A New Thing to Hate Lena Dunham For: She Forgot to Vote

Remember when Lena Dunham made that controversial ad for the Obama campaign in which she compared to voting for the first time to losing her virginity? Yeah, that was a wise choice. As it turns out, she probably did actually vote for Obama back in 2008 (even though she was already 18 in 2004 and did not, apparently, vote for either John Kerry or George W. Bush). Last November, however, a Brooklyn-registered voter named Lena Dunham did not cast a ballot. Everyone is in an uproar, per usual, especially because she claimed she did

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Four years ago I was in a much different place. I always considered January 20, 2009 as a turning point in my life. This, as you may know, was the day Obama was inaugurated into his first term. A moment in history that I knew was going to set the stage for the future. I had just turned 23, was living in Brooklyn with my two best friends, and was in the biggest state of depression I’d ever hit. Some might call that "rock bottom." At that point we were all smoking enough weed to fill Colorado three-fold. Some might call that "Numbing out." Again, I was 23, almost a year out of college, and flat-broke. I was working at a gallery for 15 dollars a day. I wasn’t working there for the pay; I was there because I fully believed in what they were doing and I was passionate to be a part of it. I had Sallie Mae breathing down my neck wanting their money. Arguing with them regularly, I would scream, "WHAT MONEY AM I SUPPOSE TO PAY YOU WITH? I DON’T HAVE ANY!" Convinced I was on their shit list and that a red alert came on their screen that said "HUGE BITCH" every time I called. Maybe it was all the weed that put me in a state of constant paranoia. Sorry Sallie Mae, actually fuck that you still want my money.

In a journal entry dated 1/19/2009 I wrote the following "Obamas Inauguration is tomorrow and I know things are going to get better, because, really they can’t get much worse. I have no money no job and frankly shit just sucks." On inauguration day I was with my friend Sara and we had gone to the Brooklyn Lyceum to watch history on a big screen. We cried, this was it, lets move forward. We headed to Pathmark afterward.  Being flat broke we bought about 20 microwaveable Banquet meals that were on sale for $1.00. Chicken Fried Chicken Meal, Turkey Meal, and the ever delicious Salsbury Steak Meal. $1.00 for bliss cooked in under three minutes. We were also really into instant coffee. God forbid we splurge on a coffee maker or anything that couldn’t be smoked. However, this day was a turning point. Slowly little by little since that day, things started to unfold. Odd jobs began trickling in, I was at the gallery, working at a photo studio, even doing a random data entry job in Greenpoint. Slowly a shift had begun to take place. I was lucky to live with friends, we all supported each other, pulled our selves out of funks and motivated one another to keep going further.

Four years later 1/21/13, I am sitting here watching the Inauguration for Obama’s second term. The top right corner of MSNBC says "Lean forward." Today I am in a much different place in my life. I’ve had a full time job for two plus years and manage to subside my Sallie Mae expenses as well as have some money left over for living. My pot smoking habit has become an occasional past time. The past has been nothing short of trans formative and I have no idea what lies ahead these next four years. I can only hope for the best outcomes  and a continuation of moving forward, of feeling like we are actually heading somewhere. As Obama mentioned in his speech today "We must lead the transition."

*Image pictured is from January 2009

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Your DC Inauguration Weekend Guide

Feels like just yesterday, huh? Well now we’re gonna do it all again. But better. Regardless of your stance on the election, the inauguration of Obama on Monday, January 21st is a good opportunity to head to DC, drink like you just got out of prison, and conquer the city’s top brunch and dinner places like a viking. Yeah, I want you to live it up. Not just because you only live once yadda yadda, but also because you paid good money for that train/bus/flight to be in the nation’s civic hub, so your weekend better be great. And with this Inauguration guide, it certainly will be.

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Personal Faves: Maya Rudolph Hosts ‘SNL’

Instead of ending the year with a slew of Best Of lists, BlackBook asked our contributors to share the most important moments in art, music, film, television, and fashion that took place in 2012. Here, Joe Reid writes about Maya Rudolph’s return to Studio 8H as host of Saturday Night Live.

Since the beginning and the "Not Ready for Primetime Players," Saturday Night Live has always boasted something of a familial atmosphere. Even when—as has been documented often—those families were fucked-up and quarrelsome. The eras of SNL close ranks around themselves in our memory, though, and even when the reality resists it, we write these narratives anyway. This is why I will never not be fascinated by what goes on during the goodbye hugs at the end of each episode. Such a great peek into family dynamics. This sense of family on SNL has been especially strong on the last several years. The overlapping Tina Fey/Seth Meyers eras have been characterized by constant opportunities for crossover—on 30 Rock, Parks and Recreation, Late Night With Jimmy Fallon—and a sense that graduated cast members are welcome back at Studio 8H any time.

And yet even by those standards, Maya Rudolph’s hosting gig last February felt especially familial. In the nearly five years since Rudolph ended her time as a cast member, she’d been back several times, but this was her first gig as host, and the sense of rallying around her for her big moment was palpable. Despite the fact that she was already starring in a sitcom on NBC, there was no reference made to Up All Night (the same would be true of Christina Applegate’s hosting gig in October, helping to cement Up All Night as one of the great "is that still on?" sitcoms of our time). It was the previous summer’s Bridesmaids that provided the boost in stature for Rudolph to host herself. Bridesmaids was a big influencer on SNL last season. Melissa McCarthy had been on to host in October, and the success of the film was probably that last push that Kristen Wiig needed to declare this her last season on the show. Which meant, in addition to Rudolph experiencing an old home week, there was also a sense that she was helping to usher Wiig into that great Beyond-SNL phase of her career, a sense that was only galvanized by Amy Poehler’s extended cameo.

Everybody figured Poehler would be back for a reprise of Bronx Beat, her and Rudolph’s popular recurring sketch. Betty and Jodi fell right back into their world-weary rhythms (it feels like Hoarders was a phenomenon created specifically to be gabbed about on "Bronx Beat"), and it only felt appropriate that their guests would be the sound guys played by Andy Samberg and Justin Timberlake (one of the more popular recurring hosts of the Fey/Meyers era, keeping us on trend). 

NEXT: "The 2011-12 season had turned into Senior Week at high school."

Both Poehler and Timberlake would show up again during the show: Timberlake as Bon Iver in an "At Home with Beyonce and Jay-Z" sketch (though he would later TOTALLY puss out by carrying an "I <3 Bon Iver" sign during the goodbyes), and Poehler in her triumphant return to Weekend Update, and specifically to "REALLY??!! With Seth and Amy." That Beyonce and Jay-Z sketch was one of those treasure boxes filled with random fantastic celebrity impersonations, specifically Taran Killam’s Brad Pitt and Nasim Pedrad’s Nicki Minaj (which tragically was never paired with Kristen Wiig’s Bjork before Wiig left the show). But it was the return of "REALLY??!!" that sold the homecoming theme better than anything else. Seth and Amy had such great chemistry together, and his happiness at having her back for a week was practically radiating through the TV.

With Wiig and Samberg on their way out the door (and Jason Sudekis rumored to be as well), the 2011-12 season had turned into Senior Week at high school, with sketches seeming loopier and more likely to devolve into a pile of giggles. Wanton character-breaking like that can often test an audience’s patience with the show (see: the entire Jimmy Fallon-Horatio Sanz era), but for viewers who knew what was up, the season felt like watching fantastically funny old friends have a well-deserved goof-off day. (That day lasted 22 episodes, but whatever.) Thus the appeal of something like "Super Showcase," which consisted entirely of Wiig and Rudolph using weird voices to make them (and Bill Hader) laugh. The fact that Vanessa Bayer—new, still-trying-to-prove-herself Vanessa Bayer—was the only one to hold it together only strengthened the "Senior Skip Day" impression. 

NEXT: "The entire episode was consistently strong, a near-impossible feat for SNL."

The entire episode was consistently strong, a near-impossible feat for SNL. At 90 minutes worth of crammed-together sketches, perfection is an unattainable goal. (It also means that even the worst episodes can be redeemed by one great sketch, so it works both ways.) But Rudolph’s episode was remarkably steady: the cold open about racist "Lin-sanity" is so much more dated than anybody ever thought possible (it’s only been ten months but feels like ten years) but it also nailed that moment in time. The "what would it take for African Americans to not support Obama?" sketch was better than what usually gets tossed out at 12:45 AM. "What’s Up With That?" is never going to be for everybody, but it manages to get me every time, if for no other reason than the gleeful look on Sudekis’s face while he’s doing the running man. But, fine, say that’s the one "bad" sketch of the night. It’s more than redeemed by something like Maya Angelou’s prank show, if only for the part where Angelou assures Dr. Cornel West that her goof on him was not an act of malice but an act of whimsy. 

But really, what are we even talking about? Why did I just spend all that time talking about the rest of the episode when the show attained perfection via 30 short seconds in the second-last sketch? Not even the full "Obama Show" sketch. Just those perfectly calibrated Cosby Show opening credits. My favorite moments from those credits, in order: 1) Maya as Michelle Obama as Clare Huxtable, wagging her index finger at the camera; 2) Maya as Michelle Obama as Clare Huxtable dancing; 3) Jason Sudekis as Joe Biden as Theo Huxtable dancing; 4) Fred Armisen as Barack Obama as Cliff Huxtable doing the thing with the fingers; 5) Fred Armisen as Barack Obama as Cliff Huxtable dancing around Agent Conners. In the months since, I have watched those credits roughly seven thousand times. They don’t lose their luster. I only regret that the tag at the end of the sketch, where Poehler shows up as Hillary Clinton to lip-sych Ray Charles in parody of the greatest moment in Cosby Show history, isn’t available online due to the scourge of our time: music rights. MUSIC RIIIIIIIGHTS!!! [shakes fist]

It was only fitting, really, that this particular episode of Saturday Night Live was highlighted by a parody of one of television’s great families. Here’s hoping there’s one more of these homecoming episodes before Meyers, Hader, and company all move on. When does Kristen Wiig’s next movie open, anyway?

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Swift Boat Veterans Confirm John Kerry’s Cabinet Nomination

Ha ha ha, just kidding! The vile conservative ex-military group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, widely credited with a successful smearing of 2004 presidential candidate John Kerry’s military service, actually has nothing to do with who is selected to succeed Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State. When they weigh in on the matter as if their position counts for anything, they’re just making sure that we know that they still (unfortunately) exist.

But, with or without the generous backing of Karl Rove’s reelection machine, weigh in they must. BuzzFeed reports that “Kenneth Cordier, a former POW who appeared in a Swift Boat ad in 2004 and was kicked off President Bush’s campaign because of it” wrote an email that "Pretty much I was hoping that Ms. [Condoleezza] Rice would get the nomination and then they would battle it out in the Senate.” Oh man, hoping Obama would appoint Bush’s Secretary of State? These guys are nuttier than we thought! That’s what a stint in Vietnam will do for you.

What I love most of all, however, is that the Swift Boaters, who were so opposed to an anti-war but decorated veteran in a position of national security, have decided not to launch another slanderous broadside on the man as he ascends to power, despite promising they would back in November. Could it be that they’re all fibbed out? No more money under the mattress? Or maybe they just noticed that under Obamacare, more than half a million veterans will gain health coverage. And you don’t want to rock that (swift) boat.

True Life: An Old Immigrant Woman Fist-Bumped Me

Ever experience something you didn’t realize, until right then, was on your Bucket List? A transformative wave courses through your circulatory system; you feel reassembled. It happened to me, and even now I can scarcely believe it: An old immigrant woman gave me a fist-bump in our building’s elevator.

It came suddenly, with little warning. She got on the elevator on the fourth floor, wearing the usual babushka-type head accessory. She’s very nice and talkative, but I’m often ill at ease because she leaves her apartment door open and just goes about living in plain view all day, and I do not know how to process that. Anyway! She got to talking about the volatile weather and how Al Gore was right.

It was then that I noticed she wore an Obama 2012 button. “At least we won this one, right?” I asked, pointing to my own lapel. She was confused. For a moment, all seemed lost. I pointed again to my lapel, in mounting desperation. “This one,” I stammered. When she at last remembered her button, comprehension took hold of her face, and she solemnly offered a fist for bumping.

It’s hard to say what effect this will have on the course of my journey through this world, but I know I’ll never be the same. What awaits around the next bend may exceed my assumptions again and again. And I hope it does. There’s no better feeling I can name. Hope you can find out for yourself.

Follow Miles Klee on Twitter.

Karl Lagerfeld Sketched President Obama As a Chef For Some Reason

Karl Lagerfeld is turning into quite the little artist. Following his sketch of Queen Elizabeth’s dream Diamond Jubilee garb, the Chanel creative director has released a rendering of President Obama dressed as a chef, which must be symbolic for something, right? 

According to WWD, Lagerfeld drew the sketch for German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung the morning after the presidential election. The image, which was colored using Shu Uemura makeup (more symbolism?), features President Obama in "a proud stance in front of the American flag, dressed in chef whites and hoisting a platter bearing a small cake in the shape of the White House." The image is accompanied by the following caption in German: "The Biggest Chef in the World: 10 X 5 Stars." 

I’m sure you all have many questions, so I’ll start: 

1. Why a chef?

2. Why Shu Uemura makeup?

3. Has President Obama seen this?

4. Has Jay-Z seen this? (He’s besties with the Prez, right?)

5. What flavor is the White House cake? (I’m hungry.)

On The Verge: Piano Gladiator ELEW & His Rockjazz

When a new genre of music is created, the world takes notice. And in Eric Lewis’ case, the music industry took more than notice; with the creation of his own style of rockjazz, he’s set the scene on fire in a controversial, stormy way that suits the man and the brand that he is. Merging rock guitar techniques with pop and ragtime, and putting it all on the piano, Lewis – known onstage as ELEW – has outraged the jazz world, while awing the pop/rock world – especially when he plucks and beats the heck out of the piano’s insides and shield. Outfitted with armor on his wrists, a suit, and a vivacity that defies merely sitting on a piano bench, but standing and rocking the entire time he plays, ELEW’s renditions of pop/rock anthems and original songs on his latest record introduce a sound we’ve never heard before. As ELEW prepares for his Friday, Nov. 9th show at Le Poisson Rouge, he shared what gets him high, his favorite distraction, and when he played for a legendary celeb.

You’ve said you’re a huge fan of comic books, and that you feel superhuman and supercharged when you get on stage. What are some pre-show rituals you’ve adopted that you’ll use for Friday’s show? 
My workout. I call it "the ninja run.” I run through the forests of Riverdale with my hand in front of myself, like a karate chop or shark fin. I take on the ninja mindset. Like characters in Mortal Combat who intersect physical performance with the supernatural, I try to make my mind as much a weapon as my body. Before I play, I focus on combining my passion with precision, and vice versa.  

In a day, how do you balance working out with practicing and performing?
If I’m not exercising, I’m practicing, and if I’m not doing that, I’m playing chess. Or watching Dexter. I used to practice the piano all the time, but now the game has shifted to a perceptual challenge of the mind, and sometimes it’s very exhausting and painful. The improvisation I learn from chess is similar to what I use in music. But in chess, I’m going against someone. In music, it’s subjective to the audience, and it’s ultimately a battle with myself. But there’s such an ecstasy to it. 

Is there anything else in your life that gives you that kind of ecstasy?
Women. I’m a hopeless romantic. Being an entrepreneur, too. I have so many ideas for what I want to do next, so the power of creating those ideas is euphoric.

You crawl into the piano, plucking the strings like a guitar and beating the wooden case like a drum. Do you actually play these instruments?
I do know how to play the drums, and I played the violin for a year as a kid, but when I noticed horn players putting different objects in horns to make different sounds. I started experimenting. The things I do aren’t new exactly, but how I do it is. My way of branding it is. Alexander Graham Bell didn’t invent the telephone, but he invented the way he branded it. With my music, you want to dance to what’s going on. Playing without a piano bench and wearing armor – no one’s ever done that. I love to move, and I really want to rock.

You toured with and opened for Josh Groban for most of last year. What’s the #1 lesson you learned from him?
To be elegant. Touring with him made me re-record my latest record. Hearing the elegance of his presentation, delivery, and repoire made me want to re-record my music with that kind of professionalism. He’s so in touch with his brand, style, what it is he’s adding to the music scene, and he knows how to nurture it and present it elegantly.

What’s your ideal vision of the future for ELEW?
I want to be legendary. Yanni, Herbie Hancock, and Elton John, all wrapped into one. Hard-hitting. I want to collaborate with Lil Wayne and dubstep artists, and be like John Carpenter was to Halloween – write the story and the music for my own horror film. I want to create a comic book movie, a music festival. And I’d like to improve my chess game.

You’ve cultivated a fanbase of celebrities like Hugh Jackman, Obama, and Leonardo DiCaprio. Tell me your favorite celebrity story.
Al Pacino asked me to perform at a party he was having at his house. I started playing a crazy rhythm people could dance to, and suddenly Al jumped on one side of the piano next to me and started to play. I put his fingers on some of the notes as if we were playing "Heart and Soul," and we started playing and rocking together. 

Al Pacino

Follow The ‘Republican Tears’ Twitter Account Tonight

Obama’s got this election in the bag, baby, and now the 24-hour cable news drones have got to spend the entire day pretending that it’s going to be remotely close. Pretty boring and deliberately uninformative stuff! It’d be more fun to keep tabs on the hyperventilating conservatives who don’t believe in math but do have baffling, anecdote-based faith in a Romney landslide. That’s where @GOP_Tears comes in.

A beautifully curated list of all the most craven and swinish commentators, pundits and bloggers, from Michelle Malkin to Karl Rove, Donald Trump and Dana Loesch, ‘Republican Tears’ funnels all possible right-wing idiocy into a resplendent cascade without you having to follow any such undesirable personalities for real. Each will be faced with the flimsiness of their smug yet pie-eyed predictions this evening.

The feed promises to ‘follow the GOP meltdown in real time!’ And as the results start rolling in, that is exactly what we’ll be seeing. One especially looks forward to hysterical accusations of voter fraud and intimidation, seething racism, demands for a recount, and Karl Rove calling Ohio—and by extension the whole fight—for the incumbent president. Oh, it’ll be a glorious collision of reality and fantasy. Won’t you join us?

Follow Miles Klee on Twitter.