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ARIEL PINK: Picture Me Gone

February 18th, 2015

Deeply weird and Kubrick-ian. Directed by Grant Singer. Why are we not surprised that he’s got a screenshot from The Shining on his Twitter page. As for the song, it is easily the best thing the Magnetic Fields have ever done.

RELATED: Last Tuesday, Ariel Pink, the Los Angeles musician known for pop songs that are catchy and inscrutable in equal measure, jumped into an S.U.V. outside his Williamsburg hotel and plugged in his iPhone as he headed to Staten Island for a gig. He directed his attention to Twitter, where he had become a sudden target of vitriol. An Australian Web site had just published an interview in which Pink said that Madonna’s label had asked him to write songs for her new album, which Pink thought was smart, given the “downward slide” of her career. This assessment did not sit well with Madonna—the Queen of Pop “has no interest in working with mermaids,” her manager said—or her fans. “Keep yourself in your irrelevant world, u’re nobody,” one tweeted. “All right, MySpace has chimed in,” Pink said, reading a tweet from the social network’s official account. “ ‘Ariel Pink is indie rock’s most hated man right now.’ Yes!” Pink, who is thirty-six and has shoulder-length blond hair, has been an indie darling for the better part of a decade: Pitchfork, the Millennials’ Rolling Stone, named “Round and Round” the best song of 2010, and Entertainment Weekly declared a recent concert, during which Pink crowd-surfed with a beer, to be the singer’s “coronation as some sort of hipster king.” “I’ve been the next big thing for, like, ten years now,” Pink said. He wore an unbuttoned plaid shirt over a plunging V-neck, with splotches of red nail polish on both thumbs. “I feel really old.” MORE

ARIEL PINK  & JACK NAME PLAY UNION TRANSFER  ON TUESDAY FEBRUARY 24TH

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EXCERPT: The Gospel According To Father John

February 17th, 2015

Father John Misty

Photo by EMMA TILLMAN

EDITOR’s NOTE: To mark the release of Father John Misty’s I Love You Honey Bear we are reprinting my 2013 FJM MAGNET cover story and, for the first time, a link to download a PDF of the complete story

MAGNET: Father John Misty lives in a red-clay adobe pueblo on top of a low mountain in Echo Park. Good luck trying to find it without GPS and a helicopter. Down below the cloud line, the hazy glittering grid of Greater Los Angeles recedes into the infinite. From the vantage point of this fairly Olympian perch, Los Angeles looks like flecks of diamond embedded in a filthy sidewalk. Like most wise men atop mountains, Father John Misty’s possessions are few: his beard, his acoustic guitar, his vinyl copy of On The Beach and a mason jar filled to the brim with psyilocybin mushroom caps. There is no internet access, cellular service is intermittent at best, and in Father John Misty’s world there is no such thing as TV—just Richard Brautigan novels. There is a black 1972 Cadillac Hearse parked out front that he literally bought for a song. His sole companion, besides his thoughts and psychoactive fungi, is Emma, his gorgeous twentysomething gal pal, currently a grad student at UCLA film school, and last seen in the “Nancy From Now On” video in a black bustier and garter belt, slapping Tillman around and forcibly shaving off his beard, Delilah-like, in a room at the Chateau Marmont. She makes a helluva kale smoothie.

FJM-MAGNET-COVER-ARTFather John Misty is the nom de soft rock of one Joshua Tillman, a.k.a. J. Tillman, ex-drummer for Fleet Foxes and author of eight largely ignored and invariably joyless solo albums of pious folk rectitude. These were the songs of innocence, the whispery bedroom folk he made on the sly between globe-trotting tours wherein the Fleet Foxes charmed the pants off the world, but could barely stand the sight of each other. Those albums remain a well-kept secret. And then one day in 2010, he blew up his life. Killed off J. Tillman, quit the Fleet Foxes, let his raging id off the short leash it had been kept on since his tormented childhood spent trapped in a fundamentalist Christian house of pain. Instead of muting his wicked sense of humor and bottomless appetite for the absurd, he turned it up to 11. He changed his stage name to Father John Misty. Threw his guitar and a family-size sack of magic mushrooms into the van, and set the controls for the heart of Babylon.

Look out Hollywood, here I come.

Fear Fun (Sub Pop), Father John Misty’s debut, came out a year ago, and after 12 months of trippin’-balls touring, four cinematic high-concept videos (in his latest, he dances to “Fun Times In Babylon” amid the ruins of a 747 crashed into a suburban subdivision, a set piece left over from Steven Spielberg’s War Of The Worlds), inclusion on innumerable year-end best-of lists and a lot of swooning word of mouth on social media, the album has become the sleeper hit of the year. This despite a very public gloves-off Twitter war with Pitchfork. But more than any of those things, the reason Fear Fun has legs is because it’s front-loaded with earworms dressed up in stoned-in-the-Canyon harmonies, scuffed-denim twang, and acid-witted Nilsson-ian soft-rock pastiches. And, most importantly, The Voice. Dude sings like an angel wrapped in velvet and smothered in honey. His voice is characterized by something extremely rare in modern music: the unstrained quality of mercy. To quote the Bard, it droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven. Or, as Tillman puts it, he can sing like a motherfucker.

It is shortly after 10 a.m. on yet another glorious, sun-kissed day in Babylon when I show up at Tillman’s compound high atop Misty Mountain. His publicist assured me via text when I deplaned that he was awake and eagerly awaiting my arrival, but he seems surprised and unprepared when I get to his front door. For one thing, he is completely naked. “Sorry,” he says sheepishly after pulling on some pants. “I’m sure you’ve seen worse.” I tell him it will make for a colorful opening scene for the story. MORE

PDF: THE COMPLETE FATHER JOHN MISTY MAGNET COVER STORY [PDF]

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BECKYONCE: Single Loser (Put A Beck On It)

February 17th, 2015

This is pretty great.

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RIP: Lesley Gore, Proto-Feminist Queen Of Teen ’63

February 17th, 2015

NEW YORK TIMES: Lesley Gore, who was a teenager in the 1960s when she recorded hit songs about heartbreak and resilience that went on to become feminist touchstones, died on Monday in Manhattan. She was 68. Lois Sasson, her partner of 33 years, said Ms. Gore died of lung cancer at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital. With songs like “It’s My Party,” “Judy’s Turn to Cry” and the indelibly defiant 1964 single “You Don’t Own Me” — all recorded before she was 18 — Ms. Gore made herself the voice of teenage girls aggrieved by fickle boyfriends, moving quickly from tearful self-pity to fierce self-assertion. “You Don’t Own Me,” written by John Madara and David White, originally reached No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100. It has been repeatedly rerecorded and revived by performers including Dusty Springfield, Joan Jett and the cast of the 1996 movie “The First Wives Club.” “When I heard it for the first time, I thought it had an important humanist quality,” Ms. Gore told The Minneapolis Star-Tribune in 2010. “As I got older, feminism became more a part of my life and more a part of our whole awareness, and I could see why people would use it as a feminist anthem. I don’t care what age you are — whether you’re 16 or 116 — there’s nothing more wonderful than standing on the stage and shaking your finger and singing, ‘Don’t tell me what to do.’ ” MORE

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THE ATLANTIC: ISIS Is Not ‘Un-Islamic’

February 16th, 2015

Anti ISIL Poster

 

THE ATLANTIC: Many mainstream Muslim organizations have gone so far as to say the Islamic State is, in fact, un-Islamic. It is, of course, reassuring to know that the vast majority of Muslims have zero interest in replacing Hollywood movies with public executions as evening entertainment. But Muslims who call the Islamic State un-Islamic are typically, as the Princeton scholar Bernard Haykel, the leading expert on the group’s theology, told me, “embarrassed and politically correct, with a cotton-candy view of their own religion” that neglects “what their religion has historically and legally required.” Many denials of the Islamic State’s religious nature, he said, are rooted in an “interfaith-Christian-nonsense tradition.”

Every academic I asked about the Islamic State’s ideology sent me to Haykel. Of partial Lebanese descent, Haykel grew up in Lebanon and the United States, and when he talks through his Mephistophelian goatee, there is a hint of an unplaceable foreign accent. According to Haykel, the ranks of the Islamic State are deeply infused with religious vigor. Koranic quotations are ubiquitous. “Even the foot soldiers spout this stuff constantly,” Haykel said. “They mug for their cameras and repeat their basic doctrines in formulaic fashion, and they do it all the time.” He regards the claim that the Islamic State has distorted the texts of Islam as preposterous, sustainable only through willful ignorance. “People want to absolve Islam,” he said. “It’s this ‘Islam is a religion of peace’ mantra. As if there is such a thing as ‘Islam’! It’s what Muslims do, and how they interpret their texts.” Those texts are shared by all Sunni Muslims, not just the Islamic State. “And these guys have just as much legitimacy as anyone else.”

All Muslims acknowledge that Muhammad’s earliest conquests were not tidy affairs, and that the laws of war passed down in the Koran and in the narrations of the Prophet’s rule were calibrated to fit a turbulent and violent time. In Haykel’s estimation, the fighters of the Islamic State are authentic throwbacks to early Islam and are faithfully reproducing its norms of war. This behavior includes a number of practices that modern Muslims tend to prefer not to acknowledge as integral to their sacred texts. “Slavery, crucifixion, and beheadings are not something that freakish [jihadists] are cherry-picking from the medieval tradition,” Haykel said. Islamic State fighters “are smack in the middle of the medieval tradition and are bringing it wholesale into the present day.” The Koran specifies crucifixion as one of the only punishments permitted for enemies of Islam. MORE

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COMMENTARY: Bibi’s Got A Boehner

February 16th, 2015

16170809147_c25d3cb889_o

Illustration by DONKEY HOTEY

Theodore-RooseveltBY WILLIAM C. HENRY Having accepted “Rabbi” John Boehner’s invitation, Benjamin Netanyahu (the Israeli “state’s” senior Representative in the U.S. House of Representatives, né Prime Minister of Israel) has decided to stand by his scheduled address to the huddled faithful on March 3rd. So, aside from the fact that said speech is opposed by many top-level Israelis both here and in Israel as well as by the President of the United States, what’s really wrong with his giving it? Allow me to count the ways: 1) John Boehner isn’t tasked with initiating or carrying out the foreign policy of the United States, the President is; 2) it isn’t, nor has it ever been, nor will it ever be, the Speaker’s position to determine which Israeli political party should be favored, supported or endorsed by the United States government (we might want to get involved, but without exception it will always be none of our goddamn business); 3) criticizing and undermining the President in the foreign policy realm are two entirely different matters, and if ANYONE should know the difference, the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and the Prime Minister of Israel damn well should! Need more? Imagine we had a Democrat Speaker of the House and a Republican President. Now imagine a similar scenario playing out. I rest my case.
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RIP: Goodnight Mr. Carr Wherever You Are

February 13th, 2015

NYTCREDIT: Earl Wilson/The New York Times5-15-2012

 

DAVID CARR: “I now inhabit a life I don’t deserve, but we all walk this earth feeling we are frauds. The trick is to be grateful and hope the caper doesn’t end any time soon.”

NEW YORK TIMES: Mr. Carr collapsed in the Times newsroom, where he was found shortly before 9 p.m. He was taken to St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. MORE

DAVID CARR ON BRIAN WILLIAMS: We want our anchors to be both good at reading the news and also pretending to be in the middle of it,” he wrote on Monday in the wake of revelations that the NBC anchor Brian Williams had lied about being in a helicopter under fire in Iraq in 2003. That’s why, when the forces of man or Mother Nature whip up chaos, both broadcast and cable news outlets are compelled to ship the whole heaving apparatus to far-flung parts of the globe, with an anchor as the flag bearer. We want our anchors to be everywhere, to be impossibly famous, globe-trotting, hilarious, down-to-earth, and above all, trustworthy. It’s a job description that no one can match. MORE

DAVE WEIGEL: I don’t have Carr’s facility with language, and I didn’t get to know him as well as the people who are going to mourn him right. All I want to say is: Fuck this. Life is short, but it shouldn’t be this short. Least of all for someone who understood so delicately and elementally how people lived. MORE

DAVID CARR: A lot of times, when you lift up the blankets on modern media brands, what you see is algorithms. I think media is about people making stuff with your own two dirty little hands.DavidCarrLife copy

VOX: “This is the bio he gave to students of his Boston University course:

‘Your professor is a terrible singer and a decent dancer. He is a movie crier but stone-faced in real life. He never laughs even when he is actually amused. He hates suck-ups, people who treat waitresses and cab drivers poorly, and anybody who thinks diversity is just an academic conceit. He is a big sucker for the hard worker and is rarely dazzled by brilliance. He has little patience for people who pretend to ask questions when all they really want to do is make a speech.’

Carr, who was 58, reportedly collapsed in the New York Times newsroom. The Times’ write-up is here. But the problem is the only write-up I want to read on this is Carr’s. Fuck.“ MORE

NEW YORK TIMES:  The question took Carr back to a harrowing moment. ‘In the hours after the attacks of Sept. 11,  he said, ‘I was at the corner of Church and Chambers. Building 7 was on fire and then fell. A wall of debris and smoke came rushing up the street, and I dove under a car. I found myself looking into the eyes of a pigeon there and having an interspecies moment. ‘Are we O.K.? Is the world ending? Are we, um, birds of a feather?’ When the moment and wall of crud passed and I collected myself, I noticed a copy of Strunk and White’s ‘The Elements of Style,’ the ur-text of our profession, under the car. It was marked in ink as a Port Authority copy, and I knew it had blown out of their offices at the World Trade Center. I observe none of its edicts — I am a turgid, digressive writer — but love its aspiration and clarity. I put it under glass still containing the dust of that day along with a copy of something I wrote for New York magazine that was the only decent thing I wrote out of all that confusion and mayhem. I treasure its presence in my home even as I leave its advice under glass.’ MORE

DAVID CARR, ADVICE FOR JOURNALISTS: Keep typing until it turns into writing.DavidCarrLife copy

JAKE TAPPER: Having him as an editor, a friend, and a mentor was a tremendous blessing. In those Washington City Paper offices on Champlain Street NW in the late 1990s, those of us who worked for David—Erik “Coach” Wemple, Michael Schaffer, Amanda Ripley, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Jason Cherkis, Eddie Dean, Shawn Daly, Neil Drumming, Jandos Rothstein, Jelani Cobb, Brett Anderson, and on and on—knew when we did good and we knew when we made a mistake. This was not always a pleasant experience. It was always an important and meaningful one. Sometimes the mistake was in not bringing our best to the table. Our weekly pitch meetings could be brutal if the notebook dump produced nothing that piqued his interest. Items we had discovered that we thought were new were usually not, and he let us know that we were standing on a foundation of cliché.

“What else ya got?” he would ask.

He stood for excellence in journalism. That did not mean he thought our job was all about boring lectures; quite the contrary. He wanted our prose to pop and crackle (his edits made me appear a much better writer than I was). He wanted our stories to grab readers by the ears and drag them into our pages. He wanted journalism to engage and entertain, and mostly he wanted it to matter. He continued to be a compass of journalistic ethics after he left WCP and went to New York City, where he landed as one of the most important media columnists of the era. In addition to standing for what was right in journalism, he also stood for the need for humility. He publicly second-guessed himself, was nakedly open about his struggles with drug addiction, and was never above bringing his errors to light. It only made him of more value.  MORE

MEDIAGLUTBLOG: I spend a lot of my time thinking about media and journalism and how it’s changing and how to keep it alive – and I get worried and stressed and scared and excited and inspired and frequently don’t know what to do about it all. David Carr and his Media Equation column provided a small amount of clarity in this heaving industry, identifying trends and directions in an overwhelming storm of information. As much as I want to give up on journalism sometimes, seeing hope in his columns cemented my belief in the necessity and sustainability of quality media. I don’t know how to start navigating it without his insight. MORE

NEW YORK TIMESWhen David Carr Went To Neil Young’s House

WASHINGTON CITY PAPER: Carr was a passionate fan of music, too. I liked to drink in his stories of wild times with the Replacements, Soul Asylum and Husker Du in Minneapolis. MORE

GAWKER: It’s true that Judd Apatow didn’t decide to work with Dunham because of who her parents were. Instead, he chose to work with Dunham thanks to David Carr. In 2010, Dunham had a blind script deal for HBO. What she was missing was the imprimatur of a Hollywood heavyweight. Meanwhile, Apatow, who is friends with Carr, was asking the Times columnist if he knew of any promising up-and-comers. Carr did know one. Carr also knew, with his eye on the angles, that the director/writer/producer had a woman problem. Dunham was someone who could make Apatow’s then-checkered track record with female characters disappear. Carr told Apatow to get a look at Tiny Furniture asap. MORE

WASHINGTON CITY PAPER: He insisted I learn how to properly hold chopstick during an early review meal at a Vietnamese restaurant in Arlington. Later, we went to the Black Cat. The Make-Up was playing, if memory serves. MOREDavidCarrLife copy

DAVID CARR ON THE FIRING OF JILL ABRAMSON: I have witnessed some fraught moments at The New York Times. Jayson Blair was a friend of mine. I watched Howell Raines fly into a mountain from a very close distance. I saw the newspaper almost tip over when the print business plunged and the company had to borrow money at exorbitant rates from a Mexican billionaire. But none of that was as surreal as what happened last week. When The Times’s publisher, Arthur Sulzberger Jr., stood up at a hastily called meeting in the soaring open newsroom where we usually gather to celebrate the Pulitzers and said that Jill was out, we all just looked at one another. How did our workplace suddenly become a particularly bloody episode of “Game of Thrones”? It is one thing to gossip or complain about your boss, but quite another to watch her head get chopped off in the cold light of day. The lack of decorum was stunning.” MORE

GAWKER:  I left a voicemail for him at his office: Hi, I’m some kid, you don’t know me, Clara Jeffery said to call, I need a job, would you buy me lunch. I didn’t hear back—and please understand that this is just an unverified recollection, because there is no one left to verify it with—for a day or two, so I tried again and left another message. A day or two after that, he calls me back.

“I’m sorry I didn’t get back to you sooner. I’m calling you from a hospital in Minneapolis. My mother is dying.”

“Oh Jesus I’m sorry, I’ll just circle back in a month or so.”

“Don’t be silly. She probably won’t last the week, in which case I’ll be back next week and we can maybe do Thursday. If she lasts longer than that, we’ll have to wait and see….”

“Mr. Carr, please, I don’t want to bother you at a time like this. I’m so sorry.”

“It is what it is. I’ll call you next week.”

She died, he called. He showed up for lunch wearing bermuda shorts, bunched-up socks, and a baggy, garish Hawaiian shirt. He didn’t have a job for me, but he asked me about my life, my work thus far, how I knew Clara. I asked him to tell me how he got where he is. I was anxious. I wanted to succeed, quickly. How do you get to be the editor of the City Paper? What does the career arc look like? Where are the handholds?

I don’t recall the particulars, but it went something like: “I started out in state politics, and wrote a little bit, then I was a crackhead for a few years…”

“Excuse me?”

“Yeah, full-on crackhead. Welfare. Trailer park. Then I cleaned up and became the editor of a paper in Minneapolis….” MORE

NEW YORK TIMES: On August 5, 2008, Carr’s book, “The Night of the Gun,” came out on Simon and Schuster. The book is a memoir of addiction and recovery that used reporting to fact check the past. Much of the data he collected, including videos, documents and pictures, is available DavidCarrLife copyhere. (If you want to purchase the book, you can go here.) MORE

NEW YORK TIMES: As he chronicled in his 2008 memoir, “The Night of the Gun,” by the late 1980s he was addicted to crack cocaine and living with a woman who was both a drug dealer and the mother of his twin daughters. One night, shortly after the girls were born, he left them in a car while he went into a house to score some coke from a dealer named Kenny:

Kenny’s lip-licking coke rap was more ornate, somehow more satisfying, than that of most of the dealers I worked with,” Mr. Carr wrote. “His worldview was all black helicopters and white noise — the whispering, unseen others who would one day come for us. It kept me on my toes.

But tonight I had company. I certainly couldn’t bring the twins in. Even in the gang I ran with, coming through the doors of the dope house swinging two occupied baby buckets was not done. Sitting there in the gloom of the front seat, the car making settling noises against the chill, I decided that my teeny twin girls would be safe, that God would look after them while I did not.  MORE

NPR: David Carr On Fresh Air

VOX: In media circles these days, there is absolutely no shortage of doom and gloom predictions about the future of journalism. It’s common to hear wizened vets warning the young to steer clear of the profession altogether. This wasn’t Carr’s view, and he made it so beautifully clear in this column. Carr recognized that being a reporter is a ridiculously thrilling, exciting job to nab — one that was worth the chase. It’s these two paragraphs that capture so well much of the excitement I feel about journalism right now, at a moment when excitement isn’t a word that comes up too much. MORE

DAVID CARR: Somewhere down in the Flatiron, out in Brooklyn, over in Queens or up in Harlem, cabals of bright young things are watching all the disruption with more than an academic interest. Their tiny netbooks and iPhones, which serve as portals to the cloud, contain more informational firepower than entire newsrooms possessed just two decades ago. And they are ginning content from their audiences in the form of social media or finding ways of making ambient information more useful. They are jaded in the way youth requires, but have the confidence that is a gift of their age as well. For them, New York is not an island sinking, but one that is rising on a fresh, ferocious wave. MORE

MOTHER JONES: Over the past few years, Carr has had a bit of a haunted look about him. He’d lost weight. His health problems seemed to be dogging him more. I think everyone who knew him well recognized, at least subconsciously, that Carr was not going to be on this earth long enough to need a rocking chair. But I think we also had some collective denial about his mortality. To use a cliché he wouldn’t approve of, Carr genuinely was a force of nature. I think maybe we assumed he could go on like that forever, pulling the all nighters, smoking, drinking gallons of coffee, working like a fiend, and talking, talking and talking. But of course, he couldn’t. And so here we are, devastated, grieving, missing our irreplaceable friend. I think Jake Tapper spoke for a lot of us who knew and loved Carr when he wrote in an anguished tweet today, “What the hell are we going to do now?” MORE

NEW YORK TIMES ARCHIVES: All 1776 Stories Wrote For The New York TImes



Carr interviewing Snowden, Poitras & Greenwald just hours before his death

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INCOMING: Let The Wild Rumpus Begin!

February 12th, 2015

Democratic-

 

CNN: Philadelphia will host the Democratic National Convention in July 2016, a source with knowledge of the selection process tells CNN. The Democratic National Committee confirmed Philadelphia’s selection Thursday morning, shortly after the news broke, using a Facebook video of chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz pulling a cheesesteak out of a refrigerator to announce the decision. New York and Columbus, Ohio, were the two other cities vying for the right to host the Democratic convention. The event is scheduled for the week of July 25, 2016. Democrats’ decision to nominate the party’s presidential nominee in Philadelphia is a major win for former Gov. Ed Rendell, who had been spearheading efforts to convince Democrats to choose the city he once led. Rendell served as Philadelphia mayor from 1992 to 2000. The Republican Party previously announced it would hold its presidential nominating convention the week of July 18, 2016, in Cleveland. The last time Philadelphia hosted a presidential convention was in 2000, when Republicans chose then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush as the party’s nominee. MORE

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CINEMA: Island Of Lost Souls

February 12th, 2015

LOST DR. MOREAU

 

LOST SOUL: THE DOOMED JOURNEY OF RICHARD STANLEY’S ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU (2014, directed by David Gregory, 97 minutes, U.S.)

buskirkBY DAN BUSKIRK FILM CRITIC Shot like an expansive DVD extra, director David (Plague Town) Gregory’s unassuming documentary Lost Souls: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau overcomes its generic visual style by having a whopper of a tale to tell. Stanley was a South African-born director who made a pair of stylish low budget genre films (1990’s Hardware and 1992’s Dust Devil) that made him a favorite of the Fangoria crowd. Before procuring the novel’s rights, Stanley wrote an ambitious screenplay adaptation of H.G. Wells’ vivisection classic The Island of Dr. Moreau that spun off from the novel with all sorts of ghoulish bestial developments. It took the then-building prestige of New Line Films to wrangle the film rights and before you know it Stanley’s modestly budgeted sci-fi horror film has ballooned into a major Hollywood production with the temperamentally unpredictable duo of Marlon Brando and Val Kilmer on board.

What could go wrong? Everything, and terribly. Without overstating things, Gregory paints a picture of a reality that begins to resemble the perverse action of the Wells’ book. For starters, a supernatural spell is cast. Stanley arrives on location in Australia with one white linen suit he plans to wear for the whole shoot like he is Dr. Moreau. He has his supporters but a group of doubters in the production have him removed from his film early in the shoot, to be replaced by the crusty old school director John Frankenheimer, who is best known for directing The Manchurian Candidate and Seconds. Stanley disappears into the jungle only to later make an unbelievable return. Brando arrives late, still mourning the suicide of his young daughter, and suddenly he is the new mad scientist on the set. As production breaks down, the costumed extras — drawn from a community of crusty Australian hippies — descend into Bacchanalia worthy of their half-man/half-beast roles.

Gregory allows many people in the production to have their say, from co-star Fairuza Balk (who paints a jet-black picture of Hollywood politics) to the extras and lowly gofers, who were bemused, well-paid spectators of the madness. (Oddly unmentioned: David Thewlis of Mike Leigh’s Naked, who had a major role in the film) These sometimes conflicting perspectives give the story the air of legend. The Island of Dr. Moreau finally came out in 1996 and the best parts have an unhinged quality that was emphasized in Stanley’s original vision. Stanley’s career never recovered, Brando is dead and Val Kilmer has gone from top tier star to bloated B-movie gossip fodder — a fate richly deserved if you believe the nasty portrait of him painted here. While destiny has humbled them all, Lost Souls has given these fascinating men a chance to loom large again, both on the PhilaMOCA screen and in the annals of cinematic disasters.

LOST SOUL: THE DOOMED JOURNEY OF RICHARD STANLEY’S ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU @ PHILMOCA, 531 NORTH 12th STREET, PHILA. FRIDAY FEB. 13TH @ 8 PM WITH INTRODUCTION BY DANGER AFTER DARK’S TRAVIS CRAWFORD

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EXCERPT: The Hunting Of Billie Holiday

February 12th, 2015

The Hunting Of Billie Holiday FINAL

 

The following is an excerpt from CHASING THE SCREAM: The First And Last Days Of The War On Drugs by Johann Hari, via POLITICO:

From his first day in office in 1930, Harry Anslinger had a problem, and everybody knew it. He had just been appointed head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics—a tiny agency, buried in the gray bowels of the Treasury Department in Washington, D.C.—and it seemed to be on the brink of being abolished. This was the old Department of Prohibition, but prohibition had been abolished and his men needed a new role, fast. As he looked over his new staff—just a few years before his pursuit of Billie Holiday began—he saw a sunken army who had spent fourteen years waging war on alcohol only to see alcohol win, and win big. These men were notoriously corrupt and crooked—but now Harry was supposed to whip them into a force capable of wiping drugs from the United States forever.

Harry believed he could. He believed that the response to being dealt a weak hand should always be to dramatically raise the stakes. He pledged to eradicate all drugs, everywhere—and within thirty years, he succeeded in turning this crumbling department with these disheartened men into the headquarters for a global war that would continue for decades. He could do it because he was a bureaucratic genius—but, even more crucially, because there was a deep strain in American culture that was waiting for a man like him, with a sure and certain answer to their questions about chemicals.

___

Jazz was the opposite of everything Harry Anslinger believed in. It is improvised, relaxed, free-form. It follows its own rhythm. Worst of all, it is a mongrel CHASING THE SCREAMmusic made up of European, Caribbean and African echoes, all mating on American shores. To Anslinger, this was musical anarchy and evidence of a recurrence of the primitive impulses that lurk in black people, waiting to emerge. “It sounded,” his internal memos said, “like the jungles in the dead of night.” Another memo warned that “unbelievably ancient indecent rites of the East Indies are resurrected” in this black man’s music. The lives of the jazzmen, he said, “reek of filth.”

His agents reported back to him that “many among the jazzmen think they are playing magnificently when under the influence of marihuana but they are actually becoming hopelessly confused and playing horribly.”

The Bureau believed that marijuana slowed down your perception of time dramatically, and this was why jazz music sounded so freakish—the musicians were literally living at a different, inhuman rhythm. “Music hath charms,” their memos say, “but not this music.” Indeed, Anslinger took jazz as yet more proof that marijuana drives people insane. For example, the song “That Funny Reefer Man” contains the line “Any time he gets a notion, he can walk across the ocean.” Anslinger’s agents warned that’s exactly what drug users were like: “He does think that.”

Anslinger looked out over a scene filled with rebels like Charlie Parker, Louis Armstrong and Thelonious Monk, and—as the journalist Larry Sloman recorded—he longed to see them all behind bars. He wrote to all the agents he had sent to follow them and instructed: “Please prepare all cases in your jurisdiction involving musicians in violation of the marijuana laws. We will have a great national round-up arrest of all such persons on a single day. I will let you know what day.” His advice on drug raids to his men was always simple: “Shoot first.”

He reassured congressmen that his crackdown would affect not “the good musicians, but the jazz type.” But when Harry came for them, the jazz world would have one weapon that saved them: its absolute solidarity. Anslinger’s men could find almost no one among them who was willing to snitch, and whenever one of them was busted, they all chipped in to bail him out. In the end, the Treasury Department told Anslinger he was wasting his time taking on a community that couldn’t be fractured, so he scaled down his focus until it settled like a laser on a single target—perhaps the greatest female jazz vocalist there ever was. He wanted to bring the full thump of the federal government down upon that scourge of modern society, his Public Enemy #1: Billie Holiday. MORE

TIME: “Strange Fruit” is a tragic song famously performed by Billie Holiday, one of America’s most tragic singers. The devastating image of “strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees” is the mournful heart of this antiracism song. Named song of the century by TIME in 1999, the lyrics were written by Abel Meeropol, an English teacher from the Bronx who in 1937 ran across a photograph of a lynching that both disturbed and inspired him. The resulting poem became the basis of the song two years later. Holiday’s live version of “Strange Fruit,” with only a piano backing her, is even more raw and heartfelt than the recording. You can feel her anguish, you can feel her sadness, you can feel her anger. It’s a song that is complicated in a unique way — such beautiful humanity in such a shameful topic. MORE

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STRANGE FRUIT: From 1877–1968 The Public Lynching Of Blacks Was American Spectator Sport

February 11th, 2015

Duluth-lynching-postcard2

 

ABOVE: In Duluth, Minnesota, on June 15, 1920, three young African-American traveling circus workers were lynched after having been accused of having raped a white woman and jailed pending a grand jury hearing. This image was sold as a souvenir postcard. A physician’s subsequent examination of the woman found no evidence of rape or assault. The alleged “motive” and action by a mob were consistent with the “community policing” model. The book, The Lynchings in Duluth (2000) by Michael Fedo has documented the events.[36]

NEW YORK TIMES: It is important to remember that the hangings, burnings and dismemberments of black American men, women and children that were relatively common in this country between the Civil War and World War II were often public events. They were sometimes advertised in newspapers and drew hundreds and even thousands of white spectators, including elected officials and leading citizens who were so swept up in the carnivals of death that they posed with their children for keepsake photographs within arm’s length of mutilated black corpses. These episodes of horrific, communitywide violence have been erased from civic memory in lynching-belt states like Louisiana, Georgia, Alabama, Florida and Mississippi. MORE

REUTERS: Lynchings in which mobs raided jailhouses to hang, torture and burn alive black men, sometimes leading to public executions in courthouse squares, occurred Lynching In America copymore often in the U.S. South than was previously known, according to a report released on Tuesday. The slightest transgression could spur violence, the Equal Justice Initiative found, as it documented 3,959 victims of lynching in a dozen Southern states. The group said it found 700 more lynchings of black people in the region than had been previously reported. The research took five years and covered 1877 to 1950, the period from the end of post-Civil War Reconstruction to the years immediately following World War Two. The report cited a 1940 incident in which Jesse Thornton was lynched in Alabama for not saying “Mister” as he talked to a white police officer. In 1916, men lynched Jeff Brown for accidentally bumping into a white girl as he ran to catch a train, the report said. MORE

BUZZFEED: In one such spectacle lynching, in 1904 in Doddsville, Mississippi, the victims were a black man named Luther Holbert, who allegedly killed a white landowner, and a black woman believed to be his wife. They were tied to a tree and forced to hold out their hands as their fingers were “methodically chopped off” and distributed to the gathered crowd as “souvenirs,” the report said. Their ears were cut off, and their attackers used a corkscrew to “bore holes” into their bodies and “pull out large chunks of ‘quivering flesh.'” The report said both were then thrown into a fire and burned.  “The white men, women, and children present watched the horrific murders while enjoying deviled eggs, lemonade and whiskey in a picnic-like atmosphere,” the report said.  MORE

NIEMAN REPORTS: On December 4, 1931, on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, an African American named Matthew Williams shot and killed his white employer, then turned a pistol on himself, inflicting a wound. Staggering away from the scene of the crime, he was shot by the employer’s son, then arrested and taken to a Salisbury hospital. Hours later, a mob descended on the building, seized Williams, dropped him from a window, dragged him to the courthouse green, and hung him from a tree. A crowd of 2,000 men, women and children cheered. The body was then doused with gasoline and burned. One member of the mob cut off several of Williams’s toes and carried them off as souvenirs. It was the first lynching the state had witnessed in 20 years. The local townspeople celebrated the occasion by draping the tree with an American flag. The 1931 lynching on the Eastern Shore revolted Mencken; he was furious that no one had done anything to stop Williams’s murder, only one of more than 5,000 lynchings that had occurred in the United States since 1922. MORE

TIME: There were lynchings in the Midwestern and Western states, mostly of Asians, Mexicans, and Native Americans. But it was in the South that lynching evolved into a semiofficial institution of racial terror against blacks. All across the former Confederacy, blacks who were suspected of crimes against whites—or even “offenses” no greater than failing to step aside for a white man’s car or protesting a lynching—were tortured, hanged and burned to death by the thousands. In a prefatory essay in Without Sanctuary, historian Leon F. Litwack writes that between 1882 and 1968, at least 4,742 African Americans were murdered that way. MORE

Lynching Newspaper Story copy 2
 
NPR: In most of the places where these lynchings took place — in fact in all of them — there was a functioning criminal justice system that was deemed “too good” for African-Americans. You had lynching of whites and others in the far West and in the early parts of the 19th century that would be called “frontier justice.” You did not have functioning justice system in, so people took things in their hands. Here we had very well established courts of laws, we had very well established criminal justice systems. Often these men were pulled from jails and pulled out of courthouses, where they could be lynched literally on the courthouse lawn. MORE

NEW YORK TIMES: A block from the tourist-swarmed headquarters of the former Texas School Book Depository sits the old county courthouse, now a museum. In 1910, a group of men rushed into the courthouse, threw a rope around the neck of a black man accused of sexually assaulting a 3-year-old white girl, and threw the other end of the rope out a window. A mob outside yanked the man, Allen Brooks, to the ground and strung him up at a ceremonial arch a few blocks down Main Street. South of the city, past the Trinity River bottoms, a black man named W. R. Taylor was hanged by a mob in 1889. Farther south still is the community of Streetman, where 25-year-old George Gay was hanged from a tree and shot hundreds of times in 1922.And just beyond that is Kirvin, where three black men, two of them almost certainly innocent, were accused of killing a white woman and, under the gaze of hundreds of soda-drinking spectators, were castrated, stabbed, beaten, tied to a plow and set afire in the spring of 1922. The killing of Mr. Brooks is noted in the museum. The sites of the other killings, like those of nearly every lynching in the United States, are not marked. Bryan Stevenson believes this should change. On Tuesday, the organization he founded and runs, the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Ala., released a report on the history of lynchings in the United States, the result of five years of research and 160 visits to sites around the South. The authors of the report compiled an inventory of 3,959 victims of “racial terror lynchings” in 12 Southern states from 1877 to 1950. MORE

Lynching Map copy
Click HERE to enlarge

NPR: There’s nothing marked in Montgomery [Ala.], or in most communities in the South, to this history of lynching, and we want to change that. … We want to erect markers and monuments at lynching sites all over this country. Because I think until we deal with this history, we talk about what it represents, we’re going to continue be haunted by this legacy of terrorism and violence that will manifest itself in ways that are problematic. MORE

NEW YORK TIMES: The report argues compellingly that the threat of death by lynching was far more influential in shaping present-day racial reality than contemporary Lynching In America copyAmericans typically understand. It argues that The Great Migration from the South, in which millions of African-Americans moved North and West, was partly a forced migration in which black people fled the threat of murder at the hands of white mobs.

It sees lynching as the precursor of modern-day racial bias in the criminal justice system. The researchers argue, for example, that lynching declined as a mechanism of social control as the Southern states shifted to a capital punishment strategy, in which blacks began more frequently to be executed after expedited trials. The legacy of lynching was apparent in that public executions were still being used to mollify mobs in the 1930s even after such executions were legally banned.

Despite playing a powerful role in the shaping of Southern society, the lynching era has practically disappeared from public discourse. As the report notes: “Most Southern terror lynching victims were killed on sites that remain unmarked and unrecognized. The Southern landscape is cluttered with plaques, statues and monuments that record, celebrate and lionize generations of American defenders of white supremacy, including public officials and private citizens who perpetrated violent crimes against black citizens during the era of racial terror.” MORE

DOWNLOAD: Lynching In America: Confronting A Legacy Of Racial Terror [PDF]

RELATED: The Hunting Of Billie Holiday

BILLIE HOLIDAY: Strange Fruit

 

TIME: “Strange Fruit” is a tragic song famously performed by Billie Holiday, one of America’s most tragic singers. The devastating image of “strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees” is the mournful heart of this antiracism song. Named song of the century by TIME in 1999, the lyrics were written by Abel Meeropol, an English teacher from the Bronx who in 1937 ran across a photograph of a lynching that both disturbed and inspired him. The resulting poem became the basis of the song two years later. Holiday’s live version of “Strange Fruit,” with only a piano backing her, is even more raw and heartfelt than the recording. You can feel her anguish, you can feel her sadness, you can feel her anger. It’s a song that is complicated in a unique way — such beautiful humanity in such a shameful topic. MORE

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ABOUT LAST NIGHT: Better Call Saul Premier Pt. 2

February 10th, 2015

better_call_saul_by_yescabrita-d6pvkch

Artwork by YESCABRITA

COLE_NOWLINBY NOLE COWLIN What a lawyer. Not many attorneys could get their clients off with merely pulverized kneecaps — a slap on the wrist compared to the threatened Colombian Necktie. In part two of the two-part/two-night debut of Better Call Saul, we meet a deeply moral Saul, one who will haggle with a homicidal maniac drug dealer in a desert on his client’s behalf, a tireless public defender who runs on nothing but vending machine coffee. Gone was the scheming, small-time shyster we were introduced to in part one, and in his place is a guy trying to do the right thing. And while Saul’s moral compass may be a bit screwy, Breaking Bad/Better Call Saul creator/director Vince Gilligan is making it clear that at this moment, Saul is trying to tightrope walk the straight and narrow. Just as it took Walter White some time to become Heisenberg, it appears it will likely take some time for Jimmy McGill to evolve into Saul Goodman.

Last night, we started to see more of the narrative skeleton of Better Call Saul along with some solid indicators of where the season will be going. Gilligan brought back Tuco, a Breaking Bad All-Star, and it appears that Tuco-wrangling will be an early rite of passage for Saul just as it was for Walt. But whereas Walt opted for a show of power, (like that crazy crystallized mercury he used to blow up Tuco’s safe house) Saul has a deft touch, and displays great finesse and rhetorical might in being able to effectively reason with Tuco, who is the antithesis of reason and rationality. Walt emerged post-Tuco as a burgeoning Satan-In-Training, having learned the true meaning of ruthlessness. Only time will tell how his dealings with Tuco and his associate, Nacho, will effect Saul, but judging from early interactions it appears he may not be as easily transmuted into a meth demon.

Also, what the hell is wrong with Chuck? He was fairly peripheral in this episode, but he will most certainly turn out to be a power player, as most people entitled to over a million dollars are. What exactly is he suffering from that he is so certain he will “beat”? What is his strange beef with technology? Why no electric lights or refrigerator? And what’s with space blanket swaddling? He seems to be the angle (i.e. payday) Saul is most interested in, but I have a feeling Chuck will fall by the wayside as Nacho and Tuco bubble to the top of Saul’s financial prospects.

So far, Breaking Bad fan favorite Mike Ehrmantraut has been parcelled out in small bites. The only moments we see the former Philadelphia cop is as a municipal sticker Nazi, the bane of Saul’s public defender existence. Clearly Ehrmantraut will soon break free of his toll-troll role and become something more integral to the storyline, but when that will happen is, as of yet, a mystery. After the two night premiere, the Better Call Saul remains full of promise. There are a lot of moving parts, the plots and subplots are shooting out in a myriad of different directions, and the dedicated Breaking Bad fans have been indulged with the return of some of their favorite characters from the original series. Better Call Saul has made a strong case for itself, and will strive for a spot in the prestigious and notoriously selective Spin-off Hall of Fame. At this point, it looks to have a good shot.

PREVIOUSLY: Better Call Saul Premier Pt. 1

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MAN MAN: When Oscar Wilde Met Walt Whitman

February 10th, 2015

WaltWhitman

Artwork by DAVID RICE

WIKIPEDIA: Oscar Wilde: Wilde met Whitman in America in 1882 and wrote to the homosexual-rights activist George Cecil Ives that there was “no doubt” about the great American poet’s sexual orientation—”I have the kiss of Walt Whitman still on my lips”, he boasted.[133

THE TOAST: Because mine is an evil and a petty mind, suitable more to wallowing in the sordid sexual goings-on of literary giants than in reading their work, I take every opportunity I can to inform people who may not have known that Walt Whitman and Oscar Wilde almost certainly had sex in 1882. You are either the kind of person to whom this matters a great deal, or the kind of person to whom it matters not at all. To the latter I say: yours is the narrow road and the straight, and I extend to you a hearty and fulsome handshake, as well as my sincerest wishes for your continued good health. To the former I say: Want to hear about the time Walt Whitman and Oscar Wilde (probably) hooked up?? Of course you do. You’re my kind of person. Why do we ever talk about anything else? Let’s never do that again.

So. As you may or may not know, Wilde went on a speaking tour of America in 1882, and it was marvelous (Henry James didn’t care for it; Henry James called him a “tenth-rate card” and an “unclean beast”; Henry James can go suck an egg). He lectured Oscar_Wilde_by_Napoleon_Sarony,_with_hat_and_cape,_1882and gave interviews and he sold out concert halls and he very possibly had sex with Walt Whitman. If you have not already read Neil McKenna’s nearly-perfect biography, The Secret Life of Oscar Wilde (Indiebound | Amazon), please correct this omission as quickly as possible. I will now quote from it at length:

Oscar desperately wanted to meet Walt Whitman, whom he and many others considered to be America’s living poet…Whitman’s poetry spoke of the potency of friendship and love between men, particularly between working-class men, and positively oozed homoeroticism. Indeed, the ‘Calamus’ section of Whitman’s great poetic cycle Leaves of Grass was so intensely homoerotic that it gave rise to the short-lived term ‘calamite’ to denote a man who loved men. Swinburne was to denounce ‘the cult of the calamus’ and ‘calamites.’ MORE


RADIO TIMES:
The new opera Oscar, about the life of legendarily flamboyant writer, Oscar Wilde, is billing itself as the first openly gay opera in history. The show is currently running at Opera Philadelphia, so today we are joined by the star of the show, famed countertenor DAVID DANIELS, who plays the shows titular character. We’re also joined by Oscar’s composer, THEODORE MORRISON, and by Oscar Wilde historian, JOHN COOPER. MORE



THE NEW REPUBLIC:
In January 31, 1882, a partially paralyzed man living with his brother and sister-in-law in a row house in Camden, New Jersey, wrote to a friend to tell him of a recent visitor to that home. “He is a fine large handsome youngster,” the man wrote of that guest. And “he had the good sense to take a great fancy to me.” Thus Walt Whitman described the day he spent with Oscar Wilde. This meeting between the self-described “old rough” who revolutionized American poetry with his masterpiece Leaves of Grass and the self-anointed “Professor of Aesthetics” who was touring America with a lecture praising sconces and embroidered pillows, has been examined often in the intervening years, usually through the lens of what is now called queer history, or as an interesting, if not particularly consequential, moment in the history of literature. But neither approach takes the true measure of the meeting’s importance. For Wilde didn’t travel to Camden to talk about gender roles or belles lettres. The writer was still years away from becoming the author whose peerlessly witty plays are still staged today. What drew him to Whitman’s home was the opportunity to discuss fame. He wanted to listen to the singer of “Song of Myself”an older man (Whitman was 62, Wilde 27) with inexhaustible energy, despite his infirmity, for self-promotion. Whitman was an international icon who exploited the fuzzy line between acclaim and notoriety and a media-savvy poet who understood the crucial role of image in the making of a literary career. Wilde didn’t travel to Camden to learn how to be a famous writer. That, he was certain, he would later teach himself. He went to learn how to be a famous person. It would be hard to imagine a more apt pairing of teacher and student. MORE

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