SXSW: Saul Williams

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Just got done chatting with Saul Williams at the Austin Convention Center. Williams has three performances scheduled for this year’s SXSW. He’s actually just finishing up his first now, which is a solo acoustic set, but will be joined later tonight by his band for their 1AM performance at Vice. I think they’re also doing a day show at the Fader Fort tomorrow.

On my may out I also bumped into Thurston Moore. He’s plays tomorrow night (sans Sonic Youth) at 12:45AM (Mohawk Patio).

Word on the street, is that tomorrow around 5PM at the Fader Fort there’s going to be a Lou Reed Tribute show (with Lou Reed in attendance). Apparently a handful of bands will be performing Velvet Underground songs. Rumor has it that Dr. Dog, The Shout Out Louds, and Thurston Moore will be partaking in the event. We shall see.

He’s an excerpt of my interview with Saul Williams. Look for the full-length later this month:

Jim: Many people may not realize that your Niggy Tardust character has a much deeper meaning than just a name recognition to David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust character.

Saul: What David Bowie was doing with Ziggy Stardust, I think, was finding a way to do a few things–to manipulate the media and shift his career, to go from this folk musician to this “what’s-he-going-to-do-next?” artist, but then to get media to raise questions surrounding gender and sexuality, and to use that as a stepping board. With Niggy Tardust I’m raising questions about identity and race, and using that as a stepping board at a time where everything is going down–like today on the news, what Geraldine Ferraro has said about Barrack Obama, “The only reason why he’s in a position that he is, is because he’s black.” So now she has to apologize, because everyone’s like, “Whoa, you can’t say that.” So America’s at this racial [crossroads], and at the same time I’m a firm believer in the idea of the feminine being the thing that we need to honor more than the idea of the masculine. That was really what my last album was about, where I was talking about vulnerability being power. With Niggy Tardust, he’s a hybrid–that’s the main focus. Here’s someone that’s born, like me and you, under the context or banner of the idea of belonging to some sort of race, but who understands and sees beyond it. You know? Who realizes that race is a social construct, and realizes that he doesn’t need those boundaries to justify his existence.

Jim: Last year you wrote an open letter to Oprah Winfrey. What was the purpose of it?

Saul: It was real simple. A bunch of friends of mine were like, “Oprah’s going to have Common [and other hip-hop artists] on her show talking about misogyny in hip-hop.” Some people aren’t aware of it that in 25 years of Oprah she’s never mentioned hip-hop.

Jim: Never?

Saul: It was the first time ever that hip-hop was addressed on her show–ever. We all knew, the black community was aware of it, she just never addressed it. So, I tuned in. It’s like, “Wow, hip-hop for the first time.” She had Russell Simmons–I can’t remember everyone she had on–but very articulate people who just didn’t say stuff that I felt needed to be said. When I stopped watching the show I was frustrated that she called it a “town meeting”. It was the same thing that led me to writing poetry. I was hearing people voice ideas and I wasn’t hearing my voice or perspective, and I knew that my voice and perspective was representative of many similar to mine. I decided the next morning, “I’m going to write Oprah today.” First thing I did was call my mom, cause that’s who you call when you’re going to write Oprah. I never intended to send it to Oprah. If you look at the style that it’s written in, I was using Oprah as the person I was talking to, because it directed how I spoke. It was like talking to your mom or something. I had to be respectful, I couldn’t be angry. I liked using [Oprah] as a writing device so I just kept it up. I spent the whole day writing it and editing it, and at the end of the day I was like, “I like this, let’s throw it up to the e-mail blast.” I’ve done that with poems several times.

Jim: Did you ever hear back from Oprah?

Saul: By the end of the next day it was on something like 200-300 websites. It had just resonated. It popped up on all these different websites and they just took it and ran with it. That’s the other thing, I never personally acknowledge that I really have any level of celebrity or anything like that, so I forget in some people’s eyes they might think that [I am famous]. Some websites responded like, “Saul Williams Sends a Letter–.” I was like, “Oh shit.” I was thinking of it like a personal blog type thing, you know? So then my publishing company was like, “We would like to formally send this to Oprah with a submission to be on her show.” So that was done. I never got a response, but the lack of response feels official.


New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…


IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 


IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.


The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”


Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).



Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.


And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.


Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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GIFs via Giffy

In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.


Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.


Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!



Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.


Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.


If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.