Less than hours 24 hours after wowing fans at the WXPN-hosted Non-Commvention at World Cafe Live on Thursday night, Sir Tom Jones was at back behind the mic for a sold out “Evening With Tom Jones” show at the TLA. The 72-year-old legend, with the one-of-a-king baritone voice, treated Philadelphians to an intimate set of deep-cut covers — John Lee Hooker, Bob Dylan, Jerry Lee Lewis — from his last two records: 2010′s Praise And Blame and the just-released Spirit In The Room. The new album is a Johnny Cash/Rick Rubin-style cover album collaboration with Kings of Leon producer Ethan Johns. Jones kicked off Friday’s set with Spirit’s opening track, Leonard Cohen’s “Tower of Song.” Jones’ raucous, irreverent take on the introspective song set the mood for the majority of set-list, which to some fans’ disappointment was sans Jones’s greatest hits. One fan threw a pair of red panties that made it to the front of the stage, but it wasn’t that kind of show. Jones dodged the undergarments, and a roadie scooped them away, without mention. Message: Not tonight. Sir Tom also dealt with a microphone malfunction seven songs into his set, “You might want to get some tape for this thing,” he said with wry smile. The microphone was fixed, and the silver-haired legend went back to business, covering Richard Thompson’s “Dimming of the Day, Paul McCartney’s “(I Want To) Come Home” and the best song of the night, Mickey Newbury’s “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Is In).” Sir Tom is of course best-known as the booming baritoned lounge lizard king belting out just-shy-of-Vegas-kitsch classics like “What’s New Pussy Cat,” “Delilah and “It’s Not Unusual,” but it’s easy to understand why Jones left those songs at home. Those songs don’t mix with the Johnny Cash-like gravitas of the new direction — a direction that very much suits Sir Tom in this the autumn of his life.– RORY MCGLASSON
BY DAN BUSKIRK FILM CRITIC The sequel to the J.J. Abrams 2009 Star Trek movie is not lacking in entertainment value. It’s as spectacular on screen as only a couple hundred million dollars can be but sad to say, it isn’t much of a movie. Never being more than a casual fan of the ubiquitous 2009 Paramount reboot, it is not quite sacrilege I feel regarding Abrams re-imagining of Roddenberry’s original series. Instead, it is disappointment at the Abrams’ Trek being so undistinguished on its own, its power mainly stemming from its endless pilfering from the original. It’s like a Star Trek “Greatest Hits” pasted together by a game dinner theater troupe, an idea that might have it charms, but is hardly praise-worthy in comparison to the ingenuity of the original.
Where the TV show’s original mission was exploratory, Into Darkness finds The Enterprise drawn into commission as a military ship. A former Starfleet commander (played able by the golden-throated Benedict Cumerbatch) has gone rogue, waging a one-man terrorist war on the Federation and killing Commander Pike, Captain Kirk’s mentor/father figure/Obi Wan (is it personal this time? You bet!) Kirk is given The Enterprise and 72 photon torpedoes with the mission to slip into Klingon territory (think Waziristan), where the rogue commander has taken refuge, and vaporize him. As things develop, neither the mission nor the quarry are quite what they seem and Kirk, the crew, and The Enterprise will find themselves pushed to their limits. Oblique references to current political events are given timid lip service, and just even this mild questioning of the military’s jurisdiction after a terrorist event seems responsible for the odd final title-card, dedicating the film to American’s post-9-11 veterans.
Despite all this tomfoolery, what lover of the past half-century of pop culture can resist the charms of the Star Trek franchise: the matching uniforms, the candy-colored lighting, The Enterprise in flight, and the arch of Spook’s eyebrows? The design of the original show was the bedrock of much of its allure, and it is still a thrill in the second go-around to see the set and costumes re-imagined with a blockbuster budget. Just watching The Enterprise rise from the ocean’s floor or seeing the stars blur when shifting into warp speed, or even hearing some of the same old sound effects, can send chills down one’s spine. It’s as if the TV-fed brain is defenseless against this kind of butter-and-salt for the mind. (more…)
The light turned from red to a deep blue when Josh Ritter took the stage and walked up to the mic. Supple, genuine and totally alone, he almost stuttered his first words to Philadelphians: “We’re gonna’ leave it all here.” Philadelphia was not Josh Ritter& the Royal City Band’s last tour city, but it was the city where Ritter’s parents fell in love. Undoubtedly, the talented singer/songwriter is looking back in admiration on his parents’ marriage, which represents a longer-lasting union the one he and his ex-wife, singer/songwriter Dawn Landes, shared. That was just two years ago and a little over a decade into the musician’s career.
Their divorce was the inspiration for Ritter’s The Beast in Its Tracks, the breakup record whose bare and wistful sound was heard frequently last night. Songs like “Hopeful,” shed light on all the addled angles of the breakup and Ritter’s attempts at recovery. Remarkably, it couched the pain of rejection in upbeat, lilting melodies. Cunningly crafted “Nightmares” was even more polarized by the dark content and light, freewheeling tone. In an interlude, the artist related his experience of writing the album and how – after sitting alone and depressed for weeks, cranking out what he called ‘awful, miserable music’ – he reached the turning point of his grief. Disenchanted with marriage, his thoughts turned to all of the other people still hopeful about finding the love of their life. He wondered: don’t they deserve to keep their hope?
Ritter, himself, may still be struggling with acceptance of his loss, but no one could tell what emotions were at work under the musician’s exuberant smile and swoon-inducing eyes. His work was his motivation here. They played other longtime favorites, some from his breakthrough album, Hello Starling. By the time he came around to “In the Dark,” the audience was enraptured. The crew turned off all the stage lights, and Ritter went totally bare-ass acoustic. The performance was full of the sensitivity and the perfectly hemi-spherical smiles that have become Ritter trademarks. Indeed, looking around at the Philadelphian following the artist has gathered made me wonder at the year. With all the international turmoil, national frustration and tragedy, Ritter’s pocket of self-determined optimism was maybe just what we all needed. – BRANDON LAFVING
Tom Jones plays the TLA tonight. Tom Jones is an icon. He has lungs of fine Corinthian leather. He’s been bringing sexy back since BEFORE your parents were born. And he still is. Respect must be paid. Pass the Asti Spumante and bring some throwing panties.
Let’s not kid ourselves, Foxygen‘s irresistible We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors Of Peace And Magic – think The Royal Tenenbaums as a twee, technicolor indie-rock album — is hands down the catchiest album of 2013 thus far. No one else need apply. In fact, nobody needs to release another album this year. Not even kidding. When I listen to it, I feel like one of the Magi following the star that will lead us all to the manger. Go tell it on the mountain. Bring frankincense and myrrh. They play at World Cafe Live tonight as part of the Non-Comm convention. Earlier this year, we got Foxygen’s Jonathan Rado on the horn to share with us some tidings of comfort and joy. Comfort and joy. — JONATHAN VALANIA
PHAWKER: So, let me just say up front that I fucking love you guys. You’re my new favorite band. Seriously, your record is like album of the year in my book, the one to beat.
JONATHAN RADO: Oh, wow. That’s cool.
PHAWKER: Totally dig it. You said that you had some tire trouble. Are you guys on the road right now?
JONATHAN RADO: Yeah, yeah. We’re on the road. Someone let the air out of our tires this morning.
PHAWKER: Someone let the air out?
JONATHAN RADO: Yeah.
PHAWKER: Where are you?
JONATHAN RADO: Houston, Texas.
PHAWKER: Do you have enemies there?
JONATHAN RADO: We don’t have any enemies that I know about. I don’t even know any rival bands that are in Houston. Or any rival bands really anywhere that I know of.
PHAWKER: Where are you guys based out of these days? (more…)
We have a pair of tix to see Josh Ritter, aka Americana’s James Taylor/Paul Simon, and his Royal City Band at the Troc on Thursday to some lucky Phawker reader. Why? Because we’re trippin’ balls right now and just realized that Bill Hicks was totally right when he said “all matter is merely energy condensed to a slow vibration, that we are all one consciousness experiencing itself subjectively, there is no such thing as death, life is only a dream, and we are the imagination of ourselves.” So why pay for Josh Ritter tickets if you don’t have to? To qualify for the ticket giveaway, all you need to do is drop us a note at FEED@PHAWKER.COM telling us you have signed up for our mailing list (SEE beneath our masthead to the right) with the words TAKE ME TO THE ROYAL CITY in the subject line. Trust us, you want to sign up for our mailing list. Among other perks, you will get first crack at future concert ticket giveaways. The 25th person to sign up for our mailing list wins! Good luck and godspeed!
MOTHER JONES: Starting in about 2009, in the pits that capture manure under factory-scale hog farms, a gray, bubbly substance began appearing at the surface of the fecal soup. The problem is menacing: As manure breaks down, it emits toxic gases like hydrogen sulfide and flammable ones like methane, and trapping these noxious fumes under a layer of foam can lead to sudden, disastrous releases and even explosions. According to a 2012 report from the University of Minnesota, by September 2011, the foam had “caused about a half-dozen explosions in the upper Midwest…one explosion destroyed a barn on a farm in northern Iowa, killing 1,500 pigs and severely burning the worker involved.”
And the foam grows to a thickness of up to four feet thick—check out these images, from a University of Minnesota document published by the Iowa Pork Producers, showing a vile-looking substance seeping up from between the slats that form the floor of a hog barn. Those slats are designed to allow hog waste to drop down into the below-ground pits; it is alarming to see it bubbling back up in the form of a substance the consistency of beaten egg whites. And here’s the catch: Scientists can’t explain the phenomenon.
Check out this amazing 2011 video presentation on the matter by University of Minnesota researcher David Schmidt. He opens by describing a 2009 explosion that lifted a hog barn a “couple of feet off the ground” and blew the farm operator himself 20 feet from the building. (Thankfully, he wasn’t injured, and there were no animals in it.) And check out the footage, starting about 3:19 in, of the foam itself, which must be seen to be believed. At one point , a shovel dips into the mire and scoops up as sample—which jiggles and pulsates, alive, apparently, with microbial activity. Schmidt also does a great job of explaining just how manure foam can cause explosions. MORE
ASSOCIATED PRESS: This time next week, perhaps the most famous symbol of Superstorm Sandy’s devastation at the Jersey shore will be gone. Demolition work is to start Tuesday on the remnants of the Jet Star, the roller coaster that plunged off an amusement pier in Seaside Heights during the Oct. 29 storm. Images of the coaster in the water have appeared hundreds of times in the media and been used to help sell memorabilia to raise money for storm victims. It also continues to draw large crowds to the Seaside Heights boardwalk, which remains under reconstruction. In January, a man who lives nearby climbed to the top of the coaster and unfurled an American flag atop it before climbing down and being arrested by police. His municipal court case has yet to come to trial. MORE
PHAWKER: Can’t the demolition crew leave it be and remove Snooky instead?
THE ATLANTIC: The bombshell disclosure that the Justice Department secretly obtained two months of telephone records of Associated Press reporters and editors could be dramatic enough to move even the phlegmatic Obama administration to action. Three concurrent scandals or controversies are just too many. Could that mean we will be bidding farewell soon to Attorney General Eric Holder? MORE
THE HILL:As someone who has spent much of his adult life in politics and journalism, I find the action by the Department of Justice in targeting The Associated Press and its reporters as utterly reprehensible and crying out for some dramatic response.
GLENN GREENWALD: The legality of the DOJ’s actions is impossible to assess because it is not even known what legal authority it claims nor the legal process it invoked to obtain these records. Particularly in the post-9/11 era, the DOJ’s power to obtain phone records is, as I’ve detailed many times, dangerously broad. It often has the power to obtain those records without the person’s knowledge (as happened here) and for a wildly broad scope of time (as also happened here). There are numerous instruments that have been vested in the DOJ to obtain phone records, many of which do not require court approval, including administrative subpoenas and “national security letters” (issued without judicial review); indeed, the Obama DOJ has previously claimed it has the power to obtain journalists’ phone records without subpoeans using NSLs, and in its relentless pursuit to learn the identity of the source for one of New York Times’ James Risen’s stories, the Obama DOJ has actually claimed that journalists have no shield protections whatsoever in the national security context. It’s also quite possible that they obtained the records through a Grand Jury subpoena, as part of yet another criminal investigation to uncover and punish leakers.
None of those processes for obtaining these invasive records requires a demonstration of probable cause or anything close to it. Instead, the DOJ must simply assert that the records “relate to” a pending investigation: a standard so broad that virtually every DOJ desire will fulfill it. Even if a court were involved in the acquisition of these records – and that’s unlikely here – it typically does little more than act as rubber-stamping functionary, just as it does when secretly approving the DOJ’s requests for FISA warrants. This is what is reaped from continuously vesting the US government with greater and greater surveillance powers in the name of Terrorism and other fears.
There has long been concern about the DOJ’s snooping into the communications which journalists have with their sources precisely because the DOJ’s power to obtain phone data and other sensitive records in secret is now so sweeping. Attempts to enact legislation to protect journalists from this type of concealed investigative intrusion into their source communications have been defeated in part due to the DOJ’s insistence that it exercises this power responsibly and only in the most extreme cases. MORE
NOAM CHOMSKY: I personally never expected anything of Obama, and wrote about it before the 2008 primaries. I thought it was smoke and mirrors. The one thing that did surprise me is his attack on civil liberties. They go well beyond anything I would have anticipated, and they don’t seem easy to explain. MORE
ACLU: Obtaining a broad range of telephone records in order to ferret out a government leaker is an unacceptable abuse of power. Freedom of the press is a pillar of our democracy, and that freedom often depends on confidential communications between reporters and their sources. MORE
ELECTRONIC FRONTIER FOUNDATION: By obtaining these records, the DOJ has struck a terrible blow against the freedom of the press and the ability of reporters to investigate and report the news. As James Madison understood, “a popular government without popular information or the means of acquiring it is but a prologue to a farce or tragedy, or perhaps both.” AP had it right when it told Attorney General Holder that it was “a serious interference with AP’s constitutional rights to gather and report the news.” The DOJ’s decision to dive deep into these call records also shows the growing need to update our privacy laws to eliminate the outmoded Third Party Doctrine and to recognize that datamining has now reached the point where it no longer makes sense to treat calling records and other metadata related to our communications as if they aren’t fully protected by the Constitution.
The widespread collection of information, as well as the apparent delay in notifying AP, both appear to be yet another violation the government’s own regulations, 28 C.F.R. sec. 50.10. In 2010, the DOJ Inspector General reported on three other violation, involving the Washington Post and New York Times. The regulations require that, “wherever possible” subpoenas of records of the news media should be “directed at material information regarding a limited subject matter, should cover a reasonably limited period of time and should avoid requiring production of a large volume of unpublished material.”
It is disturbing enough that the government appears to have violated its own regulations for subpoenas to the news media. However, this revelation also shows that we have a severe problem in protecting the privacy of our communications. It is critical to update our privacy laws and our understanding of the Constitution, and reflect the realities of what law enforcement can determine from our records and other metadata about our communications stored with our communications providers, be they phone companies, ISPs or social networks. MORE
DAILY BEAST: The action against AP comes as no surprise because it is safe to say Obama is paranoid about stopping leaks. He has indicted six leakers, more than any other president in history. The previous record was three, and that encompasses the entire history of the country. But there surely is more to come. Obama has indicted six leakers, more than any other president in history. First, Obama has been pursuing James Risen, a New York Times reporter, for the source of a leak he received about Iran’s nuclear program. Risen published this leak in his book, “The State of War: the Secret History of the C.I.A.” When Obama’s Justice Department sought the source of the leak, Risen refused to give it. He won his case in the Federal District Court in Virginia in 2011. The government appealed, and that appeal has been sitting undecided for 17 months. Should Risen lose his case on appeal, which is entirely likely, most observers believe he will refuse to testify and go to jail, as did Judy Miller. Obama will then be faced with another controversy of a similar magnitude to that he faces today. Secondly, early next month, the trial of Pfc Bradley Manning is scheduled to begin. Manning leaked information to Julian Assange, the founder of the website WikiLeaks. Assange published the leaks, as did the Guardian, the New York Times, der Speigel, El Pais, and Le Monde. Manning’s trial may well be the most significant “leak” trial ever. The government purportedly will produce as many as 100 witnesses or more to prove Manning, and inferentially the New York Times and the other papers, damaged national security under the Espionage Act, and aided the enemy. MORE
In the film Frances Ha, Greta Gerwig stars as the title character, a 27-year-old living a good but not particularly successful post-college life in New York City. Frances becomes unmoored, though, when her best friend decides to move out of the apartment they share and move on with her own independent life. It’s a turning point Gerwig says is a common experience for many young people who’ve struggled in the years after college, when adolescence is lingering and adulthood has yet to fully coalesce. That period, however, must end — and it’s that transition the movie explores. “There’s a grace period where being a mess is charming and interesting,” Gerwig tells Fresh Air’s Terry Gross, “and then I think when you hit around 27 it stops being charming and interesting, and it starts being kind of pathological, and you have to find a new way of life. Otherwise, you’re going to be in a place where the rest of your peers have been moving on, and you’re stuck.” MORE
NEWSWORKS: The City of Philadelphia has settled a civil suit brought by a woman who was struck by a Philadelphia police officer after last year’s Puerto Rican Day Parade. In what became a viral video, Lt. Jonathan Josey is seen striking Aida Guzman during a street party in North Philadelphia. Guzman filed the civil suit against the city after Josey, a veteran officer, was acquitted on simple assault charges. The city agreed to a $75,000 settlement on Friday. John McGrody, vice president of the Fraternal Order of Police, said the union is not talking either. Following Josey’s acquittal, McGrody called Josey’s actions “completely justified.” Josey may still return to the force. He’s seeking reinstatement through arbitration. Kelvyn Anderson, executive director of the city’s Police Advisory Commission, said Josey will likely get his job back despite the outcome of the civil suit. The numbers are on his side. “From the majority of the arbitrations we’ve seen over the last several years, where officers were dismissed, the majority of them, as many as eight or nine out of 10 are returned to the force,” he said. MORE
RELATED: The number of violent crimes fell last year in Philadelphia, as did assaults on police officers. But the number of people shot by police is up. Way up. The number of shootings by police in 2012 resulting in death or injury climbed to the highest level it’s been in 10 years. Philadelphia police shot 52 suspects last year while responding to calls for reported crimes. Of those shot, 15 people died. And the city’s own police watchdog says the department hasn’t provided a reason for the increase. The Police Advisory Commission has been repeatedly blocked in its efforts to review shootings and, according to the executive director of the Police Advisory Commission, Internal Affairs has refused to supply requested information about any of the shootings. MORE
PREVIOUSLY My cousin is married to a cop who works for a department out in the Philly suburbs. He’s a rock solid, salt of the earth kind of guy straight out of central casting for a Scorsese cop flick: Irish, Catholic, served in Afghanistan. In other words, he don’t a spend a lot of time reading the Huffington Post. In the wee hours of family gatherings, he’d share war stories about life on the beat in the mean streets of the Main Line: mostly a lot of pet-triggered false alarms, endless paper work, double shifts and back alley catnaps in his cruiser. Everybody did it. Had to.
Every now and then he’d have to pull his gun out, but not often. Bottom line, he said, they did things by the book. “But Philly cops?” he’d say, “They don’t give a shit, they’ll just beat the living fuck out of you and dump you on the sidewalk.” That always stuck with me, having been filed away in the memory cabinet marked USEFUL INFORMATION. While I’ve never had occasion or cause for an unpleasant encounter with the Philadelphia Police Department, his words echo in my mind every time I see Philly PD beating the snot out of some perp on TV or YouTube, usually at the end of a car chase.
Best I can tell, there’s some unspoken cop rule that says at the end of every car chase everyone gets a chance to kick and/or punch the perp, preferably when he’s down. I’m sure this is both a satisfying and effective way of working off all the adrenaline — not to mention the ‘roid rage — that builds up during one of those high-speed-squealing-tires-white-knuckle car chases. Plus, it sends a very clear message to everyone who’s not a cop: You run, you will get beat.
Respect must be paid.
Now, before we go any further, let me be clear: I don’t hate cops. They’re family. I know firsthand how relentlessly overworked and grossly underpaid they are. I have nothing but respect for the awful burden they have volunteered to shoulder. It ain’t all shootouts and car chases and beatdowns, either. It’s mostly a lot of cleaning up society’s messes: drunks, fuck-ups, assorted jackasses and, more often than not, seriously dangerous people.
For this, I am eternally grateful. We all are. Give ‘em a raise, I say.
However, wearing a badge and carrying a gun grants you awesome power in this or any society. And with great power comes great responsibility. Cops are paid to be better than the assholes they deal with every day. When that covenant is breached there is a terrible price to be paid. Depending on the size of the breach, that price can range from a chewing out to a suspension to a dismissal or jail time. That’s the way the system is supposed to work. And when it does it sends a very clear message: It is morally impossible to be above the law while simultaneously upholding it and you will be brought low for even trying.
So when a hulking Philly cop — a white shirt, no less — lands a haymaker upside the skull of a woman a third his size with enough force to knock her flat on her back, on a crowded city street, in broad daylight, ON VIDEOTAPE, and it goes viral, so the D.A. has no choice but to bring him up on assault charges, and the whole thing ends with a judge ruling him not guilty of punching a woman in the face despite the videotape of him punching a woman in the face, to the deafening cheers of his brother cops that have packed the courtroom — as was the case last week in Philadelphia — well, it feels like the system failed us. Like we are through the looking glass, people.
Like we have entered some brave new world. A world where nothing that happens on videotape is true. A world where all those hidden camera traffic tickets that come in the mail are null and void and all fines levied shall be reimbursed in full, plus interest. A world where anybody doing time for a crime captured on security cameras — bank robberies, ATM muggings, convenience store stick-ups, parking garage rapes, playground shootings and worse — is immediately released from prison with an apology and a cash settlement for false arrest. If that sounds weird and dangerous and patently absurd, it’s only because it is. Because when we can no longer believe our own eyes, when nothing is true and everything is permitted, when the good guys get away with doing bad things, we have entered…The Twilight Zone. – JONATHAN VALANIA
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