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CINEMA: Wings Of Desire

Friday, October 31st, 2014

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BIRDMAN (OR THE UNEXPECTED VIRTUE OF IGNORANCE (
2014, directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu, 119 minutes, U.S.)

BY DAN BUSKIRK FILM CRITIC Birdman would appear to be the most acclaimed film of the year and it is easy to be swept up as its backstage drama takes flight. This sort of behind-the-curtains look at the world of theater has a long history in the world of small scale art films but director Alejando González Iñárritu (Amores Perros, 21 Grams) juices up the precedings with a modern blockbuster dynamism and creates a film that is unlike much else we’ve seen in modern cinema. In a seamless single shot, all the action swoops, swerves and swings around Riggan (the all-but-forgotten Michael Keaton), an actor hoping to bounce back from a career slump by directing and starring in a new Broadway play based on author Raymond Carver’s moody midlife work. It is just days before the play’s debut and Riggan paces urgently throughout the theater while opening night looks doomed to collapse into chaos. The film flows freely in and out of Riggan’s perceptions, with the realities of staging a show occasionally interrupted by his cinematic alter-ego Birdman, the costumed superhero that once made him a movie star.

There is a lot to dazzle the eyeball in Birdman and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki should be given credit front and center. When you consider this 50-year-old Mexico City native has shot such visual extravaganzas as Like Water For Chocolate, Children of Men, Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life and Gravity you have to believe a great deal of Birdman‘s feverish, transcendent quality comes from this modern cinema master. But at the center of Lubezki’s breathtaking work is Michael Keaton, a major rediscovery 22 years after his box-office heights as Batman and probably 15 since he has been widely seen in a substantial role. With the actor and the roles being so closely matched here there is an almost documentary sense that we are witnessing Keaton in a late career-defining moment as he steers his jerry-rigged production down the runway. Like Marcello Mastroianni in 8 ½ there is a giddy and poignant parade passing by Riggan and it is his weary reaction to it all that supplies much of the film’s soul. Often scored by a single jazz drummer’s skittering rhythms, Keaton is all darting eyes and rat-tat dialogue, reminding us it his quick facility with comedy, drama and everything in between.
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BEING THERE: The Damned @ TLA

Friday, October 31st, 2014

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Photo by DAN LONG

Halloween came to Philly a day early with last night’s lineup of punk legends at the TLA. The night started early with a solid set of moody garage-rock from local faves A Brood Of Vipers. I always like to see a local band on the bill with a touring band, and Vipers were an excellent match for this stop on the Hallow-East tour. The crowd and the energy grew and as Seattle’s The Briefs took the stage, blasting out a solid set of buzzsaw anthems. Let the pogo-ing and raucous Buzzcocky New Wave Punk commence! You would have sworn they were from the UK and it was 1977.

Next up was True Sounds Of Liberty, who obviously had a legion of devotees who were frothing to hear their favorites from these legendary west coast punks. They were kind of flat for me, but their fans seemed fully satisfied. There aren’t many members of rock ‘n’ roll fraternity who can remember the minute details of a particular night on tour 25 years ago, but TSOL frontman Jack Grisham’s memory has sobriety on its side. He entertained the crowd in between every song with detailed tales of his escapades through Philly. The man also has ants in his pants, as he paced the stage continuously for the entire set. I’m pretty sure he wore out a new pair of shoes.

Then stage curtain closed for the first time all night for The Damned to prepare to take the stage. The crowd roared as the curtain re-opened, with Captain Sensible sliding a beer can up and down his fretboard. The house grew even louder when the impeccably-dressed and ghoulishly-handsome crooner Dave Vanian finally took the stage. They opened with “Curtain Call,” with Vanian orchestrating the band like the maestro he is, singing into a vintage microphone lit from beneath by an eerie green spotlight.

From the first “Whoooaaaa-ooaaaa” The Damned commanded full attention, even though the house sound was shitty, with Vanian’s vocals and Captain Sensible’s guitar too low in the mix. But nobody gave two shits about that once they kicked it into high gear with “Anti-Pope” and the crowd whipped themselves into a frenzy. Both the band and crowd peaked in harmony during the sing-along “Ignite.” The Damned satisfied the serious fans with obscurities such as “Video Nasty” and “Stranger On the Town,” and hookd the casual listener with hits like “Neat Neat Neat” and “New Rose.” The cross-generational crowd, aged seven to seventy, got their money’s worth and it seemed like everyone left the building smiling. –DAN LONG

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MALALAGATE: The New ‘Freedom Fries’

Thursday, October 30th, 2014

America Fuck Yeah!

 

BYLINER mecroppedsharp_1BY JONATHAN VALANIA So, the National Constitution Center went and did a dumb thing. They went and told 14-year-old Ayla Potamkin [pictured below, far right] that her love-letter-in-song to America would be featured in last week’s Liberty Medal award ceremony. More accurately, they told her rich-man father, he of the Potamkin auto dealer empire. Or even more accurately, her rich-man father’s proxies, consigliere-to-the-powerful Ed Rendell and advertising exec Elliott Curson, no doubt completing the circle of some unspoken quid pro quo started years ago, presumably when Rendell was still a political actor. But, to be clear, that’s just speculation.

The song is called “America” and it’s all about how awesome America is, and how lucky Ayla is to be living in the USA, which is so awesome. Although you wouldn’t know it unless she told you, the song was inspired by the tragic shooting of Malala Yousafzai, I guess in much the same way that Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” was inspired by the tragic sinking of the Titanic. Ayla is only 14, and far be it from me to discourage a young person from daring to dream of pop stardom, so I’ll put on my kid gloves along with my music critic hat and say that as solipsistic auto-tuned odes to how frickin’ awesome America is go, the song’s not bad. At the very least, it could sell a lot of six-packs and pick-up trucks. Who knows, maybe she’ll grow up to be the next Taylor Swift, because Lord knows we’ll need a new one sooner or later. I wish her luck.

(Let me be clear: Ayla is a minor and shouldn’t be expected to know better. My ire is not directed at her, rather it is directed at all the grown-ups in this silly saga who SHOULD know better.)

To accompany the song, the NCC commissioned local advertising honcho Elliott Curson to create a video [SEE BELOW] for the song, full of rippling stars and stripes, the Liberty Bell, the Statue Of Liberty, American soldiers, amber wavesmalala-liberty-medal- of grain, and an (by Pakistani cultural standards) immodestly-clad, cornsilk-haired, blue-eyed ingenue — you know, images that totally encapsulate the life experience of a young Muslim woman like Malala, and how she defied the Taliban and stood up for the right of young girls in the Swat Valley of Pakistan to get an education. And then got shot in the face by Taliban assassins on her school bus and left for dead. Eureka! You nailed it again, Curson! It’s Miller time!

(Here’s a better idea for a Liberty Medal award ceremony tribute video, instead “America, F*ck Yeah!” how about a collection of taped testimonials from world leaders, humanitarians and human rights activists attesting to the extraordinary courage, incredible suffering and triumph of the will that is Malala’s story. Am I right? Of course I am. And I’m not even an advertising whiz!)

Well, when Malala’s advisors saw the video shortly before the ceremony, they had a hard time seeing how the song and the video had anything to do with Malala and was at best culturally tone deaf and at worst obnoxiously self-serving and jingoistic — like going to accept the Nobel Peace Prize (which Malala also won this year) and having to sit through some bronzed Nordic teen named Sven sing “HOORAY FOR SWEDEN!” Sensing how poorly this would play on the world stage for any number of cultural, religious and geopolitical reasons that should have been patently obvious to the people that hand out Liberty Medals to people all over the world, Malala’s handlers asked that the song and the video be dropped from the ceremony, and the NCC, after what was no doubt some heated internal discussion, wisely acceded to the wishes of their honored guest. Because, hindsight being 20/20, the video and the song should have never been greenlighted for the ceremony in the first place.

And that would be the end of it, right?
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CINEMA: Even Better Than The Real Thing

Thursday, October 30th, 2014

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Art And Craft, which opens at the Ritz At The Bourse on tomorrow,  follows the monkeyshines of eccentric self-described “philanthropist” and “art collector” Mark Landis, who donates famous works from his collection to museums around the country that could never afford to purchase them. Unbeknownst to the museums is the fact that all the works are actually forgeries — forgeries Landis created with his own two hands. In fact, Landis is considered the most prolific art forger of all time. Eventually Matthew Leininger, then a staffer at the Cincinnati Museum Of Art,  discovers the ruse and begins tracking Landis and warning museums nationwide about the forgeries. What makes this documentary so captivating is its investigation into the past and present lives of Landis and the amoral way Landis’ fraud is portrayed.  Landis is portrayed as neither hero nor villain but rather a lonely man, going to therapy and mourning the loss of his mother. Watching Landis do ordinary tasks becomes interesting because of his distinctive persona. In one scene we watch him dress up like a priest and drive his Cadillac to donate a piece of forged art to yet another grateful and unsuspecting tertiary market museum, and, if we’re being honest, we find it somewhat thrilling to be in on the scam.  Or when he paints a Picasso while a black and white movie plays in the background of the hoarder’s nest he calls home.  If you didn’t know better, you’d swear Landis’ story must be an invention of fiction, which makes this completely true story all the more comical and absurd. Art and Craft doesn’t really take you on a journey that leads to the palace of wisdom or hand you a neatly tied box with a lesson, but it makes for compelling viewing  because of the quaint absurdity of its subject. Landis isn’t in it for the money, he never asks the museums for a dime, so what he is doing is technically not illegal. But is it wrong? The film leaves that up to the viewer, and like beauty, morality is in the eye of the beholder. Mark Landis is a lonely old man who likes to see his art hanging in museums and knowing they’re not the real thing. The art of the deception is what appeals to Landis and to be honest, who doesn’t want to see a lonely old man fool a few bougie art curators? — MOLLY KASSEL

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CORNEL WEST ON FERGUSON: ‘Barack Obama Reeks Of Political Calculation Not Moral Conviction’

Thursday, October 30th, 2014



RELATED:
It’s a little unusual to see the Obama administration singing the praises of Doctors Without Borders, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning nonprofit that is shipping doctors, drugs and supplies to West Africa to combat the Ebola outbreak. When President Barack Obama lauded the “incredible heroism” of American doctors who travel to countries such as Sierra Leone to do “God’s work” and “keep us safe,” on Tuesday, he was celebrating a community packed with Doctors Without Borders volunteers. [...] But the recent executive branch acclaim for Doctors Without Borders obscures a long-running struggle between the humanitarian group and the White House over global drug prices. Through trade talks, meetings with foreign governments and negotiations with multiple U.N. bodies, the Obama administration has aggressively pursued policies that prevent poor countries from accessing low-cost generic versions of expensive name-brand medications, despite persistent calls from Doctors Without Borders for the White House to reverse course. MORE

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GEEK SQUAD: Riot Girl

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014

anita1

 

ghostworld-0128BY STEPHANIE SHAMP GEEK SPACE CORRESPONDENT Two weeks ago, the invisible troll army of the so-called “#GamerGate” keepers — kind of like the ISIS of video game culture — reached peak infamy when feminist critic Anita Sarkeesian was forced to cancel a speaking engagement at Utah State University because of death threats. To be more specific, it wasn’t just the death threats, Sarkeesian is used to that by now, rather it was the fact that Utah state open carry laws meant that security could not restrict audience members from bringing guns into the auditorium. (Thanks, NRA!) If #GamerGate vibes less like a social movement than a hateful testosterone-fueled backlash hiding behind a hashtag, know that its adherents prefer to think of it as a “consumer revolt” against what they characterize as dubious ethics in video game journalism. Sarkeesian became the target of gamer trolls for her YouTube series “Tropes vs. Women in Video Games,”  which points out the sexist, racist and homophobic tropes, both blatant and latent, in popular video games such as the Grand Theft Auto series, Hitman, or even Super Mario Bros.

Notably, the #GamerGate trolls have made a point of attacking more female voices (known as SJWs or Social Justice Warriors) than male and has repeatedly run these women, including and particularly Sarkeesian, out of their jobs and homes with threats of rape and death.  Searching the term “#GamerGate” on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube or TUMBLR reveals a vast trove of angry memes, cruelly photoshopped JPEGs, and flame-throwing response videos that characterize Sarkeesian as the sour face of the SJW movement that aims to infiltrate the boy’s club of gaming community and censor the content of their beloved games in the name of feminism. In short, take all the fun out of it.Sarkeesian 9_11

So what is it about Sarkeesian’s videos that has sparked so much kicking and screaming amongst the trolls? “Tropes vs. Women” is a video series by a woman discussing the misuse of female characters in popular culture and video games. That’s it, that’s all it is, videos expressing opinions. There are millions of those online yet it seems only the ones that critique sexist cliches in male-dominated entertainment fields get this violent, savage reaction.

Now why is that?

Sarkeesian’s series examines sexist tropes across the spectrum of popular culture, including television and movies, not just video games. Episodes of “Tropes vs. Women” are organized by seasons stretching back from now to 2009. The first season of her series is a general examination of what was trending in pop culture at the time (i.e. Twilight, True Blood, and Caprica) and which shows presented nuanced, three-dimensional female characters and, more importantly, which ones were sorely lacking in that regard. None of these early videos spurred the kind of seething misogyny and online harassment and abuse Sarkeesian and others like her have been subjected to as of late. Why were these videos so inoffensive, so unworthy of troll vitriol? Because they were critiquing “chick flicks” or fads and therefore of little interest or value to the #GamerGate gangsters.
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CARIBOU: Our Love

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014

He plays Union Transfer on 11/14 in support of the curiously-clubby Our Love, his first since 2010’s career-making Swim. Hard to put your finger on just why this video is so mesmerizing/unsettling. Is it the fact that we almost never see elderly faces in popular culture? Or existential dread of the fact that the wages of aging is death? Or the jarring incongruity of EDM wedded to surveillance footage of the eerie loneliness of an octogenarian dowager? Our guess: All the above.

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

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014

wonder woman comic

 

FRESH AIR

listen

The man behind the most popular female comic book hero of all time, Wonder Woman, had a secret past: Creator William Moulton Marston had a wife — and a mistress. He fathered children with both of them, and they all secretly lived together in Rye, N.Y. And the best part? Marston was also the creator of the lie detector. Harvard professor and New Yorker contributor Jill Lepore reveals this and other surprising details about Marston in the new book The Secret History of Wonder Woman. “I got fascinated by this story because I’m a political Secret History Of Wonder Womanhistorian and it seemed to me there was a really important political story that had been missed that’s basically as invisible as Wonder Woman’s jet,” Lepore tells Fresh Air’s Terry Gross. Marston, who was a famous psychologist, made up Wonder Woman in 1941. He was interested in the women’s suffrage movement and in Margaret Sanger, the birth control and women’s rights activist — who was also his mistress’s aunt. A feminist icon, Wonder Woman was an Amazon who forced people to tell the truth with her magic lasso. She was a controversial figure in the 1940s because of her overt sexuality and her link to bondage. Her costume was inspired by Marston’s interest in erotic pin-up art. “There’s no simple story here,” Lepore says. “There are a lot of people who get very upset at what Marston was doing. … ‘Is this a feminist project that’s supposed to help girls decide to go to college and have careers, or is this just like soft porn?'” MORE

RADIO TIMES

Since August, a group of video game enthusiasts has been waging a kind of cultural war aimed at journalists who review video games. At the same time, women who work in the industry have been victims of sexual harassment by the same gamers. It’s all part of an online scandal that falls under the hashtag “GamerGate.” To help us understand what it’s all about and what it means for the $21 billion video game industry we’ll speak with CHRISTOPHER GRANT, the editor-in-chief of Polygon, a site that specializes in gaming news and reviews. We’ll also be joined by BRIANNA WU, a software engineer and game developer who has been the target of GamerGate’s threats, and NOAH BERLATSKY, a contributing writer for The Atlantic. MORE
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EARLY WORD: Super Furry Animal House

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014

Gruff Rhys plays the Boot N’ Saddle on November 6th.

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BEING THERE: Weezer @ The Trocadero

Monday, October 27th, 2014

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By DYLAN LONG

We can all agree that Weezer needs no introduction, nor did they get one this past Saturday night at the Trocadero. Instead, after almost an hour and a half of fans trickling in to fill the joint to capacity, Weezer mainman Rivers Cuomo meekly appeared on the lip of the dimly-lit stage in front of the curtain and kicked off an acoustic set that mixed deep cuts (“You Gave Your Love To Me Gently,” “Why Bother”) with the classics (“El Scorcho,” “The Good Life” and of course “Buddy Holly”). Each song seemed to lure another Weezer member onstage until it became a full-band acoustic set. Rivers addressed the giddy crowd many times throughout, with loud happy cheers always in response. You could tell just by the reception of the acoustic set we were in for a good night. It’s really hard to not love these guys. Their kicked-back, anthemic popcraft was destined to attract hoards of diehard fans from the get-go of the band back in ’92. Kickass singles like “Beverly Hills” and “Hash Pipe” have made them a fixture of the arena circuit. After churning out some absolute classics like “Buddy Holly” and “Island in the Sun” with three acoustic guitars, a piano, and a snare & kick drum, the band slowly morphed into a full-on electric set. Switching through various costumes (notably their lab coats), the band dug into a great set, full of old and new, including a brand new single called “Da Vinci,” one of their strongest tracks off their new album, Everything Will Be All Right In The End. They also treated the crowd to a rare performance of “The Other Way” off of Make Believe, which, we were informed, only one other crowd has ever heard live. While some very popular songs were left out — including “My Name Is Jonas” and “Pork & Beans” to name a few — all in all it would be hard to be upset with the genuine and generous hour and a half these guys gave this audience. In addition to rare tracks, choice hits and the new album played beginning to end, the evening featured massive confetti, C02 blasts, a full choir onstage for the outro of “Foolish Father” and a killer, one-song encore of one of the songs that started it all, “Surf Wax America.” — DYLAN LONG

EXCERPT:
The Complete Oral History Of Weezy

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SMUTGATE: Seamus McCaffery, At Last Showing Good Judgement, Resigns From PA Supreme Court

Monday, October 27th, 2014

Seamus-McCaffery-Green

 

DAILY NEWS: Seamus McCaffery, a former Philadelphia police officer elected in 2007 to the state’s highest court, is retiring today, one week after four of his fellow justices voted to suspend him from the bench. The Supreme Court, in an order lifting McCaffery’s suspension, confirmed his resignation. McCaffery, 64, has been in a long and rancorous feud with fellow Philadelphian, Chief Justice Ron Castille, who must step down on Dec. 31 because he has reached the mandatory retirement age of 70. Castille was one of the four votes to suspend McCaffery last Monday after another justice, J. Michael Eakin all but accused McCaffery of extortion a week before. McCaffery was snared in the porn scandal that has been blossoming at the state Attorney General’s Office, leading to the resignations of four former top deputies to Gov. Corbett. Castille had pushed to release details about explicit emails McCaffery had sent and received. Eakin, in a complaint filed with the state Judicial Conduct Board on Oct. 17, said McCaffery had urged him to get Castille to back down on his public statements about the porn. Eakin also alleged that McCaffery said he was “not going down alone” and mentioned explicit and racist emails Eakin received, which were later leaked to the Daily News. MORE

PREVIOUSLY: PA Supreme Court Justice Seamus McCaffery No Longer Passes The Smell Test

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BEING THERE: Thurston Moore @ Boot & Saddle

Sunday, October 26th, 2014

Photo by DAN LONG

The Boot & Saddle is a 125-person capacity South Philly venue with a long Country and Western history that was shuttered years ago and recently revived with punk rock charm. I knew right away this was going to be the smallest and most intimate venue I’d get to see Thurston and company play. Last night, the Thurston Moore Band — My Bloody Valentine bassist Debbie Googe, experimental guitarist James Sedwards and ex-Sonic Youth drummer Steve Shelley — kicked off their set with “Forever Love” and then segued into “Speak to the Wild” for a trifecta of righteous noise-rock that was rewarded with an immense amount of applause and cheers from the clearly stoked crowd. They followed it up with “Germs Burn,” “Detonation,” and “The Best Day,” the title track from the Thurston Moore Band album. All told a bracing reminder of Thurston’s songwriting chops. Many moons ago, Sonic Youth slowly traded in the self-indulgent noise noodling for structure, pop hooks, and serious guitar playing ingenuity. What they also traded in was the ten minute crescendo assaults, but Thurston and Co. revived the expansive six-string explorations and whisper-to-a-scream dynamics of early SY during “Grace Lake” from the new album. During that song the band went all out, balls to the wall, in the middle of this one with James almost losing his shit while driving the headstock of his guitar into the stage floor. After an hour set, the band thanked everyone profusely, and awkwardly dismounted the stage to go through a side “backstage door,” which actually led to a closet (Steve Shelley would later tell me). After a minute back there, they came out for their encore and did “Pretty Bad” off of Thurston’s Psychic Hearts LP. Great songs, great sound, great band, great crowd, great night. – DAN LONG

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DEEP THROAT: Q&A With Harry Shearer

Friday, October 24th, 2014

Illustration by EVERYBODY’S GOT TO BE IN A GANG

Harry Shearer — aka the voice of Mr. Burns, Mr. Smithers, Ned Flanders, Otto The Bus Driver and Moe the Bar Tender, aka Spinal Tap bassist Derek Smalls, aka the voice of reason on NPR’s Le Show, director of the muckraking Katrina documentary The Big Uneasy that dared to speak the truth about the actual cause of the flood of New Orleans — is a man of many hats, and the voices that go with those hats. His latest project, ‘Nixon’s The One,’ finds him donning the face and voice of President Nixon. Presented as a 6-part mini series that premiered on YouTube on October 21 and as a limited engagement live performance, Shearer and leading Nixon scholar Stanley Kutler combed through hundreds of hours of the infamous White House tapes made by the President while in office and reenacted some of the bizarre, historically significant and (often unintentionally) hilarious moments as if filmed on hidden camera in the Oval Office. He’s presenting ‘Nixon’s The One’ live with anecdotes about his research and an audience Q&A at Philly’s World Cafe Live on Monday October 27th. Earlier this week we got Harry on the horn. DISCUSSED: Nixon, Obama, the vast criminal syndicate that is contemporary American politics, the sinking of Louisiana into the Gulf Of Mexico, the Army Corps of Engineers, NPR censorship, SNL, Lorne Michaels and the Jews, and whether or not Ned Flanders is gay.

PHAWKER: Why do you continue to find Nixon fascinating all these years later?

HARRY SHEARER: Well I guess because he’s the most strangely screwed up, complicated, self-defeating while self-promoting guy that we’ve ever had in American public life. I first developed the serries then made it over in Great Britain and it showed on television over there earlier this year and I was thinking about it — why they would care? — and I realized because their history runs through this succession of grotesque, bizarre personalities who happen to have crowns on their heads, so Nixon was just another one those, except uncrowned. He’s a guy who, not to make insidious comparisons, he’s a guy who Shakespeare would have gotten his teeth into. He’s just such a twisted, folded-in-on-itself personality. For one thing he didn’t have the ‘let it go’ gene, there’s a scene in the series where he’s sitting with his Secretary Of State Henry Kissinger bitching — it’s really, really eating at him — ‘For the whole time of the Kennedy administration I was never invited, never invited to one social event in the White House.’ He’d been the vice president of course before Kennedy was elected. And nobody says to him, ‘You know, sir, Kennedy’s dead and you’re the president now, you could let it go’. He just doesn’t have that. In a way that’s what I think propelled him. He was a guy who wasn’t equipped with a lot of skills we think you need to succeed in politics. He wasn’t a good looking guy, he didn’t have the most likeable smile to put it mildly. He didn’t like small talk, he didn’t really hang out with strangers very easily, and yet he climbed to the top of the greasiest pole in America, I think partly fueled by just the unending flame, the high octane flame of all these resentments that burned within him. He could probably power a city the size of Akron, Ohio, just on his resentments.

PHAWKER: Tell me something you learned during the process of working on this project about Nixon that was totally new to you or unexpected.
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Via BuzzFeed


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...

Cost of the War in Iraq
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