TIME Music

Watch John Mellencamp’s Video for “Troubled Man”: Premiere

The legendary singer-songwriter chatted with TIME about Plain Spoken, The Bachelor and why rock has been dead for a long time

John Mellencamp will release his 22nd full-length album, Plain Spoken, on September 23. After a four-year hiatus, Mellancamp has marked his return with an elegant and soul-searching album that finds him questioning life, authority and his beliefs. Now, TIME is pleased to premiere the video for the album’s lead single “Troubled Man,” an acoustic-guitar driven charmer.

In an interview, the singer-songwriter opened up about Plain Spoken, Gene Simmons, Farm Aid and The Bachelor:

TIME: Your new album seems very mature in that it tackles a lot of issues. Like there’s ‘Troubled Man,’ which just on its title alone indicates darkness. Have you been working through a lot?

John Mellencamp: It’s not really darkness. My guess is that you were a literature major somewhere. If you read Steinbeck, you read Tennessee Williams, you read Faulkner, you read any of those type of people — even Shakespeare — it’s all about human comedy. The catastrophe of life. That’s what I write about.

On ‘Sometimes There’s God,’ it seems like you’re struggling with religion, too.

No, no, no.

No? What is the song about?

Well, sometimes there’s God. In other words, if you look at the first verse, the first line, sometimes there’s God in someone else’s eyes, meaning that you can find yourself and find peace of mind, which is what religion is supposed to provide, in many different places. And sometimes, that song says, you just can’t. Sometimes in a human’s life you just can’t find peace of mind. Can’t do it. I’m sure that you’ve experienced that yourself. It’s like, where do I put myself? How did I get here? What am I doing? Those moments. Sometimes it feels like there’s no God. I mean, if you just had a baby and it was autistic, you might say, if you believed in God, ‘Why?’ Just sometimes there’s God, and sometimes there’s not. I’m not struggling with if there’s God or not. I have my beliefs. I’m 62 years old, I’ve thought about it, and I’ve come to conclusions. They may not be right, but it’s how I feel.

On “Lawless Times,” it sounds like you’re tackling a different sort of issue. Can you tell me about that song?

“Lawless Times” is a nod and a wink to how our society has changed. That song originally was, I think, 300 verses long. I had to edit it down. There are a lot of lighthearted pokes at the Catholic Church, because of all the child molestation.

It also talks about people tapping cell phones and digital music theft.

Don’t get me started on digital music, because I said a lot of years ago and caught a lot of crap about it that the Internet is the most dangerous invention since the atomic bomb. And people went, ‘Oh, yeah,’ and I got all this pushback, but the fact of the matter is, it’s true. I mean, we have no privacy for starters, and not to mention, we could as a country wage all kinds of warfare against some other country over the Internet, and shut down their electrical grid and vice versa. Shut down the banking systems. There’s a lot of trouble that could be caused with that f—ing Internet that most people use to send naked pictures of themselves, or maybe a certain higher-education person might do research on. But basically it’s for people to f— off on.

Are you sort of a Luddite?

I don’t really use the Internet. I’m one of the people that might research online. Makes it quicker than going to the library, sorry to say. But I don’t shop online.

Do you have a cell phone?

Yeah. I only knew two guys who didn’t have a cell phone: me and Bob Dylan. Bob still doesn’t have one, and I had to get one when I got divorced because my wife had one, but I got divorced about four years ago, so I had to get a cell phone because I have kids. If I didn’t have kids, I wouldn’t have a cell phone.

You’d just wait for people to call you on your landline?

I don’t want anybody calling me anyway. So you don’t have to worry about calling me. Don’t bother!

Being an artist as well as a musician, you must really value your alone time, though.

Yes, I do take great delight in my own company.

Can you create when there are other people around, or do you need complete isolation?

I need pretty much complete isolation just to exist. Just to be alive, to live. I prefer not to be around a lot of people. I don’t know that that has much to do with being an artist, but that’s just the way I prefer to live and that’s why I live where I live. I live on 86 acres in the middle of nowhere, and I get to a town if I need supplies.

You’re about to head out on a massive tour. Are tours hellish for you?

They can be, like any other job. Part of playing live is that I think that an artist who’s interested in what they’re going to create next, and having to go out and play songs that you wrote 25 years ago can get to be tedious a job, but the audience generally softens the flow of that type of work.

You’ve been doing this for almost 40 years now. Are you surprised by the longevity of your career?

Oh, I think that everybody is. I mean nobody really in 1974 or 75 nobody really anticipated this being a lifelong career thing. What music is today is so far from what it was when I started. I mean, it couldn’t be any further away. Music was a youth-driven thing, for rebellious youth to express themselves, and the whole hippie thing was happening, and we were going to change the world. It’s all about that. And of course now it’s all tore up, but I can’t help what they made it. I can’t help it. Because other people make it bad, that doesn’t mean that I can change the world. I can’t. I’m just a guy with a guitar.

But you’ve also never shied away from taking political stances in your music or onstage. Do you feel like up-and-coming rock stars and pop stars these days are apolitical?

Well, I don’t know about them. I can’t speak for them. I don’t know what they think. I think Taylor Swift is cute. Other than that, I don’t know anything about her.

Is it disappointing that this younger generation isn’t willing to take a stand about stuff?

There are a lot of reasons for that, and I don’t blame them at all. When I was a kid, there was something called the Vietnam War and the draft. It motivated a lot of young people to get involved in politics. I’m sure that if there was a draft today and young people were faced with the idea of going to Syria or Afghanistan, they would have a louder voice. They would think, ‘Oh, s–t. What am I getting drafted for? To go do what?’ So when the draft was eliminated, which we were all happy about at the time, it took young people out of the mix, which was really good for the old people who run the world, because the young people were f—ing them up. Politicians today don’t have to worry about it, because young people won’t even talk about it, because they don’t give a s–t. They don’t care, because they’re not involved. I’ll tell you what: you want young people to talk about politics, reinstate the draft.

Speaking of political issues, you founded Farm Aid. Do you think the plight of the farmer is kind of overlooked in this day and age?

It’s so complicated. It’s not a generic, sweeping statement. If you just look at what the government have passed as food for children — your children, my children, in school — it’s not really to do with their health, is it? It’s really to do with the dairy farmers. It has to do with the people who grow crops, Big Corn. A lot of decisions being made about money and not the well-being of people. So Farm Aid is about so many things. The very first year we did it, it was just about trying to keep the small farmer on the land, and it’s a never-ending problem. They pass all these farm bills, but they’re not really to help the small farmer — they’re all to help corporate farming. I mean, we all know we shouldn’t drink dairy, right? What do they serve in school to drink? Dairy. Think that’s an accident? Or they serve soft drinks. You think that’s an accident? No! There’s f–ing tons of money being made here, and it’s not for the well being of the children.

This is going to sound silly, but hear me out: The Bachelor, the TV show, just cast a farmer as its star.

I don’t know about The Bachelor. I’ve never watched it.

Do you think drawing attention to the fact that people still run family farms in America is a good reminder?

I don’t think it could hurt. But anytime you take a subject like that and you make it fodder for a television show, how serious are people going to take it? We have serious issues in this problem and to make it light entertainment, it just hits me sideways.

This is your first album under a lifetime contract with Republic Records. What made you want to sign a lifetime contract?

Well, about 10 to 12 years ago, I’d had a record contract for 30-something years, and I really didn’t like it. I don’t work for anybody. I don’t like working for anybody — I’ve never been employed by anybody — and the idea of having to release records on a time schedule, which I had done for 20-something years. So I got out of my record deal, and I didn’t want a record deal. I thought I would just be a free agent, and every time I wanted to make a record I’d just go someplace assigned to make one record. But after 10 to 12 years, it became very tedious, so we decided that I like the guy who runs Republic and we made a deal that I don’t have to release records on any time schedule. I just do what I want. It’s a special deal.

Your musical Ghost Brothers of Darkland County is also hitting the road again. How many times have you seen it?

I’ve seen it enough to know it still needs work — it’s been 15 years — but Steve [Stephen King] and I are closing in on it.

It’s still a work in progress?

Everything is, honey. Art is never done: it’s only abandoned.

How do you know when an album is done?

You abandon it. Yes, always abandon. It’s never done.

Is that the same with your paintings?

Sure. I have paintings that I’m still painting on that are 20 years old. I’ll have a painting, because I never throw anything away, never. I have jeans older than you. I have boots older than you.

As a musician and an artist, when inspiration strikes you, is it geared towards being represented visually versus musically?

I’m sure you’ve heard this many times, and I know it sounds phony people who don’t do it, but when you’re a songwriter or you’re a painter, it’s not even so much inspiration as what I call channeling. And sometimes when I write songs, the ideas come so fast that my hand doesn’t move quick enough to keep up with it. My mind is open to this idea. I don’t go, ‘You know I’m going to write a really nice song for Melissa.’ I don’t do that. The song is just sent to me, and I write them down. If they’re about ‘Sometimes It’s God,’ if they’re about the ‘Isolation of Mister,’ I write them down. Painting’s the same way. It’s always surprising to me. I never know what the f–k I’m talking about. I don’t know what the songs are about. I don’t know how the painting’s going to end up. I don’t know when I’m going to quit on the painting.

Now, some people get to channel good stuff, some people not so good, and some people who are songwriters don’t even know this, and they write these songs that I don’t know what the f–k they’re talking about. I don’t know why they would even write them, but they do. And they play them on the radio! [laughs]

Gene Simmons recently said, ‘Rock is dead.’ Do you buy that?

Oh, yeah. It’s been dead for years. It’s dead. It’s over. Rock has been dead since probably the early ‘90s. It’s over. What an insightful guy Gene Simmons is to realize that, in 2014, rock is dead. Gene, it’s been dead for f—ing 25 years!

Why do you think it’s dead?

I don’t think it’s dead; I know it’s dead.

Well, how do you know it’s dead?

The reason rock is dead is because the foundation is no longer there. It’s about money, it’s about needing another country singer on the ticket. The foundation of rock music was rebellion against the establishment. How in the f—ing hell can a 62-year-old man be writing songs…That’s why my records sound like they do. They’re age-appropriate. I don’t even consider myself a rock singer. I consider myself a songwriter. You don’t ever see me use the word rock and roll related to myself. Other people may. Rocker John Mellencamp. It’s like, what the f–k are you talking about? Rocker John Mellencamp. Back in 1982, maybe. But not now. I mean, guys my age get on stage and try to act like they’re rocking. It’s funny.

Gene Simmons is out there.

Yeah, and he looks like a dope.

And there’s people like Keith Richards.

Baby, those guys are out there trying to recapture something that they once had. I’m sure that if you ask Keith Richards, he’ll tell you: ‘I’m doing the best I can. This is the best I can do. Am I the Keith Richards on stage that I was in 1972? No. But am I as good a guitar player? Yes.’ So you can’t just make a big generalization and say they’re out rocking. No, they’re not. Keith Richards is nothing on stage like he was in 1969.

Are you still having fun?

Yeah. Not the kind of fun that one would think. Not the kind of fun that I once had, when I was a young guy in a black-leather jacket. But fun is relative and fun for me today is being able to create something and go, ‘I like that. That’s good. That’s good.’ Fun for me is being able to go, ‘Wow, my son is in Golden Gloves. Great.’ My one son goes to RISD. I have a daughter who just had a baby. That’s fun. That kind of stuff is fun. Fun is relevant. Do I go out and get drunk after the show? No. I haven’t been drunk since 1971.

TIME celebrity

For $40,000 Run The Jewels 2 Will Be Remixed With Cat Sounds

"Meow the Jewels"

Run The Jewels—the rap duo made up of Killer Mike and El-P—really wants people to pre-order their second album, Run The Jewels 2 (or RTJ2), so they made some very enticing packages on Kickstarter to encourage it.

Their pre-order packages include basic t-shirt and record bundles and deluxe vinyl editions. Or, for $40,000, Run the Jewels will remix their entire album with nothing but cat sounds.

The band was probably just joking around when they devised that option and weren’t expecting anyone to pony up $40,000 to hear cats “sing” RTJ’s “All Due Respect” with added vocals from a cat version of Travis Barker, but they underestimated their fan base.

Now, one ingenious fan has started a Kickstarter campaign to make so-called “Meow the Jewels” a reality. The goal is to raise $45,100 (the cost plus Kickstarter and Amazon fees, plus rewards and shipping) so that Run the Jewels can re-record RTJ2 using all cat sounds instead of music. The band is on board with the plan, too. El-P took to Twitter to confirm that he would remix the album with cat sounds if the money came through.

The Kickstarter still has a long way to go (as of this writing, it only has $5,210 of their $45,100 goals). Run the Jewels 2 comes out October 28.

TIME viral

Orange is the New Black Gets The Golden Girls Treatment in This Mashup

Golden is the new black

In the latest gift from the Internet, YouTube user Robert Jones mashed up Orange is the New Black with The Golden Girls to make an entirely enjoyable new viral video, perfect for watching with friend and a slice of cheesecake. Speaking of which, there’s little doubt that the inmates at Litchfield Penitentiary would have some great conversations over a cheesecake, especially one with cigarettes or a file baked into it.

To make the video, Jones replaced the Orange is the New Black theme song (Regina Spektor’s “You’ve Got Time”) with Andrew Gold’s “Thank You For Being A Friend,” and the song swap magically transforms the smartly dark prison drama into a screwball jail comedy, which is not a genre that has been explored in-depth.

The combination of the ’80s comedy and the Netflix show is fodder for the imagination, and hopefully some great fanfic will come out of the mash-up—think of the trouble Sophia and Red could get up to.

Thank you for being a friend, Internet.

TIME viral

Competitive Eater Kobayashi Faces Off Against a Hungry Hungry Hamster

Tiny hamster, giant appetite

The Internet’s latest darling is a hungry, hungry hamster. First the hamster took on tiny burritos, then tiny pizza slices and then tiny breakfasts in a tiny mansion. Now the fluffy little rodent has turned its beady little eyes on a larger target — professional eater Takeru Kobayashi.

Kobayashi made a name for himself on the competitive eating circuit, taking down all comers at the annual Coney Island hot dog eating contest. He is capable of eating 69 hot dogs in 10 minutes, but can he compete with a tiny hamster with giant mouth pouches who can tackle tiny fake hot dogs made out of hamster food in only a few dozen mouthfuls?

The only way to find out is it watch the latest installment of HelloDenzien’s adorable videos, but get on the edge of your seat now and brace yourself for a drama-filled face-off between the two eaters.



Dancing With the Stars Watch: Week 1 Results


Plus Smokey Robinson and Aloe Blacc performed

Welcome back to Dancing With the Stars. The show kicked off last night with some polished performances (Fresh Prince‘s Alfonso Ribeiro and, surprisingly, Duck Dynasty scion Sadie Robertson ) and some, well, less-than-polished performances (apparently bobsledding in the Olympics is not the same as cha-cha-ing). Tonight we find out who goes home, because despite last year’s blissful one-episode-per-week format, after 19 seasons the show has realized that in fact they do need two nights to contain all the sparkling glory.

Here’s what happened on Dancing With the Stars:

Star Parade: To remind viewers of the show’s glorious past, the audience was packed with celebrities and former contestants like Ralph Macchio, Rick Schroder, David Justice, Amy Purdy, Brant Daugherty, Cheech Marin, Leah Remini, Rumer Willis and Danica McKellar.

Safety First: It’s always nerve-racking to be judged first, but Antonio Sabato Jr. managed it without breaking a sweat. He’s coming back next week, as is Tavis Smiley, while Betsey Johnson does not get an AARP break and is in jeopardy this week.

Ladies With an Attitude: To introduce the audience to the stars who, frankly, kind of need an introduction, the producers kindly give up a few moments of prime time so each woman can explain who they are and why they are on the show in a two-second soundbite. Pretty Little Liars star Janel Parish wants to show off her Hawaiian dance heritage. Sadie Robertson wants to share her faith and prove Christians can have fun. Actress Lea Thompson wants to relive her ballet-dancer past. Olympic bobsledder and hurdler Lolo Jones wants to show up that guy who embarrassed her at prom. Bethany Mota wants to live life, step outside YouTube and onto TV. Designer Betsey Johnson wants to show that age is a matter of mind, because “if you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter!”

Fellows That Were in the Mood: Then, the men get a shot at justifying their spot on the show. Former Fresh Prince star Alfonso Ribeiro is looking forward to losing weight. Tommy Chong wants to impress his wife. PBS mainstay Tavis Smiley wants to start being silly before he turns 50. Mean Girls actor Jonathan Bennett is here to make the audience cry and honor his father, who is watching from heaven. Mixed-martial-arts champ Randy Couture is here to show his softer side. NASCAR driver Michael Waltrip wants to pick up where Bill Engvall left off.

Meet the Pros: The show added three new pros this season, and while it introduced them last night, they are just going to go ahead and do it again. Allison Holker came from So You Think You Can Dance, Artem Chigvintsev won Strictly Come Dancing and Keo Motsepe is a South African dance machine. After a video that featured all three glistening in oil while a wind machine sputtered. Tom Bergeron quipped, “Dancing With the Stars, where body fat goes to die.” After their video intro, they show their stuff by dancing with the rest of the pros to Pharrell’s “Come Get it Bae.” Needless to say, the men were shirtless.

Encore Performance: The judges smartly opted to watch a repeat of Alfonso’s and Witney’s high-flying, fast-paced jive, which put them at the top of the leaderboard. Watching the frenetic footwork and effortless flair in the routine makes you realize that Alfonso is good, but it also speaks to Witney’s talent. As the youngest pro on the show, she has the most to prove.

Safety Dance: Over the next few rounds of drama-filled results announcements, it’s revealed that Janel, Randy Couture, Sadie Robertson, Alfonso and Bethany Mota are safe. That left Lea Thompson and Michael Waltrip in jeopardy.

Best Performance: Motown legend Smokey Robinson and up-and-comer Aloe Blacc sang a slowed down version of “My Girl” while Mark and Witney slow-danced like they were at a rom-com version of a high school prom when everyone had cleared the floor so the preacher’s daughter and the motorcycle-riding town rebel could rekindle their love against all odds and her father’s wishes.

Best Moment of the Night: The producers unearthed the pros’ audition tapes and showed Derek Hough’s shiny-faced, exuberant and loquacious tryout. It was all kinds of adorable.

Worst Moment of the Night: Airing time-wasting B-roll footage, instead of the rest of the pros’ audition videos.

In Jeopardy: The hosts reveal that Jonathan Bennett and Tommy Chong are safe, meaning that all is currently right with the world and Lolo and Keo are in jeopardy. She joins Betsey Johnson, Michael Waltrip and Lea Thompson in the bottom of the rankings.

The Results: It’s quickly revealed that Lea and Michael are safe, meaning that Betsey and Lolo are actually in jeopardy.

Going Home: Lolo Jones. The Olympian handles defeat with grace, admitting her mistakes and pointing out that it wouldn’t have been fair to send Betsey home over a wardrobe malfunction. If she had been as gracious last night, perhaps she would have stayed on the show longer.

TIME viral

Grab a Hanky and Watch This Video of “Sad Dads” at One Direction Concerts

It's what makes them beautiful.

In his memoir Hitch-22, Christopher Hitchens wrote, “To be the father of growing daughters is to understand something of what Yeats evokes with his imperishable phrase ‘terrible beauty.’ Nothing can make one so happily exhilarated or so frightened.” This quote clearly applies to the experience of a good father, make that a really good father, taking his tween daughter to a One Direction concert.

Nothing encapsulates the lonely-in-a-crowd phenomenon so much as the face of a father staring in blank horror as the sound and the fury of a stadium packed with young women screaming the names of Harry, Liam, Niall, Louis and Zayn at the top of their lungs washes over him. In a video with photos by The Spin’s Angelina Castillo, the faces on these fathers say it all — they’ve seen things and they are reflected in their blank, staring eyes, but they would do it again and again for their beloved daughters. In the words of One Direction, it’s what makes these fathers beautiful.

These dear old dads have put up with so much that they clearly deserve this moving tribute set to Gary Jules’s haunting cover of “Mad World.” Terrible beauty, indeed.


TIME food and drink

KFC Has Made a Fried Chicken Keyboard

KFC Japan
KFC Japan

Sadly, it's not edible

It’s time to move to Japan.

Not only do they get the goth-meets-gross black chicken sandwich at Burger King, snake-flavored ice cream and a tear sommelier, but now they are getting a KFC-branded fried chicken keyboard, too. It’s the perfect thing to write your resignation letter on as you pack your bags and head east.

A contest run by the Japanese branch of KFC is offering a chance to win KFC swag like a fried chicken keyboard, a fried chicken drumstick mouse that will make you drool all over the keyboard, and a fried chicken thumb drive that will have you backing up data in style.

KFC Japan
KFC Japan

Unfortunately, the contest is only open to KFC fans who are residents of Japan. Guess we’ll have to type on our boring old keyboards and console ourselves with waffle tacos and taco socks and terrifying Happy Meals. Or move.

TIME viral

This Owl and Cat Have a Beautiful Friendship

This video is a hoot.

Know that old bedtime story about the owl and the pussycat who sailed away in a beautiful pea green boat? This video is like a prequel to that song.

The camera captures an owl and a cat just chilling with each other like two good friends with nothing to do on a Tuesday night. According to The Telegraph, Cleo the owl and Forbi the cat struck up a friendship when they were young and impressionable and didn’t think it was weird to be friends with an animal that is normally your mortal enemy. They kindled their relationship thanks to sharing a home and an owner, Andre Costa, a Brazilian biologist, and now the two critters have become inseparable inter-species BFF. Since he posted the original video of this moment on Facebook on September 7, it has been shared more than 124,000 times.

It’s a beautiful display of an unlikely friendship that we could watch all day, while waiting for them to sail away under the light of the moon.

TIME Minecraft

Dear Microsoft: Please Don’t Screw Up Minecraft. Sincerely, Parents

Microsoft To Acquire Maker Of Popular Minecraft Game For 2.5 Billion
MIAMI, FLORIDA - SEPTEMBER 15: Daniel Llevara checks out the XBox 360 Minecraft game at a GameStop store on Sept. 15, 2014 in Miami. Joe Raedle—Getty Images

Children of all ages love it, parents love it, and Microsoft should leave it well enough alone. But will they?

Yesterday, news broke that Microsoft was acquiring Mojang, the creator of the “sandbox” game Minecraft for $2.5 billion. The move will bolster Microsoft’s gaming ambitions and further integrate Microsoft’s gaming system, Xbox, with the incredibly popular game.

While the business world was ogling the massive deal for the open-world game, which has an estimated 100 million downloads on PCs alone and brought in $100 million in profit last year, parents were wondering what this means for their Minecraft-addicted children.

Minecraft is the go-to game for parents and children alike, because it’s incredibly easy to learn and fun to play, involving nothing more than clicking and building anything from roller coasters to castles to tree forts. It’s impossible to win or lose and no one dies — it’s just building. There are no rules and no instructions, it’s intuitive and straightforward. Younger children, say, 6 and up, may prefer to play in “creative mode,” which let’s users simply wander the landscape and build whatever they can imagine and the game’s blocky graphics can allow. For older players, there’s the more challenging “survival mode,” filled with zombies, pigs, zombie pig men and a dragon lurking somewhere in the distance. Still, you can’t die in survival mode, you simply “respawn” and go back to what you were doing. It’s gaming lite, which is where the appeal lies for the next generation of gaming fans (just ask my 7-year-old son) and their parents who don’t want to hear cries of frustration over levels and character deaths.

Minecraft’s simplicity is the key to its inter-generational success and for any parent who has done battle with a Microsoft operating system — and with the specters of Windows Vista and Windows 8 and all their software and hardware compatibility issues floating in the air— it’s hard for parents whose children love Minecraft not to be slightly wary about news of the acquisition. Some parents (me) may have groaned loudly thinking about trying to explain the sudden addition of Microsoft Bob to the ranks of Minecraft characters like Herobrine and Steve. Then other questions started percolating: Would Minecraft only be accessible via a Zune? Would you need a Hotmail account to sign up? Would you have to download Internet Explorer? Would Microsoft Word’s ever-present helper Clippy become a creeper? (That’s a local Minecraft hostile, if you don’t play the game.)

The main concern for parents though, is that Microsoft will somehow change the game, making it more complex, allow in-app purchases, or require parental supervision (the horror!). While the game has only been around since 2009, it has grown to become one of the most popular computer games of all time, with over 16 million copies sold for computer use. Parents trust it to be safe, fun and ostensibly educational, operating both as a gateway to the world of computer science and helping to develop spatial recognition skills. Children of all ages love it, parents love it, and Microsoft should leave it well enough alone. But will they?

One likely possibility is that Microsoft may push more unique features towards its own Xbox platform. Currently, Minecraft can be played on several platforms, including desktop computers, tablets and smartphones, with PCs having the most functionality and advanced controls. Xbox has long been a popular way for kids to access the cubist landscape of Minecraft and it has the same functions as playing on a desktop. According to a Microsoft press release, Minecraft is the top online game on Xbox Live, with over two billion hours played on Xbox 360 in the last two years. Minecraft on Xbox also gained popularity thanks in no small part to YouTube users like Stampy Longhead, whose wildly popular videos feature the player touring through Minecraft worlds, narrating his findings in his excited British accent and feeding bones to digital dogs. (While parents may find the allure of these videos elusive, calling Stampy “wildly popular” is perhaps an understatement. Stampy was the fourth biggest YouTube channel in July with 199.6 million video views, the majority of which were undoubtedly racked up by my kid watching during lulls in summer activities while I tried to work.)

Stampy plays exclusively on Xbox and only visits worlds connected to the Xbox network, at least according to my son. The kid has been making a hard sell for weeks trying to convince me that he needs an Xbox for Minecraft use. If Microsoft expands its Xbox Minecraft network to its tablets or smartphones, it could transform millions of children around the world into walking, whining Microsoft acolytes (which may be part of Microsoft’s business plan), begging mom, dad and Santa to fill their stocking with Microsoft products. It’s probably not something that happens very often aside from the Xbox, as the company is still best-known for making corporate hardware and software bundles.

While parents may have fears of Microsoft corrupting Minecraft — or at least being bullied into buying Microsoft products for their clamoring underage Minecraft fans — some young players are concerned, as well. “I am worried that they might change Minecraft in a bad way,” said tech savvy 11-year old Zoel Boublil, who is an expert in all things Minecraft. “For example, what if they fire Notch, the CEO of Mojang? Notch, Jeb [Bergensten, the lead developer of Minecraft] and Dinnerbone [a game developer on Minecraft] all put in a lot of creativity and I hope Microsoft doesn’t just make it into some ‘normal’ game and what if they put Microsoft advertising on everything? That would not be cool.” This fear of rendering something once cool, corporate, is often fans’ biggest fear; adults who used to use MySpace or Flickr are familiar with this kind of thing. That said, Yahoo! hasn’t managed to change Tumblr culture too much yet, and it probably doesn’t want to.

The reality is that no one knows what will happen in the deal that Microsoft claims will close by the end of the year. Hopefully, Microsoft is business savvy enough to know not to mess with something that has universal, inter-generational appeal. And if they do? Well, there’s a zombie pigman that could take out Clippy, if necessary.


TIME Television

Central Perk From Friends Is Now a Real Place, and Gunther Is There

Erik Matey/Warner Bros Entertainment

For the 20th anniversary of Friends, the iconic coffee shop is launching as a pop-up in lower Manhattan

Starbucks. Blue Bottle. Dunkin Donuts. New York City is filled with places to get coffee. Yesterday, though, we went to Central Perk.

Yep — a pop-up shop immortalizing the dream of the ’90s has opened to mark the 20th anniversary of Friends. The once-fictional coffee shop that was the hangout of choice for the cast of Friends has become a reality — for a limited time, anyway. In a collaboration between Warner Bros and Eight O’Clock Coffee, Central Perk will open its doors to the public on Wednesday, September 17 and stay open until October 18, giving fans plenty of time to grow out their Rachels and find their most ’90s outfit.

Erik Matey/Warner Bros Entertainment

Fans may be able to find some inspiration at Central Perk itself thanks to the display of the show’s costumes in all their ’90s glory, including Monica’s (Courteney Cox) V-neck peasant shirt and calf-length skirt train wreck, Rachel’s (Jennifer Aniston) belted grey schoolgirl skirt and black boot ensemble and Joey Tribbiani’s (Matt LeBlanc) henley-flannel shirt combo. (A box of Smelly Cat cat litter is not a recommended accessory.)

Erik Matey/Warner Bros Entertainment

The pop-up shop is fittingly filled with Friends memorabilia, including signed scripts and cast photos capturing behind-the-scenes moments from the set and candid shots of Chandler, Joey, Rachel, Monica, Phoebe and Ross goofing off.

More exciting for the die-hard Friends fan is the display case filled with ephemera, like the VHS copy of Buffay the Vampire Layer.

Chandler, Monica, Phoebe, Joey, Ross and Rachel were nowhere to be found, so we were able to snag the big orange couch — it was once Central Perk’s hottest real estate! — and talk to Gunther. While the surly waiter had no interest in taking our order (typical), actor James Michael Tyler — who played Gunther on the show — was happy to stretch out on the couch. “As a character, I was never able to sit on the couch,” he says. “Gunther only sat on it once!”

Erik Matey/Warner Bros Entertainment

“In real life, I’m not grumpy,” says Tyler. “But Gunther pretty much epitomized the early ’90s barista.” Can Tyler see Gunther working in a coffee shop now? “It would be interesting to see Gunther with a full beard and a fedora working at a coffee shop right now,” says Tyler. “But he either franchised Central Perk or went back to soap opera acting.”

Erik Matey/Warner Bros Entertainment

Tyler, who has moved on from acting to writing, says he was able to put Gunther to rest thanks to the show’s writers. “The final episode — where Gunther had closure and was able to tell Rachel that he was in love with her and had been for ten years — was great,” says Tyler. “No one ever picked up the clues that Gunther was obsessed with her! The writers had a lot of story lines to write in that last episode and to have the courtesy to include closure for Gunther instead of leaving him open-ended was great. 20 years later, if he was still obsessed with Rachel, that would be sad.”

To make your Gunther-Rachel fanfic come to life (and to get a cup of limited-edition Central Perk Roast), Central Perk at 199 Lafayette Street (at the corner of Broome Street) in New York City is open from Wednesday, September 18 through Saturday, October 18.

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