Code Conference – anyone who is anybody in Silicon Valley is there today.

So this is pretty influential. If you’re already in these circles, there’s not anything shocking. But it’s a pretty good indicator of what they’re thinking for the next year.

Some of the report is about advertising, specifically online advertising. What are we hearing there?

This has been a huge debate in the tech community: Is advertising effective? A lot of business models are dependent on advertising, and a lot of companies are dedicated to optimizing that.

One interesting thing the report brought up is that Google and Facebook are leading – they blew everyone else out of the water. But online advertising isn’t all that effective, especially video advertising. I think everybody knows that experience, you’re about to watch a YouTube video and you watch some stupid ad that has nothing to do with your life – and you hate it. It backfires – it makes a person hate your brand.

So you might see a re-adjustment on different platforms… Once advertisers see there’s not a lot of return on their money, they’re probably going to stop.

People seem to be muting the ads, looking for ad-blocking software – not really the response these advertisers are hoping for.

That’s right.

Where does there seem to be growth of potential for growth on the Internet? It’s a fairly downbeat report, but is there any place where there’s some anticipation?

The report isolated a few major areas. First of all video – advertising with video doesn’t make sense, but video itself is going gangbusters. Messaging applications – people have moved away from computers and toward phones and tablets, so it’s not surprising that people are using those for messaging.

The final huge area for innovation is driverless cars; the report said it’s a really big area for the U.S. We have a great history of automotive production and innovation here, we have a pretty good regulatory environment, and we have most of the major tech firms working on this in the U.S. So they expect a lot, a lot of growth.

The report also noted that people are communicating a lot more using image – like emojis – and voice. So you might see people in the next few years people looking to optimize the delivery if that kind of project.

Internationally it seems like the big winner is India – where there could be a lot of growth coming.

There’s a lot of growth, but the interesting thing about India is the consider the debacle of Facebook’s Free Basic [where Mark Zuckerberg hoped to give free Internet access to rural regions of India; the plan’s limits led to protests by the nation’s citizens and a rejection by its regulators.] Facebook had a lot of hopes for getting into that market, had a campaign for making it happen. It’s still an open question, how you get into new markets while keeping an eye on cultural sensitivities and other issues in those countries.

So is Silicon Valley feeling happy and optimistic based on this report, or is it a bit of a downer?

I’d say it’s kind of a bad news/good news situation. When you start talking about a global economic recession, it kind of sets the mood. But the most potent optimism, for an American is the automated driving…. It seems like some of the last low-hanging fruit. [Compared to that] messaging, video delivery are kind of marginal.

Watch Meeker’s report:

Source: New feed

Dee Snider’s still not gonna take it: “I don’t know what ‘great’ [Donald Trump’s] talking about. Is that when we had two sinks, colored and white?”

Dee Snider

Dee Snider (Credit: Tim Tronckoe)

Look up the term “Renaissance man” in the dictionary, and chances are, Dee Snider’s visage will be right there next to the definition. The New York native first made a name for himself in the ’80s as the flamboyant frontman of the hair metal band Twisted Sister. He’s spent the ensuing decades infiltrating all forms of media: TV (an appearance on “The Apprentice,” the reality show “Growing Up Twisted”), cartoons (voiceover roles in “SpongeBob SquarePants”), radio (a long-running weekly show “The House of Hair”) and even musicals (performing in “Rock Of Ages” on Broadway and penning his own holiday musical, “Dee Snider’s Rock and Roll Christmas Tale”).

Later this year, Snider’s releasing a solo album, “We Are The Ones,” written with Damon Ranger, who won an Oscar for working on “The Life of Pi” score. He’ll also be closing the chapter on Twisted Sister after 40 years with farewell shows. The always-outspoken personality checked in before the long Memorial Day weekend, a week after he appeared at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland and christened the museum’s new “Louder than Words: Rock Power and Politics” exhibit with a stripped-down, slowed-down, Broadway-reminiscent version of “We’re Not Gonna Take It.”

In fact, Snider started the conversation by revealing, “We’re getting ready to release that [song] in that form, because I think people need this message now more than ever.”

So you’re going to release it as a single?

The political situation is just disgraceful. The fact that our choice of candidates, it sucks, and the fact that our election is going to come down to, “I don’t want him, so I’m voting for her” or “I don’t want her, so I’m voting for him,” that’s not the reason to put a president in the White House. You put him in for what he stands for, not because you don’t like the other choice.

I feel exactly the same way. It’s very, very scary.

Oh, I know! The both of us are sitting there going, “What kind of fucking choice is this?” And this woman may be indicted on criminal charges, and we got this guy…He’s clearly not presidential material, let’s put it that way.

I get so upset when I’m online and see friends sharing things. I’m like, “You guys realize this is real life—this is not a meme, or an internet game.” This is our actual country.

I think that is one of the problems, the disconnect. The disconnect for people that, you know, it’s like reality TV. Reality TV is not really reality, you know. But this is reality—this is not some scripted reality show.

You know Donald Trump, because you were on “The Apprentice” and are friendly with him. How weird is that for you, then, to see how things are playing out in the campaign?

It’s really weird. It’s really weird. Donald Trump is a great guy, and a class act. And he’s a friend. But like most friends—and I speak to everybody here—we don’t talk about politics, religion or sports when we hang out, because those topics…you know, that’s taboo at all parties. Don’t talk about religion, politics or sports. And I have friends who I know we stand on opposite sides of the fence when it comes to sports teams, and it comes to political beliefs—and we dine together, we hang out together, we vacation together. Great friends.

And my great friend called me up and said, “Hey, I want to use this song for my campaign,” and I was like, “Yeah, go ahead.” Three months later I was shaking my head going, “Holy shit!” I had no idea that he stood for these things, and I do not stand for these things. And I called him up, and I said, “Donald, people are thinking this is an endorsement, and I can’t endorse the things you stand for. Please stop using my song.” And he stopped that day, because that’s the kind of guy he is. Like I said, he’s a great guy.

A lot of politicians have taken it upon themselves to use my song without asking. He called and asked. I asked him to stop, he stopped. But I just cannot endorse his political beliefs, which I didn’t know existed, like I said. I’ve had great dinners with the man, but we never talked about banning all Muslims. That’s a great dinner-stopper, you know? “Who right here [is] for favor of banning all Muslims?” No one talks about that over dinner. Can you understand my point, how you can be friends with somebody and not know—or endorse—their political beliefs?

I have friends like that, where you keep it on the surface, because otherwise we’d be at each other’s throats.

I’ve got a really close friend, and our sports teams are bitter rivals. He wears the other team’s hat, I’m wearing my team’s hat, and we have ignored it for like 10 years. We’ve never mentioned our hats. And I’ll tell you, these teams are bitter rivals, because that would be the end of the relationship. Yet he’s one of my closest friends. You don’t talk about this shit! [Laughs.]

It’s a little over 30 years after the PMRC, and it seems like there are some real full-circle moments happening in terms of hysteria over freedom of expression of all types, not just music.

The fight against censorship has been ongoing, there’s no doubt about it. There’s been blips on the radar and significant moments like stickering records. But then there’s things like what’s going on with Gawker. It is a freedom of speech situation, but where is the line? Outing a person against their will, showing a person’s private experiences in a home setting. Is that a need-to-know? Is that the public’s right? I mean, but still, it’s a censorship issue, so it’s ongoing.

Right now, there’s an overall, bigger problem, and that is politically. And internationally, by the way. The country is in a mess. We’ve gotten ourselves to this place in time, where we’re about to elect either the number one or the number two most unlikeable presidential candidate in the history of presidential candidacies. That’s the statistics. Donald Trump is the most unliked in history, and Hillary is the second most-unliked.

Eight years ago, everything seemed like, “America’s turning a corner.” And eight years later, it’s like, “How did we get here?”

I’ll tell you, my reading is, people are apathetic, and they thought, “The work is done.” You know, “Bring on the black President—it’s fixed.” No, it’s not fixed! And Donald Trump is showing, good God, these bigots—and there’s a lot of them still—are skulking around in the dark shadows, and all of a sudden they’ve got someone speaking their point and they’re jumping out and exposing themselves. Racism is not as bad as ever—it’s come a long way, if you really want to be truthful about it. But it’s very present. It’s still an issue. And that’s not the only issue I’m talking about, I’m just saying, case in point.

People kind of go, “We’re fighting, we’re fighting, we’re fighting—oh, we ended the Vietnam War, okay, we fixed the flaw. Cool. We’re done with that.” No, you gotta make sure that new way of thinking becomes institutionalized—you gotta make sure it stays. If you’re lax in your fight, if you’re lax in fighting for what you believe in, it will just slowly slip back to where it was. Donald Trump, it’s all about making America great—judging by the things he stands for, I think he’s talking about like the ’40s. I mean, it’s crazy! I don’t know what “great” he’s talking about. Is that when we had two sinks, colored and white? Two bathrooms? I don’t know.

Yeah. As a woman, it’s also scary.

Girl, I agree. I’m a pro-choice guy. To me that is, if you are not pro-choice, I am not for you. If you can’t say that a woman has a right to choose—by the way, it’s not that a woman should have an abortion or shouldn’t have an abortion. It’s they should choose for themselves, and not have a bunch of old white men telling them what to do with their bodies.

[Donald] called me and asked me to use my song, and I gave permission. And when I asked him to stop, he stopped. That’s a class act. Paul Ryan started using my song, and he’s out there on the stump singing, “We’re not gonna take it.” And the first line is, “We’ve got the right to choose”—and he’s anti-choice! And I said, “What don’t you understand about the words that you’re singing? ‘We’ve got the right to choose!’ as you’re saying you want to get rid of Roe v. Wade?” It’s mind-numbing.

People don’t listen to the actual lyrics, just the chorus.

This goes back to the Senate hearings, you know, [which is part of] “Louder Than Words,” where one of my songs that was being attacked was “Under The Blade,” and Tipper Gore said it was about sadomasochism bondage. And the song was about my guitar player’s throat operation. And I said, “I can’t help it if she has a dirty mind.” They’re either not hearing the words and just listening to the chorus… And in fairness to Tipper Gore, I did write the words in a vague way, so people could put their own frustrations into it, or their own thoughts into it.

Like, “We’re Not Gonna Take It”—the Rolling Stone review was, “What from who?” Three-word review, in 1984. And that was the point. Maybe it’s your parents. Maybe it’s your bosses. Maybe it’s your teachers. Maybe it’s politicians. Maybe it’s your ex. The song is supposed to be for the masses, and it’s supposed to speak for their particular frustration.

And that’s a good song, that it’s not obvious, that it does work on multiple levels and can be interpreted differently depending on your situation and perspective.

I think the best of the songs are like that. [Survivor’s] “Eye Of The Tiger,” it doesn’t say, you know, “Rocky’s gonna fight, he’s going to beat up Apollo Creed.” No—it’s a general inspirational song that speaks to the situation, but also to a myriad of situations.

[“We’re Not Gonna Take It”], the words are there for you. They’re for everybody, but they need to speak … They’re pretty specific. It’s not just about, “Hey, let’s party and go to karaoke and sing ‘We’re Not Gonna Take It.’” That’s great—keep doing that, people! I love it. At the same time, the song’s supposed to mean more.

Besides the places you’ve mentioned, what’s the most interesting place you’ve seen the song used over the years?

Going from its roots, I’ve seen it used at protests, and sporting events and political rallies. But now that it’s a folk song, pretty much, I’ve seen it in cartoons, commercials for cold remedies and women’s pre-menopausal medications. The most mind-blowing one was “Rock Of Ages.” When Catherine Zeta-Jones is playing a Tipper Gore-esque character fronting a PMRC-esque organization trying to shut down rock & roll, and the song they sing is “We’re Not Gonna Take It.” Irony defined!

In the span of a several decades, that’s how the song has evolved.

It’s crazy. But at the same time, that’s why I think it’s time to slow it down, strip it bare into the words, to the message, and hopefully inspire some more people. Because this election, either way it goes, it’s gonna suck. This needs to be a flashpoint for the world, to say, “We really have to effect change.” And not just like, “Okay, we elect somebody—okay, it’s fixed.” No. You’ve got to be resilient, you’ve got to be stalwart. You’ve got to continue to press and push and pressure the people who represent us, to do the fucking right thing—pardon my French. Clearly, they’re not. They have their own agendas. It’s mind-blowing.

I know you’re working on a solo album. Are these themes cropping up on that as well?

Absolutely. The record is very thematic. The album itself is called “We Are The Ones,” which is basically speaking to the masses, really. I always say, “You have the extremists on the left, extremists on the right, and the middle—we’re just trying to figure out the best-case scenario.” [Laughs.] We’re not extreme left, we’re not extreme right, we just want it to be good, you know. And we’re going to try to figure it out. There’s songs like, “So What” on the record. “Rule The World,” “Believe,” “Superhero.” There’s a number of songs on the record that really speak to inspiring people. The album is definitely, like I’ve always been, designed to inspire people, rile people up and remind people that they’ve got a job to do.

It’s nice to hear music like that. So much modern music doesn’t say anything –it’s just sort of there. As a listener, you want to feel inspired after listening to a record, and fired up to do something.

There is stuff. You know, stuff like [Kelly Clarkson’s] “Stronger.” It’s not a metal record. “Roar” — get past Katy Perry jumping around and stuff like that, and hear what’s being said.

[The] producer of my album and co-writer of all the material on my album [is] Damon Ranger. He’s the one who approached me and said, “Dee, I think there’s an album for you, a contemporary album, a mainstream rock record, a metal-rock record that will speak to people today…” I said, “Really. Me. This guy? A 61-year-old guy.” He says, “Absolutely, Dee. You’re timeless. And you represent something, a spirit, and I think the right songs…”

And I heard his stuff that he’s worked on before and I said, “There are songs out there that are inspirational.” You see that sometimes they just get lost, and one of the things that gets lost is the fun of rock & roll. Don’t forget, rock and roll, first and foremost, it’s supposed to be fun. It’s supposed to be [an] escape. It shouldn’t be super-heavy. At the same time, as “Louder than Words” is showing, it can be inspirational.

Was Damon a fan of your stuff? How did he find you?

Damon found me. He’s won an Oscar, [a] Grammy. Incredibly successful. He writes for Kanye, Pink. He approached me—we actually ran into each other at a radio show. And challenged me! I was ready to pack it in with Twisted, and I said, “Really—you got songs?” And he goes, “Absolutely.” He sent me something, and we demoed it, and it led to a new record deal with Sony/RED, and an international deal. Now we have an entire album and a whole new movement. The album’s released in September, but the single will be released before that, probably July.

I’m leaving metal behind and I’m going for the mainstream. But his thing was, besides me being iconic and being a voice and speaking to a certain attitude with people, is that I’ve also, over the years, expanded my appeal, audience-wise, while not servicing them musically. Through all the reality TV, Dee Snider’s become a known commodity. And my radio work, and Broadway and television, you know, all of these things, like film. Those people aren’t necessarily fans of alt ’80s metal. So he says, “Give them a mainstream record that rocks, and I think you will give this audience music they’re ready to hear.”

You probably have fans that aren’t even necessarily aware of Twisted Sister’s career, which is crazy to think about.

Oh, I know! I walk down the street. It’s amazing—my Q factor as they call it, everybody knows me—what they’ll cite as their connection. A lot of times, it’s not Twisted Sister; it’s not my musical career. It’s the other things they got to know me for over the years.

This year, Twisted Sister is wrapping up this year, after 40 years together. Why was now the right time to wrap things up with the band?

It’s been the right time for a very long time. I love the band—I love the guys—I’m proud of us. But I am really sort of a motivator [behind the band] calling it a day. I wanted to reunite—I wanted to end more positively. I wanted to fix the friendships and the relationships, and I wanted to go out on a high note. I remember, God, it must’ve been…2005? Around there. And we did a show in front of 75,000 people, it was a festival in Germany. Perfect show, perfect audience, perfect night, and it was all filmed, on like 20 fucking cameras. I walked off the stage and I go, “That was perfection. Can we stop now? It’s never going to get better than that. We did it. We reunited it; we came back; we crushed it; we documented it. Can we leave?” And the guys go, “Well, Dee, come on, man.” I’m like, “Ahh, okay.” So that was already ten years ago.

But when AJ [drummer, Pero] died [in 2015], I said, “Guys, it’s always been the five of us. Do we want to be one of those bands that’s just slowly dying? Or people are getting sick. Or do we want the legacy to be the five of us strong?” And the guys said, “Absolutely the five of us strong.” We have one other harrowing situation, and that is AJ left behind a mess of three ex-wives and children and no estate planning. It was like, “Let’s do some shows for AJ. And let’s do some shows, so we make money, and his estate gets some money, and his family and his children can have something.”

Mike Portnoy has stepped in, from Dream Theater and the Winery Dogs, a classy guy—speak about class acts. We only did a dozen shows last year, and we’re doing about a dozen this year. And that’s it. Saying goodbye, and put some money together for AJ’s family—families. That guy was prolific. I was the prolific songwriter in the band, and he was prolific in the Biblical sense.

I also love you’re playing a solo show at Riot Fest in Chicago in September. That’s such an eclectic festival.

It’s the first Dee Snider solo show. It is not a Twisted Sister show—it’s going to be all my new music. Hence my billing. They’re like, “Oh, you gonna do Twisted stuff?” and I said, “No.” And they said, ‘Okay.” I’m going out there doing all-new music. But because my music is designed for a mainstream audience, Twisted always had that punk mentality. The attitude is right for Riot Fest. It’s going to be my first show and it’s right when the record’s coming out. Where does it go from there? I’m not exactly sure.

Is that nerve-wracking to be doing your first solo show after all these years?

Oh, hell fucking yeah! I’ve done solo shows where I’ve played Twisted stuff. Basically, you’re going out there—it’s Dee Snider singing the songs he wrote for Twisted Sister, “the voice of Twisted Sister.” That’s a different animal than going out and playing “We Are The Ones” and “Crazy For Nothing” and “Rule The World” and just laying this shit out there people have not heard. It takes me back to the earliest days of my band, when we would hit the road and we’re opening third on a bill playing for audiences that didn’t know who the fuck we were.

It is kind of like starting over. You have to claw your way back again and prove yourself.

I go, “What the fuck are you doing, man? You’ve achieved your dream. You’re successful. You could just walk away and be done with it.” But my primary motivation now is to be challenged. When Damon Ranger came to me and said, “I think you could reintroduce to a contemporary audience with new, mainstream rock music,” that was a challenge. When they called me up and said, “Do you want to be on Broadway and ‘Rock Of Ages’?” That was a challenge.

My son, who’s an up-and-coming film director, he says, “Dad, you’re a really good actor. I see you, you’ve done some things over the years. I think you need to do more acting.” I said, “Well, well, well…” He said, “I’ll put together a reel for you and I’m sending it out.” Which he’s done. That is a challenge. For me, it’s all about new challenges. I wrote a musical, called “A Rock and Roll Christmas Tale,” and it’s been staged the last two holiday seasons in Chicago and Toronto. That was a challenge. This isn’t my comfort zone at all—this is like, “What the fuck are you doing, headbanger? Writing a musical?” To get it staged was a huge accomplishment.

Why not? You only live once—you might as well.

Exactly. It’s not about the money. It’s about feeling invigorated and feeling like, “Yeah, I’m not just going through the motions. I’m doing something, I’m trying to do something. Life is just fucking amazing. I still do all my radio [shows]. I’ve been doing radio for 20 years and that continues on. So like I said, just because Twisted Sister is saying goodbye doesn’t mean that you’re done with Twisted Sister, it just means that I’m done with this part of my life.

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Residents return to fire-damaged western Canadian oil city

FORT MCMURRAY, Alberta (AP) — Residents of the Canadian oil sands city of Fort McMurray began cleaning up their homes and property Wednesday as people who fled a massive wildfire at the start of May returned to see what’s left.

The fire destroyed 2,400 structures, or about 10 percent of the city, when it ripped through last month, forcing more than 80,000 residents to flee. Officials expected thousands of evacuees to return to the city Wednesday — the first day of a staged re-entry. Residents in areas that were not damaged were asked to come first. Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said about 7,500 arrived in the city Wednesday.

One of Mike Maloney’s first tasks was to mow the messy lawn in front of his home while his wife and three kids cleaned inside.

“It’s sad to see what did burn,” he said. “It’s tragic for those people. But I think, all in all, everybody will survive.”

Pilar Ramirez spent the night sleeping in the back of a truck in Anzac, Alberta about 40 minutes southeast of Fort McMurray.

She got to work cleaning as soon as she got into her downtown house, which she shares with co-workers at a concrete company. Her reaction when she first opened the door: “Oh, it’s so disgusting!”

“It smelled terrible, the food. Flies everywhere — and big ones. I said, ‘Oh, my God, what happened here?’”

People driving in on the only highway into the area found the forest on both sides blackened about half an hour out of town. The devastation is apparent from the road just inside city limits and a strong smell of smoke hangs in the air.

Billboards that read “Safe Resilient Together” and “We Are Here. We Are Strong” greeted people as they drove in. A huge Canadian flag hung between the extended ladders of two fire trucks parked on a bridge over the road.

Bob Couture, director of emergency management for the regional emergency operations center, said everything has been orderly and according to plan. The Red Cross was prepared to bus in as many as 2,000 residents who don’t have their own cars.

Returning residents were being warned that it won’t be business as usual and to bring with them two weeks worth of food, water and prescription medication as crews continue to work to get basic services restored. Workers have been laboring to get critical businesses such as banks, grocery stores and pharmacies running again. Supplies of some items may be limited in the beginning and the government said some things may need to be rationed.

Notley said the day was not one for celebration and noted years of work are ahead.

“To the people of Fort McMurray heading home – we will be with you every step of the way,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted.

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