PHAWKER.COM – Curated News, Gossip, Concert Reviews, Fearless Political Commentary, Interviews….Plus, the Usual Sex, Drugs and Rock n' Roll


You Report, We Decide

News, Media, Politics, Music, Culture, Gossip, In The 215 And The Great Beyond

GEEK SQUAD: Who Is Cheetah?

March 9th, 2018



Director Patty Jenkins just confirmed that Kirsten Wiig has been cast as Cheetah in the upcoming Wonder Woman sequel. Wonder Woman’s rogues gallery of arch-nemeses is a bit more obscure than your garden-variety, friendly-neighborhood superhero. So who is Cheetah? Well, like many comic book characters from the ‘40s Cheetah look has morphed through the ages. Fans of the old cartoon Super Friends may remember her as an archaeologist in a cheetah onesie. But the character evolved throughout the years and the name has been given to a few different people. Currently Cheetah is a werecat-type person with enough super strength, speed, and claws to go toe-to-toe with the Gal Godot. She obtained this form and powers from the plant god Urzkartaga. This choice of villain might suggest a more Indiana Jones-type feel for the film because when Cheetah’s around an ancient artifact or temple of doom is never far behind. It also will fit easily into Wonder Woman’s current cover as a museum worker in last year’s Justice League. I personally can’t wait to see how they bring Cheetah to life. The special effects and costume department have their work cut out for them with the anthropomorphic baddie but if done right audiences will quickly forget the CGI crapfest that was Ares in the first film. – RICHARD SUPLEE

[Slashdot] [Digg] [Reddit] [] [Facebook] [Technorati] [Google] [StumbleUpon]

LOCAL BOY MAKES GOOD: Kurt Vile On Portlandia

March 9th, 2018

NOISEY: Over the years, Kurt Vile has proven pretty good at whatever he role he decides to fill, whether it’s shaggy solo folk singer, leader of a barn-burning rock band, a sideman in the War on Drugs, or a space-cowboy counterpart in duets with Courtney Barnett. Vile joins Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen on IFC’s final season of Portlandia, playing Brownstein’s personal roadie. MORE

[Slashdot] [Digg] [Reddit] [] [Facebook] [Technorati] [Google] [StumbleUpon]

EXCERPT: From Russia With Love

March 9th, 2018

Russian Roulette


MOTHER JONES: The rest of the day was as hectic as the first: a press conference with 300 Russian reporters and more interviews, includ­ing one with Roberts in which Trump was pressed again about Putin. Do you have a relationship with Putin and any sway with the Russian leader? Roberts asked him. Trump was unequivocal: “I do have a relationship.” He paused. “I can tell you that he’s very inter­ested in what we’re doing here today. He’s probably very interested in what you and I are saying today. And I’m sure he’s going to be seeing it in some form.”

Trump could barely contain his praise for Russia’s president: “Look, he’s done a very brilliant job in terms of what he represents and who he’s representing. If you look at what he’s done with Syria, if you look at so many of the different things, he has really eaten our president’s lunch. Let’s not kid ourselves. He’s done an amazing job…He’s put himself at the forefront of the world as a leader in a short period of time.” But Trump’s comments about a “relationship” with Putin were, at this point, wishful thinking. The word had spread through the Miss Universe staff that Trump fiercely craved Putin’s atten­dance at the pageant. In preparation for Putin’s possible appear­ance, Thomas Roberts and Mel B were taught several words in Russian to welcome the Russian president: “hello,” “thank you,” and so on. With her cockney accent, Mel B had trouble pronounc­ing the Russian words. She was told she had to get this right because Putin might come.

By late afternoon, Trump’s anxiety was palpable. There had been no word. He kept asking if anybody had heard from Putin. Then Agalarov’s phone rang. “Mr. Peskov would like to speak to Mr. Trump,” Agalarov said. Trump and Peskov spoke for a few minutes. Afterward, Trump recounted the conversation to Goldstone. Peskov, he said, was apologetic. Putin very much wanted to meet Trump. But there was a problem nobody had anticipated: a Moscow traffic jam. King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima of the Netherlands were in town, and Putin was obligated to meet them at the Kremlin. But the royal couple had gotten stuck in traffic and was late, making it impossible for the Russian president to find time for Trump. Nor would he be able to attend the Miss Universe pageant that evening.

Putin wanted to make amends, though. Peskov conveyed an invitation for Trump to attend the upcoming Olympics, where perhaps he and Putin could then meet. He also told Trump that Putin would be sending a high-level emissary to the evening’s event—Vladimir Kozhin, a senior Putin aide. And, Peskov told Trump, Putin had a gift for him. It was a crushing disappointment for Trump. But he quickly thought of how to spin it, suggesting to an associate that after the telecast they could spread the word that Putin had dropped by. “No one will know for sure if he came or not,” he said. […]

Trump was finally on his way in Russia. And shortly after the Miss Universe event, Agalarov’s daughter showed up at the Miss Universe office in New York City bearing a gift for Trump from Putin. It was a black lacquered box. Inside was a sealed letter from the Russian autocrat. What the letter said has never been revealed. MORE

[Slashdot] [Digg] [Reddit] [] [Facebook] [Technorati] [Google] [StumbleUpon]

GEEK SQUAD: Girls Kick Ass

March 7th, 2018



Jessica Jones season 2 debuts on Netflix tonight. It’s been more than two years since the super-powered private detective Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter) defeated the mind controlling rapist Killgrave (David Tennant). Killgrave dominates the first season’s plot with his ability to literally tell everyone what to do. So where does the show go after killing him off at the end of season one? Trailers suggest that Jessica will fight another person with her powers this season so one could expect a bit more action than the psychological thriller. But the mystery of how Jessica (and possibly others) got their power is still around to slowly unravel. What we know so far: she survived a car crash that killed the rest of her family and she woke up with super powers and paid medical bills. Her best friend, former child TV star and current radio host Trish Walker (Rachael Taylor), is continuing her own character development into the hero Hellcat as she watches Jessica’s back. Despite a lack of powers Trish kicked her share of ass last season thanks to Krav Maga. Other than that expect Jessica to continue dealing with her PTSD from Killgrave’s abuse by constantly drinking and insulting everyone she comes into contact with. — RICHARD SUPLEE


[Slashdot] [Digg] [Reddit] [] [Facebook] [Technorati] [Google] [StumbleUpon]


March 7th, 2018


Spoon mainman Britt Daniel @TLAPhilly last night by JOSH PELTA-HELLER

A looming nor’easter didn’t seem to dampen attendance or enthusiasm last night at the TLA where Spoon fans packed the room like sardines on a school night. When the house lights were cut, Alex Fischel took his place in the dark at his keyboards, and proceeded to stab at the first notes of his intro to “Do I Have To Talk You Into It” before Britt Daniel and co. emerged moments later to warm howls.

This show sold out fast,” marveled Daniel, “in like a day?” He wasn’t quite telling the whole truth when he admitted that the band hadn’t had a chance to headline a Philly show “on this tour.” It wasn’t wrong, outright – it was just a lie by omission: the fact is, Spoon hasn’t played a proper Philly venue show since they played the Electric Factory, ten years ago, touring behind their 2007 release Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga. Sure, they’ve been here twice, in the interim – opening for Arcade Fire at the Mann in 2010, and for a set at WXPN’s XPoNential Fest last year – but it’s just not the same, and it leaves that unanswered question about why their extensive touring schedule in support of the last three records reminds you of the sign on I-95 in Wilmington that points north directly “to New York.”

The band dialed back the adrenaline after the opener with the lazy lounge beat of “Inside Out,” and offered crowd-pleaser “I Turn My Camera On” before covering Wire’s “Lowdown.” A student of stagecraft and a natural showman, Daniel seems to design his setlists with a thoughtful and deliberate premeditation. He’s a master of momentum, controlling cadence, rolling the end of one song into the intro of the next, when it makes sense.

Halfway through the show, the band’s newest member and second keyboardist Gerardo Larios leaned into the first tones “Via Kannela,” the ambient instrumental they’ve been using to curate the mood before Daniel opens his vocals to his antihero ballad “I Ain’t The One.” His somber tenor was interrupted in traditional Philly style by one fan’s expression of impatience with the interlude: “Let’s go!” Spoon didn’t sweat that. But as Daniel reached the end of the song, the stage’s proverbial fourth wall was eroded when a woman yelled from the crowd, “we love you Britt!,” and you could see the lanky, black-clad Texan smile, just a little.–JOSH PELTA-HELLER

[Slashdot] [Digg] [Reddit] [] [Facebook] [Technorati] [Google] [StumbleUpon]

JANE MAYER: Russkies Said ‘Nyet’ To Sec. Romney

March 6th, 2018

Screen Shot 2018-03-06 at 1.11.49 AM


NEW YORKER: One subject that Steele is believed to have discussed with Mueller’s investigators is a memo that he wrote in late November, 2016, after his contract with Fusion had ended. This memo, which did not surface publicly with the others, is shorter than the rest, and is based on one source, described as “a senior Russian official.” The official said that he was merely relaying talk circulating in the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but what he’d heard was astonishing: people were saying that the Kremlin had intervened to block Trump’s initial choice for Secretary of State, Mitt Romney. (During Romney’s run for the White House in 2012, he was notably hawkish on Russia, calling it the single greatest threat to the U.S.) The memo said that the Kremlin, through unspecified channels, had asked Trump to appoint someone who would be prepared to lift Ukraine-related sanctions, and who would coöperate on security issues of interest to Russia, such as the conflict in Syria. If what the source Trump_Romneyheard was true, then a foreign power was exercising pivotal influence over U.S. foreign policy—and an incoming President.

As fantastical as the memo sounds, subsequent events could be said to support it. In a humiliating public spectacle, Trump dangled the post before Romney until early December, then rejected him. There are plenty of domestic political reasons that Trump may have turned against Romney. Trump loyalists, for instance, noted Romney’s public opposition to Trump during the campaign. Roger Stone, the longtime Trump aide, has suggested that Trump was vengefully tormenting Romney, and had never seriously considered him. (Romney declined to comment. The White House said that he was never a first choice for the role and declined to comment about any communications that the Trump team may have had with Russia on the subject.) In any case, on December 13, 2016, Trump gave Rex Tillerson, the C.E.O. of ExxonMobil, the job. The choice was a surprise to most, and a happy one in Moscow, because Tillerson’s business ties with the Kremlin were long-standing and warm. (In 2011, he brokered a historic partnership between ExxonMobil and Rosneft.) After the election, Congress imposed additional sanctions on Russia, in retaliation for its interference, but Trump and Tillerson have resisted enacting them. MORE

PREVIOUSLY: ZERO DARK THIRTY: A Q&A W/ The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer

Although Trump and his allies have sought to portray the 35-page dossier as Democratic-funded propaganda, the work that led to its creation initially started with Republicans themselves. A GOP financier approached the private intelligence firm Fusion GPS to begin work researching Trump, but then discontinued that support. Later, after it was clear that Trump would be the Republican nominee, a law firm connected to the Clinton campaign began funding the work. Mayer says that Steele never knew precisely for whom he was ultimately working. “The argument being made by the Republicans these days in Congress is that it was a huge conspiracy of the Clinton campaign with Christopher Steele,” Mayer says. “But, in fact, if you really go back and look at the facts, Christopher Steele didn’t know for months that he was working for the Clinton campaign — and the Clinton campaign never learned that Christopher Steele was on their payroll until it was in the press.” MORE

[Slashdot] [Digg] [Reddit] [] [Facebook] [Technorati] [Google] [StumbleUpon]

INCOMING: Ray Of Light

March 5th, 2018



PREVIOUSLY: Phawker’s 2014 Album Of The Year: Supernova by Ray LaMontagne

[Slashdot] [Digg] [Reddit] [] [Facebook] [Technorati] [Google] [StumbleUpon]

CINEMA: From Russia With Love

March 2nd, 2018


RED SPARROW (Dir. by Francis Lawrence, 139 minutes, USA, 2018)

BY EVAN HUNDELT Director  Francis Lawrence’s seventh feature film Red Sparrow, starring his actorial muse Jennifer Lawrence, may, to the exacting cinephile, suffer from unbidden comparisons to his work with her on the culturally ubiquitous The Hunger Games quadrilogy. Whether or not Francis Lawrence consciously designed Dominika Egorova (the conscripted Russian special operative known as a “Sparrow,” stunningly portrayed by J.L.) with this nagging prospect in mind, what is certain, as emphasized bewilderingly in the film’s opening scenes (in which a cane-turned-warhammer figures prominently), is that Jennifer Lawrence has undoubtedly graduated from the diffident carnality, cotton-candy soft brutality, and kitty-pool warmness that gags the PG-13-delimited Katniss Everdeen.

Dominika lives with her mother, Nina Egorova (Joely Richardson), who suffers from Parkinson’s, in a comfortably capacious apartment near St. Petersburg, funded wholly by governmental patrons of a prestigious Russian ballet company, of which she is the unanimously-adored prima ballerina. During a performance which spans the film’s opening scene, Dominika, with delicate strength, floats across the stage to a veritable rendition of orchestral thunder. An awe-induced stupor pervades the audience, and during the nearing moments of perfect limerence, a booming snap of Egorova’s leg, as she is tossed by her male counterpart, causes the lulled consciousness to refocus with a force that shatters composure into fragmentary horror and incredulousness. The camera assumes a sparrow’s-eye-view of the shimmering proscenium, and looms menacingly over the prima ballerina and her grotesquely contorted leg, as if she were soon-to-be carrion.

Egorova’s dancing career is prematurely over. Her ominously deadpan uncle, Vanya Egorov (Matthias Schoenaerts), who is the Deputy Director of the S.V.R., the external intelligence agency of the Russian government, visits the convalescing Domenika at her apartment on the pretext of consolation, but instead offers her a way to stave off her impending eviction, the result of her now-nullified  ballet company sponsorship. Dominika is coerced by her uncle into seducing a person of interest to the S.V.R. — someone she met just before her career-ending performance.

But things don’t go as she had intended, and her unwilling involvement in a crime forces her to either choose between summary execution or cooperation with the S.V.R. —i.e., undergo training as a Sparrow. The Sparrow School is eerily reminiscent of the way Harvey Weinstein used Miramax as a magnet for gorgeous women whom he can objectify and sexually abuse as he pleases with full indemnity. The morally reluctant Dominika is reduced to carnal fodder as she undergoes training as a Sparrow, and is peremptorily guided, through each increasingly degrading and preposterous phase, by her ruthlessly brusque and unsympathetic precept, who, during a scene in which Egorova is asked to strip naked in front of the class, tells the unwilling studentesse: “You have been selected for your Beauty. You must release the sentimental morality with which you are raised—or was it pride?” But Dominika remains steadfast, as she remembers what her prescient mother told her: “Don’t give them all of you, that is how you will survive.”

Needless to say, Egorova’s un-serendipitous trajectory only worsens, as she grimly realizes the ineluctability of her immoral situation, which she phlegmatically accepts as her only means of survival. Her unwavering disgust for her uncle, the Russian government, and her ignominious new occupation, is artfully expressed in the inexpressiveness she exudes with increasingly crestfallen inertia, like a prostitute who no longer experiences the pangs of her tawdry labor.

And it is this dissipation of ethical self-possession, a seemingly indelible release of the remaining sentience of the soul, which is required–as sort of insidious ingredient–of Dominika, to complete the mission “awarded” to her upon graduation from The Sparrow School. An American C.I.A. operative embedded deep within Russia, caught, presumably, exchanging conversation with a suspected SVR mole, is her target–the name of said turncoat, the object of her assignment.

But the true genius of Egorova–the horrifically prodigious extent of her ability to inveigle, with diminutive subtly, men and woman beyond the fourth wall–is the undertow which lurks beneath the superficial torrent that is her assignment. Her allegiances, motives, and veritable eros for certain figures, grows increasingly shifty–and we, the audience, can’t help but feel we are, like the carnal men under her Amazonian rule, helplessly pulled along by her manipulative illusions.

Although this film portrays the fantastical, de-humanizing methodology of Russian espionage, its relevance to current events could not hit closer to home, unfortunately. Red Sparrow is, in one sense, an allegory of the despotic, patriarchal rule of powerful men like Weinstein, and one cannot help but empathize, to an uncomfortably vivid degree, with Dominika Egorova’s simple desire to provide for her family, by maneuvering through the loopholes and implacably narrow constraints installed by men of power.

The most compelling and important movies are those that empathetically supplant the audience, with the characters of their films: there is no more effective tool to educate, convince, or shift one’s moral equilibrium. Leo Tolsoy, in his essay series “What is Art,” defines its highest form as such: “A means of unity among men, joining them together in the same feelings, and indispensable for the life and progress towards well-being of individuals and humanity.” This movie is indispensable for the grossness of its intimacy with lecherous men, and uniquely forcible in its ability to portray the transmogrification of a patriarchally inflicted woman into the very thing which terrifies her, an inexorable machismo which plagues, to varying degrees, the men by whom she was “inspired.”

[Slashdot] [Digg] [Reddit] [] [Facebook] [Technorati] [Google] [StumbleUpon]

WORTH REPEATING: The Man W/ The Golden Ear

March 1st, 2018


From left to right, Bob Neurwith, Tom Wilson, Bob Dylan by D.A. Pennybreaker’s “Don’t Look Back”


TEXAS MONTHLY: Without this producer, Bob Dylan would not have broken through like he did—effectively bringing on the swinging sixties and changing music forever. Without this producer, Simon and Garfunkel might have quit before they ever got started, the Velvet Underground might have stayed underground, Frank Zappa might have spent his career recording on hapless independent labels, and jazz greats Sun Ra and Cecil Taylor would definitely have labored longer in obscurity than they already did. This producer helped them all find their voices and realize their visions, revolutionizing American music. He was a Harvard graduate. He was a Republican. He was a black guy from Waco, Texas. […]

At first Wilson wasn’t thrilled with the prospect of working with someone like Dylan. “I didn’t even particularly like folk music,” he later told Melody Maker. “I’d been recording Sun Ra and John Coltrane, and I thought folk music was for the dumb guys. This guy played like the dumb guys. But then these words came out.” He told Albert Grossman, Dylan’s manager, that they should put a band behind him—“you might have a white Ray Charles”—but Dylan was comfortable doing things solo.

The scruffy 20-year-old clicked with the well-dressed 30-year-old, and they developed a good working relationship, doing two more acoustic albums (The Times They Are a-Changin’ and Another Side of Bob Dylan) before Wilson helped usher in the modern age in 1965 with Bringing It All Back Home, Dylan’s half-electric, half-acoustic tour de force. The year before, Wilson had overdubbed a band onto three of Dylan’s older songs, including “House of the Rising Sun,” but the sound didn’t work. On Bringing It All Back Home, Wilson got it right, bringing in a band of electric guitarists, a couple of bassists (including Bill Lee, director Spike Lee’s father), and a drummer. The result was Dylan’s first modern masterpiece, “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” whose frantic, lurching bluesy vibe would set the tone for the rest of the sixties. You can actually hear Wilson at the beginning of another song on the album, “Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream,” in which Dylan makes a false start, stops, starts laughing, and is joined by a laughing Wilson; after a few seconds you can hear Wilson say, “Wait a minute now. Okay, take two.” Then the band kicks in. As a listener, it sounds like you’ve been let in on a secret: Oh, so that’s the way they make records.

It was the beginning of a new Dylan—and a new era. Wilson would always say about Dylan going electric (as he did in a 1976 interview), “It came from me.” When Rolling Stone’s founder Jann Wenner interviewed Dylan in 1969 and asked him about Wilson’s claims to have brought Dylan to rock ’n’ roll, Dylan laughed but added, “He did to a certain extent. That is true. He did. He had a sound in mind.”

Wilson only did one more song with Dylan, and it was his biggest hit ever: “Like a Rolling Stone,” considered the number one rock song of all time by Rolling Stone magazine. Again Wilson recruited the band, and also invited a friend of his, Al Kooper, to watch. At some point, Kooper, a guitar player, slipped behind the organ during recording and began to play a simple line, ultimately giving the song its signature riff. At the start of one of the alternate takes, you can hear Wilson say, “Okay, Bob, we got everybody here, let’s do one.” This sums up Wilson’s production style: bring people together, get them ready, and let it rip. MORE

Tom Wilson interviews Lou Reed, circa “White Light/White Heat”

[Slashdot] [Digg] [Reddit] [] [Facebook] [Technorati] [Google] [StumbleUpon]

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

February 27th, 2018



FRESH AIR: Antidepressants and medications for bipolar disorder can be life-changing and even lifesaving, but journalist Lauren Slater warns that the long-term side effects of these drugs are “cloaked in mystery.”As a nation, we’re consuming them; we’re gobbling them down,” she says. “And we don’t really know what we’re taking into our bodies.” Slater, who suffers from depression and bipolar disorder, has firsthand experience with psychotropic drugs; she’s been taking medication for 35 years. Her new book, Blue Dreams, dedicates separate chapters to drugs such as Thorazine, lithium and psilocybin. Slater says she wanted to “unveil” the drugs by explaining their history, as well as how they work and the benefits and consequences for people who take them: “My goal was to almost try to make the drug into a character in and of itself. … I wanted to bring these drugs alive.” MORE

[Slashdot] [Digg] [Reddit] [] [Facebook] [Technorati] [Google] [StumbleUpon]

INCOMING: Punk In Drublic Music Festival

February 26th, 2018


[Slashdot] [Digg] [Reddit] [] [Facebook] [Technorati] [Google] [StumbleUpon]

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

February 22nd, 2018

Trump Baby-putin-image


FRESH AIR: New York Times reporter Scott Shane discusses special counsel Robert Mueller’s indictment of 13 Russians who allegedly participated in a complex social media operation to undermine the 2016 election. MORE

[Slashdot] [Digg] [Reddit] [] [Facebook] [Technorati] [Google] [StumbleUpon]


February 22nd, 2018

SLATE: The trailer for Janelle Monáe’s new album, Dirty Computer, didn’t prepare us for this. Monae dropped two new singles on Thursday, and, to paraphrase one of them, they make us feel so effing good. First up is “Make Me Feel,” in which Monáe proves why she’s the natural successor to fill the void left behind by Prince’s death in 2016. Not only does the accompanying music video show off Monae’s androgynous style and unbelievably smooth moves, it also quickly turns into a bisexual anthem as Monáe bounces back and forth between male and female love interests, the latter of whom is played by Tessa Thompson. The scenes of the two of them in the club are giving us strong “San Junipero” vibes, especially Thompson’s 80s-inspired hair and wardrobe. The other song Monáe dropped Thursday is “Django Jane,” which is full of cinematic allusions, including to her own box-office success. (Monáe has starred in Moonlight and Hidden Figures.) “Let the vagina have a monologue,” Monáe raps at one point…MORE

[Slashdot] [Digg] [Reddit] [] [Facebook] [Technorati] [Google] [StumbleUpon]

Via BuzzFeed