That Didn’t Take Long: Novelists Tackle Trump

Photo Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast

Standing for months in front of Trump Tower with a “literary” sign—such as WHO WILL GO UPRIVER FOR PRESIDENT KURTZ?—I wondered which American novelists would dare to brave the supposed curse of topicality and treat the famously litigious Donald Trump during his Heart of Darkness and Apocalypse Now presidency.

The first was the relatively new U.S. citizen Salman Rushdie in The Golden House. In the last month or so, Gary Shteyngart in Lake Success and Jonathan Lethem in The Feral Detective have published novels set, respectively, just before and just after Trump’s election. All three novelists call Trump a “monster” but avoid engaging him directly as a character. They instead make him an off-stage figure, to whom their characters react, and invent Trumpian stand-ins to absorb the writers’ wrath.

Sufficiently enraged to stand in the cold, I hoped for a novel as super-heated, explicitly political, and courageous as Robert Coover’s The Public Burning. About the Rosenbergs’ execution as “Atomic Spies” in 1953 when Richard Nixon was vice president, written in the ’70s when Nixon was president, and featuring Nixon as a major character, The Public Burning is an epic circus that mix-masters fact and fabrication. The novel closes with its superhero Uncle Sam, personification of old white-man anger, preparing Nixon to screw the American public as Sam has prepared all past presidents: by sodomizing him. Scheduled for a Bicentennial release, The Public Burning was delayed by legal challenges and one publisher’s cowardice until 1977.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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Celebs hawking Cîroc vodka didn’t mention paid ad deal: FTC

Sean “Diddy” Combs helped to make Cîroc a best-selling vodka — but he and scores of other celebs never said that they were paid to hawk it, according to a consumer watchdog group. The singer was singled out in a complaint filed with the Federal Trade Commission on Monday night for flouting the agency’s disclosure…
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‘Bumblebee’ Director Didn’t Want Michael Bay’s Opinion on the Character

SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains mild spoilers for Bumblebee. Proceed at your own risk.

If fans – or, should we say, haters? — of the Transformers franchise aren’t discussing how unconvincing the robot fight scenes are, they’re debating the intricacies of Bumblebee’s voice. One minute, his dulcet tones are completely destroyed and he’s using a blend of soundbites and music from the radio to communicate, the next he’s using the voice he was born with. And then it’s busted again. Sometimes, the problem is implied to be fixable, and sometimes it’s suggested that he doesn’t want it fixed.

So, with the sparky little yellow VW-Beetle-Autobot now starring in his own spin-off movie, it seems timely to tackle the contentious issue of Bumblebee’s voice, and attempt to figure out once and for all why it’s so all over the place. Especially since, as you’ve probably heard, Bumblebee speaks (with Dylan O’Brien’s voice) in this movie. Though not for long…

The Origin Story

For this 1987-set prequel, franchise champion Michael Bay relinquishes the reins to make way for animation genius, and self-confessed Transformers fan, Travis Knight, at the helm. It’s a brave but calculated move that might just reinvigorate a franchise that saw its fifth film, The Last Knight, take a considerable drop in profits. Amid accusations that the series has become overblown, for Bumblebee it’s very much back to basics, with a small-scale, heartwarming, coming-of-age story taking precedence over high-stakes robot wars. It works beautifully, and while the slate in some ways is wiped clean, Knight still had to take care to incorporate Bay’s tweaks to the lore.

“In Michael’s films, they changed some of the mythology, and Bumblebee speaks through the radio. That’s one of his iconic characteristics,” says Knight. “So, it was really important for me, if we were going to tell an origin story about one of the Transformers, one set in the era where the Transformers originated – the mid-’80s – [to address Bumblebee’s voice].”

As a child of the 1980s, Knight first fell in love with Transformers when he saw the original animated series.

“Bumblebee always had a voice,” says Knight, remembering the cartoon. This meant that it was critical for Knight “to understand some of these aspects of Bumblebee’s character that never really got satisfying answers as to how these things happened”.

For Knight, it was important to show how Bumblebee’s voice became damaged: “And how, both literally and metaphorically, he regains it by the end of the movie.”

His Voice Is Unfixable


Bumblebee's voice
Bumblebee's voice is unfixable, says director Travis Knight.

That isn’t to say Bumblebee regains the power of speech as he once knew it. Instead, he finds this new, arguably more effective, way to communicate via the relationship he has with Hailee Steinfeld’s outsider teen, Charlie. It is she who teaches him about the power of music to communicate and express emotion and complex thought, and as he uses the technique more and more, we witness him become increasingly adept at it. A good thing too, since Knight declares that Bumblebee’s voice can’t ever be fixed because of what we see happen in the film. And if you don’t want that scene spoiled for you, scroll past the next paragraph now.

“He has his, whatever the equivalent of his vocal synthesizer/processor is, ripped out of his throat,” he explains. “It would be the same thing if we lost the ability to speak. We’d never be able to speak again, and the guy rips it out, and destroys it. So, no — he’s never going to be able to speak again but through this [radio] thing he’s able to communicate and express himself.”

Crawling Inside Michael Bay’s Brain

Important as it was for Knight to show how Bumblebee is irreversibly maimed, rendering him forever mute, it was less pressing for Knight to figure out exactly why Bumblebee’s voice drifts inexplicably in and out within Bay’s franchise. And he says he never questioned — or wanted to question — Bay about it.

“I didn’t want to know if Michael had a difference of opinion on that because I knew very clearly that this is why, and this is what it needs to be.”

“I had a number of conversations with Michael, but not specifically about that aspect,” says Knight. “It was important for me to just kind of sit director-to-director, filmmaker-to-filmmaker, and talk about his philosophy on the series. He’s the guy who’s been the shepherd for the Transformers franchise for the last decade. I really wanted to crawl inside his brain and just get his philosophy on things. How he approached it.

“But specifically with Bumblebee’s character, no, I didn’t ask him about that. Because in my mind I knew the story that I wanted to tell for this movie, and that was an aspect of that story. I didn’t want to know if Michael had a difference of opinion on that because I knew very clearly that this is why, and this is what it needs to be.”

Different Choices

Knight adds, “This movie is self-contained, so I imagine where it goes from here. And, of course, there’s the films that follow, which show you where he goes. But I might not have made that choice if I was making those films.”

Knight concedes that fans might never get satisfactory answers to the questions they have. “Look, it’s super inconsistent, I acknowledge that,” he says. “I think Michael would acknowledge that; that, oftentimes, it bounces around. I know that. He knows that. I don’t know why.”

With prequel Bumblebee garnering better reviews than perhaps any of the Transformers sequels, it’s clear there’s life in the franchise yet. Executives would do well to keep Travis Knight on for at least one more film — his vision has won over the critics and looks set to please audiences too. And if he does stay on, perhaps we’ll see some answers retconned after all — or the franchise entirely rebooted perhaps?

Bumblebee hits screens in Australia on December 20, the US on December 21 and the UK on December 24, with preview screenings in the UK on December 15, 16 and 20.

‘Bumblebee’: Hooray! Robot Fights Have Serious Consequences

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Dolce & Gabbana Never Met a Controversy They Didn’t Like—Until Now

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#BoycottDolceGabbana has become almost as perennial a Twitter hashtag as #MondayMotivation or #SponsoredPost.

The ever-controversial line has a dubious resume that includes design snafus like releasing blackamoor earrings or $ 2,395 “slave sandals.” Founders Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana have stoked controversy before, whether it be in the form of calling babies born from IVF “children of chemicals, synthetic children” or making unsolicited, negative comments about the singer Selena Gomez’s appearance.

But just when many Dolce critics believed they had become desensitized to the antics of both founders—especially 56-year-old Gabbana, the more outspokenly vitriolic half of the pair—came the events of last week.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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Famous Men You Didn’t Know Were Members of Omega Psi Phi

Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. was founded on Nov. 17, 1911, at Howard University in Washington, D.C. It was the first international and predominately Black frat to be created on the campus of a historically Black college or university. The organization‘s Greek letters, ΩΨΦ, stand for the first three letters of its motto, “Friendship is essential to the soul.” There are currently 750 undergraduate and graduate chapters of Omega Psi Phi, which strive to uphold the cardinal principles of “manhood, scholarship, perseverance and uplift.” Throughout its 107-year history, Omega Psi Phi has been able to claim prominent figures who regularly […]

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Tax cuts have been controversial, but voters didn’t seem to care about them

Voters in the midterms felt neither tremendously motivated by the 2017 tax cuts nor had their lives been changed much by them, NBC News exit polls find. 
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5 things you didn’t know about flying first class

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Whether you’re a frequent flyer who regularly travels for business, or if you just fly once a year for your family vacation, you know that flying can be one of the most stressful and tiring experiences of your journey. When flying economy, you have little leg room, odd next door neighbors, super long queues and pretty basic commodities – Yep, the toilet will always smell! But there is another part of the plane that you barely ever see: First Class. Unless you’re really lucky, of course. Here’s what it’s like to fly in first class.

Many people use it to network

We’ve all seen the scenes in movies where the two unsuspecting victims meet next to each other on the plane, share a pleasant hello and then a cliche moment brings them together – cut to the ending and they’ve become BFF’s and set up a meeting in New York to go over a business proposal together next month. Okay, it doesn’t really work like that, but many people do use first class to network with other like-minded. Because the people who fly in First Class normally have more money and work for Fortune 500 companies, they’ll all have something in common – business. In fact, Virgin Atlantic have found that one in five of their First Class customers had done business with someone they had met during their first class flight. Some airlines are now even creating specific networking flights!

You get even more vacation time

If you’re used to flying economy, you’ve probably seen the First Class passengers stroll along past you with their fast-track boarding passes and saunter onto the airplane while you crouch on the floor in a crowded airport lounge. Yep, the first class passengers not only get to board the plane first – but they also get to depart the plane before everyone else too! This means they can get ahead of the game, and be the first in the queue for customs and baggage reclaim. Ultimately, this means they get even more vacation time because they’ll be out the airport doors and onto the beach while you’re still stuck on the plane!

It’s super comfortable

Okay, we all know the deal. Economy flights are in NO WAY comfortable. With little-to-no legroom, a next door neighbor who is sitting way too close to you and using your armrest, and absolutely no way to stretch out and have a good kip; a long-haul flight can be an absolute killer. But long-haul First Class flights? They’re a completely different story. In nearly every first class area of any airplane, the seats are a world apart. Quite literally. With individual seating, each passenger gets their own little area of the plane with a reclining chair (which makes an extremely comfortable bed), a sliding divider which shuts you off from the other passengers, and your own personal TV. The nine-hour flight will just be like your average evening at home.

You can actually get work done

If you’re traveling on a business trip and need to perfect your presentation before you reach your destination, it will be pretty impossible to do so if you sit in economy – because you two choices; have the ability to feel your legs and not get work done, or get work done and lose all circulation. The choice is yours. However, in first class, working is no issue. In fact, your plane journey will probably be more comfortable than your own office! In your First Class seat, you’ve got your own individual table with ample writing space, multiple power sockets to ensure your laptop never runs out of battery, and most now have WIFI! Who needs an office?

You don’t need to be rich to fly first class!

There’s a common misconception that you need to be super rich to afford seats in First Class. As much as it is true buying first class seats through the airline will cost you a hefty sum, there are ways to try and get a first class upgrade for a cheaper price (or even for free!). First and foremost, you need to go by the premise that ‘it doesn’t hurt to ask.’ You’ll be surprised how accommodating airlines can be when it comes to upgrading their passengers – if you just ask! The best way to do this is to always be polite and friendly to them when you go to the check-in desks, and if they have something available, they may bump you up. If you don’t ask, you don’t get!

Ever wondered what it’s like to fly first class? Here are a few pointers to whet your appetite, but why not try it out for yourself?

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Facebook admits it didn’t do enough to prevent ‘offline violence’ in Myanmar

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A night before the U.S. midterm elections, Facebook has dropped an independent report into the platform’s effect in Myanmar.

The report into Facebook’s impact on human rights within the country was commissioned by the social media giant, but completed by non-profit organization BSR (Business for Social Responsibility).

And it affirms what many have suspected: Facebook didn’t do enough to prevent violence and division in Myanmar.

“The report concludes that, prior to this year, we weren’t doing enough to help prevent our platform from being used to foment division and incite offline violence. We agree that we can and should do more,” Facebook’s product policy manager Alex Warofka wrote in a statement. Read more…

More about Tech, Facebook, Social Media, Human Rights, and Myanmar


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Jimmy Kimmel Didn’t Have to Do This Brooklyn Interview (But He Did)

Jimmy Kimmel had every right to cancel this interview. Whenever Kimmel brings his late-night ABC show to the east coast for one of its popular week-long runs in Brooklyn, he does a little publicity on the Saturday before things kick off. He doesn’t have a lot of time. Kimmel wrapped a Thursday broadcast of “Jimmy […]

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