Sunday, January 31, 2010

Collection of Extended Movie takes

I put together a modest collection of these before, though they typically get taken down. Geek Week put together a great Top Twenty. Check it out.

I'd quibble with an inclusion here and there, and I would have put in more from Paul Thomas Anderson's Boogie Nights and Alfonso Cuaron's Children of Men, but those two movies deserve their own hall of fame ranking for their multiple extended takes. It's a very good and wide ranging list. Bravo! Geek Week's top pick? This three-minute gem from Goodfellas:

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Pianist Fred Hersch featured in the NYT

The Times magazine has a lengthy feature on Hersch. Check it out.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Documentary: An Intimate Look at Hip-Hop’s Jihad


An Intimate Look at Hip-Hop’s Jihad
By: Suad Abdul Khabeer
Posted: June 23, 2009 at 7:22 AM

‘New Muslim Cool,’ a new PBS documentary, shows how young Muslim Americans in the post-9/11 era are deepening ties between hip-hop and Islam.

Real hip-hop heads know that Islam and hip-hop have been longtime friends, feeding off each other’s energy. Muslim ideals of self-respect and social change have inspired some of the greatest emcees, and hip-hop is giving voice to the dreams and daily struggles of a generation of Muslims. This cross-pollination between Islam and hip-hop is vividly illustrated in a new documentary, New Muslim Cool, which premieres tonight on PBS.

Directed by veteran filmmaker Jennifer Maytorena Taylor, New Muslim Cool chronicles three years in the life of Hamza "Jason" Perez, a Puerto Rican Muslim, family man, emcee, interfaith prison chaplain and social activist.

So why is Hamza’s story called the New Muslim Cool? Because he is part of a generation of young Muslims who are coming of age in a post-9/11 America. They are tackling questions of race, faith, freedom and even, as Hamza does, questionable intrusions by the FBI. They unapologetically choose God and country; they are doing American Islam with style.

And then, there’s the music. Citing influences such as Malcolm X and Pedro Albizu Campos, Hamza and his brother, Suliman, bring together the best of who they are. They use hip-hop in the great music traditions of the African Diaspora. The music seeks to speak to the harsh but sweet realities of everyday life; to encourage an elevation of the spirit, and to inspire a commitment to social change.


Read the full post HERE.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Mexican ruling party proposes prison time for drug ballad singers

Canadian Press

Mexican ruling party proposes prison time for drug ballad singers

By Catherine E. Shoichet (CP) – 4 days ago

MEXICO CITY — A new proposal from Mexico's ruling party could send musicians to prison for performing songs that glorify drug trafficking.

The law would bring prison sentences of up to three years for people who perform or produce songs or movies glamorizing criminals. "Society sees drug ballads as nice, pleasant, inconsequential and harmless, but they are the opposite," National Action Party lawmaker Oscar Martin Arce told The Associated Press on Thursday.

The ballads, known as "narcocorridos," often describe drug trafficking and violence, and are popular among some norteno bands. After some killings, gangs pipe narcocorridos into police radio scanners, along with threatening messages.

Martin said his party's proposal, presented before Congress on Wednesday, also takes aim at low-budget movies praising drug lords. It was unclear when lawmakers would vote on it.

"We cannot accept it as normal. We cannot exalt these people because they themselves are distributing these materials among youths to lead them into a lifestyle where the bad guy wins," he said.

Martin said the proposal's intention is not to limit free expression, but to stop such performances from inciting crimes.

But Elijah Wald, author of the book, "Narcocorrido: A Journey into the Music of Drugs, Guns, and Guerrillas," said politicians are attempting to censor artists rather than attacking Mexico's real problems.

On his Web site, Wald has posted descriptions of dozens of past efforts to stop the songs, including radio broadcast bans and politicians' proposals.

"It is very hard to stop the drug trafficking," he said. "It is very easy to get your name in the papers by attacking famous musicians."

The norteno band Los Tigres del Norte cancelled their planned appearance at an awards ceremony at a government-owned auditorium in October after organizers allegedly asked the group not to perform their latest drug ballad.

Mexican President Felipe Calderon launched a nationwide crackdown on drug cartels in late 2006, deploying tens of thousands of soldiers and federal police across Mexico.

Even performers who don't sing drug ballads have been caught up in recent raids.

In December Mexican authorities arrested Latin Grammy winner Ramon Ayala at a drug cartel's party in a gated community of mansions outside the central mountain town of Tepoztlan.

Ayala's attorney has said the accordionist and his band, Los Bravos del Norte, did not know their clients were suspected members of the Beltran Leyva cartel.


Read the full article HERE.

Associated Press Writer Carlos Rodriguez contributed to this report.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Geaux Saints!

A big shout out for the Saints football team of New Orleans, my previous city. Four-and-a-half years after the Superdome was a refuge of misery, sheltering people from the flooding of Hurricane Katrina, tonight that same building hosted a tremendous Conference championship victory. I am so happy for New Orleans. Geaux Saints!

Aborigines offended by ice dance routine

I have to include the photo with this one:


Posted: Sunday January 24, 2010 1:58PM; Updated: Sunday January 24, 2010 2:10PM
Aborigines offended by ice dance

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) -- An Aboriginal-themed routine by two Russian ice dancers has stirred up a pre-Olympic controversy, with some indigenous Australians blasting the "rip off" of their culture and Canadian native leaders worrying about the insensitivity of the skaters.

World champions Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin are doing an Aboriginal routine for their original dance -- complete with brown-toned costumes adorned with leaves and white Aboriginal-style markings. Their music includes a didgeridoo riff.

In the original dance, couples can create any kind of dance that falls within an assigned theme. This year's theme is country/folk, and skaters are doing routines to everything from Indian music to country western to Moldovian folk songs.

"It's appalling," Bev Manton, chairperson of the Aboriginal Land Council in New South Wales state, said of Domnina and Shabalin's choice. "The whole thing was a poor effort. They could have provided more respect to our culture by doing more research."

Domnina, who won the European dance title with Shabalin last week, has said that they researched their dance by watching online videos of Aboriginal dances.

Read the full story HERE.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Strike in Cleveland Points to Classical Music Woes

January 19, 2010
Strike in Cleveland Points to Classical Music Woes

CLEVELAND — One of the first high-profile labor tussles of 2010 is brewing at the Cleveland Orchestra, and it points to troubled times for the nation’s elite classical musical ensembles amid the Great Recession.

Orchestra members struck on Monday, the first such work stoppage here in 30 years. It was a day off for them anyway, so there was little immediate effect, but the strike forced the cancellation of a two-day teaching and concert trip to Indiana University and threatened a lucrative residency in Miami, both scheduled for this week. The two sides spent much of the day together in talks with a mediator.

In troubles elsewhere, the New York Philharmonic has just reported a record deficit for last year of $4.6 million, with nearly that much of a shortfall expected this season. The Seattle Symphony musicians have authorized a strike if need be.

Many of the nation’s top orchestras have reduced staff positions and administrative salaries in the last year. Orchestras have downsized seasons, canceled tours, programmed smaller works and left jobs open.

Current economic hardships, of course, are partly to blame. But industry experts point out that in the flush years of the 1990s, orchestras went on spending sprees without building up their endowments for a rainy decade. Now the crunch is on. At the same time, the old system of making the majority of ticket money from season-long subscriptions is breaking down. Big recording contracts are long gone.

In Cleveland, the fight revolves around several thousand dollars a year in salary for each player. But implicit is a debate over the worth of exquisitely trained musical artists in our society and how much we are now willing to pay for them.


The Cleveland players’ minimum salary now stands at $115,000, seventh in the nation, but most earn more through additional payments; principal players can earn two or three times that amount.

As the musicians see it, losing further ground will make it tougher to attract the absolute best players, and to keep them, threatening the orchestra’s greatness. “Continuity and stability have been the backbone of this orchestra,” said Michael Sachs, the principal trumpeter.

Mr. Hanson, the executive director, dismissed these arguments. “The proposal that we’re making is fair and reasonable and will not cause any artistic impact such as they’re predicting,” he said. Though the orchestra has been toward the bottom of the elite orchestra pay scale for a decade, he added, virtually no member has defected.

Read the full article HERE.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Mr. Fingers "Can You Feel It" (Martin Luther King remix)

When Larry Heard (aka Mr. Fingers) put out "Can You Feel It" in 1986 it was very popular and influential in house music circuits. I can only imagine what it would have felt like to be on the floor of the Warehouse when this 1988 remix hit, using Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" speech.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Two Songs titled "Haiti"

Offered in contemplation of the people who are suffering so much right now as a result of the yesterday's devastating earthquake. These are greats songs by artists you should know/check out, with lyrics offered in the spirit of cultural criticism under fair use terms.

"Haiti" by Arcade Fire:

Haiti, mon pays,
wounded mother I'll never see.
Ma famille set me free.
Throw my ashes into the sea.

Mes cousins jamais nes
hantent les nuits de Duvalier.
Rien n'arrete nos espirits.
Guns can't kill what soldiers can't see.

In the forest we are hiding,
unmarked graves where flowers grow.
Hear the soldiers angry yelling,
in the river we will go.

Tous les morts-nes forment une armee,
soon we will reclaim the earth.
All the tears and all the bodies
bring about our second birth.

Haiti, never free,
n'aie pas peur de sonner l'alarme.
Tes enfants sont partis,
in those days their blood was still warm.

"Haiti" by Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil:

When you are invited to ascend the steps of the Jorge Amado Foundation
To see from up high the row of soldiers, almost all black
beating the necks of black good-for-nothings, of mulatto thieves and other almost-whites
treated like blacks only to show the other almost-blacks (and they’re almost all black)
and the almost-whites poor like blacks how it is that blacks, the poor, and mulattos
and almost-whites almost black from poverty are treated.
And it doesn’t matter if the eyes of the whole world might be for a moment focused on the square
where slaves were punished and today drums pounding drums pounding
with the purity of uniformed children from high school during a field day
and the epic grandeur of an emerging people attracts us, fascinates us, stimulates.
Nothing matters: not the outline of the villanot the camera lens of “Fantástico,” not even Paul Simon’s record
Nobody, nobody is a citizen.If you go to the party in Pelô, and even if you don’t go
think of Haiti, pray for Haiti
Haiti is here – Haiti is not here.

And if on TV you see a politician poorly trying to hide his panic
in the face of any, absolutely any, any education plan
which seems easy, which seems easy and quick
and which represents the threat of democratization of primary education
and if this same politician defends the adoption of capital punishment
and if the venerable Cardinal says he sees so much soul in the fetus and none in the criminal
and if, while running the light, that same old red light,
you notice a man on the street corner pissing on a shining bag of garbage from Leblon
and when you hear the smiling silence of São Paulo
in the face of the massacre111 defenseless prisoners, prisoners almost all black
or almost-black, or almost-whites almost black from poverty
and the poor are treated like trash and everyone knows how they treat blacks
and when you take a trip to the Caribbean and when you have sex without a condom
and intelligently voice your support for the blockade against Cuba
Think of Haiti, pray for Haiti
Haiti is here – Haiti is not here.

Two Words for Pat Robertson's opinion on the Haitian earthquake

As usual, Mr. Robertson found a way for those suffering and killed by a natural disaster to blame the victims, in this case by claiming enslaved Haitians in the late 1700s made a pact with satan. Yes, that's his explanation for why thousands of Haitians died in yesterday's earthquake.

Two words for Mr. Robertson: f**k off.

To be fair, he also finds ways to blame people who die from man-made tragedies, such as 9/11. The two words still apply.

Friday, January 08, 2010


What a trip. A listing in the Moscow Times:

THE SANTERIA HOUSE OF MOSCOW (La Casa del Santo) is a nonsectarian social association of worshippers who are interested in Santeria (Afro-Cuban religion). We have several celebrations and spiritual activities related to our Orishas (gods). Our place is at Ul. Klimashkina Bldg. 22, M. Ulitsa 1905 Goda. Contact Carlos A. Reyes, e-mail: Phone: +7-963-616-3498.

T-N Coates goes off on the category "negro" in the census

Classic Coates pretending to embrace the old term while shredding it in The Atlantic

A taste:

...I want that old time effect. I'm talking about tweed and sepia, sonnets which trade in words like "inglorious" and phrases like "O kinsmen." A bow-tie and handkerchief is a plus. I'm talking narratives of high yallers passing. I'm talking about books with hoary titles like Oak and Ivy, Darkwater and Ethiopia Unbound ...

I am going to be glorious. I demand that my every utterance be force-fed to ghetto kids in public schools every February. I demand that white people not read a word I've written, but adopt a solemn, reverent look at the mere mention of my name.

I demand my inclusion in various Norton Anthologies with the following bio--Esteemed Negro writer. First to grace The Atlantic's masthead since other Negro, Frederick Douglass. Overlooked in his time. Consumed no purple stuff.

Read the post HERE.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

UK issues classic rock album covers as stamps

Led Zep, Stones, Bowie, Clash, even "Tubular Bells":

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Music sales drop again in 2009


January 7, 2010
Albums by Swift and Boyle Top 2009 Charts, as Sales Continue Plunge

The music industry rounded out a difficult decade with a difficult year.

For the year that ended on Sunday, a total of 373.9 million albums were sold in the United States, according to data from Nielsen SoundScan. That is a 12.7 percent drop from 2008, and a 52 percent fall since 2000, as consumers have continued to turn from CDs to less profitable — and often illegal — forms of digital music.

As sales plunged in the 2000s, music retailers have also taken a severe hit. Since 2004 the HMV, Tower and Virgin chains have all closed their American stores, and Trans World Entertainment, which operates F.Y.E., one of the last remaining music chains, said on Wednesday that it would close 137 of its roughly 700 locations.

Although album sales in 2009 were poor over all, one of the few lights was the close contest for the best-selling album of the year, by two new artists whose success proves that stars can still be made. Taylor Swift, the 20-year-old singer who has been ubiquitous on television and radio, narrowly beat Susan Boyle, the 48-year-old Scot who was unknown before her appearance on a British talent show in April.

Ms. Swift’s “Fearless” (Big Machine), released in November 2008, sold 3.2 million copies last year, and Ms. Boyle’s “I Dreamed a Dream” (Syco Music/Columbia), which came out only six weeks ago, sold 3.1 million. (Since its release, “Fearless” has moved a total of 5.3 million copies.)

“I Dreamed a Dream” was the hit of the 2009 holiday season, holding at No. 1 every week since its release, setting a new Billboard chart record. But “Fearless,” which had the benefit of 10 more months on sale in 2009 — as well as countless more television appearances and magazine covers for Ms. Swift — edged it out by 113,000 copies.

Michael Jackson’s “Number Ones” (Epic) was No. 3 for the year, with 2.4 million sales; “The Fame” (Interscope) by Lady Gaga is No. 4, with slightly more than 2.2 million in 2009 (and 2.4 million since its release in late 2008); and Andrea Bocelli’s “My Christmas” (Sugar Music/Decca), another holiday hit, is close behind at No. 5, with 2.2 million. (The numbers are rounded.)

For the decade, there was another race between young and old. The best-selling artist of the 2000s was Eminem, whose 32.2 million albums sold edged out the Beatles’ 30.2 million. Tim McGraw was the third-best-selling artist of the 2000s, with a total of 24.8 million, followed closely by Toby Keith. Britney Spears was No. 5, at just under 23 million.

The Beatles’ 2000 collection “1” (EMI) was the decade’s most popular title, with 11.5 million.

Despite the success last year of new talents like Ms. Swift, Ms. Boyle and Lady Gaga, a number of albums by major artists fell short of expectations. U2’s latest, “No Line on the Horizon” (Interscope), was released in February and has sold just over one million copies; in 2004 the band’s previous record, “How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb,” sold nearly three times as many within two months.

Albums last year by Mariah Carey, Shakira, R. Kelly, Leona Lewis, 50 Cent and Rihanna are also relative flops so far.


CDs still account for almost 80 percent of all album purchases, but the continuing sales slide has forced record companies to find ways to make money online, said Tom Corson, general manager of the RCA Music Group.

“Sales are one thing, but music usage is through the roof,” Mr. Corson said. “So our challenge is to monetize that and turn it into some kind of legitimate business, rather than file-sharing, burning, etc. We do worry that we’ve lost a generation of consumers who are used to content for free, but there are lots of promising signs.”

Over the last decade numerous new models have emerged to sell music online, with varying levels of success. Apple’s iTunes store opened in 2003 and has sold eight billion songs. Subscription services like Rhapsody and Napster sell monthly subscriptions for access to digital music, as well as MP3s à la carte, and a range of other companies, including MySpace Music and Pandora, stream songs over the Internet. But record companies and financial analysts complain that none of these services make enough money to offset the losses from CDs.

Read the full story HERE.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

In Sierra Leone, pop music is a beat that drives politics

In Sierra Leone, pop music is a beat that drives politics
Political debate in the African nation often takes the form of protest songs; some have even toppled governments. Mostly illiterate, citizens rely heavily on singers for an independent take on events.

By Scott Kraft

January 3, 2010

Reporting from Freetown, Sierra Leone

Everywhere he went in Freetown's ghettos, a dreadlocked young vocalist named Innocent heard the plea. People were fed up with lies, theft and corruption. This government had to go, they said, and they begged Innocent to speak out.

So late one night, Innocent drove to Forensic Studios, a rundown pair of rooms on a clamorous downtown street. The sound engineer was asleep on an old sofa, and Innocent shook him awake.

"Let's do something," Innocent said, "and release it tomorrow."

The single "Injectment Notice" -- "eviction notice" in the lingua franca of Sierra Leone -- helped spark a ballot-box rebellion in 2007. "I told people: If you don't like this government, vote them out," he said. "And it actually happened."

Sierra Leone's engaging blend of hip-hop, Afro-pop and reggae sounds flourished after the end of the brutal, decade-long civil war in 2002, and the number of radio stations playing those tunes swelled from nine to more than 50.

Today, music here is more than simple entertainment. It has become the vehicle for a decibel-busting national political debate. With the sixth-highest rate of illiteracy in the world and a deep suspicion of the ruling elite, Sierra Leone's 6 million people rely heavily on their pop stars -- often educated and well-traveled -- for an independent take on what's going on.

"These songs are the only way the masses have of expressing what they want to say," said Emrys Savage, a record producer and former DJ who wears Che Guevara T-shirts and goes by the name King Fisher. "For us, it's all about bringing social change."

In recent weeks, though, Innocent, a grandson of Nigeria's Afrobeat mega-star Fela Kuti, has been locked in a musical smack-down with one of the country's most famous singers, Emmerson Bockarie, over a question much of the nation is asking: How is the new government doing?

The answer isn't so clear in a fledgling democracy with vast unmet needs and high expectations, a nation where the new government felt compelled to create an Office of Attitudinal Change to inspire patriotism. "Our goal is to remake and rebrand the image of this country" and encourage Sierra Leoneans to change their "bad attitudes," said Allieu Kamara, a former Washington insurance salesman who runs the office.

Both Innocent and Emmerson had helped light the fire that consumed the last government. Even before Innocent released his protest song, Emmerson had recorded "Borbor Bele" ("Pot-Bellied Boy"), which speared corpulent politicians who sold themselves to the highest bidders.

The protest song industry largely fell silent when President Ernest Bai Koroma of the All People's Congress took office in 2007, riding a wave of promises to end corruption, improve healthcare and bring electricity and clean water to the hundreds of thousands of Sierra Leoneans without it.

Emmerson, for one, had high hopes. "I was confident that this government would bring about change, and that's why I kept silent," he said. "I really believed."

But when he returned from a U.S. tour a few months ago, he didn't like what he saw. "It's been more than two years and we're still not seeing any foundation or any road being built to change," he said. "This government is feeling too comfortable and too loved. They need to work harder."

Emmerson went back to the recording studio and laid down the track for "Yesterday Betteh Pass Tiday" -- "Yesterday Was Better Than Today."

"Whenever we think we have a savior," he sings, "we see a government that betrays the people. Maybe tomorrow will be better, but no one knows tomorrow. I don't know about you, but my yesterday was better than today."

That message of discontent touched off a firestorm.

Emmerson is "simply the best lyrical musician in Sierra Leone," said the editor of the New Citizen newspaper, but to argue that yesterday is better than today "is absurd."


The the full story with images HERE.

Monday, January 04, 2010

NYC's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Annex closes after 1 year


BY Erin Durkin

Monday, January 4th 2010, 4:00 AM

It was the day the music died at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Annex Sunday as the museum closed its doors just a year after opening.


The SoHo music-lovers' paradise fell victim to the economy and a down year for city tourism.

Some visitors were shocked the museum, which featured artifacts ranging from Elvis' jumpsuit to Bruce Springsteen's Chevy - as well as a special exhibit on John Lennon's New York years - didn't do better in a town with a rich rock heritage.

Read more:

Read the story HERE.

Jazz Cover Surprise of 2009: Vijay Iyer doing M.I.A.

Probably pianist Vijay Iyer covering "Galang" by M.I.A. Her original below (which I love):

And his version, from his album Historicity:

Career U.: Making College "Relevant"


January 3, 2010
Career U.
Making College ‘Relevant’

THOMAS COLLEGE, a liberal arts school in Maine, advertises itself as Home of the Guaranteed Job! Students who can’t find work in their fields within six months of graduation can come back to take classes free, or have the college pay their student loans for a year.

The University of Louisiana, Lafayette, is eliminating its philosophy major, while Michigan State University is doing away with American studies and classics, after years of declining enrollments in those majors.

And in a class called “The English Major in the Workplace,” at the University of Texas, Austin, students read “Death of a Salesman” but also learn to network, write a résumé and come off well in an interview.

Even before they arrive on campus, students — and their parents — are increasingly focused on what comes after college. What’s the return on investment, especially as the cost of that investment keeps rising? How will that major translate into a job?


The shift in attitudes is reflected in a shifting curriculum. Nationally, business has been the most popular major for the last 15 years. Campuses also report a boom in public health fields, and many institutions are building up environmental science and just about anything prefixed with “bio.” Reflecting the new economic and global realities, they are adding or expanding majors in Chinese and Arabic. The University of Michigan has seen a 38 percent increase in students enrolling in Asian language courses since 2002, while French has dropped by 5 percent.

Of course, universities have always adjusted curriculum to reflect the changing world; Kim Wilcox, the provost and vice president for academic affairs at Michigan State, notes that universities, his included, used to offer majors in elocution and animal husbandry. In a major re-examination of its curriculum, Michigan State has added a dozen or so new programs, including degrees in global studies and, in response to a growing industry in the state, film studies. At the same time, it is abandoning underperformers like classical studies: in the last four years, only 13 students have declared it their major.


In Michigan, where the recession hit early and hard, universities are particularly focused on being relevant to the job market. “There’s been this drumbeat that Michigan has got to diversify its economy,” says Mary Sue Coleman, the president of the University of Michigan.

Dr. Coleman says she had an “aha” moment five years ago, when the director of admissions was describing the incoming class and noted that 10 percent — some 600 students — had started a business in high school. The university has responded with about 100 entrepreneurship courses across the curriculum, including “Financing Research Commercialization” and “Engineering Social Venture Creation,” for students interested in creating businesses that not only do well financially but also do society good. Next year, the university will begin offering a master’s to students who commit to starting a high-tech company.

At the same time, Dr. Coleman is wary of training students for just one thing — “creating them to do some little widget,” as she says. Michigan has begun a speaker series featuring alumni or other successful entrepreneurs who come in to talk about how their careers benefited from what Dr. Coleman calls “core knowledge.”

“We believe that we do our best for students when we give them tools to be analytical, to be able to gather information and to determine the validity of that information themselves, particularly in this world where people don’t filter for you anymore,” Dr. Coleman says. “We want to teach them how to make an argument, how to defend an argument, to make a choice.” These are the skills that liberal arts colleges in particular have prided themselves on teaching. But these colleges also say they have the hardest time explaining the link between what they teach and the kind of job and salary a student can expect on the other end.

“There’s no immediate impact, that’s the problem,” says John J. Neuhauser, the president of St. Michael’s College, a liberal arts school in Vermont. “The humanities tend to educate people much farther out. They’re looking for an impact that lasts over decades, not just when you’re 22.”

When prospective students and their parents visit, he says, they ask about placement rates, internships and alumni involvement in job placement. These are questions, he says, that he never heard 10 years ago.

St. Michael’s, like other colleges, has adapted its curriculum to reflect demand. The college had to create new sections of chemistry labs and calculus on the spot during summer registration, and it raised the cap on the number of students in a biology lab. “I’d say, given the vagaries of the business cycle, people are looking for things that they know will always be needed — accountants, scientists, mathematicians,” says Jeffrey A. Trumbower, dean of the college. “Those also happen to be some of the most challenging majors academically, so we’ll see how these trends hold up.”

Still, Dr. Neuhauser finds the careerism troubling. “I think people change a great deal between 18 and 22,” he says. “The intimate environment small liberal arts colleges provide is a great place to grow up. But there’s no question that smacks of some measure of elitism now.”

There’s evidence, though, that employers also don’t want students specializing too soon. The Association of American Colleges and Universities recently asked employers who hire at least 25 percent of their workforce from two- or four-year colleges what they want institutions to teach. The answers did not suggest a narrow focus. Instead, 89 percent said they wanted more emphasis on “the ability to effectively communicate orally and in writing,” 81 percent asked for better “critical thinking and analytical reasoning skills” and 70 percent were looking for “the ability to innovate and be creative.”

“It’s not about what you should major in, but that no matter what you major in, you need good writing skills and good speaking skills,” says Debra Humphreys, a vice president at the association.

The organization has conducted focus groups with employers before and heard the same thing. With the recession, she says, they weren’t sure the findings would hold. “But it’s even more intense. Companies are demanding more of employees. They really want them to have a broad set of skills.” She adds that getting employer feedback is the association service that “college leaders find the most valuable, because they can answer the question when parents ask, ‘Is this going to help in getting a job?’ ”


Read the full post HERE.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Mastering with Bob Macc

A great interview via Hyperblazing (UK)

Some questions:

What do you do? What on earth is a Mastering Engineer?

I take the audio cakes that people bake, and put the sonic icing on them.
My job is to ensure that the final sound is balanced, in every possible sense. It should be appropriate for the genre while still sonically balanced within itself, and in line with the artist’s intentions while still satisfying my quality standards. The song presents the idea, the mix presents the song, and the mastering presents the mix – each stage should do its thing to the best possible degree. Then you’re onto a winner.


How do you feel about sub-standard mastering? Does it make you cringe, or must there be bad mastering for people to appreciate the good mastering?

I dunno man, you have to be fair. Everyone wants their music out there. I mean, gawd knows I was keen enough to get stuff out when I was starting out. Thinking about giving out tapes where I’d overdubbed things by recording drums into a condensor mic, then putting one tape player next to the tape player’s condensor mic and the amp, same again for bass, more guitars etc… Then making ten copies of that and giving it to my mates at school. Haha, I mean, can you imagine how bad that sounded? I’m glad I cant remember! Point is, people always want to get their music out there, and now they can. That’s more important than mastering, just having it out there. I certainly wouldn’t say ‘you’re crazy to put out music without it being mastered’. Plus, the sound quality people are capable of compared to what I started with is ridiculous.

However, the easy availability of software does mean that there’s a huge amount of music being put out by people with very little experience. That – if someone is serious about their stuff – is where people can benefit from having more experienced, objective ears cast over it. Those are the key words – experience and objectivity. Anyone can ‘master’ a tune by adding bass and treble, compressing, limiting. Instantly it sounds ‘better’, it’s a glamour job, like a woman with too much makeup and fake boobs. You don’t need experience to do that.

So long as people are happy. That’s the most important thing. As their ears develop and they hear these masters out and about, they often start to be less happy. Then they start to look for more as they develop their listening skills. So (to answer the bloody question!) shoddy mastering is on the one hand a shame as some pefectly good tracks get spoiled; and a good thing on the other as the serious but inexperienced artist knows that there must be better out there and sets out to find it.

Read the full interview HERE

Muslim-Hindu punk rock bands in America


Muslim-Hindu punk rock bands part of new movement
By RUSSELL CONTRERAS, Associated Press Writer Russell Contreras, Associated Press Writer 1 min ago

WAYLAND, Mass. – Artwork from the Punjab state of India decorates the Ray family home. A Johann Sebastian Bach statue sits on a piano. But in the basement — cluttered with wires, old concert fliers and drawings — 25-year-old Arjun Ray is fighting distortion from his electric guitar.

For this son of Indian immigrants, trained in classical violin and raised on traditional Punjab music, getting his three Pakistani-American bandmates in sync is the goal on this cold New England evening. Their band, The Kominas, is trying to record a punk rock version of the classic Bollywood song, "Choli Ke Peeche" (Behind the Blouse).

"Yeah," said Shahjehan Khan, 26, one of the band's guitarists, "there are a lot of contradictions going on here."

Deep in the woods of this colonial town boils a kind of revolutionary movement. From the basement of this middle-class home tucked in the woods west of Boston, The Kominas have helped launched a small, but growing, South Asian and Middle Eastern punk rock movement that is attracting children of Muslim and Hindu immigrants and drawing scorn from some traditional Muslims who say their political, hard-edged music is "haraam," or forbidden.

The movement, an anti-establishment subculture borne of religiously conservative communities, is the subject of two new films and a hot topic on social-networking sites.

The artists say they are just trying to reconcile issues such as life in America, women's rights and homosexuality with Islam and old East vs. West cultural clashes.

"This is one way to deal with my identity as an Arab-American," said Marwan Kamel, the 24-year-old lead guitarist in Chicago-based Al-Thawra. "With this music, I can express this confusion."

The movement's birth is often credited to the novel "The Taqwacore," by Michael Muhammad Knight, a Rochester, N.Y.-raised writer who converted to Islam.

Knight coined the book's title from the Arabic word "Taqwa," which means piety or God-fearing, and the word hardcore. The 2003 book portrayed an imagined world of living-on-the-edge Muslim punk rockers and influenced real-life South Asians to form their own bands.

South Asian and Middle Eastern punk bands soon were popping up across America and communicating with each other via MySpace.

At the time of book's release, Basim Usmani and Khan already were experimenting with punk and building the foundation for The Kominas, which loosely means "scoundrels" in various South Asian languages. When Usmani, now 26, came across the book, he was writing songs and sporting a mohawk — just like the punk rocker on the novel's cover.

Usmani contacted Knight, who agreed to buy a bus on eBay for $2,000 to help launch the nation's first "Muslim punk rock tour" in 2007. Kamel, the son of a Syrian father and Polish mother, bought a one-way ticket to Boston to join the tour, and Canadian drag-queen singer Sena Hussain met up with them along the way.

The musicians performed at various venues but were notably kicked off stage during an open mic performance at the Islamic Society of North America convention in Chicago. Traditional Muslims at the convention decried the electric guitar-based music as un-Islamic while others were upset a woman dared sing on stage. The episode was documented by Pakistani-Canadian filmmaker Omar Majeed in his new documentary "Taqwacore: The Birth of Punk Islam."

"These guys are not prophetizing or preaching anything specific about Islam," said Majeed, whose film is set for release in the United States in 2010. "They just happen to be young and Muslim, and they write songs and do art that expresses that idea."

Imam Talal Eid, executive director of the Islamic Institute of Boston, said some traditional Muslims may object to such music because they focus on its sexual attraction rather than its use for spiritual enjoyment. "But I think we can come up with a moderate opinion that distinguished what is forbidden from what is not," said Eid. "It's a new issue among Muslims."

The musical style of each group varies. Some songs on The Kominas' album "Wild Nights in Guantanamo Bay" lean toward the humorous and ironic, including "Suicide Bomb the Gap." In their song "Sharia Law in the USA," the lyrics mock the portrayal of Islamists: "I am an Islamist/I am the anti-Christ/most squares can't make a most-wanted list/but my-my how I stay in style." Their sound mixes hard-edged punk, ska and funk.

Meanwhile, Al-Thawra sings about political events in the Middle East with songs like "Gaza: Choking on the Smoke of Dreams." Their music is closer to heavy metal.

Other bands include the Washington, D.C.-based Sarmust and the Texas group Vote Hezbollah.

Like most punk groups, bands produce their own albums and sell them at shows and online.


The groups have toured since that first Taqwacore trip, playing in small clubs, in basements at parties and in Hispanic cultural centers. Typically, The Kominas and Al-Thawra say they play in front of 50 to 80 people.

The bands have noticed Latino punks getting into their music. Al-Thawra recently picked up a guitarist from Mexico City named Mario Salazar. The cover of Al-Thawra's next album will feature the image of the U.S.-Mexico border fused with the Palestinian-Israeli wall.

Alan Waters, an anthropology professor at University of Massachusetts-Boston, said it should come as no surprise that young Muslim and Hindu immigrants are expressing themselves through rock or that their music would strike a chord with other "disenfranchised" populations in the U.S., such as Latinos and other children of recent immigrants.

"If they're touching or singing about identity, it's going to make a connection," said Waters. "Punk rock is very American, and this is assimilation through a back door."

He called the bands "a good opportunity for stereotype-smashing."

The Kominas, who sing mostly in English, now are trying to break the image they are just a "Muslim punk band," especially since one of their founders, Ray, is Hindu. On their next album, Ray said the band will have songs in Hindi.


Usmani said he grew up as a "nonreligious" Muslim-American so his journey into punk caused few problems, although he admits his family doesn't like the drinking and smoking that pervade the music scene. Khan and Kominas drummer Imran Malik, 25, also said they aren't as observant as their families might like.

"I mean, if you put a sword to us," said Usmani, "one of us might pray."


Read the full story and related links HERE.

Friday, January 01, 2010

NYT: Japan's Capsule Hotels Become Homes in Recession

January 2, 2010
For Some in Japan, Home Is a Tiny Plastic Bunk

TOKYO — For Atsushi Nakanishi, jobless since Christmas, home is a cubicle barely bigger than a coffin — one of dozens of berths stacked two units high in one of central Tokyo’s decrepit “capsule” hotels.

“It’s just a place to crawl into and sleep,” he said, rolling his neck and stroking his black suit — one of just two he owns after discarding the rest of his wardrobe for lack of space. “You get used to it.”

When Capsule Hotel Shinjuku 510 opened nearly two decades ago, Japan was just beginning to pull back from its bubble economy, and the hotel’s tiny plastic cubicles offered a night’s refuge to salarymen who had missed the last train home.

Now, Hotel Shinjuku 510’s capsules, no larger than 6 1/2 feet long by 5 feet wide, and not tall enough to stand up in, have become an affordable option for some people with nowhere else to go as Japan endures its worst recession since World War II.

Once-booming exporters laid off workers en masse in 2009 as the global economic crisis pushed down demand. Many of the newly unemployed, forced from their company-sponsored housing or unable to make rent, have become homeless.

The country’s woes have led the government to open emergency shelters over the New Year holiday in a nationwide drive to help the homeless. The Democratic Party, which swept to power in September, wants to avoid the fate of the previous pro-business government, which was caught off-guard when unemployed workers pitched tents near public offices last year to call attention to their plight.


Mr. Nakanishi considers himself relatively lucky. After working odd jobs on an Isuzu assembly line, at pachinko parlors and as a security guard, Mr. Nakanishi, 40, moved into the capsule hotel in Tokyo’s Shinjuku district in April to save on rent while he worked night shifts at a delivery company.

Mr. Nakanishi, who studied economics at a regional university, dreams of becoming a lawyer and pores over legal manuals during the day. But with no job since Christmas, he does not know how much longer he can afford a capsule bed.

The rent is surprisingly high for such a small space: 59,000 yen a month, or about $640, for an upper bunk. But with no upfront deposit or extra utility charges, and basic amenities like fresh linens and free use of a communal bath and sauna, the cost is far less than renting an apartment in Tokyo, Mr. Nakanishi says.

Still, it is a bleak world where deep sleep is rare. The capsules do not have doors, only screens that pull down. Every bump of the shoulder on the plastic walls, every muffled cough, echoes loudly through the rows.

Each capsule is furnished only with a light, a small TV with earphones, coat hooks, a thin blanket and a hard pillow of rice husks.

Most possessions, from shirts to shaving cream, must be kept in lockers. There is a common room with old couches, a dining area and rows of sinks. Cigarette smoke is everywhere, as are security cameras. But the hotel staff does its best to put guests at ease: “Welcome home,” employees say at the entrance.

“Our main clients used to be salarymen who were out drinking and missed the last train,” said Tetsuya Akasako, head manager at the hotel.

But about two years ago, the hotel started to notice that guests were staying weeks, then months, he said. This year, it introduced a reduced rent for dwellers of a month or longer; now, about 100 of the hotel’s 300 capsules are rented out by the month.

After requests from its long-term dwellers, the hotel received special government permission to let them register their capsules as their official abode; that made it easier to land job interviews.

Read the full story and view accompanying photo essay HERE.

The film "Sugar" (2009)

Just saw the film sugar. If you love either the Caribbean or baseball, this is a film for you; if you love both, it's definitely for you. The film begins in the Dominican Republic in a Major League Baseball farm league development camp and follows the exploits of a pitcher nicknamed "Sugar." Seeing the minor leagues through Caribbean eyes is a nice change from standard baseball movies. The novel setting aside, though the film's trajectory starts out ordinarily, following Sugar as he finally gets a call to go to a pro camp and try out for Kansas City Single-A minor league affiliate, it does not end as expected, and though some of my viewer expectations are frustrated, I actually really appreciate the film for what it does. It's an original, understated, brave little film, and it's good. I won't throw out spoilers, but wanted to give this movie a plug. If forced to rate it, I'd give it three out of four stars, or a strong B+.