Wednesday, June 26, 2013

It Doesn't Matter If Tony Soprano Got Whacked In The Diner

With the very sad, untimely death of James Gandolfini last week, Tony Soprano is definitely, for sure, no fooling, unambiguously dead.

The actor's passing has kicked off a great many well-deserved tributes to his work, on The Sopranos in particular, which in turn has renewed the debate on that series' controversial cut-to-black ending -- specifically, whether Tony was killed in the final scene.

The people who feel that Tony died -- specifically, that he was shot in the head by the guy in the Members Only jacket coming out of the bathroom -- have a pretty strong case, best summed up by the "Master Of Sopranos" essay that picks it apart shot by shot. Cliff Notes version: it's clearly set up that the scene is alternating between closeups of Tony and Tony's point of view, so when he looks up and the scene then cuts to black, it's cutting to his point of view, which, in death, is nothing.

There is another, less vocal camp that feels that the ending is meant to show that after everything, Tony's punishment is to live life with one eye forever on the door, waiting for the murder that he knows will someday come, and yet, as Steve Perry would have it, "paying anything to roll the dice just one more time." As the song also says, "The movie never ends, it goes on and on and on," but as that was not the language in David Chase's contract, he had to end somewhere so he picked an arbitrary spot and ended it.

Those are both very interesting arguments and I don't particularly disagree with either of them, but my reading of that ending was a little different.

In the last scene, when Carmela arrives and joins Tony at the Holsten's diner, she asks how did Tony's meeting go with the lawyer. Tony tells her that Carlo (one of his captains) is in custody and has turned informant, and that the lawyer is expecting Tony to be indicted any minute.  

That, for all intents and purposes, is the end of the story. Tony Soprano's reign as the boss of North Jersey, which in many respects was the story of this show, is over, so the story is over.

As for whether he's then killed by the guy in the Members Only jacket in the john, or by the Unidentified Black Males at the jukebox, or by the Cub Scouts in the corner booth, or by Carmela sitting across from him, well, that doesn't really matter.

Over the course of the show, one immutable fact was drummed into the audience's head over and over and over again: if your friends in the Mob even suspect that you might inform on them to the Feds, they are going to get you. We saw it with Big Pussy, with Adriana, with Eugene Pontecorvo, to name only a few. They're not maybe going to get you. They're not going to try to get you. They're going to get you.

So whether they get him in the diner in front of his family, or run his car off the road on the way home, or shoot him in his driveway, or blow up his house, or stab him in the gut on the courthouse steps, it really doesn't matter. He's under indictment, and in a position to inform on the bosses of the New York Mob. They're going to get him.

For the audience to feel cheated or angry because they didn't get to actually see the bloodshed kind of validates David Chase's discomfort with what he created, and retroactively validates his decision not to show it to them. The details are beside the point. All the relevant information has been given. The story's over. Cut to black.

Great, now I have that goddamn song in my head again!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Mad Men and Breaking Bad Are Basically The Same Show

Master of the universe in season 1
Vince Gilligan's Breaking Bad, heading into its final stretch of episodes later this summer (52 days from now, but who's counting?), is an amazing show, arguably the very best on television, largely because of its groundbreaking organizing principle: in numerous interviews, Gilligan has stated that his idea for the series was to turn his main character from a hero into a villain, or as he put it, "turn Mr. Chips into Scarface." Television, he's explained (and I'm paraphrasing), is geared toward stasis, keeping its characters and relationships and situations the same so that, assuming a show is a ratings hit, it can go on forever.

So by taking an ineffectual, milquetoast science teacher and gradually turning him into a lying, murdering drug kingpin, Gilligan is upending the traditional model for a TV series, and it has been fascinating to watch and highly deserving of the many awards it's won. But it's not the first show to do what it's doing.

In the first episode of the first season of Mad Men, which premiered six months before Breaking Bad on the same network, advertising executive Don Draper welcomes his colleague Roger Sterling into his 16th-floor Madison Avenue office, pours them both a stiff drink, and trading pleasantries about another disgruntled executive, incredulously wonders aloud, "Who couldn't be happy with all this?"

That moment has proved, in the six seasons since, to be Don Draper's high-water mark, as he has tumbled ever further into an abyss of self-loathing almost entirely of his own making. When the show began, Don Draper was on the cover of every magazine, a style icon, the latest embodiment of the old saw "women want to be with him, men want to be him." Everything came easily to Don: women, money, success, it was all his for the taking and he took all he could carry. His coworkers marveled at his ease with women, with his work, with his liquor. As presented in the first few seasons, this was the kind of man Hugh Hefner was telling us to emulate -- the modern American man who has it all.

Around the end of the third season, all of that began to erode: He lost his wife when she discovered the extent of his lies and cheating. He lost his best copywriter and protege because he treated her badly. He lost his daughter because she caught him cheating on his second wife with his neighbor. He's lost his creative skills because he took them for granted. He's losing his ease with women to alcohol, tobacco, and Father Time -- he's looking pretty pasty and bloated lately, and nobody shtups the neighbor lady if they've still got it out on the street. More losses seem to be waiting on the horizon: his second marriage is on life support, he's so checked out at work that he has little idea what's going on, missing meetings, coming up with so few ideas he's removed it from his job description, and didn't make a peep when they removed "Draper" from the company's name -- how long till they fire him altogether?

Looking rough in season 6
The most recent episode of the show ended with Don on his office couch in the fetal position, having just finally, irreparably destroyed his two most important professional relationships: to his protege and star copywriter Peggy, and his new partner Ted. Quite a contrast from the weekly opening image of the back of Don's head, arm draped over his office couch, surveying his kingdom. ("Who couldn't be happy with all this?") Lots of Mad Men fans have made a parlor game of guessing who those opening credits depict falling from the building: everyone seemed to think petulant accounts executive Pete Campbell was going to jump out the window last season, and as Don has sunk lower and lower speculation has turned to him as the jumper.

Nobody's going to literally jump out the window, any more than anyone's going to be murdered -- it's just not that kind of show. (The shock of British partner Lane Pryce's suicide last season was the exception that proved the rule.) That opening graphic is the show's mission statement: this guy is headed for a (metaphorical) fall. Now that we're 6/7 of the way through the story, it's suddenly become clear: just as Vince Gilligan is turning Mr. Chips into Scarface, Matt Weiner is turning Cary Grant into Willy Loman. The transformation is a little more subtle -- a raised eyebrow or a remark at a business meeting can mean as much to the plot on Mad Men as ordering a murder does on Breaking Bad -- but what Weiner's doing is no less audacious, slowly changing his main character from someone to be envied and emulated to someone to be pitied.

It's pretty clear that Walter White's transformation is going to end in jail or in the morgue, and though I don't expect Don Draper to go out in a hail of gunfire, Weiner has been saying for years that he knows how he wants the series to end, which only underlines the notion that there's always been a plan in play here, and it's all there in those opening credits. This guy is going down. Whether he comes back up again, we'll see in a year, but I tend to doubt it -- this guy has had eight years to learn from his mistakes, and it would be way out of character, for Don and for Weiner, for him to start now.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

I'm 75% Excited For The 50% Replacements Reunion

My first reaction was unambiguous: Yes! Finally! Only three dates? Denver, Chicago, and Toronto? That's only 1,500 to 2,200 miles away, maybe I can make it!

Yes, the Replacements, my favorite band ever, are reuniting to headline three dates of the traveling RIOT Festival, 22 years after their last show.

Now look, my favorite band ever is always subject to change depending on the weather and what I had for breakfast. But the Replacements are definitely the most important. They were funny and silly and deeply touching all at the same time, and got to the 15-year old me like no other band has before or since. They showed me that I didn't have to be able to sing like Robert Plant or play like Jimi Hendrix to make music, which inspired and emboldened me to write songs of my own and play them out. To this day, fronting my 9-piece funk band, I still catch myself sounding more like Paul Westerberg than James Brown.

And oh my god, those lyrics:

"Income tax deduction, one hell of a function, it beats picking cotton and waiting to be forgotten"
"The ones who love us best are the ones we'll lay to rest, we visit their graves on holidays at best... The ones who love us least are the ones we'll die to please"
"A person can work up a mean, mean thirst after a hard day of nothing much at all"
"Pretty girls keep growing up playing makeup and wearing guitar, growing old in a bar..."
"I can live without your touch, I'll die within your reach"
"A dream too tired to come true left the rebel without a clue, now I'm searching for something to do"
"All you ever wanted was someone to take care of ya, all you're losing is a little mascara."
"If it's a temporary lull, why'm I bored right out of my skull, dressing sharp and feeling dull?"

I did not look any of those up. They are burned into my brain like a cattle brand.

So am I glad to see that the Replacements are reuniting? Of course. But I am not going to be checking airfares to Chicago or Toronto, and I'm definitely not going to any more outdoor music festivals.

This reunion is only two of the four Replacements: singer/songwriter Paul Westerberg and bassist Tommy Stinson. Original lead guitarist Bob Stinson died in 1995, so he has a good excuse, but drummer Chris Mars is not participating because... well, I don't know why he's not participating. He left the band a year before they broke up under acrimonious circumstances, and it seems 22 years has not been long enough to heal those wounds.

I'm sure Paul and Tommy will play the old favorites more than capably, and I'm sure whoever they get to fill in for Chris and Bob -- the Replacements' replacements, har-har -- will be more than up to the job. And it's possible that Chris is cool with Paul and Tommy, but for whatever reason just doesn't want to hit the road: he did participate in the recent "Songs For Slim" EP, recorded by Paul and Tommy with proceeds to the medical bills of Bob's replacement, Slim Dunlap, by contributing the cover art and a song he'd recorded by himself and singing some backup vocals on the tunes they recorded -- but he did not play drums with the Replacements.

But still, part of me doesn't feel like it's a real reunion without him. I had similar feelings when one of my other favorite bands reunited without their bass player, and it got me to thinking about what we want from reunions. We want to hear the songs, obviously, but we can hear the songs anytime, on the old albums, sounding just as great as they always did.

This performance got them banned for
life from "Saturday Night Live"
What made the Replacements a great live band was the fact that you, and in fact they, never knew what they were going to do. They hit the stage hammered more often than not and tended to play as many covers -- most of which they had never rehearsed before -- as their own material, and the fun was in watching them grope their way through standards like "20th Century Boy" or "Hey Good Lookin" or "I'm Eighteen" before ripping into one of their own great songs.

This is a band that hated music videos so much that when their label forced them to make one, this is what they gave them:

More than any band I can think of, the Replacements were in it to please themselves first, and if playing "Summer of '69" pleased them more than playing "Bastards of Young" on a given night, that's exactly what they did, success be damned.
So are the 50-year-old Replacements going to do that? I'm guessing not, and I'm not sure I'd want them to. Those tendencies evaporated toward the end of their original run anyway -- I saw them in 1990 -- hey, at least I saw them -- and it was a polished, professional set that I certainly enjoyed but bore little resemblance to the legend. I'm sure these shows will be at least as polished. (I still have the t-shirt, threadbare and full of holes and fragile as tissue paper.)
The drummer's absence hurts because I think what we want from a reunion, more than to hear the tunes or see the musicians' faces, is to know that the spirit that animated those great songs is still alive, and when able-bodied band members are left out, either because they're not invited or because they say no, it suggests that that spirit is not still there, that a big cash offer persuaded Westerberg to field a band -- any band -- and get that cash while the getting was good.
But, I don't think that's the case here, because the Replacements have been turning down reunion offers for years, and only reformed in order to help their friend Slim, found that the spirit was indeed still there ("We still rock like murder," Westerberg was quoted as saying at the time of the EP release), and went ahead without their drummer because he's doing something else. Maybe a statement from him, declaring goodwill and godspeed, would bring us all up from 75% to 100% good feelings about this. (Who the fuck am I kidding -- I would/will gladly pay $150 and a handjob if/when they come to New York.)
In any case, I never meant to go on this long (which should be the motto of this space) -- I just wanted to link to some great Replacements stuff:
Can't hardly wait....

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Kanye West Is The Michael Jordan of Blowhard Interviews

Remember those Magic Eye posters that were all the rage in the '90s? They looked like an especially busy wallpaper pattern but when you unfocused your eyes, a picture of a spaceship or a puppy or whatever would supposedly emerge. I say supposedly because I was never able to make those images work for me -- while everybody else was oohing and aahing about how cool they were, all I ever got out of them was the wallpaper pattern and a headache.

I have felt much the same way the last several years as everyone has spoken in increasingly reverent tones of the musical genius of Kanye West.

Admittedly, I am a little underinformed. I never sat down and listened to any of his albums. I think the first time I ever heard of him was when he said "George Bush doesn't care about black people," a sentiment I found little fault with. After that I think the next I heard of him was when he stole Taylor Swift's MTV award.

As for his music, I am familiar with the big club hits, because I work in a bar that plays club hits: "Flashing Lights," "Stronger," "Gold Digger," and "All Of the Lights." Long before I knew who its author was, I found "Flashing Lights" totally annoying, because of the lazy, singsongy delivery of the verses. I also didn't know who recorded "Stronger" but I knew it was basically someone else's song (who I have since learned to be Daft Punk) with more stupid, lazily delivered verses grafted onto it; "Gold Digger" made me hate both "Gold Digger" and Ray Charles' "I Got A Woman," which I had liked enough to make my ringtone for when my wife called; and while I can admit that "All Of The Lights" has some redeeming qualities as an effective club tune, at least until the voice comes in to crap rap all over it.

Eventually I figured out all these tunes were by Kanye West, and that's when I started scratching my head. This is the guy everyone's calling a genius? This is the guy who's revolutionizing rap music? This is the best producer in the game?

People are saying all those things quite a bit at the moment, because the world is waiting on pins and needles for the release of Kanye's sixth album, Yeezus, titled after Kanye's self-applied nickname (Yeezy) and the name of our Lord and Savior.

By law, you can't write about Kanye without
including this photo
I guess Kanye doesn't do a lot of interviews, because the one he did with the New York Times this week lit up the entire Internet the moment it was posted. And, as it turns out, the 99% of music fans out there who are swinging from Kanye's nuts and calling him the greatest musician of this or any other generation? It seems that Kanye feels they are underrating him.

Here's a selection of choice quotes from the piece, which he begins by calling himself "the Michael Jordan of music":

I am so credible and so influential and so relevant that I will change things.  
I’m going to be cliché for a minute and say that great art comes from pain. But also I’d say a bigger statement than that is: Great art comes from great artists. There’s a bunch of people that are hurt that still couldn’t have made the album that was super-polarizing and redefined the sound of radio.
I knew when I wrote the line “light-skinned friend look like Michael Jackson” I was going to be a big star.  
The longer your ‘gevity is, the more confidence you build. The idea of Kanye and vanity are like, synonymous. But I’ve put myself in a lot of places where a vain person wouldn’t put themselves in. Like what’s vanity about wearing a kilt? 
I think what Kanye West is going to mean is something similar to what Steve Jobs means. I am undoubtedly, you know, Steve of Internet, downtown, fashion, culture. Period. By a long jump. I honestly feel that because Steve has passed, you know, it’s like when Biggie passed and Jay-Z was allowed to become Jay-Z.
I think that’s a responsibility that I have, to push possibilities, to show people: “This is the level that things could be at.” So when you get something that has the name Kanye West on it, it’s supposed to be pushing the furthest possibilities. I will be the leader of a company that ends up being worth billions of dollars, because I got the answers. I understand culture. I am the nucleus.

I'm sure their child will be
very well-adjusted
All of these quotes are laughably arrogant and unself-aware and show that there is a very real possibility that Kanye West might very well one day snap and murder someone if anything should ever pop the kevlar bubble that he is clearly living in. I was going to make fun of them one at a time, but it's like fish in a barrel, and I don't want to deny you the fun of picking them apart for yourself. (Although I have to point out that Steve Jobs is the Steve Jobs of the Internet, Mr. Relevant Nucleus.)

What I found most interesting was the comments section below the article; anyone who pointed out the obvious fact that this dude's head wouldn't fit in Yankee Stadium was shouted down by other commenters proclaiming him the greatest musician ever. Even people who found his comments distasteful said so with the disclaimer "I still love his music" or "he's so amazing, why does he have to be such a jerk?"

I wrote not long ago about the way we all bend over backwards to excuse Prince his generally awful behavior because his music is so good, and this would seem to be another case of that, but I was really and truly baffled. What are all these people hearing that I'm not hearing?

So I went on Spotify and cued up Kanye's 2008 record, 808s and Heartbreak, to give it a fair listen, and record my thoughts in real time on each track.

Here goes:

Say You Will -- It sounds like a game of Pong. What's with all the AutoTune? At 6:18, it's at least 4 minutes too long -- it's slow and boring and we are not off to a good start.
Welcome to Heartbreak -- I thought this guy was a rapper. This track is a lot of feeling sorry for himself for being busy with a massive career. And it has no beat to speak of.
Heartless -- Only three tracks in, I am already so sick of the AutoTune drenching everything and there is still no beat. What is hip-hop if you can't bounce to it?
Amazing -- Is there going to be AutoTune on every song here? Why is this album so boring? I thought it was supposed to blow my mind.
Love Lockdown -- I hate this album. It should be called "AutoTune and Whining"
Paranoid -- Still not my cup of tea, but at least it has a semi-bounceable beat.
RoboCop -- I can't listen to this anymore.

Nobody who wears those sunglasses
is not a douchebag. Check the rulebook
Sorry guys, I tried. I also sampled each of the tracks on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, and several of the earlier ones with the teddy bears on the covers, but didn't bother to do a track-by-track. Suffice to say, I still don't get what all the fuss is about with this guy. As a rapper he sounds uncommitted to his own material, like a high-school kid who doesn't want to be caught trying. And these amazing beats that everyone is so gaga over... hasn't anyone ever heard Paul's Boutique or The Low End Theory or 3 Feet High And Rising or The Chronic or Doggystyle or Illadelph Halflife or It Takes A Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back or Paid In Full or Ready To Die? Those are amazing beats. They make you want to dance, even before anyone starts rhyming on them. Kanye's beats make me want to leave the room.

If anything, all it sounds to me like Kanye's done is take the music I hated 20 years ago -- techno and house music -- and graft rap verses onto it. At the risk of sounding like a bitter old man (too late, I know), that is not that awesome.

If people like Kanye, I don't have any problem with that, and I'm not trying to talk you out of it, I'm just saying, maybe we can take it easy on the "Kanye is a genius" and "Kanye IS rap music" (actual quote from the Times' comment section) and "if you don't understand that Kanye is the most important cultural force of the 21st century you're just a hater" talk, because a) it's a bit of an exaggeration and b) Kanye himself is saying all those things loud enough for all of us.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Mad Men, Sharon Tate, and Game of Thrones

We don't just watch great TV shows anymore: we also read about them. The online TV recapping community, a tail that is increasingly wagging the dog at entertainment sites like The A.V. Club, Grantland, HitFix, Vulture, and even higher-brow publications like The New Yorker and Slate and Salon, dedicates itself to writing English major-style close readings of each episode of the growing ranks of "quality" shows, including (but not remotely limited to) Mad Men, Game of Thrones, and Breaking Bad. (Comedies and reality shows also get the overnight recap treatment, but those pieces are recaps in the more literal "Chris Farley Show" sense.)

Mad Men has always particularly lent itself to this kind of scrutiny, layered as it is with subtext and literary themes and parallels, and this season has been no exception. The pieces that perceptive TV critics like Matt Zoller Seitz and Heather Havrilesky and Alan Sepinwall post on Mad Men have taught me how to appreciate the show the same way I appreciated The Great Gatsby (not the movie) in college, and have become the way I wind down after each episode: I collect my thoughts on what I just saw, and then read these pieces (and, as importantly, their insanely lively comments sections) to compare with and expand on them.

Two Sundays ago, Don Draper shared a scene with his second wife, comely Canadian soap actress Megan, on his Upper East Side balcony, in which they each admitted that their marriage was in trouble and they each recommitted to try and make it work. The unsubtle device of having Megan's half of the dialogue -- and only Megan's half -- drowned out by police sirens, indicating that Don can't even hear her anymore, went totally unremarked upon in the Mad Men Analytical Community. I found this a little disappointing, because it was one of the few times I've felt I was smelling exactly what show creator Matt Weiner was cooking without having it explained to me. It's certainly possible that either a) my interpretation of the scene is totally wrong, or b) my interpretation of the scene is so obvious as to be unremarkable. In any case, once some 60's fashion scholar piped up in a comments section somewhere to point out that Megan wore a t-shirt in the scene with a red star on it identical to one that actress Sharon Tate, infamously murdered by the Manson Family in 1969, had been photographed in, virtually all Mad Men-related discussion pivoted to the idea that "Megan Is Sharon Tate" -- that Megan is secretly pregnant and about to be murdered. (Tate was 8 ½ months pregnant at the time of her death.)

Having a major character murdered would be an enormous tonal shift from a show where a raised eyebrow can qualify as a major plot point, and I would remind my fellow Mad Men fans that predicting what will happen on a TV show (and on Mad Men in particular) is a sucker's game: everyone was dead certain last season that Pete Campbell was going to do himself in because of various lines, images, glances, and other ephemeral clues, and yet a year later Pete Campbell remains, hairline receding and bitterness mounting.  

Still, some of the evidence people are pointing to to suggest Megan's imminent stabbing is compelling: there was a home invasion a few weeks ago, where Don's unsupervised children gave a strange woman claiming to be Don's mother the run of the house; the loud sirens I mentioned earlier could just as well be there to remind us that the crime rate skyrocketed in New York in the late '60s; the season's promo poster prominently featured some cops taping off a crime scene; and Peggy Olsen, having just bought a Brownstone in the not-yet-gentrified Upper West Side, accidentally stabs her boyfriend Abe, mistaking him for an intruder. If one were inclined to believe that Matt Weiner is such a mastermind that he's foreshadowing later plot developments throughout the season leading up to them, there is plenty here to work with.

So this past Sunday I settled in for my weekly Night In Front Of The TV: Game of Thrones, followed by Mad Men, followed by Veep (love it) and Family Tree (want to love it, not quite there yet).

Not having read the books, I am usually more than a little confused by Game of Thrones' 75 concurrent plots, so while I enjoy the show enormously, Mad Men is the one I really look forward to. So I was caught more than a little off-guard at the end of the episode when, in probably the most graphically violent sequence ever put on television, Robb Stark, his wife Talisa, his mother Catelyn, and the rest of his party are brutally murdered as an act of vengeance for Robb's broken promise to marry the daughter of House Lord Walder Frey.

This plot development didn't exactly come out of nowhere, as Catelyn reminded Robb constantly, over the course of a season and a half, of the need to keep the peace with Frey and not to insult him and what a mistake it was to break his promise while Robb nodded dismissively and spent increasing amounts of time canoodling with his lovely new wife Talisa, who soon informed him that she was pregnant.

So the murder of Talisa, stabbed repeatedly in the belly, was by far the most disturbing part of a very disturbing sequence, long known to shut-ins and now known to the rest of us as the Red Wedding, and it stayed with me after the credits rolled and Mad Men began.

That's when it hit me: Talisa, not Megan, is Sharon Tate! All the clues were there, but they were very cleverly placed in a different show!

Matt Weiner deserves all the Emmys, plus an Oscar and a Grammy and a Tony and a Teen Choice Award. The rest of us are playing checkers while he plays three-dimensional Space Chess: dude foreshadowed the biggest plot development of the season and IT WASN'T EVEN ON HIS OWN SHOW.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Justin Bieber Finally Made Me Hate Him

There I was last night, watching Game 7 of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals, rooting for drama, when the camera began its traditional inventory of famous faces in the audience. Oh look! It's David Beckham! So handsome, so dreamy!

(sound of needle dragging across record like in every movie trailer made since 1997)

I don't know Justin Bieber's music. I never had much opinion about him other than the fact that however cute he may be as a teenager, he is going to make for a seriously weird-looking adult, so I hope he is saving his money. (It does not appear that he is doing that.) But this outfit takes me from thinking he's a harmless teen star doing what teen stars do to thinking that I hate him and want to punch him in the face, which would make him the first person I've ever punched in the face. Where to begin?

Really not a fan of the stonewashed, flat-brimmed, oversized cap. Is it just me or is it enormous? Can we get a better angle?

What is going on there? He must have packed the band with newspaper to keep it from falling down around his ears. I've never understood the flat-brim look either, but there's not a white man on this planet who can pull it off, and the oversizedness makes it even worse -- He looks like Elmer Fudd.

If you're looking for a fashion choice that will save you the trouble of using your mouth to tell people you're a tool, sunglasses indoors is always a winner. I have a pair of Ray-Bans in my car. They are very, very dark sunglasses. Even on blindingly sunny days I have to lift them up to see anything inside my car. So this d-bag is severely compromising his view of a game he probably paid ten grand to see, in the name of looking cool (which he doesn't).

In case you were wondering if the lip gloss is noticeable, Justin, the answer is yes. And don't try and tell me it's ChapStick. We both know it's Kissing Potion, the only question is how it's scented. (I'm guessing bubblegum.)

Are those gold dogtags? Did they give them to you in the tween pop star army? Between those, the gold rope, and the giant gold Rolex, I'm shocked he doesn't have any big giant Liberace rings on his fingers.

I want to say I've never seen a leather shirt before, but the baseball-jersey cut reminds me that that's not true: Martin Lawrence wore one in a concert film about 20 years ago, and looked from about minute two to minute 114 like he was going to overheat and die in it. Mr. Bieber is not sweating, but he looks even more ridiculous, because his skinny little white arms make him look like a photo-negative of a snowman. Here's what leather is for: a) staying warm on the tundra, B) sharpening blades, and c) looking cool. As Mr. Bieber is in Miami, his short-sleeved leather baseball jersey can't be meant to keep him warm, and and he certainly doesn't look cool (in either sense), but I am thinking of sharpening a blade on him.

But all of that is really just background: the foreground is that petulant, bratty look on his stupid lip-glossed face. Like he knows everyone is looking at him (they were) because they're jealous (they're not). They're just wondering, with all that money he's making off of all those tween girls, why he hasn't bothered to put any mirrors in his house. Is he a vampire? That would explain the pale skin and the flat affect and the showing up late for everything and the black leather baseball shirt.

Well, it still doesn't explain the black leather baseball shirt. But if you're a Belieber, my advice is to eat a lot of garlic and carry a cross. And if you happen to find yourself on trial for punching him in the face, make sure the jury sees this photo -- they won't dare convict you.