Saturday Night: Rohin Guha’s ‘Relief Work’ at Rose Live Music

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This Saturday 1/8, beloved one-time BlackBook writer Rohin Guha will be reading from his new chapbook, Relief Work, at Brooklyn’s Rose Live Music. And he won’t be alone; joining the lineup are B.C. Edwards, Matthew Gallaway, Jason Helm, and Richard Lawson. There will be cupcakes and live music. So what’s Relief Work about, you ask?

According to the publisher, the book concerns “vomit, Steve Madden shoes, diarrhea, and the euphemism ‘eat-hole’ … blow jobs, teenagers, mothers, grandmothers, ghost dogs leaving ghost shits …” Sure there are some higher and lower truths involved, but you don’t want the steak without the sizzle, right? Anyway you should go, since it’s only five bucks at the door which gets you a drink to start off with. And it goes without saying that you should buy the book, but I’m saying it anyway.

In the Studio With Erykah Badu

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It’s an hour before midnight and Erykah Badu is walking down several flights of stairs into her studio, where she has one night left to finish her sixth album, New Amerykah, Part 2: Return of the Ankh. Just off the hustle of Times Square, the studio is a mellow oasis, small and dimly lit, with ropes of purple Christmas lights glowing overhead. An unfinished version of the album plays in the background. Its atmospheric, improvisational sensibility heightens the feeling that within this space, time moves on Badu’s terms. It’s a joke among the people closest to her. Her publicist, effusive with apologies after our second scheduled photo shoot was canceled by Badu, says by way of explanation, “She works on Erykah time.”

Place has also played a vital role in the 39-year-old performer’s work. She currently has multiple homes—in New York, in Dallas and on the road—but says, “I’ve managed to create this situation of peace wherever I go.” The four-time Grammy winner (she’s been nominated a total of 19 times) has had her New York apartment, in Brooklyn’s Fort Greene, for 13 years. “It was a party of one for the longest time. It’s a very small apartment, with only a kitchen and a bedroom. It was my lab.” It’s also the place to which she keeps returning. “Brooklyn is where I go when I’m recording,” she says. “I used to call it my home, but I don’t anymore. There’s a part of me that’s always 21 years old there. It’s a hideaway. It’s a shrine. It’s a sanctuary. It’s a dressing room.”

But Brooklyn has evolved over the past decade, largely due to gentrification. “When I first moved in, it was all head wraps and dreadlocks,” she says. “The change was gradual, so gradual, in fact, that it’s like asking me how it felt to watch my children grow.” She is of two minds about the development of her neighborhood, which now comes complete with coffee shops, independent bookstores, pricey brownstones and strollers. “I hate that black people don’t know how valuable their land is,” she says. “One group is always pushed out for another. One tribe always takes over another tribe’s habitat. But it’s not so much about occupation here as it is convenience. The area is now more of an artistic environment, a meeting of the minds.”

For eight months of the year, Badu lives on the road. But even then, the mother of three—Outkast’s André Benjamin is the father of her son Seven—feels at home, because she brings her mother, brother and sister along for the ride. “My mother’s the queen. I’m still the daughter. I’m just a franchise,” she says, laughing. “We play cards. We talk shit. We build. We critique. We create. We argue. We grow.”

Painting by Tim Okamura.

‘SNL’ Makes Nice with Betty White-Led “Women of Comedy” Special

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Oh, good. Facebook conquers all not only when Mark What’shisface maybe-steals ideas from classmates and becomes a megazillionairess in the process, but also when its hapless addicts succeed in getting beloved comediennes who probably should’ve landed a plum hosting role on Saturday Night Live decades ago their overdue time in the sun. And while Betty White hosting and featuring on the only episode of SNL worth watching in the last eight to ten years is irrefutably a good thing, there are still a lot of issues around this installment. Issues that make it clear that, basically, a male-dominated sketch show is attempting to address allegations of sexism with a 90-minute LOLlapalooza specifically engineered to shut women up.

White’s hosting duties are part of a larger “Women of Comedy” special the sketch show is drawing up. On the roster, then? Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and Molly Shannon. Probably Kristen Wiig, too. Although it would be wise of them to lure back Ana Gasteyer, Cheri Oteri, Maya Rudolph, and Rachel Dratch. And with this idea of a “Women of Comedy” special being relegated to Mother’s Day weekend, essentially it’s like the SNL execs are trying to slap together a show that will justify cases of sexism that would’ve happened anyway. And this does a disservice–even to power players like Fey–by pushing them into this gender-specific underclass. The entire affair seems also like a ham-handed way of the show’s staffers to state, “WOMEN ARE NICE, BUT ONLY WHEN NON-THREATENING AND ON NON-THREATENING HOLIDAYS WHEN WE CAN GET THEM TOGETHER TO BOOST RATINGS.”

This also means that as far as musical guests go, SNL has no choice but to try to squeeze in a Lilith Fair showcase featuring at least half of these artists who are billed for the tour.

7 Products Lady Gaga & Beyoncé Would Like You to Buy in “Telephone” Video

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Our heads are already spinning with the complex and layered symbolism of Beyogaga’s latest since it bowed last night. It’s part-Natural Born Killers! It’s part-Bound! It’s part-Requiem for a Dream! It’s a polemic about the harsh treatment of inmates in our penal system! But most importantly, the most well-executed music video event of the last five years is a nine-and-a-half-long minute advertisement. And the range of goods featured are so generic that it almost seems like Gaga wants to make peace with the same key demo that wrote to the FCC about how she dared to bare her “pubic hair area” on the Grammys sometime back. Well so long as they’re a-OK with the lesbian overtones and the diner-specific genocide, Miracle Whip will yet be the glue that holds us all together. Seven products that enjoyed a prominent presence in the opus (a couple more that merited more fleeting plugs documented here), that you’ll now go out and buy. Because the power of Gaga compels you.

Virgin Mobile. At the beginning of the short film, Gaga is enjoying heavy petting at the exercise yard at the Prison for Bitches. This is also a convenient moment for the camera to focus in on the Virgin Mobile phone that the prison guards forgot to confiscate.

Diet Coke. Ah, yes. As is the fashion in women’s correctional facilities these days, Lady Gaga curls her hair into a number of Diet Coke cans. This is most prominent when she’s receiving a call from Beyoncé.

Plenty of Fish. When an “unknown” shows up to spring her from the slammer, one of the prison guards is seen trolling for true love on online dating website Plenty of Fish.

Little Debbie Honey Bun. Then while Beyoncé and Gaga are en route to the diner, the pair shares a 15-second moment of sensuality, with a Little Debbie Honey Bun serving as the prop.

Polaroid. While in the car, Gaga also decides it is a good idea to take a picture of Beyoncé while she’s steering the Pussy Wagon.

Wonderbread. Once at aforementioned diner, Gaga sneaks into the kitchen and proceeds to wake the world’s dullest sandwich with Wonderbread …

Miracle Whip. … and some Miracle Whip. It’s no wonder then that in the ensuing couple of minutes, everyone else in the diner dies.

And here are all of those products in context:

Beyond ‘The Wall’: 6 Other Albums That Are Worthless Unless Complete

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Yesterday heralded a landmark development where rock band Pink Floyd won an estimated settlement of $90,000 against EMI, who had been selling tracks off the band’s concept albums individually on digital retailers like iTunes. The band basically argued that albums like The Wall are meant to be experienced as entire entities, not piecemeal. And their victory begs the question: What other celebrated bits of rock and pop should be sold as entire extravaganzas? To keep this manageable, let’s look at it through the same rose-colored filter through which everyone’s waxing nostalgic about the ’90s. Mind you, these are in no way the best records of their time–although such an assessment wouldn’t be untrue in any of these cases, either.

Liz Phair, Exile In Guyville. Few records have ever cohered as well as Guyville. It pulls off the achievement of being thematically and sonically consistent — without verging on redundancy.

Aimee Mann, Magnolia soundtrack. Although the Tom Cruise-starring film is epic in length, the soundtrack is a showcase of Mann’s finest moments. More than that, the soundtrack manages to re-create the film without putting you through the punishing ordeal of having to sit through all three hours of it time and time again.

Garbage, Version 2.0. Essentially Shirley Manson’s gift to the world, Version 2.0 did what no other album by the band could: It straddled a line between pop and rock that put both audiences ill-at-ease. And it did that without any filler.

Björk, Homogenic. To this day, this record remains the warbler’s most eclectic, buoyant offering. And released during an age of MTV when the network still encouraged forward-thinking media.

Radiohead, OK Computer. The case could probably be made for In Rainbows or Kid A similarly — or any of the band’s other records — but the versatility of Computer is better experienced as a whole, not simply track-by-track.

Spice Girls, Spice World. No, wait! Come back. Though neither lofty in concept or execution, this worked as an unofficial soundtrack to the band’s $29 million-grossing film of the same name. But mostly, the album, in its less-than-40-minute entirety hearkens back to a golden age of pre-Ke$ha pop. It’s one of the most airtight summaries of what the genre was before the age of Twitter and Facebook.

Adam Lambert Would Like You to Drop Acid

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Yesterday, as I strolled through my local supermarket’s poultry aisle, this song came on and I thought to myself, “How lovely! Melissa Etheridge has a new, youth-skewing single out! That is terrific of her!” But then just as I chanced upon racks of chicken feet, I came to the conclusion that it wasn’t Melissa Etheridge wailing, “Hey, slow it down / Whataya want from me / Whataya want from me / Yeah, I’m afraid / Whataya want from me / Whataya want from me.” But rather, it was the dulcet tones of Adam Lambert. What a babe! At this epiphany, I nearly threw up all over the open cooler of chicken’s feet. Whether that was due to the unnerving sight of hacked-off chicken feet selling for $1.59 a pound or to hearing this bit of pop discord is anyone’s guess. But good on Lambo for getting a radio station to play his song, especially after this kerfuffle. That makes it all the easier for him to pursue his latest goal: Encouraging America’s youth to drop acid. Adam, you rogue!

He tells The Metro:

My trip led me to some epiphanies about who I was as a performer, what I wanted to do and how I needed to create my own opportunities. When I got home, I started writing music with other people and went to the Idol audition. The vision was about finding opportunities. I wasn’t sitting in the desert in rave-wear thinking about Simon Cowell when I was on acid.

This makes sense! After so much toiling and aggravation, it becomes clear that For Your Entertainment fails to entertain because it was created in a controlled environment, where a label that had invested millions of dollars into his debut kept him on a pretty tight leash. Meaning that Lambert couldn’t go to the bathroom without talking to a half-dozen handlers, let alone wander down to his dealer.

This also means that somewhere, beneath that guyliner and glitter, there may yet be some pop genius. Just as parts of international rock sensation Tori Amos’ brilliant third record Boys For Pele was created with the assistance of various substances, Lambert’s next album–which could and should be titled Boi 4 Pele–will essentially reinvent the entire genre of pop as we know it and provide Lambert with the fortune he needs to buy up the entire globe’s supply of eye make-up.

Haruki Murakami’s ‘Norwegian Wood’ Gets Radiohead Magic

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Once in a while, two amazing forces will collide and a sudden, consequent burst of ultratubularity will send the world spinning off its axis and out of its orbit. Today, such a cosmic feat comes courtesy of the confluence of acclaimed Japanese author Haruki Murakami and Radiohead keyboardist Jonny Greenwood. Greenwood is set to score an Anh Hung Tran-directed adaptation of Murakami’s Norwegian Wood, due in Japanese cinemas later this year. The tone of the soundtrack? Kind of like a 20-minute composition he wrote for the BBC Concert Orchestra entitled “Doghouse.”

But this trend of developing ideas teased out in one-off pieces isn’t entirely new. Greenwood did similar work for the There Will Be Blood soundtrack, which was based on a piece called “Popcorn Superhet Receiver”.

This marriage of literature and popular music is par for the course for Murakami. His books always find thematic grounding in contemporary music. In particular, Norwegian Wood is anchored by allusions to The Beatles.

How the World Is Coping With Corey Haim’s Death

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Clearly this week, the universe isn’t feeling terribly generous about recognizing past pop culture touchstones. First there was that whole episode with the Oscars obviously forgetting to honor Bea Arthur and Farrah Fawcett. Now the universe has seen fit to strip Corey Haim’s body of all sentience (will he be included in next year’s Oscars “In Memoriam” montage?). Sure nobody’s going to be rushing to make diamonds out of locks of his hair, but still, when Corey Haim dies, the world cries. Oh, does it cry.

Twitter, for example, has taken a brief break from allowing “Justin Bieber” to trend to observe the death of the Lost Boys star:

Which isn’t to say that tweeple–as a rule–are necessarily aware of who Haim was.

Others are not so shocked by his death, but by his unlikely taste in fleeting paramours:

Outside of the Twitterverse, news outlets are racing to be top of the Google Index by any means necessary. In some cases, like The Guardians, this means tasteful clip packages like “Corey Haim: a career in clips,” in others, like this one from The Mirror combine Haim’s death with his taste in girlfriends to fashion a clunky HED. Most curiously, Canadian outlets are quickly trying to cash in on his sudden, posthumous celebrité, with CTV offering, “Canadian actor Corey Haim, 80s heartthrob, found dead.”

Meanwhile select eBay vendors are already offering Corey Haim memorial ribbon car magnets. Other paraphernalia, like his autograph has seen heightened bidding action since the actor’s passing was initially reported.

Curiously, YouTube tributes to Haim remain slim-pickings for the time being.

Because sometimes it is nice to remember child actors trying to cash in on the prime of their lives by reflecting as washed-up adults, here is Haim, then, discussing his tryst with Beckham. Because no doubt, reporters are banging on the ex-Spice Girl’s door trying to get a soundbite as you read this.

Lindsay Lohan’s New Job: Crying Over Spilt Milk

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Never one to be demoralized by diminishing employment opportunities, Lindsay Lohan is recovering from her Ungaro firing quite quickly. Having categorically failed at being a pop star, thespian, fashionista, and lesbian, Lohan turns to what was simply a niche before the recession, but now a growth industry: Nonsensical litigation. LiLo’s suing financial services company E-Trade to the tune of $100 million, claiming the company ripped off her likeness in portraying a milkaholic baby in an ad that originally aired during the Super Bowl.

Apparently Lohan now has single-name recognition — like Oprah or Madonna. $100 million is the cost of the debilitating pain and humiliation caused to her as a result of this alleged parody. Undisclosed is the cost of damage done to her by years of drug and alcohol abuse. See the clip below and judge ye yourself.