As the coronavirus continues to spread across the globe, several musicians revealed they have been infected. Pink announced she had tested positive several weeks ago and recently detailed her “terrifying” experience fighting the virus alongside her three-year-old son. Sam Smith is another singer who has been vocal about their experience with the virus. In a recent interview, Smith said that although they were never able to get tested, they are “100 percent” sure they had the virus.
Sam Smith recently chatted with Apple Music’s Zane Lowe to talk about their experience in quarantine and their recent song with Demi Lovato, “I’m Ready.” During the virtual interview, Smith said they had spent weeks in isolation after getting sick. “I didn’t get tested but I know I had it. 100% had it,” they said. “Everything I read completely pointed to that. So, yeah. I definitely had it. Then as soon as I had it, my sister, like five days after, started getting symptoms who was living with me. So, me and her were just isolating for three weeks because we knew.”
Though Smith took weeks to recover, they found themselves remaining creatively motivated. “As everyone was really on lockdown, that’s when I got over it, luckily,” they said. “I suddenly just had this want to sing. The first two weeks, I was just like, ‘I want to sing. I don’t want to sing my songs, I just want to sing.”
Smith is now fully recovered and continues to make music. The singer even recently joined John Legend in performing during the Lady Gaga curated Together At Home livestream benefit concert.
Watch Zane Lowe’s full interview with Sam Smith here.
So far, Jamie xx is the only member of The xx to have a relatively consistent and robust solo career outside of the group: He has a pair of solo albums to his name, and it looks like another is on the way. Now, though, singer and guitarist Romy Madley Croft is branching out, as she has revealed she has a solo album in the works as well.
Romy hizo live; cantó Angels, Weightless ? (la del video) canción nueva de su proyecto solista, Electricity y Brave For You. Oliver y Robyn estaban en la audiencia. Qué mega fantasía pic.twitter.com/ICHOJNdbAq
Over the weekend, she performed on Instagram Live, and her set included a new song called “Weightless,” from her upcoming solo album. She indicated that her guitar-based performance of the song might not be indicative of the recorded song’s sound, as she said of her solo material:
“For the past couple of years, I’ve been writing a lot of songs for other people, writing a lot of songs for myself, and I ended up with all of these songs, so I’m gonna release a solo album […] under my name, so it’s just gonna be under Romy. I’m gonna be hopefully releasing it soon. I have loads of songs and I feel excited to try something new. […] With my new music, I’m excited to make it a lot more upbeat. It’s not — although I’m playing on the guitar and I love the guitar — it’s not exactly going to be guitar music.”
Watch Croft perform “Weightless” and speak about her solo album above.
As hip-hop’s reigning patron saint of laid-back, weed-themed music, it’s only natural that Wiz Khalifa would release an album on the official smoker’s holiday. The Saga Of Wiz Khalifa is quick hit of good-natured party rap, with seven songs featuring collaborators like K Camp, Logic, Megan Thee Stallion, Mustard, Quavo, Ty Dolla Sign, and Tyga. Clocking in at 20 minutes, the project is naturally designed to be started at 4pm and end you-know-when. There’s even a “Still Wiz” song riffing on Dr. Dre’s 2001 hit, “Still D.R.E.”
As an added bonus, Wiz will also DJ a set on Weedmaps’ “Higher Together: Sessions From Home” livestream, beginning at 4:15pm PST. Wiz will spend his favorite songs to get high to, while catching up with fans’ comments and talking about The Saga Of Wiz Khalifa. He’s also dropping a collection of new merchandise, which you can get here.
Wiz has experienced something of a resurgence in recent months, thanks in part to his 2017 song “Something New” becoming a huge moment on TikTok, as well as a recent appearance on Guapdad4000’s Rona Raps series.
The Saga Of Wiz Khalifa is out now on Atlantic Records. Get it here.
Wiz Khalifa is a Warner Music artist. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Warner Music Group.
The central figure of the documentary is Michael Jordan, unsurprisingly, as he’s been a central figure in basketball discourse for the better part of four decades. Jordan, even for all his flaws — some of which are exposed further in clips of him berating teammates — is and, for most, always will be the conquering hero in the story of the Chicago Bulls (and the NBA as a whole). The villain for many is former general manager Jerry Krause, who was the chief reason the 1997-98 season was the end of the dynasty.
It doesn’t take long for The Last Dance to dive into the tense situation that was brewing in Chicago after they won the 1996-97 championship, with footage of a defiant Jordan in a press conference after the Finals making it clear he felt it was unfair there was discussion of rebuilding after they just won a second title (and fifth in seven years).
“We’re entitled to defend what we have until we lose it. If we lose it, then you look at it and you say OK let’s change, let’s go through a… Rebuilding? No one’s guaranteed it’s going to be two, three, four, or five years,” Jordan said. “Clubs have been rebuilding for 42 years. If you wanna look at this from a business thing, have a sense of respect who have laid the groundworks for you to be a profitable organization.”
Krause, who died in 2017, is featured in various interviews from the past, but it’s clear that while there’s some appreciation for what he did in building the team, a lot of the anger how things ended in 1998 remains among many. To be clear, it wasn’t just Krause. Owner Jerry Reinsdorf was a major part of this as well, noting that aside from Jordan, the team was starting to age and a rebuild might be prudent. There are never front office decisions that don’t get the co-sign of ownership, and that should surely be noted in any discussion of Krause and the Bulls — although Reinsdorf seems to attempt to straddle both sides of the fence in the documentary.
A major part of the problem, as some in The Last Dance explain, was Krause never felt he got appropriate credit for the Bulls dynasty and as such felt compelled to prove how much power he wielded. That frustration spilled out in the now infamous quote, “Organizations win titles, not players alone.” That, in particular, rubbed (and still rubs) Jordan the wrong way. Krause explained it as being an issue of a quote being pulled from context, as the “alone” part is often left out, but still, it was fairly clear a message was being sent, one that was received and not appreciated by the Bulls’ star player.
“We know the team is much bigger than the 15 players,” Jordan said. “Those guys that worked in the front office, they were good people, but the most important part of the process is the players. So, for him to say that is offensive to how I approached the game.”
The tension between Jordan and Krause dates back years. It stared with the insistence in Jordan’s sophomore season to enforce a strict 14-minute per game restriction as he returned from a broken foot, one that Jordan believed was an effort to tank out of the playoffs and get a better draft pick. The discord between star and GM continued with the decision to trade Charles Oakley in 1988 — a trade that Jordan now admits set them up for the opportunity to win championships — as well as Jordan having to apply immense pressure to the Bulls in 1996 to re-sign him, threatening to go to the Knicks.
“Charles Oakley and I were good friends,” Jordan says in The Last Dance. “We spent a lot of time together, but things were in place for us to win when he left.”
It’s rather incredible that Krause, Reinsdorf, and Jordan had so many issues for that long of a period of time and were so successful, still, winning six championships with Krause, a two-time executive of the year, doing an excellent job building a team around Jordan and Scottie Pippen — who he traded up for in the 1987 Draft to pair with Jordan. However, the culmination of those frustrations, along with the deterioration of Krause’s relationship with Phil Jackson and Scottie Pippen, assured that the run would end in 1998.
Phil Jackson had become a superstar coach over his time with the Bulls — another member of the team Krause brought in early on — and as they kept winning, he garnered most of the non-player credit for the Bulls dynasty. This surely contributed to the falling out between he and Krause, which culminated in the possibility that Jackson would be allowed to walk after the 1997 season. That didn’t happen because Reinsdorf stepped in and negotiated a 1-year, $6 million deal with Jackson without Krause to bring him back, largely due to Jordan’s threats to walk away if Jackson wasn’t the coach. But the GM made it very clear from the jump that the 97-98 season would be Phil’s last in Chicago.
“This is going to be your last year. I don’t care if you win 82 games in a row, this is going to be your last year here,” Jackson remembers Krause telling him prior to the season.
That is what precipitated Jackson to call the season “The Last Dance,” hence the name of this documentary and the incredibly dramatic (and at times surreal) nature of such a high stakes season for a team that was at the top of the world. On top of that, Krause was openly courting Iowa State coach Tim Floyd to be his successor, while Jackson was still coaching.
For Pippen, the issues stemmed from a few things. One was his contract massively underpaid him by the mid-1990s. Pippen had signed a 7-year, $18 million deal in 1991, one Reinsdorf notes he felt even at the time was too long, due to a concern about ensuring financial security for his family. Reinsdorf refused to renegotiate that deal, and Pippen was stuck as the sixth highest paid player on the Bulls by the time the 97-98 season arrived. However, the biggest problem Pippen had with Krause was two attempts to trade him, once in 1994, and again mere days after they won the 1997 title.
“That really is what sort of tarnished my relationship with Jerry,” Pippen says in The Last Dance. “He tried to make me feel so special, but yet he was willing to trade and do all that stuff. But never would tell me to my face. After you’re in the game for awhile, you realize that nobody is untradeable, but I felt insulted. I sort of took the attitude of disrespecting him to some degree.”
That disrespect came from Michael and Scottie, who would regularly make vicious jokes at Krause’s behalf — Jordan’s personal favorite was picking on his size as a short, squat individual. In the first two episodes we get video of Jordan asking him if the pills he’s taking are “to keep him short? Or are they diet pills?”
There is no doubt Krause is the central villain in this story, particularly given the perspectives being shared. The players loathed him, and while Jordan has been fairly diplomatic in some portions of the interviews giving him some credit, that animosity remains. With Krause dying in 2017, he is not able to provide his side of things and, at times, Reinsdorf provides perspective from their side but it would be fascinating to have heard what Krause’s thoughts on how this went down were given he was on the receiving end of a lot from players and fans.
When vanlife duo Natalie and Abigail Rodriguez crossed the border from Mexico into Arizona last month, they were re-entering a country that had changed vastly since the last time they left. The couple had spent three months in Mexico — driving, cooking, and living the vagabond life. They had plans to start hitting up the U.S.’s national parks as spring arrived. Instead, they found new shelter-in-place and quarantine orders being issued daily.
By mid-March, most of the country was locked down and the two travelers had to rethink their plans for the foreseeable future. Natalie and Abi — a chef and photographer, respectively — tried hitting up larger campgrounds but found them overcrowded and racing to close as the quarantine began in full. So they decided to take to the wilds and isolate on BLM land, with just their two dogs and their kitted-out van.
We were able to jump on a call with Natalie and Abi this week to see how they’re holding up through the pandemic. We asked them about what it’s like having to shelter-in-place when your “place” is a van, masked grocery runs, striking a new work-life-balance, and how the vanlife community is adapting. Let’s jump in!
What drew you two to give up the brick and mortar and take up the van life?
Natalie: I wouldn’t say there was a specific moment. There was kind of a buildup. Being a chef and working in the kitchens, I was kind of doing somebody else’s job. I wasn’t doing what I really wanted to do. And I just got tired of it. I met Abi, and Abi had already been traveling out of the country for quite some time. I had not really traveled until I was about 28.
So, I knew she would be on board and the idea of van life. It was practical for us to be able to do it for an extended period of time. And she said yes. I think a month after talking about it, we found the van and started going from there.
Abi: Yeah, we were — just like a lot of people — tired. It wasn’t a nine to five for us. It was more like… ten to ten every day?
Natalie: Every day.
Abi: We were just sick of that cold routine and wanted something different. Traveling was really important for us, so that’s what happened. We needed to break away from the system.
You need to be sort of on your toes while working on the road — be able to adapt — in the best of times. Now, you’re sheltering-in-place in your van due to the global catastrophe that’s happening. How did you find a place, and how have you adjusted?
Natalie: Well actually, it wasn’t as easy as we thought. Before everything started really closing down, we were in Mexico. We had just crossed the border a few weeks before they closed the border with Mexico. That’s kind of when we found out how intense everything was because, before that, there wasn’t a lot of talk.
We were in Arizona and our plan was to go to all the national parks, which were still open other than the visitor centers. Then, very quickly after that, those started shutting down too. Forest roads were shut down. We realized how serious it was. We needed to be somewhere where we could stay, where there wasn’t a lot of people, where the weather was okay. We’re not really set up for cold weather. Then we also needed cell service to keep in touch with our family and friends.
So yeah, it hasn’t been easy. We’re currently somewhere that ended up being a great spot, but we can only keep so much on board. So water is the main thing that is going to cause us to leave and go on the search again. It has been pretty interesting.
What’s a grocery run like?
Natalie: We have to drive quite a while to go to a grocery store. They’re at the point where they’re only letting in a certain number of people at a time. So, we just wait in line as everybody else does. We wash our hands frequently. We wear something over our mouths to protect other people. We try to be really respectful of any store we’re in, any community we’re in.
Abi: And their rules.
Natalie: Yeah, whatever protocol they have in place, we’re going to follow that. We just try to make sure we go to the store to get as many supplies as we can. We can go probably three to four weeks on what we can store in the van. It really just comes down to the water, and just trying to maintain it as long as we can. We also have two dogs, so they’re also drinking.
What’s your solution for water?
Natalie: Well, typically we do a lot of national parks and a lot of the campgrounds and parks have potable water for free. Now, that’s obviously a little bit more of an issue.
Abi: We use iOverlander. They have water fill-ups marked on a map. So we’ve been using an app to find water. It’s a lot trickier because a lot of the places listed are campgrounds. But the campgrounds are closed so we can’t use those. So we have to search for water, but we end up finding it and then we can last two weeks on what we can bring with us.
Natalie: Yeah. It’s not easy though, because we don’t want to buy a lot of water from the store. It gets pricey that way. So it’s kind of just patience and finding water that we can get to.
How has your work-life balance changed with this new situation?
Abi: So for me, as a photographer, I do have a few little side gigs where I can make us money while we’ve been traveling, but not enough really to cover all of our monthly bills. We saved ahead of time before embarking on our travels. As of now, we have enough saved for another maybe like six months or so on the road. I did lose some regular monthly gigs that I had, due to this pandemic, with everybody needing to put a halt on work that isn’t essential. A lot of photographers got cut out of some jobs, and that’s happened to us.
Natalie: Yeah, we’re still very fortunate that that’s the route we took. I know a lot of people are digital nomads, and they went into it knowing they could work on the road. But when we spent a year and a half building, we were also saving money. It was important for us to have that first year just be about travel. It really helps. And so now it’s just a matter of really paying attention to what we’re buying, making sure it’s essential, and utilizing it, letting it stretch as long as it can go.
Have you considered getting a test or an antibody test just so you have a bit of peace of mind in case you might’ve been asymptomatic, or is that a bit of an impossibility for you?
Abi: It’s not very easy to get that done here in the States. There’s no sort of central healthcare or social healthcare where you can just go in and get a test.
Abi: It’s really difficult. So it’s not really something out there for us to do. Like, we can’t just walk in somewhere and get a test.
Natalie: It’s also … we were in Sedona, and we tried to camp there. There were so many rigs parked and we just don’t feel comfortable — even if it’s what may be a safe distance. We really just make sure we go somewhere where it’s just us. The place we’re at now, we’ve seen maybe two people. So we really just tried to maintain our social distance, for the safety of us, but also so that we’re not bombarding people. Because we know that it’s not that easy for us to go in and get a test.
There’s always been a close-knit community built around vanlifers, campers, and RV-ers. Do you feel that the community is coming together a bit?
Natalie: I definitely feel like it’s coming together. The online forums and chat rooms are huge. Someone sent us an email about people putting together a list for people who may not have somewhere to hunker down because in certain states it’s harder. A lot of BLM land is getting shut down to only residents, which is something maybe you’ve heard. So the directory is really cool. It helps people find where they can go, where people are giving up their driveways, or some remote land. Places that if you can get to, you can spend time there. So I think that’s amazing. But, really for some people, it’s not easy. If you’re van-lifer and you got quarantined or stuck in a big city, you’re kind of at a loss.
I think people are really trying to keep positive and find ways to keep the community together. We do our VanLife Pride platform, which gives voice to the LGBTQ community. We were going to be a part of the Midlifevanlife gathering and that got canceled, so we’re trying to do it virtually now. Things like that are really happening all over. It’s really awesome to see.
As someone living on the road, you need to be pretty well planned which seems like it’s pretty hard to do right now. How hard is it to make plans for what’s next?
Abi: Yeah, it’s like you said, it’s hard to really make any sort of plan at the moment. When all this is over, we do plan on going back to our national park routine. We haven’t been to the parks in Utah. So we’re hoping to spend just some time there, hopefully, this summer if everything opens back up.
For now, we’re just trying to lay low, camping out in the middle of nowhere, in the hopes that the parks will open up. All of our families are pretty much on the East Coast, so it wasn’t really an option to drive all the way across the country to go stay with them. That’s kind of why we’re out in the middle of nowhere, doing isolation out of our van, in the forest.
Natalie: We’re going into our second year on the road. We’d planned for a year, but obviously, we knew this was something we wanted to maintain. Our goal this year was to spend more time in one place for a lot longer. I think a lot of people that get on the road get excited, and it can go pretty fast. We were in Mexico for over what?
Abi: Three months.
Natalie: We were in Mexico for three months, and the atmosphere was very relaxed. When we got back over the border, it was important for us to say, “Okay, if we’re going to go to a spot, we want to be there for a few weeks at a time.” So this is actually something we had already planned on doing, taking it slow. So I think having that mentality has really helped us be able to cope with being isolated, and just only leaving when we need to restock. It’s keeping us positive.
Abi: It’s a good challenge. It’s something we already wanted to do, and we’re just forced into it more quickly.
Do you feel like this crisis has changed your perspective on what you want to do in the future?
Natalie: I definitely think it goes back to just slowing down and really taking time to figure out what it is we want to do from here. As we said, we had saved money. So financially, it gives us time to really think about what do we want to do next as far as being able to maintain this lifestyle financially. As a chef, there’s no way that I could get a job with the food and bev scene the way it is right now.
Abi’s been a lot more creative on the projects that she’s been working with photography. We do our own videos and stuff like that. We’ve had more time to hone in on the art that we want to focus on while trying to find a way that that’s going to be financially sound for us once it’s possible to start doing that again. So, yeah, I think it’s changed our perspective in a positive way.
So got to ask, Natalie, do you do all the cooking, or do you both share the load?
Natalie: I do a lot of the cooking. Abi’s doing a lot more of the keeping up with our videos, our photography, and stuff like that. But I love cooking. This is what I wanted to do. I’m cooking on the fire a lot more because of being outside and to save on our fuel. It’s really opened me up to new ways of doing my art. Before when I was running a kitchen, I was doing somebody else’s food. So, yeah, I think it’s made me more creative, and I get really excited about that. It’s one of my favorite things to do.
Abi is an excellent cook, and she got me into cooking plant-based. So we’re plant-based now. Now, it’s about me finding new ways to make vegan food not taste crappy, which is something a lot of people think.
“They are the soundtrack to our lives,” we see excited Beastie Boys fans say at the start of Beastie Boys Story, the Spike Jonze-directed, kind of hybrid documentary-live stage performance film that will be released on Apple TV+ this week. (Which was supposed to make its debut at South by Southwest before that and, like everything else, came to a crashing halt.) Jonze doesn’t waste too much time with fan sentimentality before the crushing baseline of “Sabotage” envelopes all of our senses, which is impossible not to cause an adrenaline rush and signal to the viewer’s brain, “Oh, man, here we go!”
But the whole “soundtrack to our lives” line stuck with me a bit. Because, frankly, I was hesitant to write about this film because I am not a huge Beastie Boys fanatic. Like a lot of people, the first Beastie Boys song I ever heard was “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party!)” because that got constant MTV and radio airplay when I was young. The problem for me was … I didn’t particularly like that song very much. (And, as I learned in Beastie Boys Story, eventually neither did the Beastie Boys.) Over the course of my life I’ve owned two Beastie Boys albums: License to Ill (I mean, of course, I still owned the album; I did grow a particular fondness for “Slow and Low) and Ill Communication. I am not someone who is going to pretend I bought Paul’s Boutique on its release day. (Though a lot of my friends are huge Beastie Boys fans and I always felt a little left out.) Anyway, my point is, it was difficult for me to go along with the whole “soundtrack of our lives” business. That said, hold that thought.
Filmed in front of a live audience in Brooklyn in April of 2019, Beastie Boys Story plays more like a comedy show than it does a straightforward documentary. And, right now, with most of us stuck at home, there’s something comforting and visually pleasing about watching Ad-Rock (aka Adam Horovitz) and Mike D (aka Michael Diamond) on stage, holding court as they, earnestly and hilariously, tell the story of the Beastie Boys. (Of course, Adam Yauch died in 2012 and it’s crazy to think he’s been gone eight years already.) It’s a pretty fascinating thing to watch, as Horovitz and Diamond take us through the history of the Beastie Boys in a style more reminiscent of a Martin and Lewis show. The pair have a way almost levitating themselves out of the story and talking about their past lives as if they aren’t even the same people, in almost a “wink-wink, look at these crazy kids,” kind of way. At almost two hours on the nose, it’s long for a documentary, but Horovitz, Diamond, and Jonze keep the proceedings moving at a pretty blistering pace.
This is a film that’s hilarious, sad, and for some reason features an entire montage set to Dolly Parton’s “9 to 5.” There’s a pretty hilarious juxtaposition as Horovitz and Diamond compare footage of themselves on American Bandstand in 1987 – as the band is, let’s say, just kind of winging it and flopping all over the place – to that of a streamlined machine performing “Sabotage” at the 1994 MTV Video Music Awards. (Also, this is the night of the infamous Nathanial Hornblower incident, as Hornblower, Yauch’s Swiss director alter ego, rushed the stage in protest after “Sabotage” lost to R.E.M.’s “Everybody Hurts” for directing. Rewatching now, it’s kind of amazing how Michael Stipe just laughs the whole thing off, at least on stage.)
Now, here’s what hit me the most while watching: as we go through the Beastie Boy’s story, hearing track after track, memories came flooding back. Even though, even when it came out, I wasn’t a huge fan of “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party!),” that was the song of a certain period of my youth. As we went further along, “So Watch’Cha Want” brought back a ton of memories from high school. “Pass the Mic” and “Sabotage” were the theme songs of my college experience. And so on and so on…
It’s weird when you break down what the term “soundtrack to our lives” even means. Because when a soundtrack is playing in a movie, it’s rarely presented as that character’s favorite song. The character usually has no control over the soundtrack to their life we are watching. In “Pretty in Pink,” at the prom, as Andrew McCarthy’s Blane is moping around, “If You Leave” by O.M.D. is playing. (I watched “Pretty in Pink over the weekend so I’m going to go ahead and use that movie as an example.) Blane didn’t pick that song. He doesn’t even particularly like that song. But O.M.D is literally the soundtrack to Blane’s life.
I wasn’t a diehard Beastie Boys fan, but as I watched Beastie Boys Story, it really hit me how their music has been such a part of my life, even though I was rarely the one playing their music. In my own internal biopic in my head, a lot of important moments of my life would be scored to Beastie Boys music. So, yes, that whole “soundtrack to our lives” comment is pretty accurate, and Adam Horovitz and Michael Diamond make for a pretty hilarious, dynamic comedy team.
Look at a list of the horror films released in 2010 and there’s a good chance you’ve heard of a few of them, even if you’re only a casual fan of the genre. There’s James Wan and Leigh Whannell’s back-to-basics Insidious, quietly one of the more influential films of the decade. There’s an awful remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street and a delightfully insane remake of Piranha called Piranha 3-D. Speaking of remakes, 2010 also saw the premiere of Matt Reeves’ Let Me In, an underrated remake of Let the Right One In. There’s The Last Exorcism, one of the best of the found-footage horror films to arrive in the wake of Paranormal Activity. There’s We Are What We Are, a chilling film about cannibals in contemporary Mexico City. There’s something for everyone, really.
Yet none of these movies took hold of the moviegoing imagination quite like The Human Centipede (First Sequence), thanks to a premise so outrageous that no one who hears it can ever forget it — even if they want to. (And if somehow you don’t know the plot of The Human Centipede and want to remain in blissful ignorance, you have permission to stop reading now.)
A quick refresher: Written and directed by Dutch filmmaker Tom Six, The Human Centipede stars veteran German actor Dieter Laser as Dr. Josef Heiter, the sole (permanent) resident of an isolated villa in the German countryside. Once the foremost specialist in separating conjoined twins, he’s gone mad and made a professional 180, trying instead to join three bodies together to form the eponymous human centipede. That sounds unsettling enough, but it’s where Heiter joins them that makes them so memorable. They’re sewn together anus to mouth to form one theoretically seamless digestive system flowing from the first section through the second and out the third.
It’s a gross idea. But it’s also proven to be a remarkably sticky idea (pardon the word choice), one that attracted viewers even before its release and has maintained a cult of admirers ever since. The Human Centipede arrived in theaters in 2010 with a reputation for repulsiveness already established, thanks to months of festival screenings the previous year. On an episode dedicated to the film, Stephen Sajdak, one of the hosts of the We Hate Movies podcast, recalls attending an opening-day matinee and seeing a hyped-up acquaintance arrive wearing a Human Centipede t-shirt before he’d even seen the movie. Nine years after that opening weekend, Alec Baldwin dedicated an episode of Here’s the Thing, a podcast more usually home to chats with Carly Simon and Itzhak Perlman, to an interview with Six. Barely able to contain his excitement, Baldwin volunteers to appear in Six’s next film.
The Human Centipede has inspired bits on Conan and South Park, at least one elaborate Halloween costume, and spawned a pair of sequels. Its weird staying power has made it a reference that’s even many who haven’t seen the film will get. In some strange way, it was the right movie at the right time. Which is odd, because a film whose centerpiece scene involve a man apologizing for defecating into the mouth of the woman behind him would seemingly be the right movie for no time.
So how did the film come to be? And why has it proven so enduring? The first question is easier to answer than the second. “I saw a child molester on television here in Holland, and I made a joke that they should stitch his mouth to the anus of a fat truck driver,” Six told Vulture’s Kenny Herzog as part of an oral history of the series. Developing the idea, Six dropped the idea of righteous retribution but kept the rest. (Even the trucker remained; Heiter’s first victim, he’s deemed incompatible for centipede use, but not before we see him enjoying a roadside bowel movement.) After consulting with a doctor, Six developed the idea then set about bringing it to life.
Doing so required a delicate touch. In New York, the Sixes auditioned actors to play the American tourists brought into Heiter’s lair after a roadside accident. Billing it only as a “controversial European film,” Six attracted many more would-be stars than he kept; many bailed when they learned the nature of their prospective roles. Ultimately, Ashley C. Williams and Ashlynn Yennie signed on as Lindsay and Jenny, who would, respectively, serve as the second and third segments of the centipede. Replacing an injured actor, Akihiro Kitamura came aboard later after auditioning by Skype, taking on the role of Katsuro, the Japanese man who would serve as the centipede’s head. Relative newcomers, Williams, Yennie, and Kiamura joined the well-established Laser, who’d won the German equivalent of the Best Actor Oscar for his work in the 1975 film, John Glückstadt, and appeared in the New German Cinema classic, The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum. Before long, Laser would be ordering them around with a riding crop and delivering dialogue like “Swallow it, bitch!” an order he delivers, like each of his character’s lines, with the unbridled enthusiasm of a madman.
Like its characters, audiences may have similarly found the film tough to digest, but that only helped spread its reputation as a beyond-the-pale act of transgression. Also helping matters: Six’s gift for hype and a tagline boasting the film was “100% Medically Accurate,” a questionable assertion, but an intriguing one nonetheless. It would be a stretch to call The Human Centipede a hit, at least theatrically. Released in a single U.S. theater on April 30, 2010, it never played more than 19 theaters at once, earning just $181,467 domestically. But it moved DVDs, back when DVDs still made money. And, at a moment when VOD was coming into its own, the film found viewers willing to take a chance on the gross movie they’d been reading about online even if they wouldn’t take a trip to the theaters to see it. Its reputation grew over the time. The Human Centipede proved it had legs.
You could call it a brilliant bit of hype that found its suckers, but the description doesn’t really fit. Six made a real movie. Not necessarily a good movie, mind you, but certainly a movie that no one else would have thought to make. Six modeled his villain after Josef Mengele, and his admitted influences include Pier Paolo Pasolini’s divisive anti-fascist film Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom, David Lynch, and Takashi Miike. (The film’s long takes, deliberate pace, and interest in torture owe a particular debt to Miike’s Audition.) But The Human Centipede is more than the sum of its influences for the same horrific reason it found such a foothold in moviegoers’ psyche: it’s hard to stop thinking about the human centipede itself, what it looks like, how it was made, and what it might feel like to be a part of one.
“It’s definitive psychological horror, positioning the viewer to identify with the victim’s suffering and lack of free will,” Karina Longworth wrote in her Village Voice review. She continued: “The Human Centipede is startlingly relatable: Six uses the centipede to talk about humanity. In the tradition of the first Frankenstein films, various contemporary ‘advanced interrogation techniques,’ and certain interpretations of Catholic purgatory, Centipede plays on the notion that the only thing more frightening than death is a state bridging life and death, in which, though one’s body is no longer his own to control, the mind remains conscious. In Six’s view, the moral imperative to preserve life only goes so far—eventually, death is a relief.”
That reference to “advanced interrogation techniques” deserves special consideration. The Human Centipede arrived toward the end of a cycle of what came to be called “torture porn” film, horror movies that placed special emphasis on the details of pain inflicted on the human body. The Saw films popularized the form, but it’s no accident that it coincided with an international debate over the morality of torture. Those sorts of anxieties inevitably find their way into horror movies. But The Human Centipede was less explicit. Its protagonists’ horror is as much existential as physical (though the physical element probably shouldn’t be understated). Roger Ebert refused to assign it a star rating, but only at the end of a review that noted Six has “the soul of a dark artist.” “Is the movie good? Is it bad? Does it matter?,” Ebert concluded. “It is what it is and occupies a world where the stars don’t shine.” Made at the end of a decade defined by horror’s newfound extremity, its utter, inescapable hopelessness suggest a new sort of extreme.
It’s one Six struggled to reach again. Focusing on a disturbed Londoner obsessed with the film, 2011’s The Human Centipede 2 (Full Sequence) multiplied the bodies and the stitching and added a new layer of sexual violence. It earned little of the respect, grudging or otherwise, of the original and failed to capture the imagination of the public at large. Released in 2015, The Human Centipede 3 (Final Sequence) made even less of an impression. (I can’t judge this one myself, having bailed on the series after the second entry. Life is short and the brain can take only so many repulsive images.) Six has yet to complete a follow-up project. But, a decade on, the original’s dark vision maintains its weird attraction. It’s driven by an awful idea, but one that’s impossible to forget, and one whose disturbing resonance seems unlikely to fade away any time soon.
When Dieter Laser died earlier this month, headlines from Variety to The Guardian mentioned only one film: The Human Centipede. Some nightmares have a way of overshadowing everything around them.
Not everyone misses the hustle and bustle of public transportation while they endure life during a pandemic, but for those that love subway maps and free transfers there is a perfect board game out there to pass the time in quarantine. GameWright’s Metro X features the bright color-coordination of metropolitan mass transit graphic design with a quickly-moving “rail and write” card game.
Metro X is a new edition of a game originally made in Japan, with some tweaks to make it play a bit faster and includes erasable boards for up to six players. Gameplay is simultaneous: each player has the same metro map, with the goal to complete routes by filling up as many spaces on the board as possible to gain points. A card is flipped over, and players then choose a rail line to fill and mark the number of spaces equal to the number on the card. Everyone is using the same cards and subway lines, but the routes intersect several times and it’s impossible to fill up everything by the end of the game. Those choices players make get them different point values for routes finished first, and the uncertainty of what numbers (or free transfers or junctions) are coming and when the deck reshuffles add in a bit of luck to keep things interesting.
Both maps are inspired by real-life train systems, though thankfully no actual city’s system is organized this poorly. The concept is a bit brain-twisting at first but once everyone settles in there’s not much to grasp beyond picking a color, crossing off some boxes and hoping for the best. The two-sided game boards offer considerable replay value: Metro City is much easier to grasp conceptually than Tube Town, as the former has routes all moving left to right. But both offer plenty of opportunities to strategize and the dry erase element certainly helps players correct mistakes they might make getting the concept of the game down.
The most interesting thing about Metro X is the focus it requires. The first time I played it was at PAX East in Boston, a huge gaming convention that can be a sensory overload for some. But Metro X requires an amount of attention that manages to block pretty much everything around you out. There’s not a lot of time for cross-talk, as players will be staring hard at their boards to figure out how best to manage different routes without wasting moves. What’s more, there’s really no incentive to looking at another player’s board to see what they’re doing simply because you can’t afford to take attention away from your own work. It’s a game all your own, but the competition can be fierce as a result. Players thinking they’re on the brink of a few extra bonus points can come up just short to someone else prioritizing a different route. It’s a sometimes maddening result, but one that in my playtesting only made players want to give the game another go to figure out a faster way to complete routes.
If you like your game nights more meandering and loud, Metro X might not be the best pick for your next game night. But it’s a great change of pace game that plays quickly, much like Abandon All Artichokes. And the brainpower required to juggle criss-crossing routes and not getting stuck with costly empty boxes makes for a satisfying play, even if you come up a bit short.
There are certainly worse things to become absorbed in right now, and until you master the intersecting routes in Tube Town there are plenty of hours to burn here. In these trying times, any game that can bring a bit of the outside world to your quarantine is a welcome change of pace. For those who miss squinting at a subway map in a strange city to make sure they’re going the right direction, Metro X is a charming little adventure to navigate from the comfort of home.
During her career as a singer and an actress, Lady Gaga has taken on many roles. Whether she’s charting her rise to fame in A Star Is Born or indulging in vampiric delights in American Horror Story, Gaga plays her character well. Maybe a little too well, even: Gaga’s commitment to her roles has led one fan to become convinced that Lady Gaga practices Satanism and is a member of the Church Of Satan.
The fan laid out their alleged evidence that points to Gaga’s Satanic tendencies on social media. The theory even caught the attention of the Church Of Satan, which promptly shut down the fan’s theory.
In a lengthy 33-part thread on Twitter, a fan detailed their hypothesis that Gaga practices Satanic rituals in her spare time. At least when she’s not raising over a hundred million dollars to aid coronavirus relief. The fan began by coaxing readers to join him down the rabbit hole that is his theory. “It takes about 3 seconds on google to tie Gaga to satanism,” the fan began. “so I won’t waste ur time w 20 parts on how symbolic all her current performances are, but instead I’ll try & bring out some stuff maybe u haven’t seen or don’t know about her.”
The fan’s examples include Gaga’s hand placement in several of her early press photos, the singer’s legendary bloody 2009 MTV VMA’s performance, and a screengrab from a scene in American Horror Story: Hotel.
1/ Lady Gaga, Satan’s Puppet
I posted a poll whether to do Billie Eilish or Gaga & u guys chose Gaga. I know there is A TON of knowledge that Gaga is nuts, but i guarantee u there are things in here u had no idea about. Join me down the that is…. LADY GAGA
The fan then goes on to conjecture that Gaga is “the exact model of almost every pop star controlled by the Illuminati.” According to the theory, the singer has been brainwashed by the CIA and turned into a “human robot” because she goes by the stage name “Gaga,” which is a phrase often uttered by babies and refers to a state of absent-mindedness.
11/ Even her name “Lady Gaga” is extremely interesting. “Gaga” is a babies’ first word & is tied to absent mindedness in the thesaurus, which leads us directly into MK Ultra brainwashing & creating human robots
Just when the thread seemingly couldn’t get any more absurd, the actual Church Of Satan arrived as the voice of reason. Re-tweeting the conspiracy theory, the Church Of Satan swiftly denied the evidence. “It takes about 3 seconds on google to see that none of these examples have anything to do with Satanism,” they quipped. “so we won’t waste your time with 20 parts explaining how this makes you look like an ignorant conspiracy theorist.”
It takes about 3 seconds on google to see that none of these examples have anything to do with Satanism, so we won’t waste your time with 20 parts explaining how this makes you look like an ignorant conspiracy theorist. https://t.co/lTxWB8JRnb
Anderson .Paak, joined by the Free Nationals, performed an NPR Tiny Desk concert back in 2016, and to this day, it remains the most popular performance in the series’ history (the YouTube video has over 48 million views as of this post). Since then, Free Nationals have become a more independent unit outside of .Paak, as they released their self-titled debut album last year. On March 4, before social distancing and quarantining became a part of everyday life, the group returned to the NPR offices for a new Tiny Desk performance, which has now been shared.
The band’s album was heavy on guests, and that didn’t change here. Most notably, .Paak popped up halfway through the set to play drums and sing on “Gidget.” He also reflected on what Tiny Desk has meant for his career, saying, “It’s good to be back, you know what I’m saying? So much stuff has happened since the last time we got back, lot of tours, lot of albums… bigger things. We spent a bunch of money, like hundreds of thousands of dollars on videos, big-budget videos, just to have our biggest video be in front of a tiny desk in an office. Thank you NPR, we appreciate that, for letting the music speak for itself.”
Meanwhile, the performance also featured India Shawn and Chronixx, so watch the full set above.
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