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Werner Herzog’s 24 Rules For Making Great Cinema

Tuesday, August 25th, 2015

Werner Herzog The Collection

 

  1. Always take the initiative.
  2. There is nothing wrong with spending a night in jail if it means getting the shot you need.
  3. Send out all your dogs and one might return with prey.
  4. Never wallow in your troubles; despair must be kept private and brief.
  5. Learn to live with your mistakes.
  6. Expand your knowledge and understanding of music and literature, old and modern.
  7. That roll of unexposed celluloid you have in your hand might be the last in existence, so do something impressive with it.
  8. There is never an excuse not to finish a film.
  9. Carry bolt cutters everywhere.
  10. Thwart institutional cowardice.
  11. Ask for forgiveness, not permission.
  12. Take your fate into your own hands.
  13. Learn to read the inner essence of a landscape.
  14. Ignite the fire within and explore unknown territory.
  15. Walk straight ahead, never detour.
  16. Manoeuvre and mislead, but always deliver.
  17. Don’t be fearful of rejection.
  18. Develop your own voice.
  19. Day one is the point of no return.
  20. A badge of honor is to fail a film theory class.
  21. Chance is the lifeblood of cinema.
  22. Guerrilla tactics are best.
  23. Take revenge if need be.
  24. Get used to the bear behind you.MORE

RELATED: Required reading: Virgil’s “Georgics”, Ernest Hemingway’s “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber”, and Baker’s “The Peregrine” (New York Review Books Edition published by HarperCollins). Suggested reading: The Warren Commission Report, “The Poetic Edda”, translated by Lee M. Hollander (in particular The Prophecy of the Seeress), Bernal Diaz del Castillo “True History of the Conquest of New Spain”. MORE

RELATED: Required film viewing list: The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948, dir. John Huston), Viva Zapata (1952, dir. Elia Kazan), The Battle of Algiers (1966, dir. Gillo Pontecorvo), the Apu trilogy (1955-1959, dir. Satyajit Ray), and, if available, “Where is the Friend’s Home?” (1987, dir. Abbas Kiarostami). MORE

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CINEMA: Tarantino On Tarantino

Monday, August 24th, 2015

TARANTINO CROPPED

 

NEW YORK MAGAZINE: Speaking of genre, what is it about the Western for you? There aren’t many being made right now.

QUENTIN TARANTINO: There are a few coming out. Antoine Fuqua is doing Magnificent Seven, starring Denzel Washington, so that’s one. Django did so well I’m surprised that there’s not even more.

One thing that’s always been true is that there’s no real film genre that better reflects the values and the problems of a given decade than the Westerns made during that specific decade. The Westerns of the ’50s reflected Eisenhower America better than any other films of the day. The Westerns of the ’30s reflected the ’30s ideal. And actually, the Westerns of the ’40s did, too, because there was a whole strain of almost noirish Westerns that, all of a sudden, had dark themes. The ’70s Westerns were pretty much anti-myth Westerns — Watergate Westerns. Everything was about the anti-heroes, everything had a hateful_eight_ver2_xxlghippie mentality or a nihilistic mentality. Movies came out about Jesse James and the Minnesota raid, where Jesse James is a homicidal maniac. In Dirty Little Billy, Billy the Kid is portrayed as a cute little punk killer. Wyatt Earp is shown for who he is in the movie Doc, by Frank Perry. In the ’70s, it was about ripping the scabs off and showing who these people really were. Consequently, the big Western that came out in the ’80s was Silverado, which was trying to be rah-rah again — that was very much a Reagan Western.

NEW YORK MAGAZINE: So what is Hateful Eight saying about the 2010s?

QUENTIN TARANTINO: I’m not trying to make Hateful Eight contemporary in any way, shape, or form. I’m just trying to tell my story. It gets to be a little too much when you try to do that, when you try to make a hippie Western or try to make a counterculture Western.

NEW YORK MAGAZINE: Hateful Eight uses the Civil War as a backdrop, sort of like how The Good, the Bad and the Ugly does.

QUENTIN TARANTINO: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly doesn’t get into the racial conflicts of the Civil War; it’s just a thing that’s happening. My movie is about the country being torn apart by it, and the racial aftermath, six, seven, eight, ten years later.

NEW YORK MAGAZINE: That’s going to make this movie feel contemporary. Everybody’s talking about race right now.

QUENTIN TARANTINO: I know. I’m very excited by that.

NEW YORK MAGAZINE: Excited?

QUENTIN TARANTINO: Finally, the issue of white supremacy is being talked about and dealt with. And it’s what the movie’s about.

NEW YORK MAGAZINE: How did what’s happening in Baltimore and Ferguson find its way into The Hateful Eight?

QUENTIN TARANTINO: It was already in the script. It was already in the footage we shot. It just happens to be timely right now. We’re not trying to make it timely. It is timely. I love the fact that people are talking and dealing with the institutional racism that has existed in this country and been ignored. I feel like it’s another ’60s moment, where the people themselves had to expose how ugly they were before things could change. I’m hopeful that that’s happening now. MORE

In Select Theaters on Christmas Day & Everywhere On January 8th, 2016

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JOHN OLIVER WATCH: LGBT DiscrimiNation

Monday, August 24th, 2015

John Oliver’s show last night out-swaggered Mick Jagger in a rooster strut through of the “progress” made with gay marriage. The SCOTUS decision was a milestone and I will not diminish it, but we will have a long way to go. In a country where 26 million Facebook users put a rainbow filter over their profile picture (passive activism, but I’ll take it), 31 states permit employers to fire employees for being gay, landlords to evict tenants for being gay and businesses to refuse service. To add the cherry on top, 69% of people in America have no idea it’s legal to treat people like this. “[Same sex couples] can be married on Saturday, post photos of their wedding on Sunday and get fired from their job or thrown out of their apartment on Monday just because of who they are,” Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) reminded us when the marriage equality decision came down not even two months ago. The biggest problem with all of this lies with Obama, Congress and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Since gay marriage became legal, beefing up the Religious Freedom Restoration Act has been catching on like wildfire in an overwhelming number of the 21 states that have them. It’s a not so subtle, big and fat middle finger to the Supreme Court. The real knife in the back of human rights is the sheer fact that after Obama and his administration leave the office, those who come next can simply do away with the protection the LGBT needs from discrimination. The biggest problem with all of this lies with Obama, Congress and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Since gay marriage became legal, beefing up the Religious Freedom Restoration Act has been catching on like wildfire in an overwhelming number of the 21 states that have them. It’s a not so subtle, big and fat middle finger to the Supreme Court. The real knife in the back of human rights is the sheer fact that after Obama and his administration leave the office, those who come next can simply do away with the protection the LGBT needs from discrimination. From what we saw at the Republican debate earlier this month, it seems very likely that the EEOC’s decision that the Civil Rights Act applies to the LGBT Community and Obama’s ability to extend protection of federal LGBT contractors would disappear if a Republican takes the office. Not to mention no one can promise that a Democrat won’t follow suit. Any attempts at eliminating discrimination towards the LGBT community in areas of employment, housing or patronizing a business could disappear in the space of one presidential election. And in case you haven’t heard, another one’s bearing down on us. – MEGAN MATUZAK

 

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CINEMA: Femme Fatale

Friday, August 21st, 2015

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MISTRESS AMERICA (2015, directed by Noah Baumbach, 84 minutes, U.S.)

Buskirk Avatar
BY DAN BUSKIRK FILM CRITIC
Director Noah Baumbach is back with his second release of 2015, showcasing the dare-I-say zany charm of his writing and romantic partner Greta Gerwig in their latest joint, Mistress America. This bittersweet comedy comes off as a continuation of their celebrated collaboration from 2012, the effervescent Frances Ha, although in their latest tale Baumbach and Gerwig seem to take her character to task for being the sort a ditsy flake with which today’s New York City will no longer abide.

Where Frances Ha showed us a gorgeous monochrome NYC through the eyes of its impetuous heroine, Mistress America shows us Gerwig’s Brooke through the eyes of her future stepsister Tracy (Lola Kirke, younger sister of Girls‘ Jemima Kirke). Tracy is Barnard College student fresh to the city and a decade-plus younger than Brooke, who Tracy first spots grandly descending a long flight of stairs. Tracy is in college hoping to become a writer and if she is overwhelmed by meeting Brooke and experiencing her constant stream of brainstorming and philosophizing, Tracy is just as glad to sit back and study this rare creature with a writer’s eye.

Initially, Brooke is a blast to be around. Full of wide-ranging enthusiasms, Brooke shows Tracy the possibilities of the city: she jumps on stage at rock shows, takes Tracy to crowded house parties and allows her funky Times Square apartment to be Tracy’s home-away-from-home. The more Tracy studies Brooke the more cracks in her charm appear, ultimately taking us to the place where the life of the party is revealed as the party’s biggest narcissist. Brooke dramatic sensibility demands an audience and Tracy and her young college friends appear to fill the void as well as anybody.

Gerwig plays the same sort of adorable flake on which she’s built her comic persona and the film is filled with so many joke lines you may not immediately notice that unlike her title character in Frances Ha, Brooke is pretty much friendless. Her out-of-town boyfriend (“He’s one of those people that I hate, except that I’m in love with him”) never shows up and when we do finally meet Brooke’s old friends (in a scenario that seems a little forced, much like Baumbach’s entire last film, the Ben Stiller vehicle, While We’re Young) they are leery of being sucked back into her vortex. Brooke is the most beautiful and lively character in the film, but as she begins to goofily clarify her hazy business schemes, Baumbach pushes her to the point where the viewer also begins to wonder if we are on Brooke’s side.

Not quite as effortless as his best work, Baumbach again sails quite far on the talents of his co-writer and star. Gerwig remains one of the most gifted comic actors of her generation, a big-boned over-sharing force of nature, forever incapable of delivering on her good intentions. By the end of Mistress America (are they really reaching for an national analogy?), we learn that beneath her stream of endless chatter lies an ocean of desperate sadness. Coming in at a fleet and breezy 87 minutes and stuffed silly with jokes and gags, some people probably won’t even notice the tragedy that seems ready to roust just after the movie ends.

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DEAD WEATHER: I Feel Love (Every Million Miles)

Friday, August 21st, 2015

New album, DODGE & BURN, drops September 25th.

PREVIOUSLY: Jack White has a new band! And he’s the drummer! That’s right, he is now recording with THREE different groups, not to mention putting out a solo single, managing a record label, and being in a movie this year. You would think the man would be stretched thin by now between all his commitments, but apparently he thrives on having to do a lot of stuff, judging from the non-existent drop in quality. This album is much darker than anything he has done before, lyrically and musically, with songs like “So Far From Your Weapon” and a reverb coating on everything. Singer Alison Mosshart from The Kills shows off her raw vocal chops, as fuzzed-out guitar and bass pile up beneath her wailings. The songs have heavy grooves as well, with huge sounding riffs that jump up out of nowhere to bludgeon your face before slinking back into the dark. What is important about this album however, is it’s very real, earthy sound. It’s all recorded on analog tape, and the guitars are intentionally tube-overdriven for a warm sound. In one song you can even hear the crickets chirping through the windows in the studio. This is what Jack White is trying to bring back to music, the connection to something real. MORE

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SIDEWALKING: Help me!

Friday, August 21st, 2015

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Winston Loft Building, Chinatown, 4:16 PM yesterday by MEGAN MATUZAK

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COURTNEY BARNETT: Nobody Really Cares If…

Friday, August 21st, 2015

…you don’t go to the party.

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

Thursday, August 20th, 2015

I RObot

 

FRESH AIR

listen

From Rosie, the Jetsons’ robot maid, to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s cyborg in The Terminator, popular culture has frequently conceived of robots as having a human-like form, complete with “eyes” and mechanical limbs. But New York Times tech reporter John Markoff says that robots don’t always have a physical presence. “I have a very broad definition of what a robot is,” he tells Fresh Air’s Terry Gross. “A robot can be … a machine that can walk around, or it can be software that is a personal assistant, something like Siri or Cortana or Google Now.” Markoff, the author of the new book Machines of Loving Grace, points out that artificial intelligence plays a role in many of our lives — sometimes without our even realizing it. “I have a car that I bought this year … that is able to recognize both pedestrians and bicyclists, and if I don’t stop, it will,” he says. “That’s a very inexpensive add-on that you can get for almost any car on the market now.” Looking ahead, Markoff predicts further advances in driverless car technology. He also foresees a generation of computer chips that don’t require batteries; instead, they would run on sunlight or vibration or sweat. “In the next five years … this [computer chip] technology will fan out all around us and create applications we can’t even y450-293think about today,” he says. “They’ll be used for robotic sensors. They’ll be made to make robots more mobile. And they’ll be used to do a million other things we can’t even conceive of, and it will continue to transform our society.” MORE

EDGE.ORG: What hasn’t happened is the other part of the AI problem, which is called cognition. We haven’t made any breakthroughs in planning and thinking, so it’s not clear that you’ll be able to turn these machines loose in the environment to be waiters or flip hamburgers or do all the things that human beings do as quickly as we think. Also, in the United States the manufacturing economy has already left, by and large. Only 9 percent of the workers in the United States are involved in manufacturing.

There’s this wonderful counter situation to the popular belief that there will be no jobs. The last time someone wrote about this was in 1995 when a book titled The End of Work predicted this. The decade after that, the US economy grew faster than the population for the next decade. It’s not clear to me at all that things are going to work out the way they felt.

The classic example is that almost everybody cites this apparent juxtaposition of Instagram—thirteen programmers taking out a giant corporation, Kodak, with 140,000 workers. In fact, that’s not what happened at all. For one thing, Kodak wasn’t killed by Instagram. Kodak was a company that put a gun to its head and pulled the trigger multiple times until it was dead. It just made all kinds of strategic blunders. The simplest evidence of that is its competitor, Fuji, which did very well across this chasm of the Internet. The deeper thought is that Instagram, as a new‑age photo sharing system, couldn’t exist until the modern Internet was built, and that probably created somewhere between 2.5 and 5 million jobs, and made them good jobs. The notion that Instagram killed both Kodak and the jobs is just fundamentally wrong. MORE

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THE AFFLICTOR: In an Edge.org interview, Markoff argues that Moore’s Law has flattened out, perhaps for now or maybe for the long run, a slowdown that isn’t being acknowledged by technologists. Markoff still believes we’re headed for a highly automated future, one he senses will be slower to develop than expected. Those greatly worried about technological unemployment, the writer argues, are alarmists, since he thinks technology taking jobs is a necessity, the human population likely being unable in the future to keep pace with required production. Of course, he doesn’t have to be wrong by very much for great societal upheaval to occur and political solutions to be required.

From Markoff:

We’re at that stage, where our expectations have outrun the reality of the technology.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the current physical location of Silicon Valley. The Valley has moved. About a year ago, Richard Florida did a fascinating piece of analysis where he geo-located all the current venture capital investments. Once upon a time, the center of Silicon Valley was in Santa Clara. Now it’s moved fifty miles north, and the current center of Silicon Valley by current investment is at the foot of Potrero Hill in San Francisco. Living in San Francisco, you see that. Manufacturing, which is what Silicon Valley once was, has largely moved to Asia. Now it’s this marketing and design center. It’s a very different beast than it was.

I’ve been thinking about Silicon Valley at a plateau, and maybe the end of the line. I just spent about three or four years reporting about robotics. I’ve been writing about it since 2004, even longer, when the first autonomous vehicle grand challenge happened. I watched the rapid acceleration in robotics. We’re at this point where over the last three or four years there’s been a growing debate in our society about the role of automation, largely forced by the falling cost of computing and sensors and the fact that there’s a new round of automation in society, particularly in American society. We’re now not only displacing blue-collar tasks, which has happened forever, but we’re replacing lawyers and doctors. We’re starting to nibble at the top of the pyramid.

I played a role in creating this new debate. The automation debate comes around in America at regular intervals. The last time it happened in America was during the 1960s and it ended prematurely because of the Vietnam War. There was this discussion and then the war swept away any discussion. Now it’s come back with a vengeance.

MORE

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flyingcar

 

THE AFFLICTOR: Robots may relieve us of much of the work currently monopolizing our time, which sounds great. I mean, life is too short. Unfortunately, the U.S. and many other patches on the globe don’t have economic systems capable of supporting a populace in which near-total employment isn’t the goal. Martin Ford and Andrew McAfee and Eric Brynjolfsson have written that the future is arriving too quickly and, unlike in the ’50s and ’60s, automation leading to massive technological unemployment is a real possibility.  Add computer scientist and entrepreneur Jerry Kaplan, author of Humans Need Not Apply, to that list. In a lively Ask Me Anything at Reddit, Kaplan lays out his argument that a scary storm is gathering. A few exchanges follow.

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Question: Do you feel like people are too fearful of artificial intelligence?

Jerry Kaplan: The problem is that they are fearing the wrong thing. The robot apocalypse will be economic, not ‘military‘!

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Question: What is the minimum wage of an average robot? How cost-effective are they (R&D+Maintenance+Hydro etc…/X hrs. wk.)?

Jerry Kaplan: Ha interesting way to put the question. You don’t “pay” robots, of course. They are simply machines, like any others, so the question is whether the machine can perform some task in an economically advantageous way. This is a simply buy-vs-hire decision in most cases.

In my experience, it’s almost always better to use the machines, if you can afford it. Go forth and automate, my children!

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Question: With the growing increase of machines taking over manual jobs do you feel that the workplace will be made up almost entirely of machines and people will then become less focused on work and more on leisure?

Jerry Kaplan: What counts as work has shifted over the past centuries. What we do now would be considered optional “leisure” during the agrarian economy 200 years ago. They would think that our farms are made up almost entirely of machines today, and would wonder why on earth we aren’t living more simply and just enjoying ourselves!

But the desire to work is human nature. I think it’s a myth that most people just want to goof off and have fun … they’d rather work and own a fancier car! MORE

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ELEVENTH DREAM DAY: Bagdad’s Last Ride

Wednesday, August 19th, 2015

The year was 1989, the place was Chestnut Cabaret, they played this song and for four minutes and four seconds everything was all right in the universe. Didn’t last, of course, nothing does but that doesn’t change the fact that Eleventh Dream Day were always too good for this world. Play this irresponsibly loud while breaking something. And then try to tell me otherwise. Just try.

ELEVENTH DREAM DAY PLAY JOHNNY BRENDA’S ON THURSDAY AUGUST 20TH

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SPARKS AND RECREATION: This Is What It Sounds Like When Bill Hader Gets High With Seth Rogan

Wednesday, August 19th, 2015

Click on volume icon bottom right.

VARIETY: IFC is betting big on “Documentary Now!,” giving a second and third season to Fred Armisen, Bill Hader and Seth Meyers’ parody project ahead of its series premiere on Thursday. The “Saturday Night Live” alums created, wrote and and executive produced the seven-part series that offers a different look at some of the world’s best-known documentary films. It’s also co-created and executive produced by Rhys Thomas and exec produced by Broadway Video’s Andrew Singer. It employs familiar “SNL” names: Thomas and Alex Buono serve as the show’s directors, John Mulaney is consulting producer and Erik Kenward is supervising producer. Hosted by Helen Mirren, “Documentary Now!’s” subjects include “Grey Gardens” and “The Thin Blue Line.” The final episode for season one is a send-up of rock docs titled “Gentle & Soft: The Story of the Blue Jean Committee,” and will air as a two-part episode. MORE

HOLLYWOOD REPORTER:
The first episode, entitled “Sandy Passage,” certainly sets a high bar — a pitch-perfect, brilliantly performed send-up of Albert and David Maysles’ seminal Grey Gardens (1975). Armisen and Hader play “Big” Vivvy and “Little” Vivvy Van Kimpton, a reclusive mother and daughter modeled on the erratic Beales from Gardens. Of course it’s funny to see both male comics in drag. But even better is their uncannily exact replication of the Beales’ eccentric mannerisms, which sync up perfectly with co-directors Rhys Thomas and Alex Buono’s superb imitation of the Maysles’ pioneering, fly-on-the-wall shooting style.

It’s a scream watching Hader reenact Gardens’ infamous dance sequence or listening to Armisen raucously scold anyone within earshot. (“It’s because you stomp” “Big” Vivvy shouts documentary-now-tv-review-ifcafter “Little” Vivvy falls through the rotting floor above into the kitchen below.) Things take a much darker turn here than Gardens ever did, almost as if the makers of The Blair Witch Project took over filming halfway through. Yet even this out-of-left-field shift, which includes some intestine-ripping gore, makes some kind of twisted sense, and you’re ultimately grateful Armisen and Hader take the joke as far as they do.

The other two episodes made available for preview aren’t quite up to the level of “Sandy Passage,” but they’re still far from duds. First up is a parody of VICE video exposés entitled “Dronez: The Hunt for El Chingon,” in which Armisen and Hader play three separate pairs of hipster journalists (one pair gets killed off before each commercial break) who go in search of a Mexican drug lord. This mockery of “fearless” journalism is spot-on in pretty much every particular, from the antic editing tricks to the multiple facial hair atrocities. (Special guest star Jack Black boasts an especially abhorrent goatee.)

Then there’s “Kunuk Uncovered,” a dual-pronged pastiche of both late-’80s/early-’90s movie history docs and Robert Flaherty’s genre-defining silent masterpiece Nanook of the North (1922). Armisen plays the Eskimo subject “Kunuk” (not his actual name), star of a famous nonfiction film by explorer/ethnographer William H. Sebastian (John Slattery) that’s not as “real” as reported. Among the many gems in this installment: An identifying subtitle that reads “Former Eskimo Whore” and Kunuk’s on-set tantrum, complete with crackly, Victrola-recorded dialogue. MORE

VARIETY: While it’s easy to understand why a little network like IFC would be enamored with programs that features former “Saturday Night Live” stars, that’s a poor excuse for turning what would have been sketches from the show’s last 30 minutes into full-blown series. So after Will Ferrell’s adventures with “The Spoils of Babylon” and its sequel comes “Documentary Now!,” which should produce peals of laugher among, oh, 12 to 15 people. Fred Armisen and Bill Hader serve as producers (along with Seth Meyers) and performers, but despite the occasional chuckle, the jokes seem too inside for their own good. MORE

SLATE: In this sneak peak of Bill Hader, Seth Meyers, and Fred Armisen’s new IFC show, Documentary Now!, Hader and Armisen don their best Brooklyn garb to play VICE reporters—er, I mean, Dronez reporters. In the series’ second full episode, released online ahead of the show’s Aug. 20 premiere, Dronez promises to provide “the real news of today’s world,” as two reporters—a bespectacled Armisen and mustachioed Hader—travel down to Mexico to hunt down infamous drug lord El Chingon. Despite multiple warnings that they’ll never make it out alive. As they gawk their way through Ciudad Juárez, Hader and Armisen’s characters get more enlightened by the second—until they inevitably die and get replaced by uncannily similar reporters (also Hader and Armisen), who go on to ignore the advice of locals and rip off information from an embedded New York Times reporter. “We’re the only ones out here. New York Times isn’t doing this,” Hader’s third incarnation smirks as they approach El Chingon’s house in the foothills. “I think New York Times did do a piece out here,” Armisen admits. MORE

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RIP: Yvonne Craig, AKA Batgirl, Dead At 78

Wednesday, August 19th, 2015

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CNN: Before Lynda Carter’s Wonder Woman, before Joanna Cameron’s Isis, before Scarlett Johannsson’s Black Widow, Yvonne Craig was a pioneer of female superheroes on screen. As an actress, she originated the role of Batgirl in the 1960s “Batman” television series. As a trained dancer, she did her own stunts. Craig died this week after a long two-year battle with breast cancer. She was 78. Craig originated the role of Batgirl in the show’s third and final season in 1967, kapowing and zzonking the bad guys alongside Adam West and Burt Ward’s dynamic duo of Batman and Robin. “I hear from women that I was their role model,” she told CNN in an interview earlier this year. “‘When I was a little girl, I realized that girls could kick butt just like guys,’ [they’d say].” She also had a memorable role as the green-skinned Orion slave girl Marta who wanted to kill Captain Kirk in a third-season episode of “Star Trek.” MORE

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SIDEWALKING: Deluxx Fluxx Arcade

Tuesday, August 18th, 2015

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FAILE, Brooklyn Museum, Saturday 4:13 PM by MEGAN MATUZAK

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Q&A With Benjamin Booker, Blooze Hammerer

Tuesday, August 18th, 2015

EDITOR’S NOTE: This interview originally posted on October 20th 2014

BY JONATHAN VALANIA It’s been quite a year for Benjamin Booker, hand-picked opener for the Jack White’s Lazaretto tour, going electric at Norfolk, going crazy on Letterman — not bad for a 25-year-old community gardener from New Orleans. Booker broke onto the scene earlier this year with his righteous, trance-inducing blooze hammering self-titled debut, shot thru with dizzyingly ecstatic Delta blues demolition and the most shiver-inducing lupine howl heard since the day Tom Waits gargled broken glass and washed it down with gasoline when he was, like, nine. Sounds like John Lee Hooker in the electric chair, and smells like victory. He’s in the midst of his first headlining tour, which brings him to World Cafe Live tomorrow night, so last week we got him on the horn last week, having roused him from bed at the crack of noon. Ladies and gentlemen, I have seen the future of the past, and it is in good hands. DISCUSSED: LA punk; The Gun Club; how hip-hop killed the blues; Jack White; Jackie Shane, the legendary cross-dressing soul shouter from the ’60s; wearing a dress in Nashville just to fuck with the squares and why his Navy officer dad and Christian conservative mother do NOT approve.

PHAWKER: Tell me about your upbringing.

BENJAMIN BOOKER: I grew up in Virginia. My dad was in the Navy. We moved to Florida, where I mostly grew up, went to school in Gainesville, then eventually I moved to New Orleans.

PHAWKER: Why New Orleans?

BENJAMIN BOOKER: To take a non-profit job — I help tend community gardens and work in the neighborhoods.

PHAWKER: When/how did you discover the blues?

BENJAMIN BOOKER: When I was 14. I was originally very into punk, but when you keep tracing that back it leads you to the blues.

PHAWKER: Why do you think the audience for blues music, which was the hardcore gangsta rap of its day, is middle aged white men, not young or even middle-aged African American men?

BENJAMIN BOOKER: I think that hip-hop killed the blues, at least for young black men.

PHAWKER: You cite the Gun Club, that’s a pretty seminal but obscure influence for a 25-year-old to cite. By my count, you were seven years old when Jeffrey Lee Pierce passed away. How did you discover the Gun Club?

BENJAMIN BOOKER: When I was investigating LA punk I eventually came to them. I just really liked his voice and his lyrics, the things he sang about where unlike anything else going on in the LA punk scene.

PHAWKER: You have a one of the most remarkable and distinctive singing voices to come along in many years. How did you arrive at your singing style.

BENJAMIN BOOKER: It’s just the sound that came out when I opened my mouth and started singing

PHAWKER: Is it true that your parents are very conservative folk and don’t approve of your music or your decision to pursue it as a career or is that just part of your legend?

BENJAMIN BOOKER: No, it’s true, they don’t approve. It has caused me a lot strife in my family. Both my parents are very devout Christians. My mother doesn’t even really listen to music, so it’s less the music than the lifestyle, spending every night in dive bars, etc. They were starting to come around a bit, see that it is possible to make a living doing this, but then I dressed in drag when we played in Nashville [at Jack White’s Third Man Records], and they REALLY didn’t like that.

PHAWKER: Why did you do that? Was it a tribute to Jackie Shane, the legendary cross-dressing soul singer from the 1960s?

BENJAMIN BOOKER: I just thought it would be fun. We were in the Nashville, the Bible Belt so I thought I’d stir things up a little. Besides where I live in New Orleans, that kind of thing is no big deal. Men and women wear skirts all the time.

PHAWKER: Had you ever done that before?

BENJAMIN BOOKER: No, and I don’t think I’ll ever do it again. It caused me a lot of strife with my family.



BENJAMIN BOOKER PLAYS THE FESTIVAL PIER WEDNESDAY AUGUST 20TH W/ SOCIAL DISTORTION, LUCERO, NIKKI LANE & DRAG THE RIVER

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