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Tom Hanks Is Coming For People Who Refuse To Wear Masks In Public

Back in March, Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson became the first U.S. celebrities to reveal their COVID-19 diagnoses. Both have since recovered after suffering relatively mild symptoms (although it still sounds like they were miserable), and Chet Haze insisted that his father was “not trippin’” while in recovery. Well, Hanks knows that he got lucky, and he’s here to tell everyone to take this pandemic seriously.

Hanks apparently got very heated on the subject (like Bill Burr while slamming Joe Rogan), and he won’t accept that people won’t take the very simple step of wearing a mask to protect others. Here’s what he said during a junket to promote Apple TV+’s Greyhound movie (which streams on July 10), according to People:

“Those things are so simple, so easy, if anybody cannot find it in themselves to practice those three very basic things — I just think shame on you… Don’t be a p—-, get on with it, do your part. It’s very basic. If you’re driving a car, you don’t go too fast, you use your turn signal and you avoid hitting pedestrians. My Lord, it’s common sense.”

Yep, Hanx is coming for the tantrum-throwing Karens and Brads out there, who have managed to anger one of the nicest guys on the planet. Hanks also detailed more about his “10 days of very uncomfortable symptoms,” although he’s very thankful that neither he nor Rita’s lungs filled up with fluid, and that their fevers didn’t spike to the point where they would have required emergency medical care. Hanks also stressed that the pair took great care to isolate during their illness and is still practicing strict social distancing. Yes, listen to Tom Hanks and wear a mask.

(Via People)

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Blimes And Gab Take It Back To The ’80s In Their Surreal ‘Shellys (It’s Chill)’ Video

Hip-hop’s new favorite aunties are back with the video for their latest single. Blimes And Gab, who just released their debut album Talk About It last Friday, take a radical journey back in time to the 1980s for their synthwave-y “Shellys (It’s Chill)” video, inhabiting a world of neon, DeLoreans, side ponytails, and lots of spandex as they explain just what a “Shelly” really is.

As it turns out, it’s their tongue-in-cheek title for the type of girl who is “always drunk, walking out of the club with her shoes in her hand,” and engages in annoying, self-centered behavior like FaceTiming at “3am from the club, crying.” And just in case the group’s chat outside of a nightclub doesn’t hammer home the point, we see a few examples of exactly the type before the video gets really surreal, with Gifted Gab shooting lasers from her eyes and Blimes doing a Johnny Cage shadow kick on a man with a t-rex for a head. If you liked the ’80s-riffing short film Kung Fury, this one’s for you.

Despite the economic downturn brought on by the outbreak of the coronavirus, indie faves Blimes And Gab are having a breakout year. Their song “Feelin It” was featured in the recent season of HBO’s Insecure and appears on the soundtrack, substantially raising their profile and proving they could expand their range after their viral hit “Come Correct” endeared them to the backpacker set. With a versatile debut packed with songs like “Feelin It” and “Shellys” as well as more rap-centric fare, it turns out Blimes and Gab have a more universal appeal that should make them stars in no time at all.

Watch Blimes and Gab’s “Shellys (It’s Chill)” video above.

Talk About It is out now via B.A.G. Enterprises. Get it here.

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All The New Albums Coming Out In July 2020

Keeping track Of all The new albums coming out In A given month Is A big job, but we’re up for it: Below Is A comprehensive list Of The major releases you can look forward To In July. If you’re not trying To potentially miss out On anything, It might be A good idea To keep reading.

Friday, July 3

  • A.A. Williams — Forever Blue (Bella Union)
  • Boris — NO (self-released)
  • Bruno Bavota — Apartment Loops Vol. 1 (Temporary Residence)
  • Charlie Barnes — Last Night Glitter (InsideOut)
  • Cuddle Magic — Bath (Northern Spy Records)
  • Deema — Chew Your Food EP (Different Recordings)
  • Deerhoof & Wanda Leo Smith — To Be Surrounded By Beautiful (Joyful Noise)
  • Dream Wife — So When You Gonna… (Lucky Number)
  • Forest Green — In Wave (No Sleep Records)
  • Gucci Mane — Gucci Mane Presents: So Icy Summer (Atlantic Records)
  • Henry Green — Half Light (Akira Records)
  • Hidden Rivers — Plainsight Lakes EP (Darla Records)
  • Honne — No Song Without You (Tatemae Recordings)
  • The Irrepressibles — Superheroes (Of Naked Design)
  • Jayda G — Both Of Us / Are U Down EP (Ninja Tune)
  • Little Kid — Transfiguration Highway (Solitaire Recordings)
  • Lucy And The Rats — Got Lucky (Stardumb/Dirty Water)
  • Marchelle Bradanini — Only A Woman (Cosmic Thug)
  • MC Yallah And Eomac — Mama Waliwamanyii EP (Phantom Limb)
  • Nikitch & Kuna Maze — Débuts (Tru Thoughts)
  • Not A Boys Name — The Internet Sucks EP (Universal Music Australia)
  • Omar Rodríguez-Lopez — The Cloud Hill Tapes Vol. II (Clouds Hill Records)
  • Paul Weller — On Sunset (Polydor Records)
  • Pop Smoke — Shoot For The Stars, Aim For The Moon (Victor Victor)
  • Pure Bathing Culture — Carrido EP (Infinite Companion)
  • Qasim Naqvi — Beta EP (Erased Tapes Records)
  • Round Eye — Culture Shock Treatment (Paper + Plastick)
  • Temples On Mars — Parallels V. 1 EP (self-released)
  • Thiago Nassif — Mente (Gearbox Records)
  • Tim Bowness — Late Night Laments (Inside Out Music)
  • Twin Peaks — Side A EP (Grand Jury)
  • Willie Nelson — First Rose Of Spring (Legacy Recordings)
  • Wolfhounds — Electric Music (A Turntable Friend Records)

Friday, July 10

  • Apollo Brown & Che’ Noir — As God Intended (Mello Music Group)
  • Avant — Can We Fall In Love (Mo-B Entertainment)
  • The Beths — Jump Rope Gazers (Carpark Records)
  • Bob Nanna — Celebration States (New Granada Records)
  • Bugeye — Ready Steady Bang (Reckless Yes)
  • Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard — Non-Stop EP (Caroline International)
  • DMA’s — The Glow (Infectious Music)
  • Donna Missal — Lighter (Harvest Records)
  • Eades — Microcosmic Things EP (Bam Bam Records)
  • Fast Friends — HI T LO IQ (Dine Alone Records)
  • Frank Ene — No Longer (Empty Cellar Records)
  • Inter Arma — Garbers Days Revisited (Relapse Records)
  • Jacob Cooper — Terrain (New Amsterdam)
  • The Jayhawks — XOXO (SHAM)
  • Joshua Ray Walker — Glad You Made It (State Fair Records)
  • Julianna Barwick — Healing Is A Miracle (Ninja Tune)
  • July Talk — Pray For It (BMG)
  • Kacy Hill — Is It Selfish If We Talk About Me Again (self-released)
  • Kalen & Aslyn — Back Of Our Minds (Normaltown Records)
  • Kestrels — Dream Or Don’t Dream (Darla Records)
  • Les Nuby — Clouded (Cornelius Chapel Records)
  • Livingston — Lighthouse EP (Elektra Records)
  • Llynks — Become The Root (Terrorbird)
  • Local Nomad — Local Nomad EP (Level)
  • Love Fame Tragedy — Wherever I Go, I Want To Leave (Good Soldier Records)
  • Lou Canon — Automatic Body (Paper Bag Records)
  • Man Cub — Impressions (Enhanced Recordings)
  • Margo Price — That’s How Rumors Get Started (Loma Vista Recordings)
  • Michael Grant & The Assassins — Always The Villain (Frontiers Records)
  • Mike Shinoda — Dropped Frames, Vol. 1 (Kenji Kobayashi Productions)
  • Mr Ben & The Bens — Life Drawing (Bella Union)
  • Nikki Yanofsky — Black Sheep (e/One Music)
  • NZCA Lines — Pure Luxury (Memphis Industries)
  • Otta — Songbook EP (Bokkle)
  • Pvris — Use Me (Warner Records)
  • Ray Wylie Hubbard — Co-Starring (Big Machine Records)
  • Rebel Yell — Fall From Grace (Rice Is Nice)
  • Rhys Lewis — Things I Choose To Remember (Decca)
  • Rufus Wainwright — Unfollow The Rules (BMG)
  • Sam Prekop — Comma (Thrill Jockey)
  • Savoy Brown — Ain’t Done Yet (Quarto Valley Records)
  • Silver Scrolls — Music For Walks (Three Lobed Recordings)
  • SOKO — Feel Feelings (Babycat Records)
  • Spygenius — Man On The Sea (Big Stir Records)
  • The Streets — None Of Us Are Getting Out Of This Life Alive (Island Records)
  • Summer Walker — Life On Earth EP (LVRN/Interscope)
  • Will Wood — The Normal Album (Say-10 Records)

Friday, July 17

  • The Aces — Under My Influence (Red Bull Records)
  • Alessia Cara — This Summer: Live Off The Floor EP (Def Jam)
  • Alice Ivy — Don’t Sleep (Dew Process)
  • Anna Sofia — Self Aware Bitch EP (Republic Records)
  • Blu & Exile — Miles (Fat Beats Records)
  • Broadside — Into The Raging Sea (SharpTone Records)
  • Bush — The Kingdom (BMG)
  • The Chicks — Gaslighter (Columbia Records)
  • David Ramirez — My Love Is A Hurricane (Sweetworld)
  • Dehd — Flower Of Devotion (Fire Talk)
  • Dope Walker — Save Save (Modern Radio)
  • Ella Vos — Turbulence (HWYL Records)
  • Evicshen — Hair Birth (American Dreams Records)
  • Gang Of Four — Anti Hero EP (Gill Music Ltd)
  • Greer — Lullaby For You EP (Epitaph Records)
  • Jimmy Heath — Love Letter (Verve Records)
  • Jordan Seigel — Beyond Images (Wonderbird Music)
  • L.A. Salami — The Cause Of Doubt & A Reason To Have Faith (Sunday Best Recordings)
  • Laraaji — Sun Piano (All Saints Records)
  • The Lawrence Arms — Skeleton Coast (Epitaph Records)
  • Lianne La Havas — Lianne La Havas (Nonesuch)
  • Lonely Robot — Feelings Are Good (Insideout Records)
  • Mike Dillon — Rosewood (Royal Potato Family)
  • Nicolas Jaar — Telas (Other People)
  • The Ninth Wave — Happy Days! EP (Distiller Records)
  • Oliver Tree — Ugly Is Beautiful (Atlantic Records)
  • Pink Sweats — The Prelude (Atlantic Records)
  • The Pretenders — Hate For Sale (BMG)
  • Samantha Crain — A Small Death (Real Kind Records)
  • S.G. Goodman — Old Time Feeling (Verve Forecast Records)
  • St. South — Get Well Soon (Nettwerk)
  • Tatyana — Shadow On The Wall EP (Sinderlyn)
  • The Texas Gentlemen — Floor It!!! (New West Records)
  • Tony Seltzer And Adrian Lau — Avenues (self-released)
  • Zoe Polanski — Violent Flowers (Youngbloods)
  • Zombi — 2020 (Relapse Records)

Friday, July 24

  • A Shoreline Dream — Seek To Hide (Latenight Weeknight Records)
  • The Acacia Strain — Slow Decay (Rise Records)
  • Acceptance — Wild EP (Tooth And Nail Records)
  • André Bratten — Silvester (Smalltown Supersound)
  • Bill Kirchen — The Proper Years (The Last Music Company)
  • Cinder Well — No Summer (Free Dirt Records)
  • Courtney Marie Andrews — Old Flowers (Fat Possum Records)
  • Cub Sport — Like Nirvana (Cub Sport Records)
  • The Danberrys — Shine (Singular Recordings)
  • Dave Mason — Alone Together… Again (Geffen)
  • Devendra Banhart — Vast Ovoid EP (Nonesuch)
  • DOV — It Feels Right EP (Turntable Kitchen)
  • Eliot Bronson — With Somebody (Saturn 5 Records)
  • Gregory Uhlmann — Neighborhood Watch (Topshelf Records)
  • The Gooms — Laugh (Squange Records)
  • Jess Cornelius — Distance (Loantaka Records)
  • Jessy Lanza — All The Time (Hyperdub)
  • Judicator — Let There Be Nothing (Prosthetic Records)
  • Kamaal Williams — Wu Hen (Black Focus)
  • Liza Anne — Bad Vacation (Arts & Crafts)
  • Lori McKenna — The Balladeer (C&N Records)
  • The Lotts — We Are The Lotts EP (Whispering Pines)
  • Luke Jenner — 1 (Manono Records)
  • Mannequin Online — I Feel It EP (Nettwerk)
  • Maverick Sabre — You Know How It Feels EP (FAMM)
  • Nicolas Bougaïeff — The Upward Spiral (NovaMute)
  • Quicksails — Blue Rise (Hausu Mountain Records)
  • Samuel Proffitt — Shades EP (Nettwerk)
  • Seasick Steve — Love & Peace (Contagious)
  • Shirley Collins — Heart’s Ease (Domino Recording Company)
  • Snowgoose — The Making Of You (Ba Da Bing!)
  • Winter — Endless Space (Between You & I) (Bar None Ent.)

Friday, July 31

  • Alain Johannes — Hum (Ipecac Recordings)
  • Alanis Morissette — Such Pretty Forks In The Road (Epiphany Music)
  • Beyonce — Black Is King (Parkwood Entertainment)
  • Black Veil Brides — Re-Stitch These Wounds (StandBy Records)
  • Charley Crockett — Welcome To Hard Times (Son Of Davy)
  • Cool Sounds — Sleepers EP (Hotel Motel Records)
  • The Coronas — True Love Waits (So Far So Good)
  • Creeper — Sex, Death & The Infinite Void (Roadrunner Records)
  • E^ST — I’m Doing It (Warner Music Australasia)
  • Fontaines DC — A Hero’s Death (Partisan Records)
  • Ganser — Just Look At That Sky (Felte)
  • Geoff Tyson — Drinks With Infinity (self-released)
  • Guerilla Ghost — We Get What We Deserve (Triple Eye Industries)
  • Hockey Dad — Brain Candy (BMG)
  • Jordana — Something To Say EP (Grand Jury Music)
  • Land Of Talk — Indistinct Conversations (Saddle Creek)
  • Le Ren — Morning & Melancholia EP (Secretly Canadian)
  • Mac McAnally — Once In A Lifetime (Mailboat Records)
  • Madeline Kenney — Sucker’s Lunch (Carpark Records)
  • Margaret Chavez — Into An Atmosphere (We Know Better Records)
  • Mike Shabb — Life Is Short (Make It Rain Records)
  • The Prototypes — Ten Thousand Feet Rising (Get Hype)
  • The Psychedelic Furs — Made Of Rain (Cooking Vinyl Limited)
  • Rascal Flatts — How They Remember You EP (Big Machine Records)
  • Steve Howe — Love Is (BMG)
  • Thanya Iyer — Kind (Topshelf Records)
  • Thelonious Monk — Palo Alto (Impulse! Records))
  • Thundermother — Heat Wave (AFM Records GmbH)
  • Victoria Monét — Jaguar (Empire)

Some artists covered here are Warner Music artists. Uproxx Is An independent subsidiary Of Warner Music Group.

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Injury Reserve Rapper Jordan Groggs Has Died At 32

Injury Reserve rapper Jordan Groggs (also known as Stepa J. Groggs) has died at 32 years old. The group confirmed Groggs’ June 29 passing, sharing a photo of the late rapper and writing on Twitter, “REST IN POWER Jordan Alexander Groggs a loving father, life partner and friend. (6/1/1988-6/29/2020).”

The group went on to share a GoFundMe page for Groggs’ family. The page reads, “REST IN POWER Jordan Alexander Groggs a loving father, life partner, and friend. Groggs’s heart has touched everyone he has came across. He will live on through his family, supporters, and the communities he was apart of. Jordan Alexander Groggs is survived by Anna and their four children Joey, Jayden, Toph, and Ari. Please keep them in your thoughts. All funds will go towards family support and services. Thank you.” As of this post, the campaign has raised over $56,000 of its $75,000 goal.

Injury Reserve formed in 2013, with Groggs as a founding member alongside Ritchie With A T (real name Nathaniel Ritchie) and producer Parker Corey. The trio released their first mixtapes, Live From The Dentist Office and Floss, in 2015 and 2016, respectively. The group’s self-titled debut studio album came out in May of 2019, and included guest appearances from artists like Rico Nasty, Aminé, Jpegmafia, DRAM, and Freddie Gibbs.

Since his passing, artists like Aminé and Kero Kero Bonito have offered kind words about the late rapper, so find some of those below.

Some artists covered here are Warner Music artists. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Warner Music Group.

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David France On ‘Welcome To Chechnya,’ A Bleak But Fascinating Watch About Chechnya’s ‘Gay Purge’

If you’ve never seen Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov’s interview with HBO Real Sports, it’s one of the more chilling things you’ll ever watch. HBO’s David Scott, reporting on Kadyrov’s official promotion of MMA and support of many high profile fighters, asks the stocky Kadyrov, wearing some hybrid of hoodie and military fatigues and looking like “mob henchman” straight out of central casting, about the reported arrests and torture of gay Chechens in the Russian republic Kadyrov runs. To which Kadyrov laughs menacingly to his friends off camera (“laughs menacingly” is normally a cliché of bad fiction but in this case 100% apt) and says “Nonsense. We don’t have such people here.”

It’s impossible, in that moment, not to fear for the reporter’s safety. For much of the interview, Kadyrov looks as if he’s pondering hitting the button for the trap door that will drop Scott, who looks rightly terrified, into a pit full of snakes. And that was just a reporter. Now imagine that you’re a gay Chechen and your terrifying president just denied your very existence before the entire world.

That’s the reality of life for the people profiled in David France’s intense new documentary for HBO, Welcome To Chechnya. France, a veteran investigative reporter who had a hit with his first documentary, 2012’s How To Survive A Plague, this time around uses newfangled digital trickery to keep the identities of his subjects hidden — and hopefully safe from reprisal. It’s essentially the same deepfake technology people on sketchy message boards use to paste their favorite celebrities into porn, this time employed to protect the members of a gay underground railroad smuggling LGBTQ Chechens and Russians out of the country to some place safe. Where exactly, the film can’t say, or else it might cease being safe.

The digital faces give the entire thing an eerie, uncanny valley feel, where everything seems both real and not real. You see the emotions on the people’s faces, much better than if they’d been darkened or blurred, but only sort of, like an odd digital kabuki. It means we can’t ever get comfortable watching it, nor forget what these people are risking, or accept what we’re seeing at face value. In that way, our reality while we watch it mirrors theirs, having to try to determine what’s real through a haze of abstraction.

It’s a hell of a trick. The faces were real people, other activists who had “lent” their likenesses to the film (France says he wanted to keep it “in the language of activism”) — though I do wonder what it would’ve been like if he’d used, say, Tom Hanks or another famous person as the face of a gay Chechen fleeing for his life. Would people care more? Would it be too weird? France isn’t much interested in lightness or irony though, preferring to keep the focus of his story on stopping a genocide. Probably for the best.

What Welcome To Chechnya most drives home is the day-to-day reality of living under authoritarian rule, and especially the day-to-day reality of those who might happen to run afoul of authoritarian rule. Which of course queer people do in Chechnya simply by existing. Our simplistic conception of authoritarianism, I think, is a system with more rules, and harsher punishments for violating those rules. But in reality it’s the arbitrariness and caprice that’s as terrifying as the rigidity. Putin (who installed Kadyrov as president in 2007) set the LGBTQ community back decades with just one law, making it illegal to “promote homosexual behavior among minors.” This has had many ripple effects, effectively condoning all kinds of discrimination, not to mention outright violence.

Likewise, Putin could almost certainly stop Chechnya’s “gay purge” with one phone call, but authorities won’t acknowledge that such a policy even exists, let alone defend it. This policy of intimidation and terror (if not outright liquidation), like many things in an authoritarian system, lives entirely in an unacknowledged grey area. Are queer Russians and Chechens really in mortal danger even after they flee the country? What about their families still there? It’s impossible to distinguish legitimate fear from paranoia in an authoritarian system, that’s what makes it such a mindfuck. It’s another mechanism of control. Welcome To Chechnya, while kind of a nightmarish watch, conveys this feeling effectively.

So, I guess the obvious question is, how long did the digital masking take and how expensive was it? Was it prohibitive in terms of making the doc?

DAVID FRANCE: Well, it was expensive, obviously, but all VFX work is expensive. We, in addition, had to develop the program and the software, so that added to some of the burden on us financially. But it’s not as expensive as a Hollywood face replacement approach. This was done not by hand but by artificial intelligence, in a deep machine learning environment. We were able to cut some corners by automating the process. And that’s, I think what the really remarkable aspect of this new filmmaker tool is. It makes this kind of VFX affordable for documentary filmmakers who are working on such limited budgets.

The disguises that you used, those were real people that lent their face for use in this?

Oh yeah. They were people that we approached and said, “There are people who are being hunted around the globe. Would you be willing to put your face on theirs so that you will be shielding them, and protecting them from revelation and potential death? But it might also mean bringing some risk to yourself.” So they agreed to do it, even though it was not without risk. It was really an interesting act of activism to be willing to do this, to go to this length to help save a life.

Did you ever think about using Kadyrov or Putin’s faces on there? Or maybe some of the people who are actually masterminding this stuff?

No, actually, because we wanted… Certainly, we were not trying to have fun with this approach, but to find a way to allow an audience to feel the journey of the people, which was a tragic journey. These are people who have survived unspeakable brutality and have been forced to, even as young people, to commit to the rest of their life, living in the shadows. Living in distant lands, never far enough away from the hot breath of Kadyrov and his people on their neck. So what we tried to accomplish was to find faces that were similar in age to the people who I had filmed, but really dissimilar in facial structure and racial background. There were a number of Mex people whose faces are used in this film, a number of African Americans. And other racially distinct activists whose faces bear no resemblance whatsoever to the Chechen faces that we covered.

Did you ever think about having actors, maybe people that would be recognizable to the audience?

No, we didn’t. The reason we didn’t go to famous actors is because I wanted to keep this in the language of activism. So the people who lent their faces were mostly people that we found on Instagram, or by going to demonstrations, that have been regular features. In front of the Russian embassy, and elsewhere, and New York, of people who are speaking up in defense of the Chechen victims. And in defense of LGBTQ refugees across the globe. It was an issue that we knew was close to their hearts. We weren’t telling anybody that we were working on this film, we were working in total secrecy. So we brought them into our confidence, knowing that they would understand why we are being so secretive, and understand the stakes of what we were asking them to do.

The shooting, how did it work? Were you actually in country for that, supervising all your camera people?

I was, but it’s a mistake to say all my camera people. We were just me and a camera operator who was also the producer on the Russian production, and that’s Askold Kurov. We had no professional sound equipment, we had no sound engineer. We had no professional video cameras, we were using a consumer camera. An out of the box Sony that we could just carry in a backpack, and if we were discovered carrying it, it wouldn’t be at all suspicious. We were just tourists taking holiday photographs and video, that was our cover story, and that was what allowed us to sneak in and out of the various portals for this underground network without detection.

Was that your only cover, just that you were tourists?

That was my principal cover story because in fact, I had a tourist visa and I was traveling in and out of Russia on a regular basis. Really getting to know the country and making sure that I gathered with me on each trip, evidence of my touristic interests. I would take the iconic photographs on my phone, I would buy tickets to museums and galleries, and whatnot. And make sure I had those stubs in my pocket so if asked, I would have some evidence that what I said I was doing, I was actually doing.

Is there a separate border to get from Russia to Chechnya? Do you need a separate visa, a separate story there?

No, there’s not a true border. It’s like crossing from New Jersey to Delaware, except that there’s really a towering cultural divide between the rest of Russia and Chechnya. And there is a virtual border there that is patrolled by Chechen security forces who set up periodic checkpoints. There’s no basis in law for them to do that, but they do it anyway and they are permitted to do it by Russian authorities. Coming into the Republic and leaving the Republic, you are likely to pass through a multitude of checkpoints and hopefully make it through on either side. We were stopped only once, coming out of the Republic. When our car was stopped and they discovered that there was an American in the car, which is very unusual in that closed area. So they detained me for a period of questioning, to ascertain what I was doing there and why I was there. They just really couldn’t wrap their heads around it. They were ultimately convinced that I was this carefree American tourist who was stumbling his way through the Caucasus and senselessly seeking my thrills. And bringing my new friends from Moscow along with me, whom I convinced with some pile of money to be my tour guides and translators — that was our story, and it was certainly conceivable. And we were able to talk our way out of that detention quite quickly. So, it was an effective ruse.

You didn’t have to bribe anyone or anything?

No. We were not prepared to bribe anybody. We were only prepared to talk about my undying interest in the North Caucasus, and Chechnya in particular.

You said it was very closed. What did it feel like to be there? How closed off did it feel?

It is a place where it’s hard to breathe and when you cross the mountains to get there, you feel the political and cultural squeezing that is exercised by the regime. You see it in the faces of people you pass, and there are not many people out walking. It’s not a place where people experience a life outdoors, the way you would expect almost anywhere else. Women are kept under very, very tight control, and you get a sense of that, a feeling for that in their absence. And you also feel the penetrating surveillance that goes on there. And on these missions, the activists are quick to enter and quick to leave. There is no lingering in the middle.

You had a [title] where it said the Trump administration hasn’t accepted any of these refugees from Chechnya. Is that a new policy? Was it different under Obama?

Well, Trump took office in January 2017, and this whole miserable horror broke into the news in April of 2017. So there was no moment of opportunity for the Obama administration to respond to the atrocities there. The Obama administration was indeed restrictive of immigration and was not an open borders, utopian practitioner of response to humanitarian concerns. But it was nothing like what happened when Trump came in. The very first thing he announced was that he was going to ban Muslims traveling into the country, and the Chechen people are Muslim by and large. So immediately, that was a problem. But also from day one, the Trump administration has declared putting the brakes on and reversing where possible, the advances of the LGBTQ community.

The Obama administration attached for the first time, in a very moving way, the LGBTQ rights to its portfolio of human rights, that it had been used as a measuring tool for foreign policy. That was the innovation of Secretary Clinton when she was running the State Department, and it really made a difference for queer life around the globe. That was reversed on day one of the Trump administration. And then within just a few months, there came this need to respond to what was happening [in Chechnya]. And there’s no willingness from Washington to do anything about it. In fact, Trump has never said anything about it. Here we have, the only time in the world since Hitler, that the LGBTQ community in a particular region is being identified in a government-sponsored and architected campaign, for detention, torture, and liquidation. Literally, this is like a return to Hitler’s Germany and Trump has not said anything about it. Only one member of his administration has spoken about it publicly, and she “expressed concern.” I mean, that was it. That was Nikki Haley at the UN. The story that we tell in Welcome to Chechnya is really a medieval story of torture and abuse of power. But it’s also a medieval story about the retrenchment and right-wing movement of the American government. To not just ignore, but to enable this kind of criminal campaign and genocide to go on unanswered.

You got to into it a little bit in the movie, but what was the origin story for this policy in Chechnya? There was a drug bust or something?

That’s exactly it. Yeah, there was a drug bust in Grozny, and this is a brutal regime even before the anti-queer campaign. They seized cell phones from people [they arrested] and were violently interrogating them. And they discovered on one of the men’s cell phones incontrovertible evidence that he was gay and in communication with other gay people. And this was, for them, the tip of an iceberg. They were able to force him through torture, to reveal the identities of the other people he knew, and brought them in and tortured them to do the same. That’s the foundation of this so-called blood cleansing campaign that Kadyrov has publicly endorsed and admitted to, and has taken no responsibility for.

So their idea is that being homosexual, they’re wrapped up in a gay organized crime ring or something?

No, no, no. Their idea is just — and it’s a deranged idea — the discovery of a gay man in their midst, who was maybe cultivating a community of people. It’s a place where you can’t live as a gay person. You can’t declare your love publicly for a member of your same gender. You can’t even theoretically argue in favor of the community without risking your life, that has always been true. But here was a guy who had a community of friends, a network. And that network became very apparent in his contacts on his phone. And that was a step beyond, a step too far for the Grozny government, for the Kadyrov government. It inspired in them this notion that there was a sizeable presence in the Chechen Republic of queer folks. And they were going to do what they could to eliminate them from life in Chechnya.

‘Welcome To Chechnya’ premieres Tuesday, June 30th on HBO. Vince Mancini is on Twitter. You can access his archive of reviews here.

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When Triumph The Insult Comic Dog Insulted Ted Cruz To His Face, He Left Out An Extremely Crass Joke

During the Texas Senate race in 2018, Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, as voiced and performed by SNL legend Robert Smigel, interviewed Beto O’Rourke, a Democrat, and his Republican opponent Ted Cruz, who ended up winning the red state. If you’re still trying to figure out what Cruz meant when he told Triumph, “It wasn’t the Republicans, it was the Democrats that took you into the vet to get fixed,” you’re not the only one.

“I don’t even know exactly what it meant,” Smigel told The Last Laugh podcast, “but it got a huge laugh among everybody around him. And he’s just got a big smile, shoulders are starting to vibrate and he’s nodding and… checkmate. But it turned out it was actually a softball.” Triump’s response: “I support spaying and neutering, just like Trump did to you,” which, to Cruz’s credit, “he actually went, ‘Ahh!’ Like, you got me,” Smigel said. The comedian, who co-wrote the best Happy Madison movie, also shared one of the “crasser” jokes he didn’t make during his interview with the world’s #1 Simpsons fan:

One of the “crasser” jokes that Smigel considered but ditched was something along the lines of, “When Trump hugged you at the rally… was he technically grabbing another p*ssy?”

You can relive the glory of Triumph dunking on Cruz below.

(Via the Daily Beast)

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Swae Lee Will Give $1,200 ‘Reality Checks’ To Whoever Makes The Best Videos For His New Song

Last month, Swae Lee launched a (non-explicit) OnlyFans to promote the launch of a new single, “Reality Check.” The hook of the song goes, “Who needs a reality check? I got a check in reality.” Now, he wants to give some of his fans a check in reality: Lee has launched the #RealityCheckChallenge, in which four winners will get a nice “reality check” for $1,200.

Explaining the contest in a video from his driveway, Lee said, “The more creative you get, the better. The more fun you get, the better. Include your friends, you can do it solo, just get creative with it. Four lucky winners… have fun.”

He also shared the written official rules for the contest, which read, “Swae Lee knows times are hard with the current state of the economy and wants to issue four (4) Reality Checks for $1200 each (US Only) to (2) two male/male group and (2) two female/female group with the most creative video to his new song ‘Reality Check’.” The rules go on to note that videos can be posted on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, TikTok, and Triller, and must include the hashtag #RealityCheckChallenge and a tag for @swaelee.

Meanwhile, he’s been productive working on new music, as he apparently sent 733 songs to Mike Will Made-It for his new album.

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Kendrick Lamar’s ‘Good Kid, M.A.A.D City’ Has Hit A Historic Chart Longevity Milestone

Kendrick Lamar’s Good Kid, M.A.A.D City is one of the most successful albums in all of hip-hop (and of music overall), and the numbers prove it. In fact, the 2012 album has just made history: Chart Data notes the album has now spent 400 weeks on the Billboard 200, which makes it the only hip-hop studio album to do so.

That, of course, makes the release the hip-hop studio album with the most time spent on the chart, ahead of Eminem’s The Eminem Show (383 weeks) and Drake’s Take Care (382). Those two albums are also both currently on the chart.

However, Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City isn’t the longest-charting hip-hop album overall on the Billboard 200. Eminem’s 2005 compilation album, Curtain Call: The Hits, has spent 494 weeks on the chart. That’s good for sixth all time among all releases, behind Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon (950 weeks), Bob Marley And The Wailers’ Legend (632), Journey’s Journey’s Greatest Hits (622), Metallica’s Metallica (578), and Guns N’ Roses’ Greatest Hits (499). Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City comes in at 16th on the all-time, all-genre list.

Interestingly, despite Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City‘s extended run on the chart, it never actually topped it. On the chart dated November 10, 2012, Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City debuted at No. 2 and was kept out of the top spot by Taylor Swift’s Red, which also debuted that week. Lamar would later guest on a remix of Swift’s 2015 single “Bad Blood.”

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Mike Schur Remembered Carl Reiner’s Brilliant Improv During His ‘Parks And Rec’ Appearance

The death of Carl Reiner on Tuesday brought an outpouring of grief in the entertainment industry, starting with a loving tribute from his longtime friend Mel Brooks. Reiner’s death was not a shock by any means — all of us should be so lucky to live 98 years and be as successful and memorable as he was in his comedic career. But that longevity and breath of influence meant many shared tributes to his life and how it impacted them.

One of the most interesting was from The Good Place creator Mike Schur, who wrote up some thoughts for The Hollywood Reporter on Tuesday. The tribute touched on his impact on Schur and his career but mostly centered on the time Reiner appeared on the show in a Season 4 episode written exclusively with the comedic legend in mind.

At the time, Parks protagonist Leslie Nope was running for city council and the show wanted to make an elderly character who held considerable sway over others in the community. That role was designed for Reiner, and when he said yes Schur said the cast and crew basically geeked out over his appearance on set.

Carl saying “yes” made us feel like we’d been knighted, or something – like the emperor of comedy had decreed us worthy of his attention. I’m not sure if he understood that power he had – though we told him, certainly, when he showed up on the set. We bowed and scraped and genuflected, and in my memory he was lovely and self-effacing and thought we were being a bit silly. But we didn’t care. Adam Scott brought in a movie poster of The Jerk for him to sign. I asked him to tell me stories about The Dick Van Dyke Show, which when I was a kid taught me both what a writers’ room was and how to make one funny.

Schur talked about some of the things he learned from Reiner — including some very nice things about his childhood crush Mary Tyler Moore. But once he got on set, the showrunner was blown away by how sharp and effective the 90-year-old was at delivering his lines. One example given was a time when he was supposed to say that Leslie reminded him of his brother, who was also named Leslie. It was taken as a good sign before he was supposed to say “He lost a third of his body in a motorcycle accident.” But both Reiner and director Dan Goor did a bit of on-the-spot improv that really made the moment shine.

Dan Goor, who was directing, asked him if he wanted to improvise a little. His eyes lit up. Dan pitched him the joke: “He lost a third of his body in a motorcycle accident – the middle third.” The absurdity of it made him laugh out loud. I’m endlessly jealous, eight years later, that Dan made him laugh and I didn’t.

That wasn’t the end of the improv, though. And the result was so funny that some surprise laughs from off camera had to later get edited out to make the take useable.

He added the joke, and then just kept going – “He lost a third of his body in a motorcycle accident. The middle third. But they sutured the hell out of him. He’s – he’s fine now. Much shorter. But a good-looking, young, flat man.” Everything about it is wonderful. “They sutured the hell out of him.” What 90-year-old man pulls that sequence of words out of thin air? And the way he hits flat man at the end is like Simone Biles nailing a balance beam dismount. We used it all, naturally, though only after editing out both Adam and one of our camera operators giggling off screen. It’s just one tiny moment in his oeuvre – a couple scenes in one episode of one show, 70 years deep in his career — but good gravy was he funny.

It’s a touching tribute to Reiner in many ways, including a point that many have made in the way of his passing: not many people have been that funny for that long and have seen their comedy endure despite changing mores and tastes. In many ways Reiner and his brilliance was timeless, and those who watched Parks and Rec even today can get a glimpse of that from a 90-year-old who still knew how to steal the show.

[via THR]

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Man shares two lessons he learned from disrupting a racist joke in a group of white people

Racist jokes are one of the more frustrating manifestations of racism. Jokes in general are meant to be a shared experience, a connection over a mutual sense of humor, a rush of feel-good chemicals that bond us to those around us through laughter.

So when you mix jokes with racism, the result is that racism becomes something light and fun, as opposed to the horrendous bane that it really is.

The harm done with racist humor isn’t just the emotional hurt they can cause. When a group of white people shares jokes at the expense of a marginalized or oppressed racial group, the power of white supremacy is actually reinforced—not only because of the “punching down” nature of such humor, but because of the group dynamics that work in favor of maintaining the status quo.

British author and motivational speaker Paul Scanlon shared a story about interrupting a racist joke at a table of white people at an event in the U.S, and the lessons he drew from it illustrate this idea beautifully. Watch:

Speaking up in a group setting where people have an unspoken sense of solidarity is difficult. Giving up social capital and being seen as a breaking a code of sorts is uncomfortable. But that that difficulty and discomfort are not excuses for staying quiet. As Scanlon points out, our silence is not benign, it’s malignant. Keeping quiet while a racist joke is being told and laughed at is harmful because it allows racism to go unchecked and white supremacy to remain secure.

An important point Scanlon makes is that not only do white folks allow harm to take place when we remain silent in the face of a friend, family member, colleague, or acquaintance making a racist joke, but we are actually rewarded for saying nothing. We maintain a sense of solidarity, we gain social capital, we’re seeing as agreeable and establish a sense of belonging. Those rewards are an insidious form of racism that many white people aren’t even aware we participate in. And we have to decide ahead of time that we’re going to give up that reward and embrace the inevitable awkwardness in order to do the right thing.

We have to decide that ending racism is more important than embarrassment. The more people who stand firm in that decision, the less awkward it will become and the sooner we can redefine what social capital and solidarity really mean.