Saturday, November 23, 2013

Issue 12 Preview: The Crime Issue

From crime literature and film, to true crime, One More Robot's latest issue covers the thorny topics of murder, theft and other indiscretions. Here's some nifty YouTube videos to whet the appetite. To stay up to date, do like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

The Crime Issue is now available to pre-order via our online store. 

Michael A. Gonzales examines the unmistakable work of maverick New York filmmaker Abel Ferrera.

Sam Weiss explains how author Paul Auster's seminal "New York Trilogy" simultaneously honoured, deconstructed and reinvigorated the crime fiction genre.

Orla Ni Sheaghdha looks at the output Neal Baer, whose work in crime fiction stretches from Law & Order: SVU to penning the crime novel Killswitch.

Novelist Kenji Jasper remembers Michael Mann's Collateral.

Dean Van Nguyen speaks to rapper and producer Grip Grand on his career and recent unauthorised MF Doom collaboration record GG Doom, But How?

James Hendicott examines how South Korea’s greatest filmmaker Park Chan-wook has twisted the nation’s black-and-white approach to the law by depicting moral violence with enthralling shades of grey.

Nadene Ryan speaks to Irish crime author and serial blogger Declan Burke.

From church burnings to murder, Jonathan Keane describes the notorious crimes of Norwegian black metal.

The Grand Theft Auto series has transformed the way gaming is perceived by the general public and media, sucking up countless hours of gamers’ lives in the process. Colm Gorey handpicks three of the best editions.

In the days before file sharing and Internet piracy, Joe Tangari had no idea making a cassette tape copy of Cream's Disraeli Gears was illegal. 

Almost two decades on from the release of their debut EP Melodica, hip-hop duo Blackalicious speak to David Ma about its' creation.

Monday, August 26, 2013

She’s Just Being Miley

Seems like a good day to republish this. Back in the summer of 2011, Joe Coscarelli profiled the morphing career of Miley Cyrus and explained why her cover of Nirvana's ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ was more appropriate than she was given credit for. 

Originally Appears in Issue 7: The Pop Issue

Of all the post-shotgun blast bastardisation guaranteed to be disrupting the stillness of Kurt Cobain’s eternal slumber – if we were to categorise such on something of a sell-out Richter scale – Miley Cyrus covering ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ live in concert should not even register.

In fact, she killed it – but in the good way.

The nineties anthem, released when Cyrus was minus-thirteen-and-a-half months old, made its way into the teen star’s setlist during her Gypsy Heart Tour through much of Latin America, Australia and the Philippines. Though Cyrus has three studio albums, she also led her backing band through karaoke classics like the Poison power ballad ‘Every Rose Has Its Thorn’, Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Landslide’, and a Joan Jett medley of ‘Bad Reputation’, ‘Cherry Bomb’ and ‘I Love Rock ’n’ Roll’, the latter of which is not even known to most of Cyrus’s audience as the soundtrack to Britney Spears straddling a motorcycle, but rather as a ‘Smash Hit’ in Guitar Hero.

‘Teen Spirit’ is the most inspired in selection and performance, but also the most reviled, as evidenced online, where the most-viewed video version of the cover on YouTube has gathered only 598 ‘likes’ to a caustic 4,788 ‘dislikes’, summed up in top-rated comments like, “OMG my ears are bleeding! Kurt I feel fucking sorry for you! Please dont [sic] listen! And if you heard it, I hope you can still Rest in Peace!”

Though she only plays air guitar during her version, Miley does justice to the song musically through her too-deep and too-sexy whiskey-and-cigarettes rasp, as puzzling when she speaks as when she sings and adding as much to her age-inappropriateness as any stiletto boots she’s ever donned. And yet, as she crouches in studded leather and bellows, it is – if you allow it to be – an enjoyable spin on the fragility of Cobain’s own dead cat cries.

And then there’s the ‘fuck you’ aspect of a pre-packaged would-be pop playmate belting the words of a man who killed himself rather than keep singing to people he hated.

In the liner notes for Incesticide, Cobain wrote, “Last year, a girl was raped by two wastes of sperm and eggs while they sang the lyrics to our song ‘Polly’. I have a hard time carrying on knowing there are plankton like that in our audience.” This was a sentiment he carried into his suicide note while turning the blame inward: “The fact is, I can’t fool you, any one of you. It simply isn’t fair to you or me. The worst crime I can think of would be to rip people off by faking it and pretending as if I’m having 100% fun.” He continued, “On our last 3 tours, I’ve had a much better appreciation for all the people I’ve known personally, and as fans of our music, but I still can’t get over the frustration, the guilt and empathy I have for everyone.”

Yet enter Miley, who was put on stage before cognisance to fool everyone into fooling their parents into spending money, and who, as she ages in public, probably understands Cobain’s frustrations better than most disciples of the Nirvana songbook. Perhaps her choice of covers are a nod to the parents or chaperones in the audience, the very ones she’s been made to dupe. Even if – and it’s totally plausible, even likely – her setlists have been dictated by her management, or by her father Billy Ray, Miley’s song selection need not be a complete function of her own agency to be punk in its own way. It’s still a propped-up princess mimicking a fallen countercultural idol and thus raising complicated questions, both for her audience – made broader by the clip’s proliferation online, even if it’s being spread by hate – and likely within herself. These are the songs she grew up on, she would still doubtlessly tell anyone who asked, and she probably wouldn’t be lying, but she’s likely developed a whole new appreciation for Cobain’s words. Even if through control or brainwashing, it’s part of what makes the performance subversive – plus educational for the tweens in attendance – with the source material taking on additional subtext because of its flawed messenger.

Here we are now, entertain us.

Born Destiny Hope Cyrus, the daughter of the man who showed the world his ‘Achy Breaky Heart’ found fame first on the Disney Channel as both Miley Stewart and the show’s eponymous Hannah Montana, the Clark Kent and Superman, respectively, of a show about a teenage pop star. Her real-life father co-starred as her Disney Channel father, and Billy Ray’s role, partnered with his daughter’s marketability, served as a lifejacket in the waters of one-hit-wonder-domand led to something of a career renaissance for him, culminating in a (losing) turn on the reality show Dancing With the Stars.

Meanwhile, Hannah Montana ended and Miley’s parents skittered toward (and then retreated from) a divorce as their now 18-year-old daughter scored more notice for underage drinking, tattoos and a TMZ-published video of her smoking a legal hallucinatory herb from a bong than for her music or acting. A rift predictably grew between father and the daughter he reared and also rode upward. And so, like any good stage parent, Billy Ray furthers his own attention by using the press to express worries for his now-estranged little girl’s future, lest she turn out like Anna Nicole Smith, Lindsay Lohan or Michael Jackson.

Another figure Billy Ray namedrops in a recent GQ profile is that of – who else – Kurt Cobain, whose premature death likely allows the elder Cyrus to engage in a bit of revisionist history, painting the two singers as “unlikely friends” at their early-nineties peaks. Misunderstood, the pair of ’em. Cobain’s death “really had an impact” on Cyrus, he says, plus, the Nirvana singer’s daughter Frances Bean was born just three months before Miley. Billy Ray even wrote a poem about Cobain’s death, which hangs on the wall of his home and ends thusly: “But after all was said and done/And the big top now came down/No one could ever doubt the fact/The circus came to town.”

The sins of her father – a lack of self-awareness chief among them – are both Miley’s burden and her ammunition as an aspiring radical or, at least, wild child. Last summer, she was photographed wearing a $70 dress from Topshop emblazoned with a photograph of Cobain on stage; Daddy taught her well, or at least he taught her. Miley was making a gesture, if an over-determined one.

While her own music has suffered as a result of the system that owns her – oscillating wildly between the Disney-backed formula of ‘See You Again’, the playfully boy-crazy pop punk of ‘Seven Things’ and the MOR-overdose of ‘The Climb’, to the sloppy rebellion of the Spearsified ‘Can’t Be Tamed’ and Dr. Luke perfection of ‘Party in the U.S.A.’ – the only constant has been a lack of identity. Put less cynically, it’s a search for one.

The artsy piano prodigy misfit she plays in the 2010 coming-of-age film The Last Song, as adapted from the book by schmaltz king Nicholas Sparks, showcases nothing so much as her failure as a leading lady, or even as a ‘lady’ at all. Long before she can buy a beer in America, Cyrus has been dubbed “sexy” by men’s magazines like Maxim and FHM, but appears equally ungraceful in awards show dresses and overstated leather get-ups. Her goofy laugh, oversized teeth and cheeks giving away her constantly pecked-at youthfulness.

But Cyrus shined in the rambunctious rap video she composed the first time she deleted her Twitter account, as she does in her ‘Teen Spirit’ version – almost un-self-conscious, if only for a moment. She’s still hyper-aware she’s being watched, but like a teenager, ever insecure, not a celebrity.

It’s the same peek of personality she gives in the giddy bong video, yapping almost incomprehensibly about boys and bumbling Nicki Minaj lyrics amid a swirl of peer pressure. Of course it’s complicated by the fact that she’s being videotaped, perhaps not quite surreptitiously, but by a friend who seems overeager to watch the starlet break the rules. In some ways, it’s a microcosm of her life so far. Whether or not this registers with Cyrus on a conscious level as she gets high, she behaves with naturalness she can’t contain as well as an undercurrent of uneasiness: getting older, breaking rules, looking over her shoulder.

Thankfully for her future as someone famous, Miley lacks the darkness of fellow Disney teen star Demi Lovato, whose rehab stints for cutting and eating disorders make Cyrus look like Taylor Swift. Rebellion is subtler, and so far less dangerous, for Cyrus, who is testing waters not just at the behest of her business team – by posing in bedsheets, showing more thigh and dancing in cages – but also in more traditional baby steps: tiny tattoos, legal drugs, and listening to Nirvana.

And those who still wonder, ‘How dare she?’ Nevermind.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Trayvon Martin and the Quest for Justice

On the back of this weekend's controversial acquittal of George Zimmerman, we're republishing this article by poet, playwright and political commentator Charlie Braxton that originally appeared in issue 10 - written during the aftermath of the tragic death of Trayvon Martin.
The senseless slaying of Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old unarmed African-American male, sent shockwaves throughout the America’s black community and the world. Many people were outraged that George Zimmerman, a 28-year-old Hispanic male who has a history of calling the Sanford Florida Police (SPD) to report ‘suspicious males’ in his exclusive gated community, could shoot and kill a child and not instantly be arrested and charged with murder. But in the State of Florida, as well as many other States in the US that have so-called ‘Stand Your Ground’ laws, it proved entirely possible.

According to the law, a person has the right to use deadly force if they ‘reasonably believe it is necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm to him or herself or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony’.

On the surface the law seems reasonable. After all, everybody has the right to defend themselves and their loved ones.

But according to reports this is not the case with George Zimmerman, the self-appointed Captain of his community’s neighborhood watch. When Zimmerman first saw Martin, he was armed with a gun loaded with hollow point bullets and sitting in the safe confines of his car following Martin, who was unarmed and on foot. Zimmerman disregarded authorities request not to pursue Martin. Instead, the insurance underwriter got out of his car and pursued Martin on foot, not vice versa. Exactly what happened in the few minute between Zimmerman confronting Martin up until the time of the teenager’s death nobody knows except Zimmerman.

Zimmerman claims that Martin was the aggressor in the situation; that Martin wrestled him to the ground, straddled him and slammed his face into the concrete, breaking his nose and leaving a laceration on the back of his head. Fearing for his life, Zimmerman told police that he reached for his concealed weapon, which he was licensed to carry, and shot Martin. To the authorities it appeared an open and shut case based solely on Zimmerman’s account.

But if the police would have taken the time to look at it from Martin’s point of view then perhaps the outcome would’ve been much different. Think about it.

Here’s Martin, an unarmed minor who is a good 100 pounds lighter than the burly Zimmerman, walking to his father’s apartment in the rain. He’s talking on the phone to his girlfriend, minding his own business when he spots a stranger in an unmarked vehicle following him. According to his girlfriend, Martin walks faster hoping to avoid contact with the stranger, but his effort was to no avail. Within minutes the stranger gets out of his car and pursues Martin on foot. At this point, if you were Martin wouldn’t you perceive that person as a potential threat to your life?

Unfortunately, the police in Sanford Florida elected not see the incident from Martin’s point of view and apply the law accordingly. If they had, Zimmerman would have been arrested and charged with shooting Martin in the incident’s immediate aftermath. Instead, it appears the Sanford Police viewed the case solely through the eyes of Zimmerman. And all they saw in the man whom Zimmerman shot was ‘black male’; a potential threat who couldn’t possibly be innocent.

What is even more outrageous is how the SPD initially treated the entire investigation so cavalierly. And though the SPD police chief temporarily stepped down amidst the controversy, there are still some issues with how the SPD handled this incident that continue to raise some suspicion.

According to law enforcement expert Rod Wheeler, Zimmerman’s speech on the 911 call was slurred, which is an indication that he may have been intoxicated. Anytime a person involved in a crime shows signs of intoxication, an alcohol and drug test is standard police procedure. According to The Guardian, the SPD failed to check Zimmerman for drug and/or alcohol use, yet they tested Martin corpse for traces of drugs and alcohol. The test came up negative. 

Speaking of test, Zimmerman claims that he called out for help while Marin was allegedly assaulting him. He claims that he can be heard on one of the taped 911 phone calls. But two top expert have examine the tape and concluded that the voices heard on the tape isn’t Zimmerman’s. One of those experts is Tom Owen, forensic consultant for Owen Forensic Services LLC and chair emeritus for the American Board of Recorded Evidence. Owen used voice identification software to rule out Zimmerman, with the result being a 48 per cent match for Zimmerman’s voice. That’s way less than the 90 per cent needed to declare it a positive match. “As a result of that, you can say with reasonable scientific certainty that it’s not Zimmerman,” said Owen. Unfortunately, Owen could not confirm that the voice on the tape was Martin’s either. In order to do that he would need a sample of the deceased voice to compare against the taped voice, which he did not have.

Also, the police failed to contact Martin’s girlfriend in Miami. She was the last person Martin talked to minutes prior to his demise. According to her, the last word she heard Martin say was, “Why are you following me?” This contradicts Zimmerman’s claim that Martin approached him.

The SPD also failed to notice Zimmerman’s possible use of a racial epitaph to describe Martin. This would’ve been a possible motive for Zimmerman to kill Martin and potential grounds to arrest Zimmerman for a hate crime. Again, this is a crucial piece of evidence for a trained police investigator to ‘overlook’.

There are some very disturbing reports alleging that when some witnesses tried to tell the police they heard Martin scream (one witness told CNN that she saw Zimmerman straddling Martin moments before she heard a shot), the SPD either ignored or disregarded their assertions altogether. Later, two audio experts have confirmed that the voice screaming for help on the 911 tapes is not Zimmerman’s. Again, this is enough to raise any good detective suspicion. It would certainly merit questioning if not arresting and charging him with a crime.

It should be noted that Trayvon Martin’s isn’t the only controversial death of an African-American by police and/or security personnel. This year there have been 30 (29 males and one female) such killings in the US with 17 of these killings taking place after the death of Martin, at time of writing. According to published reports, 18 of the 30 people killed were definitely unarmed. 11 of them were innocent of any crimes or wrong-doing that involved hurting anyone, yet they were deemed ‘suspicious’ by the person who killed them. In addition, the Southern Poverty Law Center, a national organisation that tracks racist groups, reports that there has been a serious spike in racist hate groups who seemed to have found psychological discomfort in the election of Barack Obama, the ailing economy and the ever-changing racial demographic of America. The centre also notes that the State of Florida is among those with the largest number of hate groups.

On April 11th, after a massive nationwide outcry that saw peaceful, marches and protests rallies in support of the Martin’s family’s quest for justice. George Zimmerman was finally arrested and charged with the second degree murder of Trayvon Martin. As of this writing, Zimmerman is free on a $150,000 bond and is in seclusion as he awaits trial, but the potential damage done to the case by the SPD’s initial mishandling remains to be seen.

Meanwhile racial tension remains high. Rumours abound that a heavily armed Neo-Nazi group is preparing to patrol the streets of Sanford in order to protect white in case of a ‘race riot’. But according the SPD there is absolutely no truth to those rumours.

Sunday, July 7, 2013


A placeholder. New issue coming soon.