Echoes Of World War II — And A Loud Explosion Or Two — On A Southern Road Trip

There’s a moment in an historical re-enactment when you start to question reality.

For me, it came as I stood on the deck of the USS Alabama on a recent Sunday afternoon, watching two vintage Russian Yak aircraft barreling toward us low and menacing over Mobile Bay.

On the deck of the meticulously restored battleship that served during World War II, pandemonium reigned. Sailors dressed in authentic era uniforms scrambled to load their weapons with blanks, tend to the pretend wounded and extinguish simulated fires. They’re part of the USS Alabama Living History Crew, who take this kind of thing pretty seriously.

How seriously? Well, for just a second, I believed the warplanes were going to take the re-enactors and their audience out in a burst of simulated cannon fire. I saw my 12-year-old son flinch. Then the warbirds pulled up and and soared south toward the ocean. The onlookers let out a collective gasp of relief.

There’s no better place to learn about WWII history than a road trip to Alabama and Louisiana. It’s not just Battleship Memorial Park in Mobile, Ala., that will let you experience the war in a visceral way, the way the American South demands to be experienced. A short two-hour drive away in New Orleans, you’ll also find the finest museum of WWII history, The National World War II Memorial Museum. You wouldn’t expect to find two such opportunities so close together outside perhaps a major world capital, yet here they are.

By itself, Battleship Memorial Park is worth the visit even without its history buffs and re-enactors. (They do their thing every other month, so you have to plan it right.) The USS Alabama, or the Mighty A as they call it here, looks as good as she did the day she was commissioned and is filled with “wow” moments — and plenty of opportunities to lose your kids.

I misplaced mine a time or two.

While the little ones will be fascinated by the weapons, of which there are plenty, there’s also enough to keep the adults occupied. Thoughtful exhibits and displays mark the walking tour of the USS Alabama. You could spend an entire day exploring the ship. The Mighty A has earned its place in history as the vessel that led the American fleet into Tokyo Bay on Sept. 5, 1945.

Most tourists come to this area to experience Alabama’s famous Gulf Coast, but the battleship is a worthy day trip and a sobering reminder of the sacrifices America and its allies made during World War II — explosions and all. For a more immersive experience, though, you have to drive west and visit the World War II museum.

Why would perhaps the world’s finest World War II museum be in New Orleans, of all places? It all started as the D-Day Museum, which wouldn’t have been possible without the amphibious landing vehicles built here and tested on Lake Pontchartrain by Higgins Industries. President Eisenhower credited Higgins and his boats for our winning the war in Europe. From there, the project expanded and was supported by Stephen Ambrose, a New Orleans resident and historian. Ambrose, then a professor at University of New Orleans, and Gordon “Nick” Mueller, the current museum CEO, were looking for a place to house the stories of veterans Ambrose was collecting and the memorabilia the veterans were giving to him.

So it didn’t surprise us when Tom Hanks — the executive producer of the adaptation of Ambrose’s book, Band of Brothers — showed up to narrate the spectacular Beyond All Boundaries, a “4-D” multimedia explanation of the war. This is easily one of the most compelling presentations about war I’ve ever seen. If you’re traveling with kids, you’ll want to take them here first. The fog effects, pyrotechnics and moving seats really convey the drama of the conflict and set the stage for the exhibits that follow.

My middle son, Iden, saw the medical warning that preceded the show, about the possibility of it aggravating “certain medical conditions” and asked me if we were going on a rollercoaster. But after sitting through Beyond All Boundaries he sat in stunned silence as the credits displayed. This was a rollercoaster of the mind.

It’s absolutely worth checking out the signature Campaigns of Courage after you watch the presentation. The Road to Berlin follows the conflict in Germany from the Normandy invasion to Germany’s surrender. A second exhibit, The Road to Tokyo, charts the same course for Japan. The exhibits are highly interactive and deeply compelling. Visitors use special “dog tags” (they’re actually plastic cards) to activate displays, which tell a personal story of someone who lived through the war.

For us, one of the most sobering exhibits was on the power of propaganda, Winning Over Hearts and Minds, a short display of wartime propaganda posters. It prompted a frank discussion with my children about the subtle effectiveness of propaganda and some of its modern-day uses. You can’t walk though these displays without seeing echoes of the current rhetoric used by politicians both in America and abroad.

On a southern road trip, the last thing you would expect is a reminder of the greatest human conflict. But, thanks to a restored ship, a museum built in one of the unlikeliest places, and several loud explosions, you can find one that will stay with you for a lifetime.

If you go …

Where to stay
The International House is a boutique property located a few blocks away from the WWII museum, but also close to New Orleans’ famous French Quarter. The hotel, located in a former world trade center, has been carefully restored with lots of attention to detail.

What to do
Check out the Hurricane Katrina exhibit at The Presbytère, the Louisiana State Museum. It’s a moving exhibit that follows this devastating hurricane and its aftermath and a testament to the city’s resilience.

What to eat
You mean, what not to eat? With only two days in town, we never got past breakfast. That’s Cafe Du Monde for beignets and coffee and Brennan's for one of their famous breakfasts. Try the turtle soup — but don’t forget the Sherry. I’ll discuss the differences between Creole and Cajun in a future story.

Christopher Elliott specializes in solving seemingly unsolvable consumer problems. Contact him with your questions on his advocacy website. You can also follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Google or sign up for his newsletter.

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Fear & Loafing at the IMATS

“You will be the same person in five years as you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read.” – Charlie “Tremendous” Jones

This quote has made enough rounds on the internet – unattributed and bastardized in motivational memes – to be in the public domain by now. And if that’s not how copyright law works, so what? Why should we honor Charlie Jones’ “intellectual property” when the man doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page? Sure, his book, Life is Tremendous, made a splash back in the day, if we can believe the cover’s claim that “more than 2,000,000” copies were sold, but I’m not sure we can. It tries too hard. A better question would be: Why should we trust any of the sophomoric maxims that pop up on our feeds? The answer, of course, is: we should trust anything on the internet if it helps us get through the day or props up our sense of purpose.

I like the idea of being the same person in five years – and I’m inclined to take any life advice at face value if it gives me the impression I can keep doing what I’m doing – prioritizing my art even when it doesn’t pay the bills and even though I happen to live in one of the top ten most expensive cities in the world. It should be noted that I wouldn’t have the luxury to write this fluff if I didn’t have a credit card. The substitute dog-walking shifts are drying up, my webseries has yet to be picked up and I’m starting to feel “The Fear” again. So, here I am resorting to gimmicks like going “in face” to the International Make-up Artist Trade Show with Maddelynn Hatter just to score some clicks.

“Girl, I’m 34 years old, and I’m a professional drag queen. There’s always a level of anxiety there because, like, what the fuck am I doing?” Maddy mused, inspecting the makeup on my face. I would be sporting a ‘water nymph’ boy-giesh look, as we would come to call it, and he had just finished contouring.

“But here’s the thing. . . The whole romance of living as an artist in New York City was the goal. Once you get here, you shouldn’t stress as much. Look up.” I flinched as Maddy pencilled iron-oxide onto my eyelids. He sighed. “Don’t be a pussy.”

Believe me, I’m trying. I just released the first installment of a revolutionary new vlog called The Me Report, and at the time of this writing, it has a paltry 121 views on YouTube. Meanwhile, my contemporaries are out there getting featured on NPR, touring through Europe, selling sitcoms, scoring half-hour specials on Comedy Central, and whatever else. Also, let’s not forget my mom. She likes to remind me how I don’t have the disposable income to visit as often as she’d like, and she has taken to asking some pretty unadorned questions like: “When will you be able to monetize?” The honest answer is the same as it has been for years: “Not soon enough, but try not to worry, mother – I’m surrounding myself with the right people.”

Maddy and I used to work weekend brunch shifts together at a bar in Williamsburg. He quit when he decided he could sustain himself by doing things that fit with his career path, leaving me to pour Bloody Marys and mimosas in peace, without his shrill ultimatums from the service station. Now he makes his money performing, costuming, running a show called TURNt at the Ritz, selling MaDd merchandise and beautifying strippers at Larry Flynt’s Hustler Club. In short, he is living the dream – he is an artist who pays the bills with his craft.

I’ve been trying to leech off of Maddy’s web presence ever since I found out how many Instagram followers he had, and he has always been gracious about it. When he agreed to give me a makeover and guide me through the IMATS, the idea was to write an immersive piece covering the tip of the iceberg that is the world of makeup. But alas, this article is shaping up to be something different, which shouldn’t come as a surprise to my editor, Lonnie, who has seen firsthand how often my work devolves into showy manifestations of my own angst. This one has taken on the gonzo feel.

Yes, I’m one of those Hunter S. Thompson fanboys. And if that’s not cool to admit, know that I’m not going for cool here – something that may end up giving me an edge in the long run since too many people these days lean on obscure, refined or timely palates to supplement their personalities. Me, I rely on my creations, derivative or not, and uh oh. . . it seems we’ve gone down a bitchy little rabbit hole here. Let’s just cap it with: “Leaders are readers.” This is according to Charlie “Tremendous” Jones, of course, and while I do believe that’s the rule, I should add that our President appears to be the exception. If Trump can get ahead without reading, anyone. . . nothing matters is what I think I’m trying to say.

“The people trying to get their shit together don’t understand there is no shit to get together,” Maddy told me once, as he rolled silverware, prepping for one of those brunch shifts of yore. I guess I needed to hear it at the time, because it stuck with me. Nihilistic reasoning is medicine for those of us who don’t see a place for ourselves at the grown-up table. I’d love a career someday, sure, but I’m committed to building one on my own terms. We’ll see how long that lasts; I’m almost 30. I’ll either succeed, break, or remain the wayward Renaissance boy who hammers too many nails to succeed at any one thing. However things pan out, I should probably start paying off my credit card debt. And on that note, here’s a letter to my editor:


Hey Lonnie,

I’m trying to avoid getting a 2nd restaurant job, but if it comes to that, I’ll need one that doesn’t bleed into too much of my open-mic time. Chances are I’d end up serving breakfast somewhere. I guess I could do the barista thing, but I’m afraid that culture might ruin me. Next time you go into a coffeeshop, Lonnie, try eavesdropping on all the high-minded feedback loops. They’re getting worse everyday, and to be honest, I’m starting to hate the sound of even my closest friends’ voices. Am I making sense? Nevermind. The point is: I think it might be for the best if you talk to the Outspeak machinery and secure me better payment for future articles. Then I can start writing more of them, and let’s face it – the internet could use A LOT more of me, whether it knows it or not. Maybe I can even start exploring subject matter beyond myself – a prospect that may be exciting to your people, but please let them know: it will cost them extra. If you fail to convince them to pay me enough to stave off more pink-collar work, at least make it a firm priority to get me seen, Lonnie – if not on the “front page” of The Huffington Post, then in one of your own projects. Yes, that’s right. Don’t think it slipped by me that one of your films made it onto New York Magazine’s Approval Matrix. Here’s my acting reel. Do the right thing.

Talk soon.



Maddy enunciated when he told me his friend was making serious money “sucking dick through Europe.” Our Uber driver, a hard-eyed man with a chinstrap beard, stole a glance in the rearview mirror, and I shuffled in my seat to avoid his eyes. “Live your life,” Maddy reminded us, making sure to project his voice which happens to match the resonant frequency of my skull. There was no telling whether our driver took the counsel to heart, but as we inched through Manhattan traffic toward Pier 94, Maddy cut the tension with tales from the days he slammed hard drugs and rose through the ranks of the drag world on neurochemical autopilot. While those days are gone (Maddy has been sober a year and a half), he still prides himself on not having a filter, or if he has one, not indulging it. It’s a quality I admire more and more these days, as the people around me grow up and refine themselves into phonier, more sensible, versions of themselves.

At the IMATS, nobody gave my face a second glance unless they were familiar with Maddy and wanted to appraise his work. There were too many things to look at. Fantastical creatures with latex prostheses made their way through a labyrinth of exhibition booths that were peacocking for foot traffic and peddling everything from face powder to faux mucus. A moderated discussion with the prosthetics chief and the head of the makeup department for a new rash of Marvel shows was underway, and while I couldn’t process anything the people onstage were saying, I was content to wade in the 133,000-square-foot sea of overstimulation underneath Pier 94’s 26-foot-high ceiling. The packaging of cosmetics is an art in and of itself and the retailers’ attention to presentation is key in scoring impulse buys.

When Maddy wasn’t collecting freebies from familiars who were working the booths, he was dropping money that he had allotted himself for the event. It was clear he was in his element, and as I tailed him, I appreciated his ability to shift from shopping with hawk-eyed focus to schmoozing with pep and candor. I felt a general sense of calm in the space – the kind of calm I imagine people feel when there’s nowhere else they need to be. Here, at the epicenter of their world, it seemed the makeup fiends could zen out. I let Maddy in on the observation, and he shot it down, assuring me the whole place would go to shit if a makeup-tutorial YouTube star walked in.

Right before we left, the people at the Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics stand mentioned the prospect of giving Maddellynn Hatter her own color. If a company expressed interest in hawking my brand, I might take the day off, but not Maddy. After we parted ways, he headed to the gym. The guy deserves all the success coming his way. He has been hustling for over a decade, and from what I’ve gathered, he hasn’t compromised his vision. I believe it was that guy Tai Lopez, the investor/Mensa member whose 67 Steps took him from broke to driving a Lambo through the Hollywood Hills, who tweeted: practice your skill until you are too good for people to ignore. Maddy is, for the record, and I’m working on it in my own sphere, whatever that is.

Commuting back to Brooklyn from Pier 94 with makeup on was uneventful. I scored a few “looks” but who’s to say what they meant? Certainly not me. This is New York City; it is among the most tolerant cities in the country. Getting home would’ve been more interesting if people had somehow detected that I was straight. Then I might have found myself cornered on the subway, having the ‘appropriation’ conversation with an excitable do-gooder. The theoretical one in my head is mocking me: How nice it must be to be able to play with makeup for a day without first having to endure a lifetime of homophobia or deal with the suffocating societal expectations that prime the average woman to spend about $15,000 on makeup in her lifetime.

Yes, it is nice, but I’m not keen on letting how good I have it dissuade me from seeking out innocuous new experiences. “Good.” Maddy’s voice reverberates in my head like a bee in an empty soda can.

“Don’t be a pussy,” he reminds me. Yes, that’s the idea, Maddy. A lot can and will change in the next five years, and if I haven’t achieved something serious by then, I hope I still have the chutzpah to keep doing what I’m doing – prioritizing my art, even if it’s obnoxious to the vanguard. “Don’t hope,” says another voice, somewhere in the cortex, parroting something from a Chicken Soup for the Soul vignette. “Decide.”

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Michael Moore Is Taking His Criticism Of Trump To Broadway

Last year, Michael Moore surprised fans when he announced he’d been making a “secret film” about then-presidential candidate Donald Trump, which he released shortly before the November election.

“Michael Moore in TrumpLand,” however, has been described more as a “love letter” to Democratic hopeful Hillary Clinton than an excoriating profile of her GOP opponent. Maybe Moore’s upcoming Broadway show will give Trump critics the incendiary takedown they’ve been waiting for.

Moore will indeed make his Broadway debut this summer, in a limited-run production titled “The Terms of My Surrender.” And he’s teasing the show as sufficiently Trump-critical: “Can a Broadway show take down a sitting President?” a poster reads.

A slightly longer description of the “theatrical work” provides a little more color:

In a time like no other in American history, and with a sense of urgency like never-before, Michael Moore comes to Broadway for the first time in an exhilarating, subversive one-man show guaranteed to take audiences on a ride through the United States of Insanity, explaining once and for all how the f*** we got here, and where best to dine before crossing with the Von Trapp family over the Canadian border.

Moore will act out the “The Terms of My Surrender” ― a flexibly scripted one-man show, with the potential for guests, that’s not quite stand-up comedy or a play ― eight times a week for 12 weeks, beginning with previews in July. The performances will take place, as a press release makes clear, “blocks from Trump Tower” at the Belasco Theatre. 

“It’s a humorous play about a country that’s just elected a madman,” Moore, who predicted Trump’s win, told The New York Times. “I mean, there’s really no other way to put it.” 

Like “TrumpLand,” Moore has indicated that “My Surrender” will be about more than just our current president. (Though he stands by the question on the poster, quipping to the NYT: “Can something like this unravel an unhinged man? I think that discombobulation might be our most effective path to undoing his presidency.”) 

“I think what the world needs right now is Michael Moore standing on a Broadway stage, sharing his hilarious stories and incendiary political perspective” the show’s director, Tony Award-winner Michael Mayer, noted in the show’s release, “creating the kind of dialogue that can only happen in the theater.”

Since Trump’s election, Moore has outlined his own blueprints for resisting a man he refers to as our “so-called” president, who’s already, according to the documentarian, declared “war against the actual planet.”

If you’re itching to see how Moore will continue the resistance on Broadway, you can checkout tickets for the show ― which officially opens on Aug.10 ― here.

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12 Unusual Baby Name Ideas From Movie Characters

Every new movie season seems to bring with it a few character names that jump out for their distinctive baby name potential, and these past few months were no exception. We saw new names that are right on trend — vintage nicknames, gender switches, literary characters, and surname names. Here are 12 of the best — some of which might even catch on!


“The Zookeeper’s Wife, a true story set in 1939 Poland, features Jessica Chastain as heroic Antonina Zabinski. Heard in Russia, Italy, and Poland, Antonina is a daintier diminutive of Antonia that becomes a lovely possibility.


James Franco plays an over-the-top, extravagantly tattooed Silicon Valley millionaire character named Laird Mayhew in the comedy, “Why Him?”. The name Laird, is a Scottish title for the landed gentry and may have been given facetiously to this comic character. Most famous bearer is surfer Laird Hamilton; Sharon Stone picked it for her son in 2005.


Annette Bening gives a striking performance as the bohemian 1970s mother in “20th Century Women.” Despite the revivals of Dorothy and Thea, the lovely Dorothea has been left behind, just waiting for a nudge into the Top 1000. It’s already number 838 on Nameberry.


Rising young actor Asa Butterfield plays an imaginative boy in “The Space Between Us,” a romantic sci-fi film. Not quite the occupational name Gardener, surname Gardner still evokes greenery and flowers — and glamorous actress Ava.


The mighty Kong has risen again in “Kong: Skull Island,” and this time around, the leading lady of the film, played by Oscar-winning Brie Larson, is named Mason Weaver. Though Mason currently ranks at number three for boys, it has been used for girls before — Kelsey Grammar has a daughter named Mason Olivia, born in 2001.


The thriller “Nocturnal Animals,” starring Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal also features Armie Hammer as Adams’s husband, Hutton Morrow. With its decidedly upscale surname feel (E.F. Hutton, anyone?), it could easily join Holden and Hunter — and was indeed a recent celeb choice.


There are not one but two Cassians in recent films. In “Rogue One,” Cassian Andor, played by Mexican actor Diego Luna, is an intelligence officer in the Rebel Alliance. There’s also a Cassian in “John Wick: Chapter 2.” This Latin saints’ name has, along with the related Cassius, a lot of potential. Also from “Rogue One”: Galen, Orson, Bodhi, Baze and Jyn.


In this Vin Diesel franchise, “Return of Xander Cage,” Rory McCann plays getaway driver Tennyson the Torch. The poet name Tennyson was used by Russell Crowe in 2006 for his second son and would make a cool choice for literary parents. Other characters in the movie: Augustus, Darius, Lazarus, Ainsley, Talon and Hawk.


Modesty and Chastity Barebone are two young sisters (brother is Credence) in “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” the latest installment in the Harry Potter franchise and evidence of J. K. Rowling’s naming chops. Modesty and Chastity might not be as usable today as other virtue names like Amity and Verity. Also in this film: Newton/Newt, Queenie, Credence and Seraphina.


In “Logan,” the latest Wolverine film, set in a dystopian 2029, comic actor Stephen Merchant plays the mutant Caliban, a veteran of comics and an earlier “X-Men” film. Best known as a not so appealing Shakespearean character in The Tempest, Caliban is, nonetheless, a name with an accessible feel, rhythmic sound and friendly nickname Cal. The “X-Men” movies have already done a lot for the name Logan. 


What, you may ask, is Mary doing on a list of cool new names? It’s precisely because it seems such a surprising choice for a little girl character in “Gifted,” a 2017 film. The top girls’ name for centuries, the saintly Mary still ranks at number 124.


In the latest Vin Diesel giant blockbuster, “The Fate of the Furious,” the female lead, played by Michelle Rodriguez, has the sweet vintage nickname, Letty. Originally a pet form of Letitia, it peaked at the beginning of the 20th century but has a good chance for a comeback a la Hattie and Maisie.

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How This Trans Actress Was Happily Proven Wrong About Show Business

In order for Aneesh Sheth to find her voice as an actress, she had to walk away from show business first.  

Sheth, who is transgender, can currently be seen in William Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night,” which is being performed at various venues in all five New York City boroughs as part of the Public Theater’s Mobile Unit. In the beloved comedy of mistaken identity, the 35-year-old plays Maria, servant to the wealthy countess, Olivia (Ceci Fernandez), who falls in love with Viola (Danaya Esperanza), disguised as a man. She says the production, which opened April 27, is everything she’s “hoped and dreamed for,” particularly since she’s getting the chance to inhabit a role traditionally played by cisgender women.

“When the opportunity came up to do this, I was absolutely terrified. I’ve never done Shakespeare before,” Sheth told HuffPost. Now that performances are underway, however, she said she feels “very, very blessed to be able to do this show for so many people and see the way that different people and communities react to it.”

“Twelfth Night” marks Sheth’s second Public Theater stint. In 2016, she starred in the acclaimed bluegrass musical, “Southern Comfort,” about a group of transgender friends who gather to support a dying trans man (played by Annette O’Toole). Between “Twelfth Night” and “Southern Comfort,” Sheth is now finding steadier work as an actress. When she began her transition in 2008, however, it was a much different story.

“Back then, ‘Transparent’ and ‘Orange is the New Black’ – these big shows that are trans-inclusive – did not exist,” Sheth said. Convinced she wouldn’t get cast as a trans actress, the Pune, India native relocated from New York to California and began pursing a career in social work instead. “I felt like there was no space for me,” she said.

Sheth’s thespian dreams wouldn’t be cast aside for too long, however. In 2011, a friend connected her with the producers of NBC’s “Outsourced,” who offered her a guest spot. Though the role of Kami Sutra lasted only two episodes, it turned out to be turning point for Sheth. “I thought, ‘Well, if I’m able to land a spot on an NBC sitcom, then I should not limit myself because of who I am,’” she recalled. “Having that opportunity pop up proved me wrong. I was able to go back to where I was meant to be.”

Though Sheth is generally pleased with how her career has progressed, she admitted there have been setbacks. The recent push to cast transgender actors in trans roles on stage and screen has helped land her auditions, she said. Still, a number of casting agents have told Sheth that she “doesn’t look transgender enough,” a comment she calls “ridiculous.” Then there’s the roles themselves, many of which promote “ancient, stigmatized and fetishized views” of both Asian Americans and the trans community, she said.

“My gender identity, as well as my race, has been a hindrance sometimes,” she said. “It’s been easier to get my foot in the door, but there’s still this misconception that we all look a certain way, or that we’re all one way.”

After “Twelfth Night” wraps May 14, Sheth would like to turn her attention back to the musical stage, possibly in a role that has yet to be written. Though she cites Broadway icons Patti LuPone and Audra McDonald as influences, she’d ultimately like to “forge her own path” as an artist.

Given that openly trans performers are still an anomaly, Sheth said she does feel a responsibility to portray her community in a positive light. She won’t shy away from addressing politics in her work, either. “Like everybody else, we are human, and have our own thoughts and feelings about the things that are happening in the world,” she told HuffPost. “I feel lucky that, as an artist, there are ways for me to express what I’m feeling about the world through my art.”

Sheth doesn’t see her recent successes as much as a reflection of increased trans visibility as much as a testament to her perseverance as a performer. “If you keep reaching for what it is that you want, eventually you’re going to get there,” she said. “Eventually you’re going to show people that you deserve to be there as much as anyone else, regardless of what your gender identity is.”

The New York Public Theater’s production of Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” runs through May 14. Head here for details. 

For the latest in LGBTQ entertainment, check out the Queer Voices newsletter. 

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Here, Finally, Is The Rap Musical Steve Bannon Wrote

Perhaps Emperor Nero didn’t actually play a fiddle while Rome burned, but we’re now living in a time when a country’s “shadow president” may spend today watching a video of his old rap musical being performed while the government around him starts yet another week in various scandals.

Before becoming a high-profile political strategist and adviser to President Donald Trump, Steve Bannon attempted and failed to achieve a career in Hollywood. Along with writing partner Julia Jones, Bannon wrote various scripts that never ended up becoming movies, including at least a couple adaptations of William Shakespeare plays for the modern era.

In one of these adaptations, a take on Shakepeare’s “Coriolanus,” Bannon set the story during the Los Angeles riots of 1992. He also transformed the play into a hip-hop musical.

According to Jones when she spoke to The Daily Beast, the main concept was Bannon’s idea and then Jones wrote most of the rap lyrics, with help from the son of Bannon’s assistant. Bannon then “added stuff,” according to Jones, explaining, “all the ‘dudes’ are him.”

Bannon once set up a live reading of the musical, but the script hadn’t been publicly performed in many years. Parts of the script have been released by publications such as The New York Times, but until Monday, you’d be hard-pressed to take in the whole thing. 

Thankfully, NowThis News just produced a live-reading of the script with various professional actors such as Rob Corddry, who said in a press release, “It’s pretty eye-opening to imagine Steve Bannon writing this. People need to see it to believe it.”

From that same announcement, NowThis highlighted a few quotes:

Quotes from The Thing I Am:


“They say! Fuck they! They hang out shooting pool and think they know what’s going down – who’s up, who’s out, who bounds, and if there’s crack enough. If I had my way, I’d make a quarry of these slaves.”


“Whoever deserves greatness, wants their hate. Peep game, boy. To count on them for favors is to swim with fins of lead.”

[He turns back to the mob.]

“So fuck you! Trust you? Ha! With each passing minute, you change your common mind. You call him noble that was once your enemy, then dis your king. You cry against the “other” – crackers, Blood, Crip, popo, Pol, the rich – it don’t matter, niggas; awe keeps you feeding each another.”

Watch the video above.

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Frank Underwood Sounds Even Scarier Than Trump In ‘House Of Cards’ Season 5 Trailer

At the White House Correspondents’ Dinner this weekend, comedian Hasan Minhaj joked that the real presidency has become so stressful that he’s taken to watching “House of Cards” “just to relax.”

Judging by the new trailer for Season 5 of the Netflix series starring Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright, which was released on Monday, Minhaj might need to amend that statement.

In the clip, the Underwoods smile, strangle and sneer their way to seizing power in the capital, all while expressing their general disgust for the American public. Essentially, nothing has changed. 

“The American people don’t know what’s best for them. I do,” Spacey’s character, Frank Underwood, says. “They’re like little children, Claire. We have to hold their sticky fingers and wipe their filthy mouths, teach them right from wrong, tell them what to think and how to feel and what to want. They even need help writing their wildest dreams, crafting their worst fears. Lucky for them, they have me.”

Er, tell us how you really feel, Frank. 

Watch the full trailer above. 

“House of Cards” Season 5 premieres May 30 on Netflix. 

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‘Priestdaddy’ Takes On Priesthood, Fatherhood And The Patriarchy

No reader of Patricia Lockwood’s irreverent verse would be surprised to discover that her upbringing was a perfect storm of oddities.

Her father, a naval veteran who spends most of his time clad solely in boxer shorts, calls his daughter “Bit” and drinks Irish cream liqueur. He’s also a Roman Catholic priest ― an achievement that, given the Church’s rather strict rules regarding celibacy in the priesthood, required a circuitous path through the Lutheran priesthood and a dispensation from the pope. Her mother, a colorful Irish Catholic matriarch with five children, frequently spouts bon mots grounded in paranoia. For example: “Did you know rats in big cities are getting aggressive from eating too many cigarette butts?”

Lockwood spent her childhood moving from rectory to rectory ― the Catholic Church prefers frequent geographical shakeups over allowing priests to cultivate deep roots in specific communities ― and, increasingly, imagining ways out. When her father bluntly informs her that there’s no money for her to attend the colleges she got into, she finds another way to escape: Falling in love with Jason, a boy she met online who shares her passion for poetry. She runs away with him. They get married young. Several years later, after he needs eye surgeries that force him to leave his job as a newspaper editor, he and Lockwood move in with her parents.

This is where the real action of the memoir begins. As a grown-up, married, extremely lapsed Catholic, living in the home of a traditional (in terms of gender roles) yet unconventional (in terms of clothing choices) Catholic priest and his deeply maternal wife, Lockwood experiences a maelstrom of conflicting feelings. She adores her parents and seems to have a particular closeness to her mother, but frequently finds them ludicrous. Home is familiar, but also alien; comforting, but also claustrophobic. Living in a rectory with Lockwood’s parents, a young seminarian, and copious crucifix-based art stifles them. After they move in, she and Jason “look at each other and realize, with sad certainty, that we will never have sex in this place.”

Instead, as they save up to move out again, Lockwood sits and reads with the young seminarian, periodically offering him educational tidbits about cuckolding and other sexual fetishes. In return, he lets her know that Satanism is “on the rise” in Italy. (“Understand,” she adds, “that hardcore Catholics get their news from different places than the rest of us.”) Her poem “Rape Joke” is published on The Awl and rapidly goes viral. She gets a book deal. She remembers her dad teaching her to swim and how her parents reacted when she first told them about her sexual assault. She goes on a road trip with her mom, who is slightly fastidious about a hotel bed that appears to have semen on it. “I guess a ‘fun mother’ wouldn’t care about all the cum?” she quips.

Her parents’ habits and catchphrases, her oddly religious yet profane upbringing, and her own mischievous attitude toward her childhood religion are the stuff of pure comedy, and Lockwood doesn’t waste a drop of it. Her parents’ and siblings’ over-the-top, slapstick wit seems so unlikely that she goes out of her way to note that she and Jason are constantly scribbling down her family’s riffs verbatim. Her family life needs no punching up. As a memoirist, she can milk all the humor out of human absurdity in one passage (“[M]y mother,” she writes, “is best described in terms of her Danger Face, which is organized around the information that somewhere in America, a house is on fire”). As a poet, she excels at painting familiar and unfamiliar scenes alike in startlingly unexpected terms, terms that force you to reevaluate your own mental pictures. Savannah, where she and Jason lived for some time, “looked like an enlightened underwater city with all the water gone, and seaweed still hanging in the middle of the air. Great mermaids flowed through the streets: southerners. The sun shone down because it was a blonde.”

The book, with its slightly off-color-seeming title, isn’t a lighthearted ode to her youth. She struggles with her father’s ingrained, prescriptive misogyny, which he evinces with the confidence of a man who assumes that his audience agrees, and with his fierce determination to have things all his own way.

And, as the daughter of a Catholic priest, she’s looking back on a childhood and young adulthood that took place in the eye of a brewing storm: the Church’s sexual assault problem and its long, long coverup. The book isn’t about sexual abuse by priests, and there’s no indication that Lockwood herself was ever a victim ― it’s just that the problem was so pervasive, and the coverup implicated so many in the Church hierarchy, that of course she was touched by it. An oily, ingratiating priest who taught at her school later turned out to have been a molester; the bishop she meets at a church dinner reportedly moved predatory priests from parish to parish to hide their crimes. Being deeply embedded in the Catholic community means knowing men of God who did unspeakable things.

It’s a testament to Lockwood’s way with words that glimpses of such grotesque wrongdoing, painfully candid reflection on her youth and her family, and countless sidesplitting anecdotes about her boxer-clad father and her safety-obsessed mother can not only coexist in this book, but weave together seamlessly, constructing a memoir that’s propulsively readable and brimming with humor and insight.

The Bottom Line:

Lockwood’s venture into memoir proves just as hilarious, textured and evocative as could have been hoped.

What other reviewers think:

Kirkus: “Funny, tender, and profane, Lockwood’s complex story moves with lyrical ease between comedy and tragedy as it explores issues of identity, religion, belonging, and love.”

The Atlantic: “Lockwood’s book is really a rather deliciously old-school, big-R Romantic endeavor: a chronicle of the growth of a mind, the evolution of an imagination.”

Who wrote it?

Patricia Lockwood is a poet and the author of two collections, Balloon Pop Outlaw Black and Motherland Fatherland Homelandsexuals. One of her poems, “Rape Joke,” went viral in 2013 after being published on The Awl.

Who will read it?

Poetry buffs, former Catholic school kids and anyone who loves a well-executed memoir.

Opening lines:

“‘Before they allowed your father to be a priest,’ my mother tells me, ‘they made me take the Psychopath Test. You know, a priest can’t have a psychopath wife, it would bring disgrace.’

“She sets a brimming teacup in front of me and yells, ‘HOT!’ She sets a second one in front of my husband, Jason, and yells, ‘Don’t touch it!’ She situates herself in he chair at the head of the table and gazes at the two of us with total maternal happiness, ready to tell the story of the time someone dared to question her mental health.”

Notable passage:

“I submit that every man of God has two religions: one that belongs to heaven and one that belongs to the world. My father’s second religion is Nudity, or Underwear, to be more precise. There are some men who must strip straight down to the personality as soon as they would through the door of their castle, and my father is one of them. I have almost no memories of him wearing pants, and I have a lot of memories of his sitting me down for serious talks while leaning forward on his bare haunches. He just never wore pants on principle. We saw him in his collar and we saw him in his underwear, and nothing ever in between. It was like he couldn’t think unless his terrier could see his belly button. In the afternoons, he reclined nudely on leather couches and talked to Arnold Schwarzenegger while he shot up the jungle, and every time Arnold made a pun about murder, he laughed with gratification. As far as I could tell, he thought movies were real. He watched them in a state of alarming physical receptiveness, with his legs so completely open toward the television that it seemed possible he was trying to watch it with his butt. His default position was a kind of explicit lounge, with one leg up and the other leg extended, like the worst kind of Jazzercise stretch you could possibly imagine.” 


By Patricia Lockwood
Riverhead, $27.00
Publishes May 2, 2017

The Bottom Line is a weekly review combining plot description and analysis with fun tidbits about the book.

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George R.R. Martin Wrote This Adorably Geeky Fan Letter When He Was 15

George R.R. Martin was just 26 when he won the Hugo Award for Best Novella, an impressive feat for such a young writer. But he was published in print over a decade before that ― in the fan mail section of “Fantastic Four #17.”

In an upcoming History channel documentary about comics, Martin says that this letter was the first time his writing appeared in print.

In a post about the letter, Entertainment Weekly notes that the “A Song of Ice and Fire” author shows an early penchant for unexpected plot twists, a staple of his own writing.

“In what other comic mag could you see things like a hero falling down a manhole,” Martin wrote. He continued to shower the issue with effusive praise:

“You were just about the World’s worst mag when you started, but you set yourself to an ideal, and, by gumbo, you achieved it! More than achieved it, in fact ― why, if you were only half as good as you are now, you’d still be the world’s best mag!!!”

Read the entire letter below:

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How ‘I Love Dick’ Is Revolutionizing The On-Screen Muse

In Amazon’s new sex comedy “I Love Dick,” the protagonist, Chris Kraus, played by Kathryn Hahn, becomes wildly obsessed with a mysterious man ― part cowboy, part artist ― by the name of Dick. The camera itself, however, remains entirely fixed on Kraus.

Like the characters around her, viewers are glued to Kraus’ every move, watching a strong woman’s willful unraveling with a mix of fascination, horror and reverence. The way she tousles her hair with a bit too much muscle, like some sort of seductive metalhead. How she punctuates her jerky dance moves with overly carefree yelps and howls. Or how she occasionally makes additional use of random, long, solid objects by running them ever so gently between her legs.

The particular gaze with which the camera savors Kraus’ ― and Hahn’s ― every move is one many women viewers will identify with. It’s the admiring gaze women reserve for one another when attempting to understand who a person has made herself into ― and how and why. A way of looking that considers women to be smart, sexual, messed up and striving to be better, a perspective not often seen on screen. 

Jill Soloway, the show’s creator, is known for bringing this particular kind of female gaze to mainstream television ― doing for instant streaming what writer Chris Kraus herself did for writing in her 1995 semi-autobiographical manifesto I Love Dick, on which the show is based. 

Soloway’s “I Love Dick” follows Kraus as she accompanies her husband, Sylvere (Griffin Dunne), a Holocaust scholar, to a fellowship in the solidly trippy town of Marfa, Texas. There, Kraus meets Dick ― played by Kevin Bacon ― a scruffy, silent type, a land art sculptor who possesses deep appreciation for straight lines and large, concrete phalluses. Dick awakens something inside Kraus: desire, an eruption of excess energy that is not only sexual but creative, personal and political.

Fueled by her hunger for Dick, Kraus begins to describe his influence on her body and brain in a slew of love letters, each beginning “Dear Dick,” turning the archetypal male artist into her very own rugged muse. One reads: “Dear Dick, I want to make the world more interesting than my problems. Therefore, I have to make my problems social.” Even the book’s title, I Love Dick, positions Kraus as the subject, Dick as the object. 

“I think [Kathryn Hahn] is a muse for me in the same way De Niro is a muse for Scorsese.”
Jill Soloway

Kraus’ lust stimulates her creative drive, transforming the former failed filmmaker into, to quote Kraus, a “female monster,” a woman who boldly wreaks havoc on her life without remorse or apology, who uses her emotions and impulses as impetus for art. “Art supersedes what’s personal,” the book reads, and Kraus lives this truth unabashedly, as her piles of love letters transform into a revolutionary declaration of female irrepressibility.

While Dick becomes a muse for Kraus, Hahn is something of a muse for Soloway. Except instead of zooming in on misty, love-sick eyes or lengthy legs, Soloway keeps her lens fixed on Hahn’s delectable self-destruction, frenzied artistic innovation and virtuoso horniness. 

“I think she is a muse for me in the same way De Niro is a muse for Scorsese,” Soloway explained in an interview with HuffPost. 

“She has this clownish relationship to her body when it comes to sex,” she continued. “You know, it’s that awkward moment where you are supposed to be sexy but you are just too much in your head. As a physical comedian, she reminds me of Charlie Chaplin.”

Soloway first worked with Hahn in her 2014 series “Transparent”; Hahn plays Rabbi Raquel, a bastion of sanity juxtaposed against the dependably unholy Pfefferman family. But even as the show’s faithful dose of vanilla, a breath of normalcy amongst the selfish havoc, Rabbi Raquel is never one-dimensional. She is ethical, yes, but she’s goofy, flawed, romantic and confused ― as a result, she’s one of the most beloved characters in the stellar ensemble cast. 

“When ‘Transparent’ was happening, I was always like, ‘Kathryn needs her own show,’” Soloway recalled. “I thought, ‘If I do another show Hahn will be the lead.’”

It’s hard to think of a better role for Hahn than that of Chris Kraus ― who not only resembles her physically, but offers the actor endless opportunities for physical absurdity and emotional complexity through breathless rants, fevered sex and searing works of art. 

“Chris Kraus is a kind of like Philip Roth for women,” Soloway explained. “The more Dick ignores her, the more turned on she gets. What heroic, female TV character has ever admitted that? There are these things we women are supposed to keep secret, in service of male protagonists. The female gaze allows us to have our own version of our reality.”

The first time Hahn read Kraus’ I Love Dick, she felt an intense connection with the writer and protagonist. Many women creatives do. “Her writing got under my skin,” Hahn told HuffPost. “I couldn’t believe how similar some of our behaviors were, how fast our motors ran.”

While getting into character, Hahn took pleasure in how far Kraus pushed and how giddily she relinquished control over her identity and her life. “In the normal romantic comedy,” Hahn said, “Chris would flirt by getting dressed up, doing everything Dick asked, being quiet and demure, and waiting for him to look at her. But no, she just keeps going further and further. It is so cathartic to see someone moving forward into her own abjection. There is something so cringeworthy and delicious about it.”


There is a stark difference between Soloway and Hahn’s relationship and those of famed auteurs and muses past, which traditionally run male and female, respectively. Michelangelo Antonioni and Monica Vitti, Jean-Luc Godard and Anna Karina, Bernardo Bertolucci and Maria Schneider ― such cinematic relationships are often fraught with unequal power dynamics that can result in violence, stemming from gendered stereotypes of the male genius and female beauty.

There is something distinct at play in Soloway and Hahn’s connection, and not just because both actor and filmmaker are women. “I Love Dick” destabilizes the very idea of a muse, founded upon patriarchal understandings of female desire. “I think women are expected to connect to their desire through being seen,” Soloway said. “We grow up in the world where we are told sex is the prize you get for being hot. We have been raised to believe that our sexual satisfaction, desire and orgasm are derived from succeeding at collecting male approval.”

“Women have had to do what they’ve had to do to make a living, so I don’t degrade female muses of yore,” Soloway added. “People who are conventionally attractive, like Brigitte Bardot, rise up thanks to men who believe they possess something special. Women became icons through being muses because that’s all we knew. ‘Some man thinks I’m fantastic and beautiful and look great in a hat and now I’m in a movie.’”

The argument “I Love Dick” makes is that, when a woman stops seeing herself only as a muse can, she processes her potential as an artist. “I’m beginning to think there’s no such thing as a good woman filmmaker,” Hahn-as-Kraus says during an unprompted rant in the second episode. “How can you be, if you are raised to be invisible? I mean visible ― I mean looked at. It’s a wonder that any woman could look at herself as an artist.”

Hahn, however, represents a new breed of muse, one who is both subject and object, artist and artwork ― as Kraus might put it, predator and prey.

“Chris Kraus is a kind of like Philip Roth for women.”
Jill Soloway

When she becomes addicted to Dick, Kraus bids her ego farewell and plunges into the world as a female monster, unguarded and unafraid. This is revolutionary, even within the fictional world of Soloway’s creation. In the TV show, Kraus becomes a living catalyst for the other women and artists in her midst. Her awakening inspires the local groundskeeper to write a play and a fellow artist to stage a nude performance. 

For Soloway, it was important to expand the scope of Kraus’ novel to include new characters like Devon (Roberta Colindrez), Toby (India Menuez) and Paula (Lily Mojekwu). In part, this constituted an effort to tell stories of women who were not, like Kraus, white and straight. But also, Soloway hoped to visually represent the book’s influence on the contemporary generation of women and artists.

“We wanted to put into action what happened to us when we read the book,” Soloway said. She wanted to show, within her show, just how revolutionary it is to watch a woman pursue a man madly and fail happily. To watch a woman write and create without fear or self-doubt. 

“The book radicalizes people,” Soloway said. “People read it and they say, ‘I want to write. I want to have sex. I have an idea. I am not ashamed anymore.’ What happens when one woman says, ‘This is who I am’? Women start to go, ‘My turn, my turn, my turn.’ It just takes one woman to start telling her truth.”

Few demonstrate the contagious effect inspired women have on one another quite like Soloway and Hahn themselves. They feed off each other’s energy, brilliance and sense of humor, both moonlighting as water to nourish the other’s gnarled plant. “I feel like we’re constantly surprising each other still,” Hahn said.

For muses of yore, growing older means a decline in roles and a depreciation in value as the stock female parts of ingenue and romantic lead fade out of view. For Hahn, however, aging through the eyes and lens of a filmmaker who is enthralled by the entirety of her body and mind is a thrilling prospect. “There is something quite moving and profound about growing old alongside somebody that knows you so well,” she said. “To grow along with each other’s brains and bodies is something special.”

Like its source material, Soloway’s “I Love Dick” is a triumphant scrambling of art and life, a “matriarchal revolution,” a battle cry for any woman who has yearned to make something of herself, while only ever knowing how to criticize herself.

In her book, Kraus is both author and character, subject and object. As a woman, in the 1990s, this was new terrain. With her TV adaptation, Soloway bolsters Kraus’ words with the help of a writers room comprised entirely of women ― no male genius required. Kevin Bacon, for the record, credited the writers with creating two of “the best, most well-rounded male characters that I’ve read in a long time.”

What happens when a woman writes the story of herself ― activated, lustful and unafraid? What happens when a woman brings this story to the screen, expanding Chris Kraus’ narrative to house the entire history of feminist art? This was the revolution Soloway had in mind.

“Patriarchy recycles male protagonism over and over,” she said. “Every piece of art that is from a man’s point of view continues to make men feel like the subjects. We are women writing, women shooting, women turning the world upside down. You are not seeing women through a male perspective at all. That is a new feeling.”

Soloway described the powers of activated female desire as “too dangerous for this planet.” The exact effects remain to be seen. It seems safe to say, though, that the holy mythology of the lone, male artist is ― like Dick’s artistic legacy ― reaching its expiration date.  

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