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KEITH HARING AT THE DE YOUNG

A quick look at the de Young’s massive new Keith Haring retrospective, The Political Line. Focusing on Haring’s more deliberately political works, the pieces take on consumer culture, technology, sexuality, and racism head on, and span the length of Keith’s short but prolific career.

CAR CRASH STUDIES

Photographer Nicolai Howalt takes us inside demolished automobile interiors

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This morning I passed by a woman who had just hit a fire hydrant. There was water spouting 20 feet into the air, into the street, and onto her car. As she sat in her purple PT Cruiser, thinking about how fucked her Tuesday morning was, I wondered if this poor woman was thankful for anything. Or was she merely caught up in the moment? I mean, it could’ve been worse right?

These ruminations about cars, their utility, and potential destructiveness come to mind when considering the work of Nicolai Howalt. The Copenhagen-born artist’s photographs of accidents up-close relate the carnage of a car accident, situating startling imagery into an aesthetic context. In Nicolai’s collection, Car Crash Studies smashed interiors are juxtaposed against abstract images of warped metal and steel, opening up a dialogue about what kind of artistic merit one can pull out of something so crucial. “I wanted to see if cruelty also could have some beauty in it,” remarked Nicolai, in reference to his photographs. Jarring, but resonant, Nicolai’s photos offer a sobering reminder of an everyday reality, tracing a thin line between beauty and devastation.

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WINE & BOWTIES PRESENTS: WORK IT OUT

We're back in Oakland next weekend to keep the summer festivities in motion

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Wine & Bowties

If shit’s been a little heavy lately, and it has, there’s always something to celebrate. Next weekend, we’ll be gathering some beautiful folks and taking things back to Downtown Oakland, where we hope you’ll join us. For everybody who managed to sweat through their shirts last time, thank you. We’ll be making a few adjustments on your behalf, and we’ll keep the slaps coming. For those of you looking to experience some quality, Oakland-centric cinema, make sure to catch Licks at The New Parkway earlier in the evening, before you make your way over to us. It may be almost August, but as far as the summer goes, it’s looking like the best is yet to come. On a related note, we’ll be making an announcement this Sunday too. For now, stay tuned, and hop on our email list for the address. We’ll be sure to get it out to you in time for the function.

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KING KRULE – “EASY EASY”

London's most precocious songwriter offers up a taste of things to come

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I’d say something clumsy like “mark my words” about this kid, but at this point, they’re not mine to say. A lot of people’s words have described this kid favorably, with a lot of them pointing to a bright and hopeful future, and even more of them finding examples to point to right here in the present. Naturally, when I first heard “Out Getting Ribs” a year or two ago, the first thing I noticed was that voice. Maybe even more so than the Alfred E. Newman good looks. Puberty hit this kid like a brick wall, and left with him a jagged and beautiful instrument for channeling all the angst that comes with being a supremely talented teenager.

In more recent months, I’ve only really heard things from Archy Marshall that confirm all the promise that gorgeous little song hinted at. For one, that prodigious piece of songwriting was no flash in the pan. The brooding “Rock Bottom” and “Octopus”, with its wistful, trip-hop sax breakdown, demonstrate that pretty convincingly. Just as important, the kid has the kind of eclectic cultural appetite that leaves you extremely well-armed as a tastemaker. He digs on Fela and Outkast, Grunge and Gil Scott Heron, Dilla and W.H. Auden. He’s got a subtle, understated visual eye (peep the video after the MORE). He’s a ravenous gearhead, and he can even spit a little bit, as evidenced by a droning, codeine-drip verse from Mount Kimbie‘s gorgeous new album.

All the outside context aside though, the kid can just flat out write a song. “When positivity is hard to reach, I keep my head down and my mouth shut,” Marshall laments, “‘Cause if you’re goin’ through hell, we just keep going”. When he’s snarling out vague bits of feeling like this one, the line between teenage earnesty and a wiser brand of world-weariness starts getting fuzzy. And up against that scraggly guitar, and all that cavernous reverb, that croak turns transcendent. With all the heady influences and mega-hip eclecticism, 6 Feet Beneath the Moon is likely to be an album that gives us lots to think about. But “Easy, Easy” confirms that, more than anything, it’ll make us feel something too.


Download: King Krule – “Easy Easy”

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Dear Trayvon

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KEEPING IT 100

Pop essayist and cultural critic Kiese Laymon shows his work in his debut novel, Long Division

Kiese Laymon

Small college campuses tend to engender celebrity. Graduates and students of small liberal art schools know all too well what I’m talking about. There are student celebrities, known far and wide on campus for their extreme political views or daring sartorial choices (think trench-coat guy, Fedora girl, etc).

The celebrity professor, though, is a more unusual, more interesting kind of bird.

These are the profs with long waiting lists for any course they offer. They generally tend to be younger. They often teach exceptionally cool shit that seems novel in a traditional academic setting (things like visual urbanism or an anthropological look at the electronic music scene). They are sometimes good looking. And they are consistently talented. While they may formally derive their livelihood from teaching, they are often better known by the world at large for their cultural commentary–their books, articles, criticism, et al, especially when that shit blows up in a popular forum.

Kiese Laymon, 39-year-old author of fiction and pop essays, and native of Jackson, MI, possesses these qualities in spades. He’s been teaching for the last decade at Vassar College, where his courses tend to stand out amongst the more traditional offerings listed in the College’s course catalogue. Next semester, he is slated to teach an English class – “Because Dave Chapelle Said So” – a post-modern analysis of the black tragic-comic figure in American storytelling. He’ll also teach an introductory class in Africana Studies on Jay-Z, which he calls “Shawn Carter: Autobiography of an Autobiographer.” Laymon’s academic game isn’t all that defines him though. He’s also known around campus, and across the collective blogosphere, as an exceptionally talented and prolific writer. His blog, Cold Drank, where his provocations, essays and short fiction appear, is a regular topic of conversation among students on campus. He is a contributing editor over at Gawker where he published a particularly poignant essay last July called “How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America” which attracted a lot of attention, and widespread consideration as one of the best essays of the year. Last semester, he took some time off to write pieces for ESPN, NPR and Esquire, many of which have gone viral, garnering him a national readership and a reputation for humorous and incisive cultural critique.

And, he’s got not one, but two books set for publication this summer. He’s got chops.

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THE BEAT OF A DIFFERENT DRUM

Oakland-based beatmaker Space Ghost is trying to bridge the gap between Soundcloud and the dance floor

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Over the past few years, as EDM and various offshoots have gained attention and popularity, producers have moved out from behind their computer screens and have become some of the most notable faces in today’s pop music landscape. While Skrillex and Diplo have become household names, a countless number of kids making music in their basements are attempting to see what kind of attention they can garner on the internet. Oakland beatmaker and DJ Space Ghost doesn’t have much in common with the former, but he is a product of the possibilities they have helped to create.

Stylistically, Space Ghost’s music is fluid and ever-evolving. Whether he’s dealing in the most ambient of sounds (as he does on the Pop Music For the Heavens EP) or remixing R&B staples from years past, Space Ghost always manages to infuse songs with his own distinctive touch.

With three EP’s and one full length LP (released on the Brooklyn-based Astro Nautico label) already under his belt, Space Ghost has recently added some depth to his catalogue with the self-released EP Patient Mind. As a typically overcast Oakland morning gave way to sunshine, we met up at his West Oakland apartment to see what the recent college graduate has been working on. We discussed growing up in Ukiah, musical influences, and why releasing music on the internet is easier and yet more difficult than ever.

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ALL IMPERFECT THINGS

Humanizing "crime" through Pep Bonet's photographic portraits of Brazilian Transexuals

Transsexuals in Brazil by Pep Bonet / NOOR

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Last month, a Texas jury acquitted a man who murdered a sex-withholding prostitute under the state’s law that allows its citizens to exert deadly force in the event of stolen property. And at this point, I’m surprised this stuff even surprises me anymore. The practice of denying criminalized Americans justice or even basic civil rights has become the rule, rather than the exception. Through a handful of current high-profile cases, the nation has divided itself based on their perceptions of those killed; murdered criminals vs. murdered persons who so happen to have been, or are alleged to have been, committing a crime. Our ‘War on Crime’ appears to have very literally manifested itself in the American courtroom where killing someone doesn’t send you to jail if you can prove that that someone was breaking the law.

When it comes to prostitution, things get really messy. The criminal status assigned to sex-workers in the U.S. allows for their grievous mistreatment by civilians and police alike. Reported acts of violence against sex-workers by their Johns are overwhelmingly dismissed by authorities, and violence inflicted by policemen themselves is even more prevalent. To think that this marginalized population is small and limited to street corners in dark downtown districts is a myth, as only an estimated 20% of our country’s sex-workers engage in “street prostitution” while the other 80% work via brothel, escort agency, solo hustle, etc. In fact, you probably know a handful of people who have accepted money in exchange for sex. And yet our collective stigmatization of sex workers directly contributes to their criminalization and thus the vulnerability they face in both their practice and the eyes of the law – a particularly troubling consequence when considering that the lines of ‘prostitution’ are as grey as an overcast sky hovering above 14th and International (See: gold diggers, sugar babies, groupies).

To offer a humanizing look into the faces of sex-work and sex-entertainment, I offer Pep Bonet’s photography of Brazil’s transexual community. Here, an obviously and unfairly marginalized population who are finding sex-work in those margins serves as the central focus of Bonet’s photo series, entitled “All Imperfect Things”. Bonet captures moments on black and white film with an intimacy that frees his subjects from the grandiose judgments that contribute to their personal and institutionalized oppression – replacing the ‘criminal’ with the actual, individual person. You can view the entire collection and more of Bonet’s incredible photography work here, on his personal website.

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“ALL I WANNA DO IS…”

Director Steve Loveridge's biographical documentary explores the life and times of M.I.A.

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MIA

I still don’t think there’s been a record as important as “Paper Planes” since it dropped. I mean duh. But like damn. It’s incomparable. A complete anomaly in the pop landscape that somehow, to take a page out of the book of Yeezus, managed to pop a wheelie on the zeitgeist. In subsequent years, Ms. Maya has been treated to her fair share of criticism, and maybe some of the “she just likes stirring shit up” talk is warranted. Maybe not. The trailer for documentary is riddled with a kind of heavy-handed approach to all the controversy she’s incited, at home and broad. What I do know though is that “Planes”, and M.I.A.–as a symbol of a world in flux, and a mouthpiece for folks whose folks weren’t heard too often in the pop discourse–haven’t really lost much relevance in the near-decade she’s been around.

Director Steve Loveridge’s documentary about M.I.A.’s strange and unlikely story, unfortunately, looks like it’s been shelved for the time being, due to some vaguely articulated, fucked up entertainment industry politics. But, should the doc see the light of day (maybe via Kickstarter?), it promises to offer some insight into the story behind a game-changing career. Yeah, it’s got interviews with luminaries like Spike Jonze, Richard Russell and Yeezy. But the first thirty seconds of this teaser alone should give you something to chew on.

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“THIS IS REAL”

Hoodslam brings populist pro wrestling to the heart of Oakland

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Ho-ly shit! Ho-ly shit! Ho-ly shit!

On a Hoodslam night, it’s not uncommon to exit the Oakland Metro with the chant still ringing in your ears. It was Banks and Tom who led me to my first Hoodslam. The idea had been communicated to me, vaguely but enthusiastically, that we’d be watching a wrestling show at the Oakland Metro, and that yes, we should bring along a few pints of Hennessy and a blunt for good measure.

At that point, early on in 2012, I couldn’t really remember the last time I had tuned in to anything pro wrestling-related. Naturally, I had fond memories of Revenge on N64, The Rock before anybody knew his first or last name, and of course, telling other kids to suck it–but my short-lived love affair with the world of wrestling wasn’t something I figured I’d ever rekindle.

Suffice to say, the next three hours or so were damn near revelatory. As sensory experiences go, it’s bonkers: the snarl-serenade of the death metal Hoodslam theme song, the Bufferesque boom of ring announcer Ike Burner’s voice, as he made introductions between drags from the blunt between his fingers, the muddled thump of palms slapping the side of the ring, and an endless chorus of fuck you’s. Tables get smashed, drinks get poured, boobies get paraded around, and full-on acrobatics are executed with utter precision. There’s even a guy in a fucking Pink Panther suit.

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MEDITATING ON MOUNT KIMBIE

Thoughts on a subtly brilliant record from London's most unsung duo

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Mount Kimbie

Here is a list of sounds that I hear when I listen to Mount Kimbie’s “Home Recording” and “You Took Your Time” from their newly released album Cold Spring Fault Less Youth. 1) A spray painted tennis ball being bounced against a palm frond. 2) Saxophone in the morning. 3) Birch stick being scraped against a picket fence. 4) The distant memory of a female football player named Icebox. 5) “A pile of bones mixed with violent tones.”

The last is a lyric by guest vocalist King Krule, a perfect cross between Ron Weasley and Neville Longbottom with the vocal candor of David Attenborough off a pint of Robitussin. As if you’re not already sold, his real name is Archy Marshall and he’s going to be featured on Frank Ocean’s new album. Holding it down for British gingers everywhere. Mount Kimbie recruited Krule from their own backyard in London, to croon on a pair of tracks from what shapes up to be a compelling sequel to their critically acclaimed debut, Crooks & Lovers.


Download: Mount Kimbie – “Home Recording”

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THE CHILDREN UNDERGROUND

What Romania's lost generation of street kids has to do with reproductive rights

Children Underground

Last week, Texas state senator Wendy Davis filibustered a bill that would have led to the most restrictive anti-abortion laws in the country. Her passionate stance met overwhelming, chauvinistic opposition by her male Republican peers and galvanized a female American audience concerned about their voice in politics, and access to rights. By talking for thirteen hours straight, Davis managed to block the proposed legislation, succeeding not only in garnering support from the Basedgod, but also in her efforts to protect a woman’s right to choose, as already protected under the U.S. Constitution.

But if you’ve ever so much as wondered what such a restriction on women’s reproductive rights would really look like — separate from infringing on your plans to prolong your college partying years into your 30’s or having to restrict the number of rando-tenderonis you pull — look no further than the eastern European nation of Romania. In 1966, Romanian communist leader Nicolae Ceausescu outlawed both contraception and abortion in an effort to increase the country’s work force. As an unintended consequence, thousands of unwanted children, born to unfit and impoverished parents, were placed in dangerous state orphanages or escaped to live in the streets. By the turn of the century, this population of street youth had reached an estimated 20,000 kids. Director Edet Belzberg’s 2001 documentary Children Underground reveals precisely what that meant for both Romanian society and this chronically neglected demographic.

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