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[this post has updates—go there now]

Hello Cranker Darlings,

I was gonna start off with Trump this week, but I caught a segment on NBC Nightly News last night about hidden fees tacked on to driving violations.

Are police pulling over speeders and traffic offenders to protect the safety of the public, or to pad a budget line item? It’s an open and important question.

When I got pulled over in North Carolina and decided to fight it because it was clearly a speed trap, I went back for my court date. When I arrived, the courthouse was so full of people—the underbelly, its cousins and half-sisters—that they had to line people in the aisles. Offenders could pay their way out, and it was a cash-only system that would’ve made any New York mafia proud. (My ticket was expunged.)

This investigative piece from Jeff Rossen suggests systemic shenanigans afoot, where added fees increase the overall ticket cost by two- and three-fold. That open question about line items is one for a later date; for now, though, have a look at the worst offenders:

Guess which state is worst… You guessed it, North Carolina.

Send Jeff a tweet and urge him to do a follow story on how overall ticket-revenue line items might be padding police coffers without due justification.

 

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Oy, Hailey Reinhart. During her run on Season 10 of American Idol (a string of bad pole dancing with occasional singing that I cataloged for ProjectQAtlanta) she did not impress this critic. I called her version of “Rolling in the Deep” “passable,” but it’s actually turned out to be a popular clip on YouTube (almost 500k views).

I still think it’s a shouty, flat, pageant performance, but I guess people like it. Give me the real Adele, or give me nothing… as I pointed out in CY Vol. 1.

Cut to 2015, when Hailey slays a cover of The White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army” with Postmodern Jukebox. With a h/t to my pal Chris “Crusty” Haddle, here’s the clip:

Ms. Reinhart has grown the fuck up, that’s for sure. Her tone is much steadier, and she’s delved down in to her husky alto for some great phrasing. Willy likey.

I also like being proven wrong. Doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it just means that I’ve grown from knowing that singer-strippers can realize their dreams, too.

 

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Homeland on Showtime has been my unhealthy obsession ever since I started watching from the get-go in 2011. The show has veered from gripping dramatic thriller to fantastical, outlandish farce. The showrunners have gotten both accolades and boycott threats—in both cases for its storytelling. Here’s a clip from Season 4:

And then there’s the absolutely BRILLIANT distillation of why we love Homeland from Steven Colbert, who pokes some good-hearted fun at the graffiti artists hired to make the sets in Berlin look authentic:

"Homeland" and a graffiti artist gone rogue
“Homeland” and graffiti artists gone rogue

The graffiti artists, who call themselves “Arabian Street Artists,” decided to use their art to “hack” the show to protest Homeland’s depiction of Muslims. But it’s the reaction from Alex Gansa, the showrunner, that gets the prize:

“We wish we’d caught these images before they made it to air. However, as Homeland always strives to be subversive in its own right and a stimulus for conversation, we can’t help but admire this act of artistic sabotage.”

There are slivers of truth to all objections and reactions to this show (both the Emmys and death threats). But at its core, Homeland is almost *always an eery reflection of our war-weary times, a complex hologram that is all-too reflective of what’s going on right now, in real time, overseas and at home. The show deftly winds in threads of true-life happenings with the predictable Hollywood bluster and dramatic turns that so many of us crave. It asks tough questions when our body politic shies away from going on the record… about anything.

David Crow at DenofGeek gets it right:

The West is on the precipice of falling in slow-motion toward another Middle East quagmire; but the fear precipitating such a descent is based on very real, insidious dangers. The fictional Pentagon in Homeland even crystallizes this by stating that they aren’t going to warn Berliners, because it would “give these assholes license to send our cities” into a panic on a weekly basis. There’s another scary thought we might be on the edge of making a reality.

It’s these nightmares that causes the episode to work. As loathsome as I have found Peter Quinn’s storyline all season long—and I still cringe at the idea of him stumbling onto a jihadist plot to blow up Berlin with chemical warfare by coughing at the docks—it has made a shrewd point that almost causes season 5’s belabored pace to be worth it: the spy games of the old Cold War have been superseded by the shadowy machinations of a new one.

This season is no different than the last. Particularly weighty is the matter of missing cash in Iraq after the invasion, which Homeland weaves through with non-linear, Damages-like precision in Season 5. I only wish they had started the flashbacks sooner, because the POV would’ve been much stronger. This season’s plot is a bit of a mess as a result, and Quinn gets the candy beat out of him—gun shot wounds, a crack over the head with a pipe and a lovely introduction to Sarin gas—but it’s still no less a reflection of our messy, imperfect union that always tries to dominate the international conversation.

Judging by the reaction to the above tweet alone, I’d say I’m onto something in my assertion that Peter Quinn should have his own Homeland prequel. Both Friend the actor and Quinn the character dominate every since he’s in, and it’d pave a way forward for a series that is both loathed and loved, depending on whom you ask. Make it so, Sho.

 

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The latest Trump Tsunami, explained in five tweets:

On that last Tweet: I’ve never been a fan of Chris Cuomo. He could make the fall of the Berlin Wall sound like a bake sale. He’s also had his fair share of dingus foot-in-mouth disease. But in this case, watch this clip of Cuomo interviewing Trump after the angry-seagull-haired mogul made his patently ridiculous policy statement on Muslims:

You can see the exasperated face of a nation in Chris Cuomo’s eyes. And even though Trump is a media creation, at least we see an on-air journalist who is, in this instance, doing his job of questioning authority. All authority, across the board and across the aisle. Which is usually not the case with For Profit Media.

Last clip on this topic. Seth Meyers: the heir apparent to Jon Stewart, breaks down the hysteria around Trump:

I really hope Seth stays with his model of spoofing the news because we could use that right about now. He has a LOT of fodder to work with.

 

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The International community is meeting in Paris this week to try and get greenhouse emissions under control with an international treaty. Let’s work it out, people. … A British soldier’s Muslim Facebook post goes viral and for all the right reasons … Angela Merkel is Time Magazine’s Person of the Year, so it’s time to bring back Kate McKinnon‘s uproarious impersonation of her.

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PS: I know Lorne Michaels *totally listened when I posted that he needed to take Kate McKinnon off the bench. Sure enough, she’s now an SNL featured player and playing Hillary Clinton to the hilt.

 

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Outside the Dakota after Lennon was shot
Outside the Dakota after Lennon was shot

It happened 35 years ago this week: the murder of John Lennon, gunned down outside of the Dakota on 72nd Street in Manhattan by a nutjob fan. I was living with the fam on the Upper West Side when it happened… so in his honor, I’m posting a TBT clip from that time on Idol when I knew that JHud was star-worthy. I only wish her version of Lennon’s “Imagine” was the full version—kinda like Lennon’s life itself.

In an interesting and sad coincidence, JHud and her immediate family were victims of gun violence themselves. In the above clip you see a glimpse of her mother, who was murdered in Chicago along with Hudson’s brother and nephew. So this TBT is a sad, synchronistic memory all the way around.

That’s it from me this week, Cranker Darlings. See you right back here Thursday at 2.


Will Pollock is a cranky New York City escapee living in Atlanta. He’s a freelance multimedia journalist and author of two books (Pizza for Good & Leaving Triscuit), with more on the way. Sign up for the mailing list, follow him on TwitterFacebook and Instagram—and check out the book links below.

Don’t forget to comment below. Cranky loves company.

 

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