Monday, October 31, 2005
Clear Channel Could Lose Its Licenses In California
On the heels of an action on Friday evening against Clear Channel, Youth Media Council and Media Alliance are taking the unusual step of going after Clear Channel's broadcast licenses in California.
Every 8 years, the FCC reviews the licenses of broadcast outlets.This license renewal process is the only official opportunity for communities to challenge the licenses of large media corporations. So the YMC and MA have announced a media justice coalition to specifically challenge the license renewal of 4 Bay Area Clear Channel stations: 106.1 KMEL (urban format); 94.9 KYLD (urban format); KSGO (Spanish music format) and 910AM KNEW (talk format).
The coalition wants the FCC to investigate the stations for problems such as lack of attention to local issues, talent, and music, and consistent advocacy of violence against people of color, immigrants, and gays.
The challenges were filed last week. Clear Channel will be given 14 days to respond. The FCC will decide by December 1st if the licenses will be renewed.
Stay tuned for more info as this develops.
posted by Zentronix @ 7:42 PM
Friday, October 28, 2005
At The Source: Evictions, Lawsuits, and An $18M Bill
From today's New York Post Online Edition, Keith Kelly reports that The Source has bled $11 million in the past four years, has failed to file taxes, and is even missing subscription mailouts.
One of its lenders, Textron, has called in its debts--reportedly $18 million dollars--and has gone filed a lawsuit in order to recover the losses.
To top it off, the magazine appears to be facing eviction on Monday from the Chelsea digs they moved into not so long ago. David Mays has said the magazine is moving into rented offices about half the size of their current space as part of a "downsizing".
Here's an excerpt from the NY Post piece:
The Source's freewheeling, self-styled moguls appear to routinely write checks to themselves for parties, jewelry, exotic trips and other things — with little or no record-keeping.
"Borrower's records of checks and wire have little or no back-up and [the] borrower appears to have no internal controls," claims the suit filed by Textron's attorney Thomas Finn.
"Senior management seriously mismanages borrower's cash," claims the suit.
The suit says that in the first half of 2005, auditors unearthed nearly $1 million in unauthorized expenditures. The figure comprised $422,000 in payments to company insiders, $357,000 to travel agents, and $80,000 for "promotional jewelry."
The suit estimates 2005 sales at $20.7 million, a decrease of $5.1 million from 2004. The suit alleges that the company's net loss widened from $831,000 in 2004 to $2.26 million in 2005.
On top of that, the flagship magazine has seen its circulation plunge.
The Source was selling 500,000 copies per month in 2002 and 2003, and is now selling about 250,000 copies a month, the suit claims. Part of the reason for the decline was that the company did not put out the January 2005 issue and has failed to mail at least 140,000 subscriber copies this year.
Reached yesterday, Mays insisted that everything was under control.
"The company is going through a restructuring, which many companies are doing today due to the economy."
He said The Source has been "hurt because of what is going on in the hip-hop world."
There are "monopolies" driving hip-hop record labels to merge or go out of business, drying up an advertising base, he said. At the same time, the number of hip-hop clothing lines is shrinking.
"We're downsizing our space and finding ways to cut our operating costs," said Mays.
All this comes days after the magazine sued BET for $100 million for backing out of The Source Awards this year. The event was to reportedly to have taken place in Miami on Columbus Day weekend.
In an article with Allhiphop.com, Mays described himself and his colleagues as "freedom fighters", and promised to file more lawsuits soon, including ones against Funkmaster Flex and against major labels.
Mays told Allhiphop.com, "We are about to enter into a period of serious legal activity."
posted by Zentronix @ 4:28 PM
Alt-Media: The Other Shoe Drops...
Peter Scholtes talks about the Punk Planet magazine and the impending end of Big Top Distributors, the largest remaining distributor of independent magazines.
This is huge, and also hugely depressing. It hasn't just been a bad week for Bush and for fans of big-money baseball (Go Shoeless Joe! Come on, smile, we need it...), but for alt-media all around. Peter reprints the heartbreaking letter. It begins:
"Hey there, Last Thursday we received some distressing news--the kind of news that made our very bones ache when we heard it; the kind of news that felt so significant we simply couldn't function after it sank in. With a few days time and the ability to process it, we decided it's news worth sharing: It was a letter from the president of the Independent Press Association, the not-for-profit organization that owns the company that distributes the majority of Punk Planet's copies, BigTop Newsstand Services. The letter acknowledged the truth of a rumor that had been running through indie publishing circles for months now: the distributor was having cash flow problems..."
posted by Zentronix @ 3:56 PM
Thursday, October 27, 2005
New National Consensus After Katrina: FIGHT POVERTY
The first poll to look at racial attitudes on governmental policies after Hurricane Katrina found that, by strong majorities, all ethnic groups believe fighting poverty is more important than fighting terrorism.
"To my great surprise, the priority was fighting poverty," said Sergio Bendixon, who conducted the poll for New California Media. "It was not on the radar before Katrina."
"This is a sea-change in attitudes," he added. "This is an opportunity where the country is united."
A recent, much-cited Roper Poll taken before Hurricane Katrina found that most Americans blamed poverty on people's choices, and that there was little need for government to establish programs that would address it.
That consensus seems to have taken a complete turn since the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the flooding of New Orleans, and the destruction of the Gulf Coast.
Many tie the Katrina recovery effort to the war, agreeing that the best way to fund the recovery effort was to remove troops from Iraq. Communities of color--including Blacks (77%), Latinos (69%), and Asian Americans (60%)--were much more likely than whites (46%) to agree with this particular point.
64% of Blacks and 57% of Latinos said they were very angry with President Bush for his handling of the aftermath of the hurricane. More than half of all Blacks, Latinos, and Asians felt that they could not rely on government to protect their families in a crisis. Half of whites disagreed.
The national survey polled 1035 Hispanics, Asians, African Americans and non-Hispanic whites on Hurricane Katrina’s impact. The poll was conducted in six languages, including Spanish, Mandarin, and Vietnamese, and was released today by New America Media.
The poll result's executive summary is here. A fuller report is here.
posted by Zentronix @ 11:33 AM
Rap Sessions Hits The Road
Wanted to let you all know about Rap Sessions, a one-of-a-kind tour bringing some of the dopest headz around the country to spark dialogues about hip-hop activism and culture.
It's being organized by Bakari Kitwana and features our homies Oliver Wang, Adam Mansbach, Raquel Z. Rivera, and Ernie Paniccioli.
They are touring right now and again in March, and could be somewhere near you soon. Check here for the dates.
posted by Zentronix @ 10:23 AM
Tuesday, October 25, 2005
Gentrifying Disaster: The Latest From Mike Davis On New Orleans
Today is Eviction Day in New Orleans.
Here is Mike Davis' latest piece on "the most brutal urban-renewal project Black America has ever seen". You may never think of "New Urbanism" in the same way again:
By Mike Davis
In a recent email to Louisiana officials, FEMA curtly turned down the state’s request for funding to notify displaced residents that they could cast absentee ballots in the city’s crucial February mayoral election. FEMA also declined to share data with local authorities about the current
addresses of evacuees.
In the eyes of many local activists, FEMA’s refusal to support the voting rights of evacuees is consistent with a larger pattern of federal inaction and delay that seems transparently designed to discourage the return of Black residents to the city. As one Associated Press dispatch presciently warned, “Hurricane Katrina [may] prove to be the most brutal urban-renewal project Black America has ever seen.”
ETHNIC CLEANSING, GOP-STYLE
In the weeks since Bush’s Jackson Square speech, FEMA has alarmingly failed to advance any plan for the return of evacuees to temporary housing within the city or to connect displaced locals with reconstruction jobs. Moreover for lack of a tax base or emergency federal funding, local governments in afflicted areas have been forced to lay off thousands of employees and are unable to restore many essential public services.
Bush’s promise to promptly help the region’s unemployed – 282,000 in Louisiana alone - has turned into slow-moving House legislation that would benefit less than one-quarter of those made jobless by Katrina. The powerful House Republican Study Group has vowed to support only relief measures that buttress the private sector and are offset by reductions in national social programs such as food stamps, student loans, and Medicaid.
The Bush administration accordingly has blocked bipartisan legislation to extend Medicaid coverage to all low-income hurricane victims and imposed unprecedented demands for loan repayment upon local governments. Katrina’s victims, as Paul Krugman has pointed out, have been “nickeled and dimed” to an extent that casts grave doubt over whether large-scale reconstruction “will really materialize.”
In the meantime more than two-thirds of FEMA contracts (according to Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco) has gone to out-of-state firms, with a blatant bias toward Halliburton and other Texas-based investors in Bush Inc. Simultaneously, unscrupulous employers have saturated Latino neighborhoods in Houston and other southwestern cities with fliers advertising a cornucopia of jobs in New Orleans and Gulfport.
With Davis-Bacon and affirmative-action requirements suspended by executive order, immigrant workers – housed in tents and working under appalling conditions – have flocked to jobs sites in the city, largely unaware that tens of thousands of blue-collar evacuees who would relish these jobs are unable to return for lack of family housing and federal support. Ethnic tensions are artificially inflamed by speculations about a “population swap” and impending ‘Latinization” of the workforce.
New barriers, meanwhile, are being erected against the return of evacuees. In Mississippi’s ruined coastal cities, as well as in metro New Orleans, landlords – galvanized by rumors of gentrification and soaring land values- are beginning to institute mass evictions. (Although the oft-cited Lower Ninth Ward is actually a bastion of blue-collar homeownership, most poor New Orleanians are renters.)
Civil-rights lawyer Bill Quigley has described how renters have returned “to find furniture on the street and strangers living in their apartments at higher rents, despite an order by the Governor that no one can be evicted before October 25. Rents in the dry areas have doubled and tripled.”
Secretary of Housing Alfonso Jackson, meanwhile, seems to be working to fulfill his notorious prediction that New Orleans is “not going to be as black as it was for a long time, if ever again.” Public-housing and Section 8 residents recently protested that “the agencies in charge of these housing complexes [including HUD] are using allegations of storm damage to these complexes as a pretext for expelling working-class African-Americans, in a very blatant attempt to co-opt our homes and sell them to developers to build high-priced housing.”
Minority homeowners also face relentless pressures not to return. Insurance compensation, for example, is typically too small to allow homeowners in the eastern wards of New Orleans to rebuild if and when authorities re-open their neighborhoods.
Similarly, the Small Business Administration – so efficient in recapitalizing the San Fernando Valley in the aftermath of the 1994 Los Angeles earthquake – has so far dispensed only a few million dollars despite increasingly desperate pleas from tens of thousands of homeowners and small business people facing imminent foreclosure or bankruptcy.
As a result, not just the Black working class, but also the Black professional and business middle classes are now facing economic extinction while Washington dawdles. Tens of thousands of blue-collar white, Asian and Latino residents of afflicted Gulf communities also face de facto expulsion from the region, but only the removal of African-Americans is actually being advocated as policy.
Since Katrina made landfall, conservatives – beginning with Rep. Richard Baker’s infamous comments about God having ”finally cleaned up the housing projects in New Orleans” - have openly gloated over the possibilities for remaking New Orleans in a GOP image. (Medically, this might be considered akin to a mass outbreak of Tourette Syndrome, whose official symptoms include “the overwhelming urge to use a racial epithet.”)
Republican interest in reducing the Black Democratic vote in New Orleans – the balance of power in state elections – resonates with the oft-expressed desire of local elites to purge the city of “problem people.” As one major French Quarter landowner told Der Spiegel: “The hurricane drove poor people and criminals out of the city and we hope they don’t come back. The party’s finally over for these people and now they’re going to have to find someplace else to live in the United States.”
Nor are downsizing and gentrification necessarily offensive to Democratic neo-liberals who have long advocated breaking up concentrated poverty and dispersing the black poor into older suburbs. The HOPE VI program, the showpiece of Clinton-era urban policy, demolished traditional public housing and ‘vouchered out’ residents in order to make way for mixed-use, market-rate developments like the St. Thomas redevelopment in New Orleans in the late 1990s that has become the prototype for elite visions of the city’s future.
There exists, in other words, a sinister consensus of powerful interests about the benefits of an urban ‘triage’ that abandons historical centers of Black political power like the Ninth Ward while rebuilding million-dollar homes along the disaster-prone shores of Lake Ponchartrain and the Mississippi Sound.
THE NEW URBANISM MEETS THE OLD SOUTH
Into this fraught and sinister situation now blunders the circus-like spectacle of the Congress of New Urbanism (CNU): the architectural cult founded by Miami designers Andreas Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk.
Twenty years ago, when Duany was first barnstorming the nation’s architectural schools and preservation societies, the New Urbanism seemed to offer an attractive model for building socially diverse and environmentally sustainable communities based on a systematization of older ‘city beautiful’ principles such as pedestrian scale, traditional street grids, an abundance of open space, and a mixture of landuses, income groups and building forms.
In practice, however, this diversity has never been achieved. Duany and Plater-Zyberk’s Seaside – the Florida suburb so brilliantly caricatured in the 1998 film “The Truman Show” – was an early warning that kitsch would usually triumph over democracy in New Urbanist designs.
Despite the populist language of the CNU manifesto, moreover, Duany has always courted corporate imaginers, mega-developers and politicians. In the mid-1990s, HUD under Secretary Henry Cisneros incorporated New Urbanist ideas into many of its HOPE VI projects.
Originally conceived as replacement housing for the poor, HOPE VI quickly morphed into a new strategy for replacing the poor themselves. Strategically-sited public-housing projects like New Orleans St. Thomas homes were demolished to make way for neo-traditionalist townhouses and stores (in the St. Thomas case, a giant Wal-Mart) in the New Urbanist spirit.
These “mixed-use, mixed-income” developments were typically advertised as little utopias of diversity, but – as in the St. Thomas case – the real dynamic was exclusionary rather than inclusionary, with only a few project residents being rehoused on site. Nationally, HOPE VI led to a net loss of more than 50,000 units of desperately needed low-income housing.
Smart developers accordingly have been quick to put New Urbanist halos over their otherwise rampant landgrabs and neighborhood demolitions. Likewise, shrewd conservatives like Paul Weyrich have come to recognize the obvious congruence between political traditionalism and architectural nostalgia.
Weyrich, the founding president of the Heritage Foundation, recently wrote that the “new urbanism needs to be part of the next conservatism,” a conservatism that remakes cities by purging their criminal underclasses.
(After Katrina, Weyrich strongly defended House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert’s questioning of whether New Orleans – “with its welfare state and entitlement mentality… a prototype for Liberals” –should be rebuilt at all.)
Weyrich was the spiritual bridesmaid during the recent nuptials between the CNU’s Andreas Duany and Harley Barbour, the sleazy former tobacco lobbyist and Republican chair, who became governor of Mississippi by wrapping himself in the Confederate battle flag.
Barbour, long King of K Street, is nobody’s fool, and he is trying to extract as much long-term political and economic advantage from Katrina as possible. One of his declared priorities, for example, is bringing the casinos ashore into larger, more Las Vegas-like settings; another is to rapidly restore shoreline property values and squelch any debate about resettling the population on defensible higher ground (north of I-10, for example).
It was thus a rather brilliant stroke for Barbour to invite the CNU to help Mississippi rebuild its Gulf Coast “the right way.” The first phase was the so-called “mega-charrette’, 11-18 October, that brought 120 New Urbanists together with local officials and business groups to brainstorm strategies for the physical reconstruction of their communities.
Duany, as usual, whipped up a revivalistic fervor that must have been pleasing to Barbour and other descendants of the slave masters: “The architectural heritage of Mississippi is fabulous .. really, really marvelous.”
With Gone with the Wind as their apparent script, the CNU teams spent a frenzied week trying to show the locals how they could replace their dismal strip malls with glorious Greek Revival casinos and townhouses that would rival any of those that once existed on MGM’s backlot. The entire exercise stayed firmly within the parameters of a gambling-driven ‘heritage’ economy with casinos “woven into the community fabric” and neo-Taras rebuilt on the beach.
In the end, however, what was important was not the actual content of the charrette, nor the genuine idealism of many participants, but simply the legitimacy and publicity that CNU gave to Barbour’s agenda. Duany, who never misses an opportunity to push his panaceas to those in power, has foolishly made himself an accomplice to the Republicans’ evil social experiment on the Gulf Coast.
Here are some other recent, relevant pieces by Mike D:
+ The Predators of New Orleans
+ Planet of Slums
posted by Zentronix @ 10:57 AM
Monday, October 24, 2005
Eulogy For The Alt-Weekly
At just after midnight this morning, The Village Voice announced that its parent company, Village Voice Media, will merge with the New Times.
That means that competition in the "alternative weekly" sector has been all but eliminated. The New Times is adding magazines like the Los Angeles Weekly, City Pages, and Seattle Weekly to its list, and will command 25% of the market.
It is now the Clear Channel of alt-weeklies.
There is no longer anything "alternative" about the alternative. The long goodbye to an oppositional politics and aesthetics begins now.
This deal was first reported as more than a rumor in the San Francisco Bay Guardian over a month ago. The BG reported that the New Times would take a 62% stake in a new LLC while Village Voice Media would take 38%. A plurality, if not a majority, of the new LLC board would be venture capitalists.
Today's New York Times confirms the details of this arrangement. It also cites New Times CEO James Larkin as saying that they expect to buy out the VCs in 5 years. Apparently, the new company will be called Village Voice Media, but clearly the Voice will be changing to become more like the New Times, not the other way around.
Current union contracts with the Voice would be honored--and that, friends, is another story in itself. But others would likely be dealt with nastily. Earlier this year, there was a bruising battle at Cooper Square over union givebacks that resulted in small concessions from union members, and deep cuts in rates to freelancers.
This is no small matter--the Voice once paid the best rates in the industry. By contrast, New Times freelancers received much less, and largely remained a point of entry for new writers. This merger is likely to push freelancer rates even lower, as NT execs ask editors why they are paying so much for mere "content". Writers, after all, are worth much less than a dime a dozen.
In the meantime, David Schneiderman, the man who sold the Voice, is reportedly ready to receive a cool half mill as a bonus to close the merger deal, and will become the VP of online operations.
Peter Scholtes at the City Pages sounds an ominous note on the future of the merger:
"...the first business decision of the long-rumored new company, which now owns City Pages? Feed the scoop to the New York Times, not its own reporters. So much for our vaunted "online efforts"...
From the point of view of the principals, the NT/VVM merger is the next logical step in rationalizing the industry.
Here's a business that started in the McCarthyist 50s as a true alternative--the papers used to be called 'undergrounds'--and took flight during the "whole world is watching" media explosion of the 60s. Lots of assholes got exposed, lots of rebels got their shine, and lots of cutting-edge culture got introduced to the world. Then, just like a lot of lefty orgs in the 70s and 80s, the alt-weeklies began to implode. Those decades were rife with purges, shakeouts, closures, and union-busting drives.
All these burned bridges were long forgotten by the go-go 90s, when dot-com money flooded alt-weeklies across the country. That's when VCs started checking out the scene, and corporate hounds like Larkin started moving in.
(This period also led to the rise of a new generation of writers--one much more clean-scrubbed, signifier-savvy, overeducated, and arch-browed than the drug-slammed, whiskey-swilling, ink-stained renegades of an earlier era. The New New-New Journalists were culturally sharper and, much too often, politically less committed. They could take apart a movie or a CD for you in a smarter, funnier way than any overly earnest hippie ever could, but they couldn't tell you why they were getting paid so poorly for it, or organize anything more impactful than a kegger. And yes, I absolutely include myself in this not-so-wild bunch.)
But then the bubble burst, and everyone was assed-out again. Since then, the NT and VVM have been slowly coming together in a death dance.
In October of 2002, NT and VVM cut a deal to split markets--not at all unlike what radio has done after consolidation: here's your turf, here's mine. NT closed the LA New Times and let VVM and its LA Weekly imprint have the run of the place. In Cleveland, VVM shut down its Cleveland Free Times so that NT could rock on with its Cleveland Scene title. (For my rant back then, click here and scroll down to the October 7th screed.)
What media conglomerates began to learn after 2000 was that it wasn't enough to be the big daddy, to have collected all the pieces on the Monopoly board. Properties actually had to make money, and after the bubble, there was a whole lotta head-scratching going on.
In the San Francisco Bay area, an area not big in numbers but huge in mindshare, the NT decided to go after the independent San Francisco Bay Guardian in a big way--through predatory pricing and conglom-to-conglom sweetheart deals--essentially offering heavily discounted ads to tackle the market. (Note that this is the same company that now blames freebie Craigslist for its financial woes.)
By all accounts, this has caused all three major weeklies--the NT's SF Weekly and East Bay Express, and the Bay Guardian--to suffer heavy losses. Staffing-wise, the BG is a skeleton of what it was 5 years ago; it keeps going not because its staffers are inspired by the paper's maverick mythology, but on the backs of its freelancers who must sometimes wait longer than 6 months for an actual check. And if the BG account is to be believed, the NT/VVM merger may actually force the NT to close one or both of its titles here.
In the meantime, the thing that got the alternative press going in the first place--content--suffers.
The Voice, sort of the alt-weekly of record, has been undergoing an extreme makeover during the past 3 years, heading towards a NT template: shorter, less substantive pieces, writing that veers toward breezy over deep, less investigative and more pop-cultural. Some of the changes have been good, a necessary updating for a new generation of readers. Others have left great writers like Gary Giddins (and many others who, unlike Giddins, decided to stay) completely denatured.
With 100-word reviews and 500-word news bits, lots of brilliant writers have been basically reduced to adding sugar to the kool-aid. The only good news here is for younger writers: there's going to be lots of opportunity for you, especially if you don't aspire to pay rent and feed yourself, if you're bored with fighting City Hall, and you love Kenny Loggins.
But when the paper becomes only about selling the latest CD, concert ticket, movie ticket, sex toy, or call-girl service, what the hell is "alternative" about that?
I wrote this in 2002:
Alt-weeklies mostly emerged as a way of meeting great goals: 1) providing a progressive foil against the mainstream, 2) representing lefty politics, and cutting-edge arts and culture of local communities through covering stories never told by the corporate mainstream media, and 3) building an enlightened business model -- by becoming a marketing vehicle for local, small businesses, and people-connecting mechanisms (i.e. personal ads!) -- in other words, being a manifestation of the whole "small is beautiful" ethic.
The merger of NT and VVM shows how far we've come.
James Larkin says, "I'm doing it because I love good journalism. I want to have newspapers in the most exciting markets in the country. This is not a financial play."
You can take your Murdoch complex, take your "newspapers in exciting markets", and go run them into the ground.
I'm gonna pour a little out on the sidewalk for the alt-weekly, then I'm gonna go try and find me a real alternative.
posted by Zentronix @ 8:25 AM
Sunday, October 23, 2005
Garry Trudeau on Doonesbury, the War, Accessing the Military, and B.D.'s Wounds
Did Beetle Bailey ever face PTSD?
Here, in a speech about his process of writing his current threads about B.D.'s transformation from warrior to amputee, is why Trudeau remains the most important cartoonist of this or any other decade:
I recently spent the day in Silver Spring, Md., at a Veterans of Foreign Wars post and a vet center, talking to two veterans of Operation Enduring Freedom who are about to leave the service and make their way back into civilian life.
Both have grievous wounds. One is an amputee, the other has metal plates in his back and a head full of brutal memories.
There was the day he was sent out to lead a patrol with poorly armored vehicles, no intel briefing, no maps, no communication systems, and just two magazines of ammunition -- one with only tracers. It was a misbegotten mission that got one of his men killed, and he'll never forget it.
Both soldiers, with the help of incredibly dedicated counselors, are trying to figure out how to live with their emotional wounds as they make the transition out of a military culture that still stigmatizes post-traumatic stress syndrome, and then into a civilian population that can't possibly understand what they've been through.
The reason that I've been listening to their stories is that my character B.D. is now at that precise point in his own life, and I need to learn about what that must feel like before I can write about it.
When and if I finally do, I have to do another terrible thing: I have to make it funny. And I have to find a way of doing so without contributing to the suffering that these young veterans are enduring.
posted by Zentronix @ 8:41 AM
Friday, October 21, 2005
Reporting on New Orleans
While the mainstream media goes nuts over Wilma, and starts burying its Gulf Coast coverage in the interior, some of the best reporting on New Orleans this week is coming in Durham's The Independent (go here for their back coverage) and in The New Standard. Check it out.
posted by Zentronix @ 2:16 PM
Monday, October 17, 2005
Gulf Coast Emergency Linklist & Blogroll
Here's an incomplete blogroll for Katrina organizing and relief efforts. Please feel free to post or email me more sites, particularly blogs from NOLA's progressive community and any funds for community organizations. We'll be keeping this expanding list also at the Third World Majority blogsite.
(Originally posted last month...Updated and Re-posted 10/17/05)
+ The New Standard
+ The Independent (Durham)
+ Hard Knock Radio
+ Indymedia Katrina Site
+ Jordan Flaherty/Left Turn
+ New Orleans Flood Map (by street address)
+ NOLA Indymedia
+ Pop and Politics
+ Rosa Clemente
+ Third World Majority
Community Rebuilding By And For NOLA
+ New Orleans Network
+ Community Labor United
+ Common Ground
+ Get Your Act On! (Covington)
+ Left Turn Magazine
+ Neighborhood Story Project
+ Juvenile Justice Project
+ The Justice Center
+ SparkPlug Foundation Katrina Relief
+ Critical Resistance
+ Baton Rouge Area Foundation
+ New Orleans Disaster Oral History & Memory Project
+ Saving Our Selves (SOS)
+ Veterans For Peace
Grassroots Relief In Mississippi
THE SOUTHERN RELIEF FUND
C/O THE MISSISSIPPI WORKERS'CENTER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
PO Box 1223
Greenville, MS 38702
Phone: 662-334-1122 Fax: 662-334-1274
+ Community Labor United
+ Get Your Act On! (Covington, LA)
+ Common Ground (Algiers, LA)
+ Real Reports (Algiers, LA)
+ Hungry Blues
+ Joel Johnson
posted by Zentronix @ 3:47 PM
Sunday, October 16, 2005
Another Heroes' Return: The Definitive Watts Prophets
It's finally here. Thanks to Berkeley's Runt Distribution, the definitive edition of the Watts Prophets classic albums Rappin' Black In A White World and Black Voices On The Streets Of Watts is now out. It features rare photos and art from the post-rebellion era. I was honored to be able to do the liner notes.
Get it here now.
Check back here for information on Father Amde's poetry collection, coming soon.
posted by Zentronix @ 11:30 PM
Go Sox--White Sox, That Is!
Goodbye Vlad and Shrek and K-Rod and your stupid-ass thunder sticks.
Blez at Athletics Nation explains why most of the East Bay is rooting for the White Sox:
The following teams have been eliminated this postseason, and their payroll follows.
The Yankees - $208.3 million
The Red Sox - $123.5 million
The Angels - $97.7 million
The Braves - $86.4 million
(Source: USA Today Salary Database)
And if the Cardinals follow suit, they have a $92.1 million total in 2005 salaries. Those are five of the top 10 teams in total payroll in the majors. The Yankees and Red Sox being 1-2 and the Angels being fourth.
What does this say? A huge payroll may buy you a look at the playoffs, but it doesn't guarantee you anything.
And I know a lot of you have said that a huge payroll doesn't bother you, but I like to root for underdogs and any team with $22 million less in total salary is a team I'm going to cheer for.
Plus Jermaine Dye was a well-liked A and is from Vacaville.
I predict the Red Sux have massive player churn at the end of this year and don't return to the playoffs. Same with A-Fraud and the Yankees. And I will love every second of it. That's not hate, that's underdog love!
You heard it here first...
posted by Zentronix @ 11:20 PM
Saturday, October 08, 2005
Dellums: A Hero Returns
The best political news in weeks: in a dramatic move, Ron Dellums has decided to run for Oakland Mayor.
Here's Van Jones' take:
Sinking under a host of socio-economic problems and still in mourning after the Katrina catastrophe, the African-American community is in deep pain. It finds itself directionless, losing ground and lacking the world-class leadership it needs to right itself.
In other words: Black America is in desperate need of a hero. And Friday afternoon, a hero returned.
In an emotional, see-saw speech, former U.S. Congressman Ron Dellums announced to a deliriously happy crowd of 500 that next year he will run for Mayor of Oakland.
The announcement was a dramatic turn-about, since he mounted the podium apparently intending to say no.
A grassroots movement had sprung up to draft him, collecting 8,000 signatures using only volunteer labor. But Dellums, the hero of the anti-apartheid struggle and mentor to anti-war Congresswoman Barbara Lee, has been working for the past few years as a well-paid D.C. lobbyist. Though he looks like a fit man of 50, he is actually almost 70 years old.
In other words, he is finally earning some money. And no one could fairly begrudge him the chance to spend his twilight years unburdened by all the problems of urban America. Oakland has one of the highest crime and murder rates in America. Its schools are crumbling and in receivership. The city council is dysfunctional and firmly in the pocket of big developers. No one in his right mind would willingly take on the challenge of turning this town around.
Rumors had begun circulating earlier in the week that Dellums was going to attend the culmination of the signature-gathering, thank the volunteers and then decline to run. And so I was not surprised as Dellums stood before the expectant crowd and began working through reasons that he might not seek the office.
But as the crowd screamed, stomped, chanted and wept, the old lion began talking himself into making a very different announcement.
He began to speculate about the impact of Oakland as a model city, providing health coverage for all its residents, and setting an example for the nation. The crowd began cheering.
He talked about the need to fix the schools, preserve economic diversity in the gentrifying city and to embrace the young men hanging on street corners. The applause was overwhelming, thunderous. Black women were weeping in the aisles.
Dellums looked out into the crowd, surveying the sea of tearful, hopeful faces. "Like a jazz player, I honestly didn't know what I was going to say today, how this song was going to end until the very last note," he said. "But I can see your pain."
He hesitated, looked at his wife. And then he said: "And if Ron Dellums running for mayor will bring you some hope ... then let's do it." Bedlam.
Whether the on-stage decision-making was authentic or high theatre, it was a powerful and cathartic drama for all who witnessed it. And it is the first sign of hope in Black America in a very, very long time. The cries of joy and relief and hope that swept the room were testimony to the pent-up need for heroic leadership in times like these.
Cynics will say that we have been down this road before, with promising Black mayors disappointing their urban constituents. And Oakland in particular has suffered from eight years of a celebrity mayor named Jerry Brown, who did little to help the poor and much to aid the developers. Furthermore, Dellums' announcement essentially sinks the very worthy candidacies of progressives Greg Hodge and Nancy Nadel -- both of whom have labored in the local vineyards for years, while Dellums grew rich inside the beltway. All valid points.
But Black America needed someone larger than life to step up to the plate, right now. As one man said, "Well, we couldn't save New Orleans. But maybe we can save Oakland."
I believe that the candidacy of Ron Dellums is a signal event in a post-Katrina resurgence of progressive Black politics. Oakland will emerge as a laboratory for a very different kind of social policy than we have seen in this country for a very long time. And his tenure will give ample room and space to further groom a newer crop of leaders, who can take over upon his retirement.
And I believe this, not just because of the kind of person Ron Dellums is.
I believe it is true because of the kind of people Oaklanders are.
With the prospect a city hall on the side of the people, and not in the pocket of big developers, this town has a fighting chance again. And, through Oakland's bright example, so do we all.
posted by Zentronix @ 9:35 AM
Friday, October 07, 2005
It Was A Good Day!
Randy's unit has shrinkage.
Idiots go home.
The AL East was overrated. Money ain't buying nothing this year, especially chemistry.
What a wonderful world this is sometimes.
posted by Zentronix @ 7:23 PM
Wednesday, October 05, 2005
Martha Cooper's We B*Girlz Iz Out!
I've been waiting all year for this one. Martha Cooper and Nika Kramer's We B*Girlz is out!!!
Martha and Nika have been working on this labor of love for the better part of the last 2 years, capturing the top b-girls worldwide and documenting the movement. Our girl Rokafella did the introduction, the great Asia-One gets high billing, and they are all going to bring it on tour this fall and into next year. Check their website often for the info.
This is going to be as important a book as Subway Art was to all of us back in the day. In 2 years, the b-girl movement is going to be at a whole other level in terms of size, scale, and influence.
You can buy it here or, for a limited time, cop a signed copy here for a limited time. Do it now!
posted by Zentronix @ 9:36 AM
Boom Year For Jamaican Music
A big month and a big year for Jamaican music already. Today, there's news that Sean Paul's The Trinity had the biggest reggae debut ever--107,000 copies sold, #7 on Billboard's Top 200, #4 on R&B, and #1 at Reggae.
Check this: He broke the previous record, which was set two weeks before by Damian Marley's Welcome to Jamrock, with 85,000 (also #7 on the Top 200).
A boom year dat.
The great thing for us longtime Jamaican music lovers is that these albums are very different from each other--so perhaps there is a spectrum opening up in US audiences for a broader range of Jamaican and Caribbean artists.
Some revisions and some non-revisions on earlier posts are in order:
+ Welcome to Jamrock is the best Marley album ever by someone not named Bob. I've had my earlier words for breakfast already.
+ Sean Paul's record was pretty good after all--even though the video was obviously a rush job--and the wait clearly didn't hurt the record at all.
+ I Wayne's album is still way overrated.
+ Why do people still sleep on Morgan Heritage?
posted by Zentronix @ 8:42 AM
Against Apathy: Criticism That Sucks
When I used to read reviews like this one, I'd just be like, ennh whatever.
But now they are beginning to get me mad.
Not just because they're overly self-conscious, indulgently snarky dismissals of artists, musicians, and writers I love--and full disclosure, who sometimes are, in fact, some of my closest friends or even me--but because they reflect a growing trend among young writers, the emergence of a new aesthetic that leads nowhere.
To me, being a critic means championing an alternative. The great critics became great not simply because they knew how to skewer a subject elegantly, but because they could make you believe that something new, urgent, and life-changing was arriving or had arrived. They championed a rebel aesthetic, and ideas like independence, difference, novelty, fun, antiauthoritarianism, you know, good shit.
These days, with the dot-com crash and a lot of alt-weeklies gone corporate, too many of us critics write like cubicle schmucks unlucky enough to not to land a job at Entertainment Weekly.
But it's not the ambition that's bothers me, it's the lack of imagination.
There is no blood or fire. There's just an unearned jaded-ness with the world. There isn't a Johnny-Thunders-with-cigarette-and-guitar detachment, to be all Lester Bangs on folks, there is simply an utter lack of conviction masquerading as an outsider stance.
Which is ridiculous.
Because the one thing that so many of these critics don't seem to appreciate at all is the desire for an alternative.
They're basically engaged in creating an alternative to the alternative, which may not scan like "Laguna Beach" or "Extra!" at first, but sure isn't challenging that kind of stuff at all.
Do you want the opposite of "conscious" aesthetics (a term I don't believe in but let's just make this point)? Here it is. Unconscious aesthetics--it isn't self-aware in the remotest sense.
In fact, these unconscious critics get most rankled by folks who are still about being self-critical and trying to make a difference. At its most basic, it's a knee-jerk remote-control reactionary aesthetics.
Really, you can't trust their very definitions. Kenny Loggins=cool. Blackalicious=bland. 'Nuff said.
The biggest struggle in their writing is a personal battle against boredom. (For the poor reader, it's a battle to simply stay awake 500-word or even 100-word count.) The sum of it all is a thinly disguised effort to preserve the status quo--in politics, in art, in culture, in society.
Which is fine.
Let's just call it what it is. A celebration of sameness. An indulgence of apathy. A reaction against change. A critical dead-end.
posted by Zentronix @ 7:07 AM
Tuesday, October 04, 2005
The Birth of Hip-Hop Through The Lens of The Great Joe Conzo
He was there--and you probably weren't!
Photos by Joe Conzo Jr.
Here's one very good story about the great Bronx photographer Joe Conzo Jr.. I met him this past February at that out-of-body experience called the Bronx book release party.
Joe was there, a youngster who came up after the 1971 peace treaty, and he was close to both the gangs and the activists. His grandmother, Evelina Antonetty, was the founder of United Bronx Parents, a kick-ass neighborhood organization that emerged in the early 70s to save the borough from the politics of abandonment.
After the peace treaty, Ms. Antonetty hired a lot of the gang peacemakers, including Benjy Melendez and other Ghetto Brothers, to literally serve the people. She was a powerful, if still largely unsung, positive force in the community.
When the next thing after the gangs came along--hip-hop--Joe was just learning how to use a camera. He tagged along with his homies from the Cold Crush and captured everything they all did together. The result was pure genius.
Imagine you have some of the earliest photos--that aren't just historical documents, but works of beautiful art--of a culture that takes over the world. They'd be valuable, right? They'd be a hot commodity.
But here's what you should know about Joe. He has kept it real all these years. He's warm and humble and has never sought fame.
Instead, now fame has found him--his photos have been exhibited in London, Europe, and New York these past few months to widespread acclaim--and I think there couldn't be another person more deserving.
It's really interesting to see Joe's photos of the Fort Apache protests, organized by Richie Perez and other Bronx community leaders, in the New York Times now.
Those protests proved very crucial for the development of what came to be known as the multiculturalism movement of the 80s, the grassroots cultural and political force that helped make icons of people like Greg Tate, Spike Lee, and Public Enemy. But it has largely been written out of the history books.
To me, it says a lot about Joe's view of the world that he chose these images to represent his work in the New York Times. And this quote sums up his greatness:
"When I'm gone from this world, I hope my grandchildren can go to a library and see Joe Conzo images," he said. "I am carrying on in the legacy of my grandmother, photographing music and the community. I don't think I'll get rich off this. But having this legacy is worth more than money."
posted by Zentronix @ 11:43 AM
Monday, October 03, 2005
Mike Davis & Anthony Fontenot On The Mysteries of New Orleans
On Mother Jones, 25 Questions About New Orleans.
posted by Zentronix @ 12:27 PM
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