Wednesday, March 31, 2010

New Gil Scott Heron

He dropped a new album two months ago and it's good, parts of it are really good. The trip-hoppy production provides a nice update to his sound.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

"Hatriot" defined

"When love of country is mixed with fear of the government and hate for the president, that's when you become a Hatriot."

From a CNN story by John Avlon.

Monday, March 29, 2010

BBC on Sudanese "Cuban-Jubans"

Can the 'Cuban-Jubans' rebuild South Sudan?

By Lucy Fleming
BBC News, Juba

With Cuban pork roast on the menu, Salsa classes on a Thursday and animated Spanish competing with the Latin beat, De Havana club in the South Sudanese capital Juba feels as though it is on the wrong continent.

“ I think Cuba is unique; they believe in what you are - not where you belong or which religion you practise or the colour of your skin ”
Dr Okony Simon Mori

It is here that a group of former Sudanese exiles, known as the "Cuban-Jubans", gather most nights to share a bottle of whisky and put the world to rights - in Spanish.

Among them are doctors, pharmacists, accountants, engineers and economists.

All were educated in Cuba during Sudan's 21-year civil war and are now regarded as the intellectual elite of the south - one of the world's poorest and least developed regions.

"In Juba we have more than 100 Cuban graduates from different fields, all part of the 600-plus students sent to Cuba for education," says 38-year-old Dr Okony Simon Mori.

He returned to work at Juba's Teaching Hospital in 2007, two years after a peace deal ended the conflict in which some 1.5 million people died.

'Pencils for Kalashnikovs'

He was just 13 when chosen by the newly launched southern rebel group, the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), to go to Cuba.

"Our late hero [SPLM leader] Dr John Garang told us: 'Now the elder people will take the AK-47 and you guys will take the pencil and the pencil will be your Kalashnikov,'" he recalls.

Dr Okony left his family in 1985 at one of the refugee camps in Ethiopia where thousands of Sudanese had fled the fighting between the army of the Muslim-dominated north and Arab militia on the one side and the SPLM on the other.

He travelled to Cuba aboard a Russian ship and did not see his mother and father again for 18 years - and it was not until he graduated and moved to Canada a decade later that he had any direct contact with them.

"We stayed in a boarding school in a small island called Isla de la Juventud [Island of Youth]. There were 25,000 students from different countries - most of them from Africa and Latin America," Dr Okony says.

"I think Cuba is unique and is a very special place; they believe in what you are - not where you belong or which religion you practise or the colour of your skin.

"The only thing they care about is your well-being and your aptitude. Really, they treated us as their own children."


Read the entire story HERE.

Kazookeylele: Ukele+Toy Piano+Kazoo+80s hair rock=

I have to tip my hat as 1) I couldn't even imagine an instrument like this and 2) I would never have the courage to make a video like this.

Interview with author of important new biography on Thelonius Monk

The Atlantic

The Secret Life of Thelonious Monk
By Douglas Gorney

Free Press
Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of An American Original by Robin D. G. Kelley is the first biography to put the idiosyncratic music and eccentric behavior of this jazz legend into factual context. With unprecedented access to Monk's family and records, Kelley dispels many of the myths around the eccentric pianist and the psychiatric, legal, and professional challenges he faced before he died in 1982. Through it all, he renders Monk's world in rich detail, from hardscrabble North Carolina roots to the demanding and uncertain life of the working jazz musician. Kelley, on sabbatical from the University of Southern California, spoke to me from Oxford University, where he is the Harmsworth Professor of American History. You write about Thelonious Monk getting up from the piano and dancing around in circles on stage, falling asleep at the keyboard, sporting strange hats, staring off into space and wandering out of nightclubs during gigs. On eccentricity alone, I can see why he'd be a good subject for a book. But what were you really after?

For me, Monk had been an obsession—aesthetically and culturally—pretty much from the moment I was introduced to his music as a teenage wannabe jazz piano player. But when the subject of Thelonious Monk comes up, the eccentricities are what people talk about first, as you just did. Descriptions of his music become conflated with descriptions of his behavior, onstage and off. I wanted to disentangle those things, understand who Thelonious Monk was as a human being, and who he was as an artist.

What did you find when you teased them apart?

I won't lie to you—when I went into this project, I didn't know I would find what I ended up finding. I was surprised by the depth of Monk's musical education. I was surprised by the way he suffered, financially, as an artist—even after he became the one of the most recognizable faces in jazz and was on the cover of national magazines, he just wasn't making much money. I was surprised by his deep commitment to his family and his community. It was the mundane things that I found most fascinating, not the outlandish, eccentric character we usually associate with Monk. As a consequence, I ended up writing a very different book than what I thought I would write.

See web-only content:
This was one of the most assiduously researched biographies I have ever read. I have a feeling that if I asked you, "What did Monk have for lunch on August 12, 1958," you could have told me—

[laughs] Almost...

Did you think that you'd get as deeply immersed in Monk's world as you did? It took you 14 years to write this book.

Well, of those 14 years, a good six was spent trying to convince the Monk family to give me access to them. Once Thelonious Monk, Jr. let me in, though, I suddenly had unprecedented access—not just papers, but family members who had never talked to anyone before. Nellie, Monk's wife, had never granted interviews until I came along.

Once that happened, I wanted to approach this project as a historian—meaning the more you find out, the more you have to look up. Too many biographies of jazz musicians are written by critics using liner notes from albums and articles and interviews in the jazz press, and then filling in the rest with their own commentary.

To tell Monk's story and the story of the people who shaped his world, I was uncovering some of the most obscure individuals, people in the jazz world we know nothing about now. And what I found was that so much of what we think we know about Monk's life is just wrong. It was so hard to figure out the most basic things—in fact, I'm still finding mistakes in the book that I'm correcting for the paperback.

So what else has jazz history had wrong? In what other ways did you find the real Monk different from the image we have of him?

With jazz musicians, issues and assumptions about of drug use always come up—particularly in Monk's case because he was...odd. So odd, in fact, that the question of mental illness always looms large when we think of him. But with access to medical records and to his family, I got a sense of a man who suffered more from prescription drugs and bad diagnosis than he did from illicit drugs and bipolar disorder. He received very bad medical treatment, bad advice and bad prescriptions for a very long time. The impact that had on his ability to function shocked me.

I was also struck by the role of his wife, Nellie. In films of Monk, we get an image of Nellie as the loyal helpmate—there's some truth to that, she was the person most responsible for keeping him together. But I really came to see her as a fully realized human being with her own goals and dreams, desires and frustrations, as someone who suffered quite a bit. One of the things my book tries to do is look at the so-called male genius in the context of his understand how important his spouse was, his partner, in the realization of that genius.


Read the entire post HERE.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Universty Courses on "The Wire"

This Will Be on the Midterm. You Feel Me?
Why so many colleges are teaching The Wire.
By Drake Bennett
Posted Wednesday, March 24, 2010, at 7:08 AM ET

Among the police officers and drug dealers and stickup men and politicians and dockworkers and human smugglers and teachers and students and junkies and lawyers and journalists who populate the late, great HBO series The Wire, there is one academic. His name is David Parenti and he teaches social work at the University of Maryland, Baltimore. He is not a major character, but he appears throughout the show's fourth season—an earnest, well-meaning man defined in part by his naïveté about the inner-city kids whose lives he wants to improve. As for Johns Hopkins, Baltimore's best-known university, it only comes up as a place where the show's police officers can get cushy campus security jobs after they retire. Academia, in other words, is not a culture that the show's creators, David Simon and Ed Burns, betray much interest in exploring.

Academics, on the other hand, can't seem to get enough of The Wire. Barely two years after the show's final episode aired—and with Simon's new show, Treme, premiering next month on HBO—there have already been academic conferences, essay anthologies, and special issues of journals dedicated to the series. Not content to write about it and discuss it among themselves, academics are starting to teach it, as well. Professors at Harvard, U.C.—Berkeley, Duke, and Middlebury are now offering courses on the show.

Interestingly, the classes aren't just in film studies or media studies departments; they're turning up in social science disciplines as well, places where the preferred method of inquiry is the field study or the survey, not the HBO series, even one that is routinely called the best television show ever. Some sociologists and social anthropologists, it turns out, believe The Wire has something to teach their students about poverty, class, bureaucracy, and the social ramifications of economic change.

The academic love affair with The Wire is not, as it turns out, a totally unrequited one. One of the professors teaching a course on the show is the sociologist William Julius Wilson—his class, at Harvard, will be offered this fall. Simon has said that Wilson's book When Work Disappears, an exploration of the crippling effects of the loss of blue-collar jobs in American cities, was the inspiration for the show's second season, which focused on Baltimore's struggling dockworkers.

Wilson's class, a seminar, will require students to watch selected episodes of the show, three or more a week, he says. Some seasons, like the fourth, with its portrayal of the way the public school system fails poor children, will get more time than others. Students will also read works of sociology: two books by Wilson, as well as Elijah Anderson's Code of the Street, Sandra Susan Smith's Lone Pursuit, Bruce Western's Punishment and Inequality in America, and Sudhir Alladi Venkatesh's Off the Books, works that explore poverty, incarceration, unemployment, and the underground economy.

Asked why he was teaching a class around a TV drama, Wilson said the show makes the concerns of sociologists immediate in a way no work of sociology he knows of ever has. "Although The Wire is fiction, not a documentary, its depiction of [the] systemic urban inequality that constrains the lives of the urban poor is more poignant and compelling [than] that of any published study, including my own," he wrote in an e-mail.

For Wilson, the unique power of the show comes from the way it takes fiction's ability to create fully realized inner lives for its characters and combines that with qualities rare in a piece of entertainment: an acuity about the structural conditions that constrain human choices (whether it's bureaucratic inertia, institutional racism, or economic decay) and an unparalleled scrupulousness about accurately portraying them. Wilson describes the show's characters almost as a set of case studies, remarkable for the vividness with which they embody a set of arguments about the American inner city. "What I'm concentrating on is how this series so brilliantly illustrates theories and processes that social scientists have been writing about for years," he said in an interview.

Anne-Maria Makhulu, a social anthropologist at Duke teaching a course there on The Wire this spring, makes a similar point about the show's power as a social document. She finds that, for many of her largely upper-middle-class students, issues like poverty and urban deindustrialization are remote from their daily lives, and simply reading about them does little to bridge that gap. The Wire puts faces and stories to those forces—Stringer Bell, the gang leader with the heart of a CFO; Bubbles, the wry, entrepreneurial junkie; "Bunny" Colvin, the police major who grows so disenchanted by the war on drugs that he tries legalizing them in his district.

"There's this question of how you appeal to young people who feel—not all of them but many of them—far removed from the type of people who are the major characters in The Wire," Makhulu says.

The media scholars offering courses on The Wire treat the show differently. They're quick to point out the show's impressive verisimilitude, and they're happy, they say, to see the show being studied across academic disciplines. But to these thinkers, treating the show simply as a look into the intricacies of the American inner city is incomplete.


Asked about the academic uses of the show, Simon himself declined to weigh in, writing in an e-mail, "It's gratifying to have the ideas and arguments that we put forward seriously discussed in any forum, including academia." Wilson, for his part, sees questions like Mittell's as interesting but secondary. There are issues that arise from the ways that the show is fictionalized, he concedes; they're just not the ones that interest him. "You want to talk about it being fiction, call it fiction," he says, "but it shows incredible imagination and understanding about the way the world works, and for me that's enough."

Read the full post, including links to the course syllabi HERE.

UPDATE: SLATE has even more courses listed now, including syllabi HERE.

For fellow The Wire fans, here's an earlier post about The Wire's ghetto Goodnight Moon

Italian scam sought to link American authors with anti-Obama statements

New Yorker

Counterfeit Roth
by Judith Thurman April 5, 2010

Last month, Paola Zanuttini, a journalist from La Repubblica, the progressive Roman newspaper, interviewed Philip Roth about his latest novel, “The Humbling,” which has recently been published in Italian. “We had a lively and intelligent conversation about my fiction,” Roth said. The Q. & A. ran on February 26th, as the cover story of Il Venerdì—La Repubblica’s Friday magazine—with a fierce-looking closeup portrait of Roth, and the title “Sex and Me.” Zanuttini focussed on the relationships of Roth’s aging protagonists with their much younger inamoratas, the feminist response to them, and his own marriages and romances. “Your descriptions of sex are ruthless,” she asserted. “Ruthless?” he countered. She backed down a little: “They describe things as they are, raw and naked.” “I am pleased by the notion that I can still be scandalous,” he said. “I thought I had lost that magic.”

The real scandal revealed by the interview, however, came at the end, when Zanuttini asked Roth why he was so “disappointed” with Barack Obama. She translated, aloud, remarks attributed to him in an article by a freelance journalist, Tommaso Debenedetti, that was published last November in Libero, a tabloid notably sympathetic to Silvio Berlusconi, the Prime Minister of Italy (who is embroiled in his own sex scandals with much younger women). “It appears that you find him nasty, vacillating, and mired in the mechanics of power,” Zanuttini said. “But I have never said anything of the kind!” Roth objected. “It is completely contrary to what I think. Obama, in my opinion, is fantastic.” He had never heard of Debenedetti, or of Libero. The interview, with its bitter judgment of Obama’s banality, failure, and empty rhetoric about hope and change, was a complete fabrication.

The Italian blogosphere quickly and gleefully picked up the story. Libero’s editor grudgingly expressed embarrassment, and its Web site took down the interview. Debenedetti turned off his cell phone and dropped out of sight. (The only Facebook page bearing the writer’s name shows a bearded, curly-haired young hipster with a goofy expression.) Roth, however, was curious about him. “I went online to do some research,” he said. He discovered that Debenedetti had claimed to possess recordings of their “telephone conversation,” but, Roth said, “he couldn’t find the tapes.” An op-ed piece in Corriere della Sera, Italy’s newspaper of record, had praised the frankness of Roth’s critique of Obama, contrasting it to the pusillanimity of Italians in calling their own leader to account. “But what I was really looking for,” Roth continued, “were other interviews by Debenedetti, and I found one, with John Grisham, that was published in three newspapers”—Il Resto del Carlino and La Nazione, both conservative, and Il Giorno, which is centrist. “They contained the same sort of denunciations, which sounded implausible to me.” (“Last year’s enthusiasm is remote now,” Grisham allegedly told Debenedetti. “People are angry with Obama for having done little or nothing and having promised too much.”)

Roth asked his agent, Andrew Wylie, to contact Grisham’s agent, David Gernert, and, sure enough, the Grisham “interview” proved to be another hoax.


Read the full story HERE.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

NYT on the Obama White House Seder Tradition

March 26, 2010
Next Year in the White House: A Seder Tradition

WASHINGTON — One evening in April 2008, three low-level staff members from the Obama presidential campaign — a baggage handler, a videographer and an advance man — gathered in the windowless basement of a Pennsylvania hotel for an improvised Passover Seder.

The day had been long, the hour was late, and the young men had not been home in months. So they had cadged some matzo and Manischewitz wine, hoping to create some semblance of the holiday.

Suddenly they heard a familiar voice. “Hey, is this the Seder?” Barack Obama asked, entering the room.

So begins the story of the Obama Seder, now one of the newest, most intimate and least likely of White House traditions. When Passover begins at sunset on Monday evening, Mr. Obama and about 20 others will gather for a ritual that neither the rabbinic sages nor the founding fathers would recognize.

In the Old Family Dining Room, under sparkling chandeliers and portraits of former first ladies, the mostly Jewish and African-American guests will recite prayers and retell the biblical story of slavery and liberation, ending with the traditional declaration “Next year in Jerusalem.” (Never mind the current chill in the administration’s relationship with Israel.)

Top aides like David Axelrod and Valerie Jarrett will attend, but so will assistants like 24-year-old Herbie Ziskend. White House chefs will prepare Jewish participants’ family recipes, even rendering chicken fat — better known as schmaltz — for just the right matzo ball flavor.

If last year is any guide, Malia and Sasha Obama will take on the duties of Jewish children, asking four questions about the night’s purpose — along with a few of their own — and scrambling to find matzo hidden in the gleaming antique furniture.

That event was the first presidential Seder, and also probably “the first time in history that gefilte fish had been placed on White House dishware,” said Eric Lesser, the former baggage handler, who organizes each year’s ritual.

As in many Jewish households, the Obama Seder seems to take on new meaning each year, depending on what is happening in the world and in participants’ lives (for this group, the former is often the same as the latter).

The first one took place at the bleakest point of the campaign, the long prelude to the Pennsylvania primary, which was dominated by a furor over Mr. Obama’s former pastor. “We were in the desert, so to speak,” remembered Arun Chaudhary, then and now Mr. Obama’s videographer, who grew up attending Seders with his half-Jewish, half-Indian family.

No one led the proceedings; everyone took turns reading aloud. Mr. Obama had brought Reggie Love, his personal aide, Ms. Jarrett and Eric Whitaker, another close friend, all African-American. Jennifer Psaki, the traveling press secretary, and Samantha Tubman, a press assistant, filtered in. Neither had ever been to a Seder, but they knew the Exodus story, Ms. Psaki from Catholic school and Ms. Tubman from childhood Sundays at black churches.

They peppered the outnumbered Jews at the table with questions, which the young men sometimes struggled to answer. “We’re not exactly crack Hebrew scholars,” said Mr. Lesser, now an assistant to Mr. Axelrod.

Participants remember the evening as a rare moment of calm, an escape from the din of airplanes and rallies. As the tale of the Israelites unfolded, the campaign team half-jokingly identified with their plight — one day, they too would be free. At the close of the Seder, Mr. Obama added his own ending — “Next year in the White House!”

Indeed, the group, with a few additions, has now made the Seder an Executive Mansion tradition. (No one considered inviting prominent rabbis or other Jewish leaders; it is a private event.)

But maintaining the original humble feel has been easier said than done.


Read the entire story HERE.

Slate on how Avatar fans are learning how to speak Na'vi (It's the new Klingon!)

the good word
The New Klingon
Without so much as a dictionary, Avatar fans are learning how to speak Na'vi.
By Arika Okrent
Posted Wednesday, March 24, 2010, at 10:51 AM ET

Twenty-four hours after Avatar appeared in theaters, the Web site Language Log was teeming with comments about Na'vi, the alien tongue spoken in the film. The site is always lively, but it was especially so that day because Paul Frommer—who created the language—had shown up to discuss Na'vi syntax and phonetics. His fans were asking questions. How to say "I don't speak Na'vi" or "I love you," for example. An especially ambitious commenter named "Prrton" even posted a lengthy statement in the new language:

"Ngaru ätxäle … oel set futa Hal'liwutta tsayeyktanru ngal peng futa lì'fyati Na'viyä nume nereeiu a ngeyä wotxa lì'utìtäftxurenu sì aylì'uyä sänumeti perängey ayoel. Ayoel nereu a tsa'u ke tsayängun lu txo ayoel pänutìng futa rawketi sayi nìwotx ulte Eywafa ke txayey. Kawkrr!!;-) Eywa ngahu."

Or, in English:

"I now ask you to tell the Hollywood bosses [Hal'liwutta tsayeyktanru] that those of us who want to learn the Na'vi language are waiting (impatiently) for your full grammar and lexicon. We promise to raise a lotta hell if what we want is not forthcoming, and 'by Eywa' we wont stop. Ever!! ;-)"

Prrton—a California consultant who goes by Britton Watkins in the real world—is clearly a little unusual. But not because he's an Avatar obsessive (there are lots of those). He's unusual in that he formulated a paragraph in Na'vi without a complete grammar or dictionary. And he didn't just stick a few words from the movie into random order or repeat lines that had occurred in the film. He produced an original and grammatically correct statement.

At this point, you might be wondering how that's even possible. But it is, because Frommer developed a complex system of rules that determines the "correct" form for Na'vi sentences. And fans who pay close—very close—attention, can figure out those rules just by listening to the dialogue. They can take the information available and back-engineer the system, like anthropologists jotting down field notes in the jungle. Fans of The Princess and the Frog, which came out the same week as Avatar, could not do the same with the made-up language spoken by the frog-prince, who hails from the imaginary kingdom of Maldonia. He utters a few vaguely "European"-sounding phrases, but there is no system behind them. Aspiring Maldonian princesses can exclaim "Ashidanza!" when they think something is "cool," but they can't produce never-before-uttered Maldonian sentences.

Aspiring Pandorans, however, can introduce themselves, give opinions, make requests, and even write poems in Na'vi. This, in fact, is what they are doing at The forum there already has 153,000 posts by 4,300 people—aficionados who chat, translate, and encourage novices who have never even studied a foreign language. (Yes, there are people who didn't bother learning Spanish in high school but who are eager to learn the invented language spoken on a fictional alien planet.) Na'vi, it would seem, has been taken over by the Na'vi speakers. While waiting on Frommer's full lexicon and grammar, Na'vi enthusiasts have produced their own study guides, word lists, and audio samples. They have posted guidelines for picking a "correct" Na'vi name and compiled warnings about common beginners' errors.


Read the full story HERE.

2009 article on "Plus Size" Model in Glamour

I have to say that I'm glad they put quote marks around the word "plus"; if they didn't, I would have.

Posted Friday, August 21, 2009 7:29 AM

The Woman on Page 194: Why Everyone is Talking About Glamour's "Plus"-Sized Model

by Jessica Bennett

It’s a three-by-three inch image that shows an stunning model, blond and smiling, photographed for a story about feeling comfortable in your skin. The girl is naked save for a thong bikini, juxtaposed against tips like "focus on the parts you love" and "your body doesn't deserve to be bashed!" The spread is typical of the women's magazines I normally roll my eyes at: "self esteem" squeezed between pages of emaciated cheekbones, jutting shoulder blades and gangly arms.

Except that this time, I do a double-take. The girl on page 194 of the September issue of Glamour is Lizzi Miller, a 20-year-old model with—get ready—a roll in her stomach. Yes, I really wrote that: she has a roll of fat, as well as some faint stretch marks and sturdy looking thighs. And the moment her photo hit newsstands, Glamour readers noticed. "Finally! A picture of a REAL woman!" proclaimed one online commenter. "This photo made me want to shout from the rooftops," wrote another. "I really hope this starts a revolution," someone chimed in. As Glamour Editor Cindi Leive told NEWSWEEK, “I knew readers would like this, but I have to admit I was floored by the intensity of the reaction." (You can read more about what Leive had to say about “The Woman on P. 194” on her blog.)

Lizzi Miller is a pretty girl with a pretty ordinary body—the kind most of us see daily when we look in the mirror. At 5'11 and 180 pounds, she has a body mass index (a weight-for-height formula used to measure obesity) of 25.1, which is two-tenths of a point above what the National Institute of Health deems "normal." The average American female, meanwhile, has a BMI of 26.5, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Miller is more like most of us than the emaciated models we're used to seeing. So why has her image hit such a nerve?

Because, well, the fatter we get, the more obsessed we are with being thin. And as the bloggers over at Jezebel point out, seeing a regular-sized woman in a magazine like Glamour is, today, a radical departure from the norm. We are a culture where the Karl Lagerfelds of the world proclaim Kate Moss too fat; where the latest fashions and weight-loss products are circulated by the media with a speed and fury unique to this millennium. We are spoon-fed hundreds of advertisements each day—the majority of them nipped, tucked and airbrushed to perfection. And what we're left with is a culture of women who are socialized to unrealistic images—and "hungry," says Glamour's Leive, "for reality."


Read the full story HERE.

Friday, March 26, 2010

NYT: Despite Authoritarian Rule, Myanmar Art Grows

March 25, 2010
Despite Authoritarian Rule, Myanmar Art Grows

YANGON, Myanmar — The dance music thundered through a crowd of thousands of drunken fans, past the pavilions where skinny women in impossibly high heels gyrated around metal poles and into the streets filled with taxis that ferried partygoers to this free, whiskey-soaked concert in the park.

“Our parents don’t allow it, but we do it anyway,” said Zun Pwint Phyu, one of the dancers who endured hours of lascivious stares.

Myanmar is a country where owning a fax machine without a permit is illegal, where even spontaneous gatherings of more than five people are technically banned and where critics of the government are regularly locked away for decades in tiny prison cells.

Yet despite this repression, or perhaps partly because of it, young people here are pushing the limits of what the military government, let alone their parents, considers acceptable art and entertainment.

Art exhibitions, some featuring risky hidden political messages, open nearly every week in Yangon, Myanmar’s main city. Yangon has a festival of underground music, including punk bands, twice a year. Fans of the most popular musical genres, hip-hop and electronic dance music, wear low-slung baggy pants to regularly held concerts here.

U Thxa Soe, a popular artist who mixes traditional “spirit dances” with something resembling techno music, said he believed that the government tolerated wild concerts in recent years partly because it suited its strategy of control. “You need to squeeze and release, squeeze and release,” he said.

“We live in fear,” he said. “We live under a dictatorship. People need fresh air. They release their anger, their energy.”

The success of artists like Mr. Thxa Soe undermines Myanmar’s often monochromatic image as a place of zero freedoms. This country, formerly known as Burma, is by many measures a brutally authoritarian place — human rights groups count 2,100 political prisoners.

But even if the generals willed it, people here say, the government would probably not be able to pull off North Korean-style totalitarianism. Society here is too unruly, disorganized and corrupt; people are too creative, the climate too hot for 24-hour repression.

The police are famously brutal, but they, too, suffer from tropical torpor: a common scene is a group of police officers napping in the back of a truck.

Over the past two years, entertainment options have rapidly expanded for residents of the country’s largest cities.

The government has nurtured the creation of a soccer league after years without any organized matches. Soccer games are famously raucous, with fans spewing invective toward the opposing side, ignoring government exhortations to be “polite.”

The number of FM radio stations in Yangon, formerly Rangoon, has gone from just one a few years ago to a handful that play both Burmese and Western-style music. Last year, a private company started up the country’s first television channel dedicated to music videos.

“The government is trying to distract people from politics,” said a Western-educated Burmese businessman who declined to be identified because he thought it might jeopardize his business. “There’s not enough bread, but there’s a lot of circus.”

The contrast between the military government’s heavy-handed authoritarianism and the surprisingly uninhibited entertainment scene can be jarring.


Read the full story (with photos and video) HERE.

NPR on a New Kind of Christianity (book)


Jesus, Reconsidered: Book Sparks Evangelical Debate
by Barbara Bradley Hagerty
March 26, 2010

Rethinking Christianity

Who is Brian McLaren, and what has he done to make these people so angry?

It turns out that McLaren is considered one of the country's most influential evangelicals, and his new book, A New Kind of Christianity, takes aim at some core doctrinal beliefs. McLaren is rethinking Jesus' mission on Earth, and even the purpose of the crucifixion.

"The view of the cross that I was given growing up, in a sense, has a God who needs blood in order to be appeased," McLaren says. "If this God doesn't see blood, God can't forgive."

McLaren believes that version of God is a misreading of the Bible.

"God revealed in Christ crucified shows us a vision of God that identifies with the victim rather than the perpetrator, identifies with the one suffering rather than the one inflicting suffering," he says.

McLaren says modern evangelicalism underplays that Jesus — who spent most of his time with the poor, the sick and the sinners — saved his wrath primarily for hard-core religious leaders.

Others, such as Al Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, say McLaren's view of Jesus and the crucifixion is like a shot to the heart of Christian beliefs.

"Did Jesus go to the cross as a mere victim? If so, then we have no Gospel, we have no hope of everlasting life," Mohler says. "Did Jesus go merely as a political prisoner, executed because he had offended the regime? Well, if so, that's a very interesting chapter of human history, but I'm not going to stake my life on it, much less my hope for eternity."

Discrepancies Between Old And Young Believers

Mohler says McLaren and others like him are trying to rewrite the Christian story. And what alarms Mohler is that young believers are attracted to this message.

That's absolutely right, says McLaren. Consider the core evangelical belief that only Christians are going to heaven and everyone else is doomed. That may have rung true for his grandparents' generation, he says, but not now.

"A young evangelical, Roman Catholic [or] mainline Protestant growing up in America today, if he goes to college, his roommate might be Hindu," he says. "His roommate might be Muslim. His roommate might be Buddhist or atheist. So, suddenly the 'other' is sleeping across the room."

McLaren is onto something here, says David Campbell, a professor at Notre Dame and co-author of American Grace: How Religion Is Reshaping Our Civic and Political Lives. His surveys show that nearly two-thirds of evangelicals under age 35 believe non-Christians can go to heaven, but only 39 percent of those over age 65 believe that. That's because young evangelicals have grown up in a religiously plural society.

"And, it's really hard to condemn someone to eternal damnation on the basis of their religion when you know them well and have come to love them," he says.

Campbell adds that young believers are more flexible about Christian doctrine in general.

"We also know that — particularly within the evangelical community — the younger you are, the less likely you are to take the Bible literally, to believe that the Bible is the inerrant 'word of God,' as compared to a book of moral precepts," he says.

Surveys by Campbell and others show young evangelicals differ from their elders in a lot of ways. They pray less often, read the Bible and go to church less often. And they're more open to culture and social issues, such as evolution and gay rights.


Listen to or read the story or read an book excerpt HERE.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Virginia Postrel on Race and (In)Conspicuous Consumption

This story is a couple of years old but interesting. h/t to TN Coates at the Atlantic.

The Atlantic
July/August 2008
Inconspicuous Consumption

A new theory of the leisure class
By Virginia Postrel

About seven years ago, University of Chicago economists Kerwin Kofi Charles and Erik Hurst were researching the “wealth gap” between black and white Americans when they noticed something striking. African Americans not only had less wealth than whites with similar incomes, they also had significantly more of their assets tied up in cars. The statistic fit a stereotype reinforced by countless bling-filled hip-hop videos: that African Americans spend a lot on cars, clothes, and jewelry—highly visible goods that tell the world the owner has money.

But do they really? And, if so, why?

The two economists, along with Nikolai Roussanov of the University of Pennsylvania, have now attacked those questions. What they found not only provides insight into the economic differences between racial groups, it challenges common assumptions about luxury. Conspicuous consumption, this research suggests, is not an unambiguous signal of personal affluence. It’s a sign of belonging to a relatively poor group. Visible luxury thus serves less to establish the owner’s positive status as affluent than to fend off the negative perception that the owner is poor. The richer a society or peer group, the less important visible spending becomes.

On race, the folk wisdom turns out to be true. An African American family with the same income, family size, and other demographics as a white family will spend about 25 percent more of its income on jewelry, cars, personal care, and apparel. For the average black family, making about $40,000 a year, that amounts to $1,900 more a year than for a comparable white family. To make up the difference, African Americans spend much less on education, health care, entertainment, and home furnishings. (The same is true of Latinos.)

Of course, different ethnic groups could simply have different tastes. Maybe blacks just enjoy jewelry more than whites do. Maybe they buy costlier clothes to deter slights from racist salesclerks. Maybe they spend more on cars for historical reasons, because of the freedom auto travel gave African Americans during the days of segregated trains and buses. Maybe they just aren’t that interested in private colleges or big-screen TVs. Or maybe not. Economists hate unfalsifiable tautologies about differing tastes. They want stories that could apply to anyone.

So the researchers went back to Thorstein Veblen, who coined the term conspicuous consumption. Writing in the much poorer world of 1899, Veblen argued that people spent lavishly on visible goods to prove that they were prosperous. “The motive is emulation—the stimulus of an invidious comparison which prompts us to outdo those with whom we are in the habit of classing ourselves,” he wrote. Along these lines, the economists hypothesized that visible consumption lets individuals show strangers they aren’t poor. Since strangers tend to lump people together by race, the lower your racial group’s income, the more valuable it is to demonstrate your personal buying power.

To test this idea, the economists compared the spending patterns of people of the same race in different states—say, blacks in Alabama versus blacks in Massachusetts, or whites in South Carolina versus whites in California. Sure enough, all else being equal (including one’s own income), an individual spent more of his income on visible goods as his racial group’s income went down. African Americans don’t necessarily have different tastes from whites. They’re just poorer, on average. In places where blacks in general have more money, individual black people feel less pressure to prove their wealth.

The same is true for whites. Controlling for differences in housing costs, an increase of $10,000 in the mean income for white households—about like going from South Carolina to California—leads to a 13 percent decrease in spending on visible goods. “Take a $100,000-a-year person in Alabama and a $100,000 person in Boston,” says Hurst. “The $100,000 person in Alabama does more visible consumption than the $100,000 person in Massachusetts.” That’s why a diamond-crusted Rolex screams “nouveau riche.” It signals that the owner came from a poor group and has something to prove.

So this research has implications beyond race. It ought to apply to any peer group perceived by strangers. It suggests why emerging economies like Russia and China, despite their low average incomes, are such hot luxury markets today—and why 20th-century Texas, a relatively poor state, provided so many eager customers for Neiman Marcus. Rich people in poor places want to show off their wealth. And their less affluent counterparts feel pressure to fake it, at least in public. Nobody wants the stigma of being thought poor. Veblen was right.

But he was also wrong. Or at least his theory is out of date. Given that the richer your group, the less flashy spending you’ll do, conspicuous consumption isn’t a universal phenomenon. It’s a development phase. It declines as countries, regions, or distinct groups get richer. “Bling rules in emerging economies still eager to travel the status-through-product consumption road,” the market-research group Euromonitor recently noted, but luxury businesses “are becoming aware that bling isn’t enough for growing numbers of consumers in developed economies.” At some point, luxury becomes less a tool of public status competition and more a means to private pleasure.


Read the entire original post HERE.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Ganguro Girls: Japan's Teenage Brownface Valley Girl Wannabees

Think of Japanese teens trying to emulate stereotypical tanned American Valley Girls, and this is what you get. Check out the post at the very well named blog WTF Japan Seriously. And I'm sure this was a narrow little over-hyped trend (though not a single case for sure) but seriously, WTF?

Slate on the Baseball Card Bubble


sports nut
The Great Baseball Card Bubble
Before tech stocks and McMansions, there was cardboard.
By Dave Jamieson
Posted Wednesday, March 24, 2010, at 12:01 PM ET

How come that Frank Thomas rookie card you stowed away in 1990 is now worth less than a Happy Meal? Chalk it up to the baseball card bubble of the late 1980s and early 1990s. In a new book, Mint Condition: How Baseball Cards Became an American Obsession, Dave Jamieson tells the story of how baseball cards evolved from a tobacco marketing gimmick in the 19th century into a massive, big-money industry of their own by the late 20th century. In this excerpt, Jamieson explains how baseball cards first became seen as promising investments, setting the stage for a decade of speculation and overproduction.

Around the mid-1970s, a small cabal of serious baseball card collectors grew wise to the fact that their cards had become valuable. Cards had almost always had prices attached to them, even when prolific collector and cataloger Jefferson Burdick began sending out his Card Collectors Bulletin in the 1930s. But cards that had been worth a few cents were now worth a few bucks, and some of the rarer specimens, such as the T206 Honus Wagner, were commanding hundreds and occasionally thousands of dollars apiece. The number of trade shows sprouting up in the East and the Midwest testified to a growing market.

By this time, the most aggressive card collectors had started crisscrossing the country in search of private hoards of cardboard that could be snatched up at bargain prices. Unlike school kids, these men were well-aware of baseball cards' status as a commodity—albeit an undervalued one—and many of these enthusiasts could credit their early transactions with turning them into wealthy men later in life.

"We'd pick an area of the country—say, Ohio—and take about a 10- or 15-day road trip," recalls Kit Young, who today owns a massive mail-order business in San Diego. "You'd take eight or 10 grand for a four-city hit. We'd rent a car, go around the towns, and we'd have ads in the local papers saying, 'Old Baseball Cards Wanted. … We'll be at the Holiday Inn.' You'd get one crack at them, and you paid by cash."

One of Young's old colleagues, dealer Gar Miller of Wenonah, N.J., says the excitement was in wondering what would walk through the door: "You might find some beautiful collection that had unopened packs of cards. It was just thrilling." For the itinerant and well-informed hobbyist, it wasn't difficult to get a good deal from the noncollectors who showed up at the Holiday Inn, considering there were no price guides to govern transactions in those days. "You didn't know what anything was worth," explains Miller.

This loophole in the hobby would soon be closed by a statistics professor from Bowling Green University named James Beckett III. Beckett had grown up on Topps cards in the 1950s, and after lapsing in high school and college, he got back into collecting while pursuing a Ph.D. in statistics. Like Young and Miller, Beckett started checking into motels around the country during the '70s. The more dealings he had, the more he could see that no one had any firm notion of the market value of baseball cards.

In 1976, he launched a poll in the hobby newspapers, asking dealers and collectors how much particular cards had been selling for in recent months. Because collectors were inclined to juice the value of cards they had in hand, Beckett sought several hundred respondents so that egregiously high or low numbers would cancel one another out. The following year, he published a rudimentary price list whose valuations seem positively rock-bottom compared with today's: The 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle, now fetching hundreds of thousands of dollars in fine condition, was listed at $50. In 1979, Beckett and a partner, Dennis Eckes, released the Sport Americana Baseball Card Price Guide, which they started updating annually.
Dave Jamieson is the author of Mint Condition: How Baseball Cards Became an American Obsession.

Read the full story HERE.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

NYT: Mardi Gras Indians Seek Copyright Protection for their Suits


March 23, 2010
Want to Use My Suit? Then Throw Me Something

NEW ORLEANS — Just after dusk on Friday night, Tyrone Yancy was strutting through one of the more uncertain parts of town in a $6,000 custom-made suit.

He was concerned about being robbed, but not by the neighborhood teenagers who trotted out in the street to join him. The real potential for theft, as Mr. Yancy sees it, came from the strangers darting around him and his well-appointed colleagues in a hectic orbit: photographers.

Mr. Yancy, 44, is a nursing assistant by profession. His calling, however, is as one of the Mardi Gras Indians — a member of the Yellow Pocahontas tribe, to be exact — the largely working-class black New Orleanians who create and wear ornate, enormous feathered costumes and come out three times a year to show them off.

He is also one of a number of Indians who have become fed up with seeing their photographs on calendars, posters and expensive prints, without getting anything in return.

Knowing that there are few legal protections for a person who is photographed in public — particularly one who stops and poses every few feet — some Mardi Gras Indians have begun filing for copyright protection for their suits, which account for thousands of dollars in glass beads, rhinestones, feathers and velvet, and hundreds of hours of late-night sewing.

Anyone could still take their pictures, but the Indians, many of whom live at the economic margins, would have some recourse if they saw the pictures being sold, or used in advertising. (News photographs, like the ones illustrating this article, are not at issue.)

[NOTE: The story did not have images; the above images are from other sources.]

“It’s not the old way of doing things, but the old way of doing things was conducive to exploitation,” said Ashlye M. Keaton, a lawyer who represents Indians in her private practice and also works with them through two pro bono legal programs, Sweet Home New Orleans legal services, and the Entertainment Law Legal Assistance Project.

The legal grounding of the strategy is debatable, the ability to enforce it even more so. But what may be most tricky of all is pushing the Indians themselves to start thinking about the legal and financial dimensions of something they have always done out of tradition.

Mardi Gras Indians have been around for more than a century — more than two, some say — and are generally thought to have originated as a way to pay homage to the American Indians who harbored runaway slaves and started families with them.

The Indians come out and parade in full dress on Mardi Gras; on St. Joseph’s Night, March 19; and on a Sunday close to St. Joseph’s — a tradition that arose out of the affinity between blacks and Sicilians in the city’s working-class precincts.

The 30 or so Indian tribes are representatives of their neighborhoods, and starting from home turf they venture out in their shimmering suits to meet other tribes on procession in the streets. Time was, these run-ins would often end with somebody in the hospital, or worse.

But over the past few decades, encouraged by the legendary Chief of Chiefs, Tootie Montana, the showdowns became primarily about the suits, and whose suit could out-prettify all the others.

Indian suits, which in the old days were occasionally burned at the end of a season, have become stunningly elaborate and stunningly expensive, costing upwards of $10,000. For many Indians, it is a matter of principle that they make a new suit from scratch each year.

The copyright idea has been floating around for a while — several of Mr. Montana’s suits were registered years ago — but Ms. Keaton began pursuing it more vigorously in 2006, when she was approached by John Ellison, a 52-year-old detailer in an auto body shop and a member of the Wild Tchoupitoulas.

Any photograph that focused on a suit protected by a copyright could arguably be considered a derivative work. The sale of such a picture (or its use in tourism ads, for example) would be on the merits of the suit rather than the photograph itself, and if the person selling it did not have permission, he could be sued.

But the idea is not so easy to put into practice.

Read the full story HERE.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Marcus Miller throwing down funky bass on French TV

A great example of:
A) How funky Marcus Miller is.
B) How it is easier for someone like Miller to get on TV in France than the USA.
C) How bad camera work in the form of too much editing can detract from great performance.

Découvrez Marcus Miller en live avec "Blast" sur Culturebox !

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Al Qaeda exporting jihad with a hip-hop vibe

This is a 2009 story i forgot to post; events since this was published in May 2009 seem to bear out some of the predictions in the full story.


Al Qaeda exporting jihad with a hip-hop vibe
updated 6:12 p.m. EDT, Mon May 4, 2009
By Paula Newton

LONDON (CNN) -- The latest video from Somalia's al Qaeda-backed Al-Shabaab wing is as slickly produced as a reality TV show but with a startling message -- complete with a hip-hop jihad vibe.

"Mortar by mortar, shell by shell, only going to stop when I send them to hell," the unidentified voice raps on the video, which runs at least 18 minutes.

The video also shows a man reported to be Abu Mansoor al-Amriki, dubbed "The American" by al Qaeda. He apparently is now in Somalia training and counseling Somalis from North America and Europe. He speaks in American English.

"Away from your family, away from our friends, away from ice, candy bars, all those things is because we're waiting to meet the enemy," says the man believed to be al-Amriki.

Intelligence experts say the video was probably made in recent weeks and comes on the heels of an audio message in March purportedly from Osama bin Laden. In that recording, the al Qaeda leader calls on his "Muslim brothers in Mujahid Somalia" to overthrow President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed for cooperating with the West.

Al-Shabaab is the militant Islamic wing in Somalia. It means "Youth" in Arabic.

"We're seeing perhaps their most sophisticated attempt so far to really reach an audience of potential recruits in America, and that's one of the things that made that video very significant," said Ben Venzke of the IntelCenter, a Washington-based research group that tracks al Qaeda's development and messages.

"They're casting it in a way that's going to speak to the youth of today," Venzke said. "Most of the time, what we're seeing in their videos directly parallels what the groups are doing operationally, what they are targeting, where they're recruiting."


The the entire story, with video and photos, HERE.

Hitchens Brutal Take-Down of the Pope's Complicity in Covering Up Sexual Abuse

I typically do not post this kind of thing here, but this is an extraordinary subject. Hitchens often annoys me, but the snark is sprinkled lightly here. His take-down is devastating is devastating because of known facts. Reading his account of the factual trail of covering up child rape and abuse at the hands of priests in the Catholic Church it is clear that the Vatican has brought itself some serious and well deserved trouble.

Blind faith and unquestioned authority are a recipe for abuse. Next to murder, the crimes enabled by the Catholic Church's leadership are of the worst kind. That they were enabled by moral authority is doubly repugnant, and that the same men who have covered up things like child rape have the audacity to point fingers at the behavior of others is, well, I don't have the words at the moment.


fighting words
The Great Catholic Cover-Up
The pope's entire career has the stench of evil about it.
By Christopher Hitchens
Posted Monday, March 15, 2010, at 10:20 AM ET

On March 10, the chief exorcist of the Vatican, the Rev. Gabriele Amorth (who has held this demanding post for 25 years), was quoted as saying that "the Devil is at work inside the Vatican," and that "when one speaks of 'the smoke of Satan' in the holy rooms, it is all true—including these latest stories of violence and pedophilia." This can perhaps be taken as confirmation that something horrible has indeed been going on in the holy precincts, though most inquiries show it to have a perfectly good material explanation.

Concerning the most recent revelations about the steady complicity of the Vatican in the ongoing—indeed endless—scandal of child rape, a few days later a spokesman for the Holy See made a concession in the guise of a denial. It was clear, said the Rev. Federico Lombardi, that an attempt was being made "to find elements to involve the Holy Father personally in issues of abuse." He stupidly went on to say that "those efforts have failed."

He was wrong twice. ......

...Very much more serious is the role of Joseph Ratzinger, before the church decided to make him supreme leader, in obstructing justice on a global scale. After his promotion to cardinal, he was put in charge of the so-called "Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith" (formerly known as the Inquisition). In 2001, Pope John Paul II placed this department in charge of the investigation of child rape and torture by Catholic priests. In May of that year, Ratzinger issued a confidential letter to every bishop. In it, he reminded them of the extreme gravity of a certain crime. But that crime was the reporting of the rape and torture. The accusations, intoned Ratzinger, were only treatable within the church's own exclusive jurisdiction. Any sharing of the evidence with legal authorities or the press was utterly forbidden. Charges were to be investigated "in the most secretive way ... restrained by a perpetual silence ... and everyone ... is to observe the strictest secret which is commonly regarded as a secret of the Holy Office … under the penalty of excommunication." (My italics). Nobody has yet been excommunicated for the rape and torture of children, but exposing the offense could get you into serious trouble. And this is the church that warns us against moral relativism! .....

[read the article for the list of accusations, cover-ups, etc., and the Pope's complicity. and here's the ending:

And now behold the harvest of this long campaign of obfuscation. The Roman Catholic Church is headed by a mediocre Bavarian bureaucrat once tasked with the concealment of the foulest iniquity, whose ineptitude in that job now shows him to us as a man personally and professionally responsible for enabling a filthy wave of crime. Ratzinger himself may be banal, but his whole career has the stench of evil—a clinging and systematic evil that is beyond the power of exorcism to dispel. What is needed is not medieval incantation but the application of justice—and speedily at that.

Read the whole post (with links) HERE.

NYT Article About Difficulties of Digital Archiving

If anyone has tried to access files they wrote on media that no one uses anymore, they can relate. How long will my digital photographs last? The words on this blog?


March 16, 2010
Fending Off Digital Decay, Bit by Bit

Among the archival material from Salman Rushdie currently on display at Emory University in Atlanta are inked book covers, handwritten journals and four Apple computers (one ruined by a spilled Coke). The 18 gigabytes of data they contain seemed to promise future biographers and literary scholars a digital wonderland: comprehensive, organized and searchable files, quickly accessible with a few clicks.

But like most Rushdian paradises, this digital idyll has its own set of problems. As research libraries and archives are discovering, “born-digital” materials — those initially created in electronic form — are much more complicated and costly to preserve than anticipated.

Electronically produced drafts, correspondence and editorial comments, sweated over by contemporary poets, novelists and nonfiction authors, are ultimately just a series of digits — 0’s and 1’s — written on floppy disks, CDs and hard drives, all of which degrade much faster than old-fashioned acid-free paper. Even if those storage media do survive, the relentless march of technology can mean that the older equipment and software that can make sense of all those 0’s and 1’s simply don’t exist anymore.

Imagine having a record but no record player.

All of which means that archivists are finding themselves trying to fend off digital extinction at the same time that they are puzzling through questions about what to save, how to save it and how to make that material accessible.

Read the full article and view media HERE.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Mashup Hall of Fame Part 2

Two more of my favorite mashups. The first one is epic, mashing Rick "Rick-roll" Astley with Nirvana (I will try to keep replacing it as it keeps getting taken down). Apparently someone did the excellent music mix and a second person mixed the video to compliment the music with great results. The second combines Russian folk dance with Run DMC.

I love the breakdown starting at 2:11

My Mashup Hall of Fame Part 1 is HERE.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Alexa Meade' Photos Designed to Look Like Paintings

Check out Alexa Meade's amazing photos in her Flickr photostream HERE. Only the eyes are a giveaway, and in the photos where the eyes are not visible because they are closed or looking down, the photos are dead ringers for paintings.

h/t to The Daily Dish.

Still Bill: New Bill Withers Documentary

Sasha Frere-Jones has a write up in The New Yorker

In 1972, a year after the release of his first album, “Just As I Am,” Bill Withers performed a song on British television. “Harlem,” the record’s first single, had done little on the charts, but radio d.j.s had picked up on its B-side. Wearing a ribbed orange turtleneck and sweating visibly, the thirty-three-year-old rookie introduced the first song he had ever written:

“Men have problems admitting to losing things,” he said. “I think women are much better at that. . . . So, once in my life, I wanted to forgo my own male ego and admit to losing something, so I came up with—” Withers began to play his acoustic guitar and sing. “Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone / It’s not warm when she’s away / Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone / And she’s always gone too long, any time she goes away.”

“Ain’t No Sunshine” gave Withers his first gold record, earned him a Grammy, and, with later hits such as “Lean on Me” and “Use Me,” forms the cornerstone of a small but indispensable section of the American songbook. A new documentary about Withers, “Still Bill,” is an unshowy, confident attempt to render the personality of a man who wrote so well and then walked away, in 1985, adding only a handful of songs to his legacy since then.

Read the full review HERE.

Here is a local W. Virginia TV story on Whithers' induction into the West Virginia music Hall of Fame, with lots of interview time with him:

Withers' website is HERE.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Viral Video Russian Singer Eduard Khil and Remix

Okay, after resisting the weirdness that is this Eduard Khil video piece making the rounds (Ed-roll, it's the new Rick-roll), I finally give in, but also throw in my favorite (so far) remix.

The New York Daily News has a good background on him and the song HERE.

And, of course, there's a blog for him HERE (I haven't tried the link to download the song).

Interview Regarding San Diego’s Mid-Century Art Scene

A fascinating interview (audio and transcript) with Dave Hampton of, who discusses the art scene in mid-twentieth-century San Diego. Check it out HERE.

Meet Han Han, the World's Most Popular Blogger


March 12, 2010
Heartthrob’s Blog Challenges China’s Leaders


IT’S not so easy being Han Han, the heartthrob race car driver and pop novelist who just happens to be China’s most widely read blogger.

Traveling incognito is all but impossible. Local officials frequently vie for his endorsement of their latest architectural boondoggles. (He politely declines.) And love-lorn young women often approach him after races with letters bearing his name. (He says the women have been duped by impostors who have assumed his identity.)

But Mr. Han’s most vexing challenge comes from a more formidable nemesis: the unseen censors who delete blog posts they deem objectionable and the publishing police who have held up the release of his new magazine, “A Chorus of Solos,” a provocative collection of essays and photographs. “The government wants China to become a great cultural nation, but our leaders are so uncultured,” he said with a shrug, offering his characteristic Cheshire-cat grin. “If things continue like this, China will only be known for tea and pandas.”

Since he began blogging in 2006, Mr. Han, 28, has been delivering increasingly caustic attacks on China’s leadership and the policies he contends are creating misery for those unlucky enough to lack a powerful government post. With more than 300 million hits to his blog, he may be the most popular living writer in the world.

In a recent interview at his office in Shanghai, he described party officials as “useless” and prone to spouting nonsense, although he used more delicate language to dismiss their relevance. “Their lives are nothing like ours,” he said. “The only thing they have in common with young people is that like us, they too have girlfriends in their 20s, although theirs are on the side.”

Mr. Han has enjoyed widespread fame since he published his first novel at 19, but his popularity has ballooned in recent months through blog posts that seem to capture the zeitgeist of his peers, the so-called post-80s generation born after the economic reforms introduced by Deng Xiaoping.

Theirs is a generation of only children, the result of China’s one-child policy, and one that has known only uninterrupted growth. Whether true or not, it is also a demographic with a reputation for being spoiled, impatient and less accepting of the storyline fed to them by government-run media.

If Mr. Han’s tongue is sharp, he is careful to deliver his barbs through sarcasm and humorous anecdotes that obliquely take on corruption, censorship and everyday injustice.

In one recent post about redevelopment projects that often end in violence and forced evictions, he suggested that the government build public housing in the form of prisons. The benefits would be twofold, he explained: Tenants could make no claim on the apartments and those who make a fuss could simply be locked up in their homes.

His current gambit is a wryly subversive competition that will award $730 to the person who comes up with new lyrics to a song-and-dance routine that was broadcast last month during the reliably soporific Chinese New Year television gala.

The performance, staged by China’s national broadcaster and viewed by an estimated 400 million people, featured merry members of the Uighur minority belting out praise for Communist Party policies.

These were not the policies that many Uighurs bemoan as oppressive — and which may or may not have provoked the deadly riots in the western region of Xinjiang last summer — but ones that supposedly reduced taxes, increased health benefits and according to the singing farmer Maimaiti, filled his donkey sack with cash.

ALTHOUGH his posts are sometimes “harmonized” — a popular euphemism for censorship —his blog, published by one of China’s most popular Web portals, has so far been allowed to continue. Ran Yunfei, a writer and blogger in Sichuan Province, says that Mr. Han is partly insulated by his celebrity, but also by his avoidance of the most politically charged topics.

“He uses humor and wit to laugh at the injustices he sees,” said Mr. Ran, whose own blog is blocked in China and available only to those with the technical means to hop over the Great Firewall. “Perhaps the reason he’s tolerated is because he does not name names directly and he doesn’t go after the heart of the problem, which is China’s one-party dictatorship.”

His other trump card is his financial independence. With 14 books to his name and a successful career as a race car driver, he is not susceptible to pressures that constrain other critics, many of them academics or journalists whose jobs tend to evaporate when their public musings cross an invisible line.


See images and read the full story HERE.

New Biopic about Female Rock Pioneers The Runaways

NYT has a positive review of the film starring Dakota Fanning HERE, but the photo of the real Runaways (featuring future stars Joan Jett and Lita Ford) is a killer:

Friday, March 12, 2010

Cartoon: Gansta Rap As Modern Day Minstrelsy

I don't know the original publication source of Bill Bramhill's 2005 cartoon:

You might also be interested in this 2007 story on the minstrelization of hip-hop.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Story of The Flamingoes' "I Only Have Eyes for You"

This month's issue of Sound on Sound has a great detailed telling of how the Flamingos' signature tune "I Only Have Eyes For You" was made. Check out the story HERE. Sound on Sound is full of stories about how classic tracks were recorded, though perhaps a bit too technical for some.

My favorite remake of that version is by Martina Topley-Bird, but it is a little tough to find as it was only released on a Starbuck's compilation.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Cracked Nails Generic Movie Trailer Spoof

PostSecret of the Month

If you are not familiar with PostSecret, it is a blog where people send in secrets on postcards and a selection is are posted weekly. This one made me laugh, but many of them are very sad. Check out PostSecret.

Hiromi Uehara piano


An here is her tearing up some conventional chord changes. The lick at 2:12-2:19 (and how she ends it) is killer.

Controversy Over Changing Lyrics of Canadian National Anthem (O Canada)

CBC News

O Canada lyrics to be reviewed
Last Updated: Wednesday, March 3, 2010 | 6:28 PM ET

Get ready to memorize new words to the national anthem.

Parliament is to be asked to review the "original gender-neutral wording of the national anthem," says the throne speech delivered by Gov. Gen. Michaëlle Jean on Wednesday.

O Canada includes the lyrics "true patriot love in all thy sons command," and there may be interest in changing that line to something more inclusive.

O Canada, with music composed by Calixa Lavallée in 1880, became the national anthem in 1980, replacing God Save the Queen.

Its English lyrics have been adapted several times over the years, but the current version is based on a poem written in 1908 by Stanley Weir.

It begins: "O Canada Our home and native land! True patriot love thou dost in us command. We see thee rising fair, dear land, The True North strong and free."

The official English version now in use incorporates changes recommended in 1968 by a joint committee of MPs and senators that added the lines "from far and wide" and "God keep our land glorious and free!"

The surprise proposal to review the lyrics had parliamentary observers buzzing. The throne speech gave no indication what prompted the plan.

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff said the initiative to change the lyrics is the kind of "symbolic gesture" the Conservative government makes when it doesn't want to do anything real.

"Anything that makes a national anthem more gender-sensitive is a good thing," he told CBC News.

"But, I mean, no disrespect to those who feel strongly on this issue, but, for heaven's sake, we have some very important challenges and every time the government is asked to do something real, it does something symbolic.

"There's lots of things to do for women that are more important than changing the words of the national anthem, just as there are lots of things to do for pensioners and seniors that are more important than having a Seniors Day."

O Canada official lyrics

O Canada! Our home and native land! True patriot love in all thy sons command.

With glowing hearts we see thee rise, The True North strong and free!

From far and wide, O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

God keep our land glorious and free! O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

O Canada, we stand on guard for thee

And here is a story on the pushback.

Interview with UCLA Ethnomusicologist Anthony Seeger

Great interview with ethnomusicologist Tony Seeger, at Artistshousemusic. many clips, check them out HERE.

Massive "Last Supper" parodies post

Popped Culture has a massive blog post of over 100 parodies of Da Vinci's Last Supper. Check it out HERE.

Star Wars


Sesame Street


Michael Jackson (scary thing about this one is that MJ had it hanging in his home)

Battlestar Galactica


Looney Tunes


Chinese Pop Art

2nd Grade


Pole Dancer
Kegger Beer Pong

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Interview with Ethnomusicologist Timothy Rice

A nice interview about a wide variety of subjects with UCLA ethnomusicologist Timothy Rice. See the menu of interview clips HERE.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Joseph Kwame Degbor StoryCorps Interview by Stephanie Boegeman

Much thanks to Stephanie Boegeman for putting up this interview for everyone to access. Stephanie made this in 2006 as an undergraduate student in an impromptu manner when the StoryCorps oral history project visited her campus. Though she had never conducted an interview before, she utilized StoryCorp's audio equipment to talk to Kwame about a culture and life. For those who knew Kwame, it is a precious thing to be able to hear his voice with such clarity. You can listen HERE.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Front Yard Snow Sculpture Venus de Milo Ordered Covered Up

Would a marble bust of Venus de Milo in front of a mansion get that treatment? Nah. But apparently her snow breasts were too much for this neighborhood.

Full story from HUFFPO, but the photo says it all.

African origin of Roman York's rich lady with the ivory bangle


African origin of Roman York's rich lady with the ivory bangle

Re-examination of skeletons shows greater population mix than expected

The Guardian, Friday 26 February 2010

One of the richest inhabitants of fourth century Roman York, buried in a stone sarcophagus with luxury imports including jewellery made of elephant ivory, a mirror and a blue glass perfume jar, was a woman of black African ancestry, a re-examination of her skeleton has shown.

Now, 16 centuries after her death, her skeleton is helping prove the startling diversity of the society in which she lived.

"We're looking at a population mix which is much closer to contemporary Britain than previous historians had suspected," Hella Eckhardt, senior lecturer at the department of archaeology at Reading University, said. "In the case of York, the Roman population may have had more diverse origins than the city has now."

Eckhardt's work with a team of scientists and archaeologists, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and published today in Antiquity magazine, involved re-examining skeletons excavated over a century ago.

Isotope evidence suggests that up to 20% were probably long distance migrants. Some were African or had African ancestors, including the woman dubbed "the ivory bangle lady", whose bone analysis shows she was brought up in a warmer climate, and whose skull shape suggests mixed ancestry including black features.

Read the whole postHERE.