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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.

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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