I like turtles. I love retrailers.

(via Andrew Sullivan)


It was April 2009 when The Gregory Brothers — then a fledgling folk/soul band comprising brothers Michael, Andrew, and Evan, complemented by Sarah, who literally married into the group — debuted the first iteration of their Auto-Tune the News series. It’s a wonderful example of media convergence: the brothers record television news as it occurs; insert clips of themselves in a succession of zany costumes while singing parodic tunes over footage and commentary that is freeze-framed, sped-up, or repeated; process the audio tracks of political luminaries and newscasters through the Auto-Tune technology popularized by T-Pain; and post the results on their YouTube channel.

Previously, the group’s best effort at rising to prominence entailed getting laughed out of an American Idol interview. Now ATN’s most popular episode is approaching 3 million views on the group’s channel alone; additionally their videos are simultaneously hosted on the Barely Political channel, which brought the world Obama Girl. The Gregory Brothers have since been featured on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal and MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Show. They obtained a record deal and released an album in July, and they’ve become sought-after session musicians, lending their skills to projects helmed by wunderkind Sufjan Stevens. Even T-Pain himself — an artist who demonstrates a remarkable capacity for self-parody — is now in on the joke.

So the Gregory Brothers effectively force the likes of titans Joe Biden, Michele Bachmann, and Katie Couric to sing their songs for the world to hear; their meta-commentary supplants the original commentary that it pillories.

Auto-Tune #9 debuted yesterday:

If the ordeal of Lakhdar Boumediene, aka “10005”, doesn’t make you want to tear your teeth out, are you sure you’re an American?

He was arrested by Bosnian police in October 2001 and charged with conspiring to blow up the U.S. and British Embassies.

The charges were dropped, and the Bosnian courts ordered him and five others freed. But under pressure from the Bush administration, the Bosnian government handed him over to the U.S. military.

Oddly, Boumediene said no one at Gitmo ever asked him about the alleged plot to blow up the embassies in Sarajevo.

“You think that’s not torture? What’s this? What can you call this? Torture or what?” he said, indicating the scars he bears from tight shackles. “I’m an animal? I’m not a human?”

“The first month, okay, no problem, the building, the 11 of September, the people, they are scared, but not 7 years. They can know whose [sic] innocent, who’s not innocent, who’s terrorist, who’s not terrorist,” he said.

Or… maybe you’re someone who finds the Torture Apologia Chart, courtesy of Vagabond Scholar, to be a compendium of sound arguments.

Sure, okay, I know: Nicolas Cage has been so bad, for so long, in so many spectacularly terrible movies, that not only is the man a joke, the joke has begun to fall in upon itself.

But people forget: every now and then he takes a break from his blockbuster hucksterisms to deliver an amazing performance in something singular and lasting. Think Raising Arizona. Or Wild at Heart. Or Leaving Las Vegas. Or Adaptation. Sometimes it’s for laughs; sometimes it’s purposefully stilted; sometimes he’s actually breaking your heart. Weirdly, the most limited hack in Hollywood also demonstrates impressive range.  He’s performed one admirable turn each for some of the great arthouse directors of our time — Coen Brothers, David Lynch, Spike Jonze, Martin Scorcese — yet there’s something inscrutable to how these rare performances come about amid all the interminable Bruckheimer hokum.

So I really have no idea what to make of the fact that Cage is starring in an upcoming Bad Lieutenant film, directed by Werner Herzog, who insists that this is not a remake. (If I were Abel Ferrara I’d be livid, but I’m not Abel Ferrara.)

Uh… sick? Whatever. Nobody directs actors to completely lose their shit quite the way Herzog does, and nobody takes it all someplace new for a one-off performance like Cage. Whether it’s a bad cop we wind up seeing or just a bad actor, I look forward to watching someone degrade himself past the point of recognizability.

UPDATE: The trailer got taken down from YouTube. So I found another one! (Which, maybe, will last a whole 24 hours.)

NEW UPDATE 11/23: I haven’t seen the film yet. But Roger Ebert has — and his review is excellent.

What do you think of when someone says “Twitter”?

To me it evokes an elusive utility: a tool devised to connect us over distances, one that encourages quick and pithy pronouncements, one that has played a functional role in scattered public events within the past couple years — yet one that, for the larger part, produces nothing better than a steady barrage of inanity.

People you are dimly aware of stream minutial accounts of their trips to grocery stores in cities you’ve never cared to visit; far-flung erstwhile colleagues discuss their pets’ eating disorders; the dimmer lights of Congress petulantly flaunt their ignorance

I think of the luminaries at the top of this blogging game who still scratch their heads and pronounce that “no good can come of this.”

Now: what do you think of when someone says “New Yorker“?

Kind of the opposite, right? The élan vital of the elite virtu? A high-end, supremely literate, exhaustively verbose weekly burst of thoughtful observations on culture, global politics, and the humanities, to be perused at one’s leisure? Except that most people have neither the disposable income nor the time — the leisure — to enjoy it?

Sasha Frere-Jones deconstructs M.I.A. before she even exists; Seymour Hersh tunnels into our byzantine relationship with Pakistan’s I.S.I.; D.T. Max catalogues the tragic final months in the life of the mind of David Foster Wallace

I think of Charlie Kaufman’s sideways compliment to Susan Orlean in Adaptation: “Great, sprawling, New Yorker shit.”

Enter Dan Baum, whose exit from the New Yorker‘s writing staff became the subject of an essay that he dispatched through his Twitter account in hundreds of discrete “character chunks” over the course of three days within the past week.

It’s actually a fascinating story: we learn of how one attains a gig at journalism’s Shangri-La, how stories are pitched or assigned there, and how such gigs are lost to the ordinary grind of office politics.

Kottke points to the tweet archive. Simon Owens of Bloggasm scores an interview.

Now: should I tweet about having just blogged about Twitter?

Richard Cohen at the Washington Post has some deep thoughts about torture:

But where I reserve a soupçon of doubt is over the question of whether “enhanced interrogation techniques” actually work. That they do not is a matter of absolute conviction among those on the political left, who seem to think that the CIA tortured suspected terrorists just for the hell of it.


Actually, Dick, if you devote even a fraction of your attention, you’ll notice that most American critics of the War on Terror as practiced by the most recent Administration are highly in favor of making public as much information as possible, as they are primarily concerned with determining who authorized the torture, and when, and why, and what the practical effects of those decisions have been — which sort of undercuts your two propositions that

A) critics of the torture already know why it was done, and

B) the focus of this criticism is directed at the CIA agents who performed these acts, rather than at the Administration officials who called for them.

As to A), the running theories are that

a) the Bush Administration comprised a gang of sadistic imps who were simply too inept to allow intelligence professionals to perform their jobs in the manner in which they had been trained, and

b) the Bush Administration believed that if they could extract some bogus confessions indicating collusion between an Afghanistan-centric Al-Qaeda and a nuclear-enabled Iraq, they could bolster their bogus case for an expanded war.

Naturally, while these theories  do complement one another, they are nonetheless mere running theories, so they beg for further information which may alter our understanding as said information arises. Which is why the hell we are having this discussion.

I first became aware of the retrailer sometime in the early fall of 2005 — not via YouTube, as the site had then scarcely begun to exist — with a retooled Shining trailer that imagined the horror classic as a feel-good family comedy:

This gem says a lot of things, however elliptically, about the ways in which we interact with popular culture through time — for instance, the suggestion that a film could attain totemic significance by unnerving us to our sinews only to finally evolve, 25 years after the artifact’s release, into singularly effluvial kitsch; or that Peter Gabriel’s song “Solsbury Hill”, released in 1977 (the same year as the original novel The Shining), a song about a moment of spiritual epiphany of all things, would have lain dormant in the culture for most of that time period before a sudden deluge of exposure in movie trailers of the early 21st Century would render it the nadir of treacly commercialism.

Since then we’ve had a number of these things, including Ten Things I Hate About Commandments, 8 1/2 Mile, and Brokeback to the Future.

Sure, one can reduce the phenomenon to a pedestrian meddling between the sacred and the profane, the artistic and the opportunistic (approximating Riff Market‘s digression on Girl Talk) — but the main takeaway seems to be that these things are fun.

Flash forward to May 2009, wherein Andrew Sullivan, via Buzzfeed, points to an interpretation of Dirty Dancing as a David Lynch film:

Now somebody envision Mulholland Drive as an episode of Three’s Company, and we’re really driving somewhere.

A “Shorter” Matt Kibbe:

Because absolutely every person who voted for Obama in November is a commie whose sole interpretive lens for things that happen in the world is Steven Soderbergh’s Guevara biopic, The Media is totally lying about the meaning of the Teabag Fiestas, which is that absolutely every person who voted for Obama in November is a Godfearing Republican who was tricked into thinking that Obama would cancel taxes.

Because The Media is totally lying its Big Media head off, the only outlet that can be trusted for a reliable estimate of crowd size at the Teabag Fiestas is the same organization that coordinated those parties, except there was no coordination at all and the claim that there was is just a Big Media Lie, so therefore it must be understood that there were at least twice as many people at these events than claimed by any other source, making the Teabag Fiestas almost a fraction as populous as the war protests that have been occurring all over the world for the past six years.

Really folks, everything that ever happens in the world can be best understood through the sole interpretive lens of the pseudoscientific ramblings of that Swiss Death ‘N Dying lady who charged grieving widows to get fucked by a swami who impersonated the ghosts of their late husbands and gave them all yeast infections at her cult compound in Arizona.

Also, the fact that David Axelrod is a campaign manager who became a Senior White House Advisor means that he is completely just like Karl Rove in every aspect, except that when Axelrod describes the Teabag Fiestas as an exercise of First Amendment rights, what he really means is that he intends to round the teabaggers up and send them to re-education camps.

In conclusion, the Teabag Fiestas are collectively the most important thing that has ever happened, for they presage a complete Republican takeover of Congress as early as November 2009, which will save America from Obama’s gay zombie wave of taxandspendy destruction.

Thanks a million, Memeorandum.

This whole “shorter” thang is, of course, a feeble nod to the archivists of internet traditions over at Sadly, No!