Depravity, class war and the 1 percent: Tom Hiddleston shines in brilliant dystopian fable “High-Rise”

J.G. Ballard, the late British author who falls partway between science fiction and the postmodern literary avant-garde, was in the deepest sense a man of the 20th century. He spent much of his childhood in a Japanese internment camp in China (where his father had worked as a banker), an experience of isolation and desolation that shaped his best-selling autobiographical novel “Empire of the Sun,” which Steven Spielberg made into a movie starring the young Christian Bale. Indeed, it shaped everything Ballard wrote, and his overarching sense that the built environments of the modern age — our buildings, cars, highways and cities — both reflected and reinforced a profound psychic disorder. He didn’t need to write stories about life on other planets because Earth, as he famously put it, was the alien planet.

Ballard was not much interested in the political and economic questions that dominated so much of the 20th century, or at least not overtly. Politics, in the usual sense of that term, makes almost no appearance in his novels and stories, which often take place in barren or chaotic locales where the state seems to have disappeared or become irrelevant. In British director Ben Wheatley’s mesmerizing and hallucinatory new film adaptation of Ballard’s 1975 dystopian novel “High-Rise,” someone observes that the police don’t even bother showing up when a man falls to his death from the 39th floor.

As the power goes out and the building’s residents abandon all social mores and revert to rape, pillage and tribal violence, no one ever seems to consider calling the authorities, or simply walking out the front door. One of Ballard’s central principles is the Freudian notion that civilization contains a not-so-secret longing for its own destruction, an idea out of Hiroshima and Samuel Beckett that the consumerist paradise of the 21st century seeks to repress or deny. Dr. Laing, the severely dissociated protagonist played by the ever-marvelous Tom Hiddleston, claims to have forgotten where he left his car in the vast outdoor parking lot. Another resident, a man appropriately named Wilder (Luke Evans) who becomes the leader of a rebel faction within the building, almost gleefully agrees: He’s lost his car too, at least half on purpose.

Turning “High-Rise” into a grand allegory of capitalism and class warfare, as Wheatley and his screenwriter (and spouse) Amy Jump effectively do, could be seen as a bit reductive, or as privileging one aspect of the story over others. It doesn’t feel that way, though: This “High-Rise” is a scathing, intoxicating visual and auditory experience, the most truthful and most powerful Ballard adaptation we’ve ever seen, or are likely to. It’s a movie about the 1970s and about our own time, and about the ways those two eras serve as each other’s distorted mirrors or diabolical doubles. That extends to the soundtrack, where we hear an eerie Portishead cover of the ABBA hit “S.O.S.,” which has already become something of a cult item. Even in its specific and contentious references to Maggie Thatcher’s England — the novel, remember, was published several years before the Iron Lady rose to power — Wheatley’s “High-Rise” captures the bleak, erotic, tragic and ironic elements of the Ballard worldview more completely than even David Cronenberg’s “Crash” did. (No, indeed — I don’t mean the Paul Haggis movie from 2005 that won a bunch of Oscars.)

For Ballard, the capitalist context of his luxury London high-rise development as it descends into barbarism and chaos was unimportant, if not nonexistent. If he thought about such questions at all, he perceived “capitalism” and “socialism” as interchangeable masks for systems of domination that are simultaneously sinister and fragile. Like Ballard’s other dystopian novels from the early ‘70s, including “Crash” and “Concrete Island” and “The Atrocity Exhibition,” “High-Rise” takes place in a numinous or notional suburban England where technological progress collides with social degeneration. The instantly decrepit new building designed by the supercilious architect Royal (Jeremy Irons in the film) as a “crucible for change” is equal parts Le Corbusier, George Orwell and Stalinism. As other critics have observed, Cronenberg’s early horror film “Shivers” (released in the United States as “They Came From Within”), about the spread of a sexual parasite through a Toronto housing project, feels like an unofficial adaptation of “High-Rise.” It isn’t, because they came out at virtually the same time. Both are manifestations of the same virus, we might say.

Hiddleston’s narration tells us, as the film begins, that Royal’s doomed building belongs to a future that has already taken place. In this case, a future (or past) in which we’ve eaten the dogs and begun to look hungrily at our neighbors, in which women are traded as commodities and in which the strong rule the weak by brute force, until the weak band together in the same vernacular. That relationship between past and future becomes the guiding ethos of Wheatley’s film, whose clothes and cars and hairstyles belong to an era 40 years in the past but whose portrayal of economic inequality at its most brutal has obvious contemporary relevance.

I’ve heard some complaints about Jump’s screenplay for “High-Rise,” but honestly I can’t imagine anyone handling Ballard’s famously stilted dialogue — in which psychological or philosophical formulations are often spoken out loud — with more faithfulness, grace or imagination. When Laing’s seductive neighbor Charlotte (Sienna Miller), whose role in the building is unclear, asks him what’s in the boxes he has never unpacked, he murmurs, “Sex and paranoia.” Like all Ballard characters from this period, Laing is a symbolic package of cultural neuroses more than a human being, yet in Hiddleston’s delicate portrayal he becomes both: a wounded individual seeking connection and transcendence, and an alien anthropologist observing civilization in decay. As one of Royal’s enforcers says of Laing, he knows his place.

No doubt Laing’s name somehow refers to the famous radical psychiatrist R.D. Laing, a polarizing cultural figure of the ‘60s and ‘70s, but whether the reference is meant to be satirical I couldn’t say. It strikes me as the wrong question. As noted, the other names have obvious interpretations: Wilder is a loving husband (to Elisabeth Moss, of “Mad Men” fame) who is much too ready to turn to atavism, while Royal, perched atop the building on the 40th floor — where his wife plays shepherdess and keeps a horse — is like a self-appointed Louis XIV. But Wheatley is a director who constructs his dreamlike and often grotesque visions to a high standard of precision; even as “High-Rise” descends into murderous nightmare, we never feel lost.

If you haven’t seen Wheatley’s earlier films, like the hilariously downscale crime-family drama “Down Terrace” or the Tarantino-flavored horror farce “Kill List” or the nearly incomprehensible 17th-century war film “A Field in England,” don’t worry, because hardly anyone did. He’s right at the forefront of a generation of younger filmmakers exploring what cinema can still accomplish, in an era where it sometimes feels like a medium whose creative possibilities have been exhausted, or like a stepsister to TV drama. All his movies almost feel as if they could have been made in the late ‘70s by Nicolas Roeg or Ken Russell or Cronenberg. But they weren’t. If “High-Rise” is a dark and complicated work with many strands, and a tribute to a literary genius, it also asks a demanding and urgent question: How long do we go on living in this building ruled by unelected overlords on the upper floors before we fight back?

“High-Rise” is now available on-demand from cable and satellite providers, Amazon Video and iTunes. It opens in theaters May 13.

Source: New feed

A more honest Iraq War story looks like this: “Sometimes the Marine Corps kind of sucks”

Grim, funny, lonely, at times even poetic, the new graphic novel “The White Donkey” gets at war in a way we’ve rarely seen. Written and illustrated by Maximilian Uriarte – a Marine who completed two tours in Iraq and created the web comic “Terminal Lance” – the book looks at two “boots,” Abe and Garcia, as they train and head to the Middle East. Fans of “Terminal Lance” will find the tone here much more serious.

The book spends more time with the characters’ psychology and friendship and less with battles and weaponry. It also has a restrained, almost austere visual style that makes a lot of use of black and white. Uriarte polished his drawing skills at the California College of the Arts and drew from Scott McCloud’s essential book, “Understanding Comics,” as well.

We spoke to Uriarte from his home in Los Angeles. The interview has been lightly edited for clarity.

“The White Donkey” has less combat than most readers will expect from a book about the Iraq War. Why tell the story that way?

I really wanted to tell a story that was more genuine, more true, to the experience I had when I was in Iraq. Ninety-nine percent of going to a war zone is a lot of boredom, a lot of frustration, a lot of tedium. I wanted to capture a more honest depiction of the Marine Corps experience rather then telling some action story about firefights and explosions. I wanted to tell a story that got at the heart and soul of the meaning of being a Marine and going to Iraq.

What have you heard about your book from veterans and Marines? Do they find it realistic as well?

The feedback I’ve gotten has been resoundingly positive from veterans and civilians alike. I think that Marines really appreciate the honesty of the book. We can all watch an action movie and be like, “Yeah, that’s so badass and cool…” But are we really being honest with ourselves about what our deployment meant, how we felt about it while we were there? I think “White Donkey” captures that aspect of it.

Did Marines have anything – books, movies – that gave an accurate description of what it’s like to be over there?

I’d say my two favorites are the movie “Jarhead” and the HBO miniseries “Generation Kill.”

What made you start “Terminal Lance,” and what were you aiming for?

I started “Terminal Lance” in 2010. I was still active duty at the time, which was risky because I could have gotten in trouble for making the comic. I wanted a web comic primarily to entertain Marines. But I also looked around the landscape of comics and didn’t see anything that spoke to my generation of Marines – young Marines who went through the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars… There just wasn’t anything that spoke to me as a junior enlisted lance corporal at the time. I wanted to make a comic strip that reflected that anger, that honesty – sometimes the Marine Corps kind of sucks…. A lot of the time you [hear from] people who were really motivated, loved it… Whereas a lot of the people I served with really didn’t enjoy themselves.

First and foremost it’s funny, and entertains Marines.

This book, “The White Donkey,” is a little different in tone. What’s its relationship to your comic?

The only difference is that it’s not as fantastical and silly as the web comic is – it’s not trying to be funny all the time. I think it captures the essence of “Terminal Lance” in its satire and humor.

Can you describe some of the things that made “Terminal Lance” less realistic? Some of it was pretty wild.

There’s one strip where a guy gets promoted to corporal. He starts transforming, and gets transformed into a literal giant douchebag.

Chief warrant officers 5’s are mythical creatures. So when the characters see one for the first time… he’s like a centaur being with a horn on his head. It’s ridiculous for the point of being funny.

One of the striking things about the book is that you use color very sparingly: Most of it’s black and white, with a wash of just one color on most pages. What drove you to do it that way?

I’m a really quick artists; I don’t enjoy spending a ton of time on any piece. And for me it was about the reader experience: What’s the reader going through, reading this page? What do I need to draw here in order to direct the reader’s eye, to get the full experience with the book, but without having to think about it. I want them to just intuitively understand what’s going on.

So the color reflects that since you can tell where you are in the book by the color, without ever drawing attention to it. So Hawaii’s green, Portland’s blue, Iraq is a sepia color, Twentynine Palms is more of a red.

One of the themes of “The White Donkey” is the suicide of veterans. How early was that idea in your conception of the book?

That was really the driving force behind the whole thing, from day one. I actually wrote ending first – that’s how I approach my writing. Then I figure out how to get there. The veteran community is plagued by the epidemic of suicide, [and so is] the active-duty community. And I wanted to tell a story that Marines could read. And if a Marine can read it and identify with it, they can see that they’re not the only person feeling that way, and it could inspire them to get help.

For civilians, I wanted them to read this book and really understand what veterans go through, get a better understanding, and see that we’re not all stupid grunts who couldn’t make it into college or whatever.

How much is the main character, Abe, based on your life? [Note: The story is prefaced with a page announcing: “THIS IS A WORK OF FICTION.”]

I’m half Mexican and half Jewish – my middle name is Abraham. Those characters [Abe and Garcia] are like two sides of myself. The book, from Hawaii, through training, to Iraq, is based on my experience.

You talked about how there wasn’t a comic like yours when you started working on it. What did you use as models and inspirations for “The White Donkey”?

I don’t read a lot of books. But I’m a huge movie guy. I saw the book as a movie, really – it’s essentially a story-boarded screenplay, put into book form. So I was [trying to think] of a three-act film and how to turn it into a graphic novel.

You mentioned “Jarhead.” Are there other movies that are dramatically powerful or capture what war is really like?

Stanley Kubrick’s “Full Metal Jacket” is one of the best war films of all time. These films that really capture the war experience or the Marine experience are quieter, they’re not action movies where things are blowing up all the time.

You’re hoping that this will become a movie, too?

Yes, my goal is to direct it — to make this film.

Source: New feed

Hillary Clinton surges toward nomination with at least 3 more primary wins

 Hillary Clinton added at least three more states to her victory column Tuesday night, strengthening what’s rapidly becoming an all-but-unstoppable march to the Democratic presidential nomination.

The Democratic front-runner expanded her sizable delegate lead with wins in Maryland, Pennsylvania and Delaware. But Bernie Sanders stopped her from sweeping the night with a win in Rhode Island. The primary in Connecticut remained too close to call.

Already, Clinton can lose every remaining primary by a wide margin and still capture her party’s nomination, according to an Associated Press analysis. Her wins Tuesday put her fewer than 300 delegates away from clinching the Democratic nomination. She can reach that goal by winning just 21 percent of the remaining delegates and uncommitted superdelegates.

“We will unify our party to win this election and build an America where we can all rise together,” she told supporters at a rally in Philadelphia.

Still, the Vermont senator continues to attract tens of thousands to his rallies and raise millions of dollars online. He’s vowing to stay in the race through the last primary contest in June.

Sanders turned his focus to coming primary contests, spending the evening in West Virginia, which votes next month. He must win 73 percent of the remaining delegates to clinch the Democratic nomination.

“With your help, we’re going to win here in West Virginia,” he told several thousand supporters gathered in Huntington.

Clinton, meanwhile, spent Tuesday in Pennsylvania and Indiana – two states her campaign believes could be critical in the fall election.

After exchanging sharp barbs with Sanders earlier this month, she barely mentioned him in the run-up to Tuesday’s contests, underscoring her campaign’s growing confidence in her primary standing. Instead, she turned her attention to trying to unify a fractious Democratic party.

“I am going to do everything I can to unify our country over all the lines that divide us,” Clinton said in Mishawaka, Indiana, on Tuesday.

In exit polls conducted in Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Maryland, less than a fifth of Democratic voters said they would not support Clinton if she gets the nomination.

In a town hall on MSNBC on Monday night, Clinton questioned the idea that she would need to adopt parts of Sanders’ platform to win over his supporters, saying that she did not make demands when she lost the primary to President Barack Obama eight years ago.

Sanders is not committing to easing Clinton’s path. Senior adviser Tad Devine said that campaign would “wait and see what the numbers are” Tuesday before making any decisions about strategy going forward.

But there were signs that some of his supporters were beginning to accept that he might not make it all the way to the White House.

Charles Chamberlain, head of a liberal group backing Sanders, said the question isn’t whether the senator would win delegates. “It’s whether the Democratic establishment is going to bring our party together by embracing our fight,” Chamberlain said.

Democratic voters say the closely contested primary has excited the party. In Pennsylvania, about seven in 10 voters in Pennsylvania said the primary has energized the party rather than divided it, according to the exit polls conducted for The Associated Press and television networks by Edison Research.

Among Democrats, Clinton is 88 percent of the way to capturing the Democratic nomination with 2,097 delegates to Sanders’ 1,271. Those totals include both pledged delegates from primaries and caucuses and superdelegates, the party insiders who can back the candidate of their choice regardless of how their state votes. It takes 2,383 to win the Democratic nomination.

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Donald Trump sweeps primaries: Billionaire pockets another five states

Donald Trump rolled up victories in five more states on Tuesday, giving the Republican front-runner fresh momentum in his push for the nomination even if his pathway has little room for error.

The New York billionaire scored wins in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Connecticut, Delaware and Rhode Island – all five states that held GOP primary contests on Tuesday.

“This is really something special. It’s a movement,” Trump said on Fox News before polls closed.

Anticipating a big night for Trump, chief rival Ted Cruz retreated to next-up Indiana days ago. The Texas senator and Ohio Gov. John Kasich are fighting to deny Trump the delegate majority and force a contested national convention this summer.

“I got good news for you,” Cruz told cheering supporters at an Indianapolis rally. “Tonight this campaign moves back to more favorable terrain.”

Tuesday’s strong performance marked a setback for the GOP’s vocal anti-Trump movement, which is skeptical about his commitment to conservative values and worries about his electability in the general election.

Exit polls found that about 6 in 10 Republican voters in Pennsylvania say the GOP campaign this year has divided the party. While 7 in 10 Democrats in the state say they’ve been energized by the campaign, only 4 in 10 Republican voters say the same.

Trump remains the only Republican who has a shot at reaching the 1,237 delegate majority needed to clinch the nomination before the convention. But his lead is fragile, and any major setbacks in the contests ahead could lead him to fall sort of that magic number.

Adding a wrinkle to his efforts, Cruz and Kasich announced late Sunday that they had reached a tentative, new alliance aimed at undermining him. Under the deal, Kasich will forgo campaigning in Indiana, allowing Cruz to take on Trump head-to-head in the state, while Cruz will do the same for Kasich in Oregon and New Mexico.

Tuesday’s victories help Trump expand his big lead in the race for delegates. If he keeps it up, he can stay on track to win the nomination by the end of the primaries on June 7.

Trump will win at least half of the 118 delegates up for grabs Tuesday. And he has a chance to win a lot more.

In Pennsylvania, Trump collected 17 delegates for winning the state. An additional 54 delegates are elected directly by voters – three in each congressional district. However, their names are listed on the ballot with no information about which presidential candidate they support.

At a pair of rallies in Pennsylvania on Monday, Trump decried Pennsylvania’s voting rules as “crazy.”

Trump recently overhauled his campaign team, bringing on new and more experienced operatives. But his main rival, Cruz, got a head start in the intricate game of delegate-courting, directing some of his resources to states where he knew he could get his supporters named as delegates.

Pennsylvania voter Laura Seyler described herself as “a very solid Cruz fan,” but favored Trump because he’s “a bigger bully.”

“That may sound strange, but I think that’s kind of what we need,” Seyler, 63, a senior buyer for a direct marketer, said Tuesday at a polling place in Hamburg, Pennsylvania.

Donald Trump rolled up victories in five more states on Tuesday, giving the Republican front-runner fresh momentum in his push for the nomination even if his pathway has little room for error.

The New York billionaire scored wins in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Connecticut, Delaware and Rhode Island – all five states that held GOP primary contests on Tuesday.

“This is really something special. It’s a movement,” Trump said on Fox News before polls closed.

Anticipating a big night for Trump, chief rival Ted Cruz retreated to next-up Indiana days ago. The Texas senator and Ohio Gov. John Kasich are fighting to deny Trump the delegate majority and force a contested national convention this summer.

“I got good news for you,” Cruz told cheering supporters at an Indianapolis rally. “Tonight this campaign moves back to more favorable terrain.”

Tuesday’s strong performance marked a setback for the GOP’s vocal anti-Trump movement, which is skeptical about his commitment to conservative values and worries about his electability in the general election.

Exit polls found that about 6 in 10 Republican voters in Pennsylvania say the GOP campaign this year has divided the party. While 7 in 10 Democrats in the state say they’ve been energized by the campaign, only 4 in 10 Republican voters say the same.

Trump remains the only Republican who has a shot at reaching the 1,237 delegate majority needed to clinch the nomination before the convention. But his lead is fragile, and any major setbacks in the contests ahead could lead him to fall sort of that magic number.

Adding a wrinkle to his efforts, Cruz and Kasich announced late Sunday that they had reached a tentative, new alliance aimed at undermining him. Under the deal, Kasich will forgo campaigning in Indiana, allowing Cruz to take on Trump head-to-head in the state, while Cruz will do the same for Kasich in Oregon and New Mexico.

Tuesday’s victories help Trump expand his big lead in the race for delegates. If he keeps it up, he can stay on track to win the nomination by the end of the primaries on June 7.

Trump will win at least half of the 118 delegates up for grabs Tuesday. And he has a chance to win a lot more.

In Pennsylvania, Trump collected 17 delegates for winning the state. An additional 54 delegates are elected directly by voters – three in each congressional district. However, their names are listed on the ballot with no information about which presidential candidate they support.

At a pair of rallies in Pennsylvania on Monday, Trump decried Pennsylvania’s voting rules as “crazy.”

Trump recently overhauled his campaign team, bringing on new and more experienced operatives. But his main rival, Cruz, got a head start in the intricate game of delegate-courting, directing some of his resources to states where he knew he could get his supporters named as delegates.

Pennsylvania voter Laura Seyler described herself as “a very solid Cruz fan,” but favored Trump because he’s “a bigger bully.”

“That may sound strange, but I think that’s kind of what we need,” Seyler, 63, a senior buyer for a direct marketer, said Tuesday at a polling place in Hamburg, Pennsylvania.

Donald Trump rolled up victories in five more states on Tuesday, giving the Republican front-runner fresh momentum in his push for the nomination even if his pathway has little room for error.

The New York billionaire scored wins in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Connecticut, Delaware and Rhode Island – all five states that held GOP primary contests on Tuesday.

“This is really something special. It’s a movement,” Trump said on Fox News before polls closed.

Anticipating a big night for Trump, chief rival Ted Cruz retreated to next-up Indiana days ago. The Texas senator and Ohio Gov. John Kasich are fighting to deny Trump the delegate majority and force a contested national convention this summer.

“I got good news for you,” Cruz told cheering supporters at an Indianapolis rally. “Tonight this campaign moves back to more favorable terrain.”

Tuesday’s strong performance marked a setback for the GOP’s vocal anti-Trump movement, which is skeptical about his commitment to conservative values and worries about his electability in the general election.

Exit polls found that about 6 in 10 Republican voters in Pennsylvania say the GOP campaign this year has divided the party. While 7 in 10 Democrats in the state say they’ve been energized by the campaign, only 4 in 10 Republican voters say the same.

Trump remains the only Republican who has a shot at reaching the 1,237 delegate majority needed to clinch the nomination before the convention. But his lead is fragile, and any major setbacks in the contests ahead could lead him to fall sort of that magic number.

Adding a wrinkle to his efforts, Cruz and Kasich announced late Sunday that they had reached a tentative, new alliance aimed at undermining him. Under the deal, Kasich will forgo campaigning in Indiana, allowing Cruz to take on Trump head-to-head in the state, while Cruz will do the same for Kasich in Oregon and New Mexico.

Tuesday’s victories help Trump expand his big lead in the race for delegates. If he keeps it up, he can stay on track to win the nomination by the end of the primaries on June 7.

Trump will win at least half of the 118 delegates up for grabs Tuesday. And he has a chance to win a lot more.

In Pennsylvania, Trump collected 17 delegates for winning the state. An additional 54 delegates are elected directly by voters – three in each congressional district. However, their names are listed on the ballot with no information about which presidential candidate they support.

At a pair of rallies in Pennsylvania on Monday, Trump decried Pennsylvania’s voting rules as “crazy.”

Trump recently overhauled his campaign team, bringing on new and more experienced operatives. But his main rival, Cruz, got a head start in the intricate game of delegate-courting, directing some of his resources to states where he knew he could get his supporters named as delegates.

Pennsylvania voter Laura Seyler described herself as “a very solid Cruz fan,” but favored Trump because he’s “a bigger bully.”

“That may sound strange, but I think that’s kind of what we need,” Seyler, 63, a senior buyer for a direct marketer, said Tuesday at a polling place in Hamburg, Pennsylvania.

Donald Trump rolled up victories in five more states on Tuesday, giving the Republican front-runner fresh momentum in his push for the nomination even if his pathway has little room for error.

The New York billionaire scored wins in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Connecticut, Delaware and Rhode Island – all five states that held GOP primary contests on Tuesday.

“This is really something special. It’s a movement,” Trump said on Fox News before polls closed.

Anticipating a big night for Trump, chief rival Ted Cruz retreated to next-up Indiana days ago. The Texas senator and Ohio Gov. John Kasich are fighting to deny Trump the delegate majority and force a contested national convention this summer.

“I got good news for you,” Cruz told cheering supporters at an Indianapolis rally. “Tonight this campaign moves back to more favorable terrain.”

Tuesday’s strong performance marked a setback for the GOP’s vocal anti-Trump movement, which is skeptical about his commitment to conservative values and worries about his electability in the general election.

Exit polls found that about 6 in 10 Republican voters in Pennsylvania say the GOP campaign this year has divided the party. While 7 in 10 Democrats in the state say they’ve been energized by the campaign, only 4 in 10 Republican voters say the same.

Trump remains the only Republican who has a shot at reaching the 1,237 delegate majority needed to clinch the nomination before the convention. But his lead is fragile, and any major setbacks in the contests ahead could lead him to fall sort of that magic number.

Adding a wrinkle to his efforts, Cruz and Kasich announced late Sunday that they had reached a tentative, new alliance aimed at undermining him. Under the deal, Kasich will forgo campaigning in Indiana, allowing Cruz to take on Trump head-to-head in the state, while Cruz will do the same for Kasich in Oregon and New Mexico.

Tuesday’s victories help Trump expand his big lead in the race for delegates. If he keeps it up, he can stay on track to win the nomination by the end of the primaries on June 7.

Trump will win at least half of the 118 delegates up for grabs Tuesday. And he has a chance to win a lot more.

In Pennsylvania, Trump collected 17 delegates for winning the state. An additional 54 delegates are elected directly by voters – three in each congressional district. However, their names are listed on the ballot with no information about which presidential candidate they support.

At a pair of rallies in Pennsylvania on Monday, Trump decried Pennsylvania’s voting rules as “crazy.”

Trump recently overhauled his campaign team, bringing on new and more experienced operatives. But his main rival, Cruz, got a head start in the intricate game of delegate-courting, directing some of his resources to states where he knew he could get his supporters named as delegates.

Pennsylvania voter Laura Seyler described herself as “a very solid Cruz fan,” but favored Trump because he’s “a bigger bully.”

“That may sound strange, but I think that’s kind of what we need,” Seyler, 63, a senior buyer for a direct marketer, said Tuesday at a polling place in Hamburg, Pennsylvania.

Donald Trump rolled up victories in five more states on Tuesday, giving the Republican front-runner fresh momentum in his push for the nomination even if his pathway has little room for error.

The New York billionaire scored wins in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Connecticut, Delaware and Rhode Island – all five states that held GOP primary contests on Tuesday.

“This is really something special. It’s a movement,” Trump said on Fox News before polls closed.

Anticipating a big night for Trump, chief rival Ted Cruz retreated to next-up Indiana days ago. The Texas senator and Ohio Gov. John Kasich are fighting to deny Trump the delegate majority and force a contested national convention this summer.

“I got good news for you,” Cruz told cheering supporters at an Indianapolis rally. “Tonight this campaign moves back to more favorable terrain.”

Tuesday’s strong performance marked a setback for the GOP’s vocal anti-Trump movement, which is skeptical about his commitment to conservative values and worries about his electability in the general election.

Exit polls found that about 6 in 10 Republican voters in Pennsylvania say the GOP campaign this year has divided the party. While 7 in 10 Democrats in the state say they’ve been energized by the campaign, only 4 in 10 Republican voters say the same.

Trump remains the only Republican who has a shot at reaching the 1,237 delegate majority needed to clinch the nomination before the convention. But his lead is fragile, and any major setbacks in the contests ahead could lead him to fall sort of that magic number.

Adding a wrinkle to his efforts, Cruz and Kasich announced late Sunday that they had reached a tentative, new alliance aimed at undermining him. Under the deal, Kasich will forgo campaigning in Indiana, allowing Cruz to take on Trump head-to-head in the state, while Cruz will do the same for Kasich in Oregon and New Mexico.

Tuesday’s victories help Trump expand his big lead in the race for delegates. If he keeps it up, he can stay on track to win the nomination by the end of the primaries on June 7.

Trump will win at least half of the 118 delegates up for grabs Tuesday. And he has a chance to win a lot more.

In Pennsylvania, Trump collected 17 delegates for winning the state. An additional 54 delegates are elected directly by voters – three in each congressional district. However, their names are listed on the ballot with no information about which presidential candidate they support.

At a pair of rallies in Pennsylvania on Monday, Trump decried Pennsylvania’s voting rules as “crazy.”

Trump recently overhauled his campaign team, bringing on new and more experienced operatives. But his main rival, Cruz, got a head start in the intricate game of delegate-courting, directing some of his resources to states where he knew he could get his supporters named as delegates.

Pennsylvania voter Laura Seyler described herself as “a very solid Cruz fan,” but favored Trump because he’s “a bigger bully.”

“That may sound strange, but I think that’s kind of what we need,” Seyler, 63, a senior buyer for a direct marketer, said Tuesday at a polling place in Hamburg, Pennsylvania.

Donald Trump rolled up victories in five more states on Tuesday, giving the Republican front-runner fresh momentum in his push for the nomination even if his pathway has little room for error.

The New York billionaire scored wins in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Connecticut, Delaware and Rhode Island – all five states that held GOP primary contests on Tuesday.

“This is really something special. It’s a movement,” Trump said on Fox News before polls closed.

Anticipating a big night for Trump, chief rival Ted Cruz retreated to next-up Indiana days ago. The Texas senator and Ohio Gov. John Kasich are fighting to deny Trump the delegate majority and force a contested national convention this summer.

“I got good news for you,” Cruz told cheering supporters at an Indianapolis rally. “Tonight this campaign moves back to more favorable terrain.”

Tuesday’s strong performance marked a setback for the GOP’s vocal anti-Trump movement, which is skeptical about his commitment to conservative values and worries about his electability in the general election.

Exit polls found that about 6 in 10 Republican voters in Pennsylvania say the GOP campaign this year has divided the party. While 7 in 10 Democrats in the state say they’ve been energized by the campaign, only 4 in 10 Republican voters say the same.

Trump remains the only Republican who has a shot at reaching the 1,237 delegate majority needed to clinch the nomination before the convention. But his lead is fragile, and any major setbacks in the contests ahead could lead him to fall sort of that magic number.

Adding a wrinkle to his efforts, Cruz and Kasich announced late Sunday that they had reached a tentative, new alliance aimed at undermining him. Under the deal, Kasich will forgo campaigning in Indiana, allowing Cruz to take on Trump head-to-head in the state, while Cruz will do the same for Kasich in Oregon and New Mexico.

Tuesday’s victories help Trump expand his big lead in the race for delegates. If he keeps it up, he can stay on track to win the nomination by the end of the primaries on June 7.

Trump will win at least half of the 118 delegates up for grabs Tuesday. And he has a chance to win a lot more.

In Pennsylvania, Trump collected 17 delegates for winning the state. An additional 54 delegates are elected directly by voters – three in each congressional district. However, their names are listed on the ballot with no information about which presidential candidate they support.

At a pair of rallies in Pennsylvania on Monday, Trump decried Pennsylvania’s voting rules as “crazy.”

Trump recently overhauled his campaign team, bringing on new and more experienced operatives. But his main rival, Cruz, got a head start in the intricate game of delegate-courting, directing some of his resources to states where he knew he could get his supporters named as delegates.

Pennsylvania voter Laura Seyler described herself as “a very solid Cruz fan,” but favored Trump because he’s “a bigger bully.”

“That may sound strange, but I think that’s kind of what we need,” Seyler, 63, a senior buyer for a direct marketer, said Tuesday at a polling place in Hamburg, Pennsylvania.

Donald Trump rolled up victories in five more states on Tuesday, giving the Republican front-runner fresh momentum in his push for the nomination even if his pathway has little room for error.

The New York billionaire scored wins in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Connecticut, Delaware and Rhode Island – all five states that held GOP primary contests on Tuesday.

“This is really something special. It’s a movement,” Trump said on Fox News before polls closed.

Anticipating a big night for Trump, chief rival Ted Cruz retreated to next-up Indiana days ago. The Texas senator and Ohio Gov. John Kasich are fighting to deny Trump the delegate majority and force a contested national convention this summer.

“I got good news for you,” Cruz told cheering supporters at an Indianapolis rally. “Tonight this campaign moves back to more favorable terrain.”

Tuesday’s strong performance marked a setback for the GOP’s vocal anti-Trump movement, which is skeptical about his commitment to conservative values and worries about his electability in the general election.

Exit polls found that about 6 in 10 Republican voters in Pennsylvania say the GOP campaign this year has divided the party. While 7 in 10 Democrats in the state say they’ve been energized by the campaign, only 4 in 10 Republican voters say the same.

Trump remains the only Republican who has a shot at reaching the 1,237 delegate majority needed to clinch the nomination before the convention. But his lead is fragile, and any major setbacks in the contests ahead could lead him to fall sort of that magic number.

Adding a wrinkle to his efforts, Cruz and Kasich announced late Sunday that they had reached a tentative, new alliance aimed at undermining him. Under the deal, Kasich will forgo campaigning in Indiana, allowing Cruz to take on Trump head-to-head in the state, while Cruz will do the same for Kasich in Oregon and New Mexico.

Tuesday’s victories help Trump expand his big lead in the race for delegates. If he keeps it up, he can stay on track to win the nomination by the end of the primaries on June 7.

Trump will win at least half of the 118 delegates up for grabs Tuesday. And he has a chance to win a lot more.

In Pennsylvania, Trump collected 17 delegates for winning the state. An additional 54 delegates are elected directly by voters – three in each congressional district. However, their names are listed on the ballot with no information about which presidential candidate they support.

At a pair of rallies in Pennsylvania on Monday, Trump decried Pennsylvania’s voting rules as “crazy.”

Trump recently overhauled his campaign team, bringing on new and more experienced operatives. But his main rival, Cruz, got a head start in the intricate game of delegate-courting, directing some of his resources to states where he knew he could get his supporters named as delegates.

Pennsylvania voter Laura Seyler described herself as “a very solid Cruz fan,” but favored Trump because he’s “a bigger bully.”

“That may sound strange, but I think that’s kind of what we need,” Seyler, 63, a senior buyer for a direct marketer, said Tuesday at a polling place in Hamburg, Pennsylvania.

Continue Reading…

Source: New feed

Hollywood’s nanny-cheating cliché hits home: “There’s something so damn interesting and damn depressing about men being attracted to much younger and naive women”

Lauren Weedman has never enjoyed the perks of major movie stardom. On the contrary, the 47-year-old Indiana native has built a career one character at a time, from Horny Patty on the HBO comedy “Hung” to Doris on the short-lived (but much loved) “Looking.”

But two years ago, Weedman suffered the ultimate Hollywood betrayal when she discovered that her husband was carrying on an affair with their young son’s twenty-something babysitter.

Weedman would be the first one to tell you that the tabloids took little notice. (“I’m not famous enough to be infamous, apparently.”) Instead, she’s written about the episode—among other mortifications—in her remarkable new book of essays, “Miss Fortune.”

Salon caught up with Weedman on the Boston leg of her national book tour and sat down to ask her what it’s like to be a feminist in Hollywood, how she now regards other victims of adultery, and, of course, what it’s like to have pretend sex on camera.

Early in “Miss Fortune” you write about the teenage son of your boyfriend, who, after crashing your car, reveals that he was upset with you for telling a joke about his dead mother. You justify that joke by telling him that you’re an artist, and artists talk about their lives. Given how much raw material is in “Miss Fortune”—about yourself, your ex, your child, your birth and adoptive mothers, etc.—how do you deal with this anxiety about the other people in your stories?

That’s actually the exact incident that taught me that if you write stories about real live human beings—even if you change their names, hair color, drugs of choice—you will incite real live human reactions. What I’ve discovered works for me is to show everyone the stories before they are published, so they don’t feel ambushed. I also give them full power to veto aspects of the story, or change elements that bother them, or make them feel like suing me. The last thing I want is for my work to cause someone pain. Unless they enjoy pain—then I’m honored to be a part of it.

The big goal for me is to find out what’s going on with myself in stories. To shit-talk myself, not others.

Okay, but what about your five-year-old son. Do you worry about him reading about the demise of your marriage?

My son’s actually six, so he’s already asking about the sex tape. Kidding!

I actually thought about that a lot while I was writing the book. It never leaves you once you have a kid. At least it hasn’t for me. Dear god, don’t let my mother find out! was replaced by What will my son think? the day after he was born. Should I be worried? People keep mentioning that to me, but somehow I’m not worried.

I didn’t do an XXX-rated movie or take part in the Killing Fields. I wrote about what it was like for me after the split up. I was careful to not get lurid or petty about it. Everything about my break up that I wrote about is exactly how I’d explain it to my son when the time seemed right.

Explaining why I played “Horny Patty” and did a sex scene while I was pregnant with him may be tougher. I’ll rip those pages out.

I was just going to ask you to talk about what it’s really like to film a sex scene?

If you can be in the right headspace and not worry about what you’re looking like, it can feel like pretending to have sex … with someone who’s wearing a tiny burlap bag tied around their penis.

For the record, I don’t do hot sex scenes. As Patty, I’m this weird lonely sex addict masturbating with a Sharpie in the office. In “Looking,” I actually got to be an attractive woman having sex with a big old attractive man. No, wait; we didn’t actually have fake film sex. We just lay in bed after sex and I kept getting the note that it looked like I was trying to hide by boobs from the camera. Which I was, even though the actor in the scene with me told me, “a tittie is a tittie. And men like titties, so let’s see them.” Very sweet.

This feels like the right moment to ask how you deal with the Hollywood bullshit as a smart feminist? I guess I’m wondering why you’d subject yourself to the youth-and-beauty worshipping of it all?

Because someone’s got to play the “Ew! She touched me!” characters. [Laughs]. Actually it’s because I’m actor and I wanted to tell stories. I’m not a part of the youth-and-beauty-worship set, aka Network TV. There’s a place for character actors.

But the mindset has taken its toll on me and I regret that I’ve let that happen. It’s not uncommon for me to refer to myself as “a fat troll who’s almost 50.”

The heart of your book is about discovering that your husband had an affair with your son’s babysitter. Did going through this give you any sympathy for the lurid tabloid tales we read about this happening to movie stars?

Oh my god, yes. Geez. I could go off on this subject. My mailman Eddie is sick of hearing me talk about it. I’ve been stuck on this one element: the fact that the journalists are often women. Women have been slapping the shit out of other women directly and indirectly for decades, yet that’s the element that’s been upsetting me.

It’s hard enough to get through the day. Why would you want to make life so much harder for someone? I guess a part of it is that people think “Oh, they’re celebrities! Boo-hoo. Go back to shining their diamonds and buying $59 cold-press juices.” But suffering is suffering and no amount of thousand-dollar face creams helps with the delicate state of being alive. It’s hard for everyone.

There’s something so damn interesting and damn depressing about men being attracted to much younger and naive women. Leaving behind their old, aging, bossy wives—like that old biddy Gwen Stefani. Just today I read that the definition of “ingénue” was a girl that was young and naive. My entire life I’d thought that it meant “young and pretty.” It never dawned on me that naive was a selling point.

You talked about finishing a draft of the book before it all went down with your ex. Can you talk about how that changed the arc of the book?

The first draft of the book felt like a desperate attempt to deliver something that read like a string of ‘wacky anecdotes.’ No depth or narrative arc. I couldn’t see the stories I needed to tell because I was still living it and because I didn’t know the real stories.

For instance, the story about going to a strip club with my ex- husband was all about how weirded out I was by strip clubs. Yet I couldn’t put my finger on why sitting next to him in the club had been so awful. Until the moment I found out the truth about what had been happening between my ex and our babysitter. Then the sense of doom and angst started to make sense. It was like somebody cut the rope and the bucket I’d been sitting in went crashing deep into the well.

That’s not a good analogy. It leaves me trapped down there, waiting for a fireman to save me. Clearly I need a new husband to tell me to stop answering these questions and put on some heels and dance for him. That sounds so flattering yet depressing. Just like Hollywood.Lauren Weedman has never enjoyed the perks of major movie stardom. On the contrary, the 47-year-old Indiana native has built a career one character at a time, from Horny Patty on the HBO comedy “Hung” to Doris on the short-lived (but much loved) “Looking.”

But two years ago, Weedman suffered the ultimate Hollywood betrayal when she discovered that her husband was carrying on an affair with their young son’s twenty-something babysitter.

Weedman would be the first one to tell you that the tabloids took little notice. (“I’m not famous enough to be infamous, apparently.”) Instead, she’s written about the episode—among other mortifications—in her remarkable new book of essays, “Miss Fortune.”

Salon caught up with Weedman on the Boston leg of her national book tour and sat down to ask her what it’s like to be a feminist in Hollywood, how she now regards other victims of adultery, and, of course, what it’s like to have pretend sex on camera.

Early in “Miss Fortune” you write about the teenage son of your boyfriend, who, after crashing your car, reveals that he was upset with you for telling a joke about his dead mother. You justify that joke by telling him that you’re an artist, and artists talk about their lives. Given how much raw material is in “Miss Fortune”—about yourself, your ex, your child, your birth and adoptive mothers, etc.—how do you deal with this anxiety about the other people in your stories?

That’s actually the exact incident that taught me that if you write stories about real live human beings—even if you change their names, hair color, drugs of choice—you will incite real live human reactions. What I’ve discovered works for me is to show everyone the stories before they are published, so they don’t feel ambushed. I also give them full power to veto aspects of the story, or change elements that bother them, or make them feel like suing me. The last thing I want is for my work to cause someone pain. Unless they enjoy pain—then I’m honored to be a part of it.

The big goal for me is to find out what’s going on with myself in stories. To shit-talk myself, not others.

Okay, but what about your five-year-old son. Do you worry about him reading about the demise of your marriage?

My son’s actually six, so he’s already asking about the sex tape. Kidding!

I actually thought about that a lot while I was writing the book. It never leaves you once you have a kid. At least it hasn’t for me. Dear god, don’t let my mother find out! was replaced by What will my son think? the day after he was born. Should I be worried? People keep mentioning that to me, but somehow I’m not worried.

I didn’t do an XXX-rated movie or take part in the Killing Fields. I wrote about what it was like for me after the split up. I was careful to not get lurid or petty about it. Everything about my break up that I wrote about is exactly how I’d explain it to my son when the time seemed right.

Explaining why I played “Horny Patty” and did a sex scene while I was pregnant with him may be tougher. I’ll rip those pages out.

I was just going to ask you to talk about what it’s really like to film a sex scene?

If you can be in the right headspace and not worry about what you’re looking like, it can feel like pretending to have sex … with someone who’s wearing a tiny burlap bag tied around their penis.

For the record, I don’t do hot sex scenes. As Patty, I’m this weird lonely sex addict masturbating with a Sharpie in the office. In “Looking,” I actually got to be an attractive woman having sex with a big old attractive man. No, wait; we didn’t actually have fake film sex. We just lay in bed after sex and I kept getting the note that it looked like I was trying to hide by boobs from the camera. Which I was, even though the actor in the scene with me told me, “a tittie is a tittie. And men like titties, so let’s see them.” Very sweet.

This feels like the right moment to ask how you deal with the Hollywood bullshit as a smart feminist? I guess I’m wondering why you’d subject yourself to the youth-and-beauty worshipping of it all?

Because someone’s got to play the “Ew! She touched me!” characters. [Laughs]. Actually it’s because I’m actor and I wanted to tell stories. I’m not a part of the youth-and-beauty-worship set, aka Network TV. There’s a place for character actors.

But the mindset has taken its toll on me and I regret that I’ve let that happen. It’s not uncommon for me to refer to myself as “a fat troll who’s almost 50.”

The heart of your book is about discovering that your husband had an affair with your son’s babysitter. Did going through this give you any sympathy for the lurid tabloid tales we read about this happening to movie stars?

Oh my god, yes. Geez. I could go off on this subject. My mailman Eddie is sick of hearing me talk about it. I’ve been stuck on this one element: the fact that the journalists are often women. Women have been slapping the shit out of other women directly and indirectly for decades, yet that’s the element that’s been upsetting me.

It’s hard enough to get through the day. Why would you want to make life so much harder for someone? I guess a part of it is that people think “Oh, they’re celebrities! Boo-hoo. Go back to shining their diamonds and buying $59 cold-press juices.” But suffering is suffering and no amount of thousand-dollar face creams helps with the delicate state of being alive. It’s hard for everyone.

There’s something so damn interesting and damn depressing about men being attracted to much younger and naive women. Leaving behind their old, aging, bossy wives—like that old biddy Gwen Stefani. Just today I read that the definition of “ingénue” was a girl that was young and naive. My entire life I’d thought that it meant “young and pretty.” It never dawned on me that naive was a selling point.

You talked about finishing a draft of the book before it all went down with your ex. Can you talk about how that changed the arc of the book?

The first draft of the book felt like a desperate attempt to deliver something that read like a string of ‘wacky anecdotes.’ No depth or narrative arc. I couldn’t see the stories I needed to tell because I was still living it and because I didn’t know the real stories.

For instance, the story about going to a strip club with my ex- husband was all about how weirded out I was by strip clubs. Yet I couldn’t put my finger on why sitting next to him in the club had been so awful. Until the moment I found out the truth about what had been happening between my ex and our babysitter. Then the sense of doom and angst started to make sense. It was like somebody cut the rope and the bucket I’d been sitting in went crashing deep into the well.

That’s not a good analogy. It leaves me trapped down there, waiting for a fireman to save me. Clearly I need a new husband to tell me to stop answering these questions and put on some heels and dance for him. That sounds so flattering yet depressing. Just like Hollywood.Lauren Weedman has never enjoyed the perks of major movie stardom. On the contrary, the 47-year-old Indiana native has built a career one character at a time, from Horny Patty on the HBO comedy “Hung” to Doris on the short-lived (but much loved) “Looking.”

But two years ago, Weedman suffered the ultimate Hollywood betrayal when she discovered that her husband was carrying on an affair with their young son’s twenty-something babysitter.

Weedman would be the first one to tell you that the tabloids took little notice. (“I’m not famous enough to be infamous, apparently.”) Instead, she’s written about the episode—among other mortifications—in her remarkable new book of essays, “Miss Fortune.”

Salon caught up with Weedman on the Boston leg of her national book tour and sat down to ask her what it’s like to be a feminist in Hollywood, how she now regards other victims of adultery, and, of course, what it’s like to have pretend sex on camera.

Early in “Miss Fortune” you write about the teenage son of your boyfriend, who, after crashing your car, reveals that he was upset with you for telling a joke about his dead mother. You justify that joke by telling him that you’re an artist, and artists talk about their lives. Given how much raw material is in “Miss Fortune”—about yourself, your ex, your child, your birth and adoptive mothers, etc.—how do you deal with this anxiety about the other people in your stories?

That’s actually the exact incident that taught me that if you write stories about real live human beings—even if you change their names, hair color, drugs of choice—you will incite real live human reactions. What I’ve discovered works for me is to show everyone the stories before they are published, so they don’t feel ambushed. I also give them full power to veto aspects of the story, or change elements that bother them, or make them feel like suing me. The last thing I want is for my work to cause someone pain. Unless they enjoy pain—then I’m honored to be a part of it.

The big goal for me is to find out what’s going on with myself in stories. To shit-talk myself, not others.

Okay, but what about your five-year-old son. Do you worry about him reading about the demise of your marriage?

My son’s actually six, so he’s already asking about the sex tape. Kidding!

I actually thought about that a lot while I was writing the book. It never leaves you once you have a kid. At least it hasn’t for me. Dear god, don’t let my mother find out! was replaced by What will my son think? the day after he was born. Should I be worried? People keep mentioning that to me, but somehow I’m not worried.

I didn’t do an XXX-rated movie or take part in the Killing Fields. I wrote about what it was like for me after the split up. I was careful to not get lurid or petty about it. Everything about my break up that I wrote about is exactly how I’d explain it to my son when the time seemed right.

Explaining why I played “Horny Patty” and did a sex scene while I was pregnant with him may be tougher. I’ll rip those pages out.

I was just going to ask you to talk about what it’s really like to film a sex scene?

If you can be in the right headspace and not worry about what you’re looking like, it can feel like pretending to have sex … with someone who’s wearing a tiny burlap bag tied around their penis.

For the record, I don’t do hot sex scenes. As Patty, I’m this weird lonely sex addict masturbating with a Sharpie in the office. In “Looking,” I actually got to be an attractive woman having sex with a big old attractive man. No, wait; we didn’t actually have fake film sex. We just lay in bed after sex and I kept getting the note that it looked like I was trying to hide by boobs from the camera. Which I was, even though the actor in the scene with me told me, “a tittie is a tittie. And men like titties, so let’s see them.” Very sweet.

This feels like the right moment to ask how you deal with the Hollywood bullshit as a smart feminist? I guess I’m wondering why you’d subject yourself to the youth-and-beauty worshipping of it all?

Because someone’s got to play the “Ew! She touched me!” characters. [Laughs]. Actually it’s because I’m actor and I wanted to tell stories. I’m not a part of the youth-and-beauty-worship set, aka Network TV. There’s a place for character actors.

But the mindset has taken its toll on me and I regret that I’ve let that happen. It’s not uncommon for me to refer to myself as “a fat troll who’s almost 50.”

The heart of your book is about discovering that your husband had an affair with your son’s babysitter. Did going through this give you any sympathy for the lurid tabloid tales we read about this happening to movie stars?

Oh my god, yes. Geez. I could go off on this subject. My mailman Eddie is sick of hearing me talk about it. I’ve been stuck on this one element: the fact that the journalists are often women. Women have been slapping the shit out of other women directly and indirectly for decades, yet that’s the element that’s been upsetting me.

It’s hard enough to get through the day. Why would you want to make life so much harder for someone? I guess a part of it is that people think “Oh, they’re celebrities! Boo-hoo. Go back to shining their diamonds and buying $59 cold-press juices.” But suffering is suffering and no amount of thousand-dollar face creams helps with the delicate state of being alive. It’s hard for everyone.

There’s something so damn interesting and damn depressing about men being attracted to much younger and naive women. Leaving behind their old, aging, bossy wives—like that old biddy Gwen Stefani. Just today I read that the definition of “ingénue” was a girl that was young and naive. My entire life I’d thought that it meant “young and pretty.” It never dawned on me that naive was a selling point.

You talked about finishing a draft of the book before it all went down with your ex. Can you talk about how that changed the arc of the book?

The first draft of the book felt like a desperate attempt to deliver something that read like a string of ‘wacky anecdotes.’ No depth or narrative arc. I couldn’t see the stories I needed to tell because I was still living it and because I didn’t know the real stories.

For instance, the story about going to a strip club with my ex- husband was all about how weirded out I was by strip clubs. Yet I couldn’t put my finger on why sitting next to him in the club had been so awful. Until the moment I found out the truth about what had been happening between my ex and our babysitter. Then the sense of doom and angst started to make sense. It was like somebody cut the rope and the bucket I’d been sitting in went crashing deep into the well.

That’s not a good analogy. It leaves me trapped down there, waiting for a fireman to save me. Clearly I need a new husband to tell me to stop answering these questions and put on some heels and dance for him. That sounds so flattering yet depressing. Just like Hollywood.

Continue Reading…

Source: New feed

Humor and the Holocaust? Documentary explores the boundaries of comedy and tragedy

Is it inappropriate to joke about the Holocaust? Is it acceptable to make fun of slavery? Can we find humor in topics like cancer and AIDS? Is it too soon to crack wise about 9/11? These are some of the questions raised by “The Last Laugh,” director Ferne Pearlstein’s thoughtful, provocative, and yes, funny documentary about Holocaust humor that premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival last week.

Pearlstein, who co-wrote the film with her husband, Robert Edwards, makes her case by using an array of clips from Mel Brook’s audacious “The Producers,” to Sarah Silverman’s outrageous stand-up concert film, “Jesus is Magic,” to even those Holocaust “comedies” such as “The Day the Clown Cried” and “Life is Beautiful.” But she also balances the gallows humor with scenes featuring Renee Firestone, a Holocaust survivor who has an upbeat, optimistic view of life, but still doesn’t laugh at every joke.

Whether viewers will be amused or angered by “The Last Laugh” remains to be seen, but the writers and actors and comedians interviewed in the film, which include Mel Brooks, Sarah Silverman, Carl and Rob Reiner, Judy Gold, Gilbert Gottfried, Etgar Keret, and Lisa Lampanelli, along with Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League, weigh in on what’s offensive, and how, why, and where (as well as if) they find humor in the Holocaust.

Salon met with Pearlstein, Edwards and Firestone to see who gets “The Last Laugh.”

I really appreciate that you have made a film about a taboo topic. What made you forge ahead with this project, and what resistance did you encounter, if any?

Pearlstein: We encountered a lot of resistance in a different ways than I think you would expect. In trying to make the film, the first people we came in contact with were people looking for funding, or comedians who would work with us. It wasn’t until all of that was in place that we met Renee, which was 2011.

Edwards: But we had been working on it since 1998. She had been working on the film since 1993.

Firestone: You’re kidding!?

Pearlstein: In the film we talk about how things change over time. Talk about things changing over time—the resistance, or reaction in 1993 or 1998, when we talked about the subject of this film, until now, is dramatically different. Even in 2011, when we met Renee, it was still walking on eggshells. I imagined hate mail and protesting. That’s how much things have changed. I feel like we’re getting a different response. There have been so many types of satire over taboo subjects lately. The world is more schooled in it now.

Edwards: That’s kind of the point of the film—time is passing, and even in the interim of making the film the public response to the Holocaust is different. It’s changing all the time and will continue to change. Some of the examples of humor from the time period, which we researched—which were very shocking then—don’t feel shocking now. 70 years have gone by. You bring up 9/11, or child molestation or AIDS—other issues elicit a shocking response from people.

Pearlstein: Because that’s something they can remember. If you can remember it, it’s still taboo in a weird way.

You alternate a joke with a scene of drama, such as Renee recounting being examined by Dr. Mengele. Can you describe the structure of your film?

Pearlstein: The opening was so hard, because we had to strike that balance, and interweave two film styles. We also had to give the audience permission to laugh.

Edwards: And we also had to let the audience know early on that we were going to do that. Ferne was very adamant not to just have talking heads and clips, but an observational element to it. To combine those is very hard, never mind the subject matter…it was tricky. It was in the editing, not the planning. It was a very delicate process to walk that line.

I suspect Jewish film festivals might be disinclined to show your film. How do you think the Jewish audiences will respond?

Pearlstein: A lot of Jewish film festivals are writing me about the film on a daily basis.

Edwards: It could be the programmers are interested. We don’t know what the audience response will be. This film is not a comedy. It’s about comedy and it’s a film about bad taste. Ferne has made it in a tasteful way, in my opinion. We hope people understand this documentary itself is not trying to make light of any kind of tragedy, but illuminate it in a way that is new and fresh.

Pearlstein: And that’s why it was so important to bring Renee on. Here’s a woman who is not a comedian, but she has a good sense of humor. It shows through in every conversation, every experience she has. She can tell a story about one of her darkest situations, and she will still put a joke in there, almost every time.

Firestone: I remember when Mengele questioned me, “Who in [your] family is Jewish?” I thought it was ridiculous. I laughed at it. He kept asking me about my mother, my father, my grandparents. And I thought go myself: Here I am, with all these Jews. We don’t know where we are going, or what’s going to happen to us, and that’s what he wants to know—whether my parents are Jewish? I mean, what else would I be doing here? If you think about it, it’s really funny. And that was before I knew where I was, or what the place was about. Before my head was shaved, or I was undressed. Humor is not fun. That’s the difference for me. To make fun of something, or laugh about something, it’s different than if you talk about humor. When we looked at each other with the shaved heads, it was funny—we looked ridiculous. We had no idea why they did it to us. It was a terrible what they did to us, but when we looked at each other, we looked ridiculous. We didn’t make jokes about it.

Pearlstein: People look back on that era and close it off to humor, but most of the European Jews who were going to the camps experienced years of discrimination and anti-Semitism. They got off that train, and [experienced] another form of degradation, and it’s terrible. But they didn’t think they were going that day to their death. It’s only in retrospect that we know what happened. So when Renee tells that story, and she says, “I see my friend, and we looked at each other, and they were wearing these huge outfits, and whatever…” it was a little funny.

I like the exchanges between Renee and her friend Elly, two survivors who have different outlooks on life. You can’t deny people their feelings and sensitivities; it is wrong to make jokes that might offend them?

Firestone: Jokes about the Holocaust are not proper. About the perpetrators, I don’t care, but about our situation, nothing is really funny. As I say, to make fun, and to have a sense of humor are two different things.

Several interviewees describe humor as being a coping mechanism for horror. Renee says that when she remembers she cries, but when she doesn’t, she laughs. There is also talk about time passing, which makes taboo humor acceptable. Can you talk about these aspects addressed in your film?

Edwards: When Gilbert Gottfried says in the film, “Why wait!?” [a reversal on “too soon?”], it is funny. But I think we all understand why people wait. We can’t joke about Lincoln’s assassination that night. That’s the joke. The passage of time changes it. It’s context, which is really the bigger issue. We started out talking about this film and jokes and humor feels very different depending on who says it, when they say it, and what context they say it in. If it’s self-deprecating within the group, as opposed to the oppressor making the same joke, it’s all context.

Firestone: That’s true also, that the Holocaust survivors, amongst themselves, will talk about some funny things. They won’t tell it to anyone who wasn’t there.

Pearlstein: That’s right, and children of survivors have a very dark sense of humor amongst themselves. I tried to uncover that [with Etgar Keret]. They will tell jokes to each other, which is also letting off steam. It’s not an easy existence as the child of a survivor. They are survivors of a tragedy they didn’t experience, so it’s bigger in their imagination. And that can be very horrifying. 

Joan Rivers got into hot water for her Holocaust humor, but she defends it as “creating awareness.” Sarah Silverman jokes about the “alleged Holocaust,” mocking Holocaust deniers and gets a laugh. It’s all contextual, but one gets in trouble and one gets by. Can you defend either position?

Edwards: It’s hard to explain why one comedian gets a pass and another doesn’t. It depends on lots of things, like the audience, and their history. But this issue of opening the door to abuse is in the film. Within the community of survivors and the Jewish community, where this kind of humor is somewhat acceptable, there is the fear that once the door is open, the next thing you know is Neo-Nazis adopting the same [humor]. And we get at that with Sasha Baron Cohen, and with “All in the Family.” It is like Sarah [Silverman] says, “Once you tell the joke, it’s no longer yours. You can’t control how it’s inferred.” When people laugh at the wrong thing, then you get into a Free Speech argument: Should you never make these jokes, or any art form for fear it will be misinterpreted? Then you have a really chilling effect.

Pearlstein: Context is really important. We saw Sarah Silverman’s early days of “Jesus is Magic” in a little black box theatre on Bleecker Street, and we laughed. She did 15-20 minutes of Holocaust jokes, and in that community of people, it was very funny. I had Renee watch YouTube clips of Holocaust jokes, and I blanched while I was filming that. The context of seeing these jokes through the eyes of a 90-year-old survivor was different.

Whenever another Holocaust film comes out, a friend of minewho’s Jewish, mind yousays, “Holocaust, Smolocaust.” She finds the topic overworked in cinema. What can you say about people who are tired of hearing about the Holocaust?

Edwards: The point of Holocaust fatigue is another one the movie gets at. The subject feels overworked, but that’s as dangerous as joking about it. When it gets to the point where people roll their eyes and it has no effect anymore, then you have a real problem. We are looking for new ways to approach this topic that feels overworked, and humor is one—because it has hardly ever been approached. Ferne is always mindful of the seriousness of the subject matter and the tragedy, and not let it become fodder for comedy.

Pearlstein: And it’s a way to get eye-rollers in the theater to see something they haven’t seen.

Renee, you have been an activist for other genocides, such as Rwanda. What observations do you have about these tragedies?

Firestone: The difference between genocide and the Holocaust is that none of the other genocides concentrated on children. Most of the genocides are about adults. The [Nazis] concentrated on the children so there is no future. There is no other genocide where they used modern technology to destroy groups of people. Every other genocide was individuals being killed. To date, 1½ million children were put in a room and gassed—it was the way it was performed. It was industrial wholesale slaughter. It’s interesting that Rwanda struck me in a very different way. The Holocaust lasted 12 years, and there were six million murders. But in Rwanda, the genocide lasted only four months, and almost a million Tutsis were murdered.

We just returned from New Orleans, and we toured this plantation with this great guide. And I heard some of the stories that happened to black children, and saw pictures and I thought, “When does the world really learn?” That should have been already a message. Then I found out the plantation was owned by Germans. It blew my mind. [Laughter]. And we’re laughing about it. How terrible!

Pearlstein: This is why I chose Renee. She doesn’t just look at the Holocaust with blinders on. She sees every genocide. She has this experience in New Orleans. She’s had this experience in Rwanda. She’s constantly talking to people about “Never Forget.” But “Never Forget” what happened here, either… 

I like the way you parse out the difference between jokes about the Holocaust vs. jokes against Nazis. Can you discuss this?

Pearlstein: I was filming a bunch of comedians, and I wanted them to bring humor to the interviews, and not feel—because of the topic—that they had to be serious. I wanted to disarm them by starting with “Do you have a Holocaust joke?” And that set a tone for the interview. I didn’t realize this until I had done a couple of interviews. They would always say, “I don’t have a Holocaust joke, but I have a Nazi joke.” So by the time I met Judy Gold, I changed the question. I explained I used to ask for a Holocaust joke, but then I learned about the distinction. She was like, “Oh, I have a Holocaust joke!” She was the first person to claim it and be proud. I thought, Wow!

Edwards: If you look at the two jokes Joan Rivers gets in trouble with in the movie, they are at the expense of Germans. They should be in that tradition of Mel Brooks and Charlie Chaplin. But she mentions the facts—ovens, gas. She dares to bring in the machinery.Is it inappropriate to joke about the Holocaust? Is it acceptable to make fun of slavery? Can we find humor in topics like cancer and AIDS? Is it too soon to crack wise about 9/11? These are some of the questions raised by “The Last Laugh,” director Ferne Pearlstein’s thoughtful, provocative, and yes, funny documentary about Holocaust humor that premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival last week.

Pearlstein, who co-wrote the film with her husband, Robert Edwards, makes her case by using an array of clips from Mel Brook’s audacious “The Producers,” to Sarah Silverman’s outrageous stand-up concert film, “Jesus is Magic,” to even those Holocaust “comedies” such as “The Day the Clown Cried” and “Life is Beautiful.” But she also balances the gallows humor with scenes featuring Renee Firestone, a Holocaust survivor who has an upbeat, optimistic view of life, but still doesn’t laugh at every joke.

Whether viewers will be amused or angered by “The Last Laugh” remains to be seen, but the writers and actors and comedians interviewed in the film, which include Mel Brooks, Sarah Silverman, Carl and Rob Reiner, Judy Gold, Gilbert Gottfried, Etgar Keret, and Lisa Lampanelli, along with Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League, weigh in on what’s offensive, and how, why, and where (as well as if) they find humor in the Holocaust.

Salon met with Pearlstein, Edwards and Firestone to see who gets “The Last Laugh.”

I really appreciate that you have made a film about a taboo topic. What made you forge ahead with this project, and what resistance did you encounter, if any?

Pearlstein: We encountered a lot of resistance in a different ways than I think you would expect. In trying to make the film, the first people we came in contact with were people looking for funding, or comedians who would work with us. It wasn’t until all of that was in place that we met Renee, which was 2011.

Edwards: But we had been working on it since 1998. She had been working on the film since 1993.

Firestone: You’re kidding!?

Pearlstein: In the film we talk about how things change over time. Talk about things changing over time—the resistance, or reaction in 1993 or 1998, when we talked about the subject of this film, until now, is dramatically different. Even in 2011, when we met Renee, it was still walking on eggshells. I imagined hate mail and protesting. That’s how much things have changed. I feel like we’re getting a different response. There have been so many types of satire over taboo subjects lately. The world is more schooled in it now.

Edwards: That’s kind of the point of the film—time is passing, and even in the interim of making the film the public response to the Holocaust is different. It’s changing all the time and will continue to change. Some of the examples of humor from the time period, which we researched—which were very shocking then—don’t feel shocking now. 70 years have gone by. You bring up 9/11, or child molestation or AIDS—other issues elicit a shocking response from people.

Pearlstein: Because that’s something they can remember. If you can remember it, it’s still taboo in a weird way.

You alternate a joke with a scene of drama, such as Renee recounting being examined by Dr. Mengele. Can you describe the structure of your film?

Pearlstein: The opening was so hard, because we had to strike that balance, and interweave two film styles. We also had to give the audience permission to laugh.

Edwards: And we also had to let the audience know early on that we were going to do that. Ferne was very adamant not to just have talking heads and clips, but an observational element to it. To combine those is very hard, never mind the subject matter…it was tricky. It was in the editing, not the planning. It was a very delicate process to walk that line.

I suspect Jewish film festivals might be disinclined to show your film. How do you think the Jewish audiences will respond?

Pearlstein: A lot of Jewish film festivals are writing me about the film on a daily basis.

Edwards: It could be the programmers are interested. We don’t know what the audience response will be. This film is not a comedy. It’s about comedy and it’s a film about bad taste. Ferne has made it in a tasteful way, in my opinion. We hope people understand this documentary itself is not trying to make light of any kind of tragedy, but illuminate it in a way that is new and fresh.

Pearlstein: And that’s why it was so important to bring Renee on. Here’s a woman who is not a comedian, but she has a good sense of humor. It shows through in every conversation, every experience she has. She can tell a story about one of her darkest situations, and she will still put a joke in there, almost every time.

Firestone: I remember when Mengele questioned me, “Who in [your] family is Jewish?” I thought it was ridiculous. I laughed at it. He kept asking me about my mother, my father, my grandparents. And I thought go myself: Here I am, with all these Jews. We don’t know where we are going, or what’s going to happen to us, and that’s what he wants to know—whether my parents are Jewish? I mean, what else would I be doing here? If you think about it, it’s really funny. And that was before I knew where I was, or what the place was about. Before my head was shaved, or I was undressed. Humor is not fun. That’s the difference for me. To make fun of something, or laugh about something, it’s different than if you talk about humor. When we looked at each other with the shaved heads, it was funny—we looked ridiculous. We had no idea why they did it to us. It was a terrible what they did to us, but when we looked at each other, we looked ridiculous. We didn’t make jokes about it.

Pearlstein: People look back on that era and close it off to humor, but most of the European Jews who were going to the camps experienced years of discrimination and anti-Semitism. They got off that train, and [experienced] another form of degradation, and it’s terrible. But they didn’t think they were going that day to their death. It’s only in retrospect that we know what happened. So when Renee tells that story, and she says, “I see my friend, and we looked at each other, and they were wearing these huge outfits, and whatever…” it was a little funny.

I like the exchanges between Renee and her friend Elly, two survivors who have different outlooks on life. You can’t deny people their feelings and sensitivities; it is wrong to make jokes that might offend them?

Firestone: Jokes about the Holocaust are not proper. About the perpetrators, I don’t care, but about our situation, nothing is really funny. As I say, to make fun, and to have a sense of humor are two different things.

Several interviewees describe humor as being a coping mechanism for horror. Renee says that when she remembers she cries, but when she doesn’t, she laughs. There is also talk about time passing, which makes taboo humor acceptable. Can you talk about these aspects addressed in your film?

Edwards: When Gilbert Gottfried says in the film, “Why wait!?” [a reversal on “too soon?”], it is funny. But I think we all understand why people wait. We can’t joke about Lincoln’s assassination that night. That’s the joke. The passage of time changes it. It’s context, which is really the bigger issue. We started out talking about this film and jokes and humor feels very different depending on who says it, when they say it, and what context they say it in. If it’s self-deprecating within the group, as opposed to the oppressor making the same joke, it’s all context.

Firestone: That’s true also, that the Holocaust survivors, amongst themselves, will talk about some funny things. They won’t tell it to anyone who wasn’t there.

Pearlstein: That’s right, and children of survivors have a very dark sense of humor amongst themselves. I tried to uncover that [with Etgar Keret]. They will tell jokes to each other, which is also letting off steam. It’s not an easy existence as the child of a survivor. They are survivors of a tragedy they didn’t experience, so it’s bigger in their imagination. And that can be very horrifying. 

Joan Rivers got into hot water for her Holocaust humor, but she defends it as “creating awareness.” Sarah Silverman jokes about the “alleged Holocaust,” mocking Holocaust deniers and gets a laugh. It’s all contextual, but one gets in trouble and one gets by. Can you defend either position?

Edwards: It’s hard to explain why one comedian gets a pass and another doesn’t. It depends on lots of things, like the audience, and their history. But this issue of opening the door to abuse is in the film. Within the community of survivors and the Jewish community, where this kind of humor is somewhat acceptable, there is the fear that once the door is open, the next thing you know is Neo-Nazis adopting the same [humor]. And we get at that with Sasha Baron Cohen, and with “All in the Family.” It is like Sarah [Silverman] says, “Once you tell the joke, it’s no longer yours. You can’t control how it’s inferred.” When people laugh at the wrong thing, then you get into a Free Speech argument: Should you never make these jokes, or any art form for fear it will be misinterpreted? Then you have a really chilling effect.

Pearlstein: Context is really important. We saw Sarah Silverman’s early days of “Jesus is Magic” in a little black box theatre on Bleecker Street, and we laughed. She did 15-20 minutes of Holocaust jokes, and in that community of people, it was very funny. I had Renee watch YouTube clips of Holocaust jokes, and I blanched while I was filming that. The context of seeing these jokes through the eyes of a 90-year-old survivor was different.

Whenever another Holocaust film comes out, a friend of minewho’s Jewish, mind yousays, “Holocaust, Smolocaust.” She finds the topic overworked in cinema. What can you say about people who are tired of hearing about the Holocaust?

Edwards: The point of Holocaust fatigue is another one the movie gets at. The subject feels overworked, but that’s as dangerous as joking about it. When it gets to the point where people roll their eyes and it has no effect anymore, then you have a real problem. We are looking for new ways to approach this topic that feels overworked, and humor is one—because it has hardly ever been approached. Ferne is always mindful of the seriousness of the subject matter and the tragedy, and not let it become fodder for comedy.

Pearlstein: And it’s a way to get eye-rollers in the theater to see something they haven’t seen.

Renee, you have been an activist for other genocides, such as Rwanda. What observations do you have about these tragedies?

Firestone: The difference between genocide and the Holocaust is that none of the other genocides concentrated on children. Most of the genocides are about adults. The [Nazis] concentrated on the children so there is no future. There is no other genocide where they used modern technology to destroy groups of people. Every other genocide was individuals being killed. To date, 1½ million children were put in a room and gassed—it was the way it was performed. It was industrial wholesale slaughter. It’s interesting that Rwanda struck me in a very different way. The Holocaust lasted 12 years, and there were six million murders. But in Rwanda, the genocide lasted only four months, and almost a million Tutsis were murdered.

We just returned from New Orleans, and we toured this plantation with this great guide. And I heard some of the stories that happened to black children, and saw pictures and I thought, “When does the world really learn?” That should have been already a message. Then I found out the plantation was owned by Germans. It blew my mind. [Laughter]. And we’re laughing about it. How terrible!

Pearlstein: This is why I chose Renee. She doesn’t just look at the Holocaust with blinders on. She sees every genocide. She has this experience in New Orleans. She’s had this experience in Rwanda. She’s constantly talking to people about “Never Forget.” But “Never Forget” what happened here, either… 

I like the way you parse out the difference between jokes about the Holocaust vs. jokes against Nazis. Can you discuss this?

Pearlstein: I was filming a bunch of comedians, and I wanted them to bring humor to the interviews, and not feel—because of the topic—that they had to be serious. I wanted to disarm them by starting with “Do you have a Holocaust joke?” And that set a tone for the interview. I didn’t realize this until I had done a couple of interviews. They would always say, “I don’t have a Holocaust joke, but I have a Nazi joke.” So by the time I met Judy Gold, I changed the question. I explained I used to ask for a Holocaust joke, but then I learned about the distinction. She was like, “Oh, I have a Holocaust joke!” She was the first person to claim it and be proud. I thought, Wow!

Edwards: If you look at the two jokes Joan Rivers gets in trouble with in the movie, they are at the expense of Germans. They should be in that tradition of Mel Brooks and Charlie Chaplin. But she mentions the facts—ovens, gas. She dares to bring in the machinery.Is it inappropriate to joke about the Holocaust? Is it acceptable to make fun of slavery? Can we find humor in topics like cancer and AIDS? Is it too soon to crack wise about 9/11? These are some of the questions raised by “The Last Laugh,” director Ferne Pearlstein’s thoughtful, provocative, and yes, funny documentary about Holocaust humor that premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival last week.

Pearlstein, who co-wrote the film with her husband, Robert Edwards, makes her case by using an array of clips from Mel Brook’s audacious “The Producers,” to Sarah Silverman’s outrageous stand-up concert film, “Jesus is Magic,” to even those Holocaust “comedies” such as “The Day the Clown Cried” and “Life is Beautiful.” But she also balances the gallows humor with scenes featuring Renee Firestone, a Holocaust survivor who has an upbeat, optimistic view of life, but still doesn’t laugh at every joke.

Whether viewers will be amused or angered by “The Last Laugh” remains to be seen, but the writers and actors and comedians interviewed in the film, which include Mel Brooks, Sarah Silverman, Carl and Rob Reiner, Judy Gold, Gilbert Gottfried, Etgar Keret, and Lisa Lampanelli, along with Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League, weigh in on what’s offensive, and how, why, and where (as well as if) they find humor in the Holocaust.

Salon met with Pearlstein, Edwards and Firestone to see who gets “The Last Laugh.”

I really appreciate that you have made a film about a taboo topic. What made you forge ahead with this project, and what resistance did you encounter, if any?

Pearlstein: We encountered a lot of resistance in a different ways than I think you would expect. In trying to make the film, the first people we came in contact with were people looking for funding, or comedians who would work with us. It wasn’t until all of that was in place that we met Renee, which was 2011.

Edwards: But we had been working on it since 1998. She had been working on the film since 1993.

Firestone: You’re kidding!?

Pearlstein: In the film we talk about how things change over time. Talk about things changing over time—the resistance, or reaction in 1993 or 1998, when we talked about the subject of this film, until now, is dramatically different. Even in 2011, when we met Renee, it was still walking on eggshells. I imagined hate mail and protesting. That’s how much things have changed. I feel like we’re getting a different response. There have been so many types of satire over taboo subjects lately. The world is more schooled in it now.

Edwards: That’s kind of the point of the film—time is passing, and even in the interim of making the film the public response to the Holocaust is different. It’s changing all the time and will continue to change. Some of the examples of humor from the time period, which we researched—which were very shocking then—don’t feel shocking now. 70 years have gone by. You bring up 9/11, or child molestation or AIDS—other issues elicit a shocking response from people.

Pearlstein: Because that’s something they can remember. If you can remember it, it’s still taboo in a weird way.

You alternate a joke with a scene of drama, such as Renee recounting being examined by Dr. Mengele. Can you describe the structure of your film?

Pearlstein: The opening was so hard, because we had to strike that balance, and interweave two film styles. We also had to give the audience permission to laugh.

Edwards: And we also had to let the audience know early on that we were going to do that. Ferne was very adamant not to just have talking heads and clips, but an observational element to it. To combine those is very hard, never mind the subject matter…it was tricky. It was in the editing, not the planning. It was a very delicate process to walk that line.

I suspect Jewish film festivals might be disinclined to show your film. How do you think the Jewish audiences will respond?

Pearlstein: A lot of Jewish film festivals are writing me about the film on a daily basis.

Edwards: It could be the programmers are interested. We don’t know what the audience response will be. This film is not a comedy. It’s about comedy and it’s a film about bad taste. Ferne has made it in a tasteful way, in my opinion. We hope people understand this documentary itself is not trying to make light of any kind of tragedy, but illuminate it in a way that is new and fresh.

Pearlstein: And that’s why it was so important to bring Renee on. Here’s a woman who is not a comedian, but she has a good sense of humor. It shows through in every conversation, every experience she has. She can tell a story about one of her darkest situations, and she will still put a joke in there, almost every time.

Firestone: I remember when Mengele questioned me, “Who in [your] family is Jewish?” I thought it was ridiculous. I laughed at it. He kept asking me about my mother, my father, my grandparents. And I thought go myself: Here I am, with all these Jews. We don’t know where we are going, or what’s going to happen to us, and that’s what he wants to know—whether my parents are Jewish? I mean, what else would I be doing here? If you think about it, it’s really funny. And that was before I knew where I was, or what the place was about. Before my head was shaved, or I was undressed. Humor is not fun. That’s the difference for me. To make fun of something, or laugh about something, it’s different than if you talk about humor. When we looked at each other with the shaved heads, it was funny—we looked ridiculous. We had no idea why they did it to us. It was a terrible what they did to us, but when we looked at each other, we looked ridiculous. We didn’t make jokes about it.

Pearlstein: People look back on that era and close it off to humor, but most of the European Jews who were going to the camps experienced years of discrimination and anti-Semitism. They got off that train, and [experienced] another form of degradation, and it’s terrible. But they didn’t think they were going that day to their death. It’s only in retrospect that we know what happened. So when Renee tells that story, and she says, “I see my friend, and we looked at each other, and they were wearing these huge outfits, and whatever…” it was a little funny.

I like the exchanges between Renee and her friend Elly, two survivors who have different outlooks on life. You can’t deny people their feelings and sensitivities; it is wrong to make jokes that might offend them?

Firestone: Jokes about the Holocaust are not proper. About the perpetrators, I don’t care, but about our situation, nothing is really funny. As I say, to make fun, and to have a sense of humor are two different things.

Several interviewees describe humor as being a coping mechanism for horror. Renee says that when she remembers she cries, but when she doesn’t, she laughs. There is also talk about time passing, which makes taboo humor acceptable. Can you talk about these aspects addressed in your film?

Edwards: When Gilbert Gottfried says in the film, “Why wait!?” [a reversal on “too soon?”], it is funny. But I think we all understand why people wait. We can’t joke about Lincoln’s assassination that night. That’s the joke. The passage of time changes it. It’s context, which is really the bigger issue. We started out talking about this film and jokes and humor feels very different depending on who says it, when they say it, and what context they say it in. If it’s self-deprecating within the group, as opposed to the oppressor making the same joke, it’s all context.

Firestone: That’s true also, that the Holocaust survivors, amongst themselves, will talk about some funny things. They won’t tell it to anyone who wasn’t there.

Pearlstein: That’s right, and children of survivors have a very dark sense of humor amongst themselves. I tried to uncover that [with Etgar Keret]. They will tell jokes to each other, which is also letting off steam. It’s not an easy existence as the child of a survivor. They are survivors of a tragedy they didn’t experience, so it’s bigger in their imagination. And that can be very horrifying. 

Joan Rivers got into hot water for her Holocaust humor, but she defends it as “creating awareness.” Sarah Silverman jokes about the “alleged Holocaust,” mocking Holocaust deniers and gets a laugh. It’s all contextual, but one gets in trouble and one gets by. Can you defend either position?

Edwards: It’s hard to explain why one comedian gets a pass and another doesn’t. It depends on lots of things, like the audience, and their history. But this issue of opening the door to abuse is in the film. Within the community of survivors and the Jewish community, where this kind of humor is somewhat acceptable, there is the fear that once the door is open, the next thing you know is Neo-Nazis adopting the same [humor]. And we get at that with Sasha Baron Cohen, and with “All in the Family.” It is like Sarah [Silverman] says, “Once you tell the joke, it’s no longer yours. You can’t control how it’s inferred.” When people laugh at the wrong thing, then you get into a Free Speech argument: Should you never make these jokes, or any art form for fear it will be misinterpreted? Then you have a really chilling effect.

Pearlstein: Context is really important. We saw Sarah Silverman’s early days of “Jesus is Magic” in a little black box theatre on Bleecker Street, and we laughed. She did 15-20 minutes of Holocaust jokes, and in that community of people, it was very funny. I had Renee watch YouTube clips of Holocaust jokes, and I blanched while I was filming that. The context of seeing these jokes through the eyes of a 90-year-old survivor was different.

Whenever another Holocaust film comes out, a friend of minewho’s Jewish, mind yousays, “Holocaust, Smolocaust.” She finds the topic overworked in cinema. What can you say about people who are tired of hearing about the Holocaust?

Edwards: The point of Holocaust fatigue is another one the movie gets at. The subject feels overworked, but that’s as dangerous as joking about it. When it gets to the point where people roll their eyes and it has no effect anymore, then you have a real problem. We are looking for new ways to approach this topic that feels overworked, and humor is one—because it has hardly ever been approached. Ferne is always mindful of the seriousness of the subject matter and the tragedy, and not let it become fodder for comedy.

Pearlstein: And it’s a way to get eye-rollers in the theater to see something they haven’t seen.

Renee, you have been an activist for other genocides, such as Rwanda. What observations do you have about these tragedies?

Firestone: The difference between genocide and the Holocaust is that none of the other genocides concentrated on children. Most of the genocides are about adults. The [Nazis] concentrated on the children so there is no future. There is no other genocide where they used modern technology to destroy groups of people. Every other genocide was individuals being killed. To date, 1½ million children were put in a room and gassed—it was the way it was performed. It was industrial wholesale slaughter. It’s interesting that Rwanda struck me in a very different way. The Holocaust lasted 12 years, and there were six million murders. But in Rwanda, the genocide lasted only four months, and almost a million Tutsis were murdered.

We just returned from New Orleans, and we toured this plantation with this great guide. And I heard some of the stories that happened to black children, and saw pictures and I thought, “When does the world really learn?” That should have been already a message. Then I found out the plantation was owned by Germans. It blew my mind. [Laughter]. And we’re laughing about it. How terrible!

Pearlstein: This is why I chose Renee. She doesn’t just look at the Holocaust with blinders on. She sees every genocide. She has this experience in New Orleans. She’s had this experience in Rwanda. She’s constantly talking to people about “Never Forget.” But “Never Forget” what happened here, either… 

I like the way you parse out the difference between jokes about the Holocaust vs. jokes against Nazis. Can you discuss this?

Pearlstein: I was filming a bunch of comedians, and I wanted them to bring humor to the interviews, and not feel—because of the topic—that they had to be serious. I wanted to disarm them by starting with “Do you have a Holocaust joke?” And that set a tone for the interview. I didn’t realize this until I had done a couple of interviews. They would always say, “I don’t have a Holocaust joke, but I have a Nazi joke.” So by the time I met Judy Gold, I changed the question. I explained I used to ask for a Holocaust joke, but then I learned about the distinction. She was like, “Oh, I have a Holocaust joke!” She was the first person to claim it and be proud. I thought, Wow!

Edwards: If you look at the two jokes Joan Rivers gets in trouble with in the movie, they are at the expense of Germans. They should be in that tradition of Mel Brooks and Charlie Chaplin. But she mentions the facts—ovens, gas. She dares to bring in the machinery.

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Charles Koch goes full Tyrion Lannister: His threat to back Hillary hints at the brothers’ devious game of thrones

In a tactical maneuver worthy of Machiavelli — or perhaps of Tyrion Lannister, the manipulative dwarf-genius played by Peter Dinklage on “Game of Thrones” — billionaire businessman Charles Koch hinted this weekend that he and his brother are so unhappy with the current implosion of the Republican Party that they might support Hillary Clinton instead. When asked during an ABC News interview whether Clinton might be preferable as president to either Donald Trump or Ted Cruz, Koch said, “Let me put it that way: It’s possible.”

A million gleeful, puzzled or outraged social-media posts followed. Was the GOP’s best-known bankroller, half of the two-faced Sun King at the tippety-top of the 1 percent, merely being “facetious,” as a Guardian story put it? Was Chuck trolling his so-called friends and sworn enemies with an idle jest? Was it simply frustration talking? Was he, mirabile dictu, being sincere about preferring a more or less known quantity to the Pennywise-the-Clown horror-show of a Cruz or Trump presidency? I don’t know and it doesn’t much matter; one can only gape in admiration.

I’m completely serious. Even by Kochian mind-control standards, that was a mini-masterstroke, sowing terror and confusion in all directions. Who were the Koch brothers seeking to undermine with this seemingly bizarre pronouncement, and who were they trying to help? Was this meant to make the surviving Republican candidates come crawling back, or was it an ass-backward false-flag attack on Clinton, designed to boost Bernie Sanders’ fading campaign? Is this the beginning of a fateful alliance of former foes that will sweep its way to the throne, with the Kochs jointly playing Tyrion and Hillary Clinton as Daenerys Targaryen, the fearsome Mother of Dragons?

One can hypothesize, but it’s like medieval scholarly debates about the physical substance of angels or the omnipresence of God: Human language fails to capture the all-encompassing essence of the thing in question. One answer might be that the current state of reality displeases the Kochs, and they have set out (yet again) to reshape it to their desired coordinates. Another interpretation is that they were simply reminding us that they remain in power no matter who wins, and no matter what that person may have said to get elected.

One payoff arrived almost immediately, when Clinton felt compelled to issue a statement assuring us she had no intention of riding into town on a Koch-fueled dragon. She was, she tweeted, “not interested in endorsements from people who deny climate science and try to make it harder for people to vote.” I am not devoid of empathy for the Clinton campaign in this context, which was the veritable definition of a no-win situation. To begin with, spurning the support of any super-rich people can only be painful, and runs deeply counter to the Clinton Way of Knowledge.

Clinton had no choice, of course, but the cloudy strangeness of that tweet, a non-sentence with no clear subject or object, is the result of Kochian black magic at work. Some unspecified person does not want the endorsement of unspecified others, for these specific reasons. Are those the only reasons a candidate should reject the Kochs’ backing, or even the main ones? Does that imply that if the brothers took a more enlightened view of climate change and the Voting Rights Act, Clinton would be happy to make friends?

I don’t claim any of that will make a significant difference in the Democratic race, or that the campaign ads Bernie Sanders’ team is no doubt constructing from that material at this moment can sway many hearts and minds in Connecticut and Maryland and Pennsylvania and the other Northeastern states that vote on Tuesday. But that indirect and terrified Clinton tweet is like a million unforced errors in one; phrased more honestly, and perhaps more effectively, it would say, “Get thee behind me, Satan.” It should serve notice that even when it looks like the Kochs have lost their ability to control political outcomes, they still have the power to cloud men’s minds, like the mysterious hero of the old radio serial “The Shadow.” Women’s minds too!

When I say that the left has persistently underestimated the political agility and ideological commitment of the Koch brothers and continues to do so, I don’t mean activists or political opponents who have directly struggled with the range and depth of their strategy. But I think too many commentators and too much of the left-liberal public fall back on lazy stereotypes: A couple of greedy rich guys who aren’t all that bright and whose motives are transparent, seeking to safeguard their giant piles of money and reward their friends while corrupting the political process.

I believe that’s wrong on every level. The Kochs are intelligent men driven by complicated but entirely sincere ideological convictions that go far beyond self-interest. Their strategy is highly sophisticated and has multiple valences, and they genuinely believe that their Citizens United vision of a capital-dominated, quasi-libertarian pseudo-democracy is the best bet for ensuring American prosperity and social order over the long term. They are not racists or xenophobes, at least not in the Trump-Cruz pandering fashion. One can certainly argue that the economic policies they advocate have pernicious social effects that are amplified by racial disparities, but that’s a different question.

If anything, the Kochs have actively sought to decouple the Republican brand from the politics of whiteness, which they (correctly) perceive as toxic to the party’s long-term electoral health. The Charles Koch Institute, one of the brothers’ dozen or so nonprofits, has devoted significant resources to exploring criminal justice reform, and has worked with many individuals and institutions far outside the conservative comfort zone, including the ACLU, the MacArthur Foundation, Van Jones, and Black Lives Matter activist turned Baltimore mayoral candidate DeRay Mckesson. Similarly, the Kochs are not much interested in the GOP laundry list of troglodyte social issues, and have sought to steer the party away from such obsessions. David Koch spends much of the year in Manhattan and is perhaps the city’s most prominent balletomane; New York City Ballet’s home in Lincoln Center now bears his name. Do you suppose he has some major personal problem with gay people?

If the Kochs were really and truly driven by greed, they wouldn’t have bothered spending all that money in all those directions. They could do what most really rich people do, which is what Donald Trump did for years: Spread the money around in politics, and make sure you don’t miss the winners. They are driven by a desire for power, but not purely for its own sake (another difference from Trump). They want power because they believe they are uniquely enlightened and uniquely qualified to wield it, and it suits their cause just fine if you and I convince ourselves they’re nothing more than rich and obvious rubes.

All of which is to say that the Koch brothers are almost always more dangerous than they look, even in a state of apparent dejection and defeat. Do they have transcripts or tapes documenting whatever the hell Hillary Clinton said to all those Wall Street bankers? (I didn’t even think of that until just now.) One could apply much the same formula to Tyrion Lannister: Those in Westeros who have fallen afoul of his devious and far-reaching intelligence have learned to appreciate it (however briefly), but to much of the realm he remains a ridiculous little man driven by greed and envy. Whether this weekend’s Koch-Clinton dance of dragons is a premonition of scourging fires ahead I couldn’t tell you. But the Koch brothers, as usual, are several moves ahead of us in the game of thrones.In a tactical maneuver worthy of Machiavelli — or perhaps of Tyrion Lannister, the manipulative dwarf-genius played by Peter Dinklage on “Game of Thrones” — billionaire businessman Charles Koch hinted this weekend that he and his brother are so unhappy with the current implosion of the Republican Party that they might support Hillary Clinton instead. When asked during an ABC News interview whether Clinton might be preferable as president to either Donald Trump or Ted Cruz, Koch said, “Let me put it that way: It’s possible.”

A million gleeful, puzzled or outraged social-media posts followed. Was the GOP’s best-known bankroller, half of the two-faced Sun King at the tippety-top of the 1 percent, merely being “facetious,” as a Guardian story put it? Was Chuck trolling his so-called friends and sworn enemies with an idle jest? Was it simply frustration talking? Was he, mirabile dictu, being sincere about preferring a more or less known quantity to the Pennywise-the-Clown horror-show of a Cruz or Trump presidency? I don’t know and it doesn’t much matter; one can only gape in admiration.

I’m completely serious. Even by Kochian mind-control standards, that was a mini-masterstroke, sowing terror and confusion in all directions. Who were the Koch brothers seeking to undermine with this seemingly bizarre pronouncement, and who were they trying to help? Was this meant to make the surviving Republican candidates come crawling back, or was it an ass-backward false-flag attack on Clinton, designed to boost Bernie Sanders’ fading campaign? Is this the beginning of a fateful alliance of former foes that will sweep its way to the throne, with the Kochs jointly playing Tyrion and Hillary Clinton as Daenerys Targaryen, the fearsome Mother of Dragons?

One can hypothesize, but it’s like medieval scholarly debates about the physical substance of angels or the omnipresence of God: Human language fails to capture the all-encompassing essence of the thing in question. One answer might be that the current state of reality displeases the Kochs, and they have set out (yet again) to reshape it to their desired coordinates. Another interpretation is that they were simply reminding us that they remain in power no matter who wins, and no matter what that person may have said to get elected.

One payoff arrived almost immediately, when Clinton felt compelled to issue a statement assuring us she had no intention of riding into town on a Koch-fueled dragon. She was, she tweeted, “not interested in endorsements from people who deny climate science and try to make it harder for people to vote.” I am not devoid of empathy for the Clinton campaign in this context, which was the veritable definition of a no-win situation. To begin with, spurning the support of any super-rich people can only be painful, and runs deeply counter to the Clinton Way of Knowledge.

Clinton had no choice, of course, but the cloudy strangeness of that tweet, a non-sentence with no clear subject or object, is the result of Kochian black magic at work. Some unspecified person does not want the endorsement of unspecified others, for these specific reasons. Are those the only reasons a candidate should reject the Kochs’ backing, or even the main ones? Does that imply that if the brothers took a more enlightened view of climate change and the Voting Rights Act, Clinton would be happy to make friends?

I don’t claim any of that will make a significant difference in the Democratic race, or that the campaign ads Bernie Sanders’ team is no doubt constructing from that material at this moment can sway many hearts and minds in Connecticut and Maryland and Pennsylvania and the other Northeastern states that vote on Tuesday. But that indirect and terrified Clinton tweet is like a million unforced errors in one; phrased more honestly, and perhaps more effectively, it would say, “Get thee behind me, Satan.” It should serve notice that even when it looks like the Kochs have lost their ability to control political outcomes, they still have the power to cloud men’s minds, like the mysterious hero of the old radio serial “The Shadow.” Women’s minds too!

When I say that the left has persistently underestimated the political agility and ideological commitment of the Koch brothers and continues to do so, I don’t mean activists or political opponents who have directly struggled with the range and depth of their strategy. But I think too many commentators and too much of the left-liberal public fall back on lazy stereotypes: A couple of greedy rich guys who aren’t all that bright and whose motives are transparent, seeking to safeguard their giant piles of money and reward their friends while corrupting the political process.

I believe that’s wrong on every level. The Kochs are intelligent men driven by complicated but entirely sincere ideological convictions that go far beyond self-interest. Their strategy is highly sophisticated and has multiple valences, and they genuinely believe that their Citizens United vision of a capital-dominated, quasi-libertarian pseudo-democracy is the best bet for ensuring American prosperity and social order over the long term. They are not racists or xenophobes, at least not in the Trump-Cruz pandering fashion. One can certainly argue that the economic policies they advocate have pernicious social effects that are amplified by racial disparities, but that’s a different question.

If anything, the Kochs have actively sought to decouple the Republican brand from the politics of whiteness, which they (correctly) perceive as toxic to the party’s long-term electoral health. The Charles Koch Institute, one of the brothers’ dozen or so nonprofits, has devoted significant resources to exploring criminal justice reform, and has worked with many individuals and institutions far outside the conservative comfort zone, including the ACLU, the MacArthur Foundation, Van Jones, and Black Lives Matter activist turned Baltimore mayoral candidate DeRay Mckesson. Similarly, the Kochs are not much interested in the GOP laundry list of troglodyte social issues, and have sought to steer the party away from such obsessions. David Koch spends much of the year in Manhattan and is perhaps the city’s most prominent balletomane; New York City Ballet’s home in Lincoln Center now bears his name. Do you suppose he has some major personal problem with gay people?

If the Kochs were really and truly driven by greed, they wouldn’t have bothered spending all that money in all those directions. They could do what most really rich people do, which is what Donald Trump did for years: Spread the money around in politics, and make sure you don’t miss the winners. They are driven by a desire for power, but not purely for its own sake (another difference from Trump). They want power because they believe they are uniquely enlightened and uniquely qualified to wield it, and it suits their cause just fine if you and I convince ourselves they’re nothing more than rich and obvious rubes.

All of which is to say that the Koch brothers are almost always more dangerous than they look, even in a state of apparent dejection and defeat. Do they have transcripts or tapes documenting whatever the hell Hillary Clinton said to all those Wall Street bankers? (I didn’t even think of that until just now.) One could apply much the same formula to Tyrion Lannister: Those in Westeros who have fallen afoul of his devious and far-reaching intelligence have learned to appreciate it (however briefly), but to much of the realm he remains a ridiculous little man driven by greed and envy. Whether this weekend’s Koch-Clinton dance of dragons is a premonition of scourging fires ahead I couldn’t tell you. But the Koch brothers, as usual, are several moves ahead of us in the game of thrones.

Continue Reading…

Source: New feed

Beyoncé’s radical invitation: In “Lemonade,” a blueprint for black women working through pain

Beyoncé just shared her testimony through the ministry of song. Saturday night on HBO, Queen Bey took us through the visual anthology of her highly-anticipated album “Lemonade,” a narrative of grief, told in stages — intuition, denial, anger, apathy, emptiness, accountability, reformation and forgiveness. Watching her acknowledgement of this inner battle unfold is like witnessing a Black Girl Magic Super Bowl — it’s that powerful.

Interspersed between new songs are visceral monologues by Somali-British poet Warsan Shire. One minute you’re cheering, yassss come through! as fierce bat-wielding Beyoncé slays in a yellow gown, and the next you’re tearing up as mothers of sons killed at the hands of police officers show pictures of their children. Beyoncé also gives us an autobiographical sketch of her Houston, Texas, upbringing, complete with footage, and video of Jay Z’s grandmother making a speech on her 90th birthday: “I was served lemons, but I made lemonade.”

“Lemonade” is Beyoncé’s personal story as much as it is ours as African American women (sorry, Becky). She did this one for us. Her story is one of resilience, pushing past pain with superwoman strength. At the same time, she signals she’s done wearing the “I’m good” façade — it hurts, and we’ve done it for too long. Instead, Beyoncé gives us a play-by-play on how she has coped with pain, and how we might be able to as well. It’s more than having sister-girl venting sessions — it’s being really present with ourselves and allowing one another to be confident with our own emotions. It’s important that we affirm in one another that there is nothing wrong with being angry, sad and being completely over everything, but we also have to understand that we can’t stay down in that place. As Beyoncé sings about the burden of her grief, she doesn’t shy away from unpacking her historical self. She flashes between present and past shots to bring historical context to her visuals, just as she did in her black power anthem “Formation.”

In the opening, she lays the foundation for the message and tone of the album. We find Beyoncé kneeling down in front of a red curtain with a black hoodie on, as she explores the role intuition plays in reading the signs, or rumors, of infidelity. She questions whether or not the man in her narrative — widely interpreted by fans as commentary on her husband, Jay Z, and rumors about his alleged infidelity — is cheating and attempts to affirm that there is no way this could happen: “They don’t love you like I do, and they don’t love you like I do.” While she’s trying to self-affirm, we see her drowning in the waters of her own self-doubt.

She goes through everything that she went through in order to regain her sense of self-worth and identity, from reading the Bible to changing the way she looked in the first track. So many of us can relate to the idea of looking for our identity in men, even if the relationship is dysfunctional—we always go back to ourselves and attempt to fix some aspect of ourselves in order to appease a man’s perceived wants and needs.

Beyoncé moves into the chapter of denial as she comes through smashing the windows out of cars with a bat and driving a monster truck over a line of parked cars. The women witnessing Queen Bey’s aggression react with both shock and head-nodding approval. Once she’s done denying everything, we see angry Beyoncé in the next chapter, “Don’t Hurt Yourself.” She’s still not over the betrayal. This time around though, she’s brought her girls along with her.

In the words of Shire, whose poems become monologues in “Lemonade”:

If this what you truly want. I can wear her skin over mine. Her hair, over mine, her hands as gloves, her teeth as confetti, her scalp a cap, her sternum, my bedazzled cane. We can pose for a photograph, all three of us, immortalized.

You and your perfect girl…. Why can’t you see me? Everyone else can.

We see a group of women all wearing white and joined together in a circle; she understands that her story could be any of ours. Black women bear the burden of invisibility politics, being the mule, but never being acknowledged. It’s been an ongoing struggle throughout history for proper representation — whether a voice in the political arena or the proper representations of our fly in the media, without the nuances of being hyper-sexualized.

The voice of Malcolm X reminds us that this is issue is bigger than one relationship’s conflicts. “The most disrespected person in America is the black woman, the most unprotected person in America is the black woman, the most neglected person in America is the black woman.”  We see as other women join in the narrative and band together through dance—in formation. In “Sorry,” Beyoncé makes it clear that she won’t be accepting any attempted apologies. Instead, she’s going to move forward with living her life. “You better call Becky with the good hair, you better call Becky with the good hair” she sings as the song comes to a close. (“Becky” is a slang term for a white woman.She uses that anger and frustration to move on to a place of self-empowerment, as she reminds women to keep on grinding, no matter what.

And then, the most turned-up all-girls party begins. Beyoncé sits nonchalantly in a bodysuit with Serena Williams twerking at her side — yeah, that happened. She’s over everything as she sings, “suck my balls.” (WHAT!) Beyoncé: a champion in the entertainment world; Serena Williams, a champion athlete. They come together to let us know that they got this—men aside, they are going to keep on winning no matter what.

But despite the efforts to look as though she is winning, Beyoncé finds herself feeling empty.  

In this next chapter we find her in a red dress, surrounded by fire:

She sleeps all day, dreams of you in both worlds…Grief, sedated by orgasm. Orgasm heightened by grief. God was in the room when the man said to the woman, “I love you so much, wrap your legs around me and pull me in, pull me in, pull me in.” Sometimes when he’d have her nipple in his mouth, she’d whisper “Oh my God.” That too is a form of worship.

She then goes off in “Six Inch,” and introduces a new form of feminism, one where stripping is praised—“she worth every dollar and she’s worth every minute — making it clear that when we talk about black women’s empowerment, we aren’t shaming a sister for choosing to use her body to make money. We move into a stage of accountability. We find her getting candid about her turbulent relationship with her father. The scene cuts between old footage of her with her father, and alone, in an Afro-centric ball gown. She poses a series of questions:

Did he bend your reflection? Did he make you forget your own name? Did he convince you he was a god? Did you get on your knees daily? Do his eyes close like doors? Are you a slave to the back of his hand? Am I talking about your husband or your father?

Once we address the pain that has been brought into our lives through fraught relationships, “Lemonade” suggests, we can go be reborn. We see a group a women together wade into the water wearing all white, and it’s spiritual. The scene feels like a southern baptismal moment—any moment you’re waiting for them to breakout into a hymn. However, this moment of soul baptism is set to “Love Drought,” — without internalizing the pain, the power of love can “move a mountain,” “calm a war down,” “make it rain now.” This moment brings the arc of her testimony full circle — she started off feeling pinned down by the waters of self-doubt, and now she comes back up with  a new understanding of love.

Once the relationship with love is made new, forgiveness can happen. We see Jay, finally, and Beyoncé loving on one another in a very beautiful, PG-rated way. In the first song she sings, “I tried to make a home out of you.” “Sandcastles” brings this image full circle — the “home” as a fragile structure that can break when the water comes through, but can also be rebuilt.

The pain in “Lemonade” is not all personal — in “Forward,” she features mothers who have lost their sons to police brutality holding up their pictures: Sybrina Fulton, mother of Trayvon Martin; Lesley McSpadden, Mike Brown’s mother; and Gwen Carr, Eric Garner’s mother. Once she’s done unpacking past and present pain, Beyoncé ushers in with, “Freedom song,” featuring Kendrick Lamar: “Freedom! Freedom! I can’t move/ Freedom, cut me loose…. I break chains all by myself.” This empowering song calls forth our truth.

And finally, redemption — Beyoncé unveils the preservation of her love. We see shots of Jay and Beyoncé celebrating their daughter’s birthday together and of them playing in the middle of an empty football stadium. To bring the narrative full circle there’s also footage from Jay Z and Beyoncé’s wedding, a shot of Beyoncé’s mom, Tina, dancing with her husband. It’s all set to the album’s penultimate track “All Night” — a song about starting again: “Our love was stronger than your pride / Beyond your darkness, I’m your light.”

The power of love is what will set us free; however, it’s important that we give each other the time and space to recover and become whole again. It is through this process that an awakening can happen — for us and for our communities.

As a culture, we haven’t created spaces for — let alone acknowledged the mental health needs of — African American women. We are forced to move through trauma, somehow, like nothing has happened, no damage has been done and no healing has ever been needed. “Lemonade” rejects that. Beyoncé uses her platform to encourage black women to accept that bottling our emotions won’t help us get free. Instead, she’s insisting that we take time and release our pain, so it no longer burdens us. Beyoncé just shared her testimony through the ministry of song. Saturday night on HBO, Queen Bey took us through the visual anthology of her highly-anticipated album “Lemonade,” a narrative of grief, told in stages — intuition, denial, anger, apathy, emptiness, accountability, reformation and forgiveness. Watching her acknowledgement of this inner battle unfold is like witnessing a Black Girl Magic Super Bowl — it’s that powerful.

Interspersed between new songs are visceral monologues by Somali-British poet Warsan Shire. One minute you’re cheering, yassss come through! as fierce bat-wielding Beyoncé slays in a yellow gown, and the next you’re tearing up as mothers of sons killed at the hands of police officers show pictures of their children. Beyoncé also gives us an autobiographical sketch of her Houston, Texas, upbringing, complete with footage, and video of Jay Z’s grandmother making a speech on her 90th birthday: “I was served lemons, but I made lemonade.”

“Lemonade” is Beyoncé’s personal story as much as it is ours as African American women (sorry, Becky). She did this one for us. Her story is one of resilience, pushing past pain with superwoman strength. At the same time, she signals she’s done wearing the “I’m good” façade — it hurts, and we’ve done it for too long. Instead, Beyoncé gives us a play-by-play on how she has coped with pain, and how we might be able to as well. It’s more than having sister-girl venting sessions — it’s being really present with ourselves and allowing one another to be confident with our own emotions. It’s important that we affirm in one another that there is nothing wrong with being angry, sad and being completely over everything, but we also have to understand that we can’t stay down in that place. As Beyoncé sings about the burden of her grief, she doesn’t shy away from unpacking her historical self. She flashes between present and past shots to bring historical context to her visuals, just as she did in her black power anthem “Formation.”

In the opening, she lays the foundation for the message and tone of the album. We find Beyoncé kneeling down in front of a red curtain with a black hoodie on, as she explores the role intuition plays in reading the signs, or rumors, of infidelity. She questions whether or not the man in her narrative — widely interpreted by fans as commentary on her husband, Jay Z, and rumors about his alleged infidelity — is cheating and attempts to affirm that there is no way this could happen: “They don’t love you like I do, and they don’t love you like I do.” While she’s trying to self-affirm, we see her drowning in the waters of her own self-doubt.

She goes through everything that she went through in order to regain her sense of self-worth and identity, from reading the Bible to changing the way she looked in the first track. So many of us can relate to the idea of looking for our identity in men, even if the relationship is dysfunctional—we always go back to ourselves and attempt to fix some aspect of ourselves in order to appease a man’s perceived wants and needs.

Beyoncé moves into the chapter of denial as she comes through smashing the windows out of cars with a bat and driving a monster truck over a line of parked cars. The women witnessing Queen Bey’s aggression react with both shock and head-nodding approval. Once she’s done denying everything, we see angry Beyoncé in the next chapter, “Don’t Hurt Yourself.” She’s still not over the betrayal. This time around though, she’s brought her girls along with her.

In the words of Shire, whose poems become monologues in “Lemonade”:

If this what you truly want. I can wear her skin over mine. Her hair, over mine, her hands as gloves, her teeth as confetti, her scalp a cap, her sternum, my bedazzled cane. We can pose for a photograph, all three of us, immortalized.

You and your perfect girl…. Why can’t you see me? Everyone else can.

We see a group of women all wearing white and joined together in a circle; she understands that her story could be any of ours. Black women bear the burden of invisibility politics, being the mule, but never being acknowledged. It’s been an ongoing struggle throughout history for proper representation — whether a voice in the political arena or the proper representations of our fly in the media, without the nuances of being hyper-sexualized.

The voice of Malcolm X reminds us that this is issue is bigger than one relationship’s conflicts. “The most disrespected person in America is the black woman, the most unprotected person in America is the black woman, the most neglected person in America is the black woman.”  We see as other women join in the narrative and band together through dance—in formation. In “Sorry,” Beyoncé makes it clear that she won’t be accepting any attempted apologies. Instead, she’s going to move forward with living her life. “You better call Becky with the good hair, you better call Becky with the good hair” she sings as the song comes to a close. (“Becky” is a slang term for a white woman.She uses that anger and frustration to move on to a place of self-empowerment, as she reminds women to keep on grinding, no matter what.

And then, the most turned-up all-girls party begins. Beyoncé sits nonchalantly in a bodysuit with Serena Williams twerking at her side — yeah, that happened. She’s over everything as she sings, “suck my balls.” (WHAT!) Beyoncé: a champion in the entertainment world; Serena Williams, a champion athlete. They come together to let us know that they got this—men aside, they are going to keep on winning no matter what.

But despite the efforts to look as though she is winning, Beyoncé finds herself feeling empty.  

In this next chapter we find her in a red dress, surrounded by fire:

She sleeps all day, dreams of you in both worlds…Grief, sedated by orgasm. Orgasm heightened by grief. God was in the room when the man said to the woman, “I love you so much, wrap your legs around me and pull me in, pull me in, pull me in.” Sometimes when he’d have her nipple in his mouth, she’d whisper “Oh my God.” That too is a form of worship.

She then goes off in “Six Inch,” and introduces a new form of feminism, one where stripping is praised—“she worth every dollar and she’s worth every minute — making it clear that when we talk about black women’s empowerment, we aren’t shaming a sister for choosing to use her body to make money. We move into a stage of accountability. We find her getting candid about her turbulent relationship with her father. The scene cuts between old footage of her with her father, and alone, in an Afro-centric ball gown. She poses a series of questions:

Did he bend your reflection? Did he make you forget your own name? Did he convince you he was a god? Did you get on your knees daily? Do his eyes close like doors? Are you a slave to the back of his hand? Am I talking about your husband or your father?

Once we address the pain that has been brought into our lives through fraught relationships, “Lemonade” suggests, we can go be reborn. We see a group a women together wade into the water wearing all white, and it’s spiritual. The scene feels like a southern baptismal moment—any moment you’re waiting for them to breakout into a hymn. However, this moment of soul baptism is set to “Love Drought,” — without internalizing the pain, the power of love can “move a mountain,” “calm a war down,” “make it rain now.” This moment brings the arc of her testimony full circle — she started off feeling pinned down by the waters of self-doubt, and now she comes back up with  a new understanding of love.

Once the relationship with love is made new, forgiveness can happen. We see Jay, finally, and Beyoncé loving on one another in a very beautiful, PG-rated way. In the first song she sings, “I tried to make a home out of you.” “Sandcastles” brings this image full circle — the “home” as a fragile structure that can break when the water comes through, but can also be rebuilt.

The pain in “Lemonade” is not all personal — in “Forward,” she features mothers who have lost their sons to police brutality holding up their pictures: Sybrina Fulton, mother of Trayvon Martin; Lesley McSpadden, Mike Brown’s mother; and Gwen Carr, Eric Garner’s mother. Once she’s done unpacking past and present pain, Beyoncé ushers in with, “Freedom song,” featuring Kendrick Lamar: “Freedom! Freedom! I can’t move/ Freedom, cut me loose…. I break chains all by myself.” This empowering song calls forth our truth.

And finally, redemption — Beyoncé unveils the preservation of her love. We see shots of Jay and Beyoncé celebrating their daughter’s birthday together and of them playing in the middle of an empty football stadium. To bring the narrative full circle there’s also footage from Jay Z and Beyoncé’s wedding, a shot of Beyoncé’s mom, Tina, dancing with her husband. It’s all set to the album’s penultimate track “All Night” — a song about starting again: “Our love was stronger than your pride / Beyond your darkness, I’m your light.”

The power of love is what will set us free; however, it’s important that we give each other the time and space to recover and become whole again. It is through this process that an awakening can happen — for us and for our communities.

As a culture, we haven’t created spaces for — let alone acknowledged the mental health needs of — African American women. We are forced to move through trauma, somehow, like nothing has happened, no damage has been done and no healing has ever been needed. “Lemonade” rejects that. Beyoncé uses her platform to encourage black women to accept that bottling our emotions won’t help us get free. Instead, she’s insisting that we take time and release our pain, so it no longer burdens us.

Continue Reading…

Source: New feed

“Game of Thrones” wings it: Running out of books was the best thing that could happen to the HBO show

Lost, perhaps, in the surprise of seeing Melisandre (Carice Van Houten) revealed as not just nude but haggard, is the more shocking reveal that the red-robed sorceress has decided to do nothing for the rest of the night, even though Jon Snow (Kit Harington)’s death is waiting to be avenged and her compatriot Davos (Liam Cunningham) is holed up in a room at Castle Black. Melisandre is not sweeping through the remaining members of the Night’s Watch with the power and rage that we know she is capable of. Instead she is having a bit of a lie-down, thinking over what comes next.

And for the first time in “Game Of Thrones”’ history, no one knows what happens next except for the showrunners, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss. With Jon Snow’s death at the end of the last season, the source material has completely fallen off. It’s a brave new world here in season six, and as I discussed a bit this morning, the showrunners are making hay with it.

What is interesting is how much room there is for moving forward now. One of the biggest problems of George R.R. Martin’s “A Song Of Ice And Fire” is that the man couldn’t close a plot thread to save his life; five books in, more and more characters were introduced, as were more and more long-buried secrets. Instead of feeling like the story was going to coalesce from many disparate plot points into a coherent, stunning finish, “A Song Of Ice And Fire” increasingly feels like an ink blot that keeps bleeding into a page, and diluting its essence as it goes.

“Game Of Thrones” wants to not do that. HBO chief Michael Lombardo told critics last summer that he anticipated the show would run around eight seasons. That’s two seasons to clean up the show’s deepest mysteries, from the true parentage of Jon Snow to the final occupant of the Iron Throne. A lot has to happen between now and then to make any sort of finale feel plausible. Maybe the reason that critics didn’t get screeners this year is because the show is more wary of spoilers than ever. Certainly, with killing off of most of the population of Dorne and uniting a couple of long-estranged characters, the show has already made quick work of several dangling threads. At this point in the season, we are all Melisandre—taking stock of the day before going to bed, mulling over what happens next.

What is unfortunate for the show is that the books brought things to a weird, unfulfilling narrative point before petering out. It’s hard to imagine anyone making much sense out of the sudden rise of fundamentalism in King’s Landing, or the seemingly endless machinations in Dorne, or the ongoing strife in Meereen. Dany’s story, to my mind, is the most poised for failure; mid-arc in a narrative of occupying power at the top of her pyramid, she’s fled and then quickly been abducted, for a reprisal of the victimhood arc that she already went through in the first season of the show. It doesn’t help that Emilia Clarke, who plays the Mother of Dragons, is not the show’s best actress; the idea of watching another long subplot with her that focuses on her solitary inner journey doesn’t quite make me giddy with anticipation.

But as I wrote this morning, what does excite me for the show moving forward is that it’s discovered who its real heroes are, and is doubling down to create lived-in worlds for them. I am excited to see what Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer) will do to get herself out of her prison, just as I am intrigued by Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen)’s approaching heroic death. [I am less moved by Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and Cersei (Lena Headey)’s emptily passionate love scenes, but I suspect that might be the point.] “Game Of Thrones” has all the material and time it needs now, with a sandbox is free of obstacles for the first time. It time to make some fleeting but beautiful sand castles.Lost, perhaps, in the surprise of seeing Melisandre (Carice Van Houten) revealed as not just nude but haggard, is the more shocking reveal that the red-robed sorceress has decided to do nothing for the rest of the night, even though Jon Snow (Kit Harington)’s death is waiting to be avenged and her compatriot Davos (Liam Cunningham) is holed up in a room at Castle Black. Melisandre is not sweeping through the remaining members of the Night’s Watch with the power and rage that we know she is capable of. Instead she is having a bit of a lie-down, thinking over what comes next.

And for the first time in “Game Of Thrones”’ history, no one knows what happens next except for the showrunners, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss. With Jon Snow’s death at the end of the last season, the source material has completely fallen off. It’s a brave new world here in season six, and as I discussed a bit this morning, the showrunners are making hay with it.

What is interesting is how much room there is for moving forward now. One of the biggest problems of George R.R. Martin’s “A Song Of Ice And Fire” is that the man couldn’t close a plot thread to save his life; five books in, more and more characters were introduced, as were more and more long-buried secrets. Instead of feeling like the story was going to coalesce from many disparate plot points into a coherent, stunning finish, “A Song Of Ice And Fire” increasingly feels like an ink blot that keeps bleeding into a page, and diluting its essence as it goes.

“Game Of Thrones” wants to not do that. HBO chief Michael Lombardo told critics last summer that he anticipated the show would run around eight seasons. That’s two seasons to clean up the show’s deepest mysteries, from the true parentage of Jon Snow to the final occupant of the Iron Throne. A lot has to happen between now and then to make any sort of finale feel plausible. Maybe the reason that critics didn’t get screeners this year is because the show is more wary of spoilers than ever. Certainly, with killing off of most of the population of Dorne and uniting a couple of long-estranged characters, the show has already made quick work of several dangling threads. At this point in the season, we are all Melisandre—taking stock of the day before going to bed, mulling over what happens next.

What is unfortunate for the show is that the books brought things to a weird, unfulfilling narrative point before petering out. It’s hard to imagine anyone making much sense out of the sudden rise of fundamentalism in King’s Landing, or the seemingly endless machinations in Dorne, or the ongoing strife in Meereen. Dany’s story, to my mind, is the most poised for failure; mid-arc in a narrative of occupying power at the top of her pyramid, she’s fled and then quickly been abducted, for a reprisal of the victimhood arc that she already went through in the first season of the show. It doesn’t help that Emilia Clarke, who plays the Mother of Dragons, is not the show’s best actress; the idea of watching another long subplot with her that focuses on her solitary inner journey doesn’t quite make me giddy with anticipation.

But as I wrote this morning, what does excite me for the show moving forward is that it’s discovered who its real heroes are, and is doubling down to create lived-in worlds for them. I am excited to see what Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer) will do to get herself out of her prison, just as I am intrigued by Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen)’s approaching heroic death. [I am less moved by Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and Cersei (Lena Headey)’s emptily passionate love scenes, but I suspect that might be the point.] “Game Of Thrones” has all the material and time it needs now, with a sandbox is free of obstacles for the first time. It time to make some fleeting but beautiful sand castles.

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