Category Archives: Entertainment

Borat – The Crown Prince of ‘Punching Down’ Comedy

Today's progressives rail against punching down in comedy, yet the same crowd loves the new Borat sequel. Here's why that's a problem.


Future Music – Music Technology News and Reviews

Cherry Audio Releases DCO-106 – Roland Juno106 Emulator

10-06-20 in New Gear

Cherry Audio has released the DCO-106 softsynth for Mac and PC that emulates the famed Roland Juno-106 with some additional features.

iZotope Releases Neoverb Plug-In

10-02-20 in Featured, New Gear

iZotope has released Neoverb, a reverb plug-in that combines Exponential Audio technology with AI-powered workflow…

Arturia AudioFuse Studio Review

10-02-20 in Featured, Gear Reviews

Full review of the Arturia AudioFuse Studio…


Ellen DeGeneres Tells Her Staff That 3 Top Producers Are Out

To millions of viewers, “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” has long been a TV oasis, a place for entertaining celebrity interviews, light jokes and plenty of dancing led by its cheerful host.

In recent weeks, the facade has cracked.

On Monday, Warner Bros. Television, the studio behind the syndicated daytime talk show, confirmed that it had parted ways with three of the show’s producers: Ed Glavin, an executive producer; Jonathan Norman, a co-executive producer; and Kevin Leman, the head writer.

The moves came during an investigation of the show’s workplace, which is still being conducted. The review was prompted by an investigative article published last month by BuzzFeed News describing a “toxic work culture” in which, former staff members said, they experienced “racism, fear and intimidation.”

The former employees on the show who shared their accounts laid most of the blame for their bad experiences on Mr. Glavin and two other top producers, Mary Connelly and Andy Lassner. Warner Bros. said Monday that Ms. Connelly and Mr. Lassner would remain in their roles.

In a second BuzzFeed News investigation, former staff members accused Mr. Leman of sexually harassing a number of employees. Mr. Leman has denied “any kind of sexual impropriety.”

Ms. DeGeneres, a comedian and host who has been a staple of daytime TV since “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” made its debut in 2003, has come under fire recently for claiming ignorance of how her show was run.

On Monday, she informed her staff of the changes via videoconference. She also said that Stephen Laurel Boss, the DJ known as tWitch, who plays music during the show and serves as her sidekick, would join the program’s executive producer ranks.

Ms. DeGeneres also apologized to her staff during the videoconference, her second apology in recent weeks. In July, she sent the program’s employees a statement that read, in part: “On Day 1 of our show, I told everyone in our first meeting that ‘The Ellen DeGeneres Show’ would be a place of happiness — no one would ever raise their voice, and everyone would be treated with respect. Obviously, something changed, and I am disappointed to learn that this has not been the case. And for that, I am sorry.”

Variety first reported the changes in leadership at “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.”

At 62, Ms. DeGeneres is one of the richest performers in television, as well as a one-woman powerhouse for Warner Bros. Television. In addition to working under the studio to make her talk show, she is a top producer and star of another Warner Bros. production, the NBC prime-time hit “Ellen’s Game of Games.”

Mr. Glavin and Mr. Leman both worked on that show; on Monday, Warner Bros. said they would no longer be a part of “Ellen’s Game of Games.” The third season of that show is scheduled to start production on Aug. 26.

Last year, Ms. DeGeneres renewed her contract to continue hosting her talk show through 2022. She also signed a deal to create three shows for HBO Max, the WarnerMedia streaming platform.


Analysis: Questionable ‘N.Y. Post’ Scoop Driven By Ex-Hannity Producer And Giuliani

The New York Post‘s claims about Hunter Biden relied on Steve Bannon (left), Rudy Giuliani and a heavy dose of assumptions. Jeff J Mitchell and Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Jeff J Mitchell and Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The New York Post‘s claims about Hunter Biden relied on Steve Bannon (left), Rudy Giuliani and a heavy dose of assumptions.

Jeff J Mitchell and Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

It is a classic moment in the weeks before Election Day: a news outlet runs a front-page exclusive promising scandalous revelations about a big-ticket candidate.

This week, the New York Post published a story based on what it says are emails — “smoking gun” emails, it calls them — sent by a Ukrainian business executive to the son of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. The story fits snugly into a narrative from President Trump and his allies that Hunter Biden’s zealous pursuit of business ties abroad also compromised the former vice president.

Yet this was a story marked more by red flags than investigative rigor.

To start, the emails have not been verified as authentic. They were said to have been extracted from a computer assumed — but not proven — to have belonged to the younger Biden. They were said to have been given to the Post by Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who is known for making discredited claims about the Bidens.

The venue is also suspect. The pro-Trump New York Post is owned by Rupert Murdoch, a steady supporter of the president despite recently casting doubt on Trump’s reelection prospects. The lead reporter was a former producer for Sean Hannity, Trump’s best friend on his favorite news network, Fox News, also controlled by the Murdochs. And the story asserted the existence of a meeting absent any documentation that it actually occurred. (The Biden campaign says the tabloid never sought comment on the veracity of the claims.)

The context also screams for caution: U.S. officials say Russian disinformation campaigns have sought to keep Hunter Biden’s business dealings in Ukraine in the public eye. According to The Washington Post, intelligence officials warned the White House last year that Russian operatives had sought to give misinformation to Giuliani to be used against the Bidens. And NBC is now reporting that the FBI is investigating whether the material in the New York Post story originated in a foreign power’s disinformation campaign.

Facebook And Twitter Limit Sharing 'New York Post' Story About Joe Biden

With all these warning signs, other news organizations, including NPR, have held back. Reporters who shared the New York Post story on social media found themselves denounced by Democrats and even many of their peers. Twitter blocked and Facebook restricted the spread of the story, rare moves that gave conservatives a chance for outrage regardless of the merits of the reporting. The social media giants soon found themselves on the defensive.

All of which obscured the problems with the New York Post‘s story itself, and those that followed.

So here are some quick highlights:

From pillar to post, the tabloid asserted as fact things presumed to be true. While the headline links the former vice president to his son’s business dealings, the story serves up no proof. It rests upon an email, supposedly from a Ukrainian businessman to the younger Biden, thanking him for “an opportunity to meet your father.”

Biden’s campaign spokesman, Andrew Bates, responded, “We have reviewed Joe Biden’s official schedules from the time and no meeting, as alleged by the New York Post, ever took place.” There is some wiggle room in that denial. But that’s not proof, either. The New York Post nonetheless asserted, breathlessly, and assuredly, that there was a “never-before-revealed meeting.”

You Literally Can't Believe The Facts Tucker Carlson Tells You. So Say Fox's Lawyers

Second, let’s talk about the origin of those emails, working backward from the article’s account. The New York Post secured them from a copy of a laptop’s hard drive given to the paper by Giuliani, after learning of their existence from former Trump campaign CEO and political adviser Steve Bannon.

The laptop had been taken to a repair shop in Delaware; the shop’s owner appears to have reviewed its contents and given it to the FBI, after making a copy and delivering that to Giuliani’s attorney. The New York Post reportedthat the computer repair specialist “couldn’t positively identify the customer as Hunter Biden, but said the laptop bore a sticker from the Beau Biden Foundation, named after Hunter’s late brother.”

So, it’s not clear who brought it in.

As it turns out, Bannon told a leading Dutch public broadcaster last month that he had a copy of Hunter Biden’s hard drive.

“You’ll see. Stand by. Stand by,” Bannon teased on camera.

Now about Giuliani: Few advocates and surrogates have been more dogged on Trump’s behalf than the former New York City mayor and U.S. attorney.

Especially on the topic of Ukraine and the Bidens.

Giuliani has repeatedly amplified discredited claims, to the point that Fox News’ internal research team warned the network’s journalists against relying upon him. Among the sources Giuliani turned to was a man whom the Trump administration’s Treasury Department has designated as a Russian agent. Last month, Treasury officials said Andrii Derkach has pushed disinformation in Ukraine to spur unfounded corruption investigations and media coverage in hopes of damaging Biden and influencing the 2020 race. Giuliani did not respond to a message seeking comment for this story.

This story would fit neatly within that rubric. We don’t know whether those emails were somehow hacked and doctored, or completely fabricated. (Even Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal acknowledged the point, writing “assuming the emails turned up by the New York Post are real…” as it editorialized against Twitter and Facebook.)

Shall we turn to the reporter with the lead byline for a moment?

Giuliani Distances Himself From Ukrainian Sanctioned By U.S. As Russian Agent

Post deputy political editor Emma-Jo Morris’ reports on Biden this past week constitute the sum total of her professional bylines. (That is, other than some posts Morris wrote in the summer of 2015 as a college intern for the conservative Washington Free Beacon.)

Prior to joining the Post in early spring, Morris’ most prominent media job involved her three years and eight months as a producer for Hannity, the Fox News star who is one of the president’s closest advisers. Morris did not reply to requests for comment sent to her social media accounts. She shared bylines with Gabrielle Fonrouge, a six-year veteran of the Post who earlier reported for NPR member station WSHU in Connecticut. (One small note: Fonrouge’s byline came second. Were they assigned alphabetically, it would have appeared first. That suggests that Morris is the lead reporter on this project. But, as with just about everything in this story, that’s not firm proof, either.)

On Fox, Hannity repeatedly has suggested Joe Biden acted improperly in Ukraine. Let us remember that Trump’s demand for investigations of the Bidens’ actions in Ukraine formed the foundation of the president’s impeachment by the House of Representatives last year. Hannity actively sought to discredit those who offered damning testimony against the president.

The New York Post’s story and its ensuing allegations against Hunter Biden, based on the same cache of material, has propelled its corporate cousin as well. As the days tick down toward Election Day, Fox News took inspiration from the tabloid’s reporting to unleash a fusillade against the former vice president across its most watched shows — like the grand finale of a fireworks display.

None of that sound and fury requires the rest of the press to accept those claims as true. They shouldn’t. Not without additional reporting and verification.

The New York Post story could someday be proven accurate, or largely right. Or perhaps what was published is a far cry from investigative journalism, but rather speculative partisan advocacy. A totem of our media moment.


Devo’s Mark Mothersbaugh & Artist Beatie Wolfe Want to Boost USPS With ‘Postcards for Democracy’

“We had an interest in what each other were doing as artists, and I was looking for something we could collaborate on and Beatie came up with this idea,” Mothersbaugh, 70, tells Billboard about the origin of the project. The idea was instantly up his alley thanks to a lifelong obsession with all things 4×6. “I draw on postcards every day of my life,” he says. “I’ve been myopic for 70 years, so it’s easy to work on artwork in a small format. And I also just like the idea of keeping ideas and images in an image bank that was small enough I could carry it around.”

The push to save the Post Office comes in the wake of President Trump’s stated efforts to defund and dismantle the USPS, as part of his openly articulated agenda to discourage mail-in voting in the Nov. 3 election. Trump has repeatedly falsely claimed that using the mail to send in ballots could lead to massive vote fraud, as Americans seek safer ways to post their votes in the midst of a deadly, resurgent pandemic.

Plus, the thousands of cards Mothersbaugh and Wolfe have gotten so far are just really cool, interesting, surprising — and, from time-to-time, pretty heart-swelling. “As two people fascinated with this interaction between the physical and digital… and during lockdown writing letters and sending mail… it was something that just really kept me sane and alive,” says Wolfe, an award-winning artist and performer who has spent the past decade exploring the intersection of music and technology. “And just appreciating Mark’s love of that art form and we have this time when we’re so disconnected… a lot of people don’t have computers and there’s this service that is providing vital goods, but also such a joy for so many people.”

When Mothersbaugh and Wolfe heard about the USPS being threatened, the two decided to collaborate on a project that would get others involved by giving them a voice and a creative outlet to keep awareness on key issues. Billboard spoke to them about Postcards For Democracy, and what everyone can do to get involved.

The mail shows up on time every day — or used to — and it was, is, such a vital way of communication for so many people. So much of your art is digital and video-based, but this is such a tactile thing. Was there something about the physical nature of this idea that appealed to you?

Wolfe: Definitely. Everything I do is about trying to figure out a way to reintroduce tangibility, ceremony and storytelling to music in the digital age. So that’s what I’m thinking about all the time, creating these new formats that are tangible and nostalgic and old school, even though they also feel new. Everything right now is just floating around in this intangible sphere, and I think we need those grounding, human experiences to stay with it and keep inspired and connected and human.

Mothersbaugh: Even everything on the internet seems like it’s being manipulated by other forces, and something simple — like a message from a loved one or comrade or a friend, someone that you care about — that you can send that to them and they can get it back to you and there’s no interference on the internet… there’s something great about that.

Wolfe: It also breaks the feedback loop. We’re so used to instant gratification and putting something out and instantly finding out what everyone is thinking. There’s something special about creating something where you’re not sure it will reach that person. You’re focusing on that process, and you don’t know if you will get there or get anything back. It’s in its own time and space.

Mothersbaugh: We don’t know when it ends yet. We’re collecting things and every single day we get a surprise. Another batch of mail in comes in and we try to go through them. People have unique takes on the planet, their unique takes on how the world fits together and why we’re all doing the things we do. We’re finding it fascinating to get through these cards.

There are so many unique efforts that musicians and artists are making this year to encourage people to vote and participate in democracy. And while this isn’t directly that, in a way it is because it’s aimed at saving something that is part of our national life. Do you see it as that kind of project, given the times?

Mothersbaugh: Yeah, it’s flexible. But definitely, in the next matter of weeks, it relates to what we’re doing. But I think it’s bigger than that, and it’s something that we’ll be exploring beyond that. If people feel they can put a postcard in the mail, they ought to be able to get their vote in the mail. We’re not promoting any specific platform, we’re just saying: activate.

How many have you gotten so far? 

Mothersbaugh: We haven’t counted yet, but it’s in the thousands.

Are there any that stand out to you, either the message or the imagery, on an emotional or an artistic level?

Mothersbaugh: Yeah, I think we both end up pulling out cards from the stack and showing them to the other person. There are always things that seem more relevant to us, but everything is relevant to each person, it’s about finding it.

Wolfe: There are many, but one in my mind is one where the imagery is pretty simple and it’s not the most artistic necessarily: “Vote: 2020 Mars is not an option.” That’s really, really at the forefront, or should be at the forefront, of our minds. Both Mark and I have laid them out a number of times and just seeing them collectively is really powerful because you’ve got so many different expression and ideas, but also so many echoes between those expressions and ideas. It really feels like this collective voice and that is really, really powerful.

The Post Office was previously not a very political animal, but has become part of our political discussion now. Have you heard from anyone at the USPS about this, or have you gotten a thank you postcard from them for increasing their volume?

Wolfe: We have. The director of mailing services for the USPS has gotten in touch, someone I knew from another project, and she was so excited by this and sharing it internally. We are exploring a greater extension of this that that we’d do with them. Particularly with the fact that it has been politicized, which is crazy, it was so nice to hear that from inside.

What’s the range of participation? Are you getting some from children? People old enough to remember a time when we sent postcards out of necessity to communicate?

Mothersbaugh: It’s impressive, it’s the full gamut.

Wolfe: We definitely have kids getting involved — or if they’re not kids I feel bad — but based on the drawings there are definitely kids getting involved and platforms like GoNoodle getting involved. We have ex-mailmen who are definitely in the 70s, 80s, 90s writing about their experience. It’s really moving because it’s not one thing. At the beginning you definitely see more your demographic, your people, a lot of artists, but it’s really opened up and that’s what’s felt so great. It really is inclusive and that was always our intention.

It’s also such an interesting way to get people to support the Post Office and do something besides doom scroll through their social feeds or Netflix while they’re stuck at home.

Mothersbaugh: It’s kind of like giving them an opportunity to turn their back on the algorithms.

I love that! That should be your tagline! 

Wolfe: Me too! I love that!

Check out some more of the postcards and a short film about the project below.


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