Is Anybody Out There?
Here it is, the first Friday the 13th of the year. Of course, there’s trouble brewing as temperatures going into this evening sit right on the cusp of providing freezing rain or sleet and making everything a mess. Best guess at this point is that most of the mess is going to stay South of Indianapolis, but expect this evening’s rush hour to be a pain in the ass. Of course, why should traffic be any different from the rest of the day?
And that is why this is likely to be the last edition of 5 Things You Should Know, at least in this format. It’s too much of a pain in the ass for the few people who bother to read or view it. We spend at least six hours, often more, sorting through the news, choosing the right stories, and then selecting pictures. And for what? No one’s watching. On average, we have the same five people visiting every day. The past two weeks we’ve been asking for sponsors and gotten no response. Maybe it’s time to move on.
But did anyone notice?
Anyone who is plugged into any form of media the past twelve hours already knows that there was a ten-minute span yesterday when the C-Span feed was replaced with the feed for Russia Today1. The switch occurred about 2:30 Thursday afternoon as Congresswoman Maxine Waters was trying to convince her more ignorant colleagues why the Securities and Exchange Commission is actually an important part of our government. The feed cut Ms. Waters off mid-sentence and went to music.
You’ve seen this story all over the media because Russia Today has been implicated by US intelligence as participating in the Russian effort to interfere with and influence the presidential election. Could this have been more of the infamous hacking over which everyone has been arguing? Probably not. The private company that owns C-Span released a statement saying that it was much more likely that the error was due to a routing problem.
The question that is on my mind is how long it took before anyone actually noticed that there was an interruption? It’s not like C-Span is the highest-rated network in the country. Most the people who watch it are hard-core political nerds and reporters desperately looking for something resembling a story. If Russia wants to really undermine faith in our political system, perhaps they should consider hacking the feed for the inauguration next week. Although, once again, would anyone notice?
Applying a little lube
We know Congress is about to screw us. They said when they were running for election that they were going to screw us and for some stupid reason we voted for them anyway. So, we should not be surprised by the fact that Congress is about to make it easier for them to repeal the Affordable Care Act2. Assuming the House of Representatives votes along party lines, which is what they’ve been doing the past six years, they’ll change the rules today so that repeal bills can pass through the Senate without chance of a Democratic filibuster.
This is the type of action that you might think would be illegal. After all, the Consitution created the allowance for a filibuster so that the minority party could at least give the majority party a chance to think before they did something stupid. However, Republicans don’t like to think and they certainly don’t want to give the American people time to rally around a filibuster and express their disagreement with what politicians are wanting to do.
The rule change does not require a presidential signature. Once both bodies have approved the change it goes into effect. Be sure, this is all about making it easier for the rich to avoid paying taxes and to eliminate things such as Medicaid expansion and subsidies to help pay for health insurance. This bill is nothing more than the lube being applied before we all get screwed. This is the Congress you elected. Don’t act so fucking surprised.
Fashion isn’t so profitable
We’ve talked frequently before about how fashion retail tends to be in a tailspin. Now, it would seem that at least some designers are getting caught up in the downturn as well. Bibhu Mohapatra, the New York-based Indian designer who has often dressed Michelle Obama, filed for bankruptcy this week3. Fortunately, this does not mean that the colorful designer is going out of business. Rather, the bankruptcy protection allows the company to restructure its debt and continue operating.
What this underscores is just how difficult it is for an independent label to survive in the current fashion climate. Mohapatra is one of a handful of small labels that operates on both sides of the Atlantic and has a reasonably strong following. However, with the general climate in fashion going toward more casual wear and a fast fashion model, designers like Bibhu find themselves in a position of having to alter both their aesthetic as well as their business model if they hope to keep up.
This also puts a light on how dependent small designers are on department stores. Mohapatra’s collection is available largely through upper-end retailers such as Bergdorf Goodman and Saks Fith Avenue, both have which, like many fashion retailers, have struggled to maintain their clientele. The struggles at the store trickle down to the designers whose operations are too small to open their own storefronts. The debt restructuring should make the small brand more attractive to investors. We know LVMH has been doing some shopping and the brand might fit well within that conglomerate.
Trying to find something different
Hedi Slimane seems to be having some difficulty finding where he fits best. The former creative director at Yves Saint Laurent, who left suddenly without explanation last March, was probably hoping that another label would want to take advantage of his often controversial design habits. They didn’t. While there were plenty of transitions throughout the fashion industry last year, none of the major labels even expressed an interest in Slimane. So, he has decided to become a photographer, instead4.
Now, to be fair, this isn’t totally an out-of-reach move for the now former designer. When he was at Saint Laurent, he would sometimes step behind the camera to shoot the brand’s campaign himself. However, we should also note that his doing so largely copied that same habit by Chanel’s Karl Lagerfeld and neither of them manage to actually impress anyone who knows anything about fashion photography. At least Lagerfeld has some experience behind him whereas Slimane has none.
So, here goes the designer into a crowded field of people who know a lot more about photography than he does, banking largely on the recognizability of his name to make up for a lack of talent and experience. What we’ve seen from him so far is a very high contrast black and white style that falls flat and fails to show any real imagination. While I never really liked Slimane as a designer, I don’t think photography is where he belongs, either. Perhaps he should enroll in a community college somewhere.
And finally …
All good things must come to an end, as we know, and often times those ends come without much fanfare or appreciation for what was accomplished. Many people retire and find themselves sitting alone on park benches talking to the pigeons while wondering if anything they’ve done in their life is worthwhile. Joe Biden will not be one of those people, however. After nearly 50 years of public service, the last eight spent as the ultimate sidekick to President Obama, Biden finally got some recognition yesterday in the form of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, with distinction5.
Almost immediately, video of the moment when the vice president realized what was happening went viral. Somehow, despite existing in an atmosphere where nothing seems to ever be secret, the president and his staff were able to surprise his friend with the nation’s most prestigious non-military award. I’ve no clue what Joe thought was about to happen, but he was clearly caught off guard and had to turn away and wipe tears from his eyes as the president made the announcement.
While vice presidents generally come and ago without much notice or notoriety, over the past eight years Joe Biden has become the nation’s favorite grandfather figure and his BFF relationship with the president has inspired thousands of memes and points of humor, which the pair have played up much to everyone’s delight over the past year. What we don’t want to overlook, however, is that Vice President Biden would be deserving of this award even if he wasn’t so chummy with the president. His is a record of incredible service and when he boards the train back to Deleware next week, we’re going to miss him very much.
And that’s it. We’re done. I have no idea what’s coming next, if there’s anything coming at all. What I do know is that the lack of response we’ve gotten to this format requires I take a step back and consider some form of change. I thought there might be value in cutting through all the mass media bullshit and fake news. Apparently, I was wrong. So, we’ll take the weekend off, re-evaluate what seems reasonable, and perhaps come back with something new. Or not. Either way, good luck and have a good day.