New Punisher Podcast – in a new Format!

Look, obviously if we'd record our brand new Things with Words Podcast episode you could hear me cheering for James Gunn. Disney's decision to re-hire him is definitely one of the most Yay moments of this week. Did I write week? I mean month, year and beyond! It's not only the fact that we'll get a Suicide Squad film people are actually anticipating, and his Guardians 3 film. It's the fact that this decision speaks volumes and maybe, just maybe will regain some ever so needed proportions and sanity to twitter. Or you know what, at least it got Gunn sort of back there:


But I'm digressing. Anyway, Yoni Zabow – a comics expert (for real, he used to write an in-depth column about them) and I are thrilled to share with you our new episode and format. We talk about everything pop-culture-y, starting with bite-size impressions of things we've experienced lately. These include the Michael Jackson backlash, Dream Theater's new album and more. Each of them gets a Yay or Nay response from us, plus an explanation, obviously.

Then we get to our main event. This episode we dig into Punisher season 2, analyzing it by answering these questions: which characters got to us,  what cinematic elements we liked, what we would change, what made us cringe and finally our overall impression.

Click here to join the conversation, or simply find us at any podcast app you like.

Review: Fever Ray – To the Moon and Back

Are you ready for this?

After 8 years (8! Years!) She's back. Fever Ray has already released a new song titled "to the moon and back" and an s&m creepy and at the same time compelling video to go along with it. The whole album will be available on streaming services online tonight (Yasssssssssssssss) at midnight, just in time for Halloween. The album's titled "Plunge" and it will be the Knife's Karin Dreijer's second solo project to date. You can find the track listing on Pitchfork, as well as an excerpt of a stream of consciousness by Fever Ray herself.

Here's hoping for a narrative, a concept album even that will greet us tonight, dealing with love, flesh, desire, age, gender, sex, pain and conflicted identities – heavy lyrics all wrapped up in sweet kabuki melodies and twitching tweaking electronic sound.

So, while we wait (what's a few hours compared to eight years, right?) I'd like to take a peek at "to the moon and back" (no connection to the savage garden single. Well, maybe the general topics of them both do have some similarities).

These are the lyrics:

Hey, remember me?
I've been busy working like crazy
I know you like tangerine
And your kiss is sweet and creamy

Oh, can you imagine
A friend sticks for us to bump in
Oh, I'm done looking
Now things can start happening

Hey, remember me?
I've got so much, just come and get me
I play something catchy
You lean forward and kiss me

First I take you then you take me
Breathe some life into a fantasy
Your lips, warm and fuzzy
I want to run my fingers up your pussy

Now, we may take them at face value, and read them as a lusty love song between one person to another woman, preferably as one woman to another if we co it's all there. But we may also read it as a renewal of vows between an artist and her listeners. Her voice tells us, almost apologetically that she's been doing things, creating something new for us all this time, she didn't just disappear. Fever Ray's voice goes on and asks the listeners, repeatedly, if we remember her. And then comes this line, saying "I play something catchy/you lean forward and kiss me". This could be a way to describe the tensed relationship between a singer and her crowd, knowing that if her music will be more mainstream she may be accepted more easily, perhaps.

From there the lyrics continue to describe a mutual inflicted extasy, a very direct talk, that again, represents intimate relations between two individuals and at the same time may represent the intimacy between artist and her crowd. There, in the gap between the music and the listener, a fantasy is allowed to come to  life.

And to top it all we have the way Fever Ray chose to appear in the video, that, along with a few more visual teasers on her YouTube page suggests we're in for a dark delve into the human syche, one that combines the broken and beautiful parts of the soul, all rolled into one.

Well. Is it midnight yet?

Mashrou’ Leila's Cancelation: We're all Losing Here

I wasn’t supposed to be here this weekend. I was planning to spend this Passover holiday in Amman – Jordan, just a couple of hours drive from Tel Aviv – Israel. Me and my friends were going to watch Mashrou’ Leila, a Lebanese band live on stage for our first time ever. We were super excited. We were equally disappointed when we read on the band's facebook page that the show got cancelled.

As frustrating as it is, shows get cancelled all the time around here. Sometimes it's the political pressure on artists not to perform in Israel as long as it occupies the Palestinians, sometimes it's the actual fear for one's safety when there's a war going on (the government usually calls them military operations, but they are dangerous none the less), sometimes it's plain technical problems.

This cancelation is different. Its meaning is upsetting enough for it to be covered all over the web – from BBC to NPR to Buzzfeed.

The official reason the band was banned from performing in Jordan, at the Roman amphitheatre was that "the performance would have been at odds with what the Ministry of Tourism viewed as the “authenticity” of the site", the band wrote in their statement. This is odd, since they have preformed there before, three times no less.

Informally, the story gets its sad twist, as they continued to write in their statement: "We have been unofficially informed that the reason behind this sudden change of heart, few days before the concert day, is the intervention of some authorities. Our understanding is that said authorities have pressured certain political figures and triggered a chain of events that ultimately ended with our authorization being withdrawn.

"We also have been unofficially informed that we will never be allowed to play again anywhere in Jordan due to our political and religious beliefs and endorsement of gender equality and sexual freedom".

These are not merely rumors. According to the BBC: "Amman governor Khalid Abu Zeid told the Associated Press on Wednesday that the group had been banned because its songs "contradicted" religious beliefs, and not because its music went against the amphitheatre's historic ambience".

And it gets worse. NPR wrote that governor Abu Zeid had said that the band's songs "contradict" Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

How dare we not know to speak Arabic

Well, maybe they do. And yeah, their lead singer is openly gay. Their lyrics are known to be pro freedom of religion, love and sexual attraction and gender equality. Besides creating awesome music, they're not afraid to be political whilst being entertainers, and tackle matters of social importance. At least that's what I was told by a co-worker who was more than happy to loosely translate some of their lyrics for me one afternoon at the office.

My other co-workers reacted with amusement mixed with bafflement to our musical taste. As an Israeli Jew, I don’t speak Arabic, you see. I mean, there are Arabic classes in high schools, but they're not mandatory. I for instance had the choice between them and French lessons.

This way we grow up not understanding the mother tongue of not only our neighbors, but the millions of Arab-Israelis and Palestinians with whom we live side by side. Arab-Israelis on the other hand, should know how to speak Hebrew if they want to be able to work and study in Israel.

That is why when we played a Mashrou’ Leila's song that has the words "Tik tik tik boom" in it, everyone around me joked nervously that I'm listening to a song about suicide bombings, because it's all about us, sure.

That’s not what the song's about. It's more general, and uses the concept of martyrs as a metaphor for religion and politics boiling up to the point of no return. You can read English translations of some of their lyrics here.

Mashrou’ Leila wrote on their Facebook page that a lot of Palestinians were planning to come and see them at Amman, and apologized, knowing this was these people's only relatively simple way to see them live. The band would find it hard and maybe impossible to arrive in Gaza for instance to perform. And even if they would have wanted, and managed, to get into Israel – the Palestinian audience couldn’t have gotten in to see them.
You usually need a better excuse to be permitted to cross to the Israeli side.

As Israelis, we would have gotten a Jordanian stamp on our passport, and probably would have had to answer a question or two about it at the airport the next time we'd leave the country. Arab-Israelis may get full body examination and even get detained. Security procedures demand it.

My Arab-Israeli friend resigned about six months ago. She didn't like the job. She also didn't like the comments and jokes she heard at the kitchen and read on the office's Whatsapp group every time one of those military "operations" were going on – conversations about how "they deserve it for bombing us" and how the IDF is the most humanitarian army of them all. They didn't understand why she wasn’t simply grateful for having this job, for being "accepted", and for living in the Israeli side of the map.

When the show got cancelled, I reached out to the band on their Facebook page, naively hoping they might give me a short interview for this piece. I got a comment from a Jordanian citizen, telling me off saying: "Really ,how cute, while u actively occupy other people". Another Israeli who wrote about his disappointment was told to shut up by Arab fans, being privileged and part of the people who are at a long bloody conflict with the Palestinians.

I didn’t argue with the one who commented on my post, how could I? I took a quick look at his or hers facebook profile – a Metallica and Alien fan, some posts about woman's rights. We could have had a great chat about horror films, feminism and music had we met accidently at the show. Maybe I could say something about the situation here, about how some of us do want it to change. And it would have been nice, standing there cheering with people from Palestine, Jordan and Israel.

It is too bad for us, for all of us, that this maybe a bit pathetic dream bubble just exploded by being silenced. Ironically, another friend of mine is still going to see Mashrou’ Leila as part of their world tour. He's an Israeli Jew living in Berlin. It's easier there, so he says.

Update: The band has posted another statement on its facebook page regarding the cancelation. Mashrou' Leila responded to the allegations about their music, and noted that the Governor if Amman has sent them a letter of approval. However the approval arrived too late for it to allow them to preform.

Post Pop Impression

"I'm gonna break into your heart. I'm gonna crawl under your skin". It's with these lines that Iggy Pop chose to start off his latest/last album. An interesting mission statement for a 68 rock icon releasing what could very well be his swan song. Whose heart is Pop looking to break into? And why would he even feel such a need at what might be the last days of a long and glories life?

Taken at face value the opening track of "Post Pop Depression" could sound like any other stalkery love song we've heard a hundred times (Sting's Every Move you Make comes to mind), but once added to the rest of the album it becomes clear that what the lizard king of punk has done here is create an audio biography charting the span of his long career, and he's telling it directly to "you" the listener.

With the help of Queens of the Stone Age's Josh Homme and add support form Dean Fertita also of Queens' and Arctic Monkeys' drummer Matt Helders, Pop revisits the crucial points of his life from a hungry and ambitious youth to where he is today in his twilight years. The result is an album that sound 70% queens of the stone age, 30% arctic monkeys but 100% Iggy Pop.

The opening track "Break into your Heart" may be about the forces that drive a man to change his name and spend his every waking moment of his life searching for acceptance, and not a plea to a potential lover.

The first single released from the album, "Gardenia", might be about Pop's obsession with a woman of the night with a flower and her hair and a great ass, but can also be can be interpreted as a song about the creative process and looking for control over your muse. In the song Pop searches for a woman he refers to as both a goddess and a dream – like an addict needing his fix of inspiration.

"German Days" is a look back at Iggy's early days in Berlin. Days filled with sex, drugs and David Bowie.

Bowie, who produced Pops most acclaimed albums: "The Idiot" and "Lust for Life" is felt throughout the album though of no fault of his own.

Bowie's death not long before the album's release and the fact the Bowie's last album ★ was a farewell album created by an artist who knew he was dying throws a major spotlight on Post Pop Depression and the way it is meant to be heard.

Pop is perhaps the last of his generation with greats like Bowie, Lou Reed and Lemmy Kilmister all passing recently, and so it comes as no surprise that death and mortality are dominant themes in his album as well.

Perhaps most effective is "American Valhalla" in which Pop searches for his version of heaven after a long and eventful life and asks the question: where do rock stars go when they grow old?

Another question raised by the song is one about Pop's very own identity." I'm not the man with everything. I've nothing, but my name" Pop tells the listener, but which name is that? Is the artist at the end of the day nothing more than the man he was born as, James Osterberg, or has the alias Iggy Pop taken over completely to become all that he has?

The answer to that question might be found in the albums final song – Paraguay.

"Wild animals they do.
Never wonder why.
Just do what they goddamn do".

So sings the band at the song's top and thus gives us all the information  we ever needed to know about Iggy Pop. It doesn’t matter what name he goes by and it's no longer about "breaking into your heart". It's about a force stronger than you, it's about nature.

Pop in his lyrics to this song comes out as a man near the end of his life who lives for himself and wants to get away from it all to a place where people still have souls. Pop wants to escape the rock star life, corporate vultures ( as is evident in the song Vulture) but mostly from the music consumer himself. In an impassioned verbal assault Pop once again speaks directly to "you" just like in the first song, but this time the tone is completely different.

"I've had enough of you" says Pop, and ads "Yeah, I'm talking to you" so there is no doubt who it is he is addressing:

"I'm gonna go to Paraguay
To live in a compound under the trees
With servants and bodyguards who love me
Free of criticism
Free of manners and mores
I wanna be your basic clod
Who made good
And went away while he could
To somewhere where people are still human beings
Where they have spirit
You take your motherfucking laptop
And just shove it into your goddamn foul mouth
And down your shit heel gizzard
You fucking phony two faced three timing piece of turd
And I hope you shit it out
With all the words in it
And I hope the security services read those words
And pick you up and flay you
For all your evil and poisonous intentions
Because I'm sick
And it's your fault
And I'm gonna go heal myself now

Pop yearns for a simpler time when music was made as an act of nature and not as a product of a well oiled industry. When music was carved from the soul and not as a means of gaining fame and fortune. But mostly he misses a day when music the music consumers would simple feel the music and not criticize and prod every track. Like I just did.

Seth Rogen's Sausage Party. Wait. What

So… Seth Rogen's new animated feature's trailer is online, after a screening at SXSW, where it was received with a long round of applause, followed by a Q&A. He told the audience he was trying to make "Sausage Party" for 8 years.

The major reason for the long wait: animated films are expensive, and therefore kind of risky to make, especially when your film is about a sausage (Rogen) who's in love with a bun (Kristen Wiig). There's more to it than just romance: Frank the sausage and all the cute groceries he calls friends realise the horrible truth: they are food, and are about to be chopped, boiled and, well, eaten. In a very graphic and horribly loud way.

Is this gonna be a romantic gore animated comedy? Can you even do gore with CGI food? I mean, we are used to seeing sausages as bloody intestines, but that usually happens in low budget b horror movies. This, if it works out, could be a whole new goregame.

The story has some "Chicken Run" in it, only crazier. It's actually kind of a full length version of an old Muppets sketch, in which a hungry woman is persuaded not to eat a clam because it's cute and begs her not to. At the end she reaches out for a bun, only to realize buns have feelings too.

If we can assume anything from the trailer (the whole film is yet to be finished, some scenes and the score by Allan Menken are still in progress) – it's quite disturbing. You get this uncanny feeling since these are just objects, but hey… so are toys. The gap between the cuteness and the familiar family-frienlly aesthetics on one hand – and the brutal murders (did I just called peeling a potato "a murder"? what?) on the other is very affective at making you feel extremely uncomfortable. And it's also very anime.

Will this weird sensation of wanting to laugh and cringe at the same time hold for a whole movie? That is yet to be determined. "Sausage Party" is scheduled for August 12th from Sony, and also on board are some familiar faces from Rogen's career: James Franco, Jonah Hill, Micheal Cera, Paul Rudd,  Salma Hayek and Edward Norton – who's portraying a Woody Allen sound alike, as a bagel.