‘Harry Potter’ And The Bible Have More In Common Than You Might Think

You’d be forgiven for assuming the team behind the podcast “Harry Potter and the Sacred Text,” in which two hosts dissect J.K. Rowling’s classic series as if it were the Torah or the Bible, were raving tinfoil-hat superfans.

But while they adore the boy wizard anthology, the team approaches their subject matter with reasoned academic discipline like the Harvard Divinity School members and graduates they are. Each episode allows hosts Vanessa Zoltan and Casper ter Kuile, along with producer Ariana Nedelman, the chance to reread a chapter of the series (starting from the beginning, with one chapter given to each episode) and analyze the characters’ struggles and motivations, picking out moral teachings along the way. (Give it a listen here.)

The show got its start through Zoltan and ter Kuile’s friendship (notably, an essential Harry Potter theme). After they briefly considered giving Jane Eyre a “sacred text” treatment, the co-hosts one an assistant Humanist chaplain at Harvard and the other a minister-in-training for non-religious people settled on the Potter series due to its length and popularity. Both connected with the books in their own way: Zoltan as she discovered them for the first time in her mid-20s, and her co-host as he reread them in divinity school only to realize they resonated more with him than the Bible. 

“The same things are in these books as are in the traditional sacred texts,” Zoltan explained. As of this writing, they’ve made it through Chapter 13 of The Sorcerer’s Stone, but plan to dissect all 199 in the series. 

The Huffington Post spoke with Zoltan about blessings, why talking about a children’s book series like a sacred text isn’t as crazy as it sounds, and whether aliens might confuse Harry Potter for a real religion.

How much do you think J.K. Rowling legitimately thought about the themes you talk about on the podcast, and how much does that even matter?

We took the position that it doesn’t matter. I think that it’s completely valid way to read a text, and sometimes I think it’s a really interesting way to read a text. You know, that’s the way that I’ve read Phillip Roth novels I think a lot more about his intentions, and the arguments he’s trying to make, and the way that his arguments matured and evolved over the years that he wrote. And I think that there’s a lot to be said for doing that with these books, with Rowling’s.

It’s just not how we chose to do it here. We’re trying to talk about the books the way that people talk about religious texts in religious settings. The way that you talk about the Bible in church, the way that you talk about the Torah in temple, the way that you talk about the Quran in mosques. And authorial intent is not the way that those things get discussed in those spaces. You know, you don’t go to church, or you don’t go to most churches, [to discuss authorial intent.] There are certainly some churches and certainly some temples and obviously some mosques in which we talk about historical, critical theory you know, who were the people who sat around and actually transcribed these texts? but most places of worship aren’t like that. And we think it is to the benefit of our hearts and our spirits to not get tripped up by that.

We’ll never know what Rowling intended. If you do a Freudian interpretation of Rowling, Rowling will never know what she intended. So we don’t want to get distracted by that.

Do you think people naturally want to analyze any entertainment media they love to this extent and try to draw meaning from it? As such a powerful communication tool, the internet has certainly given fans a way to do that, and we’ve seen so many fandoms crop up there.

The way that we talk about it is: If you love something, and it’s complicated enough, we encourage you to practice treating something as sacred. What you’re doing is practicing loving something, and practicing loving things can only be a good thing. You get better at loving, and it’s a time in which you’re having a positive emotional experience. We just think that is always good.

But I think that it depends on the intention. I think that if you’re on “The Bachelorette” website, you can think that being absorbed by this is really interesting [maybe] it’s distracting from something really stressful in your life but I don’t think that’s treating “The Bachelorette” as sacred. And I think that is fine. If you’re on the website because you love the gossip, and no judgment in that, I just don’t think that your heart is being fed by that exercise. I certainly do a lot of things in which my heart is not being fed! But I just think that if you pick these things with intention, and apply practice to it, a lot of things can end up being sacred texts.

At the end of each episode, the two of you each pick a character from that chapter to bless. Why?

We do it for two main reasons. One is that so much goodness is invisible in the world, and so we want to call out people’s goodness that isn’t entirely obvious. So you reread a positive quality on a character that we had negative associations with seeing something positive in Aunt Petunia or Aunt Marge or draw attention to secondary or tertiary characters, pointing out that just because somebody isn’t a primary character in your life doesn’t mean they don’t have an entire inner life. And we’re trying to draw attention to that.

But then the secondary purpose is that we’re hoping, in some ways, that we’re offering blessings to our listeners. So if we are blessing the fact that Hermione is a recreational reader, we’re hoping that people who feel introverted and alone in their reading and feel like that’s something private about them that they feel recognized in that blessing. We hope that people feel a sense of community and feel a lack of aloneness in hearing these blessings. 

What is your take on the fundamentalists who tried to ban Harry Potter from school libraries in the early 2000s on religious grounds?

First of all, I’m just against banning books. So there’s just that. But I also think that they haven’t read the books. I went and gave a talk at Gordon-Conwell Seminary, which is one of the most conservative Christian seminaries on the East Coast, and I was talking about Harry Potter. And somebody said to me, “Well, it makes sense that you’re treating Harry Potter as a sacred text because it’s such a Christian text.” And I grew up atheist and Jewish so I was like, “How is it a Christian text?” And the guy was like, “Well, he literally dies and rises from the dead in order to save humanity.” And I was like, “Oh, right.”

It certainly has very traditional Christian values like generosity and love and non-violence, and [based on] my understanding of Jesus from [divinity] school and my minister friends, I think Jesus would really dig the Harry Potter books. People ban things because they’re afraid of them. I don’t think that there’s a lot of hate involved it’s just fear. They were really popular. They were capturing kids’ imaginations, and [people] want to control the narrative of what is capturing kids’ imaginations. The irony of all of it is that the Church was playing the same role that the Ministry of Magic was. They’re such loving, traditional-values-oriented texts that it’s funny.

So, 5,000 years from now, do you think archeologists or aliens might look at the rubble of our lost civilization and legitimately confuse Harry Potter for a religious text?

Yes and no. I think the artifacts of Judaism and Christianity and Islam and Zoroastrianism or whatever they have much more archeological history of, you know, buildings and churches that go back thousands of years. So it depends on the sophistication of their tools. But certainly we have Harry Potter World, which is a church, of sorts, and you only have one Bible on your shelf but you have seven Harry Potter books on your shelf. 

Not to mention all the book parties and movies.

Right! And costumes. Absolutely. The Harry Potter universe has a lot of things that look a lot like a religion. It has rituals. It has sayings. You say, “mischief managed!” Or, “Raise a glass to the Boy who Lived!” You have certain arguments; there are these [conventions] where they do all sorts of rituals. I haven’t been to a con yet but we’re supposed to be going in the spring and I’m really excited to see it. The midnight release parties are absolute rituals. There are movie-watching parties. There are all sorts of rituals associated with it. There’s a central text associated with it. I mean, it has a lot of the requirements of being a religion. 

I, at minimum, think it would confuse them. I also think football stadiums will confuse the aliens in 10,000 years.

This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.

Cop Posts Selfies With Lost Pups To Help Sniff Out Their Humans

Things aren’t as ruff for lost dogs in Massachusetts anymore.

Officer Evan Lavigne of the Taunton Police Department is helping pups on the loose track down their owners — but not before snapping cute selfies with them first.

After responding to a call about an abandoned dog early this month, he took an off-the-cuff photo he initially intended to share just with his friends.

“I thought it was funny, here I am, at the end of my shift, with a lost dog in my cruiser and nowhere to bring him,” he told HuffPost.

But then Lavigne decided to post it to his official department page in order to help the pup find a home. 

“My intent was to make something for my friends and I on SnapChat that I thought was hilarious,” Lavigne said. “Then I asked our department’s Facebook page moderator if he would consider posting the photo to find the owners since after I got the know [the dog], I felt bad dropping him off and maybe never getting him back home.”

The post got a ton of attention, receiving over 5,000 likes on Facebook.

The owners were soon tracked down and the dog got home safe.

A week after the initial incident, Lavigne was called in again when someone found a loose boxer. The officer, who his colleagues were now calling “The Dog Whisperer,” called in animal control on his way to the dog. Once the boxer was in the cruiser with Lavigne, he decided to take a selfie with the dog. 

He hoped the picture would garner enough attention online to help find the dog’s owner. And according to a comment left on the post, the dog seems to be home safe with its owner as well:

“Thank you for finding my dog, he is home,” it reads.

If you lose your pet, the Humane Society suggests that you contact your local animal shelters, search your neighborhood and check the internet. And that’s no fluff!

Friday’s Mini-Report, 8.26.16

Today’s edition of quick hits.

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Woody Allen: ‘There are traumas in life that weaken us. Thats what has happened to me’

The prolific director returns next month with Caf Society and a TV series. Here, he talks exclusively about sex, antisemitism, the impact of that abuse allegation and his dream of racing Usain Bolt

Woody Allen is 80. Time is finite and he knows it. Every day the industrious same: wake, work, weights, treadmill, work, clarinet, work, supper, TV, sleep. Except today and tomorrow and Thursday, when hell do something futile.

I never thought there was any point doing press, he says. I dont think anybody ever reads an interview and says: Hey, I want to see that movie! He smiles benignly, tip-to-toe in peanut-butter beige. Allen no longer reads anything about himself (except, maybe, one article, of which more later). This is the boring bit of film-making. This and the gags of the financiers.

Yet for someone who feels that way, he sure pulls the hours. At Cannes, he even carried on regardless of the publication of a piece by his son, Ronan Farrow, resurfacing an allegation of abuse by Allen of Ronans sister, Dylan. When I speak to him again three months later, in the final stages of prep on his 48th film (Kate Winslet, Justin Timberlake, 1950s, fairground), hes friendly on the phone, in no special hurry to hang up.

Why bother? A shrug and a grin. Well, the publicity people think its important. So I do it to be nice. But I dont think and I tell them this that it matters. And they say: Just keep it quiet and do it. I dont want to be someone who takes the money but refuses to help.

Late-stage Woody Allen, then (or lateish his mother lived to 95, his father to 100) is the same as the kid scribbling so many jokes on the subway to school he out-earned both parents by the age of 17. He forever frames things in transactional terms: the need to keep the deal, fulfil the contract, offer value.

I Love Dick is great as a TV show, but you still can’t beat the book

Jill Soloways adaptation of Chris Krauss novel is funny and beautiful in its own way. But it cant transmit the intense pleasure of the ideas in the original

Chris Kraus had been describing her 1997 novel I Love Dick as funny for years by the time the news broke, in February, that Transparent creator Jill Soloway was adapting it for TV. Many wouldnt listen. Almost invariably, reviewers praise the book for its embrace of feminine abjection, although I see it more as comedy, she wrote in an essay for the Guardian.

Fair enough: I Love Dick is fun to read. Its minimal plot is propelled by perversity and real-life gossip: a film-maker named Chris Kraus and her husband, an academic who shares a name with Krauss then-spouse Sylvre Lotringer, spend an evening with a colleague of Sylvres. Chris becomes obsessed with their charismatic acquaintance, identified only as Dick ______. (The cultural critic Dick Hebdige, whose cease-and-desist notice led Kraus to excise the characters last name, filled in the blank himself.)

In her promising Amazon pilot, though Soloway heightens the frisson of Chris all-consuming crush, she doesnt come close to capturing the books intellectual pleasures. Her adaptation transforms I Love Dick into a simple half-hour comedy, with an expanded cast of characters and proper jokes. Some of them are scathing: at an academic gathering, a man blithely refers to Chris as the Holocaust wife a reference to Sylvres research that trivializes her own work and genocide in the same breath. Kathryn Hahn plays Chris as an awkward neurotic, ensuring that the character comes across as humorous and mostly sympathetic rather than fully unhinged.

But I Love Dick, the book, is punctuated by ideas more than events. Halfway through the book, Chris realizes: Through love I am teaching myself how to think. By this point, the torrent of erotic energy drummed up by her crush has given way to a series of essays that re-evaluate the underrated work of feminist artists such as Eleanor Antin and Hannah Wilke, and meditate on the story of American activist Jennifer Harburys marriage to disappeared Guatemalan guerrilla Efran Bmaca Velsquez. Theres suspense in I Love Dick, but its not about whether Chris will finally win Dicks love or what will become of her marriage. As the letters grow into a writing project, the question that emerges is whether this period of intense living will lead Chris to a new level in her art. The books still-growing influence is better proof than its actual resolution that it did.

Feminist criticism has a reputation for being dense and dour, but some of it is electrifying. From Judith Butlers academic treatises to the essays of Audre Lorde and Ellen Willis, the most resonant feminist essays are driven by the authors need to think her way to some form of liberation. And as Willis often wrote, liberation doesnt just mean political equality; its also about womens right to pleasure. Life without pleasure without spontaneity and playfulness, sexuality and sensuality, aesthetic experience, surprise, excitement, ecstasy is a kind of death, she wrote.

Soloway has called Krauss book the invention of the female gaze. Its a puzzling sort of compliment. I Love Dick was published in 1997. If it invented the female gaze, what were the Bronts and Virginia Woolf up to? I Love Dicks real innovation was to make the intellectual thrills of feminist criticism the engine of a novel and to heighten that novels reality through Chriss pursuit of pleasure. Its hybrid form was unique at the time. But now its influence is everywhere in feminist literature, from Sheila Hetis How Should a Person Be?, a novel that brutally deconstructs a real friendship, to Maggie Nelsons X-rated, theory-steeped memoir The Argonauts. Even Jenny Offills less formally subversive Dept of Speculation, narrated by a woman who sacrifices her writing career for family and then learns her husbands cheating, owes a debt to Kraus.

TV has, in the past decade or so, become as effective a medium for serialized narratives as literature. But the I Love Dick pilot proves the rule about television: it cant compete with books when it comes to expressing complex ideas. Jill Soloway is our most intellectual television creator working today. She seems determined to do Krauss text justice. Hahn periodically reads the books epigrams, like every letter is a love letter, as the words flash against a bright red screen. Chris, Sylvre (Griffin Dunne) and Dick (Kevin Bacon) even discuss their professional interests during a tense restaurant scene, though Sylvre and Dicks jargon-filled conversation is clearly meant to sound like pretentious noise.

In the book, Chriss encounter with Dick changes her relationship to art overnight; her understanding of Henry James and the Ramones becomes intensely personal. But a TV show cant capture the thrill of these discoveries because it cant give viewers more than a few seconds per episode of Chris writing down her epiphanies as Hahn reads them in voiceover. So the pilot translates this initial flood of inspiration into a scene of Chris typing on her computer, lost in a fantasy where theyre back at dinner and Dick follows her into the bathroom.

Chris
Chris Kraus, author of I Love Dick. Photograph: Reynaldo Rivera

Its an intoxicating scene, shot as a series of woozy, warmly lit closeups punctuated by the occasional still. The dream restaurant serves animals still covered in fur, an image both surreal and primal. Dick is dressed inappropriately for a spot with a tasting menu, in a bad boys white T-shirt, and sticks a hand down his pants. All of Soloways deliriously objectifying shots from earlier in the episode, which show Dick as the cowboy Chris sees when she looks at him, seem lead up to this moment.

This could be the birth of a new aesthetic. Despite feminisms ascendance on TV, with forces like Shonda Rhimes and Jenji Kohan broadening representations of women while pushing progressive gender politics, creators still dont enjoy the stylistic freedom independent feminist filmmakers seized decades ago. I applaud Soloway for trying to insert at least one small reference to those forebears: not a spoiler, but the visual poetry of Julie Dashs Daughters of the Dust, the free-associative anarchy of Vra Chytilovs Daisies, and the obsession with subjectivity that fuels Agns Vardas entire filmography are all forerunners of the two-minute fantasy sequence at the end of this pilot.

It was a kind of hint that Soloway probably knew she could never replicate the intellectual rigor of her source material for television. Instead of attempting the impossible, she made a very good television show. But it doesnt hold a candle to the transcendent experience of reading I Love Dick.

Australia backpacker stabbing: Mia Ayliffe-Chung was ‘amazing young woman’ – BBC News

Image copyright Facebook
Image caption Mia was full of the kind of open-minded compassion for life that you don’t see that often, her family said

The family of a British backpacker stabbed to death in Australia have paid tribute to an “amazing young woman with an adventurous spirit”.

Mia Ayliffe-Chung, from Derbyshire, was attacked at a hostel in Queensland by a man allegedly shouting “Allahu Akbar”, Arabic for God is great.

The 21-year-old’s family said she was “a rare person who saw beyond race, creed and belief”.

They said she would not have wanted to be the reason for “any hostilities”.

Police are treating the incident as murder, not a terror attack.


Image caption Mia Ayliffe-Chung was just days into her trip working on a farm when she was killed

The statement, on behalf of Mia’s mother Rosie Ayliffe, was read out by her partner Stewart Cormack.

Speaking from Cromford in Derbyshire, Mr Cormack said: “Mia was full of the kind of open-minded compassion for life that you don’t see that often. It felt as though she was reminding us all of the beauty and possibilities we each have that we should live life to the full.

“Mia was a rare person who saw beyond race, creed and belief. She would always treat others with dignity, respect and kindness.

“As a peaceful person Mia had huge respect for everybody. She would not want to be the reason for any hostilities caused by any misrepresentations of the events.”

Media captionStewart Cormack, the partner of Mia’s mother, said she was “kind and funny” young woman

A 30-year-old British man – named locally as Tom Jackson from Congleton in Cheshire – was severely injured in the attack and remains in hospital in a critical condition.

It happened at Shelley’s Backpackers accommodation in the Home Hill area of Queensland at about 23:15 local time on Tuesday.

Another man – a 46-year-old named by a friend as Grant Scholz, who ran the hostel – received non-life threatening injuries and has since been released from hospital.

A dog at the accommodation complex was also killed.

Media captionMia Ayliffe-Chung had just started a three-month trip working with animals

Queensland Police have arrested a 29-year-old French national, who was taken to hospital with non life-threatening injuries.

Deputy Commissioner Steve Gollschewski said the attacker appeared to have acted alone.

“This is not about race or religion. It is individual criminal behaviour,” he said.

He said police were aware of the alleged comments of an “extremist nature”, but were investigating several possible motivations, including mental health issues and drug misuse.

Officers have retrieved a knife thought to be the weapon used in the stabbing.

Media captionPolice release statement following backpacker death

Miss Ayliffe-Chung had lived in Surfers Paradise, on Australia’s Gold Coast, and worked as a waitress at the Bedroom Lounge Bar before making an 800-mile trip north to work with animals on a farm.

She was just days into the three-month trip when she was killed.

Her latest Facebook update was on August 20, four days after starting work on the farm.


Profile: Mia Ayliffe-Chung

Image copyright Facebook

Mia Ayliffe-Chung, from Wirksworth in Derbyshire, went to Anthony Gell School in Wirksworth before going to Chesterfield College to study psychology and communication and culture.

She later went to Buxton and Leek College to study childcare.

It is understood she travelled to Bali before arriving in Australia.

Paul Lovatt, head of pastoral care at Anthony Gell School in Wirksworth, remembered her as “enriching the school environment”.

“We knew Mia as a student with so much joy and energy who was well-liked by her friends and teachers,” he said.

“She joined our school in Year 9 and flourished here, both in making strong friendships and in achieving high-level GCSEs.”

Rachel McVeigh, curriculum leader for education and childcare at Buxton and Leek College, said: “Mia had a zest for life and was free-spirited, with a keen desire to travel.

“We are devastated and extremely sorry to hear such tragic news. Our thoughts are with her family and friends.”


Jamison Stead, who had been in a relationship with Miss Ayliffe-Chung, remembered her as a “beautiful soul” who had “fallen in love with the country and its people”.

“She was a beautiful girl who had her whole life ahead of her and we spoke of what the future may hold in store for her and what she wanted to do,” he said.

“It’s sad knowing that she won’t be able to do those things.”

Image copyright Facebook
Image caption Jamison Stead, who had been in a relationship with Mia Ayliffe-Chung, said she was “a beautiful girl who had her whole life ahead of her”

Mr Stead said they met towards the end of April through friends in Surfers Paradise but had recently split up.

“She was living in Surfers on the Gold Coast and planning on exploring Australia, with the intention to find a sponsorship as she wanted to stay here as she had fallen in love with the country and its people,” he said.

“I can’t quite get my head around what’s happened. Truly devastated, more just disbelief that this has happened.”

Image copyright Google
Image caption Miss Ayliffe-Chung worked as a waitress at the Bedroom Lounge Bar on the Gold Coast
Image copyright Mykah Powell/PA Wire
Image caption A friend said she loved her cat Leo, which she got as a pet in Australia

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‘Mr Brexit’ meets Mr Brexit: Nigel Farage to stump with Trump

Former Ukip leader and leading figure of leave campaign is not expected to endorse Republican nominee but will tell Mississippi voters the Brexit story

Nigel Farage, the anti-EU British politician and former Ukip leader, will appear with Donald Trump at a rally on Wednesday, a week after the US presidential candidate branded himself Mr Brexit and tapped one of the leading American supporters of Brexit to run his campaign.

The Trump campaign confirmed that Farage would appear with Trump at an evening rally in Jackson, Mississippi, to tell US voters the Brexit story of how he triumphed over the electoral odds. Farage will not endorse Trump.

Trump hopes to ride to victory a populist wave of nationalist enthusiasm comparable to the movement behind Britains June vote to leave the European Union. As leader at the time of Ukip, Farage was a key promoter of the Brexit.

Instead, the British politician, who was invited by Mississippi governor Phil Bryant, will draw parallels between what he sees as the inspirational story of Brexit and Trumps campaign. Farage will describe the Republicans campaign as a similar crusade by grassroots activists against big banks and global political insiders and how those who feel disaffected and disenfranchised can become involved in populist, rightwing politics. With Trump lagging in the polls, just as Brexit did prior to the vote on the referendum, Farage will also hearten supporters by insisting that they can prove pundits and oddsmakers wrong as well.

This message resonates with the Trump campaigns efforts to reach out to blue collar voters who have become disillusioned with American politics, while also adding a unique flair to Trumps never staid campaign rallies.

The event will mark the first meeting between Farage and Trump.

Arron Banks, the businessman who backed Leave.EU, the Brexit campaign group associated with the UK Independence party (Ukip), tweeted that he would be meeting Trump over dinner and was looking forward to Farages speech.

The appointment last week of Stephen Bannon, former chairman of the Breitbart website, as CEO of Trumps campaign has seen the example of the Brexit vote, which Breitbart enthusiastically advocated, rise to the fore in Trumps campaign narrative.

Speaking to a local radio station before the joint rally, Farage urged Americans to go out and fight against Hillary Clinton.

I am going to say to people in this country that the circumstances, the similarities, the parallels between the people who voted Brexit and the people who could beat Clinton in a few weeks time here in America are uncanny, Farage told Super Talk Mississippi. If they want things to change they have get up out of their chairs and go out and fight for it. It can happen. Weve just proved it.

I am being careful, he added when asked if he supported Trump. Its not for me as a foreign politician to say who you should vote for … All I will say is that if you vote for Hillary Clinton, then nothing will change. She represents the very politics that weve just broken through the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom.

Asked if he thought this was the biggest factor in the Brexit referendum, Farage said: It was the key. It was the absolute key. The reason we won the referendum … is that we believe immigration should be controlled.

Both Farage and Trump are keen to limit immigration and protect voters against some of the impact of globalisation.

Farage was condemned during the EU referendum campaign for using anti-immigration rhetoric, including a poster showing a queue of refugees with the slogan Breaking Point; Trump has promised to impose extreme vetting on potential immigrants.

In a further parallel with Brexit politics, the Trump campaign has argued in recent days that it enjoys support not reflected in the polls, from undercover voters who are shy about admitting their support for the controversial nominee.

Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 18, 2016

They will soon be calling me MR. BREXIT!

In the immediate aftermath of the referendum, Trump flew to Scotland, where he owns a golf resort, and enthusiastically welcomed the decision of the voters to leave the EU, saying it was a great thing that voters had taken back their country.

Farage has expressed massive thanks to Bannon and Breitbart for their favorable coverage of the Leave campaign.

And can I just say a massive thanks to Breitbart, on both sides of the pond? Farage told Bannon after the vote. Because you guys have been fair with me, and given me a chance to make my arguments. I thank you guys very much indeed for that.

Farage is taking a more prominent role in the Trump campaign even as he stepped away from British politics. Farage stepped down as Ukip leader in the wake of the vote, but has hinted that he could re-enter frontline politics if the British prime minister, Theresa May, does not rapidly press ahead with her promise to ensure Brexit means Brexit.

Farage has appeared at Republican events in the past, beginning with a well-received speaking gig at the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). Farage also popped up at the Republican national convention in Cleveland last month, where he declared himself himself a huge fan of Barack Obama.

Without him we wouldnt have won the referendum, Farage explained. He was very helpful. The US president had encouraged Britain to remain part of the EU.

Dan Schneider, the executive director of the American Conservative Union, raved at the time about Farages CPAC appearance to the Guardian, calling him a very smart, very funny man and he can turn a phrase very well.

Farage is not uniform in his support of Trump, however. Last month he told an interviewer that Trumps anti-Muslim rhetoric makes him very uncomfortable.

‘Better Late Than Never’ turns senior stars into NBC comedy troupe

Los Angeles (CNN)“Better Late Than Never” is a refreshing idea for a reality show, if only because it dares to feature as its stars four guys who, taken together, are almost 300 years old.

Ad-supported TV operates in a fairly narrow space, motivated by a desire to reach adults under 55 for sales purposes. Yet here’s NBC gambling on four old guys visiting six cities in Asia, laboring up steps, warily eyeing the local food and scratching items off their bucket lists.
Unscripted series are often short on reality, and this summer tryout — which NBC is giving a helpful push coming out of the Olympics — is more fabricated than most. Featuring four veteran performers in William Shatner, Henry Winkler, George Foreman and Terry Bradshaw, the program is really a sitcom (notably, three of the producers are credited as “writers,” an admission reality shows seldom make), with a touch of travel show thrown in.
    What makes the concept work, or at least sporadically fun, is the easy banter among the players — foremost among them Shatner, who is, at 85, the group’s eldest member — and the sheer audacity of the premise. (The show is adapted from a South Korean format; that international parentage might explain why NBC was willing to take a chance on something well outside American TV’s usual demographic sweet spot.)
    Granted, it would be more enjoyable if the situations weren’t so staged. The inclusion of comedian Jeff Dye, a young fellow (relatively, anyway) cast as the gang’s sort-of chaperone and unnecessary sidekick stands out as a particularly sore thumb.
    The group has clearly been encouraged to bicker, at times so much one practically expects to hear laughs or groans from a studio audience. And they seem determined to spout the sort of lines a Millennial would imagine grandpa muttering, such as Bradshaw marveling about how short everyone in Japan is. (In that regard the show resembles another series that starred Shatner, the short-lived CBS comedy “$#*! My Dad Says.”)
    Still, there are some fundamentally human moments, such as when Shatner talks about grappling with his own mortality. And there are funny ones, like when a naked man walks past them in their Tokyo hotel. “I didn’t know he was Jewish,” Shatner deadpans.
    “Better Late Than Never” might be better if it hadn’t assembled a random assortment of people for its cast, as opposed to choosing participants with more shared history. That, at least, would give it less of an arbitrary feel, and there are plenty of famous senior citizens who would fit that description and who would likely welcome the chance to see the world on NBC’s dime.
    Maybe next time. Until then, it’s welcome to see a primetime TV show have the temerity to acknowledge that there’s still room for adventure in one’s demographically undesirable years. From that perspective, better late than nothing.
    “Better Late Than Never” premieres Aug. 23 at 10 p.m. on NBC.

    Quincy Jones: the day Michael Jackson’s pet snake got loose in the studio

    He played Vegas with Sinatra, produced Miles Davis and borrowed Bowies yacht to go on holiday. Quincy Jones talks about growing up in gangland Chicago, Joe Pescis jazz album and why hell leave the US if his former friend Trump wins

    You might imagine that the best connected man in London would be a faceless civil servant who has the mobile number of every world leader and his or her pharmacologist. In fact, the title might belong to a stooped and slightly deaf 83-year-old, who is humming trumpet parts in a rehearsal room in the shadow of the Shard.

    Quincy Jones has steadily accumulated kudos and leverage everywhere from the cat houses of the old R&B circuit to the Oval Office. And now hes dropping names with the practised dispatch of a short order chef cracking eggs into a skillet. Sure, he knows Donald Trump from way back. The two men were once friends, though Jones growls: Ill leave the country if that sucker wins. (Of course, he may be a little parti pris, as he was the musical director of Barack Obamas inauguration ceremony.) David Bowie? A huge loss as well as a dear friend, from whom Jones somewhat improbably rented a yacht for his vacations.

    And as for being faceless? Get out of here, as the man himself might say. His lined but still mobile features testify to a lifetime of seeing it all, as journeyman trumpet player, band leader, and producer of everyone from Sinatra to Miles and Jacko. Though curiously enough, faceless is very nearly how he might have ended up, if it had been left to the teenage hoodlums he used to run with.

    Jones sits forward and taps a leathery temple. They put an ice pick right there, he says. Jones grew up in Chicago during the Depression. His father was a carpenter in the employ of the Jones Boys, notorious OGs, as Quincy calls them. In other words, his old man was a chippy by appointment to the mob. All I saw were dead bodies, tommy guns and stogies, and piles of money in back rooms. I had my hand nailed to a fence with a switchblade when I was seven. When youre a kid, you want to be what you see, and I wanted to be a gangster till I was 11.

    After this, it isnt as much of a stretch as you might expect when Jones confides that one of the many projects hes working on is an album of ballads with Joe Pesci, the jumpy psycho of Goodfellas, whose voice borders on the castrato in moments of excitement.

    I suggest that Pescis register might be a little high.

    One of the best jazz singers Ive ever heard, says Jones.

    Youre kidding me.

    Jones
    Jones on trumpet in the 1960s. Photograph: Warner Bros/Everett/Rex Shutterstock

    He was influenced by Jimmy Scott, observes the maestro producer, namechecking the much-admired, birdlike countertenor, whose treble notes were best appreciated by small dogs.

    Jones describes his first encounter with a piano as life-changing. When he brushed the keys, it was as if hed been plugged into a Van der Graaf generator. I touched that piano and every cell in my body said, this is what you do for the rest of your life: music.

    And hes done it in style. Today hes wearing one of the black jackets with three-quarter length sleeves that he has specially made in China. It is trimmed in red and gold. Hes been honoured with a mashup of his music at the Proms this week, and if Jones Sr were alive today hed still be building cabinets to house the awards his son has collected, including an Emmy and many Grammys. Jones is probably best known for producing the platinum-selling Off the Wall and Thriller, arguably Michael Jacksons best albums. For all of Jacksons vertiginous achievements, is his story ultimately a tragedy?

    Quincy
    At Royal Festival Hall for his Proms appearance on 22 August. Photograph: Mark Allan/BBC

    It is a tragic story. I said a lot of stupid things after he died, says Jones, who reportedly claimed that Jackson had wanted to be white. You cannot make records like that without extreme love, trust and respect, he adds now, with what might be a note of contrition.

    But how did the pair of them get on?

    He would come to the studio with Muscles, his snake, chimpanzees

    The whole menagerie?

    I didnt like that. The snake used to wrap itself around my leg. Man, I didnt like that at all. It would crawl across the console. Im not into snakes.

    So who prevailed: artist or producer?

    Oh no, they stayed there. One day I said, Wheres Muscles? and we went downstairs and Muscles was in the parrot cage. He had just eaten the parrot and his head got stuck in the bars of the cage.

    Jones
    Top 40 today is just beats and drums Jones with Michael Jackson at the 1984 Grammys. Photograph: William Nation/Sygma via Getty Images

    Jones admits that he doesnt have a lot of time for todays Top 40 radio. Just beats and rhymes and hooks. I mean, I love hip-hop, but its very much related to jazz. I was calling [Count] Basie a homeboy years ago. That said, a stalled collaboration with Justin Bieber may yet come to something, and Jones is championing a prodigy from London, 22-year-old multi-instrumentalist Jacob Collier.

    What does he make of the controversy surrounding recent deaths of African Americans at the hands of armed police? Police and black kids? Its been like that all the time. You should have seen it in the 30s, 40s and 50s. Racism? Are you kidding me? It was really bad then. Jones got his start in the music business playing four dates a night with Ray Charles, gigging at whites-only country clubs and strip joints. When Jones was backing Frank Sinatra at the Sands casino in Las Vegas in 1964 as part of the Count Basie Orchestra, stars such as Harry Belafonte and Lena Horne were being served their meals in the kitchens, not the casinos, and had to stay at black hotels.

    Jones
    Frank was tough, man Jones with Sinatra in 1964. Photograph: John Dominis/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Image

    When we came in, Frank said, Were not going to have that. I was told that the old man wanted to see me by the slot machines. Basies whole band was lined up there with 18 goombahs. Jones flattens his nose so he looks like a mobsters mugshot. Frank put one with each guy, like a bodyguard. And he said, If anyone so much as looks at them funny, I want you to break both of their legs. Frank was tough, man. But he got rid of racism there.

    No mean talent himself, Jones has known more of the towering artistic figures of the last century than perhaps anyone else alive. He recalls a lunch of sole meunire at Cannes with his then-neighbour, Pablo Picasso. When he finished, he took his plate on to the Croisette so the sun could parch the bones. He took out his colours red, yellow and blue and drew his designs on the plate beside the fish bones. And when the waiter brought laddition, he gave him the plate. And there were Picassos plates all around the wall. Thats how he paid for his dinners.

    Watch Miles Davis and Quincy Jones perform at Montreux in 1991 on YouTube

    Jones worked with the so-called Picasso of jazz, Miles Davis, on what turned out to be Daviss final appearance, at Montreux in 1991. Davis had a famously difficult reputation, but his old arranger wont hear of it. He was just like Sinatra, he says, perhaps not laying the issue to rest as finally as he might wish. Theres a part of Jones that is still the old sweat on the bandstand, holding down the trumpet stool. He wont hear a word against the freemasonry of jazz musicians. Its love, man. Thats why I didnt like that movie that won an Oscar, Whiplash. That was BS. No jazz musician would take that, you know, when the fella throws a chair at a drummer! Get out of here! Hed kill him.

    Stephen Smith is culture editor of Newsnight.

    The Cincinnati Zoo Wants You To Stop With All The Harambe Memes

    Nearly three months after Harambe was shot and killed at the Cincinnati Zoo to ensure the safety of a little boy, memes using the gorilla’s image continue to flood the internet. 

    Harambe-related memes, often tongue-in-cheek or satirical, have become so popular that the zoo is now speaking out against social media’s obsession with the gorilla.

    We are not amused by the memes, petitions and signs about Harambe,” Thane Maynard, director of the Cincinnati Zoo, told The Associated Press. “Our zoo family is still healing, and the constant mention of Harambe makes moving forward more difficult for us.”

    Many of the Harambe memes center on the idea of memorializing the gorilla, who was killed in May after he grabbed and dragged a 3-year-old boy who had fallen into his enclosure. The Cincinnati Zoo received intense criticism for deciding to shoot the 17-year-old gorilla. The family of the toddler was also criticized, with some people calling for the family to be prosecuted

    But the range of Harambe memes ventures into absurdity, involving everything from “Saving Private Ryan” to Michael Phelps to Pokémon Go.

    Beyond the absurd, some instances of the Harambe meme have been highly offensive, including one version used as a racist attack against black celebrities.

    Cincinnati Zoo handout/Reuters
    Harambememes haveflooded social mediasince his death in May.

    In addition to the memes, there are also hundreds of Harambe-related petitions on Change.org, including efforts to turn the gorilla into a pokémon, canonize the animal and rename the Cincinnati Bengals the Cincinnati Harambes

    The petitions have grown so numerous and often ridiculous that James Leggate of Cincinnati station WCPO started a petition to put an end to Harambe petitions on Change.org.

    “At first, the petitioners had good intentions,” Leggate wrote on WCPO’s website. “They were upset that Harambe died. … But then the goofuses of the internet hopped on the Harambe train for their jollies, and it has gotten out of control.”

    Screenshot/Change.org
    This “Make Harambe a Pokmon” petition has nearly 80,000 signatures so far.

    Leggate has a point: These memes and petitions may be entertaining, but they also risk turning a tragic event into the butt of a joke. If you want to give meaning to Harambe’s death, there are more effective ways to support gorillas and animal conservation.