New York City, April 26, 2016

weather review sky 042616★★★ One large piece of trash, then another, blew slowly by outside the 27th-floor window. Again the morning was cloudy and grimy-looking; this time it turned near clear by midday. Striking Verizon workers blew whistles, shrill on the breeze. The vestibule outside the fancy bakery had been taken down for the season. The temperature map on the phone was full of violently irreconcilable numbers, but nothing right outdoors seemed ominous. Things finally darkened, and headlights gleamed on the wet avenue. Then, without fuss, things brightened again. The cycle repeated, a little darker in the dark part, yielding to full light, and that was the extent of it all.

Cubes Counted

This morning, as I was watching the official trailer for Snowden, I laughed. I cackled at Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s weirdly froggy voice, I loled at the trope of the smart kid finishing a Really Hard Test In A Fraction Of The Allotted Time (yes I’m sure it actually happened! Still a trope!), and I guffawed at Nicolas Cage saying “internet haystack.” But what I’m here to talk about is the Rubik’s Cube. Snowden is a known Rubik’s Cube do-er, carrier—I don’t know if “enthusiast” means anything here because I think literally anyone who knows How To Rubik’s Cube immediately qualifies as an enthusiast, but sure—enthusiast. He told Laura Poitras and Glenn Greenwald that they would be able to spot him in that fateful hotel lobby in Hong Kong because he’d be holding one. Sure enough, Glenn Greenwald wrote in his book, “The first thing I saw was the unsolved Rubik’s Cube, twirling in the man’s left hand.”

But in this movie trailer, JGL-as-Snowden uses the Cube as a hiding place for his little microchip with all the data about the NSA program in order to secret it out of the office. IRL Snowden just used a thumb drive like a normal. The Rubik’s Cube, however (or do we just say Rubik’s Cube? Does it take the article?), has become a total TV-and-movie trope for “quietly smart nerd who can A-Beautiful-Mind his way through complex mental rotation tasks.” And this movie trailer (and presumably also the movie) takes that trope and really runs with it.

I am not a Rubik’s Cube enthusiast, and I have never gotten past the frustration of just wanting to peel off the stickers and move them around so it looked like I had solved it. I’m sure it’s genuinely hard! And being good at it means your brain is good at mentally rotating cubes through planes! I just love keeping track of scenes in movies where someone (usually a dude) quietly solves a Rubik’s Cube as if it were the big math problem from Good Will Hunting. The dopiest example of this is Will Smith’s character solving the cube in Pursuit of Happyness, thereby proving his fitness to be a stock broker. But there are certainly others. This was going to be a listicle, but then I found a nice Dutch man who smartly jumped on the opportunity to buy the domain; he did exactly what you’d think. Please contribute to this wonderful project! I will be tweeting at him shortly. Please don’t send me links to the people solving Rubik’s Cubes blindfolded; I’ve seen those too.

“Mr. Cohen said he believed dogs might look anxious in the hugging photos because they didn’t like having their pictures taken, or because a person was trying to pose them or get their attention.”
Good news for all you dog-hugging monsters out there: Someone is ready to rationalize your abusive behavior.#

If you’re going to play around in a virtual environment, you may as well go to a depraved sex den where a master whips a boy and forces him to serve someone. Alas, something weird happened when I entered the dungeon: It kept pulling to the right. It was like trying to eat a plate of fries when the waitress was steadily moving it inches away from me. To look “straight ahead” in the scene, I had to keep my head cocked over my right shoulder — incredibly uncomfortable considering all the other strenuous activity I was engaging in.

Virtual reality porn is here! How soon till someone is caught watching one of these things in an Uber?#

The Field, "Reflecting Lights (Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith Mix)"

The two albums that I have listened to more than any other this year are Third Coast Percussion’s album of Steve Reich pieces and The Field’s The Follower. Here’s a remix from the latter, done by the terrific Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith. Enjoy.

“Scarface is dead. No, not the character from the 1983 movie starring Al Pacino. This Scarface was the real deal — a 25-year-old Yellowstone National Park grizzly bear who received his nickname from the extensive scarring on the right side of his head. Scarface the bear and Scarface the movie character do have one other thing in common besides their name, though: they both died of gunshot wounds.#

Jesus of Narrative

Unit coverage of Black Jesus ep. 210 Wedding Vows

In the summer of 2014, Aaron McGruder’s comedy series “Black Jesus” sparked a relatively small conflagration of self-righteousness, from little more than its title and premise. USA Today collected statements from both black and white religious leaders across the country who were disgusted by its depiction of Jesus Christ. A Christian media-watchdog site that tracks things like “lesbian kisses” told its followers that the show “makes a mockery of our Lord.” And before the season had aired, a petition to get the show canceled gathered almost 2,500 signatures. These people were angry, no doubt, at what they saw as the oxymoronic proximity of the two words, and the blasphemy they seemed to suggest. Imagine the fallout, these critics argued, if someone had made a TV show “mocking” the prophet Mohammed. Even critics who weren’t as race-baited or angry still felt that the show was a “spoof,” trying to undermine the idea of Jesus, and that, nevertheless, the power of Jesus’s teachings would “survive” the show.

Two seasons of “Black Jesus” later, and a third coming this year (as well as a feature film reportedly in development), the only thing anyone can seem to agree on about the series is that it is meant to be a satire, light fare, a stoner serial, or as AV Club’s Eric Thurm put it, “a pleasant, relatively mindless high.” That is fair and understandable, considering that the show shares a network with “Assy McGee” and “Mary Shelley’s Frankenhole.” But is it really a spoof? Is Black Jesus mindless, blaxploitative satire? I am here to tell ye that it is not. In fact, I am here to tell ye that “Black Jesus” is one of the most subversive and thought-provoking re-imaginings of the Jesus narrative you will ever see, and that it is the most under-appreciated show on television.

Soundscan Surprises Week Ending 4/21


I think we all know what happened here.

1. PRINCE VERY BEST OF PRINCE 100,174 copies

2. PRINCE PURPLE RAIN 62,544 copies

3. PRINCE THE HITS­/THE B­-SIDES 24,142 copies

4. PRINCE 1999 13,123 copies


9. PRINCE SIGN ‘O’ THE TIMES 6,272 copies

17. PRINCE DIRTY MIND 3,704 copies

18. PRINCE CONTROVERSY 3,596 copies



32. PRINCE ART OFFICIAL AGE 2,635 copies


111. PRINCE SYMBOL 1,586 copies

130. PRINCE HITS 1 1,477 copies

157. PRINCE FOR YOU 1,312 copies


Photo: Flickr

“Mikko Hypponen, chief research officer for Finland-based F-Secure, said that infections of critical infrastructure were surprisingly common, but that they were generally not dangerous unless the plant had been targeted specifically…. As an example, Hypponen said he had recently spoken to a European aircraft maker that said it cleans the cockpits of its planes every week of malware designed for Android phones. The malware spread to the planes only because factory employees were charging their phones with the USB port in the cockpit.”
Everything is fine. Don’t give another thought to the airplanes and, uh, NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS that are infected with computer viruses.”#