Freddie Gray Arrest Exposes an Antiquated Knife Law Similar to New York's

Screenshot YouTube
Freddie Gray died in custody after an arrest under an antiquated knife law similar to New York's.
Freddie Gray's death in Baltimore is the latest in a rash of high-profile deaths of black men at the hands of police.

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This Woman Photographed Every Bodega in Manhattan

O. Prime/M. Mame 2015
Gail Victoria Braddock Quagliata
Gail Victoria Braddock Quagliata knows the value of a solid pair of walking shoes better than most New Yorkers. Quagliata, a photographer, spent nine months walking every single block of Manhattan in a quest to shoot every one of its bodegas. "I figured, no time like the present to walk the entire island of Manhattan!" she says. She succeeded — and only tore one ankle ligament in the process.

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MTA Celebrates National Poetry Month With Poems-on-Demand in the Fulton Center

Categories: MTA, Poetry

Lara Zarum, the Village Voice
Donna Masini
A little boy sporting a blue jacket and glasses skipped through the recently renovated Fulton Center, clutching a custom-made poem in his hands. "It's really good!" he cried.

On Thursday, the Lower Manhattan transit hub doubled as a poet's garret as MTA Arts and Design and the Poetry Society of America joined forces to celebrate National Poetry Month. The event, called "Poetry in Motion: The Poet Is In," invited members of the public to come and have a poem written just for them, on the spot. The two organizations are also responsible for the MTA's "Poetry in Motion" program, which has put poems up in empty ad spaces throughout the MTA system since 1992.

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The MTA's Etiquette Campaign Is Back and This Time Takes Aim at Bridge-and-Tunnelers

Categories: LIRR, MTA

Courtesy of the MTA
Metro-North and Long Island Rail Road riders, be on alert: If resting your feet on the seat in front of you is your thing, your world is about to crumble.

On the strength of its successful subway etiquette campaign, which launched earlier this year, the MTA is now trying to improve the commuting experience for the 576,000 Metro-North and LIRR riders who, as it turns out, can be just as selfish and awful as the rest of us. MTA officials have announced an extension of the Courtesy Counts campaign — which we're all familiar with thanks to the ubiquitous subway placards that taught us to, among other things, stop spreading our legs when we sit and hogging the poles when we stand. The now-famous red and green stick figures that were the stars of the campaign will now be making their way to Long Island and Poughkeepsie. Only this time, there's a whole new set of rules.

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Podcast: Marvel at Horror Film Unfriended, a Surprisingly Good Movie About the Internet

Categories: Film and TV

On this week's Voice Film Club podcast, we marvel at teen horror film Unfriended, and while it is "85 minutes of watching someone else use a computer," the filmmaker's adept at turning a screen into a natural storytelling platform: "Director Levan Gabriadze summons up exquisite unease just by the way a cursor darts about a desktop."

But before that, we call up our own Stephanie Zacharek to ask about her Pulitzer Prize finalist recognition. Then we examine a new faith movie with a terrible message named Little Boy, before moving to Forbidden Games, an old faith movie with a powerful message. Finally, we discuss how HBO is moving High Maintenance from the Web to the TV (be sure to read our interview with High Maintenance creators Katja Blichfeld and Ben Sinclair, too). Oh, and do follow us on Twitter at @VoiceFilmClub.

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Here Are Three of the Best New York Comedy Sketches You'll See This Week

Categories: Comedy

Screenshot via YouTube
Matt Moskovciak is on a roll. Over the last month, the Astoria-based comedy writer for online network Above Average, an offshoot of Lorne Michaels's Broadway Video, has written and produced three of the smartest comedy sketches about New York life that we've seen in a long time. The sketches take on loud upstairs neighbors, MTA rage, and — no surprise here — gentrified Brooklyn. But since there is nothing worse than explaining a joke — it's something you just don't do — we won't.

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Enterprising NYU Students Learn How to Navigate the Legal Cannabis Industry

Emily Tan for the Village Voice
A student at the 2014 NYC Cannabis Parade
Not too many panel discussions at NYU include speakers who say things like, "Cannabis is my god. I worship it like Jesus." But then "Cannabiz: Exploring the Cannabis Industry," organized by the NYU chapter of Students for a Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP), was not a typical university panel.

About 30 students came out to the event on Wednesday night, held in a lecture hall at NYU's Global Center, on the southern edge of Washington Square Park. The brainchild of Ericka Persson, the NYU SSDP vice president, "Cannabiz" featured a panel of four speakers who put forth a message of encouragement to students seeking knowledge of — and, potentially, employment in — the burgeoning cannabis industry.

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The Tyranny of Pew-Pew: How Fun Fantasy Violence Became Inescapable

Categories: Film and TV

Busting your blocks, whether you want it or not
A while back, a friend expressed concern that her son, a ten-year-old, was watching too much My Little Pony. "It's a sweet show," she said, "but it's not what I'd choose for every day."

I asked what show she would prefer that he watch.

"Well, his dad has him started on that new Star Wars cartoon," she said. "So there's that."

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You Have to Read This: Mary Doria Russell's Sprawling, Humane Doc Holliday Western Epitaph

Categories: Books

There's a kabillion books published each year. We swear that the ones in "You Have to Read This" are worth your eyeball time!

What You Have to Read: Mary Doria Russell's Epitaph

The Gist: This sprawling, generous western is subtitled "A novel of the O.K. Corral," which might trick people into buying it at the airport but sells short the book's ambition and humanity. Russell plunges readers into the hearts and fates of famous names — Doc Holliday, the Earp boys — and a grand cast of real folks who dared make a home of Tombstone, Arizona, decades before the invention of air-conditioning.

Yes, Russell's almost 600-page saga delivers the gunfight goods, but that misleading subtitle would serve readers better if changed to something like "A novel of the O.K. Corral, sure, but also gambling, piano playing, myth-making, tuberculosis, frontier politics, yellow journalism, preventative policing, vengeance killings, how mines work, and what it must have been like to live in a place as mad and dusty as Tombstone, including how it feels to toil all day in a sewing circle with your sisters-in-law and dream of maybe getting gussied up to go downtown for once in your life."

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Free Verse 2015: A New York Miscellany

For poets, spring is a time of — complexity. Even when it's perfectly wonderful for everyone else, for the poet it can be a time to discover, like Henry Howard, that sorrow is often worse if you're surrounded by amorously disposed turtledoves and busy honeybees. Sometimes the sweet rain and breeze make everything so fine in Poetryland that little birds become too happy to sleep. But even Chaucer's spring is uncomplicated only in prologue, and you soon get monstrous jealousy, hypocrisy, and flatulence. In Dickinson's Amherst, spring light "waits upon the Lawn" in an eerily noncommittal attitude, and "almost" — almost! — "speaks to you." Claude McKay immortalizes the spring day spent "Wasting the golden hours indoors,/Washing windows and scrubbing floors." Shakespeare's song of daisies and violets cheerfully relates spring to the increased threat of adultery. Whitman's lilacs smell of murder. And it's hard not to feel uneasy about Denise Levertov's rabbits, who "bare their teeth at/the spring moon."

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Comedian Natasha Vaynblat Channels Public School Teacher Angst

Melissa Gomez Photography
Natasha Vaynblat
For a performer, any kind of exposure is a good thing. But as comedian Natasha Vaynblat recently learned, sometimes being discovered can be mortifying.

Vaynblat, 27, worked for four years as a public school teacher in New York City, an experience she recounts in her one-woman show at UCB Chelsea, "Natasha Vaynblat: United Federation of Teachers." At a recent performance, a group of her former high school students surprised her after the show. One of them had seen an ad on TV for an IFC-hosted Web series called Laurie, in which Vaynblat had starred. The students got together to check out her show. "I forget that it's so easy to find anybody now with the internet," Vaynblat says.

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Cuomo May Have Overstated the Severity of Synthetic Weed 'Health Emergencies'

Categories: Drugs

Photo credit: halseike via Compfight cc
Reports of synthetic-marijuana hospitalizations were not totally accurate.
Governor Andrew Cuomo on Friday issued a "health alert" about synthetic cannabinoids, saying in a statement that the drugs had "sent more than 160 patients to the hospital" in the space of a week.

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The 'Morris vs. 1980' Cat-Food Calendar Invented Ridiculous Cat-Photo Blogposts

Categories: Studies in Crap

Your Crap Archivist brings you the finest in forgotten and bewildering crap culled from thrift stores, estate sales, and flea markets.

Morris vs. 1980: The 9-Lives Calendar

Publisher: 9-Lives Cat Food
Discovered at: Green House Antique Shop, Ruckersville, VA

The Cover Promises: Morris the Cat is a big fan of 1980 Best Picture nominee Raging Bull

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Voice Critic Stephanie Zacharek Named Pulitzer Finalist -- Here's the Best of Her Recent Writing

Categories: Film and TV

Stephanie Zacharek, the Village Voice's chief film critic, was named a finalist for the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for criticism. Zacharek's in excellent company: Mary McNamara of the Los Angeles Times won the award for her stellar TV criticism, and film critic Manohla Dargis of the New York Times was also named a finalist.

The Pulitzer judges singled out Zacharek's work for combining "the pleasure of intellectual exuberance, the perspective of experience, and the transporting power of good writing."

We concur.

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HBO to Air New Episodes of Hit Web Series High Maintenance

Categories: HBO

Jena Cumbo
Katja Blichfeld and Ben Sinclair, the creators of High Maintenance
The timing couldn't be better: Today HBO announced it would air forthcoming episodes of the acclaimed Web series High Maintenance.

In a press release, HBO president Michael Lombardo commented, "High Maintenance has proven to be one of today's most highly acclaimed online comedies. We are thrilled to bring this sophisticated and clever series to our HBO audience."

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Meet the Manhattan Assemblyman Who Is Fighting Albany for Rent Reform

Categories: Housing, Rent

Photo courtesy of Brian Kavanagh's office
With the most recent budget fight behind them, legislators in Albany are getting ready to turn their attention to the state's expiring rent regulation laws. It's a fight that Brian Kavanagh knows well.

The Democratic state assemblyman from Manhattan has emerged as a leader on the side of strengthening the laws, a position rarely shared by Albany's more landlord-friendly Republicans, who control the Senate. Kavanagh won an early victory during the budget fight, restoring funding for the Tenant Protection Unit, which senate Republicans had zeroed out in their version of the budget.

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The Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan Museum Gala Was Actually a Killer Party

Categories: Williamsburg

Laura June Kirsch
"Does anybody know how to work a projector?" shouts Viviana Olen over a PBR-saturated room of about 100, mostly millennials with a sprinkling of Gen X–ers. Matt Harkins fiddles with the open MacBook. This is Williamsburg, rooftop film capital of the U.S.A. Somebody knows how to work a projector. The show goes on.

That was pretty much how the Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan 1994 Museum Gala unfolded Saturday night. Olen and Harkins, the founders/curators/guides/live-in custodians of the highly publicized museum and the event's hosts, were a bit harried throughout the variety hour but charismatic enough to carry the crowd.

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HBO Tells Williamsburg's Videology to Stop Showing Game of Thrones

Categories: HBO

HBO has sent a letter to Williamsburg bar Videology telling them not to show Game of Thrones episodes on Sunday nights.

"They said that it's not allowed to be shown in a public setting," says the bar's co-owner, James Leet. It's the first time the bar has been asked not to screen a particular show.

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Stop Saying New York's Untaxed Cigarettes Are Funding Terrorism

Categories: Terrorism

Jon Campbell for the Village Voice
A sheriff's deputy uses a special light to check counterfeit stamps on a pack of cigarettes.
The Wall Street Journal on Sunday published an op-ed on a subject that the Voice has been following for a little while: smuggled, untaxed cigarettes.

Titled "A Laffer Curve for Smokes," the Journal piece made the case that high cigarette taxes — like New York's — are actually resulting in less revenue for states that have imposed them. The piece, written by Patrick M. Gleason, director of state affairs for Americans for Tax Reform, also repeated a common argument about cigarette smuggling that doesn't seem to be borne out by the facts: that cigarette smuggling funds terrorism.

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The Ten Craziest 'Curiosities' We Found at the Soon-to-Be-Closed House of Cards

Categories: Gentrification

Lara Zarum, the Village Voice
"This whole block is suffering."

Standing behind the counter at his small Greenwich Village shop, House of Cards and Curiosities, James Waits surveys the changes that have affected many businesses in the area. "It's a combination of things. Rent is a factor."

House of Cards will close its doors on May 31 after more than twenty years in business. Stocked to the ceiling with cards, gifts, and curios, the shop — located at Eighth Avenue and Jane Street — is just one of a growing number of small mom-and-pop businesses in Lower Manhattan that have been forced to close their doors due to rising rents.

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