In my Beatles: Rock Band article (which I am required to mention every few days, seeing as how I'm not working on any new ones) I wrote
McCartney himself expressed hope that with the technology available, the characters could look hyperrealistic, like figures from the “Star Trek” holodeck. Harmonix came at it from the opposite direction, starting out with cartoony caricatures of the band and then scaling back the exaggerated features until they hit what felt like a proper balance between whimsical and realistic.
Implicit in that graf is the specter of the uncanny valley, and the wisdom of Harmonix's approach can be clearly seen in contrast with the just released footage of Kurt Cobain from Guitar Hero 5. Of course, Harmonix could have taken this route if they'd intended the game to be a tie-in with Paul is Undead.
Of course, it could have been worse
I have to confess that I'd never heard the name Ellie Greenwich until today, but apparently she is one of my favorite songwriters of all time. Among the hits she co-wrote with her husband, Jeff Barry: Be My Baby, Then he Kissed Me, Da Doo Ron Ron, Maybe I Know, Do Wah Diddy, Baby I Love You, Leader of the Pack, (Today I Met) The Boy I'm Gonna Marry, I Can Hear Music, Chapel of Love, Tell Laura I Love Her, and River Deep, Mountain High.
Start browsing with this playlist (which includes a few tracks written by Barry solo). Track 6 is the Raindrops, a short-lived group featuring Greenwich herself as lead vocalist.
The truth is, however, that Stanley Kaplan was wrong. What he did in his basement was subversive. The S.A.T. was designed as an abstract intellectual tool. It never occurred to its makers that aptitude was a social matter: that what people were capable of was affected by what they knew, and what they knew was affected by what they were taught, and what they were taught was affected by the industry of their teachers and parents. And if what the S.A.T. was measuring, in no small part, was the industry of teachers and parents, then what did it mean? Stanley Kaplan may have loved the S.A.T. But when he stood up and recited “boo, boo, boo, square root of two,” he killed it.
Talk about mixed feelings. It's viscerally hard to honor the man who made SAT prep a grueling rite of teenage passage. I never took an actual Kaplan course myself. I much preferred a devious book called How to Beat the SAT. But that book, like other approaches that took for granted that the SAT did not actually measure anything valuable, could not have existed without Kaplan's initial insights and industry.
Due to popular demand, I'm working out a way to continue the anti-caption contest, and hopefully a retooled version of the blog, into the brave new future. Stay tuned for further developments. Now if only there were a cartoon for which you could devise a caption that expresses your feeling of being suspended in an awkward situation with nothing to do yet being unable to leave.
An article on Sunday about a new video game, Beatles: Rock Band, misattributed a comment about dreams from the book “Grapefruit,” by Yoko Ono, which compared the interactive nature of the video game to the book’s theme that art gains by being shared. It was a line within the book itself, written by Ms. Ono; it was not a blurb written for the book by John Lennon.
That this is a common mistake and, frankly, an understandable one does not make it excusable. I was alerted to my error after seeing a blogger complain about it. I contacted her for more information, checked it out further, and then let the magazine know we needed to fix it, both for accuracy and because Yoko already gets too little credit (and too much blame) as it is. That I contributed to that narrative at all is the most upsetting part to me.
I call your attention to all of this not because I'm happy that I made a mistake, of course, but rather because I know some of my readers are still confused about the proper way to respond when a blogger points out an error in your New York Times magazine cover story.
(Hmm, would it be more fun if this gets caught by his narcissistic Google Alert? Yeah, I guess so. Peter Landesman.)
A few months ago, a NYC
skank model named Liskula Cohen sued Google for protecting (via its offering of anonymous blogging services) the identity of a mean ol' blogger who had called her a skank and a ho. Now Justice Joan Madden has ruled that Google must unmask the blogger, rejecting the defense that "blogs serve as a modern day forum for conveying personal opinions, including invective and ranting, and that the statements in this action when considered in that context, cannot be reasonably understood as factual assertions."
Back when, law blogger Aaron Morris argued that by focusing on the humorous term "skank," the media was missing the genuinely defamatory remarks made by the blogger, and thus turning this into the Internet equivalent of the McDonald's coffee lawsuit (in which an entirely reasonable claim was caricatured as frivolous).
Look carefully at the comments. Defamation arises when someone falsely accuses someone else of, basically, illegal, immoral or unethical conduct. The comments don’t charge her merely with being a skank, but claim she is psychotic, a liar and a whore. The action would never have survived review if all that had been said is that she is a skank. That term is ill-defined and nebulous enough [despite some people's best efforts -- radosh] that arguably one could from the pictures form the opinion that word is an appropriate description. But what is the justification for the remainder of the remarks? What is the factual basis for calling her psychotic, or saying she is a lying whore? The comments go far beyond calling her a skank.
Contrarian that I am, I wanted to agree with him, but I did look carefully at the comments and I can safely say that Aaron Morris is a braindead moron.
Oh no, I can't. Because while "moron" might be ill-defined and nebulous, I have no factual basis for saying that Aaron Morris has been formally diagnosed with total necrosis of cerebral neurons following loss of blood flow and oxygenation. Seriously, that is the argument that Morris, and now Judge Madden, are making. According to the ruling, the following remarks were meant not as opinion, but as statements of fact.
“How old is this skank? 40 something?”
"She's a psychotic, lying, whoring, still going to clubs at her age, skank."
"She may have been hot 10 years ago, but is it really attractive to watch this old hag straddle dudes in a nightclub or lounge?"
Most of these comments apparently (the original blog is long defunct) came in connection with photos of Cohen like the one I've posted here, for the purely journalistic purpose of providing context for my Constitutionally-protected opinions (perhaps it would be safer to photoshop out her face and replace it with a picture of Mohammed). While Cohen would probably (in my opinion!) have been happy to have these pictures blown up and plastered all over SoHo as part of a Calvin Klein campaign, they were actually taken at a private party so she was outraged. Surely it won't clog the courts to allow lawsuits from anyone who poses for dumb pictures at a party and then regrets seeing them online.
Cohen got particularly lawsuit-y over one caption on a shot of her face near her pal's crotch that read "Nothing like opening wide to take that thing into my mouth AGAIN." Her lawyer argued that this constituted a factually verifiable statement (or, more precisely, not verifiable) inasmuch as that "when the anonymous blogger suggested that Cohen was eager to indulge in oral sex again, he or she implied facts about Cohen's sexual history, and such language was more than just an unflattering caption."
So with the big reveal, Cohen learned that, surprise, the anonyblogger was an acquaintance of hers. Probably another model -- you know what lying, psychotic whores they are.
Maybe this is a good time to quit blogging after all. Enjoy the new Internet, folks.
I must admit I was initially dismissive of the complaint that Google hates America because they never change their logo for Memorial Day or Veterans Day while they do celebrate "accomplishments of the communist Soviet Union."
But today the charge seems a little less crazy, what with the doodle tribute to IEDs.
Upon learning of this lovely man's untimely passing, I went back and meticulously reviewed all of his entries, looking for the one that would best honor him and his devotion to the contest. I think this one, from contest 150, fits the bill.
This little bit of false equivalency is beginning to pop up more and more frequently: "The bad behavior isn't unique to health care opponents or right-wing activists. Liberal anti-war group Code Pink and animal rights group PETA are both known for their rowdy demonstrations. Code Pink supporters are regularly removed from Capitol Hill for disrupting key congressional hearings."
I'm no fan of Code Pink (or PETA, but lets leave them aside for the moment) but there's a major difference between their disruptive activity and the ones staged by the health creeps and tea baggers. Code Pink, and other antiwar protestors, stomp and yell to draw attention to their cause because they have been deliberately shut out of the conversation otherwise. The health creeps are stomping and yelling at events they've been invited to, at which they are given an opportunity to present their case rationally if they would like.
Those "key congressional hearings" Code Pink disrupts feature one-sided, or at best one and a half sided testimony that always broadly supports a militaristic agenda. Antiwar folks are never invited to be heard. That's the whole point of their protest. In the run-up to the Iraq war, polls showed that a majority of Americans opposed an invasion without UN support, but there were no town hall meetings in which sitting congresspeople came to present their case directly to the people and to listen with an open mind to the response. Would some liberals still have made asses of them if that had happened? Perhaps. But many more would have come prepared with civil speeches. Endless and heavy on the Chomsky, but civil. Currently Code Pink is agitating to end the war in Afghanistan. Until Arlen Specter holds a town hall on that subject in which he says he wants to hear from all sides (can you imagine any leading politician even suggesting that there might be more than one side?), the parallel between antiwar protesters and anti health care reform ones should be dropped.
Deadspin gets in on the media self-censorship watchdogging with a particularly lovely item about a training routine whose name "cannot be mentioned in a family newspaper or on the Internet, but it has to do with, um, maturation."
I bet you didn't know there were words too outrageous for the Internet.
By the way, my NYT Mag piece on The Beatles: Rock Band originally included a special self-censorship wink for you, my blog followers, but unfortunately it was flagged and killed at the last possible second. A shadow of it remains, which I think you'll spot. Just know that the word "family" very nearly went to press as "uptight."
This may be my magazine journalism swan song. From this weekend's New York Times Magazine, While My Guitar Gently Beeps, a behind-the-scenes look at The Beatles: Rock Band that was seven-months in the making and, among its many other pleasures, afforded me the opportunity to meet one of the greatest songwriters of all time and someone I wanted to be when I was 10 years old.
I'll warn you that it kind of goes on forever (cover stories, ahem, will do that) so if you can wait and read it in the print magazine (where it also looks terrific), you're probably better off doing so. But online you'll also find this video we shot of the excellent Beatles tribute band Bubble learning how to play the game — and nailing it on the first try. (You can't quite tell, but the drummer started on expert and scored a 93%. Once he figured out which pad correlated to which drum on Ringo's kit, I don't think he even looked at the screen.)
Update: You got that the Ringo thing was a joke, right? Misdirection? Because a certain lass with devoted fans among my readers did not.
Breaking news: A mermaid has been sighted in Haifa, Israel.
"Many people are telling us they are sure they've seen a mermaid and they are all independent of each other," council spokesman Natti Zilberman told Sky News... "People say it is half girl, half fish."
Of course they won't know if it's an authentic mermaid until they determine which half is from the mother.
Via HuffPo comes this snapshot of an unexpectedly, if unintentionally, honest protest sign at a recent health care town brawl. Not the "I Want the Same Health Care as Congress!" sign in the foreground. It seems incredibly unlikely that teabaggers would be calling for a massively expensive plan that would (further) bankrupt both them and the government. No, what I like is the sign in the background: "No to Health Care."
Crush any chance of reform and you'll get your wish, folks.
See also the rest of the slideshow for the sign listing enemies of America with Obama seven spots above North Korea and the one declaring Obama "the anus of America." Which is just absurd. Everyone knows he's the anus of Kenya.
If you came here looking for this week's anti-caption contest, or anything else really, perhaps I could have your attention for a brief announcement instead. For the entire seven years that I've been writing this blog I have been a freelancer, working mostly out of my home. That gave me not only the opportunity for blogging, but also the motive. I'd read something in the news, have something terribly clever and interesting to say about it, and nobody around to say it to.
About three months ago, I banged out one of those observations in the form of a dialogue with Michael Steele about gay marriage. Shortly after that I got an e-mail from someone at The Daily Show saying they liked it and would I consider applying for an open writing position. Fast-forward through several rounds of hoop-jumping to last week when I was officially offered, and accepted, the position. I start next month.
What that means for you? Well it's a poor reward for the blog that got me the job, but the truth is that I seriously doubt I'll have much time for updating. And I'll have another outlet for my observations about the news. I've already mentioned that I'd been getting a bit burned out on blogging anyway, so odds are this blog will go largely dormant, though I won't let it go completely dark. I'll be damned if this blog dies before Bil Keane does.
In any case, I'm happy to note that I'm ending this phase of my freelance writing on a high note. Stop by later in the week for my first New York Times Magazine cover story. Oh, and there'll be no anti-caption contest this week. Would you be interested in having me bring in someone to run it from now on? Or is it better to simply retire it?
David Marc Fischer, better known to you and me as loyal reader and anti-captioner David F, has died unexpectedly of leukemia at the age of....
Well, I don't know how old he was, or much else about him at all. It's one of the odd pleasures of blogging that we can form real connections to one another without ever learning the things that in a pre-Internet world would be so basic. I do know that David had a clever wit, which he displayed as the proprietor of Blog About Town, where he kept meticulous track of both the New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest and the Anti-Caption Contest. It was based on that that I invited him a couple of times to be a guest blogger, in which capacity he produced, with the help of Deborah, several altered Bil Keane cartoons, of which the first is still my favorite.
Emdashes has a bit more about David and his interests. Anyone else who knew him is encouraged to leave their thoughts in the comments.
Update: Deborah points out that David did win the anti-caption contest once, and was rightly proud of his joke.