Entries from November 2009 ↓

Dear Tareq and Michaele Salahi: America Is All About Freedom, So Enjoy Yours While It Lasts.

13341_183864396877_101907941877_2806770_8073486_nMichaele Salahi, right, checks for Vice-President Joe Biden’s pulse

Hundreds of comments were posted on Michaele Salahi’s Facebook page, after the socialite and her husband, Tareq, not only crashed the Obama administration’s first White House state dinner last Tuesday night, but cravenly posted photos documenting their breach.

Of all those FB responses to this outrage, here’s my absolute favorite:

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BINGO! Having Already Crashed the White House, Tareq and Michaele Salahi Bag the Night’s Biggest Trophy: A Picture With The President.

slide_3820_54102_largeOBAMA: Good evening! Hey: How d’ya like my rundown, ghetto security? Man, I’ve been to rap concerts that were harder to get into….
SALAHI: We like it more than you
presently imagine, Mr. President.

Not bad for not having been invited: In the above photo, released yesterday by the White House, Michaele Salahi, center, and her husband, Tareq, right, are seen meet-n-greeting the leader of the free world, having done nothing but show up.

Oh, bonus: Look who’s next to the president, as is appropriate, given protocol: The guest of honor, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh!

Wow. So, you mean if I, say, support Pakistan’s goal of redrawn borders in Kashmir, all I need do to get close enough to kill my opposition—the leader of the similarly nuclear-armed nation it borders—is put on a tux, go to the White House, and, like Jay-Z suggested, bring a blonde?

Well, this might offend my political connects, but somebody call Islamabad after I stick a fork in him: He’s done!

Amazing. I don’t know if we should throw these two losers in jail for red-teaming the U.S. government, or give them Nobel Peace Prizes for helping avoid World War III.

Ronald T. Takaki, 1939-2009

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“He couldn’t deal with it anymore.”—Troy Takaki

In January, I spoke with historian Dr. Ronald T. Takaki about his  book, A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America, for my WBAI radio show, NONFICTION. Specifically, we talked about the new Obama administration, and especially the president’s inaugural address, which he’d given mere hours earlier.

Almost exactly four months later, on May 26, Takaki, 70, ended his own life. He was, as his son said, above, seeking a way out of the pain and debilitation of multiple sclerosis., having suffered with the degenerative neurological condition for 20 years..

Had I known that I would never talk to Ron Takaki again, would I have spoken to him longer, more penetratingly, or differently, in some other way? Certainly. But, more, I’m honored that I had the chance to speak with him.

9780316022361_154x233I’d heard him talk in-person once before, at an otherwise middling race conference hosted by Michigan State University, about a dozen years earlier. He gave an explanation of the term “master narrative”—the history of the U.S. popularly held to be true by most people, and that our powerful institutions overwhelmingly support and reinforce.

For the most part, the master narrative is the story of white people, their victories, conquests, and supposed brilliance. Other people are attached to that tale, from time to time, like appliqués to a jacket. But the amazing race dominates the conversation.

Then, after explaining this concept, Takaki told his own version of the nation’s history. What I remember most is how, as he traveled through time in his story, different groups would appear, act, diminish, then reappear and repeat, over and over. It was almost like watching a master weaver, but one whose fabric was temporal and societal, not material.

With his sad and unfortunate death, our nation lost an irreplaceable educator and innovator. (Deeper, still, was his family’s loss of a husband, father, and grandfather.)

Thankfully, still, we have his ideas, in the form of his many books, and we also have his voice: Ronald Takaki is a guest today, on this encore presentation of my WBAI-NY / 99.5 FM radio show, NONFICTION, this afternoon, Friday, November 27, at 2 pm ET.

shemekia-copelandHe’s preceded by blues vocalist Shemekia Copeland, right, and director Joe Stevens, co-creator of the 2008, sound-systems-on-BMX-bikes short, Made in Queens.

You can hear their 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.

Today, I’m Thankful For “Guy Love.”

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Fellow Scrubs-aholics, no doubt, have this duet from season 6 (“My Musical”) on total recall: After admitting a patient who hears everyone’s speech in the form of singing, the cast works out their usual issues, only tunefully.

For Turk (Donald Faison), left, and JD (Zach Braff), right, above, no topic trumps their bromance. (Favorite couplet: “It’s like I married my best friend / But in a totally manly way!”) Hence their “nothing gay about it” paean to the same.

235px-scrubs-cast-scrubs-dvdToday, I’m thankful Scrubs, one of my all-time favorite television shows, will be starting its ninth season on Tuesday, December 1. I’m not hopeful for the series, however. I hope I’m wrong.

Part of this nimble, surreal ensemble comedy’s appeal always lay in the way that it drew nuanced, fully-fleshed out characters, then kept them bumping into each other in highly combinatorial ways. (The central cast consisted of l-r, John C. McGinley, Neil Flynn, Sarah Chalke, Zach Braff, Donald Faison, Ken Jenkins and Judy Reyes.)

Though Braff’s character was central, and, thus, certain relationships were core to the series—see above—it’s hard to think of a character that didn’t have a significant storyline with any other one. So those relationships were, as they are in the best comedies, a big part of the show’s appeal.

150px-season_9_posterAll that seems to have been decapitated. After numerous false starts, word is that the new season changes the show’s location from a hospital to a medical school; that McGinley, Faison, and Flynn will be the only regulars, as other cast members make occasional appearances; and that a whole “new generation!” of scrubs will be entering the cast, right.

All of which is enough to make you long for earlier, better days, when Braff wasn’t yet making $350,000 an episode, and Scrubs hadn’t yet jumped the shark.

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“Why Michael Jackson Was the Greatest Ever,” by George Carlin.
BY GEORGE CARLIN?

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Michael Jackson was, of course, one of my cultural heroes, but notoriously a punching bag, seemingly incapable of ever fighting back against those who taunted and tormented him.

97814391729571George Carlin, right, was another one of my esteemed art warriors, but 180 degrees away from Jackson in temperment, ripping new holes into targets at will. (Carlin died in June 2008; Jackson passed almost exactly a year later, in June 2009.)

So, when I heard that Carlin had once recorded a short statement about why Jackson was the greatest entertainer ever, “bar none,” needless to say, I was expecting a harsh, satirical assassination, given his notoriously acidic tongue and ribald takes on human folly.

Instead, the results, though scarcely a minute in length, and profane–audio NSFW, kiddies–are also profound. Carlin not only defends and hails Jackson, but he takes carefully considered aim at sacred American heroes, like Elvis and Sinatra, to make his point.

In honor of the recent, posthumous release of Carlin’s autobiography, Last Words, co-authored with Tony Hendra, above, I give you the Man…and the Man in the Mirror.

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Looks Like the Ruler’s Back: Sade’s Next Album Out In Three Months.

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Hallelujah! Kids, hear this: The immaculate chanteuse, Sade, announced on her web site today that

The highly anticipated new body of work from SADE Soldier Of Love, will be released WORLDWIDE on February 8, 2010.

The cover, shown above, appears to portray the artist from the rear, in Spanish garb. She’s wearing a couture black-and-silver backless silk dress, pale pink roses in her hair, and large silver hoop earrings, as she overlooks the ruins of Teotihuacan in Mexico.

sadeHelen Folasade Adu, 50, right, leads a namesake group with three instrumentalists. The band has sold over 50 million records, since the release of their debut album, Diamond Life, in 1985.

The upcoming release, her sixth studio work, continues the artist’s prerogative for near decade-long gaps between albums.

Love Deluxe (1992) her fourth CD, was released four-and-a-half years after Stronger Than Pride, her third.

But Lover’s Rock followed eight years later, in November 2000. Soldier of Love‘s February delivery will place it at 9 1/4 years since the Nigerian-Britlish song stylist’s previous work, and less than a month after her 51st, January 16 birthday.

No word on singles or track listings yet, but, hey, believe me: We can wait.

Lady Gaga’s Bathrobe.

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Imagine if you wore this to, say, the Oscars…and someone else showed up in the same dress?

According to 1 Design Per Day,

The Galaxy Dress by designers Francesca Rosella and Ryan Genz is made up of 24,000 2mm x 2mm color LEDs and 4,000 Swarovski crystals. It can glow for 30 minutes straight before needing to be recharged.

And, when you put it on to go pee in the middle of the night, you don’t have to turn on the lights.

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To Boldly Go Where No Man Has Gone Before.

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What is science-fiction?

csicsery-ronayistvan_mugTo Istvan Csicsery-Ronay, Jr., right, you can describe it many ways. But, in the end, “more than a literary genre or a social passion,” sci-fi, or sf, “is a way of organizing the mind to include the contemporary world.”

Well and simply said, and there’s more where that came from. In his book, The Seven Beauties of Science Fiction, Csicsery-Ronay is bullish on sf. A professor of English at DePauw University, and coeditor of the journal Science Fiction Studies, he argues eloquently and passionately for a reconsideration of the form, and for its social utility and intellectual depth.

The title of his book alludes to what he describes as “a constellation of seven diverse cognitive attractions,” pulls, or features, sf possesses, and that make it compelling to fans. These include everything from the way it creates new language to how it handles the notion of history.

Like sf itself, Istvan Csicsery-Ronay, Jr. is a mother lode of ideas. He’s a guest today on my WBAI-NY / 99.5 FM radio show, NONFICTION, this afternoon, Friday, November 20, at 2 pm ET.

One way sci-fi movies used to let you know you were in the future was to make the president Black. But given that he actually is, does that job now fall to Black female rockers, like Danielia Cotton, above, or perhaps journalist Farai Chideya‘s Sophia Maria Clare Lee, the lead in her new novel, Kiss the Sky?

portrait-faraiIn it, Chideya, right, weaves a fast-moving story of sex, drugs, racial politics, and rock-and-roll; a modern tale of a woman who wants it all, but who also keeps getting in her own way. An ultra-modern woman herself, with credits from Newsweek, MTV, and NPR—where she hosted this blogger numerous times—and other media, Chideya makes no bones about the fact that she’s always wanted to be a novelist. Plus, now that she is one, she gladly shares the good news of how she did it, encouraging others to tell their own unique stories. As she notes in her essay, “How Do I Write A Novel,” “writing — not just the product but the process — is as individual as our fingerprints.”

You can hear Farai Chideya’s and Istvan Csicsery-Ronay, Jr.’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.

Come Say “Hi” To the Rich Bad Guy: 50 Cent & I Chop It Up, Tonight!

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Bobby Van’s Steak House exudes power. This is not only due to its location in the Wall St. area, or because its 28-day, dry-aged filet mignon is $50, but because it’s literally built inside the 107-year-old bank vault of J.P. Morgan & Co. As you can see behind me, in the picture, above, the wine cellar occupies one of the small safes. (In another room, antique deposit boxes cover all four walls.)

It was the perfect place to meet rapper / mogul Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, above right, whose salary in the previous year was estimated by Forbes at $20 million. Ironically, 50′s $75,000-plus-a-day income plots a dramatic fall from the year before, when his $100 million dollar take from the sale of Vitamin Water to Coca-Cola—he owned stock—pushed his annual grab to the astounding sum of $150 mil.

Obviously, Curtis could buy the place. But he was just there talk about Before I Self-Destruct, his new album, as part of BET’s continuing Food For Thought: Conversations With… series. (The first installment, talking to artist / entrepreneur Jay-Z, aired in September, and, like this one, also features Hot 97 NY on-air personality Angie Martinez and sportswriter Stephen A. Smith engaging the artist.)

The 30-minute special airs tonight, Thursday, November 19th, at 7:30 pm, and, yes, it’s true, I did ask him why, in hip-hop circles, he’s not considered the king of New York. Real talk!

Grin and Bare It: Sarah Palin Is Still Running Off At the Mouth.

Conan O’Brien aired this “Palin on Oprah” bit, above, last night—re-editing bits and pieces of the former Alaska governor / vice-presidential candidate’s Monday appearance from the popular talk show. However, the funniest aspect of it was that, except for her slightly faster speaking tempo, she actually sounds pretty much the way she always does: As though there’s a 3/4 second delay between what comes out of her mouth and when she hears it do so.

My favorite part (and soon to be yours)?: Her shameless gush over her and her husband’s clearly robust sex life. Inspire us all once again, Sarah.

[via Hulu]