Entries from January 2009 ↓

Animal Instincts.

The birth of Wolverine
The birth of Wolverine: Hugh Jackman in X-Men Origins: Wolverine

I went to see Notorious on Wednesday—an a’ight film about the astounding Biggie Smalls—before my panel at the Brecht Forum.

During the previews, they ran the trailer for X-Men Origins: Wolverine, above, out May 1st.

Now, blogs work by connecting readers to content on the web, much as I’ve prospectively done by linking the name of this film to a 480p QuickTime file of its trailer. We do this in order to inform our audiences, and build traffic for our sites.

So, I’m going against all standard blogging protocol when I say the following: Please do not click on that link.

Instead, find a theater where they’re showing the trailer for X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and see it in all of its widescreen, multitrack stereo glory, as I did. When the clip was over, to put it simply, my mouth was literally hanging open. (Not even a brief appearance by presidential troubador Will.I.Am, as mutant John Wraith, could spoil my delirium.)

I’ve gotta admit: After three X-Men films, I was sure that 20th Century Fox / Marvel had gone to the well one too many times with this one.

Dead. That.

Put Down Your Weapons.

Pop Rocks and Coca-Cola

Trembling at the toxic and terrifying sight, above?

Everybody knows what these two substances can do in combination with each other. That is, throw down a mouthful of Pop Rocks. Then, chase it with several gulps of soda. Wave goodbye to your family and your record collection, because your stomach is about to explode, killing you.


Andrea and Julia Ditkoff, 12 and 10, respectively, had a lot of questions like that one:

Why do you get a headache when you eat ice cream too quickly?

What’s that small, dewdrop-shaped thing in the back of your throat?

Why do people hiccup?

…not to mention the one that forms the title of their mother’s new book, Why Don’t Your Eyelashes Grow?: Curious Questions Kids Ask About the Human Body, by Dr. Beth Ann Ditkoff.

In fact, they came up with all the interrogatives Dr. Ditkoff uses in her text. She thought her daughters’ queries were, indeed, provocative, but commonplace. (That combining Pop Rocks and soda will kill you is a 30-year-old, urban myth.) Other children, and other adults, would want to hear the answers.

They will: Dr. Ditkoff is the guest today on my WBAI-NY / 99.5 FM radio show, NONFICTION, this afternoon, Friday, January 30, at 2 pm ET. We’ll be speaking with her, live, on the air, during the first half of the hour. Then, during the second half, we’ll take your calls over our master control studio line: (212) 209-2900.

You can listen to this thoughtful writer / physician’s ideas by tuning in at 2 pm. 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.

Daddy, What’s Wrong with Rupert’s Neck?

Teddy bear with its head getting sawed off

I’m not really clear on who’s the creator of this not-for-sale take on the classic child’s teddy bear, above. They’re prolific, though, as these sister creations make obvious. Hey: Which one’s your favorite: The cat that didn’t quite escape a fast-moving Oldsmobile, a tiger apparently having buyer’s remorse, or, again, the teddies that didn’t quite separate correctly in Mommy Teddy Bear’s womb?

[via Gizmodo]

Harry Allen, All Up In Your Area.

Jamal Woodard as the Notorious B.I.G.

I’m doing a couple of public events tonight and tomorrow, here in New York, and would love to see you in the place.

• First, tonight, Wednesday, January 28, at 7:30 pm, I’m at the Brecht Forum in discussion with cultural anthropology doctoral student / blogger Michael Partis (Ambitionz as a Writer) and writer / poet Anika Lani Haynes, for a talk titled “Biggie, Brooklyn and the World: Conversations on the NOTORIOUS.” It’s in part a response to the eponymous new biopic on the Notorious B.I.G., the powerful hip-hop vocalist who, after releasing two astounding albums, was murdered in Los Angeles in 1997, at the age of 24. (That’s actor / rapper Jamal “Gravy” Woolard, above, as he portrays the artist in the film.)

Say the promo materials:

With the release of Notorious, once again the famed rapper NOTORIOUS B.I.G. has taken center stage in the consciousness of the hip hop generation. Tonight our panel of experts will examine the film as well as the living contradictions of Notorious B.I.G. How do we understand Biggie’s relationship with Lil’ Kim and Faith Evans inform conversations about overall relationship between Black men and women? How does Biggie’s life play out hip hop in the age and crack? And finally in what ways does Biggie’s career mark the end of hip hop era and the presence of Black death? “Biggie, Brooklyn and the World” will bring all of these elements together in a conversation on hip-hop, past, present and future.

There’s a suggested donation of $6-$15, but no one will turned away.

The Brecht Forum is at 451 West Street bet. Bank and Bethune, (212) 242-4201; click here for directions.

• Then, tomorrow night, Thursday, January 29, Tekserve, New York’s preeminent Apple retail and repair shop, will be hosting the third in its ongoing “The Future of Music” series of panels, examining the way technology is rapidly evolving the entire realm of audio entertainment. Guests will include Sadat X (vocalist, Brand Nubian), Claudia Gonson (pianist/drummer/backing vocalist, The Magnetic Fields), Adam Farrell (head of marketing, Beggars Group), and Peter Rojas (founder of the tech blogs Gizmodo, Engadget, and Joystiq).

I’ll be moderating, and if past panels—featuring such luminaries as Chic founder Nile Rodgers, recording engineer Bob Power, and Bomb Squad producer Hank Shocklee—have been any indication, the conversation will be animated, fast-paced, and provocative. Get there, if you can.

My Kid Could Do That…If My Kid Was Born on this Date in 1912, Made a Complete Break with the History of Figurative Painting, Became a Pillar in the Burgeoning Abstract Expressionism Movement, and Ignored Plebes Who Walked By, Sneering, “My Kid Could Do That.”

Jackson Pollock’s Full Fathom Five, 1947
Jackson Pollock. Full Fathom Five. 1947. Oil on canvas with nails, tacks, buttons, key, coins, cigarettes, matches, etc., 50 7/8 x 30 1/8″ (129.2 x 76.5 cm). Gift of Peggy Guggenheim.
From the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York City

Jackson Pollock at workI can’t remember the first time that I saw a picture by Jackson Pollock, right. Since I was born fewer than ten years after his death in 1956, his work seems like it was always around, if only, and mostly, as a representation of how debased “art” had become, that being an extension of what common folk accepted as modern society’s total insanity.

That said, I also can’t recall a time that I didn’t passionately love his paintings. I had to grow into Motherwell and Rothko, but Pollock always spoke to me, even when very young. Perhaps it was those wildly dripped lines which, even to a child, suggest rampant energy, and clearly convey that you are not looking at a pastural field. There seemed something bad about the work, as though the artist was misbehaving. The snob’s retort—”My kid could do that”—was meant as a putdown. But, as was often the case, those attempting to injure the artist’s reputation often found themselves unintentionally giving up mad props. “There was a reviewer a while back” Pollock once said, “who wrote that my pictures didn’t have any beginning or any end. He didn’t mean it as a compliment, but it was.” As always, they look, but do not see.

Bitch Better Have My Triethylene Tetramine Dihydrochloride.

Periodic Table Ring in gold (Au)

Grad school can be tough enough without you having to pull rank. But when you absolutely have to do so—like, say your semester’s final joint term paper is due, and you need to let your chemistry lab partner know whose really running thangs—pimp slap them while wearing one of these Periodic Rings from It’s No Name.

Done up with each ring’s metal’s corresponding insignia from the famed table of elements, they’re available in silver ($280), gold, above ($2,350), and, for future Nobel prize winners only, platinum ($6,600). Aaahhhh, yeah: Sumn’s ’bout to go down, and it’s exothermic.

It Takes a Nation of Drunkards to Hold Us Back.

Big Beer-Per-Year Keg

Burlington, VT freelance graphic designer Jess Bachman’s Wallstats.com: The Art of Information blog converts statistical facts about American culture into picturesque visualizations. This piece, above, makes comprehensible the quantity of suds gulped down each year by thirsty USA-ers—50 billion pints, more per capita than any nation on Earth. I mean, check out the size of that Boeing 747, in comparison. Hey, Sully: Try landing your plane on this.

Lady Sings the Blues.

Shemekia Copeland by Carol Friedman
Copeland: Baby’s got belting power. Photo by Carol Friedman

Shemekia Copeland as a child, singing with father Johnny Clyde Copeland’s bandHarlem native Shemekia Copeland has been making a name for herself as a singer of gutsy, earbusting Black music since childhood. Born into blues royalty, the daughter of now deceased Texas blues guitar legend Johnny Clyde Copeland, she’d often accompany her dad onto the stand, right, where she’d wow audiences with a voice womanly beyond her years.

She’s still doing it. Though not yet 30, Copeland sings songs full of the attitude, soul-weariness, and hard-earned wisdom that is the hallmark of her trade. On her new album, Never Going Back, songs such as “Sounds Like the Devil,” “Rise Up,” and “Limousine” portray a woman beset with calamity, but facing it undaunted; tired and often demoralized, certainly, but absolutely not giving up.

Shemekia Copeland is a guest today on my WBAI-NY / 99.5 FM radio show, NONFICTION, this afternoon, Friday, January 23, at 2 pm ET.

Nicholas Ragbir and BasszillaThen, Joe Stevens, half of the transatlantic directing team Randall Stevens with Nicolas Randal, will talk about their 2008 short, Made in Queens. The film documents a group of Trinidadian-Tobagonian youth living in said borough who, as a hobby, build “enormous stereo systems jury rigged onto ordinary BMX bikes.”

The gargantuan “Basszilla,” above, posed with its creator, crew leader Nicholas Ragbir, features

Four 16 volt car batteries powering four 15” bass speakers in back, two 6.5” mids over two 6×9” mids up front. Two 3000 watt bass amps and one 2000 watt mids amp. DVD touch screen with navigation and music equalizer. 22 tooth chainring. Heavy duty chain, rims, tires and custom-welded support brackets.

Made In Queens is screening tomorrow at the Queens Museum of Art, as part of the Queens International 4 exhibition (January 24 – April 26). “Rumor has it,” says Joe, “the crew and a couple of the bikes may even be on hand.” Hopefully they’ll find parking.

A Different Mirror book coverThen, Barack Obama’s inaugural address on Tuesday has been widely hailed by people of every stripe, and on every side of the political spectrum. In The New York Times, Gordon Stewart, a speechwriter for President Jimmy Carter, said the address was filled with “fine language” and “thrilling sentiments.” Meanwhile, Clark S. Judge, a speechwriter for President Ronald Reagan, called it a “marvelous,” “deeply American” speech.

But was it? Wouldn’t that depend on what vision one has of America?

Ronald Takaki, emeritus professor of ethnic studies at the University of California, Berkeley, and author of the book A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America, above, believes that Obama’s speech rendered a picture of America that, though inspiring to some, leaves out far too many Americans.

You can hear Shemekia Copeland, Joe Stevens, and Ronald Takaki by tuning in at 2 pm. 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.

Super Zero.

MarvelKids.com Create Your Own Super-Hero: Soul Fashion Victim

Marvel Comics’ MarvelKids.com “Create Your Own Super Hero” site enables kids—and time-wasting adults—to both invent and name their own power-packed comic book character, virtually from scratch. Using the editor, one can select everything from noses to mouths, legs, feet, hairstyles, weapons, and more, then color those features in any range of tones. Ladies and gentlemen, meet my protector, and the girl of my dreams, above: Soul Fashion Victim. Aargh. Now, I dare you to mess with me.

Hey, Everybody: I Can See My White House From Here.

Obama Inauguration from space

If you went to Washington for the Obama inauguration without a ticket, but wanted a good view of all the proceedings, your only alternative was up—423 miles above the Earth’s surface.

As TechCrunch.com reports, describing the above photograph,

This is the first satellite image of the inauguration taken at 11:19 AM EST today by the GeoEye-1 satellite. This is the same satellite that supplies Google with images for Google Maps and Google Earth, so we may see this image show up there one day as well.

To give you a better sense of how powerful this technology is, click on the image, and you’ll see that those oblong, blurry, brown spots are people. Which means that, when it comes down to it, despite everything Obama said so well during his inaugural address about the power of the United States, Rockwell gets the last word.