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Q&A: Dr. Jill Stein, The Green Party Candidate For President Of The United States Of America

July 28th, 2016



BY WARREN LIPKA Green party Presidential candidate Jill Stein marched with protest groups outside of the Democratic National Convention last night. The 66-year-old physician’s pace was impressive considering it was 100 degrees and she was in a full suit. While some elements of the protesters chanted at cops and burned flags (both Israeli and American), Ms. Stein conducted interviews and shook hands. She was almost omnipresent as she bounced in between Black Lives Matter, Code Pink, and reporters, trying to tell anyone who would listen, why both political parties are “obsolete.”

PHAWKER: Jill what are you doing here?

DR. JILL STEIN: I’m here because there is a people’s revolution going on that just got kicked out of the Democratic Party. And I think we deserve a political party that is going to support this revolutionary agenda. But we need health care as a human right. We need the right to good paying jobs and we need jobs that will actually stop this catastrophe in climate change. We need the right to higher education for free and to cancel student debt. End the police violence. And to create a foreign policy that is based on international law. I’m actually incredibly inspired and encouraged by the kind of integrity and the kind of strength that we are seeing right here on the streets that we live in all weekend long. I think people are standing up and standing together for America, the world, all of us. I think the Democratic Party is itself obsolete like the Republican Party and we the people have proven that we are not going to be intimidated into being controlled by a corporate party that is trying to profiteer at our expense, throwing us under the bus. And I think we are standing up demanding that we have an America and a future that works for all of us. And that’s what we are going to do.

RELATED: The Green Party Platform

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July 25th, 2016



BY CHRIS MCCARRY Let me be clear about this: I am a hardcore Black Crowes fan. By the time I finally saw them live when I was 20, I had been listening to their albums just about everyday since I was 14. My best friend and I blew off work on a Monday and drove the two-and-a-half hours to a place called The Staircase in Pittson, PA to catch an unpublicized warm up show for a newly reformed Crowes lineup after several years “on hiatus.” I can still remember, as if it were yesterday, feeling my knees buckle when Crowes lead guitarist/songwriter/co-founder Rich Robinson kicked into “My Morning Song.” Everybody’s got one or two bands with whom they have an emotional investment in and that night put The Black Crowes into that category for me.

The Crowes’ axis turned on the brothers Robinson – frontman Chris Robinson, who actually sounds like he earned the sandpaper timbre in his petulant rasp of a voice, and guitarist Rich Robinson, who makes a commanding grasp of the early ’70s blues-rock vernacular look effortless. On and off since the early 1990’s, The Black Crowes have cut their own path on Rich Robinson’s unique brand of vintage melody and classic-rock swagger. Hits like “She Talks to Angels” and “Jealous Again” off their multi-platinum debut Shake Your Moneymaker helped them find footing among the grunge and heavy metal that was so popular at the time. They followed with The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion which silenced the critics who wrote them off as a cheap Faces rip-off. Though the Crowes would go on to sell more than 30 million albums, the Robinson brothers often toxic relationship resulted in a series of breakups and two abandoned album attempts. While they always remained a force on stage, the music they did manage to release sounded like a band falling apart.

In 2015, they broke up for good after a dispute between the Robinson brothers about who “owned” the band. Since then, Rich Robinson has stepped out on his own, touring with Bad Company, moonlighting on producer Dave Cobb’s newly released Southern Family compilation, and writing/recording/releasing his fourth solo album, Flux. On Flux, Robinson offers a dynamic set of melody-based jams that departs from his lead-with-the-chin style and demonstrates his gifts not just as a guitar player, but as a singer, lyricist, and band leader. In advance of his acoustic show at the Sellersville Theater on Thursday, Robinson took the time to talk to Phawker about the new record as well as the Crowes, the state of the music biz, the importance of vinyl and how he really feels about Rick Rubin.

PHAWKER: I’m looking forward to the show in Sellersville. I saw you there about a year-year and a half ago on the acoustic tour you did. It was 20160712_195119_7665_934308a lot of fun. What is the draw of a place like the Sellersville Theater?

RICH ROBINSON: It’s a little more peaceful. I think sometimes big cities and the places – sometimes there’s some cool places. But I also think you can find some really interesting – everything’s becoming so corporate, and all these chains like City Wineries, and House of Blues and those kinds of things. It’s sucking the uniqueness out of the world. That’s one of the things that’s really cool about places like the Sellersville Theater is that it is definitely really unique, it’s a unique place and it’s beautiful inside. It’s really cool.

PHAWKER: I love that room. A few years ago, some friends and I used to make this sort of annual trip up there because they play “It’s A Wonderful Life” on the big screen up there. It was like a family thing. We would all go up there and watch that movie. And that had been the only thing I had ever been to there for a long time before I started seeing bands there. It’s a great little room.

PHAWKER: Let’s talk about Flux. Let’s start with, can you tell me a little about your mindset going into the record. How do you decide it’s time to make an album? When you have songs for it, or do you start writing after you decide you want to do one?

RICH ROBINSON: Well, I write songs in part year-round. Just because every time I pick up a guitar, if there’s something cool I’m into, so I just do that all the time. Once I have enough of a collection, and I have enough time to make the record, then I’ll be like ‘hey, it’s time to make a record’. Everything I do, I try to do it in a natural time, and a natural feeling. This feels right, so I’m going to go do this. So this record in particular, or in general any of them, I’m like it’s time to go make a record. Sometimes I’ll have full songs going in. I like to use the studio to create songs and on this record in particular I just went in with a bunch of parts and said let’s see what happens. Let’s use the energy of the studio and use that urgency to create. Because you have to make a decision if there’s a finite amount of time that you’re in there recording. I don’t have time to mess around, this is what needs to happen.

PHAWKER: How does your solo career songwriting process different from your days in the Crowes?

RICH ROBINSON: In the Crowes our roles were really defined and my role was really music 20160712_195119_7665_934308and Chris’s role was to write lyrics, and that was it, and sing, and I was to play guitar. I just look at like my role has kind of expanded into a whole song, instead of bringing half a song to Chris and having him finish it. It’s always cool to have someone with you, to be excited with you about something, and to bounce ideas off of, and that kind of shit. But ultimately, right now, these are songs that are coming and I’m really happy with it and I love the guys that I play with in my band. That’s how I’m looking at it right now.

PHAWKER: I’m a big fan of the second Black Crowes album, Southern Harmony and Musical Companion. What can you tell me about making that album?
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BEING THERE: Father John Misty @ XPNFest

July 23rd, 2016



When Father John Misty took the River Stage at WXPN’s XPoNential Music Festival last night it became immediately apparent that wasn’t going to deliver a conventional set of pastoral folk rock ballads for an adoring crowd of dad rockers in khaki cargo shorts. “What the fuck is going on?!” he bellowed, refusing the guitar a roadie tried to hand to him. The bearded troubadour glided right past his mic stand with a long, lanky stride, and with a lit cigarette smoking between his fingers perched himself on a sound monitor, poised to confront the crowd. This was not the time for hymns. The pastor was about to preach.

American democracy has demonstrably devolved into naked fascism and raw farce, he said, and he could not and would not fiddle while Rome burned. No, he came to talk about despair. It was, he said, the only reasonable response to this moment, even if it was a “less sexy festival look.”

“Some people [came] to get some brief diversion from the heaviness of politics,” he noted, before chiding their complacency, “do you people realize we have an entertaining tyrant happening right now?”

“I am deeply off script right now,” he said, refusing to accede to the fans waiting anxiously for him to launch into his first song. “Are we just supposed to have a blues chili-off right now, and just wait for someone hilarious to say something hilarious that makes us feel better about it for a second? Do we think that our hilarious tyrant is going to be met with a hilarious revolution that is won by hilarious revolutionaries, and the whole thing is going to be like entertaining as fuck the whole time?”

Then Misty’s anger seemed to give way to disappointment of the profound and existential variety. “I always thought that it was gonna look way more sophisticated than this when fucking evil happened, when the collective consciousness was so numb, and so fucking sated, and so gorged on entertainment. I expected a less cliche evil. It’s not even good writing.”

Then Father John started-and-stopped his way through a new song that took to task his own prominent position in the entertainment industrial complex that long ago replaced religion as the opiate of the masses. He then honored a request for Leonard Cohen’s “Bird On A Wire” before surrendering the pulpit prematurely and exiting stage left.

The online response was massive and immediate. Dozens of concert-goers logged online to Tweet and comment on articles that posted on blogs and social media in near-realtime. “I get his eccentric nature, but that was terrible… Hey dipshit, [entertaining is your] freakin’ job! Get a real job and stop wasting my time!,” said one disappointed fan. “What a douche,” said another. “To come at everyone complaining is retarded, cus they paid to see a full set of father John misty playing music, not a 10 minute standup routine …. I would be pissed off too. Also no one gives a flying fuck about his life views and political stance… The only thing people care about is his music aka the only thing he is known for.” All of which only served to prove his point.

Art isn’t always comfortable. It’s not always fun. Sometimes it reveals inconvenient truths. Sometimes it’s brutally ugly, and sometimes it makes you squirm. Sometimes it’s a trainwreck from which you can’t bear to look away. Sometimes it’s a buzzkill. You should expect the best artists to sometimes use their platform to challenge you to think about or feel things you might not feel like thinking about or feeling right now. Because that is what true artists do. — JOSH PELTA-HELLER

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CINEMA: Paint It Black

July 23rd, 2016



EDITOR’S NOTE: To mark the fifth anniversary of Amy Winehouse’s criminally premature passing, we’re reposting our review of Asif Kapadia’s heartbreaking 2015 documentary, Amy.

AMY (2015, directed by Asif Kapadia, 128 minutes, USA)

BY JONATHAN VALANIA The fallen jazz singer Amy Winehouse was a heartbreaking work of staggering genius. The new documentary Amy, which maps with the clarity of hindsight Winehouse’s fairly meteoric rise and precipitous demise, is not far behind. Directed by Asif Kapadia (Senna),  Amy arrives barely four years after her ridiculously premature death at the age of 27 from a combination of chronic bulimia, bottomless alcoholism and seizure-inducing quantities of crack and heroin, all of it pitilessly documented by the voracious, strobe-flashed wolfpacks of the London tabloids. The film will ensure that the toxic storylines of The Sun and The Daily Mail and the smarmy mockery of countless clueless talking heads will not harden into history and epitaph. Told almost entirely with archival footage — home movies, cellphone video, voicemails, on-camera interviews and concert footage — Amy sets the record straight, sorting the heroes from the villains — and sadly enough, there are no heroes, just villains and victims.

Teddy bear-like Nick Shymansky — who discovered Winehouse when she was 16 and he was the ripe old age of 19 and managed her career up until the amy-posterrelease of Back to Black – is the closest thing to a hero in the film. Before anyone else, he realized she was in trouble and tried, as the song goes, to make her go to rehab only to be vetoed by Amy’s parasitic father, Mitch. The final image of the film is fittingly voyeuristic and crushingly sad. Captured from a vantage point just outside the radius of personal space by the hi-def zoom lens of the ever–present paparazzo, it shows the attendees of Winehouse’s funeral spilling out onto the street afterwards and a visibly gutted Shymansky sobbing in anguish. It’s nearly impossible to watch without joining him.

As for villains, there’s Mitch Winehouse, never quite finding the right balance between being her father and her employee; vampiric ex-husband and drug buddy Blake Fielder-Civil, with whom she shares a squalid Sid & Nancy-like codependency; and manager/booking agent Raye Cosbert, who had a direct financial stake in forcing her on stage, long past the point she had any business being there. Each one a deadly combination of exploiter and enabler, together they make up the three horsemen of Amy Winehouse’s apocalypse. None of them seemingly capable of seeing the terminal severity of Winehouse’s illness or hearing her coded pleas for help, or simply willing to turn a blind to eye to keep the money coming in. Winehouse parted ways with Shymansky just prior to the release of Back to Black, so by the end of her life the only person on her payroll willing to speak truth to power was her bodyguard, Andrew Morris. But by the time he shows up she already has one foot in the grave.

Beyond the post-mortem, the film makes a convincing case for Winehouse’s genius as a jazz singer and lyricist. We see her wowing intimate jazz bars and record label execs, in the vocal booth cutting the foreboding coda of Back to Black’s title track, and there’s testimonials from the likes of Tony Bennett — one of her idols, whom she duetted with shortly before her death — declaring her in the same league as Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn and Dinah Washington. And he would know.

When we first meet Amy, she is sucking on a lollipop and hamming it up for the camera, belting out a room-silencing rendition of “Happy Birthday” during a friend’s 14th birthday party. Later we catch her napping shyly in the backseat of Shymansky’s car during a promotional tour for her first album, or spackling on the heavy black eyeliner backstage, or flirting in the back of a taxi. She is bright-eyed, curvaceous and lit from within, with a gift for barbed asides that would serve her well as a songwriter. By the onset of her fame, she is sullen and shrunken, rawboned and junkie-thin beneath a towering Spectorian girl group beehive and jailhouse tattoos. The light has already gone out. Miserably famous, she is haunted and hunted. The film makes the case that the very factors that fueled her songwriting and, as a result, her stratospheric rise — the psychic damage incurred in adolescence from her father’s infidelity and her mother’s enabling passivity, her clinical depression, the debilitating insecurity and self-loathing that triggered her bulimia and a bottomless appetite for drink and drugs to stave off the encroaching darkness  — hastened her downward spiral. Like all doomed addicts, Amy Winehouse’s worst enemy was herself. Deep down she knew that. She told us she was trouble. “I cheated myself,” she sang with tragic prescience, “like I knew I would.”

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CINEMA: The Great Beyond

July 22nd, 2016



DAVID EDELSTEIN: The new “Star Trek” picture, “Star Trek Beyond,” is a wild ride. It’s fast and furious, which makes sense, since director Justin Lin made the last few “Fast And Furious” movies. And he thinks in terms of whoosh and jangle. He bombards you with angles. You have to concentrate or the action will streak right by. It’s like abstract expressionism.

Now, if you’re a lover of the original series, you might think, I like “Star Trek” because it wasn’t fast and furious. It was philosophical. Well, I’ve got news. That “Star Trek” is gone. Since the series was, quote, “rebooted,” the movies have made billions but haven’t dispelled the memory of the original cast. There was something creepy about watching these young performers, as if the future will bring not just starships, but android replacements. Maybe it’s better to have a well-made, unapologetic action adventure like this than a spooky replication.

The script, by actor Simon Pegg and Doug Jung, does provide a human drama of sorts. Early in “Star Trek Beyond,” Captain Kirk, played by Chris Pine, is having a midlife crisis. He wants to leave the untethered world of starships and settle down. This seems strange, given that Pine looks as if he’d still get carded buying beer. Zachary Quinto’s Spock is also itching to leave the Starship Enterprise to rebuild the civilization of Vulcan. Can they really be on their way out in only the third movie? It’s a set up.

Most of “Star Trek Beyond” takes place on the blue planet Altamid, where the Enterprise is destroyed with sadistic thoroughness, taken apart by scores of little ships that swarm like bees. The characters are thrown to the winds, leaving them in groups of two. Kirk and Chekov, played by the late Anton Yelchin, dodged the death rays of a small woman with a wide brainpan and slide down what’s left of the Enterprise’s saucer section. It looks like the best water park ride imaginable.

A badly-wounded Spock and Dr. McCoy sling insults before realizing they have no reason for resenting each other, especially since Quinto’s petulant Spock is a world away from Leonard Nimoy’s Vulcan Buddha. Simon Pegg has written himself a lot of funny, high-strung shtick. And the movie’s best scenes feature his Scotty and a pugnacious alien named Jaylah, a star turn for Sofia Boutella whose sharp features register even under a pound of white makeup slashed with black lightning bolts. MORE

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THE WHITE KNIGHT: Fear & Loathing In Cleveland

July 22nd, 2016



NEW YORK TIMES: It was Donald J. Trump’s best chance to escape his own caricature. He did not. After 40 years in the public eye, Mr. Trump decided on Thursday night that he was not interested in revealing himself to America with disarming tales of his upbringing, hard-earned lessons from his tumultuous career or the inner struggles masked by his outward pomposity. In the most consequential speech of his life, delivered 401 days into his improbable run for the White House, Mr. Trump sounded much like the unreflective man who had started it with an escalator ride in the lobby of Trump Tower: He conjured up chaos and promised overnight solutions.

Inside the Quicken Loans Arena, a thicket of American flags behind him, he portrayed himself, over and over, as an almost messianic figure prepared to rescue the country from the ills of urban crime, illegal immigration and global terrorism. “I alone,” he said, “can fix it.” But Mr. Trump made no real case for his qualifications to lead the world’s largest economy and strongest military. He is, he said, a very successful man who knows how to make it all better. Campaign speechwriters from both parties were Trump Saidstupefied. MORE

NEW YORK TIMES: Welcome to a world without rules. (I want you to read this paragraph in your super-scary movie trailer voice.) Welcome to a world in which families are mowed down by illegal immigrants, in which cops die in the streets, in which Muslims rampage the innocents and threaten our very way of life, in which the fear of violent death lurks in every human heart. Sometimes in that blood-drenched world a dark knight arises. You don’t have to admire or like this knight. But you need this knight. He is your muscle and your voice in a dark, corrupt and malevolent world. Such has been the argument of nearly every demagogue since the dawn of time. Aaron Burr claimed Spain threatened the U.S in 1806. A. Mitchell Palmer exaggerated the Red Scare in 1919 and Joe McCarthy did it in 1950.

And such was Donald Trump’s law-and-order argument in Cleveland on Thursday night. This was a compelling text that turned into more than an hour of humorless shouting. It was a dystopian message that found an audience and then pummeled them to exhaustion. Will it work? […] The argument takes the pervasive collection of anxieties that plague America and it concentrates them on the most visceral one: fear of violence and crime. Historically, this sort of elemental fear has proved to be contagious and it does move populations.

Finally, a law-and-order campaign calls upon the authoritarian personality traits that Donald Trump undoubtedly possesses. The G.O.P. used to be a party that aspired to a biblical ethic of private charity, graciousness, humility and faithfulness. Mitt Romney’s convention was lifted by stories of his kindness and personal mentorship. Trump has replaced biblical commitments with a gladiator ethos. Everything is oriented around conquest, success, supremacy and domination. MORE

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NPR 4 THE DEAF: We Hear It Even When You Can’t

July 22nd, 2016

Give Us The Vote




Fifty years ago, the Voting Rights Act passed outlawing literacy tests and other measures that had prevented African-Americans from voting. After its passage, Congress amended the act five times to increase its scope. But in 2013, a Supreme Court decision blocked the act’s enforcement provision, which opened the door for states to pass new voting restrictions. Journalist Ari Berman says that many of the new restrictions discriminate against poor people, young people and people of color. “There’s a whole range of voting restrictions … [including] making it harder to register to vote; shutting down voter registration drives; eliminating same-day voter registration; cutting early voting; cutting back the hours and days for early voting; purging the voting rolls; requiring government-issued ID to cast a ballot,” Berman tells Fresh Air’s Terry Gross. In his book, Give us The Ballot, Berman recounts the struggle for voting rights after passage of the act. He also says that 2016 will usher in the first presidential election in 50 years that will occur without the full protection of the Voting Rights Act. “In key swing states like North Carolina, Wisconsin, Ohio, Virginia, new voting restrictions are in effect and could have a very big impact on the outcome of the 2016 election if they’re not blocked in court,” Berman says. MORE

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HOT DOCUMENT: Closing Day Of RNC Schedule

July 21st, 2016

Via @DLin71

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REVIEW: Schoolboy Q’s Blank Face LP

July 21st, 2016

Blank Face LP


DAILY DOT: The emerging consensus is that Schoolboy Q’s Blank Face LP is a messy but exceptional record—a sizable notch in gangsta rap’s three-decade-plus timeline. It’s also big-selling outlaw music in a summer of insanity. My feelings about it change daily. Q is deeply connected to unifying messiah Kendrick Lamar, but there’s no way Blank Face was going to be a sprawling but politically digestible epic like To Pimp A Butterfly. Q’s oeuvre hasn’t pointed that way, and the video for “Groovy Tony,” released in April, confirmed that the L.A. rapper with the punchy flow was going to stay grimy. Instead of an MC perched on a street lamp over a highway, we get a dude with no facial features, in a junkyard, shooting an assault rifle. So Blank Face, despite the breadth of its collaborator list (yup, Kanye is there; so is Miguel) and the entertainment value of its production (all hail modern boom-bap), isn’t aiming for a big conversation. It’s not intended to reframe any debates. It’s a dank piece of art—a troublesome hole to jump into. At a time when any given Sunday can bring a fresh piece of brutal news, that hole is unforgiving. That’s also the chief thrill of outlaw music, of course: Go inside, find the mirror, figure out just how much the scene fits you or repulses you. “My heart a igloo,” Q says during “Groovy Tony,” and I laugh not only because the metaphor is funny, but also because that kind of cold bravado is beyond my reach. On “Ride Out” he talks about “shootin’ out my momma’s whip”—there’s an accessible universe of spoiled morals in there, even if the line just connects with a memory of using the family car for some boilerplate suburban mischief. MORE

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HOT DOCUMENT: Today’s RNC Schedule

July 20th, 2016

Via @DLin71

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NPR 4 THE DEAF: We Hear It Even When U Can’t

July 19th, 2016



FRESH AIR: Comic Mike Birbiglia’s new film, Don’t Think Twice, was inspired by an observation his wife made when she came to one of his improv shows. “She goes, ‘It’s amazing that everyone is equally talented in this show, and yet this one person is on Saturday Night Live and this one person is a movie star and this one person lives on an air mattress in Queens,’ ” Birbiglia tells Fresh Air‘s Terry Gross. “And I thought: Not only is that true and a great observation, but it’s also a movie.” Don’t Think Twice tells the story of an improv comedy group that is splintered when one member gets a job on a popular TV sketch comedy show, and the other members feel like failures by comparison. Birbiglia’s first feature film, Sleepwalk With Me, came out in 2012 and was based on an autobiographical story that the comic told on This American Life. MORE

PREVIOUSLY: Welcome to another round of Stupid Answers To Stupid Questions. Actually, that’s only half true. Comedian Mike Birbiglia, of Sleepwalk With Me fame, provided pretty smart answers to our stupid questions. DISCUSSED: Getting bladder cancer at 19; what he and Terry Gross talk about when they are not robbing banks; the strangest place he ever rubbed one out; whether the rumors are true that while Ira Glass seems like a nice guy on the radio, off the air he is real bastard — eating puppies, skinning cats more than one way, poking babies with a sharp stick in Reno just to watch them cry, that kind of thing; the last book he read/movie he saw/album he heard that completely changed his perspective and why. And much, much more. MORE

WATCH: Terry Gross And Mike Birbiglia Rob A Bank, Just For Kicks

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Melania Trump’s 2016 Convention Speech Plagiarizes Michelle Obama’s 2008 DNC Speech

July 19th, 2016

There is a very hard and fast rule in American society, when you plagiarize you are disqualified. You are fired. Or, barring that, if you have even a shred of honor or shame, you apologize and resign. There is no Fair Use claim for unattributed word-for-word appropriation of other First Lady’s convention speeches. When Melanoma Trump stood before the cameras and delivered that speech as if it were her own she was lying right to the face of the American people. The media should refuse to cover another second of the RNC until the Trump campaign comes clean about this, as they should’ve been doing with every blatant lie that has tumbled out of Donald Trump’s maggot brain since day one.

NEW YORK TIMES: Here are the relevant passages.

Ms. Trump, Monday night:

From a young age, my parents impressed on me the values that you work hard for what you want in life, that your word is your bond and you do what you say and keep your promise, that you treat people with respect. They taught and showed me values and morals in their daily lives. That is a lesson that I continue to pass along to our son. And we need to pass those lessons on to the many generations to follow. Because we want our children in this nation to know that the only limit to your achievements is the strength of your dreams and your willingness to work for them.

Mrs. Obama, in her 2008 speech:

“Barack and I were raised with so many of the same values: that you work hard for what you want in life; that your word is your bond and you do what you say you’re going to do; that you treat people with dignity and respect, even if you don’t know them, and even if you don’t agree with them. And Barack and I set out to build lives guided by these values, and pass them on to the next generation. Because we want our children — and all children in this nation — to know that the only limit to the height of your achievements is the reach of your dreams and your willingness to work for them.

Ms. Trump:

“I was born in Slovenia, a small, beautiful and then-Communist country in Central Europe. My sister, Ines, who is an incredible woman and a friend, and I were raised by my wonderful parents. My elegant and hard-working mother, Amalija, introduced me to fashion and beauty. My father, Viktor, instilled in me a passion for business and travel. Their integrity, compassion and intelligence reflects to this day on me and for my love of family and America.

Mrs. Obama, in 2008:

“And I come here as a daughter — raised on the South Side of Chicago by a father who was a blue-collar city worker and a mother who stayed at home with my brother and me. My mother’s love has always been a sustaining force for our family, and one of my greatest joys is seeing her integrity, her compassion and her intelligence reflected in my own daughters.MORE

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RIP: Alan Vega, The Voice Of Suicide, Dead @ 78

July 18th, 2016



NEW YORK TIMES: Alan Vega, the singer in the minimalist, proto-punk, proto-electro, proto-industrial two-man band Suicide and a prolific musician and visual artist on his own, died on Saturday. He was 78. Suicide, particularly in its early years, was as much a provocation as a concert act. Formed in 1970, it was one of the first bands to bill themselves as “punk music.” With Martin Rev playing loud, insistently repetitive riffs on keyboards and drum machines and Mr. Vega crooning, chanting, muttering and howling his lyrics about insanity, mayhem and death, Suicide fiercely polarized its audiences. “We almost got killed. I love that reaction,” Mr. Vega once reminisced about Suicide’s debut at the Boston nightclub the Rat. “I’d say one half wanted to kill us and one half loved us.” A notorious 23-minute show recorded in Brussels in 1978 turned into a riot; Suicide released a recording of it. Suicide’s music would later be more widely tolerated, recognized as a precursor of electronic dance music and industrial rock.

Mr. Vega was born Boruch Alan Bermowitz on June 23, 1938 in New York City, and grew up in the Bensonhurst area of Brooklyn. He majored in fine arts and physics at Brooklyn College, studying with Ad Reinhardt and Kurt Seligmann. In the late 1960s he was affiliated with Museum: A Project of the Living Artists, a multimedia gallery, studio and performance loft in Greenwich Village, where he experimented with electronic music and made sculptures featuring light bulbs and found materials. He and Mr. Rev played their first shows as Suicide there. Mr. Vega had been galvanized by seeing a concert at which Iggy Pop, lead singer of the Stooges, leapt into the audience and ended the show bloody and triumphant. “It showed me you didn’t have to do static artworks; you could create situations, do something environmental,” Mr. Vega told The Village Voice in 2002. “That’s what got me moving more intensely in the direction of doing music.”

In the trashy, fertile downtown New York City arts world of the early 1970s, Suicide performed at the Mercer Arts Center, Max’s Kansas City and CBGB as well as at art galleries. Suicide’s self-titled debut album was released in 1977. It included a staple of the duo’s live shows, “Frankie Teardrop,” a 10-minute song with a relentless two-note keyboard line and a hissing electronic beat about a desperate factory worker who kills his wife and child. The album received praise in England but negative reviews from The Voice and from Rolling Stone (which would much later place Suicide Album Coverit in its list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time). In 1978 the duo toured Europe and Britain, opening for Elvis Costello and the Clash; it was often booed and sometimes worse. In Glasgow, Mr. Vega ducked a flying ax. “Everybody came in to see Suicide to be entertained,” he told Ink19 magazine, “and all we did was give them back the street, in all its glory, and that’s what they hated us for.” MORE

THE GUARDIAN: In 1969, the year before he formed Suicide, a sculptor called Alan Bermowitz went to see the Stooges play live in New York. “Iggy came out and he’s wearing dungarees with holes, with this red bikini underwear with his balls hanging out,” he later remembered. “He went to sing and he just pukes all over, man. He’s running through the audience and shit … He was just wild looking – staring at the crowd and going ‘Fuck you! Fuck you!’… It was one of the greatest shows I ever saw in my life. It changed my life because it made me realise everything I was doing was bullshit.”

If the Stooges instilled a desire to provoke audiences in Alan Vega, as he eventually became, then he lived out his desire beyond his wildest dreams. For years – before people started talking about Suicide as one of the most important bands of the 70s, before it became apparent that their influence was the glue that bound together artists as disparate as Bruce Springsteen, Soft Cell, Sigue Sigue Sputnik and Spiritualized – the thing Suicide were really famous for was inciting audiences to the point where the gig would degenerate into a riot. They probably would have rioted even without Vega goading them – the world just wasn’t ready for a band that consisted of a drum machine, a distorted, droning Farfisa organ and Vega screaming and whooping, like a particularly feral rockabilly singer who had been teleported to the mean streets of 70s New York and suffered a nervous breakdown as a result – but he certainly wound things up further: lashing out with a motorcycle chain, gouging at his skin with safety pins, slapping people in the front row.

Former Sonic Youth drummer Bob Bert saw Suicide supporting the Ramones at CBGB’s in 1976: “I had never seen an act take so much abuse from an audience,” he recalled, “and thus thrive on that intensity.” The 1978 live recording 23 Minutes Over Brussels makes for horrifying, compelling listening: during the performance, one audience member snatched the singer’s microphone in an attempt to make the band stop playing; another broke Vega’s nose. The same year, they supported the Clash in the UK. In Glasgow, someone threw an axe at Vega’s head. Watching National Front skinheads invade the stage in Crawley and assault the duo – Vega’s nose was broken again – the keyboard player from the reggae band at the bottom of the bill had something of a revelation. “I thought, we have to get through to these people,” said Jerry Dammers, of the Special AKA, “and that’s when we got our image together and started playing ska.” Thus did Suicide, on top of everything else, inadvertently spawn the Two Tone movement. MORE

BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN: Over here on E Street, we are saddened to hear of the passing of Alan Vega, one of the great revolutionary voices in rock and roll. The bravery and passion he showed throughout his career was deeply influential to me. I was lucky enough to get to know Alan slightly and he was always a generous and sweet spirit. The blunt force power of his greatest music both with Suicide and on his solo records can still shock and inspire today. There was simply no one else remotely like him. MORE

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