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STUDY: Curbing Cash Bail Has Had No Significant Negative Impact On The Crime Rate In Philadelphia

February 20th, 2019

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Artwork via THE NATION

BY SEAN HECK One year after the implementation of their cash bail reduction plan for low-level offenses, Philadelphia DA Larry Krasner and Mayor Jim Kenney announced the success of their groundbreaking new policy at a press conference yesterday at City Hall. “We changed our low-level bail policy because it was the right, and fair, thing to do for the poor, for people of color, and everyone in Philadelphia’s criminal justice system. What we had a year ago wasn’t fair, but after a year of use and a supportive third party review, I’m happy that we’ve made real progress for our city,” said District Attorney Larry Krasner.

The independent “third party review” Krasner referred to is a study called Evaluating the Impacts of Eliminating Prosecutorial Requests for Cash Bail conducted by Aurelie Ouss, Assistant Professor of Criminology at the University of Pennsylvania and Megan Stevenson, Assistant Professor of Law at George Mason University. The study found no “…detectable evidence that the decreased use of monetary bail, unsecured bond, and release on conditions had adverse effects on appearance rates or [rates of] recidivism.” The study’s other findings include:

–The reduction of cash bail did not negatively impact the number of defendants Released On Recognizance (ROR) who showed up for their court dates

–Rates of recidivism were not higher than they were during the previous DA’s policy

–From February to December of 2018, roughly 1,700 fewer defendants were sent to jail before having their first hearing


–The number of eligible defendants who were Released on Recognizance, without any monetary bail, or with other supervisory conditions saw an immediate 23 percent increase

–There was a 41 percent reduction in bail in amounts of $5,000 or less for nonviolent and nonsexual offenses

–There was a five percent decline in the number of defendants who spent at least one night in jail.

According to Ouss and Stevenson, the study is one of the first to examine the effects of the cash bail system on recidivism rates and court appearance no-shows. They found that reducing the use of the cash bail system for nonviolent offenders had no discernible effect on pretrial misconduct and/or court date appearance rates. “It’s about treatment, not incarceration” said Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, summing up the intention of the city’s new cash bail policy.

A personal account of the unintended consequences of the old cash bail policy was given by Philadelphia resident Angela Barnes, whose husband was directly affected by the previous administration’s cash bail system. After being arrested for possessing “just two bags” of marijuana, Barnes’ husband was charged with intent to distribute, and did not have the financial means to pay his bail. He subsequently spent ten days in prison and, due to his extended absence, was fired from his job. Due to his desperate circumstances, Barnes said her husband felt compelled to take a plea deal. He suffered three years of probation, court costs, and lost his driving privileges—all because he couldn’t pay the bail for a minor marijuana-related charge. An entirely non-violent crime. Numbers and statistics speak for themselves, but the human suffering behind an cruel and unjust system that favors the rich further proves that there had been a need for change. Barnes praised Krasner and company for giving people like her husband a chance to move beyond minor past mistakes and better themselves.

Further personal testimony about the the importance of cash bail reform was delivered by Joshua Glenn, co-founder of Philadelphia’s Youth Art and Self-Empowerment Project, whose purpose is to provide minors in the Philadelphia prison system with a creative outlet, as well as a means of contributing to society upon being released. Glenn himself was locked up and charged as an adult when he was just 16 years old in 2005. He praised the work that the DA and company have done, but stressed the need to take it further. He discussed the importance of raising awareness about the plight of the young and poor prisoner, and the vicious school-to-prison pipeline as it relates to the problem of mass incarceration.

Towards the end of the conference, Krasner stressed the fact that only “Cash Bail Reform 1.0” was being presented. “This is not set in stone,” he said. Both DA Krasner and Mayor Kenney expressed that more measures need to be taken to tackle the rates of racial and ethnic disparities within the criminal justice system. “We need to do better,” Kenney said. Still, great leaps are demonstrably being made by the District Attorney’s office to hold criminals accountable based solely on the circumstances of their crimes, rather than on the color of their skin or on the weight of their wallets.

RELATED: America Is Waking Up To The Injustice Of Cash Bail

 

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SH*T MY UNCLE SAYS: Dear Mr. President # 2

February 20th, 2019

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Illustration by MARK BRYANT

BY WILLIAM C. HENRY Hi there. Me again. Just checking to make sure you’re all right. I mean, have you gotten help after that wacked out, absurd and really quite asinine little tantrum you let loose with on Friday? Wow, that was a doozy. I was concerned that the EMT folks might not get to you in time. Did you make it to Walter Reed before you went into shock? Are you still hospitalized? SMUS-avatarSure hope you get some “experienced” attention. The only reason I say “experienced” is, well, how do I put this delicately? It’s just that I’m thinking that when it comes to treatment it’ll probably take some real mental health “expertise” to be able to differentiate between your normal yet-to-develop pubescence, and Friday’s infantile shit fit. Gimme an up-date, okay?

So, anyhoo, what I want to talk to you about this time around is that flock of racist, praying-for-the-return-of-coal-powered-everything, let’s-not-over-analyze-ANYTHING, dupes who’re still watching Fox News every night hoping for confirmation that you’ve finally “stood in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shot somebody and not lost their vote” and who, by the way, probably aren’t EVER coming back to any real sense of decency or rational political belief because they’ve pretty much always been in it for the bigotry, the sexism, and the xenophobia anyway, and, generally speaking, that’s their bag and you’re their kind of bag man … -child!

But, actually it’s not them I want to get after nearly so much as it is the spineless, self-serving, never-met-a-responsibility-they-couldn’t-dodge-or-relinquish-to-Your-Hineyness, “cowardly Republican ‘Bob Fords’ in the Senate and House of Representatives who’ve shot–and continue to shoot–America in the back!” You know, those sidestepping little shirkers who lack the courage, decency or apparently even the maturity to bear the constitutional burden you’ve so “base-satiatingly” removed from their job description, namely, to MIND THE WHITE HOUSE KINDERGARTEN! What do you think? Is there any chance these guys and gals will EVER put the best interests of the entire COUNTRY ahead of their own paycheck insecurities? Yeah, I get it, it’s a pretty tough call. Especially when you’ve got a childishly incompetent, morally degenerate, racist, power-corrupted, criminally complicit, narcissistic sociopath in the Oval Office “calling the shots” (get it? yuk, yuk)!
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REVIEW: LCD Soundsystem Electric Lady Sessions

February 19th, 2019

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BY SEAN HECK Throughout the second half of our first decade into the millenium, Brooklyn-based electronic rock outfit LCD Soundsystem breathed fresh life into the by then decaying corpse of dance-punk and attempted to fuse it cohesively with the sounds of contemporary garage rock bands and 80s post-punk bands, coming into their own and proving themselves as an entity independent of their influences along the way. After that, they disbanded—only to reunite a few years later. Since their return, they have overstayed their welcome, and seem keen on the idea of relying indefinitely on the god-tier status that they earned in the ‘00s.

With the release of their self-titled full-length debut in 2005, James Murphy and company established themselves as enthusiasts of the oscillation between heavy, energetic post-punk revival cuts and infectious, groovy dance anthems tailor-made for the introspective party animal—though such an alternation was undeniably contradictory and lacking in polish. While very promising and commendable as a standalone breakout record, LCD Soundsystem was decidedly a bit inconsistent in terms of sonic uniformity, mix, and lyrical substance.

Listeners needed not worry, however, as the aforementioned shortcomings were not present on the group’s sophomore effort. 2007’s Sound of Silver found LCD Soundsystem hitting their stride. Sound quality was more impressive, there was a more varied instrumental palette, and the record was more lyrically focused than its predecessor, exploring topics such as loss, heartbreak and aging in engaging, poignant, and heartfelt ways without sacrificing the undeniable fun, danceability and good humor that made the band famous in the first place.

On This Is Happening, James Murphy sharpened his lyrical mastery even further while continuing to bring listeners to the dance floor. Ambitious, epic, and long-winded electronic odysseys with sticky, nostalgic, 80s-influenced percussion were accompanied by lyrics rife with musings on paranoia, self-awareness, love, and fear. By then, James Murphy had taken disparate influences such as Talking Heads, Brian Eno, New Order, and Yellow Magic Orchestra and synthesized them with his own hare-brained, larger-than-life, and gripping personality into a bold electronica-rock masterpiece. This Is Happening, combined with a three-hour live album for the ages in The Long Goodbye: LCD Soundsystem Live at Madison Square Garden was meant to be the band’s final send-off before disbandment. The idea of LCD Soundsystem coming to an end after releasing just three studio albums over a mere five-year span was a small controversy in and of itself within music journalism circles and the band’s fanbase. Here was a genre-defining (and genre-resuscitating) powerhouse with a spotless discography and a laudatory reception from critics and fans alike…and they were finished. Done. No more. It seemed as though listeners would be starved evermore of the refreshingly fun, honest, and non-pretentious electronica-infused take on art rock that LCD Soundsystem offered. Many were unsatiated, while others felt that it would be best for the band to leave off in a blaze of glory after doing wonders with their influential new brand of dance music. Personally, I fall into the latter camp.

But alas, LCD Soundsystem was not finished after all. In 2017, they released their so-called “comeback album”, American Dream. Did it match up to LCD Soundsystem’s long-waiting, eager followers’ expectations? Of course it did. However, anyone who hadn’t drank the kool-aid of the James Murphy cult shared the opinion that this album was an abject disappointment. It did nothing groundbreaking whatsoever, unlike LCD Soundsystem’s previous albums. It was filled to capacity with familiar sounding tracks, and when it wasn’t rehashing old ideas, it was failing to meet long-established standards of the group. Unlike the expansive, slow-burning, and attention-holding journeys the longer tracks on This Is Happening took the listener on (such as with the bubbling synths, cheeky guitars, and hyper-meta lyrics on the captivating 9-minute track “You Wanted a Hit”), many of the over 5-minute tracks on American Dream were one-trick, and quickly became stale (such as with the yawn-inducing, directionless dissonance on “other voices”). Where previous albums succeeded due to the subtleties of Murphy’s honest lyricism, American Dream was a bloated collection of meandering, pseudo-political ramblings that LCD Soundsystem’s all-too-faithful fanbase surely ate up. As Joseph Stannard of The Wire so eloquently put it: “It’s a slab of nothing, a media spectacle for the terminally impressed.”

So what does LCD Soundsystem have to offer in 2019? Electric Lady Sessions. You guessed it—it offers very little in terms of momentum toward something beyond their impressive past. To be fair, the album is a collection mostly made up of previously-released songs performed live and in-studio, and so there isn’t a huge amount of “new” to be expected here. However, one would think that, a full two years after the release of a mediocre album, LCD Soundsystem might have put out something grander than a collection made up entirely of their previous works plus just three covers—especially given the fact that two years was once the average turnover time for an entire new full-length from the group. On Electric Lady Sessions, dance-oriented electronica tracks taken from American Dream and pre-disbandment works are either unchanged or changed for the worse. Live, “american dream” sounds particularly identical to the way it sounds on record. Perhaps in-studio replication is impressive to some, but the existence of a live studio carbon copy of an already existing track seems pointless to me. The vocals on “Get Innocuous!”  are more polished, clear, and audible than in the original, taking away from the latter’s hypnotic, synth-led, and robotic appeal. The album’s three covers are cute and perfectly harmless homages to the band’s influences, but pale in comparison to each and every one of the originals.
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JUST FOR THE LAUGHS: Q&A W/ Chris DiStefano

February 18th, 2019

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BY SEAN HECK Don’t let Brooklyn-born actor and comedian Chris Distefano’s macho-man persona fool you. He is a whip-smart observational comic whose fluid storytelling style makes the audience feel like one of his buddies from back home. Chris got his first big break as a regular cast member on MTV’s Guy Code and Girl Code. He continued to flourish in starring on the IFC series Benders, and co-hosted Netflix’s Ultimate Beastmaster. Chris’s weekly web series, Stupid Questions with Chris Distefano, can be viewed for free on Comedy Central’s YouTube channel. He co-hosts the popular weekly history podcast History Hyenas alongside fellow comic Yannis Pappas, which is available on iTunes and Riotcast. His first hour-long special, Chris Distefano: Size 38 Waist, premiered on Comedy Central last month, and is currently available on demand. In advance of his upcoming February 21st-23rd appearances at Punch Line Philly, we caught up with Chris Distefano and chatted about some things. DISCUSSED: Bitch hips, political correctness, the Kevin Hart controversy, George Clooney’s hotness, Hollywood, Chris’s dad, podcasting, and fatherhood.

PHAWKER: Let’s start with the obvious question: why is your new comedy special called Size 38 Waist?

CHRIS DISTEFANO: First of all, I wanted to name it Chrissy Bitch Hips, but they wouldn’t let me name it that so, instead, I picked Size 38 Waist. I feel like I’ve always had, like, big hips. I feel like some of my friends are always trying to name their specials something cool or really edgy or something that makes you think. I was like, “Fuck that. I’m not gonna do any of that. I’m just gonna name it what my pants size is today.” And that day my pants size was 38.

PHAWKER: So you make a few jokes about your Puerto Rican girlfriend. In our current age, in which people are hypersensitive to anything remotely politically incorrect, it seems like a difficult minefield to navigate. How do you thread the needle of getting laughs without making half of Puerto Rico mad at you?

CHRIS DISTEFANO: The number one thing is that what I am saying is true. I really do have a Puerto Rican girlfriend. I really do have a Puerto RIcan daughter. So all of those things are true. It’s like…if someone was gonna be outraged at me, it would most likely be a white person. Probably either a white guy with glasses or a white woman with part of her head shaved—a person that’s extremely angry and wants to be heard because nobody really cares about them…and they’re insecure, so they just want to get outraged on another group’s behalf. The truth is I will never apologize, because I know more about Puerto Rican culture than some Puerto Rican people do because I’m immersed in it. The stuff I say about my daughter and my girlfriend is true. Like, I embellish it for comedic effect, but it’s all true. Whatever comedy you write, if it’s coming from a place of truth then, yeah, let people bitch and moan and cry and want to be heard and all of that stuff. Just don’t say anything. You don’t give people like that energy, and you just keep moving forward. Only apologize if you have actually committed a crime—then you should apologize. But other than that, let those people tire themselves out eventually, and they’ll move on to the next thing to be outraged by. They’ll only have you in their focus for a minute, and then they’ll be outraged by something else.

PHAWKER: Did you hear about the Tom Segura controversy with the “R” word, and how people rallied against him for allegedly attacking special needs people, taking his jokes out of context? It seems like another example of what you touched upon—how political correctness and defense of people’s feelings can go too far.

CHRIS DISTEFANO: Absolutely. And yeah, it definitely goes too far. There’s a new thing that I just saw in the paper today that there’s this woman now in Australia saying that we need to be asking babies for consent to change their diapers. Social media is just giving people with mental illness a complete forum to just talk and be heard. That’s someone with a mental illness who just has an idea and says “I’m gonna tweet this,” and now it’s on the news. You can’t listen to people like that—they are mentally ill! Could you imagine asking a three-month-old baby for consent to change their diaper? This lady is dead serious on the news! I give them no energy. I look at them like “This is someone who is not mentally all there, and that’s okay.” So you just let them say stupid shit and it’s like…it doesn’t matter what they say. They’ll be heard. It’s ridiculous! But what are ya gonna do?

PHAWKER: I agree with you there. And the problem is, these people take real issues, hijack them, and make them ridiculous.

CHRIS DISTEFANO: Absolutely they do. Any time anyone is a huge advocate and really goes above and beyond to be outraged and offended I’m like “Dude, I know you are hiding something. I don’t know what it is, but I know you are a fucking little shit psycho behind closed doors.” Because a guy who’s not hiding anything is like “Yeah, I’m outraged by things, but I keep it to myself.” I wanna make a difference, but I’m not gonna take a stand on every issue…because I’m not hiding anything. I’m not one of these guys trying to use this overblown energy to make a big deal when, in reality, I have kids tied up in my basement like some of these people do.
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BEING THERE: Metric @ Union Transfer

February 15th, 2019

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Photo by JOSH PELTA-HELLER

Halfway through their Fillmore set on Thursday night, Metric singer Emily Haines nodded openly at her band’s evolution. “You get this pair of pants, and you wear them all the time, and then you don’t know where those pants are anymore!” Consider that fair warning, Metric fans: by “those pants” she meant the first half of their 20-year catalog, because the Toronto synth-rockers shined the hot strobe lights almost exclusively on their latest record for the duration of their set, saving just a couple of their best-beloved hits for last with no apology and no further explanation.

To be sure, Metric brought plenty of their trademark stagecraft, as Haines pranced and rocked out across the length of the stage to their dazzling disco ball light show, ducking into her keyboad cove with bassist Josh Winstead to deviously wind pulsing dual- and triple-tracks of their infectious distorted synthesizer hooks around the backbeat, before Winstead slings his electric bass back around to pull them out of a middle-eight.

The crowd was thin, for a Metric show, but that didn’t feel sad. It felt sort of intimate, special, loose and unregimented, the way it used to feel when for whatever reason half your fourth grade class was out for the day and the teacher felt comfortable enough to go off script for awhile. The four of them are able to build a rapport with the room, with the fans of which they seem genuinely very fond. But — in the best way — the band seems mostly to be pleasing themselves, unfettered by the conventions of setlist standards or anyone’s expectations but their own, as they lean on their two decades of chemistry while Haines freely dances the night away, as though she’s listening to her favorite songs in her own living room, in her own ‘80s-flavored electronica dream. – JOSH PELTA-HELLER

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THE DEVIL’S ADVOCATE: Meet The Man Who Sued Led Zep Over “Stairway To Heaven” & Lived To Tell

February 15th, 2019

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Photo by BRYAN SHEFFIELD via PHILADELPHIA MAGAZINE

PHILADELPHIA MAGAZINE: The fact that Philadelphia barrister Francis Alexander Malofiy, Esquire, is suing Led Zeppelin over the authorship of “Stairway to Heaven” is, by any objective measure, only the fourth most interesting thing about him. Unfortunately for the reader, and the purposes of this story, the first, second and third most interesting things about Malofiy are bound and gagged in nondisclosure agreements, those legalistic dungeons where the First Amendment goes to die. So let’s start with number four and work our way backward.

At the risk of stating the obvious, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, let the record show that “Stairway to Heaven” is arguably the most famous song in all of rock-and-roll, perhaps in all of popular music. It’s also one of the most lucrative — it’s estimated that the song has netted north of $500 million in sales and royalties since its 1971 release. Malofiy’s lawsuit, cheekily printed in the same druidic font used for the liner notes of the album Led Zeppelin IV, alleges that Jimmy Page and Robert Plant — Zep’s elegantly wasted guitarist/producer/central songwriter and leonine, leather-StairwayComplaintPiclunged lead singer, respectively — stole the iconic descending acoustic-guitar arpeggios of the first two minutes of “Stairway” from “Taurus,” a song with a strikingly similar chord pattern by a long-forgotten ’60s band called Spirit. At the conclusion of a stormy, headline-grabbing trial in 2016 that peaked with testimony from Page and Plant, the jury decided in Zep’s favor.

When the copyright infringement suit was first filed in Philadelphia by Malofiy (pronounced “MAL-uh-fee”) on behalf of the Randy Craig Wolfe Trust — which represents the estate of Randy “California” Wolfe, the now-deceased member of Spirit who wrote “Taurus” — people laughed. Mostly at Malofiy. The breathless wall-to-wall media coverage the trial garnered often painted him as a loose-cannon legal beagle, one part Charlie Sheen, one part Johnnie Cochran. “Everybody kind of dismissed me as this brash young lawyer who didn’t really understand copyright law,” he says, well into the wee hours one night back in December, sitting behind a desk stacked four feet high with legal files in the dank, subterranean bunker that is his office.

Hidden behind an unmarked door on the basement floor of a nondescript office building in Media, the law firm of Francis Alexander LLC is a pretty punk-rock operation. The neighbors are an anger management counselor and a medical marijuana dispensary. “I think of us as pirates sinking big ships,” Malofiy, who’s 41, brags. Given the sheer number of death threats he says he’s received from apoplectic Zep fans, the fact that mysterious cars seem to follow him in the night, and his claim to have found GPS trackers stuck to the bottom of his car, the precise location of his offices remains a closely guarded secret. Failing that, he has a license to carry, and most days, he leaves the house packing a .38-caliber Smith & Wesson.

While most lawyers are sleeping, Malofiy is working through the night to defeat them, often until sunrise, fueled by an ever-present bottle of grape-flavored Fast Twitch as he chain-chews Wrigley’s Spearmint gum and huffs a never-ending string of Marlboro menthols. We’ve been talking on the record for going on eight hours, and Malofiy shows no signs of fading; in fact, he’s just announced the arrival of his third wind.

Talk turns to the distinctly pro-Zep tenor of the media coverage of the “Stairway” trial. “I was a punch line for jokes,” he says, spitting his gum into a yellow Post-it and banking it into the trash for, like, the 42nd time. Nobody’s laughing now, least of all Page and Plant. Nor, for that matter, is Usher. Back in October, at the conclusion of a dogged seven-year legal battle marked by a bruising string of dismissals and sanctions, Malofiy won a $44 million verdict — one of the largest in Pennsylvania in 2018 — for a Philadelphia songwriter named Daniel Marino who sued his co-writers after being cut out of the songwriting credits and royalties for the song “Bad Girl” from the R&B heartthrob’s 2004 breakout album, Confessions, which sold more than 10 million copies.

Also, in late September of last year, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Malofiy’sFrancis-Malofiy-portrait-838x1024 appeal of the 2016 “Stairway to Heaven” verdict and ordered a new trial on the grounds that the court “abused its discretion” when the judge refused to allow Malofiy to play a recording of “Taurus” for the jury. (Members were only allowed to hear an acoustic-guitar rendition played from sheet music.) The retrial is expected to begin in the next year, and Page and Plant, along with bassist John Paul Jones, are again anticipated to take the stand. Copyright experts say Led Zeppelin — which has a long history of ripping off the ancient riffs and carnal incantations of wizened Delta bluesmen and only giving credit when caught — should be worried.
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BEING THERE: Cherry Glazerr @ First Unitarian

February 15th, 2019

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Photo by ALEX PATERSON-JAMES

The narrow collection of artists in my playlists that I have relied upon to get me through the last few months has grown so stale and tired that I almost want to walk in headphone-less silence on my way to work every morning. Almost. But then I remembered my sister’s mention to me last month of a band she told me “was weird as fuck, but your kind of thing.” The group in question was Cherry Glazerr. So after seeing the name pop up on the web after the band’s release of their third studio album Stuffed & Ready two weeks ago, I dove into their discography, immediately falling in love with their simultaneously synthy and sludgy version of post-punk-grunge-pop-metal-rock.

Last night, walking solo through Philly with trashily torn fishnets and eyes shrouded in deep black eyeliner, I found my way back to the familiar basement of First Unitarian on Valentine’s Day to witness this hybrid rock power of frontwoman Clementine Creevy in person. Following an unbelievably excellent set from the drum machine-based minimalism of opening act Sneaks, Creevy and her two other bandmates took the stage, along with a big inflatable pair of cherries standing tall at the center back. Still on a high from the prior set, the crowd broke into dancing with the first notes of Cherry Glazerr’s opening song, “Ohio,” screaming along by the end with the repetition of the words “Just take me away.”

Set up behind the band was a blank white canvas onto which a projector displayed videos of rotating cherries, endlessly outstretched guitar necks, vibrating constellations, walls of fire, streaks of blood, and the kinds of creepy inhuman figures that appear in Cherry Glazerr’s music video for “Daddi.” Looking out from under the hood of a black sweatshirt, Creevy smiled wickedly over the room, propelling fans into the inevitable mosh pit with a setlist that included Stuffed & Ready’s “That’s Not My Real Life,” “Wasted Nun,” and “Stupid Fish,” each bringing an unwieldy Black Sabbath-esque guitar solo from Creevy.
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CINEMA: Sim City

February 15th, 2019

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ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL (directed by Robert Rodriguez, 122 minutes, USA, 2019)

Dan Tabor_byline_avatarBY DAN TABOR FILM CRITIC If you got into Anime in the 90’s, you were undoubtedly indoctrinated with Yukito Kishiro’s Battle Angel, the bleak cyberpunk love story cribbed in equal parts from Blade Runner and The Terminator. Hollywood’s take on this animated classic hits the big screen this week thanks to Robert Rodriguez (Sin City), who took on the project that has been in gestation under James Cameron (The Terminator/Avatar) for almost two decades, who also penned the script. Alita takes the larger than life worlds Cameron is known for, and populates them with the charming rogues gallery you’ve come to expect from the Mexican filmmaker. It’s an odd mix for sure, but one that has Rodriguez turning out his best film since Sin City.

Battle Angel takes place in a distant post-apocalyptic future known as “After The Fall” where all that’s left of civilization is Zalem, the last of the floating cities, and Iron City, the factory city/dumping ground beneath it. One day while scavenging through the trash of Zalem, Dr. Ido (a cyberdoctor played by Christoph Waltz) finds the still living “Core” of a young cyborg girl with amnesia. Once he places her in a new body, Alita (Rosa Salazar) finds herself in an unfamiliar city and time where she falls for local Motorball mechanic Hugo (Keean Johnson) whose dream is to one day make it to Zalem. As Alita begins to piece together her past, we discover that nothing around her is quite as it seems in Iron City or up in Zalem.
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SH*T MY UNCLE SAYS: Dear Mr. President…

February 15th, 2019

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BY WILLIAM C. HENRY I know that you’ve been variously described as The Artist of the Deal, The Great Deal Maker, and Master of the Deal. High praise indeed! Except that it’s all horseshit! Face it, Mr. Fraudster, you can’t–and NEVER could–deal your way out of a paper bag–or into a poker hand bluff–if your bankrupt, bullying, welshing, dodging, LIFE depended on it. For Christ’s sake, even your claimed authorship of that so-called “deal” book has been branded as COUNTERFEIT! So, where was all that purported EXTRAORDINARY “deal making” skill of yours whenSMUSsomething as crucial as national security (your dreamed-up description) was on the line?! Where the hell was all that LEGENDARY “leadership” talent when it really counted?! Where did all that PHENOMENAL “management” expertise go when it was so gravely needed?! Why was all that self-described deal making “expertise” so obviously MISSING IN ACTION when so many people’s livelihoods totally depended upon it? Well, in a nutshell (which in this case is probably as apropos as one can get), the answer lies somewhere between Kate Spade and Smithfield. In other words, “You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.” Just like EVERYTHING ELSE in your spoiled brat, mediocre intelligence, Wharton-in-daddy’s-and-your-own-mind, 100% inheritance-/Russia-/Saudi Arabia-enabled EXISTENCE, that whole “deal maker” thing was nothing more than a faked-up, forged-to-infinity, 721 Fifth Avenue Fortune Teller’s FAIRYTALE!

Oh, and lest I later forget, I do so hope that whenever you’re enjoying yourself at one of your plush private clubs in one the few pristine patches of America’s “once great” outdoors you DON’T intend to pollute, far, far from the grime and contamination permeating the lives of so many of the great “unwashed” rest of us, you’ll find the kind of unspoiled lush greenery, sparkling pure water and crisp fresh air that define and delineate your famously demanding nihilistic standards, as you and your administration so earnestly pursue the asphyxiation and poisoning of every REMAINING American citizen who’s still holding out hope for a resurgence of the TRULY “once great” Obama-era clean air and potable water standards!

And certainly I would be remiss if I failed to make mention of that huge sacrifice you made by choosing to hole up in the White House (fortunately, Melania was able to hoof it down to the family hovel in West Palm) in order to fully feign how deceptively set you were on maintaining a pretentious mock-up of presidential shutdown deprivation equal to or exceeding the ACTUAL calamity you had unnecessarily thrust upon MILLIONS of Americans who sure as hell didn’t deserve it, all because those callous, two-faced, double-dealing, Mexicans decided not to honor that Trumped-up pledge of theirs to pay for that wall! But don’t go beating yourself up unnecessarily, Mister Fibster. The soup kitchens tasked with warding off the hunger pangs of all those unduly punished you’ve so asininely claimed were sympathetic to your Fox News kowtow are rumored to have taken healthy, calorie-reducing, Whopper preparation cues from your White House epicurean crew!
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BROKEN SOCIAL SCENE: Boyfriends

February 14th, 2019

Broken Social Scene have a new EP out tomorrow called Let’s Try The After, Vol 1. One of the EP’s most awesome songs — a classic BSS tune called “Boyfriends” — is out today care of an all-gif video by @WhatGIFs. And yes, we definitely put this out for Valentine’s Day, because in many ways, that’s also what the song is about. In addition to this wildly fantastic video, the band has also created a little site where you can send all your loved ones valentines, sharing all the lovers’ spit in the world. Let’s Try The After – Vol 1 marks the band’s first new music since their critically acclaimed 5th studio album, 2017’s Hug of Thunder, which saw the collective exploring new ground while maintaining the dynamics that have made Broken Social Scene one of the most beloved indie bands of the last fifteen years.

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WORTH REPEATING: Benedict Burr

February 14th, 2019

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Aaron Burr” by A. DEGRAFF

JUST SECURITY: In July 2016, when Trump called on “Russia, if you’re listening” to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails, several Republican leaders directly and indirectly criticized him. […] By that point, however, not only did Burr know that the intelligence community had attributed the DNC hack to Russia, but the U.S. intelligence agencies even knew in summer 2015 the specific unit and agents within Russia’s intelligence services who performed the hacking. Among other specific data, Dutch intelligence agencies had for months reportedly accessed security cameras in the hackers’ Moscow offices and handed that information over to their American counterparts.

As the U.S. presidential campaign headed into the general elections, the U.S. intelligence community gained a more comprehensive view of the Kremlin’s actions and intentions. Increasingly concerned by what they saw, senior U.S. intelligence officials updated the small group of congressional leaders.

From Aug. 11 to Sept. 6, 2016, the C.I.A. organized “a series of urgent, individual briefings for [the] eight top members of Congress.” The C.I.A. informed Burr and the others that the U.S. intelligence community had discovered the Kremlin was working to help elect Trump and that “unnamed advisers to Mr. Trump might be working with the Russians.”

With this information in hand, Burr decided not only to join the Trump campaign and tie his political fate to Trump. Burr also took the now difficult-to-explain step of publicly repudiating suggestions that the Russians were acting in support of Trump. In an Oct. 3, 2016 interview, Burr said, “I have yet to see anything that would lead me to believe” Russia was interfering to benefit Trump. It was also a notable exception to Burr’s reputation for avoiding speaking with the press. MORE
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BEING THERE: Sharon Van Etten @ Union Transfer

February 8th, 2019

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Photo by ALEX PATERSON-JONES

Recently, I’ve felt haunted. Maybe it’s the Benadryl dreams, or my deepening fascination with astrology, or my long-overdue first reading of Toni Morrison’s Beloved, but the ghosts of my past, and even of my present, have started to creep into my subconscious. And while these kind of prolonged meditations on the phantoms of the past can help bring to light the parts of ourselves we often prefer to keep in the dark, the benefits of these reveries can grow toxic when left unchecked. There is a power in learning to simply let go, and that kind of power is the driving force behind the new music of Sharon Van Etten.

Emerging tall from darkness into flashing red stage lights, wearing a dark gray pantsuit and her signature shaggy hair, Van Etten welcomed the sold-out crowd at Union Transfer last night with outstretched arms, in a manner slightly evocative of Patti Smith. Surrounding this open demeanor however, was the dark, undulating thunder of the synthesizers behind her – a sound that appears on almost every track of Van Etten’s wildly popular and mildly divisive new record, Remind Me Tomorrow. Formerly associated with the folk singer-songwriter genre, Van Etten took a left turn with her style after a five-year break from her music, over the course of which she explored acting, pursued a degree in psychology, found a new partner, and became a mother.

But while these events and explorations certainly fed into the creation of Remind Me Tomorrow, Van Etten spends a great deal of the record confronting her past, specifically in songs like “Seventeen” and “Comeback Kid,” both of which wonder about the evanescence of youthful freedom, and whether it’s always just a naive dream. It’s these songs that are the grittiest, and the ones that had Van Etten wailing wide-eyed into the microphone and fist-pumping to the pounding drums and screeching synths last night. Deeply cutting lyrics have always been a highlight of Van Etten’s work, but now those same reckonings are echoed with a scratchy distortion partially inspired by her collaboration with John Congleton, the producer of acts like fellow synth-rocker St. Vincent.
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CINEMA: Black Mirror

February 8th, 2019

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“Hey man, I don’t mind bein’ a vampire and all that shit, but a man has got to see his face!”– Scream Blacula, Scream (1973)

Dan Tabor_byline_avatarBY DAN TABOR FILM CRITIC As a lifelong horror fan, I was humbled by Horror Noire, the dense and informative documentary on the Black Horror film genre, based on the book with the same title by Robin R. Means Coleman. This homegrown project, written and produced in Philadelphia by Stage 3 Productions is masterclass in horror that every genre fan needs to take. While I like to consider myself a fan of black horror in particular, having seen most of the films featured in the doc, it became quickly apparent that I had missed a few things due to my perspective as a white male. Watching Horror Noire in a packed Philly screening it was hard to believe it has taken this long for this story to be told. But Jordan Peele’s Oscar win has shown that these films are not just award worthy, but can resonate with any audience.

The doc starts out examining D.W. Griffith’s infamous 1915 creepshow pageant of white supremacy,  Birth of a Nation, which definitely checks most of the boxes of the horror genre despite not being widely considered such. It then winds its way through the decades discussing various films and their impact, Blacula, Sugar Hill, Ganja and Hess wrapping up with the impending release of Jordan Peele’s US. The first thing that you notice is the film’s break with the standard talking head interview style you’ve come to expect from streaming docs. Instead, black filmmakers, actors, film scholars and writers are often paired off in a theater setting while they deliver an oral history of the genre drawing on their respective personal experiences. This gives an organic nature to this discussion that makes the audience feel like you’re eavesdropping on an conversation rather than the standard documentary data dump. It’s that candid nature and the chemistry between subjects that immediately pulls you in as such horror heavyweights as Ernest Dickerson, Keith David, Tony Todd, Ken Foree, William Crain and Jordan Peelw, give you a deep dive into how black horror has evolved over the years.

Horror Noire is an impressive accomplishment, that does more than just discuss representation in horror. The film’s academic approach to its subject matter, born of a true love of the genre, will have you looking at these films, their casts, tropes and buried subtext with a fresh perspective. The film thankfully skips all the small talk and setup going right to the meat of the discussion, and doesn’t hold anything back. My only real complaint, if you could call it that is I was left wanting more, since there was a film or two I think didn’t make the final cut or I wanted to hear what a particular person thought about a film. I honestly can’t recommend this film enough! Horror Noire is streaming for free on SHUDDER starting today as a part of Black History Month which is also Women In Horror Month. You can get the rest of February FREE on Shudder with this code: wihmx.

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