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Thursday, July 9th, 2020

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I HEART RADIO: He has coined himself the great “Reducer”. However, his imprint on hip hop can not be reduced. Rick Rubin established one of the greatest record labels of all time, which we know as Def Jam and has been going ever since. His sound has been requested by the greats of our time. From the LL Cool J, Red Hot Chilli Peppers to Kanye West and the Dixie Chicks to Mick Jagger and more. Rick Rubin is the guru of sound. He is also one of Questlove Supreme’s most awaited and anticipated interviews. Yes, class is back in session so take a seat! MORE

RELATED: When [legendary record producer] Rick Rubin first picked up the Lucite guitar his mother bought him when he was a high school freshman, it wasn’t to play like George Benson. He was into Johnny Ramone. The person who taught him how to play guitar was Steve Free­man, his high school audio-visual instruc­tor. Freeman, who describes himself as a hippie, recalls: “Even back in high school, Rick was always Mr. Self-Promotion who could get anything he wanted. He was listening IMG_4195mostly to AC/DC and punk rock when he found out that groups like the Clash had learned how to play their in­struments something like a month before they formed a group. So Rick thought, ‘Why not me?’ ”

Rubin practiced to early Ramones LPs and after three months, he could play just as fast. After another three, he could play faster, which meant better. Around his sophomore year, he formed the Pricks. In addition to speed, Rubin ad­mired punk’s ability to swindle record companies. The Plasmatics’ television demolition publicity stunts appealed to the magician in him, and for a while he hung out with their mohawked guitar player Ritchie Stotts. With the school’s four-track recorder, Rubin made Pricks cassettes. His goal was to play CBGB, upset people, start fights, and get thrown out. It worked.

Freeman may say harsh things about Rubin, but as with most others, it’s spo­ken not with resentment, but with awe. “His father once had an easy-credit fur­niture store. Like his father, Rick knows how to get poor people to buy things. When he was in high school, Rick didn’t hang out in browntown [Long Beach’s black neighborhood], But he’s imitative and knows how to change people, He’s made the Beastie Boys into his alter ego — they never cursed or got high before they met Rick. He had more friends than many kids, but he looked down on a lot of people, too. Some resented him because of his car, others because he could get A’s without studying. Even back then, he knew how to use the system.” MORE

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EXHUMING MCCARTHY: The Father Of Trumpism

Tuesday, July 7th, 2020



FRESH AIR: On Feb. 9, 1950, Joseph McCarthy, a junior senator from Wisconsin, stunned the nation — and stoked the paranoia of the Cold War — when he alleged that there were 205 spies working within the U.S. State Department. It was the beginning of a four-year anti-communist, anti-gay crusade in which McCarthy would charge military leaders, diplomats, teachers and professors with being traitors.

Author Larry Tye chronicles McCarthy’s infamous smear campaign in the new book Demagogue. He describes the Republican senator as an “an opportunist and a cynic” who deliberately preyed on public fears. “His tactics included playing the press brilliantly,” Tye says. “He understood that if you lobbed one bombshell and that [proved] to be a fraud, rather than waiting for the press the next day to expose it as a fraud, he had a fresh bombshell ready to go.”

Many of the people McCarthy accused lost their jobs. Others went to prison. Wyoming Sen. Lester Hunt killed himself in his Senate office after McCarthy and his allies tried to blackmail him into resigning. In 1954, McCarthy’s campaign finally ended when the U.S. Senate voted to censure him. More than 70 years later, Tye draws a parallel between McCarthy’s tactics and President Trump’s divisive rhetoric. He notes that McCarthy’s chief legal counsel, Roy Cohn, served as Trump’s lawyer and mentor in the 1970s. But beyond that, he says, both McCarthy and Trump are “bullies” who exploit fears and “point fingers when they’re attacked.”

“If there’s any lesson to be learned from Joe McCarthy, it is that we are no less vulnerable to demagogues in our midst than Russia or than Italy or than Brazil,” Tye says. “We’ve got to learn from our history to recognize these bullies at an early point — and to understand how to stand up to them.” MORE

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WORTH REPEATING: Hail To The Karen-In-Chief

Sunday, July 5th, 2020



PHILADELPHIA MAGAZINE: Because hell hath no fury like a mildly inconvenienced middle-aged Caucasian lady, the Internet gave this genus of white privilege a name: Karen. In Internet memes, she is invariably pictured with a South Philly mom cut — think Kate Gosselin’s kicky cowlicked bob gone rogue. Current mood: She would like to speak with the manager, please. Lately it seems like the Karens have gone wild in America, as you’ve no doubt seen all over the Internet: freaking the fuck out at Red Lobster and Trader Joe’s, calling the cops to report flagrant BWB (barbecuing while Black), calling the cops to report a Black girl selling water on the sidewalk, calling the cops to report a Black, Harvard-educated science editor in Central Park for having the temerity to ask her to put her dog on a leash as required by law.

And now the Karens are armed and dangerous. Just last weekend in St. Louis, a husband-and-wife team of personal-injury-lawyer Karens emerged from their gilded palace of slip-and-fall — wild-eyed and barefoot, with guns drawn and itchy trigger fingers trembling — and literally took aim at a group of Black Lives Matter protesters who had gate-crashed their private street on their way to the mayor’s house. (Yes, males can be Karens, too. I can’t think of a more ignominious death than to be gunned down by a couple that one wag on Twitter dubbed Guns N’ Rosé.) “I was terrified that we’d be murdered within seconds, our house would be burned down, our pets would be killed,” Mark McCloskey, who is brandishing an assault rifle in video of the incident, breathlessly told an interviewer afterward.

This was a new plot twist: Usually, Karens don’t lock and load; they call the cops. Karens love to call the cops; it’s their go-to move. Their idea of dispute resolution is to dial 911 and — usually through a veil of fake hysterics and crocodile tears — falsely report that whichever Black person(s) she is currently arguing with is in fact threatening her life. Karens are at least woke enough to know that bad things tend to happen to Black people when the cops show up — which is, of course, why they call them. The Bonnie and Clyde of the Brooks Brothers set notwithstanding, Karens don’t personally inflict violence on their perceived enemies; they order it over the phone, like a pizza. MORE

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FOXYCONTIN: The Whole World Knows

Sunday, July 5th, 2020

Foxycontin’s “The Whole World Knows I’ll Never Get Over It Now” from the album This Time You’re On Your Own on Sister Raygun Records.

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CINEMA: The Founding Brothers

Friday, July 3rd, 2020


HAMILTON (directed by Thomas Kail, 180 minutes, USA, 2020)

Dan Tabor_byline_avatarBY DAN TABOR FILM CRITIC Originally planned for a fall 2021 release, it’s hard to see Disney’s move to drop the Tony and Pulitzer Prize winning musical Hamilton on their proprietary platform FREE to subscribers on July 3rd as anything less than a response to current events. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hip hop musical about the life of Founding Father Alexander Hamilton tapped into the politico/sociocultural zeitgeist, generating the kind of rabid fandom usually reserved for things like Marvel or Star Wars. After a bidding war, Disney copped the theatrical rights to the performance filmed at the Richard Rodgers Theatre in 2016, two weeks before the parting of not only Lin-Manuel Miranda (Alexander Hamilton), but Leslie Odom, Jr. (Aaron Burr), and Phillipa Soo (Eliza Hamilton).

What often gets lost in the breathless headlines about astronomical ticket prices and the social media bragging rights bestowed on those lucky or deep-pocketed enough to land a seat in “the room where it happens” is the fact that Hamilton’s story of a poor immigrant who works his way up from nothing to become a Founding Father of this great country has never been more relevant that it is today. While the production pre-dates the Age of Trump, Lin-Manuel’s transposition of the race and language of the cast of Hamilton has become a de facto touchstone of The Resistance. Hamilton keeps the audience ruminating on its themes of power, race and family with its super-catchy hybrid of traditional Broadway tropes, R&B motifs and banging hip-hop.

Given the closure of Broadway due to the Pandemic and the trend to stream performances to satiate theater audiences, I’ve definitely seen more than my fair share of shows recently. As you’d expect, Hamilton is filmed as a stage show, but the camera is not satisfied to give you just a stageside view. The camera moves rather dynamically on stage and even gives us moments where we are face to face with our cast, and it’s here Hamilton really shines. Since the cast at the time it was filmed was three years into a Broadway run and the show was at its peak, you have that passion, that confidence and that comfortability in their roles and performances, that feels effortless as they run through the musical. In these brief character moments you witness actors not simply going through the motions, but putting in fully nuanced performances that have been honed to perfection, that would have been virtually invisible otherwise.

Watching Hamilton on Disney+, I have to say it’s still pretty damn great. I really hope now that it’s been made more accessible more people will discover and be inspired by it — people who may not really be into musicals or the hefty price tag of theatre tickets. The biggest take away here for those that may have only caught the touring version or heard the cast recording, is how utterly awe-inspiring it is to see Lin-Manuel inhabit the role of Alexander Hamilton onscreen, commanding the stage and spitting the bars that made him a household name as the “bastard, orphan, son of a whore Scotsman.” In these are difficult times it’s nice to see both the themes and music of Hamilton still work their magic and remind us of a time when we as a people stood together against an invading enemy.

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Wednesday, July 1st, 2020

Mt Vengeance is a Philadelphia rock trio first formed in 2016 out of the ashes of Philly blue collar rock royalty. Singer/guitarist Rich Fravel has been in numerous indie rock bands including Uptown Bones, Latimer, Ashtabula, and Blue. Brian Campbell (bass) was in Philly 80s punk legends The Electric Love Muffin and is currently also in Poppy. Nicky Santore played drums in Valsalva and Providence, RI noise rock band Glory Hole in the early 90s.

Mt Vengeance’s first LP Covered in Dust garnered rave reviews in the local Philly press and set out the core sound of the band which harkens back to an 80s and 90s indie rock style with melodic layers of distorted guitars, prominent Pixies-style bass lines and tight, pounding drums. Their second LP Machines builds upon that sound while incorporating elements of metal and prog rock — imagine Swervedriver covering Rush!

PREVIOUSLY: The ’90s were a helluva drug. You really had to be there, kid, but suffice it to say it was 10 years of unprecedented peace and prosperity, a pot in every chicken, 2.5 SUVs in every garage, a Clinton was president and Donald Trump ran beauty contests instead of the free world. In the ’90s, the Internet went public and we all become tech stock billionaires overnight — all of us — selling dog bones over the World Wide Web, which was what we called the Interwebs back then, as was the style of the day. Good. Times.

Music was pretty great, too. Kurt Cobain singlehandedly killed the wicked witches of hair metal dead by crossing the streams of the Beatles and Black Sabbath and overnight grunge became a flannel-clad way of life. Axl Rose was out, Daniel Johnston was in. Suddenly the Lollapalooza Nation was ascendant and everything was called alt-something, everything except the right. (This was before the re-brand, when Nazis were still called Nazis) Every scraggly-haired fraggle-rock weirdo in a thrift store sweater got a major label contract: Mudhoney, Teenage Fan Club, Helmet, The Meat Puppets, The Vaselines, Dinosaur Jr., even the frickin’ Melvins. My Bloody Valentine made The Greatest Album Ever Made and then went dark for the rest of the decade but never stopped ringing in everyone’s ears. Pavement recorded slanted enchantments in the Stockton garage of a drunk hippie. Guided By Voices built drunken lo-fi masterpieces in the basements of the Midwest. The Pixies tromped le monde, The Breeders were the bong in that reggae song,  and Sonic Youth were stylish elders from Planet Noise, teaching skate punks how to Philip K. Dick and Karlheinz Stockhausen. And everyone loved Stereolab. All of us.

And then Fred Durst and 9/11 ruined everything.

None of this is news to Mt. Vengeance. Back then, the three dads in Mt. Vengeance were still lads cranking out some of most righteous ripped-knee’d peddle-hopping indie-rawk the City of Brotherly Love has ever known. Rich Fravel was singer/guitarist/songwriter in Latimer, Brian Campbell was bassist for Electric Love Muffin and Nicky Santore was tub-thumper for Valsalva. At the Khyber — which, you probably don’t even know, was the CBGBs of Philly in the ’90s, aka a toilet with a great beer selection where important things happened — they were royalty. Fast forward 20-plus years, past wives, kids, real estate licenses, and they still have the will and the wherewithal to rawk. Righteously so. The shorthand review of this their self-titled debut EP is: everything you ever needed to know about the 90s but were too not-born-yet to ask. The long answer is everything you just read. – JONATHAN VALANIA

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Tuesday, June 30th, 2020

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CINEMA: Aretha

Tuesday, June 30th, 2020

In theaters December 2020.

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In The Land Of Cotton Old Times Are Forgotten

Tuesday, June 30th, 2020

Confederate Flag Censored


NEW YORK TIMES: I am a black, Southern woman, and of my immediate white male ancestors, all of them were rapists. My very existence is a relic of slavery and Jim Crow. According to the rule of hypodescent (the social and legal practice of assigning a genetically mixed-race person to the race with less social power) I am the daughter of two black people, the granddaughter of four black people, the great-granddaughter of eight black people. Go back one more generation and it gets less straightforward, and more sinister. As far as family history has always told, and as modern DNA testing has allowed me to confirm, I am the descendant of black women who were domestic servants and white men who raped their help.

It is an extraordinary truth of my life that I am biologically more than half white, and yet I have no white people in my genealogy in living memory. No. Voluntary. Whiteness. I am more than half white, and none of it was consensual. White Southern men — my ancestors — took what they wanted from women they did not love, over whom they had extraordinary power, and then failed to claim their children.

What is a monument but a standing memory? An artifact to make tangible the truth of the past. My body and blood are a tangible truth of the South and its past. The black people I come from were owned by the white people I come from. The white people I come from fought and died for their Lost Cause. And I ask you now, who dares to tell me to celebrate them? Who dares to ask me to accept their mounted pedestals? MORE

RELATED: Most Americans acknowledge slavery as this nation’s original sin and greatest crime against humanity, even without the added iniquity of a century of Jim Crow laws. We do not look wistfully back at the Japanese Internment or the Chinese Exclusion Act. We no longer see General Custer as a hero, but as someone who received richly-deserved comeuppance during the Native American genocide.

Why, then, does a significant portion of the American population to this day still lionize those who literally committed treason in order to preserve and perpetuate white supremacy? America has learned to reject the crimes, but has not yet learned to reject those who committed those crimes.

It’s long past time that our nation came to grips with the prejudice that to this day still poisons our national discourse. The Confederate flag and monuments to Confederate leaders need to be removed from public property. More importantly, the government needs to ensure that every schoolchild is shown that even by the laws of the time, those who fought for the Confederacy were not heroes, but traitors.

Yes, traitors.

And that those traitors fought to preserve their “right” to own men, women, and children as property, and to do with those slaves as they would, up to and including rape and murder. No, such men must not be lionized. Even Lee, as cruel and brutal as we now know him to have been, knew there should be no monuments to him, or to anyone of the Confederacy which had been defeated on the field of battle. When asked to attend a meeting concerning such monuments, Lee replied, as documented by New York Times:

I think it wiser, moreover, not to keep open the sores of war but to follow the examples of those nations who endeavored to obliterate the marks of civil strife, to commit to oblivion the feelings engendered. MORE

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Tuesday, June 30th, 2020

Multi-talented artist, percussionist, producer and activist MADAME GANDHI today releases her newest video for Visions track “Waiting For Me” – watch here.  Directed by Misha Ghose, “Waiting For Me” was conceptualized and produced by an all-female team and features queer, trans, female and gender non-conforming cast members and marks Madame Gandhi’s first-ever video shot in India.  With its contrasting industrial imagery and color palettes, the visual brings to life the song’s empowering message, an eco-feminist call to action that eschews institutionalized power structures in favor of forging new narratives of self-expression.  Of the video, Madame Gandhi explains:

“We as artists have the power to use our art to vividly reimagine the world we wished we lived in. ‘Waiting For Me’ is a song about questioning societal norms as they exist.  The video opens with the quote, ‘We always assume our own powerlessness, but never our own power.’ With the interconnected social justice movements happening around the world, we are seeing a larger belief in the power of the collective for change. This music video is a call to action for each of us to examine how hierarchy, capitalism and systemic oppression serve to keep us obedient, with little space for dialogue or critical thinking. My hope is that this video inspires folks to ask, ‘Are my behaviors contributing to the oppression of somebody else? And what contributes to my own oppression? What does my version of freedom look and feel like?’” MORE

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Sunday, June 28th, 2020

CNN: Russian bounties offered to Taliban militants in Afghanistan to kill US or UK troops there are believed to have resulted in the deaths of multiple US troops, the Washington Post reported Sunday, citing US intelligence gathered from military interrogations. […] CNN previously reported that Russian intelligence officers for the military intelligence agency GRU recently offered money to Taliban militants in Afghanistan as rewards if they killed US or UK troops there, according to a European intelligence official. The official told CNN the incentives offered by the Russians had, in their assessment, led to Coalition casualties, which would be service members’ deaths or injuries. […]

The New York Times first reported on Friday that US intelligence concluded months ago that Russian military intelligence offered the bounties, amid peace talks. President Donald Trump was briefed on the intelligence findings and the White House’s National Security Council held a meeting about it in late March, according to the New York Times, citing officials briefed on the matter.

Trump, however, has denied receiving a briefing about intelligence that Russians had tried to bribe Taliban fighters to kill US troops. The President tweeted Sunday that “there have not been many attacks” on US troops by Taliban fighters as evidence that the reported intelligence may be “phony.” His tweet went a step further than a Saturday statement from the White House in which press secretary Kayleigh McEnany did not deny the validity of the report, but instead said Trump and Vice President Mike Pence were not briefed “on the alleged Russian bounty intelligence.” MORE

WASHINGTON POST: Trump on Sunday confirmed statements by Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe and the White House press secretary that he received no briefing on the subject, and he referred in tweets to “so-called reports” by “Fake News.”

“Nobody briefed or told me, [Vice President] Pence or Chief of Staff [Mark Meadows] about the so-called attacks on our troops in Afghanistan by Russians, as reported through an ‘anonymous source’ by the Fake News . . . Everybody is denying it & there have not been many attacks on us,” Trump said on Twitter, insisting that “nobody’s been tougher on Russia than the Trump administration.”

But his Twitter remarks did little to clarify whether the administration was denying that the assessment existed, or simply denying that Trump knew anything about it. Richard Grenell, who served as acting director of national intelligence until last month, tweeted that “I never heard this. And it’s disgusting how you continue to politicize intelligence.” MORE

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CINEMA: Yankee Doodle Foxtrot

Friday, June 26th, 2020


IRRESISTIBLE (directed by Jon Stewart, 101 minutes, USA, 2020)

Dan Tabor_byline_avatarBY DAN TABOR FILM CRITIC Irresistible, written and directed by ex-Daily Show darling Jon Stewart, is a scathing political satire, but it’s one with a heart, that has Stewart commenting on a post Obama world and what’s next for the Democratic party.The films delivers a hilariously hard to swallow pill: a reminder that what really matters isn’t ideologies or agendas, it’s people.

The film stars Steve Carell as Gary Zimmer, a democratic strategist/Hillary campaign survivor still reeling from 2016, who’s looking for a way into the hearts and minds of that crucial voting block the progressives left behind: the salt of the earth middle Americans of Wisconsin. Gary thinks he’s found what he’s looking for in retired Marine colonel/lifelong Republican Jack Hastings (Chris Cooper) after watching a video of him in a backwater town hall meeting dropping some very Dem-friendly opinions with John-Wayne-on-a-tractor authenticity. Jack strikes a bargain with Gary, agreeing to helm his campaign for mayor if he agrees to run as a Democrat. Sensing a disturbance in the force, the Republicans send their own strategist in the guise of Faith Brewser ( Rose Byrne ) to run the campaign of Jack’s opponent. Faith consistently raises the stakes of this mayoral race and in the process brings this small Wisconsin town to the forefront of the national stage.

Stewart skillfully uses this narrative premise to draw back the curtain on some of the black magic that goes into funding and executing modern political campaigns. It’s a smart move that also helps reinforce the absurdity of the battle between two bourgeois DC strategists as they constantly up the ante, flying in more and more reinforcements in the hopes of making the race break their way. As the campaign slowly devolves into mudslinging, the film manages to pull the rug out from under the audience with an ending as rich in subtext, as it is satisfying.

Irresistible is as scathing as you’d expect from Stewart, but it’s also unexpectedly hopeful in the end. It’s not an easy balancing act in today’s nihilistic 24 hour news cycle, but blending humor and humanity has always been Stewart’s wheelhouse. Irresistible does not lay all the blame on Trump or the Republican party for the toxic shit-show of modern electoral politics, it goes after the fractured system that birthed his rise to power. Protip: be sure you watch those end credits all the way to the end.

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NY TIMES: How The Philadelphia Police Department Waged Chemical Warfare On Peacful Protesters

Thursday, June 25th, 2020

NEW YORK TIMES: On June 1, SWAT teams turned a protest march in Philadelphia into chaos. We went to the site, interviewed witnesses and analyzed dozens of videos to reconstruct what happened. MORE

PREVIOUSLY: I was at the George Floyd protest yesterday that ended on the Vine Street Expressway in a melee with the police, both as a participant and a witness documenting the events with my camera. This is what I saw: MORE

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Cost of the War in Iraq
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