In 1998, Jeff Mangum and his band Neutral Milk Hotel released In the Aeroplane Over the Sea.

The record—a blend of energetic, philosophical folk with a distinctly vintage flair—became one of the most beloved cult classics in all of indie rock.

A notoriously private man, Mangum has largely evaded public attention following Aeroplane's release. He never released another record as Neutral Milk Hotel, yet Aeroplane still holds up all these years later.

Stereogum

Every once in a while, Mangum comes out of the shadows, waving his indie rock powers over his fans' heads and using it to do true good in the world. Recently, he upheld this tradition by coming out as a Bernie Sanders supporter in an email.

Entitled "bernie is punk," the note read simply:

"Hello my friends. Just writing to ask you to please vote for Bernie. Much love to all. Jeff Mangum."

The email also contains an image of Bernie interviewing two mall goths in 1988 and a photo of Sanders being carted away by cops (he was protesting segregation in Chicago public schools in 1963).

Mangum's wife, Astra Taylor, confirmed the announcement in a tweet, writing, "I endorse his endorsement."

While any Mangum appearance is a gift, long-time devotees won't be too surprised to see that the elusive musician has announced his support for America's most beloved Democratic socialist. After all, In the Aeroplane was (arguably) laden with the same kind of vintage, dreamy, visionary feeling that Sanders inspires in so many. The album's wide-eyed embrace of life's devastations and beauty has gained it many followers over the years, and the same goes for Bernie, a man who sees the struggles of human existence and yet presents a vision of viable change. In the Aeroplane feels lost in the past, but by the end it finds itself describing a new future, one wrapped in radio wires and possibility. Similarly, Bernie began his career in the past but he's come to represent a whole new generation of visionaries. Maybe we'll see Mangum at a Sanders rally soon; at this point, anything is possible.

CULTURE

Elizabeth Warren Just Cost Mike Bloomberg $100 Million and Twitter Loves It

Warren's savage performance at the debate last night left Bloomberg's expensive candidacy badly damaged

Mark Ralston/Getty Images

Last Night's Democratic Primary debate in Las Vegas had a number of highlights, with tension and personal attacks arising between a number of candidates.

Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar clashed numerous times during the debate and finished the night with a rejected handshake, while every candidate but Bloomberg himself took a swipe at the former elephant in the room (because he used to be a Republican…and they have an elephant mascot…you get it). But there was no other drama as costly—in every sense of the word—as Elizabeth Warren's vicious takedown of the former Mayor of New York and current billionaire scandal-machine.

www.youtube.com

After dropping more than $400 million on an advertising blitz that includes memes from the people who promoted the Fyre Festival and a commercial that all-but claims an endorsement from best-friend Barack Obama (with whom Bloomberg is hardly friendly), Bloomberg had managed to scrape together an impressive position in national polls. That, along with possible help of donations to the DNC, was enough to qualify him for the debate stage in Las Vegas Wednesday night, but he may be regretting that fact after Warren tore into his troubling record on a number of issues, beginning with the laundry list of sexual harassment allegations that his employees have leveled against him.

"I'd like to talk about who we're running against: a billionaire who calls women 'fat broads' and 'horse-faced lesbians.' And no, I'm not talking about Donald Trump; I'm talking about Mayor Bloomberg. Democrats are not going to win if we have a nominee who has a history of hiding his tax returns, of harassing women, and of supporting racist policies like red-lining and stop and frisk."

Mike Bloomberg and Donald Trump Bryan R. Smith/AFP/Getty Images

As she went in, Mike Bloomberg stood roughly three feet to her right (though several miles to her right in terms of policy positions), allowing the audience's derision to wash over him. The sour expression on his face spoke to the sprawling spreadsheet inside his head, calculating what it will cost to repair his polling after such a bloodbath. Of course, any conversation about his history with female employees is hampered by the fact that the details of the cases against him are not available to the public. The women involved signed non-disclosure agreements from which Bloomberg could easily release them—despite his meaningless protestations that the contracts were "consensual."

"He has gotten some number of women—dozens? Who knows—to sign non-disclosure agreements, both for sexual harassment, and for gender discrimination in the workplace. So, Mr. Mayor, are you willing to release all of those women from those non-disclosure agreements, so we can hear their side of the story?"

No, he is not. What he is willing to do is claim that "some number" of non-disclosure agreements is actually just "a very few"—though not so few that when Warren repeatedly asked him, "How many is that?" he could provide a specific answer. He was also happy to dismiss the women's complaints against him, saying "maybe they didn't like a joke I told" to jeers from the crowd.

Repairing his image among women who have worked under casual misogynists is not going to be cheap. No doubt there are crisis meetings in board rooms along Madison avenue right now, full of advertising executives and copywriters storyboarding a 2-minute primetime spot about how much Bloomberg hated hanging out with Harvey Weinstein throughout their long friendship—watch for that during commercial breaks for this Sunday's American Idol.

Mike Bloomberg and Harvey Weinstein Jemal Countess/Getty Images

But Warren wasn't done with him. She dug into Bloomberg's record on race relations, as well. Many people have criticized his half-assed apology for his Stop and Frisk policy—claiming that he cut the practice by 95%, when he actually expanded it by 600% and only cut it down when he was forced to—but Elizabeth Warren really broke it down:

"When the mayor says that he apologized, listen very closely to the apology. The language he used about Stop and Frisk is about how it turned out. Now, this isn't about how it turned out. This is about what it was designed to do to begin with. It targeted communities of color. It targeted black and brown men from the beginning. And if you want to issue a real apology, then the apology has to start with the intent of the plan as it was put together, and the willful ignorance, day by day by day, of admitting what was happening, even as people protested in your own street—shutting out the sounds of people telling you how your own policy was breaking their lives. You need a different apology here, Mr. Mayor."

Ouch. It's a situation that many voters outside of New York are likely unfamiliar with. And considering Bloomberg's strong polling among black voters, this potent indictment could do more damage than any number of spurious Obama commercials can repair—but he has to try, dammit! Hopefully no one is motivated to Google Warren's comment about red-lining, or they may find the audio of Mike Bloomberg from 2015, seeming to blame the 2008 financial crisis on the end of racist home-loan practices.

The full bill for damage control remains to be seen—polling generally takes a few days to register shifts in public opinion—but looking at the steep dive Bloomberg took in the betting markets and the fact that his campaign has cost around $22 million for each percentage point of support, it seems safe to say that Elizabeth Warren's savage performance will end up costing him at least $100 million. Fortunately that's only about 0.15% of his net worth, so he certainly won't get vindictive and go on the attack in a way that reinforces the idea of him as a heartless and spiteful person…

Good luck out there, Mike!

Here are the best tweets about Warren's takedown of Bloomberg:
















CULTURE

10 Failed Launches More Embarrassing Than the Iowa Caucus App

Primary season is off to a rocky start, but the Democrats have a lot of competition for awful launches

Political junkies went to bed Monday night with reports of delayed results out of the Iowa caucuses, expecting that the mess would be cleared up by morning.

Those expectations were sadly mistaken, and Tuesday morning came and went with no sign of an official delegate count forthcoming. Most sources are pointing to a faulty app developed for the Iowa Democratic Party by a shadowy organization known as...Shadow Inc, because our reality has been undergoing a writer's strike since 2016. Shadow Inc. is run by some alums from Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign—because we are never allowed to forget Hillary Clinton—and associated with the non-profit organization ACRONYM, which doesn't stand for anything (again, writers strike) but is committed to "building tech infrastructure for the progressive movement."

Intended to make result tabulation fast and simple, replacing the traditional phone-in system, the app was developed in just the past few months. The quick development time was apparently streamlined by just skipping over the debugging step to have it "ready" in time for its dramatic premier. As a result, the caucus process was soon overwhelmed by technical issues as party officials struggled with crashes and inconsistencies that left them with no choice but to rely on the old-fashioned tallying and the paper trail kept as a backup.

Meanwhile, multiple campaigns are already reporting their internal results—with Sanders in the lead and Buttigieg not far behind—and the world is largely moving on from the mess with little real consequence beyond the renewed and unifying awareness of the incompetent management within the Democratic Party—even President Trump came through with one of his rare correct takes.

But it's worth keeping in mind that the Democrats are not alone in this. The history of disastrous failed launches is long and glorious, and these are but a few highlights.

Healthcare.gov

healthcare.gov

Okay, the Democrats aren't alone, but this also isn't their first foray into launch failure. When the Affordable Care Act passed in 2010, contractors were brought on to develop the website based on obsolete criteria and with little oversight, resulting in code that was full of placeholder text and a system that crashed almost immediately. Only six people were able to use the system to actually select an insurance plan on Healthcare.gov's first day. After two months of cleanup, the website was largely usable, but the trash-fire of the launch still resulted in the resignation of HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and a congressional investigation into the whole mess.

Trump Steaks

trump steaks

Just to be fair, it's worth taking a look across the aisle at probably the only time in Donald Trump's life when he made a bad business decision. Trump Steaks was a branded effort to sell middling quality steaks at a steep mark-up using the image of a man who like his meat served well-done with a heavy dose of ketchup. Billed as "The World's Greatest Steaks," Trump Steaks were sold on QVC and through the Sharper Image Catalog in 2007. Strangely, consumers didn't seem excited to buy overpriced beef from the same services that sell commemorative coins and dog waste vacuums. Both companies stopped featuring the steaks within a few months, and the trademark expired in 2014. Of course, that's just one failure. Probably a fluke.

Windows Vista

Windows Vista

After five years of Windows XP, the numerous vulnerabilities in Microsoft's operating system were causing frequent issues with viruses and malware, and people were excited for an upgrade. Windows Vista was not that. Released in 2006, the clunky user interface, compatibility issues, and frustrating security measures led to hardware companies reverting back to XP. Nonetheless, hundreds of millions of windows users ended up stuck with Vista until Microsoft rushed to release Windows 7 three years later.

GoTrump.com

gotrump.com

Oh, hey, looks like Trump may have made another slight miscalculation here, trying to establish his own branded travel-booking site. The site launched in 2006, promising to lend Donald Trump's famed deal-making skills to your travel booking, with the tagline "The art of the travel deal." Trump predicted that the website would be a "tremendous success." It ceased operation in 2007. Oops. Still, two mistakes ins't bad. Definitely not a pattern.

LaserDisc

laserdisc

LaserDiscs were basically giant CDs with movies on them. Introduced in 1978, they delivered higher quality images than VHS before the invention of DVDs, but they were also about the size of a vinyl record but much more delicate and they weighed about half a pound. The discs could only hold about an hour of video on each side, so they had to be flipped over halfway through a feature film, and the huge, expensive players also produced a lot of noise getting the discs up to speed. Needless to say, the promise of high-quality video at home was not quite worth the numerous downsides, and Laserdiscs never really caught on.

Next Page
CULTURE

Ariana, Bernie, Trump, A$AP Rocky, and the Kardashians: How Politics Became Pop Culture

Pop culture can be useful when connected to politics if it inspires tangible action—but the two can be like fire and gasoline when combined in the wrong way.

In a world where the Kardashians and A$AP Rocky have been name-dropped during literal impeachment hearings, it's hard not to wonder if we're living in a simulation.

Of course everything about Donald Trump's regime has had a simulacra-like quality about it, as full of glitches as any beta website. The former reality TV star has often been called the "social media president," after all, and his prolific Twitter usage grows more surreal by the hour.

We've entered an era where pop culture, social media, and politics blur into each other, tangling in every aspect of our lives. In fact, as the Kardashian, Jay Leno, and A$AP Rocky name-drops reveal, the ties between figures in pop culture and politicians have never been stronger and more influential, able to influence actual policy and political decisions.

Bernie Sanders and Ariana Grande Unite

At the same time Trump is discussing the Kardashians in one of the most high-profile hearings of all time, one of Trump's most formidable opponents is making his own ties to certain pop culture deities. Yesterday, Bernie Sanders was photographed beaming with Ariana Grande, and Grande took to Instagram to voice her support. "MY GUY. thank you Senator Sanders for coming to my show, making my whole night and for all that you stand for !" She wrote on Twitter. "@headcountorg and i are doing our best to make you proud. we've already registered 20k+ young voters at my shows alone. also i will never smile this hard again promise."

Sanders responded, "I want to thank @ArianaGrande for not only being a wonderful entertainer, but also for being such an outstanding advocate for social justice. We must all be prepared – like Ariana has shown – to fight for everyone who is struggling. It was great to meet her in Atlanta last night."

The senator has shown abnormal acumen in terms of using pop culture to his advantage, which can't entirely be said of his primary challengers. Previously, he's aligned himself with Cardi B, Susan Sarandon, and the Congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar. While Hillary Clinton garnered the support of thousands of A-list celebrities to no avail and put on a show of performative allyship that wound up looking like loyalty to Hollywood elites, Sanders' choice of allies feels more purposeful and genuine.

Bernie x Cardi B www.youtube.com

Then again, in the eeriest way, the same might be said of Donald Trump. His clear allegiance to Kim Kardashian and Kanye West—both figures who provoke immense ire and loathing among the masses and who, like the worst of car crashes, are incredibly difficult to look away from—aligns well with Trump's general distaste for authority and reason.

We have good reason to question celebrity alliances, as they do seem like excellent marketing for both sides. Celebrities can benefit from appearing more politically engaged through alliances to politicians, and, of course, the latter can reap the adoration of massive fanbases through a few deep connections. In some ways, celebrities and politicians seem united by the sheer amount of money and power they both amass and use to run their platforms.

But there's a long tradition of art blending with political ideology and vice versa. After all, what are politicians and performers, if not master storytellers, capable of rallying hundreds of thousands of people? When has anything been separate from politics?

Political Art vs. Pop Culture Politics

Art has always been political, used as a way of disseminating ideas and ideologies. Pop culture, in particular, is a broad mode of communication between the masses and collective values and ideas. "'Pop-culture' does not belong to just the elites and it is not officially or ideologically acknowledged as the dominant culture any level," writes Ayush Banerjee, "yet its discourse has enormous significance in the formation of public attitudes and values, as well as a profound impact on both domestic and international affairs."

Politics has also always been a theatrical game, and pop culture icons have long endorsed candidates. John F. Kennedy had Frank Sinatra sing "High Hopes" during the 1960s. Nixon famously met Elvis; and then there was Ronald Reagan, who, like Trump, made his way from Hollywood to the Oval Office.

President And King TIME.com

But in a time when silence is widely equated to taking the position of the antagonist, there's never been a time when it's been so imperative for artists to develop political alliances, and vice versa. Similarly, politicians must rely on social media and its language to channel their campaigns, as being out-of-touch with the online world can tank you as quickly as a meme can go viral.

Are celebrity relationships influential and beneficial? "If a celebrity endorsement just benefits a politician looking to boost their profile and prove their cool, then it's a lame effort to manipulate fans with short attention spans," writes John Avlon on CNN. "But if Poliwood draws sustained attention to a real public policy problem, it can serve as a gateway to civic engagement and spur political action."

Overall, the general consensus seems to be that pop culture can be useful when connected to politics if it's linked to tangible action—but the two can be like fire and gasoline when combined in the wrong way. "Politicians are not celebrities; they do not deserve fawning worship," writes Mark E. Anderson. "They are public servants, who can and should be scrutinized, and must be held accountable for their actions."

Arguably, with the rise of #MeToo and cancel culture, celebrities are being held to higher standards than ever before (which isn't saying too much, but still). Perhaps the intermixing of politics and pop culture doesn't mean that the simulation is breaking. Maybe the walls between the worlds are just falling down.

In some cases, this intermixing of pop culture and politics leads to the kind of apocalyptic cognitive dissonance that's plagued the entire Trump impeachment hearing circus. On the other hand, seeing Ariana Grande and Bernie Sanders beam together—both so full of hope for a better world—feels like the beginning of something, and God knows we all need something to get us through the next 18 months.

Gregory Allen Howard's Harriet Tubman biopic opened at the end of October after nearly 25 years of discussion and work.

Recently, Howard dusted off a memorable quote from the 1990s, when the movie was first in talks. Apparently, a studio executive suggested Julia Roberts, a white woman, play Tubman, the legendary black abolitionist.

HARRIET | Official Trailer | Now Playingwww.youtube.com

"I was told how one studio head said in a meeting, 'This script is fantastic. Let's get Julia Roberts to play Harriet Tubman,'" Howard said in an interview with Focus Features, republished in the LA Times on Tuesday. "When someone pointed out that Roberts couldn't be Harriet, the executive responded, 'It was so long ago. No one is going to know the difference.'"

"The climate in Hollywood … was very different," Allen added, crediting two recent box office smash hits with creating space for change. "Two films really changed the climate in Hollywood to allow Harriet to be made," he said. "When 12 Years a Slave became a hit and did a couple hundred million dollars worldwide, I told my agent, 'You can't say this kind of story won't make money now.' Then Black Panther really blew the doors open."

Representation in Hollywood has long been a contentious topic, and despite performative diversity and major successes for actors and directors of color, recent studies have shown that the state of the film industry is still abysmal. In 2018, the Observer reported, "Not only do Hollywood films still disproportionately showcase white, cisgender, heterosexual men, executives and authority figures on every tier of the industry haven't even deigned to experiment with telling stories from different perspectives to any tangible degree."

Naturally, the Internet had a lot to say. Most lamented the utter horror of seeing Julia Roberts and Harriet Tubman in the same headline, but the story really only highlights what we already knew: Hollywood, like the nation at large, has a racism and whitewashing problem, and always has.

What do the victims of lynch mobs, witch trials, and the holocaust all have in common? Wealthy white men identify with their struggles.

Donald Trump, comparing his treatment in the impeachment inquiry to a lynching, is just the latest in a long line of wealthy white men who recognize a commonality between the people who've been horribly mistreated by the dominant culture and the people who are at the center of the dominant culture. There's nothing like a centuries-long legacy of brutally clinging to power to suddenly transform you into an underdog when people start to challenge your natural role at the top of the social hierarchy.


Donald Trump's "Lynching" Tweet Twitter

That's what makes this such a terrifying time to be a rich white guy. Cultural activists want to amplify the accusations of women you (allegedly) assaulted, minority groups want to reform the police forces that solely protect your interests, and political candidates want to take the wealth that you justly harvested from crops of underpaid workers. As wealthy white men are eager to tell you, we live in a culture that is cruelly victimizing wealthy white men.

The Emmet Till Memorial Covered in Bullet Holes


Donald Trump gets that. Who can better relate to the experience of Emmett Till than the man whose key demo vandalized Emmett Till's memorial to the point that it had to be replaced with a bulletproof version? Who could possibly understand the struggle of the black Americans, and the historic horror of lynching, better than the man who wanted to close down the National Museum of African American History and Culture for a private tour on MLK Jr. Day—and who couldn't be shown anything "difficult" there, because he was in a bad mood? Why should he have to see the cruelty that marginalized people dealt with in the past, when he and wealthy white men like him are living it right now. Can you imagine being Jordan Peterson, having to deal with a lot of people saying mean things to him on Twitter just because he has built his career on the refusal to acknowledge the existence of trans people? He no longer feels safe to even post his own tweets! Is there any clearer example of erasure? I literally can't think of one. Doesn't he deserve some sort of space where he can speak his mind without being bullied by those with less power and cultural status? A space that's safe, if you will? He is a unique and fragile individual, as precious as those little things that snow is made of (what are those called again?). We have to protect him!



And you have to feel bad for Brett Kavanaugh, who had his life so destroyed by multiple, corroborated accusations of sexual misconduct that he's been forced to serve on the Supreme Court and continue coaching his daughter's basketball team. Meanwhile, his most notable accuser has the luxury of remaining in hiding and no longer teaching more than a year after she recounted her deepest trauma in the most public venue imaginable. Remember how nice the Republican senators were about her testimony, just before they voted for the man who assaulted her?

Brett Kavanaugh Being a Sad Little Boy REUTERS

And consider the lot of Tom Perkins, the tech billionaire who sounded the alarm on how bad things were getting for rich white guys all the way back in 2014, comparing his experience to that of Jews in Nazi Germany. Poor guy (not literally poor, obviously, that would be gross). And Trump's climate adviser, William Happer, who has made a lucrative career advocating for fossil fuel companies, made a similar observation about the demonization of carbon dioxide, yet we continue to give Greta Thunberg a platform to spread her carbon hate, with only death threats and constant harassment to put her in her place. Won't someone please think of the oil executives?!

Truly, unlike every other instance in recorded history, in the modern day it's the wealthy and powerful white men who are on the receiving end of oppression. The struggle is real.