While You Were Offline: Crowdfunders Back Homophobic Pizzas

If you haven’t been thinking about homophobic pizza, Jay Z forming the musical equivalent of the Avengers, and pondering the statute of limitations for saying stupid stuff on Twitter this week, then you’ve been doing it wrong. Don’t feel too distressed, however; everything you need to know is below. Well, maybe not everything—it’s not as if we even touch on the weird wonders of #BeatlesCookbook, but some things are best left to be discovered personally. Here’s what happened while you were offline this week.

The Next Big Civil Rights Case Will Be Fought Over Pizza

What Happened: An Indiana pizzeria declared it wouldn’t cater a gay wedding, leading to a backlash. And then a backlash to the backlash.

Where It Blew Up: Twitter, blogs, media think pieces

What Really Happened: When Memories Pizza in Indiana told a local TV affiliate (above) that it wouldn’t cater a gay wedding because of its owners’ religious beliefs, following the passing of the state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, it was pretty clear that that wasn’t going to be a popular opinion. Sure enough, the restaurant’s Yelp page was quickly overrun by people complaining about the decision, with owner Kevin O’Connor claiming the backlash had forced the restaurant to close due to the response, which also included threatening phone calls and social media messages.

Don’t feel too bad for the bigots, however, because someone set up a crowdfunding page to support Memories, with some $800,000 raised and counting. (That someone, it turns out, is Lawrence Jones, who works for Glenn Beck’s The Blaze network. Remember Glenn Beck?)

There’s no update as of this writing about what the pizzeria will do now that the Indiana law has been changed to explicitly state that service cannot be refused because of sexual orientation or gender identity.

The Takeaway: Who said that market forces couldn’t be entirely disrupted by political ideology, at least in the short term?

The Interview Process Continues Online

What Happened: Comedy Central named Trevor Noah as the man who’ll take over the main chair at The Daily Show later this year … and then the Internet found his Twitter account.

Where It Blew Up: Twitter, blogs, media think pieces

What Really Happened: Ending weeks of speculation, it was revealed Monday that the next The Daily Show host will be Trevor Noah, a South African comedian who’d made a handful of appearances on the show as a correspondent. The Internet being what it is, fans of the show immediately took to social media to find out everything they could about Noah. They didn’t exactly love what they found.

That’s just a few of the jokes that got people on Twitter very, very upset. (Another, about white women with great butts being like unicorns, has seemingly been deleted since its discovery, oddly enough.)

As many noted, Noah went from new hope to deeply problematic in less than 24 hours. The backlash got loud enough that Comedy Central released a statement in support of the comedian, saying that “to judge him or his comedy based on a handful of jokes is unfair,” and calling him “a talented comedian with a bright future at Comedy Central.”

Much was written about the rapidity of the response to Noah, the way he was judged for his tweets and the Internet’s tendency for outrage—including Patton Oswalt going on an insane 53 tweet straw man rant about comedy not being for everybody—but, as of this writing, little has actually come out of the whole discussion beyond the very basic, very obvious idea that perhaps you should clean up your Twitter of crappy comments and especially bad jokes before you suddenly get thrust into the public eye.

The Takeaway: Ultimately, this all comes down to faith, in one way or another: Faith that Noah’s not the kind of guy who’d make those jokes today, faith that that Noah’s not the guy who’d make those jokes on The Daily Show, or faith that the powers that be on the show will still focus on the kind of writing that has made Jon Stewart a household favorite for years now. The only way is up, right?

Chris Rock Is Very Popular … With Traffic Cops

What Happened: Chris Rock has started taking selfies every time he gets pulled over by police. Chris Rock has a lot of selfies.

Where It Blew Up: Twitter, blogs, media think pieces

What Really Happened: Chris Rock posted an image to Instagram this week of him in his car after being pulled over by the police:

Stopped by the cops again wish me luck.

A photo posted by Chris Rock (@chrisrock) on Mar 30, 2015 at 9:52pm PDT

It turns out, this was the third such selfie he’d taken in the last two months (in addition to a similar tweet from April 2014), highlighting how often black drivers get stopped by the police. (As The Washington Post pointed out last year, statistics show that the joke “driving while black” really isn’t that much of a joke.)

The latest photo caught a lot of attention online, and provoked debate over whether or not he was telling the “whole story” or not. (Hint: Go read the Post piece.)

The Takeaway: In a tweet to Rock, actor Isiah Washington suggested he buy a Prius and “adapt.” It’s a solution, but the wrong one. If it takes Rock’s selfies to draw attention to this topic, then more power to him—but here’s hoping he doesn’t have to pay too many tickets before someone tries to do something to fix it.

If You Hang Around, You’re Going To Get Wet

What Happened: Jay Z launched Tidal, which was … Spotify with lots of celebrity support and better sound quality? Things didn’t necessarily go as planned.

Where It Blew Up: Twitter, blogs, media think pieces

What Really Happened: On Monday, Jay Z announced Tidal, a music-streaming company that would be majority-owned by artists and offer high-quality audio streams to subscribers. It was a high-profile launch, featuring appearances by Alicia Keys, Arcade Fire, Beyoncé, Daft Punk, Jack White, Kanye West, Deadmau5, Madonna, Nicki Minaj, Rihanna, and Usher, following up on an online teaser video released the night before featuring many of the same artists.

With such star power, the launch inevitably got a lot of attention (even if some of it was, to be blunt, fairly dumb), but in its aftermath, people started asking whether or not the $20/month subscription fee would be worth it. (There’ll also be a $10 tier with lower-quality audio.) Others responded to the requests from artists involved to “show support” for the service in not-so-supportive ways.

Lily Allen, meanwhile, went on a Twitter rampage against the service, complaining it was worse than Spotify because, by “denying people the freemium option, [it’s] giving more money to major labels.” Others agreed, suggesting the service pushed more power towards labels, not artists, with one story suggesting it’ll pay out well for those who own the company, but little for anyone else. (Certainly, shares of the parent company surged a staggering 938 percent the day after Tidal launched.)

In an interview with Rolling Stone , Tidal chief investment officer Vania Schlogel acknowledged that maybe some things could’ve gone better. “We’re a young company, we just took control of it not that long ago, so if anyone is skeptical at all … just bear with us, hold, wait, be patient and invest that time,” she said.

The Takeaway: Apparently, just throwing lots of celebrities at your launch isn’t enough to stop people asking questions about your business model if you’re anyone other than Apple. Will Tidal be a success? Eh, maybe? But still, let’s file the Tidal launch under “Could Have Gone Better.”

Who Knew That Movie Ratings Were So Important?

What Happened: Ryan Reynolds went public with his concerns that Deadpool might not be an R-rated comedy, but all wasn’t what it seemed.

Where It Blew Up: Twitter, blogs

What Really Happened: Throughout its long development history, Fox’s Deadpool movie has been described as an R-rated action comedy. So, imagine the surprise when star Ryan Reynolds started suggesting this week that that might not be the case.

Later that week (importantly, on April 1), he updated with a cryptic tweet:

And then, one far less cryptic:

Although fans began to get nervous, it turned out all of this was merely a set-up for the movie’s first teaser (and the first chance to see Deadpool in action).

The Takeaway: As far as April Fools’ Day pranks—and teaser trailers for movies—go, that was one no one saw coming … and also one that makes Deadpool look just a little bit more interesting, too. Mission accomplished.

Indie Bookstores Turn to Crowdfunding to Stay Alive

Borderlands Books founder Alan Beatts. Borderlands Books founder Alan Beatts. Jeff Chiu/AP

In 1997 Alan Beatts founded Borderlands Books in San Francisco, and for almost two decades the indie store, which specializes in fantasy, science fiction, horror, and mystery, has weathered challenges from Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and e-books. But when the city passed a law raising its minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2018, Beatts announced he was closing up shop. The story made headlines, catapulting him into the national spotlight.

“Conservative news outlets felt that I was going to be a perfect person to get to talk about how big government was destroying my independent business,” Beatts says in Episode 144 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “They were wrong.”

Actually he supports the new law—though he wishes there was an exemption for small businesses like his—and thinks it will probably be good for the city. But the reality is that his bookstore is one business that simply isn’t profitable enough to pay higher wages. That may not matter. In the wake of his announcement, hundreds of supporters have signed up as “sponsors,” raising enough money to keep the store open—and maybe even allowing him to expand.

Borderlands isn’t the only bookstore to benefit from crowdfunding. Singularity & Co. in Brooklyn owes its very existence to Kickstarter. The store was founded by Cici James and Ash Kalb, who launched a “Save the SciFi” campaign in 2012 to preserve rare pulp novels as e-books. They ended up raising far more than they asked for, and decided to use the extra cash to open their own shop.

“We had all the money from the Kickstarter, and we had thousands of books filling our apartment, and we just decided to open a store, mostly to hold the books,” says James.

It’s hard to compete with Amazon on selection or prices, and indie stores don’t try. Instead they offer experiences that can’t be replicated online, such as browsing bookshelves, meeting local sci-fi fans, and attending live readings.

“It’s nice to be a community hub, and that’s definitely the role that we’re taking on more and more,” says James.

Beatts is optimistic about the future. He thinks that by now his business has suffered about as much attrition as it’s going to, and that his remaining customers are likely to keep shopping at Borderlands for years to come. The success of the sponsorship drive seems to bear that out.

“If people are shopping in a physical bookstore, they’re doing it because they want to,” he says. “They’re not doing it because they haven’t heard of Amazon.”

Listen to our complete interview with Alan Beatts and Cici James in Episode 144 of Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy (above), and check out some highlights from the discussion below.

Cici James on forgotten classics:

“My favorite read was actually the 1895 one—it’s called Mr. Stranger’s Sealed Packet . We became intrigued because it’s a book that’s often talked about in people’s introductions to their scholarly work about sci-fi, but we could not find a copy anywhere, except in the Columbia University Library, but they wouldn’t let us come photograph it—I don’t know why, they were just very covetous of it. But shortly after we had that disappointment we found a copy of that book in a nunnery in Virginia, who had just, for no particular reason, uploaded their library online—their personal nun library—and that book happened to be in it. So we called them and said, ‘I don’t know if you know you have this book, but we’d love to come photograph it.’ So we went down there, and my husband and I stayed in separate beds—because no sex at the nunnery—and took a photograph of every single page.”

Cici James on bookstore events:

“We have a reading series where we invite our favorite local writers to read their favorite sci-fi authors, or authors based on a theme—so we’ve had a Lovecraft night, we’ve had Halloween, we had Star Trek novels, etc. And that’s called ‘Lust for Genre,’ and that’s been pretty popular and cool amongst the kids. We’ve also had a topless book club come rent out the space, where girls just wanted to read books topless, so that’s what they did. They gave me 50 bucks and I sat there—with my shirt on. We also do a lot of film shoots there. … Everything from little indie films to Saturday Night Live, who did a digital short there. … It was before Andy Samberg left. It’s pretty old. It’s the one where he spells out a really long word. It’s not one of the most popular ones—it wasn’t like ‘Dick in a Box’ or anything.”

Alan Beatts on opening a new bookstore:

“I think that it is a better time now than it was when I opened. Borders going out of business and the probable shrinking or collapse of Barnes & Noble [is] leaving a space for physical bookstores that didn’t exist, so I think that that makes it a good time to open a bookstore. I think that business has stabilized around e-books temporarily, and so I think that makes it a good time to open a bookstore as well. That said, the book business has never been a very profitable one, and it is very difficult, and so I think that if someone really wants to run a bookstore, now’s a good time to do it. But if you don’t really feel that drive, don’t open a bookstore, because you won’t make a lot of money and you’ll work very, very hard to do it. It’s kind of like being a writer, except with writing you might hit the jackpot and turn into James Patterson or Stephanie Meyer. Running a bookstore, that’s never going to happen. If you get to make a living, you are at the top of your game and winning, as a bookseller.”

Alan Beatts on young readers:

“I’ll tell you, if you want to get the absolute royal, red carpet treatment at Borderlands, be under 16 and express an interest in science fiction. You will get mobbed. The clerk will start talking to you, then I or the general manager will hear the conversation and be like, ‘Wait, it’s a young one! We can go convert them,’ and we’ll come out and start talking to you. We will do anything, because it is something that we feel very passionate about. And the thing that’s neat too is that readers who are 14 or 15 years old, they’re so excited about it, and it’s such a pleasure talking to them, and recommending books to them, and getting book recommendations from them, it’s wonderful.”