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CINEMA: High Anxiety

April 24th, 2015


CLOUDS OF SILS MARIA (2014, directed by Olivier Assayas, 124 minutes, France)

Buskirk AvatarBY DAN BUSKIRK FILM CRITIC Where has the time gone? Gazing up at the endlessly beguiling Juliette Binoche I realized it has been over 30 years that she has graced the screen as various intelligent and vulnerable women and yet in each role there was a sense we are meeting her anew. Her latest film, Olivier (Irma Vep, Carlos) Assayas’ Clouds of Sils Maria reflects on Binoche’s age and sensitivity by teaming her with a pair of acclaimed young American actresses, Twilight’s Kristen Stewart and the cute round-faced munchkin from Kick-Ass, Chloe Grace Moretz. Playing an actress rehearsing for an emotionally rigorous stage play, Binoche gives us the impression that we are seeing her real self more closely than ever yet part of the film’s design is to regularly pull reality out from under our feet.

Binoche plays Maria, an fifty-something actress that is revisiting a play written by her mentor. At the beginning of her career she played the young seductress who loves and leaves her female boss but now years later Maria will be playing the spurned older woman. To rehearse for the role, Maria travels to the Swiss mountains where the play was originally written, bringing with her Valentine, (the capable Ms. Stewart) her dedicated personal assistant. Much of the film follows this pair as they hike around the clouds-of-sils-maria-posterstunning mountain paths, with Valentine running through the play’s lines with Maria.

As we learn the dynamics of their relationship, the characters begin to merge with the play they are reading. Often we think we’re overhearing a heartfelt discussion about the actress and her hire’s relationship when Maria will muff a line and break character, letting us know this is just a rehearsal. Yet both characters seem aware that the play is echoing their own slowly fracturing relationship, which wavers uncomfortably between friendship and work.

If all this actorly angst recalls the dark dramas of Ingmar Bergman the film itself is not an austere character study. Assayas loves bringing the pair down from the mountains where they tangle with paparazzi, tribute events, and the ghosts of past romantic entanglements. Assayas even sends Maria and Valentine to the movies where the watch a wonderfully goofy superhero vehicle with Maria’s future co-star (Moretz) wearing a day-glo wig and shooting beams of light from the palm of her hand. Valentine takes it all seriously in a post-film discussion and Maria’s mocking critique feels like it cuts her assistant deeper than she knows.

Maria seems to value these younger woman and their ideas but they trigger insecurities about aging and her changing roles, on and off stage. Again, Assayas has seemingly effortlessly invented characters who seem to live and breathe like the rest of us, facing down the indignities of aging and then continuing on to take part in a chapter whose shape is still coming into focus. But as they feign control, like the shifting clouds of the title, life rolls and tumbles in the mist. Despite all the stylized storytelling devices, Assayas’ masterpiece rests in one’s memory feeling more lifelike than life itself.

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ALABAMA SHAKES: Don’t Wanna Fight

April 24th, 2015

From the new and effing excellent Sound & Color. They play The Mann on Sept. 17th with some band called the Drive-By Truckers or somesuch.

PREVIOUSLY: After months of avoidance as my generation of relatively hip, middle-aged mouthbreathers raved over the debut album by Alabama Shakes I found myself confronted late one night with a performance by the band on PBS. I allowed myself to watch for a minute, thinking I’d chuckle the righteous chuckle alabamashakes-big of the dismissive rock snob and then move on. But I was wrong. Rather than the mix of college-boy hoodoo, jive, hokum, and beer commercial bluesology that I expected, Alabama Shakes simply hunkered down on some elemental soul music chord progressions and then drove them the fuck home with some Clash-worthy forearm rock and singer Brittany Howard’s Joe Cocker-esque histrionics. Any time I felt ready to reach into my deep bag of hang-ups I was thwarted. A song and a half into their performance I ceased attempting to find fault. Spittle had accumulated on my lips. Theband’s charms are presented without distraction on Boys & Girls. The performances are warm and direct. Howard’s got killer pipes, a term that usually induces a cringe but applies here. The slow burn of “Hold On” doesn’t take long to explode. “Hang Loose,” my favorite song of the year, mixes a “Chain of Fools”-style intro and hippie ethos. The cynic in me still ponders whether the band is an indie-rock flipside to Sam Phillips’ ‘If I could find a white man who had the Negro sound and the Negro feel…” dream, but hell, this album is the answers to my prayers. MORE

PREVIOUSLY: The Drive-By Truckers have a well-earned rep for consistently delivering grungy Southern rock operas set in places where red meets neck, where dubious characters lead self-inflicted lives of quiet desperation: unanswered prayers, unrequited love, and unmitigated semiprivate disasters. The DBTs’ just-released The Big To-Do is no exception, although it is quite exceptional in its capacity to sketch out the private driveBY TRUCKERShells of jaded pole workers, homicidal preachers’ wives, and modern drunkards in high-def whiskey-hued vérité. Everyone’s on something – booze, pills, God, or all the above – and before all is said and done, they’re gonna have to drag the lake. MORE

PREVIOUSLY: The Drive-By Truckers write songs about the dirty South, where life is hard and folks die soft and squishy and often emphysemic, dirty deeds get done dirt cheap, and everyone goes to church but nobody really goes to heaven. These songs are like the weeds in the cracks of the trailer park, or the pile of broken beer bottles in the woods, or the lipstick traces on the stubbed-out Kools overflowing the ashtray. Oh, the things they have seen. It also bears mentioning that the Drive-By Truckers totally rock, more specifically they rock in that sweet spot where Lynyrd meets Skynyrd. MORE

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MUST READ: The Man Who Broke The Music Biz

April 24th, 2015



NEW YORKER: Who was Kali? Glover wasn’t sure, but as their relationship evolved he picked up some clues. Kali’s 818 area code was from the Los Angeles region. The voice in the background that Glover sometimes heard on the calls sounded as if it might be Kali’s mother. There was also the marijuana leaf that served as RNS’s official emblem: Glover thought he could tell when Kali was high. Most striking was the exaggerated hip-hop swagger that Kali affected. He only ever referred to Glover as “D.” No one else called him that.

“He would try to talk, like, with a slang,” Glover told me. “Kinda cool, kinda hard.” Glover suspected that Kali wasn’t black, though he sensed that he probably wasn’t white, either. Glover was not permitted to interact with the other members of the group, not even the one who served as the “ripping coördinator.” His online handle was RST, and his name was Simon Tai. A second-generation Chinese immigrant, Tai was brought up in Southern California before arriving at the University of Pennsylvania, in 1997. As a freshman with a T1 Internet connection, he’d been in awe of RNS. After hanging around in the chat channel for nearly a year, he was asked to join.

He also applied for a slot as a d.j. at the school’s radio station. For two years, Kali cultivated Tai’s interest in rap music and told him to make connections with the promotional people at various labels. In 2000, Tai, now a senior at Penn, was promoted to music director at the station and given a key to the office, where he had access to the station’s promo disks. Every day, he checked the station’s mail; when something good came in, he raced back to his dorm room to upload it. Beating rival Scene crews was sometimes a matter of seconds.

Tai scored two major leaks that year, Ludacris’s “Back for the First Time” and Outkast’s “Stankonia.” With his Scene credentials established, for the next two years Tai managed RNS’s roster of leakers. Along with Kali, he tracked the major labels’ distribution schedules and directed his sources to keep an eye out for certain albums. MORE

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WORTH REPEATING: Giving Up The Ghost

April 23rd, 2015

Cornell West by Hello Von copy


THE NEW REPUBLIC: West has repeatedly declared that he did 65 engagements for the presidential campaign in 2008, and was offended when the president didn’t provide tickets to the inauguration. (Obama later told me in the White House that West left several voice messages, including prayers, from a blocked number with no instructions of where to return the call, a routine with which I was all too familiar.) […] This moment for West followed a pronounced and decades-long scholarly decline, something that did not escape the notice of other academics and intellectuals, none more notably than Lawrence Summers, the former president of Harvard, who clashed publicly with West. (West departed Harvard for Princeton in 2002.) Summers had reprimanded West for his varied side projects, everything from advising Reverend Al Sharpton’s failed presidential bid to his vanity musical ventures. I couldn’t endorse these criticisms, but I knew Summers was right when he pointed to West’s diminished scholarly output. It is not only that West’s preoccupations with Obama’s perceived failures distracted him, though that is true; more accurate would be to say that the last several years revealed West’s paucity of serious and fresh intellectual work, a trend far longer in the making. West is still a Man of Ideas, but those ideas today are a vain and unimaginative repackaging of his earlier hits. He hasn’t published without aid of a co-writer a single scholarly book since Keeping Faith, which appeared in 1993, the same year as Race Matters. West has repeatedly tried to recapture the glory of that slim classic by imitating the 1960s-era rhythm and blues singers he loves so much: Make another song that sounds just like the one that topped the charts. In 2004, West published Democracy Matters, an obvious recycling of both the title and themes of his work a decade earlier. It was his biggest seller since Race Matters.

Even a cursory survey of West’s recent work captures the noticeable diminishment of his intellectual force. Hope on a CornelWest-spray-COMP22Tightrope (2008) is mostly a collection of West-ian wisdom spoken and then transcribed. The cover features West standing at a blackboard with the words “What Would West Say?” chalked again and again, like an after school punishment, a haunting hubris suggesting a parallel to “What Would Jesus Do?” His memoir Brother West (2009) is an embarrassing farrago of scholarly aspiration and breathless self-congratulation—West, for instance, deems his co-authored book The War Against Parents (1998) a “seminal text”; praises Race Matters as “the right book at the right time”; and brags that Democracy Matters sold over 100,000 copies, landed at No. 5 on TheNew York Times bestseller list, and “continues to influence many.” None of this competes with the description on West’s website of his first spoken word album, Sketches of My Culture, which claimed at the time of its release that in “all modesty, this project constitutes a watershed moment in musical history.”

Brother West was co-written with David Ritz, a writer best known for album liner notes and ghostwriting entertainers’ biographies—a sure sign of West’s dramatic plummet from his perch as a world-class intellectual. It’s one thing for Ray Charles to turn to Ritz; another thing entirely for a top-shelf scholar to concede that he can’t write for himself, or is too busy to do so. It is akin to Du Bois hiring Truman Capote to fashion his autobiography. The journalist David Masciotra called The Rich and the Rest of Us (2012), which was also co-authored, this time by Tavis Smiley, “a cover version of a hit performed better by other singers—Barbara Ehrenreich, Joseph Stiglitz, and William Julius Wilson, to name a few.” West’s latest, Black Prophetic Fire, published last year, is another talk book, this one edited by Christa Buschendorf, a German scholar who interviewed West. Last October, Masciotra reviewed Fire for The Daily Beast, and called it “a strange and disappointing culmination of [West’s] metamorphosis from philosopher to celebrity,” one that is in keeping with “his pattern of not solely authoring any books in the past ten years.” MORE

Cornell West

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VULCANOLOGY: Incredible Footage Of Calbuco

April 23rd, 2015

BBC: The Calbuco volcano in southern Chile has erupted twice in the space of a few hours – having lain dormant for decades. Footage from the area shows a huge column of lava and ash being sent several kilometres into the air. The authorities have declared a red alert and evacuated more than 4,000 people within a 20km (12 mile) radius. The Calbuco volcano is one of the most active in Chile, but its eruption took officials in the area by surprise. Residents there have been warned to stay indoors. Chile has the second largest chain of volcanoes in the world after Indonesia, with about 500 that are potentially active. It is southern Chile’s second volcanic eruption in as many months. MORE

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That ‘Controversial’ Doug Oliver For Mayor Ad

April 22nd, 2015

PHILADELPHIA MAGAZINE: Oliver has run a strong campaign, but he’s still mired in second-tier candidate territory. Forums only get you so far, particularly if, like Oliver, you start the race as a relative unknown. This is Oliver’s big play to change that dynamic. The ad itself is entirely different from the norm. It’s got a bit of an edge to it — the whole thing is narrated by North Philadelphia activist Sheila Armstrong — and it takes a shot at the career politicians in the race. It’s a strong ad, the sort that stands out. It needs to stand out, given Oliver’s ridiculously long odds. The ad is also taking some flak over Armstrong’s colloquial narration and the campaign’s cleaned-up, on-screen transcription of her speech. Will that drown out the ad’s effectiveness? I doubt it. MORE

“We’re especially happy to say that Friends of Doug Oliver is 100 percent paying for its own media,” he said. “No dark money, no special interests, no independent expenditures and se1Doug19not a dime from a single PAC. Just the support from individual Philadelphians who truly want to see something different.” MORE

The youngest of the mayoral candidates, Doug Oliver, has been courting the Center City millennial and young professional voters at the various mayoral forums and debates. But the 40-year-old former city spokesman is launching campaign TV commercials Wednesday and making a sharp turn in his target audience: urban black voters. With a deep bass beat in the background, the 30-second TV commercial is voiced over by Sheila Armstrong, a North Philadelphia mother of two and neighborhood activist. During the commercial, Armstrong at times speaks in grammatically incorrect ways often used in poorer and black neighborhoods. “This is why I believe in Doug Oliver. I believe he is going to make sure the resources is there.” And then: “Our children is worth so much more,” the woman says. But the text on the screen says: “Our children are worth so much more!” (Are instead of is, as Armstrong says.) While the commercial seems to be targeting a very specific demographic, Oliver’s campaign spokesman Mustafa Rashed said Oliver is not changing his target audience. “We’re going after everyone,” Rashed said. “Hip hop is used everywhere now.” MORE

PREVIOUSLY: At the forum hosted by Al Dia, in which I was a panelist, Oliver said that young black men had reason to fear police. And then, the sin: “The sad truth is that the police have good reason to be afraid of black men,” he said. There were a few gasps from the audience. Fellow Daily News columnist and WURD (900-AM) radio host Solomon Jones later took Oliver to task for stereotyping an entire race for the actions of a few and in essence, sanctioning the use of deadly force. Someone tweeted that Oliver had dug a hole for himself that eliminated him from contention. Really? For trying to humanize both sides, and for attempting to thought-provokingly answer a difficult question? Context is key here. Oliver’s answer, slightly trimmed for space: “I believe that it is a push and a pull . . . the responsibility rests with both groups. As a young black man who grew up in Germantown, Happy Hollow playground, 5015 Wayne Ave., yes, black men do have reason to be fearful of police at times. It’s not that every police officer that comes across their path is going to do them harm, but there are some that would. And when you don’t know the difference from one to the next you’re afraid all of the time . . . ” MORE

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CONTEST: Win Tix To See They Might Be Giants

April 22nd, 2015

They Might Be Giants


SLATE: They Might Be Giants had cut their teeth in New York’s early-’80s No Wave scene, playing the overly exuberant kid brother to “serious” acts like Sonic Youth and Swans. Armed with samplers, puppets, and yardstick-tall hats, they earned a reputation as thrillingly bizarro showmen. Every journalist who reviewed the duo exhausted his thesaurus in search of synonyms for quirky. But with modern ears, we can hear something in They Might Be Giants’ music more profound and specific than what Roget might call eccentric, madcap, or zany.” MORE

PHAWKER: We have a coupla pair of tix to see They Might Be Giants at the TLA on Saturday April 25th. To qualify to win, all you have to do is sign up for our mailing list (see right, below the masthead). Trust us, this is something you want to do. In addition to breaking news alerts and Phawker updates, you also get advanced warning about groovy concert ticket giveaways and other free swag opportunities like this one! After signing up, send us an email at FEED@PHAWKER.COM telling us a much, with the magic words THE STATUE GOT ME HIGH in the subject line. If you are already on our mailing list, just send us an email saying as much and grovel a bit. Please include your full name and a mobile number for confirmation. Good luck and godspeed!


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April 21st, 2015



VOGUE: “I stare at myself in the mirror and I think, Wow, I’m really great-looking . . . I think I’m the greatest, anyway,” the great-looking musician, occasional actor, and undisputed style icon Iggy Pop once said. Pop was born James Newell Osterberg, Jr., in Muskegon, Michigan, on April 21, 1947, which means he is 68 today! Unlike so many of his angry punk brothers and sisters, he has nothing but lovely things to say about his upbringing—his parents even gave up their master bedroom in the trailer where they lived so that Jimmy would have a place big enough for his drum kit. We can only assume that they have also supported him throughout an extremely ambitious sartorial career that began when he donned a maternity dress, white face, and an aluminum Afro wig for the very first Stooges concert, nearly a half-century ago. In the ensuing decades he has embraced transparent plastic trousers, body glitter, and, on at least one occasion, a costume that made him look like a praying mantis. “My parents wanted to light my artistic candle,” he remembers, “but over time, the definition of ‘the arts’ began to stretch. And as I got older, they suddenly realized, Oh, my God, we’re the parents of Iggy Pop.” MORE

PREVIOUSLY: Thanks to the many miracles of our modern affluent society, today’s super-rockers are kicking out the jams longer iggy2and harder than ever before. (Think about it: For the better part of the 70s, the smart money would have been on Keith Richards’ dad snorting his son’s ashes, not vice versa.) As Iggy Pop (aka, James Osterberg), who turns 60 next week, proved Wednesday night at the Electric Factory, men well-acquainted with the business end of a sigmoidoscope are still capable of rocking as hard and ferociously as a teenager. They just can’t write like one anymore. The Weirdness, the new album by the reconstituted Stooges, is like an old tin can — jagged, metallic, and its contents long past the Sell By date. But their incendiary live act remains peerless.

Loud, lewd and anarchic, The Stooges emerged from the dark side of the 60’s like a bad moon rising, and while they were largely misunderstood if not altogether despised back in the day, both their sound (the prototype of both punk and metal) and vision (hearts full of napalm, 10 soldiers and Nixon coming, apocalypse now) would prove prophetic as the Age of Aquarius curdled into the 70s. Wednesday night, Iggy and his Stooges — which includes charter members Ron and Scott Asheton on guitar and drums respectively, and ex-Minutemen legend Mike Watt filling in for the deceased Dave Alexander on bass — played like their hair was on fire, opening with Funhouse’s classic one-two punch of “Down On The Street” and “Loose,” and then following it up with “I Wanna Be Your Dog.”

Iggy — the man who no shirt can hold, who more or less single-handedly invented the notion of lead singer as human cannonball — swung his ripped physique about the stage like a bullwhip, while Watt dug in deep, Scott Asheton beat the drums like they owed him money, and brother Ron unloosed his patented six-string cosmic roar. Thuggish new material like “Skull Ring” and “Electric Chair” drew the same crowd response as a dog shown a card trick, but deep-cut selections from the old albums — including a reveletory work-out of Funhouse’s free-jazz double freakout, “Funhouse” and “LA Blues,” accompanied by the hard-bop squawk of charter saxaphonist Steve MacKay — were greeted like conquering heroes. As if to prove that chaos remains his greatest ally, just four songs into the set, Iggy demanded the audience break down the crowd barriers and join him on stage. While the band laid rubber on “Dirt” and “Real Cool Time” upwards of 50 concert goers pogoed and slamdanced on the Electric Factory stage. Which only served to underscore the deathlessness of the Stooges’ prime directive: Rules are made to be broken. – JONATHAN VALANIA, 4/8/07

PREVIOUSLY: Q&A w/ Stooges Guitarist Ron Asheton


French TV, 1977. Priceless.

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April 21st, 2015

Highbrow mind-expanding metallica from Rhode Island. They play First Unitarian on May 14th — show was moved from Johnny Brenda’s to the church due to overwhelming demand — in support of their new album, Fantasy Empire.

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The Strange And Lonesome Death Of The Lovely Theresa And The Man Who Loved Her Too Much

April 21st, 2015

The Lovely Theresa


GAWKER: In July 2007, the artists Jeremy Blake and Theresa Duncan ended their own lives. Both had grown erratic and paranoid in the preceding months, and on the 10th, Blake found his longtime romantic partner dead in their East Village apartment, overdosed on a lethal cocktail of whiskey and Tylenol PM. One week later, he drowned himself in the Atlantic Ocean at Rockaway Beach. The official story, forwarded in a flurry of media coverage of the so-called “golden suicides,” tells of folie à deux—a shared delusion, brought on perhaps by career-related stress and a lot of bourbon and champagne, and manifested in abruptly burned bridges with formerly close friends, bizarre “loyalty oaths,” and an increasingly monomaniacal preoccupation with conspiracies, especiallyTheresaJeremy3 those related to the Church of Scientology. But alongside this, there exists a second vague narrative: that the shadowy forces that so captured the imaginations of Duncan and Blake in their final years were not merely a troubling obsession, but an active player in their deaths. This conspiracy theory, put forth mostly by an army of amateur bloggers, points to an array of organizations, but mostly to Scientology, and specifically Blake’s very real working relationship with one of its most visible members: Beck, whose 2002 album Sea Change was adorned with cover art by Blake. MORE

VANITY FAIR:  On a rainy October night in Washington, D.C., the friends and family of Jeremy Blake gathered for a private memorial service at the Corcoran Gallery of Art. Blake, an art-world star acclaimed for his lush and moody “moving paintings,” shape-shifting innovations mixing abstract painting and digital film, had ended his life on the night of July 17, walking into the Atlantic Ocean off Rockaway Beach, Queens, never to return.

“I am going to join the lovely Theresa,” Blake, 35, had written on the back of a business card, which he left on the beach, along with his clothes. Police helicopters searched for him for days on the TheresaJeremy2chance he might still be alive. Friends prayed that he was, talking of how his passport was missing, he had bought a ticket to Germany. Then on July 22, a fisherman found his body floating 4.5 miles off Sea Girt, New Jersey. “The lovely Theresa” was Theresa Duncan, a writer, filmmaker, computer-game creator, and Blake’s girlfriend of 12 years. He had found her lifeless body on July 10, in the rectory of St. Mark’s Church in Manhattan’s East Village, where the couple had been renting an apartment. There was a bowl full of Benadryl pills, a bottle of Tylenol PM, and a champagne glass on the nightstand. There was a note saying, “I love all of you.” Duncan was 40. The last post on her blog, “The Wit of the Staircase,” was a quote from author Reynolds Price about the human need for storytelling and the impossibility of surviving in silence.

No one who spoke at Blake’s memorial service that evening at the Corcoran said anything about Theresa Duncan. Almost no one mentioned her name.
(It happened to be her birthday, October 26.) No one talked about the dark stories and wild speculation that had emerged after news of the couple’s “double suicide” hit the media. There had been reports they had become “paranoid,” obsessed with conspiracy theories, believing they were being harassed by Scientologists. The Internet filled up with conjecture about government plots and murder. Something about their story seemed to capture the modern imagination, if only because no one knew exactly why two such accomplished and attractive people had chosen to make their exit. MORE

NEW YORK MAGAZINE: Until seven months ago, the couple had been living in Los Angeles—in a cozy, book-lined Venice Beach cottage where they often threw salonlike dinner parties for friends, friends of friends, anyone who seemed interesting. Sometimes their move back to New York was explained by Blake’s new consulting job at Rockstar Games, creators of the Grand Theft Auto franchise, where he was a founding member. Other times it was because Duncan had grown exhausted by Hollywood—by the narrow-minded executives who refused to embrace her vision, by the unhinging sensation that she would forever be an inch away from the life she was so hungrily seeking. Often it was simply because they missed New York, where they fell in love and lived for many years and had always considered home. More complicated was the matter of what friends had taken to referring to as “the paranoia”—the couple’s consuming belief that complex forces involving the government and Scientology were conspiring against them. To know them even casually was to know the stories: of increasingly erratic behavior, of close friends being mysteriously deemed enemies. There was a pervading sense that something was not right, and a hope that New York would somehow act as a remedy.

“They’re upstairs?”TheresaJeremy

“They won’t come down?”

“Is everything okay?”

Duncan and Blake had been found in the rectory, seated by the window, looking down at the party—their party—below. Without apology they explained that they could not come down, no, they were experiencing a “collective vision” that the grill was going to explode, somehow harming Duncan. It would have been a more troubling exchange were it not, by this point, almost expected. During their moments of clarity there were few people as thrilling to be around as these two—the banter was invigorating, the exchange of ideas fervent—but an incident like this was a reminder that moments of clarity were increasingly rare. For many friends this image of the couple—abrasive, frightened, isolated from what they loved and fostered—would prove to be their final memory. Seven days later, on the evening of July 10, Duncan swallowed a number of Tylenol PM tablets with bourbon. It was Blake who first discovered her body on the floor of their bedroom, and it was Blake who, a week later, ended his own life by taking the A train to Rockaway Beach and walking into the Atlantic Ocean. MORE

Theresa Duncan’s The History of Glamour from M.Duncan on Vimeo.

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April 20th, 2015


WARNING: Becoming President of the United States can cause short-term memory loss, causing you to forget that you used to get high as balls.

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Benedict Cumberbatch Reads William Safire’s Nixon Speech ‘In The Event Of Moon Disaster’

April 20th, 2015

BBC NEWSNIGHT: It was 1969, the world waited for Apollo 11 to land on the Moon, Presidential speechwriter William Safire imagined the worst case scenario – that Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin would be stranded up there. He wrote this to President Nixon’s Chief of Staff, to be read by the president if his fears came true. MORE

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CINEMA: Truth And Consequences

April 17th, 2015


2015, directed by Rupert Goold, 100 minutes, USA)

COLE_NOWLINBY COLE NOWLIN True story: Jonah Hill and James Franco co-star in a movie without a single dick-joke, bro-hug, or bong rip. Instead of phallic digressions, there is tense dialogue and a relentless search for truth. If you are looking for laughs, sit this one out, otherwise you will be hard pressed to find a truly comedic moment.

Instead, True Story grapples with big ideas about identity, authenticity, and situational ethics. Jonah Hill plays Michael Finkel, a promising journalist for the New York Times who goes from Pulitzer hopeful to has-been when it is revealed that he played fast and loose with the facts when writing a big career-making story. Just as he is finding out what it feels like to be the journalistic equivalent of a leper, he gets the call that offers him a shot at career redemption. Christian Longo, one of the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted Fugitives has hijacked Finkel’s identity while on the run.

Longo, played by an eerily even and calm James Franco, was arrested outside of Cancun in 2002 for the murder of his wife and three children. When he was apprehended, he claimed to authorities he was “Mike Finkel from the New York Times.” Turns out, Longo was an admirer of Finkel’s writing. Sensing that the story of Longo’s crime and and identity theft could be his ticket back to the Times, Finkel grabs it with both hands. He conducts a series of interviews Longo while he is awaiting his trial, and the two develop a complex, disturbing relationship.

The film maintains a laser-like focus on the relationship between Finkel and Longo and, as expected, Hill and Franco combine well. The parallels between the two are uncanny, and raise questions about truth, lies, shame, journalism, and friendship. The film never really provides definitive answers to these questions, but then again the film is a true story, after all. True stories tend not be black and white and tidy — something Finkel struggles with. Hill turns in a convincing performance as the tortured, ethically-confused Finkel, and Franco plays the most James Franco-esque, nonchalant murderer in the history of film. He is effectively an anti-murderer, so calm and collected that he almost transcends creepy, and comes across as painfully normal and bland. The operative word in that last sentence is almost. True Story bites off more than it can chew, but it nobly grapples with some pretty hefty issues, and is especially relevant considering the Rolling Stone’s recent retraction of the University of Virginia rape story and the Brian Williams exaggerated Iraq War derring do. Message: If it sounds too good (or bad) to be true, it probably isn’t.

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Check out Ticket Liquidator's Live Toast blog, it's one of the coolest company blogs out there. Not just your usual candy-coated array of dead-end zzzzzzzzz inducing rubbish, Live Toast brings you all the funniest and wackiest original content that you won't see anywhere else on the web. Plus, Ticket Liquidator's team will bring you lots of other articles on concerts, sports and music, including news on ticket prices, plus articles about cool music from firsthand perspectives. All in all Ticket Liquidator is evolving, into a new kind of ticket company. And leaving the rest behind...