The Black Angels’ ‘Currency’ is a Song For Our Times

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Since their inception in 2004, Austin’s The Black Angels have existed fearlessly apart from any prevailing musical trends. Their mind-bending, uncompromising psychedelic rock has consequently won them a significant, and fairly fanatical following of believers.

Of course, their name was borrowed from the eponymous Velvet Underground classic (“Black Angels Death Song”) – and with the release of the immensely powerful new album Death Song, they’ve sort of ritually substantiated that reference. They’ve also recorded one of the most incisive songs of our post-financial-collapse times. Indeed, “Currency” is a veritable prophecy, decrying greed, and warning us against our attachment to materialism and financial gain – with its ominous chant of “One day it’ll all be gone” and its stinging Wall Street accusation, “All the debt and lives you sold.” It’s positively chilling in its poignancy.

As part of an extensive North American tour, The Black Angels will appear at Brooklyn Steel this Tuesday, May 2. In the meantime, do spend some time pondering the message of “Currency.”

 

The Black Angels   “Currency”

Currency carry me everyone is held hostage
Currency means nothing
How are they to spend us next
Do you want a stake in us?
How you have a stake in us
One day it’ll all be over
One day it’ll all be gone
I can see born asleep all these things in motion ours
All the debt and lives you’ve sold
There’s no truth in who we trust
Print and print the money that you spend
Spend and spend the money that you print then
One day it’ll all be over
One day it’ll all be gone
I can see currency how it always sanctions us
All these paper lives you’ve sold
There’s no God in who you trust
Print and print the money that you spend
Spend and spend the money that you print
Print and print the money that you spend
Spend and spend the money that you print then
One day it’ll all be over one day it’ll all be gone
And you will all be gone one day
Yeah you will all be gone one day
You’ve paid with your life
A slave from nine to five
You’re spent through us
You take from us when we die
So claim the diamonds in your eyes

 

Rachael Leigh Cook Gives ’90s Throwback with War on Drugs PSA

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The ’90s were a good time for Rachael Leigh Cook. We all remember her star power in She’s All That and Josie and the Pussycats. You might even remember a particularly popular PSA in which Cook takes on heroin with an egg and a frying pan.

20 years later, she’s still getting her point across with common household items in everyone’s kitchen. This time, she’s taking aim at a different drug issue.

With one white egg and one brown egg, she demonstrates the differences in the way drug users are most commonly punished. With the ongoing war on drugs, mass incarceration of people of color tips the scales in an unfair direction. The animated ad goes on to show the longterm outcomes of their lives as they’re stripped of the opportunities everyone should be afforded.

“The war on drugs is ruining peoples’ lives,” she says. “It fuels mass incarceration, it targets people of color in greater numbers than their white counter parts. It cripples communities, it costs billions and it doesn’t work. Any questions?”

Watch the full PSA from Green Point Creative below:

TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL 2017: Exclusive Interview With ‘My Friend Dahmer’ Author John Backderf

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Image courtesy of Tribeca Film Festival

Climbing the stairs to the attic studio of graphic novelist John Backderf (Derf), the walls are covered with framed comic original art from Bazooka Joe, Dick Tracy, Shannon Wheeler, and This Modern World. His workspace is modest but colorful – recycled Dominos’s plastic cups are filled with pens and markers, toy cars are displayed.

We interrupted him in the middle of his workday in Shaker Heights, Cleveland. It’s about thirty minutes from Derf’s hometown of Richfield, Ohio, where his wildly successful graphic novel My Friend Dahmer is set. “It’s good to be from someplace,” Derf said.

We had come to interview him in anticipation of the new film adaptation of My Friend Dahmerwhich will premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City on April 21st (and be screened five more times at TFF between now and April 27). In fact, during high school, Derf and notorious serial killer and cannibal, Jeffrey Dahmer, were classmates, friends even.

Did you turn down many offers for screenplay adaptations for My Friend Dahmer?

Yeah, I’ve turned down offers before. The book took 15 years to pull together and had several incarnations along the way. It’s a compelling story, and I had pitches floating around as I fished for a publisher, so there was always interest. Filmmakers were immediately attracted to the idea and the concept. I was always willing to listen to offers while I was working on it, but I wanted to finish the book first. I wanted to make the book I had in my head. I wanted it to exist, as an artifact. Once I was done with it, and the book was out there, and it was a critical and commercial hit – which it was right from the start – if a filmmaker wanted to adapt it at that point, I was like, “Sure, why not? It won’t change the book.” The pressure is on the film to live up to the book. I’m happy to report that the film is very good.
But my favorite offer came around late 2007 or 2008 from a large studio in Hollywood. I had a relationship with someone at a comic strip syndicate, he liked my Dahmer stuff and he started pitching it around Hollywood. There was a studio that was interested and the syndicate guy advised me to get an agent, because it was looking good. So we all had a conference call. The studio exec starts out with, “I really see this as a John Hughes-type teen comedy.” I just stared at the phone in disbelief and the conversation ended pretty quickly. That’s the kind of stuff I was dealing with.

How involved have you been in the production of the film?

I gave notes on the screenplay but I wasn’t interested in getting too involved. I had books to make. My breakthrough work came so late in life, I was 52 years old when My Friend Dahmer was released. My plan is to make as many books in the time I have left and not get sidetracked by anything else. I chose the filmmaker, Marc Meyers, that was my main contribution. He approached me and I checked out his work. Here was a guy who made quiet, smart movies for adults and I thought, “This is what I’m looking for.” I said, “Pull together financing and we’ll give it a shot.” He did. The next thing I know I’m walking up the driveway of Dahmer’s boyhood home where much of the movie was filmed. Vincent Kartheizer was there and he’s like, “It’s so good to meet you,” and I met Anne Heche, who gave me a big hug. The whole thing was kind of a head-trip. I was on set for a couple of days but I was in Europe for most of the time that they were filming. The actor who plays Dahmer, Ross Lynch, is amazing. He is really going to blow people’s minds with his performance,  I think. All the performances in the film are very, very strong.

Did you and Alex Wolff spend time together to help him understand the role?

I didn’t meet Alex until a couple weeks into the shooting. I had a bunch of pressing deadlines and couldn’t make the schlep out to the high school they were using as a set. He came to the role simply from reading the book and the screenplay, and from the director’s instructions. I’ve spent quite a bit of time with Marc and he was making notes the whole time. I thanked Alex for making me WAY cooler than really was in high school!

Besides it being a film and not a book, what is the main difference in the way the story is told?

Everything important in the book is in the film. It’s a very, very faithful adaptation. Every important scene is recreated faithfully. I’m very pleased. The only real difference is the timeline is compressed somewhat. The book takes place over six years. That was simply a necessary adjustment for a film.
The major difference is the film doesn’t use the narration that I employ in the book. It’s a device I’ve only used in this one book. So it’s akin to Blade Runner. Narration, or no narration? For the record, I like the Blade Runner narration, too. I know I’m in the minority there.

 

 

What is the underlying theme of this story?

It’s a story about failure. Everyone fails – the parents, the teachers, the cops, his neighbors, his friends, and Jeff himself. The result is a pile of bodies. Across the board failure, sometimes that’s the way life is. But there were so many missed signs. I remember Jeff bringing liquor to school and walking through the halls with it. There’s a photo of him holding a styrofoam cup in the front of the book. He got it out of the coffee machine. He’d fill it with booze and walk around school with it…every day! You could smell it on Jeff’s breath. And no teacher or administrator noticed a thing. The drinking was scary, this wasn’t just stoner partying. That’s one of the things that made me think, “Enough! Something is deeply wrong with this kid.”
But it was a laissez-faire era. Kids were mostly on their own. Lots of cruising, lots of weed, lots of beer. Richfield and Revere High School during that time period was a lot like the movie Dazed and Confused.

Tell me about your education and how it influenced your career.

I got a D in art my senior year of high school for drawing too many comics. I went to art school briefly at the Pittsburgh Art Institute and didn’t like it. I only went for 6 months. I came back home and, worked as a garbage man for a year, and then I wound up at Ohio State University.  I didn’t set foot in an art class there and instead  studied journalism. I liked all of the journalism classes, but I loved working for the school paper more than anything. The Lantern had a distribution of over 50,000 – it was the first place I got my comics printed and it was the first place people really noticed my work. It’s a big rush when that happens and I’ve been chasing that rush ever since. Drawing these cartoons with 50,000 people reading them – if you blew one, which happened frequently, it was a pretty public failure. It was a real trial by fire. I loved it.
Coincidentally, The Revere High School paper was also called The Lantern. I was part of that, too. My cartoons then were completely inscrutable. It was all stream of consciousness stuff and no one knew what I was writing about.

How did you get interested in comics?

Trapped out in Richfield, it was kind of hard to get your hands on them. I started with mainstream comics that I bought at the corner drugstore. Later I discovered underground and indie comics. I had to drive into Cleveland to find those. As far as how they influenced me, I don’t have any direct influences. I just kind of do my own thing. But I’ve always loved comics, all of them— comic books, comic strips, cartoons, anything I could get my hands on.

 

 

Harvey Pekar said, “Comics could do anything that film could do…” Do you agree with this?

Film and comics have always been closely associated. Comics came first! It’s no surprise that so many movies coming out are based on them. Of course, they’re mostly stupid ones. I’m not a big fan of “superdude” stuff. Diary of a Teenage Girl just came out, that was great. Then there’s Jessica Jones – Brian Michael Bendis, the creator, he’s another Clevelander. There’s Ghost in a Shell, another big blockbuster that sounds like it doesn’t live up to the original comic.
Of course, Disney and Warner own Marvel and DC respectively, so the superdude assault on the multiplex won’t be ending any time soon. But let’s try to sneak in a few good comics, shall we? Hopefully, My Friend Dahmer opens the door a little more to great, non-superdude comics getting made into films. We’re in a golden era of comics right now. There are so many great books out there.

What are you working on now?

Two graphic novels at once. One of the books uses the characters from my first book, Punk Rock and Trailer Parks, which was set in Akron and Richfield, Ohio. It’s a great cast, especially my protagonist, Otto, who is easily the best character I’ve ever dreamt up. I love writing him. The new book picks up a year after the first. I moved the location to Cleveland and it’s set in Kay’s Bookstore, which was this legendary place full of strange characters. It takes place during the Cleveland punk era of the early Eighties. The villain of the story is Frank Spizak, the Nazi transvestite race killer. He was a clerk at Kay’s. Really. That’s true! I have all of these stories about him working there. The other book, which will be for Abrams, I can’t talk about yet.

Do you ever worry about any repercussions from writing about such a sensitive subject – from the school, from families, or just emotionally?

By the time I sat down to write My Friend Dahmer, Jeff had been dead for 18 years.  During those nearly two decades, there were four feature films about Dahmer, hundreds of  books and thousands of magazine and newspaper articles.  There are two different Jeffrey Dahmer action figures. There are three death metal tribute albums, all of which include songs about my friends and I. Dahmer has been a character on Saturday Night Live and a character on South Park. Given all that,  I don’t think my haunting memoir, laced with regret and second-guessing, is going to add to anyone’s pain.
As for our antics back in high school, well, I think everyone winces at their behavior in high school. It certainly wasn’t our finest hour, some of those tasteless things we did – but we’re talking about young kids living in a podunk town. If we were doing the same things now as adults, like a certain politician who mocks handicapped people on stage, it would be different.
The only thing you can do is write with brutal honesty. That’s the only way to write a memoir – don’t be afraid to make yourself look like an asshole. You can’t sanitize it. I think I approached My Friend Dahmer with sensitivity. Its reception from critics and fans  is testament to that. The biggest downside of the runaway success of the book is that I doomed myself to talk about Jeffrey Dahmer for the next twenty years.

Journalist Madeline Rosene can be reached via Instagram.

NYC’s Langham Place and 1 Hotel Get Their Earth Day On

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The Langham Place Fifth Avenue Tree of Wishes

Earth Day (Saturday, April 22) had arguably hit a moment where it began to seem a bit…culturally hackneyed. But with a climate-change-denying administration in the White House, and an incoming E.P.A. Administrator (Scott Pruitt) who is likely gearing up to gut his own agency, the very idea of setting aside a special day to stick up for our Mother Planet seems suddenly once again urgent, even imperative.

Two of our fave New York City hotels are joining in the cause. The staff at the  Langham Place New York, Fifth Avenue (as part of their new #LovingEarthMonth initiative) have gone hands on, “planting” an exclusive Tree of Wishes in the elegant lobby, made entirely of reclaimed materials. Guests can purchase the pink, seeded “leaves,” and the donation will go towards bee preservation, benefitting The Honeybee Conservancy and Honey Love. For those who don’t know, as the bee population goes, so goes humanity. Celebrate the day with cocktails upstairs at Bar Fiori.

Across the East River, the new eco-chic 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge will celebrate its “official” opening with a day-and-night (noon – 9:15pm) Earth Day bash. In conjunction with mindbodygreen, it will be something of a festival of “conscious living.” Indeed, Biet Smikin will lead special meditations, there will be sessions with wellness studio Treatment by Lanshin, rooftop yoga with Caley Alyssa, and sustainability-focused panel discussions.

But it won’t be all seriousness. Mojave Rising’s Bess Matassa will be conducting astrology readings, there will be a live musical/visual performance by BELLA GAIA, and vendors from the new Dekalb Market Hall will be on hand, including Ample Hills Creamery, Bread & Spread, and Jianbing Company.

 

1_HOTEL_Shot01_LOBBY_045

Lady Gaga and Prince William Skype About Mental Health

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Longtime outspoken advocate for mental health issues Lady Gaga has Skyped with Prince William, also a major advocate for the cause, to talk about the importance of being open about what’s going on up in your head.

Gaga recently opened up about her experience with Post-Tramautic Stress Disorder after being raped at age 19, and published an open letter unveiling her struggle in December.

William, too, has a history of engaging in activism to promote a better culture and conversation around mental illness. He’s championing his Heads Together campaign with Kate Middleton and Prince Harry, which calls for discussion about what illnesses we’re struggling with in our minds.

In their Skype conversation, William and Gaga commended each other’s work so far on the issue and made clear their passion about continuing to end the stigma.

“The little bits that I’ve learnt about mental health is that it’s ok to have that conversation; it’s really important to have that conversation and that you won’t be judged,” said William. “It’s so important to break down that taboo otherwise it’ll lead to problems further down the line.”

Take a look below:

Willow Smith is Creating an Animated TV Show Based on a Fantasy Novel She Wrote

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@willowsmith on Instagram

Willow Smith is helming two new female-driven film and television projects with her production company, MSFTS Productions, Deadline reports.

MSFTS will team with Cartel Entertainment to adapt the young adult trilogy Rebel of the Sands, by Alwyn Hamilton, which follows 17-year-old Amani on an adventure through a mythical desert land. The film adaptation could or could not be a major acting gig for Smith.

The second project picked up by MSFTS/ Cartel is an animated television adaptation of Menencholy, the fantasy novel Smith has reportedly written (though hasn’t published). Menencholy follows a girl named Menen-Nin Khali who has the ability to see into her previous life.

“The nonphysical, creative and, wild nature of a female heroine’s journey calls for a unique narrative structure that permeates the very foundation of the story,” said Smith. “Enjoy the ride!”

As it may be a while before we see any of these projects actualized, here’s Willow shooting a bow and arrow to tide you over:

C spot nonexistent <lol> #forceofnature

A post shared by ≠GWEELOS≠ (@willowsmith) on

ACLU Posts First Amendment on Billboards in Arabic and Spanish, Raising Middle Finger at Trump

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The ACLU has released giant billboards with the First Amendment, which provides the right to freedom of speech and press, written upon them in Arabic, Spanish, and English. Giant signs cover Times Square as well as 30 bus stops in Washington, D.C. and a large spot in Los Angeles. Take a look:

Screen Shot 2017-04-12 at 10.19.18 AM Screen Shot 2017-04-12 at 10.19.36 AM

A quick refresher on what the First Amendment actually says: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

“Trump came to power on a wave of anti-immigrant sentiment, and it was particularly bad when it came to Muslims,” ACLU’s Stacy Sullivan said to The Huffington Post about the signs. “It’s a way for us to state our solidarity with those communities under threat and to say what [Trump is] doing is really un-American.”

The ACLU chose to run the signs in Spanish and Arabic as well as English because Muslim and Latinx groups are especially under threat in the new Trump regime.

Screen Shot 2017-04-12 at 10.20.10 AM

The ACLU also shared this video to accompany the signs. They plan to spread the campaign to more cities and in more languages down the line.

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Wait – Bernie Sanders Has a Podcast – And Bill Nye Is On It

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Photo: @BernieSanders on Instagram

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has wowed us yet again by nonchalantly revealing over Instagram this week that he’s got a podcast available for listening on iTunes.

We’d already known Demna Gvasalia’s muse had been doing a talk show via Facebook live, but apparently now the audio of that show is available for you to listen to during your morning commute. And there’s already three episodes out! The first features Revered William Barber discussing modern civil rights issues, the second, BILL NYE discussing global warming, and the third, more talks about the climate with filmmaker Josh Fox.

“Election days come and go, but political and social revolutions that attempt to transform our society never end,” said Sanders over Instagram. “Listen to The Bernie Sanders Show to stay informed on the political revolution, our focus in the fight for a progressive agenda and how Bernie and others are fighting back against the Trump administration and its efforts to divide us up.”

Take a look at the post below, then head here to download your new fave podcast.

Björk, Sleater-Kinney, Mary J. Blige, and More Join Artists Collaborating to Benefit Planned Parenthood

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We’ve previously reported that artists including St. Vincent, Kristen Stewart, John Legend, Zach Galifianakis, and CHVRCHES would be joining forces to create music and projects benefitting Planned Parenthood in these troubled political times. But since then, the roster of talent stepping up to defend the women’s rights organization has grown immensely.

A collection of singles titled “7-Inches for Planned Parenthood,” organized by the 7-Inches Collective, is now slated to feature work from musicians and comedians including but not limited to Björk, Bon Iver, Sleater-Kinney, Foo Fighters, Margaret Atwood (author of The Handmaid’s Tale), Mary J. Blige, Matt Berninger and Bryce Dessner of the National, Elliott Smith, Common, Feist, Jenny Slate, Janeane Garofalo, Laurie Anderson, Jon Brion, Mitski, Nico Muhly, Margaret Cho, Pete Holmes, Sharon Van Etten, Tig Notaro, Shepard Fairey, and more.

“Lawmakers with extreme views are working hard to shut down Planned Parenthood,” said 7-Inches in a Facebook post. “If they succeed, millions of Americans will lose access to basic health services, including STD testing and treatment, birth control, and life-saving cancer screenings.”

They continued: “7-inches for Planned Parenthood is a response to this threat. This curated series of 7-inch vinyl records is being made by a group of people who believe that access to health care is a public good that should be fiercely protected.”

Take a look at the full list of artists involved below.