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

July 23rd, 2014



Knitting, the ukulele, Wes Anderson movies, cats, Zooey Deschanel, J.D. Salinger, and Vampire Weekend – all are a part of the so-called “twee” aesthetic that quietly permeates today’s pop culture landscape.  Today, we take a look at how all things precious, precocious, and affectedly cute, have gone from uncool to mainstream. Our guest is MARC SPITZ, author of the recently-published book on the topic, Twee: The Gentle Revolution in Music, Books, Television, Fashion and Film. We’ll also get the origin of the word “twee” itself from English-language expert, AMMON SHEA, author of Reading the OED: One Man, One Year, 21,730 Pages. MORE

RELATED: The Twee food fads come and go, as do the tribally sanctioned T-shirts and the weekly musical subgenres. But I am grateful to Spitz for reminding me that Twee has, beneath all the chirping, something passionately affronted and defiant; that its embrace of underdogs—their flops, their freak-outs, their difficult third albums—has an actual moral application. Spitz plants the British singer Morrissey upon the throne of Twee. I was happy in the haze of a drunken hour / But heaven knows I’m miserable now. The yearning, the susceptibility. But Morrissey is too sleek and magnificent an ego for that ambiguous seat, I think. (He is also responsible for the radically un-Twee couplet When we’re in your scholarly room / Who will swallow whom?) Spitz is on firmer, which is to say much more unstable, ground with Kurt Cobain. Here was the Elvis of Twee, a complicated angel, “rock’n’roll’s own Little Prince,” not only a shockingly potent performer but a militant Twee ideologue. He inveighed against sexism and homophobia; he loathed jocks; he sang Grandma take me home; he painted his toenails; he used his fame to promote unpromotable bands. It may have been the massive drumming of Dave Grohl—nothing could be less Twee—that powered Nirvana into the mainstream, but Cobain, like all great figures, had already invented his own historical inevitability: he was, briefly and tormentedly, the bursting-through of generations of Twee. MORE

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Win Tix To See Beck @ The XPoNential Fest

July 23rd, 2014


PAPER MAGAZINE: We were shooting Beck [for the cover of our 1996 music issue] and he had been very picky. He wanted Ellen Von Unwerth to shoot it and his team was just very high maintenance about the whole experience. And at that time in our history we were very much not into having a celebrity make requests like that. We resented it. If someone even suggested a photographer who they wanted to shoot them, we were outraged. Now we realize that, of course, that’s totally normal and happens a lot. So we had the photographer Dah-Len shoot him, who’s a little nutty, but was doing a lot of our covers at the time. And they just did not hit it off at all. It was our summer music issue and we were trying to do something to make the photos more music-y. At the last minute we got permission from a very fancy guitar place to borrow a $6,000 guitar for the shoot. An intern was on his way, in a taxi, from the guitar place to the studio but Beck decided he was leaving early. He was not into it. So, anyway, in real life one of his front teeth is a teeny bit longer than the other, but we lengthened it more. I don’t know if we did that out of spite, because we were pissed that he left the shoot, or because we thought it was cute and quirky and wanted to exaggerate it even more. I’m sure it was more that than spite. It’s one of my favorite covers ever. I’m not sure if Beck liked it. We never heard back about it. MORE

PHAWKER: We have a pair of tix to see Beck at WXPN’s XPoNential Fest on Sunday July 27th to giveaway to some lucky Phawker reader. To qualify to win, all you have to do is sign up for our mailing list (see right, below the masthead). Trust us, this is something you want to do. In addition to breaking news alerts and Phawker updates, you also get advanced warning about groovy concert ticket giveaways and other free swag opportunities like this one! After signing up, send us an email at FEED@PHAWKER.COM telling us a much, with the magic words I GOT A DEVIL’S HAIRCUT in the subject line. If you are already on our mailing list, just send us an email saying as much. Either way, please include your full name and a mobile number for confirmation. The 14th Phawker reader to email us with the magic words wins! PLEASE INCLUDE YOUR FULL NAME AND MOBILE NUMBER FOR CONFIRMATION. Good luck and godspeed!

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THERE WILL BE BLOOD: Talking About Cats, Drugs & Slasher Flicks w/ Animal Collective’s Avey Tare

July 22nd, 2014


BY MARY LYNN DOMINGUEZ It is fitting that my interview with Animal Collective’s Avey Tare (a.k.a. Dave Portner) would begin with me talking about my first drug experience — namely trying pot for the first time and listening to AC’s Strawberry Jam and finally understanding what the word ‘transcendental’ means.  I was hooked and there would be no turning back. Turns out marijuana is just a gateway drug to Animal Collective, a far more potent hallucinogen. The good news is that unlike marijuana, Animal Collective is still legal. Since 2000, Portner has been  a very reliable dealer, doling out nine wonderfully weird albums, eight EPs, two live albums, and a mind-blowing visual album, all released on the band’s own Paw Tracks imprint. In addition to a number of collaborative efforts, Portner has released two solo albums: 2010′s Down, and more recently Enter The Slasher House  recorded under the name Slasher Flicks, along with former Dirty Projector/current Portner GF Angel Deradoorian, and ex-Ponytail drummer Jeremy Hyman. Enter The Slasher House, named after Portner’s love of stabby, Z-grade ’80s grindhouse fare, brings a colorful new dimension to what Animal Collective fans might be familiar with,  namely those emotive hard-hitting Avey vocals, along with some fun, irresistibly catchy and intensely energetic backing vocal shenanigans plus the usual swirling sonic swoon. This interview took place back in the spring in advance of a Johnny Brenda’s show that wound up being cancelled due to illness and was re-scheduled for tonight.

PHAWKER: First of all, why the name? There’s nothing remotely slasher-like about this music.

AVEY TARE: I just like the aesthetic of the name Slasher Flicks, I think it sounds good. I think it’s tough to come up with cool band names these days with so many bands, so many titles. It just came to me, and I thought, “Aw, yeah.” Everyone else in the band liked it, we thought it was cool. It’s better than The Avey Tare Trio or something like that. [laughs].

PHAWKER: What are your top five slasher films of all time?

AVEY TARE: I’m surprisingly not a huge slasher movie fan, actually. I like horror films, and more of the supernatural kind.

PHAWKER: OK, what are your Top 5 horror movies of all time?

AVEY TARE: Okay, let’s see. I think Alice Sweet Alice, Deranged. My top two are definitely The Exorcist and The Shining. One more I’d say is Xtro.

PHAWKER: Aside from the fact that the other Animal Collective guys don’t play on it, why isn’t this an Animal Collective album? Which is a long way of asking what prompted this project and how did it come together?

AVEY TARE: I think as far as it being not an Animal Collective record, there’s a couple reasons for that. Animal Collective gets pretty intense working on records like our last one, Centipede Hz. We did that, and then we toured a bunch. I feel like whenever we’re in that process, we always plan to take time off. In that time it’s usually because of Noah and his Panda Bear records. This time, my other bandmate, Brian, had a baby. So it’s sort of letting us have space to do all of this other stuff that’s kind of important for us to do. If we did Animal Collective full-time I don’t think it would have lasted as long. In terms of my songwriting style and what I like to do creatively, as much as I love working with Animal Collective, and we work together so well, there’s still things within each of our personalities that I feel like it’s such a group effort when we’re working together. There’s things that we don’t really get to express sometimes that we would like to express, maybe because the other guys wouldn’t really do that or something. It’s hard to say. Doing solo stuff for me just gives me opportunity to do other kinds of records. It also gives me the opportunity to play with other people, which is kind of what I was up for doing this time. I’m really excited to play with Angel and Jeremy.
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THE MAVERICK: Jim Rockford Had A Dream

July 22nd, 2014


WASHINGTON POST: When actor James Garner decided to help organize and attend the March on Washington in 1963, he wasn’t just listening to his conscience. He and other actors who attended may have been embarkingon Hollywood’s first large-scale political act since the days of McCarthyism and Hollywood’s anti-Communist blacklist.After years of viewing the government with suspicion, many felt emboldened to participate, joining forces with black actors such as Harry Belafonte, Ruby Dee and Diahann Carroll. Garner and other celebrities in attendance, including Paul Newman and Marlon Brando, openly defied J. Edgar Hoover and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which was keen to stop the march. In “Nobody Turn Me Around: A People’s History of the 1963 March on Washington,” Charles Euchner wrote:

The FBI attempted to exploit fears about violence and Communist infiltration of the civil rights movement — fears that were partly the result of J. Edgar Hoover’s long campaign against the movement. FBI agents made last-minute calls to celebrities. Do you know, the agents asked, that many of the march’s leaders are Communists? Do you know that Communists and other leftists could create chaos at the march? Do you know that it’s not too late to pull out of the march? Stay away! MORE

LOS ANGELES TIMES: With a thick head of hair and a Cary Grant cleft chin, Garner, who died Saturday at age 86, was in many ways a more approachable and easygoing version of the tall, Rdark, midcentury leading man — Rock Hudson come down to Earth (as Hudson himself eventually would). Indeed, he played twice opposite Doris Day, in “Move Over, Darling” and “The Thrill of It All” (both from 1963), only one film fewer than did Hudson. Garner had the authority of a person who put no stock in his authority, and the air of not taking life too seriously, which is perhaps why drama — which he could play, and often did — is not what we’ll remember him for. He was not made for tragedy, really, but to bounce back, like a punching-bag clown; many of his straight roles have more than a little comedy in them. (“Rockford” was comedy flat out.) Nor was he fashioned for villainy; there was too much goodness in him. MORE

TIME: James Garner’s most famous role, as Jim Rockford in The Rockford Files in 1974, was the perfect meeting of Garner’s talents and the spirit of the age. Like Bret Maverick, Rockford was a screen-hero archetype who became all the bigger for being cut down to size: a private detective who’d spent time in jail on a bad rap, always one step ahead of the bill collectors and one good night’s sleep shy of his peak. He was not a pressed suit; he was a rumpled jacket that could use a dry cleaning. And that was what made him wear so comfortably. The Rockford Files was a crime show where the characters were finally more important than the action: it had its share of brawls and car spinouts, but you really tuned in for the ping-pong dialogue between Rockford and con man Angel or his dad Rocky. (It was a precursor of the more character-based dramas of today’s cable-dominated TV era, and in fact the show was one of the first writing jobs for David Chase of The Sopranos.) Rockford might get his man in the end, but what made him loveable was less his triumphs than his ability to roll with defeat. He could throw a punch if he had to, but what made him a hero was his ability to take one. MORE

NEW YORK TIMES: “Maverick” had been in part a sendup of the conventional western drama, and “The Rockford Files” similarly made fun of the standard television detective, the man’s man who upholds law and order and has everything under control. A sucker for a pretty girl and with a distinctly ‘70s fashion sense — he favored loud houndstooth jackets — Rockford was perpetually wandering into threatening situations in which he ended up pursued by criminal goons or corrupt cops. He tried, mostly successfully, to steer clear of using guns; instead, a bit of a con artist himself, he relied on impersonations and other ruses — and high-speed driving skills.

Every episode of the show, which ran from 1974 to 1980 and more often than not involved at least one car chase and Rockford’s getting beaten up a time or two, began with a distinctive theme song featuring a synthesizer and a blues harmonica and a message coming in on a newfangled gadget — Rockford’s telephone answering machine — that underscored his unheroic existence: “Jim, this is Norma at the market. It bounced. Do you want us to tear it up, send it back or put it with the others?” MORE

JAMES GARNER: I started smoking marijuana in my late teens. I drank to get drunk but ultimately didn’t like the effect. Not so with grass. Grass is smooth. It had the opposite effect from alcohol: it made me more tolerant and forgiving. … “I smoked marijuana for 50 years. I don’t know where I’d be without it. It opened my mind to a lot of things, and now it’s active ingredient, THC, relaxes me and eases my arthritis pain. I’ve concluded that marijuana should be legal and alcohol should be illegal. But, good luck with that. MORE

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EXCLUSIVE: Q&A With Neutral Milk’s Jeff Mangum

July 21st, 2014


BY JONATHAN VALANIA In 1998, Neutral Milk Hotel released an album of hallucinatory folk-rock called In The Aeroplane Over The Sea that is, it can be said without fear of exaggeration, nothing short of a heartbreaking work of staggering genius. Like Pet Sounds or My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless or Love’s Forever Changes, it is lightning caught in a bottle, one of those rare perfect albums that come along maybe once a decade. Or once a lifetime. In 1999, Jeff Mangum — Neutral Milk’s singer, songwriter and primary guitarist — disappeared from public life without explanation, declining all entreaties to perform or discuss the album or record a follow-up. Over the course of his decade-long Salinger-like hermitage, succeeding generations of Holden Caulfield-types have discovered and come to revere the album, and as such it has become something like The Catcher In The Rye of indie-rock. Four years ago, Mangum emerged from seclusion and started performing again, refusing to offer any explanation for his mysterious disappearance or sudden return and denying all interview requests. Late last night I got the scoop of the century: A phone call from Jeff Mangum. That’s like getting a phone call from JD Salinger — dude does NOT talk to the phonies in the media. The call came in the middle of last night, thank god I record all my phone conversations for the benefit of future historians. It went like this:

PHAWKER: Hello? Who the hell is this?


PHAWKER: Tweedy?

JEFF MANGUM: Ha! Keep dreaming. No, Mangum. Jeff Mangum.

PHAWKER: Jesus, what the fuck time is it?

JEFF MANGUM: Four in the morning.

PHAWKER: Four in the…Are you drunk dialing me?

JEFF MANGUM: Kinda sorta.

PHAWKER: Every journalist would give his left testicle to interview you. Why are you talking to me?

JEFF MANGUM: You are the only one who answered his phone.

PHAWKER: Why did you go away after In The Aeroplane Over The Sea?

JEFF MANGUM: Don’t ruin this for me.

PHAWKER: OK OK, I’m sorry. Um, have you been writing new songs?

JEFF MANGUM: Every day.

PHAWKER: Can I hear the new songs?



JEFF MANGUM: That’s not why I wrote them.

PHAWKER: How many are there?

JEFF MANGUM: Multitudes.

PHAWKER: How many?

JEFF MANGUM: Enough to release a new album every year from now until the year 2525.

PHAWKER: If man is still alive.

JEFF MANGUM: Don’t put words in my mouth. That’s why I left.

PHAWKER: What do you mean?

JEFF MANGUM: So many words were put in my mouth it took me 10 years to swallow them.

PHAWKER: Will these new songs ever be released?

JEFF MANGUM: Yes, but not until everyone now living is dead.

PHAWKER: What about the rumor that you were Raptured?

JEFF MANGUM: That’s above your pay grade. You have time for one last question, I have to call Chuck Klosterman and pretend to be Ace Frehley. He gets such a kick out of that.

PHAWKER: What is the meaning of life?

JEFF MANGUM: Strawberry fields, forever.

PHAWKER: I thought so.


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SIDEWALKING: When The Saints Go Marching In

July 21st, 2014

Dixieland practice, 33rd & Hamilton 10:51 a.m. by DAVE BROWN

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July 21st, 2014

RELATED: “Not to get super heady about a music video concept,” Hiro says, “but I’m really interested in a pocket moment that takes place in a doomsday world.” In the case of this video, that means Britt Daniel, the lead singer of Spoon, is cruising in a vintage Plymouth wagon through a very lackadaisical Sunset Drive kind of vibe, and it just so happens that the buildings are on fire behind him. Which is actually kind of what Los Angeles feels like sometimes anyway, metaphorically, Hiro concedes. “Hey, once you own the chaos of the apocalypse,” he says, “there’s a certain kind of calmness to it.” MORE

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BEING THERE: Cheers Elephant

July 20th, 2014


I have seen Cheers Elephant do their thing on stage twice now, and I can say for sure that these Philly natives bring more fun and light to a roomful of people than any other band I’ve seen in my 17 years on Earth. Their relocation to L.A. was nothing short of a tragedy to their Philly fan base. It was with a heavy heart that I wrote the following about their “Farewell For Now, Philadelphia” show back in November of 2013:

Between [frontman Derek] Kryzwicki bouncing around and doing the running-man and drummer Robert Kingsly, who had gotten engaged in the green room just before the show, putting on his best Dave Grohl, I don’t think there’s a group that performs with more cheerfully quirky flare than this one. Cheers Elephant, Philly is going to miss you.

True to my word, I sorely missed the band’s presence during the eight months between then and their Philadelphia homecoming at Union Transfer last night. Perhaps I even resented the move. But that’s neither here nor there. They opened up their set with the aptly titled (perhaps less so, lyrically) “Airliner,” a new track that could be described as the harmonic lovechild of Kansas and Badfinger with a little bit of Television in the double guitar solo, though I’m reluctant to make those comparisons. When I was hanging out with the band before the show, they told me that they prefer to have about as much semblance to their influences as you’d want tequila in your cereal, which is to say none. In typical cult-following fashion, the crowd was right on cue with the oddball opening lyric to “Party On Darwin,” screaming in unison, “Hey Yo! Let Me Wash Your Windshield!” as if car-cleaning compulsion had reached epidemic proportions. I almost feel like “Thought and Commonsense” was the evening’s high point, but other classics from Like Wind Blows Fire like “Doin’ It, Right” and “Leaves” fit into that sing-clap-dance-along breed of tunes that always kill live. Somebody started a “Nine more songs!” chant… after every song. And I’ll tell you what: if the show hadn’t been cut short by a lame 11:30 PM curfew, everybody in that room (myself included) would have moved and grooved (yeah) until the band ran out of songs to play. For the longest time I thought there was no better live band than Radiohead. Now, I’m not so sure. – NOAH SILVESTRY

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CINEMA: About A Boy

July 18th, 2014


BOYHOOD (2014, directed by Richard Linklater, 166 minutes, U.S.)

BY DAN BUSKIRK FILM CRITIC It would seem impossible not to be moved by Richard Linklater’s intimate epic Boyhood, where the filmmaker took an epic leap-of-faith by committing himself and his cast to a 12-year shooting schedule. Following an entire family but especially young Mason (newcomer Ellar Coltrane), we see history not just imagined but revealed before our eyes. It’s a triumph of ambition, giving us an unusually immersive experience into those tumultuous years in which we come of age. Yet while the film is a certified must-see, Boyhood might have been a bit more distinct in its reaching for an “everyman” universality.

Not that Linklater gives us a model boyhood. When we first catch up with Mason he is six years old and hasn’t seen his father (Ethan Hawke as Mason Sr.) for over a year. Patricia Arquette plays his mother Olivia and Linklater’s daughter Lorelei plays his slightly older sister Samantha, and the family is going to be taken for a bit of a ride before the matriarch can steer them to stability. As a kid, Mason couldn’t seem more ordinary, and the film’s rambling, anecdotal quality is partially propelled by his character’s passivity. Mason isn’t the pilot of his life (who is in the pre-teen years?) and instead is left to react to the world swirling around him. Watching Boyhood, I was reminded of watching a great nature documentary; we’re here to observe how the species reacts to stimuli. In nature documentaries we don’t expect bugs and birds to show a lot of individuality and similarly Mason’s attempts to carve out his own world seem tentative, with his character still in the process of forming and becoming “himself.” Despite this, I wish that Mason could be shown to be a pawn to his childhood emotions sometimes, instead of the unusually reserved youth he is shown to be.

While affecting a subtle naturalism in its performances, many of the scenes are concise and pointed along the way. Particularly dramatic are the scenes of brewing violence, each with one of Olivia’s two new husbands: the first a professor who turns alcoholic and the other a former Iraq vet who also turns to drink as his career runs aground. The scenes will undoubtedly stir memories in much of the audience and as we study Mason closely for his reactions he too seems mainly like an observer of his own life. We see many moments we recognize from our own lives: new schools, first romance, first break-up, first time caught drunk etc. If Linklater is unable to infuse these scenes with the passion of youth (like Gus Van Sant has done in much of his work) he mainly makes up for it with his eye for telling details and his fluency with young actors (which makes me think I should finally see his Bad News Bears remake).

Olivia has her own trajectory over the 12 years, going from the youthful young Mom who is trying to educate herself out of near-poverty, through a couple of troubled marriages and finally into her own rewarding teaching career. We watch Arquette age as well and her exhausted tears as her boy moves on to college gain a real force through the time we have watched lapse. Early on Hawkes’ Mason Sr. looked like he was ready fulfill every cliché of the irresponsible divorced dad but even he grows up over the decade, trading in his goofy muscle car for the bland comforts of the mini-van.

Our national culture pops its head into the film over the 12 years as well. We witness Samantha’s spirited tweener rendition of Britney’s “Oops I Did It Again,” the kid’s late night line-up (in costume) to get the first copies of the new Harry Potter book as well as some Obama-boostering that let us know that Mason is a child of the 2000s, whatever the ramifications of that might be. The optimism of Obama? Even at the distance of seven years, Boyhood encompasses a nostalgia within its own time span.

As the film finally comes to rest on Mason’s super-groovy first day of college, Boyhood leaves us with an unusual sense of optimism for the future. While we’ve had cinematically unprecedented view into a character’s life, I’m left unsure that I knew much about the artsy, slightly cynical Mason at all. Maybe that’s not Linklater’s failing though, maybe Mason like many of his freshman peers, is standing at the cusp of self-understanding as well. Boyhood may illustrate a life’s trajectory from a hitherto unseen perspective but the mystery of where a life is headed is still left safely uncracked.

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THE FINAL COUNTDOWN: Only You Can Save The Internet, Speak Now Or Forever Hold Your Peace About Low Speed, High Prices & Few Choices

July 18th, 2014


Cable companies are famous for high prices and poor service. Several rank as the most hated companies in America. Now, they’re attacking the Internet–their one competitor and our only refuge–with plans to charge websites arbitrary fees and slow (to a crawl) any sites that won’t pay up. If they win, the Internet dies. Unlike cable channels, sites don’t need to negotiate deals to get on the Internet. That changes if cable companies get their way at the FCC. We need to stand up and defend an Internet that is fair, and equal. Are you in? Go HERE to literally save the Internet from the corporate fuckery attempting to destroy the all-websites-are-created-and-treated-equal principle that is the core of the Internet’s power and replace it with the no-choice, money-is-speech, consumer-rape lameness of cable TV. Do it NOW!

DEMAND PROGRESS: Because of the record-setting outpouring of support for Net Neutrality, the FCC’s website CRASHED on Tuesday, in front of what _was_ the comment period deadline. The 100,000-plus of you who have submitted comments this week surely helped! So the FCC extended its deadline to TONIGHT, Friday, at midnight meaning that you still have time to join this tsunami of support for Net Neutrality. MORE

If the Internet survives these next few months — and that a big IF it can be said without exaggeration –  we’ll only have John Oliver to thank. The end is nigh. Share this with everyone you know, before it’s too late!

PREVIOUSLY: Internet users deserve far better, and we thought we were going to get it from a president who promised to “take a backseat to no one in my commitment to Net Neutrality.” Watch now as he and his FCC chairman try to spin tomorrow’s betrayal as another “mission accomplished.” Don’t believe it. This bogus victory has become all too familiar to those watching the Obama administration and its appointees squander opportunities for real change. The reality is that reform is just a rhetorical front for industry compromises that reward the biggest players and K-Street lobbyists while giving the public nothing. It’s not the FCC chairman’s job to seek consensus among the corporations that he was put into office to regulate. His duty is to protect Internet users. More than two million people have taken action on behalf of Net Neutrality. Tomorrow, we’ll all get the carpet yanked from beneath our feet. Net Neutrality is the freedom of speech, freedom of choice issue of the 21st century. It’s the guarantee of a more open and democratic media system that was baked into the Internet at its founding. On Tuesday, Obama’s FCC is going to sell that out. MORE

PREVIOUSLY:  When Is Comcast Buying Time-Warner NOT A Monopoly? Apparently, When David L. Cohen Hosts A Couple Obama Fundraisers At His Mt. Airy Manse

PREVIOUSLY: Sign Petition, Help Netflix Find Its Spine & Stop The Internet From Becoming Another Cable TV Rip-Off

PREVIOUSLY:  Comcast, Where The Internet Goes To Die

PREVIOUSLY: Spielberg In Town To Honor Comcast For Doing Something Nice And Un-Evil For A Change

PREVIOUSLY: WORTH REPEATING: 8 Reasons Why Comcast Sucks

PREVIOUSLY: WEASELS RIPPED MY INTERNET: Cowardly House Dems Cave On Net Neutrality, Cut FCC Off At The Balls

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I, DESTROYER: Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

July 18th, 2014

This is brilliant.

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BOOKS: Q&A With Pulitzer Prize-Winning Journalist David Kinney, Author Of The Dylanologists

July 17th, 2014


BY JONATHAN VALANIA Sometimes I think Dylanology — the obsessive study and consumption of all things Bob — is the new (and improved) Scientology. Think about it: Both are non-denominational pop cults formed in the latter half of the 20th Century that rally around a charismatic leader and rake in boatloads of believer money. Both have celebrity acolytes and promise extraordinary insight. But there is one vast and crucial difference, as vast and crucial as the difference between The Old Testament and The New Testament: L. Ron Hubbard wrote Battlefield Earth and Bob Dylan wrote “Like A Rolling Stone.” And that, kids, is why your mother and I are not Scientologists. That, and Tom Cruise. Besides, as L. Ron Hubbards go, you could do a lot worse than Bob Dylan. Plus, the music’s better. To prove my point I got Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Kinney, author of The Dylanologists: Adventures In The Land Of Bob, on the horn. It went something like this:

PHAWKER: So where did the idea to write about Dylan obsessives come from?

DAVID KINNEY: I’ve been a Dylan fan for like 25 years and it grew a little bit out of that fishing book in that both of them are about this subculture that I was maybe on the fringes of. I’ve been a fisherman for a long time but not at any level near these guys at Martha’s Vineyard. So, to go up there and fish wish them and watch them and to go see how the professionals do it. With Dylan it was kind of the same thing. I would listen to him for a long time and I think my wife and my friends would have said I was a hardcore Dylan fan. I had all the records and I’ve seen him a bunch of times in concert. I still felt like a piker, I guess. So, I had at some point started searching for some of his unreleased recordings. I think it was maybe like 10 or 15 years ago when I discovered I had everything already and that there was other stuff out there that I heard like the ’66 concerts and that sort of thing. Searching for those recordings I kind of realized that there was this whole world out there of people who took it far more seriously than I did. So I found a ramp for another book idea. I thought it would be fun to write about them. And also for selfish reasons I wanted to go deeper into Dylan than I had before. So, I spent all this time — I could have locked myself in my attic I guess with all the CDs and a library of Dylan books and done it that way, but I wanted to go out and meet these people and immerse myself in this world to see what other people who are smarter than me had to say about Dylan. That was the fun of it. That was the genesis of the idea.

PHAWKER: You spend a lot of time following these people around while they followed Dylan, kind of like Deadheads. You’re married — to former Inquirer columnist Monica Yant-Kinney –  with children. I’m curious how ‘Honey, I have to go sleep out for Bob Dylan tickets at Madison Square Gardens’ or ‘Honey, I can’t go to your mothers I need to go to Big Pink’ went over at home.

DAVID KINNEY: Well, I call this ‘work.’ Quote unquote. It was a little less crazy than the fishing tournament. That lasted for five weeks straight. So I went to Martha’s Vineyard for six straight weeks while Monica was working at the Inquirer. We had a three-year-old at that point at home. So she was sort of a single mom for six weeks. This time, even though the book project took a lot longer, I was away for shorter periods of time. Probably if you added it all up I was gone for a couple of months traveling all over the place. I did a week of following Dylan through the Great Plains from Austin, Oklahoma City, Kansas City, all the way to Sturgis in South Dakota where he played that biker rally. I went up to New York more times than I could count. I went to England for a week and hung out with the fanzine writers there and editors. [Monica] did come with me to Vienna. There was a Dylan academic conference one year that we went out to together. She didn’t go to any of the Dylan-related stuff. She sort of saw the city while I went and geeked out on Dylan.

PHAWKER: Is she a Dylan fan?

DAVID KINNEY: No. I don’t think she would count herself as a fan. She has probably seen him six or seven times and come away shaking her head each time. It’s funny.

PHAWKER: In the book you allude the fact that you are in your own way one of these people. Tell me how you became a believer in the Church Of Bob? What was your come-to-Jesus moment?
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THIS JUST IN: Neil Young @ The Academy Of Music

July 16th, 2014

Illustration by DAN SPRINGER

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