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GIRLS HAVE ALL THE FUN

Cher is a superstar of music, television, film, and Twitter. She’s mastered all genres and mediums she’s explored and made herself one of our culture’s most interesting stars. Last year, the 67-year-old legend released her 25th album, Closer to the Truth, which turned out to be her highest-charting solo effort. For her latest post-“farewell” tour, she’s joined by another icon, Cyndi Lauper, for an evening with the singular mission of making sure the audience is having as much fun as they are.

Fri., May 9, 8 p.m., 2014

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Free Verse: A New York Miscellany

Samuel Taylor Coleridge famously drew a line: “prose — words in their best order; poetry — the best words in their best order.” Granted, Coleridge was a poet, not to mention a stoner of the first order, and therefore probably had a tendency to be defensive about things.

He was right, though. Had he not found life in death (to borrow a phrase) 180 years ago, dude would have been a force to be reckoned with on Twitter.

(Note to selves: Follow poets on Twitter.)

This being April — National Poetry Month, for those who keep score — the Voice thought it’d be cruel to ask Billy Collins to suggest a handful of New York poets we might reach out to for a collection of poems to share with readers. Collins, a New Yorker himself, and a former U.S. Poet Laureate, graciously obliged.

As did the poets, who, in response to our request for previously unpublished poems “about New York City, spring, or, frankly, anything you like,” supplied, to our great delight, all manner of beast.

And so we present to you the following pages. In a generation hectored for its declining readership, in an age in which pieces of writing that take longer than five minutes to read have their own hashtag, we’re pausing, ever so briefly, to honor the #shortform.

(140 characters: 100,000 chin-strokers may share a #longform story on social media. What % of that readership invests the time to digest even a single poem?)

Thanks to Billy Collins and all the poets who shared their work for this issue. Before we leave you to their work, we invite you also to listen to it for yourself, via our own Dial-A-Poem apparatus.

Yes. Yes, we did: We further imposed on our poets to record themselves reading their work. You can hear them humor us by calling 347-618-6376 and following the prompts. You know: “Press 7 for Philip Levine.”

Really! Press 7 for Philip Levine! Go ahead — do it!

For now, read the Voice‘s 2014 poetry issue right here.

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Second Stage Plays the Dating Game With Nobody Loves You

Nobody Loves You, the musical comedy now running at Second Stage, is the theatrical equivalent of the watermelon martini: jokey, overly sweet, sneakily refreshing. Written by brainiac playwright Itamar Moses and composer Gaby Alter, it concerns Jeff (Bryan Fenkart), a philosophy grad student more interested in reading The Ontology of Sex than having it. Dumped by his girlfriend, he plans to win her back by appearing on her favorite reality dating show.

Moses and Alter have serious topics in mind—the gulf between authenticity and performance, the parlous state of “the real” as applies to network TV. They also have a satiric agenda, which often falls flat, likely because their most absurd challenges are nothing compared to what actually crowds airwaves. (Or am I alone in recalling Paradise Hotel?)

But when they give in to mere froth and jollity, the show is a delight. Moses has a fine time writing one-liners for the self-absorbed host (Health Calvert): “This ice is cold,” he complains. And Alter creates exuberant songs for a Twitter-obsessed fan (Rory O’Malley). (The writing for the women? Less sharp.) Besides, at only 90 splashy, silly minutes, you’ll have plenty of time for your own icy cocktails after.

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Kristin Hersh

As part of the Rubin Museum’s “Naked Soul” series—designed to allow fans to “hear artists as they really sound”—alt-rock icon Kristin Hersh will perform an all-acoustic set of her particular brand of mind-bending (and occasionally sanity-challenging) rock. It’s a notable show in part because the sometime Throwing Muses and 50 Foot Wave musician since she performs a lot less frequently in recent years, likely due to the fact that, as her Twitter bio states, she’s a “musician, writer, mother of four boys.”

Fri., July 26, 7 p.m., 2013

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#Coriolanus

Shakespeare isn’t often a trending topic on Twitter (well, not unless Richard III suddenly shows up in an English car park), but Theater in Asylum thinks that another of the bard’s rulers should have a social media presence. Director Paul Bedard sets this adaptation of the tragedy “in a twitter centric world with live feeds on every wall.”

Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Starts: July 5. Continues through July 20, 2013

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LAUGH LINES

Rob Delaney, who won Comedy Central’s 2012 Best Twitter award, is considered to be one of the funniest people in 140 characters. A recent example: “I would buy a car if, in the commercial, a nice lady said, ‘There’s a lot of power under the hood,’ then pointed at her clit.” During the recent presidential election, the dirty jokester wrote: “I was considering voting for @MittRomney, but then I remembered I ENTERED THE WORLD THROUGH A VAGINA” (which was then retweeted about 10,000 times). Happily, he’s even funnier when given a
few more words to work with. Catch him tonight at this four-night run at Carolines.

Thu., June 6, 8 p.m.; Fri., June 7, 8 & 10:30 p.m.; Sat., June 8, 8 & 10:30 p.m.; Sun., June 9, 8 p.m., 2013

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Why I Hate Social Media! Don’t ‘Like’ This Column!

I hate social networking media even more than yucca fries! Here are 25 tweetable, postable reasons why. (Add your own smiley face.)

I communicate every day with dozens of people I’ve never met. Meanwhile, real friends never call…. People beg you to “like” their page, as if that will somehow add substance to their yearning existence. Sadistically, I withhold all “liking.” Hahahahahaha…. Gushy people in the provinces message you that they adore your work and are dying to be “friends” because you’re so witty and amazing and they just want to soak in the glow of your greatness. You approve them, then they instantly start pitching their graphic novel that they’re desperate for you to write about…. My “friends” usually comment on the titles of my posts without bothering to read the link. It’s irritating, but I guess you’re supposed to be grateful that they did that much.

The hardest trick in town is to write a nasty comment in response to someone who’s left some hate on your page, then quickly “unfriend” them so they can’t respond to your response, but I’ve got it down to a science…. Whenever someone on a Facebook thread is losing an argument, they put in their last bitter words, then sign off with “Off to the gym.” That’s code for “I’m dying here, so I’m going to act like I won the battle and pretend to not read the rest of the comments.” As if they couldn’t add some more whiny remarks from the gym anyway! … Facebook messaging opens you up to a world of numbing conversational ice breakers like “Hey” and “How r u?” I’m deeply lonely, but not so much that I’d answer those inane come-ons…. Facebook friends kiss your ass all day and post dozens of photos of you, giving you the illusion of international fame. Then you leave the house and realize no one knows who you are.

When I write a pleading comment like “Let’s leave Lindsay alone for a second,” someone will immediately reply, “She should die in a car wreck, the low-life skanky cooze.” … Also, if you post something about, let’s say, the 100 best child stars of all time, no one will comment on any of those choices, but people will line up to squawk, “You forgot Anna Chlumsky! And the kids from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang!” … Being tagged in a photo that has nothing to do with you is a nightmare, and you can’t untag yourself since it was posted by someone you’re having lunch with the next day.

All day long I get requests from a parade of whiners begging me to join LinkedIn. This has gone on for five years! I ain’t linking in, people! … But I am on Twitter, and I even tried putting hash tags on every tweet to get extra followers, but it didn’t work, so I stopped that. Besides, why add bells and whistles to a brain flatulence when the whole point is to keep things short and insubstantial? … Tweeting a lot is supposed to help your career, but the more you do it, the more people think, “He doesn’t have a life, does he?” (They seem to forget that they’re sitting there reading them all day.)

Celebrities hardly ever answer serious tweets from a respected journalist—or from me—but they’ll reply to any bozo in the hinterlands who happens to offend them. (“My mother sucks cocks in hell? Oh, yeah? Well, it’s your mother’s cock!”) They’ll even respond to people with nine followers! … My followers “favorite” my tweets all the time. WTF good is that gonna do me? That’s the equivalent of “liking” something on Facebook. Either retweet it or just mind your own freakin’ business…. If I tweet “I just made potato leek soup,” it gets as many retweets as one of my breaking stories that could change cultural history. Maybe I should just stick to recipes…. Blocking Twitter nightmares after you tell them off is as rapid-fire a game as unfriending the Facebook haters, and it’s every bit as gratifying.

I’ve “followed” people as a complete charity fuck, only to realize they never followed me back. I usually decide to unfollow them, then start wondering if it’s worth giving them that much power…. You lie and tell someone you have to stay home and work the night they’re having a birthday party, only to have people tweet that you’re actually at Whole Foods, then a club, then an after party, then riding your bike in circles. Busted times four…. Why look at cute photos of cats on Instagram when you can see them actually moving and making sounds on YouTube?

The “yawn” trolls, “Does it matter?” gnomes, and “Slow news week?” creeps are the most annoying people in Christendom. Nothing is more boring than some dullard who spends the day pissing on other people’s parties. When you write “Man killed on subway” and they reply “yawn,” you want to bash in your screen but settle for a quick blocking action…. Social media provide the irritating chance for people to spew the same exact things in different places. When I dressed like Angelina for the year-end Voice cover, a guy Facebooked me that I actually looked like Stockard Channing, then he tweeted the same hilarious observation, and then he e-mailed me, “Happy New year! I thought it was Stockard Channing on the cover, lol.” Fuck off. Fuck off. Fuck off…. At the theater, a guy I hung with last year kept saying, “I’m one of the few people who’s not using you. I like you for you.” Then I noticed him looking down and tinkling the ivories on his cell phone. It turned out he was putting on Facebook, “I’m with Michael Musto!” … Even more tragically, I was flattered….

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Noho’s Le Philosophe Flourishes in Ambiguity

Nothing feels quite as good as stumbling on a sleeper, a restaurant that opens without much fanfare, fails to publicize itself adequately, and is content to persevere in obscurity until that inevitable day when the public discovers it’s a wonderful place.

That’s the case with Noho’s Le Philosophe, a three-month-old French bistro hidden in plain sight next to Mile End Sandwich on Bond Street. The obscurity is partly cultivated: A temporary winter entrance in dull gray conceals the front door, and you can barely discern the name of the restaurant in florid script high up on the facade. Once inside, the interior—lit by flickering votives—proves almost mournfully dark. There are plenty of nicely spaced tables and a small bar, acting as a barrier between you and the open kitchen, which shines brightly and hums with well-regimented activity.

The scanty pictorial material on the walls is a mural depicting dozens of philosophers, screened to light grayness as if to partly hide their identities, or as if the theme were slightly embarrassing. How many can you pick out? (And no fair using your smartphone.) There’s Sartre—identifiable by the round glasses and his lazy eye—and Voltaire, who must have had his own wig master. Descartes is there, too, looking a little foppish with his ribbon tie and curly locks. Then you draw a blank.

But maybe the point of making the room so dark and existential is to concentrate your attention on the food, which is in a bistro vein. Or is it? There’s a fine steak frites ($25) served with a thick bordelaise sauce, featuring the preferable flatiron instead of the usual skirt or sirloin. Deep pink in the middle, the cut-up steak appears at your table splayed across the plate like rubies in a jeweler’s case. But towering over the meat is a nuclear mushroom cloud of herb-sprinkled fries, the part of the entrée everyone craves the most.

Doctrinaire, bistro-wise, is an oyster service including a vinegary mignonette, lemon wedges, and a choice of East or West Coast bivalves, mercifully priced at $12 (half-dozen) or $18 (dozen). There’s also a roast chicken your mom would be proud of, thigh bone hoisted skyward in greeting. The crisp-skinned bird is deposited in a saline broth with baby carrots and pommes dauphine, which look like small baked potatoes, only poofier.

There’s a frog-legs app ($12), deboned and tossed with mushrooms and greens in a salsa verde profuse enough to qualify as a soup. Like the frog legs, the pig trotters are more elaborate than they might be in a place that calls itself a bistro: Flesh, fat, and collagen are compressed into cylinders wrapped with skin, saving you the trouble of sawing at a bony stump with your knife. And from there, the menu only becomes more ambitious.

Foie gras torchon, lobster thermidor, duck l’orange, and tournedos Rossini sound more like formal cuisine than everyday bistro fare, and indeed they are. But chef Matthew Aita has pared these recipes down and jazzed them up, so that duck l’orange ($27), rather than being a bird mired in thick goo, is now a few slices of crunchy-skinned breast ringed with orange segments in a light sauce, while the fluffy deshelled meat of his homard comes tangled with haricots vert in a sunny emulsion dotted with mustard seeds. Call it haute cuisine lite. Only tournedos Rossini ($30)—a filet mignon on toast topped with foie gras and truffles—still retains its utter stodginess. Try it anyway, if only for historical purposes.

But the restaurant’s greatest contribution to contemporary dining might be in making you feel comfortable with a French wine list. Instead of an effete document in which all bottles lie north of $50, Le Philosophe’s carte des vins is amazingly cheap, with plenty of action in the $20 to $30 range, even among the reds. There’s a nice Grenache-based blend from Languedoc for $22, and a more saturated Cabernet Franc from the Loire Valley for $28. Even the rock-bottom $19.50 Bordeaux is pleasantly drinkable.

Le Philosophe’s proprietors have realized that even in Manhattan, decent wines can be sold at affordable prices, as with restaurants in Paris and Montreal. They understand that, accompanied by good, low-markup bottles, their food tastes much better, too. And that’s a revolutionary dining philosophy.

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Tongue These Pig Ears at the Pod Hotel’s Salvation Taco

On a recent evening, a friend at the thumping, packed Salvation Taco—a new Mexican restaurant in the Pod 39 hotel—wondered if the nonlinear service we were experiencing might work as a model for chaos theory, at least at a TED talk. Waiters appeared at our table unpredictably, sometimes with things we’d ordered, and sometimes without.

Restaurateur Ken Friedman and chef April Bloomfield are drawing crowds just like they do at the Spotted Pig, the Breslin, and the John Dory. Here, they drafted chef Roberto Santibañez to lend a hand, first offering drinks and snacks on the hotel’s rooftop over the summer, then settling in slowly to an all-day restaurant on the ground floor. The collaboration in the kitchen has led to dishes rooted in traditional Mexican cookery, but not really playing by its rules. A ceviche ($9) of striped bass is dressed in a smooth, green salsa, layered with airy chicharones, and garnished with delicate apple chips. Each bite is brightness and crunch, sweetness and light. So what’s a bit of chaos? When Bloomfield and Santibañez work together, the potential for delicious is high.

Like at Santibañez’s Fonda restaurants, fresh tortillas are pressed throughout the day, and the masa for this—a dough of dried corn cooked with lime—is delivered from Queens. The tortillas are sweet and small, fatter and softer than the commercial kind you’ll find in most of the city’s Mexican restaurants.

An ideal meal will involve a bunch of friends, drinks, and a lot of tacos ($3 to $5), because each one is just three or four bites. Start with blistered cauliflower florets and fried curry leaves on a dollop of gently curried crema, a delightful little taco with an Indian accent. Move along to nuggets of fried sweetbreads and chickpeas. There’s traditional pork al pastor, too, the meat stacked with pineapple on a vertical rotisserie and cooked until it’s sweet and mellow. A soft, yeasted naan sneaks onto the taco menu, too, topped with crisp lamb breast, minced pickled cucumbers, and yogurt.

This is casual drinking food, small plates to keep ordering until you’re full or ready to move on to the next place. If you decide to stay for dessert, there are excellent churros (three for $7), long and spindly, accompanied by a cup of hot, dark chocolate. Cocktails by Sam Anderson are the kind you’d put away on a properly relaxing vacation: horchata laced with coffee and rum in a ridiculous ceramic parrot full of crushed ice. A sort of old fashioned, made with bacanora, is garnished with the biggest citrus twist you’ve ever seen. It hangs from the glass like the tongue of a happy, panting dog.

The restaurant is decorated wildly; it’s ugly-charming with its green ceiling and tchotchke-filled walls. There are geometric rugs on tiled floors, neon couches, and a case of books collected and arranged by color. During the day, the space is very much a midtown hotel lounge, filled with travelers reading the paper and women in sweatpants and fleece-lined boots wheeling around their carry-on luggage. But in the evening, it’s loud with groups of friends eating and drinking (and shouting over what sounds like a Buddha Lounge compilation).

Then it has the feeling of a Bloomfield-Friedman joint, crowded with people nibbling designer chicken feet ($4) dusted with pasilla chiles and presented with a side of lime—a marvelous quandary of bone, meat, and skin. Fried pig ears ($7) are prepared the same way and are far less challenging, but the ears are like snowflakes, and no two are alike. Some end up soft as beignets at the Café du Monde, sweet and puffy, tender and hollow. Others are hard and chewy, sticking to your teeth like candy. There’s no knowing when you’ll see your waitress again, so order them if you get the chance.

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Girls Against Boys

Girls Against Boys is intensely laconic, with so little dialogue it could almost all fit the 140-character Twitter max. This reticence is due, perhaps, to the film’s own confused relationship with itself. Is it a high-camp female revenge fantasy, in the vein of the far superior Teeth? Is it a psychosexual thriller preoccupied with homo-social behavior among women, in the vein of Black Swan? Or, most likely, is it a derivative distillation of various horror motifs that fails to cohere, or even to gross out? Writer/director Austin Chick intersperses college-lecture scenes (“post-feminist critiques” of Japanese animation is a rib-bruising set piece) with the rudderless revenge-mongering of Shae (Danielle Panabaker)—an ingénue-cipher with an uncanny resemblance to Judy Garland—and Lu (Nicole LaLiberte), Shae’s bad angel who looks like Emma Stone’s collagened evil twin. The obligatory lesbian kiss is checked off like a box on a clipboard, but the B-horror standbys that might rescue the film from self-serious tedium are nowhere to be found. Where are the chain saw castrations? The taut moments of imminent gore? The closest we get is a scene in which a rape enabler gets shot with a pistol through the anus—a symmetrical retribution for sexual assault and, sadly, the movie’s cleverest moment. Should we congratulate Chick (XX/XY) for the Thelma & Louise rewrite? He seems to think so.