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Stripping and Kissing: Ukrainian singer has a novel approach for winning Eurovision 2017 (NSFW)
12.16.2016
08:47 am

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Dance
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Well, where do I begin with this little gem? Probably the history….

So, the Eurovision Song Contest that tacky annual sing-a-long started off as a way of bringing together those many battle-weary nations of Europe after the long bloody devastation of the Second World War. It was the brainchild of Marcel Bezençon—a Swiss TV exec who pinched the format from an Italian music festival where unreleased tracks vied in competition for the title of best new song. So far so good—though it behoves me to mention that Switzerland was neutral in WW2 which might explain why Eurovision is such a bland, inoffensive and unbearably condescending idea…anyhoo...

Since the Eurovision’s first appearance in May 1956—when it was called Eurovision Grand Prix—the competition has come around every year with that unenviable certainty of death, taxes and a visit to the in-laws every Christmas. Over the years there have been some fun things—ABBA, Sandie Shaw, Lulu, that heavy metal band Lordi and the first transgender winner Conchita Wurst. Then of course there has always been a lot of crap—way, way too much to mention. Still the Eurovision remains incredibly popular—some 200 million people watched the show go out live in 2015.

Winning Eurovision usually guarantees a lot of money, fame and shedload of sequins. The stakes are always high for anyone hoping to be win the privilege of officially representing their country in the competition. To find the most suitable artiste—each year, every participating country holds a national televised contest to find the person they think is going to win. As you can imagine, this brings out some of the most talented, strange and downright weird.

All of which brings me to Alex Angel who auditioned this week for the honor of representing the Ukraine in next year’s Eurovision. Most acts have a good song. Most acts can sing. But Alex doesn’t need any of that. He has a novel approach to booking his place in the final—his stripping partner Natasha Olejnik. This week Alex and Natasha tried their best to impress Ukraine’s Eurovision selection panel with their song “Running For Love.”

Let’s just say, they made an impression….
 
More after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Women write President-elect Donald Trump’s actual quotes on their bodies (NSFW)
12.13.2016
09:18 am

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Art
Current Events
Politics

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For 18-year-old photographer Aria Watson’s final project in her Introduction to Photography class at Clatsop Community College in Oregon, she chose to shoot actual quotes from President-elect Donald Trump’s mouth painted onto women’s bodies. I think the results speak for themselves. They’re even more sobering in this context.

Also, don’t say “What about Hillary or Bill Clinton quotes.” You’re deflecting if you do that. Neither one of them is about to become the most powerful man in the entire world. Donald Trump is. These are real quotes about women that came out of his mouth. Stay on topic. Thanks.

Aria Watson’s photo series is titled “#SignedByTrump.”


 

 

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Krampus wrapping paper for all your unholy gifts
12.12.2016
11:18 am

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You know the drill—it’s Christmas when everyone buys presents and shit. So if you have to do the festive shenanigans of giving, then why not wrap that godawful gift you bought—just because you couldn’t think of anything else to buy and well there was a game on and the bar was doing two-for-one Mai Tais—in some quality skin? Like this rather fabulous Krampus gift wrap from Aeron Alfrey?

Aeron Alfrey is an artist who “creates unique imagery inspired by the fantastic, grotesque and monstrous.” His work has been featured in lots of different stuff but you really don’t need to know about just now. Why? Because we’re talking Krampus giftwrap. And look at it—25 awesome Krampus monster heads on a neat repeating pattern. The paper comes in a festive green and orange—which is handy because any leftover wrap can be used for next Halloween. Get yours here.
 
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More after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
A final ‘Fuck You’ from 2016
12.05.2016
12:43 pm

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As we all know 2016 has been a spectacularly shitty year. Bowie. Prince. Leonard Cohen. President Trump. Okay, scratch that, it’s been the fucking worst year ever in the history of humankind. To add insult to injury, this annus horribilis (pronounce that however you wish) just got even worse, as Joseph Sudiro points out on Twitter: All the holidays in December fall on the weekend. No one gets a goddamned day off work.

I can’t wait for 2016 to be behind us, although frankly I see no silver lining for 2017 either. Shit’s just going to get worse. It’s in the air, ain’t it kids?

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
The sad and heartbreaking reality of Shelley Duvall’s mental health
11.30.2016
11:00 am

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Television

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“Oh, we went to a party, found a girl, and you’ve got to meet her. She is special!” Robert Altman remembered being told after screenwriter Brian McKay and assistant director Tommy Thompson returned from an engagement celebration for a local artist in Houston. They were in the lone star state location scouting for Altman’s upcoming film Brewster McCloud. At the time Shelley Duvall was studying nutrition and diet therapy at South Texas Junior College and working as a cosmetics salesperson at Northwest Mall’s Foley’s department store. Without formal acting experience or training, Altman cast her in the key role of the Houston Astrodome tour guide Suzanne Davis and a star was born. Over the next two decades, she would go on to appear in classic films such as Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, Robert Altman’s Nashville and 3 Women, and Woody Allen’s Annie Hall. Besides a successful film career she created, hosted, executive produced, (and even wrote the theme music) for the award-winning live-action children’s anthology series Faerie Tale Theatre.
 
In 1993 Shelley sold the rights to Faerie Tale Theatre to a small British entertainment company after she began to struggle financially. As an independent producer, Duvall was finding it increasingly difficult to fund new projects with tight credit and mounting production costs due to the recession. She was forced to lay off over a dozen employees that worked out of her production company, Think Entertainment, whose offices were located on the second floor of a nondescript San Fernando valley strip mall over a Chinese restaurant and a dry cleaner. Shelley retired as a producer but continued taking acting parts. In 1994 her Studio City home was damaged in the Northridge earthquake and she relocated to the small city of Blanco, TX (approximately 50 miles north San Antonio and 50 miles west of Austin) which boasted a population of 1,500 residents.
 
While she remained single without any children, Shelley moved into a modest ranch in Blanco with her collection of exotic birds and reptiles that she had begun acquiring in Los Angeles. “At home, it’s a menagerie: 70 birds, all different kinds, ten dogs, one cat, a leopard tortoise, a rabbit, four iguanas, and two desert lizards,” she said during her interview on the Marilu Henner Show in 1994. Shelley continued to accept acting roles and television appearances throughout the late ‘90s but in the early 2000’s the roles got smaller before dwindling completely. Her 2000 independent film Dreams in the Attic which shot in and around Houston and Galveston was pitched to Disney but never sold or released. Duvall’s final acting performance was in the outsider film Manna from Heaven in 2002.
 
Keep reading after the jump…

Posted by Doug Jones | Leave a comment
From Brexit to Mr. Brexit: An Englishman in Texas on Election Week
11.17.2016
01:09 pm

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U.S.A.!!!

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Photo: Christian Benavides

Here’s a picture of what, to an English, London-based US politics junkie, amounted to a peculiar sort of heaven…

It is Election Day, and I am riding shotgun in an SUV through unsmiling Texas…The back of the truck, covered in bumper stickers (‘SECEDE!’ ‘LIBERTARIAN!’ ‘Got shave ice?’), is also piled high with firearms… Rush Limbaugh is on the airwaves.

I’d heard “Rush” do his stuff before, online, back in the UK (that is, as a leftish, foreign voyeur). Now though – due to the place, the setting, and the others in the vehicle – “Rush” is no longer addressing some distant, crazy demographic, he is addressing us – and even, me.

“The bigger government gets, the less freedom there is. That’s just the way of the world, folks… “

I can feel, suddenly, how warm it must be tucked in beneath the dragon’s wing of American conservatism.

For the previous twelve-fifteen months, I had consumed at least two hours of US election news and commentary a day back in London. Chance had turned that 2-D experience into a 3-D one: I was staying in Austin to make an (unrelated) short film, and only after arranging everything realized I would be there for the vote.

Well, we had finished filming that afternoon. The driver of the SUV, Jim, was the local cameraman I’d hired. He was a conservative, a Christian, a libertarian and a sure-fire ‘Second Amendment’ sort. He’d supported Ted Cruz in the primaries, and had a modest, Glenn Beck-type aversion to Trump. He had already voted for Gary Johnson, but would very likely have gone Republican in a swing state.

In the back was Jim’s assistant and best bud, Lloyd, a thirty-six-year-old handyman. Jim and Lloyd lived a few minutes away from one another, in the pious and paranoiac suburbs of Pflugerville, where (as I witnessed) residents actually wave hi to one another, bagged-up AK-47s swaying from shoulders. Lloyd was a former Cruz supporter too, but had long since came around to – and voted for – Trump. 

Limbaugh was now reciting, with that gropingly intimate gruffness, the right-wing LIBERTY catechism. He was putting his whole self into it, too, in honor of the Historic Occasion. This catechism more than touched upon the Second Amendment. Meanwhile, my new friends and I, on our way to firing some guns, were also (politely) arguing about them.
“But what would ya do,” said Lloyd, keen to cut right to the heart of the matter, and leaning right up between the front seats. “If someone broke into your place in London, to rape your wife and kill your kids? What would you do, Thomas? Ask ’em to leave?”

Despite the facetious note at the end, this was no rhetorical question. Lloyd wanted to know.  So, by the looks of it, did Jim, who kept glancing over from his big Texan steering wheel, equally curious how one could even go about conceiving of such an event in a country that prohibits lethal weapons. (Had I, perhaps, cultivated some dangerous hand-to-hand ninja skills?)

“But that’s a ridiculously unlikely event.” 

“You can’t be too careful, Thomas,” said Jim.

“You can though!”  (Indeed, I was increasingly convinced that America was the definition of Being Too Careful.) “A piece of masonry might drop on your head and kill you, that doesn’t mean you go around carrying a metal umbrella.”

This journey is taking place because, the previous day, I had been (naively) scandalized to discover that my small crew were walking Austin’s squeaky-clean streets armed. I had never, I confessed, even held a gun. Jim and Lloyd had decided, there and then, to initiate me, intimating that the first whiff of cordite would see my English soul born again hard.

Jim flipped the dial to The Glenn Beck Show. To his amusement (take it as a testament to how closely I’d followed the damn election), I could hum along to the show’s sickly theme ditty.
 

Photo: Jordan Bunch

Finally, our SUV pulled into the Eagle Peak Firing Range.

I had half expected to encounter a devil-may-care joie de vivre therein. But no. All in all, the spirit in which “Second Amendment People” go about their pastime is achingly careful, like a weird mixture of model railroading and snake handling. I even had my wrists slapped by one of the Eagle Peak Firing Range attendants (bald and bent-double, with bright white mustache) for firing one of Jim’s semi-automatics too quickly.

“Yer Limey’s gettin’ carried away!” he told them.

Far more interesting than all the latches, barrels and banging was the thought of those millions of Americans simultaneously inching towards the voting booths, and of the mind-boggling political significance of what we were doing. Jim and Lloyd, for instance, both admitted to being “scared” by the prospect of a President Trump. He scared them – not enough, but somewhat– because of that overt streak of megalomania. Clinton, on the other hand, scared them more solely because of her perceived threat to those “second amendment rights.”
Were Americans proportionally more scared of death – or at least violent death – than other nationalities? Is it precisely this that makes them – paradoxically – so fucking dangerous?

America’s Other Half
For election night itself I was off to attend the Travis County Democratic Party’s shindig at Austin’s Driskill Hotel. Jim, very kindly braving a couple of hours of Austin traffic, dropped me off. (Conservatives, I have to say, are pretty kind people.)

It was long clear to me that, to many, Trump was a hero figure– a swaggering maverick macho sent by God to heave back the clock. What hadn’t occurred to me from the UK, however, was that cautious, data-driven, super-scripted, center-cleaving Hillary might be viewed as a hero, too. A Straight White Male want of imagination on my part, this, to be sure: taking the Driskill attendees as a local sample, it was immediately clear that Hillary was a hero to (at least) millions of American women.

This was of course in part because of the clear symbolism of the fight – ignoramus pussy-grabber versus shattered glass ceiling, and all that. However, I saw it had something to do with Hillary as an individual, too. Many of the supporters, covered in doubly pointed buttons (“I’m with HER!” “The Future is Female!” “Let’s Make Her-story!”), were ambitious, professional, young women, and were gazing up at the early election coverage with proportional but tangible admiration for the professionalism and (thus far) effectiveness of Clinton’s ascent.
After all, their candidate had done what had to be done, had worked hard, and had (again, up to that night) largely succeeded. It was a philosophy many a careerist lived by, yet for a woman, maximal establishment success in 2016, conventionally achieved vis-à-vis the unremarkable method of the Long Game, still required a fortitude that was arguably heroic.

Due to the time difference, I’d never watched US results come in live before (let alone, ‘in the flesh’), and to my virgin, outsider eyes, the main event resembled nothing other than (American) Football: an interminable, attritional contest of hard-won yards and mind-numbing strategic rumblings.

We all know, of course, how the game ultimately went.

Afterthought
Once the whole sorry contest had run its course, I got a cab back to where I staying (North Loop). The driver had voted for Hillary, and was depressed as hell.  Then he told me (upsetting my simple outline) that he was relieved he already own five guns himself: under a President Trump, he suspected he might just end up needing them.

“I think there’s going to be a war,” he put in, as an afterthought.

He was right about that, I reckoned. For all Trump’s isolationist rhetoric (the only OK thing about his campaign) it is almost impossible to imagine the Trump Era coming to term without a significant conflict. And conflict evidently remains America’s grand passion, not to mention its net surplus: the globe sits braced for export.

Posted by Thomas McGrath | Leave a comment
Drivers using freaky reflective face decals to discourage high-beam users
11.16.2016
12:16 pm

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Some drivers in parts of China are so fed up with tailgating high-beam users that they’ve resorted to using these freaky as shit rear window decals that are only visible when the high-beam is flicked on. The ghoulish decals feature images of ghosts, spirits and monsters from Eastern and Hollywood films.

According to reports based out of Jinan, police are ticketing folks who are using the creepy decals. (If you weren’t prepared to see a ghostly face staring right back at you, I could understand how these just might cause an accident.)

The makers of the decals swear you can’t see them at night and only when the high-beam headlights are used. I have no idea if this is true or not. Apparenlty they’re selling like hotcakes at rather inexpensive prices; between $3 - $18 here.


 

 
More after the jump…

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Hey America, you’re fucked: Here’s the perfect song for today
11.09.2016
08:27 am

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Punk

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A note to our readers: We might not be posting until later today, if at all.

We’re as shell-shocked as you are!
 

 
Everything seems so insignificant now. The election of Donald J. Trump—the real life inspiration for Biff Tannen, for Christ’s sake—to the highest office in the free world is a soul-sickening event.

American flunked its IQ test. One question. An EASY multiple choice.

No do-overs.

No, nothing’s amusing today unless you’re a fucking idiot. Why bother? Do you blame us? GET DRUNK AND STONED—START NOW—NO ONE WILL THINK ANY LESS OF YOU.

On a more positive note, the counterculture was reborn last night. No one knows what’s going to happen next. The goddamn storm just got here.

What are the smart people gonna do next?

Below, Alan Vega and Martin Rev let their audience fucking have it IN THE FACE with this fierce rendition of “Ghost Rider.” The perfect scream across the sky on such a dark day.
 

 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Some thoughts on seeing Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s big concert for Hillary Clinton last night
11.05.2016
06:50 am

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Hip-hop
Music
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I was at the Wolstein Center on the campus of Cleveland State University last night to see the much-heralded free “get out the vote” concert for Hillary Clinton featuring Jay-Z and special guest (everyone knew who it was ahead of time) Beyoncé. I had a marvelous time, it was really excellent to see America’s favorite pop stars (pretty much) alongside the soon-to-be-first female president (deep breath) on the same stage. I hadn’t actually gotten the memo that Hillary would be there as well, so it was a wonderful surprise to see her. Wisely, Hillary kept her appearance brief and let the audience enjoy its gift of excellent, free music.

A few thoughts:

1. Big arena rap shows are an awful lot of fun.. I don’t have a big point to make here, just that rap audiences put rock audiences to shame. It may have been an unusual situation because the doors opened around 5 p.m. and nobody actually performed until about 9 p.m. DJ Steph Floss was tasked with keeping the audience engaged for virtually all of that time, and he did so by playing countless rap songs by the likes of Drake and J-Kwon and Lil Wayne and so forth. The engagement of the audience during this whole stretch was impressive. Whole sections were vibrating due to the motion of people dancing, and there were frequent impromptu singalongs when Floss would cut out the volume, and so on. These people were into it. Rock audiences seldom give opening bands, often consisting of several human beings playing actual instruments, the time of day, much less pre-recorded music. This audience treated the pre-recorded music the way a rock audience would treat the Strokes. In general, the role of the audience singing along to almost everything enhanced the show.

2. Donald Trump and his organization could never have organized an event that was anything like this. During his remarks in Pennsylvania the same night, Trump essayed a jab at the Wolstein event, saying that he draws huge crowds and doesn’t need “J-Lo and Jay-Z” to do it. And that’s true enough. Just ask Scott Baio. But Trump’s line sparked another thought, for which it helped to be present in the arena last night.

It is simply this: Trump and his organization have shown no ability to mount a show like this. Hillary Clinton can and did do it. The show featured several high-profile rappers in a boda-fide arena show with a great many specialized voting-specific graphics that were specific to the event. Having been at the Wolstein from about 6 p.m. to about 10:30 p.m., I can attest that the event was very well run.

One of the biggest worries about Trump isn’t so much his terrible racism/xenophobia or the effects his awful policies would have but just his sheer incompetence and inability to execute long-range plans. This insight about the arena show addresses that concern. In a way I’m really complimenting Hillary here, she has high standards that were utterly reflected in every aspect of this event. Trump has shown in this campaign that he cannot manage a large organization (preferring a small one), and his “ground game” and internal polling operations are widely believed to be laughable. Trump may make fun of the Dems’ coziness with creative superstars, but Trump wouldn’t be able to leverage such relationships even if he did have them.

Amusingly, I don’t think the word Trump was mentioned a single time from the stage. It was a kind of game, they’d say “her opponent” or whatever and move on to something else.

3. Beyoncé is the one person in America you want behind you if you are a Democrat. Simply put, Bey is amazing. It’s not exactly an original thought. Before she went on, Jay-Z had occupied the stage for many songs, and had demonstrated why he is considered a rapper of unusual flow, presence, and intelligence. He was very, very good. Chance the Rapper, Big Sean, and J. Cole all had extended turns while Jay-Z rested up, and they all were deserving of the roars of appreciation they received from the audience.

Beyoncé made all of them, including Jay-Z, look like amateurs.

More after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
‘Terror’ documentary tracks Boko Haram terrorists in Nigeria
11.04.2016
04:41 pm

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Current Events

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Apparently it isn’t enough for Suroosh Alvi to lord over the highly influential youth media empire he co-founded, he also feels compelled to hurl himself into harm’s way as a foreign correspondent in some of the most dangerous hot spots on the planet.

If I were worth millions, I might be inclined to take up baccarat, but apparently Alvi doesn’t feel that way. In his documentary series VICE News: Terror, Alvi has chosen to investigate some of the most formidable sources of terror in the world, traveling and filming in Yemen, Somalia, Iraq, Nigeria, and Pakistan.

Before undertaking this series, Alvi had already gained his credentials as a documentary filmmaker in this region, having co-directed the “rockumentary” Heavy Metal in Baghdad in 2007 as well as making a piece on the gun markets of Pakistan.

In the fourth installment of VICE News: Terror, Alvi traveled to Nigeria in order to investigate the rise of Boko Haram and the military’s protracted efforts to contain it. Frustrated by the strict restrictions on journalists in the country, Alvi manages to conduct in-depth interviews with a female suicide bomb survivor as well as members of Boko Haram itself.

Boko Haram is arguably the leading source of terror in the world today. It killed more people in 2015 than even the Islamic State, with which it recently became affiliated. With help from France and the United States, the Nigerian army has managed to inflict some setbacks on Boko Haram, but the suicide bombing in the Nigerian city of Maiduguri this past weekend is a sure sign that its opponents cannot declare victory just yet. Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari vowed to eliminate terrorist activities in the country, and has on multiple occasions announced the group’s demise. Boko Haram became a household name in early 2014 when it kidnapped 276 schoolgirls from the Government Secondary School in the town of Chibok.

The episodes have been coming out on selected Tuesdays throughout October and November; the fourth installment, about Boko Haram in Nigeria, dropped this Tuesday, and the final episode, which examines the brutal tactics used by Tehrik-i-Taliban in Pakistan, is due to premiere on November 15.
 

 
Alvi’s parents were both born in Pakistan, and Canadian Alvi has been visiting extended family members for his entire life, so the concluding installment of VICE News: Terror has special significance for him. In it, he takes up the murderous activities of Tehrik-i-Taliban, which has done so much to destabilize the country. In the documentary, Alvi interviews two survivors of the the Imamia Masjid bombing in Peshawar that took place several weeks after the school massacre, and also joins a dangerous raid searching for members of Tehrik-i-Taliban (TTP) in Karachi. In December of 2014, Tehrik-i-Taliban killed 141 people, including 132 schoolchildren, at the the Army Public School in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar.
 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
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