Entries Tagged 'NONFICTION' ↓

Hip-Hop’s Caucasian Invasion.

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So-called “ghetto parties,” like the one depicted above, were only one of the topics Racialicious‘ Carmen Van Kerckhove, writer Jason Tanz (Other People’s Property), and I addressed when we met a few years ago to discuss “White People and Hip-Hop.” (Since you’re wondering, my favorite detail is the “TUPAC LIVES” tattoo on the bicep of the red-scarfed brunette, middle row.) Arguably, the types of interactions white people have with the culture are far more varied.

More, the question became, how should we see these contacts when people have them? What do they mean for the culture of hip-hop? How do they affect, or describe, the larger issue of race?

I didn’t necessarily expect it would be, but the piece, for me, turned out to be a major moment, and touchstone, in my work attempting to clarify these critical subjects. (It was podcasted on Addicted To Race, Racialicious‘ internet series, in 2007.)

Of course, I’ve also addressed these issues, here, on MEDIA ASSASSIN, and in other places; for example, my “Fight the White Rap History Rewrite” post on rapper Asher Roth, or “The Unbearable Whiteness of Emceeing: What The Eminence of Eminem Says About Race,” which I wrote for The Source.

However, after doing so once, before, a couple of years ago, I’ve decided to re-air this talk with Carmen Van Kerckhove and Jason Tanz. They’re guests, today on my WBAI-NY / 99.5 FM radio show, NONFICTION, this afternoon, Friday, March 12, at 2 pm ET.

You can hear their ideas, and my own, by tuning in at 2 pm. If you’re outside of the New York tri-state, check out our live stream on the web. If you miss the live show, dig into our archives for up to 90 days after broadcast.

Don’t Stand So Close To Me.

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A site about “Architectural Conjecture, Urban Speculation, [and] Landscape Futures” certainly seems to promise heady distraction, and Geoff Manaugh’s BLDGBLOG delivers by the Liebherr T 282B-full.

Up since July 2004, BLDGBLOG totes a range of diversions almost as wide as Manaugh’s obviously fertile mind: Ice floes (and interplanetary atmospherics); automobile test tracks; odd, old synthesizers; hell; and designing the long-term storage of nuclear waste. Every post delights with inquisitive, nimble writing and typically dreamy images, and his The BLDGBLOG Book—which compiles dozens of his best pieces—makes the whole enterprise fit on your shelf.

Now, in a new exhibit at the Storefront for Art and Architecture in New York City, Manaugh and co-curator Nicola Twilley (Edible Geography) turn their focus on another underaddressed, little-grapsed element of the human landscape. As states the page for Landscapes of Quarantine, which opens March 10th,

At its most basic, quarantine is a strategy of separation and containment—the creation of a hygienic boundary between two or more things, for the purpose of protecting one from exposure to the other. It is a spatial response to suspicion, threat, and uncertainty. From Chernobyl’s Zone of Exclusion and the artificial quarantine islands of the New York archipelago to camp beds set up to house HIV-positive Haitian refugees detained at Guantánamo and the modified Airstream trailer from within which Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong, and Michael Collins once waved at President Nixon [above], the landscapes of quarantine are various, mutable, and often unexpected.

Geoff Manaugh is a contributing editor at Wired UK and former senior editor of Dwell magazine. He’s also the guest today on my WBAI-NY / 99.5 FM radio show, NONFICTION, this afternoon, Friday, March 5, at 2 pm ET.

You can hear this provocative ideas by tuning in at 2 pm. If you’re outside of the New York tri-state, check out our live stream on the web. If you miss the live show, dig into our archives for up to 90 days after broadcast.

“What You Hear, Kemo Sabe?”: Does Avatar Merely Revive Old Movie Stereotypes of the “White Savior”?

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James Cameron’s Avatar has been hailed for its medium-busting visual effects and astounding commercial success. Since its release on December 18th it has repeatedly topped the box-office in multiple countries, and is now the highest-grossing film in history, having taken in nearly $1.9 billion worldwide.

But, underneath the breathtaking graphics and lifelike performance capture, does the story of Neytiri and Jakesully, above, just retell the story of a white person finding himself by “going native”? Is it merely a fable about Europeans who would take over non-white people, save for the leadership of a Caucasian guy who leaves his reprehensible, bloodthirsty tribe, in order to cast his fate with the natives?

Avatar has famously been compared to Kevin Costner’s Oscar-winning, 1990 work, Dances With Wolves, which also raised similar charges regarding the consistency of the “white savior” myth. Disney’s Pocahontas has also been i.d.-d as Avatar‘s spiritual predecessor, though, perhaps no more pointedly than in these two YouTube clips, the first of which remixes video from Avatar to audio from Pocahontas‘s trailer, and the latter which does the reverse.

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Today, this afternoon, Friday, April 25, at 2 pm ET, on my WBAI-NY / 99.5 FM radio show, NONFICTION, my guests are:

Rebecca Keegan, author of The Futurist: The Life and Films of James Cameron;

Dr. Mikhail Lyubansky, a professor in the psychology department of Psychology at the University of Illinois: Urbana-Champaign. He authored “The Racial Politics of Avatar: Part 1″ and “The Racial Politics of Avatar: Part 2″ for Psychology Today‘s web site;

Dr. Raymond A. Winbush, author of three books on race issues, and director of the Institute for Urban Research at Morgan State University. His post, “Avatar, Africans and Racism: Some Brief Reflections on James Cameron’s Tale about White Supremacy,” appears on his blog, Reparations for Enslavement and the Blackside of Things.

They’ll talk about Avatar, race, and these issues, with the goal of giving listeners some clarity on them.

chrismatthewsBut first: After the President’s state-of-the-union address this past Wednesday, Chris Matthews, right, of MSNBC’s Hardball fame, opined that Obama “is post-racial, by all appearances. I forgot he was black tonight for an hour.”

I’ll talk with Jesse Washington, race and ethnicity editor for The Associated Press, and author of the essay, “Do Blacks Truly Want to Transcend Race?” about what Matthews meant, and what it means for Obama and our national understanding of the subject.

You can hear these thoughtful individuals’ ideas by tuning in at 2 pm. If you’re outside of the New York tri-state, check out our live stream on the web. If you miss the live show, dig into our archives for up to 90 days after broadcast.

The School of Hard Knocks.

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“A Winchester rifle should have a place of honor in every black home, and it should be used for that protection which the law refuses to give. When the white man who is always the aggressor knows he runs as great risk of biting the dust every time his Afro-American victim does, he will have greater respect for Afro-American life.”

paula-giddings-headshotToday’s broadcast continues my discussion with scholar Paula Giddings, right, author of When and Where I Enter: The Impact of Black Women on Race and Sex in America. This time, we’re talking about about her latest book, Ida: A Sword Among Lions: Ida B. Wells and the Campaign Against Lynching. (Part 1 aired on January 1st. That’s Ida B. Wells-Barnett, above, in a 1930 photo, taken the year before she died at 68. For a picture of her when she was not yet 30, follow this link to our January 1 post.)

Giddings and I resume our conversation, speaking on, among other subjects, Wells-Barnett’s success in politically organizing Chicago; an effort, the author holds, whose branches, leaves, and fruit reach to the White House today.

Then, our conversation took a turn, and during the second part of today’s broadcast—the last 20 minutes—we spoke about the life of the Black scholar, especially the female Black scholar.

It was frank and insightful, and it naturally rose out of the issues we were addressing the moment before. So, it was the best kind of digression one can have with a guest.

Paula J. Giddings is the Elizabeth A. Woodson 1922 Professor in Afro-American Studies at Smith College, and the guest today on my WBAI-NY / 99.5 FM radio show, NONFICTION, this afternoon, Friday, January 22, at 2 pm ET.

You’ll hear it by tuning in at 2 pm. If you’re outside of the New York tri-state, check out our live stream on the web. If you miss the live show, dig into our archives for up to 90 days after broadcast.

The Dream of the Blue People.

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avatar-james-cameron-interviewjpg-670a6289770f7c9e_largeThroughout his career, writer/director James Cameron, right, has pushed an insistent, technologically-demanding style of filmmaking seemingly up a cliff. From seeing Star Wars, as a 22-year-old truck driver in his native Canada, to becoming creator of the highest-grossing film in history—1997′s $1.8 billion Titanic—he has taken hold of the film industry by sheer force of will. Meanwhile, with each advancing step, the creator has fought off naysayers and second-guessers, each expecting his next outrageous vision to be his final folly.

With the release of his latest work, Avatar, above, however, Cameron has shattered expectations, as well as creative and financial barriers, to make what is, after five weeks, already the second-highest-grossing film in history, with eyes on its older sister’s No. 1 position.

116347_keegan_rebeccaWho is James Cameron, and what makes him the man and artist he is? In her new book, The Futurist: The Life and Films of James Cameron, author Rebecca Keegan, right, works to get inside his life and thinking. By interviewing Cameron, his family, and his numerous collaborators, the journalist gives a detailed, never-before-seen picture of this remarkable, often confounding auteur; the drive behind the driver, so to speak.

Rebecca Keegan is the guest today on my WBAI-NY / 99.5 FM radio show, NONFICTION, this afternoon, Friday, January 15, at 2 pm ET.

That conversation, though, will be preceeded by a discussion of the crisis in Haiti. This week’s devastating 7.0 earthquake, which killed an estimated 45-50,000 people, deepens the woes of the Western hemisphere’s poorest nation. We’ll examine the disaster, and the forces at work, globally, that keep the country in its troubled state.

You can hear Rebecca Keegan’s thoughts, and others, by tuning in at 2 pm. If you’re outside of the New York tri-state, check out our live stream on the web. If you miss the live show, dig into our archives for up to 90 days after broadcast.

UPDATE: These are links to the Haiti pieces from which I read during today’s NONFICTION broadcast:

Why We Are Partly Responsible for the Mess that is Haiti by Thomas Fleming

Haiti: the land where children eat mud by Alex von Tunzelmann

Also recommended:

Catastrophe in Haiti by Ashley Smith

Soul Power.

mick-jagger-by-albert-watsonAlbert Watson, Jagger/Leopard, 1992

Like a lot of legendary photographs, Albert Watson’s portrait of the Rolling Stones’s Mick Jagger, above, begins with another concept that isn’t working out.

Says the renowned lensman,

The original idea for the shooting was to have Mick Jagger driving a Corvette, with the leopard in the passenger seat. The big cat, a wild animal, seemed to suit Jagger, who likes to jump around a lot onstage, of course. However, putting the leopard in the car with him ended up being so dangerous that we had to build a partition. So, while we were waiting, I thought, “Let me try a quick double exposure with the leopard.” I shot the leopard first and drew its eyes and nose on the viewfinder of the camera. Then I rewound the film and photographed Jagger, fitting his eyes and nose over the eyes and nose of the leopard on the viewfinder so they matched. I didn’t think it would work, and I almost threw out the film. But of the twelve shots, four of them matched, and this was the best of the four that worked.

What’s amazing about the image is how, by combining the two subjects, Watson suggests a deeper truth about Jagger, inflecting his almost feline, preening aura; his famed, virtually predatory libido. I happen to think Watson’s creation story is nonsense, or, at best, incomplete. For example, did the leopard’s pupils and Jagger’s somehow match perfectly, or were the rock star’s orbs stripped in, later?

tina-turner-by-diltz-lo-resWhat’s without contest, however, is that this is an amazing photographic image. So is this 1985 photo by Henry Diltz of Tina Turner at LA’s Universal Amphitheater, right. Both do what photography does best: Isolate the moment with verity; freezing it so that we may contemplate and examine it in a way that is impossible in life.

Jagger’s and Turner’s are two of over 200 images to be found in curator and photo historian Gail Buckland‘s Who Shot Rock and Roll: A Photographic History, 1955-Present, in which Watson’s recollection appears. (As well, an eponymous companion exhibit is at the Brooklyn Museum through January 31, after which it travels to Worcester MA, Memphis TN, Akron OH, and Columbia SC.)

Gail Buckland is a guest today on my WBAI-NY / 99.5 FM radio show, NONFICTION, this afternoon, Friday, January 8, at 2 pm ET.

a-42-9We’ll also be speaking with photog Sue Kwon, whose Street Level: New York Photographs 1987-2007 documents the seething energy of the metropolis in which she lives from a personal p.o.v. Kwon works by getting close to the people and cultures that fill the city, working at eye level, crafting typically black and white images of the sights that meter daily life of the five boroughs; for example, this image, above, of Black Israelite proselytizers.

You can hear both Gail Buckland’s and Sue Kwon’s ideas by tuning in at 2 pm. If you’re outside of the New York tri-state, check out our live stream on the web. If you miss the live show, dig into our archives for up to 90 days after broadcast.

My Hero.

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“A Winchester rifle should have a place of honor in every black home, and it should be used for that protection which the law refuses to give. When the white man who is always the aggressor knows he runs as great risk of biting the dust every time his Afro-American victim does, he will have greater respect for Afro-American life.”

If Ida Bell Wells (1862-1931), above, had never written another word in her entire life, she would have been the object of my supreme ancestral regard merely for those sixty, above. Composed when she was about thirty years of age, the text, from her 1892 pamphlet, Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases, still simmers over a hundred years later with the nostril-burning scent of bitter defiance.

Keep in mind, however, that Wells was not describing some kind of abstract notion of a second amendment embrace, but penning her ideas when there was a literal price on her head. The definitive leader of her era in a wildly underpowered crusade against the lynching of Black people, Wells and her jagged prose sent entitled racists into spasms. Documenting their morbid outrages as a journalist, she inevitably had to leave for the North, merely to keep from becoming another prized lynching victim herself.

I read her words for the first time in the mid ’80s, in college, in a book titled When and Where I Enter: The Impact of Black Women on Race and Sex in America, by Paula J. Giddings. At the time, South Africa was raging. Black New Yorker’s were being killed, seemingly with wanton disregard, by New York City police while an indifferent mayor, Ed Koch, wagged his finger at us.

I was looking for a functional political position that made humanitarian sense, but that had some teeth in it. Needless to say, Wells not only fit the bill, but lit my brain up, and sent me back to the stacks. There, I learned that Black radicalism was not new or recent, but a legacy response to racism.

paula-giddings-headshotNeedless to say, Wells changed my life, but not as much as she did Giddings’, right. Indeed, the Elizabeth A. Woodson 1922 Professor in Afro-American Studies at Smith College says that, even with the abundance of astounding characters in her book, Ida kept speaking to her, from the mists of history, beckoning for a volume of her own.

As my mother always said, listen to your elders. Giddings’ follow-up to When and WhereIda: A Sword Among Lions: Ida B. Wells and the Campaign Against Lynching—is a masterful, 800-plus page tome that, no doubt, will be the definitive record of Wells’ life and work for decades.

Paula J. Giddings is my hero, too, and the guest today on my WBAI-NY / 99.5 FM radio show, NONFICTION, this afternoon, Friday, January 1, at 2 pm ET. Indeed, our conversation was so rich and bountiful it wouldn’t fit into one broadcast. Look out for the second part, soon, on a future date.

For now, you can hear Part I by tuning in at 2 pm. If you’re outside of the New York tri-state, check out our live stream on the web. If you miss the live show, dig into our archives for up to 90 days after broadcast.

The Sweetest Sound: John Rutter’s Cambridge Singers Breathe New Life Into Christmas’s Traditional Carols.

la-ghirlandata-1873La Ghirlandata (1873) by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

John RutterAs a composer and arranger of Christmas carols, London-born John Rutter, right, works within what is arguably one of the most beloved, and oldest, forms of Western music, with a template laid down during the European Middle Ages.

It’s to his credit, then, that, whether re-interpreting long-cherished classics, or creating new ones, his works all shine with a lively and audacious sparkle. As sung by his much-beloved Cambridge Singers, favorites such as “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” or “Deck the Halls” unfold as though they were spirited, new, open-sea sailing anthems. Meanwhile, his own signature works are burnished with the passionate soulfulness of deeply reflected Christian faith and tradition.

I discovered Rutter’s portfolio when I came upon his own masterpiece, “What Sweeter Music,” wafting from a Volvo commercial, of all places. It is, without question, one of the most profoundly gorgeous pieces of hymnody I have ever heard.

John Rutter is the guest on the last edition, this year, of my WBAI-NY / 99.5 FM radio show, NONFICTION, airing this Christmas afternoon, Friday, December 25th, at 2 pm ET. Today’s is a special, holiday edition of the broadcast that we’ve aired once a year for about seven years now.

On this show, John will talk about, among other topics, his upbringing; spirituality in music; why he started his own label, Collegium; and the reasons that writing a carol is harder than writing a symphony, all between selections from his 2002 release, The John Rutter Christmas Album.

You can hear this thoughtful artist’s ideas by tuning in at 2 pm ET. If you’re outside of the New York tri-state, check out our stream on the web. If you miss the live show, dig into our archives for up to 90 days after broadcast.

How Art Happens: Conversations with Frank Gehry Brightly Illuminates the Master’s Creative Process.

dscn4515_1Infinity and beyond: Experience Music Project, Frank Gehry, architect
Photo by Victor Gin

nationalmedalofartsThat Toronto-born Frank Gehry is the world’s most famous living architect, many would argue, is without question. It is best demonstrated, they’d say, by the instant recognizability of his style. Anywhere one sees it passionately realized—for example, in the flamelike arcs of Seattle’s Experience Music Project, above—one knows that only a single person could be responsible for that building.

Others would urge that his having been awarded not only the Pritzker Prize—”architecture’s Nobel,” as it is often regarded—or the American Institute of Architects Gold Medal but also the U.S. Congress’s National Medal of Arts, above, puts him in a singular class. Still others would note that he and his work were examined in a film by an Academy Award-winning director: Sketches of Frank Gehry, by the late Sydney Pollack, one of his his last films and only documentary.

simpson_frank_gehry_concert_hall_41I’d say, however, there’s really only one truly objective proof of Gehry’s renown: He’s the only architect alive to be featured on The Simpsons. In a 2005 episode, right, he’s hired to design a concert hall so that Springfield’s citizens will appear more sophisticated to their neighboring Shelbyville.

Of course, that it’s ultimately closed and turned into a prison isn’t the point. It’s that Gehry’s work has so much mindshare the Simpsons‘ writers felt him suitably big enough to both feature and lampoon on a mainstream animated series. An architect.

gehry-pic_1125075iThat episode aired, however, right around the time that, in real life, Gehry, right, had begun a new project with L.A.-based cultural writer Barbara Isenberg. She’d interviewed him numerous times over a twenty-year period, and Gehry, then 75, had just approached her with, literally, a once-in-a-lifetime offer. “He asked me if I would help him organize his memories through an oral history,” the journalist, below, says on her web site.

barbara_isenbergI was immediately drawn to the idea, having enjoyed our many earlier interviews, and what began as an oral history soon evolved into the conversations I’ve edited here. Since December 2004, Gehry and I have met regularly at his Los Angeles office and Santa Monica home, over restaurant breakfasts and conference room lunches. We’ve talked about the family he was born into and the families he created, who he wanted to be and who he became, what architects do generally and what he does specifically, always coming back to the family, cultural and geographic forces that have shaped his aesthetic.

Barbara Isenberg talks about Conversations with Frank Gehry, the book she authored, based on those interviews, during my WBAI-NY / 99.5 FM radio show, NONFICTION, this afternoon, Friday, December 18, at 2 pm ET.

You can hear her ideas—and Gehry’s—by tuning in at 2 pm. If you’re outside of the New York tri-state, check out our live stream on the web. If you miss the live show, dig into our archives for up to 90 days after broadcast.

The Elements to Producing Precious.

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Precious, Lee Daniels’ adaptation of author / poet Sapphire’s 1996 novel, Push, has gained wide acclaim for the director. Perhaps even more, though, it has procured deeper regard for both Gabourey Sidibe, as the titular, obese, frequently-raped, illiterate, 16-year-old Claireece “Precious” Jones, above, and comedian Mo’Nique, as her acid-tongued, trigger-hair-violent mother, Mary.

lisacortesUnless you closely study indy film credits, though, you may not heard of Precious executive producer Lisa Cortés, right. (A sr. v.p. with Lee Daniels Entertainment, she’s also worked with Daniels, in varied roles, on the Academy Award-winning Monster’s Ball, The Woodsman, Shadowboxer, and Tennessee.)

That Cortés does this in comparative obscurity, however, may prove she possesses what those in a producing role actually need, even more than publicists: The ability to work relentlessly, behind the scenes, to make movies happen, and an ego healthy enough not to pursue media visibility as its own end.

Lisa Cortés is a guest today on my WBAI-NY / 99.5 FM radio show, NONFICTION, this afternoon, Friday, December 11th, at 2 pm ET.

Then, Theodore Gray, is cofounder of software company Wolfram Research, makers of the legendary Mathematica. But that’s just his day job. In his spare time, Gray writes Popular Science‘s “Gray Matter” column…and collects samples of the 118 elements which populate the periodic table.

9781579128142But why leave all that hydrogen, helium, and ununoctium just sitting there? Working with Nick Mann, the two shot seemingly everything in Gray’s hoard for publication.

The result is The Elements A Visual Exploration of Every Known Atom in the Universe, right.

Organized in order of appearance on the periodic table, each element is represented by a spread that includes a stunning, full-page, full-color photograph that most closely represents it in its purest form. For example, at -183˚C, oxygen turns from a colorless gas to a beautiful pale blue liquid.

You can hear Lisa Cortés’s and Theodore Gray’s ideas by tuning in at 2 pm. If you’re outside of the New York tri-state, check out our live stream on the web. If you miss the live show, dig into our archives for up to 90 days after broadcast.

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