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.
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.
Famed BBC documentarian Adam Curtis has a new documentary out. It’s called HyperNormalisation.
Maybe you’ve seen it?
If not—even if you’re just vaguely familiar with his films—you can probably guess what it’s all going to be about. Or at the very least what it will look like. You know, bits of seemingly non-related archival footage from the Beeb’s vast library of potent historical imagery cut together with ponderous shots of people looking worried standing by big-assed mainframe computers intercut with nuclear testing in the Pacific. And terrorism. Lots and lots of that.
In other words, what Adam Curtis does better than anyone else...
Which brings me to this wonderful idea created by Chris Applegate called Adam Curtis Bingo.
The idea is simple: Just check off each of the usual Adam Curtis trademark tropes while watching HyperNormalisation.
“This is the story of…”
Presenting a dichotomy between order and chaos
5 minute video clip of some sort of atrocity
Trent Reznor track plays
BBC archive footage of “That’s Life!”
People in the 50s or 60s dancing
Mention of any of the bin Laden family
80s Russian punk musicians
Consequences of something turn out to be opposite of what was intended
You get the idea….
In fact, you could almost use this handy little bingo card to make your very own Adam Curtis documentary. Then who knows? maybe an “Adam Curtis documentary generator” which could utilize randomized retro YouTube clips and a limited arsenal of deep thinking quotes for the voiceover and graphics.
The full ‘Adam Curtis Bingo’ game, and more, after the jump…
If you’re an artist these actual quotes from people asking you to work for free just might sound all too familiar. Heck, you don’t even have to be a freelance artist for these quotes to ring true. This is being done all over the workplace these days.
Format Magazine asked artist and illustrator Emmie Tsumura to take actual “will you work for free?” quotes and imagine the faces of the people who said them. These very real quotes come from the Twitter feed For Exposure. For Exposure currently has over 38k followers and counting.
At this point, it’s a question that’s been pondered—quite a lot—by the professional political pondering class:
Is it even possible to change the mind of the hardcore Donald Trump supporter?
Is there any argument whatsoever that would sway the steadfast fan of the anus-mouthed orangey-faced bellowing billionaire fascist blowhard who sits atop the Republican ticket? Stupid is gonna stupid, and if there is one thing that this year’s election has accomplished it’s demonstrating that the American electorate is—scientifically speaking—much dumber than many of us would have liked to believe. There’s no other way to explain it. Why bend to political correctness—the great bugaboo of reichwingers everywhere, of course—when the simplest and most obvious statement of fact will suffice:
[Amusingly one of the rare times that anyone whatsoever has sent me any pushback on any of my anti-Trump tweets and retweets was none other than Trump advisor, frequent guest on The Alex Jones Show and complete shithead Roger Stone, who must search for his own name constantly. Then I sent him this. It was fun. Bigly fun. I love Twitter!]
But going back to the original question, is there anything—any fact, TV commercial, slogan, viral video, bumper sticker—whatever—that would change the minds of soft-brained morons who would happily line up to vote for Biff Tannen? Something that you could make them watch, with eyes pinned open like Alex DeLarge in A Clockwork Orange that would get through to them or make a difference?
Maybe there is. The video below, made by the Patriotic Artists & Creatives PAC—which features an actual terroristic man-toddler standing in for the one who used to host The Apprentice—might be able to pry even the tightest shut minds open for a second.
Wisdom from the mouths of babes? It’s perhaps the only thing that would work on the simpleton Trump voters. Best that I’ve seen, anyway. So post it everywhere. The video, I mean, probably don’t repost this blog on Facebook, that’s just being mean (and they won’t get the jokes anyway)
What country do you want your children to grow up in?
This fucking election. I’ve heard that exact phrase so much more this year than I ever have before. The rise of Trump’s racist, sexist, illiberal id within the Republican Party has been depressing to watch. We’re all holding our breath to see where all of that unruly anger goes after (please God) Trump loses the election on November 8.
In the meantime, the mainstreaming of Trump (our own American Mussolini®) and his politics of racial resentment, the KKK’s David Duke (whose name I’ve heard more in the last week than in the previous 20 years combined), and Breitbart News executive Stephen Bannon has also meant an inevitable education in the loathsome habits of the overtly and proudly racist part of America that is normally kept under wraps. I don’t want to know this stuff, but have learned about it via a sort of toxic, brain-damaged cultural osmosis.
So here’s something I learned this year. In white supremacist quarters the number “88” has special significance, because “H” is the 8th letter of the alphabet and so it can be taken to mean “HH” = “Heil Hitler” (also “8” kind of looks like an “H” if you think about it). It took the political rise of Trump to bring that to my attention. Fun stuff!
If you see the number 88 being thrown around by people who probably hate blacks and Latinos, it’s not an accident, it’s a dog whistle to the people who (wink) think of themselves as understanding the “true America” in which immigrants and blacks always win and white people and Christians never get an even break.
You may have seen the triple parentheses, also called “echoes,” around people’s names, which look like this: (((Martin Schneider))). That’s white supremacist code for “Jewish.” (Fortunately, Twitter users are now adopting the practice voluntarily in order to defuse it of its meaning.)
And the innocuous word Skittles is a racist dog whistle because that’s what Trayvon Martin had on his person when George Zimmerman shot and killed him for no good reason.
Some of you might recall that Trump’s son Donald Jr. recently unveiled an ugly metaphor having to do with the number of poisonous Skittles could be in a bowl before you’d make a decision to stop eating them, the idea being to communicate the advisability of a zero-tolerance policy on Muslim immigration.
That metaphor has roots in Nazi propagandist Julius Streicher—in more recent years the concept has been used against Muslims and black people using M&Ms as the candy, but the switch to Skittles was surely done as a conscious shout-out to Zimmerman. It’s astonishing how few news reports noticed this aspect of the metaphor, but the governing logic of an effective dog whistle is that most people—non racist people—can’t hear it.
On Saturday Buzzfeed ran an item by Alex Kantrowitz alerting “normals” to some new codewords the white supremacists on Twitter are using to evade detection. I heard about it via this tweet from Alex Goldman, who describes the groups using the terms as “Racist Trump twitter.”
Racist Trump twitter has come up with a new coded way to share racial slurs w/ each other and avoid account suspension. pic.twitter.com/J4AmaHFVCd
Here’s Kantrowitz on the reasons for the subterfuge:
The code appears to have originated in response to Google’s Jigsaw program, a new AI-powered approach to combating harassment and abuse online. The program seems to have inspired members of the online message board 4chan to start “Operation Google,” using Google as a derogatory term for blacks in an attempt to get Google to filter out its own name. The code developed from there.
This is obviously an elaborate game of whack-a-mole, but just because it’s kind of futile in no way diminishes the importance of letting some daylight in on these creeps. If they have to go through a hundred iterations of inventing some whole new elaborate code to enjoy their twisted, simple-minded hate among themselves, then maybe eventually they’ll get the message that society is not going to put up with it.
Here’s an example of the code in use. It don’t get a whole lot clearer than this, does it?
Once upon a time, I naively believed America was all about the pursuit of happiness, fast food, the right to bear arms and so on and so forth. But I learnt pretty quick that if America is about anything it’s about the right to make a buck out of everything. From healthcare to war—and peace—-politics and Presidential elections—everything in America has a price tag, which devalues the worth of everything.
Even protesting the things you hate costs money.
I only mention this as it’s now possible to show your contempt for Donald Trump by sending him a dick lollipop in the mail.
Yes! For just $9.99 (p+p included) you can send a suckable pink phallus-shaped candy straight to the Donald at his Trump Tower penthouse.
The company behind this Send Dicks to Donald even give their reasons (as if any were required) why you should send a dick to Donald:
To say 2016 has been a shit show is an understatement. However the most bizarre and frightening of headlines has been that the next president may be the most power hungry, immature, psychopathic piece of shit to ever walk the face of the earth.
Since the beginning of his campaign he’s preached racism, ignorance, and misogyny. Trump rallies have become a place where people known for their love of NASCAR and fucking their cousins gather for a white power rally without calling it that. Anybody with a higher IQ than a potato knows the turd you took this morning is more qualified for commander-in-chief than he is. So what would a Trump presidency look like?
1) A nuclear holocaust started over a Twitter war.
2) All American-born minorities being deported to their ethnicity’s homeland.
3) A revival of Celebrity Apprentice for a shot at Vice President.
4) Facts are banned.
5) Forced unpaid maternity leave for all women in the work force despite them having children or not.
6) It’s revealed that repulsive excuse for hair on top of his head is really an alien parasite using him as a host body with one mission: Destroy earth from the top-down, one ignorant statement at a time.
Perhaps a tad over the top—or perhaps not, your mileage may vary—but everyone needs a good sales pitch.
The whole reason for this project is to stop the stream of BS coming out of Trump’s mouth… by putting a dick in it.
Well a lollipop in the shape of a dick that is. SendDicksToDonald.com has one message: ‘Eat a dick, Donald Trump!’
The lollipop will be sent anonymously. Personally for my $9.99 I would want Trump to know that I’d sent him a dick in the mail—but each to their own.
I think many us have been there: broke and looking for any kind of gig that will get us enough money to make it from one day to another. I did phone sales of subscriptions to a right wing Orange County newspaper. I was 16 and living on the streets of L.A. and needed money… badly. I worked with a dozen or so runaway kids sitting in a miserable loft dialing numbers all day and spewing made up stories of how the subscription revenue was going to help our high school build a new gym (I was a high school dropout) or help Vietnam vets get back on their feet (if they still had any). I lied all day, every day. And for all my bullshitting, I rarely walked with any money. The lying was easy. I read from a script. When I got really bored, I’d improvise. Back then people were polite on the phone. A lot of them bought into my rap. I couldn’t stand myself. I didn’t last a week. Selling beat drugs on Sunset to weekend hippies seemed like a slightly better karmic option.
Andrea Arnold’s powerful, poetic and liberating new movie American Honey deals with “mag crews,” young people going door to door in mostly affluent neighborhoods selling magazine subscriptions, using lies and artful scams to make a few bucks. For every subscription sold, the magazine clearing houses and publishers get a percentage and the rest is split between crew leaders and the kids doing the selling. Whatever hook it takes to sell a subscription—school projects, charities, scholarships, etc.—is used to separate a customer from their money. Selling magazine subscriptions in the digital age is hardly a ticket to the big time. But desperate times require desperate measures… even when they’re stupid.
Director Arnold (Fish Tank, Red Road) first discovered the mag crew world when she read Ian Urbina’s article on the subject in the New York Times. She decided to make a movie based on the article. She flew from England to America, rented a car, and drove alone along 1000s of miles of America’s highways. She saw all of the things that make America beautiful, wretched, intimidating and heartbreaking. She encountered hopelessness in a lot of small towns that have gone to hell because of poverty and drugs—the kind of drugs that become intertwined with a sense of there being no future.
American Honey follows a mag crew as they make the kind of trip that Arnold made. A small family of lost souls traveling across America getting stoned, singing along to rap, rock and country songs, living in the moment while the quiet dread of the unknown permeates the air like invisible thunderclouds. At times exhilarating, often tense and foreboding, American Honey subverts most of the viewer’s expectations at every turn. The film seems bleak on the surface but rays of light are constantly breaking through the darkness. Underneath the hardened exterior of these kids are layers of softness, sweetness and pain. Cuddling and sleeping together in sleazy motel rooms they appear as they are: children.
Blue Diamond Sales is typical of the kind of companies that use mag crews to generate revenue. Their website paints a rosy picture of the road to success:
Blue diamond subscriptions sells door to door subscriptions to magazines and books. Blue diamond travels the entire country helping young adults who wish to earn experience in the sales industry.
But their YouTube channel gets closer to reality:
The mag crews are tight knit bands with an almost cult-like devotion to their crew leaders—very much like a hooker’s relationship to their pimp. They travel in small groups in battered vans, crisscrossing America desperate to grab hold of the lowest rung of the American dream. From hustling truckers at truck stops to millionaire good ol’ boy ranchers and lonely, extremely horny guys working the oil fields of Oklahoma, the girls in American Honey go to where the money and easy marks are. These scenes are filled with tension, effectively tapping into the audience’s horror flick presumptions. But this is not a slasher film. The knives are psychological and go deeper beyond bone and flesh into the seat of the soul. A scene where a little girl in an Iron Maiden t-shirt sings The Dead Kennedys’ “I Kill Children” while her crackhead mother lies comatose in the background makes the torture porn of “Human Centipede” seem like “Happy Days” with hemorrhoidal itch. Reality has now entered a zone that even horror movies struggle to find resonant metaphors.
The mag crews aren’t much different than many of the kids who ended up in The Haight in 1968, the year after the Summer Of Love. They weren’t looking for an Aquarian age, they were looking to get out of bad situations back home. Many had suffered abuses of every nature. They came to the Haight to hook up with kindred spirits and forge communities. They weren’t hippies but they were open to anything that might give them a sense of better days. A sense of love. Ten years later on New York’s Lower East Side there was a similar influx of suburban kids looking to get away from the soul-deadening schools, shopping malls, and apathy that gutted whatever feelings of freedom they felt entitled to. The crews are a slightly better dressed version of the crusty punks I see camping in the woods behind my store in Austin.
Unlike the hippies or punks, the mag crews haven’t turned their backs on capitalism or the American Dream. The kids in American Honey see Wal-Mart as an oasis in the tattered streets of Crack Town. They want money. And they want it now. Bling is their thing and the rap songs on the movies soundtrack set the tone. These kids are white but their frame of reference is Black. Together they create a sense of mattering. They matter to each other.
Comparisons will be made to the films of Larry Clark and Harmony Korine, but American Honey is more lyrical and less cynical than Kids or Spring Breakers. Clark’s Ken Park has moments of the kind of tenderness and bittersweetness of Arnold’s film. Both movies celebrate humanity over complete despair. And in each film, sex is threatening as well as liberating. Arnold’s point of view is that of a woman who knows from day to day experience that men are unpredictable animals and American Honey is suffused with an atmosphere of sexual peril without being gratuitous or exploitative.
American Honey is three hours long and it rambles and careens like the crews bouncing from state to state in their Econoline van. The length of the film never seems overlong. Its length actually gives the viewer the sense of being along for the ride. There are no big dramatic moments – except for the ones in the audience’s heads. The movie constantly subverts expectations. The drama comes in the small observations and the occasional emotional explosions. All of it moving along to a soundtrack composed of 24 wildly eclectic songs ranging from Kevin Gates to The Raveonettes, Springsteen, Steve Earle, E-40 and Mazzy Star. It all works sublimely and for every moment of suffocating emptiness there’s an epiphany fueled by music, a bottle of cheap whiskey and lots of pot.
American Honey won awards at this year’s Cannes Film Festival including best actress for Sasha Lane. This is her film debut. Shia LaBeouf is perfectly cast as a cocky hustler. Sporting a Confederate flag bikini, Riley Keough (Elvis Presley’s granddaughter) is the cold-hearted crew leader and she’s amazing. The entire cast of non-professional actors ARE the real thing. Robbie Ryan’s cinematography is glorious, capturing the American landscape in a fugue-like state between night, day and what lays in between.
American Honey is opening this Friday in a few major cities and then nationwide on October 7. It’s an important movie. One that gets almost everything right about what’s bad and what’s good about America in the era of Trump. Being bombarded by dark prophecies from a sociopath running for President plays into the deeply pessimistic view young people already have of their future. American Honey hints at a way out:love
French absurdist playwright Alfred Jarry’s Ubu Roi (“Ubu the King” or “King Turd”), a pre-Surrealist work, is considered an influential classic of French theatre. It originally premiered in 1896. There were three Ubu plays written by Jarry, but only one, Ubu Roi, was ever performed during his short lifetime (Jarry died at the age of 34 of tuberculosis. After he beckoned a friend to come closer, his whispered last word on his deathbed was allegedly “toothpick” or whatever it is that the French call them).
The Ubu trilogy was conceived to employ actors and marionettes in a vicious satire of greed, royalty, religion, stupidity and abuse of power by the wealthy. The two other plays were Ubu Cocu (“Ubu Cuckolded”) and Ubu Enchaîné (“Ubu in Chains”).
The protagonist “Père Ubu” (yes, this is obviously where the band’s name came from) was originally based on the teenage lampooning of a stuffy teacher written by two friends of Jarry’s from school, but Jarry expanded the plays and used the character as a vehicle for his howling critique of bourgeois society’s evils.
People absolutely hated the scandalous Ubu Roi—it was considered lewd, crude, vulgar and low—and its controversial author. At the premiere in Paris, it was booed for a good fifteen minutes after the first word, “Merdre!” (his coining for “shit,” deliberately close to the French merde and translated in English as “Pshit” or “Shittr!”), was spoken. Fist fights broke out in the orchestra pit. Jarry’s supporters yelled “You wouldn’t understand Shakespeare, either!” His detractors rejoined with their variations on the theme of “shit.”
William Butler Yeats was apparently in the audience that night in 1896 and is alleged to have said “What more is possible? After us, the Savage God.”
I can think of something… or rather *someone*...
The play was accused of being politically subversive, the work of an anarchist mindfucker or even that it was a “hoax” designed to hoodwink a gullible middle-class audience with metaphorical shit that some of them, at least, would say tasted good.
Again, this seems so freaking familiar, doesn’t it?
Not that an absurdist agitator like Alfred Jarry cared about any of this. Characters had names like “MacNure,” “Pissweet” and “Pissale.” Confrontationally pissing off the audience was practically the entire point for him. Ubu’s scepter, after all, was a shit-smeared toilet brush.
According to Jane Taylor, “The central character is notorious for his infantile engagement with his world. Ubu inhabits a domain of greedy self-gratification.” Jarry’s metaphor for the modern man, he is an antihero—fat, ugly, vulgar, gluttonous, grandiose, dishonest, stupid, jejune, voracious, cruel, cowardly and evil—who grew out of schoolboy legends about the imaginary life of a hated teacher who had been at one point a slave on a Turkish Galley, at another frozen in ice in Norway and at one more the King of Poland. Ubu Roi follows and explores his political, martial and felonious exploits, offering parodic adaptations of situations and plot-lines from Shakespearean drama, including Macbeth, Hamlet and Richard III: like Macbeth, Ubu—on the urging of his wife—murders the king who helped him and usurps his throne, and is in turn defeated and killed by his son; Jarry also adapts the ghost of the dead king and Fortinbras’s revolt from Hamlet, Buckingham’s refusal of reward for assisting a usurpation from Richard III and The Winter’s Tale‘s bear.
“There is,” wrote Taylor, “a particular kind of pleasure for an audience watching these infantile attacks. Part of the satisfaction arises from the fact that in the burlesque mode which Jarry invents, there is no place for consequence. While Ubu may be relentless in his political aspirations, and brutal in his personal relations, he apparently has no measurable effect upon those who inhabit the farcical world which he creates around himself. He thus acts out our most childish rages and desires, in which we seek to gratify ourselves at all cost.” The derived adjective “ubuesque” is recurrent in French and francophone political debate.
Sound like anyone you watched in a debate last night who made a total ass of himself in front of one of the largest television audiences in history?
All that was missing was the fucking shit-smeared toilet brush if you ask me….