You Report, We Decide

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

Archive for the 'Media' Category

CINEMA: A Flashback by Phawker’s Film Critic

Saturday, September 25th, 2021

Dan Tabor_byline_avatar

BY DAN TABOR FILM CRITIC It’s been about six years since I first met with Jonathan Valania to discuss possibly coming aboard and reviewing films for Phawker. We instantly bonded over our shared love for David Lynch and from that moment on, he was very much the Pai Mei  to my Beatrix Kiddo. Even though I had probably been writing for about five years before that, he could tell I was still struggling to find my voice.

YouTube Preview Image

With patience, support and skill, Jon helped me develop my love of cinema and to focus my critical eye, as I went from the occasional bi-weekly review, to our weekly Thursday night deadline rush. 

once_upon_a_time_in_hollywood_ver7_xlgWhile in the beginning of my tenure I would just sort of write up the films I was looking forward to, it grew into more of a conversation between two cinephiles. Jon would recommend films he wanted me to cover, or to get my take on, and he would often check something if I was particularly passionate about it.

Probably my favorite assignment was when Once Upon a Time in Hollywood came out, since he would also do the occasional review and was also a big Tarantino fan. He proposed the idea of a collaborated piece, with the student and the master sharing a byline. 

Things I will miss most about Jon - the “good job” emails the next day after a review posted, but also the late night emails saying that I missed the mark along with an attached Google Doc peppered with mark-ups.

Just as Jon was tireless in the perfection of his own craft, he encouraged the same of those who wrote under him on Phawker. It’s a high bar, but like all of the best mentors, he led by example and inspired me — and many others — to strive for nothing less.


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

THE DREAM POLICE: Q&A With Ray Lewis, Retired Philadelphia Police Captain & OWS Protester

Monday, February 13th, 2012

EDITOR’S NOTE: This interview originally ran back in December. We are re-running it today on the occasion of Captain Ray Lewis speaking today at a noontime OccupyPhilly rally at Independence Mall. JONATHAN VALANIA Ray Lewis, a retired Philadelphia Police captain with 24 years of service under his belt, created some of the most iconic imagery of the Occupy Wall Street protests by showing up at Zuccotti Park in his uniform with a sign that read: NYPD, WATCH ‘INSIDE JOB,’ JOIN US. Footage of his high profile arrest outside the New York Stock Exchange went viral, and he quickly became catnip for the media and was hailed as a hero by Occupy sympathizers. But not everyone was pleased with his actions. Two weeks ago he received letters from Philadelphia Police Commissioner Ramsey and the Fraternal Order Of Police telling him to cease and desist showing up at OWS protests in uniform. Although the letters did not say so explicitly, Lewis says the subtext of the letters was that he would be stripped of his pension and/or arrested for impersonating an officer if he did not comply. Lewis’ response? Bring it on. On Friday we got Lewis on the horn to discuss all the above.

But before we get to that, let me tell you about a couple of Philadelphia Police Officers who DIDN’T lose their pensions.  Exhibit A is Officer Tyrone Higgins who sexually abused a 12 year old girl he was mentoring — beating her, forcing her to perform oral sex and anally raping her– for EIGHT YEARS. After a two year investigation, Higgins was allowed to resign from the force exactly one day before he was arrested for sexual assault, thereby ensuring that he would not lose his pension. Even if convicted. Which he was. THAT guy got to keep his pension.

Exhibit B is Officer Walter Helinsky, who sexually abused a 13 old girl more than 100 times and was sentenced to eight years in prison. THAT guy got to keep his pension, until the Daily News found out about and made a big stink and basically shamed the Philly PD into stripping his pension.

Exhibit C is Adrian Makuch, a former crime-scene-unit officer who pleaded guilty in 2010 to attempting to lure a child into a motor vehicle, unlawfully contacting a minor, and patronizing a prostitute and was sentenced to 11 1/2 to 23 months in prison. Pension: $2,203.56 a month since 1/4/2010. Because the crimes were not conducted on city time, his $2,203.56 per month pension was not forfeited.

Meanwhile Ray Lewis goes down to  Zuccotti park wearing his dress blues and carrying a sign that says JOIN US, and gets threatened with arrest and losing by the chief of police and the FOP? Seems to me, if they were any kind of cops, Higgins and Hilensky would have been arrested for impersonating an officer a long time ago.

PHAWKER: How did you wind up joining the Occupy Wall Street protesters in Zuccotti Park? Have your political views changed in recent years or were you always sympathetic to progressive causes?

CAPTAIN RAY LEWIS: Always, I was a protestor against the Vietnam War. I always realized how crooked and corrupt government is. In joining the police force though, I realized it was a tremendous way to help people and every day it gave me immediate gratification and reward for my job and that’s what I wanted, I could not stand boring jobs. Subsequently I did police work in a very professional and respectful manner and I can see how it positively affected people by being truly concerned about their problems and taking the extra step to help them.

PHAWKER: Now I’m assuming your perspective wasn’t necessarily shared by your fellow police officers.

CAPTAIN RAY LEWIS: That is correct.

PHAWKER: Did you keep your politics to yourself or was this a source of debate?

CAPTAIN RAY LEWIS: Pretty much, yeah. I did interject every once in a while when I saw I could have a little bit of impact but I basically kept them to myself, yes.

PHAWKER: Tell me how you wound up going down to Zuccotti Park. You saw the protests on TV?

CAPTAIN RAY LEWIS: I don’t get any news from corporate media, and that includes television, radio or newspapers. My sole source of information is the Internet and I found the Occupy Wall Street protests extremely interesting. I followed Zuccotti Park from the mountains and in seeing what was happening – often times if I railed against corruption it was like I was a loose cannon, a fruit loop just out there by myself saying how corrupt everything is. Then when I saw all these people occupying Zuccotti Park and what they were sacrificing, the way they were living, their conviction came out so strong for social justice and they were just tired of it. They set out to change it and I wanted to help. So I packed my bags to come [to NYC] and I arrived on Monday the November, 14th, the day before they were evicted. I came down late, I had just unpacked my bag, I was staying at a rather inexpensive hotel in Harlem. I just chilled for the evening. The next morning I went down to Zuccotti Park. First I went down in just civilian clothes, not the uniform or anything. I wanted to check it out, exactly where I was going, how I was going to approach, things of that nature. So I went down in the morning and I was shocked to see the park completely empty. Where did everybody go? I saw a few people walking around with signs and asked, “What happened?” and they told me about the atrocious event that happened to clear everybody out and I was quite shocked at that. But then people started to come back and congregate around the barriers of the park and so I said, “Ok, I can still be effective.” I went back to my hotel room, got dressed – I always wear a black raincoat on top of my uniform. I never travel to and from anywhere in my uniform, I always have a black raincoat covering it. So I took my sign with me.

PHAWKER: This is the one that says, ‘NYPD Watch ‘Inside Job Then Join Us?’

CAPTAIN RAY LEWIS: No that’s the latest, the first sign I carried said “NYPD: Don’t Be Wall Street Mercenaries.”

PHAWKER: OK, so you go down to Zuccotti Park and what happens next?

CAPTAIN RAY LEWIS: First I was approached by a plain clothes officer and he told me in a very stern way, “Just step to the curb.” I responded, “You show me your authority to order me to step to the curb and I will.” Boy, did that piss him off. He goes, “I said,” clenching his teeth, “step to the curb.” I said again, “You show me your ID authorizing your authority and I will move to the curb.” Then he said it one more time so sternly, and I knew that I was gonna refuse that I realized he might go mano y mano with me and I was prepared to do a match up, but I wanted it on camera. A number of people are around, everybody has a video camera obviously, cell phones take pictures, so I said “Hang on buddy, you might wanna get pictures of this,” which [the plainclothes officer] obviously detested. Then he backed off and called a white shirt over, obviously seeing the white shirt I realized he had authority, I went to the curb and I showed him my ID. That was resolved right then and there without any other further injury. About a half hour later a white female captain pointed at me and told me, “We’re on the phone with Philadelphia now. We’re going to get you.” Another half hour after that, a police chief approached me and put his finger into my chest, saying “We might not get you today or tomorrow, but you’re toast.” That’s the greeting I had from the NYPD, nobody ever approached me and asked, ‘We’d like to know what you’re about here, it’s interesting. Would you be willing to talk to us for a few minutes? Do you represent the Philadelphia police department officially’ or anything like that, it was just immediate confrontation.

PHAWKER: Explain the circumstances of you getting arrested. RAY LEWIS: It was the Shut Down Wall Street protest two days after the Occupy was evicted from Zuccotti Park. There were a lot of people protesting, I went down just to support the protest and wave my sign. Then I saw these young people getting arrested for civil disobedience, for sitting in the street and not moving. Seeing them all being willing to give up their freedom for who knows how long, overnight, a couple days, didn’t matter – they were also willing to give it up and to risk their personal welfare. They do not know what will be done to them when the cameras aren’t around, nevertheless they were willing to risk their their freedom, and perhaps their personal welfare for social justice. That to me was so inspiring, their show of conviction that almost immediately – I’m not a real spontaneous person, I’m more of a planner but their conviction, their energy just hit me and I said, “Ah, I gotta be arrested.” So I gave my sign to a reporter who told me she’d hold it and give it back to me later and I went out there and sat down. Initially the police walked around me, I’m not sure if that was a show of respect and camaraderie but it may just as well been a show of not wanting to publicize the event, which they knew arresting me would. I sat down several times and they still refused to arrest me. On the fourth time they realized, ‘This guy’s not gonna stop, he’s gonna force us to arrest him,’ which they then did. I did not go limp, I stood up, I know what it’s like and didn’t want to make the job harder for them, I didn’t wanna agitate them, I was only sharing in the civil disobedience and bringing attention to the demonstration. I walked across the intersection with hundreds and hundreds of people cheering me on, it was the proudest moment of my life. So I was led across and sat down with all the other protestors and from there on, I was treated exactly the same as every other protester.

PHAWKER: So they put you in handcuffs, I actually saw some camera phone footage of you being arrested, I also saw a picture of you sitting on the curb leaning up against the wall for a while?


PHAWKER: So what happens next? They put you in cuffs, you’re sitting on the wall waiting to be put in the big bus?


RAWK TAWK: Q&A With Robyn Hitchcock

Monday, March 14th, 2011


mecroppedsharp_1_1.jpgBY JONATHAN VALANIA Joe Boyd is a most intriguing fellow to rock snobs or anyone with a working knowledge of the cultural history of the latter half of the 20th century. An American ex-pat (south Jersey represent!) living in Britain most of his life, Boyd not only had a front row seat for some of the most important albums, bands and events of the psychedelic 60s — events that would, in many ways, define rock history moving forward — he was often their chief enabler. Boyd produced “Arnold Layne,” Pink Floyd’s first single, along with albums by Nick Drake, Fairport Convention and The Incredible String Band to name but a few. He was manning the sound board when Dylan went electric the Newport Folk Festival and essentially ushered in the modern rock era. All of this was detailed in his endlessly fascinating 2006 memoir White Bicycles, which Boyd will be reading from tonight at World Cafe Live — with a focus on the year 1967, psychedelia’s annus mirabilis. Backing him up will be Robyn Hitchcock, whose career as itinerant idiosyncratic folk-pop troubadour stretching back 30something years to his glory days with the Soft Boys could be accurately characterized as the love child of Boyd’s work. In between Boyd reading passages from White Bicycles, Hitchcock will be playing relevant tracks from Floyd, Nick Drake, Fairport Convention, The Incredible String Band, Dylan, Hendrix and much more. With this in mind, we rang up Hitchcock to discuss all the above and then some and the conversation touched on White_Bicycles_.jpgeverything from acid, Eno, and Hendrix to Syd Barrett, the Velvet Underground and Dylan’s Basement Tapes.

PHAWKER: Cool, we’re rolling. Alright, first question: Where were you in 1967?

ROBYN HITCHCOCK: Where was I physically?

PHAWKER: Physically or mentally or either way you want to take it.

ROBYN HITCHCOCK: I was in the South of England. Mostly in a small city which was once the capital of England called Winchester. Winchester is famous for its long Medieval cathedral, which has been there for about 800 to 900 years. And in the days before ocean liners and aeroplanes, and anything big really, there it was in the valley. You could see the cathedral for miles. And behind the cathedral there is a hill and at the top of that hill was a Neolithic site which means it had been used by people maybe 3,000 or 4000 years back, towards the Stonehenge Era. And everybody thought that they would excavate up there to see if they could find flint heads and such. So I was really in a very ancient kind of place and I was in a school that had damp, stone cloisters and all the kind of things that Americans would like to think that Brits grew up in. It was a very Old World kind of academic school with lots of wood and stone and grit and flint and not a lot of heating. And I would hear these records coming through, some of which were produced by Joe. So that was my setting, yeah.

PHAWKER: Okay. Let me ask you this. How did you hear that music? You mention these records. Was this stuff on the radio or was it pirate radio?

ROBYN HITCHCOCK: We hardly had radios then. It was a kind of academy for bright boys whose parents had some money, and we were kind of incarcerated in that. But, you know, people bought records, so we had lots of access to recorded music. I mean in those days, apart from what was on pirate radio, there wasn’t much really. I mean of course that was when Radio 1 started. But no, I mean it was just records, I suppose, that people thought to buy. Funnily enough, Brian Eno was around. He was at the local art school and he befriended some of the sort of older hipper boys at our school and he would turn up and produce bits of concrete poetry and conceptual writing and stuff for the school magazine. So Brian Eno was around in our world about five years before he reached everyone else via Roxy Music.

arnoldla.jpgPHAWKER: Wow.

ROBYN HITCHCOCK: So Eno had been a sort of factor in my life. Never a very close one, but he would turn up at performance art events like filling up balloons with helium and writing messages on them. Another time he gave an underground music concert quite literally in an underground chamber – a medieval courtyard – with a blue light bulb screwed into the fixture above. I mean, I don’t know how they managed to hook up lights in a Medieval basement but they did somehow. And Brian Eno, he had a Revox tape machine, which must have weighed a ton, and he was running it, playing something backwards – I think it was a Dylan song – and he had somebody playing a de-tuned electric violin. He must have been the first person to get hold of The Velvet Underground. But I remember one of the kids at school turned up with a Velvet Underground album at least a year before it was released in Britain. So that was the weird thing; we were in some ways very isolated but in other ways, you know, there was a whole current of hip that was flooding through Winchester.


ROBYN HITCHCOCK: And I would sit there, you know. I’d spend the money I’d earned clearing up my parents’ house on a portable record player and I sat there in the autumn listening to The Incredible String Band and crossing my legs and pretending to levitate, you know. It was definitely the right time.

PHAWKER: Okay, next question. If you could ask Syd Barrett one question, and this is assuming you’ve met him, what would it be?

ROBYN HITCHCOCK: You mean if I could have asked him while he was alive or now as a disembodied spirit?

PHAWKER: Either way.

ROBYN HITCHCOCK: Boy. Well I suppose I’d have to ask him what it was like working with Joe Boyd.Nick_Drake_Five_Leaves.jpg

PHAWKER: Fair enough. How about this: if the flying saucers landed tomorrow and they came out and asked you “Who was this Jimmy Hendrix?” what would you say to them?

ROBYN HITCHCOCK: I’d say, “It was me!” I’d grab a guitar and start playing it left-handed. I would say, “Yes, I summoned you all here! Now, take the Tea Party away!”

PHAWKER: Alright, same question. The flying saucers come down here and they ask you ‘Who is Nick Drake?’ what would you tell them?

ROBYN HITCHCOCK: I’d tell them they should ask Joe Boyd.

PHAWKER: I can see where this is going. One last question, and this is a similarly gimmicky question. Your house is on fire. You can only save one Bob Dylan record. Which one is it and why?

ROBYN HITCHCOCK: You didn’t ask me what format.

PHAWKER: In what format?

ROBYN HITCHCOCK: I would take The Basement Tapes.

PHAWKER: The official release or the bootlegs…?

ROBYN HITCHCOCK: No, not the bootlegs. Not the complete rambling Basement Tapes, but I’d take the fifteen, or whatever it was, songs that Dylan wrote that were officially released as The Basement Tapes. Things like “Yeah! Heavy and a Bottle of Bread” and “Tears of Rage” and “Open the Door, Homer” and those, I think. I think that was when he peaked. He was singing in quite a relaxed way, quite high sometimes like the band he was singing with and sometimes quite low like Johnny Cash who also seemed to be around. You could feel him really blending in with the people he was with and his singing was quite relaxed and the songs were all quite short. And they still had a sort of quite otherworldly sense. Not in the sort of psychedelic way that everybody else was otherworldly in the outside world, but the sort of thing that Greil Marcus writes books about. He kind of condensed his songs down into sort of little short, mythical words. They were almost like children’s songs in a way, it was the only time Dylan had a lot of choruses and the choruses had a lot of harmonies on. You Dylan_Basement_Tapes.jpgknow if I was going to play Dylan to four-year-olds I would probably play The Basement Tapes because they could pick up on the little choruses and the words themselves aren’t as barbed or as dense as his lyrics sometimes are. And it was kind of the end of the cycle for him after that. He sort of tried to write songs that anybody could have written and then he went back to try to write the kind of songs he thought people would like him to write, or whatever it was. But the cycle of his song writing began to evolve on Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan and went all the way through to protest songs and then the self-involved marijuana songs and then the kind of exploratory psycho music that he did in Highway 61 and the rather smooth, almost smug, kind of smacked-out mysticism on Blonde On Blonde. I mean, in a way, to try and describe any of those records is to insult them because there is so much more going on than any definition. But, he was trying out different ways of writing songs and it seems like in The Basement Tapes he’s arrived at the idea of “Okay, you know, let’s try writing some quite short songs that are superficially quite simple.” And I love his singing, and maybe because they were only demos but he wasn’t trying. His voice is quite relaxed. He’s got less attitude, in a way. And I don’t know, I think that’s my favorite Dylan recording anyway. So I would take as many of The Basement Tapes as I could take as well as, you know, obviously taking the cat and my favorite guitar.

PHAWKER: That’s a beautiful answer. One last question, if you have time for it and that is…

ROBYN HITCHCOCK: Yeah sure, that’s fine. I’m here all night.

PHAWKER: Okay. Actually where are you right now? Are you in England?

ROBYN HITCHCOCK: Yeah, I am, yeah. I’m back in England where I was in 1967, but I’m a few degrees to the East.The_Velvet_Underground_Andy_Warhol.jpg

PHAWKER: Assuming that you had one, what do you remember about your first psychedelic experience?

ROBYN HITCHCOCK: You mean taking acid?

PHAWKER: I suppose so. I mean it’s not that people haven’t had psychedelic experiences without controlled substances and maybe that was the case with you…

ROBYN HITCHCOCK: I never took very much LSD. The big influence on me with acid was probably via other people, particularly all the musicians that I love and whose work I sometimes would be singing with Joe. They kind of took it all for me. I sort of went there to see what it was like, a bit like a tourist going to somewhere where there had been a great battle once, you know, or to the sight of something. Well, you know, this is where Shakespeare proposed to Anne Hathaway or this is where, you know, they signed the Treaty of Versailles or whatever it was. So no, I mean, I don’t really know. I’m not sure I really had a psychedelic experience through drugs. I took mescaline once or twice. I liked it, but I mean it was one of those things that you had to do back in those days, but I’m not really sure what use it was.

PHAWKER: I hear you.

ROBYN HITCHCOCK: You know, if you have certain perceptions whilst your perceptions are distorted, and then the distorting thing wears off, you’re back where you were but slightly confused because for a while you’ve perceived things differently. Whereas if you just take something for kicks, you know, when you’ve had a kick and then you’ve got a hangover. But, you know, if you drink a bottle of wine or you snort cocaine or whatever it is you do – I mean it’s illegal to smoke cigarettes now – but, you know, if you were to have a cigarette or, I don’t know, all those things are things that will give you some kind of a buzz for a while and leave you feeling a bit worse, but they’ll give you a buzz at the time. Whereas with psychedelics the idea was that you would gain something from having altered perceptions. But, you know, we all had to try it. Our parents had the war, we had drugs and our kids had irony. That’s how it’s gone, really.

Chinese White Bicycles (featuring Joe Boyd & Robyn Hitchcock) tonight at the World Cafe Live

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

MEDIA: Feds Arrest CBS Staffers For Filming Conditions At War Veteran’s Hospital

Monday, April 2nd, 2007

PHILADELPHIA — TWO CBS 3 staffers were detained Thursday by officers assigned to the Veterans Administration Hospital (39th & Woodland) for videotaping without permission.The pair were caught “in an area of the nursing facility where they were not allowed to be,” Richbattlefatigue.jpg Manieri, U.S. Attorney’s office spokesman, told us Friday.

A female photographer was fined $150 for disorderly conduct after putting up some sort of struggle when confronted, and was also fined $50 for trespassing and $50 for unauthorized photography. A male producer also received the lesser two fines.

VA officers confiscated a videotape from the CBS 3 crew and a copy of the tape was returned to the station, Manieri said.

The unknown undercover investigation by CBS 3 at the local VA Hospital comes on the tails of recent Washington Post reports alleging mistreatment of wounded vets at Washington’s Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

“We won’t comment about the nature of our story except to say that this incident won’t deter us in any way from covering it,” said CBS 3 spokeswoman Joanne Calabria. “We don’t believe our people did anything wrong and we stand by them.”

DAN GROSS: In China, They Arrest Reporters For Telling Stories The Government Doesn’t Like, Just Sayin’
PREVIOUSLY: The Shame Of Walter Reed

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

REVIEW: Inland Empire (Dir. by DAVID LYNCH, 2006)

Friday, February 9th, 2007

inland-empire.jpgBY MATT PRIGGE FILM CRITIC Inland Empire looks like ass. It is also one of the best films released last year — and yet, for reasons that continue to elude me, this film has yet to be booked into an area theater. Maybe it’s the three hour running time, incomprehensible plot or the fact that it’s shot on video and, again, looks like ass. You could almost hear one of Malcolm Gladwell’s fabled Tipping Points make a thud when David Lynch — one of celluloid’s all-time bestest friends — declared a few months ago that not only was his latest movie shot on video, but all his future cinematic efforts would be as well. You’re a ballsy one, Mr. Lynch. And now that another David — Fincher, whose Se7en and The Game are things of pure celluloid beauty — has succumbed to the tricked-out, fancy-shmancy Thomson Viper digital cam for the upcoming Zodiac, that really just about does it for film. When a format’s major practitioners begin abandoning it, how much time does it have left? Celluloid is dead; long live celluloid.

That said, it’s not like Lynch went over to the Dark Side of George Lucas’ high-end DV videography. Inland Empire — Lynch’s latest, longest (at three hours) and most head-spinning mental upchuck yet (which, with this guy, is really saying something) — was shot on no less than the Sony DSR-PD150, an outdated miniDV camcorder that usually costs somewhere around a consumer-friendly $3K. Of course, you get what you pay for: Of the 139 titles on the IMDb that were filmed with the good old DSR-PD 150, only two others stick out from the ghetto of no-name indies: Tadpole and Personal Velocity — two films so sludgy and cheap, visually, that they no doubt bought celluloid a couple extra years of shelf life.

However, those were made by relative no names — what in the name of hell is David Lynch, esteemed auteur of the odd, doing with a cruddy, consumer-grade video cam lensing the the future of his oeuvre? That Lynch calls Inland Empire’s smudgy videography ‘beautiful’ is enough to make any cineaste sob. Never again the exquisite black and white chiaroscuros of Eraserhead’s hellish industrial wasteland, never again the lurid bordello red of Dorothy’s apartment in Blue Velvet.

By any standard, Inland Empire ain’t pretty, but its empirical ugliness is striking in a lot of ways. Lynch is enough of a techie to know his new format’s limitations, even on a first go. In dark rooms, characters creepily dissolve into a series of distorting ones and zeroes. And if they’re Lynch regular Grace Zabriskie — who pops up early on as a woman who’s supposed to be Polish but sounds distinctly Transylvanian — the chintziness of the video makes her look arguably more grotesque than ever before. The aesthetic takes some getting used to, but like anything you spend three hours with, the barriers come down — call it the cinematic equivalent of the Stockholm Syndrome.

But the speed and ease of video does something else to Lynch’s art, something that some believe is far more damaging than lo-fi visuals: It nearly eliminates the gap between idea and execution — the downtime while producers work the phones trying to scare up money when weird ideas can mellow with compromise or grow raw and angry with neglect, or reveal themselves for the best-forgotten trifles they always were. Lynch has long been considered one of the few living artists with a direct pipeline to his id and without this gestation period, some say, his dream logic blurs into incoherence and bottomless, unfathomable subjectivity with about as much narrative resolution as a Rorschach ink blot. (more…)

Hello AOL NEWS Readers! If You Lived Here, You Would Be Home By Now! You Could Have It So Much Better With Phawker! Hello AOL NEWS Readers!

Wednesday, February 7th, 2007


EDITOR’S NOTE: First, let me say we are positively flattered to rank up there with Monkeyfister and Daily Pulse — feels like we’ve arrived. Second, ordinarily we couldn’t care less if this guy fucked rocks, as long as the rocks were consenting adults. Whatever gets you through the night, man. But this guy runs with a pack of Christo-fascist Elmer Gantrys that used their considerable influence over their mega-church flocks to whip up a lot of misinformed and gullible people into a baseless hysteria about gay people, just so they could turn out the vote for their RNC taskmasters. We have no patience for bullies, least of all those in the pulpit, and even less for a big fat hypocrite bully in the pulpit. It would be un-Jesus-like enough if Ted Haggard wascellphonetits.gif at least sincere in his gay-baiting, but it was all a cynical lie. People, he was FUCKING ANOTHER MAN FOR FOUR YEARS! And now they’ve ‘cured’ him. Like he got a hold of a bag of meth cut with a little too much gay and just wasn’t the same for a while. Thanks to the “ministering” of his brethren he’s back to “completely heterosexual” — well, on behalf of heterosexuals everywhere let me be the first and possibly last to say: Hoo-fucking-ray for our team! Let me spell it out for you: You are gay, Ted, some people just ARE. A minority percentage of every living species is g-a-y — it’s called SCIENCE, look into it! You are not the first holy man to get his piety caught in his zipper and won’t be the last, but take it like a man. Look, it’s not like I’m incapable of forgiveness. I still go to David Lynch movies, after all. But you, sir, remain a liar to yourself and deceiver of others and, increasingly, a sad pawn in a farcical Christian Right cover-up, not to mention the punchline to some sick Culture War joke that just isn’t funny any more. As such, Jesus still has to love you, but I don’t.

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


Saturday, February 3rd, 2007

vampire_bat_flying.thumbnail.gifBY DAN BUSKIRK FILM CRITIC By now, after 10 feature films, assorted shorts and TV’s weirdest nighttime soap, we have mapped many of the dark recesses of the psyche of writer/director David Lynch. We know just what provocations push his buttons. We can relax into a comfort zone now while Lynch unleashes his expected tropes — the bugs twitching underground, the violent sex, the ironic old pop songs, the flashes of gore and morphing identities. Yet somehow, despite his mannerisms becoming ever more familiar, the years have done little to dull the effect of Lynch’s debut masterpiece, 1977’s sleepwalking vision “Eraserhead.”

The most memorable moments in Lynch’s films are always when reality slips away and his surreal id is allowed to take over; “Eraserhead” is one of the few full-length features daring to spend its entire running time in Dreamland. From its opening, when we see Henry’s horizontal head silently screaming as a giant sperm floats from his mouth, to the ending where we leave him dancing in the arms of the tumor-cheeked Lady in the Radiator, “Eraserhead” out-maneuvers logic and strands the viewer in a timeless void where every potential pleasure contains a sick joke as a punchline.

The film became a must-see on the midnight circuit soon after its release, playing to crowds who arrived at the theater just as decent people had gone to bed, to watch films like Tod Browning’s all-too-real “Freaks,” or the doper camp of “Reefer Madness.” ” Eraserhead” was still cropping up in the early ’80s, and I watched it first as a 17-year-old, from the balcony of the late, lamented State Theater in Newark, Del. It reverberated through me.

My unconscious dread was tapped by a scene early in the film. Henry plods through the grey landscape like a lobotomized Stan Laurel, bound for a family dinner with Mary, the young woman he is dating, at her parents’ house. After Mary has a seizure, her father serves an entree of tiny “man-made” chickens. Henry is given the honor of carving the meat, but draws back to watch the tiny jerking hen ooze goo all over the plate. Finally, Mary’s mother takes him aside to talk. The mother bitterly informs him that Mary had a baby (“They’re still not sure it IS a baby,” Mary corrects) and now Henry must marry her and take care of the child. His mother-in-law-to-be then kisses Henry hungrily on the mouth.
YouTube Preview Image

Trapped within expressionistic black and white shadows with an unloving wife, Henry is cursed to a future in this industrial hell, a nightmare that struck me where my fears lived. I, too, lived in the shadow of industrial squalor, in South Jersey between the nuclear plant and the lead division of Dupont Chemical. As a horny teen virgin, my greatest fear was that finally a girl would have sex with me, and she would instantly become pregnant, forcing me to labor in the nuclear plant and live in that god damned small town forever. I’d spend the rest of my years yelling up at the overcast sky, “If only I could have held back!”

The perverse world of “Eraserhead” was born nowhere else but in Philadelphia, and the city’s inspirational setting is one of the few clues Lynch gives about the film’s personal meaning. Lynch was a Eagle Scout from Alexandria, Va., when he came to a rapidly-declining Philadelphia in January, 1966, to attend the Pennsylvania Academy Fine Art, living in a house catty-corner to the old City Morgue at 13th and Callowhill with his childhood friend (and future Mr. Sissy Spacek) Jack Fisk. He remembered his Philly years in a profile included in the press kit for “Blue Velvet”:

Lynch calls that period ‘one of the best times of my life — and one of the worst times, too. The area had the greatest mood, an unbelievable mood. It was an industrial part of the city, with the strangest characters, the darkest nights. Factories, smoke, railroads, diners, true factory people — you could see strange stories in their faces. You could see plastic curtains and windows held together with Band-Aids, things stuffed into holes in the windows. Associations like smiling bags of death that they brought the bodies in with. We’d always go through the morgue garage en route to the hamburger restaurant. I only lived at night then.’ It was a horrible place, but it was a great feeling.

He later summarizes his Philly experience: “‘There was tremendous fear in Philadelphia, fear I didn’t realize I was living with until I eventually moved to California and the fear left.'” That, Lynch says, was the genesis of “Eraserhead.”
YouTube Preview Image
Fear permeates “Eraserhead,” but only recently has the film’s second half haunted me. A couple of years back my wife and I had a child, and during those newborn months, when I hadn’t slept in days and the baby was inconsolable, I’d think of Henry’s hangdog expression as he sat in that barren apartment with his slimy reptilian baby wailing away. By Lynch’s second year in Philly, he himself was married to fellow student Peggy Lentz (apparently residing on the 2400 block of Aspen, in the Art Museum neighborhood) and they had a child, Jennifer, in April of ’68. (Jennifer Lynch would later direct the amputation thriller “Boxing Helena” and write The Secret Diary Of Laura Palmer) The fear of fatherhood, poverty and the scary vulnerability of infants seeps through every sweaty frame of the film’s second half.

When I revisited “Eraserhead” recently, it was the humor of Henry’s situation that revealed itself. The exaggeration of the circumstances, the irrationality of the fears, the comedy in the empty rhythms of the film’s many awkward semi-silences — these elements build like an elaborate setup to a silent film gag, all perfectly underscored by factories hissing and droning and Fats Waller’s organ-playing riffs muffled through the brick.

“Eraserhead” still offers the excitement of seeing one of film’s great talents discovering his themes. It still bubbles over with profound imagery, and it still sounds like no other film. And at least for me, it offers a skewed joyfulness, with a chance to see former private terrors transformed into relieved laughs. After, all in Heaven, everything is fine.YouTube Preview Image

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

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

Friday, February 2nd, 2007

Listen to this story...Cultural historian Christopher Frayling is the author of Once Upon A Time in Italy: The Westerns of Sergio Leone, a large-format, beautifully illustrated book that chronicles the history of the spaghetti western. Frayling tells the story of the movie genre and the iconic director through researched text and interviews with Clint Eastwood, Martin Scorsese and Eli Wallach. Frayling is rector at London’s Royal College of Art and a professor of cultural history. He is also chair of themorric_enni_thegoodth_101b.jpg Arts Council of England. He’s known for his broadcast work on the BBC and has written more than a dozen books on arts and culture. Ennio Morricone, who composed music for the Sergio Leone films, will be awarded an honorary Oscar at this year’s Academy Awards. PLUS A Fistful of Music, a box-set of composer Ennio Morricone’s music, was recently released by Rhino records. ALSO: DAVID EDELSTEIN reviews An Unreasonable Man, a new documentary about Ralph Nader.
Listen to this story...This morning some 20,000 spectators gathered to witness the Wing Bowl. It’s one of hundreds of eating contests held each year around the country. Why do people compete and why do we watch them? We talk with JASON FAGONE, author of “Horsemen of the Esophagus,” Penn psychology professor PAUL ROZIN, and competitive eater DAVID “COONDOG” O’KARMA.

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


Friday, February 2nd, 2007

YouTube Preview Image
“The Comic Strip”

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


Thursday, February 1st, 2007
YouTube Preview Image

[Hat tip to DigPhilly]

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

Cover Wars: Whose Artfag Kung-Fu Is Stronger?

Thursday, February 1st, 2007


Today we are handing out nothing but lollipops and sunshine, because EVERYBODY wins this week! To wit, simultaneously strong cover art and, rarer still, strong-ass cover stories from both CP and PW this week. And in a curious coincidence, both tackle the drug issue from intriguing angles. CP’s Jeff Deeney reminds us that a fool and his coke whore are soon parted, especially when you rack up $16,000 on your credit card. (Here’s an idea: how about you find a girlfriend and buy a case of Red Bull instead, hmmm?) Yeah, the story states the obvious, but readers LOVE following people down the spider hole of their semi-private hells — especially when it involves sex and drugs and rich white privilege getting stupid. CP’s handsome cover shot quotes Modigliani’s reclining nudes, updated with three fat rails, warm flesh tones and the miracle of digital airbrushing that can make nipples vanish into thin air. PW rocks an eye-searing high-contrast cyan-and-magenta painting to tease this week’s cover story on the strange bedfellows made by the War On Drugs. In his own inimitable style — long-haul stakeout reporting, tack-sharp writing that connects the dots on a constellation of telling details — PW’s Steve Volk unfolds a fairly miraculous story of a hardened drug cop and the hardcore drug dealer he busted making peace and finding redemption and possibly probation. Kudos to Volk for making the reader re-think the dubious premises and bad intelligence that took the country to war with getting high. WINNER: Everybody

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


Thursday, February 1st, 2007
YouTube Preview Image [Slashdot] [Digg] [Reddit] [] [Facebook] [Technorati] [Google] [StumbleUpon]

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

Thursday, February 1st, 2007

Listen to this story... FRESH AIR WITH TERRY GROSS
Thirteen journalists have been murdered since Russian President Vladimir Putin took office. Thekingtutviscerafront.jpg Kremlin is widely believed to be behind some of those and other recent murders. On the next Fresh Air we talk with MICHAEL SPECTOR about his recent New Yorker article, “Kremlin, Inc.” Why are Vladimir Putins opponents dying? PLUS MOLLY IVINS remembered. Liberal political columnist Molly Ivins died yesterday at the age of 62. In her long career, she wrote for newspapers such as The Texas Observer and The New York Times, and her columns were widely syndicated. These interviews originally aired on Oct. 3, 1991 and Oct. 7, 2003.

Listen to this story... Hour 1 – King Tut 101. The next stop for the international King Tut exhibit is in Philadelphia, which runs at the Franklin Institute Feb 3rd Sept 30th. Marty will talk with the exhibit’s national curator and King Tut historian DAVID SILVERMAN. Theyll talk about who King Tut was, and how his tomb was first discovered. Silverman is a professor of Egyptology at the University of Pennsylvania where he is also the curator in-charge of the Egyptian collection at the University’s Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.

Listen to this story...Hour 2 Environmentally Friendly Cars. A look at the many competing technologies and which ones the big automakers are experimenting with. The latest eco-friendly cars will be on display at the Philadelphia Auto Show that runs from Feb 3rd 11th at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. Marty will talk with RON COGAN, editor and publisher of Green Car Journal where he tracks the latest in new fuel alternative technologies in the automotive industry.

[Slashdot] [Digg] [Reddit] [] [Facebook] [Technorati] [Google] [StumbleUpon]
Cost of the War in Iraq
(JavaScript Error)
To see more details, click here.