Sunday, May 30, 2010

Big M.I.A. feature in New York Times Magazine

Very lengthy and ultimately unflattering story on pop star M.I.A., which she has apparently retaliated against by posting the writer's contact via Twitter and adding an insult directed at the writer in a song.

May 25, 2010
M.I.A.’s Agitprop Pop

On the Grammy Awards in 2009, Maya Arulpragasam, also known as M.I.A., performed her biggest hit, “Paper Planes,” a rap song that infuses rebellious, defiant lyrics with the sounds of her native Sri Lanka, a riff lifted from the Clash, the bang-bang of a gun and the ka-ching of a cash register. Maya, as she is called, was nine months pregnant (to the day), and while she was onstage rapping about “some some some I some I murder, some I some I let go” — in a black skintight, body-stocking dress, transparent except for polka-dot patches that strategically covered her belly, breasts and derrière — she began to experience contractions. As the pain hit, Maya was performing with the male titans of rap (Jay-Z, Kanye West, Lil Wayne, T.I.) and she later told me that she thought all the free-floating testosterone caused her to go into labor. While American rappers today tend to celebrate sex, wealth and status, Maya, who grew up listening to the politicized rhymes of Public Enemy, takes international dance beats and meshes them with the very un-American voice of the militant rebel. In contrast to, say, Bono or John Lennon, with their peacenik messages, Maya taps into her rage at the persecution of Tamils in Sri Lanka to espouse violence: while you’re under the sway of the beat, she’s rapping, “You wanna win a war?/Like P.L.O. I don’t surrender.”

Although her publicist had a wheelchair ready and a midwife on call, Maya, who has a deep and instinctive affinity for the provocative, knew that this Grammy moment was not to be missed. It had everything: artistic credibility, high drama, a massive audience. The baby would just have to wait. The combination of being nearly naked, hugely pregnant, singing incendiary lyrics and having the eyes of the world upon her was too much to resist. And she was riveting, upstaging the four much more famous guys and dominating the stage. “That’s gangsta,” said Queen Latifah, one of the show’s presenters.

Three days later, her son, Ikhyd (pronounced I-kid) Edgar Arular Bronf­man, was born. His father is Maya’s fiancé, Ben Bronfman, son of the Warner Music Group chief executive and Seagram’s heir Edgar Bronfman Jr. In one of many contradictions that seem to provide the narrative for Maya’s life and art, Ikhyd was not, as she had repeatedly announced he would be, born at home in a pool of water. As usual, she wanted to transform her personal life into a political statement. “You gotta embrace the pain, embrace the struggle,” she proclaimed weeks before Ikhyd was born. “And my giving birth is nothing when I think about all the people in Sri Lanka that have to give birth in a concentration camp.”

As it happened, Maya, who is 34, gave birth in a private room in Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. “Ben’s family insisted,” she told me a year later, when we met in March for drinks at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, in nearby Beverly Hills. Before the Grammys, Maya and Bronfman moved to Los Angeles from New York, buying a house in very white, very wealthy Brentwood, an isolated and bucolic section of the city with a minimal history of trauma and violent uprisings. “L.A. is a lovely place to have a baby,” Maya said. She’s surprisingly petite and ladylike, with beautiful almond-shaped dark brown eyes and full lips that she painted a deep red the day we met. Maya has a unique tomboy-meets-ghetto-fabulous-meets-exotic-princess look that, like her music, manages to combine sexy elements (lingerie peeks out from under her see-through tops) with individual flourishes (she designs elaborate patterns for her nails) and ethnic accents (the bright, rich prints of Africa are her wardrobe staple). Like all style originals, Maya wears her clothes with great confidence — she knows how to edit her presentation for maximum effect. At the Beverly Wilshire, she was wearing high-heeled pumps with leggings under a hip-length, sheer white tunic woven with gold threads and an outsize black jacket that looked as if it might be on loan from her boyfriend. Her only jewelry was a simple diamond engagement ring.

“We went to the Grammys, we had the baby and we bought the house,” Maya said as she studied the menu, deciding on a glass of wine and French fries. “A month later, all this stuff was happening in Sri Lanka” — the Tamil insurgency was being defeated amid reports of thousands of civilian casualties — “and I started speaking up against it. And then, within a month, I found out my house was being bugged, my phones were being tapped and my e-mails were being hacked into. I was getting death threats, like ‘hope your baby dies.’ The biggest Sinhalese community is in Santa Monica, people who are sworn enemies of the Tamils, which is me.” She paused. “I live around the corner from Beverly Hills, and I feel semiprotected by Ben and, if anything happens to me, then Ben’s family will not take it. Jimmy Iovine, who runs Interscope, my record company, said, ‘Pick your battles carefully — don’t put your life at risk,’ but at the end of the day, I don’t see how you can shut up and just enjoy success when other people who don’t have the fame or the luxury to rent security guards are suffering. What the hell do they do? They just die.”

Maya’s tirade, typical in the way it moved from the political to the personal and back again, was interrupted by a waiter, who offered her a variety of rolls. She chose the olive bread. Maya’s political fervor stems from her upbringing. Although she was born in London, her family moved back to Sri Lanka when she was 6 months old, to a country torn by fighting between the Tamil Hindu minority and the Sinhalese Buddhist majority. In the ’70s, her father, Arular, helped found the Tamil militant group EROS (Eelam Revolutionary Organization of Students), trained with the P.L.O. in Lebanon and spearheaded a movement to create an independent Tamil state in the north and east of the country. EROS was eventually overwhelmed by a stronger and more vicious militant group, the Tamil Tigers. In their struggle for political control, the Tigers not only went after government troops and Sinhalese civilians but also their own people, including Tamil women and children. “The Tigers ruled the people under them with an iron fist,” Ahilan Kadirgamar at Sri Lanka Democracy Forum told me. “They used mafia­like tactics, and they would forcefully recruit child soldiers. Maya’s father was never with the Tigers. He stayed away.”

This is small portion of the article. Read the full article HERE.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Ta-Nehisi Coates: Civil Rights and Rand Paul discussion

Civil rights sit-in by John Salter, Joan Trumpauer, and Anne Moody at Woolworth's lunch counter, Jackson Mississippi, 1963. A crowd of people taunts them and pours sugar, ketchup, and mustard on them in protest.
[edit: in reading a bit more, John Salter is not only covered in condiments but also his own blood, a result of being hit by both brass knuckles and a broken glass sugar container]

Joan Trumpauer's mugshot. She was held in a Mississippi jail for two months for her civil rights actions (seen in the above photo), at times held on death row (I'm assuming that was for her protection). That's right, they sent a young White woman to a Mississippi State Penitentiary for two months because she protested segregation in a non-violent manner. She says she was motivated to act and sustained by her Christian faith. It's pretty damn humbling reading about these folks.

As I seem to recommend every month, you have got to check out Ta-Nehisi's blog at the Atlantic. His responses (and his commenters') to Rand Paul's opposition to the Civil Rights Act are well worth the read. Check HERE and HERE.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Why You Drink (Graph)

Robot Marries Japanese Couple

Ah, Japan and robots. Here a quasi-humanoid robot named i-Fairy, complete with childish voice, pigtails, flashing eyes, and flowers on its head gives the vows at a Japanese couple's wedding.

Shanghai's public pajama tradition runs afoul the world Expo


May 14, 2010
The Pajama Game Closes in Shanghai

Hong Kong

ONE hundred thousand fireworks lighted the sky over Shanghai on April 30, marking the grand opening of the 2010 World Expo. For the city’s many pajama wearers, it also signified the start of a nightmare.

After pumping $58 billion into staging this mega-event, which is expected to attract more than 70 million visitors over the next six months, city authorities started a campaign to suppress one of Shanghai’s most distinctive customs: wearing pajamas in public. Just as Beijing discouraged men from going shirtless during the Olympics, Shanghai wants everyone to wear “proper attire” for the Expo.

Catchy red signs reading “Pajamas don’t go out of the door; be a civilized resident for the Expo” are posted throughout the city. Volunteer “pajama policemen” patrol the neighborhoods, telling pajama wearers to go home and change. Celebrities and socialites appear on TV to promote the idea that sleepwear in public is “backward” and “uncivilized.”

But many residents disagree. Pajamas — not the sexy sleepwear you find at Victoria’s Secret, but loose-fitting, non-revealing PJs made of cotton or polyester — have been popular in Shanghai since the late 1970s, when Deng Xiaoping, then China’s leader, sought to modernize the economy and society by “opening up” to the outside world. The Chinese adopted Western pajamas without fully understanding their context. Most of us had never had any dedicated sleepwear other than old T-shirts and pants. And we thought pajamas were a symbol of wealth and coolness.

Shanghainese began wearing them to bed — but kept them on to walk around the neighborhood, mainly out of convenience. At that time in Shanghai, people lived in crammed, communal-style quarters in shikumen — low-rise townhouses in which families shared toilets and kitchens. Through the 1980s and ’90s, the average person had less than 10 square meters of living area. To change out of one’s pajamas just to walk across the road to the market would be too troublesome and unnecessary.

Besides, as a retiree told a news reporter: “Pajamas are also a type of clothes. It’s comfortable, and it’s no big deal since everyone wears them outside.”

Read the whole op-ed HERE.

In Living Color on Arizona Racism (Tom and Tom, The Brothers Brothers)

This skit was originally run on In Living Color (a comedy show that ran from 1990-94) twenty years ago to ridicule Arizona's resistance to the Federal Martin Luther King holiday. (It itself was a play on the earlier Smothers Brothers show from the late 1960s, hence the name of the act as the Brothers Brothers and their performance on guitar and bass.) Seems rather appropriate again, and a good reminder that border issues weren't involved in this dispute; it was about ethnicity/race, pretty much like it is now.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Ray Kurzweil Explains the Coming Singularity | Ray Kurzweil | Big Think

Futurist Ray Kurzweil has some rather mind blowing predictions for the future of humanity vis-a-vis computing technology, when machines will reach the point of human cognition:

Ray Kurzweil Explains the Coming Singularity | Ray Kurzweil | Big Think

Musician Paralyzed with ALS Still Makes Music

Inspiring and heartbreaking all at the same time. What an awful disease.

May 15, 2010 | Photo by John Gastaldo

Ned Mann, who is unable to speak and is paralyzed from the neck down as a result of ALS, spent six months mixing and mastering a two-CD set of music for an ALS Society fundraiser. He used a special computer program operated by movements of his head to produce the CD’s music.

Making tracks despite fighting ALS
Undaunted by effects of disease, musician Ned Mann finds a way to follow his passion


Sunday, May 16, 2010 at 12:05 a.m.

DEL MAR — Ned Mann always used his head to make music as a prominent jazz and pop bassist, recording engineer and producer in the 1990s. Now, 11 years after being stricken with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) — the debilitating neuromuscular condition known as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease” — he is again making music with his head. Literally.

No longer able to talk, walk, stand or use his hands and arms, Mann expertly handled all audio mixing and postproduction work on the new album “Finding My Way Home — Help Ned Fight ALS.” He mixed the two-CD release, a remarkable labor of love that benefits the nonprofit ALS Society, completely on his own, using state-of-the-art technology.

That technology, NaturalPoint SmartNAV, enabled him to use a reflective dot placed on his forehead to control his computer with a laser head-tracking system, instead of a hand-operated mouse.

By very carefully and precisely moving his head, Mann mixed and mastered the album with ProTools, the same professional recording software he used for years at his New Jersey studio. It took him six months to complete the all-instrumental “Finding My Way Home,” which features as many as a dozen musicians performing on some of its 16 songs.

“Anything is possible if one has hope,” said Mann, 48, who resides in an assisted-living facility in Del Mar and lives by the credo: Acceptance. Forgiveness. Gratitude. Hope.

This credo is emphasized on his extensive Web site, Created with the help of friends, it includes more than a dozen Web pages, including one that links to a video clip that shows Mann mixing the album with his head (HERE).

“To our knowledge, this is the first time SmartNAV has been used to mix an album,” said Ryan Stoughton, a spokesman for The Human Solution, the Texas company that created and markets SmartNAV.

Yet, despite having ALS, Mann remains mentally sharp. He has also maintained his high aesthetic standards, as the sparkling sound and impeccable balance of instruments on “Finding My Way Home” attests.

A paralyzing (and as yet incurable) disease, ALS affects nerve cells in the spinal cord and brain — and, with it, the brain’s ability to instigate and control muscle movement. This in turn causes the motor neurons between the spine and muscles throughout the body to degenerate and die.

The average life expectancy for someone with ALS is three to four years, as Mann notes on his Web site, but he has lived with the disease for 11 years. Jazz legend Charles Mingus, also a bassist, died from ALS in 1979. Nobel Prize-winning physicist Stephen Hawking, the world’s most famous living person with ALS, has had the disease for 47 of his 68 years.

“Ned has a determination to make the best of things,” said Jessica Mann, his devoted wife of 27 years, who heads General Atomic’s environmental, health and safety department. “He doesn’t like sitting around.”

Her husband, who hopes to raise $50,000 for the ALS Society’s San Diego chapter from sales of “Finding My Way Home,” nodded in agreement.

“The album has definitely been cathartic for Ned,” Jessica noted. “It’s almost a culmination of his career.”

Organized by saxophonist David Mann, Ned’s younger brother, the recording sessions for “Finding My Way Home” took place last May. They were held at a studio in New Jersey, not far from where Ned had lived with Jessica and their two sons, Evan and Ben (14 and 11, respectively).

The family moved to Carmel Valley in 2003, in part to provide a milder climate for Ned. After the “Finding My Way Home” recordings were done, digital files of the music were sent to him to begin the laborious mixing and mastering process.

“Ned’s ability to play an instrument was taken away from him,” David Mann, 46, said, from his New York home. “But his musicality and his love of music were not taken away from him. For him to keep making music with this album, and to become a part of the musical community again, was a joy for him.”

Three songs on “Finding My Way Home” feature Ned’s bass-playing from 1999, the same year his then-undiagnosed ALS began to make his arms numb. The musicians on the album, which deftly mixes straight-ahead and smooth-jazz, include “Late Night With David Letterman” bassist Will Lee, Rolling Stones’ touring saxophonist Tim Ries and former Miles Davis guitarist Mike Stern.

“We all played on it for free because we like and respect Ned so much,” said Stern, a longtime friend and musical partner of Mann.

“I went to visit Ned in Del Mar last year, and the work he did mixing the album impressed the hell out of me. I thought, ‘Wow! If he has that much sensitivity left in his heart and mind that he is able to mix music so well — without being able to move his body — it just illuminates his courage and ability all the more.’ ”

Stern was so impressed that he is already recommending Mann to mix albums by other established jazz artists.

Asked if he’d be open to doing more mixing work, Mann nodded, then added a qualification.

“I work slowly, so it would depend on the client,” he replied. “I used to work 12-hour days. Now, four is enough.”

Conducting an interview with Mann is a unique experience. Answering questions requires intense concentration on his part, since he lost his ability to speak aloud about five months ago.

He now communicates using the same SmartNAV computer program he used to mix “Finding My Way Home.” In this case, he spells out words by using his laser head-tracking system to point at letters on a keyboard on his computer screen. A robotic-sounding electronic voice audibly articulates each letter and word as Mann types them. Each of his sentences begins with the word “enter” and each word is punctuated by “space bar” each time he starts to type another word.

Eager to converse, Mann — an avid newspaper reader — typed out a comment even before his interviewer could pose a question. It read: “I liked your article on Sly & The Family Stone (performing) at Coachella.”

Asked about the first concert he attended as a kid, the Michigan-born Mann typed: “I saw Miles Davis in 1973, when I was 12. (Pianist) Keith Jarrett was with him.”

Mann began performing professionally in Ann Arbor jazz bands in his midteens. He and Jessica met when his band played at their high school. They have been together ever since. The walls in his Del Mar room contain framed photographs of the couple and of their two sons, who visit their father regularly. His eyes quickly light up when he speaks about his family.

“Music as a career has always been hard. Now I do music just for the love and joy of it. Doing this album kept me positive,” typed Mann, whose extensive résumé includes working with Irish music group The Chieftains, Cuban saxophonist Paquito D’Rivera and Puerto Rican flutist Nestor Torres, whose Grammy-winning 2001 album, “This Side of Paradise,” Mann engineered.

When asked what music he’s enjoying, Mann clicked his computer and a lilting vocal ballad by Cameroonian bassist and singer Richard Bona began to play. Later, when asked about pianist Michel Camilo, in whose band Mann played in the 1990s with San Diego drummer Cliff Almond, Mann clicked on a YouTube video clip of their performance at the 1991 Newport Jazz Festival.

Listening intently, he smiled and gently swayed his head in time to the music. Yet, as much as he obviously enjoyed sharing this blast from his past, Ned Mann leaves no doubt he is focused on the present — and on the inspirational new chapter “Finding My Way Home” represents.

“One of my favorite parts of this project has been re-connecting with all the musicians,” he said. “I hear from them every day now. Music is a competitive business, and this project has brought out the very best in people.”


Veteran musician, producer and recording engineer Ned Mann recently completed all audio mixing and postproduction work on an all-star, two-CD album recorded in his honor. He accomplished this despite having Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), a disease that has robbed him of the ability to talk or use his arms or hands. Mann mixed the album by using his exacting head movements to operate special computer software. The project took him six months of painstaking work to complete.

Making a difference: All proceeds from “Finding My Way Home — Help Ned Fight ALS” will benefit the ALS Society. Mann hopes sales of the album will enable him to reach his goal of raising $50,000 for ALS’s San Diego chapter. The album is available from and can be downloaded at iTunes, AmazonMP3 and Napster. For more information:

Quotation: “With this album, I was willing to take risks, to try things that I never had time for (before).

I had time to experiment and enjoy the process. This project is about hope. The music is played with love, which I hope will come through to the listener.”

The Vocoder

NPR had a story on the vocoder, its development and eventually transference from military to music technology.

f you've listened to pop music in the past 40 years, you've probably heard more than a few songs with a robotic sound. That's thanks to the vocoder, a device invented by Bell Labs, the research division of AT&T. Though the vocoder has found its way into music, the machine was never intended for that function. Rather, it was developed to decrease the cost of long-distance calls and has taken on numerous other uses since.

Music journalist Dave Tompkins has written a book about the vocoder and its unlikely history. It's called How to Wreck a Nice Beach: The Vocoder From World War II to Hip-Hop.

Tompkins says the machine played a significant role in World War II. After the U.S. government discovered that Winston Churchill's conversations with Franklin D. Roosevelt were being intercepted and deciphered by the Germans, it decided to invest in speech-encoding technology. So the National Defense Research Committee commissioned Bell Labs in 1942 to develop a machine — and Bell Labs delivered.

The vocoder wasn't without its flaws. Intelligibility of speech sometimes proved a problem, but Tompkins says pitch control was a bigger concern.

"They didn't mind world leaders sounding like robots, just as long as they didn't sound like chipmunks," he says. "Eisenhower did not want to sound like a chipmunk."

From Military Base To Music Studio

The vocoder experienced a major transition from military device to musical effect when Wendy Carlos used it on the soundtrack for 1971's A Clockwork Orange. Carlos did a vocoder interpretation of the fourth movement of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, which Tompkins says exposed the vocoder in unprecedented ways.

"Essentially, that introduced the vocoder to its first major audience," he says. "A lot people had no idea what it was. As the vocoder evolved, they knew the voice but had no idea where it came from."

After A Clockwork Orange, though it was still an expensive technology, the vocoder saw wider use in music studios. The German band Kraftwerk was one of the first musicians to employ it in its work. It fit perfectly, Tompkins says, because the band's work was primarily electronic.

Later, in the 1980s, the vocoder became the voice of electro-funk hip-hop. Michael Jonzun recorded what is believed to be the first hip-hop vocoder album, Lost in Space, in 1983. The futuristic sounds complemented the synthesizer, which became widely heard in music from that decade.

The vocoder is less prevalent in today's popular music, but its legacy lives on. Its successor is Auto-Tune, the pitch-correcting software prominent in popular music today.

Listen to the story and read book excerpts HERE.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Slideshow of "Chinglish" and Funny Translations from Abroad

The NYT has a great slideshow of funny English translations in signs from abroad. Check it out HERE.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Outlawing the Burqa?

A bunch of discussion and feedback at Sullivan's Daily Dish blog.

The Hitchens quote that kicked it off is HERE.

and MORE on his thread.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Naughty Children Blog

The name is nastier than the open source blog itself, which has some yucky but also really funny photos of Shit My Kids Ruined.

Amazing optical illusion

Nature explains HERE.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

EBTG's Tracy Thorn's new album

New Yorker

Pop Music
Everything but the Tour
Tracey Thorn turns semi-pro.
by Sasha Frere-Jones

May 17, 2010
The widely reported demise of the music business isn’t necessarily going to be bad for music. The forty-seven-year-old British singer Tracey Thorn, who has removed herself from a race she once ran—and ran well—has added a fantastic album, “Love and Its Opposite,” to her solo catalogue. Both the album’s themes and how it was made suggest a model that may become increasingly popular: the semi-professional musician. Making music as a pastime has appealed to talents as diverse as the modernist composer Charles Ives and the post-punk engineer and guitarist Steve Albini. If hits are to be had by only the very few, perhaps more musicians will feel free to stop worrying about making them.

Thorn will not tour for “Love and Its Opposite,” and she didn’t tour for “Out of the Woods” (2007), her second solo release. (Her first was a 1982 EP called “A Distant Shore.”) With the collapse of album sales, touring is one of the few dependable sources of income for artists; Thorn’s decision not to do it suggests that she is taking a hobbyist’s approach. “I just want to make it and then get back to my other life,” she told me.

Thorn is best known as the singer of Everything But the Girl, a duo she has maintained with her husband, Ben Watt, since 1982. Though the couple is still together, the band hasn’t released an album since 1999, which she attributes largely to the demands of raising three children in London.

Read the full review HERE.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

What Makes a Meme Go Mainstream?

From ROFL conference:

Friday, May 07, 2010

Francisco Aguabella (1925-2010)

Legendary Cuban drummer Francisco Aguabella died today after a battle with cancer. Aguabella was born in the Cuban city of Matanzas on October 10, 1925, the youngest of seven children though only one of two to survive a typhus epidemic. Though neither of his parents were musicians, Francisco began playing music while a child and was drawn to the music that surrounded him in Matanzas. He began to play the sacred batá drums at age twelve, taught by another youngster at the time, the legendary Esteban Vega Bacallao, popularly known as Cha-Chá (1925-2007). According to Raul Fernandez' book From Afro-Cuban Rhythms to Latin Jazz, Aguabella apprenticed on the supporting drums for five years (two on okónkolo, three on itótele) before studying the lead drum of this ensemble. He became known as a fierce and powerful drummer in both sacred and secular contexts, becoming, by his own account, the lead soloist for a local comparsa group at age 16, an accomplishment of which he was very proud. At age eighteen Aguabella was initiated into a local Abakuá potencia (an Afro-Cuban male initiation society). During this time he also became friends with drummer Julito Collazo (1925-2004), who would later become, along with Aguabella, an important source of batá drumming in the United States.

In his early twenties Aguabella worked on docks in Havana and Matanzas while continuing to drum during his free time. Eventually he was asked by influential Havana drummers to join their show troupe in Havana. In Havana, Aguabella also played in various sacred, band, and comparsa groups. In 1953 American dancer Katherine Dunham saw Aguabella perform in a nightclub and requested his services for a show scene in a movie (Mambo, starring Shelley Winters and Anthony Quinn)that was being filmed in Havana. Dunham invited Aguabella to join her company, and he soon accompanied her to Italy, the first of many tours. In addition to drumming, Aguabella had small dance and acting roles in the company's productions.

After touring with Dunham, Aguabella came to the United States at a time when Latin music was mixing with popular jazz. While fellow drummer Collazo settled in New york, Aguabella settled in California, living in Los Angeles and San Francisco for the rest of his life. Aguabella had an impressive career, including recordings, performances, and tours with artists such as Dizzy Gillespie, Frank Sinatra, Tito Puente, Mongo Santamaria, Eddie Palmieri, Cachao, Lalo Schifrin, Cal Tjader, Nancy Wilson, Weather Report, Poncho Sanchez, Bebo Valdes, Carlos Santana, Malo, Three Dog Night, Paul Simon, and the Doors. (According to Francisco, Sinatra would introduce him to audiences as "My Italian conga drummer, Francisco Aguabella.") Aguabella also led his own Latin jazz group, playing concerts and issuing recordings for many years. He also composed music for his and other ensembles, mostly works that took advantage of his extensive drumming knowledge. Importantly, Aguabella was a source of authentic sacred Afro-Cuban music in the United States at a time when few knew the secrets of sacred drumming. Aguabella was awarded the National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Durfee Foundation's Master Musicians' Fellowship, and was recognized by the Los Angeles County Arts Commission. He was the subject of a documentary film by Les Blank titled "Sworn to the Drum." Agubella taught Afro-Cuban music at UCLA from the mid-1990s until 2008.

Aguabella was the strongest, fiercest drummer I have ever seen. I once saw him play a sacred tambor in the 1980s (for Changó, with frighteningly fast, loud, and long sections of drumming), and also at the famed Conga Summit concert in San Francisco. By the time I got to study with him a bit in the mid to late 1990s, he had mellowed considerably from his earlier days, when he had the reputation of being a tough taskmaster. I last saw him in late 2008, when the photos below were taken.

Information above was based on Aguabella's own biography, Raul Fernandez' From Afro-Cuban Rhythm to Latin jazz, and personal communication.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Roger Ebert on Why He Hates 3-D for Films


Why I Hate 3-D (And You Should Too)

I'm not opposed to 3-D as an option. I'm opposed to it as a way of life.

By Roger Ebert | NEWSWEEK
Published Apr 29, 2010
From the magazine issue dated May 10, 2010

3-D is a waste of a perfectly good dimension. Hollywood's current crazy stampede toward it is suicidal. It adds nothing essential to the moviegoing experience. For some, it is an annoying distraction. For others, it creates nausea and headaches. It is driven largely to sell expensive projection equipment and add a $5 to $7.50 surcharge on already expensive movie tickets. Its image is noticeably darker than standard 2-D. It is unsuitable for grown-up films of any seriousness. It limits the freedom of directors to make films as they choose. For moviegoers in the PG-13 and R ranges, it only rarely provides an experience worth paying a premium for.

That's my position. I know it's heresy to the biz side of show business. After all, 3-D has not only given Hollywood its biggest payday ($2.7 billion and counting for Avatar), but a slew of other hits. The year's top three films—Alice in Wonderland, How to Train Your Dragon, and Clash of the Titans—were all projected in 3-D, and they're only the beginning. The very notion of Jackass in 3-D may induce a wave of hysterical blindness, to avoid seeing Steve-O's you-know-what in that way. But many directors, editors, and cinematographers agree with me about the shortcomings of 3-D. So do many movie lovers—even executives who feel stampeded by another Hollywood infatuation with a technology that was already pointless when their grandfathers played with stereoscopes. The heretics' case, point by point:

Read the entire article HERE.

New Arizona Immigration law

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Reggie Watts' Rap Parody (NSFW)

And FYE, here is some of Reggie's sweet work using a delay unit to sequence his voice in real time into a variety of grooves: