Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Diablo Cody - Young Adult



“I wanted to keep this movie grounded in reality.”
- Diablo Cody


Screenwriter Diablo Cody’s greatest achievement with her latest project, Young Adult, is to bring her audience to a point where they sympathize and empathize with the film’s in many ways distinctly unlikable central character. Mavis Gary (played by Charlize Theron) is the seemingly successful author of a series of young adult novels, who on the page has everything going for her. Yet, despite being blessed in both the looks and career department, happiness eludes her.


When an invitation arrives in her inbox to the christening of the daughter of her high school sweetheart, Buddy (Patrick Wilson), Mavis decides to return to her hometown to reclaim her former glory – and her former boyfriend. Blinded by her own narcissism, Mavis chooses to ignore the fact that Buddy is now happily married as she obsessively engages in the shameless pursuit of her unavailable ex.


A chance meeting with a former classmate she barely remembers, Matt Freehauf (Patton Oswalt), provides Mavis with a drinking buddy, and a voice of reason. However, despite forming an unlikely bond with Matt, who in the wake of a high school beating is left as physically challenged as she is mentally, Mavis is unwilling and unable to retreat from the comfort of her self-delusions to see her world as it really is.


As with Cody’s Academy Award-winning screenplay for Juno, Young Adult combines subtle storytelling with unconventional choices. An exercise in nuance and tone, which sees Cody reunited with her Juno cohort, director Jason Reitman (Up In The Air), the film features award-worthy performances from both Theron and Oswalt that – as with the script – are remarkable for their realness.


I sat down with Cody in New York to talk about the film.


Read my exclusive interview with Diablo Cody on SuicideGirls.com.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Why We're Re-Occupying Our Homes Today: A Story Of Foreclosure From OccupyLA



Let me introduce you to a lovely lady I met on October 7th at #OccupyLA. She was there simply to tell her story. Like many people in this economy, she had been finding it difficult to make ends meet, so when Obama's Loan Modification program began it seemed like a godsend. Little did she know, it would be the start rather than the end of her problems.


She duly completed all the paperwork her bank, Wells Fargo, asked her to, and was told what her reduced payments would be. She continued to pay her mortgage, but at the adjusted rate, as she'd been instructed to by Wells Fargo. She never missed a payment, and was not in arrears.


However, months later, out of the blue, she found out her application, for whatever reason, had been rejected. At this point, Wells Fargo treated her like she had been in arrears, because she'd been paying reduced payments on a mortgage that had failed to be modified. To add insult to injury, Wells Fargo then slapped her with a slew of interest charges and fees, because they in effect retroactively considered her account to be in default because of the Loan Modification decision.


Her bank then suggested she reapply, which she did - twice. Two more times, exactly the same thing happened. Following the third failed application, Wells Fargo began proceedings to repossess her home, even though she had made all her mortgage payments in exactly the way the bank had prescribed.


Turns out, the Loan Modification process is notoriously flawed and has been accused numerous times of causing foreclosures, as was the case here. Richard Gaudreau, an attorney, explains in an essay for Huffington Post exactly why the Loan Modification process fails to help troubled homeowners while lining the pockets of banks (surprise, surprise!):


The government pays mortgage servicers $1,000 for each "loan mod" application. Studies have shown though that mortgage servicers stand to make far more in fees from a foreclosure than they ever will from a loan modification request.


Obviously this kind of behavior is unconscionable. It's hard to comprehend that a "trusted name" like Wells Fargo would want to force a loyal customer and her family out onto the street in order to make a quick buck on a few fees. But this is happening to untold numbers of people all across our nation at the hands of nearly all the major banks.


My #OccupyLA friend had done everything required of her to meet her obligations, but somehow that wasn't enough -- is that remotely fair? But these days we don't seem to require fairness, never mind empathy and understanding, from the financial institutions in which we entrust our wealth, our security, and our futures. Clearly this was not an institution worthy of the trust this lady had been placed in it. Is it worthy of yours?


Take the power away from the big banks and move your money to a community institution or credit union. To find a credit union in your area visit: moveyourmoneyproject.org


Related Posts
Freedom Of The Press Is The Biggest Casualty Of Last Night’s #OccupyLA Raid
#OccupyLA – Images Of The Morning After The Raid
#OccupyLA -- A Remarkably Civilized Society
#Occupy You Must
The Start of OccupyLA
Why Aren't We Seeing More Prominent People Coming Out In Support of #OCUPPYWALLSTREET?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Freedom Of The Press Is The Biggest Casualty Of Last Night's #OccupyLA Raid


[Above: The heroes of last night's raid - citizen journalists and Livestreamers Oakfosho and OccupyFreedomLA]


Though thankfully there's no reports of anyone being seriously hurt during last night's police action, perhaps the biggest casualty was the First Amendment and freedom of the press. The LAPD pre-selected a group of a dozen handpicked mainstream media representatives, and denied access to the City Hall grounds to all other journalists while the eviction was taking place. (During the actual raid, any media already present were warned that they may face arrest or serious injury if they ignored the dispersal order and remained on the South Lawn.) Predictably, no independent or alternative outlets - and no bloggers or Livestreamers - were among the LAPD's chosen few.


At one point in the evening, citizen-journalist-turned-Livestream-celebrity OakFoSho was threatened by an officer who pointed the business end of a weapon at him - with his finger on the trigger. This incident was witnessed by the surrounding crowd who chanted "guns down" repeatedly in response and the approximately 15,000 viewers who were watching OakFoSho's stream. The officer's name was duly noted and shared by numerous tweeters (including friend of SG Wil Wheaton).




Just as troubling was the fact that the pool of approved media had serious restrictions placed upon them. They were not allowed to tweet or call-in stories live from inside the park until after the eviction, and had to funnel all pool reports via a city news wire service. Additionally, KCAL9 revealed they had "made an agreement with the LAPD to not give away their tactics," and, according to BoingBoing's Xeni Jardin, "CBS LA blacked out shots so as to 'not interfere with integrity of police action.'" Many other bloggers and tweeters also noted their disappointment at the easy compliance of so-called journalists and traditional media outlets, whom they felt should have put up more resistance to the obvious attempt to restrict and suppress information.


The underlying serious First Amendment issue at play here is the principle that the police shouldn't be the ones to decide who is and who isn't deemed press - since the function of a free press in a democracy is to provide a check and balance for those in authority. Furthermore, even those members of the media granted pre-designated access can't cover any action freely if they're worried about having the credentials they need for such coverage rescinded (as was the case in New York during the Zuccotti Park eviction). Given the gravity of this issue, we expect this story to develop over the next few days and weeks, and understand the ACLU is already in the process of taking action.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Chris Paine - Revenge Of The Electric Car



“It takes a lot of electricity to turn black crude oil into gasoline.”
- Chris Paine


In the late 1990s and early 2000s, General Motors’ EV1s were the Apple Macs of cars. Ahead of their time, they were only driven by an enlightened “different” thinking few, but those that did felt passionately about their high tech machines.


A fully electric plug-in vehicle with a range of between 70 and 140 miles depending on model, the EV1 was first introduced into the marketplace in 1996. Available in limited test markets on a closed lease-only basis (whereby no actual purchase was allowed), it was developed by General Motors partly in response to the California Air Resources Board’s requirement that the seven major auto companies in the US had to make at least 2% of their output zero-emission vehicles (ZEV) by 1998 in order to sell any cars within the state (with further graduated steps stipulated up to 10% in 2003).


Though grudgingly produced by General Motors, the vehicle was beloved by the few consumers lucky enough to rise to the top of the company’s reportedly vast waiting list. But it was likely a car that was never intended to succeed. General Motors seemingly put more effort into fighting the CARB mandate in court than meeting existing demand for vehicles or marketing the EV1 to create even more. It was therefore not uncoincidental that the demise of the EV1 occurred in tandem with the gutting of CARB’s ZEV rules. The EV1 program was officially cancelled in 2003, and a total recall was put in motion, with repossessed cars being not only compacted but shredded for good measure too.


A 2006 documentary, Who Killed The Electric Car, chronicled the crushing demise of this groundbreaking car. In it filmmaker Chris Paine highlighted the collusion of the auto industry, oil companies, and politicians, who all had a vested interest in seeing the electric vehicle die an untimely death alongside CARB’s environmentally prudent directives. Catching the zeitgeist, Who Killed The Electric was the third highest grossing documentary that year (Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth being the first).


However, a decade after General Motors presided over the funeral of the EV1, the killing of the vehicle has proven to be a costly mistake. With gas prices rising, Toyota filled the rapidly increasing fuel-efficient void with their hybrid Prius, which went on sale in Japan in 1997. Following its worldwide debut in 2001, Toyota have sold over a million Prius cars in the US alone, and the rest of the auto industry has been scrabbling to catch up.


With revenge being served on a platter less than a decade on, Paine and his documentary team were compelled to reexamine the fortunes of the electric vehicle in a follow up film. The first had centered on activists working from outside the industry, with this film Paine chose to follow a diverse group of instigators working from within. Revenge Of The Electric Car therefore features four EV evangelists (some of whom were more recently converted than others) who are attempting to drive the future of the automobile into the present: Bob Lutz (General Motors’ Vice Chairman up until May 2010), Elon Musk (Tesla Motors’s CEO), Carlos Ghosn (Nissan’s President and CEO), and Greg “Gadget” Abbot (a DIY electric engine retro-fitter).


SuicideGirls recently visited Paine at his ultra green home to talk about his cinematic “I told you so” and the electric awakening of a sluggish car industry that was in need of a shock. After checking out the 2008 Tesla Roadster parked in Paine’s garage, the irony was not lost that we were conversing about, and anticipating the dominance of, the gas-free vehicle in the heart of LA’s oil country amidst the pumpjack nodding donkeys of Baldwin Hills.


Read my exclusive interview with Chris Paine on SuicideGirls.com.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Jennifer Siebel Newsom - Miss Representation



“It limits women…from aspiring to be great things.”
- Jennifer Siebel Newsom


As Americans, we like to think of ourselves as advanced and sophisticated as a society. Yet, when it comes to issues of gender equality the numbers don’t lie –– there’s no escaping the fact that we’re pretty damn backwards.


Women make up 51% of the US population, yet hold just 16.6% of the seats in Congress and 17% of those in the Senate. Indeed, we rank 90th in the world in terms of the proportion of women in national parliaments, below Afghanistan, Cuba, China, Ethiopia, Iraq, and the Sudan!


Furthermore, in America, just 3% of Fortune 500 CEOs are women. Similarly only 3% of positions of clout in the telecommunications, entertainment, publishing, and advertising industries are held by the fairer sex (pun intended). And this may be part of the problem, since those that are ultimately responsible for the aspirational messages we receive on a daily basis are predominantly male.


That’s not to say that the innate sexism that’s partly responsible for this power imbalance is necessarily malevolent or even intentional; the root of much of it is simply a lack of consciousness on all our parts. And to an extent, the state of play appears to be self-perpetuating, since a mere 16% of those responsible for Hollywood’s mass market dream machine (writers, directors, producers, cinematographers, and editors) are women, which in turn perhaps explains a similar lack of female protagonists/role models in feature films.


A much talked about new documentary, Miss Representation, which recently debuted on the OWN Network, does a very comprehensive job of exploring the underlying reasons for this vast leadership gender gap. The film features many prominent leading ladies including Nancy Pelosi, Condoleezza Rice, Dianne Feinstein, Gloria Steinem, Jane Fonda, Geena Davis, Rachel Maddow, Lisa Ling, and Katie Couric, whose powerful voices add strength to the message –– which is that a woman’s value is more than just the sum of her youth and beauty (as the mainstream media might have you believe).


SuicideGirls spoke with the driving force behind Miss Representation, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, who wrote, directed, and produced the exceptional cinematic gender essay. As a Stanford graduate, environmental and gender activist, actress, and mother –– who also happens to be the wife of the former Mayor of San Francisco, and current Lieutenant Governor of California, Gavin Newsom –- she’s had a front row seat watching what happens to women in power and how the media treats them, so perhaps has a greater understanding of the issues they face than most.


Read my exclusive interview with Jennifer Siebel Newsom on SuicideGirls.com.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Chuck Palahniuk - Damned



“I wanted to write a religious Left Behind series, but for secular liberals.”
- Chuck Palahniuk


During our previous conversation with Chuck Palahniuk, which occurred shortly before the publication of his Sunset Boulevard-inspired book, Tell All, he spoke about how the ultimate name to drop was God’s. For this interview, we reconvene to discuss the domain of the G-man’s nemesis –– Hell –– which serves as the setting for Palahniuk’s wickedly inspired new novel, Damned.


According to Damned’s canon, evolution is hokum and Charles Darwin is resigned to hellfire and damnation alongside Jimi Hendrix, Marilyn Monroe, and the entire Kennedy clan. Turns out you can end up there by committing all manner of trivial shit, such as dropping the f-bomb or honking your horn one too many times. Worshipping the wrong god will also land you in the hot spot, as will suffering the inconvenience of being a deposed one (thus the likes of Thor can also be found hanging out downstairs).


The topography of Palahniuk’s netherworld features a greasy Dandruff Desert, Great Plains of Discarded Razor Blades, a Swamp of Partial-birth Abortions, a Lake of Tepid Bile, and the Great Ocean of Wasted Sperm (where in Hell, “porn is creating an effect equivalent to that of global warming on earth”). Those that find themselves there have two main career options: pornography or telemarketing.


The narrative of Damned follows Madison Spencer, the somewhat chubby, eternally optimistic13-year old progeny of a self-obsessed Hollywood star and a billionaire businessman. As a reflection of her mother’s glamour, Madison is an abject failure, however, the upside of her troubled childhood is that after a lifetime (albeit a short one) of electrolysis and herbal high colonics, Hell holds little terror for her.


Having been resigned to Hell after inhaling marijuana, and eschewing an eternity being "ogled by millions of men with serious intimacy problems," Madison finds gainful employment in telemarketing, an occupation that she finds unexpectedly fulfilling. Ensconced in one of Hell’s endless call centers, which has banks of phones that are programmed to auto-dial the earthbound specifically at dinnertime, Madison finds redemption. The question is, ultimately, will she want it?


Being in the business of asking people questions for a living, I felt a certain affinity with Madison. For the start of my conversation with Palahniuk, it therefore seemed only appropriate to borrow a little something from her telemarketing script…


Read my exclusive interview with Chuck Palahniuk on SuicideGirls.com.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Amanda Palmer - Evelyn Evelyn



By Nicole Powers


“Pity is my least favorite four-letter word.”
- Amanda Palmer


The fiercely individual Madonna once observed that “life is a mystery” and “everyone must stand alone.” But for some that is tragically not possible. Conjoined twins Evelyn and Evelyn Neville (a.k.a. Evelyn Evelyn) are two such people; their uninvited union – and the uniqueness of their in many ways non-individual state – being both a blessing and a curse.


To say Evelyn Evelyn have had a tough upbringing would be a gross understatement. The pair lost their mother 12 minutes after their traumatic birth, and their early life took a nosedive from there. The girls’ father fell victim to an unlikely chainsaw accident shortly after their mother’s untimely demise, and thus the orphaned twins were left with only each other to rely on as they made their way in this all too cruel world.


Extended stints trapped in a chicken coup and held hostage by a child pornography ring meant the girls were robbed of anything approaching a normal childhood –– if that was ever a possibility given their Siamese status. However, after joining a circus and meeting some similarly conjoined pachyderms, Evelyn Evelyn got an inkling that their bond –– far from being a burden –– was something truly beautiful and special.


Having experienced relentless teasing and taunts for much of their life, the Neville sisters’ world was changed radically by the advent of social media. While in a dead end job filling out sweepstakes applications on behalf of an unappreciative motel proprietor, the duo practiced the songs they once performed with the circus and set up a profile on MySpace to showcase them. Unburdened by physical limitations and prejudices online, their music caught the attention of many, including singer, songwriter, and all round entertainer extraordinaire Amanda Palmer.


Inspired by their songs and by their struggle, Amanda recruited renowned folk musician Jason Webley to help with the project. Produced by Palmer and Webley, Evelyn Evelyn released their debut EP, “Elephant Elephant,” in 2007. Their heartfelt rendition of Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart” –– which served as the B-side of the vinyl edition –– brought them initial success and critical acclaim. A self-titled album followed in 2010, as did numerous sold out live dates.


Having recently returned from a triumphant stint at the prestigious Edinburgh Festival –– and with respect having firmly replaced ridicule –– Evelyn Evelyn embark on the next chapter in their lives with the release of a graphic novel based on their story. Written by Palmer and Webley, and illustrated by Cynthia von Buhler, it’s naturally being released in two parts (via Dark Horse Comics Inc.). Having not only redefined beauty, but what it means to be an individual, SuicideGirls caught up with Palmer to talk about Evelyn Evelyn.


For this interview SG’s editor, Nicole Powers, recruited her own twin siblings, Brenda Day and Samantha May. Though not conjoined, Brenda and Samantha do everything together and feel as if emotionally they are. They are therefore especially excited that Palmer and Webley are unleashing the power of multiples though their production work, and are exploring what it means to be an individual when you’re also one half of a whole. The following is a transcript of their online conversation…


Read my exclusive interview with Amanda Palmer on SuicideGirls.com.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Scroobius Pip - Distraction Pieces



“It can be its own creature.”
- Scroobius Pip


Scroobius Pip went out one day, and made a record for people to play. Then all the beasts in the world came round, thanks to his killer wit and rhymes so sound. The Nyan cat, the dog and the kangaroo, with “Thou Shalt Always Kill” the YouTube massive he did woo. Then the wolf he howled, the horse he neighed, “I’m releasing a second solo record” the Pip brayed. And when the Pip began to roar, there never was heard such a noise before. And every beast he stood on the tip, to peruse a video of the Scroobius Pip. At last they said to the Pip "By far,
 you're the wisest beast! You know you are!” SG got close to Scroobius Pip to say, ‘Tell us all about yourself we pray. For as yet we can't make out in the least, if you're punk or hip-hop, or poet or beast.” The Scroobius Pip looked vaguely round, and hollered these words with a rumbling sound: “Chippetty flip, Flippetty chip, my only name is the Scroobius Pip.”


In truth, he may not have said “Chippetty flip” or “Flippetty chip” – but here’s what went down when SuicideGirls spoke to the Pip…


Read my exclusive interview with Scroobius Pip on SuicideGirls.com.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Harry Markopolos - From Chasing Madoff To Fixing Our Economy



By Nicole Powers


“You can't have a AAA credit rating with a junk rated Congress.”
- Harry Markopolos


Harry Markopolos has a way with numbers. It's this innate ability that led him to uncover Bernie Madoff's epic Ponzi scheme almost a decade before market forces ultimately leveraged a confession out of the spectacularly crooked investment fund manager.


In 1999, while working as a portfolio manager at Rampart, a Boston based investment management company, Markopolos had been asked to reverse engineer a fund offered by Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC so his firm could compete by offering a similar product. After studying Madoff's marketing material for a mere 5 minutes, Markopolos realized that the results the fund claimed to achieve were highly improbable, a further 4 hours of mathematical modeling proved the stated returns were categorically impossible by legal means.


Smelling a rat, Markopolos assembled an informal investigative team to probe Madoff's operation further. In May 2000, when Madoff's scheme was only a $3 to $7 billion fraud, they submitted their first whistleblowing report to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). It was summarily ignored. Frustrated but undeterred, Markopolos' tenacious group, dubbed The Foxhounds, submitted numerous subsequent memos (in 2001, 2005, 2007 and 2008) offering even more evidence, to no avail. A 2005 missive had what one might consider to be an attention-grabbing title -"The World's Largest Hedge Fund Is A Fraud" - but even this failed to get an appropriate response from those charged with policing Wall Street.

It was only following the crash of 2008, when Madoff's investors were clamoring to liquidate their assets and he was unable to meet their demands, that the man responsible for the largest act of financial fraud in world history was forced to fess up. By then, Madoff's "fund" had grown on paper to a value of $65 billion. In the following days, the complete and utter failure of the SEC came to light, as press outlets - who had also been alerted by Markopolos, but by and large had declined to report his findings before Madoff's arrest - competed to interview the "Madoff whistleblower." With egg on their faces, the government also sought out Markopolos' knowledge and expertise, and on February 4, 2009 he delivered some riveting televised testimony in front of the House of Representatives' Financial Services Subcommittee.


In March 2010, Markopolos published a book chronicling his investigations into Madoff and the utter incompetence he bore witness to during his dealings with the SEC. Called No One Would Listen: A True Financial Thriller, it became a New York Times bestseller. A new film, Chasing Madoff, based on the book is currently in cinemas.


I caught up with Markopolos, who now works as a freelance investigative accountant exposing Fortune 500 wrongdoing, to talk about Madoff and the current state of play in our financial markets. We also asked him to focus his considerable financial acumen our nation's balance sheet and assess the future prospects of our economy. Given Markopolos' track record, his conclusions about America's should-be junk status are indeed cause for concern, if not outright alarm.


Read my exclusive interview with Harry Markopolos on SuicideGirls.com.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Multi-Agency Armed Rawesome Raid: Major Controlled Substance / Health Food Cartel Arrested


[Above: FDA, FBI & LAPD agents raid Rawesome private food club in Venice, CA.]


The people of Venice, CA slept soundly last night after authorities broke up a major criminal cartel that had been operating in their midst. Raw milk and cheese lord, James “Rawesome” Stewart, and his accomplices, Sharon Ann Palmer and Eugenie Bloch of Healthy Family Farms LCC, were arrested yesterday following a raid on premises in the predominantly metro-hippy, hipster-hippy, genuinely hippy, and wannabe hippy beach district.


The multi-agency action –– a collaboration between the FDA, the FBI and the LAPD –– is part of a major government crackdown on healthy food. Agents had successfully scored illicit cheese and dairy products on several occasions during a year-long undercover sting operation centered around Rawesome, a members-only organic produce speakeasy operated by Stewart out of a location at 665 Rose Ave. After consuming the goods they obtained, the reduction in allergy and asthma symptoms in the operatives involved provided probable cause for the warrant required for Wednesday’s armed raid.



[Above: No Mango Left Behind]


The search warrant, which was issued by the appropriately name Ms. LeCavalier, called for a thorough search of all rooms, attics, and basements of the single story property, plus the surrounding grounds, garages, vehicles, storage areas, trash containers, freezers, refrigerators, and outbuildings. A Girl Scout who was just selling cookies in the wrong place at the wrong time was also asked to turn out her pockets, but only string and a compass was found.


The document also called for samples to be taken, and that the remainder of the controlled substances be seized and destroyed according to State of California "health" codes. Highly trained law enforcement agents therefore dilligently poured the exceedingly fresh milk down drains, and loaded organic produce and whole food onto a truck for off-site destruction as several members of the local homeless community looked on. However, Mrs Tovey, a sprightly pensioner from nearby Marina del Rey, escaped with several mangoes in her hemp handbag before all the fresh food could be removed from the site. She is wanted for questioning in relation to this matter.


Computers, receipts, phone records, a 2007 crumpled Baywatch calendar, and other documents were also seized, as were membership records and documents pertaining to The Right To Choose Healthy Food campaign. Authorities will be contacting members of the raw milk prohibition-busting club over the next few weeks to not-so-gently remind them that The Right To Choose Healthy Food doesn’t exist, and that the First Amendment right to make and distribute pamphlets about it is going the way of habeas corpus.


Talking of which…


Los Angeles prosecutors allege Stewart is guilty of conspiracy to supply fresh food, and is being held on $123,000 bail, with no possibility of using bonds. Furthermore, given Stewart’s Mr. Big status in the raw food underworld, authorities have taken the unusual step of requesting proof of the legitimacy of any funds posted to ensure proceeds from a secret stash of contraband unpasteurized Camembert are not used to spring the kingpin. Palmer has been charged with 9 counts of producing fresh food, and her part-time associate, Bloch, is charged with three counts of conspiracy to do so.



[Above: Eugenie Bloch’s husband, Thomas admits his wife if guilty of selling organic poultry and eggs.]


During the search of the Rawesome premises, authorities were hoping to find evidence that the illegal substances had been smuggled across state lines so they could pursue additional felony charges. However Westsiders know how hard it is to smuggle themselves East of the 405 at the best of times, so unfortunately for law enforcement officials the chances that the easily spoilable raw materials made it to La Brea, never mind the Arizona border are slim to none.


The three arrests had nothing to do with a massive recall of turkey produced by food giant Cargill, but since it happened in the same week The Los Angeles Times thought they’d mention it in their coverage of the raid just so they had a legitimate reason to use the word salmonella, since there was disappointingly no evidence that any goods produced or distributed by Stewart and Palmer had caused illness or were tainted by the pathogen (unlike that of the Minnesota-based food giant, whose dodgy meat is responsible for at least one death, and numerous cases of serious illness).


The manufacture and sale of unpasteurized dairy products is technically legal in California, however, thankfully a whole host of virtually unobtainable licenses and permits are required, which by and large puts a stop to the disgustingly healthy practice of consuming the stuff. But Stewart contends that since he wasn’t operating a public retail establishment, his members-only club wasn’t covered by the small print, which law enforcement officials are too understaffed and busy to read anyways. It’s therefore good to see that rather than taking the time to define the grey areas of the law, government officials are cutting to the chase and taking a firm stance on worryingly healthful consumables, which have the potential to seriously dent the much-maligned healthcare and pharmaceutical industry.


“Praise the lord that in these economically challenged times, the government is allocating significant resources to this issue,” said a Republican who asked not to be named before rushing off to check the value of his Big Ag and Pharma stocks.


***


The Consumer Wellness Center is collecting donations for a legal defense fund for James Stewart.


For more information on our government’s war on raw milk watch Farmageddon, and read our interview with the film’s maker, raw food and small farm advocate Kristin Canty.


**UPDATE**




At his arraignment at the Los Angeles County Courthouse on Thursday August 4, James Stewart's bail was reduced to $30,000. He was released on Friday on condition that he no longer engage in the sale of unpasteurized milk and cheese. (He's not even allowed to give away raw dairy and eggs, and Rawesome is subject to warrantless searches at any time.) Victoria Bloch was released without bail. Worryingly, both Stewart and Bloch were only allowed to leave police custody on condition that they sign a waiver agreeing to give up their First Amendment rights and refrain from talking to anyone about the case. (They can't email, Facebook or Tweet about it, never mind talk to the press!) Sharon Ann Palmer is expected to be arraigned on Monday, August 8 in Ventura County. The delay is apparently due to transportation issues. Rawesome is currently closed, and, Healthfreedoms.org reports that the case "is now going to be handled by an 'environmental crimes' prosecutor from the FDA." Meanwhile, despite being responsible for 76 salmonella-related illnesses and one death, the owners of the company responsible, Cargill, continue to enjoy their life and liberty.


Government agencies involved in the year-long action again Rawesome include the FDA, the California Franchise Tax Board, the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s Milk and Dairy Food Safety Branch and the department’s Division of Measurement Standards, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department, the Ventura County Department of Public Health, the LAPD, and the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety. In related news, having maxed out our nation's spending limit, America's credit rating has been downgraded, and when it comes to the issues surrounding raw dairy, Democrats and Republicans are uniting in favor of less government intervention.


There will be a series of special screenings of Farmageddon at the Electric Lodge cinema on Saturday, August 20 (see details). Proceeds will go to the Rawesome Community Fund.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Kristin Canty - Farmageddon



“This is really a civil rights issue.”
- Kristin Canty


America devotes an inordinate amount of resources to its wars on controlled substances; namely its wars on drugs – and raw milk. Yep, you read that right. The prohibition of alcohol may have ended in the US in 1933 with the passage of the Twenty-First Amendment, but it’s still alive and kicking when it comes to unpasteurized milk.


The retail sale of raw milk for human consumption is illegal in the vast majority of states, and though some states do permit direct farm sales and/or herd shares, federal laws prohibit the sale and transport of raw milk across state lines. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration considers unpasteurized milk or cream –– and any uncooked products made from it, such as cheese, yogurt, and ice cream –– to be categorically unsafe. Their official line is that “raw milk can harbor dangerous microorganisms that can pose serious health risks to you and your family.”


However, by their own figures, a mere “800 people in the United States have gotten sick from drinking raw milk or eating cheese made from raw milk since 1998.” When you compare those numbers to the statistics on alcohol and cigarettes – which can be bought legally in all 50 states – the government’s position on the sale of raw milk appears to be inconsistent to say the very least. And the discrimination against raw dairy is even more profound when the health benefits are taken into consideration. But while the fight to decriminalize other controlled substances grabs headlines and galvanizes support, few are even aware of the prohibition against real milk. Kristin Canty, a small farm advocate from Massachusetts, hopes to change that with her compelling new documentary, Farmageddon: The Unseen War on American Family Farms.


Canty didn’t set out to make a film, merely to heal her son, who suffered from asthma and severe allergies. When traditional medicine failed to help, she embarked on a voyage of discovery that led her to raw milk. While fighting to heal her sick child, she also had to fight the seemingly unreasonable and intransigent attitude our government has towards healthy-minded boutique farmers who produce this hard to come by commodity in the face of much adversity. Frustrated and angered by reports of raids, and shocked at the increasing ferocity of the persecution of those who were doing nothing more than producing fresh food, Canty was compelled to expose the truth. For her, it wasn’t just about the disparity in treatment between big agriculture (whose factory methods have actually been responsible for the majority of serious food scares in recent years) and the mom & pop organic and sustainable operations, but an issue of a mother’s right to choose healthy food.


Read my exclusive interview with Kristin Canty on SuicideGirls.com.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Peter Murphy - Ninth

By Nicole Powers



“I'm like a magician or mystic jester.”
- Peter Murphy


Despite being grounded by a seemingly paradoxical levity, which comes across in the form of wry humor throughout our interview, Peter Murphy, a leading light in the gothic underworld, has remained an enigma for over three decades.

He first came to prominence with the preeminent goth band Bauhaus - their seminal cut "Bela Lugosi's Dead" being forever imprinted in the minds of those who appreciate the dark side thanks to its inclusion, and Murphy's mood setting appearance, in Tony Scott's 1983 cult horror classic The Hunger (which starred Catherine Deneuve, David Bowie, and Susan Sarandon).

Comprised of Murphy, Daniel Ash, and brothers David J and Kevin Haskins, Bauhaus had an initial lifespan of four years from 1979 to 1983. Following the band's demise, Murphy went solo, while his three former-bandmates regrouped under the Love and Rockets moniker. Both camps went on to enjoy a level of commercial success in the US that surpassed anything their former band had achieved. Murphy's third solo album, Deep (1990), spawned the #1 modern rock hit "Cuts You Up," and his fourth, Holy Smoke (1992), a #2 on the same chart with "The Sweetest Drop." Cascade (1995), with its unabashed romanticism and melodic drive, and Dust (2002), an atmospheric recording steeped in the mysticism and tradition of Murphy's adopted Turkish homeland, are also more than worthy of note.

However fans refused to let the corpse of Bauhaus rest in peace, its legend having grown in the years it had been confined to the crypt. After much speculation and several false starts, Bauhaus reformed in 1998 for the Resurrection Tour. The band was revived again for an unforgettable 2005 Coachella appearance, which opened with Murphy singing "Bela Lugosi's Dead" while hanging upside down from the rafters. This time the quartet stayed together long enough to tour both the US and Europe (including some dates with Nine Inch Nails) and record an album, Go Away White (2008). But the bats left Bauhaus' bell tower, seemingly for good, shortly after the album's release, following an emotionally charged breakup that continues to have an aura of finality.

Appearances on stage (and descending from the rafters) during Nine Inch Nails' 2009 farewell tour, coupled with a cameo as "The Cold One" in the third Twilight film, Eclipse, in 2010, exposed a new generation to Murphy's mesmerizing vampiric presence. With a new album already complete (his first since 2004's ill-fated Unshattered, which was beleaguered by record label issues), he embarked on the Dirty Dirt Tour in the summer of 2010 while he looked for a suitable distribution channel. In March of this year, it was announced that Murphy had signed with the Nettwerk Music Group, and on June 7 the long awaited new full-length, Ninth, finally achieved its release.

Having attempted to catch up with the elusive minstrel numerous times over the past few years, I pinned Murphy down for some quality phone time the day the video for his new single "I Spit Roses" hit the web.

Read my exclusive interview with Peter Murphy on SuicideGirls.com.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

David Hyde Pierce - The Perfect Host



“Every once in a while I feel like I have to stir it up.”
- David Hyde Pierce


As Dr. Niles Crane on the popular NBC sitcom Frasier, which ran from 1993 to 2004, David Hyde Pierce was a paragon of gentility. However in his latest project, the independent movie The Perfect Host, he gets to embrace a far darker side of his psyche.


At first Warwick Wilson (played by Pierce) appears to be the epitome of civility and the consummate dinner party host. But when an unexpected guest arrives — John Taylor (played by Clayne Crawford), a bank robber in desperate need of a place to lay low — the evening’s events take a surprising course. Without giving too much away, by the time desert arrives, it’s impossible to tell who could — or should — die.


I caught up with Pierce by phone to chat about The Perfect Host and his other post-Frasier projects. The topic of dogs also rather unexpectedly, but nonetheless fortuitously, interrupted our conversation.


Read my exclusive interview with David Hyde Pierce on SuicideGirls.com.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

A Charged Relationship


As a loyal Mac lover, who would have Steve Jobs babies in a heartbeat on principle, I have to say I wasn’t predisposed to come over to the dark side, which is why it’s particularly shocking for me to type this next sentence: I really love my Droid Charge.


I know, I know, I feel like I’m publicly cuckolding Apple as I type this on my beloved MacBook Pro, but sometimes you just can’t help how you feel.


I was first introduced to the sleek and sexy looking Charge at a soiree thrown by Samsung for a select group of geeks and pro-tweeters. We took to each other almost immediately, and soon progressed beyond the basics, such as Gmail, Twitter, and Facebook set up. I even popped my Bump cherry that night (Mr. Ward you were awesome – I hope it made you shudder too!).


Unlike my ex, Nokia, I found Charge really easy to navigate, and we were doing some pretty advanced stuff within minutes. The camera has some cute quirks, such as the ability to put images through a cartoon filter, and an “add me” function, which allows you to create composite shots.


Me and Charge went home together that night, and he willfully submitted to a rigorous road-testing over the next three days.


One of the things the iPhone / AT&T cabal have been unwilling and slow to indulge in is tethering, so I was excited to try out a threesome with Charge and my MacBook Pro. We connected successfully first time, and it worked really well. After my AT&T-powered DSL forsook me, as it frequently and intermittently does, I downloaded a 28.9 MB video file for work using Charge’s very hot Mobile Hotspot, which was lightning fast thanks to the device's 4G LTE capabilities. When it comes to down and up-loading, it’s actually a plus to be a wham-bam-thank-you-man!


However, Charge and I did luxuriate in some unhurried time together. We spent a couple of long and pleasurable evenings in bed watching movies (Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps and Case 39) via Media Hub’s direct-to-phone download service. Their download protocol was a little clunky, requiring several attempts, but Charge’s picture quality left me breathless and wanting more.


I was impressed not only with Charge’s prowess, but also his stamina. It might wane if we’d been active all day and all night, but his batteries were easily recharged thanks to a neat USB cable, which can either plug into your laptop (allowing simultaneous data back up) or the wall (via a socket converter).


Charge and I actually didn’t do much talking during our initial three days together, but then, ironically, analog conversation is almost redundant these days on a smart phone. However, when we did talk, we had no problems communicating on any level.


As things stand now, our three-day affair is likely to turn into something more permanent. The only hurdle is “The Conversation” that needs to be had with Verizon. Thanks to Samsung, who let me hang on to Charge, commitment isn’t really an issue. Here’s to a long and fruitful relationship (sorry AT&T and Mr. Jobs!).


XOX


Check out Charge's vital stats here.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Nikki Sixx - This Is Gonna Hurt



“I'm looking for the mystery in the shadows.”
- Nikki Sixx


“My dream has always been the same since I was a kid, to somehow show people life through different colored lenses,” writes Nikki Sixx in the introduction to his new book, a collection of very personal words and images called This Is Gonna Hurt. “Now more than ever I feel it’s important to see that way. We need to be aware that the warped perspectives of television, Internet, and magazines are sometimes poisonous,” he continues. “I cannot walk down the street without feeling I am being subjected to some constant sales pitch on what we should look like, smell like, dress like, or even worse, what we should be like.”


A devout nonconformist, Sixx wears many hats in his life. SuicideGirls last caught up with Mötley Crüe’s co-founder and bass player shortly before the release of his bestselling book, The Heroin Diaries, a collection of journal entries that chronicled his self-destructive – but ultimately self-saving – journey to the other side of drugs. To accompany its release, Sixx put together a side project called Sixx:A.M. – a band which went on to have a life of its own. The musician, songwriter and author also has his own clothing line, and hosts two radio shows, Sixx Sense (which airs Monday to Friday) and The Side Show Countdown (which is broadcast on weekends).


But it’s Sixx’s work as a photographer that made a further conversation with the multi-talented man mandatory. His photography, as seen in this first bound collection, is shockingly beautiful. However, the beauty within the images is of a kind that complies with nothing except Sixx’s own very individual aesthetic. Reflecting the contradictions in life that have troubled him in the past, his often preconceived portraits are both ethereal and hyperreal at the same time.


Sixx spoke with SG by phone from the Funny Farm, his photography studio and creative sanctuary…


Read our exclusive interview with Nikki Sixx on SuicideGirls.com.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Benji Madden - Good Charlotte



“The goal is the journey”

- Benji Madden


Though they may have joked about the trappings of fame in their 2002 breakout hit "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous," brothers Benji and Joel Madden of Good Charlotte appreciate everything their success has brought. Having come from a broken home - and suffered the financial and emotional hardship that resulted from it - they also know the value of family, a theme which lies at the heart of their latest release Cardiology.

SuicideGirls caught up with Benji to talk about the new album, his thoughts on family, and his work as a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador promoting UNICEF's Believe in Zero campaign, which aims to reduce preventable infant mortality, thereby ensuring that more families have a chance to enjoy the fundamental luxury of growing old together.

Read the exclusive interview with Benji Madden on SuicideGirls.com.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Interview: Jaimie D'Cruz and Chris King - Exit Through the Gift Shop



“It's an absolutely fucking crazy story.”

- Jaimie D'Cruz


Exit Through the Gift Shop is a film that defies explanation, and one’s ability to suspend disbelief. Indeed the plot would be utterly ridiculous, if it weren’t for the fact that it’s true.

It started out life as a simple documentary about street art as seen through the lens of Thierry Guetta, a French national living in Los Angeles. Thanks to a family connection, and his infectious and perpetuity ebullient personality, Guetta gained unparalleled access to the major players in the scene, who are a notoriously secretive and hard to track down bunch by necessity due to the predominantly illicit nature of their work. Guetta’s extreme enthusiasm for the form, and his zealous pursuit of its practitioners, ultimately led him to the scene’s holy grail, Banksy, an elusive British street art superstar.

After Guetta proved his worth as a location scout in LA, Banksy - whose real identity is shrouded in mystery - inexplicably agreed to participate in his documentary film project (or more accurately didn't object when he started rolling tape). Guetta proceeded to shoot hundreds of hours of footage, over a period that spanned several years. With no sign of the finished product in sight however, Banksy eventually suggested Guetta work on a first cut. It was only at this point that a major stumbling block became apparent – the fact that Guetta actually had no clue how to make a film,

"I didn't know if I believed he was a filmmaker or a mental patient with a camera," said Banksy of Life Remote Control, the manic film Guetta subsequently produced. In an attempt to salvage the situation, Banksy decided to take control of the project - and of Guetta’s vast library of unlogged videotape. Banksy in turn, encouraged the cameraman turned friend to make some art of his own, as he exchanged roles and became the filmmaker.

It was at this point that events took an unlikely and unanticipated course. Banksy recruited producer Jaimie D'Cruz, who then brought editor Chris King onboard. Together they began the process of assessing Guetta’s raw material to see if it was even possible to assemble it into some kind of meaningful narrative. As they viewed it they began to realize that the effusive Frenchman was ultimately the star of his own footage. Guetta meanwhile had taken Banksy’s edict a little more seriously than had been intended, and started work on an art show of epic proportions.

A crew was dispatched to LA to film Guetta as he mounted his assault on the art world under the moniker Mr. Brainwash. Having rented the extremely spacious old CBS building, Columbia Square, on Sunset Blvd., Guetta set about filling it ahead of his June 18, 2008 debut. As with his filmmaking endeavor, Guetta didn’t let his lack of prior personal experience hold him back from jumping in with two feet (neither did a broken leg).

Much to the surprise of everyone – including Banksy – the event proved to be an undeniable success. Thousands flocked to the opening night (which featured Shepard Fairey on the decks), and by the end of the first week Guetta had sold close to $1 million worth of his Mr. Brainwash “art.”

Guetta was a bona fide overnight sensation, but was he a bona fide artist? As Mr. Brainwash’s career took flight, Banksy, D'Cruz and King shifted the focus of the street art documentary, turning the lens on its original documentarian. Though the resulting film, Exit Through the Gift Shop, can’t possibly provide a definitive conclusion regarding Guetta’s authenticity as an artist, it poses the underlying question, and many more with it, in an incredibly smart and entertaining way. However, following initial screenings at the Sundance and Berlin film festivals, and the documentary’s cinematic release in April of this year, this ambiguity and the unlikely events chronicled have led some to accuse the filmmakers of staging an elaborate hoax.

Banksy’s reputation as a prankster has also confounded the situation, but, with his blessing, filmmakers D'Cruz and King are keen to set the record straight. While in town for the International Documentary Awards, SuicideGirls caught up with the duo at a brunch spot on Robertson Blvd. Though Exit Through the Gift Shop was passed over (in favor of Waste Land) at that particular ceremony, the film has won a prestigious Grierson Award, and is nominated for an Independent Spirit Award and shortlisted for Oscar nomination.

Read my exclusive interview with Jaimie D'Cruz and Chris King on SuicideGirls.com/.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Tank Girl Artist Rufus Dayglo



“She's a bit of a skank.”

- Rufus Dayglo


It's been a couple of years since Tank Girl made her dramatic comeback. Since then she's been kicking a lot of physical and metaphorical butt. After a hiatus of over a decade, the punk rock comic character is making up for lost time, with a slew of new adventures in book and comic form.


Created by anarchist wordsmith Alan Martin and artist Jamie Hewlett, Tankie (as she is affectionately known to those in the know) first made her debut in the pages of UK comic magazine Deadline in 1988. Her "fuck you" attitude instantly resonated with Britain's disenfranchised, Thatcher-abused youth, and it wasn’t long before Hollywood came calling. However MGM’s 1995 film, which captured the look but not the spirit of the comic strip, pretty much stopped Tank Girl in her tracks.


Having run out of steam, Tank Girl languished in the desert. Her fans moved on, as did Hewlett, who founded the virtual band Gorillaz with Blur’s Damon Albarn. With Hewlett entrenched in the music biz, when Martin decided to brush the dust off Tank Girl and recall her into action, another pen pal was needed.


Stepping into the Doc Martin’s of Hewlett was a daunting task, but London-based pencil master Rufus Dayglo has proved himself worthy. His authentic yet fresh vision of Tank Girl has won over old and new fans alike. With a veritable avalanche of new material hitting stores, I tracked Dayglo down by phone at his peanut factory-turned-art studio to talk out about the inspirations behind his Tank Girl.


Read my exclusive interview with Tank Girl artist Rufus Dayglo on SuicideGirls.com.


Related Posts:

Tank Girl, Genesis, and The Cool-Crap-Continuum

SuicideGirls' Interview - Alan Martin: Tank Girl Resurrected