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NPR 4 THE DEAF: We Believe In Werner Herzog

August 22nd, 2014



There are lots of good filmmakers, but only a handful are always, unmistakably themselves. One of these is Werner Herzog, the 71-year-old German director who now lives in L.A. Herzog has done things nobody else would do for a film — like trying to tug a 350-ton steamship over a small mountain. This has made him notorious as a wild, love-him-or-hate-him monomaniac — an image he’s been canny enough to milk. Herzog rose to fame as part of the New German Cinema, a ’70s boom that also included Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Wim Wenders and Margarethe von Trotta. Starting in 1970 with Even Dwarfs Started Small, an anarchic tale of rebellion by a group of dwarfs, he unleashed a torrent of 10 films — including Nosferatu and Fitzcarraldo — that remain the heart of his achievement. All those movies, and six later ones, are included in the tremendous new boxed-set, Herzog: The Collection. Some of them are great, others are good, and a couple are truly terrible. Yet every single one has something going on. Herzog has never been limited by anybody else’s idea of propriety, good sense or artistic neatness. He pushes us into unsettling mental spaces that make the strange familiar and the familiar strange.

His best and most daring movies may be two early documentaries — Fata Morgana, a surreal creation myth shot in the Sahara; and Land of Silence and Darkness, an almost mystical story centering on a woman who has gone deaf and blind. Yet they are a tad forbidding. The best way into Herzog’s work is through his most delightful film, The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser. It’s based on the true story of a young man who, after being kept alone in a cellar for the first 17 years of his life, walks into the streets of 1820s Nuremberg. What ensues is the collision between a German society that thinks itself civilized and this strange, grown-up wild child, astonishingly played by Bruno S., a street musician who’d spent time in mental institutions. Filled with sympathy for Kaspar, the movie explores one of Herzog’s trademark themes — the role of the individual who, in profound and revelatory ways, doesn’t remotely fit into society. That’s true in a very different way of the hero of the film to watch next — Aguirre, the Wrath of God. Shot along the Amazon in Peru, it tells the story of a doomed group of Spanish conquistadors searching for El Dorado. They’re led by the blond-tressed, hubristically loony commander, Don Lope de Aguirre. He’s indelibly played by Klaus Kinski, the wacko actor who starred in several more Herzog films and became the subject of Herzog’s amusing documentary, included here, titled My Best Fiend.

More than just a portrait of colonial madness, Aguirre, the Wrath of God is a dazzling study in another of Herzog’s themes — humankind’s relationship to landscape and nature, about which Herzog is not sentimental. While in the Amazon shooting his famous film, Fitzcarraldo, he riffs on that subject in filmmaker Les Blank’s documentary Burden of Dreams. Herzog is an enthralling talker. His audio commentaries on these disks are classics of the form. Now, not all the movies are classics. By the time he made his African slave-trade film Cobra Verde in 1987, many people thought he’d run dry. Yet this great chronicler of cussèd, obsessive heroes kept on making movies in his own cussèd, obsessive way. And about 10 years ago, things changed. With the release of his terrific 2005 documentary Grizzly Man, Herzog became one of those rare artists — like Philip Roth or Leonard Cohen — who enjoyed a second flowering after the age of 50. Indeed, nowadays he’s a beloved icon, a man who sometimes seems to be everywhere — making acclaimed docs like Cave of Forgotten Dreams and Encounters at the End of the World, playing the villain in Tom Cruise movies and lending his voice to cartoons about penguins, and directing features like the upcoming Queen of the Desert, which stars Nicole Kidman as the famous British explorer Gertrude Bell. Because he’s so adored, Herzog has at moments fallen into shtick during interviews — Herzog doing Herzog. But he’s never gone soft or commercial or betrayed the driven filmmaker who made those audacious early movies. He’s never settled into chasing Oscars. Instead, like one of the wayward heroes in Herzog: The Collection, he has kept plunging into the unknown, sometimes blindly, sometimes not. MORE

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BEING THERE: The Maggot Brain Surgeon General

August 22nd, 2014

George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic, Ardmore Music Hall, Wed. night by DAN LONG

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CINEMA: Frank Blank

August 21st, 2014

FRANK (2014, directed by Lenny Abrahamson, 95 minutes, UK/Ireland)

BY DAN BUSKIRK FILM CRITIC My whimsy alert was on hair trigger at the start of this indie rock flick about the adventures of a band led by the paper-mâché-head-wearing title character. Was this story of a rising and falling band really going to try to sell me on the child-like wonders of painted smiles and singing a simple tune? The opening of this music-driven little film hits exactly that mindlessly carefree note but it is a great pleasure when Frank dares to takes its oddball situation seriously and heads for darker comic ground.

Domhnall Gleeson (Brendon Gleeson’s son and Bill Weasley from the Harry Potter films) is the narrator Jon, presented as a keyboardist and uninspired songwriter in the film’s opening. When the band with the unpronounceable name “Soronprfbs” swings into his small U.K. town needing a keyboardist, Jon gets sucked into their orbit. Without hesitation Jon ditches his life to join the band on a promised musical odyssey, one that takes them across borders and seas and ultimately to a stage at Austin’s South By Southwest festival, where surely stardom awaits. Things grow progressively weirder as the band’s journey goes on, and not just because Frank is never — EVER –  seen without his giant fake head. Decorated like a cartoon from the 1930s, the head has a giant painted grin so happy you just know it’s masking a terrible sadness beneath.

The script is co-written by Jon Ronson (The Men Who Stare at Goats) who actually spent time in the band of Chris Sievey, a British comic performance artist who performed in a fake head under the name Frank Sidebottom. The film’s story is only loosely connected to this real performer but Ronson definitely catches the egos and interpersonal dynamics that surface in rock bands. The music by Stephen Rennicks is spot-on too, giving a bit of Flaming Lips-style madness to their sound (real drummer Carla Azar of Jack Black’s band lends some authenticity as well).
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REALITY CHECK: What Suicide By Cop Looks Like

August 21st, 2014


NBCDFW: Two police officers shot and killed a 23-year-old black man who came within several feet of them brandishing a knife Tuesday in St. Louis, several miles from where Michael Brown was killed last week in Ferguson, police said. St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson told reporters that the suspect shot Tuesday had brandished a knife at officers and refused to drop it when police ordered him to, instead saying, “Shoot me now. Kill me.” Just after the shooting, a crowd of at least 100 people gathered, some of them chanting “Hands up! Don’t shoot!” — the refrain protesters have chanted recently in the nearby suburb where Brown, an unarmed black teen, was shot dead by a white police officer, triggering days of unrest. MORE

HUFFINGTON POST: The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department released cell phone footage Wednesday of the police shooting of Kajieme Powell, a 25-year-old black man killed on Tuesday in St. Louis, according to St. Louis Public Radio. A convenience store owner called 911 on Tuesday when he suspected Powell stole drinks and donuts from his shop, according to a recording of the call. Another woman called to report Powell was acting erratically and had a knife in his pocket. Two officers in a police SUV responded to the calls, the cell phone video shows. When the officers got out of their vehicle, Powell walked in their direction, yelling and telling them to shoot him already. MORE

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CINEMA: Mild At Heart

August 21st, 2014


This is by far the weirdest — and, on the face of it,  least interesting and most disappointing — thing David Lynch has EVER done. Cindy Lauper’s right: Money changes everything. Sigh. Screens @ Ritz 5 for one night only September 10th.

VARIETY: The idea of David Lynch directing a concert movie of Duran Duran remains far more exciting than the result, live-streamed two years ago on YouTube and currently on the market for distribution as a feature. Though Lynch appears at the start of the pic to announce his “experiment,” the surrealist master’s one trick here is to superimpose depressingly literal, color representations of lyrics over standard-issue black-and-white footage of the new wavers onstage. DD fans will complain that the band can’t be ogled over Lynch’s digital doodlings, while Lynch completists will grouse that there’s too much Duran Duran onstage in “Duran Duran Unstaged.”

Lynch’s first feature-length work since “Inland Empire” in 2006, “Duran Duran” opens pre-concert with a high-pitched, overenunciating Lynch exclaiming, “I’m very happy to be working for Duran Duran!” Be that as it may, fun remains in short supply for the viewer, whose patience is tested precisely by the auteur’s illustrative images — a gape-mouthed lupine beast for “Hungry Like the Wolf,” lights in a freeway tunnel for “Being Followed,” a spinning globe for “Planet Earth,” etc. Even allowing for the pressures of on-the-fly direction as required by the project’s live webcast format, “Duran Duran” looks exceedingly lazy. MORE

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Q&A With Palaceer Lazaro Of Shabazz Palaces

August 21st, 2014


BY SEAN CALDWELL Ishmael Butler was once better known as Butterfly, who, along with Doodlebug and Ladybug, helmed the beloved jazz-inflected hip-hop trio Digable Planets, who were among the select few hip-hop outfits offering a credible alternative to the bitches-bullets-and-bling ethos of then-ascendant gangsta rap. In 1993, the band released Reachin’ (A New Refutation of Time and Space), which spawned the group’s best known single, “Rebirth of the Slick (Cool Like Dat).” With its titular nod to Miles Davis and infectious blend of Kind Of Blue horns, crisp snare, descending upright bass and beatnik word-jazz, the single earned Digable Planets a Grammy in the Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group category in 1994 and gold certification from the RIAA. The follow-up, Blowout Comb, failed to match the debut’s overwhelming acclaim and adulation. Citing the dreaded ‘creative differences,’ Digable Planets called it a career in 1995. In the 2000s, Digable Planets performed a series of reunion shows and the promise of a new album from the group seemed eminent. However, the reunion album never saw the light of day and the group is currently inactive.

A Seattle based hip-hop group known as Shabazz Palaces emerged in 2010 via the release of two mysterious EPs, one self-titled and the other named, Of Light. While Shabazz Palaces was something of an enigma initially, it eventually came to light it was the work of Butler, who was now going by the name Palaceer Lazaro, and instrumentalist Tendai Maraire, who is the offspring of Zimbabwean mbira player, Dumisani Maraire. This being Seattle, the EPs soon reached the ears of Sub Pop, who made Shabazz Palaces their first ever rap signing, releasing Black Up, the group’s debut album, in 2011. Black Up earned widespread praise for its woozy blend of cannabanoidal sonics, pan-African mysticism and Koranic trappings. Shabazz Palaces released its follow-up, Lese Majesty, late last month and is currently in the midst of a supporting tour that will stop at Union Transfer on Friday. Last week we got Palaceer Lazaro/Ishmael Butler on the phone to talk dope, Islam, Sun Ra, sci-fi, Betty Shabazz, LSD, Moby Dick, Octavia Butler and the non-existent future of Digable Planets.

PHAWKER: How do your pronounce your current stage name? Is it Palaceer Lazaro (“Pal-ah-seer Luh-zar-o”)? Is that how you pronounce that?

ISHMAEL BUTLER: That’s it. Yes.

PHAWKER: It’s a cool name. Is that invented, or does that come from something?

ISHMAEL BUTLER:Well, the invention—I kind of want to keep a secret—but I got it out of one of my favorite book and it’s a take on the name of the main character. My real name, Ishmael, is also from a main character of a book called Moby Dick so…

PHAWKER: That is who you’re named after?

ISHMAEL BUTLER: I kind of got that literary pedigree from my Dad and Mom.

PHAWKER: Tell me how you pronounce the title of the new album —is it Leez Majesty?

ISHMAEL BUTLER:Yeah, you can say it with a French accent if you’ve got one, y’know, but that’s how I say it because I don’t have that French accent.

PHAWKER: It’s a beautiful phrase. Essentially it means: “offending royalty” or in the broadest sense treason. Why did you decide to call the new album Lese Majesty?

ISHMAEL BUTLER: ‘Cause, it’s like a lot of people are claiming royalty in the music business. And, we wanted to offend them a little, y’know come at that whole “I’m the greatest,” “I’m the best,” “Look at me,” “Pay attention to me,” “I’m doin’ this,” “I’m wearin’ that,” “I’m drivin’ this,” “I’m doin’ that,” like… Basically, man, get out of here with all that bullshit. I’m mean, like, it’s cool for the young kids because, I get it, you’re still finding your way through the world. But these older, more experienced kind of artists, are still popping this little kid stuff. It just seems ridiculous. I know that they’re just trying to get money and stay famous and ‘relevant,’ if you can call it that, but it just seems to push the influence of the coming generations into a direction that isn’t really going anywhere. It’s not good for anyone other than the person reaping the benefits. It’s just a very corporate outlook on something that I feel is sacred, which is music.

PHAWKER: Let’s talk about the band name for a second: Shabazz Palaces. That’s derived from Nation of Islam doctrine, an ancient scientist that led the Tribe of Shabazz from Mecca to Africa. Correct? Do I have that right?


PHAWKER: Do you consider yourself a Muslim or an adherent of Nation of Islam, or are you just drawing inspiration from the doctrines and aesthetics of those belief systems?
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NPR 4 THE DEAF: We Hear It Even When U Can’t

August 20th, 2014

“Homer Simpson” by REMEMBRANDT


If you’ve ever been a fan of The Simpsons, here’s your chance to see all 552 episodes of the show in the longest single-series marathon in TV history. They’ll be shown back to back, in sequential order over 12 days and nights on the FXX cable network beginning Thursday.The Simpsons holds the record as the longest-running scripted entertainment series in TV history. In 1987, cartoonist Matt Groening’s yellow-skinned Simpsons family — father Homer, mother Marge and the kids, brainy Lisa, bratty Bart and baby Maggie — began on TV as interstitial segments on Fox’s The Tracey Ullman Show. The Simpsons got their own Christmas special in 1989, and their own prime-time series a month later, to kick off 1990 in very sassy style. But in the beginning, the writers had a hard time finding a groove to perfect that style, Groening told Fresh Air’s Terry Gross in a 1989 interview. “It’s been a real struggle to keep a certain roughness and abruptness and jerkiness,” Groening said. “Working on this show, our animators … all bring their own attitude and aesthetic philosophy to the project, and it’s been a real struggle to make sure that everybody gets in line and has the same vision, at least looking in the same direction.” The Simpsons sparked a renaissance in TV animation that led to South Park and Family Guy. One writer, Conan O’Brien, found fame as a talk-show host. Celebrities providing guest voices on The Simpsons included most major movie stars — and Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr. Its Treehouse of Horror Halloween specials have become one of TV’s most inventive annual traditions. And along the way, year after year, The Simpsons has served up occasional flashes of comic genius, according to TV critic David Bianculli. There was the Season 4 episode that presents a Springfield community-theater musical production of A Streetcar Named Desire — and the Season 2 episode that has Marge Simpson, voiced by Julie Kavner, so upset about the violence in the Itchy & Scratchy cat-and-mouse TV cartoons her kids watch that she goes on TV herself, on a Nightline-type talk show, in protest. So why would people be interested in the marathon? “There’s something about the sense of watching at the same time as other people that makes it special,” says Bianculli. “That certainly goes for a marathon — and that’s why I predict this 25-season Simpsons marathon will indeed steer people towards FXX. It’s a great show, a great idea and a TV viewing event of unprecedented scale.” Since The Simpsons began, Fresh Air’s Terry Gross has interviewed many people who have had a hand in creating the show — from Matt Groening in 1989 and 2003 to two of the writers, Al Jean and Mike Reiss, in 1992. Gross also talked with actors who do the voices, including Nancy Cartwright, who plays Bart, in 2007; Julie Kavner, the voice of Marge in 1994; Hank Azaria, the voice of Moe, Apu, Chief Wiggum and others in 2004. We listen back to these interviews in Fresh Air’s appreciation of The Simpsons. MORE

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MEDIA: Mo’ Mo’ne! Mo’ Mo’ne! Mo’ Mo’ne!

August 19th, 2014


INQUIRER: Sitting in his hotel lobby, 20 miles from the stadium, Davis’ stepfather takes a phone call. “Are you serious?” asks Mark Williams, who has been part of the family since Mo’ne was 6. On the phone is coach Steve Bandura, whose son Scott plays for Taney. The girl, he says, will be on the cover of the next Sports Illustrated. The first Little Leaguer ever. Williams shakes his head, drags a hand over his face, and smiles. This is the same girl who used to cry when her mother braided her long hair at age 6; whom he took to Dick’s to buy her first bat at age 10; and who now, barely a teenager, has a deep love of basketball shoes. Now there are Sports Illustrated, e-mails from eager screenwriters, and calls from University of Connecticut women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma, who heard Davis express interest in playing on his team someday.

“She handles it so well,” Williams says. “I’m speechless sometimes. I just want her to have fun and for this to be something for her to remember always.” It would be hard not to. Celebrities from LeSean McCoy to Michelle Obama have tweeted to her. Bookers from national television dial her cellphone. Her Instagram account – and a knock-off – have pulled in nearly 20,000 followers each. To shield her from the circus, Williams hangs onto her blue iPhone 5 during the tournament. It buzzes and rings like a restaurant pager, friends from home sending text messages of encouragement, callers unknown trying to get a hold of the rising eighth grader. Most experiences, he says, have been welcome. But the family senses it must be more careful now. Last week, Williams listened to a television cameraman outside the stadium interviewing a stranger who claimed to be a member of Davis’ family. “I was so mad, I stood there, like, ‘OK, do I go over there now, or do I wait?’ ” He waited, hoping the interview was not live. Then he walked over to the cameraman and introduced himself. The impostor – a Philadelphian – apologized. MORE

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A TALE OF TWO DELINQUENCIES: The Deadly Double Standard Of Racial Justice In America

August 19th, 2014

Via Twitter/photographer unknown

BY JEFF DEENEY I grew up in suburban Philadelphia in the 80s. It was a time when working class families were leaving their row homes in a city they considered increasingly black and dangerous in droves for single houses on tree lined streets in nearly all white townships not far away, maybe ten miles, but in many ways worlds apart. By 1985, when the bomb dropped on the MOVE house and it seemed like Philly was death spiraling into apocalypse my parents watched the chaos over dinner in Delaware County marveling at what good fortune we had to have left the same neighborhood a few years before it went downhill. The notion was cemented among white flight families had that crime happened “there” – i.e, the city, where black people live – and not “here.” They needed police to keep them in line; we needed police to get cats out of trees.

We kids knew better. Crime doesn’t only happens in poor black neighborhoods; we knew that because we participated in the same kind of criminal activity that young black kids get locked up for every day. We just rarely got caught committing crimes, because there was so much less law enforcement involvement in the lives of white teenagers in the suburbs. When we did get caught we usually walked because suburban criminal justice systems weren’t primarily concerned with inflicting potentially life ruining penalties on children in their communities. Unlike Mike Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, we never had to worry about a cop drawing a gun on us.

Perhaps the working class 80’s heavy metal vomit party crowd I grew up with was worse than most; perhaps some percentage of teens in any class group are prone to delinquency, but throughout my formative years I was witness to and frequently a participant in a lot of crime. It was mostly petty stuff – though, that was me; many kids I knew were into pretty serious things. I had a phase where I shop lifted. I started drinking heavily at the age of 12. By the age of 13 I had been exposed to drugs like cocaine and PCP. I wasn’t into property destruction (I was overweight and couldn’t run very fast and was bound to get caught) but friends of mine destroyed incredible amounts of property. Some kids like to spray paint and tag with markers; some liked to fist fight. In all, we were a pretty rowdy bunch.
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LEONARD COHEN: Almost Like The Blues

August 19th, 2014

Leonard Cohen has confirmed the September 23rd release of his new album Popular Problems, set to be unveiled just two days after his 80th birthday. The album will feature nine new songs and was produced by Patrick Leonard, who worked with Cohen on his 2012 album Old Ideas. Fans that pre-order the album will receive an instant download of Cohen’s new song “Almost Like the Blues.” MORE

PREVIOUSLY: The Great Man glides onstage in black pinstripes and a fedora like a gangster cantor, double-breasted and tie-less, his crisp creamy blue shirt buttoned-up to the neck David Lynch-style. He seems to walk on air. He was born like this, he had no choice, he was born with the gift of a golden voice. Now his friends are gone and his hair is grey, he aches in the places he used to play. After all these years, he’s still crazy for love but he’s not coming on. At 74, broke and hat in hand, he is still paying his rent every day in the Tower of Song.

For the next three hours, he dispenses what amount to be prayers and we will need them where we are going. For he has seen the future, baby, and it is murder. Everybody knows the war is over, everybody knows the good guys lost. Everybody knows the rich have got their channels in the bedrooms of the poor. And, he says, there is a mighty judgment coming, though he might be wrong. But this much is true: we may be ugly, he insists, but we have the music. Because everybody knows the rich write history, but the poor write the songs. His mind is still sharp as a razor blade and he remembers them all: the one who gave him head in an unmade bed, the sisters of mercy with dew on their hem, the one in the famous blue raincoat who was gonna go ‘clear,’ the bird on a wire, the drunk in the midnight choir. All of them, the Great Man included, have tried in their own way, to be free. MORE

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This Land Is My Land, This Land Is Your Land

August 19th, 2014

“I Love You But…” by BEN HEINE

BY WILLIAM C. HENRY Here we go again. The Israelis and the Palestinians. The “chosen” and the forsaken. The “sovereign” and the scorned. And the beatdown goes on. OK, so what’s the problem this time?! Why can’t these Gazan goat ropers accept their lot in life? Hell, what’s so bad about life in a concentration camp? You know, what with the Israelis being only too familiar with “attempted extermination,” you’d think they’d be at least somewhat, or maybe marginally, or how ’bout just a teeny weeny bit, shall we say, “ill-disposed” to the degradation and misery of others. Apparently not. Anyway, back to that pesky little “acceptance” thing. Degradation and misery aside, could there possibly be a more deeply rooted cause for these camel cowboys being so utterly discontent with the status quo? Well, I certainly don’t consider myself to be any kind of expert on the subject, but I’m indecisively inclined to suspect that it might perchance have the slightest something to do with the following:

  • Back in ’47 a bunch of United Nations post holocaust guilt-ridden yet morally and legally detached diplomat types voted to “give” the land known as Palestine to a collection of Zionists in order to assuage said guilt and pacify powerful Jewish political lobbies in AmericaFrance and the U.K..
  • Inasmuch as the inhabitants of said Palestine and their forebears had occupied and passed down for some two thousand years the landholdings that were “given” to the Zionists, these Palestinians have always taken considerable umbrage at being told that since Palestine was never actually a “formalized” country prior to said usurpation, said landholdings had never actually “belonged” to them.
  • The demand that Palestinians confess Israel’s “right to exist.” Seriously? Absolutely nothing in the annals of preposterousness even comes close to the non-Arab world’s insistence that ABOVE ALL ELSE the Palestinians publicly affirm a conspicuous lie in order to be set free.

By the way, can anyone remember the last time ISRAEL was asked to recognize Palestine’s right to exist? Faint chance. In the meantime Israel’s unconscionable reaction to Hamas’s continued hapless rocketry can only be described as deliberate slaughter. The Gazan toll: 1,940 men, women and children (448) dead; approaching 10,000 wounded. On the Israeli side: 64 military dead; 3 civilians wounded.

Incidentally, just how did the United Nations “yea” sayers think the Palestinians and the rest of the Arab world were going to react to an occurrence so disruptive, so frightening, so immoral as being violently displaced from lands their ancestors had called home for nearly two millennia?! What were they “expected” to do?! How was it “envisioned” they’d react?! Keep in mind that this abhorrence came about with the express approval of many of the world’s leading “democracies”; nations whose very existence was/is in large part dependent upon establishing and defending, you guessed it, the PROPERTY RIGHTS of their citizenry! Ring any bells?!

Perhaps nothing illuminates more onerously the plight of the Palestinians than when, according to Nahum Goldman, his close friend and associate David Ben-Gurion, the Zionist-in-chief himself, once mused, “Why should the Arabs make peace? If I were an Arab leader I would never make terms with Israel. That is natural: we have taken their country. Sure, God promised it to us, but what does that matter to them? Our God is not theirs. We come from Israel, it’s true, but two thousand years ago, and what is that to them? There has been anti-Semitism, the Nazis, Hitler, Auschwitz, but was that their fault? They only see one thing: we have come here and stolen their country. Why should they accept that? They may perhaps forget in one or two generations’ time, but for the moment there is no chance.” I suspect there are many, many Palestinians prepared to make that “moment” last forever.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Fed up early stage septuagenarian who has actually been most of there and done most of that. Born and raised in the picturesque Pocono Mountains. Quite well educated. Very lucky to have been born into a well-schooled and somewhat prosperous family. Long divorced. One beautiful, brilliant daughter. Two far above average grandsons. Semi-retired (how does anyone manage to do it completely these days?) and fully-tired of bullshit. Uncle of the Editor-In-Chief.

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August 19th, 2014

The excellent title track from the new album, which drops next Tuesday and is currently streaming in its entirety at iTunes Radio. They play Union Transfer November 20th. And just because we LOVE this “Myriad Harbor” video [see below] from 2007′s Challengers so frickin’ much, we’re posting a double-shot of New Porno for you lucky ducks. C’mon, get happy!

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BLACK AND BLUE: Ferguson Was A Gas!

August 19th, 2014

Start with militarization. While this might seem like a “boys with toys” problem—cops playing dress-up as they search for their inner G.I. Joe—it’s really about bad law enforcement tactics. One thing sometimes forgotten is that there are decades of research on policing tactics, and competent officers and their bosses rely on this research to guide them because they are want to maintain law and order, instead of just pretending the movie RoboCop was a documentary. Research shows that militarization rarely works, and usually makes things worse.

Studies also show that police have the power to either lessen the tensions of an angry group of people or goad them into a riot. This conclusion is based on the Elaborated Social Identity Model (ESIM), which is the leading scientific theory on managing a boisterous horde of people. What the ESIM shows is that an angry crowd can be driven to riot if they believe they are being treated unfairly—for example, by being confronted by cops decked out with military weaponry. When police treat a crowd justly and humanely, the chance of an uproar decreases and participants trust law enforcement more, the research shows. [...]

For some of the best collections of studies on this topic, check out the Center for Evidence-Based Crime Policy at George Mason University. This group, which is consulted by law enforcement experts around the country, transforms much of the research on police tactics into a data matrix, showing in an easy to comprehend graphic which among more than 100 tactics and techniques have been shown to work, broken down by circumstances involving individuals, groups, small places, neighborhoods and jurisdiction. Not surprisingly, the most effective way to decrease crime and engender public support for law enforcement officers is through what is known as community policing and problem-oriented policing.

These approaches are the opposite of the swoop-and-crush approach taken early on in Ferguson—they entail having cops work closely with the community, become respected contributors to it, engage with both private and public organizations and do a lot of research—know their community. In other words, it’s about making the police an appreciated participant in the daily life, rather than a threatening “other” enthralled with its authority, ego and weaponry. MORE

Artwork by KYLE HILTON

VOX: It looked at first like police in Ferguson, Missouri, were lashing out at journalists only incidentally. Everyone in their path seemed to be at risk of being teargassed, arrested without charge, or having assault rifles pointed at them without warning — so naturally the reporters milling around town were at similar risk. Increasingly, though, it is becoming clear that police in Ferguson are targeting journalists, using intimidation, arbitrary arrests, and physical force. This has a much deeper and more damaging effect than just suppressing media coverage. Arresting and intimidating journalists are inherently political acts, guaranteed by design to generate attention. Much as when it’s done in far-away conflict zones and authoritarian states, it’s about making a statement. It’s about demonstrating, to ordinary citizens even more than to journalists, that police believe they can exercise absolute control over the streets and anyone in them.

That police in Ferguson are targeting journalists so openly and aggressively is an appalling affront to basic media freedoms, but it is far scarier for what it suggests about how the police treat everyone else — and should tell us much about why Ferguson’s residents are so fed up. When police in Ferguson are willing to rough up and arbitrarily arrest a Washington Post reporter just for being in a McDonald’s, you have to wonder how those police treat the local citizens, who don’t have the shield of a press pass. Intimidation of journalists is becoming routine in Ferguson. On Wednesday, police in Ferguson roughed up and arrested Washington Post reporter Wesley Lowery and Ryan Reilly of the Huffington Post for failing to exit a McDonalds. According to Lowery’s Twitter account, the two were “assaulted and arrested” because “officers decided we weren’t leaving McDonalds quickly enough, shouldn’t have been taping them.” They were later released, but the fact of their arrest was enough to show how police would treat journalists in Ferguson.

Since those first arrests, police actions against journalists in Ferguson have escalated in severity and frequency. Getty photographer Scott Olson, who’s been in Ferguson all week, was arrested on Monday and stuffed into the back of a police van for no clearly discernible reason. “He was literally just across the street from the media area. Not a good sign for media access tonight,” Reilly tweeted. CNN’s Don Lemon was broadcasting live from one of the town’s designated protest areas when a police officer began shoving him in an attempt to physically force him to leave the area: An Al Jazeera America TV crew, set up to safely shoot on the sidelines of a recent police deployment, had to abandon their equipment when police fired tear gas at them. After they ran, police walked over and dismantled the set-up, turning over the equipment. [pictured, below]


Reporters have been shouted at by police, had heavy weapons pointed at them, been subjected to military-law style curfews, and been ordered to confine themselves to small, set areas when outdoors. Journalists who leave these corralled zones or venture outside during the curfew — who attempt to walk down a public suburban street in America, in other words — are threatened with arrest. “If you walk about 100 feet from OK’ed press area you find yourself lit up by a spotlight and a squad of police on hair trigger,” MSNBC host Chris Hayes tweeted recently from Ferguson. Later that night, as Hayes’ team filmed the protests, police told them, “Media do not pass us. You’re getting maced next time you pass us.”

On Thursday, the American Civil Liberties Union announced it was suing the town and the county, seeking a court order from a judge telling police that they cannot bar journalists from reporting. On Thursday, the ACLU got what they wanted: a court agreement, signed by the city and the county and the Missouri Highway Patrol chief, stating: “Parties acknowledge and agree that the media and members of the public have a right to record public events without abridgment unless it obstructs the activity or threatens the safety of others, or physically interferes with the ability of law enforcement officers to perform their duties.” Even more astounding than the fact that this was necessary is the fact that it was so quickly ignored. MORE

SLATE: If Holder concludes that there has been a pattern of misconduct by the police—either in the lead-up to Brown’s death or in its aftermath—the president has the ability to force widespread reforms within the department with the help of a law passed in the wake of the Rodney King beating. The provision in question, part of what was officially known as the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, is “one of the most significant” pieces of civil rights legislation passed in the latter part of 20th century, and also one of the most “overlooked,” according to Joe Domanick, the associate director of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice’s Center on Media, Crime, and Justice. The law gives the federal government two options: It can either formally pursue a federal civil rights lawsuit against the Ferguson Police Department by alleging a “pattern and practice” of misconduct or the administration and city officials can enter into what is known as a “consent decree” that would mandate a specific set of reforms that would then be overseen by an independent court-appointed monitor. Faced with the possibility of a costly court battle, most cities have historically taken the path of least resistance and signed on the decree’s dotted lines. Ferguson officials probably wouldn’t buck that trend. MORE

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