You Have to Read This: Jill Ciment's Sharp, Creepy Novel Act of God

Categories: Books

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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: Act of God by Jill Ciment

The Gist: An unsettling novel that opens with an outbreak of phosphorescent mushrooms in a Brooklyn closet and then blooms to follow the lives of four contaminated women.

A Taste:

"That was disturbing," Edith said. "My god, it grew freakishly fast. The head was so pink and bulbous. It almost looked like a giant's thumb had poked through the wall."

Kat waited to see if Edith would draw the obvious analogy, but she wasn't sure if her white-haired, sixty-four-year-old sister had ever seen an erect penis.


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How the Creators of High Maintenance Crushed the Stoner Stereotype

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Photo by Jena Cumbo for the Village Voice
Katja Blichfeld and Ben Sinclair, the couple behind the critically acclaimed Web series High Maintenance
"It's OK, I'm the guy who can do this!"

Katja Blichfeld is trying to pick a morsel of beet salad from her teeth, and her husband, Ben Sinclair, is doing his best to assist: leaning over in his chair, his arms outstretched, index finger poised in midair. Blichfeld demurs; Sinclair insists. "If anyone should do it," he says, "it should be me!"

Blichfeld and Sinclair, the couple behind the critically acclaimed Web series High Maintenance, are grabbing a late-afternoon bite at the lobby restaurant of the Standard Hotel in the East Village. They have a room upstairs where they're sketching out the next round of episodes (they spent the winter in L.A., and still have subletters living in their Ditmas Park apartment). It's the first day of spring, and outside, fat, wet crystals of snow quickly coat the ground.

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Pot Advocates See Connecticut Ruling as a Way Forward for New York

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A landmark Connecticut ruling has Nick Menditto in the clear.
When Nick Menditto was arrested for pot possession at a Connecticut rest stop, the timing could not have been worse. It was March 2011, and he was a few weeks shy of completing his probation for two other marijuana possession charges, which meant any new arrest would have serious consequences. But there was more to worry about — he was also busted just as the Constitution State seemed primed to decriminalize possession of small amounts of pot. And less than three months after his arrest, in June of that year, the legislature did just that.

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Strand Bookstore Audience Begs Elizabeth Warren to Run for President

Categories: Politicians

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Lara Zarum, the Village Voice
Elizabeth Warren reads from her memoir at the Strand.
"Can everyone please move forward a bit? We're expecting a lot of people, so just tighten up as much as possible."

An employee of the Strand bookstore in Manhattan strolled up Broadway between 12th and 13th streets, imploring the growing line of people snaking up the block to squeeze in closer to their neighbors. It was a miserably gray and windy April day, and Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren, who published a memoir, A Fighting Chance, in 2014, was slated to speak in the bookstore's third-floor Rare Book Room in less than an hour. The people in line were shivering — in anticipation of Warren's talk, sure, but mostly because the wind had turned what should have been a perfectly fine spring day into a trauma-inducing winter flashback.

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We Spent a Night on the F Train With Two Showtime Dancers

Categories: Dancing, MTA, Photos

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All photos by Jason Speakman for the Village Voice
"For me, it's either this or the shelter," says showtime dancer Antonio.
It didn't take long for Eli and Antonio to count up their earnings: Each of the subway dancers took home about $11 for two hours of work on a recent Friday on the F Train, from 34th Street to Seventh Avenue in Brooklyn and back, or as they call it, an "up-and-down."

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A Crowdfunding Effort to Shame 'Awful' Explosion Lawsuit Duo Is Nixed by GoFundMe

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Screenshot via Fox 5 News
All New Yorkers have that moment when they look at other New Yorkers and wish they would just...leave. And when Nicolas Briseño learned of separate $20 million lawsuits filed by two women who lived near the site of the March 26 building explosion on Second Avenue, he set to work on making them disappear.

He nearly succeeded.

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Six Exciting Indie Films Opening This Weekend in NYC

Categories: Film and TV

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What's Simon Pegg up to this week? Find out in our digest of this week's interesting new indies.
Each week new movies open in New York (and online) by the dozen. The Voice reviews all of 'em. Here are some you might not have heard about that got our critics excited, for better or worse. Browse our entire film section over at villagevoice.com/movies.

World cinema punches back just one week after Furious 7. New and new-ish films from global greats rule New York screens this week: Olivier Assayas's Clouds of Sils Maria, of course, and Asghar Farhadi's long-delayed About Elly.

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Female Boxer Heather Hardy Is One Tough Mother

Categories: Boxing, Photos

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All photos by Dave Gershgorn
Heather Hardy, center, with her ten-year-old daughter, Annie, on the left and her corner-man, on the right, just before her bout in October
Boxer Heather Hardy's reputation in the ring is that she's tenacious and unrelenting. It's not undeserved: She holds a 12-0 record in professional fights. But outside the ring, Hardy, a native of Gerritsen Beach, Brooklyn, is a single mother of a ten-year-old daughter, Annie. By day, she's a trainer at Gleason's Gym. Back in October, Hardy, nicknamed "The Heat," won the WBC International female super bantamweight title, defeating Crystal Hoy in a fight held at B.B. King Blues Club & Grill in midtown.

The below photo essay follows Hardy everywhere during the weeks before that title bout.

Hardy's next fight is this Saturday against Renata Domsodi at the Barclays Center. They are the only two females on the card, headlined by Ryan Burnett fighting Stephon McIntyre. Hardy was one of the first two females to fight at the Barclays Center, doing so in June 2014. She hopes that her continued presence, and ticket sales, will sway Barclays to bring on more female fighters.

"[Gleason's Gym president] Bruce Silverglade used to say that when he goes to the bank and gives them the money, they don't ask him if it came from a man or a woman," Hardy told Team LeftJab Boxing Radio in March.

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Podcast: Ex Machina Asks If a Robot Can Think -- and Is She Coming On to You?

Categories: Film and TV

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Universal Pictures
Ex Machina
Reviews and discussion of Ex Machina, Dior and I, Clouds of Sils Maria, The Longest Ride, and About Elly are all on this week's Voice Film Club podcast, which includes Alan Scherstuhl and Stephanie Zacharek of the Village Voice, and Amy Nicholson of the LA Weekly.

[Subscribe to the Voice Film Club podcast on iTunes]

This East Village Woman Wants to Put Your Food Waste to Work

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Lara Zarum
Laura Rosenshine
Three fifth-graders bound down the back steps of Friends Seminary, a private school on the southern border of Gramercy Park, each hauling a white plastic bucket. Claire Brennan, the school's service coordinator, follows behind them, gripping a metal scale. Their destination is a bicycle-driven cart parked on E. 15th Street that holds two empty rectangular black bins fitted with bright-yellow lids.

"That's like, twelve and a half pounds," one boy says after resting his bin on the scale.

"So if the bucket weighs one pound, how much compost is that?" Brennan asks.

"Oh — eleven and a half!"


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Here are the Ridiculous Requests New Yorkers Put in Their Seamless 'Special Instructions'

Categories: Food

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New Yorkers are special snowflakes; we like to customize. So it shouldn't come as a surprise that the "special instructions" box on the Seamless order form has seen its share of strange requests. Seamless, which is GrubHub's New York City–specific brand, has released a list of the funniest and weirdest such requests, and it's pretty fantastic.

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Mayor de Blasio Wants Your (Concise and Family-Friendly) Poems!

Categories: Art

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Katie Toth for the Village Voice
Hizzoner wants to read your poems.
Mayor Bill de Blasio and the Office of Cultural Affairs are asking us to take to Twitter in honor of National Poetry Month.

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Smuggled, Untaxed Cigarettes Are Everywhere in New York City

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Jon Campbell
Smuggled cigarettes found during an inspection at a corner store in Long Island City
As six armed officers pour out of two unmarked Ford Explorers on a Long Island City street corner, you can see the confusion on the faces of gawkers and passersby. One woman looks up from her phone and does a sitcom-worthy double-take when she notices their windbreakers, embossed with the word "SHERIFF" in big gold letters, front and back.

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Competing Long Island City Climbing Gyms Try to Claim the Title of New York's Largest

Categories: Sports

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Emile Hallez for the Village Voice
Climbers will soon have to choose their favorite Long Island City wall.
When Brooklyn Boulders co-founder Lance Pinn began scouting locations in 2012 for a massive indoor climbing gym in Long Island City, it was unrelated, he says, to plans his biggest competitor, the Cliffs, had to do the same.

On Thursday, Pinn announced that his facility, which he says is New York's largest, will open by the end of the summer. It sits at the ground level of the Q41 building, a once-stalled residential tower that in 2011 was revived as a mixed-use affordable-housing complex after being bailed out with millions in subsidies as part of the city's Housing Asset Renewal Program.

The development comes more than a year after the Cliffs opened its neighboring mega-gym, which has an estimated 30,000 square feet of terrain on its walls. Depending on how one measures, the Cliffs could also be considered the largest in the city.

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Six Low-Flying Indie Movies out This Weekend in New York City, 4/3/15

Categories: Film and TV

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© 2014 - Possible Films
Aubrey Plaza in Ned Rifle
Each week new movies open in New York (and online) by the dozen. The Voice reviews all of 'em. Here are some you might not have heard about that got our critics excited, for better or worse. Browse our entire film section over at villagevoice.com/movies.

Finally, just as it's warm enough to be outside, the art houses are giving you reasons to stew in the dark.

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Hipster Mattress Start-Up Offers Free Naps in Noho

Categories: Advertising

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Lara Zarum
Take a load off.
Manhattan can be exhausting, but did you know you can take a nap on a plush, king-sized bed in a swanky Noho loft apartment practically any time you want?

No, it's not an art installation. And if it's not an art installation, it must be a marketing ploy.

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Midtown Businessman Scores a Win in Attempt to Get NYPD to Obey Its Own Parking Rules

Categories: NYPD

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Andy Hort
Flyer placed by the NYPD on illegally parked vehicles near the Midtown South precinct
Update, 4:31 p.m. — Score one for the little guy! After complaining to the Voice about the NYPD's sometimes illegal and otherwise dubious parking practices on his Eighth Avenue block, Andy Hort around 1 p.m. today received a visit from a detective and two lieutenants from the Midtown South Precinct. According to Hort, the officers said they were aware of, and shared, his concerns. There had indeed been a great deal of unauthorized parking on the block, they admitted.

They also assured him that they'd be cracking down, and within an hour, Hort says, dozens of cars on the block had been plastered with a stern warning from the precinct. Hort was pleased with the quick reaction. "They said all the right things," Hort tells the Voice. "They said it was wrong...and if they follow through, I'm satisfied."

Original story is below.

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Film Podcast: In Defense of Furious 7

Categories: Film and TV

Furious 7 and While We're Young are two very different movies — one's all synchronized driving and explosions, the other's all sorta-depressed New Yorkers who don't drive — but both receive generally positive reviews from Alan Scherstuhl and Stephanie Zacharek of the Village Voice, and Amy Nicholson of LA Weekly, who again get together via the magic of the internet for the Voice Film Club podcast.

Amy also recommends White God, a movie that stars about 150 dogs who start a revolution on the streets of Budapest, while Alan suggests Lambert & Stamp, a documentary about the early managers of English rock band the Who.

Send all Vin Diesel impressions and impassioned defenses of Generation X's Ben Stiller to filmpod@villagevoice.com.

[Subscribe to the Voice Film Club podcast on iTunes]

Death on the Edge

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Illustration by Brian Stauffer
Early in the morning of August 4, 2013, Steven Sotloff walked across the border from southern Turkey into Syria. He passed through three security checkpoints, then a no man's land between the two countries, on a road surrounded by olive groves, yellow flowers, and leftover mines. Sotloff, a stocky, bearded 30-year-old journalist and Miami native, was headed to Aleppo, some 40 miles south, to cover the two-year-old civil war. He expected to be back in a few days.

The trip would be his last to Syria. He was thinking of returning home soon and maybe applying to graduate school.

Around 10 a.m., he met his fixer and translator, Yosef Abobaker, just inside the border. Abobaker arrived in a yellow Nissan microbus with his brother and two cousins, who would serve as security guards. The journalist took a seat on the middle bench and the Nissan drove off, but after only ten minutes, the vehicle stopped. Three black luxury station wagons were parked along the narrow highway. As the microbus approached, roughly twenty men, clutching Kalashnikovs and wearing black turbans around their faces, exited the cars and lined up across the road.

"When I saw them," Abobaker recalls, "I took my handgun — I'm thinking to shoot. But if I shoot, they will kill everybody."

The men yanked open the Nissan's doors and pulled out the occupants. "Who are you?" Abobaker yelled in Arabic. "What do you want?"

"Us kut!" one man yelled back. "Shut up! Don't talk!"

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Meet the 18-Year-Old New Yorker Who Wants to Be the FDNY's First Female Muslim Firefighter

Categories: FDNY

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Irene Chidinma Nwoye, Village Voice
Ahlam Ahmed

Ahlam Ahmed is determined to become a New York City firefighter. The petite eighteen-year-old of Yemeni descent stands five feet tall, weighs just 105 pounds, and is well aware of the physical challenges inherent to the job. But she is resolute.

In a dining room at the FDNY Academy on Randalls Island, Ahmed is the only observant Muslim in a group of about 60 women. They range from military veterans and teenage members of the department's Explorer program to college athletes and hopefuls who have already taken the department's most recent firefighter exam. They're all here to participate in the FDNY's first-ever Women's History Month Female Outreach Event, created to help inspire more women to join the department.

"I want to see what the FDNY has to offer," Ahmed says matter-of-factly. She is dressed in jeans and a red sweater. A white scarf artfully conceals her neck, ears, and hair.


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