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Photo by DEREK BRAD
As the sun dropped on a warm late October afternoon, the gates opened for the Forbes’ first ever Under 30 Music Festival at the Piazza in Philadelphia. The festival is a partnership with Global Poverty Project, the organization that runs the annual Global Festival in NYC. Both events are free ticketed events for anyone who took specific action against extreme poverty on social media — watching a video on extreme poverty, tweeting about it, or even taking a selfie and hashtagging about Global Citizen.
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NEW YORK TIMES: It’s hard to imagine now, but there once was a time when you could not play any song ever recorded, instantly, from your phone. I call this period adolescence. It lasted approximately 30 years, and it was galvanized by conflict. At that time, music had to be melted onto plastic discs and shipped across the country in trucks. In order to keep this system running smoothly, a handful of major labels coordinated with broadcasters and retailers to encourage everyone to like the same thing, e.g. Third Eye Blind. This approach divided music into two broad categories: “popular” and what I liked. Lest history remember industry versus indie as a distinction without difference, I should point out that mainstream rock was genuinely awful in the two decades before Napster. Classic rock gave way to glam metal, which was vanquished by Nirvana and grunge, whose promise quickly curdled into the cynical marketing strategy known as “alternative.” From Journey to Smash Mouth, the major-label system peddled an enormous quantity of objectively hideous music in its waning years. In a now-famous 1993 essay for The Baffler, the musician and recording engineer Steve Albini described how this system pauperized bands to enrich a series of middlemen. The structure of most contracts meant that artists paid back almost all their royalties in managers’ and recording fees. The occasional hits profited the artists far less than they did the labels, whose marketing departments ignored most of their catalogs to focus on the hits. For a majority of bands, signing with a major label was the first step toward going out of business. Albini called it “the problem with music”: the major-label system acted as an anticurator by making good music harder to find. For me, adopting an indie-snob identity (subset punk) didn’t just solve this problem and provide me with a lifetime of sound-as-art, it also gave me something to talk about with other pointy-haired youngsters I ran across. MORE
Photo by PETE TROSHAK
Last night a sold-out crowd at the Trocadero Theater bore witness to the evolution of former My Chemical Romance singer Gerard Way from a leather-wrapped wild boy to a suave, Kool-Aid-haired thin white duke in a dark blue suit. Way and his tight four-piece backing band, The Hormones, spent an hour throwing out darts of finely-honed New Wave-y rock from his debut solo album, Hesitant Alien, to the delight of the loud and raucous crowd. It is fitting that the Troc would be one of the first stops on Way’s first solo tour given that in 2006 the venue hosted a special MTV concert featuring My Chemical Romance that helped elevate the band’s profile before the release of their magnum opus – the Queen/Pink Floyd influenced The Black Parade. The following seven years found the band burning through drummers like Spinal Tap and playing a ton of shows all over the world but only releasing one more proper album before quietly imploding. In August, Way revealed that he had relapsed into alcoholism during the making of the band’s final album, an relapse that led him to break up the band for fear that his young daughter would grow up without a dad. Way is back on his own and seemingly happy, healthy and forward-looking.
Friday’s set list was all material from Way’s solo album plus two surprise covers from opposite ends of the spectrum. The first was a traditional English folk song from 1906 called “The Water Is Wide” (that Way recorded for Kevin Smith’s man-becoming-a-walrus-man movie Tusk) re-arranged as an achingly beautiful piano ballad. The second found Way intentionally slurring his way through an awesomely sludgy cover of The Jesus and Mary Chain’s “Snakedriver,” that sounded like someone playing a vinyl version of “California Girls” by the Beach Boys on the wrong speed to make it sound groovy and satanic. Twin highlights of the set came back to back, first with a gorgeous and melancholy “Drugstore Perfume” that channeled the cold dark jangle-and-tambourines of the early Velvet Underground and the anthemic piano-driven “Brother” which featured a soaring chorus and great harmonies from Way and his bandmates. The night, and for that matter the path that brought Way to this moment was best summed up during “Millions.” Way introduced the song by thanking the crowd for supporting him and allowing him to keep making music and saying that the song was about saying “I Quit.” It meant much more than that though. On this night it was a powerful, uplifting cry of affirmation — the sound and words of someone having the strength to walk away from a toxic situation and make a new start, just like Way did. – PETE TROSHAK
Illustration by DONKEY HOTEY
EDITOR’S NOTE: We have a pair of tickets to see John Hodgman tonight at Underground Arts, all you have to do is send us an email at FEED@PHAWKER.COM telling us the name of the character he plays on The Knick. HINT: The answer is somewhere in this interview.
BY JONATHAN VALANIA John Hodgman is full of shit. Full to the brim and stuffed to the gills with the stuff. And that’s a wonderful thing for you and me — as representative members of the human race that enjoy a good chortle and maybe even a guffaw when circumstances merit — because John Hodgman’s wizardly ability to turn horseshit into pure comedy gold, and to do so with a straight-face, a high-handed loquaciousness never-ending and the kind of ornate, self-aggrandizing syntax usually reserved for the mustachioed stovepipe-hatted men who tie women to railroad tracks in flickering black and white films is his great and generous gift to humanity. So send him a thank you note. Or even better yet, tell him in person tonight (Friday October 16th) at Underground Arts.
To stir up interest in tonight’s show amongst you, the great unwashed, we got the honorable Judge John Hodgman on the horn, asked him some harmless questions and let him carry forth with a Gilded Age grandiloquence not heard since Grover Cleveland was in the White House. DISCUSSED: His late-in-life marijuana experimentation; unwashed folk singers and their threat to huanity; the sadistic psych doctor he plays on Steven Soderbergh’s The Knick (starting Clive Owen); playing the hypersexual and oversharing Bernie on Married; Ayn Rand’s deconstruction of Charlie’s Angels, the Hobby Lobby hullabaloo, and how to sincerely grow an ironic mustache or ironically grow a sincere mustache in a way that does not make you look like a card-carrying member of NAMBLA. Impossible, you say? Well, Impossible is John Hodgman’s middle name. Actually, I lied. His middle name is Kellogg, but that is a discussion for another day.
PHAWKER: Can you say something so I can get a recording level?
JOHN HODGMAN: This is John Hodgman Speaking. I affirm that I have agreed to this interview, and I’ve agreed to being recorded. The sound of my voice is my signature. Proceed the first question.
PHAWKER: Before we get into the questions I have, can you tell me what we can expect on tonight at Underground Arts in Philadelphia?
JOHN HODGMAN: Last time I performed a full show in Philadelphia, I thought the world was going to end, at the end of 2012, according to ancient Mayan prophecies, and the visions I had while bathing in absinthe. You may have noticed that the world did not end, and I found that to be profoundly humiliating, and a little annoying. Because when you get to where I was in my career, in 2012, 41 years old then, now 43. And having published three books of fake facts, and having been on every television show I ever cared to watch. And I met the President of the United States and George R.R. Martin. Truly, what else was there for me to do?
So, I spent 2013, now almost all of 2014, in a basement — not everyday, about once a week — in a basement in Brooklyn where I live, at a venue called Union Hall, where I started telling stories, in order to figure out what I was thinking about now that the world had not ended. Comedy stories, you understand. What I found was extremely liberating. I told these stories, and the secret show that I did in the basement in Brooklyn. It was fine, because you need to tell the kind of arch-weirdo-absurdist jokes that I was known for, but equally fine to shed the persona of the Resident Expert at the Daily Show, or the Deranged Millionaire. I had written those books with fake trivia, and instead talked about John Hodgman, actual person, husband and father of two human children, and professional John Hodgman impersonator. By the end of another year, by the time the year anniversary of the world not ending had passed, I had discovered I had no more than one whole show that I wanted to present again for the people of the United States, and parts of Canada, until I’ve died.
So, over the course of 2014, I keep generating newer and newer material as I go along. The consequence is, I am making stories of a more straightforward and personal nature than perhaps people are used to. I’m shedding, quasi-literally, the disguises that I wore as a performer before, in order to stand before the audience, totally literally quasi-nude, and just speak of myself. When I speak of quasi nudity, that is to say that I do take off all of my old costumes, and then speak, for a long time as myself, John Hodgman, regular person. At the end of it, I do change into a dress, so that I can perform as Ayn Rand in 1981, the year before she died. The change has to occur onstage. I sense that because of the light, they may want to bring sunglasses, because my semi-nude body reflects a lot of light. It doesn’t last long before I am clothed in Ayn Rand’s costume. Essentially, the show is about a lot of things. It is about costume changes, real and imagined. It’s about my late-in-life experimentation with marijuana. My human children, that I refuse to acknowledge, I pretend that I’m telling stories about my cats, and Ayn Rand. Surf shops, and other things. Ultimately, it is about starting over. We all have to start over one way or another. Maybe you lost a job, maybe you’re out of a relationship, or maybe the world doesn’t end the way it was supposed to.
PHAWKER: Late-in-life experiments with marijuana?
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BY DAN BUSKIRK FILM CRITIC War films are most interesting not just for the stories they tell but for the insight they offer into contemporary attitudes towards war. Former Navy officer David Ayer writes and directs the new WW2 thriller Fury and his story is determined to show us that the best thing about going to war is to reveal what a man can achieve once he allows himself to be dehumanized. It’s an attitude missing from the WW2 Hollywood propaganda films of the 1940s and certainly different from the more morally complex films veterans made after the conflict. Ayer’s Fury seems unique to our times in its unquestioning embrace of soul-deadening violence as a personally transcendent force. It’s the sort of war film one might expect from a country that for a decade-plus has been at war and its appearance should give more peaceful souls a disturbing shudder as we expand our wars in the Middle East.
Returning to WW2 to tell a story is a way for its creator to place a moral certainly in his characters and to deny the paradoxes involved in war. Fury‘s opening moments lay out Ayer’s moral framework with a shamelessly symbolic scene in which Sergeant “Wardaddy” Collier (Brad Pitt) kills a lone Nazi soldier and sets free his white stallion. Wardaddy returns to his tank crew soon after, confronted by Cobb (Logan Lerman, star of the Percy Jackson films), a green recruit from accounting who was sent to the front to be his gunner. Germany is still strong but believed to be on the verge of its final collapse leaving Wardaddy and his grim tank crew with the task of smashing one village after another on their way to Berlin.
Before they head into battle Wardaddy makes it his job to desensitize Cobb. We already know that Wardaddy will shoot a prisoner rather than transport him but here he forces the gun into Cobb’s hand and demands he shoot a prisoner in the back. Cobb refuses but after further hazing from the crew Cobb finally attains killing machine status, ultimately joining in the crew’s post-killing chant, “Best job I ever had!”
This joy of killing may exist in the heat of battle but it is not often found in the films that were made after World War Two, when the experience was fresh in the country’s mind. The theme that comes up in so many of those films is that of men trying to hold on to their humanity in a world gone mad. Paths of Glory, Pork Chop Hill, and the war films of Sam Fuller all explored the contradictions of violently doling out death in the name of freedom in ways that denied easy answers. With Fury, Cobb finds transcendence once he inures himself to the idea of killing, finally achieving manhood and respect amongst his battle-hardened brethren.
It makes for a deeply conservative perspective on war and it is a conservatism whose viewpoint is ingrained throughout the film (I guess this shouldn’t be a surprise from a director who just helmed an Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle). After tumultuous battle scenes hoping to top Saving Private Ryan, things turn quiet as Wardaddy drags Cobb up to an apartment in a newly occupied village. Wardaddy has spotted a female form in the window and with guns pointed he and Cobb invade the woman’s living quarters. Once there they discover not only the woman with the gun but a young female cousin hidden under the bed, and Cobb and Wardaddy set up a perverse version of a double date. Giving the pair of women eggs to cook, they sit down to eat, after which Wardaddy orders Cobb, “It you don’t take her in that bedroom I will.” Cobb does, and the young couple’s coupling is suddenly framed as consensual sex between two young adults rather than an occupying army’s raping and pillaging. It’s only when the tank’s Latin crewman Garcia (Michael Peña from Ayer’s End of Watch) and his swarthy pal seek to share the carnal spoils that the idea of rape enters the scene. Before the contradictions of this scenario can be hashed out it ends with a big nullifying explosion and quickly we’re moving on for more glory via gory confrontations.
Pitt is so charismatic and the battle scenes are so tense (though not particularly well-mounted) that it is easy to go along with the film’s dehumanizing perspective: you’re either with Wardaddy and his crew or you’re with the Nazis. Shia LaGoof (nee LaBeouf) even anoints the proceedings with bibllical verse as a crew member named “Bible.” This crew of morose psychos nonetheless portray a moral surety our government would like its citizenry to feel towards our current Middle East adventures, and Ayer’s film does a great job here of stoking a wartime-y fervor (lines like “God-damned Nazis!” are frequently shouted). At least Fury strikes a slightly more honest promise for its soldiers, as a cost for your glory expect dehumanization and death. That these ugly realities are not indicted but glorified amounts to a Hollywood prophecy that our current wartime madness will continue indefinitely.
DELAWARE ONLINE: Want legal weed in Delaware? You’re easily in the majority, according to a new University of Delaware poll that finds 56 percent of Delawareans support legalization of marijuana use. The university polled 902 Delaware adults between Sept. 10 and 22, finding just 39 percent opposed to legalization. Delawareans older than 60 and self-identified conservatives were the only groups to express deep opposition, while young adults and liberals drove the support. Support for legalization crossed racial and geographic boundaries, with poll respondents in all three counties saying they back legal marijuana. “I would say the numbers suggest solid support for fully legalizing marijuana in Delaware,” said Paul Brewer, the political communications professor at the University of Delaware who supervised the poll. “The results also reflect what’s going on in public opinion at the national level, where the trends show a growing majority favoring legalization. MORE
BY JONATHAN VALANIA Comedian Hannibal Buress has played a homeless man on 30 Rock who was NOT masturbating to Tina Fey, a second banana on The Eric Andre Show, and a nitrous huffing nice guy BF on Broad City. But it is alone on stage with just a microphone and a brick wall behind him that he really shines. He killed at Oddballfest in Camden this past August. He plays two shows at the Trocadero tonight (early show is sold out; tix remain for the second set). DISCUSSED: Behind the scenes at 30 Rock, Louie, Broad City and The Eric Andre Show; Dave Chapelle; Bill Burr; Patrice O’Neal; and why he’s not afraid of Grizzly Bears.
PHAWKER: The Eric Andre Show is fucking hilarious and anarchic and, you know, reminds me of a low-rent Fernwood Tonight -style lampoon of late night talk shows. In the opening credits every week he totally trashes the set which is fucking hilarious. You’re always the voice of reason of the show, the foil to his mad man. Tell me about making that show, is that all scripted or is some of that improvised?
HANNIBAL BURESS: Yeah, some situations are scripted but there’s definitely a lot of improv on the show and I mean sometimes we just sit for 20 minutes or something and then cut a minute or two out of that and use it. So there’s a lot of very cool improv.
PHAWKER: The episode where the grizzly bear was eating the set. I’m sure there was a trainer off-camera and I’m sure the bear must have been chained or something like that but tell me how that went down. How did you guys film that without getting eaten?
HANNIBAL BURESS: Well, in that episode I was actually acting ‘cause I wasn’t really scared of the bear, you know? So when I ran away from the bear right to the desk that was me acting scared. I really wasn’t and it took a few takes to really get into the character. The bear was cool to work with, very professional, showed up on time, nice to the crew, spoke to everybody. So it was cool to work with that bear, I learned a lot but I wasn’t scared at all.
PHAWKER: [laughs] I mean just to clarify for me, was the bear’s leg chained or something like that? How was it restrained?
HANNIBAL BURESS: I don’t think it was restrained.
PHAWKER: Really? That’s balls.
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Photo by MARY LYNN DOMINGUEZ
Upon his arrival onstage last night at the Tower Theater, Flying Louts (a.k.a. Steven Ellison) tilted his head skyward and petitioned the ‘Whiskey Fairy’ for a divine intervention. FlyLo was, he said, about to spirit-guide the jam-packed audience to their ego deaths, which is no easy task without an entire bottle of liquor at the ready. Then, with a maniacal grin, Flying Lotus informed the Tower crowd that they were dead and with that the wild rumpus had begun. Though terrifyingly ominous at times, Flying Lotus’ signature spaced-out jazz-infused electro-ambient hip-hop whosiewhatsit set sent the audience spiraling towards ego-death in the most gracious yet thrilling way.
His music is rooted in heavy electronic-based beats set off by contrastingly light and hauntingly airy sonic filigree. When fused together with a little bit of distortion, the result feels like a cruise-controlled drive down Rainbow Road, as was the case with the chimed-out “Turtles” from the just-out You’re Dead! and robot sounds of “Computer Face//Pure Being” from 2010′s Cosmogramma. The intensity level of Ellison’s laptop conjurings was upped exponentially by the dangerously stimulating visuals that surrounded him: seizure-inducing strobe lights and trippy rear screen projections that made for a psychedelic 3-D experience. Projections included a mixture of warped fractals, vibrantly-hued animated cosmic explorations, and the gruesomely twisted You’re Dead! cartoons, which featured people peeling off their faces and flying around in a beautifully bloody swirl of detached limbs.
At one point, Flying Lotus came out from behind the projector screen to rap as his alter ego Captain Murphy, who, in cartoon form, is a blinged-out, trippy gangster dude, whose presence stands somewhere between ‘superhuman’ and ‘grim reaper.’ The show was a sensational experience for the eyes, the ears, and mind. After the lively finale of “Never Catch Me,” which was teased at moments throughout the show, the audience was successfully reborn. In just under an hour, Flying Lotus made it clear that death, however bleak it seems, could be a more exhilarating experience than anything we could prepare for in a lifetime. – MARY LYNN DOMINGUEZ
BY JONATHAN VALANIA Last week we got New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof on the horn to discuss his new book, A Path Appears, co-authored with his wife Sheryl WuDunn, which extols the innovative but largely un-heralded efforts of a dedicated few to leave the world a better place than they found it. Just a few days prior, Kristof had been at the center of a cultural storm that erupted in the wake of his appearance on REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER along with Ben Affleck and Sam Harris, so we gave him an opportunity to clarify some points that got lost in the shouting and hair-pulling. DISCUSSED: People who are making a difference; studying inner-city violence like a viral epidemic; utilizing the accrued wisdom of seniors to mentor at-risk youth; reparations for blacks; how the global plight of women is connected to everything that is wrong in the world and how to fix it, the existential threat to journalism and the fight to the death between extreme and moderate interpretations of Islam.
PHAWKER: Before we jump into the book could we just briefly revisit the Bill Maher encounter, I’d like to give you a chance to air your side, you couldn’t really get a word in edgewise from what I saw of it. Let me just say a word upfront before we dig into this, as a disinterested party watching it all unfold, it seemed to me that Sam Harris was looking to have a collegial discussion based on empirical facts and data etc. and that immediately Affleck just blew a gasket and just slimed him with the racist tag which just shuts down the debate before it even got off the ground and I was a little surprised to see you join in on that.
NICHOLAS KRISTOF: Well, I mean, I wanted to have a conversation I didn’t think the conversation was much of a — it didn’t end up being much of an enlightening conversation, more of a brawl, than anything.
PHAWKER: That’s television for you.
NICHOLAS KRISTOF: Yeah that’s television it was clearly very entertaining because it went viral, which sort of surprises me, I hadn’t thought it particularly viral-worthy.
PHAWKER: I realize this is a huge, long conversation but just briefly if you’d like to make a couple points that you weren’t given the chance to on the show.
NICHOLAS KRISTOF Basically, I think that Islam is a vast and incredibly diverse religion and I don’t think that it’s intrinsically intolerant. For much of its history it was arguably more tolerant than Christianity, I do think that today, it does indeed have a real problem with tolerance with the repression of women but that is one strain of it and I think it is unfair to target 1.6 billion muslims with one stain, it’s, this is true but hugely incomplete.
PHAWKER: Okay but where is that massive majority of peaceful and tolerant Muslims? Why are there not 1.6 billion in the streets condemning the extremism and intolerance and culturally-codified misogyny that’s misrepresenting the tenets their religion.
NICHOLAS KRISTOF: Muslim people have been denouncing ISIS right and left.
PHAWKER: It just seems to me that the voices of moderation are impotent or muted, at best, which I don’t understand if the numbers of moderates are so legion. Why is it that tens of thousands will fill the streets if somebody draws a cartoon of The Prophet but sawing off the heads of Western aid workers and journalists in the name of Islam barely rates a hashtag on Twitter and a few op-eds of tepid condemnation?
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Brooklyn’s The Streets Of Laredo play The Boot & Saddle on October 26th with Line & Circle.
He plays the Beacon Theater on November 8th as part of Comedy Central’s New York Comedy Festival.
Artwork by danb13
On Sunday October 19th, Forbes’ Under 30 Music Fest – featuring Wiz Khalifa, indie rocker LP and Philly’s own much-buzzed about hip-hop duo OCD: Moosh and Twist, and DJ Afrojack — will throw down at the Piazza at Schmidts. The Forbes Under 30 Music Festival will kick off the first-ever Forbes Under 30 Summit, a gathering in Philadelphia, Oct 20-22, of 1,000 of America’s most outstanding young entrepreneurs and leaders. To win tickets all you have to do is take two minutes to help end extreme poverty. There are four ways to do this, pick one:
1. Tweet at Senator Patrick Leahy, Senator Lindsey Graham, Congresswoman Kay Granger and Congresswoman Nita Lowey and thank them for working to ensure every child across the world has access to protection from diseases.
2. Sign the petition to support the Water for the World Act — legislation that refines and improves the current Senator Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act that makes safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene a U.S. foreign policy priority. The Water for the World Act would better utilize the existing funds and strengthen accountability for existing programs.
3. Sign the petition encouraging world leaders to help end the Ebola epidemic.
4. Tweet a selfie with the hashtag #showyourself, joining the petition that shows world leaders that the rights and needs of the 1.8 billion young people across the globe must be a priority.
After one of those tasks is complete, participants earn four points on the Global Citizen web site and can enter the lottery for tickets. Winners will be chosen at random and notified via email. More than 2,500 pairs of free tickets will be distributed to the public leading up to the festival, which is presented by Global Citizen Nights. Tickets will be made available through midnight EST on Thursday, October 16. Doors will open at 3:30 pm Sunday for the music festival. The concert is expected to run from approximately 5pm-9pm. Please note this event is rain or shine. Attendees must be 21 and over (valid photo ID required for entry). For more details on Forbes’ Under 30 Summit, please visit www.forbesunder30.com. On Twitter, follow @ForbesUnder30 and #Under30Summit and #GoingtoPhilly. Good luck and godspeed.
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