Category Archives: Politics

Amanda Palmer Writes A Poem, And The Internet Explodes

In what is apparently the Making It All About You Department, the not-always-social-media-savvy Amanda Palmer has written a poem titled “A Poem For Dzhokhar” on her blog over the weekend. Although the work does venture into what Suspect #2 (and his brother, Suspect #1, aka the Tsarnaev Brothers of last week’s horrific Boston marathon bombings) might be thinking, the references to iPhone battery life, Vietnamese soft rolls, and the Oh-my-Godiest line of all: “you don’t know how to tell the girl in the chair next to you that you’ve been peeking at her dissertation draft and there’s a grammatical typo in the actual file name” indicates that this poem is more about Amanda calling attention to Amanda. (We’ll let the crime of all lower-casing rest for now.)

So, the Internets noticed. Spin called it “a new low” (and paired it with an engineered-to-scare photo of Amanda enjoying a ball pit more maniacally than she might have intended), Gawker called it “the worst poem ever written,” and one blogger wrote biting parodies. And, predictably, the greatest handwringing on the Internets was of the “Neil Gaiman has to stay married to her?” variety.

It’s really not, to be fair, the worst poem ever written — it has all the hallmarks of being quickly dashed off, in an attempt to enter the dialogue in a way that’s clearly marked with her own voice and her own worldview. She has adoring fans, to be sure, and when you raise over a million dollars on Kickstarter and create a fantastic album in response, it maybe makes you feel like you can do no wrong, even after last year’s Unpaidmusiciangate — a pretty definitive indication that the Internets will not always love you.

Here’s the problem — we’re all watching from a distance right now as the FBI, CIA, and whoever else is questioning Dzhokhar right now trying to get into his head. We’re pretty sure that he wasn’t bleeding to death hiding in a boat thinking about Vietnamese soft rolls, and if he was, we’re not concerned about that. We want to know more important things, like why did they try to kill people, was he and his brother working with other terrorists to kill people, and are there plans to kill anymore people, including any additional bombs hidden in Boston. Right now, getting into the mind of the bomber isn’t a journey to the land of aesthetic ennui and artists-who-made-it problems for those of us who feel compelled together. We want to see the blueprint imprinted in that mind — namely, a plan to hurt and kill innocents, a plan that worked, a plan that took an eight-year-old boy and two young women from the world. We collectively want to know the extent of the plan so we can begin to heal and fight the fear and bewilderment that terrorism means. There’s a time and place for navel-gazing art. The galvanic response to Amanda’s thoughts on Amanda as filtered through Dzhokhar is the audience saying that this is not quite the time and place.

(Update: The title was arbitrary, and it only took her nine minutes to write the poem. We suspected as much.)

In the Wake of Awfulness, Patton Oswalt Emerges

Yesterday’s Boston Marathon tragedy — which has all the hallmarks of a terrorist attack — was possibly the most awful and unwelcome surprise of its kind since 9/11. The revelations came in dire waves — first news of explosions, then injuries, then really gruesome injuries, possible fatalities (which eventually did manifest), and then the lingering question of “Who did this?” while TV media played footage of the initial blast over and over. People responded admirably for the most part with their computers — Google set up a person finder, Mr. Rogers’ advice to “look for the helpers” popped up on Facebook, Twitter took on its usual real-time disaster resource role, and love and concern for Boston made its way around.

But it was comedian Patton Oswalt who emerged as the Mr. Rogers-like voice of reason in response to this tragic event. ABC News’ blog summarizes what happened, and even Fox & Friends host Gretchen Carlson mentioned it this morning (along with the Mr. Rogers bon mots). It’s a weird day in America when the genius who skewered “The Christmas Shoes” and who famously called KFC’s Famous Bowl “a failure pile in a sadness bowl” can be lauded by F&F as healing ‘Merica.

Oh, Rappers: Jay-Z and LL Cool J Go Where They Perhaps Shouldn’t

Is rap controversial again? Two developments of note this week.

First, LL Cool J and Brad Paisley have teamed up for six minutes of awfulness called “Accidental Racist,” in which Paisley displays a sketchy grasp on semiotics (in his world, Confederate flag signifies Skynyrd fan) and LL Cool J fuels the dumbness fire by referencing said flag and rhyming it with doo-rag. It’s essentially a 2013 remake of “Ebony and Ivory” crossed with a Saturday Night Live parody that refuses to end.

And now, Jay-Z (as Vibe Reports) has released “Open Letter,” referencing his recent jaunt to Cuba and his White House security clearance.

We’re all for rappers jumping into the political dialogue, but solving racism in America and the Cuban trade embargo? Be sure to check back and let us know how that’s going, fellas.

A National Dialogue on the Wolf Whistle: Gawker Mansplains It For Men

President Obama’s recent misstep in calling California Attorney General (and possible future Presidential candidate) Kamala Harris “the best-looking attorney general in the U.S.” sparked an interesting conversation on why such complements might not be welcome. Gawker’s pointedly-titled “Mansplainer” takes on why this isn’t acceptable with a hilarious allegory involving cheeseburgers. (Ostensibly, something red-blooded American males can understand.)

Liking the Art But Not What the Artist Did: Stereogum Reconciles Liking Chris Brown and Surfer Blood

There’s an interesting debate that Stereogum opened up on its site today — at face value, and based on the splashy photo, it looks like it’s going to be another “Chris Brown is bad” article, but it also brings up the domestic violence charges to which that Surfer Blood singer John Paul Pitts plead no contest — and the interesting question of when do we or do we not stick up for our favorite musicians and artists, even when they do loathsome things. Of course, the degree to which Chris Brown is awful, highlighted by one of The Onion’s finest moments in recent memory, overshadows what limited pop appeal he has, whereas the implication of the Stereogum article is while Pitts’ episode isn’t as egregious as Brown’s dubious rap sheet and accompanying bad-boy antics, Surfer Blood’s level of indie success is relatively low-watt.

(Where it gets interesting and gets to be a really tense, telling debate is where it got with Michael Jackson. First, he was an extremely rare artist in that he had extraordinary commercial and artistic success, crossing over globally like no one since the Beatles — or, perhaps, even more so, who was then accused of unspeakable crimes and succumbed to increasing aberrant behavior, and then died dramatically, creating a pandemic of mourning — and, as I’ll never forget, the first time I’d ever seen a single event wash over my Twitter feed into The Only Thing Everyone Was Talking About in a matter of minutes. Nothing had hit home before or since as to how connected music makes us and how technology allows us to do that, cutting across geography and caste and culture, in the moment.)

Also, Stereogum brings this up because the first glimpse of Surfer Blood’s new album, a catchy, off-kilter pop song with screaming and one-note piano worked into the hooky chorus, called “Weird Shapes,” just got released a few weeks ago. Stereogum calls it “Weezerly.” Even if it is, please, please never use that as an adjective in any scenario. The debate it opens up is perhaps too important to neglect or dismiss — even though the converge of Chris Brown and Surfer Blood news might be a slightly forced landscape in which to start it.

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Michelle Obama vs. John Boehner, As Seen By Gawker

Oh, if it were only so. The typically-awesome Gawker found a GIFed moment from the Inaugural Dinner in which First Lady Michelle Obama gives a major dismissive eyeroll to House Speaker John Boehner. Or, as the kids call it, “throwing shade.”

The new hypothesis emerging today is slightly less fun — that it was a response to Boehner apparently joking with the Still-President about his on-again/off-again smoking and how the little lady won’t let him smoke anymore. (“Wives! They put the kibosh on fun! Amirite?”)

While a wholly plausible hypothesis, it’s much more fun to imagine the shade-throwing is more a function of the First Lady being generally dismissive of Boehner rather than specifically dismissive. (Though an eyeroll for his spray-tanned complexion would be warranted as well.)